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Sunday, February 28, 2010

The things you can do while not walking up the stairs...

Pulitzer Predicament

The Pulitzer Prize for fiction is my all-time favorite literary prize, and past winners invariably wind up on my to-read and re-read lists. The only small thing that irks me is the lack of a shortlist before the prize is announced. Christy, a fellow bookseller, feels about the Booker Prize the way I feel about the Pulitzer, and this year I will admit to a little jealousy as she bounded around the store on the day the Booker shortlist was announced. On one hand the Pulitzer race is always exciting and filled with speculation, but on the other, there seems to be no way to prepare. I want to be able to read all the contenders in order to make an informed decision in the same way that people watch all the Best Picture nominees before Oscar night.

Well, this year, I may have an answer to my problem. For the past two years, Pulitzer Prize First Edition Guide has made a prediction list, and the 2008 and 2009 winners and finalists have been on those lists. This year they are producing two lists; one, which was released in late January, and a more concise list to be released in March as the prize draws nearer. Here are their current predictions below:

My Father's Tears: And Other Stories, by John Updike
Lark and Termite, by Jayne Anne Phillips
Homer and Langley, by E.L. Doctorow
The Humbling, by Philip Roth
The Maples Stories, by John Updike
American Salvage, by Bonnie Jo Campbell
Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, by Daniyal Mueenuddin
The Red Convertible, by Louise Erdrich
Chronic City, by Jonathan Lethem
A Good Fall, by Ha Jin
Dear Husband, by Joyce Carol Oates
Little Bird of Heaven, by Joyce Carol Oates
Spooner, by Pete Dexter
The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver
Generosity: An Enhancement, by Richard Powers

And click here for more on how their predictions are made.

I myself am going to jump into American Salvage and In Other Rooms, Other Wonders. I can't wait!

Posted by Erin

Thursday, February 18, 2010

An Interview with Chris Bohjalian

Recently our very own Cheryl McKeon was able to sit down with bestselling author, Chris Bohjalian. Check out her interview below.

Secrets of Eden, Chris Bohjalian’s twelfth novel, again examines a social issue as revealed through engaging characters and gripping plot twists.

Why does he choose these often controversial topics for his books?

“Nobody wants to write a 15,000 word Op-Ed piece,” he laughs, “but I do want to tell a ripping good yarn.”

And his popularity and sales attest to the fact that, indeed, his yarns are good ones. Secrets of Eden appeared on the Publishers’ Weekly bestseller list just 5 days after its release.

“I base my novels on one precise idiosyncratic moment,” he said in a recent Third Place Books visit. While researching The Law of Similars, a 2000 novel, he met with a victims’ rights advocate who showed him Polaroid photos of head indentations in sheetrock.

“I never stopped thinking about those images,” he said. After Double Bind, his eleventh novel, was published, sexual violence and domestic abuse victims from around the country wrote asking if they’d met him, because he seemed to know their stories.

With the Polaroid images still on his mind, he researched Secrets of Eden, which opens with a husband and wife’s apparent murder – suicide, and includes a “snarky” pastor whose involvement in the tragedy forces him to examine his faith.

Asked who his most autobiographical character might be he referred to Stephen Drew, the minister. “I fear that’s who I’d be as a pastor!” Bohjalian says with a slight shudder.

The novel is set in his home state of Vermont, which he says is known for foliage, syrup, and gourmet ice cream, but where two-thirds of its homicides (15 in 2008) are domestic abuse.

Growing up in a family that moved frequently, Bohjalian treasures his home, family and life as a writer that revolves around that stability. Nine of his 12 books are set there.

He is proud of his recognized ability to write from the perspective of female characters, noting that a reviewer of Midwives complimented “Chris Bohjalian’s accurate description of her childbirth experience...”

He plans to write a sequel to Skeletons at the Feast, an exception to his Vermont setting, a WWII novel set in Poland and Germany. The last sentence in the book gives a clue to what will happen, he shares.

And the protagonist of his next book is a pilot of a small plane who does not share Sully Sullenberger’s story but crashes in a deadly Lake Champlain landing, and his attempt to recover from the tragedy by moving to a small – yes, Vermont – town.

Autographed copies of Secrets of Eden and Bohjalian’s other titles are available at Third Place.

Posted by Cheryl

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Under the Cherry Tree

There have been a rash of holidays lately, and amidst all the hubbub we forgot to wish you a Happy President's Day!

Presidential biographies are often the giants of American nonfiction. Perhaps this is based on the American penchant for individual personalities and myth and of course the characters who have historically shaped our nation are large personalities indeed. Here are a few ideas for brushing up on your presidential knowledge:

Three recent biographies of Honest Abe that should intrigue Lincoln Lovers are Lincoln's Melancholy : How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk; Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer,by Fred Kaplan; and Lincoln on Race & Slavery edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Among the Pulitzer winning biographies are American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, by Jon Meacham; and Sally Gordon-Reed's biography of Jefferson's other family, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family.

President Obama has been a popular author - if you haven't yet, get a hold of his Audacity of Hope, Dreams from my Father, and the Inaugural Address. There has also been a constant supply of new books on the Obama family, the administration, and the 2008 election season. One such book is John Heilemann and Mark Halperin's Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime, which has been flying off the shelves at Third Place Books.

Posted by Christy

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Celebrations

Today marks the happy joint celebration of Valentine's Day and the Chinese New Year. We have just the books for your festivities:

If you're in the mood for romance, curl up with one of the classics you've always meant to read or re-read: Shakespeare's tragic play Romeo and Juliet (or an updated version, Jeanne Ray's Julie & Romeo), Jane Austen's mannered drawing-room comedy Pride & Prejudice, Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Ernest Hemingway's blunt Farewell to Arms, or Margaret Mitchell's sweeping Civil War epic, Gone With the Wind.

Pick up a copy of Us: Americans Talk About Love edited by John Bowe, or poetry by Pablo Neruda (100 Love Sonnets should do the trick).

If you - as many do - dislike the hype and hubbub of pink and red, roses and chocolates, celebrate the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Tiger, instead.

The Year of the Tiger: Tales from the Chinese Zodiac tells a colorful tale of a tiger cub's romp through the jungle.

Grace Lin's Newberry Honor winning book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, offers a mythic adventure reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz, and Lisa See's bestselling novel Shanghai Girls, newly available in paperback, is sure to guarantee an evening well spent.

Posted by Christy

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Connie Willis Talks to Third Place Books

Interview conducted by Monica Jacobson and Cheryl McKeon

"When the dust settles on the 20th century’s writers, it’s the genre authors who will be remembered" -- Connie Willis

Science fiction author Connie Willis knew at 13, when she read Robert Heinlein’s Door Into Summer, that she wanted to spend her life as a writer.
Now, after 10 Hugo and six Nebula Awards, and on the release of Blackout, her first novel since 2002, she says, “How many of us get to do what we wanted to do at 13?”

Recently inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, she reflects on her adoration of Heinlein and the fact that her first visit to a Science Fiction Convention was just a year after Heinlein’s last appearance. “It’s just as well,” she says, imagining that she would have embarrassed herself by admitting that “I even knew his cats’ names!”
Heinlein's Have Space Suit – Will Travel was also an early influence on Willis, and it was in that novel that she first encountered Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat which later inspired her own novel To Say Nothing of the Dog. Most sci-fi readers of the time read Three Men in a Boat after Have Spacesuit; and those who did not, Willis notes, are those who didn't believe Jerome's book was real.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What I Heard in San Jose. Did Any Publishers Hear the Same?

I spent a fair amount of last week at the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute in San Jose, CA. This is an annual event, where independent booksellers from around the country come to discuss issues pertinent to their slice of the book industry. This is an incredibly invigorating event for booksellers and each year I come back recharged and inspired about the ongoing possibilities for independent bookstores.

While I made notes on everything from staffing issues to web-site design, there was one moment in the conference that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind.

It was no surprise that some of the hot topics of the week were e-books and e-book pricing. There was lots of speculation and conjecture. In the midst of a presentation from a representative from Google, discussing digital books, the presenter, as many do when discussing the future of the book industry, brought up a few analogies to the music industry. A graph was shown that displayed the ongoing declining gross revenue of the music industry over the past 5 years. While many people have discussed at length how publishers, in dealing with the digitization of books, need to learn a lesson from how the record labels mishandled the digitization of music, this presenter, almost as a throw away after thought, brought up what I believe to be a key issue that publishers and bookstores need to begin focusing on right away.

The presenter said, that when asking a top record label executive what he attributed this decline in revenue to, he stated, without hesitation, that “the decline of gross revenue is directly related to the decline of physical well stocked CD stores (paraphrased).” The record label executive was saying that in a physical store there are exponential “serendipitous” sales that simply don’t happen online (or at least not to the same degree).

Customers, media, and publishers often pay lip service to the need for physical bookstores. But this was the first time I had seen data that suggested, if these stores were to go away, outside of it being a cultural blow to their local communities, it would be a significant financial blow to the industry at large, specifically publishers.

So what does this mean? It says that publishers need to make sure that in their overall strategic planning, that their support to physical bookstores remains a very high item on their checklist. Some publishers have taken some very important steps in this direction. Some publishers have programs to ensure that their bestselling stock gets distributed as evenly as possible across all retail outlets (physical, independent, chain and online).

But what else can publishers be doing? One thought came from Mitchell Kaplan of Books and Books in Miami, FL. Mitchell spent his week talking to booksellers and publishers about changing the way publishers sell books to bookstores. Rather than having to pay within 30-90 days for merchandise, he suggested that publishers allow physical bookstores to take their merchandise on consignment. This would allow stores to have more stock from each publisher including deep backlist (older titles) that don’t sell as frequently. This idea echoes a comment made during a panel discussion during the 2009 Winter Institute by Roxanne Coady of R J Julia’s Bookstore in Madison, CT. At the time she challenged a few major publishers to begin thinking about physical bookstores as the publisher’s showroom, and to figure a way to compensate the bookstore for being a place of year round advertising for the publisher’s titles.

Maybe these are the answers, maybe they are not. Either way, I hope the publishers who were at Winter Institute heard what I heard and will begin thinking about further partnerships with their showrooms. If they are, I know myself and many other bookstore owners would be happy to explore future models.

Robert Sindelar

Managing Partner, Third Place Books

Friday, February 5, 2010

One More Best of 2009

Here is one last favorite reads of 2009...

  • Winter's Bone, Daniel Woodrell
  • Metropole, Ferenc Karinthy
  • Winter Men, Brett Lewis/John Paul Leon
  • Pornografia, Witold Gombrowicz
  • In the Valley of the Kings, Terrence Holt
  • Asterios Polyp, David Mazzucchelli
  • Drop Edge of Yonder, Rudolph Wurlitzer
  • Pieces for the Left Hand, J. Robert Lennon
  • The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart, M. Glenn Taylor
  • The Hunter, Richard Stark

And You Thought We Were Just Booksellers

Emily, one half of our cooking team, used book buyer, and all-around bookseller extraordinaire, put together this month's themed table. We are celebrating the Olympics just up the road in Vancouver, and Emily fashioned this beautiful mobile out of party supply store materials, and a little copper tubing from our new next-door friends at Ace Hardware.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Extra, Extra!

This just in! Hot off the presses, it's the new McSweeney's Issue #33. This time those wily, publishing enthusiasts have created their very own newspaper. The issue is modeled on a Sunday-edition sized paper complete with comics, magazine, travel section, weekend guide, and actual news from the day it was released. The paper, titled the "San Francisco Panorama," went on sale on San Francisco streets in mid December before winging it's way to bookstores, and McSweeney's subscribers. Inside you'll find essays and short stories from the likes of Michael Chabon, Stephen King. William T. Vollmann, Miranda July, Junot Diaz, and many more. What better way to celebrate and bring awareness to the print media than by taking the form of the swiftly vanishing newspaper.

Posted by Erin

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

You Are Not a Gadget : A Manifesto

Our very own educator turned bookseller, Mike, recently read and enjoyed Jaron Lanier's You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto. Check out his review below for this hot, new title.

Arguing for humanity, individuality, and creativity, Lanier exposes a variety of problems with Web 2.0 design, cloud computing, and the hive-mind trends of the twenty-first century. Though I barely understand many of the details he employs (a strong understanding of the history of the Internet, computing, and artificial intelligence would enrich the read), he presents a fairly straight-forward concern. Are the current computer engineering and Internet trends moving us toward a devaluation of the individual and all that makes each and every one of us unique?
If you feel there is a paradox here--what with blogs, web pages, wikis, and Facebook accounts seemingly celebrating individual voices from within the soup--I suggest you explore Lanier's book. Highly recommended

Monday, February 1, 2010

Top Reads of 2009, Part Deux

Here is a late edition to our Top Reads of 2009:

  • The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver
  • Zeitoun, Dave Eggers
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford
  • Not Becoming My Mother, Ruth Reichl
  • Family Man, Elinor Lipman
  • Manhood for Amateurs, Michael Chabon
  • Jarrettsville, Cornelia Nixon
  • Lark and Termite, Jayne Ann Phillips
  • Live Through This, Deborah Gwartney
  • Love is the Higher Law, David Levithan
Cheryl, our resident book club coordinator says, "Choosing your favorite book is like picking a favorite child or a favorite chocolate. It DEPENDS!" So true!

Two Booksellers See a Very Bookish Film

Now showing at selected theaters, An Education, starring Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard, is a delightful, witty and unsettling film. Ultimately, it poses the question: which is more important, a formal education or experience? Is it better to read about things or go and do those things? Or is it the balance between real life experience and book learning that provides a true education?

Whatever you believe, it is impossible to deny the bookish roots of this indie darling. Based on the highly anticipated memoir by Lynn Barber, with a screenplay penned by Nick Hornby, this movie is a literary one-two punch! We've got both versions in stock now, so come on down and start your education today.

Posted by Christy & Erin