Hans Weyandt from Micawber's Books picks three books about whales. (And, yes, one of them is quite obvious.)

Welcome back to my3books, everyone!  After the Year-End / Decade-End Opinion Avalanche from every other blogger on the planet, I took some time off from sharing too much online to go out and do my day job, which generally involves a lot of coffee drinking and talking with independent booksellers and other book lovers about new books.  I've been building my strength back up, twittering a few times a day and sharing a link or two on Facebook.  But I'm ready to dive back in and get some great posts up here on my3books.

And as if the fates themselves wanted to confirm that it was time for me to get things flowing again here, I got a fresh submission today from indie bookstore owner Hans Weyandt.  Hans is one of the co-owners of Micawber's Books in St. Paul, MN – a great indie bookstore in a city with a lot of great literary things going on.  One of my favorite things they do?  They shelve all the books from cool publishers' series together – like NYRB Classics or Persephone Books.

The three books that Hans has picked for today's my3books post are all about whales.  Read it here and then go check out their own store blog for more Hans.

by Herman Melville
foreword by Nathaniel Philbrick; cover by Tony Millionaire
Penguin Classics | 9780143105954 | $17 | Oct 2009

As a great scoffer, I generally have a hard time believing in things like kismet or fate. But the reading gods? The reading gods will teach you things. An old friend had to read Moby-Dick for school earlier this winter and asked if I'd join him on the journey. The word epic is overused, well, epically. But this is one. Melville's humor was a shocker to me. And the language pushing you onward and onward. Captain Ahab. The sea. The monster of the deep. I will treasure the experience of finally reading Melville's great novel forever.


The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea
by Philip Hoare
Ecco | 9780061976216 | $27.99 | Jan 2010

A week after finishing I was telling a friend about it and he said, "You know, I have a friend who is an editor at HarperCollins and he says they have a whale book that's just out that is incredible." So I read Philip Hoare's The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea immediately. It would be easy to simply call this natural history or cultural history. But it's much more. It combines myth and folklore with science and family history. The whale occupies a space in human understanding that surpasses all other animals and this book explains why. It also contains gorgeous in-laid art work and it got me wondering, "How do whales lend themselves to such cool art?"


by Jens Hoffmann
CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts (dist by DAP) | 9780980205527 | $30 | Mar 2010

Then, just a few days later, I was unpacking boxes and found this gem from the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts. Jens Hoffmann has compiled an extraordinary collection of Moby Dick-related material. A brief statement at the beginning states, "I have carefully collected whatever I have been able to learn of the story of Ishmael and the great white whale, and here present it to you, knowing that you will thank me for it. To their spirits and characters you cannot refuse your admiration and love; to their fate you will not deny your tears."  This is one of those rare books where price does not even matter--I needed it. From its white and gold stitched cover to the watery blue paper inside to the wild array of related art it is all a wonder. So you see? I did not choose this maritime madness. It was all thrust upon me.



Hans Weyandt is co-owner of Micawber's Books in St. Paul, MN. He actually does read books that have nothing to do with oceans or huge sea mammals. He blogs for the store at micawbers.blogspot.com and has a fairly serious addiction to pho.  He is also in the market for a harpoon. A sweet harpoon.

Micawber's Books can be found here:
2238 Carter Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55108


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: 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.


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.


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.]


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


>> 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.

my3books: Skulls!

There's not a lot of explanation necessary, I think, for today's picks. What is interesting is that none of these three books are obvious choices for a spooky Halloween table, despite their covers. Yet they're all due to publish in the 6 weeks or so before Halloween.

The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray’s Anatomy
by Bill Hayes
Bellevue Literary Press (Consortium) | 9781934137215 | $16.95 | Sept 2009

One of my favorite new publishers to come to Consortium over the last couple years, Belleuve Literary Press is housed at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, and is a venture of The Bellevue Literary Review and New York University School of Medicine. Their focus is to publish literary works that connect to the human body, health, illness and healing. Perhaps their best-known book for indie booksellers will be the novel that was published this past winter, Paul Harding's stunning little gem, Tinkers.

The Anatomist was first published in hardcover in 2007 by Ballantine Books and this marks the first paperback edition. If you ask me, this new cover is striking and preferable to the hardcover edition. I'm glad this affordable new edition is coming out - it's the fascinating story of the the two men who created the most influential medical reference book ever - Henry Gray (the author) and Henry Vandyke Carter (the illustrator).

The New Yorker said in their review of the hardcover edition:

"Hayes moves nimbly between the dour streets of Victorian London, where Gray and Carter trained at St. George’s Hospital, and the sunnier classrooms of a West Coast university filled with athletic physical therapists in training, where he enrolls in anatomy classes and discovers that "when done well, dissection is very pleasing aesthetically."


Hamlet: A Novel
by John Marsden
Candlewick Press | 9780763644512 | $16.99 | Aug 2009

The prolific YA author (fresh movie news on his best book: Yesterday, When The War Began) turns his eye on Shakespeare's Hamlet, and brings it to life in a new way for younger teen readers who might not be ready to handle the full complexity of the original language.

Set in a nebulous time, somewhere between Shakespeare's time and the modern era, Hamlet and his friends play soccer on Elsinore's grounds yet when the plot calls for a nice long trip to England for Hamlet and the treacherous Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, they go by sea.

The POV moves restlessly among the main players - Hamlet, his best friend Horatio, his mother Gertrude, his uncle and the new king Claudius, Ophelia - and their internal voices give new readers helpful insight into the tricky plotting.

Readers who have read Hamlet before or seen it performed will appreciate the way Marsden maneuvers his characters into place for the key set pieces but keeps things fresh with inventive descriptive language, showing us a new side of Elsinore.


Vermeer, Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art:
Masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum
by Rudd Priem
Douglas & McIntyre (PGW) | 9781553654711 | $39.95 | Sept 2009

Lastly, dive into an exploration of the Golden Age of Dutch Art - the 17th Century. Full color art throughout the book - over 200 images! - bring this era to life again. This book is the catalog for an exhibition that's currently at the Vancouver Art Gallery through September 13.

Banking and the first truly global trade routes generated staggering levels of new wealth that, coupled with political and religious freedom, created a vibrant atmosphere in which the arts flourished... This sumptuous book features Vermeer, Rembrandt, and other Golden Age greats, along with a selection of fine Delft pottery, glassware, and silver that attests to the luxurious refinement of the era.

The art is on loan from the epic collections of The Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands while the museum continues to undergo a massive modernization.


If you've got any more skull-covered book suggestions for a Fall display, post them in the comments!


>> Belluvue Literary Press is on Facebook and their Web site can be found here.

>> Candlewick Press is here on the web. A glance at their site reminded me that I need to write something about my favorite book from their Spring 2009 list, the "Ocean's 11 for Kids" caper, The Dunderheads. Until then, check it out here. Download the Fall 2009 catalog here.

>> Douglas & McIntyre is a Canadian publisher & distributor of authors as diverse as David Suzuki, Emily Carr, and (in Canada) Ishmael Beah and Douglas Coupland. Their catalog is available to download here and you can find them represented on Twitter by Emi here and Alison here.

DISCLAIMER: This post features books from publisher(s) that I represent BUT the point of this blog is to talk about books that I think you should know about, so just take it as a given that in the back of my mind, it has been my secret plan all along to make you want to buy them.