Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, January 14, 2009


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

Notes: New York Court Uphold Amazon Sales Tax Law

A New York State justice has dismissed lawsuits filed by Amazon.com and Overstock against the state's law that requires online retailers with certain connections to the state to collect sales tax on sales made in New York.

The law, which took effect last April, applies to out-of-state retailers with no other connection with the state that have $10,000 or more per year in affiliate sales.

New York State Supreme Court justice Eileen Bransten wrote that Amazon failed to make a case and "there is no basis upon which Amazon can prevail," the Wall Street Journal reported. She continued: "The neutral statute simply obligates out-of-state sellers to shoulder their fair share of the tax-collection burden when using New Yorkers to earn profit from other New Yorkers."

Quoted in Bookselling This Week, American Booksellers Association COO Oren Teicher commented: "It's extremely gratifying that the New York State Supreme Court's decision in this case so categorically affirms the responsibility of all retailers to obey existing sales tax law and to collect the required sales tax on Internet sales. We strongly encourage the taxing authorities in other states throughout the U.S. to follow New York's lead on this issue and to take the necessary steps to ensure that all retailers comply with the law."

Eileen Dengler, executive director of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, said, "Booksellers and their trade associations worked very hard on this issue, and we hope that states will look to this ruling and know that e-fairness can be achieved."

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The University of Michigan Press is celebrating the selection of Elizabeth Alexander, one of the press's authors, to read an original poem at the Presidential inauguration next week, on its website and by offering an inaugural discount on her 2007 book Power & Possibility, which contains essays, reviews and interviews on poetry and is part of the Poets on Poetry series. Alexander also contributed a foreword and poem to the poetry anthology Gathering Ground.

Graywolf Press is the publisher of Alexander's poetry and will put out a chapbook of her inaugural poem on February 10.

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Cool idea of the day: Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt., is holding a live video presentation of the inauguration next Tuesday of Barack Obama as president in its event space.

Bookstores in the capital are hosting parties on inauguration day, and the Joseph-Beth store in Lyndhurst, Ohio, is holding a formal inaugural ball in the evening (Shelf Awareness, January 5, 2009).

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Check out the new Simon & Schuster website. The welcome page explains how the site was redesigned.

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On the Daily Beast, Peter Osnos, a senior fellow for media at the Century Foundation and founder and editor-at-large of PublicAffairs, finds reason to celebrate the future of the book, writing that the growing popularity of e-readers, from the Kindle to Sony Reader to the iPhone, among others, means that instead of disappearing, books "will be vastly more accessible than they ever were--and significantly, in contrast with the increasingly strapped newspaper and magazine industries, a business model is emerging for paying the creators and distributors of the content."

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This Sunday will be Terry Lucas' final day as owner of the Open Book, Westhampton Beach, N.Y., the Southampton Press reported. If all goes according to plan, former staff member Jocelyn Maningo will assume the lease, keep the Open Book name and "re-open at some point in the spring."

"I'm planning on keeping Terry's goodwill and will follow through with her legacy of the store," Maningo said.

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Business Week offered "a cautionary tale to independent retailers" in the story of Cody's Books, Berkeley, Calif., which closed its last store last year.

The main point seemed to be that the store changed too little and too late in the face of growing and fierce competition. The magazine wrote: "As other independents took to creating community events and classes to pump up sales, focused on niche subject matter, cut back, or cut out their backlists altogether to focus mainly on best sellers, [owner Andy] Ross dug in his heels. 'We could have changed,' he says. 'We could have only sold best sellers, kept smaller spaces, and laid half the people off. Then we maybe would have made money. But then it wouldn't be Cody's, and I didn't want to be that.' "

Still, Ross said that "as things continued to get worse, Cody's actually had gotten better at doing business. 'We were reaching out to libraries and book fairs and other events, but it wasn't enough.' "

And of course, the biggest drain came with the opening in 2005 of an expensive store in San Francisco, which Ross said may have been "a fatal mistake."

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Effective immediately, Consortium Book Sales & Distribution is distributing:

  • Whitelines, a Swedish company whose stationery has never before been available in the U.S. Instead of traditional lined paper (in black ink), Whitelines paper features white lines that do not reproduce on photocopies and reduce glare. The Whitelines motto is "Dark lines distract. White lines don't."
  • BIS Publishers, based in the Netherlands, which is relaunching its book publishing program in the U.S. For 20 years, BIS has published predominantly English-language books for creative people and their clients in the fields of graphic design, advertising, branding, fashion, product design, architecture and interior design. The house also publishes some general interest titles.

 


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


New Borders Chairman Comes from Pershing Square

In another major change at Borders Group that increases the control of its largest shareholder--hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management--Richard McGuire, who has been a partner at Pershing Square, has been named chairman of Borders. McGuire, who is 32, joined the board a year ago and is now leaving Pershing Square. He replaces Larry Pollock, who has been chairman since July 2006 and a director since 1995. Pollock continues as a director. In addition, Mike Archbold, executive v-p, COO and CFO of the Vitamin Shoppe and a onetime Barnes & Noble executive who joined the board in December 2007, has been named lead director.

Early this month, CEO George Jones was replaced by Ron Marshall, who had been principal of a private equity fund he founded, and CFO Ed Wilhelm was replaced by Mark Bierley, among other changes (Shelf Awareness, January 6, 2009).

Pershing Square founder and CEO Bill Ackman called McGuire, whose nickname is Mick, "extremely smart and capable. As a major shareholder of Borders, I am delighted with Mick's appointment to chairman. I look forward to the company's progress under Mick's and CEO Ron Marshall's stewardship."

 


Binc Foundation: Helping Booksellers #MoreThanEver Donation Campaign


Media and Movies

Movies: Slumdog Millionaire's Rich Reception

Slumdog Millionaire, based on the novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup and directed by Danny Boyle, has won five Critics Choice awards (among them, best picture, best director, best writer) and four Golden Globes (including best motion picture, drama; best director; best writer), which usually indicates a happy performance on Oscar night, held this year on February 22. There are two book versions: the movie tie-in, called Slumdog Millionaire (Scribner, $15, 9781439136652/1439136653), and Q&A (Scribner, $15, 9780743267489/0743267486).

 


Page Street Kids: Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Meyer


Media Heat: How to Love Like a Hot Chick

Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Jodi Lipper and Cerina Vincent, authors of How to Love Like a Hot Chick: The Girlfriend to Girlfriend Guide to Getting the Love You Deserve (Collins Living, $14.99, 9780061706448/0061706442).

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Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, author of Ms. Hempel Chronicles (Harcourt, $23, 9780151014965/0151014965). As the show put it: "What is a middle-school teacher? Is Ms. Hempel the old-maid meanie we remember fearing in childhood? Or is she, as she believes, a barely-out-of-college young woman on the threshold of life? Some days, though, she feels like a has-been, already washed up. We examine the way this novel-in-stories explores different and opposing points of view, until it expands and becomes a description of consciousness itself."

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Tomorrow night on Late Night with David Letterman: Gwen Ifill, author of The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama (Doubleday, $24.95, 9780385525015/038552501X).

 


Books & Authors

Book Brahmin: Sam Savage

Sam Savage is a native of South Carolina now living in Madison, Wis. He received his bachelor and doctoral degrees from Yale University, where he taught briefly, and has also worked as a bicycle mechanic, carpenter, commercial fisherman and letterpress printer. His first novel, Firmin, was published by Coffee House Press in 2006 ("Witty and sad, Firmin's tale is for anyone who loves words," Shelf Awareness said.), and is now a Delta trade paperback, published in December 2008.

On your nightstand now:

Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme; two novels by Nicholson Baker, The Mezzanine and The Fermata; The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell.
 
Favorite book when you were a child:

The Story of Ferdinand
by Munro Leaf.

Your top five authors:

This is too difficult, so I am going to exclude the living, the long dead, the foreign and list Donald Barthelme, Gilbert Sorrentino, John Berryman, William Gaddis, Kurt Vonnegut.

Book you've faked reading:

Deuteronomy.
 
Book you're an evangelist for:

Far Tortuga by Peter Matthiessen.
 
Book you've bought for the cover:

I don't recall ever doing that.
 
Book that changed your life:

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller. I read it in 1958. I was 18 years old and the book was still banned.
 
Favorite line from a book:

"I am real," said Alice, and began to cry.
 
Book you most want to read again for the first time:

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Book I wish I had written:

Wittgenstein's Mistress by David Markson.

 



Book Review

Book Review: The Bloody White Baron

The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia by James Palmer (Basic Books, $26.95 Hardcover, 9780465014484, February 2009)



Unwavering is the word for Freiherr Roman Nikolai Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg. Through his evolution from bad student to feckless officer-in-training to wastrel nobleman and then, miraculously, to a power in Mongolia, Ungern remained true to his core beliefs: monarchy is the only true system of government; cavalry trumps artillery; all peasants are innately good but need the firm hand of noblemen to protect them from "corruption"; murderous anti-Semitism is an essential policy; and extreme violence keeps everything orderly, if blood-drenched.

How could a previously unpromising Estonian cavalry officer become the legendary Bloody White Baron, ruler of Mongolia? A romantic view would say it was a case of desire meeting destiny: yes, Ungern wanted to rule a country and was drawn to Mongolia as a land of great conquerors; and, yes, Mongolian folklore foretold that a savior from the north would arrive on horseback to rescue them from crisis. But Palmer knows the 1915-1921 period and deftly integrates Russian, Japanese and Chinese history and politics (along with the prevailing chaos following World War I) to frame the astonishing story as a mesmerizing geopolitical essay in power, timing and force of will.

"Mongolia and Manchuria had been the fault line for conflict between the old and crumbling tsarist and Chinese empires, but also the focus of the new imperialism of Soviets and Japanese," Palmer writes about the territory into which Ungern galloped on his white charger. Under his fierce and fearless leadership in late 1920, his troops invaded Mongolia and restored the king to power. To grateful Mongolians, he symbolized anti-Chinese resistance and they dubbed him the God of War.

By February 1921, Ungern was declared a reincarnation of the Fifth Bogd Gegen, was made a khan and was granted a hereditary double princedom and the title of Outstanding Prosperous-State Hero. All of this fit neatly with his personality and fantasies: he loved ritual, order and honoring ancient traditions; the power also gave him free rein to kill and maim.

Ungern's control in Mongolia did not go unnoticed by the Soviets and he was eventually captured and imprisoned. His trial of September 15, 1921, led, in the Bolshevik tradition, to a speedy execution. In Palmer's astute summary: "The Mongolians were the tools, and the victims, of a delusional psychopath driven by a fusion of religious, imperial and reactionary ideology." Yet Palmer met a woman whose family still regards Ungern as a god and liberator; her family no doubt compares him to the Soviets who visited even greater violence and destruction on Mongolia, turning its early 20th century history into one devastation after another.--John McFarland

Shelf Talker: The Bloody White Baron recounts a little-known tale of post-World War I geopolitical maneuvering (and horrors) with passion and verve.

 


The Bestsellers

AbeBooks.com's Most Expensive Sales in 2008

The top 10 most expensive books sold on AbeBooks.com during 2008:

  1. Etudes à l'Eau-Forte by Francis Seymour Haden--$17,216
  2. L'Abou Naddara, Journal Arabe Illustre (1878-1884) by James Sanua--$13,000
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling--$12,874
  4. Specimens of British Minerals Selected from the Cabinet of Philip Rashleigh by Philip Rashleigh--$12,754
  5. The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia by David Roberts--$12,360
  6. The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid by Euclid--$11,750
  7. Autographed Letter by Edward Lear--$11,491
  8. Grimms' Fairy Tales by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm--$11,388
  9. Peter Beard Collector's Edition by Peter Beard--$10,808
  10. Biblia Latina printed by Johannes Herbort de Seligenstadt--$10,807


[Many thanks to AbeBooks.com!]

 


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