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2014 Giller Prize Shortlist

The shortlist is out! Canada’s most prestigious literary honour, The Giller Prize, was established in 1994. That’s a full two decades of recognition and reward each year to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English. The prize sees cash being awarded to the winner and each of the four other finalists. This year, the 20th anniversary of the prize, marks a significant increase in prize money, with the winning prize doubling from $50,000 to $100,000, and the finalist prizes doubling from $5,000 to $10,000.

Without further ado, here are the six fin alists for the 2014 Giller Prize:

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather ONeill

The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis
Tell by Frances Itani
Us Conductors by Sean Michaels
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
The Ever After of Ashwin Rao by Padma Viswanathan

And Montreal’s Heather O’Neill has made the shortlist! Wonderful. O’Neill published her debut novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals in 2006 to much critical acclaim, and The Girl Who Was Saturday Night is her first novel since.

Stay tuned – we’ll find out who wins the hundred grand and the title on November 10th. Congratulations and good luck to all the finalists.

Antiquarian Treasures: 1776 Illuminated Genealogy Manuscript from Spain

We really do come across the most marvelous and unique books and ephemera here on AbeBooks. Today’s wonderful find of an amazing book is this beautifully bound 1776 legal manuscript, from Spain.



It is hand-lettered by don Ramon Zazo of Ortega, the scribe, historian and official herald and genealogist for the Spanish crown during the reign of Charles III. This lovely illuminated manuscript is bound in torn, nicked but nevertheless gorgeous leather. It boasts remarkable decoration and detail, from its coloured illuminations to the handwritten letters, the gilt on its covers, and the adornments of individual pages. Making reference to the city of Seville, this antiquarian gem, from a time when as much attention was paid to aesthetic as to content, is a dream for any rare book collector. It appears to be a study in genealogy, exploring the lineage and origins of the Spanish name/family Larrea in the 18th century. Regardless, it is certainly a most unusual and beautiful antiquarian book. More pictures below.




Nine Literary Elizabeths

Here are nine characters named Elizabeth, found in popular literary fiction.

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice
Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is an obvious place to start. Occasionally Lizzy or Eliza (never Liz or Beth), Bennet is an intelligent, witty and independent woman, known to be a critical thinker with a strong moral compass. In screen adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet has been played by actresses Greer Garson, Jennifer Ehle, Keira Knightley and more.

Elizabeth March, commonly known as Beth March, is the third of four sisters in the classic novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. She is gentle, compassionate and kind, known far and wide for her tender heart and loving spirit. It’s made clear in the novel that she’s basically the favorite of everyone who knows her. Anyone with a heart to have read Little Women is likely to have cried buckets over Beth.

Elizabeth Lavenza is Victor Frankenstein’s adopted sister (whom he nevertheless weds in adulthood) in Mary Shelley’s dark novel, Frankenstein. While not intelligent, she is presented as positive and kind, as well as beautiful. As the object of Victor’s love and affection, Elizabeth suffers an unfortunate end at the hand of his creation, Frankenstein’s monster.

Elizabeth McKenna is a character from the 2008 critically acclaimed epistolary novel called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and the founder of the (fictional) title organization. She is something of a background character, never physically part of the present-day action, but is nevertheless a key component of the story. She is known for her bravery and loyalty.

Princess Elizabeth from The Paper Bag Princess Princess Elizabeth is the main character in The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, perhaps the first feminist book I ever read. Elizabeth is a princess who works hard to outsmart a dragon who has carried off the prince she wishes to marry. However, when she cleverly and exhaustively dispatches of the dragon, and finally rescues the prince, he’s an absolute pill about the whole thing, and Elizabeth wisely ditches him and dances off into the sunset.

Bess Marvin. First introduced in the 1931 novel The Secret at Shadow Ranch, Elizabeth (Bess) Marvin is a close friend of Nancy Drew. Contrary to many of the Elizabeths, Beths, Liz’s and others on this list, Marvin is not that helpful. She is portrayed as something of a clown character, always talking about ice cream and shopping. She is flighty, flirtatious, and easily frightened, often talking Nancy Drew out of pursuing any thread that seems even slightly dangerous. In
short, Bess is a bit of a buzzkill.

Betsey Trotwood from David Copperfield may be a bit of a stretch, because while Betsey (or Betsy) is a well-known short form of the name Elizabeth, Copperfield’s great aunt is referred to solely as Betsey, not as Elizabeth. However, since Charles Dickens’ own mother’s name was Elizabeth, I think we’ll consider it implied and let it remain on the list. Aunt Betsey is a confident, strong and loving character, fully realized, and one of the characters in David Copperfield who most comes to life. Kind but firm, she is perhaps the most constant guiding force in Copperfield’s life.

Betsy TacyBetsy Ray (Elizabeth Warrington-Ray) is the main character in the much beloved Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. The series is said to be loosely based on Lovelace herself and her childhood. The series, which began in 1940 and ended in 1955, follows Betsy’s life and aventures starting at age five, all the way through to her wedding. Betsy herself is an animated, outgoing and bright child and a natural storyteller.

Elizabeth Dalloway is the daughter of the title character, Clarissa, in Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway. The novel was quite dark and honest, received much critical acclaim for its time, and still stands up as an excellent novel today. Elizabeth Dalloway is a secondary character, only 17 years old. She is a gentle and reserved girl, and has little time for her mother’s party (the event around which the novel is centered), preferring to spend her time gamboling about in the country with animals.

Elizabeth Costello is a character from three J.M. Coetzee novels, The Lives of Animals from 1999 and Slow Man from 2005. Her most prominent storyline, however, is of course as the title character from Coetzee’s 2003 novel, Elizabeth Costello. Elizabeth is a successful author in Australia, nearing her retirement and old age. As she continues to tour and give seminars and readings, she struggles with issues of identity. Very moral, very opinionated, but plagued with self-doubt, real life critics have speculated that perhaps Coetzee often uses Costello as a mouthpiece for his own agendas.

There you have it. Literary characters named Elizabeth. Which essential Elizabeths did we miss? Are you an Elizabeth? With which literary Elizabeth do you most identify?

Rare Titles from Archibald Rutledge, First Poet Laureate of South Carolina

Love's Meaning by Captain Archibald Rutledge
American poet Archibald “Archie” Rutledge (1883-1973) has enjoyed moments in the spotlight here on AbeBooks. South Carolina’s first poet laureate, Rutledge wrote extensively, with most of his books dedicated to his first love, poetry. He also wrote prodigiously about hunting, wildlife and the outdoors. Rutledge grew up in South Carolina on a plantation, where he had ample time to explore and hunt with his father and brothers. His passion for poetry was also formed in childhood, and he wrote his first piece of poetry when he was just a young boy of three years:

“I saw a little rattlesnake
Too young to make his rattles shake.”

From those auspicious beginnings came a prolific and very successful poet. Rutledge penned over 50 books in his lifetime. Perhaps his best-known work is Home By the River, a fond remembrance of his family home, Hampton Plantation, in South Carolina. Many of Rutledge’s works have become rare treasures, prized and hunted by book collectors.

California bookseller Salvaged-treasures is lucky enough to have four such Rutledge listings up for sale. The first, Love’s Meaning, is a signed copy of the 1943 title, priced at $100. Love’s Meaning is a tribute to human love and nature’s place within it, and much more. A slim volume, this lovely little book is nonetheless packed with thought-provoking life lessons. Salvaged-treasures are located in Canyon County, California, and have been in operation since 2011. You can see all of Salvaged-treasure’s listings currently available.

Another fantastic find on offer from Salvaged-treasures is this rare, signed copy of the author’s first book, The Heart’s Quest. One of only four copies available on the site, this one is in very good condition, despite some slight fading to the suede. It would make a lovely addition to any poetry lover’s shelf, and is on offer for $2,800.

The Heart's Quest by Captain Archibald Rutledge

In October 2011, AbeBooks saw a swell of Archibald Rutledge’s work selling, with three of the sales cracking our top ten most expensive sales of that month. The three skookum sales were:

The Heart’s Quest by Archibald Rutledge – $7,995
This is a signed first edition copy of Rutledge’s earliest work; the book itself is undated but it has been recorded that it was published in 1904 making it the South Carolinian poet’s first published work by nearly two years.

Under The Pines and Other Poems by Archibald Rutledge – $7,200
Under the Pines was Rutledge’s second publication having been published in 1906; this copy was signed and inscribed “O to recall/What to recall Myhew Phillips.”

How Wild Was My Village by Archibald Rutledge – $5,995
Published in 1969 by Wing Publications, this first edition copy was inscribed by the South Carolina Poet Laureate “With the love of your friend, Archibald Rutledge.” In addition to Rutledge’s text the book is illustrated throughout by D.P. McGuire.

To learn more about Rutledge, explore the book A Hunt for Life’s Extras: The Story of Archibald Rutledge by Idella Bodie.

The Headless Horseman: A Strange Tale of Texas by Mayne Reid

The Headless Horseman: A Strange Tale of Texas by Mayne Reid

The lunch table in the AbeBooks staff room is certainly never dull. Different combinations of staffers from various departments congregate to eat their lunches, and the conversation can run the gamut from heated political discussion, to pop culture, to local events and more. The only topic off-limits is work, though that rule is bent whenever someone has a problem or a particularly good idea.

Yesterday’s discussion veered onto the origins of phrases, when it was mentioned that someone didn’t know what succotash (as in “Sufferin’ Succotash!”, the famous cartoon utterance of Sylvester the Cat, and more rarely, Daffy Duck) was. Brief research revealed that succotash is a foodstuff, and while recipes vary widely, it appears the staples of corn and beans are key to its foundation.

Satisfied thus far, the next topic was the phrase “Jumpin’ Jehosaphat!”.

What was Jehosaphat? Was it too a foodstuff? Someone’s name? A dance move? Back to the internet! We discovered that the origins of the phrase Jumpin’ Jehosaphat could be traced back centuries and centuries. Jehoshaphat (note the extra H, later dropped in pop culture), son of Asa and father of Jehoram, was a king of the Kingdom of Judah for 25 years some time (historians disagree on precise dates) around 870-850 BCE.

As to the origins of “Jumpin’ Jehosaphat” specifically, our search eventually led back to a book (doesn’t everything, eventually?).

Apparently, the first recorded instance of the phrase can be found in the 1866 novel The Headless Horseman by (Thomas) Mayne Reid. The novel is based on Texan folklore detailing the exploits of an Irish hero in the U.S.-Mexican war of the mid-19th century. Here are the opening paragraphs of the novel, sure to pull the reader in:

“The stag of Texas, reclining in midnight lair, is startled from his slumbers by the hoofstroke of a horse.
He does not forsake his covert, nor yet rise to his feet. His domain is shared by the wild steeds of the savannah, given to nocturnal straying. He only uprears his head; and with antlers o’ertopping the tall grass, listens for a repetition of the sound.
Again is the hoofstroke heard, but with altered intonation. There is a ring of metal – the clinking of steel against stone. The sound, significant to the ear of the stag, causes a quick change in his air and attitude. Springing clear of his couch, and bounding a score of yards across the prairie, he pauses to look back upon the disturber of his dreams. In the clear moonlight of a southern sky, he recognizes the most ruthless of his enemies – man. One is approaching upon horseback. Yielding to instinctive dread, he is about to resume his flight: when something in the appearance of the horseman – some unnatural seeming – holds him transfixed to the spot. ”

The novel is a story of love, jealousy, revenge, raiding Comanche Indians and assassination on the plains of Texas. Mystery abounds, and a healthy spot of violence as well. And from the sounds of it, the writers of television series “Breaking Bad” may have found an idea or two in its pages.

AbeBooks has just six 1866 copies of The Headless Horseman by Mayne Reid for sale. And now we know that is the first published occurrence of “Jumpin’ Jehosaphat!” in literature.

And further literary fact goodies: Isaac Asimov‘s famous character Lije Baley (from The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun and The Robots of Dawn, chiefly) frequently exclaims “Jehosaphat!” as a curse word throughout the books.

So if you didn’t know, now you know. Jumpin’ Jehosaphat!

The Headless Horseman: A Strange Tale of Texas by Mayne Reid

Banned Books Week 2014

It’s Banned Books Week again. If you’re not familiar, Banned Books Week is an annual week-long series of events that celebrate our freedom to read, and call attention to how often that freedom is threatened and quashed. This year the promotions run September 21st – 27th.

The American Library Association is the brains behind the operation, and they work hard to spread awareness about the threat of censorhip, and to remove barriers to literacy and books. As of the writing of this post, this is the most current list of Most Challenged Books (from 2013 – a list from 2014 will likely be forthcoming shortly after the year’s end). These are the books that various people, for various reasons have tried to restrict access to. Rather than simply choosing not to read the books themselves, they’ve taken it upon themselves to try to ensure nobody else can, either.  Here is a video review of one of the most often challenged or banned books from the list below, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Watch our video, read the book, decide for yourself.



Here is the most current list:


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.

Banning books, challenging books, and of course even burning books is neither unusual nor new, but each year we see more voices added to the fight against it, and the fight for access to literature and to information. What can you do to help keep books accessible for everyone who wants to read them? Get involved! From the ALA web site:

“The ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) offers a variety of resources for libraries, schools, and other organizations that want to get involved with and promote Banned Books Week. See the links on the left for information on promotional materials for sale at the ALA Store, free materials you can download or print off of the ALA website, and ideas for planning a Banned Books Week event in your community.”

See more ideas and resources about the prevention of censorship on the ALA web site.

For Auction: Shaw’s Shovel, Bradbury’s Poem About Same

George Bernard Shaw's garden spadeThis is the second bit of good bloggery we’ve had as a result of George Bernard Shaw objects. Longtime Reading Copy readers may remember that we once had George Bernard Shaw’s typewriter for sale on the site. This time around, the item of interest is George Bernard Shaw’s garden spade, with which he apparently planted a mulberry tree in 1936, on the occasion of his 80th birthday. There is a plaque on the handle of the spade, which reads: “‘With this spade Bernard Shaw planted a mulberry tree in the public garden in Great Malvern on his 80th birthday, the 26 July 1936. He then presented it to Harry Batchelor Higgs, his gardener and faithful friend for 34 years.’”

The spade was later gifted to Ray Bradbury, who was a tremendous fan of the playwright’s work. Bradbury (who dabbled in much more, writing-wise, than just science fiction and fantasy, you see) was so moved by owning such a powerful object that he wrote a poem, appropriately titled “G.B.S. and the Spade”. The poem, rumored to be quite lengthy, imagines the spade imbued with powers to facilitate a conversation between Bradbury and the Nobel Prize-winner, who Bradbury once named as the one person he would choose to meet, if he could. Bradbury himself passed away in 2012 at the age of 91, and the garden spade, along with the accompanying poem, are now up for auction by Nate D. Sanders Fine Autographs & Memorabilia, and will come complete with a Certificate of Authenticity from the Ray Bradbury estate for the winning bidder. As of the writing of this post, there is one bid at $5,000, and just over three days left in which to bid.

If you’re here for the Ray Bradbury more than the George Bernard Shaw, you may also be interested in Nate D. Sanders’ other Ray Bradbury memorabilia auctions, which include much art – lithographs, book cover art, drawings, a suit jacket and projection slides, and much more. One more item worthy of note is this 16 X 20″ painting of Ray Bradbury himself by L.J. Dopp. Good lord I want to own this.Ray Bradbury painting by L.J. Dopp

2014 National Book Awards Longlist

Well it’s a big week for longlists in the literary world. First the Giller Prize Longlist came out, and now the National Book Awards are taking their turn, too. In fact, the National Book Awards longlist was released earlier than the awards committee would have liked, after news outlets leaked it early. So here we are.

Redeployment by Phil Klay
Here are the ten longlist contenders for The National Book Award for Fiction:
An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Thunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken
Orfeo by Richard Powers
Lila by Marilynne Robinson
Some Luck by Jane Smiley
The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol

Of those I have actually only ever read Marilynne Robinson, but I really enjoyed both Home and Housekeeping and will be seeking out more of her work. I’m also excited to read more from the list. It’s rare that a list has so few authors I’ve explored. Lots do to!

And here are the ten longlist contenders for The National Book Award for Non-Fiction:

Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh by John LahrCan’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic by John Demos
No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes by Anand Gopal
The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941-1942 by Nigel Hamilton
The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson
Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh by John Lahr
Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan OsnosWhen Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944 by Ronald C. Rosbottom
Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic by Matthew Stewart
The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson

Don’t Miss The 2014 Vancouver Book Fair

Books at the Vancouver Book Fair

Books at The Vancouver Book Fair

The 2014 Vancouver Book Fair is coming up quickly, and booklovers who have attended in past years know this is an event not to be missed. As Western Canada’s only book fair dedicated to rare, collectible and antique books, there is sure to be something for everyone from dabbling novices to serious and established collectors. This year’s fair takes place Saturday October 4th and Sunday October 5th, and will once more be held at UBC Robson Square in Vancouver. Along with the Alcuin Society, AbeBooks is once more a proud sponsor of the event.

Attendees of the fair will be treated to a wide variety of literary rarities. From the Vancouver Book Fair web site:

“A wide selection of antiquarian, collectible and rare books, ephemera, maps, prints, manuscripts, photographs and works on paper will be on offer at the fair – including Canadiana; children’s and illustrated; fine press and limited editions; history and military history; literature and fine arts; modern first editions and signed copies; natural history; travel and exploration; science and technology as well as many other subject areas. The items on offer will range from 15th century incunabula to 21st century modern first editions.”

Some of this year’s exhibiting booksellers include:

When: Saturday, October 4th 1pm-7pm, and Sunday, October 5th 11am-4pm
Where: UBC Robson Square, 800 Robson Street, Vancouver, BC (convenient parking both nearby and underground)
How much: $8.00 Admission (good for both days – and if you register your attendance beforehand on the web site, you can receive a $2.00 discount)

If you love the smell of old books or have an empty shelf spot just begging for something beautiful, make sure to include the Vancouver Book Fair in your weekend plans for October 4th-5th.

Giller Prize Longlist for 2014

The longlist has been announced for the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada’s most prestigious literary honour. The Giller Prize was established in 1994 and has been recognizing and rewarding outstanding literary talent ever since to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English. The prize sees cash being awarded to the winner and each of the four other finalists. This year, the 20th anniversary of the prize, marks a significant increase in prize money, with the winning prize doubling from $50,000 to $100,000, and the finalist prizes doubling from $5,000 to $10,000.


Us Conductors by Sean Michaels

Here is this year’s longlist:

Waiting for the Man by Arjun Basu
The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis
American Innovations by Rivka Galchen
Tell by Frances Itani
Watch How We Walk by Jennifer Lovegrove
Us Conductors by Sean Michaels
Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab by Shani Mootoo
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill
Paradise and Elsewhere by Kathy Page
My October by Claire Holden Rothman
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
The Ever After of Ashwin Rao by Padma Viswanathan

I’m excited to see a title there by Montreal’s Heather O’Neill. O’Neill published her debut novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals in 2006 to much critical acclaim, and The Girl Who Was Saturday Night is her first novel since.

The shortlist will be announced October 6th, and we’ll find out who wins the hundred grand and the winning title on November 10th. Congratulations and good luck to all the longlisted authors.