This Saturday, November 7th, is the first annual National Bookstore Day! Created by the legendary trade magazine Publisher's Weekly, the idea is to celebrate the wide network of bookstores across the country. We will be celebrating the day with food and drink, door prizes, bookish games and quizzes and you are invited! It seems we should really have a National Reader Appreciation Day. We know that readers are what make bookstores what they are. So, please know that as we celebrate National Bookstore Day, we are also celebrating National Reader Appreciation Day. We are appreciating your wise choice to help to maintain bookstores like ours and to read the wide array of books we make available to you. We are partners with you in furthering your taste, your reading, your cultural exploring. Thanks for your support.
Happy Reading! John & all Dieselfolk
Many of the most compelling, engaging, and thrilling books of the last decade are what we now call narrative nonfiction. Books like Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City, Susan Casey's The Devil's Teeth, and Timothy Egan's own National Book Award winning The Worst Hard Time, are some examples. They manage to capture the visceral fascination of their subjects (murder, sharks, hurricanes, The Depression, fire) along with social history and, often, the history of an idea. All of this organized by sound storytelling structures, and you have a wonderfully fascinating read. Well-researched, compassionate, and vivid, Egan's new book tells the stories of: The Big Burn forest fire of 1910, the founding of the National Park system, the creation of the enduring idea of conservation, and the immigration and labor histories of the Rocky Mountain West. These gracefully interwoven stories create a memorable picture of the political, social, cultural, and natural forces at play at a pivotal moment in the nation's history. Add to this the powerful personalities of Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, and the wide array of characters who made up the first generation of forest rangers and you have a narrative nonfiction can't-put-down firestorm in your hands! -- John Evans
Scottish novelist Sara Maitland, her children grown and her marriage in tatters, finds herself drawn not only to a life of solitude but to one of silence. She begins with a 40 day retreat to a tiny stone cottage on an isolated moor. Her large, boisterous family greet this move with alarm. With silence defined as an absence of spoken word, her world is alive with the minute sounds of nature. Finding herself unable to write fiction she returns to her Cambridge roots with a compelling examination of the Romantic poets, the Desert Fathers and the dark side of the silence that leads to madness. She has given us a meditation of uncommon beauty that nourishes the intellect as well as the soul in much the same way as Kathleen Norris and Annie Dillard. -- Margaret Simpson
I'm one of those people who you would have figured has read everything Kurt Vonnegut has written, judging by the fact that I work at a bookstore and have a slightly perverted and darkly satirical outlook on life. Sadly, upon discussing a Vonnegut plot or essay, I have always had to cut the conversation short with the dagger, "I've never read Kurt Vonnegut before." This proclamation is received the same way as someone who would say they've never seen the Godfather or heard a Beatles record. After these interactions became unbearable, I decided to give in and read a frequently recommended title, Breakfast of Champions.
Upon completing my first Vonnegut novel, I've got to say, I am now a member of the "Oh My God You Have to Read Kurt Vonnegut" club. In Breakfast, a science fiction author, Kilgore Trout, writes work that never gets published or receives recognition until his novel "Now it Can be Told" ends up in the hands of Dwayne Hoover, a Pontiac salesman who is slowly going insane. Dwayne's imminent insanity boils over after he completes Trout's novel, which is a story in the form of a letter from a godly figure to a man living on a planet where every other living being is a machine. Dwayne perceives the book to be a letter to him, as he comes to the conclusion that he is the only human with free will, and that everyone around him is a machine. Violence and insanity ensue.
An excellent study of perception and solitude in small town America, Vonnegut's humor and message are spot on. I've never been a member of a book club, but after reading this novel, I wish I had 8 - 10 people to discuss it with. There are many characters that enter and exit the novel, and become chess pieces in Vonnegut's fictional (yet all too real) American town. The writing is frantic when it needs to be, organized at the right moments, and has fantastically sarcastic descriptions of rural outlooks and attitudes. Vonnegut's illustrations also help to provide the tone and pace of the story. Even if you've already read this book, you should read it again, come into the store, and chat with me about it. One of us will probably be a better person by the end of the conversation. -- Jon Stich
Ms. Hempel is a woman on the verge - of an epiphany, a break-up, a parent-teacher conference. Twenty-nine years old and engaged to be married, her feet are firmly planted in the world of adults. Yet the lives of her seventh grade students have a strange hold on her. They are beautiful through her eyes - full of the awkward intensity that time has yet to smooth away. But their vulnerability, from their tumultuous inner worlds and the dangers that lurk about them, frightens her, and reminds her of her own adolescence - an infatuation with punk rock, her mother's "chinese-ness," the death of her dad, a mysterious telephone caller. Funny, honest, true-to-life yet full of surprises, Ms. Hempel Chronicles bravely considers a possibility few are willing to face: does seventh grade ever really end? -- Colin Waters
Whether you're looking for a seminal yet oft-overlooked American classic or simply a concise and well told story, this book is for you. Without turning the story into any sort of jeremiad, Fante addresses the clash between religious piety and social humanism; the fine line between selfish lust and sacrificial love; the strife within filial affection; and the humiliation and early inbreeding of racism in a way that still resonates with astounding clarity. Yet, all of these broad issues couldn't be more implicit to the story's characters and their situations. This book introduces us to Arturo Bandini, an American archetype as classic as Huck or Tom, in a way that will immediately peak your interest toward the rest of his saga. Read if you enjoy anything from S. E. Hinton to Bukowski to Kerouac to Knut Hamsun or Raymond Carver. -- Thomas Bailey
A beautiful and eerie collection of photographs of (mostly) abandoned state mental hospitals. There are two informative essays by the photographer, Christopher Payne, and one by neurologist and author Oliver Sacks, but the images speak for themselves. Payne highlights the grand, imposing edifices of these decaying institutions, their grandeur making it possible to understand how a mental asylum was once considered a great coup for a community. But it's impossible not to also see the dreams hidden away behind these crumbling walls. The fact that the noble ideals with which these places were built disintegrated over time manifests itself with stunning literalness in swirls of peeling paint, moldering ceilings, and leaf-strewn breezeways. Similarly, the people society has left behind are evoked with the simple image of an abandoned rack of multicolored patient toothbrushes. -- Anna Kaufman
I never, and I mean never, finish a book and feel sheer joy. Most ultra happy-feeling novels seem cheesy and manipulative in that sort of Pepsi ad way, and just being conscious of this drives me nuts and makes me not want to finish. Hold Still, however, is unlike any novel I have ever read. Caitlin and Ingrid have been best friends throughout high school, but Caitlin's life is thrown into a tailspin when Ingrid commits suicide a few months before the start of the fall semester of high school. The loss of a dear friend coupled with the kind of trauma that only high school years are capable of producing send Caitlin into an understandably deep sorrow that seemingly will not end. It is during her self-exile that Caitlin comes across Ingrid's journal, a relic intentionally hidden under her bed. Upon reading the journal entries, Caitlin learns more about Ingrid and becomes progressively more open in discussing the subject among friends, parents, and peers. Her path to recovery is not only incredibly heartwarming and real, but is a spectacular study of the roller coaster of emotions one experiences in their teen years. This book left me feeling genuinely happy and, I have to admit, made me cry. -- Jon Stich