We’re distracted this morning by sabermetrics, which isn’t anything new for those familiar with Michael Lewis’ classic, Moneyball
, but Keith Law—a veteran ESPN writer and statistics nerd—has put together an entertaining and cogent analysis of how Big Data analysis is transforming baseball (and has been for some time). Law’s approach in Smart Baseball
is to use less technical terms and more free-wheeling explanations that layfolk like us can follow. Which is why we’re off looking at baseball statistics this morning.
Baseball season has been underway for nearly a month already. We’re allowed to talk sports at least once a season. And . . . now we’re done. We’ll find another sports book later this summer to gush over, and until then, this whole issue of using Big Data analysis within a specific industry—like, say, books—will be something that we’re going to keep thinking about.
This weekend is Independent Bookstore Day, and yes, we know, every day is Love Your Indie Day, but this Saturday, we’re going to love you back. Er, not like that. Or maybe just like that. Social cues—especially via a newsletter—are so hard to read sometimes. We’ll have cookies. There. That’s easier. We’ll have cookies. And books, of course. We’ll definitely have books. And probably some cookies.
[This just keeps getting more awkward . . . ]
Anyway, we’re going to have some fun on Independent Bookstore Day. As you know, we’ve been stacking up Blind Date books for some time now, and you’ve been graciously clearing those stacks as quickly as we make them. In keeping with that theme, we’re going to do a Speed Dating game this weekend. We’ll have a Dating Profile card for you to fill out when you come by the store. Hand it off to our in-store experts (read local authors who will be around), and they’ll find the right book that will match your profile.
[Right, local authors? We know you read the newsletter. You’re going to come by and see us this weekend, yes? This’ll be fun.]
[You can’t herd authors. They’re very elusive. You have to lure them out, with promises of cookies and booze and hilarity, so we’ll have to have so much fun that they’ll come streaming out of their garrets and subterranean grottos, blinking and yawning at the light.]
So, yes, Speed Dating at the bookstore. We’ll have Colby Cash for participants. All day on Saturday.
And what sort of new books do we have this week for you? Well, we’re glad you asked.
The big release is Frederik Backman’s Beartown
. Backman, who made his splash with A Man Called Ove
(which is a favorite here), is back with an ensemble book about a small town that has a minor league hockey team, some dreams, and a forest that keeps trying to swallow the town. We’re sure the forest is a metaphor (but maybe not), and Backman starts this story with a bang. It reminds us of Thomas Maltman’s Little Wolves
, but set somewhere bleaker (if possible). If you enjoyed Backman’s idiosyncratic characters in A Man Called Ove
and My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry
, Beartown is full of quirky characters. And this one has a bit of a slow burn to it as well. Get the tension ratchets out!
And speaking of home improvement tools, John Sandford is back with the next Lucas Davenport novel, Golden Prey
. Davenport has hit the big leagues now, and he’s working for the US Marshals Service, which means he’s got a whole different class of bad guy to chase. In Golden Prey
, he’s dodging cartel assassins and a shadowy individual who has a hankering for power tools, while he’s trying to track down the guy who was dumb enough to rob a money-laundering house. Yikes!
Cory Doctorow's new book, Walkaway
, is out this week too, and we’re going to shamelessly run Neal Stephenson’s blurb, because, like Neal does, it says all you need to know in a string of words that seem entirely too cryptic at first glance, but are ultimately the perfect summation of the book. "Cory Doctorow has authored the Bhagavad Gita of hacker/maker/burner/open source/git/gnu/ wiki/99%/adjunctfaculty/Anonymous/shareware/ thingiverse/cypherpunk/LGTBQIA*/squatter/upcycling culture and zipped it down into a pretty damned tight techno-thriller with a lot of sex in it.”
And, since pushing past the upcoming Singularity of Sorts (whatever; no one knows what it is going to look like) is in vogue right now, let’s go take a look at Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne
, which is about a giant bear, decaying dystopias, strange creatures that might be plant, mammal, or ambient mineral, and homegrown psychoactive biotech.
It’s a love story, of sorts. Between a girl and her, uh, dog? cat? plant/mammal/ambient mineral? VanderMeer, as you may remember, dropped the Southern Reach
trilogy on us a year or so ago (the first part, Annihilation
will be hitting the theaters later this year), and Borne continues his fascination with corporate insanity and greed, climate change, fungus, and just plain strange stuff.
Caitlin Keegan’s Illuminated Tarot
merges the Major and Minor Arcana into a single 53-card deck, and the card illustrations are gorgeously rendered in lots of color and detail. Meant to be both a divinatory tool and a deck you can use to play standard card games, we dig her approach and find it easy to get lost looking at our hands as we play Go Fish (while simultaneously reading our fortunes, of course. “Do you have any twos, and I think a handsome stranger is going to enter your life.”)
And finally, what’s a bookstore newsletter without a cookbook? It’s, uh, list of books that doesn’t include . . . never mind! We’ve got a new cookbook for you! Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking
. Nosrat’s been teaching everyone from professional chefs to middle school kids to author Michael Pollan (though we’re not quite sure where he falls in this spectrum: clumsier than a professional chef and more able to read directions than a middle school kid?), and Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
is the distillation of her simple, and yet quite revolutionary, philosophy. It’s kind of like alchemy, but with less consciously obtuse language, we suspect.
And those are the interesting looking books this week. Don’t forget that Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day, and we hope to see you for Speed Dating with Books.