Dave Eggers' A Hologram For The King arrives; causes massive disruption to established order in my To Be Read Pile

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A Hologram For The King
Dave Eggers
McSweeney’s Books / PGW | 9781936365746 | $25 | June 2012

The on-sale date is coming up tomorrow, and the early reviews are starting to roll in. I’d heard a rumor at BEA that a copy was heading my way, so I wasn’t super-surprised when it showed up on my doorstep this afternoon. Nevertheless, I’m pleased at the timing –  I’m heading out for some bookstore appointments tomorrow, and I’ll be bringing it with me! Nothing else compares, I’m afraid.

Some of this week's non-required reading about AHFTK – students of Eggersian Literary Field Dynamics, help me out – is that the preferred acronym for the new book?:

Updated to add: 

  • Publishers Weekly reviews AHFTK, "Eggers strikes fresh and genuine notes, however, in Alan's burgeoning friendship with the young Saudi man, Yousef, assigned to be his driver. Both Eggers's fans and those previously resistant to his work will find a spare but moving elegy for the American century."


3 new arrivals at the my3books loading dock: Chicken Thieves, Blame Accountants & McSweeney's 34

I was opening up some packages this weekend, clearing out some of the mess from a week that included some travel.  I happened to be in the Twin Cities for work meetings, and got to be at Consortium's offices to share some champagne in celebration of their publishers' two Pulitzer Prize winners!

Among the boxes and mailers that were awaiting my return, I found these three books.  Two of them I've been anticipating all season long, and one was a pleasant surprise. 


The Chicken Thief
by Beatrice Rodriguez
Enchanted Lion Books (Consortium) | 9781592700929 | $14.95 | Apr 2010

I wrote about The Chicken Thief earlier this season, and my joy in it.  Now that the finished edition is here from Enchanted Lion Press, I couldn't be more delighted.  It's a delirious chase story with a chicken's life seemingly hanging in the balance, with the entire adventure told wordlessly. 


Office of Blame Accountability
by Geoffrey Cunningham, Carla Repice & The American Public
edited by Gregory Ayres
Loudmouth Press (Consortium) | 9780615289090 | $19.95 | May 2010

A sample OBA blame document1) A document collecting the whiny wisdom of the American people, a chance to individually and collectively point the finger of blame at Someone Else, a protest, an art project.  
2) A hilarious book that brings all of the above together in one place.

Loudmouth Press' web site explains it all for you:

The Office of Blame Accountability (OBA) is an art project taking place on public sidewalks and main streets across the United States. The OBA has travelled to the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, Ground Zero on the anniversary of 9-11, and Wall Street during the stock market crash.  The ideas that inform OBA stem from isolationism, the growing lack of corporate responsibility, and the increasing economic and social divide between people living in the U.S. ... Since October 2007 the OBA has collected and filed hundreds of blame forms and recorded phone conversations.

You can check out their Facebook fan page to stay apprised of future openings of Office of Blame Accountability locations, and find out about recent developments.


McSweeney's Issue 34
by the Editors of McSweeney's
McSweeney's (PGW) | 9781934781678 | $20 | Apr 2010

Less elaborate than the blockbuster Issue 33 (otherwise known as the one-time-only Sunday paper, the San Francisco Panorama), this vinyl-slipcased edition features two separate volumes.  In one, an epic tale of war reporting by writer Nick McDonell from Iraq, where he traveled with the 1st Cavalry Division.  In the other book, features by the usual suspects: John Hodgman, Sarah Vowell, Julie Klausner, T.C. Boyle, Daniel Handler, and a portfolio of self-portraits by writers, actors, artists and directors.

This volume looks to me like it's well worth your time and attention.  You may admire it in slightly more detail on the McSweeney's site.

As Hodgman frequently says, that is all.

New Arrivals: 3 BIG books from McSweeney's, Gahan Wilson & Peter de Sève

There's not much time today for a post – I'm getting things wrapped up here today before we head up to Madison for Saturday's memorial for Mark Gates.  But here's a post featuring books that somehow combine the sense of humor and the love of great writing that Mark lived for.

Three BIG objects arrived here at my3books HQ recently and they've all blown me away in one way or another.

McSweeney's Issue 33: San Francisco Panorama
edited by Dave Eggers
McSweeney's / PGW | 9781934781487 | $16 | Dec 2009

The results of a yearlong effort by the McSweeney's crew to put together the Platonic ideal of what the  Sunday edition of a newspaper could be - it's a wild success for lovers of words and images on paper.  The front sections contain investigative journalism, current affairs, infographics, and an over the top front-of-book data page.  The sports section leaves the daily stats to the web and brings readers the kind of sporting reportage that would fit right in at Sports Illustrated.  But, as you would expect, it's the Comics, Arts, and Book sections that really shine.  Contributions from Michael Chabon, Stephen King, William T. Vollmann, Miranda July, Junot Diaz, Nicholson Baker, to name a few.

Imagine a comics page with Art Spiegelman, Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, Alison Bechdel and more.  You don't have to - that's what the Panorama offers us. The Books section offers in-depth reviews and short fiction from George Saunders and Roddy Doyle, among others, and poetry - all showcased in an innovative layout.

McSweeney's has moved on as they always do - the next issue of their journal will undoubtedly appear in some other format - but this experiment shows one possible way that printed newspapers can survive and thrive and inspire.

You can see more here on the microsite that McSweeney's put together for the Panorama.


Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons
by Gahan Wilson
Fantagraphics Books / Norton | 9781606992982 | $125 | Jan 2010

A monster production, a slipcased behemoth, nearly 1000 pages in three volumes, with deliciously wicked humor on every page.  The slipcase has a plexiglass cutout on one side with a photo of Gahan Wilson fighting to be freed from his box.  Introductions by Neil Gaiman and Hugh Hefner each open two of the volumes.  The third includes an interview with Wilson.

Open the box, free the three volumes, and dive in anywhere.  You will not be disappointed.

Fantagraphics has posted a photo and video slideshow on Flickr of the box set with sample images from the book for the curious.


A Sketchy Past: The Art of Peter de Sève
by Peter de Sève
Editions Akileos / SCB Distributors | 9782355740992 | $54.95 | published in France in October 2009, and imported and reviewed here already, but officially coming to the US in March 2010

A massive monograph that provides a comprehensive survey of the American illustrator and character designer Peter de Sève.  The book contains samples of finished work and his sketches from his advertising, book covers, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker and his other magazine commissions. 

The book also shines a light on his nearly-anonymous work behind the scenes on animated movies: Robots, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, A Bug's Life, Finding Nemo, and Ratatouille.  He's probably best-known among animation fans for having designed all the characters for all three Ice Age movies.

A Sketchy Past features sketches from his recently published children's book, The Duchess of Whimsy, written by his wife, Randall de Sève (also the author of Toy Boat).

As a peek behind the curtain of an artist's process, it's worth the effort of picking it up!


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.