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Brookline Booksmith expands the conversation; Axelrod pays close attention; and McKowen pens a sobering self-portrait

The 58-year-old Brookline Booksmith will be expanding the store by 4000 square feet, including a cafe and bar.Gwendolyn Corkill


The Brookline Booksmith, which has been open for the last 58 years, has just announced a major expansion, taking over the 4000-square foot spot two doors down, currently occupied by a Verizon store. In addition to an expanded children’s section, a cookbook area, and a section devoted to the store’s Transnational Series, the new space will include a restaurant with a full liquor license. “We’re a bookstore first," Booksmith president Jed Smith emphasized, "A place for social discourse, conversation, discovery.” The new space will allow the community “to continue the conversation and provide a comfortable place to talk.” A recent Booksmith holiday pop-up on the block proved there was an appetite in the community for an expanded offering. Lisa Gozashti, co-manager, talks of the new space as “an opportunity to reflect back to the community who they are. Brookline is global, and our customers show us who they are with what they buy, and this new phase will be a deep reflection of what they’ve asked us to be.” She imagines a space defined by warmth and companionship, “an intimate space with no affectation” with a “tremendous amount of heart in it.” At the recent meeting before the Brookline Board of Selectmen regarding the liquor license, an ovation greeted its unanimous approval. Smith said that his lawyer told him that he’d never heard an ovation for a liquor license before. They’ll take over the space in the summer, with plans to open in the fall.



In his new book “The Stars in Our Pockets: Getting Lost and Sometimes Found in the Digital Age” (Beacon), Howard Axelrod makes a compelling argument for drawing a new kind of map, one that helps us as we search and stumble between the borderlines of our digital and physical worlds. Axelrod, whose memoir “The Point of Vanishing” detailed two years he spent alone in the Vermont woods after losing sight in one eye in an accident, doesn’t come off as a luddite grump; instead, he meditates on the ways our screens are changing our relationship to time, space, and each other, while dipping into philosophy, astronomy, neuroscience, and poetry. Like his memoir, it’s an intimate book; he discusses big themes, big ideas, but the feel is as though you are leaning in close across a table in a dimly lit space. He writes of the pleasures of being lost and of finding one’s way; of the threatened extinction of wonder, attention, and curiosity. His time in the woods made him alert to the natural rhythms, the full moons, the chickadees, “the crows towing dusk behind them as they returned to their roosts.” In other words, he is someone who pays close attention to attention, asking that we consider how the world enters us (and how we enter it) and arguing that our solitude is what unites us. His book serves as guide as how to reckon with that fact, together. Axelrod will read and discuss the book on Tuesday, January 7 at 7 p.m. at Brookline Booksmith.



Laura McKowen who lives outside Boston spent years working in advertising and public relations, living a boozy, fast-paced life. She left that world, got sober, and her new book “We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life” is a candid exploration of the challenges and joys of sobriety, both getting there and staying there. She is a frank and vulnerable excavator of the mess that accumulates in all our lives, not just those who struggle with drink or drugs, and she reminds us that addictions can take many different forms.


Coming Out

Small Days and Nights by Tishani Doshi (W.W. Norton)

trans(re)lating house oneby Poupeh Missaghi (Coffeehouse)

Leave to Remain: Legends of Janus by Thalia Field and Abigail Lang (Dalkey Archive)

Pick of the Week

Katrina Feraco of the Toadstool Bookshop in Keene, New Hampshire, recommends “Bunny” by Mona Awad (Viking): “Mona Awad tells a harrowing story of a writer trying to overcome her writer’s block while simultaneously refusing to look deeper into herself. This lack of self-knowledge leads her to a friendship with a group of young MFA students who are always ‘workshopping’…with disastrous consequences. Awad creates a kind of magic that changes with the wind, a contemporary Prometheus tale.”