06/13/2012 05:51 pm ET Updated Aug 13, 2012

Notes from My (Book)Shelf: Week of June 11, 2012

As the owner of an independent bookstore, RJ Julia, and the founder of the online book service Just the Right Book, my starting point for learning, being charmed or just distracted, is first and foremost books. Since there is an astonishing amount of information out there, I thought it might be fun to share with you items I have noticed, learned or was curious about in the past week. I hope you find the insights engaging and, in turn, learn something, are charmed or just happily distracted.

Quote of the Week
"The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him." -- Tolstoy, from the introduction of The Big Short by Michael Lewis.

Book of the Week
The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert A Caro.

Having read Robert Caro's first three volumes of his biography of Lyndon Johnson, I have been mesmerized by LBJ's ruthlessness, his genius, his foresight and his vision -- all told by Robert Caro with skill, understanding, and as Michael Beschloss puts it, a "novelist's passion to reveal the inner workings of the personality and relate them to great human issues." A monumental achievement and a gift to readers.

But you don't have to believe just me. You can read the ultimate politician Bill Clinton's review of this other ultimate politician in this New York Times review.

Publishing News of the Week

Oprah's Book Club 2.0 returns! The first selection: Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Oprah recently announced that this true story moved her to launch a brand new, interactive book club to share the experience with readers everywhere.

(Just for the record, Wild was a staff selection at RJ Julia Booksellers on March 20, 2012 -- the first day it was published. It is absolutely a great read.)

Parenting Moment of the Week

It's graduation season. Like thousands of others, my son Edward recently graduated from college. After 21 years of raising him, I was in a mild panic. Was he ready? Was I ready? As a bookseller I naturally think the solution to everything is books. Though Edward already owns thousands of books, it occurred to me that he might welcome the idea of building a new library -- one that is tilted to the practical but has the potential to both inspire and grow with him. Of course, overloading him with too many books at once will dilute the importance of each one. I know he needs to spend alone time with David Foster Wallace and Michael Sandel and so many others. So what's a parent to do? I know -- I'll send him a new book each month then I never have to stop introducing him to new ideas and new thinking. (Email bclay[at] if you want the entire list for your graduate.)

While we are on the topic of graduation, do you want to hear one of the most charming graduation speeches I've come across? Spend a few minutes watching Neil Gaiman's video. I promise you'll walk away delighted and inspired.

Tip of the week

Did you know if you get up from your desk every 20 minutes and walk around for two minutes, you can add enormously to your fitness level and burn hundreds of calories a day? New York Times Phys Ed columnist Gretchen Reynolds reveals this and more in her new book The First 20 Minutes. While I am not an athlete, I am interested in remaining healthy and fit so I am always on the lookout for practical tips on eating well and exercising -- particularly when I understand the why and the how. Gretchen's book is packed with wonderful information and tips. Best of all: It's a quick read. Even though I'm not experiencing an endorphin rush (yet), I've already introduced new routines that have improved my efficiency and my commitment to healthy habits and lifestyle choices.

Décor Idea of the Week

Modern meets vintage:This is the coolest way to listen to music on your iPod, The Gramophone.

Question of the Week

If you could recommend one book to a graduating college student what would it be?

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Happy Reading and Thinking and Commenting,

Roxanne J. Coady