Okay the season is upon us. No, not the election season, but the season of gathering together for large meals with extended family and friends. The season of gift-giving. This is so much fun in the bookstore -- readers looking for the finest, most unexpected, most desired books to give as gifts. The bounty of cookbooks that are released this time of year are filling our shelves awaiting readers' attentions for making delectable meals. Great gift books of all varieties abound in the store -- come in and peruse them!
I wanted to also draw a little attention to some writing that's been going on at DIESEL (please see Editor's Notes, below, for more). DIESEL bookseller and professional writer Aaron Bady has penned two worthy pieces recently: one was posted on Lithub -- Did Imbolo Mbue actually write the Great American Novel? (Lithub, by the way, is a great source for all things literary.) The other was an op-ed in the L.A. Times.
Check them out, along with all the other creative and imaginative events, book selection, display, and reviews radiating out of DIESEL this season.
John and all DIESELfolk
* * *
Literary Hub published a piece of mine this week in their Bookselling in the 21st Century series, “From the Seminary to the Bookstore.” I feared what I’d submitted was overly confessional / personal. You who know me are maybe wondering: “Do you write anything else?” That’d be a fair question.
The response, however, has been as surprising as it has been moving. Readers seem (happily!) mostly to be looking past all the me in the story I tell, and are finding parts of themselves and their stories . . . whether traditional confessions still slip their tongues or have long done so between their fingers. Its publication coincided with a trade show in San Francisco, which occasioned people I barely knew — some not at all — to thank me for having written it. The clear emotional (or whatever) connection some have found in the piece has prompted me to throw braggadocio caution to the wind and tell others about it. Perhaps you, too, will find a bit of yourself in it.
My husband can’t stop quoting to me amazing facts from this book! I think I’ve read almost the whole thing by now – just in quotes! Did you know, for instance, that trees growing up on Christmas tree farms exhibit signs of trauma due to separation from the “family” unit of its seed forebears? How incredible is that?! Anyone who loves a walk in the woods stands to learn a great deal from this book about the rhythms of our planet: animal, vegetable, mineral – and forestal. -- Rei
Rules of Civility, Amor Towles' literary debut, is an elegant presentation of the vagaries of economic fortune set amidst pre- and post-Depression New York. The style is beautiful to read, and the sentiment is strong and graceful.
This firm grace, masterful storytelling, and striking elegance of style continue in Towles' new novel, A Gentleman in Moscow. The exploration of the collapse of class and wealth in post-revolutionary Russia is offered with humor, cleverness, and a brilliant sense of the dynamics of social manners in a time of radical transformation.
A Gentleman in Moscow reads like the best of the traditional novel -- compelling narrative; probing and often entertaining reflections on society; fascinating characterization; and a developed joy in word, sentence and language. What more do you need in a great read? A reassuring intelligence, of course, in abundance. -- John
We live in times where the idea of human consciousness uploaded into digital form, a type of virtual immortality freed from our fleshly constraints, is spoken of as a near-future eventuality. To be honest, I believe this idea has always felt just around the corner, ever since the invention of the first "thinking machine." And for just as long, science fiction has enjoyed considering its implications. The latest foray into this field is a work by our modern horror master, Brian Evenson, who has written an homage to that greatest American science fiction writer, Gene Wolfe (not just my opinion, by the way).
A man awakens in an underground facility called the Warren. Inquiring of the computer, he establishes a definition of a person, criteria which he does not fully meet. But who or what is he? He has the identities of more than one mind within his skull. Other selves there are, conceived of as pale eyes opening and watching. Other selves who know more things, or fewer things, or different things.
One thing he learns though, is that there is another, a full person still alive and somewhere nearby. To get to him, he’ll have to go up to the forbidden surface.
The Warren is a less than a hundred pages. It is a mark of Evenson’s abilities as a writer, and as one our premier examiners of the fragility of the human mind, that he can pack as much as he does into so slim a novel. He has produced what Gene Wolfe would surely define as "a good book," one that can be read and reread with increasing pleasure and meaning. -- Chris
I don't really like ever hearing a book called "perfect." A dollop of imperfection is, in my eyes, the mark of a book that's really striving for something new -- and because that "something new" never quite fits exists categories to judge it, "perfect" just never seems quite right. Having said that, I'm also no dogmatic! Sometimes a book defies even my own defiant expectations and preferences, and I'm forced to dig deep for appropriate synonyms. In the case of Natalie Léger's Suite for Barbara Loden, the most appropriate word I've landed upon is exquisite.
What's going on in this book is hard to down into a blurb. A mash of imagination and fact, biography and fiction, Léger is as curious about what she is doing as we are. You needn't know much about the cinematic work of Barbara Loden or her cult film, Wanda, the analysis of which is the pivot around which this little books turns. This is because Légerger's singular obsession somehow, and brilliantly, expands into something universal about all the untold things that are lost and gained in teh course of "playing our role" / "playing one's role" in life.
So, yes, "exquisite" will do perfectly for Suite for Barbara Loden. I really cannot recommend this small press gem highly enough. -- Brad
Angela Liddon's latest cookbook, Oh She Glows Every Day, has been highly anticipated by vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike. The book features over 100 quick and easy plant-based recipes that are perfect for anyone looking to eat healthy on a budget or while juggling a busy schedule. Liddon's attention to detail and firsthand anecdotes make this book the perfect companion to cook with. Oh She Glows Every Day is a companion to Oh She Glows, Liddon's first cookbook, and will make you seriously crave a vegan snack! -- Annika
"Mature" is not a word one would usually apply to Lydia Bennet, but this was a surprisingly mature and imaginative take on Lydia's part of Pride and Prejudice. That Farrant manages to accomplish this while staying true to the original story and creating her own lively, engaging narrative voice is truly impressive. I picked this up to read just a few pages, and found I couldn't stop. Farrant discovers depth in Lydia while still acknowledging her childishness and silliness. It helps to be a modern reader, aware that Lydia is a teenage girl who's likely extremely bored, but I don't think Farrant hammers in that point, or any other, too harshly. This book doesn't exactly provide Lydia with the happy ending one might want, nor does it fully redeem Wickham, much to my relief -- I'm not sure there would be a way to do that without going deeply out of character or soppy. Instead, The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet honors Austen's original while still giving Lydia, and young girls who might root for the most sprightly Bennet sister, a more positive spin on her fate, and her character. Plus: it's just plain fun. -- Anna
Sometimes you read a good book and the plot stays with you. Sometimes a good book raises a complex issue that you need to further ponder or research. And sometimes you simply love a character. Enter The Evil Wizard Smallbone. He lives in a small bookshop in a small village in Maine, where he stomps grumpily around, frightening the residents. Fourteen-year-old Nick is running away from home when he stumbles across the shop and accidentally agrees to become Smallbone's apprentice. The evil wizard imprisons Nick, expects him to do all the chores in the house, the shop and the barn. He also turns Nick into a spider and most importantly doesn't teach him any magic. The bookshop, being magical, has other plans for Nick. As does Smallbone's rival, the shape shifting wizard Fidelou, who may be even more evil than Smallbone himself.
A fabulous magical story for ages 10-12 with lots of grit and an underlying realism that anchors the otherwise high fantasy and gives the book a sense of genuine peril. The plot is complex and thrilling with in-depth world building . But for me, it's all about The Evil Wizard Smallbone, he's so much more than his name suggests. -- Clare