Announcing the October 2004 Book Sense Picks

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Below is a preview of the titles on the October 2004 Book Sense Picks flier, being mailed to bookstores in the September Red Box. Watch next week's BTW for the list of October's "We Also Recommend" titles, which will be available as a PDF flier for in-store distribution.

Very many thanks to all the booksellers whose participation made the compilation of this very strong list possible.

Looking ahead, September 3 is the deadline for both the November Book Sense Picks and for the 2004 Fall History Top Ten.

The focus of this History Top Ten is "Politics, Pundits, and the Presidential Race." Please send your picks for the best of the recent crop of titles on all things presidential and the contemporary political scene. Titles can be either hardcover or paperback.

You can e-mail your nominations to or use the Book Sense Picks Web nomination form at

The October 2004 Book Sense Picks

THE GREEN AGE OF ASHER WITHEROW: A Novel, by M. Allen Cunningham (Unbridled Books, $24.95, 1932961003) "This is a fabulous debut novel set in the long-gone coal mining towns of Northern California in the late 1900s. This coming-of-age story about the son of Welsh immigrants captures the spirit and legends of the time and place. These were harsh times, and this facet of California history is not well-known. This beautiful novel will remedy that." --Catherine Jordan, Orinda Books, Orinda, CA

QUEEN OF DREAMS: A Novel, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Doubleday, $21.95, 0385506821) "Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni -- a favorite of many readers -- works surprising, new ground in her latest novel. She writes both in the realm of spirit and dreams and in the harsh, traumatized world of prejudice and violence in the wake of September 11. In here, too, are the 21st century realities of families and geography that make the world so big and so small. This may be her biggest, most ambitious book yet." --Rick Simonson, The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA

LITTLE EARTHQUAKES: A Novel, by Jennifer Weiner (Atria, $26, 0743470095) "Readers will enjoy this nicely woven tale of Becky, Kelly, Ayinde, and Lia as their lives intersect while they go through the ups and downs of pregnancy and new parenthood. A real treat of a book!" --Grace V. Roth, The Town Book Store, Westfield, NJ Also an S&S Audio (Unabridged CD, 0743536231)

MAGICAL THINKING: True Stories, by Augusten Burroughs (St. Martin's, $23.95, 0312315945) "This latest collection is vintage Burroughs. As raw as Running With Scissors, as honest and well written as Dry, Magical Thinking is Burroughs showing us how chaotic and surreal real life can be." --Jon Chopan, The River's End Bookstore, Oswego, NY Also an Audio Renaissance Audio (Abridged CD, 1593974205)

THE LOVE WIFE: A Novel, by Gish Jen (Knopf, $24.95, 1400042135) "Told by multiple voices, which move the story forward, this charming book asks as many questions as it answers. In this marriage between a New England Yankee and a first-generation Chinese immigrant, questions of identity are writ large. You will laugh and you will sigh, but you will really enjoy this fine novel." --Carla Cohen, Politics & Prose Books & Coffee, Washington, DC Also a Recorded Books Audio (Unabridged CD, 141930481X)

TOAST: The Story of a Boy's Hunger, by Nigel Slater (Gotham, $25, 1592400906) "Toast is a wonderful memoir, a childhood remembered through food. This tour through a family's pantry -- tinned ham, lemon drops, bread and butter pudding -- is a superb choice for foodies or those who enjoy good biographies." --Suzanne Coopersmith, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, CT

CALIFORNIA GIRL: A Novel, by T. Jefferson Parker (Morrow, $24.95, 0060562366) "This story of three brothers (a cop, a minister, and a reporter) and the investigation of the murder of a woman they all knew is drenched in atmosphere, unusual and fascinating characters, and smart dialogue. A big, sturdy novel that shows Parker at the top of his power." --Len Cowgill, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI

THE COAL TATTOO: A Novel, by Silas House (Algonguin, $22.95, 1565123689) "Like the characters in his novels, House's writing is pragmatic and fierce. This novel set in the coal mining region of Kentucky depicts the desperation of life lived too close to the bone and the deep, abiding attachment that life has to the land. Mystical, reverent, and elemental, House's books define the shape of a singular culture." --Gee Gee Rosell, Buxton Village Books, Buxton, NC

THE EXILE, by Allan Folsom (Forge, $25.95, 0765309467) "The latest thriller from Folsom is even more heart-pounding than The Day After Tomorrow and The Day of Confession. How can the man continue to scare us half to death?" --Virginia Hobson Hicks, Books on the Bluff, Townsend, GA Also an Audio Renaissance Audio (Abridged CD, 1593975325)

THE FALLS: A Novel, by Joyce Carol Oates (Ecco, $26.95, 0060722282) "Joyce Carol Oates has once again crafted a masterpiece. The awesome backdrop of Niagara Falls injects a mood of beauty and violence into this absorbing family drama. Be prepared for a fascinating journey." --Beth Hull, The Avid Reader, Davis, CA Also a HarperAudio (Unabridged CD, 0060741880)

OUTWITTING HISTORY: How One Man Rescued a Million Books and Saved a Civilization, by Aaron Lansky (Algonquin, $24.95, 1565124294) "Passionate college kids studying Yiddish enact a bold plan. The result: They single-handedly rescue Yiddish culture from historical obscurity. The magnitude of what they accomplished is enormous, and Lansky's story is an exciting and moving account of the just-in-time resuscitation of Yiddish's vibrant literary heritage. Oh, how I loved this book!" --Elaine Sopchak, The Book Rack & Children's Pages, Essex Junction, VT

BEFORE YOU KNOW KINDNESS: A Novel, by Chris Bohjalian (Shaye Areheart Books, $25, 1400047455) "When Charlotte accidentally shoots her animal-rights-activist father with a gun owned by her hunter uncle, can the family survive the aftermath? When family ties and ideologies clash, can there be reconciliation? Through the viewpoints of various family members, Bohjalian explores the nuances of loyalty and love with his usual deft touch, in this moving novel." --Susan Taylor, Wellesley Booksmith, Wellesley, MA Also a Random House Audio (Abridged CD, 0739314157)

THE FIRST DESIRE: A Novel, by Nancy Reisman (Pantheon, $24, 0375423087) "This story of a family's loss is a stunning debut novel from a remarkable author. I was instantly drawn in as the main character says she must savor the summer to remember during the long, harsh winters. So, too, will I savor this prose -- the first sentence and myriad others." --Elizabeth Reynolds, Norwich Bookstore, Norwich, VT

THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA: A Novel, by Philip Roth (Houghton, $26, 0618509283) "Roth's alternate history novel of WWII America under 'President Lindbergh' is provocative and sobering. His themes cause us to address longstanding issues in American society in ways that may surprise and arouse. You will be a better person for reading it." --Russ Lawrence, Chapter One Book Store, Hamilton, MT Also a Houghton Audio (Unabridged CD, 0618509291)

THE FALL OF BAGHDAD, by Jon Lee Anderson (Penguin, $24.95, 1594200343) "I could not put down this street-side view of our ongoing war. Anderson's comments and interviews with people of all classes in the city -- during and after the siege -- are incredible and enlightening. Highly recommended for anyone who cares about our world." --Deal Safrit, Literary Book Post, Salisbury, NC

THE KNOW-IT-ALL: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, by A.J. Jacobs (S&S, $25, 0743250605) "You wouldn't think a book about self-education could be funny, but once you dive into The Know-It-All, you'll wonder why more of them aren't. Jacobs' attempt to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica gives us an alphabetical look at what it means to gain knowledge and apply it to life." --Tara O'Donnell, Paperbacks Plus, Bronx, NY Also a HighBridge Audio (Abridged CD, 1565119088)

THE SECRET GOLDFISH: Stories, by David Means (Fourth Estate, $22.95, 0007164890) "David Means' latest collection of short stories (following the astonishing Assorted Fire Events) should find a large and enthusiastic audience. He is an extremely gifted writer with a seemingly limitless imagination. Allow yourself to be struck by 'Lightning Man,' the opening story, and you may find yourself an instant fan." --Stan Hynds, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT

SHANTARAM: A Novel, by Gregory David Roberts (St. Martin's Press, $24.95, 0312330529) "This magnificent novel, set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay, is a huge book with enormous heart. It's hysterically funny, romantic, shocking, brutal, riveting, radiant, and so beautifully written it will take your breath away. You will love this exceptional reading experience." --Susan Wasson, Bookworks, Albuquerque, NM

ABOUT GRACE: A Novel, by Anthony Doerr (Scribner, $25, 0743261828) "Landscape. Memory. Dreams. Family. Doerr weaves this quartet into a beautifully complex story. Forgiveness is the spiritual destination of this novel as the protagonist travels from Alaska to Ohio to the Caribbean and back again. At the end, the reader can only echo one of the characters: 'Isn't all of (life) so damn outrageously beautiful?'" --Jan Owens, Millrace Books, Farmington, CT Also a Recorded Books Audio (Unabridged CD, 1402597762)

CHICKEN DREAMING CORN: A Novel, by Roy Hoffman (University of Georgia Press, $24.95, 0820326682) "It's difficult to think that Roy Hoffman's Chicken Dreaming Corn isn't a factual history of the settlement of Jewish merchants from eastern Europe in the South. It's a delicious read, even if you aren't a Southerner descended from eastern European Jewish merchants -- as am I." --Jake Reiss, The Alabama Booksmith, Birmingham, AL