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Shelf Stable: May 29
“When you read a great book, you don’t escape from life, you plunge deeper into it.”
Julian Barnes
You ever wake up in the middle of the night for no particular reason and are AWAKE? No matter what you do, you can’t fall back asleep so you just lie there for a couple of hours stressing out about all the sleep you’re losing, all the energy you won’t have for the next day, all the things you might not accomplish because you’ll be too tired. And then a couple hours later, at a point you can never actually remember, you fall back asleep. Odds are pretty good you have, because you’ve just had a night of biphasic sleep.

Biphasic sleep is sleep in two distinct phases and it was a common, even natural way for people to sleep before electric light and the industrial revolution. You’d go to sleep around the time the sun went down, sleep for 4 hours or so, wake up for a couple of hours, and then go back to sleep until the sun came up, getting your 8 hours of sleep over the course of 10-12 hours instead of in one block. When this was natural, that period of waking wasn’t wasted time. People would tend the fire, share their dreams with their bedmate, do chores, sometimes even visit neighbors, and, of course, those who could would read.

This happened to me a couple of nights ago and I ended up finishing a book I’ve been reading for a while, The Dreamed Part by Rodrigo Fresan. (I’ve read from it a couple of times as bedtime stories.) This ended up being the perfect time to finish it. Though I don’t think Fresan says this directly, The Dreamed Part is not only about that space between being awake and being asleep, that transition from one state of being to another that we can never remember, but tries to induce that in the reader, moving back and forth between talking to the prose logic of our waking brains and the poetry logic of our dreaming minds. I don’t know if words can actually do that, but for the first time I really felt that effort on my mind, in part because I was reading in the waking part between two phases of sleep.

This was the perfect way to finish the book. As I thought more about it, it occurred to me that every book has a perfect way to read the ending, and most of the time you don’t know what that perfect way is unless it happens to you. Once you have that idea in mind, you can make educated guesses, of course. (If I had been thinking along the lines of “the perfect way to finish The Dreamed Part” I probably would have guessed some altered sleep state.) But even then, it’s just a guess, and you really only get one shot.

And being home so much, with the structures of our work day so different, even more relaxed, we have the opportunity to read at new times, in different spaces, and in different ways. Outside. Inside. In different rooms of the house. At different times of the day. (I mean, if you set your book up behind your camera, no one in the meeting will know you’re reading!) And with each new way you read, you increase the chances of finishing your book in the perfect way. Though there are great restrictions on our movements and actions now, there is also some new space for us to use and explore.

So if you jolt awake in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep, don’t stress about it. You’ve just finished phase one of your night. So do what your ancestors did. Read for a couple of hours until it’s time for phase two.

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Hello from Six Feet Away
It's been a busy week for us after reopening for curbside pick up - we've gotten a lot of love, said a lot of six-feet-distanced hellos to your familiar faces, and processed a lot of orders. And then there's this...
More exciting news announced this week: we're bringing our classic Grown Up Book Fair to you, virtually! Shop from our summer reading wish list (book fair orders of $30 or more get a free gift!), follow us on social media for some fun content including suggested Aeronaut beer + book pairings, and join our virtual event on June 15 to hear about bookseller's top picks for what to read when it's too hot to think - and get recommendations for your tastes, too. Learn more here!
A Time to Listen and Learn
Friends, I know that the last few days may have felt overwhelming for many reasons. When it comes to the state of racial injustice in our country, I, too, have felt overwhelmed, helpless, confused, angry, hurt, ashamed - it goes on. The thing is that we're not helpless; there's so much we can do to help, by supporting organizations working to help marginalized communities, calling our lawmakers, speaking out against injustice and uplifting voices that need to be heard and answered. And there's more that you can do from within the walls of your own home, too. National Book Award-winning author Ibram X. Kendi teaches that there's no such thing as being "not racist" - instead, we must seek to become anti-racist, a definitive stance against racism that requires self-reflection, education, and deliberation. Here are some resources - beautifully represented by artist Jane Mount - to get you started on this work. -- Leila
Digital Audio Books:
A terrific way to support local indies!
The Power of Preorders!
Preorders are a great way to support PSB and the authors you love! You can see all of the books from the future we're excited about here. But you can preorder more than just what we're excited for! Simply look for "Available for Preorder" in the inventory status.
Virtual Bookseller
Want book recommendations, personalized just for you?

Fill out our form with your likes and dislikes, genres and favorites, and we'll crowdsource a bunch of great picks for you with our crack team of real life booksellers. Give it a whirl!
Old Hollywood:  From Page to Screen
The 1960’s Part II

During the 1960’s many British films epitomized the mod Swinging Sixties with its loosening of the strict moral code of the previous decade.   British producers based many of their movies on important books, plays and history:  In 1961 director Tony Richardson directed  A Taste of Honey  based on the gritty novel by Shelagh Delaney.  Alfie  (1966) book by Bill Naughton starred Michael Caine;  To Sir with Love  (1967) with its hip clothes and haunting theme song sung by Lulu; John Schlesinger’s daring drama  Darling  (1965) winning the winsome Julie Christie her Best Actress Oscar and BAFTA Award.  Interesting trivia:  American Shirley MacLaine was originally cast to play Diana, but was replaced by Christie.
Herman Melville’s short novel  Billy Budd was produced in 1962 with Terence Stamp playing the tragic Billy. The same year T. E. Lawrence’s book  Seven Pillars of Wisdom was filmed with Peter O’Toole playing  Lawrence of Arabia (Best Picture Oscar, 1962).  Dr. Zhivago  (with Omar Sharif) was released in 1965 and based on the novel by Nobel Laureate Boris Pasternak.  Directed by David Lean, the film clocked in at over three hours.  Interesting trivia: the Soviet Union would not permit the shooting of the film there since the book was banned, thus Spain stood in for Russia.

That year, Clara Bow, the original IT girl died in California at age 60.

Lynn Redgrave (Oscar nomination) starred as the charming, if eccentric,  Georgy Girl (1966) written by Margaret Foster.    Bedazzled (1967) was a comic take on the Faust legend set in Swinging London and written by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. The same year Robert Bolt’s powerful drama  A Man for All Seasons was released with Oscar winner Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More and Robert Shaw as Henry VIII.

Other important titles turned into films:  Far From the Madding Crowd (1967) Thomas Hardy’s haunting novel adapted by Frederic Raphael.  The Lion in Winter (1968) by James Goldman starred Peter O’Toole as Henry II and Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine.  The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), based on the novel by Muriel Spark, starred the magnificent Maggie Smith, who won her first Oscar. Interesting trivia:  Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand ( Funny Girl) tied for the Best Actress Oscar in 1968.

A fascinating decade for film, the 1960’s moved Hollywood forward in evocative ways; thought provoking, stylish and always entertaining.

-- Nathan
Next Up:  Celluloid Shakespeare
Audio Book of the Month
The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

Fatima is a concubine of the sultan of the last emirate in the Iberian Peninsula to submit to the Spanish Inquisition. When her dearest friend, Hassan, a mapmaker who can map places he has never seen (and that do not always exist), is singled out by the Inquisition, she flees with him and a jinn, following the trail of the elusive and mythical Bird King, who may or may not be able to grant them sanctuary. Wilson’s latest novel is rich with the historical detail, lush description, and fantastical elements that we have come to know and love from her. A story of resistance, freedom, seeking, and strength, and a true fable for our times.
--Anna Elkund, University Bookstore
Need Some Inspiration?
These days, I have a very different appreciation for my after-work runs than ever before, and I imagine many other people feel the same. Most days, I either run or walk around Somerville and Medford after work (wearing a mask obviously), and that brief time outside the house has given me a lot of peace in the last few months. My running routes aren't strictly planned for the most part—my strategy has been that if I run by a street and it has flowers I'd like to look at or a cool looking house, I'll run down that road. Often, this leads to serpentine routes that wind through the area around me, but I love these glimpses of flowers and pretty painted houses that I can find. And doing this right in the middle of spring means that I get to see different flowers blooming from day to day and week to week, which is a lovely addition to my days as well. So my wish for all of you this weekend is that you can get outside and go search for something pretty. Walk down a street to see a purple house or a beautiful rhododendron. It makes me smile, and I bet it can give you a smile too.

Some of my favorite sights this week:
<3 April
Shop the store!
Journals, Stationery & Crafts
Sometimes a new notebook is what it takes to get the juices flowing! Browse our new online selection of journals, diaries, coloring books, and pen sets.
Book Bundle Offerings
Face Masks
Face coverings are going to be with us for a while, so we’re now offering non-medical grade cloth masks (including kid size) from a variety of makers. Right now quantities are limited, but additional styles are on the way. We’ll keep you posted!
New style now available:
Bedtime Stories
In this bedtime story from a few days ago, Leila reads from A Wrinkle in Time - prompting the included text exchange.
Kate's got a bedtime story planned for the usual 8:45 time on Instagram Live tonight!
Support Cafe Zing Baristas!
Although Cafe Zing is its own business separate from ours, we really don't see it that way: Zing workers are part of the Porter Square Books family. They keep us well supplied - very well supplied - with caffeine, kindness, and some great tunes. Sometimes they give us staff picks; sometimes we give them exact change because we've bought the same, perfect, comforting, delicious beverage twice a day five days a week for how long, now?

They're our family, and they could use a hand. If you are able, please considering donating to the Cafe Zing GoFundMe; 100% of proceeds go to baristas. What might you have spent at Zing over the past weeks if it we were in normal times? If that $10 is still in your wallet, consider putting it in their tip jar. We love you, Zing!
Are you missing out on our recommendations, pining for our Staff Pick display?? Our May crop of staff picks is now live on our website! We'll feature titles throughout the month, but you can browse the full list at the link below. As ever, all staff picks are 20% off -- so go crazy!
Featured Pick for Kids
The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

This sweeping fantasy adventure delves deeply into questions of identity, sacrifice, and freedom. So queer, so artful, so delicate, so exceptional. I love this book fiercely, and you will too.

-- Rebecca
Featured Pick for Adults

This is simply a beautiful book, and truly a work of art. From the wonderful illustrations, many of them roughly life-size, to the fascinating little essays scattered throughout (“Why don’t woodpeckers get concussions?” is only one of many), this book is a pure delight, and one I will treasure for many years.
-- James
We want to hear from you!
What's the best option to get you your books these days?
I'm so excited for curbside pickup!
Standard shipping to my door in 1-2 days? Yes.
Media mail - I don't mind waiting another day or two for the lower price point.
I'm a Cambridge/Somerville resident - local delivery, baby!
I just can't wait to be able to shop *inside* the store.
See you next time here at Shelf Stable!
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