03 Wonder, Sex and Sea Urchins, Mathematics and Logical Puzzles

In which our heroine is swayed by an NY Times book review

Last week, I meant to write a newsletter about recommendations I’ve received from fellow booksellers and how I am thankful for the workfamily I’ve built in my five years of bookselling. Instead I finished re-reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for the n-th time (aloud with Sam, who has never finished the series), ate some turkey and apple pie (the latter reluctantly because I’m not really a pie-person), and played a dice game based on milk production (it’s called Dairyman and I recommend it). I will write that newsletter one day, but first I’d like to let the booksellers I want to reference know that I am referencing them in a newsletter they’ve never heard of.

So instead this week I bring you a random assortment of books I wish I were reading, thematic inasmuch as my general tastes and inclinations are thematic.

Wish I Were Reading

The Condition of Secrecy by Inger Christensen

This essay collection was brought to my attention by a co-worker who’d reserved a copy (it comes out today, Nov 26th). He said he’d read about it in the Times. The review had me by the third paragraph, which begins:

Christensen was a wellspring of Scandinavian experimental writing, a magus of poetry and philosophy whose lines live on as graffiti, trailed across buildings in Copenhagen. Her work was full of cunning and wonder, sex and sea urchins, mathematics and logical puzzles. 

I love lists of seemingly disparate things. I love the idea of a writer being able to deftly move from sex to math to sea urchins and back again. I’d never heard of Christensen, but another co-worker had a galley and so I brought it home and maybe I really will read it.

The Electric Information Age Book by Jeffrey T Schnapp and Adam Michaels

I’m still not clear on the contents of this book. I picked it up off our bargain table and gleaned that it’s about mass market publishing during the 60s/70s. I flipped through it and saw, in neon baby blue text

…an inventory?

Yes, this book is an inventory.

(But of a distinctive kind.)

And I was like

Also, the layout seems really cool and I love learning about the history of the world I work in. (If you’re also interested in the history of publishing, with a bit about bookselling, I recommend Merchants of Culture by John B Thompson.) But mostly I know I’m going to buy it because I have to know why it claims to be an inventory.

Hannah Versus the Tree by Leland de la Durantaye

The cover of this one is mostly what grabbed me. Also it describes itself as a mythopoetic thriller. But yeah, I really like that cover.

The Model Thinker by Scott E Page

Ok, I think I’m finally writing about a book I probably really will never attempt to read. The subtitle “what you need to know to make data work for you” is what got me, but this books innards seem a lot more technical than my brain is prepared for. I love organizing data in my relatively small world of books, but this is about applying multiple models to organize data “leading to wiser choices, more accurate predictions, and more robust designs.” I’m not even sure I know one model of organizing data. I mean… I guess I must, but I couldn’t tell you what it is. Still, I have this idea that maybe one day I’ll take classes in data management and who am I kidding, I’m going to at least make an attempt to read this one. One day.

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs

A fiction title that is neither a story collection nor fable-adjacent? I’m branching out! I don’t recall hearing about this book before unboxing it yesterday, but I guess it’s out in paperback now. It’s about a woman who has to track down a dangerous equation that her recently deceased adopted grandfather left behind. Also she owns a bookstore in Seattle. (Also she owns a bookstore in Seattle.) It seems kind of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore-esque. Like a fun mystery romp that is both mathematical and bookish. Like the kind of thing I could recommend to a customer who is looking for something light (the most difficult recommendation request we get). So, yeah, I’m definitely going to get this on audio as soon as I finish the book I’m currently listening to. Speaking of which…

Currently Reading

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

I was not sure I’d like Ottessa Moshfegh. Her characters are mostly unlikable, which I’m a fan of in theory, but every time a short story of hers was described to me I felt kind of depressed. But then my S&S rep recommended this audiobook, which I’d been meaning to read and yesterday I finally started and I’m already almost 20% through. It’s addictive. It is lethargic and luxurious, and it feels vapid—that’s not quite the right word—but the writing itself is so sharp and incisive. I’m not describing it well. Moshfegh’s ability to quickly and thoroughly build a character, to give you a first impression but immediately hit on a person’s core, is admirable. Really it took all my efforts to stop sitting around listening to this book and write this newsletter. I must get back to it.

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 studies about 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.
Thanks to Lara Kaminoff for the cat mascot, Giles. Find more of her work here. Follow her on Instagram here.