Kid Lit, My Friend, Kid Lit


How do you read?


What I mean is – and I mean this indirectly – what do you intend to get out of what you read?

That’s a pretty general question, Bob.

All right, I’m still not being clear enough. Do you read to get the gist of the story? Do you read to understand the characters and their conflicts? Do you read contextually, i.e., do you read to understand the story and characters in light of their historical and social settings?

Yeah, all that.

Okay, that makes you an exceptional reader. So let me ask you this: How quickly do you read?

You mean do I buy a book, run home and start reading?

You know I don’t mean that. How long do you dwell on each page?

I don’t know…Jeez, Bob, you going to put a stopwatch on me, or what?

No. What I’m getting at is: Do you enjoy the act of reading? Do you savor the writer’s word choices? Do you ponder his/her choice of metaphors? Can you slip into the writer’s written voice like a new bathrobe? Do you look for and celebrate the irony there? The subtlest humor and satiric bits and pieces?

Yeah, sometimes. Sometimes the book bores the shit out of me, and so I scan it. Can’t wait to get through with it, you know?

I do indeed. I try to allude to all these things when I write a review; I try to lead the ones who read my reviews into reading the book, and I try to tell them what they can expect from reading it.

I get where you’re coming from, Bob. You’re going to try something new in your reviews, aren’t you? And you depend on your formula to get you through the weeds.

(Notice how, suddenly, the questioner becomes the questioned?)

I get that, Bob. You’re as regular as an alarm clock when it comes to putting that formula into practice. So what’s up?


Kid lit, my friend. Kid lit.

Books for tykes, you mean.


So why is that a challenge?

Vocabulary, for one thing. An eight-year old’s vocabulary is roughly half an adult’s. And then there’s the degree of complexity a child’s mind can handle.

So, Bob, you think a kid’s mind isn’t as well developed as an adult’s?

Well, it’s been proven. That’s why they go to school. To improve their ability to think and communicate what they think.

It’s not to learn a trade? To get a good paying job?

Now you’re getting into politics, and we both know where that ends up. Certain people scratch around in the dust long enough and greedily enough, and they end up with money. Piles of it. They become addicted to money. Can’t get enough of it. So they tweak society into training mindless automatons to do their bidding. Give them just enough mental training to have them function as human machines.

Like that old song? “A mind that’s weak and a back that’s strong?”

Exactly. You become dangerous if your mind becomes over-educated.

Is that what you want, Bob, over-educated people who cause trouble?

In a way. But what I’d say is I want people who can think for themselves – and for society as a whole. To move us all forward.

Really, Bob? Really? And how do you propose to do that?


Get them reading. Challenge their minds that way.

And how do you get your so-called automatons to read?

Kid lit, my friend. Kid lit. Get the kids reading, and they’ll never stop.


End of scene. See you next week.


Read a Banned Book Today



Books speak quietly. They’re full of ideas-and stories representing concepts that can’t seem to be transmitted any other way, except perhaps in pictures. But throughout history, books have been banned.


Societies put limits on the behavior of their people, for one thing. This is often necessary for a society to function. The rub is when societies become permeated with lies, lies that have nothing to do with a society’s well-being as much as to empower certain persons.

For another, the history of societies is often written in lies that favor one group of people over another. History, it seems, is always written by the winners of wars, not the losers, and these histories are often constituted through lies, lies that distort the reality of those societies.

Books, particularly the ones written as fiction, are the antidotes to society’s lies and false justifications, and that makes them a danger to the powerful. So books properly written can challenge a reader’s thinking, about the makeup of the reader’s world. This is why, in the ‘sixties, when so-called radicals were burning campus buildings, author James Mitchener begged them , PLEASE! don’t burn the libraries.


You can stand on a street corner and proclaim your angst. You can rant on TV, but  books are much more powerful statements than any such posturing. If, in the future, you come to find a book that’s ever been banned, pick it up, take it home. Read it. It will change the way you see the world.


Visit my website here, where you’ll currently find some real bargains on our books.  And there’s a gridleyfires Facebook page, too, if you can find it.

Making Room For The New


It’s an urge I get once in a while – to replace some of my rattier things, something I don’t do often until I’m threadbare. New bed coverings, new area carpets, getting rid of old things from my marriage, too.

And here’s another thing:

I’m getting rid of my inventory of books written by yours truly to make room for the anticipated influx of new.

The prices are bargain basement. In away I hate to do it, but it’s time to try to increase my readership. You can go to my website – this is the only place you’ll find these prices – here, where you’ll find more about the books, including some great book trailers, then click over to the “STORE” page to make these unbelievable purchases.

I know you’ll enjoy what you find there.

The Friendship of Books


Last night I began reading the latest copy of American Scholar magazine, and came across a brief essay by one Jethro K. Lieberman, a recently retired professor of law at New York Law School. Since he’s not working, his friends are encouraging him to get rid of his books, but he’s resisting.

“What do you need them for?” they keep asking him.

“Partly for comfort, I suppose,” he writes. “I have been around books nearly three-quarters of a century…They have defined much of my life.”

No kidding. My books mark my passage through an educational process and a life experience that only began with graduation from college. Now, I’m not as resistant to getting rid of books as Professor Lieberman. I got rid of around 500 of my late wife’s since she died (No, that barely scratched the surface of her collection), and culled maybe 150 of mine. I will re-read and re-read again some of these, but I don’t keep them around on the off chance that I’ll begin at Shelf One and re-read through Shelf Fifteen.

As the professor says, they provide comfort. They surround me even as I write this (see photo above), each one whispering of insights gained, lessons learned, faraway places experienced. But why comfort, really? They bring the world to my fingertips. They’re friends. For aren’t we all questions in human form, questions answered by supplementing personal experience with the ideas and experiences of friends far and near? And what better way to go through such a life than surrounded by your closest friends?


Visit my website here. Within it you’ll find more on books and events that matter to me — and possibly to you. And there’s a gridleyfires Facebook page, too, if you can find it.

A Very Brief History of Burned Books

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A somewhat obscure placing for a news item of this import: in my local paper, a quarter column piece revealed that the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar (anything to draw people to books) had been broken into. The miscreants, of course, had made off with some $500 and apparently some of the champagne. Somehow – and we’re not sure we can blame this on the burglars – a vacuum had caught fire and set off the store’s sprinkler system, damaging several thousand books.

We’re in an era in which by all rights books should be disappearing in favor of the digital and audible varieties. Not so. Readers still want to hold the book, turn its pages, feel the paper’s texture. Libraries are still a core resource in most communities. I can pass by the downtown library at most any hour and see readers inside, researchers plotting ideas, justifying opinions, or just looking for a thought-provoking read.

But libraries – and books – have lived precarious lives. The famed library in Alexandria, Egypt, burned in or around 642 AD, destroying manuscripts dating perhaps a thousand years into antiquity. But this wasn’t the first time the library had tasted fire, but the fourth. Conquerors knew the best way to dominate a conquered culture was to destroy its books and manuscripts.


In the era prior to the year 1000 in Muslim Spain, Cordoba, to be exact, the library of al-Hakam II, reputed to contain some 400,000 volumes, suffered a deliberate burning: the manuscripts were hauled into the street and burned to please religious officials, who mistrusted the philosophies they contained. (btw, go to your local library and look up Cordoba of that era. Prepare to be amazed at the civilization maintained by that Muslim culture.)

In the heady sixties, it was James Michener, I believe, who, in a knockdown argument with campus radicals bargained thusly, “All right, burn the ROTC buildings. Gut the administrative edifices. But please don’t touch the libraries.” Fortunately, they heeded his plea.

All this to say that books – and their repositories – are the cultural bedrock of any culture, and they should be protected as such.


Visit my website here. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

To Read Or Listen, That’s The Question



This week, when a technician stopped by to install a security gizmo for me, he quickly made note of my book collection and bemoaned the fact that as a newlywed he hardly had time to read any more. But, he added, I listen to audiobooks now when I’m on the road.

So I offered him a free copy of an audiobook for my story collection, Sam’s Place, and he gobbled it up. (NOTE: I still have a few free audiobook copies of that book, so if you want a copy, let me know. It’s the complete book, not a teaser.)

But as this article makes clear, there are no clear cut advantages to either print or audio books. For myself, I think reading a book, whether print or digital, requires a bit more participation by the reader than audio, but that’s a close call.

Let me know what you think.


Visit my website here. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

Indie Booksellers Are Adding Up


The following article from the Associate Press saw print in May, 2015. this should be good news to all avid book readers as well as writers trying to market their books.

The independent bookseller community continues to expand, through new stores opening and old stores adding new locations.

Core membership of the American Booksellers Association grew from 1,664 companies last spring to 1,712 this year, the trade group told The Associated Press on Tuesday, the day before the BookExpo America publishing convention and trade show begins in Manhattan. The association also benefited from the recent trend of sellers opening new branches, with ABA members now in 2,227 locations compared with 2,094 in 2014 and 1,651 in 2009.
The new numbers will be formally reported to association members later this week during BookExpo.

The ABA appeared in dire condition at this time six years ago. Membership, which topped 5,000 a quarter century ago, had been declining sharply as thousands of stores closed because of competition from Barnes & Noble, Borders and The economy was still suffering badly from the financial crisis of 2008. E-book sales had been surging since Amazon launched the Kindle in 2007, often costing physical stores their best customers.

Down to just 1,401 core members in 2009, the association has reported an increase each year since. During that time, Borders has gone out of business and Barnes & Noble has been struggling, more likely to close stores than to open them. Print books have remained the primary medium as e-sales leveled off.

Association CEO Oren Teicher cites three other reasons he believes are significant and ongoing factors in the independents’ revival: decreasing costs of technology, the “buy local” movement of the past few years and the relatively smooth transition from older owners to younger ones, with the Colorado-based Tattered Cover among the stores changing leadership.

“A decade ago, when people were ready to retire, they couldn’t find anyone to take over and ended up closing the business,” Teicher says. “Now, some of the most prominent stores in the country have changed owners. And the new owners bring a whole new sense of energy – they’re more tech savvy and sophisticated. Their energy is contagious. They give everyone else a sense of possibility for their business.”

Visit my website here. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.