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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

July 7, 2019

Armchair Travelers and Food Lovers Won't Give This Pair an Icy Reception
 
Tip of the Iceberg: My 3,000-Mile Journey Around Wild Alaska, the Last Great American Frontier by Mark Adams. This is armchair travel at its best, with author Adams taking readers back in time to a famous Alaskan expedition as he takes the same trip himself more than a century later. In 1899, railroad magnate Edwar d Harriman led a team of 23 scientists, including naturalist John Muir, on a two-month steamship expedition to explore the waters and coastal territory of Alaska. The party includes geologists, botanists, ornithologists, taxidermists, and zoologists - all engaged in scientific investigation in their respective fields. Thousands of photographs were taken, and the voyage produced a remarkable survey of Alaska's environment.

Drawing on the writings of Harriman and his team as a guide, Adams retraces the expedition's journey on a modern-day tour that takes him 3,000 miles north through Wrangell, Juneau, and Glacier Bay, then continues west into the colder and stranger regions of the Aleutians and the Arctic Circle. In doing so, he hits all the important locations of Harriman's crew and compares what he has gleaned from his research with what he discovers more than 100 years later. Many of his comparisons deal with the scenery and wilderness, much of which (no surprise) has changed, and usually not for the better. Adams is a witty and skilled travel writer, which he shows in describing encounters with loads of oddball characters (and a couple of very hungry bears). But he also offers an important and more sobering look at the impact that climate change, oil drilling, ever-present cruise ships, and the like have had on this once-pristine national treasure.    
 
 
Burn the Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End by Kevin Alexander. In a volume that should intrigue and delight foodies, James Beard Award-winning journalist Alexander chronicles what he posits was a golden age in American dining over the past decade. His story begins in 2006, when a food transformation began to take place. Longtime creative culinary hubs in New York City and the Bay Area were suddenly faced with an unlikely challenge emanating out of  Portland, Oregon. Its new, no-holds-barred casual fine-dining style became the talk of town, fueling a culinary revolution that swept across America. As evidence, Alexander cites traditional ramen shops that opened in Oklahoma City, raft cocktail speakeasies appearing in Boise, and poke bowls being served in Omaha. Entire neighborhoods, such as Williamsburg in Brooklyn, and cities, like Austin, became shorthand for the so-called hipster movement. At the same time, new media companies such as Eater and Serious Eats launched to chronicle and cater to this developing scene, transforming nascent star chefs into proper celebrities. And then it was over.  
 
To bring his well researched story to life, Alexander journeys through the travails and triumphs of a number of key chefs, bartenders, and activists, as well as restaurants and neighborhoods whose fortunes were made during this culinary gold rush. The result is what Publishers Weekly called an "astute reflection on an era of American food culture [that] will give foodies a new perspective on the restaurants they love and the dining experiences they've grown to expect."
Twisting Relationships at Heart of Tale of Mystery and Miracles
 
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield. Now in paperback, this imaginative, atmospheric
novel about the wrenching disappearance of three little girls and the wide-reaching effect it has on their small town was an Indie Next pick in hardcover last December. The bookseller review for the book back then provides a solid overview of the plot; read it and see what you think: 
 
"Time to settle down for a story. It begins, as good stories should, with the rescue of a pair of strangers on a winter night. Though all is not as it seems in Diane Setterfield's latest, as Once Upon a River quickly delves into a mystery. The young girl was dead when she was pulled from the river, but hours later she begins to breathe. As the story of her revival spreads, more than one member of the village feels mysteriously drawn to her. Could she be their missing child, estranged granddaughter, long-lost sister? Setterfield's work is the closest an adult can come to settling down for story time, and Once Upon a River has the same magic, timeless, and cozy charm of a tale that has been told through the ages. Simply lovely." 
- Molly Gillespie, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH
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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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