Shelf Awareness for Friday, April 24, 2009

Penguin Press: Win a collection of some of this fall's best nonfiction

Scholastic Focus: Scholastic is proud to introduce a new imprint of beautifully written and carefully researched MG and YA nonfiction—coming Fall 2018

Other Press: Something Great and Beautiful: A Novel of Love, Wall Street, and Focaccia by Enrico Pellegrini

Canongate Books: The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry

Katherine Tegen Books: Time Castaways #1: The Mona Lisa Key by Liesl Shurtliff


Notes: Little, Brown's New Logos; Indies Choice Hall of Fame

Back to the illustrious future?

Little, Brown and Company and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers have new logos--the first in more than 70 years--that are inspired by antique typewriter keys. The logos (the adult one is on the left) were created by typographer and graphic artist Lance Hidy; the L and B initials are in Silica, and the accompanying text is in Magma bold.


The first three inductees to the Indies Choice Book Awards Picture Book Hall of Fame have been voted in by members of the American Booksellers Association. According to Bookselling this Week, the 2009 inductees are:

  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (HarperCollins)
  • Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (Viking Juvenile)
  • Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems (Hyperion Books for Children)

"ABA members have fittingly chosen two perennial favorites and a modern classic as the first inductees to the Indies Choice Book Awards Picture Book Hall of Fame, created to bring well-deserved attention to the wonderful backlist titles handsold at independent bookstores from coast to coast," said ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz. "These three titles, which have made frequent appearances on Indie Bestsellers lists over the years, are a terrific beginning for a new annual tradition."


Amazon posted "stronger-than-expected earnings during the slow winter months," the New York Times reported; and company CEO Jeff Bezos noted that "Kindle sales have exceeded our most optimistic expectations." For the quarter ending March 31, the company's net sales rose 18% to $4.89 billion from $4.13 billion a year earlier, and net income jumped to $177 million from $143 million.

Some analysts think Amazon "has benefited from the downturn, with struggles at the Borders book chain, the bankruptcy of Circuit City and turbulence at a rival, eBay, all driving traffic to," according to the Times.

Amazon predicts net sales to grow 6%-17% to somewhere between $4.30 billion and $4.75 billion for the second quarter.


BTW also reported that the ABA has unveiled a new name and logo "for the ABA E-Commerce Solution: IndieCommerce."

"As we move member sites to Drupal, an open-source platform that's practical, intuitive, and adaptable, it's fitting that we give ABA's E-Commerce Solution a new name that reflects just what the program, and our members stand for--giving consumers a choice of buying online at independent bookstores, each with its own unique personality," said IndieCommerce director Ricky Leung.


Cool idea of the day: "A prominent local figure is a murder victim in Madison [Conn.] and it’s up to you to crack the case. You have one night to complete the task: the evening of Thursday, April 30. Do you accept the challenge?"

The Source reported that this is the premise behind the Madison Cares Movie and Merchant Night Fundraiser, which will feature town personalities, including Roxanne Coady of R.J. Julia Booksellers. Would-be crimesolvers will uncover clues at local merchants--along with wine and hors d'oeuvres.

"People can go from store to store, pick up a clue, have a drink, register for the silent auction," said Coady. "It’s neat to get all the stores involved and support your town. It's been a lot of fun."


In the New York Times blog "The Local," multi-talented Jessica Stockton Bagnulo--Shelf Awareness contributor, McNally Jackson Books events coordinator, future Brooklyn bookstore owner--profiled multi-talented Emily Takoudes, senior editor at Clarkson Potter and "a force in the literary community in Fort Greene-Clinton Hill. . . . she brings the publishing community in the neighborhood together, convening a long-running series of girls' nights out and making the Brooklyn Book Festival a must event."


Our friends at Unshelved asked their readers "What do you wish publishers knew?" and then compiled the best answers (from librarians, booksellers and readers) into an illustrated eBooklet, Publisher Confidential: Frank Feedback for Publishers From Librarians, Booksellers, and Readers, featuring original Unshelved comics. To read it in PDF format, go to Unshelved's blog for the link.


If you've always wondered what Matt Groening's favorite bookstore is, Decider Los Angeles just asked him. The creator of the Simpsons and Futurama said, "I'm a particular fan of the oddball bookstore Family on Fairfax Avenue. It's basically a bookstore curated as if it were a museum. It's brilliant--it's just got very crazy art books. For all my jaded intellectual friends, it's where I do all my shopping for gifts."


"Ignore all price stickers" is the message on the walls of Used Book Super Store, which recently opened in a former Waldenbooks location at Square One Mall in Saugus, Mass. Owner Bob Ticehurst "began his 'Got Books' used book business over eight years ago in his parents' Billerica basement," Wicked Local Saugus reported.


McIntyre's Fine Books in Pittsboro, N.C., celebrated its 20th anniversary this week. Owner Keebe Fitch shared one of the keys to the bookshop's success with Bookselling this Week: "Our staff booksellers are wonderfully committed to the community here, and I am very proud of their efforts to help our customers. I credit Jamie Fiocco, the manager at McIntyre's, for doing such a wonderful job of melding everyone into such a solid team. They go the extra mile to help people even outside of the confines of bookstore."


The New Statesman explored "How celebrities saved, then killed, the book trade," observing that the publishing industry "has cultivated an unhealthy obsession with celebrities . . . to the detriment of proper books and authors."


The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers is Washington's Big Read-D.C. pick for this year, the Post reported. The annual reading initiative, presented by the Humanities Council of Washington and the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities in partnership with several community organizations, will run through May 23.


Think you're prepared for bad times? Take the Guardian's "literary apocalypses" quiz because, even as "the end of the world grows nigher and nigher . . . there's still time to tackle our hellishly difficult quiz before the lights go out."


Stacy Creamer has been named v-p and publisher of Touchstone Fireside, a division of Simon & Schuster, effective May 11. Creamer comes to Touchstone Fireside from Broadway Books, where she is v-p and editor-in-chief.

"Stacy is one of the true stars of the publishing world," said Carolyn Reidy, S&S president and CEO. "She is highly regarded for her editorial skill, eclectic taste, and ability to acquire and nurture books that garner both critical acclaim and major bestselling status."

Creamer will report to Martha Levin, executive vice-president and publisher of Free Press. Touchstone Fireside and Free Press will have independently functioning editorial and publishing staffs. She replaces Mark Gompertz, who was recently named executive vice-president, digital publisher of S&S, and will retain managerial oversight of the company's Howard Books imprint.


World Editions: You Have Me to Love by Jaap Robben, translated by David Doherty

AAP Book Sales: Declines for February, Year-to-Date

In February, net sales decreased 12% to $447.5 million for 81 publishers that reported to the Association of American Publishers. Net sales for the year-to-date have fallen 2.1% to $1.24 billion.

Sales of selected categories:
  • E-books jumped 131% to $6.7 million.
  • Children's/YA hardcover rose 62.1% to $67.1 million.
  • Children's/YA paperback increased 13.4% to $41.6 million
  • University press hardcovers showed no change at $4.8 million
  • Adult paperback decreased 38.8% to $79.7 million.
  • Audiobooks dropped 31.7% to $8.2 million.
  • Higher education slid 24.9% to $27.1 million.
  • Professional and scholarly decreased 19.7% to $36.2 million.
  • Religious books declined 19% to $44.3 million.
  • Adult mass market dropped 18.3% to $48.8 million.
  • El-Hi slid 9.9% percent in September to $76 million.
  • University press paperbacks fell 7% to $4 million.
  • Adult hardcover declined 0.9% to $77.8 million.


Disney-Hyperion: I Lost My Tooth! (Unlimited Squirrels) by Mo Willems

Image of the Day: RIP Louise WIld

Sad news from the Wild bookstore, Noblesville, Ind.: "It is with heavy hearts that we send along to you the sad news of the passing of Louise Wild, our friend and half of our famous Wild hissing cockroach duo. When we arrived in the Wild this morning, we found Louise had passed peacefully, on her back, in her sleep, during the night. Her partner and habitat mate of eight months, Thelma, survives. Louise is lying in state through Friday in the Wild. In lieu of flowers, please share a book with a child today. Louise would have wanted it that way."


Mandevilla Press: Assassins by Mike Bond

Fodor's on BEA: Broadway Done Better

After a long day at BEA, the siren call of HBO and minibar snacks in your hotel is hard to resist.  But trust us when we say that nothing on cable can compete with the live entertainment on Broadway. Catching a show on the Great White Way has always been a quintessential New York City experience, and it's worth the effort to snag a ticket. Just sitting under glittering chandeliers waiting for the lights to go up, you'll get a second wind and you'll completely forget your tired feet when it's time for a standing ovation. Here are our tips for securing the least-expensive seats.
Rush Tickets

The cheapest--though chanciest--ticket opportunities are found at participating theater box offices on the day of the performance. These tickets, usually about $25, may be distributed by lottery and are usually for front-row (possibly neck-craning) seats. Check the box office or the theater directory in the New York Times to discover current shows offering this kind of deal or similarly priced "rush" offers. Obstructed-view seats or those in the very rear balcony are sometimes available for advanced purchase; the price of these is usually in the $35-$40 range. Keep two things in mind: these tickets are very competitive for popular shows and lines for them often form during work hours, making it hard to squeeze it into your day.

Day-Of Bargains

For seats at 25%-50% off the usual price, go to the TKTS booth (Duffy Sq. at W. 47th St. and Broadway). Although they tack on a $4 per ticket service charge and not all shows are predictably available, the broad choices and ease of selection--and, of course, the solid discount--make TKTS the go-to source for the flexible theatergoer. Check the electronic listings board near the ticket windows to mull over your options while you're on line. At the snazzily updated Duffy Square location (look for the bright red glass staircase), there is a separate play-only window to further simplify and speed things. Hours are Monday-Saturday 3-8 (for evening performances); for Wednesday and Saturday matinees 10-2; for Sunday matinees 11-3; Sunday evening shows, from 3 until a half hour before curtain. Credit cards, cash or traveler's checks are accepted. Check out the Web site before you go; it lists what was available at the booths in the previous week to give you an idea of what shows you'll find. It also notes whether they're "frequently," "occasionally," "rarely" or "never" available at their booths.

Discounts in Advance

For advanced discount purchases, the best seating is likely available by using a discount "code"--procure these 20%-50%-off codes online. Several Web sites offer these types of codes. (You will need to register on each Web site.) The site provides a compilation of all discount codes available; does the same but concentrates on the smaller shows off the Great White Way. With TheaterMania and Playbill, you must bring a printout of the offer to the box office, and make your purchase there.

So what are our top theater picks during BEA?

For sheer star power, catch Exit the King starring Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre (243 W. 47th St., between Broadway and 8th Ave., 212-239-6200; Shubert Organization). This 1928 Elizabethan theater is decked out with two stone archways.

Broadway workhorse Matthew Broderick is taking on the absurdist play The Philanthropist at American Airlines Theatre (227 W. 42nd St., between 7th and 8th Aves., 212-719-1300; Roundabout Theatre Company). This splendidly restored 1918 Venetian-style playhouse--the venerable home to the works of Coward, Kaufman and Porter in their heyday--is now home to the Roundabout Theatre Company, which is acclaimed for its revivals of classic musicals and plays.

Entering into a limited run, Desire Under the Elms  showcases the acting chops of Brian Dennehy. Productions take place in the St. James Theater (246 W. 44th St., between Broadway and 8th Ave., 212-269-6300) where a little show called Oklahoma! premiered.

For more New York City recommendations, check out Fodor's New York City 2009, the guide the New York Times calls "the can't-go-wrong choice" or visit


Media and Movies

Movies: Barney's Version

Paul Giamatti will star in Barney's Version, based on Mordecai Richler's final novel. Variety reported that "Richard J. Lewis will direct from the screenplay adaptation by Michael Konyves. Principal photography will begin in August in Rome, Montreal, Quebec's Laurentian Mountains and New York."


Books & Authors

Awards: Orwell Prize; Shirley Jackson Awards

Andrew Brown's Fishing in Utopia won the £3,000 (US$4,336) Orwell book prize for political writing, the Guardian reported. "We were simply all entranced by it. I can't put it any differently than that," said judge Ferdinand Mount, who noted that the book had achieved Orwell's ambition "to make political writing into an art."


Finalists have been named for this year's Shirley Jackson Awards, which are given for "outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic" in several categories, including novel, novella, novelette, short story, collection and anthology.

Shortlist for novels:

  • Alive in Necropolis by Doug Dorst
  • The Man on the Ceiling by Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem
  • Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory
  • The Resurrectionist by Jack O'Connell
  • The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford
  • Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

The other nominees can be found at the Shirley Jackson Awards blog. Winners will be presented on Sunday, July 12, at Readercon 20.


Book Brahmin: Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Yrsa Sigurdardottir is an Icelandic author of crime fiction. A civil engineer by profession, she leads a double life, writing novels in her spare time. Her debut in crime fiction, Last Rituals, was translated into over 30 languages. Since then, Yrsa has written three additional books with the same protagonist, the lawyer Thora. The second book in the series, My Soul to Take: A Novel of Iceland, is being published in the U.S. this month by Morrow. Prior to the publication of her crime series, Yrsa had written five novels for children and preteens, two of which won Icelandic prizes for literature. Yrsa is married and has two children and a grandchild, a recent addition.

On your nightstand now:

Never Shower in a Thunderstorm: Surprising Facts and Misleading Myths about our Health and the World We Live in by Anahad O'Connor. I was hoping to find an excuse to keep smoking, i.e., that the connection between smoking and lung cancer, etc., was all a big misunderstanding, but I am already more than halfway through and my prospects are not looking good.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I loved the Finnish Moomin troll books by Tove Jansson. They tell the adventures of a family of white hippopotamus-looking trolls or elves that were in hindsight pretty depressed and strange for characters from a children's book series.

Your top five authors:

Gunter Grass whose storylines have a South American "woe and behold" feel to them but penned with a Prussian detachedness that makes for a mesmerizing read; Tom Sharpe who writes hysterically funny satirical novels; Swedish crime writer Stieg Larsson whom I have recently become hooked on (an addiction that will not be fed for long as he tragically died before his time); Philip K. Dick for his apparently limitless imagination; and Arnaldur Indriðason for his Icelandic crime series featuring the gloomy protagonist Erlendur.  

Book you've faked reading:

When I was in high school, we were supposed to read a novel in Danish by a Danish author and write a book report. I chose Tænk på et tal by Anders Bodelsen for the sole reason that it was the only Danish book that I knew was available on video in English, as the screenplay for Silent Partner with Elliott Gould was based on the book. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie but have since sort of regretted not reading the novel as I am sure it must be great.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne. I find it simply exquisite; the text's intelligence is sublimely disguised as silly and to-die-for-cute.
Book you've bought for the cover:

Simple 1-2-3 Cooking for Kids
. It had a picture of a pasta dish with a hot dog on top, and the hot dog had been partially cut into strips to make it look like an octopus. I have since tried to make this same dish but failed miserably, and my grandson refused to come anywhere near it, much less eat the vaguely obscene monstrosity.  
Book that changed your life:

The Trial by Franz Kafka. While reading it I held on to the hope that there would be an explanation as to what was going on, but that turned out to be overly optimistic. When done, I was so unimpressed and bewildered at how bad the novel was, considering how highly praised it had been, that it taught me not to assume I would automatically like everything that others acclaim. Later I learned that The Trial was published posthumously and Kafka had not finished it, stating in his will that the manuscript was to be destroyed. From this, I drew yet more wisdom: as an author I will make sure to do my own deathbed shredding.

Favorite line from a book:

"You shall not go, for you know not how to behave yourself in company where there is much drinking, you who are not good to deal with though you be sober."--Skallgrímur Kveldulfsson addressing his three-year-old son, Egil, in Egil's Saga, explaining to the toddler that he cannot attend a feast since he tends to become rowdy when drunk.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Agatha Christie's Endless Night as the ending was so surprising that you can't really relive the book knowing the solution to the mystery.


Shelf Starter: Reason, Faith, and Revolution

Reason, Faith and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate by Terry Eagleton (Yale University Press, $25, 9780300151794/0300151799, April 21, 2009)

Opening lines of books we want to read:

Religion has wrought untold misery in human affairs. For the most part, it has been a squalid tale of bigotry, superstition, wishful thinking, and oppressive ideology. I therefore have a good deal of sympathy with its rationalist and humanist critics. But it is also the case, as this book argues, that most such critics buy their rejection of religion on the cheap. When it comes to the New Testament, at least, what they usually write off is a worthless caricature of the real thing, rooted in a degree of ignorance and prejudice to match religion's own. It is as though one were to dismiss feminism on the basis of Clint Eastwood's opinion of it.

It is with this ignorance and prejudice that I take issue in this book. If the agnostic left cannot afford such intellectual indolence when it comes to the Jewish and Christian scriptures, it is not only because it belongs to justice and honesty to confront your opponent at his or her most convincing. It is also that radicals might discover there some valuable insights into human emancipation, in an era where the political left stands in dire need of good ideas. I do not invite such readers to believe in these ideas, any more than I myself believe in the archangel Gabriel, [or] the idea that Jesus walked on water . . . If I try in this book to "ventriloquize" what I take to be a version of the Christian gospel relevant to radicals and humanists, I do not wish to be mistaken for a dummy. But the Jewish and Christian scriptures have much to say about some vital questions--death, suffering, love . . . on which the left has for the most part maintained an embarrassed silence. It is time for this politically crippling shyness to come to an end.

--Selected by Marilyn Dahl


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Crime Scene Investigation--Bookstore

"If he did steal it," cried the bookseller, "I'm perfectly delighted. It shows that my contention is right: people do really care for good books . . . Usually the only books any one wants to steal are sheer piffle . . . I don't mind a man stealing books if he steals good ones!"--Christopher Morley, The Haunted Bookshop

Here's a bookseller pop quiz for you in three questions:

  1. How bad was shoplifting in your bookshop before the economy tanked?
  2. Has it gotten worse?
  3. What are you doing about it?

I started mulling over lit-thievery and biblio-skullduggery after Boswell Book Company owner Daniel Goldin blogged earlier this week about his new bookstore's first official shoplifted title:

We gave up the nooks and crannies of the classic bookshop for a more open feel. We've positioned our bookcases for better sightlines. But there are still things to be done. My friends at other bookstores have mirrors, and cameras, and security tags. And of course, every bookseller talks about the importance of regular greeting and acknowledgement. But that's not going to stop that person who looks you in the eye, says thank you, and then slaps you in the face.

If you meet and greet people every day, including people who steal from you, getting robbed, even just one item at a time, can feel like betrayal. You try to be practical. You retain your sense of humor. You rationalize about normal, predictable shrinkage numbers. You take steps to improve security.

As you watch your patrons come and go, you can't help but be aware that some small percentage of them are taking advantage of your shop's unofficial five-finger discount plan.

And somewhere deep inside, you get a little hurt every time you find the "bones," including those shelf voids while checking inventory sheets; the empty DVD or CD cases shoved behind books; or the orphaned cardboard backing and cellophane left in the wake of missing sideline items.

Goldin wrote that he has been thinking about shoplifting for years, and asked a question I will add, for extra credit, to the three above: "How do you balance a comfortable space with one that doesn't become an easy target?"

Expensive security systems? The theory is that ubiquitous buzzing gates near POS "keep honest people honest," but the bad guys are almost always a step ahead and will get their share.

Alert staff? I have to admit that, for all my skills as a bookseller, I make a lousy cop. Although I've worked with colleagues who were really great at the "Excuse me, did you forget to pay for something?" conversation, the majority have been less adept at this particularly toxic retail ceremony.

When I was going to college, I worked part-time for a supermarket where the manager's primary focus was apprehending shoplifters. His name was Ray, but we called him Dirty Harry behind his back. He spent substantial parts of each workday perched on a narrow catwalk above the butchers' room, watching his customers with binoculars through two-way mirrors.

He caught a lot of shoplifters, but I suspect the majority of booksellers can't be that guy. The most aggressive booksellers I've ever met couldn’t be that guy.

So what do you do? Bookstore crime scenes have no chalk outlines or yellow caution tape. I suppose you could try insulting them. Put up signs suggesting that bookstore shoplifters are underachievers, since they often take pointless chances to snatch property they could purchase on eBay for a penny. Shame them into honesty, or at least drive them off to stalk bigger game elsewhere.

Another warning sign possibility is a "curse of uncertain origin." I found it in "People who steal books," a 2001 article by E.C. Abbott in the Canadian Medical Association Journal:

For him that stealeth a book from this library, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck by palsy and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain, crying aloud for mercy and let there be no surcease to his agony till he sink to dissolution. Let bookworms gnaw his entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not and when at last he goeth to his Final Punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him for ever and aye.

Shoplifting 101. You have your questions. Please answer in the form of anecdotes and strategies.

There. I made it all the way through this column without mentioning Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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