The Shelf Life


(Paper)Back in Action

posted on May 29, 2014 at 1:00 pm by Blog Archive

It’s the time of year for renewal. To restart cycles, redye the hairdo, rewind the cassette tapes. Snow melts, songbirds sing, colors bloom, the sun comes out and old things come back to us in new forms. For example, books come out in paperback. You might say, well, books come out in paperback all year. Sure. That’s true. But I’m painting a larger picture here. Anyways all the paperbacks I’m talking about came out in spring. Good enough? Moving on.

Van Gogh's Field of Spring Wheat at Sunrise.

Van Gogh’s Field of Spring Wheat at Sunrise.

Like a butterfly from chrysalis, a paperback doesn’t necessarily match it’s larval, hardcover iteration. For anyone like me who, for better or worse, went to art school, the design decisions are more than kind of interesting. Some books keep the original design. Those who do are often the mainstream mega-bestsellers – Dan Brown, Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, even Game of Thrones – but the literary stuff usually gets a fresh breath of life, or at least a new take. To illustrate, here’s a selection of my 2013 favorites that have come back around with new plumage.

PeopletreesThe People in the Trees knocked my socks clean off. When I finished it was hard to read anything else for a while, and even now I’ll stop reading a book that I realize is trying to do something The People in the Trees did much better – namely, be haunting, wonderfully crafted and well-told, like Shirley Jackson’s stuff, or The Sparrow or Geek Love. It lingers like a bad, beautiful dream. And as for the covers, the hardcover (left) gets the moody strangeness and the paperback (right) gets the violence. One great thing about the hardcover is that if you were holding it in your hands you’d see the maggots all over the spine. It’s brilliant. The paperback is handsome, too, but moreso than dreamlike/odd it falls toward edgy/gritty. And if you haven’t read it and are wondering what the deal is with the turtle, well, then, read the book.

NewNamesThis I read in one sitting. We Need New Names was a finalist for the Man-Booker Prize and why was obvious in the reading – swift prose and a powerful narrative voice telling a damn good story. The hardcover (left) is electric yellow with skinny typography, which gets the exotic setting and the skinny legs of the young protagonist & her pals. The plane in the center takes the protagonist from her friends in Zimbabwe to America, and her aunt. The paperback (right) borrows much of the same palette but has the feel of U.S. propaganda painted on wood panels, maybe the side of someone’s home in Zimbabwe shortly before it’s bulldozed by Revolutionaries. As you might notice, the book got some good attention. Paperbacks often wear awards & praise like generals wear war medals, to gaudy results. This cover handles its accolades well. I hope it means this book will be noticed and read.

PanoptPerhaps you’ve also noticed that all these entries are debut books by women writers. All I can say is, so they are. It’s exciting because every book here is incredible and these writers are young and just getting their motors going. The Panopticon was written by a Scottish poet. The protagonist is a young girl and the setting is a prison. The hardcover (left) gets the prison (bars, keyhole), but the paperback (right), in a very subtle upgrade, really hints at what kind of prison – circular, with a watchtower in the middle to observe all prisoners at once. Also hypnotic, radiating lines which evoke the concentric circles of the prison and the protagonist’s often drug-induced, quasi-hallucinogenic, paranoid experience of her world. Both covers are stunning and capture well how unlike this book is from almost any other. And of note, both covers may have subconscious appeal to Hitchcock fans. And that’s all for now, til the next installment – happy reading, whether your book be hardcover, paperback, or e-.

Story Crush Summer Tour

posted on May 9, 2014 at 6:00 pm by Jenny Oleinik

unnamedWe are very excited to host the Epic Reads’ Story Crush Summer Tour, which is not only a mouthful to say but also a wonderful teen reader event! Join us on Friday, May 23, at 7 p.m. to meet YA authors Kevin Emerson, Kiera Cass, and Amanda Maciel.



The University Book Store is the fifth and final stop of the Story Crush tour. We’ll have some brief interview questions, author readings, a Q&A, and book signings. (There are even rumors that Kevin might bring his guitar and play for us!) It’s going to be a fun evening, and we hope to see you there. For more information on the tour as a whole, check out the Epic Reads website here.unnamed2

A Good Day for Book Lovers

posted on April 29, 2014 at 2:00 am by Jenny Oleinik

Alice Waters, Terry Pratchett, and Harper Lee have (at least) one thing in common: they were all born on April 28! (I could also say how they’re all writers and internationally known and homo sapiens, but that’s not really the point of this blog post.) So, in honor of Alice, Terry, Harper, and their like-birthday fellows, here’s a brief look at some of the beloved authors born on this historic date.


Lee, HarperHarper Lee, b. April 28, 1926

Today Nelle Harper Lee turns 88 years old. She is an American novelist who won the Pulitzer Prize for her 1961 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which has become a classic book and a favorite of many, despite the frequency with which it has been banned in schools and libraries.






Lois_DuncanLois Duncan, b. April 28, 1934

Lois Duncan is an American author of over 40 books, most for children and young adults, and was awarded the American Library Association’s Margaret A. Edwards Award, which  is given to an author who has mad a “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.” Two of her better-known books are I Know What You Did Last Summer and Hotel for Dogs.






about_alicewatersAlice Waters, b. April 28, 1944

Alice Waters is an American chef and author as well as world-renowned food activist. She has written and co-written twelve books on food and cooking including 40 Years of Chez Panisse, The Art of Simple Food, and The Edible Schoolyard. Today she turns 70.







terrypratchettTerry Pratchett, b. April 28, 1948

Sir Terence David John “Terry” Pratchett, OBE is one of the leading fantasy writers in the world, averaging two new books per year. He has sold over 85 million books worldwide in over three dozen languages. Even cooler, he was knighted for “services to literature,” which is pretty much the dream. His comic fantasy books include the bestselling Discworld series, children’s and young adult titles, and multiple collaborations such as Good Omens (co-authored with Neil Gaiman).




bolano0Roberto Bolaño, b. April 28, 1953

Roberto Bolaño was a Chilean novelist who rose to critical acclaim quickly after his initial publication. His most popular works include Los detectives salvajes (The Savage Detectives), Nocturno de Chile (By Night in Chile), and 2666, the last of which was published posthumously. The New York Times has called him “the most significant Latin American literary voice of his generation.” He passed away in 2003 after a time of declining health due to liver failure. Today he would have been 61 years old.




ian-rankin-3aIan Rankin, b. April 28, 1960

Ian Rankin, OBE, DL is an internationally bestselling Scottish crime novelist best known for his Inspector Rebus novels, which are considered a significant contribution to the Tartan Noire genre. Rankin has been the recipient of an Edgar Award, a Gold Dagger for fiction, a Diamond Dagger for career excellence, and the Chandler-Fulbright Award. Today is his 54th birthday.






So happy April 28th, everyone! Go out, spread the birthday love, and read a book to celebrate. Who knew one date could bring so much literary joy?


Here There Be Dragons

posted on April 2, 2014 at 2:59 am by Jenny Oleinik

MCCAFFREY-obit-articleInlineOn this day in 1926, internationally-bestselling author Anne Inez McCaffrey was born, and millions of her loyal readers are thrilled about that fact. I remember to the day when I was first introduced to her writing: it was the night of my twelfth birthday, and I received a strange-looking set of books, including Dragonsong, from my uncle. Whether he knew it or not I had somewhat exhausted the children’s department at my local library, great as it was, and was re-reading my favorites from home again and again. Uncle Parky told me he had loved these books at his age. Being a kid, this made me somewhat dubious as to how good they could possibly be, but my reader self dutifully sat down to peruse. I was an instant fan.


AnneMcCaffrey_DragonflightIt was the beginning of a new literary era for me and opened doors to the adult literature world in the most interesting ways. Suddenly I was shopping in the “grown-up” departments at book stores and exploring new sections of the library that had before seemed old and stodgy. I devoured everything Anne McCaffrey had written, continuing with her Dragonriders of Pern series and working my way into her Brain & Brawn Ship books and Acorna series. My dad introduced me to Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, and then I started reading adult fiction. I had always been an avid book worm, but I vividly remember the world of Pern and how it broadened what I already thought to be a wonderful literary experience. For that reason, perhaps, McCaffrey holds a special place in my mind and on my bookshelf, and I still think of her books as a kind of comfort food for the brain, something familiar and good to curl up with on any given day.


Though she passed away in more than three years ago now, the worlds she created continue through her son’s writing and, most importantly, through us, her fans.


Rolling Out the Red Carpet

posted on February 26, 2014 at 2:52 am by Jenny Oleinik
Oscar himself guards the staircase at our U-District store.

Oscar himself guards the staircase at our U-District store.

Now that the Winter Olympics have concluded–and can I say bravo to Sochi on that epic celebration of Russian literature in the closing ceremony?–it’s time to turn our attention to the 86th Academy Awards. The lights! The dazzle! The pageantry! And, most importantly, the books that made so many of these movies possible from the start.

This year’s nominations stem from a bunch of great reads, and we’ve listed the majority of them, along with their respective book titles, below. Read the book and see the movie (or switch the order, if you so prefer). Lights, camera, action!
12 Years a Slave (Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Directing, etc.) 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northrop. Solomon Northup was a free-born African American who lived between 1808 and around 1863. Twelve Years a Slave is Northrup’s memoir (as told to and edited by David Wilson) of his experience being kidnapped and sold into slavery for twelve years in Louisiana before regaining his freedom. Northrop’s book was a bestseller when it was first published (just a year after Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin) but then slumped into a a century of obscurity before it was “re-discovered” in the early 1960s. The movie 12 Years a Slave is not the first film adaptation of the book, though: in 1984, Solomon Northrup’s Odyssey (later released as Half Slave, Half Free) was aired on PBS.

WolfWallStreetThe Wolf of Wall Street (Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Directing, etc.) The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort. Having not read this one myself, I will pass the baton to Publishers Weekly: “Belfort, who founded one of the first and largest chop shop brokerage firms in 1987, was banned from the securities business for life by 1994, and later went to jail for fraud and money-laundering, delivers a memoir that reads like fiction. It covers his decade of success with straightforward accounts of how he worked with managers of obscure companies to acquire large amounts of stock with minimal public disclosure, then pumped up the price and sold it, so he and the insiders made large profits while public investors usually lost.” And a follow-up from Kirkus Reviews: “Entertaining as pulp fiction, real as a federal indictment […] a hell of a read.”


bookthiefThe Book Thief (Music – Original Score) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The Book Thief has been a must-read since its publication in 2006. Narrated by death, it tells the story of Liesel, a foster child in 1939 Nazi Germany. She discovers an insatiable love of reading that she shares with her foster father, her neighbours, and the Jewish man hiding in her basement. Though categorized as a teen book, it has become an international bestseller with readers of all ages and has spent over 375 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It is one of those books that gets passed from reader to reader and has become a staple for book clubs nationwide. Zusak was recently awarded the 2014 Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime contribution in writing for young adults. Even if you don’t see the movie, this book is a wonderful choice.


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects) — The Hobbit or There and Back Again by J. R. R. Tolkien. Well this one seems pretty obvious, don’t you think?


Captain Phillips (Best Picture, Actor in a Supporting Role, Writing – Adapted Screenplay, etc.) A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips with Stephen Talty. In A Captain’s Duty, Captain Richard Philips tells the story of the hijacking of the container ship MV Maersk Alabama and his experience as a hostage to Somali pirates before he was rescued. Tom Hanks’ acting in the role of Captain Phillips was, as is typical for Hanks, fantastic. While the film focuses mainly on Phillips’ experience, the book alternates between his ordeal and the experiences of his family in Vermont as they faced a different kind of emotional turmoil. A Captain’s Duty received starred reviews from both Booklist and Publishers Weekly.


mayor cover for webInside Llewyn Davis (Cinematography, Sound Mixing)The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir by Dave Van Ronk. The Seattle Times says this book is “[a] delightful, keenly-observed, cantankerous autobiography…which, if you love ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ you owe it to yourself to read.” In it Van Ronk, one of the founding individuals of the 1960s folk music revival, gives a firsthand account of his experiences and encounters with soon-to-be famous Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and more. According to the New York Review of Books blog, Inside Llewyn Davis “extensively mines Van Ronk’s remarkable posthumous memoirThe Mayor of MacDougal Street (seamlessly compiled from interviews by Elijah Wald; Da Capo, 2005) for scenes, anecdotes, and details of background, and its protagonist, Llewyn Davis (played by Oscar Isaac) sings songs closely associated with Van Ronk.”


The Great Gatsby (Costume Design)The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Whether you loved or hated the film–and it was definitely a dividing movie–almost everyone can agree that the novel by Fitzgerald is one of the all-time best American classics. If you haven’t read it yet, now is as good a time as any.


The "Before they were Oscars..." display set-up at our Mill Creek branch.

The “Before they were Oscars…” display set-up at our Mill Creek branch.

Saving Mr. Banks (Music – Original Score) Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers. Okay, so it’s not based on Mary Poppins so much as the woman who wrote it and Walt Disney’s determination to bring it to cinematic life, but I still think it belongs on this list. Another title that might be of interest is Mary Poppins She Wrote: The Life of P. L. Travers by Valerie Lawson. Booklist says: “It turns out there was a lot of the difficult Travers in Poppins. […] This meticulously researched but overlong biography may help restore a diminished literary reputation, but its unsparing portrait of an exceedingly unsympathetic human being will win Travers no new posthumous friends.” Biography fans ought to appreciate this one, especially those who were annoyed with the inaccuracies portrayed in the film (as charming as it was).


room on the broomRoom on the Broom (Short Film – Animated)Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson; illustrated by Axel Scheffler. This short is based on the classic picture book created by the same duo who wrote and illustrated another bestselling kids’ favorite, The Gruffalo. Learn more here about the animated short, the original book, and a new game app that’s available.


Philomena (Best Picture, Actress in a Leading Role, Writing – Adapted Screenplay, etc.) — Philomena: A Mother, Her Son, & a Fifty-Year Search by Martin Sixsmith. Philomena tells the true story, as told by journalist Sixsmith, of a pregnant teenager in 1952 who was sent to a convent and forced to give up her son for adoption. Five decades later she decides to find him and, unbeknownst to her, he attempts to find her as well, though they are now an ocean apart. Dame Judi Dench, who is nominated for a best actress award in this film, writes, “The extraordinary story of an extraordinary woman […] Philomena’s tale is special. […] It reveals a remarkable human being with astonishing fortitude and a truly humbling willingness to forgive. […] I hope Philomena’s heroic search and her courage in allowing her story to be told will bring comfort to all who have suffered a similar fate.” (Dench has written the foreword to the newest edition of the book that is now available.)


lone survivorLone Survivor (Sound Editing, Sound Mixing)Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson. Lone Survivor is a non-fiction account of Luttrell’s experience in Afghanistan under Operation Red Wing in which he and other Navy SEALs were to observe a local village and capture or kill a Taliban leader. An encounter with local residents, however, turns their mission treacherously violent as they find themselves surrounded and greatly outnumbered by Taliban warriors. Film rights were obtained in 2007, the same year that the book was released. According to The Washington Post, “If you’re looking for a true story that showcases both American heroism and Afghani humanity, [this] may be the book for you.”


Blue Jasmine (Actress in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role, Writing – Original Screenplay) — This drama, written and directed by Woody Allen, tells the story of a fall from wealth to poverty by a Manhattan Socialite. Though not specifically based on a book (note the nomination for best original screenplay), it has been heavily compared to Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire. Some critics believe Allen was directly inspired by the play, citing similar plot and characters, though not all critics agree. Regardless, the two leading ladies in Allen’s film have previously been associated with Williams’ play, and a comparison of the two would certainly bring about a lively conversation about comparative art.


OsageAugust: Osage County (Actress in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role)August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. This play, an American black-comedy drama, premiered in Chicago in 2007 and then received  Pulitzer Prize in 2008. It focuses on the strong-willed and disjointed women of the Weston family who reunite after a family crisis in their hometown of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The film adaptation features a star-studded cast (including Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, both with Oscar nods for their roles). The play itself is three hours long while the film is just around two hours. According to our own used book buyer, Brad Craft, “If you want to experience the full disfunction of this family, you owe it to yourself to read the play. A lot more drinking, drugs, and fighting–all of the fun.”


As always, happy reading! (And watching.)

UBS Press – New Titles!

posted on February 4, 2014 at 2:54 am by Blog Archive

The University Book Store Press galloped into 2014 thanks to some incredible new titles from our authors. Many of these new books were works long in progress. It’s exciting to finally see them on the shelf, even more exciting when they leave in the hands of a new owner. Without further ado, here’s a rundown of the latest & greatest from Homer (our trusty Espresso Book Machine) and the UBS Press!




Brad Craft, our senior Used Book Buyer, has been doodling daily. Incredible doodles. Hilarious doodles. On the same scraps of paper for jotting down customer names & phone numbers, he’s drawn portraits, caricaturesSerialDoodler, one-off jokes, brilliant running gags and more, all beautifully rendered in pencil. We (his coworkers) certainly hoped he’d kept the drawings, but we could only dream that he would, one day, publish them in a book. Earlier this month, that day came. Ladies in gentleman, collected in a single volume for the first time, we are proud to present The Serial Doodler. And not only that, Brad will be reading & signing at the store Feb. 25 at 7pm.


Here’s a taste, from the introduction (and a drawing from the Book Store Birds section below): “I’m not completely ignorant of the social niceties. I’ve never doodled at a funeral, for example. It’s true, I’m seldom without a pencil and scratch-paper. Truth be told, I haven’t the kind of memory that can be made to work without reference to notes, but, yes, making little pencil drawings is also something more than a habit of mine. Not a day goes by, as they say.”





PlaysThatPlayThe newest collection of plays from Martin Ingerson is now available, and we heartily invite you to come to the store and take a look. To truly get an idea about this collection, you really need to read the whole thing. But you can start with a bit about the playwright himself: As an actor he first appeared as the Big Bad Wolf – at age 6. As a teenage pianist he concertized throughout Northern California with a string trio. As a magician-illusionist he once lost an audience to a grizzly bear in Yosemite National Park. As a playwright he studied poetry at the University of Washington. His plays have been produced in New York, San Francisco, Portland, Austin, Sacramento, and Seattle. He founded-directed The Over Players, the first successful nightclub theatre in San Francisco. He now is Secretary of Chrysanthemum Literary Society and works at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo.


ALSO NEW: Roscoe, Ergonomics of the AbsurdSpecial Delivery: A Memoir of an Improbably Love Affair and more to come! Stay tuned, and contact Michael at with any questions about UBS Press and the Espresso Book Machine.


The Impossible Knife of Memory

posted on January 29, 2014 at 7:37 pm by Jenny Oleinik

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson at our U-District store on January 8, 2014.

Fans of all ages were thrilled to meet best-selling childrens’ and young-adult author Laurie Halse Anderson in our University District branch earlier this month.  She was in store sharing her newest teen novel, The Impossible Knife of Memory. Booklist gave it a starred review, saying, “In Anderson’s skilled hands, readers will find a light shining on the shadowy reality of living with someone who has lived through war—and who is still at war with himself.”


In addition to reading from the book, she talked about her life and family, her writing style and method, responses she’s received about the tough subjects in her books, and her strong stance against censorship. To top it all off, she answered all of the audience’s questions. She was friendly as can be, and it was great fun to host her.


Laurie’s books appeal to young and old. She is known for dealing with difficult subjects in her writing with a powerful awareness, humor, and photo 5empathy toward her characters that has made her a prominent author in the teen book world. She also writes historical fiction, childrens’ novels, and picture books.


More about The Impossible Knife of Memory (from the book flap): “For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, trying to outrun the  memories that haunt them both. They moved back to Andy’s hometown to try a “normal” life, but the horrors he saw in the war threaten to destroy their lives. Hayley watches, helpless, as her father turns to drugs and alcohol to silence his demons. And then her own past creeps up, and everything falls apart.”

Laurie Halse Anderson signs her picture book "Independent Dames: Women & Girls of the American Revolution" for a fan

Laurie Halse Anderson signs her picture book “Independent Dames: Women & Girls of the American Revolution” for a fan


In brief, she’s a great author, and this is a great book. I’ve been a fan of hers for more than a decade, and I can honestly say that The Impossible Knife of Memory is a wonderful addition to her already laudable library. To learn more about the book and the author, check out the January 11 interview Laurie did with NPR. You can also head over to her blog and follow her on Twitter.


For more great author events like this one, take a look at the University Bookstore events calendar. Upcoming events include the authors Garth Stein, Robert Gates, Roddy Doyle, and more!

Author of “Provence, 1970” Drops In

posted on December 29, 2013 at 11:41 pm by Blog Archive

We love it when authors drop in! Today Luke Barr, author of Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste, stopped by our main branch to sign copies of his book, which has been a big hit this holiday season. Luke Barr

Provence, 1970 has received rave reviews from all over, including starred reviews from both Booklist and Publishers Weekly, and it is currently on our University Bookstore bestsellers list.


Not familiar with the book? Library Journal reviewer Neal Wyatt has this to say: “In a clear, flowing, and graceful style, Barr, the great-nephew of Mary Frances Kennedy (M.F.K.) Fisher (1908–92), tells the story of a remarkable culinary convergence. In the fall and winter of 1970, food writers James Beard (1908–85), Julia Child (1912–2004), and Fisher found themselves in roughly the same area of France. In ways that sometimes overlapped but just as often diverged, each of the chefs came to question long-held beliefs about the superiority of French cuisine and the possibilities for a new American food revolution.[…] This small gem of a book is a fascinating delight.”

Luke Barr signature