Military History January; Headcount February?

Happy New Year!

In January, 89% of Wine Country Books sales were military history books. H’m, wonder what social currents are at play at this time? Train! Prepare! Be ready!

Our first sale of February is a book of essays analyzing the way African Americans have historically been portrayed in photography.

‘Tis the season when we remember that the history and current reality of our nation, our communities, our personal lives, rests on rather poor representation for Americans who did not win the demographic lottery.

One of the low risk – high yield things we can do to ease the divisions and harm done in American society is actively seek out narratives from people we don’t hear from or see much in mainstream media.

It goes hand in hand with doing the headcount, another easy step those of us distressed about injustice can take to start getting acquainted with the who what why.

Caveat! Diversity does NOT mean equality. I am just talking about gathering information over time.

I know the in-person headcount is kind of tough when many of us live in bubbles of people pretty much exclusively just like us.  That is our bellwether that something is wrong.

Perhaps we have “that one friend” or coworker who is in a wheelchair, or aged, or of African or other nonwhite descent, or dealing with loss, chronic illness, mental health issues, gay, name it. Here’s why this is not as helpful as we might think. That one unique person cannot, does not, and probably is sick to death of people asking / expecting them to, embody or speak for the experience of the larger group.

Perhaps we were raised to see people as people. Perhaps we ourselves have struggled with poverty, with abuse by institutions or persons of power in our lives, or even attack or abuse by people from one of those groups. But humanity is humanity, and we have forgotten that, somehow, and regressed into biologically programmed behaviors without examining those behaviors’ impact on ourselves and those in other walks of life.

So you can do the headcount in a low risk, high yield way, too.

Begin to notice – how much of the news and entertainment we consume features authors, characters, or narratives about and created by people who are different from us?

If a particular group- people over 50. Women (in leadership roles or college or pro athletics, this is big). People of native, indigenous, African or Latin descent. People with chronic illness, a difference in processing or physical difference, differently oriented people- is x% of the population of a city or state or nation,  shouldn’t they be getting, at minimum, x% of representation, jobs, publication, money in the media we consume, the people we hire, the people we elect to represent us, the businesses we buy from?

It takes time to absorb. And it is easy to misstep. This is because cognitive dissonance  – constantly moving goalposts regarding okay / not okay, constant difference between the dominant narrative and what individuals experience – is the rule, the very foundation of American society for so long. Divided, a few of us stand and thrive, and the rest of us fall. And some of us have been falling generation after generation after generation.

Watch. Read. Notice. Question- do your research. You’d be surprised how much you can learn just by typing your question into Google. I got the best stuff, for example, when I typed in “Why aren’t these jokes funny?”

Synthesize or assimilate information for yourself. Take your time. Best wishes and happy reading.




Leave a comment

Filed under 1940s, African, American, Antiquarian, military, social currents

Wine Country Images: Inglenook formerly Niebaum formerly Coppola

Obsession! Not just books – another retro passion, 120mm film photography. Want your own little piece of Wine Country?

Grab your own wine countryana at our Wine Country Images Shop on Zazzle, like this 8 x 8 inch print on wood

Leave a comment

Filed under art, photos, travel, wine country

Wine Country Images – Holiday Card

Obsession! It isn’t just books, it is another retro passion – 120 mm film cameras. Snowstorm in the Sierra Pines, Tahoe, black and white, copyright Kim Wilson Owen

Contact us at winecountrybooksnapa at gmail for a custom print, or take a look at some of our beauties on zazzle, where you can get this photo reproduced in graceful silver foil or more straightforward black and white on your own holiday cards:


Leave a comment

Filed under art, Christmas, photos, Shop, the holidays, winter

Weathering Winter

 Winter is coming.

For koselig (“cozy” in Norwegian ) armchair vintage travel dreams on long winter evenings- beautiful black and white and color illustrations of 1958 Norway landscapes wildlife and outdoor life.

As a special bonus, the dinner menu for the Norwegian American Line’s North Cape Balkan Summer Cruise, Thursday August 7th 1958, is laid in.



email us at winecountrybooksnapa at gmail.

Complimentary copy from the Norwegian American Line North Cape-Baltic Summer Cruise, M/S Bergensfjord, Thursday August 7 1958. Large folded dinner menu card laid in. Owner name on front end paper. Color or black and white photos on every page. Linen textured and glossy pages are toned and foxed but clean and tight. Orange cloth cover with gilt flower stamp on front is clean and bright. Dust jacket has edge wear chips creases and soiling.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1950's, Antiquarian, ephemera, travel

I just finished The Bone Clocks

I loved The Bone Clocks. That’s the short answer.

The long answer:

I have done a lot of travelling lately, which means not a lot of booksellng, but a lot of reading. To my shame, it also means not a lot of use of one of my other Great Passions, the Public Library. I’ve been reading everything on the Kindle app on my Great Big Phone. Which means that, to my shame:

1. I paid for books when the public library has them available to all, for free. I feel so dirty.

2. I can’t lend my copy to a friend.

But needs must, or whatever.

[Actually I am a huge fan of Amazon, for many very real reasons, many to do with the future of commerce or their ruthlessly customer-centric business model, and of course not least of those reasons is that without Amazon I would not be a bookseller. I love you, Amazon. I have to put it out there. But that’s a tale for another day.]

When drifting here and there across the American Southeast for 3 of the last 7 months and re entering Wine Country exhausted and completely disorganized but, one hopes, for a few solid travel free months, one needs something to read, and can’t carry heavy books, and can’t just stop at every public library along the way.

Inability to use every public library in every state in the nation is a shame of national proportions. Maybe that’s something I need to work on in my spare time- reciprocal lending in all 50 states and the territories. H’m. Can’t go there now though.

Something else I probably need to learn is how to use the free e book downloads my public library provides. I have always been proud of myself for being one of those early adapters. How can I have missed out on this? It’s something I advocated for in my previous life as a librarian. I am not getting old. I am not, I am not, I am not.  I have to make this right.

Anyway, The Bone Clocks.

This was my first David Mitchell, and I don’t think I could possibly love any of his other books as much as I did this one, so I don’t think I will read any more.

People complained of how it wandered between narrators, that the characters weren’t compelling enough and it was too much to keep up with and – whatever. It looks to me like much of what irritated people is just Mitchell’s current mode of storytelling. That’s what he does. You like it or you don’t.  That’s why it’s smart to get your contemporary fiction book free at the public library or borrow a paper copy from a friend, people. Then you’re not out any money. [But see above- I love Amazon. I do. Just saying…] I happened to love it, and hated to put it down until I finished it.

You can read all sorts of reviews on Amazon. I am not going to retell the story here or hit any highlights. I did find it a teeny tiny bit of a slog, for about sixty seconds here and a couple of minutes there, wading through subsequent narratives by different characters, but it was all worth it in the end, and if it didn’t hang together I didn’t notice. Your mileage may vary.

What I loved about it was that Mitchell invented a whole new (to me) narrative of the epic struggle between good and evil. That is just beyond difficult. He also explores why people might make the ‘wrong’ choice with a light touch. I appreciated that. And the reader sees that ‘doing the right thing’ is sometimes just putting one foot after the other, even when it doesn’t look good, when one is hurting and afraid, but that love- for comrades, for family, even for that old flame that died before it had a chance to burn- is a powerful, powerful motivator. I loved Holly Sykes, but I loved several of the other characters who made up this very satisfying tapestry as well.

Favorite quote? It’s 2039 or so in a teeny tiny village in Ireland and the mad consumerism of today has led to the savage dystopia of the near future. Oh, come on, you can’t possibly call that a spoiler. We all know it’s coming. Stop it. So there’s no fuel or electricity, there’s little food or medical care and even less internet connectivity with loved ones or the outside world, and there are so many bigger fish to fry when it comes along. I can’t go and look it up, but the essence is that there’s a proven link between bigotry and poor spelling. HAH!

If only giggling at poor spelling were enough to right the injustices of this world. And of course spelling snobbery helps no victim of bigotry and is in fact be its own species of bigotry. But still, thanks for that, Mitchell.

So. Bone Clocks. I loved it. If you try it, I hope you do too.

Leave a comment

Filed under contemporary fiction, reviews, what I'm reading

Pnin and Nabokov and his Butterflies.

Nabokov's Butterflies and Pnin

Nabokov’s Butterflies and Pnin

I never really ‘got’ Nabokov. I knew as a literature major I should. I just couldn’t.

At the ripe old age of eighteen or so I identified intensely with the narrator of Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground. I still do. And that was simply where I stopped with Russian Literature, forever and amen.

Recently a friend had the sad honor to act as executor for a former Park Ranger and biology teacher. She brought me the last of his personal effects, his books, to look through.

Among them I first found Pnin in an innocent looking paperback and set it aside for myself to read. It looked an approachable, non-intimidating Nabokov. Then I could claim to have at least read one.

Pnin hooked me from the first page with his idiosyncratic dress, his strong sense of what must be true at all odds with what is actually happening around him, his ineffectual life present life so deeply rooted in a rich, lost past, his challenged English, his rich sense of humor. Pnin is doing things po amerikanski (the American way), telling his life story in a nutshell- a coconut shell. Pnin, “to make a long story very short [one of the few English expressions he can use semi correctly]: habitated in Paris from 1925, abandoned France at beginning of Hitler war. Is now here. Is American citizen. Is teaching Russian and such like subjects at Vandal [Waindell] College (35).” This fiftyish professor reminded me of a nattily-attired old Latin American Literature professor from my university years and stole my heart.

Later I found Nabokov’s Butterflies, a substantial hardback collection of letters, biographical essays and photographs. September 27 1945 he wrote to Edmund Wilson from Cambridge Massachusetts “I am doing the same things I was doing last year: dissecting butterflies at the Museum and teaching Russian to girls in Wellesley… The urge to write is something terrific but as I cannot do it in Russian I do not do it at all…”

Thank heaven Nabokov later managed to write in English.

These endless details, these tremendous run on sentences are an example to us all.

According to Wikipedia Pnin is supposed to be narrated by the unreliable Vladimir Vladimirovich N___ and Professor Pnin based on an unfavorable and humorous character study of a real professor Nabokov knew at Cornell. But for me Pnin and Nabokov are each other-both ever  wanderers, both teaching at the college level, both passionate thinkers, both with names which will forever and ever be mispronounced by all posterity.

Nabokov couldn’t possibly have produced the humor and compassion of this funny and sad character without somehow seeing himself in Pnin’s shoes- or, to be more precise, “His sloppy socks… of scarlet wool with lilac lozenges; his conservative black oxfords [which] had cost him about as much as all the rest of his clothing…” [ I am a sock and shoe person myself. I wear only smartwools and own 3 pairs of one or two hundred dollar shoes instead of dozens of cheap shoes.]

I understand that Pnin, ever the refugee, ends up drifting again at the end, but reappears in Pale Fire, so Pale Fire is next on my list. Perhaps I won’t claim or bother to ‘get’ Nabokov, but what a joy Pnin is, and I look forward to learning what else Nabokov’s discerning, richly detailed, emotionally searching, gently ridiculing, ultimately unreliable narrator has to offer.

Meanwhile I have Nabokov’s Butterflies here for you, a very nice gently used edition for $25 plus 3.99 media mail shipping. winecountrybooksnapa at gmail.

Best wishes, and happy reading.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1950's, Biography, illustrated

The Rise and Destiny of the German Jew

The Rise and Destiny of the German Jew 1934 Union of American Hebrew Congregations

According to a review in Foreign Affairs, April 1935,

scholarly account of the Jews since 1871, the author maintaining that they will stay in Germany and adjust themselves to new conditions.


Text block is darkened with age. Black cloth cover is lightly faded but overall clean and clear with silver gilt and red stylized stamped round motifs relevant to Jews in Germany in 1934- swastika, menorah, industry, burning at the stake. Former owner bookplate on front end paper. Text block lightly darkened with time otherwise tight and clean. Corners lightly bumped with two corners beginning to fray.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1930's, Antiquarian, Germany, History, Judaica