Staff Recommendations from Elliott Bay

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
trans. by Lydia Davis

Lydia Davis’s exceptionally readable new translation reawakens the story of Emma Bovary, a disillusioned and unhappily married woman who finds escape in adulterous relationships. Married to the oafish doctor Charles Bovary, whose naively optimistic intentions to make his beautiful wife happy only serve to annoy her, Emma labors under the constraints of nineteenth-century French bourgeois society. Flaubert’s is an unsparing study of a downward spiral driven by romantic obsession and the reckless pursuit of material and sexual gratification.

Years since reading Madame Bovary for the first time, I have had the story and its characters somewhere in the back of my mind; now, after having read this seamless translation, the novel’s effect is indelible. -Molly

Isabel Wilkerson Discusses The Warmth of Other Suns 

…and Meets Hall-of-famer Bill Russell.

One month ago, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson came to Seattle’s Northwest African American Museum for an evening co-presented by Elliott Bay. The occasion was her magnificent, bestselling book, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Random House). An epic story it is; at once vast and broad while also telling on a very human-scale, it’s a story of how people’s lives and life decisions are part of history, and how history is part of all our lives.

The evening at NAAM came on a tour that had seen Ms. Wilkerson come west, then go north: Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle. With its central exhibit depicting the times and means of African Americans coming to the Northwest, NAAM was the perfect setting. The place was packed to overflowing. A large sliding door was opened, and seating was set up outside under the light of a rising moon.

Upon arrival, Ms. Wilkerson seemed a bit overcome at the response. The audience in Seattle was the largest she’d had on her book tour. She gave an eloquent, articulate, moving talk, threading some Seattle parts of the story (the family of rock legend Jimi Hendrix) with a story she’d told the previous night in Oakland. One of the three major characters in The Warmth of Other Suns, Dr. Robert Foster, was part of a diaspora that left Monroe, Louisiana for California. Most went to Oakland, but Robert Foster would choose Los Angeles following an epic drive west through a country divided by thoughts on race.

Other families that did choose Oakland included the family that brought young Huey Newton to Oakland. Newton would later co-found and lead the Black Panther Party. Another story she told—and wrote of in her book—was the fascinating story of Charles and Katie Russell, who brought 9-year-old Bill Russell out of Monroe to Oakland. There, given opportunities he would have been totally denied in the South, he attended college, became a dominant, game-changing basketball star in the amateur and pro ranks, and a major cultural and social figure as well. While telling the story, Ms. Wilkerson wondered aloud if Bill Russell might be there in the audience this night—she’d heard word of him possibly being in attendance. He was—as subtly as someone 6-10 could be in a room—among the the rapt crowd.

Sure enough, after her talk, there was a meeting…

Isabel Wilkerson and Bill Russell

In attendance with Bill Russell were two other generations of Russells, including daughter Karen, a Seattle attorney who graduated from Harvard Law School. None of them would likely have been there were it not for Charles and Katie Russell’s difficult, fateful decision to move from Louisiana in 1943. The initial meeting and greeting at NAAM then led to another meeting in New York, where on Monday, October 18, Bill Russell appeared alongside Ms. Wilkerson on a moving segment of Lawrence O’Donnell’s The Last Word.

All said and done, basketball wouldn’t quite give Elliott Bay an assist on the connection (soccer or hockey would) in a box score. The important thing is to read The Warmth of Other Suns, one of the most beautiful, vital, eloquent books this reader has read in a long time. -Rick

Isabel Wilkerson read from The Warmth of Other Suns at the Northwest African American Museum on September, 24 2010.

Staff Recommendations from Elliott Bay

Communion by Kim Fay (Things Asian)

As a young woman Kim Fay moved from Seattle to Vietnam to find adventure and a place to write her novel. What she found was a profoundly richer and deeper experience, much like the nearly indescribable dish banh beo, a medallion of steamed rice batter that is topped with shrimp and pork crackling. Returning to the States, she resettled in L.A. with easy access to Little Saigon, the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam. But after more than a decade “back home,” the author found herself nearly insatiably hungry for the flavors and the foods of Vietnam. So she returned to the country and sought out chefs, cooking classes, starred restaurants, roadside food carts, friends, and family to fill her hunger. What she found upon returning were not only the rich, deep flavors she craved, but also the universal experience of sharing food with those we love. A truly splendid homage to the people, places, and of course food that is Vietnam. -Holly

Staff Recommendations from Elliott Bay

Man in the Woods by Scott Spencer (Ecco)

The first two chapters of Scott Spencer’s book don’t seem to have much in common—we’re introduced to Will and then Paul—but by the fourth chapter, the two men meet, and with this cataclysmic event, their lives change forever. The author draws us in to a deliciously thrilling and provocative tale of guilt, faith, passion, and redemption. Is our main character a hero or a villain? Should we condemn or support him? Amid the page-turning suspense, Spencer’s exquisite writing is at the core of this excellent novel. Hmm… I envision many book clubs in this book’s future… -Hilary

New Arrival: Future Tense Press Now Available at Elliott Bay





Fresh to our shelves this fall: wonderfully weird work from Portland publisher Future Tense Press. Helmed by Kevin Sampsell, author of Creamy Bullets (Chiasmus) and A Common Pornography (Harper Collins), Future Tense has a little bit for everybody: poetry, travel memoir, an anthology of stories based around insomnia. Its specialty, however, is fiction; deceptively slim chap-book style fiction. Think Ferlinghetti’s Pocket Poets series but for prose. The results are sudden and strange, quick-to-devour collections, wild work from young writers breaking new ground (Prantha Lohr, Riley Michael Parker) to revered stylists holding axes in their hands (Gary Lutz). Tune out and dig in:


Ventriloquism by Prantha Lohr

Lor’s quick stories are both darkly funny and emotionally unsettling, with a style that focuses heavily on amazing sentences and sexually ambiguous undertones.

These hilariously original crazings and sorceries of language and of feeling let us in, at last, on all the secrets we’ve been keeping from ourselves. Prathna Lor is a dazzler. -Gary Lutz, author of Stories In the Worst Way

Ok, Goodnight by Emily Kendal Frey and Zachary Shomburg

Some people say the first Schomburg/Frey poems appeared during biblical times and that they were read with great joy on Noah’s ark. Other folks date the appearance of these poets’ duets at around 1978 or 2008. Regardless of their unknown origins, the haunting power, spare lines, and peculiar push and pull of these short poems add up to a satisfying and surprising reading experience.


Put Your Head in My Lap by Claudia Smith

From Claudia Smith, the award-winning author of ‘The Sky Is a Well,’ comes a new collection full of emotionally taut and sweetly melancholic stories that evoke the pain of lost love and broken families.

“Claudia Smith’s ‘Put Your Head In My Lap’ is a vivid book of short fiction that both inspires me and makes me feel inadequate. She takes the everyday–cooking dinner, a stained sink, physical attraction–and renders them in such precise detail, that even “a collection of soiled fingernails in a shot glass” becomes almost unbearably beautiful.” -Mary Miller, author of Big World


Embrace Your Insignificance: Lessons Learned Teaching English in Japan by Bob Gaulke

Bob Gaulke’s 2nd book (after The Nervous Tourist) is his personal adventure into the world of teaching English in Japan. Told in diary-like entries, this is an entertaining and illuminating look into the world of teaching.




Continue reading

Staff Recommendations from Elliott Bay

The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman (Penguin)

This collection of paintings, text, and photography by the multi-talented Maria Kalman (author, artist, designer, NY Times contributor, children’s book illustrator) chronicles a year in her life. Along the way, Kalman traverses the quirky, the hilarious, the heart-breaking, and the life-affirming. Whether on the New York subway, wandering Paris, or contemplating her empty box collection, Kalman sees into the secret heart of things and the world some-how seems more tender and beautiful after. -Laurie

Staff Recommendations from Elliott Bay

Muse Asylum by David Czuchlewski (Penguin)

Ten years ago David Czuchlewski burst onto the the literary scene with this incredible debut novel. Unfortunately for readers it went out of print soon after and only a select few had the chance to enjoy this tremendously beguiling story of identity, madness, authorship, love and possibly murder. This is one of those stories that will stick with you long after you’ve closed the book and one that you’ll likely share with friends who love a good story. Thankfully readers now have another chance to enjoy the power of this remarkable novel. -Jamil

Staff Recommendations from Elliott Bay

Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other: In Praise of Adoption by Scott Simon (Random House)

Scott Simon’s love letter to his daughters (both adopted from China) celebrates the joy of international adoption without ignoring some of its tougher realities. He shares his own story and that of other families (adoptees, adoptive families, some birth parents) emphasizing that he is grateful for the daughters he and his wife so love. Charming. -Karen

Science Fiction & Fantasy For A Saturday Afternoon: The Giants of the Genres Unleash New Series Titles…

…and we continue to wait—hopefully not for much longer—for George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons.


We heard rumblings earlier this month from New York Comic Con’s Del Rey/Spectra Panel that Martin was close to finishing A Dance with Dragons (the fifth book in the epic A Song of Ice and Fire Series) and that the manuscript would hopefully be turned in by Christmas. This is a welcome development for Martin’s legion of adoring fans—I count myself among them—who have been waiting, some more patiently than others, almost four years for the book. Regardless of the time frame for the release of Dragons, Martin’s fans will be treated to the the live action version of the books, slated to premiere in the spring of 2011 on HBO. And if you haven’t begun the trek through Martin’s world of Westeros, be sure to pick up A Game of Thrones and enter his epic world of medieval moral ambiguity where good does not necessarily triumph over evil.

Thankfully, there will be no dearth of great science fiction and fantasy series to keep us company through the long winter hibernation. Plenty of great authors have new and upcoming releases that transport us back into, or introduce us to, the fantastical worlds of their creation…


Science Fiction

Evolutionary Void by Peter F. Hamilton

An innovator praised as one of the inventors of “the new space opera,” Peter F. Hamilton has also been hailed as the heir of such golden-age giants as Heinlein and Asimov. Now, in one of the most eagerly anticipated offerings of the year, Hamilton brings his acclaimed Void trilogy to a stunning close.

The series begins with The Dreaming Void.


All Clear by Connie Willis

In Blackout, award-winning author Connie Willis returned to the time-traveling future of 2060—the setting for several of her most celebrated works—and sent three Oxford historians to World War II England. Now the situation has grown even more dire. Small discrepancies in the historical record seem to indicate that one or all of them have somehow affected the past, changing the outcome of the war. The belief that the past can be observed but never altered has always been a core belief of time-travel theory—but suddenly it seems that the theory is horribly, tragically wrong.


Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks

It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters. It begins with a murder. And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself.

Lededje Y’breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price. To to put things right she will need the help of the Culture.

Experience the first culture novel, Consider Phlebas.


Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold

Kibou-daini is a planet obsessed with cheating death. Barrayaran Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan can hardly disapprove—he’s been cheating death his whole life, on the theory that turnabout is fair play. But when a Kibou-daini cryocorp—an immortal company whose job it is to shepherd its all-too-mortal frozen patrons into an unknown future—attempts to expand its franchise into the Barrayaran Empire, Emperor Gregor dispatches his top troubleshooter Miles to check it out.

Begin with the omnibus Cordelia’s Honor, or you can buy Cryoburn; the book contains a CD-ROM with the entire series right at your fingertips.



Against All Things Ending by Stephen R. Donaldson

The long-awaited sequel to The Runes of the Earth and Fatal Revenant returns readers to the Land-and unravels some of the mysteries haunting Thomas Covenant and Linden Avery.

Lord Foul’s Bane begins the The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever.



The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Widely acclaimed for his work completing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga, Brandon Sanderson now begins a grand cycle of his own, one every bit as ambitious and immersive.

The result of over ten years of planning, writing, and world-building, The Way of Kings is but the opening movement of the Stormlight Archive, a bold masterpiece in the making.


Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

The third book in Priest’s Clockwork Century series, Dreadnought takes place in the same universe as the award winning Boneshaker; the story is unrelated but set in the same universe and features characters from the previous two novels (Boneshaker and Clementine)  in side roles.



Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

(Book Will be released on November 2, pre-order available)

This penultimate novel of Robert Jordan’s #1 New York Times bestselling series–the second of three based on materials he left behind when he died in 2007–brings dramatic and compelling developments to many threads in the Pattern. The end draws near.

The Wheel of Time series begins with The Eye of the World.


-Casey S.


All review material courtesy of IndieBound.

Not Your Mama’s YA: A Manifesto

Contemporary young adult books are not the innocuous literature of my youth. This modern genre can be unapologetic, raw and straight-forward. Tackling a wide-breadth of issues that books of the past were banned (or even burned!) for even attempting (i.e. abuse, addiction, sexual identity, race relations and family dysfunctions), current YA lit handles it all with panache and insight. It is no wonder to me then that teenagers aren’t the only ones devouring books like Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games and Ellen Hopkin’s verse novel, Crank.

Whether we admit it or not, whether we like it or not, adolescence is one of the most pivotal time in our lives. For many of us, it’s when we take our first step out of our ego-centric bubble and begin to discover our place in the world. It’s the time when we break from our parents and begin deciding for ourselves, when we feel the bright, nauseating flash of romance for the first time. It’s our time to make mistakes and see what comes of the mess. After the emotional explosion of our burgeoning self-hood, adulthood can seem so dull.

As an adult, I have read more YA books than when I was actually part of the demographic, and I know I’m not alone. The purity of the stories, the riveting action and unabashed romance catch me every single time and keep me reading until I’m bleary eyed.

Below is a list of some of my recent favorites of the genre which have startled me with their depth.


The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

In this sophisticated sci-fi series, the two main characters are forced to grow up quickly and begin making decisions that affect not only themselves, but the whole world. And they don’t always do the “right” thing.



Graceling by Kristen Cashore

As a Graceling Katsa has the power to hurt, even kill people. When a power-hungry king decides to use her as a mercenary, Katsa must make the most difficult and dangerous decision of her life.



Unwind by Neal Shusterman

While abortion is illegal in Shusterman’s futuristic thriller, parents may chose to unwind their juvenile delinquent teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17. Oh, it’s not murder, as all the parts of your unruly child will be harvested and dispersed to people in need.


Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

A dark fairy-tale about motherhood, disappointed hopes and, above all, the liberating power of transformation. Taking inspiration from the German fairytales “Snow White and Rose Red” and “Bearskin”, Lanagan has created something beautiful and new and powerful.


The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney (released on Nov. 2)

In a prep-school where the students are expected to be perfect, where the teachers take a proud, but detached stance, The Mockingbirds, a secret committee, take the law into their own hands.



Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Andi, a teenage girl  living in Modern-day Brooklyn, grapples with her guilt over the death of her little brother. When she discovers the journal of Alexandrine, a young woman living through the French Revolution, Alex becomes obsessed with discovering the girl’s fate. Excellent writing and pitch-perfect research make this a riveting read for any audience.


Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I’m going to say this right away: this book opens with a suicide. Yes, I cried a lot. It’s very sad. But, just as it is difficult to read it, I argue that it is important to read it. On 13 sides of seven cassette tapes, a young girl lists the reasons and implicates the people whose actions led her to her ultimate decision.