Create Your Own Bookstore Valentine’s Day Event

Create Your Own Bookstore Valentine’s Day Event

Last night, we hosted such a fun event at our store, Capital Books, for Valentine’s Day. I knew that I wanted to create something different that gave both established couples and those just starting to date something to do besides going out to dinner — or in addition to that.

After a bit of Internet sleuthing, I stumbled upon an event that many bookstores were doing. What she created was a good jumping point for ours. After sharing our event last night over social media, I had several people asking me for the materials I created, so I decided to create this post to offer those materials and ideas to any other bookstores.

I’ll detail what we did and what the staff and I decided to do differently next year.

First, I heavily advertised this across our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages, in addition to our event calendar that sits on a tripod outside of our store and a sandwich board that sits just up the street. We are fortunate to have a healthy and loyal following over social meda, and we’ve trained them to watch those spaces for event announcements (even though they’re also listed on our website). I created an Eventbrite event page for it so I could keep track of the number of attendees so I would know how many scavenger hunt cards to print and how many snacks to make.

I crowdsourced questions for both established couples and new daters. Believe it or not, we had a fair number of new daters come to the event.

Our cash-wrap is near the door, so we had couples check in as they arrived. We handed them each their own appropriate scavenger hunt questions (instructing them to split up) and a pen (buy a pack of cheap pens). We gave them options of either gathering ALL the books first or designating finding a specific number, meeting up to discuss, then finishing. (Eleven books is a challenge to juggle, but some did choose this option.)

Protip: If you have the space, provide some small, empty tables for the couples to set their books and talk about them with each other. We were challenged for space, but our couples got creative with finding spaces to talk.

We chose to close our store for general shopping for this event. I was glad that we did, because we had a lot of couples in here. Having general shoppers would have been way too crowded. 

PROTIP: Hand out drink tickets if you’re being cost-conscious on the beverages you might be serving. We didn’t do this, but will next year.

Rather than have our guests try to return the books to the shelves themselves, we instructed them to place them on our rolling book cart. We had a staff of three or four of us constantly running the books back to their appropriate shelves, so others could potentially use those books. It’s a rather exhausting two hours of running around. Just be prepared that this is not a one-staffmember event. We had one person pouring beverages, one person ringing customers up. Then we had three dedicated to running books back.

This ended up being nearly a 2-hour event for the couples. Getting through eleven books and discussion took that long. We may consider doing less questions next year or telling the couples to select six of the eleven questions. I ended up having a lot of the question cards leftover that I’ll save for next year, but I’ll have to make up new questions for couples who return for round two. 

We got great feedback from the couples who attended about how they really enjoyed doing something different for Valentine’s Day.

Our book sales for that 2-hour period ended up being about $600, too. So that more than paid for the party and staffing. 

Here are some other general photos of the party that may inspire you to do your own.

Inspiring Women to Read About

Inspiring Women to Read About

Roundup by Holly Scudero

December is traditionally a time for looking back, hopefully with fondness, on what the previous year has brought. We think of what we’ve accomplished, the state of the world, the good and the bad, and analyze. And December is also a time for looking forward, with hope for a promising future. We think of what we’d like next year to bring, the dreams we’d like to see realized, the beautiful twists and turns life may take. A good book can help us with both of these goals, letting us both think on history and dream for the future. Read on for some of December’s best biographical offerings.

Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years
By Julie Andrews
Hachette Books
$30.00, 352 pages, Hard

Beloved performer Julie Andrews has continued the story of her life in Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years. In it, Andrews discusses her life as an actress, going into detail about how she quickly became famous from some of her earliest and most enduring films and the challenges that brought to her life. Andrews also talks about motherhood, the end of her first marriage, adoption, and her love for Blake Edwards. Fans of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music will love getting this in-depth look at the wonderful Julie Andrews and her fascinating life.

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life
By Ali Wong
Random House
$27.00, 240 pages, Hard

Comedian Ali Wong captured the national spotlight with her recent Netflix comedy special, and her momentum continues with Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life. Ostensibly a series of letters addressed to her own daughters, these pieces will resonate on some level with nearly anybody who picks up Wong’s book, as she talks very candidly on a wide variety of topics: parenting, marriage, her own ethnic background, and the pains of being a working mom. This hilarious and insightful collection is a must-read.

The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir
By Samantha Power
Dey Street Books
$29.99, 592 pages, Hard

Anyone who has followed politics over the past decade or so will likely recognize the name Samantha Power. While she may be most widely known for her work as US Ambassador to the United Nations, she has a long history of activism, and The Education of an Idealist takes readers along on the journey of her life. We hear about her childhood Dublin, her time spent in Bosnia, and her eventual rise to a position in the White House. It’s a fascinating story, and really brings home the idea that one person really can do a lot if they’ve got the drive to do it.

Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For
By Susan Rice
Simon & Schuster
$30.00, 544 pages, Hard

Scholar and diplomat Susan Rice is perhaps most closely associated with Benghazi in the minds of most Americans, but she has been a political force for the past three decades, and has been involved with a number of incredibly complex issues that the United States has had to deal with. In Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For, Rice gives readers fresh insight into these issues, telling her role in the political front line with vivid clarity. Readers will emerge from the pages with a fresh drive to keep American from falling victim to domestic partisan squabbles.

The Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and her Oxford Circle Remade the World for Women
By Mo Moulton
Basic Books
$30.00, 384 pages, Hard

Novelist Dorothy L. Sayers is famous for her detective series starring Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, but this early-twentieth-century author made waves in British society long before that by daring to enroll at Oxford University. As one of the few women to have been admitted, Sayers naturally gravitated toward her fellow female classmates, and together they formed a club of sorts known as the Mutual Admiration Society. This book explores the lives of Sayers and her friends, and the many ways in which they fought to change women’s place in the modern world.

AOC: Fighter, Phenom, Changemaker
By Prachi Gupta
Workman Publishing Company
$14.95, 144 pages, Trade Paperback

Before her name was a nationally-recognized abbreviation, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was a bartender, as the stories go. But what drove this fierce, outspoken women to run a wildly successful Congressional campaign powerful enough to defeat a ten-term incumbent and become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress? In this book, author Prachi Gupta explores AOC’s roots, from her childhood in Westchester County, New York, through her education at Boston University and onward.

Sontag: Her Life and Work
By Benjamin Moser

$39.99, 832 pages, Hard

In twentieth century America, Susan Sontag was a force to be reckoned with. From her first major essay in 1964 until shortly before her death in 2004, Sontag wrote and wrote and wrote about a wide variety of topics, primarily in the form of essays and novels. Sontag especially focused on controversial topics like war, popular culture, human rights, illness, and sexuality, and she also wrote extensively about photography. Sontag: Her Life and Work offers readers the most in-depth vision of Sontag ever published, examining her body of work in detail while also providing context about Sontag’s life via interviews and photographs.

If cold, gloomy winter weather has you down, the time is right to pick up a great book on an interesting, influential woman. These selections offer great opportunity to learn about people from our past and present, and to be inspired for the future. Have you read any of these biographies? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

It’s like moving twice a month

It’s like moving twice a month

I realized it’s been many, many months since I blogged about our journey of opening, and now running, a bookstore. January will mark the one-year anniversary since we signed the lease. About this time last year, Ross and I were scouting locations to do this little venture of ours.

I used to think that I was an extrovert until we opened the bookstore. See, I’d never done retail in my life. Not even as a teenager. But, after nine months of running the bookstore now — and being the one who mostly is behind the counter — I find myself “communicated out” by the end of the day. Don’t get me wrong. I love chatting with customers who come by. But it’s exhausting to do all day long. By the time I get home, I just want to sit in a corner by myself and not talk. Or write. Obviously.

My husband recently said: “You don’t realize what’s coming.”

He was referring to the upcoming holiday shopping season. He’s a retail veteran, having run comic book stores for many years pre-me. I really had no idea, but took his word for it. We’re just now beginning to see an uptick in patrons, which is exciting. We’re ready for it. I spent several days decorating the store for the holidays. I decorated so much that I told my now-adult kids: “I’m not putting up Christmas at the house.” I just don’t have it in me.

The most surprising thing about running the bookstore — to me — has been that it feels like when you have to pack up your house, move, and unpack. We seem to do this every couple of weeks at the store. There’s a constant reorganization going on that’s pretty exhausting, yet exciting at the same time. I thought we’d be set for the holidays when I made our windows at the end of November. Well, I was wrong. Ross decided that it would be better to have books and games in the windows to entice people into the store. GAH! He was right. Again. So, last night, I transitioned the holiday decorations from both windows over to the blue table.

The bundled boxes aren’t selling either. Really bummed about that. Everything this first year is an experiment for us. I’m thinking this one is a fail.

What I’ve learned over the past year since starting renovation of the store is that I needed to carve out time for myself — the ever-popular term these days: self-care. I was pushing myself way too hard and needed more down-time. The trouble is that Lily the Bookstore Dog doesn’t understand “We’re not going to the bookstore today.” In fact, as I write this entry at home on a Sunday, she’s sitting by our front door grunting at us. She takes her job greeting customers seriously.

So, here’s to my very first holiday season of retail.

Hot Graphic Novels Roundup

Hot Graphic Novels Roundup

Roundup by Thomas Rojek

The last few months brought us some wonderful graphic novels. I’ve taken the liberty of creating this roundup of my favorites and providing a summary of each book and why I loved each of them.

Midnight Radio
By Iolanda Zanfardino
Lion Forge, $14.99, 160 pages, Trade Paperback

In Midnight Radio, four strangers in San Francisco grappling with various life struggles from sexuality to PTSD, are unexpectedly brought together by a mysterious late-night radio message that changes their lives. Artist Lolanda Zarafardino’s style is beautiful and captivating, its color palette warm and striking, and the story feels personal, topical, and important. The characters put us affectingly in their shoes, making the issues they struggle with feel raw and real. It’s an important work and a compelling story done in beautiful style.

Blackbird Volume 1
By Sam Humphries & Jen Bartel
Lion Forge, $16.99, 168 pages, Trade Paperback

Blackbird is the story of Nina Rodriguez, a young woman who lost her mom at a young age and become obsessed with the idea of a secret society of Paragons, or wizards, and is treated as if she is crazy for it. All that changes after a giant monster kidnaps her sister and she is thrust into a world that she had always hoped to find, but nothing is as it seems, and she soon finds that everything that she knows has been a lie. Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel, and the rest of the team behind Blackbird have given us a fantastic and beautiful story full of intrigue, and I cannot wait to see what comes next in the series.

Milo’s World Book One: The Land Under the Lake
By Richard Marazano, Christophe Ferreira
Lion Forge, $12.99, 120 pages, Hard

Richard Marazano and Christopher Ferreira bring us the story of young Milo, a boy who stumbles across a magic goldfish that brings him to another realm where he must help stop an evil sorcerer. With the help of a thief, a goldfish, a grumpy villager, and his aunts, he will help to restore peace to a world on the other side of the lake. Milo’s World is a very sweet story with a charming cast of characters with an adorable art style that draws you into the story. Marazano and Ferreira do an amazing job with what is sure to be a beautiful and charming story.  

Old Souls
By Brian McDonald, illustrated by Les McClaine
First Second, $24.99, 256 pages, Hard

Brian McDonald and Les McClaine have brought us Old Souls, a story about a world in which you can unlock and live through your past lives by using a form of hypnosis, and, for Chris, it very quickly becomes something of an addiction. After meeting an elderly homeless man named Jack, who claims to have known him in a past life, Chris is dragged into a world in which he gets to re-live everything and everyone he has been, but he soon starts to slip further and further away from his family and those that care about him, and an unhealthy obsession begins to develop. Both McDonald and McClaine are masters in their respective fields and together they have created something truly beautiful.

By Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore
Fantagraphics Books, $24.99, 288 pages, Hard

BTTM FDRS by Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore is an important narrative and stylistic entry into the graphic novel cannon, which currently lacks in the area of Afrofuturism. But more than offering a stellar instance of Afrofuturist style, BTTM FDRS, much like Jordan Peele’s Get Out, explores the horror/comedy of everyday social injustices–gentrification, in this instance. The symbolism of an insidious force drawing evil power from the oppression of a vulnerable group is intentionally evident–and it becomes the source of both biting satire, absurdist comedy, and genuine, well, horror. Brilliant, striking, unique, compelling, and just a damn good read, BTTM FDRS is a triumph. 

Monstress Book One
By Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda
Image Comics, $49.99, 528 pages, Hard

I don’t even know where to begin with this book. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda have won multiple awards and received high praise for this beautiful graphic novel already, and I can see why. The story follows Maika Halfwolf as she hunts for a link to her past, and those that hunt her for the crimes she has committed in an attempt to find freedom. Accompanied by a talking cat, a fox-child, and an eldritch abomination, they are continuously and viciously pursued as they try their hardest to stay one step ahead of everyone. Anyone looking for something new and unique needs to pick this up; the artwork is beautiful, the story is full of beautifully done characters and environments and features a matriarchal society, and the world building is staggeringly deep. Do yourself a favor and get a copy as soon as you can.

The Magicians Original Graphic Novel: Alice’s Story
By Lilah Sturges
Archaia, $26.99, 208 pages, Hard

If you are unfamiliar with The Magicians series by Lev Grossman then you should probably go pick the series up (it is basically Harry Potter goes to college). Unlike the original series of books and the tv show, this one focuses on Alice’s perspective. We get to see her as she forces her way into Brakebills to try and join, her own struggle, and ultimately her own decision that saves the known universe. Lilah Sturges and Pius Bak do a fantastic job of breathing new life into the story from Lev Grossman. Well worth a read for any fans of the series.

Cooking With Spices

Cooking With Spices

By Thomas Rojek

With summer officially coming to a close, we’re taking a look at cookbooks that embody robust spices, which invite Fall cooking.


One Dish – Four Seasons
By Jordan Zucker
Publisher: Home Sauce Publications
$44.00, 208 pages

One Dish – Four Seasons brings an interesting idea on cooking to the table. What about a single recipe with four variations based on the season that you are in to help you utilize those fresh ingredients? And, if that alone isn’t enough for you, then what about a wine pairing for each season in the recipe? Still not interested? What if each recipe came with an album to accompany it? Featuring more than 80 recipes, jokes, and beautiful photography, this cookbook is bound to delight the foodie in you.

Tahini and Turmeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics–Made Irresistibly Vegan
By Ruth Fox • Vicky Cohen
Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books
$24.99, 304 pages

Vegan food gets a bad rap as far as most people are concerned because of the idea that substitution of meat/animal products takes away from the authenticity of a dish. Cohen and Fox are here to prove otherwise. There are thousands of traditional dishes that are vegan right out of the gate, and a big one is Middle Eastern cuisine. Featuring beautiful color photographs, excellent instructions, descriptions of traditional Middle Eastern cuisine, and walkthroughs on how to build up the perfect pantry, Tahini & Tumeric is a wonderful addition to any culinary library.

Japanese Table
By Sofia Hellsten
Publisher: Hardie Grant (UK)
$29.99, 192 pages

Most of my diet during college consisted of Japanese cuisine and running into little ramen/sushi restaurants, enjoying a few simple dishes and reading/working on whatever project I had at that time. Japanese Table is a beautiful book that discusses the elements of setting out a simple and elegant meal with wonderfully flavored dishes. Sofi Hellsten walks us through the basics of setting up the pantry with ingredients we will be using regularly, discusses the basics of flavor profiles, and how to properly prepare and plate the food. This book is beautiful and features breathtaking photos to help inspire you on your journey.

Spiced: Unlock the Power of Spices to Transform Your Cooking
By America’s Test Kitchen
Publisher: America’s Test Kitchen
$19.49, 304 pages

We all know that person who is overwhelmed with the idea of seasoning/spices and who worries of over seasoning something or using the wrong thing. Spiced is here for you, with easy-to-follow instructions and ideas. This book will help you or friends who suffer from a lack of flavor to gain some good tips and tricks for seasoning, as well as the beautiful recipes and photos to help you create high quality meals.