The year is now well under way and we're deep in the reading season (what season isn't?). We hope that you are continuing to enjoy these literary encouragements and samples from our fine selection of books in our stores. We wanted to also answer the many inquiries we are increasingly getting about how to acquire our wonderful titles as ebooks, from our website. Yes, you are right, you can buy ebooks from your local independent bookstore. For most devices, it is as easy as going to our website, clicking through the Google ebooks icon, signing up, and then selecting your titles. The important thing is to always do it through our website -- where your account will be set up and waiting for your next reading choice. The idea is simple: Buy Local-E. Support your local independent businesses when online -- why not?
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And Happy Reading,
John and all Dieselfolk
Set in the totalitarian state of North Korea, this new novel from Adam Johnson (Emporium, Parasites Like Us) revolves around the titular character, Pak Jun Do. Raised as an orphan in a society where orphans are assigned jobs so dangerous that many never see adulthood, he survives each day through a combination of discipline, luck, and sheer will. At first blush, The Orphan Master's Son comes across as an inverted Alice in Wonderland: through this looking glass, the world is stark and pale, equal parts horror and mundanity. But while the book portrays the requisite terror of life in the DPRK flawlessly, it soon brings forth enough dark humor, surreal encounters, and pitch-perfect dialogue to give even the most horrific passages their own particular beauty. There are shades of Kafka, Kurt Vonnegut, and David Mitchell, but Johnson's voice is all his own, and The Orphan Master's Son is a singular novel of incredible power. -- John Peck
Nine times out of 10, I would say that it helps to be familiar with the subject of an (auto)biography prior to diving into someone's life story -- especially if the person in question is a celebrity of some sort. If you don't know or care about what makes them celebrated, then what's the point? Occasionally, however, there's a bio or memoir that is simply so good as a book, it transcends its subject's relative fame. Enter: The Fry Chronicles. Whether or not you are familiar with the delightful English writer, actor, and comedian Stephen Fry -- and if not, allow me to indignantly sputter, why not? -- you will find yourself irrepressibly charmed by this account of his college years and the early part of his career. Fry's Cambridge of the late '70s and early '80s is a place of hilarity, embarrassment, learning, shockingly unacademic behavior, self-doubt, self-discovery, and life-long friendships -- highly relatable stuff, if you except the fact that Fry's college BFFs, Hugh and Emma, just happen to be Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson. The Fry Chronicles reads like an amusing, poignant, enjoyably digressive, and wonderfully, wonderfully English academic novel -- like a David Lodge book with more surprise celebrity cameos. Fry is everything you could hope for in a narrator: genial, warm, self-deprecating -- in every way, the consummate storyteller. -- Anna Kaufman
Ah, the bliss! Once in a while a novel comes along that captivates. Why, you ask? A book about baseball, boys, a tiny liberal arts college..who cares? I challenge you to pick it up and try to put it down. This is not just the opinion of a random bookseller; Harbach's debut was chosen by The New York Times and NPR as as one of the top 10 books of 2011. Every character is deeply flawed and equally compelling. The Paris Review said that The Art of Fielding is a novel about baseball the way that Moby-Dick is a fish story. Several customers have come into the store saying, "Best book of the year..."
Anna, the erudite and encyclopedic newsletter editor and Diesel Brentwood bookseller, asked me for three paragraphs and lots of feelings about this novel. I find quoting a choice passage the best defense against blowing hot air whilst illustrating Harbach's way with words...
"I don't know, Skrim." Schwartz shook his big head sadly. "Remember when it was easy to be a man? Now we're all supposed to look like Captain Abercrombie here. Six pack abs, three percent body fat. All that rap. Me, I hearken back to a simpler time." Schwartz patted his thick, sturdy midriff. "A time when a hairy back meant something."
"Profound loneliness?" Starblind offered.
"Warmth. Survival. Evolutionary advantage. Back then, a man's wife and children would burrow into his back hair and wait out the winter. Nymphs would braid it and praise it in song. God's wrath waxed hot against the hairless tribes. Now that's all forgotten. But I'll tell you one thing: when the next ice age comes, the Schwartzes will be sitting pretty. Real pretty."
Although baseball is not my sport of choice, Harbach seamlessly uses it as an analogy for life. He also made me want to read Melville, as the college team the Westish Harpooners are named in his honor. If you want a book to entertain, inform, or be a friend at your right hand, I highly recommend The Art of Fielding. -- Mia Wigmore
We all know we are hyper-connected and that social pressure to stay that way every moment of every day seems to be only increasing. People of most cultures, at specific and various points, have become suddenly more accessible, more communicative, more connected to their fellow citizens in bursts of societal or technological change. Powers presents a kind of history of these quantum leaps in connectivity. He also shows how there is a compensatory need to disconnect, so that we can absorb and integrate the information, knowledge, experiences that being connected bring to us. Our challenge in this always-online age is to create ways, modes, rituals, and habits that disengage us from the technology perpetually streaming through us. The examples he gives from ancient Greece to the present are fascinating not only in their echoing of our contemporary strain, but also in their brilliant re-invention of their interior lives. This is a pleasurable and prompting look at not only our relationships to society and to our technologies, but to ourselves. -- John Evans
I picked up Daniel Kehlmann's Fame because I was intrigued by the subtitle "A Novel in Nine Episodes." Linked or interconnected short stories is currently my favorite genre, and Fame is the best book I've read of this type in quite a while. A rather existential read, reminiscent of Charles Baxter's The Soul Thief as well as Paul Auster's work, I absolutely loved this study of identity: who we really are, who we strive to be, or even the "self" we yearn to escape from. The book has no main protagonist, with the three common characters (two authors and a movie star) mysteriously popping up in various episodes of the book. It begins when a new cell phone user begins to receive calls not for himself but for some guy named Ralf, who we find out later is the movie star. As the phone owner continues to answer calls for Ralf, he starts to play with the idea of actually being Ralf, laying bare the first issue of identity. Later, the real Ralf (or is it really the real Ralf?) shows up, along with other characters, who actually may or may not be characters in the novels of the authors in the story. And who is the narrator anyway!? Both the technology of the cell phone as well as glass or mirrors are referred to in almost every story, leaving you not really knowing who is who, and even if they really exist until the very end of the book, when it all comes full circle and you realize what a brilliant read this really is! -- Linda Grana
"I saw them after their arrival in Roubaix, in the showers. I saw bloody fingers, bruised arms, scratched legs, ripped jerseys covered by mud. All those baggy eyes with blank expressions were no doubt still seeing the trench at Arenberg..." This is not an account of World War I. It is writer Sebastien Japrisot's appraisal of the most notorious and difficult bicycle race in the world. Nicknamed l'enfer du Nord, the Hell of the North is 260 kilometers over cobblestones, dust-covered track, and mud. This magnificent book has all of the greatest champions, their rested bodies before the race and their mud-spattered faces of anguish at the finish line. Also included are rare pictures from the 1896 inaugural race and those from after the German occupation (a blasted, barren route from which the Paris-Roubaix derived its l'enfer). Sprinkled throughout the incredible high-detail photography are the writings of journalists, racers, and political figures. Awesome gift for anyone interested in cycling. -- Cameron Carlson
Keep Our Secrets is one of the coolest books I've seen in a long time. Being a child of the '80s with lots of Transformers, I'm totally a sucker for anything that involves color changing at all, so when I saw this book it was an instant attraction. Then when I actually read the book, and explored all the bizarre secrets that the two children uncover from underneath the color-changing ink on the pages, I knew it was true love. This book is best read aloud, in a whispering voice, naturally, and with someone you can trust to keep your secrets. Don't miss it. -- Joey Puente