Yesterday was one of those days where the local weather tried its best to do us in. There were winds, and then there was rain, and then there were winds blowing the rain sideways. Then the power went out, and the winds cackled and howled and shook the building. Sheets of water cascaded off the roof, spattering the leaf-strewn street. But we were here, reading and coloring and generally unconcerned about the storming going on outside. Protected by the gloriously warm and cozy shell of the bookstore, because that is how the magic works.
While we were sitting in the dark, peering at the pages of our books, we came up with this week’s theme for the newsletter, which is Categories of One. For instance:
Best Book to be Seen Reading While Trapped in a Cabin with Others Who Are Thinking About Eating You.
Revenant by Michael Punke. Because nothing gives off a “don’t even think of it” vibe better than a book about a dude who came back from the dead and crawled across three thousand miles of frozen forest to have revenge on the other dudes who left him behind. Plus it’s in paperback now, so it won’t count against you as much when you consider what you’re taking on that trip out into the woods.
[Prison Ramen by Clifton Collins Jr and Gustavo “Goose” Alvarez almost qualifies for this category as well, but the drawback of this book is that one of your cabin mates might actually ask if there are any useful recipes, which would draw you into a conversation and might get you to drop your guard.]
Best Book for That Warm Nostalgic Feeling While Simultaneously Filling Your Eyeballs With Amazing Design.
Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts. It’s a gorgeous book celebrating sixty-five years of Peanuts that has been curated by celebrated cover designer Chip Kidd. Charles M. Schulz himself says that “good cartooning is basically good design,” and Kidd takes this a step farther with the maxim of “good design is what makes a reader linger over every page.” Sure, it’s a retrospective of Peanuts, but the book also delves into the process by which Schulz arrived at these lovable characters as well as his evolution as an artist.
[Kidd also recently redid the cover for the 25th Anniversary edition of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, which is a fabulous design, but totally underplays that bloody horror that is “The Evening Redness In the West.”]
Best Reprint of an Old Cookbook That Your Mother Refuses To Tell You Which Child is Going to Get When She Dies.
Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book. This is the one that you grew up with—that classic compendium with the torn cover, the last few pages partially burned, and crumbs of crusty cookie dough flaking off more than one page. It’s the book that’s been passed along, generation to generation, and it holds all the sugary snack secrets of Grandma’s kitchen. Through the miracle of modern technology, this collection of confections is available again. It has all the original recipes, as well as “nostalgic” color photographs and “charming” how-to sketches, though they still can’t quite get the spelling of “cookie” right.
Best Book To Peruse While Standing Beside the Front Door of the Store and Making Sure it Closes Behind Every Third Customer Because This Weather is Warping the Wood and Making it Stick, And No, We’re Not Passive-Aggressive About This At All.
Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke. Unlike, say, The Nordic Cook Book, which happens to be shelved near the front door, but which weighs eighty pounds and would be useful to keep the door OPEN if that’s what we wanted it to do in this weather. Anyway, Rules for a Knight is a slim volume that can be daintily held in one hand while monitoring the persistently sticky weather-addled front door. Supposedly, it’s written by an ancestor of Ethan Hawke’s who, fearing he would not return from battle, wrote a letter to his children, enumerating all that he knew about virtue and honor and dignity and charity and grace. Many things we have to remind ourselves about after the eighth or ninth time the front door sticks within an hour.
Best Reason to Open the Glass Case Next To The Register.
About two dozen reasons, actually. One of the constant struggles a bookstore has is how to display all the beautiful picture books that come out each year. We’ve got them all stashed in a glass case like they are delicate Faberge eggs or something, which is silly, really, because they should be loved. Like David Macaulay’s How Machines Work, complete with moving parts! Or, Kevin Henkes’s charming Waiting, a winsome story about the stuffed animals who are, well, waiting for . . . something. (We don’t want to spoil it for you.) Or, Mr. Brown’s Fantastic Hat by Ayano Imai or Akiko Miyakoshi’s The Tea Party in the Woods, both of which have tea and anthropomorphic animals—always the best of combinations.
Best Book We Read Last Week About Writers That Made Us Snort a Lot.
Hang with us for a second on this one. Chris Belden’s novel is about a man named Shriver, who ISN’T the celebrated author Shriver, who once wrote a crass, sexist, rambling monstrosity of American lit-rah-chur called Goat Time. Now, Shriver (the one with the cat named Mr. Bojangles, who ISN’T the elusive and mysterious author) gets an invitation to a small university’s literary conference, and decides that he’s going to go. Why? Maybe he’s lonely, or he’s suffering from a lifelong bout of ennui, or maybe he’s taken with the idea that someone—somewhere—thinks he’s important. Or maybe it’s because the conference sent him a free plane ticket. Regardless, he goes, and immediately has second thoughts about this decision, but as soon as he lands, he’s swept up in a weekend of literary hijinks, mistaken identities, crossed genres, and missed opportunities. Shriver, the author, is like a cross between Arthur Miller, J. D. Salinger, and Joe Eszterhaus; Shriver, the man, is like any of us who ever yearned to be mistaken for Miller, Salinger, or Eszterhaus; and the rest is Belden tweaking us on the nonsensical nature of fame and infamy.