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Sibling bookstore owners Hannah Harlow and Sam Pfeifle call each other up at random hours and talk about what they're reading and what they're psyched is coming out next. It doesn't get much more bookish than when a publishing executive and MFA in Creative Writing buys a bookstore with an English teacher and journalist.
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Hannah is at the New England Independent Booksellers Association Spring Fling (or something like that), and it's a late-night recording to beat the band. Mostly, both Hannah and Sam are fired up about the release of "Ministry of Time," which they've been wanting to talk about since they read it as an advanced-reading copy. Yes, it's a time travel b…
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It's a special edition of "John Updike's Ghost," recorded live from the Newburyport Literary Festival, with special guests Jami Attenberg and Steve Almond, veteran authors who have both penned great new books about writing. Steve's "Truth Is the Arrow, Mercy Is the Bow," is an instruction manual that allows for failure along the way; Jami's "1000 W…
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Hannah has absconded to New York City, but no one will go to the Beatrix Potter exhibit with her. Such a shame. No matter! We're fired up about the Newburyport Literary Festival, and ready to talk books, starting with a recap of Leigh Bardugo's brand-new "The Familiar," which Sam has decided he likes quite a bit. Maybe not quite as much as both of …
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Just off a big night out on the town in Beverly, Hannah and Sam are focused on brand-new releases, of a wide variety, plus an older book that is very much NOT related to the website it shares a name with. That book is "Storm Front," the first in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series, an older book (2000) recommended to Hannah by a customer, which has …
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It's a late-night edition of John Updike's Ghost and Hannah and Sam are ready to rock and roll. First up is Tana French's new thriller, "The Hunter," a follow up to "The Searcher," which Hannah hasn't read, but she wasn't bothered by this. Brilliant audiobook experience. Sticking with violent acts, Sam talks about how seeing the new Bob Marley movi…
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Is March Fourth a "declarative sentence"? No, Sam, it's an imperative sentence. But it's Hannah's birthday and at least he remembered that, if not his grammar lessons. Not to worry, though, this episode is chock full of weighty discussion, starting with "Women and Children First," the biography of the pioneering Dr. Susan Dimock (with a side bar on…
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Hannah is back from Winter Institute and she has all sorts of thoughts on the state of the bookselling industry (900 booksellers in the same place is NOT illegal, it turns out). She's not sure she's a hero, exactly, but not every bookseller is in tony Beverly Farms. Also, it turns out she didn't learn all that much about what's coming down the pipe…
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Sam has covid, but it's been a good four-year run of not getting it, and it's an easy way to remember it's our fourth anniversary of buying the Book Shop. We start off this week with a little look back on things we didn't expect when we got into this mess (why are publishers so mean? How do you stock all the books that people want?), and then launc…
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Sam is just back from Dallas, where he visited Interabang Books and learned of Dallas writer Ben Fountain, and so has his brand-new "Devil Makes Three," instead of a Larry McMurtry book. In the meantime, Hannah has read the new Kelly Link, "The Book of Love," which she is big-time into ("It was so. good."), which leads into a discussion of why we l…
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After a quick treatise on the Murderbot Diaries, Sam's all jazzed up about the new release coming in February from Kirsten Bakis, who has taken 25 years to release a second novel after the revelatory "Lives of the Monster Dogs." A classic gothic tale, "King Nyx" is a creepy feminist text you need to read ASAP. Unfortunately, Hannah is less jazzed a…
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Christmas is over and we've got some time to relax (especially since no one gave Hannah any books for Christmas, though she bought herself "Mistletoe Malice," not "Mistletoe Mayhem," as she says on the pod, as a present to herself). That means, we've got our lists ready — 12 books each, and maybe some more — of favorite books of the past year! We s…
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This week, we're in the thick of it, busy with all the things the holiday season brings to little retail shops like ours. It's a stressful time. So, Sam's been reading the Magicians, along with the Magician King and the Magician's Land, as a bit of comfort reading. He's discovered he's not being mocked by them. But don't worry! Hannah's been readin…
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This week, it's nothing but naked capitalism, as Sam and Hannah challenge each other to suggest the ideal book-gifts for all your potential giftees. Of course, Hannah's in the mobbed bookstore, so a little stressed and nervous for this challenge. The mail is even being delivered as we record. Crazy stuff. Seriously, though, we've got great ideas fo…
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This week, Hannah and Sam are just back from the New England Crime Bake, where crime-fiction authors gather, along with murder consultants and the like — don't miss people like Elly Griffiths, Deborah Crombie (the new one was "A Killing of Innocents"), and Chris Fabricant, who calls into question the way prosecutors use evidence in "Junk Science." …
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For the first time recording in the ... afternoon ... Hannah and Sam are perhaps more lucid than normal and have a lot of books to chat about after a brief sidebar on Reddit posting (Sam's getting tooled on). First up is "The Future," from Naomi Alderman, which is an important novel that people really need to read, a commentary on where we are and …
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After embarrassing himself by trying and failing to give Mark Zuckerberg money, Sam describes his first experience with reading Kristin Hannah, in particular her upcoming "The Women," which is about nurses in Vietnam, and shares some qualities with "A Little Life," for good and ill. If you don't have a great feel for post-Vietnam U.S. culture, this…
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Big things are afoot in the Book Shop — new shelving! With that highly engaging development discussed, we move on to chat about the newest from Melissa Broder ("Death Valley" is very meta, a treatise on grief, but we've had similar journeys) and Keigo Higashino ("A Death in Tokyo"; if you like procedurals, this is the Japanese master of the form). …
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Indeed, it's our 50th episode, which is a wicked big deal, and Sam and Hannah are high on the successful Andre Dubus III event they have just completed, and so you get a recaap of that and some behind-the-scenes stuff (he is very charming; throws out Ezra Pound quotes off the top of his head), but no worries, we quickly move into talk of similar du…
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Okay, so we don't actually, like, have Governor Janet Mills on the pod, but Sam's reading the book that just came out with her letters and journal from the first year of the pandemic, "In Other Words, Leadership," and she hangs out near us in the summer, so that's close enough. Is she the biggest hippy of any governor in the U.S.? Also, we've got o…
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With car issues in the rearview mirror, it's JUG After Dark and Hannah and Sam are feeling frisky even though it's Bad Car Summer, even providing a little primer on not paying Jeff Bezos money. After that, Sam loves "The Impossible Fortress," an ode to 1980s nerd culture (and Vanna White), and it turns out it's actually been released by a U.S. publ…
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This week, after a rumination on whether there's a bookstore-owner Barbie, Sam and Hannah go in on some big brands in literature: Dennis Lehane (Sam finds the many racial slurs a little much and the "strong female lead" a cartoon), Ann Patchett (Hannah is charmed, but perhaps influenced by audiobook narrator Meryl Streep), Dave Eggers (his new midd…
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This week, Sam's in Aruba, and despite trying to bring fun and light fare on vacation, he has been unable to break his string of very violent reads, starting with "Recursion," by Blake Crouch, where everyone dies a lot, and which is a lot like "Edge of Tomorrow," a Tom Cruise movie Sam and Hannah both like. Somehow, this triggers a discussion of Sa…
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Hannah and Sam are once again at Camp, by the magical healing waters of Clearwater Pond, and there has been a lot of reading going on (plus, the sound quality of this episode is amazing). We start with "Leviathan Wakes," the first book of the Expanse series (perhaps an addiction in the making for Sam), which leads us to wonder what exactly a "space…
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Hannah has returned from driving Aunt Janet to Connecticut with new furniture that is perhaps exciting only for us, but it's now much less likely you'll stumble into the non-fiction table and knock a lot of books to the ground. Also, lots of books this week, including "Infested," by Angel Luis Colón, the first book from MTV Fear (which is a real th…
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The customers are cranking through the Shop at 9 a.m. on Monday morning as Hannah is literally live from the Book Shop (yay, mute button) and we are ready to crank through some books, starting first with "TransElectric," the revelatory musician memoir from Cidny Bullens, who used to be Cindy Bullens (and we talk about that), back-up singer to Elton…
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Return to Clearwater Pond! Hannah and Sam are spending Memorial Day trying to read while being interrupted by their father. Luckily, Hannah had already finished "Yellowface" before arriving and so we can have a good chat about the industry's hottest novel and why it's supposed to make us uncomfortable (and succeeded: "I wouldn't do that!"). This le…
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Sam is feeling good about himself, having made some customers happy with recommendations in the Shop this past weekend, and maybe even fueled some important TikToks. Unfortunately, he mistakes Vice and Vox, and thinks Vulture is going out of business, but isn't. Regardless, check out Bookshop.org. And our Events page. Oh, and Elliot Bostwick Davis …
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Independent Bookstore Day is over, and we have thoughts. It was great, but it could have been better (this leads to a long conversation on why we need new art, if we do, and a discussion of Hannah's new favorite book "Chain-Gang All-Stars," which is better than "The Hunger Games," for lots of reasons). Then we talk about Hannah's coming-of-age-nove…
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Hannah is in the Berkshires (or someplace) digging for ramps and concerned about her to-be-read list, but she made some time to talk books, including "Rough Sleepers" (the next Book Club book), which leads to a big discussion of why people do good works. Sam thinks it's anger. Heavy cynicism ensues. As a palate-cleanser, we then engage in a discuss…
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Hannah is back from a three-day weekend up at Sugarloaf, thanks to the efforts of our friendly booksellers, and ready to talk books, such as "Rough Sleepers," next month's book club pick — because book club is back! Three people showed up to talk "Noor" (it's not just for employees!). But we quickly transition to a discussion of workplace novels li…
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Still a bit high on her PBS debut, Hannah gives us some backstory on her "Stories from the Stage" experience before we dive into what we're reading. From there it's "wearing books like clothes," Elmore Leonard, an extended bit on Rebecca Makkai (it's "Jackal" Sam is thinking of, which also isn't about a podcaster), and a brief aside about our gener…
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Hannah is in Paris and the bookstore owners are just going right ahead and asking her to take over their shops. Not happening! But she did buy three books from the Red Wheelbarrow, with a train theme of sorts that she didn't plan, a couple of which aren't available yet here in the States. We then chat briefly about "Saxophone Colossus" (don't miss …
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In this special episode, Hannah is away in France, so of course Sam decides to interview Aidan Levy, author of the brand-new "Saxophone Colossus," a definitive biography of the great jazz musician Sonny Rollins. In addition, we're joined by Carl Smith, a fellow Mainer and the authoritative archivist of Rollins' live recordings. Even if you're not a…
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This episode, we come out firing, dicussing the editing of Roald Dahl texts, which we are very much troubled by. So, you die and then they change your texts? That seems dangerous and a search for fool's gold. Children are not some delicate class that needs to be protected from all potential language harms. This leads seamlessly into a discussion of…
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It was the morning after the Grammys, so we were thinking about literary awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Awards, which have nominated friend-of-the-pod Morgan Talty's debut book of short stories for their John Leonard Prize. Have we read any of the other nominees? A few, but we have thoughts, in general. How is it we've never eve…
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It's a jam-packed episode this week, as Hannah is knee-deep in sticky (sorry, POST-IT) notes full of the books we and you love with all your hearts. It's a bit of Valentine's Day fun that has taken on a life of its own in the Book Shop windows, thanks to Twitter (a friendly wasteland), and offers up some great suggestions for books to check out tha…
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It might be the hottest book going right now: "SAM," by Allegra Goodman, set in Beverly, and telling the coming-of-age story of a young girl from age 6 to 19. We've both read it now and so spend a lot of time talking about why it's so good. But we've had a lot of time to read lately! So, we also run through a bunch more titles, something like 24 in…
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It doesn't get any more straightforward than this. We each share five of our favorite books from the past 12 months (maybe Hannah cheated and snuck in six?), and then we spin through the top-20 bestsellers of the past year in the Shop. It's wild. It's crazy. It's the last podcast of the year! Find them all right on our bookstore homepage if you're …
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Why and how do books make it to the top of the "New York Times" best books of the year list? We have no idea, but we go through the top 10 and give our thoughts as to why these books are so big and what we think about them. We love Jennifer Egan! The rest of these? Well. You'll see. For some of them, we're not sure about the hullabaloo. We also get…
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We're decorated, stocked up, and ready to enter the holiday season — with "Shoebert the Traveling Seal." Hear all about Industry Books, our micropublishing house, and our latest project, a children's book that details the travels of the real-life Shoebert, a seal who arrived in a Beverly pond in an industrial park and promptly became a social media…
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This week, we're legitimately live from the Book Shop, where we've already got the Christmas crackers out — even Thanksgiving crackers! — and things are heating up. But don't worry: This is just a regular discussion of the books we're reading, including the new Veronica Roth (chased off Twitter, but Hannah remains a fan), the discussion of which re…
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As teased in Episode 26, Hannah recounts her experience with "Stories from the Stage," a television show on WGBH, the public broadcasting show where people tell live stories on a theme, hosted by Wes Hazard. For Hannah, the theme was "turning the page," which is obviously relevant to her experience leaving corporate publishing and endeavoring to ru…
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Oh ho! For our 26th episode we bring on a very special guest: Our cousin Rick Pfeifle! Apparently, he goes by Eric in his professional lawyer life, but we have always known him as Rick. Or Ricky. Whatever you call him, he's from Dallas and he's got an active-reading household. How has he raised voracious readers (8 and 10 years old)? What do he and…
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It's a recording from Indigenous People's Day, so everyone's a little groggy, including Liberty Hardy (@FranzenComesAlive), senior contributing writer for Book Riot and host of the "All the Books!" podcast — which has, like, 600 episodes, which is a lot more than us — and a person who reads 700+ books a year! She's never done a podcast like THIS, t…
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Hannah and Sam are both back from conferences — Hannah hit the New England Independent Booksellers Association Fall Conference (NEIBA!), Sam was talking cannabis. Hear what the booksellers are buzzing about (succession planning! Kelly Link!), how we really nailed the Morgan Talty book (Episode 18!), and how Maine and Massachusetts are really differ…
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After a not very productive discussion of whether September is the best month, Hannah can't quite bring herself to name the ARC she has read and decided she doesn't like (she "hate read" at points). Can you guess what it is? There are plenty of clues. It's a Christmas book (with no ugly sweaters). Maybe they should have killed the kid. It's unclear…
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Hannah has found some Hope Punk: "A Psalm for the Wild Built"! It is not actually dystopian fiction, but we don't let that stop us from talking about dystopian fiction as well (which doesn't just mean set in the future!). Why is dystopian fiction attractive? Are we writing it for the same reason? How is it a response to utopian fiction (the HG Well…
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Hannah's tuckered out! The Tax Holiday Weekend Extravaganza was a big success, raising $650 for the Eastern MA Abortion Fund and selling all kinds of used books out of the Garage (which we're now capitalizing), but also rather exhausting. Plus, Sam had to part with some books from the personal collection he was a little sad to see go, but that led …
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Hey hey! It's our 20th episode and we're celebrating by just doing the stuff we normally do: Talk about the books we're currently reading and wherever that takes us. And, yeah, we're at camp again, so it's a bit of old and a bit of new, with more reflections on the meanness of the 1990s (Sarah Vowell is apparently a voice actor now, in addition to …
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This week, Hannah is back from Europe and ready to talk about a month's worth of bookstore visiting and reading — including books like "Delphi," about working from home and being a mom in academia (not "The Latinist," the book Sam couldn't remember), and "Class Trip," a book that isn't as much about skiing as you'd think from the cover, but does in…
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