Publishers usually move their coffee-table books to the marketplace in September, as a walk-up to the holiday gift-giving season. Sometimes, they make them available earlier.
These two examples of both are striking for different reasons.
"Claude Monet's Gardens at Giverny," text by Dominique Lobstein, photographs by Jean-Pierre Gilson (Abrams, $35, 136 pages; on sale Sept. 3): A number of photo-text books have documented the last years of the impressionist artist's life in a cottage in the village of Giverny, where he created a flower garden and a water garden that informed many of his paintings. This new book is among the best.
Readers are treated to incredible displays of lush gardens alive with colors, secluded lily pad-covered ponds, secret bridges, stone archways covered in vines, and benches hidden in the quiet woods.
Bonuses: revealing excerpts from Monet's diaries and commentary from other artists of the day, and a visual tour of Monet's restored-to-original cottage. Monet lived from 1840 to 1926.
"Wonders of Life: Exploring the Most Extraordinary Phenomenon in the Universe" by physicist Brian Cox (Harper Design, $29.99, 288 pages; available now): In dramatic color photos and illustrations, and erudite text, the author explores the question: What is life and where did it come from?
From outer space to the depths of the oceans, from life under the microscope to the great beasts of Earth, the journey is remarkable and educational. Included is the chapter "The Physics of a Killer," a detailed examination of the great white shark. Another fascinating section is "Eyes Wide Open," which details the workings of human and animal eyes. The book is the companion to the award-winning BBC documentary series of the same name.
Smell of chocolate boosts book sales
This just in: "Belgian researchers" at Hasselt University published the results of their "10-day experiment" in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. Bottom line: Bookstore patrons are "more likely" to browse the shelves longer and buy more romance novels if the store smells like chocolate. Make up your own punchline and insert here.
Joseph Heller story to be published
Whenever we hear from Strand Magazine managing editor Andrew Gulli, something interesting is involved. Gulli has a talent for finding and publishing lost short stories by famous authors including Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, Graham Greene and Ray Bradbury.
This time around, Gulli has published one by Joseph "Catch-22" Heller in the summer issue of Strand. He came across the story while doing research in the Brandeis University library.
"Almost Like Christmas" is about "a lynch mob that plans to hang an African American youth," Gulli said. "It's set in the South and was written just after World War II. It's suspenseful and very moving."
Why was it never published?
"My guess is the subject matter was too controversial at the time," Gulli said. "Or maybe Heller felt he should be writing war stories."
Look for Strand at Barnes & Noble and other bookstores ($6.95). To subscribe to the quarterly: (800) 300-6652 or www.strandmag.com.
Gulli and his sister, Lamia Gulli, are co-editors of "No Rest for the Dead," a serial by 26 A-list mystery writers (Touchstone, $24.99, 272 pages). They have donated the $250,000 in royalties to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Reader offers summer book titles
Bee reader Yolie McLaughlin of Woodland shares her summer reading list.
"I do most of my reading during the summer because my work keeps me super-busy," she emailed. "But if a favorite author comes out with a new book, I'll put down whatever I'm doing just to savor every single word on my Kindle. I'm anxiously awaiting Lee Child's latest, 'Never Go Back' (Sept. 3)." Child appeared for the Bee Book Club in November 2012.
"The Red Queen" by Philippa Gregory
"Under the Dome" by Stephen King
"Kill Zone" by C.J. Lyons
"Kiss Her Goodbye" by Robert Gregory Browne
"The 9th Girl" by Tami Hoag
"Six Years" by Harlan Coben
"A Dark Mind" by T.R. Ragan
"Flowertown" by S.G. Redling
"Unseen" by Karin Slaughter (who appeared for the Bee Book Club on July 11).
Books worth checking out
These titles recently crossed the desk:
"High Country Women" by Chris Enss (Riverbend, $12.95, 119 pages): Enss, of Grass Valley, is a screenwriter and author of 27 nonfiction Westerns. The latest is an homage to the women who helped shape Yosemite National Park.
"California Prose Directory: 2013" edited by Charles McLeod (Outpost19, $18.95, 408 pages): A diverse group of California writers offer views of the Golden State in 20 short stories and 16 essays.
"Nebula Awards Showcase: 2013" edited by Catherine Asaro (Pyr, $18, 380 pages): Each year, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America bestow their Nebula Award on writers who are the best in the two genres. These stories join some by winners of other sci-fi and fantasy awards (www.sfwa.org).
"Jane Austen's England" by Roy and Lesley Adkins (Viking, $27.95, 448 pages; on sale Aug. 15): Though Austen's books are remarkable for their wit, they also chronicled a British era. This nonfiction title examines culture and customs of the everyday world that surrounded the novelist.
"The Longest Road" by Philip Caputo (Henry Holt, $28, 320 pages): The Pulitzer Prize-winner hitched his Airstream trailer to his car and took off across the country, asking ordinary citizens from Key West to Alaska, "What unites us? What divides us?"
"Behind the Burly Q" by Leslie Zemeckis, with an introduction by burlesque legend Blaze Starr (Skyhorse, $24.95, 352 pages): Burlesque was once major performance art. Here, performers of the day take readers behind long-closed stage doors.
"Handling the Truth" by Beth Kephart (Gotham, $16, 224 pages): The author is a National Book Award finalist who has written five memoirs. Here, she takes readers on a tour of the hows and whys of memoir-writing.
"Down by the Bay" by Matthew Morse Booker (University of California Press, $29.95, 294 pages): A fascinating history showcasing characters and natural forces that shaped San Francisco Bay, the "oldest human settlement in the American West."
Three titles from Arcadia Press continue its "Images of America" series, which profiles small-town America through vintage photographs and text blocks ($21.99, 128 pages): "Sacramento's Capitol Park" by John E. Allen; "Locke and the Sacramento Delta Chinatowns" by Lawrence and Brian Tom; and "Towns of the Sacramento River Delta" by Philip Pezzaglia.
Book Den to sell 70,000 bargain titles
The Book Den warehouse will offer 70,000 bargain-priced used books, audiobooks, videos and records at its sale, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 3-4. The warehouse is at 8250 Belvedere Ave. in south Sacramento; (916) 731-8493, www.saclibrary.org.
LET US KNOW
If you have information on author appearances or other book-related special events, email it to email@example.com at least two weeks before the event. To read the online calendar, go to www.sacbee.com/books. Questions? Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128.
Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128. Follow him on Twitter @apierleonisacbe.