Shelf Awareness for Thursday, April 17, 2014
Banned Book to Be Distributed on World Book Night
After the Meridian, Idaho, school board removed The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie from the 10th-grade curriculum following complaints by some parents earlier this year, hundreds of students signed a petition to have the book returned. Then, according to Seattlepi.com, Sara Baker and Jennifer Lott organized a drive to buy a copy of Alexie's book for each of the 350 students who protested the ban. (They just announced they had hit their fund-raising goal of $3,000.) The pair has partnered with the Rediscovered Bookshop in Boise to buy the books, which they hope to distribute on World Book Night on April 23.
On its website, the Rediscovered Bookshop has designated The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian a "guaranteed read," saying, "We are so sure you're going to like this book that we GUARANTEE it! If you don't love it (extremely unlikely) bring it back--we'll give you a full refund in credit towards the purchase of a book of your choice.
"Alexie's National Book Award winner chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live. Includes poignant drawings that reflect the character's art."
Amazon: Stymied in Sweden; Sales Tax in Florida
Amazon's customers in Sweden "will have to wait it out to begin buying their discounted goods and books from Amazon.se" because the current owner of the domain name, a small businesswoman, "won't sell it, despite reports of repeated attempts from the retail giant to purchase it," Good E-Reader reported.
Amazon AB, an advertising agency in Stockholm, bought the domain in 1997, though it doesn't lead to a website. Good E-Reader noted that despite the domain setback, Amazon "has already been at work making headway into the region. The retailer recently inked a deal with a Scandinavian book distributor, Bokrondellen, to begin selling Swedish books through its other country-based domains. At this time, Swedish book customers can register through one of the other domains for book purchasing, despite Amazon's attempts to initiate a Swedish domain."
Closer to home, on May 1, Amazon will begin collecting Florida's 6% sales tax on purchases made in the state, the AP reported. Last year, Amazon, which is opening two warehouses in Florida, reached an agreement with Governor Rick Scott to begin collecting sales tax at an unspecified time.
Print Books vs. E-Books: Peaceful Co-existence
During a panel entitled "Printed Books vs. E-books" at the London Book Fair last week, David Taylor, senior v-p of content acquisition for Ingram Content Group, called the notion that print books are dead or dying "complete rubbish." Instead, they co-exist with digital books, and the two formats offer totally different "esthetic experiences," he said.
The panel, moderated by Sarah Juckes of the publishing platform So Completely Novel, also featured Patrick Neale, co-owner of Jaffe & Neale Bookshop and Cafe in Chipping Norton, U.K., and Amanda Renshaw, editorial director at Phaidon Press. It was part of the fair's "Authors HQ" track, meant to provide fledgling and aspiring writers some insight into the industry.
Renshaw agreed that print books are "very much alive and kicking." Although print and digital formats have their own strengths and weaknesses, devices, she said, have proven not great for illustrated material. She went on to present several very high-quality print books published by Phaidon that "you cannot create digitally." And despite the fact that the industry and book supply chains are undeniably changing, she is not pessimistic.
"People ask me if I'm nervous," Renshaw said. "I'm not. As a publisher and editor, my role is to curate content. It doesn't matter if it's on a page or a screen."
For his part, Neale said he believes that "physical books will be here for a really long time to come," and that e-books are simply another channel through which authors and publishers can reach readers. And with books being ubiquitous, what mattered was the experiences that customers have when buying them. The value of bookshops in today's world, then, comes from providing fantastic experiences that readers cannot find outside of bricks-and-mortar stores, whether they be author events and readings, serendipitous discoveries while browsing, or simply meeting and chatting with booksellers and with other customers.
"If you're just interested in getting the cheapest possible books, then okay, there's not a lot I can do," said Neale. But, he continued, he spends a "huge amount of time" finding amazing books to read and making that experience enjoyable. "It's about the experience. We have to work really hard on the experience we give our customers."
Ingram's Taylor also discussed how print books are changing, especially their means of production. The most significant change, he said, was the proliferation of print-on-demand technology. In the past, books that were out of print were effectively dead; print-on-demand is immensely valuable to booksellers in that it is "a great way of keeping books alive." Another result of the spread of print-on-demand is that many traditional publishers are cutting the amount of inventory that they're printing.
"[Publishers are] beginning to understand that what they have sitting in warehouses is bags of money," Taylor said. Printing books in one country and then shipping them around the world, he added, is no longer necessary; books can be printed on demand in specific markets. And the technology has become sophisticated enough, with full-color, quality print-on-demand books being a reality, that Ingram no longer specifically lists books as available through print-on-demand. "We simply say the book is available."
He also dismissed the idea that eventually print books may be bought only as trophies or fetish items. It would be a "pretty miserable existence," he said, "if people only bought books to hang them on their walls as trophies to their intellectual curiosity." --Alex Mutter
Obituary Note: Linda D. Pisenti
Linda D. Pisenti, co-owner of Jabberwocky Children's Book & Toys in Fredericksburg, Va., died on Sunday, April 13. She was 66. The Free Lance-Star had an obituary.
Image of the Day: Armond Goes to a Party
On Tuesday, Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul, Minn., hosted a launch party for Armond Goes to a Party (Free Spirit Publishing). Author/illustrator Nancy Carlson teamed up with 14-year-old Armond Isaak to co-author this picture book on Asperger's syndrome and friendship. The event drew more than 100 people to the store, and they purchased more than 200 copies of the book.
ABFFE's Chris Finan Wins Hefner First Amendment Award
Congratulations to Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, who has won a 2014 Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award. Sponsored by the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation, the awards honor "individuals who have made significant contributions in the vital effort to protect and enhance First Amendment rights for all Americans."
Winning in the law category, Finan was cited for "presenting key issues of the impact of the attacks of 9/11 on First Amendment rights to middle and high school students in his book National Security and Free Speech: The Debate Since 9/11 (IDEBATE Press, 2013)."
The awards will be presented on Tuesday, May 20, followed by a reception at the Knight Conference Center at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
PubWest Offering Two Summer Sessions for Pub Newbies
PubWest is offering two conferences this summer that aim to "develop new skills and techniques in book publishing professionals with one to five years experience in the field." Called PUB501, the sessions will be held June 19-20 at the University of Denver and June 26-27 at Portland State University.
The first-day program includes veteran panelists presenting an overview of publishing's four core functions, a lunch speaker who will offer a virtual tour of a book production facility, and intensive afternoon sessions focused on acquisitions, production/design and sales/marketing. The day ends with a plenary session at which real-life workplace problems will be presented and discussed. The second day attendees will divide into "publishing houses," each of which will tackle the same tasks, from author proposal, through contracting, production, marketing, sales and subrights. PubWest staff will mentor each group, and at the close of the session, the group will assess each company's approach to creating a successful title.
Attendees can deduct 50% of their registration fees from registration for PubWest's 2015 Conference in Pasadena, Calif. Attendees who have not been PubWest members will receive a free one-year membership. For more information and to register, please visit pubwest.org/pub501.
'The Phantom of the Maine State Library'
With its Strange States series, Mental Floss is on "a virtual tour of America to uncover the unusual people, places, things, and events that make this country such a unique place to call home." This week's quest was for the Phantom of the Maine State Library in Augusta. In 1991, staff members "wondered if there was a ghost among the aisles" after odd items began disappearing, refrigerators and candy machines "were nearly cleaned out, and a handwritten note of apology was left behind. As the thefts continued without any signs of a break-in, it became clear that someone was living in the library."
The mystery was finally solved when security guards discovered, "in a cramped crawlspace with barely five feet of overhead clearance and temperatures that reached nearly 100 degrees," 20-year old Andre Jatho, a former bookseller from Santa Clara, Calif., who had traveled to Maine looking for a better job.
Although he was charged with felony burglary and theft, "the people of Maine were impressed by his soft demeanor and ingenuity, and began to see him as a sort of folk hero." Ultimately, he was given a suspended $500 fine and had to serve 25 hours at the local elementary school as a reading tutor. Mental Floss noted that Jaho "wasn't able to parlay his local fame into lasting employment, and went back home to California a few months later."
Book Trailer of the Day: Walter Potter's Curious World of Taxidermy
Walter Potter's Curious World of Taxidermy by Pat Morris and Joanna Ebenstein (Blue Rider Press).
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Wendy Williams and Her New Romance Novel
This morning on CBS This Morning: David Baldacci, author of The Target (Grand Central, $28, 9781455521203).
This morning on the Today Show: Wendy Williams, author of Hold Me in Contempt (Morrow, $14.99, 9780062268419). She will also be on the View tomorrow.
Tomorrow morning on Fox & Friends: Steve Berger, author of Between Heaven and Earth: Finding Hope, Courage, and Passion Through a Fresh Vision of Heaven (Bethany House, $14.99, 9780764211676).
Tomorrow morning on CBS This Morning: Sonya Rhodes, author of The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match: How Today's Strong Women Can Find Love and Happiness Without Settling (Morrow, $25.99, 9780062309839).
Movies: God's Pocket
A new trailer is out for John Slattery's God's Pocket, based on Pete Dexter's novel, Indiewire reported. The film, which releases May 9, stars the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro and Christina Hendricks.
TV: Rosemary's Baby Trailer
The first trailer has been released for NBC's Rosemary's Baby, a "limited series" based on Ira Levin's 1967 novel. Deadline.com reported that although the project has "been billed as a back-to-basics adaptation... there's no getting around the long shadow cast by Roman Polanski's seminal film--star Zoe Saldana is even sporting a short haircut of her own. The one minute trailer... really plays up the cult aspects of the thriller and has Jason Isaacs looking positively smarmy." Agnieszka Holland (Treme, The Wire, The Killing) directs the miniseries, which premieres May 11.
This Weekend on Book TV: San Antonio Book Festival
Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.
Saturday, April 19
11:45 a.m. Book TV interviews authors and visits literary sites in Fort Myers, Fla. (Re-airs Sunday at 10:45 a.m.)
1 p.m. Coverage from the second annual San Antonio Book Festival, held April 5 at the Central Library and Southwest School of Art. (Re-airs Sunday at 12 a.m.)
7 p.m. Mallory Factor, co-author of Big Tent: The Story of the Conservative Revolution--As Told by the Thinkers and Doers Who Made It Happen (Broadside Books, $26.99, 9780062290694).
7:45 p.m. Gerald Felix Warburg, author of Dispatches from the Eastern Front: A Political Education from the Nixon Years to the Age of Obama (Bancroft Press, $25, 9781610880855).
8:45 p.m. Stephen Sestanovich, author of Maximalist: America in the World from Truman to Obama (Knopf, $28.95, 9780307268174).
10 p.m. Ezekiel Emanuel, author of Reinventing American Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act will Improve our Terribly Complex, Blatantly Unjust, Outrageously Expensive, Grossly Inefficient, Error Prone System (PublicAffairs, $26.99, 9781610393454). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m., Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)
Sunday, April 20
1 p.m. Book TV's College Series visits Duke University to interview Dan Ariely, author of The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves (Harper Perennial, $14.99, 9780062183613). (Re-airs Monday at 1 a.m.)
1:45 p.m. Also at Duke: Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, author of Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America (Rowman & Littlefield, $29.95, 9781442220553). (Re-airs Monday at 1:45 a.m.)
5:45 p.m. Terry Golway, author of Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics (Liveright, $27.95, 9780871403759).
7 p.m. Interviews from the 2014 Colby Military Writers Symposium. (Re-airs Monday at 4 a.m.)
10 p.m. Tim Townsend, author of Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis (Morrow, $28.99, 9780061997198), at Left Bank Bookstore in St. Louis, Mo.
11 p.m. Ann Scott Tyson, author of American Spartan: The Promise, the Mission, and the Betrayal of Special Forces Major Jim Gant (Morrow, $27.99, 9780062114983), at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Wash. (Re-airs Monday at 6 a.m.)
Books & Authors
Feline Inspiration: Catnapped!
When Elaine Viets's editor suggested she write about cats for the 13th installment in the Dead-End Job Mystery series, the author tried to sell her on other ideas instead--to no avail.
"I didn't want to write a silly cat novel," explained Viets. "But she was right. Cats are the new vampires. Cats can be interpreted in so many ways--funny, serious, mystical, practical, even magical realism." Her take on the theme is Catnapped! (NAL/Obsidian, $24.95, 9780451466303, May 6), which centers on the colorful world of show cats. When a south Florida socialite's pet goes missing at the same time a murder occurs, P.I. Helen Hawthorne goes undercover to find the kitty-napper and the killer.
Inspiration for the story came in part from Viets's cat companion, Mystery. Like Mystery, the missing feline in Catnapped! is a Chartreux, a French breed known for its thick gray coat and copper-hued eyes. Mystery is also the namesake of another show cat featured in the story, although in real life she was defrocked after just one outing for biting a judge and then put up for adoption. A drawing of Mystery adorns the front cover of Catnapped! Viets's other cat, Harry, a striped tabby and former stray, plays a part in her Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper series.
Viets turned to mystery writing after a 25-year career as a newspaper reporter and syndicated columnist. Then came "one of those rat years" when everything went wrong. Her husband was diagnosed with cancer, the stock market crashed and took the couple's savings with it, and the publisher for whom Viets had been writing a series cancelled its mystery imprint.
To help make ends meet, Viets took a job as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble. "I learned that people treat an underpaid clerk differently than someone making six figures," she said. "I kept track of the good and bad things in that job." She drew on her experiences for the second book in the Dead-End Job series, Murder Between the Covers, which takes place at a fictitious independent bookstore. The main character, Helen Hawthorne, loves the job but wishes--prophetically--that someone would murder her dreadful boss.
When the series began, Helen was on the run from her unfaithful ex-husband, to whom a judge had promised one-half of her future income. Rather than hand over a dime, she went on the lam and found employment wherever she could, taking a different low-paying job in every book. (Fellow mystery writer Tim Dorsey described the series as "Janet Evanovich meets The Fugitive.")
Described as a satiric look at a serious subject, the series spotlights minimum wage employment. For the first 10 books, Viets worked every job that Helen did, gathering material for the novels. "When I wore a hotel maid's smock, as I did in Murder with Reservations, or a clerk's name tag, as in Shop till You Drop, I wore a cloak of invisibility," she said. "No one saw or heard me, and they would say and do astonishing things, because the help doesn't exist."
Helen is no longer on the lam and co-owns a private investigation business, but Viets still does in-depth research on the jobs presented in the books (now undercover gigs for Helen). For Catnapped!, Viets worked with a director of the Cat Fanciers' Association and even learned how to wash long-haired show cats. "A cat bath starts with Goop--the hand cleaner--and includes two shampoos, a conditioner and, if it's a white cat, a blue rinse. Then the cats are dried with a special dryer," she explained. "I'm grateful I have self-cleaning cats."
Viets will share details about cat shows and show cats at the Malice Domestic convention in Bethesda, Md., on May 3. She is one of several authors participating on the panel "Behind the Curtain: An Inside Look at Unusual Settings." Other events include appearances at Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Mo., on May 8 and at Well Read Bookstore & Gallery in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.--Viets's home city--on May 16. A portion of the proceeds at both gatherings will benefit local no-kill animal shelters. Two paws up to that! --Shannon McKenna Schmidt
Awards: Eisner Comic Nominations; Chautauqua Finalists
Nominations for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards have been made in 30 categories. Winners will be celebrated at a gala ceremony on July 25 during Comic-Con International in San Diego.
Finalists have been selected for the 2014 Chautauqua Prize, which "draws upon Chautauqua Institution's considerable literary legacy to celebrate a book that provides a richly rewarding reading experience and to honor the author for a significant contribution to the literary arts." The winner, who will be announced in May, receives $7,500 and travel and expenses for a one-week summer residency at Chautauqua, the educational and cultural center in southwestern New York state. This year's shortlisted titles are:
A History of the Present Illness: Stories by Louise Aronson (Bloomsbury)
Sea of Hooks by Lindsay Hill (McPherson & Co.)
The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood by Roger Rosenblatt (Ecco)
My Foreign Cities by Elizabeth Scarboro (Liveright)
The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency by James Tobin (S&S)
Wash by Margaret Wrinkle (Grove Press)
Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week
Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, April 22:
A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren (Metropolitan Books, $28, 9781627790529) is the Massachusetts senator's memoir.
The Serpent of Venice: A Novel by Christopher Moore (Morrow, $26.99, 9780061779763) is a humorous tale of three Venetian plotters and a sea monster.
A Window on Eternity: A Biologist's Walk Through Gorongosa National Park by Edward O. Wilson, photographs by Piotr Naskrecki (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781476747415) explores Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique.
Otherwise Engaged by Amanda Quick (Putnam, $26.95, 9780399165146) follows the hunt for a killer in Victorian London.
Everything to Lose: A Novel by Andrew Gross (Morrow, $26.99, 9780061656002) is about a woman with a handicapped son caught in a conspiracy.
Struck by Genius: How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel by Jason Padgett and Maureen Ann Seaberg (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 9780544045606) chronicles the only known case of "acquired savant syndrome with mathematical synesthesia."
Review: Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932
Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose (Harper, $26.99 hardcover, 9780061713781, April 22, 2014)
In Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, veteran novelist Francine Prose (Blue Angel) channels Alan Furst and John le Carré while employing an impressive array of voices and literary styles to tell a vibrant story of thwarted ambition, love and betrayal in prewar Paris and in the early years of World War II.
Prose's novel follows the life of Lou Villars, a cross-dressing lesbian "born into the wrong life," tracing her downward spiral from successful young athlete and racecar driver to German spy and torturer. Lou sees herself as a modern Joan of Arc, but at critical moments in her life she suffers bitter disappointment or loss, finally leading her, in 1936, to a seat next to Adolf Hitler at a Berlin dinner table, where her fate is sealed.
While Lou's story is certainly an engaging spy thriller, through it Prose also delivers a thoughtful reflection on the "mystery of evil," as described by the sympathetic biographer whose account of Lou Villars's tragic life forms the novel's spine. Prose's expert touch renders each narrative voice distinct and vital: the biographer's chronicle of Lou; the collection of memoir excerpts (most entertaining among them that of Lionel Maine, a bawdy, cynical American journalist); and the letters of Gabor Tsenyi, the Hungarian-born photographer whose photograph of Lou and her bisexual lover gives the novel its title. Taken together, this chorus provides the depth, shading and variety that flow from narrators with widely differing reliability.
Prose's novel pulses with the heartbeat of real life, brimming with colorful characters as artists (including, notably, Pablo Picasso), petty forgers, Nazis and resistance fighters meet on the page. Though she originally conceived of the book as a work of nonfiction about Lou's real-life counterpart (racecar driver and Nazi spy Violette Morris), Prose abandoned that plan to give herself the inventive freedom fiction affords. Still, her careful attention to setting and period detail brings Paris and the chaotic World War II era to life. Over the course of the novel, the city, which qualifies as a character itself, moves from a place bursting with libertine energy in the prewar period to a nightmare existence under Nazi occupation after 1940.
It would be unfair to pigeonhole this novel into a particular genre, because its appeal so artfully blends multiple styles. It is a testament to Prose's considerable talent that she's able to execute such an ambitious work so flawlessly. --Harvey Freedenberg
Shelf Talker: Esteemed novelist Francine Prose has created a fascinating character study of a cross-dressing female racecar driver turned Nazi spy, inspired by a real Frenchwoman.
Top-Selling Self-Published Titles
The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by IndieReader.com:
1. The Fixed Trilogy by Laurelin Paige
2. Two Old Fools on a Camel by Victoria Twead
3. Broken Dreams by Kelly Elliott
4. Alphas After Dark Boxed Set by Various
5. Shocking True Story by Gregg Olsen
6. Hardwired (The Hacker Series) by Meredith Wild
7. Ask More, Get More by Michael Alden
8. Reasonable Doubt by Whitney Gracia Williams
9. Rebelonging by Sabrina Stark
10. The Memory Child by Steena Holmes
[Many thanks to IndieReader.com!]