Another year at the helm of ABSW / Tower Books, and it’s time for another peek behind the curtain at some of the books that shaped and continue to linger in the mind of your humble chief bookseller, here at the little bookstore that’s bigger on the inside.
All the titles from last year’s “desert island” entry are on hand and ready to become your favourites as well. Below please find even more of the titles that I like to put in people’s hands.
- HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS by James A. Owen is the first volume of an eight-book series called “The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica”, featuring every realm that has ever appeared in books across time and space, comprising the Archipelago of Dreams. The Archipelago is defended against enemies by the Caretakers, whose identities might surprise you… familiar names like Lewis, Barrie, Wells, and more. Action, adventure, pathos, intrigue and more for the discerning reader. I have loved so many of the authors and literary figures who turn up in the pages here, and the whole series is on my “never out of stock” list.
- DANDELION WINE by Ray Bradbury is a book I re-read every year, starting on the summer solstice. Short chapters, each a vignette in the life of one boy and his family and friends over the course of a bygone summer. Ray Bradbury was a mentor to so many in the fields of fantasy and science fiction, including James A. Owen, and his works will be read for many years to come.
- OWL AT HOME by Arnold Lobel is a very clever little book that many adults enjoy even more than the beginning young readers for whom it was intended. In five short tales, the main character enjoys the quiet life, but welcomes guests like the Winter and the Moon; he makes tear-water tea and tries to run fast enough to be in two places at once; and he tests his own bravery against the two strange apparitions at the end of his bedstead. Owl, like me, is someone who enjoys books and creature comforts; I loved this book as a kid and am even more appreciative of Mr. Lobel’s illustrative storytelling talents now.
- THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS is a lesser-known work by L. Frank Baum, who is far more familiar to readers as the “Royal Historian of Oz”. This tale, which first appeared in 1902, explores the childhood of the young fellow known as Claus, reared by faery folk in the Forest of Burzee, and how he became the beloved figure that we know today. I became familiar with this story when I first saw the Rankin/Bass special when I was home from college, and immediately went to hunt down the book. There are many different editions of this, both illustrated and prose; this particular edition, illustrated by renowned graphic novelist Eric Shanower, perfectly complements the original Oz books and makes this a keepsake for many holidays to come.
- MOOMINLAND MIDWINTER by Tove Jansson is my personal favourite of the original Moomin books, quite likely because it was the first one I found in our town’s public library. I related quite well to Moomintroll and his confusion of trying to understand a completely different world; I also admired Little My tremendously and wished I had her bravado. I went back and re-read all of the books recently, and MOOMINLAND MIDWINTER does not disappoint.
- SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK and its sequels, collected by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell, were one of many factors in my becoming a horror fan all the way back in my childhood, growing up as I did with Vincent Price movies and Aurora monster model kits. The illustrations, to many fans, are almost more memorable than the tales… but only just.
- GHOST STORY by Peter Straub is another book I re-read once a year, usually in November as the trees become more and more bare of leaves and the air starts to smell of winter. It is completely and thoroughly a character-driven work, with relatable people and settings that I am very familiar with, and this very familiarity strengthens the horror and the poignancy.
Finally, we have three boxed sets of series that I enjoy tremendously, two of which are modern and one of which I grew up with.
- As mentioned in my 2020 desert island books blog, after discovering TIME CAT in sixth grade, I went on to read everything Lloyd Alexander wrote, but I came to THE CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN in a roundabout fashion when I was in high school. I read the last book first, not knowing it was the last book. Thus I was moved to tears at the fates of characters I’d not met before, and those tears were reinforced when I did get a chance to read the preceding four books and found out the backgrounds of those characters.
- THE PALS IN PERIL series by M. T. Anderson contains six books with characters and situations that are an homage to books, comics, and B-movies. How could I not love them? They feel as though they were written just for me. The series not only promises, but delivers thrills, chills, and “friendship stronger than the emptiness between the stars”.
- And last but not least, finally collected in paperback, is THE GUARDIANS by William Joyce, the five-book middle reader series that accompanies the three gorgeous picture books comprising THE GUARDIANS OF CHILDHOOD. These books lay the groundwork for the parallel storytelling universe explored in the animated Dreamworks movie RISE OF THE GUARDIANS.
I hope you’ll find a few new favourites of your own among my old favourites.
And thank you, as always, for making our shelves your destination.
Owner, Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester/Tower Books