Also published on this date: Wednesday, July 24, 2013: Maximum Shelf: I Kiss Your Hands Many Times

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Orchard Books: Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown by Eric Litwin, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

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

Grove Press: Afterglow (a Dog Memoir) by Eileen Myles

Flatiron Books: The Kings of Big Spring: God, Oil, and One Family's Search for the American Dream by Bryan Mealer

News

Goodreads Hits 20 Million Members Mark

In the past year, Goodreads has doubled the number of its readers to 20 million, the company said, without mentioning what effect its sale to Amazon in March had on membership numbers. Many people in the business reacted negatively to the sale--and vowed to close accounts.

CEO and co-founder Otis Chandler told TechCrunch the service has maintained its independence and "he expects that being owned by Amazon will also contribute to growth, since Amazon can provide plenty of resources behind, say, an international push, plus it has an enormous audience of its own."

Chandler cited three primary factors behind the accelerating growth: "a critical mass of book reviews," "explosive" mobile growth and international expansion.


AuthorBuzz: Indie Bookstore Readers


Book Country Relaunch to Include Bookstore

Book Country, a division of Penguin Random House that allows writers to workshop their manuscripts, has relaunched its site with several new features, including direct messaging between members and a bookstore that will sell titles members have published via its self-publishing e-book tools. In addition, Book Country now welcomes writers in more than 60 categories, encouraging them to "locate themselves on the genre map" before they upload their manuscripts.

"I've been thrilled by the level of engagement in the workshopping process," said Book Country president Molly Barton. "This wasn't a given, since it's hard to hear critiques of your work, especially when your relationship with the person giving you feedback is entirely virtual. But because this platform fosters strong early bonds between writers and the people who appreciate their stories and ideas, this community is actually writing better books together online."


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


BAM Completes Ascent of Yogurt Mountain

David Kahn, founder of Yogurt Mountain, sold his remaining 20% stake in the company that is controlled by Books-A-Million and Anderson Private Capital Partners, AL.com reported. In 2010, Kahn had sold 80% of his company--40% each--to BAM and the equity firm. Yogurt Mountain has more than 40 stores in 14 states.

BAM executive chairman Clyde Anderson "has a tremendous vision," Kahn said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for Clyde and great confidence that the brand will continue on. To be partners with the Anderson family was an amazing experience."

Kahn "expects the company will continue to grow as it has in recent years, through a combination of new corporate stores, franchises and locations inside Books-A-Million stores," AL.com wrote.


Trinity University Press: Self-Portrait with Dogwood by Christopher Merrill


Workshops Set for New & Prospective Bookstore Owners

Two workshops, co-sponsored by the American Booksellers Association and facilitated by Donna Paz Kaufman and Mark Kaufman of the Bookstore Training Group of Paz & Associates, have been scheduled for August and September, featuring guest booksellers and trainers to share frontline expertise.

"Deciding to Own a Bookstore" will be held August 15 & 16 in Northville, Mich. Participants will learn to estimate their start-up investment and potential earnings, understand the latest in industry trends, and see how indie booksellers are successfully competing in today's bricks-and-clicks retail world.

"Managing for Love & Profit" takes place September 9-12 on Amelia Island, Fla. For new owners and managers, as well as those who plan to open within the next six months, this program focuses on refining competitive advantages, keys to store design, retail buying and inventory management practices, and marketing to build sales and create customer loyalty.

As the organizers noted: "Whether you're testing the waters or already a new owner, learning the business of bookselling--the art as well as the science--is critical for your personal and financial investment. Retail bookselling is a low-margin business compared to other forms of retail. Many different aspects of the start-up process and ongoing operations demand your attention if you hope to achieve financial sustainability. With increased pressure from online outlets and e-books, it's more important than ever to understand and focus on the most critical aspects of the business and to establish a tangible competitive advantage."

ABA members are eligible for a discount. For details, visit PazBookBiz.com or call 800-260-8605.


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan


Student Publishers' Book Coming Up Roses

Oregon Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen with student/publishers.

Enthusiasm is blooming for Where the Roses Smell the Best: A Literary Companion to Portland, the inaugural offering from Unique Ink, a student-staffed publisher at Roosevelt High School. Festivities kicked off earlier this month at Powell's Books on Hawthorne, where students emceed the event and Oregon Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen and others read pieces they contributed to the anthology.

Where the Roses Smell the Best features a mix of short stories, vignettes, poems and visual art that highlights the city's people, places and lifestyles. Written by Roosevelt High School students as well as established authors and poets, selections range from pieces offering insight into Portland's coffee culture and culinary scene to what it's like to live in the City of Roses (and how it came by its nickname).

"This book is both an illuminating guide for visitors to Portland and a delight to read at home for those who love the city and want to increase their knowledge of it," explained Portland mayor Charlie Hales in an introductory letter in Where the Roses Smell the Best.

Unique Ink is part of the Writing and Publishing Center at Roosevelt High School, one of the most culturally diverse and economically challenged high schools in Oregon. Established to address new state writing proficiency standards, the center not only assists students in meeting graduation requirements but helps prepare them for college and careers.

Students worked for a year on Where the Roses Smell the Best, from brainstorming an idea for a book and reviewing editorial submissions to overseeing the production process and marketing the finished product. "What's unique about this venture is that it highlights both adult and young people's work together," said Kate McPherson, community engagement specialist, writing, and Publishing Center director.

Unique Ink's mission is to publish regionally themed books featuring student work along with that of professional and aspiring writers in the area. The goal is turn out one book annually, with a new literary companion every other year.

The Heathman Hotel in downtown Portland plans to shelve Where the Roses Smell the Best in its catalogued lending library alongside books by Bill Clinton, Maya Angelou and other luminaries. The library is stocked with more than 2,000 volumes by author guests, a roster that will soon include several Roosevelt students hosted by the hotel. In addition, the anthology will be carried in the Heathman gift shop.

Other Portland stores celebrating Where the Roses Smell the Best with readings include Broadway Books (July 24) and Annie Bloom's Books (July 29). Attending and participating in events adds another dimension to the publishing experience for students. "It's a wonderful thing for them to see that reading and writing is a lifetime joy for lots of people and not only something you endure in a classroom because somebody tells you that you have to," said McPherson. "It's a way to breathe life into writing."

Proceeds from the sale of Where the Roses Smell the Best support the Roosevelt High School Writing and Publishing Center. To learn more about the program, visit RooseveltRoughWriters.org. --Shannon McKenna Schmidt


Notes

Image of the Day: NAIBA & David Gilbert

At a New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association social held at Housing Works Bookstore in New York City on Monday night, author David Gilbert thanked independent booksellers for their vital contributions to the book industry and discussed the delights and difficulties of writing a new novel. Being a writer, he joked, means going to a bookstore and asking if any of your own books are in stock. The event, which was held on the eve of publication of his new book, & Sons (Random House), drew booksellers and industry representatives from the New York and New Jersey area. --Alex Mutter


Cool Idea of the Day: Handselling Vino

BookStacks, Bucksport, Maine, "is having a hard time keeping its latest bestseller on the shelves," Fenceviewer observed, reporting that the bookseller is now selling a selection of Italian, French, domestic, aperitifs, fortifers and sparkling wines.

"The wines weren't even out of the boxes and the customers were like, 'Ah, good. I'll buy one,' " said owner Andy Lacher, who decided to sell wine to fill a void left by a local wine seller's closure two years ago.

"I toyed with the idea for a while," he said. "My former wife is a wine wholesaler in Belfast. She has excellent taste and wine knowledge, which has helped me get started."


ALA Tote Bags & 30 Other Things Librarians Love

"Being territorial about your cart" is just one of "30 things librarians love," according to Buzzfeed. Another: "Ranting about the increasing value of paper books in an e-printing world." And another: "Going on vacation to visit really badass libraries."

And where do these folks work? Perhaps, if they're lucky, at one of "49 breathtaking libraries from all over the world."


Personnel Changes: HMH, RH Children's Books, Crown

Effective August 5, Jen Reynolds is joining Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as national accounts manager and will be responsible for sales of all HMH and client publisher titles to Ingram and Young Readers titles to Baker & Taylor. She began her career as a bookseller with Joseph-Beth Booksellers, where she promoted to buyer and then director of publisher relations and events. Most recently she handled Midwest field sales for PGW/Perseus/Perseus Distribution.

Effective August 5, Morgan Gould is being promoted to national accounts manager and distribution client sales manager. She continues to manage the relationships between HMH and its publishing partners and will assume the responsibility of selling HMH general interest titles to Baker & Taylor.

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Random House Children's Books has made the following changes:

  • Kimberly Lauber is joining the company as director of marketing, focusing on picture books, middle grade and YA titles and authors. She was formerly director of marketing and publicity for the children's group at Chronicle Books.
  • Laura Antonacci is joining the school and library team as senior manager, library marketing. She was formerly marketing manager, education and library marketing, at the Penguin Young Readers Group.
  • Kerri Benvenuto has been promoted to executive director of marketing, licensing and proprietary brands.
  • Rachel Feld has been promoted to the newly created position of executive director, consumer development.
  • Beth Conte has been promoted to executive director, marketing production and operations.
  • Lynn Kestin has been promoted to the newly created position of director, content development.
  • Lauren Adams has been promoted to marketing coordinator.
  • Nora MacDonald has promoted to associate marketing manager.
  • Santhana Souksamrane has been promoted to producer.
  • Linda Camacho has been promoted to marketing associate.

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Crown Publishing Group has created a community development team headed by community development director Kate Rados. In related moves:

  • Chris Sigfrids has been appointed to the newly created position of senior manager, community operations, managing all operational and technical aspects of the various Crown community sites. He continues as senior online marketing manager for Waterbrook Multnomah.
  • Matt Unhjem has been promoted to web developer for the Crown Communities. He formerly worked in the ad/promo department.
  • Alana Buckbee has joined the company as social media manager. She formerly was social media strategist at the advertising firm Publicis Kaplan Thaler.
  • Kira Walton, editorial lead for Read It Forward, continues to expand a roster of freelance writers and help increase "content efforts across all categories to engage and excite our readers beyond the excerpt."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: James Kelman on KCRW's Bookworm

Today on NRP's Fresh Air: Keith Lowe, author of Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II (Picador, $29.99, 9781250033567).

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Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Shirley Jones, author of Shirley Jones: A Memoir (Gallery, $27, 9781476725956).

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Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: James Kelman, author of Mo Said She Was Quirky (Other Press, $15.95, 9781590516003). As the show put it, "Mo Said She Was Quirky is a working-class romance centered around Helen and Mo, a Scot and a Pakistani living in exile in London. Kelman talks about the worries and anxieties that beset modern-day love--especially in London's harsh emotional climate of interpersonal distrust and racial tension--and reflects on his novel's penchant for internal monologue."

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Tomorrow on the Colbert Report: Olympia Snowe, author of Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress (Weinstein, $26, 9781602862173).


TV: Flowers In the Attic

The Lifetime network has greenlighted a TV movie version of V.C. Andrews's novel Flowers in the Attic, starring Heather Graham and Ellen Burstyn. Deadline.com reported that Deborah Chow (The High Cost of Living) will direct from a script by Kayla Alpert (Up All Night). The novel was previously adapted for a 1987 feature film that "was not well received," Deadline.com noted.


Movies: Half of a Yellow Sun Trailer

A full length trailer has been released for Half of a Yellow Sun, based on the novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Indiewire reported. The film, directed by Biyi Bandele and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Dominic Cooper, Joseph Mawle and John Boyega, is headed to the Toronto International Film Festival.


Books & Authors

Awards: Melissa Nathan; Horatio Nelson

Maria Semple won the Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Fiction about Life and Love for Where'd You Go Bernadette. The award is currently looking for a new sponsor. In a statement, prize founder Andrew Saffron said that "for the time being the award is 'on hold'. I look forward to being able to announce a new sponsor, and more fun and parties in the future. Please--if anyone reading this has a friend or relation who is a lover of the arts, and could sponsor the award, please put them in touch with me to talk about a new and rewarding sponsorship opportunity."

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Mike Meginnis won Black Balloon Publishing's first annual Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize, which rewards a previously unpublished original work with $5,000 and a book deal, for his novel manuscript Fat Man and Little Boy. Meginnis's book will be published in October 2014.


Book Brahmin: Adelle Waldman

photo: Lou Rouse

Adelle Waldman has written for the New York Times Book Review, the New Republic, the Wall Street Journal, Slate and other publications. A graduate of Columbia University's journalism school, she worked as a newspaper reporter before turning to fiction. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., published by Holt on July 16, 2013, is her first novel. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the writer Evan Hughes.

On your nightstand now:

Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp, The Romantics by Pankaj Mishra, The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume, Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell, The Ambassadors by Henry James, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante and Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan. It's a tall pile.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I loved Norma Klein, a young adult author whose work fell out of a print for a while after her death in 1989 but will, I believe, be reissued by Lizzie Skurnick's new young adult imprint at Ig Publishing. This is terrific news. Klein wrote Judy Blume books for kids who'd grown out of Blume books. Her heroes and heroines tended to be a bit older than Blume's--they were usually late high school--and while the plots often involved a first romance, her characters tended to be artistic and intellectual. They were also less concerned with popularity or fitting in than the protagonists of many young adult books were--or than I was myself. I admired them. To me, they seemed very sophisticated, the way I wanted to be, but wasn't. Yet they felt real, not idealized, and I must have related to certain aspects of the characters' lives, or else I wouldn't have enjoyed the books so much.

Your top five authors:

Among contemporary authors, probably Jonathan Franzen and Richard Yates. (Maybe some people wouldn't call Yates contemporary, but when you read as much 19th-century fiction as I do, you start to consider any novel where people have cars and televisions to be modern.) Of older novelists, I'll start with George Eliot. For the character of Casaubon alone, she'd always have a place in my pantheon. Next I might say Stendhal, which is a little strange because it's all about one book for me with Stendhal, The Red and the Black. But what a book.... The next one is hard. Do I want to say Austen? I love Austen. But I also love Flaubert. And Tolstoy. And Fitzgerald. I've also been on a real Henry Fielding kick lately.

Book you've faked reading:

I really do try to avoid faking. That's mostly because I'm a terrible liar, and I dread getting caught. I also had a very wise friend who cautioned me against opining about books I hadn't read. No matter how much you think you can anticipate your opinion, based on what you've heard about a book or what you know of an author, you look so foolish if you are caught. As you should. Because it really is indefensible to take up a position on a book you haven't read. That said, there are trillions of books I wish I'd read--that I'm embarrassed about not having read. Of relatively recent books, one is The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht.

Book you're an evangelist for:

There are books I feel so strongly about that I try not to evangelize for them. What I mean is that while I am happy to talk about what I think makes these books so good, I don't want to push them on anyone. That's not because I'm so considerate--it's because I have too much respect for the books. I want readers to come to the books when they are ready, when they want to read them, and won't approach them with what I'd characterize as a consumer's inflated sense of self-importance--that sort of quick, self-satisfied dismissal of whatever fails to conform to one's entertainment preferences. I don't want a book like Middlemarch to be read in that spirit. I once had a history professor who dismissed Jane Austen as chick lit, and though I was surprised at the time, I now realize that there are a lot of people who make that mistake (I suppose it would be more respectful if I said "who held that opinion," but I can't). Once I felt obliged to argue with people who felt that way--to convince them. These days I'm less interested in making the effort. I've begun to feel that people who are unable to grasp the depth and subtlety and intricate variety, in terms of character, of an Austen novel are better left to enjoy their Austen-free lives.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I buy Penguin Classics for the covers all the time. Give me some mannered 19th-century oil painting of a bunch of people in fancy dress traipsing around a garden or a pensive woman in a high-necked dress staring into her embroidery, set it against the familiar yellow background of a Penguin Classic, and I will feel a sense of homecoming when I come across it. I had made it to the age of 20 without having read much of "the Canon." So, when I found not just one or two or even a handful, but rather tens and tens of books that were so meaty, so intelligently but also unpretentiously told, so psychologically probing and full of well-developed characters and insights into relationships and social life, I was blown away. I felt like I'd been in a wasteland before, picking up books randomly, looking always for modern books with a plucky female protagonist--books that seemed directly and obviously relatable. Many years have passed, and I no longer have quite the zeal of the convert as I did when I first found these books--I am by now willing to acknowledge certain imperfections in even my most beloved 19th-century novels--but those books still feel like home to me. And I still have an almost Pavlovian response to the covers.

Book that changed your life:

I think I live in New York at least in part because of the Norma Klein books I mentioned earlier. Most of them were set on the Upper West Side, with kids who went to plays and used bookstores and saw black-and-white movies at places like Film Forum. Growing up in the suburbs, I usually spent my weekends trying to get a ride from my mom to the mall or multiplex. Reading about those sorts of lives was like reading about aliens--really cool aliens.

Favorite line from a book:

It might seem lazy that I'm going to use the same line I used as an epigraph to my novel, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. On the other hand, I wouldn't have used it as my epigraph if I didn't like it so much. The line is from George Eliot's Romola. Eliot observes that, "To give a true account of what passes within us, something else besides sincerity is needed." As a person who has written a novel that is very concerned with psychology and self-deception, it's natural that I love the line. And I have to admit I've been waiting eagerly for someone to ask me what I think that something else is. So far, no one has.

What is the something else that is needed to give a true account of what passes within us?

Thanks for asking! The answer is perspective.

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

I am a big re-reader so I'm not totally sure how to answer this. The books I tend to read only once are mysteries, which I like to listen to as audiobooks when I run. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn made running very, very fun--as did Flynn's excellent earlier novel Dark Places (which I discovered only after reading Gone Girl, when I began to search for more of Flynn's work). I wish I could listen to both those books again as if for the first time--it would definitely be good for my physical fitness if I could.


Book Review

YA Review: Boxers & Saints: A Graphic Novel Diptych

Boxers & Saints: A Graphic Novel Diptych by Gene Luen Yang (First Second, $34.99 paperback, ages 12-up, 9781596439245, September 10, 2013)

Boxers and Saints may be purchased separately, but for maximum appreciation of Gene Luen Yang's extraordinary achievement with this "graphic diptych," they must be read together.

Yang  (American Born Chinese) tells the story of China's Boxer Rebellion through the perspectives of two young people on opposite sides of the conflict. Both are born into family circumstances that would hold them back, but the Boxer Rebellion offers them both unexpected opportunities. Boxers ($18.99 paper, ISBN 9781596433595) unfolds through the eyes of Little Bao, the third of three sons living in 1894 Northern Shan-tung Province, while Four-Girl--the only one of four daughters to survive past a year--guides readers through Saints ($15.99 paper, ISBN 9781596436893). Their paths criss-cross in the two books. It's a brilliant approach to any conflict, but especially one as complex as this.

While his big brothers gamble, Little Bao watches opera performances in his village, and honors Tu Di Gong, the local earth god, at the entrance to the stage. Though illiterate, Bao learns the history and legends of China through operas about the Monkey King, the God of War and the Lady in the Moon. When a thief steals from the market, Bao's father punches him, and the thief brings back a Catholic priest (a European "white devil") to mete out his justice. It's a microcosm of the larger misunderstanding taking hold in China, and it leads to greater violence and a shattered Tu Di Gong. Yang demonstrates that while each side insists that it's right, there's no room for both belief systems.

For Bao, the arrival of the Europeans leads him to Red Lantern, an expert in the martial arts, and Bao ascends within the Brother-Disciples of the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist. The Brother-Disciples become the chief defenders of the powerless peasantry. As they fight, Yang's graphic novel sequences chart their metamorphosis into the deities Bao knows through his love of opera; peasants transform into gods, like Clark Kent to Superman. It is a conversion born of catastrophe. Similarly, in Saints, Four-Girl discovers a kindness among the Christians that she doesn't find at home (where her grandfather considers her a bad omen). In a moment of great desperation, she sees a vision of Joan of Arc.

photo: Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Crossover appearances between the two books convey a larger historical context. The thief from Boxers, called an "opium fiend" by a converted Chinese Catholic in Saints, responds, "Both your religion and my opium come from the hairy ones [the white devils]! It's ridiculous that you use one to judge another!" Yang alludes to the earlier Opium Wars, and the whites as carriers of opium as well as Christianity. And Bao's fantasy of marrying Four-Girl in Boxers (their chance meeting also appears in Saints) makes their later meeting all the more wrenching.

In both books, Lark Pien's use of color in an otherwise earth-toned palette causes the deities to rise from the pages of Boxers and casts a golden glow on Joan of Arc in Saints. Pien endows each book with its transcendent quality and honors the beliefs showcased in each book. Even the way their front covers and spines line up, in a brilliant feat of design, underscores the fact that there are two sides to this complex story, each deserving of a hearing. --Jennifer M. Brown

Shelf Talker: National Book Award finalist Gene Luen Yang takes an ingenious approach to the 19th-century Boxer Rebellion in China, through two protagonists, one a leader of the peasantry in Boxers, the other a newly converted Catholic in Saints.


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