Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 16, 2010
Image of the Day: What Is Left a Photograph
Last Saturday, Howard Norman read from his new book, What Is Left the Daughter (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), at Phoenix Books and Cafe, Essex, Vt. Discussion afterward lasted long into the evening. Here Norman (c.) poses with owners Renee Reiner and Mike DeSanto.
Amazon.com has been receiving punches from all over. Herewith a recent sampling, starting with Wall Street.
Yesterday Bank of America/Merrill Lynch analyst Justin Post downgraded Amazon.com to neutral from buy, citing margin pressures, increased digital media competition and decelerating growth, Barrons wrote. Post expects higher revenues and lower earnings than predicted by most analysts.
The Wall Street Journal's Financial Advisor blog suggested shorting Amazon.com stock: "I'm normally a long-only guy. Short-selling is too risky. But Amazon might be overreaching. The competition from Apple on the e-reader side and Google on the cloud side present a devastating one-two punch."
From a cultural point of view, in the Nation, OR's Colin Robinson offered a long essay called "the Trouble with Amazon," in which he outlined how, as he put it, "the problems caused by Amazon's business practices extend to fundamental matters of the future of the book business and the diversity of our culture as a whole."
And in a column for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Nancy Ettenheim took a local approach:
"I remember when Amazon.com first burst onto the book scene. I am a book junkie, and there is no fix like a huge bookstore for someone like me. Amazon is the mother of them all. Meanwhile, back in Milwaukee, it very soon became apparent that every dollar I spent at Amazon was a dollar that Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops would never get. After one or two purchases at Amazon, I quit, went cold turkey. But we all know the results of everyone's collective love affair with Amazon: Schwartz is now out of business, one of the truly great losses to our community.
"It is clear that online buying does not just pose a hypothetical threat to our local businesses--the casualties are already out there. We owe it to ourselves, our community and our local business owners who bust their butts to stay in business to carefully consider the ramifications of our online buying. If each of us changes his or her purchasing habits even part of the time, we will have assisted in the reinvestment in our own community."
Notes: Events Management Training; E-Books vs. Poetry?
An initiative to help independent booksellers host
successful author events has been launched by British wholesaler
Bertrams, which will hold "a series of full day training courses on
events management led by former Waterstone's events manager Jo James"
for members of the Independent Booksellers Group, the Bookseller.com reported.
"We're very pleased to be able to offer something like this exclusively to the IBG membership, underlining Bertrams' commitment to supporting the IBG as it continues to develop," said Chris Rushby, the wholesaler's buying and marketing director. "I cut my bookselling teeth in the independent sector, so it's really exciting for me to be working in this area again."
Are e-books unpoetic? The Associated Press reported that while prose has found its place in the digital world, for poetry "the gap is especially large because publishers and e-book makers have not figured out how the integrity of a poem can be guaranteed. And a displaced word, even a comma, can alter a poem's meaning as surely as skipping a note changes a song."
"I found that even in a very small font that if the original line is beyond a certain length, they will take the extra word and have it flush left on the screen, so that instead of a three-line stanza you actually have a four-line stanza," former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins observed. "The critical difference between prose and poetry is that prose is kind of like water and will become the shape of any vessel you pour it into to. Poetry is like a piece of sculpture and can easily break."
Still, some retailers and some people in Knopf wanted "a more conventional depiction in lines with other thrillers--something darker, bloodier, 'more Scandinavian.' " But, as the paper noted, "Mr. Mehta stood by Mr. Mendelsund's distinctive design. Mr. Mehta said he didn't want the books to be pigeonholed: 'I was extremely worried that they would be dismissed as crime novels, Scandinavian crime novels, in translation.' "
Last month, NPR asked listeners to submit nominations for a list of the "100 most pulse-quickening, suspenseful novels ever written," and 600 titles were suggested. Now a panel of thriller writers and critics has narrowed the field to 182 titles, and a public vote will solve the case once and for all.
Readers can vote here. NPR noted that "everyone gets 10 votes. Feel free to lobby for your favorites in the comments area. We'll announce the winners on August 2."
The William Andrews Clark Memorial Library is run by UCLA, "but located in Jefferson Park. Brick walls hide it from passersby, and most UCLA undergraduates have never heard of it," the Los Angeles Times reported, noting that "those who know the library say it is unmatched and unforgettable."
"The Clark Library is the greatest unknown literary treasure in Los Angeles," said Kathleen Thompson, co-owner of Michael R. Thompson Booksellers. "The minute we saw it 40 years ago we fell in love with it, and our love has only grown."
Karl Rove's "influence over U.S. readers may fall short of Oprah's, but growing numbers are joining the ex-presidential adviser's project," according to the Guardian, which reported President Bush's former deputy chief of staff has started a summer book club.
"With 349 members and counting, the club--which Rove launched with Fox News channel anchor Clayton Morris--has already tackled Daniel Walker Howe's What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America 1815-1848. Its readers are currently engrossed in the Brad Thor thriller Foreign Influence," the Guardian wrote.
"Much like Oprah we've got sass and now our own book club too," said Morris.
Audio clip of the day: Simon Le Bon, lead singer of Duran Duran, reads two passages from Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut by Rob Sheffield (Dutton). On SimonsReader, he wrote that he and the rest of the band were "pretty thrilled to be name checked" in the book. More next week.
Bookselling This Week checked in with Elizabeth and Sean Anker, proud parents of children's bookstore Alamosa Books, which they opened three months ago in Albuquerque, N.M.
Elizabeth Anker has worked as a teacher and bookseller, part of the time as children's manager and events coordinator at Page One Bookstore. Sean Anker is director of operations at a local TV station and works part time at Alamosa Books.
The 3,780-sq.-ft. store has partnered with a coffee shop next door and as far as business goes, "We're getting there," Elizabeth Anker told BTW.
In a Wall Street Journal Q&A about traveling in countries where the traveler doesn't know the language, David Del Vecchio, owner of Idlewild Books, New York City, said the store has Point It: Traveller's Language Kit by Dieter Graf (Graf Editions), a picture book of everyday objects to point to. "I have never used it, but it's a book we have by the register and half the people who buy it think it's a gag and then many of them come back and said, 'Wow. If I hadn't had that book in China, I would have starved or spent three days in the country,' " he said. "I think what's really great about things like that [is] it is so silly, it's so absurd to be pointing to something in a book, that it ends up sort of bonding you to the person you are trying to communicate with."
The Wall Street Journal's Weekend Journal surveyed the work of "a handful of high-end publishing houses that are pushing the boundaries of extravagance and novelty in the luxury book market. Such books are being treated as investments and sometimes commanding prices usually reserved for original art works."
One delightful example of "luxury lit": a 10-copy edition of a book about Indian cricket star Sachin Tendulkar for which a pint of the subject's blood was mixed in with paper pulp for the signature page. Each book costs $75,000.
Brad Stone, the New York Times technology reporter who covered the digital book beat, is joining Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Galley Cat reported. Appropriately Stone spread the news via tweet yesterday: "After a great run at NYT, headed to Bloomberg BusinessWeek for a new adventure."
Powell's Facebook Author Event
Last week, Pulitzer Prize-winner Jonathan Weiner had a virtual conversation with readers about his new book, Long for This World: The Strange Science of Immortality, on the Powell's Books Facebook page, the bookstore's first live author chat on Facebook.
Staffers at Powell's had been "looking into trying some sort of live author interaction online," said marketing coordinator Megan Zabel, who moderated the chat. "After doing some research, it seemed like Facebook was the way to go, since we have a built-in audience there of more than 60,000 fans and the technology is free." The event was promoted through Facebook, Twitter, and the store's blog on Powells.com. Weiner's publisher, Ecco, also touted the author chat via Twitter. Using Facebook for virtual events such as this one is a way for independent bookstores "to level the playing field, so to speak, and especially valuable for stores who don't get authors stopping by on tour," Zabel said.
During the chat, Weiner answered questions such as what brought him to the subject of immortality in Long for this World and whether or not anything about the book's reception has surprised him. (The answer to the latter is yes. "People tell me they're surprised the book is funny--that it is a story. They expected a treatise," he commented.) He even turned the tables on participants and asked for their opinions. "It truly was a discussion and not just an author talking to a group," said Zabel, "which is a really interesting twist on the traditional author event."--Shannon McKenna Schmidt
International Bookstore: A Great Viennese Tradition
The store's customers are changing, Mayer noted. This summer more Australians and Brits have come into International Bookstore, while his year-long customer base has grown to include many Americans who've moved here to work, often for the United Nations, which established an office in Vienna in 1980.
There are six International Bookstore locations in the city, including four at the airport, as well as one in Graz. The parent company is called the American Discount Group, reflecting the old name of the stores. Mayer's store is situated along Vienna's most popular outdoor market, where a good book can be followed up with a perfect glass of chilled Grüner Veltliner wine and any number of specialty meals. The great Viennese café tradition of reading, eating and drinking lives on.--Laurie Lico Albanese
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Mickey Rapkin on Theater Geek
Today Fresh Air remembers Harvey Pekar, who died on Monday.
Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition: Mickey Rapkin, author of Theater Geek: The Real Life Drama of a Summer at Stagedoor Manor, the Famous Performing Arts Camp (Free Press, $25, 9781439145760/1439145768).
Movies: The Help; Before I Fall
Allison Janney (West Wing) will play play Charlotte Phelan, mother of Skeeter, in the film version of The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Entertainment Weekly reported. Janney joins a cast that includes Emma Stone as Skeeter, Viola Davis as Aibileen, Octavia Spencer as Minnie and and Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly. Tate Taylor is directing the film, which begins shooting in in Greenwood, Miss., this summer and is scheduled for release next year.
Fox 2000 optioned the screen rights to Lauren Oliver's young adult novel Before I Fall, Deadline.com reported. Maria Maggenti write the screenplay; Jon Shestack will produce and Ginny Pennekamp will co-produce.
Books & Authors
Awards: Canadian Children's Book Centre
Finalists for the 2010 Canadian Children's Book Centre awards can be viewed here. Winners of the English-language awards will be announced in Toronto on November 9, and winners of the Prix TD de Literature Canadienne pour L'enfance et la Jeunesse will be announced at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal on November 2.
Books for Understanding: The Supreme Court
With the Supreme Court in the news because of the confirmation hearings of Elena Kagan, the latest Books for Understanding bibliography, sponsored by the Association of American University Presses, focuses on the High Court. The judicial philosophies, institutional power shifts, interpretive theories and elite and public opinions that have shaped the Court and its cases are the subjects of 146 new and classic titles from 28 AAUP presses. Among them:
The Next Justice: Repairing the Supreme Court Appointments Process by Christopher L. Eisgruber (Princeton University Press, 2009), in which a former Supreme Court clerk argues for an appointment process with more serious debate on judicial philosophies in place of partisan rancor and showmanship.
Shaping America: The Supreme Court and American Society by Edward F. Mannino (University of South Carolina Press, 2009), in which a practicing trial lawyer analyzes the historical forces that permitted the Court to affect American society profoundly.
Shelf Starter: Johannes Cabal the Detective
Johannes Cabal the Detective by Jonathan L. Howard (Doubelday $25.95, 9780385528092/0385528094, July 13, 2010)
Opening lines of a book we want to read:
Chapter 1, In Which Death Awaits and a Plot Is Hatched
The condemned cell stank of cats.
There were no rats and no cockroaches, for which Johannes Cabal--a necromancer of some little infamy--was grateful. But the cost of vermin control was an army of cats who crept in and out of his cell and wandered throughout Harslaus Castle with complete impunity. Even the cell doors had cat flaps cut into them. It was no secret that the warders had a much higher opinion of the animals than they did of the inmates. When Cabal was given his introductory tour--which took the form of being thrown down the stairs and shouted at--he had been left in no doubt that any harm that he might cause the cats would be returned to him, plus interest.
So now he sat and waited for the authorities to find a window in their very bust schedules to execute them, and he did so covered in cat hair in a cell that countless generations of toms had proudly and extravagantly claimed as their own. Things could probably be worse but, despite some careful thought, Cabal couldn’t put his finger on how.--selected by Marilyn Dahl
Book Brahmin: Dana Haynes
Dana Haynes spent 20 years in the newsrooms of Oregon newspapers before being named public affairs manager for Portland Community College in Portland, Ore., in 2007. Haynes's thriller, Crashers, will was released June 22 by Minotaur Books. The story deals with the investigators called in to solve the crash of an airliner. A sequel, Shadow Crashers, is under way. His previous mysteries, Bishop's Gambit, Declined, Perpetual Check and Sacrifice Play, were published under the pen name Conrad Haynes. Haynes lives in Portland with his two cats, Velocity and Glamour.
On your nightstand now:
The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha
Favorite book when you were a child:
Do you remember the Encyclopedia Brown short mysteries? I loved those. I was in, like, fourth or fifth grade, trying to outthink the author. Encyclopedia Brown and the Batman from D.C. Comics got me hooked on mysteries. Also Harper Lee. Seriously. More on that later.
Your top five authors:
Philip MacDonald. He wrote The List of Adrian Messenger, which remains my all-time favorite mystery. I re-read it about every five years or so.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Not for The Little Prince, but for his beautiful short stories on being a pilot in the early days of the 20th century. Stunning.
William Goldman: Everything. Novels, screenplays, whatever. I mean, seriously.
Arturo Pérez-Reverte: His Captain Alatriste swashbucklers are fantastic, but The Queen of the South may be the best book I've read in a decade.
Peter O'Donnell: He started writing the British comic strip "Modesty Blaise" in 1963 and stayed with it well into the 1990s. She's a thief, a spy and a heroine. Tough-guy Willie Garvin follows her orders but is no less masculine for it. This was the beginning of my complete love affair for the strong, armed, intelligent, feminine, in-command femme fatale. (Okay, Emma Peel of The Avengers played a role here....) O'Donnell strongly influenced my writing and my sense of feminism. When you meet Daria Gibron in my novel Crashers, please lift a martini glass to Mr. O'Donnell.
Katy King: Portland author, she's only had one book published so far (the smart money says that'll change soon enough). She's on the list because she's incredibly hot and wears Christian Louboutin heels. She's totally outside of my league but if she reads this, it increases the chances that I'll get to sleep with her. It's good to have goals.
Book you've faked reading:
The owner's manual for my car.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Arturo Pérez-Reverte's Captain Alatriste series is set in 16th-century Spain and features a sword for hire. Absolutely must-read for anyone who likes their adventure series to be both bloody and literary.
Book you've bought for the cover:
The Associated Press Stylebook.
Book that changed your life:
You're going to think I'm a nerd but my take-away from To Kill a Mockingbird was this: I figured out the mystery--which side of the girl's face had the bruises--before the author wanted me to. This was sophomore English, and I remember thinking: Holy hell! He's not guilty! And my love affair for the offense-defense nature of mystery novels was born.
Favorite line from a book:
"My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." --The Princess Bride, William Goldman
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Crashers. Narcissist much? Yes please.
Book Review: Networking for People Who Hate Networking
Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected by Devora Zack (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, $16.95 Paperback, 9781605095226, July 2010)
Devora Zack has the test results to prove she is an off-the-charts introvert. She also knows in her gut that networking events for people like her can be a waking nightmare. Despite all that, she has trained herself to succeed on her own terms in an arena where only extroverts, famously adept at small talk and working a room like a vacuum cleaner, are supposed to shine. Her book, brimming with her hard-earned knowledge, is both a pep talk and a field guide to making networking work better for those of us not naturally drawn to large rooms mobbed with complete strangers.
Skeptical introverts should be aware that, first of all, Zack has assembled a set of tips, techniques and strategies that can be highly useful and even prevent panic attacks; second, she writes with zesty humor about overcoming anxieties unknown to back-slapping extroverts. How many times have we been collared by an animated self-promoter and wondered how to end the exchange? Zack has developed a foolproof solution for herself: she simply says, "I am a consultant," and the person races off, freeing her.
Her personal solution illustrates one of her guiding principles for introverts: prepare for networking events, in this instance by having canned responses ready. Along those same lines, let's assume your new acquaintance in a vast, off-putting banquet hall asks a question you consider too personal. Do you say, "What #X&% business is that of yours, buster?" and sabotage a potentially profitable business relationship? Or do you have an all-purpose line in your repertoire, something like, "I try not to think about it. And you?" Pause, be prepared and pace yourself, Zack tells us, to make the most of the moment.
Addressing stereotypes of extroverts and introverts, Zack emphasizes understanding and accepting the different social styles of our brothers and sisters. Although introverts will enjoy the table of negative perceptions ascribed to extroverts ("brash," "show-off," "nosey," "fake," etc.), turn-around is fair play, and the sensible introvert will take to heart the negatives that are often associated with introverts ("awkward," "unfriendly," "secretive" and "dull"). How do we meet and click rather than reinforce our prejudices? Zack recommends updating the Golden Rule to her Platinum Rule: "Treat others how they want to be treated"--so that we train ourselves to "see" the actual person in front of us rather than a projection. It's all about reframing a situation, she advises, and when it comes to changing our preconception of networking as a draining yet necessary evil, we should always remember, "Real networking is connecting."--John McFarland
Shelf Talker: A peppy, road-tested guide to improving networking skills and improving results for everyone, even the proud wallflowers.
Robert Gray: Remembrance of Lawn Chair Readings Past
"Beach read" seems to be the operative term for all discussions regarding summer reading lists, but many of us were landlocked during our formative years and associate hot weather reading with the cheap, sun-drenched folding lawn furniture upon which we draped our lazy bodies as we buried sunburned noses in great books.
"Get outdoors!" my mother would yell, and outdoors I went to claim reading space on the weathered, transient furniture of summer.
Linda Malcolm of Indigo Books, Johns Island, S.C., "can remember vividly the first time I read Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel." In 1964, as she was "reclining on a daybed between two corner windows in a wonderful old house in Raleigh, N.C., I was captured by the poetry of that great melancholy novel. I have reread it several times in the succeeding years, using a different color pen each time to underline or highlight a phrase or figure that caught my soul--a rainbow history of an oft-repeated journey."
Richard Brautigan's In Watermelon Sugar was the first summer book for Cindy Pickle of Powell's Books, Portland, Ore.: "I was still a stone's throw behind puberty. I may have read some of Brautigan's poetry first, but I can't be sure. I do know that the words on the cover--'In watermelon sugar the deeds were done and done again as my life is done in watermelon sugar.'--were to me both a poem and a promise. Right away I loved the phrasing and the immediate image of another world.
"Throughout the story the concepts of indoors and outdoors are blurred and the weather becomes another character in the story. There is mystery and an uneasiness that contrasts fantastically with the incredible beauty of a place where the sunshine is a different color every day. The dialogue is sparse, the descriptions of characters based more on how they move about than what they look like. It gives you a view through a uniquely distorted lens, like a strange dream you had on a night that was a little too hot for sleeping. I've read this book probably three or four times but not recently. I may have to read it again this summer."
Exodus by Leon Uris was the first summer book for Patricia Zeider, senior library supervisor at the Brand Library & Art Center, Glendale, Calif.: "I read my parents' Book of the Month Club copy as a teenager around the time it was first published. The story had everything--history, drama, passion, romance." She also recalled an early summer read from her childhood: "Missee Lee, part of the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome. I took the public library's dilapidated old copy out of desperation when I needed books to take on a beach vacation. Kids having an adventure on the ocean with pirates really hooked me."
Children's author Natasha Wing recalled that the "first summer book I remember reading was The Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore. I think it was my mom's book as a kid, and because we lived a few blocks from the beach I thought it was cool that characters were also at a beach setting. After reading the story, I wished I was a twin."
Honestly, Katie John by Mary Calhoun is the book Kathy Patrick, owner of Beauty and the Book, Jefferson, Tex., read as a kid "that always reminds me of summer. Also the first book that turned me on to reading by my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Boulden." Patrick shared one of her favorite summer books for 2010 as well--The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin. "Talk about a page-turner and one that is set in temperatures freezing cold."
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White was the magical one for Brenda Logan of Loganberry Books, Shaker Heights, Ohio: "In late summer of 1952 I was finally 10 years old; my baby brother was getting all the family attention; small town South Carolina was miserably hot and boring; I had read all the Bobbsey Twins, the Little Maid series, Nancy Drew and Boxcar Children books in the public library, and I wanted more. I walked by myself to the library, often, and Miss White knew me as a regular. One day she handed me that rarest thing in this small, poor place: a NEW book. I ran right home, curled up under the ceiling fan (no A/C in South Carolina in those days) and read the best book ever written, and written just for me."
On her Facebook page, author and Shelf Awareness contributor Laurie Lico Albanese said she "re-read Huck Finn while pregnant with my daughter 20 years ago. It was a sweltering summer in Chicago." Commenters mentioned Freddy the Pig ("a whole summer (or seemed like it) sick with bronchitis, that pig saved me"), Laura Ingalls Wilder ("the entire series in a summer when I was 10"), the Tintin books and multiple votes for Harriet the Spy.
"Harriet was my role mode, too," Albanese noted. "She taught me young what all honest writers learn; you really can't write about friends and family and then go home again."
So many books... all written just for us. It's summer! Go find a cheap lawn chair and read!--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)