Category: "books"

I returned from my bike ride the other night and saw a small package leaned against the door. Opening it, I found Sitting Up with the Dead, Pamela Petro’s exquisitely written and immensely entertaining book about the South and its storytellers.

 Pam – a dear and longtime friend – had told me that the book was being reissued, and I was delighted. She is one of the finest travel writers working today, and Sitting Up with the Dead is one of the best travel books of the last few decades. It intersperses colorful accounts of Pam’s travels through the South with the stories of the storytellers she listened to and talked with. It’s really two books, each one evocative of a place that is more a place, as Pam points out, than perhaps any other region of our country. How the two are connected is subtly explained in the prologue: 

 “Chaucer knew that stories are the surest guides on any journey. They are, in fact, journeys themselves, leading out of the graspable, sweaty present into the vanished or imaginary worlds that support it.”

By Thomas Swick • Category: books

book talk

01/06/17 09:03

Joe and Greg were discussing a friend's new book.

"Have you read it?" Greg asked.

"Yea. It's an epistolary novel."

"I didn't know he wrote Westerns."

By Thomas Swick • Category: books

In New York I visited fourteen bookstores. In the smaller ones, an assistant would sometimes ask me "Is there something in particular you're looking for?" and a sheepish grin would appear on my face and I would say, "Yes, my book." Then I'd reach in my bookbag and pull out a copy of The Joys of Travel. I would explain the concept and extol the cover, which, I said, might attract customers looking for gift books during the holiday season. Most booksellers were receptive and said they'd order a few copies. The owner at 192 Books took time to discuss his favorite travel writers with me and then thanked me for bringing my book to his attention. If my life were a Hollywood movie - a Hollywood Christmas movie - I would return to New York next month and find my book filling the windows of every bookstore.

By Thomas Swick • Category: books


09/28/16 08:28

I am spending Banned Books Week lobbying for the creation of Ignored Books Week.

By Thomas Swick • Category: books

The only thing worse than walking into a bookstore and seeing a clearly untouched stack of your books is finding not a single copy. Unless you can convince yourself that they've sold out. 

By Thomas Swick • Category: books

I was in the Cooking section at The Book Trader on 2nd Street, searching for a book by M.F.K. Fisher to leave for my hostess as a thank you present, when I pushed aside some volumes in a container on the floor and saw the familiar black-and-white cover of Unquiet Days. After finding a paperback copy of With Bold Knife and Fork, I carried my first book to its proper home in the Travel section, where, on a bottom shelf, out of alphabetical order, sat a copy of A Way to See the World. I pulled it out and, after checking to see if it carried an inscription (it didn't), I found a good home for it, and Unquiet Days, on a slightly higher shelf next to Colin Thubron's Behind the Wall. Later that evening I entered Head House Books, a few blocks south on 2nd, to talk about The Joys of Travel and marvel, silently, at how one street in Philly contains my collected works.

By Thomas Swick • Category: books