Book shopping for the holidays

Rather unintentionally, this holiday weekend has been quite a book-shopping extravaganza here in the Snoek-Brown household.

It all started on the night before Thanksgiving, when Kevin Sampsell — Portland author, publisher, and man in charge of the small press section at Powell’s Books — posted on Facebook that my chapbook, Box Cutters, had hit the shelves at Powell’s. This was huge news, gang! I’m a big fan on online literary magazines, and I know we live in a digital age and ebooks and online shopping are all the rage, but I’m still a bit of a traditionalist, so for me, publishing a book finally feels REAL now that it’s physically in a bookstore, where people can pick it up and flip through it live and in person.

My wife and I were coming back from the Oregon Zoo when I spotted the post on Facebook, so we stopped at Powell’s on the way just to check out my book on the shelf.

Me with my book at Powell's City of Books in downtown Portland.
Me with my book at Powell’s City of Books in downtown Portland.
My book at Powell’s.

It was thrilling enough to find my book on the Small Press Featured Titles shelf, but I’m also next to James Claffey‘s Blood a Cold Blue, Amina Cain‘s Creature, and Gabriel Blackwell‘s The Natural Dissolution of Fleeting-Improvised-Men: The Last Letter of H. P. Lovecraft.

And a little ways down the shelf, I also found my sunnyoutside press-mates Jeffrey Hecker (Instructions for the Orgy) and Christopher Bowen (We Were Giants), whose books I got in the mail earlier this past week


After Thanksgiving, my wife and I skipped Black Friday in favor of Small Business Saturday, when we walked down to one of our local independent bookstores, Reading Frenzy. There, we met my fellow Portland writers Mark Russell and Michael Heald, who were participating in Small Business Saturday by signing books at indie bookstores around the city. We also bumped into my writer friend Hobie Anthony. It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

Mark Russell and me — holding each other’s books — at Reading Frenzy in Portland, OR.

Of course, while we were at Reading Frenzy, we bought a handful of books, including Michael’s Goodbye to the Nervous Apprehension, Pete Jordan’s cool-looking In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist, and the ingenious Love Is Not Constantly Wondering If You Are Making the Biggest Mistake of Your Life, which is modeled perfectly after the old Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books but which is actually a novel about love, alcoholism, and really bad choices.

Our haul from Reading Frenzy (we had previously purchased God Is Disappointed In You, but we brought it along for Mark Russell to sign).
Our haul from Reading Frenzy (we had previously purchased God Is Disappointed In You, but we brought it along for Mark Russell to sign).

Finally, today, we visited the Oregon Historical Society’s 2013 Holiday Cheer Author Celebration, where scores of Oregon authors gather in the Oregon Historical Society museum to meet people and sell their books. We browsed the tables for more than an hour and met a slew of interesting authors, including Heather Vogel Frederick, Stevan Allred, Don Weston, Mary Fitzgerald, Tami Parr, Kevin Sampell, and Monica Drake.

Everyone had amazing books — too many to buy today! — but we did walk away with three more books: Kristina McMorris‘s historical love story Letters from Home, Ruth Tenzer Feldman‘s Oregon Book Award-winning The Blue Thread, and Kassten Alonzo‘s fascinating speculative language novel The Pet Thief.

Our haul from the Oregon Historical Society's Holiday Cheer event.
Our haul from the Oregon Historical Society’s Holiday Cheer event.

McMorris was fascinating (I must meet her again someday and discuss her research process for her historical fiction). Feldman was delightful — she, too, must have some terrific insights to research for her fiction — and she gave us a dreidel to celebrate hanukkah (the dreidel is on her book in the photo above). And Alonzo had some really interesting comments about his writing process, which I would love to hear more about someday.

For those keeping count, that’s my book in two Portland stores, and eight new books on our bookshelves at home. And that’s just this week! Who knows what the rest of the holiday season will bring?

So there you go: if you’re wondering what to buy for gifts for people this year, whatever holiday you’re celebrating, now you have a decent list to start with. Happy shopping, gang!

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

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