Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Books About the Financial Meltdown.

I was talking recently with a friend, who is very active in the stock market, about the financial meltdown and the many books that have been published trying to explain what happened. He has read several of them and the two that he recommended most are Quants by Scott Patterson and Fool's Gold by Gillian Tett.

Quants focuses on the financial-math whizzes, who developed the complex trading systems that fueled the run-up in the credit markets. The author is a little over the top in his descriptions of the characters. His explanations, though, of the impact of their actions is very readable and right on.

Fool's Gold is written by a reporter for the Financial Times of London (which in my humble opinion has surpassed the Wall St. Journal in the quality of writing about financial issues). Tett has been writing about derivatives and the credit markets for several years and brings that background into her explanation of the history and aftermath of the debacle.

I encourage you to take a look at both of these. -Henry

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Household of Birds

Corvus: A Life With Birds by Esther Woolfson

A neighborhood crow follows my two old dogs and I as we meander up the alley on our daily walks. The crow is partial to the dog treats I carry in my pocket, Puperoni being his favorite. He's become bolder lately, waddling up to the kitchen door, and will tolerate me watching as he eats his fill, then buries the surplus in the garden.

I'm reading Corvus by Esther Woolfson, a middle-aged Scotswoman who raised a household of birds but is especially captivated by her corvids, a pet rook and a crow. A gentle book, beautifully written, and comical. Woolfson knows it's amusing that someone would have a houseful of birds. She doesn't care.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blackstock's Collections

This is about a book of lists rather than a list of books.

Several years ago a book by a local artist came out that was totally amazing. It is a collection of Gregory Blackstock's drawings. He is autistic and an artistic savant and he drew lists - tools, shoes, trucks, bees. These are amazingly detailed drawings as you can see from the cover. When the opportunity arose to have him come to the store I was quite excited and I had no idea what to expect.

The night of the event, he arrived with his guardian and immediately sat down and started to draw. He occasionally answered a question with a word or two, but mostly he ignored us. His guardian answered questions about him, but mostly we were fascinated just watching him draw with such focus and intensity.

Anyway I'd forgotten about that event until I saw the book again recently. I'm still in awe of this book and Gregory's talent. We now have it back in stock. So come in and take a look. I think you'll be amazed as well.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Historical Vampire Novel

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Timing is everything. Right now, I must have plenty of time on my hands, because I’ve been riding trains through the Pyrenees and wagons through Romanian woods, researching in Istanbul library archives and flying between Oxford and Amsterdam, immersed in Elizabeth Kostova’s 676-page novel The Historian.

Kostova has been touring for her latest novel, The Swan Thieves and stopped off one recent evening to give a writing workshop at 826 Seattle, Dave Eggers’ non-profit writing and tutoring center for youth ( She’s so personable I wanted to read her work, and decided to start chronologically with The Historian, a best seller in 2005, before rewarding myself with The Swan Thieves which is getting a bunch of buzz.

Just like The Historian’s main characters who go searching for the still-living Dracula, I had no idea what I was getting into. My only complaint is that I’m staying up too late at night reading in bed because I can’t put the darn thing down. This novel is particular fun for people who love libraries and bookstores--- who knew Dracula was a book collector?

For those of you reading Sookie Stackhouse and the Twilight series or any of those other vampire books, come on over to the real dark side and pick up The Historian. You won’t regret it.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Tolkien's Inspiration

The Princess and The Goblin, by George MacDonald

Back in 1965, when I was in third grade, Miss Swedinski used to read to the class every afternoon. She read us Charlotte’s Web and other classics, but my favorite was a story about a princess and a mountainside filled with terrible goblins that competed with the villagers for control of the mines. This story had it all: adventure, bravery, terror, all the Jungian archetype stuff—it hit every hot button in my eight-year-old brain with such a powerful effect that for years I carried with me the vague excitement of being lost in mine tunnels pursued by goblins (I had not yet read Tolkien).

By the time I’d reached adulthood I’d forgotten the book’s title and I assumed it was gone forever, lost in the tunnels of childhood. That was before my life took another labyrinthine turn and I found myself working in a bookstore. Recently a customer came in looking for “The Princess and the Goblin,” by George MacDonald. It was her favorite book as a child and asked could we order her a copy? Something inside me went tingly; I pulled up the book on our database and as we read its description we both got excited--- we had found our book. I ordered two copies; one for her and one for the store. For myself, I ordered the George MacDonald Treasury, edited by Glenn Kahley, a collection of eight of his most famous stories, including The Princess and The Goblin.

That night I began reading, and all the old magic returned. MacDonald wrote these stories in the 1880’s and was the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien, C.L. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Lewis Carroll and Madeleine L’Engle. MacDonald’s writing is so good and his humor so clever that he appeals equally to adults as to children (as does Tolkien and the other well-loved authors he inspired).

The only complaint I have about my comprehensive Treasury edition is that it’s a bit heavy (although softbound) to read in bed comfortably, and the type is a bit small. I like the looks of the slimmer softbound volumes by Puffin Classics, which have lovely illustrated covers.

If you like Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, read George MacDonald. And read him to your children.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Finally something new!

Yes it's been awhile since I've written anything here. It's been a busy summer. However, yesterday I found something to write about.

It is the most beautiful coffee table book I've ever seen. Titled A Shadow Falls by photographer Nick Brandt, it is a collection of 58 oversize, tritone photos of East Africa. Brandt is on a mission to document the disappearing landscape and animals of this area.

When I opened the book and went through the photos some literally took my breath away. Just look at the cover photo here and you'll get a sense of what the rest are like.

Yes it's relatively expensive but it is one you'll come back to over and over again.

Now I'm curious to know more about Nick and where I can see the real photos. I want one.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Book & Wine Pairings

Recently I was talking with Sadee, a customer who also happens to be a marketing guru, about ways to boost sales. Since I also enjoy wine she suggested selling wine as well as books and start thinking of book and wine pairings. The Liquor Control Board quickly dashed my dreams of selling wine but book and wine pairings is something I can do.

Obviously red wine goes with mysteries, white with light fiction. Either will go with cooking since one has to have a glass while stirring the pots and pans. But beyond that I was stumped. This is harder than I thought. OK beer has to be consumed while reading Tom Robbins' new book B is for Beer. A good hearty Cabernet while reading about the latest political and current affairs, if only to drown one's sorrows.

What do you think? What do you like to sip? Come to our first Book & Bottle event on Friday evening June 12 at 7:00 and tell us your thoughts about books & wine. We'll also have some wine to taste while we talk. I hope to have a local wine buyer in attendance to facilitate the discussion.

In the meantime, I'll be doing more research. And I'd like to read your thoughts about what you drink while you read.