Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 19, 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

Editors' Note

Welcome, Books & Books!

Later this morning, Books & Books, with stores in South Florida, Westhampton Beach, N.Y., and the Cayman Islands, is sending out its first edition of Shelf Awareness for Readers. Founded by Mitchell Kaplan in 1982, Books & Books has become one of the most respected independent bookstores in the country. We're very pleased to welcome them to the family of stores that are part of our newsletter program. You can find more information about Shelf Awareness's bookstore edition here.


AuthorBuzz: Indie Bookstore Readers


News

Case Closed: 'Robert Galbraith' Leak Found

London law firm Russells Solicitors issued a public apology for leaking J.K. Rowling's identity as the real author of Robert Galbraith's The Cuckoo's Calling, the Bookseller reported. In a statement, the law firm apologized "unreservedly for the disclosure caused by one of our partners, Chris Gossage, in revealing to his wife's best friend, Judith Callegari, during a private conversation that the true identity of Robert Galbraith was in fact J.K. Rowling.

"Whilst accepting his own culpability, the disclosure was made in confidence to someone he trusted implicitly. On becoming aware of the circumstances, we immediately notified J.K. Rowling's agent. We can confirm that this leak was not part of any marketing plan and that neither J.K. Rowling, her agent nor publishers were in any way involved."

Rowling noted that "a tiny number of people knew my pseudonym and it has not been pleasant to wonder for days how a woman whom I had never heard of prior to Sunday night could have found out something that many of my oldest friends did not know. To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. I had assumed that I could expect total confidentiality from Russells, a reputable professional firm and I feel very angry that my trust turned out to be misplaced."

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AbeBooks reported that the most expensive copy of The Cuckoo's Calling sold this week was a Robert Galbraith-signed first edition for $4,453. Two unsigned first editions sold for $907 each. Three other first editions have also sold for prices in excess of $500 this week. One more signed copy is still available on the site for more than $6,100. AbeBooks had not sold a single copy of this book before the weekend.


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


Barbara's Bestsellers Returning to South Station

photo: hipharp.com

Barbara's Bestsellers in South Station, Boston, Mass., which closed in April with hopes of returning, will reopen soon. The Boston Business Journal reported that Donald Barliant, owner of Barbara's Bookstores, has reached a deal to lease 300 square feet of space, down from the 417 square feet in the old shop where he "was paying nearly $100 per square foot, not including maintenance, real estate taxes and marketing."


Forget the Smell of Books: Chocolate Is Merchandising Key

Researchers in Belgium have discovered "the enticing aroma of chocolate inspired bookstore shoppers to stick around longer," Pacific Standard reported, noting that shoppers "are more likely to engage in leisurely browsing--and ultimately purchase books in certain popular genres, including romance novels--if the store is infused with the scent of chocolate."

According to an article in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, the research team conducted a 10-day experiment in a Belgian general-interest bookstore and discovered that retailers "can make use of pleasant ambient scents to improve the store environment, leading consumers to explore the store.... customers were 2.22 times more likely to closely examine multiple books when the chocolate scent was present in the store, compared with the control condition."

The chocolate-fueled study prompted the researchers advise retailers that they "can make use of pleasant ambient scents to improve the store environment, leading consumers to explore the store."


Ian Chapman Promoted at S&S U.K. & International

Ian Chapman, formerly Simon & Schuster U.K. managing director and CEO, has been promoted to CEO and publisher for S&S U.K. and International. The Bookseller reported that the "development comes alongside promotions" to managing director for Suzanne Baboneau (adult publishing division), Ingrid Selberg (children's publishing division) and Rahul Srivastava (S&S India). Group sales and marketing director James Horobin is now group sales director. Executive director Kerr MacRae has resigned.


Obituary Note: Marc Simont

Marc Simont, who illustrated nearly 100 books, "his work paired with texts by some of the world's best-known writers for young people, including Margaret Wise Brown, Karla Kuskin, Faith McNulty and Charlotte Zolotow," died last Saturday, the New York Times reported. He was 97.



Notes

Image of the Day: Thriller's Food for Thought

Last week, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa., hosted the launch party for Jon McGoran's new ecological thriller about genetically modified foods and pharmaceuticals, Drift (Forge).


Promotions at Crown Publicity

In the Crown publicity department, four people have been made vice-presidents:

  • Tammy Blake has become v-p, director of publicity, Crown Archetype, Harmony, Crown Forum and Three Rivers Press.
  • Tara Gilbride has become v-p, director of marketing and publicity for Crown Business.
  • Annsley Rosner has become v-p, director of publicity, Crown Publishers, Hogarth and Broadway Books.
  • Kate Tyler has become v-p, director of publicity, for the Clarkson Potter family of imprints.

 


Staff Changes for BISG

The Book Industry Study Group has announced a major staff reorganization involving several new hires and a promotion. Executive director Len Vlahos said the BISG staff "is now organized around our core competencies of standards, research, and education, and supported by our first real coordinated marketing effort in recent memory. I'm very excited to be working with my new colleagues." The appointments include:

  • Thomson Guster, who is now BISG's coordinator of education and events, most recently worked in the art department at greeting card and gift items wholesaler Nelson Line.
  • Julie Morris is project manager, standards and best practices. Prior to joining BISG, she was project manager for the web production team at Columbia University's Center for Digital Research and Scholarship.
  • Former BISG project coordinator Nadine Vassallo has been promoted to the position of project manager, research and information.
  • Jeanette Zwart, marketing strategy, has extensive experience in publishing, most recently as v-p, sales, at HarperCollins responsible for the field, library jobbers and regional chains.

Lerner Publisher Services Expands Client List

Lerner Publisher Services, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, is becoming the exclusive U.S. and Canadian distributor for Scobre Educational, beginning this fall with 85 new titles. Lerner already distributes Scobre Educational's MVP Books imprint. The titles include seven new series aimed at readers ages 10–16.

Lerner Publisher Services is also becoming the exclusive distributor for Live Oak Media's digital readalongs (eReadalongs) to the educational and wholesale markets, as well as a distributor of eReadalongs to school and library markets beginning this fall.


Media and Movies

Bookish Emmy Nominations

Yesterday, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced this year's nominations for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards, which will be handed out September 22. Among the shows nominated were several based on books, including:

Behind the Candelabra (book by Scott Thorson): Lead actor in a miniseries or movie (Michael Douglas, Matt Damon), supporting actor in a miniseries or movie (Scott Bakula), outstanding miniseries or movie and 12 other nominations
Game of Thrones (books by George R.R. Martin): Supporting actor in a drama series (Peter Dinklage), supporting actress in a drama series (Emilia Clarke), outstanding drama series and 13 others
Boardwalk Empire (Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson): supporting actor in a drama series (Bobby Cannavale) and nine others.
Parade's End (books by Ford Madox Ford): Lead actor in a miniseries or movie (Benedict Cumberbatch) and five others
The Bible: Outstanding miniseries or movie and two others
Killing Lincoln (book by Bill O'Reilly): three nominations
Hemlock Grove (book by Brian McGreevy: Two nominations
House of Lies (book by Martin Kihn): Lead actor in a comedy series (Don Cheadle )


TV: Cumberbatch Reveals Sherlock Spoilers

Although they couldn't attend San Diego Comic-Con in person, Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martin Freeman) taped an entertaining video for fans attending the Sherlock Season 3 panel, Entertainment Weekly reported. Cumberbatch "says he's tired of keeping secrets for all his big screen roles like Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness and Smaug in The Hobbit and decides to solve the cliffhanger that has everybody guessing--how Sherlock Holmes survived his rooftop plummet at the end of season 2."

"It's been so much fun, the scripts are just a delight," Cumberbatch said of the upcoming season. "F–k it, I'm going to tell you how Sherlock survived.... I know you guys like your spoilers and I feel so much better telling you. Freedom!"


Books & Authors

Awards: PEN/Ackerley Winner; Sunburst Shortlist

Richard Holloway won the PEN/Ackerley Prize, which recognizes a literary autobiography of excellence written by an author of British nationality, for Leaving Alexandria: a Memoir of Faith and Doubt.  

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Finalists have been named for the $1,000 Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, Quillblog reported. The shortlisted titles are:

Adult
Finton Moon by Gerard Collins
Maleficium by Martine Desjardins, translated by Fred A. Reed & David Homel
Over the Darkened Landscape by Derryl Murphy
The Blondes by Emily Schultz
Westlake Soul by Rio Youers

YA
Bright's Light by Susan Juby
Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow
The Green Man by Michael Bedard
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Rebel Heart by Moira Young


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcovers
Loyalty: A Novel by Ingrid Thoft (Putnam, $25.95, 9780399162121). "Flunking out of law school was probably the best thing to happen to Fina Ludlow. The most interesting work at her family's law firm was not done by their lawyers, but by their lead investigator, Frank Gillis. Fina learns her trade from Frank and takes over when he leaves the firm. Private investigation is an ideal fit for Fina, and her talents at both discretion and deception, as well as her skill with a lock pick, get her through a lot of doors. Fina's family loyalty is strong, but when her sister-in-law goes missing and her niece locks her bedroom door at night, Fina has to decide between loyalty to family and the truth. A brilliant start to a gripping new series." --Karen Briggs, Great Northern Books & Hobbies, Oscoda, Mich.

The Resurrectionist: A Novel by Matthew Guinn (Norton, $25.95, 9780393239317). "In the mid-19th century, Nemo Johnston is sold to the fledgling South Carolina Medical College, where he will act as janitor, butler, and grave-robber. After all, medical students do need to work on human cadavers. A century and a half later, when construction workers unearth hundreds of bones of African-American slaves in the cellar of one of the school's original buildings, the administration wants to avoid media coverage at all costs. As he investigates the college's past and his own family history, Dr. Jacob Thacker is forced to decide between his own future and the future of the school. This is a suspenseful medical history lesson wrapped up in a story of power, politics, secrecy, and revenge." --Jennifer Gwydir, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Tex.

Paperback
Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing With Others by Stacy Horn (Algonquin, $15.95, 9781616200411). "Listening to choral music has always been moving for me, but I never realized the profound emotions felt by the chorus members. In this delightful, charmingly self-effacing memoir, Horn explains how singing with the Choral Society of New York's Grace Church has been life-affirming, and even life-saving. Drawing on the reflections of other singers, composers of choral music, and scientific evidence, as well as her own experience, Horn beautifully puts into words the joy of singing in harmony with others. Any lover of choral music will love this book!" --Samantha Flynn, Quail Ridge Books & Music, Raleigh, N.C.

For Ages 3-6
Oliver and His Alligator by Paul Schmid (Hyperion/Disney, $15.99, 9781423174370). "Oliver is a little insecure about his first day of school, so he brings an alligator for reinforcement. While the alligator takes care of one scary thing after another, Oliver starts to realize school might not be so bad--but he has to decide quickly before everything is devoured! Readers will identify with Oliver's fears and eat up Schmid's adorable pastel illustrations." --Erin Barker, Hooray for Books!, Alexandria, Va.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Brahmin: Sam Toperoff

photo: Olivia Toperoff

Sam Toperoff was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., the privileged son of a very poor family. He was supposed to carry the family banner to new heights through intellectual achievement, but instead drove his father to lament, "When will the boy ever read a book?" Toperoff has published 12 novels and works of nonfiction. Forty years ago he got it into his head to build a small house in the French Alps; the house is no longer so small and he lives and works there with three generations of a family that all seem to get along. His new novel is Lillian & Dash (Other Press, July 16, 20130.

On your nightstand now:

Shirley by Charlotte Bronte; this one I borrowed (took) from a hotel in Florence recently because the weather was so bad and we were confined to our room. I'm enjoying it immensely because it blends human temperament and politics so subtly. I'm starting a new novel about the silent movie era called Frame-up! Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, so that explains my wanting to know more about Arbuckle. Pat Barker is one of my absolute favorites; I'm rereading Regeneration because I learn from her. A friend here in France is president of the Jack London Society; I'm reading his letters and discovering that he was indeed the father of an entire generation of self-promoting American writers. Because the subject overwhelms and confuses me, I'm reading less often than the above from Wilson's Social Conquest of Earth and Mother Nature by Sarah Hrdy.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Alas, didn't read when I was a child. The schoolyard in Brooklyn beckoned, and I believed my future was there.

Your top five authors:

1. Kurt Vonnegut: one night I was on a panel with Vonnegut, but it was during the Vietnam War and whatever the topic was, the evening devolved into a bitter give-and-take with a very right-wing patriotic audience (it was in Staten Island). My position was radical and, as it turns out, historically correct. Things were getting dangerous, and Vonnegut stepped in to save me ass. We became friends that night.
2. Joseph Conrad, simply because I've come to a point in my writing where I believe a good story well told is everything--and so Joseph Conrad.
3. Pat Barker: I don't know why, but I just love her, and you can't explain love.
4. Jose Saramago, because he encourages me with the idea that as long as you think you know what you're doing as a writer, you can do just about anything.
5. Kazuo Ishiguro for the sheer surprise, for his cool and his hip.

Book you've faked reading:

It's a tie between Moby Dick and War and Peace, depending on who I'm trying to impress.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Tie between Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder, the best, most soulful nonfiction writer in America, and Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I honestly don't believe I ever have, but I'd probably be the last to know, if the art department was doing its job.

Book that changed your life:

Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. It was the summer I decided to become a real reader, which is surprising because I was already teaching at university. Probably I got tired of lying about books I'd read and decided to read a classic. I was so involved in the psychological cat and mouse that all I did was read, eat, sleep and read. (In anticipation of the next question--It was the best of times....)

Favorite line from a book:

"It was a dark and stormy night...." As a matter of fact, it is the beginning line from a new novel. I wanted to see if I could make it work while at the same time trying to cash in on what the reader already feels about it.

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

A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich. I've already read it five times. And when I'm done typing this questionnaire, I think I'll start it again. If I could write for smart kids the way he does, I'd have achieved something that has always escaped me, profound simplicity. Talk about making the world approachable.

How can you tell when a translation is poor?

I don't know, but you can just tell. Probably because everything else--especially the story and the author's intelligence--about the novel is so good.


Book Review

Review: The Sound of Things Falling

The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez (Riverhead, $27.95 hardcover, 9781594487484, August 1, 2013)

For many years, when the country of Colombia was mentioned, the first thing that came to mind to was the Medellín cartel, known for drug trafficking, money laundering, assassinations,  extortion, kidnappings, murders, political corruption, arms trafficking, racketeering and terrorism. Throughout the 1970s and '80s, until 1993, when he was killed, drug lord and narcoterrorist Pablo Escobar ran a war against anyone who got in his way.

Juan Gabriel Vasquez uses this history as a backdrop in The Sound of Things Falling, as he tries to come to terms with years of drug-related violence that many Colombians would rather forget. For Vasquez and his narrator, young attorney and teacher Antonio Yammara, these bygone events have been formative, leaving a legacy of fear.

The novel begins in 2009 with the killing of a hippo that escaped from what was the private zoo on Escobar's estate. When Yammara reads of this, he is besieged by memories of the mid-1990s, starting with a casual encounter in a Bogotá billiard parlor. Antonio develops a sort of friendship with Ricardo Laverde despite his secretiveness; then, one day, Laverde is murdered on the street. Who killed him and why? Yammara, who was also wounded in the attack, is compelled to find out Laverde's story and, in the process, sees his own life fall apart. He discovers that Laverde was a pilot and drug trafficker, a mule for Escobar and his henchmen.

There are several references to rising and falling--metaphors for the way the past has an impact on the present, causing lives to crash or implode. Two plane crashes take place in the narrative: one during an aerial stunt many years before and the crash that takes the life of Elaine Fritts, Ricardo's estranged wife, who was returning to Bogotá to join him. Before the plane crashes, the pilot is heard on the black box repeating, "Up, up, up."

Yammara's obsession with Ricardo leads him to Maya Laverde, his 28-year-old daughter, who believed that her father was dead many years before he was murdered. She, too, has been damaged by a past whose events she did not participate in. She and Antonio share this bond, one which challenges his shaky marriage.

Vasquez examines, eloquently, how memories can cripple and heal at the same time, how the past must be exorcised before a real future is viable. --Valerie Ryan

Shelf Talker: In a story beautifully told--and masterfully translated by Anne McLean--Vasquez explores the impact that an unexamined past has on the present.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Noah's ARC, Caramel Swirl & the Future of Books

And so it came to pass that e-books rained upon them for 40 days and 40 nights (more or less... well, more), and he was commanded to preserve the future by building a library shelter from wooden bookshelves that would hold two each of all the advanced reader copies in the land at that moment in time. And thus he did, before seeking refuge from the digital storm. And lo, the e-books continued to rain and rain until, one day, he simply left his refuge, realizing that the weather wasn't going to change and yet he could still walk freely in the downpour. His ARCs, however, were no longer relevant. The future had come and gone again. And he saw that it was... complicated. The End.

Because we're book people, we tend to live in the future. ARCs are perhaps the most visible sign of this, but many of us find it hard to resist the siren song of endless predictions about our industry. We hope to define shadows. Maybe I'm delirious from the current heat wave, but I'm beginning to see the future as a developing recipe for, say, sea salt caramel swirl gelato, with past and present adding flavor and texture.

Straightforward timelines are, by comparison, much more comforting. Picture Rod Taylor in the 1960 film version of The Time Machine. Emotionally and philosophically dyspeptic after a frustrating New Year's Eve dinner with doubting friends, he sits in his invention, an elegant Victorian time sled. He reaches for a crystal knob and pushes "the lever forward ever so slightly." 

The future of books we try to anticipate is unnervingly just out of sight and reach, unpredictable, consistently resisting our attempts to turn it into an easy-to-follow recipe. Just consider the ingredients that have been swirling through my overheated, bookish brain this week alone, including our headline in yesterday morning's issue: "AAP Sales: E-Books Come Down to Earth in First Quarter."

Or Monday's New York Times piece that reported retailers can "gather data about in-store shoppers' behavior and moods, using video surveillance and signals from their cellphones and apps to learn information as varied as their sex, how many minutes they spend in the candy aisle and how long they look at merchandise before buying it."

In response, Venture Beat contended that for retailers, "the goal shouldn't be to emulate Amazon and envy its data and price-driven hegemony--it should be offer a very different experience from Amazon: More human, more comfortable, and less about viewing customers as sacks of data and more as, well, people."

An indie bookseller offered reassurance to customers: "While I do think that it makes sense for brick-and-mortar stores (or 'real' stores, as I think of them) to take advantage of some of the same strategies online stores use, I would like to assure you that we are not tracking your movements through your cell phone. But we are paying attention. In a good way. :)"

Then I recalled a scene in Minority Report. Tom Cruise, who's had some sort of eye transplant (long story, already forgotten) enters a store, where a woman's face projected on a flat-screen monitor greets him: "Good afternoon, Mr. Yakamoto. Welcome back to the Gap. How'd those assorted tank tops work out for you?"

I also read a new Harper's piece headlined "Beyond the Book," in which Mark Kingwell observes that the "scope of technology's effects lies on a timescale none of us can survey, creating only opportunities for self-serving predictions--either wildly optimistic or comprehensively gloomy, depending on your interests, age, and health plan. More important, these of-the-moment technology-driven concerns do not get us closer to the heart of reading, which is a matter of human consciousness."

And that reminded me of something from the past. I checked my own time machine, a non-Victorian MacBook Air with far too many saved ancient hyperlinks, and found this: "Futures of anything tend to combine possibilities, desiderata, and dreaded outcomes, sometimes in one sentence," wrote China Miéville last August in the Guardian. "There's a feedback loop between soothsaying and the sooth said, analysis is bet and aspiration and warning. I want to plural, to discuss not the novel but novels, not the future, but futures. I'm an anguished optimist."

In Harper's, Kingwell concludes that "we will continue to argue about all this, just as Socrates and Phaedrus argued the relative merits of reading and speaking more than two millennia ago." Perhaps I'm left only with a recipe for the foreseeable future that is this coming weekend: Blend an excellent ARC (The Cartographer of No Man's Land by P.S. Duffy) with generous portions of cool AC and cooler SSCSG (sea salt caramel swirl gelato). My bookish future... is now --Robert Gray, contributing editor


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