We are continuing our feature on prize-winning novels, with commentary by Classics customers– http://classicsbooks.wordpress.com/prize-winners-and-cult-classics/

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002.

Commentary from Classics customers: 

John Calu: “Challenging from the initial premise to the way he maneuvers between different eras without a warning… incredible writing.

Garry R Feltus: “Having been raised in the Great Lakes region, I really enjoy and have a bias toward the ‘coming of age’ component in Eugenides’ writing. His description of and his reaction to the tension of the 60’s in middle America is almost profound. In fact, I see storyline as more a metaphor for old world/new world, adolescent struggle with sexuality and a storytelling bridge than as a study of gender identity and hermaphroditism. It is, nonetheless, a wonderfully told story with a profound respect for family history, response to societal norms and self discovery.

Jan Wigginton: “I think Eugenides is an immensely talented writer and there are many reasons to like this book. Personally, I am a big fan of an “attention grabber” opening and in my book, Middlesex ranks right up there :

“I was born twice: first, as a …baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan in August of 1974. “

With an opener like this you almost have to keep reading (I know I did). I also think his account of Greek family life is absolutely hysterical, and I love how he weaves so much of the history of Detroit into the story of the Stephanides family. Definitely read this if you get a chance — I’m sure you’ll find your own reasons for loving this book as much as I did!

Top Ten Oddest Books

When I go out to eat, I am immediately attracted by the strangest thing on the menu.  If the restaurant is brave enough to offer the weirdest thing, it must be something special.  When I first walked in to 11, at 11 West Front Street in Trenton, New Jersey, for example, I knew I had to try the breaded spaghetti with meat sauce, raisins and broccoli.  It was great!

A friend of mine, Didi Goldmark, was a “connoisseur” of literature the way I am a “connoisseur” of food.  The stranger the title, the more she wanted it.  In her memory, I have collected the top 10 oddest books I have seen.  For purposes of this list, this can’t be books that are intentionally funny or ironic (like the Pop-Up Book of Phobias).  We also eliminated printing errors, like my cousin Mike’s  Zen philosophy primer that was given the cover for Nietzche for Beginners.

For Didi, I present the Top Ten Oddest books:

#10.  How to Avoid Huge Ships by John W. Trimmer.

This book is dedicated to educating boaters on how not to get run over by freighters.

#9.  What’s your poo telling you? By Anish Sheth. 

My friend Alexis says, “the book explains all different kinds of poo and why it happens (like your diet, stress, etc). Pretty amazing!!!”  Several of my friends recommended me include this book, including my friend, Jan, who has it in a one-a-day calendar, and my cousin Mike who describes it as “near mystical.”

#8.  Sun-Beams May Be Extracted from Cucumbers, But the Process Is Tedious: an Oration, Pronounced on the Fourth of July, 1799.

Though the contents are a non-odd criticism of Thomas Jefferson, the title is supposedly taken from a letter from Jefferson to a neighbor.  And it makes me smile every time I see it.

#7.  Over their Dead Bodies.

Though the title is consciously funny, the book is a commemoration of epitaphs from the 19th century. 

#6.  The Clowns of Death by Keith Breese

It is a 209 pg hardcover history of the band Oingo Boingo. 

#5.  Keeping Poison Frogs

#4.  Herd Registry for New Jersey 1908

Very useful in day the days before computers, this is a thick leatherbound volume listing the names, parents and birthdates (drop dates) of every cow in New Jersey.   Drop into Classics to see this!

#3.  All About Scabs by Amanda Mayer Stinchecum and Genichiro Yagyu

If you thought scabs were worth only a paragraph in a larger book on health, think again!

#2.  How to Start your own Blood Bank

One of the greatest books in Didi’s collection.  I laugh out loud every time I think of it.  Who bought this book?  Goth vampire wanna-bes?  Or did somebody in Iowa actually open up a blood bank in their basement?

The #1 Oddest Book

How to Live Through a Famine






I love the cover art with the dying stick figures in front of a pretty flower from the 1970’s.

My friend Mary’s favorite paragraph in the book is

“For an individual who has no alternatives, he should scatter what food he has, wherever he can. If one has a sack of flour… He should deposit the flour in whatever containers he can find- pop bottles, shoe boxes, coat pockets, anything suitable.”

Mary pictures people walking around with coat pockets full of flour.  Can that be a good container?  Why not keep it in the sack?

Literary Feud #1

100 people surveyed, top 6 answers are on the board (so to speak!)

Name a book with a month in the title.

To compete, email me at emaywar@comcast.net what you think the top 6 answers will be.  I will email you the actual top six and you can see how accurate you were!

9/11 & My Family: Andrew Lubin

9/11 & My Family

by Classics author, and guest blogger, Andrew Lubin

Like everyone else in the New York, New Jersey area, I remember the startling clarity of the day. Picture-perfect blue skies when I left for work, but heartbreaking later that morning as we watched the two towers collapse and the thick black smoke, billowing straight up and soiling the sky.

I also remember my son storming into my plant a few hours later. It was the 2nd week of his freshman year in college, and when the towers fell, marketing and accounting became the furthest thing from his mind. “We’ve got to get even,” he raged, and in a comment that later gained popularity with a certain group of highly-motivated young men, said “we need to ‘get some’.”

Then one October evening he casually mentioned to me he’d enlisted in the Marine Corps, and what did I think?

College was not a challenge, he said, and he needed something that enabled him to stand out from the crowd. He volunteered that the 9/11 attacks made him think that college and a business career was no longer the be-all and end-all that’s so prevalent in the greater NY-NJ area; 17 people from our county were killed that day, and their hard-earned professions and degrees seemed suddenly unimportant and impotent to him. And how could people not volunteer for the military? Isn’t this our version of Pearl Harbor? He’d been doing some hard thinking since 9/11, he told me, and the more he thought about it, how could he not join the Marine Corps?

In July 2002 he graduated boot camp and joined the fleet as an artilleryman, and was sent to 1st Bn, 10th Marines in Camp Lejeune…and only 6 weeks later was called to war New Years Day 2003 and 12 days later sailed off to Iraq with Task Force Tarawa.

March 23, 20003, 0335 EST…I’ve got three televisions on in my house watching the Marines fighting at An-Nasiriyah, and the news is grim. Initial casualty reports are of 50-70 Marine dead, scores wounded, something about an ambushed Army convoy…and suddenly Kerry Sanders-MSNBC is screaming about an intense Marine artillery barrage holding off the Iraqi’s…it’s the artillerymen of 1st Bn, 10th Marines and Sanders is difficult to hear he’s so close to the Marine howitzers…Dear God, I’m watching my son’s unit fight…

18 Marines killed that day, and I wrote about the battle. Charlie Battery; A Marine Artillery Battery in Iraq won some awards and I wrote some articles and did some TV spots. Then as my son returned to Iraq and the Sunni Triangle in 2004-2005, the Marines took notice of my work,  and in 2006 I ended up in Beirut in the 24th MEU covering the emergency evacuation of 12,000 American citizens as the Israeli-Hezbollah war broke out.

He was stationed in Okinawa; I visited him. I went to Ramadi and covered the rising Sons of Anbar and interviewed Sheikh Sattar; he went to the Philippines and trained Philippine artillerymen. I went to Afghanistan in 2008; he ran the artillery segment of the multinational Operation Cobra Gold in Thailand. And last year we were in Afghanistan at the same time, so I went to his base and spent a few days with him.

My goal is very simple in writing and recording the stories of our young men in combat: I need to do as good a job in recording history as they do in making it. I’m always asked when I’m embedded “Hey Sir, do people at home know we’re still here?” And my answer is always the same “Yes they do, Devil Dog; it’s my job to make them care.”

And what did I think when he told me he’d joined the Marine Corps…I reached across the table; grabbed his hand, and said “I’m proud of you; do your best. Semper Fi.”

Andrew Lubin is the author of Charlie Battery; A Marine Artillery Battery in Iraq, which is available at book_cellar@mindspring.com or Classics, 117 South Warren, downtown Trenton.  You can learn more about Andrew’s work at his website:  http://www.andrewlubin.com/index.html.

God Blesses Sexy Geeks! or, Top Ten Reasons to Visit Classics Used and Rare Books

#10.  Earthquake proof!

#9.  Click here for reason #9.

#8.  You can buy those leather books to carve out a case for your Kindle, giving it a real book feel!

#7.  We are keeping the last remaining Borders Bookstore in the back of Classics in a jar for you to visit for old times sake.

#6.  Zyzzyvas!

#5.  Click here for reason #5.

#4.  God blesses sexy geeks!  (Tanya Ray)

#3.  “I loved Classics because it was a place where I could knit and play Scrabble, and then one day I noticed it was also full of used books.  What more could one want?”  (Mary Allen)

#2.  The only place to learn about Jack the Ripper’s and his incredible piano tuning skills.  (Megan Iurilli)

#1.  Unlike its New Hope location, it is not 6 feet under water!

Rites of Passage for Breast Cancer Victors






An Iyeska (spiritual interpreter), Raining Deer has a unique perspective on healing through rites of passage.  Here she recalls life-altering occurrences that prepared her for this time:

“The good ole’ days were back in the early 1990s when I first met and eventually married a Seminole Shaman who was placed in my path for a number of reasons — (1)  as a “carrier of the Medicine” (a Native American expression), it was time for certain ceremonies to be performed for me and they had to be performed by a holy person; (2) the Old Ones (Ancestors) wanted me to learn to trust myself by trusting them.  They showed me time and time again that I could.  The rituals that I participated in with my husband, African Priests and later performed myself, coupled with the faith instilled in me as a childhood AME churchgoer and later a student of al-Islam and other world religions, prepared me for what was to come in 2003 — when breast cancer reared its ugly head.”


How Used Bookstores are Saving the Universe

The Environment

I couldn’t find any numbers for books alone, but about 54.3 million tons of paper and paper fill American landfills every year.  Among that 54 million tons are countless libraries worth of books that could be kept in circulation instead of weighing down our waste infrastructure.

When you buy used books, you don’t just help keep them out of landfills; you also help preserve our natural resources. It is estimated that 24 trees are needed to produce one ton of virgin printing paper.

Used book stores are such a part of the fabric of American life that it is easy to forget that they are as important environmental centers, as important as newer (and therefore more visible) reuse centers like TerraCycle in Trenton.

Save the environment.  Support your used bookstores. 


Used books improve education by providing low-cost options to fill a home with books. 

Not only are used bookstores already a fraction of the cost of new bookstores, some (Classics in Trenton NJ for example) provide books for FREE for local kids.  You don’t get lower-cost than that!

What impact does having books in the homes of kids have?  Especially books in the homes of low-resourced families in struggling school districts like Trenton?

The following is from “ScienceDirect – Research in Social Stratification and Mobility : Family scholarly culture and education”

Only 40% of children from bookless homes with unschooled parents can be expected to finish Year 9, compared to 88% of children with unschooled but book-rich parents, a huge 48 percentage point advantage.

A home library is also a big advantage in getting children through high school, for illiterate and university educated parents alike. For unschooled parents, the advantage of a large home library is 33 percentage points, about the same as the 37 point advantage for primary educated parents, 40 for incomplete secondary parents, 41 for parents with high school education, and 38 for university educated parents. 

Classics Used and Rare Book in Trenton (117 South Warren) has consistently handed out over $4,000 in FREE books every year to Trenton kids through their Books at Home Program.

Support education.  Support your used bookstores. 


Far more than other businesses, used bookstores are meeting grounds for the community to meet and discuss matters of community importance and then taking action.  Random collections of customers at Classics Used and Rare Books, for example, have volunteered to help restore a vandalized mural, provided back-to-school backpacks for foster kids, and knitted helmet liners for soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

In addition, used bookstores, far more than other businesses, provide space for community groups to meet.  Classics in Trenton, for example, has opened their space for Peoples and Stories, BOOST, the Urban Studies Group, the Trenton Scrabble Club, the Trenton Kids Books Club, Trenton Knit and Stitch and other community groups.

Support your community.  Support your used bookstores. 

Arts and Letters

Used bookstores are on the vanguard of supporting regional authors with booksigning opportunities and consignment sales to which chain bookstores can be insensitive.  In addition, cutting-edge used bookstores, like Classics in Trenton, find ways to offer additional support.  Classics published the Trenton Review, which features Trenton artists, authors and subjects including Pulitzer Prize-winning Trenton poet Yusef Komunyakaa and the infamous Trenton rock hall, City Gardens.

Support local arts and letters.  Support your used bookstores. 

Economic Development

Like they do in supporting local authors, used bookstores are far more receptive to selling products of local business people.  Nowhere besides Classics, for example, can you purchase Trenton bridge tee-shirts done by a Trenton artist, candles from two local candlemakers (Ana Candles and Messiah’s Candles), note cards depicting the Battles of Trenton, outlandish ties made by a Trenton seamster, a DVD on tomato pies produced by Trentonians, and music CD’s by Trenton artists like The Blue Method, Clarice Sabree and the musicians of Trenton2Nite.

Support local micro-businesses.  Support your used bookstores.

The Name Game

The Name Game is a party game for 4 to 12 people in which partners try to give one another clues in just one minute to as many names from a category of your choice as possible. Imagine Charades, only ten times faster and you don’t have to stand up to play!

Unlike most boxed games, you can customize your game to fit your needs by ordering categories of names that you and your friends will enjoy most. You can play Greek Mythology, Comedians and the 1970s. You can play the Tonies, Plays and Academy Awards. You can play Fantasy Books, Tolkein and Dwarves.

It’s your game; it’s your choice!


The Known World

This website is starting a prize winners page, with commentary by Classics customers– http://classicsbooks.wordpress.com/prize-winners-and-cult-classics/

The Known World by Edward Jones won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004. 

Commentary from Classics customers: 

Elizabeth Lindsey: “One of the best books I’ve ever read.  Fantastic.”

Najah Masudi: “Definitely a good book!”

Carolyn Stetson: “Highly recommended.  Beautifully written; while reading it, I dreamed in the cadences of the prose.”

Monica Williams: “A multilayered, smart and compelling book that features characters–and a part of U.S. history–not often explored in literature.  Insightful.”

An American Saga





My dad’s latest book is out! 

A multi-generational tale following two families and a number of golden plaques.  The French and Indian War, the Great Awakening, lumber booms, the Great Depression, murder, romance and tragedy roll through Port Huron, Michigan and the lives of the Monroes and the Stuarts.