BOOKMARK: Recommendations from Mark Stolle


SOMETIMES, IF YOU ARE VERY LUCKY, you find a place whereupon visiting, you are taken away; so much so that leaving can feel a bit startling. 

I have this experience at Manchester by the Book.  It is such a marvelous portal.  Its walls are lined with an endless sea of wildly interesting people to be met, stories to be heard, ideas to consider.  There is this, which alone would be enchanting, but then there is also—Mark.  Mark Stolle, owner, greeter, and entry point to all things wordy and wondrous.  Always cheerful and ever at the ready with an enchanting story, delightful observation, or, best of all, recommendation.  He found the perfect piano teacher for my daughter.  He pointed me in the direction of the best restaurant in Kittery, Maine.  He is the reason I know to get tickets to the holiday revels at Harvard.  Just the other day I popped in looking for a book of poetry and within five minutes he and I were having a meaningful conversation about truth.  Next we shared our mutual addiction to the poet Mary Oliver.  After this, I learned about Shakespeare conspiracy theories.  Twenty minutes with Mark and, in addition to another Mary Oliver book, and a randomly perfect Charles Schultz book, I was simply—happier.

A few months back, Mark and I got to talking about our favorite book, as in "the one."  For Mark, this is Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky.  I have not yet read it.  However, Mark insisted that I wait until winter as reading a heavy Russian novel somehow seemed contrary to the warmth and ease of summer. So instead, he recommended A Walk Across Egypt by Clyde Egerton. Followed by Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin.  Followed by Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell.  And so it began.

My plan was to let this literary journey go for one year and then write about it for The Cricket.  But then I realized that this was enormously selfish of me.  And so, it is with great pleasure that I give to you "By the Book." a monthly book column written by Mark.  As for the excellent conversation and marvelous tips, you will still have the excellent task of having to stop in. 



BY THE BOOK by Mark Stolle

A few years ago I was reading one of those lists newspapers make about 'what celebrities are going to read this summer,' and read that mystery writer  Walter Mosly wrote something like “there are only a certain amount of books I have left to read while on this planet so I have to be careful what I pick.”  That thought threw me into a tizzy.  I always thought reading was endless!  I can't believe there are books I want to read that I won't be able to!  I hope in heaven I'm a used bookstore owner who is constantly surrounded by great books and by people who love books and are always tipping me off to new gems. 

Wait, am I a ghost!

My recommendation for vital reading is James Herriot.  If you haven't read him, he is the best!  Start with All Creatures Great and Small.  It's his fictionalized story of his own experiences as a general practice country veterinarian in the Yorkshire Dales part of rural England during the 1950s and 1960s.  The book is set up as a series of fairly chronological vignettes of his early days as a vet.  There are three more books with the same theme and you'll want to follow Herriot as he moves along through his career.

Herriot is a master storyteller.  Each short chapter is a brilliant little tale with a beginning, middle and end, set within the larger continuous narrative framework.  I loved, loved, loved to read a story aloud just before bed, they all have just the right feel and length.  The follow-up books are All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful and The Lord God Made Them All.  A typical story will involve Herriot getting a call in the middle of the night to drive to a remote farm to midwife a cow of perform emergency surgery on a goat.  The farmers and folk and landscape of that area are all described so interestingly and the decency of everyone and everything is so charming.  You'll feel so comfortable and cozy in Herriot's beautiful gentle world.  Put him on your list!

clyde egerton, general practice country veterinarian, walter mosly, fyodor dostoevsky, yorkshire dales, mark stolle