Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Every Monday I get an email from the folks at Publisher's Marketplace with significant and/or interesting book deals from the week before. I've been behind on my email and only got to my weekly deals today, where I found one that sounds so cool that I wanted to share it with you. It's for a book called Once Again to Zelda by Marlene Wagman-Geller and it "tells the story behind the dedications of classic novels (think Jane Eyre, The Brother's Karamazov and The Thin Man) and reveals who the author dedicated the book to and why, shedding light on the author's psyche as well as his/her historical era."
A couple things that let you know a bit more about me:
- I read the acknowledgements in a book first, even if they're at the back. (The bummer of galleys is that the dedication and acknowledgements are usually still to come. Sometimes I actually find myself thinking that I should remember to check out the acknowledgements when the finished book arrives...)
- Sometimes I wonder if part of my wanting to be a research librarian was so that I could be listed in acknowledgements, too.
My current favorite dedication is "To Ayelet, bashert," the simple opening to Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union. If you don't know, bashert is a Yiddish term, one that means fate, or destiny. Your bashert is your soul mate, or the person you were meant to be with. In and of itself this is lovely, but it seems an especially apt introduction to the world Chabon creates in his book. The gravy, however, is knowing that the Ayelet referred to is Mr. Chabon's wife, Ayelet Waldman, who has written about the idea of bashert in her novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits (not to mention the infamous writing she's done about their relationship, such as this article).
Do you have a favorite dedication or know of an author's acknowledgements that deserve their own chapter?
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
"Marilynne Robinson, whose bestselling second novel, Gilead, took the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in addition to the National Book Critics Circle Award, has signed again with Jonathan Galassi at Farrar, Straus & Giroux for a new novel. Robinson has just completed the book, to be called Home. Ellen Levine at Trident sold U.S. rights only. Home shares its setting with Gilead, and its action is concurrent with that novel’s. Characters from Gilead will also appear in Home. FSG plans a September 2008 publication. Robinson’s first novel, Housekeeping, published in 1980, won the PEN/Hemingway award and was nominated for the Pulitzer."
I'm really pleased to hear that we'll be getting a new novel from Ms. Robinson so soon (it was twenty three years between her first two!), but I was startled when I read that it will take place in the same world as Gilead. I feel a little disappointed and I can't put my finger on why, exactly. But I'm looking forward to being proven wrong!
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Folks are usually pretty surprised when they find out I'm a crew fan, but I have been for quite a while--ever since college, when I discovered a high school crush rowed for his university. Ah, the early years of internet stalking. (I'll take this moment to remind you that I went to a women's college) In my quest to find pictures of my darling dreamboat I ended up on sites like this one, and I ended up sticking around longer than was probably necessary, but it is how I learned about one of the best books on sports ever--David Halberstam's The Amateurs. It's a classic.
If, after reading The Amateurs, you want more on rowing, my suggestion would be Mind Over Water by Craig Lambert, but you'll probably realize that what you actually want is more of Mr. Halberstam. You could pick up The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, the book he finished just before his death earlier this year, which has been getting fantastic reviews. But, in keeping with the Boston sports theme, I would suggest either The Education of a Coach, Halberstam's exploration of Patriot's coach Bill Belichick or The Teammates: A Portrait of Friendship , a look at some of the greats of Boston Red Sox baseball. Happy reading!
Friday, October 12, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Friday, October 5, 2007
In case you're not familiar with women's history I highly recommend Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's new book, Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History. In it she uses three historical figures--Christine de Pizan, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Virginia Woolf--as a way to enter into the various roles women have played throughout history. Dr. Ulrich has a great way of making history more than just a straight linear narrative--in this book she breaks patterns and helps the reader see new connections between historical periods, which is something I really admire (and wish was done by historians more often).
There isn't anything really new in Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History, though I think the writing style and book structure makes the book interesting even for someone who is fairly well-read in women's history. If you do fancy yourself an ace at the subject though, then I would recommend instead picking up The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe V. Wade by Ann Fessler. As someone who considers herself well-read, I couldn't believe I had never learned about the experience of unwed mothers (especially those who were white and middle-class), the institutions they were sent to, and the way adoption worked in the mid-20th century. It's an incredibly powerful book.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Maybe I'm a fan of the food service memoir because I work in a customer service industry as well? Throughout Ms. Damrosch's book are little tips about fine dining, and there is one that I felt especially appropriate to the world of bookselling. She says on page 31 "Please do not ask us what else we do. This implies that (a) we shouldn't aspire to work in the restaurant business even if it makes us happy and financially stable, (b) that we have loads of time on our hands because our is such an easy job, and (c) that we are not succeeding in another field."
It's true that there are a lot of hyphens in bookselling. Here at Brookline Booksmith Paul is both an amazing bookseller and a wonderful artist (check out his stuff here). Mark is in a band that tours all over the U.S. and Europe (find out more about Neptune here). Brian and Carl are published poets. And me? I'm a bookseller. I wish I had other talents, but really, this is it. And it's enough for me.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
First was a slice of chocolate cake that did, indeed, take the cake. Alie told me there was a secret ingredient--sauerkraut! The recipe came from their new cookbook America's Best Lost Recipes, which I have been looking forward to since they began their Heirloom Recipe Reservation Project through their Cook's Country magazine. (link takes you to a story about the project from NPR--with the Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake recipe!).
Alie told me they had runzas for lunch (the recipe was a runner-up in the lost recipe contest), which she had never heard of before. I hadn't either until I became best friends with a girl from Nebraska. So I guess it's just as well that I wasn't at lunch--I'm sure the runza recipe in the cookbook is fine, but I'm also sure that it can't compare with my friend Kari's family recipe!
Alie also brought me a galley of a new book in the Best Recipe series--The Best International Recipe, coming out in November. This is one I didn't know about, and after looking at it I am super-psyched! It reminds me of Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World but in Cook's Illustrated style--fewer recipes, but each is accompanied by a fantastic essay on its development, testing, and refinement. Though Bittman is usually my go-to-guy, I have to say the ATC folks take this round. Definitely check it out!
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
First, the new edition of Phantom Gourmet Guide to Boston's Best Restaurants has arrived! While Zagat's is known as the gold standard in restaurant recommendations, I'll admit that it tends to overwhelm me (and, after a while, all the blurbs start blurring together)--I think the Phantom Gourmet Guide is a fun and easy alternative that I really like.
If you're not familiar with the Phantom Gourmet, well, my second piece of news is that we now have last year's edition here on remainder for only $4.99! I highly recommend checking it out.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
- Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
- Blind Side by Michael Lewis
- Restless by William Boyd and
- London Fields by Martin Amis
And as if I couldn't be any more impressed, Mr. Bruschi also got guy bonus points for thinking to ask us for a book for his wife as well! I gave him The Myth of You and Me by Leah Stewart, and I hope she enjoys it--it's one of my all-time favorites.
Friday, August 17, 2007
I actually grew up loving musicals. Near my house was an old-fashioned movie house called The Redford Theater. It showed classics on the big screen with an organ performance and cartoon shorts before the show, an intermission when the organ played again(!), and a ceiling painted to look like the sky with little twinkling lights for stars.
On their website you can actually see a film database with the schedules from the 1970s through today, and if you want to know the movies that shaped me growing up, this is your best way to learn--just pick any year in the mid to late '80s. I was looking at the schedule for 1988, and I have no doubt that I was in the audience for West Side Story and Meet Me In St. Louis and Showboat and Oklahoma.
So, the whole point of this exercise in nostalgia is to let you know how jazzed I am that Rough Guides has come out with a new book in their series of film guides: The Rough Guide to Film Musicals by David Parkinson. It is fan-freaking-tastic for both the beginner and old pro. I learned more about musicals I thought I already knew and am glad to have added some to my needs-to-be-seen list (Love Me Tonight, how have we never met?).
Mr. Parkinson is very informed--this is not a piece of fluff, but neither is it overstuffed with film-school jargon. I also like that he is opinionated (except, of course, for when I disagree...) without being condescending towards the films or his readers.
I should note that this is part of a great series that Rough Guides does on film. I'm quite familiar with The Rough Guide to Chick Flicks by Sam Cook, but there are also books on American Independent Film, Film Noir, Westerns, and others. I'm of the opinion that they are way better than most of the film guides out there.
Speaking of musicals, the store is quite quiet for a Friday night during the summer. Me thinks it is all the kids at home watching High School Musical 2. Darn it, why aren't I?
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
It was time for something new. But you know what? Finding a good quality bathroom read is a lot harder to come by than I thought it would be. And then a couple months ago it was like the clouds parted and the sun shining through with the arrival of a galley of The Book of General Ignorance: Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson, which was just published last week.
It's all you want it to be in bathroom reading: a concise question-and-answer format that provides a quick-yet-satisfying read and allows the reader to open the book to any particular page. The questions are humorous (What was odd about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Did cannibals cook their victims whole in large pots? What's the best floor of a building to throw a cat from?) or have unexpected answers (Who is America named after? Not Amerigo Vespucci. Where does chicken tikka masala come from? Glasgow. And, most fittingly, What do we have Thomas Crapper to thank for? Not the flush toilet!).
As a testament to its quality, the galley of The Book of General Ignorance was taken less than a week after I left it in the bathroom. I was really quite peeved (dare I say I was pissed off?) however posting a note requesting the anonymous bookseller to return the galley was unsuccessful. So now we're back to Jackie O. and poorly written etymology. Sigh.
Monday, August 13, 2007
So my apologies for not checking in last week (I'm beginning to think a constant aspect of blogging must be apologizing for NOT blogging...sigh). I think I'll have a bit more time this week, I feel a bit more in control of what's going on and even though Alie is still away other folks are back from their vacations so that I won't be needed on the floor quite so often (though being in this basement office on my own is a bit lonely--I like spending a bit of time on the floor everyday).
Friday, August 3, 2007
(Of course, as I say this I just checked our inventory and we've sold out of the copies we had on hand--all those sales being yesterday and today! Must be a result of the article? Ah well, I'll try to get more on Monday.)
Now, I don't want to offend the 203 customers who have bought the book from us, but I hate it. With a passion. As a buyer I get to have some choice in what we stock; the best part of my job is getting to create an inventory of books that I think are worth my customer's time and money, but this is one of those cases where I just have to turn the other cheek.
I shouldn't really be so judgemental, having only skimmed the book, but I have a hard time just getting past the title. I've never been comfortable using the word 'bitch' casually. We have another great seller at our store called You Say I'm a Bitch Like It's a Bad Thing, another one for which I just can't understand the appeal. I'm glad if it gives you a chuckle, but it just gives me the willies. Ah well, different strokes for different folks.
By the way, if you want a great book on nutrition my recommendation is 10 Habits that Mess Up a Woman's Diet: Simple Strategies to Eat Right, Lose Weight, and Reclaim Your Health by Elizabeth Somer. This is one that actually helped me take a look at how I could change my diet without turning myself into a food-obsessed bore. Another fascinating and fun read is Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think by Brian Wansink. The book is full of clever experiments done by Mr. Wansink (a university professor with his own lab devoted to how we relate to food) and other scientists and psychologists that explore the hows and whys of eating beyond hunger. It reminds me of Malcom Gladwell's work with its quirky yet revelatory insights, and though its not really a prescriptive book I did find that it made me much more aware of how I eat.
By Mark Walden
H.I.V.E is a secret school designed to educate children who are just a little too bright and mischievous in the finer points of evil. Otto, who has unwillingly been enrolled, tries to escape with the help of friends Wing, Laura, and Shelby, each with their own unique ‘talents.’ This is a fun thrill ride that makes you want to get in line for the sequel right away! (approx. grade 4-7)
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
I know you're all wondering what to read next. And everyone is giving suggestions left and right. But, my friends, this is the one you want! I loved this when it came out in hardcover last year and now that it's in paperback there is no excuse for you not to pick it up for your favorite middle-grade reader (or, quite frankly, yourself).
The Secret Country begins when our hero Ben encounters a talking cat in a pet shop. Soon he is finding magical creatures everywhere – unicorns, wood-sprites, and dragons, all kidnapped from the magical world of Eidolon. Will he be able to help them return home?
Parents beware: This is the kind of story that will have your kids staying up late, reading with a flashlight under the covers.
Monday, July 30, 2007
As for me, I finished last night--very bittersweet.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Grub: A Novel by Elise Blackwell
I know a few folks from Grub Street have visited my blog here so I thought the title might intrigue. Here's the copy from the back:
"A long overdue retelling of New Grub Street--George Gissing's classic satire of the Victorian literary marketplace--Grub chronicles the triumphs and humiliations of a group of young novelists living in and around New York City.
Eddie Renfros, on the brink of failure after his critically acclaimed first book, wants only to publish another novel and hang on to his beautiful wife, Amanda, who has her own literary ambitions and a bit of a roving eye. Among their circle are writers of every stripe--from the Machiavellian Jackson Miller to the 'experimental writer' Henry, who lives in squalor while seeking the perfect sentence. Amid an assortment of scheming agents, editors, and hangers-on, each writer must negotiate the often competing demands of success and integrity, all while grappling with inner demons and the stabs of professional and personal jealousy. The question that nags at them is this: What is it to write a novel in the twenty-first century?
Pointedly funny and compassionate, Grub reveals what the publishing industry does to writers--and what writers do to themselves for the sake of art and to each other in the pursuit of celebrity."
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
Joe Hill's Heart Shaped Box has been a big hit here. It got a starred review from Publisher's Weekly and a great review from Chuck Leddy at the Boston Globe (though not so much from Geoff Nicholson at the New York Times). 20th Century Ghosts is a collection of short stories Mr. Hill has written over the past few years. It was originally released by a niche publisher in England in 2005 but never here in the States until now (I assume that now that he's proved himself with the novel HarperCollins is hoping to ride the wave with this collection).
American Band: Music, Dreams, and Coming of Age in the Heartland
by Kristen Laine
Something for all those band geeks out there, this is the story of a year in the life of a high school band in the Midwest. Read more here.
Speaking of bands, I'm a total fan of parades. When I lived in Delaware I actually went to Atlantic City with friends to watch the Miss America "Show Us Your Shoes" Parade. That was a trip. So I'm very excited for Brookline Booksmith's Shortest Parade in History for the winner of the Jasper Fforde raffle. Didn't know Jasper Fforde was coming? Read about it here! We're really hoping to have a baton twirler. If you know a baton twirler, please, could you pass her (or his!) name along? We gotta have a baton twirler.
Friday, July 13, 2007
As a result, most of my suggestions were for picture books I saw when my reps visited. I nominated The Apple Pie that Papa Baked, The Magic Rabbit, and Book of 1,000 Days (the non-picture book exception).
I also nominated a book that has just been released but I think actually has more of a fall vibe to it. Since it's already available, though, let me recommend it to you now--
Mucumber McGee and the Half-Eaten Hot Dog
Written and Illustrated by Patrick Loehr
Mucumber McGee has, in his desperate hunger, eaten a hot dog straight from the back of the fridge. His sister has warned him of eminent death. This is much worse than swallowing a watermelon seed! "Cheerful Gothic" may be a curious sounding description, but it perfectly fits this story-in-rhyme and its illustrations.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
I do understand that the smaller printing and distribution of university press books necessitates higher prices. This leads me to two questions (again, questions that I'm sure won't be new to anybody already out in the trenches) and one title to recommend:
1. Could there be a broader market for some of the books published by university presses, allowing for more books at lower cost? I think of On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt as an example of so many things done right by Princeton University Press--a great package and a great price for a great writer with a great book.
2. And...a very touchy one...how extensively are the university press resources taken up by publications that just aren't worth it? If you're involved in academic publishing, or ivory walls in general, you're probably aware of Lindsay Waters' Enemies of Promise: Publishing, Perishing, and the Eclipse of Scholarship. If not, take a look as he has some very provocative things to say on the subject, many of which ring very true to me. By the way, Prickly Paradigm Press--the publisher of Enemies of Promise--distributed by the University of Chicago? Another one that, in my opinion, does a lot of things right.
I don't have answers, and I'm sure I'm not the only one asking the questions. But as a trade bookseller to a highly engaged, highly educated, highly literate community, and one who is motivated to develop relationships with university presses, this is what's on my mind. Thanks for listening.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Today I was buying from a number of university presses, which is to me incredibly frustrating. I don't have the free reign to buy from these publishers as I do others, and even if I did, the expense of university press books makes it difficult for me to be enthusiastic about the prospect of selling them. I just have a hard time asking people to pay more than $20 for a paperback. I understand the economics behind the high prices of university press books (well, some of the economics--some seem a bit sketchy to me), and that I, the trade bookstore buyer, am not their target customer, but it is frustrating. This may be impolitic, but I'll give a couple examples.
The University Press of Florida is publishing Matecumbe, a manuscript by James Michener that Random House shelved long ago. Sounds interesting, but not $21 for an unpublished novel interesting (and a paperback at that!). Why not make the book $10 and market it to all the fans out there who loved reading his historical sagas and are just curious for something new and different? It makes me think the publishers don't really think Matecumbe is worth reading at all. In that case, why are they publishing it?
A book with photos, lyrics and stories of Kate and Anna McGarrigle written by Dane Lanken, Anna McGarrigle's husband, sounds lovely, doesn't it? Not when it's a 160-page paperback for $45. Thanks for nothing, Michigan State University Press.
I could keep going, but I'm depressing myself. I remember how excited I was when I saw that a friend of mine since grade school and current professor of political science at University of Nebraska had his first book published. I'm afraid I won't be ordering any for the store, but Routledge has it, and it can be yours for $120.
Monday, July 2, 2007
I'm an over-packer by nature, which extends to books, so I know I won't get to everything, but I'm bringing myself a nice selection to chose from depending on my mood. When travelling one always needs a good mystery, so I'm bringing two: Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell (she wrote The Speckled Monster, an Essential Read of Evelyn's) and The Night Climbers by Ivo Stourton. I'm bringing the kids' book The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch, and for non-fiction, Daniel Brook's The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat In Winner-Take-All America.
I'll have to take something as a security blanket, too, something I know will be good, so I'll probably take along something by Shannon Hale. I've just finished Book of a Thousand Days, (STUPENDOUS!), so it's put me in a mood for more.
OK, I'm off!
Monday, June 25, 2007
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
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
"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.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
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
Monday, June 11, 2007
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
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
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
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
Friday, June 1, 2007
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!
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
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
Friday, May 25, 2007
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...
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
Monday, May 21, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
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
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
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
"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."