September 6th, 2022
"Summer is over. I’m depressed."
I hear the sentiment frequently. But as a voracious reader, I have a different view.
The arrival of fall presages lazy reads on crisp, cool days. Leaves turn outside; pages turn inside. Summer is about “beach reads” and “hot picks.” But in fall, I enjoy going “back to school”: books that will teach me what I didn’t know. My own tastes bring me to history and science…and an occasional spy thriller.
In October, Nelson DeMille will release his newest John Corey thriller, The Maze. Theodore’s Books will be hosting an event on November 3rd with Nelson. (Call us at 516-636-5550 for more details.) One of the advantages of owning a bookshop is receiving advance copies of new releases, and I can tell you, if you love a good crime thriller, you’ll love The Maze. It’s based on real events involving the murders of sex workers on Long Island’s Gilgo Beach. So, yeah, it’s a beach read. In October.
I also have a peculiar interest in existential physics, which is weird since I barely passed science in high school. Math was also struggle, at least until I served in Congress, where I learned that 2+2= whatever some Members want it to equal. Anyway, I’ve always been intrigued by strange and meaningful coincidences; by suggestions that we’re all entangled in a physical order that connects us. It’s been called The Force, the Zero Point Field, or God. My September reading will include Existential Physics: A Scientist’s Guide to Life’s Biggest Questions, but don’t be intimidated by the title (again, I muddled through Mr. Stern’s 10th grade science class at MacArthur High School in Levittown). It’s an accessible exploration of intriguing questions, including my own: “Is grandma dead or is she just living in a senior citizen condo in another dimension of Boca Raton?)
In history, I eagerly await the release of Jon Meacham’s And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle. It chronicles how Lincoln confronted threats to democracy. Not sure whether we’ll put it on our History or Current Events shelves.
But that’s another story.
(You can receive my weekly columns in the Washington newspaper The Hill by following me on twitter: @repsteveisrael or Repsteveisrael on Facebook.)
March 24th, 2022
In a polarized, poisonous political environment, where everyone seems angry at everyone else and the anger flashes in incendiary punditry and explosive tweets, may I suggest finding refuge at our bookshop?
Creating such a refuge was one reason I decided to open Theodore’s last November. 1,528 square feet. Nearly 10,000 books. Books from the left, the right, the middle or nowhere in particular. Political books and (mostly) non-political books. No jerks allowed. (We actually have a sign that says so).
I was honored and privileged to have served in Congress for 16 years. But I’d also had enough partisan sniping and sound-bytes. I was tired of media interviews where I addressed complex, complicated issues as if I were packing a fireworks shell that would explode across the political landscape and ignite Twitter tweets and retweets. (Fact check: some issues need more than two minutes on television or 280 characters to explain). And I very deeply resented the likelihood that one errant word, one phrase subject to misinterpretation, could and would be twisted grotesquely and used against me.
A bookshop disqualifies all of those possibilities. No spin; but the studious turning of pages. No finger pointing unless it helps you track the words on a page. No pontificating other than the helpful recommendations of our expert booksellers: Peggy, Emily, Anne, Hannah, and must recently, Chloe. (I handle history and current events, so don’t hesitate to ask me for a recommendation).
And what better homage than to Theodore Roosevelt, who lived and worked in our hometown in Oyster Bay! I’m told there were about 7,000 books in his library at Sagamore Hill (someone correct me if I’m misinformed). Roosevelt wrote and read voraciously, and his commitment to literature is well-reflected on our shelves.
Last weekend, my former colleague, Rep. Peter King and I led a book discussion with Michael Dowling (president and CEO of Northwell) at Theodore’s. In Congress, King and I disagreed on many issues, but we found ways to work together. In the shop, we spent an hour sharing views on Dowling’s excellent memoir, When the Roof Caved In. It was civil. Entertaining. Informative.
That was exactly what I had in mind when I opened Theodore's.
If you’re in the neighborhood, see for yourself.
P.S. My current reading is Erik Larson’s The Splendid & The Vile. It’s about Churchill’s extraordinary leadership during the German bombings of London in 1940-41. Also, a fascinating parallel to President Zelensky in Ukraine.