The irascible A. J. Fikry, owner of Island Books - the only bookstore on Alice Island - has already lost his wife. Now his most prized possession, a rare book, has been stolen from right under his nose in the most embarrassing of circumstances. The store itself, it seems, will be next to go.
One night upon closing, he discovers a toddler in his children’s section with a note from her mother pinned to her Elmo doll: I want Maya to grow up in a place with books and among people who care about such kinds of things. I love her very much, but I can no longer take care of her. A search for Maya’s mother, A. J.’s rare book, and good childcare advice ensues, but it doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the transformation of both bookstore and owner, something of particular interest to the lovely yet eccentric Knightley Press sales rep, Amelia Loman, who makes the arduous journey to Alice Island thrice each year to pitch her books to the cranky owner.
©2014 Gabrielle Zevin. Recorded by arrangement with Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, a division of Workman Publishing Company, Inc. (P)2014 (p) 2014 HighBridge Company
"Zevin is a deft writer, clever and witty, and her affection for the book business is obvious." (Publishers Weekly)
I read this book for a book club. I had never heard of it. I didn't know what it was even about but I trusted my book club. Luckily it was on sale at Audible for $4.95. I trust them but a good deal is even better.
Then I read it or it was read to me to be accurate. It kept my attention which few books of this sort do. I prefer nonfiction, thrillers and sci-fi. So this was outside my normal genres.
The first part was a heartbreaking setup the live of a widower and his little bookstore. It did get melodramatic and a little predictable in the second part and completely off the wall in the final part. However...I loved it.
I loved it so much that I didn't go to my book club meeting. I didn't want their opinions (good or bad) to spoil my reading. Although it had faults, it also had wonderful truths. It had made me feel. When I was finished I felt something more than just a check on my to-do list and a sense of accomplishment. This book was like a good movie. You know the kind where you talk about it for days afterward until your whole family gets tired of you.
I would recommend this to anyone who reads on the regular for all the cute references and just maybe it will have an affect on you too. No promises, but I hope so it is a good feeling when you find a special book.
The narrator was VERY good. He did give a dramatic read if you don't care for those. The Audible sample gives an excellent sample of his delivery.
I am going to buy myself a hard copy too.
Bookstore Proprietor A.J. Fikry has definite tastes in books:
“I do not like postmodernism, postapocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic
realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices…genre mash-ups. Literary
fiction about the Holocaust [is] distasteful -- non-fiction only, please. Literature should be
literature, and genre should be genre, and crossbreeding rarely results in anything
satisfying. I do not like children's books, especially ones with orphans, and I prefer to not
clutter my shelves with Young Adult. I do not like anything over 400 pages, or under 150
He goes on to despise: ghostwritten novels, celebrity memoirs, debuts, chick-lit, poetry, or translations..."this goes without saying--vampires." But, he says, he likes "everything else."
Fikry is a delightfully cantankerous man, a widower, satisfied with drinking his days away while the bookstore withers and dies. That is, until his nest egg, a rare copy of Poe's poetry, is stolen and he realizes he'll be making a living at selling books longer than he had intended. The theft sets off a series of events that broadens his lonely world, and tastes in books. It's like watching the Grinch's heart grow three sizes. Much of his personality is dispensed through his comments on known works of literature, and through little pearls of wisdom he passes along. We find out that in spite of his reading discriminations, Fikry is no misanthropic curmudgeon at all.
The setting for this easy-breezy-love-song-to-reading is the kind of endangered species that is the destination find for any traveling bibliophile, a book-peruser's fantasy -- and very fitting because the book has a fantasy, fairy-tale like quality to it. Fikry's store is the lower floor of the little home he used to share with his wife, located on Alice island. I imagined: a charming cottage type with wood floors and braid rugs, a fireplace with overstuffed chairs to curl up in and test run a few books, a little bell over the front door. The sign over the shop reads:
"No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World" and I think most avid readers agree with the sentiment.
At one point, Fikry offers this bit of wisdom:
“You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question: What is your favorite book?” -- I'm still trying to choose just one.
For anyone that loves to read, can't imagine ever being without a book, lists reading as their favorite pastime, this might be your answer (or at least one of them) to Fikry's question.
Scott Brick's narration is a (controversial) matter of taste, like oysters or mushrooms or okra...you like it, or you really really don't. I've listened to books where his voice was well suited for the narration, but here it didn't convey the kind of warmth and charm needed to tell this story.
I prefer mystery/thriller genre including YA with some non-fiction. I dislike and attempt to avoid novels that include the paranormal.
The storied life of A. J. Firky is a wonderful story. My favorite character is Maya, his "wonderful nerd" as her dad called her. Scott Brick, my favorite narrator, is not the ideal narrator for this book.
Enjoyed the narrator, he was easy to follow with all of the dialogue among the characters.
The story had some wonderful twists and surprises. Admittedly I laughed out loud many times and cried at the end.
You should buy this book! I'm glad I did.
Life's good when I am listening to a great book.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I got lost in the story and found A.J. (the bookstore owner) to have clever, biting observations about life. I enjoyed experiencing A.J.'s changes over a decade of his lifetime. I was afraid that the book would be too trite and cliche'd but the story was engaging and the characters so lively that I never experienced a less than delightful moment of listening. Because A.J. owns a bookstore and his life is about books, there are many references comparing life experiences to various authors and book titles. He reminds the readers about finding companionship in a good book, about traveling to other times and places in a good book, and about the importance of asking a new friend, "what is your favorite book?" I had moments where I just broke out laughing while listening. I know some reviewers have remarked that this book should be regarded as "chick lit" (since A.J.'s relationship development does traverse the novel) but I see this novel also in the category of "literary fiction". The language is precise, the prose is well developed, and the story is different; refreshing. The narrator brings to life the personalities of all the characters and speaks clearly and consistently throughout. I highly recommend this novel.
Yes, it's a book about life that takes reality and makes it enjoyable while not patronizing the reader. I've already told everyone in my family to read this amazing story.
I loved the narrators take on the various personalities that infuse this novel. It was a pleasure to listen to and I was sad when it ended. Listen to this book, you'll be glad you did.
Possibly from Brick, whose performance I enjoyed, and maybe even from Zevin, though this story didn't convince me that I'd need to do that anytime soon.
As other reviewers note, there are plenty of literary references in this story, but those alone wouldn't be reason enough to read this book. I can see how self-described book lovers would be into Fikry's life and happenings, much the same way self-proclaimed music lovers would be drawn to Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, though this story is much more sentimental. The last third of the text appealed to me the most, mainly in how the author drew up so many poignant (if not entirely new) life-literature parallels, and even if the dialogue bordered on saccharine at times. I enjoyed it as a meditation on literature's place in our lives, though I'm honestly surprised this is in the discussion for best fiction of the year.
This story is wonderfully different from any other book I have ever read. Good solid characters and excellently written. The dialogue is very good, the characters sound like real people with real lives. It has its corny moments but the book doesn't suffer because of them. There's plenty of reality here too. The setting is unusual and the story compelling. I like this book and maybe you will too. Check it out.
Yes. Some of my friends would love it. You might like it, too. I enjoyed the book because of the simplicity of the story, the changes the characters underwent during the plot's unfolding, and the main character, A.J., was so thoroughly a bookseller.
The characters' development and changes
It was low-keyed and very much in keeping with the main character.
The police chief, definitely. He undergoes so many changes and so much growth, and I do love a happy ending.
All the characters in this book were interesting, three dimensional people. I would probably like them all. IRL, I mean!
I hesitate to put any book at the top of my list because that spot changes often. An amazing book today may be eclipsed by time and other experiences in the future. But this small book certainly has earned a place near the top.
What book lover won't appreciate a book that is so much about enjoying good books? What parent won't appreciate a story that is so much about what parenting means? What lover won't appreciate a story about the deep and enduring nature of mature love? I promise you will enjoy listening to this one if you are any of the above.
A friend who is a man with whom I often share book notes placed this near the top of his list also. Universal appeal. Give it a go.
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