guest post: sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin Picks 3 Books About Living for Music

While I finish up my own next post on my3books, I was glad to receive a new post from my friend and fellow independent sales rep, Teresa Rolfe Kravtin.  You can see Teresa's earlier my3books posts here.

Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong
by Terry Teachout
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780151010899 | $30 | Dec 2009

A thorough examination of the life of a music legend and American cultural icon, this story is how one man overcame an enormous amount of personal challenges and societal obstacles, to become who he was meant to be: one of the most original, inspiring entertainers of a generation.

A music history education in one life, Louis Armstrong defined a new style of music in his own likeness. By sticking to what he enjoyed doing most, playing and singing music from the core of who he was, he set a standard that inspired innumerable musicians and listeners alike.

There were many critics along the way during Armstrong's decades' long career. In the end, however, there is no other jazz musician who has achieved the level of admiration and respect for his dedication to his craft. Equally, no other musician has ever left behind a collection of letters, recordings, and documents detailing life in the recording studio, on the road, in the movies, and on TV, as he did.

Author Terry Teachout says in the afterword,

"...this is surprisingly, the first fully sourced biography of Armstrong to be written by an author who is also a trained musician." It is a narrative biography, not scholarly, but interpretive of a life well documented by academic scholars. Additionally, Teachout had access to a wealth of archival material previously unavailable to biographers."

Poet Philip Larkin said of Armstrong, "It is already accepted -- or if it isn't, it soon will be -- that Louis Armstrong was an enormously important cultural figure in our century, more important than Picasso in my opinion, but certainly quite comparable," and further, "an artist of Flaubertian purity, and a character of exceptional warmth and goodness."

For music lovers, those interested in American culture and general entertainment, Teachout's biography of Louis Armstrong will be the standard bearer for years to come.


The Pat Metheny Interviews
by Richard Niles
Hal Leonard Publishing Corp. | 9781423474692 | $19.99 | Oct 2009

The Pat Metheny Interviews is an insightfully revealing dialogue between American jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny and Richard Niles, a renowned recording artist, composer, producer and songwriter; a proverbial eavesdropping on a conversation between two long-time friends and musicians.

Richard Niles first met Pat Metheny at Berklee College of Music in 1974. It's hard to imagine that Metheny would take the time and discuss his thoughts on his long career with anyone other than a close friend, given his admitted self-criticism and intense working schedule. As a reader, and a fan from the beginning, I am glad he did. Drawn from a series of interviews Niles made with Metheny on several occasions for a three-part series that originally aired on the BBC in 2007 titled Pat Metheny – Bright Size Life.

Metheny is a rare exception in the contemporary music scene. He is an artist who has had a long recording and touring career, continuing to attract and maintain a large and devoted audience for over thirty years. In The Pat Metheny Interviews, Metheny discusses his need for finding his own means of musical expression through composition. He details his dedication to practicing, his musical inspirations, the issues of sound and melody, addresses jazz as a genre, among other topics. What separates him from many other talented musicians, he attributes to his razor-like focus on what he wanted to do with his playing and knowing how he wanted to go about it from a very early age.

Informal in tone, the question and answer format is mostly easy to follow, even when it gets into discussions of abstract concepts. There are a few sections of musician lingo and music theory references that only musicians might appreciate. One of my personal favorite passages comes from the chapter on melody, wherein there is a discussion of the biological and physical responses to music:

“My favorite way of describing this [responses to music and melody] is that music is actually this gigantic mistake that we’re not actually supposed to know about. That in our sense of the universe around us there’s these tiny little crack that give us a window into everything that we can’t possibly understand because we’re not equipped to understand those things, because we don’t have the tools for them. . . . But somehow music seeps into those cracks and it’s something that reminds us or indicates to us these unperceivable things that are in fact around us all the time. I tend to think of music as something that’s an incredible variation, away from the rest of most human experiences. For that reason I value it even more.”

Interspersed are entries from some of the musicians Metheny has performed with during his career such as Gary Burton, John Patitucci, Lyle Mays, and Jack DeJohnette. Photographs included portray his teenaged years of playing gigs around Kansas City, record company portraits, and tour pictures.

An engaging examination of an enduring musical artist, The Pat Metheny Interviews, is a unique gift of insights from this expressive guitarist and composer.


Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues
by William Ferris
University of North Carolina Press | 9780807833254 | $35 | Oct 2009

[Editor's note: We've already featured Give My Poor Heart Ease on my3books earlier this year, so instead of a third full-blown writeup, Teresa would prefer to point you to another book blogger who wrote quite passionately about Give My Poor Heart Ease.]

Check out this beautifully-written review of Give My Poor Heart Ease on BiblioBuffet.  Blogger Nicki Leone's review of the book really captures the spirit and passion and flavor of William Ferris' lifelong pursuit of the blues and the people who make the music come alive.

Here's one short excerpt from Nicki's review to give you the flavor:

"The results of this life-long . . . well, mission doesn’t seem to be too strong a word for it . . . have been brought together into an incredibly powerful book called Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues. A collection of oral histories,  the book looks at some of the people and places at the roots of blues music, starting with the churches in his own community of Rose Hill, and spreading outwards into the countryside filled with people who farmed and fished during the day and played music in the evenings, the men in the prison camps and on work detail in the cotton fields, and the men who ran the radio stations and nightclubs in the towns."


Resources for further exploration:

On Pops
> Pops will appear on the December 2009 Indie Next List – “Great Reads from Booksellers You Trust”
> Publishers Weekly *Starred* Review: “Teachout's portrait reminds us why we fell in love with Armstrong's music in the first place.”
> A link to the publisher's web page for the book.
> Author Terry Teachout's long-running blog About Last Night and his somewhat more recent Twitter presence. Crucial!

On The Pat Metheny Interviews
> A link to the publisher's page for the book.

 On Give My Poor Heart Ease
> The Facebook fan page for Give My Poor Heart Ease.
> UNC Press's blog & Twitter presence.
> Our linked-to book blogger Nicki Leone is a fellow bookseller-at-large (to borrow another of her phrases), and writes about books at BiblioBuffet and her own blog, Will Read For Food.

guest post: sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin picks 3 from Merrell Publishers

Please give a hearty welcome back to my friend and fellow independent sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin, who sends word from her Top Secret Rep Headquarters that one of the publishers she represents is putting out smart, handsome paperback editions of some of their hardcover illustrated books.

Three picks from Merrell Publishers: new, affordable, paperback editions.

Merrell Publishers, a British illustrated book publisher, has done a smart bit of publishing in this economically challenged retail environment. This fall, Merrell is publishing three of its hardcover books in more compact, affordable, paperback editions. There is, again, a compelling reason to share these lovely books with new readers.

American Ruins
by Arthur Drooker
with a foreword by Douglas Brinkley and an essay by Christopher Woodward
Merrell Publishers | 9781858944975 | $24.95 | Sept 2009

It is one of my fascinations with the world of publishing to see a confluence of interests and ideas emerge in works that overlap and compliment each other. American Ruins is a unique compilation of historic ruins thoughout the US, photographed using a specially adapted digital camera in infrared format, revealing a lost world of haunted beauty and ethereal landscapes. In the foreword, historian Douglas Brinkley (author of the recently published Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, Harper, July 2009) notes that it was thanks to Teddy Roosevelt in creating The Antiquities Act of 1906, that led to the preservation of sites such as these depicted in the book. In a previous blog post on my3books, I wrote about another Teddy Roosevelt book by Timothy Egan, The Big Burn.  And, of course, there is the recent PBS National Parks series by Ken Burns that eloquently brought together the historical impetus for setting aside those places of unique American nature and character.

  Divided into the four regions of the country, American Ruins is a tour through some of the remaining architecture, history, and geography of these preserved places. Art historian Christopher Woodward provides an essay speaking to what distinguishes America from Europe in our lack of evidence of a long past, establishing context within which to contemplate the sites.

Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia; Dungeness, the Carnegie family home on Cumberland Island, Georgia; the Anasazi Ruins in Canyon de Chelly, Arizona; Jack London’s Wolf House in Glen Ellen, California are among the many locations in the book. As Drooker explains, “I was drawn to these sites to forge a spiritual connection with those who came before us, to capture the visual poetry of what they left behind. As a series, these images present a rare overview of some overlooked landmarks and allow us, as Americans, to see where we came from, measure how far we’ve come and gain a vision of where we might be headed.”  For anyone interested in photography, history, America or archeology. (Originally published in hardcover at $45.)


Shelter Dogs
by Traer Scott
Merrell Publishers |
9781858944982 | $12.95 | Sept 2009

Our family doesn’t have a dog. That hasn’t stopped us from becoming devoted fans of The Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic Channel. What we admire about Cesar Millan is his dedication to the cause of “rescuing” dogs, sometimes from shelters or unhappy living environments, and training humans to better understand themselves and the dogs they choose as companions. Many dogs featured on his show are rescued animals, and the people who make it their mission to save these dogs from an inevitable fate.

Shelter Dogs was originally published in hardcover before we were glued to the TV every Friday night. With the new paperback edition of Shelter Dogs, it’s time again to celebrate the intensely striking portraits of shelter dogs in Traer Scott’s beautiful book. Born out of a project to train and socialize abandoned shelter animals for greater rates of adoption and retention, Scott began photographing the dogs for adoption records and internet sites. This progressed into what became the impetus for the book.

  The greatest impact this collection of portraits had upon me originally was the immensely moving character captured by Scott’s sensitive portraiture. As she states in the introduction, “As soon as a camera is pointed at these dogs, they just fix their gaze on you and pour out volumes. They seem to be telling a story that is much longer and more epic than the one their short lives can feasibly encompass.”

There is Bonnie, a pit bull Hurricane Katrina survivor, who was fortunate to be rescued and rehabilitated. Celeste, a frenetic Husky, that was still a mere five seconds for her portrait. Emma, Rosie, Hercules, Ox, Stubbs are all part of this collection of 50 portraits in all.

Published to coincide with the annual ASPCA’s ‘Adopt-a-Shelter Dog’ Month, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the ASPCA by Merrell. It is beautiful photography in the service of an honorable cause. Perhaps our family will stop by a local shelter soon.

“Scott's haunting portrait album bares the souls of these unclaimed but unassailably dignified animals.”  People

“Traer Scott's Shelter Dogs (Merrell) is a canine facebook with more personalities than Chaplin.”  Vogue


The Horse: 30,000 Years of the Horse in Art
by Tamsin Pickeral
Merrell Publishers |
9781858944937 | $24.95 | Oct 2009

There is nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse.

~ Early twentieth-century proverb.

From the earliest rock painting in the caves of Lascaux, an agate cylinder seal from sixth century BC Persia, carpets, sculptures, mosaics, Egyptian painted wood, Greek frescos, Chinese terracotta tomb relics, Japanese woodblocks — all that and more are included in this rich illustrated history of the horse. Details about the horse as a symbol of power, an element of myth and legend, an integral part of pioneer and Native American life in the New World are examined, as well as how the nature of the relationship between horse and man has evolved over the last hundred years.


Originally published as an oversized hardcover coffee table book at $49.95, this new paperback edition is an incredible value. It is exactly the same book in a slightly reduced size, and half the price, which is reason enough for horse lovers everywhere to have a copy of their own.


Merrell has many wonderful books in their catalog. I will treat you to three additional favorites for women. Women Who Read are Dangerous; Women Who Writeand In Praise of the Needlewoman.

guest post: sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin picks 3 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Fall 2009 list

I'm so pleased to welcome back my fellow independent sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin (@trkravtin on Twitter) for another round of my3books picks!  Among the many publishers that Teresa represents are the legendary imprints at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and she's picked out three of her favorite books from their fall list.

Two books of the American West and a special pop-up book for the holiday season.


The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America
by Timothy Egan
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780618968411 | $26 | Oct 2009

The incident at the heart of The Big Burn was the largest forest fire in the history of America. “The bare facts were that the blowup covered 2.6 million acres of national forest land, and another 521,184 acres of private or state timber, for a total of just under 3.2 million acres . . . . " (page 221).

The power in the telling of this story resonates in the personal face that author Timothy Egan puts on the lives of the men and women involved. Every aspect of this story is completely absorbing:

  • Teddy Roosevelt and Progressivism
  • the fledgling concepts of conservation and the need for a forestry service
  • Guildford Pinchot, Roosevelt’s devoted friend and believer in conservation
  • big business and its influence on government
  • power-hungry politicians
  • ordinary homesteaders

They all play a role in this natural disaster. Areas of Montana, Idaho and Washington were burned. I have hiked through some of these areas in Montana and Idaho, which made this book a particularly meaningful read for me.

Oftentimes while reading, I found myself closing the book in astonishment at the ways in which politics played out in history. I often mistakenly think that only in the times we live have politicians been as driven to wrest power away from the people in achieving their policy goals. It takes a book like this, and many other fine historical reports to show that it is not so.

The Big Burn tells of a time when the people had very little influence in government at all, and there was hardly any place for the people as a concept in politics. We are an ever-evolving nation, and the consequences from this episode in our history shaped forestry policy for years to come.  Imperfect though these new perceptions were, it was a corrective step along the path toward a greater understanding of the demands placed upon our natural resources, the people charged with protecting them, and the role government plays in all of it.

In this meticulously researched book, National Book Award-winning author Timothy Egan, “brings a touching humanity to this story of valor and cowardice in the face of a nation catastrophe, playing respectful attention to Roosevelt’s great dream of conservation and of an America ‘for the little man’” (from the PW starred review).


Twisted Tree
by Kent Meyers
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780151013890 | $24 | Sept 2009

A young teenager has been stalked and murdered, and in the vastness of the contemporary rural community of Twisted Tree, South Dakota, Kent Meyers deftly weaves an interconnected web of stories of the people whose lives have intersected with young Haley Jo Zimmerman.

I have long been drawn to the literature of a place or of the landscape, and these portraits of the people of Twisted Tree are, in some cases, stark, lonely, searching, mad, and poignant, all the while evoking the character of the desolate nature of the west. Each chapter could stand alone; and in discovering how these lives connected together, Meyers tells a greater tale of how one person’s life resonates in so many others. I was mesmerized.

“This novel is brimming with arresting descriptions, and the western setting is employed with surprising effect . . . . Meyers’s small masterpiece deserves comparison to the work of Raymond Carver, Joy Williams and Peter Matthiessen (from the PW starred review).


The Little Prince Deluxe Pop-Up Book
by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780547260693 | $35 | Oct 2009

“What appears to be a fairy tale for children opens like the petals of the Little Prince’s flower into a fantasy that has lessons for all of us.” – School Library Journal

I love this special edition of The Little Prince. All throughout the selling season, I have carried my sample, a French language edition, mind you, into select accounts to share the unique experience of this pop-up book. Unique, in that it contains the complete text of the original story, while the mechanics of the pop-up elements honor the original illustrations by magically bringing them to three-dimensional life.

My buyers slowly turn the pages of the entire book. Each time I was entranced at the experience of standing aside, while the buyer deliberately enjoyed each spread. This pop-up edition of a children’s classic, is in itself, a new and complete experience of the story. There is text, the pop-up, and lots of white space, which allows for an absorbing, relaxing read.

How often are we dazzled by wondrous paper engineering, each spread building up to a magnificent conclusion? In this case, though, I am impressed by the experience of the book. I have found that to be immensely satisfying.

There are legions of faithful fans for The Little Prince. This would be a marvelous addition to their library.

The video for the Little Prince Pop-Up Deluxe edition has been posted to YouTube and can be seen here.

A link to an article where Brooke Shields quotes from 'Little Prince' in the tribute to Michael Jackson can be found here.


> For more information about Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and their fall catalog, you can find them here:
Web site ~ catalog downloads ~ @hmhbooks on Twitter ~ Facebook 

guest post: sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin picks 3 from Candlewick Press

Is it simplest to just say that Teresa Rolfe Kravtin is a kindred spirit? She's a fellow independent sales rep - Southern Territory Associates, the rep group of which she is a member, covers the South. We are both interested in the social networking aspects of publishing - you can find her here on Twitter. And most fun for me is that we frequently agree about our favorite books from the publishers that we both represent.

We seem to spend a lot of time talking about Candlewick Press's books, probably because their list is such a goldmine of discovery. One of the very first posts that I put up on my3books was about my picks from Candlewick's fall list, and what I found most interesting is that Teresa's picks and mine only overlap by one book.

The Princess' Blankets
by Carol Ann Duffy; illustrated by Catherine Hyde
Candlewick Press | 9780763645472 | $18.99 | Nov 2009

There are many interesting aspects to this lovely picture book from the Templar imprint of Candlewick Press, which is why I love talking about this book to my booksellers. A few words about Templar. Templar is a UK publisher that is most known for their highly successful ‘Ology series publishing with Candlewick in the US. Candlewick has formalized this co-publishing arrangement and this fall season has the second selection of general picture books from Templar that are either highly interactive or creatively imaginative.

The Princess’ Blankets is an over-sized, gorgeously illustrated fairy tale. Carol Ann Duffy, the new poet laureate of Britain, and described by The Guardian as “the most popular living poet in Britain” weaves a traditional fairy with contemporary elements. With paintings by first-time picture book illustrator Catherine Hyde, the illustrations are laced with reflective elements on certain spreads, uses of color and texture that fill each page with elements of the natural world that bring this tale to life. A king’s daughter is stricken with cold, so severe that the king issues an edict. Anyone who can heal the princess of her coldness will receive up to half of his kingdom. Many try and fail, and in the process a subtle warning about robbing the earth of its natural resources is in embedded in the story.

Most meaningful to me is that a musician saves the princess. Being a musician for a great portion of my life, with a Music Degree to boot, I am and will always be a flute player deep inside. Music is an innate aspect to all of my life, and to my delight and surprise it is a flute player who saves the princess in this fairy tale! When has THAT ever happened?

“The musician had a kind and good heart, and he made up his mind to go to the palace himself to see if he could help." He plays his flute and the princess begins to warm and stir. The flute player tenderly reaches out to the princess and relieves her of her terrible affliction. I LOVE this! A story I can get behind!! I must say that, oftentimes, fairy tales do not have the magical quality necessary to suspend disbelief and capture the reader’s imagination successfully. The Princess’s Blankets is a wonderful exception and I urge you to treat yourself to an exceptional reading experience.


Fairie-ality Style: A Sourcebook of Inspirations from Nature
by David Ellwand
Candlewick Press | 9780763620950 | $19.99 | Nov 2009

A follow-up to Fairie-ality: The Fashion Collection from the House of Ellwand, comes Fairie-Ality Style: A Sourcebook of Inspirations from Nature from photographer David Ellwand. This is a fantasy style sourcebook of natural designs that takes my breath away. Big beautiful photographs of dandelions, frogs, fairie chairs, birds nests, insects and flowers, that show the intricate colors and palettes of colors that occur in nature.

It is a fantasy sourcebook for sure, because is any of the practical? Is it meant to be? Matters not one whit to me - it is an immersion in the beauty and magic of the natural world, with a dose of fairie dust to boot. The back cover of the sales blad says it all, “this is an eco-designer’s dream—the ultimate exploration of truly organic materials”.


Eli the Good
by Silas House
Candlewick Press | 9780763643416 | $16.99 | Sept 2009

Eli the Good is a young adult novel from Kentucky author Silas House whose previous adult novels have been published by Algonquin Books. (Follow the link to download a PDF of a letter from Silas.) A favorite among many of my booksellers, this book was my introduction to Silas House’s writing. The novel is set during the bicentennial summer of 1976, the year I happened to graduate from high school. I loved the references to the time interspersed though out the story, which he uses to set the stage of a family breaking apart and coming back together during this pivotal moment in their lives.

Ten-year-old Eli is trying to make sense of all of the members of his family, but most notably, his father, who is struggling with episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Vietnam. Did we even call it post-traumatic stress disorder then?

The writing is lyrical, real, tender and particularly enchanting. Never before have I found someone to detail the sensibilities of a child in a family that so closely reminded me of many scenes from my own childhood. I kept having flashbacks to times in my past where I tried to grapple with myself and my family in the quiet moments of life. Whether it was from the momentous summer of 1976, when of course I wasn’t ten, or the times I allowed myself to remember sitting under the huge trees of the childhood of my younger years, starring up into the branches and thinking about my family and the world we lived in and how I fit in it.

In Eli the Good, themes of nature and war, family and love, loneliness and longing, fill the pages with a quiet wonder. Treat yourself to this book. It will appeal to adults as well as to younger readers. In other words, to anybody and everybody


More Candlewick Press links:

» Want a downloadable PDF of the Fall 2009 Candlewick Press catalog? You got it.
» Want to be blown away by the sheer wonder of Candlewick’s backlist? The catalog elves at Candlewick put together their first epic, comprehensive backlist catalog in years.