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James Salter, the writer's writer.

Sunday, Apr 21, 2013 at 11:41am

James Salter is truly a writer's writer. People don't talk about his stories as much as they talk about how he writes them. But it would be a shame if only writers read Salter because the depths he reaches with a misleadingly simple style should be experienced more widely. I can recommend you start with any of his novels that sounds appealing to you whether that be A Sport and A Pastime, about a love affair in 1960's France, or Light Years, a portrait of a marriage of privilege in which Salter first exposes the fine cracks in it that later turn into flaws that are beyond repair.

Or you could start with Salter's latest novel, All That Is. In this work, Philip Bowman returns to America from his experiences as a young naval officer in battles off Okinawa and finds a position as a book editor. It is a time when publishing is still largely a private affair--a scattered family of small houses here and in Europe--a time of gatherings in fabled apartments and conversations that continue long into the night. In this world of dinners, deals, and literary careers, Bowman finds that he fits in perfectly. But despite his success, what eludes him is love. His first marriage goes bad, another fails to happen, and finally he meets a woman who enthralls him--before setting him on a course he could never have imagined for himself.

Romantic and haunting, All That Is explores a life unfolding in a world on the brink of change. It is a dazzling, sometimes devastating labyrinth of love and ambition, a fiercely intimate account of the great shocks and grand pleasures of being alive.

And if you don't want to take my word for it, here's a couple of glowing recent reviews from the Globe & Mail and the National Post.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, New Releases, Literature, Book of the Day

Take a big Gulp with Mary Roach

Sunday, Apr 21, 2013 at 11:40am


Mary Roach has been a McNally Robinson Bookseller favourite since she arrived on the scene with Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. Questions of what she would do for an encore were silenced by her subsequent books, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, and Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void.

Now Roach is back with a brand new release and the alimentary canal is classic Mary Roach terrain: the questions explored in Gulp are as taboo, in their way, as the cadavers in Stiff and every bit as surreal as the universe in Packing for Mars. Why is crunchy food so appealing? Why is it so hard to find words for flavors and smells? Why doesn't the stomach digest itself? How much can you eat before your stomach bursts? Can constipation kill you? Did it kill Elvis? In Gulp we meet scientists who tackle the questions no one else thinks of -- or has the courage to ask. We go on location to a pet-food taste-test lab, a fecal transplant, and into a live stomach to observe the fate of a meal. With Roach at our side, we travel the world, meeting murderers and mad scientists, Eskimos and exorcists (who have occasionally administered holy water rectally), rabbis and terrorists -- who, it turns out, for practical reasons do not conceal bombs in their digestive tracts.

We urge you to try Gulp or any one of Mary Roach's books. She never fails to amuse while she educates.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, New Releases, Book of the Day

Sheryl Sandberg urges women to Lean In

Thursday, Mar 14, 2013 at 11:26am


First it was Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, making the news advocating an end to telecommuting in her company. Now it's Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, in the public eye with the release of her book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.

In 2010, she gave an electrifying TEDTalk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. Her talk, which became a phenomenon and has been viewed more than two million times, encouraged women to "sit at the table," seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.

In Lean In, Sandberg combines personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives and choices of working women. She recounts her own decisions, mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career, and her family. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of "having it all." She describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfillment and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women in the workplace and at home.

Written with both humour and wisdom, Sandberg's book is an inspiring call to action and a blueprint for individual growth. Lean In is destined to change the conversation from what women can't do to what they can.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, New Releases, Book of the Day

Award Winning Science Fiction Author "Turns" To Writing Fantasy

Thursday, Mar 07, 2013 at 1:45pm

I've been waiting for A Turn of Light to release since Julie E. Czerneda mentioned it in her McNally Robinson interview in 2008. After over a dozen science fiction novels, Czerneda is trying her hand at fantasy. I had the pleasure of hearing the author read from her fantasy debut at the World Fantasy Convention held in Toronto last year, and it only whet my appetite for more.

Enjoy a taste of A Turn of Light:

By night, Marrowdell posted sentries. Massive toads lined the road. Their eyes were perfect disks of moonlight, like so many silver coins tossed in his path. They weren't toads. Or rather they were something else as well. Like the road, silvered by moonlight also had an amber hue, and the sky, which was mostly dark and star-filled but was also shot through with vivid colours for which he needed names. When he looked closely, the toads' loose folds of skin became coats of fine mail and their warts, rich gems. No idle gauds, he judged those, but medals of some kind. Accomplished toads.

He hoped for their favourable opinion.

You can read the first chapter on Julie's website.

Categories: Staff Pick, SciFi & Fantasy, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Book of the Day

"The Best Book You'll Read this Year" by George Saunders

Monday, Jan 21, 2013 at 10:29am

On Jan 3rd the New York Times announced that "George Saunders has written the best book you'll read this year." That's a daring statement to make at any time of the year let alone on the third day. Somehow though the praise for the new collection of stories, entitled Tenth of December, is fully in keeping with the daring of Saunders as a writer. Right from the publication of his first book, CivilWarland in Bad Decline, Saunders was clearly a special writer. That reputation grew with the subsequent story collection, In Persuasion Nation, as well as with the novella, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil.

However Saunders has continued to fly under the radar for us and all the media attention he was receiving wasn't turning into sales. This latest release, however, appears to have pushed Saunders to the next level and he's gaining a much deserved new readership.

The stories in Tenth of December are described as unsettling, insightful, and hilarious. Through their manic energy, their focus on what is redeemable in human beings, and their generosity of spirit they not only entertain and delight, they fulfill Chekhov's dictum that art should "prepare us for tenderness." Writing brilliantly and profoundly about class, sex, love, loss, work, despair, and war, Saunders cuts to the core of the contemporary experience. These stories take on the big questions and explore the fault lines of our own morality, delving into the questions of what makes us good and what makes us human.

Take our advice and give George Saunders a try.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, New Releases, Literature, Book of the Day
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