Shelf Awareness for Monday, October 18, 2010
Quotation of the Day
NBA Judge: Books Are 'Joyful Things to Behold'
"I am holding books in my hands, in my lap, all day long--joyful things to behold, to hold onto--hefty and crisp. Even the uncorrected galleys have weight--the smell of paper and words.... One day I look at the pile and imagine they are all electronic books. Electronic books are eligible; it's possible I could be reading on a Kindle or a Nook or the poetically named Sony PRS-700. All this reading could be on a gray screen; I could be clicking buttons instead of turning pages. In the bookless future a few of these books predict, there would be no boxes, no piles....
"I would, of course, have gone mad, thrown the little plastic thing out the window long ago. The real glory of all these books is simply that they exist. They will endure in the world as solid things. I love the piles--the teetering, heavy, uneven piles, the cumbersome crowding of books thick and thin. These are piles of piled-up things, sculptured objects taking up room. No gray screen can honor the way font shape and space are designed to convey thought. Books inhabit the world in a way not unlike the way you and I do."
"Duty as a judge for the National Book Awards requires a bit of juggling."
Image of the Day: Things in Common
At last week's Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association show, Lisa Birnie, author of In Mania's Memory (Read Leaf/PGW), and Karl Marlantes, author of Matterhorn (Atlantic Monthly), got to chatting. Turns out they had more in common than writing: years ago, Birnie was also in Vietnam, as a war correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Census Bureau: Bookstore Sales Off 6.5% in August
August bookstore sales fell 6.5%, to $2.288 billion, compared to August 2009, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. For the year to date, total bookstore sales have slipped 1.9%, to $10.788 billion.
Total retail sales in August rose 3.9%, to $373.4 billion, compared to the same period a year ago. For the year, total retail sales were up 6.1% to $2,865.4 billion.
Note: under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books and do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.
NCIBA, Steady As They Go
Booksellers at the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association trade show, held October 14-16 in Oakland, did not spend much time talking about whether business was up or down (with flat being the new up); they seemed to have become accustomed to the new reality. Instead, a steady number of attendees went to the education sessions on IndieCommerce, co-op, sidelines, health-care reform and other topics looking to get information on how to become better booksellers. While e-books were discussed at some sessions and during informal conversations throughout the event, printed books (and the authors who love them) were very much front and center.
Of course, it never hurts to start with a little heartfelt praise from Michael Cunningham, who said, "Every independent bookseller is a hero to me. Blessings on you!" before settling into a luncheon event in conversation about his latest, By Nightfall (FSG), with NCIBA president Michael Barnard of Rakestraw Books in Danville. A self-described "cockeyed optimist," Cunningham said he always finds it surprising that people describe his work as dark. Still, he did admit that he "only trusts a happy ending that can survive the worst that can absolutely happen," and that he sees By Nightfall (about a middle-aged man's obsession with his wife's much younger brother) as "the death card from the Tarot deck." The death card, he pointed out, is a liberating card. As for his recent reading, Cunningham said he tackled Proust this summer "finally," and Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. "Don't hold it against him that he sells billions of copies," said Cunningham, who loved the much-hyped novel.
"You guys are my heroes," said Lynne Almeida, owner of Spellbinder Books in Bishop, as she accepted the Debi Echlin Award for Community Bookselling. Spellbinder is celebrating 40 years in Bishop, Calif. Also at the membership meeting, NCIBA presented its FIBS award--for the organization or person recognized as a friend to the independent booksellers--to all of the sales reps that serve the territory. "We know your future is no more certain than ours is," said Barnard. "We're all in this together."
A stellar lineup of breakfast authors got the trade show going. Brock Clarke (Exley, Algonquin), Walter Mosley (The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey and When the Thrill Is Gone, Riverhead) and Amy Sedaris (Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People, Grand Central) were the adult authors featured on Friday--although Sedaris did say children are welcome to try any of the crafts in her new book. And on the bill Saturday morning for younger readers (and the booksellers who love them and their books): Jon Scieszka (Spaceheadz: Book #1, S&S), Richard Peck (Three Quarters Dead, Dial) and Paul O. Zelinsky (Dust Devil, Random House).
NCIBA executive director Hut Landon said advance registration was on par with the last couple of years, with more than 110 stores represented. Where NCIBA did see growth, however, was in publisher-sponsored author events--especially the popular Friday evening reception, which featured 30 authors (up significantly from last year's 22.) "That shows me that the publishers are supporting the show," Landon said.
Booksellers come to regionals most to hear about titles to handsell. Immediately preceding the author reception was the rep pick session, which helped build the buzz factor. (And the Lonely Planet Blue Hawaiians served during the picks didn't hurt.) That's why Sharon Jones, who has a 500-sq.-ft. general store in Sausalito called Habitat Books, picked up a signed copy of Bo Caldwell's City of Tranquil Light (Holt).
But the book that all the other publishers were sneaking to grab was Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas (University of California Press), a printing and public project done to coincide with the 75th anniversary of San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art. A richly textured graphic book that no electronic format can master yet, Infinite City features Rebecca Solnit as cultural and historical tour guide through the city she calls home. "Rebecca Solnit is the Susan Sontag of the West," observed Ken White, from UCSF Bookstore (and ABA board member). "The book is literary, accessible, gifty, weird and very San Francisco. She's our public intellectual."
It's always fun to see what's on Book Passage buying director Sheryl Cotleur's radar. Siobhan Fallon's collection of stories about families of servicemen in Fort Hood, Tex., called You Know When the Men Are Gone, came highly praised, Cotleur said, "by people [i.e., booksellers] whose opinions I really value." This title got a lot of NCIBA buzz, especially after Penguin rep Wendy Pearl said that at a bookseller dinner the night before, editor Amy Einhorn had told her that You Know When the Men Are Gone was the only book in all of her years as an editor that did not need a single word changed. "It came in ready," Pearl said.
An industry insider's take on titles can make booksellers take note. At HarperCollins, Carl Lennertz was promoting the final book in Joe Caldwell's Irish pig trilogy, The Pig Goes to Hog Heaven--and he took out a full-page ad in the program noting that California booksellers have sold hundreds of copies of the first book, The Pig Did It! Hachette's Tom McIntyre said that with Jon Stewart, Amy and David Sedaris and two books coming from Steve Martin, his company has the best humor-oriented list "in the history of publishing." Random House is still basking in Stieg Larsson glory, but Ruth Liebmann--who said NCIBA was her fifth show in four weeks--said The Tiger's Wife was her favorite forthcoming title, for "the magic." And Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's John Dally might have had the most interesting tag line at NCIBA: he described Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thompson as "Harry Potter meets Bridget Jones, while being stalked by Stephen Hawking."
Finally, NCIBA paused to hoist a drink to the retirement of Craig McCroskey, known for his quick wit, who has been a Book Travelers West rep since 1978. Booksellers agreed that you never knew what McCroskey might say, but you sure had a great time on that sales call.--Bridget Kinsella
Notes: Rally to Save a B&N; Bing and Bling for Jay-Z Memoir
Yesterday morning "hundreds of people" protested the closing of a Barnes & Noble by the end of the year and its replacement by a CVS Pharmacy in Encino, Calif., according to the Encino Patch. "We want a bookstore, not another drugstore!" residents chanted. Protesters argued that the town of 42,000 in the San Fernando Valley just north of Los Angeles has no other bookstore and 20 pharmacies within two and a half miles of the B&N.
On the Facebook page created by protesters, Rick Caruso, head of the company that owns the Encino Marketplace where B&N is located, wrote: "Last year we reduced [B&N's] rent to encourage them to stay open, nonetheless, in the end they decided to close due to a lack of sales at this location. I love having bookstores on our properties. They are a great amenity for the community and a great core tenant for us, but unfortunately we must accept that Barnes & Noble recognizes the retail book landscape has changed and is examining store closings, strategic alternatives and even a possible sale."
Books and Crannies, Middleburg, Va., is closing on October 27, according to Leesburg Today. Co-owner Genie Ford said that besides online and e-book competition, the store had been hurt by heavy snowstorms in December and February.
Ford has a printing, editing and graphic design company that is on stable footing. The paper wrote: "Ford says she hopes to build on that success and perhaps translate some of those ideas into finding another model by which to return to an independent bookstore. Although she decries the impersonality of online book publishing and sales, she accepts the inevitability of the Internet.
"I'll make it my friend. Maybe it will lead me to another book shop, but it will be different."
Belva Plain died last Tuesday at her home in Short Hills, N.J. She was 95.
Plain became a bestselling novelist at age 59 when her first novel, Evergreen, was published. In an obituary, the New York Times wrote that Evergreen "follows Anna, a feisty, redheaded Jewish immigrant girl from Poland in turn-of-the-century New York, whose family story continues through several decades and three more books. Strong-willed women, many of them Jewish and red-haired as well, appear again and again in Ms. Plain's fiction."
The Times quoted Plain: "I got sick of reading the same old story, told by Jewish writers, of the same old stereotypes--the possessive mothers, the worn-out fathers, all the rest of the neurotic rebellious unhappy self-hating tribe. I wanted to write a different novel about Jews--and a truer one."
More than 30 million copies of her books are in print.
Decoded, the memoir by hip hop star Jay-Z, is being promoted in an unusual campaign in the month up to its November 16 pub date, the New York Times reported.
In part through some bartering, reproductions of pages of the book, published by Spiegel & Grau, will appear on billboards and a variety of spots related to the text so that, for example, "if in certain pages Jay-Z is talking about something related to Times Square, then those pages might be on billboards in Times Square," the head of the agency doing the campaign said.
One page is being reproduced on the bottom of a hotel swimming pool; another appears on the felt of pool tables in a pool hall.
The pages are the subject of a scavenger hunt that starts today. (For details go to bing.com/Jay-Z.) The grand prize is a trip to Las Vegas to see Jay-Z and Coldplay in a New Year's Eve concert.
Bing, a Google and Yahoo competitior, is paying for the campaign.
In a response to the recent New York Times article about picture books being "no longer a staple for children," Lisa Von Drasek on EarlyWord.com noted that the story focused on bookstores; librarians report picture books are very popular.
In addition, she summed up librarians' possible responses to parents who think their children are too old for picture books. Among the points:
"The text of picture books is often written at a higher reading level. Children need to hear this higher vocabulary to acquire language before they can read it.
"The pictures give children practice in visual literacy. Excellent picture books are ones that you can go back to again and again, discovering something new every time."
In the Chicagoist, Laura M. Browning has an amusing eulogy for the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, Chicago, Ill., which is moving to larger quarters in a year or so (Shelf Awareness, October 11, 2010). Noting that the new store will have, as manager Jack Cella put it, "operational temperature and air circulation controls," she wrote: "To anybody who has nearly fainted from the heat, buried deep in the Sem Co-op's labyrinthine basement, wondering if their body will ever be found under the pile of books from the Critical Social Theory & Marxism section, those temperature and air circulation controls do sound pretty great. So why are we prematurely mourning its death?
"The short answer to this is: go visit. It's at 5757 S. University, and you'll have to check your bag with a guard in the outer lobby or with a clerk inside. Trust us, there's not room for both you and it, anyway. Walk down a short but steep staircase and wipe the first bead of sweat from your brow. And then we strongly recommend embracing your inner nerd--after all, this is a bookstore where the clerks have probably read the entire philosophy section or are experts in French political theory. If you're claustrophobic, take a deep breath before you plunge into the labyrinth of crudely built bookshelves stocked floor to ceiling. Some of the narrow passages open into large, sunken rooms, and you'll start to feel like you'll never make it out of this place. But in a good way. Sure, there aren't big comfy chairs like at the nearby Borders, but we don't think you'll mind. It's a bookstore of yesteryear, the kind you didn't know still existed."
Book trailer of the day: Star in the Middle by Carol Larese Millward (WestSide Books), about two teen parents.
A "visual timeline" of American Library Association's READ campaign posters with musicians was featured by Flavorwire, which noted: "As lifelong bookworms, we've never needed a poster to inspire us to want to read--and if we did, we're not sure that Phil Collins or the Indigo Girls would be the right celebrities to motivate us. That said, we truly enjoy their efforts in the American Library Association's READ campaign, which is now in its 25th year."
A "verminous Dickens cake" was banned from a cake show in Melbourne, Australia. Boing Boing reported that " 'Great Expectations, the Miss Havisham Cake,' a remarkable, vermin-infested entry from the Hotham Street Ladies art collective was excluded from the Melbourne Cake Show on grounds of 'bad taste.' Boo!"
The business of business books. Bloomberg featured "an updated roster of 50 top titles published since June 30, 2009."
Media and Movies
Media Heat: V.S. Naipaul on Charlie Rose
Today on Ellen: Russell Brand, author of Booky Wook 2: This Time It's Personal (It Books, $26.99, 9780061958076/0061958077).
Today on the Sean Hannity Show: Stanley Kurtz, author of Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism (Threshold, $27, 9781439155080/1439155089).
Tonight on Charlie Rose: V.S. Naipaul, author of The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief (Knopf, $26.95, 9780307270733/0307270734).
Tonight in a repeat on the Colbert Report: Robert B. Reich, author of Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future (Knopf, $25, 9780307592811/0307592812).
---Tonight in a repeat on the Daily Show: Eric Cantor, co-author of Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders (Threshold Editions, $15, 9781451607345/1451607342).
Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Nicolle Wallace, author of Eighteen Acres (Atria, $25, 9781439194829/1439194823).
Tomorrow morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe: Robert D. Putnam, author of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781416566717/1416566716).
Tomorrow on the View: Arianna Huffington, author of Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream (Crown, $23.99, 9780307719829/0307719820).
Tomorrow night in a repeat on the Daily Show: Condoleezza Rice, author of Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me (Delacorte Books, $16.99, 9780385738798/038573879X).
Tomorrow night in a repeat on the Colbert Report: Bill Bryson, author of At Home: A Short History of Private Life (Doubleday, $28.95, 9780767919388/0767919386).
Tomorrow night in a repeat on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson: Laura Lippman, author of I'd Know You Anywhere: A Novel (Morrow, $25.99, 9780061706554/0061706558).
Movies: ICM Expands Books-to-Film Division
International Creative Management has hired Nick Harris to co-head--with Josie Freedman--its books-to-film department in the Los Angeles office. The department also includes agent Ron Bernstein. Deadline.com reported that Harris "moved to Los Angeles in 2006 to join Rabineau Wachter Sanford Harris (RWSH) as a partner before moving to Mosaic, where he repped authors, graphic novelists, and comic book creators. Harris negotiated film rights for Fox Searchlight's The Last King of Scotland, as well as The Men Who Stare at Goats, and the upcoming We Bought a Zoo." In 2001, Freedman "moved to ICM negotiating film and television deals based on books, life rights, articles and short stories. Her sales include: He's Just Not That Into You, The Illusionist, Thank You for Smoking, King Dork and Boomsday."
Books & Authors
IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites
From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:
To Fetch a Thief: A Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn (Atria, $25, 9781439157077/1439157073). "Hooray! Chet and Bernie are back! Chet is the most lovable narrator in all of crime fiction, and he doesn't disappoint in this third installment in the series. Neither does Quinn, and he keeps the suspense churning as our heroes investigate a missing person--and an elephant! There's excitement, warmth, and laughs aplenty. The dog says it best: 'Chet the Jet! You go!' "--Beth Simpson, Cornerstone Books, Salem, Mass.
The Naked Lady Who Stood on Her Head: A Psychiatrist's Stories of His Most Bizarre Cases by Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan (Morrow, $25.99, 9780061803789/0061803782). " 'Bizarre' is absolutely the best word to describe the phenomena that Dr. Gary Small witnesses as a psychiatrist. His accounts of true cases are nothing less than jaw-droppers. The stigma of 'seeing a shrink' is still a continuing battle we face today as often patients are considered mentally incompetent, but Dr. Small shows us how important and powerful our minds are and what they are capable of doing without our knowledge or recognition. Entertaining, shocking, and educational, Dr. Small's stories are a fabulous read."--Jennifer Chinn, the Book Works, Del Mar, Calif.
Blood of the Prodigal by P.L. Gaus (Plume, $13, 9780452296466/0452296463). "Although Amish country may seem a strange setting for kidnapping and murder, Pastor Troyer and Professor Branden are called in to help find both a murderer and a kidnapped boy. They must prove their investigative skills to both the Amish and the local sheriff. The Amish setting is as strange and intriguing as that of any foreign country, and the strong-willed characters challenge the reader's prejudices and values. This novel, the first in a series, opens the door for further exploration into the nature of these characters and their culture."--Wendy Foster Leigh, the King's English, Salt Lake City, Utah.
For Ages 4 to 8
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein (Candlewick, $16.99, 9780763641689/0763641685). "Little Red Chicken simply can't restrain herself when, in the bedtime stories that Papa reads to her, the characters are about to do something she knows they shouldn't do. So she interrupts, and Papa can't ever finish a story, and Little Red Chicken still isn't asleep. It's enough to wear a papa out, so Little Red Chicken offers to read him a story instead. David Ezra Stein's art is electric and energetic, and the story has just the right amount of silliness for kids and parents alike."--Ellen Richmond, Children's Book Cellar, Waterville, Me.
[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]
Awards: John Llewellyn Rhys Finalists; QWF Lit Shortlist
Finalists for the £5,000 (US$7,996) John Llewellyn Rhys prize, which honors "the best work of literature by a U.K. or Commonwealth writer under the age of 35," include Bomber County by Daniel Swift, Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed, The Still Point by Amy Sackville, A Light Song of Light by Kei Miller, Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine and Corrag by Susan Fletcher, the Guardian reported. This year's winner will be named November 23.
Finalists were announced in six categories for the 2010 Quebec Writers' Federation Literary Awards, Quillblog reported. Winners will be named November 23.
Shelf Starter: Dog Walks Man
Dog Walks Man: A Six-Legged Odyssey by John Zeaman (Lyons Press, $22.95, 9781599219639/1599219638, October 25, 2010)
Opening lines from a book we want to read, about the metaphysical joys of walking a dog:
Some dads don't know what hit them. The beagle-dad went by our house today. He's new to the neighborhood, a young father who walks the family dog before he dresses for work. He shuffles along in baggy jeans and an old work shirt, his hair sticking up every which way. In contrast, the dog always looks fresh, bright-eyed, sleek--not a hair out of place.
There's something comical in the tethered condition of these two. The dog takes long, thoughtful pauses at the bases of trees before anointing each spot with a few drops of urine. The man's attention flits desperately from one thing to another: the trees, the clouds, the facades of houses, the conditions of people's lawns. He seems to find it all unsatisfying, unworthy of his attention. He gives a tug on the lash. The dog lifts its leg again and gives one more squirt for good measure.
He is a member of the fraternity of dog-walker fathers, or, in my secret parlance, the brotherhood of dupes. He doesn't know it yet or understand why it's the natural order of things and nothing to worry about. I wish I could help him over the hump, but this is one of the things a man needs to find out for himself.
[People] are given to wondering how life might be different here or there [but] dogs share none of this. They know they are in the right place. They bring to the human family a powerful animal certainty, one borne of instinct and the cohesiveness of the pack. They are family glue. --Selected by Marilyn Dahl
Book Review: You Had Me at Woof
To say that Julie Klam's new memoir will resonate with dog lovers of every stripe is much like pointing out that it is necessary to breathe in order to stay alive. In fact, anyone who has ever owned a pet of any kind or cares about animals will find much to love here. The more surprising aspect of this utterly charming book is that it has every bit as much appeal for those who don't. Better yet, Klam never resorts to the easy but annoying sentimentality that characterizes so many recent books with the same subject. Rather, she deftly utilizes warmth, honesty and biting humor to achieve genuine poignancy.
Klam fell in love with her first Boston terrier, Otto, when he came bounding over to her in a dream. Soon thereafter the real Otto took up residence in Klam's apartment, the two of them becoming fast friends with Otto teaching a young and single Klam how to nurture and give of herself to another being. When she married Paul Leo, a miniature sculpture of Otto adorned their wedding cake. Later, midway through her pregnancy, Klam adopted another Boston, the tiny, spunky Beatrice, who had a whole other set of life lessons to impart. But Klam couldn't stop with Bea. At about the same time her sweet daughter Violet began prekindergarten, Klam joined the Northeast Boston Terrier Rescue group and began rescuing, fostering and adopting an astonishing variety and number of dogs. Each one of those adventures is recounted here, by turns hilarious, shocking, touching and heartbreaking.
Each dog is described in wonderful detail, all of them becoming fully three-dimensional characters. There is impossible Hank, beloved Moses, gigantic Sherlock (Klam's husband calls him "Sherlock Homeless") and indomitable Dahlia (whose storyline is one of the most compelling). The people attached to these Bostons who pass through Klam's life are just as colorful, but--alas--rarely as nice. Klam herself is a delightful guide--practical and no-nonsense, but so genuinely loving and appreciative of the dogs in her care that one can't help but share her enthusiasm. She is also a talented storyteller; the narrative is lively, takes many unexpected turns and is, frankly, hard to put down. Perhaps the strongest part of this book, however, comes with Klam's thoughtful and insightful meditation on what it means to lose a beloved dog--an inevitability given the difference in life expectancies--and how to cope with that loss.
All in all, a real treat--no begging required.--Debra Ginsberg
Shelf Talker: A charming, funny and genuinely touching memoir from Julie Klam that will appeal not just to dog lovers, but to anyone with a heart.