Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bookseller's Bookshelf: Erin

I'm reading two books at the moment: one old, and one new.

The old one is Frank Conroy's Body and Soul, a novel that follows piano prodigy Claude Rawlings as he climbs from humble beginnings to stardom in 1950s New York City. It's definitely not a fast moving book, yet it is positively engrossing. Filled with the minutiae of everyday life and peppered with bursts of fascinating musical discussion, Conroy takes a rags-to-riches tale that could be commonplace and dull and transforms it into a story to be savored. This book is actually from the 1990s and no longer on our shelves here at the Book House, but it's still available. Ask and we'll get it for you!

As for the new one, I just picked up a reader's copy of Love Begins in Winter, a forthcoming collection of short stories by Simon van Booy. I'm just a few pages in, but I can tell I won't be putting this one aside. In beautiful, clear prose, van Booy tells ordinary stories as if they're infused with magic. The opening story, about a world-famous cellist, has such sudden and universal truths about life that I am absolutely intrigued to read more. Look for it coming in May!

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Customers Strike Again!

Awhile back, I had several customers buy the same book in rapid succession. Within a few days, we had sold three or four copies of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka. Every time the purchase was made, I was asked, "Have you read it? It's supposed to be wonderful." After answering "no" again and again, I decided to take the customers' advice and read the book.

I ended up loving it. Two sisters who are usually at odds with one another end up banding together to save their elderly father from Valentina, a young Ukrainian divorcee It's quirky and fun, with enough seriousness to give it weight, full of zany characters who are real and lovable underneath. It incorporates history, family dynamics, and crazy situations into a quick novel that has very little to do with tractors! In short, it's a good, fun read that I now recommend to many customers.

The same thing happened again last month. This time, two or three customers asked for the book on the same day: The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. Over the next few days, several more people came in looking for a book we had no idea would be so popular! Having learned my lesson last time, I picked up a copy. Surprise! The customers were right again.

The Housekeeper and the Professor tells the story of three nameless characters: the housekeeper, the housekeeper's son (nicknamed Root by the professor, because his head is flat like a square root sign), and a retired professor of mathematics whose memory only lasts 80 minutes. As the story progresses, math and baseball pull these three characters together into a kind of family unit.

Some of my coworkers have read or are reading the book now as well. We can't keep it on the shelf! Thank you, Book House customers. Keep reading!