Archive for August 2008

Next Week Notes

August 29, 2008

Leave it to me to skip over a weekend. But, alas, duty calls. At the end of this week two friendly reminders about the start of next week:

River City Books is open on Labor Day! That’s right, but, however, they are not open as long as during a usual Monday. Actually, they are treating it like a second Sunday. Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. So stop by any day during the weekend (Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

• The River City Books fiction book club will meet the next day, Tuesday, at 7 p.m., in the store’s downstairs meeting area to discuss Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. The book club is, of course, free and open to the public. New members welcome. Participants receive discounts on selected books.

I hope you and yours have a lovely holiday weekend!

Price May Alleviate the Blues

August 27, 2008

I was sailing around the bargain tables at River City Books the other day and my eyes nearly popped out of my little skull. There it was, in hardcover, for just $5.99: Lincoln’s Melancholy by Joshua Wolf Shenk. “Lincoln’s Melancholy” is one of the best biographies I can remember reading. It’s a portrait of Abraham Lincoln’s life struggle with depression. I know, I know. Contemporary biographers often try to “diagnose” or insert dubious character traits based on sketchy details in an effort to draw false attention to their work. Let that thought slip right from your mind when it comes to this book. Shenk’s done the research and his examination is nothing short of incredible. Years of copious research resulted in an engrossing, nuanced profile that reveals the depression that profoundly influenced Lincoln’s life and character — an element of the great president’s makeup that may very well have been the most important one.

A ‘Tale’ of More Success Ahead

August 25, 2008

I have some news to share about Minnesota young adult novelist and former Northfield Reads! star Kate DiCamillo (who also happens to have a Newbery Medal sitting on her mantel):

Candlewick Press has announced plans to release “The Magician’s Elephant,” for middle-graders, in fall 2009. DiCamillo also has a picture book, Louise: The Adventures of a Chicken, coming out this fall.

DiCamillo-authored books, which include Newbery winner The Tale of Despereaux, have been published in 30 languages and there are more than 10.5 million copies in print.

By the way, a film deal has already been reached for “The Magician’s Elephant.”

Counting the Days

August 24, 2008

I babbled a bit the other day about planning and calendars and that sort of thing. Then I walked into River City Books and — poof! — they got calendars. Yep. And nice ones, too. Not the kind you are afraid to show when company comes over.

The newest of the new calendars are displayed in eye-catching fashion near the front door, right where the magazines used to be. That’s right, kids, RCB is no longer selling weeklies and monthlies. Personally, I like that there is more room for books and other things — like, well, calendars!

August Picks

August 21, 2008

August: respected, eminent, venerable, hallowed, illustrious, prestigious, renowned, celebrated, honored, acclaimed, esteemed, exalted; great, important, lofty, noble; imposing, impressive, awe-inspiring, stately, grand, dignified. Attach whatever adjective you’d like to this month’s staff selections down at the old neighborhood bookstore. I, for one, am simply calling them early birthday presents for me.

Novels. Nonfiction. Young adult. Poetry. Yes, even poetry. They are all there and all (books) for 25 percent off (there are also CDs for 15 percent off). You can see some of the selections in the accompanying photograph or while remaining online. But for the full experience, it’s best to stop on by the store. RCB is, of course, open seven days a week.

Staff picks, for those knew to town, are made each month by River City Books booksellers and put on sale simply because they believe in these books and want you to give incentive to readers to pick them up. Come to think of it, that is grand, indeed.

Looking Ahead …

August 18, 2008

If you’re like me this is the time of year to recalibrate the calendar. After a few lazy — gloriously lazy — months it’s time to time to whip out the daybook and plot the weeks to come. At River City Books they are doing the same thing and, my sources (OK, a certain Web site) tell me there’s a lot to note about the month ahead.

A quick rundown of all that is already in the works:

Tuesday, September 2 — The River City Books fiction book club will meet to discuss Out Stealing Horses.

Saturday, September 6 — Thomas Maltman, author of the critically acclaimed and Northfield-connected The Night Birds, will appear at the store.

Friday, September 26 — Minnesota authors Faith Sullivan, Heidi Erdrich, and Shannon Olson will read from and discuss Riding Shotgun: Women Write About Their Mothers as part of the Northfield Reads! communitywide book club.

Saturday, September 27 — River City Books will host a book release party for Laura Goering, author of Whistling Wings, a new children’s book.

In other words, see you in September (if not before)!

Loving ‘Loving Frank’

August 15, 2008

Speaking of those great MBA picks, I’d like to shine the spotlight on one of those books: Loving Frank, a novel by Nancy Horan. Not surprisingly, this book is also a popular “pick” of readers and it’s currently on the Indie paperback bestseller list. I was checking it out — you should read the description; the story sounds absolutely fascinating — and I noticed that two previous Northfield Reads! authors are singing its praises:

Says Jane Hamilton, author of When Madeline Was Young and many other acclaimed novels: “It takes great courage to write a novel about historical people, and in particular to give voice to someone as mythic as Frank Lloyd Wright. This beautifully written novel about Mamah Cheney and Frank Lloyd Wright’s love affair is vivid and intelligent, unsentimental and compassionate.”

Says Elizabeth Berg, who seems to have a bestseller out each year: “I admire this novel, adore this novel, for so many reasons: The intelligence and lyricism of the prose. The attention to period detail. The epic proportions of this most fascinating love story. Mamah Cheney has been in my head and heart and soul since reading this book; I doubt she’ll ever leave.”

Booksellers Make Choices

August 13, 2008

I’ve been a little behind (yeah, even more than usual) this week. So excuse my tardiness in getting this news to you, but the winners of the 2008 Midwest Booksellers’ Choice Awards — these are books that honor authors from the Midwest Booksellers Association region as well as books about the region — have been named.

Fiction: Loving Frank: A Novel by Nancy Horan (Ballantine)

Nonfiction: Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish (Bantam)

Poetry: Valentines: Poems by Ted Kooser, illustrated by Robert Hanna (University of Nebraska Press

Children’s Picture Book: Agate: What Good Is a Moose? by Joe Morgan Dey and Nikki Johnson (Lake Superior Port Cities)

Children’s Literature: Little Klein by Anne Ylvisaker (Candlewick Press)

Honor Books

Fiction (tie): So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger (Atlantic Monthly Press) and Whistling in the Dark by Lesley Kagen (Penguin)

Nonfiction: The Florist’s Daughter: A Memoir by Patricia Hampl (Harcourt)

Poetry: Willow Room, Green Door: New and Selected Poems by Deborah Keenan (Milkweed Editions)

Children’s Picture Book: Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ilbatoulline (Candlewick Press)

Children’s Literature: The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman, illustrated by Victoria Jamieson (Greenwillow Books)

The Games Begin

August 11, 2008

I was reading through some bookish news and I noticed that the Association of American University Presses has focused its Books for Understanding list on China — to, of course, mark the Beijing Olympics. Personally, I’d rather be reading than watching (though the pole vault is rather amusing). If you’re interested to learn more about the host nation, the book list includes more than 400 titles, including these recent and varied offerings:

The Chinese State at the Borders by Diana Lary

Beyond the Final Score: The Politics of Sports in Asia by Victor Cha

“Wealth into Power: The Communist Party’s Embrace of China’s Private Sector” by Bruce Dickson

“China’s New Confucianism: Politics and Everyday Life in a Changing Society” by Daniel A. Bell

Multi-media Merriment

August 8, 2008

Speaking of lesser media, while browsing the movies I also made a point to zip on over to the music section. If you’re not already a fan of River City Books’ selection you really should take a closer look. Store manager Jon Lee is something of a music maven and over time he’s built a pretty sweet inventory of CDs you can’t find anywhere else in the county. I asked Mr. Lee for a few recommendations with an eye on listening material that is new or really catching on. He fingered these three albums: “Big Star” by Haley Bonar; “Stay Positive” by The Hold Steady; “N.A.S.” by — who else? — N.A.S. Me, I picked up a great collection of Bob Dylan hits. Remember, too, that booksellers can also special order most albums.