Two years ago today...
I was giving an interview to a reporter from ABC12 who had heard of our struggles and took it upon herself to pitch the story to her station. I had spoken with a business professional about the next step in my business. I didn't know it at the time, but he was an investor and he thought I wanted money from him. I didn't. I just wanted guidance. What I got was a wake up call. Basically my business had gone under and I didn't even know it yet. I left that meeting devastated but by the time I made it back to the book store I was determined. My family had worked way too hard to support me and my dreams for me to go back and tell them I'd failed in the end. I came up with the idea to turn my end of year Thank You sale into an SOS sale and launched project Save our Store with a goal to sell 20,000 books for $1.00 and get out from under our accumulated debt. The community pulled together and bought a ton of books. We didn't sell the 20,000 books but we did sell enough to keep digging.
Last year, we posted another 20,000 book goal and brought out aaaaallllll the books at once. We wanted to finally put in the coffee shop to honor my mom who had put so much work and effort into the bookstore and had wanted to see the coffee shop come to life so badly because that was my dad's original dream. It turned out to be the worst Christmas sale we had ever had. The store was messy. I was depressed facing the first Christmas without my mother and quite frankly I was overwhelmed. I asked for feedback and man did I get it. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Thank you all for the Good. It overwhelmed the Bad and the Ugly. It sustained me and made me more determined than ever to do this thing. Thank you for the bad. It made me take a good look at things and make some significant changes. The ugly I just let go of. Needless to say, taking significant time off to be with my mom and then having a horrible December put us behind again. Not as bad as before but bad enough to have me sweating.
This year has been about reinventing as a single owner business, digging deep, and preserving the family legacy we started with. I set a 20,000 book goal this year and took a leap of faith by taking a large family for Christmas. Black Friday was awesome, but from then on it was looking pretty bleak. Our numbers were on pace to match or barely exceed last year and our donations for our family were trickling in rather slowly. It was beginning to look like this would be our last dollar sale and I was hoping we could survive two bad Christmas's in a row. Then this weekend happened. Donations poured in, books flew out. I was pretty much busy open to close Friday through Sunday and even got out late a couple times because there were still shoppers at closing time. So thank you. Thank you for believing in me when we struggled through the expansion. Thank you for saving me when we struggled after the expansion. Thank you for holding me up when I struggled after losing my mom. If it stays like it was this weekend than this is the year we make it. We can finally close the chapter on all of our struggles and take a deep breath. I'm honored to be a part of this community and look forward to the future and being able to continue to give back and support my community as much as you all have given to and supported me.
YOU are R&B Used Books.
Owner, R&B Used Books
As most of you know I’m pretty uncomfortable taking credit for the amazing things that have been able to be done for our community and even for the world through R&B Used Books.
Without all of you R&B never would have been able to donate inventory to give Paperback Exchange in Lancaster, Ohio a bunch of books to fill their shelves after they had a fire.
Without you we wouldn’t have been able to donate 350 cases (yes-that number is accurate and somewhere I have the receipt to prove it) to the Montrose Historical Preservation Society to help put a new roof on their museum. Without you we wouldn’t have been able to send books with people who were traveling to Tennessee to donate to their impoverished schools. Books also headed to Louisiana after Katrina and Texas as well.
You stepped up huge in December of 2016 when our expansion nearly took us out. And when we lost the cornerstone of our business in August you waited until the dust settled to step up and support us once more.
So THANK YOU. Thank you for a record March. You have no idea how much that means to all of us here at R&B Used Books as we find a new normal and build the business in a way that would make our parents proud and will be sustainable for our children to step into when we are gone.
We are here for the long term and great things are happening. Because of you.
Owner, R&B Used Books
Some people make ‘getting in shape’ their resolution, other people just want to get a better job, car, refrigerator... Maybe some more sleep.
These are great plans and all, but, if you’re like me, you just want to read more books than you did last year (if the book is good enough the ‘more sleep’ goal never works out anyways, trust me).
Finding time to discover a book you’d actually like to read and then sitting down to read it might take more time than you have to spend with your busy schedule, though. So, I’ve taken it upon myself to make a list consisting of a book per month - a book calendar, if you will - for you to consider. If this doesn’t have quite what you’re looking for, R&B Used Books has a ‘Book of the Month Club’ every month to give you EVEN MORE options! Stay tuned for possible future blogs about those books too!
January - the fresh month; the month of new things and hopeful expectation. (Fun fact: named after the god Janus, who was the god of doors… which is kinda funny but, hey, he had the ability to see the past and future so not too bad of a gig)
For the first month of the year, I’ve chosen the book A Man Called Ove; a New York Times Bestseller, written by a Swedish author named Fredrik Backman.
The protagonist is an elderly man named Ove. He is the quintessential crotchety old man. A good representative of me by the end of the year each year before I become “new” with the turn of the year. He has a better excuse for being that way than I do since he fairly recently lost the love of his long life and, thus, no longer feels there’s any point to his life. The turn of the year (his life up to that point) comes with the appearance of some new neighbors who break all his rules but also attach themselves into his life in all the right (and, for him, initially unwanted) ways. For a heartwarming, comic, and stubborn start to the year, try this novel on for size! (Btw,
I spotted it in R&B at one point!)
February - the ‘it’s still cold outside’ month; there’s a romantic holiday in there. (February itself is named after Februa, which was the ‘feast of purification,’ cleanliness and all that jazz)
Personally, I can take or leave the Valentine’s holiday. It’s a beloved national holiday for a reason, though, so I’ll do what I can to please the people.
If you can stomach that theme, a good classic is always Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Elizabeth (Lizzy) is witty and stubborn in her unwillingness to acknowledge Mr. Darcy, while the rest of her sisters swoon over other eligible men their mother puts in their sights. Some relationships end well, others… not so much. Lizzy, though, has the clearness of conscience to know what she wants and to not settle for anything less. For this reason, Ms. Elizabeth Bennett’s tale is the one I recommend.
March - somehow the illegitimate owner of the first day of spring (we all know there’s still snow happening in Michigan); Also, named after Mars, the Roman god of war. Fierce.
Deception is used as a weapon in war, so this writer feels that the name suits the month. For a tale of war, here’s ‘classic piece of literature’ round 2!
King Lear is a play written by William Shakespeare. Though there is a military leader involved, the main war involved in this plot is an internal one. A man struggles with his own identity once he has lost some of his men’s loyalty and finds himself in the midst of a storm in the woods. Other characters even disguise their true identities in order to deceive, but occasionally to aid, their fellow man. Overall, King Lear is a play which reminds us of the power we have through knowing our identities, and the storms we can face in search of one. How’s that for a deep, soul-searching theme for the 3rd month of 2018?
April - showers… lots and lots of rain showers, all for those May flowers. There are 3 theories as to where April got its name, which means it truly is the month of variety. Rain, some snow still, a sprinkling of sunny days…
Such a chaotic month needs a book with some major plot action to keep up with it! The most intense book I can remember reading recently is Inferno by Dan Brown. It even has an appropriate title for this category! This book is a continuation of The Da Vinci Code stories with Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, yet again at the forefront of a potentially deadly mystery. Langdon and his companion are forced to balance being chased through Florence’s streets with trying to crack codes in order to save...everyone. Your heart will be in your throat but you’ll never lose interest while reading this thrilling novel!
May - Here are the flowers! named after Maia, earth goddess of growing plants NATURALLYYYY. So much potential for nature puns… But I digress!
Flowers grow, but so do people. The former require water, the latter require challenging life moments. The New York Times Bestseller and recipient of the National Book Award, The Round House by Louise Erdrich, is a novel which entails heartbreak and tests of unimaginable difficulty for a young boy named Joe. Where most children are expected to remain innocent and carefree, Joe and his friends set out to obtain justice for unspeakable crimes which have occurred too close to home. If you choose to read this, get ready to feel allllllll the emotions!
June - summer; time for visiting one of the many lakes around here; Named after Juno, queen of the gods & goddess of marriage, weddings, & such -
So this is the month to be out and about and planning things. Coincidentally, much of the literature that I most enjoy involves some research and planning. Sepulchre by Kate Mosse could not have been possible without Mosse’s willingness to study and dig up the past. This novel involves a double narrative, one in modern day America but eventually France; while the other is entirely set in 19th century France. Culture, history, murder, superstition, mystery, and more make this novel one to look for!
July - freedom and fireworks!; Named after Julius Caesar… doesn’t quite fit what July means for Americans but hey, lets roll with it!
What I have pulled from this strange combination is that this is a month of BIG things/people. Important, that’s the word. So what would be better than to read about one of the most important people in America? Ellen Degeneres. She’s funny, personable, likes to dance, and LOVES animals, which are all the things which designate an important person by my definition. I personally have not yet had a chance to read her book Seriously… I’m Kidding, but I’ve heard a lot of good things AND it has 3.72/5 stars on Goodreads. I like to round up. It has 4/5 stars. I think it’s fair to say, though, that if you like watching her on TV you’ll have just as good of a time reading her thoughts. If you don’t get to it first, I will!!
August - Summer. Is. Ending; the Romans named this month after their first emperor, Augustus.
Speaking of things ending and the ability to become a Roman emperor….. A book I have not read yet is The Captain’s Daughter by Meg Mitchell Moore. It actually has nothing to do with an emperor BUT there is a lobsterman. Close enough… Daughter of widowed lobsterman, Eliza Barnes, tried to leave the boat life behind and move to the suburbs. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, the life that Eliza thought she had left behind comes back to her in a summer of choices and revelations. Just like the end of summer, this book seems a little sad but it may have enough beautiful moments to make it worth it!
September - Football; back to school; thanks to the Romans its name comes from the Latin word ‘septem’ as the 7th month of their year!
Everything starts beginning to look a lot less like summer and a lot more like fall during this month, too. When I think of trees and nature, my mind always goes to Walden by Henry D. Thoreau. Can you imagine living out by a pond for months, or even just a few weeks? Thoreau did it. He studied Walden Pond, a real pond, for two years, two months, and two days and then he wrote about it (I’d certainly hope he’d have something to write about after spending that much time studying one area). He talks about the people in town, too, but for the most part Thoreau just reflects on his surroundings and self-reliance. Gorgeous descriptions of nature that make you feel like you’ve been outside recently, even if you haven’t. Definitely give it a try!
October - spooky, harvesty, and full of hayrides; Named because ‘octo’ .. it’s the 8th month on the Roman calendar. Basically, the people who named the months were running low on creativity..
BUT, for this month of fall fun and fear, I recommend reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. This is no sparkly vampire novel. It is a novel of ancient letters and darkness. Heard of Vlad the Impaler? I hope you’ve heard of Dracula. Dive into this book to see how their bloody and merciless stories connect to the modern world. Mwuahaha!
November - turkey or if you’re a vegetarian, tofurkey - or if you like to live life on the edge, turducken; Veteran’s day; it’s the 9th month soooo the name comes from Novem, which is Latin for (you guessed it) ‘nine.’ *Sigh*
It’s the month when feasting truly begins and continues from here for another month or two. This means that you might want something a little lighter to read. A lot of people are deterred by the word ‘poetry’ but trust me for a second! The World’s Wife is a collection of poetry written by Carol Ann Duffy, but it’s not just any normal collection of poems. Duffy uses myth and other recognizable stories to craft her writing. You’ll recognize which story each piece is inspired by on Duffy’s quest to highlight the wives of famous male characters using their, often satirical, perspectives on their husbands. Laugh the food away this month!
December - holiday spirit; money thrown out of the window for our loved ones; fruitcake; & I’ve given up on the Romans, but I’m sure you can guess how December got its name.
How people celebrate the holidays, and what gifts they choose to purchase or make, often says something about their values. Hard Times by Charles Dickens incorporates characters from a variety of backgrounds and just as many different perspectives on life. This somewhat complicated story-line is set in the unpleasantly named Coketown and involves people who are more... practically minded, and those who… well, grew up in the circus (one example). Uncover the mystery alongside these unique characters and see which side of the spectrum of perspectives you fall on! If anything, you’ll walk away from this book with some quirky new name ideas for your pets.
Guest blogger for R&B Used Books.
It's that time of year again. Holiday shopping begins Black Friday, which is only a week from today. Are you prepared? Perhaps you've already made your list, but why not round out each gift with a book? This is an easy, affordable way to show someone you really put thought into their gift.
Here are our a few of our favorite ideas for this holiday season!
1. A Slow Cooker + Cookbook
For the millennial who just moved into his or her first apartment or the working parent, a Crock Pot is an essential time-saver. Help them out even more by getting them a cookbook to go with it!
2. Writing Essentials + Writer's Help Books
Whether it be blogging, poetry, or novels, odds are you have a writer in your life. A portable journal, reliable pens, a sturdy mug, a candle, and inspiring books are the key to a writer's heart.
BONUS: The candle and WAFF Journal can be bought at R&B Used Books.
3. Star Wars Shirt and Lightsaber + Star Wars Books
The next movie is coming out in December, so prep your favorite Star Wars fan with some fan materials!
4. Dog Essentials + Training Books
Did your friend recently adopt a dog? Perfect! Since "Dog Showers" haven't quite caught on yet, help spoil their dog with treats, toys, or essentials like leashes, harnesses, or beds. Pair that with a training book to help them begin a great relationship.
5. Wine Accessory Set + Wine Books
While wine may seem like the obvious gift for a wine enthusiast, it's a daunting task for someone who doesn't have the same taste. (Red or white? Dry or sweet? How cheap is "cheap wine"?) Grab them some awesome accessories and a couple books and worry no more!
6. Fitness Essentials + Fitness Books
Maybe they hit the gym every day, maybe it's a new sparked interest. Books with workout tips and some workout essentials (yoga mat, dumbbells, a good pair of shoes, etc.) make for a great gift for the fitness master or aspiring fitness guru in your life.
7. Garden Supplies + Garden Books
Winter is a sad time for gardeners, but it doesn't have to be anymore! We may be dreaming of warmer times, but we can keep up the garden-spiration with these Michigan/Midwest Garden Guides. Pair that with a couple house plants, and the gardener will be smiling again in no time!
8. Cookie Cutter + Baking Book
The holiday season: The season of never-ending parties and boredom over hosting gifts. If they invited you to a party, it's a safe guess that they relish all things associated with entertaining. A small but thoughtful gift would be a clever cookie cutter or a wine cork paired with a cookbook, baking book, or party planning book.
9. Craft Brewery Swag + Beer Books
We've covered the wine enthusiast, but Michigan is also sprinkled with craft beer lovers. If you don't know their favorite beer, how about some swag from the local brewery and a beer-themed book?
10. Art Supplies + Art Books
Replenish the paint and canvas and snag a resourceful art history book for the seasoned artist. Or how about the basics and a how-to book for a novice/beginner?
11. Golf Accessories + Golf Books
Golf can be an expensive hobby, and the accessories are so small! Bulk up your gift with a book.
12. Tools + Home Improvement Books
This is the perfect gift for new home owners or DIYers. Some shiny tools or a nice toolbox to go with home improvement books.
13. Museum Souvenir + History Books
Ah, the historians. You could easily get away with getting a historian nothing but books this Christmas. But to keep with the theme, consider a small souvenir from their favorite museum to display proudly on the shelf beside the many books you're getting them. If they don't have room on the shelves, try a sweater or a shirt. (Hmm, perhaps a bookshelf would be a good pairing too!)
14. Crafts + Craft Idea Books
Craft books are a crafter's best friend. It's the favorite go-to for ideas without being sucked into the abyss of the Web. While the Internet is great for ideas, it's terrible for the crafter. They'll thank you for fresh craft supplies and idea books.
15. Luggage + Travel Books
Is a family member studying abroad next semester? Don't let them go unprepared! Stuff some luggage with travel books and language books to prep before leaving.
16. Mason Jars + Lunch Recipe Book
This is a great idea for a coworker or a health-conscious friend with a long commute. Lunches can be a pain to plan, so they'll be thankful for the inspiration!
17. Instrument Accessories + Music Biography
Replace the broken drumsticks or used reeds and pair it with a biography of their favorite musician to read before practice. Grand Blanc Music is just down the row from us, so there's less running around for you too!
18. Cat Toys + Cat Books
A post from R&B Used Books wouldn't be complete without a Springer cameo. Cat toys, cat condos, cat books, oh my! Let the cat lover in your life know you support their cat obsession with all things cats this Christmas!
Remember your local bookstore while gift shopping this holiday season! Stock up on favorites for the avid reader in your life or add a book to another gift to be sure it goes to good use. Get creative and have fun this year!
We'd love to hear from you. Let us know your favorite gift-book pairing in the comments!
Guest Blogger for R&B Used Books
There were three observances that threw me for a loop. The first one was a posting that pointed out that we basically all had the exact same point of view. Some of our reasoning varied, but in a nutshell we all said the same thing so the question was posed that if the majority (we got 100 responses on that post and other than one troll and one that was for banning some books we literally all said pretty much the same thing) of the population felt as we felt then who were the people successfully getting these books banned and this language changed? Good question. Anyone want to tackle that one?
The second post that gave me pause was one positing that we should only ban the books that lied about things or gave a false history. That begs the question of whose viewpoint is considered to be the truth since opinions vary and facts can be interpreted different ways by different people. Extreme example-Atheists could then ban The Bible (which already has a long history of being on the banned books list anyway).
The third thing that stuck out for me was that the responses on my page were predominantly (as in almost 100%) white. Ironically what prompted my question other than the article about TKMB was a black mother who came in with her children looking for copies of Huck Finn. She wanted her children to read and be aware of the original language. She had the same concerns regarding sanitizing history as I did, and for the same reasons.
I do want to thank everyone who participated for kind, thoughtful and non-judgmental answers that pretty much went straight to the point. I enjoyed reading every response and it gave me ideas for future Q&A’s so watch for more compelling, deep thinker type questions in the future. And as always…KEEP READING!!!
Author - Beth Dumity
Owner of R&B Used Books in Grand Blanc, Michigan
We’re gearing up for NaNoWriMo here at R&B Used Books, and honestly, we couldn’t be any more psyched for the imagination and writers’ energy we’re anticipating at the store. The store has plenty of outlets to plug into and coffee pots for your caffeine needs. Feel free to bring your favorite snack, tea, or cocoa. We have some chairs here, but you are welcome to bring a pillow or bean bag of your own to let the words flow.
Every writer is unique: We have the marathon writers, the plotters, the outliners, the white-board drawers, the napkin writers, and countless others! Whether you have your story ready to go or you’re still unsure of some aspects, we’re cheering you on along the way!
We had fun putting together some writing prompts for inspiration. We hope you swing by throughout November to get your write on. As soon as you’re published, we’ll set up a book signing.
Once upon a time...
Be sure to comment your favorite writing prompt to inspire others! To sign up for NaNoWriMo and get your novel started, visit https://cloc.al/NaNoWriMo
Guest Blogger for R&B Used Books.