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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Current Events

Above is pictured an amazing piece of sculptural book art by Brian Dettmer.  You can see more photos and read about his art on My Modern Met.

There is a connection between what's happening in the world and what books sell.  With the current headlines about events in Libya and Japan, some of our recent sales have been Escape to Hell and Other Stories by Qaddafi; Americans At Risk:  Why We are Not Prepared for Megadisasters and What We Can Do; and Fighting Radiation and Chemical Pollutants with Foods, Herbs, and Vitamins.  If we suddenly receive simultaneous multiple orders from different bookselling websites (we sell on ten) for a single title or author, that usually means that book or writer has been in the news recently.  Sometimes, sadly, a rash of orders is an indication the author has died.

Reading Notes

I have been remiss as to updating this blog with what I've been reading, so my list is a bit long this time:

Breast Cancer:  Reduce Your Risk with Foods You Love by Robert Pendergrast
A Short History of the Printed Word by Warren Chappell
Rick Steves' Istanbul
Time Out Istanbul
Strolling through Istanbul 
Lonely Planet:  Turkey 
Out Backward by Ross Raisin

The Pendergrast book really didn't have much more to say about diet and health than I've already read in books by Dr. Andrew Weil (eat a variety of organic vegetables and fruit, omega 3 fatty acids, real food, not processed food; exercise)  but it was refreshing to see a publication that talks about breast cancer as a preventable disease; not something that can only be screened for, as the mainstream medical establishment seems to believe.
    I quite enjoy when two books on completely different subjects unexpectedly intersect somehow, as did a mention of Turkish writing in A Short History of the Printed Word describing how the Turkish government  decreed in 1928 (along with abolishing the fez) that Turkish be written in Latin characters rather than Arabic; a change that instantly rendered many people illiterate and even reversed the direction of script from right-to-left to left-to-right.  I had just read about the secularization and westernization of Turkey under Ataturk in several of the many guide books I've been perusing in preparation for an upcoming trip

    Out Backward is a novel I picked from a pile being culled from our shelves to make room for the new.  It's the first person story of a 19 year-old social outcast (and accused molester) sheep farmer on the English moors who becomes obsessed with a 15 year-old neighbor girl who moves with her family from London--a definite clash of cultures and class.  The language is full of lively, expressive sheep farmer slang:  "glegg" for look, "tidgy" for frail or spindly; "sprog" for child; "trunklements" for things.  The Harper Perennial trade paperback of this book has essays and interviews with the author at the end, and there's a nice essay on the state of farming in the U.K.  The same old story about consumers wanting cheap food prices and agribusiness putting small farmers out of business.


    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    A book by any other name...

    There's been some talk on a discussion list for members of the IOBA (Independent Online Booksellers Association) regarding an invitation from a member for fellow booksellers to advertise for free on a bookseller resources directory  called Smelly Books.  Quite a few of the booksellers who replied to this discussion said they didn't want to associate their books with smelliness.  Others said they loved the smell of old books and appreciated the humor of the website name.  Once a customer returned a book to us, saying it had an "acrid mildew smell," although when I received the offensive book, I could detect nary an odor.  Apparently (from my readings of bookseller discussion lists) this discrepancy in interpreting the smell of a book from no smell, to delightful scent, to stinky is a not unusual state of affairs.

    Reading Notes
    Sean and I have been reading Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart out loud.  The protagonist in this satiric novel, Lenny Abramov, is a reader and has a Wall of Books (which he does spray with pine sol)  in his apartment at a time when everyone has a constant stream of images and data via their äppärät (an object apparently a step above an I-phone) and books are generally regarded as smelly old things most people would be embarrassed to be caught handling, much less reading.   The depiction of a corporate controlled society, consumer culture, social networking, police state, and media limited to Fox Liberty-Prime and Fox Liberty-Ultra is a little too much like reality.