Some of you may know Hillary Carlip as the editor of the insanely good essay site Fresh Yarn or author of the memoir Queen of the Oddballs. Now, though, she has one of the most amazing photo books out I've ever seen. It's called A La Cart: The Secret Lives of Grocery Shoppers. It also makes an amazing gift, or inspiration if you write fiction (or nonfiction) because Hillary truly becomes these characters, not just through the use of a makeup artist, but through empathy, creativity, and imagination. From her introdoction: "On countless occasions I've been tempted to snatch lists right out of shoppers' hands--especially the woman at Whole Foods who was buying soy milk as she was breast-feeding her baby. But then it would lack teh mystery, the pleasure of getting to know these strangers, sight unseen, through their abandoned lists." The best part is that just when you think you've gotten to a favorite, you turn the page and there's another outrageous, stunning, hilarious or tender or WTF? or "I want to know them" moment. The photographs are by Barbara Green, and you can check out some related links here.
Also, for any writers out there: both of Hillary's book web sites are excellent models to follow, not necessarily to the letter, but they have everything you'd ever want to know about her or her books, in an easy-to-find find, fun layout. Probably because Hillary is also a web designer!
She's been collecting discarded shopping lists for a long time, and in the book, winds up impersonating all kinds of people. Please watch the trailer and an interview with her (in a grocery store!) from The Wall Street Journal. The book is truly stunning; she takes these relatively small lists and truly transforms herself into these characters (male and female), figuring out what makes them tick. It's creative, humorous, and will make you look at your neighbor's grocery cart in a whole new way.