Christmas and a new year are just around the corner, which means book reviewers everywhere are releasing their literary “best of” lists for 2017. We do things a little differently at Bas Bleu. For starters, we don’t carry books in our catalog unless we think our readers will love them, value them, and enjoy sharing them with others. Plus, many of our books aren’t recently published titles; we love digging up old favorites or spying those literary gems that fly under the radar.
But though we love all of our books, some do resonate more strongly than others with individuals on our staff. Today in the Bluestocking Salon, Bas Bleu’s editors (that’s us above) are sharing a few of our personal favorites from our 2017 catalogs. These aren’t all of our top picks: We limited one another to two books and one non-book item, for the sake of space!
Christie Hall (CH)
The Secret Lives of Color: This book is a work of art! It’s gorgeously produced and jam-packed with fascinating bits of cultural history. I’ve always been intrigued by the names and nuances of the countless hues in the world. So when I read the quote on the opening page of The Secret Lives of Color (“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love colour the most.” – John Ruskin), I was both flattered and hooked!
The Lightkeepers: I was absolutely entranced by this atmospheric thriller. The harsh setting (the Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco) was fascinating—I loved the way nature itself had a powerful physical presence, as if it, too, was one of the main characters. The emotions (and/or detachment) of the characters (most of whom were scientists) really added to the complexity of the novel.
Collective Noun Tea Towel: I first glimpsed this clever tea towel at a gift show in the United Kingdom. Honestly, all it took was “a piddle of puppies” for me to be smitten! My library includes several books that list collective nouns for various groups of animals, and I’ve long admired the creativity of these words. “A paddling of ducks,” “a scurry of squirrels”—how perfectly charming!
Ann Gregory (AG)
Tisha: Intrigued by a customer recommending Tisha as one of her favorite books, I ordered the only copy I could find—a flimsy mass market version with tiny type and a terrible cover. Then I raced through the pages, breathlessly following the true adventures of the indomitable and immensely charming Anne Hobbs as she braved the Alaskan frontier as a teacher in the 1920s. I loved it so much that we approached the publisher about printing our own version of Tisha: a trade paperback with larger type and a pretty cover. It’s the perfect gift for anyone on your list, equally beloved by my high-school-aged niece and my aunt’s discerning book club.
Magpie Murders: At first I was wary of Magpie Murders, because of the mystery-within-a-mystery set up. I was afraid it would come off as hackneyed or tedious, but Anthony Horowitz handles it all masterfully. In fact, I found the fictional novel that the plot centers around to be great in and of itself, like some of the best of Agatha Christie! It’s a true treat for mystery fans.
Pretend Play Car Stickers: I love this clever reusable sticker set, and not just because my son got to model for our product shot! When big items are delivered to our house, my kids always get just as excited about the box as what’s inside of it. So they love these adorable decorations that turn any cardboard box into their own personalized roadster. And they’re already planning a “drive-in movie” play date, so I better stock up!
Katherine Giles (KG)
Darktown: Atlanta is the birthplace of Bas Bleu, current site of our editorial office, and hometown to several generations of my family. “The ATL” has a lot going for it, but there’s no denying it bears a deep stain when it comes to its history of race relations. I was first drawn to this crime novel by its main characters: two of the city’s first black police officers in the 1940s. What I found was an in-depth, thoughtfully researched, tightly plotted historical novel/murder mystery that takes an unflinching look at a devastating aspect of American history. (And on a lighter note, it was fun reading 1940s-era descriptions of the neighborhoods where our editors live and work today!)
Design for Dying: I’m rarely a fan of books that fictionalize real people, plus novels with co-writers can struggle to find a single voice. But this whodunit by husband-wife writing team “Renee Patrick,” starring legendary Hollywood costume designer Edith Head as one-half of an amateur crime-fighting team, damn near sparkles. Snappy dialogue, a brisk plot, hardnosed cops and seedy mobsters, celebrity cameos by Barbara Stanwyck and Bob Hope, deadpan humor—and at its heart, an unlikely friendship between two classic “dames,” narrator Lillian Frost and the aforementioned Edith Head. Reading Design for Dying felt like I was watching a 1930s silver-screen classic in my head!
“Never Underestimate a Well-Read Woman” Mug: Non-readers often view bookish folk as quiet, dreamy, and removed from the world. Avid readers know better. Yes, bibliophiles can be introverted and introspective, but we’re also intelligent and usually well-informed, with a deep interest in the varied peoples, cultures, and histories of our world. For me, this mug is a rousing daily reminder of the powerful influence thoughtful, informed readers can have on the world around us.
Sarah Madsen (SM)
Mrs. Houdini: This eerie and mysterious novel is brimming with the glitz and glamour of the Roaring Twenties, yet tinted with something a bit more dark and mystifying. I loved the atmosphere—from the seedy side of Coney Island and the tenements of New York, to the sparkling magic of old Hollywood and the grand palaces of Budapest—and the intriguing reinterpretation of Bess and Harry Houdini’s relationship, fraught with turbulent emotions and a deep, profound love that surpasses even death. This is a great read for anyone who likes their historical fiction spiced with a hint of the supernatural.
The World’s Greatest Detective: All the books for our Young Readers Book a Month 2018 package are amazing, but I particularly loved this novel by Caroline Carlson. It was a fun, twisty whodunit, and the protagonists, Toby and Ivy, two unlikely friends from completely different upbringings, are lovable in their wit and determination in the face of adversity. I’ll definitely be reading this one again!
“When in Doubt” Shirt: Not only does this shirt feature a fantastic motto (“When in doubt, go to the library”) from one of the best characters ever (Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series), it’s also crazy-soft and super-cute! It has quickly earned a spot in my regular wardrobe rotation, and the bold, sparkly gold print paired with the loose, feminine fit makes it fashionable as well as comfortable. I love it!
Don’t want to miss another post from The Bluestocking Salon? Sign up to receive our posts via email! Just scroll down past the comments section and you’ll see a space where you can enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts.