Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jean-Paul's Picks for March 2012

  1. The Expats by Chris Pavone - 03/06/12

    When Kate's husband gets a lucrative job abroad, they move as fast as they can to Luxembourg. Kate soon gets adapted to the status of a "non-working expat spouse," shopping, tourism, tea parties, ...
    Her husband however seems to get drowned in work, travelling a lot, making overtime. When Kate discovers that the wife of another American couple is overly friendly to her husband, she gets suspicious and starts an investigation. Who is chasing who, who is the criminal and what is the goal of the other party? And what if her husband discovers that Kate has some secrets of the past? Very intriguing story about life abroad, internet finances, and spies. Good read.

  2. The Great Northern Express by Howard Mosher - 03/06/12

    Whether this is a travel writing story or an autobiography, this is a lovely book full of love, wit, melancholy and encounters with real and imaginary people. After a cancer treatment, Howard Mosher takes a trip through the USA with his old car fulfilling a promise that he once made. While driving around he tells his story, how he started writing, the love for his wife, their life in Vermont, memories of his father, his uncle, his former co-workers. A must for those who love to read Mosher's books.

  3. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller - 03/06/12

    Good old Homer started his Iliad with the line: "Sing, goddess, of the terrible rage of Achilles". In her story, Madeline Miller explains where that terrible anger is rooted. In a vivid, evocative, Homer like style, she tells us the story of how Achilles and his dear companion and intimate friend Patroclus grew up together and how they were tricked to participate in the war of Troy. What a great novel! If you liked the Iliad, you will love this book.

  4. The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose - 03/13/12

    M.J. Rose has the perfect touch to combine romance, history, reincarnation. As in her former books, The Reincarnationist, The Memorist, and The Hypnotist, it is all about finding a memory tool. Get immersed in the wonderful world of fragrances from Cleopatra's Egypt, through the French revolution to nowadays Paris and a little bit of Tibet.

  5. Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu - 03/20/12

    This book offers a very plausible answer to the question why some nations prosper and others are poor even when they have the same geographical, cultural, and historical, backgrounds. With a lot of examples (like the Roman Empire, North & South Korea, medieval Venice, ...) the author proves that the wealth of nations is mainly dependent on their governing institutions. An inclusive political system will support the economical growth that in turn will allow citizens to pursue work that suits their talents. Where everybody can enjoy the fruits of their labor, the nations will flourish. When the institutions are "extractive," when only a few are enjoying the profits, nations will turn to poverty. When democracy is being abused for greed, nations will go down. Great, fascinating read, a must for politicians (hopefully they get the message.)

  6. Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden - 03/29/12

    Just try to imagine ... You are born in a North-Korean camp for political prisoners, and you have to stay there for the rest of your life because your grandfather fought on the wrong side ... This is the gripping, non-fictional, story of the only prisoner born in a camp who could escape and make it to the free world. In my comment about "The Orphan Master's Son," I stated that if that story had a bit of reality, North Korea must be the most dystopian country in the world ... "Escape from Camp 14" is the living proof that the North Korean people are enduring hell on earth .... Of course, there is no oil, no gold, so why would the free world relieve them from their tyrants? Very interesting read but chilling to the bone.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Some books just plain don't work as ebooks, people: YA edition

I'm not a Luddite, I swear. I have a phone that can take videos of my cat and post them on Facebook and can keep me connected to my work email in a way that is both comforting and annoying. I have a big gigantic TV, a tiny, credit-card size slim iPod, and a (dream of replacing my eight year old) near-perfectly functioning laptop. I like touching all the breakable things in electronics stores. I'm all about the fun shiny-screened things.

But despite all that, I like me my physical books. And I honestly don't think that it's just because I'm a bookseller. I think it's my old-fashioned soul, my tendency to want to touch things that I think are lovely and beautiful, hold them, own them. (I was recently told by the dear boyfriend when I suggested that I might start collecting vintage cake stands that I need to stop collecting one thing before I start collecting another thing. Absurd, right? You're with me on this one, right?) Surrounding myself with books, shelves and piles and bookcases packed full, is the closest thing to bliss I can think of (I mean, a few dozen cake stands would be nice, too).

But even for you people (I don't mean that to sound like "you people" in that condescending way my Brit Lit Survey professor used to say freshmen year, I think to discourage as many of us as possible from continuing with our English major) who are into ebooks, there are a few books every season that just simply don't work as ebooks. Trust me. You need to hold these physical
books in your hands and experience them as objects.

#1. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman
Illustrations by Maira Kalman (just one of the coolest people ever in the world) on lovely, heavy, shiny paper are something you just should not miss. Period. Plus the story is sweet and so right on (if you've ever been a 15 year old girl you'll get it), and the illustrations of the totems of Min's love for Ed (a bottle cap, a love note, a ticket stub) are so iconic and real, it almost feels like looking at a scrapbook of your own first love.

#2. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
(inspired by a story idea by Siobhan Dowd)
This novel has intense, fantastic, scratchy, dark, wonderful ink illustration/collages (I'm sure there's an art word for this that I just don't know) by Jim Kay that give this book the quality of a lonely, dark nightmare-- just the way Conor, whose mother is dying of cancer, is feeling. Candlewick really tricked this baby out too
with nice thick glossy pages and beautiful endpapers.

#3. The Wikkeling by Steven Arnston
This is a magical book about a magical place called Addition where children are watched by cameras where magical things happen, like a magically scary creature called a Wikkeling appearing. And guess what? Holding the book feels a little bit magical, too. It's nearly square in shape, with textured cloth over board and delicately eerie endpapers. Total art object.

But don't take my word for it. You've got to feel them to believe it.