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Books of the Beat Generation, from Rob Warren Books

Rob Warren is no stranger to nostalgia. The Bronx-born bibliophile traded in it for years as the owner of Skyline Books.

Skyline was a New York City bookshop that made its home on W. 18th Street in Manhattan for two decades, until its closure in 2010. Its proprietor’s background was as book-soaked as one could dream – Warren’s father was a printer with a shop dedicated to old-time printing presses, selling greeting cards and stationery, and eventually books. Warren worked there, then several varied New York-based bookshops, before striking out on his own and building Skyline in 1990. He has been with AbeBooks since 1998, the very early days of our business.

Skyline was tailor-made for bookish types – a cozy, creaky hole in the wall, piled high with quality books and a much-beloved cat named Linda. Linda was featured not only in a Japanese calendar, but also the cover model for a book about Paris’ Shakespeare & Co. bookshop (those are her hindquarters below left, adorning Time Was Soft There).

Skyline attracted a certain kind of person. Bookish, passionate people from the neighborhood and beyond would stop in to buy, to browse, or even to connect with other like-minded people over a first edition or two. time-soft-there
Over the years the likes of Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, Ted Joans, Anne Charters, Robert Frank, and Herbert Huncke darkened its doors. A review from the shop’s now defunct Yelp business profile states “This shop is definitely a book forager’s shop and not one for those with a weak sense of adventure. If you prefer your bookstores with organized shelves, clearly marked prices, and pristine covers, this place is not for you. But if you’re one who doesn’t mind combing through titles for hours on end, Skyline, with its jumbled collection, can be quite a treat.”. Sounds heavenly to me.

When his lease increased suddenly and steeply, Warren was unable to afford the space and was forced to make the painful decision to close his doors. Linda came home with him, of course (and continued at his side until she passed away at age 16, halfway through 2015). And the books? Well, the more pedestrian of the Skyline collection were sold in the shop’s last days, at great discounts. Lots others were snapped up at a West Village book fair, the proceeds of which went to benefit LGBTQ organizations. Still more, the cream of the crop, were put aside by Warren, who just couldn’t bear to part with certain titles and gems. howl-ginsbergModern first editions, special finds and an impressive collection of works by and about the Beat Generation all went home with him to his small apartment, whose two storage rooms he estimates hold ~1500 volumes.

Much of that collection is available now on AbeBooks, after he started selling in the Tin Pan Alley district of New York City later in 2010 under the name Rob Warren Books. The collection that has his apartment and storage areas packed must go, a bit at a time, and so he’s adding more inventory all the time, albeit gradually. Warren’s days are more varied now – he still receives occasional calls from interested book buyers and booksellers. He enjoys plenty of down time, including playing guitar, on his own in the park or along with the other members of his rock band. A few at a time, he’s listing his books for sale, those gems that were his “keepers” for 25 years. Once a booklover, always a booklover, and Warren will still venture far and wide to attend particularly choice book signings. By and large, though, he spends his time close to home, in the coffee shop, library and restaurants in Manhattan’s East Village. Life is soft.

beat-beat-beat-brownWarren was kind enough to talk with us and answer some questions about his collection of Beat books, and how they became the focal point of his book love.

AbeBooks: How and why did you begin collecting books of the Beat Generation?

Rob Warren: I just liked reading them. As a teenager I discovered Burroughs and Kerouac, reading them in hardcover then eventually wanting a first edition.

Abe: What was the first Beat book you remember acquiring?

RW: On the Road. It took me 20 years to get a true first edition of On the Road – and I still have that copy!

Abe: What is the prize find in your collection?

RW: It used to be to be a first edition Naked Lunch by Burroughs (Grove Press) warmly inscribed to Paul Bowles for inspiring him to write the novel. Burroughs was visiting Bowles in Tangier when he wrote it. My current favorite is Junky, also by Burroughs under the pseudonym William Lee. This is the original Ace Double 1953, signed by Burroughs and his close friend Herbert Huncke who is the main character in the book. Interestingly, this book was published by Carl Solomon to whom Howl is dedicated. My other favorites might also be a few original unpublished notebooks by Gregory Corso from the early 90’s. Corso was a regular customer in my shop and one day he brought them in. They’re pretty amazing.

Abe: How long have you been collecting?

RW: From my teens on I always collected books even if they weren’t first editions. I officially started collecting when I discovered Raymond Carver. That was in 1983. We became acquaintances over the years.
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Abe: What Beat books do you not yet have, but wish to acquire?

RW: I always regretted not getting a signed first of Howl.

Abe: Who would you call the key figures of the Beats, outside of Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs?

RW: Gregory Corso, primarily, but also Ferlinghetti as a publisher. Herbert Huncke wrote some very interesting books. Ted Joans for awhile. Gary Snyder never considered himself a Beat, but he got lumped in as he was the inspiration for the main character in Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums. Ah, and Neal Cassady! His The First Third was actually written before On the Road.

Abe: What do you think contributed to the formation of the Beat poets and movement?

RW: The experience of World War II and the realization that perhaps the American Dream wasn’t necessarily what they’d been told all along. In many ways they were inevitable just as the protests of the 60’s were inevitable.

Abe: What else would you like to tell us about collecting and your collection?

RW: My entire Beat collection is going up on AbeBooks. At this point I’ve listed 130 Beat-related items with pictures. It took 30 years to build so this is going to take some time! After the Beats I’ll start listing my Raymond Carver, William Faulkner and Charles Bukowski collections. And of course a sizeable run of signed books by Samuel Beckett, including an inscribed copy of Waiting For Godot, Grove Press, 1954. A Near Fine copy in NF dust Jacket. Stay tuned.

I will say that over the years I met all the major Beats except Kerouac. They either came into Skyline or I spoke with them at signings at St. Mark’s Church. I also got to meet Robert Frank. He signed a few copies of Les Americans, the true first edition of his seminal work. Kerouac wrote the introduction to the American edition published a year later. You just can’t find yourself in these situations if you don’t inherently love what you do.

Check out all the books currently offered by Rob Warren Books.


Amazon’s Top 10 Books: September 2015

Here we go again – time to turn my TBR (“to be read”) pile into an exciting, teetering skyscraper of a stack, as the book editors at Amazon once again release their list of the top 10 recommended books for the month. I’m most excited about the Chrissie Hynde autobiography (is anybody cooler than Chrissie Hynde?) and the new Jonathan Franzen, personally, but September is shaping up to be a hell of a month for new books if this list is any indication, especially for people who like to laugh – new Jenny Lawson and new Mindy Kaling in the same month?! Fabulous.

Here are the 10 books recommended by Amazon book editors for September, plus, of course, the debut spotlighted book.

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This month’s spotlighted book is You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine: A Novel by Alexandra Kleeman, called an intelligent and madly entertaining debut novel reminiscent of Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, among others. Here’s the scoop:

A woman known only by the letter A lives in an unnamed American city with her roommate, B, and boyfriend, C, who wants her to join him on a reality show called That’s My Partner! A eats (or doesn’t) the right things, watches endless amounts of television, often just for the commercials—particularly the recurring cartoon escapades of Kandy Kat, the mascot for an entirely chemical dessert—and models herself on a standard of beauty that only exists in such advertising. She fixates on the fifteen minutes of fame a news-celebrity named Michael has earned after buying up his local Wally Supermarket’s entire, and increasingly ample, supply of veal.

Meanwhile B is attempting to make herself a twin of A, who hungers for something to give meaning to her life, something aside from C’s pornography addiction, and becomes indoctrinated by a new religion spread throughout a web of corporate franchises, which moves her closer to the decoys that populate her television world, but no closer to her true nature.

 

And the rest of the September recommendations:

 

Reckless: My Life as a Pretender by Chrissie Hynde

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The Pentagon’s Brain by Annie Jacobsen

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The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

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Library of Souls: The Third Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

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The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

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Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

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Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

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Why Not Me? by Mind Kaling

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Purity: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen

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Renovating Couple Finds Safe Code, Safe, Cash and Book

***UPDATE: Nevermind. Apparently, the world is full of terrible, untrustworthy people, bent on getting our collective hopes up, and the story was actually a hoax. You people at thechive need better things to do. HOWEVER, the book referenced below is still a very real and very interesting book. So there.***

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God knows I love a good intriguing mystery.

A Phoenix, Arizona couple intent on remodeling their kitchen have found themselves at the heart of a possible mystery, as reported on thechive.com. The young couple moved into their home two years ago, knowing it was a diamond in the rough needing some work. When they first moved in, a look in the medicine cabinet revealed the code to a safe. And when they began tearing up their kitchen floor two years later, they found the safe.

The safe contained just over $50,000 in cash, an exceedingly rare bottle of bourbon, a black and white photograph, and a book – A Guide for the Perplexed, by E.F. Schumacher. More intriguing still – the book itself contains a “Bingo” card with three numbers circled, and many meaningful-seeming underlined passages. And on the back of the photograph, the subject of which is a head-and-shoulders portrait of an unassuming, bespectacled man in a suit, is written:

Alan,

I have a book you must read. I’ve underlined a few key passages.

Your friend,

Vincent

Inside the book there is also a cardboard fact sheet of Arizona, with an area highlighted green.

Who is/was Alan? Who is/was Vincent? Is the Bingo card telling us the code to another safe? Is the fact card of Arizona showing us the location of that safe? Is it Vincent in the photograph? Where did he get those great glasses? Can I try the bourbon??

Ok, no answers to any of that, but I can at least shed some light on the book. A Guide for the Perplexed is a short book by Ernst Friedrich (E.F.) Schumacher, published in 1977 (meaning this safe had to be interred and hidden since then). Schumacher was a German-Swiss ecologist, economist and statistician, and also a booklover. His personal archival collection of books are available for viewing at the library of the Schumacher Center for New Economics in Great Barrington, Massachussetts.

Schumacher believed A Guide to the Perplexed to be his finest work and life’s most important achievement. He reportedly handed it over to his daughter days before his death, and impressed upon her the importance of the work.

The book itself is a theoretical discussion, and in some cases, a critique, of the ways in which humans live in the world and interact with it. It focuses particularly on terms of our role here – what are our obligations here on Earth? What are we here for, and how do we provide and derive meaning in our lives? Mostly, it asks how do we find our place here on Earth, and encourages us to become our own “mapmakers” – Schumacher claims we need maps for life, such as a map of living and a map of knowledge, and it’s up to us to make those maps.

AbeBooks has 111 copies of the book for sale as of the writing of this post, ranging in price from just over $1.00 to just under $500.

A fairly intriguing treatise to find in a safe, chock full of clues, and cash, and booze, if you ask me.

I hope to hear more about this.


Amy Stewart turns to fiction with Girl Waits With Gun

Author and bookseller Amy Stewart

I’ve been reading Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart. Released this week, it’s Amy’s first novel and marks her entry into fiction after a series of entertaining non-fiction hits including The Drunken Botanist, Wicked Plants, Wicked Bugs and Flower Confidential.

Amy is no ordinary author as she is truly committed to books and the literary world. I’m not talking about signing a few books for her fans. I’m talking about the fact that she co-owns a bookstore in Northern California and knows about the trials and tribulations of being a bricks and mortar bookseller. She sees two distinct ends of the book business.

Girls Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

I had the pleasure of meeting Amy and her husband Scott Brown earlier this summer in Eureka, California, where they live and run Eureka Books. With two months to go until the release of Girls Waits With Gun, she was very excited about the novel’s prospects and there was a book tour already in the works.

Girls Waits With Gun is a piece of historical fiction based upon real events and actual people. It tells the story of Constance Kopp, one of America’s first deputy sheriffs. Set in 1914 in small town New Jersey, the novel develops around a collision between a car, driven by a reckless silk factory owner, and a horse-drawn buggy, containing Constance and her sisters.

The aftermath involves threats and violence, and Constance defending her family while also assisting the local sheriff in the investigation. Gradually, she becomes more and more involved, and several stories unfold at once. In the background, Amy’s story touches on workplace conditions and social unrest, and how women were expected to behave in 1914.

Enjoy our interview with Amy.

AbeBooks: After so much non-fiction, why turn to fiction and write a novel?

Amy Stewart: “I’ve always wanted to write fiction, and, like many writers, I have a few failed novels in the drawer. Girl Waits with Gun comes from a true story, but it very much lends itself to fiction. I loved the idea of these three sisters who were–in real life–very different from each other but also sort of stuck to one another. And although the crime was a very serious one, their story also had the feeling of a caper about it. It felt like an adventure.  As soon as I had a short stack of newspaper clippings, I thought, ‘Oh, this is a novel I’d like to read. I suppose I’ll have to write it.'”

AbeBooks: Was it a challenge to write fiction?

Amy Stewart:“It was a real joy. I actually approach my non-fiction the way novelists do, which is to say that I think a lot about the voice, even for books like The Drunken Botanist written in the third person.  Even if it’s something very subtle that readers don’t consciously pick up on, I’m very aware of who the narrator is in those books. The narrator is still present as a character.

“Also, even with nonfiction, I do all my research first so that when I sit down to write, I can focus on the story. So much of it felt really familiar. I do appreciate,with historical fiction, being somewhat constrained by the truth. I can see how too many choices could get overwhelming.”

AbeBooks: Describe how you discovered the real Constance Kopp?

The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart

Amy Stewart: I was still writing The Drunken Botanist, and I was looking into the story of a gin smuggler named Henry Kaufman. I thought I’d better see what else this Henry Kaufman had done, and one of the first articles I turned up in the New York Times’ archive was about this silk factory owner named Henry Kaufman who ran his car into a buggy being driven by the Kopp sisters. I never did figure out if it was the same Henry Kaufman, but that was the beginning of their story.

AbeBooks: Is Girl Waits With Gun a story of good versus evil or a story of strong women?

Amy Stewart: “Yeah, I see it mostly as a story of these three women making their way in the world. You know, most of us can’t really point to very many moments in our own lives that actually changed everything for us. It’s the hook on which every great movie and book is based, but it doesn’t really happen that much in everyday life. But here are three women who really were set on an entirely new course because of this one crime against them. I’m much more interested in their journey–that’s what inspired me the most.

AbeBooks: If you had a dinner party and could invite anyone, which strong-willed women from history would you invite?

Amy Stewart: “It takes my breath away to imagine having dinner with Constance!  Can I just invite the Kopp sisters?  Really, that’s such a heart-stoppingly shocking notion that I can hardly bear to think about it.

“I’d love to talk to Margaret Sanger and Jane Jacobs, two women who cared deeply about social reform, and also Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who was in Paterson, New Jersey, right before my story began and helped organize the famous Paterson silk strikes. It sounds like a very serious and sincere group, but I bet they knew how to kick back and have fun.”

AbeBooks: What appealed to you about this era (1914) of American life?

Amy Stewart: “Well, it’s the very beginning of the modern age. Women didn’t yet have the vote, but we were agitating for it. Our world was only just becoming motorized and electrified, but there were still gas lamps and horse-drawn carriages and weird medical tonics and all the artifacts of the nineteenth century. It’s such an unstable and unpredictable moment in time, right before the war, before the modern era began in earnest.  It’s antiquated and strange but also just recent enough that we can almost touch it.”

AbeBooks: Your husband is a bookseller (like you) – does he also proof-read your writing?

Amy Stewart: “Yes, and he always finds something! He’s particularly good at looking out for anachronisms. He’s saved me from some embarrassing mistakes, none of which I’m willing to confess to.”

Eureka Books co-owned by Amy Stewart


Rare lithograph of America’s largest mass execution sells for $1,035

America’s largest mass execution

A rare color lithograph depicting the largest mass execution in the history of the United States has sold for $1,035 on the AbeBooks marketplace. Measuring 25 1/4 x 21 inches, ‘Execution of the Thirty-Eight Sioux Indians at Mankato, Minnesota December 26, 1862′ was sold by Nat DesMarais Rare Books from Portland. It was printed in 1883 and illustrates a key moment in Native American affairs following the Dakota War of 1862.

According to Nat’s description, “On August 18, the Sioux Dakota’s killed more than 40 Americans. Federal troops started advancing towards their Agency in the hopes of avoiding an uprising. In doing so, 10 Americans were captured by the Sioux, and 16 others were killed. This started the conflict. The Minnesota uprising was one of the nation’s most costly Indian wars, both in lives lost and property destroyed. It resulted in the near depletion of the frontier and the exile of the Dakota from Minnesota.

“At the war’s conclusion several hundred Indians were tried by a five-man territory commission and on November 5, 1862, 303 were sentenced to death. Henry B. Whipple, Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota, met with President Abraham Lincoln on behalf of the Indians. After listening to the bishop and personally reviewing the trial records, Lincoln commuted the death sentence for all but 38 prisoners. At 10 am on December 26, 1862, the condemned men, chanting the Dakota death song, marched in single file to a scaffold guarded by 1,400 troops in full battle dress. A chilling but important image.”

The hanging remains the largest mass execution to occur in the USA.


A Tour of Tokyo’s Bookstores

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Leave it to the Japanese to find an elegant, efficient and practical approach to everything – even shopping for books. Book-loving visitors to Tokyo who seek out Jimbocho, an entire district dedicated to used books and publishing, will find themselves in a beautiful, bookish heaven. Jimbocho, named for a 17th-century Samurai, was razed by fire in 1913. The first business to emerge from the ashes was a bookstore, and others followed suit. Today, the area boasts ~175 bookstores, including about 50 devoted to used and rare books.

Earlier this year, AbeBooks staffer Colin Laird was fortunate enough to indulge in some bookstore tourism, and found himself in the heart of Jimbocho. From colorful storefronts boasting wall-to-wall manga, to purveyors of rare, literary antiquities, the printed word is alive, well, and right at your fingertips in Tokyo, Japan.

Read the whole article.


Revolutionary Bunny Book Sends Kids to Slumber

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File this under “must be too good to be true”.

According to the Telegraph and others, a self-published children’s book is zooming up the bestsellers’ lists due to its reputation for sending children to dreamland quickly and easily. The book is called The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep: A New Way of Getting Children to Sleep by Swedish author and behavioral scientist (and former psychology student) Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin, and after reviews from grateful and surprised parents started piling up on Amazon, the book is now purported to be outselling heavy hitters like Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee to take the #1 spot.

With characters like the Heavy-Eyed Owl, Uncle Yawn and the Sleep Snail, the book doesn’t sound very different from any one of the other countless kids’ books intended to help make bedtime easier. But Ehrlin claims there’s more to it than that – he wrote the book with deliberate intentions in mind, and it comes with specific instructions for parents to read the book aloud, and slowly, with a mind on gentle hypnotic suggestion, including the child’s name throughout. According to him, and many, the formula works to lull excited young minds to sleep surprisingly quickly.

As of today, the reviews on Amazon.com look quite divided, with 86% of users scoring the book 4 or 5 stars, but the other 14% all in the one-star camp. There are no two or three-star reviews whatsoever. Snippets from a few of the five-star selections read as follows: “Last night was the first time she tried it. My niece fell asleep halfway into the book!!!!”, “We’ve read countless other stories over the past year to try to get them on the same page with a wind down feeling, but nothing has worked except this book.”, and “My two year old daughter always fights sleep. It normally takes 1 -2 hours, and she was out cold within minutes.”, while the one-star reviews seem to all be satire (“Do not listen to this audiobook while driving – I fell asleep and crashed my car!”) or less-than-credible (“This sounds like meditation, which is linked to evil spirits and Satan!”).

As the parent of an almost-two-year-old with another one on the way, I’m not surprised at all that parents are willing to spend the money (price point seems to be $15-$20 on average) to give it a try. There are few things for terrifying than an overstimulated, overtired child. I’ll be picking it up for our house, and will report back later.


10 Memorable, Unusual Cookbooks

Over all the years of book love, I’ve come across so many weird and wonderful books, from rare and collectible automobile repair manuals to children’s potty-training books to unimaginably beautiful books of art and everything in between. Some of my favorites have been cookbooks. Since we all eat, you’d think cookbooks would bring out our commonalities, and the basic truths that apply to everyone. Instead, wonderfully, I’ve been amazed at the huge variety I come across. From different countries, different dietary requirements, and different tastes, it seems we can’t get enough of trying new and surprising ways to enjoy food. Here are 10 of the more memorable cookbooks I’ve found. Some are notably weird.

 

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Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson: A Computer-Generated Cookbook
IBM’s cognitive computing system “Watson”, made famous by appearances on Jeopardy, tries its circuitry at something better than trivia – cooking. In a creative attempt to break free of culinary ruts and open the minds of chefs to new flavor combinations, project members at IBM trained Watson, by inputting tens of thousands of recipes, flavor profiles, chemical composition of foods, complementary ingredients and the like, and Watson “learned”. This book of computer-generated recipes is a perfect example of the science behind cooking.

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Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s is among my favorite places on Earth. Perhaps in part because I’m Canadian and can’t go there often, it holds an allure unlike any other store. Full of carefully curated selections of healthy, fun food, some fresh and whole, some partially prepared, and some convenient and ready to eat, it’s also the home of cheap wine and beer, and the best customer service ever. If I lived in the United States, I’d buy this cookbook.

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Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans
New Orleans is absolutely one of the premier food cities in North America, with a rich history of southern recipes passed down generation to generation. With the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, many of those recipes were lost, and could have stayed that way. However, post-hurricane, the Times-Picayune newspaper became a forum for people to add and share their recipes, post pleas for a particular lost recipe, and start to rebuild the flavour of the city one dish at a time. Edited by Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker, Cooking Up A Storm offers 250 of the authentic, tasty recipes that readers came together to share, as well as the stories behind them.

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The Portlandia Cookbook by Armisen, Brownstein & Krisel
The companion cookbook to the hit show Portlandia by the Emmy-nominated stars and writers Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, with 50 delicious recipes for every food lover, freegan, organic farmer, and food truck diehard. This is a funny cookbook with serious recipes for anyone who loves food. And yes, the chicken’s local.

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I Like Food, Food Tastes Good by Kara Zuaro
Taking its title from punk rock pioneers The Descendents, I Like Food, Food Tastes Good is a fantastic compilation of recipes contributed by various bands. I admit I was skeptical – surely the Descendents would offer up something terrifying: “Gather the empties from around yer house. Pour the half-inch from each bottle into a pot. Watch for butts. Stir.” I envisioned ‘recipes’ involving nothing more than fast food eaten in a gas station bathroom. But I was completely wrong, and very pleased with the result. The cookbook isn’t just amusing for fans of the bands or people who want a quirky read – it’s also a real cookbook, with over a dozen things I was immediately dying to try out.

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The Dead Celebrity Cookbook by Frank DeCaro
In The Dead Celebrity Cookbook: A Resurrection of Recipes by 150 Stars of Stage and Screen, Frank DeCaro—the flamboyantly funny Sirius XM radio personality best known for his six-and-a-half-year stint as the movie critic on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart—collects hundreds of recipes passed on from legendary stars of stage and screen, proving that before there were celebrity chefs, there were celebrities who fancied themselves chefs.

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Literary Feasts: Recipes from the Classics of Literature by Barbara Scrafford
A collection of insightful essays on food accompanied by a host of recipes, Literary Feasts explores the significance of food in literature. Each featured meal–from Madame Bovary’s wedding feast of chicken fricassee, to Doc’s beer milkshake from Cannery Row –has been set down in recipe form as authentically as possible so readers may duplicate them at home.

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Cooking in the Nude for Playful Gourmets by Stephen and Debbie Cornwell
Intrigued? Fair enough. I for one am unable to wonder about the recipes without horrifying images of badly-splashed bacon fat dancing in my head. Sharp knives, graters and slicers, and high temperatures just don’t lend themselves to naked prancing, in my books. Still, you’ve got to admit, it’s memorable.

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Roald Dahl’s Cookbook
Roald Dahl did write some ghastly, wonderfully gross cookbooks for children. This is not one of those, though. This book is a mixture of anecdotes covering Roald Dahl’s family, his childhood, and his happiness at home with Liccy, his wife, and their numerous children, grandchildren and friends. For this extensive family, there is no more enjoyable way of relaxing than sharing good food and wine. The meals they enjoy together round the old pine farmhouse table at Gipsey House are either fine examples of national dishes of their heritage – Norwegian, French, British, etc – or favourite recipes that have delighted three generations of discerning eaters. Many recipes have acquired a particular significance for the Dahl family over the years, and these are introduced with reminiscences rich in nostalgia and humour.

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A Treasury of Great Recipes by Vincent and Mary Price
One of the most revered and collectible cookbooks of the 20th century, Vincent and Mary Price’s A Treasury of Great Recipes has stood the test of time. It now seems clear that one of the reasons this book has become a classic is not merely the recipes. This book captures an entire
lifestyle — the Postwar, globe-trotting, Pan Am, waiters in bow ties, gourmet lifestyle. This is a Mad Men book. No quick-to-the-table Betty Crocker conveniences here. Everything about this book screams “gracious dining.” The Prices in their kitchen with gleaming copper pots. The reproductions of pages from vintage menus. The word “Luncheon.” The two-color pen and ink illustrations. The padded leatherette binding with silk bookmark. This is not to say that the Prices are snobbish. They’re cultured. And the scope and level of detail they bring to this book is loving and extraordinary.


Insider Recap of the 2015 Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar

Today we have a guest post from Zoe Abrams, winner of one of the ABAA-sponsored scholarships to this year’s Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar. Zoe was kind enough to recount her experiences at the seminar. Reproduced below:

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On the first day of the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS), Terry Belanger stood solemnly in front of our class and commanded us to “follow the rulebook with supine acquiescence.” We were feverishly scribbling collational formulae in our notebooks as he added, “The fact that it is ridiculous is totally irrelevant.” The group let out a communal chuckle and went on copying the ever-expanding equations projected on the wall.

Terry was referring specifically to the Ur-text of bibliography by Fredson Bowers, a rulebook every cataloguer knows and loves to bemoan; but the general idea of “following the rules” served us well throughout the week. The CABS faculty, all authorities on books and bookselling, gave us many rules to work and live by, including: hone in on and own your specialty, find your voice, and identify your ideal customer. Inherent in these directions is the notion that bookselling is an individualistic endeavor; every bookseller has her own way of doing things that may not work for the next guy. Some rules, however, apply across the board, regardless of personal modus operandi: be patient, don’t be a jerk, always look at books closely, and sell, sell, sell.

An economist might envision the CABS microcosm teeming with competitive species chasing the same prey. Au contraire! Booksellers are the first to tell you that each one of us has a niche and our diversity keeps the community alive. Common interest in books unites rather than divides us, or “Amor librorum nos unit,” as the ILAB motto reads. This at least partially explains the astonishing generosity of the CABS faculty, who put their lives on pause for a week to teach potential “competitors” tricks of the trade; and accounts for the twelve separate scholarship funds for CABS students. I received an ABAA scholarship to attend, and will do my very best to pay it forward.

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In my childhood home we had a coffee mug with a Far Side cartoon of a frazzled scientist pointing at a formula on a blackboard above the caption, “Einstein discovers that time is actually money.” This revelation won’t be news to any bookseller, but it has new meaning for me as I find myself with more time than money, i.e., being self-employed. No amount of work experience – assisting some of the best dealers in the trade – adequately prepares you for being your own boss. Osmosis only gets you so far. CABS is the missing piece, a boot camp for like-minded people communicating in the same specialized language and helping each other achieve success.

It’s no wonder that dealers at the head of thriving businesses still flock to Colorado Springs for a week of intensive study and conversation with colleagues from across the globe (there was a particularly large contingent of Australians, some of the nicest people I’ve ever met). At CABS, you can ask any question on the subject of books and receive thoughtful answers from some of the greatest minds in the “bibliomundo,” as my classmate Cynthy Buffington calls the community of booksellers, -collectors, and -preservers. There is always more to learn, and adaptability behooves us all.

This year’s guest speakers were Katherine Reagan, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Cornell, home of the nation’s premier Hip Hop Collection; and Garrett Scott, dealer in obscurities with a focus on “books and pamphlets on dead-end byways of American thought,” including the topics Utopia, doom, sex, and “old weird America.”

Boring, right?

Katherine’s keynote address on “Why Curators Love Booksellers” set a collegial, humorous tone for the week while imparting valuable advice on building relationships with librarians. She also reminded us that scholarship drives institutional collecting, so booksellers should stay attuned to changing tastes. Although Hip Hop culture may not appeal to everyone, no one can honestly deny its cultural significance.

Garrett’s mid-week talk, peppered with slides and anecdotes, made us all grateful to be in the same profession, which he likened to the D.I.T.C. (“Digging in the Crates Crew,” a New York Hip Hop group that made its name sampling old records). Booksellers like Garrett constantly “remix” old material in new ways. As Katherine suggested a couple of days earlier, this might be the best approach ever to long term success in the book business. Our mission as booksellers, should we choose to accept it, is to “rescue forgotten voices,” and retell their stories in such a way as to “make the buyer feel the same emotion you did when you bought the thing” (Garrett). More than one of us cried tears of joy during Garrett’s inspirational, aspirational description of his personal philosophy. I even overheard an esteemed librarian wondering, briefly, why he ever switched sides.

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We’ve all heard the old adage, “You must have the cheapest copy, best copy, or only copy” (Bill Reese, et al.). Here’s an additional sampling of pithy advice from the week in Colorado: “Don’t trust, do verify” (Nina Musinsky), “Independence is everything” (Sally Burdon), “Make lists” (Dan DeSimone), and “Don’t mess with the archive” (Steve Smith). Sadly, Nina, Sally, Dan, and Steve all surrendered their CABS lanyards this year. Who can imagine the week without their bonhomie, not to mention Nina’s expertise on early books; Sally’s marketing strategies; Dan’s firsthand tips on selling to libraries; and Steve’s inside scoop on acquisition policy? It’s clear from their rapport in and outside the classroom that the CABS teachers enjoy the seminar just as much as the students, and the four departing faculty will be missed terribly by everyone. Listening to them and Lorne Bair, Brian Cassidy, Terry Belanger, and Rob Rulon-Miller talking shop, you got a sense not only of the group’s command of the book business, but also of their camaraderie, built over time and transactions.

On the last day of CABS many students expressed that they would have difficulty describing the week to people back home. At the closing dinner, John Bell was inspired by his conversation with Lorne to ascend the podium and read “Poetic Terrorism,” by Hakim Bey. “Pick someone at random & convince them they’re the heir to an enormous, useless & amazing fortune…,” he implored. “[They] will perhaps be driven as a result to seek out some more intense mode of existence.” There couldn’t have been a more fitting end to the week. Graduates of CABS share in a vast sum of knowledge and friendship that will enhance both our careers and our lives.


“The Places You’ll Feed!” – Dr. Seuss Meets Breastfeeding

Despite what millions of commercials (and the rare, very lucky woman who finds it a breeze) would have you believe, breastfeeding is a lot of work, and comes neither easily nor naturally to many women. From physical discomfort and challenges to low milk supply, hellish pumps and supplements, to gawking and disapproving strangers, it’s an ongoing process. It isn’t even possible for everyone, and for the lucky ones who are able, it takes a lot of dedication, commitment and practice.

Lauren Hirshfield Belden, a California mother of two, struggled painfully with the challenges while breastfeeding her first daughter in 2012. The experience remained with her, and prompted her to humorously reach out to other mothers via a book called “The Places You’ll Feed!” all about breastfeeding, modeled after Dr. Seuss’ iconic book Oh, The Places You’ll Go!.

Here’s a sneak peek:

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places-youll-feed

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