Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"The Best Book I Ever Received": Book Industry Folks Pick Their Holiday Favorites, Part 2

Gianna has gathered another group of holiday/gift-inspired book recommendations from some of our favorite people in the book business.

Karen Valby is the author of Welcome to Utopia, one of our favorite books of the year, and a generally awesome person.  Here's a trailer for her excellent book.

And here is Karen's pick:
On my 12th birthday, my mother gave me a hard-bound copy of Jay Leech’s How to Care for Your Horse. I loved horses--I lived for horses!--so at the time the present felt like a validation of not just my passion but my ability to be a good, capable friend and guardian to them. That year my mother’s bipolar disorder started chewing away at some crucial fibers a person needs to be a parent. As she unraveled, I dug deep into chapters like “Do You Really Want a Horse?” and “Diseases of the Horse” and “Common Unsoundnesses of the Horse.” I would read and study and practice and learn so that I could understand horses and their weaknesses and how to make them happy and healthy and whole. I like to imagine that my mother, who died six years later of a sucide, was already preparing me to take care of myself.

Sarah Bird – Author of The Yokota Officer’s Club, the upcoming novel The Gap Year, and a whole bunch of other great books. 
Oddly, Gianna, you are virtually the only person who has ever given me books (other than to blurb or send to my agent.) I guess I’m sort of the book giver in my circle. And I have loved every book you’ve given me, but The Frozen Thames still occupies a special spot in my heart. Maybe because it’s small, maybe because it’s beautiful, maybe because it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever read, it has stayed with me in a way few others have. Gorgeous illustrations coupled with a gorgeously-written vignettes about the few dozen times in recorded history that the Thames River has frozen has kept this wonder of a book forever frozen in my memory. Thank you again for sharing it with me.

Scott Montgomery is the mystery expert at BookPeople in Austin, and the driving force behind the creation of the store's mystery specialty store-within-a-store, MysteryPeople.  Here's his pick: 
A first printing of The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley. I already had one first that was signed by the man; I purchased it a week before he came to the store I worked at in LA, for four dollars. Even unsigned, it was worth around four hundred.  He told me he had forty copies of that printing when it came out. "I gave them away so I could nail stewardesses."

I started a friendship with this author I admired so much, watching him hold court at whatever bar we were at, talking about the soldiers, criminals, and actors he met, occasionally dispensing writing advice when nobody was looking. We had a mutual friend in Wyoming, writer Craig Johnson. Both would pick on one another and use me as messenger to send their jibes back and forth to one another. It was Craig's wife who called me over two years ago to tell me Jim had died. The news hit me like it was a family member.

That Christmas I got a package Craig. He said they were Wyoming/ Montana themed gifts- a fine cheroot cigarello, a hat band made by an inmate in the Wyoming penitentiary, and another first edition of The Last Good Kiss. I now have two very expensive bookends that remind me of a great hero, mentor, and friend that is the epitome of those larger-than-life characters you meet in this business. With its Hunter Thompson-esque look at the modern West and America in this tough, heartbreaking book, any edition is priceless.

The lovely one on the right is Gianna's mom.
And Gianna is the other one.
Margaret LaMorte - Proud (ish) parent of Gianna.  She may be the most fascinating woman on earth...I mean, she's to blame for Gianna. 

The best book I have ever been given is Janet Evanovich’s One For the Money. It was the first book that truly made me laugh out loud. I would read it in the break room at work and my coworkers would come in and ask what the heck I was reading, they thought I was crazy. [No comment upon Gianna's mom's sanity.] We had a little group of people and we would all share the Stephanie Plum books – it was a great little group and a lot of fun. I have many ideas for the movie series but I have yet to have a call from a single Hollywood producer asking my opinion.


My choice is pretty low brow – but the thing is, I don’t really get very many books as gifts; keep that in your judgmental mind! Okay, the best book I have ever been given was Hollywood Babylon (thanks Mom!) – I guess I was like… 11 or 12, certainly not age appropriate, what with the Fatty Arbuckle rape trial and the graphic photos of Jayne Mansfield’s car accident, not to mention the Lana Turner drama and Sharon Tate murder. Now that I am thinking of it – it’s the earliest form of TMZ. However you have to understand my obsession with Hollywood – I read every biography of every Hollywood celeb I could get my hands on. I know that this book is … oh boy… sleazy…but I just loved it and would read and re-read it all the time. I don’t know what happened to it – I can’t imagine that I got rid of it, it must have been stolen or tossed out by my girlfriend who had the sense to be embarrassed for me. Don’t fear…it’s still in print as all classics remain (although as a mass market, not a big hardcover).

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"The Best Book I Ever Received": Book Industry Folks Pick Their Holiday Favorites, Part 1

As the holiday season kicks into full gear, I’m once again reminded that the gift I most want—more books—is the one I’m least likely to receive. Just because I work in the book business doesn’t mean that I don’t NEED more books. I’m convinced that anyone who works beyond the college part-time job level in the book industry is in it for the love of the product (just as I’m convinced that anyone who makes a career of it is mentally not-right). It’s more than a job. Give us our books!

To that end, I asked a few booksellers to tell me the best book they ever received as a gift. Gianna says she’s going to ask her mom, too, and that Gianna’s mom will probably recommend “porn.” Something to eagerly anticipate!

Sara Glassman sells books at The Little Professor Book Center in Homewood, Alabama. Sara actually had several recommendations:

Dead Men Do Tell Tales by William Maples
This is a really engaging book about forensic anthropology. If you've got a "Bones" fan who likes the nitty gritty this is great for them! I got it when I was 15 and it actually set me on the course that ended with a graduate degree in Anthropology. Maples is great at balancing detail with anecdote and gives insight into cases as varied as identifying the Romanovs to the murders of Ted Bundy.

D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Mythology by Ingri & Edgar Parin D'Aulaire
My mom gave me a copy of this when I was very young, six or seven maybe. I'd checked it out from the library 10 times by the time she bought it for me. I loved Greek mythology. I knew the names of the Olympians before I knew the names of the Seven Dwarves. It's still one of my favorite books to sell so that I can introduce more people to these wonderful stories.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
This is cheating a little since it was a "gift" from Toni Hetzel (Toni is my Gianna for stores east of the Mississippi River, selling books to the stores in the Deep South, and a big fan of Juicy Couture), but I was having really bad week and I mentioned it to her when she was here for a meeting. She went out to her car and got an ARC (advance reading copy) of Sweetness and handed it to me. I started reading it then on my lunch break and it was the first thing that week that made me smile.

Brian Contine is a bookseller at BookPeople in Austin, Texas, who happens to be married to the store’s adult book buyer. He’s also a skilled amateur chef, a skill his wife joyfully exploits. Here’s Brian’s advice for holiday book giving:

In this season of giving, is there a way I can make it a little about me? Yes. Give your spouse a cookbook and you'll win every time. A couple of years ago, my wife gave me a copy of Simon Hopkinson's Roast Chicken and Other Stories. Hopkinson is the British Alice Waters, creating succinct, refined, homestyle recipes which will challenge the cook and warm the belly. I suggest Salade Frisee Aux Lardons. If it matters to you, and it should, this is the best written cookbook I've ever read, you could read it cover to cover without cooking a thing and feel full.

Anne Kimbol is an expert in a particular genre, mystery, working at Houston’s elite specialty store Murder By the Book. Nonetheless, the best book she ever received as a gift transcends genre boundaries:

A friend of mine gave me a copy of Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman. I have since given it as a gift to many friends. It is a book about different theories of time told as dreams of Einstein's. I know that sounds terribly boring, but the writing really brings you into the worlds Lightman created on Einstein's behalf. It is still the book I go to when I really need an escape from the everyday craziness of life.

Check back for other picks from some of the biggest book lovers in the country…and Gianna’s mom.