Monday, May 28, 2007

Congress crooning and connecting

Day 3 of the Congress. It's been a cloudy, rainy day in Saskatoon which is great for driving academics into the Book Fair - and it's been busy! The day started with a terrific author breakfast. Guy Vanderhaeghe and musician Barney Bentall, who have recently collaborated on writing several songs together, chatted about the process and then Barney performed three songs. One in particular, Dance for Me was initially intended for the mini-series of Guy's novel The Englishman's Boy, for which he wrote the screenplay (and appears as a bartender in one scene). Look for it to air hopefully this fall on the CBC. Alas, the song got cut in the final edit, but you can hear it on Bentall's latest album Gift Horse sung with Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo. It's a beautiful, haunting song and I will definately be buying the CD (the few copies Barney brought with him sold out in minutes). It would be a perfect song to use if a movie is ever made of Vanderhaeghe's wonderful WWI play, Dancock's Dance.
Speaking of WWI plays - I was then thrilled to meet Calgary playwright Stephen Massicotte who wandered into our booth. He has written two WWI plays - Mary's Wedding and the recent Oxford Roof Climber's Rebellion about the friendship between Robert Graves and T.E. Lawrence after the war when both men were still so haunted by their experiences. I saw it at the Tarragon Theater last fall and really enjoyed it. It's just been published by Playwrights Canada Press (as has John and Beatrice by Carol Frechette - another fantastic Tarragon production this year, and highly recommended if you want to read about a crazy relationship between two strangers that is partly an urban fairytale, and partly a meditation on obsession and loneliness.) Of course I had to buy copies of both plays. Another intriguing book I've purchased is Mothers of Heroes, Mothers of Martyrs: World War I and the Politics of Grief by Suzanne Evans, who just happens to be the partner of Alan Cumyn, who wrote one of my favourite Canadian WWI novels, The Sojourn.
And then a professor I know who specializes in war literature stopped by to say hello and we enthusiastically caught up on the latest in war-lit. It's just been one of those great days when work so wonderfully complements my scholarly interests. Mind you, I've only purchased eleven books so far, which is remarkably restrained for me. Tomorrow morning Yann Martel will be giving a breakfast talk entitled "Books and Prime Ministers". If you haven't already, check out his great website which charts his ongoing project to entice Stephen Harper to read.

Knit one, purl one, slurp one

Based on the blogs from the other Deweys, you would think that we are always reading ... right? Well yes, but we do other things too. I am a knitter. I feel sometimes like I should confess "My name is Anne and I am a knitter!" In my travels I can't seem to pass a wool shop without at least one quick browse. It's never to buy anything you understand. Most recently, in Vancouver for a conference, I found myself with my face pressed up against the window of a closed wool shop in Burnaby, British Columbia. The poor salesperson was trying to cash out when she looked up and found us, my trusty Dewey knitting buddy and I, looking sadly through the glass. She very kindly let us in and we had a quick look. Next morning, one minute after the store opened, my friend and I were already racing through the door to buy the yarn we had lusted after the night before, in spite of any unfinished projects sitting beside my favourite chair at home. Now, having a lovely bag of luscious new yarn has so much promise....but what about a pattern? One would think that a pattern should come first but that is too logical. Sometimes the look and feel of the wool clouds your thinking. I now have a lovely new book that I can now count on to help me continue to feed my passion for knitting but temper my sometimes unrealistic visions of the amazing creations that will fly from my hands. The title is Classic Knits by Erika Knight. The collection of projects in this book are things you would and could actually wear! This has not always been the case. "Is that a garage you are knitting from the volkswagon honey?" Now when I travel to different Canadian cities with my work, I have less guilt about cruising into a welcome woolshop with creative visions of grandeur in my eyes. I have a better vision of what is actually possible. A couple of my favourite wool shops are Wool Revival in Edmonton, Alberta, Mad About Ewe in Nanaimo, British Columbia and Ram Wools in Winnipeg, Manitoba. You can't beat it when you are on the road, a new bag of wool, the clack of bamboo kneedles, good mystery on television and a lovely glass of full-bodied shiraz and life is pretty much perfect.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

You can't go back again...

So the only thing wrong with wanting to act like a big kid and go down a huge waterslide in your hotel is that the same thing will occur to the oh, twenty or thirty real kids also staying there, who completely hogged both slides (how dare they?) shrieking and running around like tiny, little sugar addicts. And were the parents - i.e the adults - joining in the fun? No- they were watching from afar in the hot tub. Call me self-conscious, but I just couldn't bring myself to join the line-ups, being the only one over 3 feet tall. From 5pm to 9:45pm (the waterpark closes at 10), I kept periodically checking in to see if the coast was clear, but I swear every kid in the city was there. And all their visiting cousins too. Don't kids have proper bedtimes anymore? I gave up at 9:45 and had a hot bath instead. Hopefully this serious situation will improve after the weekend is over or I may have to corall every rep staying in this hotel and organize a take-back-your-right-to-take-back-your-childhood posse. Stay tuned. It's getting personal between me and that slide now.

International Reading Association

Here it goes- my first real post (cat photo aside). It's been an incredibly hectic few months with shows and conferences, but the end is in sight at last!
One of the highlights of the past few weeks for me was the International Reading Association (IRA) annual Conference, which was held in Toronto two weeks ago. The book fair component of the show was about twice the size of the Ontario Library Association annual conference, taking up th entire South building of the Metro Convention Centre (which is the same location as the Canada Blooms show, for those fellow gardeners out there). The publishers displaying at the book fair brought up an amazing group of authors for sessions and signings.
Hyperion Books hosted a 'Sipping with the Stars' cocktail party, which was kind of like speed dating with authors. There were about ten authors scattered around a restaurant. All invitees got a drink, a bag of books and were let loose to mingle and meet each author for a few minutes & have your books signed. The wonderful Mo Willems was there, which was a great thrill for me as I count his books Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Leonardo the Terrible Monster, Knuffle Bunny, & the new Elephant and Piggie series as some of my all-time favourites. If you are a Pigeon fan, you absolutely MUST check out the Pigeon website for lots of free downloads & games. Make sure that you look at everything, as Pigeon pops in now and again to offer commentary. There is a new Pigeon book scheduled to release Spring of 2008, but in the meantime fans like myself will have to content themselves with the two new Elephant & Piggie titles and a sequel to Knuffle Bunny coming out this fall! 'Knuffle Bunny Too' is fantastic and answers , at long last, the debate over how to pronounce 'Knuffle'. Trixie does pronounce the 'K' for those keeping track.
Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout, the Canadian authors of the new book The Black Sheep, and the Vivien Leigh Reid series were at the party too. It was such a pleasure to meet them after talking about their books for so long. They have a great sense of humour- both in person and in their books! They will be at the H.B. Fenn booth at Book Expo Canada signing books so please feel do stop by and say hello to these authors if you happen to be in the Toronto area June 10th & 11th. I'll post a list of signing times as soon as I have them confirmed.
That's it from me for now!

Friday, May 25, 2007

On the Saskatoon with a Bunnyhug!

Three of us are now in Saskatoon for ten days. We flew in yesterday and went off to "do a Dewey" for about forty Saskatchewan librarians and teacher librarians. (Thanks D. for helping to organize this!) This is a super friendly city and thanks to a recommendation from one of those librarians, I need to find a copy of a kid's book by Arthur Slade called Ghost Hotel published by Coteau Books. It takes place partly in the Bessborough Hotel which is across the street from the Sheraton where I'm staying, and according to the description, involves time travel, a mezzanine with a library that has hundreds of copies of the same book, and a spooky ghost story. Sounds like a fun read.
No ghosts at my hotel so far, but it does have an indoor WATER PARK with two huge waterslides. How cool is that? We're here to work the bookfair at the Congress at the U of Saskatchewan and after standing on my feet for 8 hours each day, I can't think of a better way to recharge the batteries, than to whish down a slide. It reminds me of this great installation that was recently at the Tate Modern in London (which alas, I didn't get to experience). It's a lovely twenty minute walk beside the rivdr from the hotel to the campus, which is celebrating it's 100th anniversary and is very beautiful. (Aesthetics are so crucial to learning, I think.) Plus the air is so fresh and crisp here with no humidity -it truly makes one feel alive and happy it's spring. We spent today setting up our booth - many of the Deweys started our careers in the book business as independent booksellers, and what I do love about this conference (even though it's very long), is the chance to handsell again. We have about 250 titles on display and if I do say so myself, our booth looks so colourful and inviting and there are so many terrific books there that I'm truly proud to represent. Of course, we're just one of 85 booths - it's Canada's largest academic bookstore all in one place and so I doubt I'll get out of here without weighing down my suitcase significantly. I've already bought one local speciality - anyone know what a "bunnyhug" is? The term originates in this city. The campus bookstore sells them and I couldn't resist one that actually has the Canadian Oxford definition printed on it. Yes, I'm a geek. (And JJ - I promise not to wear it at any productions of King Lear!)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Another great film to look forward to...

The film of Marjane Satrapi's wonderful graphic novel/memoir Persepolis is screening at the Cannes Film Festival today. You can see the trailer here and it really captures some of the humour and rebelliousness of the story.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Strange coincidence

After having just blogged about Paris, I turned to a book on Saskatoon History trivia which an account kindly sent to me (thanks E!) as three of the Deweys are heading to Saskatoon later this week to "do a Dewey" and then work the Book Fair at Canada's largest academic conference which is being hosted this year by the University of Saskatchewan. Apparently, one of the nicknames for Saskatoon is "Paris of the Prairies", apparently coined by the Tragically Hip in their song Wheat Kings. That's where the nickname came from, but why the city is compared to Paris remains a mystery (I don't know the song). I'll try and find out in the ten days I'll be there. Or is the band just being ironic?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Paris, Je t'aime

This long weekend I decided to go to Paris.
On Friday a colleague and I saw the movie Paris Je T'aime which has just opened in Toronto. It's a lovely film - a collection of eighteen vignettes by different directors, all exploring various human connections in the city of love. They were by turns funny, surreal, touching, heartbreaking, and just plain romantic. My favourites included a mime love story, a relationship between an actress and a blind composer, a strange episode about jealousy in a metro station, a lover's quarrel at the tomb of Oscar Wilde, and the final story about an American woman who takes a holiday in Paris and then writes an essay about it. Some of the most moving and poignant episodes tackled the immigrant experience in Paris and really showcased the less famous and picturesque parts of the city. The cast was fantastic - was there anyone NOT in this movie? - Juliette Binoche, Fanny Ardant, Natalie Portman, Miranda Richardson, Rufus Sewell (!), Bob Hoskins and so many more. Of course the city was the real star. It had a wonderful soundtrack too.
On Saturday I was eating croissants and researching Metro and train directions online for my mother who IS going to Paris in a fortnight. She's going on a walking holiday in the Loire Valley and spending her free day in Paris which is only an hour away from where she's staying. I am madly jealous.
On Sunday I read John Glassco's Memoirs of Montparasse which has just been re-released by New York Review of Books. It's the story of two Montrealers, John and his pal Graeme, and their adventures in France in 1928 and 1929 when both were barely out of their teens and doing everything to avoid writing by living as intensely as they could. This involved lots of drinking, eating, sex, and conversations and encounters with the literary and artistic set of the time which included Hemingway, Kay Boyle, Djuna Barnes, Robert McAlmon and Morley Callaghan. Today when "memoirs" such as James Frey's recent A Million Little Pieces have come under such scrutiny for "truthfulness", Glassco's book is a timely reminder that stretching the facts in a memoir is nothing new. He intimates that the book was mostly written in a hospital bed just two years after the events it details; in reality it was penned decades later when some of his memories may have grown a bit fuzzy. This lapse doesn't detract a bit from the story however; they were crazy and exciting times and these two Canadians were in the midst of them. For a female version (set a little later and purportedly fiction, although somewhat autobiographical), pick up The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy. This is the story of Sally Jay's comic adventures looking for love and life in 1950s Paris. You can see Audrey Hepburn or maybe Audrey Tautou playing her in a movie version. If you are a librarian -you absolutely must read this novel! (I can't tell you why without giving it away, but trust me, you'll love it). This is one of those books I continually press on all my girlfriends. It's just such a life-affirming, feel-good book.
On Monday, I went to see another recent French movie which I absolutely adored and can't recommend highly enough. It's called Avenue Montaigne which doesn't make any sense as a translation from the French title of Fauteuils d'orchestre. However, it's a delightful modern fairytale about a spunky French waitress who comes in contact with a concert pianist who wants to chuck his stressful career, a sick, elderly man who is selling his magnificent art collection, and a soap opera star, appearing in a Feydeau farce who badly wants the role of Simone de Beauvoir in an upcoming film. One of the reasons I love European films is their effortless acceptance of how culture can change one's life and how beautifully those simple artistic moments can so easily integrate themselves into everyday experiences. Though it is completely different in tone, this movie reminded me of the recent Oscar winner for best foreign film, The Lives of Others - another wonderful film that explores the role of art in life.
And there you have it - lots of joie de vivre without the jetlag.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Good grief

I've just finished reading two very different books that deal with grief. Joan Didion's stage adaptation of her bestselling book The Year of Magical Thinking, is a good companion piece to the memoir that dealt mostly with her husband's sudden death. At the time she wrote the book, her daughter was also gravely ill; she later died shortly after the manuscript was finished. The play thus deals with the double tragedy and is all the more powerful for its stripped scale and form. You also can't help hearing the voice of Vanessa Redgrave in your head as you are reading. She's still appearing in New York in this production directed by David Hare, so if you are heading to the city for Book Expo America, you can book tickets here.
A very different take on grief is The Bone Sharps by Tim Bowling, which I first heard about as one of Susan's Dewey picks. This novel is published by Gaspereau Press whose books are always so beautifully crafted with lovely paper and bindings. The novel follows the lives of several interlocking characters. Charles Sternberg is a self-trained fossil enthusiast who is excavating the Badlands in Alberta looking for dinosaur bones. He's haunted by the guilt he feels over the death of his beloved daughter Maud who died while he was away on one of his expeditions. Lily, a young woman who reminds him of Maud, is helping him on his current dig in 1916 but is distracted by thoughts of Sternberg's assistant Scott who is fighting in the trenches. Decades later, she will return to the Badlands to perform an act of remembrance. And we also follow Scott, desperate to return to his search for ancient bones, but having to daily confront the grisly skeletons that are unearthed on the Western front. The novel is full of poetic passages and cleverly juxtaposes the personal grief and horror facing these characters with the almost historical acceptance and expansiveness of other types of extinction and slaughter. The end of the dinosaurs. The herds of buffalo senselessly killed for sport on the prairies. And of course the First World War. There are also many philosophical musings about the role of science and religion and whether they can both co-exist on an archeological dig or a futile battlefield. Beautifully written and thought-provoking.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Living with books II

Check out this amazing book wallpaper. (thanks to Bookninja for the link) I'd be tempted to use it in my apartment if every wall didn't already have the real thing. Still, it would be fun to use on a door to try and create the illusion of the secret room behind the bookcase.
I recently bought Issue 22 of McSweeney's. While the content of this quarterly is a bit hit and miss with me, I do always admire the creativity behind the packaging. This issue has three paperback books; the first on poetry where poets start a poetry-chain of admiration; the second where writers finish F. Scott Fitzgerald's unused story ideas and the third - and what really sold me - a collection of new work from the Oulipiens! (see info in English about this fascinating group here). But what's really cool is how these three paperbacks are gathered and held in place within a hardcover shell/binder through the use of magnets on their spines. Which makes me wonder if this might be the ultimate solution to a question that has long been puzzling me, given that I'm rapidly running out of shelf space at home. If one was to run powerful magnetic strips on the ceiling and then attach magnets to bookspines, could one utilize all that dead space and actually store books on the ceiling? Would all of those magnetic strips cause havoc on your electronic equipment? Would it be a health hazard? Hmmm, would somebody out there look into this before the next season of books arrives?

Xlerator sightings

Okay, we admit to not having much of a life (we're too busy reading!). But the three of us got overly excited to discover the new installation of Xcelerator hand dryers in the washrooms in the corridor outside the auditorium of the Ottawa Public Library (yes, the same ones we found in Edson, Alberta - clearly they are spreading across the country). And yes, we were geeky enough to take a photograph. But really, trust us - they are unlike any other hand dryer you will ever experience!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Some of the gorgeous tulips planted around Ottawa.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Bridging the Two Solitudes

A very warm reception to our Dewey presentation in Ottawa - as always. We've been coming here twice a year for five years now so the librarians know us well. I love several things about doing a Dewey in Ottawa. Firstly, we get so much feedback from the librarians who are keen to tell us about how much they enjoyed reading some of our previous picks. I was thrilled to hear of a book club that loved David Mitchell's Black Swan Green - a book and author that I absolutely adore and revere. Several members have teenage sons and are pressing the book on them too. The young voice of Jason is so raw and unforgettable in this novel - it really makes a wonderful choice as a YA crossover.
The other thing that is unique about Ottawa is we get to hear from two "honourary" Deweys: Ron, a local Ottawa rep (always good to have a Dude in the midst), who has a great and ecclectic reading taste, and Isabelle who comes up from Montreal to present the latest in French language books. Like many Canadians I have huge guilt over my poor French skills. My reading isn't too bad, but I'm hopeless at speaking it, so it's great to hear a presentation in French and Isabelle speaks the language very clearly and slowly, so I can usually catch about 80% of her talk. We were chatting at the break about how two solitudes really DO exist in the literary culture of this country. Francophones pay no attention to the bestseller lists in English Canada until some of the books are available in translation. And it's exactly the same for English Canadians. I certainly couldn't name a single bestselling Quebecois fiction writer. And yet great books are great no matter what language they are written in. No suprise then, that one of Isabelle's picks, La fin de l'alphabet by C.S. Richardson is the French translation of one of Lahring's previous picks this year (as The End of the Alphabet), a book I've also read and enjoyed. Seeing a work in translation also allows one to compare the cover treatment - I think both work equally for the novel. The French one is simply, well, very French!

Since the book is short, it would make an excellent choice for practicing and improving one's reading of French. As are the novels of Irene Nemirovsky, the author of the bestselling Suite Francaise - a world wide sensation when it was published sixty years after it was discovered in the suitcase Irene left with her children after being sent to Auschwitz. Her other work has also been brought back into print. David Golder is available now; Le Bal will be published in October. If you can believe it, that famous suitcase also contained a few pages of another novel that were then matched up with a manuscript she had previously deposited with friends. We're publishing this NEW Nemirovsky in English this fall as Fire in the Blood. However, I'm reading it now (slowly, dictionary close at hand) in French as Chaleur du Sang, and it is a marvellously atmosopheric novel about a middle-aged man who self-righteously loves to observe and comment on the love affairs and marriages of those around him. I'm only halfway through and a husband has died in the river after falling from a bridge. Or was he pushed? Hopefully my translation skills will be up to finding out the truth. This novel also has two beautiful covers:

Thursday, May 10, 2007

On the road .... in Ottawa

The tulips are indeed out and are a sight for sore and bleary eyes. It also feels very muggy and humid as though summer has already kicked into high gear. Reps can be forgiven for often getting our seasons all mixed up; while technically it's spring 2007, it feels like summer, we're currently working on our fall lists, and spring 2008 information is due shortly to hit our desks any day now.
In Ottawa, we like to stay at the Albert at Bay Suite Hotel because the rooms are big, with full working kitchens and a dining table where we can spread out our work. We're in the midst of doing the non-glamourous part of our jobs and prepping for our fall books selling appointments. We've just been through a week of sales conference, heard numerous editorial presentations and marketing/publicity plans and now we have to pull all our notes together, think about our specific markets, hone in on the best selling points and comparable titles for the dozens of books in our catalogues, and come up with the most perfect pitch and synopsis that can be articulated in 30 seconds or less, which is often how much time we're given to sell any particular book. The whole process is a bit akin to cramming for exams at the last minute and just hoping the key points stick when you are in front of the buyer.
But as always when we're on the road, there are some lovely compensations. Another reason we love this hotel is for its proximity to our favourite breakfast spot in Ottawa - The Scone Witch. Located in a house on Albert between Lyon and Bay, this place makes the most delicious savory and sweet scones - they stay moist for at least three days. I highly recommend their herb & onion and their lemon poppyseed. We always grab extras for the drive home. Other favourite haunts in the city are Zone ( a great store located in the Market that sells home and kitchen accessories, great gadgets and costume jewelry), The Book Bazaar (a wonderful literary used bookstore), Yarn Forward (one of those yummy wool stores where, especially in the winter, every ball just feels so soft and tactile you immediately want to knit a dozen scarves) and all the great independent stores in the Glebe area, including Octopus Books and the Glebe Emporium.
One of the books I'll be talking about to librarians tomorrow is set partially in Ottawa and across the river in Hull, Quebec. Fred Vargas is France's best-selling mystery writer and if you are a fan of Reginald Hill, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell or Henning Mankell, you really should give Fred (short for Frederica) a try. Her latest, Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand, features her regular detective, Comissaire Adamsberg, who reluctantly travels to Hull to take a course on DNA forensics given by the Quebec police. When an ill-timed one night stand leads to the murder of a woman - stabbed by a trident in an eerie echoing of several previous murders in France - Adamsberg is the number one suspect. In order to clear his name, he needs to stay out of jail and make his way back to Paris to solve the case himself. The book is worth reading if only to see how he manages to sneak past the police and airport security to get out of Canada. And that's only the beginning of his troubles. He's fairly sure he knows who the real murderer is, but the only problem is that the man in question is dead. This is a wonderfully intricate, meaty and literary mystery. And don't let the fact that it takes place in winter deter you from taking this to the beach. So what if the seasons are out of whack? Welcome to my world.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

On the Whitby

A delightful Dewey day. We were presenting in Whitby this afternoon - their new central library is absolutely stunning. I need to start bringing my digital camera to these events so I can post pictures of some of these buildings - it's so wonderful to see communities paying attention to the aesthetics of libraries and reading/studying places. Hmmm, I can see a themed road trip in our future. There aren't any pictures of the Whitby Central Library on their website but there is an computer image here, though it really doesn't do it justice. Tons of natural light just floods the space. Inspirational quotes welcome you in. There's also a very lovely Presse Cafe inside - I give their yummy latte a 9/10!
We were invited by a committee of the Ontario Library Association which has really been pushing for a greater attention to readers' advisory events and training. Kudos to them! I love this type of event where librarians from a whole bunch of surrounding systems come to hear us talk about the books we love. And we're always grateful and somewhat humbled that so many are willing to drive quite a distance. So a big thank-you to those librarians from Kingston, Napanee, Cobourg, Oshawa, Stouffville, Markham, Lennox and of course the Whitby hosts (I hope I didn't forget anyone!).
I do have to admit to a secondary motive for loving the trip to Whitby. I live in downtown Toronto and so the concept of suburban outlet stores is pretty alien. The ones along Highway 2 are particularly enticing and so I had to sucumb to a little retail therapy on the way home. Mind you, an hour after popping into one store after another, I noticed a familiar figure in the parking lot. It was the other "downtown" Dewey who had had the same idea and lack of will power. Yep, that's the Dewey way - we promise to pump money into the local economy wherever we go!
Off to Ottawa next. I hear the tulips are out!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Are you booked for BOOKED! yet?

For anyone planning to go to Book Expo Canada this June, or for anyone in the Toronto area, there's a wonderful new festival called BOOKED! that will tie in to the trade show, but is open to the public. I like their cheeky tagline: Three Days Between the Covers. Lots of great author events including many for kids and bookclubs. Their website has just launched - you can check out all the festivities here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

In praise of intrepid female reporters and their incredible stories

I once briefly flirted with the idea of a career in journalism but concluded it was far too stressful. And so I remain in awe of reporters who are not only wonderful writers but really go after those tough and yet important stories that need to be told. There probably isn't a Canadian journalist who I admire more than Stephanie Nolen of The Globe and Mail. I briefly met her a few years ago when she wrote Shakespeare's Face and was amazed at how she turned this incredible story about a painting that just might be of Shakespeare into an engaging and completely fascinating book about art forensics and the debates behind the various images of the Bard. Now she's written an engrossing and compelling book about one of the most heartbreaking epidemics in the world today. 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa (one for each of the 28 million people who are fighting HIV/AIDS on that continent) is especially relentless in its focus on how the disease is affecting women and children. The cultural shame that is associated with AIDS is particularly hard on women, many of whom are beaten and shunned by their families even if they were unknowingly infected by their husbands. And yet the energy and support they are giving to hundreds of other women in the same situations, and their advocacy work for further education and access to drugs, is incredibly inspiring. Some of the people Nolen profiles include a truck driver who admits to sleeping with 100,000 women, a young boy who wants so badly to advance into the next grade at school but is always too sick to write the year-end exams, and the winner of Botswana's Miss HIV Stigma-Free Beauty Pageant. There are people who are living in war zones, who are desperately sick and those who are not only courageously battling their own illnesses, but also taking care of whole communities. This is a truly important book and I urge everyone to get their hands on a copy and read it.
Next on my reading list will be The Russian Diary by Anna Politkovskaya, which we've only just published. Anna was murdered shortly after finishing the manuscript of this book which is a critical look at how Vladimir Putin's presidency has corrupted and destroyed many Russian lives. Someone obviously didn't want this book published - I think while reading it, I'll be getting alternatively angry and reaching for a box of kleenex at the same time. I'll blog more about it when I'm done.
There are two other books I want to recommend. Witness by Ruth Gruber is a wonderful collection of photographs and essays by this incredible woman (still alive at 95) who was the youngest person ever to get her PhD (at the age of twenty! - she wrote her dissertation on Virginia Woolf) ) and who, at the age of twenty-four decided to travel to the Soviet Arctic to write about women who were taking on unconventional roles. Gruber was also instrumental in helping hundreds of Eastern European Jews escape Hitler and seek sanctuary in the U.S., and she spent years covering the plights of displaced refugees after the war. The book contains 190 of her photographs. Finally, I loved Caroline Moorehead's biography, Martha Gellhorn: A Life , the story of a fascinating woman who was also an intrepid war reporter and world traveller, but unfortunately seems to only be remembered for having been briefly married to Hemingway. The story of how she beat Ernest to France during WWII is absolutely delicious. This is definately a woman who deserves to be better known purely for her own amazing accomplishments!