Archive for the ‘Book News’ category

The Raven Is Dead! Long Live The Raven!

March 27, 2009

ripHello, Raven readers. This is not the Raven but rather Jon Lee, manager at River City Books, and I am writing to inform you of some very sad news. The River City Raven has died.

As you know, all of us at River City Books have been noticeably distraught by the recent announcement that our store would soon close. But no one took it harder than the Raven.

For a along time, he denied that the news was actually true. “I know,” he said, “you’re going to reopen on April 1 and that this will go down as the all-time gag on this Hall of Fame fool.” But as the weeks went on and as our shelves became depleted with no reinforcements in sight, he started to see that we were not joking, and a palpable depression came over him. None of us can ever remember our black bird so blue. He would come into the store, same as always, but there was something missing, some darkness in his eyes that we have had never seen before.

Well, he started eating. A lot. Put on some weight in a hurry, in fact. We didn’t want to say anything because it made him self-conscious but the Raven became so bloated he couldn’t even lift himself up to our remainder tables. In a way, his anxiety swelled in his belly as though he was about to give birth to a bowling ball. It was difficult to see him like that, believe me. This was Willie Mays in a Mets uniform.

But the Say Hey Kid only left center field, not the earth. Our dear Raven is gone, having ate himself into oblivion.

You should know, though, that even in his most difficult hours, he never forgot you, his dear readers. “I can’t let them down,” he would say between bacon melts. And so he kept working until the end. In fact, when we found him this morning he had passed in the most appropriate of places — on his keyboard. His unfinished manuscript will be left for scholars to reconcile. What I can tell you is the last word he ever wrote.



What Northfield Has Read

February 19, 2009


Periodically over the last, well, now that I think of it, it’s be pert near three years now, I’ve provided updates about local bestsellers. The old neighborhood bookstore has always devoted wall space for a nifty “What Northfield’s Reading” display, and it’s fun to check out what people have been reading over various stretches of time. I especially enjoy looking at a full year’s worth. Today, I offer a gift of this sort that comes in bittersweet wrapping: a list of What Northfield Has Read since River City Books came into being (March 2002). I think this list says a lot about your neighbor. And it reveals secrets about the couple sitting in the opposite booth as you at Hogan’s. Or not. Still, it’s a neat list and I thought you’d like to have a gander. Note that I do not provide links to all of these books because I’m entirely too lazy to undertake such an endeavor. By the way, there is no prize for guessing the overall numero uno. But if you can tell me which book landed at No. 136 I will serve as a reference on your application to the Minnesota School of Professional Clairvoyants. All right, enough horse pucky buildup, here’s the top 150:


Right Where I Left It

February 4, 2009

Sometimes I think I am on top of it, but really I am just fooling myself. Last week I scribbled in my notebook a reminder that the finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards had been unveiled. Then I promptly never looked at the note again. Until this morning! Better late than never? You be the judge. In the interest of time, I have not added links to each one of these titles. I am so slow I’d be here till the winners are announced (March 12, if you’re scoring at home). Rest assured, you know where to find these NBCC Award finalists:

“2666” by Roberto Bolaño (FSG)
“Home” by Marilynne Robinson (FSG)
“The Lazarus Project” by Aleksandar Hemon (Riverhead)
“The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart” by M. Glenn Taylor (West Virginia University Press)
“Olive Kittredge” by Elizabeth Strout (Random House)

“The Forever War” by Dexter Filkins (Knopf)
“This Republic of Suffering: Death and the Civil War” by Drew Gilpin Faust (Knopf)
“The Dark Side” by Jane Mayer (Doubleday)
“White Protestant Nation” by Allan Lichtman (Atlantic)
“From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776” by George C. Herring (Oxford University Press)

“Ida, A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching” by Paula J. Giddings (Amistad)
“The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family In An American Century” by Steve Coll (Penguin)
“The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul” by Patrick. French (Knopf)
“The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family” by Annette Gordon-Reed (Norton)
“White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson & Thomas Wentworth Higginson” by Brenda Wineapple (Knopf)

“Why I Came West” by Rick Bass (Houghton Mifflin)
“The House On Sugar Beach” by Helene Cooper (S&S)
“The Bishop’s Daughter” by Honor Moore (Norton)
“The Eaves of Heaven” by Andrew X. Pham (Harmony Books)
“My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq” by Ariel Sabar (Algonquin)

“Sleeping It Off in Rapid City” by August Kleinzahler (FSG)
“Half the World in Light” by Juan Felipe Herrera (University of Arizona Press)
“Sources” by Devin Johnston (Turtle Point Press)
“The Landscapist” by Pierre Martory, translated by John Ashbery (Sheep Meadow Press)
“Human Dark with Sugar” by Brenda Shaughnessy (Copper Canyon Press)

Children’s Literature
“A Reader’s History: Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter” by Seth Lerer (University of Chicago Press)

Best in Children’s Books of the Year

January 29, 2009

graveyardI’m starting to get a little miffed at the WeatherHeads. Throughout last week/weekend’s obscenely cold spell they said it would warm by Wednesday. It will be much more pleasant on Wednesday. Temps, perhaps in the 30s, on Wednesday. Just survive until Wednesday. Wednesday! Well, I was outside on Wednesday and I can tell you we weren’t any closer to 30 than I am to winning a Pulitzer. Now they are saying Saturday’s the day. I’ll believe it when I feel it.

In the meantime, warmth must be found in knowing that awards season has begun and that means spring can’t be too many months off (can it?). The American Library Association has announced the winners of its major prizes — the Caldecott and Newbery medals, and the Coretta Scott King Award — for the best children’s and young adult literature.

Among this year’s winners:

John Newberry Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature — The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Newberry Honor Books — The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by David Small; “The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle”; Savvy by Ingrid Law; and “After Tupac and D Foster” by Jacqueline Woodson

The Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children — “The House in the Night,” illustrated by Beth Krommes and written by Susan Marie Swanson

Caldecott Honor Books — “A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever” by Marla Frazee; “How I Learned Geography” by Uri Shulevitz; and “A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams,” illustrated by Melissa Sweet and written by Jen Bryant

The Coretta Scott King Award recognizing African-American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults that demonstrate sensitivity to “the true worth and value of all beings” — “We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball,” written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

And the Oscar Goes To … Books

January 27, 2009

oscarI had to chuckle when I heard which movies had been nominated for Academy Awards. You know, they say people aren’t reading books but someone must be because it seems all good movie ideas come from human kind’s best (and my favorite) invention. Here’s an unofficial summary:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, based on a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was nominated for best picture, best director (David Fincher), best actor (Brad Pitt), best supporting actress (Taraji P. Henson) and best adapted screenplay. It led with 13 nominations.

Slumdog Millionaire, based upon Vikas Swarup’s novel Q&A, was nominated for best picture, best director (Danny Boyle) and best adapted screenplay. Altogether the film earned 10 nominations.

The Reader, based upon Bernhard Schlink’s novel, was nominated for best picture, best director (Stephen Daldry), best actress (Kate Winslet) and best adapted screenplay.

Revolutionary Road, based upon the novel by Richard Yates, was nominated for best supporting actor (Michael Shannon), best art direction and best costume design.

Northfield’s Favorite Books of the Year

January 12, 2009


Well, the final tabulations of the final full year are in and, as my wicked good photography skills clearly show, River City Books has arranged its “What Northfield is Reading” display to reflect the local bestsellers for the calendar year that was twenty-o-eight. Here they are, folks. Well, actually, this isn’t the full display. Turns out my photography skills aren’t quite as good I thought and that I, in fact, have a hard time with walls. But you already knew that. Anyway, read this eclectic mix of books (and those near the bottom of the list that you can’t see here). That is, if you want to keep up with what your neighbor, or the guy in the next cubicle, is reading.

In Slightly Larger Market

January 7, 2009

Even the mightiest are falling, it seems, by the day. Sad, I say, sad.