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Archive for the 'Ask a Book Buyer' Category

Ask a Book Buyer: Exploring Europe Through Fiction

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'm staying in Germany and looking for some fairly lighthearted books with a strong sense of place set in Europe. I read a mystery years ago set in Prague that was playful and not highly charged (no gore), but the clues were throughout the city and some referred to its history as well. I really enjoyed visiting there after reading the book. Does your team have any suggestions for a similar read? –Sandra

A: A few of my favorite lighthearted novels set in Europe are Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian (a hunt for Dracula across modern Europe), Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind (a book-centric mystery set in post-war Barcelona), and Dan Simmons's Drood (in which he imagines the rivalry between 19th century authors Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens, with some truly creepy descriptions of Victorian London). And while Philip Kerr's Berlin mysteries aren't exactly lighthearted, they're an amazing introduction to the seedier sides of the city, pre- and post-WWII. Try Berlin Noir. –Rhianna


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 askabuyer@powells.com. 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


Ask a Book Buyer: Picky Parents, Science Lovers, Lizzie Borden

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'm trying to buy a book for a male friend of mine for our high school graduation. He loves science, and he plans on majoring in engineering in the fall. He also loves history, but my fear with purchasing him a history book is that he may have already read it. He's a big fan of NPR, and I know I want to get him a nonfiction book. Any recommendations? –Rachel

A: A great gift for those interested in engineering: 101 Things I Learned in Engineering School by John Kuprenas. This illustrated book gives readers the basic principles of engineering and insight into how the engineering thought process works. Also, due in paperback this month: Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein: Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe by Mario Livio. It's the perfect combination of science and history! –Corie

You should also check out The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements. It's more about chemistry than engineering, but it's a wonderful, approachable book that any science fan will enjoy . –Tom

Q: While both highly educated, due to their conservative leanings, my parents read almost exclusively young adult fiction. While there is nothing wrong with this, when it comes to birthdays, Christmases, and Mother's/Father's Day, I try to gift them literary fiction I think they might enjoy that would perhaps expand their horizons a little. However, they are very picky with what they will read (I learned the hard way after I loaned my copies of the Thursday Next series to my mother and ironically enough got them back bowdlerized with whiteout tape). My most recent gifts were Every Man Dies Alone and Gilead, both of which went over very well, but I am low on ideas for what to gift next. Do you have any suggestions for well-written, literary fiction on the lighter side of things? –Remy


Ask a Book Buyer: The Answer Is Robin Hobb (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 askabuyer@powells.com. We'll be posting personalized recommendations regularly.

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Q: I flew through Codex Alera and loved it. I got hooked on The Iron Druid Chronicles but am waiting for the next book. I stumbled upon and devoured Blades of the Old Empire (again, waiting on the next book). I am on the waiting list at the library for The Name of the Wind but am getting antsy for a good read. Can you suggest a series that isn't in fashion — an oldie but goodie, perhaps?
–Jeremy B.

Q: I just finished hate-reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I need that bad taste out of my mouth. I wouldn't mind starting a new series, but I'm at a loss here. I want to read something epic. I've not read much fantasy, but I do kinda like it. So... what do you think? (And don't say A Song of Ice and Fire because I've already started in on those.)
–Megan


Ask a Book Buyer: Game of Thrones Edition

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.

Q: I've devoured every volume of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. Now what? –Brie

A: In case you've somehow managed to miss George R. R. Martin's Tales of Dunk and Egg (The Hedge Knight, The Sworn Sword, The Mystery Knight), these delightful novellas are set in Westeros 90 years before the time of Song of Ice and Fire. Three are available right now; more are promised. The first two are also available as graphic novels. Dunk is Ser Duncan, legendary member of the Kingsguard, and Egg is Aegon V Targaryen, who later becomes ...


Ask a Book Buyer: Beyond Male Authors, Couple’s Book Club Picks, 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 askabuyer@powells.com. We'll be posting personalized recommendations regularly.

Q: It has been pointed out that most of my favorite authors are male: Haruki Murakami, David Mitchell, Michael Chabon, Neal Stephenson, maybe Neil Gaiman, too. I think my favorite book from last year's reading was Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine, but I can't yet say he's a favorite author, as I haven't read any other books by him. Can you recommend any female authors who might appeal to a reader with my tastes? –Eve

A: For a blend of surrealism, philosophy, pop culture, and mystery reminiscent of Murakami and Mitchell, and the kind of quirky but endearing protagonist you'll find in Chabon's work, try British novelist Scarlett Thomas. Two of her most popular books are The End of Mr. Y and Our Tragic Universe. –Rhianna

Check out Karen Russell's books. Her newest is Vampires in the Lemon Grove. Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners is also strange and wonderful. Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is a classic. –Kevin


Ask a Book Buyer: Super Sad Short Stories, Texts Exploring Memory, 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 askabuyer@powells.com. We'll be posting personalized recommendations regularly.

Q: I'm looking for some sad, hopeless short stories, preferably written by a woman. I love Carson McCullers, Joan Didion, and, though not a woman, James Joyce ("A Painful Case" is a good example of what I like). Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth was the perfect depressing collection for me recently. Any recommendations? –Lexi

A: You might try Jamaica Kincaid. She is an American author of Caribbean origins and is magnificent and lyrical. She has a number of novels and a collection of short stories. The stories are contained in At the Bottom of the River, but I think you'd also like her novels. You might try Autobiography of My Mother or Lucy for starters. –Tom

Q: I am currently a grad student at NYU, dying to put the serious books aside and read for fun in my spare time (usually this is around 35 minutes before bed). I am originally from Oregon, so the change has really made me nostalgic for home and trying to keep myself busy. I am looking for fiction books that understand the idea of memory (survivors of genocide, people under dictatorships, etc.). I have a major in Spanish, so I have read Mario Vargas Llosa's The Feast of the Goat, Isabel Allende, Diamela Eltit, Julia Alvarez, and Gabriel García Márquez, among others. I also have read about the idea of memory in immigration through the writings of Esmeralda Santiago, Junot Díaz, and Sandra Cisneros. I guess what I am looking for is something new, different, and challenging that explores memory through novels or memoirs.


Ask a Book Buyer: Sci-fi with a Sense of Humor, Off-the-Grid Living, Books for Boys, 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 askabuyer@powells.com. We'll be posting personalized recommendations regularly.

Q: My husband is a big sci-fi reader (but not fantasy) and I'd like to help him find some new books to read. He has recently enjoyed the Ender's Game series and has read everything by John Scalzi, who he particularly likes for the sense of humor in books like Redshirts, The Android's Dream, and Agent to the Stars. Anything you could recommend along those lines? –Karen

A: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is chock full of '80s references to video games, television shows, and is wildly entertaining. A riptide of a read, this one is sure to carry the reader away. Michael Rubens, The Sheriff of Yrnameer is a rip-roaring sci-fi comedic adventure, complete with freeze-dried orphans, a corporate training satellite full of zombies, and a hero on the run. Due out February 11, Andy Weir's The Martian is an absolutely gripping adventure of an astronaut stranded on Mars and what he must do to survive. You will never look at a potato the same way after reading this. –Mary Jo

Q: Can anyone recommend a few books for a middle school-aged boy? He's read all the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and he likes sports, too. –Tim

A: If he hasn't already delved into the works of Matt Christopher, he'll find so many books to love. He writes both sports fiction and biographies of popular athletes. –Jeremy


Ask a Book Buyer: Uplifting Novels, YA Trilogies, 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 askabuyer@powells.com. We'll be posting personalized recommendations regularly.

Q: Help! I'm on the hunt for intelligent, thoughtful, uplifting reads that don't rely on sex and violence for their plot points. I recently read Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and enjoyed it (though I pretty much figured out the "mystery" halfway through), and I'd love to read something similar. I also just read David Sedaris for the first time and loved him as well. Traditionally I'm a fan of sci-fi/fantasy and mysteries, but I'm open to all types of fiction as long as the book is good. –Pam

A: Three novels that I often recommend to people looking for intelligent, inventive, and uplifting fiction are Italo Calvino's beautifully composed If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, Bohumil Hrabal's classic Too Loud a Solitude, and Mark Dunn's unforgettable Ella Minnow Pea. Each of these works also incorporates some thoughtful element relating to books, reading, or the enduring power of literacy. –Jeremy

Q: What's next for a 12-year-old girl who loved the Divergent Trilogy? Once a reluctant reader, she really enjoyed these three books! –Daphne

A: I am a big fan of young adult trilogies that feature female protagonists battling dystopian societies, and the Divergent trilogy is at the top of my list as well. Luckily, there are many more of these types of series out there. The most popular among them is The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay). If she hasn't read these, I think they would be a great choice for inspiring her to continue reading. The plotline centers around a girl named Katniss who volunteers to fight as a sacrificial tribute among the other district children in order to save her younger sister from being chosen.


Ask a Book Buyer: Holiday Gift Ideas, Part Two

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.

Q: I want to buy a book for my 75-year-old father-in-law. He is a great lover of the arts (theater, poetry, photography). He is also a philanthropist for the arts in his hometown of New Haven, Connecticut. Can you suggest a book for him? I heard an author interviewed on OPB that has done a photo book of people in New York City, but I can't find it through a Web search. –Terri

A: I think you're referring to Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton, a very cool collection of New York City street photos.

If your father-in-law also enjoys classical music, John Suchet's new biography of Beethoven, Beethoven: The Man Revealed, is receiving rave reviews. –Rhianna

Q: I have an 18-year-old nephew in high school who likes zombies and is interested in theater and musicals, but he really doesn't know what he wants to be when he grows up. I also have a 20-year-old nephew in college who wants to be a zoo biologist. I am looking for suggestions, wanting to spend no more than $25 each. –Cindy


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