Shelf Awareness for Thursday, November 15, 2007

Little Brown and Company: An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma

Random House: The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky: The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America's Test Kitchen Kids

Beacon Press: Receive an extra discount on Man's Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl

Shadow Mountain: Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

Nosy Crow: Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon, selected by Fiona Waters

Quirk Books: The Princess and the Fangirl (Once Upon a Con #2) by Ashley Poston


Notes: New Bookstores; New Bookstore Owners

Jennifer Morales and Tina Owen, life partners and the new owners of the feminist bookshop Broad Vocabulary, Milwaukee, Wis., were introduced to the city by The couple purchased Broad Vocabulary from Molly Tennessen, Amy Daroszeski and Kelly Todd.

"We're very happy that Tina and Jennifer are the new broads," said Tennessen. "Clearly, they are politically-minded ladies and are able to devote the time and energy to make Broad Vocabulary an even more successful bookstore."

Morales said, "It's a really satisfying blend of two of our greatest passions--words and politics--and it builds on the many relationships we have with people in education, the arts, politics, the LGBT community, the social justice activist world, Tina's school, my editing business, our church, everywhere.

"I want to give Milwaukee a lot of credit for being so fierce about shopping locally," she continued. "When I go to other cities, I'm appalled at how few independent businesses there are. In Milwaukee, we like our locally owned, diverse, quirky businesses. We should be proud of that."


"It's surprising that people I wouldn't have expected to be readers are showing up to talk about books," Seanna Berning told the Bonner County Daily Bee in a profile of her new bookstore, Berning Books, Clark Fork, Idaho, which will celebrate its grand opening this Saturday. "I love books and I love reading," Berning added. "It was either start a book store or get a real job."

Berning Books is located at 310 E. Fourth Ave., Clark Fork, Idaho 83811; 208-266-1905;


On Wednesday, November 28, Barnes & Noble is opening a store at 270 Greenwich St. in the Tribeca section of New York City. The public is invited to a preview night party the night before from 6 to 9 p.m. A portion of the proceeds will benefit local schools P.S. 234, P.S. 150, P.S. 89 and I.S. 89.


Independent, community-minded bookshops in Berkeley are under increasing pressure from online and big-box retailers, according to the Daily Californian.

"I think a community without bookstores would be a barren place," said Lorraine Zimmerman, a partner at University Press Books.

Doris Moskowitz, owner of Moe's Books, worried that people "seem to have amnesia that a bookstore is a pleasurable experience. There is a tactile pleasure and a social pleasure to being in a bookstore."

But Tim Rogers, manager of Pegasus Books, said he felt that "people in Berkeley are passionate about coming in here. They understand that money spent here will go back into the community."


More than 1.8 million copies of the Chinese-language edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows have been printed and more may be on the way, the AP reported. China's People's Literature Publishing House "issued 1.1 million copies of the book," while "Taiwan's Crown Culture Corp. has shipped 700,000 copies to book stores in Taiwan and Hong Kong, a figure that already exceeds the company's total print run of 680,000 for the sixth and penultimate Harry Potter book."


More on signed edition book clubs. Mary Benham, First Editions Club coordinator at Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif., noted that the store's club, which was founded in 2003, has grown to more than 200 members and focuses on emerging writers. "One of our earliest selections, in May 2003, was a debut novel called The Kite Runner, by then-unknown writer Khaled Hosseini," she wrote. "Our early members are now in possession of very valuable signed first editions!"


The winner of Unshelved's Pimp My Bookcart contest, sponsored by Highsmith, is "What Can (Mr.) Brown Do For You?" a transformation of a bookcart into a UPS truck by Timberland High School in Wentzville, Mo., where the librarian's name is Mr. Brown. The truck has working lights, panels that open up to reveal shelves and space for a (very small) driver.

Unshelved's Gene Ambaum remarked, "I wish I could drive that bookcart around my library."

In its second year, the contest drew 129 entrants, all of whom received a 15% coupon good for Highsmith, Upstart and Upstart Books. The first and second place finishers won Highsmith book carts; the two third prize winners and three runners-up received Highsmith gift certificates.

Check out the winners and all entries here.


KidsBuzz for the Week of 09.24.18

Bookstore Sales: Another Rally in September

Bookstore sales in September were $1.562 billion, up 2.7% from $1.521 billion in sales in September 2006, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. For the year to date, bookstore sales have been $12.365 billion, down 0.3% from $12.406 billion in the first nine months of 2006. This marks the third month in a row that bookstore sales were up over the same period last year--and the closest year-to-date sales have come to last year's comparable figures.

By comparison, total retail sales in September were $322.407 billion, up 2.6% over September 2006, and sales for the year to date were $2.877 trillion, up 3.6%.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books and do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.


Binc Foundation: Carla Gray Memorial Scholarship for Emerging Bookstore-Activists

Oprah Picks Pillars of the Earth

Oprah Winfrey's latest book club pick is Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth (NAL, $24.95, 9780451225245/0451225244), which the show's website touts as a "medieval mindbender" featuring "forbidden love affairs, political power plays, looting, plunder and burning villages. . . . Once you start this book, you won't be able to put it down!"

First published in 1989, The Pillars of the Earth was already Follett's bestselling book before enjoying renewed interest lately with the publication of a long-awaited sequel, World Without End (Dutton, $35, 9780525950073/0525950079).

On Follett's website, he describes Pillars as "my most popular book. It still sells about 100,000 copies a year in paperback in the U.S., it was number one in the U.K. and Italy and it was on the German bestseller list for six years. It's overwhelmingly the book that readers talk to me about when I meet them in bookshops. It's becoming a cult."

He thought that was a cult following? Just wait until Oprah works her bookselling magic.


Enlighten Up: Divine Dog Wisdom Cards: A 62 Card Deck and Guidebook by Barb Horn and Randy Crutcher, illustrated by Teresa Shishim

Cool Idea of the Day: Norton Rep at the Book Works

Last week the Book Works, Del Mar, Calif., hosted a literary trunk show at which Norton rep Joe Murphy (far r.) talked about the history of the house and discussed "the most exciting books of the season for holiday giving." A wine-and-cheese reception that followed featured wine donated by Frances Mate, author of Norton's A Vineyard in Tuscany. With Murphy: (l. to r.) Lisa Stefanacci, owner of the Book Works since 2006, and Milane Christiansen, who founded the store in 1976.

Stefanacci added that the event, a first, "came about months ago when we met with Joe about Norton's fall list. We were so enthusiastic about the entire list and their distributed lines, which include Thames and Hudson, that we wanted to find a way to showcase everything rather than make our usual request for one or two authors."


University of Minnesota Press: Laurentian Divide by Sarah Stonich

Carl Lennertz: Of Paper Cuts and an Author's Thank You

Carl Lennertz, v-p of independent retailing at HarperCollins and master blogger, speaks for many of us when he says:

A quick closing note on the past round of fall regional shows. In a word: Wonderful! In another: Exhausting! And yes: Totally worth every shipping label, badge request, lost author and paper cut.
Seriously, I want to thank all the booksellers who came and participated, from talking books with us to talking book biz with their fellow booksellers. Also, a big thank you to the regional execs and their boards, who changed and tweaked each show's schedule to make it so productive, especially on the bookseller-author interaction front. I think we had 75 authors across the nine shows, and all felt they really connected with many of you.
One last thing: Mike Perry won the MBA Bookseller Award for Nonfiction for Truck: A Love Story, and though he couldn't make it due to a previous writers' conference commitment elsewhere, Susan went along with my crazy idea to have Mike tape an acceptance speech to be played at the banquet. Mike was grateful for the chance to express his gratitude and the video is now up at youtube.

So, if you have a sane, peaceful seven minutes before the holiday madness kicks in, get a cup of coffee, take a relaxing breath and enjoy Mike's soothing voice and his humorous chicken hypnotizing, truck pushing and bookseller-thanking video. As he says, thank you.

Greystone Books: The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate--Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben, translated by Jane Billinghurst

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Well-Behaved Woman Makes Appearance

This morning on the Today Show: Rick Tramonto, author of Fantastico: Little Italian Plates and Antipasti from Rick Tramonto's Kitchen (Broadway, $35, 9780767923811/0767923812).


Today on the Diane Rehm Show: Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, author of Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History (Knopf, $24, 9781400041596/1400041597).


WETA's Author Author! features Brock Clarke, author of An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England (Algonquin, $23.95, 9781565125513/1565125517).


Today on the Martha Stewart Show: Julianne Moore, whose first picture book is Freckleface Strawberry (Bloomsbury USA, $16.95, 9781599901077/1599901072).


Today on KCRW's Bookworm: Robert Alter, author of The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary (Norton, $35, 9780393062267/0393062260). As the show described it, "Biblical scholar Robert Alter faces a barrage of questions: What are psalms? Who wrote them? If they are prayers, why does he consider them poems? If they are poems, why are they so repetitive? If repetition is crucial to psalms, how does it go beyond the rhythms of ancient Hebrew to address God and achieve solace?"


Today and tomorrow on Oprah: Peter Walsh, author of It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff (Free Press, $14, 9780743292658/0743292650).


Today on NPR's Fresh Air: John Daly, author of Golf My Own Damn Way: A Real Guy's Guide to Chopping Ten Strokes Off Your Score (Harper, $15.95, 9780061431029/0061431028).


Today on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Ronald Kessler, author of The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack (Crown Forum, $26.95, 9780307382139/0307382133).

Books & Authors

Awards: National Book Awards

Winners of the National Book Awards, presented last night and covered at length by the New York Times:
  • Fiction: Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson (FSG)
  • Nonfiction: Legacy of Ashes: The History of the C.I.A. by Tim Weiner (Doubleday)
  • Poetry: Time and Materials by Robert Hass (Ecco/HarperCollins)
  • Young people's literature: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown)
The National Book Foundation awarded its Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Joan Didion, and Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air received the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.

Book Review

Children's Review: The Black Book of Secrets

The Black Book of Secrets by F Higgins (Feiwel & Friends, $14.95 Hardcover, 9780312368449, October 2007)

Higgins's debut begins with a bang--on the streets of a London as dark as in any Dickens novel--and ends in a mysterious cave, with no let-up in pacing from start to finish. As the book opens, young Ludlow Fitch stands to lose his teeth as Barton Gumbroot, "the notorious tooth surgeon of Old Goat's Alley," attempts to pry them loose for "thrupence apiece." To make matters worse, Ludlow's parents arranged the sale (to support their gin habit). But Ludlow, a pickpocket by trade and fleet of foot, escapes the trio as a stowaway on the back of a carriage bearing one Jeremiah Ratchet, bound for the small mountain town of Pagus Parvus.  There Ludlow meets Joe Zabbidou, a unique pawnbroker: Joe buys secrets. One of Ludlow's only friends in London was a pawnbroker who had taught the boy to read and write. So the young hero becomes Joe's scribe, recording in a black book the secrets of those who come to pay midnight calls. Jeremiah Ratchet may have unwittingly provided Ludlow's ticket out of London, but the man earns his living off the backs of the poor townspeople, and many of their secrets circle back to his cruelties. He "was the kind of man who knew the cost of everything but the value of nothing." The realities of Victorian England (the desperation of the poor, the lack of education for most, scarce and insufficient medical care) shape the plot, while the "secrets trade" allows the author to examine the way guilt and greed undermine the tenuous trust Joe develops with the villagers. One of Higgins's great achievements is the way she manages to convey a degree of innocence in Ludlow despite his harsh life surviving the city streets. Redemption emerges as a strong theme in the book, as she reveals the complexities of human nature, and she leaves open several mysteries (including the history behind a wooden leg and Joe's prized pet frog). Readers can only hope for many more black books filled with secrets.--Jennifer M. Brown



Days Daze

Yesterday we had the right dates--December 6-8--but the wrong days of the week for the grand opening events for the new Old Dominion University Bookstore, Norfolk, Va.: the events include signings Thursday by Joanne Steen and Regina Asaro, authors of Military Widow, and David Poyer, author of Korea Strait and on Friday by David Baldacci, author of Stone Cold. On Friday, there will be a ribbon cutting, music and photo opportunities with Big Blue and ODU cheerleaders, and on Saturday, the store hosts a story time with Curious George.

Our apologies!


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'I'll Have to Sign Off--I'm in a Crowd'

If you're on your phone, we don't want to interrupt, so we'll just help everyone behind you first.

This message is posted at Muddy Waters Coffee Co., Seattle, Wash., according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which also noted that Bizzarro Italian Cafe has a $5 cell phone "surcharge" on its menu. The P-I article ran two days after my column in Shelf Awareness last week, so perhaps something is in the air(waves).

Certainly e-mail responses were plentiful. No one called my mobile phone, though Melville House Publishing's Dennis Johnson admitted that "I was going to call you on your cell to say thanks but, well, I thought you might be in the store. . . ," and Susan Weis of breathe books, Baltimore, Md., considered waiting "until I got to my store and call you from my cell to tell you how much I enjoyed today's column . . . but I thought I'd email instead!"

Weis has mixed feelings about cell use. She posts signs, but "no one sees them. I have noticed, though, that once in a while people are actually telling the other person what they are doing and what they are reading. I remember feeling liked I'd 'arrived' when I heard someone tell their phone friend, 'I'm at breathe.' That was it--no breathe books, or at the bookstore in Hampden--just breathe! That was kind of thrilling for me."

At University Book Store, Bellevue, Wash., David Henkes has observed a societal shift: "It does seem people have forgotten how quiet, respectful, and unassuming they used to be when tethered to a phone cord at a public pay phone. Etiquette and common sense have definitely been tossed aside. I have heard people dispense personal information--credit card numbers, addresses, etc.--while roaming the aisles."

Sue Gazell, noting that Bookman, Nashville, Tenn., is near Vanderbilt University and Hospital, shared her favorite cell horror story, about a "pediatrician who, on her lunch hour, came in to shop for audiobooks. She was carrying her lunch and beverage. Her cell phone rang, and she answered. It was a business call. She set up office right there in the store--pulled up a chair, set her lunch and beverage on a stack of books and proceeded to talk about a patient's private case for about 20 minutes, loudly enough so all in the store could hear."

A "stroke of serendipitous beneficence" envelops Valerie Ryan's Cannon Beach Book Company, Cannon Beach, Ore., where "no cell phone receives a signal. Are we lead-lined? When some obnox starts the escalation from  'can you hear me?' to 'CAN YOU HEAR ME?' I smile sweetly (!) and say, 'There is no signal inside the store, but the porch seems to work for most phones.'"  

Jean Westcott, senior marketing and publicity manager for International Publishers Marketing, offered historical perspective from her "heady days of pre-Internet crash" bookselling at Olsson's bookstore, Arlington, Va.: "It was hard to work in a bookstore in the late '90s and not feel like a big chump for not grabbing a job in the Intelligent Economy and trying to earn some of the fabled stock options." Watching 22-year-olds being interviewed over their cell phones for dream jobs was bad, but even worse were the ones doing so while "sitting in the computer books section faking their way through their phone interviews by thumbing through books on web development."

For international perspective, Sarah Knight of the Northshire Bookstore, Manchester, Vt., has just returned from Tokyo, "where it is considered extremely rude to talk on a cell phone in public (text messaging is of course done and is okay). The few people I did see talking on phones would first walk down an alley and use the phone there and only briefly."

Michael Walsh, a Johns Hopkins University Press sales rep and publisher of Old Earth Books, sent a "blast from the past" in the form of a dialogue snippet from Space Cadet by Robert A. Heinlein, published in 1948. When Jarman says "your telephone is sounding," Matt takes a phone out of his pouch, has a brief conversation with his father and ends by saying, "Sure, sure, Dad. I'll have to sign off--I'm in a crowd. Good-bye. Thanks for calling.'"

Prescience points for the phone, if not the etiquette. Or as Walsh observes, "Sometimes SF gets it right, and sometimes almost . . ."

I'm typing this in a bookstore café. My car is being repaired next door and the garage will call soon. I'm in a crowd, but I'll have to answer my cell. I'll be one of them.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


KidsBuzz: HarperCollins: Henry & Eva and the Castle on the Cliff by Andrea Portes
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