The American Story – A Book Review by Jim Scott


The American Story, Conversations with Master Historians, by David M. Rubenstein

Recognized by award winning documentarian Ken Burns as “one of the best interviewers he knows,” David Rubenstein has written this book “to share with readers some of the wealth of historical knowledge that members of Congress have learned between 2013-2019,” i.e., during the running series of learning at the Library of Congress, Rubenstein’s Congressional Dialogues.  His purpose in creating the 38-session series was to increase for our national legislators their personal level of historical knowledge, that it may inform them better of future challenges and perhaps “help reduce the partisan rancor” in Washington.

Having generated prodigious, personal wealth on Wall Street, becoming a philanthropist of extraordinary dimensions, and long time host on PBS of The David Rubenstein Show (Peer to Peer Conversations), he is a critical thinker: aware of interrelatedness of critical questions, able to ask key questions at the right times, and being an active listener.  Fascinated lifelong with the power of books, he has structured here in his first book a dialogue series with authors who spent typically five to ten years, often longer, researching their published subjects, from the Founding Era to the late 20th century.  Himself educated in history and law, he has been a lifelong book collector, with a visceral understanding of the magnetic power between book-and-author and the radiant potential of that power waiting for release to the critical reader.  

Those who knew him as the master of detail and tireless deputy chief for domestic policy in Jimmy Carter’s presidency, attribute to Rubenstein the rigid rule for guest meetings in the stirringly historical Roosevelt Room: displaying conspicuously those books that may have been written by the specific guests or other books that were assumed logically to have been part of their personal libraries.  Effect: discussions were always more passionate and engaging, with a palpably positive impact on substance and productivity.

Thirty-plus years later, the Congressional Dialogues proceeded under the expert panning for gold by Rubenstein, interacting with the likes of David McCullough on ADAMS, Jon Meacham on JEFFERSON, Jack Warren on WASHINGTON, Ron Chernow on HAMILTON, Taylor Branch on MLK JR, Bob Woodward on NIXON, and many others.  The sessions were well attended and the proceedings effectively edited and reproduced in book-form.  

The book is eminently readable and enlightening.  Most readers will likely agree that Rubenstein’s educational objectives shall have been fulfilled, just as they may agree disappointedly that the “rancor in Washington” continues unabated, though not Rubenstein’s fault.


 Back to

“The Universe in a Nutshell” by Stephen Hawking (And Other Amazing Used Books at WSB)

Changing our name from Wellington Square Bookshop to “The Best Kept Secret in Chester County” seems logical to me, given that at least once per week I meet a local who strolls in for the first time, having had no idea we have existed for years. Upon meeting “first-timers”, I am excited to point out the used book collection in the back of the store. Where else can you find a thoroughly captivating, often best-selling book in hardback for $4.95?

Our used non-fiction, in particular, fascinates me. This esoteric and eclectic
collection represents topics as varied as World War II missions, parenting advice,
spiritual encouragement, coffee table books of dog photography, a travel guide
of Paris and instructions on the practice of yoga. The biography selection alone
encompasses such a wide variety of characters (Ayn Rand, Nancy Reagan, Mark
Twain, Ted Hughes) a reader could get lost for hours.

Recently, a used copy of Stephen Hawking’s The Universe in a Nutshell found
its way onto our shelves. Though familiar with and in awe of Stephen Hawking, I
did not think his subject matter was accessible for a non-science/non-math brain
like mine (think colors person in a numbers world). After all, Stephen Hawking
is a genius – an intellectual icon. I was unaware of his ability to synthesize
information in a clear and concise manner. In this book, Hawking aims to explain
some high level concepts to a more general audience; a nice way of saying he
tries really hard to “dumb it down”. I would say Hawking is somewhat successful.
Every page includes photographs or colorful illustrations creating a physics
picture book. Most striking is Hawking’s sense of humor. I often found myself
chuckling at his remarks, like a favorite uncle zinging one-liners at family dinners.

In all honesty, there are still large parts of this book that are just not getting
through to me, but I really enjoyed much of it. This is the kind of book I could
see myself going back to over the years and possibly making notes in as
understanding progresses.

The Universe in a Nutshell is just one of many books in our used science
collection. I find our used science books intriguing, but I may be even more
infatuated with the used history section where Stephen Greenblatt’s Pulitzer prize
winner, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, resides alongside Flyboys,
Band of Brothers and other accounts of world history. Fans of Michael Lewis
will find The Big Short in the business section. I have my eye on Seabiscuit and
Betrayal, the story of Aldrich Ames, as well as a few other biographies.

Stop in and browse the used non-fiction. What you find may surprise and delight

~ Donnna

Hip, Hot and Happening in the Bookshop – September Sale

Mixture Candles – Buy One Get One Free!

If you were excited about our Itsy Bitsy Tote sale then you better hurry in tomorrow.  For the month of September all of our Mixture candles are BOGO. 

The totes flew off the shelves so hurry down to stock up on your favorite candle scents before they are gone.  With a burn time of approximately 20 hours in a simple, clean votive these candles are great for gifts.  With the BOGO you can keep one and give one without the guilt!

We will be restocking with some amazing new scents for the fall/winter season.

Hip Hot and Happening in the Bookshop – YA Novels

As I was flipping through the news app on my phone this morning I came across an article about a poll being conducted by NPR to name the “Best-Ever Teen Novels”.  I have been on a Young Adult book kick lately and just finished Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series (I loved it!) so I was interested to find out what people were voting for and if I could get any good ideas for what to dive into next. 

There are so many amazing adult books out there I find I get out of touch with what the younger set is reading and with all of the amazing YA authors. To be considered a YA book the story must be written for teens between the ages of 12 and 18.  In addition, the subject matter cannot be too racy or violent.  About one third of the items on the list are series or trilogies.  There are some classics on the list but the majority of the books are more recent.  One of the most important factors in determining the list was if teens were given the book would they voluntarily read it.

If you are looking for something that will be a hit with your teenager, a gift for a teenager or if you are like me, just catching up on what’s going on, this list is a great place to start. 

NPR runs book polls from time to time.  You can check out some of their older lists on their website as well as some great book reviews and literary information.

Kids Corner – The Man in the Moon

Sometimes there are books that I put on the shelves that I think to myself “I really need to read that one”.  The Man in the Moon by William Joyce was just one of those books.  What drew me to the book was the beautiful illustrations, something Joyce is famous for.  You might be familiar with some of his other works like Dinosaur Bob and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (also an Academy Award winning short film).  The Man in the Moon is the start of the Guardians of Childhood series that Joyce has been working on for almost twenty years and tells the story of the boy who would become Tsar Lunar, the Guardian who watches over the dreams of all the children of Earth.

You already know all of the Guardians of Childhood:  Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, the Easter Bunny to name a few.  However, did you know the very first Guardian was the Man in the Moon (MiM)?

Joyce tells the story of how MiM’s parents saved him during a battle with the evil Pitch, the King of Nightmares.  MiM’s parents and his best friend, Nightlight, were all killed during the battle but their spirits remained in the stars.  MiM was raised in the tunnels of the moon by the Moonbots, Moonmice and giant Glowworms.  He had a great childhood, including meals of lunar ice cream and space juice nectarine. 

As MiM got older he discovered Earth and the children that lived there.  When the children of earth lost balloons they would float up to MiM and he could hear their hopes and dreams in the balloons.  MiM got together with his friends, Santa Clause and the others, to bring joy to the children on earth.  However, the one thing he could not change was that the children were still afraid of the dark.  MiM then discovered Dreamsand on the surface of the moon and that by kicking over all the rocks the Dreamsand would glow and light up the moon. 

Now that the moon was 100 times brighter the children of Earth could see the glowing face of the moon and know they were not alone in the dark.

“A fabulous recapturing of an old, real fairy-tale world. Dark. Mysterious. Stunning!” —Maurice Sendak, Caldecott-winning creator of Where The Wild Things Are

“William Joyce, to put it simply, is a genius, and we are lucky to have another book from him. The Man in the Moon is filled with tenderness, love, and enchantment. It’s an unforgettable story which will, I predict, take its rightful place in the hearts of children everywhere.” —Brian Selznick, author/illustrator of the Caldecott-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret

This Week in the Bookshop – Teen Reading

When I look in our Summer Reading Room (Don’t forget all school summer reading books are 20% off) I cannot imagine teenagers having a chance to read anything of their choice but I wanted to highlight some new Teen reads that we have gotten in recently in case they need a few days off of reading about history, politics, war, etc.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

The long-awaited companion to New York Times bestsellers Graceling and Fire

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

“Some authors can tell a good story; some can write well. Cashore is one of the rare novelists who do both. Thrillingly imagined and beautifully executed, “Bitterblue” stands as a splendid contribution in a long literary tradition.” ~ Gretchen Rubin, author

Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn

Sixteen-year-old Violet loves reading manga and wearing scarves made from kimono fabric, so she’s thrilled that her father’s new painting commission means a summer trip to Japan. But what starts as an exotic vacation quickly turns into a dangerous treasure hunt.

Her father’s newest clients, the Yamada family, are the victims of a high-profile art robbery: van Gogh sketches have been stolen from their home, and, until they can produce the corresponding painting, everyone’s lives are in danger — including Violet’s and her father’s.

Violet’s search for the missing van Gogh takes her from the Seattle Art Museum, to the yakuza-infested streets of Tokyo, to a secluded inn in Kyoto. As the mystery thickens, Violet’s not sure whom she can trust. But she knows one thing: she has to solve the mystery — before it’s too late.

“Hidden paintings, yakuza assassins, vivid settings, artful intrigue, and a taste of manga make Tokyo Heist an absorbing tale mystery readers will love.” ~ Linda Gerber, author

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair… .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Peaches comes a magical and bewitching story of the romance between a fearless heroine and the boy who wouldn’t grow up.

“Funny, free, and utterly imaginative, Jodi Lynn Anderson’s writing is packed with loveliness.”  ~ Ann Brashares, author

(Books descriptions pulled from

What’s Cooking? “Cakelove in the Morning” by Warren Brown

I LOVE breakfast food.  My family LOVES breakfast food too.  I sometimes make breakfast-for-dinner because it is one of those events that brings everyone to the table without complaint.  When I opened up the new cookbook that arrived in the store last week I knew immediately what recipe I wanted to tell you about.  It combines all of the best foods in one place – bananas, bacon, chocolate and pancakes.  Yes, it is the “bacon-chocolate banana sandwich” recipe, the sandwich part being pancake.  I made them for the family this morning and there was not a scrap left!

The recipe is fairly simple, you can use their from scratch pancake recipe (which is amazing) or you can use your favorite box mix too.  You fry up some bacon, around here we love Wegman’s uncured bacon or if you are making them for somebody really special you have to pick up the bacon from the Classic Diner in Frazier, PA.  You crumble up the bacon into the pancake batter and then toss in some chocolate chips.  I prefer semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips.  You make the pancakes and set them aside and fry up the banana in a little butter so they get caramelized.  After that you put it together by placing the cooked bananas between two pancakes and drizzle with syrup. 

After enjoying all that you have to take a walk so that the guilt doesn’t overwhelm you.

This is just one of the many fabulous recipes inCakeLove in the Morning. There is a chapter on french toast, pancakes and waffles and includes special flavored butters, syrups and drizzles.  For a heartier breakfast check out the chapter on eggs, frittatas and quiches.  If you are a “breakfast on the run” kind of person there is a chapter on portable items like muffins, scones and biscuits.  If you have a special brunch planned you have to make something from the chapter on sticky breads, sticky buns and cakes.  They even throw in some savory recipes because not everyone likes sweets first thing in the morning (those people are crazy!).

CakeLove in the Morning is a wonderful cookbook for yourself or as a gift.  The pictures are mouth-wateringly beautiful and the recipes and special sections are filled with great tips.  It is one of those cookbooks that you will hand down through the generation because when you make and share something special you build memories with the ones you love.

And, if you are wanting that special someone to do something for you the chocolate-banana-bacon pancakes will do the trick!


Kids Corner – “Dragons Love Tacos”

Being a lover of tacos I was immediately drawn to a new book on our bookshelf,Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. 

What’s not to love about tacos?  They are crunchy, you make them on the fly, you eat them with your hands, tacos are delicious!  So why shouldn’t dragons love them too?  They do!  They love them so much that is all they think about.  Dragons also love parties, their favorite kind being taco parties of course.

There is just one catch, they hate spicy salsa.  If you want to find out why you will have to read the book (I’m not going to spoil it for you).

Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri, the team behind the equally hilarious Those Darn Squirrels!, bring their kooky appreciation to this adorable story about what can go wrong at a taco party for dragons. Salmieri’s pencil-and-watercolor drawings are not only a zany delight, they’re also strangely beautiful. The dragons may screw up the taco party, but they make everything right in the end.

Hip Hot and Happening in the Bookshop

The new Rock Flower Paper bucket bags are finally here and they are fabulous!


This new bag is 100% cotton canvas, with magnetic snap, zipper pocket and faux leather handles.  This is perfect for toting your snacks, towels, and of course books down to the pool or beach.  The new spring/summer fabrics are beautiful and very eye catching. 

We also go in a number of new patterns in our popular tiny totes.  My favorite is the purple dragonfly.   Stop by, pick up your favorite and fill it with books.                                                 


Happy Spring! 

What’s Cooking? “The New Intercourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook”

This is my favorite wedding shower gift to give.  It is funny, sometimes shocking and definitely a conversation starter.  However, don’t let the name fool you because this is a GREAT cookbook!  I picked this cookbook up a few years ago to give a friend for a wedding shower gift and ended up getting a copy for myself too.  I have cooked a Valentine’s Day menu for my sweetie from this book as well as a casual nights dinner.  The photography is beautiful and the recipes are, for the most part, easy. 

The concept is that each chapter features an ingredient that has been known as an aphrodisiac.  There is a chapter on chocolate, strawberries, honey, oysters, flowers, figs, avocado and more.  Within the chapter is a beautiful picture of the ingredient highlighted on the human body like an asparagus skirt or a bath of black beans with a gorgeous pregnant belly popping out.  Each recipe has a short story of what makes that recipe or the ingredient sexy.  Even if the recipient does not cook this makes a beautiful coffee table book.

This was my Valentine’s Day menu:

Starter:  Oysters on the half shell with 3 preparations:  curried with chardonnay, Parmesan cheese and blue cheese

Main:  Grilled Scallops with basil and lavender essence over a simple salad

Dessert:  Chocolate fig bundles

This is my favorite meal of all time:  Sun-dried tomato and avocado fettuccine.  This has pasta, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, walnuts, cilantro, avocado, bacon and a few other things all mixed in.  I could sit and eat the whole thing by myself!  Bacon and avocado – you cannot go wrong!  It is super simple to prepare too.

Stop by the Bookshop and check it out.  You will fall in love.