Anthony Ascione is one of our booksellers and someone you might recognize from his frequent TV appearances. He's the one who gets roped into appearing in interviews for Brilliant Books because he's just so good on camera! Must be all his theatre experience—if he's not at the bookstore, chances are good he's involved in one of the productions at The Old Town Playhouse just a few blocks from the bookstore!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a queer artist and forensic anthropologist/archaeologist who spent a decade traveling the world before returning to Northern Michigan where I was born and raised. In my spare I am active in local theatre, I hang out with my rescue Newfoundland named Martial, and I also appear weekly on 9&10's lifestyle program "The Four" where I recommend new and interesting books you may have missed.
What's the quirkiest job you've ever had?
The quirkiest job I ever had was making memes and doing social media at I Can Has Cheezburger back in the heyday of internet humor websites. They paid me to do things like throw eggs at a coworker or look at pictures of dogs all day and I got lots of cool t-shirts.
How many states have you lived in?
I have lived in Michigan (both peninsulas), Texas, Seattle, and Montana. I've also spent extended time in Maine, Spain, and Poland for work.
What's your favorite thing about being a bookseller?
My favorite thing (aside from the free books!) is seeing what people read. You can gain incredible insights into someone's personality based on the titles they do and do not choose.
What would you be doing if you weren't a bookseller?
If I weren't a bookseller I would likely be in grad school in Australia right now studying biological anthropology at Australia National University.
Tell us about meeting a favorite author
I met Jane Goodall at a signing event in Seattle once. I hugged her and thanked her for everything she's done. She hugged me back and said "thank you for everything you're going to do." Probably one of the most perfect moments of my life.
This novella, written in the style of traditional Chinese “wuxia” or “martial heroes” fiction, is an utter delight. A bandit walks into a bar and meets a nun and both their lives are changed forever. This is another one to try on libro.fm for an excellent audio experience. —Anthony
This radical, new translation by Maria Dahvana Headley turns everything you think you know about Beowulf on its head. A story of a hero’s glory and a mother’s thirst for revenge, this one is best enjoyed on libro.fm for the true experience of listening to an oral tale told in a smokey mead hall. —Anthony
Tamsyn Muir’s explosive sequel to Gideon the Ninth is one of the most confusing and brilliant things I have ever experienced. All the action and mystery and magic skeletons from the first book, but wrapped in a puzzle so cunning that it took me several read-throughs (and more than one listen to the audiobook) to finally wrap my head around it. —Anthony
What if a scholar found lost scriptural evidence of Jesus having a wife? What if she presented those findings to the Vatican? What if it turned out to all be an elaborate forgery? These questions and more are answered in one of my very favorite reads of 2020, and my only non-fiction pick on this list. —Anthony
The origin story you never knew you needed but always wanted. In a world of vigilante superheroes sometimes the only way to survive is to be a henchman for an evil corporate CEO. After all, a boss with a mind-control device is a small price to pay for health insurance, right? —Anthony
When popular mystery author Harriet Vane's fiance dies under circumstances that exactly match the plot of her latest book, she must team up with the famous gentlemen detective Lord Peter Wimsey to clear her name and escape execution by hanging. This classic Dorothy Sayers novel not only introduced the character of Harriet Vane, it also began one of literature's most famous romances. —Anthony
Ok, I know what you're thinking; "but Anthony, this is a KID'S book." Bear with me though, because this Newbery Medal Honor Book is worth your attention. Six fox kits listen to six tales of increasing terror to try to prove their bravery to themselves and each other. Illness, abusive family, and a mad (but familiar!) taxidermist are just some of the horrors in these six interconnected stories. Read it in the dark, but make sure you've got a flashlight. —Anthony
Gideon Nav spends her time reading trashy magazines, training with her longsword, and attempting to escape not only her indentured servitude but also her childhood enemy the Reverend Daughter Harrowhark Nonagesimus, necromancer and Heir to the House of the Ninth. She finally sees her chance when the Emperor invites all eight house heirs to take part in a mysterious contest and she must act as Harrowhark's devoted bodyguard. Success means Harrowhark becomes a saint and Gideon is free. Failure means they both die in horrible, bloody ways. No problem, right? Sarcastic, fantastic, and just a bit pulpy, Tamsyn Muir is like the goth little sister of Neil Gaiman and Garth Nix. —Anthony
When Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley met five years ago, it was love (and engagement) at first sight. Now it's five years into their marriage and they have not spoken to each other for the last four after an argument puts them at odds and neither refuses to back down. To break their stalemate, Violet decides to pretend she has consumption and hires an actor to play her doctor. Unfortunately, James sees through the ruse at the very first and what results is nothing short of delightful in this historical romantic comedy. If you're a fan of Jane Austen or the Brontes, but always thought their writing and plots to be a bit too stuffy, this is the read for you! —Anthony
Millie Binstead wants nothing more than to accompany Stan, her academic husband, on a research trip to Africa. Stan is reluctant, but can't protest when Millie offers to pay her own way. Once they are out of the country, Millie blossoms, going from mousy and subservient to the most interesting and beautiful woman in the room, much to Stan's confusion and chagrin. Content to leave Stan to his research, Millie stays at camp, learns to paint, and gets the dish on all the safari gossip including lion attacks and trysts in hot air balloons. Ingalls tackles race, gender, anthropology, and (of course) unconventional romantic pairings in this delightfully witty, and at turns quite cutting, novel. —Anthony