Staff Musings

February 25, 2008

British Book Month

Filed under: Fiction & Literature — carricee @ 11:11 pm

For some reason I’ve been absolutely steeped in British fiction lately. Not only am I reading Elizabeth George right now, before that I was reading Jasper Fforde and the car book (that’s the book I read aloud to my husband in the car) we just finished was Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. It’s really a coincidence, but it’s been a lot of fun.

Let me say a few words about Jasper Fforde. It’s really hard to just say a few words about him though, because his books are so full of action AND they are freaking hilarious. These are definitely books for readers. They are mystery/science fiction/satirical novels about an alternate England that needs a literary police force, both one inside of fiction and in the real world, where time travel is a way of life, where evil multinational corporations control almost everything, and croquet is a violent, competitive sport often resulting in death and severe head injury.

Thursday Next, the main character, is a Literary Detective. Her adventures are made all the more hysterical by her no-nonsense attitude. She won’t blink an eye at any of the ridiculous things that happen to her, which include learning to work inside of fiction from Miss Haversham (who, when she’s not doing her role in Great Expectations, likes to race cars), dealing with an escaped romance novel hero who wants to take over the world, trying to cheer up Hamlet, being the target of an assassin named the Window Maker, and helping her brother take care of resurrected 15th century saints.

These books spoof almost everything you can think of. The government, the media, bookstores, corporations, sports, even Shakespeare! I’ve read two of them and listened to a third one as an audio book. Though I usually enjoy reading a book much more than I enjoy listening to the audio book, for some reason with these I enjoyed it just as much. It may have been just because they are so packed full of action I didn’t have time to get bored with things I usually skim past.

We have a few in the store, come by and pick some up. Check out his website and see for yourself how funny the man is. We have them in general fiction, mainly because he covered so many categories we couldn’t really figure out where to put him!

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November 20, 2007

Light Night Reading

Filed under: Fiction & Literature,Sci Fi & Fantasy — carricee @ 11:35 pm

Last night I stayed up entirely too late reading a novel by Robert Charles Wilson called A Hidden Place. Though it’s undeniably a science fiction novel, it’s a good stepping stone for those readers who don’t like quite as much science mixed in with their fiction.

The story is set in the Depression, and it revolves around a young man named Travis whose mother died in some mysteriously disgraceful way. He moves to a small town on the edge of nowhere to live with his aunt and uncle, working in his uncle’s ice factory. The town is similar to many small towns in America, ambitious to be a city, but lacking both the money and the attitude. The characters all start out as typical, but evolve into anything but.

The narrative is like Billie Letts meets Neil Gaiman. The prose is outstanding, the plot engrossing enough that I didn’t notice it was 3 am. Then I turned off the light and tried to go to sleep, then turned it back on and kept reading. I have loved every Robert Charles Wilson book I’ve ever read, and this one was his first. His newest is called Axis, it’s the sequel to last year’s Hugo winner, Spin, which is also brilliant. My copy disappeared into the hands of some unsuspecting dinner party guest I think, during one of my “You must read this!” breakdowns. Stop in and pick up some Robert Charles Wilson. I do believe it’s impossible to be disappointed.

BookPusher

Filed under: Fiction & Literature — carricee @ 12:20 am

Sometimes it seems like my reading tastes are a little wonky. Most of our customers come in to the store with all kinds of anecdotes about sharing their books with friends, of switching books back and forth – in fact, we have several groups of customers who always come in together with books, they share the trade credit, buy stacks, and don’t bring them back until they’ve both read all the books.

That’s so fun! I always tell them. How nice to have friends or family members with whom you can share books! Because, to be honest, none of my friends want to read what I do, despite all my efforts. I try to cram books I like down people’s throats every chance I get. Sometimes they read them, but a lot of times, they don’t. It’s really an addiction. Sharing what I love about books gives me purpose, adds value to my character, makes me feel squishy inside. I think I’ve said before, helping people find books they’ll enjoy is my favorite thing about working here.

Of course, if I paid more attention to my friend’s tastes in books, I might find more pleasing selections for them. Lately my reading has been rather heavily focused on light science fiction and fantasy, which few of my friends read to any great extent. Those who do favor the formulaic epic fantasy, which I also enjoy, but not nearly as much as I used to. Battles between good and evil are undoubtedly necessary, and certainly interesting at first, however they tend to get tiresome after you’ve read fifty or one hundred of them. Nor do most of them want to read the social psychology type of non-fiction that I find interesting. I could probably get some to read mystery cozies, but, though I do enjoy those books, my heart’s just not in it.
So, what do my friends like to read? Funny, we’ve been talking about that a lot lately. I thought I’d share what they are currently reading (or have recently finished) with you, in the hopes that it will inspire me to keep on searching for them.

Best Girlfriend: The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman – This one is one I gave to her , and she loves it. Success!

Husband: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan – This is also one I gave to my husband, but he’s pretty much stopped in the middle. Not that it’s not a good book; he’s really enjoyed it and loves to tell everyone about all the corn that’s in the food they are eating at parties; he’s just gotten out of the habit of reading after finishing two whole books this summer. It’s very sad, but at least we had a run!

Dinner Party Friend 1: The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant – I don’t think I had anything to do with this one, though it is a book I enjoyed a great deal. It’s a historical fiction about some of the women in the Bible.

Dinner Party Friend 2: The House of God, by Samuel Shem – Apparently a frighteningly true-to-life portrait of the life of medical interns, this is a book I had never heard of until last week. According to DPF2, it created a huge uproar when it was released, as patients learned just exactly how tired and crazy the people who are trying to keep them alive can get.

Role-Playing Friend 1: The Orc King, by R.A. Salvatore – Though I loaned him the copy he is reading, I really can’t take credit for this read as my friend knows much more about the Forgotten Realms universe and Drizzt and his friends than I do. I don’t know how much he’s enjoying it, but I’ll likely find out this week.

Role-Playing Friend 2: The Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling – After the untimely death of Robert Jordan, I’m sure many people will follow my friend’s example and not begin a series until the author has finished it. I’m not sure how much he’ll like this series. He’s distressingly picky when it comes to books, and though I’ve tried to narrow down exactly what he needs in a novel to keep his attention, so far I’ve failed utterly. He didn’t like Robin Hobb. ROBIN HOBB!

See how few of these books I had anything to do with? That is why you must come into the store and help allay my book-pushing addiction. Come in and tell me that you like to read historical fiction about Irish potato farmers! Tell me you like books with anthropomorphized animals as the main characters! Books with a social conscience, books without one, and books that seem to have been written by drunken monkeys I’ll happily help you find. Despite trying to make my friends read what I like, it’s as much fun if not more for me to help customers find books to suit their own tastes. So come into the store and save my friends from my need to be a book pusher! It’s almost a social obligation.

November 10, 2007

Superman, Virginia Woolf, and Paint Fumes

It’s been quite awhile since we’ve blogged about what’s going on here at the store, not because there’s nothing going on, mainly just because we’re more interested in talking about books than about ourselves! But we’ve had a great couple of months.

If you haven’t attended the book discussion groups the first Tuesday of every month, think about giving them a go. The readers who make regular appearances are outgoing, fun, and up for lively discussion. Moderator John Rudy helps keep them from getting too rowdy. Just kidding! He’s the rowdiest. The next book to be discussed, on Tuesday, December 4th, is Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, an essay that first found form as a lecture given at a women’s college. She talks about what a woman needs if she is to be a writer, and what would have happened to a fictional sister she invents for Shakespeare had she tried to write. The debate on this will be unrestrained wildness, I’m sure. Woolf is a brilliant writer, and no one denies that, but I’ve already had people tell me they think her work is irrelevant in the light of modern society. I gnash my teeth and respond politely (because I’m in retail) but if I manage to get the evening of the discussion off, so go the gloves.

We’ve been doing a lot of painting and shifting around books at the store lately in preparation for the upcoming holiday season – we want to make it all pretty so you will want to come here even more! Christian fiction is getting more room, and mystery is getting a make-over. We are switching around self-help and health a little bit too, though they will be in the same general area. Stop in and let us know what you think.

This coming Tuesday is our first comic book discussion group, and they’ll be talking about The Death of Superman. There has been a lot of interest in the group and we’re excited to see how it turns out. The fun and fascinating Joe Klemann will be leading the discussion. The Death of Superman  is the best-selling graphic novel of all time, not just because of the demise of the world’s most beloved superhero, but for the years and years of back story that went into the plot. The collaborative and serial nature of graphic novels and comic books make them a perfect avenue for discussions of this sort, and we couldn’t be more pleased to be hosting it here. That’s this Tuesday, November 13th.

June 20, 2007

Books About Food

Filed under: Fiction & Literature — carricee @ 9:56 pm

My husband isn’t a reader, which is very odd, considering how much of a reader I am. Somehow, despite growing up in a family of readers, being cultured, intelligent, and charming, it has just never been a passion of his. He’d picked up the occasional fantasy novel and has a huge collection of role-playing books (he needs them, being a GM once a week for a great White Wolf game we’re playing), but no matter what type of novel I plied him with (Neil Gaiman, Kurt Vonnegut, Amy Tan, James Clavell…), in our whole relationship he has never, ever finished a book.

But a couple of weeks ago we were at our alma mater and heard that the campus bookstore was changing to corporate ownership and getting rid of everything. Brand new hardcovers were selling for a dollar a piece. Now normally I buy everything at the most wonderful bookstore in the universe (Don’s Books), but I couldn’t pass that up – I just felt guilty about it. I spent about $20 and got around 40 books, if you can believe it; all new and current editions. My husband ended up picking out a couple of books too, which he’s done before. He owns books, he just doesn’t read them.

Imagine my surprise one morning, then, when I’m sitting in my chair, reading, cup of coffee next to me. He comes downstairs, not yet fully awake, walks into the kitchen, gets coffee. Sits on the couch, stands back up again, turns on NPR. Sits back down on the couch and…picks up a book! And READS it.

I just stared at him in shock. He didn’t notice because he was reading, and then he said, “huh.” At this point, I didn’t want to say anything to him about my shock and joy, because I was a little afraid that if I startled him, he’d stop. Kind of like when you’re looking at a butterfly, and you move more carefully and quietly lest it fly away. So I, almost shyly, said, “What’s that?” And he related an anecdote in the book to me, and though I could barely contain my glee (this after all, being the morning I dreamed of, where we would read together and share our discoveries), I just said, “That’s interesting.”

I ‘m really not very good at subterfuge, so after a few more minutes I gave up trying to be coy about the pleasure I got out of him reading. I took pictures of the act and emailed his mother, and the next day at work I proudly told everyone that he was reading a book.

Now, I think I’ve mentioned on this blog before how much I enjoy helping people pick out books to read. My failure to get my husband to read anything had been irking me for years. I likely would have never picked the book that actually got him to read, for several reasons. First of all, it wasn’t fiction, it was NON-fiction, which I occasionally enjoy (Freakonomics, Nickel and Dimed, America the Book), but doesn’t inspire the same amount of reverence from me as fiction does. In fact sometimes I completely forget about it. Also, it’s about food. I can’t recall the title right now, but from when he’s “huh’ed” and related content to me it seems to be a book of contradictory anecdotes that tell why everyone but the author is wrong about the food industry.

So, I thought, if he likes a book about food that seems kind of crappy, how much would he enjoy a well-written book about food? We will soon find out! Barbara Kingsolver, one of my favorite novelists, has written a non-fiction account of her and her family’s year of sustainable eating called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – A Year of Food Life. I have loved all of her novels and was thrilled to have an excuse to buy this book. I’m excited to see if her prose is as rich in non-fiction as it is in fiction. Thing is, Barbara Kingsolver’s voice can turn on a dime – from the lush, sensual scenes in Prodigal Summer to the spunkiness of The Bean Trees.

If you’ve never read Barbara Kingsolver’s novels I highly suggest coming to Don’s and picking them up; she’s definitely the type of writer who has a book that anyone will find interesting. Personally, I am going to go home this evening and bother my husband about reading yet another book. Hopefully, I’ve got him figured out a little bit better this time.

December 30, 2006

Count of Monte Cristo

Filed under: Fiction & Literature — hazeltine @ 10:11 pm

By Alexander DumasI will begin by way of admission. I am completely unbiased about this book. I absolutely love it. I was introduced to it in a high school literature class, and have read it four or five times since. It is not, however, an easy read.

It is a thick book filled with many characters, all of whom have French names and titles. The author assumed a certain knowledge on the reader’s part of French life, customs and history. All of that said it is still well worth the effort to read it.

In its most simplistic rendering, it is a tale of injustice, cruelty and revenge. On deeper levels it is a man struggling between his power and humanity. It is the chronicle of greed and corruption turned to destroy themselves. It is the story if Edmond Dantes rebirth in vengence and redemtion by love.

One quick admonition. If you have seen any of the movie adaptiations, be warned they have all hacked out characters, enormous chunks of plot, and the stunning complexity which make this more than just an 18th century Rambo novel. If you liked a movie, make the effort to read the real thing.

Junky-William S. Burroughs

Filed under: Fiction & Literature — monique23 @ 8:31 pm

To start my introductory blog writing book reviews I will try to briefly analyze the novel “Junky,” by William S. Burroughs. “Junky” represents a culture, the early Jazz music movments, and hipster underground society that concieved the Beat Movement and later, the 60’s hippie scene. Burroughs, considered the grandfather of Beatniks, doesn’t write as the infamous and notable prose crusader, Jack Kerouac, or Allen Ginsberg’s alternative poetic talents. Though much older and more educated, Burroughs introduced a new form of writing, along side artistic misfit, Brion Gysin. Together these two made unsual flims, independent art, and developed the cut up writing technique, which Burrough’s perfected in such novels as “The Naked Lunch,” “The Soft Machine,” and “The Ticket that Exploded.”

However, the cut up technique is very difficult to really absorb and follow. The splices of thought, instant change of setting, perspective, and idea makes the books opposite of a light afternoon read. “Junky,” on the other hand, is very accessible. A simple, quick, entertaining read, “Junky” is a great introductory book to the complex science that shapes the mind and work of William S. Burroughs.

“Junky” bascially details Burrough’s knowledge and life in the streets, the drug underground, and the philosophy of junk culture in the 40-50s. Notorious for his use of Herion and abuse of Morphine, Burroughs manages to put together a complete novel that coherently concentrates on the seemingly overwhelming burden and hendrence of junk, mentally and phsyically. Where others are consumbed by the power of junk, Burroughs pervails despite his personal addiction and writes a dramatic memior about the social visage of junkies with a knowledgable perspecitive and an almost scholarly approach. It reads like a novel, but when your finished, it is as if you have earned your degree in Jazz Underground Street Smarts, major in Beat slang/vernacular, phd. It comes with a glossary of street terms, language of the Jazz and junkie lifestyle.

The connection of course between the early Jazz scene and the junkie underground is that Jazz muscians, mostly African Americans, were involved with and used Junk (Herion), which created a connection between the black markets run by junkies in dark alleys and subways with the jazz music playing in two bit bars close by. Jazz itself was underground simply because of racial prejudice against the African Americans who consumed the musical talent of the Jazz genre. Drugs and music collided into a fluid system of creativity, music, poetry, and substance abuse, paving the early foundations of the Beat Generation eventually transforming into the 60s Hippie movement.

“Junky” acts as a time capsule, when you read it it, you feel as if you are experiencing life as a junkie in the 40s. It is a simple idea, detailing the struggle and addictions of junkies who were and still are, shunned in the alley ways and crumbling buildings, as they fight to find the only source of peace in their world, junk. Furthermore, Burroughs describes the grueling process of withdrawl and the meager attempts to ween off the powerful drug. There is a fine line between the ulimate motive for the story. Is Burrough’s trying to defend junkies and the use of illegal drugs, or is he providing the squares of cookie cutter America a new perspective about what lurks behind the dumpsters and what goes on beneath the shadows of the working world?

Whatever his motive was, Burroughs remains one of the most interesting writers and thinkers of American Literature. “Junky” isn’t poetic or full of prose as in Kerouac’s “One the Road,” but it has a sense of truth and deepness that you can feel throughout the book. This man knows his way in and out of mainstream social status. He can pose himself as a junkie or an accomplished artist. He can write as a scholar or as an interzone agent receiving unimaginable missions from the extraterrestial life of mugwumps.

If your interested in the Beatniks, I would suggest starting with “Junky.” It is a great, quick, simple read, but insightful and full of information that embodied the streets in the 40s-50s. It is a great introduction to the writing of Burroughs and is very enjoyable and can bring a historical insight relative to ino the modern issues regarding drug use today.

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