'The Power of an Audience'
"I had to confess that I do think about an audience, and I don't think that's so bad. I'm a reader, and so I know what it's like. That power--I wanted it so badly."
"I had to confess that I do think about an audience, and I don't think that's so bad. I'm a reader, and so I know what it's like. That power--I wanted it so badly."
During the second annual Holiday Open House last Saturday and Sunday afternoons at WORD, Brooklyn, N.Y., local authors joined the staff temporarily, offering recommendations and helping with shelving, among other things. The store provided complimentary donuts and cider. Here Emily St. John Mandel, author of The Singer's Gun, shows off her gift-wrapping skills.
Not-so-classic Oprah? The latest book club picks from Oprah Winfrey--A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations--debuted at number 52 on USA Today's bestseller list. This is a much quieter opening performance than previous Oprah classic selections have had, including Anna Karenina at number 1; East of Eden at 3; The Good Earth at 26; and As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury and Light in August (boxed set) at 27.
"Perhaps many people have already read them in school?" USA Today suggested. "Or could free separate downloads of each title from Amazon for the Kindle be affecting sales? (Barnes & Noble offers e-books of both books for 99 cents each)."
Bookmans Entertainment Exchange in Flagstaff, Ariz., has special reason to celebrate the holiday season. Last January, the store's roof collapsed under a record snowfall and resulted in the near total destruction of the building and most of its merchandise. Rebuilt from the foundation up, including updates to the layout, café and shelving, the better-than-ever Bookmans re-opens today. Click here to watch the store's video about "a timeless tale of destruction to reconstruction."
PEN American Center has created the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing, honoring writers whose body of work demonstrates "distinctive literary character and leadership in the field."
This is the second bit of teamwork by the literary organization and the sports network: last year the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing was created to honor one nonfiction work each year. The first winner, announced in October, was Marshall Jon Fisher for A Terrible Splendor: Three Extraordinary Men, a World Poised for War, and the Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played.
Happy 235th birthday to Jane Austen, an occasion Sourcebooks is celebrating by offering 10 of its Austen-inspired novels and six illustrated versions of her work for free in e-book form today.
The following are the top 20 reviewer favorites on BookBrowse.com for 2010:
Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann
Apparitions and Late Fictions by Thomas Lynch
Beneath the Lion's Gaze by Maaza Mengiste
Brilliant by Jane Brox
Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
Fame by Daniel Kehlmann
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Room by Emma Donoghue
Selected Poems of Amy Clampitt
Sunset Park by Paul Auster
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
The Ada Poems by Cynthia Zarin
The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The Lonely Polygamist by Brad Udall
The Sound of Wild Snails Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
BookBrowse subscribers are currently rating their favorites on this shortlist. The top three Best of the Year titles will be announced in January.
The first Connecticut Book Festival will be held next May 21 and 22 at the University of Connecticut Greater Hartford campus in West Hartford, Conn.
The program features readings and appearances by a range of authors, a children's activities tent, performances for all ages, food from West Hartford restaurants and specialty food purveyors. Exhibitors and vendors include book-based nonprofits, academic institutions, cultural organizations and artisans of book-related items. The UConn Co-op Bookstore will sell books by festival presenters. Wally Lamb is honorary chair of the festival.
The festival is sponsored by the UConn Co-op Bookstore, the Connecticut Library Association, the Connecticut State Library, the Connecticut Center for the Book at Hartford Public Library, Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, Connecticut Humanities Council, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center and the University of Connecticut, Greater Hartford Campus.
For more information, contact Mary Engels, Connecticut Book Festival, 786 South Main St., Middletown, Conn. 06457; 860-704-2214; fax 860-704-2228; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shoppers in Lincoln, Neb., have made Indigo Bridge Books' third holiday season the best one yet for the general interest store. "This year we're seeing a significant increase in sales as our presence in the community becomes stronger," said manager Kate Janulewicz. "A lot of people want to support us for the reasons that we wanted to open our doors to the community in the first place."
Indigo Bridge Books was founded in 2008, initially inspired by the idea for a bilingual children's story time and based on the belief that books can bring people together and bridge differences.
Every Saturday, retired teachers and other volunteers read tales in English and Spanish to youngsters. A new monthly program for kids, indiZoo, launched in November. A critter from either the Lincoln Children's Zoo or the Pioneers Park Nature Center is the star attraction during a fun educational session, along with stories and themed crafts. The first two visitors were Stella, a screech owl, and Huggie Bear, a hedgehog.
Top children's book bestsellers this season at Indigo Bridge Books are Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth and Tony DiTerlizzi's The Search for WondLa. The latter is a favorite handsell for Janulewicz, who read and loved the book after hearing the author speak at the Midwest Booksellers Association trade show. Another popular selection is Allen Kurzweil's Potato Chip Science: 29 Incredible Experiments. Janulewicz wasn't sure how the book and kit combo would do at the store but brought in an ample amount anyway--and it's nearly sold out.
For grown-up readers, customers are picking up copies of Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 ("that's a hot one," said Janulewicz) and Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff.
A display at the front of the store makes gift-giving a little easier for shoppers. Indigo Bridge Books staffers have assembled themed baskets, like "Fun and Funky for Her" with a journal, note block, stationery and pencils; "Music Lovers" with copies of Music: A Very Short Introduction by Nicholas Cook, High Fidelity by Nick Hornby and Music Listography: Your Life in (Play) Lists by Lisa Nola; and "Going Green" with Colin Beavan's No Impact Man, Ellis Jones' The Better World Shopping Guide and a reusable ChicoBag.
The "Fair Trade" gift basket includes a hand-knit cap from Tiny Hands International, an organization working to stop sex-trafficking in India and Nepal, and a bracelet from Handmade Expressions, a Texas company that partners with disadvantaged artisan communities in India. "We carry a lot of things that are fair trade, that benefit the people who are making them," said Janulewicz.
In the Café Indigo, store-branded mugs are paired with different assortments of organic coffees, loose teas and hot chocolate, which Janulewicz noted appeal to customers as impulse gifts as Christmas gets closer. Across from the café is a board that frequently highlights a different cause or organization. This month there are suggestions for "giftless gift-giving," places in the community to donate time or money during the holidays.
With the "Giving Tree Project," Indigo Bridge Books is making the holidays brighter for kids at the Friendship Home, a shelter for women and children who have endured domestic abuse. The centerpiece of the store is an eye-catching tree in the children's section, constructed by a local artist out of a support pillar and adorned with white lights. The tree is decorated with gingerbread house cut-outs, each of which has on it the name of a child at the shelter and a description of his or her interests such as planes or jewelry making. Customers can purchase a book for an individual child or make a donation to the program like some patrons have done, including several who gave $100 and $50.
Indigo Bridge Books' spirit of generosity extends year round. Every weekday from 11:30 to 1:30, the store hosts the Table. Displays are dismantled and transformed into a communal table, and diners pay what they can afford. The "priceless menu" includes baguettes and two kinds of soup daily (choices are announced on the store's Facebook page), which is purchased at cost from a local restaurant. "We have people from all different walks of life, in different age ranges, sitting at the same table discussing topics like college finals and family struggles," said Janulewicz.
Customers who purchase an Indigo Bridge Books canvas bag (which has the store's logo on one side and the story behind its name on the other) and bring it with them to the store to tote home purchases receive 10% off. This is a gift that keeps on giving: the perk that doesn't end with the holiday shopping season.--Shannon McKenna Schmidt
Rabbit Hole, based on the play by David Lindsay-Abaire, opens tomorrow, Friday, December 17. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart star as a couple whose lives become tumultuous after their son dies in an accident. A movie tie-in edition is available from Theatre Communications Group ($14.95, 9781559363969/1559363967).
When Kidman appeared on Oprah November 30 to give the lowdown on Rabbit Hole, Oprah gave everyone in the audience a copy of the book.
Writers Jeremy Miller and Dan Cohn are working on a project for Fox based on Walker Lamond's book Rules for My Unborn Son, Deadline.com reported. The comedy "centers on Miles, a 25-year-old underachiever adopted and raised by a family of eccentric intellectuals. When Miles meets his birth father, whom he finds to be 'the world's most interesting man,' his life is turned upside down, and, putting his own spin on the advice from his two very different fathers, Miles begins to write a rule book of life for his future son."
Book TV airs on C-Span 2 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, December 18
8:45 a.m. Eric Foner, author of The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (Norton, $29.95, 9780393066180/0393066185), explores the evolution of Lincoln's opinion about the issue of slavery. (Re-airs Sunday at 1 p.m., Saturday, December 25, at 7:45 p.m., and Sunday, December 26, at 12:45 a.m. and 5:45 a.m.)
10 a.m. Thomas Geoghegan talks about his book Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?: How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life (New Press, $25.95, 9781595584038/159558403X). (Re-airs Saturday at 5 p.m. and Monday at 6 a.m.)
12 p.m. Thomas Allen, author of Tories: Fighting for the King in America's First Civil War (Harper, $26.99, 9780061241802/0061241806), presents a history of Tory Americans during the American Revolution. (Re-airs Saturday at 9:15 p.m. and Sunday at 8:15 a.m.)
12:45 p.m. Charles Euchner, author of Nobody Turn Me Around: A People's History of the 1963 March on Washington (Beacon Press, $26.95, 9780807000595/0807000590), recounts the political and social tensions leading up to that historic August day. (Re-airs Saturday at 11p.m. and Sunday at 7 a.m.)
3 p.m. Alan Taylor discusses his book, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies (Knopf $35, 9781400042654/1400042658). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m. and Monday at 5 a.m.)
4 p.m. Michael Mandelbaum, author of The Frugal Superpower: America's Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era (PublicAffairs, $23.95, 9781586489168/158648916X), argues that the era of an expansive U.S. foreign policy is ending. (Re-airs Sunday at 9:45 a.m. and Monday at 2 a.m.)
8 p.m. Eric Metaxas, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Thomas Nelson, $29.99, 9781595551382/1595551387), the life of the Lutheran pastor, author and anti-Nazi activist. (Re-airs Sunday at 1 a.m., 4:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.)
10 p.m. After Words. Former Defense Secretary William Cohen interviews Hugh Shelton, 14th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and author of Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior (St. Martin's, $27.99, 9780312599058/0312599056). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m., and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)
Sunday, December 12
2:15 a.m. Virginia Scharff, author of The Women Jefferson Loved (Harper, $27.99, 9780061227073/0061227072), recalls the women who influenced Thomas Jefferson. (Re-airs Sunday at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.)
6 a.m. Michael Takiff, author of A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton as Told by Those Who Know Him (Yale University Press, $32.50, 9780300121308/030012130X), presents an oral history of the former president as told by 169 of his colleagues, friends and adversaries. (Re-airs Sunday at 11 a.m. and Monday at 1 a.m.)
7 p.m. Ted Gup, author of A Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness--and a Trove of Letters--Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression (Penguin, $25.95, 9781594202704)/1594202702), talks about his grandfather, Sam Stone, and the anonymous $5 checks he gave to 150 residents of Canton, Ohio just before Christmas in 1933. (Re-airs Monday at 7 a.m., Friday, December 24, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Saturday, December 25, at 1 a.m.)
One Day by David Nicholls has been voted the Galaxy Book of the Year by the British reading public, the Bookseller reported. Nicholls bested a shortlist of eight category winners from the Galaxy National Book Awards (Shelf Awareness, November 11, 2010) that included Stephen Fry, Hilary Mantel and Jonathan Franzen. The novel became a finalist for the overall prize by winning the Popular Fiction Book of the Year category
"I'm both surprised and delighted by the award and would like to thank everyone who took the trouble to vote," said Nicholls.
Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean about Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding by Jessie Sholl (Gallery Press, $15.00 Paperback, 9781439192528, December 2010)
Once only the shameful and "dirty secret" of the title, compulsive hoarding has recently entered the public consciousness through such reality shows as Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive. Though hoarding is estimated to afflict as many as seven million Americans, it remains a mysterious and difficult to treat mental illness, wreaking havoc on families, posing severe health risks to those who suffer from it and causing untold anguish. In her sometimes funny but mostly heartbreaking memoir, Jessie Sholl recounts her life as the daughter of a compulsive hoarder; in telling her painful story, she sheds light on aspects of the illness that TV cameras miss.
When her mother was recently diagnosed with colon cancer, Jessie flew to Minneapolis from her home in New York to help out. What this meant--in practical terms--was attempting to clean up her mother's hellishly hoarded home (the same house she'd escaped decades earlier). As she wades through the junk, papers, refuse, empty shopping bags and countless duplicates of things like sneakers, toasters and bottles of hand lotion, Jessie is forced to relive the most difficult aspects of her childhood. By her own account, Jessie's parents were a terrible match from the start, divorcing when she was very young and forcing her to become her unstable mother's caretaker. The signs of mental illness were there from the start--deep depressions, neglect of Jessie and her younger brother, casual and inexplicable cruelty (Jessie's mother tortured her repeatedly by reinforcing her fear of snakes with a pathological glee) and, of course, the hoarding--an escalating nightmare that Jessie was unable to control. Even moving in with her gentle father and understanding stepmother couldn't help Jessie overcome the shame, stigma and anxiety associated with being her mother's daughter.
Hoarding seems to have an easy fix--just clean it up and throw it all away--but Jessie demonstrates how impossible that is. Hoarding, as she points out, has elements of OCD, but also affects areas of the brain associated with planning, decision-making and emotional expression. While specific stressors may aggravate the condition, the hoarder is unlikely to understand that there is anything wrong with his/her behavior and is therefore highly resistant to changing it.
Using gallows humor borne out of years of frustration, Jessie soldiers on in her quest to help her mother, ultimately realizing (after, among other things, contracting a horrific case of drug-resistant scabies in her mother's house) that there is a limit to what she is able to accomplish and that caring for herself is the only way for her to attain happiness in her own life.--Debra Ginsberg
Shelf Talker: This is a disturbing and painful account of growing up in the shadow of compulsive hoarding, but it is very well written and highly compelling; a story that will doubtless resonate with many readers.
Previously on the Nitty Gritty, we took a behind-the-scenes look at the process of development and rationale for Knopf's first enhanced e-book, Charles Yu's How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. But what about the actual reading experience? Do bells and whistles, video and links truly enhance a story--or distract from it?
Reading an e-book can be similar to reading a book: at the most basic level, you've got words, in a particular order, by a particular writer. But as many readers will tell you (some approvingly, others not), it never will be exactly the same experience. A screen is not a page, a device is not a book, and trying to make them the same thing is an exercise in futility. The modifications that digitization allows the reader to make--from cosmetic user-controlled changes like shifting the contrast, font size, page orientation, etc., to deliberate changes like enhancements--inevitably alter the flow of how you read. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Reading the enhanced e-book, I found that the extras slowed the flow. I'm a fast reader, used to plowing through big chunks of text at breakneck speed. This is an asset. I can read more books in less time. But it's also a liability: sometimes I miss details or beautiful bits of writing because I'm looking ahead to the next plot point. The links, videos and audio were a jolt, knocking me out of my rhythm and forcing me to stop and click. It was comparable to reading an annotated edition: the references break up the flow of the story in a similar way, sending you off in slightly different directions mentally, while still relating directly to the text.
But the enhancements are neat. Because this book is so concept-heavy (time travel!), it lends itself to extras that build on and supplement the text, rather than merely illustrating or repeating the text in a visual/audio form. (Confession: I've always disliked those call-outs in magazines that repeat sentences, only in a bigger, fancier font, and I was afraid that the add-ons would be the same thing, but worse, because you'd have to stop and click them just to find out that it was more of the same.) So I tip my hat to the author and team for a gamble well-played.
The enhanced e-book can also help booksellers handsell. With a customer, I can whip out my iPod and say, "Check it out! It's got this funny bit about the Death Star in it!" and show the funny bit (see left). And with the arrival of more ways for indies to sell e-books, I believe that booksellers will start to find themselves handselling them sooner rather than later.
For me, the enhancements in How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe added a new dimension to the reading experience and played to the book's strengths--its sci-fi roots, its use of concepts, its ability to take abstract theories and make them incredibly, sometimes painfully, personal. If you like reading annotated editions, you'll probably enjoy enhanced e-books. If you prefer your story straight-up and straight-forward, you'll likely want to skip them.
Side note: while I have a wish list of other books that I'd love to see receive similar treatment (one of them is another Knopf title, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, that is just begging for an integrated play list and a fully interactive slideshow), I also think that many books might suffer from this kind of enhancement. It's a brave new digital world out there, and my hope is that publishers and authors will try a lot of different things, but will tailor these experiments to the books themselves in the same way that they tailor the jacket. Not every book needs a girl in period costume on the cover, and not every e-book needs embedded video.--Jenn Northington