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Book Sense 76

August 25, 2000

September/October Book Sense 76

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The Book Sense 76

Why 76?

Independence * 1776 * Independents

76 great books, picked by booksellers with experience, knowledge and passion.

A diverse, eclectic range of choices.

September / October 2000

Page One
Top Ten Vote-Getters
Books for Harry Potter Fans
Books for Teens
Illustrated Books for Children
Fiction in Paperback
Page Two
Hardcover Fiction
History, Memoir and Current Events
Mystery and Science Fiction

These are the Top Ten Vote-Getters for this September/October Book Sense 76, as tallied from hundreds of recommendations from independent booksellers. For each book, one of the many enthusiastic nominations was chosen to represent it as follows:

  1. The top vote-getter; an expose published in June that has gathered a LOT of great word-of-mouth: BLACK MASS: The Irish Mob, the FBI, and the Devil's Deal, by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill (Public Affairs, $26, 1891620401) "This book is riveting to say the least. It is unbelievable to what lengths the FBI went to protect two top mobsters. This book is more than a true crime offering; it's a glimpse of both the inner workings of the FBI and the Boston underworld."--Bob Hegarty, Booksmith, Woburn MA "This true story of a pact between two criminals and the FBI during the last three decades both fascinates and horrifies as one watches the line between law enforcement and criminal activity blur and finally disappear. I couldn't put it down."--Ellen Tisdell, Davis-Kidd Booksellers, Nashville, TN
  2. A close second; many booksellers have this on their staff pick tables already: NO GREAT MISCHIEF, by Alistair MacLeod (Norton, $23.95, 0393049701) "Michael Ondaatje calls MacLeod 'one of the great undiscovered writers of our time.' This beautiful novel, written in haunting prose, tells the story of a family living in 18th Century Cape Breton. This book is a winner."--Nancy Olsen, Quail Ridge, Raleigh, NC "This haunting and lyrical novel explores several generations of Scottish immigrants whose lives are shaped by that bleak landscape of Nova Scotia. The spare, understated writing compels one to re-read passages for the sheer beauty and power of the language."--Mary Benham, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
  3. And the winner of the prestigious Giller Prize in Canada is a hit here, too: THE GOOD HOUSE, by Bonnie Burnard (Holt, $25, 0805064958) "I loved this book, and looked forward to getting reinvolved with the characters each night. This is a book where nothing really happens out of the ordinary--but the ordinary is extraordinary because of the skill of the storyteller."--Lesley Kleiser, Montgomery Book Co., Cincinnati, OH "I curled up with The Good House and came away with a feeling of awe. This beautiful story is told with an all-embracing empathy for its characters."--Barbara Morrow, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT
  4. A Finalist for both the National Book Award & Book Sense Book of the Year Award--and #1 Book Sense Bestseller last fall--now in paperback: PLAINSONG, by Kent Haruf (Vintage Books, $13 paper, 0375705856) "Set in a small eastern Colorado town, these overlapping stories convey a deep sense of community and strong character. This novel is just plain wonderful."--Tom Wells, Dearleap Books, Bristol, VT
  5. A controversial book from last fall, now in paper: ALL SOULS: A Family Story from Southie, by Michael Patrick MacDonald (Ballantine, $14 paper, 034544177X; due out Oct. 3) "Starting with the white Boston families who didn't want to be bussed, MacDonald unravels the tale of a poor family caught by circumstances. Reading All Souls reminds me of what makes a perfect memoir--great writing, an interesting story, and a new perspective."--Daniel Goldin, Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, Milwaukee, WI
  6. A fantastic debut novel: WINTER RANGE, by Claire Davis (Picador, $23, 0312261403) "What a powerful, gritty, honest book! I was thoroughly enthralled by Davis's ability to write about the Montana landscape, the animals, and the men and women so truthfully. She understands what happens to people in the harshest of times, dealing with the pull of the past and the heartaches of the future." --Alaine Borgias, Village Books, Bellingham, WA
  7. From one of the independents' favorite writers: THE BLIND ASSASIN, by Margaret Atwood (Doubleday, $26, 0385475721; in stores Sept. 5) "The lives of a button dynast's daughters are the threads which Atwood uses to spin together dazzling tales within tales in this convoluted, compelling novel of the Depression and its aftermath. One of Canada's finest authors at her astonishing best."--Betsy Burton, The King's English, Salt Lake City, UT
  8. A memoir deserving of a wide readership: THE BLOOD RUNS LIKE A RIVER THROUGH MY DREAMS: A Memoir, by Nasdijj (Houghton Mifflin $23, 0618048928) "This is one of the more powerful books I have ever read. The author is of mixed Navajo/white heritage, and although the subject matter is bleak, Nasdijj's humor constantly breaks through. Like the best of writers, his voice is unique. I will remember this memoir for a long time."--Michael Katzenberg, Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, VT
  9. An independent favorite from last year, now in paperback: MISS JULIA SPEAKS HER MIND, by Ann B. Ross (HarperPerennial, $13 paper, 0688177751) "The story is heartwarming, hilarious, even exciting. One of our most recommended books, and a great books for reading groups."--Julie C. Harris, Best of Books, Edmond, OK
  10. A surprise from a Booker Prize winning novelist: THE GIGGLER TREATMENT, by Roddy Doyle (Scholastic, $14.95, 0439162998) "This is the first children's book by Doyle, and it's a riot! Great for any kid who's a Roald Dahl fan!"--Suzanne Coopersmith, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, CT
Big Deal!

Pass along the joy of browsing at an independent bookstore to your family & friends living anywhere in America.

Just send the new Book Sense Gift Certificate, available and redeemable at over 1,000 independent bookstores nationally!! How great is that?

The person receiving your gift certificate has only to call 1-888-BOOKSENSE to get directions to their nearest independent bookstore with Book Sense. You can also visit for a directory, and to print out a map to any Book Sense store.

Books make great gifts, and now, so do Book Sense Gift Certificates. And you've turned another person on to a great independent bookstore in the process. Ask at this store for more information. Thank you!

Books for Harry Potter Fans

  1. THE FIRES OF MERLIN: Book 3, by T.A. Barron (Ace, $5.99 paper, 0441007139; in stores Sept. 5) "The first two of the Lost Years of Merlin series are flying out of the store. When I asked Brett (18 years old), who has worked in the store for two years, why he liked this series better than the other Merlin books, he said: "Because these aren't just about an old man. These are about Merlin when he was a kid, with real concerns like the rest of us."--Valerie Lewis and Brett Carlson, Hicklebee's Book Store, San Jose, CA
  2. ISLAND OF THE AUNTS, by Eva Ibbotson (Dutton, $15.99, 0525464840) "Three elderly British aunts living on an island have decided that their duty to maintain the earth's balance must be passed onto the next generation. Having no children, they decide to "chose", i.e. kidnap, three kids from London. What follows is an exciting page-turner featuring a greedy father, a cell phone-packing boy, a sea monster, 'selkies' that cannot decide whether to live on land or sea, and much more!"--Bill Dittmann, Marin Teachers' Store/ Education Express, San Rafael, CA (Ibbotson is the author of the Book Sense bestsellers, SECRET OF PLATFORM 13 and WHICH WITCH?, also great 'Potter deprivation' books!)
  3. REM WORLD, by Rodman Philbrick (Blue Sky Press, $16.95, 0439083621) "This is a quick, exciting fantasy for 8-12 year olds. Short chapters with a lot of 'hooks' to keep even the reluctant reader going. A great fill-in between Harry Potter books."-- Anne Whalen, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA

Reserve your copy now of the most-requested book of the year
--after only Harry IV--the third and final volume of

In stores Oct. 10 -- Philip Pullman's THE AMBER SPYGLASS!!

Books for Teens

  1. STARGIRL, by Jerry Spinelli (Knopf, $15.95, 0679886370) "The students at Mica High have no idea what to make of Stargirl, a 10th grader who plays the ukulele, keeps a pet rat in her bag, and dances in the rain. This story of individuality, conformity, peer pressure, and first love touched me deeply with its truth and beauty. I paused for a few days before I finished because I didn't want to say good-bye to Stargirl. I found I didn't have to."--Mari Enoch, The Bookloft, Great Barrington, MA
  2. TEEN ANGST? NAAAH: A Quasi-Autobiography, by Ned Vizzini (Free Spirit, $12.95 paper, 1575420848) "This is a great read for teens. I loved reading about an ordinary kid doing regular teenage things!"--Jane Stroh, The Bookstore, Glen Ellyn, IL

Illustrated Books for Children

  1. MADLENKA, by Peter Sis (Frances Foster Books, $17, 0374399697) "I've just taken the most creative walk around a city block--and it's in a picture book! Madlenka is a gorgeous die-cut book. A peek through each hole introduces us to Madlenka's neighbors-- the French baker, the Indian newspaper man, the Italian ice-cream man, the Latin-American green grocer, a German opera singer, an African-American school friend, and the Asian shopkeeper--a beautiful multicultural blend of old country, new city. I absolutely loved the quality of the story and the art; this will be one of our store's fall season features!"--Carolyn Harrington, Great Horned Owl Children's Bookstore, Louisville, CO
  2. OLIVIA, by Ian Falconer (Atheneum, $16, 0689829531) "This is such an endearingly original picture book. In deceptively simple drawings, with splashes of red as the only color, the author has created a piglet to charm the heart of every reader. Most parents will see their child, and most children will see themselves in Olivia. This is very likely another porcine classic." --Leslie Reiner, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL
  3. A RATTLE OF BONES: A Halloween Book of Collective Nouns, by Kipling West (Orchard, $15.95, 0531301966) "This is an Exaltation of Larks with a Halloween theme. From 'an unkindness of ravens' to a 'murder of crows', this is a delightful trip through the English language."--Shirley Masengill, Cover to Cover Booksellers, San Francisco, CA
  4. SAIL AWAY, by Florence McNeil, illus. by David McPhail (Orca Books, $19.95, 1551431475). "A frequently asked question is "Do you have any books on pirates?" Here is the answer. Fun illustrations and friendly characters show young children the meaning of basic sailing terms as a young pirate prepares his boat for the sea."--Teressa Corson, Stroudwater Books, Dover, NH
  5. THE YELLOW TRAIN, by Alistair Highet; illus. by Francois Roca (Creative Editions, $17.95, 1568461283) "If you haven't come across this unusual picture book, seek it out now! Exquisite shadowy illustrations draw the reader into the adventures of a grandfather, grandson, and the Yellow Train. Reminiscent of The Polar Express, this is truly a year 'round book for all ages!"--Sidney Jackson, Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver, CO

Fiction in Paperback

  1. THE CATASTROPHIST, by Ronan Bennett (Simon & Schuster, $13 paper, 0684870363) "This novel satisfies every prerequisite of a great story; there's intrigue, romance, and history. The 1959 Belgian Congo is ablaze with independence fever. James Gillespie, an Irish novelist, arrives seeking his former lover, an Italian journalist who is drawn to leftist politics. The author, who in his youth was jailed for IRA activity, shows he possesses the talent for this ardent depiction of both the the writer's detachment as watcher and his lover's idealism. An ingenious, intense novel."--Susan Avery, Ariel Booksellers, New Paltz, NY
  2. CIGARETTE GIRL, by Carol Wolper (Riverhead, $12.95 paper, 1573228184) "Funny, cynical and accurate, this is the story of Elizabeth West, a 28-year-old screenwriter in search of her perfect 'Mr. Maybe'. Wolper offers a glimpse of the not-so- glamorous Hollywood life and an almost perfect tale of the life of the twenty-something L.A. woman."--Maret Orliss, Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, CA
  3. THE DANGEROUS HUSBAND, by Jane Shapiro (Back Bay, $12.95 paper, 0316782653) "If only she had known…perhaps she wouldn't have had to plot the murder of this most clumsy and perilous husband. Humor at its blackest."--Susan Whittaker, Viewpoint Books, Columbus, IN
  4. THE GUN SELLER, by Hugh Laurie (Pocket, $14 paper, 067102082X) "A fast, smart, funny quasi-sendup of the James Bond genre. The sort of book Wodehouse would have written if he wrote profane, violent, '90s spy novels."--Ain Vale, Powell's, Portland, OR
  5. HEADLONG, by Michael Frayn (Picador, $14 paper, 0312267460) "A witty, fast-paced novel about a certain Martin Clay, who stumbles upon a painting that could be a lost treasure. Now, how to separate it from its owner? The fun level soars as the scheming becomes more desperate."--Diane Beemer, The Book Stall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka, IL
  6. HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA, by Richard Hughes (New York Review Books, $12.95 paper, 0940322153) "When a group of children headed for England are taken onto a pirate ship, events unfold that question the nature and limits of innocence. My book group had quite a thought-provoking discussion about this rediscovered classic."--Matt Miller, Tattered Cover, Denver, CO
  7. THE HONEY THIEF, by Elizabeth Graver (Harvest, out early Sept., $13 paper, 0156013908) "A coming-of-age story, moving from the noise of the city to the inner turmoil of rural New York. We grow close to the troubled teenage girl and want her to gain some insights and equilibrium, although the two adults in her life--her mother and the beekeeper--have their own struggles. The ending is subtle and only partly resolved, but hopeful. This story stays with you."--Alicia Greene, Olsson's Books & Records-Georgetown, Washington, DC
  8. THE LADIES' AUXILIARY, by Tova Mirvis (Ballantine, $14 paper, 0345441265; due out Sept. 5) "This pleasurable, thought-provoking debut novel gives the reader an intimate view of the relations and rituals inside a small Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis. This is a finely crafted novel about communities, religion (real and observed) and loss."--Lyn Roberts, Square Books, Oxford, MS
  9. LAMB IN LOVE, by Carrie Brown (Bantam, $11.95 paper, 0553380850) "You say the words "love story" and people groan, but read it and you'll quickly change your mind about what modern love stories are like. Eloquent, romantic, and completely unschmaltzy in every way, Lamb in Love is a complete and wonderful surprise. I loved it!"--Leigh Winterbottom, Verbatim Booksellers, Vail, CO
  10. THE LAST LIFE, by Claire Messud (Harvest, in stores early Sept.; $14 paper, 0156011654) "Set during the revolt of French Algiers, this is one of the most beautiful novels I've read in years."--Doni Kay, Books & Books, Miami Beach, FL
  11. THE OBITUARY WRITER, by Porter Shreve (Mariner, $12 paper, 0395981328) "Gordie Hatch, at age 22, is breaking into journalism as an obituary writer at the St. Louis Independent. He dreams of following in the footsteps of his long-dead father, a newspaperman. Enter Alicia Whiting, the young widow of a very ordinary banker. When she insists that Gordie produce a feature story on her husband, his life and career begin to unravel. An excellent first novel by a promising young writer."--Dick Sandvik, Paulina Springs Book Company, Sisters, OR
  12. PURE, by Rebbecca Ray (Grove, $13 paper, 0802137008) "By the time I was halfway through this phenomenal book, I couldn't put it down, finishing at 2 a.m. This book is so well-written, especially if it was indeed written by a 16-year-old! When I finished the book, I had many questions about her family and what had really happened; the unspoken feelings were so intense. I'll recommend this book to my friends and to book clubs."--Andra Tracy, OutWord Bound, Indianapolis, IN
  13. THE STORY OF A MILLION YEARS, by David Huddle (Mariner, $13 paper, 0618082336) "This is a fascinating novel about the affair of a 15-year-old girl with the 42-year-old husband of her mother's best friend, told from the perspectives of the different characters. This is no 'Lolita', but instead a rather unemotional look at how the needs of different people get played out in a few months of passion, then reverberate for years in all of their lives. I am constantly intrigued and moved by a good writer's ability to see how the seemingly small, innocent acts in our lives can have such powerful impact."--Bruce Jacobs, Watermark Books, Wichita, KS
  14. A STAR CALLED HENRY, by Roddy Doyle (Penguin, in stores Sept. 5, $14 paper, 0140296131) "The first of Doyle's new trilogy, this is a stunning portrayal of Ireland from the turn of the century through the civil wars. It is easily the best novel I have read all year."--Angela Biaz, Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, MI
  15. SUMMIT AVENUE, by Mary Sharratt (Coffee House Press, $14.95 paper, 1566890977) "I highly recommend this wonderful new novel. I read it in a weekend, absorbed in the story and the characters, and was moved to tears by the ending. It is a tale of many things--immigrant life, working in Midwest flour mills, family ties, fairy tales as feminine archetypes--but more than anything, it is the story of two women and how they found their way to each other against all odds."--Barb Wieser, Amazon Bookstore Cooperative, Minneapolis, MN
  16. THOSE JORDAN GIRLS, by Joan M. Drury (Spinsters Ink, $12 paper, 1883523362) "A simply delightful matriarchal tale of melded generations. Historical in all the right places. Emotional, evoking...from laughter to tears. THIS should be a mini-series."--Cheryl Townsend, Cat's Impetuous Books & Stuff, Kent, OH
  17. WELDING WITH CHILDREN, by Tim Gautreaux (Picador, $12 paper, 0312267924) "Gautreaux's writing is evocative of the deep South (particularly Louisiana) while being extremely straightforward. His characters are warm people, full of flaws, that are treated with great sympathy. His plots are deceptively complex; everything seems quite simple until you reach the end and have to rethink it all. A magnificent book." --Arsen Kashkashian, Boulder Book Store, Boulder, CO

Coming in paperback in October are two of the Book Sense Book of the Year Finalists--much loved books by independent booksellers and readers last year: Susan Vreeland's GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE and Sena Jeter Naslund's AHAB'S WIFE.

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