Shelf Awareness for Friday, November 6, 2009

Atria Books: The Silence in Her Eyes by Armando Lucas Correa

Labyrinth Road: Plan A by Deb Caletti

Harper Muse: Unsinkable by Jenni L. Walsh

Mariner Books: Everyone on This Train Is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson

S&s/ Marysue Rucci Books: The Storm We Made by Vanessa Chan

W by Wattpad Books: Night Shift by Annie Crown

Shadow Mountain: Under the Java Moon: A Novel of World War II by Heather B. Moore


Welcome, Robin Lenz!

Shelf Awareness is very happy to welcome Robin Lenz, former managing editor at Publishers Weekly, as a contributing editor. On a part-time basis, she'll edit copy, proofread and generally make sure that Shelf Awareness looks and reads presentably. We worked with Robin for many years and admire her judgment and skills and calm under pressure. Already this week she's made a great difference in the newsletter--and in the state of our sanity. We're delighted to be working with her again!


Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

General Retail Sales: October Gains, Holiday Optimism

General retail sales in October rose 1.8% compared to the same month in 2008, according to Thomson Reuters. Shoppers "cautiously re-emerged . . . at both the low-priced and upscale ends of the market," the Wall Street Journal reported.

This was "the second monthly year-over-year increase for retailers this year and the best performance since April 2008, according to Retail Metrics. The fall momentum has given retailers, beleaguered by a year of sharp sales declines and steep discounting, more confidence heading into the critical holiday shopping season," the Journal wrote.

"We feel good," said Bob Nelson, head of investor relations at Costco. "Sporting goods, apparel, small appliances--everywhere we're seeing an uptick in our business. As we continue to see more good news every day, it is helping the affluent consumer be willing to part a little more with their cash."

Michael P. Niemira, chief economist and director of research for the International Council of Shopping Centers, told the New York Times that the "improvement in the stock market has had a significant impact on the affluent shopper's willingness to spend . . . the luxury market has shown its first positive reading since May 2008."

"The patient is out of critical intensive care, but is not in full-bloom health yet," cautioned Craig R. Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, but he also said "there is a general consumer willingness to begin to spend again." 


Britannica Books: Britannica's Encyclopedia Infographica: 1,000s of Facts & Figures--About Earth, Space, Animals, the Body, Technology & More--Revealed in Pictures by Valentina D'Efilippo, Andrew Pettie, and Conrad Quilty-Harper

Notes: ABA & NPR Team Up; Amazon Tweaks Twitter

The American Booksellers Association and NPR will join forces beginning November 13 "to provide thoughtful bestsellers and unique book coverage to readers, both on and," Bookselling This Week reported. NPR Books will publish four weekly bestseller lists--hardcover fiction, hardcover nonfiction, paperback fiction and paperback nonfiction--using the Indie Bestseller List feeds.

"We think this list is the right one for the NPR audience," said Joe Matazzoni, head of the books section on "The Indie Bestseller Lists are weighted to give smaller stores an equal voice with big ones, and bottom line, they are less liable to feature mass-market bestsellers and are more slanted toward literary fiction and thoughtful nonfiction. These are the books our listeners are interested in."

"This is a wonderful partnership," added Oren Teicher, ABA's CEO. "The indie bookstore presence on is not only a perfect fit, but important exposure to consumers invested in shopping locally and supporting communities. And pages are greatly enhanced by unique NPR audio."


Amazon has developed a new Twitter campaign for its associates that may blur the line between social networking and paid promotion. As TechCrunch described the Twitter integration feature, "when you're logged into your Associate account, you'll see a new 'Share on Twitter' button on your Site Stripe (a management toolbar along the top of the page). As you'd expect, clicking this button will prepare a tweet complete with a shortened URL to send out of all of your Twitter followers.

"Here's why this is interesting: As Amazon clearly notes at the end of its e-mail [featured in the article], you will earn referral money for anyone that clicks on these links and buys a product. Obviously, links that bring in referral fees are nothing new, this has been going on with blogs for a long time. But Twitter users do love to click on links, so this feature could actually mean some real money for popular Twitter users with a massive following. And it's yet another way that companies--and now even Twitter's users--are making money off of Twitter, which Twitter won't see a dime of (presumably, anyway)."


Bookselling This Week profiled Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo., which will celebrate its 40th anniversary this weekend. The festivities include a reading by author and store co-founder Anita Diamant, followed by a discussion and reception hosted by co-owners Kris Kleindienst, Jarek Steele and Barry Leibman (who will be leaving at the end of the year after a 35-year tenure).

"We are thrilled to have made it this long," said Kleindienst, adding that the bookstore succeeded in becoming a city institution "because of the love, sweat and tears of many, many people, only some of whom have actually worked here. There is a whole community for whom this store seems absolutely necessary, as well as many incredible talented booksellers who are willing to sacrifice financial well-being to work here. While we are perhaps taken for granted by some, we have become, at least in the book world, as much a fixture of St. Louis culture as the symphony or the zoo or the arch."


The holiday season price wars among giant retailers expanded to a new front yesterday as Wal-Mart lowered online prices for "10 hotly anticipated DVDs, including the new Star Trek and Harry Potter releases, to $10," the Wall Street Journal reported. and Target soon returned discount fire by matching "some of Wal-Mart's online prices on pre-orders of the DVDs, and Wal-Mart lowered its price by a penny to $9.99, reprising the scuffle that broke out last month when Wal-Mart launched an aggressive $10 book promotion."


Amazon has awarded Open Letter Books a $20,000 grant to support publication and promotion of The Wall in My Head: Words and Images from the Fall of the Iron Curtain, an anthology conceived by the editors of Words Without Borders to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The grant also supports The Wall in My Head website, which features excerpts from the book, historical images and new essays about life in Eastern Europe before and after the collapse of Communism.
"Our goal with Open Letter Books is to increase the access American readers have to the best works and ideas from cultures around the world," said director Chad W. Post, "and The Wall in My Head is a perfect example of how we achieve this. It's especially gratifying that is interested in helping us to achieve this goal. Their support will definitely help us strengthen our efforts and reach a larger audience than we otherwise might have."


Sapphire's novel Precious (first published in 1996 as Push) has received a serious sales bump in anticipation of today's release of the film adaptation produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. USA Today reported that the movie tie-in edition currently ranks 22nd on its bestseller list.

And Target's latest book club pick, the debut novel Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, moved up to number 63 on USA Today's list. The author called the Target pick and subsequent promotion "insanely great news."


Today's New York Times reported that Publishers Weekly has drawn some ire for its 2009 Top 10 books list, which includes no female authors.


New Directions has extended the deadline for its poll: "Which classic ND title should we relaunch as a new edition?" The leader thus far is Louis-Ferdinand Céline's Death on the Installment Plan. You can vote for your choice by selecting one of the finalists below and writing to

  • The Journal of Albion Moonlight by Kenneth Patchen
  • Death on the Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Céline
  • Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima
  • The Green Child by Herbert Read
  • A Season in Hell by Arthur Rimbaud
  • The ABC of Reading by Ezra Pound


Ivy & Dean Day! Tomorrow more than 100 bookstores and libraries are celebrating the publication of Doomed to Dance by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Chronicle), the sixth volume in the Ivy & Bean series, which has sold some 700,000 copies. Barrow is also the co-author, with her aunt Mary Ann Shaffer, of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

In Doomed to Dance, according to the publisher, Ivy and Bean "beg their parents for ballet lessons and swear they won't quit. Finally, they get what they want... well, not exactly. The girls thought ballet would be leaping and kicking and scaring the heck out of the Prince. It's not. They have no interest in learning how to dance gracefully and must figure out a way to get out of their dance recital without breaking their promise." Dance to the book trailer here.


GLOW: Carolrhoda Books: Pangu's Shadow by Karen Bao

Borders Will Close 200 Walden Outlets

In January, Borders Group is closing some 200 Waldenbooks, Borders Express and Borders Outlet stores--all part of its mall store division--which will leave 130. Some 1,500 employees, the majority of them part-timers, will be let go. A list of the stores being closed can be found here.

The company called the closings part of its "ongoing strategy to right-size its Waldenbooks Specialty Retail segment and emerge with a smaller, more profitable mall chain." The closings are not final and do not include Borders superstores or seasonal mall kiosks.

"America has a number of malls that continue to do well and draw customer traffic even in the current economy," Borders Group CEO Ron Marshall said in a statement. "We believe there remains an opportunity to profitably operate a much smaller Waldenbooks segment that complements our core Borders superstore business and continues to serve readers in their communities."

In the last eight fiscal years, Borders has shuttered about 575 mall stores, 112 in fiscal 2008 alone. Rival Barnes & Noble is planning to close the last of its 50 B. Dalton Bookseller stores in January, too. In the 1970s and 1980s, Walden and Dalton were the giants of the bookstore world, with about 2,000 stores between them.


Soho Crime: My Favorite Scar by Nicolás Ferraro, translated by Mallory Craig-Kuhn

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Neil Gaiman on CBS Sunday Morning

This morning on the Today Show: Mike Lupica, author of Million-Dollar Throw (Philomel, $17.99, 9780399246265/0399246266).


Tomorrow on NBC's Weekend Today: Barbara Smith, author of B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style (Scribner, $35, 9781416553540/1416553541).


On CBS Sunday Morning: Neil Gaiman, author of The Graveyard Book (HarperCollins Children's Books, $17.99, 9780060530921/0060530928).


Sunday on Weekend Edition: Pamela Singh and Mike Tauber, photographers of Blended Nation: Portraits and Interviews of Mixed-Race America (Channel Photographics, $34.95, 9780977339921/0977339920).


Television: Guests of the Ayatollah

Screen rights to Mark Bowden's Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis, The First Battle in America's War with Militant Islam have been acquired by HBO Films. Variety reported that the book "was first optioned in 2003 by Paramount for producer Scott Rudin, with the studio making a seven-figure commitment when Bowden had written only a two-page proposal."

Andrea Berloff (World Trade Center) will adapt the story and William Horberg (The Kite Runner) is executive producer for the project.


Movies: Machine Man; Hemingway and Fuentes

Mandalay Pictures has acquired the movie rights to Max Barry's Machine Man, a sci-fi novel Vantage Books will publish in 2011, but whose pages are being posted online each day by the author. Variety reported that as Barry writes, "he's revealing one page of the tale each day as part of an interactive literary experiment in which suggestions from readers are integrated into the plot as the story unfolds."

Mandalay's Cathy Schulman praised Barry as "one of the freshest voices in fiction today. Max has written a novel that's like candy for Web-geek personalities and thriller lovers alike."


Anthony Hopkins and Annette Bening have joined Andy Garcia in the cast of Hemingway and Fuentes, "which Garcia will direct from a script he wrote with Hilary Hemingway, granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway," according to Variety, which also noted that the film "chronicles the two decades that Hemingway spent in Cuba fishing with his best friend, Gregorio Fuentes. There, the author fell in love with a beautiful Italian girl who inspired him to write The Old Man and the Sea."


Books & Authors

Awards: Prix Médicis

Dany Laferrière and Dave Eggers were named winners of this year's Prix Médicis literary awards. The Independent reported that Laferrière, a Canadian born in Haiti, won for his novel, L'enigme du retour (The Enigma of Return), "a fictionalised account of the 56-year-old author's soul-wrenching return to his native Haiti to attend his father's funeral."

What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng by Eggers was the jury's unanimous choice for a Médicis in the "best foreign novel" category.


Shelf Starter: Tinsel

Tinsel: A Search for America’s Christmas Present by Hank Stuever (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24, 9780547134659/0547134657, November 12, 2009)

Opening lines of books we want to read:

Before the Black Friday dawn, the sky is still a mix of dark blue and the sick sodium-vapor saffron of the suburban night. I park by the Beijing Chinese Super Buffet and walk across the lot to Best Buy, where hundreds of people--some in their twelfth or thirteenth hour of standing in line--await the day-after-Thanksgiving doorbuster sale. Best Buy will open at 5 a.m. The shoppers are wrapped in their fleecies, hoodies and wubbies. They have their grande lattes and their Krispy Kremes. Some pitched tents and now have their butts planted on portable reclining chairs that were purchased for the specific act of waiting around, waiting all over America, waiting as they’ve learned to do when Harry Potter novels are released, or when new generations of video game systems come out, or when reality TV producers hold auditions. The line wraps around the big box. A news helicopter flies overhead to show the world itself at the beginning of another holiday season, and the theme never changes. See what it’s come to. Everyone looks up at the sky. Christmas is at our throats again.

--Selected by Marilyn Dahl

Book Brahmin: Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson has written five fantasy novels from Tor Books: Elantris, the Mistborn trilogy and Warbreaker, as well as a middle-grade fantasy series beginning with Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians from Scholastic Press. After Robert Jordan died in 2007, Brandon was chosen to complete his groundbreaking fantasy epic The Wheel of Time. The Gathering Storm will be released on October 27, and two final volumes will follow.

On your nightstand now:

An unpublished young adult book by Janci Patterson called Skipped. Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan--right now I'm digging back into the Wheel of Time and need to refamiliarize myself with the world. Dan Wells's tentatively titled Full of Holes. It's the third in the horror trilogy that starts with I Am Not a Serial Killer. And The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Three Investigators books created by Robert Arthur. I fell in love with these in the third grade, and I enjoyed them much more than the "meaningful" (boring) books people tried to get me to read for the next five years.

Your top five authors:

In no particular order: Robert Jordan, Terry Pratchett, Victor Hugo, Dan Wells. It's hard to pick a fifth--it really depends on my mood, who I've been reading a lot of recently. There are many authors from whom I'll love one book and not be as blown away by their other novels. Here's a sampling of single books I think are fantastic: A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge, Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly, Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay and Sabriel by Garth Nix.

Book you've faked reading:

To Kill a Mockingbird in junior high. We were assigned two chapters a night, and the teacher would get up every day and talk about what happened in those two chapters. I realized I didn't have to read the book because we'd spend an hour talking about it every day. So I got an A on the test but never read it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Dan Wells's books. I Am Not a Serial Killer is out now in the U.K. and will be released in the U.S. in March 2010. It's difficult to tie this book down. On one hand, it's a character study that inspects the mind of a teenage sociopath. On the other, it's an old-fashioned murder mystery with a supernatural edge. Neither of those concepts conveys the wit of the prose or the brilliance of the story's great dilemma. Which is more alien? The monster with the heart of a man or the man with the heart of a monster? Some books are exciting. Some books are intriguing. Some are exhilarating, others moving and still others deeply disturbing. I've rarely found a book that fit all of these descriptions at once, and never have I read one that mixes each emotion together as thoroughly as I Am Not a Serial Killer. Regardless of your age or your genre preferences, you will find the book both profound and enthralling.

Book you've bought for the cover:

About a billion books with Michael Whelan covers. Any time a book came out with a Michael Whelan cover, I just let that sell me on it. I have almost always been pleased. Very rarely have I been disappointed.

Book that changed your life:

Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly. I mentioned above that after the third grade people kept giving me books that bored me out of my skull--realistic fiction--and by the eighth grade I was basically not reading. Then I had an English teacher who told me I couldn't do a report on a Three Investigators book and instead pointed me toward Dragonsbane. When I first read it, I was amazed--I had no idea books like that existed. It engaged my imagination like no other book ever had. At that point I started reading every fantasy book I could get my hands on, including Robert Jordan's first Wheel of Time book, The Eye of the World, when it came out in paperback. I was hooked, and as I read more and more books, my grades went up in school--I went from a low-end average student to someone who got top grades. It didn't take reading many fantasy books before I decided writing them was what I wanted to do with my life. I started my first book when I was 15. It was horrible, but I just kept writing and writing until I actually got any good. I've been a writer full-time since 2004, but it would never have happened if not for Mrs. Reeder handing me Dragonsbane.

Favorite line from a book:

When I'm reading along in a book I will often think, "This is a great passage," but that's not the kind of thing that sticks with me--my memory doesn't work that way. I don't even remember lines from my own books.

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

It would be nice to be able to read the entire Harry Potter series without knowing about any of the hype--to just read them with no baggage attached. It would be very interesting to approach them books as if I had just discovered them--as a series by this obscure author who no one had ever heard of--and see how that changed the experience.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The Shame List Smackdown--"Oh, oh" vs. "Oh!"

Consider the difference between the "Oh, oh" factor and the "Oh!" factor. For both booksellers and customers, having certain titles in stock is a measure of a shop's credibility. The Shame List I wrote about two weeks ago is something that gradually accumulates over time.

"Oh, oh" titles are those books that a customer reasonably expects to be carried by any good bookstore (Great Expectations or 1984, for example). Nobody likes to stare at an empty slot on the shelf or a computer screen's mocking 0 under the "on hand" category, and then have to mutter sheepishly, "We can special order that for you."

And "Oh!" titles? These are books that establish an individual shop's identity (its biblio-fingerprints) and include staff picks that can often be sold in casual conversation away from the section, or even as a last minute nudge at POS. When a bookseller is in full handselling mode with an enthusiastic reader, the goal is to keep saying, "Oh! You'd love this one..." and pluck it from a shelf rather than "Oh, oh" and where do we go from here?

Several readers responded with their own Shame List thoughts and recommendations.

"Having spent my professional life in the book business on all fronts, I am now working in a small store in Cable, Wis.--the home of the Birkebeiner (the world's best cross-country ski race)," noted Jane Kent Johnston of Redbery Books. "Our customers are lake home owners who come from the Twin Cities, Chicago, Madison, etc.; many are artists who have opted for life in a beautiful, nature environment; and those who have chosen the northwoods life. They are an amazingly well-read population. So, my Shame List is Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, Plainsong by Kent Haruf, Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olssen, A River Runs Through It by Norman MacLean, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems."

Angela Cozad, events coordinator for Lafayette Book Store, Lafayette, Calif., "was a buyer for many years at Tower Books and we didn't call it the Shame List; we called them the 'Sacred Cows.' The turns were low but they legitimized the section and sometimes the whole store. Titles included War and Peace, Call of the Wild, My Antonia, any and all of Penguin Classics, the Sunset Western Garden book, Runaway Bunny, Fahrenheit 451, etc. It was storewide, not just fiction-based. We actually tried to have one per rack because we felt they were so important."

On Twitter, @LIBERTYBAYBOOKS wrote that although Shame List was an unfamiliar term, "one book on my list is Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates by Tom Robbins."

Another perspective was offered by Peter Ginna, publisher and editorial director of Bloomsbury Press, who observed that he "once read a piece by an author about her 'Middlemarch test.' If she went into a bookstore and it didn't have Middlemarch, she knew it was a writeoff. Maybe that's setting the bar too low, but I would certainly agree that if there's no Middlemarch, the backlist pickings are going to be slim."
Ginna added that he is "a big history reader, and I often find that it's harder to find a good selection of history backlist titles than a good fiction section. Some otherwise good indie stores I won't even bother going into if I'm looking for a history book. Here's a random selection of titles I'd look for to see if a store had a good history buyer. All of these are important and enduring works that are also wonderful reads:

  • Plutarch's Lives
  • The Waning of the Middle Ages by Johan Huizinga
  • The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman
  • At least something by Richard Hofstadter (my vote, The American Political Tradition, far less boring than its title)
  • A Midwife's Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
  • Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson
  • Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer

"Inevitably, as a publisher, my first test for any bookstore is, how many of my books do they have? I don't expect even a good shop to have every one of my titles, but the ones that have at least a few intelligent selections prove themselves to be smart and discriminating. Extra points for faceouts, double points if they have a couple of the new ones on the front table."

More must-have titles coming next week. And please tell me what's on your Shame List.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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