Friday, October 29, 2010

Mary Rechner Reads Tuesday Night

We hope you can join us on Tuesday, November 2nd, at 7 pm to hear local author Mary Rechner read from her collection of short stories: Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women, published by Propeller Books. In these nine short stories, Mary brings a frank, humorous, and ultimately illuminating narrative voice to the subjects of sex, marriage, family, and work. Her characters strain against expected behaviors and received opinions about emotional life.

Mary's fiction has appeared in a variety of publications, including Kenyon Review, Washington Square, Propeller Quarterly, and Oregon Literary Review. Her criticism and essays have appeared in The Believer and The Oregonian. She received an Oregon Literary Fellowship in 2006. Mary is also the director of Writers in the Schools, a program of Literary Arts. WITS places poets, fiction writers, essayists, graphic novelists, and playwrights into Portland-area high schools, where they teach creative writing. Mary grew up on Long Island and currently lives in Portland.

In a blog posting for the Wordstock Festival, Mary wrote that her stories "usually begin with a kernal of the actual" and then she goes about creating from there, using her life as the impetus for her fiction. "That's essentially what fiction is for me: exploration. I'm particularly interested in what it means to be a woman today. I know that sounds cheesy...but the options women have are relatively new, and our constraints are often confusing when they are invisible and internalized." She also noted that she is "braver in fiction than in real life," and that she feels "rushed when reading online. Paper relaxes me." We feel the same way!

You can read another great inteview with her on the NW Book Lovers website -- and we say it's great not just because she lists Broadway Books as a tie for her favorite indie bookstore! (But we're pleased and proud nonetheless!)

Debra Gwartney, author of Live Through This, had this to say about Mary's book: "Rechner writes with startling acuity, delving into singular lives with the full-hearted knowledge that to love means to be besieged, to love means to suffer, but that, in the end, to love is the only way to truly be alive." Karen Karbo, author of (most recently) The Gospel According to Coco Chanel, says "Mary Rechner's astounding, perfectly wrought stories of what it means to be a modern woman are witty, provocative, and honest enough to make you gasp." And Brad Kessler (Birds in Fall) calls her a "plucky, mischievous writer."

Who would want to miss out on this fun night?? Come early and grab a good seat. The fun starts at 7 pm. Think what great gifts signed copies of this new book would make!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Video Preview of Sex at Dawn

This video is a little on the lengthy side, and I'm not sure anyone really cares that Thom Hartmann spoke at a conference in Barcelona, but it's an interesting intro to the book we'll be discussing at the store tonight. Christopher Ryan, author with Cacilda Jetha of the recently published book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality (HarperCollins), will be joining us at 7 pm tonight to read from his book and discuss it with the audience. You can read a bit more about the book here. Please come join us!

Revisiting Old Friends

Lately I've been fantasizing about re-reading some of my favorite books. That probably sounds strange to you. You might just say, "Heck, Sally. Just re-read the darned things. What's the problem?" Well, the problem is I get this weird guilt thing whenever I find myself reading something that's NOT a new or forthcoming book. Bad enough that I might read an old book (and when I say old I mean more than a year), but heaven forbid I take my precious reading time to read something that I've already read!

And for those of you who fantasize about owning a bookstore some day so that you can sit around and read all day, especially on the dark rainy days, I hate to rain on your parade but that just doesn't happen. In fact, I can't remember the last time I read a book at the store. I read plenty o' books, and I buy even more, but reading for me happens when I'm not at the store. It seems there's always receiving, and shelving, and ordering, and newsletters, and blogs, and Facebooking, and videos, and events, and -- the most fun and most important of them all -- interacting with the people who coming into the store or call, helping them to find just the right books for themselves or as gifts. But reading? Nada.

Maybe I should designate an hour each day -- sort of like mandatory nap time in kindergarten -- that I commit to reading, and the only thing I allow to interrupt my reading are the customers (and pray for lots of interruptions!). Hmmmm. That's a thought.

So as long as I'm fantasizing, what books would I re-read??? Off the top of my head, I'd start with two of my favorite memoirs, The Tender Bar (JR Moehringer) and Catfish and Mandela (Andrew X Pham). Then I'd hit a kid's classic, The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer (who just came out with their second book together, The Odious Ogre, after almost 50 years!). Let's see, then a couple of novels....I think I'd start with The Highest Tide, by Jim Lynch, then To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. I think that might hold me over for a little while. I know I'm overlooking a bunch, but these are what my brain came up with off the cuff. (Do brains have cuffs?)

What about you? What books from your past are you dying to re-read? Do you re-read books on a regular basis? Never? Occasionally? One of the industry publications I read, Shelf Awareness, regularly publishes interviews with authors in which they ask the question, "What book would you most want to read again for the first time?" I love that question! I'm so envious when I sell people a copy of The Highest Tide, because I know how great that experience is likely to be for them, and I can never capture that exact experience again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Risking Ridiculousness

Thursday night (Oct 28) at 7, please join us to hear Guy Maynard read from his debut novel, The Risk of Being Ridiculous. I wrote briefly about Guy and his book earlier -- Guy and I worked together at Aster Publishing in Eugene about a bazillion years ago (but we've both aged quite well, thank you!).

The Risk of Being Ridiculous tells the story of nineteen-year-old Ben Tucker, living in Boston in 1969. The novel takes you on a passionate, lyrical six-week ride through confrontation and confusion, courts and cops, parties and politics, school and the streets, Weathermen and women’s liberation, acid and activism, revolution and reaction. And, of course, Love—as through it all  Ben feverishly pursues the long-shot desire of his life: Sarah Stein

Guy has lived in Oregon since the early 1970s (living in Massachusetts and Illinois before moving here). He was lead singer in a teen rock and roll band, was active in the civil rights and anti–Vietnam War movements, lived on a commune in southern Oregon, worked as a carpenter, and was a member of a worker-owned construction company.

After receiving his degree in journalism from the University of Oregon in 1984, he was editor of a small community newspaper and then worked at the previously mentioned Aster Publishing Company, working on a number of trade magazines in such fields as liquid and gas chromatography and geographic information systems. Since 1995 he has been editor of Oregon Quarterly, the University of Oregon magazine. He also serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Oregon Humanities magazine. His essays and articles have appeared in several Northwest regional publications. Guy and his wife Shelley live in a 1930s-vintage house in the middle of Eugene. They have a grown son, Corey, who lives in Portland.

The book is published by Hellgate Press in Ashland. Started in 1997, Hellgate Press is named after the historic Hellgate Canyon on the Rogue River, which was the first river in the United States to be designated as a wild and scenic river: "We like to think that the books we publish reflect the rugged yet subtle nature of this incredible river canyon." 

Here's a blog post Guy wrote for Wordstock, in which he reveals his dilemma deciding what genre his book belongs to. Here is an article by Jamie Passaro for the Eugene Register-Guard, talking about Guy's new book, along with two other new books from Oregon publishers (one of which has a reading here next month). And here's a review by Ted Taylor for the Eugene Weekly.

Finally, a note on the book from one of our favorite writers and friends, John Daniel (author of Rogue River Journal and The Far Corner, among others): "Guy Maynard vividly evokes the passions and fevered tempo of those times [the 1960s]--the music, the weed, the hitchhiking, the fellowship, the idealism, the outrage, and the wildness in the streets--as the overwhelming need to do something, whether brave or foolish or both, ran headlong at the forces of civil order."

We hope you can join us for this sure-to-be-entertaining evening!

How About Sex at Dawn?

We hope you can join us Wednesday night at 7 to hear one of the authors of a controversial, idea-driven book that challenges everything you know about sex, marriage, family, and society.  Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, by researchers Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, debunks almost everything we think we know about sex. On Wednesday, Christopher Ryan will join us to talk about this new book.
In the book, the authors show how our promiscuous past haunts our current struggles regarding monogamy, sexual orientation, and family dynamics. Some of the themes they explore include:

• why long-term fidelity can be so difficult for so many;
• why sexual passion tends to fade even as love deepens;
• why many middle-aged men risk everything for an affair;
• why homosexuality persists in the face of standard evolutionary logic; and
• what the human body reveals about the prehistoric origins of modern sexuality

Ryan and Jethá show that our ancestors lived in egalitarian groups that shared food, child care, and often, sexual partners. Weaving together convergent, often overlooked evidence from anthropology, archeology, primatology, anatomy, and psychosexuality, the authors show how far from human nature sexual monogamy really is. They expose the ancient roots of human sexuality while pointing toward a more optimistic future illuminated by our innate capacities for love, cooperation, and generosity.
Here's what some of the reviewers have said about this book:

Sex At Dawn is the single most important book about human sexuality since Alfred Kinsey unleashed Sexual Behavior in the Human Male on the American public in 1948.” (Dan Savage, author of the internationally syndicated sex-advice column “Savage Love” and The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family)
"By examining the prehistoric origins of human sexual behavior the authors are able to expose the fallacies and weaknesses of standard theories proposed by most experts. This is a provocative, entertaining, and pioneering book. I learned a lot from it and recommend it highly.”(Andrew Weil, M.D., world famous integrative health expert and author of several books on health and wellness) 

And in her review in Newsweek, Kate Daily calls the prose "funny, witty, and light -- it makes the 400-plus pages of genetic and anthropological interpretation fly by." She also says that the book is "a scandal in the best sense, one that will have you reading the best parts aloud and reassessing your ideas about humanity's basic urges well after the book is done."  
Here is some background on the authors (shamelessly cribbed from their website), who reside together in Barcelona: Christopher received a BA in English and American literature in 1984 and an MA and Ph.D. in psychology from Saybrook University
in San Francisco twenty years later. He spent the intervening decades traveling around the world, living in unexpected places working at very odd jobs (e.g., gutting salmon in Alaska, teaching English to prostitutes in Bangkok and self-defense to land-reform activists in Mexico, managing commercial real-estate in New York’s Diamond District, helping Spanish physicians publish their research). Somewhere along the way, he decided to pursue doctoral studies in psychology. Drawing upon his multi-cultural experience, Christopher’s research focused on trying to distinguish the human from the cultural. His doctoral dissertation analyzes the prehistoric roots of human sexuality, and was guided by the world-renowned psychologist, Stanley Krippner. He blogs regularly for The Huffington Post and Psychology Today.

Cacilda Jethá has an Indian face, a European education, and an African soul. She was born in Mozambique to a family that had immigrated two generations earlier from Goa, India. As a child, she fled civil war to Portugal, where she received most of her education and medical training before returning to Mozambique in the late 1980s. A young physician determined to help heal her country, Cacilda spent seven years as the only physician serving some 50,000 people in a vast rural district in the north of the country. While there, Cacilda also conducted research (funded by the World Health Organization) on the sexual behavior of rural Mozambicans in order to help design more effective AIDS prevention efforts.

After almost a decade in Mozambique, Cacilda returned to Portugal, where she completed her medical residency training in both psychiatry (at the prestigious Hospital de Julio de Matos in Lisbon) and occupational medicine.

This is bound to be a wildly fascinating discussion, so we sure hope you can join us! Come early for the best seats!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Spiritual Memoirist to Read Friday Night

We hope you can join us Friday (Oct 22) at 7 pm to hear Michael Fischman read from his new spiritual memoir, Stumbling Into Infinity: An Ordinary Man in the Sphere of Enlightenment (Morgan James Publishing). The memoir tells the story of the son of a Holocaust survivor raised in an Orthodox Jewish household. As an adult, Michael gave up a successful career as a Madison Avenue advertising executive and, through a mysterious turn of events, ends up in the unlikely position of friend and helper to the great spiritual leader, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Michael's fascinating and personal memoir takes us into the compassionate and mysterious world of an enlightened seer, offering a compelling narrative that blends remarkable experiences with an inner struggle and search for meaning.

Michael is a founding member and current president of the US Art of Living Foundation, a non-profit educational and humanitarian organization whose programs have benefited more than 25 million people in more than 140 countries. By nurturing the spirit of service and compassion in every individual, the foundation seeks to build a global society that is free of stress and violence.

A former advertising executive with Ogilvy & Mather, he is also the CEO of APEX (Achieving Personal Excellence), the corporate training division of the International Association for Human Values.

“For the past twenty years, I have dedicated my life to sharing and growing on a spiritual path that has brought fulfillment and happiness to millions of people around the world,” says Michael.

Here is a short video clip that tells you a bit about Stumbling Into Infinity and how it came to be:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Launching Brian Doyle's First Novel

I'm just going to come right out and say it. We LOVE Brian Doyle. Truly. He's read at the store copious times in the past with his nonfiction writing. And he was a big hit introducing Robin Cody at the launch of Robin's book Another Way the River Has last spring. So we are so thrilled that we now get to talk about Brian Doyle's first novel, published by one of our favorite publishers, local-ish Oregon State University Press. And we are especially thrilled to be helping Brian launch his new book tomorrow night at The Mercy Corps Headquarters in downtown Portland.

Mink River, Brian's stunning fiction debut, brings a small coastal Oregon town to life through the jumbled lives and braided stories of its people. In the wet hamlet of Neawanaka there are love affairs and almost-love-affairs, mystery and hilarity, bears and tears, brawls and boats, a garralous logger and a silent doctor, rain and pain, Irish immigrants and Salish stories, mud and laughter. Readers will close the book more than a little sad to leave the village of Neawanaka, on the wet coast of Oregon, beneath the hills that used to boast the biggest trees in the history of the world.

David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K and The River Why, said of Mink River "In its sights, setting, insinuations, flora and fauna, his tale is quintessential North Coast, but in its sensibility and lilt this story is as Irish as tin whistles -- and the pairing is an unprecedented delight....I've read no Northwest novel remotely like it and enjoyed few novels more."

In her review of the book for Shelf Awareness, Valerie Ryan, owner of The Cannon Beach Book Company, wrote this about Mink River: "Brian Doyle loves words; big words, small words, fancy words, plain words, exotic words, domesticated words, adjectives, verbs and nouns especially, and because he loves words he piles them up in great juicy heaps of phrases and paragraphs and sentences and pages and whole books and makes delicious stories with them, stories about impossibly possible events and a talking crow who loves football and cares for a nun in her last days, bringing her bits of fish, dusting her room with his wings and getting drunk on wine with her, and people with unusual names, and then he tells us why they have those names because he is a first-rate storyteller who has a story to tell in this book but also digresses into disquisitions on the bicycle and Puccini and Irish lore galore and frequent quotes from Ecclesiastes and William Blake, another writer who burns 'always with this hard, gemlike flame,' and occasionally interspersed with bursts of Italian or Latin or Gaelic, and all of this with the wonder of a child, the soul of a poet, the compassion of a saint, the pen of an angel, the imagination of an inventor and the wisdom of a sage."

Joseph Bednarik reviewed the book for The Oregonian: "Mink River, the shimmering new novel by Portland writer Brian Doyle, is the best way to get to Neawanaka. Actually, it's the only way -- and very much worth the trip....The strength of the novel lies in Doyle's ability to convey the delicious vibrancy of people and the quirky whorls that make life a complex tapestry. He is absolutely enchanted by stories, with the zeal and talent to enchant others."

Brian is the author of ten previous books, including The Grail, Thirsty for the Joy, and Epiphanies & Elegies. His essays have been reprinted in the annual Best American Essays, Best American Science & Nature Writing, and Best American Spiritual Writing anthologies. He edits Portland Magazine at the University of Portland.

We hope you can join us Tuesday night at 7 pm for what is sure to be an inspirational and entertaining event, full of laughter, delicious words, and wonderful storytelling. Mercy Corps is at 45 SW Ankeny, at the corner of 1st and Ankeny near the Burnside Bridge (and at the Skidmore Fountain MAX stop).

Friday, October 15, 2010

One of My Favs of the Year So Far

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean, by Susan Casey, is one of my favorite kinds of books and one of the best nonfiction books I've read this year. Although Casey uses Laird Hamilton and the other extreme surfers to frame the story, she talks about a whole lot more than just surfing -- and when I say "just surfing," I'm talking about "just surfing" on HUGE waves.

But she also spends time talking with wave scientists, and with the people at Lloyd's of London who insure most of the global shipping fleet and thus are obviously very interested in waves, and with marine salvage experts, who work to save foundering ships from disaster. One of the most interesting stories she tells is about the large denuded areas in Lituya Bay, in Alaska, which geologists puzzled over for years: "But as the story of its past came into focus and Nature gave some forthright demonstrations of what it was up to, the culprit became clear: giant waves, the largest ever witnessed on earth." Over the years, huge waves drove through the bay, but in 1958, as Casey says, the ocean "went postal," and a 1740-foot wave ripped through the Lituya Bay.

The prose in the book is excellent, well-research and wrapped in personal stories -- her style reminds me of a mash-up of Bill Bryson (Think A Short History of Nearly Everything) and Mary Roach and Jon Krakauer. And the photographs are truly stunning.

Here is a brief clip of the author and Laird Hamilton talking about the book and about the lure of the giant waves. If you let me I'll just go on and on and on about this book, so I'd best stop now. Suffice it to say, I highly recommend it!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Top Books for Book Club Discussions

Reading Group Guides has published the results of its survey of the best book-club books of the year. Here are the overall Top Ten for best discussion. You can read the results of the other surveys (best memoir, best classics, etc., for book clubs) at their website. This site is an excellent source of questions to use to guide your book-club discussions.

  1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett: A spirited debut that explores the Civil Rights movement through the relationships between a young white woman and two black maids.

  2. Water for Elephants  by Sara Gruen: An elderly man reflects on his younger years as the veterinarian for a travelling circus during the Great Depression, and the many relationships he formed with man and beast alike.

  3. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: An epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that takes us from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the atrocities of the present.

  4. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls: Walls recounts her harrowing, nomadic childhood as the daughter of eccentric parents struggling with substance abuse and often flouting the law.

  5. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: Gilbert chronicles the end of her marriage and her year abroad in search of happiness, perspective, spirituality and love across Italy, India and Indonesia.

  6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows: A novel told in letters between an author and a resident of the small, British island of Guernsey detailing the German occupation of the island, and its aftermath.

  7. The Secret Life of Bees    by Sue Monk Kidd: A teenager embarks on a quest to learn more about the mother she hardly knew, navigating the tumultuous racial landscape of the South during the 1960s.

  8. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay: A compelling portrait of France under occupation during World War II, revealing the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode even in today’s society.
  9. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See: Two women form a lifelong friendship that is thrust into peril against 19th-century China’s rigid caste system and treatment of women.

  10. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant: A rich interpretation of the little-known Bible story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah, and the life of ancient womanhood.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

John Addiego to Read from New Novel

We  hope you can join us Thursday, October 14, at 7 pm to hear Corvallis author John Addiego read from his second novel, Tears of the Mountain. The novel chronicles a single day in one man's life -- July 4, 1876 -- along with a series of flashbacks that all lead up to an eventful Centennial Independence Day celebration in Sonoma, California. Over the course of this surprisingly pivotal moment in his life, Jeremiah McKinley prepares for the celebration and for a reunion with old friends and family. On a blog post for the Wordstock Book Festival that took place in Portland last weekend, John wrote about the genesis of the book's title.

Joanna Rose in her review of Tears of the Mountain in The Oregonian said "It's a rich story, whose characters argue and banter over religion, racism, sexism, classism and elitism." And Publishers Weekly wrote that fans of western fiction will appreciate the setting, fast pace, and Jeremiah’s sheer moral doggedness.”

John has published numerous stories and poems in literary journals and is a former poetry editor at the Northwest Review. Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, he now lives with his wife, Ellen, and daughter, Emily, in Corvallis, Oregon, where he teaches students with special needs. He has published two novels with Unbridled Books and is currently working on his third. In 1999 he received a fiction fellowship from Oregon Literary Arts.

His first novel was published in 2008. The Islands of Divine Music is a novel of five generations of an Italian-American family finding its place in the New World. Against a backdrop of immigration, Prohibition, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, and the new millennium, five generations of the Verbicaro family make their way from Southern Italy to San Francisco as each character brushes up against some aspect of the divine.

In 2008, after his first novel was published, John had these thoughts about getting published: "I am one of those people who crawls out of bed every morning at five to write before reporting to the paid work that supports a family....There has always been this secret delight in trying to write something good, in discovering something that rings true, and I could no more stop writing than reading or eating dark chocolate. Forget about it....One other piece of advice: read good books. I meet writers who don’t read, or only read what’s popular, or stare at screens. Read the good stuff. There is really no other teacher."

National Book Award Finalists

Fresh on the heels of last night's announcement of The Booker Prize Winner comes today's announcement of the finalists for this year's National Book Awards. Author Pat Conroy read out the five finalists in four categories at Flannery O'Connor's childhood home. The lists certainly offer some surprises -- particularly in the books not on the lists!
  • Peter Carey, Parrot and Olivier in America (Alfred A. Knopf): From the two-time Booker Prize-winning author comes an irrepressibly funny new novel set in early-19th-century America.
  • Jaimy Gordon, Lord of Misrule (McPherson & Co): A darkly realistic novel about a young woman living through a year of horse racing at a half-mile track in West Virginia, while everyone's best laid schemes keep going brutally wrong.
  • Nicole Krauss, Great House (W.W. Norton & Co): A powerful, soaring novel about a stolen desk that contains the secrets, and becomes the obsession, of the lives it passes through.
  • Lionel Shriver, So Much for That (Harper): A deeply resonant novel that looks at America's health-care system, and poses the disturbing moral question that affects more people every day: How much is one life worth?
  • Karen Tei Yamashita, I Hotel (Coffee House Press): A stunningly complete vision of San Francisco's Asian American community in the late '60s and early '70s, using the landmark hotel as a meeting point for ten loosely connected novellas, each covering a single year. 

  • Barbara Demick, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (Spiegel & Grau): Follows the lives of six North Koreans over 15 years--a chaotic period that saw the unchallenged rise to power of Kim Jong Il and the devastation of a famine that killed one-fifth of the population.
  • John W. Dower, Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq (W.W. Norton & Co): A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian returns with a groundbreaking comparative study of the dynamics and pathologies of war in modern times.
  • Patti Smith, Just Kids (Ecco): Smith's evocative, honest, and moving coming-of-age story reveals her extraordinary relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe -- a book about friendship in the truest sense, and the artist's calling.
  • Justin Spring, Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward (Farrar, Straus & Giroux): Drawn from the secret, never-before-seen diaries, journals, and sexual records of the novelist, poet, and university professor Samuel M. Steward, this work is a sensational reconstruction of one of the more extraordinary hidden lives of the 20th century.
  • Megan K. Stack, Every Man in This Village Is a Liar: An Education in War (Doubleday):  A shattering account of war and disillusionment from an LA Times national correspondent on the front lines of the war on terror in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • Kathleen Graber, The Eternal City (Princeton University Press): Offers eloquent testimony to the struggle to make sense of the present through conversation with the past.
  • Terrance Hayes, Lighthead  (Viking Penguin): In his fourth collection, Terrance Hayes investigates how we construct experience.
  • James Richardson, By the Numbers (Copper Canyon Press): A collection of poems and aphorisms.
  • C.D. Wright, One with Others (Copper Canyon Press): Wright examines a racist event in her native Arkansas and creates a layered, nuanced, and riveting tribute to her mentor.
  • Monica Youn, Ignatz (Four Way Books): The comic strip Krazy Kat serves as the inspiration and jumping off point for Youn's second book, though intimate familiarity with the strip isn't necessary to enjoy these poems, which address the theme of unrequited desire. 

  • Paolo Bacigalupi, Ship Breaker (Little, Brown & Co): From a Nebula-award winner (The Windup Girl) comes a fast-paced postapocalyptic adventure set on the American Gulf Coast. 
  • Kathryn  Erskine, Mockingbird (Philomel Books): Narrated by a ten-year-old girl with Asperger's syndrome, a story about a community's healing process.
  • Laura McNeal, Dark Water (Alfred A. Knopf): The catastrophic wildfires that ravaged Southern California in 2007 serve as the backdrop for this compelling story of a forbidden romance with tragic consequences, set in an inland farming community. 
  • Walter Dean Myers, Lockdown (Amistad): bestselling author takes readers into the world of juvenile detention facilities, creating a nuanced, realistic portrait of a teen dealing with incarceration and violence.
  • Rita Williams-Garcia, One Crazy Summer (Amistad): Set in Oakland, California, in 1968, this book has been described as "The Penderwicks meet the Black Panthers."

The National Book Award winners will be announced at a ceremony in New York on November 17. At the event, Tom Wolfe will receive the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service will be presented to Joan Ganz Cooney, a founding producer of "Sesame Street."

I'm sad to say that I've only read one of the books on these lists (Ship Breaker), so clearly I've got my work cut out for me! How about you? Have you read any of these books? Are you surprised by any that were included or excluded from these lists?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Finkler Question Wins Booker

Looks like the betting parlors of London will win back the money they lost last year when odds-on favorite Wolf Hall won the Booker. Today, Howard Jacobson was named the winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for his comic novel, The Finkler Question, published by Bloomsbury.

Said to have "some of the wittiest, most poignant and sharply intelligent comic prose in the English language," The Finkler Question has been described as "wonderful" and "richly satisfying" and as a novel "full of wit, warmth, intelligence, human feeling and understanding." The Finkler Question is a novel about love, loss and male friendship that explores what it means to be Jewish today -- a witty novel about a friendship between a radio producer and a philosopher.  Ron Charles of The Washington Post said "no other book has given me such a clear sense of the benevolent disguises that anti-Jewish sentiments can wear."

London author and columnist Jacobson, a prolific writer of comic novels mostly about Jews and Jewish identity since 1983 has been longlisted twice for the Booker Prize -- in 2006 for Kalooki Nights and in 2002 for Who's Sorry Now -- but has never before been shortlisted. The winning selection was a small triumph for humor in fiction, an argument that Mr. Jacobson made in an essay in The Guardian last Saturday:

“There is a fear of comedy in the novel today – when did you last see the word ‘funny’ on the jacket of a serious novel? – that no one who loves the form should contemplate with pleasure,” he wrote. “We have created a false division between laughter and thought, between comedy and seriousness, between the exhilaration that the great novels offer when they are at their funniest, and whatever else it is we now think we want from literature.”

Listen to David Sax on NPR's "You Must Read This" talking about The Finkler Question here.

We Learn Booker Prize Winner Today

Today's the day we learn the winner of this year's Man Booker Prize, an annual contemporary fiction award given to writers from the British Commonwealth and Ireland. The six finalists for this year's prize are C, by Tom McCarthy; The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson; In a Strange Room, by Damon Galgut; The Long Song, by Andrea Levy; Parrot and Olivier in America, by Peter Carey; and Room, by Emma Donoghue. Here's a link to a BBC news site with brief interviews with each of the finalists.

In the betting circles (yes, they actually bet on book awards in England), McCarthy is the odds-on favorite, with a big push in bets in the final days for his experimental tale of time and technology that has drawn comparisons to James Joyce. Historically, the bettors choice isn't the winner, but last year Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall became the first odds-on favorite to win. If Carey were to win, he would become the first three-time Booker winner. Of the six finalists, the bestseller at our store has been Room, by Irish-Canadian writer Donoghue.

Interestingly, this year's Booker longlist was one of the strongest selling in recent years, but two of the hottest sellers from the longlist did not make the shortlist: The Slap, by Christos Tsiolkas, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell.

Who do you think will win? Who do you want to win??

Monday, October 11, 2010

Doing Stairs with Laura Foster

Nice article by Rebecca Koffman in Saturday's Oregonian about Laura O. Foster and her new book, The Portland Stairs Book: Walks, Views, Stories, just published by Timber Press. We're thrilled that Laura will be returning to Broadway Books tomorrow night (Tuesday Oct 12) at 7 pm to talk about her newest book. I love exploring all the wonderful tucked-away stairs found in this neighborhood (although I'll freely admit that I much prefer exploring them by going down them rather than up!). I'm looking forward to hearing about the history of some of them and learning about staircases in other neighborhoods. Hope you can come join us!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chernow's Bio of George Washington is Here!

You might have to wait a few years between books for Ron Chernow's biographies, but it is certainly worth the wait -- both in terms of quantity and quality.

His first book, The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance (800+ pages) was published in 1990 and won the National Book Award for nonfiction. The book traced the history of four generations of the J.P. Morgan financial empire. In 1998 Chernow published his biography of John D. Rockefeller, Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (also 800+ pages). The book reflected Chernow's continued interest in financial history. Titan was selected by Time magazine and The New York Times as one of the year's ten best books.

In 2004, Chernow published his 832-page biography, Alexander Hamilton, which won the inaugural George Washington Book Prize for early American history. The George Washington Book Prize is sponsored by a partnership of three institutions devoted to furthering scholarship on America’s founding era: Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and George Washington's Mount Vernon. The $50,000 prize is the nation’s largest literary award for early American history, and one of the largest prizes of any kind.

And what an interesting twist of fate that was, because now, six years later, Chernow has produced another doorstopping master work, this time a richly nuanced portrait of the very same George Washington, clocking in at about 900 pages. Washington: A Life, published by The Penguin Press, just went on sale yesterday. I wonder if he'll win the George Washington prize for Washington too?

The author's stated goal in writing this latest historical portrait is to present a cradle-to-grave narrative that will create a fresh portrait of Washington that will make him "real, credible, and charismatic in the same way that he was perceived by his contemporaries." "The upshot, I hope, will be that readers, instead of having a frosty respect for Washington, will experience a visceral appreciation of this foremost American who scaled the highest peak of political greatness."

Ron Chernow calls Washington “the most famously elusive figure in American history, a remote, enigmatic personage more revered than truly loved.” Despite Washington's elusivity, Chernow definitely found something to write about: Chernow’s is the longest single-volume biography of Washington ever published. I love thoughtful, meaty biographies -- I can't wait to dig into this one!

You can listen to a brief review of this new book on NPR's "All Things Considered" by clicking on this link.

In the video below, Chernow takes us on a walking tour of George Washington related sites in New York City.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Telling a Young Man's Story

One of the readings we've got coming up this month not only takes the author back to his youth but also takes me back a few years. From 1982 through 1987, I worked as an editor for a technical trade magazine publisher in Eugene. One of my colleagues at Aster Publishing was Guy Maynard. Guy's first novel, The Risk of Being Ridiculous, has just been published, and Guy will be here on Thursday, October 28th, to read from it.

We'll be telling you more about the book and event closer to the date, but in the interim check out this piece that Guy wrote about how he tried to recapture the Guy of his youth, by immersing himself in the music and memorabilia of his younger days. The article is available on the wonderful new website, Northwest Book Lovers; you can find a link to the site on the upper right-hand corner of our blog. Check it out -- it's got great articles and reviews on all things book-related.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet to Read Wednesday

We hope you can join us Wednesday, October 6, at 7 pm to hear Jamie Ford read from and talk about his NYT bestselling novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. The setting for this story is the long-closed Panama Hotel in Seattle, and the year is 1986.  The new owner of the hotel has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II.  Henry Lee, a Chinese American, remembers a young Japanese American girl from his childhood – Keiko Okabe, with whom he forged a bond of friendship and innocent love that transcended the prejudices of their Old World ancestors.  Now, forty years later, Henry explores the hotel’s basement for the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot even begin to measure.  His search will take him on a journey to revisit the sacrifices he has made for family, for love, and for country.

Oregon's own former poet laureate Lawson Inada, who with his family was confined in internment camps in Fresno, Arkansas, and Colorado during the war, said of the novel "What a wonder to partake of the bitter and sweet from the masterful talent of Jamie Ford."

Jamie grew up in Ashland and Seattle and now lives in Great Falls, Montana. He is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who imigrated in 1865 from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco, where he adopted the Western name "William Ford," "thus confusing countless generations."

Jamie has quite the sense of humor -- something that's immediately apparent when you check out his blog. Here are some quotes from his blog:
"These days I tell people, 'My book has a career, I’m just along for the ride.' (Okay, I admit it—I stole that line from Pamela Anderson, who once said, 'My boobs have a career, I’m just along for the ride.' But the same sentiment applies)."
"Which of course begs a few questions, such as:
■When does a book tour end and mental illness begin?
■How many frequent flyer miles do you need for a ride on the Space Shuttle?
■Can you develop an addiction to airline peanuts?
■Do media escorts prefer the official title, 'Author Babysitter?'
■Have you ever walked into a venue in Cleveland and yelled, 'Hello, Detroit!'"

With any kind of luck, Jamie won't think he's in Detroit when he's here on Wednesday! He is the proud father of two boys and two girls -- "Yep, it's chaos, but the good kind of chaos."

 About the writing process, Jamie has this to say: "But that ending is all-important for me. And by ending, I mean a real, unambiguous, nonmetaphorical ending. I look at storytelling as either banking or spending emotional currency with the reader. Good or bad, happy or sad, the ending is where those emotional debts are paid."

His next novel, Whispers of a Thunder God, should be hitting shelves in January 2011. He's also working on a Young Adult series and a collection of short stories.

In this short video, Jamie gives us a little tour of the real Panama Hotel, the setting for Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. We hope you can join us on Wednesday!

October Readings at Broadway Books

October events at Broadway Books are now up on the website!! Roberta has truly outdone herself this month -- not an easy thing to do, given all the great readings she's lined up in the past! We've got seven readings this month, including four novels and books about stairs, sex, and stumbling into infinity. Really. See for youself. Dates and descriptions can be found on the events page of our website. While all of this month's events take place at 7 pm, they're not always on Tuesday nights. Hope to see you at them all! Please note that the reading for Brian Doyle's new book, Mink River, will take place at the Mercy Corp Headquarters downtown, not at the store.

Forthcoming Ann Patchett Novel

I'm happy to report that there's another Ann Patchett novel on the horizon -- June 2011, to be exact. Patchett is one of our most popular authors, with Run and Bel Canto being her two most recent novels. Her next novel, State of Wonder (Harper) returns to the South American setting of Bel Canto and is described as a "Conradian" (Heart of Darkness) novel.

The book centers around the relationship between two female physicians: 70-something Annick Swenson and 40-ish Marina Singh, who was Swenson's medical student. The relationship, in which the medical student owes everything to the teacher, who has completely forgotten this particular student, is one that is familiar to Patchett. Her studies at Sarah Lawrence University were dominated by two writers/teachers, Allan Gurganus and Grace Paley: "Everything they said, my 18-year-old heart took in....And I was nobody to them. That's an interesting dynamic."

In the novel (which Patchett has completed writing), Swenson has discovered a tribe of women in the Brazilian Amazon who are eternally fertile, and who are immune to malaria. When Swenson settles in the Amazon to create a vaccine for malaria, she gets involved in the politics of drug development.

Patchett is already at work on her next book, a collection of nonfiction essays. Bel Canto is one of my favorite books, so I will eagerly await the appearance of State of Wonder next summer.