Category: Nonfiction

‘Ranger Games’ is Lemuria’s inaugural pick for our Nonfiction FEC

I am thrilled to introduce our newest First Editions Club on Lemuria’s blog. This new club will focus specifically on compelling, eye-opening nonfiction. We will still look for collectible authors and debut books, but we will select  6 to 10 books each year rather than one book each month. As with our original First Editions Club, members of the new FEC for Nonfiction Readers will receive the highest quality, signed first editions covered in protective mylar jackets. I’m very excited to announce our inaugural selections, Ranger Games by Ben Blum (appearing Thursday, November 2) and Sticky Fingers by Joe Hagan (appearing Friday, November 3). Both authors will be at Lemuria later this week for events.

The original FEC, now called the First Editions Club for Fiction Readers, will continue with the same mix of novels, short story collections, and standout nonfiction with a strong narrative element such as Hue 1968.

Our first NONFICTION pick:

ranger games

In Ranger Games, Ben Blum delivers a powerful and deeply personal story, oscillating between investigation and memoir, psychological profile, and cultural criticism. On August 7, 2006, Alex Blum, the author’s cousin, participated in a bank robbery in Tacoma, Washington. Alex was on his final leave before his first deployment as an Army Ranger. He was 19. That “inexplicable crime” lies at the core of Ranger Games, an inscrutable question pulling the many tangents of Ben’s investigation into orbit. Ben circles this black hole by delving into the infamous Ranger Indoctrination Program, Alex’s problematic defense of brainwashing, his Ranger superior Luke Elliott Somner, and the affecting maneuvers of the rest of the Blum family.

This is a messy, convoluted, and achingly long search for Ben, tirelessly recounted in dynamic and moving writing.

It’s a book that defies easy classification. Mary Gaitskill comments, “Ranger Games is one of those rare books that illuminates its subject beyond what you thought possible—and then transcends its subject to become something more.”

I get the sense that Ben Blum is devoted to telling the whole story, to revealing the bigger, more profound and more complicated truth for Alex, for himself, and for us. I am very much looking forward to meeting the author of this tangled, swirling, and strong debut book.

Ben Blum will be at Lemuria on Thursday, November 2, at 5:00 p.m. to sign copies of Ranger Games. The reading will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Outrage for the Osage: David Grann’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’

David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z (a gripping tale of Amazonian adventure), has produced his first book with a sustained narrative in nine years: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.

Flower MoonThe Osage tribe in the late 1800s, like many other native peoples of the Americas, had been confined to smaller and smaller territories as white settlers hungered for their land. After seeing the “Sooner” land rushes of native territory elsewhere in Oklahoma, they agreed to divide up their land among their members, while reserving the mineral rights to all the people of the tribe. When their territory became one of the most sought-after oil-producing areas in the nation, it brought fabulous wealth to the Osage people. What a wonderful blessing, right?

Unfortunately, it also brought all manner of opportunists and criminals, of both high and low status–from the federal government placing onerous “guardian” restrictions on the finances of full-blooded Indians, to something more violent and even more sinister.

Mollie Burkhart

Mollie Burkhart

Here Grann focuses on the story of Mollie Burkhart, an Osage woman married to a handsome, quiet, loving white man named Ernest. Under the shadow of Mollie’s good fortune came terrible tragedy: her family members kept dying, either violently (her sister shot, her in-laws’ house exploded) or suspiciously (another sister and her mother both wasted away). When she and other members of the Osage (who experienced similar tragedy) turn to detectives, lawmen, and even the federal government for help, they are foiled–sometimes quietly, other times violently–at every turn.

Tom White and J. Edgar Hoover

Tom White and J. Edgar Hoover

Enter Tom White, former Texas Ranger, FBI agent, and all-around white hat. He was no college-educated, suit-wearing G-man of the early FBI as we think of them, but he was tabbed personally by J. Edgar Hoover to lead the Osage case after an “embarrassing” mishap that ended with a dead policeman to start the case. White smartly used undercover agents and his powers of deductions to discover that the people who posed the greatest danger to Mollie were some of the people she trusted most.

One of the things I admire most about Grann’s book is its smart use of structure to redirect your attention. It uses our need to sympathize with characters we feel we know personally to narrow our focus, much like the public, and even law enforcement, had their attention narrowed in the Burkhart case. If this were a movie, it would end after the second section. However, Grann proceeds with a third section that might be less dramatic than the first two, but is infinitely more chilling. It roused my blood and opened my eyes, and left me thinking for a very long time about all the souls accountable for the outrage against the Osage.

David Grann will be appearing at Lemuria on Thursday, May 4 to promote Killers of the Flower MoonLemuria’s May 2017 First Editions Club selection . He will sign at5:00 and read 5:30 in the Dot Com annex.

The Night the Lights Went Out: ‘You Will Not Have My Hate’ by Antoine Leiris

You Will Not Have My HateL’amour plus fort que la haine.

Love is stronger than hate.

This is the central theme of Antoine Leiris’s memoir, You Will Not Have My Hate.

On November 13, 2015, a Friday night in Paris, Leiris’s wife, Hélène, was killed by members of an ISIL terror cell. She was enjoying the night at a rock concert at the Bataclan, a beautiful red-and-yellow painted theater in the 11th arrondissement, the heart of Paris, when gunfire erupted across the city. A heartbreaking and terrifying event in and of itself, it is even more heartbreaking to know that people were there on a fun night out after a long week at work; there to listen to music, not expecting anything bad to happen. Not a single person, Parisian or visitor, who decided to attend the concert, or the football match, or any of the restaurants throughout Paris that were attacked, expected to be killed or wounded that night. That is not how life works.

Hélène and Antoine certainly didn’t expect to never see each other again.

Leiris’s book was born from an open letter to the terrorists who besieged the city on that fateful night. He posted the letter to Facebook three days after her death (authentic translation here), where it almost instantly became viral. After inserting his original open letter in the book, he tells the reader he began writing the book the next day. The book chronicles the night his wife died, and the three days following, how he struggles with finding the right words to tell their seventeen-month-old son that his mother has died, how he has to be present for the next few days, taking care of their son as well as making funeral arrangements, when he really wants to crawl into a hole and mourn “the love of his life.” He ends the memoir by saying he and his son will overcome, that they have each other to love and will miss Hélène, but will be okay in time.

Beautifully written in French by Leiris and translated into English by Sam Taylor, the book, although leaving me in tears each time I went to read another chapter, is an incredibly moving account of the night the lights went out in Paris. He writes so openly and unashamedly about his pain and grief that by the end, I felt like I knew him; had met him and his little boy and spoken personally with him about that night and the following days. His book drives home the sentiment echoed by millions each time another city is attacked: love will always conquer hate. Through this book, this message is universal and eternal in a world filled with so much hatred.

Staff Nonfiction Favorites from 2016

Last month, we showed you our favorite fiction books from 2016. This time, we’re back to tell you what our favorite nonfiction books were. From Churchill to Hitler, from art to music, from the frontier to the boudoir,  our picks were all over the place, but they all have a place on your shelf in 2017. Come to the store and ask us about our favorites–we’ll tell you all about them!

  • John Evans, bookstore owner – Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard
  • Kelly, general manager – Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
  • Austen, operations manager – Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939 by Volker Ullrich
  • Lisa, first editions manager – Absolutely on Music by Haruki Murakami
  • Hillary, front desk supervisor – Trials of the Earth by Mary Mann Hamilton
  • hillary-trialsFor what small amount of education she had during her life, Hamilton has created a beautifully written book about her time as a pioneer women in the Mississippi Delta.  Throughout this time in her life, she encounters a flood that completely washes away her home and the family’s logging camp, buries children, and deals with her husband’s secretive life and drinking problem. Hamilton is a fierce woman that I found absolutely fascinating.

  • Clara, Oz manager – Mad Enchantment by Ross King
  • Abbie, fiction supervisor – Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
  • Julia, First Editions Club supervisor – You Will Not Have My Hate by Antone Leiris
  • Andrew, blog supervisor – Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
  • Ellen, bookseller – The Voyeur’s Motel by Gay Talese
  • ellen voyeursThe Voyeur’s Motel is an amazing work of narrative journalism which I could not put down. The majority of this book is from the titular voyeur Gerald Foos’ actual journals and notes, which were extremely fascinating. Basically, Foos spent the majority of his time writing down any and everything that he watched from his voyeuristic “observation deck” and shared those thoughts with Gay Talese. Fascinating read.

  • Katie, bookseller – Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
  • katie-shrillLindy West is an outspoken, confident, intriguing woman in our world today. Shrill tells the story of Lindy’s life, her accomplishments and failures, and her highs and her lows. Her story is insanely inspiring and relatable, touching on the many struggles that women are still facing today. Lindy is a role model to me and many others, and I know she could be one to you, too.

  • Jamie, bookseller – March by John Lewis
  • Matt K., bookseller – The Voyeur’s Motel by Gay Talese
  • Alex, bookseller – The Fire This Time edited by Jesmyn Ward
  • James, bookseller – Trials of the Earth by Mary Mann Hamilton
  • Diane, Oz bookseller – The Journey That Saved Curious George by Louise Borden

nonfiction all

Freaky Friday: ‘The Voyeur’s Motel’ by Gay Talese

voyeurs-motelBefore I just dive right into my thoughts on this book, let me share with you a piece from the cover flap of Gay Talese’s book The Voyeur’s Motel:

“On January 7, 1980, in the run-up to the publication of his landmark bestseller Thy Neighbor’s Wife, Gay Talese received an anonymous letter from a man in Colorado. “Since learning of your long awaited study of coast-to-coast sex in America,” the letter began, “I feel I have important information that I could contribute to its contents or to contents of a future book.”

This anonymous letter was written by Gerald Foos, a motel owner in Denver, Colorado. What Foos went on to explain to Talese was pretty astonishing: Foos had purchased this motel to satisfy his voyeuristic desires and had built an “observation platform” underneath the roof of his motel. He installed “vents” near the foot of the bed into motel rooms in order to watch and listen to his guests. Foos writes, “The advantageous placement of the vent will permit an excellent opportunity to viewing and also hearing discussions of the individual subjects.”

Gerald Foos kept journals for around 15 years (between 1960-1980) and included almost every detail that he found important or interesting. Yes, there is quite a bit of detailed information dealing with sexual encounters of Foos’s unknowing guests. But, Foos really seemed to think of himself as a researcher of American society and sexuality.

He gathered statistics on different matters, such as the effects of the Vietnam War on sexual relationships, or relationships in general. The motel was located near a type of “half-way house” for men who had just arrived back injured from Vietnam. There were a few occasions when Foos witnessed and recorded men who were either paralyzed or had lost a limb in the war, and that injury’s effects on their sexual encounters with either wives or lovers.

Foos recorded the effects of the desegregation of American society in these relationships, as well. He noted that, before the late 60s and early 70s, white women would wait in the car for their African American counterpart to just grab the keys, and would not go inside together. Later, both subjects would enter together and go to the front desk to check in.

I wish I could tell you more about some of the encounters Gerald Foos recorded in his journals…but I don’t think they are very appropriate for this blog. What I will say is that Gerald seemed to think that the movie Deep Throat had to do with the rise in his guests participating in one particular sex act and that men of the 1960s foos-filesweren’t great at sex, and could really care less if their wives were satisfied–gender roles at their finest.

The Voyeur’s Motel is an amazing work of narrative journalism which I could not put down. The majority of this book is from Foos’ actual journals and notes which were extremely fascinating. But….what a freak…right? Right? I can’t decide. Everyone is curious, but Gerald Foos took it to the extreme, and I thank him for it.

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