guest post: Taylor Rick: "I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie. Big, Readable Books."

I'm excited to see guest submissions starting to roll in from more booksellers. (I really need to put together an official invitation post throwing the doors open wide to booksellers from all over.)

Today's guest entry is from Taylor Rick, a frontline bookseller and one of the buyers at Next Chapter Bookshop in Mequon, Wisconsin. If you follow the changing fortunes of independent bookstores at all, you'll recognize the name Next Chapter. It's one of the two new indie bookstores that opened after the closure earlier this spring of the four Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops in the Milwaukee area.

I'd like to take at least partial bragging rights for one of Taylor's picks - I was the sales rep who sold McSweeney's Books to the Schwartz stores at the time that The Children's Hospital came out, and I love that book like Taylor does. But the entire Schwartz company was always cross-pollinating the stores' staff picks, and they were huge fans of everything McSweeney's put out, so my claim is not rock solid. Either way, it's clear that Taylor is a great contributor for my3books!

I love big books. Great, big, epic stories spanning time and space. I love being thrown into a world that I know isn’t going away any time soon, where I can get lost for weeks (occasionally months) at a time. But, of course, I don’t always have the time or patience to spend weeks or months on one book, particularly if it’s not worthy of my precious time (the pile of books beside my bed is getting bigger every day, after all). So for my3books, I have three giant books that are well worth your time getting lost in, the shortest of which clocks in at 624 pages with a small typeface.

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The Children’s Hospital
by Chris Adrian
hardcover: McSweeney's Books | 9781932416602 | $24 | 2006
paperback: Grove Press | 9780802143334 | $14.95 | 2007

The Children’s Hospital is, simply, the most beautiful book I’ve ever read.

When it came out in 2006, I was working at the Bay View branch of the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops in Milwaukee. We led the country in sales of this hardcover book by an author no one had ever heard of, put out by a small publisher (McSweeney’s), mostly based on my handselling (not to discount the work of the four other booksellers working there with me, but this was my baby).

My sales pitch was simple: We had a mound of the books on the counter behind the front desk, and the cover was so striking people would just ask about it. I would point them in the direction of the leather chair at the front of the store and say, “Just read the first fifteen pages. It’s the most beautiful book I’ve ever read.” It sold every time.

At 624 pages, The Children’s Hospital is definitely a sizable tome. While it’s not perfect, it is astonishing nonetheless. Just read the first fifteen pages.

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Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945
by David M. Kennedy
Oxford University Press | 9780195144031 | $24.95 | 2001

I enjoy nonfiction, specifically Depression and Vietnam-era American history, but I find even the best nonfiction is rarely as engaging as the world’s great fiction. Not so with Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945. This volume of the Oxford History of the United States chronicles America from before the stock market crash to the end of World War II and is as readable (or more so) than most fiction I’ve read.

Kennedy uses remarkable prose for a work of history, keeping us grounded with occasional asides taking us to the front lines of both the Depression and World War II, reminding us of how the lives of everyday Americans were affected. You’ll fly through the 936 pages with ease. Also of note are the many eerie similarities between the beginnings of the Great Depression and our own current recession.

[Editor's note: It also won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 2000.]

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Anathem
by Neal Stephenson
hardcover: Morrow | 9780061474095 | $29.95 | Sept 2008
paperback: Harper | 9780061474101 | $7.99 | Sept 2009

I hate having to qualify that I’m not a fan of Science Fiction while saying that I love Neal Stephenson. He’s kind of an anti-science fiction writer in that he uses the occasional convention from the genre, but keeps everything grounded (mostly) in reality and never lets it get in the way of a good story.

Anathem is certainly no different, and, I feel, his best work to date. Mixing lots of science with a bit of speculation (the definition of Science Fiction, I suppose), the book is challenging at the start and dense throughout, but once the ball of the story starts rolling it doesn’t stop.

Stephenson’s invented a new yet familiar world in which to get lost, and once you’re hooked you’ll find yourself reading chunks of a hundred pages or more in a sitting.

Taylor Rick
Next Chapter Bookshop

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>> To see what other books Taylor and his fellow booksellers at Next Chapter are raving about, check out their staff picks. You can also follow Next Chapter's owner, Lanora Hurley, on Twitter.