What We're Reading
by Diane Rios, September 10, 2009 1:00 PM
Welcome to the perfectly new and merveilleux
blog about the Powell's City of Books French aisle. The Red Room
is home to a whole world of foreign-language books located on the deuxieme étage
Allow me to introduce you to an entire bookstore within a bookstore in French located in aisles 817 and 818. We have hundreds and hundreds of beautiful French books from leather-bound tomes of the 1800s to slim 1970s paperbacks. You'll find a 1950s book by Simone de Beauvoir called Lettres à Sartre (Letters to Sartre) near an early '60s paperback called Balzac, Lui-Même (Balzac, Himself), as well as many of the best 2009 releases in fiction, history, grammar, and French audio. And let's not forget the latest band-dessinées, or graphic novels! Allons-y!
For this debut post, I would love to show you a cross-section of my personal faves, starting in literature. Feast your eyes on this DARLING five-volume set of Joseph Balsamo by Alexandre Dumas. Published in 1924 these sweet little volumes from Collection Nelson Editeur are tiny treasures each with its own beautifully illustrated cover. They have seen some wear and so are protected with mylar, but the pages are in decent shape and the set looks beautiful on the shelf.
Here is another old treasure, just put on the shelf yesterday. Derniers Essais de Literature et d'Esthetique by Oscar Wilde.
This is a leather-bound book published by Librairie Stock in 1913. The book is worn, but elegant with its softly sueded leather spine and curious purple block patterned boards. Very cool! Chouette! As a supplement to your Oscar Wilde collection we also have a nifty 1960s paperback edition of Madam Oscar Wilde.
Next up, let's turn to one of my favorite sections: childen's books.
Of course, here you'll find copies of classics like Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon) and Le Petit Prince, but did you know we also have Hortend Entend Un Zou! (Horton Hears a Who!), as well as Les Oeufs Verts Au Jambon (Green Eggs and Ham). We also have beautiful vintage children's French books such as this 1930s copy of Toutou Et Autres Bêtes. Très adorable, non?
Young-adult fiction is a growing market, even in the French aisle. You'll learn some pretty fun vocabulary in these books. I found that the word for "wand" in French is baguette magique!
Another of my favorite subsections is Miscellaneous Nonfiction which can mean almost anything under the sun. I'm always finding unexpected treasures in this section like Les Mains Parlent (The Hands Speak) — an early 1960s paperback on reading palms.
Today I found this beautiful book Le Livre de la Vierge (The Book of the Virgin) which was published in 1961 by Arts et Métiers Graphiques in Paris. It's a wonderful collection of 91 full-color prints of absolutely beautiful religious paintings accompanied by 77 poems from the 12th to 20th century. And dig that crazy cover. Love the red tear drop!
You might not have known that you needed a book about arms and armors, but you do now. Check out this cool book Armes et Armures by Vesey Norman. A 1964 hardback edition from Hachette, it has great black and white photos of suits of armor and very neat illustrated end papers.
I was intrigued by this pair of mineralogy books. First Belles Roches Beaux Cristaux (Beautiful Rocks, Beautiful Crystals) by M. Deribere, published in 1956, and then Le Monde Merveilleux Des Pierres Précieuses a l'État Natural (The Marvelous World of Precious Stones in their Natural State) by Pierre Bariand, published in 1979. Even though I'm no crystal expert, the large photos and interesting mid-century design, not to mention the information about rocks en Français, wins me over.
Now, we must jump to poetry because today I discovered two very mod hipster books from the Poètes d'Aujourd'hui series published by Pierre Seghers Editeur. These 1960s paperbacks have a cool, square design and great photos.
Number 82 is about the Senegalese poet Leopold Sedar Senghor who was the first African to sit on the Académie Française. He was also a professor, a senator, a mayor, and the co-creator of the fifth republic's constitution!
The next is about Aimé Césair, a Carribean writer who founded the literary review Tropiques and worked throughout his life against colonialism.
Moving along to art, I want to show off this fantastique 1954 copy of Folies Bergère by Paul Derval. This is a delightful paperback with its beautiful colorful cover. The large pages are of soft paper and are mounted with black and white photos of the legendary club and its star performers such as Josephine Baker and Maurice Chevalier. Holding this book is like holding history, with the essence of the era still seeped into the paper!
All of the beautiful, out-of-print used books at Powell's are like time capsules. From the paper that was used at the time, to the style of illustrations or photos, the typeface of the time, and the binding, all are completely unique and cannot be recreated. I find the used French books to be especially fascinating because a lot of them came from the farawa
What We're Reading
by Billie Bloebaum, August 21, 2009 1:10 PM
There's something you should know about me: I don't like baseball. Which, I realize, makes me downright un-American. However, since Jill Shalvis's Double Play
has baseball at its core, this fact was important for you to know. (And, please, don't try to convert me. I've tried to like baseball, but there just isn't enough beer in Portland for me to find it interesting.)
Pace Martin is a pitcher for the Pacific Heat, an expansion team based in Santa Barbara. He is only one of several absurdly good-looking players on the team. (Honestly, it's a whole team of hunkaliciousness, which just doesn't seem possible.) Holly Hutchins is a reporter working on a series of stories about the team. She, naturally, is a hottie who is unaware of her own hotness. Pace is fighting an injury that he's trying desperately to hide, which may actually be making said injury worse. Holly is relationship-shy after her last piece of investigative journalism ended up bringing down the guy she was dating. There's a doping scandal, some cute kids from a bad neighborhood whom Pace is mentoring, information leaks that get laid at Holly's feet, etc. There are, on the surface, a lot of clichés, and I wouldn't have picked up this book if I hadn't had a really wonderful experience with one of the author's previous books, Instant Attraction.
But, somehow, in the reading, it doesn't really come across as cliché. The villain? Not really very villain-y. The cute kids? Not always so cute. The misunderstandings? Well, this is where I think Shalvis really shines. She doesn't let any of these bumps in the road turn into roadblocks, because her hero and heroine actually talk to each other and work through things like grown-ups. And then, of course, they have hot, steamy make-up sex. But, they talk to each other. Like people do in the real world. Which doesn't always happen in novels, because where's the drama and angst in that?
Double Play even kind of made me want to go to a baseball game. But, I'll still need a lot of
What We're Reading
by Kyle, June 5, 2009 2:13 PM
Chuck ? unleashed! Downtown Owl
thrives on Klosterman's familiar brew of sharp commentary, pop culture references, and endlessly entertaining digressions into the inane and bizarre... served here in his predictably funny (but perhaps surprisingly sweet) fictional debut. Of course it all takes place in the author's native North Dakota, in the eighties, among characters who, for example, cite Black and Blue
and Goat's Head Soup
as the Rolling Stones' best albums. Fans will not be disappointed
What We're Reading
by Alexis, April 4, 2008 12:53 PM
A little-known fact about Powell's employees is that we are super crafty. In fact, we're just as crafty as we are sexy
(thank you very much, Portland Mercury
readers). To celebrate, Tracey (one of our craftiest) suggested that we put our wares on display (or, at least, pictures of our wares), along with the books that inspired or guided them. So, that's just what we did.
I say "we," but in fact, I am not very crafty myself. I am what you might call an enabler of craftiness, mostly within my family. I regularly send my mom fabric and yarn that I find at thrift stores in the hopes that she will knit or sew something for me (never fails). I email her links to wool felting sites, and to pictures of fancy pillows that "would be so easy to make with a sewing machine" (which I don't have). Now that I'm nine months pregnant, I drop hints for things like homespun diaper stackers and housecoats, handmade plush toys, and tiny T-shirts that say cute but relevant things like "Save the Bees."
Thanks to Tracey's brilliant idea, I'm now getting paid for my enabling. As the In-Store Merchandising and Promotions Coordinator, my job was to solicit projects from staff and encourage them to show off. As I organized the display I was introduced to more amazing craft books than I ever knew existed. Seeing my coworkers' projects made me want to buy every one of the books that inspired them ? and not just to send to my mom ? I might even see if my newly arrived nesting instinct can be put to some crafty purpose.
One of the most intriguing books to me was Second-Time Cool: The Art of Chopping Up a Sweater. Maybe it's the recycler in me, or maybe I watched Pretty In Pink one too many times as an impressionable girl, but I never get rid of nice clothes ? even if they don't fit or they're seemingly ruined. I always want to do something (or find someone else to do something) with them. So, what to do with a shrunken sweater? Tracey made some really sexy wrist cuffs.
She had this to say about the project: "I live near The Bins so I have plenty of sweater chopping up opportunities. The wrist warmers were cut from a machine felted sweater and the ends were crocheted. The crocheting process stretched the material a bit to make the ruffly look. I wear them inside all winter at my glass topped computer desk." The book also has ideas for purses, hats, scarves and other cute accessories.
Lori, one of the store's Assistant Managers, works with metals, stones and beads to make jewelry. She used The Art of French Beaded Flowers to design flowered brooches.
"Everything old is new again," she says of her attraction to the beaded flowers. "The examples in this book are traditional flower types. I used the techniques to make my own designs. The finished flowers make great brooches, especially for knitted hats."
Sarah S. makes her own plush toys inspired by Plush You: Lovable Misfit Toys to Sew & Stuff.
She notes that the book doesn't feature instructions or patterns, but for the adventurous crafter, all you need is inspiration. "The artists featured in this book have creativity dripping all over them and it was impossible not to feel the need to make my own plushies after thumbing through the pages of their labor and love." There are tons of cute plush toy books out there. Margy's mom made her an adorable doll from Sock and Glove: Creating Charming Softy Friends from Cast-Off Socks and Gloves.
The pictures really are entertaining, much like the plush "characters" in the Aronzi Aronzo books.
Amy W. made a tea cozy from Bend-The-Rules Sewing: The Essential Guide to a Whole New Way to Sew.
She's a big fan of author Amy Karol's blog Angry Chicken, and waited months for her book to come out. She wasn't disappointed. "All the directions are written like she is sitting across the sewing machine from you, talking your way through the projects, telling you not to worry about the crazy 'straight' line you just sewed." The embroidery on the tea cozy came from another favorite book of hers, Sublime Stitching: Hundreds of Hip Embroidery Patterns and How-To.
Amanda made her own furniture from salvaged items and the instructions in ReadyMade: How to Make [Almost] Everything: A Do-It-Yourself Primer.
Amber and Jonathan started their own screenprinted underwear business using (among others) Simple Screenprinting: Basic Techniques & Creative Projects.
What We're Reading
by Beth, March 14, 2008 3:02 PM
It is not unusual for me to see peregrine falcons on my morning commute. On my evening commute I can bet on seeing a sharp-shinned hawk perched on a light post. It wasn't until I read The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature
that I realized how incredibly wonderful that is. In the book, Jonathan Rosen muses about how we take the birds for granted. As he puts it, if buffalo migrated through Central Park every year, New Yorkers would be crowded around to watch, but a flock of little South American canaries... eh, who cares?
The subtitle of the book, Birding at the End of Nature, has an ominous ring to it, but the book is hopeful. Watching birds can be something more than a pleasurable pastime. It is part of our American heritage and a way to connect with the rhythms of the earth. After reading the book I find myself watching the skies over Portland more than ever.
Thinking about the wild creatures in our city made me pick up my copy of Wild in the City: Guide to Portland's Natural Areas again. I reread the part about the peregrine falcons on the Fremont Bridge. I made plans to check out the water fowl at Beggar's Tick and I look forward to hanging out on Powell Butte in the summer. The book is a treasure chest of day trips, all accessible by car, bike, or TriMet.
We have lots of books to help us appreciate the wealth of nature around us. One of my favorites is Portland Birds: An Introduction to Familiar Species, which has 12 laminated panels depicting city birds. The one thing this book lacks is a checklist for keeping track of what birds you've seen. Luckily the field guide Birds of Oregon has that part covered. The book is small and will fit easily in a pocket. Each page is a full-color picture of an Oregon bird. And it is fun to keep track of which ones you've seen. I'm not saying that anyone should get all crazy and competitive about bird watching ? not like these guys do ? however, that little checkmark might remind you of the day you saw the osprey on Sauvie Island
What We're Reading
by Chris Faatz, March 11, 2008 2:27 PM
The literary community suffered a great loss in late December with the death of Alexander "Sandy" Taylor, poet, publisher, and fierce proponent of the written word in the service of humanity. Sandy, co-founder of Curbstone Press, one of the nation's leading independent publishers, was a gifted visionary, a warm and unassuming man who dedicated his life to the written word.
As co-publisher at Curbstone, Sandy brought to the attention of North American readers the likes of Roque Dalton, Leonel Rugama, Daisy Zamora, Ernesto Cardenal, and other great poets and novelists of Central and South America. He discovered the gifted U.S. poets Luis Rodriguez and Martin Espada, and went on to pioneer the publishing of Vietnamese literature in this country ? a veritable conversation between two once-warring cultures.
Sandy was a great poet, too, although that was a role that he remained very quiet about. He was published throughout Europe, and his last book in this country, Dreaming at the Gates of Fury, was published by Azul Editions, a New England-based publisher of politically conscious literature.
Sandy is survived by his partner and co-publisher Judith Doyle, and a world of readers who were introduced to the idea that literature could simultaneously be excellent and politically aware through his work. He will be missed.
(For more information on Sandy Taylor, his life, and work, visit Curbstone.org).
÷ ÷ ÷
Speaking of breathtakingly high quality political literature, celebrate with me the re-publication of Sonia Sanchez's American Book Award-winning Homegirls and Handgrenades by White Pine Press. This is a great, strong, heroic book, simply yet elegantly presented. These poems deal with drugs and violence, with hope and failure. They're by turn angry and tender, and love ? both for the lover and for a greater good ? informs the whole. Sanchez has had a long and illustrious career, and this early book, first published by Thunder's Mouth Press in 1984, simply burnishes her crown.
Frankly, I'm not sure how to categorize this book, and maybe that's okay, because often the best poetry is, simply, uncategorizable. Some of the poems are haikus, some relatively traditional free verse, and some are long almost-stories (like the phenomenal "Just Don't Never Give Up on Love"). But, here, you try it:
A Poem for Jesse
your face like
gets caught in my voice
and i draw you up from
taste your face of a
see you smile
a new season
hear your voice
a wild sea pausing in the wind
÷ ÷ ÷
Okay, I'm too excited about this book to sit still until May!
Tim Winton, Australian author extraordinaire, has a new novel coming out, and I've been privileged to read an advance proof. Breath, soon to be published in hardcover by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, is simply phenomenal. I couldn't put it down.
It's the coming-of-age story of a young boy who gets initiated into the cutting edge of Australia's surfing culture. The description of scenery is luxurious, the states of mind this boy goes through are right on, and the scenes on the ocean are beyond thrilling! This is a book to savor and luxuriate in; it's damned near perfect.
There. You heard it here
What We're Reading
by Beth, February 1, 2008 5:43 PM
Matt Damon is in my head and he won't leave. I am finally reading The Bourne Identity
and I picture Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. I know what you are thinking: "Oh! How horrible! Don't movies just ruin books?!" But I don't feel that way. I loved the Bourne movies
so I am happy to see Matt's dimples in my mind's eye.
I felt more strongly about the movie version of Michael Cunningham's The Hours. I liked it so much more than the book! It wasn't just the high-powered talent; the medium of film made the story immediate and intense in a way that the page just couldn't match.
What's not to love about the film versions of Lord of the Rings? Ok, I miss Tom Bombadil, too, but how long did you want the movies to be? Something had to go.
Is there anything left in the Jane Austen (seen here as a lovely action figure with removable quill!) oeuvre that has not been made into a movie? Some are better than others ? like the novels, really. Emma Thompson will always be Miss Dashwood of Sense and Sensibility.
I waited years before I watched the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird. I like to read the book every few years and I did not want Gregory Peck in my head! I shouldn't have worried because he is a wonderful Atticus.
On the other hand, is there anything redeeming about the movie version of A Series of Unfortunate Events? Ok, you either love Jim Carrey or you don't. I'm in the first camp, but even he couldn't save the movie. I worry that The Spiderwick Chronicles movie will be as bad as the Lemony Snicket... Just a few more days and we'll know for
What We're Reading
by Alexis, January 11, 2008 4:15 PM
The beginning of a new year at a bookstore can be a little dull. New books are always coming out, of course, but almost all the awards have been doled out, every media outlet in the world has put out its list of The Best Books of the Previous Year, and many readers, exhausted by the holidays, simply content themselves with whatever book-to-movie adaptation is up for a Golden Globe.
The biggest problem for me is that I'm not usually attracted to books that receive a lot of industry or media buzz. Maybe it's a desire to associate with underdogs (I never was a popular kid), but I just can't bear to cast my attention on those already glutted with it. So the books that do make it swiftly onto the public radar in the New Year are not generally the kinds of books that I want to read. Which means I have to do my best Nancy Drew and puzzle out who is publishing what, when, and with which publisher. This year I'm taking a proactive approach. I'm already counting down the days and begging for review copies.
First on my list is Samantha Hunt's The Invention of Everything Else, coming in February. Hunt is a visual artist as well as a writer, which is apparent in the highly evocative imagery of her books. Her first novel, The Seas, was one of my favorite novels of 2004. The Invention of Everything Else is about Nikola Tesla, one of the most eccentric, brilliant men of the 20th Century. Samantha Hunt will be reading at the City of Books on February 12, so if you don't already know of her, this would be a good time to acquaint yourself.
Also arriving in February, is Lauren Groff's debut novel, The Monsters of Templeton. It begins, "The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass." I just received the Advance Reading Copy today and I had to hide it away in my desk to keep from sitting here reading all day. There is a pleasant, old-fashioned feel to the narration (though it takes place in the present), a yarn befitting, I hope, the rise of a lake monster in the first sentence.
Claire Keegan's second book will be available in the U.S. in May. Walk the Blue Fields (read the Guardian's review here) promises to deliver a more polished, riveting collection than her first, Antarctica. Her style is hard to describe, though there's a little Flannery O'Connor in there, and perhaps some of the slightly altered reality found in Jean Rhys's stories.
Also coming over from the U.K. is the next in the Canongate Myths series, retellings of world myths by contemporary writers. Salley Vickers is taking on both Oedipus and Freud in Where Three Roads Meet. Though I've only read the Margaret Atwood and Jeanette Winterson contributions to the series, both were lovely and the series itself seems to attract great writers. I wrote many a psychoanalysis of literature in my undergrad days, so I'm looking forward to Vickers's Oedipal take on Freud. Alas, I'll be waiting until August.
While I'm waiting, I'm going to spend my time with some small presses. Paul Fattaruso's second book is coming out from Hotel St. George Press this spring. His first book was a short, uncanny existentialist novel of polar exploration and dinosaur DNA. Joshua Marie Wilkinson has a chapbook forthcoming from Pilot Books. And Danielle Dutton, author of Attempts at a Life, has a new book, S P R A W L, coming from Clear Cut Press in February. (If you've never visited the Small Press aisles at Powell's City of Books, I strongly suggest that you put it on your To Do List. The small press movement is thriving, publishing some of the most stylistically daring, not to mention aesthetically pleasing, books in the country today.)
It's worth mentioning that some of my favorites from last year will be out in paperback soon. Margaret Atwood's Moral Disorder will be out in February. Kiara Brinkman's Up High in the Trees is coming in June. (Vendela Vida's Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name came out this
What We're Reading
by Beth, December 14, 2007 5:39 PM
I love Powell's book carts. I love the books they carry from place to place and I love the stickers and sayings that cover them. One of the pleasures of shopping at the downtown store is checking out the stickers on the carts.
The City of Books has a dedicated team of people whose only job is gathering up the stray books and getting them back on the right shelf. I bet on a normal day, they probably go through hundreds of books. I enjoy checking out the books on those carts before they get sorted. You never know what you are going to find.
The other day on a cart I found a couple of books I love, books I've been meaning to read and books I'd forgotten existed. On one cart I saw The Omnivore's Dilemma, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, and Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti. This time last year I was pestering everyone to read Omnivore's Dilemma. Michael Pollan has gotten some heat for the book, but I found it compulsively readable and, yes, it changed the way I eat.
I've been meaning to read World War Z since it first came out. Zombies are not normally my bag, but The Zombie Survival Guide was so much fun that I have to read this follow-up. I've been warned that it's more "horror" than "humor" but that's OK with me. I'm thinking zombies are a perfect antidote to Christmas.
Maya Deren, the woman who wrote Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, was an amazing experimental filmmaker in the early '50s. She went to Haiti and became fascinated by Voudoun. She made no claims as a scholar and came to the subject with her artist's eye. I read the book years ago and had forgotten how good it was.
There were a few other favorites on the cart that I have to share with you!
If I were stuck on an island and had this cart of books with me, I think I'd be OK to stay for a few
What We're Reading
by Beth, November 2, 2007 4:13 PM
I read Lord of the Rings
when I was eleven. I'm not saying I understood it all and it took me over a year to read the whole thing. But, starting then, I was hooked on fantasy. It seems to make sense to go from reading
fantasy to being a part of the story by playing the Dungeons and Dragons game. It is a game, but it's a creative, collaborative game that feels more like shared storytelling.
If you've shied away from D&D, I've got a couple of books for you.
If you like games, fantasy novels, and Sex in the City, check out Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress: A Girl's Guide to the Dungeons and Dragons Game by Shelly Mazzanoble. The title says it all. Mazzanoble takes the terror out of 20-sided dice. The book is fun and low-key, wise and witty.
Another beginners' book you can't go wrong with: Dungeons and Dragons for Dummies. (I love Dummies books. There is a Dummies book for every aspect of your life. They are much better than Idiot's Guides ? at least in my opinion.) This Dummies guide is great if you want to understand what your kid or boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse is getting into. It will give you a good understanding of the game and maybe crack some of the stereotypes.
Coming up tomorrow ? Saturday, Nov. 3 ? local game-store Guardian Games will host a day of D&D. The event is designed for people who are interested in the game but have never played. All you need is a sense of adventure, and Angel and the folks at Guardian Games will provide the rest.
If, like me, you've always been more of a board game person, check out D&D Miniatures. The War Drums Starter Set will get you and a friend going. Imagine Risk combined with Chess combined with D&D: That's playing with minis.
If I haven't convinced you to get off the couch and to the gaming table, here are three novels to inspire you. Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman will start you on an epic journey, and The Icewind Dale Trilogy by R. A. Salvatore introduces the coolest dark elf ever: Drizzt. You didn't think I could talk about fantasy books without mentioning my beloved George R. R. Martin, did you? If, after all this time you still haven't read A Game of Thrones, now is your