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Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 BOOKSELLER TOP TENS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here they are! Our Top Ten favorite books of the year, now with bonus Seward Park lists! Remember, I don't limit these lists to books published in 2016, but all books must have been read in 2016.

Usually, when I compile this post, there are some clear favorites. Last year our obvious winner was Between the World and Me, with eight total votes. But this year our highest ranking book was Trevor Noah's Born a Crime, with only four votes. Not to imply that this year's books are only fair to middling, just that we had a lot more books with two and three votes, instead of any landslide victors. So while we couldn't solidly agree on one or two favorites, we sort of loosely settled on a whole slew of champions. And that means more options for you!

In light of our lack of focus, I give you our Fabulous, Fantastic, Fifteen Favorites of 2016!

Check out our individual top ten list below for more of our favorite reads of 2016!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Read This Book(er)

Winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction, named one of the best books of 2015 by The New York Times Book Review and the Wall Street Journal, and now winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction (the first American to do so), Kalani say, "Read this book,"

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

This is what absurdist social commentary is all about! Beatty tackles the always hot-button issue of race beautifully in this satirical masterpiece of a black urban farmer who attempts to resegregate his hometown. This is as funny as it is deeply thought-provoking. One of the best, most entertaining novels I've read in awhile.  -Kalani

A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty's The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality the black Chinese restaurant.

Born in the "agrarian ghetto" of Dickens on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles the narrator of The Sellout resigns himself to the fate of lower-middle-class Californians: "I'd die in the same bedroom I'd grown up in, looking up at the cracks in the stucco ceiling that've been there since '68 quake." Raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, he spent his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. He is led to believe that his father's pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family's financial woes. But when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, he realizes there never was a memoir. All that's left is the bill for a drive-thru funeral.

Fuelled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town's most famous resident the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Read This Book : Shirley You Jest Edition

Dean and Halley say, "Read this book:"

Well, Jackson did it again! This beautiful strange novel leaves quite a distinct and lingering impression. In this tale of mystery and isolation we are met by two sisters cut off from the world. They live alone, happily and ferally in their dilapidated family home in an almost mundanely mystical lifestyle a la Grey Gardens. Delivering and effortless sense of unease, this captivating and understated story will leave you in a satisfying state of unknowingness.

Merricat lives with her older sister and uncle after her family is killed due to the mysterious appearance of arsenic in the sugar bowl. After her sister is acquited of the murder, she and Merricat are ostracized by the village. For a time, they are content in their isolation...until a visitor comes to stay. Strange and haunting, this novel stayed with me long after I finished it. Shirley Jackson managed to tell a story without violence, gore, or horror and yet by the end you're left chilled to the bone.


And speaking of Shirley Jackson, just now is a pretty good time to be an SJ fan (or to become one) as the queen of horror is experiencing a bit of a resurgence. And it's about time too. 

When Shirley Jackson was first introduced by The New Republic, it was as, "Shirley Jackson, the wife of Stanley Hyman... living in New Hampshire and writing a novel." Not as she should have been, "Shirley Jackson the bad*ss writer of truly haunting and creepy short stories is writing a novel and lives in New Hampshire where she has to drive Stanley Hyman (the husband of Ms. Jackson) around because she knows how to drive and he doesn't." Not that not being able to drive is a reason for ridicule.

All I'm trying to say is it's time to give this author and licensed driver the appreciation she deserves. And with a new biography, last year's novel based on her life, and a soon to be released graphic novel based on one of her most well-known short stories, we finally are! -Erin

Shirley Jackson's The Lottery continues to thrill and unsettle readers nearly seven decades after it was first published. By turns puzzling and harrowing, it raises troubling questions about conformity, tradition, and the specter of ritualized violence that haunts even the most bucolic, peaceful village. 

This graphic adaptation, published in time for Jackson's centennial, allows readers to experience The Lottery as never before, or discover it anew. The visual artist--and Jackson's grandson--Miles Hyman has crafted an eerie vision of the hamlet where the tale unfolds, its inhabitants, and the unforgettable ritual they set into motion. His four-color, meticulously detailed panels create a noirish atmosphere that adds a new dimension of dread to the original tale. Perfectly timed to the current resurgence of interest in Jackson and her work, Shirley Jackson's The Lottery: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation masterfully reimagines her iconic story with a striking visual narrative.

Shirley Jackson : A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin

Placing Jackson within an American Gothic tradition that stretches back to Hawthorne and Poe, Franklin demonstrates how her unique contribution to this genre came from her focus on "domestic horror." Almost two decades before The Feminine Mystique ignited the women's movement, Jackson stories and nonfiction chronicles were already exploring the exploitation and the desperate isolation of women, particularly married women, in American society.Franklin's portrait of Jackson gives us a way of reading Jackson and her work that threads her into the weave of the world of words, as a writer and as a woman, rather than excludes her as an anomaly (Neil Gaiman).

The increasingly prescient Jackson emerges as a ferociously talented, determined, and prodigiously creative writer in a time when it was unusual for a woman to have both a family and a profession.A mother of four and the wife of the prominentNew Yorkercritic and academic Stanley Edgar Hyman, Jackson lived a seemingly bucolic life in the New England town of North Bennington, Vermont. Yet, much like her stories, which channeled the occult while exploring the claustrophobia of marriage and motherhood, Jackson's creative ascent was haunted by a darker side. As her career progressed, her marriage became more tenuous, her anxiety mounted, and she became addicted to amphetamines and tranquilizers. In sobering detail, Franklin insightfully examines the effects of Jackson's California upbringing, in the shadow of a hypercritical mother, on her relationship with her husband, juxtaposing Hyman's infidelities, domineering behavior, and professional jealousy with his unerring admiration for Jackson's fiction, which he was convinced was among the most brilliant he had ever encountered.

Shirley by Susan Scarf Merrell 

In this darkly captivating novel, Susan Scarf Merrell uses the facts of Jackson's life as a springboard to explore the 1964 disappearance of Paula Weldon, a young Bennington College student. 

Told through the eyes of Rose Nemser the wife of a graduate student working with Jackson's husband, Bennington professor Stanley Edgar Hyman Shirley reimagines the connections between the Hymans volatile marriage and one of the era's great unsolved mysteries.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Scary Books!

It's my favorite time of year for reading. Not that I don't read at all other times of the year. It's only that reading October through December is THE BEST time for reading. It's like the sports year, sure, hockey is good all season long, but it's THE BEST during Stanley Cup playoffs.

Nothing is cozier than curling under a blanket, drinking a cup of tea, and reading to the sounds of rain falling and wind scattered leaves. I also like to put my Yule Log on, but you should feel free to light a real fire should you have a fireplace. Admit it, me describing it right now has you contemplating just how many sick days you can get away with.

Since Reading Season Playoffs begin in October, I like to start off with scary books. I've put together a table at the Lake Forest Park Store. Here are a few of the titles on display, come on down and check out the rest...if you dare.

Dawn  by Octavia Butler

Lilith lyapo awoke from a centuries-long sleep to find herself aboard the vast spaceship of the Oankali. Creatures covered in writhing tentacles, the Oankali had saved every surviving human from a dying, ruined Earth. They healed the planet, cured cancer, increased strength, and were now ready to help Lilith lead her people back to Earth--but for a price.

Trapped between two candidates with the highest recorded unfavorables, Americans are plunged into The Year of Voting Dangerously. In this perilous and shocking campaign season, Dowd traces the psychologies and pathologies in one of the nastiest and most significant battles of the sexes ever. If America is on the escalator to hell, then this book is the perfect guide for this surreal, insane ride.

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

There's something strange about the Silver family house in the closed-off town of Dover, England. Grand and cavernous with hidden passages and buried secrets, it's been home to four generations of Silver women Anna, Jennifer, Lily, and now Miranda, who has lived in the house with her twin brother, Eliot, ever since their father converted it to a bed-and-breakfast. The Silver women have always had a strong connection, a pull over one another that reaches across time and space, and when Lily, Miranda's mother, passes away suddenly while on a trip abroad, Miranda begins suffering strange ailments. An eating disorder starves her. She begins hearing voices. When she brings a friend home, Dover's hostility toward outsiders physically manifests within the four walls of the Silver house, and the lives of everyone inside are irrevocably changed.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting-- he's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It's ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd-- whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself-- Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

All the Single Ladies Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister

In 2009, award-winning journalist Rebecca Traister started All the Single Ladies about the twenty-first century phenomenon of the American single woman. It was the year the proportion of American women who were married dropped below fifty percent; and the median age of first marriages, which had remained between twenty and twenty-two years old for nearly a century (1890 1980), had risen dramatically to twenty-seven. 

But over the course of her vast research and more than a hundred interviews with academics and social scientists and prominent single women, Traister discovered a startling truth: the phenomenon of the single woman in America is not a new one. And historically, when women were given options beyond early heterosexual marriage, the results were massive social change temperance, abolition, secondary education, and more. Today, only twenty percent of Americans are married by age twenty-nine, compared to nearly sixty percent in 1960. 

And my favorite literary/author pun...


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Reading Fast, and Reading Slow

In 16 years of bookselling, I’ve always been a voracious reader, devouring 2-3 books each week. This spring I hit a reading slump. My personal life turned upside down, and suddenly I couldn’t focus. Reading has always been a refuge, so it was strange to be so distracted that I couldn’t read more than a few pages without losing track of the narrative.

I loved Charles DuHigg’s The Power of Habit, so I snapped up an advance copy of his latest book, Smarter Faster Better. I took notes on the first few chapters and could hardly wait to read the rest, but life got in the way. Ironically, I fell out of the habit of picking up a book whenever I had a spare minute.

By April 4 I’d managed to finish one book: Marrow Island by Alexis Smith. I adored Smith’s debut gem, Glaciers, and her second effort is the type of novel I’d ordinarily finish in a day or two: literary fiction with an edge of mystery, set primarily in the San Juan Islands.  I spent six weeks reading this wonderfully stitched 256-page story, determined to see it through and return to my usual reading pace.

In May I had a few more false starts but only finished one book: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, a beautifully wrought portrait of two half-sisters and their descendants, from the Gold Coast of Africa at the peak of the slave trade to 21st century America. The memorable characters each evoke a unique time and place, bringing humanity to history.

June brought me just what I needed: Maria Semple’s forthcoming romp Today Will Be Different. Funny and smart with a touch of the ridiculous, it follows Eleanor Flood through a single day in which she tries to be a better person, to hilarious effect.

By the end of July I felt accomplished; I'd finished three whole books! I savored my favorite, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, over several weeks. Sentenced to live out his days as a Former Person at the Hotel Metropol in 1922, Count Alexander Rostov resolves to make the best of his reduced circumstances. With unparalleled charm, he moves through three decades, befriending staff, guests, and foreign journalists, always the gentleman. Fans of Helen Simonson’s delightful The Summer Before the War will enjoy the count's quick wit and the minutiae of his days.

In August I enjoyed a few pages a day of Eowyn Ivey’s second novel, To the Bright Edge of the World. Set in nineteenth century Alaska, this historical novel follows an expedition up the Wolverine River into the unknown, told through the leader’s journal entries and his wife’s letters.

At first I felt horribly guilty neglecting the stacks of unread advance reading copies on my shelves, but over the past few months I’ve let go of the guilt somewhat. I’ve fallen out of the reading habit, but I have faith it will return. Right now I’m spending 6-8 hours each week on my bike, writing loads of letters and postcards, journaling, paddle boarding, camping, and anything else that gets me out in the glorious summer sun.


Monday, August 29, 2016

When Nobody Loves the Book You Love

Have you ever watched your child perform really poorly? Like you're at the soccer field and your kid can't even drink his Gatorade without spilling it all down his front, let alone run fast or kick the ball with any sort of accuracy? How about a television show you love being cancelled after one season? Or when they stop making your favorite brand of novelty breakfast cereal (you broke my heart Rice Krispies Treats Cereal)? All of those feelings of sadness, disappointment, abandonment, and unfairness...those are the feelings I feel every day when I walk by the book I love and you haven't bought it yet. 

Only I feel all those feelings times one million.

I bet you didn't think bookselling involved such angst and anguish. Well, it does, and it's mostly your fault. You see, I read this book, this book I really loved. I told people about it. I staff picked it. I put it on Instagram. It featured on one of our monthly theme tables. But you didn't care. You ignored it. It's like I'm shouting to an empty room. Or a room filled with angry people trying to read the books they bought instead of the book I'm suggesting.

So here's my last ditch effort, and if a hastily crafted, marginally edited blog post won't convince you to buy it, I guess I'm not very good at my job. Fair warning, I'm not above some pretty dubious tactics. Like pilfering words from this New York Times Book Review by Leonard Pitts Jr.:
 The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter... a narrative that sweeps forward (and then back) between World War II and the first decade of the new millennium, touching on the civil rights movement, AIDS, deaf culture, lynching, love and sexuality, that emotional terrain remains the book’s bedrock.
...what Corthron does best in this book. She blindsides you. She sneaks up from behind. Sometimes, it is with moments of humor, but more often with moments of raw emotional power — moments whose pathos feels hard-earned and true.
The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter is a big book that has a lot — arguably too much — on its mind. But it succeeds admirably in a novel’s first and most difficult task: It makes you give a damn. It also does well by a novel’s second task: It sends you away pondering what it has to say.
What he said. 

And what's a little plagarism compared to the exploitation of a good friend's emotional health and job stability? Because, I haven't been entirely unable to sell this book, in fact I convinced a friend to read it and she loved it. She loved it so much she had to call in sick while she was reading it. She couldn't wait to finish and refused to read at work because she didn't want to cry in front of coworkers. Those are real emotions people.

I will even do the thing I hate most about bookselling: the comparison. Here goes:
If you loved Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life, then you will love The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter even more. They are both super long, super big books. 10 pounds each. Serious. Both have these characters your heart will break for. And both will make you weep. Castle Cross just does it WAY better.
And last but not least... I understand the importance of cover design, so I have updated the original cover with everyone's favorite things in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience.

All joking aside. The Castle Cross The Magnet Carter is a beautiful book. A sprawling, messy, sweeping epic. It gives you the chance to burrow in and really connect with the characters. Weirdly, Kia Corthron does a lot of things I usually hate: child narrators, dialects, switching perspectives, jumping through time. But in her hands they become this perfect conduit for a heartbreaking tale of race, sexuality, disability, familial strife, and the power of brotherhood. These pages deal with a lot of hate, sadness, and confusion but there's also a lot of courage and love here too. I wish this book were 800 more pages, and then 800 more after that.

Please read it. Don't let it be the book on the sidelines with Gatorade all down its front.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Soon to be a Major Motion Picture

I was recently at the local cinema seeing a great art house piece, Ghostbusters. Perhaps you've heard of it? The movie was fantastic. Obviously. But the previews were pretty great too. And three of them are books!

For a book lover, I'm unusually unfazed by movie adaptations. I'm not the type to say, "the book is always better," because they really are two separate entities. But that doesn't mean an upcoming movie release won't compel me to read the book. Sometimes movie release schedules fairly dictate my to-read pile. Like right now.

Three minutes and forty-three seconds of intense warfare with Iraqi insurgents has transformed the eight surviving men of Bravo Squad into America's most sought-after heroes. Now they're on a media-intensive nationwide tour to reinvigorate support for the war. On this rainy Thanksgiving, the Bravos are guests of the Dallas Cowboys, slated to be part of the halftime show alongside Destiny's Child.

Among the Bravos is Specialist Billy Lynn. Surrounded by patriots sporting flag pins on their lapels and Support Our Troops bumper stickers, he is thrust into the company of the Cowboys' owner and his coterie of wealthy colleagues; a born-again Cowboys cheerleader; a veteran Hollywood producer; and supersized players eager for a vicarious taste of war. Over the course of this day, Billy will drink and brawl, yearn for home and mourn those missing, face a heart-wrenching decision, and discover pure love and a bitter wisdom far beyond his years.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting-- he's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It's ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd-- whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself-- Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow impossible though it seems they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Going for Gold

I don't want to perpetuate any stereotypes and I'm not saying that booksellers can't be athletes, or that we aren't interested in sports or the Olympics, what I am saying is that literary prizes are usually more important to us than say who wins bronze in road biking.** So instead of honoring the greatest athletes in the world and all their feats of strength and agility, we are honoring the greatest writers in the world.

This month at Lake Forest Park we are featuring Literature Nobel Prize winners from all different countries. Because the great thing about the Nobel Prize is that it is awarded across all nations. They even get a medal. Just like the Olympics! Imagine an Author Olympics. Speed Editing! Synchronized Plot Development! Water Outlining! 

Check out our beautiful display all month long. We'll be playing various national anthems over the PA system. Actually, we won't.

**Except pentathlon. That's something I care deeply about

And if you are a bigger sports fan that we are, check out this new history of the Olympics:

The Games : A Global History of the Olympics by David Goldblatt

For millions of people around the world, the Summer and Winter Games are a joy and a treasure, but how did they develop into a global colossus? How have they been buffeted by and, in turn, affected by world events? Why do we care about them so much?

From the reinvention of the Games in Athens in 1896 to Rio in 2016, best-selling sportswriter David Goldblatt brilliantly traces their history through national triumphs and tragedies, individual victories and failures. Here is the story of grand Olympic traditions such as winners medals, the torch relay, and the eternal flame. Here is the story of popular Olympic events such as gymnastics, the marathon, and alpine skiing (as well as discontinued ones like tug-of-war). And here in all their glory are Olympic icons from Jesse Owens to Nadia Comaneci, Abebe Bikila to Bob Beamon, the Dream Team to Usain Bolt.

Hailed in the Wall Street Journal for writing about sports with the expansive eye of a social and cultural critic, Goldblatt goes beyond the medal counts to tell how women fought to be included in the Olympics on equal terms, how the wounded of World War II led to the Paralympics, and how the Olympics reflect changing attitudes to race and ethnicity. He explores the tensions between the Games amateur ideals and professionalization and commercialism in sports, the pitched battles between cities for the right to host the Games, and their often disappointing economic legacy. And in covering such seminal moments as Jesse Owens and Hitler at Berlin in 1936, the Black Power salute at Mexico City in 1968, the massacre of Israeli athletes at Munich in 1972, and the Miracle on Ice at Lake Placid in 1980, Goldblatt shows how prominently the modern Olympics have highlighted profound domestic and international conflicts.

Illuminated with dazzling vignettes from over a century of the Olympics, this stunningly researched and engagingly written history captures the excitement, drama, and kaleidoscopic experience of the Games.

And last but not least, by far my favorite thing to come out of the Rio Olympics:

- Erin

Saturday, July 30, 2016

I Think You Forgot Something : Macdonald Harris

A dik-dik, to save you from googling 
I once worked with a young Harvard graduate, summa cum laude, the whole bit. On paper, she looked like the ideal person with whom to discuss literature: well-educated, great taste, interests best described as widely flung. But in reality, you could have more stimulating conversations about books with a drug-addled dik-dik. The most elaborate praise available from her was “it was good,” or “I liked it.” Sometimes, that little nudge can be enough to sway me; maybe I’m curious about a book or an author but for whatever reason don’t trust myself and the plaudits of another, no matter how mild, can bring my wallet into the light. But not often.

Most booksellers spend forty odd hours on the clock surrounded by unread and unfamiliar books and another 128 off the clock also surrounded by more unread and only slightly more familiar tomes. In our reading, it is the bookseller's curse that we are reading either six months ahead or ten years behind everyone else. Most booksellers find the traditional nightstand replaced by stacks of books, both the old and forgotten as well as the coveted not-yet-released. Over time, it can become difficult to entertain suggestions because those stacks, that daunting, swollen mass just cannot possibly bear another ounce.

Years ago, however, a novel came to my attention through a librarian pal whose recommendation was so fulsome, so bombastically positive, I had no choice but to heed it. Both title and author were unknown to me and the journey to reading it proved to be quite the undertaking. Published in 1964, Mortal Leap by Macdonald Harris went out of print almost immediately and it is impossible to find a decent copy for less than a cool six hundred dollars. It became my personal holy grail, the damn thing’s elusiveness creating an almost feral desire. I suggested it to the New York Review of Books for reprint multiple times, even creating an alias to submit multiple suggestions. I checked used book sites daily for a decent copy under three hundred dollars, the most I can conceive of paying for anything that doesn’t come with a roof or a motor.

Eventually I disavowed myself of the notion I could own a copy and, with a five dollar bill and the willingness of the good librarians of Issaquah, settled in with a brittle, near ruined copy of the book that had felt like nothing but pure myth for years. Lo and behold, it was worth every moment of the hunt, every failed footstep of the pursuit forgotten. Mortal Leap is a book so far beyond “good” that its greatness can only be experienced.

This is fiction writing at its finest: a story in the classical mode, lushly wrought with details that immediately establish a fully realized character and landscape. Harris reawakens a childlike sense of wonder and fascination, a passion for the possible that transports the reader fully. His gift is truly a marvel, an ability to craft stories that are so fantastic and immersive it borders on the terrifying. The relationship between the reader and the physical object is marvelously indescribable and only a true, ethereal talent can to make a pound of paper feel alive in your hands.

If you peruse the synopses of Harris’s other work, you can immediately see no two are alike. It is a motley collection of novels and is only unified by, other than its greatness, man’s elusive inability to know himself. If you’ve read five novels by white men, at least four addressed this moral mission. Yawn, yawn, yawn, right? Not here.

Mortal Leap is a quintessential, exemplary model of what fiction can and should do. In the most reductive terms, it is an adult's adventure tale, a la Jack London: affect-less Mormon boy, disinterested in the life laid out before him, follows his existential malaise to sea. There is a plot outside of little boy lost, but the book is so beautifully written and such a singular experience, I would be doing it an enormous disservice dressing it in the rags of my fumbling fanboydom. But if you need convincing, the book speaks for itself beautifully:
It was a part of myself that was my enemy; I still had a childish illusion that the flesh on my own bones was somehow unique and precious to the universe, in some obscure corner of my mind I wanted the others to love me and make exceptions for me simply because I felt heat and cold, pain and loneliness as they did. Now this was gone once and for all, and I understood there were no exceptions and on one was invulnerable, we all had to share the same conditions and in the end this was simply mortality, the mortality of things as well as ourselves. After that I didn't expect anybody to love me...
And a passage that should make any reader weak-kneed:
 The books were a private part of me that I carried inside and guarded and didn't talk to anybody about; as long as I had the books I could convince myself I was different from the others and my life wasn't quite as stupid and pointless.

Harris's is a body of work I only become more passionate about, both as I explore titles I haven’t read or mull over the handful that I have. Looking at the novels on the whole, comparisons are most easily made to the work of Paul Auster. Harris’s novels carry the same ruminative tone and irreverent sense of adventure and both boldly wear an ambition to stretch their craft and sense of reality. Also like Auster, there’s no impression Harris was hankering for clout or accolades but simply a love of a pure, simple form of storytelling.

None of this is as succinct a recommendation as “it’s good,” I know. But so remarkable is Macdonald Harris, so deserving of full-volume, roof-shaking praise, his work could turn even my plaintively praising former colleague into an ivory tower of babble.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Let's Talk About Shakespeare Related Things : Act II

Deceptively Delicious

Are you ready for my second attempt at convincing you that you should read every last word written by Shakespeare? Well, get ready.

Yup, I'm still obsessed with Shakespeare. Even if the other day my Herman Melville obsession flared up, my Shakespeare love remains strong. You might think I've got my literary ailments at cross purposes, but you'd be wrong. Turns out there's a whole lot of Shakespeare in Melville. There are those who argue that without Shakespeare, particularly   King Lear  and Macbeth, there would be no Moby Dick. When I say "those," I mean the people who write and edit Wikipedia articles.

In fact "those" same Wikipedia people claim that when Ahab finally shows up, his first long speech to the crew of the Pequod is virtually blank verse:
But look ye, Starbuck, what is said in heat,
That thing unsays itself. There are men
From whom warm words are small indignity.
I mean not to incense thee. Let it go.
Look! see yonder Turkish cheeks of spotted tawn--
Living, breathing pictures painted by the sun.
The pagan leopards--the unrecking and
Unworshipping things, that live; and seek and give
No reason for the torrid life they feel!
I know, I know, blank verse, Moby Dick, I'm not really selling it for you Shakespeare virgins. Well, what if I told you that Shakespeare influenced a whole heck of a lot more than just some dusty, old book about a whale? What if I told you, that without Shakespeare, there'd be no LION KING ???!!?!?!!

Oh, yeah, now you're interested. From West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet) to Ten Things I Hate About You (Taming of the Shrew); Sons of Anarchy (Hamlet) to Breaking Bad (Macbeth...allegedly) odds are you love something Shakespeare-based and don't even know it.

So, I've put together a list with some suggestions for other things Shakespeare-based-- you won't even be able to tell. It's like that cookbook that Jerry Seinfeld's wife put out to trick kids into eating vegetables. Yup, just like that.

by Ryan North
O. M. G. It's a choose your own adventure book for grown ups! This one is based on Othello...kidding. It's based on Titus Andronicus.

by Jane Smiley
True story, King Lear is my favorite Shakespeare. This novel is based on King Lear. I had no idea. That's how non-Shakespeare-y it is. It has nothing to do with how dumb I am.

by Cat Winters
Cat Winters is a PNW author and this YA novel takes place in Oregon, explores US history and racism, and is based on Hamlet. And it's a lady cast as our tortured, young Dane. 

by Leon Garfield, illustrated by Michael Foreman
This one is my favorite of the bunch. A beautifully written collection of Shakespeare plays retold for little ears. It's the perfect introduction to hook them early. And there are pictures!

These titles and several others are on display at out Lake Forest Park store. The display features many of Shakespeare's greatest hits. And there are literally countless other books out there that would not exist if not for the Bard. Come on over to Lake Forest Park and see if any of these titles strike your fancy. The Shakespeare display table will be up through the end of July. My love will live on forever.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

This is Switzerland

The Presidential election is 2016 is slowly but surely killing me. The will to engage in any discourse on the political spectrum has left. Last November I was full to the brim with righteous anger and ready to match, nay, overpower all the sexism and bigotry I witnessed with my feminism and tolerance. Now I'm just resigned to, "If you sexism me, I will feminist you."

Unfortunately, I shelve the Political Science section, and escape is not that easy. 

I watched Ben Carson's book America the Beautiful : Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great slowly rot on my shelves, itching for the moment I could tuck them away in the back where I could forget about their sad existence.

I watched a solid handful of books about why Hillary is a sign of the apocalypse/Satan's spawn, why she is a faux feminist, etc. My favorite is this one with a neon yellow and pink cover called Unlikable by Edward Klein. Mostly because all it does is make me think of the theme song for The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (just substitute Unbreakable for Unlikable and you're all set) which puts more spring in my step than anything in that section these days.

Someone should talk to Hillary's team about adapting that song as her campaign theme. 

We as a bookstore carry books that have all sorts of ideas, political leanings and mantras. We endorse no one. But we do believe in representation and edification. Therefore, when ALL the presidential candidates release books (all 666 of them), we carry them in our store. Each and every one. We had a multitude of copies of A Time for Truth by Ted Cruz for a long time. And I dutifully made room for it on my shelves.

We sold one.

And yet, for weeks on end, whenever I went to Political Science to put out new arrivals, someone had placed Ted Cruz's book on display. And every time, I put it back on the shelf where they belong, readjusting my poor abused David Axelrod political bio. The next week someone retaliated by displaying a copy of Hard Choices in front of my display of Charles Krauthammer's book.

FIRST of all, 65% of the time what is displayed depends on how many copies we receive. If we get ten copies of a Kissinger book, it goes on display, no matter what I feel about it. The other 35% is whatever underdog I'm trying to give a boost to, or what cover is cooler. Marketing, man.

SECOND of all, even if you put a copy of Hard Choices on display in the Political Science area hoping to inspire someone to purchase said book, while I respect your choice of candidate, Hard Choices lives in the biography section. When someone stashes it somewhere it doesn't belong, some poor soul who REALLY wants to read Hillary's bio won't be able to find it.

And when other people start deciding where things go, it makes it difficult, nigh impossible, to locate books. Think of my shelving decisions as a dictatorship.

For the political minded whose minds are being melted by the 2016 Election, or if you can't find the political book you want to read because someone moved it, I give you a recommended reading list:

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Or: How Thomas Cromwell did a bang up job placating Henry Tudor and getting him a different wife and literally everything he wanted until he didn't want it anymore. It's still less confusing than this election.

Or, alternatively, if you've already jumped on the Wolf Hall bandwagon and/or are sick of the fascination with Tudor England, Mantel's book about the French Revolution, A Place of Greater Safety, is equally as good, while slightly more confusing. Though I maintain that the French Revolution is still not as terrible as this election.

The Femicide Machine by Sergio Gonzalez Rodriguez

Short. Brutal. Important. Tragic.
Feminism is important. Women and girls are still being slaughtered all over the world because they are not men. Sexism is not dead. Because it's still killing women.

Smoke by Dan Vyleta

It's Dickensian and Dystopian. And get this--it's not young adult! Vyleta does an admirable job of exploring the nuances of human morality and our "sinful" nature through the premise that the human body literally smokes when it sins.
Lusting after your neighbor's wife? Smoke erupts from your body (it's color coded, by the way).
Greedy for the coins in your friend's hand? Soot stains the armpits of your shirt.
In the theme of this miserable election, just envision Donald Trump smoking every time he lies.

Shrill by Lindy West

By turns enlightening, hilarious and deeply moving, Lindy West is an important voice in the media these days. She came to our store to promote her book, and her first question from the audience was: What do you think we can expect from the 2016 election?
Lindy: Literally, I have no idea, and I don't even want to think about it.
Me neither, Lindy. Me neither.

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow

Yes, I'm obsessed with the musical. But that's completely beside the point. I was browsing my social media, and this beautiful tumbr post popped up: Alexander Hamilton would have torn Donald Trump to pieces by now and also publicly humiliated him on multiple occasions. Read the book to find out how. Or just listen to the Cabinet Battles tracks on the soundtrack. Either way, it's a nice fantasy to live in.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Summer Reading on Display

Courtney fills you in on both of our theme tables dedicated to summer reading:

If you are prone to sun rashes like me, summer is the best time of the year to stay indoors. There's nothing I enjoy more than a beautiful sunny day spent avoiding the heat and the plethora of bugs, from the comfort of my cave troll like apartment. Better yet, there's nothing better than spending a whole summer reading. And...getting rewarded for it!

For grades k-12 you can pick up one of our Summer Passports to Reading at any Third Place Books location and receive a stamp in your passport for every book you read. And if the excitement and joy of reading isn't enough of a reward, every two stamps earns a new prize. One of which, is a delicious cookie or treat from our restaurant partners. Much like Scooby-Doo, Cookies are my biggest incentive to do anything so I totally understand if this is more rewarding than say...reading about extraordinary places you've never been to or fantastical worlds you can only imagine! No judgement guys.

Completed passports will be entered into a drawing for a $50 Third Place Books gift certificate. You can complete and enter as many passports as you like!

If you don't know where to get started, our amazing children's department booksellers have put together a wonderful arrangement of books. From Roald Dahl's terrifying book about the big friendly giant, to a class hamster who stars in a hamster race, they have you covered. Want a book about a friendship between a girl and her unicorn? Got it. What about a story about two seventh graders venturing into a dangerous and magical forest in the middle of Portland, Oregon? Done and Done. How about a young witch teaming up with a clan of six inch high blue men in order to rescue her baby brother?? Absolutely. Read away young ones.


And if you happen to be the type of person who does enjoy the outdoors well then gee whiz do I have some news for you!! This year marks the 100th birthday of the National Parks Service. A program older than Betty White by six years and ten years older than the Queen of England. If the National Park Service was a dog, it would be 413* human years old, that's 280 years older than Maggie, the World's oldest dog who died at 30 (133). 

You don't even have to go outside to celebrate the National Parks. Just check out our display table with all the rad books about National Parks instead! What a fabulous way to avoid sunburn. Read about the history of several pacific northwest parks, memoirs regarding experiences, a guide to backpacking the parks and make sure to check out The National Parks: An Illustrated History, and Terry Tempest Williams latest, The Hour of Land : A Personal Topography of America's National Parks, because they definitely count as visiting the parks.

Check out both of our theme tables at the Lake Forest Park Store for more Summer Reading!