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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bookseller Top Tens! Part Two

You thought I forgot, didn't you.  It's okay, I would have thought that too.  I was just waiting until you were no longer burnt out from end-of-the-year, top-ten lists.  Clever, aren't I?  After great delay, here is the much hankered after, second edition of Bookseller Top Tens (Part One, here).  As a reminder, these lists are top ten books read in 2012, no matter when they were published.  Here goes!

Terry at Lake Forest Park
Despite instruction that the lists didn't need to be in any kind of order, Terry has labeled his number ones...what's more, he even separated his lists into fiction and non-fiction.  So organized!

Andrew at Ravenna
In one last brave, bookseller act before he heads off into the sunset, here is Andrew's top ten.  Happy trails, Andrew, we'll miss you!
  1. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
  2. Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  3. City of Thieves by David Benioff 
  4. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
  5. Bender by Dean Young
  6. The Puppet and The Dwarf by Slavoj Zizek
  7. Love : An Index by Rebecca Lindberg 
  8. Lamberto Lamberto Lamberto by Gianni Rodari
  9. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain 
  10. Guide to Getting It On by Paul Joannides
Adam at Lake Forest Park
Adam is one of my all-time favorite book recommend-ers (he's great for movies too).  His tastes are unusual, eclectic, often unknown, but always interesting.  It's a good idea to pay attention to what Adam is reading.
Emily M. at Ravenna
We got ourselves another Top Eleven...wouldn't you know it, the other person who picked eleven; also named Emily (Check out Top Tens Part One).  Cheaters!  I wonder if all Emilys are cheaters.  Well, I suppose they are forgiven, but I've got my eye on them.
Jessica B. at Lake Forest Park
One of the great things about the top ten lists is finding out who has similar tastes.  Turns out, I should probably read some of Jessica's picks, because there are quite a few on her list that I have loved.  Also, I think she has the best title...The Interrogative Mood: A Novel? Question Mark!
Owen at Ravenna
Owen says that his number one for the year is How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti.  I don't know, Owen.  You tell me.  How should a person be?
Jane at Lake Forest Park
Jane is another bookseller who had trouble narrowing her favorites down.  But she says that her #1 of 2012 is Leon and Louise, but that is subject to fluctuation...depending on the day...and the weather.
Annie at Lake Forest Park
Annie says that Garth Nix is her second favorite author after Michael Ende.  Well, Garth Nix is pretty awesome, so maybe we should check out this Michael Ende character.
  1. A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix
  2. Hold Me Closer Necromancer/Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride
  3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  4. Heir to the Empire: The 20th Anniversary Edition by Timothy Zahn
  5. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
  6. Passion Play by Beth Bernobich
  7. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne Valente
  8. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
  9. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen
  10. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Erin B. at Ravenna
Hey!  That's me!  Saved the best for last...am I right?
So that's it.  A great sampling of what we loved last year.  And already we are hard at work on our 2013 lists.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

What a Bargain

Bargain books or remainders, no matter what you call them one thing stays the same...deals, Deals, DEALS!

"What's a remainder?" you ask.  I actually found a Wikipedia article about them (which I find odd for some reason even though there's a Wikipedia entry for everything).  So you can read that, or I can just tell you.  Remainders are those books you'll find in both of our stores stacked on the "Bargain Books" tables, usually identifiable by the bright, yellow, price sticker on the front cover.

"But aren't those just used books?" you say.   No! Contrary to some customer opinion, those aren't used books.  Those are brand-spanking-new books!

"How are they so cheap?" you ask (you have a lot of questions today).  Well, remainder books are deeply discounted by the publisher, usually after the book has been released in paperback.  That's why most remainders are hardcovers.  Usually they are priced around $5.98, $6.98, or $7.98.  See, DEAL!

Eric is in charge of our remainders, and he says that right now he's got the best selection of nonfiction remainders that he's ever had.  Ever.  And the fiction isn't so bad either.  How's that for tempting?!  But you should know that once remainder books are gone, they're really gone (at least at that awesome price).  So you better hurry.

Here are a few of our current remainders:

What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes

The Turquoise Ledge by Leslie Marmon Silko

Arcadia by Lauren Groff

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pulitzer Predictions

I know you know how much I love the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  If you don't know, you can read about my love here.  How devastated was I last year after being denied my favorite literary prize?  Inconsolable.  I went on a bit of a nonfiction, revenge binge.  So here's hoping that this year the fiction jury doesn't let me down.

As they have every year since 2008, the folks at Pulitzer Prize First Edition have started on their prediction list.  In 2011, they correctly predicted that A Visit From the Goon Squad would be the big winner.  And last year they had 2 of the 3 finalists on their final prediction list.

The final predictions don't come out until March (the prize is awarded in April), but they have put together a preliminary list that is up now.  Here is where it currently stands:

1. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
2. A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
3. The Round House by Louise Erdrich
4. Magnificence by Lydia Millet
5. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
6. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
7. This is How you Lose Her by Junot Diaz
8. Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie
9. The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
10. Home by Toni Morrison
11. San Miguel by T. Coraghassan Boyle
12. In One Person by John Irving
13. Schmidt Steps Back by Louis Begley
14. Mudwoman by Joyce Carol Oates
15. Canada by Richard Ford

The early list and the final prediction list usually vary quite a bit, so be sure to check back in March for the last word.  I will say, I know a lot of Third Place booksellers who would be very pleased to see Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk take home the big win.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Read This Book (Bandwagon Edition)

Stoner by John Williams

This is another multiple bookseller recommendation with at least three of us singing its praises.  Actually, this book made it on to Robert's 2012 Top Ten List.  After reading what he had to say about it, I read it.  And after I read it and raved it, Ami picked it up.

William Stoner is born at the end of the nineteenth century into a dirt-poor Missouri farming family. Sent to the state university to study agronomy, he instead falls in love with English literature and embraces a scholar’s life, so different from the hardscrabble existence he has known. And yet as the years pass, Stoner encounters a succession of disappointments: marriage into a “proper” family estranges him from his parents; his career is stymied; his wife and daughter turn coldly away from him; a transforming experience of new love ends under threat of scandal. Driven ever deeper within himself, Stoner rediscovers the stoic silence of his forebears and confronts an essential solitude.

John Williams’s luminous and deeply moving novel is a work of quiet perfection. William Stoner emerges from it not only as an archetypal American, but as an unlikely existential hero, standing, like a figure in a painting by Edward Hopper, in stark relief against an unforgiving world.

Here's what Ami has to say:

What makes Stoner so remarkable is how unremarkable it appears on the surface. The novel tells the life story of a man marked only, it seems, by his utter ordinariness. The only son of a farming family, William Stoner attends the University of Missouri intending to study agriculture but instead discovers a latent love of literature that leads him into a career in academia. The rest of his life is a series of thwarted chances at happiness interspersed with minor, fleeting triumphs. John Wiliams' straightforward yet delicate prose illuminates the life of this lonely professor whose purity and intelligence pit him against a bleak and baffling world.

Here's my take:

About half-way through this book I was exhausted. Partly from turning the pages so quickly, but mostly from the unendurable sadness that is William Stoner's life(though even in my exhaustion, I was entranced). And then I realized that while quiet and melancholy, and with its fair share of villains, Stoner's life isn't sad at all. It's just life. And then the book opened up to me, or maybe I opened up to it, and I fell in love. I fell in love with William Stoner and his quiet university life. I fell in love with his sweet-tempered, lifelong friend, and even with his scheming enemies. I fell in love with the succession of events that made up this one man's ordinary life, and I fell in love with the way that life moved me. 

I can't really explain what it is about this book. Yes, it's well written, filled with living, breathing characters, and perfectly paced. But it's more than that, and I don't have the talent to impress upon you just how beautiful it is. Read the blurbs, and other more eloquent reviewers. More importantly, read the book.

And Robert:

I have been meaning to get to this one for a while. Man, was it worth the wait. Such a deceptively simple, unassuming novel about a theoretically unremarkable life. William Stoner is the perfect American Everyman whose own expectations for his life are almost a surprise to himself. It is a life of modest goals and modest victories set amid a mountain of disappointments. 

Wonderfully, however, while you may often feel bad for this anti-hero, you never really pity him. In the end it is an absolutely moving portrait of life, love, and work. Its a book that entirely deserves its rank of classic that the New York Review of Books has given it.

Seriously, how can you not want to Read This Book?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Unread & Dusty

Spring approaches... or is that just wishful thinking on my part?  Well, spring will arrive someday, and with it, spring cleaning.  Cleaning our homes, our lives, our bookshelves.  If you are tackling a bookshelf this year, I offer you the following story:

I've been working in bookstores over ten years now.  And the past couple of years have been at Third Place Books.  I started at the Lake Forest Park store, took some time off to become a full-time student, and am now at Ravenna Third Place Books as a part-time, bookseller extraordinaire.  I joke that I work at the bookstore to support my habit.  And it is a habit, sometimes as burdensome as other, more destructive habits.  Customers often ask if we ever leave with any money left in our paychecks...and sometimes they aren't far off.

I envy people like Wendy, who posted last year about her small, but meaningful book collection.  I wish that I had that kind of discipline.  But there is something about books as objects and intentions; I just want to surround myself with them.  It's comforting to think of all the words just waiting for me tucked between those covers.  And then again, sometimes it's not so comforting.  Sometimes those unread words weigh heavy on me.  How do I reconcile my desire to own books, and my increasing need to live a simple, more streamlined life?

Upon returning from my break from bookselling, I noticed how much my reading habits had changed.  Spending less time in a bookstore meant I was buying fewer books, and when I returned and began to stock up again, it was clear that there was a difference in the books I was interested in.  My bookshelves were now laden with unread books that I no longer had any intention of reading.  I felt guilty and wasteful.  And it was with a heavy heart that I boxed up those books and brought them in to sell back to the store as used books.

But then a funny thing happened a few days later.  A customer came up to purchase a used book and by chance, it was one of my old books.  I mentioned that the book had been mine and his face lit up.  He said, "I have been looking for this book for years!"  All this time he had been looking for the very book that was wasting away on my bookshelf at home.  Unread and unloved just waiting for the right reader who could truly appreciate it.  How many other books in my house were destined for the same fate?

I know this was a lesson in not buying what I don't need, but I also choose to see it as a lesson in letting go when it's time to let go.  Once upon a time, that book meant something to me. I really, truly meant to read that book.  But then circumstances changed, life got busy, and I became a different person and a different reader.  I will never stop buying books, the comfort they give me read, unread, or passed on is too important.  But I'm also going to work on letting go of those books I no longer intend to read, and maybe letting go a little sooner.

I buy fewer books now, even so, I am sure to eventually purchase one that will begin to gather dust, its spine uncracked, its pages unread. But rather than let that book molder away on my shelf, I will set it free.  Free to fulfill its book destiny with someone else who can give it a good home and the attention that all books deserve...and besides, selling books means store credit!

-Erin B.

Newbery and Caldecott Winners

The Super Bowl wasn't the only big game this week.  The awards and nominees for both the Newbery and Caldecott Medals were announced just a few days ago.

The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery and is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children.  The medal is awarded for the most distinguished American children's book published the previous year.

This year's winner is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Appelgate.

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

2013 Newbery Honor Books:
Splendors and Gloom by Laura Amy Schlitz

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

This year's Caldecott winner is This is Not My Hat written and illustrated by Jon Klassen

When a tiny fish shoots into view wearing a round blue topper (which happens to fit him perfectly), trouble could be following close behind. So it’s a good thing that enormous fish won’t wake up. And even if he does, it’s not like he’ll ever know what happened. . . . Visual humor swims to the fore as the best-selling Jon Klassen follows his breakout debut with another deadpan-funny tale.

2013 Caldecott Honor Books:
Creepy Carrots! pictures by Peter Brown 
and written by Aaron Reynolds

Extra Yarn illustrated by Jon Klassen (again!) 
and written by Mac Barnett

Green written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

One Cool Friend illustrated by David Small 
and written by Toni Buzzeo

Sleep Like a Tiger pictures by Pamela Zagarenski, 
written by Mary Logue

The great thing about books is that there's never a maximum age restriction.  So check out theses wonderful, beautiful books, even if you aren't technically a kid anymore!