Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fall book bargains: wish list

You may have seen The Huffington Post's article on the 50 top "must-reads" in the fall book lineup. If, like me, you're not rushing to pay full price for these new titles—enticing as they may be—you'll be glad to know we offer several of them at a discount, as well as bargain backlist suggestions by the same authors. Here's the crossover between the Huff Post list and ours.
Cover of 1st edition
  1. Sherman Alexie's short story collection Blasphemy (check out his award-winning YA novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian)
  2. Zadie Smith's NW (we have this, at a big discount, as well as Changing My Mind, Occasional Essays)
  3. David Byrne's How Music Works (we have a tie-in: cool music by Byrne and others on his Luaka Bop label)
  4. Junot Diaz's This Is How You Lose Her (Diaz is hot, hot, hot right now, so we have this book at a steep discount, as well as his previous novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, at nearly half price.)
  5. Salman's Rushdie's engrossing account of living under a fatwa, Joseph Anton, was excerpted in The New Yorker; his Luka and the Fire of Life is a tale that will appeal to kids and grownups alike.
  6. T. C. Boyle's San Miguel is the latest by a master storyteller, and we have it at $11 off list price.
  7. David Foster Wallace's Both Flesh and Not (we have The Pale King both in paperback and hardback—and the latter is cheaper. Go figure.)
  8. J. K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy (will $15 off tempt you?)
  9. Stephen Colbert's America Again (cf. I Am a Pole, And So Can You); described by the author as "some of the greatest hyperbole ever written in the history of mankind."
  10. Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue (old vinyl? we're there!)
  11. Chinua Achebe's There Was a Country (a new memoir by the author of the groundbreaking novel Things Fall Apart)
  12. Letters, by Kurt Vonnegut (we're carrying the classic Slaughterhouse Five and an audiobook of stories)
  13. Neil Young's Waging Heavy Peace (subtitled "A Hippie Dream," this memoir is a perfect complement to his new CD, Americana)
  14. Alice Munro's Dear Life (the latest from a New Yorker regular and a peerless proponent of the short story genre; sample The View from Castle Rock to see what we mean)
  15. Philip Pullman's Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version (we couldn't be more excited about this; you can prep your small fry with The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs)
  16. Roberto Bolaño's Woes of the True Policeman (The Skating Rink is a great intro to the work of the late Chilean author)
  17. Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior (if you haven't read The Poisonwood Bible, you absolutely must!)
So what's on your wish list this fall?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Reading, travel & peace posters

These beautifully designed and colorful posters from a variety of sources can be printed on a home printer with good resolution (the size will be ~5 by 7; good for cards or framing). First up are several that promote reading, the first two from Russia and the third from the US (no language barrier here)!
 Next, some vintage travel posters from the Boston Public Library’s Print Collection.
Last are several meditations on the theme of peace from a remarkable flickr collection called "USSR posters."
Further viewing: Don't miss our anthologies of rare posters!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Series books and dubious cooks

"When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else." —Zadie Smith, #1 of 10 Rules of Writing, in The Guardian 
I think for many of us, our youthful joy in reading was accelerated by a favorite book series, whether it be the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Little House on the Prairie, Little Women, Little Men et al., Freddy the Pig, the Wizard of Oz books, or Harry Potter. These images from a University of Maryland library exhibit on girls' series books show how iconic girl sleuth Nancy Drew evolved over the decades.
I love this book cover too! What was your favorite series growing up?
This is a page from Wonderful Life with the Elements: The Periodic Table Personified by Bunpei Yorifuji, which illustrates facts with appealing graphics. What a way to make studying enjoyable (and increase retention)!
In coming up with the name for her magnum opus on French cooking, Julia Child sent a stack of possible titles to Judith Jones, her editor at Knopf. This is the list, with my sense of potential American reactions in parentheses. (Feel free to suggest more.)

La Bonne Cuisine Française (can't pronounce)
In Love with French Cooking (hyperbole!)
The Love of French Cooking (ah, l'amour)
Cooking for Love (pathetic and needy)
The French Cooking Master (sounds diabolical)
Cooking Mastery (too much work)
Mastery of French Cooking (tame that cuisine!)
The French Kitchen (blah)
Food from France (highly suspect!)
France's Food (frog legs and tripe; pass)
The Noble Art of French Cooking (la di dah!)
The Master French Cookbook (and for the Mistress?)
Great French Cooking (ok)
The Compulsive Cook (neurotic)
Cooking is my Hobby (how nice for you!)
The Hobby of French Cooking (awkward)
French Cooking as a Hobby (not bloody likely)
School for French Cooks (somewhat Molière-esque)
School for French Cookery (effete)
A Course on French Cooking (academic!)
The Passionate French Cook (risqué)
French Cooking for Fun (truth in advertising??)
French Cooking for Love (looking for love in all the wrong places)
French Cooking for Everyone (hardly!)
Cook for Your Self a la Française (this one's just sad)
Mastering the Art of French Cuisine/Cooking/Cookery BINGO!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bookbinding Finds

Continuing with our gleanings from online exhibits of book designs, we present these highlights from The University of Rochester's Beauty for Commerce: Publishers’ Bindings, 1830-1910.
Elizabeth von Arnim, the author of The Solitary Summer, was a noted gardener, so this rendition of a flower scene is particularly apt.
This boat just bursts off the cover!
The introduction to the Rochester exhibit gives a good introduction to the evolution of bookbinding. Here is an excerpt:
By the early nineteenth century, publishing was separating from bookselling and binders began to get larger batches of work directly from publishers. Since the cost of binding fell to them, publishers sought an attractive binding style that was less costly than traditional hand binding in leather, but more permanent than paper wrappers or paper over boards. Bookbinders, struggling to keep up with the increased output of the printing trade and the demands of the publishers, sought a faster means of production.
The need for speed, simplicity, and economy in book production led to the introduction of cloth as a binding material and casing as a binding process. The dress fabrics silk and velvet had been used sporadically in binding but lacked durability and were expensive. In the early 1820s, the English publisher William Pickering introduced edition bindings in cloth. Pickering's binder, Archibald Leighton, worked to make cloth commercially viable by adding a fill, or sizing agent, that would both render the cloth impervious to adhesive and allow it to take dye evenly. In 1825 Leighton had ready a plain book cloth and, by 1828, a smooth, glazed cloth. To publishers, this new book cloth offered a binding material of some permanence at a cost only slightly higher than paper over boards. To binders, book cloth offered a material that was easier to work than leather, thereby helping them to speed production.
This impressive ornamental cover was done by influential designer Margaret Armstrong for Houghton Mifflin in 1899. She was a pioneer in designing authors' works as distinctive sets.
In their exhibit "How We Might Live: The Vision of William Morris," the University of Maryland library displays an 1890 edition of The Roots of the Mountains bound in Morris & Co.'s "Honeysuckle" fabric. Morris modestly declared it "the best-looking book issued since the 17th Century."


Morris published The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems in 1858, at the age of 24. The decorative binding and illustrations for the 1904 edition were done by Scottish artist Jessie M. King, known for her Art Nouveau designs and contributions to the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Which of them would you like for your home library?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The once-lavish art of bookbinding

The work of special collections librarians in making exhibits available online has been a godsend for  folks who love to gaze upon beauteous examples of the bookmaking art from days gone by. What a wonderful way for bibliophiles to indulge a love of exquisite book design, without the risk of penury! Here are samples from what I imagine are dozens of such troves (I see much more sleuthing in the future). First, the University of Alabama's exhibit of bindings moves through various aesthetic movements, as pictured below.
This cover for Louisa May Alcott's first book, Flower Fables (New York: Hurst & Co., 1900) exemplifies the "poster craze" that swept America in the 1890s. The same design was used for the book and advertising poster.
E. J. Harvey Darton. Tales of the Canterbury Pilgrims. London: Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1906. Irish-born artist Hugh Thomson's cover design is a fabulous introduction to Chaucer's characters. The publisher's advertisement lists this edition for six shillings. Ours goes for $10—I wonder if that's comparable!

Sarah Wyman Whitman (1842-1904) was one of the best artists who worked in book publishing. In Notes of an Informal Talk on Book Illustration … Given before the Boston Art Students Association, Feb. 14, 1895, she wrote, "You have got to think how to apply elements of design to these cheaply sold books; to put the touch of art on this thing that is going to be produced at a level price, which allows for no handwork, the decoration to be cut with a die, the books to [go] out by the thousand and to be sold at a low price." Whitman also created the Pocahontas cover, below. Both designs show her distinctive lettering style.


Like the two previous examples, this design by Amy M. Sacker for A Daughter of New France (Boston: Little, Brown, & Co., 1901) shows an intoxicating use of art nouveau themes, with the flowers taking on an almost human substance and aura. Sacker studied with Henry Hunt Clark at Boston's School of the Museum of Fine Arts and founded a school of her own in the late 1890s. Below, more opulence and a picturesque view of Vassar women, circa 1900?


The cover for The Three Ronins exemplifies the "Japonisme" style, used for works by Lafcadio Hearn and others.
Tomorrow: two more collections.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Stealing pencils & a mortgage crisis: the same mental processes lead to both

The findings that behavioral economist Dan Ariely uncovered on dishonesty, engagingly illustrated in this animated presentation, have massive implications, both on a personal and political level. The examples range from rationalizing stealing pencils from the office to the causes of the worldwide economic meltdown. Now if we could just ingrain more reality checks/checks and balances!


Watching this reminds me of an observation Rachel Maddow made to David Letterman, that the polarization of the country as seen in the strong identification with either the Democratic and Republican party is akin to the fierce loyalty felt toward sports teams. Not much room for dialogue there! (Ironic coda: Ariely's book is a hot illegal download.)
Further reading: Obamanomics: How Bottom-Up Economic Prosperity Will Replace Trickle-Down Economics; The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, by Alan Greenspan; An Introduction to Social Psychology.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Beauties of the Barnes, Part III

In displaying his objects in each room and on the walls, Albert Barnes sought to make a harmonious "meta" composition. Illustrated below are sample groups of artworks that Barnes recombined and arranged into his own artistic tableaux, including African statues, Old Master paintings, and paintings that when he bought them were more or less avant-garde. Below: Seated Couple, Dogon people, Mali; Face Mask (Mblo), Yaure people, Côte d'Ivoire; Portrait Mask, Baule peoples, Côte d'Ivoire.
Barnes' Old Master paintings include works attributed to Tintoretto ("Two Apostles"), Gherardo Starnina ("Head of an Angel"), Rubens ("King David"), and Bonifazio de' Pitati ("Two Prophets")
The glory of Barnes' collection of more than 800 paintings were his works by French artists, and here is a sampling of some of my favorites. Below: "Dancers With Braids" and "Bathers" by Degas; "Tarring the Boat" by Manet.

 "Mr. Loulou" (Louis Le Ray) by Gauguin
"Rosa" by Toulouse-Lautrec
This massive painting by Seurat hangs over Cezanne's "The Card Players" in the Museum's main salon. Called "Models Posing," it depicts a portion of another famous painting, "La Grande Jatte," at the Chicago Art Institute.
Both Monet's "The Studio Boat" and Matisse's "Woman Reading" are so wonderfully tranquil.
One of Barnes' meticulously arranged compositions.
Capping off our series on the Barnes is Matisse's large and abundantly colorful "The Joy of Life"


Images © 2012 The Barnes Foundation