The Indie bookstore resurgence was, of course, not predicted by business commentators, nor media pieces, nor even many in the publishing world. It was something that most indie booksellers felt in our bones, and which we at DIESEL bodied forth with two additional bookstores, in Larkspur and LA -- doing our part.
We all have a tendency to simplify our imaginations of the future and turn the maelstrom of possible narrative lines into a convenient and soothing mechanical plotline. This is especially true of election years where promotion obviously outweighs substance. But we also notice it more during election years. The media scrambles to provide statistics proving that they do have substance, they do check (some) facts and that we need the Press. We do need them -- to do this every day, locally, nationally and globally and to be critical, probing and exposing on our behalf. To not just tow the line.
Whether it is fiction or nonfiction, or those other subjects that seem to transcend those categories -- poetry, art, spirituality, essays -- in-depth explorations of the complex realities of the world are presented in carefully crafted and thought-through creations called books. They are available at your local bookstore, offered to you by the hands and minds of caring readers called booksellers, who are glad to talk you through the wild riot of choices to help you be oriented amidst the maelstrom, or to gently open up your tendency to simplify aspects of the world into a little box. It's fun, it's exciting, it's necessary. Come in and enjoy it. Happy Reading! John & All DIESELfolk
Sudden Death is going to be a revelation for a whole lot of people this year. (It was already my favorite book of 2016 when I read an advance copy in 2015!)
We are in the midst of a new golden age of Mexican literature, and Sudden Death has opened even more audacious paths for this most cosmopolitan storytelling. To retell the plot does the novel very little service -- which isn't to say it is plot-less or even particularly difficult to follow. Rather, it is tightly wound (not unlike the balls used in the epic duel of a tennis match that functions simultaneously as the novel's centerpiece and frame) and bounds expertly between centuries from Old World to New.
Sudden Death is, at its core, a very angry book - specifically, at the insipid successes of the world's colonizers - but it is an anger born of play and the censure of comedy. The bad guy may always win in the end, Enrigue seems resigned to say, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the losers' little victories along the way. -- Brad J.
A poet's formal daring and sense of the incongruous suffuse each page of this mesmerizing novel about the swirl and chaos of a young translator's self-becoming. A brilliant translator herself, Novey takes the classic noir convention of the missing person - here, the once "sizzling," now massively indebted Brazilian writer Beatriz Pagoda - and dismembers it (yes, there will be blood) to give us the best kind of modern thriller, one that raises many more questions than it answers. To read Ways to Disappear is to plunge into its darkness voluntarily, as a translator plunges readily into the seductive darkness of not knowing. I inhaled it in one long gasp, and am already itching to begin it again. -- Katie A.
Harper Lee has just died; fifty-six years ago she published To Kill a Mockingbird, the story of heroic lawyer Atticus Finch and his attempt to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, from a false charge of rape made by a white woman. What a lot of people neglect to focus on, as Bryan Stevenson points out in this painful, moving, necessary memoir, is that Atticus' defense fails. Tom Robinson is convicted, then killed. The irony is not lost on Stevenson as he goes to Monroe County, Alabama, the setting of Lee's novel and a community that has made an industry out of celebrating her work, to defend another falsely convicted black man -- the conviction the result of an obvious set-up by local law enforcement that has nevertheless landed his innocent client on death row. This case serves as the centerpiece of Just Mercy, but Stevenson details many more from his twenty-year career, all of them heartbreaking and infuriating in different ways. The book is a compelling page-turner, not in spite of but because of the outrageous civil rights abuses Stevenson exposes: racism, jury tampering, cruel and unusual treatment of the mentally ill, children, the poor. You keep reading hoping for a happy ending, the miraculous appearance of justice, but Lee couldn't conceive of a happy ending to her novel fifty-six years ago, and unfortunately, in Stevenson's depiction of reality more than half a century later, not much -- and certainly nowhere near enough -- has changed.
Just Mercy is an essential book because it's a reminder that this type of injustice is not a thing of the past, a problem we've "solved." It's current, it's ongoing, and people like Stevenson are still actively fighting it every day. Toward the end of the book, Stevenson describes a meeting with legends of the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks and Johnnie Carr. "Ooooh, honey," said Parks, after hearing about his work, "that's going to make you tired, tired, tired." Then Carr leaned forward and said, "That's why you've got to be brave, brave, brave."
If only we could all be even a fraction as courageous. Let's start by not forgetting. Read this book and stay aware, stay aware, stay aware. -- Anna K.
With increasing frequency, great strides are made in physics. Dark matter, the Higgs-Boson, quantum teleportation, and most recently, confirmation of the existence of gravitational waves raise questions about the structure of the universe that seem more relevant than ever. Yet if you're not steeped already in the theoretical physics, it can be difficult to make sense of the significance of these discoveries. How can space ripple? How can a black hole generate matter? And, not least, so what? Enter Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. Already a bestseller in Italy, Rovelli's slim distillation of the major breakthroughs of the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries is an elegant dip into a very complicated and ever-evolving subject. In short, concise - even eloquent -chapters, Rovelli touches on quantum mechanics, general relativity, thermodynamics, and perhaps most significantly, our own role in all of this mind-bending, head-spinning hubbub. -- Chris P.
Lockhart's discussion of what's great about math, and what's terrible about how math is taught, raised my spirits enormously. Keith Devlin's introduction is also well worth reading.
The true value of this book is that it may help explain to parents and administrators that math can be an art form as well as a useful tool. -- Alex M.
Pierre Hermé, a.k.a. the "Picasso of Pastry", is renowned for his macarons. His unique flavor combinations tantalize taste buds from Tokyo to New York with pairings like wasabi cream and strawberry, espelette pepper and lemon, and cucumber tangerine. Even the classic flavors -- vanilla, chocolate, and coffee -- are elevated to perfection.
This collection contains recipes for more than sixty variations of macarons, each accompanied by decadent, eye-popping photos. Also included is an illustrated, step-by-step kitchen guide offering tips and advice for making this persnickety confection. Whether you're an inspired baker or just a lover of these gorgeous sweet gems, this book is top notch. -- Cheryl R.
Bloom is a fairy with the magical power to make things, but her boots are heavy and muddy, which makes her unpopular with the other subjects of the glass kingdom where she lives. Bloom decides she's had enough and leaves the kingdom for the sanctuary of the forest. It doesn't take long before the glass kingdom starts to collapse and the king and queen want to ask Bloom for her magical help. Bloom presents them each with a bucket of mud, and the royalty are so offended that they storm back to the kingdom. Eventually they decide to send the quietest girl in the kingdom to meet with the fairy. And that's when it gets really interesting.
There is so much to love in this book. The artwork manages to be both traditional and a little edgy, whilst the plot is a genuinely inventive fairy story. This is a longer picture book, perfect for older children between 4 and 8 years old, and there's plenty to discuss: the value of quiet listening, the value of childhood play, the intransigence of tradition, the power of new ideas, and of course the idea of a practical fairy -- who doesn't need to be sparkly to be marvelous. -- Clare D.