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In This Issue:

» A Free Life

» The Master and Margarita

» Endymion

» Shelf Talk: Fiction versus non-fiction

» January's Most Expensive Books Sold

» Contests


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Wintry and taciturn though it may be, February is the chosen month for celebrating romance. We did briefly consider a splashy feature on second-hand copies of the Kama Sutra, but have opted instead to simply point out a few excellent books with plots based on couples: Ha Jin's new release A Free Life, Mikhail Bulgakov's classic, The Master and Margarita, and an absolutely stunning copy of John Keats' Endymion.

In January's Shelf Talk article, Richard Davies declared that the much publicized 'death of the book' is nothing but a misguided myth, and we were thrilled to receive a huge number of passionate responses in complete agreement. This month, he's claiming that non-fiction is better than fiction. Still behind him? Read what he has to say and let us know!

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A Free Life by Ha Jin


Enter to win a copy of A Free Life

A Free Life: A Novel
by Ha Jin

While Ha Jin's previous novels were set in China, A Free Life opens with a young couple immigrating to America as a result of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Nan and Pingping are maintaining their marriage out of devotion to their son rather than love; Nan is unable to forget the girl who broke his heart. It will take many long, difficult years for them to settle in their new country, but throughout the fear and frustration their shared commitment to building a free life binds them ever more closely together. This progression is traced with delicacy, intimacy and remarkable realism.

Jin offers insight into the immigrant experience with a sharply focused lens, attentively magnifying details of day-to-day life. When Chinese immigrants speak in English, for example, Jin actually writes their accents into the prose. He spells their words phonetically in order to convey an awkward and inescapable separation between language and communication. In contrast, the dialogue between these characters flows naturally when it is implied to be Mandarin. The fluent ease of communicating in one's native language is revealed to be a comfort and luxury that many of us take for granted.

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov


Enter to win a copy of The Master and Margarita

The Master and Margarita
by Mikhail Bulgakov

The Devil and his carnivalesque entourage pay a cordial visit to Soviet Moscow. Naturally, all Hell breaks loose. This really is a must-read. Bulgakov's work is at once wildly free and intricately constructed; beautiful and horrifying; deliciously unsettling and spiritually inspiring. It's an intoxicating mix of satire, philosophy, humor, violence and romance. The love story at the heart of the chaos is that of The Master, a poor young writer destroyed by the critical rejection of his beloved novel, and Margarita, a beautiful and well married woman who sells her soul to the Devil to rescue her lover from madness.

In many ways, the power of an artwork can be measured by how often it is referenced and reiterated. Mick Jagger is rumored to have written Sympathy for the Devil after reading The Master and Margarita and in 2006, Andrew Lloyd Webber announced his intention to turn the work into a musical or opera. There have been numerous film, stage and television adaptations, and in April UK publisher Metro Media will launch a graphic novel edition. Though not as immediately familiar as The Great Gatsby, say, or David Copperfield, this is a book that is justifiably loved by millions. We'll no doubt continue to see it woven into our cultural landscape.



Endymion by John Keats


by John Keats

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

John Keats' poetic romance Endymion begins with this aphorism. No better proof could be found than this edition, currently offered by Phillip J. Pirages Rare Books.

In the bookseller's words: This is a wonderful combination of a major publication in the history of English literature and a splendid exhibition binding of the highest quality by a leading binder in absolutely choice condition. The name of Rivière is one of the foremost in English binding partly because the firm did consistently fine work and partly because it was so long in business (from 1829-1939). See the full listing description.

Much as Endymion was granted eternal (if sleepy) life because of his loveliness, this poem's beauty will ensure it never dies, and we're fairly certain an edition as spectacular as this one will be granted similar protection from the ravages of time.

Find more fantastic treasures in our Rare Book Room. Currently featured: Collecting Children's Series.

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Fiction versus non-fiction
by Richard Davies - PR Manager; Resident Brit.

As more and more candles appear on my birthday cake each year, I find it harder and harder to read fiction. I find myself drawn to books about real people with real stories to tell. I'm drawn to well researched biographies, in-depth memoirs and history books. I'm also a believer that every family has a story to tell - the black sheep, the adventurer, the womaniser, the gambler, the sports hero, the tragic accident, the wasted talent - and that books about seemingly ordinary people can be powerful. Bad Blood by Lorna Sage - a memoir of growing up in rural Shropshire - shows how families can tear themselves apart like no other book I've read.

Let me give you an example of how my mind works now. There is an American author called Lisa See. She made her name with a book called On Gold Mountain. The book tells how her Chinese family came to America as immigrants. Gold Mountain was the Chinese name for California. It taught me a lot about American-Chinese culture but it's deeply personal. I met Lisa once and she's lovely. Since On Gold Mountain, she's written fiction. Her novels sell well but I can't read them.

Last summer, I picked up Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom because my other half had bought it and it was lying around the house. It’s a quick read, but left me with a ‘so what’ feeling.

At the end of this month, it will be the 100th anniversary of Dee Brown's birth. I loved Cowboys and Indians as a kid. Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee put me straight. When I finished that book, I was inspired by the strength of the Native American culture. I’m trying to say.... I like a book that educates rather than entertains.

Fiction can educate. To Kill A Mockingbird teaches tolerance, 1984 warns of an all-powerful state, Fahrenheit 451 shows censorship in action - and I love these books. But I am drawn to the real stories behind these authors. Why did Harper Lee write just one book? Why did George Orwell have tattoos on his knuckles? Why did Ray Bradbury decide that selling newspapers on a street corner would educate him more than university?

I think truly original fiction is hard to write. The main elements - conflict, resolution of conflict, love, suffering, and death - have been covered so frequently with so many variations I feel I know what's coming. Is this simply an aspect of getting older and having more books on your shelf?

Prove Richard wrong - if you've read a fiction novel in the past few months that has been surprising, shocking or stunning, tell us about it.

More words about books have been scattered on Reading Copy, the AbeBooks Blog.

Fiction versus non-fiction

Is the truth stranger - and therefore more worth reading - than fiction?

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Bestsellers for January

  1. The Purpose-Driven Life
    Rick Warren
  2. The Pillars of the Earth
    Ken Follett
  3. Tuesdays With Morrie
    Mitch Albom
  4. Eat, Pray, Love
    Elizabeth Gilbert
  5. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
    Stephen R. Covey

See the whole list on our homepage.

Most Expensive books sold in January

  1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
    JK Rowling - $12,874
  2. Specimens of British minerals
    Philip Rashleigh - $12,754
  3. Peter Beard Collector's Edition
    Peter Beard - $10,808
  4. Sexual Inversion
    John Addington Symonds and Havelock Ellis - $7,500
  5. Memories on the Affairs of the Jesuits
    C.P. Platel - $5,698

See the whole list.

Current Promotions

Claremont Review Annual Writing Contest - The Claremont Review is an outstanding literary journal run by unpaid volunteers. Each year it has a contest for young writers. Contestants aged 13 to 19 years old can supply one story or three poems per entry. The closing date is March 15th. Find out more about the Claremont Review Annual Writing Contest.

Best Buys on Books Many of our booksellers offer remainder and overstock books at greatly discounted prices, meaning you can get a new book for the fraction of the original list price.

This month's featured best buy is Atonement by Ian McEwan. Brand new copies of the trade paperback are available for $7.61 - a 50% savings off the list price! Visit our Best Buys page.

New on the Site

Book Collections & Series is pleased to present a selection of book collections and series offered by some of our most valued booksellers. Whether you're starting a new collection or are looking for that elusive copy to complete your series, here's a glimpse of what our booksellers have to offer.

Read more about Book Collections & Series.

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Talk to Us

Thoughts? Comments? Witty anecdotes? We'd love to hear them.

Let us know what's on your mind.

Notes from Avid Readers

If AbeBooks Avid Readers have anything to do with it, the book will not go gentle into that good night - ever.

Books on the way out? Never! You want to see my eight year old granddaughter. First thing she does in the morning is pick up a book and trying to get her ready for school is a nightmare as she is so engrossed! Just like my two daughters. It's in her genes. None of them is ever without a book and that goes for me too!
- Judy

I enjoyed the blog about the book. Will it eventually fade away? I think not myself. At the auto parts store that I work at, my boss graciously allowed me to put up a cart with books that I share with my customers. I have had this cart up for almost 4 years now and I am constantly amazed by how many people take books and are now bringing me books to put on my shelf. And some of these people, men in particular, guys that I wouldn't peg for readers, are taking books and sharing stories with me at the counter. My other co-workers also enjoy some of the talks that come about from the book cart. I know that books will never fade away because our whole world is contained in them and far too many people appreciate their value.
- Kevin

Read more book-loving feedback!

"Long Live the Book!"   - AVID READER SUBSCRIBERS

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