New Books! 7/21/15

The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives by Stephen Buchmann

9781476755526Flowers, and the fruits that follow, feed, clothe, sustain, and inspire all humanity. They have done so since before recorded history. Flowers are used to celebrate all-important occasions, to express love, and are also the basis of global industries. Americans buy ten million flowers a day and perfumes are a worldwide industry worth $30 billion dollars annually. Yet, we know little about flowers, their origins, bizarre sex lives, or how humans relate and depend upon them. Stephen Buchmann takes us along on an exploratory journey in this engaging, lively, and definitive cultural history of the beauty, sexuality, ecology, myths, lore, and economics of the world’s flowers, written by a passionately devoted author and scientist, and illustrated with his stunning photographs.

Lovers on All Saints’ Day: Stories by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

9781594634260A Colombian writer is witness to a murder that will mark him forever. A woman sits alone in her house, waiting for her husband to return from an expedition to find wood for their stove, while he lies in another woman’s bed a few miles away, unable to heal the wound in his own marriage. In seven powerful stories, Vasquez achieves an extraordinary unity of emotion with these fragmented lives. There are love affairs, revenge, troubled pasts, and tender moments that reveal a person’s whole history in a few sentences. Set in Europe and never before available in English, this collection evokes a singular mood and a tone while showcasing Vasquez’s hypnotic writing. Vasquez is a humane, deeply insightful writer, and these stories leave one feeling transformed from the experience of reading them, with a greater vision of humanity and society, a greater understanding of relationships and of love.

The Novel Habits of Happiness: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel by Alexander McCall Smith

9780307907356The insatiably curious Edinburgh philosopher and amateur sleuth Isabel Dalhousie returns, taking on a case with paranormal implications. Through a mutual acquaintance, Isabel is introduced to a six-year-old boy who has been experiencing vivid recollections of a past life, which include a perfect description of an island off the coast of Scotland and a house on the island where he claims to have lived. When the boy’s mother asks Isabel to investigate, Isabel naturally feels inclined to help, and so she, her husband, Jamie, and their son, Charlie, set off for the island. To their great surprise, they actually locate the house that the boy described, which leads to more complicated questions, as Isabel’s desire to find rational explanations comes up against the uncanny mystery unfolding before her. It s an extraordinarily delicate situation that will require all of her skills, as both sleuth and philosopher, to solve.

The Redeemers by Ace Atkins (speaking & signing at BookPeople this Thursday at 7PM!)

9780399173943Quinn Colson is jobless, voted out of office as sheriff of Tibbehah County, Mississippi, thanks to the machinations of county kingpin Johnny Stagg. He has offers, in bigger and better places, but before he goes, he’s got one more job to do bring down Stagg’s criminal operations for good. At least that’s the plan. But in the middle of the long, hot summer, a trio of criminals stage a bold, wall-smashing break-in at the home of a local lumber mill owner, making off with a million dollars in cash from his safe, which is curious, because the mill owner is wealthy but not that wealthy. None of this has anything to do with Colson, but during the investigation, two men are killed, one of them the new sheriff. His friend, acting sheriff Lillie Virgil, and a dangerous former flame, Anna Lee Stevens, both ask him to step in, and reluctantly he does, only to discover that that safe contained more than just money–it held secrets.

Future Days: Krautrock and the Birth of a Revolutionary New Music by David Stubbs

9781612194745West Germany after World War II was a country in shock: estranged from its recent history, and adrift from the rest of Europe. But this orphaned landscape proved fertile ground for a generation of musicians who, from the 1960s onwards, would develop the strange and beautiful sounds that became known as Krautrock. Eschewing the easy pleasures of rock and roll and the more substantive seductions of blues and jazz, they took their inspiration from elsewhere: the mysticism of the East; the fractured classicism of Stockhausen; the grinding repetition of industry; the dense forests of the Rhineland; the endless winding of Autobahns. Faust, Neu!, Cluster, Ash Ra Tempel, Amon Duul II, Can, Kraftwerk–the influence of these groups music on Western popular music is incalculable. They were key to the development of movements ranging from post-punk to electronica and hip-hop and have directly inspired artists as diverse as David Bowie, Talking Heads, and LCD Soundsystem.

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

9781594203473Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else entirely: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life. Raised in California and Hawaii, Finnegan started surfing as a child. He has chased waves all over the world, wandering for years through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa. A bookish boy, and then an excessively adventurous young man, he went on to become a distinguished writer and war reporter. Barbarian Days takes us deep into unfamiliar worlds, some of them right under our noses off the coasts of New York and San Francisco. It immerses the reader in the edgy camaraderie of close male friendships annealed in challenging waves. It’s an old-school adventure story, an intellectual autobiography, a social history, a literary road movie, and an extraordinary exploration of the gradual mastering of an exacting, little understood art.

New in Paperback

New American Stories edited by Ben Marcus

9780804173544In New American Stories, the beautiful, the strange, the melancholy, and the sublime all comingle to show the vast range of the American short story. In this remarkable anthology, Ben Marcus has corralled a vital and artistically singular crowd of contemporary fiction writers. Collected here are practitioners of deep realism, mind-blowing experimentalism, and every hybrid in between. Luminaries and cult authors stand side by side with the most compelling new literary voices. Nothing less than the American short story renaissance distilled down to its most relevant, daring, and unforgettable works.

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