Dear Reader: Good News and More
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Dear Reader,

It feels like a lifetime ago when I last wrote and, as expected, we continue to face a shifting landscape. But here is something that is the same— your remarkable support and generosity that has endured for all 30 years of RJ Julia's existence. In response to our appeal for your help last week, we raised $35,000 for kids in New Haven. You cannot imagine our gratitude - what an amazing community!  

We are working with a team from New Haven public schools who are coordinating meal pick up. They are now feeding over 3,000 families! Publisher Penguin Random House will help us drop ship orders by grade groups, which will make it easy for volunteers to coordinate the distribution. We are finalizing logistics and hope to have the first books distributed by the end of April. If we can raise enough money, we would like to distribute books for ten weeks — about 30,000 books.

OK, so that’s fun news, right!? Here is more: Senator Murphy (who we have been working with to produce the Bridgeport Book Fest, originally scheduled for this May, but now rescheduled for next May) was at a Bridgeport Public School food distribution site last week and had seen our letter. He sent an email to his supporters which raised $100,000 in ONE day for Books for Kids, to benefit families in Bridgeport. 

So, what have we learned? Readers have hearts so BIG, so wonderful, that in the midst of such chaos, you want to help the lives of others. I am sending you all the biggest hug you can imagine— not the socially distant kind but the kind that shows you the tenderness and appreciation that all of us at RJ Julia feel towards all of you. Our hearts are filled— thank you!

To keep you busy, below are a number of items that I wanted to share back in early March, before the world changed. I'm sharing them now because they continue to be important, or inspiring, or distracting (in a good way) — all things we need right now.
a life well lived

In January, I had the honor of attending a memorial service for the one and only Sonny Mehta, editor-in-chief of Alfred A. Knopf and chairman of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group at Penguin Random House.

The experience of being together, as an industry, in a beautiful space to memorialize a towering figure like Sonny Mehta, was magical. I feel incredibly grateful to be in an industry that produces the kind of goodwill that his books did. A number of dynamic speakers eulogized Sonny including Michael Ondaatje, Yaa Gyasi, Patti Smith, and Ken Burns. James Ellroy was just fabulous, an actor of Shakespearean proportions… and Carl Hiaasen was hilarious. Sonali Deraniyagala also spoke, which reminded me of her heartbreaking memoir, Wave.

At the conclusion of the service, they showed a montage of the books Sonny published during his reign, which made me realize how many fabulous books we may have forgotten. Sometimes, we’re too young or too busy that maybe we didn’t get the chance, but I’m planning to read a book of Sonny’s each month and would love for you to join me (we're compiling the list now, stay tuned!).  It was truly a fantastic 90 minutes and it was an honor to spend time with so many accomplished individuals, while celebrating Sonny’s impressive life. If you would like to receive the list of books, or have me choose one a month for you to receive—or maybe at this moment one a week!— click here.
just the right book podcast

Part of what makes podcasting so enjoyable for me is truly getting to know authors, spending quality time with them, and learning from them. What's new:
  • Richie Jackson on What It Takes to Be Gay in America Right Now
    • A tender letter to his son reminds those of us who are parents that we parent the child we have, not the one we imagined. Richie and I had a freewheeling, fun conversation about all that; his life as a man, as a father.
  • Erik Larson on How Winston Churchill Still Shows Us True Leadership During Political Turmoil
    • Erik Larson’s genius is to take a slice of history and frame it in a way that makes it read like riveting fiction. He did it with The Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts. In a world filled with books about Winston Churchill, Larson has given the great man his own stamp with his newest work, The Splendid and the Vile. Plus, at a time like now, we are reminded of Churchill’s extraordinary leadership in the darkest of times, how he managed to be honest, transparent yet hopeful, and inspiring. Erik is as charming and smart to converse with, as you might imagine!
  • Dr. Sunita Puri on the Human Costs of Suffering
    • Sunita has a wise, calm, enveloping sense of humanity. As the Medical Director of Palliative Medicine at the Keck Hospital and Norris Cancer Center in California, she fiercely believes, "Living a good life includes dying well." This interview will help you understand the difference between palliative care and hospice care and the crucial need for this specialty to be available to us all. The major take away is the importance of knowing to ask for palliative care early— it will change the experience of loss in profound ways. Sunita and I could have talked for hours. You just want to be in her presence and hear her discuss medicine, palliative care, and life.
  • Kate Murphy: When Was the Last Time You Really Listened to Someone?
    • A wily reminder of how listening, really listening, can transform relationships in unexpected and wonderful ways. Kate takes her journalistic talents to educate us on this most basic of skills.
  • Mitchell S. Jackson on Holding Up a Mirror to Whiteness
    • OK, I should be honest right up front: I am in love with Mitchell (don't tell Kevin!). His transparency, empathy, wit, and blunt assessment of race enthralled me. There is something poetic in the way he writes. It feels musical. All that and with a fascinating, original format including memoir, history, and essays, Mitchell’s book, Survival Math introduces us to his circle of family and friends. This conversation reminded me that, as a white person, we too have to be actively anti-racist, not merely that we see ourselves as not racist. Mitchell introduces you to a world you might not know, in a way that makes you understand other lives more profoundly.... hearing his story you cannot help be charmed, impressed, and grateful.
  • Bill Burnett and Dave Evans discuss their latest book, Designing Your Work Life: How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work
    • Now more than ever, it's important to assess what "work" means to you. In the course of a 40-year career, each of us will spend 80,000+ hours at work! This book really does have incredible answers.
what I'm reading, odds and ends

I read about A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader in Brain Pickings and the editor Maria Popova (of both Brain Pickings and the book) inspired me to pick it up. It's a beautiful book, you just want to hold it. Even though the title addresses "young reader," it's appropriate for ALL readers. It reminds us grown-ups why we read and why we first fell in love with reading. For an "older" young reader, this book offers a way to encourage them to remain committed to reading. It's a great graduation or Mother's Day gift, and great for anyone who loves reading or who you want to inspire to read.  While reading Katherine Johnson's obituary (she of Hidden Figures fame), I discovered that she had written an autobiography for middle-grade readers, Reaching for the Moon. Her life story is so inspiring. This book would be great for a family book club or as an inspirational gift for a young girl (along with the young readers' edition of Hidden Figures). Speaking of family book clubs, stay tuned for a recommendations list in this week's newsletter. Our head children's book and sideline buyer Jamie McCauley has compiled a list of titles that are perfect for vibrant family discussions. One family wrote to us that their family was using John McCain's book on character for their discussion and loved it!
I know this has been a long letter but much is happening each day. We are thrilled with how many of you are buying from us online or calling for advice on books. Your support has allowed a large number of our staff to continue working, supporting their livelihoods, their families. We have established new, stringent protocols to ensure that those who want to work in the building are safe while continuing to offer opportunities for others to work remotely.

As things evolve we will be agile, responsive, and clever, including using new formats and offering new, "virtual" services. If things need to change, we will respond accordingly. We're all together on this crazy, scary journey, finding our way! Thank you for your loyalty and thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as we maneuver through these unpredictable days.

Stay healthy and stay in touch,

Roxanne J. Coady
Founder, RJ Julia Booksellers

P.S. If you have not yet considered a gift to our Books for Kids program in Bridgeport or New Haven, please click here.
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