Nicola’s Books Stacks Stellar Appearances This Week

Dust to DustNicola’s Books in Ann Arbor has plenty on tap for local readers this week.

On Tuesday evening, actor and author Benjamin Busch will be appearing at Nicola’s Books for a discussion and signing of his memoir, Dust to Dust. Busch, who currently lives in Reed City, Michigan, was born in Manhattan and grew up in upstate New York. He is an actor, photographer, film director, and a United States Marine Corps Infantry Officer who served two tours of combat duty in Iraq. In addition, he has appeared in the HBO series The Wire, Homicide, The West Wing, and Generation Kill.

Acting aside, Busch’s memoir is a heavy, thoughtful read that utilizes the elemental (water, metal stone, blood, etc) as device for examining the brevity of our existence.

Dust to Dust will hit stores this Tuesday, which happily coincides with Busch’s appearance at Nicola’s. The discussion and signing will take place on March 20, 2012 at 7:00 pm. For more on Benjamin and Dust to Dust, try this recent piece in the Detroit Free Press.

The Boiling Season: A Novel

Also appearing this week at Nicola’s Books is author and debut novelist Christopher Hebert. Hebert is a graduate of Antioch College and earned his MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, and was awarded its prestigious Hopwood Award for Fiction. Currently, he teachers at the University of Tennessee and lives in Knoxville with his wife and son.

The Boiling Season, Hebert’s debut novel, is a stunner thus far (I’m halfway through), and I’m quite shocked Hebert isn’t getting more airtime for this richly detailed and beautifully written work.

Hebert’s discussion and signing of The Boiling Season will take place Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 7:00 pm. For more with Christopher Hebert you can link to this Metro Pulse interview.

Nicola’s Books is located in the Westgate Shopping Center at 2513 Jackson Avenue in Ann Arbor. As always, events are subject to change so please call first before heading out the door (734.662.0600).

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

– Post by Megan Shaffer

‘It’s All Relative’ for Michigan Author Wade Rouse

Cover ImageIf you’re anywhere near Petoskey this Tuesday evening, you might want to duck into indie booksellers McLean and Eakin for a few laughs with Wade Rouse. The Michigan author will be on hand for a discussion and signing of his latest book, It’s All Relative: Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays, and 50 Boxes of Wine (A Memoir).

This isn’t Mr. Rouse’s first time heading north to promote his work. It was just about two years ago that the author was at McLean and Eakin to share his hilarious memoir, At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream: Misadventures in Search of the Simple Life, which was released to high praise and laughter.

NBC’s Today Show calls Rouse “laugh-out-loud-funny,” and was noted by The Washington Post as “an original writer and impressive new voice.” Rouse is a contributing humor columnist for Metrosource, a high-profile gay magazine, and his essays and articles have appeared in numerous national magazines and online publications.*

Rouse currently makes his home “on the coast of Lake Michigan” with his partner Gary. Rouse will further anchor himself to Michigan shores with the recent announcement that he’s been asked to be a regular on Michigan Public Radio. The author will be contributing essays from his latest memoir, It’s All Relative, as well as offering special segments. You can click here for Wade’s Saturday feature.

Wade Rouse’s McLean and Eakin event will take place on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 from 6:30pm – 8:00 pm. It is suggested that you buzz the booksellers at 231-347-1180 or 1-800-968-1910 to reserve a spot. Call to confirm detail events before heading out the door as schedules are always subject to change.

If you can’t make it to McLean and Eakin, feel free to link to Rouse’s full appearance schedule for other northern Michigan signings.

– Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Links

-Information taken from the Wade Rouse site.

-For a list of Press reviews of Rouse’s work, you can link here.*

On the Side: Gabrielle Hamilton’s ‘Blood, Bones & Butter’

Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir Blood, Bones & Butter currently sits at #18 on the NYT Bestseller list. Not bad for a writer who happens to also be a full-time chef (and mom) running her own restaurant in New York City. While you can read a full review of Hamilton’s work here, I thought it might be nice to have a little extra book info “on the side” to spice things up. And by the way, I highly recommend.

As a child Gabrielle Hamilton’s mother called her by the pet name Prune, and it’s Prune that appears on Hamilton’s thriving restaurant at 54 East 1st. Street in New York City’s East Village. In her kitchen at Prune, Gabrielle Hamilton is now well known for serving up American fare that she shares is “very personal, it’s food that I grew up eating or that I have a very close experience cooking, or that I personally know from the ground up and have made and loved.”

The East Village rests in the borough of Manhattan and lies east of Greenwich Village. Much like the maverick chef herself, the East Village has a rich history of both rebellion and creative vision, making it the perfect location for Hamilton. Once the upper part of the Lower East Side, the East Village began its transformation in the 1940’s as a hub of countercultural thought and artistic activity that drew bohemians from around the globe and continues to house the avant-garde to this day.

For more on Gabrielle Hamilton, try this podcast on Splendid Table or this video of Gabrielle at Prune from Savory New York. For more on the area’s fantastic history and bohemian culture, try this episode from the PBS series American Masters.

*Quote from Video: Savory New York

-Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Natalie Taylor Soars in ‘Signs of Life’

Cover ImageWhat do you do if you’re 24 years old, five months pregnant, and your husband suddenly – tragically – dies? If you’re Natalie Taylor you write one honestly good book. Yes, we all know that shelves sag with overdone memoirs of tainted childhoods, deeds done wrong, and ruined lives, but Taylor defies the dark and opts to soar instead with this tight uplifter, Signs of Life.

Natalie’s husband Josh Taylor died on Father’s Day of 2007. He was 27 years old, married to the woman he loved, and happily awaiting the birth of their first child. Who would have thought that a quick blow to the back of his head while Carveboarding would put an end to his own life just as the one he created was beginning to bloom?

Signs of Life is the narrative compilation of Natalie Taylor’s journal entries that span the year following her husband’s death, yet Taylor’s pragmatic approach toward handling her grief is precisely what lands Signs of Life in its own little camp of the genre. Though Taylor’s voice cuts with pure pain and candor, she unwittingly softens the blow with her straight-forward sincerity and unwavering humor.

“When I decide to do something, I want it done quickly. I do not dilly-dally. When Dr. G. told me that grief takes time, I wanted to say, ‘But what about for the smart kids?’ I took Advanced Placement Calculus in high school. Let’s talk Advanced Placement Grief. But one of the first things I realize about this stupid emotion is that AP Grief does not exist. Time goes by, weeks pass, a month passes, my belly grows, my hair grows, but when I wake up in the morning it feels exactly the same. Grief goes at its own speed.”*

As Taylor begins to piece together the brokenness of her life, the fog of her grief lifts just enough to reveal a bit more of both herself and the world around her. Through Josh’s death, Taylor is inadvertently exposed to life outside of the insulated bubble in which she grew up. Instead of self-absorption with her own sorrows, however, Taylor finds in herself an unexpected wellspring of compassion and understanding for all walks of life.

Taylor is a high school English teacher and she structures Signs of Life around the books she teaches and those that pass through her hands the year after Josh’s death. Seeking solace through literature, Taylor looks to some heavy hitters for help. Alice Walker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ralph Waldo Emerson are but a few of the many authors who step up to hold Taylor’s grieving hand.

Also balanced by the support of some killer friends and family, Taylor puts you on a nickname basis with Ads, Matthews, Moo and more, but it’s never overdone. Taylor’s memoir is incredibly fresh and breathes life and hilarity into the not-so-funny-at-all topics of death, darkness and grief. While Signs of Life is based on Josh Taylor’s terribly sad and untimely death, one can’t miss the budding evolution of a determined woman, a beautiful baby boy, and the incredible ongoing power of life.

-Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

Post by Megan Shaffer

*Passage taken from review copy of Signs of Life

Sink Your Teeth into Gabrielle Hamilton’s ‘Blood, Bones & Butter’

Cover ImageReader beware – chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir Blood, Bones & Butter is smoking hot! Serving it up raw and gritty, Hamilton is absolutely fearless as she slices through the chapters of her life. From her idyllic childhood as a girl in rural Pennsylvania to the tough, renegade chef presently rocking NYC’s East Village, Hamilton cranks it from page one with her edgy literary style.

The “blood” of Hamilton’s title is literal and tightly establishes Gabrielle’s ties to both her parents and her four older siblings who together “ran in a pack – like wild dogs.” As a child Hamilton was captivated by her artistic parents and drank them in in great, awe-filled gulps. “My parents seemed incredibly special and outrageously handsome to me then. I could not have boasted of them more or said my name, first and last together, more proudly, to show how it directly linked me to them. I loved that our mother was French… that she had been a ballet dancer at the Met in New York City when she married my father.”

Hamilton tenderly takes her time to lay the family foundation that will both form young Gabrielle as a child and shatter Hamilton as an adult. She warmly observed and absorbed the eclectic cooking style of her mother, and from her father “…learned how to create beauty where none exists, how to be generous beyond our means, how to change a small corner of the world just by making a little dinner for a few friends.”

Through the simple joy of childhood memories Hamilton solidifies the family bond, and no event makes a deeper impression on young Gabrielle than that of her father’s legendary annual  lamb-roast. It is this magical “feast” for hundreds of friends from “as far away as the townhouses of New York City” where Hamilton’s recognition of family and culinary senses become inextricably bound.

When Hamilton’s parents suddenly split up, Gabrielle is left alone amidst the busted bones of her now broken family. Cash-strapped and only thirteen, she begins to work it the only way she knows how. Finding her way to the familiar, Hamilton begins to grind it out kitchen after kitchen working her fingers to the bone from New York to Ann Arbor through Europe, and back again. Ultimately, the all-nighters, crusty floors, endless prepping and the sordid yet seductive world of food serve to sharpen Hamilton’s artistic skills and caustic wit.

Blood, Bones & Butter is not just for foodies. Though you will find seasoned passages on “ceviche and Israeli couscous and mushroom duxelle and robbiola cheese” among others to relish, they merely serve to strengthen and fortify Hamilton’s solid story threads. Be warned however, that Hamilton’s style is not for the faint of heart and she makes no apologies for who she is. Her smacking, straight-up honesty is highly acidic and a bit hard to take at times, but eventually Hamilton settles into herself “like butter on toast.”

I could toss up the cooking metaphors all day long, but in the end chef Hamilton writes like a rock star. Every page holds a killer quote and Hamilton’s hard-core intensity is intoxicating. Blood, Bones & Butter has serious moxie driven by the love and language of all things culinary, and its promise of family, friendship, and food is sure to please.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

**The edited version of this review can be seen at

Heather Sellers Delights at Writers Live! Event

Consider yourself one of the lucky ones if you were fortunate enough to attend Baldwin Public Library’s recent Writers Live! event. Hope College professor Heather Sellers wooed the audience with her intelligence, wit, and sincere charm while promoting her latest book You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know: A True Story of Family, Face-Blindness, and Forgiveness.

Sellers suffers from a neurological disorder termed prosopagnosia, or face blindness. The bizarre disorder causes impairment in the recognition of faces, and at its most severe can cause the lack of recognition of close friends, family, spouses or even one’s own children. Such is the case with Sellers.

Face blindness isn’t a vision problem, Sellers explained, but rather one of memory. She likens the disorder to a file cabinet where the brain stores images. When you see someone, your brain snaps a picture and slips it into your files to be called up later. However in Seller’s case, after the image gets snapped, it’s immediately and irretrievably “thrown out the window.”

So what does this really mean? Well, if you meet Sellers face to face, she won’t recognize you – even one second later. If you had a dinner date with her last night? She’ll pass you by the next morning. If you grew up next door to her or happen to be her best friend? Doesn’t matter, she’ll have no idea who you are. Brad Pitt, Barack Obama, the Mona Lisa? All the same to Sellers – the facial images just don’t process.

It’s a hard concept to wrap one’s arms around, but try to imagine the professional and social implications of such a disorder for a woman who works with hundreds of students and ever-changing colleagues year after year. Sounds crazy, right?

Crazy is pretty much how Sellers felt until her disorder was diagnosed just five years ago. As a child Sellers’ parents told her she was emotionally unstable, yet Sellers miraculously compensated by relying on context clues such as a person’s hair, voice, clothing, or particular gait. She trained herself “not to freak out” as she attempted to piece together the facial puzzles that  have dogged her since childhood.

Freaking out is apparently something that Sellers doesn’t do. Composed and collected, Sellers laughingly shared her observation that “professors are given a wide range of normal” – a fact that certainly influenced her decision to enter the academic world. She found she could hide amidst the acceptable eccentricities so inherent to campus life. Currently Sellers is part of the English department at Hope College where she teaches creative writing.

Cover ImageSince her diagnosis, Sellers has “come out” with her face blindness and You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know has been a huge part of that process. Garnering both high praise and national attention, Sellers’ memoir seems to be striking a chord in the hearts of her readers. Where so many years of angst and frustration might lead anyone else to bitterness, Sellers has found a certain peace and renewed faith in humanity, and it was precisely this compassionate, feel-good vibe that permeated the air and made for such an exceptional evening.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

Related Links and Information

-Link here for the live video of Heather Sellers at the Baldwin Public Library’s Writers Live! program.

Oprah’s November Pick

NPR’s Living With Face Blindness: Who Are You, Again?

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Writers Live! Features author Heather Sellers

Cover ImageChances are, if you meet author Heather Sellers she won’t recognize you later – even five minutes later. This is not an act of snobbishness on behalf of the Hope College professor however, but rather the bizarre consequence of a disorder called “face blindness.”

Medically termed prosopagnosia, face blindness is a disorder that causes impairment in the recognition of faces. Prosopagnosia isn’t a vision problem, but one of memory that widely ranges in degree. Face blindness at its most severe can cause the lack of recognition of close friends, family, spouses or even one’s own children.

Until Sellers was in her 30’s, she had no idea what was wrong with her. While reading one day Sellers stumbled upon the term “face recognition.” The phrase immediately resonated with the author, and upon further research Sellers was finally able to tag a diagnosis to the blindness that had dogged her for so many years.

Sellers book, You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know: A True Story of Family, Face-Blindness, and Forgiveness, is a memoir of her experience with face blindness. While so many years of frustration might lead one to bitterness and anger, Sellers has found a certain peace and claims the disorder “has renewed my faith in humankind on a daily basis”.

If you live in or around Birmingham, Michigan, you’ll have a chance to hear Heather Sellers tell her story in person. The author and Hope College professor will be appearing at the Baldwin Public Library as part of their Writers Live! program.

According to the program site, Sellers will read excerpts from “You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know” and “talk about the process of writing a memoir and how telling our own story can help us to see others more clearly.” The Writers Live! appearance will take place at the BPL on Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 7:30 pm. As always, please call first to confirm date and time.

Related Links

Oprah’s November Pick

NPR’s Living With Face Blindness: Who Are You, Again?

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer