Sunday, October 23, 2011

So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson, Plus Tidbits

Being a tea-drinker from the time I was old enough to hold a cup,
I really, really want a copy of this book! From Shelf Awareness for Readers and Shelf Awareness Pro:

A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup at a Time
by Katrina Ávila Munichiello, editor

As autumn arrives, many of us look forward to crisp fall evenings curled up with a steaming mug and a good book. This anthology of essays, stories and poems devoted to the art and comfort of tea is as warm and soothing as that hot cuppa.
A Tea Reader is divided into five "steeps," each illuminating a different aspect of tea: its effect on the individual, its ability to create fellowship, the formal and informal rituals attending it, the joys and hardships of careers in tea, and the travels of tea enthusiasts. Readers will connect with fellow tea lovers throughout history, from ancient Chinese poets to 19th-century authors to modern-day authorities. Rudyard Kipling details his visit to a Japanese teahouse; New Orleans tea seller George Constance rebuilds his shop after Hurricane Katrina tears it down; other writers recount the beginnings of their own love affairs with the leaf.
While the book's topic alone makes it the perfect gift for the tea enthusiast in your life, the selections all are also skillfully written, whether somber, joyful or educational in tone. Most share a contemplative, peaceful sensibility (often achieved over a cup of Earl Grey). So although at least a passing appreciation for tea will further readers' appreciation, any fan of good writing will enjoy sampling the contents... even, dare it be said, those who prefer coffee. --Jaclyn Fulwood, graduate assistant, University of Oklahoma Libraries

I agree, and I am a fan of Vincent Van Gogh:

"I think it's going to be many years before there's a formal portrait
where the sitter is clutching his or her Kindle or iPad. I'm not at all
concerned that the interest in the book is going to disappear," said Ken
Soehner, chief librarian at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in introducing some of
his favorite book-related artwork for the Met's Connections series.

"Books have a symbolic importance that goes far beyond the text," he
observed, adding: "I think Van Gogh is one of the great painters of
books. They are very bookish. They're very much about the materiality of
books. They are not props. They're part of the inevitability of everyday
life. Oddly enough, they're very often not the sitter's books, but Van
Gogh's books. It's the self-portrait in a way through his books."

So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson is yet another readers memoir about taking a year to read a certain number of books for a specific reason. In this case, Nelson wants to read books she should have read in high school and college, as well as books in her TBR stacks that she hasn't gotten to for one reason or another, plus books she wants to revisit, books friends give her, books on her parents shelves, etc. This is the third such memoir I've read this year, and though I did enjoy Nelson's insights and sense of humor about trying to be a parent and a writer and still have time to read a book a week for a year, I found myself slightly put off by her consistent references to being a New Yorker, a Jewish person, and a cynic. Not that it is bad to be any of those things, but Nelson contends that they influence her reading choices to the exclusion of other genres of books. It seems to lead her to a fascination/obsession with Philip Roth and to be bored with 90 percent of children's literature, which saddened me, as I've always felt that some of the worlds the greatest authors wrote books for children, and my mother reading classic children's books to me has had a great influence on my life as a reader. Though I can't, as an Iowan Protestant, really identify with Nelson about many of her book choices, I can identify with her struggle to find the time to read as a wife and mother and journalist. And I found her familiar ground when she states that she likes to have two or more books going at once, as that's something I also do all the time. I also completely understood her method of finding inspiration for writing:
"Any writer who's honest will tell you that she usually comes up with her best lines or her important transitional paragraph not when she's sitting in front of the computer, watching the clock or using the word-count mechanism in her word processing program, but when she's stepping into the showing, making dinner or cleaning the cat litter." So true!
Nelson reviews mostly books that I have already read or would never read (I've never liked the work of Philip Roth)but her love of Elinor Lipman, my grad school mentor, and her adulation of Nora Ephron, whom I also adore, kept me reading and laughing. I'd give the book a solid B+ and recommend it for all those bibliophiles out there who struggle to find time to read in their hectic lives.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Value of Bookstores

This is so true, and I delight that it is from my favorite Monty Pythoner, the adorable Michael Palin:

"There's nothing that lifts the spirits of this author like a good
local, independent bookshop. Through all the recent ups and downs of
bookselling, the best of the independents have shown the way forward,
championing that personal connection between shops, readers and authors
that is the life blood of the trade."

--Michal Palin,
author and Monty Python legend, speaking to the Daily Mail in support of
the Hive Network of indie retailers in the U.K.

And more on the value of a good community bookstore, something I feel is greatly lacking in Maple Valley:

In "Ode to the Bookstore,"
the Daily Beast's John Avlon wrote that "if you care about the unique
character of your community, if you believe in rewarding the rugged
independence of small businesses, then your local independent bookstore
deserves your support, now more than ever. This is an admittedly
counter-cultural effort--but that is part of its appeal and sense of

Avlon recommended a number of his favorite indies coast to coast, but
noted that "beloved as all these might be, you don't need a crystal ball
to see that independent bookstores are going to have to at least adjust
their business model to remain relevant in the face of new technology."

He cited Mitch Kaplan's Books & Books
stores in the Miami area as the "best model I've seen" because they "are
now built around cafes and outdoor courtyards, where friends meet for
coffee in the morning or a drink after work. Local musicians play and
nationally known authors read, as free concerts open to the public. It
is an expanded version of the old coffeehouse model--beer and wine is
served along with good food--and buying a book becomes a backdrop, an
essential organic part of the overall experience."

Avlon also showcased "a gallery of some of the great and iconic
independent bookstores
across the United States. Seek them out. Support and appreciate them.
Rally round their flag because they make your city or town a better
place to live by keeping the soul of the great good place alive."

This is about a new bookstore in Seattle, the Book Larder, a place where food and books meet, and considering how fond I am of both, I should visit, soon!

"What began as a dream of local literary force Kim Ricketts has been
realized by Lara Hamilton, who took over Kim Ricketts Book Events before
its beloved founder passed away," Eater
wrote about this week's opening of the Book Larder, Seattle, Wash.

In addition to featuring a photo tour of the space, Eater noted that
"local chefs, home cooks, food nerds and bibliophiles have been eagerly
anticipating the arrival" of the new shop, which "evokes the same
giddiness as San Francisco's Omnivore Books, but with the savvy addition
of a kitchen and demonstration area."

Hamilton told the Seattle Times that she wants the Book Larder "to be a place where people can gather and linger, where if we're not too busy, someone might offer you a cup of tea or
something we've been cooking from a book."

And finally, our locale titan of industry,, has launched a new imprint, specifically for SF/F, my favorite genre:

Amazon has launched its seventh publishing imprint, 47North, which focuses
on science fiction, fantasy and horror. The imprint will debut with 15
books, including The Mongoliad: Book One, the beginning of a five-book,
collaborative Foreworld series led by Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear.

Also,the Warner Bros. 3D film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great
Gatsby will open December 25, 2012. reported that director Baz
Luhrmann began filming his adaptation last month in Australia. The movie
stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Carey Mulligan,
Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke and Elizabeth Debicki.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern--BOTY

Over the weekend, I finished what was, for me, the best Book of the Year (BOTY), The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
It was an amazing work that gripped me from start to finish.
I am still astonished that the author is so young, and that this is her first published book...she could easily be our next Alice Hoffman or Mary Stewart or Neil Gaiman, for that matter. Her ability to create a dark, alluring atmosphere is unparalleled and her prose is delicious, as addictive as sacher torte or a red velvet cupcake with dark chocolate icing...sweet and yet not nauseatingly childlike...its the full-flavor of a sinful, irresistible adult confection.

Here's the book jacket summation:

"The Circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lamp posts or billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique experience, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as a tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.
Welcome to Le Cirque des Reves.
Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way--a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a game to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters."

What follows are gorgeous magics that are illuminated at the beginning of each chapter with such evocative sincerity that the reader is hard-pressed to not run out and attempt to find Le Cirque des Reves and wander its pathways oneself. The characters are well fleshed out (unless they are ghosts), believable and fascinating. The plot is swift, sure and intense throughout the novel. I tried in vain to slow down the turning of pages, so as to savor the wonderment and experience each sensual chapter for as long as possible, but inevitably, the end drew nigh and I was finished at midnight last night, which is somehow appropriate, as the Cirque des Reves opens at nightfall and closes at dawn in whichever town it has landed. The story takes place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so we get a glimpse of a more gilded age, a time when gentlemen wore bowler hats and ladies wore gowns and gloves. The love story woven throughout the Night Circus is written with an air of discreet melancholy and framed by sacrifice. There is almost a Shakespearean aspect to it, beautiful but bittersweet.

As you can imagine, I highly recommend this novel for anyone of an artistic or creative nature, and for those who enjoy beautiful stories, well told. A+ and a white rose to the author, Erin Morgenstern. I now consider myself a dedicated Reveur, and will wear a dark red scarf this winter in honor of this mesmerizing work.

Also, I adored this list, which has so many characters I adore on it, I felt I had to post it here:

Friday, October 07, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs, Apple Icon, and Other Sad News

I was just telling Adrian Sechrist, Mac computer expert, on Tuesday that I thought Steve Jobs, my ultimate college crush, was going to pass on soon. Adrian assured me that wasn't the case, and then the next day, Oct 5, my 14th wedding anniversary and my mothers 74th birthday, Jobs died of pancreatic cancer. So Wednesday was a bittersweet day for me, and for millions of Mac lovers around the world.
Here is a link to an article that has links to many tributes to Steve Jobs, Apple Computers co-founder and brilliant, gorgeous man.

From Shelf Awareness:

Like millions of others around the world, we at Shelf Awareness were
saddened to hear of the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. We're big
fans--most of our capital assets are Apple products.

Apple enthusiasts are already turning to books to find out more about
the man some are comparing with Edison and Einstein. Steve Jobs by
Walter Isaacson ($35, 9781451648539), whose pub date was moved up by
publisher Simon & Schuster to October 24 from November 21, is #1 on
Amazon. Isaacson, author of biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert
Einstein, had been asked by Jobs to write about his life.

Agate Publishing's I, Steve: Steve Jobs in His Own Words, edited by
George Beahm ($10.95, 9781932841664), a collection of more than 200 Jobs
quotations, is coming out on November 15. Agate president Doug Seibold
said the company may be able to update the book, which is at the
printer, and is more likely to make changes to the e-book, which had
been finished. The book was #21 on Amazon this morning.

Recent titles on Jobs include:

* Inside Steve's Brain by Leander Kahney (Portfolio, $24.95,
9781591842972), which was updated in 2009.
* The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles
for Breakthrough Success by Carmine Gallo (McGraw-Hill, $25,
9780071748759), published in 2010.
* The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a New Generation by Jay Eliot, a
former senior v-p of Apple (Vanguard, $25.99, 9781593156398), published
in March.
* Return to the Little Kingdom: Steve Jobs and the Creation of Apple by
Michael Moritz (Overlook, $15.95, 9781590204016), which was reprinted
last year.

Another related title is a bit unusual but exquisitely timed. Apple
Design, a tribute to the design of Apple products and to Jonny Ive, the
design guru at Apple, is being published by Hatje Cantz and distributed
here by Artbook/DAP ($60, 9783775730112). The book accompanies a show
called Stylectrical: On Electro-Design That Makes History currently up
at the Museum fuer Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg, Germany.

Yesterday, my husband was telling me about this, and I was stunned, as I've visited the U Village B&N many times over the years, and I've always loved that store. I believe the landlords who are booting them out will be sorry, eventually, when they lose the people that the bookstore brought to U Village.

Barnes & Noble is closing its store at University Village in Seattle,
the large, upscale shopping mall in the University district, according
to the Seattle Times. B&N and the mall owner apparently were unable to
come to an agreement on a new lease.

The 16-year-old store has 46,000 square feet of space on two levels and
is one of B&N's largest stores. It's also the largest retail tenant at
U-Village. B&N has a dozen other locations in the Seattle area.

This really does make me want to go back to college!

Smith College Launches Book Studies Concentration

Tomorrow morning, Smith College, Northampton, Mass., is introducing a
"book studies concentration" that will draw on "the
exceptional resources of the Mortimer Rare Book Room and the wealth of
book artists and craftspeople of the Pioneer Valley." In classes,
through field projects and independent research, students will learn
about the history of the book, from oral memory and papyrus scrolls to
digital media, as well as book production, technology and design,
illustration, the book trade, libraries, literacy and more.

Finally, Tor is doing SF/F fans a solid here:

Noting that "indie booksellers also hold up half the sky,"
science fiction and fantasy publisher Tor will feature monthly picks by
indies on its blog, asking booksellers "from somewhere in the universe
what they think we should be reading. At the same time you'll get a
little bit of information about the booksellers themselves. We'll not
only be showcasing great reading lists but also putting a spotlight on
the many wonderful independent homes for SF&F books around the world."
Kicking things off this month is Borderlands Books
San Francisco, Calif.