Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Whole Lot of History Covered Between Their Covers

A People's History of the United States
Known for its lively, clear prose as well as its scholarly research, A People's History of the United States is the only volume to tell America's story from the point of view of -- and in the words of -- America's women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, working poor, and immigrant laborers. This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

A People's History of the World

Chris Harman describes the shape and course of human history as a narrative of ordinary people forming and re-forming complex societies in pursuit of common human goals. Interacting with the forces of technological change as well as the impact of powerful individuals and revolutionary ideas, these societies have engendered events familiar to every schoolchild - from the empires of antiquity to the world wars of the twentieth century.

In a bravura conclusion, Chris Harman exposes the reductive complacency of contemporary capitalism, and asks, in a world riven as never before by suffering and inequality, why we imagine that it can - or should - survive much longer. Ambitious, provocative and invigorating, A People's History of the World delivers a vital corrective to traditional history, as well as a powerful sense of the deep currents of humanity which surge beneath the froth of government.

A Short History of Nearly Everything
One of the world’s most beloved and bestselling writers takes his ultimate journey -- into the most intriguing and intractable questions that science seeks to answer.

In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson trekked the Appalachian Trail -- well, most of it. In In A Sunburned Country, he confronted some of the most lethal wildlife Australia has to offer. Now, in his biggest book, he confronts his greatest challenge: to understand -- and, if possible, answer -- the oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves. Taking as territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us. To that end, he has attached himself to a host of the world’s most advanced (and often obsessed) archaeologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians, travelling to their offices, laboratories, and field camps. He has read (or tried to read) their books, pestered them with questions, apprenticed himself to their powerful minds. A Short History of Nearly Everything is the record of this quest, and it is a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only Bill Bryson can render it. Science has never been more involving or entertaining.

A Tale of a Radically Local Life

"This much is clear to me. If I can’t change my own life in response to the greatest challenge now facing our human family, who can? And if I won’t make the effort to try, why should anyone else? So I’ve decided to start at home, and begin with myself. The question is no longer whether I must respond. The question is whether I can turn my response into an adventure."

After realizing the gaping hole between his convictions about climate change and his own carbon footprint, Kurt Hoelting embarked on a yearlong experiment to rediscover the heart of his own home: He traded his car and jet travel for a kayak, a bicycle, and his own two feet, traveling a radius of 100 kilometers from his home in Puget Sound. This “circumference of home” proved more than enough. Part quest and part guidebook for change, Hoelting’s journey is an inspiring reminder that what we need really is close at hand, and that the possibility for adventure lies around every bend.

TC Tidbits: What Book Does Terry Pratchett Say This About?

"...I'd have killed myself if I hadn't written it," Pratchett says. "It was absolutely important to me that I wrote it. It was good for my soul."

read the article here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Citizen Chronicler: David McCullough

He is called the "citizen chronicler" by Librarian of Congress James Billington. His books have led a renaissance of interest in Portrait of David McCulloughAmerican history--from learning about a flood in Pennsylvania that without warning devastated an entire community to discovering the private achievements and frailties of an uncelebrated president. His biography of Harry Truman won him a Pulitzer, as did his most recent biography of another president, John Adams.*

Here are some staff favorites of McCullough's:

In this masterful book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence -- when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper.

Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776 is a powerful drama written with extraordinary narrative vitality. It is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. And it is the story of the King's men, the British commander, William Howe, and his highly disciplined redcoats who looked on their rebel foes with contempt and fought with a valor too little known.

At the center of the drama, with Washington, are two young American patriots, who, at first, knew no more of war than what they had read in books -- Nathanael Greene, a Quaker who was made a general at thirty-three, and Henry Knox, a twenty-five-year-old bookseller who had the preposterous idea of hauling the guns of Fort Ticonderoga overland to Boston in the dead of winter.

But it is the American commander-in-chief who stands foremost -- Washington, who had never before led an army in battle. Written as a companion work to his celebrated biography of John Adams, David McCullough's 1776 is another landmark in the literature of American history.

Path Between The Seas

The Path Between the Seas tells the story of the men and women who fought against all odds to fulfill the 400-year-old dream of constructing an aquatic passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is a story of astonishing engineering feats, tremendous medical accomplishments, political power plays, heroic successes, and tragic failures. Applying his remarkable gift for writing lucid, lively exposition, McCullough weaves the many strands of the momentous event into a comprehensive and captivating tale.

Winner of the National Book Award for history, the Francis Parkman Prize, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award, and the Cornelius Ryan Award (for the best book of the year on international affairs), The Path Between the Seas is a must-read for anyone interested in American history, the history of technology, international intrigue, and human drama.

Mornings on Horseback

Mornings on Horseback is the brilliant biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt. Hailed as "a masterpiece" (John A. Gable, Newsday), it is the winner of the Los Angeles Times 1981 Book Prize for Biography and the National Book Award for Biography. Written by David McCullough, the author of Truman, this is the story of a remarkable little boy, seriously handicapped by recurrent and almost fatal asthma attacks, and his struggle to manhood: an amazing metamorphosis seen in the context of the very uncommon household in which he was raised.

The father is the first Theodore Roosevelt, a figure of unbounded energy, enormously attractive and selfless, a god in the eyes of his small, frail namesake. The mother, Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt, is a Southerner and a celebrated beauty, but also considerably more, which the book makes clear as never before. There are sisters Anna and Corinne, brother Elliott (who becomes the father of Eleanor Roosevelt), and the lovely, tragic Alice Lee, TR's first love. All are brought to life to make "a beautifully told story, filled with fresh detail", wrote The New York Times Book Review.

A book to be read on many levels, it is at once an enthralling story, a brilliant social history and a work of important scholarship which does away with several old myths and breaks entirely new ground. It is a book about life intensely lived, about family love and loyalty, about grief and courage, about "blessed" mornings on horseback beneath the wide blue skies of the Badlands.

Great Bridge

This monumental book is the enthralling story of one of the greatest events in our nation's history, during the Age of Optimism -- a period when Americans were convinced in their hearts that all things were possible.

In the years around 1870, when the project was first undertaken, the concept of building an unprecedented bridge to span the East River between the great cities of Manhattan and Brooklyn required a vision and determination comparable to that which went into the building of the great cathedrals. Throughout the fourteen years of its construction, the odds against the successful completion of the bridge seemed staggering. Bodies were crushed and broken, lives lost, political empires fell, and surges of public emotion constantly threatened the project. But this is not merely the saga of an engineering miracle; it is a sweeping narrative of the social climate of the time and of the heroes and rascals who had a hand in either constructing or exploiting the surpassing enterprise.

Brave Companions

The bestselling author of Truman and John Adams, David McCullough has written profiles of exceptional men and women past and present who have not only shaped the course of history or changed how we see the world but whose stories express much that is timeless about the human condition.

Here are Alexander von Humboldt, whose epic explorations of South America surpassed the Lewis and Clark expedition; Harriet Beecher Stowe, "the little woman who made the big war"; Frederic Remington; the extraordinary Louis Agassiz of Harvard; Charles and Anne Lindbergh, and their fellow long-distance pilots Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Beryl Markham; Harry Caudill, the Kentucky lawyer who awakened the nation to the tragedy of Appalachia; and David Plowden, a present-day photographer of vanishing America.

Different as they are from each other, McCullough's subjects have in common a rare vitality and sense of purpose. These are brave companions: to each other, to David McCullough, and to the reader, for with rare storytelling ability McCullough brings us into the times they knew and their very uncommon lives.

The life of Harry S. Truman is one of the greatest of American stories, filled with vivid characters -- Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Wallace Truman, George Marshall, Joe McCarthy, and Dean Acheson -- and dramatic events. In this riveting biography, acclaimed historian David McCullough not only captures the man -- a more complex, informed, and determined man than ever before imagined -- but also the turbulent times in which he rose, boldly, to meet unprecedented challenges. The last president to serve as a living link between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, Truman's story spans the raw world of the Missouri frontier, World War I, the powerful Pendergast machine of Kansas City, the legendary Whistle-Stop Campaign of 1948, and the decisions to drop the atomic bomb, confront Stalin at Potsdam, send troops to Korea, and fire General MacArthur. Drawing on newly discovered archival material and extensive interviews with Truman's own family, friends, and Washington colleagues, McCullough tells the deeply moving story of the seemingly ordinary "man from Missouri" who was perhaps the most courageous president in our history.

John Adams

In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second president of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as "out of his senses"; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history.

This is history on a grand scale -- a book about politics and war and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship, and betrayal, and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas. Above all, John Adams is an enthralling, often surprising story of one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived.

Happy Anniversary McSweeney's!

A novel with each cover hand-illustrated by the author. Literary journals bound by magnets, or designed to look like junk mail. The sharp wit, gorgeous design, and playful why not invention of independent literary publisher McSweeney's have earned it a large and loyal following and made its journals, books, The Believer magazine, and Wholphin DVDs collectible favorites of readers and graphic designers alike. Created by the McSweeney's staff to commemorate their 11th (or 12th) anniversary, this book showcases their award-winning art and design across all the company's activities. It features hundreds of images, interviews with collaborators such as Chris Ware and Michael Chabon, and dozens of insights into McSweeney's quirky creative process and the visual experience of reading.

Read January Magazine's review of the book.

McSweeney's began in 1998 as a San Francisco-based literary journal edited by Dave Eggers, and has since grown into a celebrated independent publishing company. Its publications have won awards from AIGA and Print and have appeared in exhibits at the Smithsonian and the Pasadena Museum.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Michael P.'s Favorite History Reads

Team of Rivals
Acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates Lincoln's political genius in this highly original work, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president.

On May 18, 1860, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Abraham Lincoln waited in their hometowns for the results from the Republican National Convention in Chicago. When Lincoln emerged as the victor, his rivals were dismayed and angry.

Throughout the turbulent 1850s, each had energetically sought the presidency as the conflict over slavery was leading inexorably to secession and civil war. That Lincoln succeeded, Goodwin demonstrates, was the result of a character that had been forged by experiences that raised him above his more privileged and accomplished rivals. He won because he possessed an extraordinary ability to put himself in the place of other men, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires.

It was this capacity that enabled Lincoln as president to bring his disgruntled opponents together, create the most unusual cabinet in history, and marshal their talents to the task of preserving the Union and winning the war.

We view the long, horrifying struggle from the vantage of the White House as Lincoln copes with incompetent generals, hostile congressmen, and his raucous cabinet. He overcomes these obstacles by winning the respect of his former competitors, and in the case of Seward, finds a loyal and crucial friend to see him through.

This brilliant multiple biography is centered on Lincoln's mastery of men and how it shaped the most significant presidency in the nation's history.

Founding Brothers
In this landmark work of history, the National Book Award—winning author of American Sphinx explores how a group of greatly gifted but deeply flawed individuals–Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams, and Madison–confronted the overwhelming challenges before them to set the course for our nation.

The United States was more a fragile hope than a reality in 1790. During the decade that followed, the Founding Fathers–re-examined here as Founding Brothers–combined the ideals of the Declaration of Independence with the content of the Constitution to create the practical workings of our government. Through an analysis of six fascinating episodes–Hamilton and Burr’s deadly duel, Washington’s precedent-setting Farewell Address, Adams’ administration and political partnership with his wife, the debate about where to place the capital, Franklin’s attempt to force Congress to confront the issue of slavery and Madison’s attempts to block him, and Jefferson and Adams’ famous correspondence–Founding Brothers brings to life the vital issues and personalities from the most important decade in our nation’s history.

No Ordinary Time
No Ordinary Time is a monumental work, a brilliantly conceived chronicle of one of the most vibrant and revolutionary periods in the history of the United States. With an extraordinary collection of details, Goodwin masterfully weaves together a striking number of story lines--Eleanor and Franklin's marriage and remarkable partnership, Eleanor's life as First Lady, and FDR's White House and its impact on America as well as on a world at war. Goodwin effectively melds these details and stories into an unforgettable and intimate portrait of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and of the time during which a new, modern America was born.

The Path to Power
This is the story of the rise to national power of a desperately poor young man from the Texas Hill Country. The Path to Power reveals in extraordinary detail the genesis of the almost superhuman drive, energy, and ambition that set LBJ apart. It follows him from the Hill Country to New Deal Washington, from his boyhood through the years of the Depression to his debut as Congressman, his heartbreaking defeat in his first race for the Senate, and his attainment, nonetheless, at age 31, of the national power for which he hungered. In this book, we are brought as close as we have ever been to a true perception of political genius and the American political process.

A Graphic New Turn for Educator Bill Ayers

This graphic novel brings to life William Ayers's bestselling memoir To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher. Illuminated by the evocative and wry drawings of Ryan Alexander-Tanner, this literary comics memoir will speak to comic fans, memoir readers, and educators of all stripes.

It's story of one teacher's odyssey into the ethical and intellectual heart of teaching, and at the same time an invitation to teachers to more thoughtfully and carefully map their own pathways. In conceptual and practical ways, To Teach narrates an essential journey all teachers must take if, at the end of their own Yellow Brick Roads, they are to achieve the basics: a heart, a brain, the nerve, and a home.

Read an interview with Ayers about the graphic novel.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

TC Tidbits: Dean Koontz Comics?

Master of horror Dean Koontz is embarking on a new career: comics. With new stories based on his Fear Nothing series coming from Dynamite in August, as well as the second volume of the adaptation of his Frankenstein series coming in November, he talked to about the world of comics and how it fits in with his frightening creative vision.

Read the interview.

2010 Lambda Literary Award Winners On Our Shelves Now


In the Cities of Coin and Spice and In the Night Garden introduced readers to the unique and intoxicating imagination of Catherynne M. Valente. Now she weaves a lyrically erotic spell of a place where the grotesque and the beautiful reside and the passport to our most secret fantasies begins with a stranger’s kiss.…

Between life and death, dreaming and waking, at the train stop beyond the end of the world is the city of Palimpsest. To get there is a miracle, a mystery, a gift, and a curse—a voyage permitted only to those who’ve always believed there’s another world than the one that meets the eye. Those fated to make the passage are marked forever by a map of that wondrous city tattooed on their flesh after a single orgasmic night. To this kingdom of ghost trains, lion-priests, living kanji, and cream-filled canals come four travelers: Oleg, a New York locksmith; the beekeeper November; Ludovico, a binder of rare books; and a young Japanese woman named Sei. They’ve each lost something important—a wife, a lover, a sister, a direction in life—and what they will find in Palimpsest is more than they could ever imagine.

Lynnee Breedlove's One Freak Show
Through the unusual vehicle of gender-bending comedy, Lynn Breedlove boldly questions who truly owns and defines the body. Based on his critically acclaimed comedy performances, this amazing collection of thought-provoking writing is aimed at anyone prepared to laugh at their preconceptions about themselves and others. Whether Breedlove is commenting on LGTB terminology, offering heart-warming reflections on parenting or sharing his unique perspective on San Francisco's queer history, readers will instantly connect with his insights and humor.

Blue Boy
Meet Kiran Sharma: lover of music, dance, and all things sensual; son of immigrants, social outcast, spiritual seeker. A boy who doesn't quite understand his lot — until he realizes he's a god...

As an only son, Kiran has obligations — to excel in his studies, to honor the deities, to find a nice Indian girl, and, above all, to make his mother and father proud — standard stuff for a boy of his background. If only Kiran had anything in common with the other Indian kids besides the color of his skin. They reject him at every turn, and his cretinous public schoolmates are no better. Cincinnati in the early 1990s isn't exactly a hotbed of cultural diversity, and Kiran's not-so-well-kept secrets don't endear him to any group. Playing with dolls, choosing ballet over basketball, taking the annual talent show way too seriously...the very things that make Kiran who he is also make him the star of his own personal freak show...

Surrounded by examples of upstanding Indian Americans — in his own home, in his temple, at the weekly parties given by his parents' friends — Kiran nevertheless finds it impossible to get the knack of "normalcy." And then one fateful day, a revelation: perhaps his desires aren't too earthly, but too divine. Perhaps the solution to the mystery of his existence has been before him since birth. For Kiran Sharma, a long, strange trip is about to begin — a journey so sublime, so ridiculous, so painfully beautiful, that it can only lead to the truth...

Lake Overturn
Eula, Idaho, has never seen a battle, an earthquake, or a Democrat in City Hall. Yet life here is anything but simple.

Lina's angry son JesÚs has recently returned to the trailer park after living with wealthy white foster parents. Her younger son Enrique and his best friend, Gene—who lives in a neighboring trailer with his very Christian mother, Connie—are misfits who cling to their studies in the face of schoolyard cruelties. Determined to win the statewide science fair, Enrique and Gene devise an experiment involving "lake overturn," a phenomenon in which deadly gases erupt from a lake's depths. In their endeavor to discover if Eula could suffer from such an event, the boys come into contact with an odd assortment of locals—including a frail-hearted school principal with grand ambitions, a lonely lawyer who finds new love as his wife is dying, and a woman who decides to escape a life of exploitation and addiction by becoming a surrogate mother.

With sweeping perspective and a Victorian wealth of character, Lake Overturn exposes small-town America in all its beauty and treachery, sunshine and secrets.

Ardent Spirits
In his third volume of memoir, Reynolds Price explores six crucial years of his life -- his departure from home in 1955 to spend three years as a student at Oxford University; then his return to North Carolina to begin his long career as a university teacher.

He gives often moving, and frequently comic, portraits of his great teachers in England -- such men as Lord David Cecil, Nevill Coghill, and W. H. Auden, who was the most distinguished English-language poet of those years. In London the poet and editor Stephen Spender becomes his first publisher and a generous friend who introduces him to rewarding figures like the essayist Cyril Connolly and George Orwell's encouraging widow, Sonia. He spends rich months traveling in Britain and on the Continent; and above all he undergoes the first loves of his life -- one with an Oxford colleague whom he describes as a "romantic friend" and another with an older man.

Back in the States, in his first class at Duke he meets a startlingly gifted student in the sixteen-year-old Anne Tyler; and he soon combines the difficult pleasures of teaching English composition and literature with his own hard delight in learning to write a first novel. At the end of three lonely years, he completes the novel -- A Long and Happy Life -- and returns to England for a fourth year before his novel appears in Britain and America and meets with a success that sets the pace for an ongoing life of fiction, poetry, plays, essays, and translations (Ardent Spirits is his thirty-eighth volume).

The droll memories recorded here amount to the unsurpassed -- and, again, often comical -- story of a writer's beginnings; and the young man who emerges has proven his right to stand by his fellows of whatever sex and goal. Ardent Spirits is a book that penetrates deeply into the life of a writer, a teacher, and a steadfast lover.

What We Remember

Award-winning author Ford returns with his most ambitious novel to date, in which a father's disappearance has a profound effect on his three children and causes secrets and lies to be exposed.

Drama Queers!

Polito takes readers back to the 1980s with a wonderfully sweet and hilarious coming-of-age story set in the backstage world of a high school drama club.

Lesbian Cowboys

Fifteen writers share their take on the phenomenon of Cowboys -- a calling, a vocation, and a status that has nothing to do with gender. Whether in the old west or the Australian outback, New England or the Great Plains, these girls and their horses work hard, play hard, and love hard. Contributors Radclyffe and Jove Bell depict the rough and tumble world of female rodeo riders, while Cheyenne Blue explores cattle ranching and the new environmentalism, and Delilah Devlin writes about a "Hired Hand" who may be a woman, but is more than a match for any man. Sexy, steamy, and crackling with the energy of a wild filly, these stories represent the cutting edge of lesbian cowboy fiction.

"Will Grayson, Will Grayson" and Trends in YA Literature

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens--both named Will Grayson--are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history's most fabulous high school musical.

Hilarious, poignant, and deeply insightful, John Green and David Levithan's collaborative novel is brimming with a double helping of the heart and humor that have won both them legions of faithful fans.

There is more than just a great read involved with this book. John Green, one of the co-authors of the book, had this to say:
"Landing as high on The New York Times list as we did with `Will Grayson, Will Grayson' made a big statement to the children's publishing world that gay characters are not a commercial liability." Read the whole article here.

And another article from AP News.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

TC Tidbits: Can You Have Too Many Books?

See what Rick Rennicks of says about that.

Artful and "Dangerous" Recommendation from Katie S.

Francesca Lia Block opens her vivid young adult fairy tale with the wishes of four young people to love one another and be a family together. Weetzie Bat, our heroine, gathers them all about her in the first volume of the "Dangerous Angels" opus, and young queer readers will surely find a sanctuary in the comforting descriptions of love and acceptance that Block's eccentric characters share.

Block's novel is a luscious treat for the queer, artistic, exotic, avante-garde readers
of young adult fiction. To give one an idea of her writing style, I'll pull out the introduction of her chapter entitled "Shangri-L.A." for examination:

"Weetzie and My Secret Agent Lover Man and Dirk and Duck and Cherokee and Witch Baby and
Slinkster Dog and Go-Go Girl and the puppies Pee Wee, Wee Wee, Teenie Wee, Tiki Tee and
Tee Pee were driving down Hollywood Boulevard on their way to the Tick Tock Tea Room for
turkey platters."

I read this book for the first time when I was in high school--attending a school for the arts--and the characters were so vivid and real to me, as they lived the true message of art out in their lives. Block has created such far-out, yet earthy and compassionate beings that immediately demand one's emotional investment.

And for someone who is discovering their essence and the unique imprint that they will make on the world, the "Dangerous Angels" saga is a welcome traveling companion.

Author Spotlight: Julie Anne Peters

Julie Anne Peters is the irreverent, buoyant and always funny author of both children's and young adult books. While her personality is bubbly, she tackles difficult subject matter often dealing with LGBT characters. Her fans are legion, because it's clear that she truly "gets" them.

Here is a rare videotape of an author signing with Julie at our Tattered Cover Colfax store.

Julie's words, from an interview on the blog Finding Wonderland:
"The decision whether to star gay characters in novels has more to do with story and purpose. Cultural readiness plays a role, of course. Since we've broken through the mainstream barrier in YA, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't introduce "out" gay characters in younger lit. Most young gaysters don't acknowledge their difference until they're 10 or thereabouts, so it may not be believable to have a flaming kindergartner. Although, if you ask me, Junie B. Jones..."

"I think because we're gay we have interesting stories to tell. Our slant on life is unique. Relationship issues expand exponentially when you're shifting between sexuality and gender lines. For a writer, it's a burbling cauldron of story possibility."

And from
"People say I tackle controversial issues, but I don’t think I do. I write contemporary, realistic fiction, and these are the issues young people are dealing with today. I still write about love, laughter, joy, friendship, family --- everything that gets us through the tough times. There’s nothing controversial in finding yourself and living your truth."

And some of Julie's books, on our shelves right now:

By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead

Daelyn Rice is broken beyond repair, and after a string of botched suicide attempts, she's determined to get her death right. She starts visiting a website for "completers”

While she's on the site, Daelyn blogs about her life, uncovering a history of bullying that goes back to kindergarten. When she's not on the Web, Daelyn's at her private school, where she's known as the freak who doesn't talk.

Then, a boy named Santana begins to sit with her after school while she's waiting to for her parents to pick her up. Even though she's made it clear that she wants to be left alone, Santana won't give up. And it's too late for Daelyn to be letting people into her life--isn't it?

National Book Award finalist Julie Anne Peters shines a light on how bullying can push young people to the very edge.

Rage: A Love Story
Johanna is steadfast, patient, reliable; the go-to girl, the one everyone can count on. But always being there for others can’t give Johanna everything she needs—it can’t give her Reeve Hartt.

Reeve is fierce, beautiful, wounded, elusive; a flame that draws Johanna’s fluttering moth. Johanna is determined to get her, against all advice, and to help her, against all reason. But love isn’t always reasonable, right?

In the precarious place where attraction and need collide, a teenager experiences the dark side of a first love, and struggles to find her way into a new light.

Revenge of the Snob Squad
When the relay race teams are chosen in gym class, it's clear that one team doesn't have a chance of winning: Jenny is more interested in eating candy than running around a track; Prairie has a bad leg; Lydia is a complete klutz; and Max is, well, Max. But together, they proudly dub themselves the 'Snob Squad' and vow revenge on their arch enemies, the Neon Nikes, headed by the principal's spoiled daughter, Ashley Krupps.

As the Snob Squad members band together to thwart the Neon Nikes, they realize that their greatest weapon might not be as out of reach as they think.

Regan's brother Liam can't stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister's clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change-Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam's family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives? Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen's struggle for self-identity and acceptance.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Missed This Lighthouse Writer's Buzz Event?

Don't worry. Tattered Cover was snapping pictures and AuthorsOnTourLive was recording it, so sit back, relax, and listen to the podcast. This one features William Haywood Henderson talking about his book Native, recently re-released.

Pete's "Extreme" Reads

Two books I read this spring could perhaps be placed in the category of 'extreme fiction,' written by authors determined to tell their story their own way no matter how disturbing, unpleasant, or downright disgusting.

I picked up The Killer Inside Me (a pulp novel by Jim Thompson written in 1952) after reading a recent article about it in the NewYork Times. The book, about to be released as a movie, concerns one of the darkest character studies I've ever read. Deputy Lou Ford is seemingly harmless, stoical in manner and even a little boring. The only hint of his inner rage are these creepy cliches he sometimes fosters on the town folk for kicks. But he can't keep it inside forever, and his small west Texas town finally discovers what the 'banality of evil' is all about. Thompson's book was way ahead of its time, but be forewarned...You will be dragged into the depths of a very dark soul, soulless more like it.

The Wetlands by Charlotte Roche was a big seller in Europe a fewyears ago. This novel concerns a young woman's rebellion against a sanitized world. Her character grew up being to told to wash this, wash that, and be clean, clean, clean. So of course as a teenager she starts doing just the opposite. And by opposite I mean just that. If
you are the least bit squeamish about bodily fluids, you will toss this book into the nearest hazmat receptacle before the first chapter is done.

Despite the gross-out content of the novel, I believe the author raises some valid points. On the one hand, it's okay for children to play in the dirt once in a while. If not, their immune systems could be blindsided several years later by something it doesn't understand. On the other hand, I knew a guy who would only stop at McDonald's when traveling because he could count on their restrooms being clean. That's certainly understandable. A friend of mine once theorized that people smoked so much in the past because they didn't bathe as much. The smoke would act as a masking agent from other odors. I don't know what to make of that. I'm a non-smoker who grew up choking on second-hand smoke. I did play in the dirt but nevertheless have allergies that have reduced my sense of smell to about zero. Why am I writing this? Because these are The Wetlands. Some will love it, some will hate it, but if you read this book you will remember it.


Author Spotlight: Armistead Maupin

Armistead Maupin on being a 'gay writer':
"I've always been proud of the fact that I've been openly gay longer than just about anybody writing today [...] but I never intended for that declaration to mean that I wasnarrowing my focus in any way, or joining a niche [...] now publishing has decided there's money in this, or at least a market [...] now a formalized thing has sprung up which I think is extremely detrimental to anybody beginning to write today. [...] It's possible to write a novel now which has gay themes, which has any truth you want to speak, that can be sold to a mainstream publisher and sold in a mainstream bookstore, so the notion of people who've narrowed their focus to only write books for a gay audience for gay people about gay people is stifling to me; in some ways, it's another form of the closet, as far as I'm concerned. I think Jerry Falwell must be very happy with those little cubby-holes at the back of book stores that say 'gay and lesbian' - it's a warning sign, they can keep their kids away from that section. I'd like people to stumble on my works in the literature section of Barnes and Noble and have their lives changed because of it.

It's complicated. I don't want to feel any less queer, but I think for us to march along in a dutiful little herd called 'gay and lesbian literature' and have little seminars that we hold together is pointless at this point, it makes no sense to me at all. [...] I cringe when I get 'gay writer' each time. Why Ithe modifier? I'm a writer. It's like calling Amy Tan a Chinese-American writer every time you mention her name, or Alice Walker a black writer. We're all discussing the human condition. Some of us have revolutionized writing by bringing in subject-matter that nobody's heard about before. But we don't want that to narrow the definition of who we are as an artist. [...] I don't mind being cross-shelved. I'm very proud of being in the gay and lesbian section, but I don't want to be told that I can't sit up in the front of the book store with the
straight, white writers."*

Maupin's piece on "Growing Up Gay in Old Raleigh"

Joe, on Maupin:
You may have heard of Armistead Maupin's series Tales of the City, even if only from the brilliant PBS series starring Laura Linney (in her debut roll) and Olympia Dukakis as Mrs. Madrigal. But if you haven't read them, or haven't read them in a while, it is well worth doing. For me, the Tales of the City books are like comfort food. Sometimes I'll pick one up with the intention of reading just a little bit, and find that an hour as flown by and I've read half the book. And at that point, I may as well just keep reading! Maupin captures not only the spirit of the age in which he was writing (the 70's and early 80's) but also paints the most loving portrait of his city, San Francisco. Start with Tales of the City (originally published in 1978), and then More Tales of the City (1980) and then Further Tales of the City (1982). The books take a dark and serious (well partially so) turn in the fourth book, Babycakes (published in 1984) and Significant Others (1987), to what we all thought was the finale in Sure of You (published in 1989). But in 2007, Maupin returned with the joyously sad Michael Tolliver Lives. These books cover such a wide range of topics: gay life, friendships, families, cancer, AIDS, and Jim Jones. Just writing this makes me want to return to Barbary Lane..."

And a special 'p.s.' from Joe:
"Oh my gosh, I am so excited! Want another reason to revisit the Tales of the City Series? Because it isn't over yet! Coming this November, "Mary Ann in Autumn", which will catch us back up with Mary Ann Singleton, now 57...I can't wait!"

From the Harper Catalog:
Over 20 years have passed since Mary Ann Singleton left her husband and child in San Francisco for the allure of a television career in New York. Now, a pair of personal calamities has driven her back to the city of her youth and into the arms of her oldest friend, Michael “Mouse” Tolliver, newly wed and happily ensconced with a much-younger husband.

Grateful for the temporary refuge their garden cottage offers, Mary Ann, now at the unnerving age of 57, licks her wounds and begins to take stock of her mistakes. Soon, with the help of the Internet and a few old friends, she begins to reengage with life, only to confront fresh terrors when—out of the virtual blue—her speckled past comes back to haunt her in an unexpected way.

Caught in her orbit are a cast of intriguing players whose stories play out against her own: her estranged daughter, Shawna, a popular sex blogger; Jake Greenleaf, Michael’s transgendered gardening assistant; socialite DeDe Halcyon Wilson and her wife D’orothea; and the legendary Anna Madrigal, Mary Ann’s former landlady at 28 Barbary Lane.

Over three decades in the making, Armistead Maupin’s San Francisco saga rolls into a new age, still sassy, irreverent, and curious, and still exploring the boundaries of the human experience with insight, compassion and mordant wit.

Another gem from that catalog: The stage musical version of Tales of the City is scheduled to premiere in San Francisco in 2011. The show boasts a very impressive creative team, with music by Jake Shears and Jason Garden of the popular band Scissor Sisters, lyrics and book written by Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), and direction by Jason Moore (Avenue Q).

Maupin's Literary Timeline
Tales of the City Google map
Maupin and Olympia Dukakis discuss 'Tales in the City'

But there's more to Maupin than Tales of the City.
Jackie says:
"I was introduced to Maupin much later with his 2000 release of The Night Listener. This is a beautiful and moving book about loneliness that touched me very, very deeply. It literally took my breath way at times. The psychological depth is profound. I still ache when I think of it. And I'm still angry at Hollywood for creating such a horrible screenplay out of such a wonderful book (though Robin Williams was perfect casting, IMHO)."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Hardest Book Review I've Ever Written

Every once and awhile a book comes along that seriously rattles my cage and messes with my head. This is one of those books. I was warned that this book was light years away from "Life of Pi". I was told that it was an allegory about the holocaust. I thought I was prepared. I was not.

I had to think about this book for a long time before I was willing to put out a review for it. It helped that I was able to meet Martel and talk with him about the book, but I still needed more time to process the book. I've decided that it really is a brilliant book, unique and powerful. Many will hate it, and I can understand that, but I don't think it's fair. It's good that books can take us by the intellectual shoulders sometimes and shake us and force us to see the world in a different way for at least a brief bit of time. That's what this book does, and does well.

The Library of Congress cataloging includes 1. Authors--Fiction. 2.
Taxidermists--Fiction. 3. Animals--Fiction. That's all true. But the one you have to look out for is the final one mentioned--4. Psychological fiction. That is the danger, the power, and the marvel of this book. The majority of the book--90% roughly--is a slow yet fascinating intellectual puzzle that offers disjointed pieces that your brain slowly moves around, trying to figure out what the final picture will be. You'll notice, off and on, similarities to the work of Beckett and Camus, the author even admits to naming the titled two
characters after those in Dante's Inferno. Hints are given teasingly of inner secrets that are far removed from the intellectual mind game that makes up the bulk of this book, told rather impersonally and at best two dimensionally. I frankly could not put the thing down--I was enjoying the puzzle, the literary and psychological maze that is this book.

And then I reached the final 30ish pages, when just enough of the final pieces were given to me to turn my knuckles white with horror. The black and white pages became red, the quiet tone became an endless shriek not unlike the howler monkey's, passively described earlier in the book but deafening in the brutality of the final scenes. Insanity and brutality replace intellectualism. The picture is never made quite complete, despite it's graphic telling--mysteries still exist. Pieces are literally destroyed in the fire of the final, devastating moments. There are not answers to every question. But, as a epilogue, there are questions, asked in the same, intellectually removed, distant voice that the majority of the story is told in that are far more devastating than even the cataclysmic final scene. As you read them, somewhere in the distance, a howler monkey begins to scream.

I feel like this book was an intellectual and emotional challenge that will echo in me for a very long time. I want to talk about it--I want to prepare people for it so they can get past the shock and appreciate the brilliance. I don't know how to do that, really, more than with these words here, now. I hope they make a difference.


Joe's "Gay Reads" Recommendations, Part Two

Joe says: "Looking for a unique mystery? Try these books, the first two in a series starring an Istanbul drag queen by night and sleuth by day. Fascinating on many different levels, this is dishy fun!"

The Kiss Murder

The Number One Ladies' Detective Agencymeets Pedro Almodovar in this outrageous new series featuring an ultraglamorous sleuth

Bestsellers in Mehmet Murat Somer's home country of Turkey and set to take the world by storm, the arrival of the Hop-Çiki-Yaya mysteries is cause for excitement (and lip gloss!) here in the United States. A male computer technician by day and a transvestite hostess of Istanbul's most notorious nightclub by night, the unnamed heroine of The Kiss Murder is the most charming and hilarious sleuth to debut in recent memory. When Buse, one of the "girls"at her club, fears someone is after private letters from a former lover, she comes to her boss for help. The next day Buse is dead and our girl must find the murderers before they find her. Fortunately, she is well armed with beauty, wit, the wardrobe of Audrey Hepburn, and expert Thai kickboxing skills. With a page-turning plot and an irresistibly charming protagonist, The Kiss Murder is sure to attract mystery lovers and nightlife mavens alike.

The Gigolo Murder

Istanbul's most fabulously flamboyant sleuth is back in her second hilarious adventure

With its exotic Istanbul setting and racy peeks into the city's nightlife, The Kiss Murder left readers eager for more of Mehmet Murat Somer's charmingly original heroine. Software programmer by day and drag-queen club owner by night, our girl is back again, just jilted and feeling so blue she's violet-until she meets the hunky, married lawyer, Haluk Perkedem. When their conversation is interrupted by a phone call delivering news that his brother-in-law has been arrested for the murder of a notorious gigolo, she decides to put her sleuthing instincts and Thai kickboxing skills to work unraveling the crime. Filled with witty banter and ominous intrigue, mystery fans of all persuasions will find The Gigolo Murder this season's hottest read.

Salvation Army
An autobiographical novel by turn naive and cunning, funny and moving, this most recent work by Moroccan expatriate Abdellah Taia is a major addition to the new French literature emerging from the North African Arabic diaspora. "Salvation Army" is a coming-of-age novel that tells the story of Taia's life with complete disclosure--from a childhood bound by family order and latent (homo)sexual tensions in the poor city of Sale, through a sexual awakening in Tangier charged by the young writer's attraction to his eldest brother, to a disappointing arrival in the Western world to study in Geneva in adulthood. In so doing, "Salvation Army" manages to burn through the author's first-person singularity to embody the complex melange of fear and desire projected by Arabs on Western culture. Recently hailed by his native country's press as "the first Moroccan to have the courage to publicly assert his difference," Taia, through his calmly transgressive work, has "outed" himself as "the only gay man" in a country whose theocratic law still declares homosexuality a crime. The persistence of prejudices on all sides of the Mediterranean and Atlantic makes the translation of Taia's work both a literary and political event.

Joe says: "A fascinating and short autobiographical novel about growing up gay in Morocco. Abdellah Taia grew up roughly the same time I did, and he came out of the closet at roughly the same time I did. And I thought I had a rough go of it. In the intervening years, I've been able to talk about it, able to move back to my hometown, to spend time with my family, to speak frankly with them. Taia has been unable to move home, has been unable to speak about it because it is still illegal in Morocco. How brave of him to decide to write about homosexuality in his home country. And how eloquent he writes about it. This story captures so well not only the gay experience, but the Arab experience in the Western world, and served as a good reminder to me of just how far we have gone, and how lucky we are."

He adds, "Another series worth reading, and one that seems a little forgotten, is the "Buddies
Cycle" from Ethan Mordden. Began in the late 1970's, these five books chronicle the lives of a group of friends living in New York. These books were written with a gay audience in mind, and speak most directly to that audience, although the portrait of these guys is much like any family I know, at its essence. Beginning with I've a Feeling We're Not In Kansas Anymore, continuing with Buddies, Everybody Loves You and Some Men Are Lookers. Years later we got another book to conclude the series. This one came out in 2005 and was entitled How's Your Romance? I would call this series required reading for the younger generation of gay folks out there... as this book chronicles the changing lives of gay men, from pre-Stonewall to the AIDS era and beyond."

The Hottest Title On The Newstand This Weekend: Rolling Stone

The issue of the Rolling Stone that has the inflamatory article doesn't even hit the newstands until this weekend, but the s**t has already hit the fan in Washington.

From MSNBC News on Wed, June23:

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama sacked his loose-lipped Afghanistan commander Wednesday, a seismic shift for the U.S. military order in wartime, and chose the familiar, admired — and tightly disciplined — Gen. David Petraeus to replace him. Petraeus, architect of the Iraq war turnaround, was once again to take hands-on leadership of a troubled war effort. Obama said bluntly that Gen. Stanley McChrystal's scornful remarks about administration officials represent conduct that "undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system."

If not insubordination, the remarks — as well as even sharper commentary about Obama and his White House from several in McChrystal's inner circle — were at the least an extraordinary challenge from a military leader. The capital had not seen a similar public contretemps between a president and a top wartime commander since Harry Truman stripped Gen. Douglas MacArthur of his command more than a half-century ago after disagreements over Korean war strategy.

The article that started the controversy. TC is taking special orders on this issue, call or come in to reserve yours.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

TC Tidbits: Author Augusten Burrough talks about Gay Identity

Lack of a Gay Identity | Augusten Burroughs | Big Think

New on the Shelves:

Imperial Bedrooms
Bret Easton Ellis’s debut, Less Than Zero, is one of the signal novels of the last thirty years, and he now follows those infamous teenagers into an even more desperate middle age.

Clay, a successful screenwriter, has returned from New York to Los Angeles to help cast his new movie, and he’s soon drifting through a long-familiar circle. Blair, his former girlfriend, is married to Trent, an influential manager who’s still a bisexual philanderer, and their Beverly Hills parties attract various levels of fame, fortune and power. Then there’s Clay’s childhood friend Julian, a recovering addict, and their old dealer, Rip, face-lifted beyond recognition and seemingly even more sinister than in his notorious past.

But Clay’s own demons emerge once he meets a gorgeous young actress determined to win a role in his movie. And when his life careens completely out of control, he has no choice but to plumb the darkest recesses of his character and come to terms with his proclivity for betrayal.

Frankenstein: Lost Souls

#1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz brings his fertile imagination and unparalleled storytelling abilities to one of the most timeless—and terrifying—creations in all of fiction: the legend of Frankenstein. In Lost Souls, Koontz puts a singular twist on this classic tale of ambition and science gone wrong and forges a new legend uniquely suited to our times—a story of revenge, redemption, and the razor-thin line that separates humanity from inhumanity as we consider a new invitation to apocalypse.

The work of creation has begun again. Only now things will be different. Victor Leben, once Frankenstein, has not only seen the future—he’s ready to populate it. Using stem cells, “organic” silicon circuitry, and nanotechnology, he will engender a race of superhumans—the perfect melding of flesh and machine. With a powerful, enigmatic backer eager to see his dream come to fruition and a secret location where the enemies of progress can’t find him, Victor is certain that this time, nothing and no one can stop him.

It is up to five people to prove him wrong. In their hands rests nothing less than the survival of humanity itself.

They are drawn together in different ways, by omens sinister and wondrous, to the same shattering conclusion: Two years after they saw him die, the man they knew as Victor Helios lives on. Detectives Carson O’Connor and Michael Maddison; Victor’s engineered wife, Erika 5, and her companion Jocko; and the original Victor’s first creation, the tormented Deucalion, have all arrived at a small Montana town where their old alliance will be renewed—and tested—by forces from within and without, and where the dangers they face will eclipse any they have yet encountered. Yet in the midst of their peril, love will blossom, and joy, and they will discover sources of strength and perseverance they could not have imagined.

They will need all these resources, and more. For a monumental battle is about to commence that will require all their ingenuity and courage, as it defines what we are to be . . . and if we are to be at all.

The Perfect Reader

In this enchanting debut novel, Maggie Pouncey brings to life the unforgettable Flora Dempsey, the headstrong and quick-witted only child of Lewis Dempsey, a beloved former college president and famous literary critic in the league of Harold Bloom.

At the news of her father’s death, Flora quits her big-city magazine job and returns to Darwin, the quaint New England town where she grew up, to retreat into the house he has left her, filled as it is with reminders of him. Even weightier is her appointment as her father’s literary executor. It seems he was secretly writing poems at the end of his life—love poems to a girlfriend Flora didn’t know he had. Flora soon discovers that this woman has her own claims on Lewis’s poetry and his memory, and in the righteousness of her loss and bafflement at her father’s secrets—his life so richly separate from her own in ways she never guessed—Flora is highly suspicious of her. Meanwhile, Flora is besieged by well-wishers and literary bloggers alike as she tries to figure out how to navigate it all: the fate of the poems, the girlfriend who wants a place in her life, her memories of her parents’ divorce, and her own uncertain future.

At once comic and profound, Perfect Reader is a heady, uplifting story of loneliness and of the spur to growth that grief can be. Brimming with energy and with the elbow-patchy wisdom of her still-vivid father, Flora’s story will set her free to be the “perfect reader” not just of her father’s life but of her own as well.

The Lovers

From the acclaimed author of the 2007 New York Times Notable Book Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name comes a stunning novel about the love between husbands and wives, mothers and children.

Twenty-eight years ago, Peter and Yvonne honeymooned in the beautiful coastal village of DatÇa, Turkey. Now Yvonne is a widow, her twin children grown. Hoping to immerse herself in memories of a happier time—as well as sand and sea—Yvonne returns to DatÇa. But her plans for a restorative week in Turkey are quickly complicated. Instead of comforting her, her memories begin to trouble her. Her vacation rental's landlord and his bold, intriguing wife—who share a curious marital arrangement—become constant uninvited visitors, in and out of the house.

Overwhelmed by the past and unexpectedly dislocated by the environment, Yvonne clings to a newfound friendship with Ahmet, a local boy who makes his living as a shell collector. With Ahmet as her guide, Yvonne gains new insight into the lives of her own adult children, and she finally begins to enjoy the shimmering sea and relaxed pace of the Turkish coast. But a devastating accident upends her delicate peace and throws her life into chaos—and her sense of self into turmoil.

With the crystalline voice and psychological nuance for which her work has been so celebrated, Vendela Vida has crafted another unforgettable heroine in a stunningly beautiful and mysterious landscape.