A while back we started wrapping books in brown paper and giving them slightly snarky summaries as our own spin on the Blind Date with a Book idea. Recently, we added YA with a “We Dare You To Read This Book” mindset. Now, we’re tackling mass market paperbacks, while they still exist. Each book will have one genre label attached to it (with appropriately snarky commentary, of course), but the fun is going to be in Building a Bundle, which is where we suggest you try to come up with a clever three part narrative. Like this: 

[Naturally, in doing so, you might be going home with a genre that you don’t normally read, which is how we make this a win for clever booksellers. Also, there are prizes for clever three-part narratives.]

And if that’s not enough to get you to set aside all the fluster and panic about back to school, then perhaps these new titles will entice you to come visit this week. 

How about the penultimate Kinsey Millhome book? That’s right. Sue Grafton has arrived at Y, and Y is for Yesterday, a tale that revolves around bad things that were done a decade prior and all the nasty stuff that happens when these old secrets start to surface. Grafton’s been writing this series for more than three decades, and you know you’re in the hands of a professional from the very first page. 

And speaking of being in the hands of a professional, this week’s curiosity is Melanie Abrantes’s Carve: A Simple Guide to Whittling, which is a lovely little book meant to introduce you to the carefree joy of making something out of a piece of wood. Abrantes covers a dozen or so shapes in this book, from the completely utilitarian to the winsomely artistic, and we’re inclined to go get ourselves a set of tools this weekend and get started. 

And speaking of using the weekend to get started on a project, the second volume in James Islington’s BFF (Big Fat Fantasy) has arrived. An Echo of Things to Come continues the story of Davian and Caeden as the treacheries build up and the twists keep on twisting. Sure, it’s a doorstopper of a book, but early reports are that it’s this thick because it’s got so much going on. 

And speaking of things going on, Reshma Saujani has released Girls Who Code, a fabulous book that encapsulates a lot of what she’s been advocating for the past few years, which is that girls are brave and smart and creative. Girls Who Code is filled with profiles of women who have done amazing things as well as cool tips and brain teasers to help girls of all ages find confidence to explore careers in the numerous branches of science and technology. 

And speaking of awesome girl geniuses, there’s an companion young reader book called The Friendship Code, written by Stacia Deutsch, in which young coder Lucy is thrust into a new after-school group with a bunch of girls she doesn’t know. Lucy has to figure out how to navigate the awkward and tricky social network around her before she can build her cool new app. 

And speaking of young fishes out of water, we’ve also got Firoozeh Dumas’s It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel, which is the story of  Zomorod Yousefzadeh and her new life in Newport Beach during the late 1970s. Now, Zomorod (Cindy to her new friends) is Iranian, and anti-Iran fever was all the rage in the US during those years, but Zomorod (er, Cindy) is determined to make friends and fit in regardless! 

And speaking of complex problems, the new book that we’re all excited about this week is Maja Lunde’s The History of Bees. Vaguely Cloud Atlas-like in its structure (the book moves between the story of a nineteenth-century British naturalist, a contemporary bee farmer in Ohio, and a mother in a futuristic dystopian China), The History of Bees traces the decline of humanity in parallel with the disappearance of bees, and while, yes, we are good and done with doomy dystopian books, Lunde’s novel is phenomenally engaging and riveting. We’re really keen on this one, gang. 

And speaking of things we’re keen on, local SF publisher Fairwood Press has dropped a few of their fall titles already, and we’ve been enjoying Cat Pictures Please, the debut collection from Naomi Kritzer. “Cat Pictures Please” won the Hugo Award last year, and Fairwood Press was clever enough to have the collection ready shortly after Kritzer’s win. The stories in this collection are charming and insightful and wonderful. In fact, we took a pause to read a few and we’re in a much better mood now than we were earlier. 

[Just don’t bring ALL of your boxes of used books in this afternoon, please. We’re not in THAT good of a mood.]

And finally, Michael Kodas’s Megafire is the non-fiction burner of the week. [Sorry. We couldn’t resist.] Kodas, an award-winning photojournalist and firefighter, tackles a welter of data and comes up with some alarming and fascinating conclusions about the state of the world. It’s drier than we’d like (duh), and “megafires” are going to be problem if we don’t start thinking globally even while we’re acting locally. We’re glossing terribly, of course, but Kodas’s research is not just about the increasing causes for fire but also our own refusal to acknowledge our hand in creating what is coming. 

Well, that’s not the happiest of notes to end on. How about we turn this around? 

Here's Pam Grout’s Art & Soul, Reloaded: A Yearlong Apprenticeship for Summoning the Muses and Reclaiming Your Bold, Audacious, Creative Side. Thank goodness for overwhelming subtitles, though we would have gone “Audacious, Bold, Creative” because we like the “A-B-C” styling better. But that’s us, being all orderly, and Grout is here to tell us to throw off these shackles of order and run naked through the streets. 

Well, okay, maybe just the shackles . . . 

Overheard At The Store »»

ALICE: Oh, hello, marmot. Are you taking in some sun?

COLBY: I am, but I’m also thinking. 

ALICE: I thought you might be. Folks tend to lie on their backs when they are just out for sun. Lying face down suggests deep thought. 

COLBY: Yes, true. Face-up does lead to napping, and there are thoughts to be thought. Deeds to be done. 

ALICE: Plans to be planned. 

COLBY: Exactly. 

ALICE: Well, I should leave you to it. 

COLBY: Very well. Have a good day, Alice. 

ALICE: You too, Colby. 

[Five minutes pass]

ALICE: Okay, what plans? 

COLBY: They’re not really plans yet. More like unrefined thoughts slowly marshaling toward an idea which may coalesce into a summary statement that could lead to an outline of a plan. 

ALICE: Your dissembling caveats are noted, marmot. What are you up to? 

COLBY: Four foot three, I think. 

ALICE: No, I mean—Fine. Don’t tell me. 

COLBY: Tell you what? 

ALICE: You clearly want to tell someone. 

COLBY: I do not. 

ALICE: You’re lying out in back of the store. On a rock, which you’ve moved so that anyone using the back entrance has to walk around you. 

COLBY: This is the best spot for sun. I triangulated during the eclipse earlier this week. 

ALICE: Triangulated? With a single point of measurement? 

COLBY: It’s advanced math. 

ALICE: I know how to use a sextant, you furry rodent. I’ve actually sailed by the stars. 

COLBY: Yeah, okay, okay. I was going to drag the rock over there, but it’s quite heavy . . . 

ALICE: Would you like some help? 

COLBY: No, no, this is fine. 

ALICE: Uh huh. So what are you thinking about? 

COLBY: Oh, so you know how I’ve been sorta busy these past few months, helping out in the community. 

ALICE: I guess you could call it that. 

COLBY: Well, I feel like I have a knack there. A talent for helping people, and I was thinking that I should commoditize this in some way. I mean, “codify.” 

ALICE: Such a small slip of the lip, there. 

COLBY: Regardless, how can I turn my insightful assistance into something that can help people more broadly? 

ALICE: Something that doesn’t require more marmots? 

COLBY: Exactly. 

ALICE: Like a self-help book. 

COLBY: That was one idea, but I’m not much of a writer. And that sounds tedious. Plus I don’t want to lecture people. Who wants to listen to a marmot yell at them for a half hour? 

ALICE: Well, if there are people out there who want that, you should definitely charge them. 

COLBY: *Ahem* Yes, well, perhaps. But for most folks, what do they really want? 

ALICE: Happiness? Sex? Money? Power? A decent mattress? 

COLBY: All those things. And more! But I can’t give them those things. 

ALICE: Thankfully. The mind shudders a bit at the thought. 

COLBY: But they can get these things for themselves, if they believe they can. So how can I help them believe? 

ALICE: So . . . are you going to start a cult? 

COLBY: Maybe. Is that irresponsible of me? 


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