Anyone else feeling like there's a clock ticking somewhere in the background? When it goes "ding!" are all the pumpkins going to explode or something? No, just us? Well, I suppose that's comforting. Let's talk about books then, without worrying too much about a thing that only we hear, apparently.
Oh, look! A new John le Carre novel. Agent Running in the Field is quintessential le Carre, though his spies are operating in what is likely last week's news cycle. Some spies are getting long in the tooth. Some spies have one more mission they yearn to finish. Some spies are bastards, through and through, but at least they are our bastards, right? And geo-political maneuvering is, as always, like playing fourth-dimensional chess, while blindfolded. Le Carre continues to shine a light into the dark shadows of espionage work, and we continue to pretend that this is fiction.
And speaking of fiction, Kim Newman is back this week with Anno Dracula 1999: Daikaiju, which is the story of a sword-wielding vampire schoolgirl who must fight her way through an intelligent building, as well as ranks of cyberpunk terrorists, yakuza assassins, and Transylvanian mercenaries, in order to save a bunch of world leaders and sycophantic party-goers who were merely hoping to inaugurate the Age of Light.
What? Was there something that strained credulity in that description?
Fine. You want real-life stories? Okay, how about Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children's Home Society? You may recognize one of the two authors of this book: Lisa Wingate. Wingate wrote Before We Were Yours, a heartbreaking, though ultimately uplifting, novel about five siblings who were abandoned to the care of the infamous Tennessee Children's Home Society. In Before and After, Wingate, along with her co-author Judy Christy, delves into the historical record in regards to Georgian Tann and the terrible practices of the Tennessee Children's Home Society. This could certainly be a book that looks too closely at darkness, but Wingate and Christy wisely focus on affirmations of family and recovery.
Speaking of heartwarming stories, here's Charlie Mackesy's The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. Think like visiting Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood, but with watercolors and idiosyncratic brushwork. But without an Oxford comma. (Don't get us started on that.)
And let's stick with the heartwarming and endearing motif for a moment. Here's One Day, a new book by Gene Weingarten. Weingarten writes for The Washington Post and he came up with the idea of highlighting the news from a single day. What day did he pick? Well, he had a bunch of folk throw some days in a hat, and he drew one at random. December 28th, 1986. And there followed a collective exhalation around the office of "Wuh. There's a dinger of a slow news day." But Weingarten wanted to show that there really is no such thing as a "slow news" day; there are merely days, days, and more days. It's our own perverse need for Explosions!, Sexy Celebrities!, and Sexy Celebrities Brushing Their Teeth While Things Explode! that makes days newsworthy. In One Day: The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America, Weingarten ably demonstrates that news—and life, oh the life!—happens all the time. This is nothing more than 400 pages of human interest stories, dear readers, aka The Best Stuff.
And speaking of the good stuff, here's a book about what it is like to live with a bibliophile. Nina Freudenberger's Bibliostyle is an attempt to reconcile stylish decorating with OMG! Where Am I Going to Put All the Books? Many of you may be distracted by all the artful furniture and accessories. We're just going to be looking at the stacks of books, all the while thinking, "Who organizes books this way?"
And speaking of organizational skills, H. W. Brands is back with Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West. Brands, who spends his days teaching history at the University of Texas, offers up a lucid and highly readable history of the American Frontier, from the afternoon when Jefferson realized what he had purchased through the death of Teddy Roosevelt, that one-time failed cattle baron who ended up in the White House. Along the way, Brands digs up some colorful characters and fascinating nuggets of American history.
And speaking of American History, Edmund Morris's last book just came out this week, and it's a biography of Thomas Edison. Morris spent more than seven years poring through the five-million page archive of Edison's papers that are stored in a bombproof shelter in New Jersey, and the result is a lively and engrossing history of the man who invented the twentieth century. Well, most of the technology that has powered this century. Never one to rest on his laurels, Edison was driven by a desire to understand how the universe worked, and the wake of his search is littered with so many marvelous things.
And speaking of marvelous things, Theodore Gray has a new book this week as well. How Things Work illuminates the inner workings of a number of useful gadgets, and we have to admit that we've lost quite a bit of time to this book already. From clocks and looms to watches and locks, Gray takes things apart, photographs their innards, and documents how all the gizmos interact with the thingamabobs and whoozeewhatchits.
These are all technical Edisonian terms, of course.
And speaking of Gosh, that looks like magic!, here's a book that is delightfully marketed as "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes meets Women Who Run With Wolves." Amanda Yates Garcia offers a fascinating look into the world of modern day witchery with Initiated, a memoir of, uh, being a witch. But it's not a how-to spell book, frankly. It's more of a delightful (and sometimes harrowing) record of a woman's spiritual growth in the latter days of the twentieth century. A haunted time, surely.
And finally, we've gotten our hands on the latest additions to Sterling Publishing's charming series of introductory books. Framed as a "little bit of," these books give you a broad overview of not-your-usual-topics. Everything from Ayurveda and intuition to numerology and the divine feminine, these books will get you started on the path to seeing your chakras through your energized third eye. Bliss in, tune up, slide sideways—as the hip kids say.
And speaking of hip kids, remember that our next Author Swizzle is this Saturday. Starting at 6pm, we'll have local authors in the house. There will be snacks and presentations! And authors. Real live ones. You should come see them. Buy their books! Ask awkward questions! Stare at them with big eyes!
It's almost Halloween, after all.