Thursday, February 26, 2009

RIP Bill Holm

Bill Holm in center after Shelter Half reading
A tremendous author who represented some of the best writing and insight of both the Minnesotan and Scandanavian experience. He will be missed.
Minnesota Author Bill Holm dies

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Sip of The Teapot Dome Scandal

Teapot Dome Scandal

I highly recommend you check out Laton McCartney's book The Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Brought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country. Now as one who loves non-fiction, I can say that this book is written like a novel and would be interesting to those who feel that history is just not the genre for them. I was constantly struck by how truth can really be stranger than fiction. Some of the incidents that happened with this scandal seem straight out of Hollywood. The book starts out with Jake Hamon, "The Oil King of Oklahoma" telling his mistress that she cannot come with him to Washington, DC as he starts his work with the Harding administration because of Mrs. Harding's insistence that he be reunited with his wife. Next thing you know, the mistress shoots Hamon. The way this sequence of events is revealed in Chapter 1 is quite intriguing and makes the reader hungry to see what's coming in the rest of the book.

I remember learning the term "Teapot Dome Scandal" in high school but I really didn't have an understanding what it was about. Given our concerns now about how much our country is dependent on petroleum products and the effects they have on our environment, I think it's worth a visit to events of the 1920's and the leasing of government land to benefit, you guessed it, oil companies.

Teapot Dome was land in Wyoming that contained oil that the Navy had for a reserve. President Harding's Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall, leased the land to Harry Sinclair (think Sinclair Oil). As in every good scandal involving a presidential administration, there was a fall guy. In this case, his name Albert Fall and he became the first cabinet member to go to prison for his deeds while a cabinet member. Thus the term "Fall guy." He may have been comforted to know that his name would live on to this day as a term for someone who takes one for the team!

The Teapot Dome Scandal is now available in paperback. If you want, we're happy to order you a copy in Hardcover. You'll want to hang on to this one!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

More Information Than You Require

There are too many great authors out there about whom it seems impossible to say enough. So we try to say as much as we can when we can. For me, John Hodgman is one of those authors. One of my very talented friends from grad school, Chris Michel introduced me to Hodgman's first book, The Areas of My Expertise. Now Mr. Michel has written an excellent and insightful review over at The Brooklyn Rail of Hodgman's latest, More Information Than You Require.
It is not merely a gag book—a flip-through bathroom reader akin to The Onion’s Our Dumb World or The Daily Show’s America: A Citizen's Guide To Democracy Inaction. It turns out that Hodgman’s book is substantial, and a piecemeal reader might not pick up on the underlying narratives that suffuse Hodgman’s work. The fake histories of mole-men, hobos, and Presidents interweave, referencing and influencing each other. There are stories enough in the book for three or four different novels, and the careful reader will discover narrative arcs as detailed as in any decent piece of fiction, with characters emerging and interacting with the vast, odd world Hodgman has created.

I can also attest that it's a wonderful book to read in the company of good friends - there will be several passages that you'll want to read aloud and many pictures and diagrams you'll want to pass around.
Click to see Hodgman expound on lost time, physics, aliens and love.
Follow Hodgman on Twitter

Friday, February 20, 2009

Buying Local

Supporting community, encouraging independence, sharing passion - these are all things we think of when we think of shopping locally. It's hard to over-emphasize how important it is to a community to have and maintain that ability. Just browsing through other blogs of other great independent bookstores and came across a posting from the owner of The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, North Carolina, who describes the issue very nicely, finishing:
There's no escaping the fact that we live in a global economy. And for a lot of reasons the global end of things has been running rampant lately, driving local business to the brink. Some of this has to do with efficiencies, but a lot of it also has to do with access to capital, exchange rates, and things like the financial backing needed to sign a lease at most shopping malls.

But we also live in a very specific (and I think very remarkable) place. And supporting a little local balance to the global giants can only be a good thing for this place we call home -- and, really, for the global economy as well.
Buying Local Has a Big Impact

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quick note on Graphic Detail

A link via FSG books: The Cleveland Free Times posts a nice review of non-fiction books using extended illustration, a la graphic novels, to better explain their concepts at hand. Shows that with innovation, there are always new ways of telling stories and sharing information.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

New Technology and Books - from Anita

Do you Twitter? Blog? Facebook? Download Books? Listen to Audio Books? Download Music? I really want to know as a bookseller what my customers are thinking about technology, buying books and how they get their information about what to read. I would really like to hear back from you about these topics.

We are having an ongoing discussion at our store among our staff and I am wondering if it is an age thing. Twenty somethings versus fifty somethings. This discussion is very hot among professionals in the industry beginning with the authors, readers, booksellers and publishers on many different levels.

I do email, use a cell phone, leave voice messages and retrieve voice messages, occasionally but rarely shop online. I don’t download books or audio. While the store has a Facebook page I do not. I do read books, magazines, newspapers and listen to audio books that I buy or check out from the library. I love holding the book, turning the pages, collecting my favorites on a bookshelf. When friends come over and see my shelves we have a nice chat about our favorites reads. The rest of my favorites are at the bookstore where I get to talk with customers about favorite books we’ve been reading. Over many years of leading the store bookgroup one of our favorite rituals is going around the circle to share what we’ve been reading lately. We hear about new authors and titles that we’ll check out as soon as possible.

I guess I am in the right profession because I like to “talk” about books with people. I am less than excited to “write” about them. But after selling books for over 18 years one thing is certain I am always learning something new and Blogging is something new for me. Will I keep blogging? We’ll see….

Here’s what I am excited about from the past few months.Image borrowed from Skokie Library Flikr Page
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, One of Obama’s recommendations it is a fascinating “fly on the wall” point of view by the skillful use of letters and research to show the dynamics of Lincoln’s cabinet.
So Brave Young and Handsome by Leif Enger, The long awaited second book by the award winning author of Peace Like a River. The main character is a turn of the century (early 1900’s) author fighting writer’s block after a “one hit wonder”. Enger captures the setting of the time period, colorful characters and tells a charming thoughtful story about adults remaining open to the adventures of life.
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson is a great addition to the Scandinavian Noir Genre. Very satisfying suspenseful mystery with a classic investigative reporter type and a young edgy/punky misunderstood highly intelligent teenage woman who is a computer hacker that ends up collaborating with the reporter with his investigation. This is the first of three novels that have been bestsllers in Europe and are now being release in the US by Random House. Unfortunately very slowly! The second book The Girl Who Played with Fire will not be out until the end of July.

Tell us what you’ve read recently that you’ve liked.---Anita Zager

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

One Book, One Community: Population 485 by Michael Perry

Population 485 We're very proud to announce that the One Book, One Community selection for this spring is Population 485 by Michael Perry. Small town life viewed through the lens of an EMT re-entering his community after being gone for 12 years. Raucous, tragic, humorous, touching and insightful - these accounts are written with a careful ear for language and a finger on the pulse of the relationships that make and sustain communities.

There will be discussions across the city in the months ahead and a discussion guide available in March. On May 1st, Michael Perry is scheduled to be in town giving talks, and culminating in a reading at Lake Superior College. We'll be looking forward to his newest book, Coop at the same time. See the Duluth Public Library, Northern Lights Books and this blog for updates.

Twitter News: QQQ?

Kim came up with a great idea: to share Quips Quotes and Queries on some of our favorite books and authors. We'll be trying to share these through twitter, prefixed with the somewhat cryptic QQQ. We're not branding it- just indicating that what is to follow is a Quip/Quote/Query. We'll try to link to the book/author as well.

Twit back at us with your own QQQs!

Quips Quotes & Queries

Friday, February 6, 2009

John Beargrease: Legend of Minnesota's North Shore

John Beargrease by Daniel Lancaster
With the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon (much longer than a marathon, discuss) held nearly every year just beyond our backyards, many of us have become quasi-experts of the sport of sled dog racing - at least to the degree of eyeing up all of our pets for a good lead dog/cat/parakeet.
But that sense of expertise seems to level off when we think of the man after whom the race was named. I felt rather proud for many years to tell people "he was a mailman, of some sort, who delivered mail by sled dog, at least during the winter. He should have had my sheltie at the lead, and then he'd really have been a legend." My lack of knowledge deflected by keen sled dog strategizing.
Those days of deflection are at an end! No longer will we live in ignorance of one of the great icons of the North Shore. Daniel Lancaster has gathered and compiled an insightful, engaging and very readible biography of the man who traversed the North Shore. Published by Holy Cow! Press, heritage comes to life through the story of John Beargrease who, through his determination, connected small communities, traditional Anishinabe life and the burgeoning modernity of Duluth.
Read the reviews from Lake Superior Magazine and The Star Tribune and listen to his interview with Cathy Wurzer on MPR.