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: Melinda Blau, co-author of Consequential Strangers

I met journalist and author Melinda Blau online a few weeks ago. She commented on a post on Follow The Reader, Kat Meyer and Charlotte Abbott's blog. After I read the post and started down the list of comments, I recognized Melinda's name in the comments as one of two authors of a book I'm selling this summer from W.W. Norton, Consequential Strangers: The Power of People Who Don't Seem To Matter. I found her on Twitter and started following her. Soon enough, we were having an actual phone call to talk about our mutual interests in social networking, the world of bookstores and publishing, and how the world of publicising books has changed.

In addition to the dozen other books she's written, Melinda is also blogging for Psychology Today and on the Web site for Consequential Strangers.

I ended the call by asking if she would put together a blog post for my3books about three books that she found useful and/or inspirational when she was working on Consequential Strangers, which (by the way) is coming out in August 2009.


My three books are naturally non-fiction - it’s mostly what I read and it’s what I write. This sometimes upsets my friends, especially when I write about a topic that doesn’t interest them. Inevitably, they suggest, “Hey, why don’t you write a juicy novel next?” While I have tremendous respect for authors who can create whole worlds out of their heads, my answer is this: “Nothing I could make up is more spectacular than the stories I hear from real people.”

I digress, but only slightly – I’ll get to that point again. John asked me to think of three books that inspired me, or propelled me, as I was writing my latest book, Consequential Strangers: The Power of People Who Don’t Seem to Matter, which is an exploration of how people outside our family and close friends affect our success and well being. I read widely in service of this project, but here are three very different kinds of books that stand out.


Together Alone: Personal Relationships in Public Places
edited by Calvin Morrill, David A. Snow, and Cindy White
University of California Press | 9780520245235 | $21.95 | Aug 2005

Together Alone showed me that was I was onto something. It is a highly readable collection of ethnographic studies, focusing on social interactions that occur in strip bars and gyms, softball fields and university student centers. The book makes the paradigm-changing point that casual relationships can also have moments of intimacy and emotional dependence. Not surprisingly, it was cited in the 2005 New York Times Magazine “Year in Ideas” issue. I can’t help but think that collective consciousness was at work here, too because Together Alone was being compiled around the time that my academic collaborator, Karen Fingerman, coined the term consequential strangers to describe what sociologists call “weak ties.”


Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection
by John T. Cacioppo & William Patrick
W. W. Norton & Company | 9780393335286 | $17.95 | Aug 2009

Loneliness is, in a way, the flip side of Consequential Strangers. Fortunately, the authors were a year ahead of me, so I was able to include ideas from the book and from my several interviews with Cacioppo, who has been researching the effects of social isolation for the last twenty years. (In a wonderful "small world" story his coauthor, William Patrick, was one of my consequential strangers. He had edited my first book years earlier when he was at Addison-Wesley.)

Pulling together Cacioppo’s research, as well as numerous other fascinating studies, the book documents the science of loneliness. What I love most is the weight given to connection, posited here as a basic human need, right up there with hunger or thirst. When we lack social ties, we experience the dangerous physical and emotional effects of loneliness. Fortunately, as both our books stress, we are not doomed to stay there.


Both Sides Now: One Man’s Journey Through Womanhood
by Dhillon Khosla
Jeremy P. Tarcher / Penguin | 9781585424726 | $26.95 | Mar 2006 (Out of Print)

Both Sides Now is a touching and painful memoir published in 2006, as I was casting about for real-life examples to illustrate the fact that consequential strangers allow us to try on new personas. I suspected that anyone who transitioned from sexy blond women to handsome, well-built guy would be a good – albeit extreme – example.

As it turned out, people in Khosla’s outer circles – co-workers, a bartender – accepted his new male identity before his loved ones did. I didn’t end up using Khosla’s story but his book is well-written and riveting and it certainly fits my you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up theory!


guest post: Micheal Fraser from Joseph-Beth Booksellers

Since I first began selling books to Joseph-Beth Booksellers as a sales rep for indie press distributor PGW, I was aware of Joseph-Beth's Master Bookseller program. Their stores' most experienced, knowledgeable booksellers are given that designation, embodying what we idealize about indie stores - voracious readers, tireless recommenders, making connections between customers and books. Our guest contributor, Micheal Fraser, is a Master Bookseller for Joseph-Beth and today he's brought his handselling powers to my3books.

Welcome, Micheal!


OK, its summer and it's hot and there are just some books that lend themselves to reading on those lethargic summer when a little mystery or fantasy is welcome as a cool breeze.  I have the urge to read To Kill a Mockingbird every summer, so for my3books I have chosen three books that also deal with that strange world of 11-12 year olds.


The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
by Alan Bradley
Delacorte Press | 9780385342308 | $23 | April 2009

It is the English country side of 1950 when we meet Flavia de Luce, an 11-year-old chemist and expert on poisons who is preoccupied with retaliating against her two older sisters' taunts. In the midst of this she finds a body in the cucumber patch and, rebuffed by the police as a nuisance, decides to solve the crime herself.

All of your defenses tumble and you are thrown headlong into an Agatha Christie mystery, a Harriet the Spy adventure and a delightful romp complete with odd neighbors, odder servants, a father with a mysterious past who is arrested for the murder and a wickedly funny heroine who merrily leads you on the chase. Pray you fall victim to this amazing mystery debut.


The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet
by Reif Larsen
Penguin Press | 9781594202179 | $27.95 | May 2009

T. S. is a 12-year-old genius at mapping the world. He maps his sister shucking corn or Moby Dick or his bedroom. He makes sense of the world by mapping it. Surprisingly he gets a call from the Smithsonian, informing him he has won a major prize (they are unaware that he is just a 12-year-old). He decides to accept and hops a freight near his parent's ranch in Montana for the cross-country trip to Washington D.C.

On the trip you fully inhabit his convoluted world, informed by sidebars and T. S.’s drawings in the margins and his very 12-year-old musings on why his father favored his brother who mysteriously died or just how detached his mother is or if he will, like the others in his family, never reach the potential they started out with. You are completely captivated by his young voice and for the summer you are 12 again, full of all the angst that trying to make sense of it all can bring.

Be sure to check out his web site www.tsspivet.com which is visually as fun and amazing as the book.


The Earth Hums in B Flat
by Mari Strachan
Canongate US | 9781847671929 | $14 | June 2009

The first impression I got from reading Gwenni’s story - which grows stronger as it goes along - is "magical." The story just sucks you into this world of a small Welsh village with all its people and their stories. At the center of it all is an ordinary, normal family who has an extraordinary child.

What do you do when you are a normal family harboring an exotic bird not knowing what to do.? When you add the insanity of Gwenni’s mother trying to squash her daughter into something less embarrassing, it is amazing that she always calmly maintains her sense of self. This is a book which holds you until the end and then becomes one of those books you re-read, hoping to relive the joy of a first reading.