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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

September 8, 2019

New Books from Two Literary Lions  Land on Booker Prize Shortlist
 
The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Three decades after her iconic dystopian classic was published, Atwood returns
to Gilead and answers the questions that have tantalized readers for decades. When the van door slammed on Offred's future at the end of The Handmaid's Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her - freedom, prison or death. With The Testaments, the wait is over, as the sequel picks up more than 15 years after Offred stepped into the unknown. The story is told through the eyes of three female narrators from Gilead, who offer their testimony about life now, in the misogynistic America of the near future that was described in The Handmaid's Tale. Has life changed in Gilead, a place where women - categorized in terms of whether or not they are able to bear children - function only in the strictly defined roles assigned to them by men?
 
I wouldn't tell you more even if I knew, but I don't have a lot of details because The Testaments is not allowed to be sold by any bookstore until this Tuesday, September 10. The book's publisher made stores sign an affidavit swearing they wouldn't sell the book any sooner - in part to build hype for a coordinated one-day release. Unfortunately for the publisher, Amazon broke the publisher's embargo by shipping at least 800 copies earlier last week to customers who had pre-ordered the book. The corporate behemoth apologized for what it characterized as a "technical error"(really?) and is no longer shipping copies out early. Indie booksellers were upset by the rule-breaking and are awaiting word of publisher sanctions that would have been imposed on any real bookstore that broke the contract. Spoiler alert - we aren't holding our breaths.  
 
 
Quichotte by Salman Rushdie. In this smart and satiric take on Cervantes' classic Don Quixote , the acclaimed author sets his story-within-a-story in modern-day America, where a mediocre Indian American writer of spy thrillers creates a  character named Quichotte, an addled salesman obsessed with television who falls in impossible love with a TV star. Together with his (imaginary) son Sancho, Quichotte sets off on a windmill-tilting quest across America to prove worthy of her hand. Meanwhile, his creator, in the throes of a midlife crisis, has challenges of his own. 
 
Rushdie's latest, just out last week, is piling up starred reviews that burnish his Booker shortlist nomination. Here's an excerpt from the London daily newspaper The Times: " Quichotte [is] an updating of Cervantes's story that proves to be an equally complicated literary encounter, jumbling together a chivalric quest, a satire on Trump's America and a whole lot of postmodern playfulness in a novel that is as sharp as a flick-knife and as clever as a barrel of monkeys. . . . This is a novel that feeds the heart while it fills the mind."  
Unlikely Trio Tries to Save the World from an Organic Terror
 
Cold Storage by David Koepp. In the interest of trying to appeal to different readers and tastes, here's an antidote to the literary overdose above. Cold Storage is not great literature, but it is a great page turner - a contagious thriller perfect for airplanes or armchairs when escapism and entertainment are all you're looking for.  
 
What we have here is a wild and engaging nail-biter whose 'bad guy' is a virulent fungus that feeds on anything living, including humans. Think Little Shop of Horrors on steroids - this organism has broken out of a secret military burial site and is in search of nourishment. Standing in its ever-spreading way is a retired biohazard expert and an unlikely pair of young and inexperienced security guards with more pluck than sense (thankfully). Author Koepp is an accomplished screenwriter and director best known for his work on Jurassic Park, Spider-Man, Panic Room, and War of the World, and he combines an offbeat sense of humor with all the right storytelling instincts. His deadly sludge would have made Michael Crichton green with envy.  
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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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