Friday, February 26, 2010

One little book that could...

University Press books are often lumped into categories like: academic, obscure, expensive. And that certainly can be the case but is by no means an accurate assessment of most books printed by Univ. presses. Mara Faulkner, OSB, has written a fine book that is part memoir of her father's blindness, a look at retinitis pigmentosa(which she, too, has) and a larger meditation on blindness in the many forms it can take.

Here is the publisher's page. I'm also going to link to an interview she's done with Luke Mancuso where they discuss not only her book but a new course she's teaching entitled The Past, Present and Future of the Book. Scroll to the bottom of the page for the audio. It is an hour long piece and I found it to be enlightening--a discussion with two people who greatly love books but also aren't willing to stick their heads in the sand.

"Going Blind" discusses a great list of other books that deal with blindness. More than anything else I could say, I should simply state that it is a book filled with grace in both its language and its treatment of the people within. It should not be limited to an academic or niche audience. It has loads of potential as a general interest book and for book groups. It is memoir without the fireworks or madness nearly required by its categorization. It's just good.

Up-front: The book I'm discussing is by a former college professor of mine. She was a marvelous teacher and mentor. But the truth is that I know a lot of people with books and I don't go around pimping just anything.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What we've been doing...

The last week has been an eventful one here at good old Micawber's. The building we're in is old--1890's--and it has its share of quirks for both better and worse. As the pictures above show pretty well, we had some severe leaking from both ice dams and a broken pipe in between our ceiling and the floor of the apartment above us. With luck, only three books* were lost but a tremendous amount of water came into the store. So that kept us both busy and worried.

A customer mentioned to me that the only thing worse than water is fire and that very same day we found out that two local restaurants and a gift shop had burned to the ground in Minneapolis. So it was hard to feel too bad for ourselves.

On the plus side, we hosted a book launch event with 'Speaking of Faith' radio host Krista Tippett last night. Her new book "Einstein's God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit" is out today. It was a great event in all terms. She was extremely interesting and the Q&A was much more than the usual banter. We had a packed house and it reminded me, again, that events like this are about so much more than book sales.

Now that the water has stopped dripping I'll get back to posting about book stuff.

*Anne Tyler's "Digging to America" and Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court" were lost. As was a very nice Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of "Huckleberry Finn" which, oddly, looks even prettier with a bit of water damage. Apologies, Mr. Sam Clemens.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Stacy Mitchell article regarding taxes and Amazon

This was sent to me by Mary Hamel, the executive director of MIBA(Metro Independent Business Aliance) and, us usual, Mitchell has some good things to say.

Take a look.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Event tomorrow night--Michael J. White

A friend of mine from college days will be reading at Micawber's tomorrow night at 7 p.m. He is a creative, funny and all-around interesting man. His novel follows suit. It would give me great pleasure to see a nice crowd here to listen to Mike read from, "Weeping Underwater Looks A Lot Like Laughter."

And for all those elsewhere--go take a look at your local bookstore.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


You know the feeling that you have when you love something(a band, a restaurant, a city) and you feel like it's a perfect little secret?Then it gets a great review or ends up on the cover of a magazine and you can feel the bubble pop a little. Well, that's how I felt when I was flipping through Vanity Fair a couple weeks ago and saw the little profile on Persephone Books. And despite my initial misgivings, I am very happy to share them with the world. Based in the UK, and that's where a majority of their titles are only available. However, in the past few years they've been slowing rolling out some American titles.

The American editions do not have the famously understated gray jackets. Instead, they have wonderfully evocative jacket art with colors that jump at you. Ultimately, though, the art is just a little bonus. It's the writing and the kind of writing that keeps readers coming back. This mostly historical stuff. Mostly written by women. The magazine piece refers to a "cult following" and we are certainly finding that to be true here.

We're getting all titles as they become available and have a nice little display set up right now. Photo credit goes to super rep Steve Horwitz.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Shifting is the new stable

The book industry is currently in a massive sea change on any number of levels. The economy, on the whole, is still in the tank. People are constantly looking for what is cheapest. Technology is making almost everything shift weekly. It's all a giant mess, in short.

So I'm getting to this latest piece of news after it started, peaked and resolved itself in a very bizarre manner. But it is still worth noting that MacMillan told Amazon to take a long walk off a short pier over this past weekend. With Apple's new I-Pad becoming a serious player, MacMillan told Amazon they no longer were willing to sell all e-books for $9.99 In the past this might not have meant much since Amazon had such a strangle-hold on the e-purchasing world. But, finally, a publisher was taking a stand and had some significant backstanding.

Amazon released what amounted to a press release to their Kindle owners and it was full of linguistic gymnastics, legalese and total nonsense. One part read that since MacMillan had "a monopoly" on all its titles nothing could be done. MacMillan has as much of a monopoly on its titles as any farmer has on the seeds he/she has purchased.

In any case, there are lots of places that have dissected this issue with more intelligence and grace than I ever could. Check out Melville House's ideas here which are always reasoned. Second, take a look at something that my friend Melanie, from Hungry Mind days gone by, sent to me.

Even though we have no real desire to enter the e-fray at this point it does, obviously, concern us greatly. And while Amazon has become a much larger predator towards independent business in all fields it is good to see some people start to fight back.