Have I ever mentioned how much I adore inclement weather?  I think it's the reason, or one of them, that I love reading.  I always tell my staff "it's a great day to read" when the weather outside makes you hurry inside.

When I grew up, my mom and the other '70's moms pretty much wanted us outside all the time — and if we came in and out too often, we'd be forbidden to return unless "we were bleeding."  I may have made that last part up.  Anyway, my brother and sister and I would groan and put on the mittens our mom knit (how embarrassing), and end up having a great time in the snow.  Back then, you could rely on the fact that all the neighborhood kids would be out too. Most of our activities revolved around school; there weren't many private sports clubs or lessons keeping kids "off the streets."  So it ended up being fun, unless my older brother threw the snowballs too hard.  Sometimes if I played my injuries up just right to mumser, I'd get to go inside AND he would get in big trouble, but that was a rare triumph.

So I thank my mom and the surrounding neighborhood mothers now, because rotten weather still feels to me like permission to come inside, settle in, and read for hours. And that is warm cocoa (with weird freeze-dried marshmallows, remember those?) for my heart.

I did just that early this morning:  the brrrr was so bad when I opened my door to let out my hounds that I gleefully brought my coffee over to the fireplace, ignoring the breakfast dishes, and did nothing but finish my first great book of the new year, My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout.  You must read it too.  If you're in a book club, you must select it as soon as you can for a meeting.  Jenny and I will be discussing it on February 16th for our PPB Morning Bookclub and you must come.  Sometimes when I read a book that astonishes, I am speechless for a good while.  I don't want to gush, because that's common.  I just want to grab everyone around me and say "read this book. I mean it."  I'm going to brave the late afternoon snow and go into my store now (lucky me) and do just that. 

But before I go, two things:  here are some upcoming events Jenny and I want you to bundle up and come inside PPB for, so we can talk about what we are reading (and cooking).  We will welcome you warmly and cluck about the weather, and hand you a real, not symbolic, cup of cocoa.  You must especially come to our Champagne & Snowflakes Winter Book Recommendation party on January 23d.  I promise I will be over my speechlessness by then - I can't wait to share with you all the reads Jenny and my PPB staff-readers and me are crazy for right now.  Call the store right away and claim your seat to this and the other events we have for you (630-765-7455).

Second, take a second to read this happy cocoa-for-the-heart thing:   "Bookstores Are Back" by Ann Patchett.

See you soon!


Ann Patchett on the Return of Bookstores

(one of 12 predictions made by "prominent thinkers" published in WSJ's regarding"What to Expect in 2016" Jan. 2-3, 2016)

Despite Amazon and e-readers, customers are embracing their community stores

When Karen Hayes and I opened Parnassus Books in Nashville a little over four years ago, I repeatedly said that we were part of a trend. The small independent bookstore, long ago beaten down by Borders and Barnes & Noble, then repeatedly kicked by Amazon, was rising up from the ashes. People were tired of pointing and clicking. People were tired of screens in general. They no longer wanted one store that promised them everything but instead were longing for a store that sold good books, had a staff of smart readers, a thriving children’s section and maybe a couple of shop dogs. That is what we were offering.

I don’t know if I’m prophetic or just lucky, but what was at the time not much more than wishful thinking has turned out to be true. New stores are opening; old stores are branching out into new locations. In Nashville, we’re not only doubling our size in 2016, we’ve bought a mobile book van. Booksellers are, generally speaking, a cautious group when it comes to voicing optimism, but I sense a cultural shift coming on: Books and bookstores and reading are the wave of the future.

I don’t credit the booksellers for this change. In my extensive experience with booksellers, they’ve always been a hardworking, innovative bunch of passionate readers w ho were in this business for love. I credit the customers, who seem to be collectively waking up to the fact that they are in charge of what businesses fail and succeed based on where they spend their money. If you like your bookstore and want it to stay in your community, then you have to buy your books there, in the same way you must buy your hammer from the guy at the hardware store who always gives you good advice.

I also credit the authors who keep people passionate about reading. This is going to be a fabulous year for books. In 2016, Elizabeth Strout has her best novel yet coming out, “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” and I can’t wait to sell the late Paul Kalanithi’s gorgeous “When Breath Becomes Air,” and just when you think Louise Erdrich can’t get any better, she goes and writes “LaRose.” Go to your local independent bookstore this year and buy a copy. You’ll be part of the trend 

Ms. Patchett’s novels include “Bel Canto” and “State of Wonder.”