Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Penguin Press: Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

Graphix: Dog Man and Cat Kid (Dog Man #4) by Dav Pilkey

Ecco Press: Varina by Charles Frazier

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick and Marc Rosenthal

News

Notes: Collecting Bookshops; Reading Day & Night

Operating on the theory that "kicking back with a good book can be just as much fun as sightseeing," the Christian Science Monitor's Erin Gehan observed, "Some vacationers collect snow globes or seashells. My family collects bookshops. No, we can't pack a bookshop and display it on a dresser, but when we discover a bookstore that captures the flavor of our destination, we stow the memory like a treasured souvenir." Among the bookstores highlighted in her collection were the Brewster Book Store, Brewster, Mass., and Hamlet's Bookshoppe, Breckenridge, Colo.

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Suggesting that "new formats of media don't necessarily replace old, and that some habits don't change as quickly as people think," Fortune magazine reported that the comic book industry is alive and kicking: "At Marvel Entertainment (MVL), the industry's largest player, revenues for its print wares have been growing in double digits for the past three years and profit margins have been running at close to 40%. Plenty of magazine, book or newspaper publishers would put on a mask, cape or even giant bunny ears if that's what it took to generate those kinds of numbers--especially right now."

Fortune added that, with print publications tied to movie blockbusters like last summer's The Dark Knight and Iron Man, "it probably doesn't hurt to be in a corner of the media world that is effectively a duopoly. Indeed, the figures are all the more striking considering that, by most industry estimates, some 60% of comic book sales still take place via one of the most archaic distribution systems in existence: ye olde comic booke shoppe."

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Seventeen volunteers participated, and many of them read straight through the night, during the second 24-hour read-a-thon, sponsored by RiverRun and SecondRun bookstores, Portsmouth, N.H., and officially dubbed Great Expectations: A Reading Marathon.

Organizers reported that the volunteers read more than 4,500 pages in books ranging from graphic novels to Sense & Sensibility to sociology texts, and raised more than $700 in pledges to support The Birchtree Center, a nonprofit organization based in Portsmouth that offers educational programs for children and youth with autism.

Other local businesses offered support as well. The Flatbread Company, Breaking New Grounds, Café Espresso and the Fresh Local truck provided refreshments throughout the event. Prizes for literary trivia contests and other games were donated by RiverRun Bookstore, G. Willikers, The Music Hall, Prelude and The Stockpot Restaurant.

"It was fun because we got a lot of books read," Michelle Filgate, RiverRun's events coordinator, told Foster's Daily Democrat, adding that "about 10 independent bookstores nationwide are holding Read-A-Thon fundraisers this month," part of an effort this summer to expand the program across the country (Shelf Awareness, July 16, 2008).

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What's your state novel? The Associated Press (via USA Today) reported that the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a bill last week "naming Moby-Dick the state's official 'epic novel.' That was a compromise after some lawmakers questioned Rep. Christopher Speranzo's proposal to dub Herman Melville's 1851 classic the 'official book,' given the state's rich literary history."

Cory Atkins, a Concord representative, was "appalled" by the choice, indicating that her district has "more authors per square mile than any other. What about Louisa May Alcott? What about (Nathaniel) Hawthorne? How am I going to face my constituents?" she asked.

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Joe Wikert has joined O'Reilly Media as general manager, O'Reilly Technology Exchange, which publishes O'Reilly's "animal books" and serve developers and system administrators. Wikert was formerly v-p and executive publisher at John Wiley & Sons for the WROX and Sybex imprtins in the professional/trade division.

In a statement, O'Reilly COO and CFO Laura Baldwin said that Wikert "embodies the innovative, adventurous 'alpha geek' spirit we believe is key to succeeding in today's publishing environment."

 


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: The Land Beyond by Leon McCarron


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Waiter Rant

Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Cherie Blair, author of Speaking For Myself: My Life from Liverpool to Downing Street (Little, Brown, $30, 9780316031455/0316031453). She will also appear tomorrow on the Leonard Lopate Show.

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Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Deborah Needleman, author of Domino: The Book of Decorating (S&S, $32, 9781416575467/1416575464).

Also on the Today Show: Mark Bittman, author of the How to Cook Everything series.

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Tomorrow on Oprah: Steve Dublanica, author of Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip--Confessions of a Cynical Waiter (Ecco, $24.95, 9780061256684/0061256684).

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Tomorrow on the View: Tony Curtis, author of American Prince: A Memoir (Harmony, $25.95, 9780307408495/0307408493). He will also appear tomorrow morning on the Today Show.

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Tomorrow on CNN's Glenn Beck Show: Victoria Osteen, author of Love Your Life: Living Happy Healthy, and Whole (Free Press, $25, 9780743296939/0743296931).

 


Trinity University Press: Arte Kids - Bilingual Board Books


Books & Authors

Awards: Nobel Prize in Economics to Paul Krugman

Princeton University professor and bestselling author Paul Krugman won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences commented, "Patterns of trade and location have always been key issues in the economic debate. What are the effects of free trade and globalization? What are the driving forces behind worldwide urbanization? Paul Krugman has formulated a new theory to answer these questions. He has thereby integrated the previously disparate research fields of international trade and economic geography."

The New York Times reported that Krugman, whose recent books include The Conscience of a Liberal, is better known to the general public as "a perpetual thorn in George Bush's side from his perch as an Op-Ed page columnist [at the Times] for nearly a decade. His columns have won him both strong supporters and ardent critics. The Nobel, however, was awarded for academic--and less political--research that he conducted primarily before he began regularly writing for the Times."

Krugman indicated he did not expect the award to change how he is regarded by either his colleagues or his readers. "For economists, this is a validation but not news. We know what each other have been up to," he said. "For readers of the column, maybe they will read a little more carefully when I'm being economistic, or maybe have a little more tolerance when I'm being boring."

He was not, however, shocked by the news that he had won. "To be absolutely, totally honest I thought this day might come someday, but I was absolutely convinced it wasn't going to be this day,” he said. "I know people who live their lives waiting for this call, and it's not good for the soul. So I put it out of my mind and stopped thinking about it."

 


Thomas Nelson: Perennials by Julie Cantrell


Attainment: New Books Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Monday and Tuesday, October 20 and 21:

The Longest Trip Home: A Memoir
by John Grogan (Morrow, $25.95, 9780061713248/0061713244) is the autobiography of the author of Marley & Me (Harper, $7.99, 9780061687204/0061687200).

Against Medical Advice: One Family's Struggle with an Agonizing Medical Mystery by James Patterson, Hal Friedman and Cory Friedman (Little, Brown, $26.99, 9780316024754/0316024759) chronicles Cory Friedman's fight with a severe case of Tourette's Syndrome.

Dark Summer by Iris Johansen (St. Martin's, $26.95, 9780312368081/0312368089) follows a veterinarian caught up in a lethal cat-and-mouse game.

Rough Weather by Robert B. Parker (Putnam, $26.95, 9780399155192/0399155198) tracks Boston P.I. Spenser in the midst of a hurricane and a messy kidnapping,

Testimony: A Novel
by Anita Shreve (Little, Brown, $25.99, 9780316059862/0316059862) takes place at a New England boarding school where a shocking sex scandal is about to be revealed.

The Way I Am by Eminem (Dutton, $40, 9780525950325/052595032X) includes previously unreleased photographs, song lyrics and other memorabilia.

The Ten Roads to Riches: The Ways the Wealthy Got There (And How You Can Too!)
by Kenneth L. Fisher and Lara Hoffmans (Fisher Investments Press, $24.95, 9780470285367/0470285362) outlines a variety of wealth-attainment strategies.

More Information Than You Require
by John Hodgman (Dutton, $25, 9780525950349/0525950346) features wacky humor from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart's "Resident Expert."

 


Quirk Books: My Lady's Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris



Book Review

Book Review: The Blue Cotton Gown

The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife's Memoir by Patricia Harman (Beacon Press (MA), $24.95 Hardcover, 9780807072899, October 2008)


 
With women's issues in the spotlight as politicians scramble to court female voters this election season, Patricia Harman's engrossing memoir of one year in her small West Virginia women's health care clinic is both timely and relevant. Literally stripped bare but for the blue cotton gowns of the title, the patients in Harman's exam room reveal their hopes, fears and intimate details of their lives. Deftly weaving their stories with her own, Harman opens a window into the hearts and souls of these complex and often courageous women.
 
Harman, a nurse midwife, owns and operates the Appalachian clinic with her physician husband, Tom. Formerly commune-dwelling hippies, the couple discovered a mutual calling for women's health care in their 30s. Their clinic, now limited to basic gynecological health and first-trimester obstetric care, caters to women whose concerns run the physical and emotional gamut: a shell-shocked teenager with a drug addicted boyfriend miscarries first one twin, then the other. A mother of seven discovers that her toddler daughter is being sexually abused by her abusive ex-husband and then learns she is pregnant again. A menopausal woman ups her antidepressant dosage when her daughter is hospitalized for severe bulimia. A horticulture professor seeks hormone therapy to aid her transition to become a man. A shy college student is nearly killed by the sexually transmitted diseases she contracts after just one unlucky encounter. Most devastating to Harman, the teenage daughter of her own friend gives birth to a baby girl and then enters a tragic spiral of depression and drugs.
 
As she opened her heart (and occasionally her wallet) to these women over the course of this difficult year, Harman developed her own health problems; a gangrenous gallbladder and uterine cancer, both of which required surgery. Furthermore, the financial bungling of previous accountants had left Harman and her husband with a huge tax debt, and malpractice suits loomed over the couple. Although devoted to one another, the stress created fractures in their marriage.
 
Despite the hardships faced by both Harman and her patients (which she relates with unsentimental frankness), their determination, hopefulness and Harman's own passion for healing thread a sense of optimism through the narrative. And although this is a personal account, Harman's story well reflects the myriad complications and intricacies found in all areas of women's health as well as the difficulties that dedicated practitioners like the Harmans face on a daily basis. From her position on the frontlines, Harman shows readers that despite what we may hear from politicians, there are never easy answers to the thorny questions of family, faith and choice.--Debra Ginsberg
 
Shelf Talker: A moving and illuminating memoir from a talented nurse-midwife about the troubled and courageous women in her care.
 
 

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Author Says 'Just Read and Have a Good Laugh'

"It's the birthday of the South African journalist and crime writer James Howe McClure," said Garrison Keillor--in a voice that makes the day sound bearable even during a world financial market collapse--on last Thursday morning's edition of The Writer's Almanac.

Keillor then offered the following, at once pertinent and impertinent, words of wisdom from McClure: "I long, long, long ago thought the finest thing to be is an entertainer, with tons of funny things to say. If people find lots more in my work, that's great, but if they just read and have a good laugh, that's fine for me."

And that's the news from . . . ooops.

Speaking of ooops, I suppose any attempt to include lists of author names and book titles raises the not-so-funny specter of biblio-typos, but nonetheless I do apologize to fans of author Dean (not Stephen) Koontz and actress Frances McDormand (not McDermott) for any confusion last week. The good news, however, is that our fun books to recommend list continues to grow. And not a moment to soon, given the state of the book world as well as the world beyond books.

"When I was a bookseller, there were always a couple of titles that came in handy when asked about a 'fun' read," notes Howard Cohen, marketing and publicity director, Keen Communications/Clerisy Press. "I've been off the sales floor for about eight years now so while my suggestions may be a little dated, they are all still in print and hopefully still on the shelves at your store. If not, I may have to leave the glamorous world of publishing and get back on the floor." Cohen's list includes:

  • The Bear Went Over the Mountain by William Kotzwinkle ("A gem. Hal Jam is a character you just won't forget.")
  • Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger ("An epistolary novel set in the World War II era that is fast and fun and terribly sweet.")  
  • The Mammy, The Chisellers and The Granny, all by Brendan O'Carroll. ("Virtually unknown here in the States, O'Carroll is a big name in Irish comedy and these characters started on a radio show that got wildly popular. They translate well to the short novel form and you can read all three of them over a vacation or a long weekend.")
"If it's humor you want in your fiction, then have I got some authors for you," promises David Henkes of University Book Store, Bellevue, Wash. "In a word, or two, Christopher Moore, Bill Fitzhugh, Carl Hiaasen. I tend to look for the comedic 'bent' view on the world and I highly recommend any of these authors' tales. You won't see them win the National Book Award, but you will probably enjoy their work more than the current award winner. Moore has a sea beast named Steve, a talking fruit bat named Roberto, and two fast-paced, gut-busting forays in the vampire world. Fitzhugh has honest people doing dishonest things all in the name of honesty. And Hiaasen brings laughter to the thugs we should run screaming from. Hope this helps you bust a gut when faced with the angst of too much angst fiction."

Sarah Bagby of Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, Kan., suggests "a couple of books I recommend over and over for someone wanting to laugh out loud":
  • Tepper Isn’t Going Out by Calvin Trillin
  • Skipped Parts and other novels by Tim Sandlin
  • Norwood by Charles Portis
Can you recommend a fun read? Laural Bidwell of the Wild Burro bookstore, Hot Springs, S.D., has "been asked that question in my bookstore and every time I'm a little bit stumped. I've a small store and my specialty is 'quality fiction' (which I assume is just one step or so below literary fiction!). And, it's true that while many of today's novels have 'happy' endings, a lot of them are--oh, divorce, drug abuse, parents that aren't there, animal abuse--but this you already know."

Her fun recommendation? "For female cozy mystery writers, it's Janet Evanovich and Stephanie Plum--starting with book 2 (I have complaints that book 1 is too violent!)." Laural also works as a marketing associate for Unbridled Books and says that "right this minute, there's a brand-new book called The Wonder Singer by George Rabasa that I find funny." Just moments after her book suggestions reached me, Laural wrote again because, "in a very odd coincidence, after I sent my first e-mail off to you, I received this from my husband via e-mail: 'I also finished The Wonder Singer. It was a fun read.'"

"I had to laugh," Laural added.    

And so, whenever possible, do we.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

 


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