The shelves are filling up with the wonderful books of the season. Gift books, novels, kids' books, art books, cookbooks, histories, biographies, and science books are all crowding the shelves in anticipation of being read. Our Malibu store has reopened in a beautiful new location at the Malibu Country Mart. Our website overflows with ebooks awaiting download into every possible non-proprietary e-reader. Books and ebooks abound -- all available at your local, independent bookstore. Keep main street alive, get the best selection, professional recommendations, and hold and peruse the actual books before purchasing them in any form. This season, read globally, buy locally.
John & all Dieselfolk
A fantastic premise -- what happens when a third of the world's population just instantly disappears -- becomes the starting point for a moving and thoughtfully realistic exploration of the way we handle grief personally, familially, and societally. Set in a small town and mostly focusing on one family in that town, told from each character's point of view, this is a masterful look at the perpetual refashioning of the forms our lives, our beliefs, and our emotions take. By the author of Election and Little Children, The Leftovers is one of the don't-miss novels of the year. -- John Evans
I loved this little gem of a book! It's so much more than just a cute dog book -- this book is something special. Though it comes in a small package, it packs a powerful three-part punch! Klam tells of her adventures in dog rescue, and her passion for it shines through. Focusing on three different episodes of fun and fur in her canine rescue efforts, you can just feel the love, warmth, and compassion the author, her husband, and her daughter have as they stop at nothing to find loving homes for lost or abandoned dogs. Recounting her rescue work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Klam tells her story with a depth of feeling and yes, happy endings! Love at First Bark is a must-read for dog lovers and a perfect gift for their friends. -- Linda Grana
How does one describe the experience of reading a Haruki Murakami novel to those who have never had the pleasure? It seems an almost insurmountable task. More than any novelist I have read, Murakami is unique. One can perhaps draw comparisons to magical realist authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or to those Murakami himself has cited as inspirations, such as Raymond Carver. But no one truly combines vivid, incisive depictions of the everyday with moments of pure surrealist awe in the way Murakami can. I used the word "experience" and that's very much what reading him is: Murakami's novels are books to lose yourself in; worlds into which you can dive deep and not surface for hours, days, weeks. There's a sequence in Sputnik Sweetheart -- which is not even one of his more significant works -- that I still find myself thinking about, and never without wondrous, rapturous chills.
If you are familiar with Murakami, you're probably wondering where his latest opus, 1Q84, falls within the canon. Longer even than the epic Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, it is nevertheless Murakami's most tightly plotted work since Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. And, like Hard-Boiled Wonderland, the narrative is -- at least initially -- divided between two parallel plotlines: the story of Tengo, a mathematics instructor with writerly ambitions who gets pulled by his editor into a scheme involving a strange novella with an even stranger 17-year-old authoress; and that of Aomame, a young woman who steps out of her taxicab on the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway and into a subtly different world.
To say any more about how these two stories develop and eventually connect would be to spoil the wonderful sense of discovery that accompanies a novel of this sort. Epic, intricate, and filled with quirky details and the sly sense of humor I don't think Murakami gets enough credit for, 1Q84 is a journey full of twists, turns, sudden dead ends, and digressions that double back, threading themselves into the main plot in surprising and unexpected ways. I read it slowly over the course of a month, and spent that time feeling like I knew Tengo and Aomame's minds almost as well as my own. No matter what oddities Murakami's characters encounter, their psychologies -- rooted as they may be in a childhood immersed in a religious cult, or in the persistent memory of as a baby seeing your mother having her breasts suckled by a man not your father (to pull two examples from this book) -- remain utterly convincing and real. When Aomame steps out of 1984 and into the altered 1Q84, it feels perfectly natural to make the journey along with her.
Murakami's world is one seen through wide eyes: full of detail and color, with new wonders and terrors around every corner -- and singular, startling images that will linger long after you've set the book aside. Picture a drive-in movie theater in the middle of nowhere, the vast screen white against the black sky; the sun dips behind the dusky hills, the stars scatter themselves, the moon rises. And as you sit there, alone on the hood of your car, images ripple into being before you: vivid, strange, and sharp -- not to mention perfectly scored. That cinematic quality, that immersive, full-body experience, is one you're unlikely to find anywhere else. But in the beautiful, disturbing world of 1Q84, it's there. Murakami will pull you in from the very first page -- and I doubt he'll ever let you go. -- Anna Kaufman
Nelson Mandela is without question one of the most important political figures of the 20th century. His achievements against Apartheid and in contemporary African politics are tremendous and hugely consequential. His memoir, Long Walk to Freedom, is beautifully written. Mandela has a clear, well developed prose voice that unfolds his life as an intoxicating story filled with drama, tragedy, and humor. His intellect untangles the complicated knot of South African history and chronicles an incredible resistance to the violent force of oppression. -- Cameron Carlson
Monzo has a talent for unveiling the unnamed spaces that exist amongst humans and their surroundings. He performs this by laying the groundwork of his scenarios a step outside commonsense, without logic. It is like each story is an experiment. By taking the absurd as a basic assumption, nothing is outside of discovery. And thanks to Monzo's courage and wit in the face of the surreal, the reader is allowed to face certain questions of time and morality that would otherwise generally remain unaddressed. For example: the incidental auto-forecast of one's own death. Or better, the pressure on the prophet to initiate inadvertent prophesies and subsequent persecution for perpetrating false prophesies under pressure. Monzo even performs an anti-metamorphosis upon a cockroach turning him from insect to man and playfully spinning Kafka around on himself. Like a great comedian, he is able to touch on potentially devastating revelations as candidly as if he were discussing the weather. It is like he is asking the reader, "Is it raining today?" And it is raining by the way. The reader then has a choice. "Yes it is raining." Or, "No, no it is not raining." No matter what nobody is going outside anymore because at this point they will definitely end up getting soaked. You can see how useful this book is. -- Daniel Nelson
Shhhh...I've never read Moby-Dick. A travesty, I know, but as soon as I saw this, I immediately had to open it. Something about the artwork, its rawness, rang true. Turns out that the artist is not formerly trained, just a free spirit who every time he reads Melville's Moby-Dick garners more meaning that enriches his life. The book so inspired him that he followed the example of Zak Smith, who illustrated every page of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (now that is an undertaking!). Every day, for 552 days, Kish read a page and interpreted it through whatever medium was available. This was usually ink, marker, pencil, and acrylic, expressed mostly on found paper. The ferocity of the images swells. The progression of them hastens me to turn the pages, yet I must take time to read the corresponding passage on each page. This only leaves me wanting more. This winter, I vow to read Moby-Dick, and as I do, I will surely gaze upon each of these drawings with a more complete understanding. Will you join me? -- Cheryl Ryan
I read The Apothecary by Maile Meloy in one sitting. It introduces Janie, a strong-willed 14-year-old whose screenwriter parents are blacklisted during the McCarthy era and forced to relocate to London. There she befriends an apothecary's son, and adventures involving alchemy and espionage ensue. Meloy's first book for children reminds me of Daniel Pinkwater's The Neddiad, another grand and magical middle-grade novel set (partially) in Los Angeles in the 1950s. The illustrations are superb, and cinematically enhance the story à la The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It would make a wonderful holiday present for ages 9-12. -- Mia Wigmore