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Monday, September 30, 2013

Read This Book

Mark B. says, "Read this book"...

At the Bottom of Everything by Ben Dolnick

A stunning novel of friendship, guilt, and madness: two friends, torn apart by a terrible secret, and the dark adventure that neither of them could have ever conceived.

It’s been ten years since the “incident,” and Adam has long since decided he’s better off without his former best friend, Thomas. Adam is working as a tutor, sleeping with the mother of a student, spending lonely nights looking up his ex-girlfriend on Facebook, and pretending that he has some more meaningful plan for an adult life. But when he receives an email from Thomas’s mother begging for his help, he finds himself drawn back into his old friend’s world, and into the past he’s tried so desperately to forget. As Adam embarks upon a magnificently strange and unlikely journey, Ben Dolnick unspools a tale of spiritual reckoning, of search and escape, of longing and reaching for redemption—a tale of near hallucinatory power.

Here's what Mark has to say:

This novel is just chock full of all my favorite literary subjects: pain, guilt, truth, redemption. The hook is that Adam and Thomas, who had been best friends in school, are changed by an event. This event causes Adam to retreat from Thomas for ten years, until he is pulled back into Thomas's life by a plea from his parents. Please help our son. 

I didn't know where the story of Adam and Thomas was going to take me, but the journey was riveting. At the Bottom of Everything is a short novel, but it crosses many an emotional landscape. If you wonder how people can live with a terrible knowledge and what that knowledge does to their everyday life; and at what cost come redemption (if it's even possible) then give Ben Dolnick's novel a try.

Monday, September 23, 2013

National Book Awards Long Lists Announced

The National Book Award Long Lists were announced yesterday. The finalists will be announced on October 16th. So you've got about 3 weeks to read all these books!

Pacific by Tom Drury
The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner,
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
A Constellation of Vital Phenomenaby Anthony Marra
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
Someone by Alice McDermott
Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon
Tenth of December by George Saunders
Fools by Joan Silber

 The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt
A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graf
The Summer Prince  by Alaya Dawn Johnson
The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff
The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
Boxers  and  Saints  by Gene Luen Yang

Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State by T.D. Allman
Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami by Gretel Ehrlich
The Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA by Scott C. Johnson
Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore
Hitler's Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower
Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865 by James Oakes
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer
The Internal Enemy: Slaver and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 by Alan Taylor
Duke: The Life of Duke Ellington by Terry Teachout
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Delicious Books

Yotam Ottolenghi has a new cookbook out. Well, it's new in the US at least.

Ottolenghi: The Cookbook
Available for the first time in an American edition, this debut cookbook, from bestselling authors Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi of Plenty and Jerusalem, features 140 recipes culled from the popular Ottolenghi restaurants and inspired by the diverse culinary traditions of the Mediterranean.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s four eponymous restaurants—each a patisserie, deli, restaurant, and bakery rolled into one—are among London’s most popular culinary destinations. Now available for the first time in an American edition and updated with US measurements throughout, this debut cookbook from the celebrated, bestselling authors of Jerusalem and Plenty features 140 recipes culled from the popular Ottolenghi restaurants and inspired by the diverse culinary traditions of the Mediterranean.

The recipes reflect the authors’ upbringings in Jerusalem yet also incorporate culinary traditions from California, Italy, and North Africa, among others. Featuring abundant produce and numerous fish and meat dishes, as well as Ottolenghi’s famed cakes and breads, Ottolenghi invites you into a world of inventive flavors and fresh, vibrant cooking.

Ottolenghi's previous cookbooks have been big hits.


I celebrated the release of the new cookbook by having my friend cook me the cover recipe from Plenty. It was delicious. I have good friends.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Of Dice and Men...Man I'm a Sucker for a Good Pun

Steve at Lake Forest Park, is one of our resident Dungeon Masters of the Sci Fi and Fantasy section. Here he is displaying some "nerd rage" at having only just found out about this awesome new book on Dungeons and Dragons. Check it out!

Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons and Dragons and the People Who Play It by David M. Ewalt


Ancient red dragons with 527 hit points, +44 to attack, and a 20d10 breath weapon, to be specific. In the world of fantasy role-playing, those numbers describe a winged serpent with immense strength and the ability to spit fire. There are few beasts more powerful—just like there are few games more important than Dungeons & Dragons. 

Even if you’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons, you probably know someone who has: the game has had a profound influence on our culture. Released in 1974—decades before the Internet and social media—Dungeons and Dragons inspired one of the original nerd subcultures, and is still revered by millions of fans around the world. Now the authoritative history and magic of the game are revealed by an award-winning journalist and lifelong D&D player.

In Of Dice and Men, David Ewalt recounts the development of Dungeons and Dragons from the game’s roots on the battlefields of ancient Europe, through the hysteria that linked it to satanic rituals and teen suicides, to its apotheosis as father of the modern video-game industry. As he chronicles the surprising history of the game’s origins (a history largely unknown even to hardcore players) and examines D&D’s profound impact, Ewalt weaves laser-sharp subculture analysis with his own present-day gaming experiences. An enticing blend of history, journalism, narrative, and memoir, Of Dice and Men sheds light on America’s most popular (and widely misunderstood) form of collaborative entertainment.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Cover Judging

I am really struggling under the avalanche of all the books I want to read. It's one of those moments as a reader where I can't concentrate on the book I'm actually reading because I'm distracted by the next five books I want to read. At this point, there are so many, that I'm just grabbing things that are beautiful. And right now, there are so, SO many beautiful books. Books so beautiful I want to own them all and face them out on my bookshelves just so I can admire them. Here are a few that I've been ogling.

The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell

The American master's first novel since Winter's Bone (2006) tells of a deadly dance hall fire and its impact over several generations.

Alma DeGeer Dunahew, the mother of three young boys, works as the maid for a prominent citizen and his family in West Table, Missouri. Her husband is mostly absent, and, in 1929, her scandalous, beloved younger sister is one of the 42 killed in an explosion at the local dance hall. Who is to blame? Mobsters from St. Louis? The embittered local gypsies? The preacher who railed against the loose morals of the waltzing couples? Or could it have been a colossal accident? Alma thinks she knows the answer-and that its roots lie in a dangerous love affair. Her dogged pursuit of justice makes her an outcast and causes a long-standing rift with her own son. By telling her story to her grandson, she finally gains some solace-and peace for her sister. He is advised to "Tell it. Go on and tell it"-tell the story of his family's struggles, suspicions, secrets, and triumphs.

The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara

Readers of exciting, challenging and visionary literary fiction—including admirers of Norman Rush's Mating, Ann Patchett's State of Wonder, Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible, and Peter Matthiessen's At Play in the Fields of the Lord—will be drawn to this astonishingly gripping and accomplished first novel. A decade in the writing, this is an anthropological adventure story that combines the visceral allure of a thriller with a profound and tragic vision of what happens when cultures collide. It is a book that instantly catapults Hanya Yanagihara into the company of young novelists who really, really matter.

In 1950, a young doctor called Norton Perina signs on with the anthropologist Paul Tallent for an expedition to the remote Micronesian island of Ivu'ivu in search of a rumored lost tribe. They succeed, finding not only that tribe but also a group of forest dwellers they dub "The Dreamers," who turn out to be fantastically long-lived but progressively more senile. Perina suspects the source of their longevity is a hard-to-find turtle; unable to resist the possibility of eternal life, he kills one and smuggles some meat back to the States. He scientifically proves his thesis, earning worldwide fame and the Nobel Prize, but he soon discovers that its miraculous property comes at a terrible price. As things quickly spiral out of his control, his own demons take hold, with devastating personal consequences.

Subtle Bodies by Norman Rush

In his long-awaited new novel, Norman Rush, author of three immensely praised books set in Africa, including the best-selling classic and National Book Award-winner Mating, returns home, giving us a sophisticated, often comical, romp through the particular joys and tribulations of marriage, and the dilemmas of friendship, as a group of college friends reunites in upstate New York twenty-some years after graduation.

When Douglas, the ringleader of a clique of self-styled wits of “superior sensibility” dies suddenly, his four remaining friends are summoned to his luxe estate high in the Catskills to memorialize his life and mourn his passing. Responding to an obscure sense of emergency in the call, Ned, our hero, flies in from San Francisco (where he is the main organizer of a march against the impending Iraq war), pursued instantly by his furious wife, Nina: they’re at a critical point in their attempt to get Nina pregnant, and she’s ovulating! It is Nina who gives us a pointed, irreverent commentary as the friends begin to catch up with one another. She is not above poking fun at some of their past exploits and the things they held dear, and she’s particularly hard on the departed Douglas, who she thinks undervalued her Ned. Ned is trying manfully to discern what it was that made this clutch of souls his friends to begin with, before time, sex, work, and the brutal quirks of history shaped them into who they are now––and, simultaneously, to guess at what will come next.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Helene Wecker’s debut novel, The Golem and the Jinni, takes a magical flight back to turn of the century New York. The Golem is a woman cast from clay – the Jinni springs from fire. Both are old world denizens in a very new world, a world and a time exquisitely rendered by Wecker. And while the most obvious elements of the novel are fantastical, with much of its magic being dark, at its heart The Golem and the Jinni brims emotionally over with love and loss, with longing and what it means to belong – or not. Wecker is part novelist, part alchemist – leaving the reader to wonder how she gave such vibrant life to her characters.
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

From the bestselling author of The Color of Water and Song Yet Sung comes the story of a young boy born a slave who joins John Brown’s antislavery crusade—and who must pass as a girl to survive.

Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when the region is a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry’s master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town—with Brown, who believes he’s a girl.

Over the ensuing months, Henry—whom Brown nicknames Little Onion—conceals his true identity as he struggles to stay alive. Eventually Little Onion finds himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859—one of the great catalysts for the Civil War. An absorbing mixture of history and imagination, and told with McBride’s meticulous eye for detail and character, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The most important section in the store

We've got ourselves a new section! All Stephen Colbert, all the time! Actually, I was just shifting some things around, to give our humor section a bit of room to stretch, but my love for Stephen sort of took over, and the greatest section in the store was born! Sadly, I doubt it will last long, so you better head over now!

And if you haven't, you really should listen to Stephen's latest book on audio. It's perfect. My review below!

America Again by The Reverend Dr. Stephen T. Colbert DFA

NATION! The only thing better than Stephen's latest book is the audio version of Stephen's latest book. Why? Because it's read by the author. That's right! Stephen Colbert reading Stephen Colbert. Actually, much of it is shouted, but that's okay too. It's outrageous and informative, and I think the best way to enjoy it. But even if you already have the version with words, the audio is well worth it. More than worth it! Really, you need this. But be warned, this will make you laugh. Out loud. So, if you are on a bus and listening, you will laugh on the bus. And people will look at you.