Friday, May 31, 2013

Quotes About Life from a Little Man Wearing a Bow Tie

I was in the parking lot at Book Passage in Corte Madera early Wednesday morning. I dropped my son off at school and was sitting in my car waiting to go into a yoga class.  As I ate my son’s toast crust, I could see Mt. Tam in my rear view mirror, tall and beautiful.

Twelve hours earlier I had been in the same parking lot trying to find a parking space.  Every space was taken and there was a long line for the complimentary valet.   The lot at the DMV was full next door.  I could see people pouring in from neighboring streets.  Eventually, with the help of an older man directing me, I parked parallel beside a dumpster.

People were flooding in­­– like sticks bouncing along a gentle stream.  They were already smiling and David Sedaris hadn’t even begun to speak.

David Sedaris was going to read from his new book Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls at Book Passage at 7 PM.  We parted seas and came, hundreds of us, from school, from work, from home. 
I’d heard David Sedaris read his work once before at Berkeley Rep. I was in the front row and was surprised at what a small man he was – his insights and humor were so big.

I decided that he was the kid who figured out how to spray paint the walls with, “I WAS HERE!”  But instead, he added, “I was here and this is what I saw…. This is what I noticed….”  And because he was quirky and bright and honest and very, very funny, we stopped and noticed too– absurdities, contradictions and moments of humanness.

Inside the store, we made conversation with each other while we waited for the reading to begin.  When you’re body to body with strangers it seems polite to introduce yourself.  Where are you from?  What book of his is your favorite? What do you think is a good book to read?

Every seat was taken.  A few children sat on parent’s laps. I was in the standing room only section that spilled into every aisle and poured out through the main door. We buzzed, the room buzzed, the store staff buzzed.

Hundreds of people hugged their new book anticipating his stories, eager to get his signature.  There were over 500 people there.

Kelly Corrigan who wrote Lift and The Middle Place was the perfect warm up band, getting the crowd laughing and ready with an introduction.  After listing David Sedaris’s stunning accomplishments, Kelly said, “And now, I’d like to introduce to you two-time college drop out, David Sedaris.” We cheered.

And David who was sweet waved to us, smiled and then began reading.  Of course he delivered, weaving stories about feeding a kookaburra that took us forward and back in time in a way that rocked us with laughter. We might as well have been swaying to the music.

David Sedaris reads during his event
at Book Passage on May 21, 2013.
He gave us stories and quotes about life.  As an audience, we were connected with quiet sounds of recognition, with big laughs we shared and in sighs we felt.  For such a little man wearing a bow tie and a funny jacket he told us he got in LA the other day, he had very, very long arms.  What I mean by this is that he held all of us– captive, laughing, standing, body to body.  And in his arms, we let go of our worries for an hour and enjoyed his storytelling.  In some odd way, we saw ourselves in his life and he mirrored back to us the same.  As a result, I think we each felt a little taller and a little more beautiful.

When I left, people were still in line. And David was still talking to each person who handed him a book.  I watched people as they left the store.  As they strolled to their cars, there was an ease to conversation, a gentleness to the walk, a surrender to this crazy thing we call life.  And everyone looked softer.  Maybe it was because the lighting was dim and gentle, but I don’t think so.  I think it was because when that little man with the bow tie finished reading, finished taking questions, he said, “I am happy to sign your book and I’ll stay here as long as it takes. If I’m here after midnight, it’s fine with me.”  With those words, his “I was here and I notice and I see,” was expanded.  The writing he wrote on the wall said, “I was here and I notice and I see you.” For such a funny guy, his last line felt like a prayer.

This blog appears courtesy of Kathleen Buckstaff. It originally appeared on her blog at Kathleen is the author of The Tiffany Box: A Memoir

Friday, May 17, 2013

GUEST BLOG: Josh Hanagarne, Author of The World's Strongest Librarian

Hey there, fans of Book Passage!

I’ve been tasked with bringing you a list of spring/summer reading recommendations.  I’m all too happy to do so. Relieved, even. This might surprise you, but even though I’m a librarian, I don’t get to talk about books at work very often. Most people just don’t ask, they just want to be escorted to the Internet, which breaks my bookish heart.

I’d guess that 80% of what I read is either recommended to me by other bookworms, or it just happens to cross my desk at the library. I never know what I’m going to find. It’s kind of how I feel when I’m browsing an out-of-the-way bookshop and I head down the next aisle.  

If a book looks remotely interesting, I grab it.  I definitely have my favorite authors, genres, and subjects, but my constant exposure to unfamiliar books means, happily, that I read outside of my comfort zone quite often.

I tend to think in stories, and the more stories I read, and the broader the scopes and subjects of the stories, the more connections I can make.  A mind that can is familiar with a greater variety of subjects is going to be more adaptable. 

Now then--you wouldn’t be on this website if you weren’t a fellow book nut, so I’ll try and reward your curiosity with the latest and greatest books that have jumped out at me.


Before this book, I didn’t have any stories or ideas tied to rowing.

In fact, before reading The Boys In The Boat, if you’d asked me, “What’s less interesting than competitive rowing?” I would have said, “Nothing! What else can we talk about?”  But I had similar thoughts about horse racing before reading Seabiscuit, about running the mile before reading The Perfect Mile, about running in general before reading Bowerman And The Men Of Oregon, and about the history of Formula 1 racing before reading The Limit.  

But of course, these books were great not because of the sports they profiled, but because of the people involved.  

Not only is Brown’s book interesting, It’s thrilling, and he’s a fantastic writer.  The people in the story are a pleasure to know.  I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a book about sports and competition this much.  If you like stories about scrappy underdogs beating the odds, this is the book for you.

Someone recently asked me what the best part of being a debut author with an upcoming book. “Getting a sneak peek at Neil Gaiman’s new book,” I said immediately. And truer words have never passed my lips.

If I’d read The Ocean At The End of the Lane as a child, I don’t know if I ever would have recovered. This book contains what might be the most terrifying scene I can think of for a young boy.  When you get to the bathtub scene, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  My favorite thing about Gaiman is that he tells stories of impossibly strange worlds, while hinting at worlds behind the stories that are more unusual yet.  Ocean is a masterpiece of potent, concise thrills.

This is Neil Gaiman,’re probably going to read it no matter what the story is. But okay, the plot:  A young boy unleashes a creature from another world and gets into a world of trouble.  That might sound like a story that could have come from any writer, but if you know Neil, you can guess that it’s not.

The Never List by Koethi Zahn

I read The Never List in one night and stayed up too late doing so. In the early pages, two women are abducted. They awaken in a cellar, shackled to the walls with two other women.  Three years later, our narrator escapes. The story picks up years after that and involves her abductor’s potential parole, the letters he is sending to her and his other victims, and a cult that would have fit right into a season of Dexter. The Never List  reminds me of Chelsea Cain but not as gruesome, and Gillian Flynn without the sick humor.  If you can have fun with an ugly, nasty story, check this out. You know who you are.

Gulp by Mary Roach

In her inimitable style, Roach has previously tackled the cadaver, the soul, sex, and everything you wanted to know about space travel but were afraid to ask.  With Gulp, she goes down the hatch.  This book contains just about everything you’d never want to know about what’s happening inside of you.  It’s fascinating, disgusting, and as Roach fans will already know, hilarious.  My only complaint?  I can’t believe she took this internal tour and never even mentioned the tapeworm. 


I could go on and on and on, but now I’d like to turn it over to you.  I’d be grateful if you’d head over to my blog or send me a Tweet.  Let me know what you’ve read and loved lately! 

See Josh Hanagarne discuss his book The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family ($26.00) with librarian Shereen Ash at the Fairfax library on Tuesday, May 21 at 7:00pm. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

World Book Night 2013

Recently, Book Passage and some of our customers took part in World Book Night (WBN). Each year, thirty books are chosen by an independent panel of librarians and booksellers. The authors of the books waive their royalties and the publishers agree to pay the costs of producing the specially-printed WBN U.S. editions. Bookstores and libraries sign up to be community host locations for the volunteer book givers. 

Givers apply to hand out twenty copies of a book in their community, pick up their books from their local store or library, and on April 23rd give their books to people who, for one reason or another, don’t normally have access to printed books. Many of us at Book Passage were also givers. Between the members of the public who picked up books and Book Passage employees, we gave away more than 1,200 books. Among other locations, books were given out at the San Francisco Jail and to Homeward Bound of Marin, a shelter that transitions homeless people from the streets to permanent homes. We can’t share all the great stories, but here a few:

“The World Book Night event was fantastic,” said Krista Pelletier, program coordinator for Meals on Wheels. “All of the clients sincerely enjoyed receiving the books and give a warm hearted thank you. Almost all of the seniors in our program are homebound, so receiving books to ignite their imagination is incredibly important.”

Patrons at the Ferry Building Book Passage browse free books on World Book Night
Janel Feierabend of our Corte Madera store gave away copies of La Casa en Mango Street at the Pickleweed Community Center in the Canal area of San Rafael. “The title and author were ideal for the recipients,” said Janel. “Sandra Cisneros is well received among the Spanish-speaking population all across the world, and the book isn’t too thick or intimidating.  Please tell the publishers involved that it brought such joy to the recipients at Pickleweed!  Within minutes, those who were waiting for children and had nothing to do became involved in the story.  At one point, it looked like a giant book club with readers’ noses in the books, already smitten.  I hope they didn’t forget about their kids!

“I also met two gentlemen from Guatemala who had been meeting with others regarding a future statue of a historic figure in Guatemalan history.  Two hours later, I had learned a lot about their country, and they had asked about books at Book Passage.  One of them pulled out his cell phone and showed to me a photo he had taken with Isabel Allende years ago at Book Passage!  The other had just returned from Washington, DC and had met senators and White House staff.  Both of them noted the huge importance of reading and education. It was quite an enriching experience for me! I’ll do it again next year—same spot.”

Kate Larson of our Corte Madera store gave away books at the Oakland Charter Academy, an East Oakland charter school that is “bare bones,” says Kate—“the kind of school where the teachers purchase classroom supplies with their own money; basic stuff like pencils, staples, paperclips, etc. Anyway, they don't have a library so maybe this could be the start.” Kate donated copies of The Worst Hard Times to the school, and a history teacher at the school was “thrilled and grateful to get copies for his American history class. For the first time I will be able to assign a summer reading book and not have to worry about paying for copies myself.”

Book Passage Ferry Building employee Cheryl McKeon had this to say. “At the CUESA Farmers' Market, The Language of Flowers was very well-received. . . . late that evening I had four books left from our distribution and offered them at a local BART station. ‘No, thanks, I don't read . . . but did you say Tina Fey? Yes, in that case!’  Can't wait for 4/23/14!” 

Amen to that!

Friday, April 26, 2013

"Shadow on the Crown" Comes to TV

A book launch party for Patricia Bracewell's debut novel, Shadow on the Crown (reviewed here) was held at Book Passage on the day the book was released, February 7, 2013.

Travel writer and Book(ed) Passage contributing blogger Dick Jordan's TV special, "Making Book - The Book Launch," filmed during that event, aired on MarinTV (Comcast Channel 26 in Marin) during April. The final broadcast will be on Monday, April 29 at 8:30 am.

The film is now available for viewing on YouTube by those who missed the broadcast or who don’t have access to Comcast’s cable channels in Marin.

Shadow on the Crown can be purchased in hardcover or as a Kobo e-book through the Book Passage Website.
clip_image001(From time to time travel writer Dick Jordan posts book reviews under the “Armchair Travel” and “Book Review” sections of his online travel magazine, Tales Told From The Road. His last post to the Book(ed) Passage blog was his review of “Shadow on the Crown.” Dick is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. When Dick isn’t traveling, you can usually find him hanging out with other members of Left Coast Writers at the Book Passage in Corte Madera on the first Monday evening of each month, or working on production of TV shows atthe Community Media Center of Marin in San Rafael.)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Check Out the Newest Issue of the Mill Valley Literary Review

The Mill Valley Literary Review, a literary e-Zine published by J. Macon King, released a special spring women's issue on March 15, 2013.

Features in this issue include:

  • Interview with rock n' roll mystery writer Deborah Grabien 
  • Interview with "Bond Grrl" Sandy Shepard 
  • Conversation with debut novelist Barbara Davies Hubbard 
  • Announcement of the Winter Short Story Contest winner 
  • Poems by jazz pianist great Don Alberts 
  • Poems by Maggie Morley 
  • Reviews of The Paris Wife, T.C. Boyle's The Women,  and Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
  • "Great Women of the 20th Century":  Dorothy Parker, Patricia Highsmith, Isadora Duncan, Clare Booth Luce 
  • Pacific Sun reporter Jill Kramer debuts her family court novel 
  • "The Literary Latté": grab a latté,  get comfy, and let out Literary Latté of choice writing stimulate your intellect and emotions.  
  • A fresh new webzine look with streaming video of Beat at the Sweet Poetry night 

Founder and Executive Editor J. Macon King of the Mill Valley Literary Review is a published writer of short stories, columns and articles. He has given invited poetry readings at the Mill Valley Book Depot and won numerous short story awards from the Marin Independent Journal. Drawing on his experience working at San Francisco's Magic Theater, King revived the now 52 year old, beloved Rhubarb Revue community theater, producing, directing and writing stage productions for several seasons.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Short Story is Alive and Well

In the past months, patrons have flocked to Book Passage to listen to their favorite authors read.  We’ve had an incredible lineup of writers and some of our most outstanding events lately have been by authors introducing their short story collections. 

Personally, I’m thrilled that the short story is thriving right here - right now.

Publishers and literary agents are often cautious when it comes to publishing a short story collection: “It’s difficult to sell short stories – let us know when you have a novel.”  I’ve heard this truism stated many times.  It drives me nuts when I hear this because a great short story can be as powerful and lasting as a novel.  A short story is its own kind of vehicle.  It’s a pearl inside of a gritty oyster.  Ann Pachett says that if a novel was a map of a country, a short story is the bright silver pin that marks the crossroads.  Many of the greatest writers of the 20th century were (and are) short story writers.

At Natalie Serber’s reading of her debut story collection, Shout Her Lovely Name, I asked her how difficult it was to get an agent to represent her short story collection.   She said that after she published the title story in a respected literary journal, she had three agents contact her.  The first two agents asked, “Do you have a novel?”  The third agent surprised her by asking, “Do you have any more short stories?”  Natalie sold Shout Her Lovely Name and also secured a second book deal.  If you haven’t read Natalie Serber’s work yet, be prepared to discover a great new storyteller.

Author Natalie Serber discusses Shout Her Lovely Name at Book Passage.
The stellar list of short story authors who have come to Book Passage in recent months speaks well for the sometimes undervalued genre.  Take for example the beautifully crafted and unforgettable stories of Ron Hansen.  Ron Hansen (the author of ten books of fiction) discussed his new and selected stories from She Loves Me Not.  Hansen brilliantly weaves each of his stories and flawed characters through the landscape of the Midwest – primarily Nebraska.  Many writers are linking their stories with either recurring characters or by setting them in a specific place, which ultimately gives continuity to a collection. 

Author Mark Maynard, came to the store in January with his debut collection of linked stories titled Grind. Each story is set in Reno and captures a range of both hopeful and down-on-their-luck characters who linger in “The Biggest Little City” too long.  Maynard drops us into the parched Reno landscape and startles us with his measured prose.  We sold every copy of Mark Maynard’s Grind at his Saturday night reading.
A week later, Louise Aronson came to Book Passage with “A History of the Present Illness.”  Aronson, a medical doctor and professor of medicine at UCSF introduced us to her debut collection of 16 elegant and original stories about doctors, patients and their families.  All of the stories are set in the neighborhoods, hospitals and nursing homes right here in San Francisco.  On a Sunday afternoon, we were adding rows of chairs to accommodate the audience as Louise Aronson eloquently shared her stories.
Book Passage chose “A History of the Present Illness” as our ‘First Edition Pick’ for the month of January.  This is an honor given to an emerging author that we feel has a promising writing career ahead of them.  Several of our first edition picks went on to win the Pulitzer Prize – Paul Harding’s Tinkers and Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Speaking of Junot Diaz - when he came to Book Passage in the fall, the store was filled to capacity with fans of his brilliant prose. “This is How You Lose Her” is indeed a series of linked short stories.  Several of those stories were first published in The New Yorker.  Diaz talked to a riveted audience at Book Passage about everything from the struggles of writing to cultural stereotypes and politics.

Author Junot Diaz at Book Passage in September 2012.
Book Passage also recently hosted Luis Jaramillo with his prize-winning collection of short stories titled The Doctor’s Wife.  Colin Winnette brought us his beautifully bound collection of short prose titled Animal Collection.  Pam Houston will be in conversation with Joshua Mohr in April.  In the spring, Peter Orner will grace us with the release of his newest book of stories.  And Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! will introduce her dazzling new collection of short stories (Vampires in the Lemon Grove) on February 27tth.    
This brings us to George Saunders and The Tenth of December.  This fourth collection has earned him a stunning review in the NY Times. “The best book you will read all year” kind of review.  Here’s a critic that really gets the lasting power of the short story and I have to admit, I have fallen in love with the intensity, beauty and brevity of Saunders stories.  He’s a “writer’s writer.”  A generous spirit who can masterfully work humor and heartbreak into a single sentence.
On the Seventh of February, over 200 fans of Saunders came to hear him speak at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. The audience was rapt, hushed as he spoke – savoring each sentence of wisdom.  He talked about his process as a writer and how he once longed to be Hemingway but quickly learned that the desire to imitate another writer never works. Advice he gives to his students?  “You can’t hide from yourself.” 
I asked George Saunders to sign my copy of The Tenth of December.  And then I asked him if he would sign my arm - in black Sharpie.  It just felt like it was the right thing to do since I couldn’t hide my self and the admiration I have for this writer’s work.  

Author George Saunders prepares to sign the arm of Book Passage bookseller Melissa Cistaro
If you love the short story form – I promise there is no shortage of incredible new stories out there.  If you haven’t given the short story a real chance yet, take a look at some of these books or come listen to these talented short story writers at our Book Passage events.  I promise - you won’t be disappointed.  And if you write short stories, keep writing them – because there is a fierce hunger for them in our world.

Melissa Cistaro is a Bookseller and Event Host at Book Passage

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

“Shadow on the Crown”: 11th Century Intrigue

By Dick Jordan
Shadow On The Crown CoverIt’s November, 1001 A.D., and the recent death of his wife has left the King of England between a hard place and rock.

He won’t be lacking “female companionship.” After all, he is the king. No woman of his realm would dare decline an invitation to come into his bedchamber for a nightcap.

While he’d be content remaining a bachelor—at least for the immediate future—his advisors are pressing him to remarry, and to do so soon.

As Patricia Bracewell’s debut novel, Shadow on the Crown, begins to unfold its 11th century tale of love, lust, intrigue, and treachery, we find the king on the horns of a dilemma.

He could marry an English nobleman’s daughter, cementing a relationship that could help him solidify control over the princes upon whose allegiance he depends. She’s a comely, but power-mad and evil-minded bitch.

Or he could wed a foreigner, the sister of the Duke of Normandy, and in doing so, gain a political ally against the warring Danes who periodically land on England’s shores to pillage and rape his kingdom. But that could alienate him from many of his subjects.

Which should he choose to be his new wife? And should she be merely a royal concubine, or given the title and powers of a queen?

And what of the sons of his first marriage? Should one of them inherit his throne, or will that honor go to a male offspring of his new bride?

Friday, January 18, 2013

An Unexpected Pleasure: Bilbo Baggins on the Big Screen

At home, my mother pours glasses of wine for the family. We all pause midway through cooking dinner and, raising our glasses solemnly, give the toast we’ve been giving for years: “To the Shire.”

We’ve always been a Tolkien family. In fourth grade, my mother ordered a boxed set of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy for me. She read The Hobbit to me, and I remember begging for one more chapter each night. Every moment still stands out vividly in my mind: Bilbo seeing the goblins come through the opening at the back of the cave, Gollum and his ring, the treacherous spiders and brackish water of Mirkwood, the dwarves riding in the barrels down the river, and the great dragon Smaug speaking with Bilbo about a goblet.

To a child, such a tale was almost unimaginable in its grandeur and scope. The moment my mum closed the back cover of my now-battered paperback, I was in bed with my flashlight under the covers, opening back up to the front and rediscovering the whole adventure again.

I read the trilogy as well, and I loved it for its own merits, but somehow Frodo and his companions failed to capture the attention of my nine-year-old self. In fact, upon opening The Fellowship of the Ring and discovering that Bilbo was old and would be replaced by Frodo, I closed the book and refused to read it for a year. I have since fallen deeply in love with that chapter of Middle Earth’s history, but at the time my love for Bilbo Baggins and his companions were such that no one else could replace them.

You can imagine my joy when Peter Jackson, who had done such justice to the trilogy, declared that he would actually be making a film version of The Hobbit. I followed filming avidly, watching each production video released by the crew over the months leading up to the release. I went to the midnight premiere, and the moment that music started up and the Shire appeared I flashed back to the same childlike wonder with which I had first read, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” I was lost to the real world for the following several hours.

Now, for those of you who remember The Hobbit as fondly as I do, the movie might not have resonated in the same way. Peter Jackson’s decision to make one book into three movies has necessitated some filler material. The filler material is rich and full and all comes from Tolkien’s other writings about Middle Earth, but it still does not originate from The Hobbit.

 My memories of Gandalf in the book, for example, mostly involve his occasionally disappearing for stretches of time (most notably when he left the company just before Mirkwood, after which everything very rapidly went pear-shaped). The dwarves and Bilbo often dismissed these absences as some sort of wizard business, and therefore much less important than their own quest, and so while Tolkien makes mentions of the Necromancer and evil rising in the east, the reader is never quite clear on what exactly Gandalf is doing. The film adaptation seeks to fix that.

Quite a few of the “filler” scenes serve as foreshadowing for The Lord of the Rings; we even have a cameo from the Witchking of Angmar, leader of the Nazgul and notably taken down much later by Éowyn in The Return of the King. There is much talk among the wizards and elves of evil and what may come in the near future. All of this is put in for the viewer, particularly the viewer already familiar with the trilogy. These scenes, combined with various flashbacks to historical battles and such, give the viewer an episodic feeling that certainly takes one or two views to settle into.

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit
Once you accept the episodic quality of the first half of The Hobbit: There and Back Again, you can fully appreciate the art of the film as a whole. Every single character is depicted lovingly by both the actors and the script. Thirteen dwarves can be quite difficult to keep straight, but each actor’s adoration for his character shines through, with the result that each dwarf feels utterly familiar by the end of their first gathering in Bag End.

Martin Freeman’s depiction of Bilbo Baggins, in contrast, has that familiarity within the first two minutes of his screen time. The moment his expressive face takes in Gandalf looming over him, the audience is fully won over. I found that my fondness for Bilbo Baggins washed over me again in a wave, and I was as enamored of the character from those opening scenes as I had been fourteen years ago. I don’t want to spoil the ending of this segment for those unfamiliar with the story, but Bilbo’s declaration of loyalty to the dwarves’ quest – a wholehearted vow given as a simple statement in the way only a hobbit can manage – speaks to something everyone can understand: the desire and love for a home, a place we belong.

I cannot speak to the treatment of the whole book, because of course only a third of it has been released in theatres thus far. However, I can say that the film adaptation of The Hobbit has the same warmth of heart and strength of character that Tolkien’s book did, and as I watched it I felt that familiar feeling wash over me: I felt that I was home.    

Post by Esme Rabin, Book Passage Classes Coordinator

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Request for Assistance after Newtown

Hi everybody,

Please pardon the interruption. I'm taking a break from writing crime novels today to ask for help from my fellow writers, publishing professionals, bookstore owners, members of the literary and entertainment communities, lawyers, colleagues and friends in light of the horrific events in Newtown on Friday.

As many of you are aware, on July 1, 1993, at 3:00 PM, I was sitting in my office at the Pettit & Martin law firm on the 36th floor of the 101 California Street office tower in downtown San Francisco. I was informed by my secretary that a man had entered our building and was shooting people on the 34th floor. Eighteen minutes later, eight people were dead, including the crazed gunman who had murdered several of my colleagues, neighbors and friends with an assault rifle. I got lucky--I got behind a locked door along with a dozen of my colleagues, and the gunman didn't come our way. The events at 101 California are as incomprehensible to me today as the they were almost twenty years ago.

And now the victims are kids.

I can't begin to express my profound sorrow over the unspeakable losses in Newtown. I have a pretty good idea of what things will be like in Newtown for the next few weeks, months and years. There will be funerals. There will be mourning. The community will band together. There will be an outpouring of support and love. The media attention will dissipate in a few days, but there will be ramifications to individuals and families for many years. I've listened to the arguments about gun control for almost two decades, and here's where I come down. Civilians don't need assault weapons. Civilians don't need ammunition clips holding dozens of rounds. We don't need to arm teachers, college students, shopkeepers at malls or lawyers who work in office buildings. We need to do more than acknowledge that gun control is a complicated problem. We need to decide what sort of country we are. We need to act to stop the carnage--or at least we need to try. Until we do, there will be more Newtowns, more Columbines, more Virginia Techs, more Auroras, and more 101 Californias. We send our representatives to Washington to do more than score petty political points in the 24-hour news cycle--we send them to govern. We need to hold them accountable--and we need to hold ourselves accountable. We need to join together to support sensible gun laws. We also need to take greater steps to improve our country's mental health services.

What can we do? I hope you will join me in supporting Senator Feinstein's proposal to reintroduce the Assault Weapons Ban in January. In addition, I hope you will get consider joining the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which was formed here in San Francisco by attorneys at the Pettit & Martin firm after the massacre at 101 California. If you are able, I hope you will consider making a donation or helping in any way that you can. For more information, please go to

I would appreciate it if you would help us spread the word by forwarding this message to your family, friends and colleagues.

This isn't going to be easy, but we owe it to our kids to try. Thanks very much for your help.


Sheldon Siegel
New York Times Best Selling Author
of the Mike Daley/Rosie Fernandez Novels

Books to Give Travelers This Holiday Season

By Dick Jordan

So, you’re saying to yourself: “OMG! Christmas is just a week away and my shopping’s not done!”

Not to worry.

Here are ten books from my own library of travel writing that you can be happy giving as gifts to your favorite travelers this holiday season.

Just click a book’s title to order it directly from Book Passage. Some may be available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book editions.

Road Fever (Tim Cahill). Legendary travel writer Tim Cahill takes you on the ultimate road trip, beginning near the tip of South America, and ending at the end of the road in the Arctic. Along the way, Tim and professional endurance driver Garry Sowerby encountered “engine trouble in Patagonia. Sadistic troopers in Peru. Document hell in Colombia. Ice slick roads in Alaska.” And those are just a few of the misadventures that befell them during their 15,000 mile journey.

Travel As A Political Act (Rick Steves). Noted for his European travel shows on PBS, the American who took us to Europe where even Arthur Frommer may not have gone before, “explains how to travel more thoughtfully—to any destination. He shares a series of field reports from Europe, Central America, Asia, and the Middle East to show how his travels have shaped his politics and broadened his perspective.”

Lights, Camera…Travel! (Andrew McCarthy, Don George, editors). Andrew McCarthy was a Hollywood actor (Pretty in Pink); now he’s a contributing editor to National Geographic Traveler, and has been on the faculty of the Book Passage Travel Writers & Photographers Conference.

Don George is c0-chair of that conference, and a long-time freelance travel writer and editor. Together they’ve assembled a collection of over thirty stories told by Alec Baldwin, Malcolm McDonald, Brooke Shields, and others.
Here’s Andrew and George in conversation:

The Practical Nomad: How To Travel Around the World (Edward Hasbrouck). Want to tell you boss to take your job and, well, give it to someone else, so you can become a vagabond and wander the planet? In the preface, travel writer Edward Hasbrouck says: “If you’ve ever dreamed of a trip around the world, this book is for you. It’s a unique, comprehensive, ‘how-to’ handbook of advice and tips for independent, on-your-own travel anywhere in the world.”

Maya Roads: One Woman’s Journey Among the People of the Rainforest (Mary Jo McConahay).  If the world would indeed come to and end on December 21, 2012, it would make little sense to give this book to someone as a Christmas gift. But trust me, we’re not all going to disappear next week.

McConahay drew on her three decades of traveling, living and working in Central America to tell this tale of the Mayans, past and present.

North to The Night (Alvah Simon). Does living on a 36’ sailboat, frozen in the ice above the Artic Circle during winter with only a pussy cat for company sound like a fun vacation? Regardless of your answer to that question, you’ll enjoy reading Alvah Simon’s voyage of discovery.

Looking For Alaska (Peter Jenkins). If Simon’s trip sounds a bit over the top, opt for a tamer adventure and pack up the family, relocate to Alaska, and replicate Peter Jenkin’s odyssey, learning how the residents of the 49th state cope with living far from the rest of their fellow Americans  down in the “Lower 48.”

Snake Lake (Jeff Greenwald). As long as you’re thinking about heading far from the madding crowd in urban America, why not go to Kathmandu, especially if its country, Nepal, is in the throes of a revolution against its ruling monarchy? But this book isn’t just about war, there’s a love element, too.

From Beirut To Jerusalem (Thomas L. Friedman).  Nepal isn’t the only place on the plane where people have been up in arms against each other. The Wall Street Journal called Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Friedman’s book “a sparkling intellectual guidebook…an engrossing Vineyard Tuscany HCjourney not to be missed.”

A Vineyard in Tuscany: A Wine Lover’s Dream (Ferenc Máté). Yorkers Ferenc and his wife, Candace, buy a 13th-century friary, renovate their centuries-old abode, plant a vineyard, and end up making top-notch wine. I have spent a lot time in the “wine country” north of San Francisco, which is often compared to Tuscany—one of my favorite travel all-time destinations. So following in the Mátés footsteps is something I could drink to!

Need more suggestions for holiday gift books? Have a “personal shopper” at the Book Passage bookstore help you out.

And the Book Passage “Aunt Lydia Book Club” (aka the “Aunt Lydia Book Club),” makes giving the gifts that keep on giving—books much easier.  Here’s how it works:
  • Register for the Aunt Lydia Book Club.
  • Add the gift recipient’s name, age, and contact information.
  • Indicate how often you’d like a gift book to be sent.
  • Set the length of the book club membership.
  • List the book categories or genres desired, such as armchair travel, biography, or politics.
  • Provide more information about the reader to help the store pick the right books to send.
  • Add any personal message you’d like included each time with complimentary gift card.
If you’d need more information, or would like to talk to a Book Passage “personal shopper,” call Book Passage at (415) 927-0960, ext. 227, or email club director Mary Benham at

(From time to time travel writer Dick Jordan posts book reviews under the “Armchair Travel” and “Book Review” sections of his online travel magazine, Tales Told From The Road. His last post to the Book(ed) Passage blog was A "Serious" & "Trashy" Summer Reading List. Dick is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. When Dick isn’t traveling, you can usually find him hanging out with other members of Left Coast Writers at the Book Passage in Corte Madera on the first Monday evening of each month.)