Best Books Not to Make the July/August 76

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Again, some gems with passionate recommendations that I thought some of you would like to consider for stock.

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THE PIRATE HUNTER, by Richard Zacks (Hyperion/Theia, $25.95, 786865334, June) "This reads almost like a work of fiction. I felt like I was in New York, or on the ship with William Kidd in 1695. It changed a lot of my perceptions about pirates. Books like this give me the incentive to learn more about history. It was well researched, but not dry, and was hard to put down. This was even better than The Map that Changed the World." --Scott Yanke, Scott's Books, Delano, MN

THE ROAD BUILDER, by Nicholas Hershenow (Blue Hen, $15 paper, 0425185311, July) "A magnificent story with powerful writing and the (unexplainable) powerful pull of Africa. Truly a masterpiece; I could have lived inside this book forever." --Susan Wasson, Bookworks, Albuquerque, NM

THIS IS HOW I SPEAK: The Diary of a Young Woman, by Sandi Sonnenfeld (Impassio Press, $15, 0971158312, June) "This book chronicles the author's first year at college and her twin desires to succeed in ballet and in the writing program. It allows us an unflinching look at a 24-year-old artist's bravado and insecurity. The juxtaposition between the physical art of ballet and its emphasis on momentary perfection, and the intellectual art of writing and the process of rewriting is very thought-provoking." --Lisa Lisle, Davis-Kidd Booksellers, Nashville, TN

MONEY AND POWER: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America, by Sally Denton and Roger Morris (Vintage, $15 paper, 0375701265, March) "An investigative history of Las Vegas, but also something even greater: a metaphor for America. This book explores the 'secret history' of Las Vegas malfeasance and the expansion of the city's ethos of greed and artifice. Those lamenting the loss of investigative journalism in American letters are advised to read this book." --Steven Fidel, Powell's Books, Portland, OR

THE SCAR, by China Mieville (Del Rey, $18.95, 0345444388, June) "Equally powerful and no less fascinating than its predecessor, The Scar is a parallel story set in the same fully realized and totally captivating dark world Mieville introduced to us in Perdido Street Station. Mieville's stories make the phrase 'sense of wonder' seem wholly inadequate." --Lois Powers, The Toadstool Bookshop, Milford, NH

AMERICAN FUJI, by Sara Backer (Berkley, $14 paper, 042518336X, March) "Beautifully written story of a young American woman dealing with the absurdities of Japanese culture, coping with a difficult illness, and serving as an interpreter for an American father whose son died under mysterious circumstances. Wonderful characters and an unexpected ending -- it is on our 'favorites' table! -- Barbara Bogart, Bear River Books, Evanston, WY

BOOTY: Girl Pirates on the High Seas, by Sara Lorimer (Chronicle, $16.95, 0811832376, Feb.) "My fiancé thought I was reading a book I ordered from Maxim magazine when I first picked this up, until she realized that it was an historical work about female pirates ... then she read it too. I found it fascinating -- first, that there were so many women pirates, and, second, how many men's asses they kicked." --Nick Pharris, Little Professor, Aberdeen SD

THE HORSE'S MOUTH, by Joyce Cary (New York Review Books, $14.95 paper, 0940322196, June) "This, to my mind, is still the finest novel written about the artistic process, and the struggle of the artist to create against time. Artist Gully Jimson is either a genius or a fraud; either way he's finding it harder and harder to make what he sees in his mind into what he puts on canvas. His struggles to survive and to paint are both excruciatingly funny and faintly sad, as he burns his bridges trying to make his greatest vision real. (Alec Guinness was nominated for an Academy Award for his screen adaptation of this comic novel.)" --Russ Harvey, Cody's, Berkeley, CA

MAWRDEW CZGOWCHWZ, by James McCourt (New York Review Books Classics, $12.95 paper, 0940322978, Feb.) "McCourt cajoles his readers to bow at the altar of Mawrdew Czgowchwz (pronounced 'Mardu Gorgeous'), the most glamorous opera diva ever, to whom devotion runs from hunger strikes to the slandering of a rival diva. This is a literary jewel, a Fabergé egg gone Technicolor." --Leigh Batnick, Politics & Prose, Washington, DC

WINNING SOUNDS LIKE THIS, by Wayne Coffey (Crown, $24, 0609607650, March) "A fascinating look at a season of women's basketball at an all-deaf university. But more than that, it examines a subculture foreign, and often unfairly stereotyped by 'non-deafs.' From the way the Gallaudet Bison fans 'roar' by pumping their arms in the air, to the harsh realization of Bison opponents that 'hearing-impaired' doesn't equal 'basketball-impaired,' this book seeks to shed light on the misconceptions of deaf athletes and deaf culture in general." --Todd Setterlund, Scott's Bookstore, Mount Vernon, WA

TAILSPIN: The Strange Case of Major Call, by Bernard F. Conners. (British Amer Pub, $26.95, 0945167504, May) "Former FBI agent Conners has fleshed out a gripping tale of one of the most famous murders in American history. After the death of his wife, Air Force combat flyer James Call finds himself in debt and desperate. He goes AWOL and begins a ferocious crime spree that finally lands him in prison, but not for the worst of his crimes. It is gripping to read and if his claims are sound, he has solved the Sam Sheppard murder case. And it wasn't Sam. There is an extensive appendix including evidence reports, crime scene photos, and on the back endpapers a timeline of the criminal's crime spree. I would love to see this become a big success story as an indie find that makes it into the public awareness. After all, this case has not been solved for nearly 50 years." -- Jack Garman, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

SUMMER SHARE, by Chris Kenry et al. (Kensington, $14, 0758200889, May) "A quartet of novellas by top Kensington authors, all with a summer theme, Summer Share is the perfect beach read! I found the stories funny, romantic, sexy, and, occasionally, very moving." --Kevin Stevens, Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse, Atlanta, GA

TRUE HOPE, by Frank Manley (Carroll & Graf, $25, 0786710209, April) "A man grieving over the loss of his wife reaches the depths of despair and makes his way back. The main character, Al, is just an honest, lost guy looking for something to live and hope for. A colorful cast of characters with writing so simple, every reader will find true hope right along with Al." --Janet Kaplan, The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, NY

DIRT, by Sean Doolittle (UglyTown Productions, $15, 096634734X, June) "Quince Bishop is hardly what anyone would call a hero. A trust-fund slacker unable to keep a relationship with his long-time girlfriend, he lives in a crappy apartment and is generally miserable. This all changes the day of his best friend's funeral when a chance encounter with anti-mahogany activists changes his life forever. Doolittle's fierce writing brings to life characters and settings you don't imagine so much as feel. Discover a great new voice with Dirt." --Mike Jones, Hawley-Cooke Booksellers, Louisville, KY

BLACK EARTH CITY: When Russia Ran Wild (And So Did We), by Charlotte Hobson (Metropolitan, $23, 0805069321, January) "Present when hammer and sickle ceded to the Russian Federation's red, white, and blue, Hobson personalizes the start of perestroika, a time of uneasy and unpracticed freedom. She and the young tenants of Hostel 4 in Voronezh found pain and promise in lives that mirrored the difficult time -- unabated alcoholism, drug-use, hunger, hopelessness, unrestricted sex. The picture of a Russian winter radiates magic. Her inclusion of poetry from Osip Mandelstam's Voronezh Notebooks compelled me to buy myself a copy. A youthful memoir of a unique time in Russia's history, written with warmth and wit -- a fascinating book. I loved it!" --Sally Stipp, The Book Bag, Valparaiso, IN

EXILE IN THE KINGDOM, by Robert Harnum (University Press of New England, $19.95, 1584651482, December, 2001) "This book is a spare and skillfully written trip into the mind of a teenage boy. As we watch, his life proceeds along an unremarkable track that suddenly swerves into the unthinkable. It is hands-down the most haunting and disturbing book I have read, and hands-down the book I think everyone in this country should read." -- Donna Urey, White Birch Books, North Conway, NH

THE FOURTH TREASURE, by Todd Shimoda (Doubleday, $24.95, 0385503520, April) "This is a story about how an ink stone brings people together. Not only is the story told with such beauty and grace, but the book itself is filled with the beautiful art of shodo. Shimoda captures the heart, mind, and spirit in what will be one of the best stories of 2002." --Christopher Doorley, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA

HALF IN LOVE, by Maile Meloy, (Scribner, $23, 0743216474, July) "Spare prose, measured compassion, and a clear-eyed view of people make this debut collection of stories something to behold. Whether her characters are on a Montana ranch; in London during the Blitz; in a half-finished house in Blanding, Utah; or at the Polo Club in Paris, death, danger, love, or its aftermath have put them face-to-face with truth. The results are consistently stunning." --Betsy Burton, The King's English, Salt Lake City, Utah

LUCKY BOY, by Susan Boase (Houghton Mifflin Co., $15, 0618131752, March) "A stray taken in by a kind family too busy to pay much attention to him and an old man whose wife just died come together in this utterly satisfactory picture book written and illustrated by Susan Boase. Sweet without being saccharine, comforting without being improbable, Lucky Boy is a book we're lucky to have." --Susan Ramsey, Athena Book Shop, Kalamazoo, MI

AFTER ANNE, by Roxanne Henke (Harvest House Publishers, $10.99 paper, 0736909672, March) "I am not much into spiritual fiction, but I thought that this book was incredible for a first novel. From the very first chapter of Roxanne Henke's poignant book, I was hooked. The friendship that forms between her characters, Libby and Anne, will attach themselves to your soul. By the end of the book even the most skeptical person would want to pray." --Beth Plattner, Fishing With Your Mind, Walker, MN

THE AMERICAN SOUL, by Jacob Needleman (Putnam, $25.95, 1585421383, February) "All too often we consider only the political and external impact of the American system. This book focuses on the metaphysical side -- showing how the founding fathers intended Americanism to be just as much a part of our inner life -- both as individuals and as a society." --Phil Smith, Brace Books & More, Ponca City, OK

USING THE FORCE: Creativity, Community, and Star Wars Fans, by Will Brooker (Continuum, $27.95, 0826452876, April) "There is an inherent danger in academics writing about popular culture. Some are too far removed from that culture to be able to portray an accurate picture of it. Others understand the subject just fine, but are unable to communicate their ideas to a general audience. Brooker's own Star Wars fanship sidesteps the first problem, and his engaging writing style helps him avoid the second. Using the Force is an interesting and entertaining book that's worth a look for the hilarious transcript of a group viewing of The Empire Strikes Back alone. I've been to that party, and I'll bet a lot of you have, too." --Peggy Hailey, Book People, Austin, TX

VISITS FROM THE SEVENTH, by Sarah Arvio (Knopf, $22, 0375413677, February) "This debut collection will get you thinking twice about the voices that ricochet in your head. Arvio honors these voices, she fears them, she challenges them with daring language, lush description, and a voice that, ultimately, takes control of her life." --Lisa Marie Brodsky, Canterbury Booksellers, Madison, WI

MILLENNIUM COOKBOOK, by Eric Tucker (Ten Speed Press, $19.95 paper, 0898158990, October 1998) "Amazing vegan fare! My most favorite cookbook to blow my meat eating, dairy-loving friends out of the water. Full of exotic spices and interesting ideas, the recipes are anything but the bland, watery dishes that many people believe vegan food to be." --Whitney Schatz, Copperfield's, Sebastapol, CA

DEATH OF A RIVER GUIDE, by Richard Flanagan (Grove, $13 paper, 0802138632, February) "Flanagan combines absolutely breath-taking sentences, kaleidoscopic story-telling, and a strong undercurrent of darkness as he relates the life of Alijaz Cosini, his ancestors, and a bit of Tasmanian history. Anyone who is a fan of Frederick Busch will love this novel." --Candler Hunt, Olsson's Dupont Circle, Washington, DC

DEVLIN'S LUCK (Bantam, $5.99 paper, 0553584758, April) "The most compelling fantasy (especially for a first novel) that I've read in ages. The narrative grabs you by the throat at the beginning and never lets go. Highly recommended." --Duane Wilkins, University Book Store, Seattle, WA

HOLLOW GROUND, by Stephen Marion (Algonquin, $23.95, 1565123239, April) "This beautiful first novel of the loss and recovery of love and kinship takes place in a Tennessee zinc mining town where the ground literally opens up on occasion. The land and a colorful cast of characters come alive through the eyes of a young protagonist named Taft, whose adolescence is marked by the return of his father after an absence of 14 years. Told in vivid, subtly sweet prose that unfolds like magic, this is an excellent tale, deeply felt and masterfully spun." --John Willson, Eagle Harbor Book Co., Bainbridge Island, WA

CAN'T BE SATISFIED: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters (Little Brown, $25.95, 0316328499, April) "Gordon takes me to the juke joint where the blues are muddy and the sound is sweet, sweet soul. Muddy hums and hollers -- reminds me that his music, like his life, is a brilliant beat that can't be satisfied." --Lindsay Lancaster Bookworks, Albuquerque, NM

IN THE STACKS: Short Stories about Libraries and Librarians. Edited by Michael Cart (Overlook Press, $26.95, 1585672599, April) "Just a glance at the table of contents reveals this to be a collection to savor. John Cheever, Lorrie Moore, Ursula LeGuin, Alice Munro, Jorge Luis Borges, to name a few of the writers represented here, all of whom are masters of their craft. For lovers of books and libraries and, of course, librarians." --Mary Benham, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

GRACEFUL PARENTING: Simple Advice for Raising a Gentle and Loving Child, by Eve M. Dreyfus (Ten Speed, $12.95, 1587611325, April) "I'm not a big fan of touchy-feely gift books ... but this one is truly beautiful. This is a wonderful little gift book filled with concise, well-written ideas on how to raise happy, confident, and independent children. Graceful Parenting is beautifully illustrated by the author's seven-year-old son and offers us all words to live by." --Patty Carscallen, University of Idaho Bookstore, Moscow, ID

STILL LOVE IN STRANGE PLACES, by Beth Kephart (W.W. Norton, $24.95, 0393050742, April) "Such a fine book. Perhaps exquisite, eloquent, compassionate all describe it. If there ever was a book for independent booksellers, this is it. It is one of the few books about El Salvador or Central America as a whole that I've read that escapes that particularily odious North American condescension that we seem to so easily fall into. Kephart brings her description of the country, her family, and the war to life, in writing about equals, as no one writing about this region, to my knowledge, has done. This deserves kudos, hurrahs, and READING." --Elise White, Orinda Books, Orinda, CA

LOOKING FOR MARY GABRIEL, by Carole Lawrence (Dunne Books, $23.95, 0312285418, June) "A story of great sadness and mystery, this explores the territory a child must face when her father dies following years of estrangement. Beautifully composed and haunting, the novel will remain with the reader long after he or she closes the book." --Sandra Ludwig, The Tudor Bookshop & Café, Kingston, PA

SAN FRANCISCO POEMS, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (City Lights, $9.95 paper, 1931404011; May) "I love the way Ferlinghetti jumps right into the thick of things with his inaugural address. It's as if he's never missed a breath, never skipped a beat, never faltered in his steps as he takes his Beat awareness, his love of the earth, his love of life, and his love of the city 50 years along the road. His poems and essays are filled with so much of what is missing in life today: taking the time to stop and look around, taking the time to think, and think ahead, about what we have and won't have if we don't stop to think and look around. San Francisco isn't the city it was when Ferlinghetti arrived and yet his vision of her has been untouched by time." --Steve Brumfield, Manteo Booksellers, Roanoke, NC