The Crossings Bookclub – April and May Selections

For April, the members have chosen The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti, a very personal story of great tragedy and triumph in the setting of modern Palestine during the Israeli occupation and settlement.

Cover of the Almond Tree

For May, the book chosen was Dissolution by C.J. Sansom. This one is a historical mystery novel that may remind some readers of The Name of the Rose or the Cadfael mysteries.

The next meeting, to discuss The Almond Tree, is Tuesday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Crossings clubhouse. (The Walnut Country HOA Clubhouse (44965 S Larwin Ave, Concord, CA 94521)   –Lynn Kuehl

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The Crossings Book Club

New Book Club!

So, I realize the fact that a new book club has formed isn’t exactly earth-shattering news. We’ve had our first meeting, we’ve chosen a schedule, we’ve chosen a book to read. We’ve even chosen who will bring the snacks to our next meeting. All normal book club activity, nothing outrageous or unusual about any of this, except…

It’s my first book club, and I’m helping to facilitate it, give birth to it, however you want to put it. It’s kind of exciting! I hope the new members are excited too, but I’m really excited because they chose to read my book suggestion. Yikes! Excited — and a bit nervous, partly because I didn’t mean to nominate this particular book; it was just an off-the-cuff suggestion. But it’s a good book! It’s called Booked to Die, and I think it’s a pretty good mystery novel. Other people think so too — it’s won awards, after all. And it’s a mystery that involves books and bookstores. And book collectors. I think that’s what appealed to the group. In any case, when we passed around the post-its to vote for a book to read next month, I was surprised to find the book I’d mentioned offhand was the first choice.

So, Booked to Die by John Dunning is our first pick. I anxiously await the judgment of the Crossings Book Club whether this book is worthy. So, Joan, Linda, Olive, Leslie, Lynne, Judy, Barbara, Carole, Jie, Debbie, Robin and Andy — please be gentle! This is the first of many (hopefully) good or (even sometimes) great reads we’ll study together.

Special thanks to Andy for starting the club, providing the space at the Clubhouse, and providing tasty snacks and wine.

The Crossings Book Club: Third Tuesday of every month

Next meeting: Tuesday, March 18, 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

At the Walnut Country HOA Clubhouse (44965 S Larwin Ave, Concord, CA 94521, at “the Crossings”)

[Edited to add: Judy, Olive and Jie have purchased copies of the book and are willing to loan them to other members of the group.]

–Lynn Kuehl

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New Arrivals: Entertainment Reference Shelf

We’ve acquired a short stack of McFarland reference books on film, television and radio. All the info at your fingertips on police on film, early sound films, B Western movie actors, radio crime fighters and more! An autobiography by James Arness, a history of Fibber Mcgee and Molly, and a list of great Brit-Coms. All of these are as new, or new in the original shrink wrap; some are hardcover first editions. Check them out here!

McFarland book covers

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NaNoWriMo is here again!

November is National Novel Writing Month. The time of year when thousands of enthusiastic writers pick up their pencils, their laptops, their typewriters or some other weird writing implement of their choice and pound out a novel in 30 days. Participants begin writing November 1 and by midnight, November 30 they have a 50,000-word novel.

Berkshire Books co-owner Cheryl will once again be participating, and Berkshire Books will once again be hosting NaNoWriMo write-ins. There’s a change this year: the write-ins will be held on Saturday afternoons.

When:
Every Saturday afternoon in November
3:00 – 7:00 (or thereabouts; we can go longer if wrimos are still going strong!)

Where:
Berkshire Books
3480 Clayton Road, Concord
Call (925) 685-9999 if you have questions

(Yes, we have a place to plug in your laptop. No, we don’t have WiFi)

Refreshments will be on hand (caffeine, sugar, chocolate)

For more information on this crazy program, go to nanowrimo.org

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Trains and Boats and Planes

Transportation enthusiasts! Looking for books on railroading, maritime history, or aviation? Check out our new catalogs (pull down the menu on the black bar above).

Under Aviation you’ll find books on fighter planes for both the historian and the airplane modeler, including issues of World Air Power Journal, Lock-On, Detail and Scale, and the colorfully illustrated Squadron/Signal paperbacks.

The Railroadiana catalog includes books on all of the main lines in North America (arranged roughly by region, streetcars and subways, and interurban lines, ranging from full color coffee table books to directories of train engines in closely packed small print.

Ships and Boats includes books on maritime history (generally from the age of steam onward), luxury liners and yachts, tugboats, ferries and more.

And the catalog simply titled Transportation has everything else — automobiles, trucks, fire engines, police cars, buses, and tractors.

Follow the directions on our Main Catalog Page to order from us directly.

OR you can order through the online book services Biblio.com and Antiqbook.com.

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Lists of Things

I have a weakness for long lists of things. If I see a bibliography or a dictionary sitting on bookshelf, no matter what it is — a book of cowboy slang, a list of autobiographies by Vietnam veterans or every novel by a woman author published in the nineteenth century — I will pick it up. Because I’m not completely obsessed, I’ll often put it back, but I will go away impressed. To painstakingly amass a great deal of information, condense it down into a list, a bibliography, a discography, a guide or a checklist, and then publish it, knowing full well that 1) it’ll be out of date as soon as it hits the shelves, and 2) something, hopefully nothing glaringly obvious, has been left out — this is not for the faint of heart. I know, because I’ve done it. I still have nightmares about 3×5 cards.

While most Lists of Things are made by professionals employed for the task — librarians, archivists, conservators — there’s also quite a busy amateur industry in Lists of Things. If it’s lists you want, go no further than the nearest gang of hobbyists, enthusiasts, or fans.

Continue reading

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It’s NaNoWriMo Time!

November is National Novel Writing Month. The time of year when thousands of enthusiastic writers pick up their pencils, their laptops, their typewriters or some other weird writing implement of their choice and pound out a novel in 30 days. Participants begin writing November 1 and by midnight, November 30 they have a 50,000-word novel.

Berkshire Books co-owner Cheryl will once again be participating, and Berkshire Books will once again be hosting NaNoWriMo write-ins.

Every Sunday afternoon in November
1:00 – 4:00

Berkshire Books
3480 Clayton Road, Concord
Call (925) 685-9999 if you have questions

(Yes, we have a place to plug in your laptop. No, we don’t have WiFi)

Refreshments will be on hand (caffeine, sugar, chocolate)

For more information on this crazy program, go to nanowrimo.org

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Black History Month

Black History Month: Literary & Bookish African American Firsts

Lucy Terry is the first known African American poet. Her poem “Bars fight,” was written in 1746 to commemorate the Deerfield Massacre in Massachusetts. It was unpublished in her lifetime, and is her only surviving poem.

Jupiter-Hammon, An Evening Thought broadsideThe first published Black writer in America,
Jupiter Hammon wrote his first poem “An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries” on Christmas Day, 1760. It was published early in January, 1761.

Phillis Wheatley is the best-known African American poet of the colonial period, and had a popular following in her day. Unfortunately, many of her white readers refused to believe her poems had been written by an African slave, which led to Wheatley having the dubious distinction of being the first Black American writer to defend her authorship in court. Successful, she included the attestation in the preface to her book of collected works, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, published in London in 1773 (Boston publishers declined to publish it).

The first autobiography of a free black American, John Marrant’s A Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant, a Black was published in England in 1785.

Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative was the first published slave autobiography to describe the horrors of the Middle Passage. It was published in London in 1789 and in the U.S. in 1791.

Freedom's Journal front page

The first African American owned and operated newspaper published in the United States was Freedom’s Journal, edited by Black abolitionists John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish. It was published weekly in New York City from 1827 to 1829, when it was superseded by The Rights of All, published by Cornish. All 103 issues of Freedom’s Journal are digitized and online at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

The first slave narrative published in the U.S. by a black woman was Mary Prince’s narrative, published in 1831 as The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself, with a Supplement by the Editor, to Which Is Added the Narrative of Asa-Asa, a Captured African.

David Ruggles was an early African American writer, printer, editor, and publisher. He was an abolitionist and one of the most visible conductors on the Underground Railroad; one of the slaves he helped to freedom was Frederick Douglass. His self-published pamphlet The Extinguister, a satire of the American Colonization Society, which
aimed to ship all Blacks back to Africa, was the first imprint by a Black
author/publisher. His bookstore (half of a grocery store) was the first African American bookstore. It was destroyed by a mob in 1833.

Frederick Douglass’s classic text, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, was published in 1845, the first slave narrative to be written entirely by a black author, rather than transcribed and edited by a white abolitionist. Douglass published other autobiographies, including My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) and two separate editions of The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881, 1892).

In 1854, Afro-Creole poet and educator Armand Lanusse published Les Cenelles (The Holly Berries), a French-language anthology of poetry by Louisiana Creoles, the first anthology of verse by black Americans.

A prominent abolitionist, lecturer and writer, William Wells Brown is responsible for three Black American “firsts.” In 1852, he published Three Years in Europe, the first travel book written by an African American. His Novel Clotel, or the President’s Daughter, was published in 1853 and is thought to be the first African American novel. The novel is based on the story (confirmed by DNA tests) that Thomas Jefferson had fathered a child with his slave Sally Hemmings. In 1858, his play The Escape; or, A Leap for Freedom (1858) was the first published play by an African American.

The first woman African American novelist was Harriet Wilson, whose Our Nig was published in 1859. It was the first novel by a Black author to be published in the United States (William Wells Brown’s Clotel was first published in England.) It was lost for more than a century, until rediscovered by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in 1982.

In 1882, African American historian George Washington Williams published his History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880, the first comprehensive history of African Americans.

Malinda Russell, Domestic Cookbook

A Domestic Cook Book by Malinda Russell, published in Michigan in 1866, is thought to be the first cookbook written by a black American. The Clements Library at the University of Michigan holds the only known original copy. A limited, color facsimile edition was published by the Clements Library in 2007.

Historian and author Dr. Carter G. Woodson is the father of Black History Month. He began campaigning for a “Negro History Week” in February 1926, to be observed near the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and Frederick Douglass on February 14. It was a successful yearly celebration of African American achievement, and in 1976 was expanded to a month, to coincide with the U.S. Bicentennial

A prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance as a scholar and bibliophile, Arthur Schomburg amassed the largest collection of African American literature, scholarship and art in the world. By the mid-1920s, he had over 5,000 books, pamphlets, prints, manuscripts, artworks. His collection formed the basis of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, at the New York Public Library in Harlem.

Chester Himes is credited with being the first black mystery writer in the U.S. He wrote a series of hard-boiled mysteries set in Harlem, featuring two hardbitten detectives named Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones. The titles of the series include A Rage in Harlem, The Real Cool Killers, The Crazy Kill, All Shot Up,The Big Gold Dream, The Heat’s On, Cotton Comes to Harlem, and Blind Man With A Pistol; all published from 1957 to1969. Cotton Comes to Harlem was made into a movie in 1970

Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. She won the prize in 1950, for her 1949 book Annie Allen.

In 1959, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun became the first play by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway.

The first African American science fiction author, Samuel R. Delany is also the first openly gay science fiction writer. He has won both Hugo and Nebula awards for his fiction, (the first black author to do so), and is a respected critic in the field. His first book, The Jewels of Aptor, was published as part of an Ace Double in 1962.

Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was the first nonfiction work by an African American to make the New York Times best-seller list, where it remained for two years.

Charles Gordone was the first African American Pulitzer Prize winner in drama, for his 1970 play No Place To Be Somebody.

Wayne Howard was the first African-American comic-book artist to receive a “created by” cover-credit, for Midnight Tales #1.

In 1976, Robert Hayden was named the first African American Poet Laureate of the United States.

Alan Bell was the first African American publisher of a mainstream gay publication. Gaysweek, founded in New York City in 1977, was the city’s first mainstream lesbian and gay newspaper. During its run from 1977 to 1979, it was one of only three gay weeklies in the world.

Elsie Bernice Washington was a journalist and nonfiction author, but her one fictional work, a genre romance novel, won her the title “mother of African American Romance.” Entwined Destinies was the first romance novel written by a black author featuring black characters. The novel was written under the pen name Rosalind Welles and published in 1980.

In 1982, Charles Fuller was the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, for A Soldier’s Play.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1993 was awarded to Toni Morrison, “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” She was the first African American receive the award.

The same year, Rita Dove was the first African-American woman named Poet Laureate of the United States. She was also the youngest person named to that position.

Barak Obama, the first African American President of the United States, is also an author — and if you happened to have picked up his first book, Dreams From My Father, when it was published in 1995, you’re in luck. Since Obama wasn’t the first black U.S. President at the time of the book’s publication, the first edition had a relatively low print run and sales, so copies are scarce. Now that Obama is the first black U.S. President, the book is now the first book by the first black U.S. President, and the scarce, first edition is much sought after by collectors. Signed copies are for sale for $9,000 or more. (Of course, if you just want to read it, you can buy a later printing of the book at our shop for a whole lot less!)


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Holiday Author Book Signing

Sunday, December 11, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Christmas is coming, and you know what? Books make grrreat gifts. And if there’s a history buff on your list, well, we have just the thing! We’ll have the authors of three popular local history books on hand to sign copies of their eminently giftworthy books.

Mount Diablo: The Extraordinary Life and Landscapes
of a California Treasure

Photography by Stephen Joseph
Written by Linda Rimac Colberg

A beautiful new addition to the history and literature of Contra Costa’s most prominent and beloved landmark. Stephen Joseph has been photographing its natural beauty and remarkable diversity for 25 years. Selecting from the thousands of photos he’s taken over the years, he presents a selection of 181 photos, from close-in images that make you feel as if you’re sitting among the branches of oak trees to breathtaking panoramas that open out both visually and literally – some of the pages fold open to three times the length of the book! The text adds background on the natural and cultural history of Mount Diablo.

Mountain Lore:
History and Place Names of Mount Diablo

By Rich McDrew and Rachel Haislet

The pages of Mountain Lore hold the stories of small treasures tucked throughout Mount Diablo. An estimated 250 creeks, canyons, trails, springs, and locations exist within the over 20,000 acres of Mount Diablo State Park. Most of these locations are identified by a place name, which depicts common fauna, flora, topography, or local historical significance.

Mountain Lore concentrates on 101 of these obscure place names. Among the place names are a few unusual words, but most originate from people who have had a historic presence on Mount Diablo. Some of these place names originated before the establishment of the Park (1921) and were designated by settlers in the mid-to late 1800s and early 1900s. Many decades have passed since the creation of many of these names, causing them to become esoteric or lost. Mountain Lore endeavors to revitalize the origins and significance of these place names.

Concord: A History

Images of America: Concord
By Joel A. Harris

Located in the shadow of Mount Diablo, the land that includes Concord was originally a Mexican land grant to Don Salvio Pacheco in 1834. The original Mexican land grant families of Concord were quickly supplanted by American settlers during the Gold Rush. The original Spanish name for the town, Todos Santos, was changed to Concord by the American settlers and their local newspaper, against the wishes of the Pacheco family. The name stuck, and the town became Concord in 1869. Concord’s development is a true American story of Native Americans, Spanish explorers, Mexican Californios, and settlers from across the country and around the world.

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One thousand, six hundred sixty seven words a day!

Greetings from Nanowrimo

That’s not too many! November is National Novel Writing Month. The time of year when thousands of enthusiastic writers pick up their pencils, their laptops, their typewriters or some other weird writing implement of their choice and pound out a novel in 30 days. Or rather, a hastily scribbled but hopefully salvageable first draft of a novel. Participants begin writing November 1 and by midnight, November 30 they have a 50,000-word novel.
Berkshire Books co-owner Cheryl will be participating again — for the seventh year in a row. (And someday I might even finish one of these things…)

We’ll be hosting NaNoWriMo write-ins at
Berkshire Books Every Sunday afternoon in November
Noon – 3:00

(Note: Normally we are closed Sundays, but will be open every Sunday in November for the write-ins. If you’re not participating in NaNoWriMo, come on by anyway!)

Berkshire Books
3480 Clayton Road, Concord

Call (925) 685-9999 if you have questions

(Yes, we have a place to plug in your laptop. No, we don’t have WiFi)

Refreshments will be on hand (caffeine, sugar, chocolate)

For more information on this crazy program, go to nanowrimo.org

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