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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.