Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Harper: Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth

Mira Books: Rosie Colored Glasses by Brianna Wolfson

Little Brown and Company: The Which Way Tree by Elizabeth Crook

Bloomsbury: Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen

Soho Crime: The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Shadow Mountain: Christmas Jars Collector's Edition by Jason F. Wright

Editors' Note

News

Third Quarter: Comp-Store Sales Up at B&N, Borders

Showing more strength than expected, sales at Barnes & Noble and Borders Group stores open at least a year rose and both booksellers predicted that the positive trends will continue through the holiday season.

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At B&N, sales in the third quarter ended November 3 rose 5.7% to $1.2 billion and net earnings were $4.4 million, which included a $6.2 million after-tax benefit (because of a favorable physical inventory shortage rate), without which the company would have had a net loss of $1.8 million. Last year the net loss was $2.8 million.

Comp-store sales rose 2.6%, and sales at B&N.com rose 14.5% to $108.2 million. In the fourth quarter, B&N expects comp-store sales at B&N stores to increase in the low single digits.

Bestselling titles at B&N included Alan Greenspan's The Age of Turbulence, John Grisham's Playing for Pizza, Ken Follett's World Without End, Nicholas Sparks' The Choice and Stephen Colbert's I Am America (and So Can You!).

CEO Steve Riggio commented: "The company's sales continued to perform at the higher end of expectations, due in part to strong sales of new releases and bestsellers, which combined with a better than expected gross margin rate enabled the company to outperform its third quarter earnings expectations. In addition, we are encouraged by the sales trends at Barnes & Noble.com that began earlier this year and continued through the third quarter, in which we launched a newly designed website."

During the quarter, B&N bought 4.9 million of its shares for $172.5 million. So far this fiscal year, it has bought 6 million shares and is authorized to spend another $232.4 million under the current share repurchase program.

Also during the quarter, B&N opened 14 B&N stores and closed three and now has 709 B&N stores and 92 Daltons.

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At Borders Group, sales in the third quarter ended November 3 rose 5.3% to $805.2 million and the net loss was $39.1 million compared to $32.9 million a year ago. Including a one-time $116.5 million after-tax loss related to the sale of the company's U.K. and Irish bookstores and $2.6 million of after-tax non-operating charges, the company had a $161.1 million loss.

For the second quarter in a row comp-sales rose in all three of Borders's business segments. Comp-store sales at U.S. Borders superstores rose 1.1%, "driven largely by a continued increase in traffic as the company further leveraged its 22-million-member Borders Rewards database, among other initiatives." Comp-store sales increased by 3.6% in the Waldenbooks Specialty Retail segment, which includes Borders Express stores, mainly because of "growth in traffic and transaction size." International comp-store sales were up 7.8% because of "strong performance in Asia Pacific stores."

CEO George Jones commented: "We are pleased with the progress we are making toward a turnaround of this company. Many of our initiatives are clearly working, as we have reversed previous negative trends and are now consistently increasing traffic and same-store sales, both of which had been steadily declining prior to the implementation of our strategic plan. The stage is set for a much improved holiday season compared to last year. We fully expect to deliver improved same-store sales results, while at the same time increasing profitability in the fourth quarter of this year versus 2006."

Gross margin decreased by 0.7% to 22% in the quarter, mainly because of increased discounts redeemed by the larger number of Borders Rewards members as well as "shrink" in the DVD and café sections.

At U.S. Borders stores, sales rose 5.6% to $615.8 million and comp-store transactions rose 2.8%. Sales of books rose 3.1% on a comp-store basis; music fell 13.1%. Comp-store cafe and Paperchase gifts and stationery sales rose 7.4% and 8.4%, respectively. During the quarter the company opened four Borders superstores and now has 510 superstores in the U.S.

Sales at the Waldenbooks Specialty Retail segment fell 11.4% to $109.7 million, reflecting the closing of 131 stores in the past year. There are now 521 Waldenbooks Specialty Retail stores. The comp-store sales gain of 3.6% was attributed in part to an increase of 1.8% in transaction size.

Sales from international stores, excluding the sold U.K. and Irish bookstores, rose 38.4% to $79.7 million. In this area Borders benefited from the weak U.S. dollar. Without currency fluctuations, sales would have risen 25.9%.


Siglio Press: The Stampographer by Vincent Sardon


Notes: Another Rowling Bestseller; First Book Love

Images of J. K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard have been posted at the Guardian. The handmade volume of previously untold stories will be sold for as much as £40,000 (US$82,669) in a charity auction at Sotheby's in London on December 13. 

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The San Jose Mercury News asked local luminaries to share memories of the first book they fell in love with:

"East of Eden by John Steinbeck," said police chief Rob Davis. "You've got this allegory, for lack of a better word, for the battle between good and evil and how they intersect and why some people become evil because of their insecurities."

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird was the one for San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Darrell Jackson, who said, "Back in the day when you still had a lot of racism in society, you had a white lawyer who defended a black defendant in the Southern states. As a young, black man, you grow up hearing a lot about injustices and people who were wrongly convicted of crimes just because they were a minority race. The book allowed me to put these types of issues into perspective."

Santa Clara county sheriff Laurie Smith chose The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Even though the Mercury News expressed surprise at the choice of "a book about trumped up charges and getting back at people," Smith called the book "a study in people, but the underlying theme really was revenge. It speaks nothing to how I am as a person."

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"I'm a tourist and I write like a tourist," John Grisham, bestselling author of, most recently, Playing for Pizza, said in an article about Italy's recent popularity as a popular setting for novels. Reuters reported that "since 2000, 274 novels by foreign authors and set in Italy have been published, more than twice the number in the 1990s as a whole, according to a study of book reviews by Italy's International Tourism Exchange, an industry group."

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The Costa Book Awards, formerly known as the Whitbread Awards and recognizing books by writers in the U.K. and Ireland, have chosen five finalists in each of five categories. For more information, click here

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The Book Industry Group has clarified its policy on the elimination of dual identifiers on books and related products. For further clarification, click here.

 

 


PuddleDancer Press: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, 3rd Edition: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships by Marshall B. Rosenberg


Image of the Day: 'Retail'

And just in time for Black Friday and the holiday season: Norm Feuti offers a take on the bookselling world. Feuti has 15 years of retail management experience and mines that background for his syndicated cartoon strip, Retail. His new book is Pretending You Care: The Retail Employee Handbook ($16.95, 9781401308902/1401308902), out now from Hyperion.

 


Freeform: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton


Cool Idea of the Day: New Books for the Troops

Joan Ripley, owner of the Second Story Book Shop, Chappaqua, N.Y., told the Journal News that staff members "have been collecting new books to send to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a year" and called the drive a "huge success."

The bookstore organizes the donations and pays for shipping. Customers who participate "are encouraged to add a card saying why they chose the book they are sending or to just offer a supportive greeting."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Giving on Thanksgiving

This morning on the Today Show: Stacey Tisdale, author of The True Cost of Happiness: The Real Story Behind Managing Your Money (Wiley, $24.95, 9780470139066/0470139064).

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This morning's Book Report, the weekly AM radio book-related show organized by Windows a bookshop, Monroe, La., features an interview with Kim Mulkey, head coach of the Baylor University women's basketball team and author of Won't Back Down: Teams, Dreams, and Family (Da Capo Press, $24.95, 9780306815256/0306815257).

The show airs at 8 a.m. Central Time and can be heard live at thebookreport.net; the archived edition will be posted this afternoon.

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Today on Oprah, in a repeat, Bill Clinton discusses his latest book, Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World (Knopf, $24.95, 9780307266743/0307266745). The former president is also on the Late Show with David Letterman tomorrow night.

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Tomorrow on the Early Show: Kenneth C. Davis, author of Don't Know Much About Anything: Everything You Need to Know but Never Learned About People, Places, Events, and More! (Harper, $14.95, 9780061251467/0061251461).

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Tomorrow on NPR's Day to Day: Charles Phoenix, author of Americana the Beautiful: Mid-Century Culture in Kodachrome (Angel City Press, $35, 9781883318543/1883318548), offers a Polynesian twist to Thanksgiving with his Tiki Turkey Dinner.

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Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm (but available only online because of the holiday): Ron Padgett, author of Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard (Coffee House, $17, 9781566891592/1566891590). As the show put it: "Joe is Ron Padgett's intimate and affectionate biography-memoir of his friend of four decades, artist-poet Joe Brainard. It's a very plainspoken book about a man whose work is lush, funny, crowded, dazzling, disarming, and beautiful at a time when beauty was a suspect quality."

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Sunday on Face the Nation: Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Vintage, $15.95, 9781400030842/1400030846).

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Sunday on CNN Headline News: Donna Freitas, author of Killing the Imposter God: Philip Pullman's Spiritual Imagination in His Dark Materials (Jossey-Bass, $17.95, 9780787982379/0787982377).

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Sunday evening on 60 Minutes: Rich Blake, author of The Day Donny Herbert Woke Up: A True Story (Harmony, $23, 9780307383167/0307383164).

 


This Weekend on Book TV: The Day of Battle

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday (Thursday through Monday Thanksgiving weekend) and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, November 24

3:15 p.m. History on Book TV. Nicholas Wapshott, author of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage (Sentinel, $25.95, 9781595230478/1595230475), analyzes the personal and political relationship between the two world leaders. (Re-airs Saturday, December 1, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, December 2, at 1 a.m.)

4:30 p.m. Ben Mezrich, author of Rigged: The True Story of an Ivy League Kid Who Changed the World of Oil, from Wall Street to Dubai (Morrow, $25.95, 9780061252723/0061252727), discusses the workings of the New York Mercantile Exchange and the efforts of two young men to open an exchange in Dubai. (Re-airs Sunday, December 2, at 10:45 p.m.)
     
6 p.m. Encore Booknotes. In a segment first aired in 1993, Richard Norton Smith, author of Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation (Mariner, $16 9780395855126/0395855128), described the first president as an incorruptible man and a powerful mediator between opposing political groups.

9 p.m. After Words. Historian and author Patrick O’Donnell interviews Rick Atkinson, who in his Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (Holt, $35, 9780805062892/0805062890) details the constant warfare that resulted in more than 300,000 Allied casualties. (Re-airs Sunday at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

 



Books & Authors

Book Brahmins: Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley is the author of 29 books and his work has been translated into 21 languages. His popular mysteries featuring Easy Rawlins began with Devil in a Blue Dress in 1990. Recently Easy Rawlins has returned in Bad Boy Brawly Brown, Six Easy Pieces, Little Scarlet and Cinnamon Kiss, a 2006 bestseller. Fear Itself, the follow-up to Fearless Jones, is part of Mosley's new mystery series featuring second-hand bookseller Paris Minton and his friend Fearless Jones and was published July 2003 by Little, Brown.

This has been an exciting year for Mosley: he published Killing Johnny Fry: A Sexistential Novel; his long-awaited primer on writing, This Year You Write Your Novel; and Blonde Faith, a new installment in the Easy Rawlins series.

Mosley also has created with the City College a new publishing degree program aimed at young urban residents, the only such program in the country. Mosley served on the board of directors of the National Book Awards, and presently serves on the boards of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, the Poetry Society of America and TransAfrica and is past president of the Mystery Writers of America. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he now lives in New York City.

On your nightstand now:  

Walter Isaacson's Einstein, Demystifying Chemistry and Hex and the City by Simon R. Green
 
Favorite book when you were a child:  

Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

Your top five authors:

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Albert Camus, Langston Hughes, Roger Zelazney and Jack Kirby

Book you are an evangelist for:  

Fantastic Four #1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
 
Book you've bought for the cover:  

Jewel in the Skull by Michael Moorcock
 
Book that changed your life:  

The Stranger by Albert Camus
 
Favorite line from a book:

"I have wasted my life."--James Wright, from "Lying on a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm"
 
Book you most want to read again for the first time:  

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

 


Book Review

Mandahla: Good Spirits Reviewed

Good Spirits: Recipes, Revelations, Refreshments, and Romance, Shaken and Served with a Twist by A Rathbun (Harvard Common Press, $29.95 Hardcover, 9781558323360, September 2007)



It was hard to interrupt my research into the food groups Butter and Bacon to investigate cocktails, but I was rewarded doubly for the effort: drinks with the author of Good Spirits and discovery of the Bacontini. I'm a purist when it comes to martinis, so this drink set up a push-pull that was resolved by being told that yummy drinks don't get to choose their names; so-called "martinis" should be given a chance--"they just want to make you happy." A. J. Rathbun's aim is to make you happy with 450 drink recipes, and he will.
 
We met at the Copper Gate in Ballard, the Scandinavian enclave of Seattle, where instead of flights of wine, they serve flights of aquavit (and we all have aquavit stories, don't we?). Obvious question: did he make and try all the drinks? Answer: yes. He and his wife are former bartenders, with many friends; as he says of an undertaking like this, "it takes a village." He's also an encyclopedic reader and book collector, and his writing, splashed with quotes, anecdotes, facts and lists (five classic cocktail books published before 1950, drinks for the links or "Three Drinks to Buy Someone Annoying at the Bar"), set this book apart from the pack.

Good Spirits is arranged by 12 thematic chapters, including "The Gold Standards," "An Obscure Reliquary" and "Fresh Faces." He starts with a discussion of five "base" liquors, plus Champagne, with brief histories of each (gold tequila is young silver tequila colored to look aged, a good thing to remember at the taqueria), additional ingredients, accessories, tools and glassware. Hints are truly helpful, such as how instantly to serve better drinks (fresh fruit, soda siphon, new ice). Drink histories and enthusiastic descriptions are a delightful bonus. The Bronx (gin, freshly squeezed orange juice, sweet and dry vermouths) is named for the zoo, not the borough--"The Bronx should be a cocktail that comes automatically to mind when musing over what constitutes an all-time all-star . . . Here's for bringing it back, and right now." He calls the Manhattan nigh-perfect, "[constituting] proof that there's a benevolent force working for us in the universe."

From the copyright page with its content shaped like a bottle to the chapter heading photos of cocktail shakers, the book is handsomely designed, with luscious photography by the aptly-named Melissa Punch. If you are looking to add a signature cocktail to your hosting repertoire or looking for a new drink to try when out with friends, Good Spirits is the perfect book.

When I asked A. J. Rathbun what his favorite cocktail is, he replied, "The one just around the corner." In that spirit of anticipation, he agreed to concoct a drink for Shelf Awareness, tipping a glass to our benevolent masthead spirit:

Vik's Secret
  • Ice cubes
  • 1 ounce Clear Creek loganberry liqueur
  • 1-1/2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • Chilled ginger ale
1. Fill a cocktail shaker half way with ice cubes. Add everything but the ginger ale. Shake well.
 
2. Strain the mix into a cocktail glass. Top with ginger ale, almost to the rim. Stir briefly.

A. J. explained his process: "I thought it was fun to have a little bit of bubbles added, as the newsletter seems to be bubbling over with information and insight (and I thought the ginger in the ginger ale was a slight Eastern shout out, too). This one has a very deep rich color but no garnish and a nice grape/berry flavor." We mixed it, drank it and we bubbled over with delight.--Marilyn Dahl
 

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Transcending the Holidaze

Take a deep breath, folks.

In Monday's column, we heard from booksellers regarding their Black Friday game plans, but for some bookstores BF is simply a prelude to the busy holiday sales season rather than a retail lightning strike.

"Honestly, Black Friday in Hardwick does not usually include frenzy--a lot of people go out of town to shop," says Linda Ramsdell of Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, Vt.. She opted for a preemptive strategy to "create frenzy" by offering a Sirius Reader sale and party on America Unchained Day last weekend. "So, in a way, that is a tip--if Black Friday is not a big shopping day in a small town, create other opportunities for big sales."

Valerie Kohler of Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Tex., plans to "take off Thanksgiving weekend and go to the beach with my extended family. Throughout the year, I am very liberal with staff vacations (they all work part time). In return, several key staff members keep the shop open for me. It's not a particularly big weekend for us as we are in a strip center and our core customers are weekday shoppers."

Blue Willow is, however, "in full holiday mode now that the temperature has dropped below 80--free coffee and cider; homemade cookies from the cookbooks we want to sell; free gift wrap, which means keep the wrap counter clean and remember that we are all in this together."

Having Fridays off greatly helps Linda Bond deal with the BF issue at Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, Wash., but she does offer a few survival tips for her colleagues: "Remember who and where you are (it helps to stay focused); remember why you are working at a bookstore; remember these people are your friends--they are working to keep you in business and bringing you money to back up their promises; they, too, are frustrated, pressed for time and a tad bit out of sorts--take a deep breath and let it pass over you! And remember, above all, THIS TOO SHALL PASS!"

Perhaps the most important survival skill is to remember the ideal spirit of this particular holiday.

"I told our staff the other day that I am very thankful to be in the book business during the holiday season," notes Vivien Jennings of Rainy Day Books, Fairway, Kan. "For us, it is not the make-it or break-it for our financial year. It is just a wonderful opportunity to get more people of all ages excited about reading and books by matching their interests with selections from the amazing array of books that are available. We are so lucky to be able to believe in what we sell. Books can make you laugh, keep you on the edge of your chair in suspense, take you back in history, help you be healthier, and encourage you to live a better life in a better world. Best of all, they are always the right color and size, won't wilt, are non-fattening, lead-free, and are recyclable. What more can we ask?"

Her husband, Roger Doeren, offers a Thanksgiving weekend checklist that will resonate for many of us:

  1. We give thanks for our loyal customers.
  2. We familiarize ourselves with our inventory selection; on our sales floor, in our back room, and in our warehouses.
  3. We remain calm, capable, competent, and confident about our knowledgeable service and selection.
  4. We welcome our new and loyal customers with the same genuine friendly greeting and smile and look them straight in the eyes when we offer to assist them in their shopping experience.
  5. We match our customers' interests with the best choices of reading and listening material and sidelines.
  6. We offer complimentary high quality gift wrapping service while they shop with us or with our neighbor merchants.
  7. We encourage our customers to "Shop Local and Buy Local." In the present and future it is best for them and their community.
  8. We thank our customers as they leave with their packages.
  9. We restock and re-straighten our sales floor.
  10. We breathe deeply and welcome the next customers and repeat the same steps as often as possible.

Happy Thanksgiving. Have a sane and profitable Black Friday. Let me know how it all turns out.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

 


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