Melissa’s Monday Morsels

As usual around this time of year, countless new books are about to hit the shelves, and most of this week’s highlights deal with new literature.

Events: At RiverRun Bookstore, bestselling author Joe Hill (Heart-Shaped Box and 20th Century Ghosts) will be signing copies of his latest graphic novel, Locke & Key: Head Games sometime later this month. Call between now and September 24th to reserve your copy.

The $2 deal at Chop Suey Books this week features The Nanny Diaries, the New York Times Bestseller by Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus, two former nannies. This entertaining  novel follows the story of Nan and how she deals with the ridiculous demands of a Park Avenue mother.

Sherrie Flick and Ladette Randolph will be visiting Porter Square Books on September 24th to read from their new novels, Reconsidering Happiness and Sandhills Ballad. The store will also now be featuring a monthly new sci-fi/fantasy author. September’s author is Mark Del Franco, author of the Connor Gray trilogy and recently, Skin Deep. Read more about Mark Del Franco here.

New Literature: On October 13th, Anita Silvey’s heartwarming new book Everything I Need to Know I Learned in a Children’s Book is due out in bookstores. Silvey interviews 100 people, including actors, writers, musicians, and athletes, on their favorite children’s book and how it influenced their lives (via Newtonville Books).

Also on the subject of children’s literature, The Magician’s Elephant, the newest book by popular children’s author Kate DiCamillo (The Tale of Despereaux and Because of Winn-Dixie), will be adapted to film under 20th Century Fox (via Newtonville Books). This charming story of a ten-year-old orphan who learns from a fortune teller that an elephant will lead him to his long-lost sister was only just released this month. Screenwriter Martin Hynes describes the film as “a fable which could both be a classic but not take itself too seriously. The film we’ve referenced in terms of tone is ‘The Princess Bride’ — something that kids will enjoy, but adults will love on other levels.”

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William and Bryan Mealer will be released in hardback on September 29th. This is the true story of an intelligent and inspiring fourteen-year-old boy who strives to improve his community in Malawi, Africa by building a windmill out of the junk he is able to gather (via A Reading Odyssey)

Other: The Man Booker Prize shortlist has been revealed (via Broadway Bookbroads & Newtonville Books). The six remaining finalists include:
The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt
Summertime by J.M. Coetzee
The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Glass Room by Simon Mawer
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Published in: on September 14, 2009 at 3:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Melissa’s Monday Morsels

This week was particularly exciting in the literary world, with several events over the long weekend and a few more still coming up. A few new bookstore blogs (and even a library blog) have also been added to the Indie 100 blogroll, including Book Passage, Kepler’s Books, The Henry Miller Library, and Green Apple Books! Welcome!

Events: This weekend’s Decatur Book Festival was a huge success. Marc participated in two different panels, and A Cappella Books displayed some of their rarest books, hosted a few book signings, and had a huge sale for the weekend.

Bestselling author Michelle Moran’s newest book Cleopatra’s Daughter will be released on September 15th, coinciding with a literary treasure hunt at 60 different independent bookstores, including Book Passage.

“Beginning Sept. 15, Moran will post a clue, a famous line from literature, next to the listing for Book Passage at Readers must identify the title and author of the book, go to Book Passage, and find the copy of the book that has the winning red ribbon inside. The first person to take the ribbon to the register will win a box of prizes.” (Book Passage Blog)

Prizes include signed copies of the new books and Cleopatra-related goodies. Each bookstore will have its own clue, so keep checking Moran’s blog if you’re interested in participating.

Of course Chop Suey Books has another $2 of the week sale: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, the first in the popular  Precious Romatswe series  by Alexander McCall Smith. This is a quick and fun read about a female detective in Botswana. The informative descriptions of life in Botswana and memorable characters are what make this book a truly intriguing read.

New Literature: Green Apple Books blogs about some great books for boys that will keep even the least literary of children entertained by stories about giant robots, loveable pups, and of course, magical adventures.

Ru Freedman’s A Disobedient Girl, a novel about an unhappy and rebellious Sri Lankan servant, is reviewed at, recommended by Newtonville Books Blog. Ru Freedmen will be visiting Newtonville Books at Sunday, September 13th.

Odyssey Books Blog discusses the wide variety of great young adult books that most adults are missing out on and recommends two: one, a futuristic sci-fi in which 24 teens are chosen to fight to the death for entertainment on reality tv, and another written from the point of view of a comatose seventeen-year-old girl who must choose to stay on earth alone or move on to be with her family. These two excellent books show how young adult can tackle serious themes, sometimes more successfully than novels for adults.

Other: Titcomb’s Bookshop was featured on C-SPAN2 on Book TV this Saturday.  Lawrence McDonald and Patrick Robinson discussed their book A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers at the store. If you missed it, you can watch the clip online here.

Powell’s Books interviews Barbara Epler, publisher and editor-in-chief at New Directions Publishing, one of the most successful and long-lasting publishing companies, about the past, present, and future of the company.

Published in: on September 7, 2009 at 1:16 pm  Leave a Comment  


The Henry Miller LibraryThe Henry Miller Library

Big Sur, US 1

I’m a huge Henry Miller fan.  In fact, he’s partly the reason I ditched college when I was nineteen and took off to live and tramp around Europe.  The quality of his writing that I liked best was that he knew how to fashion language in a way that reached ecstasy.  He just let it rip, and as a reult his best work had a depth and pathos that made ART.  And I really appreciate him as the artist.  Getting to visit this spot has always been a dream of mine.  the book room

I figured I’d make it my West Coast pit stop.  When I visited and discovered that it’s also a curated book store, I figured I’d add it as #58.

Until recently, the archives of Henry Miller were actually in this building.  While I’m sure they were perfectly fine, I was glad to hear they had been moved recently to California State University of Monterey Bay where they are being digitized.

Besides the book store, this two-acre spread features film festivals, weekly open-mic nights, concerts, and can be rented out for weddings.

As a place, I imagine Big Sur ain’t what it used to be, and probably hasn’t been for a while.  Sure, it’s laid back and it’s pretty, but it’s also crowded — Central Park crowded — with people coming down from SF and up from LA.  Not a bad thing and worth seeing, of course, but the Oregon coast is just as lovely and seems like it could be a little less crowded.  Just FYI.  On the other hand, I did go on a 3-hour hike and only saw a couple of other people the entire time.

Henry Miller's Hat

Henry Miller's Hat

Published in: on September 6, 2009 at 11:02 pm  Comments (1)  

#57 Capitola Book Cafe

Capitola Book CafeCapitola Book Cafe
1475 41st AVE
Capitola, CA 95010

Do you know Capitola Book Cafe?  It’s a destination stop in greater San Jose.  Really.  I only had thirty minutes in the area making my way down the coast and this is the store I stopped in.  I know there are other great stores in the area and I would have loved to have seen them, but I was catching a ride with a touring writer, and she had to be further down the coast later that night, and Capitola was just so passionate, I had to see the store for myself.

Capitola Books is thirty years old.  They service a lot of students from UC Santa Cruz.  They have 5,000 square feet of curated books.  The Cafe portion of Capitola is rented out to an established, local coffee house chain.   Capitola Cafe

It’s in a strip mall, but the mall is packed and people seem to slip in and out of the store seamlessly.  The customers are loyal and the store is as much a venue as it is a bookstore.

I couldn’t tell you a thing about San Jose other than it’s about ninety minutes south of SF.  I hear the beach is close by.

Worth a visit!

Book display at Capitola

Published in: on September 6, 2009 at 10:30 pm  Comments (1)  

#56 Kepler’s Books

Kepler's BooksKepler’s Books & Magazines
1010 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, CA 94025

About an hour south of San Francisco near Palo Alto and Stanford University is the upscale town of Menlo Park.

Menlo Park is home to the much beloved Kepler’s Books.  How beloved?  Well, the owners once tried to close Kepler’s Books, only to find that local residents weren’t happy with that decision and worked together to get it to reopen.

P1010472So it did.  And at 10,000 square feet, Kepler’s is a very large book store.  They have 320 book clubs and coordinate a lot of author events throughout the year.  The store has been in existence for 54 years, and at least on the evening when I was there seemed to have a steady clip of customers.  Their location in a shopping center next to a couple of popular restaurants almost ensures that people will browse.

A great resource if you’re in Palo Alto or Menlo Park.


Published in: on September 6, 2009 at 10:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Melissa’s Monday Morsels

This week’s morsels include a contest, some darker fiction, and even sea monsters.

Events: University Book Store, one of the few places left where you can still find a copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, is now hosting a Julie and Julia contest for anyone interested in the art of cooking. Stop by the store and sign up before September 3rd for a chance to win prizes “including audio book copies of Julie and Julia, fabulous aprons, or the grand prize: cooking classes from Le Gourmand.”

Chop Suey Books
’s deal of the week again features twins separated at birth. Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much Is True, an Oprah book club pick, is the dark story of two identical brothers who struggle with mental instability and a dark family history of abuse. A  multi-layered emotional roller coaster, this 900 page novel tells a gripping story about family and the unbreakable bond of brotherhood.

New Literature: The success of the hilarious Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith has led to a new twist on  another Jane Austen classic: Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters, which will be released on September 15th. The images from the upcoming novel are particularly amusing. Odyssey Bookshop blogs about some of the best Jane Austen fanfiction out there.

Tracy Kidder, author of Pulitzer Prize winning Soul of a New Machine and Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World, has just published a new book: Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness. This story of “heroism inherent in ordinary people,” introduces an immigrant from the central African nation of Burundi who comes to America with very little cash and no contacts, and, through hard work, obtains a medical degree so that he can establish a clinic for the poor in his home country (via Broadway Books Blog).

Other: Reading Rainbow, the Emmy-award winning show that encouraged generations of children to read, is coming to the end of its 26 year run this Friday. NPR suspects that not only the lack of funds, but shifting philosophies about the most effective way to have children read, has led to this sad decision. Read the article here (via Newtonville Books Blog).

Powell’s Books blogs about how, contrary to popular belief, it’s a great time to be a writer.

Published in: on August 31, 2009 at 7:57 am  Leave a Comment  

#55 Rakestraw Books

Rakestraw BooksRakestraw Books
522 Hartz Avenue
Danville, CA 94526

Michael Barnard is the young owner of this great independent in Danville, CA, and it’s obvious after fifteen seconds that he’s one of those booksellers who knows what he’s doing, who was made to own a bookstore.

Rakestraw Books is a handsome shop of 3,000 square feet.  They’ve just expanded their store and doubled their street frontage.  They have also found themseleves in the supportive community of Danville, CA.  Danville is a prosperous little town forty-five minutes or so from San Francisco and is the kind of place you might find in a John Hughes film.

Anyway, customers are supportive, and while a big bookselling retailer nearby might skim off some of the bestsellers, for the most part Rakestraw is this community’s bookstore.

Barnard is a hands-on manager who actually coordinates the events and handles the retail end of the store. In regards to his events, he has a great philosphy of  “filling the room and not the schedule — whether the room is a nearby putting green or the parking lot.”  Rakestraw’s works with local groups to bring a crowd.  They are not just hosting readings at Rakestraw Books, they’re coordinating social events.

Definitely worth the ride out from San Francisco.

Published in: on August 30, 2009 at 12:07 pm  Comments (1)  

#54 Mrs. Dalloway’s

Mrs. Dalloway'sMrs. Dalloway’s
2904 College Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94705

One mile south of UC Berkeley in the Elmwood neighborhood is the very pleasant book shop, Mrs. Dalloway’s.  The store feels warm and open and they will soon expand their space to 850 square feet.

Mrs. Dalloway’s is a general trade bookstore with an emphasis on literature and gardening (from a local and organic perspective).inside Mrs. Dalloways

The gardening theme is original and seems like a great niche and a good idea to get people in the store.  In fact, their sidelines are set up with gardening in mind.  They also work with a local gardener to sell live plants on comission.

College Ave. is also a great location for a bookstore as there is a lot of pedestrian and car traffic.

The post might be short and sweet, but I liked Mrs’ Dalloway’s.  They have a vision of the type of store they want to be and know the type of customers they serve.  They prove that this simple formular works.


Published in: on August 30, 2009 at 11:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Melissa’s Monday Morsels

Highlights this week include recommendations for the mystery lover and some fascinating nonfiction on gender relationships and politics.

Events: Titcomb’s Bookshop is hosting a reading from award-winning author Wally Lamb, author of New York Times Bestseller She’s Come Undone, on Saturday. The event will take place in East Sandwich Grange Hall and reservations are required. Tickets are $5 each.

Twins are featured again this week in Chop Suey Books’ $2 deal of the week, Kim Edwards’ debut novel The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, an international bestseller. This book features a pair of fraternal twins, a girl with down syndrome and a healthy boy, and the way their father’s decision changes their family forever.

New Literature: Broadway Books’ Bookreads reviews The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power by Jeff Sharlet, a chilling exploration of the relationship between church and state that exposes of a “group of believers from the upper echelons of society and politics who see it as their mission in life to spread capitalistic idealism backed by the teachings of Christ”. Sharlet demolishes the myth that religious extremist groups do not have an influence over the American political system. Although it might make it seem like we’re in a hopeless situation, it’s a very important book.

On Powell’s Book Blog, we find a review of  Between XX and XY: Intersexuality and the Myth of Two Sexes by Gerald N. Callahan.  The book deals with the idea that not only can gender roles vary, but the biological determination of sex is more complex than we think.  The book categorizes the 2,000 different types of people who are born interesexed (unclassifiable as either male or female) in America every year due to a variant set of chromosomes. In Leanne Mirandilla’s review, she describes these classifications as “easily the most riveting part of the book”, while the weakest is the outlook of different cultures on intersexed individuals. All in all, it seems like an intriguing read.

Other: Richard Porier, founder of the Raritan: A Quarterly Review and literary critic and scholar, has passed away (via Newtonville Books Blog). He published a wide variety of books and articles related to everything from the influence of The Beatles to poetry and made a huge impact on the literary world.

Powell’s Books Blog posted an NPR article with several mysteries you might have missed this summer. It’s never too late for a great beach book!

The sequel to the bestselling Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert will be Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage in which Gilbert reflects on her feelings about relationships after her failed marriage and gathers stories from friends and family members. The book will be released in January, 2010 (via Newtonville Books Blog).

Published in: on August 24, 2009 at 11:46 am  Leave a Comment  

#53 Moe’s Books

Moe's BooksMoe’s Books
2476 Telegraph Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704


I’ve made it…and well, let’s just say it’s not what I was expecting.  People might be cool with nudity, free expression, and vegetarianism, but your indie, hippie tookis better have the money for parking.  Traffic fuzz patrol this city like there’s hell to pay if they don’t.   Oddly enough it makes Berkeley, CA end up feeling a lot more like Chattanooga, TN than Amsterdam.

Anyway, none of this is a problem.  It’s just an observation.    And none of this is Moe’s fault.P1010446

Moe’s Books is cool — like a candy striper –If you’re looking for a book, chances are you can find whatever you’re looking for here.  12,ooo square feet of space.   Four floors of new, used, and rare.  An art and antiquarian shop.  Readings and events that go on all year.   This is the best, most interesting spot on Telegraph Ave.

If you visit the Bay Area, chances are you’ll visit Berkeley.  You can’t miss Moe’s if you do.

It’s massive — Probably the biggest I’ve seen since Powell’s.


Published in: on August 23, 2009 at 7:24 pm  Leave a Comment