Friday, August 31, 2007

Travails and (Ultimately)Triumphs

The Boston Phoenix has posted an investigative article on the increased visibility of pretty authors. Drawing attention to beauty may not be the most necessary bit of journalism, but the run-down of literary pulchritude is a fun read with some good gossip.

While the Phoenix ultimately decides that pretty doesn't hurt an author's chances of success, this reporter would like to point out that Malcolm Gladwell (author of the runaway hits Blink and The Tipping Point; pictured at right) has been doing just fine, thank you. Despite that hair.--David E

Oligarch Copies

Every once in a while, I come across a neologism that sings in my ears: "anger brigades" and "technicals", are good examples. Add the phrase "oligarch copies" to that list.

The term in refers to a diamond-encrusted edition of Dancing with the Bear: An Entrepreneur Goes East which is aimed, according to the BBC, at rich Russians, presumably those with more rubles than taste. With 600 diamonds, this book isn't for the shy. And with a price tag of over six million dollars, it's not for the poor, either.

Dancing with the Bear: An Entrepreneur Goes East is not yet available in the US, but that just gives you more time to save your pennies--David E

Thursday, August 30, 2007

So Easy Even a Supermodel Can Do It

Men's Vogue magazine has posted a video/infomercial of supermodel Sophie Dahl (granddaughter of Roald Dahl) looking at rare books at Bauman's Rare Books in New York. Really.

The mind boggles with snarky comments, but instead I'll simply point out that we at Magers and Quinn welcome all rare book browsers, super and otherwise. Or if you're shy, browse our listings online.--David E

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What Tossers Are Reading This Summer

This is why I love London's Guardian newspaper: they recently posted an entire article devoted to the ten most-often-thrown-away books in Britain's Travelodge hotels.

Topping the list is The Blair Years, the summer's hot tell-all memoir by the former Prime Minister's Karl Rove equivalent. The book was much talked about, but just as widely panned. If you don't want to bother wading through all 794 pages, you can just read the Guardian's Digested Read of the book, a wicked summation/parody and yet another reason to love those cheeky Brits.--David E

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Calling All Artists

Constant readers will know that I'm a sucker for artists who use books as their medium. Cutting them, soaking them, building forts out of them--that sort of thing. If any of that inspires you, consider the Minneapolis Public Library's call for artists and submit your own altered books for an exhibition this spring.

Submissions are due October 15. Full details are posted at and at the MPL's site (.pdf).--David E

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"Your monument shall be my gentle verse"

After tackling the subject of, well, everything, Bill Bryson will be back this fall with a book on a seemingly simpler subject: William Shakespeare. But it's not as easy a topic as you might think. Scholars know surprisingly little about the bard.

Bryson writes, "We don’t know exactly how many plays he wrote or in what order he wrote them. ... we have just 14 words in his own hand... we have no written description of him penned in his own lifetime... we are not sure how best to spell his name."

Shakespeare: The World as Stage will be published November 1. Meanwhile, you can read an excerpt here.--David E

What's Cooking

Bill Buford will be on Minnesota Public Radio's "Midmorning" show Monday morning at 10am Central time. You will be able to hear the show or find the archived broadcast on their website.

Buford, a one-time fiction editor a the New Yorker, quit his job to learn the cooking trade under various chefs, starting with Mario Batali. The result is his book Heat: An Amateur's Adventures As Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-quoting Butcher in Tuscany.

The New York Times reviewer loved the book: "These first fast-paced chapters read almost like a thriller... The plot clips along, but I found myself reading slowly because there is so much information on every page."

Buford is also the author of the gripping and scary Amongt he Thugs, his account of his time spent with British soccer hooligans. I recommend that book, too.--David E

UPDATE: Buford must have had a schedule problem, since today's show wasn't anything to do with cooking. If and when MPR reschedules his appearance, I'll let you know.

Friday, August 24, 2007

You're Well Above Average

According to an AP/Ipsos poll released Wednesday, fully a quarter of Americans did not read a book last year. The Bible tops the list among admitted readers, with popular fiction, histories, biographies and mysteries high up as well. Almost every other category had a readership of under five percent of respondents.

You can read the results here (.pdf), if you are very curious.--David E

Weird and Wonderful and Available Now 5

Oh, the things on the shelves. In the hope of finding suitable homes for some of the hidden gems in the stacks, I continue this irregular feature dedicated to the strange and strangely interesting stuff we stock. (I promise these are all real books in our store.)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thought Crime

A few days ago, Ian Rankin told a reporter that his wife had seen JK Rowling hard at work in an Edinburgh cafe. Her subject matter? A crime novel, the sort of thing Rankin himself writes, and very well, I might add. (Check out his most recent John Rebus novel The Naming of the Dead, for example.) Potterites were alternately agog and aghast. Was it Professor Everard in the Quidditch stadium with the Liquorice Wand?

Sadly, no. It turns out Rankin was just pulling the scribe's leg. "This is a joke that got out of hand," Rankin told the Guardian. You can see the full confession here.--David E

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Letting Go

Working in a bookstore, you have to learn to see great books come through the store and know that you can't take them all home with you. Case in point, this book I came across today in our inventory: The Complete Trailsmart Maps: National Parks of the USA. It's not actually a book, it's a collection of CDs with maps of all the national parks. You can trace out a route you think you might want to hike, and the software will tell you the distance, elevation gain, and so on.

It's sweet but it's Windows-only software, so you, gentle customer, are in luck. This gem is out on the shelves for half off list price. It's a bargain, even if you're only going to use it to daydream this winter.--David E

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Looking Up

Recent weather in Minnesota--and we've had a lot of it lately--has us all watching the skies. And there's a book to help us make sense of it all: The Cloudspotter's Guide by the wonderfully named Gavin Pretor-pinney, explains the difference between cirrus and cummulonimbus and tells you when you can lie back and imagine bunnies and duckies floating overhead and when you need to run for cover.

For further information and a nifty embroidered patch, consider joining GP-P's Cloud Appreciation Society. "[W]e are fighting the banality of ‘blue-sky thinking’," says their website, E

Monday, August 20, 2007

Going Back

I haven't been tempted to read a novel set in the dark, Paleolithic past since the thirteen-year-old me read The Clan of the Cave Bear. But now the Guardian is up to episode twelve in its podcast of Michelle Paver's Wolf Brother, and I'm a bit tempted to revert to an earlier time. To make it even more appealing, the audio version is voiced by Sir Ian McKellan.

You can find all the episodes here, along with an interview with the author, in which she discusses eating seal blubber as part of her research. I'm not going that far just for nostalgia, though.--David E

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Toddle On Down

The library at the Chicago Botanic Garden is playing host to not one, but three first-edition books by Charles Darwin. Through October 28, you can see
  • On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection
  • Narrative of the surveying voyages of his Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle, between the years 1826 and 1836, describing their examination of the southern shores of South America, and the Beagle’s circumnavigation of the globe (Robert Fitzroy, editor), and
  • Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle
There's also an exhibition on the publication of On the Origin of Species and its context. Details are here.--David E

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I'm Gonna Live Forever

This is the cover of Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road. It's a Chinese language version from 2000, though it appears to be a photo of the cast of an off-Broadway production of Fame, circa 1983.

This is just one of the many great (and puzzling) foreign-language covers of the book posted here.--David E

Friday, August 17, 2007

Virtually Reading

Earlier this month, William Gibson held a reading for his latest book, the sci-fi thriller Spook Country. Don't feel bad if you didn't hear about it, though. The reading was held in the cyberspace community known as Second Life. Once the domain of Korean teenagers and Scandinavian bachelors, the virtual world of Second Life has become the new frontier for advertisers and marketers alike. Penguin's venture is one of the first book events there, but it will hardly be the last.

Those of us who are still perfecting our First Lives can watch video of the event:

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Judge a Cover

The Book Design Review Blog has a nice posting on the recent "Great Loves" series from Penguin. There's also a nice posting on Penguin's blog from the cover designer, describing the process of making the art for the cover at right.--David E

Crank It Up has a good article today reviewing two books about crystal meth. Frank Owen's No Speed Limit: Meth Across America takes a reportorial look at the drug and its users. James Salant's memoir Leaving Dirty Jersey is an insider's view, which calls "a book with the terrifying energy and harsh, overlit violence of a Tarantino movie."--David E

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Leer Es Clave

According to the Times of London, "A study by FGEE [the Spanish Federation of Publishers] found that 40 per cent of Spaniards never read anything. Spaniards also watch more television than any other Europeans--an average of 3.5 hours a day, compared with 2.5 hours in Britain."

How better to address this sloth than by hiring people to dress as Little Red Riding Hood, Mary Poppins, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza and hand out swag including playing cards and a Frisbee to folks reading on the beach? That's just what's happening on the country's playas this summer. It's part of a campaign to encourage Spaniards to read. I'll watch to see how successful the scheme is and report back later.--David E

On the Road Again

Jack Kerouac's On the Road celebrates its fiftieth anniversary today. This is a book that caused the biggest argument in the history of a very combative book club I was in several years ago. Some of us loved it; some of us didn't. I'll just say that for OtR lovers, there's a plethora of web content out there for you.

Start at NPR. They've posted a story about the book and its writing, exceprts of the book (in case you don't have your copy handy), and even recordings of Kerouac and Cassady. Then move on the New York Times to read the paper's original review of the book and its current impact on everyone from bands to academics. And if you've got the stamina, The Nation has posted a long article comparing Kerouac and Jack London and their journeys around the US.--David E

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bad to Verse

I love a good pun. And I adore a bad one. So I was pleased to find this gem among the recently announced winners of the 2007 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest:

I was in a back alley in Fiji, fighting desperately and silently for my life, fighting desperately for oxygen, clawing at the calm and almost gentle pressure of the fabric held over my face by implacable, ebony thighs when I realized -- he was killing me softly with his sarong. (Karl Scott, Brisbane, Australia)

The Bulwer-Lytton contest (named for the author who began his novel with "It was a dark and stormy night.") asks folks to submit their own truly terrible opening lines. You can read the best of the worst from this year's contest here.--David E

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Kindest Cut

We're not in the business of destroying books. In fact, we sell mylar covers if you want to give your books a little extra protection.

But even so, I really like how Scottish artist Georgia Russell takes a scalpel to books and turns them into incredible, spiky works of art. You can see much more of Russell's work here.--David E

Just Say Non

There's a great tradition of conversational bomb-throwing in France. This summer's ruckus concerns Corinne Maier's book No Kid: Forty Reasons Not to Have a Child . The author says her book is 50% serious, 50% humorous, but in a country with the highest birth rate in Western Europe, not everyone sees the joke.

There are interesting reviews in Times of London and the Telegraph. Or if your French is up to the task, click on the cover to read the great sales copy at It begins, "Future parents, sympathetic natalists, fans of bonnet and bib..." and ends, "For the first time, someone dares write what most parents think deep down, when their kids are finally in bed."

Maier's book isn't yet available in English.--David E

Saturday, August 11, 2007

It's the Reading Equivalent of Sweatpants

Here's a conundrum apparently facing our nation's laziest citizens: You want to read but darned if your arms just aren't up to the task of picking up that pesky book. Now, thanks to the good folks at Skymall, our long national nightmare of lifting is over. Behold the Levo Book Holder.

As the blogster at Geekologie so succinctly put it, "Who needs to read anyways when you can pass out under a magazine with your hands in your pants?"--David E

Friday, August 10, 2007

Book with a Beer Chaser

There's still time for you to get ready for next week's installment of our lubricated reading group Books & Bars. Join us Tuesday the 14th for conversation and a beverage with some very interesting folks. Doors open at 6:00pm for socializing; discussion begins in earnest at 7:00pm.

Unlike most months, August's meeting will be in our store. In September, Books & Bars will again be at Bryant Lake Bowl, 810 W Lake St, in Minneapolis.

Books & Bars is not your typical book club. We provide an atmosphere for lively discussion of interesting authors, good food and drinks. You're welcome to come even if you haven't read the book.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Not a Spoiler--Quite the Opposite

I've tried not to post about Harry Potter. That marketing blitz didn't need any help from me. But here's a story about the boy wizard that I will pass along.

In the UK, the huge chain of bookmakers William Hill let folks place bets on, among other things, Harry's ultimate fate. And what is that fate? Well, it depends who you ask.
"It was a fairly ambiguous ending, open to various interpretations, and so whatever way we settled the bets would have annoyed some people," said Rupert Adams, a William Hill spokesman. "So we paid out on all the bets."

The bets on the outcome of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were the first William Hill had ever taken on the ending of a book. Three employees at the bookmaker read the novel by J.K. Rowling and failed to agree on the ending of the novel, Adams said.

How's that for closure? Read the full story at E

Going to the Chapel... err, Bookstore

I was out of town, so I can only quote Publishers Weekly about recent events in our fair city:
Gary Shulze and Pat Frovarp, co-owners of Once Upon a Crime mystery bookstore in Minneapolis, were married before eight witnesses at their bookstore on August 1, the fifth anniversary of their purchase of the 20-year-old shop from previous owner Steve Stillwell. Their wedding festivities concluded with an in-store reading from author Gregg Hurwitz (The Crime Writer, Viking). Froavarp is holding her bouquet, while Shulze holds a statue of the Maltese Falcon.