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Olsson's: Buyer's Corner
Olsson's is a locally Owned & Operated, Independent chain of six book and recorded music stores in the Washington, D.C. area, started by John Olsson in 1972. Each week the Head Book Buyer blogs about interesting new books that are available.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Last Post Before Christmas
Well, it's my last post before Christmas and I'll be keeping it short again. I'm downtown at our Lansburgh store this morning anticipating the lunchtime crowds.
We have some books back in stock that I wanted to let everyone know about:
The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano - This is one of my favorite books of the year and I was certainly not alone.
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett - This is a big hit in our Gift Guide and a favorite among booksellers and a perfect fit for a stocking.
We are still waiting to get Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food, but it should be in momentarily!
The store is really starting to bustle, so I'd better go. Have a Happy Holiday!
I'll keep it short and sweet this week. It's a busy time for everyone and of course we're happy to be busy and chasing down titles that are flying off the shelves. I'm not sure when I'm going to do my Christmas shopping, though... Every year I think I might try and diversify, but every year it comes down to that week before and I realize I haven't done any shopping and I'm pretty much not leaving work, so it's books and CDs for everyone. Not that they seem to mind, it's just that, well, I've already given books to everyone I know for the last 6 years. But who am I kidding? It'll be books again this year.
Here's a few short notes on a few short novels to follow my theme.
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett is featured in our Holiday Gift Guide and is a charming little read that wonders just what would happen to the Queen if she got hooked on reading.
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell is a quick but gripping story about a woman who finds out she has a great aunt who's been stuffed away in an asylum for over 60 years.
Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan is a bittersweet reflection from the manager of the final shift on a blizzardy December day at a Red Lobster slated to close.
I hope you’ve had a chance to take a look at our Holiday Gift Guide online. The non-virtual version will be available momentarily.
This week I figured I’d go through some more titles in the guide… specifically the cookbooks we chose this year. It seems like the right thing to do since the weather has finally turned cold (there’s even snow on the ground, or at least there is as I write this, the day before it gets floated out into the ether). With the cold comes a tendency to get reacquainted with those hearty roots and tubers and the dark, leafy greens, and the whole process of full on, hours long cooking. It’s not so bad to have the oven cranking out 375º when the insulation in your apartment is pretty crappy and the windows shudder every time a gust of wind blows down the street. In fact, one could say it’s value-added. Not only will there be delicious victuals to eat, there’ll be a bit of extra warmth to hold onto before crawling into the multi-blanketed bed.
To that, I submit Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food, Simone & Inez Ortega’s 1080 Recipes, and Mark Bittmann’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. Waters’ book is arguably the biggest cookbook of the year and not for nothing as they say in places New York-y. Waters is driven by a passion for locally grown, organic, seasonal food and this book continues to promote this while adding invaluable kitchen techniques and over 200 fantastic recipes. 1080 Recipes has the big, boxy look of another Phaidon phenomenon, The Silver Spoon, but turns our interests from Italy to Spain. This is surely the culinary bible of its region, replete with delicious recipes. And of course Bittman’s continuing saga of How To lands this time on Vegetarian fare and his boundless enthusiasm for simply prepared yet transcendent food follows.
And of course, Secret Ingredients, though not a cookbook per se, is the perfect accompaniment to a dinner prepared for one with maybe a glass of wine (who needs witty repartee when you have The New Yorker), while Bourdain’s No Reservations could handily upstage any reality-based TV programming that one might be tempted to slog through under a blanket and a cat on a wintry eve.
Of course, the best of all possible worlds is a delicious home-cooked meal prepared by someone else, perhaps, someone who received one of these delightful books as a gift from you.
Hello! It's been a busy week, but not quite the usual busy... I spent some time at the WETA studios yesterday taping a segment for a new videoblog program called Author Author! hosted by self-titled Book Maven Bethanne Patrick. As soon as it's up we'll have a link to it from our website. We talked about some of the best books of the year and also some great holiday gift selections. I kept retooling my list all weekend long, trying to fit in all my personal favorites and all the favorites from the stores. So if I left one or two titles off they're surely highlighted at a store or, even better, in our Holiday Gift Guide.
This year's Holiday Gift Guide (or HGG as we so cleverly call it in-house) has finally taken shape and is available on our website. The print version is due next week. I'm really excited about our title selections this year. It's a lot of fun poring through all the year's titles and looking at the upcoming releases that we're all a-titter about.
Speaking of the Holiday Gift Guide, Tuesday night I joined Tony Ritchie at the Lisner Auditorium where the Smithsonian was hosting a conversation with Steve Martin. His recently published autobiography Born Standing Up is one of our featured titles this year. It has garnered a lot of positive reviews and it was one of the pre-publication books I greedily picked up earlier this year. I've enjoyed his fiction and his humor pieces over the years and was eager to see what resulted when he turned the lens on himself. And of course, like just about everyone else in the universe my family had (and played into the ground) the A Wild and Crazy Guy album. And there may have been some arrow headgear floating around, too.
Well, his autobiograghy is a well-crafted and intelligent narrative that reflects as much on his actual life as it does on his savvy and tenacious approach to the science and philosophy of comedy. It's also one of my favorite books this season. And making it an even sweeter deal, we were able to get a number of copies signed by Mr. Martin and they're available at all of our stores.
Late into last evening at the Marriott Marquis hotel in New York City burning questions were answered, awards were handed out, speeches were made.
Almost all bets were on Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke for the fiction award. I read some contrarian articles in the last week, but overall the odds were in Johnson’s favor. And they were justified. It certainly was my favorite for the award and one of the best things I’ve read this year.
Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes won for the non-fiction category, edging out Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great) and Edwidge Danticat (Brother, I’m Dying), among others. Robert Haas, the former Poet Laureate, won for Time and Materials and Sherman Alexie won the young people’s literature prize for his semi-autobiographical The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
I’m pleased to say that we’ve got three of the four winners in our upcoming Holiday Gift Guide.
Alexis Akre, a DC-area native, has worked at Olsson's for almost six years. She received her BA in English from Barnard College,
and lived in New York for several years. Since her return to her home town, Alexis has honed her gift for skewering both vapidity and
pretension with concise, well-worded psychological assessment. She can be seen tooling around town on her minty green bike, reading
one of the hundreds of books she has stacked in her home, and teaching her cat to do tricks.