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AbeBooks’ Literary Review of 2016

literary-2016-header

We know, we know – the less said about the year 2016 the better. While we too held our collective breath and cringed painfully through much of the year, it is worth noting that whether for better or (much, much) worse, the most remarkable years in history stay with us and go on to be remembered and talked about for the (brighter) years to come.

And part of that legacy must of course be commemorated with the books the year gave us. This year’s cream of the crop included Bob Dylan, James Brown and Bruce Springsteen, stories of the people of Vietnam, Cameroon and China, new titles from heavy hitters like Zadie Smith, Michael Chabon and Ann Patchett, and explorations of physics, genetics, poverty and more. Happily, the year that made us most want to bury our heads in a book also gave us a wonderful, brilliant selection to choose from. Please enjoy our literary review of 2016.


What is ephemera?


Ever wondered what the word ‘ephemera’ means? You may have heard it mentioned in used bookshops or in connection with something that seems old and paper-related. Well, our latest YouTube video provides the exact definition.


Beth’s Best Reads of 2016

I love this book.

I love this book.

 

“It’s the most wonderful tiiiiiiiiime of the yeeeeear….” That’s right, fellow book nerds. It’s the end of the year, which always finds me looking back fondly at all the new characters I met, stories I read, history I learned, and authors I discovered, all thanks to books. Books!

You may have noticed (though I’d be surprised!) that I did not do a post for 2015, and that’s because I was off having my second child (much of my reading around that time consisted of results found by googling “baby ate goose poop“, “toddler hates new baby – normal?” and the like). Fortunately, as we all adjusted to our new family little by little, I found myself able to pick books back up again, and have actually enjoyed some fantastic reads over the past year. Not as many as I’d hoped, but it’s a start.

I also found that my new, busier life with littles underfoot has changed my reading habits. Most notably, while I used to be willing to give a book a generous benefit of the doubt and a long, long time to get good, I am now fairly ruthless. Time is money people, chop chop, hook me quickly or you’re gone. So you can be assured that these books, my best reads of 2016, are good.

Per my usual, these are not all new books, not all one genre, not all one anything. It is my list of the best books I read in 2016, of the books I felt like reading at the time, in no particular order. How’s that for arbitrary?

Enjoy.

1. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This is a name that will appear in any recommended reading lists from me –  Adichie has quickly become one of my favorite authors since I read Americanah, and also discovered her Tedx talk “We Should All be Feminists”. She writes (and speaks) with a clarity and warmth that is so inviting, even in handling the most painful or complicated subject matter. Purple Hibiscus, her first novel, tells the story of a young Nigerian girl named Kambili trying to reconcile her adoration and admiration of her father, a powerful, rigid and devoted man, with her love of and attraction to the freedom she witnesses at the house of her cousins. Themes of gender, sexuality, religion and family are all at play within the book and within Kambili herself as she struggles to discover what is really her – how she really feels, what she really believes – and what is simply indoctrination, absorption, and blind acceptance. It’s a solid, fast-paced story with plenty of room for introspection.

2. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
I read this book in two sittings. Highly engrossing, fast-paced story of 5 teenagers brought together in an unlikely way and an unlikely place due to past trauma, and the mysterious events that follow. I found it so magical that I don’t want to give away much about the plot, but it is set in a boarding school specializing in helping traumatized and emotionally fragile teenagers. Parts of the story filled me with such a sense of longing for the impossible, to be able to conjure what is gone, that I paused several times while reading to just sit with it. This is the second Meg Wolitzer book I’ve read, and I’ll look for more now. She has a way of creating marvelously endearing characters.

3. Rad American Women A-Z  by Kate Schatz
BUY THIS BOOK! Buy it for yourself, and for every child and most of your adults in your life. I love it so much. The seriously excellent illustrations by Miriam Klein Stahl would be reason enough to want to own it, but there are also some great learnings in here. It is, as the title says, an A-Z of 26 fantastic and remarkable American women and a bit about them, as a means to illustrate the alphabet. Using clear, simple language for kids to understand, the book makes its way from iconic feminist and political activist Angela Davis all the way to unforgettable author Zora Neale Hurston, with stops along the way for all manner of brave, brilliant and inventive women, some of whom I had never even heard of previously. It’s an important and gorgeous book. And it was publicly recommended by Kathleen Hanna, which should turn your little inner punk-rock heart to happy goo. Is three too little? Because I really think my son needs this for Christmas. If not this year, then next for sure. I hope they make a Canadian one.

4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
And speaking of Zora Neale Hurston, I finally got it together and read Their Eyes Were Watching God. I loved this book. Took a while to get into the rhythm of the dialogue/dialect but then it was such an excellent read. It begins with the painful return of Janie Crawford, a woman whose third marriage has recently ended, to her Florida home, amid gossip and speculation from her nosy neighbors. The novel’s story unfolds through Janie telling her friend the events that led to the dissolution of her marriage and her previous reality, and her eventual return home. The descriptions really made me want to see Lake Okeechobee — in clear weather.

5. Bear by Marian Engel
To get it out of the way – yes, it’s the one that has the sex scenes between a woman and a bear. In fact, I received it last Christmas, mostly as a joke, because of that bit. And I found that beyond the um…ursine passions…it’s actually quite a lovely and enjoyable book. Lou is a quiet and unassuming librarian who accepts a posting on a remote Canadian island to comb through the estate of a former inhabitant, a colonel whose collection reveals much. To quote my husband, “the language was better than the story”. And that’s definitely true. I loved the beauty of the words in this book. It was gorgeous to read and very evocative. Also, very Canadian in its lush wilderness descriptions. You can practically smell the rotting, mushroomy stumps and rain-drenched ferns. I didn’t feel overly attached to Lou or her outcome, but the whole thing had a sort of dreamy, magical realism meets PNW-pastoral thing that was nice. And yes, a first – don’t think I’d ever read a sex scene involving a bear before!

6. Small Wars by Sadie Jones
This was not as easy to immerse myself in as other Sadie Jones books I have read, but I felt compelled to keep at it, and am glad I did. It was as expertly shaped and beautifully written as her other books, and there’s no doubt she is a skilled storyteller.  There was more focus on the engagements of war and politics of the military, and less about character development for part of it which didn’t hold my personal interest as well, but by the end I found myself deeply attached to the story and its players. Took me until about halfway through to really be engaged, but then I didn’t want to put it down. In the end, I would recommend it.

7. The Children of Men by P.D. James
This was actually the first book I read in 2016. Beautifully written and spare, with a carefully crafted tone that walks the line between cynicism and hope, drive and defeat. Such a brilliant concept for a story – if you don’t know, all women across the globe have stopped conceiving babies – and a different departure for a dystopian novel. I found it more difficult to connect emotionally to the story in the book than I did with the movie version, I think because Theodore is so largely unlikable and loathsome on paper. They really toned that down for ol’ Clive Owen. Also, the gruesome, despair-fueled madness of the women with their little dogs and little dolls was just horrifying in print. Very effective, and hard to read. All in all The Children of Men is definitely a really good book, but I think for me this might be one of the very few cases where I thought the film worked better than the book. Maybe I just don’t like to cringe.

8. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
This is an unusual choice for me, a bit more so-called “chick lit” than my usual fare. I really, really enjoyed this book, though. Funny timing – I took this book with me to have in the hospital, for the birth of our baby, who we named Louisa. I began reading this the very next day, to find a protagonist named Louisa. The Louisa of the story is Louisa Clark, a young woman, quite desperate for money, who accepts a position attending to the needs of Will Traynor, a profoundly physically disabled man, confined to a wheelchair since an extreme sport accident. There are plenty of cliché tropes here – Will is moody, unfriendly and gruff to Louisa’s wide-eyed, well-meaning optimism. Maybe it was just a glorified, better-written romance novel, but it was unpredictable and refreshing and very moving.

9. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Talk about fast reads! This one by the author of Gone Girl was just as much a page-turner as her more famous title. Our protagonist is Libby Day, a woman whose immediate family were murdered when she was just seven years old. The only other surviving family member was her older brother Ben, who has been in prison ever since, largely due to Libby’s testimony. The novel is aptly named, and made me feel unsettled several times throughout the story with how dark and ugly it was. In some ways it reminded me of a trashier, invented version of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, but with some weird teenage Satanism thrown in. It was very entertaining and decently written, but pretty forgettable and probably not something I would highly recommend unless you are on an airplane or in a hospital waiting room. But if I’m honest, I had to include it just for how much I got into it and how quickly I read it.

10. North of Normal by Cea Sunrise Person
This is the true story of a little girl growing up in a counter-culture family who left California in the 1960s to live off grid and make a go of it in the Canadian wilderness. Unfortunately, the bulk of the story doesn’t resemble Little House in the Big Woods so much as Go Ask Alice. Reading this book, which was a fascinating and fast read, mostly made me feel self righteous and angry at the author’s parents, as well as morally superior. But when I managed to step out of that for a moment, it also made me stop and think about how many different kinds of families there are, and how many different kinds of childhoods, and how the same people could be capable of providing such a fantastic and wonderful childhood in some regards and such a terrible and broken childhood at the same time. Definitely worth reading.

11. Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain
A fictionalized account of the real Eugenics Sterilization Program which in North Carolina alone resulted in the sterilization of over 7000 of its people, most or many of whom were unaware they were being sterilized, from 1929 to 1975. Social work programs had a tremendous amount of power in rural and poor and black communities. As a result, anyone deemed to be threats to themselves, or with a low enough IQ (and for even less acceptable reasons) could be sterilized without their consent. The novel focuses on two sisters growing up in rural farm land, and a social worker who becomes involved in their lives, and the story alternates between the two perspectives chapter to chapter. Very sad but an excellent read.

12. The Road Back by Erich Maria Remarque
I’ve never been much for fiction about war. I think in part, selfishly, because I use reading as an escape from the unimaginable horrors of some aspects of the world, war included. And there have been so many books and movies about the atrocity of being immersed in a war zone, particularly about being on the front lines. Full disclosure: I have never read All Quiet on the Western Front. Some of our English classes in high school had that on the curriculum, my classes did not happen to choose that book. I have heard it is excellent, and having now read this book, its sequel, I will definitely find it and read it.

The Road Back begins in war and very quickly moves into peace, which sounds comforting and safe, but quickly proves bewildering, angering and surreal instead. Ernst and his friends have been freed from the front, luckier than the dead and the horribly disfigured, but still badly, badly scarred as evidenced by their struggles trying to reintegrate into society. Remarque did such a perfect job subtly Illustrating the absolute ludicrous hypocrisy in our society when it comes to killing. These young men, lauded as heroes and commanded to kill, then celebrated for it for years on end, find themselves chastised for foul language or too much drinking when attempting to become part of the world once more. Gainful employment, romance and partnership, education, family, the transition from childhood to adulthood, and trying to find one’s place in the world are all themes explored. And from the perspective of those who really came of age surrounded by death and fear, forced to grow up prematurely and immediately, and are now expected to seamlessly toe the line and revert to being pleasant and compliant young men, it makes for an obvious and painful juxtaposition. The book was blunt-force horrifying in some passages, but also quite expert and delicate in the writing. One of the better, more thoughtful and thought-provoking books I have read in a long time.

13. Daydreams of Angels by Heather O’Neill
This is three for three for me from Heather O’Neill. Much like O’Neill’s debut novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals, and her subsequent The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, this short story collection from the Montreal author is a beautiful way to spend some time. All of her storyscapes are inhabited by such dynamic and appealing characters, as well as a nearly-constant sense of whimsy and wonder. In the hands of another writer, I think that could almost me exhausting or cloying, the way even the best dessert tastes too sweet after a while. O’Neill’s writing, however, balances the dark and shabby with the miraculous and optimistic just perfectly. Darker still, and sadder, is the tightrope-walk she manages between innocence and experience. As a reader I do find myself occasionally uncomfortable while immersed in O’Neill’s words, because there is a sense that the monster in the closet is not only very much real, but also just barely out of sightline, and if you turn your head at just the right (wrong) moment, you’re going to catch a glimpse. Her short stories are no exception.

grasshopper-jungle-smith14. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
Oh, I enjoyed this one so much. It’s definitely one of the most fun books I’ve read in a long time. It’s a bildungsroman coming of age story meets weird comedy meets small town boredom, meets science fiction. Basically, the world is taken over by enormous ravenous insects, and it is up to one teenage boy, who happens to be in love with his two best friends, to fight back. It reminded me of The Goonies.

15. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
Could this be my favorite read of the year? It is the story of a remarkable and enterprising woman through two very distinct phases of her life. In that regard I feel like it would have been more successful for me in two volumes, similar to the way Roald Dahl’s adult autobiography was split into his childhood and adulthood (Boy, and Going Solo). The first part of the book is dedicated to the protagonist’s time in Japanese occupied Malaya in the Second World War, being shuffled from Japanese guard to Japanese guard, with no prison camp even to call home, and no one in charge to take responsibility for her and the party of women and children with which she travels. As part of her harrowing experience during this time, she meets an Australian man who does something gallant and nearly heroic to better her lot, and she develops feelings for him immediately, but soon believes him dead. After the war, she learns he is alive and the second part of the book tells the story of her learning to live on a cattle station with him in the Australian outback. Parts of the book were tough to adjust to, and I think it took me a full two thirds of the story to stop flinching at the constant casually racist language and letting it jar me out of the story. Even though that was no doubt very much the vernacular of the times, I wish it could have been toned down just a little. Regardless, it was a very interesting if fictional snapshot of two times and places from which I am entirely removed, and Nevil Shute is an excellent storyteller. I would recommend it.

16. Secret Daughter by Shilpa Somaya Gowda
I read this when I was in a bit of a book rut/slump. Secret Daughter was an engaging story, with believable characters and detailed setting. The writing was sound, and most importantly for kickstarting a reading binge, it was a fast-paced and very easy read. The story did feel a bit like a made-for-tv movie or Hallmark card, where you can tell the sentiment behind it is real, but it is still a lot like every other one that came before, and you know pretty much exactly where it is going. I really like stories about culture clash and identity and belonging, so this appealed to me a lot in that sense. It is an ensemble cast book with the story revolving around Asha, a California girl who was adopted from an Indian orphanage at 1 year old, and how her birth and adoption affect her and those she has been closest to. It was not a literary masterpiece perhaps, but it was a satisfying read.

17. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
This is an unusual book. Made up of snapshots, moments, observations, smaller than vignettes, all carefully painting the outline of a relationship, a marriage, early parenthood. And if you squint you can see that it very clearly paints the whole picture, and all you need to know. While saying more than many books manage to, and using many fewer words, Dept. of Speculation is absolutely gutting. For those who feel a sense of somewhere else, who suffer from occasional fits of restlessness, of ennui and dissatisfaction, of the unbearable weariness of repetition, reading this book is almost physically painful at times. Its pages are full of longing, and aching and seething, and I feel like it is going to haunt me. It is a fantastically effective book. Highly recommended.

18. Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
I’ve read three of Chris Cleave’s four novels now. I really admire his writing. He manages to find a skillful balance between an engaging, fast-paced read and meaningful, complex, narrative and character relationships. Everyone Brave is Forgiven (a title I love) splits its time between London and Malta, and between main characters Mary, a young, idealistic woman from privilege, her best friend Hilda, her student Zachary, her fiancé Tom, and his best friend Alistair. The novel propels each of them through the horrors of war, from varying degrees of innocence and carefree frivolity to a place of uncertainty, exhaustion and somberness, but ultimately, hope. It navigated bleak and bitter subject matter enough to do it credit but not so much as to become mired in melancholy or ugliness.

19. Her: A Memoir by Christa Parravani
This is a very thoughtfully-written memoir by the surviving identical twin of a woman who spiraled into terrible depression and anxiety after being the victim of a violent sexual assault, and eventually died. There is a lot of joy and redemption in the book, but much of it is so saturated in grief that it feels flattening. It doesn’t take away from its value as a book, but it does definitely read in parts as a therapeutic attempt at catharsis. The most exciting and intriguing part for me was a really fascinating passage that consists only of the dialogue between the surviving twin/author and a reported psychic, which left my mind whirling, and instilled a bizarre sense of hope. It really Is a tremendously painful read, all told. Recommended, I guess? It’s a good book. But ow. I wanted to hug the author when I finished.

on-immunity-inoculation-biss20. On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss
Having small children in 2016 is interesting. Attitudes toward and conflict around vaccinations have morphed over the last decade or so as proponents of organic, “all natural” products have become fearful and skeptical of the safety and efficacy of modern vaccines, from the flu shot and beyond. With convenience and modern technology moving at a rapid clip, and climate change an ever larger-looming specter, there are those who have taken rejection of industrial interference to such an extreme that vaccination rates have fallen too low in parts of North America for herd immunity to be effective. Vocal parties in both the pro-vax and anti-vax camp attack each other, ostensibly for endangering children. In her thoughtful, accessible book, Biss explores this new fear – not only of the government and the establishment, but of the very environment around us, and how that fear lives to varying degrees in all of us. She also deftly and humorously acknowledges how as a person responsible for safekeeping the most vulnerable and beautiful child that the world has ever seen, every new parent finds that fear magnified beyond belief, particularly in the middle of the night, and how for better or worse, we are all connected to one another. I put this book down several times during my reading to make note of passages or phrases. One of my favorite bits was: “Though toxicologists tend to disagree with this, many people regard natural chemicals as inherently less harmful than man-made chemicals. We seem to believe, against all evidence, that nature is entirely benevolent”.

 

If you can’t get enough of other people’s book recommendations, here are some lists of the best books that came out in 2016, from the fine folks at Publishers Weekly, and The Washington Post, and the BBC. There is also the NPR Book Concierge, and then over at Digg, they claim to have “rounded up all the Top 10 lists we could find, smashed ’em together, and spit out overall Top 10 lists“, which sounds violent, intriguing and useful. Check out Digg’s resulting top 10 books of 2016 list.


My Year of Reading Women

AbeBooks: My Year of Reading Women

In 2014 writer Joanna Walsh launched a project called The Year of Reading Women. The movement was largely about raising awareness in the book industry and encouraged publishers, distributors, and promoters to pull women writers into the spotlight so readers like you and I could better discover them. Looking back on my 2016 reading list, I’d say that Walsh nailed it.

At the time Walsh was making waves, I was in a reading rut. Books gathered dust on my nightstand as Netflix streamed on a continual loop. At the end of 2015 I put down the remote and vowed to read again. Like, really, really read.

Let it be known that I never pick a book based on its author’s gender. I typically select books based on press – I like contemporary fiction so I tend to select new releases in literature, and if a new book is receiving a lot of media attention I’ll probably pick it up. So when time came to build my 2016 reading list I did what I always do – I turned to the internet.

The first book I read in 2016 was Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. That was followed by The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah… Funny enough, it wasn’t until I was on book 13 that I noticed the unintentional trend – every single book I’d read since January 1st, 2016 was written by a female author. I decided to keep the trend going and by December 31st I will have finished All The Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, thus completing an entire year of reading women.

Thank you, Joanna!

The books from my year of reading women

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Station Eleven by Emily St. Mandel

As Close to Us as Breathing by Elizabeth Poliner

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Girl at War by Sara Novic

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Lila by Marilynne Robinson

The Girls by Emma Cline

All The Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

My favorite read of the year? It has to be Station Eleven, but honorable mention goes to As Close to Us as Breathing, Homegoing and Fates and Furies. Honestly, there isn’t one on this list that I wouldn’t recommend.

What was the best book you read in 2016?


Collecting Nostalgia: Vintage Christmas Memorabilia

With its time-honored traditions, sacred recipes passed down through generations and emphasis on family and friends, few areas of life lend themselves so well to nostalgia as Christmas. Of the families who celebrate Christmas, everyone does it a little bit differently. My husband’s family are Cuban, and celebrate “Noche Buena” on December 24th, opening all their gifts and having a great feast. In my family, Christmas Eve was always for watching the animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas, with the fabulous voice of Boris Karloff. We also drank eggnog or hot chocolate, had a roaring fire in the hearth, and were allowed to open one present before bed – always a book. Stuffing at his house looks like Fufu de Platano – a sweet plantain dish with onions and bacon. In my house, stuffing had apples, celery, sage. As we make our own new traditions, we will incorporate our favorite elements from each of our upbringings.

Christmas goes on that way. Whatever we do to make Christmas special, surely the desire to carry on those traditions – caroling, cooking, baking, arts and crafts, decorating – stems from the way we felt, with the people we loved. In the middle of a dark, cold winter, we get to slow down, celebrate the slow return of the light, and hold each other close.

That nostalgia is the perfect medium for memory making and memory preserving. And thanks to the fine folks who make their way in the world by trading in vintage collectibles, we have a window into the way generations past have celebrated.  Please enjoy this selection of vintage Christmas books, and vintage Christmas collectibles from pop-up books, to posters, Christmas cards, postcards, cookbooks and more.

Vintage Christmas Cookbooks

 

 

 

A Christmas Cook Book 1958: Over 80 Classic Recipes from the Wisconsin Public Service Home Service Department

A Christmas Cook Book 1958
Over 80 Classic Recipes from the Wisconsin Public Service Home Service Department

 

 

 

Vintage Christmas Sheet Music

 

 

 


 

 

Vintage Christmas Pop-Up books

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Vintage Christmas Cards and Postcards

 


 

 

 

 

 
Christmas card signed by Langston Hughes, 1950 "Slightly incongruous holiday depiction of duck decoys and a shotgun."

Christmas card signed by Langston Hughes, 1950
“Slightly incongruous holiday depiction of duck decoys and a shotgun.”


 

 
 

Vintage Christmas Posters

 


 

 

 

 

 
Scrooge Movie Poster 1971 Starring Albert Finney as Scrooge, plus Alec Guinness and more.

Scrooge Movie Poster 1971
Starring Albert Finney as Scrooge, plus Alec Guinness and more.


 

Vintage Christmas Books

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Backgammon’s back. Surge in demand for backgammon books

Is backgammon undergoing a revival? It appears many people will receive backgammon sets this Christmas along with books about learning to play the board game.

Sales of backgammon guidebooks have been steadily increasing on the AbeBooks marketplace since the start of October.

Vanity Fair’s Backgammon to Win

And then over the weekend, a long out-of-print book, Vanity Fair’s Backgammon to Win by Georges Mabardi, became one of the top 10 search terms on AbeBooks during the seasonal scramble for Christmas gifts. This obscure book features cocktails, a glossary and rules. One scarce first edition from 1930 is available for $500.

For the past two months, we have also seen strong sales for Backgammon by Paul Magriel, a book first published in 1976 which is sometimes referred to as the ‘Bible of Backgammon.’

And it’s not just demand for guides to the board game. In October, American writer Jonathan Lethem released a well received backgammon-themed novel called A Gambler’s Anatomy about a globetrotting professional backgammon player whose luck takes a turn for the worse. That too has become a steady seller on AbeBooks.

In the New York Times, reviewer Dwight Garner wrote:

Mr. Lethem’s backgammon writing has a satisfying crunch. It’s witty and sexy, too. I’m not sure I’ve ever before read a love scene that begins with a woman crying out, “Double me, gammon me.”

Backgammon has a long history with the Greeks apparently playing a similar game in the 5th century AD. The game saw strong interest in the 1920s during American prohibition, and again in the 1960s when tournaments were organized and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner became a prominent supporter.

Celebrity players include composer and rapper Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created the Grammy-winning musical Hamilton. A Twitter search shows an often-shared picture of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour (pictured below, left) and bandmate Roger Waters playing backgammon in years gone by.

AbeBooks’ bestselling backgammon books since October 1

1 Backgammon by Paul Magriel

2 Backgammon for Winners by Bill Robertie

3 Backgammon for Serious Players by Bill Robertie

4 The Backgammon Book by Oswald Jacoby & John R. Crawford

Vanity Fair’s Backgammon to Win is notable for its eye-catching Art Deco dust jacket. Nicholas Grosvenor’s scarce Modern Backgammon, published in 1928, also has beautiful cover from that era.


“Disneyana” – Walt Disney Collectibles and Souvenirs

1993 The Disney Villain $350
The Disney Villain from Hyperion Books, signed and inscribed by Disney Animator Mark Mitchell. Additionally laid in is a 1993 Christmas Card from the Walt Disney Company featuring a richly-colored photo of the “Witch Offering Apple” and signed “With Affection, Mark”.

 

You may not know the term “Disneyana” yet, but you probably know somebody obsessed with it. Maybe they feverishly collect Disneyland souvenirs like collectible Disney mugs, or vintage Disney park guides, maps and tickets. Or perhaps they have a tattoo of Tinkerbell, and an apartment full of vintage Tinkerbell Disney memorabilia to match. They’d be far from alone.

When Walt Disney and his brother Roy launched the Disney Bros. Cartoon studios (which later became Walt Disney Studios) in the mid 1920s, there’s no way they could have known the unstoppable media conglomerate that would one day result. There are many ways to love and experience the magic of Disney and the countless beloved, iconic characters created by the studios. Films, television shows (I fondly remember staying up on Sunday nights in my pajamas to watch “The Wonderful World of Disney”), fan clubs, and of course the theme parks. Disney as a brand has eclipsed what it even means to be a brand, and in the minds of many have truly become nearly synonymous with magic. They’ve done an excellent job of cultivating and preserving the wonder of childhood and bringing it to life again for adults.  The phrases “The Happiest Place on Earth” and “You just won the Superbowl! What are you going to do next?” immediately bring to mind the enormous playgrounds that attract millions and millions of visitors each year. Disneyland  in California opened its doors in 1955. The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida followed 16 years later. Disney parks have become far and away the world’s most visited amusement destinations.

That makes for a lot of souvenirs. There are vintage Disney collectibles and Disney theme park souvenirs. There are collectible Disney books, Disney puzzles, masks, finger puppets, original animation cels, clothes, books, original Disney art, and much more.  When people spend time with Disney as children, and feel that magical wonderment, it’s only natural to want to hang on to that feeling, and rekindle the joy through nostalgia. It is small wonder that so many people do collect and display Disney memorabilia.

Here at AbeBooks we are lucky to have quite a wide array of Disneyana on offer. Here is just a small sampling to peruse, or even add to your vintage Disney memorabilia collection. With a collection that includes vintage Bambi handkerchiefs, Pinocchio masks, and a pattern for Cinderella’s apron, you’re sure to find the perfect addition for your collection to help make memories.

1939 Pinocchio Masks $350
Apparently issued in a joint promotion with Gilette, these 5 die-cut masks were free with the purchase of Gilette Blue Blades. The masks are of Pinocchio, Geppetto, Jiminy Cricket, Cleo, and Figaro.

 

1955 Disney's Donald Duck Original Art Original Disney Art: Matted, 5-panel comic strip featuring Donald Duck talking to his three nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

1955 Disney’s Donald Duck Original Art $500
Original Disney Art: Matted, 5-panel comic strip featuring Donald Duck talking to his three nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

 

2014 "Mickey" screenprint by Damien Hirst ~$49,000

2014 “Mickey” screenprint by Damien Hirst ~$49,000
At the request of Disney, Young British Artist Damien Hirst remade Mickey Mouse as one of his iconic series of spot paintings. This is a four-color screenprint of the original 2012 Mickey.

 

Circa 1950 Original Disney Art $3,300

Circa 1950 Original Disney Art $3,300
Marvelous original watercolor from the Walt Disney Studio. Donald Duck playing the flute, Goofy playing a bucket drum with spoons and Mickey carrying the flag.

 

1952 Cinderella Apron Pattern $35

1952 Cinderella Apron Pattern $35
Full instructions, pattern and cutting guide to make several versions of Cinderella’s Apron.

 

1953 Disney Songbook $250

1953 Disney Songbook $250
Songs from Walt Disney’s Cinderella and Walt Disney’s Peter Pan, Published by Walt Disney Music Company, New York

 

1942 Bambi Hankies $825

1942 Bambi Hankies $825
The story of Bambi is illustrated. Tucked into slits four pages are color printed handkerchiefs – each with a different character (because if you’re reading or watching Bambi – you’re going to need them).

 

Circa 1940s - 1960s Collectible Disney Matchbooks $33

Circa 1940s – 1960s Collectible Disney Matchbooks $33
Four collectible matchbooks, including two vintage unused gold matchbooks from Disneyland Tobacco Shop

 

Circa 1950s Cinderella Card Game $32

Circa 1950s Cinderella Card Game $32
Cards in original box, with rules. Cards feature Cinderella and other key players in the the Disney classic. In super condition, a lovely set in original excellent box

 

1964 Screenplay Mary Poppins Film $7,500

1964 Screenplay Mary Poppins Film $7,500
The original shooting script for the 1964 Disney film Mary Poppins starring the inimitable Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

 

1938 Walt Disney's Dopey (He Don't Talk None) $350

1938 Walt Disney’s Dopey (He Don’t Talk None) $350
Twelve pages including wrappers, each with a full page, full color illustration of Dopey or another of Snow White’s Dwarves. Dopey’s antics are told with six lines of text at the bottom of each of the interior pages.

 

1957 Let's Build Walt Disney's Disneyland Push Out and Put Together $215

1957 Let’s Build Walt Disney’s Disneyland Push Out and Put Together $215
Portfolio consisting of four sets of punch out items with characters, one set each for Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland and Fantasyland.

 

1937 Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Sky-High $400

1937 Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Sky-High $400
Rare early Disney book only published in the UK. First UK edition. 4 color plates, many other full-page and smaller textual illustrations. Original laminated pictorial boards.

 

1951 Alice in Wonderland Children's Album $59

1951 Alice in Wonderland Children’s Album $59A book with twin colour illustrations from the Walt Disney film and 8 musical scores of songs from the film. 20 pages in all.

 

1936 Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse and His Friends $518

1936 Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse and His Friends $518
Scarce in collectible condition. Shows a Christmas party at Mickey’s house with many favorite characters celebrating and exchanging gifts.

 

Circa 1940s Pinocchio Jigsaw Puzzle $33

Circa 1940s Pinocchio Jigsaw Puzzle $33
Puzzle complete in original box, with large pieces little fingers can handle. Most nostalgic. Interestingly Pinocchio incorrectly spelt on box, as Pinnochio.

 

1955 Signed Studio Dye Transfer Print for The Lady and the Tramp $5,500

1955 Signed Studio Dye Transfer Print for The Lady and the Tramp $5,500Rare Walt Disney signed studio dye transfer print cel from the 1955 classic “Lady and the Tramp.” Beautiful full “Walt Disney” signature with a flourish and inscription.

 

1964 Mary Poppins Travelling Fun Book $52

1964 Mary Poppins Travelling Fun Book $52
Page and pages of games and puzzles. Pictorial cardwraps. Originally only available from Shell Garages.

 

1933 Original Artboards for Mickey Mouse in King Arthur's Court $5.700

1933 Original Artboards for Mickey Mouse in King Arthur’s Court $5.700
Seven artboards with artwork used in preparing the British edition of “Mickey Mouse in King Arthur’s Court” after the success of the 1933 American edition.

 

Love vintage Disney books and Disney memorabilia, but didn’t quite see what you’re looking for? Visit our Collections pages to browse more Disney collectibles. There you’ll find everything from affordable Disney souvenirs to the most rare Disney collectibles.  And if you like your Cinderella more murderous than magical, be sure to read our in-depth look into The Gruesome Origins of Classic Fairy Tales (you may wish to sit down, first).


Amazon’s Best Books of the Month: December 2016

There’s really nothing as cozy as curling up with a good book and a mug of something warm when the weather is lashing against the windows outside. But what to read? Not to worry – the talented curators at Amazon books have furnished us with their Top 10 Books of the Month (and just in time for the holidays)! Let’s get to it.

undoing-project-lewisThe Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis

The Undoing Project is about a compelling collaboration between two men who have the dimensions of great literary figures. They became heroes in the university and on the battlefield, both had important careers in the Israeli military, and their research was deeply linked to their extraordinary life experiences.

normal-novel-warren-ellisNormal: A Novel by Warren Ellis

When Adam Dearden, a foresight strategist, arrives at Normal Head, he is desperate to unplug and be immersed in sylvan silence. But then a patient goes missing from his locked bedroom, leaving nothing but a pile of insects in his wake. A staff investigation ensues; surveillance becomes total. As the mystery of the disappeared man unravels in Warren Ellis’s Normal, Adam uncovers a conspiracy that calls into question the core principles of how and why we think about the future–and the past, and the now.

against-empathy-bloomAgainst Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion by Paul Bloom

We often think of our capacity to experience the suffering of others as the ultimate source of goodness. Many of our wisest policy makers, activists, scientists, and philosophers agree that the only problem with empathy is that we don’t have enough of it. Nothing could be further from the truth, argues Yale researcher Paul Bloom. In Against Empathy, Bloom reveals empathy to be one of the leading motivators of inequality and immorality in society.

christmas-days-wintersonChristmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson

For years Jeanette Winterson has loved writing a new story at Christmas time and here she brings together twelve of her brilliantly imaginative, funny and bold tales. For the Twelve Days of Christmas—a time of celebration, sharing, and giving—she offers these twelve plus one: a personal story of her own Christmas memories. Perfect for reading by the fire with loved ones, or while traveling home for the holidays.

game-queens-gristwoodGame of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe by Sarah Gristwood

Sixteenth-century Europe saw an explosion of female rule. From Isabella of Castile and her granddaughter Mary Tudor, to Catherine de Medici, Anne Boleyn, and Elizabeth Tudor, this is a fascinating group biography of some of the most beloved (and reviled) queens in history.

mincemeat-lucarelliMincemeat: The Education of an Italian Chef by Leonardo Lucarelli

Leonardo Lucarelli is a professional chef who for almost two decades has been roaming Italy opening restaurants, training underpaid, sometimes hopelessly incompetent sous-chefs, courting waitresses, working long hours, riding high on drugs, and cursing a culinary passion he inherited as a teenager from his hippie father. In his debut, Mincemeat: The Education of an Italian Chef, Lucarelli teaches us that even among rogues and misfits, there is a moral code in the kitchen that must, above all else, always be upheld.

signals-talking-webbThe Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream by Amy Webb

Amy Webb is a noted futurist who combines curiosity, skepticism, colorful storytelling, and deeply reported, real-world analysis in this essential book for understanding the future. The Signals Are Talking reveals a systemic way of evaluating new ideas bubbling up on the horizon—distinguishing what is a real trend from the merely trendy.

prince-lestat-realms-ricePrince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis: The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice

At the novel’s center: the vampire Lestat de Lioncourt, hero, leader, inspirer, irresistible force, irrepressible spirit, battling (and ultimately reconciling with) a strange otherworldly form that has somehow taken possession of Lestat’s undead body and soul. This ancient and mysterious power and unearthly spirit of vampire lore has all the force, history, and insidious reach of the unknowable Universe.

krazy-tisserandKrazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White by Michael Tisserand

In the tradition of Schulz and Peanuts, this is an epic and revelatory biography of Krazy Kat creator George Herriman that explores the turbulent time and place from which he emerged—and the deep secret he explored through his art. The creator of the greatest comic strip in history finally gets his due.

seventh-plague-james-rollinsThe Seventh Plague: A Sigma Force Novel by James Rollins

Two years after vanishing into the Sudanese desert, the leader of a British archeological expedition, Professor Harold McCabe, comes stumbling out of the sands, frantic and delirious, but he dies before he can tell his story. The mystery deepens when an autopsy uncovers a bizarre corruption: someone had begun to mummify the professor’s body–while he was still alive.


Today’s Weird: The Jewish-Japanese Sex & Cook Book and How to Raise Wolves

Yes, you read that right - The Jewish-Japanese Sex And Cook Book And How To Raise Wolves

Yes, you read that right – The Jewish-Japanese Sex And Cook Book And How To Raise Wolves

 

Here at AbeBooks, we’re no strangers to weirdness. Not only are we a little bit odd ourselves, but we have been combing the literary world for bizarre books to add to the Weird Book Room for years. So maybe I should not have been surprised, this morning, to learn of a book called The Jewish-Japanese Sex & Cook Book and How to Raise Wolves by Jack Douglas. I felt my eyebrows raise despite myself.

Investigation reveals that the book’s author, Jack Douglas (1908-1989), was an American comedy writer (not to be confused with comedic actor, Jack Douglas from the Carry On films), making the book less likely to be any kind of how-to manual or serious tome bent on enticing one into a cult. What a relief. Rather, the 1972 title published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons seems to be a sort of memoir – Douglas’ tongue-in-cheek, comedic account of trying to raise (literal) wolves in suburban Connecticut. When the wildness in the wolves proves too much for quiet cul-de-sac life (as it would), Douglas and his family (two-legged and four-legged alike), head off to greener pastures – in this case, two small islands in wild northern Ontario that Douglas purchased in 1968.

Reviews of the book are mixed, with some readers put off by the 1970s language deemed definitely racist, sexist and otherwise prejudiced by today’s standards, and other readers able to suspend their outrage, forgive the trespasses of decades ago, and enjoy the silly humor and heartfelt story of the book, and of course the notion of owning pet wolves. The book also seems to hide some serious messages about conservation of wilderness beneath its raunchy, wisecracking surface. The book is out of print and there are currently only ~a dozen copies available on the site, ranging in price from $200 to $850.

Douglas  was born in 1908 and named Douglas Linley Crickard, but chose the pseudonym Jack Douglas for his writing. He wrote primarily for television and radio, but authored humorous books on the side. He was known for his work on Laugh-In (I wonder if he was responsible for “Here come the judge!”?), as well as writing for both Red Skelton and Bob Hope. He had a decades-long friendship with television personality Jack Paar, and appeared on his show regularly, as well as on Merv Griffin. Douglas had three marriages in his life, the final and longest being to a Japanese singer, comedian and acrobatic dancer named Reiko Hashimoto, who he wed in 1960. The Jewish/Japanese Sex and Cookbook, and How to Raise Wolves was Douglas’ ninth book. By 1959, his appearances on television and work with big names had garnered him quite an interest in his writing. He eventually authored a dozen humorous memoirs in total, and died in 1989 at the age of 80. His books were No Navel to Guide Him (1947), My Brother Was an Only Child (1959), Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver (1960), A Funny Thing Happened to Me on My Way to the Grave (1962), The Adventures of Huckleberry Hashimoto (1964), The Neighbors Are Scaring My Wolf (1968), Shut Up and Eat Your Snowshoes! (1970), What Do You Hear from Walden Pond? (1971), The Jewish/Japanese Sex and Cook Book, and How to Raise Wolves (1972), Benedict Arnold Slept Here (1975), Going Nuts in Brazil (1977) and Rubber Duck (1979). All titles are now out of print, and vary from a couple of dozen copies, to quite scarce, to very rare.


The Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2016, According to The New York Times

childrens-books

It’s a tradition that goes back more than 65 years – the annual selection of The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books. Full of color and whimsy, these 10 illustrated books will surely please budding readers. (I think The Polar Bear might be my favorite…)

The Cat From Hunger MountainThe Cat From Hunger Mountain
written and illustrated by Ed Young

In a place called Hunger Mountain there lives a lord who has everything imaginable yet never has enough. To satisfy his every desire, he hires builders to design the tallest pagoda; a world-famous tailor to make his clothing from silk and gold threads; and a renowned chef to cook him lavish meals with rice from the lord’s own fields. What more could he possibly want?

 

The Dead BirdThe Dead Bird
by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Christian Robinson

One day, the children find a bird lying on its side with its eyes closed and no heartbeat. They are very sorry, so they decide to say good-bye. In the park, they dig a hole for the bird and cover it with warm sweet-ferns and flowers. Finally, they sing sweet songs to send the little bird on its way.

 

Freedom in Congo SquareFreedom in Congo Square
by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

This story chronicles slaves’ duties each day, from chopping logs on Mondays to baking bread on Wednesdays to plucking hens on Saturday, and builds to the freedom of Sundays and the special experience of an afternoon spent in Congo Square.

 

The Polar BearThe Polar Bear
written and illustrated by Jenni Desmond

A gorgeously illustrated nonfiction book about the polar bear, this is a factually accurate as well as a poetic exploration of polar bear bodies, habits, and habitats. A story about bears that engages the reader’s interest in amazing facts as well as their deep sense of wonder.

 

Preaching to the ChickensPreaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis
by Jabari Asim, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

John wants to be a preacher when he grows up—a leader whose words stir hearts to change, minds to think, and bodies to take action. But why wait? When John is put in charge of the family farm’s flock of chickens, he discovers that they make a wonderful congregation!

 

A Voyage int the CloudsA Voyage in the Clouds
by Matthew Olshan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

In the year and a half since the flight of the first manned balloon in 1783, an Italian has flown, a Scot has flown, a woman has flown, even a sheep has flown. But no one has flown from one country to another. John Jeffries, an Englishman, and his pilot, Jean-Pierre Blanchard, a Frenchman, want to be the first.

 

The White Cat and the MonkThe White Cat and the Monk
by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Sydney Smith

A monk leads a simple life. He studies his books late into the evening and searches for truth in their pages. His cat, Pangur, leads a simple life, too, chasing prey in the darkness. As night turns to dawn, Pangur leads his companion to the truth he has been seeking.

 

Little RedLittle Red
written and illustrated by Bethan Woollvin

On her way to Grandma’s house, Little Red Riding Hood meets a wolf. Now, that might scare some little girls–but not this little girl! She knows just what the wolf is up to, and she s not going to let him get away with it.

 

The Princess and the WarriorThe Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes
written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh

Princess Izta had many wealthy suitors but dismissed them all. When a mere warrior, Popoca, promised to be true to her and stay always by her side, Izta fell in love…

 

The Tree in the CourtyardThe Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window
by Jeff Gottesfeld, illustrated by Peter McCarty

Told from the perspective of the tree outside Anne Frank’s window—and illustrated by a Caldecott Honor artist—this book introduces her story in a gentle and incredibly powerful way to a young audience.