Monday, March 31, 2008

More wonderful links

Occasionally I think how nice it would be to post a few links every day, because there's so much great stuff out there. But then I think about everything else I'd like to do on a regular basis (more gym visits and not-already-read books in my future, really) and I just laugh.

One of Absolut's better ads (this takes me back to high school, when collecting Absolut ads was briefly the thing to do), courtesy of Mi Blog Es Tu Blog. It's missing a certain island, but no one's perfect.

The March Carnival of Children's Literature is up at The Reading Tub. I didn't manage to submit anything this month, but I'm working on a society for April.

I know I'm not being original here, but I'm going to join the chorus linking to Margaret Atwood's piece on Anne of Green Gables. I grew up on the CBC version (taped from PBS in the 80s; one of these days the VHS is going to wear out), and it took many viewings and frustrated romances of my own before I understood why Anne chose Gilbert over Morgan Harris. Now, of course, I always cry at the ending.

Jenny Davidson points to a tale of one proto-Internet, the Mundaneum. Kind of like Desk Set, but without all the beeping and whirring (and banter).

Via Bookslut, an interview with Lee Miller about her research on the lost colony at Roanoke. (Not like I need another topic to research myself, but I just turned up a site about the Roanoke Island Freedmen's Colony.)

Why, why, why do teachers insist on introducing their students to John Steinbeck through The Pearl and Of Mice and Men? When I was fourteen, all I knew about Steinbeck was that he was both boring and depressing. Happily, I finally gave in to paternal urgings to read Travels With Charley, which is now one of the many books I can quote from memory. Robert Gottlieb's article in the New York Review of Books at least assures me I'm not alone on this.

English teachers, you're missing an opportunity here. Try introducing your students to some of his non-fiction - just about any of it.

Really, my only complaint about Steinbeck's Ghost - read it as soon as you get your hands on a copy - is that when I was Travis' age, nothing could have motivated me to actually seek out Steinbeck's work.

(Now that I've seen the cover art, I admit I have issues with that too - Feiwel & Friends produced some gorgeous galleys, but the picture on the-site-that-shall-not-be-named looks like it could be the cover of an A to Z Mystery - it doesn't look like it will appeal to the right age group.)

Colleen, I'd hoped to read Maria Mitchell and the Sexing of Science this weekend - I was at the bookstore, found a copy, and set it aside to take home. And then I, um, accidentally put it in a customer's bag.

Luckily she's a regular, and brought the book back once she found it. But my reading will have to wait for another day.

[I'm going to indulge in a brief squee moment to close: Jessica added a link to Archimedes Forgets to her blogroll. I'm so honored - she's one of my litblogger/bookseller heroes!]

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Women in astronomy

Maria Mitchell and the Sexing of Science is one of those books that makes me think, "wow, someone other than me finds this stuff interesting?"

Renée Berglund's post at Beacon Broadside makes me want to read the book even more. I sense an upcoming Non-Fiction Monday post here.
"On one hand, it’s exciting to realize that there was a time (not that long ago) when a girl like the young Maria Mitchell grew up believing that there was nothing preventing her from achieving scientific greatness. On the other hand, it’s a bit discouraging to realize that when I was born in New York City in the late twentieth century, the odds were worse for girls in astronomy than they had been when Mitchell was born on Nantucket more than a hundred and fifty years before.
There’s a problem with stories of triumph against all odds. As long as we cling to the belief that truly great and heroic figures don’t need encouragement or good opportunities, we’re giving our society permission not to create opportunities. The realization that Mitchell was encouraged by her family and by a community that was willing to support her efforts to achieve scientific greatness shouldn’t be depressing at all. To the contrary, it should push us to create similar opportunities today."

TBR Challenge - finally, progress!

Thanks to my wonderful aunt, who was looking through the old entries here, I can finally cross one book off my TBR Challenge list. ¡Mil gracias, MB!

The list:
  1. The Log From the Sea of Cortez
  2. Thin Man
  3. Michael Collins: The Man Who Made Ireland
  4. Ali and Nino: A Love Story
  5. Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone
  6. Before Midnight: A Retelling of Cinderella (finished 3/24/08)
  7. Peak
  8. Captains Courageous
  9. Once Were Warriors
  10. 109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos
  11. The Truth-Teller's Tale
  12. Bay of Spirits: A Love Story

My alternates:
  1. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
  2. In the Company of the Courtesan
  3. Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal
  4. Anahita's Woven Riddle
  5. Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern
  6. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations... One School at a Time
  7. Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq
  8. Sisters: The Lives of America's Suffragists
  9. Very Far Away From Anywhere Else
  10. The Alibi Club
  11. A Higher Geometry
  12. Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits

Monday, March 24, 2008

Once upon a time...

See the March Carnival of Independent Bookselling roundup at Omnibus.

Once upon a time there was a girl (she was an adult, true, but she still wasn't used to calling herself a "woman") who wanted to come home. She thought it would be easy to find another job, so she packed up her apartment into a trailer (which her father drove across the country, something he'll never do again) and came back to Connecticut.

The quest for a job proved more difficult than the girl had expected, particularly because she didn't know precisely what she was looking for. ("Anything but software testing" was accurate, but not much of a career path.)

After finishing a temp assignment that required her to face the occasional ogre and wring toner from an empty cartridge, the girl found something. It was admin work, and it was only part-time, but the office was ruled by a benevolent queen - and anything was better than another rejection.

The part-time job left the girl with a lot of free time, and when she wasn't battling her way through the enchanted forest of job listings, she started spending time at the bookstore where her mother worked. (It didn't hurt that the bookstore shared the parking lot with a pretty good coffee shop.)

While the girl hung around the bookstore, she often ended up pointing customers to the right section and cleaning up the shelves - she just couldn't help herself.

Before long, it was time for the bookstore's annual inventory, and a call went out for workers. The mother saw a way to put her daughter to work for a few more hours, and so the girl got to put her scanning skills to work. Even though the inventory went late into the night (and took up a good chunk of the next day), the girl enjoyed herself.

Not long after the inventory was completed, one of the booksellers left to become a servant in one of the biggest publishing palaces in the land (okay, an editorial assistant). The girl still wasn't having any success in her job search (she ran into more ogres, and some trolls too), so she decided to take the servant's place in the bookstore.

And so the seasons changed, and the girl worked her two part-time jobs, assisting the benevolent queen in the morning (and often at night) and selling books the rest of the time. She was tired of taking minutes and writing letters for other people to sign, but she loved the books (especially the ARCs).

But the girl continued her quest for a full-time job, because her health insurance was about to run out. One day she turned to the Bookselling This Week classifieds, where she applied for a job with the booksellers guild.

The guild hired someone else, but after a few weeks one of the guild masters called the girl to talk about a different position. Almost before she knew it, her quest was over: she had a real job.

The girl bid farewell to the benevolent queen, but she hesitated before leaving the bookstore behind. With her mother still working there, she was never going to get away from the place. (Conversation at the dinner table often turned to work.) "Besides," she thought, "I've forgotten how to have a social life. What would I do with all my Saturdays free?"

So the girl works for the guild now, encouraging bookstores throughout the land to band together for protection against the dragons. But if you happen to mention that you're looking for something to read, she won't be able to resist. Somewhere within she has the spirit of a bookseller.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Lit love

In the Guardian's book blog this week, one of the columnists discusses how well her literary loves have aged. (Pretty well, she concludes.)

One of mine, as I mentioned over at Omnibus, is Adam Eddington. So I was thrilled to find out that the latest Fine Lines is about The Moon By Night, starring pre-Adam Vicky.

And with that juxtaposition, I'm trying to remember who my other adolescent literary crushes were:

I cringe at this now, but I'm just going to admit it - Rhett Butler. I spent a good chunk of elementary school wanting to be a man-eating Southern belle. (Yes, it was just as ridiculous as you imagine.)
Jim Frayne
Loyd Peregrina
Philip Hunter
Neil MacNeill (I might not have been so smitten without seeing Stewart Finlay-McLennan play him on TV, but I'd like to think so)
Frederick Garland
John Reid

One thing I've noticed now that I'm no longer sixteen (or maybe just less sympathetic to characters who have significant others while I don't) is that I'm much more accepting of protagonists who don't to everything possible to be with "the one." When I read The Bean Trees in high school, I thought it was a mistake for Esteban to stay with Esperanza, and I couldn't fathom Jane putting off Mr. Rochester when he wanted to buy her jewels and silks. Now, I absolutely agree that he needed to be whipped into shape first.

All kinds of links, mostly science-related

Tom's Astronomy Blog points out that the NASA Mars Rover team is now all-female. As an alum of an all-female astronomy department, can I just say how freaking awesome it is that this can just happen?

(There were some male professors, but even the observatory computers were female: Caroline, Maria, Annie, Henrietta)

And on top of that, Google has released a new time-waster: Google Sky. (via FishBowlNY)

Jenny Davidson links to an explanation of why novelists should learn statistics. I've mentioned before that my stats classes mostly taught me to put no faith in survey data, but I learned the math too.

Interesting tidbit, via Maud Newton: Henry David Thoreau's notebooks are serving as evidence of global warming.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Miss Erin's Novel Challenge

Thank you, thank you, Miss Erin, for coming up with this.

I had hoped to use a writing class this spring to focus on my novel-in-progress-since-2002 (as opposed to the one that, until I gave up on it, had been in progress since 1998) - but apparently I was the only one who felt that way, because the class was canceled due to low enrollment.

Instead I'm taking part in the Novel Challenge, saying very publicly that my goal is to finish the complete first draft of my WIP (current word count ~25,000) by the end of June.

Care to guess how I'll be spending my day off tomorrow?

"Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories"

Sad news.

(This is still the only one of his books I've read - have to correct that.)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Non-Fiction Monday: Naked in Baghdad

Naked in Baghdad, by Anne Garrels

Okay, if you've looked through some of these posts lately, you'll notice that I have a thing for NPR. It's been that way for a long time. Working there is still one of my dream jobs (along with full-time writer, general counsel for a totally law-abiding company, and just about any of the recurring roles on The West Wing).

One of the things I love about Naked in Baghdad is that it reminds me that, while working for NPR may happen someday, I'm never going to be a war correspondent. (Yes, I do occasionally need the reminder.)

Other reviews: Bookloons, A Modest Construct, Curled Up With a Good Book

Meet the author: NPR bio

What stuck with me: I can't say enough great things about this book. I will say that I listened to the audio version, so my take on the book is shaped by listening to Garrels and her husband Vint Lawrence read their respective sections. Both of them have a wonderful way with words, along with just the right touch of sarcasm and irony.

Naked in Baghdad also makes me want to re-learn Russian, which the non-Arabic-speaking Garrels was able to fall back on again and again. Not that I expect to spend a lot of time in countries that were once supported by the Soviet bloc, but you never know.
Where this book is going next: My copy, being audio, isn't going anywhere. But there are two types of people I recommend the book to - those who want to read about the Iraq war, and potential journalists.

Makes me want to read: Thomas Ricks' Fiasco has been on my TBR list for a long time, along with Imperial Life in the Emerald City. I also want to read The Punishment of Virtue, another book with an NPR connection.

Makes me want to reread: Noah Adams' All Things Considered.

Bonus: I didn't think about it when I set out to write this review, but this weekend marks the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. In the New York Times, there's a retrospective by John Burns, who makes a few appearances in Naked in Baghdad. The Washington Post's book section is also devoted to war analysis this week.

The Non-Fiction Monday roundup is at Picture Book of the Day.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Random House, July 2008

I do have YA titles to write about, I do. But this one is so wonderful I absolutely have to share it. (And Annie Barrows is probably better known for the Ivy & Bean books, so there's a kidlit connection.)

I'll start by admitting I had no idea the Channel Islands were occupied by the Germans during World War II. Thanks to Joni, I have some more reading to do on the topic.

I've made this book my big recommendation for the summer - starting the day after I read it. I spent part of last week at ABA's Publisher Focus Groups, where I had the chance to persuade some fabulous booksellers to read it. With any luck, they'll like it as much as I did.

Other reviews: Me and My Big Mouth

Meet the author: Well, I did. One of them, at least. Take a look at

What stuck with me: I loved this book. I loved the characters, I loved the story, and I loved the fact that it had a happy ending. Beyond that, it reminded me how much I still don't know about England after World War II. Maisie Dobbs has done a lot to fill in the between-the-wars period for me, but it's easy to forget that the late 1940s and 1950s in England were not the years of prosperity they tended to be in the United States.

Where the book is going next: Like I said, I recommended it to booksellers from across the country, so a lot of them took copies home. I've already gotten my mom to read it, so the ARC is going to circulate among my bookstore coworkers now. (And, um, I have another copy I'm keeping for myself.)

Makes me want to read: Post-war English fiction, and non-fiction about the period. Also Chocolat, since I've only seen the movie, but it seems like there are some similarities. (But it's unlikely I'll finish Chocolat before The Girl With No Shadow.)

Makes me want to reread:
  • Dear Enemy. I was struck by how often the voice in Guernsey reminded me of Sallie MacBride in Dear Enemy. Some of the plot, too - not in a plagiarized way, because a thousand other romances have had the same things happen, but in a "it's Sallie and Gordon all over again" way. (And some of the credit goes to TadMack - this followed on the heels of her Wicked Cool Overlooked Book pick.)
  • Michelle Magorian's books: Goodnight, Mr. Tom, Back Home, and Not a Swan. (It looks like she has some others I've never heard of, so those belong on the to-read list. Another favorite writer.)

"Seltzer did not commit a victimless crime"

David Treuer explains why, and gives me yet another reason to push The Translation of Dr. Appelles to the top of the pile.

Monday, March 3, 2008

I know lots of English Scotsmen, don't you?

From PW's review of Stealing Athena:

Mary endures his neglect and gives him five children before turning to fellow Scot Robert Ferguson, a powerful Englishman who stands by her during a racy divorce trial

In case anyone else is confused: