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Archive for the 'Book News' Category

The Paying Guests

I could not put down this tender, haunting, harrowing novel — I read it by campfire light, I read it walking down the street, I read it in bed till my eyes wouldn't stay open. Waters creates a world with her precise observation of atmosphere, emotion, and gesture; her characters live. The Paying Guests is taut with the kind of romance that makes you miss being a teenager and a Gothic suspense that will make the shadows in your room pulse with something sinister. A thrilling, total experience.

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

Sam and Dave decide to dig a hole to find something. Problem is, they're great hole diggers — just not very good finders. In the hands of the subtly brilliant Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole is surprising, hilarious, and beautifully deadpan.

Going Backward

I've always had trouble understanding the structures of things. Cars, houses, cakes, novels. Detailed instructions have provided little assistance. When my first son turned two, I tried to assemble a Donald Duck scooter. The job consisted of snapping axle locks and wheels to Donald's feet and wings — locks on the inside, wheels on the outside. I got three of them right and then snapped a rear lock outside its corresponding wheel. I only realized the mistake after my son was rolling across the floor. Seeing that it wasn't a sophisticated vehicle, the misplaced part caused no loss of function. But it looked odd, like Donald had suffered a compound fracture to his leg.

I've written two novels in the years since, and I confess they both have that Donald Duck, splayed-leg construction to them. The first novel started as a collection of stories that I had hoped would work together as a whole. I didn't quite get it there, and the advice I received was to rewrite the stories as a novel.

I had no idea how to do this. I did read and enjoy novels, but I'd ...

Unusual Creatures: See It to Believe It!

Bored at work? Watch these videos. Maybe just turn down your volume a touch. There are certain things described in my book, Unusual Creatures, which you simply must see to believe. Here are a few of my favorites. Oh, and the last link is an audio clip. Needless to say, you will need to turn your volume up for that one.

The Jesus Christ lizard and its amazing ability to run on water.

The mimic octopus altering its shape, color, and even behavior to impersonate other creatures.

The amazingly disgusting amount of slime that a hagfish can make in just a few minutes.

The tardigrade, and how this microscopic creature is the toughest animal on the planet.

The anglerfish and its most-peculiar mating behavior.

A slow loris getting tickled. (Note: In no way do I promote owning a slow loris as a pet. But this, my friends, is very cute.)

The blue-footed booby and its fancy dance.

Super-rare footage of a long-eared jerboa.

A sea pig doing its thing.

The incredible ...

On Advice Given to Writers

When you are a young writer, or an unproven writer, you receive a great deal of well-meaning advice from people who don't write and can't understand why you persist at it. Some of the advice is helpful — most of it, probably, is helpful: keep at it; don't give up, being the most common and broadly supportive. It costs the person nursing the sobbing, recently rejected writer very little in the way of insight or effort to urge them to "keep at it," and the effect is disproportionately useful.

If truth be told, when it comes to the crunch, a writer keeps at it and a non-writer gives up. There's not as much moral courage as we would like to think about the tenacity and immortal optimism of writers, just the compulsion to do it that, following a disappointment and after a period of mourning lasting anything from hours to years, will come to the fore. The writer will keep writing, and simply "keeping at it" will almost certainly improve both their work and their odds of success.

Before my first book, The Outcast, was ...

Out of Print, into My Heart

One of the things I miss most about working at Powell's (besides working with the funniest, smartest, quirkiest folks you'll ever meet) is finding random, old children's books on our daily carts of recently acquired used books. Some of these books I remembered from my childhood, others were new to me, if not to the world. Here are some of my favorite discoveries from my eight years as a bookseller.

  1. Plants That Never Ever Bloom by Ruth Heller
    Some of Heller's gorgeous nature-themed books are still in print, but not this one. The rhyming text is simple enough for my three-year-old son, but delivers plenty of facts.

    In proper scientific terms all of these are GYM-NO-SPERMS.

  2. Where Have You Been? by Margaret Wise Brown with pictures by Barbara Cooney
    There are favorites and there are favorites. Margaret Wise Brown occupies a superlative category all her own. Her ingenuity attracted some of the best illustrators of her day, including Cooney (known best for her own classic, Miss Rumphius).

    Little Old Rook/ Little Old Rook/ Where do you look?/ At the


Pomegranate Tequila

I was awakened this morning by singing sea lions. You don't hear many of those in Chicago , but I'm out here on book tour riding Queen of America like a tiny magic carpet.

My wife and I used to joke that the best way to deal with family and your home town was to maintain a 1,000-mile buffer zone. But what you're really staying away from is the poverty and the struggle of the old days. And now, I am here with this fat novel that depends so heavily on my family's history.

It's amazing to find that words I give to strangers are little objects of gold that my relatives clutch dear to their hearts. After a few full days of appearances, we sat together tonight in a kitchen near the border and I found out to my shock that this strange writing life of mine means something profound to these people I have loved sometimes from so far away.

They had made bottles of pomegranate tequila. Blanca, who turns 75 this week, said "This is fruit I planted, I raised, ...

Come Celebrate Sandtuary

If you happen to visit Newport, Oregon on March 18, I want to invite you to a very cool hard-core Oregon event. That evening, my journalism class at Newport High School will launch Sandtuary, a special edition of the school's news magazine, the Harbor Light, documenting and celebrating the state's unique legacy of publicly owned beaches. I hope you can join us for a special evening of music and spoken word jams that begins at 7:00 p.m. After the student performances, Lincoln City surf rock band Retroactive Gamma Rays will tear into action and keep the party going. After that, you can head down to the beach and run wild until dawn.

This 32-page publication coincides with the release of a new curriculum about Tom McCall, the legendary two-term Oregon Governor who in 1967 signed the famous Beach Bill into law protecting the dry sand areas of the ocean beaches from privatization. This revolutionary piece of legislation reaffirmed the state's sacrosanct notion of publicly owned beaches first initiated by Governor Oswald West.

West was governor in 1912 when he rode his horse from Cannon Beach over Arch ...

Friday Book News: New Eugenides, Eugene Mirman Mocks Wesley Stace, and More

  • And The Masses Rejoice: Rumor has it that there is a new book on the way from Jeffrey Eugenides. Perfectly timed, as the past eight years were just long enough to fully digest Middlesex. So, what's it about? We don't know! Everyone's being a little close-mouthed about it. Book Page investigated the mystery:

    Here's what we know about the book so far: In July, Jonathan Galassi interviewed Eugenides on FSG's Work in Progress blog, and at that point the author refused to divulge the title. Here's what he would say as far as plot description — although at the time the novel was not finished:

    I don't quite know how to describe it. A college love story? Maybe. It begins on graduation day, in 1982, and involves three main characters. The sweep of the action takes place over the next year or so, as the characters begin their lives outside the university gates. The book deals, among other things, with religion, depression, the Victorian novel, and Roland Barthes. I really don't like to talk


Tuesday Book News: Honoring a Beloved Author

Farewell to Redwall: Brian Jacques, beloved British author of the popular children's series, Redwall, passed away on February 5.

Millions of children the world over have reveled in the fantasy land created for them in the Redwall series, both in the books, and later in the animated series, based on three of the novels (Redwall, Mattimeo, and Martin the Warrior), which first aired in 1999.

Jacques was a long-time contributor to the BBC's Radio Merseyside, and the BBC pays tribute to one of their own:

A former merchant sailor whose children's books sold millions worldwide has died aged 71.

Brian Jacques' Redwall series of books were translated into 29 languages and sold 20m globally.

He first wrote the series, set in an abbey populated by animals, for children at the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind in Liverpool.

The Liverpool-born writer's weekly show, Jakestown, ran on BBC Radio Merseyside for more than 20 years.

Jacques was a talented author from an early age. At


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