July 2008

Stalks

Hi All,

 

With Independence Day celebrations beginning it seems as good a time as any to celebrate our independents. With the closing of several prominent, internationally-recognized bookstores in the last couple of months -- Dutton's in Brentwood, Cody's Books and the Graduate Theological Bookstore in Berkeley -- it seems important to take stock of where independent bookselling stands, what it stands for, and what stands against it. Simply put, many stores like ours are doing well, supported by dedicated, intelligent communities of readers who understand the pleasures, virtues, and vital services neighborhood bookstores offer. The closures of these stores should not be misread as some fateful indication of the inevitable decline of independent businesses. However, they do reveal the risks threatening independent businesses these days: escalating overhead costs including rent; reader choices gravitating toward media-encouraged internet purchasing; publisher accomodation to the pressures from increasingly consolidated clients (Amazon, Costco, Walmart, chains) leveraging their power to secure preferential terms. All of these forces work against the greater health of the culture and combine to threaten neighborhood bookstores. Most of them can be alleviated through very simple acts: do not heed the media's predictions and recommendations for "consumer" behavior; do not increase, through your purchases, the centralised power of large internet and chain companies which distort the markets of cultural goods; and support your local stores. (For more on independent bookstores, check out IndieBound.) Please excuse the rant, but it just has to be said. We hope you enjoy our recommendations and have a summer full of wonderful books.

Happy Reading!
John & all Dieselfolk

 

 

Staff Pick Logo
In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto Cover Image
$21.95
ISBN: 9781594201455
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Press - January 1st, 2008

If the amount of science and research that goes into the American diet has ever seemed excessive and perhaps unwarranted, it's because such experiments have never led to a healthier society. Michael Pollan investigates the food industry once again in his newest work, this time focusing on the processing of food. Take a potato, break down its elements, and make a newer potato with less of the bad and more of the good. Then slap a Red Cross sticker on that sucker and ship it out. The problem with this distinctively American process is that there is no proof that a potato made in a science lab with fewer carbohydrates or fats actually improves your health. If anything, the fact that we in the U.S. are the unhealthiest and fattest of the western world should be convincing enough to prove that our diet of processed and theoretically improved foods are anything but. Pollan gives us a terrific companion to The Omnivore's Dilemma, and another abundance of reasons to shop local. -- Jon Stich


Staff Pick Logo
Escape from Amsterdam Cover Image
$23.95
ISBN: 9780312380403
Availability: Special Order - Please call to confirm availability
Published: Minotaur Books - June 10th, 2008

Sherwood begins his book with a quote by the Japanese poet Basho: "Even in Kyoto, I long for Kyoto," which is apropos as this adventurous tale does not actually take place in Amsterdam, but rather in a city-sized Dutch-themed amusement park simulacrum in South Japan. Aozora owes a lot of money to a small time gambling boss, and the only way he can lay his hands on the type of money he owes is by signing for a sizable inheritance; trouble is: his sister has to sign too and she's under the thumb of a Yakuza boss. From here the narrative takes off like a Guy Ritchie film dodging through all the weirdness that is contemporary Japan: giant concrete tetrapods, girls who only speak in questions, violent bosozoku (hoodlums), weekend-monks - and Aozora, a lonely twenty-something slacker who may be just clever enough to stay alive, make a little money, and save his sister. -- Trevor Calvert


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Girls in Trucks Cover Image
$21.99
ISBN: 9780316002110
Availability: Special Order - Please call to confirm availability
Published: Little, Brown and Company - April 1st, 2008

The protagonist of this novel, Sarah, is a southern debutante with a cynical attitude and an open heart. Crouch explores love as a powerfully engaging, messy, unpredictable, and dangerous force that leads Sarah from South Carolina to New York and back again. This novel is a romp! A great summer read! -- Izzy Cohen


Staff Pick Logo
The Complete Persepolis Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9780375714832
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - click to see which location!
Published: Pantheon Books - October 30th, 2007

Persepolis is narrated by a young girl but crafted with the eloquence of a woman with added perspective. Satrapi reflects on her childhood in Iran, as she struggles to negotiate her own identity in the midst of violence, fear, and fundamentalism. The combination of pictures and writing create a fluidity that is only accessible in the graphic novel genre. A coming of age story, but relatable for adults and teenagers alike! Brilliant, heartfelt and hilarious! -- Izzy Cohen


Staff Pick Logo
The Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780465003570
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Basic Books (AZ) - April 8th, 2008

Robert Frank is the Professor of Management and Economics at Cornell University and since the 1980s he has been asking his students to pose questions about the oddities they encounter in their daily lives regarding economics in our society. This book poses most of the questions and describes the answers in very easy to understand terms. For instance, why is it legal to drive while eating a cheeseburger or drinking coffee but not while talking on a cell phone? Why does a new cell phone cost $39.99 and its battery costs $59.99? Why is there Braille on drive-through ATMs? Hundreds of questions regarding all walks of life are posed in the book, and I learned quite a few things that had never occurred to me to think about before. I highly recommend this book for anyone curious about everyday economic ideas and searching for a painless introduction to them. Great reference! -- Karen Keith


Staff Pick Logo
Broken World Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9781566891981
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - click to see which location!
Published: Coffee House Press - April 2007

Joseph Lease's Broken World is a lament, a jazz melody, an explanation of how the world (both personal and political) ends. These poems keenly, delicately explore all that is no longer here and never-was-but-should-have-been. Lease's lines are formally austere, using the page and caesura to evoke the space needed for the ideas he presents. These poems exercise a vulnerable, wry negative-awareness that nonetheless accepts us, not in spite of, but rather exactly for everything we lack as individuals and as a nation. "The elegies are taking off their clothes--" (p. 39): indeed they are, and with such abandon. -- Trevor Calvert


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Spaced Out: Radical Environments of the Psychedelic Sixties Cover Image
$65.00
ISBN: 9780847831050
Availability: Special Order - Please call to confirm availability
Published: Rizzoli - June 17th, 2008

Alistair Gordon's Spaced Out is one of the smartest and most visually insightful looks at the Sixties I've seen. Done up in photo/art fashion, it pairs stunning full page images with clear, textbook commentary. Photos of crash pads, people on LSD, psychedelic clubs, be-ins, and multimedia light and dance shows convey the chaos and energy of the time while the text reminds us that beneath all the sex, drugs, and rock n' roll there was some very serious social experimentation going on. The overarching theme of the book is space - inner and outer, public and private - culminating in an examination of hippie architecture. Just as the middle ages produced the gothic cathedral, the psychospiritual ecovisionaries of the sixties and early seventies adopted the geodesic dome as the physical embodiment of their ideals. Tepees, flowing womblike structures, and other revolutionary designs tested the limits of architecture and set the tone for today's green building techniques. In the end, one is left with not just another trip, but an exciting and important piece of history. -- Colin Waters


Staff Pick Logo
Foyle's Philavery: A Treasury of Unusual Words Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9780550103291
Availability: Special Order - Please call to confirm availability
Published: Chambers - February 1st, 2008

Since most grammar based publications make me want to abacinate myself, I typically avoid the genre. However, judging Foyle's Philavery by its floral cover and classic binding, I decided to pick up this collection of unusual words. Upon investigation, my futilitarian beliefs about grammar Nazis were decisively exauctorated from my system. Not only have I been a desipient hierodule to the hermeneutics of this text, but my mentagra has induced my triskaidekaphobia. So whether you are a derodidymus acarologist, a mardy matross, or just dabble in maritodespotism, Foyle's Philavery will make you want to build your own zenana. -- Jon Stich


Staff Pick Logo
Beware of the Frog Cover Image
By William Bee, William Bee (Illustrator)
$15.99
ISBN: 9780763639204
Availability: Special Order - Please call to confirm availability
Published: Candlewick - June 24th, 2008

Better watch out for those beady yellow eyes, this is no ordinary frog. Mrs. Collywobbles lives on the edge of a big, dark, scary forest. In said forest terrible creatures live, many of whom wish for nothing more than to dine on elderly women. But they never seem to pay attention to the sign that clearly reads, 'Beware of the Frog.' And so goes this boldly illustrated, playfully narrated tale; but, lest you go the way of the grievous (and irreverently rendered) monsters that do not heed the warnings on Mrs. Collywobbles gate, dear reader, please beware of the twist ending. -- Grant Outerbridge


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Children's Miscellany: Useless Information That's Essential to Know Cover Image
$12.99
ISBN: 9780811850674
Availability: Special Order - Please call to confirm availability
Published: Chronicle Books - August 1st, 2005

The title of this book absolutely describes what it is, a comprehensive guide to seemingly useless information. I say seemingly useless because I could argue that it's actually quite necessary to know how to milk a cow, that an icosagon is a 20 sided figure, that kathisophobia is a fear of sitting down, or that ants never sleep. Wouldn't it be embarrassing to put on your finest fake mustache to go to church only to learn that it isn't allowed in Alabama? I know that my face (even under the fake mustache) would be red! Oh, and if I were you I would avoid celebrating my birthday in Canada, unless you really love butter. I could go on forever about the fascinating information found in this book; I get excited each time I pick it up and peruse its fact-filled pages. Beware: you might become an annoying fountain of useless information to your friends and family, spewing facts for every occasion; but they'll thank you when you coach them through that alligator attack. -- Elise Clarkson