AbeBooks' Reading Copy

AbeBooks book blog

Advanced Search Browse Books Rare Books Textbooks
Advanced Search

3rd Milan International Antiquarian Book Fair

For the third time, antiquarian book enthusiasts from booksellers to avid experts to curious would-be collectors all came together under one roof at the Palazzo Mezzanotte in Milan, for the Milan International Antiquarian Book Fair. The fair took place Friday – Sunday, March 27th-29th 2015. The event was put on by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Italy (ABAI) and supported by the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB). An extremely varied, high-class and well-attended event, the fair showcased all manner of antique paper treasure, from incunabula, maps, illuminated manuscripts, priceless unique documents and much more. Members of our AbeBooks European team attended and thoroughly enjoyed. Here are some images from the event.

v1

v2

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

v3

1

1


Cover of Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” Revealed

Lucky People Magazine had a very good day today – they get an exclusive first look at Harper Lee’s feverishly coveted and anticipated second novel, Go Set A Watchman. Despite recent flurries of controversy amid rumors of elder abuse, it appears the book is still set to be released for publication on July 14th, 2015.

Here is the newly-revealed cover of Go Set a Watchman, as seen side by side with its predecessor, To Kill a Mockingbird.

to-kill-mockingbird-go-set-watchman


Ashura Cho^ – Demon SketchBook

Today’s amazing book find:

"Demon Sketchbook"

From the bookseller:

Entitled (roughly) “Demon Sketchbook”.

The Asuras of the title are the warrior gods of Indian religion, condemned to constant strife. The book is a deeply bitter and ironic look at the politics and social scene of the World War I era, not only in Japan itself, but around the world. As such it is an amazing slice of life during and after the world war from the unique perspective of a Japanese humanist given to Swiftian excess. The author (and illustrator), Ito Chuta, was an architect and gifted caricaturist. The printer/publisher was a bit of an ironist himself, as the closing note mentions that his “National Purity Publications” ["Kokusui Shuppansha"] did not quite embody the usual “National Purity” which was being bruited about. Obviously this work is a product of Taisho liberalism. Ten or so years earlier or later, it would have never reached the light of day in a less tolerant political atmosphere. There are 500 pages of plates, each is one-half color woodcut caricature and one-half wry commentary in a combination of letterpress and woodcut calligraphy. Well-printed and interesting, the full set of 500 plates in five volumes – with the original clasped cases – is quite a find, as one only occasionally finds even odd volumes.

asura-cho-1

asura-cho-2

asura-cho-3

asura-cho-4


Armchair Fiction: Making Vintage Pulp a Priority

armchair-fiction-sci-fi-1
We’d like to take a moment to introduce AbeBooks bookseller Armchair Fiction. It’s no secret we at AbeBooks love retro pulp fiction, whether it comes in the form of monsters, dames, or any other. So it stands to reason that we just love Armchair Fiction and their work. The Medford, Oregon-based bookseller exists to keep pulp alive and put it back into the hands of the fans by reprinting classic, nostalgic science-fiction and horror (and most recently, mystery) titles. Not only that, but they also recreate the original cover art, thus preserving the original look and feel of the book, making it much more affordable than an original collector’s copy, and having a lot of fun while doing it.

armchair-fiction-sci-fi-2

Armchair’s parent company, Sinister Cinema, has been in business since 1984 and specializes in DVDs of nostalgic films, again leaning towards genres such as sci-fi, mystery, horror and B-westerns. Fans’ enthusiasm for their products meant the next logical step was to branch out into paperback books. So in 2010, that’s what they did, and we’re so glad. So far, Armchair Fiction has put out over 250 books.

Read on for an interview with Greg Luce of Armchair Fiction.

AbeBooks: Why Armchair Fiction – how did you come up with the name?

Greg Luce: It’s funny, both the names Sinister Cinema and Armchair Fiction originate from the Portland, Oregon area, though I never lived in Portland. Sinister was named after an old TV show that aired back in the ’70s, while Armchair Fiction was named after my favorite bookstore in the Portland area: Armchair Books–a place that was loaded with old paperbacks and comic books! It was a book and comic collector’s dream come true.

Abe: How did you come up with your business model?

GL: Since Sinister Cinema was already in place, we simply added the Armchair line to our existing business. When I looked around the book scene in 2009 and 2010 I was surprised by how much nostalgic sci-fi was no longer available in the literary marketplace. I decided to target this genre, partly because it seemed the logical thing for a specialty house like us to do, and partly out of a love for this kind of fiction. I truly love making these old works available again.

Abe: What is unique and special about your business?

GL: Boy…I could write pages. Let’s just say that Armchair Fiction is a nostalgic sci-fi fan’s delight. A place to find many forgotten works without having to pay through the nose for an old battered original pulp magazine or paperback. Probably 50-60% of the stories we reprint haven’t been published in many years, often since first publication, so it’s almost like having new stuff for fans to read. The science fiction paperbacks and magazines of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50 served as our inspiration.

armchair-fiction-sci-fi-3

Abe: Can you tell us about your passion for books?

GL: I’d always been a horror and sci-fi movie nut when I was a kid. Then one day my pal and neighbor came over with a couple of tattered Ace Science Fiction Doubles he’d picked up in an old second hand store downtown. I fell in love with them instantly and wanted more! The place he bought them from was called C and I Furniture in Pendleton, Oregon. It wasn’t really a furniture store, so much as just mountains of used secondhand junk. It was an amazing place and right when you walked in the main entrance there was a massive set of shelves filled with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of musty old paperback books. They sold for a nickel apiece–sometimes a dime. The place just reeked with that old paperback smell. I loved it. That’s where it all started for me. The Mars Monopoly by Jerry Sohl was the first Ace Double novel I ever read. It just blew the Hardy Boys out of the water. Sorry, Frank. Sorry, Joe. I’ve been reading sci-fi ever since.

Abe: What are some of your favorite books in your collection?

GL: There are a lot. One of my favorites is Milton Lesser’s Forty Days Have September. It’s a GREAT aliens-secretly-on-Earth tale. J. F. Bone’s Special Effect is one of the most unique science fiction short novels I’ve ever encountered. And I mustn’t forget our Horror and Sci-Fi “Gems” short story collections, which I absolutely love putting together. The Fiddler’s Fee by Robert Bloch is one of the best classic horror tales I’ve ever read. It’s in Horror Gems, Vol. Seven. We just started coming out with Mystery Doubles, as well. The Deadly Pick-Up by Milton Ozaki is paired with James Causey’s “Killer Take All!,” the latter of which is perhaps the most engrossing mystery tale I’ve read.

Abe: What is the weirdest book you’ve ever come across?

GL: If you like bizarre, really out of this world stuff there are always our Shaver Mystery collections by Richard S. Shaver. This stuff is really wild. Shaver’s stories, while written in fiction-form, are supposedly “true.” (choke, cough, gag!) Shaver claims that he discovered a vast network of underground caves filled with all kinds of unearthly creatures (he calls them “Deros” in his stories) who are basically waiting to take over the surface world again. They’re constantly bombarding us with dangerous “rays.” It turns out that the years Shaver claimed he was in the “caves” were actually years he spent in a mental institution. His editor and pal, Raymond A. Palmer, published just about everything Shaver sent to him at Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures back in the 1940s. While the stories initially boosted circulation, they caused such a stir that Palmer eventually had to leave Ziff-Davis Publications. We just released The Shaver Mystery, Book Six earlier this month. Shaver is truly the Edward D. Wood of the nostalgic science fiction scene.

armchair-fiction-sci-fi-4

Abe: Are your sales online only, or do you have a brick & mortar space as well?

GL:
We’re pretty much online only. Armchair and Sinister are both run out of a small facility, with two storeys filled with tons of books, videos, and 16mm film prints. Help! There are four of us running the whole show. My wife thinks I’m a little nutty, but she’s pleased with the results.

Abe: What are some of your own favorite books and writers?

Maggie, Armchair Fiction's yellow Lab

Maggie, Armchair Fiction’s yellow Lab in Residence

GL: There’s no question that one of my favorite authors is Robert Silverberg. When growing up I thought his The Planet Killers was one of the best things I’d ever read. It wasn’t anything too deep–just extremely well-written sci-fi intrigue. Andre Norton was another of my favorites. I loved her The Stars are Ours and The Last Planet. When it comes to horror there are many great authors, Robert Bloch, August Derleth, Algernon Blackwood (ever read The Willows? Wow!), Carl Jacobi etc. But let’s face it, the best horror short stories ever written are found in the works of Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, and in Stephen King’s first two short story collections, Night Shift and Skeleton Crew. Amazing stuff. I also love ragtime piano, the British Invasion (Dave Clark Five!), and the New York Yankees, too. Weird, Huh?

Riley, fuzzy mascot #2.

Riley, fuzzy mascot #2.

Abe: What else?
GL: Well….we don’t have a bookstore cat; but we do have a couple of very lovable bookstore dogs–a wonderful Yellow Lab named Maggie (above), and a cute little completely, totally, and utterly spoiled Havanese named Riley (right). I’m about to put together our annual Armchair/Sinister Catalog, which is due out in another month, and they love to lay at my feet while I’m working on it. There are no curses on any of our books that I know of, nor any of our movies for that matter; but sometimes when I think of how all-consuming this business is I think of the old line from Universal’s Frankenstein: “You have created a monster and it will destroy you!”

I can truly say that Armchair Fiction and Sinister Cinema are hobbies run amok. It’s a helluva lot of work, but it’s very rewarding. I’ve been very blessed.


Terry Pratchett 1948 – 2015

terry-pratchettThe man who gave us Discworld is gone.

Sir Terry Pratchett died today, at home, surrounded by family, of complications from end-stage early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

Throughout Pratchett’s lengthy career, he published over 70 books. He was by far best known for his Discworld books, a series of 40 bizarre and very funny fantasy novels set on the fictional “Discworld”, which is of course a flat disc placed on the backs of four elephants, who are standing atop the shell of a giant turtle. They’re like reading Tolkien, or at times even Aesop, if Tolkien and Aesop had wonderfully witty, nerdy, unapologetically groan-worthy senses of humour. The Discworld series garnered a fiercely dedicated group of fans, and has been translated into 37 languages to date.

One of Pratchett’s most successful non-Discworld books was his collaboration with Neil Gaiman called Good Omens, released in 1990. Pratchett’s cheerful zaniness and Gaiman’s dark, wry wit balanced perfectly to result in an extremely funny novel about witches, angels, the Beast, and children.

After Pratchett’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2007, the author was shocked to learn how little money goes to Alzheimer’s research. He not only made a sizable donation himself, but also became a willingly vocal public champion of research into the disease. His efforts included a two-part documentary television special on the BBC about this experiences with Alzheimer’s, called Terry Pratchett: Living with Alzheimer’s. He made several other radio and television appearances to discuss the illness, as well.

As his condition deteriorated, Pratchett also stepped into the public eye to bring awareness to the right-to-die movement, whose mandate would grant the right, for terminally ill patients, to choose voluntary euthanasia to end their life.

In July 2014, Pratchett’s health forced him to miss a Discworld convention for the first time ever. He died today, March 12th, 2015. He was 66.


Ayelet Tsabari Wins 2015 Sami Rohr Prize

Canadian author Ayalet Tsabari

There’s been very exciting news for Ayelet Tsabari: it was recently announced that the Toronto-based author has won the 2015 Sami Rohr Prize. The prize began in 2006 and was conceived by the grandchildren of Jewish philanthropist Sami Rohr on his 80th birthday, to honor his appreciation for Jewish literature.

Administered by the Jewish Book Council, the Sami Rohr prize exists to help seek, promote and support excellent literature by Jewish authors. The annual award carries with it a prize of $100,000, making it one of the most monetarily significant prizes in the industry.

Tsabari, who published her first book, The Best Place on Earth (as of this writing, no copies of the book are available on the AbeBooks web site, likely as a result of the recent announcement – check back!) in March of 2013, is a Canadian author of Yemeni descent, born and raised in Israel. Her book of short stories skillfully explores themes of displacement, belonging, and culture clash, and makes us question the very notion of home. Many of her characters read as hermit crabs, carrying their homes along with them, too tentative to commit their roots to just one place, when our hearts long for so many different landscapes, and when so many environments can contribute to who we become.

I’m excited that Tsabari’s work has been recognized and celebrated in this way. And I’m mostly excited that it’s been funded, so perhaps we’ll get more of her words soon. |

Read and learn more about Tsabari at ayelettsabari.com.


ILAB seeks suggestions for 17th Breslauer Prize for Bibliography

Jon Gilbert, who won the last ILAB prize for bibliography

ILAB  is seeking nominations for the 17th Breslauer Prize for Bibliography, which will be awarded in 2018.  Worth $10,000 to the winner, the prize acclaims the best scholarly book about books.

Jon Gilbert, who is a bookseller with Adrian Harrington in Tunbridge Wells, won the last prize in 2014 for his book, Ian Fleming. The Bibliography.

The book can be in any language and published between April 2013 and April 2017. E- books and catalogs are not eligible.

The prize jury features Bettina Wagner (Bavarian State Library, Munich), Daniel de Simone (Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC), Yann Sordet (Bibliothèque Mazarine, Paris) and the antiquarian booksellers Fabrizio Govi (Italy), Konrad Meuschel (Germany) and Justin Croft (United Kingdom).

Nominations can be made by publishers, librarians, collectors, booksellers and any bibliophiles. To suggest a book, contact Fabrizio Govi at Libreria Alberto Govi Via Bononcini, 24 – 41124 Modena (Italia), phone 0039 059 373629, or via email info@libreriagovi.com


Raymond Carver’s short stories boosted by Birdman’s Oscars

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

Triple Oscar winner Birdman is sparking interest in Raymond Carver’s short stories. The movie chronicles an actor’s attempt to boost his flagging career with a stage adaptation of Carver’s short story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, which was originally published in 1981.

Birdman, which stars Michael Keaton, enacts parts of Carver’s short story and the collection’s title is seen frequent throughout the film on the marquee of a theater featured in the film. Birdman received nine academy award nominations and won for best picture, best director, best cinematography and best screenplay. Carver, also known for his poetry, died in 1988.

The collection’s title has been riffed upon by several other writers, including Chuck Klosterman, Haruki Murakami and Noah Richler.

Interested in further fictional brevity? Check out our recommendations for the Best Short Stories.


Facebook Club Announces Its 4th Book, And It’s Timely

On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss

Early last month we reported that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had begun a year-long goal of reading two books a month, sharing the titles publicly and opening avenues for discussion on the book club’s Facebook page. The books selected will be chosen with an eye for relevant themes of technology, culture, history and belief systems.

The first three books selected were The End of Power by Moses Naim, The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker, and Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh.

on February 18th, the fourth selection was announced, and it is a very timely choice. On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss aims to scientifically, thoroughly and exhaustively question – and then answer – the vaccination debate. It’s an inarguably timely choice. In late December, Disneyland in California became contagion ground zero for the measles, when an unvaccinated visitor to the park, ill with measles but as of then unaware, exposed countless other visitors. Since then, 139 cases of measles are confirmed and linked to that outbreak, and social media is rampant with discussions, debates, arguments, name-calling and overall hysteria about vaccinations.

Thanks in part to certain celebrities publicly stating that they don’t vaccinate, believing vaccinations to be unnatural, unsafe, the cause of Autism and other claims, certain areas of North America (including parts of California) have seen significantly reduced immunization rates in recent years. That has scientists, as well as doctors and other members of the medical community, troubled and alarmed, and parents on both sides fighting as hard as they can for their right to protect their children. Stories like the story of Roald Dahl’s daughter, who died of Measles at age seven, have been shared and shared again, as have stories about vaccine injury from the opposing team. It is a hotly debated, highly contentious current issue, which is no doubt why Zuckerberg selected On Immunity as the next title to read. Here’s the synopsis:

Why do we fear vaccines? A provocative examination by Eula Biss, the author of Notes from No Man’s Land, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award

Upon becoming a new mother, Eula Biss addresses a chronic condition of fear—fear of the government, the medical establishment, and what is in your child’s air, food, mattress, medicine, and vaccines. She finds that you cannot immunize your child, or yourself, from the world. In this bold, fascinating book, Biss investigates the metaphors and myths surrounding our conception of immunity and its implications for the individual and the social body. As she hears more and more fears about vaccines, Biss researches what they mean for her own child, her immediate community, America, and the world, both historically and in the present moment. She extends a conversation with other mothers to meditations on Voltaire’s Candide, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Susan Sontag’s AIDS and Its Metaphors, and beyond. On Immunity is a moving account of how we are all interconnected—our bodies and our fates.

Perhaps its childish opposite is Melanie’s Marvelous Measles by Stephanie Messenger, whose author-written synopsis reads, in part:

Melanie’s Marvelous Measles was written to educate children on the benefits of having measles and how you can heal from them naturally and successfully. Often today, we are being bombarded with messages from vested interests to fear all diseases in order for someone to sell some potion or vaccine, when, in fact, history shows that in industrialized countries, these diseases are quite benign and, according to natural health sources, beneficial to the body.

If one wants a clear picture of just how up-in-arms society is about vaccination currently, they need only go and have a read of the reviews for Melanie’s Marvelous Measles on amazon.com.

Time to revisit our Five Books Mark Zuckerberg Won’t Be Recommending:

(so far, we’re four for four!)


It’s Jenny from the book! J Lo inspires hunt for ‘first editions’ of Homer’s Iliad

Jennifer Lopez stars in The Boy Next Door as a high school teacher

The book world moves in mysterious ways.  Jennifer Lopez has sparked interest in ‘first editions’ of Homer’s The Iliad – the epic poem about the Trojan War written around the 8th century BC.

Since Lopez’s latest movie,  The Boy Next Door, was released in the US on January 23, ‘The Iliad, first edition’ has been the top search term on AbeBooks.com. To Kill a Mockingbird is the second most popular search during this period and that classic book has received just a little publicity this month.

In The Boy Next Door, Lopez plays a divorced English literature high school teacher who has a one-night stand with her younger neighbor played by Ryan Guzman. In one scene, Guzman’s character gives Lopez a copy of The Iliad, which is described as a “first edition” and apparently found for “a buck at a garage sale.”

The Iliad from The Boy Next Door (YouTube)

It appears people who have watched the film are trying to identify the actual edition handed to Lopez, which has dark yellow and blue boards. I cannot match the book seen in the movie to anything currently for sale on AbeBooks and I did trawl though several hundred listings yesterday. It could be a movie prop.

One expensive Iliad has sold on AbeBooks since the release of The Boy Next Door. A copy from 1715 sold for $3,785 on February 4. The Iliad has been the 29th bestselling book on AbeBooks.com since January 23 but that’s not unusual as we sell the classics all year round.

Journalists and bloggers have mocked the scene as no-one knows when The Iliad was first written down to create the ‘true’ first edition. However, there have been numerous editions of The Iliad printed since the 16th century and each new edition would have its own first edition, so in that context the movie’s dialog is actually correct.

The most expensive Iliad currently for sale on AbeBooks is another 1715 edition translated by Alexander Pope, but also including The Odyssey, for $32,000.

Something similar happened in 2008 with the Sex and the City movie that featured a fictional (as in not real) book called Love Letters of Great Men that Mr Big read to Carrie Bradshaw. We saw thousands of people (ladies, I believe) coming to site looking for the book on the weekend that the film opened.

I can’t be specific but Hollywood folks regularly shop on AbeBooks.com – cheap used copies for actors prepping for a role or for screenwriters doing research, very specific editions for use in films, and also rare items because there are many book collectors inside the movie business.