Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Roxy by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

Shadow Mountain: Missing Okalee by Laura Ojeda Melchor

Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone: Start your entrepreneurial journey with affordable packages, starting from $1,566

Candlewick Press: Mi Casa Is My Home by Laurenne Sala, illustrated by Zara González Hoang

Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association: We're throwing a bookselling party and you're invited!

Big Picture Press: Art of Protest: Creating, Discovering, and Activating Art for Your Revolution by De Nichols

Callaway Arts & Entertainment: The Beatles: Get Back by The Beatles, photographed by Linda McCartney

St. Martin's Press: The Christie Affair by Nina De Gramont


Notes: Black Friday and Holiday Season Prognostications

Three days before Black Friday, the National Retail Federation predicts that sales during the 2009 holiday shopping season will fall 1% while the International Council of Shopping foresees sales rising 1%-2%. An AlixPartners survey found 87% of consumers plan to spend the same or less than they did last year, according to the New York Times.

"Retailing veterans expect stores to be bustling on Friday as frugal consumers hunt for bargains with newfound purpose," the Times wrote. "Retailing professionals are also cheered that stores have less inventory today than they did this time last year."

As a result, Michael McNamara at SpendingPulse called discounting this year "more strategic in nature" than last year's panic discounting.

So far in November, the Times said, retail categories with declines have included women's clothing, down 3.3%, and luxury goods, off 9.2%, while electronics rose 6.1% and online sales are up 19.4%.

For its part, the Wall Street Journal called consumers "generally cautious heading into the critical holiday shopping season" and noted that "electronics sales may be solid while sales of apparel, particularly women's styles, could get pummeled."

And a Conference Board survey of 5,000 families, quoted by the Journal, found that "U.S. households are expected to spend about 7% less on gifts this season, shelling out an average of $390."

"Retailers have to dig deep and pull out their A-game right now, because it is a very competitive environment," Mark Snyder, chief marketing officer of Kmart, told the paper. "Whereas you might have given something more trendy in the past, a down comforter is relevant to what is happening right now."


In a front-page article today, the New York Times called the pricing battles part of a long-term war. As Fiona Dias, executive v-p of GSI Commerce, put it: "The price-sniping by Wal-Mart is part of a greater strategic plan. They are just not going to cede their business to Amazon."

The article included a picture of Stephen King signing books at a Wal-Mart, which for a time was selling his Under the Dome for $9.


Play by Play, the St. Paul, Minn., drama bookstore that stocks stock new and used theater books and scripts, gift items and a substantial selection of "opening night" cards (Shelf Awareness, July 30, 2009), has opened.

Owner Shelly Schaub told "We've got such a smart, great theater scene here, but when you go to the big box bookstores, they maybe have one shelf of theater books and one shelf of Shakespeare. That leaves out nearly everything.... I know bookstores are struggling. There's a really slim margin in books. But you're not going to find the kind of books I've got on my shelf anywhere else. And outside of New York, you're not going to find a more passionate theater community. Everyone here has some connection to the theater."


Following the January closing of the last B. Dalton Bookseller stores, Laredo, Tex., a city of 200,000 on the Mexican border, will no longer have a general-interest bookstore, according to the Houston Chronicle. The nearest will be 90 miles away.

Veronica Castillón, who works in the city's school system, told the paper, "We try to encourage our kids to go to college. To be successful in college, they need to do a lot of reading. To do a lot of reading they need a lot of libraries and bookstores."


Sad news from Southern California: last Saturday, Tyson Cornell's job as director of marketing and publicity at Book Soup, Los Angeles, was eliminated. Much-loved, he had worked at the store nearly 10 years.

Vroman's is in the process of buying Book Soup, whose founder and owner, Glenn Goldman, died early this year.

Cornell may be reached at 213-440-1365 and


Berkley Books: Good Rich People by Eliza Jane Brazier

Quirky Images of the Day: Contest Winners

With a display featuring a serpent-infested Barbie boat and life-size bloody female zombie (see photos), Vicki Burger and Hugh Jenkins of Windy City Books, Casper, Wyo., have won the Quirk Classics Monster Mash-Up Display contest. They receive $500 and 10 copies of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters signed by at least one of the authors.

The second-place winner was Sandra Gernheuser of Mitchell Books, Fort Wayne, Ind., whose display included a cemetery and blue sea monster. She wins $200 and five signed copies of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

In third place: Whitney Spotts, Schuler Books & Music, Lansing, Mich., who receives $100 and five copies of the book.

Quirk Classics creator and editor Jason Rekulak was the judge for the contest, which ran from September 1 to November 1.


Paraclete Press: Mr. Nicholas: A Magical Christmas Tale by Christopher de Vinck

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Turkey Day

Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Lisa Schroeder, author of Mother's Best: Comfort Food That Takes You Home Again (Taunton Press, $28, 9781600850172/1600850170).


Thursday on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Alexandra Horowitz, author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know (Scribner, $27, 9781416583400/1416583408).


Thursday on the Diane Rehm Show, in repeats: Vincent Cannato, author of American Passage: The History of Ellis Island (Harper, $27.99, 9780060742737/0060742739).

Also on Diane Rehm: Steve Roberts, author of From Every End of This Earth: 13 Families and the New Lives They Made in America (Harper, $25.99, 9780061245619/0061245615).


Thursday on Tavis Smiley, in a repeat: Cornel West, author of Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, a Memoir (Smiley Books, $25.95, 9781401921897/1401921892).


Thursday on KCRW's Bookworm: Brenda Hillman, author of Practical Water (Wesleyan University Press, $22.95, 9780819569318/0819569313).


Thursday night on the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien: Jon Bon Jovi, author of Bon Jovi: When We Were Beautiful (Collins Design, $30, 9780061864155/0061864153).


Berkley Books: Sadie on a Plate by Amanda Elliot

Movies: Jones Bails Out of The Lincoln Lawyer

Tommy Lee Jones, who was going to direct and co-star (with Matthew McConaughey) in the screen adaptation of Michael Connelly's novel The Lincoln Lawyer, "has left the project over creative differences on the script," Variety reported. "Lakeshore, which has a script by John Romano, will look to lock in another director in hopes of beginning production next spring.


Books & Authors

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, December 1:

U Is for Undertow
by Sue Grafton (Putnam, $27.95, 9780399155970/039915597X) is the 21st mystery starring Kinsey Millhone.

YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy by Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz (Free Press, $26.99, 9781416572367/1416572368) continues the popular You series of health guides.

Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession by Julie Powell (Little, Brown, $24.99, 9780316003360/0316003360) follows the author of Julie and Julia as she delves into butchery.

Comeback 2.0: Up Close and Personal by Lance Armstrong (Touchstone, $27.99, 9781439173145/14391731451) is an account of the seven-time Tour de France winner's comeback season.

Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Greg Mortenson (Viking, $26.9, 9780670021154/0670021156) follows up on Three Cups of Tea.

The Paris Vendetta: A Novel by Steve Berry (Ballantine, $26, 9780345505477/0345505476) is the fifth thriller featuring Justice Department operative Cotton Malone.

Trial by Fire by J.A. Jance (Touchstone, $25.99, 9781416563808/1416563806) follows an ex-journalist investigating a deadly fire.

Liberating Atlantis
by Harry Turtledove (Roc, $25.95, 9780451462961/0451462963) is an alternate history novel featuring the fictional nation of Atlantis.

Hudson Booksellers: 2009 Best Books

Hudson Booksellers has selected its Best Books of the Year in four categories and named The Help by Kathryn Stockett its Book of the Year. The titles were nominated and voted on by Hudson staff. Beginning December 1, the winners will be displayed prominently in all 65 Hudson Booksellers and in the larger of the 350 Hudson News newsstands in airports and other transportation centers in North America.

The winners:


Last Words by George Carlin
Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Lit by Mary Karr
Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder
Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer
Either You're in or You're in the Way by Logan and Noah Miller
Stitches by David Small
Emergency by Neil Strauss


The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Spooner by Pete Dexter
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
Fool by Christopher Moore
The Song Is You by Arthur Phillip
Lark & Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Young Readers:

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney

Business Interest:

The Silver Lining
by Scott D. Anthony
What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
Super Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Adland by James P. Othmer
Cheap by Ellen Ruppel Shell



Book Review

Book Review: Fun with Problems

Fun with Problems by Robert Stone (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $24.00 Hardcover, 9780618386253, January 2010)

In novels like Dog Soldiers and A Flag for Sunrise, Robert Stone has displayed a facility for creating characters dangling at the end of their rope. His first collection of short fiction in 12 years offers an assortment of these archetypal burnt-out cases, struggling to make the best of the bad situations most have created for themselves.
Typical of Stone's characters, many plagued by drink and drugs, is the cynical public defender of the collection's title story, whose "life had become so solitary he had almost stopped caring what he said, or to whom." And there's the intermittently successful screenwriter whose long-term infatuation with a drug-addicted actress, played out in the story "High Wire," consists largely of observing the downward spiral of her addiction.
In "Charm City," a man "naturally discontented with his work as with other things" meets a mysterious woman at a Baltimore recital. When he takes her to his home on the Eastern Shore for what he imagines will be a quick and anonymous affair, he sets in motion a startling chain of events. And with brutal economy in the barely four pages of "Honeymoon," Stone paints a chilling portrait of a man who, fresh from marriage to his trophy wife, senses his world unraveling.
The story "From the Lowlands," is perhaps the most disturbing of the collection. In it, a cutthroat Silicon Valley entrepreneur capable of making a business associate "disappear, corporately speaking," travels to his spectacular vacation home in the rugged California high country. There, his feelings of self-satisfaction and self-loathing mingle until the story's terrifying climax, when he comprehends he's at the mercy of malign forces destined to destroy him.
But even amidst his despairing view of humanity, Stone is masterful at penetrating the surface darkness of his characters' lives to find the darker humor that lies beneath. In "The Wine-Dark Sea," a failed journalist encounters a prominent politician on a fog-shrouded island just in time to chronicle the official's humiliation and downfall. Musing about his own stay in a rehab facility called "Possibilities," the writer observes that it was "well-named, since anything could happen to you there, from being whacked with a chair leg in a locked corridor by a brother or sister bipolaroid to a lightning-fast heave-ho if your money ran out."
Like life itself, Robert Stone offers no tidy endings. Most of the characters in Fun with Problems are still flailing away at their demons as the stories close. Somehow we know things will end badly for them, each a failure at life, save for their uncanny skill at serving as agents of self-destruction.--Harvey Freedenberg
Shelf Talker: In this ironically titled collection, prize-winning novelist Robert Stone delivers insightful and at times wickedly funny portraits of troubled characters sowing the seeds of their own downfall.


Deeper Understanding

Deeper Understanding: In Thanksgiving

It's a tradition for many families at this time of year
to think about the people and events for which we are grateful.
But we also feel the absence of those who are missing around the table;
this year there are a lot of empty places.
At the service for Kate McClelland and Kathy Krasniewicz
earlier this year, the tribe of storytellers shared their belief
that "as long as a person's name is spoken, they are never forgotten."
The many Young Critics they raised at the Perrot Memorial Library
and the many fellow book lovers in the field of children's books
will long keep their memories alive.
Anyone who knew Craig Virden can still hear his laughter.
Before he rose to the top of the Random House children's division,
Craig often introduced himself as "Mr. Nancy Gallt,"
the other half of his beautiful red-headed bride
(of just shy of a decade at that point, in the mid-1980s).
Nancy was head of subsidiary rights at Harper then,
And she has quite an infectious laugh herself
(as an editorial assistant, I sat right outside her office).
Craig loved music and had a beautiful singing voice,
but there was no sweeter sound
than Craig and Nancy laughing together.
A word lover and a champion of authors, artists and editors,
Craig cared most about a story well told
and could give a writer, editor and friend
one incisive observation that held the key
to a novel or rewrite.
"Maybe Sarah needs her own book," he told Patty MacLachlan
when he read her Arthur, for the Very First Time
as her agent at Curtis Brown.
"Write about your family," he suggested to Patricia Reilly Giff.
In all of the tributes in PW from his colleagues,
His warmth, generosity, and humor stand out most.
Eden Ross Lipson,
after running the Children's Book Review section
of the New York Times for 21 years,
and writing The New York Times Parent's Guide to the Best Books for Children,
at last wrote her own children's book:
Applesauce Season,
illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Mordicai Gerstein.
Although it was a fall book,
Roaring Brook's publisher, Simon Boughton,
Bound up a set of f&gs this spring when her health worsened,
to make sure she could hold in her hands
the first hardcover copy.
It is a story of preserving family traditions (and recipes)
and passing them down through generations.
Dwight Garner recently recalled the words of Eden Ross Lipson
In a piece he wrote for the New York Times
about Maurice Sendak's books:
"It isn't the critics' reviews.
It's whether your kids choose to read the book to their kids."
She knew how to identify the books that would last for generations.
Norma Fox Mazer's books
laid out tough questions facing young adults
and gave no easy answers.
She believed it was enough to let teens know
that someone else saw what they were up against.
Her husband, Harry Mazer, was about to publish Cave Under the City (Harper, 1986)
When he first introduced me to Norma.
They were radiant together;
their mutual respect for each other--as writers and as people--
was evident in everything they said and did.
Elizabeth Bluemle of The Flying Pig Bookstore
In Vermont, the state the Mazers called home, wrote a lovely tribute on her blog.

It was impossible to talk with Milton Meltzer
for more than five minutes without hearing about
his most recent efforts to set the record straight,
often to let the voices be heard that had long been silent in the history books.
When I met him at Harper, he was working on
The American Revolutionaries: A History in Their Own Words, 1750-1800.
He was one of the first to use primary source material
and interviews in books for young people.
Wendy Saul said it best in her eloquent tribute to Milton in the Horn Book
On the occasion of his winning the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal:
"From the beginning, Meltzer saw his readers
as people anxious for a truly inclusive historical record,
as well as people hungry for information."
Every holiday season, Esther Hautzig brought a plate of cookies
To the marketing department at what was then Harper & Row.
Bill Morris, head of library promotion
and a proud Adlai Stevenson democrat,
introduced her this way:
"I want you to meet Esther Hautzig.
Adlai Stevenson told her to write The Endless Steppe.
So she did."
Esther would fill in the details
of how she wrote a letter to Stevenson
in response to articles he'd written about Siberia,
where Esther and her family had been exiled by the Soviets.
At her memorial service earlier this month, Esther's daughter, Deborah Hautzig,
said that being "born in Vilna, Poland, was the first thing
[Esther] wanted people to know about her."
According to Joseph Berger, who wrote Esther's obituary for the New York Times,
and who also spoke at her service,
"In her telling, Vilna was more cultured than Paris in the 1920s."
Berger also wrote a moving article a decade ago
about a pilgrimage Esther made back to Vilna (now Vilnius)
to honor the work of her uncle, who died in 1944.
"At least here is proof,... of how people lived and what they did,
not that they died," she told Berger.
In her final hours, Esther was listening to her husband of 59 years,
Vienna-born concert pianist Walter Hautzig, play Chopin.
Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky said that despite all she had witnessed,
Esther believed that "all prayers are heard."
He read the passage in The Endless Steppe
When young Esther is lost in the snow and pushes forward silently,
Then hears her mother's voice, " 'Esther... Esther...'
And then something else.
'Sh'mah Israel…'
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One."
Rabbi Kalmanofsky invited us to walk behind Esther's hearse,
a tradition reserved for great teachers.
Karla Kuskin loved to collect.
Not just words, which she used with exquisite precision.
But also "tiny wonders perfectly placed," in her daughter Julia's words
at a memorial service last month.
Paula Fox quoted the wonderful ending to
The Philharmonic Gets Dressed.
After taking readers through the Friday night preparations,
of 105 musicians, from showers to shaving, from underwear to overcoat,
Karla writes, "Their work is to play. Beautifully."
Paula Fox added, "So was hers. And so she did."
Julia's husband, Joel, said that in Karla's hands,
"Junk becomes treasure. Artists can do this.
They ask you to look again: 'Behold the swizzle stick.' "
But, he said, "Mostly she collected people."
He continued, "To collect is to find and to not let go,
Even if it's the easiest thing to do.
We've been curated by Karla."
Let us be curators, like Karla.
Let us keep alive the stories of these remarkable people.
Kate and Kathy
Craig and Eden
Norma and Milton
Esther and Karla.

--Jennifer M. Brown


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