Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New Book by Marilynne Robinson On the Horizon...

Yesterday's PW Daily (the newsletter of Publishers Weekly magazine) reported that Marilynne Robinson's new novel has been sold to FSG (since it's a short article I've posted it in its entirety):

"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

David Halberstam and My Favorite Weekend in Boston

It's my favorite weekend in Boston--it's Head of the Charles! There is so much I adore about Head of the Charles--I love that it's a perfect way to spend fall days outside before it gets too cold. You'll find me eating fair food (you have not had a caramel apple until you've had a fresh-dipped caramel apple from the Boy Scout troop that's at HotC every year), petting adorable dogs, and, of course, watching the crews race down the river. It is a sight both absolutely beautiful and incredbily fierce. And, I love when you can hear the coxes swearing like sailors to get their boys or girls to go harder, faster, stronger.

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

Book Sense Picks Scent! Yay!

Last week the November Book Sense picks were announced--you can get a peek at them here. I'm excited because one of my nominations got picked--yippee! It's The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell by Rachel Herz, and it's a great read. Here's what I said:

"Since reading Scent of Desire I've noticed myself inhaling more deeply, wanting to capture the smells around me (at a restaurant or florist -- even on the bus!). This clever examination of the physiology and psychology of scent will wake you up to the world around you."

That blurb is totally true--I really have developed this odd need to inhale really deeply on the bus, which just doesn't always have a happy ending depending on who's sitting next to me (reference chapter six, "The Odor of the Other"). But I can't help it! And once there was the most delicious smell of sausage in the air and it just made me crazy to the point that I had to make a special trip to get myself some sausage to make for dinner (reference chapter seven, "Craving"). I'll just add that this is a totally fun book for fans of psychology, biology, or anyone who's just curious about what makes us the way we are.

Oh, and If you like Scent of Desire, then you must read Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses. A classic.

By the way -- the number one pick for November is 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill, which I'm bringing up just because I'm pretty excited that he'll be coming to Brookline Booksmith on October 29th (Just before Halloween! Perfect.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My Favorite Picture Books for Fall

I've been waiting for it to feel like fall so I could write about these two books--both came out last year and have still lingered in my mind as great stories with fantastic illustrations--Brave Bitsy and the Bear by Angela McAllister and Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson. Both are illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke, clearly suggesting that she is queen of capturing the feeling of autumn.

In Brave Bitsy and the Bear, little Bitsy must find her way home when she falls out of her girl's pocket. She meets a big bear, who wants to help her, but is tired and ready to go to sleep for the winter. After bear helps Bitsy find her way home she realizes he may need her help as well and sets off to make sure he has made it safely to his cave.

In Fletcher and the Falling Leaves, Fletcher the fox is very worried his favorite tree is sick--all the leaves are changing colors and falling off its branches. He tries to save the leaves, but soon his favorite tree is bare. Fletcher is upset until he sees the beauty that comes with each season as leaves give way to a wintery surprise.

I love both these books as they work on two levels. Both can provoke discussion about the cycle of seasons and what that means for nature, while also providing lovely portrayals of the meaning of friendship. I promise you'll love them both!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History

Last week I read a great article from The Guardian, titled "The Books That Changed Our Lives," in which a number of young feminists write about the books that introduced them to feminism. I was particularly interested to read what Jessica Valenti and Ariel Levy wrote as they are currently the authors of my two favorite books in our women's studies section: Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters and Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, respectively.

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

On Being a Bookseller

I just finished reading Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter by Phoebe Damrosch, a fun memoir about Ms. Damrosch's experiences as a waiter at Per Se, Thomas Keller's restaurant in New York City. It's a bit like the flip side to Debra Ginsberg's memoir Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress, which I highly recommend as another fun read.

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.