July 26, 2013

Used Bookstores: Santa Rosa

This is the story of my life.

not to be trusted in a bookstore with a credit card - pinback button badge

Especially at a used bookstore like Treehorn Books in Santa Rosa, CA. My mom and I took a short trip up there last fall and saw the "Books" sign in the window. You know what happened next. 

Of course I couldn't resist going in. In a cheery, pedestrian-dominated downtown just off of Highway 101, this bookstore rubs elbows with public outdoor gardens, international fair-trade shops, coffee shops, and an authentic millinery store--that's a hat shop to the rest of us. 


My attention was arrested right from the window, where an array of dollhouses and paper constructions, including Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, announces the presence of whimsy and imagination (some of them are dangling from the ceiling). 

But of course, as with good books and good people, it's the inside that really counts. This bookshop is much bigger than it looks on the outside. Rows and aisles and alcoves and crannies of books. No sliding ladders here, but there are some stepstools. 

I drooled over books old and new for a while, even chatting it up with the friendly store owner for a few minutes. But what almost got me was the first-edition boxed set of the Lord of the Rings trilogy under glass by the cash register. Gasp. Drool. (For those of you who don't yet know, I had The Lord of the Rings read to me when I was eight and it's been my most favorite, inspirational set of books ever since. See my Good Reads page for evidence.) 

Unfortunately, those beautiful first editions were something like $250 per book. And since I am a devoted book lover, I majored in English in college. Which meant that that purchase was not happening. So I admired that boxed set like a work of art in a museum and decided to put it on my "when I am rich and famous" list. 

Take heart, though! The less rare books were very accessibly priced. So if you're ever in Santa Rosa, climb a few of the stepstools for me. 

Treehorn Books is located at 625 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404. They don't have a website, but their Yelp page has all their information. 

July 19, 2013

Cats, Dogs, and Grammar

When I'm not writing irresistible blog posts (*ahem*) I actually make a living by fixing people's grammar. As a freelance editor and English tutor, mostly, but occasionally for free in conversation. I really try to keep that knee-jerk reaction under control, though.

Grammar is descriptive rather than prescriptive, meaning that what is "correct" changes over time, according to the way people really use words in speaking and writing. Unlike in science, there are very few absolute laws in grammar. So anyone who tries to collar you and tell you that ending a sentence with a preposition is a cardinal sin is probably just...overreacting.

Overreacting. Image courtesy of stock.xchng and xvoltagex
That being said, the goal of language is to communicate, and to accomplish that, the way we use language has to be standardized. Publications like the MLA Handbook, the Chicago Manual of Style, and the Associated Press Stylebook exist to teach us how to write standard English (and even write with style). And because of them, here are a few of my pet peeves from the last few weeks:

1. Take your sentences to the gym

I think of a sentence as a person going for a workout. Get rid of all the extra flab, and you've got a toned, healthy, athletic body. You can't get attached to that extra bit of tummy fat; it's about the health and fitness of the whole body. So for the sake of the sentence's health, ask yourself, "Can I say the same thing in fewer words?"

Image courtesy of stock.xchng and ctr
2. "The difference between the right word and the almost right word..."

"...is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug" (Mark Twain). I love big words. I am enraptured by big words. My favorite word in English is tintinnabulation. (Go look that one up for a grin.) But every word has a shade of meaning, and you have to choose the one that best suits your sentence. So don't use incursion when you mean raid, or hirsute when you mean bearded. There's a time and a place for big words, but they're not one-size-fits-all. Make sure you understand what you're really saying.

Image courtesy of stock.xchng and Catrya
3. Be nice to apostrophes

This one's best explained with a couple of formulas and a picture.

Your=belonging to you
You're=you are
You're about to step on your French poodle.

Whose=belonging to whom
Who's=who is
Whose French poodle is that? Who's a French poodle? 

(Note: who'se is not a thing...)

There=a place
Their=belonging to them
They're=they are
They're picking up their French poodle from there.

Poor poodle.

Image courtesy of stock.xchng and crs_171

Loving the grammar (or need some more help)? Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips is one of my favorite quick-reference websites. I also just found out that Grammar Girl has a whole Pinterest board of hilarious cartoons for grammar nerds. Enjoy!

Do you have any pet grammar peeves? Feel free to share them in the comments!

July 12, 2013

Used Bookstores: Seattle

Since I spent last weekend visiting my college stomping grounds in Seattle, Washington, what could be better than to do a tour of the city's used bookstores? In a city full of coffee, hipsters, and rain, the book trade flourishes, and the used bookstores each have as much uniqueness as the people walking by. Here are my top 3 favorite Seattle bookstores:

1. Arundel Books

Though Arundel has recently moved to the Pioneer Square area, its old location was just a few blocks from Pike Place Market. Selling new, used, and rare books, it has something to tempt everyone. I found one of my rare nonfiction buys there: a copy of Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment, on the psychology and importance of fairy tales. Very intriguing. Just as intriguing as Arundel's spiral staircase that leads into an airy balcony packed with books.

2. Mercer Street Books

When my old favorite, Twice-Sold Tales, left the Lower Queen Anne area, Mercer Street Books rose from its ashes. A quick bus ride away from my school, this bookstore's big, inviting windows often lured me to step inside...probably more often than I should have. In addition to selling used books, they also buy used books.

To me, selling books feels like selling children. I could perhaps conceive of passing along a few "less-favorite" titles in order to make room for more books on my shelves. But I have this hunch that if I were to trade books for money, I'd instantly trade money for more books. Then I'd leave with more than I brought. It's one of the unfortunate laws of book magnetism.

3. Ophelia's Books

Definitely my favorite used bookstore in Seattle, Ophelia's also buys and sells used books. I found a nearly-new copy of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose for about $7 here while I was working on my college senior project. But the real draw of this bookstore is its charm. See that upstairs loft? The ceiling is only 5' 10" off the floor. And guess what's shelved up there? Children's books. Oh yes. Perfect.

There's always at least one cat lurking around Ophelia's. Even though cats make me sneeze, they do lend a certain ambience to a quirky little book paradise like this one. And I love that the store is named after a character from Hamlet, my favorite Shakespeare play!

Ophelia's also has a spiral staircase. Have I mentioned that I think spiral staircases are awesome? Almost as awesome as sliding ladders. Those will show up in another bookstore, another day.

This concludes our tour of the Rainy City's used bookstores. I know there are many more, though, so if you have a favorite that's not listed here, please leave a comment!