What makes a book special varies, of course, from one reader to another, but whenever I put in a new book order to fill specific customer requests, I add a few titles “on spec,” choosing what I hope will be irresistible not only to me but to bookstore browsers, too. Approaching winter holidays are a great time for these special items. Buyer’s remorse may follow purchase of an expensive exercise machine or clothing that’s the wrong size, but who can regret buying a book? As I remind readers every year, books are easy to wrap, eminently shareable, and serve as magic carpets to carry us to other worlds.
Plotted: A Literary Atlas, by Andrew DeGraff, with essays by Daniel Harmon is perfect for literary readers with a taste for maps and quality graphic novel illustrations. DeGraff was inspired by teachers, maps, and history, as well as by classic literature, short stories, and fantasy novels. In this quirky book you will find his visual rendition of Homer’s Odyssey, Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, and the castle Shakespeare imagined as the setting for Hamlet. Mark Twain is here, as are Kafka and Melville, Frederick Douglass and – surprise! – Flannery O’Connor. What would the book authors make of this book? Give it to an English major and pose the question! Hardcover, $24.99
Lynne Rae Perkins first called my attention to Maira Kalman when she asked me to order one of her books. Warning: this author/illustrator’s works are addictive. And how could I not order a book with Beloved Dog for a title? Kalman has my number.
You, reading this book, mostly likely have, or had, a dog. You certainly know that your dog is, or was, the dearest, funniest, lovingest, loyalest friend you ever had.
You will meet many dogs in these pages, dogs of all sizes and kinds. You will also take a walk in New York City, stroll through Paris, France, and find yourself in Washington, DC, in cherry blossom time. If you haven’t met Maira Kalman before, now is the time. Hardcover, $29.95
This one is as quick and simple as its title: Big Bear, little chair, by Lizi Boyd, is a book for young children that explores the world of BIG and little, with examples taken from different natural objects and human artifacts. Some are surprising. Would you think a big zebra would wield a little broom? This book is just plain fun! Hardcover, $16.99
Then, do we ever outgrow Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol? This new edition begins with historical background and goes on to give us every word of the familiar story, beautifully and memorably illustrated by Australian artist Robert Ingpen. The pictures somehow make the story seem brand-new, while at the same time transporting me to Victorian England, where I am encouraged not only to enter the characters’ lives (all good books do that) but also to dwell lingeringly on the daily details of the way they live. Magic! Hardcover, $24.99
Another familiar classic appearing in new guise is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. The 150th anniversary edition illustrated by Salvador Dali, the first “affordable” edition with Dali’s art, is as psychedelic as any Sixties flower child could possibly wish.
I love the semi-abstract illustrations rhr remind me of the first “abstract” art I ever saw, dreamy watercolor illustrations in the two-volume book club edition of Kipling’s Jungle Books. There is also a description of Dali’s mathematical interests, the “math connection” between the artist and Oxford mathematician Charles Ludwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll. In other words, this book has in it something for every age and every interest. Hardcover, $24.95
Art and literature combine again in Sunlight on the River: Poems About Paintings / Paintings About Poems, edited by Scott Gutterman, pairing over fifty masterpieces of art with poetry from across the ages. Charles Wright meets Paul Cezanne, Jane Flanders and Anne Sexton both dance with van Gogh, and many other poets and artists are brought together in sometimes surprising juxtaposition. Hardcover, $34.95
Finally, we leave the realm of literature and art for memoir, but the new memoir I have in stock is also a travel book: The Only Street in Paris: Life on the rue des Martyrs, by Elaine Sciolino. Moi, je connais la rue des Martyrs. I would never have claimed it as the “only street in Paris,” but neither could I resist revisiting la rue qui monte (the street that climbs) de Notre-Dame-de-Lorette au Sacré-Coeur. Alas! I learn that the famous Poissonerie Bleue, one of the premier Paris fish shops, closed three years ago. But there is still some of the best food shopping in town on the rue des Martyrs, and the book makes me long again for the wonderful cheese shops of the unfashionable but lively 9th arrondissement. One merchant complains to the author that foreigners sometimes come in and don’t say Bonjour. (And then they think the French are rude!) Ah, yes, that is the Paris I remember! Would you like to make the trip? Hardcover, $25.95
So there you have it, this week’s sampler of new titles newly available for in-store purchase at Dog Ears Books, an island of treasures, where every day brings unexpected encounters between people and books.
There will be cookies today, also, at Dog Ears Books, and horse-drawn wagon rides -- free! -- through our sunny little village, and when darkness falls, lights will appear on the big Christmas tree on Nagonaba Street, and carol-singing will follow. 'Tis the season. Bundle up! Come and enjoy!