Let’s not bury the lede this week. Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day. What? you say. I thought every day is Independent Bookstore Day? Well, you’re not wrong, but bear with us for a minute. So, once upon a time, there were rumors that bookstores were closing up faster than publishers could print books, which wasn’t true—nor do publishers actually print the books, but whatever. And during this dark time—well, okay, it was more like a foreboding gloom than really dark—some bright folks thought, “Hey, we should celebrate bookstores. Let’s have a party!” And so they did, and people came and there was much book hugging and singing in the streets and what-not.
Since that worked out so well the first time, they thought they should do it again. And so they did. This time, more bookstores joined in, and huzzah! A movement was formed. Since then, the movement has become an institution, though it is not quite at the point where we all wonder what it is that we’re celebrating as we dig out our fancy leggings with unicorn sparkles and—
What? Not that outfit? The other—oh, my. Look at the time.
Anyway, Saturday is the day we celebrate Bookstoreness. Bookstoritude? Bookishness? One of those things. Up north, folks plan for a week to get up BEFORE dawn to hike, ride, boat, crawl, swim, and transit to AS MANY bookstores as they can in a single day, which sounds like a lot of time in the car, if you ask us. Down here, in the hinterlands so very, very far from the bright lights and the scurrying noises of all those people clawing across town, we take things a little more . . . laconically.
Which is to say that we’ll have cake and pie on Independent Bookstore Day, because what’s a party without cake and pie? And we won’t make your race around a dozen counties to have it. Oh, and we’ll have books. New ones, in fact. Like these . . .
First off, we have Strange Tales of World Travel by Gina and Scott Gaille, because sometimes it is better to stay home and read about crazy traveling, instead of fighting traffic and crowds and—oh, wait—this one is about the bizarre, the mysterious, the horrible, and the hilarious. Both Gina and Scott have dreamed of travel most of their lives, and when they got a chance to do it, they made an effort to search out the weirdest sh*t they could. And they wrote a book about it.
Read about digging your own grave in Mauritania! Shark buffets in the Southern Ocean! UFOs in South America! The Valley of Mole Rats! Road Kill art! And the much-ballyhooed Sea of Scooters in Vietnam!
And speaking of strange destinations, how about a trip to Lotharingia? Ah, clever-eyed readers will note that Lotharingia doesn’t exist on any current map of the European continent, and they would be correct. However, once upon a time—well before foreboding clouds loomed over bookstores, of course—Charlemange ruled over a vast empire, and when he died, there were a number of children and grand-children, who squabbled for awhile, but eventually, someone wrote up a treaty and split it all between Louis, Pepin, and Lothair. Louis got Germay, Pepin got France, and Lothair (who was the oldest, in fact) got the middle bits. And when he died, he divided it up even further, and the part that Lothair II got was called . . . wait for it . . . Lotharingia.
This land was divided up a couple more times over the years, and bits of it became the Netherlands, Belgium, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saarland, Lorraine, Rhineland_Platinate, AND Luxembourg. So, if you were ever wondering where Luxembourg came from, you can now say it came from the middle bits that Lothair got from Charlemange.
Oh, that’s just the first bit of Simon Winder’s engaging and entertaining history of the region. There’s lots more where that came from in Lotharinga: A Personal History of Europe’s Lost Country.
And speaking of things left behind by Grandpa, Dan Bilefsky’s The Last Job: The “Bad Grandpas” and the Hatton Garden Heist finally tells the story of the 2015 heist that took place in London’s old diamond district. This one’s a tale for the ages. A bunch of not-quite-as-retired-as-they-looked thieves decided to do one last job, and it was a doozy. What was even doozier was the aftermath, and Bilefsky is there to capture it all in a true crime novel that reads like Ocean’s Septuagenarians.
On a different note, when was the last time you thought about men in kilts doing yoga? No? Never crossed your mind before? Hmmm. We bet it is now. As Finlay Wilson, the author of Kilted Yoga notes, “there’s something about the recipe of beards, kilts, butts, and the Scottish highlands that just works.”
Naturally, you can peruse this title at your leisure while you are having cake and pie this weekend.
And speaking of the finer things in life, there is one final collection of essays from the late Oliver Sacks. Sacks, as you may recall, was a brilliant neurologist who was constantly exploring the world around him even as he applied his critical analysis to many of the intriguing facets of the human brain. In Everything in its Place: First Loves and Last Tales, we get one more opportunity to explore both what it is to be human and what it means to live in this wonderful world.
And in full circle, we have Richard Kreitner’s Booked: A Traveler’s Guide to Literary Locations Around the World. As it says on the cover, Booked takes us on the road with a number of famous characters, tracing their stories through the real-life landmarks that are an indelible part of their narratives. Armchair explorers are rejoicing!
And speaking of armchair analysis, print editions of the Mueller Report will be out next week. Until then, you’ll have to make do with squinting at a PDF. Or leaving that nonsense to next week, because you have more important things to do with your time.
Like, having cake and pie with us! All day long on Saturday. Well, at least until we eat it all . . .