Book Drives for NYC Kids and Teens in Need: December 4th

Students at CS/PS 21 in Bed-Stuy

What: Book Drives to collect gently used (or new) books for NYC kids in need

When: Saturday, December 4, 2010 (see specific dates below for each drop-off location)

How: Scan your shelves for books your kids no longer need, or buy a copy of your favorite book from when you were a young reader. These children and teens need everything from picture books to high-school level literature. The only caution is that the nonfiction needs to be up-to-date. Also please do not donate books with underlining.

See below where to drop off your books at one of 3 locations in the city.

Why: ReadThis has identified 7 locations in great need of books:

C.S./PS 21 Crispus Attucks School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

P.S. 54 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

P.S. 46 Edward C. Blum School in Fort Greene

P.S. 376A Felisa Rincon De Gautier School in Bushwick, Brooklyn

PAVE in Red Hook, Brooklyn

JHS 13 Jackie Robinson School in East Harlem

HS 440 DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, NY

If you can’t get to one of our book-drive locations, but would like to donate books by mail, please contact us at for posting instructions to one of our recipient libraries.

DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx

If you would like to volunteer to host your own book drive, or help deliver books, or assist in any other way, please email at

If you don’t have gently used books to donate, but would like to help, please go to this link to buy a wishlist book for a school in need. For as little as $3.99, you can help an economically challenged school get a book in the hands of a student:

And don’t forget that if you are in Fort Greene on Saturday, December 18th or Sunday, December 19th from 12 noon to 8 p.m., please stop by Greenlight Bookstore. You can do your holiday shopping and have a ReadThis volunteer wrap your presents for tips. The tips will go toward buying books for a local elementary school. We will also have a table where people can directly buy a wish list book for that school.

If you would like to get on our email list, contact us at or join on Facebook: ReadThis (

Thank you for your help and we hope to see you this December.



Saturday, December 4th from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Katha Pollitt 175 Riverside Drive apt 13G, New York, NY

(corner of Riverside Drive and 90th). Please email in advance if you plan to drop off books:



Saturday, December 4th from 12 noon to 3 p.m.

Caroline and Buster Black

126 Greene Avenue, buzzer reads BLACK (btwn Clinton Ave and Waverly Ave)

Brooklyn 11238 call with any questions: 919.824.7102



Saturday, December 4th from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Roslyn Biskin 351 14th St btwn 6/7th Aves

Bring books to lower stoop



We finally got to eyeball Andrew Jackson Middle School’s new library in Chalmette, Louisiana. And although our amateurish (but very funky) video doesn’t fully convey this, it is a beaut—thanks in large part to the generous friends of ReadThis.

If you haven’t been following the story, Andrew Jackson opened this fall for the first time since Hurricane Katrina struck five years ago. This was a tremendous achievement in St. Bernard Parish, where whole neighborhoods were literally washed away and the fishing community was further devastated by the BP oil spill.

But the school had no books or even a budget for books. And that’s where you came in. As you can see, the shelves are still in the process of being stocked. But at present there are more than 2,500 titles to fill this gorgeous space—and that number grows daily. When I visited, the amazing librarian Juanita Peralta and her mom were busily cataloguing books. Many of the titles I spotted I could link back to actual donors—sports books from Scott DeSimon, Roald Dahl titles from Greenlight and many generous patrons of the Brooklyn Flea.

Before we get carried away, here are a few—and certainly not all—of the people who helped give the kids of AJMS a library:

The Sarlin Branch of the Pickens County Library, Liberty, SC (1,000+ books!)
Greenlight Bookstore
Joycelyn Heintz
The St. Bernard Project
Garden District Book Shop
Eric Demby and the Brooklyn Flea
Scott DeSimon of ESPN
Vernon House/Rachel Cantor
Hawes and Ambriel Bostic
Melissa Walker
The Institute for Children and Poverty
Sam, Suzanne, and Isabel Mitchell
Harry and Marjorie Keyishian
Barri Evins and From The Heart (invited by Susanna Einstein)
Susanna Einstein
Jaime Pessin
Weinstein Company
Katha Pollitt
Vicki An
Tony Apicelli
Magnitude Capital
Peter Harper
Buster Black
Alexandra Ringe
Martin Korsin
Rebecca Fitting
Jessica Stockton Bagnulo
Rene Steinke
Amy Loewy
Britton Trice

Thank you, ReadThis members, for helping C.S. 21

students from a class last year working with "Not Afraid of Dogs"

ReadThis members finished buying the set of 35 copies of  Not Afraid of Dogs to support Behind the Book’s program to bring authors into the classroom. These books will go to a first-grade class at C.S. 21 in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn. The book’s author, Susanna Pitzer, will visit three times to talk about her book, work with these first graders to write & illustrate their own stories, and at the end of the session, the children will create their own classroom anthology. This book is particularly good because it gets the kids talking and writing about their own fears.

ReadThis visited the school yesterday and can attest to the faculty’s commitment to providing students a warm, invigorating environment in a community with a great deal of financial need.

Thanks to those who purchased books:

Caroline Bishop

Roslyn Biskin

Ada Calhoun

Mimi Cromwell

Craig Harrison

Bridgett Jensen

Jennifer Schram Maxwell

Biz Mitchell

Suzanne Mitchell

Sara Nelson

Henrietta and Brett Pertuz

Cliff Piper

Katha Pollitt

Martin Ruiz

Marjan Shirzad

Natalie Standiford

South Carolina ReadThis Members Gather Books this Saturday

If you happen to be near Liberty, SC, this Saturday afternoon between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., please stop by the Sarlin Branch of the Pickens County Library. The Branch Friends of the Library are sponsoring a Book Drive to benefit ReadThis —  in particular, to aid the ReadThis effort to raise books for the Andrew Jackson Middle School in St. Bernard Parish, LA.

St. Bernard Parish was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and all of its schools destroyed. AJMS was one of the last to reopen this August but has had a very great need for books. These very generous ReadThis members have volunteered to do what they can to restock the school.

Simply drop off your new or gently used books at the library.
Donations of money also accepted to pay shipping costs.

This event is part of Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of helping others, is sponsored annually by USA WEEKEND Magazine and its 700 carrier newspapers.

Further questions, please call: (864) 843-5805

15 S. Palmetto Street, Liberty, SC

Great Novels About Money

Still from the film, "The House of Mirth", directed by Terence Davies, 2000

In this time of foreclosures, Wall Street pay-outs, and unemployment, ReadThis asked Martha McPhee (, author of the recent novel, Dear Money (loved by People magazine and Joseph O’Neill, among many others) to give us her choices of the best fiction about cash.

I have always loved novels that have money coursing through them, like blood.  It is a theme that doesn’t tire me and money certainly makes characters act, revealing who they are.  My latest novel, Dear Money (a title that I borrowed, by the way, from Fitzgerald who discarded it, using All The Sad Young Men instead), as the title suggests, has a lot to do with money.  I became interested in the topic as extreme wealth rose all around me in the heady days of mortgage-backed securities.

Money is a glorious and dirty topic and, it seems, everyone has something to say about it.  While working on Dear Money I read and reread some money masterpieces.  I especially love the Victorians as they were obsessed with money and used it as a lens through which to see the hypocrisy of their society.  To choose my five favorites is nearly impossible, so I thought I’d cheat by listing, in some cases, authors who have more than one great book that explores money.

I’ll begin with:

1)   Theodore Dreiser.  The novel that comes first to mind is The Financier which is based on an historic figure from the late 19th century who was caught up in a run on banks that sent the US economy into a nose dive.  Frank Cowperwood, the financier of the title, is so vivid and real and scheming, and the financial fiasco so urgent and devastating that I couldn’t put the book down.  What is that magical power some writers have to make you almost cheer for the most immoral character?  And how is it that Dreiser makes deals and double-deals and greed and fraud turn into a classic novel about business?  But The Financier is just the most obvious money novel of Dreiser’s.  All of the others are about money too, about wanting more, about attaining it in one way or another.  Sister Carrie, An American Tragedy, Jenny Gerhardt – money pulses through them, the central heartbeat.  Dreiser understood a very American predicament – the burning aspiration of the have-nots to have more, the lengths they’ll go to satisfy that urgent longing.

2)   Edith Wharton.  The novel of hers I love most is The House of Mirth. I thought about Lily Bart a lot while working on Dear Money.  I wondered who she would be today.  I certainly don’t think she would kill herself.  Rather I believe she’d go off and find her way, start a career and make a satisfying amount of money on her own.  Wharton is so deliciously good at describing Lily, at that particularly place in which she finds herself — caught between having been taught to live a certain way and not being able to afford to.  Her downfall comes from being unwilling to compromise.  She won’t marry a bore.  I also quite love The Custom of the Country and found Undine Spragg one of those marvelous, awful characters you watch out of fascination as she gets just exactly what she wants.  And she wants money.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda in front of their Westport home

3)   The Great Gatsby.  I’d be remiss if that novel weren’t on my list.  It’s brilliant, a window on the roaring ’20s.  Again, Fitzgerald creates a fascination for the rude and the ugly who destroy people’s lives for the benefit of their own.  Though money is a subject that fascinated Fitzgerald deeply and though he wrote about it in all of his fiction in one way or another, I’m not a huge fan of the other novels.

4)   Now do I choose between Trollop’s The Way We Live Now or Thackeray’s Vanity Fair or Zola’s The Masterpiece?  I love them all.  I love the Trollop for all the intersecting lives and for the aged female writer churning out articles to make ends meet, her pretentions and desires.  I love Vanity Fair for Becky Sharp, her insatiable hunger and naughtiness.  She is yet another repellent character that is a joy to watch.  And, I recognize that I am now deep into cheating, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. I look around at the world today, having just read Lydia Davis’s new translation, at all of us in the privileged city, New York, and I think that every last one of us is Emma Bovary with our abundant wants and petty needs.

5)   Perhaps a favorite: New Grub Street by George Gissing.  A favorite


because it is all about writers trying to get by in 1870s London, the terrible compromises they must make for the love of money.  The world of publishing and writing hasn’t changed very much since then if at all.  So reading the novel is like peering directly into our silly moment with so much foolishness passed off as high art and deep thought.

Your book donations in the hands of St. Bernard Parish students

Thank all of you for the wonderful donations. The students and staff are so excited to have such wonderful resources for the library and classrooms. This has been a great blessing for Andrew Jackson Middle. – Juanita Peralta, school librarian

Students at the Andrew Jackson Middle School with ReadThis book donations

Teachers from AJMS with a ReadThis donation.

ReadThis book donations in the hands of AJMS students.

AJMS students reading ReadThis book donations.

Eduardo Galeano turns 70: The dry grass will set fire to the damp grass

Today the great Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano turns 70. Politics aside — Galeano is a famous Leftist — 2012 has been a good year for Galeano, as his beloved Uruguayan soccer team was a surprise semifinalist in this year’s World Cup.

To mark this milestone birthday you can (if you read Spanish) follow Galeano on Twitter ( and Facebook (

Better yet do yourself a favor and pick up one of his books. Galeano’s uniquely panoramic prose style quickly draws you in, and his humor, engagement with the world, and strong sense of justice both entertain and edify.

Per Tony Karon’s recent suggestion you could start with SOCCER IN SUN AND SHADOW, Galeano’s highly personal history of “the beautiful game,” or you can try THE BOOK OF EMBRACES, the writer’s collage-like remembrances of his remarkable life.

Galeano’s greatest work, however, remains his epic, genre-defying MEMORY OF FIRE trilogy, an anecdotal history of the Americas, told in large part from the point of view of figures (indigenous people, slaves, slum-dwellers, and defeated revolutionaries) to whom traditional history does not typically give proper voice.

GENESIS and FACES AND MASKS, the first two volumes, take you from American pre-history up to 1900, and the work concludes with CENTURY OF THE WIND, a blistering account of the “American Century” in all its horror, absurdity, and triumph. Truly a tour de force, and a page-turner as well.

The title of this post is taken from the dedication to GENESIS, the first volume of MEMORY OF FIRE, which per Galeano is “an African proverb brought to the Americas by slaves.”

“Dry grass,” one might infer, is also how Galeano sees the work of the writer.

Toby Bryce is a co-founder of ReadThis.

Five Swell Comic Novels You Might Not Know

You only have one last weekend of beach reading. Better make it funny. ReadThis asked Larry Doyle, author of Go, Mutants!, (which the San Francisco Chronicle deemed “one of the funniest books of the summer”), to give us his picks.

Leaving aside the classics of Mark Twain, Nathanael West, Evelyn Waugh, Terry Southern, et al., or the well-known work of such contemporary masters as Christopher Buckley, Jennifer Weiner, Lorrie Moore, Jasper Fforde, etc., here are five comic novels guaranteed to delight, unless you have no sense of humor, which many people don’t without ever realizing it.

The Dog of the South by Charles Portis. Ray Midge’s wife Norma has taken off with Guy Dupree in Ray’s car. Ray goes after her to get the car back. This novel contains the funniest riff I have ever read, which involves a deer head with a cigarette in its mouth, which I cannot do justice to here. Portis also wrote True Grit, the John Wayne movie about to become a Coen brothers movie, and three other novels, all of which will be bought by anybody who reads this.

The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman by Bruce Robinson. A coming of age novel both hilarious and heartbreaking, following young Penman as he teaches himself to become a master locksmith in order to break into his grandfather’s legendary pornography collection. And there’s gypsies. Robison also wrote and directed one of the least known funniest movies ever, Withnail and I. (Oddly, he also wrote The Killing Fields.)

A Time to Be Born by Dawn Powell. This entry applies to all of Powell’s work, which delighted audiences throughout the forties and fifties and then floated effortlessly away. One might as well start with this one, about a Manhattan newspaper baron, his bodice-ripper writing mistress and Powell’s usual socially astute complications.

The Time Machine Did It, by John Swartzwelder. The first in a series of self-published comic novellas featuring Frank Burly, a hard-boiled detective living in a sci-fi universe, done in the inimitable humor of the writer of 59 Simpsons episodes. You won’t find a funnier book, line for line, except perhaps its sequels, How I Conquered Your Planet and The Exploding Detective.

Elliot Allagash, by Simon Rich. Seymour Herson, 14, is adopted and groomed by the title character, a little monster with a lot of money. My Fair Lady, if Professor Higgins were Satan, the novel’s chief targets are the foibles and enormities of the ultra-wealthy, wrapped in an involving coming-of-age tale. Published just this spring, it is evidence the comic novel lives in something other than mash-up form.

Larry Doyle is the author of Go, Mutants! and I Love You, Beth Cooper, both reputedly comic novels.

Where Should ReadThis Help Next? Help Plan the Next Six Months

ReadThis will be having a board meeting toward the end of September to plan the next six months of activities. If you know of a school, workplace, hospital, military base, literacy organization, library or any other facility that needs our help getting books, PLEASE EMAIL US AT READTHISORG@GMAIL.COM BY SEPTEMBER 15TH to let us know. The recipient location can be anywhere, as long as the logistics are reasonable with this volunteer force. Please give the where, when, why, and it will be put it up for consideration.

Thank you so much for your book donations, your labor, your hosting of sites. And thank you in advance for your ideas. Below please find a list of what you accomplished so far in 2010, based on the ideas you sent the board last December.

The Board of ReadThis

– created a library of 1,524 books and counting for the Andrew Jackson Middle School in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, a school reopening this summer for the first time post-Katrina but which had been virtually bookless

– bought 35 copies each of Hamlet, The Chocolate War, and The Joy Luck Club for the Women’s Academy of Excellence in the Bronx to fulfill their wish for classroom use

– bought $500 work of classics for the Women’s Academy of Excellence in the Bronx, and books from some of the girls’ personal wishlists

– bought 50 copies each of The Wisdom of Insecurity and The Bell Jar, for the Science Skills Center High School in Brooklyn to fulfill their wish for those books for classroom use

– built bookshelves for The Leadership Institute in the Bronx, a high-school that had no library until ReadThis supplied one

– delivered over a dozen large boxes of brand new and gently used books for the Science Skills Center High School, a public school in Brooklyn

– through the wedding registry of ReadThis members, purchased  90 wishlist books for a classroom of the Anna Silver School on the Lower East Side of New York; 34 copies of A People’s History of the United States for New York public school, HS 600 for classroom use; 34 books for library use for Anna Silver and the St. Bernard Parish schools; plus 25% of the wish list for Andrew Jackson Middle School

-in partnership with The Center for Fiction, acquired thousands of books (achieving the numbers requested) for the Bellevue Pediatric ward; KEEN New York; Bushwick IMPACT; P.S. 54 in Bedford Stuyvesant; Women’s Academy of Excellence in the Bronx; Kingsbridge Innovative Design School; Science Skills Center High School; P.S. 20, the Anna Silver School; The Women’s Youth Leadership School in Harlem; and The Women’s Youth Leadership School in Queens

– in partnership with The Center for Fiction, purchased 35 copies each of Things Fall Apart, Three Cups of Tea, and 26 copies of Romeo and Juliet for the Women’s Academy of Excellence in the Bronx; 25 copies of How Many for P.S. 20 The Anna Silver School; 35 copies of Lorca poetry anthologies for TWYLS Harlem; and acquired 35 copies of Our Choice by Al Gore, as well as assorted books from the schools’ wish lists

Post-Katrina School Gets Its Library

A few weeks ago, the hard work of a large team of ReadThis members culminated in our hitting our target of 1400 books for the Andrew Jackson Middle School in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana.

All of the school buildings in the district had been destroyed by Katrina and AJMS was one of the last readied for reopening this August. The only problem was that the revamped school remained virtually book-less.

Intrepid board member, Jeffrey Rotter, led the project to get these students a beguiling library, an effort that included publisher donations, a book sale at the Brooklyn Flea with the help of our friends at Greenlight Bookstore, an online wish list at the Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, and several remarkable private book drives hosted by ReadThis members. A list of the champions of this cause appears below. Here is a letter ReadThis recently received from Denise Cooper, the curriculum coordinator for the St. Bernard Parish Schools:

“What can we possibly say to thank ReadThis’ entire troop for the tremendous support we have received and the fantastic supply of books for our newest middle school.  The librarian, Juanita Peralta, has been busy unpacking and cataloging the books…. We have placed a label in every book we have received saying that the books were donated through the efforts of ReadThis.

“Our students came into Andrew Jackson for the first time last Wednesday [August 11] and it was a great day for all.  The facility has been beautifully renovated, although there is still some last minute completions taking place.  The librarian has promised to take pictures this week and will send them to you.

“Again, many thanks  for all of your hard work on our behalf.  ReadThis has been so helpful as we continue on our journey of recovery.”

Although we hit our book-count goal — 1,522 to date — the school has taken up the offer to receive more books from a few generous ReadThis members. We’ll keep you updated on that. In the meantime, ReadThis and the Andrew Jackson Middle School profoundly thank the following people for their gifts:

106 books from Picador

20 books from Vernon House/Rachel Cantor

57 books purchased from the school’s wish list at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans

103 books from Hawes and Ambriel Bostic

22 books from Melissa Walker

32 books from the Institute for Children and Poverty

89 books from Sam, Suzanne, and Isabel Mitchell

21 books from Harry and Marjorie Keyishian

91 books from Barri Evins and From The Heart (invited by Susanna Einstein)

300 books through a book drive hosted by Susanna Einstein

134 new books purchased at the ReadThis Brooklyn Flea book drive with Greenlight Bookstore

135 gently used books donated at the Brooklyn Flea book drive

20 books from Scott de Simon at ESPN

15 books from the Greenlight Bookstore wishlist for AJMS from Jeffrey Rotter

87 books from an upcoming book drive hosted by Jaime Pessin

100 books from Weinstein Company

171 books from Katha Pollitt

12 books from Vicki An

7 books from Tony Apicelli

Plus: Magnitude Capital, Peter Harper, Buster Black, Alexandra Ringe, Martin Korsin, Rebecca Fitting, Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, Eric Demby,  Rene Steinke, Joycelyn Heintz, Amy Loewy, and Britton Trice