Wednesday, May 30, 2007

BEA Today!

I'll be leaving for BEA in about an hour, with one suitcase packed and one empty for all the swag I'm hoping to pick up. My wish list is as follows:

Plenty by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon: This is already available, but the authors will be there signing and I'm eager to meet them. I think this book will be a nice compliment with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, which as previously mentioned, I fell in love with. This is also a staff pick this month from Bonnie, you can read her recommendation here.

Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn: This follows Ms. Raybourn's first book, Silent in the Grave. I loved that one so much that I wrote a recommendation for it that got picked for BookSense (read it here)! I'm really excited to see this become a series.

Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta: A new book by an author who needs no introduction.

Oh hell, this is just getting too long--I have a train to catch! Others include a biography of Charles Schultz (called, easily enough, Schultz & Peanuts: A Biography), Jonathan Bean's solo picture book At Night, a novel by Brock Clarke with a great title--An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England, a compendium of great food to try called Eat This! (as well as the new book from America's Test Kitchen, America's Best Lost Recipes), and young adult books Undercover by Beth Kephart and My Mother the Cheerleader by Robert Sharenow. My love for trashy romances by Avon will be sated by new books by Kathryn Caskie and Sophia Nash.

I don't know whether I'll have the opportunity to blog during the madness coming up--I'll certainly try! If not, I'll be back with you either Sunday night or Monday. I need to catch you up on my appointment with my Simon & Schuster rep!

Monday, May 28, 2007

State of Massachusetts

This year Publisher's Weekly has been taking weekly in-depth looks at the state of book selling in each state; up recently was the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The last bit of the article is a profile of my boss, Marshall Smith. In his honor, we here at Brookline Booksmith love the flagrant use of the suffix -smith. Exhibit A: Our information desk, lovingly referred to as Infosmith. Exhibit B: Brookline Blogsmith.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Cookbook Remainder Alert!

I am so ready to go home, but I saw Bruno currently unpacking some fantastic cookbook remainders and I couldn't not spread the word. I don't know how Alie did it, but we have Ana Sortun's Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean for $14.99. Holy hell, I can't believe it!

Man, I was lucky enough to go to Oleana once, and I can vividly remember the heavenly deliciousness. I hope I'll have a special occasion that calls for a return visit someday soon. Well, that and someone willing to pick up the check...

Thinking of Fall...

Sorry to have been quiet, but it's getting quite busy here in the Brookline Booksmith basement as Fall Buying Season began in earnest for me today. Though hot enough to sweat while standing still outisde (my barometer for when it's too hot), I spent my day trying to figure out what you all will want to take home in November and December.

Going through publishers' catalogs is more like fun than work. Everything looks good, or, at least, it should if the publishers' marketing teams have done their jobs. Of course there are some things that even the most finessed blurb can't save, but those generally have their own comedic value. Unfortunately, then reality sets in and I spend a lot of time trying to suss out which books truly deserve space on our shelves and which only sound good. I don't want to get suckered by the equivalent of the kick-ass trailer that was way better than the movie.

Up first was Hachette, and today's big book was obvious--Stephen Colbert's I Am America and So Can You, which will be coming out in October. But here are a few of the other things that caught my eye:

Did you know that there are more Chinese restaurants in America than McDonald's, Burger Kings, and Wendy's combined? The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8 Lee looks so cool. I'm eager for the discussion of Jews and Chinese food--my mother was honestly very worried that she did something wrong as I disliked both Chinese food and chopped liver (Just so you know, I now have a proper love for the former though I still can't stand the latter). Unfortunately, I'll have to wait until MARCH for this to come out. Grumble.

The fiction title that most intrigues me is Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips, which takes the premise that the Greek gods are still with us, and living in a London townhouse. Little, Brown is describing it as Homer meets Jennifer Weiner, which makes me a bit nervous. I'm hoping more for Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson meets Curtis Sittenfeld's Hannah Gavener.

As for Alie, she is a girl who really knows her mysteries, and when I told her that Denise Mina's backlist was going to be reissued she was thrilled. So this will be the season of Denise Mina; starting in September her older books will be gussied up with pretty new covers and in February the paperback of The Dead Hour will be released as will her new hardcover, Slip of the Knife.

Up next? Simon and Schuster on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday I'm off to NYC for BEA--booksellers nirvana!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

New Title Tuesday!

The big news today, which you probably don't need my little blog to tell you, are the new releases today from Al Gore and Khaled Hosseini, Assault on Reason and A Thousand Splendid Suns, respectively. I should probably be excited, but here's the truth--I never read Kite Runner or saw An Inconvenient Truth, and I can't say I plan to anytime soon.

So here's my alternate pick of the week:

Belle Greene was an African-American woman born in the late nineteenth century. Passing as white, she became a librarian at Princeton University and was then hired (when she was only 20!) to be the librarian for J.P. Morgan. She then created and curated for him one of the most renowned private collections of rare books and manuscripts in the world (which you can see now that the Morgan is a public museum). Ms. Greene was also quite a saucy lady, with flirtations a plenty and an ongoing love affair with a married man. I think I probably would have skipped right over this book if I hadn't already been familiar with her. My friend Alan told me about Ms. Green when I was getting my degree in library science--he thought I would appreciate a woman who said (perhaps apocryphally) "Just because I am a librarian doesn't mean I have to dress like one!"

Monday, May 21, 2007

Guerrillas In Our Midst

Because I have never left my high school mentality of needing to know what people are saying about me I tend to Google "brookline booksmith" fairly often to see what pops up. Today Google Blog Search brought up the blog for these folks, the Guerilla Poetics Project (Perhaps part of the guerrilla nature of the group is to misspell guerrilla? Just wondering). It seems we have been targeted for guerrilla poetry, which I personally think is super-cool and makes me want to forget work and go through all our fiction and poetry to see if an operative has hidden any other gems. I read some of the broadsides online, and am impressed not only by the poetry (though I can't say I love them all, but I guess that's the prerogative of the artists' recipient) but the aesthetics of the prints as well. Now that I have outed them I'm afraid these little presents will disappear. Especially since I might represent the oppressive system. Secret operative, please keep hiding poems in our books! Stuff like this makes me love the possibilities of literature.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClure

Nikki McClure's calendars have hung in my kitchen so I was so thrilled when I saw a collection of her work in the Abrams catalog. Today our copies of Collect Raindrops have arrived! Ms. McClure creates intricate papercuts; her palatte is only black, white, and a single accent color. Her subjects are the natural world and us in it, and each image is accompanied by a directive--strengthen, swim with a friend, seek, respond, encourage. "Realize true riches" accompanies the image of someone picking tomatoes; the cover image is paired with the word "strengthen." This is art made for reflection, that makes you think but is not opposed to emotion as well.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I am so bad at keeping secrets

So Brian, our events manager, emailed me today with the names of some of the authors we'll be having soon. I was going to tease you all and give hints and initials and all sorts of stuff like that, but, well, I'm so excited that I just can't not share--Lisa See! Jasper Fforde! William Gibson! And, for something completely diffrerent-- Tedy Bruschi! There's more, but I've been sworn to secrecy...

Guessing Right and Wrong

So there are two ways to screw up as a buyer--
1. Buy too many copies of a title no one wants
2. Buy too few copies of a title everyone wants

Buying too many books doesn't endear you to the boss and makes you look like a fool, but from what I can tell it sure doesn't have the daily hurt that comes with having to tell a customer we're out of a title and don't know when we'll have it back.

My first #2 as a buyer is Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great, which we've been out of for over a week now as we wait for the publisher to get more printed. I actually did have a good sized initial order, but not nearly enough for the demand. I'm not happy, but I know I made a good buy that was just a little too low and we were just a little too slow to get more.

In comparison, being out of Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein's Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes make me feel awful. When I saw this in the Abrams' catalog I knew it would be perfect for our store; I was psyched. I bought a modest but not inconsequential number for our front desk, a nice high profile spot where I thought it might get some notice, sell a few and then we could order more. Well, we got them in they sat and sat and sat. I figured I had a #1 on my hands; I'd chalk it up to a learning experience and be glad I didn't order more, as I had originally intended. Then NPR did a little piece with Messrs Cathcart and Klein and we sold out of our copies in an hour and have had requests in the double digits and won't be able to get anymore until the book has been reprinted. This has been made all the more nightmarish for me because, as mentioned in the previous sentence, I had thought about ordering bigger but didn't have the courage.

Please forgive me, Brookline Booksmith customers; I know I still have a lot to learn.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What to do with a review

So there was an interesting article in the New York Sun today about Joshua Ferris's book Then We Came to the End. In a nutshell, David Blum is wondering what the purpose of excellent reviews are if they don't translate into wider exposure for a book and its author.

He writes: "It used to be that books had the shelf-life of a container of yogurt. Nowadays it seems more like hamburger meat. If a book doesn't make it to the New York Times bestseller list within the first several days of arrival, it never will. Even "Heyday," Kurt Andersen's hugely hyped historical novel that also garnered cover-boy treatment in the Times, only lasted a couple of weeks on the list before falling away. Interestingly — and not coincidentally — much of the commercial fiction that lasts the longest on the Times's list doesn't get reviewed at all.

Part of the problem may be that bookstores don't pay close enough attention to reviews. I went to look for "Then We Came to the End" at the Lincoln Square Barnes & Noble the day after the Times review, and experienced the kind of scenario that leads authors into years of costly psychotherapy. No one knew where to find it. Three clerks and 10 minutes later, I'd bought one of the store's last three copies. At that moment it occurred to me: What if bookstores created sections devoted to that week's best-reviewed books? Or posted positive reviews alongside the books themselves? That way, book reviews (even those that appeared only online) would be easily accessible to those most likely to buy books — people already browsing in the bookstore. Right now, bookstores place all their marketing muscle behind bestseller lists, meaning that prize positions get awarded to those who've already won the horse race. Even movie theaters operate according to more democratic principles than that. Shouldn't good bookstore placement go to good books? Just a thought."

I'd like to address a couple of issues Mr. Blum brings up.

One, the shelf-life half-life of a book. In this he and I are in full agreement. I hate the current cultural climate that only allows for immediate successes. While I think this is most obvious in the movies and television, there is more and more of that feeling in my world as well.

Often I have very little time to allow a book to find its audience. Most publishers allow an unsold book to be returned to them after having been on the shelf for three months. Due to constraints of budget and space (sadly, primarily the former) not many books get to prove themselves much beyond their first trimester if they don't show some signs of early life. This is especially true of hardcovers and especially especially true of fiction and especially, especially, especially true of debut authors. I hate it, but that's the way it is. Since I'm the one making the decision to return a title sometimes I can let an extra month or two slide by, but eventually I can't justify holding onto a book that no one wants to take home.

Luckily, we have customers with awesome taste, so the things that last the longest at our store tend to be those whose invisibility Mr. Blum laments. We sold a number of Then We Came to the End and quite a few Heyday as well (hell, we even had Kurt Anderson at our store for a reading). I can promise that both titles are safe on our shelf until at least July, but then it's up to you all.

This leads me to Mr. Blum's second point, which is that bookstores hide their lights under a basket. Here I take some exception. I would say that most of us here at the bookstore are well aware of the titles reviewed in the Times (as well as the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and on NPR). Like I said, our customers' good taste often means that indeed our featured titles and bestsellers are the well-reviewed books of the season. And when he suggests that we post positive reviews alongside books, well, we already do that. I would say we do that one better as the reviews we post are those written by our own staff. And our bestsellers are only feet away from our staff picks--books we choose specifically because we want them to get the attention we feel they deserve and might otherwise not receive. Perhaps Mr. Blum needs to start shopping at the Brookline Booksmith, that's what I say.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Birthday Wishes

First I just have to share something I saw on the T today which just pefectly encapsulates Mother's Day--there was a guy standing on the platform with a bouquet in one hand and a laundry bag in the other. I love you mom.

So Tuesday is my birthday, and just in case anyone is wondering what to get me, here is a helpful hint or two:

Tord Boontje by Tord Boontje
My favorite contemporary designer. Period. Oh, how much I want this book. I'm pretty sure it will be Uncle Sam's gift to me thanks to the check I just received from him for overpaying him last year. I keep thinking that I'll have to start buying Table Stories pieces one by one so when I'm 50 I can have a lovely dinner party with my beautiful dinnerware.

Poiret by Harold Koda & Andrew Bolton
We just got our copies in here, and it is just a gorgeous book. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful design and photography of some of the most beautiful, beautiful, beautiful clothing ever created. I hope the essays and captions are of equal strength.

I am not surprised at the quality of Poiret; as a rule Yale University Press is the best when it comes to publishing books on fashion and costume (partially this is the result of publishing catalogs from the Met's Costume Institute, pretty much the only public collection of costume and fashion that is regularly exhibited and published). If you want pure theory you want Berg, of course, and if you want purty pictures than you have a number of publishers to consider, but Yale is best when it comes to combining the intellectual and visual aspects of clothing.

Perhaps this is the moment to interject that clothing/costume/fashion/ whatever you want to call it is something in which I take particular interest. Remember my previously-mentioned over-education? Well, in addition to my master's in library science (thanks, Simmons!), I'm one thesis shy of a master's degree in material culture and decorative art from the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture where my focus was on clothing and textiles. Maybe if you're really lucky I'll tell you what my thesis was about! Maybe I'll finish it one day. Probably the same day I finish that collection of Tord Boontje tableware.

[On a side note, thanks to an idiot who didn't know what s/he had, I have my little paws on a used copy of Installationview by Ryan McGinness, a favorite artist of mine. ]

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Jim Crace

I really meant to do a nice little review of The Pesthouse, but today has been quite busy and exhausting. It's good to know that so many people love their mothers. So, in lieu of my writing, I've decided to give you a taste of some of Mr. Crace's(which is far superior, anyways). This is the first story from The Devil's Larder, a collection of short (actually, very short) stories he pubished in 2003 that's pretty much out of print. It is one of my favorite little things:

"Someone has taken of--and lost--the label on the can. There are two glassy lines of glue with just a trace of stripped paper where the label was attached. The can's batch number--RG2JD 19547--is embossed on one of the ends. Top or bottom end? No one can tell what's up or down. The metal isn't very old.

They do not like to throw it out. It might be salmon--not cheap. Or tuna steaks. Or rings of syruped pineapple. Too good to waste. Guava halves. Lychees. Leek soup. Skinned Italian plum tomatoes. Of course, they ought to open up the can and have a look, and eat the contents there and then. Or plan a meal around it. It must be something that they like, or used to like. It's in their larder. It had a label once. They chose it in the shop.

They shake the can up against their ears. They sniff at it. They compare it with the other cans inside the larder to find a match in size and shape. But still they cannot tell if it is beans or fruit or fish. They are like children with unopened birthday gifts. Will they be disappointed when they open up the can? Will it be what they want? Sometimes their humour is macabre: the contents are beyond description--baby flesh, sliced fingers, dog waste, worms, the venom of a hundred mambas--and that is why there is no label.

One night when there are guests and all the wine has gone, they put the can into the candlelight amongst the debris of their meal and play the guessing game. An aphrodisiac, perhaps; "Let's try." A plague. Should they open up and spoon it out? A tune, canned music, something never heard before that would rise from the open can, evaporate, and not be heard again. The elixir of youth. The human soup of DNA. A devil or a god?

It's tempting just to stab it with a knife. Wound it. See how it bleeds. What is the colour of the blood? What is its taste?

We all should have a can like this. Let it rust. Let the rims turn rough and brown. Lift it up and shake it if you want. Shake its sweetness or its bitterness. Agitate the juicy heaviness within. The gravy heaviness. The brine, the soup, the oil, the sauce. The heaviness. The choice is wounding it with knives, or never touching it again."

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

On Returns

Dear customer, I understand that sometimes you need to return a purchase, and I want to help you be happy. Sometimes, though, I also just want to know what you were thinking.

Earlier today a very nice woman brought in two books on CD that she wanted to return. She had her receipt, which is always helpful. Except, that is, in this case, as the receipt was from 2005 and from a store that happened to be named Booksmith but located in a town in Massachusetts I've never heard of. As we did currently carry one of the CDs, I took it for store credit; we had never carried the other and she was very understanding about my not being able to take it back.

I'm reminded of another customer not too long ago who wanted to "return" a book to us but forgot to take the Borders Books & Music sticker off the back. Again, we carried the book, so I took it for store credit, but I would have appreciated the effort of removing the competitor's sticker before attempting to return it to us.

Neither one of these customers were the kind to make you want to curl up in a ball and hide in a dark room or kick inanimate objects while raging at the state of humanity, but they did make me shake my head in wonder (and, I have to admit, a bit of admiration for the gall).

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

James Beard Award Winners!

Pulitzer, shmulitzer. The announcement of the James Beard Award winners is a day I look forward to with eager anticipation. They and the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) awards are like the National Book Critics Circle Awards and National Book Awards of the culinary world.

So kudos to the Lee Brothers for their Cookbook of the Year and Food of the Americas awards for The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook! It was a good year for them as they won IACP awards in the American Cooking and First Book categories as well. Usually we don't do a big business in cookbooks that focus on Southern cooking (not a lot of requests for Edna Lewis here, more's the pity), but we did sell a handful over the holidays.

Congrats to the folks at W. W. Norton, as they published both the Lee Bros. and James Oseland's Cradle of Flavor which also won awards from both the James Beard Foundation and IACP. Norton doesn't do a lot of cookbooks, but the ones they do are, indeed, excellent.

Lorna Sass won the Healthy Focus award for Whole Grains, Every Day, Every Way which disappointed me as I was rooting for EatingWell Serves Two by Jim Romanoff and the EatingWell folks. It's been my favorite thing in our cooking section for a while (well, one of my favorite things--you can't make me pick one). I make sure to keep that title well-stocked and people have been responding really well to it. It's always so gratifying when your customers agree with you about what's good (even if the James Beard Foundation folks don't).

And a double yippee to Mollie Katzen for her Moosewood Cookbook making the Cookbook Hall of Fame, which is very well deserved. Lesser known of hers, but one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, is Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe, a book full of breakfast and brunch recipes. I am such a sucker for brunch.

All this talk about cookbooks, combined with the fact that I've almost finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is making me super-eager for the farmer's markets to begin. I think my body is sick of the chocolate lunches I've been feeding it lately.

Monday, May 7, 2007

What's A New Cover Worth?

Yay! Square Fish Press has put out a beautiful new edition of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time (as well as the other books in the series). I am overjoyed with the result. The jackets were designed by Taeeun Yoo, who has her own fantastic new book out as well, The Little Red Fish, which spent some time on our staff recommends wall. I am really looking forward to seeing more from Ms. Yoo. I also noticed on her links page that she has a link to my other favorite new illustrator (and major crush), Jonathan Bean. He has illustrated Lauren Thompson's new picture book, The Apple Pie That Papa Baked, which was my favorite picture book from Simon and Schuster Juvenile's summer list and in my top five from all publishers' summer lists (I'm sure you'll hear me mention it again when it comes out in August). After I saw the F&G (F&G = folded and gathered, the picture book equivalent of the galley) I asked my S&S kids rep if he was single. Not only did she not tell me if he was, but she mentioned that I wasn't the first buyer to ask and she wouldn't tell me who my competition is! I'm really looking forward to seeing Mr. Bean's new solo book, which is to come out this fall. He'll be signing at BEA; I'll have to see if I have the courage to introduce myself.

And from the sublime to the ridiculous...

I'm not going to put up a picture of any of the new covers of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, they are just too painful. There has been some controversy about them, which you can read about here. When I first saw the covers I thought they had taken stills from the Little House TV show. I love Melissa Gilbert as Half-Pint, but I was peeved; it would be like replacing Mary GrandPre's Harry Potter illustrations with images of Daniel Radcliffe. Well, it turns out the girl in question is not Ms. Gilbert, but she is quite her doppelganger. AND all Garth Williams's interior illustrations have been removed, which seems wholly unnecessary. Shame on you, HarperCollins. Every time we do a Harper order I tack on obscene numbers of the old editions, and just recently for the first time my orders didn't get filled. I almost want Jes to keep the old editions in the back for people who ask for them rather than sell them out. Sigh.

And finally...

You'll learn that I am of the school that loves illustration and illustrators. I wish more books--for adults as well as kids--were intelligently illustrated. Maybe others do as well, which explains the growing market for graphic novels, but that is another entry for another time, I think.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Happy Days of Bookselling

Here are some of the things that happened Wednesday that made it a great day to be a bookseller:

1. I was able to tell a man buying a copy of The Secret Life of Lobsters that Trevor Corson has a new book coming out and that we were having an event with him! I wrote down the book’s name (Zen of Fish) and the date of our reading (June 14th) and sent him out the door with a smile.

2. It happened twice in one day! I was able to tell a man buying a used copy of Pete Hamill’s Forever that his new book (North River) is coming out in June. I always feel good when I can give people information they didn’t even know they wanted. Hopefully it makes them happy and lets them know I care about what I do. It makes me happy to think I might actually know a little bit about what I'm doing in this world.

3. When I'm out on the floor, I should let you know, I am a total snoop. I generally always have an ear out for someone talking about a book whose title they couldn't remember or wondering where we might keep a certain book. I'd like to think I'm subtle when I shimmy over and say "I'm sorry to interrupt, but can I help you?" Well, in this case, I overheard two women talking about a book they had read about but didn't see on the shelf. I knew the book--How to Talk to a Widower--because I had a galley of it right on my desk, and I also knew that it wouldn't be out until July. Bookseller extraordinaire Jess was dispatched downstairs and found the book amongst the forest of galleys on my desk. They got my galley and I got a big smile from them. There was a moment of pain as I hadn't gotten to read it yet, but I remind myself that I have plenty of others to choose from and at least I know this one will be read. But I hope they come back and tell me if they liked it.

4. I had to tell someone the book they were looking for was out of print. But maybe we had it used downstairs? We did! Yes!

And last but not least…
5. A customer told me I had great hair.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Titles for the Kids

Even more new titles came in today—the ones Jon couldn’t get to yesterday. This has definitely been a banner week. But as promised yesterday, here are a few of the new books we got in yesterday for the young’uns:

Imagine Harry by Kate and M. Sarah Klise
A new picture book about Little Rabbit from the fabulous Klise sisters is always a cause for celebration. I always find it really hard to talk about why I love the picture books I do. I think it is because they engage us (or at least me) differently than other books. But that's another entry for another time… It is hard to find a great picture book—either the text is poor or the illustrations are unimaginative (or, horrors, both!) or the two don’t blend as seamlessly as they should. But this is one that works on every level. Little Rabbit's imaginary friend Harry goes everywhere with him, but once Little Rabbit starts school he finds that he doesn't mind Harry's moving away. I was thrilled when I went to the Klise's website to see that another Little Rabbit book is in the works. (Approx. age: 3-anyone with a still beating heart)

Young People’s History of the United States Vol. I & II by Howard Zinn
A People’s History of the United States is probably our most consistent seller in the American History section. My sales rep and I both thought the same thing when we saw these in the catalog—why didn’t anyone think of this sooner? Mr. Zinn will be having an event with us and I am curious as to who will be there. Will people bring their kids and grandkids? I hope so; I think that would be pretty darn cool. (approx. grade 6-9)

I am sure at some point we will get to my seemingly superfluous degrees, but I will say this. Zinn is known, rightly so, for tackling our traditional ideas of the American past. I don’t know if this is something he discusses or not (and I’m guessing the latter), but please people, listen to me, I am telling you the truth: PEOPLE WERE NOT SHORTER BACK THEN.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book Three: The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan
And there was much joy and rejoicing in the land of children’s booksellers as the new Percy Jackson book went on sale yesterday! Truly, I don’t know of one children’s bookseller who doesn’t love these books (sometimes with evangelical zeal). If you have not read the previous books in the series you may want to start with book one, but I don’t think it’s a firm requirement. The books tell the story of young Percy Jackson, your normal ADHD boy with Poseidon as his dad. In this installment he is sent on a rescue mission to free the goddess Artemis, and it is serious adventure from start to finish. I don’t want to get too much into plot—you need to just follow the ride for yourself. Value added—you get a great refresher course on Greek gods.

At first glance there are Harry Potter parallels: young boy with a special destiny, his friends the smarty-pants girl and loveable somewhat bumbling third, a special school and mysterious powers, yadda, yadda, yadda. But these are superficial and Reardon’s books stand on their own. They deserve all the attention and more than books of similar design. I should add that many series (for both kids and adults) start with a bang and then fizzle out, but this is the opposite—each book is getting better and better than the next. (approx. grade 5-8, but great for adults as well)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

We Have A Winner!

I almost forgot--Alexis, come on by and pick up Free Food for Millionaires whenever you want!

The Secret History of the American Empire is still up for grabs. I know there has to be someone out there interested in hijacking, assassinations, bribery, extortion, and profiteering. I was going to make a political joke there, but, well, you were all already thinking it anyways.

Christmas in May!

Today has been spectacular—Jon, our receiver, was probably sick of me being underfoot as he opened the boxes of new titles that go on sale today. All told, we now have 128 new titles that we didn’t have in the store on Sunday. To be clear—that’s not 128 books, that’s 128 titles, two to sixty copies of each.

It might take me all week just to sort through them all and find the ones to tell you about, but here are the ones that just cannot be ignored:

First, fiction:
Rant by Chuck Palahniuk
We’re having an event with him on May 11th, and there are these two huge boxes downstairs with “Please DO NOT Open Before the Book Event” plastered all over them. I say go if for no other reason than to tell me what’s in there. Sadly, I will not be attending as I have heard the urban legends of people getting physically sick at his readings from the vividness of his writing and I can’t say I have a strong stomach.

Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
He is one of those writers that our kids’ kids’ kids will be reading. For me, personally, I’m looking forward to starting this as it combines two of my favorite things, those being Jews and Alaska.

Pesthouse by Jim Crace
I am most interested in what will become of this book. Thus far the reviews for it have been middling, appreciative of Crace’s skill and his place in contemporary literature but not rhapsodizing about this particular title. I appreciated it seemingly far more than the critics. I think that might have to wait for another entry, though, to fully explain. Stay tuned…

And now, nonfiction:
Animal, Vegtable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver:
I am reading this right now and can’t wait to finish and tell you all about it. It falls in with the best of great literary nonfiction, books that can infuse a broad topic with personal spirit. It is a story about Kingsolver's family living a year off only the foods they can grow themselves or get locally, and her narrative flows organically (sorry, couldn't help it) from her family’s experiences to exploring our ignorance about what goes into making what we eat (she's not talking about unpronounceable ingredients, but the earth and the weather and the work of growing food). I’ll have to write a more thorough review when I’m done.

I would like to add briefly that I was nearly throttled today by Alie, our senior buyer. I mentioned to her that I was reading this, and loving it, and had never read any Barbara Kingsolver before. If I am to continue working here I believe it is in my best interest not to read Yiddish Policemen’s Union next, as I had planned, but rather Poisonwood Bible.

Not So Big Life by Sarah Susanka
I had to add this just so I could talk about my great-aunt Sara’s house. My great uncle and she built it from plans Frank Lloyd Wright designed for them—they were teachers, and couldn’t really afford it, so my Uncle Smithy learned how to become his own contractor (and how to finagle discounted prices on windows and get local students to volunteer to help) in order to build it. I have such great memories of that house that I can’t not be a fan of Ms. Susanka as she used a photo of it in her first book, The Not So Big House (page 180!). But I’m curious to see how she’ll translate her ideas into a lifestyle book—my hope is that it doesn’t turn zeitgeist-changing architectural design into just one more motivational book on how to do more by doing less.

OK, I’m hungry and have to go to Games Night. Up tomorrow: Kids!