Also published on this date: Wednesday, September 25, 2013: Maximum Shelf: Guests on Earth

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, September 25, 2013


HarperCollins: Dear Girl, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal, illustrated by Holly Hatam

Little Brown and Company: The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison

Houghton Mifflin: Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein: Based on a True Story by Jennifer Roy with Ali Fadhil

Tarcherperigee: F You Very Much: Understanding the Culture of Rudeness--And What We Can Do about It by Danny Wallace

News

Amazon Unveils New Kindle Tablets & Updated Fire OS

Amazon has unveiled its new line of Kindle Fire tablets. The 7" Kindle Fire HDX (starting at $229) will begin shipping October 18 (a $329 4G version ships November 14); and the 8.9" Kindle Fire HDX starts at $379 and ships November 7 (a $479 4G version ships December 10).

Amazon is touting Fire OS 3.0 "Mojito," the latest version of its operating system, as well as the addition of new features and services like Second Screen, which turns a television into the primary screen and will be available starting next month for PlayStation 3 and Samsung TVs; and the Mayday button, which promises free on-device tech support 24/7.

"Initially, a lot of people will use it just to show it off," Bezos told AllThingsD regarding the Mayday button. "We want to encourage that. It's a 'wow' feature."

CNet called the Fire tablets and new Fire OS "incredibly ambitious, but until we spend more than just a few minutes with them, we won't know for sure how well they live up to their potential."


William Morrow & Company: My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie


Banned Books Week: Morrison, Twitter, Ellison, Heroes, Poetry

Banned Book Week quotation of the day:

"I resent it. I mean if it's Texas or North Carolina as it has been in all sorts of states. But to be a girl from Ohio, writing about Ohio having been born in Lorain, Ohio. And actually relating as an Ohio person, to have the Ohio, what- Board of Education? Is ironic at the least."

--Toni Morrison speaking to NBC4 regarding comments by the president of the State Board of Education questioning whether her novel, The Bluest Eye, is appropriate to be on a suggested reading list for Ohio students.

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From noon until 2 p.m. today, everyone is welcome to join a Banned Books Week Twitter Party, hosted by the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Library Association and the Association of American Publishers. Just tweet using the hashtag #bannedbooksweek2013 or #bannedbookparty or #heroes. The first Twitter party was held Monday.

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Starting today at 10 a.m., Books-A-Million, Asheboro, N.C., will be giving local high school students free copies of Ralph Ellison's classic Invisible Man, which was recently banned from school libraries by the Randolph County Board of Education after a parent complained about content. FOX8 reported that Asheboro native Evan Smith Rakoff--who now works at Poets & Writers in New York City--and Salon's Laura Miller worked with Vintage Books to donate about 50 copies of the book to the BAM store at Randolph Mall. The board has scheduled a special meeting tonight to reconsider their decision.

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Noting that it "takes courage to defend intellectual freedom and the freedom to read," the sponsors of Banned Books Week have identified outstanding individuals and groups who have stood up to defend their freedom to read and are recognizing them each day as "Heroes of Banned Books Week."

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Next Monday, September 30, PEN American Center and ABFFE are sponsoring Paradise Banned: Poetry Readings from Banned Books at Housing Works Cafe in New York City. Ten contemporary poets will read poems by poets whose work has been banned throughout history.


Binc Foundation: Helping Booksellers #MoreThanEver Donation Campaign


MacArthur Fellows Include Karen Russell, Donald Antrim

Congratulations to authors Karen Russell and Donald Antrim, who were among the 24 recipients of this year's MacArthur Fellow grants, better known as the MacArthur genius awards. The grants are for $625,000 over five years to use however the geniuses want.

Russell has published two story collections, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and Vampires in the Lemon Grove, as well as the novel Swamplandia!.

Antrim has written several novels, including The Verificationist and The Hundred Brothers. His first work of nonfiction was The Afterlife: A Memoir.


Page Street Kids: Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Meyer


Enigma Bookstore Already 'Ahead of Schedule'

Enigma Bookstore, a genre-focused new and used bookshop in Astoria, N.Y., had its grand opening last month. According to co-owner Hugh Brammer, the response has been "really, really good." So good, in fact, that he and co-owner Claire LaPlaca are already ahead of schedule on the business plan they laid out.

"Even when we were still building the place, people were extremely responsive to us," said Brammer. Since the soft opening in July and the grand opening in August, LaPlaca and Brammer have seen increases in foot traffic and sales, all helped by a vigorous social media response and articles by local publications. Enigma's events, including author signings, "mystery dinners" and trivia nights, have also helped bring in customers. "They love the fact that we're as much a bookstore as an activity place."

At first, in its approximately 1,400 square feet of retail space, Enigma carried only three core genres: mystery, sci-fi and fantasy. Due to customer demand, Brammer and LaPlaca have started carrying graphic novels, along with horror, thriller and occult titles. The genre books are new and include more than 1,700 books; the non-genre titles are used and are generally discounted 50%-60%.

Brammer and LaPlaca have been pleasantly surprised by the willingness of local authors and publishers to have events in their store. "We were expecting to sort of have to beg them," said Brammer, laughing. "But they need exposure, and they don't want to go to Manhattan."

Enigma's owners have several big events lined up for the next few weeks. They're raffling off tickets to opening nights events at New York Comic Con (October 10-13). They will host a stop on the upcoming "Annual Queens Thanksgiving Zombie Walk." And in early November, they will host the launch party for David Alan Mack's new Star Trek novel.

"People in Astoria have been longing for a new bookstore since Seaburn closed," explained Brammer, referring to a beloved indie, Seaburn Books, that went out of business in 2011. "People wonder why we took the chance [of opening an indie], but they're really glad that we did." --Alex Mutter


Dinner Will Be Served at Red Emma's New Location

Worker-owned and collectively managed Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, Baltimore, Md., is scheduled to reopen at a new location in Station North next month, with "plans to serve a full dinner menu and roast its own coffee beans on site," Bmore reported. The bookstore had announced its decision to relocate last year.
 
Founding member Kate Khatib said the store has completed its move to 30 W. North Ave. and is anticipating about a month's worth of renovations and finishing touches. The new location, previously occupied by Cyclops Books, is nearly six times the size of Red Emma's 800-square-foot spot on Saint Paul Street.
 
"In the old space, one of the problems that we had was that all the space we had was what you saw," Khatib said, adding: "I think it's going to be a good fit for us and I hope that we're going to be able to bring something useful to the neighborhood too."


Publishing Business: Challenging 'Amazon's Imperial Ambition'

As Monday morning's opening speaker for the 2013 Publishing Business Conference, Yale University Press executive editor-at-large Steve Wasserman revisited "The Amazon Effect," an article he wrote about the online retailing giant for the Nation. Since that article was published last year, he told the early morning audience, "we're a little bit older, and Amazon's a lot bigger."

Steve Wasserman

While acknowledging the $100-billion company's presence as a "ubiquitous if largely remote institution in American life," Wasserman remains critical of Amazon's "imperial ambition," as well as "the near-utopian optimism" with which the American media tends to treat it. He peppered his argument with personal reminiscences of his effort to convince Jeff Bezos to buy ads in the Los Angeles Times Book Review in the 1990s and his friend Jason Epstein's backing of the Espresso Book Machine print-on-demand service. "He put his money on, essentially, a large Xerox machine," Wasserman recalled, not anticipating that Amazon's all-in approach to the e-book market would sway consumers away from the idea of waiting in a bricks-and-mortar store for their books to be assembled.

During a subsequent q&a with fellow keynote speakers Jason Merkoski (who recounts his role in the development of the Kindle in Burning the Page) and Jeffrey Cole (director of USC's Center for the Digital Future), Wasserman narrowed the focus of his complaint to the literary impact of Amazon's approach to marketing books. Citing Franz Kafka's assertion that "a book should be an axe to break up the frozen sea within us," he argued that such writing would never come out of a business model relentlessly focused on audience segmentation and on giving readers exactly what they want. "No poll, no data mining," he continued, would ever be capable of replicating the skilled eye of an editor capable of recognizing the writer capable of producing such a book. Yet even as he expressed his desire for the development of a "slow reading" movement, Cole pointed out that people are, in fact reading more than ever before, and have never been more enthusiastic about reading. Even Merkoski, who complained during his speech that the smell of one hardcover volume he passed around as a prop reminded him of "fish vomit," admitted that he'd been reading more print books lately. "I've kind of gone retro," he said sheepishly.

Over the next two days, a number of presentations offered potential means of dealing with "the Amazon effect," including a panel discussion of the "showrooming" problem, where consumers find books they like in local bookstores, then order them from an online retailer. Carl Kulo, the director of research for Nielsen Book (which recently acquired Bowker's publishing services), cited a survey in which 46% of the consumers polled--and more than half of those between the ages of 18 and 29--said they had browsed a bookstore, found a book they liked, and then bought it someplace else. (Other retail sectors have it even worse off, he noted; the chains hit heaviest included Bed Bath & Beyond, Toys 'R' Us and Best Buy.) Local bookstores do have some advantages--they are stronger at generating impulse purchases than online retailers, and do a much better job of selling children's and YA titles and religion books.

Consumers also like local bookstores for their convenience and, in the case of independents, for their broad selection and knowledgeable, helpful staff. As Dan Cullen, the content officer of the American Booksellers Association, put it in his subsequent remarks, selection and display combined with handselling lead to discovery--and nearly 20% of the consumers in the ABA's survey reported that, wherever they may have bought their last book, they discovered it in a local bookstore. (Library Journal group publisher Ian Singer also called attention to the power of displays, which accounted for 21% of library patrons' book selections.) Cullen noted two ABA programs that were designed to capitalize on these strengths: the Thanks for Shopping Indie campaign and the Indies Introduce Debut Authors reading list.

Publishers, meanwhile, were concerned about getting their books noticed--although, as Council of Literary Magazines and Presses executive director Jeffrey Lependorf observed in a session on "fostering engagement and audience discovery," sometimes you can reach more people by narrowing your focus. If book sales is a target, he advised, "begin with the bullseye." When it came to online promotion, Kate Rados, director of community development for the Crown Publishing Group, cited what she called the "value vortex." For every unit of an online campaign, she said, ask yourself: Is the information you're sharing going to provoke a response? And what will people get out of sharing that information with others?

Tumblr may be the social media platform where the importance of those two questions can be most starkly seen; the most effective Tumblr posts, after all, are those that earn the most "likes" and "reblogs." The company's publishing outreach director, Rachel Fershleiser, said that the Tumblr platform was designed for "empowering the people who care about your project to amplify it themselves" and to share it with their friends. All those voices can be collated and curated in interesting ways, like the recently launched Reblog Book Club," which kicked off with Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl. Fershleiser also discussed a guideline for audience development she began using as the events director at Housing Works Used Bookstore & Café, the search for "half-step" people--people who might not identify as avid book lovers but whose cultural and social interests are a half-step away from books. What kinds of programming can you create, she asked, that will put your store in their orbit? (And once they're in the store, one might add, what sort of displays will you create to hold their interests?)

One marketing strategy that some publishers are showing less enthusiasm for is the book trailer, the splashy online video released with the hope of becoming the next viral sensation. "It's something authors love and publishers love and marketers love," said Random House/Spiegel & Grau marketing director Leigh Marchant, "but it's just so hard to make it work.... When you look at the number of views on YouTube, which I don't anymore because it's just too depressing, it's just not worthwhile." Ironically, the most powerful video promotion might be one that's beyond publishers' control. As Rebecca Levey, who co-created KidzVidz.com, a site where children too young for YouTube accounts can upload and share videos, said, "There is nothing better than a kid who says, 'You have to read this book!' " It might not even matter if such a video looks a bit amateurish; this is an area where technical polish can be trumped by a sincere, enthusiastic endorsement from one reader to another. --Ron Hogan


Obituary Notes: Carolyn Cassady; Álvaro Mutis Jaramillo

Carolyn Cassady, "a writer who entered the American consciousness in 1957 as a character in Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road, and decades later chronicled her life as a member of the Beat Generation," died last Friday, the New York Times reported. She was 90. Jerry Cimino, director of the Beat Museum in San Francisco, called her "the grande dame of the Beat Generation."

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Writer and poet Álvaro Mutis Jaramillo, who began attracting international attention in 1986 with publication of the first installment of The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll and "was considered by critics as one of the most outstanding poets and storytellers of his generation," died Sunday, the Guardian reported. He was 90 years old.


Notes

Image of the Day: Slice of Moon

photo: Melissa Wall

On Saturday night, a happy crowd of poetry-loving friends and family helped Kim Dower (aka book publicist Kim-from-LA) celebrate the publication of her second poetry collection, Slice of Moon (Red Hen Press, October 1), at her neighborhood indie, Book Soup, in West Hollywood, Calif. The appearance boosted Slice of Moon to No. 1 on Book Soup's current paperback nonfiction bestseller list--and lifted Dower's first collection, Air Kissing on Mars, to No. 5.


Big Easy Bookselling

Noting that "though sales aren't booming, they aren't in decline," Gambit.com has an overview of how booksellers in New Orleans are coping with online booksellers and e-readers.

Maple Street Book Shop owner Gladin Scott said: "When you talk about books and literature, [the Internet and e-books] are really tools more than anything else. We'll frequently go to Fantastic Fiction to find out information about authors while we're talking to the customers, just so we can learn about the authors together with the customer."

Garden District Book Shop owner Britton Trice observed a certain disenchantment with digital offerings, saying, "We're seeing customers come in who have said they got an e-book as a gift and just don't like it. Or people who actually went out and bought them and said, 'I thought I would like this, but I like having a book in my hand.' "

Like other indies in the Big Easy, Octavia Books continues to hold events and provide service that can't be done online. "We want people to understand what we provide and what we do better," co-owner Tom Lowenburg said. "Compared to Amazon, we have a physical place where you come in and browse for books. We have a knowledgeable staff and... a top selection of books.... We pay attention to what customers request and what they're reading."


Portsmouth Book & Bar 'Has Won a Following'

Although Portsmouth Book & Bar "is a hybrid of two businesses notoriously difficult to launch, especially in a weak economy with a struggling retail sector," the Boston Globe reported the hybrid business that opened last December "has won a following."

"People are rooting for us because we're bucking a trend," said David Lovelace, co-owner of Book & Bar with Jon Strymish and John Petrovato. "We've got what Amazon has, except we actually exist: We have a scene. We have a community. There are actual humans here that are conversing.''


L.A. Library Dedicated to Ray Bradbury

On Monday, Los Angeles dedicated the Palms-Rancho Park library to the late Ray Bradbury. File 770 reported that while this is a newly remodeled and upgraded library, the original "was the one closest to Bradbury household. Ray would take his four daughters on adventures to this library."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Sudhir Venkatesh on NPR's On Point

Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Mark Tushnet, author of In the Balance: Law and Politics in the Roberts Court (Norton, $28.95, 9780393073447).

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Tomorrow on Connie Martinson Talks Books: David Schickler, author of The Dark Path: A Memoir (Riverhead, $27.95, 9781594486456).

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Tomorrow on NPR's On Point: Sudhir Venkatesh, author of Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York's Underground Economy (Penguin Press, $27.95, 9781594204166).

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Tomorrow on CNN's Fareed Zakaria: Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781451654424).


Movies: The Invisible Woman; Under the Skin

Indiewire featured several clips from The Invisible Woman, a film directed by Ralph Fiennes, who also stars as Charles Dickens in the true story of the author's relationship with his mistress, played by Felicity Jones. The Invisible Woman opens on Christmas Day.

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A full-length trailer has been released for Under the Skin, adapted from the novel by Michael Faber. Indiewire reported that it "may have taken nine years for Jonathan Glazer to deliver his third feature-length film, but the wait for Under the Skin has been more than worth it.... While much as been made of the Scarlett-Johansson-stars-as-a-man-eating-alien premise, the film is not the arthouse Species some would have you believe. Instead it's a remarkable piece of immersive filmmaking." The film will be released next year.



Books & Authors

Book Brahmin: Dan Santat

Dan Santat has illustrated books by other people, including Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) by Mac Barnett, which won the Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrators, and also wrote and illustrated Sidekicks, a graphic novel aimed at middle graders. He's also the creator of Disney's animated hit The Replacements. His most recent picture book is Carnivores (Chronicle, September) by Aaron Reynolds, for which Santat created full-color illustrations. He lives in Southern California with his wife, two kids, a rabbit, a bird and one cat.

On your nightstand now:

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
Nanny Piggins and the Runaway Lion by R.A. Spratt (for work)
Economix: How and Why Our Economy Works (and Doesn't Work) by Michael Goodwin, illustrated by Dan E. Burr
Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel
A receipt from Denny's for an order of buffalo wings at 2 a.m. (shame)
A buy 1/get 1 free coupon for Chipotle
An empty plastic SpongeBob cup (left by my younger kid)
A doily

Favorite book when you were a child:

Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff. It was the very first book I learned to read, and it became the tool I used to show grown-ups how smart and awesome I was. The magic wore off when I was eight and most people reacted with, "Yeah... I get it."

Your top five authors:

David Sedaris, Michael Chabon, Chris Ware, Malcolm Gladwell, Dr. Seuss.

Book you've faked reading:

I've tried multiple times to read A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I'll get 50 pages into it but stop because I'm often so immersed in projects that I can't sit and read the book for prolonged periods of time, until it's just completely forgotten about. One time I brought the book to the beach when a woman walked by and spotted it resting on top of my backpack and said, "Great book!" to which I replied, "I know!"

I might have to resort to the audiobook.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I often give lectures to art schools and writing conferences about becoming a professional author and illustrator, and I often find myself referencing the 10,000-hour rule and being prepared for opportunities that are presented to you. I get a little out of hand telling people to do 10,000 hours of something until they are awesome at it, not realizing that it's like telling someone, "Just devote your life to something non-stop for about three to five years."

That's not quite the answer most people want to hear when they want to be published as soon as possible.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I'm obsessed with good book cover design. I'll often repurchase books if a cover is designed really well, or at least keep a jpeg of the cover somewhere in a reference folder on my desktop. I've bought many books for their brilliant covers, and the simple answer to that question is anything designed by Chip Kidd. However, I most recently bought A Hologram for the King, written by Dave Eggers and designed by Jessica Hische

Book that changed your life:

This is an embarrassing answer. When I was a kid, I used to be obsessed with death, to the point where I was always thinking about the end of my life and worrying about how my life was going to end. It might be due to the fact that my father was a doctor, and whenever I got sick he would put me on medication. I was a pill-popping kid. There was a pill for everything. Can't sleep? Take this. Constipated? Take this. You remember back in grade school when a cold would be making the rounds to all your fellow students and you eventually got it, too? I was the kid who was still sick weeks after everyone had fully recovered because my body was so filled with antibiotics that my immune system was completely shot. Then I went off to college where I read The Last Days of Socrates. It sounds corny, but once I read his reason for why he wasn't afraid to die, I became a completely different person. The logic for how Socrates broke it all down just made sense to me. I stopped pill-popping (which was also due to the fact that I took a basic biology class and realized that you can't fight off a cold using antibiotics because a cold is a virus). I got healthier. I stopped worrying about death. I started enjoying life. All from that one book.

Favorite line from a book:

"So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane." --Looking for Alaska, John Green

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

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. The chapter in which he's trying to tell off his pretentious French teacher in broken phrases is hilarious.


Book Review

YA Review: Reality Boy

Reality Boy by A.S. King (Little, Brown, $18 hardcover, 368p., ages 13-17, 9780316222709, October 22, 2013)

In her newest novel, Reality Boy, Printz Honor winner A.S. King (Please Ignore Vera Dietz; Everybody Sees the Ants) explores the cost of fame and the power of narrative in the life of Gerald Faust. A reality TV show about dysfunctional families made Gerald both famous and infamous. Cast as the young villain for his "acting out," most of which was actually an attempt to defend himself from his psychotic older sister Tasha, he lived up to expectations and then some. Once a five-year-old known as "The Crapper" (in honor of "squeezing one out" as one manifestation of his rage), Gerald has grown into a friendless 17-year-old, afraid of his own emotions and still subject to Tasha's tyranny.

Introspective by necessity, Gerald often escapes into a fantasy world where everything is perfect, constructed just to make him happy. It's the complete opposite of his real life, which seems designed specifically to keep him enraged--and stuck. His mother, while maintaining a facsimile of perfection on the surface, treats him as if he is deficient and unmanageable. His father is disaffected, made powerless by his wife's obsession with keeping Tasha happy. His schoolmates treat him as if he's still that five-year-old. The bright spots in his life take place primarily at Gerald's concession-stand job at a nearby stadium. That also happens to be where his crush works--if he were allowed to have crushes, which he's not. The rules that Gerald lives by, the only things keeping him from life in prison (or so he believes), don't allow for much interaction. But in the face of outreach from others in his life, both positive and negative, his walls and his rules start to crumble.

King's books always look into the shadowed places of life, both of teenagers and parents, and few other writers do it with the honesty and sensitivity that she displays. Her ability to show all sides of the story, while never detracting from the main characters and their intense frustration with the adults and circumstances of their lives, is a marvel. Reality Boy showcases King's talent, telling a story that is as much about parental depression and denial as it is about teen rage. It's also about first love, celebrity, therapy and finding your own narrative despite the story your family--and sometimes the world--tells about you. --Jenn Northington

Shelf Talker: A Printz Honor author's story of a young man struggling with anger as he seeks a new identity for himself.


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