Learning and Creating in the New Year

I was recently reminded by a dear friend that in our hierarchy of fundamental human needs, shortly after we fulfill physical basics such as food, water, and shelter we also need aesthetic experiences and learning challenges. His simple words became my internal mantra for weeks, fending off my own worries about art while inspiring me to give fresh attention to the value of my artistic projects. Aesthetic awareness and curiosity are so central to human nature that it’s no wonder we feel such an attraction to imagine and begin arts-related projects and to take classes and read books to develop new skills. I know that choreographing the basics of food and shelter and physical health will continue to keep us all pretty busy, but I hope we can all remember the “other” essentials and find the satisfaction of learning something new and taking pleasure in creating something beautiful.

Since my rowdy imagination has a much bigger appetite for new projects than my overstuffed schedule could possibly accommodate it’s something of a relief that I get to pick out books for more than just myself. I decided to make all four of my browse-along picks for today’s post part of a “learning-to-do” theme with a music book, a cookbook, a handcraft book, and a visual arts book.

Something Old:so3

Our music section is more flush than usual with new books, including this well-worn copy of the classic songbook Rise Up Singing perfect for making music with family and friends in 2014. Arranged simply by subject with several songs per page, this overstuffed lyrics-and-chords book is one of the most popular group singing books of all time.

Something New:sn3Reading cookbooks is pretty practical for me as a busy mom because when I get tired and cooking feels like merely a necessary chore, cookbooks help me get renew my interest and excitement for creating beautiful foods for my family. I don’t always feel creative in the kitchen, but if a book can capture my imagination I’ll be ready to make the most of the time and ingredients I have.

Cultured foods are especially nourishing, and making buttermilk is an easy way to preserve your dairy surpluses for a longer time, too. (I first learned to make buttermilk last year–so simple and fun!) But I have barely begun to discover buttermilk’s cooking possibilities. The Animal Farm Buttermilk Cookbook is a new 2013 release that greets us with a luscious cover and a bit of storytelling and then offers a feast of all sorts of buttermilk recipes for breads, pies and cakes, breakfasts, dressings, soups and much more. I think it captures the magic of small farms and whole foods home cooking perfectly to create a perfect mood for preparing a meal.

Something “Twiggy”:se3

Here is a woodworking craft book that uses the simplest tools and materials to help anyone get started with whittling. You don’t need a workshop or power tools or expensive trips to the lumberyard to whittle something charming, and it’s especially appealing to youth who enjoy hands-on projects. Like a class in book form, Whittling Twigs and Branches has plenty of information to help you choose and maintain your tools and select suitable woods for whittling, and then shows a number of projects that incorporate the natural shapes and bark of the wood.

Something Blue: sb3

I know it’s superficial to judge a book by the colors of its cover, but appearances matter, especially when the subject is painting. This isn’t the bluest book in the store, but these blue watercolored shadows caught my eye and the contents of this book tip the scales in its favor for a recommendation from me. Published by North Light Books, which sets a high standard in art instructional books, How to Paint Living Portraits presents a thorough introduction to portraiture. Roberta Clark gets it exactly right by focusing a great deal of the book on drawing and anatomy, and then spends plenty of time on color, lighting, and different paint media. This is definitely a solid introduction for any artist who wants to get started in or improve their portrait work. Even a little browse makes me feel like picking of a pencil and brush.

Something Old, Something New, Something Western…

We’re celebrating the holiday with peaceful times together with family and with good books, and I’ll be playing Santa’s helper today at the sewing machine rather than in the shopping crowds. Before getting back to my craft projects, I snapped a few photos of this week’s book picks. Here’s what I found today in a short browse at Robie Books:

Something Old:

so2This unusual book “My Lady Nicotine” is by J. M. Barrie who is best known as the author of Peter Pan. The text is a selection of humorous personal essays about the author’s smoking habit. Titles within include “Matrimony and Smoking Compared,” “The Romance of a Pipe Cleaner,” and “The Perils of Not Smoking” and seem to promise a unusual flavor of entertainment to the reader in a collectible-quality edition.  This book was published by Hurst and Company in 1899 although the book is undated. Robie Books is offering this on behalf of the  Friends of the Bourbon County Public Library and it is part of a group including various first editions, other titles on tobacco, and one about antique tobacco boxes.

Something New:

sn2Appalachian Science in the Public Interest puts out a calendar each year including an almanac-style presentation and a regional photography theme. This year’s theme is “Appalachian Artisans” and the calendar contains great images of Berea friends and neighbors such as Walter Hyleck, Mary and Neil Colmer, and Michelle Weston at their creative best. Improve your outlook in 2014 with the day-to-day inspirations for simple living on the calendar’s pages.

Something Western:

se2This 6-book Sacketts boxed set from Louis L’Amour is a lovely collector’s item. The set is out of print but this one is new and still in the original plastic wrapper. If you are shopping for a L’Amour fan, then this is the time to shop at Robie Books: The boxed set was only one item from a large collection of hundreds of L’Amour paperbacks we purchased last week. Our Westerns section is overflowing with extra boxes of used paperbacks. They are priced at only $1.00 each, and an entire bag full would make an affordable and thoughtful gift for a fan of the classic Western novel.

Something Blue:

sb2This cased hardcover collection of four classic essays by Henry David Thoreau includes: A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Walden; or, Life in the Woods, The Main Woods, and Cape Cod. Beautiful blue cloth cover and ribbon bookmark grace this edition from the Library of America series. This is a used book with a hint of wear on the box, but the book itself is like new–ready, if you like, for your own gift inscription.

The Library of America is an award-winning, nonprofit program dedicated to publishing America’s best and most significant writing in handsome, enduring volumes, featuring authoritative texts. Hailed as “the most important book-publishing project is the nation’s history” (Newsweek), this acclaimed series is restoring America’s literary heritage in “the finest-looking, longest-lasting edition ever made” (New Republic).

Features Part Two: Something Cozy and Something Blue

Something Old, Something New, Something COZY, Something Blue

I can put just about any adjective in this rhyme for book pick #3, and this week we picked “cozy.” This perfectly cozy book is the classic “Fix-It and Forget It Cookbook”.


Without really thinking about it I included four different plans for different soups when I shopped for this week’s groceries. The season of soups is surely upon us, ready or not, and I know I feel busier than ever.  This slow cooker cookbook includes plenty of soups alongside other hearty recipes perfect for the season.  These chilly and damp days combined with the busy life of parents, teachers, and anyone else with a complicated schedule make this cookbook the ideal passport to the kind of meals we need right now. Preparation in the morning for a hot homecooked meal on the table in the evening can make your home a cozy home without the extra stress from trying to cram way too much into the short hours after work and school.

Something “Blue” … I wonder how random will these selections be? Browsing for books for their color alone makes me think of the decorators who buy books just for ambiance and color to add to their plans for a room, and of those delightful photos I’ve seen where entire book collections have been reorganized in a rainbows in the shelves for visual effect.  So this one is blue and that’s the first thing I know about it, having admittedly judged it by its cover:


This is a Batman graphic novel called “The Long Halloween” and after judging its cover, I did a little bit of research to find out about it. This title has received rave reviews from fans as “epic noir” and is acclaimed as a classic. A hot seller in the newest edition (2011) this out-of-print 1999 edition is selling at lower prices for the same great content. We can recommend this one whether you want an entertaining graphic novel OR just a bookish splash of something blue to complement your decorating scheme.

New Weekly Book Feature Series

Books for Life’s Journeys:

We are starting this series of post to feature some of the great finds to be discovered here at Robie Books. The diversity of our selection is one of the best things about browsing here–so many surprises! To help us choose our titles, we’ve chosen a theme using the traditional rhyme that offers advicefor new brides: “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” Each week we will pick one book for each category, but switch the word “borrowed” for a wild card adjective. The rhyme still rhymes that way, and we can have a little bit more fun with that one. I’ll post a photo of each book and tell you why it caught our eye.

SOMETHING OLD: Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers Mary PoppinsThis is a new copy of an old classic in hardcover with the original illustrations and cover art. I remember reading every title in the Mary Poppins series when I was eight years old in the early 80s in heavily-worn hardcover editions–it was a period when I read free range for many hours in the small children’s room of the academic library where my mother worked.This particular book contains a revised chapter which, as it was originally published in 1934, contained content that was deemed racist. Due to this controversial content, Mary Poppins is included on banned book lists, and most notably was banned in 1980 by the San Francisco Public Library system. I appreciate that the P. L. Travers was able to complete the revision herself. It would be interesting to read both versions for comparison and discover more about that piece of little history. I enjoyed reading this interview with P. L. Travers which includes discussion of the Zen quality of the stories as well as her revisions to the book.  Our gift-quality edition lets you share a connection with Mary Poppins’ one-of-a-kind fantasy magic delivered with the historical flavor of the period.

SOMETHING NEW: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneHarry PotterIt’s not the story here that is new, of course. Harry Potter is already established as a modern classic, but I am really enamored with the brand new cover art on this edition by famous graphic novel artist Kazuo Kibuishi. Kibuishi is the creator of two of our favorite graphic novel series: the eight-edition graphic anthology Flight  and Amulet one of our favorite graphic novels for gradeschool readers. If you are ready to begin Harry Potter’s adventures all over again with any of the children in your life this season, give this cover a look and see if you agree that Kazuo Kibuishi has added something special to the story with his glowing artwork.

Apples Galore and More

We can only purchase a small selection of new releases in any category to include alongside our used stock, so I spend quite a bit of time picking just the right ones to offer you.
Apples Galore is the newest Fancy Nancy book, the perfect title for the Fall harvest time. (And we are really in the spirit of harvest because our house has been full of bushels and bushels of apples this abundant year.) Jane O’Connor’s Fancy Nancy books have been getting great feedback from our customers!

spirit animals

This new series from Brandon Mull looks really fun!  Brandon Mull is the author of the Fablehaven and Beyonders series and this one looks full of fantasy and bravery.  I have a taste for animal magic and youth fantasy, so I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to read Wild Born myself.  Official release date September 10.


Here’s a quote from Booklist about the third book in this adventurous series:  “…this engaging sequel opens aboard the Heron as Hal, his fellow Skandians (think Vikings), and their friend Lydia sail up a river in search of Zavac, the ruthless pirate who has stolen a precious relic from their village. Accused of murder and imprisoned along the way, they use their weapons, their wits, and their sailing skills in the headlong pursuit of their goal. Welcome humor lessens the dramatic tension at times, while the shipmates’ individuality and comradeship make their adventures more meaningful.”

This series and its companion series The Ranger’s Apprentice have both been popular at Robie Books, and we currently have copies of all three of the titles in The Brotherband Chronicles including this new release.

And here are four more notable new arrivals.  While not new releases, these are some of the current children’s titles just restocked that are favorites here in Berea:

pete the catextra yarnwarriors fading echoesappalachian toys

Summer Mystery Reading Arrivals and Other Extremes


The summer heat must be getting to me, because besides “Force of Nature” by C. J. Box, I’ve also stocked his book “Cold Wind” and Craig Johnson’s “The Cold Dish” when choosing this new group of mystery paperbacks.  Here I am looking at giant icicles on the cover of a William Kent Krueger title, reading a blurb that says this one is “as powerful as a Minnesota Blizzard”.

Also featured: three-time Agatha Award winner Louise Penny.

Also featured: Three-time Agatha Award winner Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache

My plan was only to feature some authors people are always asking for here in Berea so you’d have a few extra choices in the mystery section.  (The used C. J. Box and Louise Penny just don’t flow in fast enough to keep up with local demand.)  I actually had no intention to create a “cold” theme in defiance of the stuffy weather, so I suppose it was a subconsciously contrary attitude toward these forces of nature that nudged me toward my final selections.  Or perhaps I was just influenced by my happy belief in the pleasure of a little literary escapism.

Anyhow, if your summer reading taste is inclined toward detective fiction, you may want to give one of these a try.  They all qualify for our 65% buyback deal so it’s easy to try it out and then receive 65% of your purchase price back when you’re ready to pass it on.

The “other extreme” is our used paperback half price sale.  The shelves are stuffed full of paperbacks, and every single used mass market paperback will be half price through July 10.  This is in every single section in the store: nonfiction, historical fiction, classics, mystery, romance, etc.  As you may know already our standard prices for used mass market paperbacks are already extremely low–they start at only one dollar.  At that price you can fill a beach bag with many hours of reading for less than the price of a simple lunch.  For the next two weeks, you can fill that beach bag twice for the same price.  A one dollar book for instance will be fifty cents while books stickered at two dollars will be discounted to a dollar.  This sale applies to hundred and hundreds of in stock books, with all sorts of great writers and perfect vacation reads to choose from.

We will continue to offer our buy 3 get 1 free for children’s books every single Wednesday.  Your fourth book (equal or lesser value) is free whether new or used.  It’s a perfect day to browse with kids for summer family reading.

A few of our most highly recommended new arrivals in children’s books:





This Week’s Wednesday Discounts

This Wednesday June 5 enjoy a 15% discount on every title in the romance and domestic fiction sections (the perfect place to find fun beach reads), all nature and science titles (camping and hiking and field guides included), and all crafts and art books in both adult and children’s sections. New arrivals this week include Khaled Hosseini’s newest And the Mountains Echoed, Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior in paperback, … , Stephen King’s new release Joyland, and several new art and craft selections for creating summer fun.

Keep kids reading this summer with action packed titles by John Flanagan (Brotherband Chronicles and Ranger’s Apprentice) and Garth Nix, chapter books like Lois Lowry’s Son (conclusion to the quartet that began with The Giver), Appalachian Toys and Games by locals Linda Hager Pack and artist Pat Banks, and brand-new children’s graphic novels, easy readers, picture books, and board books.  Kids’ paperbacks are ALWAYS buy 3 get 1 free on Wednesdays.

Starting at 10:00 AM you can enjoy Joe’s favorite blend of fresh brewed coffee while you browse– or take a cup to go.  And on FRIDAYS bargain hunters can fill a bag from our clearance bin–stuff any bag with any number of clearance books for only $2.00!

Check out these new goodies now in stock:

appalachian toys mountains echoed strawberry book

art lab language of flowers sewing school


stuffed shark

forest fairy



Learn a Little Something for Fun: Selected New Arrivals in Nonfiction

9780143114963USED PAPERBACK The arrival of a used Michael Pollan book is a bright spot in my bookselling day. Five years after publication his “In Defense of Food” is well-established as a classic in its field, and it’s still flying off the shelves here in Berea. This book’s continuing relevance is due to its success in sorting through the huge and confusing volume of food and nutrition information to establish a few simple nutritional truths. He challenges many of our established assumptions about food. He introduces the reader to the influential studies of Weston A. Price, questions the lipid hypothesis–the foundation of the pervasive low-fat diet recommendations, tackles the impact of industrial food production and our reliance on simple carbohydrates to “feed a hungry world”.  Pollan’s concepts are the perfect starting point for any conversation about modern food politics or your personal quest for better health.

9781590208540DISCOUNTED NEW HARDCOVER Subtitled “The Secret Anarchy of Science” the book “Free Radicals” by Michael Brooks instantly piqued my curiosity. Who doesn’t want to have a peek at the political dramas and most roguish behaviors of some of our most famous lab dwellers? What is a scientist, I wonder? How far off is our image of the serious scholar and his innocently methodical methods?  It’s hard to commit to an unknown author for the price of a brand-new hardcover, but his one has an extra discount so it’s 35% off its original list price–and our 65% buyback policy also applies to this title.

9780156031448USED PAPERBACK Temple Grandin is famous for her unique perspective as an autistic author and animal scientist. She actually deliberately uses the differences of her autistic brain to her advantage to uncover insights that have helped her rise to the top of her field as a scientist. Relevant to anyone interested in psychology or animals, and an inspiring read for anyone seeking successful role models for people with Asperger’s syndrome or autism.  This book is already well-established as a classic in her areas of study.


9780143119463NEW PAPERBACK @ 20% OFF LIST PRICE Titles on the natural history of a single food have become increasingly popular in the last decade. This one reviews the past of and hypothesizes about the future of four major fish in nature and the human food system. Here I live in my ignorance in landlocked central Kentucky, including nonlocal seafood in my diet regularly, and I realized I was almost completely ignorant about the sources of that fish.  I’ve learned to think of fish as a nutritional miracle food, and worry about the realities of declining quality and supply. I have a strong personal curiosity about the vulnerabilities of our modern food supply, and this book satisfied that curiosity even if it did add to my worries for our children and future grandchildren. Learn about not only the environmental issues, but also the politics and cultural concerns affecting fish while you glimpse the world of fish harvesting and fish farming in this focused analysis.

Do the children in your life love trains, dragons, fairies, princesses, or pirates?

Or trucks, planes, unicorns or mermaids?  This new display is one of my favorite recent updates, and it’s perfect for your young pirates and princesses.

We get requests for books on these subjects all of the time, and no wonder:  So many children delight in these favorite obsessions.  I’ve loved seeing the thoughtful fascination of each of my children, as hours add up into months spent with books on their favorites of these, reading, drawing, chatting, and pretending about their chosen theme.  As a parent, such a focused passion for anything is something I want to nourish, and in the bookstore I’ve always wanted to offer easy access with a spot with sections for the most popular of these special interests. I’ve seen areas like that in a few other bookstores, and finally we made up our own version–we even used recycled materials for the project.


We are keeping a few favorites stocked for different ages, ranging from sturdy vehicle board books and Thomas the Tank Engine to the complex interactive art in Fairyopolis and Dragonology. We even have a few easy readers here with fairies, unicorns, and the pirates of the “Pirate School” series.  As you can see, they’re also sharing space with our coloring books and paper dolls.  Books in small bookstores do get rather cozy that way.

Instead of a temporary discount to celebrate this update, I am introducing a new discount that’s in effect every day and that applies to a lot of our new children’s books, such as easy readers, coloring books, and paperback fiction.  We increase our regular discount to 25% off publisher’s list price when you buy any four new books under $10.00.  This discount actually beats  Amazon’s 4-for-3 deal, includes more titles, and applies to both in-stock and special orders!

If you have a wish list of paperback chapter books, board books, or easy readers for your kids, you can save money and shop locally at the same time.  If you’re ordering, you can just make your request by phone, email, or even Facebook message.

Getting Involved with the Arts in Berea

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The art most associated with a bookstore is the art of words on paper, of pictures in the shapes of pages, of human ideas collected within bindings.  But Joe and I take a personal interest in many arts areas beyond the literary.  Not only do we have books that are themselves about music, painting, sewing, building, acting, dancing, and photography, but each of us actually has been active a long time in other areas of the arts.  I have a background as a visual artist and craftsperson and Joe as a dance teacher and now contra dance caller.

We believe the arts are the living heart of our community.  Even while we focus on books we also share a broader mission with everyone who participates in and supports the arts in Berea.  We know that together the activities of storytelling, artmaking, song, and dance are the signs of a people and a town at our very best.  For all of us, it can be difficult to make the time for artistic experiences in our lives when we’re busy, and of course the tighter our budgets are the harder it can become to make financial commitments to the arts.

The bookstore has been involved with several local art exhibits in the past, and now we are delighted to be a sponsor for the current 3-D art exhibit at the Berea Arts Council that will be on display through September and part of October.  We teamed up with a local book club as co-sponsors, and were tickled to discover there are two local authors among the exhibiting artists.  What a talented community!   It’s an engaging and diverse exhibit, and there are so many powerful sculptures on display it was hard to choose which photos to share here.

In other not-so-new news we are donating proceeds from our bargain bin outside to the Berea Festival Dancers.  Books are between a dollar and a quarter each and you can fill any bag from the bin on Fridays for only two dollars.  It really helps us find more good home for books and 100% of the proceeds are donated.  We are sending funds to nonprofit and cultural groups.  If you aren’t familiar with the Berea Festival Dancers, they are a middle school and high school group that learns and performs historical dance, and it’s open to anyone who wants to join.  Joe isn’t working with that group, but if you are interested in a family-oriented contra dance opportunity, check out our post on Facebook for info about an upcoming Father-Daughter Dance he’ll be calling for down in Somerset.