Midwinter sunlight is perfect for dreamy outdoor reading in California: park benches, cafes, bus stops, backyards, beaches. Here you'll find some inspiration for winter reading amidst the mammalian slower pace of the season. Also, don't forget that Valentine's Day presents the opportunity for well-chosen gifts that express love, thoughtfulness, and big-heartedness. Hope you have a wonderful month of love and reading. See you in the store!
John & all DIESELfolk
Outline is a meditation on observation. Faye is a teacher spending the summer conducting a writing seminar in Athens. What follows is not a page-turning plot, but rather a series of exchanges -- with the man seated beside her on the plane, with a colleague, with her students and friends. The result is philosophical and beautiful.
I love Cusk's writing style so much it needs to be quoted. During her first conversation with her neighbor on the plane, he observes, "A sentence is born into this world neither good nor bad, and to establish its character is a question of the subtlest possible adjustments, a process of intuition to which exaggeration and force are fatal. Those lines concerned the art of writing, but looking around himself in early middle age my neighbor began to see they applied just as much to the art of living. Everywhere he looked he saw people as it were ruined by the extremity of their own experiences."
Outline is spare and contemplative, engaging the reader with a clean cadence that reminded me of Panorama City by Antoine Wilson. -- Mia W.
Anne Lamott is back! I read her latest book of essays on a plane to India. To write about Anne pales in comparison to reading her. About a peace march in San Francisco, she writes, "My favorites were the people dressed as sheep on stilts, who resembled huge silver masked-ball aliens, with horns and curly tinsel wool, like puppets that Louis XIV might have commissioned. No one had any idea why they were sheep, or why they were on stilts. Maybe they were peace sheep, and maybe they just wanted to see better."
Anne succeeds, at least for me, because she sees herself completely -- with unflinching and hilarious honesty that helps me be willing to see and accept myself. Like a best friend, she alchemizes ordinary life in a way that made me want to hang out reading her all day. I laughed and cried, then I read the book. Just kidding, that's a Steve Martin joke. I love The Anne! -- Mia W.
A lot of our reading is for pleasure, whether it be for aesthetic indulgence or indulgent distraction from the workaday of modern life. Sometimes, usually without you expecting, occasionally against your will, a book comes along that defies pleasure -- that makes you feel uncomfortable, with each left-to-right tick of the eyes, and right-to-left tock of the pages -- and becomes necessary. For me (and a growing number daily), Claudia Rankine's prose-poem, Citizen, is such a book. Rankine punctures any illusion we might have or wish to conjure that America is "post-racial." Here she recounts, in verse, prose, and image, the countless micro-aggressions (slips of the white tongue and assumptions of the white mind) that seem so small, but accumulate in various ways, from police conduct to polite society, to stifle black speech and action . . . black lives. Few books on our shelves, I dare say, matter as much as this one today. (Here's a clip of her reading an excerpt.) -- Brad J.
Imagine a future where books disappear and entire libraries are burned to the ground. Pretty well-worn territory, sure, but Cortazar starts from this horrible vision, encountered in a popular Mexican comic book (Fantomas, La Amenaza Elegante [Fantomas, The Elegant Threat]), and weaves one of the most delectably "meta-" fictions ever written. In this future of anti-intellectualism, when not only the books but the authors are being targeted by a massive global conspiracy, who can we turn to?
Well, Fantomas, the comic's white-masked hero, obviously. Cortazar re-purposes a special issue to feature lots of guest authors, including Moravia, Paz, Sontag, and even himself. In Cortazar's rendition we find that a superhero, with his singular focus and reckless disregard for the destruction of personal property, is exactly the kind of hero we don't need. What's more, a superhero is actually rather inept in the face of a global conspiracy whose arms are legion, who thrives when its crimes are known but permitted by the complacency of those around it. While decidedly tongue-in-cheek, the book is a desperate cry from the soul. Written in the despondent days after Cortazar's participation in the Second Russell Tribunal, Fantomas is Cortazar's attempt to call attention to the gross, and often ignored, realities of politics and foreign policy by using the mass appeal of pulp comics. -- Chris P.
Described by some as The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor & Park, All the Bright Places may just be your favorite YA novel of 2015. It's a heart-wrenching love story about the lives of two teenagers from very different backgrounds who meet on the top of their school's bell tower. "To jump or not to jump?" has long been protagonist Theodore Finch's question, as he constantly debates the possibility of his suicide. It had never before been a question for Violet Markey, yet there she is, at the top of of the bell tower, with her toes hanging off the railing and her mind whirling. Follow the story of these two teenagers as they embark on their journey through high school, love, and finding themselves in the world. You're guaranteed to laugh and cry. -- Quinn A.
Unless you subscribed to Redbook magazine in the 1950's, you've probably never encountered these gorgeous examples of logical presposterosity. Fortunately, they've been rescued from the archives and published here for the first time in book form. All four stories are rediscovered classics, but my favorite is the Mulberry Street story, "How Officer Pat Saved the Whole Town." I feel terrible for my younger self who never got to read or hear these stories. Fortunately, the children in your life need suffer no such deprivation. Ages 4 and up. --Alex M.
This new Wooden Books collection combines six of their existing design titles into one volume. The result is a sourcebook filled with descriptions and illustrations explaining Celtic and Islamic design, as well as the design considerations for curves, perspective, symmetry, and the so-called Golden Section. It makes a great resource for all visual artists and designers or anyone wanting to learn more about visual design. -- Alan D.