Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

We send you out into the night and into 2012 with our top ten bestselling Staff Favorites of the past year. Thank you for continuing to shop at Green Apple. We look forward to sharing some new favorites in the year(s) ahead.

With an honorable mention to a plucky favorite that missed out by a few copies to the Eliot Weinberger book above. (Though we're open for 3 more hours if anyone wants to see Barbara Comyns' novel crack the top ten...)

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Best Books We Read 2011

I read far fewer books in 2011 than I have in quite some time. I was busy and restless. Frustrated, I started and quickly stopped a record number of titles. In the end, I did manage to finish some, and on the whole they left me quite satisfied. I fell in love with a classic that I was prepared to hate, savored yet another reprint by one of my favorite authors, finally read (and thoroughly enjoyed) Tom McCarthy, and drooled over many, many, many fantastic cookbooks. Thus, it may go without saying that the two books I’ve chosen to highlight here are among several favorites from the past year. Surprisingly, these books have central themes that were (luckily?) somewhat foreign to me: death, Jesus, two types of hospitals, and schizophrenia, respectfully. Read on to find out more.

Us, by Michael Kimball is an understated, yet incredibly intimate story of aging, illness and death. The premise is quite simple: a man awakes one morning to find his wife beside him, no longer breathing. What follows is a complex story of the grim reality of what happens when we are met with mortality—that of our loved ones and of ourselves. While, by nature, the subject matter isn’t the endorphin releasing, warm-fuzzy type that I tend to look for in places other than books, this novel is an exceptionally tender portrait of the harsh realities of human existence, and of love. This book will make you think. I might make you feel a little crazy and a little sad. But it is completely worth it.

*Us is currently on our shelves, despite what our website may say. Call to reserve a copy, or come in to see it for yourself.

One of my other favorites from this year was the NYRB reprint of The Three Christs of Ypsilanti. I picked this up because the premise was just too intriguing to ignore. In the late 1950’s, three schizophrenic patients in the Michigan state hospital system shared one very distinct characteristic. They each claimed to be Jesus Christ. Social psychologist Milton Rokeach brought these patients together at the now demolished Ypsilanti State Hospital, where he performed experiments and studied the group for a number of years. Though this is nonfiction through and through, the larger than life personalities, and the pure emotive qualities of the three Christs are certainly the stuff of novelists’ dreams. From a psychological standpoint, this book provides a fascinating explanation and interpretation of the basic functions and modalities of identity and individuality. More than that, the three Christs call into question the very meaning of the term ‘mentally ill’, and the ways in which individuals, physicians, and the state view, treat, and interact with those diagnosed as such. By the end of the book, I found myself wondering exactly which players in this bizarre situation truly saw themselves as Christ; the schizophrenic patients, or the doctor who attempted to manipulate, by morally questionable means, the lives of three men deemed by the state to be clinically insane.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

December's Apple-a-Month Selection, Revealed

As the dust starts to settle from the holiday madness, there's finally time to unveil our December Apple-a-Month Club selection, Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner (Coffee House Press). Anyone who subscribed by December 5th got this smart, poignant, and funny novel in the mail mid-month, and by now even those who were forced to let it sit under the tree for a few weeks have had the chance to dig in, so we'll share our pitch for the book (penned by Sparks) with the rest of you:

Ben Lerner's debut novel is a smart and ironic account of cultural, linguistic, and personal dislocation. Chronicling the rather unextraordinary adventures of a young American poet in Madrid (there under the false pretenses of writing a poem about the Spanish Civil War), Leaving the Atocha Station is a comedic portrait of the artist as a bundle of failures. Much more than an attempt to understand what poetry means in the early 21st century, Lerner's novel is an attempt to figure out what it means to be human.

December also brought a jump in new subscriptions, many of them gifts, which is basically the best Christmas present we could have asked for (combining a few of our favorite things, after all: reading new books, picking good books for you to read, and surprises). Those folks can be on the lookout for the next new fiction title of our choosing in the mail in mid January. Don't even think about trying to get us to tell you what it is. Even though we totally already know. Not even for a bribe, unless you have a really really good bribe. Bribery attempts will be graciously accepted.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Best Books We Read 2011

Kevin D.'s pick:

My favorite book of 2011 arrived just under the wire on our free advances shelf in November. As with Thomas Frank’s last book, The Wrecking Crew, I’m telling everyone to read his newest, Pity the Billionaire (available in January), a harrowing, scrupulously sourced and footnoted report delivering an incisive examination of, as he puts it, the “purified market populism of the right-wing renaissance.”

Frank offers astute insight into what motivates the naïve and xenophobic Tea Ninnies aiming to “take our country back,” fearing burdensome, invasive regulation toward modest small business owners thus rallying for toothless oversight by the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department and SEC, much to the delight of fund managers at JP Morgan.

Frank delivers a seething survey of the “funhouse mirror of contemporary conservatism” where unions “oppress” workers and what’s left of the middle class became a cheering squad for paid-for politicians and the industrialist Koch Brothers, all aided by the stealth astro-turfing machinations of Dick Armey, and Glenn Beck’s socialist-baiting histrionics.

Democrats whistle as workplace unionism dwindles, while a bizarrely aloof President Obama capitulates and compulsively offers olive branches to Rep. John Boehner and his bullies.

The last, chilling, four-page chapter, “Trample the Weak,” foresees a future where the market-minded moneyed interests, no longer fearing incorruptible government agencies, are free to call highways and parks--wasteful subsidies, and FEMA and Medicare are just the unfortunates’ power grab from big government.

This is not bedtime reading unless you enjoy getting both fired up and terrorized before bed.

Monday, December 26, 2011

May late 2011 foretell a great 2012

In the spirit of reflection, we look back on why 2011 was such a landmark year at Green Apple Books.

Was it:
We certainly tried to evolve without losing our heart and soul--a fine selection of quality new and used books in all subject areas. Because no matter what we do, it takes a few hundred people coming in the door and buying books each day to keep Green Apple alive.

So thank you, readers of San Francisco and beyond. Thanks for keeping Green Apple not just around, but vibrant. Like I said in February when the first round of Borders closings were announced, no one should shop at Green Apple out of charity or pity, but because we offer you something you want. You mold the retail landscape with every purchase; vote wisely.

In 2012, we have a few more tricks up our sleeve, including a majorly cool machine. We can't wait to see you in 2012 (starting with free coffee on New Year's Day--open 11am to 7pm).

Until then, thanks, as always, for reading!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Best Books We Read 2011

In the Poetics of Space, one of the most achingly perfect books I read this year, Gaston Bachelard writes the following, which applies almost exactly to the best book I read in 2011:
Every good book should be re-read as soon as it is finished. After the sketchiness of the first reading comes the creative work of reading. We must then know the problem that confronted the author. The second, the third reading... give us, little by little, the solution to this problem.
Although I haven't found the "solution" to the problem that inspired Stanley Crawford's Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine, each voyage--I read the book three times in succession this summer, after reading it initially, and a little skeptically, in 2008 when it was first reprinted by Dalkey Archive Press--brought me closer to some essential truth about the prickly dilemmas inherent in human relationships and cohabitation.

The plot of Unguentine is as deceptively simple as a creation myth and has the flavor of one as well: Mrs Unguentine (always Mrs) recounts her seafaring adventures--which are simultaneously her domestic adventures--with her husband, Unguentine (never Mr), a man who "grew nauseous upon land" and so took his wife to sea, fitting out a barge with increasingly elaborate gardens and mechanical devices. In time, the pair become famous in port cities across the world, their home in turn a curiosity, a place of ill-repute, a smuggler's ship. The notoriety eventually dissipates, leaving their self-contained ecosystem a world unto itself; all the better as far as Mrs Unguentine is concerned--even if her good riddance has something wistful to it.

Into deeper and lonelier waters the Unguentines then sail. In an episode that will resonate with anyone who has found him or herself in a relationship that seems to have gone off course, Mrs Unguentine discovers a blank map by which, it seems, her husband is steering. (A map that alludes, possibly, to another.) Silence grows between the couple just as the trees Unguentine has planted grow to render clear navigation impossible. Ages pass, time stops; the barge becomes more and more isolated. Unguentine and everything familiar disappears, then possibly reappears.

What Crawford has managed in this slim and perpetually overlooked book (of just over 100 pages) is marvelous. As with the best allegories, those that lend themselves to multiple and endless interpretations, Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine can be read literally--as a seafaring tale, a creation myth, the story of an unusual marriage--and rooted around in for deeper meaning, each reading revealing just how dense, under its reflective surface, the novel really is: an amalgam of Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Ulysses' journeys, Ahab's quest...

Vija Celmins, Untitled (Ocean), 1977 (graphite on paper)

Near the end of the book, Mrs Unguentine wonders, "what would it be like to live without the presence of the sea?" which seems to me a question that perfectly embodies everything I love about this novel. It's a straightforward, if complicated, question and one that brings a reader to a similar precipice: what would it be like living without the presence of a book like this?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Best Books We Read 2011

2011 was, for whatever reason, a year of literary obsessions for me. On a few occasions this took the form of re-reading the same book over and over (which I did with this one, this one, and this one. Don't ask.) Themes have also taken hold, like my current curiosity about the mythology and impact of the Brontes, which has resulted in a reading stack consisting of this, this, and this.

But the most surprising and wonderful literary fixation I developed this year hadn't happened to me for quite some time: I discovered and developed a voracious appetite for the works of a single author, and for a few months straight, every time I put down one of her books, my fingers itched for another. I would entertain the idea of reading something different, pull a book from the shelf and place it next to my bed with the best of intentions, but when it came time to open one I'd find myself grasping for that distinctively orange Penguin spine. For this is the year I became an Angela Carter addict.

I'd been reading around Carter for a while, despite knowing that she was up my alley. Then one day I finally picked up the short story collection Saints and Strangers and, leaning against a shelf at Red Hill Books, read the opening paragraph of the opening story: a description of the oppressively humid summer weather which some say resulted in the famous Lizzie Borden axe murders. The subject matter alone hooked me, but it was the breathtaking sentences, each one draped atop the previous in a featherlight perfection that downright chills even as it makes you sweat, that really made me weak in the knees. And so my summer of Angela began.

Those that I loved most were her short stories, some collections of which have gone out of print but are all available in Burning Your Boats: The Collected Short Stories of Angela Carter. If this body of work has a theme, I could only describe it as hauntings. In The Bloody Chamber, the eeriest qualities of fairy tales are expounded upon to the point where they resonate with an uncanny familiarity that is nothing like the Beauty and the Beast you consciously know. My two favorite collections, Saints and Strangers and American Ghosts and Old World Wonders, echo with distinctively American mythologies of tragedy, piousness, fate and ruin -- a particularly unruly set of ghosts to pin down. Even the collection Fireworks, unique in the fact that most of the stories therein are narrated in the first person by a contemporary voice that could be Carter's own, wrestles with the phantoms of self -perception and the narratives constructed in day-to-day loneliness. What's truly remarkable is that despite the familiar terrain of her subjects -- fairy tales, well-known lores, and the most basic struggles with personhood -- almost every sentence in this book astounds.

Having devoured Burning Your Boats, I moved on to her novels, which feature writing just as impeccable as their immersive, magnificent plots. My favorite of these was Wise Children, the story of stage sensations Dora and Nora Chance and a hilarious and clever nod to good old Shakespearean comedy ("tragedy that happens to other people"), which probably contained hundreds of winks to the Bard of which I understood like four. But that was okay, because I like books that make me want to be smarter (why else read?) and because the story has every great premise and lives up to them all: fiercely independent and quick-witted old ladies, multiple generations of twins, cases of mistaken identity, paternity mishaps, a real wedding, a fake wedding, revenge, a donkey costume, births, deaths, and everything in between -- and it all takes place in one day (with many a dive into murky memory). It was Carter's last novel before her death in 1992, and it's the literary equivalent of high-kicking off the stage to a fireworks show, hook and fat lady be damned.

I can think of no better end to a hell of a year than on that note.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Best Books We Read 2011

As we did last year, we'll be running a series of posts featuring our staff members' selections of their favorite books read in 2011. Forgive our presumption, but we're booksellers: most of us can't limit ourselves to just one book.

Jeff's picks:

"A masterful work of sensation and criminal violence, this title is one-stop shopping for many of the greatest true crime cases in American history. The legendary baseball analyst's synthesis of thousands of frequently lurid and trashy books has resulted in this 500 page tome. James goes light on the gory details, but managed to keep me enthralled throughout. One of the best books I've read this year."

"The patient wanted her doctor's attention. The doctor wanted to be the next Freud. The author wanted a bestseller. Expertly guided by the doctor, the doped-up and delusional patient provided a spectacularly gruesome and almost entirely fictional narrative, which the writer honed into a mammoth bestseller, Sybil. Ms. Nathan answers the question which seems mystifying today--how did these two shysters (and their subject) successfully perpetrate such a fraud? I loved the author's previous work and this book also captured my heart."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Independent Bookstores as Amazon Showroom? has been much in the news of late. They created quite a hullabaloo recently with their price comparison app. It would seem that Amazon is not content to be the largest retailer in the world, it wants to be the only retailer in the world. And given the way they treat their vendors, it would seem that they would not be kindly overlords if they were in fact to gain the world domination they seek.But then I came across this article in the NYTimes, and it got me thinking that they might be making a mistake. Here is the main point:

Bookstore owners everywhere have a lurking suspicion: that the customers who type into their smartphones while browsing in the store, and then leave, are planning to buy the books online later — probably at a steep discount from the bookstores’ archrival, Now a survey has confirmed that the practice, known among booksellers as showrooming, is not a figment of their imaginations. According to the survey, conducted in October by the Codex Group, a book market research and consulting company, 24 percent of people who said they had bought books from an online retailer in the last month also said they had seen the book in a brick-and-mortar bookstore first. Thirty-nine percent of people who bought books from Amazon in the same period said they had looked at the book in a bookstore before buying it from Amazon, the survey said.

So dig that- If Amazon succeeded in shutting down all of their bookstore competition, their sales would go down! Maybe it's time for Amazon to start helping us out with the rent. It's in their own best interest.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Titter for the toys for tots: Sat. 17th 2-4pm

You may have heard of him before, but you have never heard him like this. . .
He's the coolest dude from the chilliest climate on the Southest Pole. . .
Sometimes when he drinks too much egg-nog he does Christopher Walken impressions. . .
If you bring in a toy (or make a $ donation) for the SFFD Toys for Tots program he'll let you sit on his lap - he'll tell you a dirty joke - he promises not to touch you. . .
We didn't have a single complaint last year, so we invited him back again. . .
Appearing at Green Apple Books on Sat.17th 2-4pm:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

the tuesday interview: gene luen yang

[thanks, as always, to royalquietdeluxe for this]

I first read Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese when I TA'd a children's lit class as a graduate student and was, without reservation, completely blown away. He lives here in the Bay Area and right after that I had a chance to hear him read at SFPL and then again, this summer, I head him read as part of The Diversity in YA Tour. He strikes me as genuinely curious and is thoughtful and creative in ways that inspire my own work.

RQD: What are you working on? What interests you about these characters?
Gene Luen Yang: I've got three different projects going on right now.1. I'm doing a graphic novel continuation of Nickelodeon's popular animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender for Dark Horse Comics. I'm writing and a Japanese art team named Gurihiru is drawing. I'm a huge fan of the original cartoon, so I'm very excited about this. Of all the main characters, Zuko is my favorite. I relate to his struggle to do -- or even know -- what's right.

2. I'm writing a superhero comic for First Second Books. Sonny Liewis handling the art. The story is set in Chinatown in the 1930's. I can't say much more about the project at this point, but I'm super-excited about this one, too.

3. I'm writing and drawing a graphic novel about The Boxer Rebellion for First Second Books. I've been working on this one for years and years, ever since American Born Chinese came out. The Boxer Rebellion was a war that occurred on Chinese soil over a hundred years ago. At the time, the Chinese government was incredibly weak so the European powers were able to set up concessions all over China -- pieces of land that the Chinese government had no control over. A group of poor, illiterate teenagers from the Chinese countryside decided to take things into their own hands. They performed rituals that called down ancient Chinese gods to possess them. Then, emboldened by the gods' superpowers, they marched through China killing foreigners and Chinese Christians. There are many parallels between The Boxer Rebellion and what's happening in the Middle East today. Of all the projects I'm currently working on, this one is closest to my heart.

RQD: What art or artists interest you?
GLY: I have to confess, I'm pretty comics-y. I read a lot of comics and I am primarily inspired by other cartoonists. My musical tastes are lame. I mostly like pop music from when I was a teenager (late 80's, early 90's -- Rick Astley is totally underrated, as are the Fine Young
). Even my movie tastes are comics-y. Like pretty much every other cartoonist, I love Studio Ghibli movies.

RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?
GLH: Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. As for prose books, I love Silence by Shusaku Endo.

RQD: What are you reading now?
GLY: I'm reading a collection of Father Brown short stories by G.K.Chesterton. I recently read The New New Thing by Michael Lewis. (I really wanted to read the Steve Jobs biography, but my library didn't have it so I settled for the biography of another Silicon Valley

As I mentioned already, I also read a lot of comics and graphic novels. Comics that I've read in the past month or two: Picket Line by Breena Wiederhoeft, My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf, Feynman by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Merrick, Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol, a
volume of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen that I borrowed from a friend, Chris Giarrusso's G-Man with my kids, and the new Wonder Woman comic from DC Comics.

RQD: What did you read as a kid? What is its impact on your work now?
GLY: I read a lot of comic books. :) I also loved Orson Scott Card, Lloyd Alexander, Judy Blume, Clifford Hicks. Remember Clifford Hicks' Alvin Fernald books? I *loved* them when I was a kid. I wanted to be Alvin. I seem to be the only one, though. Nobody else my age knows what I'm talking about.

I remember reaching the end of the J section at my library and feeling lost in the adult section. That's when I latched onto comics. There wasn't much of a YA section when I was growing up.
Illustration: Still from Studio Ghibli via Cartoonbrew

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Best Books We Read 2011

As with most of us here, it is hard to narrow down the best book I read in 2011. But amid all the Faulkner and Bolaño, the DeLillo the Ondaatje, a new collection of Ambrose Bierce from Library of America, the latest from César Aira and Jean-Philippe Toussaint, and a new found favorite, The Land Breakers, (my new staff favorite that was recommended to me by Michael Ondaatje) by John Ehle. In all that fantastic reading and more I have narrowed it down to a new collection of classics and a new beloved author; Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm (TASCHEN) and The Armies (New Directions) by Evelio Rosero.

The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
Leave it to TASCHEN to make the magical world of fairy tales that much more magical. They have pain-stakingly collected twenty-seven of these beloved Grimm fairy tales, newly translated for book lovers of all ages, paired with stunning vintage illustrations from the 1820's to the 1950's. Each story is separated and decorated with intricate silhouettes that were commissioned just for this edition. This is the perfect gift for children and adults alike to cherish these classic tales. For the art lover in you, TASCHEN has chronicled the artists and their history in the back of the book making this more than your typical collection of fairy tales. This book has also been Brain Pickings #1 pick for best illustrated children's and picture books of 2011.

The Armies by Evelio Rosero
Evelio Rosero has quickly become one of my favorite authors and Anne McLean one of my favorite translators. I picked up Rosero's latest short novel Good Offices and couldn't put it down. It is a dark and satirical look at the Catholic church, the politics of Colombia and the perceived worth we put on human life. And yet it is funny. The main character is a hunchback who is extremely smart and perceptive and not your typical Catholic hunchback. After finishing Good Offices I immediately (against my normal reading practices) read the first novel of Rosero's that New Directions translated in 2010, The Armies. This book kicked my ass. I have passed it on to others, and the response has been unanimous - this is a haunting masterpiece of writing and translation - everyone should read this book. Again Rosero writes of a small town in Columbia, this time it is a town caught in the middle of a war. Soldiers, paramilitaries, and guerrillas treat Bojayá and it's people as if they are nothing but a receptacle for their violence. Despite the violence and atrocities this book contains, you are constantly held by the stunning imagery and voice that Rosero brings to The Armies. This is the best book I read in 2011.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Meet Our Neighbors: Jersey's edition

[Here's Green Appler Kevin Davis with a story on our newish neighbors]

In our continuing endeavor to entice East-of-Stanyan-Street-dwellers to spend a day in the Avenues, may we introduce Jersey’s Sandwiches one block north of us at 6th Avenue and Cornwall.

Erick Morton, who owns the store with his wife Shannon Gnatek, curates his selection of ingredients: Charlie’s Pride brand navel cut pastrami, Carando brand Genoa salami, Dutch Crunch from South City’s Ofiesh family bakery outlet, freshly ground horseradish, homemade Russian dressing, freshly made pesto with roasted pine nuts, Chevrine brand goat cheese, Tillamook cheddar, crumbled Maytag pungent blue cheese, imported fruity and complicated Emmental Swiss cheese.

“It’s either that or not have Swiss cheese,” says Morton. “I’m kind of a nut about it. My food costs are out of control. I won’t serve anything I’m not proud of.”

“My starting point was friends and acquaintances,” says Morton, who developed his recipes through trial and error, seeking advice from contacts in his six years bartending at Beach Chalet, the old Broadway Street Enrico’s, Presidio Heights’ Spruce, and most recently the TenderNob’s Fly Bar. “I’d pick the brain of whatever chef I was working with.”

Jersey’s complex and time-intensive spicy chicken, for example, is brined in vinegar, then marinated in olive oil, rosemary, thyme, shallots, and garlic, which Morton then serves slathered in tangy chili pepper Sriracha aioli sauce.

Morton, 35, who grew up in the Manhattan suburb of Ramsey, New Jersey, poaches his meatballs in his own marinara sauce, and roasts the Angus beef and hormone-free turkey in the morning at Divisidero Street’s Solstice Restaurant.

The tiny Sixth Avenue storefront seemed a fit for both his small

convection oven and budget, without involving deep-pocketed partners.

“I saw the space available and it seemed affordable without getting a bunch of loans, just using personal savings to get a foot in the door,” said Morton, who has an SJSU Masters in Education.

Jersey’s has become an “industry spot,” said Morton, drawing a chef from Ligurian eatery Perbacco, a Michael Mina manager, and 23rd Avenue’s Pizzetta crew.

“That our customers are chefs, servers and bartenders, people in the know, who know what good food is, it’s high praise when people in the culinary industry like what we’re doing,” said Morton who lives with Gnatek across the street from the Masonic Street MUNI barn.

Royal Oak, Michigan, native Shannon Gnatek, 34, left waitressing at the casual Bell Tower Bar and Restaurant at Polk and Jackson to help at Jerseys full time, and before that waited tables at Union Square Morton’s Steakhouse for sometimes big personalities like Hulk Hogan.

“I dropped a bottle of wine on his foot,” says Gnatek who is taking a break from studying at 17th and Capp Street’s Shelley Mitchell Method Acting School.

Gnatek, who quit drinking two years ago, is currently reading Daniel Okrent’s prohibition history “Last Call,” which she was motivated to purchase by a Green Apple shelf talker.

Morton counts Orwell, Palahniuk and Suzanne Collins as favorite authors, but was most recently impressed with Michael Lewis’s The Big Short.

“It will piss you off,” says Morton, who honeymooned with Gnatek by visiting 23 countries in eight months.

Jersey's is at 200 6th Avenue at Cornwall. Call ahead to avoid waiting: (415) 221-0444

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Best Books We Read 2011

As we did last year, we'll be running a series of posts featuring our staff members' selections of their favorite books read in 2011. Forgive our presumption, but we're booksellers: most of us can't limit ourselves to just one book.

Martin's picks:

"My favorite mystery of 2011. Not only has Block written a great, gritty novel, he's done it around the 12 steps of AA, which also makes this a compelling account of the difficulties of early recovery."

"My favorite nonfiction book of 2011 was, without a doubt Lost London by Philip Davies. It is almost literally a door into the past: photos of London, most taken before WW1, of buildings and streets that are no more, that have either been torn down to make way for the new or destroyed during the blitz. There are some haunting images in here. None of the photos are less than interesting, and some are incredible for the glimpse of daily life in Victorian and Edwardian London."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Best Books We Read in 2011

As we did last year, we'll be running a series of posts featuring our staff members' selections of their favorite book(s) read in 2011.

David's pick:

"The small giant of modern literature. The plot, on its surface, is simple. A family in a quiet college town. A disaster strikes. Fear spreads. And, as it must, life goes on. But this is not a disaster novel. Around this form, DeLillo meditates on our relationship with fear, death, and the delusions of society. His prose is so clear and the way he handles his themes so gentle that far from bleak this book is a fascinating and insightful observation of our world. The barn scene itself is an iconic moment in literature. For good reason, this book has influence writers for over 25 years. One of the best novels I read in 2011 and in a long time."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Best Books We Read in 2011

As we did last year, we'll be running a series of posts featuring our staff members' selections of their favorite books read in 2011. Forgive our presumption, but we're booksellers: most of us can't limit ourselves to just one book.

First up, Pete, who selected books in four categories.


"Our May Book of the Month. It's a well-paced novel of the gold rush days, two messed up brothers, a fair amount of violence, and an undercurrent of dark humor. A fun read from start to finish."


"This is the riveting story of Jim Jones and the People's Temple. Scheeres (Jesus Land) took advantage of newly released documents and weaves well the tale of an idealist preacher, the accumulation of his followers, his devolution through drugs into paranoia, and how he leads nearly a thousand souls to mass suicide. I started this book wondering just how any parent could poison their own child, and left with that hole in my heart filled with caution instead of curiosity."


"This is a collection of healthy and vegetarian recipes that are perfect for weekday meals. Nothing too complicated, but everything more surprisingly yummy than you think it'll be. For those who want to cook quickly and healthily, this is a gem of a cookbook by a local author."


"It's hard to say what I (and my 5YO twins) love about this one. It's funny and quirky, and I like the drawings. I know I sound like a five-year-old, but, well, I know you are but what am I?"

[This is a book several Green Applers really, really enjoy.]

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

the Tuesday Interview: Peter Orner

[thanks, as always, to royalquietdeluxe for this]

I used to carry my copy of Peter Orner's Esther Stories around with me in case I ever got stuck somewhere without something to read. I could open it up to any page and just fall in. Then I heard he was going to read at Dog Eared Books, so I packed in with a bunch of other people and followed along with my book in my lap. Now he has this amazing new book, but he still feels like our own neighborhood storyteller.

RQD: What are you working on? What interests you about these characters?
Peter Orner: I have a new novel out, so I wish I could say I was working at the moment. I think I'm in the process of saying goodbye to characters I've spent so much time with. They are slowly fading away to me and having lives of their own as they get read (or not read) by other people...What interested me for so many years (the book took about seven) was how my people seemed constitutionally incapable of learning from the past.

RQD: What art or artists interest you?

PO: The South African artist
William Kentridge I find him amazing; his huge imagination, the way he uses history and politics in his work.

RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?

PO: A novel by great Nebraskan novelist Wright Morris called
Plains Song, I re-read it every year. This and Moby Dick. And also the sea stories of Alvaro Mutis.

RQD: What are you reading now?

PO: Right now I am reading The Book of Ebenzer Le Page, one of the strangest novels I've ever come across, and loving it. Its about a guy on an island off the UK who remembers nearly every single detail about his life. I can't get enough of it.

RQD: What did you read as a kid? What is its impact on your work now?
PO: The Phantom Tollbooth. I often think about it at least every day, how easy it seemed in that book to pass from one reality to another. When we're a kid and we read a book like this, we almost take it for granted. These days it's like I'm wandering around looking for that weird and wonderful tollbooth. Where did it go?

Friday, December 2, 2011

December's Book of the Month: Moby-Dick in Pictures

There are as many interpretations of Moby-Dick as there are splintered harpoons in the white whale's scarred skin, all of which tell a different story, none of which tell quite the whole story. Matt Kish's interpretation takes the form of an illustration for every page (all 552 of 'em) and is both a singular reading of Melville's epic and a piece of monumental art in itself. Like all imaginative readers, Kish creates from his voyages in search of the whale his own vision, referring back to the original, but full of its own mythology and the cultural influences of the 150 years since the publication of the original. As such, Moby-Dick in Pictures provides us with a fresh way of viewing a classic (and is likely to become a classic in its own right), reminding us that great literature both acts upon the present and is reimagined by it.

As ever, our Book of the Month is guaranteed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Future of the Bookstore

There has been a bit of a buzz amongst booksellers about this recent Dan Clowes New Yorker cover. It would seem to disparage bookstores not only for carrying all sorts of knick knacks and gewgaws aside from books, but for pushing the books farther to the back of the store.

Now, it is a nearly universal fact that bookstores are carrying all sorts of "sidelines" that you wouldn't have seen in a "bookstore" 10 years ago. Even City Lights is selling onesies (very cute). At Green Apple, we've added all sorts of toys and games and puzzles to the mix over the last few years. When Raymond Carver lived in the neighborhood in the 1970's, he didn't ponder whether to add a refrigerator magnet or some finger tentacles to his purchases. But a business has to do what a business has to do to stay in business, and if finger tentacles help keep the lights on, then bring on the finger tentacles.

But Mr. Clowes does have a point, I believe. With the advent of e-books, there is much discussion (see here and here) about the future of books and bookstores. As more and more people read their books digitally, which is inevitable, then whither the bookstore. I'm not going to make an argument for the many positive things a bookstore brings to a community. I just want to stick to the reality that they are endangered. Every single person doesn't have to buy a Kindle to make the neighborhood bookstore go the way of the typewriter shop, just enough of them so that it no longer becomes a viable business to sell books for a living.

Which brings us to my answer to the question, what will become of the bookstore? As digital reading slowly (or quickly) replaces the reading of paper books, those sidelines will continue to expand and multiply, until what we consider a "bookstore" will actually be a gift shop or a clothing store or some other type of general merchandise emporium that also happens to have a good selection of books. How long this will take is anybody's guess. My personal guess is that it will be much slower than some people think, as readers generally have a strong attachment to the physical book. The analogy would be to vinyl records compared to compact discs. Audiophiles still love their vinyl, and at Green Apple we are selling more vinyl now than we did ten years ago. Compact discs, nobody has an emotional attachment to, and apparently there is talk that production of compact discs will cease all together in the next year of two. I think it will be a long slow transition from bookstore to store with books.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cat's Outta the Bag

November marked the first month of our new Apple-a-Month Club, a subscription service wherein you can receive a hand-picked (and eyeball-read) new fiction title in the mail once a month. Our hands are doing the picking, our eyeballs are doing the reading, and all you've got to do is check the mailbox and hug your postperson (or resist the urge) when they bring you a pretty little package like this in the mail.

And, now that November's subscribers have had the chance to be surprised by their new book and our handwritten shelf-talker, we can tell the rest of you that our inaugural Club selection is In Red by Magdalena Tulli, a beautiful new little translation from Archipelago Books.

The heart of Magdelena Tulli's novel is the imaginary Polish town Stitchings. Reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's famous Macondo (in One Hundred Years of Solitude), Stitchings serves as setting for an array of darkly fantastic events: from a girl who refuses to acknowledge her death to the home of a man destined for a bullet that's circled the earth for years, Tulli's town offers the ultimate pleasure to readers: the impossible made believable. As such, we felt it was the perfect place to start our Apple-a-Month Club.

Want in? Why wouldn't you. If you're interested in subscribing for 3, 6, or 12 months, please do so by December 5th to get your first book in the mail about a week later. Got someone on your holiday shopping list who you want to surprise closer to Christmas? Purchase a subscription by December 18th and we'll send the recipient a card in the mail to let them know they're getting an awesome gift, and they'll get their first book in January.