Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bill Bryson!

Bill Bryson, Bill Bryson, Bill Bryson, Bill Bryson!

I don't think I've mentioned recently just how much I love my job. Or my sales reps. Because right now I'm bursting with love for bofe 'em.

Bill Bryson, Bill Bryson, Bill Bryson, Bill Bryson.

You might have guessed, but I just got to meet Bill Bryson. There has been exactly one other author I have been this excited to meet, and he happened to write the best book I've read in the last decade (Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone. Read it, y'all!), and I definitely went all fan-girl on him the two times our paths crossed. But Bill Bryson is in a different category all together. For starters, he's one of the few authors of whom I can say I've read all of his or her published works (And I mean an actual body of work, smartass. John Kennedy Toole and other one-hit wonders most emphatically do not count), and I'm such a Bryson-completist that I include his reference books, too. Yup, read every word.

I have also listened to many of his published works, and because he is the reader of his audio books, I've listened to him for hundreds of hours. His voice is as familiar to me as my own brother's. He's like a friend whose humor has seen me through the years, both the high times and the rough patches. I bought In a Sunburned Country, A Walk in the Woods, and Neither Here Nor There on tape. I listened to all of them so many times that the tape wore through in several places. Then I replaced them with CD versions and kept on listening.

On Sunday I drove to Arlington, MA, with my devoted and long-suffering husband to meet Bill Bryson, who was signing books at the New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA) office in Arlington, MA. One of my sales reps from Random House, Ann Kingman, arranged for Bryson to sign books for her accounts. So I got to take the day off work and go for a Sunday drive on a beautiful day with my favorite person in the world to meet one of my favorite writers in the world. The phrase "walking on sunshine" comes to mind.

Bryson was in the region promoting his new book, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, which I've already blogged about twice. You can read those posts on my personal blog, As the Crowe Flies and Reads (you can also see the photos I made of him during my visit). The book is marvelous and funny and erudite and everything else that I like about his writing.

May I confess something? Before I moved from Mississippi to New England to live with the man who became my husband, I wrote up an extensive pro and con list. My husband knows that one of the "cons" was that I would no longer be able to watch episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as they aired because he didn't have access to the UPN network. But what he doesn't know is that one of the "pros" is that I would be more likely to have the chance to meet Bill Bryson, who lived in New Hampshire at the time. So you could say that Mr. Bryson is one of the reasons I moved to New England. I'm just not revealing exactly what position he had on my "pro" list.

Mr. Bryson was also kind enough to sign and inscribe my personal collection of his works, or at least those books still holding together without tape. I thought it might be unseemly (though a compliment of the highest order) to bring him my copy of In a Sunburned Country that was in two pieces. Or my copy of A Walk in the Woods, which one of my dogs enjoyed as much as I did.

Bill Bryson, Bill Bryson, Bill Bryson, Bill Bryson!

~Emily Crowe

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Literary Listening

I love unusual pairings, think Owen and Mzee, chocolate and salt, Chick 'n' Pug, to name just a few. Let's face it a turtle would be just a cold shell of a creature without his warm, blubbery hippo counterpart, chocolate's sweetness would be too cloys without salt, and chickens and pugs... "se magnifique!"

Sometimes even though one might believe these two things have little to no place together, or would otherwise just not naturally group them with one another, when these odd couplings come together it is like the planets have aligned! You may even smack yourself on the forehead, "of course these two things belong together!"

One recent coupling, that I don't automatically dismiss as making no sense whatsoever is musician Ben Folds, and author Nick Hornby's latest album. That's right that Nick Hornby of About a Boy, High Fidelity and most recently Juliet Naked fame.

It just makes sense that Hornby, who often writes about music or uses it as a theme in his writing would collaborate with Folds on a album. Folds asked Hornby to write lyrics for which Folds could then write songs to. The result is an album that Rob Gordon would play in his record store, and Tucker Crow would have been proud to write. If you don't know who I'm talking about then get thee to the Odyssey or your nearest indie bookstore and pick up some Hornby!

Pair this album with Hornby's latest book and you have an evening made in reader's heaven! Check out one of the songs in the youtube video below!

Hope you enjoy as much as I did!



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday Treats!

There are many reasons I love the fall; the changing of leaves, the migration of geese and the chilling of the air are just a few. When the temperature drops I heat up the oven and start making hearty meals that will not only warm the hearth, but heat the stomach and fuel the soul!

I know that in this day and age it is easy enough to turn to a website to find a recipe for anything. But there is something sweet and nostalgic about having a cookbook on your kitchen shelf. Whether it's to remember the exact measurements of a favorite recipe, or to try your hand at something exciting and new, cookbooks for me, make life better.

When I make a recipe from one of my cookbooks I try to catalog it by putting a note in the margin, with the date I made it, who I made it with, or for, and what I think it could have done with/without or less/more of. With that in mind here are a couple of the best cookbooks coming out this fall, that are making their way to my stomach by way of my kitchen shelf!

First off: Mark Bittman, of How to Cook Everything fame, has a new cookbook based on his non fiction best seller Food Matters. The Food Matters Cookbook, published by Simon and Schuster, 35.00, has 500 recipes all based around Bittman's belief that cooking should be as simple, easy and good for you as it is for the planet. The cookbook comes with a variety of recipes that are not only sure to satisfy your palette but make you appreciate your food source as well. Click on the links below to order your copy from the Odyssey, and get a recipe from the book.

Secondly, Gourmet magazine, has a new dessert book, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 18.00, that features one of my favorite fall foods: Cookies! That's right this treat is no longer just for blue-monsters-on-public-television, okay so maybe it never was. But The Gourmet Cookie Book, takes the "single best recipe" from the years 1941 to 2009 and has collected them for you ,the reader's, benefit. It is a wonderful catalog of the American aesthetic in cookie making, from the basic but delicious WWII years, to the more flagrant baked goodies of the Clinton administration. This cookbook is sure to liven up your life whether its just an afternoon or in preparation for a Holiday cookie swap. Click on the links below to order your copy, and check out one of the recipes.

Last but not least, David Tanis, "one of the greatest chefs you've never heard of" has a new cookbook, Heart of the Artichoke, being published by Artisan Press, 35.00. This beautiful cookbook, has many recipes that are not only simple enough to prepare but are also great jumping off points for the intermediate chef in your house. Although as Tanis likes to point out, food doesn't need to be fussy to be satisfying. I hope you are as inspired by the pictures and Tanis' writing as I was to pick up a copy. Click on the link below to order your copy, or check out the publisher's excerpt below!

Excerpt From Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis

Happy cooking!



Saturday, October 9, 2010

New Fall Picturebooks Currently on Our Shelves

The 3 Little Dassies
by Jan Brett
Penguin Young Readers Group
This retelling of the three little pigs has an African twist. Instead of three little pigs setting off, three little dassies, cute furry creatures who live in Namibia, set out to find a cooler, less-crowded place free of eagles. But the place to which they move is within the territory of an eagle, who would love a tasty dassie (or three) for his chicks. The story unfolds as you might think, excepting the addition of an agama lizard, who rescues the dassies of the straw and stick houses.

The illustrations, as always, are exquisitely detailed. Jan Brett is a master at using frames to expand upon her story. On some pages the frames show impending danger as the eagle heads out to find some food. On others, we see the rescue taking place while the larger illustration is concerned with the dassie of the stone house. Brett's vivid colors and intricate patterns make this book, like her others, a glorious work worthy of the hours children will spend pouring over it.

by Suzy Lee
Chronicle Books
From the creator of the award-winning Wave comes a stunning new book. In Shadow, Lee utilizes the gutter to create two worlds- the real one and that of shadows. Using the objects she finds around her, a little girl creates worlds and characters with the shadows she casts. But as her creations become more intricate, the shadows begin to take on a life of their own.

This book is practically wordless and incredibly designed. I wonder at the stories children might weave about each page as each shadow scene presents opportunities to explore what the little girl might be pretending. Lee's use of the gutter is ingenious; here is a book that embraces its form. If there's one book I'll buy for myself this fall, it'll be Suzy Lee's Shadow.

13 Words
by Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by Maira Kalman
On the inside flap of the dust jacket 13 words are listed. There are words you might expect in a picturebook, like bird, dog, hat, and baby, and some absolutely splendiferous words like despondent, haberdashery, panache, and mezzo-soprano. And here's the thing, children love large interesting words, especially when they sound a little funny. Snicket's humor is, as always, spot on. As I read this at my desk I was giggling so much a coworker decided to come investigate. I ended up reading the book aloud, the two of us laughing with each turn of the page. Customers came over and we ended up with a small, impromptu storytime. What better recommendation is there?

Maira Kalman, who you may recognize from her work for New Yorker magazine, creates vibrant, quirky illustrations. Her gouache paintings are luscious with bright, sunny colors. Her work, with its references to art history and whatever happens to catch her fancy, is a perfect match for Snicket's writing; I'd love to see more from this bizarrely fabulous pairing.

Flora's Very Windy Day
by Jeanne Birdsall
illustrated by Matt Phelan
Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
From the author of the Penderwicks series comes a picturebook perfect for a blustery fall day. One windy fall day Flora and her brother go outside to play. Flora has super-special heavy-duty red boots that keep her from flying away, but her little brother Crispin doesn't have super-special boots and is so small he gets blown away by the wind. What will Flora do?

Birdsall's story explores the complex relationship older children have with their younger siblings. As Flora realizes, younger siblings may be annoying, but that doesn't mean you should give them up.
Three Little Kittens
by Jerry Pinkney
Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin
Though the cover is a little too cutesy for me, Pinkey's retelling is a wonderful rendition of the classic rhyme. He begins his story on the endpapers, where we see the three kittens longing to go outside. The illustrations are beautifully composed and young children will have no trouble following the story even without knowing the words. An added bonus, music for the text is provided on the inside of the dust jacket, so a musical storytime may be had by all.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to hear Pinkney talk about this book. Each page turn, each rotation of viewpoint, is carefully considered and as someone studying the picturebook, it was interesting to hear Pinkney talk about his choices, and changes, during the creation of the book.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Olivia is back!

Olivia, the sweetly mischievous little pig, is back this fall and she and her family are going to Venice. So put on your favorite striped clothing, grab some gelato, and sit down with this new book. As always, Olivia's antics will cause a few laughs as she tours the magnificent sights of Venice.

Though Ian Falconer does not do author appearances, he has done a video interview for this book. So check out the interview and stop in to pick up the book!