Thursday, December 29, 2011

Don't worry. Really! So the Holidays -- and, wow, even the year -- are coming to their final resting places, but we've still got loads going on at Liberty Bay Books!

First things first, we'd like to thank everyone who came to us to do their Holiday shopping rather than the other guy (whether he be online, or in some frighteningly drab box store), and can't tell you how much fun we had giving recommendations and filling those stocking with knickknacks. It was so busy even I had to fill in a little, while home for the Holidays! So again, we'd like to thank everyone who came in as well as those who took advantage of our Cyber Wednesday, what a season it was. And as a side note: Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife, Stephen King's 11/22/63, "The Steve Jobs Book" (aka, Steve Jobs) by Walter Isaacson, The LEGO Ideas Book by Daniel Lipkowitz, This I Believe by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman, and all the books of the excellent Hunger Games series, were just a few of the titles we had a hard time keeping on the shelves this year.

In other news, we've got a ton of great author events coming up!
  • January 8th, at 3 pm: Seattle author Sarah Jio reads from her new novel, The Bungalow -- a romantic mystery which takes place on the island of Bora Bora.
  • January 14th, at 6:30 pm: Scandahoovian specialist, Eric Dregni, reads from and talks about his latest book Vikings in the Attic: In Search of Nordic America. (BYOL: Bring Your Own Lutefisk)
  • January 23rd, at 6:30 pm: Join us for a fun evening with local author, Claire Dederer, who will discuss her memoir Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses, which ruminates on parenting, growing up, and, of course, yoga. Great author, great book!
  • January 27th, at 6:30 pm: Local author and longtime crabber, Joe Upton, comes in to talk about his new book Bering Sea Blues: A Crabber's Tale of Fear in the Icy North. If you enjoy the Deadliest Catch or are at all curious about how all those crabs get into those tanks at Central Market, you've got to hear Joe's harrowing stories of life up North
And lastly, for those of you who were the lucky recipients of Sony E-readers, Nooks, or Ipads, (sorry, Amazon's monopolistic business practices only allow Kindles and Fires to read books bought from Amazon!) don't forget that we, too, sell EBooks online, and have got some great December deals on EBooks going!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Amazon Ugh... (and a SALE)

It has come to our notice that a serious discussion about AMAZON.COM's retail practices has been occurring in the media -- most notably by a group of befuddled authors, who have teamed up with Richard Russo in a recent NY Times Op-Ed article. If you have not yet read it, I wholeheartedly recommend it. Written by the great author, Richard Russo, with some help from his friends Stephen King, Dennis Lehane, Andre Dubus III, Anita Shreve, Tom Perrotta and Ann Patchett, it outlines Amazon's jarringly devious retail practices and their nonplussed attitudes toward the Mega-Retailer -- despite the fact that a considerable amount of their incomes comes from book sales via Amazon. In a nutshell it says this: this Holiday season, Amazon is encouraging its customers to go into real-life, physical bookstores and use its price-check app, which allows shoppers to (rather invasively) scan items' bar codes to see if they can get a better price on these items online. If customers do this, they earn a 5 percent credit on Amazon purchases, up to $5 per item, on up to three items. And this is terrible.

As a small, local bookstore, we realize that we cannot outfox Amazon where pricing is concerned, but, like these authors, ask at what cost such brash market-monopolization does to us culturally and economically. As Andre Dubus III puts it in the article, we feel that at the very least, it works to “further devalue, as a cultural and human necessity, the book” itself by taking away your local contact to them, not to mention its hemorrhaging of local jobs from local retailers. I think we can all agree that saving a couple of bucks is great, but seeing "For Rent" signs on every downtown window is not. We encourage you to think about the long-term impact such shopping has on already-suffering stores, and what small towns will look like without them. Amazon, clearly, does not care about these stores, the jobs the bring, or the important roles they fill in the communities nationwide, and in fact, has shown again and again that would rather completely wipe them off of the map, using such devious practices as the one outlined above. This is a passionate topic for us and we'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter, for or against. Without a doubt, it's a conversation that needs to be had in every community, rural or metropolitan, nationwide.

One last thing: Don't forget about Cyber Wednesdays on the Liberty Bay Books website with 30% of all items (except e-books) on all online orders taken on the Wednesdays before Christmas (December 14 and December 21). Take that Amazon.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


With new hardcover books by the likes of Janet Evanovich, Steven King, James Patterson, John Grisham, Sue Grafton, Karen Kingsbury, David Baldacci, and (even!) Michael Crichton out on the shelves right now, you don't have to look too far for that perfect gift for the-impossible-to-buy-for person in your family. And to make it even easier, don't forget CYBER WEDNESDAYS, with 30% off everything bought online every Wednesday up until Christmas.

Unless. Well. Unless you've got one of those nosy, no-good, don't-like-anything, I've-already-got-everything, don't-waste-your-time-on-me, spouses, in-laws, or even kids. It's a troubling demographic, it really is, but here at Liberty Bay Books we think we've got a couple of great ideas for even the most impossible Scrooges.
  • Go for the Classics: Touch nostalgia by buying them a book from their childhood. Get a nice, updated copy of something they've mentioned in conversation a few times over the years. (And check this recent NY Times article about the pleasure and value of rereading old favorites)
  • Coffee-Table Book: Go for something nice to look at, with a corresponding story or article that seems as though it may be interesting enough to read. Even if they don't particularly like it, it'll still look great on that coffee table in front of the tv!
  • Cookbooks: Everyone's got them, but everyone could use another. Give the gift that keeps on giving. And if they don't use it, don't worry! They'll still enjoy the illusion of looking like a cook!
  • Knickknacks, Gizmos, or Gadgets: A talking moustache keychain? Tee shirts emblazoned with the motifs of classic novels? Bendy robot paperweights? Make it cute and make it count with a few of these toys. Fun for all ages, of course.
  • Check out the PNBA Holiday Catalog: You can't go wrong with anything recommended in this annual Holiday fixture.
AND, if these fail: just get them something that you like! Or the first book of the Game of Thrones series!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gearing up...

With women pepper spraying each other at Wall Marts, old men dying in Best Buy check-out lines only to be pulled into quiet aisles by other patrons, and fist-fights over flatscreens breaking out at retailers all over the country, Christmas must be just around the corner. Yep. Prepare yourself! The in-laws. The crying Kids ("I said XBox not X-Lax, grandma!"). Oh 'Tis the Season. But let's not get too crazy about it. Madness it may be, mayhem it may deliver, but we've got just the book to lighten whatever Christmas hysteria plagues you!

Awkward Family Pet Photos by Mike Bender, Doug Chernak (Three Rivers, 176 pages, $12.00) -- Maybe you've seen their earlier book, Awkward Family Photos, which is as hilarious as it is unsettling--much like this new, pet-minded farce. Flip through the pages once, you'll laugh until you cry. Flip through them two or three times and you can't help but seriously ask yourself: Why does it always seem like I'm the only normal one in this country? Really productive stuff, thinking-wise. Easy, a lot of fun, and somewhat Christmas-minded, this one (or its predecessor) will brighten your day right up.

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart (Random House, 352 pages,
$12.00) -- I think I've reviewed this excellent novel in some capacity or another before, but I've been rereading it lately and can't help but include in a conversation about humor. As far as futuristic satire goes -- this novel sets the standard. Bitingly accurate, plaintively sad, and always frightening, it looks into a near American future where iPhone-like devices and Facebook rule the social world, a Bipartisan party runs the White House, and not immigrants, but those with poor credit are being ejected from the country in droves. Laugh, hide under your bed in fright, or call it all an unreal, speculatory farce, Shteyngart's novel is a tour de force of satiric imagination written in that sparkling sort of prose that fizzes and crackles when read aloud. Named a Best Book of the Year by every publication you can think of! Great Holiday buy!

Snark! the Herald Angels Sing: Sarcasm, Bitterness, and the Holiday Season by Lawrence Dorfman (Skyhorse, 161 pages, $10.36) -- A hilarious bah-humbug look at all the excesses and missteps of the Holiday season, with jokes, commentary, and offbeat quotes (Think: "Santa Clause has the right idea. Visit people once a year," -- Victor Borge). If you're just looking for some laughs, trying to finally bring those in-laws to their knees with sarcastic jabs, or just want another perspective on the Holiday season, check out this addition to the always pertinent, always funny, Snark series.

Goodnight Ipad: A Parody for the Next Generation by Ann Droyd (Blue Rider, $11.96) -- Poking fun at both our over-connected, over-stimulated, modern world of gadgetry and the quiet, technology-free world of the classic, Goodnight Moon, this children's book is an excellent read, and hilarious for children and adults alike. As endearing and cute as the original -- I promise. Like the rest of the Western World, I was skeptical of anything that parodied my favorite book of childhood, but Goodnight Ipad does the job with panache and a welcoming brand of humor that can't help but make you see how we've changed as a society. Really, really fun and really, really funny.

In other notes, don't forget to browse the annual PNBA Holiday Catalog! As always, it's a great resource for gift-giving or even just personal reading.

PS. On my Bedside Table: Nemesis by Phillip Roth, The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt, and Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

Thursday, November 17, 2011

YA and Upcoming Events

As a reminder, don't forget the upcoming West Sound Reads Christopher Paolini event! It'll be an awesome chance to hear the gifted young author of the Inheritance Cycle, who started writing the series at the insane age of 15 in Paradise Valley, Montana! The details are: 7 p.m., November 28th, Bainbridge High School Commons. Pre-pay your order and receive a 25% discount and priority seating with easy access to the autograph line! How awesome is that?!

In other bookie (and fantasy) news, I've just finished the latest installment of George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, A Dance with Dragons (Bantam, 1040 pgs, $28.00), which has been out for a few months now. If you are a fan of the series, you will not be able to put this one down! As thrilling, shocking, and wonderfully crafted as those which came before, it takes us that much closer to that epic winter that will test the people of Westeros. It is truly awesome stuff. Dragons are about. Wildlings roam the North. Exiles return. Ironborn strike east. Hmmff. Wow. I really don't think I'll be able wait for the next one. For those of you who haven't seen the HBO version of the books (Game of Thrones) or read them for yourself, think of them as the work of a 21st century Tolkien who is not shy of sex, blood, or mercilessly killing off your favorite characters. Try them out!

Monday, October 31, 2011


I guess I sort of missed out on the Halloween thing, but my excuses are by all accounts legitimate. So many great books have come out these past few weeks, I've had a whirlwind of a time chugging through them. Until I do, here's a quickie: Bainbridge Island's own (and beloved) David Guterson released his newest, Ed King (Knopf, 320 pgs, $21.56), Portland's Chuck Palahniuk's latest, Damned (Doubleday, 256 pgs, $19.96), continues rising in NY Times Bestseller success, and Michael Ondaatje's, The Cat's Table (Knopf, 280 pgs, $20.80) was put on the shelves -- just to name a few. Oh, and don't forget Jeffery Eugenides' The Marriage Plot (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 416 pgs, $22.40). And Neil Gaiman was also on NPR, talking about how awesome The Graveyard Book is! What a week! A reading list to scare the pants off of you!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


It's here. It's coming. It's creeping through your skin! Right Right. Not Halloween, silly, Japanese sensation Haruki Murakami's latest mega-novel 1Q84! (Knopf, 944 pgs, $24.40). If you haven't had the pleasure of reading Murakami, consider yourself invited. Murakami deals only in the strangest of worlds -- or is it the realest? -- where strange creatures, formidable beings, and that metaphysical, existential cramp you've had since college seems to unfurl through your muscles like pharmaceutical drug still in the experimental stages of chimpanzee testing. This newest novel (which I haven't read yet -- it just came out today) is apparently about this, that, and everything else. A New York Times Magazine interviewer explained it as a wildly ambitious book, "full of anger and violence and disaster and weird sex and strange new realities...[that] makes you marvel, reading it, at all the strange folds a single human brain can hold;" he later adds "its plot may not even be fully summarizable -- at least not in the space of a magazine article, written in human language, on this astral plane." (Check out the rest of the article here). If this description makes you at all skeptical about involving yourself with a book by this Murakami guy, I repeat, consider yourself invited. His books are at times challenging, but so often give you that rare epiphanous sense of glee and understanding that only a truly wonderful (and sometimes challenging) book can give you! Check it out! I repeat: Check it out! And check this cool picture out, too. Murakami running (it's where his creative energy comes from, he says):

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Neil Stephenson's Reamde (William Morrow, $28.00, 1056 pgs) -- I can't even feign contention with the NY Times' review of REAMDE which described Seattle-based writer Neil Stephenson as that kind of author who shows up at your house unannounced and reeking of weed, stays longer than you expect him while doing things you don't understand, and all of a sudden leaves without a trace, making you wish he might've stayed a little longer and shared a little of what he was smoking. Or something along those lines. Anyhow, I've been ripping along through his latest, REAMDE, which is indeed a book that could've been written by a man like that. Strange, sidereal, it is an entropic sort of global-thriller that involves everything and everywhere from Russian Gangsters, trolls, mages, a hyper-detailed computer game called T'Rain, Northern Idaho, a former mine in B.C., a trailer park in Iowa, Seattle, China, and everything/one in between. A must read for die hard fans of Stephenson (whose Snow Crash is listed as one of Time magazines top 100 books in the English language), and a damn good (and strange) book for the rest of us, REAMDE is definitely that fall vacation you couldn't afford.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Mourad Challenge

(No, it isn't some long lost Robert Ludlum title...)

So recently, Workman publishers asked us if we'd cook a few things from the up-coming Mourad: New Moroccan (by Mourad Lahlou, Workman, 400pgs, $40.00) cookbook and do a bit of blogging and tweeting about it. Of course we jumped at the idea, as did a few other independent bookstores across the country, and got started preparing for a two-night feast of harissa bloody marys, lemon preserved-chicken, grilled kefta kabobs with grapes, a yogurt-herb spread that goes with truly anything you can find in a refrigerator, beets with avocado puree and pumpkin seed crumble, and, to top it all off, chocolate gingersnaps. Yes: Yummm.

Before we get too much further, I think that it's probably necessary to explain what sort of culinary family we're dealing with. What I'm really saying is that my mom, Suzanne (LBB owner), is truly one of the worst cooks to have ever found her way into a kitchen. To her, a nice dinner is a bottle of wine, crackers, and some skanky vegetables she found in the bottom of the fridge hastily roasted and then slathered with salt. Her 'signature' dish is a beef stew so bland even a Brit wouldn't touch it, which nobody -- and I mean nobody -- will get close to but her. It looks like a cross between Alpo dog food and elementary school chili on its way out. (Sorry mom.) So anyways, what I'm trying to say is that if we can cook these dishes, really anybody can. They're not hard. They are delicious. And you can make them. If she can, you definitely can. Back to the feast:

PREPARING. The lemon preserves were the only thing we had to make ahead of time, and it couldn't have been easier. Salt. Jars. Lemons. A few weeks time, and done. In all, the needed ingredients were pretty easy to gather. Beside from a few spices we had to go to Seattle to find, everything we needed was right at our local grocery store and pretty cheap, too -- a rarity when it comes to cookbooks these days.

THE COOKING: Really fun and really easy. We had a great time skewering grapes, rolling the kefta into balls, and, of course, slugging our harissa bloody marys while stirring the yogurt and vinegar sauces. All in all, the directions were simple, precise, and quick to accomplish. It probably took 4 people an hour and a half of actual 'cooking' time to get everything done.

THE EATING: The whole night was really fun from start to finish, and it goes without saying that the food was incredible. Particularly the chicken with lemon preserves and the kefta with grapes. Wowsa.

THE EXPERIENCE: I think we all agreed, using the cookbook was awesome for everybody who came over and taught us a lot about Moroccan food (more than just lamb and couscous, apparently), Moroccan culture, and Mourad, the chef -- who does a really cool thing by infusing his life story into all of the recipes. Highly recommended for anything from an awesome group-cook dinner party where everyone is involved to making a quick yogurt sauce when you've got just a little time. Really good food. Really cool story. Really great book.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Banned, Fall, Savage, ETC

It's been some time since I've done one of these things now...busy, work, things, moving, what have you. And some big things have been happening in the book world, I'm happy to say. September, surprisingly short, I always think, contained "Banned Books Week" (, saw Jonathan Safron Foer reveal his newest novel, Tree of Codes (Visual Editions, 285 pages, $32.00), to be a brilliant, play-giaristic take on Bruno Schulz's novel Street of Crocodiles (SEE COOL STORY AT:, and publications by Jim Harrison, Paolo Coelho, and -- shockingly -- a thriller by far-right radio host Michael Savage whose books are usually titled something like "Liberalism is for Retards," hitting the shelves. (For more on the Savage thing, check out this really strange interview where Savage calls his book The Great American Novel.)

As for "Banned Books Week," I think it was Salman Rushdie who said something like, "No one values the power of the written word than a police state." And it's true. Although the regular banning of books in our country shows a profound disregard for the 1st Amendment and personal freedom, we may forget that it's also a testament to the continuing power of the written word and authors today. Just think about it. Would parents in Alabama be tripping over themselves to get "Harry Potter" or "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" taken out of their libraries if those books didn't touch upon some absolutely vital part of the gut?--If they didn't depict something real enough to scare the bejeezus out of us? It's something to think about. The way I see it, as long as books are still being banned, authors are succeeding at their jobs. Just look at the list. How many of the banned books are bad? None of them. In fact, just about all of them are classics.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Map to excellence...(David Mitchell Redux)

I read David Mitchell's most recent novel -- The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet -- earlier this summer and loved it, so it was a no-brainer to filch his older, more renowned Cloud Atlas (Random House, 528 pgs, $12.00) off a roommate.

Without revealing too much, here's the rundown:

Think Nabokov. Think Jennifer Egan. Martin Amis. Mash in some history, the kind with veins that paint those ticklish realities that seem real, unreal, surreal, but always pellucid. You've got you're finger on it. In this shimmering, Russian Doll of a novel, Mitchell paints a number of worlds through a series of collapsing sub-novel novellas which peck at and toy with the others' unique realities both intriguingly and hilariously. And truly, these novellas span both time and space. From a Carter-era journalist to a Chatham Islands explorer to a genetically modified 'dinery server' living in the future, Mitchell proves his imagination is incapable of failing to limn out a world or era that does not thrill us. Lastly, the book is action-packed, which when you think about it, is a pretty remarkable thing. These days 'literary' novels skate through, 1,000 pages drizzling pontifications and ruminations left and right, while never actually doing anything. If that annoys you as much as it does me, here's your antidote. READ!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Is there anything more summer-eal than the small town? Whether it's the parades or the community pools or the pleasant gossip or the baseball, small towns and summer are just it.

So I was thinking about some better books about small towns, or really, for those who live in them:

The first one that came to my mind!: Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner (Penguin Classics, $13.60, 656 pgs): Sure it's about the West, and America, and always striving to make it, but so much of what goes on in this novel is either set up or backdropped by a small town and its dynamic, it's just beautiful. But that's for later. The novel, in short, is the story of a family's ups and downs as it fluxes through American (and Canadian) life searching for money, happiness and stability. Throughout this journey, its leader, the hardly house-broken hard-head Bo Mason, plants and uproots his family in no less than 15 states and 50 houses, tasting a little of this life and a little of that along the way. Of course, small towns dominate this series of emigrations, and tell us over and over again how splendid they are.

The other great book that came to mind:
The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry (Simon and Schuster, $12.00, 288 pgs): So you've seen the movie (or if you haven't, check this clip). A young Jeff Bridges, a Cybill Shepard younger and prettier than any of us could've imagined, and all of it shot and directed with a realism that's as startling as it is, well, real. The novel, written by the master of Americana himself, Larry McMurtry,(who actually studied under Wallace Stegner for a while) is even better than the movie, if that's possible. Quaint, beautiful, and so damn real you'll spit on yourself, it's truly one of the best novels about the homespun small-town America of old you'll find anywhere. A must read!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Good, new, great

Just finished a couple great new(-ish) books!

Martin Amis's The Pregnant Widow (Vintage, 384 pgs, $12.76) -- Like nearly anything written by the younger Amis, The Pregnant Widow is a splash of language, a badinage of ideas, and really good time. This one -- his latest and most accessible in recent memory -- is about sex: the sexual revolution, the biological act, pornography, fantasy, you name it. And of course, it's all imbued with Amis's telltale panache and penchant for good storytelling and better prose. An intimate book, but one which you'll breeze through! As insightful as it is ecstatic!

Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad (Anchor, 352 pgs, $11.96) -- A hopscotching, genre-twisting, time-bender of a novel that's been the talk of town for a while now (Pulitzer winner, etc.). Truly, it lives up to the hype. Designed as a collection of stories (in every shape and size: graphs, newspaper clippings, all of it) which dances around the decades long drama of a group of friends and colleagues, A Visit From the Goon Squad does that rare thing that very few novels ever even dream of. While stretching the narrative form into something which truly captures our generation (a generation of soundbytes, cultural ADD, artistic sterility, surveillance, and ever-present technological amplification) it also details, through the minutia and character's lives the hopes and fears of this same generation. An excellent, excellent novel.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Game of Thrones!

If you haven't heard of HBO's excellent adaptation of George R.R. Martin's bestselling fantasy series, consider: your house is a cave somewhere near Kandahar; you are in a coma, dreaming, and the pop culture references occurring in your head are stuck somewhere between Boy George and the Tony Rich Project; when you fill out your US Census forms you mark the box 'Other' and scribe in 'Amish/Mennonite' next to it............. or, more likely, you don't have HBO and the taste for epic awesomeness.

For the rest of us, George R.R. Martin's four-part Song of Ice & Fire is the current gold standard when it comes to the American fantasy series. A complexly figured, politically thrilling, and intensely personal Epic (--and brilliantly so), it's a series that's not to be missed, no matter how much your friends and family will make fun of you for reading it. 'Nerd' books are the best! Don't forget it!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Thunderstorms are here. It rains, it snows, it suns. Here in Jackson, a liminal state has usurped the steady rains of spring and, now caught between seasons (or in Dwight Yoakam' s words: "I'm a thousand miles from nowhere...ooh haa.... "), it's not poncho-, parka-, or speedo-time, it's poncho-, parka-, and speedo time -- all in the same few minutes. And it's maddening. It's hobby-horsical to the nth degree. But you know, I guess that's a reading season. To me, that's good reading time; of course a book's never so fickle as the weather. So here are some of what's good lately:

David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (Hodder & Stoughton, $15.50) -- Occurring one of those settings which is as strange as it is real (and thus as extraterrestrial as historical), David Mitchell's latest is a sweet, sweet polyglot of a book which speaks historical novel, romance novel, and thriller with equal flourish. For a summary: it follows a young and intelligent Dutch clerk through both his personal and the Dutch East Indies' rise and fall; replete with historical insights from this less-studied era, and the winning plot of a NY Times best of the year, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is not to be missed!

The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud (Vintage, $12.00) -- Evelyn Waugh meets Charlie Rose at his gloomy knight's table? Is that an accurate description of Claire Messud's generous and masterful ironic novels? (I suppose it'll do.) The Emperor's Children, snug to that description, I'd say, is as lush and complete a novel as Messud as written yet. Acutely observed, it's the story of three 30-somethings whose intersecting lives impede, impel, and importune those around them in in late 1990's New York in such a way as to reveal the state of a generation and their beloved city. Almost laughing out loud has never been so enjoyable! -- I promise!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Time Passed

There are so many excuses to run to (for not blogging for so long). Who's to say some crazy aunt didn't talk me into believing End of Days malarkey NPR seemed to be reporting about bi-daily? Or put on a radiation suit and head to Japan? Or put on the green man suit and bang the glass at some Canucks play-off games? Where do any of us go when spring comes and it's time to change? But. But of course, none of those things happened. I read a little. Worked a lot. Saw old (and older) friends. But work, always work, is paramount.

And that's what brings me to one of my favorite new books! It's for the wonder that is work!:

It's Your Farm in the City: An Urban-Dweller's Guide to Growing Food and Raising Animals by Lisa Taylor and our very own (local) Gardeners of Seattle Tilth (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 336 pgs, $15.16) -- Precise and yet firmly encouraging, this excellent guidebook is as a good a teacher for the sometime-gardener as it is for the master. Complete as could be, with everything from fully mapped farming layouts for 1 acre parcels in suburban cul-de-sacs to tips on milking Nigerian pygmy goats, there's not only inspiration for all, there's information for all as well! Not to mention the book's layout is as cute as a nursery sapling. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Voices! New Books!

Spring's here for good now, reminding that its time for a change. How about a great new book by a first time author?

Touch by Alexi Zentner (W.W. Norton, $19.96, 264 pgs.) -- Set in a wonderfully sleepy logging village somewhere in the remote and remorseless mountains of northern British Columbia, Touch is, in a few words, the story of a town, a boy, a family, and the mysteries of the woods. Part coming of age and part fairy tale, it's a solid debut by a great new author (whose previous short fiction won an O. Henry as well as a Narrative Prize in 2008!). Snow falls, golden caribou abound, sea fairies call you into the river's icy chunder -- it's really a fun, interesting, and beautifully casted novel. Try it out!

Moby Duck: The True story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalits, and Fools... by Donovan Hohn (Viking, $22.96, 416 pgs.) -- Hohn -- a former editor of Harper's -- clubs the duck right on the head in this wandering, sometimes elegiac debut. Coming across as something like an oceanographic journal that swam too close to New York Times Review of Books (without the pomp, of course), Moby Duck is both charming and intelligent as it carries the reader through Hohn's physical and metaphysical search for some 28,000 rubber duckies that fell off a cargo ship. Much more fun to read than that might sound, I promise!

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht (Random House, $20.00, 352 pgs.) -- It hurts me to admit that Obreht, one of the most acutely brilliant authors to write in the English language in recent memory, is a just dumb 25 years old. What wisdom can she have earned, we might ask? What galling force, what courage can she be writing from? Well, read The Tiger's Wife and you've got it. Such a beautiful, smart book comes around only every so often, so you'd better not miss it. (And by the way it's about a doctor in a Balkan country repairing itself from years of war; and about secrets; and about family; and about landscapes...) Best book I've read in a while!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Saint. Patrick's. Day.

To get you in the spirit -- (though if you're not in the spirit imbimbing the spirits, then what's the point?) -- we've got some delicious, mind-dumbing BEEROK pairings to turn the greenest man into a Wildean-Joycean- Yeatsian lyricist before you can say Finnegan's Wake!

Roddy Doyle's The Dead Republic (Viking, $21.56, 336 pgs) and Rogue's St. Rogue Red Ale (Newport, OR) -- I'm pretty certain that I've reviewed this
book in one capacity or another, but when it comes to questions of Ireland and Irishness, nobody kicks the shamrock like Roddy Doyle does. This is especially true in The Dead Republic, which, while serving as the butt-end of the Henry Smart Trilogy, deals almost exclusively with the currency of 'Irishness' amidst the backdrops of Ford's "The Quiet Man," and the Irish Civil War. Doyle's hardy but stern prose makes this tale fly along all the faster, making you miss poor Henry Smart all the more at its finish. Rogue' s Red is the beer to drink while cruising through it for its bold and impressive self-awareness. Hoppy like a strong IPA but smooth like an Amber or American Pale, you'll be surprised and delighted as you rediscover just what you ordered.

Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor (Mariner, $11.96, 432 pgs.) and Sierra Nevada's Sierra Nevada Stout (Chico, CA)-- Written by a storyteller who's as much historian as he is wordsmith, Star of the Sea is a good novel and an even greater historical review. Beginning in 1847, at the height of the Great Potato Famine, it follows so many Irish men and women as they escape, dream, and occasionally philander their way into the America. And warning: it's not your typical Potato Famine Sob Story, which only reverberate upon the oft-told "Irish" woes of Catholic sorrow, drink, and sex. Warm up to it with a mug or two of Sierra Nevada's tasty, malty, aromatic Stout because, well... just because. It feels damn right.

Lastly, a bit of script from Finnegan's Wake, for your C.R.A.F.T. club to mull over:

"though a day be as dense as a decade, no mouth has the might to set a mearbound to the march of a landsmaul, in half a sylb, helf a solb, holf a salb onward the beast of boredom, common sense, lurking gyrographically down inside his loose Eating S.S. Collar is gogoing of whisth to you sternly how -- Plutonic loveliaks twinnt Platonic yearlings -- you must, how, in undivided reawlity draw the line somewhawre."

Best with more hard liquor than you'd dare to drink

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

(I'm so sorry for the colossal gaps between posts but it's been snowing pretty good here in Jackson which kinda means that everything else gets pushed to the side. Apologies, and here's the book the hour.)

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything By Joshua Foer (Penguin Press, 307 pp, $21.56)-- I read it in November or so, and ironically enough, forgot all about it. (Ironic because it's a book about memory!). Anyways, after hearing Joshua Foer on NPR and reading about him in the NY Times magazine, I not only remembered it but remembered how really great it was, too. Let me limn it out: Foer, a struggling journalist seeking Plimpton-esque immersion into a fast-paced professional competition stumbles upon the World Memory Championships which, after much training and study of The Human Memory's place in history, science, literature, and such, he enters and ... well you find out for yourself (and anyways I forget). It's a really fun read that does a great job of describing the memory exercises and strategies Foer and other Mind-letes employ (the coolest and most central one involves walking around a big house in your head and looking at things...), and also makes a lot of sense out of the former importance memorization had in schools and for poets like Homer back, you know, then. CHECK IT OUT!

That's because the book is so much more that a seductive piece of investigative journalism that has you rooting for memory geeks and

Friday, February 18, 2011

Old, Good, Pretty

I've been suffering from some mid-winter-no-snow-coming doldrums (something like Carlo's "Denver Doldrums," I suppose) and started dabbling with some older titles recently -- old but good. Initially, I was a little reluctant to write anything about them. Anyways, here goes. On my bedside they are:

The Ghost Writer by Phillip Roth (Vintage, $11.20) -- Remember that TV show 'Ghostwriter,' that aired Saturday mornings on PBS? ? Roth's classic has got little to do with it. So don't ask. More like the precursor to one of Roberto Bolano's tomes, The Ghost Writer is vintage Roth at his best. Full of haunting, sexy women of foreign background, dubious authors, and the comedy of the bedridden, it's right up there with Operation Shylock or Portnoy's Complaint. Just a little more proof that you can't beat Roth for tragi-comedy.

The Country Ahead of Us, The Country Behind by David Guterson (Vintage, $10.40) -- Channeling that other Peninsular bigwig, Raymond Chandler, Guterson gets at the heart and its environments in just a few pages throughout this neat collection of short stories. Hunting stories, cheating stories, rafting stories -- they are of many kinds but nearly always carried through in such a way that the environments they involve are as pregnant as their characters. Really interesting reading given his later successes. Enjoy!

Waiting by Ha Jin (Vintage, $12.00) -- This National Book Award winner is about love -- and there's plenty of it. The problem is that Lin Kong loves two women: his wife, who's born of his village and chosen by his parents, and his lover, a nurse at his military hospital who understands the waters of the quick-moving world. Between these nodes of past and present, the rural and urban, the individual and society, and the witting and unwitting, Ha Jin works brilliantly (--so far, I'm not done yet!) to cull up as much subtlety as his characters and their allegorical attachments need. As eye-opening as it is well-written. Love it!