Shelf Awareness for Friday, August 26, 2011
Quotation of the Day
Point/Counterpoint: 'It’s a Mistake to Rarify Reading'
"It's a mistake to rarify reading and put books out of reach. It's a mistake to assume, as Alan Jacobs did recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education (in a passage later quoted by Shelf Awareness), that readers are, 'mostly born and only a little made.' Because those discoveries in libraries and bookstores--and, yes, on my parents' shelves, too--are what made me a reader, not some mysterious, bibliogenic accident of birth. That kind of thinking not only makes fewer readers, but might unmake the ones already forming. In an era of reduced library budgets and hours, closing bookstores, declining sales, and lost readers, discouraging anyone, of any age, from picking up a book they're interested in seems like the last thing we should be doing."
Image of the Day: Borders Leaves
Like many independent bookstores, the Magic Tree Bookstore, Oak Park, Ill., is encouraging people with Borders Rewards memberships to exchange their cards for its loyalty program. In Magic Tree's case, former Borders Rewards members receive a free year of membership that's worth $10 plus a 10% discount on most everything in the store. (Longtime Magic Tree members who also have Borders Rewards memberships can have their Magic Tree membership extended for free.) But, unlike other stores, at Magic Tree when a member "converts," his or her card is stickered "welcome new Magic Tree member," and attached to the store's own magic tree (above).
Notes: BAM Opens in Old Walden Site; New Stores in Rockies
Another Books-A-Million has opened in a former Borders Group store site: BAM opened yesterday in a space in the Sumter Mall, Sumter, S.C., that formerly was the location of a Waldenbooks outlet. BAM now has 233 stores in 23 states and Washington, D.C.
Cheryl Watkins, owner of Bookworks, Whitefish, Mont., has signed a lease to open a second store, in Kalispell, Mont., where a Borders is in the process of closing, KAJ18 reported. She plans to open the new store by October 1. She has owned Bookworks since 1996. Kalispell is about 15 miles from Whitefish.
Watkins has been considering opening a second store for two years and was attracted to Kalispell when Borders declared bankruptcy.
The Written Word bookstore is opening for business tomorrow in Brush, Colo., the Fort Morgan Times reported. Owner Marlene Grippin told the paper that the store will carry more than 2,000 new and used books, all under $20. "I'm not making things expensive," she said. "I think books should be inexpensive."
The store will offer free wi-fi and coffee, a children's area and room for local artists to display work. The Written Word will also have a book of the month club, which begins in September with The Help by Kathryn Stockett. In October the store is adding a program for students who need extra help with homework; a kind of tutoring program whereby residents will teach such things as guitar; a writers and a poetry club; and classes in art, foreign languages and sign language.
Grippin was helped by Bonnie Newton, owner of the Book Nook in nearby Fort Morgan. "I'm going to continue to work with Bonnie, too," Grippin said. "She's been really gracious." Grippin also received help from Downtown Duds, a toy store, that has provided toys in the children's area.
The Written Word is located at 318 E. Edison St., Brush, Colo. 80723; 970-467-1519.
Laura Snyder is selling Lucy's Books, Astoria, Ore., in "healthy condition" to Patti Breidenbach, effective September 1. In a blog post, Snyder said in part, "I started Lucy's with a passion for reading, a big dose of ignorance, some luck, and nothing in the way of experience running a business. The passion part helped me to realize 13 years of one of the best livelihoods a person could ever hope to have. The ignorance and general haplessness taught me patience, and to appreciate all of the locals and tourists alike who were patient with me, kind and good humored, while I learned to become a bookseller."
She added that she has mixed feelings about selling the store. "It's taken me a couple of years of waffling to come to the conclusion, finally, that I need change in my life (I guess rearranging the furniture won't satisfy the urge for change this time around!), something new to do after 13 years at Lucy's, however wonderful those years have been."
In Bookselling This Week, Naomi McEneely, events coordinator at Lake Forest Book Store, Lake Forest, Ill., offered 15 reasons for bookstores to partner with libraries for author events. The store currently partners with 15 of the 20 libraries in its county and has plans to partner with the other five.
The bookstore provides the authors and sells books at the events, and the libraries usually host the events and help draw larger audiences than the store would have otherwise. Because the libraries are geographically spread out, the bookstore is often able to set up events with one author at multiple libraries on the same day. Libraries also have strong connections with schools, which offer a great opportunity for stores.
For the libraries, the events help boost patron traffic, which is important for budgets--and on their own, libraries often have to pay authors to appear and can't sell books.
Book trailer of the Day: Moo by Matthew Van Fleet, photos by Brian Stanton (Paula Wiseman/S&S Books for Young Readers), in which the creators of Moo, which appears this coming Tuesday, show what inspires them!
Literary aftershock. "Earthquakes in fiction: 5 earth-moving titles" were recommended by Entertainment Weekly's Shelf Life blog.
What not to read on a plane. Vance Gilbert, "folk singer and aviation enthusiast," shared his alarming, if flighty, experience on a recent United Airlines flight with the Consumerist. Gilbert thought he'd pass the time "by perusing some books about old aircraft. This was apparently enough to set off alarm bells among the flight crew, who had the plane return to the gate where Gilbert was met by the authorities."
You might never have thought of turning to Lisbeth Salander for personal advice, but Flavorwire did in the latest installment of its Literary Advice series: "She is a loner, a casual reader of the Apocrypha and the owner of a lot of black clothing and prickly chokers. What’s not to love? She's graciously agreed to answer some questions from curious readers today, so without further ado, we'll leave it to Lisbeth."
Teju Cole, author of Open City, recommended his top 10 novels of solitude for the Guardian, observing: "It all began with Crusoe. But it intensified in our time: this is the age of loneliness. The canonical texts are Notes from the Underground, Hunger, L'Etranger, and The Catcher in the Rye. Other presiding spirits are those of Kafka and Beckett. But in my own reading, I'm drawn not only to extreme isolation but to apparently well-integrated individuals who, nevertheless, spend most of their time in their own thoughts."
Mager Is First Joe Drabyak Handseller of the Year
Ellen Mager of Booktenders Secret Garden Children's Bookstore & Gallery, Doylestown, Pa., has won the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association's first Joe Drabyak Handseller of the Year Award.
The award honors the former NAIBA president, who died a year ago tomorrow and was an extraordinary handseller during his many years at Chester County Books & Music Co., West Chester, Pa.
Mager commented: "Being designated the Joe Drabyak Handselling Bookseller by NAIBA has the added importance of being chosen by your peers, especially knowing how important the art of handselling was to Joe in his relationships with his customers. It's such an honor to be recognized for all your hard work."
Jill Friedlander, who calls Booktenders Secret Garden her favorite bookstore, wrote that Mager is "special because 1) she believes children should read age appropriate subject matter, even if their reading skills are well above their grade level, and 2) she's shocked by what some publishers consider appropriate subject matter for kids, and tries hard to get parents to notice and to filter what their children read, and 3) she listens to what kids say about books, bubbles with enthusiasm for books she likes, is openly opinionated about the ones she doesn't, is able to relate to kids of all ages about what they are reading, or might read, or don't want to read. My kids discussed their reading with her at a much deeper level and with much more enthusiasm than they ever did with me (and yes, that's a little jealousy there.)"
Mager will receive the award at the Awards Banquet on Tuesday, September 20, during NAIBA's fall conference in Atlantic City, N.J.
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Rock the Casbah Again
Tomorrow on Weekend All Things Considered: Kathy Reichs, author of Flash and Bones (Scribner, $26.99, 9781439102411).
On Sunday on ABC-TV's This Week with Christiane Amanpour: Robin Wright, author of Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World (Simon & Schuster, $26.99, 9781439103166).
Movie Trailer: MTV 'Teases the Teaser' for Hunger Games
In what may be the world's first teaser trailer for a movie trailer, MTV "premiered a promo for Sunday's Video Music Awards telecast which shows--if you're careful not to blink--a one-second clip from The Hunger Games film," the Hollywood Reporter wrote. The full trailer will debut during the VMAs. The momentary peek shows Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) "looking at something--something probably scary. Fans have already seen a few stills from the movie, but this will be the first clip provided to the public."
Bestselling Book Doesn't Guarantee Hit Movie
"So, this summer has taught us two big lessons about books-turned-movies: People don't want to see a bad movie, even if they loved the book it's based on. And Harry Potter will crush anything in its path, even a willy nilly silly ole bear," the Atlantic's Eleanor Barkhorn observed in a piece headlined "Can a Bestselling Book Guarantee a Hit Movie?"
Apparently not. Barkhorn noted that The Help was released earlier this month with a "solid opening weekend, bringing in $25 million and coming in second in the box office ratings," while One Day, "another movie based on another bestselling novel beloved by women the world over," came out a week later and earned "a measly $6 million."
Barkhorn contended that answer "is straightforward: The Help was a pretty good movie (Rotten Tomatoes score: 74), while One Day is a pretty terrible one (RT score: 30). Indeed, if you look at all eight of this summer's major book-to-film releases, critical reception is the greatest predictor of box office success. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the summer's most commercially successful book-to-movie adaptation, was also the most critically praised, with a 97 on Rotten Tomatoes. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, based on Lisa See's novel, had the worst box office haul, and also the second-worst reviews. (The worst reviewed book-turned-movie was Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer, which had a RT score of 15)."
The exception was Winnie the Pooh, with an RT score of 90 that made it "the second-best-reviewed book adaptation of the summer, after Harry Potter. But it has made only $25 million in more than a month of release, which is about a quarter of what The Help has made in just two weeks," Barkhorn wrote.
Books & Authors
Book Brahmins: Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick
Jim Ottaviani writes comics and graphic novels about science, among them a biography of Neils Bohr and a tale of the desperate lives of early paleontologists. His latest book is T-Minus: The Race to the Moon, from Aladdin Books. He has worked as a nuclear engineer and is currently a reference librarian in Ann Arbor, Mich. Leland Myrick is the author and illustrator of Missouri Boy (First Second). He lives in Pasadena, Calif. Their latest collaboration is Feynman, a biography of scientist, novelist and safe-cracker Richard Feynman (First Second, August 30, 2011).
On your nightstand now:
Book you're an evangelist for:
Favorite book when you were a child:
Your top five authors:
Book Review: The Other Walk
The Other Walk: Essays by Sven Birkerts (Graywolf Press, $15 trade paper, 9781555975937, September 13, 2011)
Photographer Walker Evans once offered this useful prescription for a meaningful life: "Stare. Pry. Listen. Eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long." Consistently, in this masterly collection of 45 brief personal essays, critic Sven Birkerts's work is a testimonial to one writer's effort to take Evans's injunction to heart.
Like a modern-day Proust, though at blessedly shorter length, Birkerts's keen eye and sinuous prose are triggered time and again by the humblest of objects: his daughter's clay sculpture, a red tin cup cherished for 30 years, an inexpensive ring from his family's ancestral home in Latvia, or a child's drawing on a fogged bus window. "And somehow," he writes, "who knows why, when I saw that finger it was like someone reached inside and tapped the dial, put me square on my station."
But Birkerts's reminiscences focus as intently on personal relationships as they do on objects. In "Chessboard," an intense engagement with the game becomes a metaphor for the evolution and eventual death of a friendship. "The Points of Sail" recounts his son's brush with death when his sailboat capsizes off Cape Cod, allowing Birkerts to meditate in the aftermath of that near tragedy on "how it is between parents and their children... how it snarls up together, all the vigilance and ignorance, luck and readiness, love and fear. We know nothing."
With the demise of Borders, Birkerts's essay "Postcard," describing his years working in the original Ann Arbor store in the early '70s, might serve as an elegy for the bookstore chain. And Birkerts is nothing if not a man of books. "Truth is, I like the feel of a place that is overrun with books," he concedes. His love of literature and writing informs these often intimate pieces without dominating them. The book's concluding essay, "The Walk," a stream-of-consciousness account of an early morning sojourn, offers an informative glimpse into the way exercise rejuvenates the creative mind.
One of the occupational hazards of reviewing any essay collection is the need to plow through the volume from beginning to end, highlighting individual pieces while searching for a sense of the work entire. But The Other Walk is a book best consumed in slow, contemplative bites, with ample time allowed to reflect on and absorb them. And it's one that should be picked up, reread and savored for its expressive beauty and its gentle reminder that we can find life's fullness amid its most inconsequential moments. --Harvey Freedenberg
Shelf Talker: In 45 diverse and thoughtful personal essays, critic Sven Birkerts offers glimpses into his personal life and encounters with the world around us.
One of Our Mistakes
In our listing yesterday of episode on C-Span's Book TV, we had the wrong information for One of Morgan's Men: Memoirs of Lieutenant John M. Porter of the Ninth Kentucky Cavalry by Kent Masterson Brown. The book was published by the University Press of Kentucky, retails for $32.50 and has an ISBN of 9780813129891.
The information we had listed was for Retreat from Gettysburg, also by Brown, but published by the University of North Carolina.
Our apologies for the confusion.
Robert Gray: Conquering Our National Fear of Fiction
"Memory is fiction."--Keith Richards, Life
"I made most of it up."--Jane Lynch, Happy Accidents trailer
I hope President Obama is enjoying his summer reads, especially those novels he brought to Martha's Vineyard (Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone and David Grossman's To the End of the Land) and bought at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore (Daniel Woodrell's Bayou Trilogy, Emma Donoghue's Room and Ward Just's Rodin's Debutante).
Not everyone was pleased with his choices. Salon's Robin Black asked, "President Obama: Why don't you read more women?" The National Review's Tevi Troy observed that the selections "may constitute the oddest assortment of presidential reading material ever disclosed, for a number of reasons. First, five of the six are novels, and the near-absence of nonfiction sends the wrong message for any president, because it sets him up for the charge that he is out of touch with reality."
Well, everybody, it's time to exhale. Fiction will not hasten the decline and fall of the American Empire. A Congressional inquiry into the president's reading habits isn't necessary. Novels are neither a sedative nor a terrorist plot. They are stories about how we have lived, live now and may live in the future, offering perspectives a few more politicians and pundits might consider exploring.
We've been telling each other stories--formally and informally--for a long time in mashups of categorical uncertainty. Homer chronicled some history. Herodotus recorded some fiction. Writers of "nonfiction" are often debunked; novels that are barely disguised memoirs are commonplace. Fiction is not all make-believe; nonfiction is not the same as truth. But we can learn from all of these variations what it means to be human.
Most booksellers have fielded the following question more than once from people entering their store for the first time: "Where's your nonfiction section?" Resisting the temptation to state the obvious ("Everywhere but over there in the fiction section."), they will patiently ask standard follow-up questions: What sort of nonfiction are you looking for? History? Current events? Memoir? Spirituality? Cookbooks?
Fear of fiction is a common psychological ailment that is more prevalent among male readers, for some reason. Perhaps there's no cure for this phobia, but a reality check might be in order, especially among those sufferers who, as has happened with President Obama's instant literary critics, act out their issues in public.
Consider this: Within days of Obama's Fictiongate crisis, Keith Oatley, professor emeritus in the department of human development and applied psychology at the University of Toronto, unveiled the results of a psychology of fiction study that found narrative helps people think for themselves.
The National Post reported that Oatley and Maja Djikic "put together a study to measure how personalities can be changed by literature. Participants were given either Anton Chekhov's story 'The Lady with the Little Dog' or a version of the story rewritten in a nonfiction style by Djikic, which included all the same information, was the same length and at the same reading level. Participants did personality tests before and after reading."
According to Oatley, "people who read the Chekhov story, their personalities all changed a bit.... With things like persuasion, as in a political message, everybody's all supposed to think the same way, and they do. The reason we're very excited by this result is that people all changed in their own way."
In reaction to the study, Raymond Mar, assistant professor of psychology at York University, said, "There are similar cognitive processes associated with understanding the real world and understanding the fictional world, so when we try to understand what's going on in a piece of fiction--reading a book and trying to figure out what characters are thinking and feeling--it's analogous to people trying to figure out how real people are thinking and feeling."
Engaging with characters builds character.
In the Daily Beast, Michael Medved offered another perspective on Fictiongate: "But if Obama successfully devours the four announced novels (amid his inevitable games of golf and beach visits and ice-cream runs with his girls), then that raises a serious question for the rest of us: if the president of the United States manages time for fiction, why can't we?"
Good question. My advice: Be brave. Read more fiction, and that includes you, Mr. President. As the authorities like to say during times of impending crisis, "There is no cause for alarm... at this time." --Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)
Top-Selling Titles in Florida Last Week
The following were the bestselling books at independent bookstores in Florida during the week ended Sunday, August 21:
1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
2. Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer Holland
3. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
4. 1493 by Charles Mann
5. Swamplandia by Karen Russell
6. South Beach: Stories of a Renaissance by Charles Kropke
7. I Have Nothing to Wear by Jill Martin
8. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
9. The Confession by John Grisham
10. Faith by Jennifer Haigh
Reporting bookstores and their handselling favorites:
Books & Books, Coral Gables, Miami Beach, Bal Harbour: The Cuban Kitchen by Raquel Roque
The Book Mark, Neptune Beach: Faith by Jennifer Haigh
Inkwood Books, Tampa
Vero Beach Book Center: Little Princes by Conor Grennan
[Many thanks to the booksellers and Carl Lennertz!]