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Amazon’s Best Books of the Month: February 2017

So many books, so little time! Our friends at Amazon have released yet another exciting list of their top 10 book picks for the month. Are you a fan of the 80s? A mythology buff? Which of these titles will find its way to your TBR pile?

The top spotlight pick of the month is the delightfully intriguing-sounding 4 3 2 1: A Novel by Paul Auster.

Nearly two weeks early, on March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four identical Fergusons made of the same DNA, four boys who are the same boy, go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Athletic skills and sex lives and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Each Ferguson falls under the spell of the magnificent Amy Schneiderman, yet each Amy and each Ferguson have a relationship like no other. Meanwhile, readers will take in each Ferguson’s pleasures and ache from each Ferguson’s pains, as the mortal plot of each Ferguson’s life rushes on.

An exciting debut novel on the list, The Impossible Fortress: A Novel by Jason Rekulak warms us to the cores of our 80s-loving little hearts:

Until May 1987, fourteen-year-old Billy Marvin of Wetbridge, New Jersey, is a nerd, but a decidedly happy nerd.

Afternoons are spent with his buddies, watching copious amounts of television, gorging on Pop-Tarts, debating who would win in a brawl (Rocky Balboa or Freddy Krueger? Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel? Magnum P.I. Or T.J. Hooker?), and programming video games on his Commodore 64 late into the night. Then Playboy magazine publishes photos of Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White, Billy meets expert programmer Mary Zelinsky, and everything changes.

A love letter to the 1980s, to the dawn of the computer age, and to adolescence—a time when anything feels possible—The Impossible Fortress will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you remember in exquisite detail what it feels like to love something—or someone—for the very first time.

And the rest of the list for the month:

The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World by Brad Stone

In the spirit of iconic Silicon Valley renegades like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, another generation of entrepreneurs is using technology to upend convention and disrupt entire industries. These are the upstarts, idiosyncratic founders with limitless drive and an abundance of self-confidence. Led by such visionaries as Travis Kalanick of Uber and Brian Chesky of Airbnb, they are rewriting the rules of business and often sidestepping serious ethical and legal obstacles in the process.

The Upstarts is the definitive story of two new titans of business and a dawning age of tenacity, conflict and wealth. In Brad Stone’s riveting account of the most radical companies of the new Silicon Valley, we discover how it all happened and what it took to change the world.

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.

Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Scandalous and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Profoundly moving and gracefully told, Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them. Betrayed by her wealthy lover, Sunja finds unexpected salvation when a young tubercular minister offers to marry her and bring her to Japan to start a new life.

So begins a sweeping saga of exceptional people in exile from a homeland they never knew and caught in the indifferent arc of history. In Japan, Sunja’s family members endure harsh discrimination, catastrophes, and poverty, yet they also encounter great joy as they pursue their passions and rise to meet the challenges this new home presents. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, they are bound together by deep roots as their family faces enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the critically-acclaimed New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Sapiens, returns with an equally original, compelling, and provocative book, turning his focus toward humanity’s future, and our quest to upgrade humans into gods.

Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake?

Universal Harvester: A Novel by John Darnielle

Jeremy works at the Video Hut in small-town Iowa. It’s a job, quiet and predictable, and it gets him out of the house, where he lives with his dad and where they both try to avoid missing Mom, who died six years ago in a car wreck.

But when a local schoolteacher comes in to return her copy of an old movie, she has an odd complaint: “There’s something on it,” she says, but doesn’t elaborate. Two days later, a different customer returns a different tape, a new release, and says it’s not defective, exactly, but altered: “There’s another movie on this tape.”

Jeremy doesn’t want to be curious, but he brings the movies home to take a look…

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders

The long-awaited moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented.

Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me by Bill Hayes

Bill Hayes came to New York City in 2009 with a one-way ticket and only the vaguest idea of how he would get by. But, at forty-eight years old, having spent decades in San Francisco, he craved change. Grieving over the death of his partner, he quickly discovered the profound consolations of the city’s incessant rhythms, the sight of the Empire State Building against the night sky, and New Yorkers themselves, kindred souls that Hayes, a lifelong insomniac, encountered on late-night strolls with his camera.

And he unexpectedly fell in love again, with his friend and neighbor, the writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks, whose exuberance–“I don’t so much fear death as I do wasting life,” he tells Hayes early on–is captured in funny and touching vignettes throughout. What emerges is a portrait of Sacks at his most personal and endearing, from falling in love for the first time at age seventy-five to facing illness and death (Sacks died of cancer in August 2015). Insomniac City is both a meditation on grief and a celebration of life. Filled with Hayes’s distinctive street photos of everyday New Yorkers, the book is a love song to the city and to all who have felt the particular magic and solace it offers.


Meet @mybookbath – Where Beauty Meets Books

If you are an avid user of Instagram, you are no doubt well aware of the keen eye for beauty and photography layout that many creative folks and artists share around the globe. Happily, the same is true of booklovers, many of whom can be found sharing their collections there in gorgeous visual buffets. Among our favorite “bookstagrammers”, we couldn’t help but particularly notice the @mybookbath account, run by a lovely woman named Jude, in Vancouver BC. Jude started the account in October 2014, because she wanted a place to share her love of reading, and hoped to connect with fellow bookworms. With over 36,000 followers, we think she’s done a pretty good job of achieving just that.

Since we love books, and we love beauty, we naturally loved Jude and her Instagram account right away, and set about approaching her to feature some books from us here at AbeBooks in her posts. She graciously obliged, and even granted us an interview. Read on to get to know Jude of @mybookbath a little bit.

So what makes @mybookbath stand out? First and foremost, beauty. One of the most glorious things about books is how well they pair with the other delights of life – a cup of tea, a windowseat, a cat – and Jude’s photographs showcase that special synchronicity perfectly, whether through the use of stunning fresh flowers she keeps on hand, a beautifully-foamed latte, or an embroidered cushion whose delicate threads are the same color as the book cover she features. Whether she is posting her latest reads, her latest finds, or the next book on the horizon, her images are always fresh and pleasing. She has utilized all kinds of complimentary details beyond the usual fare, as well, including sculptures, furniture, blankets, a horse, an axe, and most notably, socks. Once a week is #socksunday, when Jude’s photographs include not only beautiful books but also, whimsical matching socks. The effect is strangely satisfying.

AbeBooks: What’s your favorite thing about sharing beautiful pictures on Instagram?
Mybookbath: I really love connecting with all the kind-hearted book lovers around the globe. I have met some amazing people who I have become very close with over the years and because our common interest is books, we never run out of things to talk about.

Abe: Which type of books are your favorite to photograph?
Mbb: I don’t discriminate, I love all books!

Abe: What books do you have on your bedside table right now?
Mbb:Nearly Normal by Cea Sunrise Person which comes out at the end of January 2017
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
The Monocle Guide To Cosy Homes
The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

Abe: What was your favorite book of 2016?
Mbb: My top classic was: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
My top memoir: Just Kids by Patti Smith
My top new fiction: All The Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Abe: What’s your favorite bookstore in the entire world?
Mbb: I have a few. Russell Books and Munro’s Books, both in Victoria, B.C. and also Barts Books in Ojai, California.

Jude, aka @mybookbath

Abe: What’s your day job?
Mbb: I worked in interior design, set design and art publishing for many years. But since my children were born, I decided to work from home helping my husband with his importing business.

Abe: Any tips to share with a beginner bookstagrammer?
Mbb: Yes – I suggest you post daily, connect with those you follow and your own followers not only with likes but with comments too and have fun with it! This community is an amazing place. You are going to love it!

(We bet she’s right.)

Be sure to follow Jude to be treated to more sublime and sumptuous bookish photos. And of course, if you just can’t ever get enough beautiful books, we have some too – don’t miss our collection of Beautiful Bindings, our Beautiful Book Boutique. And of course, the experts at the Folio Society, Easton Press and the Franklin Library know a thing or two about exquisite books, too. Feast those eyes.


Imagine a sequel to 1984? We did & so did Gyorgy Dalos

1985 – it’s doubleplus good!

What would have happened if George Orwell had written a sequel to Nineteen Eighty-Four? A few years ago, we asked our designers to imagine that exact scenario and this is what they came up with.

Not bad, and the Ministry of Truth thinks “it’s doubleplus good.”

Published in 1949, Nineteen Eighty-Four was Orwell’s last book. He died from Tuberculosis on January 21, 1950.

Sequels to classics are difficult things to pull off and it would have been even tougher for Orwell as 1984 offers so much commentary on the dangers of authoritarian regimes. What more could Orwell say? The point had been made. The characters of Winston and Julia are interesting but their struggles are dwarfed by the overwhelming presence of Big Brother. A happy ending to this story would dilute the message about authoritarian rule.

The experience of seeing Harper Lee’s legacy degraded by the publication of Go Set a Watchman in 2015 was a depressing experience.

However, somebody did attempt to write a sequel to Orwell’s dystopian classic. A notable Hungarian author called Gyorgy Dalos wrote a book called 1985: What Happens After Big Brother Dies, where Eurasia inflicts heavy defeats on Oceania.

Dalos, whose father died in a Nazi work camp, lived under Communist rule in Hungary and helped organize the opposition movement. He had the first-hand experience to consider how Big Brother’s story could be advanced. It’s worth noting that Dalos’ The Guest from the Future is considered one of the best books written about the Cold War.

There are many forgotten sequels. Tales of Watership Down doesn’t compare to Watership Down. Most people don’t even know there is a sequel to Little Women called Little Men. The magic often fades when someone else produces a sequel – 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye by John David California, aka Fredrik Colting, was soon forgotten unlike JD Salinger’s classic novel.

A classic is best left alone.


Trump’s pipeline orders sparks interest in Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

A first edition of Rachel Carson’s classic book

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson – the book that launched the modern environmental movement – was the most searched for book on AbeBooks.com yesterday with 1984 by George Orwell a close second.

Silent Spring was published in 1962 and addressed the indiscriminate use of pesticides at the time. The last edition was published in 2003.

AbeBooks sold a signed first edition of Silent Spring yesterday, priced at $2,400.

Yesterday Donald Trump signed executive orders to revive the controversial Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines. There was also a PBS documentary about Carson broadcast last night.

It appears that Trump is influencing bookselling in quite a different way to the early days of Barack Obama’s presidency when there was interest in the two books written by Obama, and anything he admitted to reading, such as Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.


2017 Children’s Book Award Winners

Yesterday was the biggest day of the year for children’s books and their authors – the day the American Library Association (ALA) announced the winners of its prestigious Children’s Book Awards. There were more than 20 awards given in total. Some of the most notable:

The John Newbery Medal: Named for 18th-century bookseller John Newbery, the medal is awarded to the author of the most distinguished American children’s book published the previous year. This year’s honor went to The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, a bewitching and magical story of a little girl, accidentally infused by moonlight, coming into her own power.

The Randolph Caldecott Medal: If the Newbery Medal is the highest honor for the author of a children’s book, then the Caldecott medal is the same for its illustrator. Since 1937, illustrators who work hard to provide the art that sparks young minds have been honored with this bronze medal, named for Randolph Caldecott, who, along with Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane, was one of the most influential children’s illustrators of the 19th century. This year, the Caldecott Medal went to Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe. Steptoe’s work was praised for its dedication and creativity, as he devoted himself to recreating the fresh style, originality and outsider perspectives of Basquiat’s art, without actually using any of his work. Incorporating found objects, vivid colors and bold shapes, the illustrations throughout Steptoe’s book are exceptional.

Radiant Child also won the 2017 Coretta Scott King Awards for its illustrations, while the CSK award for text was given to March: Book Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. The book is the final in a trilogy of graphic novels dedicated to understanding the civil rights movement – its origins, its key heroes, its major events, and why its continuation is urgent and imperative today. Its co-author, Congressman John Lewis, was at the heart of the movement and a key player in the fight to desegregate. The Coretta Scott King Awards, named for American author, civil rights leader and political activist Coretta Scott King, are given annually to exceptional African American authors and illustrators of children’s books depicting issues and aspects of African American culture.

The 2017 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for Beginning Readers is given annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year. This year it went to We Are Growing by Mo Willems and Laurie Keller, a sweet and heartfelt story about a blade of grass who doesn’t feel outstanding (in his field? ha).

Since 1996, the Pura Belpré Medal for Latino Literature is awarded each year to a LatinX children’s author and illustrator whose book best depicts the LatinX cultural experience. This year’s recipient for illustration was Lowriders to the Center of the Earth by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Raul the Third, which tells the fantastical story of a missing cat whose disappearance leads our heroes to confront the Aztec god of the Underworld. The text winner was Juana & Lucas by Juana Medina, about a spunky young girl living in Bogota, Colombia with her sidekick, Lucas the dog.


Memories of Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King Jr. would have turned 88 yesterday, on January 15th, 2017, were he not publicly assassinated on April 4th, 1968. Today,  Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday in the United States, observed annually on the third Monday in January, close to MLK’s birthday. Now 49 years after his murder, longer dead than he was alive, he is nevertheless still remembered and celebrated, and still grieved and mourned… perhaps now more than ever, as America bids farewell to its first-ever black president and prepares for something different.

We live in a time of rigorous documentation, both digital and analog that allows us to look back, and remember.  Let’s.

Placard, 14 x 19.75 inches. Memphis, 1968. Large black letters printed on white posterboard stating "HONOR KING: END RACISM!"
Poster designed for a march on April 8, 1968, 4 days after Martin Luther King's Jr.'s assassination. Printed by Allied Printing. Corners and top are trimmed, creasing throughout, staining and a pair of less than two inch tears on left side and another at top affecting the first "O" in "Honor". Despite the obvious condition issues this piece displays as a worn relic of one of the most turbulent moments in recent American history and a defining moment of the civil rights movement. Rare.An assassin took Dr. King's life on April 4, 1968, while he was in Memphis to support a strike of 1,300 black sanitation workers - the working poor of their day - to demand the right to have a union. In an atmosphere of extreme tension, Mrs. King and three of her children led some 20,000 marchers through the streets of Memphis on April 8, holding signs that read, "Honor King: End Racism," "Union Justice Now," and the placard from earlier in the week, that stated simply "I Am A Man." National Guardsmen lined the streets, perched on M-48 tanks, bayonets mounted, as helicopters circled overhead. She led another 150,000 in a funeral procession through the streets of Atlanta the next day.

Placard from Memphis, 1968. “HONOR KING: END RACISM!”

Poster designed for a march on April 8, 1968, 4 days after Martin Luther King’s Jr.’s assassination. Printed by Allied Printing. A worn relic of one of the most turbulent moments in recent American history and a defining moment of the civil rights movement. Rare. An assassin took Dr. King’s life on April 4, 1968, while he was in Memphis to support a strike of 1,300 black sanitation workers – the working poor of their day – to demand the right to have a union. In an atmosphere of extreme tension, Mrs. King and three of her children led some 20,000 marchers through the streets of Memphis on April 8, holding signs that read, “Honor King: End Racism,” “Union Justice Now,” and the placard from earlier in the week, that stated simply “I Am A Man.” National Guardsmen lined the streets, perched on M-48 tanks, bayonets mounted, as helicopters circled overhead. She led another 150,000 in a funeral procession through the streets of Atlanta the next day.

 

Signed first editions of Stride Woward Freedom, published in 1958, by Martin Luther King jr. Subtitled "The Montgomery Story," Stride Toward Freedom is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dramatic and inspiring account of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus strike that led to the first successful large-scale application of non-violent resistance to segregation in the United States. This was Dr. King's first book, published when he was only 29 years old, three years after he led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. The book documents significant events of the burgeoning Civil Rights movement and is illustrated with a dozen black and white photographs, including one of Dr. King wearing a prison booking number around his neck, and an iconic photograph of Rosa Parks being fingerprinted. Runs 230pp. Bound in blue cloth boards and black cloth spine with silver lettering. According to Martin Luther King, Stride Toward Freedom, his memoir of the Montgomery bus boycott, is ''the chronicle of 50,000 Negroes who took to heart the principles of nonviolence, who learned to fight for their rights with the weapon of love, and who in the process, acquired a new estimate of their own human worth''

Signed first editions of Stride Toward Freedom


Published in 1958, by Martin Luther King jr.
Subtitled “The Montgomery Story,” Stride Toward Freedom is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dramatic and inspiring account of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus strike that led to the first successful large-scale application of non-violent resistance to segregation in the United States. This was Dr. King’s first book, published when he was only 29 years old, three years after he led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. The book documents significant events of the burgeoning Civil Rights movement and is illustrated with a dozen black and white photographs, including one of Dr. King wearing a prison booking number around his neck, and an iconic photograph of Rosa Parks being fingerprinted. Runs 230pp. Bound in blue cloth boards and black cloth spine with silver lettering. According to Martin Luther King, Stride Toward Freedom, his memoir of the Montgomery bus boycott, is ”the chronicle of 50,000 Negroes who took to heart the principles of nonviolence, who learned to fight for their rights with the weapon of love, and who in the process, acquired a new estimate of their own human worth”

 

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, First Edition, 1989 18 volumes, all First Editions. The most comprehensive resource on Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement imaginable, containing over 150 pieces in 18 volumes covering the length of King's career, and featuring oral histories, an unpublished speech, and several Ph.D. dissertations representing important scholarly contributions to the field and likely unpublished elsewhere. Each volume is exhaustively indexed and cross-referenced with other volumes in the set. Although individual volumes can be found, this the first time we have encountered a complete set. Essential.Series editor David J. Garrow is a Pulitzer Prize winning historian and author specializing in the Civil Rights Movement and the Supreme Court, a frequent contributor to the New York Times, The Nation, and The New Republic, and served as the senior advisor to the 1987 PBS documentary "Eyes on the Prize."

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, First Edition, 1989 18 volumes, all First Editions. The most comprehensive resource on Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement imaginable, containing over 150 pieces in 18 volumes covering the length of King’s career, and featuring oral histories, an unpublished speech, and several Ph.D. dissertations representing important scholarly contributions to the field and likely unpublished elsewhere. Each volume is exhaustively indexed and cross-referenced with other volumes in the set.  Series editor David J. Garrow is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author specializing in the Civil Rights Movement and the Supreme Court, a frequent contributor to the New York Times, The Nation, and The New Republic, and served as the senior advisor to the 1987 PBS documentary “Eyes on the Prize.”

 

Civil Rights Autograph Album Red leather album with "Autographs" in gilt on front board and blank pages. Each of the pages has been careful and artistically folded (as issued?), when a page was used it was unfolded. Ownership signature of Kira Vivian, daughter of Civil Rights pioneer C.T. Vivian, Blackstone Ranger, Freedom Rider, and one of the chief lieutenants of Dr. King during the Civil Rights Struggle. Inscribed by Kira Vivian to herself on the front fly, in girlish fashion. Leaves are creased where they've been unfolded, else condition overall is fine. Most of the signatures are directly on the pages of the album, a few inscriptions are tipped or laid in.Interspersed with a few autographs of the young teenage Kira's school friends are the Inscriptions and Autographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, John Lewis, Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Fanny Lou Hamer, Charles Billups, and James Bevel (Director of Direct Action and Director of Nonviolent Education of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Director of the Selma Movement). A visceral artifact of the struggle for Civil Rights, compiled at a time when the outcome was by no means assured. It would be difficult to capture the immediacy of the Movement so completely in a single object.

Civil Rights Autograph Album


Red leather album with “Autographs” in gilt on front board and blank pages. Each of the pages has been careful and artistically folded (as issued?), when a page was used it was unfolded. Ownership signature of Kira Vivian, daughter of Civil Rights pioneer C.T. Vivian, Blackstone Ranger, Freedom Rider, and one of the chief lieutenants of Dr. King during the Civil Rights Struggle. Inscribed by Kira Vivian to herself on the front fly, in girlish fashion. Leaves are creased where they’ve been unfolded, else condition overall is fine. Most of the signatures are directly on the pages of the album, a few inscriptions are tipped or laid in.Interspersed with a few autographs of the young teenage Kira’s school friends are the Inscriptions and Autographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, John Lewis, Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Fanny Lou Hamer, Charles Billups, and James Bevel (Director of Direct Action and Director of Nonviolent Education of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Director of the Selma Movement). A visceral artifact of the struggle for Civil Rights, compiled at a time when the outcome was by no means assured. It would be difficult to capture the immediacy of the Movement so completely in a single object.

 

On Being a Good Neighbor" - Signed Autograph Quotation Autograph quotation signed from the American pastor, activist, and leader in the Civil Rights movement who received the Nobel Peace Price in 1964. 1 page, no date, 8 handwritten lines on paper from King's sermon "On Being a Good Neighbor,"originally delivered during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956. Measuring approx. 21 x 14 cm, signed with his name in full "Martin Luther King Jr.". Originally sent to a journalist at the Swedish newspaper "Dagens Nyheter" in 1966, at the time King spoke in Stockholm. The lines here penned encapsulate some of the essence of King's extraordinary vision: "It is tragic indeed that we seldom see people in their true humaness. A spiritual myopia limits our vision to external accidents. We see men as Jews or Gentiles, Catholics or Protestants, Chinese or American, Negroes or whites. We fail to think of them as fellow human beings made from the same basic stuff as we, molded in the same divine image.".

On Being a Good Neighbor – Signed Autograph Quotation


Autograph quotation signed from the American pastor, activist, and leader in the Civil Rights movement who received the Nobel Peace Price in 1964. 1 page, no date, 8 handwritten lines on paper from King’s sermon “On Being a Good Neighbor,”originally delivered during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956. Measuring approx. 21 x 14 cm, signed with his name in full “Martin Luther King Jr.”. Originally sent to a journalist at the Swedish newspaper “Dagens Nyheter” in 1966, at the time King spoke in Stockholm. The lines here penned encapsulate some of the essence of King’s extraordinary vision: “It is tragic indeed that we seldom see people in their true humaness. A spiritual myopia limits our vision to external accidents. We see men as Jews or Gentiles, Catholics or Protestants, Chinese or American, Negroes or whites. We fail to think of them as fellow human beings made from the same basic stuff as we, molded in the same divine image.”.

 

The Peaceful Warrior First edition, fourth printing, January 1966 large print edition, Flat Signed and inscribed by (KING, Martin Luther) & Xernona Clayton the wife of Ed Clayton in Century City April 2009 in person. Dr. Martin's signature comes with a letter of authentication and has been housed in a fine leather custom book case. Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine /as New; minor rubbing and small chipped at the top of the spine. Ed Clayton was an associate of Dr. King at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He worked on special writing assignments for Life and the Associated Press, The United Press and the Associated Negro Press. He also served as an editor with Jet, Ebony and the Negro Digest; Illustrated by David Hodges. Xernona Clayton wrote the final chapter, which appears for the first time in the second edition (this is first). A biography of Martin Luther King, written for young readers. Very scarce.

The Peaceful Warrior


First edition, fourth printing, January 1966 large print edition, Flat Signed and inscribed by (KING, Martin Luther) & Xernona Clayton the wife of Ed Clayton in Century City April 2009 in person. Dr. Martin’s signature comes with a letter of authentication and has been housed in a fine leather custom book case. Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine /as New; minor rubbing and small chipped at the top of the spine. Ed Clayton was an associate of Dr. King at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He worked on special writing assignments for Life and the Associated Press, The United Press and the Associated Negro Press. He also served as an editor with Jet, Ebony and the Negro Digest; Illustrated by David Hodges. Xernona Clayton wrote the final chapter, which appears for the first time in the second edition (this is first). A biography of Martin Luther King, written for young readers. Very scarce.

See more collectible civil rights books available from AbeBooks.


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?