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Ask a Book Buyer: Scary Stories, Calligraphy Books, and More

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.

Q: I'm looking for a super scary book. Nothing too gory. I like ghost stories, hauntings, etc. What do you suggest? –Tabitha

A: Try Ghost Story by Peter Straub and The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Both are classics. –Rhianna

If you want to have the bejeebers scared out of you, you have to read Alex by Pierre Lemaitre. It's French and set in and around Paris. Not only is it scary, but this thing has more twists and turns than a two-lane road through the French Alps. Not only is it scary, but this thing has more twists and turns than a two-lane road through the French Alps. I guarantee you that you haven't read a book like this before. –Tom

Q: I recently finished A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and am partway through its sequel, Shadow of Night. Since the third book in the trilogy is not yet available, do you have any recommendations for me in the meantime? –Ann

A: Try Karen Marie Moning's Fever series, beginning with Darkfever, where southern Gothic meets Celtic mythology. The full series has been published, so if you like it, you won't be left hanging midseries! –Tracey

I think you would enjoy Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It is a delightful meta-fantasy that you can really sink your teeth into! –Aubrey

Q: I love Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini. Is there anything even remotely similar to it (I hope)? –David

A: Give these a try! Albertus Seba's Cabinet of Natural Curiosities, which is a sort of plant and animal kingdom version of Codex Seraphinianus; the intriguing artwork of Hieronymus Bosch; and The Resurrectionist by E. B. Hudspeth, a fictional biography which includes a visually imaginative encyclopedia. –Aubrey

Q: I am looking for calligraphy books, especially books on Gothic, italic, and uncial hands for the absolute beginner. Thoughts? –Virginia

A: Since Powell's is located in the heart of the calligraphy-happy Northwest, I would be remiss not to give a shout-out to books on italic hand from two superb local letterers: Inga Dubay (Italic Letters) and Lloyd Reynolds (Italic Calligraphy and Handwriting). Reynolds's calligraphy classes at Reed College most notably inspired a young Steve Jobs, who integrated an unprecedented amount of typographic capability into Macintosh's first computers. Reed College has collected a page of quotes from Reynolds's students; it's worth a look! –Dot

Q: I have an 8-year-old daughter who is a voracious reader. I am having a hard time keeping up with her appetite for reading with books that are challenging and engaging but still appropriate for her emotional level. She really seems to like fantasy. She just finished the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett and has read all the Rick Riordan books. She was really enjoying the Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins, but stopped in the middle of book five because she decided it was too sad. She has read all of the Harry Potter books. Any suggestions? –Melissa

A: Garth Nix has two middle reader series that I think your daughter would really enjoy. Mister Monday is the first in the Keys to the Kingdom series. The Fall is the first in the Seventh Tower series. –Mary Jo

Try Philip Pullman's series, His Dark Materials, beginning with The Golden Compass. And Madeleine Lengle's A Wrinkle in Time is a classic worth checking out. –Rhianna

Read more Ask a Book Buyer on PowellsBooks.Blog.


Books mentioned in this post

  1. Ghost Story
    Used Mass Market $5.50
  2. The Haunting of Hill House
    Used Trade Paper $8.00
  3. Darkfever
    New Mass Market $7.99
  4. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
    Used Trade Paper $7.95
  5. Albertus Seba: Cabinet of Natural...
    Used Hardcover $36.00

  6. The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work...
    Sale Hardcover $12.98
  7. Italic Letters: Calligraphy and... Used Trade Paper $16.50

  8. Mister Monday: Keys to the Kingdom,...
    Used Trade Paper $4.50
  9. The Fall (The Seventh Tower #1)
    Used Trade Paper $2.50
  10. A Wrinkle in Time
    Used Mass Market $2.50
  11. Codex Seraphinianus New Hardcover $125.00
  12. A Discovery of Witches
    Used Trade Paper $7.95
  13. Shadow of Night Used Trade Paper $7.95
  14. The Golden Compass: His Dark...
    Used Trade Paper $6.95
  15. The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work...
    Sale Hardcover $12.98

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