by Niki Kapsambelis, February 24, 2017 10:32 AM
When I first began researching my book, The Inheritance
, a doctor told me that the human brain is the final frontier of science and medicine: that collectively, we know more about the outer reaches of the universe than the inner workings of the three pounds of gray matter huddled inside our skulls.
The longer I spent working on this book, the more I came to realize the truth in his words. For thousands of years, likely as long as human beings have walked the earth, Alzheimer’s disease has been quietly ravaging our brains — and for most of that time, we’ve been looking outward, and missing the point...
by Damion Searls, February 20, 2017 10:31 AM
Photo credit: Paul Barbera
You’ve probably heard of the Rorschach, seen some striking inkblots on billboards or TV, and read stories calling just about anything under the sun “a Rorschach test”: with no right or wrong answers, no true or false, your reaction mattering more than the thing itself. If you’re like I was, you assumed the Rorschach was in the dustbin of ham-fisted midcentury psychology, along with truth serum and Woody Allen’s psychoanalysts. I certainly didn’t know where the test comes from, that it really works, and that it is still widely used today....
by Jim Shepard, February 17, 2017 9:07 AM
Photo credit: Barry Goldstein
Describe your latest book.
My latest book is yet another collection of short stories — since what better way can we imagine to enact social change in the current United States? — entitled The World to Come
. And once again I’m all over the place in terms of worlds, and voices, from 19th-century English explorers on one of the Arctic’s most nightmarish expeditions to 20th-century American military wives maintaining hope at home while their husbands man precarious radar stations in spectacularly treacherous waters, to 18th-century French balloonists inventing manned flight. There are also, among others, two frontier housewives who forge a once-in-a-lifetime connection despite and because of their isolation; a father and son who, during a cataclysmic volcanic eruption, sprint for home, knowing they’ll never make it; and three women in Queensland in the late 19th century who find themselves facing one of the largest cyclones in Australia’s history....
by George Saunders, February 13, 2017 11:33 AM
Photo credit: Chloe Aftel
Lincoln in the Bardo
is set in a graveyard on a single night in February 1862. Years ago I heard the story: Lincoln was supposedly so grief-stricken at the death of his 11-year-old son, Willie, that he went to the graveyard and, per the newspapers of the time, held the body.
I heard about this in around 1992 but could never figure out how to start. Then one day I was driving through the Berkshires and listening to Philip Glass
— I think it was his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
— and an image flashed into my mind of the graveyard, arranged as a theater set. So this was both good and bad — it gave me a push forward, but it gave me a push forward into writing a play, which I did for the next seven years or so, off and on, but which never really worked. But it’s funny how sometimes a piece of music just conveys something — a tone or stance or mindset. That was the case here...
by Jill Owens, February 6, 2017 3:14 PM
Photo credit: Chloe Aftel
George Saunders might be one of the most beloved authors writing today amongst booksellers — both for his fantastic, incisive, frequently hilarious, sharp-edged stories, and because the man himself is famous for being a ridiculously nice person. So the news that he was writing his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo
, was greeted with incredible excitement. And the novel is just as good, if not even better, than we all hoped it would be. The story of Lincoln grieving the death of his son, told in a chorus of voices from the Bardo (a kind of limbo), historical reports, and Lincoln himself, Lincoln in the Bardo
is a formally inventive, brilliant work on grief, loss, empathy, and meaning...
by Jason Rekulak, February 2, 2017 12:15 PM
Photo credit: Courtney Apple
Or, How Poets and Novelists Became Video Game Superstars
One day in 1984, my father and I were walking through a Kmart, and we stopped to look at the video games. At the time, Kmart carried all the arcade hits that a 13-year-old boy might want — Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Asteroids — but the salesman at the counter asked if we’d seen Ray Bradbury’s new game.
“Ray Bradbury, the author?” my father asked. “He made a video game?”
“Not just any video game,” the salesman said. “It’s a sequel to Fahrenheit 451! One of the great masterpieces of science fiction!”
The salesman directed our attention to a computer monitor and there it was, the title of one of my favorite books rendered in clunky 8-bit graphics...
by Powell's Staff, February 1, 2017 2:11 PM
No movement in recent history has exposed persistent civil rights violations the way Black Lives Matter has. In the words of its founders, “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.” At its core, “The Black Lives Matter Network advocates for dignity, justice, and respect.” These basic human rights are always worth fighting for, and now more than ever, it’s important to stay informed.
A number of noteworthy books have come out in the past few years that provide context on Black Lives Matter for anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of the movement. We’ve put together a list of recommendations made up of recent releases, along with a selection of relevant older titles that still command attention. As the movement continues to evolve over the coming years...
by Michael and Sarah Bennett, January 30, 2017 11:48 AM
Michael I. Bennett photo credit: Suzanne Camarata / Sarah Bennett photo credit: Mona Bennett
Obviously, ours is a close-knit family with many of the typical trappings of a tight clan, along with some atypical ones, like a father-daughter professional partnership that recently produced a book of unsentimental relationship advice called F*ck Love
. It's not that we have daily gab sessions about our relationship problems — if anything, our whole family has more respect for boundaries than most and are as interested in sharing secrets as we are in sharing a bathroom — but sharing a sense of humor and set of basic values always makes it easier to discuss big issues without taking anything personally or too seriously, whether you're related or not...
Portrait of a Bookseller
by Powell's Books, January 27, 2017 2:27 PM
How would you describe your job?
I work in customer service with a focus on school, library, and corporate sales. I also schedule author visits to schools in the Portland and Beaverton area.
Where are you originally from?
Singapore — and I’m still a proud citizen.
What did you do before you came to Powell’s?
I worked at Books, Inc. in Palo Alto, California, until I realized I couldn’t take another perfect cloudless sunny day anymore.
What is the best part of your job?
Helping teachers get as much as possible out of their tight budgets and making it as painless as possible...
by Carrie Jenkins, January 26, 2017 1:45 PM
Photo credit: Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
I was raised in the '80s by a feminist. When I was a young child, Mum and my little brother and I often drove long distances together. Driving late into the night, we played our favorite songs over and over on the wonky little tape player at the front of our split-screen VW camper van
. I loved to sing along.
Sometimes as we drove, Mum would talk to me about the songs, pointing out the messages they were sending, explaining why some of those messages weren’t OK. She got me thinking about why
Charlene is so keen to persuade a “discontented mother and a regimented wife” not to run away and explore what else life might have to offer. (And what, for that matter, she might mean by “things that a woman ain’t supposed to see.”) She made me wonder why Eric Clapton thinks...