Saturday, June 28, 2008

"My fellow Americans, read this book!"

As you might already possibly be aware, this is an election year (occasional mention of this has been made by the media). Certainly the publishing industry is aware of this, and a large number of books either have been or will be published dealing with the candidates and the issues. "Publishers Weekly" recently produced a helpful checklist of some of the major titles to be issued between now and October. Among the ones I'm guessing may be particularly big:

The Wrecking Crew, by Thomas Frank (due in August). Thoughts on current governance by the author of the very popular What's the Matter With Kansas.

Hot, Flat and Crowded, by Thomas Friedman (September). A follow-up to Friedman's megaselling The World is Flat, this one dealing with the political as well as environmental importance of a "green revolution."

An as yet untitled new book from Bob Woodward, the fourth in his "Bush at War" series (September). Woodward's books are almost always newsworthy in terms of new revelations, and I'm assuming this one would follow that pattern.

Angler: The Cheney Vice-Presidency, by Barton Gellman (September). Granted, a lot has already been written about Dick Cheney, but this book by a Pulitzer Prize-winning "Washington Post" reporter looks like it will be comprehensive and authoritative.

One book not mentioned in the "Publishers Weekly" article but which the Obama campaign might want to be aware of is called The Obama Nation. It's due out in August, and is by Jerome Corsi, who co-authored Unfit for Command, the book that "swift-boated" John Kerry four years ago. I'm just sayin'....

Thursday, June 26, 2008

...Yes, but does anyone want the job?

Last month, I mentioned the campaign in Britain to make the next Poet Laureate a woman (up till now they've all been men). However, according to the "Book Bench," (a blog at the "New Yorker"), the campaign has run into an itty-bitty problem: there isn't a woman who wants the job. Somehow, writing official poems for royal occasions doesn't sound too thrilling to a twenty-first century poet even if the pay is five thousand pounds plus the traditional "butt of sack" (more prosaically, a vat of port). I understand their reluctance -- such a job seems to deserve not only more pounds but most definitely more sack.

The "Book Bench" item can be found here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New Arrivals: Millions of Plums

New hardcover releases now in stock at Accent on Books:

Fearless Fourteen, by Janet Evanovich. There's a number in the title, Evanovich is the author -- it must be the new Stephanie Plum novel. It is, and if you're a Plum fan you have lots of company: the initial print run for this book was two million copies.

Christ of the Celts, by J. Philip Newell. Through Listening for the Heartbeat of God and a number of other works, Newell has become one of the leading figures in the revival of Celtic Christianity. In his new book he places Christ in the larger Celtic tradition, providing a spirituality of healing and wholeness both for the individual and the planet.

The Prince of Frogtown, by Rick Bragg. In his earlier books, All Over but the Shoutin' and Ava's Man, Bragg looked at the lives of his parents and grandparents. Here, he looks at his own situation, as well as his legacy, as he gets married and suddenly gains a ten-year-old stepson.

This Land Is Their Land, by Barbara Ehrenreich. Ehrenreich, author of the classic Nickel and Dimed, here looks at America in the first decade of the 21st century and decides that things are so bad that you just have to laugh. Incisive commentary and satire by one of our most renowned political and cultural commentators.

Savvy, by Ingrid Law. Can turning thirteen be a magical occasion? It certainly is if you're a member of the Beaumont family because that's when you get your own magical power, or "savvy." As Mibs Beaumont approaches that fateful birthday her life takes an unexpected turn and she heads off into a wild adventure. For ages 8-12.

The Other, by David Guterson. Another tale of the Pacific Northwest from the author of Snow Falling on Cedars. Two boyhood friends with different backgrounds cross paths again as adults, and one agrees to help the other disappear into the Washington woods -- an act with life-altering consequences.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Exciting World of Gracie

About a week ago, in connection with our ** Summer Children's Story Time on Tuesday Mornings at 10:30 ** I mentioned Gracie the Groundhog and said I would have more to say about her later.

The wait is over. Gracie is the leader, the general, the inspiration for our exciting new Summer Reading Program for Children. We will create a card for your child and stamp it every time he or she buys a book. When the card is full your young reader gets to choose something from the prize box. At the end of the summer, the child who has accumulated the most "Gracie Points" gets a big box of literary goodies. And there's more: participants in the program get 10% off children's books.

What possible reason could there be to not participate? None, as far as I can tell. So be sure to sign your child up for this wonderful program. Not only will you be helping your young reader, you will be helping us. For Gracie is fully expecting us to make this program a success. And we don't want to have to deal with an angry groundhog,

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tasha Tudor, 1915-2008

If you see Welsh Corgis bounding about with a bit less energy these days, it may be because they lost one of their greatest advocates this past Wednesday when Tasha Tudor died at the age of 92. For decades, Tudor was known for her charming, old-fashioned illustrations of both books she wrote herself and classics such as The Secret Garden and The Night Before Christmas. And Corgis frequently made their way into her illustrations, whether they were part of the story or not.

Despite the look of her illustrations, there was nothing fragile about Tudor herself. During much of her adult life, she lived by choice in a house without electricity or running water, raised farm animals, and planted by the signs. She was once quoted as saying, "It is healthful to sleep in a featherbed with your nose pointed north."

More about Tasha Tudor can be found here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Librarian of Baghdad

The Guardian newspaper recently printed an article by Stuart Jeffries about Saad Eskander, the director general of the Iraqi national library and archives. A former soldier in the Kurdish Resistance Movement, Eskander returned to Baghdad after years of exile in Britain because he wished to have a role in the rebuilding of his country. In his current job he is helping to create a base of knowledge and culture that he hopes will assist in unifying and healing his homeland. It is a job full or frustration and peril, the frustration coming from the loss of material through theft, looting, or the simple removing of documents without permission (including a large number of documents taken by the U.S. military and the CIA). Yet through it all, Eskander remains hopeful about his country's future and the role he can play in building that future.

This remarkable article about a remarkable person can be found here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Friday, 6/20 at Accent on Books: Vicki Lane

The books of few regional authors are more eagerly awaited than those of Vicki Lane. As soon as readers finish her latest one they're back in the store (bless them!) asking when her next one will be out. Well, for those of you who have read Old Wounds (not to mention the first two books in the series), the wait is over. In a Dark Season, the fourth Elizabeth Goodweather mystery, has been published, and Vicki will be at Accent on Books Friday, June 20, beginning at 6 PM to talk about her latest book and sign copies for eager fans. And for those of you who have not yet read any of these compelling mysteries set in the North Carolina mountains, there's no better time to start than now. It won't take long before you too will be asking, "When is Vicki Lane's next book going to be out?"

For more information on upcoming store events, visit our website.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tuesday mornings at Accent on Books: Story Time!

Summer is here, and the young ones have been emancipated from school or kindergarten -- great for them, but perhaps a bit anxiety-inducing for parents or grandparents. Well, Accent on Books is here to help. Starting this coming Tuesday, June 17, we will have a weekly Story Time beginning at 10:30 AM. So, if someone in your charge is in the approximate age range of three to eight, and would enjoy listening to stories for about 20 minutes, bring them by our store to join in the fun. Refreshments will be served.

I am extending this invitation on behalf of Gracie the Groundhog. Who's that? Well, that's a subject for a future post!

Tim Russert and Father's Day

It was certainly not surprising that we received a number of requests yesterday at Accent on Books for books by Tim Russert. This was due not only to a natural rise in interest in an author's work following that author's death, but also, in this case, to the fact that Russert's two titles -- Big Russ and Me and Wisdom of the Fathers -- are especially appropriate for Father's Day. Indeed, it seems a particularly sad irony that Tim Russert's sudden death came two days before the holiday that he -- as an author, at least -- is most closely associated with.

Four years ago, Nicholas Lemann had an article in "The New Yorker" dealing with Tim Russert and his relation with his father. It's a fascinating -- if somewhat skeptical -- look at the relationships between fathers and sons, the ways our fathers do or do not influence our behavior as adults, and the role of imagination and nostalgia in all of this.

Lemann's article can be found here.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

It's a new future reader!

Actually, that remains to be seen, but the exciting news is, there's a new member of the Accent on Books family! Lewis's daughter Rachel gave birth to a daughter Thursday afternoon, June 12. Mother and daughter (whose name is not yet known, at least to me) are both doing fine. And do we have a picture at the store of Grandad with the new baby? What a silly question -- of course we do, so be sure to come by and see it.

Congratulations to mother Rachel, father Cameron, big brother Davian, grandfather Lewis, grandmother Mary, and Uncle Franklin. And, of course, On the Day You Were Born, Goodnight Moon, and Pat the Bunny are always good choices.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Friday, 6/13 at Accent on Books: Sarah Addison Allen

Western North Carolina is home to an unusually large number of fine writers, but few have made a bigger splash on the national scene recently than Sarah Addison Allen. Her novel Garden Spells, published last year, spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and won her a legion of admirers from throughout the country. Her next book, just out, is called The Sugar Queen, and Accent on Books will be hosting Sarah on Friday, June 13, at 6:00 PM, to read from and talk about her new work. Like her earlier book, The Sugar Queen is a novel of magic, romance and humor in a North Carolina town, and early reviews have indicated it is every bit the equal of Garden Spells.

By the way, the plot of Sarah's new book includes her main character discovering that someone has been secretly living in her closet. That could never happen in real life, right? Well, actually, it has just recently happened in Japan. More here.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Whose house this was, I now well know

You'd best behave yourself if you're in the vicinity of Middlebury, Vermont, for this is a town that definitely tailors the punishment to fit the crime when they apprehend perpetrators. When 28 people, mostly teenagers, recently broke into a farmhouse where Robert Frost used to stay, and trashed the place during a wild party, the local authorities sentenced them to -- study the poetry of Robert Frost. Naturally, media reports of the incident couldn't help but refer to this as a case of "poetic justice." The person chosen to mete out this punishment was Frost authority Jay Parini, who proceeded to discuss two poems with the young lawbreakers: "The Road Not Taken" (about decision-making, appropriately enough), and "Out Out," a poem about a youth fatally injured in a sawmill accident.

I suppose only time will tell if the young delinquents mend their ways. Or become fans of Robert Frost.

More on this story can be found here.

Friday, June 6, 2008

This assumes, of course, they know how to read.

Barack Obama may be reading Zakaria, but what should the presidential candidates be reading? The "New York Times Book Review" posed this question to a wide variety of authors, and, as might be expected got a wide variety of interesting answers. My favorite passage in the article, however, did not have to do with specific book suggestions. It was this, from Scott Turow:

"I have met all three presidential candidates, two quite briefly, but I know that each exhibits an acute literary sensibility as measured by the standard that most authors secretly employ: they are familiar with my work. (At least they said they were -- they are politicians, after all.)"

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

"Books? They're over on the pool table."

This coming Saturday we may see more of our regular customers outside the store than in it. That's because we will be taking a large portion of our religion section to display at the "Ministry Summit" of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina, which is being held at Asheville's First Baptist Church (ecumenism in action!). This is a somewhat revamped version of an event that's held every year, and represents one of our largest out-of-store projects. Undoubtedly we'll see lots of familiar faces; Episcopalians are great book buyers. The usual location for our display is a room filled with pool tables and drink machines near the gym; a bit incongruous, perhaps, but it seems to work.

So if you go to the Ministry Summit on Saturday, be sure to stop by our book display. And, if you don't, why not go by Accent on Books and say an encouraging word to -- and perhaps buy a book or two from -- whichever one of us is holding down the fort there.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Paula Gunn Allen, 1939-2008

Another writer who passed away last week was Paula Gunn Allen. Like George Garrett (see previous post) she was a versatile writer who deserved to be better known. However, Allen, of Sioux/Laguna/Lebanese descent, came from a very different background and subsequently dealt with quite different issues in her writing.

Byron, my co-worker and fellow blogger, wrote an appreciation of Allen, which included one of Allen's powerful poems. It can be found here .

George Garrett, 1929-2008

A number of years ago at a booksellers' convention, I was part of a large audience waiting to hear an author speak when I noticed a distinguished looking gentleman seated near me holding a book which I assumed he was in the middle of reading. However, it turned out to be the writer George Garrett, and his book was one that he had recently finished writing.

It seemed somehow appropriate that this extraordinary teacher and man of letters was sitting unnoticed among a crowd of booksellers waiting to hear someone else speak. Although he received tremendous acclaim over his long and varied writing career, Garrett, who died last week at the age of 78, never quite received the renown of such contemporaries as Walker Percy and Reynolds Price. On the other hand, while a few of his novels had some commercial success, it was not enough to make him well known to the reading public. However, as a writer and a professor -- mostly at the University of Virginia -- George Garrett had a career lasting almost 50 years that can only be described as distinguished and admirable. He is survived by his wife, three children, and many grateful readers and former students.

More about George Garrett can be found here.

Monday, June 2, 2008

So Many Books...

Is the pile of unread books next to your chair getting smaller? With hot weather upon us, are you afraid you'll run out of summer reading? Do you fear you're reading books faster than publishers can issue new ones?

If so, you can probably relax. According to R. R. Bowker, the company that publishes Books in Print and issues ISBN's, a total of 411,422 new titles and editions were published in this country in 2007. That number included a sizable increase in "non-traditional titles" published through new technologies such as print-on-demand. The total number represented a 39% increase over the previous year, with the largest percentage gains coming in fiction and literature titles, and the largest decrease in business and personal finance.

Last year's new publications brings the total number of titles in print in this country to 670 million billion zillion. Or something like that.