Thursday, April 30, 2009

A President Who Reads Serious Novels??

Want to read what our president is reading? In a recent interview, President Obama mentioned that briefing notebooks are beginning to wear on him, so in the evenings he has started reading the novel Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill. The book was named one of the Top Ten Books of the Year by the New York Times last year -- in fact, one of the paper's reviewer described it as stunning, "with echoes of The Great Gatsby. Wow. Another called it "the wittiest, angriest, most exacting, and most desolate work of fiction we've yet had about life in New York and London after the World Trade Center fell." O'Neill writes regularly for The Atlantic Monthly and has written two previous novels and a family history. Join President Obama and stop by Broadway Books to pick up your own copy! Maybe you can chat about it with him next time he's in town.

Last Chance for Half-Priced Poetry!

Yes, it's true. Today is the last day of April, which means it's also the final day of our annual Let's Get Potty for Poetry sale. Just to remind you: when you buy one book of poetry at regular price, you can buy a second book of poetry (of equal or lesser price) at a 50% discount! If you buy two books, you can buy two at half price, three gets you three, and so on. Doesn't this sunny blue-sky day just make you feel like sitting outside reading poetry? I know it does me! In fact, I think a little Nikki Giovanni is just what I'm in the mood for. Join me? We have lots more to choose from -- including the books from both Matthew and Michael Dickman, the Portland poet sensations. This sale won't come around again for another year, so don't let the day slip away without restocking your poetry shelves.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

John Daniel Reading Tonight!

We hope you can join us at Broadway Books tonight to hear John Daniel read from his new collection of essays, The Far Corner: Northwest Views on Land, Life, and Literature. John is one of my favorite writers, and an all-around terrific person, so you're surely in for a good time tonight. Signed copies of The Far Corner (and Rogue River Journal) would make great gifts for friends and relatives. [And you can go next door after the reading to catch the end of the Blazer game on their flat-screen TVs. It's really too much for the poor old ticker to watch the entire game and all of that crappy officiating!]

Monday, April 27, 2009

Picture Book Hall of Fame

After more than four weeks of voting by booksellers at independent bookstores across the country, the American Booksellers Association recently announced the first three inductees to the Indies Choice Book Awards Picture Book Hall of Fame. Here are the 2009 inductees:

  • Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
  • Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey
  • Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, by Mo Willems

The ten other finalists who were not selected for induction this year will appear on the Hall of Fame ballots for 2010, along with additional titles selected by next year's jury. Here are those ten finalists:

  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault and Lois Ehlert
  • Corduroy, by Don Freeman
  • Curious George, by H.A. Rey
  • Goodnight Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann
  • The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper
  • Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans
  • Napping House, by Audrey Wood
  • Stellaluna, by Janelle Cannon
  • The Story of Ferdinand the Bull, by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson

As the daughter of a former elementary school librarian, I've always had a serious fondness for picture books, and I'm a fan of most of the books on these two lists. Some of my other favorite picture books include Officer Buckle and Gloria (Peggy Rathmann), all of the Olivia books (Ian Falconer), and the books by Jon Muth. And I could go on and on; it's so hard to narrow my list of favorites in this category.

Congratulations to this year's inductees!

Friday, April 24, 2009

I'm Loving This Book!

I'm reading a stunningly great book right now, and even though I'm only about halfway through, it's so good I just had to tell someone. (Hello, is anyone out there?) I realize I'm a little late to the party. I should have known this would be a wonderful book. It was named one of the Top Ten Books of the Year by The New York Times. It was also named a top book by The Washington Post Book World, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Seattle P-I, the Christian Science Monitor, and The Atlantic magazine, among others. Finally, last week it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, so I realized it was time to stop resisting and start reading. And boy howdy am I glad I did!

The book is Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout. It's a novel in stories set in a small community on the coast of Maine, wrapped around family dynamics, small-town gossip, and grief. Olive Kitteridge, a seventh grade math teacher married to a pharmacist, is prickly, ok, maybe even gruff, and a large presence. The book slides in and out of different perspectives, but Olive is always there. And I know she is someone who will stay in my mind. The characters in this book are complicated, and not always admirable, but boy are they compelling.

This is what the Pulitzer committee had to say: "a collection of 13 short stories set in small-town Maine that packs a cumulative emotional wallop, bound together by polished prose and by Olive, the title character, blunt, flawed and fascinating." Louisa Thomas, in a review in The New York Times, said this about the book: "There's nothing mawkish or cheap here. There's simply the honest recognition that we need to try to understand people, even if we can't stand them."

Strout was raised in small towns in New Hampshire and Maine. After graduating from college she earned her law degree from the Syracuse University College of Law. In an interview with Lisa Mahon, she said this about her brief foray into the practice of law: "I have always wanted to be a writer, from my very earliest memory. My mother encouraged me, buying me notebooks and telling me at the end of the day, 'Write it down.' I'm talking about when I was no more than five or six. So I always thought in terms of sentences. Then as I got older I thought I might also go into the theatre, because I loved theatre very much. But by the end of college I realized that the solitariness of writing suited my nature better, and so the emphasis went back to that.

"I confess, however, that a few years out of college I went to law school, and this was partly because I was very afraid of failing as a writer. Somehow I thought if I failed as a lawyer, it wouldn't mean as much to me, and besides, I was tired of cocktail waitressing. Well, I did fail as a lawyer, I was a terrible lawyer, and I hated it. What I learned was that it was far better to attempt to be a writer and fail at that, than to attempt to be something else. This was an important lesson to learn. (And expensive.)"

Strout is the author of two other novels. Amy and Isabelle, her first novel, was shortlisted for both the 2000 Orange Prize and the 2000 PEN/Faulkner award for fiction. Her second novel was Abide with Me.

Granted I haven't read the entire book yet, but the likelihood of something this deliciously good -- and so universally acclaimed -- falling on its face in the second half is unlikely. And those of you counting pennies (and I count myself in that bunch) will be happy to know the book is out in paperback. Run, hurry,lickety-split, down to Broadway Books and get your copy and settle in for a sensational, intense weekend of spectacular reading.

PS: I have no explanation for why some of this posting is bold faced and a different color, but I give up trying to make it not be so. Life is complicated, and some things you just have to accept and move on.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pick 3. Spend 50. Save Your Local Economy

There's a new national movement afoot called The 3/50 Project, which I read about on that great new Portland literary Web site, readinglocal. Here's the gist of it: Pick three local, independent businesses that you'd hate to see go away, and then spend $50 each month total across all three stores (not $150 total). Here's what the project's Web site has to say:

"Think about which three independently owned businesses you'd miss most if they were gone. Stop in and say hello. Pick up a little something that will make someone smile. Your contribution is what keeps those businesses around. If just half the employed US population spent $50 each month in independently owned businesses, their purchases would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue. Imagine the positive impact if 3/4 of the employed population did that.*
For every $100 spent in independently owned stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 stays here. Spend it online and nothing comes home."

We have such wonderfully loyal and supportive customers here at Broadway Books, and we appreciate you all so very much. So we thought you might be interested in hearing about The 3/50 Project too!

© Cinda Baxter 2009; all rights reserved. Proudly supporting RetailSpeaks and independent retailers everywhere.
* Employment statistics courtesy U.S. Department of Labor/Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2/6/2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Novel by Author of Fugitive Pieces

Some of you might remember fondly a novel from several years ago, the international bestseller Fugitive Pieces, by Anne Michaels. That book won several major awards, including the Orange Prize for fiction. I'm happy to report that she's back with her second novel, The Winter Vault, which she began working on more than thirteen years ago. The new novel is a love story of extraordinary depth and complexity, a mesmerizing tale that juxtaposes historical events with the most intimate moments of individual lives -- " the fascinating, complicated relationship between intense personal lives and larger historical events." It tells the story of Avery and Jean, a newly married Canadian couple living in a houseboat on the Nile River. Tragedy strikes, and they go back to separate lives in Toronto.

In addition to her two novels, Anne Michaels is the author of three highly acclaimed collections of poetry. She has also composed musical scores for the theater. Born in Toronto, Ontario, in 1958, Michaels currently teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto. There's more good news: her third novel is already underway, and we're hoping the wait won't be so long this time. Regardless, I'm sure it will be worth it.

Make Every Day Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day, everyone! Go outside today and enjoy this wonderful planet we live on. And if you're looking for ideas on how to live greener in the world, we've got a table full of suggestions for you. But you can't go wrong by starting at square one with the classic that launched the environmental movement, Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson. What steps can you take to make every day Earth Day?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oregon Companion Reading Tonight

We hope you can join us tonight at 7 pm as Richard Engeman reads from his newly published book The Oregon Companion: An Historical Gazetteer of The Useful,The Curious, and The Arcane. The book offers great historical photographs along with an encyclopedic summary of all things Oregon. Check out our website for more information.

Follow-Up to The Da Vinci Code in September

Hardly a week goes by that someone doesn't ask me when Dan Brown will be publishing a new book. And now we have an answer! His new novel, the eagerly awaited follow-up to his #1 international phenomenon, The Da Vinci Code, will be published in the US and Canada by Doubleday on September 15, 2009. The Lost Symbol will have a first printing of 5 million copies, and it will once again feature Dan Brown's unforgettable protagonist, Robert Langdon. The announcement was made yesterday by Sonny Mehta, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

"This is a great day for readers and booksellers," said Mehta."The Lost Symbol is a brilliant and compelling thriller. Dan Brown's prodigious talent for storytelling, infused with history, codes and intrigue, is on full display in this new book. This is one of the most anticipated publications in recent history, and it was well worth the wait."

Brown's longtime editor, Jason Kaufman, Vice President and Executive Editor at Doubleday said, "Nothing ever is as it first appears in a Dan Brown novel. This book's narrative takes place in a twelve-hour period, and from the first page, Dan's readers will feel the thrill of discovery as they follow Robert Langdon through a masterful and unexpected new landscape. The Lost Symbol is full of surprises."

"This novel has been a strange and wonderful journey," said Brown. "Weaving five years of research into the story's twelve-hour time frame was an exhilarating challenge. Robert Langdon's life clearly moves a lot faster than mine."

The Da Vinci Code, published by Doubleday on March 18, 2003, spent 144 weeks on The New York Times Hardcover Fiction bestseller list, 54 of them at #1—the position at which it debuted. It was the bestelling hardcover adult novel of all time with 81 million copies in print worldwide. The novel has been translated into 51 languages.

The film based on The Da Vinci Code was a #1 box office smash when it was released by Columbia Pictures in May 2006 with Ron Howard directing and Tom Hanks starring as Robert Langdon. Box office receipts were $758 million. The same team will release Angels and Demons, based on another of Brown's Langdon novels, to theaters worldwide on May 15, 2009.

Brown is the son of a Presidential Award winning math professor and of a professional sacred musician. He initially had a songwriting career himself, before turning to writing. His wife, Blythe, is an art historian and painter who collaborates with him on his research. He has told fans that he often uses gravity boots to hang upside when faced with writer's block because doing so "seems to help me solve plot problems by shifting my entire perspective."

We will have The Lost Symbol at the store when it is released in September. Call or email us if you want to reserve a copy. (503-284-1726;

Monday, April 20, 2009

I think today I will make Sally faint by posting my first-ever blog. This is Roberta and hello to one and all! About twenty minutes ago, the Pulitzer Prizes were announced and so I thought I'd forward the book winners on to everyone:

Fiction - Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
History - The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed
Biography - American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham
Poetry - The Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin
General Nonfiction - Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon

If I had Sally's or Jennie's skills, I'd include photos of these books but I'm taking this blogging thing one step at a time so that's all you're getting from me today. Next time, I promise to do better!

Are you following us on Facebook or Twitter yet?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunshine on my shoulder...

While our resident blogger, Sally, is yukking it up at the beach this weekend (love ya, Sal!), I am stuck indoors on this amazingly beautiful, sunny day, staring longingly at the passersby on Broadway. But, fair blog readers, weep not for me yet--there are far more unpleasant ways to spend a lazy Sunday than chatting with customers about good reads at Broadway Books.

Speaking of which, here is my latest graphic novel pick: Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw. This hefty sized tome is the story of Maggie and David Loony, who are getting a divorce after 40 years of marriage. Their children, now grown, deal with the news in varying ways. Dennis, the oldest, takes the news the hardest, moving from anger to denial to eventual acceptance. Claire, the middle daughter, is more realistic, having experienced her own divorce and single-motherhood, and Peter, the 26-year-old slacker baby of the family just wants to get laid. Shaw tackles the subject and his characters' emotions masterfully, and the book is both movingly simple and painfully complex. I'll admit it...I totally cried at the the store...again. It's the perfect read for a warm, sunny day. Or a cold, cloudy day. Or even an "Ooohh, look, the sun! No, wait, it's gone...wait! There it is again... oh, no, it's gone again" kind of day.

P.S. Anyone who feels like coming down and visiting me at the store today gets a free cookie.

Friday, April 17, 2009

ABA Indies Choice Book Award Winners

The American Booksellers Association has announced the winners of the inaugural Indies Choice Book Awards. Formerly the Book Sense Book of the Year Awards, the new Indies Choice Book Awards reflect the spirit of independent bookstores nationwide through new categories and a broader range of winners and honor books.

The 2009 Indies Choice Book Award winners, chosen by the owners and staff at ABA member bookstores during more than four weeks of voting, are:

  • Best Indie Buzz Book (Fiction): The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (The Dial Press)

  • Best Conversation Starter (Nonfiction): The Wordy Shipmates, by Sarah Vowell (Riverhead)

  • Best Author Discovery: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski (Ecco)

  • Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book (Fiction): The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins)

  • Best New Picture Book: Bats at the Library, by Brian Lies (Houghton Mifflin)

  • Most Engaging Author: Sherman Alexie

"On behalf of independent booksellers across the country, we're proud to announce the first Indies Choice Book Award winners," said ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz. "Each perfectly represents the array of unique and thought-provoking titles championed by ABA members. We look forward to saluting the winning authors and illustrators at a very festive Celebration of Bookselling Luncheon at BEA."

Five Indies Choice Book Awards honor recipients were also named in each category:

Best Indie Buzz Book (Fiction) Honor Books

  • City of Thieves, by David Benioff (Viking)
  • The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane (Morrow)
  • Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill (Pantheon)
  • People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks (Viking)
  • Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf)

Best Conversation Starter (Nonfiction) Honor Books

  • American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon, by Steven Rinella (Spiegel & Grau)
  • The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins (Knopf)
  • Hurry Down Sunshine: A Memoir, by Michael Greenberg (Other Press)
  • A Voyage Long and Strange: On the Trail of Vikings, Conquistadors, Lost Colonists, and Other Adventurers in Early America, by Tony Horwitz (Holt)
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami (Knopf)

Best Author Discovery (Debut) Honor Books

  • Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith (Grand Central)
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson (Knopf)
  • Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan (Algonquin)
  • The Story of Forgetting, by Stefan Merrill Block (Random House)
  • White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga (Free Press)

Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Honor Book (Fiction)

  • Graceling, by Kristin Cashore (HMH)
  • Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
  • Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow (Tor)
  • My Most Excellent Year, by Steve Kluger (Dial)
  • Savvy, by Ingrid Law (Dial)

Best New Picture Book Honor Books

  • Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken, by Kate DiCamillo; illustrated by Harry Bliss (HarperCollins)
  • Monkey and Me, by Emily Gravett (Simon & Schuster)
  • The Pout Pout Fish, by Deborah Diesen; illustrated by Dan Hanna (FSG)
  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, by Mem Fox; illustrated by Helen Oxenbury (Harcourt)
  • Wave, by Suzi Lee (Chronicle)

Most Engaging Author Honor Recipients

  • Michael Chabon
  • Ann Patchett
  • Jon Scieszka
  • David Sedaris
  • Terry Tempest Williams

Winners and honor books are all titles appearing on the 2008 Indie Next Lists, which launched last July, and on the Book Sense Picks Lists from the first half of the year. Most Engaging Author honorees are being recognized for being engaging at in-store appearances, as well as for having a strong sense of the importance of independent booksellers to their communities at large.

I'm happy to note that several of the authors selected for Most Engaging Author honor have appeared in Portland recently thanks to the efforts of Literary Arts -- and having heard many of them myself I can assure you they are well deserving of such an honor.

How many of these books have you read? Do you agree with the selections? Come on down and talk to us about them. We love to talk about all things books!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Great Night at the Store

A standing-room-only crowd joined us tonight to hear Beverly Butterworth read from her second collection of poems, Where the Blackberries Grew -- such a poignant collection. What a fun group and a wonderful evening. Thank you, Beverly! Several guests took advantage of our annual poetry sale to get multiple copies of Beverly's chapbook.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Hitchhiker Returns!

This Fall, 2009, will mark the 30th anniversary of the publication of the first book in a wildly popular series: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. When Adams died suddenly in 2001 without finishing his beloved series, his millions of fans were left to mourn a dual loss. But now, working with the blessing of Adams' widow, a new author will step up to complete the series. Eoin Colfer, the bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series for young readers, will complete the series, and Book Six -- And Another Thing -- will publish in the fall in conjunction with the 30th annivesary.

This is what Eoin Colfer, who lives in Ireland, had to say about this honor:

"Almost a quarter of a century after first reading Hitchhiker, I have been given the incredible opportunity of writing the next chapter in the saga myself. My first reaction was semi-outrage that anyone should be allowed to tamper with this incredible series. But on reflection I realized that this is a wonderful opportunity to work with characters I have loved since childhood and give them something of my own voice while holding onto the spirit of Douglas Adams and not laying a single finger on his five books. I am bloody determined that this will be the best thing I have ever written. And if it isn't then I will make sure that the cover is extremely pretty."

Publisher Walks Its Talk

Change the World for Ten Bucks, published by Chronicle Books, has recently arrived in the store. The premise of the book is this: small actions x lots of people = BIG CHANGE. The book is written by We Are What We Do, a UK-based global social change movement: "Our aim is to bring people together and demonstrate how, using simple, everyday actions, we can create a global movement of doing and changing: doing small actions and changing big problems." Some ideas from the book:

  • Decline plastic bags whenever possible

  • Plant something

  • Take a bath with someone you love

  • Shop locally

  • Write to someone who inspired you

  • Register online as an organ donor

  • Spend time with someone of a different generation

These are just a few of the many, simple ideas in the book. Simple yes, but if everyone were to implement them they could lead to BIG -- and positive -- changes in the world.

In support of the ideas behind the book, the publisher is encouraging all of its employees to take a paid day off on Friday, May 1, to volunteer to make positive changes in the community -- volunteering at the San Francisco Public Library, the San Francisco Zoo, or other non-profit organizations. The publisher has also launched a website in support of the book.

Hmmmm. What small steps can we each take? Come get a copy of this book to get some ideas!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sports Means Spring

Golf's prestigious Masters Tournament is currently under way in Agusta, Georgia this weekend, the first of the Majors each year. This, along with the official beginning of the MLB season, is a good indication -- no matter what Portland's weather -- that spring has at least landed somewhere.

Other news in the sports world, one that hits a little closer to home, the Blazers have been on a roll lately with a playoff position secured and a good chance at home court advantage.

All this has reminded me of the oft-forgotten sports section in Broadway Books. I found a great title for the Golf enthusiast: Fifty Places to Play Golf Before You Die by Chris Santella. Augusta is not one of the fifty -- perhaps too elite and too stuffy to really matter to most golfers, perhaps left off for other reasons -- but there are some great photos and great perspectives from plenty of Golfing Greats. Mark O'Meara tees off the book with a foreword.

Another book that we carry is one my father gave to me a few years ago and was an easy source of enjoyment: The Yogi Book by Yogi Berra. Full of his classic sayings, Berra was a great baseball player, a great coach, and an hero of a whole generation of baseball fans. He was well-known for quotes like, "90% of the game is half mental," and one of my favorites, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it," but he has plenty more. It's a great coffee table book.

So, sports fans, don't forget to check out the sports section while in the store. Of course, we can order a missing sports book and all books at no cost to you. And Go Blazers!


Friday, April 10, 2009

Sal is Back...Soon!

Great news for fans of Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey -- and really, who isn't? We've been trying doggedly and unsuccessfully for months to get this book back in the store. Turns out the publisher was negotiating with McCloskey's estate for the rights to continue publishing his books, and in the interim, the publisher's corporate council told them they had to take Blueberries off the market.

Last Thursday an agreement was reached, and Viking Children's Books plans to print 50,000 new copies of Blueberries, which should be available in late May or early June. The book will have a jacket and cream-colored stock, and they are using a first-edition copy of the book to "re-originate" the book's art to replicate the original colors as closely as possible.

In other Robert McCloskey news, Bostonians breathed a collective sigh of relief earlier this week when one of the duckling statues from Boston's Public Garden was safely recovered after having been stolen this past Sunday. The bronze duck, named Pack, and the rest of its bronze family are based on the ducks from McCloskey's Caldecott Medal-winning Make Way for Ducklings, originally published by Viking in 1941.

Good News for a Favorite Author

One of our favorite writers, Andrew X. Pham, has just been award a Guggenheim Fellowship. This week, Edward Hirsch, president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, announced that it has awarded 180Fellowships to artists, scientists, and scholars. The successful candidates were chosen from a group of almost 3000 applicants.

Andrew X Pham is the author of the powerful memoir Catfish and Mandala, a saga of family issues, identity, and reconciliation. Pham was born in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1967. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, his family escaped Communist Vietnam on a sinking boat and came to the US in 1977, when Pham was 10. He spent his teenage years in Northern California and then earned a degree in Aerospace Engineering from UCLA in 1990. He soon discovered that he was "inherently unfit for cubicle work," and so bounced around for a while. As a young adult, he went back to Vietnam and spent a year bicycling through four countries and getting to know his native country and its people. Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam tells of growing up in the US as a Vietnamese and then traveling through Vietnam as an American. It is an unforgettable and moving story of exploration and the search for cultural identity. And it is one terrific book. When the book was published, Pham was living in Portland, and the book was a finalist for an Oregon Book Award for Literary Nonfiction.

Last year he published his second "memoir," The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars, which tells the story of the father, Thong Van Pham, through the words of the son. The book offers a stunning portrait of a country and its everyday citizens that moves beyond the sensationalistic headlines and the passionless summaries in the history books, a dramatized eye-opening account of a nation contending with the French occupation, the Japanese invasion, and the controversial “conflict” with the United States. I loved this book as well, although it was a tough read in terms of subject matter. It was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography, and The Oregonian named it one of the Top 10 National Books of 2008. Currently Pham lives in Hawaii.

Both of these books are beautifully written and tell remarkable and little-known stories. I recommend them highly. Rumor has it that Pham is working on a third Vietnam book; I can hardly wait!

Guggenheim Fellows are appointed on the basis of stellar achievement and exceptional promise for continued accomplishment. One of the hallmarks of the Guggenheim Fellowship program is the diversity of its Fellows. The ages of this year's Fellows range from twenty-nine to seventy; their residences span the world, from Waipahu, Hawaii, to New York City and from Toronto to Glasgow; and their Fellowship projects will carry them to every continent. In all, sixty-two disciplines and sixty-eight different academic institutions are represented by this year's Fellows. Fifty-six Fellows are unaffiliated or hold only adjunct or part-time positions at universities.

According to President Hirsch, since its establishment in 1925 the Foundation has granted more than $273 million in Fellowships to nearly 16,700 individuals. Scores of Nobel, Pulitzer, and other prizewinners grace the roll of Fellows, including Ansel Adams, W. H. Auden, Aaron Copland, Martha Graham, Langston Hughes, Henry Kissinger, Vladimir Nabokov, Isamu Noguchi, Linus Pauling, Philip Roth, Paul Samuelson, Wendy Wasserstein, Derek Walcott, James Watson, and Eudora Welty.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Searching for the Lost City of Z

In April 1925, British explorer Percy Fawcett, along with his 21-year-old son Jack and Jack's best friend Raleigh Rimell, walked into the Amazon jungle, determined to find what he called "The Lost City of Z," an ancient, highly cultured and sophisiticated civilization he believed still existed in the Brazilian Amazon. They never returned. In early 2000, David Grann, a writer for The New Yorker, stumbled on the Fawcett mystery and began researching, eventually heading into the jungle himself.

I'm not spoiling things, I don't think, by telling you that Mr. Grann made it out. He must have, because I just finished reading his account, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon.

Percy Fawcett and David Grann come from opposite ends of the explorer spectrum. Colonel Fawcett was "the last of the great Victorian explorers who ventured into uncharted realms with little more than a machete, a compass and an almost divine sense of purpose." Although his family remembers him as preferring vegetarianism because he hated to kill an animal unnecessarily, he frequently told his traveling companions that anyone who broke a leg in the forest or became otherwise impeded would be abandoned to prevent slowing down the entire party. He willingly and frequently faced hostile tribesmen armed with blow darts and poison arrows and encountered crocodiles, jaguars, piranhas, vampire bats, giant anacondas, the candiru or "vampire fish" (you don't even want to know what they do to you), and every nightmarish insect you can imagine, and some you probably can't (say, the "eye licker" bees). He charted miles and miles of previously unmapped Amazonian wilderness, and kept coming back for more.

Grann, conversely, is neither explorer nor adventurer. "I don't even like to camp....I like newspapers, take-out food, sports highlights (recorded on TiVo), and the air-conditioning high. Given a choice each day between climbing two flights of stairs to my apartment and riding the elevator, I invariably take the elevator." I enjoyed his account of shopping for supplies -- at his wife's insistence, who felt that his sneakers and Swiss Army knife weren't sufficient -- at a Manhattan mega-store catering to hikers, off-road bikers, extreme-sports junkies, and weekend warriors, under the tutelage of a young clerk with "the glow of someone who had recently returned from Mount Everest."

But, like hundreds before him, Grann fell under the spell of the Fawcett mystery and set out to find out what happened -- even though as many as 100 "Fawcett freaks" have died over the decades in similar quests. So he leaves behind his wife and one-year-old son (after taking out extra life insurance) and travels more than 10,000 miles from New York City to London to Brazil, researching Fawcett's life and his story, eventually entering the same "Green Hell" where Fawcett was last seen.

This is a great book -- part biography, part detective story, part contemporary travel writing, with a bit of history and anthropology thrown in for good measure. Fawcett's adventures are said to have inspired Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 novel The Lost World, in which explorers disappear into the unknown of South Ameri ca and find a land where dinosaurs still exist. As you might imagine, Grann's own telling of "the greatest exploration mystery of the 20th century" has already attracted Hollywood's attention. Paramount Pictures bought rights to the book before it was even published, and supposedly Brad Pitt is set to produce and star as Fawcett.

And if you enjoy reading The Lost City of Z, you should also check out The River of Doubt, by Candice Millard, the story of Theodore Roosevelt's journey in 1912 down a black, uncharted tributary of the Amazon that snakes through some of the most treacherous jungles in the world.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Posthumous Crichton Novels Coming Soon

Michael Crichton, the bestselling author of fifteen novels and the creator of the television show "ER," who died of cancer last November, has two new books coming out. Pirate Latitudes, an adventure story set in 17th century Jamaica, as well as an untitled technological thriller will be published in November 2009 and in Fall 2010, respectively, by HarperCollins, the publisher for his previous three books.

The first novel features a pirate named Hunter and the governor of Jamaica, and their plan to raid a Spanish treasure galleon. According to the publisher, "it's packed through with great detail about navigation and how pirates operated, and links between the New World and the Caribbean and Spain."

While the pirate novel had been completed at the time of his death, Crichton had only completed about a third of the techno-thriller, and the publisher will be working with the author's estate to select a co-writer to finish the book based on Crichton's notes.

Michael Crichton was born in Chicago in 1942 and grew up on Long Island. His father was a journalist, so the act of writing was something he was familiar with from a young age. He was first published at age 14, when he wrote an article about Sunset Crater National Monument in Arizona following a family trip and submitted it to The New York Times travel section.

Crichton attended Harvard Medical School, intending to become a doctor. He started writing books to pay his way through medical school. His first bestseller, The Andromeda Strain, was published while he was still a med student. He soon realized that he could make a living as a writer and chose never to become a practicing doctor, despite earning his MD.

Some of his other books include Jurassic Park, Timeline, Sphere, and Next -- his most recent novel, about the world of genetics research. His books have been translated into thirty-six languages, and thirteen have been made into films. Some of the influences he has cited were Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, and Alfred Hitchcock.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Portland Poets in the National Spotlight

Two home-grown poets are on a roll these days. Twins Matthew and Michael Dickman are profiled in this week's issue of The New Yorker (April 6, 2009). They were raised by a single mom in the Lents neighborhood and currently live in Portland. Matthew is winner of the American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize, selected by poet Tony Hoagland. The Honickman Prize includes publication of the winning book by Copper Canyon Press. That book, which we have in the store, is All-American Poem. Coincidentally, Michal's first collection of poems, The End of the West, was also published by Copper Canyon Press. And, not too coincidentally, we also have this book in stock. Speaking of poetry, don't forget that we're in the midst of our Annual Poetry Sale, which means that you could buy one of these books for full price and get the other one for half price! What a deal! To read more about Michael and Matthew Dickman, check out these articles by Jeff Baker of the Oregonian and John Marshall of the Seattle PI.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Irvington Home Tour Tickets

Well, folks, it's spring again, and guess what that means? Irvington Home Tour time! The home tour, presented by the Irvington Community Association, has been a city favorite since 1967, when it became the first tour of its kind in Portland. It will be happening on May 17 (I suggest packing an umbrella because invariably it will be a rainy day) and we will be selling tickets ($20 a piece) until they run out (which they have done in years past, so don't procrastinate...). Check out their website ( for further information, inlcuding some interesting tidbits about the history of the tour and information about the lecture by designer, Diane Foreman. Proceeds from the tour are gifted to various "service and charitable organizations which enhance the quality of life for [the Irvington]neighborhood." So come check out how the other half lives. Or, if you live in the neighborhood, come by and satisfy that curiousity about whether the inside of your neighbor's bungalow is cuter than yours.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Night Falls for Meaning of Night Author

Michael Cox, the publisher turned novelist who netted a record-breaking advance for his debut, The Meaning of Night, died this week at age 60. The author had battled a rare form of cancer for some years. Cox was born in Northamptonshire in 1948. After graduating from Cambridge in 1971, he went into the music business as a songwriter and recording artist, releasing two albums and a number of singles for EMI under the name Matthew Ellis and another album, as Obie Clayton, for the DJM label. In 1977, he took a job in publishing with the Thorsons Publishing Group (now part of HarperCollins). In 1989, he joined Oxford University Press, where he became Senior Commissioning Editor, Reference Books

In April 2004, he began to lose his sight as a result of cancer. In preparation for surgery he was prescribed a steroidal drug, one of the effects of which was to initiate a temporary burst of mental and physical energy. This, combined with the realization that his blindness might return if the treatment wasn't successful, spurred him finally to begin writing in earnest the novel that he had been contemplating for more than thirty years, and which up to then had only existed as a random collection of notes, drafts, and discarded first chapters. Following surgery, work continued on what is now The Meaning of Night, and in January 2005, after a hotly contested UK auction, it was sold to John Murray. [It is now available in paperback in the US from WW Norton.]

Some of Cox's most important literary influences were Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Conan Doyle, Sarah Waters, and George MacDonald Fraser (of The Flashman novels). The Meaning of Night is a literary thriller set in Victorian England. Here's the opening line: "After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn's for an oyster supper." Fasten your seatbelts; you're in for a stunning ride.

This is what the author had to say about his first novel: "The Meaning of Night is a resolutely old-fashioned novel – not only because it tries to emulate some of the narrative qualities of mid-Victorian fiction, but also because of its simple aim of telling a good story as well as possible. I believe that the need to be told stories is embedded deep within us all, and it's this primal cultural urge that I've tried to satisfy in The Meaning of Night."

The novel tells the extraordinary story of Edward Glyver, book lover, scholar and murderer. As a young boy, Glyver always believed he was destined for greatness. This seems the stuff of dreams, until a chance discovery convinces Glyver that he was right: greatness does await him, along with immense wealth and influence. And he will stop at nothing to win back a prize that he now knows is rightfully his. Glyver's path leads him from the depths of Victorian London, with its foggy streets, brothels and opium dens, to Evenwood, one of England's most enchanting country houses. His is a story of betrayal and treachery, of death and delusion, of ruthless obsession and ambition. And at every turn, driving Glyver irresistibly onwards, is his deadly rival: the poet-criminal Phoebus Rainsford Daunt.

Thirty years in the writing, The Meaning of Night is a stunning achievement. Full of drama and passion, it is an enthralling novel that will captivate readers right up to its final thrilling revelation. The book was a finalist for the Costa First Novel Award and was named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by the Washington Post, The Economist, and Booksense.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wimpy Kid Alert!

Good news! Book Four of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, by Jeff Kinney, is set to be published on October 12, 2009. For Wimpy Kids fans, that gives you something to look forward to. For those of you who haven't yet read this fabulous series written for kids age 8 to 12 (but I love it, and I'm, oh, just a few years beyond that age range), that gives you a few months to read the first three books in the series (and there's a do-it-yourself journal book as well). The title and cover art of the forthcoming book will be revealed at a later date.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

From Stiff to Spook to Bonk

Can a person think herself to orgasm? Can a dead man get an erection? Is vaginal orgasm a myth? Why doesn't Viagra help women -- or, for that matter, pandas? If you have been pondering these very questions with no help in sight, we've got just the answer for you. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, by bestselling quirky-science writer (meaning she writes about quirky topics in science, not that she's quirky herself, but then again....) Mary Roach, has just been published in paperback. Roach is known for venturing out to the fringes of science and presenting her findings in writing that is illuminating and well-researched yet humorous and compulsively readable at the same time.

In previous books she has explored how cadavers decay (Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers) and whether you can weigh a person's soul (Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife). A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically had this to say about Bonk: "I would read Mary Roach on the history of Quonset huts. But Mary Roach on sex? That's a godsend! This book is -- if not better than the act itself -- then a hilarious and entertaining alternative."

Roach currently lives in Oakland, California, but she grew up in Etna, New Hampshire. This is what her Web site has to say about her background: "My dad was 65 when I was born. My neighbors taught me how to drive a Skidoo and shoot a rifle, though I never made much use of these skills. I graduated from Wesleyan in 1981, and drove out to San Francisco with some friends. I spent a few years working as a freelance copy editor before landing a half-time PR job at the SF Zoo. My office was in a trailer next to Gorilla World. On the days when I wasn't taking calls about elephant wart removal surgery or denying rumors that the cheetahs had been sucked dry by fleas, I wrote freelance articles for the local newspaper's Sunday magazine.... In 1996, my article on earthquake-proof bamboo houses took the Engineering Journalism Award in the general interest magazine category, for which I was, let's be honest, the only entrant. I often write about science, though I don't have a science degree and must fake my way through interviews with experts I can't understand.... I have no hobbies. I mostly just work on my books and hang out with my family and friends. I enjoy bird-watching--though the hours don't agree with me--backpacking, thrift stores, overseas supermarkets, Scrabble, mangoes, and that late-night "Animal Planet."

Here's a video of Ms. Roach discussing some of the topics she covers in Bonk: