Monday, June 25, 2007

Busy, Busy

Last week, as I mentioned, I had four buying appointments, this week I have another three. I'm sorry if you've felt neglected, but you'll thank me come the fall!

Probably the most fun was buying books from Abrams. As they are primarily dedicated to the arts and photography and, well, gifty-like things, you can imagine that their fall catalog is quite impressive. My biggest buy for the store was for a new Andy Goldsworthy book titled Enclosure, which will, I'm quite sure, live up to his other books.

I was quite pleased to find some good titles for those who don't want to spend more than a $20, my favorite being a collection of watercolors by Mark Chiarello titled Heroes of the Negro Leagues. The book originated with a series of baseball cards done by Chiarello; those are all included as well as a number of new images.

My favorite, no big surprise, is The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London, 1947-1957 by Claire Wilcox, the catalog accompanying an exhibition of the same name at the Victoria and Albert. The Golden Age of Couture is the cause for a number of books to be either published or reprinted, including a book on Balenciaga by Lesley Ellis Miller titled, well, Balenciaga, ABC of Men's Fashion by Sir Hardy Amies (originally published, I believe, in 1964, which falls somewhat out of the scope of the exhibition, but as it's related to men's fashion, which often gets shorted, we'll let it pass), and two books by Christian Dior-- his autobiography Dior by Dior, and The Little Dictionary of Fashion, fist published in 1954. As I work for Brookline Booksmith and not Lori's Passion for Fashion Books I wasn't able to order them all, but I did get copies of the exhibition catalog and The Little Dictionary of Fashion, which I think is another one of those little books that make an excellent gift for under $20.

A side note to anyone from Abrams or the V&A who might be out there: please, please, please get a new cover image for The Golden Age of Couture! Blech. So staid. The original was much better.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, I'm also super-duper eager for Just Can't Get Enough: Toys, Games, and Other Stuff from the '80s that Rocked by Matthew Robinson and Jensen Karp. Hungry Hippos! Strawberry Shortcake! Care Bears! Rainbow Bright! He-Man! My Little Pony! My Buddy! So many toys I wasn't allowed to own or was too cheap to buy with my allowance! Added coolness? It has a velcro closure a la Trapper Keepers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Busy Day of Buying

I had two buying appointments today, at pretty wide ends of the spectrum--Simon and Schuster Children's in the morning, university presses in the afternoon.

My big highlight of the morning was The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E. L. Konigsburg. We have in the store a bookcase filled with our staff "Essential Reads"--pretty much our desert island books-- and as Ms. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is one of my essential reads I am super-eager for this new novel (which, like From the Mixed-Up Files.., also involves art and a mystery).

As for the afternoon, Iowa is reprinting a book James Thurber published in 1939 called The Last Flower, which is both beautiful and heart-breaking as it imagines a world destroyed by war. And Reaktion Books (distributed by University of Chicago) is adding to its wonderful series of books on animals with titles dedicated to swans and ducks (I doubt I'm the only one to appreciate that they are coming out at the same time. I wonder which one will discuss The Ugly Duckling?)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Boston Globe Summer Reads

Ellen Steinbaum, who writes a regular column for the Boston Globe, was kind enough to include me in her most recent piece -- a round-up of summer reads by authors native to Boston. You can read the whole article here, but here's my recommendation:

"Laurie Horowitz was raised in the Boston area and her book 'The Family Fortune,' about a Brahmin family, is set in and around the city. Horowitz knows to borrow from the best; her story is based loosely on Jane Austen's 'Persuasion.' I'm not going to pretend that this is a similar classic for the centuries, but it is just right for reading in the shade with a cold raspberry lime rickey.

"It is the story of Jane Fortune, editor of the literary Euphemia Review, who was persuaded when she was young to give up on her love for a promising (now best-selling) author.

"Single and 38, she has lived with her father and older sister in their Beacon Hill home until living beyond their means forces the family to rent it out. As Jane attempts to help her family regain their equilibrium, she is both reunited with her first love and enthralled by a new promising young writer.

"In a blurb I wrote for a staff recommendation I noted that, unlike so many chick-lit (shall we call it popular fiction?) characters who are notable primarily for their shopping skills and dumb luck, it is truly refreshing to find someone like Jane, a character worthy of being called a heroine."
What are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

On Anne Fadiman and Bookishness

This is probably not all that surprising, but I love books about books. And, in my mind, without question, the book-about-books above all others is Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris. If you haven't read this little jewel, you must. It will only take you a few hours, and you'll feel at the end as if you've found a new best friend.

I always enjoy talking with folks who have read Ex Libris and finding out which essay is their favorite. I usually say mine is the first one, "Marrying Libraries," I think because I like to daydream about what kind of joint library will be created when I meet my mate (you can read an excerpt of that essay here). But, well, looking at the table of contents, now I'm finding it hard to say that's true unequivocally.

There's also "Never Do That to a Book," wherein Ms. Fadiman's brother is chastised by a hotel maid for leaving a book lying spreadeagled and face down. I am what the author would call a courtly lover of the book -- I shudder when I see people in the store fold a paperback cover back over the spine. Like her friend Clark, I have bought two copies of a book, one to read and the other to keep pristine. I'm afraid I can appreciate only in theory the passion of the carnal book lover who destroys their books in the name of love.

And I can't forget "Words on a Flyleaf," Ms. Fadiman's examination of the inscriptions we write in the books we give to others. Whenever I ring up a used book, and it has an inscription, I have to read it. I just have to. And then, depending on what it says, I wonder what happened to George, or if Amy and Laura are still good friends, or whether Mark knows that his gift has been sold for 20% of the cover price in store credit. I wonder sometimes what happens to the books I've given as gifts and inscribed. And I think about the books I've kept through various moves and purges not because of the book itself, but because of what a friend had written inside.

[A side note of pure serendipity: Jessica, a bookseller in New York, has a fantastic blog called The Written Nerd. Today she mentions The Book Inscription Project, where you can see (and send in yourself!) the best and/or worst inscriptions found in used books. So cool!]

So all this is to say that I'm really excited for At Large and at Small, Ms. Fadiman's new essay collection which we just got in this week. Though the topics move beyond that of the bookish, I'm so thrilled for more from such a dear-to-me-though-we've-never-met author. NPR did a very nice piece with Ms. Fadiman last week that you can read/listen to here. I love her stumping for the familiar essay, which is such a brilliant genre when it is well done, and hearing her address the very idea with which I started this entry--that to read her is to think you've found a new friend.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

To Hanna...

Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician is waiting for you at the front! Enjoy!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Galley Grab!

Hello all! I thought I would offer up a couple galleys today. First come, first served. Just leave me a comment with the title of the book that interests you; I'll put the book on hold for you to pick up at the store.

Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician by Daniel Wallace
Here's a tip--this is going to be the #1 Book Sense pick for July. Stephen Grutzmacher from Passtimes Books in Sister Bay, WI said this: "Daniel Wallace tells the story of Henry Walker, a magician who disappears as a child and spends the rest of his life trying to make himself reappear. A haunting, beautifully written story where nothing, including the truth, is what it seems."

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
Every year at BEA there is a panel called the "Buzz Forum," where editors from the major houses each give their pick for the upcoming season, and this was Suzanne Porter of Random House's choice. This is a debut novel, a fictional account of Frank Lloyd Wright and his affair with Mamah Cheney.

The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin
Toobin gives a recent history of the Supreme Court with great access to the justices and other key players.

Follow the links to read more about each.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

On Shel Silverstein

I feel like I've been focusing on the kids a lot lately, so today I thought I would change it up and talk about a favorite writer/artist for adults--Shel Silverstein.

If you haven't seen the official site for Shel Silverstein, it's, well, AMAZING, super-fun, and you need to check it out. You will find, however, that it is called The Official Site for Kids. And if you know your Shel Silverstein, you'll see it's missing a few titles and that the biography presented is a bit skimpy on the details. (Not surprising really, as the site is run by HarperCollins and the books I'm about to talk about are, in fact, from Simon and Schuster)

Shel Silverstein is, truly, one of the greatest modern poets for children in the English language. He was also a cartoonist for Playboy from the mid 1950s through the 1960s, and often was sent around the world to write back dispatches from his travels to places in Europe, Africa, and the U.S. Fireside has just released Playboy's Silverstein Around the World, which is the complete collection of his travel pieces. Each dispatch was a collection of cartoons, all featuring him and his familiar beard and moustache (you see him get progressively balder through the years) as he encounters the natives of Paris, London, Hollywood, and Nudist Camps. If you were a fan of Mr. Silverstein's when you were younger, you have to take a look at these and gain a new appreciation for him as an adult. Like the best New Yorker cartoonists, his drawings and captions were a fantastic combination of distinctive style and wit.

I have to add that if you are familiar with Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book, then you already knew about the other side of Shel Silverstein (and, frankly, I want to have a drink with you). If you aren't, well, you're just missing out on one of the funniest books ever. EVER. I might have found this primer amongst my parents' books when I was a bit too tender of age, but there isn't anything inappropriate, just fantastic satire. Which bit to share? "B is for baby. See the baby ... Pretty pretty baby. Mommy loves the baby more than she loves you." Or "E is for egg ... E is also for Ernie. Ernie is the genie who lives in the ceiling. Ernie loves eggs. Take a nice fresh egg and throw it as high as you can and yell 'Catch, Ernie! Catch the egg!' And Ernie will reach down and catch the egg." If you do not laugh out loud whilst reading this, well, I wonder if there is hope for you.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Candlewick Lights Up My Life

I saw our Candlewick rep this morning, and they have some beauties coming for the winter.

Easily my top choice is The Magic Rabbit by Annette LeBlanc Cate. A picture book of a magician's bunny assistant who becomes lost in the city, the drawings are wonderful and the story is sigh-inducing sweet (but not at all treacly). Though never mentioned by name, I'm pretty sure Boston was the inspiration for the setting (Ms. Cate graduated from the Art Institute of Boston and lives in Massachusetts), which is the icing on the cake.

I usually don't care much for most Christmas titles, with all the corniness and cheesiness that accompanies them, but Candlewick is publishing the most stunning version of The Night Before Christmas. It is illustrated by Niroot Puttapipat through silhouettes and die-cuts; the detail is tremendously intricate. This is a serious class act--elegant, sophisticated, beautiful.

And Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare are back! Yippee! Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram have done two companion board books to Guess How Much I Love You; When I'm Big, and Colors Everywhere. The first takes place in the spring as the Nutbrown Hares see acorns, tadpoles and caterpillars that will all grow and change. The second is in the summer, as Big and Little Nutbrown Hares decide what in nature provides their favorite shades of blue, green, yellow, and (of course!) brown. I'm really, really hoping this means there will be two more--one for fall and one for winter. And then it will be perfect. But I don't want any more after that--I am heartily against too much of a good thing, or stories that are published for no other reason than to have something else for people to buy.

I could keep going and going about other great titles that are coming....
When Alie and I were dividing up who would buy from which publishers she asked me if I had any special requests, and there was just one--Candlewick!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

How I Spent My Weekend

I think I'm still overwhelmed, but I want to catch you (and myself!) up with what I did over the rest of the weekend. After I finished blogging on Friday I went across the hall for a presentation on a major new study that had been done on customer beliefs and feelings towards Internet, chain, and independent bookstores. The first slides went up and I nearly fell off my chair--Brookline Booksmith was one of the independent bookstores included in the survey! I wasn't sure if I wanted to be there for the results, but we did well. Phew! Thanks to all our customers who participated in the survey. I did actually have to sneak out in the middle of the presentation so I could go meet Jonathan Bean. Yes, I was the crazy one who ran across the entire Javits to get a signed book and then ran all the way back to the presentation.

I only spent a bit more time on the floor before leaving for the hotel in Brooklyn--I had to gussy myself up for a party that night. It was thrown by Grand Central Publishing (nee Time Warner) and held at, where else, Grand Central Station. Amy Sedaris was there, and I complemented her on her fabulous dress. I actually didn't even realize it was her until after I had walked away; by then it was too late to backtrack and gush. That's probably for the best.

Saturday morning I spent speed dating with children's authors--twenty tables were set up, eight booksellers at each, and then there were 20 authors who changed tables every three minutes. Yowza! Some of the authors really fed off the crazy energy that was created, though I'm sure they were all exhausted at the end. I was really glad to meet Christopher Paul Curtis, a fellow Michigander (we gave each other the point-to-where-you're-from-on-the-palm salute); Peter McCarty brought his journal and original watercolors to show us how Fabian Escapes developed; Christopher Myers was absolutely hilarious.

The rest of my time is a blur of meetings, autographs, placing orders, and walking, walking, walking. I made sure to leave time for visiting art publishers and sampling what they have coming up (a picture in a catalog just doesn't do justice to so many of these books) and perusing the small presses for titles that I might otherwise never have known about. I also participated in an experiment by Cornell University's Taste Science Laboratory! You can read about the results of their preliminary research from last year's BEA here. I did get a signed copy of My Mother the Cheerleader (I found out Robert Sharenow, the author, is a local guy!), and of Sophia Nash's A Dangerous Beauty, but wasn't able to get everything on my list. Don't feel too bad for me--I found plenty others I didn't even know I was looking for.

It's time for me to put this year's BEA to bed now--it was quite an unbelievable experience and I am so thankful that I was able to go. Now back to our regularly scheduled program...

Monday, June 4, 2007

Long Live Meg Powers!

I left New York for home about 4:00 yesterday, and I'm still in a daze from last weekend. Really, I'm having trouble walking straight, and I think it's a combination of sore feet and tired brain. I think tomorrow will be a better day for a full recap. But, I had to mention one thing I found at the last minute--

Late yesterday I wandered by the booth for Feiwel and Friends, a new children's book publisher, when out of the corner of my eye I saw propped up a new book by Ellen Emerson White. OH MY GOD! Her books about Meg Powers, daughter of the first female President of the United States (The President's Daughter, White House Autumn, and Long Live the Queen) were my all-time favorites. I read and re-read those to death. And now there's another book in the series! It's been years since I've read the previous, so I'll have to read them again before I get to Long May She Reign. Unfortunately, they're currently out-of-print, but I've been promised by the Feiwel and Friends folks that will be remedied. Yippee! I can't wait to start recommending those again! Now maybe someone will reprint The Rascals from Haskell's Gym by Frank Bonham, another favorite from the same time period.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Heaven and Hell

I'm here posting a quick note to gloat over the fact that I'm here and you're not (unless you're at the computer terminal behind me...). There are more authors than you could ever hope to meet in a weekend and more books than you can ever hope to read in a lifetime.

So far I've been able to accomplish a few of my missions--I got a copy of Plenty (yippee!) and of Silent in the Sanctuary (double yippee! I should say hello to Ms. Raybourn's husband, who has apparently found his way here and warned her I was on the lookout for her...but not in a stalkerish way). I have to thank a good friend for getting me Kathryn Caskie's How to Engage an Earl--I ran to her signing table after my meeting to find that all she had left was her previous title, How to Seduce a Duke. Thanks Kari!

In the unexpected surprise category, Shannon Hale, author of the fabulous Princess Academy, was signing copies of her new book, Book of a Thousand Days, so I got a a chance to meet her and her adorable baby daughter--it was a total thrill. Also, I know all the girls at the store will be jealous as I got to meet John Green, who wrote the staff-recommended An Abundance of Katherines. I now have a signed copy, and I think I'll auction it off to whomever is willing to do my shelving the longest in exchange. My above-mentioned friend did her happy dance when she met him. If you don't know John Green, you need to check out Brotherhood 2.0, the videoblog of him and his brother, Hank.

Ok, there are other folks waiting for computers, so I'd better wrap it up...hopefully more later!