Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lucy's Review Spring 2010 - at long last!

Introducing… Red Dot Books!
After almost 12 years, we at Lucy’s are in the mood to be slightly innovative, slightly attuned to our customers’ desires, slightly, um… modern.
We are ready to buy very gently used, contemporary paperbacks back for resale! This means, that new novel you bought, read once, and you don’t want to keep? Bring it here! We want to provide the opportunity to recycle and share books – it’s a win-win for sellers and buyers. Now, to the nitty-gritty:
We will buy books for 25% of the cover price, that we feel we can resell. We will base their pricing on desirability, cover price, our current stock levels, and condition. What we buy from you will be for sale here for 65-75% of the cover price. We reserve the right to pick and choose what we will buy, based on the parameters above. We will not buy:
~books older than 3-4 years (at our discretion based on title and condition)
~ hard covers (exceptions may be current, high demand titles not yet paperback)
~ books with broken spines or hinges, markings, loose or missing pages, mold or dampness, odors, or excessive wear
~ bibles, textbooks, audio books, encyclopedias, Readers’ Digest, magazines, comics, etc.
Basically, we will buy the types of books we already sell here. We plan to maintain our used area upstairs – this is the place for trade credit only (for other upstairs books) on old mysteries, romances, and miscellaneous titles at our discretion. These are not Red Dot books and credit upstairs may not be used on Red Dot titles.
To keep things smooth and happy, please be reasonable and choosy in the quality and quantity of what you bring!

What I Talk About…. Laura

If you know me, you know 2009 was my Year of Running Dangerously. 2009 brought me the ecstasy of a half marathon and the agony (ok, and ecstasy) of the full Portland Marathon as well. I am not super-athletic but have always been intrigued by long distance running. This felt like a good year to make good on a big item from the to-do list of my lifetime. Of course, doing anything necessitates reading about it, and I’ve found some truly fun reading about running, though surely I’m going to hit just the tip of the iceberg here.
Thank you John Irving, for making Garp a runner, as well as Daniel Baciagalupo, a protagonist (and a writer himself) of Last Night in Twisted River. Dexter Filkins both kept his sanity and took his life into his hands by satisfying his intense need to go running in the streets of Baghdad during his years on assignment there, detailed in The Forever War. How many other writers and their creations are runners? And why?
I sat in my shop furtively reading someone’s reserved copy of Born to Run, half hoping that the person wouldn’t show up. Well, I ended up with my own copy, thankfully, and am naming it my Book of the Year of 2009! In all my Books of the Year I get that let down feeling of finishing, and not quite being able to follow them with anything for a while. Celebrated magazine columnist and runner Christopher McDougall took his running obsession to the remote Copper Canyons of Mexico to uncover the secrets of the Tarahumara tribe, who practice techniques that allow them to run literally hundreds of miles fast, injury free, without rest, and wearing minimalist sandals. McDougall is funny and self-deprecating, and runners and non-runners alike who love great non-fiction will love the way he leaps wildly yet gracefully among sports science, anthropology, hardcore adventure reportage, and memoir. McDougall, the barefoot runner, makes book writing (and reading) seem as fun and effortless as running should be, if your mind, heart, and feet are in the right place. Getting there is my challenge for 2010!
Haruki Murakami’s memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running provided evidence for the beginnings of my conclusion that distance runners are a strange and quirky lot. It’s a wonderful, quick read about this renowned novelist’s relationship with running, the emptiness of mind that it affords him and the support it provides him to enable his writing.
Bernd Heinrich is Mr. Detail. I suppose to be a biologist of his stature one must be attentive to the details. Why We Run, his study of the biology of running intertwined with his own reflections on his illustrious ultra-marathon career is nothing if not detailed. I was partial to the personal story more than the mechanics of grasshopper legs but hey, there’s something for everyone, and it sealed the deal on my distance runner theory.
Liz Robbins writes about running for the New York Times and her bias for NYC shines in A Race Like No Other, a fabulous and fun homage to the New York City Marathon. That said, she expertly weaves on and off the course, giving non-New Yorkers a wonderful picture of the variety and diversity the great city offers, alongside the personal stories of the elite and not-so-elite runners, walkers, and wheelers. The stories are rich and powerful, and help explain just what completing a marathon means to so many.
Don’t read First Marathons for the artful writing (it isn’t there). Do read it for three things: a great historical perspective on early distance running; a synopsis of the evolution of women in distance running; and a wide variety of experience, from Bill Rodgers’ early days (he dropped out of his first marathon, by the way) to the 300-pound chain smoker turned marathon runner. There is wonderful, inspiring material in this densely packed book.
Danny Dreyer’s runner’s bible Chi Running is an excellent source of wisdom and will encourage you to rethink the mechanics of and approach to your own running. Dreyer’s philosophical approach can really increase the enjoyment and meditative qualities of running, which is probably why most of us run.
For you swimmers out there, I don’t want to neglect you! The Chi Running equivalent for swimmers is Terry Laughlin’s Total Immersion. And, if you love reading about swimming I recommend Lynne Cox’s memoir Swimming to Antarctica and Nicola Keegan’s ethereal novel Swimming. Given that the former is about a cold-water (I mean really cold water) endurance swimmer and the latter is a fictional account of the life of an Olympic swimming sensation, there is probably not a lot of direct relatability (my invented word) for us mere mortals. Nevertheless, they are wonderful reads.

A Reader’s Miscellany by Laura

“State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.”
Leavings, Wendell Berry’s new poetry collection needs no more introduction than that. I find myself grateful for this man and for his prolific writing life each time I open any one of his many books. In poetry, fiction, and essay, Berry speaks to the beauty, and the horror, of the world in which we find ourselves. He has a new essay collection as well, Imagination in Place.
Dexter Filkins leaves nothing to the imagination in The Forever War. In his time as an embedded journalist with a group of Marines in Iraq, he weaves the dignity of the men who find themselves in the midst of this urban war, with his frank assessment of the futility of the U.S. presence there. Filkins is an eloquent writer, and doesn’t shy from an admission that his own life has been forever altered for the worse, as a result of his time in Iraq. If it’s so for a journalist, imagine the lives of the soldiers returning home. This was excellent, difficult reading with something to say to all of us.
The Nine, Jeffrey Toobin’s account of the Supreme Court of the last 40 years brings to detailed life the individual Justices and the universal implications of their collective work. As a nerd who turns up the volume and moves to the edge of my seat when Nina Totenberg starts quoting Justices on NPR, I loved this book! I appreciated reading of each Justice’s background, philosophy, and worldview, especially those of Sandra Day O’Connor. O’Connor’s pivotal role in all of our lives cannot be overstated, and in the aftermath of finishing this amazing book I look forward to reading her own memoir The Majesty of the Law.
And one more political book – there are just no words that can describe how much fun I had reading Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. Yes, it was several hundred pages of juicy gossip. No, it wasn’t exactly educational or life changing. But if you want to know the answers to life’s persistent questions such as why Sarah Palin said “Hey, can I call you Joe?” when her debate with Joe Biden began, then you are a good candidate for this unhealthy, yet delicious snack of a book.
Abraham Verghese is the kind of guy I envy. A physician and professor of medicine at Stanford, a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop as well and contributor to all the upstanding magazines… Anyway, his novel Cutting for Stone is the work of a truly gifted human. Verghese reaches deep into so many areas – the immigrant experience, the political turmoil in Ethiopia in the 70’s, a fifty-year historical span of descriptions of the practice of medicine – this was a novel I sunk my whole self into and it is still with me. As soon as I finished it I read an early Verghese memoir called My Own Country, which details his time practicing medicine in Tennessee in the 1980’s, as the AIDS epidemic began to appear in small town America. It’s a fascinating, personal look at a fascinating and painful time.
I have a thing for medical memoir. Don’t ask me why – I never took a single non-required science class in my life, a statement of which I am less than proud now. Nevertheless, my alter ego is totally drawn to books by doctors, books about doctors, descriptive passages about surgery or disease, and treatises on public health. Some of my favorites you know: Mountains Beyond Mountains, How Doctors Think, Abraham Verghese’s books, anything by Atul Gawande. I just picked up a new (to me) one called Match Day: One Day and One Dramatic Year in the Lives of Three New Doctors. So far, it’s promising, with author Brian Eule following three women through their first year of internship. I’d pass it to Ani when I’m done, but she asked me the other day if one ought to plan to be a doctor if one doesn’t really like science class. This begs the ancient question (Mom? Thoughts?): Am I still a Jewish mother without at least one child inclined toward practicing medicine?
I just finished the luminous Making Toast, Roger Rosenblatt’s heartbreaking and life-affirming memoir. In the aftermath of his daughter Amy’s sudden death he and his wife moved in to the home of Amy’s husband and three young children. Rosenblatt shares Calvin Trillin’s gift of rendering ordinary encounters and conversations with loved ones as the gifts we should all remember they are. I am unable to conjure up the largesse of the sensations I had while reading, teary and with a lump in my throat throughout the entire book, an entirely un-sappy sense of the richness of life and the largeness of grief. This book is simply beautiful, and honestly, you really should read it right now.

The Ani Section by Ani Graves, 14 (!)
Lately I’ve been reading lots of different books and genres. The last book in Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series, Princess Forever, was hilarious, as they all have been. I read a couple of books by Han Nolan, great books about dealing with hard situations. The Catcher in the Rye was an interesting book, and I liked it. Chris Crutcher’s books Deadline, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, and Whale Talk were great too.
Han Nolan’s Born Blue was an amazing book with a really tough story. Janie, the daughter of a heroin addict, was removed from her mother and put into foster care at a young age, but she still misses her mom and wants her to come back. Janie’s foster brother, Harmon, is her best friend. They listen to music together, and that’s how Janie discovers the thing she loves the most – singing. That’s what keeps her going when Harmon is adopted. To escape from the hardships of her life, Janie changes her name to Leshaya and takes off. On her way to achieving her dream of being a famous singer, Leshaya gets addicted to drugs and alcohol, has a baby, and much, much more. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone under the age of 13; it was a hard story and very well written.
I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass because I was going to see the movie. That book is really weird. There isn’t much of a story, but lots of things happen very randomly to Alice, and it’s just really interesting. I really liked it, even though a lot of it was just plain random. It did a great job telling what happens in a dream, because dreams are weird and confusing, and so was the book. What happened to Alice could only happen in a dream, which it did, so I guess it all makes sense.
Deadline, by Chris Crutcher, is a great book about life and death. If you had one year to live and you knew it, what would you do? 18-year-old Ben Wolf finds out that he has a rare disease leaving him with roughly one year to live. Instead of getting treatment, which might or might not make him better, Ben decides to live his last year to the fullest. He doesn’t tell anybody at first, and he is 18 and won’t let his doctor tell anyone, either.
Ben is a cross-country star for his high school, but after finding out about his sickness he decides to do something he has always wanted to do – try out for football with his brother Cody. Ben makes the team, which wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except that he is barely 5 feet tall and just over 120 pounds. Ben does many new things in his last year and the people who are close to him will remember him forever.
Nightlight, by the Harvard Lampoon, is a very funny and well-done parody of Twilight. In this hilarious book, Belle Goose moves to Switchblade, Oregon to live with her dad. Belle is very full of herself – none of the boys at her new high school are up to her standards, but when she sits next to Edwart Mullen in biology, that changes. Edwart is a major computer nerd and pretty antisocial. Belle is soon convinced that he is a vampire, but is she right? He DID leave his lunch untouched, and he DID save her from a flying snowball, and he DID sparkle in the sun. Belle really hopes that her theory is right, because she has always wanted a vampire boyfriend. Will Edwart turn out to be a bloodsucking monster? Will he bite Belle and turn her into a vampire? This is a perfect parody – if you are a Twilight fan, this will make you laugh.

And the boy... by Laura
As for my 12-year-old son (quite different in book tastes from his sister) we just read together one of the best books for young people I have ever read. If you haven’t given yourself the treat of reading Gary Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars, stop what you’re doing right now and start this wonderful book. The story of a 7th grade boy in the turbulent years of 1967 and 1968, Schmidt gives us in one book personal experiences of the Vietnam War, the King and both Kennedy assassinations, a pitch-perfect young people’s study of several Shakespeare plays, and a depiction of a boy’s relationship with one of those exceptional teachers that transforms one’s life. Tim loved it, but sent many a sideways glance my way as I sniffled, wept, and laughed through it.
We’re also reading Touching Spirit Bear, Ben Mikaelsen’s tough love coming of age novel about a teenage boy who avoids going to prison by agreeing to participate in Circle Justice. Circle Justice involves being deposited on a remote southeast Alaskan island for a year, and also going beyond the concept of simple punishment to make amends and take responsibility. It’s an intense, fabulous middle reader book.
I am quickly becoming versed in the category whose name I just learned is “high interest/low vocabulary.” Research for my son has netted me a couple of publishers who specialize in Tim-style action stories at his interest level but written at his dyslexia level. Ask me for help if you need these! I must add a nod to the Wimpy Kid series: I don’t love it one bit, BUT… I have witnessed my son sitting on the stairs in here quietly READING these for prolonged periods, a sight for which I have immeasurable gratitude.
I’m attempting to insert some literary novels into Tim’s life between junior spy thrillers. Don’t get me wrong - many junior spy thrillers are well-written, fabulous books. It’s just that I can only take so many thousands of pages of them! We have finished eight Alex Rider novels (almost back to back – that’s a couple of thousand pages read aloud by yours truly, people) and will get started on James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series when my boy begins to feel explosion deprivation.
I have one of those brains people (my husband) liken to a hamster wheel endlessly spinning. Mostly that wheel spins about my kids – I found my wheels spinning so hard I had to read a book - aptly titled Yes, Your Teen is Crazy: Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind. I’m pretty skeptical of parenting books and their seemingly one size fits all solutions. That said, I gleaned some good information from Michael Bradley’s engaging, often funny book. I was reassured by the discussion of brain chemistry (fully detailed in Barbara Strauch’s great book The Primal Teen). And I found especially helpful the emphasis on my (ahem…) behavior as a parent as more important and productive a focus than picking apart and analyzing the behavior of my teen. Next up: Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall? Ah, life…

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