Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Warwick's Staff Presents: The Best Books of 2010

Booksellers are a passionate bunch - we've been arguing for the last few weeks about what the "best" books of 2010 are and of course, everyone on staff has a different opinion. While we did take a democratic vote to decide our Top 5 Fiction & Top 5 Nonfiction (see the list at the bottom of this post), it seemed like a good idea to open things up for everyone at Warwick's to offer their personal opinions. Thank God we have a blog, right? So, here are the Best Books read by the staff of Warwick's in the year 2010. Enjoy.

Nancy Warwick, owner: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. As a reader, I love that moment of realization, that electrifying instance, that one sometimes has the pleasure to experience at the very start of a new book.  Whatever qualities one is looking for in a favorite read, it's that occasional, almost immediate, experience of wonderment and anticipation,  and the joy that these feelings arouse, that helps define a favorite book.  Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is my selection for the Warwick's Best Book of 2010.  I was hooked before I finished page one. Set in rural Mississippi, the story is beautifully written, powerful, intensely atmospheric and character-driven.  I couldn't put it down.

Steven, bookseller: I wish I knew what to say about Citrus County by John Brandon. True, it's expertly paced and delicately well-written. And yes it left me more emotionally confused than anything else I read this year. Ultimately, however, the fact that three months after finishing it I inexplicably cannot stop thinking about this book makes it my top choice for 2010.

Joe, General Manager: Who would have thought that looming foreclosure, divorce, and bankruptcy could be so hilarious? Jess Walter's The Financial Lives of the Poets is a sometimes sidesplitting, sometimes brutal look at the recession from the eyes of one way-out family.

Phoebe, Office Supplies: The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall - A well written portrayal of a polygamist trying to balance 4 wives, 28 children, his demanding job and his position in the Mormon Church. He has compassion for his family, yet loses sight of his purpose. Another important character is his son, Rusty. He grabs your heart with his desire to be accepted and especially to be loved by his mother. It’s a funny, sad, complicated story, but I was totally compelled to follow the story to the end.

John, bookseller/book buyer: Why the West Rules - For Now - Historian and archaeologist Ian Morris tackles one of the most hotly debated questions in the study of history: what accounts for the global dominance of the West in the modern era? Morris finds his answer by discerning patterns in the long sweep of human history - patterns he depicts through a combination of fascinating anecdotes, exciting narrative, and innovative analyses of historical data. Interdisciplinary and ambitious, Morris’ book not only offers a compelling explanation for the rise of the West but also suggests how the East-West divide might transform over the next hundred years. This is a great book for lovers of big history and a slam dunk for anyone who enjoyed Guns, Germs, and Steel.

Janet, bookseller: It's a tough choice - I read lots of good books this year, but I'll have to choose The Distant Hours by Kate Morton as my favorite novel of 2010. It has everything I love in a plot: a crumbling castle, mother-daughter angst, 3 eccentric sisters, long-lost love AND a mysterious death shrouded in the past. What's not to love?

Susan, Event Coordinator: The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee. Lee’s stunning fourth novel is an exquisitely haunting journey of three memorable characters: June Han, an orphan girl in the Korean War; Hector Brennan, a young GI to whom June clings when their paths cross at a Korean orphanage; and Sylvie Tanner, the troubled wife of a missionary assigned to the orphanage. As June and Hector vie for the affections of the beautiful Sylvie, each of the damaged three chart their own odysseys through pain, hope, love, despair, and ultimately surrender. Lee’s poignant and beautiful language masterfully transforms the complex and disturbing world of war into a powerful reflection on the human ability to survive.

Vicki, bookseller: Reminiscent of The Secret Life of Bees, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman is a modern day fairy tale. Cecelia Rose Honeycutt finds herself in a world unlike any she's ever experienced when she goes to live with her Great Aunt Tootie. This book's a perfect read when you want a lift in spirit.

Rob, bookseller/Office Supplies: Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart is a tragically hilarious look into the near future. I laughed out loud. A lot!!

Kim, Office Supplies/Gifts: One of the most meaningful books I read this year was Between Me and the River by Carrie Host. Her memoir about her tremendous four-year struggle up the raging river of cancer was brutally honest and surprisingly uplifting and inspiring. Host's great sense of humor makes her unfair daily struggles more than engaging.

Emily, bookseller: The Heights by Peter Hedges. The one book of the year that I am consistently overjoyed to share with others. The Heights is a lovable, funny, and suspenseful story of one couple's lives turned upside down when outside temptation proves just a little too enticing.

Julie, bookseller: The Bells by Richard Harvell is a truly magnificent debut novel. Set in the 18th-century Swiss Alps, this hauntingly beautiful story of a young boy, brutally separated from his mother, raised and betrayed by the monks who swore to protect him, and his ultimate rise as a musico. As compelling as the story is, Harnell's descriptions have you feeling every sound. If you loved Suskind's Perfume, you won't want to miss this - in fact, The Bells is like Perfume for your ears. A story that will stay with you long after the last note is sung.

James, bookseller: At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson - As a fan of asking "why", I rely on Bryson to tell me the story behind the story. At Home makes me take a closer look at the space where I spend over half my life.

Adriana, bookseller: The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard - Family secrets, babies switched at birth, incest, Woodstock, love, agriculture - what more could you get in one book? Also, it's beautifully written and unforgettable.

Heather, bookseller: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly I had three favorite books for 2010, but Revolution was the only book that once finished, I was loathe to read anything else. It's the type of book that you can't put down and can't keep out of your head.

Margie, Office Supplies: Fiction - The Ark by Boyd Morrison was absolutely one of the most interesting novels I've read recently. His style is something like a Michael Crichton/Dan Brown combination that really keeps you guessing throughout. I couldn't put it down! Nonfiction - Susan Casey's The Wave. Wow! Susan takes you on an amazing adventure through nature involving waves of tremendous power. This was a true learning experience that helped me better appreciate the power of Mother Nature.

Jim, bookseller: New York by Edward Rutherfurd is a tale of historical fiction, but the most engaging I have read this year. Intertwined with the major events of New York history, from the founding of Manhattan by the Dutch to the early 21st century, several families are featured. A truly enjoyable book.

Adrian, Book Buyer: My favorite book of the year is It’s a Book by Lane Smith! Why, you might ask, would I pick a children’s book above all the other deserving, finely written books of the past year?! Here’s why - he succinctly captures, with few words and charming illustrations, the current struggle between technology and the printed word. This is a book every book lover should read and share with others.

Rhonda, bookseller/office supplies/gifts: After the Falls: Coming of Age in the Sixties by Catherine Gildiner. This memoir by clinical psychologist and Chatelaine Magazine popular columnist Catherine Gildiner is a fascinating peek into the social turmoil of 1960’s America as experienced by Gildiner and her eccentric parents. Gildiner’s unorthodox childhood and family tragedy made her into an independent and fearless young woman, so she had many adventures both sad and humorous. I enjoyed every chapter (never a dull moment), and I am sure that other readers will also.

Seth, bookseller/website coordinator: Tough call between Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell... but Mitchell - my favorite author - wins out with his majestic, sprawling historical epic of Japan at the end of the 1700’s. While the Shogun is open to trade with the Dutch East India Co., he fears their influence & keeps the foreigners sequestered on the manmade island of Dejima in the middle of Nagasaki harbor. Jacob De Zoet, low level clerk for the Company, is faced with internal corruption and vicious political maneuvering, the delicate balancing act of the Japanese partnership, a daunting language barrier, the mysterious banishment of the woman he loves, the hushed-up financial collapse of his employer, & an imminent attack by foreign invaders, all of which test the limits of his faith - a faith strictly forbidden in Japan on the cusp of the 19th century. Mitchell’s brilliant prose sweeps you along with the flow, always wondering, as a foreigner like Jacob, how much of the lush, inner world of Japan you will be allowed to glimpse.

Erin, book keeper: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger - the best (and so far, the only) after-death mystery novel I've ever read.

Barbara, bookseller: Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese - From the first sentence of this incredible novel, I was engrossed by the characters, the setting, and the storylines. It's narrated from the viewpoint of one of the 2 identical twins from the moment of their birth (!) onward. The complex relationship of the people in their lives intertwine to become the most interesting story I've read all year.

Pam, Office Supplies/Gifts: The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer (April 2011) is a very funny and well-written novel about what happens when a high school teacher in a New Jersey upper-middle class town decides to put on Aristophanes's Lysistrata - an anti-war play about Greek women who refuse to have sex with their partners - and all hell breaks loose.

Cindy, Office Supplies/Gifts: I haven't read too much this year. But in all that I have read the one that stands out is The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone. Much better written and more informative than I expected from the Clueless Girl. Learned a lot.

Jolene, Gifts: The Bricklayer by Noah Boyd - I loved the main character (FBI agent Steve Vail) and I can't wait for the second installment. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

The Top Ten Books of 2010 as voted on by the booksellers of Warwick's:
Fiction: The Heights by Peter Hedges, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell, Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes, and It's a Book by Lane Smith.
Nonfiction: The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey, Must You Go? My Life with Harold Pinter by Antonia Fraser, The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant, Why the West Rules - For Now by Ian Morris, and At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Anne Rice Returns

On December 8th, bestselling author & former La Jolla resident, Anne Rice (Interview with the Vampire, etc.) returned to Warwick's to sign her latest novel, Of Love and Evil. The La Jolla Village News was there and Claire Harlin conducted this great interview with the author: Author of "Interview With the Vampire" and former La Jollan opens up about success, inspiration, Diet Coke.

From the interview with the (author of many books about) vampires:

...writing for me is a vocation, not just a profession. It's my life. I really do want to create books that people will not only love, but never forget. It's the only thing I have any talent for at all in this world. I can't dance or sing or play the violin. And the meaning of my life depends on my writing and offering books to my readers.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Warwick's Questionnaire: Christian Lander

The so-called Proust Questionnaire was originally a 19th-century parlor game designed to reveal bits of the soul, personality, & deep secrets of the participants through a series of pointed questions.  Versions of the quiz were re-popularized in the 20th-century by Vanity Fair and Inside the Actors Studio.  Our version - The Warwick's Questionnaire - is a series of ten questions designed to plumb the depths of the souls of visiting authors.

Christian Lander is the creative mind behind the website, stuffwhitepeoplelike.com and the bestselling author of Stuff White People Like and the brand-new, Whiter Shades of Pale: The Stuff White People Like, Coast to Coast, from Seattle's Sweaters to Maine's Microbrews.

Stuff White People Like #842: Christian Lander
 1. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
  • In 1994, I threw a perfect game in video game baseball against my brother.
2. What is your greatest fear?
  • My greatest fear are severe tire damage spikes. Not kidding.
3. If you were a superhero, what would your power be?
  • Are you kidding me? I would fly! Who would take anything else?
4. If you could bring one writer back from the dead, who would it be?
  • Mark Twain. I think he would make the greatest NPR host in history.
5. What is your most treasured possession?
  • My E.T. doll from when I was a kid.
6. Which living person do you most admire?
7. If you were not able to be in the writing profession, what would your preferred occupation be?
  • Shooting guard for the Lakers or Rock Star. But failing those, I would probably say teaching. I taught throughout my graduate school career and would say that it was by far the most rewarding part of the experience.
8. What are 3 items on The List that you secretly can't live without?
  • 1) Expensive Sandwiches
  • 2) Modern Furniture (Specifically Mid Century Modern)
  • 3) Sweaters
9. What are you most looking forward to seeing on your tour stop in San Diego?
  • The Pacific Ocean! I know we have it in LA, but it just seems cleaner here.
10.What is your motto?
  • I wish I had one. But I'd say it's "Remember that no matter how good you are at something, there is someone out there better. So don't be such an asshole about it."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Last Night I Dreamt I Went To Milderhurst Again. . .

Written by Heather

Kate Morton never ceases to amaze me. Her skill as a storyteller seems to not only grow with each successive novel, but to flourish. In 2009 I wrote a brief review of Morton’s second novel, The Forgotten Garden stating:

“Why is The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton one of the best books of 2009? Well, perhaps it’s because every member of the staff who has read it loves and raves about it to anyone who asks. Or, perhaps it’s because Kate Morton is an author who capably weaves a spellbinding tale, one that moves smoothly between time periods exploring the lives of three women and their mysteriously interlocking life stories. With alternating narratives that are gripping and brilliantly told, The Forgotten Garden holds the reader’s attention in a way few novels can. Simply put, it is mesmerizing and thus my favorite novel from 2009.”

I was clearly captivated then, and now, after reading Morton’s latest novel The Distant Hours (released today, 11/9/10) I have to say, that this novel is tied with Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and Revolution as one of my favorite novels of 2010.

One of my co-workers, when writing about The Distant Hours, quoted the famous opening line from Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again”, but changed the memorable gothic home’s name to Milderhurst, the castle which plays such a pivotal role within this new novel. In doing so she beautifully evokes images of a large gothic home, alive and haunted by memories of the past. For Milderhurst, the castle upon which the story revolves, is a living entity, one that holds dark secrets, misplaced dreams, blazing brilliance, and lost innocence. It is the focal point as Morton weaves seamlessly between World War II and 1992 England, beautifully intertwining the different narratives so that they become one, heart-wrenching, achingly romantic story.

The Distant Hours is a novel of lost love, familial obligations and secrets, history and it’s unyielding grip on the present, mothers and daughters, and the relationships between sisters. It is wonderful and captivating, a book to be savored for it’s mastery of gothic suspense and its ability to engross the reader. Kate Morton has, with this new novel, firmly earned a place as one of the top fiction writers around.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Art + Culture | La Jolla

Art + Culture | La Jolla, a community website sponsored by Warwick's that is dedicated to promoting awareness, pride, and involvement in La Jolla's vibrant & diverse arts scene, is celebrating its one-year anniversary!  Check out the La Jolla Village News' recent piece on Art + Culture, featuring an interview with Nancy Warwick!
You can also follow Art + Culture | La Jolla on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Warwick's Questionnaire: Steven Kotler

The so-called Proust Questionnaire was originally a 19th-century parlor game designed to reveal bits of the soul, personality, & deep secrets of the participants through a series of pointed questions.  Versions of the quiz were re-popularized in the 20th-century by Vanity Fair and Inside the Actors Studio.  Our version - The Warwick's Questionnaire - is a series of ten questions designed to plumb the depths of the souls of visiting authors.

Steven Kotler is the author of Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life and the founder of Rancho de Chihuahua dog sanctuary.  He lives in New Mexico with his wife and "too many dogs." (He visited Warwick's on October 11, 2010.)

1. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
  • Honestly, I have no idea.
2. What is your greatest fear?
  • I tend not to think in those terms. I look at fear as a directional sign. I have found that the things that I love most in life are on the other side of fear. So I try to go right at what scares me. Sort of ruins the question...
3. If you were a superhero, what would your power be?
  • Teleportation.
4. If you could bring one writer back from the dead, who would it be?
  • Hemingway. Wow, would I love to look over his shoulder while he was editing.
5. What is your most treasured possession?
  • I still have the first stuffed animal (a seal) I ever had. From when I was a little kid. In a weird way it was the first animal I ever loved.
6. Which living person do you most admire?
  • My wife.
7. If you were not able to be in the writing profession, what would your preferred occupation be?
  • I don't know if you'd call it an occupation, but I would definitely spend way more time surfing, skiing, mountain biking etc.
8. How many dogs is "too many" dogs?
  • It varies. And it's hard to count. But around 30.
9. What are you most looking forward to seeing on your tour stop in San Diego?
  • The ocean.
10.What is your motto?
  • I don't know if I have a motto, but I once got a chance to ski with Johnny Deslaurie - one of the first "extreme skiers." I asked him what the secret to getting better was and he told me: "you go as fast as you f-ing can until you crash - that's how you get better." I find these words often apply to my life.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Warwick's Questionnaire: Eric Puchner

The so-called Proust Questionnaire was originally a 19th-century parlor game designed to reveal bits of the soul, personality, & deep secrets of the participants through a series of pointed questions.  Versions of the quiz were re-popularized in the 20th-century by Vanity Fair and Inside the Actors Studio.  Our version - The Warwick's Questionnaire - is a series of ten questions designed to plumb the depths of the souls of visiting authors.

Eric Puchner is the author of the acclaimed short story collection, Music Through the Floor and is currently an assistant professor of literature at Clairemont McKenna College.  He visited Warwick's in September (complete event video at the bottom of the post), for the paperback release of his debut novel, Model Home

1. What do you consider your greatest achievement? 
Seth, Joe, Eric Puchner, & Scott.

  • I pogosticked for two consecutive hours once as a child, in an effort to set a world record.
2. What is your greatest fear?
  • Death
3. If you were a superhero, what would your power be?
  • To be able to return shopping carts to their rightful place in the parking lot, with my mind.
4. If you could bring one writer back from the dead, who would it be?
  • Myself (see number 2)
5. What is your most treasured possession?
  • My five year old daughter's daily drawings for me. Also my ear plugs.
6. Which living person do you most admire?
7. If you were not able to be in the writing profession, what would your preferred occupation be?
  • Rock star or zoologist
8. In ten words or less, please explain the significance of the peacock in Model Home. (This was a topic of debate when Eric was at Warwick's.  An unresolved debate.)
  • The peacock is only a peacock.
9. What (were) you most looking forward to seeing on your tour stop in San Diego?
  • My friends at Warwick's.
10. What is you motto?
  • My senior page in my high school yearbook featured this quote by Vonnegut: "So it goes."

Model Home is set “amid the affluent splendor of the 1980s” in Southern California. It is the story of Warren Ziller and his family at the moment their American dream disintegrates. At turns comic and bleak, Puchner’s novel chronicles bad real estate deals, bad sex ed. films and bad punk bands as a middle class family splinters and is literally banished to the wilderness of the California desert. Oh, and there is a young boy who only wears orange. McSweeney’s wrote of the novel: "The only conclusion to come to after reading this novel is that Eric Puchner is a massive talent."  The Boston Globe has called Puchner "...an extraordinarily talented writer… a master of mood and tone."

Friday, October 8, 2010

So Many Dog Books, So Little Time

Before anyone jumps all over me (no pun intended) I just want to say that I love dogs.  Most dogs, anyway.  Although not currently a dog owner, I have been in the past - a dirty, white mutt named Margo when I was growing up and a short, overweight doberman pinscher (Jade) when I was in my 20's - and I loved them dearly as faithful friends.  Well, if I'm being honest, they were more "faithful animal companions" rather than "friends."  Actually, I think that distinction may be at the heart of my ensuing rant: I think we have a serious problem of overpopulation in this country...of dog books. 

I don't know if this problem is simply indicative of current trends in the book industry or reflective of our society as a whole, but the over-abundance of dog-related nonfiction titles clogging up the stacks of the nation's bookstores has reached a level of insanity that I am, frankly, uncomfortable with.

This is in no way a criticism of the buying habits of the book buyers in our nation's bookstores, of course, since I am to be counted among their number.  Who's fault could it be if half of every publisher's catalogue is dog books?  Nor can I really blame those readers who genuinely want to read tales of inspiring canines. Who am I to judge, right?  Currently, the following titles are available as new hardcover books & are all displayed on just one of the non-fiction tables at Warwick's.  None of these are available in the actual Dog section at the store, mind you - all are mixed into General Nonfiction.  You tell me if this is too many dog books:

Out of control.
  • The Dog Who Couldn't Stop Loving: How Dogs Have Captured Our Hearts for Thousands of Years by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
  • Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love by Larry Levin
  • Katie Up and Down the Hall: The True Story of How One Dog Turned Five Neighbors Into a Family by Glenn Plaskin
  • Huck: The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family - and a Whole Town - About Hope and Happy Endings by Janet Elder
  • Last Dog on the Hill: The Extraordinary Life of Lou by Steve Duno
  • One Dog at a Time: Saving the Strays of Afghanistan by Pen Farthing
  • A Small Furry Prayer by Steven Kotler
  • Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog by Susannah Charleson
  • The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption by Jim Gorant
  • Life with Maxie by Diane Rehm
  • Fixing Freddie: A True Story About a Boy, a Mom, and a Very, Very Bad Beagle by Paula Munier
  • Cesar's Rules: Your Way to Train a Well-Behaved Dog by Cesar Millan (Cesar is a renowned dog trainer, but since it's new, I had to put it on the list.)
  • Through a Dog's Eyes: Understanding Our Dogs By Understanding How They See the World by Jennifer Arnold
  • The Divine Life of Animals: One Man's Quest to Discover Whether the Souls of Animals Live On by Ptolemy Tompkins
  • Rose in a Storm (A Novel) by Jon Katz
(I'd like to apologize to Steven Kotler and Steve Duno, who either have appeared at the store in the recent past or will someday soon - I have to include everyone if this rant is going to have any weight.)

Almost all of these books seem to be attempts at tugging at our heartstrings: Don't you want to see how dogs see the world?  Don't you want to know if your dog's going to heaven with you?  See how this dog changed the lives of __ number of people/families/towns/cities/libraries?  Look at this dog who loves this family even though he used to fight in dog fights!  Save the dogs of Iraq/Afghanistan/New Jersey!

I also can't help but get exasperated at the lengthy subtitles, all of which bear a similar message: "This particular dog - our dog - is the most incredible, life-changing dog, EVER!!"  C'mon, if I lacked any soul, I could write an inspiring story focused on one of my dogs too - but it doesn't mean that I should.

Jade, in her Mardi Gras attire.
Even worse, these are just the current stock of books with dog-themes.  We've had several best-selling novels with dog protagonists & plenty of memoirs concerning rescued dogs from war-torn countries, yet I blame the current overload almost solely on John Grogan and Marley.  C'mon, you know who I'm talkin' about.  Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World's Worst Dog was the publishing phenomenon of 2005 (and beyond - we've sold over 400 copies of the hardcover edition) and is currently still available as an illustrated edition, a mass market paperback, a regular trade paperback, a movie tie-in edition trade paperback (from the 2008 film with Owen Wilson & Jennifer Aniston), two kids' spin-off easy-reader editions, large print, and in Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese translations.  None of these are to be confused with Don Taylor's 1995 memoir, Marley and Me: The Real Bob Marley Story, by the way.

The counter-argument is bound to be that publishers only print what there is a demand for, so if you see a preponderance of dog-related titles, it's really because "they" are giving "you" what "you" want.  I realize that there is a certain demand for titles like these, but I think that there are far, far too many being produced - if I can count over a dozen in a 5-foot radius on a single table, then there are far too many out there.  It is sort of a "chicken or the egg" argument - would we want so many dog books if there weren't so many being produced?  Or are the publishers actually reacting to our national dog-love?  Is it all just manufactured demand?  Personally, although I love dogs, I don't necessarily want to read 10 inspiring non-fiction books about them.

If James Patterson writes a dog book, I will be forced to quit the book industry forever.

I guess what bugs me the most is that all of these books are getting published and thousands of other, worthy titles are rejected by publishers and end up never seeing the light of day.  Considering that somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 titles get published in the States annually (according to UNESCO) it seems proportionally out of whack that I can count so many new, inspiring dog titles for a single season.

But hey, this is just the opinion of one, single dog-loving bookseller who just can't take it anymore.  Feel free to sic the dogs on me - I can take it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Celebrate Banned Books!

Happy Banned Books Week!  The First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution guarantees us freedom of speech, yet every year a large number of books are challenged in court and removed from libraries and schools, limiting the access that readers - especially young readers - have to them, restricting our basic rights of freedom. Removing books from public access is essentially a direct assault on a person's ability to choose what they read. This is where Banned Books Week comes in - BBW is an annual celebration of the freedom to read. In a salute to BBW, we will have a sharp-looking display of banned books at the store and, right here, a few of the Warwick’s staff have selected some of our favorite challenged books from the last decade or so, telling you why we love them and why they not only should never be banned, but should be READ!

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
"Would any serious reader question the place of To Kill a Mockingbird among the great works of American literature? A compelling story with deeply affecting characters, the novel draws you fully into a world charged with issues central to the American experience: the interplay of race and class, the death of innocence, law and order, gender and family. This amazing novel has been challenged repeatedly, in schools and libraries, for its use of racial epithets, for its use at times of vulgar language, and its frank portrayal of rape. I would argue that these challenges point exactly to why this novel is so important  - it is honest, true-to-life and our history, and still able to arouse powerful, indeed, visceral responses."

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
"Twain captures the humor and contradictory morals of the pre-Civil War Antebellum South. Banning this book for racism misses the whole point he was trying to make with his satire. Every time I read it, I find something new to consider."

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
"The banning of books in itself makes me sick at heart. When I scanned the lists of challenged books I was amazed to find In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. That book is a modern classic, a beautifully written true story of random violence in America, timely and important."

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
"From the master of characters, John Irving is at his best. Owen Meany will stay with you for the rest of your life! Anyone over the age of 15 should be able to handle this book. Banned? Really?"

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
"Jeannette Walls proves that success and normalcy can come of and despite family dysfunction, an invaluable lesson in the current social climate. Not only should this book NOT be banned, it SHOULD be read by all."

Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer
"I’m always appalled when I see that a book has been banned. I mean the Bible, Diary of Anne Frank, even Mein Kampf, these are all part of history! So why did I pick the Twilight books? Well, they too are now a part of history or pop-culture at least, and whether or not you love or hate them, they are a strong part of our current culture. Besides how offensive can you get when the hero and heroine remain virgins until marriage and place such an importance on family? This series was actually banned because it was too racy and too sexual. Go figure."

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
"I can see why a book about steamy pedophilia would be banned. However, the writing is intoxicating, characters engaging, and the tale beautifully told. Humbert Humbert’s obsession for the young Delores is told by him, and the description of the madness that ensues is part of Nabokov’s greatness."

"I've given this a lot of thought - Catcher in the Rye, Harry Potter, The Chocolate War - those are easy, smart-looking picks for favorite banned books.  In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak has always been one of my favorite books that always surfaces on the list of those banned every year. Why all the hubbub?  (This is a Caldecott Honor book, after all.)  So the kid flashes the reader a little bit in the kitchen - no big deal.  I'm always flabbergasted by schools and parents who challenge books like this - it's the adults, of course, who are uncomfortable with a little naked boy in a book, rather than the kids reading them.  I know I didn't care when I was a kid reading this - I was too busy reading the awesome story.  After all, isn't that what reading is all about? When I was looking over the handy list of the American Library Association's Most Frequently Challenged Books I also discovered that the most challenged book from 1990-1999 was Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz.  Say what?!  Banned for being too...scary?  C'mon, people.  Go out and read a banned book."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Warwick's Questionnaire: Nicholas Sparks

The so-called Proust Questionnaire was originally a 19th-century parlor game designed to reveal bits of the soul, personality, & deep secrets of the participants through a series of pointed questions.  Versions of the quiz were re-popularized in the 20th-century by Vanity Fair and Inside the Actors Studio.  Our version - The Warwick's Questionnaire - is a series of ten questions designed to plumb the depths of the souls of visiting authors.

Nicholas Sparks is the massively popular, bestselling author of sixteen novels (six of which have been made into blockbuster films), including the brand-new Safe Haven.  He came by Warwick's on September 22nd to sign books for 300 of his biggest fans and he still found the time to answer our silly Questionnaire.

1. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
  • Helping my second son, Ryan learn to speak.
2. What is your greatest fear?
  • Disappointing those I love.
3. If you were a superhero, what would your power be?
  • Incredible luck.
4. If you could bring one writer back from the dead, who would it be?
5. Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
6. What is your most treasured possession?
  • My photo albums.
7. Which living person do you most admire?
8. If you were not able to be in the writing profession, what would your preferred occupation be?
  • I'd manage a global-macro hedge fund.
9. What are you most looking forward to seeing on your tour stop in San Diego?
  • My relatives.
10. What is your motto?
  • Live well, but buy a lot of insurance.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Coffee For the People!

Just in case you needed more reasons to get down to Warwick's on the second Tuesday morning of every month for Coffee with a Bookseller, our program got some great coverage this week in the widely-read book industry rags Bookselling This Week and Shelfawareness.  Don't be the last one on your block!  Get on down here next month!  (October 12)  The article:

Coffee With a Bookseller at Warwick’s
By Karen Schechner, for Bookselling This Week, on Wednesday, Sep 15, 2010

Seth's actual coffee in Hvar, Croatia
On the second Tuesday morning of every month, Warwick’s, in La Jolla, California, hosts “Coffee With a Bookseller.” The store serves free coffee and scones, and staff member Seth Marko leads customers on a “casual, informal journey” through new releases and Warwick’s staff picks.

“It can be a great way to connect with your reading community,” said Marko. “People love that it's informal, and I usually field a barrage of questions on how the book industry works, which is always fun to talk about. I love to point out to people that you don't get ‘Coffee With a Bookseller’ from Amazon or Barnes & Noble! It gets people thinking and keeps them shopping local.”

The 10:00 a.m. event has grown from a couple of attendees, when it first started in January, to about a dozen, “which is pretty much perfect,” said Marko. “It gets more and more popular every month as word gets around. People really enjoy the ‘insiders’ look at what's new, so when they come to one Coffee, they almost always come back the next month.”

Attendees receive 20 percent off any of the six to 12 titles typically discussed. Books mentioned at August's edition included: Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson, Star Island by Carl Hiaasen, and The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant.

Warwick’s is considering expanding the series. Marko said, “We've discussed a nonfiction branch with John Hughes, another of our booksellers.” For the holidays, the store is considering hosting a gift book/cookbook version.

Customers have a good time, and they buy books. “People love a discount, so when you couple that with a passionate bookseller in your ear, it usually translates to decent sales figures,” said Marko. “Last month I mentioned the paperback release of Everything Matters! by Ron Currie, Jr. and told everybody that it was my favorite book from 2009. We did quite well with that one that day.”

For the bookseller, it’s an ideal sales scenario – the customer is seated (Note: No seats! We stand!) and caffeinated. “Anytime I get to just talk about books I've read and enjoyed with a relatively captive audience is a lot of fun,” said Marko. “The best part of being a bookseller is getting the chance to tell someone about the books you love, right? What better way to do that than over a cuppa joe and a scone?”

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Warwick's Questionnaire: Christopher McDougall

The so-called Proust Questionnaire was originally a 19th-century parlor game designed to reveal bits of the soul, personality, & deep secrets of the participants through a series of pointed questions.  Versions of the quiz were re-popularized in the 20th-century by Vanity Fair and Inside the Actors Studio.  Our version - The Warwick's Questionnaire - is a series of ten questions designed to plumb the depths of the souls of visiting authors.

Christopher McDougall is a journalist and the author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen about the barefoot-running, super-healthy Tarahumara Indians in Mexico.  In between working on his next book, he runs "in bare feet among the Amish farms in rural Pennsylvania," where he lives with his family.

1. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
    You can't run from the Warwick's Questionnaire.
  • Luck isn't really an achievement, but I'll claim it on a technicality. I have a knee-jerk instinct to say "Sure!" any time I'm offered work, only realizing later that maybe there are smarter ways to earn a buck than mucking blindly about in canyons or the Congo.
2. What is your greatest fear?
  • That I could be wrong about Answer #3.
3. If you were a superhero, what would your power be?
  • "If"?
4. If you could bring one writer (or runner? Your choice!) back from the dead, who would it be?
  • Give me just enough of Nelson Algren to splice with Emil Zatopek to create the coolest, toughest, cleverest bad-ass to ever walk the planet. Unless Johnny Cash makes it back first.
5. What is your most treasured possession?
  • I've got to steal this one from Geronimo: "I only trust my legs. They're my only friends." Everything good that has happened in my life has come from strolling, skulking or flat-out running into places I had no right being.
6. What living person do you most admire?
  • C'mon, what answer is there besides the Prez?
7. If you were not able to be a journalist, what would your preferred occupation be?
  • Have you ever heard of Statement Analysis? I came across a blog recently of a guy whose job is to analyze transcripts of criminal suspects. Super fascinating. Kept me up till 4am reading about odd little tells in the Amanda Knox and Madeleine McCann cases. "Guilty people have a difficult time saying four words," was one of the insights." And here they are: 'I didn't do it.' They'll embellish it, avoid it, try to persuade you that they're 'not the kind of person who could ever do something like that.' But 75% percent or more of guilty people will never say those simple words in their testimony." So yeah, sign me up for Statement Analysis 101 if this gig bottoms out.
8. How far can you run without shoes on?
  • TBD. Ever since I got rid of those Burmese Tiger Traps known as cushioned running shoes, I've stopped getting injured. I'm running farther, better and more consistently than I ever dreamed possible, so really, the only limits on distance are time and desire.
9. What are you most looking forward to seeing on your tour stop in San Diego?
  • An old friend from Philly, Jennifer Silverman.
10. What is your motto?
  • Once you BS your way into the job, you'll figure out how to do it.
Chris McDougall will be at Warwick's on Monday, September 13th at 7:30pm to discuss and sign his book, Born to Run.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Book Lover's Manifesto

by Adrian Newell, Warwick's Book Buyer

Recently, a local school district announced a major change in their school curriculum - the removal of classic literature as required reading because "classics," according to this district, have been deemed to be irrelevant. School curriculum will instead focus on math and sciences. Such a change in emphasis will most likely result in a negative effect rather than a positive one as reading comprehension has been proven to improve test scores as well as lay a good foundation for academic achievement in college.

This announcement triggered a heated discussion in my office regarding the negative side effects/fallout that such a shortsighted approach will produce…this took me down a mental “rabbit hole”, which brings me to the point of this, my first ever blog entry...and, no, the irony is not lost on me!

There has been a lot of chatter these past few years regarding e-books, digital content and platforms, which has led to the inevitable prediction of the demise of the printed book. Despite all this chatter it’s safe to say that no one was truly prepared for the exponential growth in e-book adoption as evidenced in this past year. Everywhere you turn there are articles etc covering this topic and the book industry has not been unaffected by this constant barrage of negative press regarding the future of the physical book. Physical books are already being relegated to the ranks of obsolescence and possible extinction. When self-professed book lovers and supposed supporters of independent bookstores (most notably Sven Birkerts in a recent WSJ article) agree can the end be far off?

It is not - unless book lovers unite to stem the tide of this potentially self-fulfilling prophecy. As long as we stand by, fail to speak out and remind/educate consumers as to what we stand to lose, we may witness a loss that will be devastating to the cultural and intellectual fabric of our society.

I grew up without a TV or phone. My parents were depression era babies and quite frugal in their approach to consumerism but books were always an important constant in our lives. We went to the library every week for a new batch of reading materials. They also took the time to read aloud to us daily. A favorite memory (and only good one!) from school was my 6th grade teacher who read The Hobbit aloud to us every day. The only effective way to get everyone to behave was the threat of not reading if someone misbehaved. This only happened once, after which the severe peer disapproval leveled at the miscreants was enough to keep everyone in line.

I credit my lifelong reading habits and exposure to the ideas discovered on the pages of books as my truest and best education.

At this point I feel the need to declare that I am not a Luddite...well perhaps a wee bit...I love the ease that certain technology has brought to everyday life. However, I view technology as a means to an end, not the end itself. I own an iPod, an iPhone, a computer, but at no point will these devices ever replace the satisfaction and joy of holding and reading a physical book. When I look at the books on my bookshelves I can clearly recall many happy moments spent reading as well as what was going on in my life at the time of reading specific books. They are a visual history of my life and looking at them evokes memories of people, places, and experiences that would be lost if my library consisted of only books downloaded to an e-reader.

Additionally, the literary life has put me in contact with many wonderful people who have enriched my life. Technology can be good, but also serves as a barrier to truly connecting with people. We are losing the art of conversation, letter writing, journal keeping etc...always connected but never truly connecting at more than a superficial level. Texting, tweeting, and emailing cannot adequately replace face-to-face conversation where you can look the person in the eye and watch their facial expressions mirror their thoughts and emotions. Nuance is lost in cyberspace and emoticons are a poor substitute for the real thing.

Recently I gave a shout out to It’s a Book by Lane Smith as my favorite book of the year. Why, you might ask, would I pick a children’s book above all the other deserving, finely written books of the past year?! Here’s why - he succinctly captures, with few words and charming illustrations, the current struggle between technology and the printed word. This is a book every book lover should read and share with others. (Check out his interview with the Wall Street Journal.)

So... my challenge to you is this. Just as we’ve seen a burgeoning “slow food” movement address the encroachment that fast food, processed food etc. has had on the culinary arts, I’d like to propose a “slow books” movement to encourage book lovers to go out and remind those around us of the importance and necessity of physical books. This is my call to arms and revolution, if necessary, to preserve something precious and vital to our culture.

Be retro, take a vacation from technology and unplug for a day...and use that day to reconnect with friends, explore the outdoors, or read a book. Most of all, speak out about this issue. Let’s not stand by doing nothing until it’s too late.

Be vocal, be proactive!

So spread the word, spread the love and give someone you care about a physical book this holiday season. It’s still the best entertainment value out there and time spent reading is never wasted!

Check out the following links to articles of interest on this topic.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An Evening with the Warwick's Booksellers

On the night of August 24th, we hosted our annual Evening with the Warwick's Booksellers (or, Bookclub Recommendation Night, or, Bookclub Night, etc.) where six of our finest booksellers shared their favorite book picks of the season with all who cared to stop by and listen. In case you missed it, here are their selections, with a little personal flair from each of them: 

You can also listen to the audio podcast of the talk right here:

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens - "Centered around an escaped kidnap victim and detailing her capture, incarceration, escape, and ongoing recovery, Still Missing is an engrossing read. It possesses wit that engages, suspense that thrills, and a twist, which will rock readers."

Juliet by Anne Fortier - "Juliet is the story of Julie Jacobs, a young woman who is drawn into the mysterious and very real world of Shakespeare’s most famous warring families - that's right, Romeo & Juliet. This is a fast-paced, intriguing story, which brought to mind other fabulous tales that intertwined two time periods and stories to make for one excellent novel, namely The Thirteenth Tale, The Eight, and Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth."

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman - "This seemingly simple story of a newly motherless girl taken in by her great aunt is truly superb. It is both laugh out loud and cry in the dark, a multi-dimensional story wrapped in the fa├žade of a light and easy read. This is one of those books that you put down, and then pick right back up because you must find someone else to read it and enjoy it with you."

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly - "On sale October 12 - this is one of those books that sucks you in emotionally and rivets with its dramatic prose and utterly fantastic plot. The characters are brilliantly depicted and the research that went into describing the atmosphere and the horrors of the French Revolution is thorough and impressive. I cannot praise this novel enough."

Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain - "Who doesn't know Bourdain now? Medium Raw is his follow-up to Kitchen Confidential, the book that made you cringe a little bit about what might be happening in the kitchen of your favorite fine restaurant and inspired many to try eating the "nasty bits" of animals. Here is Bourdain once again: raw, nasty, exaggerating, cussing, and gifted with a fine palette and a pen to go with it. If nothing else, the chapter about Justo Thomas, the seafood butcher for Le Bernardin, wholly justifies reading this book."

Exploring Happiness by Sissela Bok - "Is happiness a worthy goal for a human life?  Should the pursuit of of fulfillment or moral virtue have a higher priority?  How can so many bad people be happy?  Does that raise problems for our ideas of the relationship of happiness to ethical action?  To what are we even referring when we refer to happiness?  Why is misery so much easier than happiness to put into words?  Brilliant philosopher and one of the masters of the "yes, but" question, Sissela Bok, raises and discusses these questions and others in this learned and pithy combination of intellectual history, cultural criticism, and philosophical exploration of happiness."

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr - "In The Shallows - an expansion of his controversial Atlantic article, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" - Carr argues that as we spend more and more time using the internet, the more we lose are ability to concentrate and to engage in the kinds of thought associated with deep, focused contemplation. Although I am not entirely convinced by his arguments, I found this a truly thought-provoking read. Carr's account of technological transformation over time from the emergence of writing through the printing press through radio and tv to the internet is especially compelling. Lots of food for thought and discussion in this book!"

Wide Awake: A Memoir of Insomnia by Patricia Morrisroe - "Filled with humorous and revealing anecdotes, Patricia Morrisroe's memoir tells of her quest for sleep amidst the 32 billion-dollar-a-year sleep industry. We follow along as she explores behavior modification, drugs, artificial light, hypnosis, costly mattresses, music therapy, orthodontia, ice hotels, and more. A mix of reporting and memoir, this book should appeal to readers who have liked other works of immersive reporting such as, for example, Bill Buford's Heat or Mary Roach's Stiff."

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard - "On Labor Day weekend Henry and his mother Adele befriend Ben in a shopping center parking lot and invite him to their home. Then they find out he’s an escaped felon.  Despite that, fatherless Henry and his mother are enamored with the man. This book caught me off guard with its poignant conclusion. Fine writing captures each character’s personalities and emotions."

Star Island by Carl Hiaasen - "Hiassen has said that his books are based on incidents that have happened in South Florida…or ones that will happen. Cherry Pye, a celebrity for being a celebrity, is so wasted most of the time that there is a professional look-alike who takes her place. One paparazzo chasing after Cherry Pye ends up kidnapping her look-alike by accident. What ensues is classic Hiassen, with such characters as Chemo (who has a weed whacker for a prosthesis,) and Skink, the former governor of Florida in hiding in the swamps, making an appearance when needed."

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli - "Only weeks before the fall of Saigon, photojournalist Helen Adams follows the tide of events as Americans and South Vietnamese flee the downfall of the city. I found this incredibly well told, as if I were accompanying characters throughout the tumult, A fictional war story with a personal perspective that is astonishing in its detail."

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen - "When the Latham family thinks they intimately know someone, a shocking and unexpected event dramatically changes this outlook. Quindlen’s is profound in her descriptions of the family’s transition from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Quindlen beautifully describes the interactions of family members as they struggle through their relationships. No one can prepare them for the trauma they will face within a few days. This is a remarkable addition to Anna Quindlen’s prolific writing career."

One Day by David Nicholls - "Funniest book I read this summer! David Nicholls had me laughing out loud (which I rarely do) and at other times, feeling very sad for these characters. Em and Dex have a ‘one night stand’ on July 15th, 1988, their last day of college. The author takes you to July 15th for the next twenty years. Do they end up together? Do they fulfill those dreams and desires we all have when we’re just starting ‘life’?"

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann - "Best book I read this year. So well done! This book takes place in one day, the day the Phillip Petit walked between the twin towers in 1974. The towers, and Petit are the background to this poignant story of how ordinary people’s lives become extraordinary in their interactions with each other." (Winner of the 2009 National Book Award for Fiction.)

Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada - "This book is not just another story about the Germans resistance to what was happening during WWII. This story takes hold of you and won’t let you go. Unbelievable to think this was written in only twenty-four days. It truly does make you feel 'This is how it was. This is what happened.'"

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel - "Told from Thomas Cromwell’s perspective, Hilary Mantel does a fabulous job of taking us to Henry VIII’s court, from the political intrigue that occurred to the ordinary daily routines in Cromwell’s family life. This is a historical feast with more meat than your average period romp."  (Winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize.)

The Natural Laws of Good Luck by Ellen Graf - "Ellen Graf, a sculptor living on a farm in upstate New York, decided to travel to China to meet her friend's brother. Almost immediately, in spite of a serious language barrier, they decided to marry. Was it lust or love at first sight? Neither. It was a leap of faith unlike anything I have ever read. Even better, this book is a true story. Graf 's memoir is a beautiful illustration of what those marriage vows of "For Better or Worse, For Richer or Poorer, In Sickness and In Health" really mean."

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart - "New York City in any decade is an exciting place to visit. If you could choose any decade, which would it be? As for me, I would choose the 1940’s – the classiest of all modern decades. Imagine my delight then, when I discovered this little gem of a book, Summer At Tiffany. This memoir recounts the summer of adventure Iowa natives Marjorie and her best friend Marty enjoyed as the first female pages at Tiffany. Mrs. Hart opens a door for you to step back and soak in all the glamour of that classy decade and New York City in her glory days."

Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollestad - "Norman Ollestad was only 11 years old in 1979 when he, his father, his father’s girlfriend, and the pilot flying their small charter plane crashed into a California mountain during a blizzard. Only Norman survived. How did this young boy survive such a disaster? Mr. Ollestad tells his incredible story in a style reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway. I could not put this fascinating book down. Young Norman and his father will capture your imagination and admiration as well."

Unfinished Business by Lee Kravitz - "When Mr. Kravitz lost his job as a successful magazine editor, his sense of identity crumbled. Serendipity prevailed when he took a few days to sort through boxes of stored keepsakes and photos. It occurred to Mr. Kravitz that before he embarked on a new career search, he had to attend to mending fences in his family and friendships. This inspirational book documents his year long quest to resolve his “unfinished business."

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell - "While this novel is a bit of a departure from Mitchell’s usual genre-bending fare (Cloud Atlas, Ghostwritten, Number9Dream) it is every bit as stunningly brilliant as his previous work and should act as his conduit to a much larger global readership and perhaps that elusive Booker Prize. (He's been nominated for the 4th time with this book.) The best endorsement I can offer is this: David Mitchell is my favorite author."

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart - "Shteyngart's (the author of Absurdistan) hilarious new novel is a vision of a dystopic, barely functionally illiterate future America filled with retail outlets like Assluxury.com, endless streaming video images on handheld mobile devices, and a crippling fear of the decaying stench of books.  Are we so far off from ending up like this?" (Gary's Warwick's Questionnaire)

American Rust by Philipp Meyer - "Meyer’s debut novel of bad decisions made in a dying Pennsylvania steel town is sad, powerful stuff. The jacket comparisons to Cormac McCarthy are not without merit, as Meyer’s sparse prose rings as true as hammer to anvil and the poor, life-defining choices made by the characters throughout are ripe for a Coen Brothers adaptation."  (A 2009 New York Times Notable book and winner of the 2009 LA Times Book Prize.)

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant - "Vaillant weaves together the fascinating history of the Far East of Russia – an impoverished area essentially locked in a far-off time, even after the fall of the Iron Curtain – with the search for a remarkably intelligent, man-hunting Siberian tiger.  The moral herein: don't steal food from a tiger and if you shoot him, make sure he's dead. An absolutely incredible story that reads better than most fiction out there."

Everything Matters! by Ron Currie, Jr. - "The best book I read in 2009, now fresh out in paperback. How would you live your life if you were born the smartest person on the planet and had an all-knowing, all-seeing voice inside your head that told you that, without a shadow of a doubt, the world would end in a fiery comet collision around your 36th birthday?"

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's Roald Dahl Month!

In celebration of Roald Dahl month (his birthday would have fallen on September 13th) and the upcoming release of The Missing Golden Ticket and Other Splendiferous Secrets (the missing chapter from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Mr. Dahl will be the featured author in the Children’s Book Department at Warwick's for the month of September. Along with a special in-store display of Dahl’s books, we will also have a variety of Roald Dahl inspired giveaways for our young customers!

Dahl is an extraordinary author whose work has in some way touched, entertained, or in some cases frightened, us all (let’s face it, The Witches is pretty scary.) Whether drawn to his work after having seen one of the many films adapted from his stories, or having picked up one of his books as a child, the works of Roald Dahl have managed to influence the imaginations of readers for decades. Whether we've been drawn to the honesty of his autobiography Boy or sucked into the fantasy of James and the Giant Peach, we all manage to find something that calls to us in Dahl’s words.

We recently polled our the booksellers with the question “What’s your favorite Roald Dahl work, which did you or do you still pick up to read over and over again?” The abundance of written works by Dahl (numbering well into the 60’s according to roalddahl.com) makes it rather difficult to pinpoint a specific beloved story (it’s like having to pick your favorite all time movie without the benefit of segregating by genre), but when asked, it was surprising how quickly and diversely the Warwick’s staff replied. Here are their responses:

Emily: Matilda

John: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Seth: The Twits

Heather: Danny the Champion of the World

James: James and the Giant Peach

Scott: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Steven: The Witches

Jan: The BFG

Adrian: Tales of the Unexpected

Janet: George’s Marvelous Medicine

Susan: James and the Giant Peach

What are your favorite Roald Dahl books?  Write in and let us know!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Warwick's Questionnaire: Melanie Rehak

The so-called Proust Questionnaire was originally a 19th-century parlor game designed to reveal bits of the soul, personality, & deep secrets of the participants through a series of pointed questions.  Versions of the quiz were re-popularized in the 20th-century by Vanity Fair and Inside the Actors Studio.  Our version - The Warwick's Questionnaire - is a series of ten questions designed to plumb the depths of the souls of visiting authors.

Melanie Rehak is the author of the brand-new Eating For Beginners: An Education in the Pleasures of Food From Chefs, Farmers, and One Picky Kid.  Her previous book, Girl Sleuth, was the recipient of two prestigious mystery awards, the Edgar (for Best Critical/Biographical Work) and the Agatha (for Best Nonfiction.)  She also writes the food column Paper Palate for Bookforum.com and passionately hates celery.

1. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
  • Right now?  That I got on a plane with a two and a half week old baby and flew cross-country just because my older son is so obsessed with surfing I didn’t want him to miss out this summer.  Usually? That I now know what to do with delicata squash and all that zucchini they always have at the farmer’s market.
2. What is your greatest fear?
  • That I’ll realize I don’t actually like zucchini. Or that I won’t be able to think of any more books to write and I’ll be out of a career since writing is pretty much the only thing I’m good at.
3. If you were a superhero, what would your power be?
  • The ability to make people forget that Facebook and Twitter exist for at least three to four hours every day.
4. If you could bring one writer back from the dead, who would it be?
5. What is your most treasured possession?
  • A late 19th-century watch that belonged to my grandfather and then my father.
6. What do you dislike the most about your appearance?
  • My eye bags (though I try to convince myself that eye bags are a writerly affliction to have, and at least they’re a far better one than being an alcoholic or a chain smoker)
7. What are you most looking forward to seeing on your tour stop in San Diego?
  • My older son in the ocean - it’s pure, unmitigated, contagious joy.
8. What is your least favorite vegetable?
  • Celery. Celery, celery, celery!
9. If you had to cook one meal for Nancy Drew, what would it be?  (Melanie's previous book was Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her.)
  • Tea sandwiches made with local ingredients.
10. What is your motto?
  • "You’re not made of sugar; you won’t melt."  My father always said this to me when it rained but I think it applies in any situation.
Melanie Rehak will be at Warwick's on Wednesday, August 25th at 7:30pm to discuss and sign her new book, Eating for Beginners.