Monday, March 30, 2009

Accent on Facebook

Thanks to Byron, our erstwhile marketing genius, Accent on Books now has a Facebook page! So if you are a member of Facebook, drop by our page, get the latest scoop on what's happening with us, and consider becoming a Fan. And if you're not yet a Facebook member (a Facebookie?) maybe here's a reason to become one.

After all, we'd love to have a lot of fans. It can get surprisingly hot in the mountains in August. (Sorry.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hope Through Literacy in the Palestinian Territories

The Astrid Lindgren Prize was set up by the Swedish government to promote children's literature and children's cultural rights. It is the world's richest children's literature prize and has been awarded since 2003 to individuals such as Maurice Sendak, Philip Pullman and Katherine Paterson.

This year, for only the second time, the recipient was an organization: The Tamer Institute for Community Education. Founded in 1989 during the first Palestinian intifada, the Tamer Institute works to promote reading, writing and literacy among children in the West Bank and Gaza, especially in those areas where access to formal education has been curtailed. According to a statement on their website, the institute's "philosophy is centered on the idea that learning environments for children and young people can only be created among youth who are encouraged to read, write and participate in dialogue while working in small groups united by a common dream and joint aspirations." The Lindgren judges praised the group's "perseverance, audacity and resourcefulness."

More can be found here

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Friday, 3/27, at Accent on Books: Cheri Jones

The power of poetry to explore areas of thought and experience that prose cannot touch is obviously something Cheri Jones understands well. This is clearly shown by her new book, Chains, which Jones will be presenting at Accent on Books this coming Friday beginning at 6:00 PM.

Chains is an appropriate title for this sequence of poems which portrays several generations of a family struggling with and against each other, bound as they are by chains of love and hate, kinship and madness. Although the characters are fictitious, the book is illustrated with photographs which add a powerful dimension.

Cheri Jones will be introduced Friday night by another acclaimed local poet, Marijo Moore. We hope you'll be able to join them for this special event at Accent on Books.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"To show my disdain for your policies, I shall read a 17-century French novel!"

When it comes to areas such as politics and literature, the French are sometimes just a bit different. A recent example is an increasingly popular way to express opposition to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Rather than taking to the streets with torches and pitchforks, President Sarkozy's disenchanted constituents are buying and reading copies of La Princesse de Cleves, a novel published anonymously in 1678, that's generally held to be the work of one Madame de La Fayette. A novel of romantic intrigue amongst the royalty, it is considered to be of great historic importance; however, Sarkozy has over the years repeatedly expressed his dislike of it and his opinion that "knowledge of is was not useful."

Sarkozy's bad reviews have now made this novel all the rage in France. According to The Telegraph, badges with the slogan, "I am reading La Princesse de Cleves," quickly sold out at the recent Paris book fair, and public readings of the book have been taking place at various locations including the Sorbonne.

While Accent on Books takes no official stance on the policies of the French President, we will be happy to order La Princesse de Cleves, for anyone who wants a copy. Paperback editions, in English translation, are available from both Oxford World Classics and Penguin Classics. However, last I checked, both editions, interestingly enough, were temporarily out of stock.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Friday, 3/20, at Accent on Books: Flatiron Writers

The Flatiron Building in downtown Asheville has been an architectural landmark since the 1920's. Since the 1990's it's also become a kind of literary landmark as the meeting place of the Flatiron Writers, a group of writers who have supported, encouraged and critiqued one another as they have developed their skills and polished their manuscripts.

Now, thanks to a Regional Artist Project Grant, three members of the group have had their work published. The volume is called, appropriately enough, Irons in the Fire, and the Flatiron Writers will be at Accent on Books this coming Friday, beginning at 6:00 PM, to talk about their work and sign copies of the book. The three writers are Geneve Bacon, Toby Heaton, and Heather Newton, and the short novels that each have written for this collection range widely in theme and subject matter. Their success is yet another indication of the rich collection of literary talent that can be found in Asheville and Western North Carolina, and we hope you can join us to congratulate them on their accomplishments.

More information about all our events at Accent on Books can be found at our website.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

NBCC Awards

The last twelve months have not been the most encouraging of times for the 900 or so members of the National Book Critics Circle. As newspapers across the country have been reducing in size and laying off personnel in response to the internet and the faltering economy, book sections have often been among the first casualties, the latest major blow being the disappearance last month of the Washington Post Book World. Of course there are still many outlets for book criticism, in magazines as well as the aforementioned internet. However, there is a sense that the disappearance of book review sections from major newspapers reflects a change to our nation's literary culture which might not be positive.

Despite the gloom, there was still a sense of celebration when the Book Critics Circle presented its annual awards last week. While these honors might not garner quite the publicity of the Pulitzer Prizes or the National Book Awards, they still carry significant prestige and can often help little known books and authors find wider audiences. This year, for the first -- and, according to the organization, the last -- time there were two winners in the poetry category.

This year's winners:

Fiction: 2666, by Roberto Bolano
General Nonfiction: The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins
Biography: The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul, by Patrick French
Autobiography: My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq, by Ariel Sabar
Poetry: Half the World in Light, by Juan Felipe Herrera, and Sleeping It Off in Rapid City, by August Kleinzahler
Criticism: Children's Literature: A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter, by Seth Lerer

More about the NBCC and the winning books can be found at the organization's website.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Series of Fortunate Bedtime Stories

As we all know, it is A Good Thing To Read To Your Children. But what if Junior's bedtime has arrived and you don't feel like reading (or reciting) Goodnight Moon or Where The Wild Things Are for the umpteenth time? Well, you could always make up a story on your own. And here's some advice for doing so from the world's most dyspeptic children's author, Lemony Snicket, author of the Series of Unfortunate Events books:

1. Ask your child what the title should be. This stalls for time and spreads the blame if the story's no good.
2. Name the villains after people who wronged you in high school.
3. When you get stuck, remember Raymond Chandler's advice: "When in doubt, have two guys come through the door with guns." The bedtime equivalent is a clumsy talking animal holding a tray of cream pies.
4. At the end of the story, all of the characters should be very, very tired.
5. Don't bring your cocktail, because you might accidentally leave it and wake your child when you sneak back to retrieve it. Alternately, you may forget about it entirely and three days later someone will find a warm martini on you child's dresser.

Thanks to the hipness website "Daily Candy" and the New Yorker blog "Book Bench" for conveying these rules to grateful parents everywhere. By the way, Mr. Snicket has a new book out entitled, The Composer Is Dead, and it's available at Accent on Books.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This weekend at Accent on Books: Peter Kingsley & St Patrick

There's a busy weekend coming up at Your Favorite Bookstore. This coming Friday, March 13, beginning at 6:00 PM, we will be welcoming Peter Kingsley to Accent on Books. Dr. Kingsley, who recently moved to the Asheville area, is a native of Britain who earned his Ph.D at the University of London. He is both a classical scholar and a mystic, and his research has involved demonstrating the influence of mysticism on the Western scholarly tradition. He has a special interest in the presocratic Greek philosophers, and has sought to reinterpret their work by looking at them in the context of their own times. Dr. Kingsley's work has been praised by such authorities as Huston Smith, Thomas Moore and Eckhart Tolle, and we are delighted that he will be joining us at Accent on Books for what promises to be a fascinating evening. More information can be found at his website here.

Then, on Saturday afternoon, March 14, Accent on Books will present a special St. Patrick's Day celebration. The festivities will begin about 2:00 PM, and will include food and drink (Byron's soda bread is a real treat), Irish music and poetry, and even a bit of instruction in how to speak Irish. So come on by and get a head start on your St. Paddy's Day celebrating. As always, we at Accent on Books are ahead of the curve!

On Sunday afternoon we will be hosting the second in a series of monthly presentations on the work of Carl Jung, by Dr. Bud Harris who trained at the Jung Institute in Switzerland. Space is limited and at this point Sunday's presentation is sold out; you might want to check with us though to see if we've had any cancellations. The third program is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, April 19, so if you'd like to make a reservation for that or get more information let us know.

Byron has been working hard on our website, updating information on events and other features, so check it out!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that -- aaaiiiieeee....."

It's a scene familiar to all devotees of Jane Austen: an English country home, a fancy dressed ball, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet both present. Suddenly there is a crash of breaking windows, and a famished horde of flesh-eating zombies appears, and starts to devour the assembled guests. Mr Bennet quickly gives the command to his zombie-slaying daughters: "Girls! Pentagram of death!"

Actually, that last part may not be particularly familiar since it comes from a soon-to-be-published book entitled, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. In this new volume, a Californian named Seth Grahame-Smith augments the original text of the Austen classic with new scenes showing the Bennet girls engaged in an entirely different battle than the one between the sexes. But he's not the only one with this general idea. In what seems to be an example of great (if twisted) minds thinking alike, there are several other mash-ups of Austen's heroines and deadly monsters. There is, for example, the online novel Lizzie The Vampire Slayer. And, it was announced last month that Elton John's company Rocket Pictures will soon begin filming Pride and Predator, in which the Austenian protagonists are menaced by a space alien. (The London Times recently had an article looking at this phenomenon.)

We at Accent on Books haven't quite decided how we are going to celebrate the publication of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but we figure attention must be paid since we live in a town famous for, among other things, its annual zombie walk. If you have any ideas we'd love to hear them.

And what would Jane Austen think of all this? I have no doubt she'd be loving it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bestsellers: The Indie List

You may have noticed that practically every paperback reprint of a book that you see proclaims that book as being a "#1 bestseller," or a "national bestseller." For a long time, "the bestseller list" referred to one in particular: that published in the New York Times Book Review. Nowadays, however, there are dozens of such lists in various publications and on various websites. Our personal favorite here at Accent on Books is the Indie Bestseller List which is compiled by Indiebound, a marketing initiative of the American Booksellers Association, of which Accent on Books is a member. For one thing, it is a list in which we have a personal stake: we are one of the "reporting stores" for the list. Every week we report our bestselling titles to Indiebound, and our figures are combined with those of other independent bookstores to compile the final list. Which leads to the second reason we like it: it is a list that shows specifically what is selling in independent bookstores.

Here is a glance at some of the titles on the current Indiebound bestseller lists:

Hardcover Fiction: It's always nice to see an "underdog title" succeed, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society certainly qualifies for that. This novel in letters about life in England after World War II has been on the list for thirty weeks and is now number one. Among the newer titles on the list are Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese (who wrote the memoir My Own Country) and Fool, Christopher Moore's madcap version of King Lear.

Hardcover Nonfiction: Malcolm Gladwell's new book Outliers is an analysis of what makes people successful, and he must have been taking his own advice: Outliers leads the nonfiction list. Other topics represented on the list include animal behavior ( Animals Make Us Human, by Temple Grandin), Iraq (The Gamble, by Thomas Ricks) and cooking (Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, by Ina Garten).

Trade Paperback Fiction: All roads on this list lead to The Shack, the self-published Christian novel by William Young which has become a national phenomenon, and currently sits at number one. Also appearing are Aravind Adiga's Booker winner The White Tiger, and Revolutionary Road, the 1961 classic by Richard Yates which has recently been made into a movie. And Asheville resident Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants is still on the list after 98 weeks.

Trade Paperback Nonfiction: Three books have been on this list for more than a hundred weeks: Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortensen, Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama, and Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Two other books connected to the current President are also on the list: his own The Audacity of Hope, and Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin's book about Lincoln and his cabinet which reportedly influenced Obama's own cabinet choices.

If you wish to see the full lists -- not to mention the books featured on them -- come by Accent on Books. We always have the Indie Bestsellers lists posted on the front counter and at the entrance to the children's section.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

No wonder they taste so yummy

As we all know, overeating, obesity and bad nutritional habits are an increasing problem in this country. So what we need to do is get back to the old, traditional ways of preparing food that have been handed down for generations.

Well...maybe...but, then again....

According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, recipes in one of the most traditional of all cookbooks have become a bit more problematic in the most recent edition. Researchers compared the recipes for 18 classic dishes in The Joy of Cooking and found that, between the 1936 and 2006 editions, calorie counts in 14 of those recipes had increased by an average of 44%. This was to due to mainly to substitution of ingredients and increases in serving sizes. Among the recipes analyzed were those for beef stroganoff, waffles, macaroni and cheese, brownies and apple pie. (Evidently they didn't analyze recipes for rice cakes and unbuttered toast.)

By the way, the dangerous and decadent 2006 edition of The Joy of Cooking is one of many items available in our fine cooking section at Accent on Books.