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Louis Zamperini Dies at 97


Louis Zamperini, the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s bestseller Unbroken, died on July 2 at the age of 97.

At age 19, Zamperini participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games as a long-distance runner. When WWII broke out, he joined the US Army Air Forces and served as a bombadier in the South Pacific. In April, 1943, his plane crashed in the Pacific, killing eight of the eleven crew members on board.

One of the three survivors, Francis McNamara, died after 37 days at sea. Fourteen days later, Zamperini and fellow survivor, Russel Allen, landed on the Marshall Islands and were immediately captured by Japanese forces. They remained in captivity, enduring sevedevilre mistreatment, until the war ended in August, 1945.

Zamperini went on to become an inspirational speaker and wrote two memoirs detailing his experiences, both titled Devil at My Heels. The first was published in 1956 and as of this writing, is still available. The second, published in 2003, was completely rewritten and contains a significant amount of new material.

In 2010, Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand, published a biography of Zamperini called Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. An international bestseller, copies of Unbroken signed by Zamperini still regularly appear on AbeBooks Bestselling Signed Books list. A movie based on the book, adapted by Joel and Ethan Coen and directed by Angelina Jolie, is set for release in late 2014.

Monochromatic book covers

A monochromatic color scheme is black, white and all the variations of a single color. The most famous monochromatic book cover is George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four but the first edition dust jackets of Tropic of Cancer and Midnight’s Children are not far behind. You’d think using just one color would limit the creativity of book designers, but it’s actually inspired them to produce many memorable covers. See our selection of monochromatic book covers

The contenders for book of the summer

Lev Grossman at Time Magazine asks how exactly does a book become a summer smash-hit. He also makes some recommendations for books that could become summer bestsellers. He remembers American Psycho‘s huge impact in the summer of 1991 and Gone Girl from two summers ago.

Here are his predictions for this summer’s summer reading sensation:

Odds: 2-1
The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
Pros: Single mom plus nerdy millionaire equals unlikely romance. And there’s a road trip!
Cons: Very few killer sharks.

Odds: 2-1
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Pros: Blind daughter of a locksmith meets reluctant Nazi engineering whiz! What more do you want?
Cons: Complex, lyrical historical fiction may not have the necessary mass appeal.

Odds: 3-1
The Fever by Megan Abbott
Pros: Small-town girls hit by mystery syndrome. Tense, erotically fraught, has Gillian Flynn blurb.
Cons: Much adolescent angst. Are the stakes high enough?

Odds: 4-1
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Pros: Rich people on an island; sharp, funny-sad writing; a head-snapping fourth­quarter reveal.
Cons: It’s a YA novel, so some adults might pass.

Odds: 4-1
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Pros: Keen psychological insight, irrepressible humor and a supernatural twist: a woman can call her husband in the past.
Cons: Relative lack of violence, perverse sex.

Odds: 5-1
One Kick by Chelsea Cain
Pros: Child kidnapping victim grows up to become ass-kicking vigilante looking for other missing children. Boom.
Cons: A thriller but maybe not a rule breaker.

Odds: 6-1
The Quick by Lauren Owen
Pros: Set in lovely, lush Victorian London. Plus: vampires, vampires, vampires.
Cons: Owen’s pacing is slow and artful—maybe too slow for some.

I would add to this list The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée – you can have non-fiction summer hits too! Here is The Guardian’s review from last week.

Signed copy of Robert Galbraith’s Silkworm sells for $1,720

One day, that’s all it took for The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith to become a collectible book. Yesterday, the day of the novel’s release, a signed copy of The Silkworm written by JK Rowling under the Galbraith pen name sold for $1,720 on AbeBooks.

The book was sold shortly after being listed for sale on the marketplace. It had been signed on the title page by ‘Robert Galbraith’ with a JK Rowling hologram attached to the opposite page. It appears a small number of signed copies were distributed to certain bookstores in the UK.

The Silkworm is Rowling’s second novel writing as Galbraith. The book is a crime mystery starring Cormoran Strike – a one-legged ex-military policeman. The sale confirms that the Rowling magic has not dimmed and that book collectors are still interested in anything that carries her signature. There are currently five signed copies for sale on AbeBooks ranging from $1,600 to $2,100 in price.

Yesterday, AbeBooks also sold a first edition of The Cuckoo’s Calling – the first Robert Galbraith novel – for $1,206. The book was not signed. It appears only a small number of first editions of The Cuckoo’s Calling were printed, perhaps 1,500.

The most expensive Rowling book to ever sell on AbeBooks was a rare first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which sold for $37,000 in 2005.

Flowers for Algernon author Daniel Keyes dies at 86

Daniel Keyes, the author of Flowers for Algernon, died on Sunday at the age of 86. Flowers for Algernon was published in 1966 but it originally appeared as a short story in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1959.

Flowers for Algernon is a bitter-sweet story about Charlie Gordon (32 and working in a bakery), who undergoes an experimental surgery to increase his intelligence. Keyes won a Hugo Award for best short story in 1960, and a Nebula Award in 1966 for best novel. Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom starred in the 1968 movie adaptation (called Charly), which won an Academy Award.

Keyes taught at Ohio University and wrote a number of other books including The Fifth Sally, The Touch, The Minds of Billy Milligan and Unveiling Claudia. His memoir is called Algernon, Charlie, and I: A Writer’s Journey. The power of the mind often featured in his writing.

“Here was a story which struck me so forcefully that I was actually lost in admiration . . . for the delicacy of his feeling, for the skill with which he handled the remarkable tour de force involved in his telling the story,” wrote Isaac Asimov about Flowers for Algernon.

With Flowers of Algernon being one of the key novels of the 1960s, first editions are collectible particularly if they have been signed.

#ThisBook campaign seeks powerful female authors


The Year of Reading Women (or, 2014, as some of you may know it) just keeps getting better. Last month the folks over at Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction launched #ThisBook, an exciting social media campaign to find the novels written by women that have most impacted readers. Nineteen influential women kicked off the #ThisBook conversation and shared the book by a woman that most impacted, shaped or changed their life. To make it an even 20, I’ve added my pick at the end.

Baroness Amos – Beloved by Toni Morrison

Zawe Ashton – The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Mary Beard – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brönte

Edith Bowman – The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Saffron Burrows – I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Shami Chakrabarti – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Gwen Christie – I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

Grace Dent – The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

Katherine Grainger – Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

Tanni Grey Thompson – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Martha Lane Fox – Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

Caitlin Moran – Twopence to Cross the Mersey by Helen Forrester

Kate MosseWuthering Heights by Emily Brönte

Dawn O’Porter – Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Susanna Reid – We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Jennifer Saunders – Dust by Patricia Cornwell

Sharleen Spiteri - To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Sandi Toksvig – Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Joanna Trollope - The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay

And lastly, my vote is for Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. But really, how can I pick just one? I’d also add Paradise by Toni Morrison, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

Tweet using #ThisBook to take part and cast your vote for the book (by a woman) that most impacted, shaped or changed your life. The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction team will collect your votes and reveal a Top 20 list in July.

25 Years On: Rare Photographs of Tiananmen Square Protests Go on Sale

Twenty five years after the Tiananmen Square massacre, a remarkable collection of photographs documenting the events surrounding the government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters has been listed for sale on AbeBooks.com.

Sixty-five photographs from the student-led protests in Beijing are for sale from Upper Valley Books & Paper in Ascutney, Vermont, for $6,500. The collection includes 12 black and white photographs, and 53 color photographs.

The images were taken between late April and June 1989. The photographer, or photographers, are unknown. The photographs were formerly the property of Wang Dan, one of the student leaders of the pro-democracy movement. Photographs and other materials relating to the Tiananmen protests have been suppressed by the Chinese government.

These photos shows marches, rallies, banners, hand-made posters, signs and cartoons, as well as memorials to the dead after the protests were crushed by the Chinese government on June 3 and 4.

“Most of these photographs were printed in December 1990, and stamped thus, long after the protest movement was smothered,” John Waite of Upper Valley Books & Paper wrote in an email. “This indicates the film likely was smuggled out of China and later processed in the US or another English-speaking nation.”

The protests began in April following the death of Hu Yaobang, a leading proponent within the Chinese Communist Party for reform.

Wang Dang was arrested and held without trial for nearly two years. After his trial, he served another two years in prison before being expelled from China. He later studied at Harvard and now lives in the United States.

The images can be divided into four general categories:

  • Marches and gatherings of protesters in Tiananmen Square;
  • Posters, banners, signs, cartoons, and open letters displayed by the protesters;
  • Protesters taking action against military or police vehicles prior to the crackdown on June 4;
  • Marches and demonstrations by students, teachers, and government employees in the city of Hefei (Anhui Province) shortly after the crackdown in Beijing.

There is also one black and white press photo of Wang Dan addressing the crowd in Tiananmen Square.

The hand-made banners document student groups from various universities and technical schools. The posters, banners, signs and cartoons show a range of political expressions and demands made by the student groups. These particular images are rare examples of the enormous amount of political ephemera generated by the various  protest groups for the demonstrations.

The actions taken by protesters, either to defend themselves or provoke authorities, are not well-known in the West due to the Chinese government’s suppression of documentation relating to the events. Photographic evidence that some protesters acted violently and the varied nature of the actual politics of the protest groups is rare.

The crackdown by the government began on the night of 3 June with lethal violence against civilians in various locations around the city. Hundreds of protesters died that evening even before soldiers began to clear Tiananmen Square in the early hours of 4 June. The collection includes several photos of armored personnel carriers burning amid crowds of people, and images of an armored personnel carrier that has been commandeered by protesters.

By 5 June, the news of the events had spread to the West and the media began trying to piece together the events of the previous 48 hours.

Crowds and burned vehicles

Coming soon, the 2014 Twin Cities Antiquarian & Rare Book Fair

Twin Cities Antiquarian & Rare Book Fair is coming up soon. It takes place on June 27 and 28 in the Progress Center at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, and AbeBooks.com is proud to support the event. More than 50 booksellers will be offering antiquarian, fine, and rare books covering many subjects and genres. Visitors will be treated to first editions, fine bindings, vintage books, ephemera, and maps.

Legendary bookseller Ken Sanders from Salt Lake City will be speaking at the fair on Friday evening at 6pm. Sanders is much more than a seller of rare books, he is also the enemy of book thieves. His efforts to capture John Charles Gilkey were documented in the book, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett. His talk will be worth the admission alone.

On Saturday, visitors can have up to four books from their own collection evaluated by an expert. There will also be other speakers and the chance to win a $25 gift certificate by showing your book trivia knowledge.

“Aside from the rare books, there are also a good number of very affordable reading books,” said Rob Rulon-Miller, one of the Fair’s past organisers. Rulon-Miller Books is based in St Paul, Minnesota. “You will see many local history books and books about Minnesota. We partner with the Minnesota Historical Society with dealers submitting book lists to the society. I’ve seen book dealers come from as far away as Los Angeles to look for stock.”

Booksellers who are exhibiting include Midway Used & Rare Books from St. Paul, MN, David Christenson from Minneapolis, MN, and Steve Thorson from Austin, MN, as well as Sanders and Rulon-Miller.

  • Friday, June 27, 3pm to 8pm, $7 (which also includes admission on Saturday)
  • Saturday, June 28, 10am to 4pm, $5
  • Children 12 and under have free admission
  • High school and college students have free admission on Saturday with school ID

Visit the event’s website for more details. Dealers can still sign up for a booth at the event and anyone interested should contact Valerie Urban at valerie@urbanantiquaria.com

Meet Heather O’Donnell from Honey and Wax Booksellers

Enjoy this video of Heather O’Donnell from Honey and Wax Booksellers in Brooklyn. A former college teacher, Heather worked at Bauman Rare Books before starting her own bookselling business. She offers some beautiful rare books, including this copy of The Waves by Virginia Woolf and this copy of Thank You – You’re Welcome by Louis Slobodkin.

Bettie Page and the pin-up photography of Bunny Yeager

Bunny Yeager's Beautiful BacksidesBunny Yeager – the pin-up model turned pin-up photographer – died earlier this week at the age of 85. Yeager is particularly famous for her work with Bettie Page, whose career she helped to launch.

When she was 17 her family moved to Florida and she began working as a model. In 1953 she began taking photography night classes. For an assignment, she took photos of friends dressed in leopard-print swimsuits and one of her images was used on the cover of Eye magazine, kick-starting her professional career behind the camera.

She also took the still images of Bond girl Ursula Andress, in a cream bikini, in the 1962 007 movie Dr. No. Yeager’s peak came in the 1950s and 1960s.

More than 20 books of her photography were published between the mid-1960s to 2012 ranging from instructional guides for glamour snappers to glossy modern tributes.

Someone who is serious about Yeager’s work with Bettie Page can pick up this contact sheet for $6,000.

Books by and about Bunny Yeager

100 Girls by Bunny Yeager

How I Photograph Myself by Bunny Yeager

How I Photograph Nudes by Bunny Yeager

Camera in the Caribbean by Bunny Yeager

How to Photograph the Female Figure by Bunny Yeager

Bunny Yeager’s Photo Studies by Bunny Yeager

The Art of Glamour Photography by Bunny Yeager

Camera in Jamaica by Bunny Yeager

Bunny Yeager’s Bikini Girls of the 1950s

Bunny Yeager’s Flirts of the Fifties

Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom: Pin-up Photography’s Golden Era by Petra Mason

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