To balance all the anxieties, the fear, Halloween, and the election in our minds, it's good to reconnect to context. October is here: mellow fruitfulness. Hopefully, these recommended books will help some of us to keep perspective, from Housekeeping to Animal Life, turn of the century Vienna to The Gone-Away World, Mary Oliver's Thirst to a Bright Shiny Morning. Books such as these can now be found not only in Oakland and Malibu, but now at our new store in Brentwood, too! We opened with a wonderful event for Alan Alda on September 17th. With finishing touches yet to be completed, we'll be in full swing by mid-month - please come and see the new store.
For those who are curious about how indies are faring, here's this piece of news. We hope that you enjoy these reviews and our upcoming events.
John & all Dieselfolk
This intricately structured novel gracefully arcs through the last 110 years, marking out the significant moments, emotions, and meanings within one American family. The Little Book is a big book, embracing history and investigating the mutually defining actions of the individual on history and history on the individual. Full of humor, love and fine writing, it is an entertainingly intelligent novel, with a fascinating depiction of fin-de-siecle Vienna to boot. With Freud, Karl Kraus, and a Wittgenstein analogue, it is also a fascinating view of a remarkably poignant place and time. -- John
I have read a lot of science fiction in my brief time on this planet. Much of it is well-written, yet as the genre matures, "old stand-bys" have emerged such as androids, sentient programs, space-cathedrals, and alien races either bent on destroying us, or more recently, resisting our colonization (apropos topics change with the times). Nick Harkaway's The Gone Away World includes none of the above. In fact, a good portion of the novel reads as "straight" fiction (albeit strange) before the science surprises us by wiping out most of reality. Not the world itself - we already have bombs that do that - but the very informational structure of the world; and there is fall-out. With this "Gone Away World" as the backdrop, Harkaway introduces a well-realized cast of characters (military spooks, mimes, a kung fu teacher, ninjas, the French, a few pirates), and despite the calculatedly wacky line-up, resists slipping into the easy tropes of free-wheelin' humorous fiction. Instead, he crafts a world that allows his careful and wry commentary on love, politics, fear, and culture to illuminate the world-as-it-is. Adventurous, romantic, surprising, and sharp, The Gone Away World is an incredibly exciting first novel. -- Trevor
James Frey's crime of fibbing in his autobiography is one I am sure many memoirists would be guilty of were they under Oprah's microscope. That being said, I will readily admit that I truly do still like A Million Little Pieces and I really loved Bright Shiny Morning. I don't care that it was written by a hated author and takes place in a hated city and has a lot of characters you will most likely hate. Frey's jittery, sketchy, and frantic writing style beautifully illustrates tales set in the jittery, sketchy, and frantic city of Los Angeles. Though there are literally dozens of characters, stories, and historical facts woven into the novel, the focus is placed on the stories of a young couple from the Midwest, a homeless man who lives in Venice beach, a young housecleaner who works in Pasadena, and a privately homosexual A-List actor. Frey drags his characters through the muck of emotions one experiences when love or expectations are realized or shattered in a clichéd Hollywood dream. -- Jon
Watchmen is not only the best graphic novel out there, but also one of the most brilliantly conceived and executed pieces of fiction I've ever encountered. Rorschach is a paranoid vigilante who believes someone is offing masked adventurers and his persistence uncovers much more than he (or we) ever could have imagined. Two decades of history, from the end of WWII to the depths of the Cold War, memoirs of former crusaders, interviews, psychiatric documents, and scientific memoranda intersperse the story panels and add a level of complexity and meta-textual mold-breaking unmatched before or since. The moral dilemmas faced by the myriad characters and ethical questions raised are humongous in scope, and just as important now as when they were originally penned in 1984. -- Grant
In the first line of the first poem of this collection Mary Oliver writes: "My work is loving the world." Not such an easy thing to do in these interesting times. In simple words and phrases she tells us of her - and our - connection to everything. Dip into a refreshing moment of simple gratitude, from one of America's most worthy living poets. -- Anita
As the light grows thin and the air crisp with the coming of an autumn eve, I can think of no greater pleasure than to settle down with a copy of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. It is the immortal tale of Cathy and Heathcliff - two lovers whose passions mirror the windswept tumult of their childhood home. Heathcliff is magnetic, dark, and brooding - a gypsy boy found on the streets of Liverpool, much abused for his lowly birth. Cathy is beautiful, wild, and imperious. Together they brave the darkened moors, and are forever at odds with, enthralled by, and ultimately separated by the pampered inhabitants of nearby Thrushcross Grange. That is until Heathcliff returns as a young gentleman, to extract his revenge and reclaim the only thing he has ever loved. Pure drama! -- Colin
DK Publishing is known for its stunning photography, layout and informational architecture. Acclaimed as a children's, and adult, reference book publisher, setting the standards for clarity, accuracy, and vividness -- sometimes they exceed all high expectations. Animal Life, a collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History, belongs in every person's lap. It is the ultimate armchair travel book, a profound education in the lives of the creatures we cohabitate this planet with, and a wild artistic display of design virtuosity. Sit down, open this book, and experience again the absolute wonder a well-made book can provide. -- John Evans
Contemporary architecture, with its applied physics and abstract forms, is often less practical than the shelters created by the animal kingdom. The recognition of this fact and the growing sustainability revolution have led the artists and architects in Natural Architecture to build stunning and functional structures made entirely from the surrounding environment. Participating artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Patrick Dougherty, and Edward Ng have used twigs, pebbles, straw, and any other nearby materials from the natural world to build dwellings that allow the living landscape to not only coexist with them but also to take over and ultimately digest them. If you desire hope to offset the enormity of Alan Weisman's The World Without Us, Alessandro Rocca's beautiful book is an excellent place to start. -- Jon
This is a fantastic series by one of our great Native American authors, and Game of Silence is the sequel to The Birchbark House, though it easily stands alone and will invite new readers into this Ojibwe family. Nine-year-old Omakayas, which means Little Frog, lives on an island in Lake Superior and is constantly being tormented by her younger brother Pinch, or ignored by her beautiful but scarred older sister Angeline. But when the Raggedy Ones come ashore one summer and tell them that they have been forced out of their homelands, Omakayas and her family's lives will be changed forever. -- Anita