Sunday, August 12, 2012

Uncommon Bestsellers l #84-100

You'd probably noticed it's been something of a ghost town around here the last few days. And if you hadn't, there's still time. I've been out of town, with limited access to a computer, as they say, or even halfway decent coffee (but that's another story), and frankly it's just not the same without the felt presence of my fellow booksellers behind me as I pensively stare at the screen, "thinking about something," while they move what sound like heavy things. 

Anyway, my apologies, all around. But here we are, working for the weekend, and in time to count down our last six or seven titles on July's bestseller list. So buckle up or loosen up or whatever puts you in the mood to feign interest in the drama that is independent book sales. 

83. Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel - "Comic Books" or "Graphic Novels"? The great debate continues for enthusiasts and sort of lingers for the rest of us. But Bechdel's book I'd say tends toward the latter moniker, based mostly on my feeling that it's heavy.

84. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley - Not to be confused with books on actually baking pies, turns out. I won't go into detail, but take it from me, the results are humiliating. Common Good Books' resident tastemaker of crime fiction, Elmer Pierre, gobbled up the series, starring Flavia de Luce, in addition to these others which are of no help in the kitchen at the last minute before people come. 

86. The Devil All the Time, by Donald Ray Pollock - is so unsettling and so good I made Joe start a book club podcast, ostensibly to review books unsuitable for book clubs, so I'd have someone to talk to about my fear of walking home that night. But can you blame me? I mean, look at this guy! The truth is that I faced my fears and went to hear Ray Pollock read last month in Minneapolis, only to find out that in person and reality the man's one of the gentlest, most unassuming authors that I've ever met. As our friend Hans at Micawbers says, it's the ones who don't get all the weird stuff out you have to worry about. But still! I searched and searched and this is the best picture I could find. It's like photographers keep showing up at the most inconvenient times. Like earlier that day he said, "Really guys, today's not good, I'm burying my dog," and this understandably bad picture is the thanks he gets, along with the proliferation of an unjust public image that says "Here's a guy who's pissed no matter what or where he finds himself: Knockemstiff, Panera Bread, some kind of award ceremony. Makes no difference to the P-Man." 

87. Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask, by Anton Treuer - Sally Fling writes that Treuer, a professor at Bemidji State University, "provides plainspoken answers to more than 120 questions—about gaming, long hair, poverty, Leonard Peltier, mascots, tribal attitudes about homosexuality, Indian cars, boarding schools, and more—that he’s been asked during his lectures," all in under 200 pages. Published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press and reviewed here in the Star Tribune.

88. Knit Your Own Dog, by Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne - You'll notice that I'm not including links here to the books, and this book about fake dogs, the one who has to "ruin it for everybody," is precisely the reason why, not to mention its companion volume about cats. As I wrote in my original Weird Book of the Month review, back when I thought books like these, like non life-threatening diseases, were meant to come and go and not continue to spark interest bordering on disbelief amidst approximately one hundred thousand other books to choose from: 

"Knitting books, it seems, have gone the way of the general poetry anthology. Which is to say, there are currently so many that the subject of each one is necessarily more spurious and obscure than that which came before it. Thus in the spirit of such titles as Poems for Taking a Dump and Knit Your Own Book About Knitting, which may in fact already exist, I present you with a book that with a little luck, and inherent fascination, can help you knit yourself the life you dreamed heretofore of living."

The "real life" look and feel of moral relativism
96. It's Even Worse Than It Looks, by Thomas E. Mann and Norman Ornstein - Trust me. 

99. Life on Mars, by Tracy K. Smith - A book of poems (narrowly squeezing) in (the tail end of) a bestseller list? Believe it! Since the publication of Smith's debut, The Body's Question, I've been hooked on Smith's straightforwardly mind-bending questions about race, family, and love, and her latest book from Graywolf Press, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, brims with dystopian insight into the possibility of life, without conflict or pain; a life perhaps afforded by the comfort of fake animals.

100. Already Pretty: Learning to Love Your Body by Learning to Dress it Well, by Sally McGraw - Why not end on a local writer whose popular and positive style and body image blog has been turned into a book that from the moment it arrived seemed to call out to women of all ages, as if burrowed in its pages was some kind of electronic signaling device. Rest assured, there's not. Nor is there much to offer men who'd like to be told that they're perfect just the way God made them, too. Which is why I'm in the process of developing a sister site to The Front List called Already Manly: Learning to Love Your Body by Learning to Use a Drill Bits. 

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