Holiday Gift Ideas from Mac’s Backs & Downbound Books

Find us on:

RSSApple PodcastsAmazon MusicGoogle PodcastsSpotify

Show Notes

Searching for the perfect books to fill out your holiday shopping list? We’ve got you covered with recommendations from the owners of two independent bookstores in Ohio. Suzanne DeGaetano of Mac’s Backs in Cleveland and Greg Kornbluh of Downbound Books in Cincinnati suggest books to gift readers of all ages and genres, from picture books to graphic novels, poetry, works of nonfiction, cerebral literary novels, and beyond.

We encourage listeners to visit (or order online from) Mac’s Backs, Downbound Books, and other independent bookstores this holiday season.

Recommendations from Mac’s Backs:

Recommendations from Downbound Books:

Also mentioned in this episode:



Greg Kornbluh (00:00):
The description just sounds kind of wonky and nerdy and it is, but it's also just wonderful.

Laura Maylene Walter (00:08):
Welcome to Page Count, presented by the Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library. This podcast celebrates authors, illustrators, librarians, booksellers, literary advocates and readers in and from the state of Ohio. I'm your host, Laura Maylene Walter, the Ohio Center for the Book Fellow and author of the novel BODY OF STARS.

Laura Maylene Walter (00:32):
Today we're going to share gift recommendations from the owners of two independent bookstores in Ohio: from Mac's Backs right here in Cleveland and from Downbound Books located on the other side of the state in Cincinnati. You know, there's really no one better to recommend books than booksellers at independent bookstores...maybe librarians, too, but today we're really lucky to have two bookstore owners offering their advice on books to buy kids and adults alike. We'll have recommendations for kids who are avid readers or reluctant readers, for teens, for someone who needs a light and funny read to kind of unwind from the holiday stress, someone who prefers nonfiction, books that are beautifully designed, and books that might be a perfect read for the beginning of 2024. So we'll start right here in Cleveland with one of my favorite independent bookstores of many that we have in the area. We're so lucky here. Mac's Backs Books on Coventry.

Laura Maylene Walter (01:39):
We're joined now by Suzanne DeGaetano, the owner of Mac's Backs Books on Coventry. Suzanne, welcome to Page Count.

Suzanne DeGaetano (01:46):
Thanks, Laura. I'm really happy to be here.

Laura Maylene Walter (01:48):
Can you start by telling us a bit about Mac's Backs?

Suzanne DeGaetano (01:53):
Yes. We are a new and used bookstore in Cleveland Heights. We're on Coventry Road. And we've been in this location, well, we've been on Coventry since 1982. We've had a couple locations. And Coventry, if people aren't familiar, is kind of a walking neighborhood near Case Western Reserve University and the museums. And we're kind of linked to the other stores in our business district. We have some cool shops and restaurants here. We have three floors of new and used books.

Laura Maylene Walter (02:18):
And for listeners outside of Cleveland or who don't know, Mac's Backs is really an institution of Cleveland and it's such a wonderful bookstore. I love going there, been going there for years. You've hosted two book parties for me and I love visiting the whole Coventry neighborhood. So I really recommend any listeners who have not made a journey out to Mac's Backs, it's well worth the visit. So we're gonna go through a few suggestions for our listeners who are looking for holiday gift recommendations. So Suzanne, can you first recommend to us a book by an Ohio author?

Suzanne DeGaetano (02:54):
I have several, but the one I'm going to recommend is a picture book by Will Hillenbrand. He lives near Cincinnati and his new book is called THE VOICE IN THE HOLLOW. And I feel like it's going to be an instant classic and also it's really a book for kids. I mean, sometimes I think picture books are just as much for adults as for kids because sometimes there's elevated concepts or things that I don't think kids can readily understand. But this book is a story of a small mouse named Hubert and he's in his library and the branch closes early because there's a snowstorm. So he makes his, he decides to take a shortcut, make his way through the hollow and it's unfamiliar and things happen. And it's very snowy and he's greeted by an unfamiliar person and the story kind of goes on from there. And there's a gorgeous like four page pullout. Will Hillenbrand style is very appealing. And I just really love this book and I will be asking everyone during the holidays to pick this up if they have a toddler in their lives.

Laura Maylene Walter (04:06):
Yes, we love Will Hillenbrand here on the podcast, we had him on. It was before this most recent book came out, but he is wonderful and his illustrations are just so charming. So I think that's a wonderful recommendation. So Will Hillenbrand is from the Cincinnati area, what about a book by a local Cleveland author here in Cleveland?

Suzanne DeGaetano (04:28):
There's so many good ones as you know, Laura, and we just have such a rich author community here. But the one I chose is a graphic novel by Aaron Lange, and I know that Cleveland Public Library where the Ohio Center for the Book is headquartered. It has a very robust graphic novel section and has a book club that meets about graphic novels. So I wanted to include a couple in this conversation. So one of them is brand new, it's called AIN'T IT FUN, by Aaron Lange. And it is an really almost unbelievable and totally comprehensive tour through Cleveland's underground scene and music culture, particularly sixties, seventies, eighties. It's a complete education in one book. The Unifying Thread is the story of Peter Laughner, who was one of the co-founders of Pere Ubu and kind of like a punk legend in Cleveland who died very young. But there is cameos of Devo, Harvey Pekar, Bruce Springsteen, Patty Smith, Albert Ayler, Robert Jr Lockwood, I mean it is a great book about this part of Cleveland history. Aaron drew it all himself and did the text. And this is a press that he kind of started with Cleveland writer and comic book artist Jake Kelly.

Laura Maylene Walter (05:49):
I love that you included a graphic novel. That sounds really great. It's funny, when I sent you these questions and asked for a book by a local Cleveland author, I was sort of laughing to myself thinking, that's a cruel request because we do have so many, we have so many great authors. And I was wondering, I wonder who Suzanne will pick and I think this is perfect. All right, well, independent bookstores and small presses are a really important part of a thriving literary and reading community. Can you recommend a book from a small press?

Suzanne DeGaetano (06:19):
Yeah. The one that I chose is POEM FOR CLEVELAND, published by Red Giant Press. Red Giant Press has published probably about 60 books over the last dozen or so years. And they range from like biographies to poetry books, which is what this one is. POEM FOR CLEVELAND was edited by Ray McNiece and he put out a call sometime last year for people to send in their Cleveland themed poems. And this is terrific. I'm not sure we'll ever see the likes of this again. I mean, it is very wide ranging and it's edited with chapters, different chapters. For instance, "The Land", "The Weather", "Work". Another chapter heading is "Cleveland. You've Gotta Be Tough". The range of poets in here is very wide, goes from people who've been writing, you know, since the seventies and eighties, like Amy Sparks, Mike Salinger, Mary Weems, Ben Golyas, up through, you know, people who are writing now like the Heights Poet Laureate, Siaara FreemanMichelle Smith, Kisha Foster, I mean it's, it's so good. We have a store catalog that we published during the holiday season and both the last books that I talked about, all these books are gonna be in that catalog. So yeah, I'm really, I'm really pumped about POEM FOR CLEVELAND.

Laura Maylene Walter (07:39):
Yes, it's like a who's who of Cleveland poets as well as as newer voices. And Cleveland Public Library was a partner in that program, which unrelated, but it's just a fun fact.

Suzanne DeGaetano (07:51):
Well there was a terrific reading there.

Laura Maylene Walter (07:52):
Yes. Yeah.

Suzanne DeGaetano (07:53):
I believe last summer from the book. Yeah.

Laura Maylene Walter (07:55):
Alright, well it's starting to get cold outside and we know what it's like in Cleveland in the winter. So let's look forward to the future when we might be snowed in for a day or two. Do you have the perfect book recommendation for someone to read while they're snowed in from the Cleveland weather?

Suzanne DeGaetano (08:12):
The book I'm going to recommend is FOSTER by Claire Keegan. It's a small, about a hundred pages very spare novel and it takes place in Ireland. It's about a young girl who goes to stay with her aunt and uncle because her mother's expecting and there's already several children and I think the parents just need to have one less mouth to feed for a while. So she goes to stay with her aunt and unclenot very far away, but it's a very, very different life. The aunt and uncle are very kind and very loving and they create a different space for this young girl. And the book is really composed of small episodes which illuminates this relationship between the girl and her aunt and uncle. Claire Keegan has an emotional precision to her writing every word and every sentence is braided. This is one of those books that I would be thinking about, especially at the ending for a really long time.

Laura Maylene Walter (09:10):
All right, well with the holidays come stress for a lot of people, do you have a humor book, something funny that might help ease some stress during the holiday season?

Suzanne DeGaetano (09:20):
Yes, and this is the book that's going to ease my stress. I've only just started it, but it's by another Ohio writer, John Scalzi. He lives in the Dayton area and he is a science fiction writer, but his books often don't feel that science fiction-y. He's won a bunch of awards, he won the 2013 Hugo Award for another one of his books called RED SHIRTS. And his hallmark really is kind of a light touch and a sense of humor. This book is called STARTER VILLIAN. It's about this underdog character named Charlie who's kind of like, you know, he's just been divorced, he's changing jobs and he lives with his cats and he wants to buy a restaurant in his town where the owners are retiring, it's a very popular restaurant but he probably doesn't have the cash to do it. And kind of enter his recently deceased Uncle Jake who was, well, a contemporary villain, a contemporary business villain. And the story just kind of takes off from there. But I love John Scalzi because you can immediately get into his books, you know, they're immediately relatable. The characters are people that you know.

Laura Maylene Walter (10:30):
Well, you already recommended a Will Hillenbrand book, but do you have another picture book that you might like to recommend? This is definitely the season for buying the little one's books.

Suzanne DeGaetano (10:41):
This one is another instant holiday classic I feel called HOW DOES SANTA GO DOWN THE CHIMNEY. And it's by two children's writers and illustrators that we're very familiar with Mac Barnett. And this one is illustrated by Jon Klassen spelled K-L-A-S-S-E-N. It's a story about just that, how does Santa go down the chimney? And when this first came out, we had a couple here and they were browsing and they asked for a children's book recommendation and I showed them this book and they bought five copies. So these two are pros, they know how to tell a story. It's a very beautiful book and I think that this will be on kids' shelves for years to come.

Laura Maylene Walter (11:25):
Love that. So listeners, if you want to get on a bookseller's good side, just buy five copies of every book you buy in their store. I think that's what we need. Al lright, what about for kids? What about a book recommendation for a whip-smart kid who really loves to read and who just devours books?

Suzanne DeGaetano (11:42):
This book that I chose is called WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed. And it's also a graphic novel. I consider this an all ages book because I read it and I think about this book all the time. It won a bunch of awards when it came out in 2020. It's a true story. It's about these two brothers who grew up in a refugee camp in Kenya. They've lost their parents, they don't know where their parents are. And so they are raised by the other adults in this refugee village. It's really the most human of stories. There is a profound connection between the brothers. The youngest one doesn't speak really, and still the older one kind of is always looking out for him. I just, you know, we live with so much plenty here and so much of the rest of the world is without all the time, especially people refugee camps, they have nothing. So I thought that this book really illustrated that and showed that especially to young people, it's, it will be an education to young people, an intellectual, I think, and emotional education for young people.

Laura Maylene Walter (12:53):
That sounds really great. What about for kids who aren't natural readers? Not all kids take to reading, are drawn to that over the many other distractions in the world. Do you have a recommendation for someone who might not be a huge reader but a book that might get a kid excited?

Suzanne DeGaetano (13:11):
I'm going to stay with the refugee theme here. That's a really good question. We get that question here at the bookstore all the time and one of my favorite authors to recommend is Alan Gratz, G-R-A-T-Z. And he writes books for kind of middle grade up to teen and really these could be all ages books too, but they are historical fiction. And this particular book that I'm gonna recommend is called REFUGEE. And it's about three young people from different decades who are escaping harsh and dangerous circumstances in various parts of the world. Alan Gratz doesn't hold back. He writes reality, what these kids are going through, all the drama involved in these kids' escapes from the reality of war or the harsh circumstances where they're living. And he's written a couple books that take place during World War II. And I think kids don't want to be pandered to, they don't want to be protected. Kids are the most perceptive of people I think, and they have a moral compass that hasn't been diluted. And so Alan Gratz books kind of speak to that and give them the facts. And then, you know, kids come back for more after they've read one of his books. They want to keep going. He's probably written about a dozen books. I think these books would get a child who doesn't think they like to read. Very engaged.

Laura Maylene Walter (14:43):
Oh, I love that. All right, well 2024 is rapidly approaching. Is there a book in your mind that you think could be the perfect read to start off a new year?

Suzanne DeGaetano (14:55):
Well, the one I thought of is WHAT YOU ARE LOOING FOR IS IN THE LIBRARY by Michiko Aoyama. It's a warm book, it's kind of a comforting quilt of a book. So every chapter tells a different story of a character who's having a life change or dilemma. They are connected by the fact that they go to this library and the librarian there who's also a crafter, she kind of sees through them, through their protective layers, and recommends books that will be perfect for them even though they might not think it's the right choice. For instance, one young woman goes in, she wants books about how to start a business. So the librarian recommends several how to start business books. And then at the very end of the list is a book called How Do Worms Work: A Gardener's Collection of Curious Questions and Astonishing Answers. It's got nothing to do necessarily with the request of the patron or does it? So this book is, I think it's a nice way to go into the new year. It's warm, charming, and hopeful.

Laura Maylene Walter (16:03):
I think we all need something warm, charming, and hopeful right now. Suzanne, I love these recommendations. Thank you so much. I feel selfishly as if I just saved myself a drive out to Mac's Backs to ask you in person for my own book recommendations and I just got them right here, so thank you. Before we go, can you just tell us a bit about shopping during the holidays at Mac's Backs. What are your hours and do you have any tips to make customers holiday book shopping go a little smoother?

Suzanne DeGaetano (16:31):
Well, that's a great question. I mean there's book recommendations, lists all over this place, especially this time of year. We have our store catalog, we also have an online site where you can look for book recommendations. Our staff is always happy to recommend. We're open Monday through Thursday from 11 to 7, Friday and Saturday, 11 till 8, 12 to 6 on Sunday. And we do specials. We have our holiday festival here on Coventry on December 9th, Saturday December 9th. And then on small business Saturday we also tend to do discounts and giveaways and that kind of thing.

Laura Maylene Walter (17:05):
Wonderful. Well everyone, I encourage you to check out Mac's Backs. Suzanne, thanks for joining us today.

Suzanne DeGaetano (17:10):
Laura, thank you so much for doing this podcast.

Laura Maylene Walter (17:16):
And now we're heading all the way to the other side of the state to Downbound Books in Cincinnati where we're joined by owner Greg Kornbluh. Greg, welcome to the podcast.

Greg Kornbluh (17:26):
Hi, thanks for having me.

Laura Maylene Walter (17:27):
Can you start by telling us a bit about your store, which I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting, but I definitely plan on it the next time I'm down in Cincinnati. So tell us a bit about your store.

Greg Kornbluh (17:37):
Sure, yeah, we are pretty small, just over 500 square feet of selling space and we're in a neighborhood called North Side. There's a main business strip here. We're a block off of that actually. So we've got houses next to us, houses across the street. We're kind of on a corner and we're aiming to just to be kind of a neighborhood bookstore. So we do have folks come from all over the city to shop here. We try to have some unexpected things. But yeah, really, I mean just being a part of our community was our main goal as we've been here four years now and are enjoying it.

Laura Maylene Walter (18:11):
That sounds fantastic. So listeners, if you're in the general Cincinnati area and if you have not yet checked out Downbound Books, do it for me since I'm about four hours away. That would be great. I'd appreciate that. Alright, well speaking of Cincinnati, can you recommend for us for the holiday season a book by a local Cincinnati author?

Greg Kornbluh (18:31):
For sure. Yeah, there is an author in town, her pen name is Jenn Bishop and she has just published at least her third or fourth book. But this one is a middle grade book, actually it's called FREE THROWS, FRIENDSHIP, AND OTHER THINGS WE FOULED UP. It's a very Cincinnati book. Anyone who is familiar with Cincinnati knows that we have University of Cincinnati and Xavier and they have this big basketball rivalry, they play each other every year and it's called the Crosstown Shootout. And our dueling chili companies get involved and all of that. And so in this story the two main characters are young women who are in junior high age and their fathers are the coaches of Xavier and UC. And it's in the lead up to this big game with this big rivalry. So it's fun, it's kind of got the sports team, it's very local and I think at that age especially, it can be very cool to read in a book about the things that you're used to seeing. You know, the places you're used to getting ice cream, the places you go out for chili, the teams that you root for. It's a really fun one and a local author that we are very proud of.

Laura Maylene Walter (19:34):
Excellent. Okay. What about Ohio more broadly and author who is from or lives in Ohio that you recommend? One of their books.

Greg Kornbluh (19:43):
Earlier this year, a philosopher and musicologist named Robin James published a book called THE FUTURE OF ROCK AND ROLL: 97X WOXY AND THE FIGHT FOR TRUE INDEPENDENCE. So 97X was a radio station that was based in Oxford, Ohio, which is about 45 minutes just northwest of here. And they had a signal that you could get in like southwest Ohio, in parts of Indiana. And it was this just really amazing station that was playing sort of alternative independent music and had a real independent ethos. And Robin James grew up in a Cincinnati suburb, she's in her 40s now and like a lot of us around that age, she kind of was a little bit of a misfit and found 97X and really around that found a sense of local community. There were early message boards where people connected and so the station had a number of afterlives, it was bought, it sort of became a internet station.

Greg Kornbluh (20:38):
So then it became more of a national thing that people knew about, but it no longer exists and the book is sort of the full story of the station. And then also using it as a model for thinking about independence, independent culture, independent community, and really making this argument that we can only have that kind of independence together, which is a little bit counterintuitive maybe, but it's sort of an interdependence. And so it's for anyone who grew up in this region and used to listen to the station or had the station mean anything to them. It's really a fascinating history. One that came out earlier this year and has been one we've really been happy to push all year.

Laura Maylene Walter (21:15):
That sounds so interesting. I'll have to check that out. And I, I love this. I was just talking with Suzanne DeGaetano from Mac's Backs here in Cleveland and I feel like getting to ask these questions, I'm just building my own personal book recommendation lists. So listeners, even if you're not gonna buy all these books, I will I guess so <laugh>, we'll make it work. Okay, let's turn to some recommendations for the kids. Can you recommend a picture book?

Greg Kornbluh (21:38):
We are actually, we're just working on our list of favorite picture books for the year and that's like every year there's been an incredible bounty of them. But one of our favorites is called THE SHADE TREE. It's by Susie Lee and it's got this really spare illustration style line drawings with some shading and color and it's a story about a young man who sort of tricks this wealthy man into giving up his home basically to this community that he had been profiting off of. It's not a story that feels set in any particular time, but you can imagine it has almost a feudal story, but it, it also has a lot of current resonance and so it's just this smart young guy that sort of tricks this greedy man by playing off his greed and then benefiting the whole community. It's lovely and it's the kind of messaging in a book that is not too didactic, but you also can't miss it. And that's kind of a sweet spot for us with picture books here.

Laura Maylene Walter (22:38):
Yeah, that sounds really amazing. You know, I don't have kids of my own, but I was always buying a lot of picture books for my nieces and nephew and they're all getting a little older now and I'm just thinking right now as I'm hearing you talk about this book, I need to encourage my siblings to have more children...'cause I'm not going to do it. <Laugh> All right. Well, let's go a little bit older on the age spectrum. Can you recommend for us a book that might get teens excited to read?

Greg Kornbluh (23:04):
Sure, yeah. I mean this is <laugh> maybe jumping to conclusions that I shouldn't, but when people come in here usually and they have a reluctant teen reader, it's usually a young man. And so one of our go-to's and one of my favorite YA books is called DRAGON HOOPS. It's a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang who is probably best known for AMERICAN BORN CHINESE, which was adapted into a show recently. But DRAGON HOOPS is one of those kind of classic writer follows a sports team for a season and then you get to know them. But Gene was a teacher at this high school and the team that he follows is his high school's basketball team. And he's someone who prior to starting this project, had no interest in sports but was kind of at a loss just looking for what his next book was going to be.

Greg Kornbluh (23:50):
And so you meet this team, you meet Gene as he's sort of thinking about his career and his teaching. And so it ends up being a lot about this school and the community around it and these young men, but then also the author Gene Luen Yang himself thinking about his career and his projects and his creative inspiration goals, his blocks. And so there's kind of a bunch of layers to it, but the art is great, the story is very fun and it's really kind of enchanting book. We've seen it get a lot of young men excited about reading.

Laura Maylene Walter (24:22):
Excellent. That's a great recommendation. Well, back to books for adults: The holidays can be really stressful for a lot of people. Do you have a book you'd recommend to read for someone who needs to just kind of decompress after a holiday event?

Greg Kornbluh (24:36):
For sure. Yeah. There is a book that's actually just come out here in the U.S. called HOW TO BUILD A BOAT. The author is Elaine Feeney. It's published here by a Canadian press called Biblioasis, but it's on the Booker shortlist for this year. And the story is about this basically ragtag community that comes together. The main characters are a young man around 13 who is autistic and having trouble in school and then two of his teachers, one woman whose marriage is kind of falling apart and she's not really sure what's going on in her life. And then the other character is a guy who's just started at the school and he teaches woodworking and they sort of start building this boat together there and then they're all misfits and they sort of form this new community there. Other students get involved, they all make friends. They were mostly all loners before that. It ends up ultimately very sweet and sort of about community and about realizing you don't have to feel so alone. It's just lovely And I think it's a real comfort but also super engaging. It doesn't feel like a Chicken Soup for the Soul <laugh> right type of book, like it's literary novel, it's great. But then you also just come away with this, I don't know, bolstered sense of the possibilities of community.

Laura Maylene Walter (25:55):
What about a nonfiction book that might be about either a really unusual topic or just something that you think sounds really fascinating?

Greg Kornbluh (26:03):
Yeah, there's one that came out just very recently called The Lost Subways of North America and it's published by the University of Chicago Press and the author is Jake Berman and it's a sort of large format, almost coffee table style book. And it is, you know, exactly as the title says, it's, it goes city by city and looks at these subway systems that have been abandoned or gone defunct. And there's these great graphic illustrations to it. And then there are the individual stories of the systems. And so in this time where so many of us are thinking more about how we can have public transportation, how we can, you know, reduce our own impact on the environment and how we can have thriving communities, a lot of people are thinking about transportation. And then the sort of bonus on this one is there is a chapter on Cincinnati, which has a never used subway system and then there's also a chapter on Cleveland subway system in there. So there's great stuff for our region, but it covers the whole country and and it's a gorgeous book but also a lot of information

Laura Maylene Walter (27:03):
That sounds right up my alley. I'm fascinated by infrastructure. Here in Cleveland, it's been years, but the lower level of the Detroit-Superior Bridge has old subway station in it. And they used to open it up sometimes for events and so I've been down there and it's just really fascinating. So that's a great recommendation. What about the kind of book that you might want to buy or own or look at just because it is so beautiful, really beautifully designed? It could be an art book or it could just be a book that the design has really been given a lot of attention.

Greg Kornbluh (27:36):
Sure, yeah. Earlier this year, Tin House, which is a a small press we love, published a book called THE LANGUAGE OF TREES: A REWILDING OF LITERATURE AND LANDSCAPE. And the author of the book, the artist that made the book is called Katie Holten, which she's done is basically created this tree alphabet and the book collects writings about trees and forests by a lot of big name authors and some that are a little more off the beaten path. There's Robin Wall Kimer, Ada Limon, some really terrific writers in here. And then there's also an introduction by Ross Gay. And so you get these short pieces from these writers. And then Katie Holten has created just these incredible gorgeous illustrations and then really this sort of alphabet of trees. And so she does this thing of like translating passages into her tree language. So it's, it's stunning to look at and then really terrific to read for anyone who's interested in nature.

Laura Maylene Walter (28:31):
Yeah, we're big fans of Tin House Books here at the pod. We've had multiple authors with Tin House Books on the podcast and we have Ross Gay coming up, listeners, in the new year. My live interview with Ross Gay and Alison Stine will be coming in 2024. So this book sounds like a perfect intersection if you want to get to the heart of the Page Count podcast. That book sounds perfect. All right. And finally, what about a book that you could recommend that you think might be a perfect read at the start of the new year?

Greg Kornbluh (29:00):
Yeah, there's one came out last year, it's called LANDINGS: A CROOKED CREEK FARM YEAR. And the author illustrator is named Arwen Donahue and it's published by Hub City Press who are based in South Carolina. Arwen and her husband bought a farm in Kentucky, gosh, 2015, some 10, 20 years ago, and they were making a go of it as as small-scale farmers, but Arwen is is an artist as well. And so this book, LANDINGS: A CROOKED CREEK FARM YEAR, it follows a year on the farm and she has these sort of short journal pieces about what they were doing that day and then accompanying watercolor illustrations that are just stunning and the following it through the year thing I think is just such a, a nice thing to read at the beginning of the year or to start at the beginning of the year and then go through it. And with a book like this, you know, it's farming, it's all about the seasons, it's all about the weather and the environment. So it's a way of sort of getting really in touch with the changes through the year. And then there's this just great focus on labor and the actual work there and the art is just gorgeous. Yeah, it's lovely. And that one has an introduction from Barbara Kingsolver and it's so altogether it's a beautiful book, excellent gift, great for end of year reading and giving.

Laura Maylene Walter (30:13):
This has been so helpful. Thank you for all your recommendations. Do you have any other books that you would like to kind of shout out and recommend?

Greg Kornbluh (30:21):
For sure, yeah, at the end of the year, each year we pick 12 of our favorites that we like to steer people towards when they're doing their end-of-year reading, end-of-year giving. And two that are definitely on that list that I just loved this year and can't recommend highly enough are THE GUEST LECTURE by Martin Riker, which is published by Black Cat. This is a story about an academic who was just denied tenure and she has this big lecture that's got a lot of pressure or writing on it and the entire book is in her head the night before the lecture, she's laying in bed with her family in a hotel room, she doesn't want to disturb them. So she's just laying there anxious and she has this dialogue, she's an economist. The lecture is gonna be about John Maynard Keynes and she has this dialogue with Keynes in her head.

Greg Kornbluh (31:06):
That sounds, I mean the description just sounds kind of wonky and nerdy and it is, but it's also just wonderful. It's got this real Nicholson Baker micro fiction feel to it. So that one is just delightful. And then a second one that I have to mention is called Open Throat by Henry Hoke and it is a story about a mountain lion in the Hollywood Hills who is dealing with sort of the encroachment of humans and climate change and their space, their environment becoming smaller and smaller. And then there is a fire that displaces the lion and there is some some vengeance.

Laura Maylene Walter (31:43):
That sounds so good. I'm thinking now I need to take a two-week vacation from work just to read all of these books right away. All right, well thank you so much for all these recommendations. Can you tell our listeners a bit about how they can buy books from your store, either your hours or going online and if you have any tips for people shopping for books around the holidays?

Greg Kornbluh (32:04):
We are here six days a week right now. We're just closed on Mondays, but our website is and we ship and we have a homepage that sort of collects a bunch of curated lists and shows some of our favorites, and we'll have our favorites for the year up there very soon. Yeah, I mean I think that gifting season is kind of this mix of wanting books for people you know really well and books for people you don't know that well at all <laugh>. So yeah, we try to have these collections of books that are, some are very specific and niche and some are the kind of thing that really should work for anyone that is interested in reading or likes the gorgeous book. So we try to check both those boxes.

Laura Maylene Walter (32:47):
Perfect. Well thank you so much for sharing the recommendations and I hope you have a happy new year.

Greg Kornbluh (32:53):
Thanks very much. It's great to talk with you.

Laura Maylene Walter (32:58):
Be sure to visit Mac's Backs and Downbound Books, either in person or online. I will put their links in the show notes or your favorite local independent bookstore in your area. Independent bookstores are so important for books and reading and writers and so I really hope that you'll consider supporting an independent bookstore and buying someone a really great book. This holiday season H.

Laura Maylene Walter (33:34):
Page Count is presented by the Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate and leave a review for Page Count wherever you get your podcasts. Learn more online or find a transcript of this episode at Follow us on Instagram @ohiocenterforthebook, on Twitter @cplocfb, or find us on Facebook. If you'd like to get in touch, email and put "podcast" in the subject line. Finally, follow me on Instagram and Twitter @LauraMaylene. Thanks for listening, and we'll be back in two weeks for another chapter of Page Count.

If you enjoy Page Count, please subscribe and spread the word. Get in touch by emailing us (put “podcast” in the subject line) or find us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Learn more about Cleveland Public Library