Sunday, May 31, 2009

Drash/Polyglot Reading on Tuesday

On Tuesday night (June 2nd) at 7 pm we welcome local contributors to Drash: Northwest Mosaic. Drash is a Seattle-based Jewish literary journal that strives to viscerally connect with human creativity and the universality of words from many cultures, religious belief systems, and the arts. Scheduled to read tonight are Portland-area contributors Alene Bikle, June Fredman, Ivan Inger, Marilyn Johnston, Akiva David Miller, Ada Molinoff, Sharon Lask Munson, Lois Rosen, Scot Siegel, Michael Schein, Betsy Tighe, Jack Turteltaub and Hilda Welch. Also reading will be Wendy Marcus, Drash editor and author of the recently published book of short stories, Polyglot: Stories of the West's Wet Edge. Marcus is also the music director at Temple Beth Am and the co-founder of the klezmer band The Mazeltons. Polyglot chronicles lives between Vancouver, Washingon, and Vancouver, BC, and draws on the author's experiences in music, journalism, Judaism, and the Pacific Northwest.

Something New from Timothy Egan

One of my all-time favorite nonfiction writers is Timothy Egan. Some of my favorite books of his are The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest; Lasso the Wind: Away to the New West; and The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dustbowl, for which Egan won the National Book Award -- and deservedly so; it's a terrific book.

And now we all have another book from Egan to look forward to: The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America. The book tells the story of the Big Burn, the largest-ever forest fire in America. On the afternoon of August 20, 1910, a battering ram of wind moved through the drought-stricken national forests of Washington, Idaho, Montana, whipping the hundreds of small blazes burning across the forest floor into a roaring inferno that jumped from treetop to ridge as it raged, destroying towns and timber in an eyeblink. Forest rangers had assembled nearly ten thousand men -- college boys, day-workers, immigrants from mining camps -- to fight the fires. But no living person had seen anything like those flames, and neither the rangers nor anyone else knew how to subdue them.

Egan narrates the struggles of the overmatched rangers against the implacable fire with unstoppable dramatic force, through the eyes of the people who lived it. Equally dramatic, though, is the larger story he tells of outsized president Teddy Roosevelt and his chief forester Gifford Pinchot. Pioneering the notion of conservation, Roosevelt and Pinchot did nothing less than create the idea of public land as our national treasure, owned by every citizen. The robber barons fought him and the rangers charged with protecting the reserves, but even as TR's national forests were smoldering they were saved: The heroism shown by those same rangers turned public opinion permanently in favor of the forests, though it changed the mission of the forest service with consequences felt in the fires of today.

The Big Burn tells an epic story, paints a moving portrait of the people who lived it, and offers a critical cautionary tale for our time -- characteristics of all of Egan's books. The book will be published mid-October -- let us know if you want us to reserve you a copy.

Egan worked for 18 years as a writer for The New York Times, first as the Pacific Northwest correspondent, then as a national enterprise reporter. In addition to the National Book Award he won in 2006, he won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 as part of a team of reporters who wrote the series "How Race is Lived in America." He lives in Seattle.

Calling All Book Lovers to Fun Event!

On Tuesday, June 16th, at 7 pm, we invite book-clubbers and book lovers alike to join us for our Second Book Club Mixer. We'll be talking about good books to read and discuss, new books coming out soon (Did you know that Barbara Kingsolver, Pat Conroy, and John Irving all have new novels coming out in the next few months? And that's just for starters!), books coming out in paperback, and a few tricks to shake up your book group. We're also excited to hear from YOU about what books you've enjoyed lately. You don't need to be in a book club to attend -- just be someone who loves to read and talk about books. We'll have refreshments and gifts! Space is limited, and you must register in advance by paying a $5 per person fee (cash, check or credit card). The $5 will be refunded toward any purchase you make during the event. Hope you can join us!

Friday, May 29, 2009

WSJ's Summer Reading List

The Wall Street Journal recently announced their picks for great summer reads. They picked ten novels and five nonfiction books. I was so thrilled to see that one of the ten books they selected is Border Songs, the forthcoming second novel from Jim Lynch, he of The Highest Tide fame. As you've probably had hammered into your head by now (because we're just so gosh darned excited), Jim's new book will be out in mid-June, and he'll be at Broadway Books on Thursday, June 25th, to read from it and talk to us about it. Hope to see you there!

Some of the other books on the WSJ list are South of Broad, Pat Conroy's forthcoming new novel (August 11); The Angel's Game, the long-awaited prequel to The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (June 16); The Girl Who Played with Fire, second book in the oh-so-hot Stieg Larsson trilogy, following The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (July 28); and The Secret Speech, by Tom Rob Smith, whose first book, Child 44, just came out in paperback. Two of the nonfiction books on the list are the recently published book by Mark Kurlansky, The Food of a Younger Land, and a book due out in July, Young Woman & the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World, by Glenn Stout. It's always fun to see the various recommended reading lists come out this time of year. But if you're looking for good book ideas, all you have to do is come see us; we'd be happy to set you up!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Forthcoming from Pat Conroy

Rumor has it that Pat Conroy has just agreed to write a memoir, tentatively titled the Death of Santini, for editor Nan Talese at Doubleday. The book will talk about his relationship with his father and coming to terms with him. No publication date has yet been scheduled. Conroy's first novel in several years, South of Broad, will be published in August. Conroy's previous books include The Water is Wide, The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides, and Beach Music.

Congratulations to Alice Munro

I was thrilled to learn that Alice Munro has just been awarded the Man Booker International Prize. The prize is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language. In seeking out literary excellence, the judges consider a writer's body of work, rather than a single novel. The winner is chosen solely at the discretion of the judging panel; there are no submissions from publishers. Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe won the 2007 prize and Albanian writer, Ismail Kadare won the inaugural prize in 2005 and went on to gain worldwide recognition for his work.

In an essay written today by Geoff Pevere, Books Columnist for, Pevere had this to say about Munro's writing: "For Munro, the pinpricking of individual lives permitted by the short story opens apertures through which universal experience can be glimpsed. No detail is extraneous, no observation incidental. Every action is significant insofar as it represents a choice, and all lives are an accumulation of momentary events. Sometimes it may appear that nothing is happening. But something always is....Contained within it is the notion of genetic fate, how the patterns set by parents become the trenches in which their children's lives are circumscribed. Also typical are the circumstances: domestic, intimate, almost entirely devoid of what would conventionally be considered drama."

I'm a huge fan of Munro's writing and of excellent short stories in general. One (of many) of her stories that knocked my socks off is "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," from the collection entitled Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, about a woman suffering from Alzheimer's and how it affects her husband and their relationship. Very moving. An incredibly powerful movie was later made based on that story: "Away from Her," starring Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie. Christie was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her performance and won both the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards.

Speaking of great short story writers, another of my favorites, Lorrie Moore, finally has a new book coming out after several years: A Gate at the Stairs, a novel, will be published in September. Her most recent collection of stories was Birds of America, published in 1998. (Although a compilation of stories from her first three collections came out in 2008.) Her previous novels are Anagrams and Who Will run the Frog Hospital?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hooray for Smekday!

I just finished The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex about 2 seconds ago, and I immediately feel the need to blog about it. Technically, it's a Middle Reader/Young Adult novel, but, really, who needs labels? The truth of the matter is that Smekday is awesome regardless of how old you are.

The story is narrated by 11-year-old Gratuity Tucci (her friends call her "Tip"). Aliens (Boov) have invaded the earth, her mom has been abducted, and she has decided to drive by herself (with only her cat, Pig, for company) from Pennsylvania to Florida, where the humans are being corralled by the Boov. Luckily, she's been practicing her driving skills for months and has gotten pretty darn good. Along the way, she picks up a stray Boov named J-Lo, who has wicked alien mechanical skills and a quirky sense of humor. J-Lo's on the run from his fellow Boovs after having made one teensy little blunder while working on the radio antenna farm where he was stationed. That teensy mistake turns out to be a bit larger than he lets on, but that's something you'll come to understand when you come here, buy the book, find a sunny spot in the park, pop open a cold beverage, and enter Rex's unique, post-apocolyptic vision.

The thing is, this book is seriously funny. Like, chuckle-softly-to-yourself-so-onlookers-think-you're-a-little-weird funny; but also guffaw-out-loud-so-passersby-cross-the-street-to-avoid-you funny. It's also smart, cute, snarky, heartwarming, clever (both wordplay-wise and in the way it connects the alien invasion with the colonization of America and the subsequent oppression of Native Americans) and, I can't stress this enough, HILARIOUS!

Now I will have to spend the rest of my day searching for another book that is going to be as satisfying. Luckily, I work at a bookstore, so I should be able to find something...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Have a Great Weekend!

Looks like it's going to be a gorgeous Memorial Weekend in Portland, for you to celebrate and commemorate as you wish. As you're out and about, taking advantage of this fantastic weather, how about getting your Father's Day shopping done? And don't forget about any grads in your life. We've got tables full of ideas for both Dads and grads, so come by and see us. We're open all weekend! Today we'll be open from 10 to 7, and Sunday and Memorial Day we'll be open noon to 5. Your support means the world to us!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Once in a Lifetime Trips

Imagine this: Sunday morning as you're sipping your coffee (or gulping, as the case may be) you open up The Oregonian and check your lottery ticket against the numbers listed for Saturday night's drawing and discover you've won the Powerball!!! I know, I know, everyone says "if I win the lottery I'll keep working." And the same is true for me. I love it here at Broadway Books. But I would take some time off to go on a really great trip or two. And when that happens -- and it will --I'll turn to Chris Santella's new book for inspiration.

Chris Santella, Portland-based author of the Fifty Places to...(golf, bird, dive, fly fish) Before you Die series, has just written Once in Lifetime Trips: The World's 50 Most Extraordinary and Memorable Travel Experiences. In the book, Chris says that he emphasizes travel experiences, "as each trip presents not only a place, but also a special way to come to understand that place, and in understanding that place, perhaps come to better understand ourselves."

The trips range from a wine-tasting tour of the Winelands, South Africa's preeminent wine-growing region, to a cross-country ski trip on the King's Trail of northern Sweden. They include a ranch in Ohio that "grows guitar players": Fur Peace Ranch, whose co-founder and proprietor is the former lead guitarist for the Jefferson Airplane. Or you can check out the annual Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia near the border of Kazakhstan. I would be tempted by the Buddhist pilgrimage to Bhutan - the "Switzerland of the Himalayas" -- with the tour led by Uma Thurman's dad Dr. Robert Thurman, reknown Buddhist scholar. And hiking the Canadian Rockies sounds great, except for maybe the hiking part. But the scenery is spectacular. After the books I've read recently about the Amazon, there's no way you could get me out on a camping/canoe trip exploring the upper Amazon in Peru. (Do they even know about the candiru fish??? Yikes!)

I think my friend Alice would be keen on Trip #44: a tour of the world's greatest opera houses by private jet. Taking a hot-air-balloon ride over the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia sounds pretty appealing. And I think I could get Melinda to join me on #35, a luxury barge trip on the River Shannon, Ireland's longest inland waterway. (Actually, she'd probably opt for the Canadian Rockies hiking trip with the hiking.) Karen would probably go for the luxury biking tour of Provence, with lavender fields and aromatic bakeries and fresh asparagus and of course there must be wine.

Besides the breath-taking photographs and tantalizing descriptions of each trip, the book also provides some general planning information about each trip. "A special trip can have many dividends," Santella says. "It can arouse anticipation for months in advance of your departure, create long-lasting memories, and perhaps even open hearts and minds along the way."

To learn about these trips and more, come to Broadway Books next Tuesday night (May 26th) at 7 pm as Chris presents a multi-media overview of his book and some of the trips. Don't you think a signed copy of this book would make a perfect Father's Day gift? Or perhaps graduation gift? We do!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Do Book Covers Matter?

No one likes to get pasted with the label "shallow." And I know you can't completely judge a book by its cover. But I have to admit, book covers do make a difference to me. A great cover might lead me to open a book that I might otherwise pass by in the universe of lots and lots of books. And, conversely, a cover can be off-putting enough that I might not open it unless I have other knowledge that leads me to believe it's worth checking out.

I read a book in hardcover last year that I really enjoyed. I've been eagerly awaiting its arrival in the store in paperback, because I think it's a book that will do well in paperback in our store. Well, this week it arrived. And the cover is dramatically different, and -- I have to just say it -- rather off-putting. I hope it doesn't end up putting people off the book, because it's an entertaining read. Certainly not top-notch Pulitzer-quality literature, but an entertaining comedy of manners, sort of higher-end reasonably well-written chick lit. A bit over-the-top romantic, perhaps, but darn it, I enjoyed it! The book is Beginner's Greek, a debut novel by James Collins. What do you think of the two covers? (FYI: The blue one is the hardback.)

Valeria's Last Stand

Now here's someone you gotta love! Marc Fitten, author of the newly published Valeria's Last Stand, is not only a good writer but also a good guy! As he tours to do readings for his novel (which I'll tell you about in a minute), he has committed to visiting 100 independent bookstores along the way! Some he's reading at, some he's just visiting. And then he's blogging about what makes them special. Well, we think Marc is special for his support of independent bookstores!

His debut novel tells the story of Valeria, a spinster living in a backwater Hungarian village and harrumphing her way through life with equal disdain for the new, the old, the foreign, and the familiar. You get a sense of Valeria from the opening lines: "Valeria never whistled. Nor did she approve of people who did. In sixty-eight years,what Valeria had learned to be a truth about character was that people who whistled were crass. Whistlers were untrustworthy and irresponsible. They were shiftless. They were common. Butchers whistled. Peasants also. When they were supposed to be tending to their fields or completing any number of tasks peasants are meant to complete, Valeria was certain she could find them instead with their chins wet from a half liter of beer, sitting in the village's tavern, whistling at the slutty proprietress, and telling off-color jokes." You get the picture.

But then something happens that changes Valeria's outlook, which in turns unravels the fabric of the entire village: she falls for the village potter. This celebration of late-flowering love set against a background of burgeoning capitalism is sure to warm the hearts of even the most committed curmudgeon.

Reviewers have called this book "a beautiful debut" and full of "wisdom, warmth, and humor." Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante's Handbook, had this to say: "Subtle and brilliant....A thoughtful, skillfully drawn portrait of one woman, one village, and one country. Marc Fitten is a writer to watch." And to read. Come see for yourself!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Best Nature has to Offer

A small but enthusiastic audience joined us last night to hear local author and naturalist James L. Davis talk about the creation of his book The Northwest Nature Guide and to hear about some of the best nature-viewing opportunities in the Northwest. The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Vancouver Island, and the Columbia River Gorge were some of the highlighted places. We also heard an amusing passage from the book about pelagic birding off the coast of Oregon. (Pelagic, from the Greek word for "open sea," as opposed to shore birds.) We now have signed copies of The Northwest Nature Guide at Broadway Books -- what a great gift for both visitors to the Northwest and Northwesterners keen to explore all that nature has to offer us.

In his book Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv talks about nature-deficit disorder afflicting our children, and James -- being a teacher himself -- talked about the challenging of keeping younger people connected to nature. What great family outings could be created using this book as a guide! James' knowledge of the natural world around us and his passion and enthusiasm for sharing it with others shone brightly. What a great night!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It's a Pedaling Revolution!

Remember last week when I told you about Roberta's oh-so-very-cute polka-dot bike helmet? Well, here's a photo, so you can see for yourself just how sweet it is. Roberta rode her bike to work on National Bike To Work Day last Friday, and again yesterday. Not sure if she'll make it on bike today, since it's raining (that would be enough for me) and we have a reading at the store tonight, so it will likely be dark when she goes home.

Note also the book in her basket: Pedaling Revolution, by Jeff Mapes, who spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at Broadway Books recently. We just learned yesterday that Jeff''s book, published by Oregon State University Press, will be reviewed in the New York Time Book Review Summer Reading Issue (May 31st). Woohoo!!! Always nice to see local authors/publishers hitting the big press. (Speaking of which, did you see the review of Hush, Memory, by Elina Hirvonen and published by local Tin House Press on the cover of the May 10th New York Times Book Review? Get your copy of that book here!)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Great New Writer and Character

This weekend, when I wasn't tromping around Irvington peering into people's houses -- courtesy of the annual Irvington Home tour -- and dreaming about what my house COULD look like some day (assuming I win the lottery, at least once, and gain even a modicum of good taste), I was sprawled in my favorite chair in the sun on my back deck reading a wickedly wonderful new mystery, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley (published by Delacorte Press, a division of Random House). I truly hated to see this book end -- I already miss Flavia!

The book, winner of the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger Award, stars an inventive and entertaining main character, eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring young chemist with a passion for poison living in a decaying English mansion in 1950 with her father and two older sisters. As the story unfolds, a dead bird -- a jack snipe, to be precise -- is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. Flavia is both appalled and delighted: "I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn't. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life." From the looks of things, Flavia likely has many even more interesting experiences ahead of her. In fact, Flavia has already become so popular she has her own fan club!

Laurie R. King, author of the Mary Russell and Kate Martinelli mystery series, had this to say: "A wickedly clever story, a dead true and original voice, and an English country house in the summer: Alexander McCall Smith meets Sir Arthur Conan Doyle."

Alan Bradley was born in Toronto and grew up in Cobourg, Ontario. With an education in electronic engineering, he worked at numerous radio and television stations in Ontario, and at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now Ryerson University) in Toronto, before becoming Director of Television Engineering in the media centre at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, SK, where he remained for 25 years before taking early retirement to write in 1994. He became the first President of the Saskatoon Writers, and a founding member of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild. For a number of years, he regularly taught Script Writing and Television Production courses at the University of Saskatchewan (Extension Division) at both beginner and advanced levels.

Bradley's fiction has been published in literary journals, and he has given many public readings in schools and galleries. His short stories have been broadcast by CBC Radio. He was a founding member of The Casebook of Saskatoon, a society devoted to the study of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlockian writings. Here, he met the late Dr. William A.S. Sarjeant, with whom he collaborated on their classic book, Ms Holmes of Baker Street. This work put forth the startling theory that the Great Detective was a woman, and was greeted upon publication with what has been described as "a firestorm of controversy." Currently he lives in Kelowna, BC, with his wife Shirley and two calculating cats.

The good news is that there are already two more Flavia de Luce books in the making, one involving a traveling puppet show and another involving Gypsy lore. Look for those in 2010 and 2011. In the interim, when you're looking for something to read after The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, check out one of Bradley's favorite mystery writers: "No writer has inspired me more than Louise Penny, whose first detective novel was shortlisted for the Debut Dagger Award in 2004. Set in Quebec, Louise's Armand Gamache mysteries are simply not to be missed." That first book, Still Life, is available at Broadway Books in paperback, as are the next two books in the series, A Fatal Grace and The Cruelist Month.

Local Author Gets Prime-Time Plug

Does anyone out there watch that new TV show "Castle"? I had it on last week but wasn't paying a lot of attention to it (folding laundry or reading the newspaper or something) when I suddenly noticed that one of the main characters (played by Nathan Fillion) was reading the book Sweetheart, by Portland's very own Chelsea Cain! How cool is that? Sweetheart is Cain's second book (following Heartsick) about Gretchen Lowell, a serial killer in Portland; Archie Sheridan, the Portland police detective obsessed with her; and Susan Ward, a local reporter. The third book in the series, Evil at Heart will be published at the beginning of September. Look for it here!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

So hungry...

Another beautiful day in P-town... (sigh).

But I'm not here to talk about the weather; I'm here to talk books. There is no shortage of books about food these days. From Michael Pollan to Mark Bittman to Mark Kurlansky, we are all well informed about the state of edible consumption in the 21st century--basically, it's no bueno. The reason these books are so fascinating is because they seamlessly weave together the cultural, social, agricultural, economic, historical and environmental factors of food production and consumption to form a thorough and holistic portrait of just how vital our food choices are to the future of the planet.

While I'm a big fan of the aforementioned authors, there is another book I'd like to recommend, which addresses the same issues but in a different (and in my opinion, more palatable) format. Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, by Peter Menzel, is a collection of photo-essays that brilliantly capture the wide variety of diets and eating habits of different cultures around the globe. Families from Bhutan to Poland and beyond are photographed surrounded by every single food item they will consume in one week. The range of foodstuffs and quantities is staggering. Each photo is accompanied by a breakdown in price, calorie content and type of food (i.e. grains, vegetables, meats, condiments, etc.) of one week's worth of food. I also find it interesting to note how much packaged food each family eats, and how the same brand's packaging differs from country to country. But that's just me--doubtless you will find another minute detail to focus on that catches your interest.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Dark Side Wins RFK Award

Jane Mayer's book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals has been honored with the 29th Annual Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. The award, founded in 1980 with the proceeds from Arthur Schlesinger, Jr's best-selling biography Robert F. Kennedy and His Times, is presented each year to a book which, in Schlesinger's words, "most faithfully and forcefully reflects Robert Kennedy's purposes -- his concern for the poor and powerless, his struggle for honest and even-handed justice, his conviction that a decent society must assure all young people a fair chance, and his faith that a free democracy can act to remedy disparities of power and opportunity."

The Dark Side is a dramatic, riveting, and definitive narrative account of how the United States made terrible decisions in the pursuit of terrorists around the world -- decisions that not only violated the Constitution, but also hampered the pursuit of Al Qaeda. It was a finalist for the National Book Award and for the National Book Critics Circle Award and was named a Best Book of the Year by Salon, Slate, The Economist, and the Washington Post. The Austin American-Statesman called it "One of those rare books that should be read by every concerned American." It recently became available in paperback (Anchor Books, a division of Random House).

Jane Mayer became a staff writer for The New Yorker in 1995. Based in Washington, D.C., she writes about politics and the war on terror. Before joining The New Yorker, Mayer was a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, becoming the paper's first female White House correspondent in 1984. She was also a war correspondent and a foreign correspondent for the WSJ. She was nominated twice by the WSJ for a Pulitzer Prize in the feature-writing category. Mayer was a winner of the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 2008, the Edward Weintal Prize from Georgetown University, and the Ridenhour Book Prize. She began her career in journalism as a stringer for Time while still a student in college. Mayer, who was born in New York, graduated with honors from Yale in 1977 and continued her studies in history at Oxford. She lives in Washington with her husband and daughter.

The RFK Book Award was first presented in 1981 to William H. Chafe for his book Civilties and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom. For more information about the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and the RFK Book Awards, check out their Web site.

NW Nature Reading Tuesday Night

James Luther Davis will read at the store Tuesday night (May 19th) at 7 from his newly published book The Northwest Nature Guide: Where to Go and What to See Month by Month in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia (published by Timber Press).

I wrote a little about this book earlier in the year on our blog. If you want to know what to see when in the natural world in the exceptional paradise that is the Pacific Northwest, this is your book! Since timing is so important in nature, the book takes you through the year month by month and, for each month, describes four wildlife attractions or natural events that are exceptional during that month. Each chapter also offers a "closer look" section about a general topic pertinent to that month, as well as "nature nuggets," which are briefer mentions of other natural happenings for that month.

The author urges you to be "patient, flexible, and observant" and to remember that nature is not particularly predictable. He adds, "Make each trip an adventure." Davis also provides wildlife-watching secrets and etiquette to enhance your experience. A beautiful 31-page four-color insert provides gorgeous photographs of bald eagles, frozen waterfalls, great blue herons, baby harbor seals, cobra lilies, sandhill cranes, bighorned sheep, and the "booming of a sage-grouse on a lek" (covered in detail in the April chapter).

James Davis has been a naturalist for Metro Parks and Natural Areas since 1998. He began his naturalist career as a young lad chasing lizards in Tucson, Arizona. After earning undergraduate and graduate degrees, he taught junior and senior high school science classes in California for several years and worked in two zoos as the "Zoo Mobile Guy." In 1981 he moved to Portland and created a job for himself as the first education director of the Audubon Society of Portland.

After nine years at Audubon, he began teaching science at Marylhurst University, where he was instrumental in starting the university's "Head Start Summer Science Institute," the only science training program for Head Start teachers in the country.

Davis lives in Portland with his wife Sally (what a great name!). When not pursuing his natural history interests, he plays guitar in rock and roll bands -- although, he says, not nearly enough these days.

He has been described as having contagious enthusiasm and laugh-out-loud humor. Mike Houck, the executive director of the Urban Greenspaces Institute, says "I've never met a better all-around naturalist or teller of nature tales than James Davis."

We hope you can join us for what is sure to be an entertaining and informative evening. After the rain returns following our glorious weekend of sunshine, hanging out in a bookstore on a Tuesday evening is a grand idea, while you make plans for what to do when you next venture out into the great Pacific Northwest world of nature.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Interview with Chuck Palahniuk

This week I blogged about novelist Chuck Palahniuk's new book Pygmy, which just came out this week. Click on the link to read an interview with Chuck by Claire Suddath for Time Magazine.

Where the Wild Things Are

Since it is officially Children's Book Week, and I was just talking about favorite children's books yesterday, it seemed a good time to mention the forthcoming movie based on the children's classic Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. The movie -- featuring Catherine Keener and Mark Ruffalo and directed by Spike Jonz, with the screenplay by Jonz and Dave Eggers (What is the What, Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, etc) -- opens October 16th. You can see a trailer for the movie at the Warner Brothers site for the film.

Sendak was born in 1928 in Brooklyn to Polish-Jewish immigrant parents. He was frail and sickly as a child, and embraced the world of books. After seeing Walt Disney's "Fantasia" at the age of twelve, he began to draw. After graduating from high school he worked for four years as a window dresser at F.A.O. Schwartz, then left to become a full-time freelance children's book illustrator, illustrating nearly 50 children's books before publishing his own book in 1963, Where the Wild Things Are, which won the Caldecott Medal. In 1970 he wrote In the Night Kitchen, another children's classic. He has also designed opera sets and created television programs. In 1996 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton. Sendak has been described as a delightful curmudgeon with a wicked sense of humor and talent for storytelling. I'm typically not so keen on movies based on children's books, but I think this one has promise. And I'm a BIG FAN of the book, so fingers are crossed!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pump Up Those Tires!

Recently the League of American Bicyclists published its state-by-state bike-friendly rankings, and Oregon came in fourth. Not bad! (Just so you know, we were topped by Washington, Wisconsin, and Maine.) The League has also designated May as National Bike Month. And, naturally -- given the weather -- this week has been designated Bike to Work week. But that's what they make all that rain gear for, right? The Bicycle Transportation Alliance is offering free bike commuting workshops this month. You can check their site for the calendar; there's one in the Lloyd District on May 28th (RSVP on the site as well).

Jeff Mapes, author of the book Pedaling Revolution, spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at the store recently, so it's clear this is an issue that is gaining increased attention. I must admit, my bicycle is sitting sadly in my basement with two flat-ish tires. Being a fair-weather (and flat-terrained) cyclist, perhaps this weekend will be a good time to get those tires attended to. In all fairness, however, I do commute to work in a green fashion, since I only walk a handful of blocks. Roberta is much more impressive, riding to work on her bike in her colorful polka dot helmet. (Safety first - but fashion a close second!)

Besides Pedaling Revolution, we've got other books involving biking -- tangentially or otherwise. So come on down (on your bike??) and help celebrate National Bike Month with us.

Vicarious Exploration-The Best Kind!

Not too long ago I blogged about David Grann's book The Lost City of Z, which I really enjoyed. It's the fascinating story of Percy Fawcett, who walked into the Amazon Jungle in 1925 with his son and another young man in search of what he called "The Lost City of Z," and none of the three were heard from again! Grann tells Fawcett's story and also heads into the jungle himself to see what he can find out.

Because that book stirred up my juices to read early exploration stories, I decided to read The River of Doubt, by Candice Millard, which tells the story of Theodore Roosevelt heading down an unmapped tributary of the Amazon in 1912, following his painful defeat in the presidential election. Interestingly, he took his son along with him as well. Millard tells the fascinating story of this incredibly poorly planned and dangerous trip (which would have been wickedly dangerous even if well planned).

Since I'm still in an exploring sort of mood but looking for something a little lighter in tone, I've decided to read A Voyage Long and Strange: On the Trail of Vikings, Conquistadors, Lost Colonists, and Other Adventures in Early America, by Tony Horwitz. So far so good! Some of Horwitz's previous books are Confederates in the Attic (about civil war re-enacters), Blue Latitudes (Captain Cook), and Baghdad without a Map (the Middle East) -- all written with his characteristic sharp wit and eye for detail. Horwitz is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist who now lives on Martha's Vineyard with his Pulitzer-Prize-winning wife, the author Geraldine Brooks (March, People of the Book).

I'd recommend all of these books as good reads -- and we've got them all at Broadway Books! For the record, the Grann book is still in hardback only, while the other two are available in paperback. Also for the record, I'd MUCH rather read about the hideous insects, fish (candiru - ugh!), and other deadly or just plain annoying wildlife of the jungle than ever set foot there myself. Aren't books wonderful???

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A standing-room-only and enthusiastic crowd sat enthralled tonight to hear three of the four poets represented in Saturday Afternoons read from their newly published anthology. Here's a shot of Barbara Surovell, who read first, followed by Margie Lee and Kathie Durbin. While Angela Allen was unable to attend, she was here in spirit, and her works were read by her three co-authors. What a great night -- thanks to all!

Celebrate Children's Book Week

I am the daughter of an elementary-school librarian and the sister of a middle-school librarian. My fondness for kid's books was nurtured from a very early age and continues unabated to this day. So I am thrilled to share with you that this is National Children's Book Week! Grab a book and read it to a kid. Or to yourself. Or to your spouse. Or to an unsuspecting soon-to-be-surprised stranger. If you need some suggestions for good books to start with, check out our window display. For more ideas, here are some of our bestsellers from the past year or so:

Boardbooks: Goodnight Moon (Brown), Pat the Bunny (Kunhardt), The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Carle), Good Dog Carl (Day), Olivia (Falconer), Jamberry (Degan), and anything by Sandra Boynton.

Picture Books: Erika-San (Say), Wabi-Sabi (Reibstein), Pete & Pickles (Breathed), Olivia (Falconer), Oh The Places You Will Go (Seuss), Madeline (Bemelman), Goodnight Moon (Brown), and anything by Maurice Sendak.

Middle Readers: Tales of Beedle the Bard (Rowling), The Phantom Tollbooth (Juster), The Penderwicks (Birdsall), The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls (Primavera ), and ALL of the Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney and the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books by Rick Riordan.

Young Adult: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Alexie), The Book Thief (Zusak), Brisingr (Paolini), Slam (Hornby), Holes (Sachar), Gifts (Le Guin), and all of the Twilight series books by Stephenie Meyer.

Many of my personal favorites are on these lists, but I'll add just a few more that are worth checking out. In the picture book category, check out Officer Buckle and Gloria (Rathmann) and Tupelo Rides the Rails (Sweet). In the middle reader category, I'd recommend Harriet the Spy (Fitzhugh), The Mysterious Benedict Society (Stewart), and of course anything by Beverly Cleary. You might also check out the new Amelia Rules graphic novel series (Gownley), which is sort of an updated Ramona goes graphic. In the young adult area I'd add in The Hunger Games (Collins), Un Lun Dun (Mieville), and the Sally Lockhart mystery series by Philip Pullman (he of The Golden Compass series fame).

Anyone who knows me at all knows that it's hard for me to stop at just this list. There are SO MANY great books out there for kids of all ages. If you need any more suggestions, just ask! And be sure to Check out Rose's recommendations on our Recommended Shelf, because she usually offers up some great suggestions for kids. Happy Children's Book Week to all!

Saturday Afternoons on Tuesday Evening

Tonight we are joined by four local poets -- Angela Allen, Kathie Durbin, Margie Lee, and Barbara Surovell -- as they read from their recently published anthology Saturday Afternoons. "The poems in Saturday Afternoons read like secrets shared over cups of coffee, around a kitchen table. They are personal in detail, universal in experience." -B.T.Shaw. We hope you can join us tonight at 7 pm to hear from these four friends.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day! Late brunch followed by a long stroll through a small bookstore, picking up the latest in great reading. A delicious day all the way around.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Gifts for Mom

Don't forget Mom! Sunday is Mother's Day, and you don't want to let it slip by. We've got Mother's Day cards and lots of wonderful book recommendations for you. And if Mom likes games, you might want to consider giving her Bananagrams -- it's great fun! As always, we're happy to gift wrap the items you buy here -- no charge! Maybe you want to add some extra color to your book gift for Mom -- think about heading up the street to Broadway Floral to get a beautiful bouquet of flowers to go with the book. Local Broadway Floral, owned by Doug and Janice Fick, offers lots of gorgeous fresh cut flowers, among their other items, that you can put together yourself or have them arrange for you. The store has been in business for more than one hundred years and has been in its present location since 1928. It was bought by Doug's parents in 1970. Come see us, and then go see them!

One of my favorite "mom" signs is the one on the wall at Bill's Tavern in Cannon Beach that says "Don't forget a six-pack for Mom!" If you don't think a six-pack is the right gift for Mom this year, think books!

New Book Edited by Female Nomad Author

A consistent bestseller here at Broadway Books is Tales of a Female Nomad: Lving at Large in the World, by Rita Golden Gelman. Gelman, the mother of two (now grown) children and the author of more than 70 children's books, made a huge change in her life in the 1980s: she divested herself of all worldly possessions and became a modern-day wandering nomad. She tells the story of that process and of her first "wanderings" in Tales of a Female Nomad. Here's what she has to say about her decision on her Web site: "I’ve been living and loving my nomadic existence since the day in 1986 when, at the age of forty eight, on the verge of a divorce, I looked around and thought, There has to be more than one way to do life."

That book was published in 2001. Since then there has been a lot of wandering, lots of good work, and a handful of children's books, but nothing else. Here's the good news: We've just learned that Three Rivers Press (a division of Random House) has bought world rights to Break Free, Break Rules, Break Bread, a collection of essays about connection through food, love, and travel from readers of Gelman's first book. Gelman will write the foreward, afterword, and brief pieces that weave the essays together. All royalties will go to the author's charity, the Golden Fund, which helps children in India get vocational training. You can follow along with the author's travels on her blog.

It's been a long time coming, so we're very excited, even if we likely have to wait until some time in 2010 for it to come out. Here's some more of what Gelman had to say about why she wrote Tales of a Female Nomad: "I wrote the book to let people know that if they dare to dig up the buried person inside, to uncover the dreams and desires of the young man or woman they once were, they would probably realize that they can make some of those dreams happen. I do not expect men and women to leave their families and run away to do my life. But I’m hoping that within the context of their own lives and their own dreams, they can awaken some of the spirit that lies trapped inside. Maybe it’s just to sing out loud and loudly. Or perhaps to sit through three movies in one day. Or to go deep sea fishing some weekend when everyone thinks you’re at a church retreat. How about going to a strange city and playing your saxophone on a street corner? Don’t forget to leave the open case with a few dollar bills in it just in front of you."

We also recently learned that the authors travels will bring her to Fox Island (near Tacoma, WA) this month for a free reading on May 20th -- which gives you time to read her book and then go see her!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

2009 PEN Literary Awards

PEN American Center has announced its 2009 Literary Award winners. The ceremony will be hosted by poet Billy Collins on May 19 in New York.
The PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction goes to a distinguished living American author of fiction whose body of work in English possesses qualities of excellence, ambition, and scale of achievement over a sustained career which place him or her in the highest rank of American literature. The award carries a stipend of $25,000. This year’s honoree is Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy was born in Rhode Island in 1933 and spent most of his childhood near Knoxville, Tennessee. He served in the U.S. Air Force and later studied at the University of Tennessee. In 1976 he moved to El Paso, Texas, and now resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

McCarthy’s fiction parallels his movement from the Southeast to the West—the first four novels being set in Tennessee, the last three in the Southwest and Mexico. The Orchard Keeper (1965) won the Faulkner Award for a first novel; it was followed by Outer Dark (1968), Child of God (1973), Suttree (1979), and Blood Meridian (1985). All the Pretty Horses, which won the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1992, is the first volume in McCarthy’s acclaimed Border Trilogy, and was followed by The Crossing (1994) and Cities of the Plain (1998).He received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Road, and his 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. He is also the author of The Stone Mason: A Play in Five Acts. McCarthy is also the recipient of a fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation, among other grants.

The PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers honors an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work—a first novel or collection of short stories published in 2008—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise. The winner receives a cash award of $35,000, a stipend intended to permit a significant degree of leisure in which to pursue a second work of literary fiction. The fellowship was established in memory of Robert Bingham, who died in 1999 at the age of 33, to commemorate his support of young writers, his love of literature, and his contribution to literary fiction. This year’s award goes to Donald Ray Pollack for his collection Knockemstiff (Doubleday). The finalists are Rivka Galchen for Atmospheric Disturbances (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and Aravind Adiga for The White Tiger (Free Press).

The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories are the product of a new partnership between Vintage and PEN American Center. Since 1919, twenty stories have been chosen each year and collected in the annual O. Henry Prize Stories, whose original and present mission is to strengthen the art of the short story. Now in partnership with PEN, the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories continues the tradition of recognizing excellence in the short story and encouraging writers and readers alike to celebrate the form. This year’s recipients are Graham Joyce, Kristen Sundberg Lunstrum, E. V. Slate, John Burnside, Mohan Sikka, L. E. Miller, Alistair Morgan, Roger Nash, Manuel Muñoz, Caitlin Horrocks, Ha Jin, Paul Theroux, Judy Troy, Nadine Gordimer, Viet Dinh, Karen Brown, Marisa Silver, Paul Yoon, Andrew Sean Greer, and Junot Díaz.

The PEN Translation Prize goes to book-length translations from any language into English published during the previous calendar year. The $3,000 prize has been conferred since 1963 in recognition of the art of the literary translator, and it is the first American award to do so. This year’s award goes to Natasha Wimmer for her translation from the Spanish of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The finalists for the award are Jordan Stump for his translation from the French of The Waitress Was New by Dominique Fabre (Archipelago Books) and Joel Rotenberg for his translation from the German of The Post- Office Girl by Stefan Zweig (NYRB Classics).

We've got all of these winning books. In fact, the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories collection is hot off the press! Check out the rest of the awards at the PEN Web site.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

New Palahniuk Novel On Sale Today!

Pygmy, the newest novel from local fave Chuck Palahniuk, goes on sale today. The publisher describes it as "'The Manchurian Candidate' meets 'South Park.'" Pygmy is one of a handful of young adults from a totalitarian state sent to the United States, disguised as exchange students, to live with typical American families and blend in, all the while planning an unspecified act of massive terrorism. Palahniuk depicts Midwestern life through the eyes of this thoroughly indoctrinated little killer, who hates us with a passion and has been trained since infancy in martial arts, chemistry, and radical hatred of the United States. He has six months to build a prize-winning project for the National Science Fair. If he succeeds, he and his project will go to Washington, D.C. for the finals competition -- where the project will explode, killing millions.
It’s a comedy -- albeit a dark one, about terrorism and racism. And it's a romance. And it will make you think. In other words, it's vintage Palahniuk.

Palahniuk grew up in Burbank, Washington, and lives in the Portland area. He earned his degree from the University of Oregon's School of Journalism in 1986. In his mid-30s he started writing novels, working with Tom Spanbauer and his Dangerous Writers writing workshops. Some of his novels include Fight Club, Lullaby, Choke, and his two most recent: Rant and Snuff. Several of his books have been made into movies. He has also written a nonfiction book about the oddities of Portland called Fugitives and Refugees.

Come get your copy of Pygmy today! We'd be happy to save a copy for you.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Final Percy Jackson Book!

On our shelves and ready to fly out the door first thing Tuesday morning: The final book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, by Rick Riordan. The Last Olympian, the eagerly anticipated final book in the five-book series, tells of the battle for Western Civilization raging on the streets of Manhattan, as the Half-Bloods battle against Kronos's Titans, and the prophecy surrounding Percy's sixteenth birthday unfolds. I can't wait to read it myself!

PBS to Air Kurt Wallander Episodes

Starting Sunday, May 10th, PBS will air three Kurt Wallander mysteries on Masterpiece Mystery. The Kurt Wallander series, by Swedish author Henning Mankell, began with the book Faceless Killers, published in 1991. The PBS episodes, in which Kurt Wallander is portrayed by Kenneth Branaugh, will be based on three of Mankell's books: Sidetracked (May 10th), Firewall (May 17th), and One Step Behind (May 31st).

Henning Mankell was born in Stockholm in 1948, raised in a village in northern Sweden and now divdes his time between Sweden and Maputo, Mozambique, where he works as the director of a theater, Teatro Avenida. Kurt Wallander remains one of the most impressive and credible creations of crime fiction today. The first Wallander book was written in response to the social chaos Mankell encountered on his return to Sweden from Africa in early 1989. Neo-fascist attacks on immigrants had increased during his two years in Mozambique. "Racism is a crime, and I thought: okay, I'll use the crime story. Then I realized I needed a police officer." He plucked the name "Wallander" out of the telephone directory. "It was May 20 1989 (I looked it up in an old diary) when Kurt was born."

Readers like the Wallander books for their edgy, convincing police work and coverage of social concerns. Mankell makes you reflect on society. Questions of responsibility and morality - of justice and democracy - are explicitly raised, which is unusual in detective fiction. "I work in an old tradition that goes back to the ancient Greeks," Mankell says. "You hold a mirror to crime to see what's happening in society. I could never write a crime story just for the sake of it, because I always want to talk about certain things in society." He says the best crime story he has ever read is Macbeth - "a terrible allegory about the corrupting tendency of power that could equally be about President Nixon."

Mankell cites John le Carré as a key influence and admires the way he develops the character George Smiley with each subsequent book. "If you can call le Carré a crime writer, he investigates the contradictions inside man, between men, and between man and society; and I hope to do the same." In addition to his thrillers, he has written children's books and novels on African themes. In Sweden one of his most faithful admirers is Ingmar Bergman; Mankell is married to the film director's daughter, Eva. In Africa, Mankell is passionately committed to the fight against AIDS and devotes much of his spare time to his "memory books" project, which aims to raise awareness of the catastrophe. Parents with AIDS are encouraged to record their life stories not just for their children, but as a human chronicle as well.