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Rhinoceros by Albrecht Dürer – Armour-plated Awesomeness

Rhinoceros by Albrecht Dürer

What’s amazing about this woodcut, apart of the artistic brilliance and the $300,000 price-tag, is that Dürer had never seen a rhinoceros when he created this image in 1515. The German artist relied upon a written description in a letter and a brief sketch provided by an unknown person. Armour was clearly on his mind. People thought it was an accurate representation of the animal for several centuries. Today, Dürer’s rhino looks like something from a fantasy movie. Even though this image was wildly popular during Dürer’s time, prints are very scarce today.

Bookseller Q&A: World of Rare Books

Michael Laundon, Managing Director of World of Rare Books

Michael Laundon, Managing Director of World of Rare Books

AbeBooks recently caught up with Managing Director of World of Rare Books Michael Laundon to talk all things bookish. Sister company to World of Books, WORB was founded in 2012 and focuses on rare and antiquarian books from the pre-ISBN era. Naturally, Michael had some interesting stories for us. From providing a special book to a Nigerian tribe, to returning a long-lost childhood treasure to Australia, this Sussex-based bookseller is living up to their name. Read the Q&A to learn more about the fascinating world of rare book selling.

AbeBooks: What do you love most about selling books?

Michael: I love finding homes for the most unusual books the most. It thrills me to sell an obscure book on Geology when the only online alternative is a reprint. One such story was a book we had on the ancient Ibibio People of Nigeria – we sold a very rare book about a particular tribe to a chap who wanted to collect the book in person. When he arrived at World of Rare Books HQ we quickly realized he had traveled all the way from Nigeria and was part of the tribe. The book was so precious to his people that they wanted him to collect it in person rather than having it sent via the postal service!

World of Rare Books

Vintage Penguin paperbacks from World of Rare Books.

AbeBooks: What is the most prized item in your inventory?

Michael: Currently my favorite showpiece is Anglo-Saxon Magic by Godfrid Storms. I love this book because of the bizarre nature of it, and I find it interesting to read about history in the context of how far society has moved on – in this case, how there is no requirement for using a leech to cure a sore throat! I also think it represents our stock nicely – it’s an interesting, unique, and fun book.

AbeBooks: What is the most interesting book you’ve come across?

Michael: Too many to mention, however, it always sends shivers down my spine when holding a famous first edition in my hands, especially when researching how to spot the printing errors to define the validity of the copy you have. An example I can give is the now sold first edition of Pickwick Papers with the famous printing errors.

World of Rare Books classics

Beloved classics from World of Rare Books.

AbeBooks: What’s the oddest thing you’ve found in a book?

Michael: I think it has to be a bullet shot into the actual book! Most frustrating thing is probably crayon marks in the illustrations of classic children’s books!

AbeBooks: What’s your most memorable moment as a bookseller?

Michael: Many years ago, we sold an old children’s annual from the ’60s to a customer in Australia. A few weeks later we received a phone call from the same very excited customer – she was looking for her favorite childhood book, which is what she purchased…literally! When she received the book she realized the book had her name in the front and all the puzzles were filled in by herself as a child! The most interesting thing here is she had never been to England. The book had somehow exchanged hands and managed to travel across the world to England where it ended up with us 30 years later and resold to its original owner. Let’s just say it made everyone’s day!

AbeBooks: And of course, what’s your favorite book?

Michael: War of the Worlds by HG Wells – yes, it pained me to sell a first edition of this a few years back that I should have purchased myself!

Les Phipps, Joy Ridley, and Michael Laundon of World of Rare Books.

Les Phipps, Joy Ridley, and Michael Laundon of World of Rare Books.


Amazon’s Top 10 Books: August 2016

I don’t know about you, but my pile of to-be-read books is growing taller by the minute! I’m confident that at least a few of the books mentioned below will be added to the teetering tower.

The best book of the month, according to Amazon book editors is Another Brooklyn by National Book Award winner, Jacqueline Woodson.


Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant part of a future that belonged to them. But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.


I’m Supposed to Protect You From All This by Nadja Spiegelman

For a long time, Nadja Spiegelman believed her mother was a fairy. More than her famous father, Maus creator Art Spiegelman, and even more than most mothers, hers—French-born New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly—exerted a force over reality that was both dazzling and daunting. As Nadja’s body changed and “began to whisper to the adults around me in a language I did not understand,” their relationship grew tense. Unwittingly, they were replaying a drama from her mother’s past, a drama Nadja sensed but had never been told. Then, after college, her mother suddenly opened up to her. Françoise recounted her turbulent adolescence caught between a volatile mother and a playboy father, one of the first plastic surgeons in France. The weight of the difficult stories she told her daughter shifted the balance between them.


Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite. Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?


Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency by James Andrew Miller

The movies you watch, the TV shows you adore, the concerts and sporting events you attend—behind the curtain of nearly all of these is an immensely powerful and secretive corporation known as Creative Artists Agency. Started in 1975, when five bright and brash employees of a creaky William Morris office left to open their own, strikingly innovative talent agency, CAA would come to revolutionize the entertainment industry, and over the next several decades its tentacles would spread aggressively throughout the worlds of movies, television, music, advertising, and investment banking. Powerhouse is the fascinating, no-holds-barred saga of that ascent.


Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst

How far will a mother go to save her family? The Hammond family is living in DC, where everything seems to be going just fine, until it becomes clear that the oldest daughter, Tilly, is developing abnormally–a mix of off-the-charts genius and social incompetence. Once Tilly–whose condition is deemed undiagnosable–is kicked out of the last school in the area, her mother Alexandra is out of ideas.


To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

In the winter of 1885, decorated war hero Colonel Allen Forrester leads a small band of men on an expedition that has been deemed impossible: to venture up the Wolverine River and pierce the vast, untamed Alaska Territory. Leaving behind Sophie, his newly pregnant wife, Colonel Forrester records his extraordinary experiences in hopes that his journal will reach her if he doesn’t return–once he passes beyond the edge of the known world, there’s no telling what awaits him.


The Perfect Horse: The Daring US Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis by Elizabeth Letts

In the chaotic last days of the war a small troop of battle-weary American soldiers captures a German spy and makes an astonishing find—his briefcase is empty but for photos of beautiful white horses that have been stolen and kept on a secret farm behind enemy lines. Hitler has stockpiled the world’s finest purebreds in order to breed the perfect military machine—an equine master race. But with the starving Russian army closing in, the animals are in imminent danger of being slaughtered for food.


The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history—and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?


Good as Gone by Amy Gentry

Thirteen-year-old Julie Whitaker was kidnapped from her bedroom in the middle of the night, witnessed only by her younger sister. Her family was shattered, but managed to stick together, hoping against hope that Julie is still alive. And then one night: the doorbell rings. A young woman who appears to be Julie is finally, miraculously, home safe. The family is ecstatic—but Anna, Julie’s mother, has whispers of doubts.  She hates to face them. She cannot avoid them. When she is contacted by a former detective turned private eye, she begins a torturous search for the truth about the woman she desperately hopes is her daughter.


Christodora by Tim Murphy

In this vivid and compelling novel, Tim Murphy follows a diverse set of characters whose fates intertwine in an iconic building in Manhattan’s East Village, the Christodora. The Christodora is home to Milly and Jared, a privileged young couple with artistic ambitions. Their neighbor, Hector, a Puerto Rican gay man who was once a celebrated AIDS activist but is now a lonely addict, becomes connected to Milly and Jared’s lives in ways none of them can anticipate. Meanwhile, Milly and Jared’s adopted son Mateo grows to see the opportunity for both self-realization and oblivion that New York offers.

Debut Spotlight:


Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.

Books about Cupping: the ancient Chinese healing used by Olympic athletes

If you, like the rest of the world, are wondering about the circular purple bruises seen on Michael Phelps and other Olympic athletes, then you need to learn about the ancient Chinese therapy of cupping. It sounds rude but it’s not.

The NY Times writes:

In cupping, practitioners of the healing technique – or sometimes the athletes themselves – place specialized cups on the skin. Then they use either heat or an air pump to create suction between the cup and the skin, pulling the skin slightly up and away from the underlying muscles.

Michael Phelps undergoes ‘cupping’ therapy

The treatment is similar to receiving a love bite or a ‘hickey’ (but not as fun). Cupping draws blood to a particular area of the body and is designed to help reduce soreness, especially for muscles that are being worked hard.

Phelps’ shoulders were covered with purple marks as he helped the US team win the 4×100 freestyle relay team on Sunday night. He has previously posted on Instagram about cupping treatment. The NY Times writes that Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow and NFL player DeMarcus Ware also use cupping.

Cupping is nothing new and numerous books have been written on this therapy. The best known is The Art of Cupping by Hedwig Manz. This guide includes historical facts, step-by-step instructions for application, and treatment of specific health problems.

Oddly enough, it’s possible to purchase a vintage French “cupping set” from AbeBooks seller Atticus Books for $275. The seller claims the set and pump, manufactured around 1900, are in working order.

Cupping may have been used as early as 3000 BC. The Ebers Papyrus, written around 1550 BC and one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, describes Egyptian use of cupping. Archaeologists have found evidence of cupping in China since 1000 BC.

NFL star Demarcus Ware receiving cupping treatment

10 Colorful Book Covers for a Cheerful Shelf

Webster’s Dictionary defines a bibliophile as “a lover of books, especially for qualities of format.” So while we’re advised not to judge a book by its cover, it’s our duty as devoted bibliophiles to do just that. After all, it would be an injustice to beautiful books everywhere not to. Here are 10 of our favorite colorful covers – you’ll have to get reading to see what’s inside!

A Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

You Are Having a Good Time

You Are Having a Good Time by Amie Barrodale

The Interestings

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

All That Man Is

All That Man Is by David Szalay

Who Will Catch Us As We Fall

Who Will Catch Us As We Fall by Iman Verjee

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay

Book of Numbers

Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen


Euphoria by Lily King

Fates and Furies

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

The Flame Alphabet

The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus

Elon Musk recommends obscure history book, Twelve Against the Gods

Elon Musk now has something else in common with Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, like the others, can now sell books by simply revealing what he is reading.

This is exactly what happened last week when Musk revealed he is reading Twelve Against the Gods by William Bolitho – an obscure, out-of-print history 1930 book that offers a series of sketches about 12 historical figures, including Casanova, Napoleon, Isadora Duncan, Woodrow Wilson and Alexander the Great.

Elon Musk’s latest read Twelve Against the Gods

AbeBooks has sold out of every copy available, including one for $149. Bolitho is a former newspaper journalist (1891-1930) who hung around with the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Noël Coward.

According to Business Insider, Elon Musk has mentioned the following books as being important to him during media interviews over the years.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson

Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down by J.E. Gordon

Ignition!: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants by John D. Clark

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness by Donald L. Barlett & James B. Steele

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Ignition by John D Clark is a rocket science textbook from 1972 – also pretty obscure. Isaacson is the master of the biography – could Musk have read his biography of Steve Jobs?

Harry Potter Quiz – The Answers


We certainly have Harry Potter on the brain this weekend and can’t wait to devour Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. For those of you who tested your Harry Potter knowledge, here are the correct answers:

Q. Who wrote Advanced Potion Making?
A. Libatius Borage

Q. What color is the egg of a Ukrainian Ironbelly?
A. Turquoise

Q. What is Hermione’s wand made of?
A. Vine wood with a dragon heartstring core

Q. What is Harry’s daughter’s full name?
A. Lilly Luna Potter

Q. What is Ron’s number in Quidditch?
A. 2

Q. What color are Arnold’s eyes?
A. Blue

Q. At the Quidditch World Cup, Harry buys a pair of omnioculars for himself and who else?
A. Ron

Q. What is Voldemort’s mother’s name?
A. Merope Gaunt

Q. When is Ginny’s birthday?
A. August 11, 1981

Q. What is the Educational Decree no. 28?
A. Dolores Jane Umbrige has replaced Albus Dumbledore as head of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

How Well Do You Know Harry Potter?

lucy-in-potterland (1)

Harry Potter and Friends

In honor of the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, we asked the biggest Harry Potter fan we know (she’s 10 and falls into level 5 – see below) to put together a quiz to test your Harry Potter knowledge. Depending on what level of Potterhead you are will determine how well you do on the quiz.

Potterhead Levels:

Level 1 – Muggle: Have read all of the Harry Potter books and quite enjoyed them

Level 2 – Made the Quidditch team: Have read the books and watched all the movies (loved them)

Level 3 – Exceeds expectations on every N.E.W.T.-level class: Have read the books more than once and can quote entire scenes from any of the eight movies

Level 4 – Can summon a patronus in your sleep: Have read the books multiple times (we’re talking more than 3 times) and have the movies playing on repeat

Level 5 – Future Hogwarts Headmaster: Have read the books, seen all the movies, own an exact replica of Hermione’s wand, have watched the trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them more than 50 times, own all the companion books, have bobbleheads of Harry, Ron and Hermione, own Gryffindor socks, ties and scarves and have dressed up as Hermione for Halloween three years in a row – you get the picture.

giphy (2)

Without further ado, the Harry Potter Quiz:

1. Who wrote Advanced Potion Making?

2. What color is the egg of a Ukrainian Ironbelly?

3. What is Hermione’s wand made of?

4. What is Harry’s daughter’s full name?

5. What is Ron’s number in Quidditch?

6. What color are Arnold’s eyes?

7. At the Quidditch World Cup, Harry buys a pair of omnioculars for himself and who else?

8. What is Voldemort’s mother’s name?

9. When is Ginny’s birthday?

10. What is the Educational Decree no. 28?

If you don’t receive your owl post with the correct answers, come back to this post on July 31, 2016 at 12:01 am – we’ll share the answers then.

How I Conquered Netflix and Started Reading Again

How I Conquered Netflix and Started Reading Again

In 2008 I was living alone without television. My phone wasn’t smart and my stolen wifi wasn’t strong enough for streaming. I didn’t keep track of how many books I read, but almost every evening was spent with one. My book club met every 6 weeks.

Eventually, I met a boy and that boy came with endless bandwidth and a flat screen T.V. It took one episode of Breaking Bad to become an addict. Five seasons, 62 episodes and 3,038 minutes later my reading days were over. The Goldfinch sat on my nightstand for a year (in my defense, it’s a tome). I went from saying “have you read…?” to “have you watched…?” and could no longer provide the endless book recommendations my friends relied upon me for. I backed away from water cooler chats about the latest award-winner and stopped browsing my favorite bookshop.

I was mortified when a non-reader friend of mine told me she planned on reading 100 books in 2015. When I checked in with her a few months in she was embarrassed to tell me she’d only read 20 or 30. I, the supposed bibliophile, had read one…maybe. That moment, that very conversation, is when I realized I had a problem and resolved to overcome my addiction. But of course, I needed rehab.

My rehab came in the form of a two week family vacation in Hawaii, sans Netflix. For the first few days it was just me and my avid-reader parents. The three of us moved from pool to beach to lanai, always with a book in hand. By the time the rest of the family showed up I’d finished a Pulitzer Prize winner and was well into another. I had forgotten how all-encompassing a great book can be and was delighted to find myself immersed in the literary world again. By the end of my vacation, I was cured. While I still dabble in Netflix (Scandal, anyone?) I go to bed early every night and read until I fall asleep. I make sure there’s a new book waiting as I near the end of another, for fear of slipping back into the life of a non-reader. It’s not much, but I’ve read some incredible books this year – better than any Netflix Original I’ve seen.

My 2016 Reading List (so far)

All books are rated ‘Would Recommend to a Friend’ on a scale of 1 to 10.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (10/10)
If you like WWII fiction, epic sagas, and beautiful writing.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (8/10)
If you like raw storytelling and can bare a little heartbreak.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (7/10)
If you’re looking for mystery and excitement – a great beach read.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (6/10)
Reader must enjoy long, drawn out drama. Patience required.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (8/10)
Another for fans of historical fiction. Must not be too picky about sentence structure.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (10/10)
An apocalyptic novel that even anti-sci-fi readers (me) will love. Prepare to be obsessed.

As Close to Us as Breathing by Elizabeth Poliner (9/10)
If you enjoy family sagas and have endless Kleenex at your disposal.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang (5/10)
A short, difficult read that’s certainly not for everyone. Fellow AbeBooks editor Julie loves it.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (9/10)
Must be ready for a commitment. Real and incredible – though frustrating at times.

Girl at War by Sara Novic (6/10)
For anyone interested in events surrounding the Bosnian war, from a child’s perspective.

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (8/10)
For anyone looking for an easy yet interesting well-written read. Also suitable for anyone with siblings.

Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti (10/10)
An important read for any and all men and women, especially parents.

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub (7/10)
Light and relatable. Recommended for the beach.

Up next…

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Girls by Emma Cline

(anyone else notice the surge in books with ‘girl’ in the title?)

What’s on your reading list this year?