Fall Booknotes from Our Staff – Young Adult

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick
by Chris Van Allsburg (Houghton Mifflin)

Nobody who’s ever perused the pages of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick could ever forget them. So when I heard there was a compilation of stories based on these puzzling images, I was delighted. Within these pages we meet a boy on a quest to understand and manipulate time, witness a pair of nasty twins receive a most imaginative comeuppance, and double-take as a baby girl with an oatmeal-smeared chin floats into the air. But instead of explaining away one mystery, these amazing stories take the reader further down a spiraling rabbit-hole of possibility. Which was exactly what Harris Burdick had in mind. -Leighanne

The Apothecary
by Maile Meloy
illus. by Ian Schoenherr (Putnam)

In 1952 America, Cold War politics are prevalent, and fourteen-year-old Janie reluctantly moves to London with her blacklisted parents. Her new life soon becomes interesting when her schoolmate’s father, the local apothecary (or pharmacist, as we’d call him), is kidnapped and Soviet spies seem to be coveting his sacred book of medicines, The Pharmacopoeia. With her fearless friend Benjamin, they conspire to save the book and his father, and prevent an impending Russian nuclear experiment! An enthralling mix of history, fantasy, alchemy, and adventure, a dash of teen romance, and a splash of political intrigue, this to-be-continued story grabs you the minute you meet its plucky young heroine. -Erica

Legend
by Marie Lu (Putnam)

In a distant future, the United States has collapsed into two separate lands: the Republic, a country of order and class, and the Colonies, a land in perpetual war with its neighbor. Day and June both live in the Republic but lead very different lives. June is a prodigy brought up to take her place among the nation’s elite. Day, a child of slums, was destined to die before his wits and cunning led him to the top of the Republic’s most-wanted criminal list. When an act of murder throws their worlds together, Day and June both discover that the Republic may not be all that it seems. Fans of The Hunger Games will love the first book of this trilogy. -Casey S.

Legend will be published Tuesday, November 29th. Pre-order your copy today. 


Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.

Fall Booknotes from Our Staff – Biography

Blue Nights
by Joan Didion (Knopf)

Six years after the publication of her stunning memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion brings us a deeply moving account of the loss of her thirty-nine-year-old daughter, Quintana. Didion begins with what would be the seven-year anniversary of Quintana’s wedding, and moves back and forth through time to reflect on her daughter’s life and her own role as a parent. The deaths of her husband and daughter forced Didion to face her own mortality, and to acknowledge the majesty of what she once considered ordinary blessings. Didion once again gives us an unflinching chronicle written in her signature succinct prose. -Laurie


Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness
by Alexandra Fuller (Penguin)

With the fortuitous combination of Alexandra Fuller’s adventurous and charismatic family, and her terrific storytelling skills, this memoir (following Don’t Let’s Go To the Dogs Tonight) presents the story of her mother’s remarkable life. Born in Scotland and raised in Kenya, Nicola Fuller’s passion, bravery, and uniquely wry sense of humor are evident throughout, from settling onto four different farms in southern Africa, to the heart-breaking personal and political challenges that threaten her mental stability. This tribute to an exceptional woman, who, with a bit of wine, her beloved animals nearby, and an occasional song to fit the moment, agreed to be the subject of another (revealing) “awful book,” returns us to the fabulous Fullers with renewed curiosity and pleasure. -Erica

Feynman
by Jim Ottaviani
illus. by Leland Myrick (First Second)

One difference between the genius mind and the average mind is the ability to view the world from unexpected angles. According to this biographical graphic novel, that ability paired with a great sense of humor are physicist Richard Feynman’s gifts. They undoubtedly helped the scientist with his contribution to the Nobel Prize winning work on the theory of quantum electrodynamics. However, the author also makes a point of showing that they helped Feynman improve the teaching of physics. His desire to make physics more accessible spurred a series of popular lectures. In the end, this achievement vies with those scientific feats as his single greatest work. -Pamela

And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life
by Charles J. Shields (Henry Holt)

Acclaimed biographer Charles Shields shines an unprecedented light onto Kurt Vonnegut Jr.—that smirking master of American letters. Working directly with the author before his death, Shields seamlessly weaves together a wealth of personal letters and first-hand anecdotes, interviews, and photographs. From Vonnegut’s early days of anonymity as a struggling short-story writer and his grappling with success and life as a family man to a horrific recreation of the bombings in Dresden and tracing how those events gave rise to Slaughterhouse-Five. Intimate and heartfelt without pulling punches, And So it Goes is a fittingly scribbly sketch of this off beat literary icon, both on and off the page. -Matthew

And So It Goes will be published on Tuesday, November 8th.


Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.


Fall Booknotes from our Staff – Fiction

Zone One
by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

Many readers’ eyes glaze over at the mention of zombies. Our sensationally conditioned minds conjure outlandishly campy struggles to the death with a brain-craving horde. With Zone One, Whitehead has thrown down the literary gauntlet, delivering a more reasoned take on how society would fare should the undead rise. Rather than focusing on gruesome slaughter, this adventure conjures some humorous, yet perhaps depressingly prescient outcomes of societal collapse. If heady satire isn’t your bag, don’t worry, there is still a healthy dose of good old-fashioned undead mayhem within these pages. Satisfy that literary craving, and sink your teeth into this cerebral tale. -Jamil

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How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive
by Christopher Boucher (Melville House)

So, the narrator’s son is a Volkswagen Beetle, his father’s heart attack came from a tree, and that really nice woman with the black hair is just so—”window.” Any questions? Such is the world Boucher has created, and it has to be experienced to be believed. Objects and relationships don’t act like they’re supposed to, but that doesn’t stop them from offering up a poignant meditation on life, love, and death. This is an astonishing exploration of what a book is capable of, and it is also the very best kind of sensitive and courageous nonsense—the kind that rings true. -Casey O.

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The Barbarian Nurseries
by Héctor Tobar (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux)

Whether Los Angeles is beginning to resemble the rest of the United States, or the US is beginning to resemble Los Angeles, these days there is less of a sense of LA exceptionalism. Hard times bring empathy. Award-winning journalist Héctor Tobar ‘s remarkable debut novel is resolutely set in LA, but its narrative undertow carries shimmers of nation-wide resonance; financial distress is causing the loss of jobs (particularly domestic immigrant labor), to say nothing of other forms of wreckage. One abandoned woman’s story of desperate searching serves to tell the tale of many, giving readers a bracing portrait of a city and its time. -Rick

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Lightning Rods
by Helen DeWitt (New Directions)

Joe is an unsuccessful salesman—returning to his trailer at the end of the day not with sales, but with pies. Pies and lots of time on his hands to concoct ever more elaborate fantasies about women. Until one fantasy in particular promises to increase office productivity, curtail sexual harassment, and make Joe lots of money. Ten years after her sublime, incomparable debut, The Last Samurai, we have, at last, a new book from Helen DeWitt—an absurdist tale of the corporate world and sex in modern America, where the satire of Nathanael West meets the provocation of Nicholson Baker. -Molly

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Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.

Fall Booknotes from Our Staff – Fiction

The Stranger’s Child
by Alam Hollinghurst (Knopf)

It’s hard to believe that Hollinghurst is a contemporary novelist. Written with detail and breadth reminiscent of Dickens, and echoes of Austen’s pre-Victorian romance, intrigue, and satire, The Stranger’s Child is the kind of novel that has become an anomaly in the post-modern literary world. It is at once both dense and juicy, filled with small gossip, illicit love affairs, and long kept secrets. When Cecil Valance—an up-and-coming poet—visits George Sawles’s family and writes what will become his most famous poem in the young Miss Sawles’s autograph book, lives are forever changed, and in a series of dramatic revelations, a truth that was hidden over decades, finds its way out. -Candra

Mr. Fox
by Helen Oyeyemi (Riverhead)

No stranger to the somewhat eerie narrative, Oyeyemi brings us lighter fare than her previous novels, but note, the depth is no less and the surreal is never too far off. Author St. John Fox conjures stories that tend to leave their female characters lifeless, if not terribly wounded. His muse, Miss Mary Foxe, enters into his world to lure him away from such endings. With a shifting voice, slipping back and forth through time, and in and out of fantasy and fact, Mary, Mr. Fox, and his wife, Daphne, travel through what it means to love and yearn, pushing and pulling against each other in this beautiful read. -Shannon

I Married You For Happiness
by Lily Tuck (Atlantic Monthly Press)

Nina’s husband, Philip, has just died in their bed. As Nina sits by his side, she travels through memories of their life together, and as one memory spawns another the nature of intimacy is revealed like a spider’s web after a rainfall. Glimmering with hope, heavy with doubts and deceits, but strung with care and devotion, the complex and delicate balance that two individuals find and nurture in order to spend a lifetime together is depicted with remarkable dexterity and insight in Lily Tuck’s new novel. Never saccharine or sentimental, Tuck unveils a complicated and enduring love with astonishing brevity and honesty. -Candra


Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.

Fall Booknotes from Our Staff: Children’s and Young Adult

Bumble-Ardy
by Maurice Sendak (HarperCollins)

Bumble-Ardy, written and illustrated by beloved artist Maurice Sendak, brings us a loveable pig, Bumble, with a birthday to celebrate! Originally created by Sendak and Jim Henson as an animated segment for Sesame Street in the early 1970s, Bumble-Ardy is Sendak’s first written and illustrated book in thirty years. The magic artistry of Sendak’s fantastical characters has a vintage yet timeless feel, and the story of Bumble’s adventures unfolds in clever rhyme. And here’s a secret: Bumble’s birthday is the same as Mr. Sendak’s! Bumble-Ardy is sure to join the bookshelf as a new family favorite. -Seth

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My Woodland Wish
by Caspar Babypants
illus. by Kate Endle (Sasquatch)

Dynamic duo Kate Endle and Caspar Babypants team up to tell this sweet tale that’s as much fun for parents as it is for the wee-ones. With her inimitable cut-paper style, Endle’s images evoke the serene wonder of nature, while Babypants’s words will lull and charm even the most savage beast. What would it be like, this book asks, to communicate with animals? Endle has created many beautiful board books, as well as illustrated such titles as Where’s the Party, but this is her first collaboration with Caspar Babypants, who is known for his “kindie rock” albums that bring rock to the masses of kids! -Leighanne

Caspar and Kate join us for a very special Children’s Storytime on Saturday, October 8th at 11:30 a.m. They will read from their new book and entertain us with songs inspired by the story. More info can be found here. Please join us! 

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Wonderstruck
by Brian Selznick (Scholastic)

In his gorgeous new book for young readers, Brian Selznick explores the lives of two deaf children growing up fifty years apart. He has perfected his mixed media method of storytelling, in which his illustrations play as pivotal a role as his warm, rich writing. First, we meet a girl who, in spite of her handicap, is pushing at the boundaries of her life. Then we leap in time to 1977 where a young boy who has just lost his mother loses his hearing as well. In alternating chapters of pictures and prose, these two incredible children fight against what is expected of them and search instead for what they need. -Leighanne

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Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.

Fall Booknotes from Our Staff

Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane
by Andrew Graham-Dixon (Norton)

Graham-Dixon captures Caravaggio in this way: “Caravaggio lived his life as if there were only Carnival and Lent with nothing in between.” Graham-Dixon brings this dichotomy to life as he deftly captures Caravaggio’s infamous exploits, gleaning truth from contemporary biographies, court records, and perceptive critique of Caravaggio’s oeuvre. Caravaggio provides a thorough examination of one of art’s true geniuses. -Alex

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What It Is Like To Go To War
by Karl Marlantes (Atlantic Monthly Press)

The author of the modern classic Vietnam war novel Matterhorn has now written a nonfiction book that he calls his “song.” It is written for civilians, soldiers, and policy makers, and the result is a veteran’s searing philosophical and psychological meditation about being a warrior. He loved war and he hated it. For Marlantes, fighting in battle was the crack cocaine of all highs. Yet, reflecting back on it now he feels sadness. His meditation is an important one that fills the gap between the silence of our warriors and our society. -Carl

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The Swerve
by Stephen Greenblatt (Norton)

Swerve tells the tale of how Lucretius’s poem “On The Nature of Things” was returned to the world to the benefit of the burgeoning Renaissance. Greenblatt leads the reader through the life of Poggio Bracciolini, humanist, book-hunter, ex-Papal secretary, and discoverer of an ancient poem that would change the world. Greenblatt stops along the way to explain the history of books, their preservation, and the humanist spirit which spurred on the quest for these ancient tomes. Greenblatt sets out to write an accessible history for the curious, and succeeds. -Alex

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Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.

Fall Booknotes from Our Staff: Fantasy & Science Fiction

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday)

The best stories transport us to worlds that seem richer and more vibrant than our own. Realms so extraordinary that you feel bereft upon turning the final page and are forced to return to boring old reality. Between the covers of Morgenstern’s enchanting debut lies one of the most remarkable places you’ll ever encounter, a tantalizing playground of the mind that manifests true wonders of the imagination. A world where anything is possible, but everything comes at a price. Readers who enjoy the uncommon alchemy that blends atmospheric prose with an amazing story will delight in the transcendence to be discovered here. -Jamil

Erin Morgenstern reads from her much-acclaimed debut novel on Monday, September 19th at 7:00 pm in the bookstore. If you can’t make it to the reading call us at (206) 624-6600 to reserve an autographed copy.

Fantastic Women
edited by Rob Spillman (Tin House Books)

Fairytales and folklore are alive and well in the contemporary world. The grandchildren of tradition come to us with a female voice, and they bear mischievous weapons. From shape-shifting to human-filled stews, the tales herein are hallucinatory and relevant progressions of the mythic journey. At times, they are somber and reflective while at other times they unfold fast and funny. A few skirt the erotic and some sit haunting in their austerity. Selkies, mermaids, and miniature universes mix with the modern and mundane. And amongst these beautiful yarns, for authenticity’s sake, there’s even the requisite “little cottage in the wilds.” -Shannon

Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline (Crown)

The phrase, “grabs you from the first page,” may be one of the most overused lines in the book review world, and it’s almost never true. This story is one of the few that actually grabs you from page-one and refuses to let go. Wade Watts has spent a considerable amount of his life jacked into the OASIS (a computer generated utopia that most of humanity uses to escape from an increasingly desolate world), engaged in a 1980s-themed hunt set up by the original creator of OASIS. Success could change Watts’s life forever, while failure could result in the collapse of an already teetering society. -Rich


Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.