Shelf Awareness for Thursday, December 10, 2009


Minotaur Books: The Saboteur by Andrew Gross

St. Martin's Press: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Candlewick Press: Timmy Failure: The Cat Stole My Pants (Timmy Failure #6) by Stephan Pastis

ReedPOP: BookExpo America (BEA)

Counterpoint: The Widow Nash by Jamie Harrison

Soho Crime: Murder in Saint-Germain (Aimee Leduc Investigation #17) by Cara Black

Quotation of the Day

Going Rogue's 'State-of-the-art Insights into the Book Trade'

"What interests me here are some of the lessons that the Palin book provides about publishing: speed-to-market, pricing, means of delivery, and promotion. They offer state-of-the-art insights into the book trade at its most commercial end at the start of another decade."--Peter Osnos, founder and editor-at-large of PublicAffairs, in a piece for the Atlantic, "Sarah Palin, the Book Business and the American Dream."

 


Sterling Children's Books: Mango Delight by Fracaswell Hyman, illustrated by Frank Morrison


News

Indie Booksellers and the Digital Transition

At yesterday's webinar called "Indie Booksellers and the Digital Transition: Opportunity Knocks?," sponsored by Digitalbookworld, topics ranged from the "fairy dust" and "magic" that independent bookstores possess to the nuts-and-bolts (and challenges) of selling digital books.

Concerning the recent news that major publishers plan to hold off on releasing e-book versions of new hardcovers, Patrick Brown, director of Internet marketing at Vroman's, Pasadena, Calif., pointed out, "Book customers are not the same as print customers at this point; I don't see this as preserving hardcover sales for us. We have to think about where book pricing is going." Stephanie Anderson, manager of WORD in Brooklyn, N.Y., agreed, adding, "Readers just want to read a book; if it's not available in the format they want, they'll read another book. They probably won't remember it when the e-book shows up. When a book comes out in paperback, there's a store display; I don't see that for e-books." She noted that small stores like hers just don't have room for such displays.

What about bundling: would packaging a print book with an e-version have value? moderator Debbie Stier, senior v-p, digital marketing director, at HarperStudio, asked. Bridget Warren, former co-owner of Vertigo Books in College Park, Md., replied, "At this time of year, people are looking for a physical book to give. Getting an e-book with would be a plus, upselling." Patrick said, "Bundling would work if it offered something special. Finding an elegant way to sell [e-books] is important." This led back to an essential issue: pricing.

Anderson said, "If a hardcover is $25, and you sell a hardcover plus e-book for $28, people will get the idea an e-book is worth only $3." Patrick continued, "E-books are worth what people will pay for them. Some people will pay more. But it doesn't make sense to me that they must all cost the same. Price [the e-version] at $16.99 when the hardcover comes out, and then drop it as demand changes--dynamic pricing. You can't treat digital product the same as print product. Experiment with pricing as the music business has done. Not all print books cost the same." But Warren cautioned, "From a bookseller perspective, it could be difficult to communicate price changes." Anderson agreed, saying, "As manager of a very small store, it has to be really simple. I'd love to try, but not if every publisher does it differently. In theory, I love the idea, but in practice...."

A good part of the conversation centered on the concept of the bookstore as the Third Place--a center for community. Brown said, "We always look for ways to bring people into the store and participate, to share their passion for books." Warren added, "One of our best events was when a well-known poet cancelled, but 85 people stayed and we sold a ton of books."

It's hard to create that sense of community online, Stier commented. Anderson pointed out, "Social media is a way to remind people of how wonderful it is to actually be in the store." "We need to focus on things we can do that software can't--focus on books as objects; limited editions; exclusivity with independent publishers; partnering with the local community," Brown suggested. Warren agreed: "We're part of the fabric of community, we need to do anything we can to strengthen that."

Wrapping up, Stier asked, "What can publishers do to help indies?" Warren suggested, "Integrate sales so the reps we know and trust sell e-books. Publishers need to make sure their reps are comfortable selling e-books, and ease pricing disparity for indies." Anderson wished for "Better communication, more openness, more back and forth. We have the same goal: we want people to buy good books." Brown said, "Publishers [need to] recognize how important we are to the ecosystem. Shelf space is advertising space."--Robin Lenz

 


Switch Press: Sucktown, Alaska by Craig Dirkes


Notes: HarperCollins to Delay E-Books; Elliott Bay on the Move

HarperCollins became the third major publisher in two days to make the decision to delay e-book publication of selected titles in 2010. Simon & Schuster and Hachette had made a similar announcement earlier (Shelf Awareness, December 9, 2009).

Brian Murray, CEO HarperCollins, told the Wall Street Journal that beginning in January or February, the publisher "will delay the e-book publication of five to 10 new hardcover titles each month. The delays are expected to range from four weeks to six months, depending on the book."

"We're going to experiment with this," Murray said. "Each new e-book represents a potential new marketing opportunity at a time when we need every possible hook to get consumer attention."

The Journal also reported that John Makinson, Penguin Group's CEO, is monitoring the current situation. "We may undertake trial pricing, and defer publication from time to time, but we won't systematically delay the publication of e-books," he said.

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Elliott Bay Book Co., Seattle, Wash., has found space in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and will move from Pioneer Square next spring, according to a letter from owner Peter Aaron on the store's website.

The new space has slightly more selling space than the store's current location, will have a cafe and offers ample parking below street level and in a nearby parking lot. The building, which dates from 1918, "has the fir floor--complete with creaks--we're used to treading, and gorgeous high wood ceiling--including massive wood beams--and skylights," Aaron wrote. "While no space could exactly duplicate the charm of the original store, I can promise that the new building will offer a warm, comfortable and cozy environment that will be true to the beautiful place Walter Carr founded on Main Street."

He added: "When I first became involved in the ownership of Elliott Bay eleven years ago, it was because I believed fervently that this gem, which had been 'my' bookstore since I first moved here twenty-seven years ago, was worth saving--that it was a precious asset that must and, in fact, could flourish in this city--if anywhere on earth. Since that time I have done my best to be a faithful steward in preserving both the spirit and the body of this unique place which has been built and nourished cooperatively by the generations of booksellers who have worked here over the years and the book-lovers who have supported us--here in Seattle, across the country and indeed around the world. I'm inexpressibly grateful for that ongoing support--and most especially for the outpouring of concern and commitment we've received in recent months. We're committed to doing everything in our power to continue to earn your patronage and support."

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy says non to Google. During a public roundtable meeting this week, Sarkozy "said digitisation of books would be one of the projects financed by a planned national loan, which is due to pump billions of euros into strategic investments in 2010," according to Reuters.

"We won't let ourselves be stripped of our heritage to the benefit of a big company, no matter how friendly, big or American it is," he observed without mentioning Google by name. "We are not going to be stripped of what generations and generations have produced in the French language, just because we weren't capable of funding our own digitisation project."

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In the wake of this week's closing announcement by Lambda Rising (Shelf Awareness, December 7, 2009), Project Q Atlanta cautioned: "Never take ATL's Outwrite, Charis for granted.... Stop and imagine what gay Atlanta would be like without the shelves and shelves of LGBT-specific books, not to mention the core LGBT meeting places provided by Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse and Charis Books & More."

"When you support an independent business, a gay business, a gay bookstore, it puts more than the dollars back into the community," said Outwrite's owner, Philip Rafshoon. "Our staff is passionate about what they do, and passionate about the community. They believe not just in independent bookstores, but in building a strong community here."

Sara Look, co-owner of Charis, observed, "As a lesbian-owned feminist bookstore, we’re going to find specialized books that others simply don't have or are hard to find. Even as big-name publishers are starting to print LGBTQ titles, it doesn't mean the chains aren't stocking them."

Both stores emphasize the importance of community, even in the social networking world. "Take away the gay bookstores, bars and newspapers, and you’re stuck with the Internet," Rafshoon said, adding that Internet users are still alone when they’re on the computer.

"Shopping local, shopping gay businesses, shopping gay bookstores puts strength in the community that is tangible and recognizable. Case closed," Rafshoon concluded.

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A profile of Robin's Books and Moonstone Arts Center, Philadelphia, Pa., in the Hawk--Saint Joseph's University's student newspaper--called the city's "oldest independent bookstore still committed to open exchange of ideas, despite financial troubles."

Larry Robin, who owns the bookshop that was opened in 1936 by his grandfather, said his business has been affected by all the usual suspects, including online retailers, but "he'll continue finding new ways to keep the language and ideas flowing until he dies."

Paul Hogan, used and remainder book buyer for Robin's Books, observed that Robin "is a principled and very stubborn man who has kept the bookstore, and all the events and programs, alive with sheer willpower and dedication to an ideal."

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Rumors about the impending debut of a game-changing tablet from Apple, which may or may not alter the e-reader universe, continue to circulate. AppleInsider offered the latest recap.

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Also from the e-book reading newswire, Computerworld suggested that Amazon's Kindle may be winning the battle, but Adobe is "poised to win e-book war," noting that "Adobe announced that more than 100 publishers, book retailers and libraries are using Adobe's Content Server 4 software to deliver encryptable e-books via the two formats favored by Adobe: PDF and ePub. These include 17 e-book reader manufacturers who have licensed the Adobe Reader Mobile Software Development Kit (SDK) to enable their readers to display PDF and ePub-formatted e-books."

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The San Jose Mercury News featured a best books for kids holiday guide: "Gifts that last definitely would include books that may be treasured by youngsters for many a repeat reading."

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The Guardian, which has been taking on the brave task of showcasing the best books of the "noughties," jumped into more treacherous waters by asking: "What were your worst books of the decade?"

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The runaway bestseller success of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series and subsequent film adaptations has inspired filmmakers to revisit the Brontës, who "are back in fashion--with a bit of help from Bella Swan. New films of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre will shoot next spring, and a script about the teenage fantasies of the four Brontë siblings is in the works," according to the Guardian.

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Amazon.com and Penguin Group are sponsoring the third annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and this time the competition will feature two grand prizes: one for general fiction and one for best young adult novel. In addition, the 2010 contest will be open to previously self-published novels. Writers with an English-language novel manuscript can submit their work between January 25 and February 7. The two winners, who will each receive a publishing contract with Penguin and $15,000 advance, will be named June 14, 2010.

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Lance Fensterman, hired by Reed Exhibitions as BookExpo America show manager in 2006 and since then promoted to v-p, show manager, is leaving BEA and becoming group v-p for Reed Exhibitions's pop culture shows. In the past two years, he had taken on responsibility for New York Comic Con; Chicago Comic, Entertainment Expo, which makes its debut in April; and Star Wars Celebration V, which Reed is organizing in partnership with Lucasfilm. Other pop culture shows now under his purview include Penny Arcade Expo, Penny Arcade Expo East and the UFC Fan Expo.

At the same time, Courtney Muller, group v-p at Reed, has been promoted to senior v-p, and is overseeing BEA and other Reed shows. She has been associated with BEA since 1994, when she became a sales director for the show. She was named v-p and show manager for BEA in 1996.

Reed Exhibitions is currently looking for a new show manager for BEA.


AuthorBuzz for the Week of 04.25.17


Holiday Hum: Random House's Gift to Booksellers

Who needs Santa Claus? Random House is assisting booksellers in their roles as gift connoisseurs--whether they're recommending RH titles or ones from other houses.

As part of its Gifts = Books campaign, the publisher has put together a Personal Shopper Kit. It contains a customizable table-top easel, "Personal Shopper" buttons and a Grid O'Gifts with recommendations in categories ranging from History Buffs and the Hard-to-Buy-For Person to the Littlest Reader and Young Adults. Also included is a list of questions to kick-start discussions at Personal Shopper events, such as what book you give over and over again and what your selections would be for President Obama and his family.

None of the materials in the kit are branded with the Random House logo. "We began this campaign last year as a way to help booksellers increase their foot traffic at the holidays and to help support the message to consumers that books are the perfect gift for everyone on your shopping list," said Ruth Liebmann, v-p and director of account marketing. "Most stores do their own branding, and our 'Personal Shopper' buttons can easily be integrated into an existing store campaign."

More than 200 kits were shipped to stores in 40 states, among them the Booksmith in Seneca, S.C., and Murder by the Book in Houston, Tex. (whose assistant manager, David Thompson, is sporting the "Personal Shopper" button).

The kit inspired the Holiday Gift Giving Ideas Breakfast taking place this Saturday at Chester County Book & Music Company in West Chester, Pa. "It's a way to supplement what we do one on one," said bookseller Joe Drabyak. Store staffers are wearing the buttons, which, Drabyak noted, help remind customers to ask for assistance with their gift selections. Some pieces from the kit are part of the contents of a binder at the store's reference desk--a resource for booksellers making gift suggestions that also has supplemental materials like the New York Times Book Review's best books of 2009 and the Indie Next List.

At Saturday's event, Drabyak will be recommending books from various publishers and titles from Random House imprints both on the Grid O' Gifts--John Grisham's Ford County: Stories--and off, like Something Missing by Matthew Dicks. The debut mystery about an endearing thief who steals only items that will go unnoticed and who plays guardian angel to the homeowners he burglarizes, said Drabyak, "is the type of book I could easily recommend to anyone."

To request a kit, e-mail personalshopper@randomhouse.com. --Shannon McKenna Schmidt

 


Silver Dolphin Books: Kisses for Kindergarten by Livingstone Crouse, illustrated by Macky Pamintuan


Obituary Note: Joel C. Turner

Joel C. Turner, a member of the family that owned Under Cover Books, Shaker Heights, Ohio, died suddenly at the age of 58.

With his parents, the late Earl and Sylvia Turner, his brother, Philip, and sister, Pamela, Joel founded Under Cover in 1978. From the original location at Van Aken Shopping Center, the family-run independent chain grew to include a store in the historic Old Arcade of downtown Cleveland and one in Chagrin Falls that sold record albums and the then-new format of CD-ROMs.

Philip and Pamela Turner wrote that their brother's "role in the bookstores' success and the good reputation we enjoyed in the book world was vital and indispensable. He was always generating exciting new ideas that drove our growth. Joel was a constant reader, a passionate believer in books and the power of the printed word. He derived tremendous satisfaction from selling books to the devoted readers whose trade we cultivated in our bookstores."

Under Cover Books helped launch a range of writers, including Mark Helprin, author of Winter's Tale, Richard North Patterson, author of The Lasko Tangent and Walter Tevis, author of Queen's Gambit. The stores and the Turner family home, aided by Sylvia's cooking and hospitality, Earl's gregarious nature and Joel's energetic raconteurship, attracted many sales reps and authors. Joel was also an officer and board member of the American Booksellers Association.

By the early 1990s, competitive and economic pressures led Joel to reduce the bricks-and-mortar side of the business and transform it into an operation that served businesses, corporate libraries, schools and public institutions. The company became Undercover Book Service, which soon had an online presence, one of the first online booksellers. He also developed a sideline in the antiquarian and second-hand side of the trade.

Philip Turner is now head of Philip Turner Book Productions. After leaving Under Cover Books in 1986, he held senior editorial positions at Union Square Press; Carroll & Graf, Thunder's Mouth and Philip Turner Books at Avalon Publishing; Times Books; and Kodansha America.

The family is making plans for a memorial service and asks that any memorial contributions be made to the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression or for medical research for a cure for diabetes.

 



Media and Movies

Media Heat: The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Tomorrow on the Early Show: Ree Drummond, author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl (Morrow Cookbooks, $27.50, 9780061658198/0061658197).

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Tomorrow on the Bonnie Hunt Show: Howie Mandel, author of Here's the Deal: Don't Touch Me (Bantam, $25, 9780553807868/0553807862).

 


This Weekend on Book TV: American Original

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 from 8 a.m. Friday 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, December 12

11 a.m. Adam Langer, author of My Father's Bonus March (Spiegel & Grau, $26, 9780385523721/0385523726), recounts the Bonus March of 1932, when 20,000 WWI vets marched on Washington. (Re-airs Sunday at 4 a.m.)

12 p.m. For an event hosted by Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C., Carmen Reinhart, co-author (with Kenneth Rogoff) of This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly (Princeton University Press, $35, 9780691142166/0691142165), argues that the 2008 economic collapse was not unique. (Re-airs Sunday at 12 a.m.)

1 p.m. Harriet Reisen talks about her book, Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women (Henry Holt, $26, 9780805082999/0805082999). (Re-airs Sunday at 3 a.m. and Monday at 6 a.m.)

4 p.m. Richard Dawkins, author of The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (Free Press, $30, 9781416594789/1416594787), contends that denying evolution today is comparable to denying the Holocaust. (Re-airs Sunday at 5 a.m.)

7 p.m. Rana Husseini, author of Murder in the Name of Honor: The True Story of One Woman's Heroic Fight Against an Unbelievable Crime (Oneworld Publications, $24.95, 9781851685974/1851685979), talks about honor killings. (Re-airs Sunday at 2 a.m.)

8 p.m. From the 2009 Miami Book Fair, Al Gore discusses his new book, Our Choice (Rodale, $26.99, 9781594867347/1594867348). (Re-airs Monday at 4 a.m.)

10 p.m. After Words. Ted Olson interviews Joan Biskupic, author of American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. (FSG, $28, 9780374202897/0374202893). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

Sunday, December 13

8 p.m. Linda Gordon, author of Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits (Norton, $35, 9780393057300/0393057305), chronicles the life of the legendary documentary photographer. (Re-airs Monday at 1 a.m.)

 


Movies: The Lonely Hearts Club

Mandalay Pictures optioned the film rights to Elizabeth Eulberg's novel, The Lonely Hearts Club (Point/Scholastic, $27.99, 9780545140317/0545140315), which will be released December 29.

Variety reported that "Eulberg, a tastemaker in the teen/young adult arena, is director of global publicity at Little, Brown and has worked closely with Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, steering the teen vampire series' PR campaign."

Mandalay's Cathy Schulman, one of the film's producers, told Variety that the book is "a terrific female empowerment message to a younger set. [Eulberg has an] amazing insight into an entire generation of young women and their desires."

 


Books & Authors

Awards: MWA's Grand Master, Raven and Ellery Queen Honors

Dorothy Gilman, author of the Mrs. Pollifax series of spy novels, was chosen by the Mystery Writers of America as this year's recipient of the Grand Master Award, which honors important contributions to the genre, as well as significant output of consistently high-quality material.

MWA also named Broadway producer Zev Buffman and Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Oakmont, Pa., winners of the Raven Award for outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.

"We're honored at this recognition but the credit for our success really goes to our staff, our customers and, most importantly, to the authors who make our [annual Festival of Mystery] such a success," said Mary Alice Gorman, co-owner of the bookstore, which was recognized by MWA for the "constant support and dedication they have shown to the mystery community."

Barbara Peters and Robert Rosenwald of Poisoned Pen Press won the 2010 Ellery Queen award, given to editors or publishers who have distinguished themselves by their generous and wide-ranging support of the genre.

The MWA award winners will be honored at next year's Edgar Awards banquet in New York City, Thursday, April 29, 2010.

 


Our Top Ten Lists 2009, Part One

We asked some Shelf Awareness people for their 10 (or so) favorite books of the past year. Most of these titles were published in 2009, but not all, since we wanted to know what gave them reading pleasure no matter the pub date.

 
Debra Ginsberg

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and The Face on Your Plate by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (Little, Brown). Both of these important, compelling books address the horrors of factory farming and the need for us to change our dietary choices, but each approaches the topic from a different angle. They are must-reads.

Life Sentences
by Laura Lippman (Morrow). A brilliant, expertly nuanced psychological thriller from the prodigiously talented Laura Lippman.

Blame by Michelle Huneven (FSG). A rich and beautifully written novel about the nature of loss and redemption.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking). A stunning YA novel which tackles an old subject--eating disorders--with new insight and grace.

The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown). He's baaaaack.... Unputdownable.

The Addict: One Patient, One Doctor, One Year by Michael Stein (Morrow). A searing portrait of prescription drug addiction from a physician who takes a new approach to treating it.

Box 21 by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellström (FSG). A pitch-dark Scandinavian thriller involving sex slavery, mafia bosses and bitter policemen--and that's just the beginning. It will keep you up at night.

The Last Resort by Douglas Rogers (Harmony). A warm, funny and often tragic memoir of the author's native Zimbabwe.

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker (Simon & Schuster). This smart, funny and always entertaining paean to poetry is Baker at his best; a real gem of a novel.

Episodes: My Life As I See It by Blaze Ginsberg (Roaring Brook). Yes, I know, and you can have all the disclaimers you want--but this is still the best book I've read all year. Bar none.

Blood's a Rover by James Ellroy (Knopf). Nobody does noir like Ellroy. He is a master and this book is not to be missed.

 
Harvey Freedenberg
 
Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon (Ballantine). Far more than an absorbing mystery, in this complex and psychologically astute story Chaon puts on a virtuosic display of his considerable talent. It's a thrilling example of the best of modern literary fiction.

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer (Pantheon). Strikingly contemporary and utterly timeless, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi is an intense, vivid trip to a pair of exotic cities and an equally provocative journey into the twisted passageways of the human soul.
 
Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow (Random House). Doctorow has moved Homer and Langley Collyer from the sideshow of American history to center stage. Strange as their story may be, he makes us feel privileged, if perhaps in an odd way, to share it.

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker (Simon & Schuster). It's hard to know what to expect next from Baker, but in his new novel he's delivered a charming, if undeniably quirky, extended love letter to the art of poetry.

Love and Summer
by William Trevor (Viking). Trevor's genius lies in his uncanny ability to expose, with sensitivity and insight, the complexity of even the most mundane lives. That he does so in prose that's a model of elegant compression makes his achievement even more impressive.

Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving (Random House). Irving's 12th novel is a shaggy, shambling, lovable bear of a book. It is vintage Irving, stuffed to overflowing with a cast of memorable characters, dark humor, a surfeit of tragedy and loss and enough love, sex and death to fill at least two or three less ambitious novels.
 
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore (Knopf). Bubbling with intelligence and lacerating humor and showcasing Moore's uncanny ability to capture the free-floating anxiety that undoubtedly qualifies as the psychic disorder of our age, A Gate at the Stairs is a tightly focused snapshot of our unsettled world.
 
Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey (Knopf). In this comprehensive, unsparing work, Bailey has produced a biography every bit as absorbing as the life of its complex and tortured subject.
 
Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness by Tracy Kidder (Random House). The latest work from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tracy Kidder is a stirring account of one man's remarkable flight from genocidal terror in his homeland of Burundi to the U.S. and then back home to confront the burdens of memory and reconciliation.
 
Closing Time: A Memoir by Joe Queenan (Viking). Queenan's book is a painfully honest, savagely funny, wise and ultimately moving story of growing up in Philadelphia in the 1950s and '60s while outgrowing life in the home of a brutal, alcoholic father.
 

John McFarland
 
Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada, translated by Michael Hofmann (Melville House). A gritty "you are there" feel pervades this brilliant and harrowing saga of a German couple fighting for their dignity in the face of unrelenting Nazi oppression and sadism in Berlin in 1941.
 
Translation Is a Love Affair by Jacques Poulin, translated by Sheila Fischman (Archipelago Books). A short novel set in contemporary Quebec that is brimming with satisfying tales of friendship, hope and love between two unlikely and enchanting characters.

I Am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett (Graywolf). A comic romp in the beloved traditions of Mark Twain, Terry Southern and Kurt Vonnegut that smartly ponders questions of racism, classism and celebrity in America today.

That Mad Ache: A Novel
by Françoise Sagan, translated by Douglas Hofstadter (Basic Books). Sagan's 1965 La Chamade, about a scampering Parisienne torn between respect and affection for an older, rich protector and uncontrolled passion with a handsome, impoverished young editor, takes on thrilling romantic urgency in a new translation by the author of Gödel, Escher, Bach.

City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and '70s
by Edmund White (Bloomsbury). A thoughtful, ardent memoir that captures New York City at an auspicious time for White to define his themes and come into his own as a raconteur, friend and sexy devil (in the best sense).
 
Life as We Show It: Writing on Film, edited by Brian Pera and Masha Tupitsyn (City Lights Books). Twenty-five writers discuss attachments they formed for certain movies--ET, Shane and Rosemary's Baby acquire new significance and resonance after reading these inspired pieces of narrative nonfiction.
 
i sold Andy Warhol (too soon) by Richard Polsky (Other Press). A sardonic guide with lots of sassy style takes readers on a dizzying, dishy and fascinating tour of the recently crazy market for contemporary art.
 
Twentieth-Century German Poetry: An Anthology, edited by Michael Hofmann (FSG, 2006). A bracing collection that stands celebrities like Rilke and Brecht beside lesser-known but no-less-brilliant poets like Hans Magnus Enzensberger and Durs Grünbein to show us a poetry with a range of possibilities larger than what British and American readers have become accustomed to.
 
The Dedalus Book of Spanish Fantasy, edited and translated by Margaret Jull Costa and Annella McDermott (Dedalus Books, 1999). Doppelgangers, chairs acquiring souls and people metamorphosing into animals populate an anthology rich in imagination, storytelling and raw material for wild, wild dreams.
 
Mary Stuart by Friedrich von Schiller, translated by Jeremy Sams (Nick Hern Books, 1996). The epic battle between Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart bristles with theatrical energy in Schiller's version of the classic tale of political sibling rivalry.
 
Cafe Society: The Wrong Place for the Right People by Barney Josephson et al. (University of Illinois Press). Reminiscences (and captivating photographs) capture the key place Barney Josephson occupies in our cultural history and make you wish you had been there to see/hear Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Alberta Hunter and Mary Lou Williams and others electrify the place.
 

Marilyn Dahl

Faces of the Gone by Brad Parks (Minotaur). A debut mystery about a Newark reporter covering some gruesome murders; a solid plot mixed with sardonic wit. I'm eager for a sequel.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave (Simon). This story of a young Nigerian refugee in an English detention center will amaze and delight you--and break your heart. It's one of the finest books I've read in years, from its lyrical opening lines to its surprising end.

City of Thieves by David Benioff (Plume). The story of two young men in Leningrad during the World War II siege, who are forced to find a dozen eggs for a colonel or be executed, blew me away with its mix of tragedy and comedy--the absurdity of war brilliantly rendered.

A Final Arc of the Sky by Jennifer Culkin (Beacon Press). An eloquent and compelling memoir by a critical care flight nurse, that soars with tragedy and tenderness. A sense of fragility, and well as resiliency and strength, permeate Culkin's life and calling.
 
Larry's Kidney by Daniel Asa Rose (Morrow). A hilarious story about two cousins in China, one searching for a kidney and true love, the other aiding and abetting. Rose's writing is by turns hyperbolic and hallucinatory as he deals with the outlandish situation and his wacky cousin. Sometimes slapstick, sometimes caustic, Larry's Kidney is also sweet and thoughtful as Daniel finds himself improbably falling in love with China.
 
A Hell of Mercy: A Meditation on Depression and the Dark Night of the Soul by Tim Farrington (HarperOne). Novelist Tim Farrington has written a candid memoir about his lifelong struggle with depression. He's not a scholar, not a therapist, not a theologian; "I'm more like a veteran, I suppose: a guy whose ass has been on the line, [with] some stories from the front." It's written with wisdom and wit, by an author who sees his dark night of the soul as a gift from God.
 
Dogged Pursuit
by Robert Rodi (Hudson Street Press). The hilarious and truly moving story of Rodi's quest to train Dusty, "a scrawny little twist of a pipe cleaner" dog, and himself, in the demanding art of canine agility competition. Heartbreaks and heroics, defeats and victories line the path to success in unexpected ways. He comes to see his dog's Dusty-ness and his dignity and experiences some true moments of grace.
 
Before I Forget by Leonard Pitts Jr. (Bolden/Agate). A powerful novel about regrets, second chances, forgiveness and responsibility and what it means to be a man. A father's grief and anger, his struggles with his son and his own father, combine with love in a crucible of hope and transformation. This is a beautiful, tragic and riveting work.
 
Border Songs by Jim Lynch (Knopf). In Border Songs, Jim Lynch does for birds and the northwestern border what he did for sea creatures and south Puget Sound in his lovely The Highest Tide; he has an equal affinity for showing us the beauty and humor of humanity. The illusory security of the border reminds us that our lives are also fragile, but Lynch has crafted a story of love, redemption and acceptance that reminds us of what is true and strong.
 
A Quiet Belief in Angels
by R.J. Ellory (Overlook Press). As life reaches its closing chapter for Joseph Vaughn, he begins to relate his story, and waits for judgment on who he is and what he has done, beginning in Georgia in 1939. The mystery is compelling; just as insistent is the pull of Ellory's prose, with a deceptively leisurely pace that heightens the suspense. He has crafted a dazzling tale.
 
Spoon by Robert Greer (Fulcrum Publishing). In Montana, a drifter rescues a family and their way of life before he moves on. It starts in late summer, it ends the following autumn, and the sweetness and melancholy of the seasons perfectly complement this classic tale of a cowboy, ranchers and big business, told with sweet humor and Western elegance.
 
An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor (HarperOne). Taylor is one of my favorite writers, in part for her ability to see the sacred in the everyday, and in her latest book she concentrates on finding holiness in simple things like walking in the dark, hanging laundry and making eye contact with a clerk. A book to inspire and challenge.

 


Crooked Lane Books: Lies She Told by Cate Holahan
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