Monday, December 28, 2009

What's up?

Hey! How've you been? Excited for the New Year?
Me too! Oh, and what're your resolutions? To read more?

Me Toooooooo!!!

Anyways... since we're being so close and personal, I guess I could tell you about a few of the books on my bedside...

On History by Eric Hobsbawm (New Press, 21.95, paperback) -- A collection of talks, notable essays, and some new essays covering the last 30 years of Hobsbawm's career. Wasn't sure I'd like it, as so much historical writing is straight jibberjaw these days, and written only for specialists, exegetes, or the linguistically liberated. Luckily, Hobsbawm's writing is different. Marked by clear, always interesting prose, and this great historian's ability to make principled generalizations out of lifetimes of facts, On History will definitely make you smarter if not a historian too!

Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow (Penguin Classics, 15.00, paperback) -- A 'big' book, full of enough bravado and sass and spirit to kill an E! News personality while giggling through a Richard Simmons fit of ab-crunches. And there's nothing to say that's more laudatory than that. But, because you may wonder, it's the story of an American millionaire who's got a voice in his head -- 'I want, I want' it says -- who 'finds himself' on a trip to Africa. Funny, glorious, and ultimately gratifying, this is Bellow at his funniest, (briefest), and best. Love it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


More of our favorite gift ideas!

For The Little Ones:Align Right

Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle, Glenn Murray, and Audrey Colman (Frog Children's Books, 15.95, Hardcover) -- Hopefully you've caught the Walter-wave, because if you haven't you've been seriously missing some flatulent fun. The story of a dog who just can't help his gassy nature, Walter is inventive, beautiful to look at, and just plain old funny. You'll love it and your kids are sure to love it -- just watch out that your house doesn't smell too much like a paper mill because everyone wants to be like Walter!

Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner (Puffin, 6.99, Paperback) -- If you haven't read any of the Skippyjon books aloud to your kid yet, both he/she and you are seriously missing out! Feline fun, guaranteed!

Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales by Lucy Cousins (Candlewick, 18.95, Hardcover) -- Eight fairy tales rendered fantastically by the hand of master story-teller/illustrator Lucy Cousins (of Maisy fame!). Stunning to see, and packed full our favorite courageous heroes and most loathed, vilest villains, Yummy is great reading and a great way to reconnect with the stories we all know and love!

The Snow Day by Komako Sakai (Arthur Levine Books, 16.99, Hardcover) -- Truly one of the most beautiful books to come out this year, The Snow Day is the tale of a bunny-child who awakes to the news that school is canceled for the day, because, yup -- it's a Snow Day! A peaceful, moving tale, both excellently illustrated and emotionally resonant. We think that The Snow Day is sure to soon join the ranks of The Giving Tree and all the other splendid wintery tales!

UP NEXT: Non-fiction; Young Adult; and Coffee Table Books (I promise!)


Friday, December 11, 2009


With the holidays approaching ever faster -- (whichever holiday, of course) -- it's more than a good time to review some of the best books of the season, with a particular emphasis on the kinds of books we love to give and receive. Here are some of our favorites!

For the Bookworms (Male or Female):

Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City (Doubleday, 27.95 -- Hardcover): Lethem's newest and best since Motherless Brooklyn is a tale of Manhattan and replete with facades, charades, facsimiles and falsities. In close, it stars a former child star, an anarchist, and their budding, fraught relationships with each other, themselves, and the place they call home. Brilliantly stylized brilliant stuff.

Alice Munro's Too Much Happiness (Knopf, 25.95 -- Hardcover): Another book of short stories by one of the last 25 years most prolific, proven masters of the genre. Always hilarious and yet always sardonic, biting -- even broken-heartedly numb -- Munro's stories never fail to teach, while somehow alternately managing to show us the time of our life. Discover her for yourself or let someone else who hasn't yet had the pleasure!

Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall (Holt, 27.95 -- Hardcover): This book can't be recommended highly enough. A story about the reign of Henry the VIII told from inside the great head of Thomas Cromwell, Wolf Hall is packed with machinations of deliciously political, sexual, and familial natures. Great for romance lovers, better for history buffs, and written sweetly enough for you or me, this one's a serous keeper and a great gift for that picky name on your list!

ALSO: Winner of the 2009 Booker Man

And For An Older Man:

Peter Mathiessen's Shadow Country (Modern Library, 10.95 -- Paperback): This year's National Book Award winner is the story of Watsons, and a wet, swampy, and Faulknerian tome which takes place across a pair of centuries. As a warning, Mathiessen's trilogy (yes, it it is a trilogy) is at times dark, and at others, approaches the downright lurid. It taps that vein or a cousin to that vein that McCarthy milks in The Road. A great book.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Don't forget to shop local today (Cyber Monday) and the days to follow! Invest in your community, invest in your friends, and keep your money local this holiday season!

For gift ideas, check our website, .

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Winter Beerok!

With Fall gone and Summer and Spring still imaginary seasons more readily identified as ideas than actual things, I guess it's now time to fess up and just admit that it's Winter. And what better way than a celebration -- a BEEROK feast of books and beer to warm your bones and soothe your heart!? I don't know!

(And to recap, Beerok is our -- Liberty Bay Books' -- alcoliterate experiment that matches good books to good beers in the hope that once imbibed by your being, book and beverage coalesce and become one superbly insightful organism that's doubly -- nay, triply better than each is alone. And if you need to be persuaded further, books are the best and beer is the best. This is your excuse to have them both, and tastefully so!)

To get into the season which requires so much warmth, breadth, and nourishment, here's a couple of hearty titles to get that blood properly warmed:

Bayern Dopplebock Lager (Missoula, MT) and Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber -- From the darkest dreamiest depths of all that's germanic! I really enjoyed this book and even moreso this beer, though I'm not ashamed to say that both scare me for one reason or another. Carter's book is an anthology of re-imagined fairy tales which roams from the Beauty and the Beast to Snow White to Little Red Riding Hood and on, and as far as I can tell, it's the perfect book for browsing fireside on those blustery nights. Inventive, intriguing and oh so shocking (don't we know all these stories already?), The Bloody Chamber is a great read and an even better gift for your hard-to-buy-for friends. Bayern's Doppelbock, on the other hand, is sheer bliss. A Bock done right on American soil, it's hearty yet smooth with delicious notes of grape, pumpernickel, caramel, and chocolate, spread across a complex batch of malts; it's also good cold, but even better as it warms. Call it the Beast to Carter's Beauty, Bayern's seasonal Doppelbock is the beer you want in your hand when the going gets weird. Oh and it'll knock you on your ass.

Allagash's Fluxus 2009 (Portland, Maine) and Graham Swift's Waterland -- The Observer (U.K.) says that "Waterland appropriates the Fens as Moby Dick did whaling or Wuthering Heights the moors" and calls it "a beautiful, serious, and intelligent novel, admirably ambitious and original." Well, funny thing, I said the same about Allagash's appropriation, domination, and originality in dealing with the Saison (a type of Belgian beer) -- this year's Fluxus -- too, they just must've missed the memo I guess. Anyways, Swift's novel is a twisting, turning, wholly reminiscent thing, and both really beautiful and really beautifully put together. Like the Fluxus in so many respects -- beautiful, curious, reminiscent of so much... oh ... -- it seems to reinvent itself anew at every turn, which I think is a treat and makes for exciting stuff. I should also mention that it's a book of polarities and paradoxes (water/land ... etc.), all of which are left in ... yep ... flux.

Enjoy them if you have the chance!



Monday, November 16, 2009

Coetzee, Coetzee, Coetzee

You know his name and maybe you even picked up one of his novels once. His essays -- you've seen them here and there -- are smart, if also stolid, and always leave something wanting right at that thick part of the tongue. That's what you think. Ah, and he's won the Booker, you remember, he's a South African who's won the Booker. Twice was it? A Nobel too, can that really be right? ... You ask your friends: 'Coetzee?' you chime. 'Oh. Good. Yes,' they say, 'great books, good writer.' You inquire further: 'What have you read, I'm looking into reading something of his. Dusklands? Disgrace? The one with the lectures and a journey to the afterlife -- what is it -- Elvis, no, Ellen, no, Elizabeth Costello?' They are not so sure. 'Oh yes, it was that one, with the -- you know -- what you said...' they reply, miffed.

Coetzee would love such a conversation. I'm sure of it.

And that's what his new one, Summertime (Viking, Dec 24, 2009), is all about.

More Closely: The novel is about an author named John Coetzee. Or rather, it's about a young, British academic searching for the truth about the writing and life of this author, John Coetzee. Told through salvaged pages of Coetzee's diary as well as 5 interviews with people who knew Coetzee well during the time when 'he was finding his feet, literarily speaking,' Summertime offers readers an author's attempted interpretation of his own legacy, however puzzling and contradictory the idea of such a thing may be. Laced with fact and fiction, like his past novel, Diary of a Bad Year, it is a strange book which deserves to sit at many places on one's bookshelf.

In that light, Coetzee's book is a good one. It is inventive, startling, and in its best moments, piqued by improbable moments of gravitas and sentimentality which disclose this stoic writer's inner fragility; much moreso than Diary, I think, also. So I liked it. Not all the way through, but I liked it and find myself returning to it (and its evasive novel-shape) much more often than I'd like to admit.

In the end, I think I want to say that Coetzee weaves a tight basket. Threading fiction and memoir, and the novelistic with the dry and academic, he has done a good thing by once more giving us another suberbly crafted book, even when it's sure to tie us up in knots.

So tell your friends: 'I read his new one, Summertime. It was interesting and now I think I know why he's got so many medals. And you know, even though it didn't strike me so much when I read it, I can't stop thinking about it.'


Saturday, November 7, 2009


I just, just finished up James Frey's Bright Shiny Morning, which I picked up awhile back after reading Irvine Welsh's near-ridiculously laudative review. 'The literary comeback of the decade,' he called it. (Well geez, I said to myself, if Welsh says so...)

Sure enough, he was right.

Looking at Morning apart from the ever-famous, ever-loathed Million Little Pieces, you learn a few things about this loved/hated guy, James Frey. 1. He can write. His zingy, McCarthyesque, lack of punctuation is, at best, a revelation and, at worst, a little annoying; either way, it adds to the character of his novels positively. 2. He knows people. Maybe he lied, maybe his publishers screwed him, maybe Oprah made him look like a bum -- no matter -- he's got a startlingly clear eye for reading (and drawing) people. 3. He's ambitious as all hell. Bright Shiny Morning is as big a book as an author has written in years -- (and if you haven't heard, it's about everybody's favorite city to hate, Los Angeles) . Brawny, sweeping, holistic -- you name it -- it's really got it all. The gangs. The homeless. Venice. The babes at Venice. Moviestar dreams. Moviestar duds. Hidden lives. Rich lives. Megastars. Meth. Megamegastars. Machinations big and small, everything, truly everything. And it's fun. And it's sad. And it's great.

To sum it all up, ll I can say is: buy it, read it, and love it, even if you still think of Frey as being another poor excuse for Oprah's toilet paper. Welsh was right. Bright Shiny Morning really is the biggest literary comeback of the decade, (you just have to read it and let it be!).

(And PS: Try Beeroking this one with Natural Ice. Both are cold and mean and metallic but true, true, oh so true....)


Saturday, October 31, 2009


DON'T YOU DARE FORGET, the Graveyard Party is tonight, 5-7 p.m., downtown at the store! Come one, come all and remember to dress up as your favorite character! (And I get to be Bod!)

See you there!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


AND PS, for a little bit more OKBEEROK inebriation, check out our recent video at (And sorry, I wish I could just post it here but don't have the slightest idea how to do that)

UNTIL NEXT TIME: Maholo! Mazel Tov! Nostroevyna! Salud! XOXO

Monday, October 26, 2009



A bit late but here it is!:

Harlen Coben’s Tell No One and Fat Tire’s Hoptoberfest (Fort Collins, CO)

I like this match because it’s really a free for all, full of thrills and wit and suspense and mystery and of course, hops. Neither is new or any of that so to speak, but really, what’s the fun in having to figure everything out all the time? Isn’t a little of the commonplace perfected just as you like it just the thing sometimes? If that’s what you’re looking for, and I think we all are a lot of the time, this is a really good match for you. I can honestly say that Tell No One is a pretty perfect thriller that’s a ton of fun to read (and definitely packed with the twists and turns and the magic of a great pulp book), just as Hoptober is a pretty perfect beer (and equally crafted to excellence, with balanced malts, a rich nose, and the magic of hops!). I’d call this one safe, fun, and, well, pretty perfect, especially when dealing with the October doldrums!

(And ps, here's a clip from the excellent French film adaptation which among others stars Kristin Scott Thomas. Winner of 4 Cesar's (French Oscars))

Roberto Bolano’s Savage Detectives and Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal (Rancho de Taos, New Mexico)

I had such a hard time finding a beer for Bolano’s masterpiece that – yup, you guessed it – it came to the unthinkable. (And in October, no less!) And so Beerok is no longer just Beerok, it’s Beer-and-liquor-ok! And we say, what exceptional heresy! What delicious rule breaking! And what a good book and what a tasty mezcal! Anyways, The Savage Detectives is a lot of fun – pretty ludic, pretty gamey, which is cool – and seems like something Nabokov would’ve written if he’d been born a charming Spanish lover, sipping sangria under the sun all day long. Or tequila. At least that’s my take. Anyways, it’s good. Really really really good. So, try it, but beware, she’s a feisty one! And let me know how you find and it)

Dave Eggers’ You Shall Know Our Velocity! and Pabst Blue Ribbon (Milwaukee, WI)

Don’t laugh. I read this book a long time ago and sort of stumbled into it just the other day while drinking a Peeber… and you know what: I think it fit! it really did! Eggers’ mild and always entertaining brand of intellectual hijinks is ripe with questions of the sentimental -- perfect for that hipster-beer (don't deny it) which makes us so so emo when we want it most. At least for me anyways. Maybe this is a bit of a reach and maybe not. Try it!


Tuesday, October 6, 2009


With everyone (or what seems like everyone) buzzing about the upcoming release of Spike Jonze's film adaptation of Where the
Wild Things Are
(October 16: see the trailer once more here), it's fair to say that kids books are a little en vogue at the moment, and we say rightfully so. Because really (and it's forgotten all too often), who would we be without the characters, the plots, the people, the very pictures of our youths?

And of course, of course, we cannot say, and wouldn't want to even if we could. Those books are the best books, the bookiest of books, and live in that part of our souls where all the wild -- and best -- things are.

Oh, and if you needed any convincing about seeing the film adaptation, here's a really funny clip ( from a skateboard film by the same director (called Yeah Right). And PS, Owen Wilson is in it. See, everything does make sense in the world. Right? Right?

Anyways, for old time's sake, here are a few the books that defined my childhood (AND PLEASE, PLEASE GET BACK TO US WITH BOOKS FROM YOUR OWN, OR FOR THAT MATTER, YOUR CHILD'S!:

(Any) Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson -- Not that anything needs to be said about the best series of books ever, still: Calvin and Hobbes remains to be one of the smartest, warmest, cutest, funniest, most realistic books ever written under the banner of children's comic-ry. The pinnacle of 20th century literature just after Finnegan's Wake.

The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer -- I do not know why but there's something really, truly, perfect about this book in which a boy transforms his world for the sake of a salamander...

Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel -- The sweetness at work in this story of two old and, at times, grumpy friends, is the stuff of true genius and still as good a story as it was when I first read it. Quiet, sober, and still funny as well, it makes me think about what it would be like if Mr. Rogers and Woody Allen were to be amphibians in future lives.



Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Americans

The Americans by Robert Frank -- A great and often arcane sadness runs deeply through Robert Frank's now 50 year old collection of just 83 photographs (and now on special exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York), hinting, so sweetly, at the long concealed Truths about The Way We Live Here. Of its many images, so many are already recognizable and those that aren't are of such strong emotional resolution they become so almost immediately.

Here are a few examples:

So if you are in the mood for a cheap (only $31.00) 'coffee table' book, pick Frank's very quiet and very moral reimagining of America which teaches us with such small, timid images who, why and what we are.

(If you're even more curious about Frank, check this recent NY Times article:


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Inherent Vice

So you're walking around and the sky is magenta blue and woah: your groovy druggy ex-girlfriend, Shasta, has gone missing. Yep, her and her real estate mogul, Jewish, neo-Nazi loving hubby Mickey Wolfmann have gone missing. Shit. And Big Foot and the Golden Fang are after you. And Doc, the sax player is dead or maybe-not-dead, who knows. Oh, and you smoke 20, 30, maybe 40 joints of the good stuff every day: Panamanian Red, Acapulco Gold, and so on, making you so, so jumpy and yet that's not always such a bad thing, is it?

Such is Pynchon's latest: a neo-noir masterwork which more or less exists in that zany geo-maginative place where Tim Leary's brain reaches out and grabs the tendrils of both Cheech Marin's brain and Philip Marlowe's brainstems. Fun, cerebral, and funny, Inherent Vice is without a doubt Pynchon at his most accessible and most hilarious.

Read it, or, even better, listen to the brilliant audiobook version (available for rent at the store).



Thursday, September 10, 2009

MORE: Books and Beer and Beer and Books

It's fall (ok, practically), and we all know what that means: Oktoberfest is nearly here! To celebrate and get one in the mood for its malty, hoppy excesses, the highly esteemed alco-literate hybridists Z.Blast and I have compiled another episode of BEEROK, cleverly titled: BEEROK PT. 3!


(And for those in need of a refresher as to BEEROK's philosophic and gastronomic underpinnings: just as you would match your wine with your dinner, BEEROK is crafted to match your beer to the book you are reading, allowing you to be clever -- even brilliant -- as you sip and skim! SO, DO IT!: Slurp and Soak! Swallow and Wallow! Or, you know... spend your days drinking beers suited to enhance and expose your reading experiences!)

Silver City Brewing Co.'s Fat Scotch Style Ale (Silverdale, WA) & Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting -- A scabrous, brilliant beer for a truly scabrous, brilliant book and as far as I'm concerned, you simply can't go wrong with either of these Scottish delights: robust and full of life, they aren't easy on the palate but that's not the point. The point is immersion; domination...enjoyment?...(Of course enjoyment.) Highly localized in their idiosyncratic flavors (the book for its vernacular and the beer for its Scottich malts), both novel and beer assault the senses like something divine falling right off god's bedside table. A great pairing for those who enjoy being reminded how BIG and REAL life can get. Enjoy!

North Coast Brewing's Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout (Fort Bragg, CA) & Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master And Margarita -- Don't think I'm taking the way out by pairing one of Russia's great novels to a beer solely because it too is a Russian! No, no this is all much more calculated than that...(right?)...For one: North Coast's Old Rasputin is known across all lands to be the best Russian Imperial Stout and thus also one of its darkest, most disturbingly complex distillations. This makes it a perfect match for Bulgakov's masterpiece, which is a wild master-work featuring such exquisite characters as Woland, the Devil masquerading as a Professor of Black Magic; his vodka swilling and decidedly articulate black cat; an insane novelist who's written a book about Pontius Pilate called The Master; reams of naked witches; and coteries of Moscow's Stalinist-era (and stuffy) artists and bureaucrats. Bulgakov's novel is an often hilarious reality-meets-fantasy tale of right and wrong as you've never experienced it before, and damned near perfect to immerse yourself in as you imbibe North Coast Brewing's best frighteningly dark and inscrutable spirit, Old Rasputin.

Russian River Brewing Co.'s Pliny the Elder (Santa Rosa, CA) & Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian -- It's been a long journey searching for a beer that could even come close to pairing with Blood Meridian's relentless stoicism, violent urges, and borderline satanic humor, but, alas, the chosen one has arrived: Russian River's Pliny the Elder. Probably one of the world's hoppiest IPAs (it's a triple, so it has at least 3 times the hops of your favorita normal IPA) it is also without question one its best. It pairs with McCarthy's picaresque Western about near-soulless bounty hunters out for Indian scalps near the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s because it is so bitter, so hoppy, so uninvitingly real a beer, you cannot choose to love it; it chooses you. Both linger on the palate for days, even weeks, if you let them, so be prepared. This is definitely a match for the strong of heart; the brawny in spirit. (If you're interested but not sure, check this cool clip which has Mccarthy reading from book in a part where The Judge speaks on war)

AS ALWAYS, GET BACK TO US WITH YOUR OWN BEEROK SUGGESTIONS! Let us know how it went, how it didn't, or just, what's next!

And....that's it. Drink up! Read Fast! Eat beer!


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

This is Where I Leave You

Although at times it may feel like a Reese Witherspoon movie about 'coming home' implanted with the wry one-liners of a mid-1990s SNL skit, Jonathan Tropper's new novel This is Where I Leave You is its own irrevently funny and uniquely crafted work. Marked for its zingy dialogue, its arrestingly accurate domestic tone, and the strength of Tropper's sympathy for his characters, This is Where I Leave You is a great pick-up for those who have loved the books of Tom Perrota, Richard Russo, or Nick Hornby in the past, and a book that is sure to make you laugh, cry, cringe, mutter, think, walk, giggle, etc., et cetera. So get it! Tell your friends about it! Make Tropper as rich off its royalties as you will be emotionally rich off the brilliance of its humor and impassioned characters! (Or don't, I hear Pynchon's new one's pretty damn good too, but more on that later.)

Ok, that's it.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

So, maybe this is coming out a little late and maybe Wells Tower's Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned has already garnered just about all the praise a book of short stories can get these days ....... But for those who haven't read it (or heard of it), here goes!

Eminently readable and surprisingly compact, Wells Tower's recent collection of stories works as an x-ray examination of American life and the meaty substance of our relationships and realities here. Shuttling what's dark and visceral into bright moments of ruminative comedy, each story-gem in the collection runs a wide, arcing gamut, illuminating so much with so little. Capped of with a deliciously twisting, ties-everything-together story (involving Vikings of all things), Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned is a truly brilliant work by what is assuredly one of America's great new voices.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

New and Local

We all know that this great region we live in literally teems with successful and often brilliant writers. Behind every door, sipping every beer, washing every boat -- yes, they're everywhere, it seems, and doing everything. Here are some of their newest books!

Rebecca Wells' The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder. Southern Charm at its absolute peak. Enough Said.

Bainbridge Islander and recent Guggenheim genius grant winner Bruce Barscott's The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw, a truly thrilling work -- and not just by comparison to other books belonging to the narrative nonfiction milieu -- Barscott's novel is, literally, the stuff of Guggen-genius.

Psychonautic wildman Tom Robbin's B is for Beer. Not apart of the Robbin's canon but still downright enjoyable, this 'kid's book for adults' is fun to read and breezy as a summer pilsner.

Kristin Hannah's True Colors. Cute, cuddly, emotionally resonant; all I can say is: buy it, read it, love it.

David Guterson's The Other (one The New York Times' Notable Books of the year). Absolutely his best. Tall, consistenly dreamy, and passionately recondite, The Other is a novel as only Guterson in his prime can deliver it.

Mary Guterson's trenchant wit does magical work in her latest, Gone to the Dogs, the story of the restlessly zany (and loveable) waitress Rena as she navigates through a few of life's more troubling lessons.

...And of course, Garth Stein's now beloved The Art of Racing in the Rain, a funny story only fit for a dog to tell.