Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Kind Words from a Friend

Recently the editor of the opinion pages for the Asheville Citizen-Times forwarded to Byron an article which had been sent to him for possible use as a guest column. Although he couldn't use it, he thought we would be interested since its subject is Accent on Books. Indeed, not only were we interested, we were amazed and touched and deeply honored. The author is a good customer and great friend of the store and here is part of what she wrote (quoted with her permission):

"In the twelve years we have lived in the area, Accent on Books has become a part of our lives, a place where we are greeted by name, run into friends and always feel welcome. A place where each member of the friendly staff, no matter how busy, has time to discuss books, authors, or even the news or the weather. A place where local authors can read and sign their books....A place where browsing is encouraged and comfortable chairs provide a place to sit while skimming a few pages of a potential purchase....A place where, if the book you want is not in stock, a helpful staff member will be happy to order it for you. A place that for us, and for many, has come to epitomize the warmth and friendliness of Asheville."

Thanks, Nancy, for your kind words. In the stress and rush of the holiday season, especially with the background of economic uncertainty we all face, it's nice to know we can make a difference in the lives of our customers and our community.

And thanks to all of you for your business, your loyalty and your friendship over the past year. Best wishes to you for health and happiness in 2009.

Page 854 will be taking a New Years break of about a week. See you next year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Judging a Book by Its Cover

Earlier this month I mentioned the pervasiveness of "best of" and "worst of" lists this time of year, with specific reference to the New York Times Book Review. Their list had to do with the content of books; another recent list has to do with their covers.

Joseph Sullivan, at his "Book Design Review" blog, posted a list (with illustrations) of his favorite book covers of 2008. It's a delightful and impressive list to scroll through, and shows that cleverness and wit are alive and well in the book designer's art. Sullivan also gives you a chance to vote for your favorite of the covers he's chosen, and the one I chose was in second place when I voted. The book is entitled, Why You Should Read Kafka Before You Waste Your Life, and the cover shows an insect (Gregor Samsa, one assumes) reading a book bearing the actual book's title.

Sullivan's favorite book covers can be found here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

"Joseph -- go see if any baby books are on sale."

A week ago today we had a store full of people, eagerly -- in some cases, desperately -- putting the final touches on their holiday shopping. Today, oddly enough, it's somewhat quieter.

Which means -- time for ** A SALE ** !!!

The post-Christmas sale is a time-honored retail tradition, and who are we to resist it? (I wonder if the wise men stopped at a mall on their way to Bethlehem....) At any rate, here's what we're offering:

-- 50% off all Christmas cards.
-- 40% off a wide variety of hardcovers -- fiction and nonfiction.
-- 40% off all cookbooks.
-- 40% off all children's hardcover picture books and all children's Christmas books.
-- 40% off a large selection of children's nonfiction.

Consider it the Accent on Books Economic Stimulus Plan. So come on in with your gift certificates and your list of books Santa should have brought you but didn't, and load up on great savings.

Perhaps the President-elect should send Accent on Books a thank-you note.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tuesday, 12/23 at Accent on Books: Glenis Redmond

Accent on Books has one more scheduled author event for 2008, and it should be an exciting one. We are proud to be welcoming to our store for the first time the outstanding performance poet Glenis Redmond.

For years Glenis has been one of the most admired and beloved literary and performance personalities in Western North Carolina. She has taught, spoken, and performed at venues across the country and around the world, including the Kennedy Center, the FarragoPoetry Festival in London, and the famed Nuyorican Poet's Cafe in New York City. She has won numerous awards and fellowships and given keynote addresses at educational and women's leadership conferences.

Glenis' latest book is titled, Under the Sun, and she will be performing from and signing copies of this book at our store Tuesday evening, December 23, beginning at 6:00 PM.

This is obviously a busy time for us all, but we hope you will be able join us for what promises to be an outstanding event.

More about Glenis Redmond can be found at her website.

"Really, you shouldn't have...."

As many of you know, Accent on Books offers free gift-wrapping for your purchases with us, a service an increasing number of customers will no doubt take advantage of over the next several days. Lewis actually got his start in retail as a gift-wrapper, so he has it down to a science as well as an art. Byron and Rebecca obviously have a strong aptitude for it as well. As for me, well, I'm glad most of our products are rectangular objects with flat surfaces, so they don't pose too much of a challenge.

While we offer several gift-wrapping options, we can't match the choices offered by Firebox.com, an online British retailer. For a fee, they will wrap your purchases in one of the following choices: Christmas, Gold, Silver, Stars, Stripes, or CrapWrap.

Say what?

That last choice is not a typo. If you so desire, Firebox will be happy to intentionally wrap your gift in a horribly incompetent manner. As they describe it: "Too much offensive brown tape, untidily hacked at wrapping paper, rips in the packaging exposing the surprise underneath."

Which of course leads to the question: Why would anyone, outside of sheer contrariness, pay good money to knowingly have a gift wrapped in an appalling manner? One suggestion that has been made: it's a boon for lazy guys. Under this theory, if a guy gives his wife/girlfriend/whomever a beautifully wrapped gift, the recipient will automatically assume the guy had someone else wrap it, and thus they may also assume he didn't put much thought into the entire gift-buying process. Whereas, if the wrapping job is lousy, the recipient may think, "Aw, he even wrapped it himself. How sweet."

I wonder if the Firebox gift-wrapping department has any job openings....

More on this retailing innovation can be found here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This weekend at Accent on Books: The excitement continues

Four events, three days, one great location. Here's what's happening this weekend at Excitement Central on Merrimon Avenue.

Friday, 12/19, 6:00 PM: Wayne Caldwell. Wayne is a longtime, valued friend of Accent on Books and it's always great to have him back. If you do not yet have a copy of his wonderful novel Cataloochee -- or if there's someone on your gift list who would enjoy great regional fiction -- here's your chance to get an autographed copy. Or just come by and hang out with one of the greatest storytellers around. Find out more about Wayne here.

Saturday, 12/20, 1:00 PM: "A Breath of Bethlehem". Here's a perfect opportunity to slow down and take a break from the madness of the holiday season. Accent on Books will welcome the Rev. Mary Caldwell and the Rev. Austin Rios to our store to give a reading of the Christmas story from Luke in English and Spanish, respectively. Refreshments will be served. A moment of respite for the entire family.

Saturday, 12/20, 3:00-5:00 PM: Lou Harshaw. One of Western North Carolina's foremost historians will be here to sign copies of her book, Asheville: Mountain Majesty. We were very proud to have the launch party for this book last year, and it remains one of our most popular titles: a vivid history of the area with lots of wonderful photographs. More information can be found at the website of Bright Mountain Books.

Sunday, 12/21, 3:00 PM: Marijo Moore and Byron Ballard. What better way to celebrate the Winter Solstice than with two of the coolest earth religionists to be found anywhere. Marijo is the author and editor of numerous works; her most recent novel is When the Dead Dream. Byron, of course, is well-known to all Accent on Books customers, as well as being a leading member of the local -- heck, national -- Pagan community. Marijo and Byron are longtime friends and partners in crime, and they will be leading a Talking Circle at the store. Marijo's website is here.

Surely that's it for events at Accent on Books in December, right? No! We haven't even mentioned Glenis Redmond! More on that later.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A History of 2008 in Ten Words

Merriam-Webster Online recently announced its "Word of the Year" for 2008, along with nine runners-up. As the website describes it, the word of the year is the one which received "the highest intensity of lookups...over the shortest period of time." And indeed, the entire list of ten words comprises a remarkably concise portrait of what we have been through over the past twelve months or so. The winning word: "bailout." The entire list follows:

1. bailout
2. vet
3. socialism
4. maverick
5. bipartisan
6. trepidation
7. precipice
8. rogue
9. misogyny
10. turmoil

Hopefully the present turmoil and trepidation will not result in maverick rogues driving us over the precipice, so that next year's list will have a few more positive terms.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thursday, 12/11 - Sunday, 12/14: An Accent on Books Quadruple-header!

Four author events in four days! Just another weekend at Your Favorite Bookstore. Here's the scoop:

Thursday, 12/11, 6:00 PM: Howard Hanger. As if he weren't busy enough being a jazz musician, newspaper columnist, and renegade Methodist minister, Howard is the founder and headmaster of Hanger Hall -- A Middle School for Girls. His new book, A Precious Window of Time, co-authored with Dr. Vicki Garlock, is a parenting and educational manual based on that experience. We will also have copies of Howard's earlier book of religious meditations, Drink Deeply with Delight.

Friday, 12/12, 6:00 PM: Sarah Addison Allen. A customer favorite, Sarah is author of the national bestsellers, Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen. On Friday, in ** an Accent on Books exclusive, ** she will be reading from her forthcoming novel, The Girl Who Chased the Moon. And, of course, she'll be happy to sign copies of her earlier books.

Saturday, 12/13, 3:00 PM: Cecil Bothwell. Chances are, if you live in Buncombe County or the immediate environs, you've heard of Bobby Medford, the ex-sheriff and now convicted felon who used his office to set up an extortion and racketeering operation involving illegal gambling. Cecil Bothwell has all the lowdown on this scandal, and has gathered it into a book entitled, appropriately enough, Pure Bunkum. Cecil will be here Saturday to give us his own, unique take on this bit of mountain madness.

Sunday, 12/14, 3:00 PM: Joan Medlicott. Not only is this Barnardsville writer the author of the nationally acclaimed "Covington" series of novels (no connection to the present writer), she is also a great friend of independent bookstores. And when Joan and her writing group meet at Accent on Books twice a month, her four-legged cohort Daisy is a charming and enthusiastic greeter of everyone who walks through the door. Joan's latest book, Promises of Change, is not due out till January, but here is a perfect opportunity to meet her and complete your own collection of her works; and, of course, get autographed copies as gifts for all the present and future Medlicott fans on your list.

Whew! 854 Merrimon Avenue is obviously the happenin' place to be. For more, check out our website.

Monday, December 8, 2008

NYTBR's Top Ten

As the calendar year nears its end all sorts of individuals and publications will fulfill their love of listmaking and ranking by declaring their ten best -- or ten worst -- of this and that. In the world of booklovers, the one that carries the most weight is the Ten Best Books of the Year from the "review of record," the New York Times Book Review. This year's list will appear in the December 14 issue and is as follows:

Dangerous Laughter, by Steven Millhauser. Although Millhauser may be best known for two novels (Edwin Mullhouse, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Martin Dressler), he works mainly as a short-story writer. This latest collection shows the magical realist/fable-like style that has won him comparisons to Borges, Poe and Nabokov.

A Mercy, by Toni Morrison. Like the Nobel laureate's acclaimed novel, Beloved, this new tale deals with the effects of slavery; this time, however, the story is set in the 1600's rather than the 1800's.

Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill. A story of post-9/11 New York City, dealing with themes of alienation and assimilation. The main character is a Dutch banker, who takes up with a group of South Asian amateur cricket players.

2666, by Roberto Bolano. A posthumous work from the acclaimed Chilean writer (1953-2003). It's a huge novel with multiple narrative threads, all coming together in a crime-plagued town on the U.S.-Mexican border.

Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri. Lahiri's first collection of stories -- Interpreter of Maladies -- won the Pulitzer Prize. This new volume again shows compassion, empathy and close observation in tales of Bengali-Americans and others trying to find their way in the United States.

The Dark Side, by Jane Mayer. A New Yorker writer gives us the background to all the controversial policies -- Guantanamo, "extraordinary rendition," warrantless surveillance, and the rest -- that have played such a central part in the Bush administration's "war on terror."

The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins. Another journalistic work dealing with current issues. Filkins is a longtime New York Times reporter in the Middle East and presents an account of the recent strife-torn history of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nothing to Be Frightened Of, by Julian Barnes. An esteemed British novelist here pens a memoir, with a special emphasis on his spiritual journey from atheism to agnosticism.

This Republic of Suffering, by Drew Gilpin Faust. The president of Harvard University -- whose training is as an historian -- examines how the horrific casualties of the Civil War served in the end as a factor to help the war's antagonists reunite as a single country.

The World Is What It Is, by Patrick French. An authorized biography of the Trinidadian writer -- and Nobel Prize winner -- V. S. Naipaul. However, unlike most authorized accounts, this one is unsparing in portraying the disturbing aspects of its subject's personal life, as well as his literary genius.

More about the Ten Best list -- and links to reviews -- can be found here.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Just a gentle reminder....

This coming Sunday, December 7, 1:00-5:00 PM, at Accent on Books:

** 15% off every book in stock -- no limits and no coupon required. **
** Live music .**
** Yummy refreshments.**
** A delightful and fascinating display of photographs from 25 years at Accent on Books. **
** All your friends and neighbors will be there and will be looking for you -- you wouldn't want to disappoint them, now, would you? **

Of course you wouldn't. Be there! Aloha!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Friday, 12/5, at Accent on Books: Kendall Hale

There's an old joke to the effect that if you remember the Sixties, you probably weren't there. This obviously doesn't apply to Kendall Hale. Not only does she remember her activism of the Sixties and subsequent decades, she has now written a memoir of her experiences entitled, Radical Passions. It is a recounting of a remarkable range of experiences of someone who clearly wasn't satisfied with observing from the sidelines. Antiwar protests from Vietnam to Iraq. Pro-union work. Environmentalism. Traveling and organizing in Cuba, China, Nicaragua, India and Peru. A vivid life's journey that has brought her finally to the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Kendall Hale will be at Accent on Books this coming Friday at 6:00 PM to talk about her new book and the experiences which comprise its subject. Join us to hear more about her amazing life and her fascinating book.

You can find out more at Kendall's website.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thursday, 12/4 at Accent on Books: From Dumbledore to Hermione to the World

It's one of the most famous -- and mysterious -- books in the wizarding world. When Albus Dumbledore bequeathed to Hermione Granger his copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, at first neither Hermione nor her friends Harry Potter and Ron Weasley recognized its true significance. They soon came to realize, however, that this book of fairy tales contained the knowledge of the Deathly Hallows, the key to Harry's battle against his nemesis, Lord Voldemort.

Up until now only a small portion of this volume has been available to the outside world: "The Tale of the Three Brothers," as it was recounted in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. However, on Thursday, December 4, the entire Tales of Beedle the Bard will be openly available for the first time, translated from the runes by Hermione Granger, with extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore, and an introduction, notes and illustrations by J. K. Rowling.

Accent on Books will be celebrating this publishing event in a very special way: a "wizarding tea" featuring Asheville's own very wizardly storyteller, Gwenda Ledbetter. And please note the special time for this high tea: 4:00 in the afternoon on Thursday, December 4. It will be a delightful event for all ages, so we hope you can join us.

More about The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and the charity to which J. K. Rowling will be contributing her proceeds, can be found here.