Saturday, December 30, 2006

A short vacation

I'll be away from my shelving duties for the next few weeks. If, readers, you are amenable, though, I would be happy to regale you with book/writing-related tales from the road, as I will be attending a residency at Warren Wilson College, where I am, in between shelving, pursuing an MFA in creative writing.

That's right. I'm on my way to Fiction Summer (or, in this case, Winter) Camp!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

A potpourri of books

KBooks, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Here's a list from Kathy who buys for Gardening, Humor, Sports, and the Stuff on Cats sections of the stores:

When War Played Through: Golf During World War II by John Strege.

Four More Wars by Mike Luckovich.

Panda Cam: A Nation Watches Tai Shan the Panda Cub Grow by The Friends of the National Zoo.

Ask Ciscoe: Oh, La, La! Your Gardening Questions Answered by Ciscoe Morris.

The Heart of the Game: Life Lessons On and Off the Court by Bill Resler.

And, of course:

Stuff On My Cat: The Book by Mario Garza.

Books for the kids...

It can be hard finding the right book for the youngest people on your shopping list. Lucky for you, our Kids' department has booksellers passionate about books, and eager to help you find the perfect gift. Here's the list they compiled for the blog. Think of it as the point from which to jump into the sea of worthwhile classic and contemporary children's books:

An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Aston.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson.

Millions by Frank Boyce Cottrell.

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly.

Owen & Mzee by Isabella Hatkoff.

Three Tales of My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett.

And here's a left-field sort of pick:

Baby-gami: Baby Wrapping for Beginners by Andrea Sarvady.

Some fiction picks

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami.

Gallatin Canyon by Tom McGuane.

The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson.

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice.

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell.

And some Mysteries:

What Came Before He Shot Her by Elizabeth George.

Ten Second Staircase by Christopher Fowler.

Dead Hour by Denise Mina.

Some more suggestions

This list was put together by Stuart, our art buyer.

(Felt donuts also make great gifts, by the bye.)

Ellis Island: Ghosts of Freedom by Stephen Wilkes. Photos of Ellis Island, for your history buff friends. Or for your tired. Your poor. Your huddled masses. Those folks.

Geek Logik: 50 Foolproof Equations for Everyday Life by Garth Sundem. Finally, a book that gives you the right equation to solve when asking yourself questions like: "Should I call in sick?"

U2 by U2. Not included in this definitive history of the band U2 by the band U2? This.

Modest Mouse: A Pretty Good Read by Alan Goldsher. A good book for people who love bad books.

Hand Puppets by Paul Klee.

The Little Book of Hindu Deities: From The Goddess Of Wealth To The Sacred Cow by Sanjay Patel. Because before you know it, Makar Sankranti will be here! Get your kites now!

Last minute

Not much time left, shoppingwise. Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah. Christmas arrives soon. Boxing Day. And you've long since missed St. Nicholas Day. Maybe you're putting all the shopping off because you still—still!—don't know what to get for friends and family.

That's okay. The expert booksellers at University Book Store can help. I asked a few of them to come up with lists of great books to give as gifts. I'll be posting the lists throughout the day.

First up, Jay, our lead book buyer.

Destination Art by Amy Dempsey. This beautiful book collects the 200 greatest public and environmental art sites from around the world. It even briefly mentions The Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas, a place I've been many times.

The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers by Delia Falconer, a brief but beautiful Civil War novel.

Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides.

The Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest by Gerard J. DeGroot. Contrary to popular belief, when you read this book and The Wizard of Oz at the same time, they don't sync up.

Swithering by Robin Robertson. Of this book of poetry, John Banville said: "Robertson's genius for exact and gorgeous imagery, his dazzling metaphorical gift, and the knottiness of his thinking ... runs through the syntax of the verse like a bead of Metaphysical quicksilver."

More soon...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Nick's December Pick

paintedveil, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Every month, our own Nick DiMartino chooses his favorite recent title and crafts a more indepth review than our regular staff favorites.

His December pick? The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham .

Here's what Nick says about it:

"Kitty doesn’t know how to love. She’s about to learn the hard way.

"Beautiful, wealthy, spoiled Kitty Garstin doesn’t love the young doctor, Walter Fane, but he’s a chance to get married before her younger sister, a chance to get away to Hong Kong.

"There she meets handsome Charlie Townsend and is swept into a passionate affair.

"Now Kitty has a choice – either get a divorce and ruin Charlie’s marriage and career, or accompany her husband to the remote Chinese province of Mei-tan-fu, in the deadly grips of an outbreak of cholera.

"The new film stars Naomi Watts and Edward Norton. Let’s read the book, see the movie, and discuss them both."

Wednesday • December 27 • 7pm
Conference Room
University Book Store

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The YWCA Giving Trees

In the spirit of the holiday season, University Book Store is proud to host YWCA Giving Trees at three of our locations. On each, you will find ornaments with requests for gifts from locals in need.

Please consider stopping by our U District, Mill Creek, or Bellevue stores and purchasing something for our communities homeless, victims of domestic abuse, or at-risk youth. The YWCA of Seattle • King County • Snohomish County has asked for warm clothes, art supplies, and new books for adults or kids, which they will distribute this year here in the Puget Sound.

Here's how it works.

• Pick and ornament from the tree.

• Find the product it requests. If you need help, feel free to ask a staff member.

• Bring it to any register for purchase, and University Book Store will take care of the rest.

Your generosity will be appreciated. Thank you.

And Happy Holidays from University Book Store and the YWCA.

For more information, please contact University Book Store at 206.634.3400 or the YWCA of Seattle • King County • Snohomish County on the web at or via phone at 206.461.4451.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Kevins, Literary terms, and my messy, messy hair

I can't help but notice that if you take my hair, and put it on Portland author and bookseller Kevin Sampsell (who has a really funny new Book Pusher that you should read), you get "I'd rather be reading" author Kevin Moffett. Observe:

Hair+Samps=Moff, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

I'd rather be reading.

Moffett, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Given my druthers, I'd be reading right now. And if I was reading, I'd be reading Permanent Visitors by shaggy author Kevin Moffett.

I'd be reading it for two reasons. One is that is won the John Simmons Short Fiction Award from University of Iowa Press, and I am a Hawkeye through and through. The other is that the book is blurbed by one of my favorite writers, Padgett Powell. Here's what he says:

"Mr. Moffett writes with a precision when things get somber that suggests old John Fogerty's bad moon rising. It's the power of true things said truly, and I think this power will grow."

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Staff favorites

MouthSounds, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Stephen Elliott

Stephen Elliott, who wrote one of my favorite recent novels, is blogging at The Elegant Variation for the next few days. Check him out.

From our "Better Late Than Never" department...

che, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Every month, our own Nick DiMartino chooses his favorite recent title and crafts a more indepth review than our regular staff favorites.

His November pick? Brief Encounters with Che Guevara by Ben Fountain .

Here's what Nick says about it:

"I have been hearing critics rave about the stories in Ben Fountain's
Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, but up until a couple weeks ago I hadn't even picked it up for a simple reason: I'm not that crazy about short stories.

"What possessed me to read the first one? I don't know. I've already
told you that it literally drove me to peek at the ending, and I still
wasn't right. What an exhilarating reading experience! Well, the whole dang book is that good.

"Along with great plotting and an honest look at the real world today,
these stories are so gorgeously written that the language would have
been enough. And there's so much more!

"Of the eight stories, I think four are flat-out masterpieces. What's
your take?"

Staff favorites

Abor, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.


We have our share of street musicians on the Ave. One stands in front of the store and sings soul classics.

He has a repetoire of maybe four tunes. "Lean on Me" is a biggie.

It seems he's added "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for the singing of a patriotic number. But now, every 20 minutes, I have to stop what I'm doing, stand up, and put my hand over my heart. It's really killing my productivity.

Monday, November 27, 2006

John Moe answers the most important questions he will ever answer...

John Moe, a local public radio personality and gosh-darned funny guy, wrote a book. It's called Conservatize Me, and it concerns a one-month project Mr. Moe undertook to find out whether or not a steady diet of conservative media would turn the mind of a diehard liberal.

To find out the answer, read the book. But for now, read the interview:

1) Of the books you've read recently, which one made you angriest because someone else wrote it instead of you? Why?

That’s easy. John Hodgman’s The Areas Of My Expertise. Screamingly, shockingly, alarmingly funny and so damn smart as well. But beyond that, it’s a book of fearless humor. It’s so extreme, so bizarre, and so brave. A lot of the time with joke making, you start to riff on something and end up pretty far down a dark and weird hallway of humor and then you try to bring it back to some sort of conventional reality and applicability. Hodgman, however, goes further down that hallway and through the doors and into the laundry chute and then out into space.

2) A literary feud is a great way to get some publicity for a book. Who will you be starting a feud with and why?

I thought about taking on Obama since he was on tour at the same time as me. I was going to declare my possible inkling of beginning to think about the option of perhaps running for President maybe, and then launching a series of vicious personal attack ads that were both untrue and libelous. But my 6-year-old is a huge Obama fan so I’'ll leave him alone.

I’m tempted to start a feud with Lee Greenwood, who I talk about a lot in Conservatize Me. I’d feud with him because he sucks so bad and his singing sounds like a donkey being strangled with an electrical cord. If I met Lee Greenwood there would be two hits: me hitting him and him hitting the floor. And then there would be one more hit: me hitting him again while he’'s on the floor.

But he’s not a writer. So I’m left with once again calling out that jerk Chaucer. You and me, Geoffrey. Octagon.

3) During your time hanging out with conservatives, how many heads of prominent evangelical organizations and influential congressmen came on to you?

Weirdly, none. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. In fact, it’s funny, just last night I nudged Trent Lott awake and asked him that same thing.

4) Say something nice about University Book Store.

The University Book Store has a highly imaginative name. See, when you think about it, it is located near the University of Washington and sells books. So there you go!

Also, it’s a place that my sisters used to talk about as if it were a holy shrine. I’m the youngest of four and had two sisters who went to UW. They would describe this store as this big cool place where all the cool people went to get their cool things. I dreamed that some day I would visit it. Now I have a book for sale there and it’s just as cool. Of course my sisters would also talk about how cool the Last Exit coffeehouse and the Lox Stock and Bagel were also and we see what happened to them. Sorry, U Book Store. Your days are numbered!

5) Any closing remarks?

I have two adorable children who need food. Buy my book. Plus, it’s funny and insightful and makes a great gift and all that. But really, do it for my kids.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A scene from a book...

I found this on my voicemail once:

"Look," I said, sounding much too angry, "I didn't send that note. An ex-friend of mine did it as a joke." I looked at her, felt ugly and stupid.

She said, "Oh," and stared at the ground with her lips slightly apart, wounded possibly.

I wanted to cry now. I turned completely around and watched the soccer game. Margie's brother Donny smacked Pat Doolan in the neck with his cast and O'Leary blew the whistle.

"I just wanted you to know I didn't write it," I said. I dug a heel into the new wispy grass and turned it, grinding. I glanced back at her. She nodded without looking at me and her hands tightened in her lap.

"I didn't really think you wrote it," she said.

"Well, I didn't. See you around." I hunched my shoulders and walked away, hands in pockets, sick in love with her and furious now at myself. I whirled and stared. Margie brushed her hair back, twisting it over gold with a little turn of her hand, an awkward, innocent imitation of what a woman would do, and she looked very small and vulnerable and I wanted to hold her. I walked back to her.

I kept my eyes on her hands. "I'm real sorry, I mean if I sounded real mean just then," I bumbled. "I was only mad about the joke."

"It's okay. Thanks for being honest, Francis."

My name, softening out of her mouth, the magic little combination of teeth, lips, and tongue, stunned me like a cherry bomb did once, too near, the world exploding into clear, startling quiet. My attraction to her at that moment tugged so heavily I was actually leaning down towards her, and her least gesture became unbearably precious, the delicate closing of her mouth, her fingers relaxing in her lap, the sudden soothing green of her upturned eyes. Her awareness of me made the entire universe a shimmering drunken joy.

It's from The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys by Chris Fuhrman, a book about a 14-year-old Catholic School boy in the 70's.

Fuhrman died of cancer in 1991. He was 29, and had just finished his first novel.

I love that book, Doc. Thanks for introducing me to it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Campus Thank You Night, The Day After

Quite a little shindig last night. I spent most of it shelving.

But I did walk away from my cart full of books for a few minutes to listen to a band play on our loading dock.

They were called Meisce. They're from right here in Seattle. They rule. Go see them.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

2006 National Book Award Winners

My boy won! M. T. Anderson was awarded the 2006 National Book Award for Young People's Literature yesterday for his powerful novel, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing.

The other winners are:

Poetry - Splay Anthem by Nathaniel Mackey

Non-fiction - The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by (Seattleite!) Timothy Egan

Fiction - The Echo Maker by Richard Powers

Way to go, gentlemen!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Campus Thank You Night & Day 2006 is this week!

Are you ready? Campus Thank You Night is on Thursday!

U District

Come on out to our U District store on November 16 from 5pm – 9pm, and let us show you what you mean to us. Campus Thank You Night is a celebration of and for the students, staff, and faculty at the University of Washington—our most important customers.

Get to the store early for a free water bottle (they’re only available while supplies last!), enjoy refreshments and tastings from Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream and Yoguccino® AND enter for a chance to win prizes.

We’ll have an Apple MacBook, custom Gold and Purple iPods, a DVD player, gift cards—even a kayak!—in the prize pool this year, along with gift baskets galore. And with multiple places to enter, you’ll have multiple chances to win.

All your favorite games will be going, too: Putting for Textbooks, Uphill® backpacks Snag It & Bag It , and Let’s Make a Deal.

And while you’re hanging out, playing games, and waiting for the next prize drawing, enjoy a 20% savings* (with UW ID) on some new books, gifts, supplies, and Husky gear.

And here's a brand new addition to the festivities: the good people at Apple computers have decided to pay the taxes on any Apple purchase made during Campus Thank You Night 2006! So, if you buy a MacBook during the event (5pm - 9pm), it'll be tax free. (Some terms: this offer is good at the Technology Center in the U District only. You have to come in, and be making the purchase for personal use to receive the discount. It does not apply to Mac Minis, iPod nanos, iPod shuffles, or iTunes Gift Cards.)

It’s our biggest night of the year. Don’t miss it!

Tacoma & Bothell

UW Tacoma and UW Bothell students, don’t think we’ve forgotten about you! On November 16, both our Tacoma and Bothell stores will be celebrating with Campus Thank You Day.

All day, students will save 20% on purchases (with UW ID, of course) and be able to enter for chances to win iPods, gift baskets, and other fantastic prizes.

Tacoma Campus Thank You Day

9am – 7pm

Bothell Campus Thank You Day

9am – 8pm

There are always discliamers, friends. Here are ours:

* May not be applied to your account. Excludes gift cards, shipping services, textbooks, Technology Center products, Clinique, short discount book titles, food or beverages from the book store café, and online orders. May not be combined with other discounts or special offers and applies only to stock on hand. Valid November 16, 5pm - 9pm at our U District store, and all day during store hours at our Tacoma and Bothell stores.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


JamesWebb, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

It's not yet Noon, and control of the House of Representitives has been decided.

The Senate has come down to a single race. George Allen versus the author of the book pictured above.

Can I get away with rooting for James Webb if I swear I am doing so not for partisan reasons, but simply because, as a bookseller, I just love it when good writers win stuff?

Here's a blurb about Born Fighting from nattily dressed literary luminary Tom Wolfe:

"A bombshell—or else the most brilliant battle flare ever launched by a book. James Webb reveals the all-but-invisible ethnic group that has created the core beliefs of democracy, American-style...not only an engrossing story, but also an important work of sociological history."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

PW's best books of the year

Follow this link to see who the Publisher's Weekly staff picked.

Our buddy Ryan Boudinot is on the list! Good on you, Ryan.

A follow-up...

We (the institutional "we", by the way...I have not started to refer to myself with the royal "we") received this comment a few days ago:

Anonymous said...

The University Bookstore is an amazing place. It promotes reading...yet the instore security team continues to harass and follow minority students and staff members around the store to the point that it is easier to buy from than to deal with being guilty of being a minority in a whites only store.

Our CEO, Bryan Pearce, was made aware of this message, and offered the following response:

Bryan Pearce, CEO U Book Store said...

University Book Store welcomes everyone into its stores. Since 1900, we have celebrated and reflected the diversity of our UW campus communities, the surrounding communities we serve, our staff, and the authors, subject matter and products we present every day.

I am always pleased to talk with our customers about the Book Store and address any questions or concerns.

By the way...

vote, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

today's the day. I was going to say "Don't forget," but, frankly, I can't imagine it's possible to—intentionally or accidently—miss that today is Election Day.

So, vote.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Monster Catfish 2007

Catfish, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Have you purchased your 2007 calendar yet? If not, might I suggest you consider picking up a copy of Monster Catfish 2007?

Might I?

Because I'm going to.

Monster Catfish 2007 features 12 photographs of the most monstrous catfish you will ever see, dear readers. And it features 12 photographs of a guy who apparently has a different two-tone baseball cap for every one of his outfits!

So if you love giant, whiskered fish and color-coordinating sportsmen, you should stop by University Book Store and lay out $12.99 and tax for your very own Monster Catfish 2007 calendar!

I'd rather be reading.

Keret, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

I would, you know. I'd much rather be reading.

If I was reading, I think I'd be reading Gaza Blues: Different Stories, a book of short pieces by Isreali fabulist Etgar Keret (whose work I love) and Palestinian author Samir El-Youssef (who I haven't read).

Alas, instead, I am shelving.

Staff Favorites

Thunderbolt, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Anne of Green Gables prequel?

Hot on the heels of the newly released Peter Pan in Scarlet, the official sequel to Peter Pan, Penguin Canada has announced their plans to publish an official prequel to Anne of Green Gables. They've commissioned Canadian author Budge Wilson to write it, and its release in 2008 will coincide with the 100th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables.I hope they know what a precarious endeavor this is . . . Anne and her creator L. M. Montgomery have some devoted fans!

(via Bookshelves of Doom - one of our kids book blog crushes)

Neal Gabler

Salon has an excerpt from Neal Gabler's new book, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination.

Mr. Gabler will be in conversation with our friend Warren Etheredge on Tuesday, November 14 @ 7pm. They will appear at The Warren Report Headquarters, Carnegie Free Public Library, 2026 NW Market Street, Seattle.


...Mr. Styron.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Campus Thank You Night & Day, 2006!

Are you ready? Campus Thank You Night is nearly here!

U District

Come on out to our U District store on Thursday, November 16 from 5pm – 9pm, and let us show you what you mean to us. Campus Thank You Night is a celebration of and for the students, staff, and faculty at the University of Washington—our most important customers.

Get to the store early for a free water bottle (they’re only available while supplies last!), enjoy refreshments and tastings from local coffee companies and chocolatiers, and enter for a chance to win prizes.

We’ll have an Apple MacBook, custom Gold and Purple iPods, a DVD player, gift cards—even a kayak!—in the prize pool this year, along with gift baskets galore. And with multiple places to enter, you’ll have multiple chances to win.

All your favorite games will be going, too: Putting for Textbooks, Shopping Spree, and Let’s Make a Deal.

And while you’re hanging out, playing games, and waiting for the next prize drawing, enjoy a 20% savings* (with UW ID) on some new books, gifts, supplies, and Husky gear.

It’s our biggest night of the year. Don’t miss it!

Tacoma & Bothell

UW Tacoma and UW Bothell students, don’t think we’ve forgotten about you! On November 16, both our Tacoma and Bothell stores will be celebrating with Campus Thank You Day.

All day, students will save 20% on purchases (with UW ID, of course) and be able to enter for chances to win iPods, gift baskets, and other fantastic prizes.

Tacoma Campus Thank You Day

9am – 7pm

Bothell Campus Thank You Day

9am – 8pm

Lemony Snicket @ Town Hall

You missed many things if you did not go to the Lemony Snicket event at Town Hall last night. One of them, however, was not the elusive Mr. Snicket. He flaked.

But, you missed the incomparable Daniel Handler yelling at small children. You missed a Midway complete with hi-striker, tattoo parlor, a game of Throw the Ball in Count Olaf's Mouth, and a Bad Fortune Teller. You missed a rollicking performance by Seattle's own The Bad Things. You missed two thirds of The Gothic Archies (again, because their drummer, Mr. Snicket, flaked) performing songs inspired by the books in The Series of Unfortunate Events. You missed a four-hour signing.

In other words, you missed lots and lots of fun.

But even if you were there, you missed something. You missed Stephin Merritt (ukulele player in The Gothic Archies and the man behind a band I'm fond of called The Magnetic Fields) doing a lonely sound check on the stage of Town Hall. That soundcheck? Mr. Merritt doing an a cappella version of Neil Diamond's "Song Sung Blue" and a ukulele version of "Incense and Peppermints."

I didn't miss it, though.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

An Award for Charlie

One of my favorite Northwest writers—heck, one of my favorite writers periodCharles D'Ambrosio, has won a Whiting Writers' Award.

If you haven't read ">The Dead Fish Museum, you should. Here's an article about the book from The Stranger that includes reviews of each story by Jonathan Lethem, Gary Lutz, and the infamous Dale Peck.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Annie, get your camera

The UW Daily (our local college newspaper) features a front page article on our Annie Leibowitz event last night.

And, ahem, seems oblivious to the fact that University Book Store sponsored the event and rented the hall. Not that we're bitter.

(Note: the link leads to a .pdf file that seems to change daily. If you follow this link on any day other than October 25, you will probably not find the article. Sorry. The Daily is updated their website.)

Staff Favorites

Eagle, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Stories in Six Words

Can you write a story in six words? Sure! Some Science Fiction authors take up the challenge once taken up by Hemingway.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Staff Favorites

Rejection, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Chicken with Plums

Next Tuesday, our own Nick Di Martino will be hosting the meeting of the University of Washington International Book Club. They will be discussing Marjane Satrapi's Chicken with Plums, a graphic memoir recently excerpted in Salon.

Nick has been a Satrapi booster for quite some time now, and lavished praise on her first book, Persepolis. Now, in a joint venture between University Book Store and the Foundation for International Understanding through Students (FIUTS), he is again on the stump for the marvelously talented Satrapi. Here are the event details:

FIUTS/University Book Store
Tuesday • October 24 • 2 pm
HUB 302-B, University of Washington campus

Join us. And remember, Chicken with Plums is a Nick's Pick book, meaning you save 20% when you purchase it through University Book Store. The book is regularly $16.95, but we have it for $13.56.

A rating system for the local library?

An Arlington woman would like the King County Library to adopt a rating system similar to that of the movie industry for books.

As we all know, that rating system is a smashing, not a bit arbitrary success.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Staff Favorites

Crumb, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Bargain Books

craptowns1, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Check the bargain tables for a copy of The Idler Book of Crap Towns: The 50 Worst Places to Live in the UK.

Are you like me? Have you been searching and searching for the worst place to live in all of Britain? Well, search no more! Finally there's a book for you.

As Joe Strummer from the Clash said about Crap Towns, "Bridgwater's not crap."

What higher praise could one expect?

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Weird, Wonderful World of...

MTAnderson, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

The following reaction to the National Book Award nominations was written by Betsy, one of the professional booksellers in our Children's department.

We here in the Children’s Department harbor lots of literary crushes. I sometimes feel like an ice cream shop in that I have a different crush for every day of the month. But a mainstay through it all is M. T. Anderson.

Oh, M. T. Anderson.

He can pick any genre, any topic, and write an exemplary yet oh-so-singular book within it. Like Feed: no one can do self-absorbed, computer and culture-addicted teen satire so well.

Or M. T. Anderson’s Thrilling Tales, Whales on Stilts and The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen: he invents teen sleuths only to have their washed up selves star in the campiest, wackiest mysteries imaginable. Pretty impressive for a writer who is actually “seven monkeys, six typewriters, and a Speak & Spell.”

And not to forget about his picture books! He fills a hole we never knew was there with Strange Mr. Satie, a biography of Erik Satie, the experimental composer (illustrated by local illustrator Petra Mathers, by the way).

Ooh, and of course his newest, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, for which he deservedly just got nominated for the National Book Award. I liked going into the story not knowing a thing about it, so will pass on the ignorance to you. Know only that it’s great and heart-wrenching and…so many things that it will make you crush on M.T.’s writing—for the first time or all over again.

Ryan Boudinot, interrogated

Things discussed during Ryan Boudinot's reading on September 28:

A picture that made him look a bit like Kim Jong-Il; the fact that even though that linked article talks about how much Ryan loves Elliott Bay, he also really, really loves University Book Store; things going through Robert Plant's mind during Jimmy Page's solos; cereal.

Have you recently read a book that made you angry because someone else wrote it instead of you? If so, what was it?

Not angry, no. I read things all the time that I admire and when I read something that is in the vein of fiction I'm presently exploring, I admire it that much more. An example would be Wells Tower's story in the Anchor Book of New American Short Stories. I can't remember the name of the story, but it's about Vikings and it's great. [It's called "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" and I agree that it is a heck of a good story—the Shelver.]

In grad school I experienced some of the usual creative writing jealousies and made a conscious effort to nip that tendency in the bud. When I read something a friend has written that is genuinely great, I want to celebrate it rather than scornfully wish I had written it. And ultimately, my theory is that this attitude leads me to write better.

A literary feud is a great way to get some publicity for a book. Who will you be starting a feud with and why?

I think we have too many feuds in this world. I think we could use fewer of them. Allen Ginsberg had a great quip when people would say he was fighting for peace, or fighting for other causes. He'd say that he wasn't fighting at all, he was working for peace. The feeling I get from observing a feud—literary or otherwise—is usually embarrassment for both parties. So no, I don't have a hankering to start any feuds.

And I disagree with the presumption of the question. A literary feud is a shitty way to get publicity for a book.

Here's one of those choices that I think speaks volumes about a person: Drow Thief-Acrobat or Paladin and why*?

I was actually always drawn to the Monk character type. My character for many years was a half-elf Monk named Mik. The reason I liked Monks so much was because they could do martial arts. Mik had a spider tattoo on his neck. There was a long-running ad in Dragon magazine where you could fill out a form, send in $10, and get your character "professionally illustrated." I did this. I sent $10 in bills in an envelope, plus $1 for lamination. A few weeks later I received the illustration, and was pretty blown away by it. Mik looked like a cross between Leif Garrett and Spock.

Say something nice about University Book Store.

Don't buy your used textbook online from shady dealers, buy them full price at University Book Store.

Any closing remarks?

Thanks for hosting me the other night at the store. I've read there 4 times and have enjoyed it every time. Plus, can't beat the complimentary bottled water provided to visiting authors.

* A bit of explanation, here. The Shelver** and Mr. Boudinot have a pre-existing social and writerly affiliation, and one of the things we know about each other is we were, in our youth, avid role-players. (Yeah, I said it.) The question here refers to the kinds of characters preferred: noble and heroic (the paladin), or dark and cagey (the thief). The question is a bit like asking whether you prefer Superman or Batman. Or, for those who are also not geeky enough to get the nuances of that comic book distinction, one might contrast The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. I hope this helps. It's tough to find a universal pop culture reference.

** I apologize for referring to myself in the third person.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Local boys...

...get the National Book Award nod.

The man with Harper Lee's digits!

The always reliable Maud Newton found this little gem about a small publisher getting a blurb from Harper Lee.

Here's an excerpt:

"I used to know a Harper Lee a hundred damn years ago,'' he replied.

"Well,'' Monks said, "it would be great to get Harper Lee to write a blurb for your book.''

Right then, Ehle pulled from his coat pocket two worn address books, held together by a single rubber band. Monks and Watson were dumbfounded. They had stumbled onto the literary equivalent of the Holy Grail.

"I was just drooling,'' Monks said the other day from her small attic office. "He had talked about sharing the same agent as Tom Wolfe and he pulled out this little book with Harper Lee's phone number in it and I thought 'Holy (expletive), what else is in that book? How much would that get on E-bay?' ''

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

National Book Award Finalists Announced

Here's the list.

Give me some time to absorb it. I might have something to say about it.

(First reaction: I really like Ken Kalfus. But I haven't read that new book yet.)


Shalom, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Jessa at Bookslut pointed me to a new First Person Ambivalent by Shalom Auslander. It's about the Information Age. And how depressing it can be living in the Informantion Age.

Ain't that the truth, says the guy who works in a repository of information. I'm just glad it actually takes time to write a book. I thank my lucky stars for the lag time between incident, and considered, bound response to incident.

If you haven't read Beware of God, you should.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I'd rather be reading...

Two2, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Sure, I'm working. And there's a sort of satisfaction I get from that.

But sometimes I'd rather be home reading.

Given the opportunity, there are two new books I'd love to be reading right now.

One is Laird Hunt's new novel The Exquisite. Hunt is a heck of a good writer; a on the abstract side. Through Amy Fusselman, I discovered his Beckett-Noir The Impossibly, and loved it. And then came the Midwestern fever dream Indiana, Indiana. Fine books, both. (If we don't have them in, we can always try to order them for you.)

The other is The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno. I've actually never read any Meno, but the plot synopsis intrigues me. And the cover's really good, too.

There you have it—the books I'd rather be reading. But instead, I am working. Shelving. Always with the shelving.

What are you reading when you're supposed to be shelving?

booker, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters.

"M" says it's "a masterful portrait of London during the Blitz."

It also may well win the Booker this year.

UPDATE: Well, Sarah Waters didn't win the Booker. But look who did! Congratulations, Kiran Desai.

What are you reading, part 2

Endym, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Endymion Spring by Matthew Skelton.

"B" says it's "a very exciting literary fantasy. With Faust! When do you find Faust in a kid's book?!?!"

What are you reading, part 3

Lock, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.

"D" says it's "a crackerjack romp from a first-time author."

What are you reading, part 4

Peac, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Peace Mom by Cindy Sheehan.

"K" says, "I was intrigued by her description of George W. Bush's Wal-Mart suit."

Friday, October 06, 2006

Staff Favorites

Mullen, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Classic books from Penguin!

penguinclassical, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

To borrow a phrase from Muhammad Ali, the books in the Penguin Great Ideas series shook up the world. Between the covers of each of these deceptively slim volumes—with their deceptively simple designs—a reader will find a lifetime's worth of pondering.

Titles include: Common Sense by Thomas Paine, The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, The Inner Life by Thomas á Kempis, Why I Write by George Orwell, On the Pleasure of Hating by William Hazlitt, On Natural Selection by Charles Darwin, Why I Am So Wise by Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Shortness of Life by Seneca, The Christians and the Fall of Rome by Edward Gibbon, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, On Friendship by Michel De Montaigne, & On Art and Life by John Ruskin.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Staff Favorites

Veronic, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Legs Smoked Here, Too!

Kevin Sampsell from Powell's books offers advice to audiences and authors at book readings.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Patrick Somerville: the interview

Tuesday, September 19, University Book Store was pleased to welcome Patrick Somerville to the store for a reading. And we were also pleased to find that, even though he looked at the interview with Andrea Seigel, he agreed to answer our questions, too!

A thing discussed at the reading:

Brad Spakowitz, meteorologist

1) Have you recently read a book that made you angry because someone else wrote it instead of you? If so, what was it?

I think Articles of War by Nick Arvin qualifies for me; it's so clear, with so many strange, amazing little moments built into it that convert war into something far weirder than horror and more moving than a typical story of people blowing other people away. It's just sad, and real, and totally unpretentious. And it's SO far from neurotic little kids running around in suburbia. I hate fiction like that.

2) A literary feud is a great way to get some publicity for a book. Who will you be starting a feud with and why?

Nicole Richie, because she's the mean one and I'm the nice one.

3) You grew up in Green Bay and now live in Chicago. How do you resist the urge—bred into you, one assumes—to punch people in Bears insignia gear in the back of the head?

Luckily, when I was growing up, the Packers completely dominated the Bears, and the pathetic, slumped fans moped around Lambeau Field with their beers and frowns and were too ridiculous to attack. Now the Bears are better and I live in Chicago, but I feel as though they deserve this nice time of winning. I also don't want to get the fuck beat out of me.

4) Say something nice about University Book Store.

Nice coffee, amiable street kids outside, really nice UW MFA students in attendance, and a high-quality microphone. What more could I ask for?

5) Any closing remarks?

Thanks. I had a fantastic time in Seattle, all around. The Alexis hotel? Pike Market? Come on.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Monday • September 25 • 7pm

You probably already know this. You are probably already planning on being here. But, maybe not. So, here's a head's up:

The incomparable Kelly Link, one of the finest contemporary short story writers around, will be here. Tonight. At University Book Store. Reading.

Be here.

This is the first paragraph of her story, "The Great Divorce," (which originally appeared in a fantastic journal called One Story) from her latest book, Magic For Beginners.

There once was a man whose wife was dead. She was dead when he fell in love with her, and she was dead for the twelve years they lived together, during which time she bore him three children, all of them dead as well, and at the time of which I am speaking, the time during which her husband beganto suspect that she was having an affair, she was still dead.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Thursday • September 28 • 7pm

WeKnew, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

This is pretty darned exciting. Local author, "One to Watch", humorist, and coffee enthusiast Ryan Boudinot will be here next Thursday to read from his new book, The Littlest Hitler.

I can't wait. I've been reading and enjoying Ryan's work for a while now, and have been looking forward to the publication of his first book.

But, this isn't the first time Ryan has read here. This is, in fact, the fourth time! He read with Dave Eggers, John Moe, and Sean Carman for the publication of Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans, twice with Stephen Elliott for Happy Baby and Looking Forward to It, and with Hobart issue #4, a journal he edited. Ryan's a regular.

Here's proof:

There he is, readers. Ryan Boudinot. In our store. Leaning against a fixture.

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Wow. That's a grammatically correct sentence!

So. Umm.

"The bookmaker booked to book the bookmaker's bet?" Readers, can you do better than that with the word "book"? I'll bet you can. Give it a try in the comments section.

Here are a couple of Steven Pinker links.

(This link was discovered at Edward Champion's Return of the Reluctant.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Nick's Pick for October: The Places in Between

Nickspick, originally uploaded by ubs_blogger.

Every month, our own Nick DiMartino chooses his favorite recent title and crafts a more indepth review than our regular staff favorites.

His October pick? The Places in Between by Rory Stewart.

Here's what Nick says about it:

Trusting in Muslim hospitality, Rory Stewart walks across Afghanistan.

Rory Stewart is the smart person’s hero, a brave and well-informed 30-year-old Scotsman determined to complete his walk across all of Asia. Two weeks after the Taliban falls he’s ready to cross Afghanistan. So what if it’s winter?

This is travel writing at its best. As he follows in the footsteps of Babur, the first Emperor of Mughal India, he stops in over 500 village homes, talking with people of all ages, from soldiers to shepherds.

Best of all, in a land where dogs are considered unclean, he adopts a mistreated old war dog, names him Babur, and determines to take the dog with him all the way back to Scotland. Join Rory for a walk worth taking – see Afghanistan in all its complexity in the company of a superb writer and a fine human being.

The Places in Between is on sale now for only $11.20!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"It's like meeting Santa Claus!"

Here is a great reason why people like me should never meet famous people: we can't handle it. Would you like to hear a story about me being a fool? Of course! Who wouldn't?

Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson just waltzed into our bookstore to sign books. Yes, authors do this all the time. They just walk through the doors like humans, on two legs and everything, and they ask to sign their books. Usually I'm too starstruck to do much more than let inane things dribble out of my mouth, and rarely are they coherent. They resemble the formal greeting "So nice to meet you! We appreciate your time," but land somewhere else entirely, in The Valley of Um. But this time takes the cake. Background first: I grew up reading Dave Barry's books. My parents had them on the shelves, and my little brother and I would snatch them and read them aloud to each other, usually until we lost the power of speech and just lay on the floor, convulsing with spasms of laughter. We would repeat the jokes (usually the inappropriate ones) at parties, and our parents would blush and shush us while other parents tittered. We loved these books so much that my parents actually have a photo on the fridge of us reading Dave Barry's Greatest Hits. My brother still wants to be a stand-up comedian or comedy writer. So Dave Barry was a very important figure in my childhood. Now back to the present: I walked up to a staff desk, where two normal-looking guys with a big stack of books were standing. I opened my mouth to say, "Can I help you?" and instead, I did that fish-mouth thing where you keep opening and closing your mouth while no words come out. Because the normal-looking guys were decidedly un-normal, they were the aforementioned Pearson and Barry. Quick on my feet, I realized I should say some words, something like "I have always loved your books, Mr. Barry." I would regale him with the cute stories about my brother and I, and he would laugh, and we would go out for tea and become lifelong friends. Instead, I literally burst into tears. Trying to be an adult, I walked away, dried my face, and went to stand awkwardly next to the desk, smiling and nodding at the very normal conversation he was having with another bookseller. I tried English again, but it was no use. He cordially gave the books back to us and left, and I regained my voice long enough to say a strangled and whispered "thank you," before bursting into tears for a second time. When a coworker asked why, I said, "It's like meeting Santa Claus." I can't explain it. It just is.

Why on earth am I telling you this? Because I am secretly hoping that you are Dave Barry, and when you read this, you will remember the trembling, pale girl at the desk, and you will have the moment I wanted you to have, which was a moment of basking in the adoration of a lifelong fan.

A Fool

P.S. I realize I should plug my idol's books, right? Those fantastic dudes were here touring for their new children's book Escape from Carnivale, and signed copies of their two other books for children, Peter and the Starcatchers and Peter and the Shadow Thieves, as well as multitudes of their own books for grown ups.

tell all your friends!