Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Moving On, Moving Over

Dear readers of The Written Nerd, if there are any of you still out there,

As you may have noticed, I haven't posted anything here in almost six months. This blog served a great purpose for me for five long years -- from October 2005, when I declared my geeky book and bookstore love and my quixotic intention to open a bookstore. As you know if you've been reading me, that dream has come true. Which means any blogging time and energy I had is now dedicated to the bookstore. And to a degree, it also means that I don't need this outlet for my thoughts about book culture anymore, since I have coworkers and customers and a whole industry with which to explore them. Not to mention that there's a whole new generation of book bloggers who have a lot more interesting things to say!

So I'm officially signing off from The Written Nerd. This means two things:

1) If you are a publicist, please don't send books to The Written Nerd anymore. I get far more books than I could ever read through the bookstore (you can contact me there if you'd like to send me something or get in touch). If I do get books send to The Written Nerd, I'll know you're not actually reading my blog.

2) I'm still reading books, and I'd still like to talk about them, but in a much more low-key way. So I've started a Tumblr blog called A Small Book of Books, after the tiny notebook my first boss and mentor Toby used to record his reading. Feel free to read along.

Thanks to all of you whom I connected with through this blog -- I'm so glad you've been part of my life, and I love where we're all going!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Year-End Roundup, and a Call for Ideas

Here are all the books I read (that I know of) in 2010, in crude alphabetical order. This doesn't include children's picture books, cookbooks, single-issue comics, magazines, or uh, the Internet. My own personal Best of the Year are highlighted in bold. And thanks to the superquick book search on greenlightbookstore.com (where, ahem, you can purchase any and all of these titles), you get pictures! The call for ideas is at the end.

A. D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld (reviewed)

Agents of Atlas by Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk (reviewed)

Air, Volume 2: Flying Machine by G. Willow Wilson & M.K. Parker (reviewed)

Arrow Pointing Nowhere by Elizabeth Daly (reviewed)

Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka, J. H. Williams, and Dave Stewart (reviewed)

The Box of Delights by John Masefield: A Christmas book, quintessentially English in a Narnia kind of way, dreamy and eccentric and magical and stiff-upper-lip. Practically perfect.

Cowboy Ninja Viking Volume 1 by AJ Lieberman & Riley Rossmo (reviewed)

Folly by Marthe Jocelyn (reviewed)

Freakangels, Volume 1 by Warren Ellis & Paul Duffield (reviewed)

Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel (reviewed)

A God Somewhere by John Arcudi, Peter Snejbjerg, & Bjarne Hansen (reviewed)

Half Empty by David Rakoff (reviewed)

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegred0 (artist) (reviewed)

Hellcity: The Whole Damned Thing by Macon Blair & Joe Flood (reviewed)

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch (reviewed)

The Hipless Boy: Short Stories
by Sully

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (reviewed)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (reviewed)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (reviewed)

I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly & JM Ken Niimura (reviewed)

I Thought My Father Was God edited by Paul Auster (reviewed)

Johannes Cabal the Detective by Jonathan Howard (reviewed)

Kill Shakespeare Vol. 1: A Sea of Troubles By Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col, and Andy Belanger: Hamlet, Richard, Juliet, Othello and everyone else converge in one world, and everyone's trying to get at a wizard named Shakespeare. Bloody and weird, but not too heavy to be lighthearted fun.

Kraken by China Mieville (reviewed)

The Madman of Venice by Sophie Masson (reviewed)

Market Day by James Sturm (reviewed)

The Midnight Folk by John Masefield (reviewed)

The Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner (reviewed)

Moonwalking with Einstein
by Joshua Foer (reviewed)

New Orleans, Mon Amour by Andrei Codrescu (reviewed)

Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars in Brooklyn by Meredith Gran (reviewed)

Odd Is On Our Side by Dean Koontz, Fred Van Lente & Queenie Chan (reviewed)

Old Mr. Flood by Joseph Mitchell (reviewed)

Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley (reviewed)

The Passage by Justin Cronin (reviewed)

Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie (reviewed)

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald (reviewed)

Rasl Pocket Book One by Jeff Smith (reviewed)

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (reviewed)

Scott Pilgrim Volume 6: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O'Malley (reviewed)

The Sheriff of Yrnameer
by Michael Rubens (reviewed)

Superman: For Tomorrow Volume 1 and Volume 2 y Brian Azzarello (writer), Jim Lee, and Scott Williams (artists) (reviewed)

The Singer's Gun by Emily St. John Mandel (reviewed)

Summerland by Michael Chabon (reviewed)

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (reviewed)

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht (reviewed)

Traitor's Purse by Margery Allingham (reviewed)

Two Cents Plain by Martin Lemelman (reviewed)

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris (reviewed)

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (reviewed)

Werewolves of Montpelier by Jason (reviewed)

What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn (reviewed)

When You Were A Tadpole And I Was A Fish by Martin Gardner (reviewed)

Y: The Last Man, Volume 7: Paper Dolls by Brian K. Vaughan (writer) and Pia Guerra (artist) (reviewed)

You Were Wrong by Matthew Sharpe (reviewed)

(plus rereads, not reviewed: Scott Pilgrim 1-5 by Bryan Lee O'Malley, The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright, The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright, Take This Bread by Sara Miles)

That's... 55 I think, plus the rereads? Measly. And a ridiculous percentage of those are comics, which while I will continue to insist on their status as literature, do tend to be much quicker reads. Goal for 2011: read more, especially frontlist fiction/nonfiction, so as to be a better bookseller, and to dig deeper into the world of words.

Unlike some years past, I'm refreshed to find I don't feel the need for a soul-searching post about the bookstore project. Greenlight is a solid reality -- as I reflected with a bookseller friend, I'm in the happily ever after. Rebecca and I have plans for growing and making things better, so it's not about to get boring. But it's been a happy year, chronicled mostly elsewhere, and I'm contented to stick to the book talk on this site -- it's still true that "sometimes the best relief from the stresses of working in the book industry is the books themselves."

And now my request for your ideas: not for what to read next (I've already got teetering stacks on my nightstand that should take me through the next six months at least), but about how to keep track of reading. I'd like a better way to note what I'm reading now and write about it when I finish, and have it show up on the various book sites (GoodReads, Shelfari, etc.), and on this blog, and on Facebook/Twitter, etc. Does anyone have a good system, easy enough that you don't get bogged down? Is there an app that works (I do have an iPhone now!)? Does one of the sites push out to all the others? Or would I be better off with pencil and paper this year?

In any case, it was a good year in books, and 2011 promises old friends returning and new surprises awaiting. Thanks to all of you who read and talk about books -- a very happy new year, and happy reading!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

All the Rest of the Books I Read This Year

Okay, so perhaps I was slightly overambitious, or just unorganized, thinking I would write about every book I read this year in order. Even though I felt like I didn't read nearly as much as I wanted to / ought to this year, the pile of read books grew much faster than my time to write about them (or inspiration to do so). So here's what I didn't get to write about before, but did read -- I can't remember any longer which order they went in, and the shortness that this last-minute approach will require does a disservice to some truly wonderful works, but there you go.

To save time and space, instead of including pictures I've added links to the book detail page on greenlightbookstore.com whenever available, if you want to see a picture or read more about the book.

Before the end of this month, I'll post the complete list of what I read this year, highlighting my own personal best-ofs, with links to where I wrote about them. Here goes the last round!

A. D.: New Orleans After the Deluge

by Josh Neufeld

This falls in the "why did it take so long for me to listen when everyone I respect raved about this book" category. Neufeld's research is amazing, his characters compelling, his pictures of New Orleans before, during and after Katrina are cleanly, simply drawn but dead-on accurate (the ALP and I did some real-life comparisons to a couple of French Quarter bars), and I came out of this with a better understanding of the events of 2005 than I'd ever had before.

Agents of Atlas
by Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk

The ALP tossed this one on my lap recently when I needed bedtime reading. A great little "superhero team" adventure comic, with some unexpected twists and an Asian American hero -- great fun, especially if you're familiar with the Marvel Universe.

Cowboy Ninja Viking Volume 1
by AJ Lieberman & Riley Rossmo
The premise is high concept ridiculous; the plot is nigh incomprehensible. But you cannot resist. One man; three personalities; three fighting styles; an evil corporation that trained him to kill; endless silly banter; crazy (literally) fight scenes. Awe. Some.

Half Empty
by David Rakoff

I felt as though my brain were getting sharper taking in Rakoff's wit and insight, at the same time I was melting with laughter. One of my favorite nonfiction books of the year, with Rakoff's cutting yet deeply compassionate take on everything from Rent to the Disney "Innoventions" house to his own cancer. And he is the nicest man in the world in real life. Read it!

Hellcity: The Whole Damned Thing
by Macon Blair & Joe Flood

I've been waiting for this since the first half was published years ago by an itty bitty indie comics company. It's a noir set in Hellcity (which resembles New York in August, except with more demons) and Heaventown (which resembles Bedford Falls or some other imagination of Upstate New York in the spring). It's got rock and roll, battles between good and evil, love, redemption, and getting slapped with fishes. It is one of the best undiscovered comic books I know.

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword
by Barry Deutsch

Hooray for this book! I've never read fiction set among Orthodox Jews so insightful and entertaining. Eleven-year-old Mirka's troubles with boring chores and conflicts with her (ultimately nurturing and wise) stempother, as well as her epic knitting battle with a troll and the trickster move she learns to defeat it, feel both universal and unique. Great stuff in the world of appropriate-for-kids comics.

The Hipless Boy: Short Stories
by Sully

I thought I understood this book when I thought it was autobiographical short cartoon pieces; upon finding out it's fiction I find it kind of rambling and unfocused, and frankly odd. Clever and sometimes poignant, but not exactly my thing. (And I find it kind of annoying when characters who have art-star friends and hang out in lofts complain of their lack of hipness. Like whatever.)

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

Holy cow.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
by Suzanne Collins

Oh my gosh it gets better/worse.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
by Suzanne Collins

Do not read this entire series in a weekend, like I did, unless you want to be utterly wrecked by the end. The "kill or be killed" games of children against children are a great metaphor for adolescence, but this is also about war and freedom and truth and propaganda and compromise and survival and the horror of violence, even if it's necessary, even if you win. Deserves every iota of hype it got, and more; reminded me of Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy in the amount of big philosophical stuff going in a completely addicting fantasy.

I Kill Giants
by Joe Kelly & JM Ken Niimura

So darn good. This is a kids' comic, but it's dark -- the darkness at the center of it isn't revealed right away, so I won't spoil it. It's about a weird little girl who is a D&D dungeonmaster, and has a powerful named weapon that lives in her purse, a brutal wit, and a hard time making friends. It's about the friend she makes and the giant she encounters. The drawing is wild and sketchy and perfect, and makes for a wonderfully odd and satisfying story.

I Thought My Father Was God

edited by Paul Auster

A collection of the real-life stories Auster collected as part of an NPR project, this is part StoryCorps, part Moth Story Slam, part very weird Chicken Soup for the Soul. Because the things that happen to people that they remember are very, very weird. Many are tragic in the grandest and awfullest sense of the word. Some are funny or romantic or delightful. A lot are just coincidences. At their best they are like the kind of story someone tells you in a bar, or at a family Christmas party, and you never forget.

Johannes Cabal the Detective
by Jonathan Howard

I loved the steampunk-supernatural-carnival-serial oddity of Johannes Cabal Necromancer, so of course I was going to read the sequel. This one finds our misanthropic but oddly appealing hero fleeing angry folks again (necromancy doesn't make you popular), and pulled unwillingly into applying his weird-science-attuned brain to solving a murder mystery, alongside the antagonistically ethical girl from the first book. And it's mostly on a blimp. If you are a genre lover like me, what's not to like?

by China Mieville

Ooh Kraken. The titular sea-beast, literally disappeared from the museum, is about the least weird thing in this very Mieville-y weird book. Imagine a London full of religions and magic cults, each predicting a slightly different apocalypse, any or all of which might occur. There is a hapless hero, a villain who is a living tattoo and one who is made of ink, a protective imp in an iPod, a sort of board of magicians and the coppers who police them, and Goss and Subby, two of the most truly terrifying villains in ages. It's hard to keep up, but the scenery is never boring. If you have a long plane ride ahead of you, this would be a good bet for a book you will not look up from the entire time.

by John Masefield
This is a very old-school English children's adventure story, in the vein of Narnia or the Wind in the Willows or Five Children and It. Young Kay has a nasty governess and an sea captain ancestor who lost a treasure; how these things get solved involves a lot of people coming out of pictures on the wall, talking animals, seven-league boots, and other strange doings. It is dreamlike the way that an imaginative childhood is, and often funny, and quite uniquely wonderful. It would be great to read aloud, if you are the kind of family who does that sort of thing. I'm now reading Masefield's other book about Kay, The Box of Delights, which is a Christmas book and completely delightful.

Moonwalking with Einstein
by Joshua Foer
I picked this galley up because we're hosting the author in the spring when the book comes out (and yes, he is the brother of Jonathan Safran). Secretly, I was hoping to get some tips on how to remember the names of customers and publishing industry acquaintances who always seem to remember my name; it's a horrible failing that I seem to forget names as soon as I've been introduced. Foer's book has some tips for name remembering, though not a fix-all; most of the venerated tricks of memory he learns from "memory championship" circuits -- which they learned from the ancient Greeks -- involve really paying attention when the information is first presented. But there are lots of other tricks involved too -- as my bookseller friend Carol says "fun facts to know and tell on every page" -- including the fact that our highly evolved visual/spatial memories can be put to use in remembering more abstract data by using the elegant and ancient technique of the Memory Palace (and often, inventing some absurd or dirty associations, since we're also really good at remembering jokes and sex). I had a great time with the eccentric characters Foer encounters and his reflections on the evolution of memory in human history, from the Memory Palace to the codex to the internet. Good stuff.

New Orleans, Mon Amour
by Andrei Codrescu
I bought this in a tiny bookstore in Pirate's Alley, and read it listening to a trumpet player in Jackson Square, and eating rabbit jambalaya, and wandering through cemetery cities. I fell completely in love with New Orleans myself, so it was wonderful to have a fellow outsider as pithy and eloquent as Codrescu describing the city's morbidly festive charms. Reading essays written over 20 years all at once, they do start to become a bit predictable, and Codrescu is a bit of a dirty old man; still, these pieces were evocative and illuminating, highly recommended for anyone who knows what it means to miss NOLA.

Odd Is On Our Side
by Dean Koontz, Fred Van Lente & Queenie Chan

Why do I read these Dean Koontz manga adaptations? The art is generic, the plot unbelievable, the characters and morality simplistic. I simply cannot help myself, and I eat them like particularly artificial-tasting candy.

Parnassus on Wheels
by Christopher Morley

I love books, bookselling, and Brooklyn. I am the target audience for this book. I was so delighted to discover Melville House had reissued it, years after I read the sequel, The Haunted Bookshop. I was also delighted to discover that this 1917 novel has a bit of feminism in it: though the fiery bookseller Roger Mifflin is in some ways the hero, the narrator is a 40-year-old "angel in the house" who strikes out on her own as a bookselling entrepreneur after years of unappreciated baking. Immensely fun, with some very quotable quotes, especially for those of a bookselling persuasion.

Postern of Fate
by Agatha Christie

Weird -- a sort of bad Agatha Christie novel. It not only has my least favorite detectives (the fussy bourgeois couple Tommy and Tuppence), it was written near the end of Christie's life and career, and feels oddly circular and repetitive. I guess it's good to know that even the master didn't knock 'em out of the park every time.

Rasl Pocket Book One
by Jeff Smith

Remember Bone? This is like that except kinda the opposite. The sexy, morally messed-up hero, the science (time travel, parallel universes, etc.), the difficult-to-follow plot, the mysticism... did I mention the sex and the science? It's fascinating and gorgeously drawn, but definitely NOT for kids. I'm intrigued by where he's going with this... it may be years before we find out, but it's worth it.


by Jennifer Donnelly

A rich feast of a YA novel -- achingly sad and authentically adolescent, chock full of local color and telling details in Brooklyn and Paris, with a French Revolution parallel plot to blow you away, plus a love story, plus some nice class/race/ethics analysis of French and Brooklyn culture. It's not perfect (the author does a sort of supernatural and/or dream thing 3/4 of the way through that I found totally uneccessary), but it is immensely satisfying and thought-provoking. And is there any better metaphor for adolescence than the French Revolution?

by Michael Chabon

This is an epic American fantasy -- a rich stew of our national mythologies from Paul Bunyan to Babe Ruth -- and a fantastic adventure story. It's Chabon's first and only YA book, and I remember it being kind of a flop in terms of Chabon novels, but I found it completely compelling -- added to my own personal pantheon of larger-than-life tales. I read it in the summertime, and finished it looking out at the Statue of Liberty from Red Hook -- one of the most perfect reading experiences of the year.

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
Deeply satisfying and yet entirely unexpected -- a universal story of outsiders, of growing up, of family secrets and cultural misunderstandings, but also a picture of a fascinating and little-known part of the world. Tea Obreht's childhood in the former Yugoslavia, among family stories and traditional legends, informs this story of a woman in an unnamed post-war country who delves into her grandfather's childhood to understand his death. The stories she uncovers -- of an escaped tiger, a man who cannot die, and the coincidences and ironies of a region almost constantly in a state of war -- make for a novel with the suspense of a thriller and the resonances of a myth. An incredible work from an incredible young writer, The Tiger's Wife marks the beginning of the career of a writer to watch.
[cribbed from my own writeup for the NAIBA holiday catalog]

Two Cents Plain by Martin Lemelman
Interestingly, Pantheon published this in a format that makes it look like a traditional book, rather than a graphic novel. It's a story that will likely have the most fans outside of comics lovers: a memoir of a childhood in a 1950s Brooklyn candy shop, with a dysfunctional family and the shadow of the Holocaust looming on one side and 1970s urban blight on the other. I like the concept slightly more than the execution -- Lemelman's drawings of people get kind of mushy and indistinguishable -- but it's an interesting addition to the world of New York nostalgia books as well as graphic memoirs.

What Was Lost
by Catherine O'Flynn

How am I NOT going to read a book recommended by David Mitchell as one of his favorite young authors? And the connections to Mitchell's work are clear: it's a compassionate and realistic world, tinged with the supernatural in a way that enriches rather than cheapens the story. O'Flynn is the only writer I've ever encountered who has really examined the strange tragedy that is the contemporary indoor shopping mall; her evocation of the bleak lives of the employees, the artificial "shopping experience" so carefully preserved with smells, music, and security, and the very old-fashioned sacrifices made to christen the new development, is chilling and familiar. The main characters are believably, hopelessly human, and their redemption is both surprising and inevitable. Can't wait to read more by this young Welsh writer -- and I wish more authors would write about retail culture like this.

When You Were A Tadpole And I Was A Fish
by Martin Gardner

A random impulse purchase from the strand, this is a wonderfully random collection of essays on topics from God to poetry to politics -- always reasoned, never pedantic, though sometimes a little irritated at encountered stupidity. The author, an Oklahoma mathematician who writes for Scientific American, is someone I look upon with great respect, and would love to have a beer or a cup of tea with.

You Were Wrong
by Matthew Sharpe

This is the book I feel worst about failing to review earlier -- because it is an amazing, strange, and incomparable small novel, and more people should read it. It was sent to me by the author, whom I know slightly as a bookstore customer (his novel The Sleeping Father was a sleeper hit), and who enjoys a sort of indie cult following. You Were Wrong is a sort of an indie love story... and sort of a mystery... and sort of a country song... and sort of a horror/suspense novel... and sort of a comedic romp... and sort of an exploration of race and family and exploitation and class... and sort of campy... and sort of surreal... and sort of earnest... and it has the best closing paragraph I have read all year. You have to read the whole book to get to it, though, and if you think you can guess how the twists and turns of the plot will go... well, you'll be wrong.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

BBC Top 100

Aw, thanks, Russel. Now obviously the ALP and I had to test our mettle against this list. Next, I hope to post a list of this year's books.

Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Bold those books you've read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read an excerpt. Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so I can see your responses...

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen JSB, MJB
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien JSB
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte/b> JSB, MJB
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (all)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee JSB, MJB
6 The Bible JSB (MJB)
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte MJB
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell JSB, MJB
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman JSB
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens JSB, MJB
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott JSB
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller MJB
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare JSB, MJB
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier JSB, MJB
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien JSB
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger JSB, MJB
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot JSB, MJB
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald JSB, MJB
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens MJB
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams MJB
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh JSB
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky MJB
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck MJB
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll JSB, MJB
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame JSB, MJB
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy MJB
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens MJB
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis JSB
34 Emma – Jane Austen JSB, MJB
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen JSB, MJB
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis JSB, MJB
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere JSB
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne JSB
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell JSB, MJB
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown MJB
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins MJB
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery JSB
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood MJB
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding JSB, MJB
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan MJB
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen JSB, MJB
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon JSB
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens JSB, MJB
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley JSB, MJB
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon JSB
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez JSB
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck MJB
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov MJB
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt MJB
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold JSB
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas MJB
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac JSB, MJB
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding JSB
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville JSB, MJB
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens MJB
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker JSB, MJB
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett JSB
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath JSB
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome JSB
78 Germinal – Emile Zola MJB
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray MJB
80 Possession – AS Byatt JSB, MJB
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens JSB, MJB
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell JSB
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro MJB
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert JSB, MJB
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White JSB, MJJB
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle JSB, MJB
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad JSB, MJB
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery MJB
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks MJB
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams MJB
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas MJB
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare JSB, MJB
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl JSB, MJB
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Hey, Joe.

Joe Drabyak died on Friday. Long live Joe Drabyak.

I'm having a hard time getting my head around this. I sat next to Joe at a dinner in April. We compared notes on the appetizer. Everyone said he looked a little skinny but he brushed it off. That was only four months ago.

Forgive the maudlin bits for a moment. I can hear exactly how Joe said the phrase "Noir Bar." I can hear the way he would start a sentence hesitantly, as though it was just coming to him, and then deliver an idea so fluid and articulate it was clear he'd either just rehearsed the whole thing in his head, or he'd known exactly what he thought for a long time.

He presided over the meetings of the NAIBA board in a manner that was truly presidential: that is, he listened to everybody else. He was the voice of reason when things got heated. He wasn't afraid of new ideas, but he was a great respecter of everyone's concerns.

One of the ideas he supported was Emerging Leaders. He was a natural mentor to me and a lot of younger booksellers (as others have expressed), so the idea of providing a network for their education and support must have made sense to him. But that didn't stop him from teasing us about it. He wouldn't stop referring to himself and other over-40 booksellers as "Declining Leaders," despite my embarrassed protests.

What I'm sure he knew, despite his characteristic jokiness, was that that's not how we thought of him. He was an Established Leader. He was what we aspired to. He wasn't a store owner, he was a masterful professional bookseller, embodying everything we hoped to become.

He always joked, though. I think he joked most when things were serious. His emails after his diagnosis had us cracking up through our tears. There were a lot of groaners -- bad puns and silly costumes. That was part of the style. It must have been what made him such a good handseller on the bookstore floor -- he was like an old vaudevillian, making himself look goofy and winning everyone over.

I want him to be the Quizmaster for literary trivia again. I want him to be able to read all the book he ran out of time for. I want to ask him about the book that changed his life, about why he became a bookseller, about what he thought about on his solitary smoke breaks, about why he wasn't afraid. I didn't even know him that well.

I know what he wanted, though. He wanted to be Joe. And he is.

Someone who lives a life in books can hardly deny that some characters, some creators, live a long time after their deaths. Joe Drabyak put too much of his exuberant life in too many places for him to disappear. He helped create a new generation of booksellers. He taught us ideas and practices that will take on lives of their own. Not to mention his name lives on attached to characters in more than half a dozen mystery novels. I can imagine him twinkling about that, another great joke.

Hey, Joe. We miss you already. I hope we can live up to what you offered us.

Long live Joe.