Square Books readies for holiday season in Oxford

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Published: October 9,2006

In anticipation of the holiday shopping season, Square Books is mixing things up.

“We have so many books and we really need to expand, so we’re bringing Off Square books into the mix and moving some sections around,” explained Lyn Roberts, general manager of the 27-year-old store owned by Oxford Mayor Richard Howorth.

“We used to keep our Mississippi fiction section upstairs in the front room and we realized we were hiding our light under a bushel. We thought we really needed instead to be showcasing Mississippi because that’s what we do best, so we’re moving that downstairs. We’re moving several other sections around to highlight different sections that do well for us. There will be a little bit of blending between Square and Off Square. We’re going to use Off Square (space) more as an extension instead of just housing mostly used books, bargain books and event space.”

Off Square is currently located at 129 Courthouse Square, an historic building featuring large glass garage doors on the front with articulated windows, explained Roberts. “On nice days, we can roll up the doors and the whole store is open to the square,” she said.

Even though summer sales were somewhat sluggish, Roberts predicts a solid holiday selling season. “It’s almost going to be too much to handle because there are so many good books coming out right now,” she said.

For example, John Grisham’s “The Innocent Man” represents his “first real non-fiction,” said Roberts. “The Innocent Man” explores small town justice gone terribly awry, based on the story of Ron Williamson, the first player chosen from the State of Oklahoma in the Major League Baseball draft of 1971. In 1987, he was found guilty of capital murder and sent to death row for allegedly raping and killing a 21-year-old cocktail waitress in 1982. “He’s written two semi-autobiographical fiction pieces, but this is true non-fiction.”

Paula Deen, who lives with her family in Savannah, Ga., will soon stop by Square Books to promote her newest book, “Paula Deen Celebrates!,” that includes a year’s worth of recipes for holidays and special occasions, starting with a New Year’s Eve brunch. “We expect another huge turnout for that,” said Roberts.

Other books expected to be hot sellers during the holiday season:

• “The Blind Side: Evolution of the Game” by Michael Lewis, a book that focuses on Ole Miss lineman Michael Oher’s football career.

• “All Aunt Hagar’s Children” by Edward P. Jones, who won a Pulitzer for “The Known World” and returns to Square Books for the second time in two years.

• “Thirteen Moons,” a novel by Charles Frazier, who plans to stop by Square Books on his very limited book signing tour.

• “Square Table: A Collection of Recipes from Oxford, Mississippi,” “came out just before Christmas last year, but sales grow more and more due to word of mouth,” said Roberts.

“The University Press of Mississippi is publishing a retrospective of (internationally-acclaimed Mississippi artist) Bill Dunlap’s art that everyone’s excited about,” said Roberts.

Customers have been seeking a copy of Ocean Springs artist Ken Murphy’s book, “My South Coast Home: Photographs of the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” which was published several years ago.

“It has some really beautiful photographs of the Coast, and the sad thing is, he sells his books himself and Katrina wiped out his entire stock,” said Roberts. “After the storm, people were calling trying to replace books lost in the storm that were important to them and his was probably the one called about the most. We’ve had a waiting list for over a year and finally it’s going to be reprinted.”

The literary ambience of Oxford attracts many authors to Square Books, said Roberts.

“When Richard first opened the store, one of the first authors to visit was Ellen Douglas, and since that time, he’s always invited authors and talked with publishers and worked to develop those relationships,” she said. “A lot of the authors that come to see us have been here before. They fly into Memphis, visit Oxford and then roll down to Lemuria in Jackson and on to New Orleans.”

Anticipated new books in the Square Books Jr. section:

• “The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 13)” by author Lemony Snicket and illustrator Brett Helquist.

• “Uno’s Garden” by author and illustrator Graeme Base.

• “Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late” by Mo Willems, which Roberts said “is the latest in a series of pigeon books for kids that has really taken off.”

“Books provide hours and hours of entertainment; it’s the gift that keeps on giving,” said Roberts. “They’re something you can keep or pass along. Some of them become treasures and family heirlooms. There’s a book for everyone.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.

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