Survival Kit’s Apocalypse by Beverly Williams

When you read the words “zombie apocalypse,” you probably think you’re in for a gory fright-fest. But Beverly Williams’ post-apocalyptic novel Survival Kit’s Apocalypse is less about the horrors of its zombified world and more about the exquisitely personal terrors of trauma—and the relationships that can help heal them.  

            In this character-driven novel, the titular heroine Kit is fleeing both from the novel’s zombies (called “rotters,” a mostly standard interpretation of the classic monsters, albeit with hints at a twist in their origins) and from a hideously violent past. Almost preternaturally capable but psychologically stunted, as a protagonist Kit is relatable if not quite likeable. Her past traumas are treated with sensitivity and humanity by the author, but are still quite disturbing to read about as they are revealed slowly throughout the novel. The physical and emotional scars of her twisted upbringing are excavated through the relationships she develops when she arrives at a camp of survivors. There, she is drawn out of her shell by survivalist heartthrob Eric and his brothers Thom and Matt. The siblings also come from an abusive household, so they can relate to Kit as she struggles to not only live in this new world, but to thrive and belong.

            Scenes of head-popping rotter encounters and survivalist tactics are interspersed with slower, more nuanced set pieces in which Williams deftly develops the relationships between Kit and the other survivors, using quotes from favorite songs and authors to organize the scenes thematically. In addition to Kit’s struggles with self-harm and thoughts of suicide, she also experiences moments of joy as she develops her first-ever romantic relationship with Eric, finds a new friend after saving the meek but resilient Sam from her abusive boyfriend, and begins exploring what happiness and family might look like in the aftermath of societal breakdown.

As the camp members realize that the rotters are not the only threat they face, Williams brings home a central theme: humanity can be more monstrous than any supernatural creature.

While there were moments when I would have preferred greater emphasis on pulse-pounding action and fright over deep-thinking exposition, Survival Kit’s Apocalypse is ultimately a page turner which is deeply invested in its characters, and as a reader I couldn’t help but worry about Kit and her strange, eccentric new family. Although I came into the book expecting a thrilling tale of terror, in reality it is a surprisingly subtle parable of hope, home, and healing.

Survival Kit’s Apocalypse: Survival Kit #1 by Beverly Williams. Published 2017 by Curiosity Quills Press. 366 pp.

Review by Carmen Tracey.

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Comics For a Strange World by Reza Farazmand

     With sparseness and simplicity, Comics For A Strange World, reminds us of the beautiful absurdity in being alive. Whether the narrator is a smoking ghost, a caveman or a pigeon, Farazmand uses blunt honesty to delve into both common situations and bizarre adventures .
      The comics first generated a huge following on the internet and since then he has been able to turn his ideas into two books: the first, Poorly Drawn Lines was a NYT bestseller. Leaving very few topics untouched, he slyly comments on our internet obsessed culture (the pigeon goes online), our escalating culture of violence (a squirrel buys a gun) and religion (God gets called out for being an old man in a bathrobe).
      For fans of The Far Side, Sara Scribbles or Hyperbole and a Half, this book is not to be missed. Matthew Inman (best selling author of The Oatmeal) says it best when he describes Farazmand’s work as “Walk(ing) the line between deeply poignant and laugh-out-loud funny.”

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Moonglow by Michael Chabon

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon returns in top form with Moonglow, a riveting and thought-provoking novel… or is it a memoir? This sweeping familial tale, told via the deathbed recollections of a character the narrator refers to only as “my grandfather,” is neither pure fact nor pure fiction. A smart, engrossing, profound tale that ranges from prewar Philadelphia to Nazi Germany to a Jewish retirement village near Cape Canaveral, this masterpiece marks a new apogee for Chabon. His most daring book to date, Moonglow is peppered with deftly-handled narrative experimentation, balanced with liberal doses of humor, and peopled with sparkling, fully-realized characters. This book’s luminous insights will resound long after you close the covers. Like the rockets at the heart of the story, with a force sometimes terrifying but never less than awe-inspiring, Moonglow soars. You can read more and buy the book here.

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True Christmas Treasure

First edition of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, 1843, published by Chapman & Hall, London, with four hand-colored illustrations by John Leech and additional b&w illustrations by Linton. Original rust colored cloth covers with gilt lettering and decorations bound in on 3 pages in rear of elegantly rebound book. Binding is full polished green leather (faded to brown on spine), Rivière name is stamped on front endpaper, and entire book is in fine condition. Yes, that’s a first edition of this gem, in a signature leather binding. This is a rare and lovely book for the collector. <sold>

first edition of A Christmas Carol, frontis and title page with tissue guard

first edition of A Christmas Carol, frontis and title page with tissue guard

beautiful leather binding

beautiful leather binding

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RIP Laurie Vrabel


Laurie welcoming the new chairs to Larchmere Tavern, Aug. 2013

Laurie was a friend, and she owned the restaurant next door, Larchmere Tavern. I go there often, to get a break, read PW, have staff meetings, and, of course, to get some food. We even had our annual staff party there this year. While it’s nice to have a tavern next door, that’s not what I am most grateful for. I’m just grateful for Laurie.

We were typical nice neighbors: exchanging books for food, borrowing address labels and advice on services, helping with technological issues (Laurie was more of a Luditte than I!). She didn’t have a lot of vegetarian options on the menu, but she would always make a grilled cheese for me, and trained her staff to do the same. We collaborated on a couple of events, and I suggested renters and presenters at my space to use her catering services. Laurie always treated me to her fabulous gazpacho on Larchmere Festival day, thanking me as if I personally brought her every customer of the day.

She was an avid and passionate runner. When I tried to take up running, she was so encouraging and supportive, like I had complimented her with my good taste. I told her I didn’t go very fast, and she leaned in and gave me the biggest smile, as she let me in on a great secret: “it doesn’t matter!”  She wanted to know what inspired me to start running, and when I told her grief management, she didn’t pry, she just smiled and welcomed me to the club. She was sad when her health dictated that she stop running, but she just started running in water instead.  She never stopped — that is, until she developed debilitating back pain, that was later diagnosed as stage IV liver cancer.  She was gone just four months later.

I will miss Laurie. I should probably start running again.

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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air
by Paul Kalanithi
Random House, January 12, 2016

With a message both mournful and life-affirming, When Breath Becomes Air chronicles a young doctor’s journey from literature student to promising neurosurgeon and finally to a patient in his own hospital after being diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Always profound, never sentimental, this important book refuses to take refuge in platitudes, instead facing mortality with honesty and humility. Written in engaging prose and filled with penetrating insights, this story is relevant to everyone and will captivate fans of memoir, literature, philosophy, and popular science alike. Lyrical passages of great beauty and vulnerability are deftly balanced by bright, candid moments of joy and even humor. Come prepared with plenty of tissues; over and over again this exquisite book will break your heart. This is a great choice for fans of Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. You can read more and buy the book here.


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Dietland by Sarai Walker

Dietland by Sara Walker

Dietland by Sara Walker Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 26, 2015

Who has ever read a fashion magazine, contemplated a diet, bought a lipstick? This book is for you! The heroine is Plum, not yet 30 but already a veteran of the fight to measure up to body images popularized in contemporary culture. Her book is funny but wise, a romp through the opposing worlds of a media-hyped lifestyle industry and feminist-inspired war against violence and pornography. Plum writes answers to questions emailed by readers to Kitty, the publisher of a magazine for teens. She grew up in Los Angeles, went to college in VT, lives in Brooklyn, and dreads monthly visits to the glitzy Manhattan headquarters of the media empire that employs her. Strange encounters lead her to stranger discoveries in the basement of this corporate skyscraper. Mystery, danger, drama, pathos, absurdity, enlightenment follow. Whether enjoyed as a diversion while walking a treadmill or devoured while propped in a recliner, this book will deliver great pleasure, many laughs, and satisfying insights. I loved it!

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Internships Available

It’s been awhile since we’ve had summer internships available, mostly because it’s depressing to train someone on a short-term basis, bring them up to speed, and then lose them just a few months later.  But the Booklog cataloging project is ripe for college student summer work, and we’re still working on the original inventory, so there’s lots to do.

We are now accepting resumes for part-time, temporary workers interested in learning a bit more about the book business.  Chief jobs will be cataloging our inventory with our Booklog software.  But, as a small indie business, you’ll need to be a jack-of-all-trades to some degree, so customer service and cashier skills are also required.  Event planning and management could use some help, and website knowledge or book binding skills are always a plus.  What are your special skills?  Talk it up.

Positions may vary between 20-35 hours per week, with a commensurate pay scale of $9-12 per hour.  Some evening and weekend hours are required.  Interviews will include a literary test, a typing test, a ladder and box-carrying demonstration, and short answers on various other job aspects.  Please forward your resume and letter of interest to  Many thanks!

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timberWe are pleased to announce that our new web store is live.  Yes, we’ve been doing this bookselling thing for a couple decades now, but we changed technology a while back, and we hope this new feature is bigger, better.  For one thing, our new software, Timber, updates live with our point of sale and inventory control system, Booklog.  While we only have a sample of our holdings currently posted on the web store, we’re working on adding more, and on creating niche catalogs of interest.  The new site has fancy shopping cart technology and secure credit card transactions via  Stay tuned as we add more listings (68,542 titles cataloged on Booklog presently, and counting).  Of course, if you are seeking a particular title, please don’t hesitate to contact us (there’s so much more!).

Sarah Manguso

While I’m in bragging mode, I’m thrilled to share that we were recently mentioned in The New York TimesSarah Manguso, a writer, was reminiscing about her childhood book memories, and yes, there was one she couldn’t identify, that led her to our Stump the Bookseller forum.  The query was quickly solved.  Her essay about the memories and the quest in the Sunday Book Review is charming, and isn’t it wonderful that we happened to have the book she remembered so fondly just sitting on our shelves?  Yeah, sometimes you just have to ask.  (See the Stumper blog for more. ) Many thanks, Sarah.

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New Website Launch


style tile

We’ve been scheming about a redesigned, sleeker website for over a year now.  But we didn’t just fantasize about it, we worked on it, too, and we hired a web designer to help us out.  The new site wins in four major regards:

  • it is updated with a bright new design and with older, stray pages finally laid to rest
  • Google calendars synchronizes our events by date and category
  • it is easy for anyone on staff to edit pages, and will resist the random insertion of “junk code” that we experienced with every cut-and-paste of the past
  • it is screen size responsive, so you can read it on your mobile, too

There are still some things to be worked on in the months to come, namely

  • getting this blog and the Stump the Bookseller blog to conform to the same style
  • listing catalogs of inventory for sale via Timber (which makes our Booklog catalog web-accessible), as well as online consortiums like ABE, and perhaps even Etsy
  • better Stump the Bookseller archives, with a pie-in-the-sky dream of a searchable database by categories and keywords

Much accomplished, much to go.  It amazes me how little slow steps eventually add up to a mile or a marathon.  All this while running the shop, dealing with the mountains of incoming, and planning for events in the near future, too.  We are grateful for your patience, and hope to bring more interesting author pages, editorials, and catalogs in the near future.  Kudos and thanks to Josh Brown for the web design, and Rob Logan for the web hosting expertise.

Launch is 9pm tonight!  Do let us know if you experience technical difficulties, and I hope you like it!

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