Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Wave after Wave of Staff Faves!

It's November, and that means all of us in General Books are choosing our Holiday Staff Picks! And even though books are gifts that just never! stop! giving! picking our holiday favorites is not just about gift-giving. It's about that cozy feeling; that increased inclination to hunker down and bundle up in your favorite chaise lounge/cave/tree house and get some solid reading done.

But what will you choose? We here at the bookstore have approximately 50 recommendations for you, your dad, your grandmother, and your dog (seriously, your dog will directly benefit from some of these picks). Name a section in the bookstore and we will pull a winner off the shelf. We will be featuring lots of great selections over the next two months, starting today!

Here's a pick from Pam:

Maira Kalman, artist extraordinaire, has hit the equivalent of a grand slam in the book publishing world. This fall, she has not one, not two, but three new books out. (Okay, one of them came out this past May--so sue me). I am perhaps one of her greatest fans and, although I am not a stalker and have never written her a letter, she is one of my imaginary best friends.

Which brings me to And the Pursuit of Happiness, a book based on a blog she penned for the New York Times. (If you were lucky, you read her first blog-to-book, Principles of Uncertainty, but if you somehow missed it, you can get it in paperback which is just as lovely and not as heavy as it was in hardcover).

In And the Pursuit of Happiness, Maira Kalman writes and paints about her visit to our capital during Barack Obama's inauguration where she encounters the history, art, architecture, and fashion of the White House. She later meets Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and promptly drops Jane Austen as her imaginary best friend in favor of Ruth, whose favorite artist is Matisse.

She becomes fascinated by our founding fathers (Benjamin Franklin is the dapper man on the cover of the book) and sets the record straight about their accomplishments. For instance, Thomas Jefferson invented triple sash windows, and Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod and swim fins. The breadth of her curiosity is astounding and enlightening and takes you into completely unexpected places; she presents us with a non-linear riff on what is good and hopeful about America's past, present and future.

Her goofy, wonderful, witty and joyful gouache paintings make you want to get up right now off your sofa to get a set of brushes and some good non-toxic paint to try and reproduce the happiness you feel just by looking at her colorful "do try this at home" art.

13 Words, written by Lemony Snicket (yes! he wrote a Series of Unfortunate Events) and illustrated by (you guessed it) Maira Kalman, is a hilarious picture book for anyone with a pulse. Take a look at the book trailer:

And last, Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World) would be my favorite if I had one. It is an exhibition catalog of Maira's work, including drawings, paintings, and embroideries. Please pick it up--you will not be disappointed.



  1. Love these! Thanks Pam.

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