Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cathy Recommends....

A MIGHTY LONG WAY My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School
By Carlotta Walls LaNier

When fourteen-year-old Carlotta Walls walked up the stairs of Little Rock Central High School on September 25, 1957, she and eight other black students only wanted to make it to class. But the journey of the "Little Rock Nine", as they came to be known, would lead the nation on an even longer and much more turbulent path, one that would challenge prevailing attitudes, break down barriers, and forever change the landscape of America.Descended from a line of proud black landowners and businessmen, Carlotta was raised to believe that education was the key to success. She embraced learning and excelled in her studies at the black schools she attended throughout the 1950s. With Brown v. Board of Education erasing the color divide in classrooms across the country, the teenager volunteered to be among the first black students,of whom she was the youngest, to integrate nearby Central High School, considered one of the nation?s best academic institutions.

But for Carlotta and her eight comrades, simply getting through the door was the first of many trials. Angry mobs of white students and their parents hurled taunts, insults, and threats. Arkansas's governor used the National Guard to bar the black students from entering the school. Finally, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was forced to send in the 101st Airborne to establish order and escort the Nine into the building. That was just the start of a heartbreaking three-year journey for Carlotta, who would see her home bombed, a crime for which her own father was a suspect and for which a friend of Carlotta's was ultimately jailed, albeit wrongly, in Carlotta's eyes. But she persevered to the victorious end: her graduation from Central. Breaking her silence at last and sharing her story for the first time, Carlotta Walls has written an inspiring, thoroughly engrossing memoir that is not only a testament to the power of one to make a difference but also of the sacrifices made by families and communities that found themselves a part of history.Complete with compelling photographs of the time, A Mighty Long Way shines a light on this watershed moment in civil rights history and shows that determination, fortitude,
and the ability to change the world are not exclusive to a few special people but are inherent within us all.

Carlotta Walls LaNier attended Michigan State University and graduated from Colorado State College, now the University of Northern Colorado, on whose board of trustees she sits. After working for the YWCA, she founded her own real estate brokerage firm, LaNier and Company. A sought-after lecturer, LaNier speaks across the country, and she has received the Congressional Medal of Honor and two honorary doctorate degrees. She is the mother of two children, Whitney and Brooke, and lives in Englewood, Colorado, with her husband, Ira.

WILLIE MAYS The Life, the Legend By James S. Hirsch

Considered to be "as monumental -- and enigmatic -- a legend as American sport has ever seen" (Sports Illustrated), Willie Mays is arguably the greatest player in baseball history, still revered for the passion he brought to the game. He began as a teenager in the Negro Leagues, became a cult hero in New York, and was the headliner in Major League Baseball's bold expansion to California. With 3,283 hits, 660 home runs, and 338 stolen bases, he was a blend of power, speed, and stylistic bravado that enraptured fans for more than two decades.

Now, in the first biography authorized by and written with the cooperation of Willie Mays, James Hirsch reveals the man behind the player.Willie is perhaps best known for "The Catch" -- his breathtaking over-the-shoulder grab in the 1954 World Series. But he was a transcendent figure who received standing ovations in enemy stadiums and who, during the turbulent civil rights era, urged understanding and reconciliation. More than his records, his legacy is defined by the pure joy that he brought to fans and the loving memories that have been passed to future generations so they might know the magic and beauty of the game. With meticulous research, and drawing
on interviews with Mays himself as well as with close friends, family, and teammates, Hirsch presents a complex portrait of one of America's most significant cultural icons.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Another Cup of Sugar from Twist and Shout

Books and music go together, or at least Tattered Cover and our local indie music gurus at Twist and Shout think so. So we've decided to "borrow a cup of sugar" from each other from time to time, meaning we're sharing some of each other's reviews from our blogs (theirs is called
Twisted Spork ).

Preservation--An Album to Benefit Preservation Hall and the Preservation Hall Music Outreach Program
With the attention on the great city of New Orleans that has surfaced since the tragedy of Katrina and now the celebration of the amazing Super Bowl victory of The Saints, the time seems perfect for this release. The music of New Orleans has rightfully been singled out as the city's greatest contribution to culture, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band are emblematic of one of the more important facets of that music. Their traditional, perfectionist take on brass band jazz sets the standard and keeps the tradition beautifully preserved for future generations. Preservation pairs the band with a variety of contemporary artists to glorious results. The list of artists is varied, drawing from rock, folk, bluegrass and world music to create a whole that shines a light on the joyous feelings the Preservation Hall Jazz Band bring to whatever they are playing.

Kicking off with Andrew Bird and moving to Paolo Nutini (two pretty distinctive modern artists) it is immediately apparent that the guest artists involved will be playing it the Preservation way, not the other way around. With very few exceptions, everyone plays it straight and lets Preservation Hall be the star of the show. Highlights of the modern artists include Yim Yames of My Morning Jacket doing "Louisiana Fairytale," a revved up Ani Difranco's take on "Freight Train" and Steve Earle's appropriate take on "T'aint Nobody's Business." On the more traditional side, Dr. John is perfectly greasy on "Winin' Boy," The Blind Boys Of Alabama raise spirits on "There is a Light," Bluegrass legend Del McCoury fits like hand in glove on "After You've Gone," Pete Seeger and his son Tao Rodriguez-Seeger are warmly familiar on "Blue Skies" and a Louis Armstrong vocal is lifted for a new version of "Rockin' Chair" that couldn't sound more right.

For me, the real winners of this consistently winning set were Tom Waits and Angelique Kidjo. Waits tackles "Tootie Was My Big Fine Thing" and it is absolutely classic Waits. He is truly a genius who can make anything familiar weird, and vice-versa. Angelique Kidjo pairs with New Orleans Trumpeter (and son of Preservation Member Walter Blanchard) Terence Blanchard to deliver a spellbinding version of "La Vie En Rose." Her exotic voice offers the perfect contrast to the rock solid Americana background provided by Preservation.

There is a deluxe version that comes with a second disc that contains an additional 6 songs, including another essential Waits contribution "Corinne Died On The Battlefield," and a second Yim Yames contribution-the spooky "St. James Infirmary." Very worth while in my opinion.

--Paul Epstein

Why Record Stores Matter

The other day a friendly gentleman approached the counter holding a record and wearing a smile. He held up a Charlie Parker 10” record on the Savoy label and said something to the effect of “this is my record.” According to the gentleman this record, this VERY record was purchased by him when it came out in 1948. Sometime in the ensuing 60 years he sold the record (he thought in California in the 70’s). Now, here in 2010 he is poking around one of the few places in the country it could possibly be, and lo and behold there it is. He points to his name written on the jacket, and a bunch of doodles on the back that he drew. “Yep it’s mine.” He purchased the record and left happily.

Now when this story came to me through an employee and I just about flipped out. This is exactly what I’ve been saying for years. The great tradition of second hand stores in this country act as more than just retail outlets - they are estuaries that collect the cultural castoffs, the flotsam and jetsam of our society, and then like putting a plain rock in a tumbler and having it come out a jewel, these items resurface later as little time capsules that not only still perform their original duties (in this case giving us the genius of Charlie Parker) but they also carry with them the smells, the feel, the secret messages of the life, or lives of those whose hands they passed through. In this case, the record was purchased 62 years ago - think of the worlds the original purchaser has come through since originally plopping down a buck or two for the record. Think of the all the lives that might have touched it since he sold it, and the journey the record itself took to find itself at Twist and Shout in 2010, and then back in its original owners’ hands. Think of all the life that the record was close to. It sat in living rooms while the world changed - it sat there during the Korean War, Vietnam, Woodstock, Watergate, Disco, 9/11, countless financial ups and downs. Not to mention the individual lives of the people who owned and loved it - Marriage? Divorce? Kids? Maybe a kid sold it to us after his father died. Maybe someone learned to play sax by listening to that record over and over. Maybe it was the last record someone listened to before leaving home. 

The image that keeps coming back to me is that of a message in a bottle. Someone throws it into the ocean in hopes that it will travel miles and come ashore to someone’s hands. It might contain a mystery, or a great love affair, or a buried treasure, but it is a romantic notion. That the bottle you throw in the ocean could wash up on shore next to YOU, years later, is almost too much to believe. But there it was, in the hands of the guy who originally bought it, with his original doodles on the back - just amazing. This is why we have and continue to need record stores. Where else could this happen?

--Paul Epstein

Local Author Spotlight: Tongue Tied by Peter Griffiths

This is a fascinating look at Wales and a great historic fiction read! The story follows 2 families through 3 generations starting in 1876. The Welsh music, language, and the natural beauty of the northern countryside create an atmosphere that you won't want to leave. I became immersed in this book last summer and have since recommended it to book clubs. It's a tad long for some groups but provides good discussion on what happens to a family and their country when they lose their language - hence the title, Tongue Tied.

The author was born and raised in Wales and came to Denver in the early 1970's. He and his Welsh wife divide their time between Denver and Wales. He is currently working on his second novel.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Unbridled Books Shares Some Spring/Summer Previews

Fred Ramey, one of Unbridled Books two editors/publishers, shares a couple upcoming books to watch for.

"In May, we'll release the second novel by the astounding Emily St. John Mandel-The Singer's Gun. It's a wild story about forged passports, corrupt families and international crime, a tale of intrigue in which everybody is willing to use somebody else to escape the past. Like Mandel's first novel, this one turns on gradual revelations about characters you'd wish better for. And it evolves from a nearly comic, if shadowed, urban story about a young man wanting a more legitimate life into a smartly twisting novel of suspense that reaches across oceans. Mandel is the real thing, and we're proud to have her in our list; soon every reader will know her name. Watch."

BTC is already on board with this novel. Joe says "Emily St. John Mandel's second novel, "The Singer's Gun" proves she is a writer to watch out for. Anton Waker wants out of the life of corruption he grew up with. Unfortunately, it isn't an easy thing to shake. Elena, a college drop-out in the US illegally, wants never to return to her isolated hometown again. These two form a love based on half-truths and outright lies told by Mandel with unflinching honesty. This is a novel of suspense, mystery, and of international intrigue. It's one of family loyalties, of the haunting price we pay when we want to go out on our own. I can't wait to handsell this one!"

Fred goes on to say that "in July, we have Taroko Gorge, a breathtaking debut by Jacob Ritari. Three Japanese school girls disappear into the dense and imposing Taroko Gorge, Taiwan's largest national park. A raggedy American reporter and his drunken photojournalist partner are the last to see the schoolgirls and, pretty suspect themselves, they investigate the disappearance along with the girls' distraught teacher, their bickering classmates, and an old, wary Taiwanese detective. The conflicts between them all-complicated by the outrageousness of the photographer and the raging hormones of the students-raise questions of personal, desire, responsibility and unvarnished self-interest. Virtually everybody at Unbridled read this novel in one sitting, and what astounds me most is that such a page-turner has been written by an author so young. Ritari is 23."

Both can be pre-ordered at

The Joys of Bookstore Browsing from The Guardian

We here at BTC ran across this fantastic entry by Sam Jordison on The Guardian's Book Blog page and just had to share it with you since its subject is near and dear to our own hearts.

Among the many things that will be lost if The Man gets his way and the supermarkets, Amazon and ebook readers succeed in driving independent bookstores from our streets will be proper browsing. All those Amazon recommendations, Facebook friend requests, tweets, reviews, and yes, blogs, sometimes get too noisy. It is a relief to go into a bookshop and quietly pick up a book. It satisfies my hunter-gatherer vanity. And there's the simple pleasure of judging a book by its cover – which, contrary to popular cliche, is effective and fun.

I say that particularly, because – bucking all trends – a new independent bookstore called The Book Hive has recently opened near my house in Norwich and reminded me that fossicking is by far the most pleasant way to find a book. The shop offers clear advantages above and beyond sticking it to The Man. Even ordering books is an enjoyable experience. They arrive the next day, without extra charge, and when I pick them up I can take my daughter along and let her roam around in the children's section, playing with the plastic vegetables the owner Henry has thoughtfully placed there. I can also share a coffee with Henry and gossip about local poets who allow their infant children no toys other than the leaves and bits of wood they find for themselves out in the Norfolk boglands. The shelves and tables, meanwhile, are mines of serendipitous treasures.

read the whole article at

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Authors on Tour Live Podcast: Audrey Niffenegger

Recorded live at Tattered Cover Historic Lodo!

Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne

What I first noticed about the Bicycle Diaries was that it's a nice looking book, small and orange and red with a lone bicycle rider heading off on his journey. David Byrne's journey takes us to a variety of cities across the globe where he simply rides his bike and thinks. If you enjoy Byrne's music (from the band Talking Heads and solo projects), I think you'll enjoy his writing as well. His musings on art, architecture, culture and class are intelligent and often quite humorous. As a person whose primary mode of transportation is walking, I appreciate his perspective of viewing life at a slower pace. There is no rush hour for our kind, but it is amazing how far you can get by just peddling or taking that first step.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

Interview with Bo Hoefinger and His Human Parents Horst and Lisa

Bo Hoefinger is not an everyday, run-of-the-mill author--he's a mixed-breed shelter dog with an attitude. "Bad to the Bone" focuses on how he and two seemingly normal people wreak havoc on an unsuspecting world while creating a lifelong bond in the process. All three graciously sat down for an interview with Between The Covers.

Please tell us the story of how "Bad To The Bone" went from being a Christmas present to being a hot new non-fiction book.

Lisa: It was actually written as a x-mas present for me in 2006. Bo was getting older and Horst wanted to give me something to have long after Bo was gone, the result was a book written through Bo's eyes. I thought it was so cute and funny I decided to find Bo a literary agent. In July 2007 he signed on with Barbara Poelle at the Irene Goodman Agency , then in July 2008 he put paw to paper on a contract with Kensington Books. In October 2009 Bad To The Bone was released and became the first book written by a dog to ever be published in non-fiction, not bad for a writer in a fur suit. I hope Bo's book brings as much enjoyment and laughter to others as it has to me.

BTC: What's the secret to having a happy multi-species home?

Lisa: There are three main ingredients to being happy in a situation such as ours:
1) There needs to be a healthy supply of love to go around
2) A Swiffer with a 10 boxes of bonus sheets in reserve
3) An immune system resistant to pet dander

Bo: And a king size bed. Humans take up a lot of space.

BTC: Author Temple Grandin, asserts that "animals make us human". What are your thoughts on this?

Bo: Funny you should mention that because I was just reading Church Grandin, that's Temple's dog, who asserts "humans make us animals". Church is right of course because 'the man' is always looking to keep us down. If I have to hear about opposable thumbs one more time I'm going to have to pee in a shoe.

BTC: Thinking about writers, what do you think about the recent popularity of dogs as narrators of books (Garth Stein's "Art of Racing In The Rain", Spencer Quinn's mystery series with Chet, etc.)?

Bo: Those dogs aren't real. But the writers are, with a heaping load of talent. Kinda the opposite of what we got going on in my house.

BTC: As a writer, how do you "court the muse"?

Horst: Since I write as Bo, I like to get inside his head. I sit back and think of a time when he was less than obedient, usually in an obnoxious way. Once I have that feeling, I get a snarky type commentary going on in my head. That's the voice that types away on the keyboard. If I were to use my own voice it would sound something like...

Bo: He's not taking credit for writing the book again, is he? That man is shameless. Simply shameless.

BTC: It seems that pretty much everyone in the family is a blogger these days. We know about,, still doing a bit on else? Since we are bloggers too, we'd love to hear more about them, what inspired you to start them, etc.

: We started Bo Knows to introduce Bo to the world. There are so many sites with sad animal news we decided to have one with only funny stories, a place to go to get a laugh.

Bo: On my blog I normally introduce a ridiculous story from my perspective and then excerpt the relevant parts. My specialty is any wacky story with an animal angle. As long as the protagonist in the story can't speak a human language (parrots get a pass) and they've caused trouble or embarrassment for humans, I will cover them.

Lisa: After working on Dogster for over 16 months we decided it was time for our next adventure. On Dogster we covered the hard hitting issues in the animal community; abuse, puppy mills, legislation, and the huge overpopulation of homeless dogs. We have always adopted rescues but never really knew the story behind the scenes, what it takes to save even one dog.
All the issues that affect the dog community have become very important to us and we after our departure from Dogster we have decided that is where our focus will remain. Bo's book is dedicated to rescue and shelter workers who make this world a better place, one animal at a time. We are donating a portion of the proceeds to help homeless dogs.

Sunbear Squad is a wonderful not-for-profit that took the horrible tragedy of Sunbear and used it to help others to become good Samaritans to animals. A blog has recently been set-up, The Sunbear Blog Squad, and my goal is to start blogging regularly in the spring. I'm taking a little hiatus at the moment to spend time with Bo.

BTC: What advice do you have for aspiring writers/bloggers?

Horst: Do it as a hobby and have fun with it...all else is gravy.

Bo: Yeah, do it for the gravy!

BTC: And, of course, the burning question for BO--Rawhides or Greenies?

Bo: Greenies by a landslide. After I eat one, I don't worry about chatting up the local Chihuahua for fear of knocking her over with bad breath. Besides rawhides can be dangerous. One time I had to put my paw down Copper's {his sister dog} throat to pull one out. I wasn't hungry, she was chocking. Now my parents make her use a fork and knife with everything she eats. Even the
Thanksgiving turkey.

As a special treat, Bo has donated three "pawtographed" copies of his book to BTC readers. All you have to do to enter to win one is send a blog subject you'd like to learn Bo's thoughts on, or a photo of your own dog to: Winners will be picked randomly from the entries on Monday, March 1, 2010.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fun interview with Joshua Ferris from

Watch more Asylum Drinks With Writers videos on AOL Video

Author Joshua Ferris discusses his book "The Unnamed" with Asylum’s Anthony Layser. Taped at the Brooklyn Public House in New York City.

Tattered Cover on C-Span's BookTV

Filmed at Tattered Cover Highlands Ranch just last week!!!

U.S. History - To Hell on a Fast Horse: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old West - Book TV

from Henry Sutton's top 10 Unreliable Narrators

Something strange happened to unreliable narrators in the mid-20th century: they became a little more reliably unreliable, and a lot nastier. In the late-19th century they tended to be untrustworthy either because they were hiding something about themselves or had failed to recognise the truth, generally because of some kind of psychological weakness. However, as modernism shifted into post-modernism and we all became that much more cynical, most narrators were expected to be complicated. Unreliability became inextricably linked with malevolence – not to mention duplicity, delusion, even derangement. Of course, as the parameters stretched, unreliable narrators also became a lot more fun, with humour often countering the blackness. The challenge was to make tricksy first-person characters both intriguing and entertaining.

1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)

Never straight with himself, let alone the ladies and gentlemen of the jury to whom he is ultimately addressing his words, Humbert Humbert arrived halfway through the 20th century, intent on justifying his appalling crime. Nabokov's syntactical genius is the one true triumph.

2. The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James (1898)

Is it a ghost story, or the tragic tale of a young woman undergoing a breakdown? Believing her two young charges are communing with the spirits of her two dead predecessors, the prim governess of Bly House becomes increasingly panic-stricken and erratic, until she's left with a dead boy in her arms.

3. The Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1902)

Right at the start we're told that Marlow likes to spin yarns. However, his tale of journeying up the Congo, in search first of ivory, and then the infamous Kurtz, is one of the most powerful stories in literature. Whether his story is strictly faithful becomes irrelevant, as Marlow ends up highlighting the moral corruption at the heart of all humans.

4. Money by Martin Amis (1984)

John Self is one of literature's most repulsively addictive narrators. The book might be subtitled "A Suicide Note", but it is in fact a love story, with Self dreaming up ever more extravagant ways to shed his wedge while pursuing entirely corruptible Selina Street, among others. The fact that Self might never have actually existed, revealed towards the end, is Amis's sly take on the death of the self.

5. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (1991)

Patrick Bateman makes John Self look even more out of shape, when it comes to commenting on the big brands and applying his murderous hands to the unsuspecting and the vulnerable. Yet Ellis's great comment on consumerism and the death of high culture could just be a mirror to our own deluded thoughts, and Bateman nothing more than a sickly funny fantasist.

6. The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson (1952)

It was Jim Thompson, not James M Cain, who put the hard into hard-boiled, the noir into roman noir. He was also one of the first crime writers to take us into the heads of seriously twisted killers, if not out-and-out psychopaths. Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford is regarded as a pillar of the small Texan community he serves. Yet he's in possession of a secret he doesn't even admit to himself. When the bodies start to appear, the net slowly tightens.

7. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1951)

Classic unreliability when first published in the early 1950s which now looks almost tamely reliable. Of course young Holden Caulfield is anything but clear about what his short, privileged life has already led him to believe – he's a teenager. Naturally everything's phoney, except his beloved sister Phoebe. Though even she is abandoned as Holden loses his fragile grasp on reality.

8. The End Of Alice by AM Homes (1996)

Narrated in the first person by a hyper-intelligent paedophile, and from the third person perspective of a 19-year-old girl with an unhealthy fixation on a much younger boy, Homes's homage to Nabokov didn't just question the nature of desire, but that of literary taste and acceptability. A brutally brave and truly experimental novel that, over here, fell very foul of the Daily Mail.

9. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (2003)

Shriver's Orange Prize-winning novel is a postmodern masterclass in unreliability, as the principal theme of nature versus nurture trickles through the slow revelations of exactly what Kevin has done. Told in a series of letters by Kevin's mother, Eva, to her estranged husband, Franklin, the reader is never quite sure of whether it was Eva or Kevin who exhibited the most disturbing behaviour. Franklin, meanwhile, is guilty of chronic denial.

10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884)

In his search of freedom, as he floats down the Mississippi, Tom Sawyer's best friend "Huck" Finn finds himself travelling out of his rational mind. First published in 1884, Twain himself described his controversial masterpiece, as "... a book of mine where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision and conscience suffers defeat".

Henry Sutton was born in Norfolk in 1963. After training as a journalist he worked for a number of national newspapers and magazines. He is the author of five previous novels, including Gorleston, Flying and Kids' Stuff, and a collection of short stories, Thong Nation. He also teaches creative writing at UEA and lives in Norwich with his family. His new novel, Get Me Out of Here, is published by Harvill Secker.

link to original article:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ramping up for Dave Eggers...

Dave Eggers will be at the Tattered Cover Historic Lodo on March 4--stay tuned for details on free tickets, etc. But to help with those long two weeks until then, here's a great interview with Dave, Maurice Sendak and Spike Jonze about the movie version of Where The Wild Things Are that Dave and Spike co-wrote. The part about what book critics children are is our favorite part!

And, you can always come into one of our stores and pet the new fur-covered edition of Wild Things to pass some time, too! As far as we know, it doesn't bite....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Atlanta Television Interview with Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help

Create Your Own Sports Superstar Contest for Kids

Dodie Ownes -- School Library Journal, 2/17/2010

Inspired by its partnership with Sports Illustrated KIDS, Stone Arch Books is sponsoring a nationwide contest for students in grades three to six. The challenge? Kids are invited to create their very own sports super star. Entrants will have a chance to have their fictional characters featured in an upcoming Sports Illustrated KIDS graphic novel. And the winning student, along with his or her school, will be featured on a page at the back of the new book. Online voters can choose their favorite sports character from the top five entries posted on the contest’s Web site. The top 50 entrants will receive two free Sports Illustrated KIDS graphic novels, one for the student and other for the school library. The contest runs through March 1, 2010.
(reprinted with permission)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Joe Hill's newest, out today.

Here's a widget with all things Horns--not for the faint of heart. Wha ha ha ha!!!!! We urge you to make your purchase through the Indie Bound link!

Interesting WWI poster from the American Library Association

Cookbook Preview: Pig out with this new cookbook!

Pig: King of the Southern Table by James Villas
If Pig is indeed King, then there is trouble at the castle, for Villas (Dancing in the Lowcountry) has stormed the gates and had at him, leaving no sweetbread, shoulder or chop untasted. So, let the commoners rejoice, here are 300 recipes from Southern hog heaven that are juicy, flirtatious, and, at times, scary.

Bravehearts will want to immediately dive into the Variety and Special Meats chapter for some deviled pork liver; hog’s head stew; and brains and eggs. The upper crust might prefer a pork pie. Choices include spicy Tennessee sausage; Pork, Apple and Raisin; or Bacon and Corn. A section on Barbecue and Ribs includes both North and South Carolina styles of BBQ and a half dozen Sparerib options. And where lesser authors might stray off topic when moving to side dishes, Villas, with 13 cookbooks and two James Beard awards under his belt, knows better. All 39 Vegetable and Rice dishes are chock full of oink, from the mushy turnips with bacon and pork, to the slab bacon hoppin’ John. Similarly, there are 20 breads that are decidedly not fat-free. That other Southern king, Elvis, would surely have appreciated the Bacon-Peanut Butter Muffins, perhaps chased down with a lard hoecake or some bacon-grease hush puppies. (May)

(this review used with permission from Publisher's Weekly.)

Cathy recommends....

THE BLACK BOOK 35th Anniversary Edition By Middleton A. Harris
With a new foreword by Toni Morrison and the original introduction by Bill Cosby

Seventeenth-century sketches of Africa as it appeared to marauding European traders. Nineteenth-century slave auction notices. Twentieth-century sheet music for work songs and freedom chants. Photographs of war heroes, regal in uniform. Antebellum reward posters for capturing runaway slaves. An 1856 article titled "A Visit to the Slave Mother Who Killed Her Child.

In 1974, Middleton A. Harris and Toni Morrison led a team of gifted, passionate collectors in compiling these images and nearly 500 others into one sensational narrative of the black experience in America: The Black Book. Now in a deluxe 35th anniversary hardcover edition, The Black Book remains a breathtaking testament to the legendary wisdom, strength, and perseverance of black men and women intent on freedom. Prominent collectors Morris Levitt, Roger Furman, and Ernest Smith, as well as Middleton Harris and Toni Morrison (then a Random House editor, now a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Nobel laureate) spent months studying, laughing at, and crying over these materials from transcripts of fugitive slaves trials and proclamations by Frederick Douglass and other celebrated abolitionists to chilling images of cross burnings and lynchings, patents registered by black inventors throughout the early twentieth century to vibrant posters from Black Hollywood films from the 1930s and 1940s.

A labor of love and a vital link to the richness and diversity of African American history and culture, The Black Book honors the past, reminding us where our nation has been, and gives flight to our hopes for what is yet to come. Beautifully and faithfully presented, and featuring a new Foreword and original poem by Toni Morrison, The Black Book remains a timeless landmark work.

Monday, February 15, 2010

New Authors on Tour -Live! podcast with Stephen Hunter

Authors On Tour - Live! is a series of live podcasts made possible by the Tattered Cover Book Store, a premiere independent bookstore with three locations in Colorado. The podcasts and this site are produced by BurstMarketing, a podcasting publishing company in Denver.

Today's featured podcast is with Stephen Hunter for his book I, Sniper. You can connect with it here:

Dont Miss Book Club Happy Hour!

Thursday, Feb 18 at 6pm at Tattered Cover Colfax Avenue

There are so many great books being published, it can be difficult to decide what to read with your book club. We have the perfect solution for this admittedly good problem to have, Book Club Happy Hour! Join us as Tattered Cover staff members and publisher’s sales representatives offer their favorite choices for book club reading and discussing. Find out what other book clubs are reading and mingle while enjoying wine and light refreshments. There is no cost to attend, but reservations are required. Please call 303-322-1965 ext. 2739 to make a reservation.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Attention Budding Artists!

The Tattered Cover Children's Bookmark Contest asks children to create a colorful bookmark on the theme of reading. The winning entries are printed and distributed to customers during the course of the year.

More information can be found here:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Free Writing Workshop coming up

The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers are offering a free writers workshop entitled "When The 'Tale' Wags The Dog From Old Yeller to Moby Dick: Developing Animals as Key Characters", led by Page Lambert. The workshop will be held at Bel Mar Library, 555 S. Allison Parkway, Lakewood CO on Saturday, Feb 20, 2010.

From their website:

Where would Melville be without Moby Dick? Or Jack London without White Fang? Even Hemingway couldn’t have written “The Cat in the Rain” without the cat. And of course, there’s Black Beauty, and Flicka, and Sea Biscuit. The list goes on and on. But it’s not all pretty. What about Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven or Alfred Hitchcock’s film of Daphne du Maurier’s novella The Birds? What is it about animals as characters that both charms us and repels us when they rear their lovely and sometimes frightening heads in the stories we love to read and write? Come to this two-hour workshop with award-winning author Page Lambert and learn how animals can be a storyteller’s best friend.

About Page:
Page Lambert writes from the mountains west of Denver, where she shares the landscape with elk, deer, coyote, fox, and the occasional gnarly mountain lion and scrounging bear. Reader’s Digest was so enthralled with the Black lab Hondo in her bestselling memoir In Search of Kinship, that they paid her $3000 to expand his story. If you’ve read her novel, Shifting Stars (finalist for the Mountains and Plains Book Award), you might notice that Turtle Women’s red roan mare bears a striking resemblance to her half-Arab mare Romie, and to the Denver carriage horse in All the Water Yet to Come. Facilitator of over 150 workshops and retreats, Lambert’s work is featured in dozens of collections, including Chicken Soup for the Dog and Cat Lover’s Soul. A recipient of two Wyoming Arts Council Literary Fellowships, her “River Writing Journeys for Women” were hailed by Oprah's O Magazine in 2006 as “One of six great all-girl getaways of the year.” To learn about her editing, coaching, and consulting work, go to Read her latest blogs about animals (including vultures) at, Connecting People with Nature, and Writer’s with Words.

Speaking of meeting authors...

Seven of the twelve short story authors who contributed to A Dozen on Denver, which started as a an unprecedented Denver anniversary project by the now defunct Rocky Mountain News and then became an absolutely beautiful book thanks to local publisher Fulcrum, were able to join us at Tattered Cover Historic Lodo Thursday night. Wow, what a panel of minds and opinions by a group who genuinely considers themselves friends of each other and lovers of Denver and books. Here are a few pictures we snapped that night:

Top to bottom, left to right: Sandra Dallas, Laurie Brock (one of the project coordinators), Robert Greer, Margaret Coel, Nick Arvin, Arnold Grossman, Manuel Ramos, Connie Willis

Signed copies are available at all three of our stores.

Mike Shatzkin asks "Why Are You Killing Bookstores?"

Of course the book industry is struggling--EVERYBODY in this economy is struggling. It's just a bit (possible HUGE understatement) more for of a fight for bricks and mortar full of real paper these days with the swelling wave of technology that is the e-book. We sell those too, so we are far from anti-ebook. It's just, well, we'd like to stay in business. We like seeing our guests curled up in our antique chairs reading a book they discovered in our shelves, sipping a coffee and a look of intensity or delight on their faces. We love the noise and bustle of the children's sections as those under 3 feet tall squeal at the magic of a turned page. We love the passionate discussion of ideas at our tables and at our events. We love the 600+ authors we are able to introduce our guests and community to every year--shaking their hand can't be replaced by Skype. It just can't.

And we love Mike Shatzkin's "rumination", reprinted here with permission:

"No news from here today; just rumination.

Those of us in the book business have to choose which anti-social position we want to take.

Some people are for the most rapid possible adoption of ebooks. They can be cheaper. They don’t require paper which pollutes when you create it and adds carbon footprint every time you ship it around. They have much greater functionality, or at least the potential for it. They enable business models that don’t require capital-intensive infrastructure.

But have you thought about this? If you are for the most rapid possible adoption of ebooks, you are for killing bookstores faster.

Although there are probably few people reading this blog who expect bookstores to be around in 15 or 20 years (and those who do will undoubtedly leave a comment!), there are many who would like to keep them around as long as possible. There is a magic to being in a building surrounded by 40,000, 60,000, 100,000 different books. Bookstores are inherently community centers. They make possible the wide dissemination and promotion of great writing. They enable people to see heavily-illustrated books before they purchase them.

But have you thought about this? If you are for bookstores lasting as long as possible, you want to slow down the uptake of ebooks.

As individuals, which side you’re on is a matter of personal preference. Although I have mostly read ebooks for more than 10 years and haven’t read a printed book in two years, I am for bookstores lasting as long as possible. It’s a “health of society”and a “health of my industry” question for me. I think both will be much poorer when bookstores go away.

My societal preference isn’t enough to motivate a self-indulgent guy like me to inconvenience myself, so I read electronically, not on paper. But it does not distress me to remain part of a small minority. It helps keep bookstores alive.

Individuals decide this question on personal preference; businesses think about competitive advantage.

Barnes & Noble and the biggest legacy publishers clearly have an interest in slowing down ebook uptake. Even though B&N and the big publishers are now in the ebook business, their competitive advantage exists heavily on the print side. They recognize that they have to live in the ebook world to serve the authors and customers they’ve had for years, so they do. But I don’t think a single big player in legacy publishing could give you a convincing description of how they maintain their scale and power when digital becomes the rule and print the exception. Can that day possibly be more than 20 years away? Might it be 10? I know a man that will take a bet that it will be five.

Apple and Kobo and Google and a slew of new players clearly have an interest in accelerating the growth of the ebook business because that’s the only part of the book business they’re in.

Amazon sells mostly print, but they sell print online. As sales migrate from print to electronic, it is still good for the print business at Amazon. Reducing print sales drives bookstores out of business, one by one. They go out because their sales went down 10% or 20% or 30%. But the remaining 70% or 80% or 90% of their print book business is demand to be redistributed. When a store disappears, some of those sales migrate to online purchases. And most of that moves to Amazon.

And, as we observed on this blog nearly a year ago, Amazon’s position as an online print retailer would be much harder to dislodge than their position as a leading ebook retailer (particularly with a major weapon — discount pricing on hot new titles — apparently being taken out of their hands by Agency pricing.)

Even though I believe that ebook hegemony will be harder for Amazon to defend than their dominance of online print, their strategy of pushing the move to digital reading has paid big dividends so far. Amazon delivered the Kindle, which was the first really great catalyst to move people from print to digital. (The iPhone was probably the second.) It is clear that Amazon gained an enormous first mover advantage by doing that and succeeded in converting a large number of their best book-buying customers to digital.

Both Barnes & Noble and Borders have suffered same-store sales declines for the past two years. Lots of those Kindle owners might have stopped buying some of their books in stores because they switched to electronic reading. They’re locked in to buying from Amazon until either there’s another way to put books on their Kindle or they move on to another device. Amazon created high switching costs for many of the best bookstore customers in the country. So they now own business they used to compete for and, at the same time, diminish their brick-and-mortar competition driving more print book business to the web.

The big legacy publishers’ greatest strength is their unique ability to handle print book distribution. There really are only a handful of companies in this country (the Big Six plus a few distributors and a tiny number of other publishers) that can put a book into every brick-and-mortar outlet where a customer might buy one. Doing that requires capabilities and relationships that you either have now or never will.

Although the big publishers and big authors have been allies fighting Amazon’s selling policies because they want to preserve print-driven book pricing, in the longer run their interests diverge. As ebook sales keep rising as a percentage of the total, the big publishers’ position weakens and the big authors’ position strengthens.

The book business has always been one with very low financial barriers to entry. Ebook publishing makes getting into the game even cheaper. It is also going to bring increased competition to book publishers from content-creators outside publishing. None of this is appealing if your power as a publisher is the ability to control shelf space and get fast reprints.I don’t think anybody would want to be accused of being in favor of killing bookstores faster. And very few of us would be comfortable having it said we were trying to slow down the progress of digital technology, strategizing to slow down ebook uptake. But you are for one or the other, unless you don’t have any opinion at all."

See the original post from The Idea Logical blog here:

Friday, February 12, 2010

Love Is In The Air...and On The Shelves

The Indie Love and Romance Bestseller Lists

In recognition of Valentine's Day, we present the Indie Love and Romance Bestseller Lists. Based on sales in independent bookstores nationwide for the eight-week period ending February 9, 2010. (Courtesy of the ABA)

LOVE, Non Fiction


The Five Love Languages
Gary Chapman, Moody, $14.99, 9781881273158


Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man
Steve Harvey, Amistad, $23.99, 9780061728976


The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship
Don Miguel Ruiz, Amber-Allen, $14, 9781878424426


Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples
Harville Hendrix, Holt, $15, 9780805087000


Dear Old Love: Anonymous Notes to Former Crushes, Sweethearts, Husbands, Wives & Ones That Got Away
Andy Selsberg (Ed.), Workman, $9.95, 9780761156055


What French Women Know: About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind
Debra Ollivier, Putnam, $24.95, 9780399155628


Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus
John Gray, Quill, $14.99, 9780060574215


Us: Americans Talk About Love
John Bowe (Ed.), Faber & Faber, $16, 9780865479296


The Brain in Love: 12 Lessons to Enhance Your Love Life
Daniel G. Amen, Three Rivers , $14, 9780307587893


How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving
David Richo, Shambhala , $15.95, 9781570628122

Romance, Fiction


The Time Traveler's Wife
Audrey Niffenegger, Harvest, $14.95, 9780156029438


Knit Two
Kate Jacobs, Berkley, $15, 9780425229927


Diana Gabaldon, Dell, $8.99, 9780440212560


Knit the Season
Kate Jacobs, Putnam, $24.95, 9780399156380


The White Queen
Philippa Gregory, Touchstone, $25.99, 9781416563686


The Friday Night Knitting Club
Kate Jacobs, Berkley, $14, 9780425219096


Bed of Roses
Nora Roberts, Berkley, $16, 9780425230077


Divine Misdemeanors
Laurell K. Hamilton, Ballantine, $26, 9780345495969


Dragonfly in Amber
Diana Gabaldon, Dell, $8.99, 9780440215622


Vision in White
Nora Roberts, Berkley, $16, 9780425227510

They're Making A Movie of "The Help"!!!

Chris Columbus fast-tracks 'Help'
Kathryn Stockett's 'The Help'
His 1492 Prods. readies adaptation of Stockett novel By MICHAEL FLEMING

Chris Columbus' 1492 Prods. has fast-tracked a screen adaptation of "The Help," the bestselling Kathryn Stockett novel about African-American domestic servants and their wealthy white employers in Mississippi before the civil rights era.

Tate Taylor has written the script and will direct; 1492 partners Columbus, Michael Barnathan and Michael Radcliffe will produce with Brunson Green of Harbinger Pictures.

The novel has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 35 weeks since its publication in February by Putnam imprint Amy Einhorn Books.

Taylor got involved well before it became a literary sensation for Stockett, a first-time author who was reportedly rejected by 50 agents. Taylor grew up with Stockett in Mississippi — his mother inspired one of the Mississippi matriarchs in the novel — and was so helpful to the author that she gave him an early peek; an option was made well before the book came out.

Taylor, an actor-turned-director who previously directed the 2008 feature "Pretty Ugly People," showed the book to Columbus, whom he met in San Francisco because Taylor's niece and nephew attended the same school as Columbus' kids.

Shingle 1492 is already meeting on financing; plan is to put the pic into production next spring in the South. The producer has the benefit of first-look relationships with India-based Reliance Big Entertainment and Korea-based CJ Entertainment, and Reliance has shown the strongest interest.

Reprinted with permission from Variety. If you'd like to see the original article please go to:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hot News!!! Hunger Games conclusion coming out August 24, 2010!!!

By Diane Roback -- Publishers Weekly, 2/11/2010 12:20:00 PM

(shared with permission from Publisher's Weekly)

Anticipation—and speculation—have been building ever since fans closed the page on the cliffhanger ending of Catching Fire, the second in Suzanne Collins’s bestselling Hunger Games trilogy. What will happen in book three? And what will it be called? Though the plot twists are top-secret, the book’s title has just been revealed by Scholastic: Mockingjay. It will have a one-day laydown date of August 24, 2010, and a first printing of 750,000 copies. (The cover, and title, refer to the hybrid birds that are an important symbol—of hope and rebellion—throughout the books; the mockingjay appears on the jacket art for all three volumes in the series.)

Scholastic will not be distributing advance copies of Mockingjay, though it did create ARCs for the first two volumes. (In keeping with the embargo, media outlets won’t be receiving the book in advance either.) According to a Scholastic spokesperson, because this book, which concludes the series, is so highly anticipated, the publisher wanted to give fans the chance to discover the ending at the same time and prevent spoilers.

And there are plenty of fans out there. “Almost everyone I talk to can’t wait for book three,” says teen blogger Tirzah Price. “The number-one most viewed page on my site is my review for book two.” Price says she enjoys the community that had sprung up around Hunger Games fans. “This is definitely one of my favorite series,” she says. “I like finding a series you can get into with other people.” And while she’s “very, very excited” to read book three, she doesn’t mind the wait, either. “I don’t want to get to that final book too quickly. It’s a lot of fun to talk about and speculate with fans.”

Suzanne Collins.
Photo: Todd Pitt.

As the popularity of the series has grown, many adults are becoming big fans alongside younger readers. Kristine Van Amsterdam, mother of three in Natick, Mass., got hooked on the books after her daughters read them, and raves about the audio version as well. 13-year-old Juliana Van Amsterdam especially likes the fact that protagonist Katniss Everdeen is an independent and strong female character. She says she read the cliffhanger at the end of book two, and immediately realized, “Oh my God! I have to wait now, for such a long time!” Her sister Olivia, 12, has been proselytizing about the books since she read the first one. “I love The Hunger Games so much!” she says. “I tell all my friends to read it, and then they come back and say, ‘That book was so good!’ and I say, ‘See, I told you!’ I like spreading the word.” August 24 can’t come soon enough for her. “I want book three so badly!” Olivia says. “I’m really just sitting on my hands and knees begging for a clue about something!”

No clues, Olivia (sorry), but here’s some other Hunger Games news of note:

To date, in the U.S. and Canada there are over 800,000 copies of The Hunger Games in print, and over 750,000 copies of Catching Fire in print, for a combined total of more than 1.5 million.

The paperback edition of The Hunger Games comes out on July 6.

Scholastic Audio will release the audio recording of Mockingjay simultaneously on August 24.

Foreign rights to The Hunger Games have been sold into 38 territories to date, including, most recently, Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia, Ukraine, and Albania.

Film rights for The Hunger Games have been optioned by Lionsgate, and Suzanne Collins is currently in the midst of writing the screenplay, as well as putting the finishing touches on Mockinjay.

Fun Valentines Recommendations for Kids

Fellow independent bookstore owner Laura DeLaney of Rediscovered Books in Boise, Idaho, shared these entertaining picks for Valentines Day for the kiddies ( and the young at heart):

Starting with fun books for the younger set: The very top of this year's list is The Duchess of Whimsy by Randall de Seve. It's by far and away one of the best picture books I read in 2009, and it's absolutely perfect. The Earl of Norm is hopelessly in love with the Duchess of Whimsy, but can't seem to get her attention, until at last he is just himself. Beautifully charming, and of course filled with whimsy, this is a grand book.


Smitten by David Gordon. A lone mitten meets a stray sock and together they set off on many adventures, from the fun of swimming at the laundromat to the terror of the subway tracks. They discover that they are the perfect pair and definitely smitten. This is also a great gift for any age.


One True Bear by Ted Dewan. I discovered this title courtesy of Stan Steiner at Boise State University. In his words, "Surviving a little boy named Damian had been impossible until the right bear with the 'right stuffing' volunteered for service." Just a wonderful story about the friendship of a loving toy.

Love, Splat by Rob Scotton. Splat is a cat who really wants to give Kitten a very special valentine, but he just can't seem to make it happen. Rob Scotton's illustrations tell so much more than the words, you can't help but laugh your way through this picture book.

I Love You Book by Todd Parr. Perfect for pre-schoolers, this book shares the many ways that we can say "I love you." The pictures are clean and clear, and the text is simple and complete.

Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton. This chunky board book is one of the best hugs for the smallest of children. There's something wonderful about curling up with your children and then getting to laugh with them. Boynton is a master of gentle childhood humor.

For 8- to 12-year-olds, I recommend Juliet Dove, Queen of Love by Bruce Coville. Juliet comes into possession of Helen of Troy's amulet, which makes her into a boy magnet and brings all of the trials that come with it. It's kind of like "The Lightning Thief" by Percy Jackson, because it's filled with characters from Greek mythology, but the wisecracking rats with Cupid arrows definitely take this story in new and fun directions.

Now, for teens, my No. 1 pick is The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg. My daughter introduced me to this book, and she has great taste. Penny has decided that teenage boys are worthless and starts the Lonely Hearts Club for girls who won't hang their self- esteem around boys who treat them badly. The boys take exception to this treatment and trouble brews. I really liked this book about trust and empowerment (and The Beatles lyrics quoted throughout the book didn't hurt).

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. A math prodigy has been dumped by 19 Katherines in a row. Now he's on a road trip with his best friend on a quest to create the theorem of whether you're a dumper or a dumpee. Everyone on staff has enjoyed this title, and we think that you will, too.

Impossible by Nancy Werlin. This brilliant, modern fairy tale that's centered on three impossible tasks, a cunning opponent and the passion of love was a finalist for the National Book Award. One of the favorite reads from our On the Edge Book Club for Teens, this book will stay with you for years.

See the original article at

OPTIONS: Most Read Stories |

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Literary Spotlight on Denver

In honor of Denver's 150th anniversary, the late Rocky Mountain News published 'A Dozen on Denver,' stories from 12 diverse talents including Pam Houston, Nick Arvin, Diane Mott Davidson, Manuel Ramos and many other notables. The stories run from the 1860's all the way into the future (You sure you want to go there?) Pan for gold along Cherry Creek, have a beer with Jack Kerouac at El Chapultepec, get your hair cut -- unwillingly -- at Union Station. These are real cool stories and it's such a pleasure to live in a city with such a strong literary tradition.


Come join us Thursday, Feb 11 at 7pm at our Historic Lodo store:

Several contributors to the book A Dozen on Denver: Stories ($22.00 Fulcrum), will join us to read from and sign this wonderful book. In this original tribute, twelve talented authors, including Margaret Coel, Pam Houston, Sandra Dallas, Nick Arvin, Joanne Greenberg, Connie Willis, Manuel Ramos, Arnold Grossman, Robert Greer, Diane Mott Davidson, Laura Pritchett, and Robert Pogue Ziegler, celebrate Denver’s 150th anniversary, each creating a unique story based on a different decade in the city’s colorful history. Ranging from the pioneer days to WWII aftermath to a haunting vision of the future, this lively volume offers an eclectic mix of exceptional storytelling, each complemented by contemporary illustrations.

Request a signed copy:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Attention Book Clubs!!!

We just got word that Simon and Schuster, publishers of Little Bee by Chris Cleave (coming out in paperback Feb 16) is offering free books to the first 20 book clubs to choose Little Bee for the group. Find out how to enter at

In case you aren't aware of this fabulous book, here is Jackie's review:

This book is painful and beautiful. Little Bee, a Nigerian girl who fled after the murder of her whole village by oil men, ends up in England searching for the two people she knows outside of Nigeria, two people who helped to spare her life once before. Her appearance back in Andrew and Sarah's life sets off a string of events that changes all of their lives forever--though forever is not as long for some of them as for others. There is horror (some of it graphic) and hope in this novel, and it's told in such a strong, fresh voice--you won't forget Little Bee and her story. Governments at their very worst, human beings at their very best and how they clash--it's haunting.

You can meet the author at our Colfax Avenue store on Tuesday, Feb 23 at 7:30 pm.

Or visit his website:

Introducing Barbara Brown Taylor

(This review and author interview done by Marilyn Dahl is shared with us with kind permission from Shelf Awareness.)

How often have you heard people say they are spiritual but not religious? If you are a professor of religion and a former parish priest--if you are Barbara Brown Taylor--you have heard this quite often. She thinks what they are really saying is that they have a longing for more meaning, more feeling, more connection, more life. Even "religious" people have this longing, and while they are "happy to use inherited maps for some of life's journeys... they too can harbor a sense that there is more to life than they are being shown. Where is the secret hidden? Who has the key to the treasure box of More?"

People will go to some extraordinary lengths to find this treasure: hours of prayer and fasting, treks to India or pilgrimages to Medjugorje. The last place most people look is right under their feet, "in the everyday activities, accidents, and encounters in their lives." What spiritual significance could ordering a latte have? A fender bender? Dusting, going to the vet or being frisked at the airport? This is what Taylor addresses in this marvelous mapbook for a spiritual journey. She says that most of us cannot see the red X that marks the Spot because we are standing on it, and there is no path to God apart from paying exquisite attention to our ordinary lives in the real world.

But how? Certain practices have a long history in all religions--prayer, fasting, meditation, pilgrimage--but there are others, and all accomplish the same thing at the end: putting ourselves in a position to experience the divine. Practices that come from the ordinary and universal, like paying attention, encountering others, saying no, feeling pain, even getting lost.

Taylor begins with the practice of waking up to God and realizing that God doesn't see the world in the same way we do. "What if God can drop a ladder absolutely anywhere, with no regard for the religious standards [of those] who have made it their business to know the way to God?" She could not possibly say. But she does know that the house of God stretches from one end of the universe to the other, and she is not in charge of this house, she has no say in who is in or who is out. And she does know that "earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder that we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars." This is beginning of wisdom--being open to the altars, being open to the Voice.

The first step is to pay attention, and to pair attention with reverence. "Reverence requires a certain pace. It requires a willingness to take detours, even side trips, which are not part of the original plan." But start small. Taylor writes this about a saltmarsh mosquito:

"See those white and black striped stockings on legs thinner than a needle? Where in those legs is there room for knees? And yet see how they bend, as the bug lowers herself to your flesh. Soon you and she will be blood kin. Your itch is the price of her life. Swat her if you must, but not without telling her she is beautiful first."

Or pay attention to people who are annoying, people you are short on reverence for. Look at the human being instead of the cell-phone-talking annoyance. Bless the woman--it will shift your equilibrium. Look a clerk in the eye, speak to him and, because you noticed him, neither of you will be the same again. Pay attention to the chicken truck on the freeway in front of you. Think about the chickens the next time you eat them. "These doors open onto the divine as surely as showers of falling stars do. To open only the doors with stars on them while leaving shut the doors covered with chicken feathers is to live half a life, with half a heart."

Getting lost is a holy art to Taylor--God does some of his best work with people who are seriously lost. Our times in the wilderness are the times that change us. They can be times we wander and discover, or times we are flat on our back and need the help of others, or times when we have to trust or perish. Taylor keeps her eyes open for opportunities to get slightly lost, building up the muscles necessary for radical trust, trust that is necessary for us all, since the question is not why do bad things happen to good people, but when?

For now, we must open our arms to what is, instead of waiting for what should be. Pay attention to the spot we're standing on, to the people around us. "The most ordinary things are drenched in divine possibility. Pronouncing blessings upon them is the least we can do." With wisdom, grace and wit, Barbara Brown Taylor has given us a blessing with this honest and beautiful book.

HarperOne: An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor

* * *

Barbara Brown Taylor: 'Discovering the Sacred in Daily Life

Barbara Brown Taylor's first trade book, Leaving Church, received widespread critical acclaim; her subsequent book, An Altar in the World, is now reaching an even wider audience. An Episcopal priest since 1984, Taylor served urban and rural parishes before leaving parish ministry to become a teacher in 1998. While she still preaches and teaches at churches and universities across the country, she writes more and more for the "spiritual but not religious" crowd. An editor-at-large for the Christian Century and a contributing editor for Sojourners, she lives on a working farm in Habersham County, Ga., with her husband, Ed.

Taylor wrote An Altar in the World in what she describes as the hut of her dreams, which she and Ed built after they finished the house of their dreams. "A ten-minute walk from my front door, it sits on a little knoll above the Chattahoochee River. It has no plumbing or electricity, so all I can hear when I am there are the crows on the roof and the deer snuffling through the leaves. The siding is unfinished pine, the shingles are cedar, and the flooring is made of heart pine from the oldest house in Demorest, Georgia. But the oldest wood in the hut is the heart pine edging around the stacked stone fireplace, taken from the old slave gallery (now choir loft) at Grace-Calvary Episcopal Church in Clarkesville, where I served as pastor from 1992–1997. I have everything I need there. When I go there, I can hear my heart and the heart of the world beating at the same time."

After publishing 10 books of sermons and essays, why did you decide to write Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, a very personal book?

Leaving Church describes my decision to leave parish ministry in 1997. That decision changed my language, my work life, my understanding of God, even my clothes. For a while I didn't know how to talk because my life had changed so much. I had been a priest 24/7, but when I left church, all of my bedrock assumptions went under revision. I got notes and letters from people saying they were sorry I had "left the ministry," which I had not done. Once I got my voice back, I decided to write the book I wish I could have read at the time. It took years to write it, even after I had found a new voice. I think what most people don't fully realize about freedom is how scary it can be, because it includes the freedom to fail as well as the chance to discover new wide open spaces.

We heard that you got some backlash from Leaving Church.

I heard that too, but not directly. Most of the mail I get comes from readers who could have written the book themselves. I did hear from two friends who are still active in ministry--one who was angry with me and one who I think felt betrayed. What I have come to realize is that the title of the book alone was frightening to many church people. How could someone "on the team" leave? The title was provocative, especially for people who are afraid their mainline churches are failing. As a side note, one interesting thing I have learned about Leaving Church from readers is that it is as much a midlife book as it is a book about church. I love the way a reader can teach me what my work is really about!

Did those reactions have anything to do with writing An Altar in the World?

Once I had dealt with the grief of leaving parish ministry, I wanted to write a more upbeat book. So I remembered the question an Episcopal priest asked me when he invited me to speak to his church: "Come tell us what is saving your life now." That was the set-up question for Altar for me. I wanted this book to be a practical, day-by-day guide to the kinds of practices that might save a person's life. I also wanted to try to write for the "spiritual but not religious" crowd this time and not just the church crowd. Part of what I learned from younger readers is that I am still a pretty religious person, because I still rely on the wisdom of a particular religious tradition in my spiritual practice.

Do you have daily rituals or certain spiritual practices you follow?

Yes, I do, but I am afraid they would be a great disappointment to most religious people! Brother Lawrence is my patron saint, since he taught me to base my spiritual practice in daily life. Simply, that means the practice of engaging every person, every created thing, every moment as if it were a moment of actual communion--one in which the ordinary and the divine come together in a transforming way. I wish I had the discipline of someone like Phyllis Tickle, who prays the daily offices every day--and who has written brilliantly about that. But I do have daily tasks that keep me focused on divine possibilities: taking care of animals who depend on me for their daily bread, writing words that I hope will sound true to someone else, getting up earlier than anyone else in order to engage in the discipline of silence. They all have a sacramental quality to them. If there is one thing I am up to in this book, it is to erase the so-called line between the sacred and the secular, the earthly and the heavenly--because that line renders so many things negligible in the human search for the divine

How does one discover the sacred in daily life?

Imagine it is so.
Expect it is so.
Act as if it were so.

Or, to put it another way, I think it's an imaginative exercise before it is a practical exercise. But the more you act from the faithful imagination--the more you practice faith--the easier the discovery becomes.

People are willing to travel great distances, spend money, go through a lot to find "the key to the treasure box of More." Your answer is to start where you are. How do we do that?

I know this is a predictable answer, but the whole book is my effort to answer that question. The short answer is that I have begun to question the utility of "journey" as a metaphor for the spiritual life. Now that I'm in the last third of my life, I realize that when I speak of life as a "journey," I can make the mistake of thinking that I am not "there" yet--not yet where God wants me to be, not yet with the people God wants me to be with, not yet doing the job God wants me to do, whatever. It can become a way of divorcing myself from my real life now. Who am I with right now? What piece of earth am I standing on right now? These become the important questions, as I try to make meaning right where I am.

You say your book is a field guide, not a curriculum. How do we use a field guide, when we are so used to starting with lists of do's and don'ts?

Can I go to the Bible here? The day I learned to read the Bible as a field guide was a liberating day. For ages, I accepted it as a manual of do's and don'ts--which I really needed when I was first learning the ropes of faith. Eventually, though, I found that reading it that way shut down as many questions as it answered for me.
Gradually it occurred to me that the Bible was less a manual than it was a collection of writings by people who had experienced sightings of the divine. Some of those sightings occurred under terrifying circumstances. Others were very comforting. God was silent in some of them, and active in others. Finally I decided that the Bible was less interested in telling me what to see than it was in teaching me how to see. So I treasure the Bible as my sacred field guide. Reading it is how I have learned to look at the world with the eyes God gave me.

The chapter on the practice of getting lost is especially appealing. We can be lost in so many ways--job, home, illness, depression, to say nothing of world tragedies like Haiti. How can we be open to being lost?

That really is the question--how can we be open?--since we don't really have a choice about whether or not we will get lost. We will. To go back to something I said earlier, I think the do's and don'ts can save your life in the wilderness. Don't step on snakes. Do drink water every chance you get. But I also think that learning how to find your way through unmapped territory requires a set of skills that can't be distilled into a list of do's and don'ts. For that, it helps to have had a little practice. So in my chapter on getting lost I explore some of the non-life-threatening ways some of us can get learn to get lost a little ahead of time, as a way of practicing the skills we may need for bigger adventures later on.

You say that many of the people in need of saving are in churches, because they think God sees the world the same way they do. It's similar to people who say "it's God's will" when something conforms to their thinking, but don't say that's so when it doesn't.

Right. We hear plenty about the spiritual fruits of success, but very little about the spiritual fruits of failure, especially from those who are too ashamed to speak--or write--about their failures. Who has the right to say "it's God's will?" The sufferers themselves, maybe, but not the onlookers. Onlookers are free to think whatever they think, but they should keep their voices down. Since you brought up Haiti earlier, I will now fail to take my own advice and say something about what I have seen going on there--not just the unspeakable tragedy, but also the looks on the faces of those pulled alive from the rubble. They all look like Lazarus! Those pictures are really all I have since I have not been there myself, but they are like icons to me--of how closely wedded gratefulness is to grief.

Speaking of Haiti, or homelessness in America, say, how does what you are writing about translate into something larger?

I guess I will have to leave that translation up to my readers. I do know that facing my own lostness on a regular basis opens me up to the lostness of other people. But I have never pretended to be much of an activist. I mean, I live in the country and keep chickens! So I am both dependent on and grateful for people who live more globally than I do--who are more involved on a day-by-day basis with the marginalized, the accused, the deported, the abused. All I have ever been any good at is saying what is true for someone who wants to love God with all her heart and soul and mind, and her neighbor as herself--and who falls short most of the time. Maybe the wanting is the thing. Maybe the trying is the thing. I sure hope so.