Saturday, May 31, 2008

Smells Like Great Literature

In a recent, wide-ranging article dealing with research libraries, Google Book Search, the mutability of knowledge and other such things, Robert Darnton offers this delightful tidbit:
"Books give off special smells. According to a recent survey of French students, 43 percent consider smell to be one of the most important qualities of printed books -- so important that they resist buying odorless electronic books. CafeScribe, a French on-line publisher, is trying to counteract that reaction by giving its customers a sticker that will give off a fusty, bookish smell when it is attached to their computers."

As it happens, just this morning a customer in Accent on Books commented on how much she liked the way the store smelled. I'm assuming she was referring to the books, rather than to the booksellers.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

No More Excuses: Books Now Available in Paperback

Anxious to read The Book That Everyone's Talking About, or that you just know you'll enjoy, but feel like you couldn't afford the hardcover? If that book is one of the following, the time has come to either buy it or find another excuse to procrastinate, because these titles are now available in paperback.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver. One of America's most popular novelists here turns to nonfiction, chronicling the year she and her family decided to limit their food to what they could grow themselves or buy locally. Fascinating, moving and surprisingly funny.

Einstein, by Walter Isaacson. A major new biography of one of the Twentieth Century's most significant individuals, showing how closely his genius was related to his rebellious nature. Isaacson's previous biography of Benjamin Franklin was a major bestseller.

Legacy of Ashes, by Tim Weiner. Winner of the 2007 National Book Award for General Nonfiction, this authoritative history of the CIA received wide acclaim and stirred great controversy. A huge bestseller everywhere, except, perhaps, some parts of Langley, Virginia.

Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan. A biographical novel about Mamah Bothwick Cheney and her lover, Frank Lloyd Wright. With its themes of passion, conformity, and the place of women in early Twentieth Century America, this word-of-mouth bestseller will probably be a major hit with book groups now that it's in paperback.

The Assault on Reason, by Al Gore. The Nobel Laureate and former Vice-President examines the current state of political discourse, showing how fear, secrecy and excessive partisanship have damaged our faith in the power and importance of reason.

New England White, by Stephen L. Carter. Carter, a Professor of Law at Yale, began his writing career with highly acclaimed books about religion, society and national politics. Now he has moved into the arena of fiction with equal success, and this, his second novel, uses a compelling mystery story to portray the lives and the conflicts of African-Americans in the academic world.

Clapton: The Autobiography, by Eric Clapton. Last fall, this was one of the favorite gifts for everyone's Boomer parents or (yikes!) grandparents. Now it's available in paperback for summer reading for everyone, no matter how old you were when you first heard The Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith, or Derek and the Dominoes.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

About Bloody Time!

The position of English Poet Laureate was officially established in 1668 with the selection of John Dryden. Since then there have been an additional 21 Poets Laureate of varying abilities writing in varying styles but with one thing in common:

They were all men.

Now, however, there is a movement to change that. The ten-year term of the current Poet Laureate (it's no longer a lifetime appointment) expires next year, and organizers of the prestigious Ledbury Poetry Festival have sent a letter to the Queen, the Prime Minister and other government officials urging them to seriously consider selecting a woman to replace current Laureate Andrew Motion. The official response from Downing Street: "The Prime Minister was grateful for your comments, which will be taken fully into account at the appropriate time."

By the way, the position of United States Poet Laureate was established in 1937, and was known until 1986 as "Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress." Unlike in Britain the term of office is only one year (though it can be renewed), and, as a result, there have been 45 people to hold that position. In terms of gender equity we're doing a bit better than the Brits, with nine of those 45 being women. Of course it may simply be less "threatening" to appoint a woman to such an office for only one year as opposed to ten years or the rest of her life.

More on this story can be found here . A list of British Poets Laureate is here. The American ones are here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Friday, 5/30, at Accent on Books: Celebrate Women Writers

Jane's Stories Press Foundation is, in their own words, a "nonprofit organization that nurtures the writing of women and girls of all ages." They are holding their Spring Writing Retreat in Asheville, and Accent on Books is delighted to be a part of it. Join us this coming Friday night, May 30, at 6:30 PM for an event where presenters and participants in the workshop will read from their works. It should be a particularly meaningful and inspiring event for all those seeking to find their voice as writers.

More information about Jane's Stories and this retreat can be found at their website. And a complete schedule of events at Accent on Books can be found at our website .

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

The last Monday in May is often considered the official beginning of summer. Yet -- as anyone driving down Asheville's flag-lined Kimberly Avenue today would be reminded -- it is also the time to remember all who have fought in our nation's wars, and particularly those who have died in these conflicts. Here are a few titles available at Accent on Books which it seems particularly appropriate to mention today. All books are hardcovers, unless otherwise noted.

The First American Army, by Bruce Chadwick (paperback). By consulting journals, memoirs and other primary sources, Chadwick tells the story of the American Revolution through the eyes of the common soldiers who made up the Continental Army.

Fields of Honor, by Edwin C. Bearss (paperback). A Marine veteran of World War II, Bearss has been leading tours of Civil War battlefields since 1950. Here, he gives accounts of fourteen Civil War battles and campaigns, calling on his unique knowledge of both tactics and the stories of individual soldiers.

The Day of Battle, by Rick Atkinson. An Army at Dawn, the first volume of Atkinson's "Liberation Trilogy," won a Pulitzer Prize for its chronicling of the World War II North Africa campaign. The Day of Battle is the second volume, and covers the hard fought and desperate Italian campaign of 1943-44.

Iwo Jima, by Larry Smith. This book tells the story of the infamous World War II battle directly through the words of soldiers whom Smith interviewed. He also talked to survivors of Japanese soldiers who fought there, and brings the history of the island up to the present time.

The Coldest Winter, by David Halberstam. America lost one of its greatest journalists and historians when David Halberstam died last year. Fortunately, before his passing, he was able to complete this epic narrative of the Korean War. More than ten years in the making, it stands as a final testimony to Halberstam's passion and eloquence.

On Call in Hell, by Richard Jadick (paperback). At the age of 38, Navy doctor Richard Jadick volunteered to go to the front lines in Iraq, and eventually found himself treating the wounded in the middle of the Battle of Fallujah. His chronicle is a harrowing tale of dedication and heroism.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Grabbed From the Web: Mailer, Naipaul, Chabon


First, appropriately enough, an article about what people do on the internet. The British literary magazine Granta surveyed a number of authors, editors, agents and other literary types asking them how they used the web. The name of the article was "The Web Habits of Highly Effective People," but, judging by the number of websites those surveyed said they visited, you wonder how they got anything done at all.

Miami and the Siege of Chicago, Norman Mailer's account of the 1968 presidential campaign, is being reissued later this year. Here is Frank Rich's introduction to the new edition. Meanwhile, I mentioned a few days ago that Barack Obama is evidently reading Fareed Zakaria's The Post-American World. The Los Angeles Times recently profiled Zakaria.

A couple of articles about V. S. Naipaul, the highly acclaimed -- but somewhat incorrigible -- winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Literature. In his writings Naipaul has often been critical of his native Trinidad (he left while still a teenager), and, as David Shaftel reports, his countrymen often return his lack of affection. A new authorized biography of Naipaul has just been published in Britain (it's due out in the States next November). A. N. Wilson reviews it in the TLS, and reports that Naipaul has made no attempts to have the more unattractive aspects of his personal life left out.

The prodigiously talented Michael Chabon sits down for a Q&A with Reuters. Bad news for us aspiring writers: when Chabon is asked what the key is to being a successful author, he replies, "Discipline and hard work." Rats -- I was hoping for a shortcut.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

And did they also steal from the collection plate?

According to a filler in yesterday's Asheville Citizen-Times, the Bible is not only the world's best-selling book, but also the world's most shoplifted book. ("" is cited as the source for this.)

To my knowledge, we've never had a Bible stolen from Accent on Books. But a few years back we did evidently have someone swipe a Book of Common Prayer. It was a boxed gift edition: we found an empty box back in the prayer book section and when we checked our actual inventory against what we should have had, sure enough we were one prayer book short.

I don't think I'd want that thief's karma.

Friday, May 23, 2008

New Arrivals: Local Luminaries Loom Large

A look at some of the new titles recently received at Accent on Books. All books are hardcover, unless otherwise noted.

The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen. Allen's previous novel, Garden Spells, was a New York Times bestseller. In her new book, the Asheville native and resident again spins a tale of romance, humor and magic in a lovingly portrayed North Carolina town. Note: Sarah Allen will be appearing at Accent on Books at 6:00 PM on Friday, June 13 (yes, Friday the 13th). Note 2: Garden Spells is now available in paperback.

In a Dark Season, by Vicki Lane. Released the same day as The Sugar Queen -- and from the same publisher -- this book is the fourth in the Elizabeth Goodweather mystery series by Madison County resident Lane. As usual it's a tale full of mountain lore, mysticism, and menace that weaves together stories from several generations into a dangerous conundrum that Elizabeth has to solve. A paperback original. Note: Vicki Lane will be appearing at Accent on Books at 6:00 on Friday, June 20.

In the Eye of the Storm, by Gene Robinson. Undoubtedly one of the most appropriately titled memoirs of the season. Since his 2003 ordination as the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion, Gene Robinson has indeed been at the center of an extraordinary swirl of controversy that has engulfed not only the Episcopal Church in the United States, but Anglicans (and Christianity as a whole) throughout the world. In this book he recounts his experiences, and reflects on the theology which has repeatedly led him to reach out to the poor and marginalized.

So Brave, So Young, and Handsome, by Leif Enger. Peace Like a River, Enger's first novel, has been a great favorite at Accent on Books and nationwide since its publication in 2001. Enger's new book, which begins in 1915 Minnesota, again deals with a journey both literal and metaphorical, as a failed writer accompanies an outlaw on a fateful trip to California

Dishing With the Kitchen Virgin, by Susan Reinhardt. Yet another local author -- the popular Asheville Citizen-Times columnist whose work is syndicated throughout the country by Gannett. Here, she tells you everything you want to know -- and probably some things you'd rather not know -- about how to be a lazy and/or lousy cook in the South, and get away with it. Included are recipes for "Big Al's Redneck Spaghetti," "The Salmon That Almost Killed My Dog," and many other tempting treats. A paperback original.

Peace, by Richard Bausch. For more than a quarter-century, Richard Bausch has been praised as a writer capable of producing both novels and short stories of the highest quality. So it's not surprising that his latest work combines the scope of a novel and the spareness of a short story to powerful effect. A parable about three soldiers in 1944 Italy, it has much to say about our situation today.

The Joys of Love, by Madeleine L'Engle. Few authors had a more diverse audience than the beloved Madeleine L'Engle, who died last year. Poet, essayist, memoirist, novelist for both adults and children: L'Engle was known to almost everyone who loved fine writing. Here, published for the first time, is a novel written in the 1940s about a young woman enjoying her first taste of freedom while working as an apprentice in a professional theatre. A book that will appeal to both older children and adults.

We hope you'll visit soon to look over these and many other new titles arriving daily.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What's Obama Reading?

Judging from a photograph taken by The New York Times' Doug Mills, he's reading The Post-American World, by Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria. In this new book, Zakaria says that the United States needs to move beyond a foreign policy dealing just with terrorism and take into account the rise of such nations as China, Brazil, South Africa and Kenya. The book title refers to Zakaria's belief that in the near future the United States will no longer be the single dominant power in the world.

In the photo in question, Senator Obama is walking across a parking lot carrying Zakaria's book in his left hand, and using his left index finger as a bookmark. Hmmm...if the Obama campaign can't afford to buy the Senator an actual bookmark, maybe we should send him an elegant Accent on Books model. Might get some free publicity down the road.

By the way, if you want to keep up with Senator Obama, you can get a copy of The Post-American World at Accent on Books. Hardcover, $25.95

Thanks to the Paper Cuts blog.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mark your calendars -- like, right now

Obviously, we'd like to give you a bit more advance notice than this. But even though we're just getting started here we'd like to remind you of two events happening at Accent on Books in the next few days.

Thursday, May 22, 4:30 PM: A book discussion group led by Karen Marberger -- which meets at Accent on Books -- has invited the public to attend a talk and slide show by Phyllis Lang concerning "My Antonia," by Willa Cather. Refreshments will be served.

Friday, May 23, 6:00 PM: Accent on Books will be hosting the launch party for "Orphan's Asylum," written by Mike Krecioch. This book is about life in 1950s Chicago, and Mike will talk about his experiences and the process of writing, and will sign copies of his book. And more refreshments will be served!

We hope to see you at one or both of these events. And check for a complete schedule of store happenings.

What a great idea!

When we were planning our exciting new version of, I thought, "Wouldn't it be interesting to have a page with frequent entries about what was going on at Accent on Books, as well as in the larger literary world. It would be a kind of daily long on the web. Hmmm -- 'web' plus 'log' equals...'blog'! I could call it a 'blog'!"

So I called my friend Al Gore, inventor of the internet, and said, "Hey, Al!" (which happens to be the title of the picture book which won the Caldecott Medal in 1987). I then told him about my idea. "Well," he said solemnly, "I'm afraid that there are already a number of blogs on the internet. And, by the way, tell Barack and Hillary the answer is still, 'No.'"

You can imagine how shocked I was to find that my idea had been stolen from me before I even had a chance to think of it. However, not being a bitter man, I decided to proceed anyway. So, thanks to the genius of our wonderful webmistress Byron, Page 854 -- the blog of Accent on Books, located at 854 Merrimon Avenue -- is now underway.

So what can you expect to be announced, talked about, obsessed about, and complained about on this blog?

-- All the latest news and happenings at Your Favorite Bookstore, located in Grace Plaza in Asheville, NC, including in-store events, new books, forthcoming books and all the dangers and scandals involved in the world of North Asheville bookselling.

-- What the bestsellers are -- or aren't -- both locally and nationally.

-- Articles and sites of interest from around the web.

-- News about the wider world of books, and gossip about all your favorite literary figures, including Wayne Caldwell, Joan Medlicott, Marcus Borg and Paris Hilton.

-- Actually, I just wanted to be the first person in history to write the phrase, "Marcus Borg and Paris Hilton."

So I hope you'll check back often and give us feedback on what you'd like to see on Page 854. And if you see Al Gore sliding around on some glacier somewhere, ask him to take a look at my blog.

And so it begins...

This is the official blog of Accent on Books, a full service independent bookstore in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. Come here for reviews, events, musings and rants about books and bookselling and the state of the written word! Your host is Patrick Covington, one of the store's owners, who moonlights as an actor, writer and man-about-town.