Friday, April 25, 2014

Book News Roundup: April 25, 3014


John Scalzi writes science fiction (prize-winning novels Old Man's War and Redshirts, among others), blogs prolifically (the always-worth-reading Whatever), and yesterday was interviewed by Veronica Scott in USA Today. They cover topics ranging from Scalzi's past and upcoming works (can't wait to read Lock In, dropping August 26th!) to what movies he recommends and what is (or isn't) on his bucket list. The interview is worth a read, as is his blog, which is opinionated and funny and very, very topical. Oh yeah, his novels are pretty terrific, too.

Winter is Coming...No, Really

That big tease George R.R. Martin has released another tiny excerpt, this one from the upcoming World of Ice and Fire, a companion book to the Song of Ice and Fire series. It's not Winds of Winter (the next novel...due out...someday), but it'll satisfy that jones for a little while. World of Ice and Fire will be out October 28th of this year.

This Is No Jest

In 1996, after the publication of Infinite Jest, journalist David Lipsky traveled with author David Foster Wallace for Rolling Stone magazine. That article was never published, but after DFW's suicide in 2008 Lipsky published the transcript of their conversations as Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace. The movie version of this book, titled, rather more succinctly, The End of the Tour, is currently in production, and the David Foster Wallace estate is not happy about it. Carolyn Kellog's Los Angeles Times blog Jacket Copy has the details. 

Time's Most Influential

Time magazine has released its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, and this year there are six wonderful writers on the list. As is the devil incarnate (because it's a  list is of influential people, not great ones).

Friday, April 18, 2014

Book News Roundup: April 18, 2014

Many Years Later, As He Faced The Firing Squad...

He'd been sick for fifteen years but that didn't lessen the blow of yesterday's news that Gabriel Garcia Marquez, novelist, journalist, Nobel Laureate, had died at the age of 87. There have been countless beautiful obituaries and tributes, Jonathan Kandell in the New York Times and Mandelit del Barco on NPR, to cite just two, and I know my words could never do justice to the depth of my feelings for the man and his work, so I'll leave it at this: if you haven't read, at the very least, One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, then you are missing out on two of the most beautiful, meaningful--and, dare I say, fun--works of literature in any genre, of any period.

And The Winner Is

The Pulitzer Prizes were announced on Monday. There are prizes given out in many categories, and all are, of course, important. But since books are our first love, we'll just concentrate on those (you can click on the link for the complete list).

  • Fiction: The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
  • Drama: The Flick, Annie Baker (not available in book form until 8/14)
  • History: The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1172-1832, Alan Taylor
  • Biography: Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, Megan Marshall 
  • Poetry: 3 Sections, Vijay Seshadri
  • General Nonfiction: Tom's River: A Story of Science and Salvation, Don Fagin

Real Books Rule

At least, according to the study cited in this New York Times Motherlode blog post and to this article, also in the Times, about Amazon employees in Seattle who--who'd'a thunk it?--shop indie for their book needs. And to us, of course.

Libraries Fight for Intellectual Freedom

In its annual State of American Libraries Report, the American Library Association discusses, among other things, challenges to books and access to them. In the Intellectual Freedom section of the report the ALA publishes its list of most-challenged books of the preceding year. For the second year in a row, Captain Underpants tops the list, closely followed by the usual suspects: Toni Morrison, Sherman Alexie, John Green, and their dubious ilk. Here's the list:
  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violenc
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
    Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green Reasons:
    Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
    Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book News Roundup: April 11, 2014


As a reader I'm always fascinated by book lists. This week, in The Week, author Emma Donoghue (Frog Music, Room) shares a list of six favorites--classic, contemporary, not yet published, and even audio. (P.S. On Donoghue's recommendation I've picked up The Bees by Laline Paull, which will be published next month. It's wild!)


Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago was banned in the Soviet Union and originally published in an Italian translation by an Italian publisher. Enter the CIA, which thought it a perfect propaganda tool. The Washington Post goes in-depth on the 1958 caper, and it reads like a spy novel in miniature.


The literary world lost a great soul last week. Peter Matthiessen, spy, activist, environmentalist, novelist, Buddhist, and the only winner of both a fiction and a nonfiction National Book Award, died at the age of 86 last week. There were many tributes and obituaries; this piece on NPR was a beautiful one.

Sue Townsend, author of the Adrain Mole series of comic novels, has died. She was 68, and her voice will be missed.

It's All Fun and Games Until Somebody Pisses Off The Hound

Jimmy Kimmel's team has made a Game of Thrones/KFC commercial which is sublime. Truly sublime. NSFW, certainly, but still, well, finger-lickin' good.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Book News Roundup: April 4, 2014

April Fool!

There were a number of good book-related April Fools' Day pranks this year, but far and away the best has to go to, which posted this about an upcoming new series from J.K. Rowling--to focus on the school experience of Colin Creevey, a minor character in the Harry Potter series. For just a moment my heart soared with joy...

National Poetry Month

April may be the cruellest month (to use T.S. Eliot's anglophilic spelling in The Waste Land), but it's also National Poetry Month. Knopf Doubleday's The Borzoi Reader is once again publishing a Poem-A-Day, right to your inbox. Click the link and enjoy poetry throughout the month!

The Death of the Independent Bookstore

has been greatly exaggerated, according to this article in Well, we're very happy to hear it.

Westeros is Hot

(Even if winter is coming.) This Sunday's premier of the fourth season of Game of Thrones--the best TV adaptation of a book series in the history of the medium--has engendered a spate of articles. Warning: some of the articles contain spoilers, so heed the warnings!
  • From Huffington Post Books, "The 7 Wildest Theories About Game of Thrones". I have yet to finish the series yet (just started A Clash of Kings, the second book), so I have absolutely no idea how far out or reasonable many of these are.
  • (definitely my favorite science fiction website) has had a spate of terrific articles. Here are a smattering: Bridget McGovern on GoT nicknamesa refresher of what's happened on the series, from Stubby the Rocket; Leigh Butler has been working through a Song of Ice and Fire reread

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Books We Love: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

As a reader and bookseller I've long been leery of what we in the business call "buzz books". Don't get me wrong--I don't believe that because something is popular doesn't mean it's no good. Far from it! But book buzz--like any other kind of hype--is generated as often as it's genuine, and I have very little interest in reading anything because a corporation tells me I should. On the other hand, if my fellow booksellers are to a person loving something I take notice.

By the time I received my advance reading copy of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, my interest had already been piqued. Yes, it seemed there was a degree of generated buzz; after all, the publisher's reps were pushing it pretty hard. But when it reached my hands, it seemed, a generated-to-genuine transition had occurred, so I decided to give it a try.

That The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a book about an independent bookstore owner certainly didn't hurt its case with me.

A.J. Fikry is in his late thirties. He owns Island Books, a small independent bookstore ("No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World" reads the faded sign over the porch) located in a Martha's Vineyard-esque island community. A.J. seems a bitter loner, and in our first encounter with him, in which he does his best to alienate a new publisher's rep making her first seasonal visit to his store, he also comes across as a bit of an ass.

Soon after this visit, in rapid succession, A.J. loses a very valuable book (a first edition of Poe's Tamerlane, published in a run of only fifty copies) to theft and finds an abandoned baby, two events that, along with the death of his wife, which happens before the action of the book begins, will define, nay, transform the rest of his life.

A.J. Fikry enters our acquaintance as a book snob and a pedant, even in his most emotionally draining moments ("If this were Raymond Carver," he says to the cop who's taking his statement at the hospital after the death of his wife in a car accident, "you'd offer me some meager comfort and darkness would set in and all this would be over. But feeling more like a novel to me after all. Emotionally, I mean. It will take me a while to get through it. Do you know?"). He has little patience for books that he's not interested in, but he has perfect memory for people's reading tastes, and, despite the snobbishness can make appropriate recommendations. And A.J. can--and does!--change and grow as a bookseller and as a reader. As a new father he finds himself becoming more a part of the community than he ever has been before, adding to his bookstore's inventory--he brings in books that local moms are interested in for their book clubs, he adds a kids section--and even reading books he never would have looked at before.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a book about love and loss and what we read. It's about community and family, and how the family we cobble together is just as important as the one we're biologically tied to. 

And, finally, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is about bookstores. You know how important bookstores are, so I'll just leave you with A.J.'s thoughts after his mother gives everyone in the family an e-reader for Christmas (the emphasis is mine).

A.J. has often reflected that, bit by bit, all the best things in the world are being carved away like fat from meat. First, it had been the record stores, and then the video stores, and then newspapers and magazines, and now even the big chain bookstores were disappearing everywhere you looked. From his point of view, the only thing worse than a world with big chain bookstores was a world with NO big chain bookstores. At least the big stores sell books and not pharmaceuticals or lumber! At least some of the people who work at those stores have degrees in English literature and know how to read and curate books for people! At least the big stores can sell ten thousand units of publisher's dreck so that Island gets to sell one hundred units of literary fiction!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New Releases November 5, 2013

Get Wimpy!
Here it is, your go-to gift for every kid on your list this season:Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard LuckTrust me, I'm a trained professional. But if you don't believe me, check out author Jeff Kinney's teaser here

History & Politics

Ooh, a couple of good ones this week. 

Pulitzer Prize winner Doris Kearns Goodwin (Team of Rivals) turns her sights on that rough rider Theodore Roosevelt's relationship with the press in The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of JournalismIt was the first book we sold yesterday...because Pete's been slavering over it since it arrived in the store last week.

In a vein that couldn't possibly be more different and still be considered the same subject, the authors of Game Change--the tell-all that took
us behind the scenes of the 2008 presidential race--bring us 
Double Down: Game Change 2012. Though according to reviews it's not likely to go down as an essential work of political history it is one of the juciest, buzziest books of the year.


It's been eight years since the publication of Amy Tan's last novel,Saving Fish From Drowning, so to say that this new one from the author of beloved The Joy Luck Club is much-anticipated is not to exaggerate. The Valley of Amazement examines one of Amy Tan's richest subjects, the deep relationship between mother and daughter, this time over a span of forty years, from the end of China's imperial age through World War II.

Can Diane Setterfield follow up the crazy success of her first novel, book club favorite The Thirteenth Tale, with another big success? Bellman & Black, Setterfield's second novel, begins with the impetuous killing of a rook by a young boy, an act which will have repercussions throughout his life. A ghost story, a gothic tale, a mystery; Bellman & Black is sure to please book-clubbers and thriller-readers alike.

And Don't Forget

All of the amazing books released earlier this fall:
  • House of Hades, fourth in the Heroes of Olympus series
  • Allegiant, the controversial finale to the Divergent trilogy
  • Bleeding Edge, National Book Award finalist from my favorite author, Thomas Pynchon
  • One Summer: America, 1927, another feather in Bill Bryson's polymath cap
  • The Rosie Project, a romance for non-romance readers...even guys (seriously)!
Come on in and let's talk books! If none of these appeal to you, we will find something that does.

The Book Frog is located on the second level of the Promenade on the Peninsula. 

Call us: 310-265-BOOK (2665)

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Link Roundup: Book-Themed Stuff!

Photo by Laura Frondorf

Scary book links from around the web

Goodnight Moon is not usually considered a scary book. In fact, it's a beloved fixture in most people's memories of early childhood. But check out this reading from Graywolf Press author Benjamin Percy (Red Moon, The Wilding). Chilling!

Ever wonder what your favorite horror and thriller writers do on Halloween? Well, Ron Charles--deputy editor of The Washington Post's book section--has checked in with Anne Rice, Peter Straub, Justin Cronin, and others to see how they'll be spending the most sacred day in the horror calendar.

Book Keeping, Farrar, Straus and Giroux's readers' community on Facebook, has been posting Halloween-themed spine poetry for the last few days. 

Buzzfeed gets in the spirit with 18 Literary Pumpkins for a Bookish Halloween. We wanted to choose a favorite, but they're all so beautiful!

Bookish on literary Halloween costumes, scariest books, and more.

Here's hoping your Halloween reading is truly terrifying.