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Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.


Full Frontal Feminism Revisited

It is arguably the worst and best time to be a feminist. In the years since I first wrote Full Frontal Feminism, we've seen a huge cultural shift in the way feminism is thought of along with the same old nonsense.

Decades after feminists fought for access to birth control, against sexual assault and rape culture, to have equal pay, and to be free from discrimination, we're still largely battling these same issues. But despite the political déjà vu, feminists do seem to be winning the culture wars: politicians that deride birth control use are widely mocked, the mainstream media that used to ignore or declare feminism dead is now on board, and the most culturally relevant artist in the world — Beyoncé — calls herself a feminist.

Perhaps best of all, since FFF was released, tens of thousands — maybe hundreds of thousands — of young women and men have started blogs, Tumblrs, Facebook pages, and organizations all dedicated to gender, racial, and class justice.

But let's not be fooled. At the same time that we're seeing this incredible progress, we continue to live ...

The Florist-Assassins

The three men lit up in my mind's eye, with footnotes. They were converging on me — and on the object I was carrying — in a way that had woken some sort of angry territorial lizard in my head. Something about the pattern of their approach, the vectors and the way they would all reach me at exactly the same time, was predatory on the most primal level. I am fundamentally a gentle sort of person, so I was a bit surprised to find that a part of my brain was working out which of them needed to die first and how to make that happen. Lists of "dangerous parts" I learned long ago were highlighted up and down their bodies as they drew closer, each target point carrying a sense of difficulty versus efficacy. Everyone thinks a blow to the groin is the fastest way to end a fight, but it's unreliable. The target is small, mobile, and well-guarded, and you have to be close in to hit the mark. Worse yet, a minority of men respond to that particular agony with a great surge of ...

New Cookbooks for July: All-Things Veggie

July. The deep summer month that brings a belated spring cleaning, picnics, and the beloved abundance of backyard bumper crops (or an abundance of farm-fresh produce from the weekly CSA delivery box). There is a joy in opening a community-supported agriculture box, followed a few days later with, What the heck do I do with all these veggies? July's new and recent releases help us in that department.

Coauthor of Veganomicon Terry Hope Romero presents a salad book that stands up and fights back: Salad Samurai. I can do no better to sum up her book than to quote from it: "Stop making salads that suck." These are kick-ass main meals. True story: a coworker trotted off with my copy of Salad Samurai after one look at the Pesto Cauliflower Potato salad. A favorite recipe of mine is the Pepperoni Tempeh Pizza Salad. (No offense to tempeh, which I like okay, but I'm an omnivore and used meaty pepperoni. Also, I tossed in a little shredded cheese.) I'm currently enamored with the Middle Eastern herbal spice mix za-atar, and I was pleased to find this included in ...

Sassy Men with Swords

It all began with a long plane flight. For years my coworker had been enthusiastically recommending Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora, the first book of the Gentleman Bastard series, and I had nodded my head and moved on. Dashing off to the airport, I finally grabbed my copy off a teetering pile of unread books and headed out the door. I was delighted to discover that most of the major characters were sassy as all get out and they could wield their swords just as adeptly as their words. The book did exactly what I wanted it to do: create a world I could step into and be thoroughly entertained.

There are currently three titles in Lynch's series, and the latest one, The Republic of Thieves, comes out in mass market later this month. The book finds Locke and Jean tinkering in politics, while alternating chapters tell the story of a summer long ago when the two wound up starring in a play.

Lynch's writing just keeps getting better and better. He writes some of the most bawdy and hilarious dialogue I've ever read. ...

And So It Goes: Revisiting Iraq

Reading the newspaper these days feels a little like time traveling. After eight years of war in Iraq and (let's be honest) at least three years of societal amnesia, it's startling to wake up to headlines about sectarian violence and the president's requests for resources to fight ISIS, the radical Islamic organization conquering vast swathes of western Iraq, with devastating humanitarian consequences. Haven't we been here before? Didn't we win? And didn't we leave?

The reports remind me of a college class I taught on war literature a few years ago. One of the things that intrigued me was my students' disinterest in learning about Iraq. For them the war was their growing up, just part of the din of the adult world that has no meaning in childhood, like mortgage payments or tax reform. Sure, they had political opinions about the country — what American doesn't? — but no real knowledge of Iraq or the second Gulf War. And, in trying to refute their apathy, I realized to my embarrassment that I didn't either.

Many excellent books have been written on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ...

In Praise of Rejections: Why I’m Glad It Took Me 10 Years to Publish This Darn Book

When I see my name in print next to the phrase "debut novel," I can't help but picture my hardcover yanking at an ill-fitting cotillion dress that keeps falling off its shoulder. The descriptor seems off somehow — it's right, but not quite that. I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You is my first novel, but I wrote it 10 years ago, in 2003, and in 2013, I completely rewrote it again. In this 10-year span, there have been other works of writing — bound manuscripts too sprawling to deserve any other moniker than "mess," short story collections, unwieldy essays — but none of them ever showed as much promise as my first book, which, instead of "debut novel," I like to think of as "born again."

When I first wrote I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, I was 24 and living in Paris, and I hadn't been writing for some time. Mired in a bad relationship with a Frenchman who had a penchant for drama (he once launched all of my belongings out of our fifth-story apartment, and when he remembered I ...

Ask a Book Buyer: Tales of the Home Front, the Sea, and Overseas

Ask a Book BuyerAt Powell's, our book buyers select all the new books in our vast inventory. If we need a book recommendation, we turn to our team of resident experts. Need a gift idea for a fan of vampire novels? Looking for a guide that will best demonstrate how to knit argyle socks? Need a book for a vegetarian who loves Radiohead and Flight of the Conchords? Email your question to We'll be posting personalized recommendations regularly.

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Q: I'm traveling to Dublin and Barcelona this summer and would love some recommendations for books that take place in these locations. I'm open to different genres but something funny would be good. –Megan

A: Dublin settings? Anything by Roddy Doyle, but the funnier ones would by Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, The Snapper, and The Commitments. They are gritty but very funny. Tana French writes excellent mysteries, all set in Dublin featuring different members of the Dublin Murder Squad. They are excellent and very evocative of the city and the social system there. In the Woods is the first in the series and a good place to start, but they all also function as stand-alones. –Kathi

You absolutely must get The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It's a literary mystery that takes place in Barcelona from the 1920s to the 1950s, and it's one of the most beautifully written things I've ever read . Read it before your trip and you won't be able to wait to get to Barcelona. –Tom

Q: I am looking for a book that takes place on the U.S. home front during World War II. Growing up, I loved reading the "Molly" American Girl books. Is there anything with a similar setting for adults? –Molly

Josh Weil: The Interview

Dima and Yarik are twin brothers in a Russia set in a slightly alternate universe, in the city of Petroplavilsk. The city is in perpetual daylight, thanks to the Oranzheria — a "sea of glass" greenhouse built over farmlands lit by mirrors in space. Though inseparable in childhood, Dima and Yarik begin to take radically different paths as they navigate adulthood, family, responsibility, and ideology. The Great Glass Sea, the first novel by "5 Under 35" winner Josh Weil, is steeped in Russian folklore and fable, and is a moving and ingenious tale of familial love. Library Journal calls it "resplendent and incandescent," and Lauren Groff exclaims, "The Great Glass Sea is our world made uncanny: the Russian countryside of folktale and literature turned darkly luminous, menacing, and brittle. I was intoxicated by this novel's brains and I fell hopelessly in love with its heart. Josh Weil is a spectacular talent." We were so impressed with it, we chose it for our Indiespensable Volume 48.

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Jill Owens: In your first book, The New Valley, you write very movingly about rural Virginia; it plays a huge part in those novellas. ...

So Many Books, So Many Writers

I'm not a bookseller, but I'm married to one, and Square Books is a family. And we all know about families and how hard it is to disassociate yourself from them even if you're happy within their bosoms. I do have some bookseller cred: I worked for two years at the old Savile Bookshop in Washington when Richard and I were trying to learn the business, and I helped open the store here in Oxford, Mississippi, in 1979, working for a while when the staff was just Richard, his mother, his aunt, and me. Eventually Richard fired us for a real staff — one that didn't talk back, have lots of opinions about improvements (flowers, rugs, expanding the bridge book section, getting a bookstore kitty), and could make change in under five minutes.

Until Square Books got on its feet, somebody had to pay the bills, and I had a handy library degree (UNC Chapel Hill, '77) so I went to work as a reference bibliographer (you know — the person you used to go to for information before there was Google) at the University of ...

The Other Vampire

It's a wild and thundery night. Inside a ramshackle old manor house, a beautiful young girl lies asleep in bed. At the window, a figure watches — a hideous creature with long fingernails and eyes that shine like polished tin. The girl wakes up, but is too terrified to flee as the vampire breaks the glass and enters the bedroom. He seizes his victim by the hair, drags her onto the bed, and bites her neck.

The story is probably familiar, but the vampire may not be: this is a summary of the opening chapter of Varney, the Vampyre. Written between 1845 and 1847, probably by James Malcolm Rymer, Varney is a forgotten work from the "penny dreadful" genre. A far cry from Dickens and Eliot, the penny dreadfuls were racy, sensational serials, aimed at an urban, working-class audience with limited time to spend reading. They provoked suspicion from Victorian moral authorities, who feared that the tales of crime, violence, highway robbery, and cannibalism might incite class warfare, or encourage the young in antisocial behavior.

Vampires had entered English literature at the beginning of the ...

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