October Bookstories

October 2010

dear bookstore friends

GayleMy plants are starting to perk up and I've left the windows open for the past four nights, so I'm thinking fall is just around the corner. An outdoor celebration is in order, some kind of "We Made It Through One More Summer In The Valley Of The Sun and Are Still Alive to Talk About It." Perhaps it's time to invite the neighbors whom you haven't seen all summer to a backyard barbecue, or grease the chains on your bicycle and go for a ride on the Green Belt in Scottsdale or along the newly refurbished Western Canal.

Our family did celebrate indoors and out a few evenings ago at Marcos de Niza High School when the combined choruses sang Broadway tunes in A Night on the Town and a silent auction raising money for the music programs was held outside the auditorium on the patio. I'm always concerned when school districts cite budgetary concerns as they remove arts programs from our schools -- why are arts always the first things cut? -- and I was reminded one more time how crucial music, dancing, singing and collaborative art-making are to us as a culture. Those students singing and dancing their hearts out were so professional, so self-assured, so masterful in their many numbers. Songs from Guys and Dolls, Next to Normal, Wicked, The Wiz, Billy Elliot, and The Lion King were staged in front of a magical curtain filled with twinkling lights, but the brightest lights were those in the performers' eyes, in their flashing teeth, in their sparkling steps. Two hours flew by, and once again their astounding chorus director, Darin Shryock, and the choreographer, Laurie Trygg, had pulled off another in a series of magnificent evenings, the perfect mix of fun and musical adventure. If you've never attended one of these events, you should find out when the next one is at Marcos and mark it on your calendar.

Literature and the arts are so important in our lives, reminding us of the goodness in human nature and the creative spirit that continues throughout the generations, connecting us across races, cultures, ages. Books are part of that creative fabric. Several weeks ago I was in Denver for a meeting and was lucky enough to hear several authors talk about their latest work. I listened to a conversation between Craig Childs and Bruce Machart talking about the importance of stories in their lives -- fiction and non-fiction -- that impacted the way they look at the world. I just finished Machart's debut novel, The Wake of Forgiveness, and it is one of the best books I've read this year. It is our "We Love This Book" pick for October and, along with several others on staff, I highly recommend it.

At lunch I was seated with Newbery Medal winner Linda Sue Park and Caldecott winner David Wiesner who were conversing with their editor from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt about the process of writing and the wonderful advantage of having a good editor in the creative process. And I heard Laurie Halse Anderson of Speak fame, talk about censorship and the importance of keeping books on library shelves even when a few parents or politicians vociferously object.

And author Jonathan Evison (there to talk about his new epic historical novel West of Here, due out from Algonquin in February 2011) wowed a packed room with this exciting bit of indie bookseller love:

A Bookseller's Love Story by Jonathan Evison

For thirteen years I've been stocking the shelves at The Book Cathedral, and it is my love story. You will probably not remember me by my name, but call me Ishmael. Or Tom Jones, or Tom Sawyer, or Elmer Gantry, or McTeague, or The Idiot, if you like. You may not remember me for my wispy hair, or brick-shaped loafers, nor for the wealth of cat hair clinging to the seat of my faded dockers. I distinguish myself by my love of books, and by never using the search function -- I've no need of it.

Ask me who's between Allende and Sherwood Anderson, and I shall tell you without pause, Martin Amis, between Sarte and Schulberg, Saunders, and at the end of the line, you'll find Zusak, unless of course we're out, in which case you'll find Zafon. Blindfold me and spin me around in circles, then set me straight and run my fingers down the spines, and I'll tell you when we get to Proust, or the shorter novels of Melville. Ask me where to find Silas Wegg and I shall point you to Dickens. Ask me where is Oskar and I'll tell you he's banging his tin drum between Golding and Graves. And if it's Sancho Panza you're after, you'll find him chasing windmills with Quixote just to the left of Chaucer.

Ask me All About Lulu. Ask me For Whom the Bell Tolls. Ask me where A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, or What Makes Sammy Run, and I shall tell you without hesitation, that the answer to the universe is 42. Or that it's never too late to have a happy childhood. Or that A Good Man is Hard to Find. Or that The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Or that You Can't Go Home Again. I will show you the beating heart of Ragtime, drag you kicking through Hard Times, In Our Time, to Places I've Done Time. Through The Age of Innocence, The Age of Reason, to The Winter of Our Discontent. You'll meet The Sleeping Father, The Time Traveler's Wife, The Bigamist's Daughter, and Wittgenstein's Mistress. I'll lead you to the Shining City, beneath The Sheltering Sky, past Lions and Shadows, to The Dark Side of Guy de Maupassant -- and if it pleases you, to the very Heart of Darkness itself. I will tell you The History of Love, The Brief History of the Dead. I will tell you The Secret Life of Bees. I'll tell you A Tale of Two Cities that will make All the Pretty Horses whiny and All the King's Men weep. I will explain The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, How the Dead Dream, and The Way of the Pilgrim, I will talk Of Mice and Men, Of Time and the River, of Leaves of Grass, until finally, at the end of night, when The Moon is Down, the sun will also rise, and everything will be illuminated.

Carla Cohen, founder of Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C. died a few days ago of a rare form of cancer. She would have loved Jonathan's words. She was a mentor, a colleague and a friend of mine, as she was to many other booksellers in this country. A big woman -- overflowing with generosity, intelligence, and a passion for books and the people who write them -- who worked for peace and justice in the world and found literature to be the common thread that enables those conversations. I will miss her wit and her intelligence and her smile.

Here's the New York Times article about her.

Enjoy the cool weather, visit with your neighbors, support your school's arts programs and read a few good books.


in memoriam

Carla Cohen     1936 - 2010

Esteemed colleague who founded Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C. in 1984. She was passionate about books and politics, working hard to bring a just peace to the Israelis and Palestinians. She traveled, she taught and she wrote reviews of the books she loved. She lived books and was loved by writers whom she supported and encouraged. She loved her community, her booksellers, the written word in all its forms, and her family and friends. We will all miss her.

Kent Randolph Knudson    1949 - 2010

Peace activist, photographer, loving son, beloved friend to many, passionate advocate for prisoners and human rights. Kent will be missed for the energy and drive which he demonstrated throughout his life and art.

indie bestsellers
Indie BestsellersThe Indie Bestseller Lists put the diversity of America's independent bookstores on display. They're produced just two days after the end of the sales week, and are the most current snapshot of what's selling in indie bookstores nationwide.

Click on links below to view Indie List PDFs

» Paperback Bestsellers        » Hardcover Bestsellers
fun stuff
Changing Hands owner and co-founder Gayle Shanks talks books with Raising Arizona Kids Magazine. She discusses starting the store in 1974, our early days on Mill Avenue, indie bookstores in the digital age, and more.

Biblio-vertigo! A library flipped on its side.

The Naked Truth: Authors Who Write in the Buff: www.neatorama.com
we love this book
It's a BookTHE WAKE OF FORGIVENESS by Bruce Machart / $26 / Hardcover
"Bruce Machart's achingly beautiful novel The Wake of Forgiveness is one of the most impressive novels I've read this year. Set in Prohibition-era Texas, it tells the story of a boy, Karel Skala, being raised on a farm by his harsh, unyielding Czech father. Karel and his brothers are little more than indentured servants -- instead of horses, their father uses them to plow his fields. Then everything changes in one night; a wager is made, a race run, and families are torn apart. You will not forget this story of men and horses, fathers and sons, and one man's search for something deeper in a life dominated by back-breaking work and bootlegging." - Sarah B.

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new releases

How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu / $25.95 / Hardcover
"How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu is a remarkable multi-layered novel about the fictions we create and the lies we tell for the sake of love and family. In beautiful prose, Mengestu tells a sweeping tale of an immigrant experience, an African experience. He also tells a deeply intimate story, one that illustrates a second-generation immigrant's American experience as he negotiates our landscape seeking his footing and a sense of place." - Cindy

7pm Friday, November 5
The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris / $26.00 / Hardcover

New York Times bestselling author Sam Harris (The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation) visits with The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values -- a game-changing book about the future of science and the real basis of human cooperation. Drawing on his expertise in philosophy, neuroscience, and his time on the front lines of our "culture wars," Harris argues that we already know enough about the human brain and its relationship to events in the world to say that there are right and wrong answers to the most pressing questions of human life. Because such answers exist, the divide between science and morality is simply false -- and maintaining it comes at an increasing cost to humanity. Ultimately, Harris claims that the intrusions of religion into the sphere of human values can finally be repelled: for just as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no religious morality.

2pm Sunday, November 28
The Turquoise Ledge by Leslie Marmon Silko / $25.95 / Hardcover
Leslie Marmon Silko presents The Turquoise Ledge, her first book in ten years, at the Heard Museum. Combining memoir with family history and personal reflections, Silko takes readers along on her daily walks through the arroyos and ledges of the Sonoran desert. Influenced by Native American storytelling traditions, The Turquoise Ledge is a contemplation of the spiritual power of the natural world, of what these creatures and landscapes can communicate to us, and how they are all linked. Please note: This is an offsite event at the Heard Museum: 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix 85004. Details forthcoming.

Earth (The Book) by Jon Stewart / $27.99 / Hardcover
Here comes the eagerly awaited new book from the Emmy-winning, Oscar-hosting, Daily Show-anchoring Jon Stewart -- the man behind the megaseller America (The Book)! Where do we come from? Who created us? Why are we here? These questions have puzzled us since the dawn of time, but when it became apparent to Jon Stewart and the writers of The Daily Show that the world was about to end, they embarked on a massive mission to write a book that summed up the human race: What we looked like; what we accomplished; our achievements in society, government, religion, science and culture -- all in a tome of approximately 256 pages with lots of color photos, graphs and charts.

Exley by Brock Clarke / $24.95 / Hardcover
For nine-year-old Miller, who lives with his mother in Watertown, New York, life has become a struggle to make sense of his father's disappearance, for which he blames himself. Then, when he becomes convinced that he has found his father lying comatose in the local VA hospital, a victim of the war in Iraq, Miller begins a search for the one person he believes can save him, the famously reclusive -- and, unfortunately, dead -- Frederick Exley, a Watertown native and the author of his father's favorite book, the "fictional memoir" A Fan's Notes. The story of Miller's search, told by both Miller himself and his somewhat flaky therapist, ultimately becomes an exploration of the difference between what we believe to be real and what is in fact real, and how challenging it can be to reconcile the two. Part literary satire, part mystery, Exley unleashes the enormous talent of a writer whom critics have compared to Richard Ford and John Irving and whose work has been called "absurdly hilarious" (Entertainment Weekly) and "wildly entertaining" (Daily Candy).

Picture This: The Nearsighted Monkey Book by Lynda Barry/ $29.95 / Hardcover
This endearing myopic monkey inhabits an everyday world, but one not without a supernatural charm; she is just as likely to appear at your doorway with a freshly baked pie as with her elephant-eared imaginary friend. Nearsighted Monkey collects a series of portraits in which the pleasant primate goes about her daily life -- smoking while hogging the remote, making pancakes, waiting for the bus -- alternately bundled up for her travels or lounging in slippers and a housecoat. She might drink all of your wine, or the last of the coffee, but all is forgiven upon her presentation of a perfect grilled cheese sandwich. Lynda Barry presents this remarkably familiar character in colorfully inked pages, sometimes painted upon typed science and arithmetic notes from the 1920s. Contrasted in this fashion, the monkey and her pursuits become much more substantial than the long-forgotten lesson plans they upstage. Similarly, in true Lynda Barry style, they serve as a reminder of the playfulness so key to genuine learning and to a satisfying daily routine.

Browse more new releases »

$2 red star book sale Red Star
We've reduced hundreds of hardcover and paperback books to just $2. To help you find the ones that are right for you, we've moved them all into the special Red Star $2 Sale cases near the back of the store. Have a look next time you're in!

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