Monday, May 25, 2009

Summer Reads Part 2

Warning: not only is this going to be the second part of my summer reads blog list, but it's also going to serve as the second round of the "how much I love Steve Hely" rants!
So, I'm finishing up How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely, just in time to go on vacation, and I'm kind of bummed that I couldn't have made it last a bit longer. It is a PERFECT summer read. It's not super heavy, and it's pretty easy to put down and come back to when you're filling up your busy summer-time minutes. But, the catch is that it's not the fluffy attitude that most are looking for, in fact, it's kind of the opposite.

How I Became a Famous Novelist is the story of Pete Tarslaw, a snarky college entrance essay writer-for hire, who is stuck in a rut in both his social life and at his job. After he gets an invitation to his college girlfriend's wedding and loses his job, Pete is inspired by a feel-good author named Preston Brooks to write a book; he figures, if Preston Brooks can sell his soul for money by writing a mushy piece of garbage, so can he! Pete winds up shacking up in his aunt's cabin in Vermont, writing a list of every predictable plot theme in mainstream literature, and that list is what he bases his novel, The Tornado Ashes Club, on.
Following the whirlwind of selling his manuscript for print options, as well as the rights to make a film, the rest of the story is Pete's narrative of the absurdity of being an acclaimed author, and how his world changes from mundane to dizzyingly ridiculous.


P.S. I went to do a search for a picture of Steve Hely and it turns out that someone made a website for Pete Tarslaw's fictional work (The Tornado Ashes Club) featured in How I Became a Famous Novelist. How funny!

P.P.S. How I Became a Famous Novelist isn't set to release until July!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Love of Many Things

"Love many things, for therein lies the true strength,
and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much,
and what is done in love is done well."
-Vincent Van Gogh

As much as I love books, they are not my only love. There are whole gobs of things that I can get equally passionate about. These passions include, but are not limited to, math and science, music, history, and knitting. So, when I find books about other things I'm obsessed with, the joy is multiplied exponentially! For instance...

There are tons of books based on math and/or science that can appeal to just about anyone. Last summer I read The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine. Never has brain chemistry been more fun, more funny, or more applicable in my daily life! She talks about what actually happens chemically and hormonally in a woman's brain through the different stages of life, and she discussed how that alters the behavior of women and complicates/enriches our relationships. The more I read, the more it made sense. A year later, it's still on my mind.

If that's too sciency, then how about a novel? The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt is a fictionalized view of Nikola Tesla, a very famous mathematician, scientist, and inventor. Never heard of him? Well you can thank him for AC electricity and wireless communication. It's a story of love, mystery, dreams, pigeons, and New York...served with a side of good, healthy science.

I love love love love LOVE music, and really, most people like music on some level. The reason why we love it is explored in This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin. He talks about neuroscience, emotions linked to music, music's exploitation of our senses, the difference between practice and talent, and, most importantly, why I can't get that insufferable "It's a Small World" song out of my head! Totally fascinating!

Another fun one about music is The Girls' Guide to Rocking: How to Start a Band, Book Gigs, and Get Rolling to Rock Stardom by Jessica Hopper. The subtitle tells it all, it's a great pick for any girl with some spunk! There's a fold out timeline of women in rock history and a positive review from Joan Jett. What more could you want? It looks fabulous!

Speaking of women in history, I bought a book for a good friend called Knitted Lace of Estonia: Techniques, Patterns, and Traditions by Nancy Bush. I am now so enamoured with this book, that I had to buy another copy for myself. Not only is it filled with the most beautiful lace shawl patterns I have ever seen, but it tells the story of Estonia's lace and the women who invented it.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Summer Reads Part 1

I've been talking to customers lately about what the guidelines are for picking "summer books." It seems to me that things always need to be light-hearted and short. Or, they need to be easy to put down and pick back up at a moments notice. While I see where people are coming from, I'm not really a "light and fluffy" kind of reader, summer or otherwise. I would like to recommend books for those looking to really get involved with some good fiction for the summer months.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón is definitely not a traditional summer read. It's a little dark, a little spooky, and wholly engrossing. It follows a young man named Daniel, who's father is an antiquarian dealer in post-Civil War Spain. One night Daniel and his father go to a place called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where everyone is initiated by taking one book from the shelves and then must protect it with their life. The book that Daniel picks is "The Shadow of the Wind" by Julián Carax. After being sucked into the book, Daniel goes on a quest to find out why Carax's novels are being systematically destroyed. In the meantime, the book turns into a coming-of-age story that chronicles the acceptance of a doomed love.

This really is the perfect story for the late night, drink sipping, laze-about evening where you want to be in Barcelona instead of Boise!


Friday, May 15, 2009


One day I was having a conversation in the Kid's Book section of the shop when I happened to see a book we had on a new display. I stopped mid-sentence. It's a book I haven't seen in years: Saint George and the Dragon. Back before I could read, it was my favorite book. I would check it out from the library every single time we went in. It was the beginning of my obsession with dragon books, the first love that led to the rampant Anglophilia of my youth. Seeing it again was like reconnecting with an old friend, and it put a giddy smile on my face for the rest of the day.

It is simply amazing how much a story from that long ago can affect me, and how much affection can be personafied by a book.

Not too long after this, a customer brought us a used copy of a book called The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards. This was turning out to be the greatest week ever, I immediately recognized this book too! My school teacher read it to my class when I was about 9 years old. It's a completely enchanting and fantastical adventure story written by Julie Andrews (of Mary Poppins and Sound of Music fame). Just seeing this book brought back a flood of happy memories. So, the next time we got a copy in to the store, I bought it and took it home with me.

Turns out you can buy happiness, and it only costs $6.99 plus tax.


Friday, May 8, 2009

R3: The Rare, Random, and Remarkable

Every other month the bookshop receives ForeWord magazine. It contains "reviews of good books independently published." Independent publishers include university publishing presses (most of which produce dozens of books a year) and micro-presses (who put out one or two exquisitely designed and bound reads). For this reason, books that are independently published are quite often - but not always - rare, random, and of remarkable quality.

Bruce and Laura, the bookshop owners, are allowing me to pick out a handful of titles from each issue of ForeWord. All the bookshop's staff feel its very important to support quality, independent businesses, and bring you, our customers, titles you will be hard pressed to find at Big Box bookstores, and will not find at corporate retailers who buy books in mass quantities to sell at incredible discounts - there are simply not enough of these titles titles printed to allow for such.
Here are the six, independently published books I chose to bring into our bookshop from the March/April 2009 issue of ForeWard magazine:

The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us
by Patti Davis
Hay House / Memoir / $14.95

In this work of non-fiction, prominent women discuss the complex, humorous, and ultimately loving relationships they have with their mothers. Contributors include Patti Davis, Nancy Reagan's daughter, Whoopi Goldberg, Candice Bergen, Lily Tomlin, Anna Quindlen, Anne Rice, Marianne Williamson, Diahann Carroll, and Lorna Luft. A great gift for Mother's Day.

Magic Bus
by Rory MacLean
Ig Publishing / Travel Writing / $14.95
In the 1960s and 1970s, hundreds of thousands of young westerners in search of enlightenment blazed the "hippie trail" that ran through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Nepal. Forty years later, Rory MacLean revisits the trail, where he encounters the tie-dyed veterans who never made it home, meets locals reaping the rewards and regrets of westernization, and crashes up against Taliban fighters and Islamic extremists.

Gold Digger
by Vicki Delany
Napoleon & Company / Literature / $18.95
Its the great Klondike Gold Rush and Fiona MacGillvray has a fortune to make as the owner of a savory dance hall in the newly populated Yukon Territory. This is historical fiction, with a well-crafted mystery, at its finest.

Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate
by Brad Warner
New World Library / Eastern Religion / $14.95
In writing about how he applied the Buddha's teachings to his own real-life suffering, Warner shatters expectations, revealing that Buddhism isn't some esoteric pie-in-the-sky ultimate solution but an exceptionally practical way to deal with whatever life dishes out. This is deserving of a wide audience!

Crossing the Hudson
by Peter Stephan Jungk /translated by David Dollenmayer
Handsel Books / Literature / $14.95
This author gives a profound meditation on a Jewish family and its past, especially the lasting distorting effects on a son of a famous, vital father and a clinging, overwhelming mother, and of the differences between the generation of European intellectual refugees who arrived in the United States during the Second World War and the children of that generation.
Pintxos: Small Plates in the Basque Tradition
by Gerald Hirigoyen and Lisa Weiss
Ten Speed Press / International Cooking / $24.95
Spain's African, Middle Eastern, and European heritage assure a mixing pot of culinary influences resulting in homegrown chefs conversant in the broadest palate of skills. This is the author/chef's third book, he owns and cooks for two restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, and has been named Best Chef of the Bay Area twice by San Francisco Magazine.
~ by Ross Wulf, Rediscovered Bookshop Bookseller

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Author soul mates

Here at the Rediscovered Bookshop we've been contemplating, for the last couple of months, who each of us is soul-mated to in the literary world. Something akin to matchmaking, if you will. Most of us had an answer automatically;

Wally says that Sara Vowell, author of Assassination Vacation and The Wordy Shipmates, is her book partner because of their similar sense of humor infused with irony and wit;

Ty would like to spend the rest of his days with Annie Dillard: he just rants and raves about how poignant and hilarious everything is in The Writing Life;

Paul Theroux's Ghost Train to the Eastern Star sums up people and relationships in way that Ross totally sympathizes with;
And as for myself, I automatically thought of David Sedaris a la Me Talk Pretty One Day: there's just something magical about the cynicism that comes from a slightly dysfunctional family.

Today though, I was thrown for a loop. I've been reading this book called How I Became A Famous Novelist by Steve Hely- once again there's just something about the sarcasm with a cynical twist about the main character's views towards main stream literature that I connect with. This is not to say that I feel connected to the main character, but the voice of the writer is definite.
I went to go look for a biography of Steve Hely, and Wikipedia was the most concrete chunk of information that I found, and while it wasn't much, it sure was astounding: Hely received his G.E.D. while in residence at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution, and later went on to receive a B.A. at Harvard. During his Harvard years he served twice as president of the Harvard Lampoon. Following graduation he went on to work as a writer for Late Night with David Letterman, Last Call with Carson Daly, and the animated series American Dad.
Following the reading of his mini-biography, I read an interview with Mr. Hely and his co-author of The Ridiculous Race on the Macmillan Publishing website (; every sentence is so bizarre and absurd, and all of a sudden it connected...STEVE HELY IS MY SOUL MATE AUTHOR.
There are some moments in life when you just know that you've found the right one for you, and Steve Hely is my author one!