Shelf Life

It takes a Village

Books at David Del Vecchio’s Idlewild Books in Greenwich Village are organized by country instead of genre. Books at David Del Vecchio’s Idlewild Books in Greenwich Village are organized by country instead of genre. (Kirk Bradley Peterkin)
By Jan Gardner
Globe Correspondent / August 23, 2009

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Alan Korolenko makes his home in New Bedford, but his heart belongs to the one-of-a-kind bookstores in Greenwich Village. Books of Wonder welcomes children of all ages. Mystery fans gravitate to Partners & Crime. At Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, chefs and armchair foodies indulge in antiquarian volumes from all over the world.

Over the past year Korolenko has organized four bus trips from New Bedford to explore the 20-plus bookstores in the Manhattan neighborhood. On his next trip, he will lead a literary walking tour, pointing out the former homes of Edith Wharton, e.e. cummings, John Reed, and Louisa May Alcott. Korolenko provides maps of the bookstores and literary sites so people can wander on their own.

“If you love books and love the literary atmosphere that you can rarely find except in Greenwich Village, it’s sort of the perfect day,’’ Korolenko said.

Over the past year, two Spanish-language bookstores and the Oscar Wilde Bookshop, purveyor of gay and lesbian literature, have closed, but there is good news, too. Last spring David Del Vecchio left his job at the United Nations to open Idlewild Books. The store is organized by country, with guidebooks, novels, cookbooks, poetry, and children’s books shelved together.

Tickets for the Oct. 17 bus trip are $70. A deposit is due Aug. 31. Details at

Gerbil confidential
Growing up on Tumblebrook Farm in West Brookfield, Holly Robinson had a secret. Her father, Donald Robinson Jr., raised thousands of gerbils. At one time, he was the world’s largest supplier of gerbils for medical research.

Her memoir, “The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter’’ (Harmony), is an upbeat account of life with an eccentric father on a quest to perfect a strain of gerbils that could be used to study cystic fibrosis, the disease that killed Holly’s sister. He insisted that his family keep quiet about the gerbil farm lest it become a target of animal rights activists.

Battle tested
The 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, popularly known as the Harvard Regiment, counted among its members Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Paul Revere Jr. It fought in almost every major Civil War battle and had the highest number of casualties among Massachusetts regiments.

John Hough Jr., a resident of Martha’s Vineyard, has drawn on the infantry’s storied role in the Battle of Gettysburg for his novel “Seen the Glory’’ (Simon & Schuster). It follows two brothers who leave the Vineyard to fight for the Union cause.

The book has won a nod from James M. McPherson, the dean of Civil War historians, who said: “Hough has caught the spirit of young enlisted men in the army and has done a splendid job of research on the 20th Massachusetts to get its role in the Gettysburg campaign right.’’

Coming out
■ “Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness,’’ by Tracy Kidder (Random House)

■ “The Eleventh Victim,’’ by Nancy Grace (Hyperion)

■ “Await Your Reply,’’ by Dan Chaon (Ballantine)

Pick of the week
Emily Crowe of Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley recommends “The Most Beautiful Book in the World: Eight Novellas,’’ by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, translated from French by Alison Anderson (Europa Editions): “The stories are exquisite, elegant, and enchanting - perfect little gems of literature that explore the nature of happiness across age, gender, and class boundaries.’’

Jan Gardner can be reached at

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