Also published on this date: Wednesday, February 9, 2022: Maximum Shelf: Ordinary Monsters

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, February 9, 2022


Workman Publishing: What a Blast!: Fart Games, Fart Puzzles, Fart Pranks, and More Farts! by Julie Winterbottom, illustrated by Clau Souza

Berkley Books: Once Upon a December by Amy E. Reichert; Lucy on the Wild Side by Kerry Rea; Where We End & Begin by Jane Igharo

Kensington Publishing Corporation: The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman

St. Martin's Press: Wild: The Life of Peter Beard: Photographer, Adventurer, Lover by Graham Boynton

Bloomsbury Publishing: Girlhood by Melissa Febos

Park Row: The Two Lives of Sara by Catherine Adel West

Quotation of the Day

'Indie Booksellers Are the Most Generous, Passionate, Sincere People You'll Encounter'

"I would not be where I am as a writer were it not for the independent bookstores that stepped in to support me when even my own publishing house was still skeptical. My local, Three Lives & Company, was one of the first stores to be enthusiastic about A Little Life. It's because of it, and so many other stores like Three Lives, that that novel found the readers it did. Indie booksellers are the most generous, passionate, sincere people you'll encounter in the publishing industry. Thank you, booksellers: This is a real honor."

--Hanya Yanagihara, author of To Paradise: A Novel (Doubleday), January's #1 Indie Next List pick, in a q&a with Bookselling This Week

Beaming Books: Sarah Rising by Ty Chapman, illustrated by Deann Wiley


News

Ore.'s Browser's Bookstores: New Owner, One Store Closing

Browsers' Bookstore in Corvallis, Ore.

Browser's Bookstore, which sells new and used books, has a new owner and will close its Corvallis, Ore., location this month while keeping the store in Albany, Ore., open. 

Last year, owner and founder Scott Givens had said he would be shuttering both stores in February, but Browser's has since been sold to Abe Richmond, who has worked in the Albany store for the past six years. The Corvallis location will close permanently, while the Albany store is closing temporarily in March for remodeling, with a re-opening scheduled for April 3 at the latest. 

When Givens announced the closure, Richmond began searching for a new job, but Givens "hesitated over shutting both Browser's locations down, and one morning, Givens said to him, 'Well, you could take it over,' " the Daily Barometer reported. 

Although Richmond jokingly answered "sure," the interaction "launched a serious discussion on how this transfer could feasibly work. About four months from now, 'Volume 3' of Browser's Bookstore in Albany will open, under Richmond--the Corvallis and Albany locations under Givens's ownership are Volume 1 and Volume 2, respectively."

"Hopefully, some people will continue to support Browser's by showing up at the Albany store once in a while," Givens said. "[It's the] same vibe, different books." The two stores are about 12 miles apart.

Givens said Browser's might return to Corvallis with a new owner in the future, "but for now, Browser's will remain in Albany for financial reasons. Givens himself is staying in the area, and will continue selling rare books and big collections," the Daily Barometer wrote. 

Richmond plans to maintain Browser's niche with a little more variety regarding newer books, and welcome a wider audience as well as the current regulars that come to Browser's. One of Richmond's main goals with Browser's is to "make [literature] lit."


KidsBuzz for the Week of 05.16.22


Littlest Bookshop Opens in Tucson, Ariz.

Littlest Bookshop, a children's bookstore with an inclusive and diverse inventory, opened last month in Tucson, Ariz., KGUN9 reported. Co-owners and married couple Hypatia Luna and Jesse Adcock hosted the shop's grand opening on January 1 and have seen a steady stream of customers since.

"There's so much more representation," Luna said, "so I think all people, not just children, are able to see themselves in books and literature in a way that is pretty new."

Located at 5011 E 5th St. in Tucson, the shop features picture books, early reader, middle-grade and YA titles, along with nonbook items like greeting cards and jigsaw puzzles. The shop also features a model train that runs along the top of the bookshelves, circling the store. Adcock not only built the bookstore's shelves and assembled the train but also remodeled the space.

"I know for us we've gotten a lot of positive response just from our own Facebook and Instagram," Adcock told KGUN9. "And that's really getting people in here... that's certainly helping us drive our business."


Blackstone Publishing: Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard


International Update: U.K. Indie Publishers Call for Support, Canadian Bookseller Coping with Pandemic Restrictions

After highlighting recently the increasing concern among independent publishers in the U.K. regarding a sharp rise in printing costs of up to 40%, the Bookseller reported that in a "widely shared Twitter thread," publisher Dead Ink Books "called for consumers to support their favourite indies more directly by amplifying presses and encouraging readers to purchase books direct through publishers' websites, while also advocating the use of subscription-based services such as Patreon as well as the indie bookshop network."

Publishers "overwhelmingly stressed the importance of sales through bookshops and the symbiotic nature of publishers' relationship with independent retailers," the Bookseller noted. 

Sam Jordison, co-founder of Galley Beggar Press, said that while every sale through the website feels like a lifeline, "I do also want to stress, however, that we're also all the more grateful for every sale in bookshops at the moment too. One of the best ways to reduce print costs is to print at scale, and we would never be able to sell in sufficient quantity through our website alone. Direct sales and bookshop sales complement each other very well."

Stefan Tobler, co-founder of And Other Stories, added: "All sales are beneficial, but while our margin is indeed greater on direct sales, I think we value sales through bookshops even more, because we know the book is then noted by the book trade. And it's still the case that for our kind of book, books you can't fit into a sound bite, on occasion a passionate, charming bookseller in an individual shop can make a book move in a really dramatic way."

"If you want to support an indie press, consider going to your local bookshop and pre-ordering one of their forthcoming titles," Dead Ink's publishing director Nathan Connolly observed. "Pre-orders are usually used as an indicator of sales to come, so they can be really useful for getting the ball rolling on a new title and making retailers feel confident about its success. A lot of small businesses are struggling right now and buying from an independent bookshop is a great way of spreading your spending across more than one business that you want to support."

---

Canadian bookseller Ben Minett, owner of the Bookshelf in Guelph, Ont., spoke with the Ontarion about how his bookshop has coped with Covid-19 restrictions, noting that he feels lucky he has been able to operate parts of his business during the pandemic. The Bookshelf includes a bookstore, restaurant and cinema. Since opening in 1973, it has become a staple downtown spot for many in the Guelph community.

Minett said the bookstore portion of his establishment has carried the business through these challenging times, but running it has gotten progressively tougher the longer the pandemic lasts. Closing the cinema and restaurant again in January was frustrating, but he understands why it had to happen.

In order to continue promoting sales, the Bookshelf team has been diversifying their products as all of the staff contribute to the store's curation. "We have also tried our best to focus our titles on some of the ideas that are driving our current social reality," Minett said.

The Bookshelf offers free same-day delivery in Guelph, as well as curbside pick up, in an effort to be as accommodating as possible to customers. Minett said that although it was expensive for them to deliver in-stock items, they viewed the extra costs as the reality of doing business during the pandemic: "It has made it possible to compete with Amazon, who deprioritized books during the pandemic. Many customers [have] stated that we were faster than Amazon." 

Although the Bookshelf has utilized the Ontario Covid-19 small business support grant and the cost rebate program, Minett said more help is needed for those in the customer service industry: "We need to try our best on an individual, municipal, provincial and federal level to help."

As Canada enters year three of dealing with Covid-19, Minett feels that "the pandemic has taken away many of the things that inspire people and give them a sense of cultural connectivity," but he appreciates the community that continues to support  the bookshop and hopes this feeling of connectivity can be brought back to his store and to the Guelph community in the near future.

---

In a Daily Star piece headlined "What it's like to work at a bookshop," Shimin Mushsharat wrote about her experiences working in Baatighar in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

"It took me a good few weeks to believe that my job was to find books for readers of all tastes. The happy readers, the melancholic ones, the productive readers, and the indecisive ones. Young readers, grumpy readers, and scary readers. Each day, as I walked into the bookshop, I inhaled the smell of books--old and new. For the first time in 24 years, I felt a sense of belonging. Here, at a bookshop....

"So, from mastering the art of carrying as many books as my hands can hold, dealing with papercuts regularly, getting new releases delivered to my desk fresh off the press to having the occasional impromptu conversations with readers browsing the shelves, working at a bookstore has been the most gratifying experience I have ever had." --Robert Gray


Ace Books: The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore


Obituary Note: Richard King

Richard King

Richard King, the Montreal bookseller, author "and inveterate book booster," who "managed to bridge the gap between the 'ka-ching,' as he called the ring of the cash register, and the sheer magic of the written page," died January 2, the Globe & Mail reported. He was 76.

In the 1970s, he first worked for the now-defunct Classics Bookstores. In the early 1980s, "as Quebec's anglophone population was in upheaval following the first referendum on the province's sovereignty, he and a colleague took over the Mansfield Book Mart.... a store that would become a haven for English-language writers and readers alike, complete with a café that encouraged people to stay awhile. Renamed Librairie Paragraphe Books, it would become a landmark in downtown Montreal, both in its original location and in its far grander iteration on McGill College Avenue," the Globe & Mail wrote. King launched Books and Breakfast, the much-vaunted Sunday morning event during which authors speak about their books to an audience over brunch. 

"Richard was creative and a businessman all at once, a mensch and a man for others, in the Jesuit sense of the word, engaged in the world and always, always giving back," said long-time friend John Aylen.

Endre Farkas, a poet, editor and publisher who first met King in the late 1970s, recalled his friend getting the idea for an in-store café from his travels as a sales representative for Classics south of the border. "He saw bookstore cafés in Cleveland and somewhere in Texas and told himself, 'I have to do this. People who read books drink coffee. It creates an ambience.' "

For years, King was a book columnist for the local CBC English-language radio station. "He never criticized a book, per se," said Sue Smith, who until 2019 hosted the CBC afternoon show, then called Homerun. "He was a raconteur who loved to laugh, a man filled with infectious energy whose eyes lit up as he spoke, Really, they twinkled."

After selling Paragraphe in 2000, King remained a presence at the store until 2003, but he also started writing mysteries and helping others, including Holocaust survivors, tell their own life stories.


G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
The Two Lives of Sara
by Catherine Adel West

GLOW: Park Row: The Two Lives of Sara by Catherine Adel WestWhen Sara King arrives in Memphis in the 1960s, she's unmarried, pregnant and on the run from a harrowing past in Chicago. She finds respite at The Scarlet Poplar boarding house, where she'll help Mama Sugar cook mouthwatering Southern food and pursue a second chance for herself and her baby son. Laura Brown, senior editor at Park Row Books, recommends this to readers of Kaitlyn Greenidge's Libertie and Dawnie Walton's The Final Revival of Opal & Nev. "We're finally starting to see more historical fiction that doesn't center the white experience," Brown adds. Rich with research into segregation and the civil rights movement, this vibrant novel pairs a wrenching portrait of an unwed mother with a joyous celebration of African American culture in the South. --Rebecca Foster

(Park Row, $27.99 hardcover, 9780778333227, September 6, 2022)

CLICK TO ENTER


#ShelfGLOW
Shelf vetted, publisher supported

 


Notes

Cuddly Animal Challenge Triumphs Over Ice Sculpture Vandalism at Whistlestop Bookshop

It was an emotional Ice Fest weekend for Whistlestop Bookshop, Carlisle, Pa. On Friday, the bookstore posted a photo of its ice sculpture ("Hodge the Cat in place and on duty."), only to discover the next morning that vandals had destroyed the display: "About 16 hours after Hodge the Cat was installed for Ice Fest, you are looking at my final participation in the ice sculpture game. This is what I found this morning. It is not only $350 thrown away; it is the fun, the excitement, the pleasure Hodge gave to customers and pedestrians for two and a half days. All gone."

Whistlestop Bookshop posted an update Monday: "Thank you from the bottom of my bookselling heart for the great support over the weekend for Ice Fest and for the brutal and untimely demise of Hodge the Cat 2022. Harry Keim is calling for Hodge the Cat 2023 as a gesture of defiance in the face of hooliganism, but Mulan and I are still mourning. We'll see. That aside, the Carlisle Borough Police Department's sympathy (inspired by a post on this page) has created a little challenge for me. It was so busy and my customers are so circumspect that I was unable to give away the big stuffed animals they gave to me. I have four brown bears, a big white bear, a penguin, and an orca that I would love to give away or donate to a good cause. Soon. I have no room for them, and frankly the orca is making everyone nervous despite his big smile and blue eyes. I will keep and treasure the beautiful snow leopard someone put on the sidewalk chair on Saturday. Please, help me out. If you think Safe Harbor or any other worthy cause could use them, I beg your favor of transporting them hither. If a child you know would like one, please feel free! Let's find them good homes!" The Cuddly Animal Challenge was underway.

Yesterday the bookseller noted: "I am pleased to report that all bears, the penguin, and the orca have found good homes. Thank you to the original Idea Poster, the Borough of Carlisle Police Department, and the alert readers of this newsfeed. The snow leopard remains here and is being mentored by Mulan."


Costco Picks: The Betrayal of Anne Frank

Alex Kanenwisher, book buyer at Costco, has selected The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation by Rosemary Sullivan (‎Harper, $29.99, 9780062892355) as the pick for February. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, Kanenwisher writes:

"I can still remember the effect Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl had on me. So I am very excited to share this month's book buyer's pick, The Betrayal of Anne Frank by Rosemary Sullivan."

"As retired FBI agent Vincent Pankoke--with the help of a team of investigators--pored over countless documents to determine who turned in the Frank family, Sullivan was there capturing the story of their work and what they learned."


Personnel Changes at Macmillan

At Macmillan:

Veronica Gonzalez has been promoted to senior director, client services.

Natalia Becerra has joined the children's sales department as national accounts manager.

Colin Krainin has joined the trade sales team as assistant director, sales planning and analytics.

Chris Venkatesh has joined the trade sales e-book team as a national account manager, e-books.

Valerie Esposito has been promoted to senior client account manager.

Vanessa Martinez has been promoted to client account manager.

Kaitlyn Herbert has been promoted to assistant client account manager.

Brittany Greenway has joined the company as an indie sales representative.

Ansley Kent has joined the company as a sales associate.

Julia Metzger has joined the children's sales department as sales assistant, national accounts.



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Isaac Butler on Fresh Air

Today:
Fresh Air: Isaac Butler, author of The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act (Bloomsbury, $30, 9781635574777).

Tomorrow:
Good Morning America: Arthur C. Brooks, author of From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life (Portfolio, $27, 9780593191484).

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Kelsey Barnard Clark, author of Southern Grit: 100+ Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Cook (Chronicle Books, $29.95, 9781797205571).


Oscar Nominations by the Book

The Power of the Dog and Dune led the nominations for the 94th Academy Awards, which featured several movies based on books or with book connections. On March 27, the Oscars will be televised live on ABC and worldwide. Bookish standouts among the nominees include:

The Power of the Dog, based on the novel by Thomas Savage: Best picture; actor (Benedict Cumberbatch); supporting actor (Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee); supporting actress (Kirsten Dunst); adapted screenplay (Jane Campion); cinematography (Ari Wegner); editing (Joe Walker); music (original score); production design; sound; visual effects

Dune, based on the novel by Frank Herbert: Best picture; adapted screenplay (Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth); cinematography (Greig Fraser); editing (Peter Sciberras); costume design; makeup/hairstyling; music (original score); production design; sound; visual effects

Drive My Car, based on a short story by Haruki Murakami, from his collection Men Without Women: Best picture; director (Ryusuke Hamaguchi); best international feature film; adapted screenplay (Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe)

Nightmare Alley, based on the novel by William Lindsay Gresham: Best picture; cinematography (Dan Laustsen); costume design

The Lost Daughter, based on the novel by Elena Ferrante: Actress (Olivia Colman); supporting actress (Jessie Buckley); adapted screenplay (Maggie Gyllenhaal)

The Tragedy of Macbeth, based on William Shakespeare's play: Actor (Denzel Washington); cinematography (Bruno Delbonnel); production design

House of Gucci, based on the book by Sara Gay Forden: Makeup/hairstyling

Cyrano, adapted from the play by Edmond Rostand: Costume design 

Spider-Man: No Way Home, based on the Marvel character: Visual effects

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, based on the Marvel character: Visual effects


Books & Authors

Awards: Walter Scott Historical Fiction Longlist

The longlist has been unveiled for the £25,000 (about $34,200) Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. A shortlist will be announced at the end of April, and the winner named in mid-June at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland. This year's longlisted titles are:

Blue Postcards by Douglas Bruton 
Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks 
Rose Nicolson by Andrew Greig 
Mrs. England by Stacey Halls 
The Ballad of Lord Edward and Citizen Small by Neil Jordan 
The Sunken Road by Ciaràn McMenamin 
The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed 
News of the Dead by James Robertson 
China Room by Sunjeev Sahota 
Fortune by Amanda Smyth 
Learwife by J.R. Thorp 
The Magician by Colm Tóibín 
Still Life by Sarah Winman 


Reading with... Sarah Blake

photo: Maximiliano Schell

Sarah Blake's first novel, Naamah, is a queer retelling of the story of Noah's ark from his wife's perspective. It won the National Jewish Book Award for Debut Fiction and the Bisexual Book Award for Fiction. Her works of poetry include Mr. West, Let's Not Live on Earth and the forthcoming In Springtime. She was awarded a literature fellowship for her poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her second novel, Clean Air (Algonquin, February 8, 2022), is set in the aftermath of a climate apocalypse.

On your nightstand now:

I read on apps on my phone, so on my "nightstand" right now is A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet, which is having me take a bunch of screenshots every time I love a sentence or a paragraph. I even had to text a friend when I came to this one, "The water carried us: we were carried."--because it's perfect.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I remember loving A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle when I was 10. I think it was the first time I thought about telepathy, and that was pretty wondrous to consider. And that was all that I remembered about it until the movie came out.

Your top five authors:

Wow. It's a difficult question because there are so many authors who I love, but when I think about it, my opinion is based on one book that I've read by them. So here are my top five who I love and I've read nearly everything that they've ever published: Lucille Clifton, Marie Howe, Brenda Hillman, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, George Saunders.

Book you've faked reading:

There are MANY that I've faked reading all the way to their ending. And I will admit to none of them here, as I've written papers about those books, and I'm still friends with the professors to whom I submitted those papers.

Book you're an evangelist for:

If you've been looking for a good contemporary novel, then I've probably told you about Cecily Wong's Diamond Head, which I loved. Her second novel, Kaleidoscope, is due out in July, and I can't wait!

Book you've bought for the cover:

I always buy a book based on reading the first few pages, but if I ever did buy a book for its cover, I would have for Karim Dimechkie's Lifted by the Great Nothing. I love the colors, the fonts and the layout. I find it utterly charming.

Book you hid from your parents:

I'm not sure my parents could be offended by anything. My mom was buying me Sylvia Plath, The Clan of the Cave Bear and The Thorn Birds when I was in middle school. When my dad reads the Goodreads reviews of Naamah, he says things like "There wasn't that much sex in it." We're just not an easily offended bunch!

Book that changed your life:

Plainsong by Kent Haruf is told entirely linearly, but every few pages there's a new chapter and it's told from a different point of view--all to tell the same story. That is to say--it's not like a lot of books of late that use multiple points of view to tell multiple stories. I'm not explaining this perfectly, but the book found me at the exact time that I needed it. I knew I wanted to write fiction, but I wasn't sure my brain knew how to write novels like the classics I loved. This book reminded me of how many different ways a novel could be.

Favorite line from a book:

Well, as this is impossible, I will put this from Brigit Pegeen Kelly's poem "The Orchard": "And then it growled. And I saw/ That the horse was a dog. But the apples/ Were still apples."

Five books you'll never part with:

I have a copy of The Source by James A. Michener, which my mother gave me, and I have loved it so well that it's lost its front cover. I've bought a backup copy to lend out from now on.

I have a similarly falling apart copy of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I remember the exact place and time I was when I decided to read the first page and decide whether or not I should buy it and spend the afternoon reading it--a used bookstore in New Jersey in 2008. I came to the dream about the singing tables and the decanters that were women, and I was sold.

I have a copy of a 1971 printing of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, which my mother has written notes throughout from a college course she took. The price of the book is printed on the cover: $1.65.

I have a signed copy of the hardcover of Marie Howe's The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, which I will always treasure.

And finally, my copy of the first edition of The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction: Fifty North American Stories Since 1970. Cathy Day taught me about the short story from this collection, and I return to it over and over.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

I never want to read a book over again that I loved when I was younger. I know far more now and find myself overly critical. What if I ruin something for myself that I once loved! I would like to read a few short stories over again for the first time, but I'm happy to reread them for the one millionth time, too--namely, "One Arm" by Yasunari Kawabata.


Book Review

Children's Review: Those Kids from Fawn Creek

Those Kids from Fawn Creek by Erin Entrada Kelly (Greenwillow Books, $17.99 hardcover, 336p., ages 8-12, 9780062970350, March 8, 2022)

An outsider inspires 12 kids from a sleepy Louisiana town to see their inner strengths and share their best with each other in Erin Entrada Kelly's heartfelt and inspirational Those Kids from Fawn Creek.

Orchid Mason floats into humid and changeless Fawn Creek like a mysterious breeze, immediately changing the dynamic in the 12-person class led by Mr. Agosto ("who was born in Venezuela and was the only non-white face in almost every room"). Her worldliness is intriguing to the titular classmates whose families have lived in "Yawn Creek" for generations and known each other "since the dawn of man." Orchid quickly befriends longtime pals Greyson and Dorothy but drifts easily among the small town's 10 other seventh-graders without concern for existing hierarchies or social dynamics.

"Sometimes Orchid sound[s] like an adult trapped inside a twelve-year-old," but her peaceful demeanor puts most peers at ease. Like her namesake, Orchid blooms where she is planted. She "fill[s] the space around her with fanciful stories" and inspires her classmates to think of life beyond their small town. Her presence instigates in some--Greyson in particular--the ache to be somewhere else, to be someone else. "Those kids from Fawn Creek" may share the collective identity of a community, but Orchid's influence highlights their distinctive and evolving personalities in a way that surprises both the children and their lifelong companions. Snippy and self-assured Janie cannot cotton to the newcomer, though, and plots with an even crueler friend from the next town to expose Orchid's secrets.

Newbery Award-winner Kelly delivers another poignant and pitch-perfect middle-grade novel in which quiet truths and universal childhood experiences are laid bare with tremendous emotional resonance. Kelly (Hello, Universe; Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey) reprises some familiar roles (the underdog whose family cannot see his virtues; the bully driven to callousness, having been the victim of another's vitriol) but the characters here are fully realized and read as fresh and consummately sympathetic. A third-person narration with a familiar tone uses shifts in voice to convey subtleties of the children's personalities, while the book's demarcations of time--week by week until a climactic incident, then day by day--maintain the energetic pace. Keen-eyed readers may appreciate nods to other middle-grade novelists in science teacher Mrs. Ursu and Bildner Construction. Kelly's simplicity of language belies the complexity of emotional nuance and depth that she packs into this novel.

A powerful and thought-provoking story championing acceptance, and a bittersweet reminder to see the beauty in oneself as well as others. --Kit Ballenger, youth librarian, Help Your Shelf

Shelf Talker: A newcomer shifts dynamics for 12 seventh graders from a sleepy Louisiana town in this stirring and hopeful middle-grade tale of loneliness and reinvention from a Newbery-winning author.


Deeper Understanding

Snow Days: Highlighting Backlist Treasures

Snow's falling and baby it's plenty cold outside. This is just about the perfect time to sit in front of a fire to plan and dream about travel. Luckily the deep well of travel backlist has something for everybody.

I've never thought a cruise sounded fun, but then I ran into Emily Kimbrough. She was managing editor at Ladies' Home Journal and wrote for the Atlantic and the New Yorker in the last mid-century. She also wrote most delightful travel literature. Friends of famous writers and artists of the day, she would often round them up for these barge trips she loved. Renting a passenger barge was nothing like cruises as we know them now. First these passenger barges are private and when divvied up by a few good friends we are led to believe they were also affordable. Floating Island offers an up close view of France not often seen by tourists. Kimbrough rented this particular barge with friends in 1968 and gave us a charming chatty view of the locks and waterways and tiny villages and their local characters. At the time, Kirkus said "It's all relaxed and full of the little travel surprises and emergencies that inspire middle-aged jollity." Kind of ideal for a winter reading retreat. Kimbrough's books are out of print so perhaps some enterprising publisher will correct that. Try Time Enough too. Ireland just like you've always imagined with lots of pubs and Guinness and high green hills.

As long as it's boats we're about, how about Mediterranean Summer: A Season on France's Cote d'Azur and Italy's Costa Bella? This is about David Shalleck's complicated life as a chef on a very exclusive yacht. The work is impossible (a party for 50 out of the galley kitchen, for example!) but the geography is spectacular. It's hard to say if this is more food or travel lit. Let's call it a European culinary adventure. The yacht owners decreed that there would be no repeat meals during their five-month trip and the meals needed to be created solely from local ingredients from the little markets at each port. We get Tuscany and Provence, the Amalfi coast and Capri. It is life at sea and the table both, and it is a terrific read.

If it's hill towns, old markets, and sunshine you are after, Tony Cohan's Mexican travel lit will make you very happy. His most famous is On Mexican Time. Cohan was originally a novelist, and the book about moving to San Miguel de Allende with his family reads like good fiction. The family goes on vacation, comes home, sells their house, cashes in their 401(k) and buys a crumbling 250-year-old Mexican farmhouse. Who hasn't had that kind of dream at least once?  Eventually too many tourists arrive and he casts further afield. Mexican Days was the result. In that one we get a tour of the whole country, including the markets of Oaxaca, some interesting Mayan ruins, and the cacophony of Mexico City. It is a cheering way to spend a snowstorm.

Have you heard of Luke Barr? If not, you are in for a treat. A few years ago, he wrote the divine Provence, 1970 about the summer when Julia Child, Richard Olney, MFK Fisher, and James Beard all converged in France and changed the food world forever. Barr was MFK's nephew, and he had access to everyone's letters and papers so this sumptuous little book too reads like a novel. Provence has never had better representatives than these four. (Peter Mayle, please forgive me.) Their love of the countryside, the vineyards, the farmers and the markets comes shining through in every word they wrote. They were rapturous and so too becomes the reader. The smell of all those ripe grapes leap off the page and you can just imagine the farmer with his sheep cutting back the vines in the most ancient of ways. Also from Barr came Ritz & Escoffier: The Hotelier, The Chef, and the Rise of the Leisure Class. This is another kind of travel lit. Here in turn of the century London, Monaco and Paris we learn about the beginnings of luxury travel. Chef Escoffier and hotelier Ritz created the idea of the luxury hotel experience where the ubiquitous "My pleasure" is just the beginning. It is sort of travel history but it is also rife with scandals and risk which keep it always on the right side of fun. And isn't that just what we need most in deep winter? --Ellen Stimson


KidsBuzz: Katherine Tegen Books: Case Closed #4: Danger on the Dig by Lauren Magaziner
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