One of the best things about writing this column is that there’s always something to share with you, whether it’s a good book or an interview with an author or bookseller or something else, like these excellent stickers above.
This week, I’d like to celebrate something with you – the slightly belated first anniversary of this newsletter. And as you all know (or can at least google it like I just did), the traditional first-anniversary gift is paper, which, when covered with words and stitched between two covers, is the thing we’ve been talking about every week since the first of these last year.
As well as books, there are the people we’ve connected with through this newsletter: readers, authors, librarians, booksellers, publishers, artists and more. Book Pages readers from as far away as Ireland and as near as the room where I write this have shared recommendations (as well as, in the latter case, a hot cup of coffee). And this community has grown with each passing week – at a rate beyond what anyone, or at least I, had imagined. That’s all you, guys.
Being part of this community of people drawn to books and writing and all things related has been one of the highlights of my time in journalism. So, before this sounds any more like a speech than it already does, I’ll just say thank you. Thank you for reading this, thank you for coming back week and after week and thank you for being part of this community of book lovers.
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Covers of “Lonesome Dove,” “The Office of Historical Corrections,” “Babel,” and “The Friends of Eddie Coyle.” (Covers courtesy of publishers Simon & Schuster, Riverhead, Harper Voyager, Picador)
Another bonus of the Book Pages has been getting book recommendations in the Q&A section and from readers. I’ve been making use of these myself because I appreciate the generosity of those sharing them – and because I don’t need much encouragement to read good books.
Sometimes, I will stumble across a suggested title in a bookstore and think, “Hmm…somebody smart mentioned this one,” and only later realize it was someone in the Book Pages. (Related: I’m occasionally baffled when something I put on hold at the library shows up months later and I have no recollection of why I requested it. But that doesn’t just happen to me, right. … Right?)
Here are just a handful of books off the top of my head that I’ve read, bought, revisited or gotten from the library over the past year: “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (suggested by Don Winslow); “The Office of Historical Corrections” by Danielle Evans (suggested by Dawnie Walton); Juliet Stevenson’s “Middlemarch” narration (suggested by Nancy Pearl and Tess Gunty); R.F. Kuang’s “Babel” (suggested by Alix E. Harrow); “Gorky Park” (suggested by Mick Herron); the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian (suggested by Kim Stanley Robinson); “Ask the Dust” (suggested by Benjamin Myers); “Lonesome Dove” suggested by Tom Gauld, Nancy Pearl and others; as well as multiple votes for Octavia E. Butler, Jonathan Escoffery, Kazuo Ishiguro, Mark Twain, Chester Himes, Yiyun Li, Raymond Chandler and a range of works by James Baldwin.
And what can I recommend to you this week? Well, I just finished Ada Calhoun’s wonderful “Also a Poet,” which I devoured. This 2022 memoir kicks off when Calhoun discovered a trove of recorded interviews her father, the art critic Peter Schjeldahl, had recorded in the 1970s for a planned biography of the poet Frank O’Hara. Calhoun, who hadn’t known about the project prior to her discovery of the material in a file cabinet in an East Village basement, decided to take it on. I’d first picked up O’Hara’s work at The Strand in New York and later read Brad Gooch’s biography “City Poet,” so I had some interest already but the complex dynamics surrounding the failed project combined with Calhoun’s writing made this a winning combination.
What else? I’m listening to Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield” narrated by Southern California’s own Simon Vance and loving it (except when I need to take a break from the bullies that Dickens is so adept at writing).
And finally, since you know that I love bookmarks as placeholders of memory, I’ll leave you with this lovely bit from Ian Frazier’s introduction to Janet Malcolm’s posthumous “Still Pictures: On Photography and Memory” that I read this morning while at the dentist:
“She also loved assembling bookmarks, her favorite kind of collage. I have fifty or seventy bookmarks she made and sent me. I use her bookmarks in most books I read, which means that now I can’t find them all. In some future century, one or two of Janet’s bookmarks will fall out from between a book’s pages in the shop of an antique-book dealer and amaze their re-discoverer.”
One can only hope. In any case, I’m glad we’ve been making memories here.
Linda Sherman-Nurick, Cellar Door Books owner, stands inside her Riverside business on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Cellar Door Books received an eviction notice from the Canyon Crest Towne Center early this week. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
Speaking of book communities, as I was putting this week’s newsletter together we heard that Cellar Door Books in Riverside has had its lease terminated, according to a statement on the store’s Twitter feed. This decision by the landlord comes days after the store, which promotes inclusivity, BIPOC authors and good books, recently hosted a Drag Queen Storytime.
My colleague Allyson Vergara is reporting on the situation and will have more information, but for the moment I’ll share a statement from the store’s Twitter:
We’re angry. And while we’re leaving Canyon Crest Towne Center… our voices will remain. We’ll find somewhere else. And in the meantime, we’ll continue to be loud and proud. Of you, of us, of everyone who stepped foot in our store and supported us. COME IN AND BUY BOOKS!
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Jordan Harper is an LA crime novelist based in Eagle Rock at the Los Angeles River on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
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“Spare” by Prince Harry The Duke of Sussex is the top-selling nonfiction release at Southern California’s independent bookstores. (Photo by Robert F. Bukaty, The Associated Press)
The week’s bestsellers
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What’s next on ‘Bookish’
The next free Bookish event will be our second annual Noteworthy celebration, SCNG’s salute to 10 Southern California authors whose books made a mark. Expect to hear from our honorees along with host Sandra Tsing Loh
on Feb. 3 at 5 p.m.
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