Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Finds - Pub Rep Edition!

Oh, the magic of entry settings. A post written late Tuesday/ early Wednesday can appear to have been there since mid-day Friday. I need to start logging these "Find" posts as the week progresses and scheduling them to post on the actual Friday of intention... Otherwise, I will always be playing a week-long game of catch-up.

Anyway, this past week was a great week for finds, mostly due to the pub rep breakfast we had Wednesday morning at work. Twice a year, several reps from major publishers come to our store armed with handouts, information on upcoming books, and many copies of released and to-be-released books. It's an early morning (starts at 8:00 am), but in exchange for a time and caffeinated, bleary-eyed attention, we are given the skinny on the prominent new and upcoming books and given copious amounts of free titles.

The free books are a nice incentive, but we really do LOVE our reps. We have a core three: I heard wonderful upon wonderful things about our HarperCollins rep, Kate McCune, months before I actually had the pleasure of meeting her. Kate could sell me a blank book, she's that persuasive. Melissa Weisburg from Macmillan is another personal favorite, because she's super enthusiastic and specializes in Macmillan's children's titles. Mary Ann Buehler, from Penguin, always has a ton of information for us and really makes an effort to remember individual tastes and interests.

Eileen and Randy (from Random House and Hachette, respectively) were great additions to this recent breakfast, and I hope we will see more of them. I'd feel like this was all kissing up to the reps, but honestly, they deserve it. Spending time with the publishing reps, you really get an understanding as to why they have the jobs that they do. They are tirelessly enthusiastic about books, know everything there is to know about the titles they are promoting, and really attempt to put the books into the hands of people who will want to read them. The ultimate kids in the candy store, you can tell they love their jobs... or at least, they're so good at their jobs, they've got to love what they do.

We have a Fall breakfast and a Spring breakfast, but the Fall one usually emphasizes titles that have either come out recently or will come out very soon - mostly to promote titles that are being pushed for the Christmas buying season. Fine by me - last year, I was pleasantly rewarded with a copy of Prince's then-recently released book 21 Nights, among other fantastic freebies.

This year didn't feature any "big ticket" books, but a lot of high quality books in hardback copies and a smattering of galleys for exciting Winter titles. Of the lot, I'm most excited about what I picked up from Harper and Macmillan. I'll go on about that in a bit.

The finds!

From the lovely Melissa at Macmillan:

- Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou; With art by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna
A graphic novel about Bertrand Russell, described as "a historical novel and an accessible introduction to some of the biggest ideas of mathematics and modern philosophy." There's a great series of books that put philosophers and ideologies into graphic novel forms, but this is a cut above those in quality and scope. Next day off I have, I plan to devour this one.

-Justice by Michael J. Sandel
A book form of Sandel's acclaimed Harvard course, this has been one of the big buzz titles floating around for the past several weeks. My reading attention is usually absorbed by children's titles, but when I'm really hungry for some intellectual stimulation, this is bound to blow my mind. I can't wait to pass this along to my law school friends.

-Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Children's Book edited by Anita Silvey
The kind of coffee table book that you would find in my apartment, this is a compendium of essays from famous people (writers, politicians, rich people, actors, etc.) about the classic children's titles that inspired them. That alone would be interesting enough, but maybe not the stuff of an oversized hardback volume, but wait, there's also sidebars of the book's history, and full-page excerpts from the works themselves. It's lovingly laid out and presented, and I find myself paging through it everytime I need a little pick me up.

From the mighty Kate McCune at HarperCollins

- To Hell on a Fast Horse by Mark Lee Gardner
Oh, I'm a sucker for Wild West stories and get-the-bad-guy stories, so this is right up my alley. The story of the "epic chase" of Billy the Kid.

-The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter
I loved Walter's Citizen Vince. This one, following the week-long exploits of a man trying to repair his career, marriage, and financial state, is perfectly apt for the times. I'm just wondering how its timeliness is going to affect its lasting factors and vice versa. Hopefully, I will find out sooner rather than later.

I swear by the Harper Perennial line - two of their 2009 releases, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth and More of This World or Maybe Another are in my top reads of the year - and I managed to get two upcoming release galleys from Kate:
- If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous
Marina travels to Japan to learn the language and culture of another country, but also to escape from her grief over of her father's suicide. I'm normally wary of fish-out-of-water stories (especially ones having to do with Americans in Asian cultures, as they so often devolve into explorations of Westerner misconceptions and Eastern culture hijinks), but like I said before, Kate can sell me on just about anything, and if it has her seal of approval, I'll give it a try.

- Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever by Justin Taylor
An author's debut short story collection, I'm about three-fourths through this one, and admittedly, it's leaving me a bit cold. The problem isn't the writing - the prose is spare, but introspective, - but in the character building. Taylor's emphasized the detachment of his characters without giving the reader much to hook onto, and little character evolutions go a long way in short stories. I may end up completely rethinking this one... I'll let this go for now, update on the rest later. It's not bad, by any means, just... underwhelming from what I was expecting.

Thanks Eileen from Random House!
- That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
Despite hearing nothing but great things about all of his titles, I've only read the hilarious and disarmingly affecting Straight Man. This is another intellectual in crisis, but Russo is so good at crafting that voice, as well as dysfunctionally functional family and personal relations, and I'm fairly sure I will enjoy this one.

Thank you Randy from Hachette!
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
I've heard lots of great things about Zarr, but I haven't gotten around to either Sweethearts or Story of a Girl. She's making an appearance at the JB in Cincinnati, so it seemed like a good idea to grab the new book. There are several YA titles coming out this winter that have to do with religion in a family and social context, used in a variety of ways, from coming of age to murder mystery. I'm interested in what Zarr is going to do with the subject matter. Sam is a pastor's daughter, but after her mother enters rehab and a young girl from her town is kidnapped, she begins to have a crisis of faith.

Wag by Patrick McDonnell
The creator of Mutts releases another picture book, about a dog's favorite thing - his tail. What makes Earl's tail wag?

Connected by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler
Two scientists interrogate the connections between people, in both social and technological ways, and lay out their theory of the "Three Degrees of Influence Rule: we influence and are influenced by people up to three degrees removed from us, most of whom we do not even know." I enjoy these social theory in motion type books, at least as much as the average reader (yes, I read Gladwell, and while you can't always swear by his theories, you have to admit, he's a great writer with a real understanding of how to relate sometimes difficult ideas in an accessible, digestible way), and if this is half as interesting as its jacket blurb is, it will be time well spent.

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