Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 27, 2009


Little Brown and Company: The Balcony by Jane Delury

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

Katherine Tegen Books: Another Quest for Celeste (Nest for Celeste #2) by Henry Cole

Letters

In Praise of the Men's Book Club

Josh K. Stevens of Read Between the Lynes, Woodstock, Ill., writes about the Wednesday item from the Deseret News about the reluctance of men to join book clubs:

We started a Men's Book Club here at Read Between the Lynes a little over a year ago, and it's been a huge success! We meet at the local pub on the fourth Monday of every month to discuss whatever book we have chosen for that month, and we read a wide variety of books, including Fight Club, Factotum, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Stiff, World War Z and Lolita. We have between 7 and 10 members who show up on a regular basis, and several people who drop in for an occasional meeting. We've been featured in the local paper, and we had Chicago author Laura Caldwell sit on one of our meetings because we were discussing her book The Good Liar. On a side note, for those guys out there who are "anti" book clubs, the ladies swoon every time I mention that I've got a Men's Book Club meeting to attend.

 


Page Street Kids: Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Meyer


News

Notes: Magnificent Mile Borders Closing; Books & Books Celebrates

Borders is closing its Chicago flagship store on Michigan Avenue next January. The 50,000-sq.-ft. store, which opened with great fanfare in 1995 and is more than twice as large as the average chain superstore, had "not met our profit objectives for some time," Steve Davis, senior v-p of Borders Group operations, said in a statement. There are an estimated 100 employees on the staff.

Davis called the Chicago area "one of our biggest markets" and said, "Borders has been a big part of Chicago for many years and that will not change with the decision to close this store." The company has 19 other stores in Chicago and its suburbs.

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Last night Books & Books celebrated the move of its Miami Beach, Fla., branch from a storefront on Lincoln Road to "a new courtyard home" in the back of the Sterling Building, according to the Miami Herald. The store moved after 20 years because of higher rents; a Diesel Jeans store has opened in Books & Books's old space.


Although off the pedestrian mall, the new spot has major advantages, the paper noted: "Books & Books owner Mitchell Kaplan has reenergized his store with an elegant, light-filled new design, a sprawling outdoor newsstand and lounging area, an expanded cafe-restaurant and--mirabile dictu--four times the shelf space of the old."

The new store includes the Café at Books & Books, which has seating outside and features chef Bernie Matz's New South Florida cuisine as well as the Assouline Boutique Corner, founded by Martine and Prosper Assouline, which features illustrated books, luxury editions and a gift line dedicated to fashion, photography, art and design.

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The Art Book Store recently opened at the William North Gallery in South Fort Myers, Fla. The Fort Myers Florida Weekly noted that the store "offers new, used and rare art books at discount prices. Inventory includes coffee table books, biographies, 'techniques of the masters,' histories, theory and basic how-to instruction books."

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As part of a range of cutbacks, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will close seven more of its shops around the country, according to the New York Times. In the past year, it has closed eight stores. The Museum will still operate eight stores and its online shop.

A veteran sales rep wrote: "One of the seldom acknowledged gold mines of art and history-related publishing has been the Met shops. Their long-time senior buyers will try anything that is rigorous enough and that relates to their extraordinary collection. Their second stage of cutbacks is potentially a huge loss to many of us."

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Effective April 1, Paz & Associates will manage co-op for booksellers participating in the ABA E-Commerce Solution, according to Bookselling This Week. ABA E-Commerce staff who currently manage co-op will instead handle "core member benefits."

Besides offering consulting, bookseller training and education and other services, Paz & Associates through its newsletter marketing program has administered co-op for 12 years and currently handles co-op for 30 bookstores. In a statement, Paz & Associates partner Mark Kaufman said, "Offering a greater number of titles that will specifically appeal to independent booksellers and increasing the amount of co-op available for website and newsletter promotion are our primary goals. We are devoted to making it easier for booksellers to work with publishers and having increased ability to aggressively promote and sell books within their communities."

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The next NAIBAhood Gathering for booksellers will be held Sunday, March 22, 3:30-6:30 at Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, N.J., owned by Margot Sage-EL. At the meeting, sponsored by the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, topics will include local author support programs, stock selection, print and online newsletter, selection of non-book merchandise, merchandising ideas, store "personalities" and event ideas (and the pressure of hosting events).

Two Simon & Schuster authors, Alan Katz (Karate Pig) and Mary Elizabeth Williams (Gimme Shelter) will visit. Dinner follows. NAIBA members should RSVP to 516-333-0681 or readingent@aol.com.

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Darcy Cohan has joined PoliPointPress, Sausalito, Calif., as director of marketing and publicity. She was formerly director of publicity and earlier managed the publicity departments at Avalon and Princeton University Press and headed her own publicity and marketing firm.

 


Soho Crime: My Name Is Nathan Lucius by Mark Winkler


Obituary Note: Philip José Farmer

Science fiction author Philip José Farmer has died. He was 91. The New York Times observed that he was a writer who "shocked readers in the 1950s by depicting sex with aliens and who went on to challenge conventional pieties of the genre in caustic fables set on bizarre worlds of his own devising . . . Farmer's distinctive blend of intellectual daring and pulp-fiction prose found a worldwide audience. His more than 75 books have been translated into 22 languages and published in more than 40 countries."

"Imagination," he once said, "is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got."

 


Ecco Press: Tangerine by Christine Mangan


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Lush Life

Today on Fresh Air: Richard Price, whose Lush Life (Picador, $15, 9780312428228/0312428227) is coming out in paperback on Tuesday.

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Sunday morning on the Today Show: Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy (Doubleday, $24.95, 9780385523882/0385523882).

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Sunday night on 60 Minutes: Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, author of Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption (St. Martin's, $25.95, 9780312376536/0312376537).

 



Books & Authors

Book Brahmin: Darla Brown

A Kansas native, Darla Brown lived in other places but ended up back in her home state, where she has been the reader's advisory librarian at West Wyandotte Library in Kansas City for 10 years. She gets to buy the fiction titles and also works the Reference Desk. One of her favorite things about the job is helping people find such things as "that red book with the wicker chair on the cover that I read last year."

On your nightstand now:  

I just finished The Godfather by Mario Puzo. Very entertaining, makes me want to read a history of the Mafia. Next in line is The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther (book club choice). After that: American Lion by John Meacham, The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed and The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage by Daniel Mark Epstein. I recently counted 43 books on my stack of "to-reads." These listed are the most recently acquired. It is an ever-changing, continually growing stack of wonder.
 
Favorite book when you were a child:

I loved From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. What child wouldn't love spending the night in a museum? I read Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater over and over. Mrs. Coverlet's Magicians by Mary Nash was always a favorite re-read. I devoured anything by Beverly Cleary, especially the Ramona and Henry books. All books by Madeleine L'Engle, Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, Shel Silverstein . . . maybe I should stop, huh?

Your top five authors:

It is incredibly hard to stop at five. So, I am listing the first five authors I think of that fall into the "I'd read a phone book if these folks put their names on it" category: John Irving, Alison Weir, Jean Auel, Philippa Gregory and Sheri Tepper.

Book you've faked reading:

I was an English Master student for a while, which makes it even harder to admit that I faked reading T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land."  

Book you're an evangelist for:

I'm an evangelist for reading anything and everything, but there are a few books that I recommend to everyone: The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber--the writing pulls you in and does not let go until that last page, and even though it's 800-plus pages, you are so sad to see it go. Gorgeous. The Emancipator's Wife by Barbara Hambly--Ms. Hambly makes Mary Todd Lincoln into a living, breathing woman. Wonderful stuff. And lately, I've been pushing Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin. I'm not a mystery reader, but this book has everything--history, humor, gender issues and mystery all rolled up between two covers.  

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield has a stack of beautiful old books on the cover, although I have yet to get very far into it.

Books that changed your life:

The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving made me look at all books differently. I finished it in two days and carried it with me long after. The flow of the narrative, the resilience of the characters, everything about it captured me and captures me still. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien made me aware of an entire genre I had previously ignored. Georgette Heyer informed me that romance novels can be well written, frothy and fun. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel gave me a love for all historical fiction and the need to discover the truth behind the fiction, in everything I read.

Favorite line from a book:

"Sorrow floats, but we arrived in Vienna before our bad news arrived, and we were inclined toward a cautious optimism."--The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Fresco by Sheri Tepper. For all with a liberal bent, this book is filled with such justice, brilliance and humor. I would love to read it again and not know what was on the next page.

 


Awards: Children's Choice Book Award Finalists

On May 12, as part of Children's Book Week, Jon Scieszka, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, will host and announce the Children's Choice Book Awards. Until then, from March 16 through May 3, kids will be able to cast their votes for their favorite books, author, and illustrator at bookstores, schools, libraries and online at BookWeekOnline.com.
 
The finalists were determined by close to 15,000 children and teens. The titles are:
 
Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year:

  • The Donut Chef by Bob Staake (Golden/Random House)
  • Katie Loves the Kittens by John Himmelman (Holt)
  • The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! by Mo Willems (Hyperion)
  • Sort It Out! by Barbara Mariconda, illustrated by Sherry Rogers (Sylvan Dell)
  • Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (Clarion)

Third Grade to Fourth Grade Book of the Year:

  • Babymouse: Puppy Love by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Random House)
  • One Million Things by Peter Chrisp (DK)
  • Spooky Cemeteries by Dinah Williams (Bearport)
  • Underwear: What We Wear Under There by Ruth Freeman Swain (Holiday)
  • Willow by Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan, illustrated by Cyd Moore (Sleeping Bear)

Fifth Grade to Sixth Grade Book of the Year:

  • 100 Most Dangerous Things on the Planet by Anna Claybourne (Scholastic Reference)
  • Amulet, Book One: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi (Graphix/Scholastic)
  • The Big Field by Mike Lupica (Philomel/Penguin)
  • Swords: An Artist's Devotion by Ben Boos (Candlewick)
  • Thirteen by Lauren Myracle (Dutton/Penguin)

Note: The finalists for Book of the Year in the Kindergarten through Sixth Grade categories above were the books that received the highest number of votes in the IRA-CBC Children's Choices program.
 
Teen Choice Book Award:

  • Airhead by Meg Cabot (Point/Scholastic)
  • Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown)
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Press)
  • Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen (Viking/Penguin)
  • Paper Towns by John Green (Dutton/Penguin)

Note: More than 2,200 teens voted for their favorite book of 2008 on the TeenReads website, part of the Book Reporter network. The five books that received the highest number of votes are finalists for the Teen Choice Book Award above.
 
Author of the Year:

  • Jeff Kinney for Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (Amulet /Abrams)
  • Stephenie Meyer for Breaking Dawn (Little, Brown)
  • Christopher Paolini for Brisingr (Knopf)
  • James Patterson for Maximum Ride: The Final Warning (Little, Brown)
  • Rick Riordan for Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Battle of the Labyrinth (Hyperion)

Illustrator of the Year:

  • Laura Cornell for Big Words for Little People by Jamie Lee Curtis (Joanna Cotler/HarperCollins)
  • Robin Preiss Glasser for Fancy Nancy: Bonjour Butterfly! by Jane O'Connor (HarperCollins)
  • Mo Willems for The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! (Hyperion)
  • David Shannon, Loren Long and David Gordon for Smash! Crash! by Jon Scieszka (Simon & Schuster)
  • John J Muth for Zen Ties (Scholastic Press)

The Author and Illustrator of the Year finalists were selected by the CBC and CBC Foundation from a review of bestseller lists.
 
Al Roker, winner of last year's Impact Award, will present the 2009 Impact Award to Whoopi Goldberg, "in recognition of her vast contribution to the promotion of literacy and the love of reading among young people."

 


Book Review

Book Review: Losing My Religion

Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America - And Found Unexpected Peace by William Lobdell (Collins, $25.99 Hardcover, 9780061626814, March 2009)

William Lobdell is a brave man. It takes an ample supply of courage for a former religion reporter to tell, in candid and often painful terms, the story of his journey toward faith and the shattering events that caused him to abandon his beliefs. Lobdell's memoir is a frank, thoughtful, occasionally raw trip into one man's soul.

At age 31, Lobdell, whose life to that point had been less than exemplary, became a born-again Christian. Determined to live his newly found beliefs, he started attending church regularly, began an intensive study of theology and soon concluded that his true calling was as a journalist writing about matters of faith. From a religion column in the Orange County edition of the Los Angeles Times he soon advanced to the main paper's religion beat. But as events unfolded, Lobdell's attainment of his dream job brings to mind the well-known admonition: Be careful what you wish (or in his case, pray) for.

Lobdell became a religious journalist just as the clergy sex abuse scandal was about to crash over the Catholic Church. The first dent in his spiritual armor occurred as he wrote of the church hierarchy's clumsy attempts to contain the damage wrought by Michael "Father Hollywood" Harris, a popular former parochial school principal whose sexual abuse of one student led to a $5.2 million settlement. Lobdell's disenchantment with organized religion grew after his firsthand look at faith healer and television mainstay Benny Hinn and the activities of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, more a well-heeled financial conglomerate than a spiritual institution.

But Lobdell did not fall away from religion merely because he saw close up some of the wrongdoing perpetrated in its name. He was far along to converting to Catholicism in 2002 and had immersed himself in a serious spiritual quest, when he began to ask the questions with which many believers wrestle: Why is there evil? Why do good people suffer? Why do we thank God for answered prayers and forgive him when those prayers go unanswered? After the failure of his last ditch effort at spiritual salvation--a searching and passionate e-mail dialogue with a reflective Presbyterian minister--he concluded, sadly but with the utmost honesty, "I just didn't believe in God anymore, despite my best attempts to hold on to my beliefs. Faith can't be willed into existence." Still, Lobdell concedes he's "not as confident in my disbelief" as vocal atheists like Christopher Hitchens.

This intellectually and spiritually challenging memoir leaves us with the distinct sense that Lobdell's intriguing journey is far from over.--Harvey Freedenberg

Shelf Talker: A journalist's penetrating and painfully honest account of his loss of faith as he explores the terrain of religious life in America today.

 


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: What Are We Trying to Communicate?

Times are hard. Tell me about it. These days the gory details of this common conversation may be diverse, but its essence is primal. You can find it in Steinbeck, in Dickens, in the ancient Greeks, in negotiations over the value of stone cudgels during the Paleolithic era.

How do we get customers to understand and care about hard times for independent bookstores? How do we get them to care about our survival? How do we inspire both empathy and action?

Communication is a one-word solution that gets batted around constantly in our industry. There may never have been a time in history when bookshops communicated with their customers as much as they do now. The pressure is on to get the word out monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, even instantly (think Twitter).

But what exactly are we trying to communicate?
    
When I received February's e-mail newsletter from the Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, Vt., I was impressed by something owner Linda Ramsdell had written to her customers under the title "A Note from Linda about Inventory Management (doesn't that sound exciting?)":

"You may notice that there aren't quite as many books at Galaxy this winter as you are used to seeing. I am taking a cautious and prudent approach in this time of economic upheaval. As many of you know, inventory management is a critical part of managing cash flow. To keep Galaxy healthy, I am managing the inventory even more closely than usual. In a practical sense, this might mean fewer copies of a title on the shelf. It will be precisely because we don't have big stacks of $27.95 hardcovers that Galaxy will weather this season. You can be assured that you will always find wonderful and new and treasured books to read at Galaxy. We also continue to offer our special order service, at no extra charge, and are able to get most books in within a week. As noted above, there is a lot to be excited about and look forward to. I will order all the new titles as I usually would, but likely fewer copies initially, with more frequent reorders. While the look may be different, the Galaxy Bookshop and the booksellers will continue to bring you a great selection of new book and favorites from over the years."

I asked Linda what compelled her to share inventory strategy publicly. I thought her note struck a perfect chord by simply--or not so simply--being honest. Booksellers often maintain a kind of "dance band on the Titanic" front with their patrons, who can easily mistake excellent, cheerful customer service for financial success. That disconnect from reality can be hazardous.

Linda said she had planned "to do a much deeper return than usual, and I thought it would be evident to customers. I wanted to avoid the sense that we couldn't supply the store, and make it seem instead like we were smart businesspeople responding proactively. I didn't want to get wrapped up in the panic, but to give a sense that we were putting the store in a good position to weather the winter and the economy. I was trying to exude confidence, and to go back to the Titanic analogy, to give the sense that there was a captain strong at the wheel with a good set of navigation tools. I also wanted to communicate that we would have the resources to keep all of the new books and books that were moving coming, and there is a lot to be excited about when it comes to new books.
 
"I think continuing to make people aware of why it is critical to shop locally is important. I think getting people excited about books and making it impossible for them to leave the store with only what they thought they came in for is important. I think keeping up an upbeat attitude is important. I hope to avoid the 'help, poor us' message and instead to emphasize that if people are buying books at all, we have lots of great reasons to buy them at the Galaxy Bookshop.

"The great thing about a business of this size, i.e. very small, is that we can actually respond quickly. We can also communicate very personally. I think it is incumbent on us to do both things well so that everyone is working toward the same end: keeping a bookstore a vital place in Hardwick."

I'd love to hear how you are bridging the business communication gap with your customers.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

 


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