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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

December 2, 2018

Hawking Tackles Life's Big Questions While Lamott Offers Hope and Inspiration in Trying Times 
   
Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking. In a relatively small book that NPR called "Hawking's parting gift to humanity," the famed physicist provides his personal views on our biggest challenges as a human race, and where we, as a planet, are heading next. At the time of his death, Hawking was working on what he considered to be his final project - a book compiling his answers to the "big" questions that he was so often asked, including ones that ranged beyond his academic field. Will humanity survive? Should we colonize space? Does God exist? These are just a few of the questions Hawking addresses in this wide-ranging, passionately argued volume.
 
Unfortunately, Hawking was unable to finish the book, but it was completed by his family in the wake of his death. That said, Brief Answers to the Big Questions is quintessential Hawking - thoughtful, accessible, and imbued with his mischievous sense of humor.
 
 
Almost Everything by Anne Lamott. I've always loved Lamott's quirky wit, which resides in both her fiction and nonfiction work. After early novels like Joe Jones, a candid view of her and her son's first year together in Operating Instructions, and a classic book on writing called Bird by Bird, she has fashioned quite a career with collections of essays dealing largely with faith, religion, and hope. She's more mellow and forgiving these days, but her writing - while seeking to be inspirational - remains sharp and laced with humor (albeit less acerbic). This new collection, following her bestselling Help, Thanks, Wow, is more of the same.

"I am stockpiling antibiotics for the Apocalypse, even as I await the blossoming of paperwhites on the windowsill in the kitchen," the author admits at the beginning of Almost Everything. Despair and uncertainty are both in rich supply - in the news, in our families, and in ourselves. But Lamott asserts that when you arrive at a place in life that is miserable, "that is the time when we must pledge not to give up but "to do what Wendell Berry wrote: 'Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.'"
Late Show Staff Drowns
Trump in his Own Words
 
Whose Boat Is This Boat?: Comments That Don't Help in the Aftermath of a Hurricane
by President Donald J. Trump (by accident), edited by the Staff of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. At first glance, Whose Boat looks li ke a rather simplistic children's picture book, both in size and format. As it turns out, the simplisti c part is dead-on. The book's text is made entirely of quotes from President Trump during his visit to ravaged areas on the East coast in the aftermath of  Hurricane Florence. The title is drawn from what late night talk-show host Colbert called Trump's "impassioned, and truly heartfelt response to this one boat that washed ashore." During his visit on September 19, 2018, Trump made a number of comments about a boat that had been shipwrecked on the property of a survivor and homeowner in New Bern, North Carolina. "At least you got a nice boat out of the deal," he told hurricane victims. "Have a good time!"  
 
The book is certainly a gimmick and a dig at the president, but it makes its point effectively by using Trump's own words. Another appeal for many is the fact that 100% of The Late Show's proceeds from this book go to hurricane relief. The book is on independent bestseller lists, but I have a feeling it may sell out before Christmas, so - if interested - I'd check it out sooner than later. 
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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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