The Word on the Street

Yankee Book Swap and Thoreau’s fall colors

The new edition of “October, or Autumnal Tints” is illustrated with watercolors by Lincoln Perry
Lincoln Perry
The new edition of “October, or Autumnal Tints” is illustrated with watercolors by Lincoln Perry

Looking for a good book? Willing to give one to get one? The upcoming Yankee Book Swap may fit the bill.

Novelist Daphne Kalotay and bookseller Dawn Rennert, the new co-presidents of the Boston chapter of the Women’s National Book Association, are kicking off the fall season with a coed book exchange.

The WNBA, an educational and charitable organization, was founded in 1917 when women booksellers were denied membership in the all-male national booksellers association. The association’s goal has always been to promote reading and the role of women in the world of books. Today, WNBA membership is no longer limited to women, but there is still a disparity in how women writers are treated in the literary world, Kalotay wrote in an e-mail.


“As the statistics reveal,” she added, “it is women who form book groups, women who buy hardcover books as gifts, women who blog about books.” Kalotay knows this from experience. Of more than 100 bloggers who wrote about her novel, “Russian Winter,” which has been translated into 20 languages, only a handful were men. Rennert writes the She Is Too Fond of Books blog and organizes readings at the Concord Bookshop.

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Here’s how the swap will work: Wrap a favorite book and bring it to Grub Street, 162 Boylston St., Boston, at 6 p.m. on Friday. You’ll receive a random number and all the books will be placed in a pile. The person with the lowest number will be the first to choose a book. The giver of the book will explain what makes it a great one. All of the subsequent participants will have the choice of keeping the books they open or taking someone else’s book. There’s often a favorite book that gets swapped multiple times. The best number to have is the highest. That person will have the pick of every book in the house.

Space is limited; RSVP to Light refreshments will be served.

Ode to autumn

In the final years of his life, Henry David Thoreau culled entries about the changing colors of fall from a decade’s worth of his journals. Turning his naturalist’s eye on the scarlet oak, the sugar maple, and the purple grasses, he wrapped his observations in a meditation on fallen leaves and death: “They that soared so loftily, how contentedly they return to dust again . . . They teach us how to die. One wonders if the time will ever come when men, with their boasted faith in immortality, will lie down as gracefully . . . ”

Thoreau’s essay, “October, or Autumnal Tints,” which first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly six months after his death in May 1862, has been republished by Norton in a gorgeous edition with an introduction by Thoreau biographer Robert D. Richardson and watercolors by Lincoln Perry.

Coming out


 “Throwing Stones at the Moon: Narratives from Colombians Displaced by Violence”compiled and edited by Sibylla Brodzinsky and Max Schoening (McSweeney’s)

 “Sutton”by J.R. Moehringer (Hyperion)

 “Dancing Dogs: Stories”by Jon Katz (Ballantine)

Pick of the week

Ellen Meeropol of the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley recommends “The Writing on theWall” by W.D. Wetherell (Arcade): “Middle-school teacher Vera, in self-imposed exile from family shame, strips layers of wallpaper in her sister’s fixer-upper farmhouse in northern New England. On bare plaster, she discovers writing by two women who lived in the house over the course of a century. Their stories echo Vera’s journey to understand the dangerous intersections between a person’s moral code and family loyalty.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @JanLGardner.