On May 1st DDG is marking its 30th anniversary, a circumstance which has, one fears, put me in a deucedly reflective state. Three decades is a terrifyingly long stretch of me being the constant to an array of variables around the bookstore. This unseemly reflectiveness is not only suffusing anniversary stuff, like these Book Remembrances from customers, and my 30 Books of the Years, but it is seeping out here too, in true horror movie fashion, as ShelfTalker lurches back onto the rails and we ShelfTalkers cast our minds back over this last year.
To keep this slithering reflectiveness somewhat in check we are going to restrict this post to a single element. One of the things I look forward to most as a buyer is making discoveries that become store favorites. Here are three favorite discoveries made during the pandemic.
Favorite F&G: The Museum of Everything
One effect of the pandemic is that it has lowered the threshold for suspending disbelief in works of speculative fiction. Reading the real world, however, is harder, not easier. With social and literary cognition undergoing a profound re-calibration, the need to assess our landscape of freshly configured forms with a perspective that accounts for both constants and variables is paramount. To spot the presence of old constants hidden in fresh garb and subtly intertwined with dynamic and shifting variables, one wants a lens which incorporates everything. That’s where Lynne Ray Perkins’ sublime new picture book, The Museum of Everything, comes in. To call this book timely would be to fall miles short of describing its relevance to the moment. Reading The Museum of Everything is a satisfying, moving and quietly engrossing experience. To walk through its pages is to take a tour of your own best self.
Favorite new sideline: Mox
Mox are the most personable fidget toys ever.
They relate fascinating anecdotes of life in the inanimate realm
They provide illuminating commentary
They benevolently quash internecine conflicts among rival sidelines.
In short, everyone needs a Mox to make them happier.
Plus, Mox can have their mouth wide open in the store and not cause any stress.
Favorite classic discovery: The Monkey King: Journey to the West
There is so much to love about this new translation of the 16th-century Chinese classic tale of Tripitaka, a chaste and easily terrified Buddhist Monk, and his three irregular bodyguards, the mischievous and powerful Monkey King, Pigsy, the gluttonous pig demon, and Sandy, an unsavory river deity. The book follows their 14-year, fraught with danger, journey from China to India to receive Buddhist scrolls. Julia Lovell’s translation and abridgement of Wu Cheng’en’s classic tale capitalizes on the inherently modern and timeless character of the tale itself. Great satire ages far more slowly than other genres; just look at the Satyricon‘s continued ability to shock, offend, and entertain. Journey to the West has all the elements of a great series of Monty Python skits: funny, insightful and informative all at once. There is a strong dose of juvenile humor throughout brought on by our immature heroes, who maintain their sense of humor even as they begin to compile some enlightenment on their journey. A great crossover book and just plain fun, Monkey King has been a welcome discovery indeed.
Extra favorite. Heard around the store: Five year old girl clutching a DK Rocks and Minerals book. “I’m going to have extra fun looking at this book and getting smarter.”