Around the Shop, On the Shelf 4/24/15

Walking through the store the other day, a stack of books piled high in one arm and ready for reshelving, a bookseller’s eye was drawn to the cover of a book that was faced out on a shelf. She set down her stack and pulled the book off the shelf and investigated.

It’s a story told often, the draw of a striking cover discovered on a bookstore shelf. It happens to booksellers as often as it does anyone else. In that spirit, we’ll be highlighting some of the books that adorn our shelves with a striking allure every Friday over on our instagram feed. Here are a few covers that grabbed our attention this week.

 

The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems… and Create More by Luke Dormehl

Jacket Design by David Eldridge

Algorithms exert an extraordinary level of influence on our everyday lives – from dating websites and financial trading floors, through to online retailing and internet searches – Google’s search algorithm is now a more closely guarded commercial secret than the recipe for Coca-Cola. Algorithms follow a series of instructions to solve a problem and will include a strategy to produce the best outcome possible from the options and permutations available. Used by scientists for many years and applied in a very specialized way they are now increasingly employed to process the vast amounts of data being generated, in investment banks, in the movie industry where they are used to predict success or failure at the box office and by social scientists and policy makers.
In The Formula, Luke Dormehl takes readers inside the world of numbers, asking how we came to believe in the all-conquering power of algorithms; introducing the mathematicians, artificial intelligence experts and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who are shaping this brave new world, and ultimately asking how we survive in an era where numbers can sometimes seem to create as many problems as they solve.

 

Brahma Dreaming by John Jackson

Illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini

These are the tales of the Trimurti the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and Brahma. Dreaming is divided into three sections representing their continuous forces of creation, preservation and destruction. The work begins with Lord Brahma dreaming the universe into being and from there unfolds an enthralling collection of interconnected tales that span the entire spectrum of human experience, dark illusions and earthly temptations. Here are brave princes, divine divas and demon kings, family feuds and epic battles, burning loves and lies, tragic deaths and glorious rebirths. There are tales about dancing elephants, peacock warriors and monkey armies, all retold by Jackson with great character, warmth and wit. Jackson’s collaborator, artist Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini, has been inspired to create what she describes as the best work of her career in Brahma Dreaming with over fifty exquisite fonts and illustrations hand-drawn in black ink. These are the Hindu gods and goddesses as they have never been seen before Brahma Dreaming has been crafted using the same methods and attention to detail used to create the earliest illustrated gift books from the turn of the twentieth century and the result is itself a work of art.

 

Will Starling by Ian Weir

Cover & Page design by Julie Scriver

Skyline Illustration by Chris Tompkins

The great metropolis of London swaggers with Regency abandon as nineteen-year-old Will Starling returns from the Napoleonic Wars having spent five years assisting a military surgeon. Charming, brash, and damaged, Will is helping his mentor build a medical practice — and a life — in the rough Cripplegate area. To do so requires an alliance with the Doomsday Men: body snatchers that supply surgeons and anatomists with human cadavers.
After a grave robbing goes terribly awry and a prostitute is accused of murder, Will becomes convinced of an unholy conspiracy that traces its way back to Dionysus Atherton, the brightest of London’s rising surgical stars. Wild rumours begin to spread of experiments upon the living and of uncanny sightings in London’s dark streets.
Will’s obsessive search for the truth twists through alleyways, brothels, and charnel houses, towards a shattering discovery — about Dionysus Atherton and about Will, himself.
Steeped in scientific lore, laced with dark humour, Will Starling is historical fiction like none other.

 

Odysseus Abroad by Amit Chaudhuri

Cover design by Oliver Munday

It is 1985. Twenty-two-year-old Ananda has been in London for two years, practicing at being a poet. He’s homesick, thinks of himself as an inveterate outsider, and yet he can’t help feeling that there’s something romantic, even poetic, in his isolation. His uncle, Radhesh, a magnificent failure who lives in genteel impoverishment and celibacy, has been in London for nearly three decades. Odysseus Abroad follows them on one of their weekly, familiar forays about town. The narrative surface has the sensual richness that has graced all of Amit Chaudhuri’s work. But the great charm and depth of the novel reside in Ananda’s far-ranging ruminations (into the triangle between his mother, father, and Radhesh–his mother’s brother, his father’s best friend; his Sylheti/Bengali ancestry; the ambitions and pressures that rest on his shoulders); in Radhesh’s often artfully wielded idiosyncrasies; and in the spiky, needful, sometimes comical, yet ultimately loving connection between the two men.

 

Fosse by Sam Wasson

Book design by Chrissy Kurpeski

The only person ever to win Oscar, Emmy, and Tony awards in the same year, Bob Fosse revolutionized nearly every facet of American entertainment. His signature style would influence generations of performing artists. Yet in spite of Fosse’s innumerable–including “Cabaret,” “Pippin,” “All That Jazz,” and “Chicago,” one of the longest-running Broadway musicals ever–his offstage life was shadowed by deep wounds and insatiable appetites.
To craft this richly detailed account, best-selling author Sam Wasson has drawn on a wealth of unpublished material and hundreds of sources: friends, enemies, lovers, and collaborators, many of them speaking publicly about Fosse for the first time. With propulsive energy and stylish prose, “Fosse” is the definitive biography of one of Broadway and Hollywood’s most complex and dynamic icons.

 

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

Cover design & Illustrations by Sunra Thompson

Elf and Yoli are sisters. While on the surface Elfrieda’s life is enviable (she’s a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, and happily married) and Yolandi’s a mess (she’s divorced and broke, with two teenagers growing up too quickly), they are fiercely close — raised in a Mennonite household and sharing the hardship of Elf’s desire to end her life. After Elf’s latest attempt, Yoli must quickly determine how to keep her family from falling apart, how to keep her own heart from breaking, and what it means to love someone who wants to die.
“All My Puny Sorrows” is the latest novel from Miriam Toews, one of Canada’s most beloved authors — not only because her work is rich with deep human feeling and compassion but because her observations are knife-sharp and her books wickedly funny. And this is Toews at her finest: a story that is as much a comedy as it is a tragedy, a goodbye grin from the friend who taught you how to live.

 

Finding Zero: A Mathematician’s Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers by Amir D. Aczel

Design by Letre Libre

The invention of numerals is perhaps the greatest abstraction the human mind has ever created. Virtually everything in our lives is digital, numerical, or quantified. The story of how and where we got these numerals, which we so depend on, has for thousands of years been shrouded in mystery. Finding Zero is an adventure filled saga of Amir Aczel’s lifelong obsession: to find the original sources of our numerals. Aczel has doggedly crisscrossed the ancient world, scouring dusty, moldy texts, cross examining so-called scholars who offered wildly differing sets of facts, and ultimately penetrating deep into a Cambodian jungle to find a definitive proof. Here, he takes the reader along for the ride.

 

The Dream Maker by Jean-Christophe Rufin

Book design by Emanuele Ragnisco

Based on the true story of Jacques Coeur, The Dream Maker is the story of a Steve Jobs of the Middle Ages. Coeur was the King of France’s visionary First Banker who, with his tours of the Far East, his public criticism of the Crusades, and his efforts to develop trade and an operable financial system, contributed to bringing France out of darkness and toward the Renaissance and modernity. An adventure novel, a novel of ideas, and a moving love story.

 

Book descriptions courtesy of the individual publishers.

 

 

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