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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

May 19, 2019

New Realities in Paperback - Living With Psychedelics and Life as an Urban Native American    
 
How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan. Known largely for his thoughtful and influential writings about food, Pollan ingests something different this time around as he investigates the medical and scientific revolution taking place around psychedelic drugs. The book became more personal when he learned how LSD and the like are being used to provide relief to people suffering from difficult-to-treat conditions such as depression, addiction and anxiety. As his review of research showed the drugs improving the lives not only of the mentally ill but also of healthy people coming to grips with the challenges of everyday life, he decided to take a trip (several, actually) to experience the effects for himself. The result is a remarkably edifying book, one that provides a compelling case for the therapeutic value of psychedelics. In expanding his own mind, Pollan also expands that of the reader with a narrative that enlightens, educates, and entertains.
 
 
There There by Tommy Orange. A huge indie favorite and one of the best reviewed novels of last year is a debut work about contemporary Native Americans gathering in Oakland, California, for a big Indian celebration. Orange, who recently graduated from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, tells the story of 12 characters - disconnected at the outset - who are on hand for the Big Oakland Powwow. He weaves their reasons for being there and accompanying back stories into a fascinating and often sobering portrait of urban life for indigenous people, in this case mostly Cheyenne. Orange is masterful at juxtaposing issues of violence and recovery, identity and power, and the beauty and despair that run throughout the history of a nation and its people.
 
This review, from last June's Indie Next list, is from one of the many independent booksellers who have become champions of the book: "There There is the kind of book that grabs you from the start and doesn't let go, even after you've turned the last page. It is a work of fiction, but every word of it feels true. Tommy Orange writes with a palpable anger and pain, telling the history of a cultural trauma handed down through generations in the blood and bones and stories of individual lives. He also writes with incredible heart and humor, infusing his characters with a tangible humanity and moments of joy even as they are headed toward tragedy. There There has claimed a permanent spot in my heart despite having broken it, or maybe because it did. I think this may be the best book I've ever read."
- Heather Weldon, Changing Hands, Tempe, AZ
May's #1 Indie Next Pick
Is More Than Just an Excellent Family Saga 
 
The Guest Book by Sarah Blake. This multi-generational story of one family's history tackles issues of wealth and privilege as well as race and morality. It follows three generations of the Miltons, from 1936 to 1959, as they pass through the family's lavish estate on an island in Maine. After her mother's death, historian Evie looks more closely at the longstanding myths that define the Milton family dynasty, a personal journey that yields a wealth of secrets. This Indie Next bookseller review is typical of the great critical praise for the book.

"I began The Guest Book expecting an excellent family saga set, in part, on an island in Maine. The magic of the family home is palpable as three generations build loyalty, identity, and memories there. But what I read was far, far more. This is a history of our country's evolution through matters of race, class, and politics, and it relates compellingly to our current struggles with those topics as the characters grapple with the underpinnings of privilege, familial love, and morality. Sarah Blake has written a stunning and complex novel that lingers in your mind long after the last page."
- Dana Brigham, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
WHERE TO FIND 
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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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