9 For Nerds: A Book Lover’s Bucket List

Last week we took the kids to a great second hand bookstore called 2nd and Charles.  It was vast.  Since they weren’t bound to recent bestsellers, we found all kinds of treasures that Barnes and Noble doesn’t stock and the library has forgotten.  I found a great copy of Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, and my sweet Abbey walked out with a stack of books — $1.50 for Emily of New Moon.  You can’t find that anywhere!

Got me thinking about my deep and insatiable love of books, the slow, sad, extinction of the indie bookstore, and the places I absolutely need to go before I die.  So here’s my Book Loving Bucket List — three author’s haunts to explore,  three experiences to plum, and three places to shop. All of the photos below are links to fuel your own daydreams.  Enjoy!

The Robert Frost Museum
9.  The Robert Frost Museum, Shaftsbury, Vermont

Vermont is one of the only states back east I’ve never visited, and Robert Frost is such a favorite.  While I’m at it, I’d love to swing over to Amherst and visit the Emily Dickinson house (and maybe Mark Twain’s, Louisa May Alcott’s… OK, maybe just a dozen or so in New England.  Why not?)  I think Frost’s words and his landscape were so wedded, you’d feel you were walking into a poem.  “A breeze discovered my open book / And began to flutter the leaves to look.”

 

Jane Austen's House
8.  Jane Austen’s House

There are scads of Jane Austen tours that take you through the countryside she knew and loved, but of course, the must-see spot is her actual house.  I can only imagine it’s packed.  All the time.  Because Mr. Darcy!  Emma!  Says Miss Austen, “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”  Wow, Jane.  Don’t hold back.

 

Visit Guernsey shoot at Victor Hugo's Hauteville House
7.  Victor Hugo’s Hauteville House in Guernsey

Little bit influenced by the scenery, not gonna lie.  I am loving reading Les Mis right now, but it is work in spots, for sure.  But Guernsey!  And not only would I need to pack Les Mis, but The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which is one of my all-time favorites.  I might need to stay for a week.  Clear the calendar.

 

American Writer's Museum
6.  American Writer’s Museum, coming to Chicago in 2017

Y’all, this looks so great.  Last night when I couldn’t sleep I started daydreaming about a writer’s museum.  Why is there not one?  It was a happy thought, and when I googled it today, lo and behold, there’s one coming!  And I don’t even particularly like Chicago — but now it’s on the list.  Yippee.

 

The Rabbit Room
5.  The Rabbit Room

So The Rabbit Room is more of an online destination, and it is fantastic.  Enough distraction to derail a month of workdays.  But they actually do host really incredible events, often at the Art House in Nashville, pictured above.  They have this crazy idea that art and music and faith and stories all flow out of the same great place.  I don’t have the chutzpah to join in, but I’d love to be a fly on the wall.  From their website, “Through books, movies, theater, and other media, the magic of storytelling has the power to shape not only our minds, but the world around us. And story, like music, has the kind of magic that not only draws people closer to one another, but draws them further up and further into the great Story.”

 

The Glen Workshop
4.  The Glen Workshop

The Glen Workshop is the brainchild of Image Journal and Seattle Pacific’s MFA program.  I torture myself by looking into it every year and then not going.  (Money.  Sad but true.)  Participants in the MFA go to two residencies per year, one in Whidby Island, one in Santa Fe.  The Santa Fe version is open to non-MFA students as well, and brings in an amazing assortment of artists from many disciplines, authors, and crazy respected speakers.  Someday, friends.  Someday.

 

Signs of Life
3.  Signs of Life Bookstore, Lawrence, KS

So it’s not better than Guernsey.  It doesn’t beat Santa Fe.  But it’s practically local, a mere 8 hours away.  I’ve been to Signs of Life (the only one on the list with this distinction) several times, and it’s my favorite bookstore in the world.  So very cool.  Like The Rabbit Room and The Glen, this little gem is saturated in an Art/Faith/Mystery worldview that embraces visual arts, poetry, theology, and literary fiction.  There’s a café for chatting, a gallery for contemplating, and lotsa books.

 

The Last Bookstore
2. The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles

I love the whole gutsy story of The Last Bookstore.  You have got to click on the link above and watch this beautiful little story, of a guy who was pretty broken, who nevertheless had vision and determination, who built maybe the coolest bookstore you’ll ever see.  Redeem your next visit to LA with something extraordinary.

 

Hay-on-Wye
1. Hay-on-Wye, Wales

I think I could live here forever.  It is the land of books.  An entire village of bookstores.  And where the books aren’t shelved in shops, they’re shelved up and down the streets and ruined castle walls, honor system style.  Just be sure to buy a round-trip ticket or you’ll spend all your traveling money and be stuck there forever.  Unless that’s not such a bad thing, after all.

To Die For

Shall I tell you about two of my favorite things?  One is a good mystery.  Two is to-die-for pie.  That “to-die-for” part is where they come together:  Diane Mott Davidson, who writes “culinary mysteries” set close by in Colorado, includes recipes in her books.  Her sleuth, you see, is a caterer by day.

Anyway, Davidson’s books are reliably fun and fast reads, great for a weekend when there’s not much going on.  But tucked inside are recipes.  Now, I’ve only made one of them.  I always wondered if they were any good (after all, the books aren’t really cookbooks.)  But this one looked so delish…

Oh my goodness.

I make this pie every summer.  It is seriously my favorite fruit pie of all time.  Except possibly the blueberry pie at the Camden Deli in Maine, which is ridiculous.  My sister-in-law requested it for a family get-together today, and I thought it worth sharing, so here you go.  One last strawberry grand slam of summer, then on to pumpkins.

Strawberry Super Pie

Crust:
3/4 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp confectioners sugar
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Topping:
2 pounds strawberries, divided
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch

Filling:
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
4 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 tsp vanilla extract (I used clear to keep the filling pure white)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Directions for crust:
Preheat oven to 375°.  Mix the butter, flour, confectioners sugar, and pecans.  Press into a buttered 10-inch pie plate.  Bake 25 minutes or until light brown.  Cool completely.

Directions for Topping:
Mash enough strawberries to equal 1 cup.  Cut the tops off the rest of the strawberries and set aside.  Place the cup of mashed strawberries and water in a saucepan.  Mix sugar and cornstarch together and add to the strawberry mixture.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Boil until mixture turns clear and thickened, about a minute.  Let cool completely.

Directions for Filling:
Whip the cream until stiff peaks form.  In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese with the vanilla and powdered sugar until smooth and creamy.  Carefully fold whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.  Spread filling into cooled crusts and refrigerate.

When berry mixture is cool, the pie(s) can be assembled.  The recipe calls for whole or halved strawberries to be stood on top of the cream filling, cut side down.  When the entire filling is covered with whole strawberries, spoon cooled berry mixture over filling.  Refrigerate pie until ready to serve.  Any leftover topping can be served on toast or English muffins.

Makes 8-10 large servings

From Dying for Chocolate by Diane Mott Davidson.  Bantam Books, 1992.