Shelf Awareness for Thursday, June 16, 2011


HarperCollins: On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna

Johns Hopkins University Ptess: Playboys and Mayfair Men by Angus McLaren / A Year of Writing Dangerously by Keith Gandal

Atlantic Monthly Press: The Prague Sonata by Bradford Morrow

Balzer & Bray/Harperteen: I Love You Like a Pig by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

Editors' Note

Shelf Awareness for Consumers

All of us at Shelf Awareness are happy and proud to announce that tomorrow we're launching our first major new product since we started up six years ago. It's Shelf Awareness: Enlightenment for Readers, a twice-weekly e-mail newsletter that will help readers discover new books.

We'll feature news and information about books and authors as well as reviews of the 25 best books of the week chosen by our industry insiders. Our tastemakers are editor Bethanne Patrick, aka the Book Maven, who in addition to everything else, will contribute author interviews, and book review editor Marilyn Dahl and children's editor Jennifer M. Brown, who are managing our stable of more than 60 reviewers, many of whom are booksellers, critics, librarians or authors. We'll be covering a much broader range of books than we have until now.

The edition of Shelf Awareness that you are reading now will continue to publish most business days and keeps the name Shelf Awareness: Daily Enlightenment for the Book Trade. To help distinguish it from its younger sibling, we're tagging it "pro," as you'll notice above.

Shelf Awareness: Enlightenment for Readers will be sent out Tuesdays and Fridays by noon Eastern time. As a subscriber to this edition of Shelf Awareness, you'll automatically receive our new publication. Look for the first issue tomorrow morning. Happy reading!


AuthorBuzz: Indie Bookstore Readers


Quotation of the Day

Writing & Reading: When to 'Let It Go and Move On'

"There’s a danger in perfectionism, in the compulsive attempt to make every novel and story and essay an A plus, or to finish reading everything we start. Yet there’s also a danger in easy abandonment, in the lack of persistence needed to push through the slow parts of War and Peace or Infinite Jest, or in the lack of writerly belief in one’s powers of revision and discovery.

"In this way, as in so many others, writing and reading are metaphors for living. In the end, you do the best you can, and then, in one way or another, you let it go and move on."

--Frank Kovarik in The Millions.

 


Zondervan: To Wager Her Heart (Belle Meade Plantation) by Tamera Alexander



News

Image of the Day: Scholastic Stars

 

The staff of Hicklebee's Bookstore, San Jose, Calif., with the stars of Scholastic's This Is Teen tour: (in front l. to r.) Meg Cabot, Libba Bray and Maggie Stiefvater.


Notes: Borders Stores Get Reprieve; App Store 'Showdown'

In documents filed yesterday in bankruptcy court, Borders said it had reached an agreement in principle with its lenders and the unsecured creditors' committee to amend its bankruptcy financing agreements so that it won't have to close any stores in the near future.

Last week the company said it would begin shutting 51 stores for which landlords had not extended the time allowing Borders to assume or reject leases--since not having the lease extensions would violate the terms of its bankruptcy financing. In the week since then, it had reached agreements with landlords for extensions on 11 stores, bringing the number of stores that might have been closed to 40.

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Are Apple and Amazon "barreling toward a showdown"? CNN Money reported that after June 30, Apple will begin enforcing new iTunes App Store rules prohibiting applications that include "external mechanisms for purchases... such as a 'buy' button that goes to a website to purchase a digital book." The rule places Amazon's popular Kindle app "directly in Apple's crosshairs."

In a blog post cited by CNN, Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey observed that Apple recently, and quietly, "altered its app approval policies in a way that will make publishers much happier. Specifically, Apple has relaxed control over whether apps can access content paid for outside of the App Store’s purchase APIs. The company has also allowed publishers to price however they want, both outside and inside of the app."

He cautioned, however, that "there’s one app that no one is talking about but I believe everyone should have their eye on. It’s the Amazon Kindle app. This app violates even Apple's revised policies and will soon face a day of reckoning when Apple's June 30th deadline for compliance comes up." McQuivey offered Amazon some unsolicited advice:

  1. Release an updated, compliant App Store app, with a little attitude.
  2. Release an amazing HTML5 "app" that gives Kindle readers everything Amazon has to offer.


"None of this deals with the hardware side of Amazon’s business," McQuivey added, "where the company is falling far behind rival Barnes & Noble which has two Nook devices that make Amazon's current Kindle crop feel a bit like Palm Pilots."

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Another 42 Angus & Robertson stores in Australia are being shut and 19 A&R stores are being sold, the Sydney Morning-Herald reported. The closings, announced by the bankruptcy administrator for A&R's parent company, REDgroup Retail, will result in the loss of jobs for 519 people.

Since REDgroup Retail declared bankruptcy in February, the administrator has closed the 26 Borders stores in Australia as well as at least 55 A&R stores.

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In a sign of changing times in the book trade, Bertelsmann plans to close Direct Group, its book clubs and direct marketing division, effective June 30, paidContent.org reported. During the past three years, Direct Group had sold most of its international subsidiaries, including Direct Group North America (operating Book of the Month Club and Columbia House), which was acquired by Najafi Companies, the private equity firm currently considering a bid for Borders.

Although niche book clubs like the Progressive Book Club and Conservative Book Club have found some traction in recent years, the business as a whole has diminished substantially. PaidContent.org noted that "as of 2009 the Direct Group book clubs' membership in the United States had shrunk by as much as 75% from its height."

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This month's featured bookseller in Algonquin's Booksellers Rock! series is Emily Crowe, "assistant manager/buyer/bookseller/Big Kahuna" at the Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, Mass. Some highlights from the interview:

Strangest question a customer has ever asked: Do you arrange books by size? Because I’m looking for hardcover books about this big [frames a smallish book size with thumbs and index fingers].

Why our store kicks ass: I’d probably have to go with our Topless Tuesday tradition. (Just kidding!) Our staff, plain and simple. They’re the best folks anywhere.

I promise you won’t find this at any other store: There’s a small gold plaque above the toilet in our staff bathroom that bears witness to the fact that Anne Rice Peed Here.

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Cool idea of the day: Club Read, an October weekend retreat for some 200 booklovers that is being sponsored by the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association and the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. The event will be held at the Mariners Landing Resort, Huddleston, Va., and include a dozen authors. NAIBA and SIBA bookstore members are promoting the event to their customers. As the organizers said about those customers: "If they love you for your author events, they'll love you even more for this opportunity of a lifetime."

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The Los Angeles Times profiled "the ironically named the Last Bookstore" and owner Josh Spencer, whose new location "is a mix of old and new." His dream was "to create one giant space where everything I thought was cool would be in one place. Hopefully, other people will come in and share it with me.... We sold more books here in the first three days than we did in an entire month at our last location. It seems to be working, by having a larger space and being on Spring Street, a much heavier foot-traffic area."

The Times noted that Spencer is "trying to remake the idea of the used bookstore with dusty, ancient stock." He said he thinks that "books are going to become sort of like vinyl is now: the province of people who appreciate things that are well made, appreciate craft in graphics and creativity they can feel. I think there's always going to be a great market for books, but it's definitely going to shrink to those who value and enjoy the ritual of browsing through books and holding books and turning pages. That's gradually going to become less and less, as the generations pass. This might be the last generation, I think."

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A fond farewell: The Source featured a video profile of Canadian bookseller Richard Bachmann, former owner of A Different Drummer Books, Burlington, Ont., as he was retiring from the business.

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London's Travel Bookshop in Notting Hill, which gained notoriety as Hugh Grant's workplace in the 1999 film Notting Hill, is on the market, the Kensington & Chelsea Chronicle reported. A spokeswoman for the shop said that the adult children of the current owner--who lives in France--"indicated that they would rather not follow him into the business and so he feels that the continuance of the trade would be best served by selling it on for a new generation to look after one of London's iconic and special bookshops."

Marion Gettleson, an antiques trader on Portobello Road, said: "The news about Travel Bookshop is very unfortunate. However, it's also a great opportunity for the many local people with the necessary means, to buy an iconic bookshop. With goodwill on all sides and sympathetic landlords, the Travel Bookshop surely has a profitable future. Time for action before it's lost."

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Watch this space dept.: Pottermore.com, a mysterious website featuring "a pink holding page with the description 'coming soon' and Rowling’s signature underneath," has been launched by J.K. Rowling. The Bookseller reported that Pottermore.com has sparked rumors that more Harry Potter novels are on the way, but a spokeswoman for Rowling’s PR company Stone Hill Salt said, "It is not another Harry Potter book but we cannot reveal any more at this stage, fans will have to keep an eye on the website. It will be launching soon."

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Spanish design firm Play Studios asked some children for their visions of cities of the future, then "took these ideas and rendered them into pop-up book form. The pop-up book was then beautifully animated to show three different possibilities for our future urban living," Fast Company reported.

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"Wild Thing" by the Troggs, of course. Flavorwire's literary mixtape for Max from Where the Wild Things Are ("Maurice Sendak's ultimate wild child") offers a musical selection for a child who "goes out into the wild to discover something about himself, then returns a changed man--er, boy--able to see the real world differently. When he gets homesick, he climbs back into his bedroom and finds his supper waiting for him after all, still hot, the love of a mother paramount."

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Katharine Quarmby, author of Scapegoat: Why We Are Failing Disabled People, chose her top 10 disability stories for the Guardian. "Although some of the characters are clearly not positive I think it's important to recommend influential books here, rather than the few written by disabled writers seeking to promote positive images that haven't reached the mainstream," she wrote. "It's also interesting to note that there are fewer disabled characters in the canon nowadays, except in children's literature, where there has been a deliberate attempt to promote positive images of disabled children and adults, thanks to activists like Richard Rieser and Susie Burrows."

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Flavorwire showcased a series of illustrations by Alëna Skarina inspired by Kilgore Trout, the science fiction writer who appears in several of Kurt Vonnegut's novels.

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BuzzFeed featured "9 surprising things you didn't know about Edgar Rice Burroughs," noting that Burroughs, "a prolific writer of the early twentieth century, is probably best known for creating Tarzan--but one of his most lasting creations, epic hero John Carter, is coming to life on the big screen in March 2012." If you didn't know who Edgar Rice Burroughs was, that makes 10 things.

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Bookshelf of the day: Boing Boing introduced the Scroll Bookshelf, which "appears to be a design prototype for a new kind of shelf that uses a curled, tensioned metal shelf overlaid with plastic to hold the books in place."

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Book trailer of the day: Eat Naked: Unprocessed, Unpolluted, and Undressed Eating for a Healthier, Sexier You by Margaret Floyd (New Harbinger Publications).

 


Happy Bloomsday!

Today we celebrate the life and work of James Joyce with myriad Bloomsday festivities worldwide. Check out the James Joyce Centre for a list of events in Ireland and beyond. Here are a few more Bloomsday tidbits:

Ulysses meets Twitter: All day today, a brave cast of volunteer "tweaders" will post the novel's text 140 characters at a time through @11ysses.

For literary cartographers, Google Maps features "Bloomsday 2011 Worldwide," with which you can "navigate your way around the globe and see the many events organized by Irish cultural centers, arts organizations and enthusiastic individuals."

From Old Books on Front Street, Wilmington, N.C.: "We are going to stage a reading at the Bookstore with food and beer and we are asking people to take 10 Minute reading slots. We will start at 9 a.m. and go until 9 p.m., when we close. We are certain the book will improve as more beer is consumed."

The New Yorker's Book Bench blog offered a roundup of Bloomsday happenings in the city. You can also visit BloomsdayNYC.

The Los Angeles Times Jacket Copy blog featured "8 ways to celebrate James Joyce and Bloomsday," including Radio Bloomsday, which will broadcast an excerpted audio version of Ulysses on KPFK-FM (90.7) in L.A. and WBAI-FM (99.5) in New York (or listen to WBAI online).

Author Frank Delaney marks the one-year anniversary of his ambitious--you might even say Joycean--podcast project, RE: Joyce, in which he deconstructs Ulysses line by line. To celebrate, Delaney offers a rap tribute to James Joyce.

The Irish Independent featured an article on "the Bloomsday world tourists never get to hear about... and fans rarely get to see--the exploration of the notorious Monto district in Dublin's north inner city, an area famously riven by prostitution and iniquity.... 'Nighttown' in Ulysses is a slum of alleys, warrens, dens and parlors, where urchins, madams, prostitutes and intoxicated clientele roam. A 'navvy' vomits into a gutter, two 'redcoats' carouse. True to form, this was Monto in its heyday."

"Can you cross Dublin without passing a pub?" The Belfast Telegraph reported that Rory McCann, a 27-year old software developer, "claims he has settled decades of debate about the puzzle in Joyce's masterpiece Ulysses with a simple equation proving it can, indeed, be done. Using online maps, the Dubliner worked out an algorithm--a computer equation--which found how to criss-cross the capital, from north to south and east to west, away from the temptation of any pub."

"Would Joyce use an iPad?" This question was posed in the Digital Life section of the Sydney Morning Herald. "Were he writing today, it seems to us he would be drawn to the iPad, and particularly to Adobe Ideas," suggested Charles Wright, adding, "We're pretty sure his eyesight and his personal disposition would have made him something of a computerphobe.... Joyce wouldn't have taken to Twitter or anything like it. Indeed, having written what was until recently the longest sentence in English literature--4,391 words, in Ulysses--we can't imagine him even attempting to write an SMS or a tweet."

In the Huffington Post, Joan K. Smith explored the alternative Bloomsday universe imagined by artist Robert Berry, whose Ulysses Seen is, "of all things, a serialized electronic comic book--yes comic book--adaptation of Ulysses.... Ulysses Seen is ultimately a work of art in itself that resides in a sort of parallel and enriching dimension to the original book. It neither takes the place of nor cheapens the experience of reading the original, which is no small feat."

If comic books aren't radical enough for you, how about the full text of Ulysses converted into QR codes, so you can use a mobile device with a barcode scanner to read a section of the book.

Parting words from Irish Voice magazine: "Around the world these days there are thousands of Joycean scholars who make their living parsing and reparsing the great man who, perhaps much to his chagrin if he were alive, has become a symbol of all things Irish to millions. So celebrate this Bloomsday and if nothing else, read some of Molly’s soliloquy. It is there that the greatness of Joyce can be seen and the celebration of his masterwork is well deserved. Happy Bloomsday."

 


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Sarah Ferguson on CBS' the Talk

This morning on the Today Show: Sarah Maizes, author of Got MILF?: The Modern Mom's Guide to Feeling Fabulous, Looking Great, and Rocking a Minivan (Berkley, $14, 9780425239049).

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Tomorrow on CBS' the Talk: Sarah Ferguson, author of Finding Sarah: A Duchess's Journey to Find Herself (Atria, $25.99, 9781439189542).

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Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Larry King, author of Truth Be Told: Off the Record about Favorite Guests, Memorable Moments, Funniest Jokes, and a Half Century of Asking Questions (Weinstein, $25, 9781602861305).

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Tomorrow on ABC's 20/20: Laurie Puhn, author of Fight Less, Love More: 5 Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In (Rodale, $24.99, 9781605295985).

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Tomorrow on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly: Sarah Vowell, author of Unfamiliar Fishes (Riverhead, $25.95, 9781594487873).


This Weekend on Book TV: Pitching in the Promised Land

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this Memorial Day weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, June 18

10 a.m. Book TV presents live coverage of the Roosevelt Reading Festival from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y. (Re-airs Sunday at 1 a.m.)

7:30 p.m. James Kloppenberg, author of Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition (Princeton University Press, $24.95, 9780691147468), examines how President Obama's education has influenced his political career.  

8:45 p.m. Rebecca Tinsley, author of When the Stars Fall to Earth (LandMarc Press, $14.95, 9780984512959), discusses her novel about five children who survived the genocide in Darfur.  

10 p.m. After Words. Frank Rose of Wired magazine interviews James Gleick, author of The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (Pantheon, $29.95, 9780375423727). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

Sunday, June 19

12 a.m. At an event hosted by Book Passage bookstore, Corte Madera, Calif., Aaron Pribble talks about his book Pitching in the Promised Land: A Story of the First and Only Season in the Israel Baseball League (University of Nebraska Press, $24.95, 9780803234727).

8 a.m. Thomas Woods, author of Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse (Regnery, $27.95, 9781596985872), argues for shrinking the size and power of the federal government. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m. and Monday at 5:15 a.m.)

University of Chicago interviews:

1 p.m. Robert Gooding-Williams, author of In the Shadow of Du Bois: Afro-Modern Political Thought in America (Harvard University Press, $18.95, 9780674060241) (Re-airs Monday at 1 a.m.)
1:14 p.m. John Mearsheimer, author of Why Leaders Lie: The Truth About Lying in International Politics (Oxford University Press, $21.95, 9780199758739) (Re-airs Monday at 1:14 a.m.)
1:40 p.m. Mark Philip Bradley, author of Vietnam at War (Oxford University Press, $29.95, 9780192803498) (Re-airs Monday at 1:40 a.m.)

 


Complaint Dept.: The Lovely Bones Led the Way in U.K.

The film version of The Lovely Bones, adapted from Alice Sebold's novel, earned the dubious distinction of being the most complained about movie in the U.K. last year. The British Board of Film Classification had classified it 12A, though some people "felt a scene in which the character is trapped by the killer was more suited to an 18-rated film," the Guardian reported.

Kick-Ass, Matthew Vaughn's comic book adaptation, ranked second in objections. Other films attracting complaints because of their certification included Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Toy Story 3 and The Princess and the Frog.

A number of people "seemed rather to miss the point of the certification process," the Guardian wrote. The BBFC's report noted that there were several requests that the board "should indicate whether films advertised as a comedy are funny or not," and there were complaints about noisy moviegoers, high ticket prices and obnoxious box office staff.

 


Books & Authors

Awards: Impac Dublin Literary Winner; Dolman Shortlist

Colum McCann won the €100,000 (US$142,146) International Impac Dublin Literary Award for his novel Let the Great World Spin. The Irish Times reported that McCann topped nine other finalists to become the second Irish author to win the prize.

The Impac judging panel praised McCann's work as "a genuinely 21st century novel that speaks to its time but is not enslaved by it. In the opening pages of Let The Great World Spin, the people of New York city stand breathless and overwhelmed as a great artist dazzles them in a realm that seemed impossible until that moment; Colum McCann does the same thing in this novel, leaving the reader just as stunned as the New Yorkers, just as moved and just as grateful."

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Finalists for the 2011 Dolman Travel Book of the Year are:

Dreaming in Hindi by Katherine Russell Rich
Drinking Arak Off an Ayatollah's Beard by Nicolas Jubber
Germania by Simon Winder
Molotov's Magic Lantern by Rachel Polonsky
Parisians by Graham Robb
The Last Resort by Douglas Rogers



Chairman of judges Giles Foden said all of the titles "move across space and tunnel through time in various configurations. In all of them, too, there is a balance between actual travel narrative and other types of writing. How elegantly this balance is managed was the principal point of discussion between the judges. We all look forward to reading them again and selecting a winner." The winner will be honored July 6.

 


Book Review

Book Review: Flashback

Flashback by Dan Simmons (Reagan Arthur/Hachette, $27.99 hardcover, 9780316006965, July 2011)

On the one hand, Flashback is a taut near-future thriller about a disgraced homicide detective who's been hired by the father of the victim in the case he couldn't solve back when he was on the Denver police force, and finds himself in the center of a global conspiracy. On the other hand, it's a novel in which one of the most sympathetic characters expresses his heartfelt wish that "the American president... who turned against Israel" had been strung up and hanged from a Washington, D.C., lamppost--with both the character and his creator seemingly oblivious to the horrific racist connotations of such a statement.

Granted, Dan Simmons doesn't specifically identify Barack Obama as the chief executive whose lack of support for Israel led to its obliteration in a nuclear assault by an Islamic coalition--and, to be fair, he blames a lot of Congress, too. Given all the fulminating his characters do about how the United States was brought down by everything from "staggering entitlement programs" to politically correct diversity in the school curriculum, however, it's not all that difficult to connect the dots--especially since there is a scene that neatly pinpoints the beginning of America's decline to "the early days of the Obama administration."

So it would be easy to dismiss Flashback as blatant right-wing scaremongering, but readers might at least ask themselves: Could the beliefs Simmons's characters express reflect a natural, if ugly, response to a world where Canada, along with most of Europe, is under sharia law; the southwestern states have seceded and aligned themselves with Mexico; and the United States is pretty much owned and operated by Japanese corporations? (That said, it's 2011, and maybe, just maybe, we can move past underlining how Japanese people pronounce their Ls like Rs.)

Michael Crichton's 1992 novel Rising Sun is a useful reference point here; like Crichton, Simmons is obvious, at times outright heavy handed, in his polemical efforts, but the politics are folded into a storyline that, when it asserts itself over the jeremiads, is rather absorbing. Sure, you know that Nick Bottom, the disgraced detective, is bound to pull his life back together, but you're still interested in finding out exactly how. (And, yes, the story does address why a Denver detective has a name straight out of Shakespeare.) Flashback balances its thriller and science fiction elements skillfully, although the eponymous gimmick, a drug that allows users to relive their memories with perfect clarity, is basically a narrative structural tool that warps into a clunky metaphor for a nation's descent into nostalgia. Readers who aren't compelled to throw the book across the room every dozen or so pages, when Simmons announces that schoolchildren in Los Angeles celebrate 9/11 as "the beginning of successful resistance to the old imperialist American hegemony" or puts a giant mosque in the center of Manhattan's Ground Zero, are likely to find themselves caught up in the drama.--Ron Hogan

Shelf Talker: Simmons's vision of America in the 2030s will push readers' political buttons. The only question is whether it'll be the good ones or the bad ones.

 


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Titles in Chicagoland and Milwaukee Last Week

The following were the bestselling books at independent bookstores in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas during the week ended Sunday, June 12:

1. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
2. In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
5. Room by Emma Donoghue
6. The Greater Journey by David McCullough
7. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
8. Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach
9. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
10. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

The reporting bookstores and their handselling favorites:

Anderson's, Naperville and Downers Grove: South of Superior by Ellen Airgood
Bookstall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Book Cellar, Lincoln Square: Fierce Medicine by Ana Forrest
Book Table, Oak Park: County: Life, Death and Politics at Chicago's Public Hospital by David Ansell
Books & Co., Oconomowoc: The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee: The Film that Changed My Life by Robert K. Elder
57th St. Books, Chicago: Between Parentheses by Roberto Bolano
Lake Forest Books: The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai
Next Chapter, Mequon
Read Between the Lynes, Woodstock: The First Husband by Laura Dave
Seminary Co-op: On What Matters by Derek Parfit
Women and Children First, Chicago: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

[Many thanks to the booksellers and Carl Lennertz!]


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