The Count of Monte Cristo: Revenge Never Felt So Good.

This movie is at the top of a lot of people's list. Not because the acting or costumes or scenery is especially noteworthy, it's the story.  It all comes down to revenge, and seeing a plan so well-executed and justice so stylishly served hits the spot for a lot of people.  In some weird, twisted way, this tale of treason, deceit and betrayal somehow makes for a feel-good movie.  

But have you read the book?

Ringing up at 1276 pages, this book isn't for flighty readers. It's lengthy, but as most classics do, it tells the story with more detail and rapture than you'll find in the movie, no matter how many times you watch it.  A member of our staff, Glenn, read it and wrote a brief review: 
"This is a literary romance.  Heroic and fantastic character come together in a maze of relationships.  The thrill of mastermind revenge will keep the pages turning for a thrill-ride adventure. 
P.S. It's completely different from the movie after the first few chapters."
Classics are daunting, but incredibly rewarding. Kind of like seeking revenge.  

Get The Count of Monte Cristo 25% off this month in the BYU Bookstore. 

Interview with an Author: Phyllis Barber

The English Reading Series is a hidden gem of the BYU experience.  Every Friday at noon, a writer -- of some kind -- visits BYU, reading his or her work in the library auditorium.  Over the years, there have been plenty of literary masters featured, each sharing their work with an eager university audience. 

This semester alone has featured both Brian Doyle and Marilynne Robinson, notable writers and essayists in the literary community.   They will be joined by Phyllis Barber later this week, an author whom we were lucky enough to interview in preparation for her visit later this week. 

Phyllis Barber most recently authored Raw Edges: A Memoir, preceded by a series of other works.  Our interview focused on Barber's habits as an author, something we can learn from to be better writers and readers.

Where and how do you gather ideas for your writing?
      Idea for writing come from everywhere. My children's book, Legs: The Story of a Giraffe, came from a newspaper article about a giraffe that had splayed and eventually died in an English zoo. I went to Africa soon after, and decided to tell the story of Imburugutu, a giraffe who had the same ending as the newspaper article. Another children's book came from a commission to write an easy reader. Most of my adult books come from my experience of being born in Boulder City, Nevada, next to the Hoover Dam; from growing up later in Las Vegas; from the experience of living in the West and trying to understand what that meant in the large scheme of things. I've also written about issues that were troubling me, as I feel that writing is a way to figure things out and heal them, if necessary.
How do you evolve your initial ideas into substantial material?
      The generative process is a most important place to keep your mind fluid before closing in on the intention of the piece too soon. I think that the language we choose can teach us what we want to say in our writing. I write a very spotty, disjointed, free-form first draft, then gradually shape the piece as a sculptor would shape a piece of stone---always looking for what the language is saying and where it is pointing.
What's your writing process like? (do you have a certain workspace, do you listen to a specific kind of music?)
I wish I could listen to music while I write, but I was a semi-concert pianist (I've played recitals and a few concerts, but haven't soloed with a symphony). Therefore, when I hear music, I'm listening to the workings of the piece of music---a sonata, a concerto, for instance, and how it is put together---and my mind becomes engaged with that. Therefore, I can't listen to music while I write. I have my own workspace, but sometimes I like to write in the car, or in bed, or on the airplane when I'm doing both a first draft and the work of revision. Nature inspires me, so I also like to write outside or in the mountains when the weather allows. A lot depends on what I'm writing about and what might inspire a particular story or essay. 
What parts of the publishing world have surprised you?
     I've lived a fairly long time, and when I was first trying to publish books in the early 90s, mainly, I was surprised by the lack of understanding of the West (and of the Mormon perspective) in the publishing world. One agent told me about How I Got Cultured: A Nevada Memoir, that no one was interested in a Mormon girl growing up in southern Nevada. Luckily, that book went on to win the AWP Prize in Creative Nonfiction in 1991 and I found a publisher in that way. I've also been surprised by how diverse the publishing world is, and that if you look long enough, and if you work hard enough to make your writing the best it can be, then you'll probably be able to find a home for your writing. I've spoken to other writers from the Mormon culture who've found a resistance to their perspective in the trade publishing world and who have had to go the route of publishing with small and/or university presses, which I have mainly done. One of my goals with my writing has been to provide a bridge from the insular world of Mormonism where people speak their own particular language to each other, without realizing it is a specifically-targeted language, to a larger audience. But in the process, sometimes I get lost in the deep blue sea in between, neither "side" getting what I'm trying to do. I am a literary writer, above all. My craft matters to me immensely.
What's your absolute favorite part of the writing process?
     I resist the generative process every time I begin a new piece of work, but it can be the most rewarding phase if I allow myself to stay away from "knowing" what a story is about. I don't believe one should begin their writing with a "moral" or with a "teaching moment" or with a specific intention (I'm talking about creative writing here), and that writers should trust themselves, the pool of language inside of them, the stories bubbling around inside of them, and let their interior language lead the way. If writers allow themselves a great deal of freedom in this early stage, it can be surprising what can happen. Let that vigilant editor take a rest while you are in this phase. 

The types of lectures that come from Barber in the English Reading Series are what college is all about, learning about things you never knew from people who have done it before.  If you can, go to this lecture and the ones that follow.  Expand your educaition through simple means and extraordinary people.

The Story of Beethoven's 9th

"Beethoven directed the piece himself; that is, he stood before the lectern and gesticulated furiously. At times he rose, at other times he shrank to the ground, he moved as if he wanted to play all the instruments himself and sing for the whole chorus. All the musicians minded his rhythm alone while playing."

- Violinist Josef Böhm, on the premiere performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony

If you want to learn something interesting, read Beethoven's wikipedia page.  Better yet, read this biography -- of which is dedicated solely to the composition and premiere of Beethoven's 9th, marking Beethoven's last days.

As someone with a generally confused attitude towards classical music, I jumped at the opportunity to attend the Utah's Symphony's concert featuring Beethoven's 9th earlier this fall.  Eager to wet my toes with another experience in classical music, I went and I listened and my interest was piqued, indefinitely.  

Beethoven is best known for the supreme irony that was the last several years of his life: he was a composer of music and yet, completely deaf.  Growing up with weekly piano lessons, I became well versed in the story of Beethoven's 9th Symphony.   After the orchestra had finished the music, Beethoven had to be turned around to see the crowd standing and applauding his work.  He heard nothing. 

He was a revolutionary with lively hair that wrote beautiful music, someone definitely worth remembering.

BYU Bookstore

Find The Ninth at the BYU Bookstore. 

Reading Round-Up, part II

Remember Reading Round-Up, Part I?  This is just some of our favorite reading bits and pieces from the last few weeks, enjoy!

What do you use as a bookmark?  An old receipt (or something else you found in your purse)?  These are genius.  The perfect bookmarks that make reading look good. 

One of our favorite local authors, Ann Cannon, also writes a weekly column for the Salt Lake Tribune.  It's funny and poignant and absolutely worth reading.  Weekly.  

How do you organize your bookshelves? Are you about practical, or pretty?  This would be a nightmare to navigate, but it's an aesthetical treat. 

Perhaps the best bookstore movie ever made?  ...Or maybe just the only bookstore movie ever made?  Either way, the battle between the independent booksellers and the chain stores lives on. 

And finally, when you've finished one  book and are in search of another, how do you choose which books to read?  Reccommendations from friends?  Book cover perusing at your favorite bookstore?  Reviews?

This is a serious matter.  Tell us any and all ways you choose which book you're reading next.
In the meantime, happy reading! 

An Eater's Manifesto

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto (Hard Cover Book) by Michael Pollan

Our general book department is staffed by students with ranging interests and tastes, all spending their hours surrounded by the same books.  Luckily, our shelves host a few different options (about 80,000) and there really is something for everyone.  

Student employees from the General Book department regularly review their favorites, offering a slightly different perspective than you might find on a book's back cover.  One from this month's selection is In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto.  This pretty little non-fiction selection is written by Michael Pollan, made famous by The Omnivore's Dilemma (did anyone else's high school biology class read this?)

In Defense of Food is an interesting book, discussing the nature of the food we eat today.  Bottom line, "healthy eating" seems like an easy concept, but is made difficult by the thousands of options on grocery aisles.  And chocolate cravings.  

So, is this one worth reading?  Mary, a student employee from our General Book department wrote a review.  
"The world is filled with conflicting advice about food and nutrition. There are so many choices and no definitive answers.  Michael Pollan makes eating healthy eating easy.  
Eat Food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.
This book is a must read for anyone who has ever wondered what he or she should eat."
Have you read it? Worth the 205 pages or should we spend our time googling 'homemade snickers recipes' instead?

(It's also 25% Off this month, the perks of being a staff pick)

And While We're on the Topic (of book covers)

Did you know J.D. Salinger had strict rules about the content of his book covers?

Title and name.
No blurbs.
No biography.
No quotes.
No exceptions.

This policy came about after a nasty publishing mishap with Catcher in the Rye.  Turns out Salinger's publisher decided to follow the trends of the time and branded the cover with some "raunchy" design, against Salinger's preferences.  Needless to say, there was some backlash.  Salinger was disgusted by the garish design on the cover, terminated his contract and enforced strict rules from there on out.  He was also dealing with some serious emotional disturbances, but that's another story. 

Book Covers: A Worthy Judge of Character?

Random House compiled a list of "The 20 Most Iconic Book Covers Ever" last week.  I was thrilled.  I clicked through on by one, so excited to see what their choices would be.  Most of them were classics, cover art I've seen time and time again, but some of them were covers that have long since been redesigned, or replaced with a photo from their subsequent movie (am I the only one that hates when they do that?)  

Book covers and the images that grace them are a big deal.  With strong, poignant art, how can you not judge a book by its cover?

I'll never forget an afternoon spent in my local Borders (R.I.P.) during high school.  My best friend and I were on the hunt for a novel suitable for a joint English class project.  The objective was clear: we were to find a book we would simultaneously read, and relate our feeling sand reactions through corresponding journal entries.  Having just finished All the Pretty Horses and Heart of Darkness, we wanted something tailored to our 17-year-old-extremely-feminine-teetering-on-adulthood taste.  I should mention, we were shamelessly judging these books by their covers. 

Bel Canto looked a little dull.  The Road too foreboding.  Then we saw American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfield. 

That cover was all that mattered.  We could have cared less about the author's name or the size of the book or the price.  They were overshadowed by our immediate reaction to the cover.  It featured a women sitting in a white gown, lush and beaded and enveloping, with a gloved hand wearing a wedding ring delicately clasped in her lap.  The cover cuts off below her head, forcing you to focus on that hand and its wedding ring.  The title is displayed along the top, simple and clean and classic.  We bought that book entirely based off the cover.  The project turned out well and in retrospect, our journal entries back and forth are priceless caricatures of our 17-year-old selves.  I love that book, even though there were parts I didn't necessarily love and many that I've since forgotten. 

The cover drew us in and forever branded that book my mind.  The cover set the tone.  It was the trailer to the book, the thing I knew about before I knew anything else.  Now, years later, it's how I've categorized that story and the lessons I learned therein. 

Cover art really is art, made especially exciting by the fact there's an entire story for you waiting behind it. 

What books have you bought for the cover?

BYU Bookstore Marketing

Mark Twain: the original Missourian

Today's post comes from Anita, our manager of Children's Literature.
(Intimidating guy, no?)

"'Classic' -- a book which people praise and don't read."              
 -Mark Twain

I love the focus on Mark Twain that grew from the 2010 100th anniversary of his death.  It was more than just promotional hype because Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain's real name) had stipulated that his uncensored biography not be released to public view until 100 years after his death.    Five thousand pages of unedited memoir will eventually be available to the public, starting with the 2010 November publication of volume one. I have to ask myself, what he was compelled to write that required 100 years to cool off?

Mark Twain is a favorite of mine because of his amazing ability to tell an entertaining story, while simultaneously looking inside the human race and identifying truth.  His stories identify truth in human nature more clearly than if you were looking at it through a microscope.   The man was a genius, funny, fallible, and outrageous--but still a genius. 

If you have no hope or desire to slog through 5000 pages of memoir, at least enjoy the byproduct of new Mark Twain publications that are off shoots of this event.  A favorite of mine is The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West by Side Fleischman.  So titled because the first posters advertising Mark Twain appearances advised that the doors would open at seven, “The Trouble to begin at 8 o’clock.”  This book has lots of photos and is a quick read. Another favorite is The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Suzy) by Barbara Kerley has excerpts from Suzy Clemen's journal.  A humorous introduction to Mark Twin can be found in Robert Burleigh’s The Adventures of Mark Twain by Huckleberry Finn.  

Biographies aside, my favorite work of  Mark Twain's is The Diaries of Adam and Eve: translated by Mark Twain

What's yours?


Reading Round-Up

You would think the book industry is a pretty straight forward one, but we're constantly flooded with news about new books and better reading strategies, interviews with our favorite authors and fun quirks of the literary world.  It's a lot to process.  To help you along, we present the Reading Round-Up, some of our favorite things on the web this week regarding all matters of reading. 

Bedtime stories?  These are some of the best (not to mention classics).

Time to clear the literary skeletons out of your closet. Which books should you probably have read by now (read: only pretended to read in high school)?

How to read poetry, because it can be a little overwhelming

How many of BBC's 100 Greatest Books have you read? ...not that it's a competiton.

How to help boys love books (podcast with one of our favorite authors, Ann Cannon!)

Become someone else while reading.  

With that being said, where do you find your reading news?

How many authors get their own adjective?

Franz Kafka was a German novelist, considered by his contemporaries to be one of the best writers of the 20th Century.  In fact, the term "Kafkaesque" is widely known throughout the English language as "something that is horribly complicated for no reason." Sounds intriguing, no?  

Kafka was an interesting character: his dying wish was that all of his literary works be burned;  it's speculated that he had schizoid personality disorder; he wrote from the middle of his notebooks to the front; and he had a fondness for Yiddish theater. The best part?  He wasn't a starving, demented artist like his works might suggest, instead he was a minor clerk in a German insurance firm.  His life was startlingly ordinary, considering the nature of his writing.

Kafka's works are dark and twisty and a little overwhelming (psychologically) for beginners. Even so, this book, The Complete Stories, is a great place to start and includes both his short stories and more evolved works. 

A short review from a student employee in our General Book Department:

"One of Kafka's shortest stories was a single sentence in one of his notebooks: 'A cage went in search of a bird.' This is a small example of Kafka's ability to evoke the horror that hides within everyday life. These stories are all masterpieces from one of history's most creative minds. Although some are frightening, within each of them is an attempt to find meaning out of the most meaningless discouraging aspects of life. If you've never visited Kafka's universe, this book will give you a great tour."
Not too many writers earn their own adjective, that's saying something. 

When Books Become Movies

Some people love them, some people hate them.  Either way, I think most would agree it's a fine line between capturing the essence of a novel and completely butchering a literary treasure.

What makes the good ones good and the bad ones awful?

How do you capture the development of a story in a two-hour (give or take) film?

I think back to personal favorite and failures.  I loved reading Anna Karenina, but on an especially dreary afternoon a few weeks back I made it through approximately seven minutes of a film version on Netflix before watching another episode of 30 Rock instead.  On the other hand, I would rather watch Anne of Green Gables back to back to back before trying to read one of those books...again.  Of course, some fall in the middle and manage to tell an enjoyable story both through film and paper, the Lord of the Rings trilogy instantly comes to mind.

What's the key to getting it right?
New Zealand backdrop?

I think the secret is in the details.  It's been my literary experience that true development, character and plot-wise, all happens in the details.  These details make-up the essence of a story, filling the pages in between the sudden plot twists and climax(s).  These details are usually when you find yourself becoming attached to characters and invested in the story.  For myself, seeing a loss of these details from a book to movie translation always hurts a little, and I feel cheated of the experience I had reading the book.

My most anticipated movie of the summer?  The Help.  It's not just because I'm a female and happen to secretly love Civil Rights historical fiction, either.  Having finally read the book after planning to do so for months, I loved it and couldn't wait to see how the movie would adapt the novel.  Naturally, I thought it was perfect.  I loved the way the movie stayed true to the book, through the details.  The small conversations that happened on paper and somehow made it into the movie as well.  Even better, the way those details were abbreviated for the movie, and yet somehow also elaborated by being able to see them happen.

All in all, it was a great book and a great movie, and I was reminded that sometimes film adaptations are just another way to live out a great story, even after you've finished the last page.

Which book-turned-movies are your favorites?  And which do you wish had never been made...let alone found their way into your DVD player?

BYU Bookstore Marketing

Find The Help at the BYU Bookstore

EXPOSED: The Bookstore and its textbooks

In an institution perpetuated by goodwill and wholesomeness, sometimes the BYU Bookstore is cast in a negative light; or rather, an overpriced, money-hungry light.  It's okay, we know you've thought it before, "Why is the bookstore so expensive?"  "How did I  just spend $400 on texbooks?"  "I could get this cheaper on Amazon/some shady website with no return policy."  Reputations are earned, and those of university bookstores usually fall under the "less-than-loved" category.

That's the way things are and while everyone is entitled to an opinion, there are a few misconceptions out there, particularly regarding...


In a recent sit-down with our textbook manager, some of those textbook-related issues, the ones that have students picketing and hate-blogging, were addressed. 

Falsehood #1:  The Bookstore marks up textbooks and makes an obscene profit on poor, vulnerable students.  It should be noted by anyone under the aforementioned impression, only 5% of textbook sales revenue remains after paying expenses, making it one of the most thinly margined departments in the store (read: We make hardly any money on textbooks. It's true).  A nice example: if the Bookstore pays $75 for a textbook from the publisher, we sell it for $100. Of that 25% mark-up, 20% is spent simply getting it to the students’ hands.  What's left, %5, is the amount that the university receives.  In other words, five dollars. 

Falsehood #2: The Bookstore's prices are a total rip-off, just compare them to Amazon's. Something important to remember when comparing used book prices, like those on Amazon, it's different than comparing two competing stores.  Think of used Amazon prices as a "garage sale" price, so to speak.  It's a peer-to-peer price and transaction, not the same as buying it from a store. Naturally, these used prices are often much cheaper than the Bookstore's, but if you keep in mind that distinction, the discrepancy in price makes sense. 

Falsehood #3: The Bookstore is all about money. Perhaps the biggest misconception of them all.  The money the Bookstore makes is used to cover costs and the profit remaining goes back to the University.  Essentially, money spent at the Bookstore benefits students.  The Bookstore still has the same intent it did when it opened in 1906: to provide students with all of their academic needs.  In fact, we've even taken measures to ensure all of your textbook options are available for you.  If you use MyBooklist, you'll find all the textbooks needed for your courses, as well as alternative prices and options listed, including Amazon's.
Textbooks are expensive, alarmingly so, but in a lot of ways, they really are an investment in your education and your future.  Those steep prices hurt now, but they'll pay off later.  

click here to shop for textbooks online

Reader Evolution – part 1

I have always found it interesting how different age groups are more entertained by certain books.  Actually, a more accurate explanation is that I have been fascinated as to why different generations enjoy hearing the same stories and plots told in different ways.  Let me explain:

I would wager that if you really considered it, you could find an adult equivalent to most children’s books.  Even though we get older, our reading material tends to teach the same morals: families are important, be a good person and you will be happy, believe in yourself, treat others with respect, always to what is right even if it’s hard, anything is possible, you can change the world, etc.

But it isn’t the similarities between books that interest me most; it’s the subtle differences between them.  I realize that my thoughts may be an overgeneralization and I don’t intend to mention every way in which stories differ from generation to generation.  But I do wish to bring to light some of my most favorite observations.  Today, I will mention one – scene description.

You will find that as a book’s intended audience matures, the author will spend an excessive amount of time describing more and more details (whether or not they are important to the plot).  What was merely a ball in children’s book becomes (when writing for an older demographic) a tattered soccer ball with a crackling surface and an ever so slight air leak which causes a small puff of air to emit from it upon striking it.  Now that I am older, I find that an author’s descriptive abilities know no bounds. I often find myself thinking, “Enough already. Was it really necessary to use up the last three pages to describe the clouds in the sky? It’s cloudy! I get the picture now let’s move on!”

But my question is why?  Why do children not require as many details?  Are their attention spans too short? Maybe younger readers can’t process as much information. Or maybe they don’t have the patience to read all the extra fluff.

It’s possible, however, that the problem may lie with the older readers and not with children at all.  Perhaps young readers’ imaginations are so strong that lengthy descriptions are too stifling.  It could very well be that it’s the more elder readers who need a picture painted for them while a youthful audience can sculpt its own masterpiece.

I don’t pretend to know the real reason.  I hardly know enough about human development to even begin to answer that quandary. But it’s certainly fun to think about.

BYU Bookstore Marketing

When a book becomes a "Bestseller" (...and what that really means)

Did you know The New York Times Bestseller List has its own Wikipedia page?  It's a real thing, the bestseller list and widely considered "the preeminent list of best-selling books in the United States" (for the record, that comes from the wikipedia page too).

Still, what does that really mean?  Certainly not that every good book makes it, and not that every book on the list is worth reading (Snooki's book It's a Shore Thing made the list at #24 on January 30) (No offense, Snooki).

Is the list compiled from solely from sales?  No one knows for certain, the entire process is considered somewhat of a trade secret.  But from what is known, the process goes something like this
  1. The Times prepares of a list of expected best sellers, then sends this list to bookstores. 
  2. Bookstores then rank the books on the list, with room to add in titles they consider to be "big movers" (What bookstores report back to the Times? "The names of booksellers used for our lists are kept as secret as the keys to the crown jewels," said William Adler in a 1991 interview )
  3. The Times takes the data, tabulates, and gets things ready to go for the week's list.  
There are surely more steps in the process, including how a list of "expected bestsellers" comes about.  Even so, the list often brings about much-deserved attention to little known authors, helping them gain exposure and publicity.

No matter how weirdly secretive the process, making it on the list is an incredible accomplishment for an author and even more so, making it to No. 1 truly shows a book has promise and deserves merit.  Brandon Mull, a BYU graduate and author, made it to the very top of the list earlier this year with the latest book in his young adult series, Fablehaven.

At the end of the day, the bestseller list is at the heart of the book business, always keeping things interesting and admittedly, perpetuating sales.  That being said, don't put too much trust in best seller lists. Instead, watch for reviews and if there's ever any doubt, always talk to a bookseller.  They're experts.

Have titles from the Bestseller list ever pleasantly surprised you? ...or maybe mislead you down a treacherous 400 page road?   

Brandon Mull's Fablehaven series here
Learn more about the Bestseller list and their secrets here

A Student Review

The Literary world is a big one.  There's a lot of reading material to navigate and it's hard to know  where to find the good books--the ones that are memorable and entertaining, inspiring and well-written.  This is where book reveiws, the ones written by readers like yourself, make all the difference. 

A Book Review: Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible!
"What was Adam and Eve's relationship like?  What was it like for Noah to hear God's directons for building the ark?  Who came up with the idea of worshipping a golden calf? 

In this witty collection of short stories, Jonathan Goldstein puts his spin on such classic Old Testament stores as Cain and Able, the Tower of Babel, and David and Goliath.  Funny and at time poetic, the sories have a quirky twist that will put a smile on your face."

student employee

As the saying goes, "You are what you eat"

Cookbooks, the quintessential source of inspiration in most every kitchen.  The cookbooks that line the shelves of a kitchen say as much about a cook as a bookshelf does a reader.  Cookbooks capture personality and above all, taste. 
Naturally, there should be some representation of BYU in any alumni or current student’s kitchen.  BYU is known for having its own culture, and that definitely extends to culinary matters.
Think of your first BYU brownie.  The countless snacks you prepared for FHE nights.  The ward activities and subsequent feasts, lovingly known as “Break the Fast.”
The Cougar Cookbook captures some of those BYU memories, with recipes for starters, entrées, desserts and snacks. Recipes for “Tower” breadsticks, BYU-Idaho potato skins, Blue-and-White Chicken Chili, Happy Valley Fudge and of course, BYU’s Famous mint brownies, to name a few. 
The truth is, being a BYU Cougar is more of a lifestyle than simply a temporary status. BYU roots should be embraced in all areas of life, especially in the kitchen. 

Find the BYU Cougar Cookbook at the BYU Bookstore.

In Celebration of Utah

“Those pioneers who broke the sunbaked soil of the Mountain West valleys came for one reason only—’to find,’ as Brigham Young is reported to have said, ‘a place where the devil can’t come and dig us out.’ They found it, and against almost overwhelming adversities they subdued it. They cultivated and beautified it for themselves.”
Gordon B. Hinckley
Utah is known for a lot of things: red rock and National Forests, the highest wedding and birth announcements sold per capita, a predominately Mormon culture, and Jimmer, of all things. Come this weekend, however, our hearts turn to our fathers and we remember the sacrifices and efforts of the first settlers in Utah: the Pioneers.
On July 24th, 1847, Brigham Young looked upon the Salt Lake Valley and declared, "This is the right place."  With this declaration, the early Mormon Saints went forth "beautifying" the land, as President Hinckley said.  They built temples and homes, practicing their faith with relentless devotion.  This year, 164 years later, our state owes so much to these original settlers.  Utah hosts some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the country, along with other universally known landmarks.  The pioneers put Utah on the map, so to speak, but also established this state as one of religion and refuge.
In celebration, a few books that highlight some of Utah's best features:
Utah by Fred Hirschmann
This book is of the coffee table variety, with large, glossy photographs and a sturdy hardcover.  The photographs therin feature some of Utah's most breathtaking views, from the "sandstone cliffs of Zion Canyon to the wildflower meadows of the Uinta Mountains."  Utah's natural landscape is one of its most noteworthy attributes and draws visitors from all over the world.  With the outdoors playing such a large role in Utah's culture, this book perfectly captures the grandeur (and at times, desolation) within our state.
Find Utah at the BYU Bookstore

Pioneer stories are well beloved and well used within the Church.  Some stories are so frequently told they feel like more of a legend than an a true account.  This book features Mary Ann Hafen's stories of crossing the plains as only a young girl, freshly uprooted from her life in Switzerland.  For all of the "storytelling" that surrounds pioneer stories, this book takes on a refreshing tone of authenticity and femininity, written by Mary Ann herself. The writing has a "matter-of-fact record of poverty, incredibly hard work, and loss of loved ones, but also of pleasures great and small. It is a unique document of a little-known way of life."  The perfect alternative for watching "Legacy," again. 
Find Recollections of a Handcart Pioneer of 1860 at the BYU Bookstore

The highlights of this book are the paintings of Eric Dowdel, all of which capture the heart and soul of Utah.  Dowdle, a folk artist, based his paintings on some of Utah's most memorable scenes and places.  Accompanied by a historical and imaginative narrative, as well as a note from Dowdel for each of the paintings, this books makes an excellent collection for anyone who loves art or Utah, or ideally both.
Find Utah at the BYU Bookstore

William Makepeace Thackery, the big 2-00!

Vanity Fair (Soft Cover Book) by William Makepeace Thackeray, Introduction by Joanna Trollope

Satire: the thread connecting Lord of the Flies, Catch-22, 1984, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  As it turns out, most of the greatest novels (and tv shows) in recent history are centered around satire of some kind, usually with the intention of disgracing society into improvement.  

Today marks the 200th birthday of William Makepeace Thackery, the masterful author behind Vanity Fair, a classic work of satire.  Vanity Fair tells the story of social-climbing Becky Sharp, as her ambition to reach the pinnacle of 19th Century English society overshadows any moral or emotional obligations.  She’s cut-throat, basically, and Thackery is less than polite in villainizing her social ambitions.  Maybe he was trying to say something?  (the novel, not the magazine).

Vanity Fair is noted for being an especially harsh depiction of English society during the 1800’s.  Thackery made his opinion clear, as all of his characters are shroud in heavy coats of vanity and all of their ambitions fueled by selfish motives. In fact, his novel was originally titled, Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero. It paints an ugly picture, and yet, it makes for a classic, universally praised story. 
What this story lacks in a happy ending with happy people, it makes up for with honesty.  It was popular when first published and continues to be popular now because it tells a true story, exposing the greed and corruption that took over England during the Napoleonic Wars.  Things appeared pretty, veiled with a bustling social scene, but society was headed towards self-destruction with moral flaws.  Perhaps it was so popular because Thackery addressed these issues in the context of an intriguing work of fiction, which could be nicely enjoyed during a morning cup of tea.  

His 200th birthday is a big one, and we thought there was no better way to commemorate than highlighting Thackery’s most noteworthy, critically acclaimed, fancy-society-party-filled work, Vanity Fair.

(You can always watch the movie, but that’s kind of missing the point)

Happy 200th Birthday, William Makepeace Thackery!

Find Vanity Fair at the BYU Bookstore.

Storm Runners (a book review)

Today's post is a staff pick book review from Diane Roylance, a supervisor in the Children's Books Department at the BYU Bookstore --

When you’re in the storm chasing business, you never stay in one town for very long. That’s why Chase Masters and his father John are prepared to move quickly at the whim of any major storm. 
When we first meet Chase, he and his father are on their way to Florida hoping to beat Hurricane Emily to the town where they think she’ll hit the hardest.  It’s been a tough year; Chase has been in three schools and is starting his fourth in Florida, providing Emily doesn’t wipe it off the face of the earth.
After arriving in town before the storm hits, they all settle quickly into the property where they’ve arranged to stay during their time in Florida. The next morning Chase heads into his new school with Nicole, a girl who lives on the rental property with her family, a family that consists of parents and, several circus animals; we’re talking lions, a leopard, a giraffe, and even a pregnant elephant named Pet, who’s due to give birth any day now.
As the school day draws to a close, a news bulletin confirms that Hurricane Emily is closer than expected and will be touching down soon. The school bus is Chase and Nicole’s only way back to the property.  Chase hops on the bus, along with a few other unlucky students, and hope they make it home alive.
The news bulletin proves accurate as the storm arrives quickly.  Chase, Nicole and a new girl named Rashawn are the last three on the bus as the storm rages outside.  As they use Chase’s GPS to figure out how close they are to home, a sudden gust of wind hits the bus, causing it to roll several times.  As the damaged bus slides into the water, Chase and his friends scramble through the emergency exit, hoping they will be able to make it to land. Even though their GPS tells them they’re a little less than five miles from Nicole’s farm, it might as well be fifty as the storm conditions are the worst any of them have seen.
With Chase’s, Nicole’s and Rashawn’s combined survival skills, will they be able to cover the ground between them and the farm while the storm rages?  Will they be able to conquer gators, fierce wind and rain from the hurricane as well as impassable roads and personal injuries from the bus crash? What will they find if they do make it home?
Author Roland Smith is able to write a story teaming with danger and survival that draws you in and keeps you to the very last page.  Will they make it home in time to save the circus animals?  Are their families okay? Where are they and will they be reunited once again?
I was not disappointed with Storm Runners and I don’t think you will be either.  Have any of you read it?  What did you think?
Diane has worked at the BYU Bookstore for over ten years, bringing her love of reading and children's literature to the shelves of our Children's department. 

100 Extra Books: the power of a book club

Today's post comes from Laurie Clegg, a supervisor in the Religous Books Department at the BYU Bookstore --

I love Book Clubs.  I think that there are few social occasions that I would rather attend than a Book Club.  My Club started 10 years ago, when a well-read friend decided to gather her friends and start reading books together.  Some of my all-time favorite books have come from the titles we have chosen, read, and discussed together.

I have learned about art, science, history, cultures, writers, places, music, medicine, and a myriad of other things from Book Club choices.  Cry the Beloved Country has become beloved to me, and I have passed it on to many other readers, thanks to a member of my Book Club who recommended it one year.  Anne Frank Remembered, The Candy Bombers, Team of Rivals, John Adams are all glimpses into other people, places, and times that I would not have had except for my Book Club.

My palate has been expanded through my Book Club, drinking bush tea from The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, or tasting vegemite from Ladies of Missalonghi. I have learned plate tectonics from Krakatoa and molecular biology from The Canon.  And the fiction! Gilead, The Book Thief, My Antonia, The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Help have all brought joy to me. 

I have read over 100 books that I may not have picked up except for my membership in a Book Club. And the great thing is, I may be out of ideas for what to read next, but my Book Club friends all have books they love and want to recommend.  We have had discussions that have changed my perceptions, and I have learned a lot from their insights. To me, the only thing better than reading a book, is reading a book and then being able to talk, talk, and talk about it!  Being in a Book Club has been a wonderful addition to my life.  From Ender’s Game to Endurance, reading will help you gain a whole range of ideas and experiences, and being in a Book Club can broaden that experience. 

How many of you belong to Book Clubs?  What titles have you read and what are your suggestions?
Laurie works in the BYU Bookstore General Books department and will be a regular contribut0r to this blog. Laurie largely works with distribution ordering, as well as some of the major displays within the Bookstore.  At the recent Utah Festival of Books, Laurie ran the Altered Book Competition, one of the highlights of the Festival. 

American Literature (according to an English major)

In light of today's patriotic holiday, we're featuring our very own, American literature. Guest blogging is a recent BYU graduate, Mandy Voisin. With a degree in English, Voisin's love of books stems from a lifetime of reading, a love of which began with Where the Red Fern Grows, read aloud by her third grade teacher.  Being the only third grader in the class to cry along with the teacher at the end, it only makes sense she majored in English and has pursued literature ever since. 
I entered a writing contest when I was 7 years old. The prompt was, “Wouldn’t it be great if?” and I wrote a short story about a woman who escaped from slavery with her twin daughters. I thought it was terribly adult and tragic although if I remember correctly, there was a talking mouse involved as well as an elaborate description of the slaves’ ball gowns. I was so emotional over this silly story, reassuring myself that I would be the youngest author ever to be published. I think I even forced tears as I wrote the ending. Imagine my disappointment when I received an “Honorable Mention.” The ribbon was green. I hated that infernal green ribbon.
Almost 11 years later, I sat on my dorm bed reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved. As I turned each page I thought, “This is what I meant to say in my story!” My seven year old self had understood the pain, the wretched frustration of a slave woman like Sethe. With my limited view of humanity, I understood in a small way the hurt of losing a child and the scars that would never heal as a result of the slavery - but Morrison translated my pain and the pain of millions who felt like I did, into the most beautiful and believable work of fiction I had ever experienced. Without recognizing it, I connected my childish frustration with the horrors of slavery to Morrison’s real, dark place in American history that said what I was trying to say.  It was then that I understood the necessity of American literature. It is not about royalties or book reviews, potential movie deals or awards. It is about learning, and creating individual voices which remind us that we Americans are not so different from each other.   
Since that time I have made dozens of connections to my own American life and the lives of those in American literature. Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior taught me that learning to find one’s voice amidst cultural differences is American.  Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony taught me that ritual, religion and tradition are deeply rooted in America despite what others might say about our lack of values and culture. Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons and Willa Cather’s My Antonia reassured me that true love is not reserved solely for Austen’s British women or Tolstoy’s Russian women, but that true love is also to be found on the prairies of American soil.
We read American literature because it reminds us that we are not alone as romantics and dreamers in this large geography. We read American literature because when we are eight we are all Ramona Quimby, Age 8, and we all get frustrated by our mother. We read American literature because we all feel helpless and misunderstood at times like Adah in Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible. We cry over Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women because we love our sisters as much as Jo March too. And through our own, American literature we connect with Ramona, and Adah and Jo because we are all of them at some point in our lives regardless of religion or gender or race.
The beauty of American literature is that it touches us on an individual basis and reminds us that we as Americans need each other. We absolutely need each other.
Mandy Voisin, of Love You Long Time

It all began with a question...

Today's post comes from Tami Barber, a supervisor in the General Book Department at the BYU Bookstore - 

When asked, "What book do you wish you could read again, for the first time?" Tami immediately knew her response, "The Good Earth," by Pearl S. Buck. 

The Good Earth is a novel about family life, set in a Chinese village before the 1949 revolution.  Riddled with tragedy, the novel follows the Lung family's journey as they struggle to survive in a feudal society. The Good Earth won the Pulitzer Prize in 1931 and historically, helped Americans come to consider the Chinese as allies in the future war with Japan.

I read it for the first time in about 7th or 8th grade.  I don’t know why I read it since it wasn’t required for a class.  No doubt that made me more receptive to the experience…
Reading The Good Earth was the first time that I read a book that took me to a place that I could not begin to image.  It drew me into the lives of the characters, their suffering and joy.  It set me down in the middle of muddy fields and bustling markets that I could feel and hear and taste.  It was the beginning of my discovery that the act of reading a book could be both intimate and expansive.  That reading could connect me to the universal human experience and making me feel like I was not alone.  

Who wouldn’t want to have that experience again for the first time?


Find The Good Earth at the BYU Bookstore

Tami Barber works in the BYU Bookstore General Books department and will be regularly contributing to this blog.  Tami coordinates promotions and author signings, as well as other various special events throughout General Book.  A BYU Cougar at heart, Tami always brings her love of reading to the BYU Bookstore.