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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

August 13, 2017

New Paperbacks Offer Ranges of Interest For Readers

The Trespasser by Tana French. A decade after her first mystery, French has built up a solid and loyal following with her moody, well-written Dublin Murder Squad series. She broke out of the box with a bang upon publication of her debut thriller, Into The Woods, which won several awards, i ncluding the 2008 Edgar for Best First Novel. The Trespasser is her sixth installment and again pairs detectives Antoinette Conway and Stephen Moran, who were matched in French's previous book, The Secret Place. The focus here is on the abrasive and new-to-the-squad Conway, who is not a fan favorite among the squad's detectives, and a new case that seems at first like a slam-dunk lovers' tiff gone bad. Conway and Moran are pushed by their colleagues to pin the murder on the dead woman's boyfriend, but of course there's more than meets the eye, especially when Conway realizes she's met the victim before. French delivers another dependably interesting and complex plot that should keep readers eagerly turning the pages.


Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs by Robert Kanigel. She may not be a household name to many, but Jacobs was in her own way one of the most influential voices in her field. A journalist, author, and activist, Jacobs (who died in 2006) was to urban planning what Rachel Carson was to environmentalism - an influential voice for changing the status quo. Her view, which most urban planners of the 1950s and 1960s shunned, was that conventional urban renewal was actually destroying communities (particularly poorer ones) as well as the richness of city life. Her 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, became a classic that influenced city planning and architectural concepts for more than 40 years. She was also a great champion for her longtime home neighborhood of Greenwich Village and was instrumental - after a long and bitter fight - in blocking a freeway expansion through the Village and other neighborhoods. Also an opponent of the Vietnam war, she moved her family to Toronto in 1968 to protect her sons from the draft and became an activist leader there as well.

I will note that the paperback edition contains rather small type and tight margins, making the pages seem rather dense. And urban planning isn't a subject for everyone. But if the life of this feisty, stubborn, and independent woman sounds interesting, Kanigel's biography is informative and well done.


The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer. The popular stand-up comedian is known for being raunchy and uninhibited in her act, and in movies like Trainwreck and Snatched, but this book of personal essays showcases a much more complex individual than her act might suggest. Largely autobiographic , the 30+ pieces describe her growing up on Long Island, dealing with her parents'  divorce and her father's battle with multiple sclerosis, and her own teenage struggles. There are loads of laughs, but what struck me the most was the honesty with which Schumer writes about her not-always-so-great life. One long and candid essay in particular describes her career as a comic - the highs and the lows, the travel demands, the difficulty of cultivating relationships, and more. And while punchlines are inevitable (and extremely funny), Schumer proves to be a good storyteller as well. She is, as always, sexually explicit (one essay is titled "An Open Letter to My Vagina"), but her voice is authentic and her humanity much in evidence.  
Teen Uncovers Sinister  Plot Against Homeless Kids in Clever Thriller
 
The Readymade Thief
by Augustus Rose. This debut novel has been called an "intellectual thriller" by Kirkus Reviews and is receiving praise from the likes of NPR, Chicago Review of Books, and author Colson Whitehead, whose Underground Railroad won this year's Pulitzer Prize fo r Fiction. Here's a brief publisher description:

"Lee Cuddy is 17 years old and on the run, alone  on the streets of Philadelphia. After taking the fall for a rich friend, Lee reluctantly accepts refuge in the Crystal Castle - a cooperative of homeless kids squatting in an austere, derelict building. But homeless kids are disappearing from the streets of Philadelphia in suspicious numbers, and Lee quickly discovers that the secret society's charitable facade is too good to be true"

The Readymade Thief was also an Indies Introduce pick and on the August Indie Next list. This review reflects independent bookseller enthusiasm:

"Much to the chagrin of my household, once I started this book I refused to put it down. I let my children fend for themselves while I walked along the Philly streets with Lee and Tomi, solving the age-old puzzle in the midst of which 17-year-old Lee has found herself. She has many of the same struggles and life choices to make as high school seniors across the country, but with a mysterious conspiracy thrown in. I love a book that is both well-written and completely absorbing. This is a great read for vacation, for a long plane ride, or for an escape while in the comfort of your own home."
- Jessica Fowle, Bookbug, Kalamazoo, MI
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WHY THE COLUMN?
Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I work as a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, California.

My goal with this newsletter is to keep readers up to date about new books hitting the shelves, share what indie booksellers are recommending in their stores, and pass on occasional news about the book world.

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