Feeling Thankful

Thanksgiving is less than twenty-four hours away, and whether you’re basting a magnificent bird or tucking in to a convenient take-out meal, this annual celebration of bounty and blessings is always a good opportunity to stop and take stock of all we have to be grateful for.

2017 has been a difficult year in so many respects: Anxiety and fear fueled by global unrest and national political and social upheaval have been exacerbated by devastating hurricanes, wildfires, and earthquakes. Faced with such challenges, it’s natural to wonder what difference we can make as individuals…or, in Bas Bleu’s case, as booksellers.

But that’s where you, our customers, come in. So many times over the past twenty-three years you’ve sent us letters, emails, even faxes (back in the day!) telling us how much a specific book or gift that you received from us meant to you. You tell us about the books that changed the way you think about the world or that introduced you to a person, place, or time you otherwise would never know. You tell us about the note card that delivered just the right words at just the right time, or the child’s toy that delighted a pair of overwhelmed first-time parents. And you continue to shop with our little company, year after year, even when you have bigger, cheaper options, because you tell us you value the “odd little books” and gifts we find and the shopping experience our catalog provides.

This week, we’re taking a break from the holiday hubbub to tell you just how grateful we are to have such wonderful, supportive customers. We can’t say it often enough: Without you, our “bookseller by post” never would have made it off the ground…let alone survived and thrived for twenty-three years! You remind us every day what a difference a community of kind, thoughtful, book-loving people can make in the lives of individuals and, yes, entire companies.

From our bluestocking family to yours: Happy Thanksgiving!

Jólabókaflóð: Your New Favorite Christmas Tradition

At Bas Bleu, we think books make the best gifts, be they for birthdays, graduations, Christmas, or just because. So when we first learned about Jólabókaflóð, Iceland’s annual Christmas “book flood,” we were delighted…and envious! A nationwide tradition of giving books as gifts to family and friends on December 24? After which everyone spends Christmas Eve sitting around reading? Is it too late to book our flights to Reykjavik?

Jólabókaflóð has its roots in World War II, when wartime restrictions on imported goods severely limited Icelanders’ gift options for the Christmas season. Continue reading

Artist Profile: Alison Gardiner

Illustrator Alison Gardiner enjoys tea and cake on china from her Royal Collection. The limited-edition mugs, plates, and teapot were designed to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

The start of Advent season is just around the corner (December 3!), which means our warehouse elves are busy packing up and shipping out Advent calendars every day. Some of our favorite Advent calendars in recent years have come to us by way of Alison Gardiner, a small family-owned company in southern England. At its heart: namesake illustrator Alison Gardiner, whose vivid and whimsical creations have quickly become Bas Bleu customer favorites. Recently, Alison took a break from the studio to talk to us about her creative journey, the benefits of supporting traditional artisans, and Prince William’s pet spaniel. Continue reading

November Book a Month: The Golden Age

As part of Bas Bleu’s 2017 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions, author interviews, or other bonus material about our Bluestocking BAM selection to enrich your reading experience—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)

Our November Book a Month selection, The Golden Age by Joan London (NOT Joan Lunden!), tackles a topic Americans don’t hear much about anymore: polio. Cheerful, right? Now, now, hear us out! Yes, The Golden Age revolves around Frank Gold, a young wartime refugee from Hungary who contracts polio in Australia. And, yes, the novel offers readers insight into the terrible infectious disease. But despite—or perhaps because of—his experiences in the war and in the hospital (which once was a pub), Frank is a passionate budding poet, and thus his story becomes an ode to beauty, love, family, life, death, and survival. Praised by our reviewer as “elegant and touching,” this quiet novel is a terrific choice for book clubs, promising rich discussions. Continue reading

A Special Halloween Celebration…with Books!

Halloween is right around the corner! This week in the Bluestocking Salon, we’re sharing a sweet anecdote from Bas Bleu editor AG that reminds us of the extra magic books can bring to special holidays…especially for the youngest of bookworms!

To say that my husband, Ryan, is into Halloween would be an understatement. Every October at our house involves countless bags of cobwebs, multiple jack-o-lantern carving sessions, new additions to our talking-ghoul collection, the latest trends in spooky lights, and many screams from me due his affinity for “Halloween pranks.” One of our favorite traditions every year is taking out our ever-growing stash of Halloween-themed picture books—including Gus Is a Mexican Ghost, Biscuit’s Halloween, Hallo-Wiener, and not one but two Berenstain Bears titles—for Rocky (age 3), Millie (5), and Ryan (38) to enjoy at bedtime. Continue reading

Our 2018 Book a Month Packages Are Here!

Our Holiday 2017 catalog is arriving in mailboxes any minute now, and among the amazing gifts packed into its pages you’ll find our Book a Month packages for the coming year! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Bas Bleu’s Book a Month program, the premise is simple: Treat your favorite bibliophile (who may be you!) to an entire year’s worth of terrific books, shipped either all at once or on a monthly basis throughout 2018. Continue reading

The Books That Shape Us: Wuthering Heights

From time to time, Bas Bleu’s editors will share with you some of the books that have had a profound impact on our lives. They won’t necessarily be grand literary classics or hard-hitting political tomes. They will be books that have stayed with us over the years and shaped who we are. If you’d like to share a significant title from your own life, feel free to do so in the comments section below.

My high school’s English department nurtured a deep love for the classics—Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, William Shakespeare—with an occasional foray into more modern fare—Richard Wright, John Fowles, Virginia Woolf. An avid reader since childhood, I dove readily into most of my school reading assignments, including Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. My friend Beth promptly became obsessed with the stalwart governess and her mercurial boss/suitor, but while I delighted in Jane’s pluck and her taste for the wilder corners of the English countryside (also, a mad wife trapped in the attic? EPIC!), I wasn’t haunted by it the way Beth was.

But then I met Heathcliff. Continue reading

October Book a Month: Whom the Gods Love

As part of Bas Bleu’2017 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions, author interviews, or other bonus material about our Bluestocking BAM selection to enrich your reading experience—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)

Our October 2017 Book a Month selection, Whom the Gods Love by Kate Ross, stars Regency-era dandy Julian Kestrel as an amateur sleuth charged with investigating the murder of a handsome, charming, and successful “golden boy” of Victorian London’s social scene. As the Regency dandy is a familiar figure to fans of historical fiction, we thought you’d be interested in learning more about that fine fellow…and his surprising role in English society and politics. For help, we turned to our friends at Felony & Mayhem, publishers of “the best in intelligent mystery fiction.” Here’s what they had to say: Continue reading

Banned Poetry

This week marks Banned Books Week, the American Library Association’s annual event designed to draw attention to the censorship challenges that some books and authors continue to face even in the twenty-first century. From time-honored classics (Lolita, The Bluest Eye, The Catcher in the Rye, Lady Chatterley’s Lover) to modern young-adult bestsellers (Speak, Two Boys Kissing, Looking for Alaska), novels have born the overwhelming brunt of censorship efforts in this country.

But censors and strict parents aren’t immune to the powerful effects of poetry on impressionable souls. Today on the blog, the Bas Bleu editors are taking a quick look at just a handful of poems that have drawn the ire of school districts, governments, and parents over the years.

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Books Recommending Books

From time to time, fellow bluestockings ask us, “I really liked this book. Do you carry something similar?” So today, as we put the finishing touches on Bas Bleu’s 2018 Book a Month packages (they are so good, y’all), we compiled a list of “books recommending books.” The titles in these pairings aren’t exactly alike: Yes, some have similar plots or subject matter, but others are kindred spirits in terms of character, theme, or mood. We hope you’ll find something new you’ll enjoy! (All of the suggested “try this” titles are available for purchase on our website. Just click on the book cover.)

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