Shelf Awareness for Friday, January 11, 2013
Quotation of the Day
Allison Hill: 'The Booksellers I Know Are Superheroes'
"I think customers would be shocked to really get to know the booksellers who work in independent bookstores. They are some of the most creative, interesting people on the planet. In addition to bookselling, they are writing a book or studying cello or going to cooking school or getting a masters in health or doing their art or starting a side business or going to college or trying to write a novel in 30 days or working on their bucket list or saving for a trip around the world or opening a restaurant or working as a film makeup artist and so on and so forth. They may look like retail clerks to some, but the booksellers I know are superheroes."
Indie Sales Up Nearly 8% in 2012
In 2012, sales at independent bookstores rose almost 8% compared to 2011, based on unit sales at some 500 bookstores reporting to the weekly Indie bestseller list. In a letter to members, ABA CEO Oren Teicher called it "a very strong year for the indie channel" and commented:
|At Watermark Books, Wichita, Kan., owner Sarah Bagby and ABA's Oren Teicher|
"Interestingly, for much of the year we saw double-digit sales growth over 2011 for our channel, but, given the strong holiday season many stores saw that year, we expected that 2012's robust numbers would come down a little bit. However, the very healthy year-end number clearly demonstrates the vitality of independent bookstores. I know we are surrounded by those articulating a far more pessimistic appraisal of the state of bookselling, but our numbers are what they are. I don't for one second underestimate the myriad challenges we continue to face--and I appreciate that the increases in sales did not happen in every store--but the fact is that 2012 was a good year for independent bookstores in the United States. As you and I know and appreciate, these sales are the result of careful planning and countless hours of hard work, and, importantly, they are also a testament to the unique role that indies play in helping book buyers discover new titles and experience firsthand a deeper connection with authors, great writing, and their own community."
Teicher noted, too, that online book sales have grown: stores using the IndieCommerce platform had a 28% increase in online sales in 2012. "And though we are still in the very early stages of selling Kobo eReaders and eBooks, the numbers there, too, are encouraging," Teicher continued. "We significantly outperformed our earlier efforts in this area, and thousands of new e-book accounts were opened by indie customers. I know there is much for both us and Kobo to do to grow and improve this program, and I assure you that remains a high priority for us in 2013."
Likely "the overwhelming majority of what our members sell will continue to be physical books," Teicher added, "but we are also convinced that being able to say 'yes' to your customers when they decide that they want to read titles in a digital format is a strong strategic benefit to your business."
Hotel ABA Returns to BEA
The Hotel ABA--a hotel at BookExpo America offering special rates and events for booksellers--returns this year after a hiatus in 2012, Bookselling This Week reported.
Hotel ABA 2013 will be the Grand Hyatt New York, on East 42nd Street at Grand Central Terminal. Rates of $255 a room are available for ABA member booksellers from Monday, May 27, to Sunday, June 2.
For more information, go to Bookselling This Week.
B&N's D.C. Union Station Store Closure Back on Track
Although Barnes & Noble switched tracks overnight in November regarding an announced closure of its Union Station bookstore in Washington, D.C., the company said yesterday that the store will be shut down at the end of February "after a deal to extend its lease by one year fell through," DCist reported.
B&N spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating noted that the bookseller had been negotiating with Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. to remain in the space for an additional year: "An agreement was reached by both [Barnes & Noble] and the landlord, but prior to having the agreement fully executed the landlord changed their mind."
Obituary Notes: Evan S. Connell, Peter Carson
Evan S. Connell, a Kansas City native "who did more than any writer to shape the city's literary image" and was best known for his novels Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge and Son of the Morning Star, about Custer's Last Stand, died Wednesday, the Kansas City Star reported. He was 88.
Known for literary versatility, Connell told the Kansas City Star three years ago: "If I find a subject that interests me, then I try to decide how best to write about it. Some things seem better suited for nonfiction, and others seem to be fiction in content or nature. A friend of mine once asked me how I could switch from one to another. I don't regard it as switching: it's just whatever subject happens to interest me, and then I decide how I can best tell the story."
Peter Carson, who was editor-in-chief of Penguin's adult publishing division "throughout the 1980s and 1990s, overseeing the creation of the Viking imprint in the U.K. and the separation of Penguin's adult publishing into its current Press and General divisions," has died, the Bookseller reported.
Image of the Day: The Bachelor Picks Harlequin
Monday night's episode of the ABC reality show The Bachelor will feature a special "group date" where the 13 competing women will pose for the cover of a Harlequin novel with Bachelor Sean Lowe. Harlequin creative director Margie Miller (left) will shepherd the group through hair, makeup and wardrobe, and then have them pose for several cover scenarios. Miller and Harlequin brand representative Michelle Renaud (center) will select the winner, for her "ability to pose in a polished and unaffected manner and convey a genuine connection with Sean." She'll receive a three-book cover-model deal with Harlequin.
NEH & ALA Develop 'Muslim Journeys Bookshelf'
The Muslim Journeys Bookshelf, developed by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association--the first in a planned series of Bridging Cultures "Bookshelves"--will be awarded to 842 libraries and state humanities councils in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each participating library will receive 25 books, three films and access for one year to Oxford Islamic Studies Online.
According to the NEH, the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf was created based on the advice of scholars, librarians, and other public programming experts, and "will introduce the American public to the complex history and culture of Muslims in the United States and around the world." All libraries receiving the Bookshelf will also be eligible for upcoming public programming grant opportunities.
"There may be no institution more civil than the public library," said NEH chairman Jim Leach. "Libraries are centers of learning that offer a welcome space where members of the public can learn about the history we share and express different points of view in an ethos of openness and mutual respect."
Best Bookstore Newsletter Subject Line Ever
Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla., is hosting an event a week from Sunday for Adam Mansbach, whose new novel is Rage Is Back. In reference to his previous bestseller, Go the F**k to Sleep, the store's e-mail about the reading has a subject line reading, "Get the f**k to this event! ADAM MANSBACH at Books & Books."
Bookstore Event Video of the Day: Swimming San Francisco Bay
On Wednesday, Jaimal Yogis, author of The Fear Project, swam from Yerba Buena Island to his book signing at the Ferry Building Book Passage, San Francisco, Calif. In its e-newsletter, the bookstore noted that Yogis "took his book's challenge to heart by diving into the icy waters of the San Francisco Bay for a 2.4 mile swim alongside professional athlete Jamie Patrick. Our thanks to Jaimal for including Book Passage in this once-in-a-lifetime event." For more info, read Jaimal Yogis's blog.
Book Trailer of the Day: Hyde and Shriek
Hyde and Shriek by David Lubar (Starscape), the first in the author's middle-grade series of Monsteriffic Tales.
Media and Movies
Oscar Nominees: Good Showing for Adaptations
Five of the nine best picture nominations for this year's Academy Awards, which will be presented February 24, are based on books, comprising an impressive reading list in Oscar's major categories:
Lincoln, based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, was nominated for best picture, best director (Steven Spielberg), best actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), best supporting actor (Tommy Lee Jones), best supporting actress (Sally Field), best adapted screenplay (Tony Kushner) and led the field with 12 nominations.
Life of Pi, based on the Yann Martel's novel, was nominated for best picture, best director (Ang Lee), best adapted screenplay (David Magee) and finished a close second with 11 total nominations.
Silver Linings Playbook, based on the novel by Matthew Quick, was nominated for best picture, best director (David O. Russell), best actor (Bradley Cooper), best actress (Jennifer Lawrence), best supporting actor (Robert De Niro), best supporting actress (Jacki Weaver), best adapted screenplay (David O. Russell) and had eight nominations overall.
Les Misérables, based on the novel by Victor Hugo, was nominated for best picture, best actor (Hugh Jackman), best supporting actress (Anne Hathaway) and earned eight nominations.
Argo, based on the book by Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio, was nominated for best picture, best supporting actor (Alan Arkin), best adapted screenplay (Chris Terrio) and had seven nominations.
Other multiple-nomination book-to-film adaptations included Anna Karenina in four categories and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in three.
Media Heat: George Saunders on MSNBC's Morning Joe
This morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe: George Saunders, author of Tenth of December: Stories (Random House, $26, 9780812993806).
Tomorrow on NPR's Wait, Wait…Don't Tell Me: Jeff Bridges, co-author of The Dude and the Zen Master (Blue Rider, $26.95, 9780399161643).
Tomorrow on NPR's Bob Edwards Show: Amy Wilentz, author of Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781451643978).
Tomorrow on Huckabee: Stanley McChrystal, author of My Share of the Task: A Memoir (Portfolio, $29.95, 9781591844754). He also appears on Sunday on CBS's Face the Nation and on NPR's Weekend Edition.
Books & Authors
Awards: Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction
Finalists for Canada's $25,000 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction have been named. The winner will be revealed March 4. This year's shortlisted titles are:
Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King
Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy by Andrew Preston
Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page by Sandra Djwa
Warlords: Borden, Mackenzie King, and Canada's World Wars by Tim Cook
The Pursuit of Perfection: A Life of Celia Franca by Carol Bishop-Gwyn
Book Brahmin: Nick Flynn
Nick Flynn's most recent book is The Reenactments (Norton, January 7, 2013), the final volume of his memoir trilogy. Though the memoirs are interconnected, each stands alone and is distinguished by a particular structure: Another Bullshit Night in Suck City is a linear narrative; The Ticking is the Bomb is a self-contained galaxy; and, finally, The Reenactments borrows its structure from the Hieronymus Bosch's triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights. The three panels in The Reenactments are "Memory," "Glass Flowers" and "The Making of a Film." The film in question is Being Flynn (2012), the adaptation of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, starring Robert DeNiro, Julianne Moore and Paul Dano. Flynn teaches creative writing at the University of Houston and lives with his wife, actress Lili Taylor, in New York.
On your nightstand now:
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. People from all corners of my life had been telling me to read it for years, that it was this amazing hybrid memoir, and finally it reached a tipping point so I picked it up and it really does do something I've never seen before, the way the images are able to deepen and complicate an already rich story. Rebecca Solnit's new book, The Faraway Nearby, is there as well, which I'm dying to crack open next. Solnit has been a hero of mine for many years.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Magic Monkey. I forget who wrote it, but I know it was an 11-year-old Chinese child, and if I remember correctly his sister did the illustrations. It is a retelling of the myth of Proteus, but perhaps it is also a retelling of a Chinese myth I don't know about. The monkey is, of course, an outcast, until he focuses his attention and learns that he is able to transform into nearly anything--tree, waterfall, tiger--as the situation warrants. This seemed like a good superpower to my 10-year-old self.
Your top five authors:
Samuel Beckett, Emily Dickinson, Jean Valentine, José Saramago, Rebecca Solnit. Each of these writers is completely unique, but each shares a talent for compression, for filling each word with an incredible energy. I am fully alive when I read their work.
Book you've faked reading:
The End by Salvatore Scibona. He is a pal, I was sent his book, I went to his book party, mumbled "congratulations," or "well done," something which was meant to suggest to him I'd read the book, but I hadn't, until recently, until two things happened: enough people kept telling me what an amazing book it was, and we spent a week in Paris together at a literary festival (where I remembered how much I liked him). When I got home, I finally sat down with it, when I knew I had some free space in my brain, and just loved it. It's one of my top five novels of the past 10 years, easily. Maybe top five ever.
Book you're an evangelist for:
I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl by Kelle Groom, a memoir which does more within any given paragraph than most books try for from cover to cover. Like all of Beckett, I read this book and have almost no idea how she does what she does, how she can move from a seemingly mundane detail into the deep mystery of what it means to be alive, from the start of a sentence to the period. It helps that she's a poet.
Book you've bought for the cover:
What Is the What by Dave Eggers. His McSweeney's imprint really does make beautiful books.
Book that changed your life:
Rilke's Duino Elegies, Stephen Mitchell translation. I'd tried to read Rilke for years but never really got him, then I read one of the elegies out loud to a girlfriend, and we were both literally breathless by the end, tears in both of our eyes. "For it seems that everything hides us...." That was a very good night.
Favorite line from a book:
"Where's papa going with that ax?" This is the first line from Charlotte's Web, which I don't know if I read as a child (maybe not), but I have now read it many times to my four-year-old, and was so tickled by this line--this is how a children's book should begin.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I remember reading Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men on a beach in Provincetown one summer afternoon. It was a paperback, and its spine was f***ed up, likely because I was living on a boat and so it got wet too many times. It was a windy day, the wind blowing along the shore, so windy that each page, after I finished reading it and turned to the next, was blown out of my hands and sent tumbling away from me down the beach. The first few times I tried to catch them, but then I gave up, and made it part of the experience of reading the book. I like to imagine someone on the far end of the beach catching each page, and reading the book that way. I think it made me pay even closer attention to each word, knowing I might never have the chance to read it again.
Review: The Atlantic Ocean: Reports from Britain and America
The Atlantic Ocean: Reports from Britain and America by Andrew O'Hagan (Mariner Books, $15.95 paperback, 9780151013784, January 22, 2013)
Among the most striking features of Andrew O'Hagan's The Atlantic Ocean is the breadth of its subject matter. From incisive essays on writers such as James Baldwin, E.M. Forster and William Styron to accounts of the decline of British farming, an appreciation of the Beatles and a reminiscence of Marilyn Monroe, these 21 sterling pieces marry the concerns of an impressive intellect to an insatiable curiosity, creating a body of work that justifiably invites comparison to the nonfiction of George Orwell or, among O'Hagan's contemporaries, writers like Christopher Hitchens or Geoff Dyer.
In a collection so consistently strong it's difficult to choose highlights, two of the best and lengthiest works of journalism appear side by side. In "After Hurricane Katrina," O'Hagan accompanies two North Carolina men--one young and white, the other black and middle-aged--on what turns out to be a mostly futile trip to a New Orleans that "had become the thing that geological memory knew it to be--a voluminous swamp, a lake of reeds and tangled boughs, except that television sets and teddy bears and living people had got in the way." Then "Brothers" twins the deaths of two remarkably dissimilar soldiers--Guardsman Anthony Wakefield, a British infantryman, and Lieutenant Colonel John Spahr, a celebrated United States fighter pilot--both killed in Iraq on May 2, 2005, exactly two years after President Bush declared the end of major combat operations there.
O'Hagan devotes two essays to the grisly death of James Bulger, a two-year-old from Liverpool murdered by two 10-year-old boys in 1993. The first, written in the year of the murder, reflects on O'Hagan's own childhood and the thin line that separated his boyish pranks from that killing impulse. The other reprises that theme 17 years later, after the identity of one of the killers has been exposed.
Not all of the pieces here deal with such emotionally freighted subjects. "England's Flowers" follows a single bunch of white lilies from their birth as bulbs in Israel to their disposal three weeks after they'd been purchased for a London funeral. In "The Glasgow Sludge Boat," O'Hagan describes the journey two ships once made down the River Clyde, hauling their cargo of "human effluent, sewage, sludge," along with "an average complement of seventy old-age pensioners enjoying a grand day out, and traveling free."
Most of the pieces in The Atlantic Ocean first appeared in British publications, and thus it's likely Andrew O'Hagan isn't widely known to American readers. Perhaps these fine examples of his abundant talent will change that. --Harvey Freedenberg
Shelf Talker: A collection of 21 pieces showcases the insightful essays and keen journalism of Andrew O'Hagan.
Robert Gray: January Is Winter Poetry Month
|Leslie Adrienne Miller and Dobby Gibson|
There's a story behind my unilateral decision to name January 8 the first day of Winter Poetry Month. It all began at the Moveable Feast Luncheon during Heartland Fall Forum in Minneapolis last October. I was fortunate enough to be at a table with Graywolf Press poets Dobby Gibson (for his upcoming book It Becomes You) and Leslie Adrienne Miller (for her much-praised and excellent collection Y). Two poets at one table happened to be a pleasant--and unprecedented--moment in my life as a poetry reader and longtime participant in variations-on-a-moveable-feast at trade shows.
But why focus on Gibson now, as Winter Poetry Month begins? For one thing, It Becomes You was released January 8 and I've read it three times. For another, he writes that "a poem is no more meant for this world than you are, dear reader." Call it a kindred souls moment. Reason enough, but there have been several other catalysts, including:
- The Friends of William Stafford are once again sponsoring more than 60 events nationwide during January Birthday Celebrations honoring Stafford's spirit, life and work. I wrote about this last year.
- Richard Blanco is the inaugural poet.
- The Boa Editions blog showcased a video adaptation of Lucille Clifton's poem "what the mirror said" by underprivileged girls at Prerna School in India and noted: "This is why BOA is here."
- Sharon Olds told the Observer that a poem "doesn't intensify experience, it adds to it. And it is not about a different person, is it? It is the same person who has made a song."
- Several times during an NFL playoff game last week, it was mentioned that Houston Texans running back Arian Foster is also a poet.
- Most of the books I've been reading since the holidays are poetry collections, including Lawrence Ferlinghetti's Time of Useful Consciousness (New Directions), Natasha Trethewey's Thrall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), David Ferry's Bewilderment (University of Chicago Press) and Dispatch from the Future by Leigh Stein (Melville House).
Poetry in our world. Poetry in the winter. Words and white space are seasonally appropriate.
Gibson recently told me that while he was writing It Becomes You, he "awakened to the realization that my motivation for writing a poem was inseparable from my motivation for reading a poem: I ultimately aspire to become a poem. My new book is an extended meditation on this idea.
"The transitive experiences of writing poems, reading books of poems, and constructing an authentic self (if that is the right verb), are all so wonderfully intertwined for me. To such a degree, in fact, that the launch of It Becomes You at readings this month--and out into bookstores and whatever digital distribution channels I barely understand--doesn't feel like a finish line. It's only the beginning of a much longer process of completion, of becoming, one for which I'm grateful to share with a reader, whoever he or she may be."
Reaching out to those readers of poetry is part of the job description for David Enyeart, event coordinator at Common Good Books in St. Paul. On January 23, the bookstore will host a reading by Gibson and Sarah Fox (The First Flag, Coffee House Press, April).
Enyeart called the upcoming event "a good example of how we put together compelling readings. First off, it's two great poets. Both of them are well-regarded and active in our local writing community. Additionally, we're able to give readers a sneak preview of Sarah Fox's book, so that's something they can't get elsewhere. And of course a conversation between two authors can always go in unexpected directions. With all that, I'm confident we'll have a solid turnout and a lively evening."
He also noted that Common Good Books "is committed to poetry. From the proprietor on down, we value poetry as much as fiction, biography or any of our other areas. It's at the front of our store and in the front of our minds when people are looking for books. We're also fortunate to have a good base of customers who feel the same way about poems. They come to readings at about the same rates as discussions on any other topic, and I really don't treat our poetry events any differently from our other author readings."
Garrison Keillor, the proprietor of Common Good Books, is reading Kenneth Rexroth's poem "Snow" on the Writers Almanac today. How many reasons do we need to celebrate Winter Poetry Month?--Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now).
Top-Selling Self-Published Titles
The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by IndieReader.com.
1. The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorensen
2. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
3. Guinness World Records 2013
4. The Elf on the Shelf by Carol V. Aebersold and Chanda B. Bell
5. Ripley's Believe It or Not! Download the Weird by Ripley's Believe It or Not
6. Fallen Too Far by Abbi Glines
7. The Edge of Never by J.A. Redmerski
8. Bad Rep by A. Meredith Walters
9. Someone to Love by Addison Moore
10. Tidal by Emily Snow
[Many thanks to IndieReader.com!]