Shelf Awareness for Monday, December 14, 2009

Random House Studio: Remember by Joy Harjo, illustrated by Michaela Goade

Oxford University Press, USA: Spring Reads

Chronicle Books: Tap! Tap! Tap!: Dance! Dance! Dance! by Hervé Tullet

Minotaur Books: The Golden Gate by Amy Chua

Charlesbridge Publishing: Glitter Everywhere by Chris Barton, illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat


Notes: Random Claims E-Rights; 'Web-Monday' Sale

On the front page yesterday, the New York Times delved into the thorny issue of ownership of e-rights on books published decades ago, many by famous writers.

The topic became all the more prominent on Friday, when Random House CEO Markus Dohle "sent a letter to dozens of literary agents, writing that the company's older agreements gave it 'the exclusive right to publish in electronic book publishing formats,' " the Times wrote. Agents who commented on the letter sounded unconvinced.

Contract language before the mid-1990s is vague on the subject of e-rights--often referring to "book form" and "any and all editions"--and Random House itself lost two rounds of a case against Rosetta that began in 2001. Authors and their estates have been exploring e-publishing options both because they want more effective e-efforts in a time when digital books are finally growing and because of dissatisfaction with a royalty rate of 25% of net proceeds. That rate usually results in less money per e-book than a hardcover edition because of lower retail pricing. Many agents believe the rate should be higher on e-books.

Commenting on the tussle between publishers on one side and agents and authors and authors' families on the other, Maja Thomas, Hachette's digital and audio publishing head, told the Times, "This is a wide open frontier right now."


Although it's been playing hardball on e-pricing and in other ways with publishers, Amazon has also been "trying to buy a little love from the New York publishing community," Crain's New York Business reported.

The e-tailer is offering employees of the major houses a holiday 40% discount on the Kindle. Amusingly one publishing executive told Crain's, "They'll need to do a helluva lot more than offer discounted Kindles."


E-interesting: Eagle Harbor Books, Bainbridge Island, Wash., is holding a "web-Monday" sale today from midnight to midnight. All book orders placed online are 20% off with free shipping on books picked up at the store. ("As ever, most orders will be ready within just a few days--if they aren't on the shelf already!" as an e-mail to customers put it.)

The store is also offering a 20% discount on e-books during the sale. Eagle Harbor wrote: "Did you know? We are, along with independent bookstores across the country, exploring ways that we can participate in this growing technology so we can continue to serve ALL of your book needs.

"Consider a Sony eReader or there's a free IndieBound App for your iPhone. With these devices, you can download eBooks from our website & from the library. 'Really . . . I never thought of that,' is the frequent response when we tell someone that you CAN'T shop locally with a Kindle . . . you can ONLY buy from Amazon. It's about freadom."


On her MyBigWalk blog, Laurie Albanese, co-author of The Miracles of Prato, has a timely idea: "Today I thought of ten literary jewels--the titles of some of my favorite stories and books--that can be given alone or supplemented with a personal no-cost coupon, a promise, airline tickets, or a cozy home accessory."

One example: "Three Cups of Tea. Greg Mortenson's book, a teapot, a lovely tea mix, and a beautiful sip-of-nectar mug from Anthropolgie would make a perfect holiday combo. Or maybe you should make that three mugs."

[More on Greg Mortenson, who we believe embodies the holiday spirit, below.]


Guest blogging on She Is Too Fond of Books in its weekly Spotlight on Bookstores series, writer Delia Cabe traces the community efforts to stop the closure in January of Charlesbank Books in Belmont, Mass., which is owned by Barnes & Noble.

Dawn Rennert noted that the blog has run stories about more than 60 bookstores in the U.S. and abroad.


Rangefinder Magazine offers a portrait of Miriam Berkley, the photographer who specializes in portraits of authors.

Her career began writing book reviews and interviewing authors--and as an extra, photographing them. When she interviewed and photographed a husband-and-wife crime-writing couple, her work began to change. "My interview appeared in three major American newspapers, usually with a photograph," she recounted. "I had spent about a week reading their books, preparing for the interview, and then transcribing the interview before even doing the actual writing. Within a few months I had sold a headshot of one of the authors for the jacket of a book and earned about what I had gotten for all three interviews put together. Within a year I had sold more jacket and publicity photos for this author and later sold a shot of the other. I had gotten no feedback on the interviews but many favorable comments on the photos. It seemed smarter and more fun to focus on photos."


Cool idea of the day: besides hosting a major party, Spoonbill & Sugartown, Booksellers, Brooklyn, N.Y., celebrated its 10th anniversary by creating a book of photo essays--pictures taken during one week this fall of nearly 100 customers holding up books they had just purchased. The title is called This Is My Book, This Is Your Book. Spoonbill & Sugartown sells new, used and rare books on contemporary art, architecture design.


Congratulations to Eagle Eye Book Shop, Decatur, Ga., named Best Indie Bookstore in Atlanta in 2009 by Atlanta magazine. The citation reads:

"This little shop, tucked neatly into an aging strip mall, strikes the perfect bookish balance between orderly and overwhelming. It's easy to dash in for something specific, but it's also possible to lose an entire afternoon just browsing. The staff is smart and witty. And if they can't find or special-order what you need, they'll refer you to other independent bookstores in town. Eagle Eye, which boasts 'more than a mile' of new and used books, is an active member of the community it serves, which is the best measure of success."


Book trailer of the day: Show Off by Sarah Stephens, illustrated by Bethany Mann (Candlewick, $18.99, 9780763645991/0763645990).


Today is the last day to vote for a favorite children's book in the "Choose a Book, Change a Life" online contest, sponsored by the Books for Asia program of the Asia Foundation. Copies of the title with the most votes will be given to every child of the Bede river tribe in Bangladesh who is schooled by Subornogram Schools on a boat on the Meghna River. Vote at

Books for Asia distributes one million new books and resources annually to students, educators and community leaders in Asia. In October, the group held a similar "Choose a Book, Change a Life" campaign with the Morwakee school in Thailand. Every child in Morwakee Village received a copy of the winning title, Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss. See a video about it here.


Local booksellers Doug Wilson of Village Books, Kristie Elliott of Nancy’s Trade A Book II and Timm Siebeneck of Bauernhof Siebeneck Books and Art Gallery suggested "ways to go read and green this Christmas" in the Columbia, Mo., Daily Tribune.


The Morning Call showcased Blind Willow Book Shop, Emmaus, Pa., which was recently opened by Kyle Page and Matt Foley, who "had been floating the idea of owning a bookstore. The idea became a reality soon after Foley recently returned from a year of trotting the globe."


John Gribbin, whose book Get a Grip on Physics had the dubious distinction of being photographed on the floor of Tiger Woods's now legendary wrecked SUV (Shelf Awareness, December 4, 2009), wrote in the Daily Mail that "it's every author's dream that one of their books will get linked to a major news story and garner the kind of publicity that money can't buy. But it isn't part of the dream that this should happen to a book that is out of print so that nobody can buy it."

Gribbin also speculates on what Tiger's interest in the book may have been, noting that "there is a lot of physics in golf. Newton's laws of motion apply perfectly to explain where, and how far, a golf ball will fly when hit--or to describe what happens to a car window if you hit it with a golf club. Indeed, there is a section in the book that describes what happens 'when you bring a car to a halt in a straight line', although the words 'fire hydrant' do not appear."


Candlewick Press (MA): Have You Seen My Invisible Dinosaur? by Helen Yoon

Sales Ups and Downs

October bookstore sales fell 0.9%, to $1.035 billion, compared to October 2008, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. In September, bookstore sales had risen 7%. For the year to date, bookstore sales have fallen 0.7%, to $13.56 billion.

By comparison, total retail sales in October fell 2.2%, to $344.797 billion, compared to the same period a year ago. For the year to date, total retail sales were down 8.2%, to $3,383.046 billion. Bookstores continue to do better than most retailers.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books and do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.


In November, general retail sales rose 1.3% compared to October, the Commerce Department reported.

The Wall Street Journal attributed part of the gain to retailers having timed sales to run at various points throughout the month rather than just on Black Friday. In addition, consumers may be loosening up about spending. "People have made the adjustment of cutting back on consumption and increasing their saving," economist Michael Carey of Calyon Securities told the Journal. "Maybe now they're saying, 'O.K., I can be a little less cautious.' "

In another positive note, the University of Michigan/Reuters consumer-sentiment index for December moved to 73.4 from 67.4 in November, its first rise in three months.

"The momentum here is positive," James F. O'Sullivan, chief economist for MF Global, told the New York Times. "We're seeing that better spending leads to a better job market which leads to better spending, in stark contrast to the downward spiral we were seeing a year ago."


Zibby Books: Super Bloom by Megan Tady

Obituary Note: Mark Gates

Sad news: Mark Gates, longtime rep for Farrar, Straus & Giroux and Holt, died on Friday at age 57 of lung cancer.

Gates got his start in book publishing as a sales rep for the Village Voice, where he helped create VLS, the monthly Voice Literary Supplement. Eventually he became a commission sales rep, representing a range of publishers, and then became a house rep for FSG and Holt. He was Publishers Weekly's sales rep of the year in 2006, which he won with multiple nominations. Click here to read Claire Kirch's profile of him.

Gates was much-beloved in the industry by booksellers, other reps, publishers and anyone who shared his love of books and reading. In a long tribute, author Dean Bakopoulos wrote in part: "I'm not sure it's possible to forget Mark's voice, or his laugh, or the amazingly witty and self-deprecatory banter that made even the most awkward social or business gathering seem suddenly vibrant and full of warmth. I'm not sure it's possible to forget the things he did, because, along with a number of slapstick follies that are etched in our memories, so many of Mark's greatest gestures were acts of extraordinary compassion and generosity. But it's a certainty that we will never forget how Mark Gates made us feel, and that is, quite simply, this: he made us feel happy."

Mary Rowles of IPG wrote: "I was so fortunate to spend as much time as I did with this remarkable man. Despite the two years that we all had to prepare for this inevitability, I really haven't wrapped my head around the fact that he won't show up with his suitcase and laptop next week and camp out in my apartment for a few days. We knew each other for a mere 20 years or so. I can't believe the crater that he left behind."

Mary Alice Gorman of Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Oakmont, Pa., called Gates "one of the best men in the biz. What an empty and soundless space in our world."

Memorial gifts may be made to the Dane County Humane Society or the Wisconsin Book Festival. Notes of condolence and stories about Gates should be sent to his partner, Steve Myck, 7794 Cherry Wood Lane, Verona, Wis. 53593. A memorial service is being planned for sometime in January.

GLOW: Avid Reader Press: My Name Is Iris by Brando Skyhorse

Image of the Day: Mortenson at Kepler's

Last Friday night, Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, Listen to the Wind and Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, spoke and signed books at a sold-out event sponsored by Kepler's Books & Magazines, Menlo Park, Calif. (In the background with red tie: Clark Kepler.)

Photo: Derk Dreeszen

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Connected on Colbert

Today on Dr. Phil: Mitch Albom, author of Have a Little Faith (Hyperion, $23.99, 9780786868728/0786868724). Albom is also on the Bonnie Hunt Show today and on the Today Show tomorrow morning.


Today on Talk of the Nation: Christopher Lloyd, author of What on Earth Evolved?: 100 Species That Changed the World (Bloomsbury USA, $45, 9781596916548/1596916540).


Tonight on the Colbert Report: Nicholas A. Christakis, author of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives (Little, Brown, $25.99, 9780316036146/0316036145).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Emma McLaughlin, co-author of Nanny Returns (Atria, $25, 9781416585671/1416585672).


Tomorrow on the Tavis Smiley Show: Ann Louise Bardach, author of Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana, and Washington (Scribner, $28, 9781416551508/1416551506).


Tomorrow on the Bonnie Hunt Show: Deepak Chopra, author of Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul: How to Create a New You (Harmony, $25, 9780307452337/0307452336).


Tomorrow night on Larry King Live: Joel Osteen, author of It's Your Time (Free Press, $25, 9781439100110/143910011X).


Movies: Portman in P&P&Z; The Ghost

Natalie Portman will star in and produce a film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Quirk Books, $12.95, 9781594743344/1594743347), based on the Seth Grahame-Smith/Jane Austen mashup. Variety reported that Lionsgate will finance and distribute, and "Portman will play feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet, who is distracted from her quest to eradicate the zombie menace by the arrival of the arrogant Mr. Darcy."


Despite Roman Polanski's legal difficulties in this country, his film version of The Ghost by Robert Harris (Pocket Star, $7.99, 9781416551829/1416551824) has found a U.S. distributor. Summit Entertainment picked up the North American rights to distribute the thriller during the first half of 2010, according to Variety. The movie stars Pierce Brosnan, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall, Jim Belushi, Robert Pugh and Tom Wilkinson. 


Books & Authors

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:
The Pursuit of Other Interests
by Jim Kokoris (St. Martin's, $24.99, 9780312365486/0312365489). "The Pursuit of Other Interests is a funny, often cynical, look at down-on-their luck former CEOs and their job placement mentors. While Kokoris's moral is a common one, his book is a thoroughly enjoyable read."--Mary Cowen, Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville, Ill.
Roll Around Heaven: An All-True Accidental Spiritual Adventure by Jessica Maxwell (Atria Books/Beyond Words, $25, 9781582702360/1582702365). "Adventure travel writer Jessica Maxwell takes us on her latest journey--an 'accidental spiritual adventure.' With much good humor and no heavy religious baggage, she explores the spiritual landscape of her life. I found it hard to put the book down!"--Susan Wood Taylor, the Traveler, Bainbridge Island, Wash.
Demon Bound
by Caitlin Kittredge (St. Martin's, $7.99, 9780312943639/0312943636). "Caitlin Kittredge's books are always a great ride, and this story of a dark bargain is no exception. Fans of urban fantasy got lucky when she hit the scene!"--Diana Portwood, Bob's Beach Books, Lincoln City, Ore.
For Ages 9 to 12
Bystander by James Preller (Feiwel & Friends, $16.99, 9780312379063/0312379064). "Eric, the new kid in school, is befriended by the impossibly perfect and charming Griffin, who conceals a mean streak. When other kids are victimized, Eric must choose whether or not to intervene. Many kids will recognize this situation, and Bystander makes a great launching pad for discussions of bullying and its consequences."--Kelley Drahushuk, the Spotty Dog, Hudson, N.Y.
[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Book Review: The Harvard Psychedelic Club

Aldous Huxley was a major inspiration for the four men Don Lattin profiles in this lively retelling of the start of America's romance with hallucinogenic drugs. In its day, Huxley's The Doors of Perception (1954) served as the premier guide for experimenting with and studying the effects of mind-altering chemicals on human consciousness. Huxley was also a connector. No sooner had M.I.T. religion scholar Huston Smith (The World's Religions) mentioned to Huxley in 1960 that he had never had a mystical experience than Huxley gave him Timothy Leary's telephone number at Harvard as a source of a drug that would do the trick.

Leary had just begun the Harvard Psilocybin Project to investigate psychological effects of the psychoactive substance in "magic mushrooms." He was thrilled to bring Huston Smith into the study since Smith, with his background, would be the perfect person to reflect on and analyze the mystical aspects of responses various participants were reporting. Also joining the study was Richard Alpert, a Harvard psychologist who would later become known as Ram Dass. Under the influence of the drugs Leary was studying, these three high-powered and ambitious academics initially bonded strongly with each other as they experienced sensations and perceptions overwhelmingly new to them. Smith for one has stated that he had had "the most powerful experience [I] would ever have of God's personal nature."

After the rush of sharing a sense of "oneness" wore off, however, Leary, Alpert and Smith faced the reality of being three very different men with huge egos from widely varying backgrounds. The project might have continued for a while despite clashing personal agendas, though, if it hadn't been for Harvard undergraduate Andrew Weil. When he found out that the project could not include undergraduates, Weil wrote to Huxley to ask about sources of mescaline. Huxley, ever the accommodating connector, gave him the name of a possible supplier, and soon Weil and his dorm mates were running another psychedelic study, unfunded by the university and unknown to it. Lattin reports that Weil harbored deep-seated grudges against Leary and Alpert, eventually spearheaded an investigation of the project and was instrumental in getting Leary and Alpert fired. The scandal tainted everyone involved for life, including Harvard's administration.

Although Leary famously promoted, "Tune in, turn on, and drop out," Lattin notes that not one of his four subjects dropped out: they continued on highly successful careers exploring human consciousness with and without chemicals. Of the four, Huston Smith puts those 1960s experiments in perspective when he says, "the real test of a person's spirit is the way the live their lives. It's what happens after the ecstasy."--John McFarland

Shelf Talker:
A rousing tale of jealousy, drugs, betrayal, vengeance, careerism and academic intrigue with a Harvard accent--it also carries the moral that brains alone won't make you holy.

The Bestsellers

Mystery Bestsellers

The following were the top-selling titles during November at members of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association:


1. 9 Dragons by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
2. Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris (Berkley)
3. The Wrecker by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott (Putnam)
4. True Blue by David Baldacci (Grand Central)
5. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (Quercus)
6. The Gates by John Connolly (Atria)
6. Merry, Merry Ghost by Carolyn Hart (Morrow)
6. Mariposa by Greg Bear (Vanguard)
6. The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault (Delacorte)
10. G.I. Blues by Martin Limón (Soho)


1. Bookplate Special by Lorna Barrett (Berkley)
2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Vintage)
3. Six Geese A-Slaying by Donna Andrews (St. Martin's)
4. The Private Patient by P.D. James (Vintage)
5. Ghost at Work by Carolyn Hart (Avon)
6. Dial H for Hitchcock by Susan Kandel (Harper)
7. Dog on It by Spencer Quinn (Atria)
8. Soulless by Gail Carriger (Orbit)
9. Fleece Navidad by Maggie Sefton (Berkley)
10. Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell (Back Bay)
10. Smasher by Keith Raffel (Midnight Ink)
10. Still Life by Louise Penny (St. Martin's)
10. The Fashion Hound Murder by Elaine Viets (Berkley)

[Many thanks to IMBA!]

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