Friday, February 27, 2009

What's In a Name?

Nationally and locally, we are mired in tough economic times. For most of us, it's a day-to-day slog just to keep our heads above water. Recently, the governor has suggested that schoolteachers could teach a few days for free. The state is facing its highest unemployment rate in more than two decades. Tri-Met is considering cutting vital bus lines that people depend on. School districts might shorten the school year. The book-loving community of Portland recently lost Twenty-Third Avenue Books -- an institution in Northwest Portland for almost 30 years -- to this economic struggle. These are merely a handful of examples. Yet in the midst of this economic hardship, some think the City of Portland can afford $150,000 to change the name of a major city street (Broadway, Grand, or 39th). And the $150,000 is only the cost to the city; it doesn't take into account the costs to individual businesses and even home owners on the impacted street to change stationery, business cards, ads, menus, brochures, websites, signage, and even the business names themselves (as in the case of Broadway Books, Broadway Floral, or Broadway Grill, to name just a few of the many examples).

I have no quarrel with honoring Cesar Chavez - the importance of his work as a labor leader and civil rights activist is not what I question. But I do question whether this is an appropriate time economically to be thinking about such a change. I believe even Mr. Chavez would be scratching his head asking "don't we have better things to spend our time and money on right now?" Perhaps there might be a better naming option, such as a park or building or statue or even farmer's market, rather than a street, given the number of people affected by a street name change and the massive costs involved. According to Wikipedia, there are more than 80 parks, squares, schools, streets, or libraries in this country currently named to honor this important man. And that's great. But do we really need another street, especially in these challenging economic times?

Broadway is one of the oldest streets in Portland. Northeast Broadway forms one border of the Registered Historic District of Irvington, and the downtown Broadway theater district has played a significant role in the city’s history. I'd hate to see us abandon our historical and cultural heritage by erasing a street name that has been such a significant part of Portland's history. I'm sure people living and working on the other streets under consideration could make similar arguments. Some might accuse me of racism. But I can assure you that if someone were to propose renaming Broadway after, say, Eleanor Roosevelt or F. Scott Fitzgerald – two Americans I also greatly admire – or even after my own grandparents, my response would be the same: definitely not now; probably never.

The final decision hasn't yet been made. Public hearings to discuss the historic significance of the three streets under consideration will be held soon (March 23rd for Grand, March 30th for Broadway, and April 6th for 39th) at locations to be announced. There has been no announcement of public opportunities to discuss the costs involved or the appropriateness of taking on such costs at this time, but we can only presume that there will be such opportunities. I encourage you to voice your feelings on this issue. And I hope that the dialogue can remain civil, respectful, and thoughtful.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Little Publishing History

A few days ago I wrote that we had just received the paperback edition of The Reserve, by Russell Banks. One of the central characters in that novel is based on the artist Rockwell Kent, a well-known artist in the early 1900s. The Reserve is published by Harper Perennial, a division of HarperCollins. It turns out, however, that Mr. Kent drew the original artwork for the colophons, or logos, for the publishers Viking and Random House.

Viking Press was founded in New York city in 1925 by Harold K. Guinzburg and George S. Oppenheim. The firm's name and its logo were chosen as symbols of enterprise, adventure, and exploration in publishing. Some of their original authors were August Strindberg, Carl van Doren, Vita Sackville-West, Mohandas Gandhi, and Bertrand Russell. Some of their recent books include Eat Pray Love (Elizabeth Gilbert), Three Cups of Tea (Greg Mortenson), The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd), Collapse (Jared Diamond), and People of the Book (Geraldine Brooks) in hardback editions. Viking is now part of The Penguin Group, owned by Pearson plc.

In 1925, Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer purchased The Modern Library, reprints of classic works of literature, from publisher Horace Liveright. Two years later, in 1927, they decided to broaden their publishing activities, and Random House was born -- the name deriving from Cerf's thought that they would be printing "...a few books at random." The story is that the colophon designed by Rockwell Kent was originally sketched out on a cocktail napkin.

One of the first actions by this publisher, after a court battle, was to win rights to publish an uncensored version of James Joyce's Ulysses in the United States. They also signed poet Robinson Jeffers and playwright Eugene O'Neill, among others. Through acquisition of another company, they obtained the authors Isak Dinesen, William Faulkner, and Jean De Brunhoff, author of the wonderful Babar series. They also published a "little" book for kids, The Cat in the Hat -- we all know what that grew into!

In 1960 RH acquired Alfred A. Knopf, one of the most prestigious publishers. RH is now a division of Bertelsmann AG, and incorporates a vast array of companies and imprints, including Knopf, Spiegel & Grau, Bantam Dell, and Ballantine. Some of the publisher's recent successes are Jon Meacham's biography of Andrew Jackson, American Lion; The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, and Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese.

Shortly after Random House acquired Knopf, the company also acquired a textbook publisher, L.W. Singer. One of the editors at Singer soon became an editor for Random House and stayed there for twenty years. That editor was the soon-to-be author Toni Morrison, who published her first novel, The Bluest Eyes, while still an editor at Random. Her novel Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988, and she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, becoming the first black woman -- and only the eighth woman -- to win that prize. Her most recent novel is A Mercy (published by Knopf!).

Given that I'm telling publishing stories, I'll tell one of my personal favorite. In 1913, the publishing company Prentice Hall was started by Charles Gerstenberg and Richard Ettinger, who used their mother's maiden names -- Prentice and Hall -- for their new company's name. Isn't that sweet? (Full disclosure: I worked for Prentice Hall for almost 17 years.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Carl Hiaasen is a Hoot!

Yes, it's true. He is a hoot. Did you know that besides his mysteries for adults (Sick Puppy, Nature Girl, etc) he also writes books for the younger set? Written for the 9 - 12 age group, these novels are Florida-based, take an environmental bent, and offer good writing and wickedly whacked out humor. First came Hoot. Then Flush. And now we have Scat. In Scat, Bunny Starch, the most feared biology teacher ever, disappears after a school field trip to Black Vine Swamp. Nick and Marta don't buy the principal's story that she's been called away on a "family emergency," so they investigate and stumble onto some dangerous facts about the swamp: an endangered Florida panther has taken up residence, and an oil company has begun an illegal drilling operation. Adding some emotional heft is the subplot involving Nick's father; he returns home from Iraq minus his right arm, and Nick binds his own arm so that they can learn to become lefties together.
Carl Hiaasen was born and raised in Florida, where he still lives with his family. He has been writing about Florida since his father gave him a typewriter at age six. A graduate of the University of Florida, at age 23 he joined The Miami Herald as a general assignment reporter and went on to work for the newspaper's weekly magazine and prize-winning investigations team. Since 1985 Hiaasen has been writing a regular column, which at one time or another has pissed off just about everybody in South Florida, including his own bosses. Somehow he has managed to remain employed, and today his column appears on most Sundays in The Herald's opinion-and-editorial section. It may be viewed online at

Monday, February 23, 2009

This Just In...John Daniel Date Set!

We've confirmed that John Daniel will be here on Tuesday, April 28th, at 7 pm to read from his new collection of essays, The Far Corner: Northwestern Views on Land, Life, and Literature. See the earlier entry today to see just how much we love this guy (and to learn more about his new book).

Tick Tock Time is Running Out....

Our 2009 calendars are marked down 75%, but they're going fast! At that discount, it works out to about $3 or so, depending on the original price -- what a bargain! You don't want to wake up one day in March and not know what day it is (although that's happened to me.....). Come and get 'em while you still can!

New Book from Favorite Writer

One of my all-time favorite writers -- and all-around great guy -- is John Daniel: poet and writer of essays and memoirs. Two of his books I'm particularly fond of are Rogue River Journal: A Winter Alone, which blends the story of his 4-1/2 month experiment in solitude in a remote Rogue River cabin with a memoir of his father (an early labor union organizer) and their relationship and his own growing up and coming of age, and Looking After: A Son's Memoir, which tells this story of his caring for his mother in the last years of her life as she declined with Alzheimer's. In both of these terrific books I love both his writing style -- the way he strings words together with nary a wasted word -- and his ability to lay himself open and explore feelings and behaviors even if doing so don't always portray him in the most positive light.

Now I -- and all the other John Daniel fans out there -- will soon have a new book to treasure. The Far Corner: Northwestern Views on Land, Life, and Literature, a collection of personal essays, will be published by Counterpoint Press later this spring. And I'm happy to announce that John will be doing a reading at Broadway Books (watch this blog for details to come). The Far Corner extends the work he collected in a book of essays, The Trail Home, published in 1992 and winner of the 1993 Oregon Book Award for literary nonfiction. The essays in the new collection are diverse in focus, various in length, and inventive in form, spinning narratives that seek to define how he belongs to the land and to the wholeness of life itself, exploring both external and internal landscapes.

John was born in South Carolina and raised in the suburbs of Washington, DC, but he moved to the Northwest in 1966 and instantly realized he was home. As he says in this new collection, "I never considered living in the East again. I didn't know much for sure in my early twenties, but I knew I had corrected the mistake of having been born and raised on the wrong coast." He originally came to Portland to attend Reed College, but the beauty of our state soon derailed that intent: "It was Oregon, wild and lovely and violent Oregon, that ruined my academic career. How could I keep my nose in Herodotus, my ears in windy seminars, my spirit in dolorous, fluourescent classrooms, while outside swarmed a green paradise of mountains and rivers and seacoast and forests of gargantuan trees?" Home for John now is in the Coast Range foothills west of Eugene.

His essays hit such topics as becoming a writer, clear-cutting, the mythic resonance of rivers, the writers Ken Kesey and Wallace Stegner, the literary genre of creative nonfiction, and even the al-Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001. In his introduction, John acknowledges that some people might be reluctant to tackle a book of essays: "The reputation of essay has been more or less ruined by dry exercises of that label assigned too often over the years in schools...but the contemporary personal essay is not the trussed and embalmed critter you have rightly learned to despise." Rather, he says, "to find an essayist who interests you is to go for a walk with a friendly (if sometimes contentious) stranger with whom you enjoy conversing on a variety of subjects, sometimes debating, sometimes agreeing, a companion whose reflections may stir you to reflect on your own experience and the questions most important to you and to your place on Earth."

I can't wait to go for a walk with John again! We'd be happy to hold a copy of The Far Corner for you -- just give us a holler.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

You've Seen the Movie...

...Now read the book! Oh, you haven't seen the movie yet? Well, you can always read the book first. Yes, it's true. We have Slumdog Millionaire -- originally published as Q&A -- by Vikas Swarup in paperback. And tomorrow night the world will find out if the movie magic continues with a Best Picture Oscar. Or Best Director. Or any of the other ten nominations this movie has racked up.

Vikas Swarup's spectacular debut novel opens in a jail cell in Mumbai, India, where Ram Mohammad Thomas is being held after correctly answering all twelve questions on India's biggest quiz show, "Who Will Win a Billion?" It is hard to believe that a poor orphan who has never read a newspaper or gone to school could win such a contest. But through a series of exhilarating tales, Ram explains to his lawyer how episodes in his life gave him the answer to each question. Ram takes us on an amazing review of his own history -- from the day he was found as a baby in the clothes donation box of a Delhi church to his employment by a faded Bollywood star to his adventure with a security-crazed Australian army colonel to his career as an overly creative tour guide at the Taj Mahal.

When Q&A was first published, the reviewers had this to say: "A wonderful debut novel." "A fast-paced read that will leave you satisfyingly stunned." "A delightful, fast-paced fairy tale." "A fun and rollicking adventure." "A story endowed with all the emotional richness and moral ambiguities of a Mumbai street scene." "An inventive piece of social commentary." I am off to see the movie tonight, so I can't pass along my verdict yet, but I have listened to the soundtrack from the movie four times in a row as I worked at the store today, so I can definitely endorse it! I've seen both "The Reader" and "Milk," and this will have to be one heck of a fine movie to top either of those!

Friday, February 20, 2009

New Novel from Elie Wiesel

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel (author of the bestselling memoir, Night) grapples with questions of madness, sadness and memory in his difficult but powerful new novel, A Mad Desire to Dance, translated from the French by Catherine Temerson. The novel tells the story of Doriel, a European expatriate living in New York, who suffers from a profound sense of desperation and loss. His mother, a member of the Resistance, survived World War II only to die in an accident, together with his father, soon after. Doriel was a child during the war, and his knowledge of the Holocaust is largely limited to what he finds in movies, newsreels, and books. Doriel's parents and their secrets haunt him, leaving him filled with longing but unable to experience the most basic joys in life. He plunges into an intense study of Judaism, but instead of finding solace, he comes to believe that he is possessed by a dybbuk. Surrounded by ghosts and spurred on by demons, Doriel finally turns to Dr. Therese Goldschmidt, a psychoanalyst who finds herself particularly intrigued by her patient. The two enter into an uneasy relationship based on exchange: of dreams, histories, and secrets. Despite Doriel's initial resistance, Dr. Goldschmidt helps to bring him to a crossroads -- and to a shocking denouement. In Doriel's journey into the darkest regions of the soul, Elie Wiesel has written one of his most profoundly moving works of fiction, grounded always by his unparalleled moral compass. While the novel is not an easy read, there are rewards and surprises to be had.

Are You a Fan of Short Stories?

I am. I love a good short story. If you're a fan too, here's a site for you to check out: To celebrate the upcoming publication of six new short story collections from authors such as Tolstoy, Melville, and Wilde, Harper Perennial is posting one new short story a week for fifty-two weeks. This week's story is "The Sculpture's Funeral," by Willa Cather. Some of the stories are new stories from Harper Perennial's original collections or from upcoming hardcover books; some are original contributions never before published anywhere; and some are backlist classics. Future offerings include selections by Katherine Dunn, Jess Walter, Mark Twain, and Dennis Cooper. Check it out!

Who are some of your favorite short story authors? Here are some of mine: Alice Munro, Tobias Wolff, Lorrie Moore (who has a new collection coming in August -- finally!), Jhumpa Lahiri, and, of course, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Some great collections I've read recently are The Complete Stories, by David Malouf; Last Night (the last story will knock your socks off), by James Salter; and The Boat, by Nam Le.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Movie-Making with Pi

Word on the street is that Ang Lee, director of the movie "Brokeback Mountain," among others, is in talks to direct a movie based on the popular novel The Life of Pi, by Canadian author Yann Martel. The coming-of-age novel revolves around an Indian youth -- Piscine "Pi" Molitor Patel -- who is the lone survivor of a sunken freighter and who ends up sharing a lifeboat with a hyena, an injured zebra, an orangutan and a hungry Bengal tiger. The novel, which explores issues of religion, spirituality, and practicality, won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction when it was published and has been through several incarnations as a movie project. Stay tuned for more news on the movie -- and if you haven't yet read the book, come on in!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

One of the most popular books at Broadway Books of late has been a novel out of France: The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery (Europa Editions). The book, translated by Alison Anderson, has won numerous European literary prizes and is a New York Times bestseller. The narration alternates between Renee, a 54-year-old concierge of an elegant apartment in Paris who is attached to just about no one but her cat Leo, and super-smart 12-year-old Paloma, the youngest daughter of the family on the fifth floor.

Renee is a ferocious autodidact who is better versed in literature and the arts than any of the building's snobby residents. Paloma -- talented, precocious, and startlingly lucid -- has come to terms with life's seeming futility and has decided to end her life on her 13th birthday. Both mask their true intellect behind the masks of mediocrity they think are expected of them.

Into their lives comes a new tenant, a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu, who befriends both and helps them to discover their kindred -- and well-hidden -- souls. By turns funny and heartbreaking, this is a moving, witty, and redemptive novel.

The author, a philosophy professor in France when writing the novel, currently lives in Japan. Her first novel, Une Gourmandise, which has been translated into twelve languages, will be published in English by Europa Editions in 2009.

Calling All Fans of the Percy Jackson Series

Today the cover for the final book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series was revealed. The book itself -- The Last Olympian, by Rick Riordan -- will be published on May 5th. The previous books in the series have seen the half-bloods preparing for battle against the Titans, led by a resurrected Kronos, whose army is stronger than ever. Now it's up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the evil lord. In this final book of the series, the long-awaited prophecy surrounding Percy's sixteenth birthday unfolds, and Percy faces a terrifying suspicion that he may be fighting against his own fate.

Although The Last Olympian will be the final book in this particular series, the author has promised a new series based out of Camp Half-Blood and involving some familiar faces, but they won't be the main characters. The four books leading up to this finale (The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan's Curse, and The Battle of the Labyrinth) have been wildly popular. Riordan is also the author of the story arc for the new multimedia series by Scholastic, The 39 Clues, and the writer of the first book in that series: The Maze of Bones.

When asked how he got the idea for the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, Riordan, a former middle-school teacher told this story: My son Haley was studying the Greek myths in second grade and asked me to tell him some bedtime stories about the gods and heroes. When I ran out of myths, I remembered a creative writing project I used to do with my sixth graders: I would let them create their own demigod hero, the son or daughter of any god they wanted, and have them describe a Greek-style quest for that hero. Making up my own demigod story on the spot led to the creation of the first Percy Jackson book.

Mr. Riordan gives this advice to young people who might want to be writers: First, get a mentor -- find a teacher you respect or write to an author or just ask for help. Second, read a lot -- everything you can get your hands on. Third, write every day. Keep a journal and write down interesting stories you hear or descriptions or whatever comes to mind. Finally, don't get discouraged. Rejection is a part of writing, but don't give up!

If you've read the first four books and aren't sure what to read between now and May 5th, we just got in The Demigod Files, by Rick Riordan, which includes three previously unpublished Percy Jackson escapades, interviews with characters from the book, and other half-blood-related activities.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sixth Maisie Dobbs Mystery Just Released

The "Maisie Dobbs" series, by Jacqueline Winspear, has proved to be one of the most popular mystery series we sell at Broadway Books. The series is based in Post-World-War I England and features psychologist and detective Maisie Dobbs. The newest book in the series, Among the Mad, is now available -- we have it both in hardback and on CD (Henry Holt). The book opens in London on Christmas Eve in 1931, where threats to the prime minister have Maisie partnering with Scotland Yard to find the man who threatens to inflict death and destruction on thousands of innocent people. As with the other books in the series, Among the Mad explores the damage that war inflicts on one's soul. It also delves into the things the hopeless and mentally unstable will do to be heard.

Ms. Winspear was born and raised in the county of Kent, England, and moved to the United States in 1990. Her grandfather was severely wounded and shell-shocked at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 -- which first set her to thinking about the effects of war. Maisie Dobbs came of age at a time when women had taken on many roles previously reserved for men, to free the men for the war efforts. When the war ended, they were reluctant to relinquish their newly found independence. This time of social upheaval and dealing with the aftereffects of "the war to end all wars" provides fertile ground in which to base a series -- as the popularity of this series proves.

The first book in the series, Maisie Dobbs, was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel -- only the second time a first novel has been nominated in this category -- and won numerous other prestigious awards. If you're an avid Maisie Dobbs fan, you have a treat in store with Among the Mad. If you haven't yet become a fan, you have an even bigger treat in store: six wonderful mystery novels await you.

It's Raining Cats!

Matthew Van Fleet's most recent book for kids was Dog. Now he (finally!) gives equal billing to the feline side of the universe with his new book Cat (Simon & Schuster, $16.99). Featuring photographs from Brian Stanton, the book offers twenty-three breeds of frolicking, pouncing, and prancing cats -- and one slightly scared mouse -- to entertain, along with flaps to lift, tabs to push and pull, and fur to pet. Dog was a big hit at Broadway Books -- as was van Fleet's previous book Tails -- and we expect Cat to be just as popular. And while you're here, check out our new table of all things cat.

Monday, February 16, 2009

New in Paperback from Russell Banks

Just out in paperback is Russell Banks' novel The Reserve. The novel, a powerful commentary on class structure in America, takes place in the 1930s, on the cusp of the Second World War. "The Reserve" refers to a membership-only private preserve in the Adirondack wilderness. One of the major characters in the book, Jordan Groves, is loosely based on real-life artist Rockwell Kent, a radical leftist in the 1930s who was also one of the most successful and famous artists in America -- and equally well known as a world-traveler, adventurer, and philanderer. The book explores the moral and political implications of the inherent conflict between an artist's radical politics and his social and financial alliance with the very class his politics attack. Both a love story and a murder mystery, The Reserve raises questions about class, politics, art, love, and madness while exploring what happens when two powerful personalities -- trapped at opposite ends of a social divide -- begin to break the rules. Banks is the author of several books, including The Sweet Hereafter, Cloudsplitter, Rule of the Bone, Continental Drift, and The Darling.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy 150th Birthday, Oregon!

Happy (belated) birthday, Oregon! We love you! And you look seriously fabulous for 150… In celebration of our fair state’s sesquicentennial, we recommend the special edition of Great and Minor Moments in Oregon History, edited by Dick Pintarich. The book is a collection of fascinating and juicy tidbits about our most favorite state in the union. The essays and anecdotes cover everything from Oregon’s geological history to stories about the seedy underbelly of Portland (one of my favorite subjects). It’s guaranteed to both inform and entertain (could you really ask for more?) and it might also make you a more interesting conversationalist at parties -- not that you're not already wildly fascinating.... Let the celebration begin! And stay tuned for news on events in March at Broadway Books relating to the celebration.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bird Count AND Bird Sale

This weekend, February 13-16, is the 12th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count, hosted by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. What does that mean? It means you go outside and count the birds you see. What else does it mean? It means that on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (2/14-16) you can get 10% off any book in the store with the word bird in the title.* And you can buy as many books as you want! This includes my personal favorite gift book of the year: Birdscapes: A Pop-Up Celebration of Bird Songs in Stereo (with recordings from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology). Or, you could get the novel The Spectator Bird, by Wallace Stegner (but not Gossip of the Starlings, by Nina de Gramont). And you can buy the books in our window -- if the window is empty by Monday night that's ok. In fact, that's fabulous!

If you want to know more about the Great Backyard Bird Count, go to: Here you'll find all kinds of information, including answers to frequently asked questions such as how is the information used and why is the count in February. Or where to count birds (despite the name, you're not restricted to your backyard), for how long (at least 15 minutes), can you count birds you detect only by sound (yes, if you're that good), and can you include birds that fly overhead (yes, but only if you can make a positive identification).

The site tells you about local related events. You can also download a bird checklist specific to your region to help guide your count. (Here's some of the birds on the list for our area; the Gadwall, the Ruffed Grouse, Clark's Grebe, the Sharp-Shinned Hawk, the Black Phoebe, Wilson's Snipe, the Yellow-Shafted Northern Flicker, the Pygmy Nuthatch, the Pine Siskin, and the Yellow-Rumped Warbler. Best of all, the site updates regularly with the current counts submitted thus far. As of 3:25 pm PST today, there had been 3733 checklists submitted, oberserving 401 different species and a total of 379,067 individual birds counted. Wow. Get out there and start counting! And don't forget to come take advantage of our bird sale.

*The fine print (because there's always fine print): bird sale applies only to books in the store -- no special orders; no additional discounts can be applied and no pink card punch if you opt for the discount.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday to You, and You...and You?

Guess who was born 200 years ago today, February 12, 1809? If you said "Abraham Lincoln," you're right! Then again, if you said "Charles Darwin," you're also right. These two great men were born on exactly the same day: one in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky and the other on an English country estate. [For those of you for whom such things matter, that date makes them Aquarians.]

Both are famous, influential change-makers with long-lasting reputations. Both are known for their clear and insightful thinking and writing. Both lost their mother in early childhood, and each lost a beloved child. Besides a common date of birth, they share many traits and experiences. Yet we almost never think of them side-by-side and rarely if ever discuss the Civil War in the same conversation as evolution. A new book from Adam Gopnik (author of Paris to the Moon and Through the Children's Gate), Angels and Ages: A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life, does just that. As Gopnik says, "the point is that when we do come across those who write well and see clearly, we're right to make them heroes." One reviewer described this book as having 'succulent prose and incisive reasoning." How can you resist?

If you want to read more about either man, we've got books in spades. Some of the Darwin offerings include The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution (David Quammen), Darwin's Origin of Species: A Biography (Janet Browne), and, of course, The Origin of Species itself (Charles Darwin). Our Lincoln shelves are groaning with books, including Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer (Fred Kaplan), A. Lincoln: A Biography (Ronald C. White, Jr.), Looking for Lincoln: The Making of an American Icon (Kunhardt, et al), Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief (James M. McPherson), and, of course, Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals.

And if today also happens to be your birthday? Wow, are you in great company -- and happy birthday to you too!

Two New Must-Read Novels

Two new novels arrived in the store this week -- actually, many more than two, but I'll only talk about these two for the moment. The first -- Fool, by Christopher Moore -- I already blogged about so I won't say anything more except buy it and read it! This book will make you laugh your you-know-what off, a perfect antidote to these cold winter days. If you like a good parody (Shakespeare's King Lear, in this case), this is the book for you.

One of the most popular books at Broadway Books in the past year has been Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan, a fictionalized telling of Frank Lloyd Wright's relationship with Mamah Cheney. Now we have The Women, by T.C. Boyle, a fictionalized biography of Frank Lloyd Wright told from the point of view of the four women in his life, including Mamah. Wright has been described as visionary, reckless, passionate, manipulative, and impetuous. These descriptions apply both to his professional life and to his personal life: in both he was known to be contemptuous of society's rules of behavior. This dazzling novel by Boyle is a masterful ode to the creative life in all its creativity and grandeur. One reviewer described it as "lush, dense, and hyperliterate -- in other words, vintage Boyle."

If these walls could talk.... As it turns out, Boyle lives in the George C. Stewart house, near Santa Barbara, one of Wright's early California designs. He and his family are only the fourth owners of the house (built in 1909). Along with his other work, Boyle is known for his fictionalized biographies of great narcissistic egomaniacs of the 20th century: John Harvey Kellog, Alfred Kinsey, and now Frank Lloyd Wright. We sold out all of our copies on the day they arrived, but lucky for all of us we've since received more. Come and get 'em!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

One Big Furry Family!

Recently we told you that from time to time we will be spotlighting other local independent businesses in this blog (last week we talked about Music Millenium). Today we're thrilled to talk to you about our close-by neighbors, Furever pets, which this Sunday will hold its 6th anniversary party! Congratulations!! (more on the party later...)

Symon Lee started the store in 2003 with 1200 square feet on 19th Ave, expanding into a Northeast Broadway storefront in 2004, and just recently expanding even further along Broadway. Symon, formerly an industrial designer working with toys, computers, and high-tech medical equipment, was committed to building a pet store that treats the furry ones like family and that is an integral part of the animal community and the human community, not just a retail establishment. He has succeeded on all counts. Besides offering high-end pet food and supplies (many locally produced), Furever pets works closely with several non-profit animal groups, facilitating donations, adoptions, and rescues, and also supports several two-legged neighborhood activities and associations.

Their website ( tells you a bit about their philosophy:

"At Furever pets, we treat you and your furry friends like family. We believe you and your pets deserve the best so we carry only premium pet foods and treats, fun toys, stylish pet apparel, and unique accessories. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, come on in for the Furever pets shopping experience. You’ll be thrilled with the products we carry and the personalized service we offer. And do remember to bring your furry friends. They are always welcome in the store."

The anniversary party this weekend (Sunday, February 15th, from 11 to 5) will offer light snacks and drinks, special sales, and door prizes. If you're one of the first 250 customers to spend $50 or more, you will get a limited edition Furever pets reusable shopping bag. Best of all, 15% of the total sales for the day will be donated to the animal charities the store partners with. What a great way to celebrate "6 barking and purring good years" of a wonderful, integral piece of the Northeast Broadway neighborhood. And then just hop on down and say hi to us and tell us how much fun you had. [Full disclosure: I am a cat person who likes dogs; Roberta is a dog person who likes cats. My guys -- Joey and Mikey -- are pictured above. My cats' personal favorites from the store? The Innova line of wet and dry cat food, the crinkly balls and the feathery-tailed mice, the catnip body pillows, the furry soft sleeping pads and all sizes of scratching boxes, and -- of course -- the peacock feathers.]

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Is it a Book or a Puzzle?

Well, both of these books -- Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz -- are a bit puzzle-like. But these really are puzzles. Each box holds a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle of a gorgeously designed collage of imagery from the book. Very cleverly packaged in a box that looks like a book (isn't that clever?), these "books" can sit on your shelf until the perfect puzzle night rolls around. Get one of each! Just the boxes alone are pretty cool. Let's see, what would I hide in one of them.....?

Sitton Thanks You!

We were surprised yesterday by a visit from Diane Newton-Prior, librarian at Sitton Elementary School. She delivered gorgeous pink thank-you hearts from the students at the school, expressing their appreciation for the books donated to their library by Broadway Books and its wonderfully generous customers. We love making people happy with books! Come by and see the hearts for yourself; they are delightful!

Do You Know What Day It Is?

It's February 10th, the magical day in calendar-sales world: all of our 2009 calendars are now 75% off! Yes, it's true: you can actually get them for LESS than what we paid for them. Surely you need a calendar in every room, and maybe even in the garage?? And what about your car? Your office? You need never go another minute without knowing what day it is. Hurry in before they're completely picked through.

Fear of Buttons???

It's been a big couple of weeks for Neil Gaiman. First he won the Newbery Award for The Graveyard Book. Then the movie "Coraline" -- produced by local Laika studio and based on Gaiman's book -- was released to large acclaim. The movie uses incredible stop-motion animation to tell Coraline's story. Watch here as Gaiman talks about koumpounophobia, or the fear of buttons. Who knew such a thing actually existed? I used to work with a woman who hated buttons, but I don't know if it extended to the point of phobia. Turns out, this phobia afflicts 1 in 75,000 people. I would discourage them from going to see the movie. But I would encourage anyone in the mood to read a book by Neil Gaiman to come see us at Broadway Books!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Gorgeous Picture Book

One of the most beautiful books for kids in a long time is Wabi Sabi, published by Little, Brown. The book is written by Mark Reibstein and illustrated by Caldecott Award-winner Ed Young. The book tells the story of Wabi Sabi, a little cat in Kyoto, Japan, who tries to discover the true meaning of her name. The lyrical text and breathtaking collages work together to weave a story of finding real beauty in unexpected places. Mark Reibstein is an English teacher and writer who has lived in New York, California, Hawaii, Japan, and Thailand. While living in Kyoto, he met a cat named Wabi Sabi, and they remained very close friends for ten years. Now Mark and his daughter live near San Francisco with their good friend Arlo, who is also a cat. When illustrator Ed Young was young, he thought he could "disappear" into his own world, brought to life through his drawings. Years later, he has provide artwork for more than seventy books.

The book was unavailable for several months, because of the high demand, but we have a few copies back in stock. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more delightful and gorgeous book for kids of all ages. As defined in the book, wabi sabi "is a way of seeing the world that is at the heart of Japanese culture. It finds beauty and harmony in what is simple, imperfect, natural, modest, and mysterious. It can be a little dark, but it is also warm and comfortable. It may best be understood as a feeling, rather than as an idea."

Obama Inauguration Poem

Elizabeth Alexander was chosen to compose and read a poem at Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration on January 20, 2009. She is only the fourth poet in history to be selected for such an honor. That poem, Praise Song for the Day, has just been published by Graywolf Press in a beautiful little chapbook for $8. Born in New York City and raised in Washington, DC, Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright, and teacher. She has degrees from Yale University and Boston University, and a PhD in English from the University of Pennsylvania. She has published five previous books of poems, one of which -- American Sublime -- was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.

Professor Alexander is the first recipient of the Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship for work that “contributes to improving race relations in American society and furthers the broad social goals of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954.” She is the 2007 winner of the first Jackson Prize for Poetry, awarded by Poets and Writers. Other awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, the George Kent Award, given by Gwendolyn Brooks, a Guggenheim fellowship as well as the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at University of Chicago. She currently teaches in the Department African American Studies at Yale University. This book will make a great keepsake item to celebrate this remarkable moment in time.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Moresukine: Uploaded Weekly from Tokyo

As promised, I'm back with another graphic novel recommendation (this is Jennie for those of you who missed the earlier posting I wrote while Sally was away at bookselling school). I'm a big fan of social experiments, which explains why Moresukine: Uploaded Weekly from Tokyo by Dirk Schwieger is my graphic novel pick this week. Schwieger lived in Tokyo for a couple of years and while he was there he kept a comics blog. He invited readers of his blog to write in and submit missions for him to complete that would take him out of his expat comfort zone and introduce him to the multi-faceted conundrum wrapped in an enigma that is modern Japanese culture. For 6 months he took on every challenge that was posed, regardless of how dangerous, weird, gross, pointless, boring or uncomfortable it was. He then drew short comics pieces about each assignment. We join Dirk as he risks his life to taste the potentially poisonous fugu, checks out the local love hotel, visits the architectural wonder that is the Studio Ghibli Museum (this is one I'm jealous of), and goes on a host of other strange, eye-opening adventures. Schwieger's humorous commentary as he relates each journey captures both the exoticism and utter normalcy of urban Japan. The book is the size and shape of a Moleskine notebook (the legendary notebook of Hemingway, Picasso, and Chatwin!) and is a steal at only $15.95.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Verghese's Fictional Debut

In 1993, a memoir was published by a young man about his work with AIDS patients in the Smokey Mountains in the 1980s. The writer, an Indian doctor who became by necessity an expert in AIDS treatment, wrote so eloquently about his work and with such compassion for his patients that his book, My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story became a word-of-mouth bestseller. Since then, he has written one other memoir and several shorter pieces for The New Yorker, and in the publishing/bookselling world, there have been rumors over the years of a novel in the works. We are pleased to announce that after such a long time Dr. Abraham Verghese’s incredibly rich and compelling novel, Cutting for Stone, has just arrived in the store. It’s a story about the bond between twin brothers, a book about medicine, a meditation on family, and a tale of grace. It’s a book that reminds us how important and enjoyable it is to read really good writing. We cannot say it better than Meredith Allison of Brazos Bookstore in Houston: “…this is a book you will have to share with others, if you can bear parting with your copy.”

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Upcoming Events

Check out our Web site to get the heads-up on events coming up in March at the store! Freshly updated today.

Can You Say it in Exactly Six Words?

So, in keeping with the theme of the previous post, here's another book on love -- and heartbreak -- that would make a great Valentine's gift: Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak by Writers Famous & Obscure, edited by SMITH Magazine, is a collection of pithy, sweet, clever, simple six-word sagas exploring the complexities of the human heart. Some samples: "I trusted her forever. Good choice." "Married by Elvis, divorced by Friday." "My mother warned me about you." "Never again. Maybe once. Yes, ok." "Somehow I even love his snoring." "It's worth it, despite your mother." "Lost a lover; gained a lawyer." "Will always follow you. On Twitter." This haiku for the new age is sure to entertain. Great for reading aloud at parties. Can you come up with your own? These are the same people who brought us Not Quite What I was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure.

Newsletter Bonus!

For those of you on our mailing list, please note that the February newsletter contains a special coupon: 20% off any one book in the store that contains the word "love" in its title (or subtitle). Here's some ideas to get you started: Geek Love, the well-loved classic by local author Katherine Dunn; Bicycles: Love Poems, by Nikki Giovanni; You Suck: A Love Story, by Christopher Moore (whose new book Fool will be available next Tuesday); Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal, by Ben Macintyre; Latin Love Lessons: Put a Little Ovid in Your Life, by Charlotte Higgins; My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro, edited by Jeffrey Eugenides (Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Middlesex); All We Know of Love, by another local favorite, Katie Schneider; and -- of course -- the children's classic Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram. You see how it works? What a great way to celebrate the month of Valentines. Remember, only one per coupon, and if you're not on our mailing list you're out of luck for this particular coupon, but come in (or email us) and get signed up future issues of the print newsletter -- or check our blog for future non-coupon specials. Happy Valentine's Day to all!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Musical Adventure

I have a dirty little secret to get off my chest: I went through a seriously intense iTunes infatuation. You know, it's midnight and suddenly you just HAVE to hear an old Johnny Cash song, and you realize you don't have it amid all your musical collection, so you fire up the ol' Mac and bingo -- one credit card charge later there it is. You don't even have to put on shoes! But then there's the hangover: the credit card bill arrives, and you have nothing tangible to show for it. No cd, no case, no liner notes. Nothing to feel and hold and show your friends.

Then I started thinking what if everyone bought their music that way. What would happen to all of the (few remaining) record stores? (And yes, I still think of them as record stores, which I know dates me, and I don't count the little music alcoves in the major electronics or variety stores.) Unfortunately, we know what would happen to them: they would go away. And I know I don't want to see Music Millenium go away. (Or, for that matter, Hot Poop, Walla Walla's only bing bang record store. But I'll save that post for another day....)

Music Millenium -- "A place where the music and the people still matter," according to the tag line -- is a local treasure. The store opened on March 15, 1969. Started by Don MacLeod, his wife Loreen, and brother-in-law Dan Lissey, it is -- I believe -- the oldest record store in existence in the Pacific Northwest. It began as 800 square feet on the corner of 32nd and East Burnside, then added the Classical Millenium annex and the 23rd Avenue store (the latter recently closed).

The store offers new and used CDs, records, and DVDs, along with various music and movie related paraphernalia such as posters and some not-so-related extras. There is just nothing like giving yourself an hour -- or more -- to browse through all of the various sections, finding bargains, discovering old friends, and, best of all, happening upon new treasures. Browsing on line just isn't satisfying and doesn't lend itself to the same kind of serendipity that you get in person. So yesterday I treated myself to just that kind of ill-afforded but immensely satisfying serendipitous trip through the store. This is what I came home with (and yes, I realize it's ridiculously eclectic, but that's how I like my music): some early Josh Ritter, a Lily Allen sampler, The Be Good Tanyas, Cat Power, the latest from Amy Ray and Marcia Ball, the Portland Cello Project, and a blues CD from Joan Armatrading. Now that's what I call satisfying! Amost as thrilling as a spontaneous stroll through an independent bookstore. : ) If you haven't been music shopping for a while -- or even if you have -- treat yourself to a visit to Music Millenium!

Local Matters

Certainly it will come as no surprise to hear that we at Broadway Books are passionate about the importance of local independent bookstores and the role they play in their communities. But what you might not know is that our zeal extends beyond our own store, and even beyond bookstores. We are firm believers in the role local independent stores play in general in maintaining the vitality and personality of their communities. We think it's important to have places where the vast majority of the sales remain in the community, and where the decisions about what to sell and serve are made locally and geared toward community, rather than being made by some corporate headquarters who-knows-where. You might not know this, but every single item in our store -- books, magazines, cards, art, reading glasses, whatever -- is individually and specifically selected by someone in our store; there are no "mass shipments" of any kind. This is most likely true for other local independent stores and restaurants and coffee shops. Because we are so passionate on this topic, we've decided that from time to time -- maybe weekly-ish -- we will talk in this blog about other local independent stores. Mostly they'll be in our own Northeast Portland community, but sometimes we'll step out. Like today. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Three Cups of Tea Reaches New Audiences

Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, has been a consistent bestseller at Broadway Books. This great book tells Mortenson's story of becoming lost and ill while climbing one of the world's most difficult peaks. He is taken in by the villagers in a small Pakistani village, and -- to thank and repay his generous hosts -- he helps them to build a school for their village. Mortenson's efforts grew into the Central Asia Institute, which has since provided education for 25,000 students.

Now, younger readers can also learn about this great story in two new versions of the original story. Three Cups of Tea Young Reader's Edition, is designed for ages eight to twelve. Adapted for younger readers by Sarah Tomson, it includes new photos and illustrations, a glossary, a reader's guide, and an interview with Mortenson's twelve-year-old daughter Amira, who has traveled with her father as an advocate for the Pennies for Peace program for children. This paperback version is available for only $8.99.

For even younger readers there is Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg and Three Cups of Tea. This hardcover picture book ($16.99), adapted by Susan L. Roth, incorporates Roth's signature mixed-media collage work to illustrate a compressed version of the story, using colorful fabric, cut-paper, and even computer-chip collages to portray the dramatic landscape and incredible undertaking. The title of this version comes from the advice Mortenson received from one of the village elders to "listen to the wind" to know what do do.

Celebrating Poetry with a Beat

We recently received a great new book for kids -- even grown-up kids: Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat, edited by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by six different artists. The free-spirited and vibrantly illustrated book contains poetry from a diverse array of writers -- from Langston Hughes and W.E.B DuBois to Kanye West and Queen Latifah. It also includes a rendition of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The book offers 51 selections from 42 poets and comes with a CD offering about 30 performances -- some of them original to the collection. This is a great book for poetry lovers of all ages.