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Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.


Summer Friction

I was crying or almost crying for most of Fun Home: The Musical — I already loved Alison Bechdel's graphic novel, and I've always been a sucker for the way musicals make melodrama catchy. The song that got me most was "Ring of Keys," a song about a primal moment of identification: Sydney Lucas, playing a young Alison, is at a luncheonette with her father, and a butch delivery person comes in. She's never seen a woman that looks like that before — with her "short hair...dungarees, lace-up boots" and her significantly hefty ring of keys. I lose it within the first few bars. It's this beautiful moment of admiration and discovery, a sense of possibility and opening up.

Watching Lucas perform this song, letting my tears brim and spill over, I almost believe that it's my story. I want it to have been my story. I want to claim that prototypical queer narrative: that I was a tomboy who hated wearing dresses. That I fell in love with my best girl friend in second grade. That I saw a butch lesbian in a diner and a ...

Powell’s Q&A: Christopher Moore

Note: Join us this Thursday, August 27, at Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing for an author event with Christopher Moore.

Describe your latest book.
Secondhand Souls is the sequel to my bestselling novel A Dirty Job, which was about a single dad in San Francisco who gets the job of being Death and runs it out of a secondhand store in the Italian neighborhood in North Beach. In Secondhand Souls, the forces of light and dark are once again at odds, and Charlie Asher is trapped in the body of a 14-inch-tall meat puppet. Oh, and all the ghosts of the Golden Gate Bridge are in revolt. Well, things get weird.

1. If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
Christopher Moore, Inventor of Science!

2. If you were trapped in an elevator, what fictional character would you want with you?
Marcy, the elevator-repairing nymphomaniac.

3. How did the last good book you read end up in your hands, and why did you read it?
It was sent to me by The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson, who wrote it, and I read it ...

Readerly Term No. 029: Scroll Mate

Signs you've found your scroll mate:

1. They express your deepest thoughts and desires better than you can.
2. You are a better person because of them.
3. You regularly experience déjà vu while reading their work.
4. You're obsessed with the way their books smell.
5. They make the most mundane topic fun or fascinating.
6. Your cat or dog is affectionate toward their books.
7. You've tattooed one of their quotes on your body.
8. Their books feel like home.

Scroll Mate

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Have you invented a Readerly Term of your own? Email us at readerlyterms@powells.com with the word and definition, and we'll consider including it in our Compendium. Browse all the terms here.

Like Every Other Survivor

Note: Join us at Powell's City of Books on Saturday, August 29, for an author event with Ellen Urbani.

I have an uncommon penchant for aligning myself with disaster and death.

Tornadoes and wildfires and armed guerrillas have chased me. Riptides have caught me. Earthquakes have knocked down the walls around me. Pestilence has rained upon me in the form of scorpions and tarantulas and men with ill intent. Cholera and tuberculosis and other assorted ailments landed me in hospitals so often that for quite a while I made myself a home there.

I cozied up beside hospice beds in the terminal units — it is how I once earned my money, paid my mortgage, put gas in my car. I have cradled others' hands in my own when their blood stopped pumping through them, and I have listened to last breaths and the words that came before them.

It is an uncommon privilege to be introduced to death before death decides to introduce himself to you , and I endeavored, always, to be a good student.

I have absorbed many lessons from tragedy and from the end of other people's lives.

I ...

Ramona Quimby Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Thighs

Note: Join us at Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing on Wednesday, September 16, for an author event with Cara Nicoletti.

As a kid, I read for two reasons: the first, and most common, was to escape from my everyday life by imagining a different one — to read about people and places that I didn't and couldn't know. When I wasn't reading about castles and orphanages and talking animals, though, I read to understand my own world, to affirm that the feelings I was feeling were true and that the experiences I was having were normal.

I grew up in a large family, always looking for stories about siblings that felt real. I loved The Boxcar Children, but they were so terribly nice to each other. Same went for the All-of-a-Kind Family and the March sisters of Little Women. But when I discovered Ramona Quimby and her family, I felt like someone had cracked open my head and my home and peered inside .

With the Quimbys, Beverly Cleary created a family that is deeply normal without being dull. They struggle and laugh ...

Readerly Term No. 016: Shelf-Righteous

True or false: it's okay to be pompous — when it comes to one's book collection?


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Have you invented a Readerly Term of your own? Email us at readerlyterms@powells.com with the word and definition, and we'll consider including it in our Compendium. Browse all the terms here.

Ask a Book Buyer: Dragons!

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 askabuyer@powells.com. We'll be posting personalized recommendations regularly.

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Q: I've always been a fan of YA fantasy and continue to enjoy the genre, but now I'm aiming to find adult fantasy book series. I still want all the dragons, werewolves, vampires, witches, etc., but more adult. Right now I'm specifically looking for any book series with dragons that's aimed at adults, something along the lines of Game of Thrones or Daniel Arenson's dragons of Requiem.

I do have a few preferences for my dragons. 1) I prefer when they're the good guys. 2) I prefer sentient dragons. Not dragons that are more bestial and ...

Just Passing Through: Embracing the Covered Wagon Mind-Set

When people learn that I recently spent a long summer riding 2,000 miles across the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon pulled by mules, they invariably ask the same question: "How did the adventure change you?" Unspoken, but deep implications are embedded in that question, especially from family and friends. Maybe I have stopped drinking or lost weight. Maybe four months of camping on the plains of Wyoming and Idaho delivered me to inner peace. One of my closest friends, aware of my love of the American West, was even disappointed when I returned to live in New England. "I just figured that you'd find a little ranch out in Wyoming and settle into a completely new life," Cindy said. "It's a better ending to the story."

There were, of course, smaller changes, but these mostly just affirmed the person I was before I left. Hiking through the sage brush thickets and confusing Rocky Mountain foothills, using just a compass and a bearing on the Platte or Sweetwater rivers to find the trail ahead of me, satisfied my lifelong passion for difficult navigation challenges. I've been a reasonably competent ...

Readerly Term No. 080: Readultery

Should an overzealous reader feel guilty for two-timing a book? Is consorting with only one book at a time woefully old-fashioned? Is there a correlation between the rise of readultery and our shrinking attention spans? Is social media to blame? Is Obama?


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Have you invented a Readerly Term of your own? Email us at readerlyterms@powells.com with the word and definition, and we'll consider including it in our Compendium. Browse all the terms here.

The Blind Spot of United States History

The most frequent question readers ask about An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States is "Why hasn't this book been written before?" I'm flattered by that question, because it's the one I ask about texts that deeply move me; at the same time the information, argument, or story is new to me, it seems that it was already hidden in the recesses of my brain or heart, a truth. I knew the story I wanted to tell when I set out to write the book, part of Beacon Press's ReVisioning American History series, but that didn't make it easier to transfer to paper. Writing and rewriting, I discovered the story, just as my readers do as they read it.

But why hasn't this book been written before? We believe we don't suffer censorship in the U.S., but we do. Rather than being mandated by the government, historians self-censor in response to institutionalized policing of the parameters of what's acceptable and what will be marginalized. William Burroughs's narrator in his 1984 novel, The Place of Dead Roads, observes that "people are not bribed to shut up ...

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