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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


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


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:



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.


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.


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:












Amazon’s Top 10 Books: August 2015

Here we are again – time for the book editors at Amazon to give us their ten best bets for the books to read this month. I’m excited, because this month, there isn’t a single author I’ve ever read before. All fresh meat for me! Huzzah!

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

This month’s spotlighted book is Kitchens of the Great Midwest: A Novel by J. Ryan Stradal, where food meets literature.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest, about a young woman with a once-in-a-generation palate who becomes the iconic chef behind the country’s most coveted dinner reservation, is the summer’s most hotly-anticipated debut.

When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine—and a dashing sommelier—he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter—starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience.

Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal’s startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life—its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent.”


And the rest of the recommendations:


Infinite Home: A Novel by Kathleen Alcott



Days of Awe: A Novel by Lauren Fox



Rising Strong by Brené Brown



Barefoot to Avalon by David Payne



Last Bus to Wisdom: A Novel by Ivan Doig



Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim by Justin Gifford



Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins by Susan Casey



Make Your Home Among Strangers: A Novel by Jennine Capó Crucet



The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward



In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware


Rare Book about Cigar Store Figures Sells for $1,550

An exceptionally rare book about cigar store figures has sold for $1,550 on the AbeBooks.com marketplace. Hunting Indians in a Taxi-Cab by Kate Sanborn has an eye-catching title and also contains valuable photographic evidence of a rather forgotten form of advertising. Published in 1911, this small book has just 74 pages and about 8 1/2 inches by 5 1/2 inches in size.

Hunting Indians in a Taxi-cab by Kate Sanborn

The author appears to have toured the east coast of the United States looking for cigar store figures, which were still commonplace during this era. Sanborn’s black and white photos (see below), usually four to a page, accompanies her text where she describes the location and the condition of the figures.

Cigar store figures hold a special place in American retail history and wooden Native Americans are their most famous form. They were developed because retailers needed visual methods of advertising due to low literacy levels. Native Americans were used to advertise tobacco because they had introduced the early colonists to the plant and its uses, and there was a connection. The figures varied in size from a few feet tall to life-size models that must have been very striking on sidewalks.

Obviously, these figures became less popular due their racial stereotyping and also rules around what could be placed on a sidewalk. A former professor at Smith College in Massachusetts, Kate Sanborn (1839-1917) was an author and lecturer. Her book reveals that cigar store figures went beyond Native Americans and included many recognizable characters – such a baseball player and a hunter – from American society.

The book was sold by Judy Brothers of The Bookstack from Willow Springs in Missouri. She said: “I believe that most of the figures were in New York or Baltimore.  I was not aware of the variety of the figures before I looked through this book and saw women, a policeman, Punch, Jim Crow, and others.”

The book is extremely rare. There are no other copies for sale on AbeBooks and only one other copy has ever sold on our site.

Sanborn has a number of other striking non-fiction books to her name including A Truthful Woman in Southern California, a travel memoir, where she leaves New England for the West Coast in order to recover from illness. She also wrote Adopting an Abandoned Farm where she describes her experiences of running a dilapidated farm in Metcalf, Massachusetts. Humor and dogs were reoccurring themes in her writing – Educated Dogs of To-Day looks into canine intelligence.

I can only imagine but Ms Sanborn must have been quite the character.

A baseball player, jockey, hunter and policeman from Hunting Indians in a Taxi-cab

Three Native American cigar store figures and a highland chieftain from Hunting Indians in a Taxi-cab.

Four female cigar store figures form Hunting Indians in a Taxi-cab

Four Punches from Hunting Indians in a Taxi-cab

Omar Sharif, Boris Pasternak, The KGB and the CIA

Midway through the year, while scanning a report of our recent high-value orders, a sale caught my eye. It was a copy of Boris Pasternak’s classic novel Doctor Zhivago, in its original Russian, bound in plain, blue cloth. It sold for $11,000. The bookseller’s description mentioned that this was the edition “covertly published by the CIA”. Obviously, I had to learn more about that. And I did. You can read all about the man who smuggled Doctor Zhivago into the light, here, from the KGB’s refusal to allow publication of the book in the Soviet Union, to the CIA’s very real involvement and eventual declassification of documents nearly 60 years later.

During my research, I also discovered the 1958 Pantheon edition of Zhivago (below), complete with many, many black and white illustrations by Alexander Alexeieff.


While I was initially disappointed to not have glossy, full-color illustrations, it ended up feeling so fitting. The more of Zhivago I read, and the more I learned about the climate in which in was written, the more the images seemed perfectly aligned with the book’s contents. And they’re quite beautiful. They’re all black and white. While I don’t know the original medium, I’d be tempted to guess charcoal. Some of the drawings seem crude and undefined in their style, but still manage to convey a strong message and elicit an emotional response. This is just a drop in the bucket- the book is just full of these dark, snowy, stark and telling images.