Monday, July 28, 2008


Have you ever read a book in 2 hours and felt that it was the greatest thing you'd read in over a month? Machine by Peter Adolphsen did that for me.

Machine is the precise history of - get ready - a single drop of gasoline, from its genesis as the heart of a prehistoric horse, through centuries of pressure and refinement, until it is diffused as exhaust from the engine of a Ford Pinto driven by a one armed immigrant hitchhiker named Jimmy.

In this span of time we not only learn about the scientific processes rampant in the drop's evolution, but also thoroughly meet every being immediately associated with it. From the horse to whom it gave life, to the immigrant who mined it, to the biology student who pumped it into her Pinto - by the last page they are our new neighbors.

At a mere 85 pages, this is a perfect afternoon read that you can tell everyone about without assigning them a project.

Now you're thinking, "precise, centuries, thorough... 85 pages?" But I assure you, this is proof that it can be done, a story can be both thorough and short - furthermore, it can be done beautifully.

To reiterate: I loved it. Read it.

And the book is darn pretty too.

(Hardcover, $15.00. June 2008)

Gone Away for another day

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway is a stark raving mad compendium of everything you've ever wanted to read a novel about.

This book includes (the long list): ninjas, dreams, death, war, armageddon, WMD's, mutant killer bees, espionage, moonshine, kung-fu, mimes, polish mothers, homicidal half-man half-animal mutations, pirates, stock cars, revolution, sexy nurses, brain damage, references to norse mythology, truckers, haz-mat, split personalities, evil corporations, secret societies, saving the world... and of course sex, love and friendship (to give it that full-flavored taste).

In short, this book is epic, imposing, grandiose, and a thoroughly worthwhile read... provided your main literary objective is entertainment. In the authors own words, "more than anything, I wanted this book to be fun. I wanted it to be more fun than the other things you could usefully be doing with your time." (

Mr. Harkaway, my time is yours.

(Hardcover, $24.95. 02 September 2008, Knopf.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

FlapCast: Helen Prejean

Installment #3 in the FlapCast series takes us back to an evening with Sister Helen Prejean. She visited us in February 2006 and gave one of the most powerful speeches I have *ever* heard to a packed house.

This was a truly memorable night for a bookseller: the community coming together to listen and interact for social change.

And, S. Helen, as you will hear, has that sweet-yet-angry Creole delivery that would make Lee Atwater and James Carville shiver with fear and respect.



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Monday, July 21, 2008

A Quick Note on What Has Me Excited Today

Yeah, so I look a bit scary. So what?

What has you excited today?

Monday, July 14, 2008

AM Homes, N+1, vampire teens

by Sarah Marine

Music for Torching by AM Homes is nothing to mess of course I am. The novel is a bizarre story about a married couple's slow descent into creepy mania, set off by them setting their suburban home on fire. Disappointed by the lack of damage it actually caused, they are left to deal with a damaged house, failing marriage and having to sleep at a neighbor's house, which of course leads to more bizarre behavior. The setting mirrors every subdivision I've set foot in but laced with a twilight zone atmosphere in which housewives turn nocturnal, husbands shave their entire bodies and sleep in nightgowns and monogamy is nonexistent. I bought it a few months ago at the Strand, the one that is closing, which brings me to the next thing concerning me this fine Milwaukee morning.

Yesterday, when I was working at my fabulous job, I opened up the new issue of n+1. I flipped through, returned to the table of contents, and spied this: Who Killed the People's Bookstore? by Alexandra Heifetz. I read it, or tried to read it- needed some major editing- and was still a little confused about what the author was trying to get across. She establishes that she has worked in independent bookstores and that the people who work in them are really very smart and awesome and then goes on and on about Cody's closing(which is terrible and sad), but blames it all on capitalism? Is this the gist? There was also something about all indies being "reluctant capitalists"(?)- which puzzles me, considering they're selling books, for profit. This was followed by a summarization of Book Sense, ABA, etc. All in all, the purpose of this article was lost on me. If anyone else has read this, discussion is welcome.

Furthermore, this article in the NYTimes. The commentary about what teenagers are becoming is really scary.

Friday, July 11, 2008

FlapCast - Jeannette Walls

Here's the latest, greatest update to the FlapCast: Jeannette Walls reading and taking questions about The Glass Castle - another fabulous one from the archives, wherein Jeannette - one of the nicest, most genuine authors I've met - answers insightful questions for an engaged audience.


And, if you like what you hear, buy the freaking book from us! After all, Amazon isn't hosting events and we need to pay rent somehow... Your support keeps 1) us employed and 2) a great bookseller open for the community's benefit.

And, we're up to 9 members in our community. Will you be the one to push us into double digits and join our discussion?

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008


This is what its about, people. In order for brick and mortar to survive, indies like Schwartz need to grab hold of this internet thing and blogsell books.

Bike delivery, too!