Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Notes: B&N, Bucknell Go Downtown; Red Wheel/Weiser Hampton
Like several other schools in recent years, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pa., is moving its bookstore off campus to a nearby downtown location. As part of the deal, it has contracted with Barnes & Noble to manage its bookselling operations as well as to design the new 29,000-sq.-ft. store that will open in 2010.
Effective June 1, B&N takes over management of Bucknell's current on-campus store. When the new store opens, that space will be devoted to other uses. Under the agreement, current University store staff will be retained "at similar compensation levels."
The new store will cost about $9 million; two-thirds of that cost will be paid for by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania as part of its economic development fund for investment in small towns. The new store will stock books, magazines, emblematic sportswear, CDs and DVDs and have a café and spaces for literary and artistic performances. The bookstore will be open seven days a week and have longer hours than the current campus bookstore.
Other schools that have downtown bookstores include Old Dominion, Colgate, Wilkes University and King's College.
The decline and fall of Richard and Judy.
Once touted as Britain's bookselling equivalent of Oprah, Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan reached the end of their ignoble fall from the top recently when their "digital channel chatshow was axed," the Daily Mail reported. The "couple's decision to move their programme from Channel 4, where it attracted a peak audience of 3 million, to the fledgling digital channel Watch last October backfired spectacularly, with audience numbers sinking from an initial 100,000 to as low as 8,000."
The first Narwhal Awards, created this week by George Braziller "to recognize booksellers, agents, publishers, and other industry folk who are doing something unique during these allegedly difficult times," goes to Readers' Books, Sonoma, Calif., for making "an unusual addition to its shelves--organic eggs." The store has been selling eggs from the owners' family farm and will add vegetables and preserves this fall (Shelf Awareness, February 11, 2009).
Readers' Books co-owner Lilla Weinberger said the store is "proud if somewhat bemused" by the distinction.
The Connecticut Post opened a piece on some of the state's great independent bookstores with a quotation from Jerry Seinfeld: "A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking."
Among the bookshops: Just Books, Greenwich ("We try to feature books that you might not have heard of unless you came here," said owner Marion Holmes); Books on the Common, Ridgefield ("We have a wonderful, educated, well-read staff," said co-owner Ellen Burns); Books by the Falls Rare Books, Derby; RJ Julia Booksellers, Madison (owner Roxanne Coady called her staff "a discerning filter to the blistering number of books that are published").
Also featured were Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington; Rainy Day Paperback Exchange, Bethel; Paperback Exchange, Brookfield; Linda's Story Time, Monroe (the Post noted that "the store boasts a staff of kid-lit experts, including owner Linda Devlin. 'I know these books inside and out,' she said"); the Bank Street Book Nook, New Milford; and Rainy Faye Bookstore, Bridgeport.
Does Anthony Zuiker's Level 26 mark the "origin of the 'digi-novel?'" USA Today reported that the "creator of the hit TV series CSI and its two spinoffs says his new multimedia 'digi-novel' will launch a 'revolution in publishing for the YouTube generation.'"
Level 26: Dark Origins, which is scheduled to be published by Dutton September 8, is the first in a series written with Duane Swierczynski "in which each book will be supplemented with 20 videos, or 'cyber-bridges,' featuring actors playing characters from the novel," according to USA Today.
Effective June 1, Red Wheel/Weiser will distribute Hampton Roads Publishing Company--and the two companies are beginning a joint operating agreement.
The two houses are combining forces "for several back office functions--eliminating duplication on the operations, accounting, and production side," according to Red Wheel president Michael Kerber.
The two will also work "cooperatively to edit, design, and produce books, although our acquisitions teams will operate independently," Red Wheel publisher Jan Johnson said. "We're creating a space and a team where two publishing houses can come together to produce and sell their books more efficiently than either of us could do alone."
The combined team will operate primarily from Red Wheel's offices in Newburyport, Mass., and San Francisco, Calif. Greg Brandenburgh will oversee Hampton Roads.
Red Wheel/Weiser Hampton Roads will publish 75 titles annually. Imprints include Red Wheel/Weiser's Weiser Books and Conari Press. Distribution clients include Nicolas Hays, Ibis Press, Connections Book Publishing Company, Moment Point Press, Skinner House, Namaste Publishing, the Witches' Almanac and Hierophant.
Obituary: Eden Ross Lipson
Eden Ross Lipson, only the third person to be children's book editor of the New York Times Book Review, died yesterday. She was 66 and had pancreatic cancer.
During her 31 years as an editor at the Book Review and children's book editor from 1984 to 2005, she was "a force in bringing the enchanting but often overlooked world of children's literature to wide public awareness," as the Times put it.
Lipson is the author of The New York Times Parent's Guide to the Best Books for Children (Three Rivers Press). In August, Roaring Brook Press is publishing a children's book by Lipson called Applesauce Season, "about a family's tradition of making the dessert."
Image of the Day: Philly Liar's Club's Truth Tour
The Philly Liar's Club, a group of 13 writers, recently kicked off its "Truth Tour," a series of parties celebrating "all that is wonderful about independent bookstores." First stop was Doylestown Bookshop, Doylestown, Pa. Kneeling (from l. to r.): bookstore owner Philip Gerney, Merry Jones (author of The Borrowed and Blue Murders), Keith Strunk (Prallsville Mills and Stockton), Todd the canine star of It's Todd's Show, Laura Schrock (Emmy-award winning producer). Standing (l. to r.) bookstore events coordinator Rachel Trauger, Kelly Simmons (Standing Still), Gregory Frost (Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet), bookstore owner Patricia Gerney, L.A. Banks (The Thirteenth), Jonathan Maberry (Patient Zero), Dennis Tafoya (Dope Thief), Poe scholar Ed Pettit, social media guru Donald Lafferty, Marie Lamba (What I Meant . . . ), Jon McGoran (aka D.H. Dublin, Freezer Burn) and bookstore staff members Zach Schwarz and Kim Dalton.
Future "Truth Tour" parties will be held at Clinton Books, Clinton, N.J., Between Books, Claymont, Del., Aaron's Books, Lititz, Pa., and Womrath's Bookstore, Tenafly, N.J.
Photo: Shannon Lafferty.
Readers Devour The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Alan Bradley has accomplished quite a feat at Murder by the Book in Houston, Tex. The entire staff has unanimously selected his novel The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Delacorte Press, 9780385342308) as their pick for best mystery debut of 2009. "It doesn't happen very often that everyone here loves the same book, but we were all completely charmed by this one," said store owner McKenna Jordan.
More than half of the store's 700 copies of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie have sold since it went on sale two weeks ago, with additional books reserved by customers in anticipation of a signing with Bradley on June 1. "Taking 700 of any title is not usually something we do, but I can't think of a better book for it," said Jordan, who has already ordered 100 additional copies.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the story of Flavia de Luce, an 11-year-old with a penchant for amateur sleuthing and a fondness for chemistry (particularly concocting poisons). When a dead body turns up in the garden at Buckshaw, the English estate where she lives with her father and two older sisters, she sets out to solve the crime. "Flavia is one of the best new inventions out there," Jordan said. "She's totally unique."
The novel's visible presence in the store--including placement at the front counter and on its own display with the lime green covers faceout--is attracting customers' notice and prompting them to ask about it. The book was a popular Mother's Day gift choice and is appealing to men as well. "Alan Bradley has an intelligent, witty style that is appreciated across the board," said Jordan.
Something that first caught Jordan's attention when she received an advance reading copy of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie were blurbs by Laurie R. King and Charles Todd, two authors whose books sell extremely well at Murder by the Book. King's latest novel featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, The Language of Bees, was released the same day as The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and customers have been buying the two tomes together.
In addition to Murder by the Book, Bradley will appear at Poisoned Pen in Phoenix, Ariz., on June 3. He's a featured author at the ABA Celebration of Bookselling Luncheon at BookExpo America on Friday, May 29, and will sign copies of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie at the Random House booth on Saturday from 9-10 a.m.
So how did Canadian native Bradley come to be a first-time novelist at the age of 70? "Many of my most pleasant reading experiences over the years have been in the field of mystery fiction--and in particular, by those novelists who used English villages as their settings. There's something about murder in bucolic, genteel surroundings that makes it so much more fascinating," he said. "I thought it would be fun to give it a try." Bradley is the co-author of Ms. Holmes of Baker Street: The Truth About Sherlock and has penned numerous short stories and a memoir. He was also the recipient of the first Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award for Children's Literature.
Bradley's age did not in any way dissuade Bantam Dell editorial director Kate Miciak from signing on his series. "I don't care if someone is four years old or 110," she said. "If the voice is there and I want to spend time with the book, it's never a consideration." In fact, Bradley's tale inspired Miciak to do something for the first time in her 27-year career at the Random House Publishing Group: strike a three-book deal based on 15 pages.
Mystery lovers will be seeing much more of Flavia. Miciak bought three additional novels after reading the second book in the series, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, which is scheduled for publication in 2010. "That has been nice for our customers because they know they're not going to read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and love it and never get anything again. We can tell them it's the start of a series," said Jordan, who has even joined the Flavia de Luce Fan Club.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is an Indie Next List pick for May and a Borders Original Voices selection. Rights have been sold in 22 territories from Brazil to Taiwan, a fact that is not lost on Bradley. "It's above all humbling to wake up one morning and find the world on your doorstep," he said. "It makes you realize, as if for the first time, the enormous power of the printed word."--Shannon McKenna Schmidt
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Food, Too Much, Not Enough, The Wrong Kind
Today on the Diane Rehm Show: former FDA commissioner David Kessler, author of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite (Rodale, $25.95, 9781605297859/1605297852).
Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: John Delucie, author of The Hunger: A Story of Food, Desire, and Ambition (Ecco, $23.99, 9780061579240/0061579246).
Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Gary Indiana, author of The Shanghai Gesture (Two Dollar Radio, $15.50, 9780982015100/0982015100). As the show put it: "Out of fantasias of the past (Fu Manchu novels, exotic Hollywood films, documents of 'friendly' imperialism from the twenties to the forties), Gary Indiana concocts the nightmare present of The Shanghai Gesture, a book that takes the current fashion for apocalyptic dystopias to unprecedented levels of fear and loathing."
Tomorrow on Dr. Phil: Forrest Griffin, author of Got Fight?: The 50 Zen Principles of Hand-to-Face Combat (Morrow, $23.99, 9780061721717/0061721719).
Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto (Penguin, $15, 9780143114963/0143114964).
Tomorrow night on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson: Laura Lippman, author of Life Sentences: A Novel (Morrow, $24.99, 9780061128899/0061128899).
Movies: The Secret by Mike Richardson
Universal Pictures and Dark Horse Comics have partnered with Scott Stuber to produce an adaptation of Mike Richardson's graphic novel, The Secret, which Scott Milam will adapt. Variety reported that this "is the second project that Dark Horse has set up at Universal since the two inked a three-year first-look pact for pics last year."
"People have a sense what a comicbook movie is, but at Dark Horse, we're trying to defy some of those cliches and expectations," said Richardson, founder and president of Dark Horse. "None of our books are the same."
Book Review: Oh!
Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?: A Collection of Stories & Essays Set in the Big Easy by Craig Mod (Chin Music, $18.50 Hardcover, 9780974199573, October 2008)
Zack Hara, the narrator of Todd Shimoda's gorgeously produced new novel, Oh!, can't feel intense emotion. He's left Los Angeles and gone to live in Numazu, a small city on the Izu Peninsula in the shadow of Mt Fuji where he illegally teaches English conversation. One of his students is a psychologist who studies the biology of personality, and when Zack is forced to leave the school because of the limitations of his visa, Professor Imai begins giving Zack guidance in exchange for lessons. One little assignment follows another. Write a poem. Draw a picture. Commit a petty crime.
Next on the agenda: suicide clubs on the Internet, whose members seal themselves in their cars with tape and die in groups from gas fumes in Aokigahara Forest, where more people commit suicide than anywhere else in the world. The professor sends him to the site of one such suicide to meditate on what the suicide might have seen last before he died.
When the police interrupt yet another suicide club, causing one member in the sealed car to cut the throats of his companions before killing himself, the case becomes a magnet for Zack and his Japanese girlfriend, Kumiko, trying to understand what led these young people into their pact. Unfortunately, Zack's determination to understand emotional extremes and experience mono no aware, the sweet sadness of life, slowly begins to lead him back to Aokigahara Forest.
Shimoda's novel is a fascinating glimpse into a little-known dark side of Japanese culture as well as a compelling account of one emotionally-blocked man's obsession with feeling the oh! of an emotional epiphany at any price. Shimoda is a consummate storyteller with a clean, relaxed, graceful style.
The book itself is a work of art. Every chapter begins with a first paragraph in page-filling type and a little emblematic illustration beside each chapter number. Facing each chapter is a beautiful, moody calligraphy watercolor abstract by the author's wife. Chin Music Press has created a book of visual delight that is sure to cause a little serious mono no aware in book lovers.--Nick DiMartino
Shelf Talker: A fascinating glimpse into a little-known dark side of Japanese culture as well as a compelling account of an obsession with feeling emotional epiphany at any price.
Top Mystery Titles in April
The following were the bestselling titles at member bookstores of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association during April:
1. Borderline by Nevada Barr (Putnam)
2. Look Again by Lisa Scottoline (St. Martin's)
3. Long Lost by Harlan Coben (Dutton)
4. Just Take My Heart by Mary Higgins Clark (Simon & Schuster)
5. Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson (Morrow)
5. Wormwood by Susan Wittig Albert (Berkley)
7. Manna from Hades by Carola Dunn (St. Martin's)
8. About Time by Donna Leon (Atlantic Monthly)
9. The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King (Bantam)
10. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith (Pantheon)
10. Dante's Numbers by David Hewson (Delacorte)
10. Life Sentences by Laura Lippman (Morrow)
1. The Girl of His Dreams by Donna Leon (Penguin)
2. Winter Study by Nevada Barr (Berkley)
3. Nightshade by Susan Wittig Albert (Berkley)
4. A Date You Can't Refuse by Harley Jane Kozak (Broadway)
5. Death Walked In by Carolyn Hart (Avon)
6. Murder of a Royal Pain by Denise Swanson (Obsidian)
7. Buckingham Palace Gardens by Anne Perry (Ballantine)
8. Cheating at Solitaire by Jane Haddam (St. Martin's)
9. Grand Cayman Scam by Randy Wayne White (Signet)
9. Missing by Karin Alvetgen (Felony & Mayhem)
[Many thanks to the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association!]