Thursday, July 31, 2008

Book Lust with Nancy Pearl: Stephanie Meyer Parts 2 & 3

Here is the rest of the Stephenie Meyer interview. It's very nearly Breaking Dawn party time!

Part 2

Part 3

Little Oxfords

One of the reliable pleasures of buying at the Used Books Desk is seeing old friends. Here I don't mean our scouts and other regulars, though we are very fond of same. The old friends I mean are books we know and love. Yesterday we processed a little clutch of "The World's Classics" in hardcovers from the Oxford University Press. Among the titles were Selected Modern English Essays, Anna Karenina, Barchester Towers and Candide and Other Stories.

Though these are all good, tight copies, (sadly without dustjackets,) they are a little plain, dating from the late sixties and early seventies when the more elaborate bindings of earlier editions had gone for good -- as the series itself did not so long ago.

"The World's Classics" were the OUP's answer to Ernest Rhys "Everyman's Library," started in 1906 for the publisher J. M. Dent. The turn of the last century was a golden age of reading. The spread of literacy and general education meant a broad new audience for books. Rhys's mission was to publish the great books of world literature in attractive and affordable editions, the titles eventually totally 1000, though that number was not achieved until after Rhys's death. OUP, under Henry Frowde, bought out another publishers list and then began adding titles. One historian of the Press has described their selection as "whimsical," but most of the reliable masterpieces are represented.

I love these little Oxford editions because of their handsome look, at 3 1/2 by 6, their wonderfully compact size (perfect to "slip in a slacks pocket" as Helene Hanff might have said,)
and because they survive many readers. That's a well made book.

So hunt them out on our shelves. We don't see them too often, but when we do, we buy them. You should too.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Stesha's Fantasy Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Cast

I'm not normally the sort of reader who imagines actors when I read a new book, but a comment from another fan of Guernsey got me thinking about my dream cast:

The book is told primarily from the point of view of Juliet Ashton, a reporter for the Spectator during WWII, and now a writer in search of a meaningful subject for her next book. My vote for Juliet is the lovely and talented Emily Blunt. Another staffer recommended Rosamund Pike. Juliet's close relationship with her publisher Sidney forms the basis of much of the book. Sidney is an imposing man with a wry sense of humor. Guernsey co-author Annie Barrows shared with me that in her mind, Sidney is a tall man. I vote for Nathaniel Parker, known to many from the Inspector Lynley series on PBS. Sidney's sister Sophie is Juliet's closest friend. She and Juliet have known each other since boarding school and Sophie is Juliet's touchstone. Jennifer Ehle would be perfect! Juliet is wooed by a rich American publisher who appreciates her intellectual attributes as much as her physical ones. He's a little cocky, and very, very self-assured. Dermot Mulroney fits the bill perfectly.

Emily Blunt as Juliet * Nathaniel Parker as Sidney *Jennifer Ehle as Sophie * Dermot Mulroney as Markham Reynolds

Juliet receives a letter from Guernsey that launches her friendship with the literary society there. She begins to communicate with various members of the society: Amelia, the matriarch of the group; Eben, who lost his daughter and grandchild the day the Nazis arrived on the island; John Booker, the recovering alcoholic and amateur actor and Isola, whose potions and remedies were much talked about (and as much avoided).

Maggie Smith as Amelia * Denis Lawson as Eben * Rupert Everett as John Booker * Emma Chambers as Isola

It is Juliet's relationship with Dawsey that forms the heart of the book. Dawsey writes to Juliet in order to track down more work by Charles Lamb. Their friendship deepens as Juliet begins to understand the impact of the occupation on the islanders and their close-knit community. Richard Armitage (one of favorite actors!) would be perfect as the quiet, contemplative Dawsey. There is one character who is the soul of the book, but is missing from the island.Elizabeth is a firebrand who protects her friends and family against Nazi injustice and pays for it. Justine Waddell would be good as Elizabeth's quick-thinking, quick-acting character.

Richard Armitage as Dawsey * Justine Waddell as Elizabeth

Once you've read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I'd love to hear about your fantasy cast for the film.

Take Note: the Guernsey banner on our website includes a secret link. Find it, click it and win a free signed copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society courtesy of Random House and University Book Store.

Book Lust with Nancy Pearl: Stephenie Meyer part 1

Parts two and three will go up later today.

Join us on Friday (at our U District and Mill Creek stores), 10pm to Midnight, for our Breaking Dawn release party.

Eastsiders can check out our Bellevue Breaking Dawn party from 10am to 2pm.

More details here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

No Moles Were Harmed In The Making Of These Notebooks

Moleskines. They're a phenomenon. A juggernaut. They even have their own fan site.

Ok, here's the point. The 18-month Moleskine planners for 2008-2009 are almost impossible to find, I'm told.

But we have them. For the moment, at least.

I'd hurry, if I were you.

Dog of the Week

It's been a while since we had a new Dog of the Week. Sadly, I am bringing the feature back this week with a sad post.

Follow this link to read a short essay and slideshow of Rosie, the Labrador companion of writer Robert Birnbaum.

Birnbaum's author interviews are always top-notch, and the presence of Rosie, by his own admission, always help facilitate them.

Good girl, Rosie.

Here she is with George Saunders. Photo by Birnbaum.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Guernsey is Finally Here!!!

Four months ago I was lucky enough to receive an advance readers copy of a wonderful book that made me laugh and think and even cry (a little, I admit it!)
For four months I have been talking to just about everyone I know about this book—staff, customers, friends, family, strangers on the bus. Yes, I enjoyed it that much!

(In fact, I loved it so much that I just re-read it, which is rare in bookselling circles!)

Finally, its publication date has arrived. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will be available to the general public Tuesday July 29.

I'm so thrilled I barely know what to say. Other than go grab a copy and enjoy one of my favorite books this summer!

Stay tuned: later this week I'll post my casting for the Guernsey film (which currently only exists in my head....but it's best to be prepared!)

UPDATE: For those of you who haven't been accosted by me yet and would like to know more about the book, you can read my staff favorite (and many, many others) here.

Our Impending Zombie Doom in Context

From Clay Shirky's book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations:

Early one June in 2003, more than a hundred people arrived on the ninth floor of Macy's department store, where they proceeded to look at one particualr large and very expensive rug. When the puzzled sales assistant asked if they needed help, members of the group explained that they lived together in a commune, were shopping for a "love rug," and made all their decisions in a group. Then, ten minutes later, the crowd suddenly dispersed, heading in different directions with no obvious coordination.

The event was the first successful flash mob, a group that engages in seemingly spontaneous but actually synchronized behavior. The form was invented by Bill Wasik, an editor at Harper's magazine, as a kind of street performance, as well as an ironic commentary on the conformism of hipster culture. Wasik, working as the anonymous "Bill from New York," would e-mail instructions to a group of people, spelling out when and where they were to converge and describing the activity they were to engage in once there. Later flash crowds involved getting dozens of people to perch on a stone ledge in Central Park making bird noises, a "Zombie walk" in San Francisco, and a silent dance party at London's Victoria Station. These mobs had some of the flavor of flagpole sitting—harmless but attention-getting fun. But as novelist William Gibson noted about technology, the street finds its own uses for things, and after the flagpole-sitting phase, flash mobs entered the political sphere.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Why We Do What We Do

As evidenced by my earlier comments about discounting used books for the Summer Book Sale, not every buy made at the Used Books Desk turns out to be either as remunerative or rewarding as one might have hoped. Not all used books sell. There are books—good books, even classic books—taken into stock in a spirit more defiant than optimistic. Any honest bookseller, if pressed, and given a sufficient accumulation of regret and dust, has to admit as much. And yet, we can't help ourselves. Something "really interesting" comes across the buying desk and, knowing we ought not to, we buy it anyway. Someone, surely, will want that lovely set of Robert Browning...

Books in languages other than English can be a tricky thing, even in a large urban bookstore. It's safe enough, to stock a clean used copy of Don Quixote in Spanish, or to put out a short shelf of Simenon in French. But what about the intriguing Czech novel in German? Or The Grapes of Wrath in Italian?

And then, something wonderful can happen. A young man looks over the Recent Arrivals case at the Used Books Desk and, from all the wonderful chaos of titles therein, he plucks out a volume of Schiller, in cloth covers, in German! Moreover, he's excited to see that there are multiple volumes, as well as volumes of Goethe, and even Goethe and Schiller's correspondence. He may be back.

These books in German were bought from someone whose mother subscribed to a German language book club. They are uniformly handsome books, well made and beautifully kept by the previous owner.

How likely was that enthusiastic student of German? How many Americans in their twenties are reading Schiller, let alone Schiller's prose? And how lucky for us that that volume of Schiller was out on the shelf waiting the day our customer happened by?

Suddenly I feel perfectly justified in stocking Bagehot's The English Constitution, "Tchekhov" in Russian, and Charles Kingsley's Alton Locke, in two volumes.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Stacy D'Erasmo on Paper Cuts

The very talented Stacy D'Erasmo answered questions on the New York Times blog, Paper Cuts. I liked this answer:

Whose books are generally shelved around yours in bookstores? How does it feel to be sitting between them?

My books—I kid you not—are very often shelved between DeLillo and de Sade. Which not only completely cracks me up, but it seems like an encouraging message from the universe: between those two, there’s a lot of wiggle room. I feel just fine there.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

When You Are Engulfed In Flames

Did you catch the news about Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg teaming up to fight smoking? I think they should just take the $375 million and buy 14.4 million* copies of the new David Sedaris book to hand out to people. You know, the one where he quits smoking...

I remember when he read here at the bookstore a few years back. As he took the stage, he asked the events people if he could smoke. When they told him "no" he promptly went ahead and lit up anyway. If he can quit, anyone can...

Are you reading this, Bill and Mike?

*P.S. to Bill and Mike--University Book Store has the book on sale for 20% off, so you could get 18 million copies if you buy it from us. Just thought you should know...

Do It Yourself

In these increasingly difficult economic times, it may behoove you to "do it yourself."

We currently have a display of just such books in New & Used Books. You can Be Your Own Chimney Sweep, Make Twig Furniture, try being The DIY Bride, use the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, or be really retro and try Old Time Farm and Garden Devices and How to Make Them in case you really need to know how to "move a large tree" or "build your own corn crib."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


We've heard.

Yes, we'll be ready. Thanks to Max Brooks.


English authors confess the books they are most ashamed of having not yet read:

Filmed at the Way With Words Festival.

In the spirit of sharing, I've never read Moby-Dick.

And it eats me up inside.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Every Saturday I drive to work and park in a lot behind an abandoned grocery store. Due to construction on the freeway this morning, I was late. Not terribly late, but late enough that I assumed I would miss seeing a gentleman who has become part of my Saturday morning routine. Every Saturday an elderly fellow, in a greasy windbreaker of indeterminate color and a safari hat of similar long usage, stands in the parking lot I use and feeds the birds. I have come to count on seeing him there, fair weather or foul, most Saturdays, surrounded by pigeons and crows and seagulls and starlings. There's nothing remarkable in someone tossing breadcrumbs to the urban avian population. There is, however, something notable in the method employed by this particular old fellow, and watching him has become a reliable pleasure to me. From a full loaf of the kind of bagged white bread we are no longer encouraged to eat, he extracts as many as three slices in a dip and then tosses these slices whole over his head. His pitching style is a jerky underhanded softball throw that bespeaks age and weariness more than aggression, but it looks angry even if it isn't. Each fist-full of white bread flies up but so far before at least a few birds are airborne. Only the crows ever seem to catch anything. The rest wait to fight it out on the ground. Only the starlings seem willing to work in any kind of concert; darting in waves to gather crumbs tossed off in battles among the larger birds, otherwise the scene is a loud, flapping, wheeling kind of chaos. The bird feeder seems to take little pleasure in his labors. Having methodically worked his way through a loaf, he does not stay to watch the birds. Instead, he carefully folds the plastic bread-bag before shoving it into the pocket of his jacket, and then, without a glance at the birds, he simply stomps off, having, presumably, done his duty.

Even though I was nearly thirty minutes late this morning, I managed to catch a glimpse of the last pitch as I pulled into the lot. I parked and watched the old man walk away. Am I wrong in supposing that his distinctive, stiff-legged march has slowed? Is that why he was still about his business even as I came late on the scene? Or am I sentimentalizing? As with so many characters encountered in the U District, my curiosity actually extends no further than my glance.

There are dozens of such eccentrics in the neighborhood: buskers and beggars, full-throated gospel singers and self-appointed city-sweepers, the little man in the summer suit who plants religious tracts in the men's room at the bookstore, whistlers and dog-walkers and the grown man who dresses daily like an elf, though I haven't seen him for some time.

Lifelong Seattlites, while traditionally tolerant of the strangers among them, seem to despair of the growing urbanization of the University neighborhood, invariably waxing nostalgic about the University Bookstore of their childhood, where Grandpa rented skis from the Sporting Goods Department the streets were -- at least in memory -- clean, and where the ladies wore gloves in the summertime.

But as a more recent arrival from another city I won't trouble the locals by naming, I am comforted by the mix of humanity that only a big city provides. People make a landscape more interesting. And the mix of people in and about the bookstore is extraordinary. So much so that on the same recent afternoon I watched three boys from three races performing capoeira just outside the front door of the store and then, later, listened to a couple sing a Johnny and June Carter Cash duet in the doorway of an untenanted building across the street. And this morning, in just the first hour of business, I've admired a parade past the Used Books Desk of beautiful babies of every description, all out in their strollers for a summer airing, and ladies wearing broad-brimmed summer hats, and couples with baskets of fresh greens and fruit from The University District Farmers' Market, and families -- "traditional" and otherwise -- hunting out bargains together from the Summer Book Sale tables in the lobby.

I would suggest, should the reader of this be unfamiliar with either the bookstore or the U, or skeptical of coming back this way after many years elsewhere, it is well worth coming to the best bookstore in Seattle, not simply for the bookstore itself, but also for the varied pleasures of the people to be seen hereabouts. And if the place is not as you remember, or if it is unlike the suburban mall located, weirdly, just over the hill, you must trust me when I tell you that that is not necessarily such a very bad thing.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

THE SUMMER BOOK SALE! (as seen from the Used Books Desk)

The annual summer book sale has begun. Regular shoppers at University Book Store will be met by the full tables in the lobby and, presumably, rejoice. In addition to discounted titles from our regular inventory and Bargain Books, the discerning book buyer will also notice a large number of discounted Used Books. Just a word about those Used Books...

Buying used books is not unlike running an animal rescue shelter. There are always new homes available for the most popular, owner-friendly sorts—all glossy and familiar, recognizably "just right" for the kids or dear old Aunt Ruth. But what makes used book buying interesting are the exotics, the mutts and the crossbreeds, the very rare birds and the one of a kind. It is for love of these that buyers enthusiastically return each day to the desk. And for these, there is not always an owner... immediately.

An old fashioned used books dealer, sitting in his own dusty little shop, can display his quirkier purchases proudly for years, secure in the knowledge that, sooner or later, the right reader will happen in, and willingly pay the price asked to complete his collection of books about—19th Century ichthyology? patterns of Chinese migration? the aesthetics of truck mudflaps?

For those of us working in, shall we say, a more commercial environment—where new books come in constantly and where used books are only one part of our huge inventory—patience has its limits.

And so comes the Summer Book Sale. So if your interest in used books tends to the more interesting, less common kind of book, now is your moment! Lost treasures and rare pleasures await you, in great heaps of hardcover and soft! Move quickly, or that one other person in the world with your exact interests will be taking home your perfect pet book.

Most Stylish Man

Okay, so, here's the thing, Blayne. That "Seattle's Most Stylish Man" contest? We and our friends from Seattle Metropolitan magazine hosted it here at University Book Store to celebrate the release of Tim Gunn's book Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste, and Style. And while you were one of the finalists in the contest, you were not—as this bio suggests—named the Most Stylish Man by a panel of judges. Gopi was.

Hey, maybe the people who wrote the bio got it wrong. That's a possibility. Just wanted to set the record straight. That's all. Gopi was named Seattle's Most Stylish Man. I was there. Let's give the man his due.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The New Yorker Cover

Victor LaValle—one of my favorite contemporary writers—on The New Yorker cover. (From Maud Newton's fine, fine blog.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Berry Spectacular Tomorrow!

Looking for something to do tomorrow, Saturday, July 12? The U District Farmers Market is having a Berry Spectacular to celebrate the arrival of local berries.

We'll be there with a table full of local cookbooks and a book signing by Debra Daniels-Zeller, author of Local Vegetarian Cooking. The market runs from 9am to 2pm at 50th and University Way. Support local farmers and your local independent bookstore at the same time!

Ragged Edge

Years ago, I had a customer approach me and tell me that a book seemed to have "a rather ragged cut for $24." He held the book up to me, topside pointing in my direction, the plane of the pages opposite the binding at eye level. And, yes, the edges were not trimmed clean. They dipped and rose in hills and valleys.

This was early on in my shelving/bookselling career, and I didn't really have the lingo down. I think my response was a meek little: "No, they meant to do that." He gave me a look of incredulity and moved on.

Later, I learned to refer to said untrimmed edge as "deckle." Said with enough authority ("Oh, sure. That's a deckle edge. It's a design choice."), it placates customers.

Powell's blogger, why must you muddy my waters?

Our geeked-out conversation about fore-edges led, of course, down the dark bibliographic road to the term "deckle edges." John Carter defines the term as "the rough, untrimmed edges of a sheet of hand made paper....Much prized by collectors."

Deckle is not merely "untrimmed." It is sort of "untrimmed" on steroids. Here's what deckle edges look like:

(Check the full post for accompanying images.)

I suppose I should go back to saying "untrimmed edge," but "deckle" sounded so much more...official.

Monday, July 07, 2008

A darn shame

Tom Disch, author of some really powerful books, committed suicide on July 4.

As this post says, go find a copy of On Wings of Song and read it. Amazing, amazing book.

Here's an obit from Locus.


Ed Champion and Thomas Disch in conversation.


An obit from The New York Times.

tell all your friends!