Tag Archives: Books

a bit of whimsy and some coincidence

One of the best things about working in a bookstore like ours is that it’s a place where surprises occur, serendipity happens, you read a book about a culture you previously knew nothing about and all of a sudden you’re in conversation with someone seemingly right out of the book… It’s amazing, really.

It was one of those quiet, chilly nights here at the bookstore.  I looked up to see an elderly couple coming through the door from the cafe.  The gentleman had on a grandpa sweater with no idea that it is considered a fashion item among young women today.  He wore his sweater with disregard for anything but its warmth and coziness, and it looked as if it had served him well for many years.  They both had an air about them that brought to mind farms and countrysides in a time gone by.  I greeted them and he nodded and she smiled a smile that warmed the entire bookstore. I watched as she examined many of our pretty antiques and then her eyes found our little silver vases.  She called her husband over and spoke excitedly in a language I couldn’t place. She showed him the vases, and there was more conversation and nodding, and shrugging on his part.

Soon they were both at the counter, with five of the vases, and she said to me, “Which do you like best?”  We discussed where it was going to be placed in her house and what she would be using it for, as a bud vase or just decoration.  She assessed the height of each vase and then pointed to one and said, “Perhaps this one is too serious, a small vase should not take itself so seriously. And this one,”  she pointed to another, “is perhaps too fragile-looking.  I like things to be sturdy, right?” She winked at me.  She held a third vase in her hand.  “Now this one, I believe it to have whimsy, I think whimsy is a good thing in a vase, don’t you?”  Her husband and I agreed.

At this point I was completely charmed by them and asked where they were from and if they were visiting L.A.  She said, “Romania.  Do you know Romania?”  I said I had never been there, nor had I ever met anyone from there… but I am currently enamored with literature from Eastern Europe and how cool that you’re here! She laughed and said, “Well, now you know a couple of Romanians!”  I said, “If all Romanians are as nice as you are I will definitely have to visit that country.”   She blushed a bit at the compliment. They continued to discuss the pros and cons of each vase and then their conversation drifted to their grandchildren.  They were in Los Angeles to visit their three grandchildren and were thinking of moving here to be close to them, as they miss them so much when back home. She asked if I had any grandchildren, and as they paid for two vases that were deemed to have enough whimsy, she added,  “Children and grandchildren are the money we have. That money is better than money.”  I thought about it for a minute and told her she was absolutely right.

Two of my favorites:

The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon, is a National Book Award Finalist.  It tells parallel stories, one based on true events of the murder in Chicago in 1908 of an immigrant, Lazurus Averbuch from Eastern Europe.  The other is a contemporary story of a writer named Brik, also from Eastern Europe, who decides to write about Lazurus and travels to Sarajevo with his friend Rora to do “research”. The writing is original and extraordinary.

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway is a novel based on true events. During the siege of Sarajevo a cellist plays everyday on a street where twenty two people were killed in a mortar attack.  It is his way of commemorating the killings. Inspite of the danger, he plays at the same time everyday.  He is the link in the story between other survivors and snipers in a city under siege. Extraordinary book, as well.



Leave a comment

Filed under Book Recommendations, The Other Day at Portrait...

Wherein you are updated, invited, forewarned and informed.

The (A)Musings page has been updated. Hurray for procrastination which must end sometime! Three weeks’ worth of new stuff for you to peruse.

Currently up on the board: What have you done that you never thought you’d have the courage to do? People have put up some of the most interesting answers yet and we can’t wait to post them here next week– you should add your own here and they’ll be included.


In other news, our very own Lucia Silva will be chatting with Susan Stamberg on Morning Edition, on all of your local stations, sometime in the very near future. We’ll keep you updated on the air date. Can’t wait to hear what she and her cohorts will be recommending for this season of giving! Hint: they will be interesting and unique titles, guaranteed to surprise you, not recycled from some bestseller list. And a hurray for that, as well.


We have another epic list from Kevin in the works. You can look forward to that in the next couple of days.


Tomorrow, Saturday, December 4th, from 5-9pm is the Annual Tujunga Village Holiday Fair! Bring the whole family. We’ll be waiting for you, along with all the other lovely people on our block, with smiles and food in hand. And lots of fun to offer up. Have you seen our children’s section, lately? And all the new books? And all the cool, new gifts? And do you know what fun it will be just to wander along the wonderland-transformed street? Okay, so just come.


Totally unrelated and completely out of the blue: someone very close to me, I won’t ever tell you who because I’m pretending it’s not true, just got an e-reader, I won’t tell you which one. And… it’s confirmed! IT MOST DEFINITELY DOES NOT SMELL, FEEL, LOOK OR READ LIKE A BOOK.

That is all. Carry on.


Oh, and one more thing. Guess who’ll be wrapping your gifts when you shop here. Go ahead and take a wild guess.

You’re right!

Doug Dutton.

Of Dutton’s Books in Brentwood.

This man:

The amount of fun we’ll be having is hardly describable.


Leave a comment

Filed under Bits and Bobs


Jonathan Franzen’s new book is one of those rare phenomena which come along every few years or so and very loudly announce the fact that it doesn’t really matter whether or not they’re good. What matters is that if you are to be a successful water cooler conversant or a charming, well-regarded guest at a get-together involving mimosas and  harried political and psycho-social analyses still rooted in the theses written in college,  you must have read the book. Oprah Winfrey says so. And, who knows, maybe it is good.

We have close to about a million copies of Freedom in stock. And all our hardcovers are 20% off. You do the math. I think it’s worth your reputation!

Here are some of the other brand new books, which you should consider picking up, because Ms. Winfrey can only pick one book a year and that shouldn’t stop any of us.

[Click on book covers for summaries and reviews from BookBrowse.]



These will be released early next week. You can order them now and pick up whenever you like.

Guess who has a new book?


For Kids:


Happy Reading.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Recommendations


New Feature:

 Interesting Thought of the Day


“Indie bricks and mortar bookstores may not always be able to satisfy that desire for ‘search-find-click-done’ instantaneity, but they do have an edge in browseability. And I would give a physical bookstore the edge in what I might describe in parallel terms as ‘wander-browse-sample-done…. If all your book-buying is done online, you might find that your local physical bookstore is no longer there when you have one of those ‘I wonder what life will put in my path’ sort of days. And that would be a shame.”

–John Mesjak, founder and editor of my3books.com and an independent sales representative, in the Huffington Post.

1 Comment

Filed under Interesting Thought of the Day

To Make Glad Your Dads, Lads and Grads

click on image for detail


It’s the middle of June. Father’s Day is this Sunday and everybody’s graduating.

Of course, you know this, but let us remind you that we are your one-stop shop. We have everything you need to tell the dad in your life that he’s the cat’s pajamas and even more to send your grad off into the big bad world of high school, college, or life with a sweet, encouraging and/or helpful gift.

And, don’t forget, the best gift of them all, as they say, is the one that keeps on giving. Sign your loved one up for Portrait’s Book of the Month Club and they’ll receive a book a month, wherever they are in the world. You can call, come in or email us, and within a few days someone very special will be the recipient of a very special gift. And they’ll have very special you to thank for it.

We can’t wait to see you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Gift Guides

Sclerosis: Forgetting


The Stuff of Stuff: in hopes of perpetuating only those things which engender thought, wonder, and awareness.


This category, although it requires little time and a lot of wonder to produce, has become, for us, quite important. We hope you’re able to find the time in the whirlwinds of your days to sit calmly and peruse the places we guide you to.

This is an especially breathtaking place:




Leave a comment

Filed under The Stuff of Stuff