Mandi Harris is the self-proclaimed “fiction fashionista” at the University of Oregon Duck Store. She started there in the book department while she was an English major at the university—and has been slinging books for four years. “Being surrounded by books and working alongside people who love them has made me extremely spoiled,” she says. “Plus, I have become entirely dependent upon advance reading copies. I’d be in the depths of despair if I couldn’t get my hands on them anymore.” You can check out “Mandi’s Reads” at literaryduckblog.org. We’re especially fond of her literary pairings (Louisa May Alcott with Janis Joplin and pickles, for instance, or Flannery O’ Connor with The Carter Family and mint julips).
What’s the best part about The Duck Store in summer? Campus is much less crowded with most students gone, so it’s easier for community members to come visit us. There is a lot more parking, which is always a hot commodity in the downtown and campus areas. Also, even though there is rampant construction happening all around us, we are still here seven days a week, and the book floor is an air-conditioned sea of tranquility. Do not fear the construction! Come visit us!
What books are you excited about selling right now? Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward is my number one summer recommendation. It is the most fun I have had with a book in a long time. I have been hand-selling Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey like crazy. Jasper is my author crush. If he weren’t married, I would move to Wales and pursue an epic romance with him. Also, since it first came out three years ago, I have been foisting The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson on anyone who gets near me. I tend to compare books to food, and The Gargoyle is a prime rib dinner with all the fixins! I’m captivated by this tale of a porn star who has lost the most important ‘tool’ of his trade and how he finds redemptive love with a woman claiming to be seven-hundred-years old. It is made romantic by how much it resists falling into the clichés of traditional romances.
So you’re heading on vacation, what three books will you take? For a good re-read, I would bring The Eight by Katherine Neville. The Eight has everything necessary in a beach read: international adventure, romance and chess. I am dying to read Whatever Gets You through the Night, which is Andrei Codrescu’s retelling of the Arabian Nights. I just finished Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and it was absolutely astounding. People are calling it a blend of Harry Potter and Water for Elephants. It’s one of those books where you are completely immersed in a strange and wondrous new world.
If you could take three Northwest authors with you, who would you take? Willy Vlautin, the author of Lean on Pete, among other titles. Although I doubt he remembers me as anything but an overly energetic fangirl, I have met him at a couple of his readings. He is charming, talented and wears flannel. What’s not to love? (Seriously, I think I might actually be in love with him.) Cherie Priest because she and I could dress up in Steampunk fabulousness and play pretend as 19th century butt-kicking, adventure-addicted heroines. Number three would be Bill Sullivan. He shares my same passion for Oregon. We could talk about the state’s history, how Bigfoot is very real and make predictions about when The Big One will hit.
We love your literary pairings on your store’s blog. Will you recommend a few for us? I believe that reading should be a multisensory experience. This is why on my blog, I always suggest perfect (in my opinion) pairings for each book. Here are three summer must-reads and their corresponding aural and gastronomical counterparts:
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson. In this mystery, the protagonist wakes up each morning as a single young woman in her twenties. However, after she takes in her surroundings, she discovers that she is, in fact, a married woman in her forties. The stranger beside her tells her that he is her husband and that she has amnesia. Her brain resets itself each night, so she has no memory of the past twenty years. At first, she trusts what she is told. When she discovers a journal in which she has been recording her days, she realizes that the truth is more sinister. It’s not highbrow literature by any means, but it’s a fun, engrossing, quick read. Reads well with: Who Are You by The Who and vodka lemonade.
The Knot Ultimate Wedding Lookbook by Carley Roney. I am not engaged, nor do I have a boyfriend. However, after watching both of my best friends get married in the last two months, I do have wedding fever. This lookbook is a visual delight, and I may end up marrying myself (or Willy Vlautin, hint hint) just so I can have a wedding as stunning as those featured. Reads well with: Louis Armstrong and a Costco-sized cheesecake.
The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger. Years of romantic comedies have led me to believe that the quirky, slightly off-kilter girl always gets the guy. I’m still waiting for that to be reflected in reality. In the meantime, I rely on romantic comedy steampunk novels like the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, which feature the main character Alexia Tarabotti. She is a preternatural, which means that she has no soul. This makes her quite powerful in her world, for when she makes physical contact with supernatural vampires and werewolves, her lack of soul cancels out their excess soul and their power. This causes her no small amount of danger, intrigue and romance with a very surly werewolf (of course he’s surly: he’s a romance novel love interest). Reads well with: Aretha Franklin and crème brûlée.
When you’re not doing anything else, what’s your favorite section of The Duck Store to hang out in and why? My friends in the Creative Duck (The Art and School Department) are so good to me! They know what a shopaholic I am and know what I love, so I get phone calls from them taunting me about the newest merchandise, from handcrafted decorative paper to the most stylish and irresistible tchotchkes. So a lot of my paycheck goes straight back into The Duck Store.
What’s on your summer soundtrack? The Civil Wars, Chris Pureka, and Joni Mitchell for lazy, lemonade drinking days at home. Classic rock for road trips, especially Queen, The Eagles, and Tom Petty. Adele, Aretha Franklin and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals for getting ready for a night out on the town.