Tag Archive | "BookHampton"

Female Friendship, Literature and Obsession in “Shirley”

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By Tessa Raebeck

Author Susan Scarf Merrell will read from "Shirley" June 21 at BookHampton in Southampton.

Author Susan Scarf Merrell will read from “Shirley” June 21 at BookHampton in Southampton.

While writing “Shirley,” Susan Scarf Merrell worried for her protagonist, Rose. Rose is caught between the world in her own head and the real one outside of it in the novel, which examines themes of obsession, creativity and womanhood in the 1960s.

Shirley,” which Ms. Merrell will read from at BookHampton in Southampton Saturday, centers on the relationships that evolve when pregnant Rose and her husband Fred move in with celebrated writer Shirley Jackson and her husband, the literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman. With dark twists and multilayered characters, the historical fiction novel celebrates literature while delving into its underbelly.

“Reading both Shirley and Stanley’s letters, journal entries, essays and books, I began to hear the voice of Rose developing in my mind,” Ms. Scarf Merrell said in a press release. “The shift from researching a non-fiction work to beginning a novel was quite abrupt.”

“One sudden moment of realization (I was out in the woods walking my dog, and started taking notes using the voice recorder on my cell phone), and the project took on an entirely different form. But I think one of Shirley Jackson’s many gifts was an ability to massage real life events into fiction; in some ways, this was an inevitable turn of events for me,” she added.

“Jackson has always been one of the more intriguing and misunderstood writers of her generation, a woman writer at the cusp of feminism’s second wave who nevertheless was erroneously dismissed for writing mere ‘domestic fiction,’” Booklist said in a review of “Shirley.” “Merrell brings this complicated and compelling woman to life through the kind of taut and intimate thriller Jackson herself would have been proud to call her own.”

Susan Scarf Merrell will read from “Shirley” Saturday, June 21, at 5 p.m. at BookHampton, located at 16 Hampton Road in Southampton. For more information, call (631) 283-0270.

Books and a Bit of Bangkok

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BookHampton's Kim Lombardini leads a new book club at Phao Restaurant in Sag Harbor.

BookHampton's Kim Lombardini leads a new book club at Phao Restaurant in Sag Harbor.

By Emily J. Weitz

Sitting around a cozy table, martini poised between the index finger and the thumb, seems to be the perfect setting for a literary discussion. It’s reminiscent of Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds in the cafes of Paris. Writers and members of the literary world have gathered in restaurants and coffee shops to discuss the nuances of great works for generations. Here in Sag Harbor, the tradition continues as Phao and Bookhampton have begun to team up to offer weekly book groups over Thai food and cocktails.

Bookhampton has been working with local restaurants in the winters for a few years now. In East Hampton, gatherings at Rowdy Hall have developed a strong following. In Southampton, the Publick House is the backdrop for these guided discussions.

“We were looking for a venue to have a weekly reading group in Sag Harbor,” says Kim Lombardini, marketing manager at Bookhampton. “And then last summer Phao came to us to see if we’d like to collaborate.”

The relationship bloomed.

In the winter, when so many of the diversions that crowd the summer have vanished, it’s important to create a sense of community. And book groups do that brilliantly.

“When you’re in a discussion of a book,” says Lombardini, “everyone brings their own personal story. It’s not one-sided entertainment. Everyone brings a part of their life and personal point of view.” In this way, not only do you get to know other members of the community in a more intimate way. You also get to know the book in a fuller way.

“It opens up your eyes to other things the story might mean to someone else,” says Lombardini. “Gaps in your own reading or life can be filled in.”

Lombardini has organized the event at Phao, and she selected the readings that will be discussed. She will also moderate the conversation, asking questions.

“I do research on the author,” she says. “I give depth and background to the story.”

The authors she’s chosen for this first session were all groundbreaking in some way.

“I tried to span the second part of the 21st century looking for short stories by people who aren’t thought of as short story authors, like Roald Dahl,” she said. “Or those who are famous for creating a specific edgy style, like Raymond Carver or Sherman Alexi… Steven Millhouser is a personal favorite who’s known as an author of skewed short stories.”

She chose to work with short stories in part because they require less of a commitment. People can drop in one week and then pass the next week, and that’s fine.

The East Hampton book group has been reading “State of Wonder” by Ann Patchett, and the author herself is going to come to the East Hampton store this Saturday, October 22 to participate in the discussion. The event is open to the public, and offers a great opportunity to come in and see what the book groups are like, though having the author there will be a special treat.

Collaborating in this way is a great way for businesses to draw in customers even as the crowds disperse. People don’t have to order anything, but the full menu is available at Phao, including the price fixed three-course menu for $25. It’s also good business for Bookhampton, which provides all the books at a 15 percent discount for book club members.

But perhaps the most exciting part of this kind of a collaboration is the people it brings together.

“Generally the people who come to a book group have more in common than the fact that they read the same book,” says Lombardini. “You meet similar minded people who share this love for reading.”

Book groups will take place every Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Phao on Main Street in Sag Harbor. The event is free and open to all, and there’s no commitment required. Though if this group follows the lead of the East Hampton and Southampton stores, it will develop a loyal following that will come back again and again.

Books: Adjusting to a Changing Readership

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By Claire Walla

The closing of the Borders chain of bookstores two weeks ago served as another reminder to those in the book biz of how fragile the industry has become in the last few years. And it’s caused some to wonder: what’s the future of the book?

In a serendipitous course of events, last week our local independent chain Book Hampton in Sag Harbor hosted a talk with Harper Collins publisher Jonathan Burnham, called “On The Edge: The Future of Publishing.” In a conversation with BookHampton owner Charlene Spektor, Burnham discussed the elements now plaguing the industry, and what booksellers can expect to see in the future. (The forecast is rather uncertain.)

“What’s happening at the moment is that there is a migration of readers from books [or, what the publishing industry now refers to as p-books] to e-books,” Burnham explained. He said digital sales at Harper Collins started as a nascent trend about a year ago. But, while e-book sales were about five percent of Harper Collins’ overall business last year, that total has now hit around 40 percent.

“What’s interesting to us is how fast that’s happened,” Burnham continued. “There has been a huge change [in consumer spending habits] and we the publishers are finding it hard to keep up.”

While many have blamed Borders’ downfall on the company’s failure to latch on to e-book publishing as early as its competitor, Barnes & Noble, which actually manufactured its own e-reader, the Nook, the boom of the digital market has made waves locally, as well.

Burnham called this “the year of difficult questions,” an assertion with which independent book sellers here in Sag Harbor would agree.

Both Spektor, owner of BookHampton, and Maryanne Calendrille, owner of Canio’s Books just up the way, expressed uncertainty when it came to the future of their business. Though both shops are finding creative ways to increase local interest and up revenue (including upping their online presence and expanding the scope of business to include public speakers), neither can tell what the future will hold.

For Spektor, changing times has meant shifting gears. While she said BookHampton rests on a tradition of personal service, that concept has broadened in the wake of the digital revolution.

In the past year, BookHampton has begun selling e-books to customers, largely in response to the fact that people began walking in the store, taking stock of interesting titles and then purchasing those books online at a later date. The chain has also put effort into boosting its online presence, creating a website that, Spektor said, bears the intimate feel of the store itself. In fact, employees refer to the site as “the fourth store.” (BookHampton has physical locations in Sag Harbor, Southampton and East Hampton.)

What it really boils down to, she said, is that “independent bookstores reflect the community that they’re in. “What we have is a tradition of personal service: making recommendations and listening [to people’s questions],” she explained. “All of those things you don’t really get when you go online. Online, it’s just an algorithm.”

On a warm Tuesday afternoon, Maryanne Calendrille answered a customer’s questions and made literary recommendations at Canio’s Books on Main Street, just up the road from BookHampton.
After noticing a worn collection of Harvard classics lined-up atop one of the store’s many shelves, the customer wondered aloud, “Is anyone interested in this anymore?” As it turned out, Calendrille knew of a local author, Chris Beha, who happened to write a book about his experience reading the entirety of the Harvard classics in a single year, called The Whole Five Feet.

The woman’s husband, Harold Rubin, spoke of his fondness for the store as his wife purchased the book. “Coming here, you can talk to people who are knowledgeable and can give you the feel for a book,” he said. “Online, you get the technical. Here, you get the emotional.”

It’s a notion Burnham referenced last week. He said there are certain genres, like romantic fiction, erotica and—surprise, surprise—vampire books that sell very well in electronic form.

“The Internet is a world of geeks and cults,” he explained. Whereas non-fiction tomes and even business-related texts tend to sell better in paper. For many book buyers, he added, sales are contingent on that idea of the bookstore as a community.

Like BookHampton, Calendrille said the purpose of her local shop is not only to provide a place where people can browse for books. It is a gathering space for those in the community. And it’s a reflection of the creative interests and outgrowth of the neighborhood. Local artwork hangs on the walls, writers speak in the shop on the weekends and Calendrille herself teaches writing workshops in the back.

“You can’t deny the business is changing,” she said. “But, what we have here are the kinds of books that curious readers are interested in. It’s a collaboration of our interests and our customers’ interests,” she continued. “And to me, that’s the beauty of the place.”

As Spektor put it, the survival of independent bookshops is contingent on the communities in which they exist. “In the long run,” she said, “it depends on whether or not you want to see these Main Streets thrive, or whether you want to see Main Street as a concept dry-up.”

BookHampton Closes Amagansett Store

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After two years of business in Amagansett Square, BoBookHampton may have closed its Amagansett location, but its Sag Harbor store, pictured here with manager Sarah Doherty and Barry Lisee, is still going strong.okHampton owner Charline Spektor this week announced the independent bookstore would close the location, citing economics and “the surprising lack of foot-traffic in Amagansett.”

“East Hampton is a thriving store and they were too close together,” Spektor said on Tuesday. She added in addition to the East Hampton branch of BookHampton, both the Sag Harbor and Southampton locations continue to operate successfully.

BookHampton at Amagansett Square was originally conceived as a store to focus on children, keeping in character with Amagansett’s family-centric community, although the location maintained a collection of other genres of literature as well as DVDs, merchandise and CDs. Spektor said on Tuesday all three remaining BookHampton locations, in particular Sag Harbor, continue to operate with full children’s sections.

While Spektor dismissed the current impact of electronic publishing on independent bookstores, she acknowledged online retailers like Amazon have affected the industry. Big-box, bargain book retailers like Barnes and Noble have yet to find a home on the East End, despite attempts to open a Bridgehampton location in recent years.

But rather than focus on those challenges, Spektor chooses to shine a light on the benefits of independent bookstores, which are often tailored specifically to serve the communities and Main Streets they inhabit.

“The value of an independent bookstore is that you can see in our stores that we are making literary choices based on the community,” she said. BookHampton is able to reach beyond the standard chain-store inventory, with a collection that boasts literary classics, popular fiction and non-fiction titles as well as lesser known authors.

Having a dedicated staff of booksellers who “are really well read, well rounded and all live in the community,” makes carrying out such a high level of knowledge and service possible, and also helps prop up the local economy, Spektor added.

“An important part of this is that independent book stores that are neighborhood bookstores, on the commerce side, the dollars earned stay in the community,” she said. “It doesn’t leave town.”

Spektor, who owns BookHampton with her husband Jeremy Nussbaum, said the store has also developed programming aimed at engaging the community in literary and intellectual pursuits. Its four-month, free winter lecture series, which kicked off in January at the East Hampton branch, brings an array of educators into the community to discuss topics ranging from “The Rise and Fall of the Aztec Empire,” to climate change, poetry and the economics of education – a lecture given last week by Dr. Pedro Noguera. This Saturday, at 5 p.m., the store will host Stony Brook University Professor Stephanie Wade, who will take a look at writers who have explored the human condition in a lecture titled “True Stories: Finding Freedom at the Crossroads of Cultural and Persona Myths.”

BookHampton also hosts book and reading groups at all locations, including an ongoing Rowdy Readers Book Group, held at Rowdy Hall in East Hampton on Tuesday afternoons through March 16 and a reading group at the Southampton store on Wednesday afternoons through May 12. In Sag Harbor, manager Sarah Doherty hosts a Saturday reading group, which will discuss John Banville’s “The Infinities” on March 14 and Robert Goolrick’s “The Reliable Wife” on March 21. For the younger set, the Sag Harbor branch also holds story time for children ages two to five years old on Monday and Friday mornings at 10:30 a.m.

“And then, of course, we have our annual Mystery and Mayhem weekend in May,” said Spektor. “We bring in 30 terrific mystery writers, both established and some emerging, who fill our communities with mysteries and enigma.”

That event will take place May 14 through May 16.

“We are a very active part of all three neighborhoods,” said Spektor.

As for future BookHampton locations in the wake of the Amagansett store’s closing, Spektor said she remains optimistic.

“You have to be permanently optimistic, intrepidly optimistic as an independent bookstore,” she said. “We are committed to the communities we live in and committed to making great recommendations for our customers. Reading is the future for all of our children and when people see that, they appreciate the value of keeping independent book stores in our communities.”

BookHampton is located at 41 Main Street in East Hampton (324-4939); 91 Main Street in Southampton (283-0270) and at 20 Main Street in Sag Harbor (725-8425).

Prophetic Art: Donald Sultan’s new book on an industrious career

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After more than three decades as a painter, printmaker and  sculptor, Donald Sultan has amassed an impressive body   of work. Known for his iconic and diverse images of poppies, industrial landscapes and scenes from nature, Sultan’s work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney, among others. 

And though he is a renown artist on the New York City scene, Sultan still comes out to his Sag Harbor home pretty much every weekend where it’s a different kind of scene. 

“So what’s going on with Bulova?” asks Sultan as soon as he gets on the phone for an interview.

Sultan has been a Sag Harbor resident long enough to know the ins and outs of the political and social workings. He recalls that when he purchased his home in the village, he caused somewhat of a stir — not a difficult proposition in this tight knit but loose lipped village.

“I bought the house in ‘84 or ’85,” says Sultan. “At the time it was the highest price ever paid for a village house — $250,000. I didn’t even think about it, I figured it was less than a one bedroom apartment in New York.” 

“I just adore it,” says Sultan of Sag Harbor.

This weekend Sultan comes back to the East End again. This time to take part in a signing of his new book “Donald Sultan: The Theater of the Object” at BookHampton’s East Hampton location on Saturday, December 13. The newly released book is a comprehensive monograph of nearly 300 works covering 30 years. Sultan explains that the book offers viewers a chance to see the span of his art over time and is divided into three sections that reflect the subject of the work — industrial, natural and artificial. The book is not only a compendium of Sultan’s career, it also allows viewers a chance to examine some of his older work in the context of the turmoil the world has been experiencing as of late. It turns out that much of Sultan’s work from decades ago, particularly that which falls under the industrial moniker was ultimately prophetic.

“I’ve wanted a book out for a long time,” explains Sultan. “A lot of the work you see today are images I did a long time ago. There are things people haven’t seen or have forgotten. Especially the dark landscapes in the ‘80s, and all the things that have been going on since 9/11. Seemingly permanent things are apt to go down — like steel mills and factories.”

Back in the 1980s, Sultan’s “catastrophic event” paintings were often inspired by images from newspaper photos. The subjects included bombings, chemical spills, drought and other destructive forces that had the power to strike terror into the hearts of mortals. Images of formerly formidable cities, once proud industrial plants and abandoned railways appeared in his work. The fall of man’s dominance over nature. 

“Most of my ideas were to put imagery back into abstract painting,” explains Sultan of his artistic inspiration. “Some of the ones that look the most abstract are actually the most realistic. Building canyons and dominos, the landscapes. There’s an image in the book and in the reproduction you see the image more clearly than you do in the actual painting. The painting has twisted blobs of tar, what I was trying to capture was the ephemeral quality of giant disasters and how in some cases, you don’t know what’s going on.” 

“I realized with the World Trade Center, the further away people were, the more terrified they were — like in Michigan,” says Sultan. “There’s something to be said for actually experiencing it. There’s a reason New York didn’t vote for Bush — either time.”

Even in the face of the current economic crisis, Sultan has managed to find parallels in the world of Wall Street and art, as disparate as the two may seem.

“Finances are almost like art, it’s based on belief in the ephemeral,” says Sultan. “It’s not an actual thing — the structures are abstract. Just like these huge steel mills and industrial plants and architecture like the World Trade Center and countries and empires are so structurally imposing that they crumble.”

Sultan grew up in Asheville, N.C. in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are, by the way, also crumbling (at one point, they were bigger than the Alps notes Sultan). Sultans’s father owned a successful tire business in Asheville, and though Sultan earned his BFA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and his MFA from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, as an artist, he has always looked to the tradition of the laborer in perfecting his working style.

“I felt more comfortable working with the materials,” explains Sultan. “My father was a physical person. I just felt most comfortable making things and moving things. Part of the whole American experience I came out of was the empire building mentality — physical labor. My grandfather was on the assembly lines of Detroit in the Depression. It was the way it was.”

So rather than using traditional canvas and paints, Sultan found his medium through the tools and supplies used by workers of the world. As a grad student, his materials were wood, found objects and liquid latex. But after Sultan moved to New York in 1975, he found that lugging barrels of polymer up the steps to his tenement apartment wasn’t logical. 

“I was painting in my studio and trying to figure out how to do more physical work,” says Sultan who had taken on jobs in the construction trade building lofts in the city in order to earn some money.

“I was working at a gallery and saw men working in the elevator and cutting linoleum,” says Sultan. “In the center of the elevator was a round disk where a key would go and I asked, ‘How do you cut that so it goes around a circle?’ They said, ‘It’s easy, you just heat it up and it gets soft.’ So I said, ‘Let me have a couple of those tiles.’”

Sultan took the tiles to his apartment and heated them up over his stove. He had discovered his medium.

“It was easy. I felt more comfortable making the things rather than using a brush. I liked using the knife.”

Linoleum tiles turned out to be an ideal working material. They were inexpensive, flexible, plentiful and easy to work with. Sultan was able to create powerful images by gouging, cutting, painting and spackling them. On top of the squares, he applied black tar thus creating a blank canvas on which he could create. By cutting into the black tar — a layer of butyl rubber — Sultan found he could expose the colors of the tiles beneath. It turned out to be the key to a career, although Sultan never looked at it that way.

“I was kind of the last generation who never thought of art and money,” says Sultan. “There was no possibility to make money as an artist really. There were a lot of artists coming up in our age. But there were few galleries. I met a lot of interesting people and a lot of artists working in construction. I thought I’d just give it a shot.” 

“If someone would’ve told me in grad school that I’d be making abstract expressionist art on heavy surfaces and would make pictures of a vandalized Coptic church in Greece, I would’ve said, ‘You’re crazy,’” says Sultan. “But your work takes you where you go.”

Donald Sultan signs copies of “Donald Sultan: The Theater of the Object,” published by The Vendome Press with essays by Carter Ratcliff and John Ravenal, from 7 to 9 p.m. at BookHampton (41 Main Street, East Hampton) on December 13, 2008. Sultan’s art will be featured in “The First Decade” from February 7 to May 11, 2009 at the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center. 

Above: Donald Sultan in his studio


Defying the Electronic Age with the Wonder of Words

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Many people know Emma Walton Hamilton as a co-founder of the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor and a children’s book author who has penned a number of titles with her mother, actress Julie Andrews. In recent years, the mother/daughter team have created several books for young readers, including the popular Dumpy the Dump Truck series about a useful little dump truck and his adventures in the fictional town of Apple Harbor.

As an author, Hamilton has done many signings and book events. She has found that wherever she appears — either by herself or with her mother — the same question comes up over and over from parents and grandparents, librarians and teachers.

“How do I get my kid to put down the electronics and pick up a book?”

It’s an interesting conundrum in this digital age and one that has led Hamilton to pen a new book — this one written not for children, but for the adults in their lives who would like them to be lifelong lovers of reading. It’s titled “Raising Bookworms: Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment” and in it, Hamilton gives parents tools for instilling a love of reading in children. It’s a task she admits is not easy in the video age.

“Believe me, with two kids, I get it,” says Hamilton. “You can’t avoid being aware of the statistics in the way reading has dropped off as a preferred activity over the last 50 years.”

Though many of today’s adults grew up reading for fun, times have indeed changed. The goal now, notes Hamilton is to keep the next generation of readers alive with outside influences such as television, computer and video games all vying for their attention. Through research and consultation with literacy specialists, Hamilton has found some fascinating facts about children and reading which she shares with audiences in her book. It’s no surprise that kids who are avid readers tend to do better in their careers as adults. But Hamilton notes there are other benefits to reading that many people may not realize.

“Kids who read are twice as likely to participate in the arts,” says Hamilton. “As adults they’re twice as likely to do philanthropic work and also vote.”

“The statistics are scary in terms of how much reading has dropped off  — how few people out of high school continue to read for pleasure, what a huge percentage of the world doesn’t read beyond an eighth grade level,” she adds. “The flip side shows that people who do read for pleasure are more likely to be successful in school and life. They can concentrate better and are better at problem solving.

In her book, Hamilton has looked to her experience as a theater educator in devising a strategy to getting kids to read. It’s all about keeping them engaged she says — discovering a child’s passion and providing reading material that feeds that passion.

“One of the number one reasons kids say they don’t read as much as they’d like is they  have trouble finding books they like,” notes Hamilton. “Kids need help finding good books— even high school and middle school kids. That’s where I think schools can do so much, but we have to help.”

Hamilton cites the example of her own son, Sam. When he was in sixth grade, Sam became fed up with the dark and depressing books that had been assigned on the reading list at school.

“Finally we voiced his concern to his English teacher. She had the presence of mind to say the next book could be a free read,” says Hamilton. “But he didn’t know what to choose.”

 Hamilton asked Sam a series of questions to help him find that book.

“I know he loves non-fiction and humor and nature,” she says. “We settled on Gerald Durrell’s biography ‘My Family and Other Animals.’”

Hamilton warns that reading should never feel like a chore or punishment. That, she says, is when there is a danger of losing a reader.

“When kids are babies we snuggle with them and read and everything is warm and fuzzy,” she says. “In those early associations reading equals love. Then in school they either struggle to learn how to read or if they’re great readers there’s an expectation and it becomes a chore.”

Meanwhile, parents often back off on reading to their school age children because they think they need to in order to cultivate independent reading.

“Nothing can be further from the truth,” says Hamilton. “You have to keep reading to and with them much later than you think. Until eighth grade our ability to comprehend what we hear doesn’t jive with what we see on the page. We can comprehend much more of what we hear. Parents should read books that are much farther advanced than kids can read themselves.”

Sometimes parents find that engaging a son in reading can be more difficult than a daughter. Hamilton has found that there is a higher percentage of boys who are not elective readers. She suggests parents check out the website “Guys Read” which helps males (whatever their age) find books they might like. Ultimately, Hamilton says what is most important is for parents to really zero in on what topics most interest their children and help them find a book that engages that interest.

“It really is as simple as listening to your kid — listen to what they respond to and what they don’t,” says Hamilton. “People ask me all the time, ‘What about comic books? Is it okay?’ I say, ‘Yes! It’s reading with pleasure you want to underscore. Anything that tells the brain subconsciously that reading is fun will stack the deck in your favor.”

Though Hamilton does provide recommended reading lists in her book, she admits it’s entirely subjective and urges parents to find their own path to inspiring their young reader. She suggests talking to librarians, booksellers and going on line for books kids might like. Author James Patterson has created a website called “Read Kiddo Read” which recommends books for all types of young readers. And don’t forget about audio books, says Hamilton. They are real books too and ideal for long drives in the car.

So what about those video games? Should they be banned outright?

“The whole strategy is you can’t forbid the electronics — then it becomes forbidden fruit,” says Hamilton. “What you have to do is incentivize the reading. Make it fun, attractive and as sexy as gaming. The key to that is stealth mode activities to reinforce or build the connection between reading for pleasure and fun.”

“It’s finding those doors into whatever their taste and passion is and building on it.”

On Saturday, December 6, 2008 at 2 p.m., Emma Walton Hamilton will be at BookHampton in Sag Harbor (20 Main Street) to sign copies of “Raising Bookworms: Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment.”

Above: Emma Walton Hamilton reads with students at the Ross School