Shelf Awareness for Thursday, October 16, 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

Quotation of the Day

Affordable Luxury: Books Offer 'Solid Reference and Value'

"In these troubled times, the book is something which is a kind of landmark, which is solid reference and value, which is never, ever, ever going to be obsolete. The book is a cheap gift. The book is always affordable. Actually, maybe the crisis is a chance for booksellers to reassert their role in the community as providers of pleasure, of knowledge, for a very, very cheap price."--Fran Dubruille, director of the European Booksellers' Federation, speaking at a Frankfurt Book Fair news conference (from Reuters via the Washington Post).

 


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


News

Notes: Harvard Book Store's Mission; The Booksmith's Politics

From a letter to customers from Jeff Mayersohn, new owner of the Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass.:

"Why would a high-tech type like myself enter the book business in the digital age? Simply, because I truly love books. I no more believe that books will be replaced by digital formats than I think that museums will be rendered obsolete by digital renditions of great works of art. And despite rumors to the contrary, bookselling can indeed be profitable. But independent bookselling is more than a business; it's a mission. A great independent bookstore serves as a community center for the exchange of ideas and as a bastion against the homogenization and 'dumbing down' of culture. It enhances all our lives."

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It has been anything but politics as usual this campaign season for Tricia Lightweis, owner of The Booksmith bookstore, Seneca, S.C. Upstatetoday.com reported that Lightweis, who has owned the bookshop through five presidential election cycles, "has never encountered the kind of vitriol and temper tantrums unleashed on her and her employees that she has seen this year."

"I'm disappointed that we are here again, revisiting censorship and threatened economic harm," she said. "You can put your thumb right on when it started. It was the week of the Democratic National Convention. Since then there have been at least 30 people who don't want to see anything that goes against their opinion."

She added that the books at the center of contention seem to be Barack Obama's Change We Can Believe In and Joe Quint's 72 Things Younger Than John McCain.

"Where were these people when I had 60 copies of the (Kenneth) Starr report (on Bill Clinton) for sale right next to a cigar aficionado display?" she asked. "Where were they when I had two full displays of Sarah Palin's book just five days after McCain named her to his ticket?"

Lightweis told upstatetoday.com that "many of her 18 employees have been verbally assaulted and said the outrageous behavior displayed by some customers has cost her money in insidious ways such as time spent arguing or apologizing to other customers who have had to witness an outburst.

"I realize this is an important election, perhaps more important than most," she said, "but to arrogantly make the assumption that my choice of books reflects my political personality . . . When I come into this store, I'm a capitalist, and I'll compete with the best capitalists in the country. There has to be balance. I don't buy books for a cause. I buy books for a customer base."

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Sign of the times?

No. 10 on the bestseller list for much of September at the Book Works, Del Mar, Calif., as reported to the San Diego Union-Tribune, was Mr. Grumpy by Roger Hargreaves. Jet Hopster, publicity manager of the Book Works, commented: "We like to think our customers found a wonderful way to express their frustrations and worries about the economic crisis. The ultimate example of the importance of art."

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While there may be some debate regarding the Man Booker Prize's effect on sales in U.S., the results in Mumbai were immediate and thorough. The Times of India reported that "as news of Aravind Adiga's Booker win for The White Tiger flashed across the wires, readers rushing to bookstores to pick up their copies had to contend with a 'Sold Out' sign."

"We knew this book would win the Booker,'' said P. M. Shenvi, manager of the Strand Book Stall. "It seems that the book is out of print, but we've asked the publishers to send the copies as soon as possible.''

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"Which book won the first ever Booker prize in 1969?" Test your Booker knowledge with the Guardian's pop quiz.

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Lightning Source is printing two University of Nebraska Press titles by Nobel literature prize laureate Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio: Onitsha, originally published by Nebraska in 1997, and The Round and Other Cold Hard Facts, a 2003 book. In a statement, press marketing manager Rhonda Winchell said: "Three days after the Nobel Prize was announced we had books on the way to distributors in Europe and the U.S."

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NPR's Day to Day featured a list of "The Best Foreign Books You've Never Heard Of," as recommended by David Kipen, director of Literature and National Reading Initiatives at the National Endowment for the Arts.

The inspiration for the list was summed up in the introduction: "French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio won the Nobel Prize for literature Thursday. If most Americans have never heard of this accomplished author of more than 30 novels, essays and story collections, perhaps it's because there is so little emphasis on international books in the U.S. publishing world."

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Your assignment: Discuss the best books that never existed. The Guardian suggested a speculative reading group discussion of "books that writers have only dreamed about," including:

  • The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • The Necronomicon
  • World According to Bensenhaver
  • The Blind Assassin

Can you think of any additional titles?

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MBI Distribution has been renamed Quayside Distribution Services. MBI and MBI Publishing, which includes Motorbooks, Voyageur Press, Zenith Press and Crestline, were bought in August 2007 by Quayside Publishing Group.

Among publishers that QDS distributes: Haynes Publishing, Tweety Jill Publications, Veloce Publishing, Whitehorse Press, the Crowood Press, Wolfgang Publications, Green Umbrella Publishing, Iconografix, Peter Morgan Media and the Good Life Press.

 


Trinity University Press: Arte Kids - Bilingual Board Books


Bookstore Sales: August Boost

During August, bookstore sales rebounded from two down months and rose 5.4% to $2.436 billion compared to August 2007, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. For the year to date, bookstore sales have risen 2.5% to $11.240 billion.

By comparison, total retail sales in August dropped 1% to $349.644 billion. For the year to date, total retail sales were up 2.6% to $2,715 billion.

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.

 


Thomas Nelson: Perennials by Julie Cantrell


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Being Marcia Brady and the Aftereffects

Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Naomi Wolf, author of Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries (S&S, $13.95, 9781416590569/1416590560).

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Tomorrow on 20/20: Maureen McCormick, author of Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice (Morrow, $25.95, 9780061490149/0061490148).

 


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


This Weekend on Book TV: Fixing Global Finance

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday 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, October 18

9:05 a.m. Martin Wolf, author of Fixing Global Finance (Johns Hopkins University Press, $24.95, 9780801890482/0801890489), talks about the global financial crisis and suggests ways to turn things around. (Re-airs Sunday at 11 a.m.)

10:10 a.m. Matt Mason, author of The Pirate's Dilemma: How Youth Culture Is Reinventing Capitalism (Free Press, $25, 9781416532187/1416532188), argues that youth culture is improving capitalism by introducing significant innovations in business and in the technology and communications industries.

12 p.m. Alice Schroeder, author of The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life (Bantam, $35, 9780553805093/0553805096), recounts the life and career of the famed investor and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. (Re-airs Saturday at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday at 10 p.m.)

2:10 p.m. The Washington Post hosts a panel discussion on the economy with authors Thomas Friedman, Barbara Ehrenreich and Michelle Singletary. (Re-airs Sunday at 11:15 a.m. and Monday at 2 a.m.)

6 p.m. Encore Booknotes. For a segment that first aired in 2002, Robert Skidelsky, author of John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Freedom, 1937-1946 (Penguin, $35, 9780143036159/0143036157), discussed the third volume of his biography of the British economist.

7 p.m. Andrew Gelman, author of Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do (Princeton University Press, $27.95, 9780691139272/069113927X), argues that the real political fissure in the U.S. lies between affluent Republicans and Democrats. (Re-airs Monday at 6 a.m.)

10 p.m. After Words. Jonathan Landay interviews James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America (Doubleday, $27.95, 9780385521321/0385521324). Bamford offers a behind-the-scenes look at the National Security Agency and its domestic surveillance program following the terrorist attacks on 9/11. (Re-airs Sunday at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., and Monday at 12 a.m.)

 



Books & Authors

Awards: National Book Award Finalists

The National Book Foundation has named the 2008 National Book Award finalists. You can watch the announcement here. Winners in each of these categories will be announced at a ceremony on November 19 in New York City. The NBA finalists include:

Fiction
  • The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon (Riverhead)
  • Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner (Scribner)
  • Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen (Modern Library)
  • Home by Marilynne Robinson (FSG)
  • The End by Salvatore Scibona (Graywolf Press)
Nonfiction
  • This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust (Knopf)
  • The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed (Norton)
  • The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals by Jane Mayer (Doubleday)
  • Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives by Jim Sheeler (Penguin)
  • The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order by Joan Wickersham (Harcourt)
Poetry
  • Watching the Spring Festival by Frank Bidart (FSG)
  • Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems by Mark Doty (HarperCollins)
  • Creatures of a Day by Reginald Gibbons (Louisiana State University Press)
  • Without Saying by Richard Howard (Turtle Point Press)
  • Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith (Coffee House Press)
Young People's Literature
  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (S&S)
  • The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum)
  • What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (Scholastic)
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Hyperion)
  • The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp (Knopf)

Two Titles Explore Cultural Complexities

At first glance, two big fall books that Sourcebooks says have contributed greatly to a strong year seem to have little in common. One is In the Land of Invisible Women by Dr. Qanta Ahmed ($14.99, 9781402210877/1402210876), about the female physician's assignment in Saudi Arabia and the surprising discoveries she made there. The other is Hip Hop Speaks to Children ($19.99, 9781402210488/1402210485) edited by Nikki Giovanni (and including some of the poet's own selections), part of the publisher's Poetry Speaks series, with accompanying CD. Both books in fact have a great deal to do with overcoming misconceptions and repairing a cultural divide.
 
Ahmed's memoir came to Sourcebooks executive editor Hillel Black via his wife, the agent Wendy Lipkind. According to Sourcebooks founder and publisher Dominique Raccah, Black "saw the manuscript and grabbed [it]." Equally excited, Raccah called the author that very weekend. "We spent an hour and a half on the phone," she said. "I wanted to get a sense of the person behind the proposal, and I was so amazed by her story." Born in Britain to Pakistani parents, Ahmed remained in Britain for all of her education, including medical school, but came to the U.S. for her residency and a fellowship during which she gained certificates in internal medicine, pulmonary disease and critical care medicine. She wanted to stay in the U.S., but her visa ran out, so she accepted a position in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. "As a Muslim woman, I believed myself well-acquainted with the ways of an Islamic Kingdom," Ahmed writes. Yet to say that her transition from the U.S. to the Middle East was jarring is an understatement. "The story is resonating with women everywhere," said Raccah. "This is a world that's unknown to us, but being invisible is something that resonates with other women."
 
Ahmed's memoir gives her readers a window into life in Saudi Arabia, whose contrasts, the author writes, are an "absurd clamorous clash of modern and medieval--Benz and Bedou, Cadillac and camel . . . It never became less arresting to behold." When she makes a pilgrimage to Mecca, for instance, she is served Coca-Cola. Her book, more important, demonstrates the themes that unite all people--a wish to be seen and recognized for one's contributions, despite gender or ethnicity. Adding to her story: during her stay in the Middle East, Ahmed fully claimed her Muslim faith for the first time. Today Dr. Ahmed practices medicine in South Carolina, so finding time for her to tour for her book has been a challenge, said Raccah. Dr. Ahmed talks about her experience on the Diane Rehm Show.
 
The driving force behind Hip Hop Speaks to Children, Nikki Giovanni felt passionately about stressing the importance of Hip Hop's contributions to poetry and to language in general. Raccah laughed, remembering how the book came to be, and commented, "This is all about Nikki. Her energy, her enthusiasm, her vision electrify people. We were at the Printer's Row Book Fair in Chicago promoting Poetry Speaks to Children, Nikki is about to go onstage, with 250 people in the audience, [including] a journalist from the Chicago Tribune. She turns to me and says, 'You know what we should do next, Dominique? Hip Hop Speaks to Children.' I said, 'Of course.' The first thing Nikki says onstage? 'We've just agreed to do Hip Hop Speaks to Children.' The entire audience knew before our editorial team."
 
Both the book and the CD begin with Eloise Greenfield's "Things," which riffs on the endurance of poetry ("Lay down on the floor/ Made me a poem/ Still got it/ Still got it"). Hip Hop artists illustrate the poems in electric hues and often with a sense of movement that suggests the dancers in public squares. But the choice of pairings supplies some of the most moving aspects of the project. For instance, Gwendolyn Brooks's performance of her famous "We Real Cool" segues into a brief history lesson from Giovanni about the origins of "hamboning" (using the body as an improvised drum), and then she, too, performs the poem while "hamboning." This poem then leads into the lesser-known "We Wear the Mask" by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, similarly describing the way humans masquerade, but in this case, in order to protect themselves. Perhaps the most inspired pairing is Langston Hughes describing the origins of his poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," as he traveled along the Mississippi to visit his father in Mexico City. Hughes's reading of the closing lines ("I've known rivers:/ Ancient, dusky rivers./ My soul has grown deep like the rivers") then fluidly lead into Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivering lines from his "I Have a Dream" speech. Giovanni's remarks afterwards may well cause young people to rethink their interpretation of his inspiring message.
 
Giovanni's goal, as she points out in a video message on YouTube, is to urge people to look beyond the more salacious aspects of Hip Hop to its important contributions, its driving beat, its celebration of what words can do, as with the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" or an homage to girls and women in Queen Latifah's "Ladies First." Giovanni's aim here, as with Dr. Ahmed's memoir, is to give readers an understanding of cultural complexities, so they may see past the broad strokes that society paints to the individual fine brushstrokes that complete the picture of humanity.--Jennifer M. Brown

 


Children's Book Reviews: Two Books

The Nice Book by David Ezra Stein (Putnam, $14.99, 9780399250507/0399250506, 32 pp., ages 6 months-4 years, October)
Katie Loves the Kittens by John Himmelman (Holt, $16.95, 9780805086829/080508682X, 32 pp., ages 3-8, September)
 
We humans can learn a lot from animals about how to care for each other, as these two picture books prove. In The Nice Book, Himmelman (Leaves) models how to "cuddle" by drawing the barest suggestion of two koala bears: swirls of blue paint with a charcoal pencil outline of the nose that defines the species, interlinking paws, and tufted lines above the ears to suggest movement. The sole word on the page, "cuddle," appears in bold tubular orange letters that act as the platform for the cuddling koalas. Across the spread, that same orange shade serves as a backdrop for a pair of golden birds that "nestle." A little later, a parent and baby monkey "squeeze" on a left-hand page, but the right-hand pages says, ". . . not too hard!" as a blue snake wraps a bit too snugly around its green snake companion, who appears a bit winded. Stein suggests that affection is all well and good (as are a shared "giggle" between geese and a back "scratch" among cats), as long as one remains mindful of the other's comfort zone.
 
In a similar vein, the pup in Katie Loves the Kittens adores the trio of felines that have joined her family, but her demonstrative ways scare them off. "Today was the most exciting day in Katie's whole life!" Her tail nearly wags off of her body as she gazes longingly at her owner's armload of furry critters ("Aroooooo! Aroooooo!," she cries). Of course her howling frightens the kittens, as do her attempts to play. Himmelman (Chickens to the Rescue) gets the canine's play posture and stance of defeat down precisely. And, of course, it's just when Katie gives up and drifts off to sleep that the kittens curl up right beside (and on top of) her. All she had to do was let the kittens come to her in their own good time. These two titles make the ideal introduction to preschoolers about the importance of respecting their pals' personal space without making the children feel badly for wanting to give someone a hug or hold someone's hand who's not quite ready to receive their attentions.--Jennifer M. Brown

 


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