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Pelican Books: The Flock Flies Again

Pelican Books

Created by Penguin Books, the Pelican Books imprint began in May of 1937, just two years after Penguin was founded.  Like Penguin, Pelican Books was born to fill a hole – in this case, affordable educational texts. The first title to boast the Pelican logo was The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism & Fascism by George Bernard Shaw. It was the first of thousands of Pelican titles to be published over the imprint’s 50 year lifespan. In the late 80s, Penguin discontinued Pelican Books after a slow decline in non-fiction sales.

Now, almost 30 years later, Pelican Books are spreading their wings for a second time. Today five new titles will adorn Pelican’s trademark blue cover. Unlike many of their predecessors, each new title has been originally commissioned.

Best known for his book How Many Friends Does One Person Need?, evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar discusses what makes us human in Human Evolution.

Economics: A User’s Guide is Ha-Joon Chang’s myth-busting introduction written for the general reader.

Scholar Melissa Lane talks history and politics in Greek and Roman Political Ideas.

Orlando Figes serves up a timely history lesson in Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991.

The Domesticated Brain by award-winning psychlogist Bruce Hood explains the mysteries of the human brain.

For more on vintage Pelican, check out Pelican Books: A Flock of Non-Fiction on AbeBooks.

Another hidden gem for bibliophiles: Bryn Mawr Bookstore

The Bryn Mawr Bookstore in Cambridge received a glowing write-up in the Boston Globe over the Easter weekend.

The problem with a secret is that once you tell it, it isn’t one anymore. The Bryn Mawr Book Store in Cambridge is under the radar, and I like it that way. It’s quiet, it’s small, it has a gazillion books, its prices are low, and it doesn’t have that picked-clean feeling you sometimes sense in a used bookstore, as if all the good finds have already been found. There. I’ve told you.

The shop’s entire stock is donated and all proceeds go to providing scholarships for prospective Bryn Mawr College students. They are listing more than 4,800 books on AbeBooks, including some interesting rare books. There is a signed first edition of DNA: The Secret of Life by pioneering scientist James D Watson, a signed first of In the American West 1979-1984 by photographer Richard Avedon and a signed first edition of Love Medicine by novelist Louise Erdrich.

Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar 2014 contest

Are you thinking of becoming a rare bookseller? Or have you just started to sell collectible books? The Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar is a week-long educational event held in Colorado Springs in August, 2014 for booksellers, librarians and collectors that offers expert discussion about rare books.

This is your opportunity to enter for a chance to win admission to attend the event, including instructional materials, breakfasts and lunches, and accommodations. There will be two lucky winners. Each prize package is worth U.S. $1,610.00. Transportation to and from the event is not included.

More details about the contest.

Contest rules.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the giant of Latin American literature, dies at 87

Gabriel García Márquez has died at the age of 87 in Mexico City. The Nobel Prize-winning author was one of the most influential Latin American authors of recent times. The writer had recently been hospitalized for a lung and urinary problems, but was released last week.

His best known books are Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Love in the Time of CholeraAutumn of the Patriarch and his classic 1967 novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, which has sold millions of copies around the globe.

García Márquez, known as ‘Gabo’, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 and known for his left-leaning views, which included supporting Cuba’s Fidel Castro and opposing America intervention in various world issues.

Born in Aracataca in Colombia in 1927, he was the eldest of the 11 children.  With his parents away attempting to earn a living, he was raised by his grandparents for the first 10 years of his life and their storytelling inspired many of his own stories.

Aracataca became the model for ‘Macondo’ – the village surrounded by banana plantations at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains where One Hundred Years of Solitude is set.

García Márquez carved out a career in journalism, and was equally at home writing non-fiction and short stories although it was his novels that earned him worldwide fame. He became part of a literary clique called the Barranquilla Group, a loose association of writers and thinkers that inspired him and alerted him to authors that rarely saw much light in Latin America such as Virginia Woolf.

The work of William Faulkner heavily influenced Garcia Marquez and he wrote his first novel, Leaf Storm, at the age of 23 although it took several years before it was published in 1955.

The idea for One Hundred Years of Solitude came to him during a road trip to Acapulco. The novel is a multi-generational epic, describing the story of the Buendía family, in the town of Macondo. The novel’s first printing in Spanish sold out within a week, and the book went on to sell more than 20 million copies. It has been translated into many languages and is essential reading for any lover of literature.

Love in the Time of Cholera further cemented his reputation after being published in 1986. It is a love story about a couple, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, and their trials and tribulations after Fermina’s father intervenes in their relationship. The novel compares lovesickness to an actual illness. Many literary critics have argued that Garcia Marquez was the best writer in Spanish since Cervantes.

Signed copies of his books are not plentiful. Prices start at $375.

Novels and Novellas by Gabriel García Márquez

Leaf Storm (1955)
No One Writes to the Colonel (1961)
In Evil Hour (1962)
One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)
The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975)
Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981)
Love in the Time of Cholera (1985)
The General in His Labyrinth (1989)
Of Love and Other Demons (1994)
Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2004)

Short Story Collections by Gabriel García Márquez

Eyes of a Blue Dog (1947)
Big Mama’s Funeral (1962)
The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Erendira and Her Heartless Grandmother (1978)
Collected Stories (1984)
Strange Pilgrims (1993)

Non Fiction by Gabriel García Márquez

The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor (1970)
The Solitude of Latin America (1982)
The Fragrance of Guava (1982) with Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza
Clandestine in Chile (1986)
News of a Kidnapping (1996)
A Country for Children (1998)
Living to Tell the Tale (2002)

The 10 Most Challenged Books of 2013

The 10 Most Challenged Books of 2013

The American Library Association has released its 10 most challenged books of 2013.  The ALA defines a challenge as an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. In 2013, these 10 books were challenged the most:

1. Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
The bestselling series has been cited for offensive language, unsuited to age group and violence since its first book hit libraries in 1997. It topped the list in 2012, too.

2. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
As one of America’s most important authors, Toni Morrison is no stranger to book bans and challenges. Her 1970 debut novel The Bluest Eye has been cited for offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group and violence.

3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Despite winning the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature along with a throng of other awards, the book has been cited for drugs, alcohol, smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit and unsuited to age group. We’ve included it on our list of 50 Essential Young Adult Novels.

4. Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James
It’s no surprise to see the 2012 bestseller on yet another challenged list. It’s been cited for nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit and unsuited to age group.

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Arguably the most popular series since Harry Potter, The Hunger Games has been cited for religious viewpoint and unsuited to age group.

6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
The School Library Journal called it book of the week when it first hit shelves in 2006, but challengers cite it for drugs, alcohol, smoking, nudity, offensive language and sexually explicit.

7. Looking for Alaska by John Green
John Green is the author of the hit novel The Fault in Our Stars. His debut novel Looking for Alaska won the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association, but is cited for drugs, alcohol, smoking, sexually explicit and unsuited to age group.

8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Another book from our list of 50 Essential Young Adult Novels. The 1999 coming-of-age novel was re-popularized with the 2012 film adaption starring Emma Watson. It’s cited for drugs, alcohol, smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit and unsuited to age group.

9. Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
The 1972 novel was awarded the Premio Quinto Sol Award which recognizes the best fictional work by Mexican American authors as a means of promoting Chicano writers. It’s cited for occult, satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint and sexually explicit

10. Bone by Jeff Smith
The popular graphic novel series for children has been cited for political viewpoint, racism and violence.

Of challenges, the ALA has this to say,

Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.

For more from AbeBooks on the controversy of banning books, check out our feature on the most notorious books.

The Grapes of Wrath Turns 75

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, first edition, 1939

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, first edition, 1939

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was published for the first time on April 14th, 1939, making the Depression era masterpiece 75 years old today. The first edition (left) was published by Viking, its dust jacket illustrated by Elmer Hader. The illustration depicts families moving west during the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s.

Steinbeck’s portrait of the Great Depression is told through the trials and tribulations of the Joad family. The Oklahoma farming family was driven off their land and, along with throngs of other Dust Bowl families, traveled west to California only to find the promised land was in fact dry and destitute.

The Grapes of Wrath‘s timely publication resonated with the American working class, selling over 400,000 copies in its first year. It won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. When Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, The Grapes of Wrath was singled out. In an interview with AbeBooks, Dr. Susan Shillinglaw of the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California explained,

Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath not intending or wishing for notoriety – he simply wrote about a problem he thought needed addressing. Honesty was called for – and still is, always and forever.

The Grapes of Wrath, 1940 film edition

The Grapes of Wrath, 1940 film edition

As a landmark of American Literature, The Grapes of Wrath has been published many times over its 75-year lifetime, though no edition is as beautiful or as collectible as the first. The most expensive copy of The Grapes of Wrath to sell on AbeBooks was a first edition signed by the author with a price tag of $12,750.

Other notable editions include the movie tie-in version published by World Books (right). The black and white cover features the stars of the 1940 Oscar-winning film that starred Henry Fonda as Tom Joad.

Easton Press and the Franklin Library have both published collectible leather-bound editions ranging in price from $30 to $300.

Even more collectible is the beautiful Limited Editions Club edition illustrated by Thomas Hart Benton (below).

The Grapes of Wrath, Limited Editions Club

The Grapes of Wrath, Limited Editions Club

And while endless paperback copies exist on bookshelves around the world, we can’t help but share a 1951 vintage Penguin edition of what is arguably America’s most beloved story.

The Grapes of Wrath, 1951 vintage Penguin

The Grapes of Wrath, 1951 vintage Penguin


The epic French saga that inspired Game of Thrones

The Iron King by Maurice Druon

George R.R. Martin is a household name, but do the millions of people who have their noses stuck in any one of the A Song of Ice and Fire books know the name Maurice Druon?  He happens to be the author of a series of novels set in medieval France – the same series that inspired Martin to pen the ever-popular Game of Thrones and its subsequent books.  The French author wrote Les Rois Maudits (translated to The Accursed Kings)  between the mid 1950s and 1970s, and until a translation was recently reissued the seven books have been scarcely found in English.

Martin provides quite the endorsement in the introduction to the new translation:

Whether you’re a history buff or a fantasy fan, Druon’s epic will keep you turning pages. This was the original game of thrones. If you like A Song of Ice and Fire, you will love The Accursed Kings.

The Accursed Kings series  starts in 1314, with Philip IV on the French throne. He has crushed the order of the Knights Templar and seized their wealth. The leader of the order is burned at the stake but curses his enemies as the flames engulf him. Philip dies soon and the struggle for the throne begins.

Druon died in 2009 and is hardly known outside of France. Notably, he served as head of the Academie Francaise, an organisation which protects the French language.

The Hundred Years War famously lasted for more than 100 years and ran roughly between 1337 to 1453. The French were essentially defending, or rather recapturing, their homeland with the English, who were unhappy about losing huge swatches of French land and their claim to the French throne. Remember, William the Conquerer had come from Normandy when he took control of Britain in 1066.

There were many battles on French soil but Henry V’s victory at Agincourt on 25 October 1415 is the most famous as far as the English are concerned. The France probably don’t dwell too much on that one.

Three debut novels on Women’s Prize Shortlist

Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction Shortlist, 2014

Three debut novelists – Hannah Kent, Audrey Magee and Eimear McBride – have found themselves side-by-side with industry veterans Donna Tartt, Jhumpa Lahiri and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the 2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist.  Whittled down from an impressive list of 20, the shortlist includes six novels:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

The Undertaking Audrey Magee

Favorites Margaret Atwood, Eleanor Catton and Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t make the cut.

Beyond The Snow Leopard: Peter Matthiessen’s long legacy of fiction and non-fiction

Peter Matthiessen, one of America’s top writers in the past 60 years, died on Saturday at the age of 86. The Guardian carries an obituary. He had been suffering from Leukemia.

Born in 1927, Matthiessen is remembered for co-founding The Paris Review literary magazine in the 1950s but he also enjoyed a long writing career where he effortlessly switched between fiction and non-fiction. His best known book is The Snow Leopard, published in 1978, but he was also acclaimed for his 2008 novel, Shadow Country, which is a reworking of an earlier trilogy of novels. His writing on nature and conservation, which ranged from birdlife to sharks, has been highly influential on the modern environmental movement.

The Snow Leopard, a landmark book in modern naturalism, details his two-month search for the endangered Snow Leopard with naturalist George Schaller in Tibet. The book also has underlying themes about Zen Buddhism and his thoughts on his wife’s death from cancer.

The Snow Leopard won for the National Book Award for non-fiction in 1980 and Shadow Country won for Fiction category in 2008. Mattiessen’s latest novel, In Paradise, is published this week. It’s the story of a Zen retreat held on the site of a Nazi concentration camp.

A graduate of Yale, he co-founded The Paris Review with George Plimpton while living in France. On his return to the USA, Matthiessen studied Buddhism, became a Zen priest, and continued to write fiction and non-fiction.

There are hundreds of signed copies of his books for sale on AbeBooks. His most collectible works are signed first editions of The Snow Leopard and first editions of his debut novel, Race Rock. There is also a deluxe limited edition of his non-fiction book, Men’s Lives – a tribute to the fishermen of Long Island where Matthiessen lived.

Peter Matthiessen’s Fiction

Race Rock (1954)

Partisans (1955)

Raditzer (1961)

At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1965)

Far Tortuga (1975)

On the River Styx and Other Stories (1989)

The Watson trilogy

Shadow Country (2008)

In Paradise (2014)

Peter Matthiessen’s Non-Fiction

Wildlife in America (1959)

The Cloud Forest: A Chronicle of the South American Wilderness (1961)

Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons in the Stone Age (1962)

The Shorebirds of North America (1967)

Oomingmak (1967)

Sal Si Puedes: Cesar Chavez and the New American Revolution (1969)

Blue Meridian. The Search for the Great White Shark (1971)

The Tree Where Man Was Born (1972)

The Snow Leopard (1978)

Sand Rivers, photographer Hugo van Lawick (1981)

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (1983)

Indian Country (1984)

Nine-headed Dragon River: Zen Journals 1969–1982 (1986)

Men’s Lives: The Surfmen and Baymen of the South Fork (1986)

African Silences (1991)

Baikal: Sacred Sea of Siberia (1992)

East of Lo Monthang: In the Land of the Mustang (1995)

The Peter Matthiessen Reader: Nonfiction, 1959–1961 (2000)

Tigers in the Snow (2000)

The Birds of Heaven: Travels With Cranes (2001)

End of the Earth: Voyage to Antarctica (2003)

Stephen King’s 40 Years of Fear

Carrie by Stephen King

It all started with a novel about a girl with a frightening power.  On April 5, 1974, Stephen King’s debut novel Carrie hit shelves for the very first time, and the master of horror is still going strong.

At the risk of stating the obvious, few authors past or present have achieved the level of success experienced by Stephen King. But then again, few authors are as prolific as Stephen King. With over 350 million copies of more than 70 titles sold worldwide, many adapted to film, television, and even Broadway musicals and comic books, King’s impact on popular culture is irrefutable.

King has released at least one book every year since his debut – frequently more than one, sometimes as many as three or four in a single year.  His next book, Mr. Mercedes, comes out June 3, 2014. From Carrie and Cujo to Dolores Claiborne and Doctor Sleep, we’ve compiled a complete list of King’s books and stories along with a look at the literary royalty’s most collectible titles.  Get a full dose of horror right here.

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