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Local bookstore makes good; Sippewisset a surprise favorite

Book industry website Shelf Awareness (get it?) turns its eye to little ole Norwich Bookstore, and joy! joy! Tim Traver turns out to be one of the co-stars.

Holiday Hum: Sales, No Snow at Norwich Bookstore

Located in a shopping center with several other retailers, the Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vt., was spared Black Friday mania. “We’re not in a mall,” co-owner Liza Bernard said. “We actually had a very good weekend, but there were no fisticuffs in aisle two, as they said.”

Sales have been on target and the mood of customers upbeat, and Bernard expects shopping to begin in earnest with the first snowfall. “I think people aren’t really feeling like it’s the holidays yet,” in part, she explained, because of unseasonably warm weather. “People are walking around in sweaters instead of coats.”

Popular choices for those who have begun their holiday book buying include coffee table books, which “are flying off the shelves,” Bernard said, among them gardening-themed tomes as well as Annie Liebovitz’s A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005. An event this week for Perfume: Joy, Scandal, Sin–A Cultural History of Fragrance from 1750 to the Present with local author Richard Stamelman should raise customer awareness for what Bernard describes as “a drop dead gorgeous book.”

On December 13, the store will host local authors Sally Brady, Luciana Frigerio, Sara Pinto and Sarah Underwood, who have written Sweet Memories: A Gingerbread Family Scrapbook. “It’s a good Christmas gift book,” said Bernard. “It’s very funny.”

A surprise seller is Tim Traver’s Sippewissett: Or, Life on a Salt Marsh. The momentum began with an author event, “and we just keep selling it,” said Bernard. “It’s a really wonderful book. It’s part memoir, part nature writing.” [Emphasis added; can you blame me? -Grasshopper]

Of the current national bestsellers, Bill Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid “is a hot seller,” noted Bernard, as is Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons. Handsellers are more important for the store, Bernard said. Two novels benefiting from employee enthusiasm and staff pick signs are The Law of Dreams by Peter Behrens and Forgetfulness by Ward Just.

One book in short supply from the publisher is Kiran Desai’s Man Booker Prize-winning The Inheritance of Loss, a title customers are “buying for their own reading as opposed to gift giving,” said Bernard.

This year the Norwich Bookstore has created a window display with books from the New England Independent Booksellers Association holiday catalogue. “We went all out with that this year,” Bernard said. “They changed their program, and we decided to give it a try.” Catalogues went to the store’s mailing list, and customers have been bringing them in with books circled. A standout is the hardcover edition of Charlotte’s Web. (The film version of E.B. White’s tale opens in theaters December 15).

Perennial holiday favorites for Norwich customers are the books in Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Series, which includes such titles as The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006 (edited by Dave Eggers), The Best American Mystery Stories 2006 (edited by Scott Turow) and The Best American Short Stories 2006 (edited by Ann Patchett).

Next Thursday the store will participate in a Holiday Festivities event with neighboring businesses in the Norwich Square shopping center, which include a bakery, a wine store, a gift shop and a shoe boutique. Extended store hours, walkways lined with luminaries, a wandering brass band, and wine served at the bookstore will likely enhance consumers’ holiday spirit.

Norwich Bookstore customers are helping extend holiday cheer to those less fortunate via the annual “Book Angel” program. In conjunction with four local non-profit agencies, the store provides books to needy children. A wreath on display in the store is decorated with paper angels, and each notes a child’s age and his or her reading interests. Customers select a book and purchase it, “and we wrap it and deliver it in time for the holidays,” Bernard said. The store donates at least one book for every 10 purchased and guarantees that no “angel” will be empty handed.

The “Book Angel” program received a write-up in the local newspaper and draws many people. “It’s a show of how generous people can be when it comes to wanting to share reading,” said Bernard. “It’s really incredible.”–Shannon McKenna


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