A Veritable Smorgasbord

November 28, 2012

Here at The King’s English, booksellers have been gathering and devouring the new fall books like squirrels gorging on nuts in preparation for winter. In the process we’ve gathered some wonderfully hearty treats for you and those you love, whether what piques your interest is fine fiction or picture books, espionage, humor or history.

Well-written fiction for the middle reader that steers clear of young-adult content is rare, and an author that is as smart and funny as Rebecca Stead is rarer still. Stead’s new novel, Liar & Spy, one of our booksellers first recommendations this season, was an instant New York Times bestseller. Like the dazzling Newbery Medal book When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy will keep readers guessing until the end. Creepy, gritty, edgy, disgusting, and fascinating—all words that describe book two of Ilsa Bick’s Ashes trilogy, Shadows. Bick is laying the groundwork for book three, drawing a picture of a dark and scary world in which readers will not find redemption or resolution (at least not until later) but will be engrossed (or is it grossed out?) by this fast-paced monster-filled novel. Daniel Handler, who also writes under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket, has collaborated with acclaimed artist and designer Maira Kalman, to create an extraordinary book about an ordinary event: Why We Broke Up. In her new novel for middle readers, The Great Unexpectedby Sharon Creech, Lizzie and Naomi struggle to figure out their own relationship and how they fit into their families, into their community and Finn, a mysterious and charming boy, drops out of a tree and into their lives, while Mrs. Kavanaugh, who lives in the south of Ireland and loves a good murder, looks for revenge. Creech alternates these two seemingly disparate stories, throwing in a Dingle-Dangle Man, a crooked bridge, three mysterious trunks, and several rooks. Our list of picks for the middle readers and young adults wraps up with The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, and What Came From the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt.

And if amazing picture books are what you are in search of, look no further than This Is Not My Hat, by Jon Klassen. Visual humor swims to the fore as the bestselling Klassen follows his fabulous first book, I Want My Hat Back, with another seriously funny tale. We did not think that Doreen Rappaport could ever write a better picture book than Martin’s Big Words until we read Helen’s Big World! In 48 pages, the reader receives an unforgettable picture of this American icon as the authors mix Keller quotes with biography and compelling artwork. Helen Keller’s lifelong courage and tenacity are celebrated in this amazing book. In this gentle and joyous board book with an environmental theme, Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell, Jules proves a hug is the simplest–but kindest–gift we can give. The Christmas Quiet Book, written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Renata Liwska is a lovely little book that celebrates the hushed moments of a season that too often shouts. Like its bestselling companions The Quiet Book and The Loud Book, The Christmas Quiet Book is especially notable for its warm and lovely illustrations. (Plush toys available!)

And for the fiction-lover in your life, be prepared for treats beyond your wildest expectations. We are not exaggerating… Starting with a joyride of a read, Mrs. Queen Takes the Train follow the Queen, yes, of England, in current day, as she slips out of her royal residence in a hoodie and embarks on a truly entertaining excursion, bringing the reader along. And there’s a good reason The Round House, a novel by Louise Erdrich, won the National Book Award this year. Like all of Erdrich’s novels, The Round House taps into the history, the mythology, the collective wisdom of past generations, yet she is as concerned with the past’s connection to the present as she is with the tale’s action, and her lyrical investigations of life involve much more than immediate reality. Combine the ebullient erudition of Lawrence Norfolk’s Lempiere’s Dictionary with the sensory engagement and passion for food of John Lancaster’s infamous A Debt to Pleasure, stir in a soupçon of myth and history, and sprinkle liberally with the romance and narrative verve of The Night Circus and you’ll have some idea of Norfolk’s new confection of a novel, John Saturnall’s Feast. And Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan is a terrific read and a great reminder that books are here to stay…forever! Kevin Powers, a veteran of Iraq, has etched a powerful picture of reality in his new novel The Yellow Birds, and created a compelling awareness of what our military men and women have been subjected to for the past decade. And there are plenty of great novels published earlier in the year, including Canada by Richard Ford, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, and The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin, and new in paperback fiction including The Marriage Plot, Salvage the Bones, What It Is Like to Go to War, American Dervish, To Be Sung Underwater, We the Animals AND State of Wonder. A plethora of delights!

If you’re still not sure what you want for your Aunt Sally or your 10-year-old niece, or for that plane ride you’re not looking forward to, we have a host of knowledgeable booksellers on hand who will not only recommend the right book, but also wrap it, mail it, or, if you’re doing your shopping by phone or e-mail, deliver it—the same day!

Tune in to KUER to hear Betsy on the Holiday Book Show!

December 8, 2010

Tune in to hear Betsy on Radio West (KUER, 90.1 FM) for the Holiday Book Show — this morning at 11 a.m., and again tonight at 7 p.m. (or always available as a podcast at http://www.kuer.org). She’ll be appearing with Ken Sanders and Catherine Weller, and the trio will cover the season’s best books for the holidays and beyond. Christmas shopping: nearly solved.

Betsy’s List

Literary yet Lively
Autobiography of Mark Twain edited by Harriet Elinor Smith, University of California, $34.95
Letters, Saul Bellow, edited by Benjamin Taylor, Viking, $35
40: A Doonesbury Retrospective by G. B. Trudeau, Andrews McMeel, $100

Collected Stories, Volume Two by William Trevor, Viking, $35
Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26
The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26
The Golden Mean by Annabell Lyon, Knopf, $24.95
Driving on the Rim by Tom McGuane, Knopf, $26.95
The Typist by Michael Knight, Atlantic Monthly, $20

Fiction in Paper
This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, Plume, $15
Border Songs by Jim Lynch, Vintage, $15
Chalcot Crescent by Fay Weldon, Europa, $15
My Driver by Maggie Gee, Telegraph, $13.95

A Lily of the Field by John Lawton, Atlantic Monthly, $24
Our Kind of Traitor by John Le Carré, Viking, $27.95
Three Stations by Martin Cruz Smith, Simon & Schuster, $25.99

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff, Little Brown, $29.99
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengence and Survival by John Valliant, Knopf, $26.95
Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954–1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Shines, and Anecdotes by Stephen Sondheim, Knopf, $39.95
The Emperor of All Maladies; the Biography of Cancer by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, Scribner, $30

Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $40
Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That by Ina Garten, Potter, $35
At Home with Madhur Jaffrey: Simple Delectable Dishes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka by Madhur Jaffrey, Knopf, $35

Art of the West
The Art of Maynard Dixon by Don Hagerty, Gibbs Smith, $75
A Place of Refuge: Maynard Dixon’s Arizona by Thomas Brent Smith, Tucson Museum of Art and History, University of Oklahoma Press. $49.95
Painters of Utah by Donna Poulton and Vern G. Swanson, Gibbs Smith, $75
Visions of the Big Sky by Don Flores, University of Oklahoma Press, $45

Children’s Books
It’s a Book by Lane Smith, Roaring Brook Press, $12.99
Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, Barack Obama, Illustrated by Loren Long, Knopf, $17.99
Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea, Delacorte, $16.99