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Gayle's October Letter

Gayle ShanksDear Bookstore Friends,

It's cool in the mornings. I didn't think it would ever be cool enough to open the doors and windows but, lo and behold, October finally arrived and the temperatures are down in the 60s—at least in the early hours of the day. The Desert Marigolds are blooming again after struggling to maintain a hold on life during endless months of heat, and my Desert Botanical Gardenfruit trees all made it, too. Careful watering and a class or two at the Desert Botanical Garden to learn how to maintain drip irrigation certainly helped. We are now attempting to put in a winter vegetable garden using tips from yet another class at the DBG, with plans for kale, chard, fava beans, sweet peas, beets and lettuce. I'll keep you posted as the months Desert Roots Farm go by about how our crops are doing. Meantime, we're thrilled that the professional farmers at Desert Roots Farm deliver wonderful, fresh veggies to our front door every Thursday. If you don't grow your own veggies and want to know more about community-supported agriculture, you might want to check out this website.

The fall harvest of books is already upon us. This is the season when publishers release their big books, the ones they hope will be favorites and end up as gifts for readers all over the country. This fall there is an abundance of BIG books; more than I remember ever having seen in one season, and fortunately they are not only in abundance but they are amazing in their scope and readability and depth. There was a great article in the New York Times last month, including a quote from me in which I discuss the multitude of good fiction and non-fiction releases this fall.

I spend many hours, as do nearly all of our booksellers, reading pre-publication editions so that we're prepared to recommend our favorites when you come into the store. In my August newsletter I promised to share our beach reads with you, and that list » follows this letter. Many of those titles will be coming out in the next month or two, while others are already on our shelves, including The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, Sweet Tooth by Ian MacEwan, This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz, Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon, In Sunlight and in Shadow by Mark Helprin, NW by Zadie Smith, and The Bartender's Tale by Ivan Doig. Click here to see them all »

Topics covered in the flood of fall releases are myriad and magical and thought provoking and energizing. They deal with social values, the economy, gender issues, politics, and families. In the past, election-year fiction selections were sparse, giving way to more books on the candidates and the issues. This year the books we are seeing, including many of our favorite fiction writers, are incorporating election topics in their pages, including the financial meltdown, working-class disparities, people of color, and Main Street vs. Wall Street. Much of the excellent fiction being offered engages readers in ways that helps us to understand our world. Isn't that what we expect from books that we read and love?

Fire SeasonI've been to two booksellers trade shows in the past two months, and discovered new and amazing authors whose names may not be as famous as those mentioned above but, my oh my, are they wonderful writers! Philip Connors' Fire Season: Field Notes From a Wilderness Lookout won the Mountains and Plains best non-fiction award. It's a lovely memoir in which he comes The Lighthouse Roadto grips with the death of a brother, but it's also a meditation on nature, on our lives and our work in the world. And, if you like to be plunged into the natural world and are thinking snow and cold, read Peter Geye's novel The Lighthouse Road, which is set in Northern Minnesota. This epic saga had me from two pages in The Twelveand didn't let me go until, sobbing, I finished it. Remarkable characters that you won't ever forget. I also heard Justin Cronin, whose new novel, The Twelve—the second in a post-apocalyptic trilogy that began with The Passage—was just released and, although I loved his talk, I doubt his book (which includes vampires) will ever come to rest on my nightstand. But, many of our staff loved The Passage and can't wait to read this one.

A Constellation of Vital PhenomenaThe Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-EatLooking a bit farther forward, spring of next year promises three great novels to look forward to: Anthony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Edward Kelsey Moore's The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat, and an lovely Benedictionnew novel by Plainsong author Kent Haruf called Benediction. Kent has not been well most of this year, but having dinner with him last month and talking about his new book was one of those literary moments that I will cherish for a lifetime. He's currently on the mend, and I'm hopeful that he will be able to stop in the store when his novel releases next March.

Yes, ChefI'm listening on CD to my business partner Cindy's favorite foodie book, Yes, Chef, read by the humble Marcus Samuelsson—yes, really, some chefs, are humble; at least this one is. He shares his life that started as an Ethiopian orphan adopted by a Swedish couple and tells how he learned to cook in his grandmother's kitchen. We're taken through his apprenticeship from the lowest restaurant kitchen positions in Sweden and France to New York City, where he became head chef at the famous Aquavit restaurant, which earned three stars from the New York Times under his tenure there. The Red Rooster, his own restaurant in Harlem, has become a must-visit spot for those who love food, spices, and a multi-ethnic eating experience. I am making it my first stop the next time I visit the city.

Apparently we have a cat in our bookstore family that also incorporates books into her life. Little Poppit, a once-abandoned cat, now has a home among Brandi's books, and seems quite content to read all day, taking the occasional catnap when no one is looking. She is named after a character from Erin The Night CircusMorgenstern's book, The Night Circus. Brandi told me that "aside from just completely loving the book, I also chose that name because, just like the night circus in the book, Poppit showed up in the middle of the night at my apartment without warning, after midnight—which, ironically enough, is when Poppit was born in the book."

I wish you a happy fall with lots of great books, walks in your neighborhood on cool mornings and evenings, and an occasional stop in our neighborhood to let us know what you've read and what you are looking forward to reading. It's a great time for literature, a momentous time for elected officials, and as the heat abates, a fine time to work in your yard and cultivate a veggie or two.


Questions or comments? Email Gayle at

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Our 2012 Beach Reads

BenedictionBenediction by Kent Haruf | $25.95 hardcover | From the beloved and best-selling author comes a story of life and death, family and community, once again set out on the high plains in Holt, Colorado. More »

Beautiful RuinsBeautiful Ruins by Jess Walter | $25.99 hardcover | The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets returns with his funniest and most romantic novel yet: the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 and is rekindled in Hollywood 50 years later. More »

Leon and LouiseLeon and Louise by Alex Capus | $15 paperback | A tale of love's triumph against improbable odds and the vicissitudes of history, by one of Europe's great emerging novelists. More »

Bartender's TaleBartender's Tale by Ivan Doig | $27.95 hardcover | From a great American storyteller, a one-of-a-kind father and his precocious son are rocked by a time of change. The pair make an odd kind of family, with the bar their true home, but they manage just fine until the summer of 1960 when two new women enter their lives. More »

Going Home in ChainsGoing Home in Chains by Glenville O'Brian Lovell | $14.99 paperback | Themes of coerced displacement and sexual disillusionment run through these stories as they shift between the Caribbean and America, arriving doused in magic, musicality and humor. More »

The Art of ForgettingThe Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagán | $16 paperback | A moving and insightful debut novel of great friendship interrupted, The Art of Forgetting is a story about the power of friendship, the memories and myths that hold us back, and the delicate balance between forgiving and forgetting. More »

In Sunlight and In ShadowIn Sunlight and in Shadow by Mark Helprin | $28 hardcover | Can love and honor conquer all? Helprin's enchanting and sweeping novel springs from this deceptively simple question, and from the sight of a beautiful young woman, dressed in white, on the Staten Island Ferry, at the beginning of summer, 1946. More »

The Yellow BirdsThe Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers | $24.99 hardcover | In Al Tafar, Iraq, 21-year old Private Bartle and 18-year-old Private Murphy cling to life as their platoon launches a bloody battle for the city. In the endless days that follow, the two young soldiers do everything to protect each other from the forces that press in on every side. More »

The OrchardistThe Orchardist by Amanda Coplin | $26.99 hardcover | Set in the untamed American West, a highly original and haunting debut novel about a makeshift family whose dramatic lives are shaped by violence, love, and an indelible connection to the land. More »

The Bread BibleThe Bread Bible: 300 Favorite Recipes by Beth Hensperger | $19.95 paperback | Trusted baking authority Beth Hensperger has brought together hundreds of time-tested bread recipes, both classic and intriguingly original—all foolproof, step-by-step, and easy-to-follow. Busy bakers will also appreciate the excellent selection of recipes for bread machines and food processors. More »

Simply Great BreadsSimply Great Breads: Sweet and Savory Yeasted Treats from America's Premier Artisan Baker by Daniel Leader | $22 hardcover | If bread is the staff of life, then this book by renowned artisanal baker Daniel Leader is every home baker's must-have cookbook. Featuring an amazing array of incredible delicacies made with yeast, it's the perfect combination of easy and sophisticated recipes, with the keys to unlocking basics of working with yeasted doughs. More »

The Fallen AngelThe Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva | $27.99 hardcover | Gabriel Allon—art restorer, spy, and assassin—returns in a spellbinding new thriller from the #1 New York Times-bestselling master of intrigue and suspense. An old enemy is plotting revenge: an unthinkable act that will plunge the world into a conflict of apocalyptic proportions. More »

We SinnersWe Sinners by Hanna Pylväinen | $23 hardcover | This stunning debut novel—drawn from the author's own life experience—tells the moving story of a family of eleven in the American Midwest, bound together and torn apart by their faith. More »

Enjoy Every SandwichEnjoy Every Sandwich: Living Each Day as If It Were Your Last by Lee Lipsenthal | $22 hardcover | In the bestselling tradition of Tuesdays with Morrie, told with humor and heart, and deeply inspiring, Enjoy Every Sandwich distills everything Lee learned about how we find meaning, purpose, and peace in our lives. More »

Still LifeStill Life by Louise Penny | $7.99 paperback | With this award-winning first novel, Penny introduces Inspector Armand Gamache, who commands his forces with integrity and quiet courage. Locals are convinced a murder is no more than a tragic hunting accident, but Gamache uncovers something more sinister. More »

All That I AmAll That I Am by Anna Funder | $25.99 hardcover | An award-winning author delivers an affecting and beautifully evocative debut novel, set in 1930s Europe and based on a true story, about a group of young German exiles who risk their lives to awaken the world to the terrifying threat of Hitler and Nazi Germany. More »

One Last Thing Before I GoOne Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper | $26.95 hardcover | Following the New York Times-bestseller This Is Where I Leave You, Tropper's latest novel is a moving, funny look at one broken family's attempt to reconnect—without destroying each other in the process. More »

Citizen VinceCitizen Vince by Jess Walter | $14.99 paperback | Jess Walter, who steps back in history for his third novel, brings back an "utterly inventive" tale of crime and politics (Washington Post). More »

The Revised Fundamentals of CaregivingThe Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison | $23.95 hardcover | After a great loss, a teenager with muscular dystrophy and his caregiver venture out in a hair-raising road trip across the American West, in this lively, soulful novel that ponders life's terrible surprises and the heart's ability to heal. More »
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