In This Issue
Uber Picks
Gwen's Picks
Jody's Picks
Michele's Picks
Tom's Picks
ÜBER PICKS: Books that more than one of us loved!

Skippy Dies by Paul Murray:
Spoiler alert: SKIPPY DIES!  If you love memorable characters, hilarious writing, and a book that you can just lose yourself in, then you need to read Skippy Dies.  Set at a boy's school in Dublin, Murray's novel is about both the students and the teachers. Reminiscent of the best of John Irving, Skippy Dies is absolutely marvelous. It was longlisted for the Booker prize, and a favorite of many critics.

The Passage by Justin Cronin:
We're a bit surprised that Cronin's post-apocalyptic vampire novel hasn't been on more Best of 2010 lists. The first in a trilogy, The Passage is creepy, captivating, and a fine cross between literary and genre fiction.  Find out why Stephen King said "Read this book and the ordinary world disappears."

Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky: Dermansky makes being bad look so good: follow Marie across two continents as she makes terrible life decisions. Decisions that work out for her, for the most part, because she's devious and gorgeous. This book is delightful - and written so well, you can't help but love Marie even though she's, you know, bad.

The Vaults by Toby Ball: This fantastic debut novel by local author Toby Ball follows three men as they search for answers in a 1930s dystopian city awash in crime, conspiracy and corruption. Crackling smart and fast-paced, this will delight fans of Ellroy, Hammett and Chandler. And stay tuned - his next novel is out next year. (GO, TOBY!)

The Monstrumologist and The Curse of the Wendigo- by Rick Yancey

This young adult series is wildly entertaining, and surprisingly gory! Older teens and adults of all ages will find much to love in both books. A cross between Charles Dickens and Stephen King, these books are set during the 1800's and feature a very eccentric monster hunter and his young apprentice, orphan Will Henry. 

Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett- A novel that deserved a LOT more attention! Union Atlantic calls to mind a combination of the best of Tom Perrotta mixed with Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby  Union Atlantic is a raw, realistic portrayal of the times we live in, written in magnificent prose.

It's a Book
by Lane Smith-
Our new manifesto! This playful and sly dig at the digital age is just as amusing for adults as it is for the picture-book crowd it's designed for.  Book lovers unite!

Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art edited by Cornelia Butler and Alexandra Schwartz- Women artists rule! This fabulous gathering-- Diane Arbus, Louise Bourgeois, Georgia O'Keeffe, Cindy Sherman, and Jenny Holzer, to name just a few of the best known, plus dozens more-- is long overdue.  The comprehensive collection pairs essays and commentary from more than fifty scholars with a treasury of images illustrating the contributions of women to the MoMA collection.  We have a hard time putting it down long enough to help customers...

by Joe Hill-
  One of our favorite local authors,  bestselling author Joe Hill, has quickly made a name for himself as one of the best contemporary horror writers.  Even though the lead character of Joe Hill's second novel is a man sprouting horns, the true horror of the story lies in the murder of his first love, and the suspicion that falls on him because of it.

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We know that choosing the perfect book for a gift can be difficult. That's why we're providing you with a list of our fifty favorite books of the year.  For the rest of the month, these books are TWENTY PERCENT OFF (in-store only!). 

Don't forget that we also have the Signed First Editions Club-- the perfect gift for any bookworm. For more information, e-mail

See you in the store!

Gwen's Picks

One Bloody Thing After Another by Joey Comeau- For starters, the title is very accurate. Make no mistake, there will be blood. There will also be a lot of laughter, and some sadness as well. Although this is not a traditional coming of age story, there are certainly elements of one offered in this book.  One of the central characters, Jackie, is coming to terms with her mother's death, and with her feelings for her best friend, Ann.  Ann has problems of her own, including how to keep her mother fed.  Oh yeah, her mom is chained up in the basement. It gets even better.  There's an old man with a less-than-brilliant dog who is being followed by a headless ghost.  I read the book twice before deciding whether I could recommend it, or whether it would be too weird. But I decided to go with it because I really did enjoy it, and I know that there are some of you out there who will enjoy it as much as I did.

Faithful Place by Tana French- In this third installment of her Dublin Murder Squad series, Tana French explores an old missing person case just recently unearthed. When the suitcase of a local girl who was presumed a runaway 22 years earlier turns up in an abandoned building, the investigation heats up.  Undercover Officer Frank Mackey is called back to his hometown, not as a cop, but as the once boyfriend of the missing girl.  Frank now has to address his past while coming to terms with his strained familial relationships.  I've now read all three of Tana French's books, and this one comes in second for me. I'm still partial to her first, In The Woods, but I enjoyed this one almost as much. She once again did a good job of developing her characters, both likeable and not, and of making you want to know what happens next.

Stories edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio- What a great collection of short stories from a wide range of authors; many of whom I would not have read otherwise.  I heard Joe Hill read his story, "The Devil on the Staircase", when he was at RiverRun, and I couldn't wait for the story to be published in this collection. I was thrilled to get the book, and even happier with how great many of the other stories were as well. "Catch and Release", "Blood" and "The Therapist" were all wonderfully disturbing. Jodi Picoult's story "Weights and Measures" was striking in a way that I wasn't expecting. I loved this collection and I'm glad that I took a chance on reading some of the authors that I hadn't read before.

Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth- According to lore, President Johnson entered into a blood oath with a vampire in 1867. This oath tied the vampire into service to the office of president-- forever. As you could expect, the existence of the vampire is kept a very closely guarded secret--only those on a need to know basis are informed. Johnson's vampire, Nathaniel Cade, is a dutiful servant, protecting the president from all threats of a non-human kind.  He's got the military for everything else, but he has Cade for the real threats to our safety.  In this first story, Cade has to get to know his new partner, Zach Barrows--the most recent member of the "need to know" group, while protecting the president from an old and sinister rival.  This was a fun, fast-paced read, and I'm already looking forward to the sequel.

Blind Descent by James M. Tabor- In the same way that I do not have any interest in climbing Mount Everest, I have no interest in descending into the deepest depths of the earth-- in a dark cave no less. But read about it? Absolutely.  Blind Descent chronicles caving explorations that are attempting to find the deepest cave on earth.  Tabor outlines the efforts of two men who are racing to be the first to explore the deepest cave-- American Bill Stone, and Ukrainian Alexander Klimchouk.  The descriptions in his book are both breathtaking and unbelievable.  What these caving and diving teams are enduring in the name of science and adventure is astonishing. Tabor offers a well-rounded description of both men and their respective caving expeditions, both positive and not so positive.  He discusses the personal and professional impact that their work has had on their lives.  This was an exciting and informative read. 

At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream by Wade Rouse- As soon as Wade was old enough to leave the Ozarks and move to the city he did, with the intention of never returning. Over time, however, he became frustrated with his job and with city life and decided to try living more simply.  He and his partner Gary decide to live "like Thoreau", so they move to rural Michigan. And so the fun begins...Neither of them is quite prepared for what happens when all of the modern conveniences of urban life are removed.  What? No Kashi Go Lean Cereal? No Jicama at the local grocery story? Rouse keeps a running scorecard of "Wade's Walden" versus "Modern Society" throughout the book.  I thought this book was hysterical.  I laughed out loud--and read parts of it out loud to anyone who would listen.  Rouse is a cross between David Sedaris and Lucille Ball-- and I say that as a most positive compliment.

Expiration Date by Duane Swierczynski- Mickey Wade, recently unemployed and out of options, finds himself living in his grandfather's place, back in his old neighborhood.  When he takes some expired Tylenol that he finds at the apartment, he has no idea of the chain of events that he will set in motion.  Suddenly able to time travel back to the early 1970's when he was born, he is now capable of seeing firsthand his own life history. What Mickey also realizes is that he may be able to alter the outcome of that history as well. This seems like an appealing idea for him, especially when he meets the young boy that will grow up to kill his own father.  I am a huge fan of Severance Package, also by Swierczynski, and have been looking forward to reading this book. I was not disappointed.

Spooner by Pete Dexter- I absolutely loved this book which outlines the relationship between the two main characters, Warren Spooner and his stepfather, Calmer Ottosson. Told over the course of their lifetimes, the story follows the arc of their relationship, from when Spooner is a young boy, through to his adulthood and Calmer's old age. The book is filled with quirky characters and off-beat situations, but continues to take you back to the special relationship between the two men. Dexter acknowledges that the book is not a memoir, but is loosely based on events from his life. That appears evident in how he writes about his characters with such detail, and with the amount of respect that he shows for them, even when they are not at their best.

Jody's Picks

Cartographies of Time by Daniel Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton- Time is always getting away from us-and it seems we've always been wrestling with ways to contain and portray it. But timelines aren't the child's play you might remember from school: This fascinating compendium of charts, scrolls, games, illustrations, and artworks explores the graphic ways we try to make sense of the history behind us, and the near history of our individual lives.  
Poetry in Person edited by Alexander Neubauer- As a look at the real nuts and bolts of how writers work, this book is a true find. Drawn from the "lost" tapes of a class taught by Pearl London at the New School from the 1970s to the 1990s, it features a stellar roll call of poets from Maxine Kumin to Derek Walcott, Louise Glück to Charles Simic, each discussing in detail a brand-new or even unfinished poem, sharing jottings, drafts, and revelations about the actual process of creating it. My only complaint? This is merely a fragment of the material on those tapes-I want MORE! 

Citrus County
by John Brandon-
It's only teenage wasteland...except these characters are barely teenagers, somewhere between dangerously adrift and weirdly wise. They're often as self-possessed as the adults around them-when they're not making shocking decisions, that is, like Toby, who deliberately perpetrates an "evil" act against a classmate's family. It's a tribute to Brandon's subtle portrayals and dry with that you find yourself hoping against hope that things will end well even for Toby, even when it's hard to see how they could. 

This Is London by M. Sasek- I loved this book when I was a kid! I'm so happy to see it again! And to discover it's part of a whole series as far-ranging as Paris, Hong Kong, Australia, and a trip to the moon. Sasek's distinctive style has the retro feel of the late 1950s and early 1960s, when these books were first published; these facsimile editions reproduce faithfully the texts of the originals, but an added page in the back provides more recent facts and figures to bring them up to date. Now if I can only refrain from buying the whole series.... 

Help Me, Jacques Cousteau
by Gil Adamson-
This is the kind of marvelous writing that makes the ordinary extraordinary. There's so much vividness and humor and freshness in these linked stories that it's almost a shock to realize that what happens in them is by most measures mundane-a visit to an uncle, fish-sitting for slightly suspect neighbors, a marriage slowly and quietly coming apart. Each story lights up a crucial moment in the life of Hazel's family as brightly as if you were right there, creating an evolving portrait of people who are as familiar as the family next door yet wholly individual and eccentric. 

Settled in the Wild by Susan Hand Shetterly- Quiet and wise-a little gem of a book. Shetterly's concern for nature is rooted in decades of close observation of her Maine environment. Her gift is to see things as they are-that animals are predators and prey with their own imperatives, as well as fascinating creatures she has the impulse to rescue; that the motives of neighbors who resist conservation efforts deserve respect and understanding, no matter how frustrating the situation; that we must live in the world as it is without giving up the belief that we can improve things. 

The Inner Sky
by Rainer Maria Rilke-
Even lovers of Rilke will, amazingly, find much that's new here. Among these wonderful translations by Damion Searls of both poems and prose selections are a number of pieces that have never been translated into English. Intimate and introspective, this collection of diary entries, fragments, and polished poems conveys a sense of sitting beside the poet, of sharing rather than merely receiving his ideas. 

Lists, To-Dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists' Enumerations
by Liza Kirwin-

Don't throw out that list! What might seem like day-to-day ephemera offer intriguing glimpses into the ways people think and into specific moments in time, into what they consider important and how they organize their priorities. These pieces, all drawn from the Smithsonian's archives of American art, offer candid snapshots of cultural history. What do your lists say about you? 

Liberty's Picks

The Tiger by John Vaillant- THIS BOOK IS AMAZING! Jam-packed with history and action - the survival of the furriest. Follows the story of a Siberian tiger, as it makes snack cakes out of poachers. Learn all about the history of Russia, communism, man/animal interaction, and more, as you race to discover if authorities find the tiger before it kills again. I now have a new irrational fear - being mauled by a Siberian tiger. (Is it really that irrational? I'm awfully attached to my mortal coil.)

Father of the Rain
 by Lily King-
Father of the Rain repeatedly punched me in the heart from beginning to end. I haven't cried this much since Bambi's mother died. This book is the perfect example of why I love reading: that someone you don't know can make you feel real emotions about things that haven't actually happened - it thrills me to no end. Lily King is an unbelievable writer - she should be studied under a microscope.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
by David Mitchell-
David Mitchell is a GENIUS! His writing is so amazing, he's super-smart, and his stories are always strange and original. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet combines an unusual piece of history with ninjas and romance - maddeningly wonderful! Did I mention that he's a GENIUS? I am obsessed with David Mitchell. (Don't mention that to anyone if he should go missing.

by Laura Hillenbrand
- Seabiscuit author Hillenbrand outdoes herself with the true WWII story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who survived the crash of his plane over the Pacific, only to endure weeks on a raft at sea, and years of imprisonment and torture at the hands of the Japanese. An unbelievably amazing tale of survival and hope.

Kings of the Earth
by Jon Clinch-
The adjectives 'astounding' and 'haunting' were invented for this novel. Narrated by multiple characters, it is a story of grace and devastation about three brothers and their little piece of the world. Clinch cannot be human - no one should be able to write like this about a period of time they didn't live through. Simply, simply gorgeous.

The Report
by Jessica Francis Kane-
Kane brings dignity and compassion to her imagining of the cause behind the 1943 London tube station tragedy, in which 173 people died. The Report looks at the people involved in the tragedy, the time period and climate surrounding it, and the man delegated the task of investigating the horrible occurance. Moving and quietly powerful.

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes- A novel decades in the making, Marlantes has written a hard-hitting account of the Vietnam war, loosely based on his observations during his time spent there as a Marine. A fresh-faced recruit quickly learns how the system works, starting with race relations and hostility amongst the soldiers, up to the indifferent top brass, who send orders and move the men around like puppets with chilling detachment. 

Lonesome Dove
by Larry McMurtry-
As soon as I started reading this, I was immediately hooked. One thing I didn't know about Lonesome Dove is how FUNNY it is. The banter between the Texas Rangers is fantastic. And the story is so compelling. I couldn't put it down - and it's almost 1,000 pages long. As a Cormac McCarthy fan, I was thrilled by the post-Civil War period I've come to love in novels. And the whole time I was reading it, I was struck by the fact that this is how people really used to live. Snakes and scalpings and sandstorms, oh my! When I finished reading it, it was like I lost a friend - I was so depressed that I slept with it under my pillow. (It says third in a trilogy, but this was written first, and works perfectly well as a stand-alone.)
Michele's Picks

Elegies for the Brokenhearted by Christie Hodgen- In Christie Hodgen's gorgeously written novel, Mary Murphy reflects on five people in her life who have shaped who she has become.  Most of the book is written in second person, as she looks back on the time she spent with these people. Mary is a woman who struggles to find herself.  She comes from a poor background. "We were a family of bad citizens. Drunk drivers and tax evaders, people who parked in handicapped spaces and failed to return shopping carts to their collection stands." Hodgen is a sculptor of sentences. Her words brim with the weight of memory; an incantation that pays homage to the deceased in all of their flawed beauty.

To The End Of The Land by David Grossman- There is so much packed into this novel that the fictional characters come across as intensely, achingly real. Here is a novel of tremendous strength and resolution; a book that aims to understand why humans do what they do, both in war and in love. The main characters use words and stories to orient themselves, and to navigate the terrain of their minds. In Grossman's masterly novel, an Israeli mother whose son is a soldier decides to walk through the countryside and not have her phone with her; if she isn't reachable, perhaps that will "protect" her son.  As Grossman was finishing writing the book, his own son was killed in action. 

A Novel Bookstore
by Laurence Cossé, translated by Alison Anderson-
This charming novel is packed with sublime, enthusiastic descriptions of reading and literature.  Imagine the ideal bookstore: an exquisitely curated Parisian space that only carries good literature-- chosen by a top secret committee. This neat idea soon turns into a problem when committee members are attacked. Fans of The Elegance of the Hedgehog will enjoy this literary mystery. The book is even translated by the same translator!

Let's Take The Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell-  I loved this memoir so much! I can't remember ever crying as much as I did while reading Caldwell's story of her friendship with the writer Caroline Knapp. If you're a fan of gorgeous writing and animals, you need to read Let's Take The Long Way Home (and give it to all of your friends!) Fans of Truth and Beauty will find much to appreciate.

The Singer's Gun
by Emily St John Mandel-
  The Singer's Gun is simultaneously a page-turner and a finely written piece of literary fiction.  Fans of the television show THE WIRE will find much to like in a story that is a meditation on identity, criminal behavior, and the boundaries of love. I was a fan of Mandel after reading Last Night in Montreal; and now after reading The Singer's Gun I can truly say she is one of the most talented young novelists out there.

A Visit from the Goon Squad
by Jenn
ifer Egan- I loved this novel so much that I want to read it for a second time, just to enjoy the way that the author structured the story.  She covers a lot of territory by writing from the viewpoint of different characters, and even has a postmodern twist; there's a chapter written in Powerpoint. Not a gimmick at all, I assure you. It's fascinating. Jennifer Egan is SMART. Read this book and you'll feel smart, too! She writes about strained relationships, music, and the changing world we live in with wit & sagacity.

The Wrong Blood by Manuel de Lope- Reading The Wrong Blood was similar in experience to the first time I read a book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Every sentence is alive with emotion and complexity, and the underlying passion in the author's prose made me want to linger over every page. Manuel de Lope writes about nature and memory in concentric circles, leaving readers with a vertiginous view of the world around us.

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville- I'm so glad that I finally read Moby-Dick.  Some readers might be surprised to discover that this isn't old-fashioned storytelling.  Melville combined narrative with pages and pages of philosophy, whale anatomy, and biblical references.  The result is an epic novel that will always be considered a massively important contribution to American literature.  If you tried reading Moby-Dick in high school and put it down, give it another chance.  You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it.
Tom's Picks

Van Gogh in Auvers: His Last Days
by Wouten Van Der Veen and Peter Knapp
-  This is literally a journal of the end of the famous painter's life.  It places documents, photos, letters, and scholarship side by side with the paintings he was making at the time.  Exquisite and sad.


Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand
by Malcolm Daniel
- Three towering figures of early 20th Century photography in one affordably priced, gorgeous book from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Buy this for me, please.

Bink & Gollie
by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee
- This utterly charming book for early readers reminds me of the gentle humor of Frog and Toad, but thoroughly updated to the roller-skating, laptop using, pancake making present.  Broken into three short stories, it makes great bedtime reading for toddlers, too!

10 Little Penguins by Fromental and Jolivet- The authors of 365 Penguins return with a dastardly little pop-up book in which we count down from 10 as a penguin disappears from each page.  The death and destruction is undercut by tongue and cheek humor, inventive paper craft, and a happy ending.

Monsters Eat Whiny Children
by Bruce Eric Kaplan-
The noted New Yorker cartoonist provides a picture book clearly aimed at adults and their foibles as some very human-seeming monsters bicker over how best to cook and serve Henry and Eve, the whiny children who didn't heed their father's warning.  Hilarious.

Mysterious Benedict Society Box Set
by Trent
on Stewart- A clever but shy boy becomes part of an unusual crime-fighting trio. Reminiscent of Lemony Snicket but with more heart and less cheek, this is a great adventure tale about discovering and using your particular strengths.  Ages 8-12

Best American Noir of the Century
edited by James Ellroy-
The writer who brought us L.A. Confidential sifts through and brings us the best dark, intense mystery writing of the past 100 years, including local favorite Brendan Dubois.

Island Light
by Katherine Towler-
Local author Katherine Towler presents her third book set on placid, remote Snow Island.  Her books are quiet and thoughtful, evoking a sense of place, and of how the local and the global rub up against each other.