Cover image for Shelf life : romance, mystery, drama, and other page-turning adventures from a year in a bookstore
Shelf life : romance, mystery, drama, and other page-turning adventures from a year in a bookstore
Shea, Suzanne Strempek.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Beacon Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
223 pages ; 23 cm
Personal Subject:
Corporate Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Z473 .S43 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Z473 .S43 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Suzanne Shea has always loved a good book-and she's written five of them, all acclaimed. In the course of her ten-year career, she's done a good bit of touring, including readings and drop-ins at literally hundreds of bookstores. She never visited one that wasn't memorable. Two years ago, while recovering from radiation therapy, Shea heard from a friend who was looking for help at her bookstore. Shea volunteered, seeing it as nothing more than a way to get out of her pajamas and back into the world. But over next twelve months, from St. Patrick's Day through Poetry Month, graduation/Father's Day/summer reading/Christmas and back again to those shamrock displays, Shea lived and breathed books in a place she says sells "ideas, stories, encouragement, answers, solace, validation, the basic ammunition for daily life." Her work was briefly interrupted by an author tour that took her to other great bookstores. Descriptions of these and her memories of book-lined rooms reaching all the way back to childhood visits to the Bookmobile are scattered throughout this charming, humorous, and engrossing account of reading and rejuvenation. For anyone who loves books, and especially for anyone who has fallen under the spell of a special bookstore, Shelf Life will be required reading.

Author Notes

Suzanne Strempek Shea's writing was first published in her own hand-lettered & illustrated "Nutty News" (circulation: one copy) when she was eight years old. Now, in her early-40s, she covers two small towns for the "Springfield Union-News". Her freelance writing has been published in magazines including Yankee & New England Monthly. She lives in Bondsville, Massachusetts, with her husband, Tommy, a journalist with the "Union-News". She was the recipient of the NBA Award for "Lily of the Valley".

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Novelist Shea turned memoirist in Songs from a Lead-Lined Room 0 (2002), a chronicle of her bout with breast cancer. She now continues her upbeat recovery saga with a smart and jocund contribution to the ever-popular "year of" genre by telling the tale of her first year working in an independent bookstore. Realizing that although she was healing physically, she needed a reason to leave the house, Shea jumped at the chance to work at Edward Books in Springfield, Massachusetts. She launches her piquant and irresistible narrative with a hilarious riff on the questions bookstore clients ask, which is followed by revealing glimpses into her experiences as a touring author and a supple overview of the state of the book world in general and endangered independent bookstores in particular. With her sparkling humor, reporter's eye for detail, raconteur's love of anecdote, literary passion, and affection for humankind, Shea fashions a fresh and rousing tribute to the grand and quirky tradition of bringing books and readers together with insight, finesse, and enthusiasm. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

To fill the time as she recovered from cancer and chemotherapy, Strempek Shea volunteered at a friend?s independent bookstore in Springfield, Mass. An accomplished novelist (Around Again; Lily of the Valley), Strempek Shea felt at first like a spy??a farmer hanging around the dairy section??as she observed customers in constant discovery of books. Despite the bleak reason for her new job, she embraced it with delight and here recounts her sojourn at Edwards Books with humor and passion. Not a great deal happens though, even during the coverage of 9/11. She looks at the small, independent bookstore, and how it stays in business. Although she can?t help making fun of the inane questions she?s sometimes asked (?What would you recommend for a flight to California? I?ll be sleeping most of the time?), she lovingly portrays devoted book folks, such as ?the tiny older woman who arrives on her payday to buy two or three more mysteries. The young woman who received the call that the latest of the Gothic novels her mother collects have arrived.? The author also shares droll, albeit tacitly self-promoting, insights on the tour for her latest book (?there are maybe forty people at my reading, and I even know two of them!?). As readers absorb the life of the bookstore and author, many will be tempted to look for the titles she drops throughout the work. Book enthusiasts who pine for a friendly, like-minded community will love this light, funny memoir. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Review

In this memoir, Shea continues the narrative begun in Songs from a Lead-Lined Room, detailing her experiences working in a local bookstore to occupy her time while she recovers from breast cancer. She recounts her memories with humor and wit, showing the reader why the book provides "the basic ammunition for daily life." Shea's own experiences as a writer are blended with the everyday details of working in a bookstore. The result is an engaging mix of memories that readers will no doubt be able to appreciate-from Shea's anxieties about how her own book will sell to her concerted efforts to help customers find just the right title for their situation. The author also remembers fondly how her love of books began: with the neighborhood bookmobile and the librarians who were "straight from central casting, with cat-eye glasses and sweaters draped over the shoulder and held with pearly clips." This is a quick read, best suited for public libraries with browsing collections.-Valeda F. Dent, Hunter Coll. Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.