From the Bas Bleu Mailbag

April is National Letter Writing Month, and a wonderful reminder to us of the joys of writing and receiving “old-fashioned” snail mail. Last April, we wrote about the irreplaceable value of paper mail in a digital world and issued a letter-writing challenge to all of our readers. This year, we thought it would be fun to dig into the Bas Bleu mailbag and share with you some of the recent letters our editors have received. Because in the midst of writing catalog copy, sorting through piles of books, embarking upon reading marathons, and posting on Twitter, Facebook, and this blog, we still get excited when the mail carrier delivers a letter or card from one of our readers. (And it’s not every day someone uses the phrase “sultry feminine charm” to describe our catalog!)  Continue reading

The Last Castle: Q&A with Denise Kiernan

Biltmore Estate (by JcPollock)

If you’ve visited the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, and think you know everything there is to know about the magnificent house and those that built it…think again! Denise Kiernan’s The Last Castle, a Bas Bleu Book a Month 2018 selection, offers readers a deeper dive into the fascinating history of the the Vanderbilt family, the brilliant minds that conceived and created Biltmore, and the major events and figures in America’s past that shaped it. Recently, Denise took a break from her writing schedule to share her inspiration, the lessons she’s learned from her writing life, and Biltmore’s role in the preservation of America’s natural resources. Continue reading

Why Read Poetry?

If you, like Bas Bleu’s reviewers, were an English major in college, chances are good you owned at least one poetry anthology the size of a large brick. Some of us still have one, lugging it from dorm to apartment to house as time passed and our personal libraries grew. But how many of us crack it open on a regular basis, poring over the tissue-thin pages to soak up the words of William Shakespeare, Christina Rossetti, Rainer Maria Rilke, Emily Dickinson, Rumi, Pablo Neruda, e. e. Cummings, Anne Sexton, and Audre Lorde? And how many of us count World Poetry Day among our favorite holidays? Continue reading

Celebrating Women’s History Month…with Books!

March is Women’s History Month, an occasion to celebrate the important—and too-often overlooked, ignored, or flat-out denied—contributions of the female half of the world’s population. To honor the spirit of our namesake bluestockings, those learned literary women of the eighteenth century, Bas Bleu has long championed books by and about extraordinary women. (If you don’t already know, Bas Bleu was founded by a woman, and our editorial and purchasing departments are staffed entirely by women.) You can find female-centric reads in the pages of our catalogs and on our website year-round, but today we’re highlighting ten titles we think are worth moving to the top of your TBR pile during Women’s History Month. Continue reading

The Books That Shape Us: Animalia

From time to time, Bas Bleu’s editors will share with you some of the books that have had a profound impact on our lives. They won’t necessarily be grand literary classics or hard-hitting political tomes. They will be books that have stayed with us over the years and shaped who we are. If you’d like to share a significant title from your own life, feel free to do so in the comments section below.

I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I first discovered Animalia by Graeme Base in our local library. The book was first published in 1986, so it’s quite possible I stumbled upon it fairly young. What I do remember is checking it out many times and spending hours upon hours engrossed in its oversized pages, often with my siblings or my mom, seeing all that we could discover in the bright, elaborate illustrations. Continue reading

The Last Place You Look: Q&A With Kristen Lepionka

Our February pick for our Mystery Book A Month 2018 is The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka. It’s a twisty mystery featuring Roxane Weary, a PI struggling with the death of her father, a cop killed in the line of duty. Determined to drown her sorrows in whiskey, Roxane begrudgingly takes a case for the sister of a man on death row, hoping to prove his innocence before he’s executed in a few weeks’ time. The investigation turns up more than Roxane bargained for, especially once she discovers a link to a cold case her father had worked on. This week, Kristen was kind enough to answer a few of Bas Bleu’s questions about her writing process, how much of herself she recognizes in the characters she creates, and even gives a demonstration of how to pick a lock! Continue reading

Pick-up Lines for Book-Lovers

We believe reading books makes everyone more attractive, and books are great icebreakers when you’re longing to strike up a conversation with someone who’s caught your eye. Plus, readers tend to be really smart, empathetic people; who wouldn’t want to meet more of us? In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’ve put together a list of fourteen pick-up lines designed expressly for literature lovers: some are silly, some are saucy, others are lifted straight from the pages of beloved books. We hope all will make you smile. (And if you see someone browsing through the Bas Bleu catalog on the subway, in the library, or in a coffee shop? You definitely want to meet that person; walk over and say hi!) Continue reading

10 Great Reads for Black History Month

February is Black History Month, and while the stories of Americans of color deserve reading year-round, this annual observation is a good reminder to make room in our To Be Read piles for a diversity of voices and experiences. Not sure where to begin? We’ve compiled a list of titles by and about black Americans, from the Bas Bleu shelves as well as other sources. Is this list comprehensive? Not by a very, very, very long shot. It’s merely a jumping-off point for bluestockings looking to broaden their literary horizons! Continue reading

The Women in the Castle: Q&A with Jessica Shattuck

Our January selection for Bas Bleu’s Bluestocking Book a Month 2018 package isn’t for the faint of heart: Jessica Shattuck’s The Women in the Castle not only tackles the desperation of life in Europe immediately following World War II, it does so from the points of view of three non-Jewish German women. The titular characters are virtual strangers when they come together, linked only by a pre-war promise made by one of the women to their husbands, a vow to help the wives and children survive if the men were killed in an attempted coup. Recently, Jessica Shattuck took a break from her national book tour to answer our questions about the importance of studying “ordinary Germans,” building strong connections between disparate characters, and the role of WWII stories in 2018. (We’ve endeavored to avoid spoilers, but proceed with caution!) Continue reading