This past weekend was the Pacific Northwest Bookseller Association trade show, which meant we took some time to hang out with other booksellers and authors, and get a whiff of what is hurtling its way through the book publishing pipeline. In fact, we’ve read one book already that won’t hit the shelves until next April, and we’re annoyed that we have to wait that long to gush about it.
Mostly because we have to remember where we’ve stuffed that ARC come next March. We know. We know. Bookseller problems are not real world problems. Like, what are you going to read this week? That’s a serious problem. Let’s address that one right now, in fact.
In fact, let’s start with James Mustich’s 1,000 Books To Read Before You Die. Firstly, we’re going to quibble a bit on the title. Even if you read like we do, this is still the work of a decade of your life, and we have to wonder what do you get if you finish this list before you die? Does Mr. Mustich come over to your house and offer you a giant certificate? Or is the knowledge that you are the most well-read cat on your block enough?
Trust us. That’s never enough.
Anyway, because we’re all caught on the clickbait hamster wheel, Mustich had to run with something very OMG! The World is Going to End If You Don’t Click This Link! for his title, and that’s disappointing. However, inside this cover, Mustich is a bit more relaxed and groovy. Downright playful, in fact, and we like that about a fellow who is laying out our reading schedule for the next bazillion weeks.
Naturally, we’re going to put together a checkbox list of the titles in this book and then pass it around the store. We’ll start snidely referring to each other by our total. “Oh, Sixteen says you should read that? Are you sure you want to listen to some yokel who’s only 1.6 on the Mustich?”
Poor Mr. Mustich. His name is going to be reduced to a percentage scale. Like roentgens, kelvin, and that constant that we get confused with avocados.
Anyway, get a-reading. You’re not getting any younger, and these books aren’t, uh, getting any older . . . ?
Meanwhile, this week’s winner in the New Book from a Member of Monty Python is Eric Idle, whose “sortabiography” Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is out this week. 2019 is the fiftieth anniversary of the Pythons, and Idle is getting ahead of the game with his delightfully tongue-in-cheek tell-all.
Did you know that “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” is the most played song at funerals in the UK? Talk about residuals.
This is also the week that the year’s best anthologies start to drop. We’ve got the best of food writing, nonrequired reading, science and nature writing, short stories, sports writing, science fiction and fantasy, travel, and—oh, for crying out loud!—how many of these things are there? Anyway, time to clear your shelf of last year’s crop; the new kids are here.
And speaking of new kids, the fifteenth volume in Anne Rice’s eternal vampire saga is out this week. Blood Communion is very topical, which is to say it's got lots of bloodletting and politics. Shorter than Rice’s usual output, it makes up for its brevity with complicated character drama and some serious scenery chewing. And buckets of blood. This is a vampire novel after all, and one that longtime fans will enjoy.
And speaking of longtime fan service, M. C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin is back this week. In The Dead Ringer, retired busybody Agatha Raisin gets caught up in a handful of questionable engagements, a couple of murders, a monstrous kidnapping, and one divorce, which is amicably uncomplicated, given everything else that is going on in the “quiet” village of Thirk Magna.
Meanwhile, Charlaine Harris is introducing us to Lizbeth Rose this week. Lizbeth is the protagonist of An Easy Death, a supernatural gunslinger novel set in a fractured States of ‘Murica, where aged Texas frontier law and order must contend with equally old Russian magic. Oleg Karkarov, a low-level practitioner of the occult arts, has gone missing, you see, and there are people who want him, because his blood—purportedly from the same line of that mad monk, Rasputin—may be all that can save the Holy Russian Empire.
And speaking of old-timey history writ large, Ransom Riggs is back with the next book in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series. A Map of Days follows Jacob Portman as he sets out to find Noor, an imperiled teen like him, and along the way there are the usual assortment of spooks, weird pictures, and the odd rambling noises of an old prophecy that has yet to come to pass.
And speaking of road trips and unexpected surprises, Lief Enger’s new book arrives this week. Virgil Wander is Enger’s first book in over a decade, and it is a tangled variety of interwoven stories about a small Midwest town and its inhabitants as they attempt to hold their community together. Naturally, there are all manner of strange occurrences and characters, including a half-feral raccoon named Genghis, a kite-flying codger (which is a character description we could all aspire to), and the titular protagonist who has mysteriously survived a car crash into the freezing waters of Lake Michigan. Sort of like Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale meets Thomas Maltman’s Little Wolves.
And even though we no longer have Leonard Cohen among us, we have his last wish, which was to put together one final poetry collection, which includes the lyrics from his last three albums. While Cohen’s voice might not have been everyone’s cup of tea, his ability to write a line of poetry was sublime, and we’re delighted to have this collection on the shelf.
And speaking of cool things on the shelf, how about a giant map that charts the fossil record in the American West? Based on the clever books by Kirk Johnson and Ray Troll, Cruising the Fossil Freeway is a like hanging a dinosaur on your wall, except it’s more cleverly drawn and diagrammed. It makes us want to take a road trip or two.
Which brings us to the "quiz" part of this week's newsletter. Which would you rather have as a checklist for the next couple of years: 1,000 books you're not going to have time to read, or 1,000 fossil locations that there aren't enough weekends to visit?
Sometimes being a grown-up sucks. So many hard decisions.