Gift cards for my birthday translate into yet another stack of books to be read during the holidays. Along with the gift card that I won for the Halloween costume, I have a total of four—all from our very local Book Inc. They even have two stores in San Francisco airport, in case I need some last-minute book ideas for the flight. Redemption of one gift card affords four wonderful novels: The Red Chamber by Pauline Chen (my 100th book of the year and it was read on my birthday), The Barbarian Nurseries by Héctor Tobar, The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann, and Rules of Civility by Amor Towles.
2012 has been quite a year. I am glad to see that changes in the book businesses have not altered the independent bookstores’ intention to be the best neighborhood bookstore and continue to offer the experience one cannot download: personalized customer service, knowledgeable booksellers, author events, in-store book clubs and staff recommendations. That I can count on their book suggestions is an incentive to continue shopping and browsing at indies. Also, do you know that when you shop local, you are giving back 40% to your community?
You know how when you’re browsing the bookstore, one book will lead to another, one recommendation draws you to the next. Those unofficial staff picks and official bestseller lists just vie for your attention. The Books Inc.’s Best of 2012 no doubt captures my attention, and I make note of half of these books:
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
The Bartender’s Tale by Ivan Doig
On a lighter note and in observance of Thanksgiving holiday, I found this perfect and funny book while I was in Palm Springs. At this point, the astonishingly successful and astonishingly bad Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is like a fish tied down at the bottom of a barrel—it practically makes fun of itself, making it hard to even parody. But one anonymous cookbook writer, FL Fowler (an alias?), has found a way. Like any good parody, this manages to make fun of both the flabby porn of “Fifty Shades” and the gushing language of “food porn,” with their shared habits of worshiping trussed-up pieces of meat. Dirty bird I’ll spare you any more bad puns, but this is legitimately the best thing to come out of Fifty Shades of Grey.