Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 8, 2013


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

Quotation of the Day

Handselling 'Book-by-Book, Person-by-Person, Day-by-Day'

"So much is different--technology-driven changes, the dynamics and scale of the business, of the city, of the world--yet some constants have been in place since Walter Carr and Nanci McCrackin opened Elliott Bay. We find books to put in the hands of readers, book-by-book, person-by-person, day-by-day. It's been that ever thus."

--Rick Simonson, senior buyer and co-director of Elliott Bay Book Company's reading series, explaining how his job has--and hasn't--changed over the years in an interview with Crosscuts.

AuthorBuzz: Indie Bookstore Readers


News

General Retail Sales in February: 'A Month to Muddle Through'

General retail sales for February were moderate, "with consumer spending feeling the pressure of payroll-tax increases even as the stock market roared ahead and the housing market continued to mend," the Wall Street Journal reported, adding that consumers "also contended with higher gasoline prices and a severe snowstorm in parts of the country."

For the month, Thomson Reuters reported that sales at stores open at least a year increased 3.9% for the 11 retailers still issuing monthly same-store sales, excluding drug stores, compared to a 7.4% rise last year. The list of retailers posting monthly sales numbers "has fallen dramatically from its peak of 68 in 2005," the Journal noted. "With February marking the start of the new fiscal year, the list is now absent some more big names including Target, Kohl's and Macy's."
 
Calling the diminished numbers a "thumbnail look" rather than a "snapshot," the Journal observed that it "doesn't mean the monthly sales reports have become inconsequential, analysts say, but it does limit the information about retailing and the health of consumers that was conveyed when many more companies were posting."

"It's still a relevant barometer, but it does not give you as clear a picture as it used to," said Madison Riley of Kurt Salmon.


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


AAP Opposes Amazon's '.book' Domain Application

Citing Amazon EU S.a.r.l 's application to secure the ".book" domain, the Association of American Publishers filed comments yesterday opposing closed generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD) applications overall and the attempt by Amazon specifically.

In a letter to Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), AAP contended that granting a private company the exclusive use of a closed domain string would defeat the expressed public interest purposes for which new gTLDs are being authorized. AAP also recommended a process by which applications could be evaluated.

"From inception, the introduction of new gTLDs has been promoted as a means to increase competition, add consumer choice, support Internet freedom, expand market differentiation and diversify service providers," said Allan Adler, AAP's general counsel and v-p, government affairs. "How would handing over ownership of a domain string to any one single private company, such as a retailer, for its own business goals support that public service mission?"

Adler also noted that "the vast book community--authors, publishers, sellers, libraries, readers, educators, editors, researchers, literary agents, collectors, printers, clubs, archives and many others--shouldn't be barred from connecting around the world through the .book domain. This was the stated mission of the ICANN initiative and should be its goal."

In its comments, the AAP urged that the Amazon application for .book "and others of its ilk should not be adopted without an affirmative objective showing by the applicant--and a corresponding finding by ICANN that it would be in the public interest to permit the particular applicant to operate a 'closed registry' for the particular generic gTLD at issue."


Hyperion's Backlist for Sale

In a move designed to migrate "away from the traditional book-publishing model of actively competing with other publishers for new titles," Hyperion Books is putting its backlist titles on the market, the Wall Street Journal reported, adding that the decision by owner Walt Disney Co. is "part of a shift in strategy that will see it focus on publishing books linked to television properties."

As part of Disney's ABC Television Group, Hyperion "will look for books either linked to ABC television properties or that it believes can be extended to television or other corners of Walt Disney," according to the Journal, citing a "person familiar with the situation" who said, "I don't think anybody should use 'not' or 'never' but this is the direction we're going and where Hyperion's priorities will be."

Recent Hyperion titles linked to ABC shows include a series of books based on the crime TV show Castle and The Chew series of cookbooks.


Russian Author Nixes BEA Appearance

Russian author Mikhail Shishkin, who was one of the writers involved in the ReadRussia initiative at BookExpo America 2012, will not be returning to New York City for this year's show. The Guardian reported that even though a "return to the book fair in 2013 would have cemented relationships with American publishers, readers and booksellers," Shishkin has changed his mind for "ethical considerations" after initially accepting an invitation.

Photo: EFrolkina

"Russia's political development, and the events of last year in particular, have created a situation in the country that is absolutely unacceptable and demeaning for its people and its great culture," Shishkin wrote in a letter to Russia's Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications. "What is happening in my country makes me, as a Russian and a citizen of Russia, ashamed. By taking part in the book fair as part of the official delegation and taking advantage of the opportunities presented to me as a writer, I am simultaneously taking on the obligations of being a representative of a state whose policy I consider ruinous for the country and of an official system I reject."

In an e-mail Wednesday, he noted that "the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications ('the ministry of propaganda') wanted to buy me (by inviting me to the book fair in the U.S., which is very important for me as a writer) to be their 'human face'. I refused because I don't want to support this regime in any way."

An English translation of Shishkin's novel Maidenhair (Open Letter Press) was published last October.


World Book Night U.S.: More Partners, More Donations

With a month and a half to go until World Book Night U.S. on April 23, the organization is moving ahead, adding four new partners and making donations of the sterling titles remaining from last year.

  • Domtar Paper is including notice of its support of World Book Night in its "Paper Because" campaign in April. The ads will in the New York Times, Forbes, Fortune and Business Week, among other media. Domtar is also providing all the copy paper for the 25,000 book giver packets being sent to bookstores and libraries.
  • Poets & Writers joined earlier this year with extensive advertising and social media support and is now helping organize several WBN poetry nights as part of the national kick-off event campaign on Monday evening, April 22.
  • Baker & Taylor and T.S.I. (Transport Specialties International) are working to get boxes of last year's books to 350 schools and libraries impacted by Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. T.S.I. re-sorted hundreds of boxes into full sets of one title each, and B&T is arranging for delivery.
  • Ingram shipped several thousand 2012 editions to Operation Gratitude in Van Nuys, Calif., which in turn is including them in packages to members of the military around the world.
  • The Prison Book Project helped WBN reach other prison programs around the country, and last year’s books were sent to four of them in December.

WBN U.S. executive director Carl Lennertz commented: "Taken together, these developments point to our growing network of partners in the cause of community, giving and reading, as well as expanding our efforts to other possibilities year-round."



Notes

Image of the Day: Authors, Swords and Alcohol


Last week, Seattleites witnessed a rousing book event at the EMP (Experience Music Project) Museum, when the authors of The Mongoliad: Book Three (47North) took part in their book's launch. Seven authors--Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, Nicole Galland, Joseph Brassey, Erik Bear and Cooper Moo--came for a q&a, free drinks and a swordfight. Brassey (l.) and Teppo donned a bit of armor and wielded swords to show the crowd what they had been learning from The Flower of Battle, a 14th century treatise by Fiore dei Liberi, an Italian knight. The study of martial arts is no mere whim on the part of role-paying fantasists; rather, the many battle scenes in the Mongoliad trilogy are carefully planned and described based on real movement (and sound: "singing swords" is not a metaphor--steel swords actually make singing sounds when whipped through the air). Those attending enjoyed the demo ("Swords and alcohol. What could go wrong?"), and the subsequent discussion about a cohort of authors meeting every Sunday with coffee, donuts and Skype; it was a "gloriously messy" process. At the table, from l.: Justin Golenbock (lead publicist for 47North), Galland, Greg Bear, Erik Bear, Stephenson and Moo. --Marilyn Dahl

photo: Paul Gjording


Underground Library on the R (for Reading) Train

Three Miami Ad School students have created "an innovative concept that allows people to read the first ten pages of popular books while riding the subway," DesignTAXI reported, adding that when commuters have finished the sample they've downloaded from posters to their cell phones with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, they "will be informed of the closest library location from which they can pick up and read the rest of the book."

Gothamist expressed a dose of Big Apple skepticism, calling the subway libraries "an interesting idea that will never, ever happen." While conceding the inherent goodness of "a proposal for how the NYPL could both keep straphangers entertained underground and simultaneously bring more bodies into its brick-and-mortar libraries," several technical hurdles were cited, "not the least of which is the fact that phones equipped with NFC technology are still very uncommon in the U.S."

The alternative? "We'll all just have to make do with the increasing number of subway stations with wi-fi--where users can log into the eNYPL or one of the many e-book stores out there (all of which offer book samples already)," Gothamist wrote.


Indie Bookstore's Groundhog Day Sales Boost

For Read Between the Lynes bookstore, Groundhog Day is more than just an annual February rite: "Walking down West Van Buren Street in historic Woodstock [Ill.], visitors commonly feel as if they had been transported to the movie set of a quaint and charming town. It's not actually such a stretch considering that the movie Groundhog Day was filmed there" two decades ago, Medill Reports wrote.

"It's very community oriented; it's a step back in time," said Arlene Lynes, owner of the bookstore that opened in 2005 and celebrated its first Groundhog Day the following year.

Although it "reached its highest volume of sales on Groundhog Day 2008," Medill Reports noted that this year Read Between the Lynes "beat its previous sales record within the first hour of being open on the holiday," selling numerous groundhog-themed items like books, hats, pins and hooded sweatshirts.  

Unlike Murray's character in the movie, Lynes is not stuck in the present and expressed optimism regarding her bookstore's future: "More and more of the population is being educated and they are paying attention as smaller businesses have closed. More people who are community-oriented do realize the benefit of small businesses and what their towns could become, so they are looking at more of the big picture."


Personnel Changes: Chronicle Books, Random House

At Chronicle Books:

Liz Rico has been promoted to design director, marketing communication. She was formerly marketing design manager and has been with the company for 19 years.

Kim Lauber has been promoted to associate director, children's marketing. She was formerly senior manager of marketing and publicity for the Children's Publishing Group. She has been with the company for two years.

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At Random House:

Random House Audio, Fodor's and Living Language v-p and publisher Amanda D'Acierno has been promoted to senior v-p and publisher.

Sue Daulton has been promoted to v-p, operations of Random House Audio, Fodor's and Living Language.

Amy Metsch has been promoted to v-p and associate publisher of the Random House Audio Publishing Group and director, sub rights, Random House Audio, Fodor's and Living Language.

Dan Zitt has been named v-p, content production, Random House Audio.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Tim Weiner on Fresh Air

Today on NPR's Fresh Air: Tim Weiner, author of Enemies: A History of the FBI (Random House Trade Paperbacks, $20, 9780812979237).

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Tomorrow morning on the Weekend Today Show: Lanny J. Davis, author of Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics, and Life (Threshold, $27, 9781451679281).

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Sunday morning on CBS Sunday Morning: John Sexton, author of Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game (Gotham, $27.50, 9781592407545).

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Sunday morning on Meet the Press and Face the Nation: Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick, authors of Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution (Threshold, $27, 9781476713458).

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Sunday on OWN's Super Soul Sunday: Robin L. Smith, author of Hungry: The Truth About Being Full (Hay House, $24.95, 9781401940027).


Movies: Catching Fire Portrait Posters; Much Ado Trailer

Lionsgate "has seen fit to start the promotion machine a little early" for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, according to Indiewire, which showcased seven new character/portrait posters "that show the solemn-faced cast in increasingly ridiculous costumes."

Included in the extravagant fashion shoot are Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss "leading the pack wearing a dress that is just a dead swan away from being in Bjork's closet," as well as Jeffrey Wright and Jena Malone as Beetee and Johanna. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire hits theaters November 22.

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As Buzzfeed appropriately announced it: "Behold the first trailer for Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing." The film adaptation of Shakespeare's comedy, starring starring Amy Acker, Alexis Denisoff, Nathan Fillion "and other Whedon TV show alums," will be released in June.


Books & Authors

Awards: Colby; Blue Peter; Charles Taylor; IACW Hammett

Thomas P. McKenna has won the 2013 William E. Colby Award for Kontum: The Battle to Save South Vietnam (University Press of Kentucky). Named for the late Ambassador and former CIA director and sponsored by Norwich University, the award recognizes "a first work of fiction or non-fiction that has made a significant contribution to the public's understanding of intelligence operations, military history or international affairs." A $5,000 author honorarium is provided through a grant from Tawani Foundation.

Carlo D'Este, executive director of the William E. Colby Military Writers' Symposium, said that McKenna was "one of a handful of American advisors in Kontum in 1972. His first-hand knowledge, personal valor, and superb research has resulted in a landmark account of one the most desperate and little known battles of the Vietnam War."

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Schoolchildren across the U.K. voted Tom Gates: Genius Ideas, Mostly by Liz Pichon as the winner of the Blue Peter Book Award for Best Story and Horrible Science: House of Horrors by Nick Arnold and Tony De Saulles as the Best Book with Facts.

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Andrew Preston won the $25,000 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction, recognizing an author "whose book best combines a superb command of the English language, an elegance of style, and a subtlety of thought and perception," for Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy.

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Finalists have been named for the Hammett Prize, presented annually by the North American branch of the International Association of Crime Writers "to the best English-language crime novel published in the U.S. and Canada," Quillblog reported. The winner will be announced September 30 at the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association's fall conference. This year's shortlisted Hammett Prize titles are:

Patient Number 7 by Kurt Palka
Defending Jacob by William Landay
Truth Like the Sun by Jim Lynch
Oregon Hill by Howard Owen
Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson


Book Brahmin: Ryan McIlvain

photo: Brinn Willis

Ryan McIlvain was born in Utah and grew up in the Mormon Church; he resigned his membership from it in his mid-20s. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in many journals, including the Paris Review. He received a Stegner Fellowship in 2009. McIlvain lives with his wife in Los Angeles. His first novel, Elders (Hogarth, March 5, 2013), follows two young Mormon missionaries in Brazil.

On your nightstand now:

Tolstoy's War and Peace (it's been there a while) and Maupassant's My Uncle Jules and Other Stories. In the on-deck circle is Dummy Fire and American Spikenard, two poetry collections by Sarah Vap and, finally, Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I've never stopped loving Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree.

Your top five authors:

Agony! I'll hedge by calling these the five authors I've been most excited about recently: Willa Cather, Thomas Hardy, Marilynne Robinson, W.G. Sebald and Saul Bellow.

Book you've faked reading:

The Count of Monte Christo by Alexandre Dumas. I was 16, in love with the idea of speed-reading (is it more than an idea?), and determined to read a classic a day. Basically, I just turned the pages. I like Woody Allen on this: "I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia."

Book you're an evangelist for:

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler. It's not her most recent or most celebrated, but it's just so numinous and deeply felt. In Anne Tyler the 19th-century novel is alive and well.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell.

That road reminded me of France and, I was sure, led to total enlightenment. (As it happened, I really liked the book and have forgotten almost all of it.)

Book that changed your life:

I read Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman in high school and felt shocked by it--that terrible ache. I bought a cassette of the original Broadway cast performing it and drove around and around my Massachusetts town, listening, re-listening. Ever since then I've associated Willy Loman with the red bursts of cranberry bogs glimpsed through trees.

Favorite line from a book:

How about a passage from Hogarth's founder and patron saint? I think it gets at Woolf's courage in the face of ambivalence, her "negative capability." It's from Mrs. Dalloway: "Peter would think her sentimental. So she was. For she had come to feel that it was the only thing worth saying--what one felt. Cleverness was silly. One must say simply what one felt. 'But I do not know,' said Peter Walsh, 'what I feel.' "

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Philip Roth's The Ghost Writer. It was pure pleasure--such an unassuming premise, but the world poured out of it. A perfect book.


Book Review

Review: Honor

Honor by Elif Shafak (Viking, $26.95 hardcover, 9780670784837, March 7, 2013)

Elif Shafak's Honor is not a whodunit--the reader learns who the killer is in the first chapter--but a whydunit that dramatizes the cultural pressure and family dysfunction that might compel an Anglo-Turkish teenager in 1978 London to execute an ancient ritual. Light on gore and rich in psychological complexity, the novel presents an intricate pattern of events (with a dash or two of kismet) to show how a practice as heinous as honor killing could persist across generations and in spite of assimilation.

Shafak (The Bastard of Istanbul) frames Honor as a memoir-in-progress authored by the killer’s sister, who juxtaposes recent events in London with family history dating back to her grandparents' era in rural Anatolia. It's a fascinating portrayal of the misalignment that occurs when constructs from the old country, such as arranged marriage and the maternal favoritism for a firstborn son, are exposed to a more open and egalitarian culture.

Novels about tough social issues can feel schematic, but Shafak gives her characters enough singular motivation to prevent Honor's fictional component from being overwhelmed by its message, and she creates an impressive number of rounded individuals. Two outstanding characters are Pembe Kader (whose name translates as "Pink Destiny") and Jamila Yeter ("Enough Beauty"), twins whose destinies form the backbone of the novel. The scenes of Pembe's struggles as a single mother in London and Jamila's precarious existence as the "Virgin Midwife" in a cabin near the Euphrates River would be worth reading independent from the novel's central theme.

When Shafak does embed a spate of obvious reader education into a male character's interior monologue, the insights offered redeem the soapbox delivery: "Not everyone would understand this, but their honor was all that some men had in this world. The rich could afford to lose and regain their reputation, buying influence as perfunctorily as ordering a new car, but for the rest of the world things were different. The less means a man had, the higher was the worth of his honor."

The compensatory social status conferred by a wife's demure conduct is just one of the causalities Shafak establishes in Honor, a novel that manages to be diverting and full of life while simultaneously analyzing the durability of violent cultural traditions. --Holloway McCandless

Shelf Talker: In a novel spanning three generations, Shafak (The Bastard of Istanbul) delves into the complex circumstances that allow old-country values to distort an Anglo-Turkish family in 1970s London.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Lady Banks Speaks for Herself

Last week we spoke with Nicki Leone, website administrator and newsletter editor for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, about Lady Banks and her popular Commonplace Book. Letting her ladyship speak for herself seemed like the proper thing to do next, so that's just what we did.  

What is the most important thing you would like your readers to know about you?

Her ladyship loves recommendations! One of the sadder consequences of writing about books is the completely unfounded conclusion that her ladyship knows more about Southern literature than her readers. She hastens to assure one and all that nothing could be further from the truth. Her ladyship always loves to hear what other people are reading. And she enjoys nothing so much as discovering a new author from the enthusiastic endorsement of one of her own readers.

Photo: Jerry Plunk Photography

How would you define "Southern Literature?"

Well, naturally there is the dead mule test. A dead mule, even if it is found dead in a California vineyard, marks a story out as "Southern."

But lacking important indicators like dead mules, or glass pitchers of sweet tea, her ladyship, the editor, keeps a very broad view of what constitutes "Southern" literature. A book that is set in the South she considers to be Southern. But writers who are from the South, or live in the South, will also find their books shelved in her ladyship's "Southern literature" bookcase. The South seems to sink into the bones of anyone who spends any time here--even if you leave, you can hardly help but carry it with you. And really, there are so many different kinds of "South" from so many different kinds of writers that her ladyship feels quite unequal to the task of kicking any particular one out of the tent. After all, here in the South we love gathering together in a big tent.
 
Why do you think commonplace books, even digital ones, are still important to keep?

Her ladyship enjoys commonplace books rather like she enjoys photograph albums: the notes and jotted down personal impressions are a kind of snapshot of what a person is thinking. The things they choose to preserve give clues about what struck their fancy, resonated with their own feelings.

We live snowed under by information, do we not? By links to news articles and op-ed pieces, book reviews and interviews, and videos of cats doing quite ridiculous things. The only things we notice are things that go "viral"--as though the only things worth noticing are the ones that are slightly diseased.

Commonplace books are an antidote to all the noise that invades our life. They are a very useful way to focus our attentions on the things that really do matter to us, and to bring a modicum of care and consideration back into our harum-scarum cat-video-ridden lives.

How would you describe the perfect day?

Ah, that would be a warm sunny day spent sitting on her ladyship's back deck with pot of coffee, dogs and cats at her feet, and two or three new books by writers she has just discovered, plus at least one new book by a writer she already knows and loves. Or a cool rainy day spent sitting in her favorite chair, still with the dogs and cats, the coffee, and the books. Or perhaps a cold winter evening, curled up on her couch, still with the dogs and cats, and the books.

Why does Lady Banks love independent bookstores?

Oh, there are plenty of good economic reasons to shop at your local bookstore that have been well documented. But her ladyship's love affair with small shops crammed floor-to-ceiling with shelves of books predates even the earliest of the "buy local" movements. It has always been about exploration for her. An online catalogue is fine if you know what you are looking for. But if you want to find that book you never knew you wanted? Walk into an independent bookstore.

Indie bookstores are places of magic and surprise. They are, as the bookseller from Avenue Victor Hugo once wrote, "a study in wonder, without pinning the butterfly."

Then, of course, there is the fact that no book is an island. We think of reading as a solitary pursuit, but in truth reading is often a very social thing. No one who loves a book is immune to the overwhelming impulse to share it with others. "You've got to read this!" is probably her ladyship's favorite phrase in the English language.

Independent booksellers have chosen, Lord bless them, to make a career out of "You've got to read this." They love not just reading, but the sharing of great books, the culture of books. "Culture" is not something one can create with a computer algorithm. It needs real people with real passions for good books at its foundation. Nobody understands their local book culture better than the local bookseller and the local librarian.

Her ladyship has spoken. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now).


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by IndieReader.com.

1. Wait for Me by Elisabeth Naughton
2. If You Stay by Courtney Cole
3. Waiting for Love by Marie Force
4. Hard to Resist by Shanora Williams
5. Life Code by Dr. Phil McGraw
6. Tall, Dark and Deadly by Lisa Renee Jones
7. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
8. Beauty from Pain by Georgia Cates
9. Fallen Too Far by Abbi Glines
10. Never Too Far by Abbi Glines

[Many thanks to IndieReader.com!]


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