Category Archives: Book Column

Stumbling Upon a Treasure Chest

I’ve never made a list of all the reasons I feel fortunate to live in the neighborhood I do, but I am certain that the Little Free Libraries would be in the top 5.

Last night, I ran across this little birdhouse of books perched above the sidewalk. It’s fantastic.

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I am not sure who the little librarian is, but they’re doing good work. It was a mix of kid’s and adult books inside. All in good condition. I grabbed one that I think I’ll enjoy. I’ve seen it around. I’ll let you all know how it goes.

This Friday morning, I think I’ll stop by again and donate a couple of books after dropping the kids off at school. The trick is to pick the right two books. Definitely a hardback, I think. These Little Free Libraries are always more fun when it’s not just the dregs found inside.

I hope you’re fortunate enough to be in a place that has things like this nearby. Bookish folks really are the coolest, aren’t they?

Man Booker 2016

This is one of my favorite Man Booker short lists in recent years. Such a great crop of authors and books. The Man Booker Podcast is also back up and running this season. I always look forward to it and it’s usually worth a listen. Also, The Guardian has a good write up with the authors of the books, if you want more. These six books make a great lineup:

  1. Paul Beatty (US) The Sellout 
  2. Deborah Levy (UK) Hot Milk 
  3. Graeme Macrae Burnet (UK) His Bloody Project 
  4. Ottessa Moshfegh (US) Eileen 
  5. David Szalay (Canada-UK) All That Man Is 
  6. Madeleine Thien (Canada) Do Not Say We Have Nothing 

I have just started Szalay’s All That Man Is and haven’t read enough to form an opinion yet.

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The only one I have read all the way through is Beatty’s The Sellout. I thought it was absolutely fantastic. Satire is one of the hardest things to write and Beatty nails it! Every single page is dripping with it. But be warned – it is not for the faint of heart. It’s brutal in so many ways. I think you’ll be better off reading where Beatty is coming from before you start reading the book. So Google around a bit.

The only downside is that I read an interview with Beatty that said he was a little disappointed the humor was so well received, as he felt it distracted from the message he was trying to get out there. The message is certainly there and will slap you in the face. But it can be a rough read folks.

Two of the six, in the Man Booker Shortlist, are from Penguin-owned imprint/publisher Johnathon Cape. They have more Man Booker wins under their belt than any other publisher. So it’s another good run for them.

It doesn’t always work, but I think that the award’s opening to a global pool of entries has paid off. I usually prefer when things specialize, but for some reason this really really works.

The final winner of the Man Booker Prize 2016 will be announced October 25, 2016.

Have you read any of these books?

 

Bicycle Library Serving Homeless Patrons

I stand by my claim that book people are, as a whole, the coolest people on the planet. This story of a bicycle library making its way around to serve books to the homeless is just one more point of proof.

Since 2011, Street Books has been pedaling around Portland, Oregon, once a week, delivering books to people who can’t check them out from the library. Yes, the public library is free, but to use the printer or check out a book, you often need things like a driver’s license or proof of residence or a utility bill. These are things that people living on the fringes of society do not have.

They even have a very short video on Vimeo which captures the spirit of what being a book lover is all about:

I love this quote:

“Because there’s a freedom that comes from kind conversations about books.”

The power of books and literature is often lauded by those of us fortunate to have plenty to read, but we often forget about the real world transformative power that books can have.

The books do get returned and exchanged for others, but if a homeless patron can’t find a bike library again, they are encouraged to just pass the book along to someone else who would like it.

It seems like every city in the world could benefit from people caring for others, through books, just like this. Kudos to the folks behind the bicycle library movement and Street Books.

Books about Books, a short list

‘Books about books’ is my favorite category at the bookstore. It’s often a difficult section to find. Some shops place them in the ‘Collectibles & Antiques’ area. Others in the ‘Essays’ or ‘Reference’ sections. Some of the best book stores will gather all of the books about books under the heading of ‘Literary Non-Fiction’, which seems as appropriate, while the best shops do create a curated “Books About Books” section.

I’ve often wondered why this isn’t the first section every book shop stocks. One can pretty much guarantee that, while not every browsing customer will agree on which hot political book to read or which classic work is the best, every potential customer is someone who appreciates books. Right?

The folks at the LitHub have offered a five-book list The Best Books About Books. I’ve only read Dirda’s Browsings. But I like the sound of Tim Parks’ Where I’m Reading From, so it’s been added to my TBR list.

In hopes that you too are a kindred bookish type, I’d like to offer five books that I think are at the top of the ‘books about books’ category. These are all books I’ve read and continually recommend to folks. On LibraryThing, I keep a running list of the books about books I’ve read and have-yet-to read. My list includes both fiction and non-fiction. Please let me know if you have read a good one that I’ve missed.

Five Fantastic Books About Books

BooksAboutBooks_SMBSo Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance by Gabriel Zaid – This one is only 160 pages and it outlines perfectly many of the challenges that modern publishers and readers face in today’s book world.

 

 

BooksAboutBooks_ELEx Libris : Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman – If there were to be one book on everyone’s books about books list I imagine this 162-page book honoring all that’s beautiful about words and books would be it.

 

 

BooksAboutBooks_YLBSThe Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History by Lewis Buzbee – I can’t quite put my finger on why this book rises so much higher than all the other ‘bookstore memoir’ titles out there, but Buzbee nails just about every feeling and thought I’ve had about bookshops.

 

BooksAboutBooks_LaNThe Library at Night by Alberto Manguel – By far the heaviest and deepest book on my list, Manguel relates the philosophies, histories and importance of book collecting and reading like no one else.

 

 

BooksAboutBooks_HwBAt Home with Books : How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries by Estelle Ellis – This is a big coffee table book full of the most gorgeous and inspiring images of home libraries running alongside great interviews with the people who own them.