Just about a week ago, I made my way down to Providence for the yearly NEIBA fall conference. My basic impressions from the show are as follows.
It was neat! I talked about it here!
One of the best parts of book conferences like this (or BEA in the Spring) is getting a down-and-dirty look at books that have just come out, or will be coming out in the near future. As a bookseller, it’s fantastic to get a handle on what books will be in the store, make some sense of what you need to order, and read books so you can handsell them from day one. As a blogger, it’s nice to talk with sales reps and easily get your hands on review copies. As a book nerd, it’s just freakin’ COOL to get insider access to the book world and be surrounded by books.
I managed to show a bit of restraint this year and not ask for copies of every book I saw this year, but I still came out of the show with four or five dozen books. I’m going to save your eyes (and my fingers) the strain of showing why I’m psyched to read each one of them, but I did want to highlight five of the titles that I’m the most excited about. Be sure to listen to episode five of the Bookrageous podcast for more suggestions, and check out Jenn and Rebecca‘s lists of their favorite books from the fall trade shows.
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My Best Friend is a Wookie by Tony Pacitti
I’ve read a handful of books about growing up as a geek – The Elfish Gene and Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, most recently – but all of them focus on geekery in the 70s and 80s. Those authors were lucky enough to see the Star Wars flics in the theaters, and were well into adulthood by the time the *shudder* prequels came out. I’m super excited to read Pacitti’s book because he had the same experience with Star Wars as I did. Born a few years after Jedi, Tony grew up as a fan of the original movies and was young enough to be excited by the prequels. I can’t wait to dig into a tale of Star Wars fandom that mirrors my own.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . a geek was born. So begins Pacitti’s own dorkily moving Jedi journey, which reveals how “Star Wars” has served as a source of comfort, guidance, and wisdom in his life.
Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
This book has been a long time coming. Moonwalking with Einstein is Foer’s first book, and he sold it to Penguin back in 2006. Looks to be a fun, entertaining and informative pop-science look at memory, along with Joshua’s journey through “memory training” to the U.S. Memory Championships, which are apparently a thing that exists. It’s nice to know there’s more out there than simple rote memorization, and I’m hoping I can pick up a few tips to improve the ol’ memory.
On average, people squander forty days annually compensating for things they’ve forgotten. Joshua Foer used to be one of those people. But after a year of memory training, he found himself in the finals of the U.S. Memory Championship. Even more important, Foer found a vital truth we too often forget: In every way that matters, we are the sum of our memories.
Moonwalking with Einstein draws on cutting-edge research, a surprising cultural history of memory, and venerable tricks of the mentalist’s trade to transform our understanding of human remembering. Under the tutelage of top “mental athletes,” he learns ancient techniques once employed by Cicero to memorize his speeches and by Medieval scholars to memorize entire books. Using methods that have been largely forgotten, Foer discovers that we can all dramatically improve our memories.
Immersing himself obsessively in a quirky subculture of competitive memorizers, Foer learns to apply techniques that call on imagination as much as determination-showing that memorization can be anything but rote. From the PAO system, which converts numbers into lurid images, to the memory palace, in which memories are stored in the rooms of imaginary structures, Foer’s experience shows that the World Memory Championships are less a test of memory than of perseverance and creativity.
Foer takes his inquiry well beyond the arena of mental athletes-across the country and deep into his own mind. In San Diego, he meets an affable old man with one of the most severe case of amnesia on record, where he learns that memory is at once more elusive and more reliable than we might think. In Salt Lake City, he swaps secrets with a savant who claims to have memorized more than nine thousand books. At a high school in the South Bronx, he finds a history teacher using twenty- five-hundred-year-old memory techniques to give his students an edge in the state Regents exam.
At a time when electronic devices have all but rendered our individual memories obsolete, Foer’s bid to resurrect the forgotten art of remembering becomes an urgent quest. Moonwalking with Einstein brings Joshua Foer to the apex of the U.S. Memory Championship and readers to a profound appreciation of a gift we all possess but that too often slips our minds.
The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
Wolitzer’s new book sold me completely with the premise. A high school puts on a classic Greek play about women who stop having sex, and all the women in the high school community stop having sex with their partners. Seems a bit lit-fic for my tastes, but it’s still an intriguing premise that I just can’t resist. Wolitzer is the author of the award-winning novels Surrender, Dorothy and The Ten-Year Nap, so she certainly has the bona fides to back her up.
When the elliptical new drama teacher at Stellar Plains High School chooses for the school play Lysistrata-the comedy by Aristophanes in which women stop having sex with men in order to end a war-a strange spell seems to be cast over the school. Or, at least, over the women. One by one throughout the high school community, perfectly healthy, normal women and teenage girls turn away from their husbands and boyfriends in the bedroom, for reasons they don’t really understand. As the women worry over their loss of passion, and the men become by turns unhappy, offended, and above all, confused, both sides are forced to look at their shared history, and at their sexual selves in a new light.
Atlantic by Simon Winchester
Big. History. BIG HISTORY. Winchester’s biography of the Atlantic Ocean covers the history of the high seas from man’s first encounter with the coast to his predicted fate of the sea thousands of years from now. Winchester is a consistently delightful and engaging writer, and the first few chapters of Atlantic have already continued this tradition. The author also does an admirable job mixing his personal biography (he at one time wanted to join the British navy) and anecdotes with serious research and history, which makes Atlantic much less dry than you might have worried.
Blending history and anecdote, geography and reminiscence, science and exposition, the New York Times bestselling author of Krakatoa tells the breathtaking saga of the magnificent Atlantic Ocean, setting it against the backdrop of mankind’s intellectual evolution
Until a thousand years ago, no humans ventured into the Atlantic or imagined traversing its vast infinity. But once the first daring mariners successfully navigated to far shores—whether it was the Vikings, the Irish, the Chinese, Christopher Columbus in the north, or the Portuguese and the Spanish in the south—the Atlantic evolved in the world’s growing consciousness of itself as an enclosed body of water bounded by the Americas to the West, and by Europe and Africa to the East. Atlantic is a biography of this immense space, of a sea which has defined and determined so much about the lives of the millions who live beside or near its tens of thousands of miles of coast.
The Atlantic has been central to the ambitions of explorers, scientists and warriors, and it continues to affect our character, attitudes, and dreams. Poets to potentates, seers to sailors, fishermen to foresters—all have a relationship with this great body of blue-green sea and regard her as friend or foe, adversary or ally, depending on circumstance or fortune. Simon Winchester chronicles that relationship, making the Atlantic come vividly alive. Spanning from the earth’s geological origins to the age of exploration, World War II battles to modern pollution, his narrative is epic and awe-inspiring.
The D&D “Red Box” from Wizards of the Coast
Other than a game or two with pals in middle school, I never really got into Dungeons and Dragons. That never kept me from being totally fascinated by the game, and I always find myself completely engrossed by the rule books and handbooks when they arrive at the store. For a long time, the barrier to entry – learning all the rules and minutia of the game – simply seemed too high for me to pick up the game and start playing. The D&D Red Box will hopefully combat this. Not only does the box have a solo adventure (think the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books), but it includes all you need to run a few adventures for other players and get a basic footing in the game. Expect some pictures later this week as I “unbox” the Red Box, as well as updates from an upcoming game featuring a mix of first-time and experienced D&D players.
The best way to start playing the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons® Fantasy Roleplaying Game – in the classic D&D Red Box.
Designed for 1–5 players, this boxed game contains everything needed to start playing the Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game, including rules for creating heroes, advice for playing the Dungeon Master, a solo play adventure, and group-play adventure content. Learning the game has never been so easy!
Several different character races (dwarf, elf, halfling, and human) and classes (cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard) are presented, along with powers for each race and class. As the players’ heroes advance in level, they acquire new abilities, and the adventures become more challenging. This boxed game is designed for characters of levels 1–3.