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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Letters and Journals (but mostly letters)

My current obsession: the letters and journals of famous authors.

I've spent the better part of this past year plunging in and out of the most intimate and personal moments of some of my favorite writers. It's been an unexpected joy. And as someone who keeps her own journal, it is both inspiring and hopelessly demoralizing. Reading the private musings of an 18-year-old Sylvia Plath is a sure-fire way to really deflate one's literary ambitions.

And while it's certainly exciting to read about the monumental moments in these authors' lives relayed to their loved ones, it is the ease and grace with which they recount the ordinary details of their daily lives that is the true beauty of these collections.

Here is what David Sedaris has to say about the importance of keeping a journal:
I’ve been keeping a diary for thirty-three years and write in it every morning. Most of it’s just whining, but every so often there’ll be something I can use later: a joke, a description, a quote. It’s an invaluable aid when it comes to winning arguments. "That’s not what you said on February 3, 1996," I’ll say to someone.
For more on what other famous authors say about keeping a journal, click here.

Plus, check out this picture of Herman Melville's journal. There are a bunch of other great images of author and artist journals here.

And here are the four collections that I am currently enraptured with:

Letters of Note : An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience by Shaun Usher

This spectacular collection of more than 125 letters offers a never-before-seen glimpse of the events and people of history—the brightest and best, the most notorious, and the endearingly everyday. Entries include a transcript of the letter; a short contextual introduction; and, in 100 cases, a captivating facsimile of the letter itself. The artfulness of Shaun Usher's eclectic arrangement creates a reading experience rich in discovery. Mordant, hilarious, poignant, enlightening—surprise rewards each turn of the page. Colorfully illustrated with photographs, portraits, and relevant artworks, this handsome hardcover is a visual treat too, making Letters of Note an utterly distinctive gift, and an instant classic.

The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

A major literary event--the complete, uncensored journals of Sylvia Plath, published in their entirety for the first time. Sylvia Plath's journals were originally published in 1982 in a heavily abridged version authorized by Plath's husband, Ted Hughes.

This new edition is an exact and complete transcription of the diaries Plath kept during the last twelve years of her life. Sixty percent of the book is material that has never before been made public, more fully revealing the intensity of the poet's personal and literary struggles, and providing fresh insight into both her frequent desperation and the bravery with which she faced down her demons. The complete Journals of Sylvia Plath is essential reading for all who have been moved and fascinated by Plath's life and work.

Letters of James Agee to Father Flye 

“I’ll croak before I write ads or sell bonds—or do anything except write.”

James Agee’s father died when he was just six years old, a loss immortalized in his Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, A Death in the Family. Three years later, Agee’s mother moved the mourning family from Knoxville, Tennessee, to the campus of St. Andrew’s, an Episcopal boarding school near Sewanee.

There, Agee met Father James Harold Flye, who would become his history teacher. Though Agee was just ten, the two struck up an unlikely and enduring friendship, traveling Europe by bicycle and exchanging letters for thirty years, from Agee’s admission to Exeter Academy to his death at forty-five. The intimate letters, collected by Father Flye after Agee’s death, form the most intimate portrait of Agee available, a starkly revealing account of the internal and external life of a tortured twentieth-century genius. Agee candidly shares his struggles with depression, professional failure, and a tumultuous personal life that included three wives and four children.

First published in 1962, Letters of James Agee to Father Flye followed the rediscovery of Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and the posthumous publication of A Death in the Family, which won the 1958 Pulitzer Prize and became a hit Broadway play and film. The collection sold prolifically throughout the 1960s and ’70s in mass-market editions as a new generation of readers discovered the deep talents of the writer Dwight Macdonald called “the most broadly gifted writer of our American generation.”

The Selected Letters of Willa Cather

Willa Cather’s letters—withheld from publication for more than six decades—are finally available to the public in this fascinating selection. The hundreds collected here range from witty reports of life as a teenager in Red Cloud in the 1880s through her college years at the University of Nebraska, her time as a journalist in Pittsburgh and New York, and her growing eminence as a novelist. They describe her many travels and record her last years, when the loss of loved ones and the disasters of World War II brought her near to despair. Above all, they reveal her passionate interest in people, literature, and the arts. The voice is one we recognize from her fiction: confident, elegant, detailed, openhearted, concerned with profound ideas, but also at times sentimental, sarcastic, and funny. A deep pleasure to read, this volume reveals the intimate joys and sorrows of one of America’s most admired writers.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Paleo Power!

We have a few paleo-ers here at the bookstore. But I don't know anyone who has quite the handle on all the cookbooks that Emily M. has. Here are her picks and a few reviews to help you wade through them all:

Paleo, Paleo, Everywhere There is Paleo! For some the paleo diet is an annoying or a passing fad. For others, it is crucial for everyday living. If you are one who utilizes paleo -- or need a gift for someone who is -- our shelves are overflowing with paleo!

While I am not strictly paleo, I often use the books since they are close to the diet that is essential for me. Here are my recommends:

Against All Grain by Danielle Walker

This is the cookbook I use nearly every week. She has a great balance of breakfasts, drinks, chilis and soups, to snacks, and breads. The most used recipes for me are Banana Bread (always very moist), Maple Sausage with Cinnamon Apples (the kitchen smells so amazing with this), and Slow-Cooker Beef Chili (throw it in the crock pot and come home to an amazing warm dinner). Her recipes are approachable and easy to follow.

 Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple by Danielle Walker

Quite different from her first, the meals are made simple because there is some prep ahead of time -- like the pancake mix used in a lot of breads or make ahead sauces and such. If you are the creative cook though, beware, as some have considered Meals Made Simple as a book of ideas and very simple meals. However, for some simple food prep and meal plans are what they need!

Nom Nom Paleo by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong

Nom Nom is definitely for the busy cook. I am always impressed how so few ingredients can make amazing things in so little time -- particularly the Strawberry Banana Ice Cream, 4 ingredients plus 2 minutes of your time. The comic style approach and multiple photographs will help guide uncertain ones. I really liked how this cookbook explained the ups and downs of bringing paleo into a family lifestyle.

Dairy Free Ice Cream by Kelly Brozyna

I have never seen so many varieties of ice cream -- without refined sugar and dairy -- in one place! Also, I haven't had much trouble with it staying soft (as opposed to rock hard -- which is the hardest trial with homemade ice cream). I've successfully tried a lot of basic flavors, matcha, cider ice cream...next up is the gingerbread ice cream! Another perk is the variety of popsicles and side compliments: cookie bowls, spreads, sauces, brownies...)

Paleo Kitchen by Juli Bauer and George Bryant

When these author-chefs came into the store for an event a while back, the place was packed! And now I can see why. Paleo Kitchen is another frequented cookbook for me. Like Danielle Walker's books, the recipes are approachable and easy to follow. The stunning photography of eats, like Pan-Seared Rosemary Sage Pork Chops with Apples and Pears, made the book look enticing -- the taste and smell was even more enticing in real life!

Make Ahead Paleo by Tammy Credicott

Definitely great for people who like to spend a day prepping and then cooking the actual meal later in the week. Whether you freeze the recipes ahead of time, have to travel a lot and be on the go, or cook them up right away, Make Ahead has a large palette of foods. From Fajita Burgers to Kitchen Sink Cookies to White Chicken Chili, it's all good.

100 Days of Real Food by Lisa Leake

While this is NOT a paleo book, it may help some people (esp. those who loosely follow paleo) as the food is basic, simple, wholesome, and tasty! And, if you follow her blog, it's so great to have her beautiful pictures and recipes all together. I fell in love with the Grilled Cheese with Apples and Bacon and went from there.

BLOG LINK: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com

We have so many fabulous paleo cookbooks (and other awesome cookbooks of all kinds) in stock. Come on by!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Reads...sort of

I was getting ready for our latest LoLS (League of Literary Snobbery: Storytime for Grownups at Ravenna) and I wanted to make it Thanksgiving themed. I figured it's November, maybe people want to hear about Thanksgiving. But it proved pretty near impossible to come up with something appropriate. Thanksgiving must be the quintessential back-drop for family angst. Worries about success, trouble with relatives, introducing new significant others to parents and children. How has this holiday not been mined for all its literary worth?

I asked Ami for help, and she found me a great short story by Lorrie Moore...which turned out to be about Christmas. We made this mistake more than once. Another co-worker suggested, "Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man." And I said, "Isn't he Irish?" And then she said, "Oh yeah, they were just eating a turkey." And everything I could come up with turned out to be from a movie. So, this must be why The Everyman Pocket Classics series has collected stories about EVERYTHING, except Thanksgiving.

But we were undaunted, here's a little taste of what we eventually came up with:

Sadly, this one is not easy to get your hands on. Which really bums me out because I love Lousia May (obviously, we are on a fist name basis):

An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott

A heartwarming story set in rural New Hampshire in the 1800s. As the Thanksgiving Day festivities are beginning, the Bassetts must leave on an emergency. The two eldest children are in charge of the household--they prepare a holiday meal like they've never had before!

And here are a couple of SUPER angsty, family-ish novels that take place over the Thanksgiving weekend:

Ice Storm by Rick Moody The year is 1973.

As a freak winter storm bears down on an exclusive, affluent suburb in Connecticut, during Thanksgiving 1973, cars skid out of control, men and women swap partners, and their children experiment with sex, drugs, and even suicide. Here two families, the Hoods and the Williamses, come face-to-face with the seething emotions behind the well-clipped lawns of their lives-in a novel widely hailed as a funny, acerbic, and moving hymn to a dazed and confused era of American life.

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

A modern classic, now in a welcome new edition, Wonder Boys firmly established Michael Chabon as a force to be reckoned with in American fiction. At once a deft parody of the American fame factory and a piercing portrait of young and old desire, this novel introduces two unforgettable characters: Grady Tripp, a former publishing prodigy now lost in a fog of pot and passion and stalled in the midst of his endless second book, and Grady’s student, James Leer, a budding writer obsessed with Hollywood self-destruction and struggling with his own searching heart.

And more recently, this hilarious and heartbreaking novel:

Billy Lynn's Long Half-Time Walk by Ben Fountain

This is what Robert had to say:
Ben Fountain has created a sort of inverted "Odyssey" here where our here, Billy Lynn, comes home from the Iraq War to find yet a whole new catalog of trials and challenges awaiting him and the rest of Bravo Company before they are shipped back to the Gulf. It is a novel that gives us a fresh take on how we view capitalism, materialism, our country, and our military while providing a wonderfully empathetic tragic hero in Billy Lynn, at once a brave , fearless fighting machine while still a very innocent young man.
These next two have very short Thanksgiving scenes, but they are so phenomenal I had to include them. Here, the repercussions from one disastrous Thanksgiving night set this dark, and funny novel on its path towards redemption and hard-won happiness:

May We Be Forgiven  by A.M. Homes

Harold Silver has spent a lifetime watching his younger brother, George, a taller, smarter, and more successful high-flying TV executive, acquire a covetable wife, two kids, and a beautiful home in the suburbs of New York City. But Harry, a historian and Nixon scholar, also knows George has a murderous temper, and when George loses control the result is an act of violence so shocking that both brothers are hurled into entirely new lives in which they both must seek absolution.

Harry finds himself suddenly playing parent to his brother’s two adolescent children, tumbling down the rabbit hole of Internet sex, dealing with aging parents who move through time like travelers on a fantastic voyage. As Harry builds a twenty-first-century family created by choice rather than biology, we become all the more aware of the ways in which our history, both personal and political, can become our destiny and either compel us to repeat our errors or be the catalyst for change.

And last but not least, my very favorite Thanksgiving scene of all the Thanksgiving scenes. It's a flawless mix of humor and melancholy, and it perfectly captures that horrifying feeling of a long put-off visit to a family that lives light years away from one's "real" life:

Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran

One of the most important works of gay literature, this haunting, brilliant novel is a seriocomic remembrance of things past -- and still poignantly present. It depicts the adventures of Malone, a beautiful young man searching for love amid New York's emerging gay scene.

From Manhattan's Everard Baths and after-hours discos to Fire Island's deserted parks and lavish orgies, Malone looks high and low for meaningful companionship. The person he finds is Sutherland, a campy quintessential queen -- and one of the most memorable literary creations of contemporary fiction. Hilarious, witty, and ultimately heartbreaking, Dancer from the Dance is truthful, provocative, outrageous fiction told in a voice as close to laughter as to tears.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Read This Book

This book has been all over the place lately. NPR, the morning talk shows, magazines. Little did I know that this has already been a bestselling juggernaut all over the world, and we are just now catching on.

Ami was the first person on staff to point this book out. She had read an advance copy and could not stop talking about it. Knowing Ami, I was a little surprised that she would be so interested in this kind of thing. Not that Ami is particularly untidy, it just doesn't seem to be something she would be interested in reading about. But she did. And she passed it on. And pretty soon we were all getting excited about it. And trying to determine whether something actually "sparks joy" or not.

The other day I was reading aloud to my co-workers excerpts from the portion of the book that discusses how to handle your book collection. Her first advice: remove every single book you own, from its shelf, the nightstand, your desk...wherever, and stack them all up in big piles on your floor.

Seriously, it's fascinating.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

This best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing.

Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Your NaNoWriMo Time is Almost Up!

Are you a NaNoWriMo-er? Or are you just wondering what that stands for, and why all your facebook friends are posting word count updates? Well, it means National Novel Writing Month, and it's almost over! If you're among the uninitiated, click here for more details on this month-long, writing celebration. It's probably too late for this year, but you can start outlining and picking out character names for next year.

But if you are a NaNoWriMo-er, and you're feeling the pressure; or you're just watching the days slip away, we're here to help.

Need some advice? Try this perfect little volume:

The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life by Priscilla Long

A well-organized and immensely helpful guide for writers at all levels to jump-start their creativity, refine their work, and approach the realm of virtuosos." -- Shelf Awareness

Priscilla Long distills twenty years of teaching and creative thought into these pages. The Writer's Portable Mentor should be in every writer’s backpack to read, underline, and share with delight." --Laura Kalpakian

Or this excellent read by the master of horror, this one is particularly aimed at all those genre writers out there. Solidarity, genre writers!

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

Or, maybe you've already finished your novel. How about a novel about writing a novel?

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Grady Tripp, is a former publishing prodigy and lost in a fog of pot and passion; stalled in the midst of his endless second book Wonder Boys. Along with his student James Leer a budding writer obsessed with Hollywood self-destruction and struggling with his own searching heart; Grady's bizarre editor Terry Crabtree; and another student, Hannah Green, Grady searches for an ending to his book and a purpose to his life. Wonder Boys is a wildly comic, moving, and finally profound modern masterpiece. A must read.


You should also check out this cool list of the 10 greatest writers in novels from The Guardian.

And if you just have a few more words to hammer out before you finish your masterpiece, join us at Lake Forest Park for our final NaNoWriMo Write-in of the month, this Monday, November 24th, from 12PM to 2 PM. Good luck!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Horses, Horses, Horses!

Molly Gloss has a new book out, and Third Place is pretty excited about it. Michael at Ravenna finished it the other day, and he just loved it. We actually have a few resident, Molly Gloss, super fans. Annie at Lake Forest Park just can't wait to dig in to the new book:
I'm generally excited about anything having to do with horses and ponies. One of my first words was "horse," although I'm sure it sounded much more like "hose" coming out of my toddler mouth. I've been horse crazy my entire life, and I've been a serious horse rider for 17 years. So when my father-in-law gave me The Hearts of Horses, I devoured it instantly. When an advanced copy of Falling from Horses came into the store, I snatched it up immediately. Both Ursula K. LeGuin and Karen Joy Fowler loved it, and I can't wait to start it.
Gloss has written three other novels. She's a fourth generation Oregonian and taught writing and literature of the American West at Portland State University. Her love of the American West most certainly shines through in "The Hearts of Horses." Interestingly, another of her novels, Dazzle of the Day, is straight science fiction, my other love in reading and life.
Falling From Horses  by Molly Gloss
In 1938, nineteen-year-old ranch hand Bud Frazer sets out for Hollywood. His little sister has been gone a couple of years now, his parents are finding ranch work and comfort for their loss where they can, but for Bud, Echol Creek, where he grew up and first learned to ride, is a place he can no longer call home. So he sets his sights on becoming a stunt rider in the movies -- and rubbing shoulders with the great screen cowboys of his youth.

On the long bus ride south, Bud meets a young woman who also harbors dreams of making it in the movies, though not as a starlet but as a writer, a "real" writer. Lily Shaw is bold and outspoken, confident in ways out of proportion with her small frame and bookish looks. But the two strike up an unlikely kinship that will carry them through their tumultuous days in Hollywood -- and, as it happens, for the rest of their lives.

Need more horses? Here are some of Annie's sugestions:

The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss
I love this book so much. What horse crazed person wouldn't love reading about a 19-year-old horse breaker looking for work in 1917 rural Oregon? Especially if that horse breaker is a woman. Martha Lessen finds work on a ranch breaking and gentling wild horses, and her adventures on the farm are definitely worth the read! Molly Gloss's writing is eloquent and beautiful, flawlessly telling Martha's story. -Annie

Spirit Horses by Tony Stromberg
This beautiful book should be in every horse lover's library. The photos, by renowned equine photographer Tony Stromberg, perfectly illustrate the beauty, power, grace, and serenity that every horse possesses. Mixed with snippets from writers and teachers about horses, this is a gorgeous addition is perfect for any and every horse-inclined person! -Annie

Believe: A Horseman's Journey by Buck Brannaman
Buck Brannaman is one of my favorite people in the horse world. Acknowledged as the inspiration for The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans and a consultant for the movie based on Evans' novel, Brannaman has touched many people through his equine clinics and rehabilitation of horses. Believe follows 13 different people who have encountered Brannaman and his amazing work. Read it and then watch the documentary, Buck, to truly understand Brannaman's gift! -Annie

Monday, October 27, 2014

New Release Tuesday!

Another big day of new releases. If you already couldn't decide what to read next, all these new options might help...or actually, they might not. Here's just a smattering.

Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife by John M. Marlzluff and Jack Delap

Welcome to Subirdia presents a surprising discovery: the suburbs of many large cities support incredible biological diversity. Populations and communities of a great variety of birds, as well as other creatures, are adapting to the conditions of our increasingly developed world. In this fascinating and optimistic book, John Marzluff reveals how our own actions affect the birds and animals that live in our cities and towns, and he provides ten specific strategies everyone can use to make human environments friendlier for our natural neighbors.

Over many years of research and fieldwork, Marzluff and student assistants have closely followed the lives of thousands of tagged birds seeking food, mates, and shelter in cities and surrounding areas. From tiny Pacific wrens to grand pileated woodpeckers, diverse species now compatibly share human surroundings. By practicing careful stewardship with the biological riches in our cities and towns, Marzluff explains, we can foster a new relationship between humans and other living creatures--one that honors and enhances our mutual destiny.

By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from the New York Times Book Review edited by Pamela Paul

Every Sunday, readers of The New York Times Book Review turn with anticipation to see which novelist, historian, short story writer, or artist will be the subject of the popular By the Book feature. These wide-ranging interviews are conducted by Pamela Paul, the editor of the Book Review, and here she brings together sixty-five of the most intriguing and fascinating exchanges, featuring personalities as varied as David Sedaris, Hilary Mantel, Michael Chabon, Khaled Hosseini, Anne Lamott, and James Patterson. The questions and answers admit us into the private worlds of these authors, as they reflect on their work habits, reading preferences, inspirations, pet peeves, and recommendations. By the Book contains the full uncut interviews, offering a range of experiences and observations that deepens readers’ understanding of the literary sensibility and the writing process. It also features dozens of sidebars that reveal the commonalities and conflicts among the participants, underscoring those influences that are truly universal and those that remain matters of individual taste.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

In a perfect world . . . We'd get to hang out with Amy Poehler, watching dumb movies, listening to music, and swapping tales about our coworkers and difficult childhoods. Because in a perfect world, we'd all be friends with Amy--someone who seems so fun, is full of interesting stories, tells great jokes, and offers plenty of advice and wisdom (the useful kind, not the annoying kind you didn't ask for, anyway). Unfortunately, between her Golden Globe-winning role on Parks and Recreation, work as a producer and director, place as one of the most beloved SNL alumni and cofounder of the Upright Citizens' Brigade, involvement with the website Smart Girls at the Party, frequent turns as acting double for Meryl Streep, and her other gig as the mom of two young sons, she's not available for movie night.

Luckily we have the next best thing: Yes Please, Amy's hilarious and candid book. A collection of stories, thoughts, ideas, lists, and haikus from the mind of one of our most beloved entertainers, Yes Please offers Amy's thoughts on everything from her "too safe" childhood outside of Boston to her early days in New York City, her ideas about Hollywood and "the biz," the demon that looks back at all of us in the mirror, and her joy at being told she has a "face for wigs."

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

It begins with Peter, a devoted man of faith, as he is called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him galaxies away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment, overseen by an enigmatic corporation known only as USIC. His work introduces him to a seemingly friendly native population struggling with a dangerous illness and hungry for Peter’s teachings—his Bible is their “book of strange new things.” But Peter is rattled when Bea’s letters from home become increasingly desperate: typhoons and earthquakes are devastating whole countries, and governments are crumbling. Bea’s faith, once the guiding light of their lives, begins to falter.

Suddenly, a separation measured by an otherworldly distance, and defined both by one newly discovered world and another in a state of collapse, is threatened by an ever-widening gulf that is much less quantifiable. While Peter is reconciling the needs of his congregation with the desires of his strange employer, Bea is struggling for survival. Their trials lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and our responsibility to those closest to us.

New Paperbacks



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Scary Book Time!

I feel like I just wrote a this post for last year's scary reads. Has this year flown by, or what? But it really is that time again, my favorite time, actually. Time for some SPOOKY books for your Halloween needs!
Here's an oldie but a goodie. Everyone always says The Shining is where it's at, by I find something profoundly terrifying about The Stand. I'm sure it's related to the whole plague-ridden, end-of-days thing.

The Stand by Stephen King
When a man escapes from a biological testing facility, he sets in motion a deadly domino effect, spreading a mutated strain of the flu that will wipe out 99 percent of humanity within a few weeks. The survivors who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. Two emerge--Mother Abagail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman who urges them to build a community in Boulder, Colorado; and Randall Flagg, the nefarious "Dark Man," who delights in chaos and violence.
I really love Shirley Jackson. And when most people think about her, they think The Haunting of Hill House and my personal favorite, We Have Always Lived in the Castle. But sometimes real life can be more frightening than a spooky book. So check out Life Among the Savages, Jackson's hilarious memoir about raising small children, learning to drive, and trying to maintain her sanity in rural Vermont.

Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson
"Our house," writes Jackson, "is old, noisy, and full. When we moved into it we had two children and about five thousand books; I expect that when we finally overflow and move out again we will have perhaps twenty children and easily half a million books." 

Jackson's literary talents are in evidence everywhere, as is her trenchant, unsentimental wit. Yet there is no mistaking the happiness and love in these pages, which are crowded with the raucous voices of an extraordinary family living a wonderfully ordinary life.
Mark B. would kill me if I didn't include this one in my list of scary tales.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life s work. With an original voice that combines fearless curiosity and mordant wit, Caitlin tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters, gallows humor, and vivid characters (both living and very dead). Describing how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes), and cared for bodies of all shapes and sizes, Caitlin becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the deceased. Her eye-opening memoir shows how our fear of dying warps our culture and society, and she calls for better ways of dealing with death (and our dead). In the spirit of her popular Web series, Ask a Mortician, Caitlin s engaging narrative style makes this otherwise scary topic both approachable and profound."
And along the same vein...

The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford
Only the scathing wit and searching intelligence of Jessica Mitford could turn an exposé of the American funeral industry into a book that is at once deadly serious and side-splittingly funny. When first published in 1963 this landmark of investigative journalism became a runaway bestseller and resulted in legislation to protect grieving families from the unscrupulous sales practices of those in "the dismal trade." 

Just before her death in 1996, Mitford thoroughly revised and updated her classic study. The American Way of Death Revisited confronts new trends, including the success of the profession's lobbyists in Washington, inflated cremation costs, the telemarketing of pay-in-advance graves, and the effects of monopolies in a death-care industry now dominated by multinational  corporations.
And now for something truly bone-chilling...and, it's newly revised!

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems—to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There’s not a shred of evidence to support it. 

Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors. 

Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it.
I've saved the most ghastly, most gruesome, most horrible for last...get it? Scarry? Get it?!!?!!?

Richard Scarry's Bedtime Stories by Richard Scarry
Five funny tales featuring Lowly Worm, Huckle Cat, Bananas Gorilla, and the rest of Scarry's memorable menagerie are collected in a sleepytime anthology.

I'm not even sorry about that pun. Happy Halloween, everybody!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Read This Book

Mark just won't stop with this one. He's constantly talking about it, always suggesting it, casually bringing it up in completely unrelated conversations. He really wants you to read this book. In his own words:
Laird Hunt is the author of six novels and a writer I've been meaning to get to for a number of years. Neverhome, his latest work, is the story of Ash/Constance Thompson, who has decided to join the Union in it's fight against the South in place of her husband, because she "was strong, and he was not."
As the reader, we don't know quite why Ash has decided to risk her life as a soldier. She often talks to her deceased mother, and she states in one conversation that she wants to, "Plant my boot and steel my eye and not run." As she struggles on with her war weary comrades, she becomes the subject of a fable, passed among troops, wherein she is known as Gallant Ash.
At times Neverhome itself feels like a fable, and reality and myth seem to become one. This is one of those rare books that had me hunting for free moments in order to read a few pages. Ash's voice is engaging, and the story is a compelling adventure. (Hunt was inspired by actual letters from women, who had fought as men in the Civil War.)
Now I need to dig through the Laird Hunt backlist and see what I've been missing.
Neverhome by Laird Hunt
She calls herself Ash, but that's not her real name. She is a farmer's faithful wife, but she has left her husband to don the uniform of a Union soldier in the Civil War. Neverhome tells the harrowing story of Ash Thompson during the battle for the South. Through bloodshed and hysteria and heartbreak, she becomes a hero, a folk legend, a madwoman and a traitor to the American cause. 

Laird Hunt's dazzling new novel throws a light on the adventurous women who chose to fight instead of stay behind. It is also a mystery story: why did Ash leave and her husband stay? Why can she not return? What will she have to go through to make it back home? 

In gorgeous prose, Hunt's rebellious young heroine fights her way through history, and back home to her husband, and finally into our hearts.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Well, this is the end of picture books.

It finally happened. The perfect picture book. And now, we don't need any other picture books. Ever. So, if you want to continue to read and enjoy picture books, I actually advise you to avoid this one at all costs. Because once you see it, nothing else will ever be good enough.

The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee

Whimsical and touching images tell the story of an unexpected friendship and the revelations it inspires in this moving, wordless picture book from two-time Caldecott Honor medalist Marla Frazee. 

A baby clown is separated from his family when he accidentally bounces off their circus train and lands in a lonely farmer's vast, empty field. The farmer reluctantly rescues the little clown, and over the course of one day together, the two of them make some surprising discoveries about themselves--and about life. 

Sweet, funny, and moving, this wordless picture book from a master of the form and the creator of The Boss Baby speaks volumes and will delight story lovers of all ages.

This book is so good, that it doesn't even have any words. Because it doesn't need them. And author B.J. Novak is already with the program. He didn't even try to put pictures in his picture book. Welcome to the new world.

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak

This innovative and wildly funny read-aloud by award-winning humorist/actor B.J. Novak will turn any reader into a comedian. 

You might think a book with no pictures seems boring and serious. Except . . . here’s how books work. Everything written on the page has to be said by the person reading it aloud. Even if the words say . . . 



Even if the words are a preposterous song about eating ants for breakfast, or just a list of astonishingly goofy sounds like BLAGGITY BLAGGITY and GLIBBITY GLOBBITY. 

Cleverly irreverent and irresistibly silly, The Book with No Pictures is one that kids will beg to hear again and again. (And parents will be happy to oblige.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Please Read This Amazing Book: an Ode to the Staff Pick

The "Staff Pick" takes on many forms at Third Place. You may see a staff pick as a blog post, or a facebook mention, or a hand-written, "staff pick" card on the shelf in the store. At the Ravenna location, we offer specially chosen staff picks at 20% off every month. And those staff picks are probably a bigger deal to us than the average customer might think.

Every month we watch our staff picks like they're our children. We worry that people won't like them. We obsess over whether or not they will sell enough copies to make the bestseller list (like Patti's September pick, Peanut Butter and Cupcake). Some of us may even get slightly competitive and gloat or mope as the occasion demands. 

Our monthly staff picks showcase a book we love, and offer it at a discount so you will buy it and love it too. But there's a little bit more to it, and Ami explains it best, "Of course it's about personal taste and favorites, but it's more about highlighting something relatively unknown, a book that might get missed, a book deserving of a lot more attention than it's getting."

For example, Mark staff-picked My American Unhappiness by Dean Bakopoulos when it was released in paperback in July of 2012. We've since sold 168 copies. But before Mark staff-picked it, we had only sold one copy. And at Lake Forest Park, where it isn't staff-picked at all, we've only sold two. If you're keeping score, that's 168 to 3. So our staff picks do have a bit of heft.

But then there are other times when a staff pick turns out to be a dud, and we get skunked.

It happened to Ami last December with I Love Dick, a book that three of us read and loved. But we just couldn't convince people that the book was so much more than its title suggested. 

And last month, it happened to me. 

I chose Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran. Then nobody bought it and I was devastated. And no, not all of my staff picks are rip-roaring successes, but I took this failure more personally than normal. Perhaps my disappointment was multiplied exponentially by my high regard. I really believed in this book.

But there's a slight hitch. Dancer from the Dance centers around the gay, social, scene of 1970's New York and Fire Island. So a lot of people automatically assume -- "this book isn't meant for me."

And here's what I'm talking about; this is the importance of the staff pick. I've already read it and trust me, this book is for you. Are you a human being, alive? Then it's just not possible that you won't be moved by it in some way.

In hopes that you can't ignore my desperate appeal, I've staff-picked Dancer from the Dance for October too. Please read this remarkable book. It's the best thing I've read all year. I guess I'm asking you to trust me, and go out on a limb. Believe in the power the the Staff Pick. Read Dancer from the Dance.

Erin's September (& October) Staff Pick:
Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran
This book is brilliant. And I had never heard of it until accidentally stumbling upon it one day. 

I can see why it gets skipped. It says it right there on the front cover, "The classic coming of age gay novel." And I'm sure some people think, "well, I'm not a young gay man, why would it interest me?" But you were young once, right? You've been lost and searching for love. And you've been wild, and reckless, and eager. Isn't that why we read any coming of age story? 

So yes, it's "the best gay novel written by anyone of our generation," but it's also one of the best novels, period. This remarkable book is about New York, youth, growing up, and figuring out what we want from this life. But at its heart, it's a novel about one surprisingly tender friendship and the lengths we'll go to to find a place to belong. 

Outrageously funny, heartbreaking, lovely, and so, so smart. Read this. You have no idea what you're missing.

Monday, September 29, 2014

New Release Tuesday

OK, I know I always say that there are tons of amazing new books coming out. But this time I am serious. Lena Dunham! Meg Wolitzer?!!?! Garth Stein!??!?! AND Pete the Cat?!!? It's a pretty big day.

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned" by Lena Dunham

For readers of Nora Ephron, Tina Fey, and David Sedaris, this hilarious, poignant, and extremely frank collection of personal essays confirms Lena Dunham—the acclaimed creator, producer, and star of HBO’s Girls—as one of the brightest and most original writers working today.

“If I could take what I’ve learned and make one menial job easier for you, or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine was worthwhile. I’m already predicting my future shame at thinking I had anything to offer you, but also my future glory in having stopped you from trying an expensive juice cleanse or thinking that it was your fault when the person you are dating suddenly backs away, intimidated by the clarity of your personal mission here on earth. No, I am not a sexpert, a psychologist, or a dietician. I am not a mother of three or the owner of a successful hosiery franchise. But I am a girl with a keen interest in having it all, and what follows are hopeful dispatches from the frontlines of that struggle.”

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

There’s a place where the lost go to be found. 

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks. She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, signed up for an exclusive, supposedly life-changing class called Special Topics in English that focuses—only and entirely—on the works of Sylvia Plath. But life isn’t fair.

Reeve has been gone for almost a year and Jam is still mourning. When a journal-writing assignment leads Jam into a mysterious other world she and her classmates call Belzhar, she discovers a realm where the untainted past is restored, and she can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again.

But, as the pages of her journal begin to fill up, Jam must to confront hidden truths and ultimately decide what she’s willing to sacrifice to reclaim her loss. From New York Times bestselling author Meg Wolitzer comes a breathtaking and surprising story about first love, deep sorrow, and the power of acceptance.

A Boat, a Whale, and a Walrus: Menus and Stories by Renee Erickson, Jess Thomson, and Jim Henkens

One of the country's most acclaimed chefs, Renee Erickson is a James-Beard nominated chef and the owner of several Seattle restaurants: The Whale Wins, Boat Street Café, The Walrus and the Carpenter, and Barnacle. This luscious cookbook is perfect for anyone who loves the fresh seasonal food of the Pacific Northwest. Defined by the bounty of the Puget Sound region, as well as by French cuisine, this cookbook is filled with seasonal, personal menus like Renee’s Fourth of July Crab Feast, Wild Foods Dinner, and a fall pickling party. Home cooks will cherish Erickson’s simple yet elegant recipes such as Roasted Chicken with Fried Capers and Preserved Lemons, Harissa-Rubbed Roasted Lamb, and Molasses Spice Cake. Renee Erickson's food, casual style, and appreciation of simple beauty is an inspiration to readers and eaters in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein

When a boy tries to save his parents' marriage, he uncovers a legacy of family secrets in a coming-of-age ghost story by the author of the internationally bestselling phenomenon, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant, whole trees, and is set on a huge estate overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor's bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch Grandpa Samuel--who is flickering in and out of dementia--to a graduated living facility, sell off the house and property for development into "tract housing for millionaires," divide up the profits, and live happily ever after.

But Trevor soon discovers there's someone else living in Riddell House: a ghost with an agenda of his own. For while the land holds tremendous value, it is also burdened by the final wishes of the family patriarch, Elijah, who mandated it be allowed to return to untamed forestland as a penance for the millions of trees harvested over the decades by the Riddell Timber company. The ghost will not rest until Elijah's wish is fulfilled, and Trevor's willingness to face the past holds the key to his family's future.

Bolano: A Biography in Conversations by Monica Maristain

How to know the man behind works of fiction so prone to extravagance? In the first biography of Chilean novelist and poet Roberto Bolaño, journalist Mónica Maristain tracks Bolaño from his childhood in Chile to his youth in Mexico and his early infatuation with literature, to his beginnings as a poet, and to the stardom that came with the publication of the novels The Savage Detectives and 2666.

Throughout the book, Maristain present an image far removed from the stereotypes that have been created over the years to introduce a writer whose works grabbed readers worldwide. Maristain writes as a journalist and admirer, impressed with the power of Bolaño’s prose and the cool irony with which he faced the literary world.

Pete the Cat and the Bad Banana by James Dean

Join Pete the Cat in New York Times bestselling author James Dean's I Can Read beginning reader Pete the Cat and the Bad Banana. In this hilarious new title, Pete the Cat bites into a bad banana and decides that he never, ever wants to eat bananas again. But Pete really likes bananas Will a rotten bite ruin Pete's love for this tasty fruit? Pete the Cat and the Bad Banana is a My First I Can Read book, which means it's perfect for shared reading with a child. Fans of Pete the Cat will delight in this I Can Read tale featuring the grooviest cat, Pete.