July 2013


Dear Reader,

July is the time...to open a new bookstore! We are opening our new Larkspur store very soon! It will be beautiful and located at the Marin Country Mart. Enjoy your Fourth of July and then celebrate a new Independent Bookstore! We'll keep you posted!

I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to Brad Johnson, a Diesel bookseller at our Oakland store, who coordinates our Chatter blog on our website. He has tilted and teased the blog into new shapes and new content, bringing literary sources, book news, and fascinating archives from new corners of the book world. He is ably taking over from Susannah Long, just back from Haiti, who is heading off to graduate school. They have gracefully passed and received the baton, relaying the wider word to our website and on to you. Don't miss Brad's, and others', posts on our blog for prompting, spicy, stirring, and enticing videos, thoughts, essays, poems, reviews, and recommendations. Kinda like the newsletter below -- thanks to Anna Kaufman, our newsletter editor.

Happy Reading!
John & all Dieselfolk

Staff Pick Logo
We Need New Names: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316230810
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Reagan Arthur Books - May 21st, 2013

We also need new words to describe the dazzling patchwork of scenes that make up this novel. Our dear narrator, Darling, passes from her peasant childhood in Zimbabwe to a foreign adulthood among the malls of the American Midwest, leaving behind Bastard, Godknows, Mother of Bones, and all those guavas to try for a different kind of future. Turning deftly from hilarity to horror and back again, Bulawayo has written an absolute original -- more rule-breaking and true to life than anything I've read in years. -- Sus Long

Staff Pick Logo
Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393066807
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - October 2012

In this well-written, terrifying book, Quammen contends that the greatest threat facing humanity is infectious disease transmitted from animal carriers. I am excited by any book that opens with a quotation involving the Four Horsemen, but this book quickly trumps fictional horror with its true accounting of pandemics, their survivors' stories, and the unpredictability of their origins. If you don't want to be kept awake at night contemplating Ebola, blood-born viruses, and the Next Big One, then you shouldn't read this book. But If these things excite you, like me, then this is a must-read. -- Cameron Carlson

Staff Pick Logo
Middle C Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307701633
Availability: Special Order - Please call to confirm availability
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - March 12th, 2013

Given how long it takes for William H. Gass to write his novels, Middle C is almost surely the final novel by one of America's greatest and unsung living novelists. It is also, interestingly, perhaps one of the most accessible entry-points into his wild imagination and experiments with what a novel is and does.

Here we come face to face with two crucial alternatives that inform modern life, at least as the supremely skeptical Gass sees it: evil as banal inevitability versus banality as necessary evil. Where the first leaves no hands clean, each one of us more or less complicit as we await the hammer's fall -- the judgment assured, the sentence a question (think, the dramatic lull just before the final, stunning blast of Mahler's 6th Symphony, and the suspense that endures each subsequent listening, even when you know it's coming) -- the other discovers a music that survives the din of life's repetitions (think, the B-flat tonic white noise, the whir of technology or snoring beast, this very moment sneaking its way into your consciousness like a breathy crank caller).

In Middle C the (sometimes shockingly vulgar) blue streak of consciousness that has over the years been the identifying feature of Gass' protagonists switches to a complex, but inviting third-person narration that plays with the distancing and mixing of voices. One of my favorite sentences of the book illustrates nicely: "How is this possible, Miriam would frequently exclaim, she said, when trying to convey to her grown-up boy her husband's preoccupations, because Ray would treat her exclamations as a question, and then misunderstand its obvious import." A sentence like this revels in, while maximizing the potential for, its narrative voice and the bleeding-over between past and present, and highlights that if the novel is going to say anything true, it will be multi-vocal and not always too well-mannered. -- Brad Johnson

Staff Pick Logo
Snow Crash: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780553380958
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Del Rey - May 2nd, 2000

Most of the time I just can't read a book more than once. It's partly that I lose interest when I know everything that's going to happen, but also there are just so many other books out there that I want to read and haven't yet that reading something over again seems like the purest sort of indulgence. Snow Crash, however, is a notable exception -- it's been two decades and six read-throughs since it originally came out, and every time I'm immediately drawn in and can't put it down until I'm done. The language is so sharp and pointed, and paints a picture of a future Los Angeles that is at once completely absurd and spookily prescient at the same time. It seems oddly appropriate to pick it up again, or for the first time, with the reveal of PRISM, Google Glass, and the corporate surveillance culture we've found ourselves living in proving that we may, actually, be already living in the dystopian cyberpunk future. Also, it takes a lot of guts to name your main character Hiro Protagonist. -- Joey Puente

Staff Pick Logo
You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594485411
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - October 4th, 2011

At certain times in our lives, our No. 1 love might not be another human -- it might be a pet that is our current soulmate, that holds our heart in its little paws. That is how author Julie Klam describes herself at 30 and single. Though she has yearned for a relationship of the human nature, with marriage and children the goal, a little Boston Terrier named Otto just sort of fell out of the sky and into her world, a world that immediately became focused on him. It was Otto who taught her about love, and what really makes a family. Finally, it was her love and attachment to Otto that eventually bridged the gap into other relationships, such as being a wife and mother. The lessons she learned from caring for her little buddy Otto are what truly taught her about unconditional love, and eventually led to her work with Boston Terrier rescue organizations. A funny and heart-warming read. -- Linda Grana

Staff Pick Logo
Serpentine Cover Image
By Mark Laita, William Vollmann (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781419706301
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Harry N. Abrams - February 26th, 2013

To some, the sight of a snake triggers terror and fear. Rest assured, these colorful, undulating beauties are safe to hold in your hands now that they have been captured on film by nature photographer extraordinaire Mark Laita. Each image looks like calligraphy and one has to marvel at the patience and skill necessary in waiting for the subjects to strike that perfect pose. The snakes are exquisite in every detail, each with a signature color, pattern, and texture that range from sleek, jet black to a rough, intricate mosaic reminiscent of ancient Rome. The introductory essay by National Book Award winner William T. Vollmann reflects societal perceptions of serpents as well as his own. Sporadically peppered through the book are philosophical quotes regarding evil and enemies. Perhaps after viewing these spectacular photos, that terror and fear may transform into awe and respect. -- Cheryl Ryan

Staff Pick Logo
Hold Fast Cover Image
ISBN: 9780545299886
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Scholastic Press - March 2013

From the author of the bestselling Chasing Vermeer series comes a compelling middle-grade mystery about a family's struggle to survive and a girl's fierce determination to discover the truth behind the disappearance of her father. The Pearl family -- father Dash, his wife Summer, their daughter Early, and their son Jubilation -- live in a one-room apartment in a faded neighborhood in Chicago. They are poor, making do on Dash's salary as a library assistant, but they are very happy. They love stories, music, and poetry -- especially poetry. Early treasures her few books, particularly a beautiful first edition of The First Book of Rhythms by Langston Hughes. When Dash disappears mysteriously one day after a bike accident while on his way home from work, the other Pearls slide quickly from poverty to ruin. Forced to leave their beloved apartment, they take what they can carry. Early brings The First Book of Rhythms, and she treasures this link to her father and the family's past even more. Gradually, the family makes friends and learns how to live inside the shelter system, who to trust and who to avoid, and this new normal becomes their way of life. But Early can't shake the feeling that it's up to her to figure out what happened to her dad, to make her family whole again. Against every obstacle, she persists...and succeeds. Early is a sweet but tough heroine who shows us how love, generosity, and kindness more than make up for a lack of material possessions, and how hope can make even the weak much stronger. -- Riley Ellis