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Amazon’s Best Books of the Month – May 2016

If you’re looking for the next must-read book, look no further than this impressive list of books that the Amazon editors loved for the month.


The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church
In her sweeping debut novel, Elizabeth J. Church takes us from the World War II years in Chicago to the vast sun-parched canyons of New Mexico in the 1970s as we follow the journey of a driven, spirited young woman, Meridian Wallace, whose scientific ambitions are subverted by the expectations of her era.


Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
Set in London during the years of 1939–1942, when citizens had slim hope of survival, much less victory; and on the strategic island of Malta, which was daily devastated by the Axis barrage, Everyone Brave is Forgiven features little-known history and a perfect wartime love story inspired by the real-life love letters between Chris Cleave’s grandparents. This dazzling novel dares us to understand that, against the great theater of world events, it is the intimate losses, the small battles, the daily human triumphs that change us most.


The Fireman by Joe Hill
No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.


The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee
The extraordinary Siddhartha Mukherjee has a written a biography of the gene as deft, brilliant, and illuminating as his extraordinarily successful biography of cancer. Weaving science, social history, and personal narrative to tell us the story of one of the most important conceptual breakthroughs of modern times, Mukherjee animates the quest to understand human heredity and its surprising influence on our lives, personalities, identities, fates, and choices.


Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
By turns a shocking story of love and violence and an addictive portrait of the intoxication of female friendship, set against the unsettled backdrop of a town gripped by moral panic, Girls on Fire is an unflinching and unforgettable snapshot of girlhood: girls lost and found, girls strong and weak, girls who burn bright and brighter—and some who flicker away.


Heat & Light by Jennifer Haigh
Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Haigh returns to the Pennsylvania town at the center of her iconic novel Baker Towers in this ambitious, achingly human story of modern America and the conflicting forces at its heart—a bold, moving drama of hope and desperation, greed and power, big business and small-town families.


LaRose by Louise Erdrick
In this literary masterwork, Louise Erdrich, the bestselling author of the National Book Award-winning The Round House and the Pulitzer Prize nominee The Plague of Doves wields her breathtaking narrative magic in an emotionally haunting contemporary tale of a tragic accident, a demand for justice, and a profound act of atonement with ancient roots in Native American culture.


The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan
Hellsmouth, an indomitable Thoroughbred with the blood of Triple Crown winners in her veins, runs for the glory of the Forge family, one of Kentucky’s oldest and most powerful dynasties. Henry Forge has partnered with his daughter, Henrietta, in an endeavor of raw obsession: to breed the next superhorse, the next Secretariat. But when Allmon Shaughnessy, an ambitious young black man, comes to work on their farm, the violence of the Forges’ history and the exigencies of appetite are brought starkly into view. Entangled in fear, prejudice, and lust, the three tether their personal dreams of glory to the speed and grace of Hellsmouth.


The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones by Rich Cohen
Rich Cohen enters the Stones epic as a young journalist on the road with the band and quickly falls under their sway—privy to the jokes, the camaraderie, the bitchiness, the hard living. Inspired by a lifelong appreciation of the music that borders on obsession, Cohen’s chronicle of the band is informed by the rigorous views of a kid who grew up on the music and for whom the Stones will always be the greatest rock ’n’ roll band of all time.


Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick
In September 1776, the vulnerable Continental Army under an unsure George Washington (who had never commanded a large force in battle) evacuates New York after a devastating defeat by the British Army. Three weeks later, near the Canadian border, one of his favorite generals, Benedict Arnold, miraculously succeeds in postponing the British naval advance down Lake Champlain that might have ended the war. Four years later, as the book ends, Washington has vanquished his demons and Arnold has fled to the enemy after a foiled attempt to surrender the American fortress at West Point to the British. After four years of war, America is forced to realize that the real threat to its liberties might not come from without but from within.


Zero K by Don DeLillo
Jeffrey Lockhart’s father, Ross, is a billionaire in his sixties, with a younger wife, Artis Martineau, whose health is failing. Ross is the primary investor in a remote and secret compound where death is exquisitely controlled and bodies are preserved until a future time when biomedical advances and new technologies can return them to a life of transcendent promise. Jeff joins Ross and Artis at the compound to say “an uncertain farewell” to her as she surrenders her body.

Rare booksellers celebrate World Book Day with pop-up fairs across the globe

Voice of Truth… offered by Rulon-Miller Books and spotted today at the Chicago pop-up book fair

The rare booksellers of the world united today to celebrate World Day Day with a global series of pop-up book fairs, stretching from Perth and Tokyo to Paris and Munich to Chicago and Portland, Oregon. The events – organised by ILAB – promoted reading and the joy of books, and also raised money for UNESCO’s efforts to support literacy in South Sudan.

A blog post cannot truly do justice to the scale of this celebration which began in Australia (in at least three locations), continued in Japan and then spread to Europe as sellers in the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, France, Denmark, Russia, Hungary and the United Kingdom contributed to the effort. Further North American events took place in Seattle and Chicago.

AbeBooks staffer Larissa Dawirs, who works in our Dusseldorf office, visited the pop-up book fair in Vienna and took in some amazing views of the Austrian city as the fair was held inside the rotating carriages of a ferris wheel.

Her colleague Christi Kay, who works in the Victoria office, took a flight to Chicago to join 12 Midwest booksellers at the historic Glessner House where yet another fair took place.

Both were made very welcome and we appreciate the hospitality of the booksellers.

We must also mention ILAB’s web editor Dr. Barbara van Benthem, who blogged for many hours in order to record the events in a single place.

Chicago’s booksellers at the Glessner House

Bookseller Jeff Borg shows some topical artwork at the Chicago fair

A beautiful shelf in Chicago, courtesy of seller Jeff Hirsch

Books and ephemera in a Vienna ferris wheel carriage

Vienna1 for blog

All aboard the Vienna pop-up book fair

A view of the city and some rare books

An early view of Vienna… inside the ferris wheel carriage

How Well Do You Know Presidential Hairlines?

There’s been a lot of talk lately about a certain politician’s hair. In fact, his unique hairstyle has spawned much debate, discussion, slideshows, memes – the list goes on. With the excitement of the upcoming US presidential election, we’ve been looking at a lot of biographies about current and past presidents and we noticed something interesting. Almost every president has a unique and identifying hairstyle!

We’ve selected 20 presidential hairlines from book covers written about some of the most important men in US history. Can you guess the president by their hairline? Share your answers in the comments below.




2016 Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar contest now open

2015 Colorado Antiquarian Seminar attendees

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 July, 2016 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. $1,646.00. Transportation to and from the event is not included.

The Book Seminar provides an opportunity for leading specialists to share their expertise and experience in a comprehensive survey of the rare book market, both antiquarian and modern. Basic procedures and problems are discussed both formally and informally through a series of lectures, discussions, demonstrations and practical hands-on workshops with emphasis on the Internet, computers and Internet bookselling, as well as traditional methods. Read our interview with 2011 contest winners, Underground Books.

How to Enter:

Don’t miss out on this chance to win admission to attend the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, including instructional materials, breakfasts and lunches, and accommodations. To enter for a chance to win this prize package, with a value of U.S. $1,646.00, simply send an email with your name, hometown and state or province to contests@abebooks.com and complete the following sentence: “The best thing about bookselling is…”

We may use your submission in a feature about rare bookselling on AbeBooks.com.

Don’t forget to include your name, hometown and state or province in the email, and include “Colorado Book Seminar” in the subject line. The contest ends May 5, 2016. The two winners will be selected in a random draw (the odds of being drawn are dependent upon the number of eligible entries received) and will have to answer a skill-testing question.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Limit one entry per person and e-mail address. This contest is open to legal residents of the United States (excluding its territories and possessions) and Canada (excluding Quebec), and entrants must be the older of 18 years old or the age of majority in their province or state of residence. See Official Rules for more details

Happy 100th Birthday Beverly Cleary!

Beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary turns 100 today!  She’s sold millions of books, won several awards, has statues of her best know characters in a park in Portland, has an elementary school named after her and has written not one but two memoirs. Cleary’s most loved characters, Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, Beezus, Ribsy and little Ralph S. Mouse have left an indelible impact on all who have read her books.

In honor of this special day, here are some lovely signed books, first editions and other unique items from one of our favorite authors.


Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary. Illustrated by Louis Darling. Signed by author, first edition. 1950


Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary. Signed, first edition copy, printed in 1983.


Henry and Beezus by Beverley Cleary. First edition, printed in 1952


Henry and the Club House by Beverly Cleary. Illustrated by Louis Darling. First edition, 1962


Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Alan Tiegreen. First edition, 1981


Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Beth and Joe Krush. First edition, 1961


Runaway Ralph by Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Louis Darling. First edition, 1970


Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Thelma Lambert. First edition, 1979


My Own Two Feet: A Memoir by Beverly Cleary


A Girl From Yamhill: A Memoir by Beverly Cleary

An Introduction to Shakespeare for Kids

April 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s work is among the most widely read and studied. But does his work resonate with kids? The language can be difficult to understand and some passages are dense. Most children probably don’t ask for a Shakespeare soliloquy for their bed-time story.

Fortunately, there are a number of books written specifically for children to introduce them to the world of Shakespeare. From beautifully illustrated versions to abridged stories using simplified language, the following Shakespeare books will help children form a lifelong love for the Bard.


Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare
This is a wonderful collection of retellings of six of William Shakespeare’s best-loved plays – a perfect mix of comedy, tragedy, magic and romance – retold for younger readers.  Contains A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest and Twelfth Night.


Tales from Shakespeare by Charles & Mary Lamb
The Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb were written to be an ‘introduction to the study of Shakespeare’, but are much more entertaining than that. All of Shakespeare’s best-loved tales, comic and tragic, are retold in a clear and robust style, and their literary quality has made them popular and sought-after ever since their first publication in 1807. This edition contains the delightful pen-and-ink drawings of Arthur Rackham.


How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig
To know some Shakespeare provides a head start in life. His plays are among the great bedrocks of Western civilization and contain the finest writing of the past 450 years. Many of the best novels, plays, poems, and films in the English language produced since Shakespeare’s death in 1616—from  Pride and Prejudice to  The Godfather—are heavily influenced by Shakespeare’s stories, characters, language, and themes. In  How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, acclaimed playwright Ken Ludwig provides the tools you need to inspire an understanding, and a love, of Shakespeare’s works in your children, and to have fun together along the way.


Leon Garfield’s Shakespeare Stories
How to introduce kids to Shakespeare—not just to the stories behind the plays but to the richness of his language and the depth of his characters. That’s the challenge that Leon Garfield, a wonderful children’s book writer, undertook to meet in his monumental and delightful Shakespeare Stories. Here are twenty-one of the Bard’s plays, presented in what is not a series of dry retellings, but rather a refashioning of the dramas as stories, in a way that remains true to the essential spirit of the original versions. Garfield has captured all the richness of character, plot, mood, and setting in Shakespeare’s works without resorting to simplification.


Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare by Diane Stanley & Peter Vennema
William Shakespeare was the son of a glove maker, a small-town boy with a grammar school education. Yet he grew up to become the greatest English-speaking playwright in the world. Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare is both his story and that of a great art rediscovered in the modern world.


Shakespeare’s Stories for Young Readers by E. Nesbit
Twelve of Shakespeare’s greatest tales come to life in this entertaining collection of short, lively stories specially adapted for young readers. Capturing the vital events and using some of the original wording, the stories serve as a perfect introduction to Shakespeare for preteens and as literate refreshers for older folks.


The Shakespeare Book (Big Ideas Simply Explained)
Learn more about the work of William Shakespeare with The Shakespeare Book, packed full of infographics, inspirational quotes, character guides, and more bonus material that illuminates the bard’s work, from Shakespeare plays like Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and As You Like It, to his best-loved sonnets, and even obscure lost works. Every comedy, tragedy, history, and poem of Shakespeare’s is collected here in this comprehensive guide.


Mothello: A High-Flying Introduction to Shakespeare for Kids by Dilan MacHardy
The first in a series of Shakespeare adaptations casting the Bard’s epic characters as animals (ROMEOW & JULICAT, KING DEER, LAMBLET…and more to follow), Mothello translates the complexities of Shakespeare, beginning in simple English and gradually introducing the full weight of the text. By using the literary convention of the backstory, the added narrative seeks to explain why Mothello behaved the way he did, why he became capable of murder, betraying his beloved Desdemona and eventually, himself. The hope is that young readers will relate more to animal characters and familiar animal behavior to make them want to persevere and be challenged by one of the greatest literary figures of all time.


Hamlet (Shakespeare Stories) by Andrew Matthews
Murder most foul…An action-packed retelling of Shakespeare’s dark tale of revenge and murder. With notes on Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre, and Revenge in Hamlet.


Shakespeare on Toast by Ben Crystal
Actor and author Ben Crystal brings the bright words and colorful characters of the world’s greatest hack writer brilliantly to life, handing over the key to William Shakespeare’s plays, unlocking the so-called difficult bits and, astonishingly, finding Shakespeare’s own voice in among the poetry. Told in five fascinating acts, Shakespeare on Toast sweeps the cobwebs from the Bard – from his language, his life, his time – revealing both the man and his work to be relevant, accessible, and full of beans.

Shakespeare First Folio discovered on Scottish island

A Shakespeare First Folio, one of the world’s great rare books, has been found in a stately home on the Scottish island of Bute, reports the BBC. Only 230 copies of the First Folio, which contains Shakespeare’s plays, are known to exist. The last copy to be found was discovered in 2014 in a library in St Omer in France.

Emma Smith, professor of Shakespeare studies at Oxford University, said her first reaction on being told the stately home was claiming to have an original First Folio was: “Like hell they have.”

But when she inspected the three-volume book she found it was authentic.

“We’ve found a First Folio that we didn’t know existed,” said Prof Smith.

It is believed the book was bought by the third Marquess of Bute, an antiquarian and collector, who died in 1900.

Bookseller Q&A: Yesterday’s Muse

Jonathan Smalter in front of his bookstore, Yesterday's Muse.

Jonathan Smalter in front of his bookstore, Yesterday’s Muse.

Located in Webster, New York, AbeBooks bookseller Yesterday’s Muse offers a everything from American and military history books, to literature and finely illustrated editions. Owner Jonathan Smalter is a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA), the association that represents the nation’s finest booksellers. He is a 2011 graduate of the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS), and has served as co-organizer of the annual Rochester (NY) Antiquarian Book Fair since 2013. With over over fifteen years of experience in the book industry, we were eager to ask Jonathan a few questions about his trade.

AbeBooks: How did you become a bookseller?

Jonathan: I began working at a used bookstore when I was 17, and began selling books online in a limited capacity during college. Upon graduating, I pursued this full time, and have done so ever since. This year will mark the point at which I can say that I have been selling books professionally for half my life (I will be 34 in May). I opened my ‘brick & mortar’ shop in December of 2008.

AbeBooks: What do you love most about selling books?

Jonathan: I enjoy book selling because every day is different, and I get to learn new things constantly. Researching unusual and scarce material is a challenge, and meeting fellow bibliophiles (both customers and colleagues), who always seem willing – sometimes eager – to share their knowledge, keeps life interesting.

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

Jonathan: Currently I own a second American edition of Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana, which is significant for two reasons: 1) This particular copy was owned by four generations of the Beecher-Stowe family (Lyman Beecher; Harriet Beecher-Stowe and her husband [the latter jotted marginal notes on one page]; and their son and grandson). 2) This specific copy of the book is mentioned in Harriet Beecher-Stowe’s ‘Poganuc People’: “It was a happy hour when [father] brought home and set up in his book-case Cotton Mather’s Magnalia, in a new edition of two volumes.” The work itself is an important one, but what I love most is describing the process of researching the provenance.

Yesterday's Muse

Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana, owned by four generations of the Beecher-Stowe family.

AbeBooks: What’s the one book you covet most? Why?

Jonathan: Choosing one is difficult, so I’ll cheat and give you two answers. The first is a signed copy of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, in the limited edition with Johns-Manville Quinterra (asbestos) boards. The second, which is my favorite book, I have had in the first edition, signed by the author: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin. This was early in my career, when keeping books for myself was less advisable, so I no longer have it. I think perhaps I covet the latter more because I let it get away once. Both are available, but I would prefer to find them ‘in the field’ if I am going to add them to my personal collection… so the hunt continues.

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

Jonathan: While not the oddest single object taken by itself, I thought the Ku Klux Klan pamphlet I found laid into a copy of the Bible was among the interfoliata more worthy of remark. I kept them together initially, with note on the somewhat troubling juxtaposition included in my description. Recently, though, a customer purchased the Bible and requested that the pamphlet not be included with his order.

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

Jonathan: While I cannot properly call it a single moment, I think attending the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar in 2011 was a pivotal event in my career. Since then I have become a member of the ABAA, established more professional relationships, made more friends in the trade, and pursued a wider range of activities related to the book trade. This year will be my first year organizing the Rochester Antiquarian Book Fair, and I am also president of the Rochester Bibliophile Society. I think all these accomplishments can trace their roots back to the seminar in Colorado.

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

Jonathan: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin. It is among a very few books I have read more than twice.

Defying the hangman – rare ‘Carter the Great’ magic poster goes on sale

Carter the Great poster offered for sale by Colophon Books

A rare magic poster promoting ‘Carter the Great’ has gone on sale on AbeBooks priced at £3,100 / approximately $4,541. Charles Joseph Carter (1874-1936) was an American stage magician nicknamed Carter the Great, who tried journalism and law before switching to magic where he became a household name and toured the world.  A fictionalized account of Carter’s life has been told in Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold, published in 2001.

This beautiful poster is a prime example of the dramatic marketing used to promote stage magic during its golden age in the 1920s.  Born in San Francisco, the highlight of Carter’s stage act was his ‘cheating the gallows’ trick where the shrouded magician would vanish as he dropped at the end of a hangman’s noose.

The poster is offered for sale by Colophon Books from Leek in the United Kingdom.

Learn more

Save the Date – New York City Book & Ephemera Fair on April 9

fair-space---headerNew York City Book and Ephemera Fair

On 9 April, booklovers will have the opportunity to see some of the finest rare books and ephemera at the New York City Book and Ephemera Fair, which this year is sponsored by AbeBooks.com.  More than 60 professional sellers will display a vast selection of antiquarian books, first editions, and other collectible treasures. For those with a passion for ephemera, this fair will not disappoint. Marquee items include an 1831 first edition of Beethoven’s vocal score for Fidelio and a 1938 letter from psychiatrist Carl Jung.

Visitors will have the opportunity to meet booksellers at the fair. These sellers have a vast amount of expertise and knowledge and will be presenting some of their finest items. Attendees can preview some of the exhibitors’ inventories by browsing their items on AbeBooks. Many respected sellers will be at the fair, including Little Sages Books, Read’ Em Again Books, Peter Harrington, Abby Schoolman, Carnegie Hill Books, DuBois Rare Books and others.

Other highlights set to appear at the fair include a first edition copy of Salome by Oscar Wilde – one of only 500 copies published, Herman Melville’s A Narrative of a Four Months’ Residence among the Natives of a Valley of the Marquesa Islands; or, A Peep at Polynesian and Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas and Anne Cobbett’s 1835 guide to housekeeping, The English Housekeeper: or Manuel of Domestic Management: Containing Advice On The Management of Household Affairs… For the Use of Young Ladies Who Undertake the Superintendence of Their Own Housekeeping.



Herman Melville’s A Narrative of a Four Months’ Residence among the Natives of a Valley of the Marquesa Islands; or, A Peep at Polynesian and Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas


The English Housekeeper: or Manuel of Domestic Management: Containing Advice On The Management of Household Affairs… For the Use of Young Ladies Who Undertake the Superintendence of Their Own Housekeeping

The fair will take place on 9 April from 8am until 4pm at the Wallace Hall at Church of St. Ignatius Loyloa, 980 Park Avenue in New York City. The event offers free, continuous shuttle bus transport to the Park Avenue Armory – location of the New York Antiquarian Book Fair – with the first trip leaving the Armory at 7:45am and the last one leaving Wallace Hall at 3:45pm. Tickets at the door are $15 for adults and $8 for youth aged between 12 and 21. For discount tickets, a complete list of attending dealers, and additional information, please see the fair website.

According to organizer Marvin Getman: “The New York City Book and Ephemera Fair is truly the best of all worlds, celebrating the remarkable intersection of art, history, and imagery.”

Other items of interest at the fair:


An Advertiser’s Alphabet. Illustrated by Ceri Richards, introduction by Mel Gooding


Serve it Forth by M.F.K. Fisher


The Faithful Bull by Ernest Hemingway, illustrations by Michael Foreman, 1980


Voluptés de Paris by Brassai, 1934


Madrigal by Tomas Tranströmer, first edition 2010