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.

Moby-Dick
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.

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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?"

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Moby-Dick
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.

 

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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
651.646.5506
www.micawbers.com
www.micawbers.blogspot.com

 

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.

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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.

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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!

 

57th Street Books' Jeff Waxman picks three Scandinavian books in translation.

Jeff Waxman works at 57th Street Books, the Hyde Park indie bookstore and sibling to the Seminary Co-op Bookstore around the corner.  As a Jeff-of-all-trades, he's a book buyer (though he doesn't work directly with me and my publishers), returns manager, one of the stores' Web site administrators, and editor of The Front Table on the Seminary Co-op web site.  As Jeff told me, in short, he's a bookseller.  No matter what else he's doing, he's selling books to people.

Since he originally sent me this post, but before I could get it posted on my3books, word came out that Jeff is one of the Fiction Judges for the 2010 Best Translated Book Awards, sponsored by literary blog Three Percent, a "resource for international literature at the University of Rochester."  The longlist for the 2010 awards in fiction was announced on January 5, and the shortlist will be announced on February 16.  The shortlist in poetry will be announced on February 16.  The final winners will be announced in March.  It's a really strong list in fiction.  Check out the longlist if you need more suggestions beyond Jeff's 3 picks below.

Welcome to the winter, friends. Grab some cocoa, a little something to fortify it, a few blankets, and get ready to hunker down. That's right, it's hunkering weather, and I've got three Scandinavian novels that will freeze your hearts while they warm your little book-loving souls.

The Discoverer
by Jan Kjaerstad
translated by Barbara Haveland
Open Letter Books (dist. by University of Nebraska Press) | 9781934824122 | $17.95 | Aug 2009

The final and, honestly, most crucial tome of the Jonas Wergeland Trilogy.  Never heard of it? Doesn't matter, mon frere. Each of these books stands alone, and The Discoverer stands tallest.  Jonas Wergeland is a disgraced (wife, dead) former television personality and this novel is an extraordinarily well-wrought examination of the man's life and mind. More, it's a virtuosic exercise in heroic narrative; Jan Kjaerstad and translator Barbara Haveland have created a book that interweaves paragraphs of past and present experience into something of grave and moving beauty.

*** 

The True Deceiver
by Tove Jansson
translated by Thomas Teal
NYRB Classics (dist. by Random House) | 9781590173299 | $14.95 | Dec 2009

This slender novella is one of my favorite books of the year, and new only this month. An austere and modern novel, The True Deceiver is about the relationship of an affect-less Swedish woman, her brother, and an overly affected children's book illustrator in one of the few Swedish communities in Finland. This is a book that plumbs the nature of familial love, and the depths of manipulation and inscrutability. A masterful study in opposition and confrontation, this book simmers with aggression, and the reader will never be quite sure who the title refers to, the cold Katri Kling, or the apparently vapid Anna Aemelin.

***

The Twin
by Gerbrand Bakker
translated by David Colmer
Archipelago Books (dist. by Consortium) | 9780980033021 | $25 | Apr 2009

Are the Dutch even Scandinavian? Probably not, but this novel has a striking, ice-bound personality at its center and fits this post like a warm and woolly glove. Bakker's book is the story of a lone twin, Helmer. Aching, inert, and incomplete, Helmer has not recovered from the loss of his twin brother, Henk, more than twenty years ago. Neither has his father, and as the old man's health fails, the fifty-seven-year-old Helmer finds himself at the sort of emotional crossroads that most men reach forty years earlier. To add poignant contrast, a sullen teenager named Henk (!) comes to live with him— and to underscore everything that Helmer might have lost forever.

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The Final Word:
Here's a stat for my3books readers: only three in one hundred books published each year in the United States are original works in translation. Three Percent. That that's true or may be true is troubling, but it's also very exciting. We have an opportunity here to read again as children, as cultural strangers, and experience familiar things made strange and new. Forgive me for evangelizing, but these three books are part of a groundswell of outstanding international work brought home, and only some very serious talents make the trip.

Jeff Waxman 

***

Learn more about these three excellent publishers (one of whom I DO represent) and their extraordinarily rich publishing programs:

Open Letter Books: TwitterBlog (yep, Three Percent)SiteCatalog

NYRB Classics: TwitterBlog (A Different Stripe)SiteCatalog (direct download)

Archipelago Books: TwitterSiteCatalog

 

UPDATE: I've modified the first paragraph and post title to correctly describe Jeff's position & bookstore.  But he's still an awesome bookseller, no matter where you come across him.

my3books' First Impressions for Spring 2010: Princeton Architectural Press

Recap: Here's the introduction to the First Impressions series of posts.

Princeton Architectural Press is distributed to bookstores by Chronicle Books.  These three books on their spring list absolutely wowed the reps in the conference room – wonderfully illustrated books, a quirky take on pop culture, a peek inside the lives of creative people.  You can count on PAP to deliver books in those veins every season, right alongside their signature architectural monographs and reference books for professionals.

Obsessive Consumption: What Did You Buy Today?
by Kate Bingaman-Burt
Princeton Architectural Press (Chronicle Books) | 9781568988900 | $19.95 | Mar 2010

Alien anthropologists wondering where all our money went in the first decade of the third millennium A.D. would do well to lay their tentacles on this book.  On the surface, it's a diary of self-absorption and typical consumerism, but with a closer look, Obsessive Consumption cleverly leaves those first impressions in the dust.

A professor of graphic design in Portland, Bingaman-Burt has been documenting her personal relationship with consumerism across a range of artistic endeavors.  Here in this book, though, she bears witness with a daily drawing of something that she spent money on that day, beginning on February 5, 2006.  The book covers the first three years of her documentary urges and her impulse spending.  From her monthly credit card bills to a bottle of soda at the CVS to an iPhone (finally, on 11/21/08!) to more fancy artist's pens (the last entry), Bingaman-Burt bears witness to how we live today, and where all the money goes.

Her drawings are tart doodles, combining representative line art, squiggly captions, and how much money she spent and where she spent it.

Fans of the documentary & book Handmade Nation (also from Princeton Architectural Press) will recognize her work - she provided all the illustrations for the book.  Kate Bingaman-Burt can be found here on the web, with a blog here and you can even buy a print of one of her pages at 20x200TwitterEtsyFlickr. Frankly, I think she may be the most findable, connected author I've ever profiled on my3books.

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Lists: To-do's, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts & Other Artists' Enumerations from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art
By Liza Kirwin
Princeton Architectural Press (Chronicle Books) | 9781568988887 | $24.95 | March 2010

This book makes a nice pairing with Obsessive Consumption, above, providing another way to peer inside the surprisingly mundane lives of artists.  Curator Liza Kirwin has gathered from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art dozens of examples of unremarkable lists made by remarkable men and women. 

The lists themselves demonstrate clearly that geniuses truly are just like you and me. But it is precisely those actual accomplishments outside of the mundane list-making realm that make these lists worthy of collection, curation, and in the case of this book, further study.  We see lists of paintings sold, lists of appointments, lists of books to read and more.  Many of the lists give us more than just daily ephemera: we see Pablo Picasso listing his recommendations for the epoch-making Armory Show in 1912, Alexander Calder's address book is a who's who of the Parisian scene when he lived there.

The catalog copy provides a list of its own: the artists who have been collected here, including Willem de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Joseph Cornell, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Andrew Wyeth.  And yes, the list does goes on.

***

Bird Watching
by Paula McCartney
Princeton Architectural Press (Chronicle Books) | 9781568988559 | $50 | Feb 2010

Another clever subversion of the observer's expectations, Bird Watching documents artist Paula McCartney's recent work in art and nature photography.

Each photograph captures a scene of purest wilderness - trees, branches, sky, pine needles underfoot, distant trails.  Carefully framed in each photograph is a beautiful specimen of passerine, or perching bird.  Notations accompany each photo, citing location, weather conditions and descriptive text of each documented bird.

Look a second time at these photos, though, and you may begin to see that there is more artist than naturalist at work in this journal.  Each bird has been carefully affixed with wires or strings to the branches, because these birds were purchased at craft stores.  McCartney's work is walking the divide between the artificial and the real, and along the way, she has found a way to make the real world feel that much more vivid.

You can spot some examples of her work on her page at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Photography, and at the web site for the Photo-Eye Gallery in Santa Fe, NM.  Her own web site is here.

my3books' First Impressions for Spring 2010: books for kids from Consortium publishers

Recap: Here's the introduction to the First Impressions series of posts.

Consortium Book Sales & Distribution:  As always, I left this two-day long sales meeting completely overwhelmed with options.  Among the hundreds of new titles that will be coming out from the more than 100 indie publishers that are distributed by Consortium are a couple dozen that I'm very very excited about.

On the Children's and Young Adult side of the catalog (literally - it flips over!), a new publisher joined Consortium for Spring 2010, Enchanted Lion Books.  Two of their picture books are featured below, alongside a graphic novel collection of Trickster tales from Fulcrum Publishing.

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

Perhaps the sweetest & funniest picture book I've seen in a long time, it's the wordless epic of a fox who snatches a hen from the yard where she lives and runs off with her.  Bear, rabbit and rooster make chase, but after a surprising number of twists in the tale, it's a happy ending for all involved.

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The Wild Daydreams of a Solitary Hamster
by Astrid Desbordes
illustrated by Pauline Martin
Enchanted Lion Books (Consortium) | 9781592700936 | $17.95 | May 2010

With understated humor and a very clear line indeed, young readers encounter a graphic novel-format picture book about a Hamster whose interactions with the other animals who are his friends gently illuminate the meaning of life, the life of the mind, and the nature of friendship.  Naturally, it's translated from the French.

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Trickster: Native American Tales
edited by Matt Dembicki
Fulcrum Publishing (Consortium) | 9781555917241 | $22.95 | June 2010

More than 20 trickster tales, each retold and illustrated by different Native American storytellers working with selected illustrators.  Here's a sample page from one of the tales, Coyote And The Pebbles.

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Consortium on Facebook & on Twitter.  Their Spring catalog can be downloaded in two parts here: Adult & Kids.