Hope the summer is easing you into reverie, amid the sports, travels, visits, movies, music... Here are some delectable selections for your reading pleasure from your local indie booksellers. We've been enjoying the summer's harvest of fresh fiction, art, poetry, natural history, and children's books, filling ourselves up with books to recommend for you to read and for you to give away! Have a wonderful summer and see you in the store!
John & all Dieselfolk
In urban centers all over the world, a movement of radically cross-cultural food, often based on a modern re-envisioning of traditional and rustic dishes, is well underway. Within blocks of our stores, you'll find Persian-Italian restaurants and roving Korean taco trucks, with new culinary experiments cropping up daily. To curious eaters everywhere, this cross-pollination is an irresistible trend, but whether or not a given hybrid is good enough to transcend its novelty is less certain. For chef and author Marcus Samuelsson, experimentation and unorthodox flavor combinations are no mere jaunt: they're the result of decades of formal training combined with a desire to be true to his own unique, multicultural life. Born into poverty in Ethiopia and adopted by a middle-class Swedish family, he had a near-idyllic Scandinavian childhood, fishing with his father in the summer and learning traditional Swedish cooking from his grandmother. After high school, he began rigorous culinary training, working his way across Europe, and rung-by-rung up the ladder of the fine dining world. He finally came fully into his own in New York, a city that embodies the global food culture he'd dreamed of, and where he began to carve out his own identity as a master chef. With its harrowing beginning and a seemingly constant stream of triumphs offset by failures and tragedies, Yes, Chef would be a great read even without the culinary theme; as it stands, it's irresistible to anyone who loves food and cooking. -- John Peck
Ragnarok is the most recent novel by acclaimed writer A.S. Byatt. This thin, small book contains a dense and multi-limbed story of a girl escaping into the fantasy of Norse Mythology to make sense of, and endure, the British Blitz. This is the experience of Byatt's childhood, and as such is a child's glittering rendition of terror and imagination. Myth can be obtuse, especially the Norse tradition in which Armageddon, betrayal, and violence are central themes. But a child's psychological formlessness is adept at creating order from this chaos and Byatt's childlike retelling is both emotionally dramatic and beautiful. -- Cameron Carlson
I finished Blue Nights about a week ago and I've been contemplating it ever since. When I first spotted this book, I remembered how overcome I was with The Year of Magical Thinking, how utterly impressed I had been that Joan Didion could write about her year spent mourning her husband's death, and actually make it not only very readable for others, but inspirational as well. But has she been able to capture that same magic with Blue Nights? In fact, I stand in awe, realizing that yes, she has been able to capture that magic and more!
Blue Nights is a book of memories, most of which are precious, wonderful. It's also a book about parenting, the various conundrums of motherhood, and the questions that all mothers ask themselves about their abilities and choices as a parent. Didion writes about the initial longing for a child, the adoption process, and the pros and cons of being open about it.
We learn of her daughter Quintana's schooling, her friends, the celebrities that played a part in her growing up, and yes, there are the very fragile and tender passages where the author refers to the time between when someone becomes ill and when you first realize they are dying, kind of like the "blue nights; the long, blue evening hours that follow the summer solstice." Just as compelling are the author's own feelings about aging, coming to terms with the realization that all those things you once were able to do (those 4-inch heels you used to be able to wear) are now things of the past; but you will always have the memory of "white stephanotis woven into the braid that hung down her back," and "the day the plumeria tattoo showed through her veil."
I loved this book. There will not be one mother, nor any middle-aged woman, who will not laugh, and cry, and want to rush out and buy another copy for a friend. -- Linda Grana
Okay, so: you need to read this book. I don't care if you've never heard of Caitlin Moran -- she's an English journalist, and I hadn't heard of her either until an anglophile friend thrust a copy of her book into my hands. I don't care if you consciously think of yourself as a feminist -- although like Moran says, "When statistics come in saying that only 29 percent of American women would describe themselves as feminist...I used to think, What do you think feminism is, ladies? What part of 'liberation for women' is not for you?" I don't care if you're a man. (Moran again: "I'm neither 'pro-women' nor 'anti-men.' I'm just 'Thumbs up for the six billion.'") It doesn't matter, because what Moran does in this book is give real, fervent voice to all the unspoken truths about being a woman/person in the world -- things that feel obvious once she's put them on paper, but that you've never heard articulated. Whether she's discussing abortion or motherhood ("Batman doesn't want a baby in order to feel he's 'done everything'"), panty size or the c-word ("I like how shocked people are when you say [it]. It's like I have a nuclear bomb in my pants, or a tiger, or a gun"), she is brazen and brave -- about all the things that you really shouldn't need to be brave to say. Oh, and also she's hilarious. How to Be a Woman is like Bossypants with sharper teeth. Read it and pass it along. -- Anna Kaufman
The first few paragraphs of this book instantly transport you, as if you are an extra character sitting in grass so real you can almost smell it. Before you, two boys lie on a hillside enjoying an idle afternoon in the fleeting days of autumn. A feeling of foreboding takes hold and makes you want to reach down and tousle their hair one last time before their lives are forever altered by the imminent darkness. Ray Bradbury had this way of eliciting a moment that was palpable, so much so that you feel like you could intervene and change characters' destinies; alas, you cannot. Some stories are meant to be told. So sit back, linger over the words, and recall days gone by. Mr. Bradbury, you will be missed. -- Cheryl Ryan
Lloyd Kahn does his book layouts by hand. Each picture, each block of text: cut, pasted, arranged, and rearranged until the manuscript is one perfect piece. These digital days, that hands-on attention to detail is unheard of -- and that's exactly the level of fastidiousness and economy that Kahn brings to the subject of small homes. Drawing from regions around the world, Kahn showcases the most innovative tiny homes and their cutting-edge designers. Each house is brought to life with color photographs, design sketches, and first-hand accounts from the builders and owners of these amazing structures. My only disclaimer, dear friend, is that you will begin to feel the east wind on your face as you flip through these glossy pages. You will have the sudden urge to hitch your house to the back of a motorbike. You will be enchanted by the African domes, prairie hovels, Pacific-Northwestern tree houses, and whimsical re-claimed cabins. You'll probably take the measurements of your tool shed and practice sleeping in the linen closet. Downsizing has never been so magical. -- Sus Long
I promise this book will leave you gobsmacked! When it arrived in the store, I joyously carried it around with me for an entire day, pressing it into the hands of every co-worker and customer available. Seemingly drawn in colored chalk on a blackboard, double-page spreads show vibrant renderings of fish certainly not found in nature, swimming on one page with the single word emotion they portray printed on the opposite one in a style that corresponds to their feeling. Simple, right? Yep -- but I defy you not to be completely caught up in their "lives." "Confused," looking wide-eyed and made from variegated yard fragments; "Sure" smiling and with all his scales in orderly rows swimming confidently toward the page's edge. "Bored" is droopy-eyed and seems to be floating in place, while "Delighted" is making great progress through his ocean with joyful eyes and cherubic smile. Twenty-one emotions -- 21 images that are unforgettable. Whether you're 3, 30, or 300 years old, this book is all about how it makes you feel every time you read it...and it won't be just once! -- Pam Stirling