The Hockessin Bookshelf, a haven for local readers, is making a name for itself as a mecca for best-selling authors. Over the past two years, the local bookstore has been hosting intimate get-togethers, connecting readers and authors in a setting that's less like a cattle call for booklovers and more like a casual cocktail party.
The parties are the brainchild of store owner Rebecca Dowling, who doesn't just love books, she also loves readers. And, she has a special passion for authors with any sort of Delaware connection. But, her joy comes from putting the two together.
"We're a small state and we're not always getting the big names and the big tours," said Dowling, who has not had any trouble scoring well-known New York Times best-selling authors. "But, I've been lucky and our reputation for hosting good events has spread. It's so great to put readers and authors in the same room together and watch the connections that happen. I think both sides get a lot out of it."
This week, she and her store are hosting "Black Hawk Down" author and University of Delaware professor Mark Bowden.
Here's what to know before you go:
The author, chapter and verse
The author of nine books, Bowden's work includes "The Best Game Ever," "Bringing the Heat" and, of course, "Black Hawk Down," which was adapted for the big screen in 2001. He served as a journalist for The Philadelphia Inquirer for 20 years and now regularly contributes to publications like "Vanity Fair" and "The Atlantic."
Dividing his time between Oxford, Pa. and Delaware, he strives to inspire and instill journalistic integrity in the next generation of writers by teaching journalism at the University of Delaware.
With a penchant for chronicling the military and special forces, Bowden's latest book, "The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden," is a gripping account of the hunt for the man widely considered the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Bowden delves into the next 10 years, describing, step-by-step, the tactical strategies used to fight a new kind of war and hunt down a killer. He takes readers to the heart of the hunt and explores the three possibilities of takedown: a drone strike, a precision bombing or a Navy SEAL assault.
Tabling the norm
Unlike other book signings, the Hockessin Bookshelf's event dismantles the table and eschews the long lines that normally form as voracious readers clamor for their moment with literary greatness.
"We really try to give our readers a different kind of experience," said Dowling. "We've partnered with a great community resource, the historic Lamborn Library who graciously helps us host the event, so readers really get to get up-close-and-personal with authors. But, the whole thing is casual."
Page 2 of 2 - The casual atmosphere means that not only are the lines normally seen at book-signings non-existent but people are mingling, chatting and munching on the provided refreshments. Fans have a chance to speak to the author and participate in conversations that are longer and slightly more meaningful than the usual pleasantries.
Like all parties, the planning entails a head count so that food and drinks can be ordered. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by visiting the Hockessin Bookshelf, located at 7179 Lancaster Pike. Tickets will be available at the door but Dowling said that readers will still need to let her know in advance that they're attending.
"Just call us and we'll reserve the spot," said Dowling. "However, we will only be able to accept cash or personal checks at the event so people should be prepared for that. We'll also have a limited quantity of Bowden's books at the event. But, people are also welcome to stop by the store and pick up those beforehand as well."
In June, the Hockessin Bookshelf will host Caroline Leavitt, a New York-based author. Her latest release (Tuesday, May 7) "Is This Tomorrow" will be her ninth book.
"She's not from Delaware but she has a blog and she has interviewed just about every single author we've hosted," said Dowling. "We like her work and she just seemed like a good fit for readers here."