Bookshelf: Late Winter/Early Spring

Should we come up with a better term for "late winter/early spring"? Wring? Nope. Springter? WOW. Both of those are terrible. What I'm trying to say is for the past month, you wake up in the morning and never know if it's going to be snowflakes or daffodils or both. 

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Any weather is good reading weather though as far as I'm concerned, and here's what I've been devouring lately:

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Winter by Ali Smith. I read Autumn a few months ago and was so excited when the second of the four book collection came out so quickly after. In all honesty I think I preferred Autumn, but don't get me wrong, Winter is absurd and lovely too. Lots of different points of view which is always a narrative fave of mine. A little less experimental in the language but still some satisfyingly unique voices. Maybe my only actual beef with is was that it was taking me a while to finish while winter outside was also taking its sweet time to wrap up too...

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I Am Not Famous Anymore by Erin Dorney. Erin was one of the Inn's Artist Residents in 2016 and I have been SO EXCITED for this book to come out! She writes erasure poetry, which basically means taking existing texts of some kind, removing words, and creating poetry from what remains. In this book Erin used statements made by the oh so strange actor Shia LaBeouf. It is such a hilarious concept. And so well executed! I think the poems would be rad even if you didn't know the story behind them. 

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The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui. I'd seen this around and had been intrigued and decided to pick it up after another Artist Resident, Grant Snider, recommended it when he was here this winter for his Residency. It's fantastic. Such a good marriage of global and personal history, such compelling illustrations. I can't believe she didn't start painting and drawing until this late into her career!

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Setting the Table by Danny Myer / Be Our Guest / The Customer Rules by Lee Cockerell / Front of the House by Jeff Benjamin. We have so many exciting things happening at the Inn right now in terms of expansion-- we've added a new nearly full-time employee, we put a new metal roof on the motel, we're finishing up the barn renovation-- all in time for the beginning of high season and so, I wanted to make sure that our service stays even more stellar than our physical property. 

I read Setting The Table when I first started dreaming about opening a hotel of my own, and it was absolutely worth a reread. It all felt so theoretical the first time around, and now, almost five years in (!!!!!) I can finally relate to it specifically with my own experiences of when we've gone above and beyond for a guest or when we'd fallen short, what it's like hiring and managing people... I will forever be a fan of his idea that no matter how badly an interaction with a guest begins, you get to write the last chapter of that story. And that in fact, the stories that begin the worst are often the ones that folks will go on to tell their friends, so you better deliver a great ending!

Be Our Guest and The Customer Rules are both of the Walt Disney hospitality training family. Walt was not only a rad storyteller and visual artist, he was also an epic host who was so, SO good at building a world for guests using all of their senses to delight them. Some of it was kinda crazy corporate and conservative (women had to wear pantyhose until 2010??) but I definitely learned a thing or two. I like their phrase, "Everything speaks". Aka, every little detail of your space-- from the smell of the hand soap to the feel of the carpet under your shoes to the conditions of the baseboards-- all tell your guests something about your place, so make sure it's all saying what it you want it to.

Front of the House was more restaurant specific but helpful nonetheless because we are trying to bring it up a notch in our little bar. All in all this book made me mostly grateful that we didn't open a restaurant, haha!

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For Bread Alone by Mohamed Choukri. I brought this one to Morocco with us (more on that trip in another post soon!) because I like to read fiction written by local authors when I'm visiting a place but OH MY GOD WHAT A FUCKING HEART BREAKER. It's an autobiographical novel (translated by Paul Bowles) that follows a young boy as he grows up under the terrible rage and abuse of his father and the grief of his mother who keeps loosing children and the general hardship in the streets of northern Morocco in the forties. If say, A Little Life wasn't sad enough for you, try this. Still, glad I read it. 

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And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I was Ready by Meaghan O'Connell. TOO SOON. I never would have bought a book about pregnancy and early motherhood right now for myself, but my mom had read it and when she finishes books she gives them away instantly like they're going to start rotting on her bedside or something, so I took it and ooops. Some people find comfort in other people's "unflinching" accounts of whatever they're also going through, but I find that it kind of... muddies my own experience? There are too many opportunities for direct comparison. All that said there were parts that were objectively funny and I completely understand why so many people would enjoy it.

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My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. Oh my gosh this is one of the most charming books I have ever read! I actually haven't finished it yet because I have been savoring it, little by little, each evening, but I've been recommending it left and right. (After it was sent to me by another Resident Artist, Dasha Tolstikova-- thank you Dasha!) It's a hilarious account of a 10 year old boy who moves with his British family to the Greek island of Corfu for a year. Durrell would go on to become a famous zookeeper, naturalist, and conservationist so it's about half wacky family drama and half keen observation of flora and fauna. I've never read so many spot on similes about water and trees. His writing has fine tuned my eyes for spring. 

Speaking of, it is suddenly gloriously sunny out after a stretch of gloom all day so I'm going to pop outside with this book right now!