Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Q & A: How to safely ship books

Q: What’s the best way to ship books?

A: The short answer is, “Carefully!” The long answer is, “As you would package any delicate item for shipment.”

A lot depends on what you might be shipping with the book and under what conditions it will be shipped.

If you are shipping a book with soft items you need less protective packaging for the book. However, if you’re shipping a book with metal, glass, or breakable plastic items, you should use bubblewrap or other protective packaging.
If you are shipping the book to a warm, humid climate, consider enclosing some moisture absorbent packets and enclose them in a sealed or sealable plastic bag. If the book will travel in the cold, such as by plane, truck, or rail, enclose it in a sealed plastic bag. If the book will travel by boat or stored for any time in a warehouse or storage facility, seal it in a couple of layers of sealed plastic.
Even if you wrap the book for holidays, enclose the whole package in sealed plastic.

If you are shipping the book (or books) separately, use a protective envelope and seal the envelope well. If you are shipping in a box, use a larger box with lots of space around the book(s), and surround the book(s) with shipping peanuts or wadded newspaper or other shipping filler.

The ideal conditions for a book are 60 degrees temperature and 60 percent humidity, housed in a clean environment. Try to match those conditions as much as possible, considering you have little if any control over the shipping circumstances.

Note: Despite any appearance to the contrary, a book is a delicate item. It is made of cardboard and paper exposed on three ends. When it encounters water or other liquids, the tendency of the paper is to absorb or wick the liquid, which is true for each and every page in the book. Wet pages warp and ink smears. Mold thrives on damp paper in dark places. Paper will deteriorate under these conditions. To preserve the value of the book, protect it from these elements.

Ready to wrap and ship? Pakmail and other consumer shippers can help advise you and many even have the materials on-hand, so don't hesitate to involve a pro.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Holiday Shopping Made Easier!

Looking for good books for holiday gifts? Here’s a list you should consult, the 100 Notable Books of the Year from The New York Times (online). Also contains links to similar lists for 1997 through 2004.

The list covers 3 pages and is broken down into the following categories, listed alphabetically by title:

  • Fiction and poetry
  • Nonfiction

If you need any help, feel free to send me an e-mail: or visit the leisure reading section of my online bookstore:

Happy browsing and easy shopping!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

"Lamb" Bookclub Discussion

Lamb by Christopher Moore contains wonderful laughs and inspiring ideas. It’s the story of Jesus Christ as a child, as told by his childhood pal, “Biff”. Moore tells it not like it is – no one knows about Christ’s childhood – but as it might have been, with a large dash of tongue-in-cheek. You’ll journey with Christ (called by his Greek name, Joshua, in this book) and Biff as they learn about the world and come to terms with Joshua’s role-to-come as Messiah.

Editorial Reviews from and Publisher’s Weekly
(scroll down below fold)
Other books by Christopher Moore
Christopher Moore interview on

Discussion Starters (click on "Comments" below):
● Did you enjoy this read? Why or why not?
● How did you feel about reading a fictionalized story about Jesus?
● What was the most compelling part of the story for you and why?
● Was the story believable? Explain.
● Did the story end the way you thought it would?
● What lessons did you learn from the story?
● Would you read another story by Christopher Moore? Why or why not?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Q & A: How to care for your books

Q: What’s the best way to care for a new book?
A: Here are some general-care instructions that work well for both new and used books.

  1. Never leave books in direct sunlight. Sunlight can warp coverboards and bleach colors.
  2. Never bend pages wide open. This applies to both hardcover and paperbacks. In addition, never curl back paperback covers.
  3. Never turn down page corners (dog-ears) to save your place. Instead, use a clean, unmarked piece of paper, leather, or other thin card.
  4. Store books in a cool, dry place. Ideal is 60 degrees and 60 percent humidity, but that isn’t comfortable for humans, so get as close yet as comfortably as possible.
  5. Do not use a book as a hard surface for writing. Writing on top of a book may create marks or dents on the book’s cover or pages, which will lower its value.
  6. Never write or mark in a book. A book will last much longer if it is kept in as prestine shape as possible.
  7. Dust books periodically. Dust may contain chemicals that can make the paper deteriorate and yellow.
  8. Use a dry or slightly moist cloth or paper towel to clean spills on books. Let the pages dry before closing the book. Never use harsh chemicals or wipes!
  9. Store books upright on the natural bottom edge. Do not lay them flat on their backs across uneven rows of other books. Leave enough room between books to be able to grasp a book by the covers – do not pull at the top of the spine.
  10. Use bookplates to indicate your ownership. Do not write your name or other information, which may detract from the value of your book.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Life of Pi to be filmed

I just ran into an article announcing that Jean-Pierre Jeunet will direct the filming of Yann Martel's Life of Pi (October 2005 Booksville book club discussion; see below).

This is from the October 24, 2005, Killer Movies website.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Time Publishes Its First-ever
All-Time 100 Novels

Time magazine's list of All-Time 100 Movies was so well received, they decided to do a similar list for books: All-Time 100 Novels. Time describes the list in this way: "Time critics Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo pick the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present." [italics mine]

Among my personal favorites that made the list:

Most of the titles on the list I haven't read. My tastes in reading turn to the eclectic, and I often read more than one book at a time, depending on my interest at the moment. Sometimes I don't return for long periods to a particular book that I have been reading, when I am not in the mood to read it. Because I don't always have a lot of time to read (although I enjoy it immensely) I prefer books with short but more-frequent chapters or chapters that are broken down into segments that I can read in short bursts and easily assimilate what I've just read and then be able to pick it up again at my next willing opportunity.

I hate to admit it, but I wasn't an early reader. I was a child of the television era, so most of the stories I enjoyed were on television. My first professional job was even at a television station. Thus it was that I didn't finish a book from cover to cover for the first time until I was in my junior year at high school. It was The Bedford Incident by Mark Rascovich, a thrilling read for me at the time and a story that I had seen first in film.

My interest in reading blosssomed during my junior year in college, when I discovered science fiction. In particular, I was fond of Larry Niven's tales (e.g., Ringworld, Protector, The Mote in God's Eye, and Lucifer's Hammer). And it was then that I became mesmerized by J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was also then that I came upon Arthur C. Clarke's visionary tales (e.g., 2001: A Space Odyssey, Childhood's End, and Rendezvous with Rama).

Soon after I got my first job, I became fascinated with Sherlock Holmes and a take-off private consulting detective by a reader disgusted with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's retreat from his own famous detective: Solar Pons.

Today, I enjoy well written novels like The Secret Life of Bees and Life of Pi (this month's book club selection), humor pieces such as those by Christopher Moore (e.g., Lamb), thrillers like those by Dan Brown (e.g., The Da Vinci Code, Deception Point, Angels & Demons, and Digital Fortress), and various books on cosmology and politics (feel free to e-mail me if you'd like suggestions).

I would never have dreamed when I finished reading The Bedford Incident that one day I would work for a bookstore or start my own online bookstore. I've come a long way since then.

Our family now enjoys Friday nights at the bookstore, in which we each browse the shelves of our favorite local bookstore (Schuler Books on Alpine and Schuler Books on 28th Street, both in Grand Rapids, Michigan) for a good read.

Which brings me back to my original point of this article: Time magazine provides an invaluable service by giving us a list of books we might otherwise never have known and which is worthy of our individual study. We can never read all the books there are, and we can never accidentally discover all the books that are worthy of our discovery. But Time provides us with a list of fine choices we should all at least consider in our valuable time left on this fabulous world called Earth.

Note: Although I offer the title links on this page to help you learn about the books I cite, they do lead to through my online bookstore, BizBooksPlus. If you take these links to their respective pages and order the books, my online store will receive a commission in the form of a small percentage of the sale.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Q & A: How to get a borrowed book back

Q: When you lend out books, how do you make sure they come back?
A: People who borrow books and don’t return them should be shot. But shy of that drastic tactic, there are some more productive things you can try:

  • When you lend a book, set a return date. You can do this very assertively, without sounding worrisome or being a pest. Say something like, “I think you’ll really like this book. It took me about a week to read – do you think you can finish it by, say, next Friday?” (Base the time on your own experiences. Of course, it could take them longer so you should be ready to negotiate a date.)
  • Let them know if someone else wants to borrow it and when they expect to get it. “George wants to read this, too. I said I was letting you borrow it first, but I think he will be ready to read it in two weeks. Do you think I could have it back by (the date)?”
  • Keep a paper inside on which you write the date you expect your book back. Be sure to discuss the date with the other person first. The paper could be a bookplate or inexpensive bookmark (which may also encourage the borrow to not fold down page corners to keep his or her place).
  • As you get close to the return date, check back and see how the borrower is enjoying the book. Ask if he or she is making progress and if the date of return you set will work out. If not, consider extending the date if someone else isn’t waiting for it.
  • Mention another book the borrower might like to read. Ask how he or she is doing with the current borrowed book and say you’d be glad to let him or her borrow the next one after he or she finishes the current one.
  • If the other person is through with the book but hasn’t brought it back to you, take the initiative and drop by to pick it up. Sure, they should take the initiative but if they aren’t getting the book to you, go get it.

These are just a few proactive ways to keep a book coming home. If you have ideas to share, use the “Comments” link below. I’d love to hear them.

Book Club Reading Selection:
Life of Pi by Yann Martel (see October 7 entry)

Friday, October 07, 2005

"Life of Pi" Book Club Discussion

Life of Pi by Yann MartelI really enjoyed Life of Pi by Yann Martel, a remarkable work of fiction. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young man who is forced to share a lifeboat at sea with a full-grown tiger. You’ll learn about animals in the zoo and what happens when they're forced back into the wild, and the courage it takes to face them down when it's just you and them at sea with little food or water. Great adventure storytelling, too. A terrific read while on vacation poolside or at the beach.

Editorial Reviews from and Publisher’s Weekly
(scroll down below fold)

Other books by Yann Martel
Yann Martel interview on Books & Co. on KAET-TV (manuscript)
● The Bookclub-in-a-box
Discussion Guide to Life of Pi

Discussion Starters (click on "Comments" below):
● Did you enjoy this read? Why or why not?
● What was the most compelling part of the story for you and why?
● Was the story believable? Explain.
● Did the story end the way you thought it would?
● What lessons did you learn from the story?
● Would you read another story by Yann Martel? Why or why not?

A Beginning...

Among the goals of this weblog is establishing a book club for discussions. A place where people who love to read can go to mull over works of fiction, non-fiction, genre fiction like mysteries and science fiction, and so on.

I'll start the ball rolling here with a brief review of one of my favorite works, Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. Read on, then use the "Comments" link to start a discussion or join one already in progress. (If you don't have the book yet, you should be able to borrow a copy from your local library or buy one at your favorite bookstore under "Fiction". I also run an online bookstore where you can purchase a copy, which will be mailed to you.)

If you would like to recommend a book for club discussion, send me an e-mail with the following information:
  • Title
  • author
  • ISBN number*

Thank you for visiting Booksville,
Alan (bookguy)
Club Curator

*Find the ISBN with the publishing information inside the book or sometimes on the back cover with the price.