The melding of the music of language, the magic of the comprehension of meaning in the shapes of letters, words, and sentences, and the dance of all those meanings which come to life in the imagination of the mind, is what constitutes reading. All of this bodied forth in the physicality of a book is a wonder, a miracle, and a pleasure. Books are acts of great generosity, gifts of delight and surprise, and bound texts of wondrously infinite possibility. Whether books of history, thought, fiction, poetry, or art, they are intimate, expansive, and transformative. Like other art forms, their immediacy can be taken for granted, and their naturalness can disguise their power.
We hope you are opening up to a good book this week, one that's giving itself selflessly to you in profoundly unexpected ways, filled with delight. If not, stop on by and we'll help you find the right one for you. That's what we do, every day: bring the various literary creations to your neighborhood so you can browse and discover them, and take one or two home to fully explore their depths.
John and all Dieselfolk
Set in war-torn Rwanda, this Bellwether Prize-winning novel follows the life of a young and athletically gifted Tutsi boy who dreams of becoming his country's first Olympic track medalist. Through his eyes, we are given a window into a country of great beauty that is also one experiencing the horror of unrest between the Tutsi and Hutu people that ultimately fractures into genocide. In the midst of this unspeakable tumult, we also experience the joy and freedom that comes from the protagonist's running, coupled with the warmth and love of his family and friends. It seems wholly improbable that a writer can take a novel about genocide and lift it into one that is ultimately filled with beauty and passion, but Benaron accomplishes this in spades. -- Pam Stirling
My attraction to Winner's latest book was the subtitle: "Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis." I love crisis when it isn't my crisis. The book is simple: a sampling of Winner's journal entries following her divorce from her perfectly nice, loving, Christian husband (much of her trouble seems also to stem from her mother's death, which directly preceded her wedding, some years earlier). The reader gets the sense that her leaving him was a wildly unpopular choice and we enter Winner's experience at that lowest of lows: when you've somehow aced yourself out of your happy ending and are too apathetic to even properly hate yourself. Through both prose and poetry, referencing everything from Anne Sexton to Emily Dickinson, parsing past and present, Winner lays her personal journal open to the reader -- in a way, allowing her subconscious to speak for her in a time when she was having difficulties speaking for herself. For comparison, I'd say she's a scholar's Didion -- well, a religious scholar's Didion, but her spiritual explorations are most definitely not limited to those who identify with the Christian faith, because her struggle is pretty universal. We all have those moments where we look around and wonder, Where did all the meaning go? Winner just happens to be more learned and insightful than I am, so her crises come out all eloquent and profound. What a show-off. -- Sus Long
I feel the need to preface my thoughts with, "It's not just me!" Rave reviews from Michael Chabon, Richard Russo, Geraldine Brooks, and Jonathan Safran Foer pepper the cover.
Englander is an Israeli author who is incredibly adept at the short story. I particularly resonated with "The Reader," about "Author" who drives from bookstore to bookstore, from "sea to shining sea," to read for his one, elderly, committed reader. As a bookseller, the anguish of hosting a no-show signing is exquisite; how much more so for Author?
The title story keenly and subtly describes the heinousness of religious hypocrisy: of being observant, yet lacking true compassion. Two couples, one living in Israel and extremely observant, the other less religious in Florida, discuss what would happen if they lived during the holocaust. It brought me face to face with the darker side of our human natures: what atrocities am I witnessing today, and turning a blind eye to? Is my spirituality real and effective in helping to alleviate human suffering, or just empty dogma?
"Sister Hills" follows two female Israeli settlers from the Yom Kippur War to the present; it is a tragicomic satire on our contemporary tendency to take hard-fought freedoms for granted. I was right there with each woman on their dirt-floored shacks atop their adjacent hills, reciting psalms with rifle on lap while their husbands fought the war. Fast forward to 2011, where I also related to Lisa, who was looking for high-speed internet and an unobstructed view from her condo overlooking the sister hills.
These fine stories lend themselves to entertainment and reflection, two solid prereqs for a successful book club choice. -- Mia Wigmore
In an impressively prescient move, the New York Review of Books revived Albert Cossery's 1960s-set Egyptian political satire The Jokers mere months before that country's revolutionary protests began in January of 2011. The book itself feels prescient, too, and more relevant than ever to our own nation's charged political landscape. Despite taking place 50 years in the past, on another continent, Cossery's delightfully tart, deceptively lightweight novel feels like it could just as easily be about modern America. The Jokers depicts the conflict between an unnamed city's corrupt and incompetent governor and a group of friends who, fed up with the more traditional revolutionaries' violent and ultimately ineffective tactics, come up with a strategy to discredit their esteemed leader -- a strategy brilliant in its simplicity, and hilarious in its execution, which would be criminal for me to spoil here. Suffice to say, I'm surprised that no modern political operatives have tried this...although actually, the main conceit of The Colbert Report comes pretty close. So when, over the next months, you run out of fresh episodes of Colbert and The Daily Show and still need to take the political edge off, this book's got your back. -- Anna Kaufman
The fact that Andre Dubus III is the author of the classic book club favorite House of Sand and Fog AND the son of prominent short story writer Andre Dubus should be enough to fuel a fascinating memoir. But when Andre Dubus III sits down to write about his coming-of-age on the violent streets of a Massachusetts mill town and his escape into drugs and alcohol, we see an entirely new side of this beloved writer. Dubus bares his soul in this page-turning autobiography, in which he opens up -- in an incredibly heartfelt narrative -- about his relationship with his now-deceased father. The result is an immensely powerful, yet tender, father/son story sure to please any discerning reader. -- Linda Grana
As the subtitle suggests, this book is much more than a cookbook. It is a manifesto articulating the visions and values of the modern local, sustainable, organic food movement. While Eat Good Food contains a selection of delicious recipes, it also includes guidelines on how to select, buy, and use almost every kind of food imaginable. The writing is informed by the authors' passionate and deeply informed commitment to artisan-quality, sustainably sourced, "beyond-organic" foods, and their passion and enthusiasm for the subject gushes from the pages like the melting chocolate from the lips of a freshly baked croissant. The book also contains short biographies of some of the finest local farmers, dairies, and meat producers, thereby supporting readers in cultivating an awareness and intimacy with the people and places that bring their food to market. As an independent bookseller, I feel a particular kinship and affection for the folks at Bi-Rite, for we in the independent bookselling business are engaged in the same blissful struggle -- endeavoring to provide an experience of warmth and connection to the exchange of materials that nourish body and mind. Eat Good Food is a deeply thoughtful, beautiful, and encouraging reminder of the enormity of what happens at the checkout counter at the grocery store, of the ways in which the food practices we support profoundly affect ourselves, our communities, and our environment. -- Alex Kantner
Although she is only a ragtag circus hand, Precious Little dreams of soaring and glittering high above the ground like the aerial acrobats she worships. With the help of her friends, she takes a lucky leap, and...will she fall or fly? Precious Little's world is a wonder to behold, illustrated with such originality and exuberance one cannot help but feel part of her technicolor universe. A work of great beauty and power, Precious Little will be cherished by dreamers and magic lovers of all ages. -- Lily Harris