For those who are just joining us, this newsletter is a place where I talk about all the books I come across in life as a bookseller and hope to one day read.
This week I’ll be mostly talking about books that came out last week. Books can generally be categorized as frontlist or backlist, the former being books that are recently published or forthcoming. As a receiver at my bookstore, my main focus is frontlist. It is my favorite because you often get a say in where the book gets placed on the floor and I am a controlling pedant. Some weeks go by where I receive hundreds of new titles and not a single thing catches my eye. Those are sad weeks. Lucky for both of us, last week was not one of those weeks.
Wish I Were Reading
Northwood by Maryse Meijer
To include this on a list of books I want to read and probably never will is a bit disingenuous; I will absolutely read Northwood, but I really wanted to tell you about it. I loved Meijer’s short story collection Heartbreaker—full, as it was, with a sort of demonic whimsy—so there is no chance I’m skipping this new genre-shattering fable-like novella. Plus, it’s paper-over-board (that’s a hardcover with no dust jacket aka the superior format of hardcovers) with all black pages and white text. What’s it about? No idea. But I’m a sucker for anything that describes itself as a dark fairy tale. I’m also looking forward to Meijer’s next short story collection Rag coming out from FSG on February 12th.
The Naked Woman by Armonía Somers, translated by Kit Maude
Well hello Carmen Maria Machado blurb on the front cover. Feminist Press you say? A full misty, moon on the cover and “shocking erotic content”? I’ll be honest, I didn’t have to read a single word of this book, heck I didn’t even have to open it, to know that I very much want to read it. The Feminist Press’s website says: “In this searing critique of Enlightenment values, fantastic themes are juxtaposed with brutal depictions of misogyny and violence, and frantically build to a fiery conclusion.” I’m going to guess that the fiery part of that conclusion is no metaphor, but we’ll see. (Also, for those who don’t know, Carmen Maria Machado [whose blurb made me take a closer look at this title'] is an incredible writer whose short story collection Her Body and Other Parties was the best thing I read last year.)
How to Fracture a Fairy Tale by Jane Yolen
Are you sensing a theme? I mean, my wheelhouse is literally in the title of this book so how could I not include it? I’m more familiar with Yolen as author of the How Do Dinosaurs… series, but apparently she’s been called “the Hans Christian Andersen of America” and she knows her way around a fairy tale or two. Most of the stories in this collection have been previously published, but it seems to me a very good way to introduce myself to a new favorite fracturer of fairy tales.
The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya
Let me tell you about Soft Skull galleys. They all have a tall box on the back of them where they list what you can expect from the book. In a recent favorite, Vanishing Twins, I was told I’d learn, among other things “why The Handmaid’s Tale is erotic, why Who Framed Roger Rabbit is erotic, [and] why Moby Dick is erotic (and queer).” In The Lonesome Bodybuilder we are given a slightly different list:
I don’t know about you, but I’m completely charmed by this. Also, Soft Skull makes gif-versions of all their covers:
Oh, right, this book is a weird short story collection. That’s why I want to read it. I need no other reason.
Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
It’s not all weird short stories and fractured fairy tales in my TBR pile. I’m also interested in non-fiction.
There are not nearly enough books in the world that explore what life is like for people dealing with chronic illness and/or disabilities. To be honest, I didn’t give that much thought until I went to a Nicola Griffith reading for her book So Lucky and she spoke about the lack of “crip lit,” stories where disabled characters have their own narrative and their disability is not eradicated by the end of the tale. Since then I’ve been keeping an eye out for fiction and non-fiction that fills this void. Care Work is an essay collection about disability justice and building “radically resilient, sustainable communities of liberation where no one is left behind.” It looks like an important book that has something to teach absolutely everyone who picks it up.
Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi
It’s been two years since Oyeyemi’s collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours came out so I literally jumped up and down when this galley arrived. Gingerbread seems to be vaguely inspired by the tale of Hansel & Gretel. So far it is about three generations of women and a very odd gingerbread recipe. Everything I love about Oyeyemi is present here, from her ability to quickly and simply paint a vivid character to her peppering of a story with mundanely magical details. I’m only five chapters in, but so far I’m really enjoying it.
Small Acts of Resistance
The midterm elections are over and the results could have been worse. As this interactive graphic from the New York Times shows, it actually went fairly well for Democrats. But there is still, there will always be, a lot of work to do. My next move is going to a workshop hosted by the League of Women Voters of the US (which is open to all genders). It’s an “in-depth look at the upcoming legislative session” and a place to learn effective ways of advocating for democracy. If you leave in or near Seattle, the workshop is next Saturday 11/17 and you can register here. If you don’t live nearby, I’m sure there is a chapter near you hosting something similar.
Other Ways to Find Me On the Internets
Once a month (or so) I host a podcast called Drunk Booksellers where my best friend and I interview a fellow bookseller while drinking. I sometimes tweet about books and politics. I sometimes post pictures of books I’m reading, or cats I’m hanging out with on Instagram.
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NOTE: Most book links go to Indiebound so you can shop local via the Internet. Also, they are affiliate links so if you purchase something I get a tiny kickback (which goes towards my podcast because why have two affiliate accounts). Why shop local? Long answer: Here are a bunch of economic impact studiesabout the importance of shopping local. Short answer: bookstores are good/warm/lovely places that add so much value to the community, but they are also businesses, which cannot survive if you’re not shopping there.