Look, one of the strange aspects of our relationship here is that we do a knowing sleight of hand with words and pretty pictures in order to entice you to come by the store and make dove noises over the books. And we like to pretend that our little magic tricks never strain the laws of reality too far. One can, after all, pitch something too zealously, thereby losing one’s audience.
But, at the same time, we are dreamers, rabble-rousers, and troublemakers, which is why this week’s lead off title is . . .
Phaidon Press’s Brick. In a “stylish and compact new format.” That’s right. It’s a book full of pictures of buildings and bridges and God knows what else, all of which are made from brick. There’s no narrative arc. There’s no clever subplot. There might be some daring use of adjectives and descriptive phrases, but ultimately they’re all in service of talking up what is—without reservation—a stack of bricks.
Makes you want to rush on down here during your lunch break and grab a copy before someone else does, doesn’t it? You don’t want to be that sad individual who feels left out when everyone else is going on about Mies van der Rohe’s Bauhausian minimalism or Kazuyo Sejima’s use of geometric shapes and light, right?
In fact, we’re going to roll right from there into a really quite charming book about language usage that is written by a fellow from the hallowed halls of publishing, a fellow who would actually take some umbrage about this very sentence.
You’re welcome, Mr. Dreyer. We’re here every week.
Dreyer’s English, which is tongue-in-cheekly subtitled “An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style,” is one of those books that writers should peruse while they’re standing in line somewhere (if they ever put on pants and leave the house, that is). It is a book the rest of us might roll our eyes about, but actually [sorry, Mr. Dreyer] is a book filled with secrets. What sort of secrets? Well, clarity and style, for one—er, two.
English is a language that has been mangled by its speakers for hundreds of years, and we show no sign of mangling less as we spend more and more time typing with our thumbs while drinking a quad skinny mocha mocha frapa-capa-macchiato. We rarely dally over what we say and write anymore, and Dreyer’s book—while not an "Old Man Shouting At You From The Porch" sort of examination of language—is an exhortation to pay attention to syntax, structure, and style. Don’t be lazy, you damn kids, know your comma rules, and use the em-dash properly!
Okay, enough with the dry non-fiction. Let’s get into something a little more dazzling.
How about a new Grishaverse novel? Leigh Bardugo returns to her bestselling universe with King of Scars, the first book in a new duology set in the same world as Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows. Sure, it will help if you’ve read the earlier books, but Bardugo is savvy enough to know that many of us are jumping on here and what we want is messed up heads of state (check), dashing protagonists (check), heart-stopping adventure (check), and possibilities of swoony romance between our leads (and checkity check). So, yeah. Let’s get a-reading!
Oh, and speaking of the bestselling Grishaverse (which is totally hitting Netflix, like, any moment now), how about a year-long journal that is slathered with bon mots, deep references, and guided activities (like, Who is Hotter: Sturmhond or Kaz?).
What? Nothing makes it easier to do your daily journaling that prompts about hot guys, right? No? Just us? Okay, whatever. Here’s a book about growing fruit in your backyard.
This book contains instructions for caring for more than seventy-five different cultivars. All of which can be grown right here in the Pacific Northwest. Just think, you can start planting this week, and all your friends in the midwest will be sooper jealous that you can actually go outside without your snot freezing.
And speaking of snot freezing, here is Jordanna Max Brodsky’s The Wolf in the Whale, a historical fairy tale set in the year 1000, where a native shaman and a Viking warrior band together to survive in a terribly unforgiving climate (both geographically and culturally). It’s like Quest for Fire meets How Harry Met Sally.
We’d like to see Mr. Dreyer’s notes on that script.
And speaking of clever scripts, we missed noting a Hard Case Crime novel that came out a few months back. We regret this oversight, especially since The New York Journal of Books says Erle Stanley Gardner's The Count of 9 “exudes mid-century American cool, with loads of snappy dialogue.”
Which is totally how you all think of this newsletter, right? Ah, we knew it. Thank you. You’re all the best.
Anyway, let’s not get so wrapped up in ourselves that we neglect that half-dozen historical novels that are fighting for your attention on this shelf this week. Here’s a quick way to tell them apart.
Slightly epistolary. Has a circus, but no bear. Runs into a war (the first World War, in fact).
Society scandals. No circus. No bear. Fictionalized backstory on one of the 21st century’s most notable public figures, which is why you can't see the character's face on the cover. We bet you didn't know this about cover design.
Speaking of things we can discern from covers, this one is about spies in WW II. How do we know? Well, the planes in the background for one. And two: that character is not wearing maintenance overalls, which means she's someplace where she's not supposed to be! Therefore: intrigue and subterfuge.
This one, however, shows us the main character's face and it is a photograph, which means it is historical non-fiction. Also the title tells you everything there is to know about the book. Another sign that it is non-fiction.
Let's see what we have here. Fine lighting. Fancy dresses. Moody character image. Floppy hat. Definitely a period romance novel. But with plot twists and intrigue, of course. Probably no circus and no bear, though.
Definitely no circus and no bear. No shame, either.
And finally, we’re just going to leave you with this book, which has the best title of the week.
You know you want to know more, don’t you? At the very least, it’s got more plot than Brick.