Excitable Bookselling: On Helen MacDonald's H IS FOR HAWK


If you’ve been in the store the past week or so you’ve heard us gushing over Helen MacDonald’s tremendous new book, H is for Hawk. Brad at the Oakland store, in particular, has turned talking to people about the book into a mixed-martial-art submission move. He's a little excitable sometimes. In any event, we love seeing debut authors come out of the gate so strong, and are very excited to see the New York Times is slowly catching up with our level of enthusiasm. 

"Paste in the video! Paste in the video!" Brad is screeching. So, here goes:


On "Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace"


I remember the day vividly: sitting in the stacks of the Cincinnati Public Library, my feet propped up, headphones on. I'd been self-educating myself in jazz the past year or so, and I was wading into the deeper waters of Max Roach's We Insist! album. And then “Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace” came on. With it, a whole new world of music, history, political protest, and possibility broke upon me — not bad for a nine-minute song with no recognizable words.

What I appreciated most about “Triptych” then, and still today, listening to it as I type these words, is how Abbey Lincoln so completely inhabits her lament and her anger . . . and maybe her sensuality as a whole. Her voice in this track, as it were, takes on physical form. Coupled with Roach’s drum especially, you’re thumped in the chest, first with her thumb, then her elbow; you see her chest heave, almost luridly; and you feel her breath inside your ear and against your neck. By the time the song ends, you’ve not so much “seen through her eyes,” as you’ve been seen, finally, by her. Oh, Abbey Lincoln . . . how we miss you.    -- Brad J. 

Best of the Best Books of 2014 Lists


It's that time of year . . . the Best Books of the Year list season! What is your custom to ring in this special time? Maybe you swap considered opinions with friends during dinner and grumble grievances alone over leftovers. Do you cobble together your own lists, in defiance of what "They" (whoever they are) say? Or perhaps you're "Normal" (whatever that is) and have a few regular lists that you trust, take a few notes, and shuffle over to your local Diesel to give them a look?

The list below does not intend to be comprehensive. Consider it a sort of Best of the Best Books of 2014 Lists. And be sure to check back on it from time to time this month. It's early December, after all, and arriving late to the party is as much a holiday tradition as throwing one in the first place.