Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Down and Out in Tokyo and Osaka

We're giving away another book! This time it's 1Q84, Haruki Murakami's massively popular, long-awaited 900 page novel. Murakami needs no introduction, you're either hooked or you're not.
Here's your challenge: Reimagine another George Orwell title with a Murakami-esque twist. (I know you all can do better than my title for this blog!)
Leave your e-mail in the comments if you want to be eligible to win! We have two more books after this one to give away, so check back, and as always, thanks for participating!

** UPDATE **
Comments are closed for this giveaway. We have two more books to go! Thanks!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

One Down, Four to Go!

Here's a pile of mystery books...

Are you guys ready for the next book in our giveaway? It's Before Seattle Rocked by Kurt E. Armbruster. This one's just about as local as we could get without giving away our teenage diaries (in your dreams!!).

From the introduction:
"Seattle is a music town, and for many, that means Rock & Roll. The "Northwest sound" of the region's early rock bands is universally acknowledged and the fact that their city succored in her bosom Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain fills Seattleites with proprietary pride. Fifty years of rock, however, were preceded by more than a hundred years of music that was equally exciting to its listeners and important to the community's evolution."

Sounds good! "...succored in her bosom" is quite a gem.
Here's the criteria for your comments. Describe the best live music show you've ever seen in Seattle. Make sure to leave your e-mail address in your comment if you want to be in the running! We'll randomly choose a comment and get in touch with the winner.
Three more books to go!

Comments are closed for this giveaway. Thanks!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Stranger Advice

Our own Michael Walenfelds welcomes The Stranger's paul Constant to the booth.
 Paul gives up the goods on this year's best books.
And finally... The End.

More Expert Advice at the Booth!

 Seattle Time Books Editrix Supreme, May Ann Gwinn keepin' time at the advice booth.

Beloved Random House Rep and conversationalist, Katie Mehan sellin' and makin' merry like Christmas.

Calendars! The Easiest Panic Gift!

Don't worry.  There are plenty left.  They're beautiful and everybody likes them.  Go on.  Pick a few.  Maybe one for yourself.

Holiday Gift Advice!

Nancy Pearl offers counsel today, at our Holiday Gift Advice booth, while Marilyn Dahl looks on.

Our experts are waiting!  Come on in and they'll halp you find the perfect gifts!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

And the Winner Is!

Congratulations Tsara! You were randomly chosen as the winner of The Swerve. Please send your contact information to:
Thanks for participating, everyone!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Spread the Word... Free Books!!

I have five books sitting on my desk, and they could be yours, for free. Three are hardcovers, one is a novel, two are nonfiction, one is Seattle-related, two are for animal lovers, and one just won a major award. Those are some clues to get you excited. There's just a little bit of work you'll have to do to get your hands on our books.

Let's start with the National Book Award winner: The Swerve, by Stephen Greenblatt. It's about the profound impact of the rediscovery of Lucretius' On The Nature of Things in 1417. Here's a quote from the dust jacket:

"It was a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functions without the aid of gods, that religious fear is damaging to human life, that pleasure and virtue are not opposites but intertwined, and that matter is made up of very small material particles in external motion, randomly colliding and swerving in new directions."

Maybe you would like to win this book? Ok, just one little thing you have to do first. In the comments, post a short anecdote about a book you've rediscovered in your life. Something you hated as a teenager, maybe, but then grew to love in adulthood. Or something people had been recommending to you for years, and you avoided for one reason or another. We will choose a comment at random and get in touch with you. And remember, the other four books are going to be given away in the next few days, so keep checking back!

Comments are closed! We will contact the winner soon. Stay tuned for a chance to win another great book in the next few days.

We Have The Books Everyone Wants!

The elves up in the office at University Book Store have been hard at work this holiday season, making sure we have all the hot new titles you want. If you're having a hard time finding these books, never fear, we've got 'em! But hurry, once the word gets out, they may not last!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Just in case you were still on the fence...

...about where to buy your books this holiday season, our most awesome local paper, The Stranger, has published a gift guide for the 99 percent, and has included a great piece by Paul Constant that you should go read. Then come into the store and let us help you find some books!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A HAPPY WITCH ... and 99 more things.

Here's a seasonal kid's book that you will still get a kick out of even after the season is over: How to Draw a Happy Witch and 99 Things that Go BUMP in the Night.

I have had no trouble selling the heck out of it, because it's a treasure and priced at only $9.95(minus any discount you may have with the book store*!) Joy Sikorski and now Nick Sunday have partnered to bring this gem to us just in time for All Hallows Eve. But don't expect anything really scary: I mean, the book is for kids age Five and Up (!) and for adults like me who have never grown up and are fond of a cat named Little Man. :D 

Here are a few of the drawing tutorials just to wet your appetite:

I love me some foxes! (so cute)

 Just a few lines and you have a porcupine ...
C'mon now, who can resist kittens drinking milk?

One other piece of good news is that we also have another book by Joy Sikorski on our shelves in the Kids Book Department. Check it out when you come visit us next.

Happy Halloween!

*If you haven't already, please sign up our Readers Club card (our free discount program.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Food, Glorious Food!

Hey everyone, check out our new foodbook display!*

Is there any book more tempting than a foodbook? I've decided to rename this genre, because its contents have spilled over like a particularly frothy puree onto the shelves of memoir, fiction and nonfiction. In our store, the cookbook section now includes the ever-growing "food essay" section; home to such recent hits as Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones & Butter, Suzan Colon's Cherries in Winter, and David Lebovitz's The Sweet Life in Paris. The only unlikely thing about the current surge of popular foodbooks is that it took so long to arrive.
Maybe there was always some deeper insight itching to escape the rigorousness of recipes, the strict how-tos of browning meat or folding in egg whites. I like to imagine the sheer weight of food-borne emotion busting the seams of cookbooks, spawning blogs and research and novels.
We haven't neglected the genre that started it all, and our food-crazed staff have recommended some new classics that you may just start to gnaw on as you stand in line:

Fried Chicken and Champagne by Lisa Dupar
"Congratulations Lisa Dupar! Fried Chicken and Champagne is the winner of the 2011 IACP Julia Child Award. Share the goodness of Pomegranate Bistro with your friends and family."

Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry
"Proving that healthy doesn't have to equal boring, Terry brings an eclectic "remix" to traditional Southern recipes that is creative and flavorful. Strongly recommended for vegans and non-vegans alike who are looking for some variety."

We also have some citrus-centric novels:

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
"Aimee Bender writes a sensitive and insightful character in Rose Edelstein: a young girl whose coming of age is framed, for better or worse, by her ability to taste emotions in the food she eats."

Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris
"Harris dissects village life so well; here in a more somber tone than in "Chocolat." The result is an intriguing, complex interplay of past and present, youth and age, memory and truth. And, of course, food plays a major role."

And as we all know, the best gifts are edible, so here's some inspiration for your next project:

Delicious Gifts by Jess McCloskey
"How better to enter into the gift giving season than with this treasure of a book by Jess McCloskey. There is no better way into someone's heart."

I'm going to go home and cook something now. Happy Fall!

*This awesome sign was made by Jaime.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Extra Credit: Cory Doctorow

In case you missed it, you should know that we're giving away 2 copies of Cory Doctorow's new book which is available on our Espresso Book Machine!

For those of you who want to double their luck, we have an extra credit question for you to answer. If you get the answer right, we'll enter you in the drawing twice! Leave your comment here or on the first post and make sure to include your email address for us to contact you. Contest ends at 10am PST on Wednesday 8/17.

Extra Credit Question:

In a pdf version of one of his books, Cory dedicates a chapter to our bookstore and, specifically, our stellar Sci-Fi/Fantasy Buyer, Duane Wilkins.

Cory says: "This scene is dedicated to the University Bookstore at the University of Washington, whose science fiction section rivals many specialty stores, thanks to the sharp-eyed, dedicated science fiction buyer, Duane Wilkins...."

In which book does he give this dedication?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cory Doctorow!

You have to get your hands on Cory Doctorow's new DIY publishing project!

Cory has ingeniously embarked on a self publishing adventure for his new book, With a Little Help. With a Little Help is a collection of stories that are available instantly (and in book format) through a handful of Espresso Book Machines, including ours. You choose 1 of 4 different covers. We print it for you. You read it. If you find any typos you can email Cory and he'll update the next printed copy with the typo fix and your name in the footnotes. Imagine that!

We are so excited to be part of this project that we want to give away a few books. Leave a comment here telling us about the last book you read and we'll enter you to win a copy of With a Little Help. Don't forget to put your email address in the comment so we can contact you. Enter by Wednesday 8/17 at 10am PST.

You can see all the covers and order the books here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Girls Rock!

One constant that is almost always guaranteed to pull me into a book is a kick-a.. heroine. I love the portrayal of remarkable women in fiction. And to be a kick-a.. girl you don't have to be totally together all the time; in fact I find that the girls who figure things out as they go are much more interesting. Yeah, the messier the better! Remember tortured Temple in the Reapers are the Angels? (A book by Alden Bell that I gave a nod to in an earlier post). T-T rocks as a kick-a.. heroine! Because even as she can't give herself a break, she is still a force of good in the dystopian world that she inhabits.

So it probably won't surprise you to find that I have found a few new heroines to write about.

N.K. Jemisin's first novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, might never have been written if she had listened to the advice of others, and not entered into the seemingly male-dominated scifi/fantasy genre (according to a Kelly Link interview.) But now we have Yeine Darr, deemed barbarian and outcast by the court city of Sky. Yeine, daughter first, who is still grieving the loss of her mother, granddaughter second to a cold and calculating King who would make her his pawn.Yeine who quickly falls in with the childlike god Sieh, eventually ignites the passions of the brooding and dangerously mysterious nightlord Nahadoth, and then proves divisive to the rest of the gods. I nominate Yeine as an up-and-comer in the kick-a.. heroine category, and it appears that I am not alone in this nod because Ms. Jemisin received the 2011 Locus Award for Best First Novel! Hoorah! I am looking forward to reading great fictions by N.K. Jemisin.

Next on my reading list is Girls Kick Butt, a collection of short fiction from a variety of different female scifi/fantasy authors filled with kick-a.. characters. I like collections of this kind, centered around genre and theme: it is a really great way to get introduced to new writers, ones that you haven't read before, along with seeing what the oldies but goodies are up to these days.

Take Jenna Black's protagonist exorcist Morgan Kingsley, in Nine-Tenths of the Law, reluctant to take on a paying client who may want to terminate her own daughter using the excuse that a demon has taken possession of her, as a powerplay. How might Morgan be kick-a.. heroine? Well as I see it, she pushes past the lure of fast cash to try to get to the truth of the matter, holding the desire for the highest good for all in her heart even if that reality seems to be orchestrated by a demon possessed teenager. And then there's Red in  Elizabeth A. Vaugh's short story. Red rocks it as a fighter, a rebel with a cause, she is duty-bound to freeing all slaves, even the ones that walk on four feet. But that's enough of a spoiler.

Go on, read the rest of this collection with me and let me know what you think. Duane, our scifi/fantasy guru, told me that Jeanna Black's protagonist has walked the pages of fiction already, but I didn't know that. I am coming in with a beginner's mind and report to you in that way.


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Dog Days of Summer!

August is here, and something not unlike Summer has come at last to Seattle.  Huzzah!  No one is suggesting that this glorious weather will last.  Can't count on scorchin' temperatures in the high seventies every day of the week, people.  But for now though, the flip-flops, the cargo-shorts, the general pale shirtlessness and or tanktops, to say nothing of the beery block-parties all over the city last night?  Totally justified by the glorious sunshine.


And for our canine companions, please remember, summer need not be just the usual routine of Frisbee in the park, stagnant, standing water, and panting boredom on the hot sidewalk while someone gets a single serving of green tea gelato that will not be shared.  Oh no.

All this month, right here at the always-dog-friendly University Book Store, we will be hosting a new series of public readings for dogs and their grown up humans, every Saturday at 6PM.  Dog Days will feature classic and contemporary short stories on four-footed subjects, read by our own booksellers, right here in the store's event space on the second floor.  Dogs, of course will be welcome as always.

To get things started, this Saturday, the 6th, our own Usedbuyer2.0, Brad, will be reading a story from the great P. G. Wodehouse, and a classic reminiscence by the Scots essayist, physician, and lifelong friend to nearly all dogs, Dr. John Brown Rab & His Friends -- that's old Rab is pictured above -- is a remarkable, heartbreaking tale of perfect loyalty, endurance and love.  (Which explains, I think, the need for something from Wodehouse on the bill as well, for balance.)

Do please join us, and bring your human.  We don't mind, so long as they're quiet and well behaved.

Sit.  Stay.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

We're the Geekiest

I don't know if, at this point in history, any credit could yet accrue to our own fantabulous Duane, but in the late '70s the bookstore was already a bastion of Sci-Fi goodness, according to Rainn Wilson, who haunted our aisles as a nerdy suburban youth. Although I'm biased, I have to say that the quality remains: a carefully curated, broad selection of the best of new and old (subject of course to the curse of out of print, which leaves vast gaps in classic science fiction that can only occasionally be filled).  Duane's love for his subject is never hard to see, and his section reflects it wonderfully.   Check it out!


Friday, July 22, 2011

Hey You Readers...

The publication booksellers turn to for news on the book industry is now publishing a version for book lovers! Shelf Awareness: Enlightenment for Readers is a FREE emailed newsletter with reviews on the 25 best books publishing each week along with author interviews, book excerpts, giveaways and more. Right now they’re running a contest for new subscribers. Check out the widget on our website to sign up for the new publication and to be entered for a chance to win a great book!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Test You Don't Want to Pass

Last night I was watching the movie “Being John Malkovitch” for maybe the 3rd time in my life, and found that my interpretation of it had been completely altered by a book I'm reading. If you have somehow missed this black gem of 1999, that's OK. It's not really a movie that one can spoil. In it, a character played by John Cusack discovers a portal in his office that grants access to the consciousness of John Malkovitch. Cusack teams up with a coworker, played by Catherine Keener, and they devise a scheme to sell tickets to Malkovitch. The last few times I've watched this film, I've experienced it as a dark comedy populated by pale characters who either ignore or screw up all the wonderful things around them (see: John Cusack and Cameron Diaz hoarding an apartment full of sad animals) This time, I was struck by a realization: Catherine Keener's character, Maxine, is a psychopath!

Let me just backtrack a little and say that if you read The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson, you will recognize psychopaths all over the place. It can be fun! But it also can be a little horrifying. Like Ronson, I'm beginning to notice items from the Bob Hare Checklist (the list used in prisons and psychiatric hospitals to diagnose inmates and patients), and movies are a rather harmless thing to practice on. For example, I've bolded the characteristics which Maxine demonstrates throughout the film:

1.Glibness/superficial charm
2.Grandiose sense of self-worth
3.Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
4.Pathological lying
6.Lack of remorse or guilt
7.Shallow affect
8.Callous/lack of empathy
9.Parasitic lifestyle
10.Poor behavioral controls
11.Promiscuous sexual behavior
12.Early behavior problems
13.Lack of realistic long-term goals
16.Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
17.Many short-term marital relationships
18.Juvenile delinquency
19.Revocation of conditional release
20.Criminal versatility

Needless to say, Maxine scores quite high.

I've been trying to think of an apt comparison to the relatively short history of psychopathology that Ronson investigates in his book. The best thing I can come up with is autism, in the sense that the two conditions share a unique cultural retroactivity. We often hear neuroscientists and psychologists speculate that with our current knowledge of the autism spectrum, famous people like Mozart, Newton and Jefferson likely place somewhere on it. And it's interesting to us because specialness is interesting, whether it results in extraordinary intellectualism or cold ruthlessness. I make the comparison because Ronson (The Men Who Stare at Goats; Them) is exactly the kind of author to launch such an intriguing concept into the pop culture lexicon. I suspect that the next trend to take off will be the labeling of various notorious figures as psychopaths. After all, the checklist is available for any armchair psychologist to find on the internet.

Psychopathy is not a diagnosis you want to receive, and as Ronson points out, if you are anxious that you might be a psychopath, you probably aren't one. The only sure way to find out about someone is to interview them at length, and then analyze not only their answers but their mannerisms and appearance. It's subjective until it isn't; recidivism rates among diagnosed and incarcerated psychopaths are much higher than non-psychopaths. The data suggests an ominous, Minority Report-esque course of action: longer sentences for high-scoring criminals.
The book is filled with Ronson's own nervous speculation, a sort of feedback loop of reacting to psychopaths and then assessing his reactions. His writing is self-effacing, but it is the sort of self-effacement that can only be achieved after one has become more confident and self-aware than one lets on, therefore undermining any real awkwardness. Do you see what he's done to me? All his bashful posturing about how he could never be a psychopath makes me suspicious...
To conclude this blog post that wants to turn into a research paper, I will just say that this is a great book for people who don't read much nonfiction, and for those interested in the history of psychology. It may not be a great, however, for those prone to paranoia.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thackeray Celebration!

As seen at last night's reading of "A Little Dinner at the Timmins's", featuring the bookstore's own Pam Cady and Brad Craft.  Though the actual anniversary doesn't come 'round until Monday, July 18th, we nevertheless wish a most Happy Two Hundredth Birthday, to the memory of the great author of Vanity Fair, etc., William Makepeace Thackeray!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

For a Special Occasion

And here we have the special edition of a Google Book, The Sense and Sentiment of Thackeray, reprinted, with new covers, on the bookstore's own EBM.  The occasion is, of course our upcoming celebration of the great man's 200th birthday.  Our reading of "A Little Dinner at the Timmins's" will be the centerpiece of the festivities, but we thought it worth doing to offer something in the way of a take-away as well.  So, this little book, from 1909, offers quotes and brief selections from all the novelist's major and minor work.  Charming little book.  

Our own Anna -- Queen of the EBM -- designed the reissues cover, and our host for the reading, Usedbuyer2.0, aka Brad, did the pencil sketch of Thackeray on the front cover.

We're rather proud of the little thing, which is available now, for nine bucks, at the bookstore and of course, at the reading July 14th, at 7PM.  Do come and try a bit of William Makepeace Thackeray.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

You will WOLF this one down!

Big news! I just read a book about werewolves, and loved it! Not just werewolves, the LAST werewolf, which also happens to be the title. Glen Duncan (author of I, Lucifer) has a fresh, exciting writing style that kept me pleased and engaged sentence-by-sentence, no matter what was going on with the plot.

Whenever there's a character who by some supernatural phenomenon or another has become immortal (or is enduring a 400-year lifespan, as is the case here), I often find the personality of that character to be quite unbelievable. I never knew why until I read Duncan's book. His protagonist, Jake the werewolf, has lived 200 years and is utterly sick of life. He's painfully aware of the mundane and relentless cycle of cause and effect, punctuated by his monthly transformation. Even in the most nail-biting moments, he is just kind of done with all of it, and it made me realize that yes, that's exactly how one would feel after a life sustained by mandatory cannibalism. Jake is believable and likable because of his humanity; without the “curse,” he would just be another sex-crazed existentialist writing in a journal. Werewolfism turns out to be like a steroid and a depressant: both the best and the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone.

At its core, this novel explores familiar territory. How do we ever really connect with others, especially if we feel different from the rest of the world? I finished the book thankful, however, that Duncan decided to explore a very old and sometimes cliché subject with a very honest sense of the philosophical and the visceral. Never before have such highbrow and lowbrow references shared the same page so gracefully. Give this one a try if you are looking for something refreshing, frank, and scary. I know I'll be recommending it left and right.


Mo' Thackeray, mo' Thackeray, and yet more Thackeray!


On the Superiority of the Fairer Sex

And, yet another selection from the great Thack.


Thackeray's Dinner

More Thackeray, in anticipation of our upcoming celebration of his 200th Birthday!  Please join us July 14th, 7PM, at the University Book Store !

-- Usedbuyer2.0

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Summer Reading Rocks!

Summer reading programs are awesome, because reading is already awesome, and getting prizes for doing something that is already awesome is awesome squared. Is that too many awesomes? NO! Impossible. That is how awesome summer reading programs are.

Why should you care? Because we have one this year! Finally! Yay! Here's how our summer reading program works:

1. Come in, sign up (just give a name and e-mail, no money or long questionnaire-answering or microchipping of your children required) and you'll get a reading log to keep track of the books your child reads, a lanyard on which to keep said reading log, a button that says some variation of "Summer Reading Rock Star," and a coupon for 20% off an entire book purchase. Then y'all set about filling that reading log up. You do not have to only write down books you've bought from us. Library books and books you have at home are a-okay. We just want to make it easier to stock up on new lit with those coupons.

2. When the kids have read five whole books (read-alouds are okay, especially for the Pre-K set) come back in and show us the reading log, and they can choose from a bin of prizes scientifically designed to drive elementary schoolers wild—silly bandz, erasers shaped like sushi, tiny slinkies, those giant pink bouncy balls (and honestly, we could all use a giant bouncy ball). They also get another button, and y'all get another coupon.

3. After ten books, kids get a big button that says "I Rocked Summer Reading at University Book Store," and they get to pick out a FREE book from our selection behind the Kids Desk. And hey, what's this, another coupon? These things'll be saving you money till September.

4. If any industrious readers want to go on from there, they can get another reading log and start over, and keep getting those fabulous prizes. At the end of the summer, we'll have a drawing for all the folks who've signed up, and someone from each participating branch will win a backpack full of school supplies! (All the school supply-loving children like me say, Yeeeeeaah! All the other kids'll groan, I know. How can you not love the smell of fresh binders and pencils, huh? It's the best.)

5. We're also encouraging readers to write and turn in Young Reader's Review cards, because we put those up on the shelf to help recommend books that you liked to other kids. And also because it's really fun to talk and write about the books you love. (And also because we do a monthly drawing of those cards and the winner gets a gift card to the store.)

And that's it. You're welcome. We are loving this program. So many people have signed up already we can hardly believe it. It's super exciting. And if you want some book recommendations from our professional book recommenders in the Kids Department, head over to the Summer Reading page on our website. Three cheers!

--Anna,  Kids

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What are you reading this summer?

If you come into the store in the next few months (and why wouldn't you?), stop by our new Summer Staff Favorites display. We have everything from childhood favorites (A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle; Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome) to new nonfiction (Fire Season by Philip Connors; Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch) and classic fiction (Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry; The Hunter by Richard Stark.) If all you can think about this summer is eating delicious things, there are some beautiful cookbooks to choose from (Fried Chicken and Champagne by Lisa Dupar; Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi)
I promise there will be no more parenthesis in this blog post.
These and many more great picks await your perusal. If you don't live around here, why not give our new "Ask A Bookseller" button a whirl and let us recommend something to you? Tell us what kind of books you like, give us a price range, and we will send you whatever sounds good. Personal shopper + free shipping = summer reading success!!


For your bathroom reading pleasure...

Ok, now who is going to start making these!?  We need these in the store!

Ask A Bookseller!

Big (medium-sized?) news around here: we've added an Ask A Bookseller button to our website. It looks like the green square above. Now, that one's not a link, because I'm not quite savvy enough to do that, but if you go to our books homepage, it'll be there on the right-hand side and clicking on the real one will make your computer send us an e-mail. Here are some kinds of questions you could ask us through e-mail:
1. Do you have any used copies of that new hardcover that was just on the radio? (Maybe.)

2. What's the perfect book for a precocious six-year-old who likes adventure-y or fantasy books? (David and the Phoenix.)

3. Can you put Zeitoun on hold for me at your U District store? No, wait, in Bellevue? (Absolutely. Do you want the paperback for $15.95, or the remainder hardcover for $9.98?)

4. Are you guys going to do a summer reading program? (Yes!)

5. What was Lewis Carroll's real name again? (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.)
That's it! Easy as pie. And if that button doesn't work for you, you can e-mail us at ubs [underscore] askabookseller [at] Except you should put an actual underscore and an actual @ sign instead of those brackets. I think if I write it out fully, robots from space will start sending us e-mails about certain medications and princes who need our bank account numbers.

Ask us a question!

-Anna, Kids Books

One Last Response to the Wall Street Journal Dustup

Our beloved UsedBuyer2.0 has his own take on Meghan Cox Gurdon's anti-YA piece.

Mrs. Humphry Ward on Sensational Fiction, Sufferage, and the Servant Problem

Contemporary fiction for domestics & humble persons is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?

Mrs. Albert Bunthorn-Pandowdy, wife and mother of thirteen, recently stood amidst the cheap paper novel section of her local commercial library, in Minge Lane, Worcestershire, feeling thwarted and disheartened.
More where that came from.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Twenty Twenty Twenty Four Hours Ago...

Does anyone else ever get songs stuck in their head while shelving because of the titles/authors/covers/subjects of the books? I was just shelving this:

Starfish by James Crowley

...and I without realizing exactly why, I left the kids fiction section with this song stuck in my head (for people who can't/don't follow links, that's Mr. Crowley by Ozzy Osbourne). Knowing that I haven't listened to that song since high school, I had to think for a second about how in the world that popped into my head, and it made me laugh to realize my brain was quietly making those kinds of connections while all I consciously thought about was the alphabet.

The other titles I can remember getting me are parenting books, which seem to be really big on this, for some reason:

I Wanna Be Sedated: 30 Writers on Parenting Teenagers
edited by Faith Conlon and Gail Hudson
(this one used to drive me crazy- that song is so hard to get out of your head!)

Beautiful Boy
by David Sheff

Does this happen to y'all? I imagine this is one of those librarian/bookseller phenomena that we all endure at some point.

--Anna, in Kids

Thursday, June 16, 2011


This is old news but important anyway, so we apologize for getting it up here late. On June 4 the Wall Street Journal ran an article by Meghan Cox Gurdon on the topic of young adult fiction. Specifically, she asserts that most young adult (YA) fiction is dark, violent, horrible, etc. The article contains stuff like this:
If books show us the world, teen fiction can be like a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is. There are of course exceptions, but a careless young reader—or one who seeks out depravity—will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.
I stopped reading the thing somewhere around there, annoyed by the whole tone and not interested in feeling defensive about this category I spend much of my life reading and selling. It doesn't sound like she even reads YA for fun, so I felt okay dismissing the whole thing to save myself from a weekend of teeth-gnashing.

Well, one of the reasons I love YA is that the community of people who read, write, publish, review, and sell these books are particularly awesome and loyal people, and I should've known that the responses to this article would be worth keeping an eye on. Compiled below are some of my favorite responses so far.

The Age of Wisdom, by William Makepeace Thackeray

The Sorrows of Werther, by William Makepeace Thackeray

Friday, June 10, 2011

Selection from Thackeray's Henry Esmond

William Makepeace Thackeray Comes to Shinbone Alley

I did not grow up surrounded by English literature.  Fact is, I grew up in a place where books were somewhat suspicious objects, not unlike a good stray shoe; seemed a shame not to be able to find a proper use for the thing, but damned if anyone could think what that might be.  (Maybe put it under the low corner on that busted Lazy Boy?)  In childhood, what I was surrounded by  was some  rednecks; practical folk, liked a good demo derby, maybe go-carts for the kids, Smokey & the Bandit,  pancake suppers, swimmin' in the strip-mine, hillbilly music, snuff-dippin', that sort of thing.

You know the great Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys?  Why, sure you do.  The master of Western Swing, ol' Bob was a favorite of my Dad's.  We'd be out together on a Saturday, delivering dog feed -- a little sideline of my Dad's-- and the old man used to sing "Cherokee Maiden", "San Antonio Rose", and "Ida Red", top of his lungs, driving country roads in the old panel-truck.

To this day, the sound of a party, somewhere in the back of my head, is still  and will always be "Stay a Little Longer",. You know it.  Sure you do:

Stay all night, stay a little longer,
Dance all night, dance a little longer,
Pull off your coat, throw it in the corner,
Don't see why you can't stay a little longer...

Now, that's a party, son.

I had to cross to the shady side of forty before I could listen to country again.  Hillbilly was, frankly, everything I fled when I came away from home. Dinner parties, cocktail parties, the Socialist Party USA, just about any kind of party I'd seen in the movies, any party where people chatted about the latest books, sipped from glass-tumblers, pronounced the final "g" in words like "darling", ate sophisticated portions from little china plates, that was the kind of party at which I wanted desperately to be.  Eventually, I even went to a few such.  Not all one might have hoped, most of them.  Now, I'm fine with a good shindy.  Love me some Bob Wills now, too.

We're planning a little party here at the bookstore, come Thursday, July 14th.  A month or so ago, I was shocked realize that the 200th birthday of the author of Vanity Fair was coming up on the 18th of July, and so far as I could see, there wasn't a damned thing planned for the occasion anywhere.  (I've been searching.)  How could such a thing be?  William Makepeace Thackeray was one of the greatest, most successful novelists of the Nineteenth Century -- which is rather like saying the greatest and most followed "Tweeter" of the Twenty First, I suppose, for those that may not appreciate the three volume novel.  Not a candle being lit nor a word said, save here.  To celebrate, we're going to do a reading of Thackeray.   I'll be doing my part, as I hope will at least a couple of others from the bookstore -- if all goes well, we may actually even have at least one genuine Englishman on hand.

As unlikely as it may sound, I believe the novelist would be pleased, with or without our Englishman.  Thackeray was enormously popular in America.  At the height of his fame he came over and lectured here on the four bad English kings named George, among other things.  We loved that, and he was glad.  Thackeray liked Americans.  He came to see us twice.

The night of, I'm thinking we'll do a Thackeray story about a party.  Not the kind of hoedown I remember from my rural childhood, and certainly not the dazzling ideal of the cocktail party as thrown in the movies by Nick & Nora,  Thackeray's "A Little Dinner at the Timmons's" is a perfect little satire of mid-Victorian, middle class pretensions -- still perfectly recognizable today -- with a bit of slapstick and other silliness included on the bill, gratis.  Should be great fun.  Thackeray could be specially good describing snobs and climbers, and pretensions of every kind (see, for another example, his A Shabby Genteel Story) in other words, individuals like me, if I'm not careful.

It may seem specially strange, such a redneck as me proposing the memory of William Makepeace Thackeray, gentleman.  I suppose it is a little odd that I should have become so devoted to such a writer.  That's the beauty part, my dears.  It is cliche of the slack reviewer to describe the writing of almost any Tom, Dick or Harry as being "universal in its appeal," and I would not say that everyone should like a novel like Pendennis, or The History of Henry Esmond, Esq., or even Thackeray's masterpiece, Vanity Fair.  What I will say is that more should read Thackeray than do now, not as a duty or any nonsense like that  -- I don't believe in reading books because they might be good for us -- but we should more of us be reading Thackeray because he is that good, in fact masterful in many instances.  He can be deucedly funny.  No lie. More than this though, he was a brilliant writer, capable of many moods besides the comic.  He could be quite gentle, even sentimental about things like the superiority of the female, and the kindness owed to children.  (I'll put up a short reading here somewhere, from Thackeray in a quieter, more thoughtful, even melancholy frame.)   Rather than trust me about all of this, come to the celebration and see for yourselves, read one of the novels, and see if I'm wrong.  Don't think you won't like it.  You may well be surprised.  Remember, if some rube like me can get to appreciate his finer qualities, well then anybody might.

Again, please don't be put off from coming to the reading then because of any unfamiliarity with the writer.  You will have a good time, believe me.  I'll do my best by him, I hope, try not to lower the tone much, keep my shoes on.

So, do please join us, won't you?  When we have good ol' William Makepeace Thackeray down to Shinbone Alley for the evening of the 14th.  Should be a barn burner, you bet.

-- Usedbuyer2.0

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