While accepting the medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the National Book Awards this past November E. L. Doctorow stated, "Reading a book is the essence of interactivity, bringing sentences to life in the mind." He was among the other recipients of this year’s awards: Mary Szybist for poetry, George Packer for non-fiction, James McBride for fiction, Cynthia Kadohata for young adult literature and Maya Angelou received the Literarian Award.
I attended one of the NBA celebrations way back when and was elated to be there hearing authors and their commitments to culture we all value, the arts. Being a writer is like painting with words. Being an artist is like writing with colors. I encourage folks to "paint what you write, write what you paint.”
Thanksgiving has come and gone and I am just finishing Tony Abbott’s Copernicus Legacy: Forbidden Stone. I’m getting ready for Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. The time is speeding up and wrapping gifts and decorating the tree and, and, and…but giving and reading good books is the reward at the end of this train we call December.
I am calling Liz Gilbert's new novel, Signature of All Things my favorite botanical novel while Sena Naslund's novel Fountain of St. James Court is for the artist in me. The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock is spacially and specially important between those two novels that deal with plants and the artist. Mohsin Hamid and A.M. Homes come in a very close second. This list is short here but what I can tell you is that Gilbert's book is a wonderful read for anyone who loves botany and history. Naslund’s book is art and more art and it has never been told like this before. Hamid's book, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is for lovers of language and a Middle East that holds no surprises, a child growing up and old in the near east instead of in the Pine Barrens. A.M Homes’ May We Be Forgiven teaches this reader to stay open and observe life in this novel with heart. Going to the end of that road will reward the reader as it did Alsace and me.
I remind you that our staff is full of book recommendations and unless you have your list cast in stone, ask for their recommendation for that uncle or child you do not know very well. I think we will stun you with our ability to match book titles to your needs.
Just look around and be amazed at what is presented to you by our stellar book and non-book buyers. I am amazed every day I walk into our store. It is a marvel to be this lucky (and I thought is was my good looks) that we are supported by our community of readers and gift givers.
A gift card is a good choice for that teenager (that scares you but is) reading books whenever you see them. We also have a great selection against the back wall of titles appropriate for them. You might get a recommended book and slip a gift card in it to make sure that that teenager keeps reading and learning.
To get you to be a different gift giver this year for the one person who has everything may, I recommend you visit the Barry Moser exhibit of prints at our sister store ( a nice short walk) Downtown Books & News on Lexington Ave. I love the tree print!
Oh yes, and we can promise you that our selection in the store will be the best place to choose form and we will not drop-ship your book with drones! If you live or work downtown, we offer free downtown delivery, by foot! We promise and practice decreasing the carbon footprint that is detrimental to all of us. The books are here and are shipped to us by the hundreds not one at a time. Look at www.malaprops.com and you will see how many of your favorite titles are at our store at this moment. See it there, buy it here, and remain a supporter of your own community even in the rush of things.
May your holy days be as nourishing as a good book can be, I wish you a new year with open eyes and heart to all that we need to read and learn.
Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café and
Downtown Books & News
Indies First at Malaprop’s
This year, inspired by Sherman Alexie’s call to authors to volunteer at their local bookstores on Small Business Saturday (SBS), independent bookstores held Indies First festivities to emphasize the importance of shopping locally-owned independent businesses.
Malaprop’s hosted 20 authors during our “Indies First” SBS. Our volunteer authors recommended books, wrapped gifts, walked customers around the store, and spent time with booksellers and each other catching up on personal and professional news. I worked at the front desk much of the day and watched customers' faces light up when they met their favorite author, got their books signed, and enjoyed a conversation with them while the author wrapped their purchases!
Our authors were not shy about recommending their favorite books. Jay Leutze, author of Stand Up that Mountain, handsold Lee Smith’s Guests on Earth to beat the band! Jay, you are welcome back as a bookseller any time! As is Dershie McDevitt, who tracked down books for customers with quiet determination and no use of a computer! I personally handed off a number of customers seeking YA books to the incredibly helpful and knowledgeable Constance Lombardo and the Gratz family. I could go on and on about the generosity, kindness and skill of the authors who volunteered. Some of them are coming back to help us again. Cecil Bothwell returns to wrap books this Saturday and Laurey Masterton is up next week.
Because of your support as customers on Indies First day we enjoyed record sales. We really felt your love! We hope to see you again during the next few weeks as we show off all the great books and sidelines we’ve ordered in as gifts for your family, friends and yourself. We can also recommend just the right book to escape the madness during this holiday shopping season. Please visit, enjoy some eggnog latte, give us a hug, let us hug you, and be a part of the Indies First movement. Fans of independent bookstores across the nation flocked to them last week to make a difference and you succeeded! Let’s keep it going so we can continue to provide Asheville with one of the best bookstores in the country!
Linda Marie Barrett
Looking Ahead to 2014 in the Children's Section!
Children’s books are alive and well! We see it every day here in the store and it warms our hearts. We are very proud of our children's section. For many years it has been a favorite destination in the store, and we are extremely excited about the year to come. Caroline and I are a couple of passionate buyers with an eye for finding both the anticipated must-haves and those special, unexpected treasures that keep our young readers coming back for more. We have a staff full of folks who are voracious readers of young adult and children’s literature and love nothing more than getting the best books into the right hands. As Robin, one of our most enthusiastic booksellers said recently, “We love your children and want to create the kind of bookstore experience they will remember all their long, book-loving lives! “
Some of the exciting news on tap for 2014 include:
- A young adult book club that will meet monthly starting in January. Their first pick is David Levithan’s Every Day so be sure to email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up and get more details!
- An author visit program for area schools that will bring the authors right into local classrooms.
- More in-store events and author appearances geared specifically for middle-grade and early readers. (Our first big one will be with the author and illustrator of The Wildwood Chronicles, Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis. They’ll be here on Saturday, February 8th at 7pm. Watch our newsletters for ticket information!)
- Exclusive pre-order offers : you’ll win special extras when you order selected forthcoming books for young readers at Malaprops.com.
In addition, we will be sending Caroline and Robin off to the American Booksellers Association Children’s Institute in San Antonio, Texas in April to participate in the latest in educational programming. They’ll bring home tons of new and exciting information on all things children’s lit-related in order to make certain we are on the cutting edge! Be sure to watch for fund-raising details after the first of the year if you want to help get them there!!
Some of our favorite picks so far for the coming season include:
Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith. This is a poignant coming of age story with a smart, authentic narrator. It takes a turn that you won't see coming but you will be absolutely thrilled when it does. By far the best thing I have read for young adults recently! There is something beautiful and wise on every page. Oh...and there are six foot tall praying mantises!! On sale Feb. 11th and recommended for reader’s 14 and up.
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, by Sheila Turnage. This companion to Turnage’s Newberry Honor award winning Three Times Lucky is even better! Budding detective Mo LoBeau is back and gets herself involved in yet another exciting adventure. On sale February 4th and perfect for readers ages 10 to 13.
Wildwood Imperium: The Wildwood Chronicles, Book III, written by Colin Meloy and illustrated by Carson Ellis. This highly anticipated third book in the series is as fabulous and fantastic as you would expect! Old friends and new return for the darkest, most complex of the books so far. This is a perfect choice for family reading, too. I loved every page! (And don’t forget - author and illustrator Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis will be here on Saturday, February 8th at 7pm). On sale February 4th and recommended for readers 8 and up.
Maple, by Lori Nichols. This irresistible picture book features a free-spirited little girl who greets the world with arms wide open. Her imaginative games and thoughtful approach to tree care will charm readers. On sale February 20th and a great choice for the little ones 3 to 5.
So be sure to sign up for our emails at www.malaprops.com and stop in often. You don’t want to miss anything -it’s going to be a wonderful year!!
Children’s Book Buyer and kids-lit enthusiast
Tis the season of magic! Nights filled with twinkling lights, a glittering world equivalent to the beauty of Narnia, the smell of fireplaces, sounds of cheery tunes filled with nostalgia, bustling people with excitement in their eyes for surprises and shared moments. It's the season for cozy nights spent with close company. For moments like those, you probably don't need much help, but for those other holiday scenarios when you have to climb out of that ol' wardrobe, we have a book for that.
The holiday party scenario: you've been invited, but don't know many people attending. Like me, you get a bit anxious about parties, especially if you know only one or two people who will be there. Well, don't cling to them, cling to a book. A book is an excellent conversation starter, it can lead into moments of crafting tasty cocktails, talking about other books and writers due to these cocktail names, and bouts of laughter shared with your newfound literature-loving drinking companions. What book can possibly do all of this and make you feel like you're at a Fitzgerald holiday party? Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails With a Literary Twist. It's packed with your favorite cocktails titled with literary puns and accompanied by some very humorous illustrations. So, would anyone like to share a pitcher of “Dorian Grey Goose" with me?
Visiting the family.... scenario one, you've been playing with the kids all day and it's time you take a break to sit down. However they are not familiar with that word and that it leads to inaction. Yes, we have books for that. Although not a brand new book, one that works for me is Press Here by Herve Tullet. This book has a hands-on approach, making it a good huddle up and cuddle book. Completely engaging with no bells and whistles, it's a book that celebrates being a book by design. Inspiring readers and listeners to go on an adventure together by pressing on illustrations, turning, twisting, and shaking the book to see where the journey takes you. Imaginative, fun, and unique.
Another great read is The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Day. A story about crayons’ feelings, it will get kids talking and feeling inspired, usually to color. This book makes an excellent transition into their next activity and gives you more of that much deserved sit down time. An enjoyable read for adults and kids, accompanied by humorous illustrations, this book proves to be a successful attention grabber.
Lastly "Oh, No!" by Candace Fleming. Rhymes, repetition, and bold, fun illustrations will keep everyone glued, plus most likely saying the words along with you.
Now onto visiting family scenario two... the evening with the in-laws. Not to be redundant, but "Tequila Mockingbird," (for obvious reasons.) Mad Libs are always entertaining and bring people together, especially when everyone has a different definition for what an adverb is, thus creating unity in chaos. Lastly, a very clever and wonderfully designed book entitled Schottenfreude: German Words for the Human Condition by Ben Schott. Fun to read aloud, humorous, thin and lightweight enough to pass around, plus quite a classy looking hardback in the hands of a reader. Another perk, it's narrow enough to fit into a stocking!
Last scenario... finally alone with your significant other. (Insert: Long exhalation.) After all of those visits, after all of that running around, we have some things to make that moment of togetherness even better. Poetry! Get thee to our poetry section, it overfloweth with a bountiful selection. I personally enjoy Gertrude Stein. Her writing is not about the meaning of her words, but it's the focus on syllables, the rhythm and flow of them being spoken, made even better with your partner's voice. After a busy day, Stein's poetry makes for a fun, swoon-worthy read aloud. What's not great about laying in bed, laughing, and reading together?
Most any book by Anais Nin read aloud will do. Her writings are sensual, sexy, and emotional.
Lastly, and maybe not everyone's idea of romance, but I like it so I will set the scene: imagine a beautiful jigsaw puzzle, glasses of wine or frosted pint glasses filled with a rich, smoky, chocolate stout, and the company of your partner, perhaps an audiobook playing in the background. Sounds pretty romantic and relaxing now, doesn't it? Do jigsaw puzzles and audiobooks exist at Malaprop's? Why yes, they do exist, and how dreary it would be without them.
For sentimental reasons I will give two seasonal book recommendations because these have made lasting holiday memories for me. First, The Night Before Christmas. It was a tradition in my family for this book to be read to my sisters and me on Christmas Eve. It perfectly captures the anticipation and magic of Christmas time. I have a beautiful hardbound copy in my house and still read it every year. Second, The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. This book made me fall in love with art and books. Quiet as snowfall, it's a picture book that perfectly creates the wispy softness and out of this world feeling of snowy days. Imaginative and warm, peruse this book slowly, absorb it while sipping a hot chocolate or tea. It's one of my most favorite books of the season.
For other scenarios, please come in and ask us because I bet we have a book for that, too.
Malaprop's New Year's Day Sale!
Bring in the New Year on January 1st with your favorite booksellers and baristas! We'll be open 12-5 and holding a 25% off storewide sale! See old friends, make new ones, and splurge on a gift for yourself. Cheers!
Meet the Grinch at Malaprop's!
Warren Wilson Faculty present a new guide to poetry
Robin's Top Picks for the Holidays
This book was a stunning surprise! I picked it up on a whim and- shazam, a new top favorite! Von Bremzen weaves food writing, memoir, and Soviet history together into a beautiful read. Soviet history took center stage for me as it imparted historical and political information through the lens of food and food culture. I LOVED Von Bremzen's choice of words. Her writing is lively and never boring. FAVE!
I ADORED Carly Bean Bitters, the lonely 11-year-old orphan who only sleeps during the day, and Lewis, the violin-playing rat who enlists Carly for his moonlit musical trio and an unexpected, whirl-wind adventure of a lifetime. The Mysterious Woods of Whistleroot crafts a timeless feel, a suspenseful plot, a genuinely sinister and amoral villain, and is an unforgettably magical tale for anyone ages 7-12 and their grown-ups.
A group of theatre, art and music freaks bond at Spirit-in-the Woods, a camp for gifted teens. They designate themselves The Interestings , and from there we follow them through their lives, life choices, marriage in some cases, careers, and old age. Meg Worlitzer’s unpretentious writing gives readers the full picture of her characters’ lives: the good, the bad, and the dorky. It’s been a few months since I read The Interestings and the characters and the pure pleasure of Worlitzer’s writing has stuck with me as vividly as the cover’s bright stripes.
God adores elephants. God writes a fan letter to His favorite country singer. God gets in the bathtub with Her clothes on because She is self-conscious about Her body. God catches a cold and is quite a baby about it. God makes spaghetti, gets a dog, and goes to the doctor. Rylant’s poems tickle me with the comfortable recognition that God is in everything and everyone on earth. Frazee’s illustrations shine with a quiet, everyday kind of Holy. Fun to read with your child and hear their interpretations of the Divine. Children 7 and up can enjoy with an adult, 10 and up can enjoy on their own.
Mmmmmm. Warren Wilson MFA faculty member Maurice Manning is arguably the hottest Kentucky poet ever to grace WNC. Seriously, hearing him read will make you swoon. Rural and rooted in landscape; compact and gorgeous! Mythical place and tall tales conjure Manning’s own memories and ghosts.
Some Classic Book Gift Choices
Picking out the perfect book as a gift can be a tricky proposition. If you're as mildly neurotic as me, it can be a nerve-wracking situation, which is why, long ago, I came up with my own go-to for literary gift-giving: the short story collection. Often times, it's a collection I'm particularly fond of. A lot of times, there's a story that has special meaning to me, or that I think will have the same meaning for the person I'm intending it for. Plus, since collections are so diverse, there are more chances to catch a readers attention.
All that being said, here are a handful of personal favorites just to get you started:
Drown by Junot Diaz. After Junot Diaz exploded with the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and his collection of stories This is How You Lose Her (also a solid choice), his first book, Drown, has been often overlooked. A collection of vaguely autobiographical stories, Diaz's prose is street-smart and smooth. What's most astonishing about his style is how easy he makes writing look -- and how easy he is to read, even while trading in heavy (yet relatable) human emotions.
Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut. While I'll always swear by the superiority of Vonnegut's novels and the freedom they allow him, his short stories remain a treat for any science fiction fan, with Welcome to the Monkey House being the zenith. They're clever, funny and -- like all good sci-fi -- carry shrewd insight into the human condition. This collection includes his most famous story "Harrison Bergeron" and what is -- in my estimation, at least -- his best piece of short fiction, the slapstick dystopian tale "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow."
The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor. While it's an intimidating volume, collecting all of O'Connor's short stories, The Complete Stories is an essential piece of Southern -- and American -- fiction. O'Connor, who -- for my money -- was the master of the short story, wrote sardonic, witty stories that can amaze in how far they dare to go, while never forgetting to be entertaining.
The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. It can be difficult to know where to start with many authors, which is why the short story can be such an easy gateway, and a wonderful overview of an writer's work. This is precisely what we get with The Complete Stories of Ernest Hemingway, a book by a writer who can sometimes seem intimidating due to his reputation. This collection opens with perhaps Hemingway's best short story, the complex "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" and includes the surprisingly genteel "A Clean Well-Lighted Place."