{Dear Book Dr.} Sexy Book Club revival

sexy book club selfie

It seems there is a theme on here lately… erotic fiction? Is this something people are looking to discuss further? Do let me know in the comments or on FB, even email me to discuss. (I feel a survey coming!)

And now, on to our question:

Dear Book Dr.,
Our women’s book club is reviving itself with style by now renaming itself (for awhile) Smutty Book Club…😜. Any recommendations for some fun? 😘

Bring on the Sexy Books

Well hello there, Sexy!

I love the idea of a women’s book club going right for the smutty. This is such an amazing topic that is rich for discussion and exploration.

My first question for you would be what level of depth this group is prepared to handle. By this, I mean: do people really want to dig into what makes them tick or are you just looking for a good giggle and some tittillation as a group? I think that’s something to consider as a group when picking books. Plus, let’s face it, the point of erotica is not to keep up the storyline for ages and ages. Ahem.

I can give recommendations for a variety of scenarios and then I leave it to your good judgment to decide.

In either case, I think anthologies of short erotic fiction are a good way to go in a group. I talked about this before in a Book Dr letter about finding something sexy to read when it’s too hot out to think, but I’ll go further with the topic here:

If you have a group of people reading the same book, the chances of everyone being turned on by the exact same story or kink is pretty low. By picking anthologies, you can each share which story was the most exciting for you, which ones didn’t do it for you, and which ones surprised you, among other lines for discussion.

  • For a general starting point, I  recommend Susie Bright’s Best American Erotica series. Lots of stories of high quality and a wide variety of topics. The 10th anniversary edition just came out in 2014, so that might be a good option.
  • If you want to go a little further down the rabbit hole, you could pick a more specific topic. For example, Please, Sir is an anthology of stories for ladies who might have enjoyed the submissive female scenario of say, Fifty Shades of Grey. And it’s a bit more accurate to the BDSM community, from what I am told.
  • If you want a longer book, Alexandra Franzen recommended Priest quite effusively. (“This is some next level shit.”) Full disclosure: I bought it based on her enthusiastic review, but I haven’t read it yet. Her original instagram post has a lot of additional titles in the comments as well. Something on this list should please your sexy book club.

Alright, my sassy minx. I hope this gets your book club up and running. Do report back and let us know how it goes?

Happy sexy reading,

the book dr.

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{Dear Book Dr.} Advice on Caring for Aging Parents

Help for Elderly Parents

As we get close to Halloween, I often think about those relatives that are no longer with me. In Los Angeles, we have an unbelievable Day of the Dead celebration, and honoring family is central to that.

I got a comment recently from a reader who has her parents on her mind frequently as they are getting older, and this seemed to be a good time to honor family and how we take care of them.

Here’s the letter:

Dear Book Dr.,

Here’s a question (and you’ll recognise it!) – what books do you know, if any, fiction or non, about the experience of taking care of elderly parents and all that it means?

THANK YOU!

Helping as best I can

Dear Helping-

Thanks so much for your comment, and for bringing up this topic. This is something all of us will deal with eventually, if we’re lucky. I have friends who have lost parents far too young and it seems that either option can be quite a challenge.

While I haven’t lived through this experience with my own parents, I have experienced sudden illness with friends and helping to support my grandparents later on in life. Playing a caregiver role is both a gift and can be an enormous stress, so first of all, I think it’s important to take good care of yourself.

To that end, I can recommend some Pema Chödrön, the master of all things difficult. I particularly recommend The Places that Scare You in this situation, as I find thinking of parents becoming less able brings up a tremendous amount of fear for me. She can do no wrong in my eyes, and this book has been a godsend on numerous occasions.

Specific to the topic of caring for aging parents, my research turned up My Mother, Your Father: Embracing Slow Medicine, the Compassionate Approach to Caring for Your Aging Loved Ones. Written by a family doctor and geriatrician, Dennis McCullough, this book covers everything from what to ask your parents’ doctors to the cycle of experience your parents have. Helpfully organized into the eight stations of later life, most reviews seemed to sigh with relief at finding this one. And the New York Times called it “A valuable book, chilling and comforting in equal measure.” Should be just the ticket.

Finally, I think the best way to stay sane in the midst of mind-bending change is to inject a bit of humor. To that end, I recommend David Sedaris’ writing. No one is funnier about weird family dynamics, so I think a little comic relief could be exactly what is needed when you feel in over your head with mom and dad. Since the holidays are approaching (aren’t they always?) I’m probably going to treat myself to a re-read of Holidays on Ice this year. I suggest you give it a go as well.

Lots of love to you, and your parents.

happy reading,

the book dr.

PS- if anyone else has reading that has helped them with elderly parents, PLEASE SHARE in the comments below. We can all learn from each other’s resources!

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{Dear Book Dr.} Picking Out Books for Kids?

Young Readers

Up to this point, I’ve been focusing my reading on adult reading options. Perhaps ignoring the younger reader has been an oversight?

Today’s Book Dr. letter asked me to broaden the spectrum a little bit. I have loved picking out books for my nephew and my niece, so I’m happy to oblige:

Hi book dr.

I need to pick out some gifts for younger readers in my life. Do you have anything new and exciting to suggest? These kids have all the classics on their shelves already and I don’t want to burden their parents with duplicates…

Thank you!

Library for the little ones

Dear library for little ones,

I love this question, because it’s getting me out of my usual reading groove. It is so tempting, when shopping for children, to just pick up everything we loved as kids. But that’s exactly what everyone does and you only need one copy of Corduroy or Goodnight Moon.

Thankfully, there are new books coming out for children all the time and they are gorgeous!

Here are a few favorites that I have come up with while hunting for the kids in my life:

  • Swan by Laurel Snyder. Holy shit is this a beautiful book. Yes, I’m swearing in a children’s book post. The illustrations in this book are so stunning I almost bought two copies- one to keep on our coffee table. The story of the dancer Anna Pavlova comes alive through this book. A great choice for any kids into ballet or who love the Nutcracker at Christmas (not that it goes into that story at all, just more ballet). Definitely worth seeing even if you’re just browsing in the store.
  • Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. These days, kids seem to have a lot of unusual names. If there’s a kid in your life with a name that is likely to be mispronounced by teachers and classmates, this is the book for him or her. The story of a little girl with a big name and how she’s able to love it no matter what anyone says, it’s a great one for kids getting ready to start school, too.
  • Oh look, Baby Loons! by Fran West. For a visual change of pace, check out this chronicle of a new family of loons, illustrated with nature photography by the author. Full disclosure: Fran West is my mother, but I can assure you, no one on earth is more dedicated to photographing loons. This family lived in the lake by Fran’s house, so she was able to capture countless incredible moments.

I am confident that you will be the first to give these books to any young friend or family member. Please do let us know what the kids in your life think of these.

Are readers out there interested in more posts about books for kids? Please do let me know in the comments and I am happy to dig in.  I’ve got a children’s librarian up my sleeve so we could potentially tap her resources as well.

Happy reading!

The book dr.

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{Dear Book Dr.} Online Dating Sucks. Please help?

Mermaid Coffee Bandit

Today’s letter enters another realm… the realm of love, people. When I was in Hawaii with my fiancee, who was then my boyfriend, we passed by the mural pictured above. Given the fact that I have wanted to be a mermaid since I was about 7 and used to leave my See-wee mermaids in the sink, chanting incantations over them hoping I’d wake up to find them alive, I was excited to see a mermaid. But when I looked to the right and saw that her partner was a cropped pant-wearing coffee drinking man with some facial scruff and incredibly turned-out feet, I began to wonder if someone had been spying on us.

Either way, this mural seemed to be confirmation that we were meant to be. We got engaged less than a month later.

I might be the most hopeless case in finding love that anyone has ever met. Perhaps one day I will tell you more. However, when it comes to helping people find their match online, I am a natural.

Two people whose dating profiles I have written have found fiancees less than a year later- one less than six months from the time I wrote the profile! I know I sound like a sales machine, but this is something I am so proud of.

I guess my reputation has been getting around, given today’s letter. I’m including the subject line for this letter, because it made me laugh. Here we go:

subject: Online Dating Sucks Donkey B_lls

Hi Book Dr.

I can’t help but notice that your love life rocks. You are a lucky, lucky woman.

I’ve not been so lucky, thus far – and I’m not a woman – but that’s beside the point. I’ve tried online dating & it’s just not worked for me. All the women I’ve dated in my life, I’d known for some time before starting a relationship. Just jumping right into a relationship, or trying to, feels awkward. It’s not that the women I’ve met via dating sites are all duds, it’s just that none have been “wow!”

Any suggestions for books that would either improve my outlook on online dating or help me write the right profile to help me find a dynamite lady?

Thanks

Looking for a Dare-to-be-great situation

Dear Lloyd,

Can I call you Lloyd? Anyone who references Lloyd Dobbler in a letter gets top marks from me.

First off, I’m sorry to hear that you are hating online dating. I hated it too, until it worked out. I won’t tell you about how to meet people or how to go looking for them, but I will tell you that in my experience, it’s a numbers game. The more people you meet, the more likely you are to find one you think is sexy and awesome. The odds are in your favor. Are there stories of people who were just flung together and fell in love in some amazing situation? Of course. But those usually happen in your 20s, when you’re in college or out doing wild things. If you happen to be over 30 or 35, I think it’s necessary to take the dating process in your own hands.

And that means going online.

So… what’s a guy to do?

I know I’m breaking script by giving actual advice as well as book recommendations, but here’s where I will start.

You have to write to them. I know this is draining. I know this is unfair and sexist. But if you wait for women to write to you, you are not in control of the dating.  Whether or not it’s fair, women have been told (me included) that men will pursue you if they’re serious. So if you are serious, you’ll have to go for it.

On many dating sites- my most recent one was OK Cupid- there is a feature where you can “like” a profile, or star it or otherwise indicate you like the person. Look for ladies who have liked you, and write to them.

Also, read what they’ve written and respond to something about who they are that you connected to.

And have good books listed in your profile. If you don’t believe me on that one, check out this NY Times article on love and books. What you read matters. If you read a lot (and you must if you’re here) show it off and list your favorite books on your profile. It can only help you stand out. The ladies like smart guys.

And what do I recommend in terms of reading?

The thesaurus. Yep- don’t go for the giant dollar words, but it is necessary to sound a little different than all the other dudes online. So be sure you are saying exactly what you mean. Dig into a thesaurus and see if there’s another way to talk about your ideal vacation, date, life.

And for god’s sake NO SHIRTLESS SELFIES. Women do not go for them. Women who do go for them are not the women you want.

Good. Glad we got that out of the way.

In terms of a book that will help you survive the rigors of online dating? I’ve got tons for women I can recommend that I’ve read personally, but the guide for men that seems the most legit is Did She Reply Yet? The Gentleman’s Guide to Owning Online Dating. The best tip I am seeing from this one is to avoid writing a generic profile and putting yourself out there as you actually are so that the right match responds.

If you don’t tell the real story about yourself, I think the blah dates are going to keep coming. Ladies love to see someone who shares their weird hobby, speaks the same language, or reads the same author no one has heard of. I’ll let you read the book, but start thinking about appealing to the one woman who is right for you, not everyone. That should cut the unsuitable matches quickly.

I hope this helps!

Please let us know how things are coming along, Lloyd. I think greatness is on its way…

hugs and happy reading,

the book dr.

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{Dear Book Dr.} Erotica Needed for Hot Times!

Help for Hot times

It has been hot in Los Angeles this year. Unusually hot. Like 95+ for the past six weeks. I am writing this post with the window open for only the second time that I can remember. I know people are ready to tell Angelenos to shove it when we complain about our weather, but here’s the real truth:

Our summer is your winter.

It’s the time when we can’t go outside and feel so oppressed by the temperatures that we can’t think straight and start to feel a little nuts. Like it might never end. We get fall fever instead of spring fever- when it’s finally cool enough to go for a walk without melting. It’s amazing. We are hoping it will come soon.

So, today’s letter reflects this level of panic and oppression we are all currently feeling. As you can see above, even my kitten Hugo has had it. Anyone who can send the rain, please do it!

Dear Book Dr.,

As Los Angeles’ Indian Summer blazes on, with highs routinely in the 90s, I’m left feeling hot, sticky, and tuckered out at the end of the day.  Not exactly the right environment for sexy times with my love.  A cold shower will help me sleep, but won’t make me feel frisky.  I’m hoping you might have some erotic reads that might get my libido going again despite the heat.  Anais Nin lived not too far from here and she managed to keep things sexy year round. Ideas?

Desperately awaiting fall

Oh, Desperately awaiting fall, I am with you.

Tuckered out doesn’t even begin to cover it. I feel you.

When it comes to sexy reading I think the other issue with this heat is the fact that high temperatures do not promote a long attention span at all. So my thoughts for you are not just something to spice up your reading, but also something that won’t be too draining to consume.

As my first suggestion, perhaps you will remember my post on the comic series, Sex Criminals? It is about a couple who discover they are each able to stop time when they get off. So together, of course they decide to rob banks after having sex in public places. It’s pretty sassy. I’m happy to announce that there is now a second volume available! We just picked it up yesterday at Secret Headquarters in Silverlake and I can’t wait to dive in. I think this would be a fun one to get you going again…

Beyond this, I have to tell you that there are two wide worlds available to you for sexy reading: Kindle books and the Overdrive vault (This link is to the Los Angeles e-media library. Just search Overdrive within your own library for those of you who live elsewhere). I once did a preliminary search of an erotic book on Amazon and I must tell you- there is something for everyone on there. Dinosaur porn, anyone?

One good way to begin if you’re just getting started is to try a compilation. There are tons of these that have a lot of short stories- often a short story is all you need to get fired up. Susie Bright edited the Best American Erotica series for years and it has all kinds of different kink in each volume. If you know what you like, then just search for that category and there will be something for you on Amazon or on Overdrive.

If you prefer to browse in person, check out your local neighborhood sex shop. If you’re in a major city there is bound to be one like The Pleasure Chest or Good Vibrations that is well-lit and not a creepy truck stop place. Unless you really dig creepy truck-stop shops in which case, go for it!

I hope this helps you survive the heat. Here’s hoping this is the last steamy weekend out of doors. But enjoy keeping in steamy inside! And please do let us know if you find anything great.

Happy reading and stay cool!

The book dr.

 

 

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{Ephemera Almanac Vol. 1, Issue 16} Do Not Dumb Here.

NotDumbHere

I know this image is a little smaller than usual, but I couldn’t resist. This was sent to me by a friend, it still makes me laugh.

Here’s hoping this is not a dumb area this week. My apologies on the lag in posts- I’ve been working on a fun treat for subscribers to Footnotes, the book dr letter. (shameless plug: you can sign up by clicking the link in the pink bar at the top of the page)

I’m loving so many things that I’ve discovered this week. The theme I am feeling is things that made me gasp a little with delight.

  • And for those type nerds, here’s how to kern like a pro. Type design makes my heart go pitter-pat.
  • Ok, slightly off-topic, but speaking of pitter-pat- what about these KITCHENS? I kind of want all of them.
  • Back on track- this quirky library is on my list as a must-see for my next SF trip. Hopefully in early 2016…
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{Dear Book Dr.} And now… Book Dr. TV!

Hello, Everyone! I decided it was time to start the video train here on the blog.

As I mentioned, I was so touched that so many people asked for book recommendations on Facebook recently on my birthday that I decided to reply by video.

More info on some things I mentioned in the video:

Let me know what you think of the format. It was really fun putting it together and getting to speak spontaneously about these books.

I look forward to doing more. There may be some replies to Dear Book Dr. that are easier to respond to via video… stay tuned.

Happy reading,

the book dr.

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[Dear Book Dr.] How to Organize Your Bookshelves

how to organize your bookshelves

Dear Book Dr,

I am simplifying my house by working through the Cozy Minimalist eCourse. While the author has some great ideas for display bookcases, she doesn’t have a lot of suggestions for attractively displaying books and organizing bookcases for practical purposes. I’ve determined my various bookcases are for storage, not for display. The shelves are crammed full of books of all sizes, colors and shapes. I would like the bookshelf to look more uniform and organized and simple. Perhaps this is not realistic. Can I have both beautiful and practical bookshelves at the same time? I know I have too many books, so I’m beginning the process of sorting out books to give away or sell. However, I’m stuck with how to display the books I currently want to keep, without looking like a cluttered mess.

Help!

Hopeful Minimalist

Dear Hopeful Minimalist,

You are speaking my language. I know that book storage is a terrifying topic for many of us who are book junkies. I once counted how many books I owned that I hadn’t yet read and the number was so terrifying I don’t think I can share it. Perhaps that will be a future post.

However, I take your point- how to organize your bookshelves if you have enough books that remembering what color they are is a challenge. I think color sorting can hold up by category- just art books in one room, for example, but is tough for a serious library.

Here are my ideas:

  • Try sorting by category first. Think about which rooms you tend to read which sorts of books in. For example, I keep my spiritual books in the bedroom since my meditation area is there and I am most likely to consult them in that room. Fiction is in our sitting room, writing reference in the office and so on. This is a good way to begin to break things down.
  • It sounds like you have modular bookshelves, correct? The kind that are pieces of furniture? Sadly I can’t take my own advice on this one, but in a former house I was astonished at how much more shelf space I got from wall-mounted bookshelves. The container store makes great ones that you can customize- you just mount one strip of metal near the ceiling and the shelf supports hang from that so there is minimal wall damage. It felt like twice as much space. They tend to go on sale about twice a year. This should help with the space problem and does make everything look much more uniform. A fun thing to do also is paint the wall behind the shelf a bright color- I did hot pink– and the color peeks through from behind the books.
  • Be ruthless about the books you keep. I know, I sound cold. But as long as you have a decent library system near you, books that don’t immediately spark joy when you go through them a la Marie Kondo should go. If I’m honest with myself, I don’t read most novels more than once and I get more joy out of passing them on to a friend than I do cramming them into my shelf. I may be alone here, but still- sometimes friends try to give borrowed books back and I try to run away without them.
  • And if you’re really desperately swamped, try decorating with books. There are quite a few places to look for inspiration on this one. (Pinterest is definitely your friend here) Have a ton of books that you don’t need access too regularly? Stack them up and use them as the base for a coffee table or an end table. Make a cool headboard out of books. I almost always have stacks on my dresser in my bedroom- we have another on the blanket chest in there as well. And Christmas is coming eventually.
  • Look for extra clever places to add shelf space– one apartment I lived in had a gap between the top of the kitchen cabinets and the ceiling- that’s a great bookshelf. Find a room that could handle a single strip of shelf along the ceiling about a foot or so down- instant increase in storage.
  • If all else fails, start a book swap- invite friends who also have too many and bring your cast-offs and trade. You’ll at least save money on buying books. Everything that’s left over at the end of the swap can go to a donation point- the library or goodwill, which also takes books.
  • Ok- one more idea- I have always dreamed of having a little free library, but my house is way down a long driveway away from the street. If you are close enough to the street to put one of these up, do it! And please send updates so I can live vicariously.

Ok, Hopefully. I hope this gives you some good ideas about how to organize your bookshelves, and even how to get beyond your bookshelves. Do let us know how your minimalism and book decoration progresses…

Happy sorting!

The book dr.

 

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[Dear Book Dr.] How to Write a Bollywood Memoir

Bollywood Memoirs

Dear Book Doctor,

The last 4 and a half months of my life have been like a Bollywood epic sending me on an international rescue mission to fetch my poorly dad home from rural Punjab to northern England, complete with overtly emotional crying scenes, dramatic battles with evil villains, the uniting of a distant family (almost) and of course, a couple of group dance scenes.

It was the only time I ever got to fly business class but spent most of it on the floor so my dad’s bouncy knee could rest on my head whilst he slept.

I need to write dad’s story and my story of having this one dad. A story of adventure, immigration, magic and hope. Of the lessons I’ve learnt from this quiet sage.

And I need some inspiration on where to start with writing a memoir please. What other inspirational memoirs have been written that could inspire and guide me? Maybe memoirs where the gaps have had to be filled in with a sprinkling of imagination? Memoirs that require a box of tissues, leaves me in a satisfied heap at the end and makes me feel that I’ve really shared a journey, learnt something. And any book recommendations for the process of writing a memoir or personal narrative?

Thanks Book Dr for your wordy medicine,

Mired in Memories

Dear Mired,

It does sound like you’ve been on quite the adventure. And just from what you’ve written so far, I can tell this Bollywood  level memoir is a book that needs to get written. I, for one, am eager to read it! Let’s get started.

First of all, I can’t help but mention A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. It is a novel, but it is the sort of grandiose epic that would be an appropriate tone for your book. Worth a read- it’s one of my favorites although it is an enormous volume. Good for an eReader, I must say. Audio would take about a year and a half to get through…

Now on to memoirs. There are so many out there, I think it’s a question of what style you want to pursue. A full length book with one narrative right through? I would look to The Glass Castle as the example of a heartbreaking memoir about parents for that. In addition, I would give you the divinely titled Them: A Memoir of Parents by Francine du Plessix Gray, which my aunt absolutely went nuts over. (I must admit I haven’t read it yet, but I remember her raptures very clearly)

The other option is a series of shorter pieces. While not a memoir, strictly speaking, I was so won over by the very revealing personal elements in The Empathy Exams. It was one of the best things I read the year it came out. Leslie Jamison writes so well it almost made me puke. Or give up on writing ever again. But it was still worth reading. At a writing conference I attended that summer it was the absolute rage and it might be a way to think about telling different parts of the story in shorter essayesque chapters.

But then how to write the thing in the first place?

You have to go right to the source, Natalie Goldberg. Yes, Writing Down the Bones is genius and required reading for anyone who wants to write anything and Old Friend From Far Away is specifically about memoir, but I think Long Quiet Highway might be best for you. It is the story about her personal discovery path through Zen Buddhism and writing and her relationship to her beloved teacher, Katagiri Roshi. I think there may be something of your Bollywood memoir in this- beloved father figure, spiritual overtones, a journey… stop me if I’m going too far afield.

And finally, I recommend The Situation and the Story by Vivian Gorelick as well as To Show and to Tell by Philip Lopate, both of which were recommended by my creative nonfiction teacher. They have slightly different angles- Lopate is more focused on literary nonfiction and Gorelick is more personal narrative and has the advantage of referencing a wide range of successful work from many different cultures and situations. I’d start with Gorelick and then go to Lopate.

Phew! Lots to say on that one.

Now… you’ll have to tell us first once you sell your book, ok?

Happy reading! (and writing)

The book dr.

 

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[Dear Book Dr.] The World’s Largest Book.

Mao and the world's largest book

Last week, we had a fantastic letter from Hildegard, in which she requested recommendations for both tiny books and enormous books. We covered tiny last week, but this week we’re going large.

Dear Hildegard,

I have been researching away on your request to collect the opposite ends of the size spectrum in the literary world. I’ve come up with some exciting results in this world as well.

First, I think it’s essential that we start with the world’s largest book so you know what you’re getting yourself into. According to the video below, you will need an entire crew and a gallery with a removable roof in order to get this into your home. Or your castle, since this book is so big I don’t think it’s going to fit on your average home plot. Let’s have a look, shall we?

It looks like you’ll need, in addition to the purchase price of the book, a crew of 10-12 men and a crane. And it is going to take all day to get this thing placed in your space. I have no idea how you are supposed to read it- perhaps they supply page turning support? I personally would like to sleep in a hammock suspended over the book to read from it. But that’s just me.

So now we move on from that definition of large to several others. There is a bit of a debate about which book is actually the largest out there. Just a few months before the above book was settled on as the world’s largest, the Klencke Atlas was listed as the world’s largest and was displayed as part of the British Library’s exhibition on maps.

Personally, this is where I would go with elephant-sized books. I am a map lover. Every time I crack open a novel and I see a map, preferably hand drawn, in the overleaf, I breathe a sigh and know I am in good hands. If I was gathering a collection of big books, I would snatch up every atlas I could get my hands on. I still might- it sounds pretty exciting, actually.

But you might not share my love of maps. You might want something a bit more sculptural. In Bhutan, for example, there is a book, also called the world’s largest, that exists where each page is a stone tablet. I don’t know if you can even collect this one. But if you wanted to install something similar, I would start interviewing stonemasons and make sure you have at least 10 acres to work with.

And maybe this all seems like too much. in the interest of just getting your feet wet, you could start with collecting the 10 longest novels ever written. This is absolutely a respectable choice, and one that you can start working on right away, which has a certain appeal.

And last, but not least, I don’t think we can ignore the largest ever chain reaction of books, set up like a complex domino display. If you don’t have the attention span to watch the whole thing, skip to the middle- it really gets going then.

I hope this has given you something to work with, Hildegard, Please do keep up apprised of the state of your collection, both large and small. We are eager for updates!

Happy reading,

The book dr.

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