Our inventory at Dog Ears Books, both new titles and old, is in constant flux. Consequently, just as I’m focusing this blog more on books for 2014, I have a new agenda for the bookstore this year, too.
I started with a question: How do readers and browsers find out about new books that aren't necessarily block-buster bestsellers? It’s always been part of my bookselling mission (yes, we booksellers are usually missionaries of one stripe or another) to stock poetry, philosophy, books on farming and economics and all kinds of other things not to be found in grocery store magazine racks. But this year I’ll be going out on a new limb, featuring new fiction that has come to my notice but that the general public might otherwise miss. And not just Michigan fiction, either.
Monday is St. Patrick’s Day, so let's start with The Spinning Heart, a novel by Donal Ryan. The Spinning Heart won the Guardian First Book Prize and was also named Irish Book Awards Book of the Year. Kirkus gave it a starred review and called it “disturbing and unnerving but ultimately beautiful.” Here’s the setup (from the back book cover):
In the aftermath of Ireland’s financial collapse, dangerous tensions surface in an Irish town. As violence flares, the characters face a battle between public persona and inner desires. Through a chorus of unique voices, each struggling to tell their own kind of truth, a single authentic tale unfolds.
The Spinning Heart, by Donal Ryan
Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press, paper, $15
My other out-on-a-limb selection this week is Solomon the Peacemaker, by Hunter Welles, a novel bridging the categories of literary fiction and science fiction and exploring “the limits of technology, violence, memory, and love.” In this future world, peace between nations has held for half a century, thanks to a peace-keeping computer, while a cult-like church basement group led by the bearded Preacher provides contrast and conflict. Here is the review from ForeWord magazine that convinced me to order this title.
Solomon the Peacemaker, by Hunter Welles
St. Paul, MN: Cowcatcher Press, paper, $16
And if you didn’t already take note of the publishers’ addresses, do so now. Hanover, New Hampshire, and St. Paul, Minnesota. Not New York. Nothing wrong with New York, of course; my point is simply that there are independent publishers everywhere in the U.S. these days, producing quality work to supply independent bookstores with new books -- to be discovered by adventurous, independent book customers! Not a nation of sheep, but a nation of independent buyers -- is there a future in that idea?
Reading. Make it an adventure!