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April 2018 News from Malaprop's!
We dedicate this newsletter to John Ehle, an Asheville native and author of The Land Breakers, The Winter People, The Trail of Tears, and many others. He was not only a great writer and a gentleman, but a supporter of education, the humanities, and independent bookstores for decades. There was no one like him.
Stop the world, a great man has passed!
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Independent bookstores making the news!
Harvard Business School studies the independent bookstore business.
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A Note from Emöke
Burkhard Spinnen’s The Book: An Homage has taken my mind to the field of bookmaking, collecting, forbidden books, loaned books, first edition books, and all that can happen to a book. David R. Godine, Inc., a small, independent publishing house in Boston, brings us this personal and amusingly anecdotal book. I love the subject and the feel of the book itself. Thank you, David.
A woman of sturdy conviction
clear, clear focus
making history with her hands
This is from a poem dedicated to Vera B. Williams, a children’s literature author, that was written by Naomi Shihab Nye from her new volume of poems entitled Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners. I have mentioned her before, but I am always surprised to discover her again and again. Her voice is soft, but with some “deeper punch” that finds a home in my heart.
Mary Oliver’s “Summer Poem” also speaks to me. It’s framed on my wall and seems to bring summer closer and closer.
Leaving the house,
I went out to see
the frog, for example,
in her shining green skin;
and her eggs
like slippery veil;
The rest of the poem is as fine as these lines. Her latest collection, Devotions, came out last year. I cannot recommend her enough to beginners and to the rest of us who want to sink into lines that gently undulate and soothe the soul.
Happiness by Aminatta Forna, the current visiting Lannan Chair of Poetics at Georgetown University, focuses my attention on my own history of happiness, which is a bit fictional at times. Her novel is a sturdy study of what happiness really is and why we call upon others to create it within us or allow them to take it away from us. Booklist calls Happiness “a mesmerizing tale studded with exquisite writing,” and I certainly second that notion. Dip into happiness and see what comes to you.
April is National Poetry Month, so I must finish with my poem that I wrote one April a while back. I really like this poem and hope you all will enjoy it. Read poems to heal your heart, to heal the world, and to be who we are.
An Elderly Gentleman
April 7th, a Thursday morning,
the bookstore half-asleep, the cafe already busy.
The first customer reached the counter and smiled,
A birdlike man, eyes friendly and knowing,
accepted my greeting and began to dance.
His steps furtive as he hurried along the parquet floor.
He seemed to remember that books had importance in his life.
Authors’ names escaped him, but he knew he wanted a book.
Several times he returned to breathe the air of the books
to be among friends, to try again.
His face was shaven but clumps of hair remained at places
around his lips and neck, reminded me that he lived alone.
His jacket striped, his slacks of a matching pattern,
the tie and the shirt, a cacophony, witnessed the silence about him.
An elderly gentleman broke my heart today.
I tried to engage him in conversation but he knew
and remembered that he was not himself.
Irate at me, and at his inability to remember what he wanted,
he remembered to be frustrated,
so he withdrew from making contact, left me
standing in the bookstore aching for something
I have not yet recalled.
Happy April to you and you and yours.
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The Latest Buzz on the Literacy Council's Spelling Bee!
The 27th Annual Spelling Bee is coming up on Wednesday, April 4th. Please join us to support our team–Amy, Brian, and Lauren–as they swarm the competition and deliver a stinging blow in the name of raising money for literacy.
The event is at The Mothlight at Mr. Fred’s in West Asheville (701 Haywood Road). Tickets are $10. Support our team at our fundraising page. All proceeds go to the Literacy Council of Buncombe County. Come on out and be a part of our community’s melittidae!
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Independent Bookstore Day is Saturday, May 28th
Love audiobooks? Love Malaprop’s?
We’d like to thank our customers on @bookstoreday by offering free audiobooks through our partner, @librofm. Create your free account here and collect the free books on Saturday, April 28th. Refer your friends to and they will get 6 audiobooks + 2 samplers for just $0.99 when they membership on or before Bookstore Day, Saturday April 28th. And, for each friend that joins you’ll also receive a free audiobook credit!
Note: The recipient does NOT need to redeem the free audiobooks by 4/28 but the gifts must be sent that day.
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Rosemary, Bookseller
Spring just got delightfully bizarre with the April 17 release of Christopher Moore’s new novel, Noir, and I can’t wait! If you’ve read his books, you know his “take no prisoners” style. Anything in the universe is game for parody or inspiration. Christopher’s already taken on Jesus (Lamb) and Shakespeare (Fool; Serpent of Venice), so now it’s Dashiell Hammett’s and Raymond Chandler’s turns.
Set in post-WWII San Francisco, Noir features classic genre characters: a smitten bartender with street cred and connections, and a dame with secrets. But this is Christopher Moore. Throw in Roswell, the Air Force, and a black mamba snake and you may not know where Noir will go, but you’ll have a blast getting there. Let the wild rumpus begin!
For Christmas/Hanukkah, Christopher released the first chapter for free on his blog. Read, enjoy, and then call us to pre-order the rest of Noir. You know you can’t stop after the first chapter. And if you’re quick as a mamba, you might snag one of the signed copies we’re getting in.
I've always loved nonfiction. Fascinating nonfiction surprises us with what we don't know, even about famous events, and draws us in to experience others'  lives. These three true tales will shake your perception of what you know and what you think you might do in certain circumstances.
James Bradley's Imperial Cruise explores the military strategy of the U.S. in the early 20th century and its effect on the rest of the century.  Cruise may be the most shocking of these three books. I recommended it to a friend with a military history degree, and her response after reading it was, "How did I not know of any of this?"  During Teddy Roosevelt's administration, the U.S. had an important opportunity to forge lasting, friendly alliances in Asia. Alice Roosevelt was almost revered as a goddess in Japan. But Roosevelt had dispatched Secretary of War Taft to put into action secret plans to divide Asia. The U.S. imperialism, Bradley argues, set into motion Japan's militarism and was no small cause of WWII, the Korean War, and the Chinese Revolution.
Kate Moore's Radium Girls is now in paperback. It will almost certainly make you angry. We can look back in amused shock at America's love affair with radium in the early 20th century.  Radium toothpaste? Jockstraps? People really thought of it as a miracle cure. Corporate America knew better and hid dangerous studies from consumers, but especially from the most vulnerable: the literally glowing women who painted the much-in-demand watch dials.  They were handling, ingesting, even jokingly covering themselves in radium, without knowing it was poisoning them. Their years of suffering and legal conflicts led to safer working conditions for future laborers. Think of their legacy when someone cavalierly proposes rolling back worker protections.
Sheri Fink's Five Days at Memorial justly won a National Book Critics Circle Award and arose from the journalist's Pulitzer Prize-winning article. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it clobbered Memorial Medical Center, which served a mostly poor population in a flood-prone part of the city. It's stunning to me that Fink got the participants to open up to her as they did.  First, Five Days places us in the catastrophe from the medical personnel's point of view.  How does a doctor or nurse interpret "do no harm" when equipment fails and rescue is unsure and deemed impossible? The latter sections of the book explore the work of investigators who evaluated the higher proportion of patient deaths at Memorial and the workings of the legal system. Five Days will leave you with a strong sense of how much jeopardy our medical system is in when disaster strikes.
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Davidson, Bookseller at Downtown Books & News
Why do I collect some books and not others?
Qualifier: In 1946, I was the firstborn of a young couple who could neither read nor write. When and where they were born, it was socially accepted to teach them to do so. The first time anyone ever read to me was in the first grade in 1951. I am partial to illustrated books on any topic, and all my books became reference books. My collection contains more than a thousand interconnected books. Consequently, I make the claim that there is only ONE book, and each book, either published or unpublished, is merely a chapter in the Book of Life.
Children’s Literature
I came to appreciate and value reading aloud to a child the moment they are born. We all know each picture inside an illustrated book paints a thousand words. Today, I am a member of several all-adult, illustrated book groups on social media. Most members still have vivid memories of parents and/or grandparents reading folk and fairy tales to them. Many remember the page number of an illustration in a book they owned as a child.
“Just the book illustrators, ma’am”
I enjoy digging into the background of the book illustrators. I can count on my research to take me on a journey filled with joy and enlightenment. Book illustrators are often the unsung heroes in the life of a published book. Who cares who illustrated Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe or Period Piece by Gwen Raverat?  Hammatt Billings illustrated Stowe’s book, and Raverat illustrated her own. In a letter to Gamaliel Bailey, an operator of the Underground Railroad and editor of National Era, an abolitionist publication, Stowe wrote, “There is no arguing with pictures, and everybody is impressed with them.”
A case in point: I discovered Gwen Raverat was the granddaughter of Charles Darwin, Mr. Evolution himself and the author of On the Origin of Species. You can imagine the journey that took me on: the science of evolution, the debate of evolution vs. creation, the Victorian Period, and Darwin’s family was the least among them.
Gwen Raverat was a pioneer in woodcutting. She is recognized as one of England’s greatest wood engravers and as a leading figure in the revival of the art form in the first half of the 20th century. As a non-artist and former manufacturing process engineer, I set out to learn what the process of woodcutting and engraving entailed.
My current favorite book illustrator is Appalachia-born Barry Moser, a proprietor of Pennyroyal Press. He is known as a printmaker and illustrator of numerous works of literature such as A River Runs Through It, Moby Dick, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Through The Looking Glass. He spent four years of his life preparing illustrations for the Holy Bible. He heightens my awareness and sensitivity to the faces depicted in religious literature and art throughout history.  I can never view illustrations in religious literature the same way.
Some books call out to me when I am in a bookstore.
I never told anyone something until recently. First, a story. A young college student, on spring break came into Downtown Books & News and told me he was going to roam our bookstore and see if there was a book that asked to be taken it home with him. I could have kissed him. I did not, but I jumped for joy. Have you ever harbored a thought that you thought was crazy? I thought I was the only one in the world who was called by books. Books call out to me often. When you think a book is calling you, take it home.
Literacy is a national resource in any country.
It is my duty to see that every child within my reach gets their hands on a book. By hook or crook, I challenge adults to join Renaissance Bookfarm, Inc. in its efforts to promote literacy.
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Ryan, Bookseller: Reads at the Beach

I’m on vacation with my family this week, and it’s got me thinking about beach reads.
I was raised on the usual stuff: The Hardy Boys, Goosebumps, Boxcar Children. I don’t mean to disparage early readers, but eventually I aged out, as one tends to do. For some reason, my school didn’t transition us into middle grade and young adult readers. We moved right into boring textbooks. For nearly a decade, I never once read for fun. The first book I enjoyed reading was Steinbeck’s Winter of Our Discontent. I read it by a pool during high school spring break, which brings me to my defense of beach reads.
Publishers and advertisers would have you think otherwise, but a “beach read” is only a book you read at the beach. If you should choose to read Augustine’s Confessions on a beach, then Confessions is a beach read. The key is this: Whatever you read, luxuriate in it. Don’t allow the act of reading to become sullied by chorework and tedium.
Matthews Family Beach Reads List
Micah, brother — The Seven Storey Mountain
Katrina, sister — The Sun and Her Flowers
Julie, mother — Being There
John, father — Bobby Kennedy; Recapitulation
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Lauren, Bookseller
Habibi by Craig Thompson is the story of Dodola & Zam, child slaves and runaways in a fictional Middle Eastern fairy tale-esque landscape. It's about the family they find in each other, how they are torn apart, the challenges and transformations they undergo trying to find each other again, and the twisting path of love and fate. The art is lush and achingly beautiful with Arabic calligraphy filling every nook and cranny of the page. The story is interspersed with parables from Islamic and Christian mythology, and fierce Dodola harkens back to Scheherazade, the clever survivor and master storyteller.
Featured April Events
Tuesday, Apr 10 at 6pm
Jennifer Pharr Davis presents The Pursuit of Endurance
Wednesday, Apr 18 at 6pm
Michael Farris Smith presents The Fighter
Saturday, Apr 21 at 7pm
Charles Frazier presents Varina at UNCA in conversation with Wiley Cash
Wednesday, Apr 25 at 6pm
Constance Lombardo presents Mr. Puffball: Escape from Castaway Island
See Full Calendar 

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Malaprops Bookstore/Café  •  55 Haywood Street  •  Asheville, NC 28801

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