Store Publications

Fall 2012

BOOKNOTES, the newsletter of THE ELLIOTT BAY BOOK COMPANY, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.

Fiction & Nonfiction

by Zadie Smith (Penguin)

It starts with a stranger, an obstacle thrust into the writhing urban stream of talk and discontent, quiet tensions and aging disappointments among neighbors in the northwest corner of a town, a small cohort from a small housing estate, for whom almost nothing remains coincidence for long.
As their woes shift from money to pregnancy to family to work, Leah, Nathan, Natalie, and Felix each become an unwitting, unwilling axis thrust through grinding domestic revolutions. I will not kid you: Zadie Smith is an author who demands much from her readers, but what she demands she returns a hundred fold. NW is like a chain-link fence, intersections twisted together to emphasize boundaries between neighbors. -Dave

The Zenith
by Duong Thu Huong
trans. by Stephen B. Young amd Hoa Pham Young (Viking)

Three years after it was first written (and first translated into French), Vietnamese novelist Duong Thu Huong's extraordinary novel, The Zenith, has been translated for English readers. Set in the late years of Ho Chi Minh's life and ranging to earlier periods, this captivating, fierce, eloquent novel depicts the betrayal of the revolution and independence movement that Ho Chi Minh led, a betrayal that began taking place in his lifetime, even as he was still nominally the revolution's Great Father.
Other forms of betrayal are also here, as is a narrative that is rarely in evidence anywhere now—with a kind of folk-wise, knowing narrator who tells stories of family and village life. It's beautiful, it’s lush, and it's dangerous.
Banned in its home country, this book should be embraced, read, and savored wherever it can be. -Rick

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
by Jonathan Evison (Algonquin)

Can one's tragedy-ridden past be truly overcome with a spirit of regeneration? Does charitable behavior simply suppress a devastating failure or can it trigger a redemptive process? These are questions underlying local author Jonathan Evison's third novel, but they are explored with a wry, albeit sometimes heartbreaking, humor.
Ben is separated from his wife and virtually unemployable—a seemingly hopeless case—when he careens into the world of Trev, a sex-crazed teenager whose body is riddled by muscular dystrophy. With both Ben and Trev trying to manage the hands they've been dealt, both needing to break routines of decay, here is a wonderful buddy story that seeks to turn desperation into restoration. -Alan

The Twelve
by Justin Cronin (Ballantine)

While the virals run rampant across the American West, consuming every living thing that crosses their path, The Twelve have been brooding. Humanity has been pushed to the brink of extinction, forced to huddle together against the dark, willing to sacrifice everything for even a thin veneer of safety. Cronin's much anticipated sequel to The Passage is post-apocalyptic fiction at its finest. Going back to the beginning, when the vampiric hordes first descend upon the world, and hurtling across a hundred years of blood soaked mayhem, The Twelve raises the stakes and calls into question everything that has gone before. -Rich

Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Ever-ending Earth
by Craig Childs (Pantheon)

It will seem, while reading his book, that Craig Childs has gleefully taken you by the hand and enthusiastically taken you on a tour of the history of our planet's many cycles of death and rebirth. Each chapter is passionately described, whether he's taking you deep into the desert or walking the surface of a glacier. His love of this earth is infectious, his knowledge is vast, and if there is one thing to be gleaned from his book it is this: that change is inevitable. -Jillian

In the Shadow of the Banyan
by Vaddey Ratner (Simon & Schuster)

How is it that a community can perpetrate a genocide and, more importantly, how do people survive with any sense of love and hope? Vaddey Ratner, who as a child survived the Khmer Rouge genocide, carried the love and the words of her father with her, and she has turned her family's story into a courageous and affecting novel. The stories of brutality and of loss may be difficult to read, but we must read them. In this case readers will be especially well rewarded as this is a novel written with extraordinary artistry and with a deep understanding of human nature and of familial love. -Karen

Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-planting Tribe
by Charlotte Gill (David Suzuki Foundation/Greystone Books)

The humility that lies in the title of Charlotte Gill's Eating Dirt is more than borne out in this astonishing chronicle of work, the elements, and place. Years of the seasonal labor of planting trees in logged-off terrain are written about with verve, wonder, and a ravenous ferocity for life, its cycles and rhythms. There is enough 'I' and 'me' that you know there is a singular intelligence and intent, but also a vividly written-of sense of the complex ‘we' that comprises her working tribe. A sharp humor is part of the perspective.
This book is often laugh-out-loud funny. About seedlings, digging, what a tree is, and then many trees—whatever you call these planted landscapes, the forests they resemble, their part in the scheme of things, and about this often wet, moist, murky corner of North America—Charlotte Gill writes with a dexterity and nobility that soars. -Rick

The Last Headbangers
by Kevin Cook (Norton)

Kicking off with the Immaculate Reception and concluding with The Catch, Kevin Cook recounts the wild-andwoolly world of the NFL in the 1970s: the roughest, rowdiest, and most colorful era the game has ever known. With regal dynasties (The Staubach/Landry Cowboys), fierce, decade-long hate-'em-but-respect-'em rivalries (Raiders vs. Steelers), perfection (the 1972 Miami Dolphins), even a once-stainless O.J. Simpson, Cook's bright and flashing narrative perfectly captures an era before elaborate contact rules, scientific field drainage, and endless analysis and hype. The last era, perhaps, when players took willing risks and played all out for pride, respect, and glory. -Jesse

The End of Your Life Book Club
by Will Schwalbe (Knopf)

"What are you reading?" was the question asked to fill the space as the author waited with his mom during her chemotherapy. This natural question between two devoted readers (he worked in publishing for years, she tirelessly to fund and fill a library in Afghanistan) helps give them grounding in the un-natural landscape of hospital and cancer diagnosis. The book club, which includes contemporary and classic fiction and nonfiction, leads them to discuss many of life's heady issues, including faith, something so important to Schwalbe's mother, but something dissonant to himself. This loving portrait of his mother's generous life and the books they shared throughout it, will resonate soundly with bibliophiles who hold their own loved ones within the books they treasured. –Holly

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
by Susannah Cahalan (Free Press)

New York Post journalist Susannah Cahalan brutally recounts her slow and mysterious descent into madness in Brain on Fire. What began as disorganization grew into paranoia, hallucinations, and delusion all accompanied by a bizarre collection of physical symptoms. With her own memory obliterated by her illness, Cahalan uses her keen skills as a journalist to piece together her own medical drama of misdiagnosis and the detection of a rare brain autoimmune disorder. She grips the reader with a compelling story while imparting fascinating medical details. Cahalan's story is a potent reminder of the fragility of identity and the value of observant and caring family and friends. -Seth

This is How You Lose Her
by Junot Díaz (Riverhead)

Fans of Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, can now officially jump with joy. Díaz is back with a powerful collection of short stories that investigate and bemoan the ways in which love and lovers fail themselves and each other. Writing from the perspective of immigrant men, women, and children from the Dominican Republic, Díaz's characters relate their tales with the kind of "hindsight is 20/20," face-palm sheepishness that we can all identify with. Candor, denial, shame, and pride all find their place in these brief glimpses into his characters' unique hearts and lives. -Candra

Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter
by Carmen Aguirre (Douglas & McIntyre)

Written with clarity, humor, and gravitas, Something Fierce is the riveting personal story of Carmen Aguirre. At the age of six, Aguirre moved to Canada as a refugee following the 1973 Chilean coup. A few years later, Carmen's mother decides to return with other exiled activists to fight in the Chilean resistance, but unlike most people, she takes her two daughters with her, training them to live double lives and to trust no one. This is a brilliant memoir full of vibrant descriptions that immerse you in upheaval and war through the eyes of a young woman as she struggles to set aside personal desire in favour of becoming a revolutionary. -Justus

by Lance Weller (Bloomsbury)

Abel Truman, an elderly Civil War vet and survivor of 1864's Battle of the Wilderness, lives with his dog on the wild coast of Washington state. He is haunted by memories of the atrocities of war and of the loss of loved ones, tempered by human deeds of courage and kindness. Compelled to undertake one last journey inland, his eventual redemption involves a cast of richly drawn characters: an escaped slave, brutal thieves, Chinese immigrants, Haida Indians, an interracial couple, and a blind young girl.
As brooding and dense as its setting, the Olympic rainforest, this stunning first novel is a visceral portrait of a man's—and a country's— slow reckoning and healing after tragedy and moral failure. -Erica

The Story of My Assassins
by Tarun J. Tejpal (Melville House)

A journalist in Delhi doesn't learn of the failed plot to assassinate him until he turns on the TV news, and getting to the bottom of this conspiracy will drag him, largely against his will, through all the complexities and contradictions of modern India. The deeper he delves, the more his own story is overtaken by the astonishing life stories of his alleged assassins, five very different men engaged in their own titanic struggles against enormous odds.
Written with a confident mastery that doesn't draw attention to itself and concerned with the most uncomfortable and important questions, this is the kind of absorbing novel that never leaves you. -Casey O.

Between Heaven and Here
by Susan Straight (McSweeney's)

Glorette Picard is found dead, stuffed in a shopping cart in an alley. Thus begins Susan Straight's novel set in Rio Seco, California. She writes with incredible sensitivity and compassion about the residents that inhabit Rio Seco, all of whom are what some might call the "dregs," the folks who are trying to get their feet on the first rung of the ladder. This gritty and skillful novel is the finale in Straight's Rio Seco trilogy, and her artistry is amply on display as she writes about the thorny issue of race. -Greg

Leon & Louise
by Alex Capus
trans. by John Brownjohn (Haus Publishing)

True love may be magical and everlasting, but it has its complications.
A mysterious woman arrives at the funeral of a Parisian man and places a bicycle bell in the casket. Thus begins the recounting of a decadeslong affair of the heart.
In 1918, Leon Le Gall meets Louise Janvier, bicycling through the French countryside. Separated by the war, twenty years pass before Leon fi nds her. While refusing to jeopardize Leon's marriage, and throughout the German occupation of Paris and her travels to Africa, Louise reaffi rms their love through detailed letters. And eventually—well, no spoilers here!
Nominated for the German Book Prize, this comedic, fast-paced novel artfully weaves modern European history with an endearing tale of lifelong devotion. -Erica

Stories from Jonestown
by Leigh Fondakowski (University of Minnesota Press)

From the head writer of the Laramie Project comes this essential piece of literature about the tragic and infamous members of The Peoples Temple. Fascinated by this mysterious and complicated moment in our history, Fondakowski and her team set out to write a play about their lives and deaths using oral histories and years of collected research. They discovered hundreds of stories, each so vast, unique, and complex—an endless unravelling of truths—that after creating the play The People's Temple, Fondakowski wrote this book. What lies within it are individual lives, tales told from every imaginable raw perspective. If there is truth to be sought in the tragedy of Jonestown, it is certainly sought best in this new book. -Candra

Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy
by Douglas Smith (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux)

For the Shermetevs and Golitsyns, the Russian revolution did not stop in 1917. These two noble houses fell from the lofty heights of privilege and power to the depths of vulgarity and ignominy. Douglas Smith follows the story of the Russian revolution through the eyes of its "Former People." He reveals an intensely human story of adaptation, perseverance, and struggle as ancient traditions are forcefully forgotten and lives are built in the new social order. A history that is epic in scope and yet catches the details that make for an engrossing read. -Alex

John Saturnall's Feast
by Lawrence Norfolk (Grove Press)

Set in seventeenth-century Britain before the English Civil War, Norfolk's story is of John Sandall (aka Saturnall) who, after being orphaned when his mother starves to death, grows up to be a master of the culinary arts. Norfolk writes of the great sensual pleasures of life: eating and lovemaking. The love is a forbidden love between John and the aristocratic Lady Lucretia, engaged to a man she loathes. And thankfully the mouthwatering food Norfolk describes doesn't have to be confined only to your imagination— the recipes are included!. -Greg

My People Are Rising: Memoir of a Black Panther Party Captain
by Aaron Dixon (Haymarket Books)

Aaron Dixon was only nineteen years old, living in Madrona with his family and attending school, when he announced to Bobby Seale that Seattle wanted—needed—a Black Panther chapter. From there his life became a whirlwind of passion, violence, and hope. Named Captain of Seattle's chapter, Dixon's autobiography recounts with humility all of the trials, inner turmoil, and strength he discovered within himself and others as they waged war for freedom from an oppression that spanned generations. Honest and confessional without didacticism or sycophancy regarding the Black Panther movement, Dixon's book is a critical addition to local and Black American history. -Candra

Laura Lamott's Life in Pictures
by Emma Straub (Riverhead)

From her first moment on stage in one of her family's summer theater productions, Elsa Emerson knew that acting was her heart's true calling and her ticket out of Door County, Wisconsin. After fleeing to Los Angeles, Elsa is remade as the glamorous actress Laura Lamont and lives the luxurious life of a starlet. But all the fame and money in the world can't shield her from memories of her past, or rescue her from unexpected twists of fate. Emma Straub brings Elsa's transformation from small town girl to wife, mother, and movie star in Hollywood's Golden Age to vivid, enthralling life. -Laurie

There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra
by Chinua Achebe (Penguin Press)

Achebe writes an impassioned history of the Nigerian- Biafran War (1967-1970) that tries to understand how the hope born of an independent Nigeria in 1957 paved the way for a brutal conflict during which the government blockaded its borders and starved its own citizens. As he says: "My aim is not to provide all the answers but to raise questions, and perhaps to cause a few headaches in the process." Achebe views this tumultuous period through the eyes of a nation's cultural producers (writers, artists, et al.) as they grapple with betrayal and abandonment by their fellow countrymen. -Alex

by Mikhail Shishkin (Open Letter)

The interpreter's workday is filled with the desperate tales of Russian refugees seeking asylum in Switzerland, and the transcripts of these interviews venture from the mundane, to the horrific, to the phantasmagoric. These narratives spill into the interpreter's own inner life as he writes sweet and otherworldly letters to his son Nebuchadnezzasaurus, and as he reads of ancient wars and a famous Russian singer of love songs whose diaries bear witness to the Soviet century. An intoxicating, revelatory masterpiece overfl owing with courage and beauty, a living testament to the power of the written word. Th is book is not a book, it is a boat to carry you across oceans. -Casey O.

May We Be Forgiven
by A.M. Holmes (Viking)

In May We Be Forgiven A.M. Homes further establishes herself as one of our most unique contemporary writers. The setting is the suburbs, rendered with enough angst for a dozen Updikes, in which characters like Harry and George Silver enact a drama of brotherly conflict that would make John Cheever go pale. I've been moved by all of Homes's books, and in this newest offering she delivers—and greatly expands— the fearless and compassionate exploration of the American character that has made her a national literary treasure. -Leah

Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace
by Michael Perry (HarperCollins)

The windows of Tom Hartwig's rural Wisconsin home overlook millions of cars every year, yet he carries on as his farm has for decades: firing a homemade cannon, maintaining his acreage with a wife of sixty years, and regularly giving the highway commission grief. He and his property are emblematic of so many remote American holdouts of yore, carrying on in spite of the new interstate highways trampling through in the name of progress.
The very pace of the place permeates through the meandering dialogue between Hartwig and author Michael Perry—engaging descriptions of their life as neighbors, Perry's photographers capturing Tom's element, and Tom's own history laid out in a pastoral Americana that ennobles such a tenderly defiant individualism. -Alan

New & Selected Stories

by Sherman Alexie (Grove)

Sherman Alexie's newest book, Blasphemy, includes fifteen new stories and fifteen revered classics, spanning from his debut, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, to his most recent PEN/Faulkner Award winning War Dances and beyond. These stories are set mostly in Seattle and the Northwest where his Native American characters crack jokes and raise hell to a whole new level.
Chris Rock and Flannery O'Connor once bore a literary love child. They named him Sherman Alexie, and for the last 20 years he has written stories that combine a rare mix of irreverent gut-busting humor and an ability to boldly face just about anything. -Jake

Surviving Survival
by Laurence Gonzales (Norton)

You may very well finish this book in a single sitting. Since it deals with what goes on inside the brain during and well after a serious traumatic experience, you can expect (and will not be disappointed) to find some gruesome, terrifying, and awe inspiring case studies. These stories include shipwrecks in shark infested waters, bears ripping off your face and gnawing on your skull, and nightmarish cases of domestic abuse.
Gonzales is meticulous in his description of what transpires deep within the mind during extreme moments of duress and how it processes this new found information to ensure one basic thing: survival. -Jillian

A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald
by Errol Morris (Penguin)

In 1979, Green Beret doctor Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted of murdering his family, but to this day he proclaims his innocence. In A Wilderness of Error, master nonfiction filmmaker and indefatigable investigator Errol Morris navigates through the confusion and competing narratives surrounding the case to call MacDonald's conviction into question, presenting evidence that has remained largely hidden in plain sight. With close attention to the elusiveness, complexity, and absurdity of the truth, this book is an eloquent and unsettling exploration of how we determine guilt and innocence—in the courtroom, in our culture, and in our own minds. -Casey O.

Children's & Young Adult Books

The Templeton Twins Have an Idea
by Ellis Weiner
illus. by Jeremy Holmes (Chronicle Books)

What a quirky adventure! The Templeton Twins Have an Idea follows twins John and Abigail Templeton and their father, a Professor of Various Inventions, as they restart their lives after the death of Mrs. Templeton. While these three characters are fantastic, the real star of this story is Narrator. If you like a narrator with a lot of wit and sarcastic bite, you will be smitten with the Narrator, an owly sort of storyteller who doesn't like questions or delays, and always shouts, "LET'S MOVE ON!"
This is one story you can't help but read aloud. You'll answer questions, decipher codes, attempt recipes, and solve mysteries. Great fun! -Justus

A Rule is to Break: A Child's Guide to Anarchy
by John Seven and Jana Christy (Manic D Press)

A page-by-page introduction to the ways of anarchy, this adorably illustrated book teaches kids (and grown-ups) to be themselves by not looking like everyone else, freely giving away stuff, and listening to even the tiniest voice. Build things, make music, plant a garden, or just do nothing.
An excellent guide to life in general, for both kindergarteners entering school and graduates of the School of Hard Knocks. -Holly

by Dan Kainen and Carol Kaufmann (Workman)

Have you ever been captivated by the powerful movement of a wild cheetah? Ever wish you could slow it down and see every detail? Now you can with amazing new Photicular technology from inventor, artist, and photographer Dan Kainen. On the heels of his Scanimation® hit Gallop, Kainen brings us Safari—a breathtaking moving gallery of Africa's most stunning species. Th e physical act of turning pages sets a lion charging or a cheetah running. And when you've satisfied your curiosity with pictures, Safari includes informative essays on what you've witnessed. -Seth

by Malinda Lo (Little Brown)

Reese and her debate partner David are stuck at an international airport when the television starts to show reports of events that seem straight out of the apocalypse. After all flights are grounded, they decide to try to drive home to California. Twenty-seven days later, Reese wakes up. Officials at the top secret government facility tell her she had an accident, underwent serious medical treatment, and is fine now. After she's released, though, Reese starts to realize she's different.
I couldn't put this book down. From beginning to end, Lo keeps readers guessing as she slowly reveals events larger than any two people or any one planet. -Justus

The Diviners
by Libba Bray (Little Brown)

In pre-Depression New York, exiled Midwesterner Evie O'Neill seizes the chance to bunk at her Uncle Will's, savoring speakeasies and the flapper life. Along with a sophisticated Ziegfeld chorus girl, an uptight museum assistant, and a troubled but gifted poet, Evie finds herself called upon in practical and spiritual capacities to help solve a string of gruesome crimes while still finding time to meddle in her uncle's business and her best friend's love life. In her first book in a promising new series, Bray concocts a “po-si-tutely” swell thrill ride into a city ripe with booze, jazz, and mystery. -Casey S.

I'm Bored
by Michael Ian Black
illus. by Debbie Ridpath Ohi (Simon & Schuster)

A young girl is bored—truly bored. She finds a potato, but unfortunately the potato she encounters is even more bored than she is. She spends the better part of her afternoon trying to prove to the potato that she isn't boring—proving once and for all that being a kid is much more exciting than being a potato. Everyone is sure to enjoy this imaginative, amusing, and utterly charming new picture book about the wonderful ways to fight boredom. -David