The Seattle Antiquarian Bookfair is coming October 10th & 11th

Our thanks, again, to our current event sponsor The Seattle Antiquarian Bookfair. If you love books, especially rare, not to mention ephemera, and collectables, you’ll really enjoy the fair. There’s a great video on our sponsor page that shows a view at last years event. Don’t miss it — and be sure to thanks them for sponsoring The Seattle Review of Books.

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A real American hero

Published September 28, 2015, at 11:52am

Paul Constant review Ted Rall's Snowden.

Edward Snowden's revelations changed the world, but we as a nation have done almost nothing to solve the problem of NSA wiretapping.. In a biography of Snowden, cartoonist Ted Rall argues that our inaction is letting a hero down.

Read this review now

Your Week in Readings: The best events from September 28th to October 4th

MONDAY It’s not very often that I send you out to Bellevue, but tonight I bring you a very good reason to head east: the Bellevue branch of University Book Store hosts an evening with a number of poets reading from Raising Lily Ledbetter, a compelling anthology of poetry about women at work that I reviewed a few weeks ago. Readers include Carolyne Wright, Eugenia Toledo, Kathya Alexander, Deborah Woodard, Judith Roche, Erin Fristad, and Mary Ellen Talley.

TUESDAY Cartoonist Ted Rall will discuss his excellent comic-book biography of Edward Snowden at Town Hall tonight. He’ll be interviewed onstage by some jerk named Paul Constant, who press materials inform us is the co-founder of a site called the Seattle Review of Books.

So because we here at SRoB have a conflict-of-interest rule that insists we provide an alternate event on nights when we’re taking part in a reading, our ALTERNATE TUESDAY: event is a doozy: Seattle Arts and Lectures presents an evening with poets Mary Szybist and Robert Wrigley. Szybist is interested in what it means to have a body, and Wrigley writes about nature and spirituality in a very interesting way. Expect a smart discussion about corporeality and its limits.

WEDNESDAY We’ve got a two-fer tonight: First up, awesome small press festival Short Run, which is preparing a month’s worth of events in October, presents a Zine and Comix Fair in the lobby of Northwest Film Forum. After the fair, though, you should head down to Vermillion for the 5th anniversary celebration of Seattle’s other great small-press festival, the APRIL Festival. Readers include Stacey Levine, who is one of the best short story writers in all of Seattle and such an incredible reader of her own work that she released a single on Sub Pop, and Don Mee Choi, who is one of my favorite local poets. Think of it as a mini-lit crawl with two stops!

THURSDAY Ravenna Third Place Books hosts Ryan Boudinot, Paul Constant, Eric Reynolds, and Sonora Jha having a panel discussion about Seattle’s literary scene to celebrate the release of Boudinot’s new book, Seattle: City of Literature. Reynolds is an editor at Fantagraphics, which means he works on some of the best comics in America. Boudinot, most recently, is the author of The Octopus Rises. And Jha is the local author of a great novel called Foreign that was for some reason only published in India, but which you can buy at Elliott Bay Book Company.

And because I’m on that panel, your ALTERNATE THURSDAY event is at University Book Store, where the wonderful writer Lauren Groff presents her new and much-ballyhooed novel Fates and Furies, which is described as a “portrait of a modern marriage told with the fury and force of a Greek myth.”

FRIDAY Hugo House hosts a big splashy launch party for Seattle: City of Literature, featuring Ryan Boudinot, Rick Simonson, Jim Lynch, Elissa Washuta, Charles Mudede, and Brian McGuigan.

SATURDAY Elliott Bay Book Company hosts Ian Brennan and Bob Forrest. The authors will discuss Brennan's novella, Sister Maple Syrup Eyes, and Forrest’s memoir Running With Monsters. Forrest apparently has something to do with a show called Celebrity Rehab, and his book includes reminiscences of River Phoenix’s death.

SUNDAY The Beacon Hill branch of Seattle Public Library hosts a free screening of the movie The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 and also hosts a discussion of the book on which the movie is based. The film series is set to conclude this fall, which makes this an interesting time to discuss the final book in the series. Half of the book has already been (poorly) adapted, so what’s the second half going to be like? Is there a chance that the Hunger Games film series can rebound and reclaim the greatness of its second installment? Is Mockingjay even a good book to begin with? These questions, and more, will finally be settled once and for all. (No pressure!)

The Sunday post for September 27, 2015

Unlearning: How rigorous self-assessment can transform your perspective

This absolutely wonderful article by Tiff Fehr, a senior developer at the New York Times (and Seattleite, now once-removed) will delight all word nerds early on. But keep reading, it includes actually non-trivial life-advice. (Also, her tl;dr burn is sick).

I doubt any readers stumbled over the word unlearning. We know negative prefixes (a-, anti-, dys-, in-, ir-, non-, un-, etc) and how they convey the inverse or opposite2 of a concept. Yet there was a time when that was new to “common” languages like English. To make it happen, negative prefixes needed to make their way via translation from the elite, literate world to the written local dialect and then into common speech.

Un- is fun among the negatives because it can express both a lack of something (unhappy) but also actions not yet performed (unread) or actions undone (undone). One of the early uses of the English root unlearn was by educated elites when they referred to common people lacking in education as the unlearned. Illiteracy was a huge socioeconomic hurdle—those “unlearned” people had to take oral recitations of translated works on faith, including rather important things like legal documents and mass. Unlearning emerged not long after, within the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation was a cultural revolt in Europe, starting in 1517 with Martin Luther’s “Ninety-Five Theses”—in Latin, railing against a corrupt, oppressive church—and concluding around 1617, shortly after “The Tempest” and the final works of Shakespeare.

The Author of Our Best SF Military Novel Explains the Future of War

Brian Merchant talks to Joe Haldeman about his classic SF novel, The Forever War.

As William Gibson notes in the blurb on the front of my paperback copy, “To say that The Forever War is the best science fiction war novel ever written is to damn it with faint praise.” It’s one of the best books about war, period, and it’s telling that the other accolades listed come from literary lights like Jonathan Lethem and Junot Diaz, who calls it “perhaps the most important war novel written since Vietnam.”

Haldeman was a veteran of that conflict—“I was drafted against my will, and went off to fight somebody else’s war,” as he put it—and the book projects the contours of his duty and subsequent return to civilian life into a future marked by what is almost literally forever war. Its power lies in the expert co-mingling of hyperbolic allegory with gritty speculation. It’s about a war that literally damn near never ends, one that spans the furthest reaches of space and time; the fighting can happen anywhere and is potentially everywhere. The protagonist, an almost-anagrammed stand-in for Haldeman named Mandella, is hurled across far reaches of the galaxy to fight a poorly understood, apparently undefeatable foe.

The Absolutely True Story of Banned Books

Seattle's own Real Change looks at banned books, and why they get banned. Surprise! It's because people are small minded about differences.

People attempt to ban or bar books from schools or libraries for a variety of reasons, but increasingly, the most challenged books are either written by or about people of color. The top 10 most challenged books in 2014 included novels, comic books and picture books. Half of them are written by or feature prominent characters who are people of color. Others deal with same-sex parents, personal sexuality and abuse.
A Low and Distant Paradise

Friend of the SRoB Rahawa Haile wrote this lovely piece this week about losing her grandmother, Florida, Eritrea, refugees, and how one person can hold all of those things inside at once. Such a thoughtful, honest, and beautiful piece of writing.

My grandmother was born to the Italian lira, grew up under the British pound, revolted against the Ethiopian birr, lived under the American dollar in order to raise me, and died, finally, buried under her country’s first currency, the Eritrean nakfa. She was home to me, my link to a land generations had fought for and to the sand in Florida on which I played. A reminder of how far and against what odds my blood had traveled for the promise of autonomy. And now she was gone.

Rahawa Haile’s short stories of the day, of the previous week, for September 26, 2015

Every day, friend of the SRoB Rahawa Haile tweets a short story. She gave us permission to collect them every week. She’s archiving the entire project on Storify

This month's Humble Bundle features a whole passel of comics that have been banned. (In case you're not familiar with the premise, the Humble Comics Bundle offers e-book editions of comics for a single low price, with a set-your-own-amount of that price going directly to charity.) A lot of the books in this Bundle are first volumes of great series — Bone, Barefoot Gen — and others are wonderful standalone comics from artists like Julie Doucet, Leah Hayes, Chester Brown, and Jim Woodring. At least one of them is outright terrible — Garth Ennis's The Boys was an awful dirty joke of a comic that unjustly tied up artist Darick Robertson for way, wayyyy too long. Still, if The Boys is the worst book in there, I like them odds.

State of the union

Published September 25, 2015, at 11:57am

Paul Constant review Adam Rakunas's Windswept, and Robert Cantwell's The Land of Plenty.

Seattle author Adam Rakunas did something very interesting with his sci-fi noir novel: he made his main character a labor organizer. That installed his book into a long (but largely forgotten) tradition of fiction about unions.

Read this review now

Dear all literate adults of drinking age in Seattle: The Seattle Public Library is hosting a happy hour at the Diller Room on Monday, October 19th. Why more libraries don't encourage drinking, frankly, is beyond me. This happy hour is part of a new program that's running next month. I'll let SPL explain:

Throughout October The Seattle Public Library brings you Booktoberfest, a celebration of books and beer at venues all over the city. Check out additional events, including Librarians’ Revenge Trivia Rounds, Bookish Happy Hours, ‘Ales from the Crypt: Spooky Stories ‘n Suds and more. Come join us, grab a pint, and get bookish!

I'd also encourage you to go and meet your librarians and tell them how much you love them and then buy them a beer because librarians are magic people who deserve all the beer you can throw in their general direction. (Related: Have you commented on SPL's brand survey yet? Please do and then tell your friends to do the same; this is important.)

The Help Desk: So you're a man's man who loves romance novels

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to advice@seattlereviewofbooks.com.

Dear Cienna,

In the military I was taught to keep it high and tight—that's my hair, of course, but also a good attitude towards life. Efficient, controlled, prepared, and to the point. But, it turns out, I have a certain softness for rich Victorian fiction that curls in on itself and never leaves any aside unsaid. Middlemarch has stolen my heart. Jane Austen makes me giggle. Cienna, I'm a man's man. I should be reading spy novels and hard stuff. What is it about those books? What the hell is wrong with me?

Burt in Burien

Dear Burt,

No one is asking you to make your own beef jerky out of old cow parts, ejaculate on a pile of fawning virgins, or any other questionable chores ascribed to the elusive “man’s man.” There’s no conflict with loving military precision and efficiency, and enjoying romance novels. In fact, the two are very complementary.

A good romance novel allows you to suspend logic and control for a few hours and be swept up in an emotional story that manages to be dramatic through its inevitable happy ending. We all want happy endings; that’s the allure of the genre. And massage.

In fact, last month, after a particularly bad date that took place at a supermarket cheese counter – where I ingested an hour’s worth of free cubes while chanting, “My God, Cienna, which vindictive crone did you offend to deserve this romantic hellscape?” – I curled up with a Tillamook baby loaf and a feminist romance novel and read until I believed in the concept of romance again (the lurid sex scenes that somehow never include the word “penis” helped).

There is nothing wrong with you. I suspect your military buddies could say that you have shitty taste in books but it would be a pity to deny them that – one of life’s sweetest pleasures is judging other people’s reading lists. Plus, it’s not like you’re carrying around a signed copy of Left Behind.

I suggest you join a book club filled with people (most likely women) who will be thrilled to discuss Victorian bodice rippers with you and very impressed by how poetically you can describe a penis and breasts without ever using the word “penis” and “breasts.” Or, if you’re not quite ready to be out-and-proud about your taste in books, at least consider these feminist historical romance writers: Courtney Milan, Cecelia Grant and Sarah MacLean. I bet you’ll enjoy them.

KISSES,

Cienna

Portrait Gallery: Kate Beaton

Each week, Christine Larsen creates a portrait of a new author for us. Have any favorites you’d love to see immortalized? Let us know

Kate Beaton's new collection Step Aside, Pops is available now, and absolutely delightful.

After noting the news yesterday that e-book sales have dipped ten percent in the first five months of this year, I stumbled across this post on Good E-Reader, which indicates that e-books might be doing even worse than the numbers are letting on:

At Book Expo America last April, [e-book retailer] Kobo dived deep into global reading behavior and analyzed the data. They found that 60% of e-books that are purchased from their complete line of apps, e-readers, tablets and via the web are never opened. Interestingly, the more expensive the book was, the more likely the reader would at least start it.

Another tech firm found that "40 to 45% of e-books never get opened." Those numbers can't be sustainable; is there any other mass-market product (besides maybe condoms) where around half of all purchased items are never used?

Opening the Folio

Last night, in a stately room beneath the downtown YMCA, David Brewster welcomed a few dozen people to Folio, the Seattle Athenaeum. Brewster has done a lot of introducing in his life as a Seattleite — he’s the founder of the Seattle Weekly, Crosscut.com, and Town Hall Seattle. But you could argue that he’s never tried anything as ambitious as Folio before.

Brewster offered a brief overview of the athenaeum concept: originated by Benjamin Franklin as a way to help alleviate the high cost of books, athenaeums were private libraries dedicated to the prospect of “mutual improvement” — places where people could come together to read, write, and discuss literature. There are 19 athenaeums in the United States; when Folio opens in January of next year, it will be the 20th, but only the third on the west coast.

Folio is starting to come together quite nicely. The architecture of the downtown Y building is gorgeous, with high ceilings and intricate woodwork. As of right now, the space is made up of a few large rooms — they’re intended to be work and reading spaces, with varying degrees of quietude from “coworking” to “silence” — and a whole lot of books arranged in very little order on some IKEA shelves spread around the building. Brewster explained that the books will be organized into sections as in a bookstore, and they will be available for withdrawal from the library for paying members.

Folio will also be home to “author programs, civic programs, and music programs,” including events put on by a number of partners. Brewster gestured over to a large study and said that perhaps on Monday mornings a Proust discussion group will gather there, while on Thursday nights people might come together to read the works of Balzac. Folio has signed a 13-year lease for the space, and at this time next year it will expand into a similar set of rooms in the basement below the current space.

Brewster introduced Lisa Sanders, who had been hired just 36 hours before as Folio's first librarian. Sanders briefly sketched her life as a librarian, from the one-room library she patronized as a child in Maine to her work as a research librarian at the Gates Foundation. Sanders described her time in libraries largely through various infestations she has had to deal with — bats, squirrels, silverfish — and said that her primary love as a librarian is creating something new and of lasting value. Her excitement was palpable.

Guest speaker Knute Berger offered some historical perspective on libraries in Seattle. Seattle had its first library, Berger explained, before it had a working plumbed bath tub. He gave a brief overview of some of the first books ever introduced to the Seattle Public Library’s collections, including three books by Harriet Beecher Stowe that were not Uncle Tom’s Cabin and three books by J.G. Holland, a once-popular author who is now virtually forgotten.

It’s always exciting when a project is on the cusp of becoming something real — especially a project like Folio, which Brewster said has been in the works for about two years. It’s hard to look at the space and not picture someone curled up with a hardcover in the leather chair over by the window overlooking Marion Street, or a group of people sitting around a table discussing Sherman Alexie’s latest poetry collection, or someone closing herself in one of the private offices off to the side of the working stations and setting to work on her own novel.

But plenty of questions hang over the athenaeum. Will Seattleites really pay $120 a year (less for students and young people) for a library when one of the world’s most beautiful libraries is just up the street offering free membership to everyone? The crowd last night was almost 100 percent white; does Folio have any sort of a plan for diversifying its membership? In a city teeming with great literary events every night of the week, is there room for one more venue offering readings and book clubs?

Considering Brewster’s track record and the talent he’s accumulated to join the campaign for Folio, it seems as though he has a pretty good shot at succeeding. (Members of the campaign include Town Hall’s Stesha Brandon, Phinney Books’s Tom Nissley, Steve Scher, Garth Stein, and Mark Wessel.) Based on the audience last night, people seem eager to help in any way they can, donating rugs and furniture and time for the cause.

At the end of the night, Brewster indicated that Folio’s most pressing need, at the moment, was for donations of books. He promised the crowd that if they donate to the athenaeum, “we can take good care of your books, and we can put them in the hands of good people.” As a mission statement, that’s pretty compelling stuff.

Thursday Comics Hangover: Nameless finally gets off to a strong start

Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s comic Nameless is on its fifth issue this week, but it wasn’t until this issue that the premise of the series really hit home for me: it’s Armageddon, only the asteroid is haunted. That’s about as high concept as you can get, and if Morrison is nothing else, he’s fundamentally skilled at high concept.

It’s a pity that Nameless didn’t start off very well. The story opened in media res, with a nameless dabbler in the supernatural — well, to be specific, his name is Nameless — being recruited to fend off the asteroid Xibalba. The quick start perhaps wouldn’t have been as big of a problem if Morrison weren’t in his hyper-frustrating opaque mode, refusing to offer much by way of explanation for anything on the page. (Everyone knows too much exposition is a bad thing, especially in comics, but sometimes Morrison’s scripts practically throb for more explanation.)

But over the next four issues, as Morrison’s intent became more and more clear, Nameless became more and more interesting. The threat evolved into something imposing, the blending of astronauts and mysticism was explored in a little more depth, and the reader was granted enough understanding to care why everyone was doing what they were doing. This is a monthly comic that will improve drastically when it is all bound between two covers in trade paperback form.

One aspect of Nameless that is beyond complaint is Chris Burnham’s art. Burnham is one of those hyper-detailed cartoonists like Geoff Darrow or Frank Quitely, the sort of artist who can draw a complex facial expression in just a few feathery lines but then spends seemingly weeks fastidiously rendering every single water spot on the chrome of the kitchen sink in the background of the panel. That blend of cartoonishness and realism works especially well for a horror series; the familiarity of a simplistic cartoon face lulls the reader into complacency, even as a monstrous betentacled demon blossoms open behind the face, with every single vein in the creature’s eye fastidiously rendered. On a visceral level, this screams something-is-wrong into the reader’s face. It’s intrinsically unsettling.

Nathan Fairbairn’s coloring, too, is exceptional. He aspires to realism in some of the scenes — a few pages in issue 5, when a group of people wander into a spooky mansion, are glowing with gentle candlelight and the warmth of burnished wood — but then a few pages later he unleashes a full-page gaudy psychedelic tableau on the reader, an explosion of turquoise and lavender and vivid, toxic red.

Nameless issue 5 is where the whole series comes together. It tells more of Nameless’s story, explaining why he was in such dire straits at the start of issue number 1. On reading this issue, with its gore and melodrama and Lovecraftian pastiche, I was left wondering why Morrison didn’t start the series off here. With a concept like this, Morrison could’ve afforded to take his time and develop the threat a little more cautiously, starting as a “normal” paranormal comic and then building to the mystic astronaut angle. Perhaps when the miniseries is done and we can see the full canvas of Morrison’s story, this decision will make sense, but for now it reeks of a squandered opportunity.

Last week, I gave a talk at Ignite Seattle about the state of Seattle's literary scene, Amazon, and the future of literature. Here it is:

The submissions form for the next Ignite Seattle is now open; you can submit at any point between now and January 8th. I would recommend it. I'm not going to lie: the Ignite format, with its ever-advancing slideshow and its no-notes rule, is very intimidating. Public speaking doesn't freak me out, but the Ignite was downright scary. But the staff is super-friendly and supportive, and they supply all kinds of useful personalized advice and coaching for speakers. Honestly, they could charge for the quality of teaching they provide. If you ever wanted to communicate a message to a room full of 900 attentive folks, this is your best opportunity. Go apply now.

It matters that Kickstarter has reformed as a public benefit corporation

It’s obvious to anybody who has worked with Kickstarter: they really do walk the walk. To their core, they believe in the ethos of creation, and that their platform is a good way to empower creative people to fund their projects. Or, as the case often is, to test their idea in a very functional way and see if it has any legs.

But if you think of Kickstarter as a place where people make ridiculous coolers, tech gadgets, or million-selling games, you probably missed this part of their mission. Or, perhaps, that part of the mission seems like marketing fluff overlaid on an aggressively capitalist idea. Their announcement Sunday that they are reforming as a public benefit corporation underlines their ethos in a strong way.

That means, instead of going public and cashing out, Kickstarter is staying privately held. Being a public benefit corporation doesn’t change the ability to go private, but they are committing themselves to reporting and corporate responsibility in somewhat difficult and stringent ways. For example, they will report every year on their environmental and social performance, instead of every two, as is expected for a benefit corp. They also donate 5%, after taxes, to arts and equality causes, and have agreed to forgo loopholes or other means to circumvent taxes.

Why does this matter for publishing? At the XOXO festival last week, C. Spike Trotman talked about starting a comics publishing house when no distributor would touch her work. Using Kickstarter, she was able to find a following of dedicated fans and buyers that lead to her building Iron Circus Comics. Kickstarter allows creators, authors, and publishers to go direct to the consumers, circumventing any traditional gatekeepers.

It’s this independent ethos that lead me to run my own Kickstarter to publish my first novel instead of going through traditional channels. It allowed the scale of publishing to be smaller, where I could make a book run of 500 copies or so instead of thousands, and at the very least, break even doing it. Even after paying artists and editors for their help.

I asked Maris Kreizman, publishing outreach for Kickstarter (herself a creator! The amazing Slaughterhouse 90210 is hers, soon to be a book from Macmillian) if she had a comment on the change, and how it would affect indie creators:

“It’s more important than ever to create new opportunities for lesser-heard voices in publishing. Reincorporating as a Benefit Corporation renews our longstanding commitment to arts and culture, and part of that includes an explicit commitment to support creators from all walks of life and to signal boost marginalized voices.”

Exactly. Go Kickstarter. Let’s see more corporations putting their money where their mouths are.

Alexandra Alter at the New York Times reports that e-book sales have slipped for the first time in recent memory.

Now, there are signs that some e-book adopters are returning to print, or becoming hybrid readers, who juggle devices and paper. E-book sales fell by 10 percent in the first five months of this year, according to the Association of American Publishers, which collects data from nearly 1,200 publishers. Digital books accounted last year for around 20 percent of the market, roughly the same as they did a few years ago.

In addition, we've got more indepedent bookstores in America than we did in 2010: "The American Booksellers Association counted 1,712 member stores in 2,227 locations in 2015, up from 1,410 in 1,660 locations five years ago." In other words, e-books are here to stay, but so are print books. This is good news for everybody: we want more readers in the world, not less. And we want to get those books in front of readers in every way possible — in e-book format, in print, in audio. Books aren't going anywhere.

The staff of Seattle Mystery Bookshop recommends mysteries for people who think they hate mysteries

As I’ve gotten to know the staff of our September Bookstore of the Month a little better, I realized that Seattle Mystery Bookshop’s greatest strength is in its recommendations. The staff is impossibly well-versed in the genre. So I thought I’d ask them for some recommendations for our readers, particularly those of you out there who would never normally consider giving a mystery a try. Thanks so much to Seattle Mystery Bookshop owner JB Dickey and his staff (Fran, Adele, and Amber) for agreeing to do this. If any of these titles interests you, please stop by Seattle Mystery Bookshop to check them out, and tell them the Seattle Review of Books sent you. If you’re not in Seattle, feel free to order directly from their website; all the books are linked for your convenience.

In your opinion, what's the best single mystery for someone who thinks they hate mysteries?

JB: Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye – as much a novel about friendship as a mystery, and there are set-pieces of Chandler’s literature that are not to be missed.

Fran: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. It’s a coming-of-age story, it’s a building thunderstorm, it’s brilliant. And it doesn’t read like a mystery, but there’s a mystery at the heart of it.

Amber: There are so many! For those with an urban fantasy bent, The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is a great place to start. The story centers on a woman who has her personality/memories stolen; she needs to find out who did this to her as well as who is a traitor to the crown. This book has a strong heroine who never falls into the trap of relying on a romantic relationship to save the day! If you are looking for a classic I would highly suggest Endless Night by Agatha Christie. It moves along really well, is one of the author’s favorites, and is an absolute classic! Not quite as well-known as And Then There Were None, Murder Of Roger Ackroyd or Murder On The Orient Express – it’s a good one to start with because you run into less spoilers in pop culture as to whodunit!

What the best mystery series for someone who think they hates mystery series?

JB: Craig Johnson’s Longmire series – literate, funny, moving books about the people and landscape with echoes of everything American. Easy to read them and love them and to not think of them as "mysteries." You have to read them in order because there are hints of things to come and references to past books in each.

Fran: Thomas Perry’s Jane Whitefield series is great. Jane is a Seneca woman who helps people with legitimate reasons to disappear. Her rules are stringent and she will die before revealing her secrets. I was initially skeptical about a man writing from a woman’s perspective, but I have to say that Mr. Perry has created a truly unique, intriguing and captivating series. Start with Vanishing Act. But too, I have to agree with JB about the Longmire series!

Adele: Louise Penny’s Gamache series. At the start of the series, Gamache is Chief Inspector of the Sûreté du Québec who is always investigating happenings in Three Pines, a lovely village in southern Quebec where we all want to live despite the fact that people are always dying there. Louise has developed characters that you care about and cannot wait until the next book to see what happens. The series didn’t really catch me until the second book but they must be read in order (the first may not be skipped) due to the development of the main characters. When I first came to work at the bookshop, I ended up reading a lot of authors so that I could answer the question of “now that I am caught up with the Louise Penny series, what am I going to read until the next book?” Still Life is the first in the series. And let me echo JB and Fran about Craig Johnson!

Amber :This one is tricky…most of the reluctant readers I run into are kids. So the series I always suggest to them are for middle graders and up – Jasper Fforde’s The Last Dragonslayer, which features Jennifer Strange, the acting manager for Kazaam (an employment agency for wizards) who finds herself embroiled in a plot to kill the last dragon in England. This whole series has a great sense of humor and never takes itself too seriously — there are a bunch of single kids’ titles which are great, but Jasper Fforde’s series is one of my all time favorites!

What’s the best mystery you've read lately?

JB: Don Winslow’s The Cartel, A David Lean saga of the horrific drug war along the US/Mexican border – timely and timeless lyrically told.

Fran: I just finished the science-fiction thriller Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein. Holy cow! Solid science (which could be overwhelming or boring but isn’t,) people to care about, clever humor, and non-stop action. Quite possibly the best of 2015, in my opinion.

Adele: Paul Cleave’s Trust No One. A mystery writer is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s and his career is ending. His twelve books contain stories of brutal murders committed by very awful men. As his mental balance breaks down, he starts confessing to horrible crimes. Did he commit them or has his writing world collapsed into his reality? I have never wanted to skip to the end of a book so badly. I didn’t and held out to the shocking end. This and The Cartel are the two of the best but JB got to the Winslow first!

Amber: Ben Aaronovitch’s Midnight Riot. Set in modern London, it is about Constable Peter Grant who discovers a witness to a brutal murder. The only thing is this witness is a ghost and when he lets this slip to Detective Chief Inspector Nightingale, his entire career takes a left-hand turn. Each book has its own crime, plus an overarching storyline which builds in tension with each book. It is one of the few police procedurals based on magic, which I find absolutely fantastic.

Mail call for September 22, 2015

This wasn’t a part of the SRoB haul, but we did take delivery of 550 books from the printers this weekend. For those of you who don’t work in publishing, here’s what 550 books packed on a pallet look like: