My world of books, part I

It’s been a long time since I attended my last American Booksellers Association convention (now called BookExpo America), which always felt like four or five days without sleep, partying, and non-stop book talk. I loved it.

Those were the days when wining and dining by publishers took place because I was on the board of the Association of Booksellers for Children. I remember jumping up and down at an intimate concert performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock, shaking Jimmy Carter’s hand telling him that history would vindicate him — not that his books were much good.

Any real expertise I’ve had was in children’s books. Since I closed Oz Books in 1997, I’ve been out of the loop. I ran into a local Young Adult children’s author the other day who told me I must read “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson. YA books aren’t as “nicey-nice” as they used to be, the author said.

Think I’ll write about that. More important, it seems like I’m coming full circle cultivating a renewed interest in YA books, promoting book events at the upcoming Tucson Festival of Books.

Only two more weeks to go! I’ll be moderating “Right On! Far Out! Looking Back at the ’60s” on Sunday, March 13 at 10 a.m. in the Gallagher Theater on the University of Arizona campus. The space seats 340 folks and C-SPAN Book TV will broadcast the panel. Cool huh?

Panel members include my pal Martha Tod Dudman, Joyce Maynard, and Mark Rudd. To be sure, an irreverent ’60s bunch.

Their that-was another-lifetime titles include Martha’s “Expecting to Fly: A Sixties Reckoning,” which has one of the greatest scenes ever. Her present self meets college-age Martha running across an Ohio campus  and asks her what it’s all about.

“Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen” by Mark Rudd takes me back to my own cautious role in the takeover of the administration building at the University of Connecticut in 1968. Hell, I was shy and afraid but had to do something to voice my displeasure about the university supporting the Vietnam War through ROTC and funding from warmongering corporations.

Joyce Maynard’s “At Home in the World: A Memoir” picks up where her classic (to me) “Looking Back: A Chronicle of Growing Up Old in the Sixties” left off. Published when she was 19, the book grew out of a piece that appeared in the New York Times Magazine and spoke to me nearly 40 years ago.

I’m excited about these folks coming to Tucson for the book festival, now the fourth largest in the United States after only two years. I may check out a Kindle, Nook, iPad and other such reading devices at one of the festival booths.

The 1960s stand out as a central time in my life, and the printed pages of books illuminate it all.

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