Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Random House Worlds: Damsel by Evelyn Skye

St. Martin's Press: The Girls of Summer by Katie Bishop

Soho Crime: The Rope Artist by Fuminori Nakamura, transl. by Sam Bett

Flatiron Books: Once Upon a Prime: The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature by Sarah Hart

Grand Central Publishing: Goodbye Earl: A Revenge Novel by Leesa Cross-Smith

Texas Bookman Presents Texas Remainder Expo

Steve Madden Ltd: The Cobbler: How I Disrupted an Industry, Fell from Grace, and Came Back Stronger Than Ever by Steve Madden and Jodi Lipper

St. Martin's Griffin: The Bookshop by the Bay by Pamela M. Kelley


Notes: Stephen Covey's E-Exclusive with Amazon

In an exclusive deal, Stephen Covey and RosettaBooks are selling e-versions of longtime bestsellers The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Principle-Centered Leadership exclusively on Amazon and are offering the e-editions of several new books there as well. The New York Times called this a move that "promises to raise the already high anxiety level among publishers about the economics of digital publishing and could offer authors a way to earn more profits from their works than they do under the traditional system."

These are the first e-versions of the titles, which have been published by Simon & Schuster, and are being offered by Amazon for $7.99 each. Amazon called Covey "the 13th bestselling author of all time on"

RosettaBooks CEO Arthur Klebanoff told the Times that Covey will receive more than half of the net proceeds of the books. This higher royalty rate and Amazon's "plans to heavily promote the e-book editions" were cited by Sean Covey, son of Stephen Covey and chief innovation office at Franklin Covey, as the main reasons for entering the deal.

Earlier this year Franklin Covey published Predictable Results in Unpredictable Times, co-written by Stephen Covey and available in e-book form only on Amazon. In the near future, the company is also publishing Great Work, Great Career, also co-written by Stephen Covey, which will be available in e-format only on Amazon.


In its online competition with Amazon and other e-tailers, Wal-Mart is seeking to use its network of stores to offer quick and free delivery of orders, the Wall Street Journal reported. The experiments include pick-up desks at the front of some stores as well as Internet purchase drive-through windows at a few stores near Chicago. The company said that 40% of online orders are picked up in its stores.

The Journal noted that Amazon has taken steps to speed delivery times. "In October, it began offering same-day delivery in seven U.S. cities, at an extra cost to shoppers. By working with carriers and improving its own internal systems, Amazon this fall started offering second-day deliveries on Saturdays--shaving two days off some orders."


Left Bank Books, New York City, which lost its lease and was on the way to closing, will likely stay alive and move to another location, the New York Times reported.

Owner Kim Herzinger told the paper that he plans to sign a five-year lease "in the coming weeks" on a larger space a few blocks away in the West Village.

The store has its roots in Bookleaves, which opened in 1992. In 2005, Herzinger bought the store and "refocused the business around the sale of rare, signed and first-edition books, modeled after his favorite shops in London."


Congratulations to Charis Books, Atlanta, Ga., which recently celebrated its 35th birthday. Besides a party, events included a concert and discussion featuring Alice Walker, Pearl Cleage and the Indigo Girls and a conversation between Beverly Guy-Sheftall and Gloria Steinem. The store wrote in its e-mail to customers, "We are so grateful to all of you for the love and birthday wishes you gave us over the last month. Many of you were physically present at all of our 35th Birthday events, and we were very honored to celebrate with you! Many more of you were not able to be in the room with us at the celebratory events, but sent love and wishes, and for the last month we have been reveling in that birthday wish energy--thank you. It is because of (and for) all of you that we have existed for 35 years, and counting! We know that without the love, support, donations, volunteer time, and interest that all of you have shown us, we would never have been able to make it this far. So we thank you most sincerely for being part of the Charis community. We hope you know that our birthday is your birthday. Happy 35th!"

Incidentally Southern Spaces has a history of the store, with pictures taken at various times during the past 35 years.


"Bookstores have always mattered to me," wrote Charles McNair in a Paste magazine essay supporting A Cappella Books, Atlanta, Ga., and indies everywhere. "I love visiting them, no matter the city or neighborhood. I love to see folks browse, check out the stacks, crack open something new and good... or old and good, for that matter. It's a social thing for me, the way a sports bar makes a frat boy feel at home, or a botanical garden inspires an orchid enthusiast. I am nourished among titles and ink and the sorts of folks who show up to worship books in their shrines."

McNair expressed concern that it is "the independent bookstores, like A Cappella, most at risk. If there were an endangered species list for American businesses, you could add the indie book store right next to the daily newspaper and the CD store. Much feels at stake when the business is a vital organ in a community, like A Cappella (and many other book stores). Traffic to Frank Reiss' store helps indirectly support Sevenanda, a nearby health-food cooperative; Charis, an alternative book store; Opal Gallery; Savage Pizza; a little community drug store, an optician, and a number of more off-beat destinations. Traffic to these businesses helps A Cappella too. It's symbiosis. But what happens when random organs of commerce in the community fail? A store here, a store there... soon you've got Flint, Michigan. Rows of Yorick's skulls (alas) stare out where vibrant businesses used to be."

His conclusion? "We owe bookstores our energy and our solidarity. That's what they've given to us."


Blackstone Publishing: What Remains by Wendy Walker

Image of the Day: "Beautiful Ballerina, You Are the Dance!"

These four graceful young ladies, members of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, embodied this refrain from the book Beautiful Ballerina (Scholastic Press) onstage at the Scholastic Auditorium earlier this month. The dancers, ages 3 to 17, are featured in the book by Marilyn Nelson (far right) with photographs by Susan Kuklin (back row, second from left). Actress Lynn Whitfield recited the poem as Raven Barkley (between Kuklin and Nelson) danced. Kuklin offers a behind-the-scenes view of the making of the book on her blog. Endalyn Taylor, director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, introduced the ballet "Inspired by a Dream," choreographed by Arthur Mitchell, who founded the dance company shortly after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Taylor said, "Dance gives voice and expression to your body, mind and soul."

GLOW: Flatiron Books: Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenblum

Media and Movies

Media Heat: John Grisham on the Diane Rehm Show

This morning on the Today Show: Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, who will introduce his children's book picks for holiday giving in two separate segments.


Today on Fresh Air: Griffin Dunne talks about his late father, Dominick Dunne, whose final novel, Too Much Money (Crown, $26, 9780609603871/0609603876), has just been published.


Today on the Diane Rehm Show: John Grisham, author of Ford County (Doubleday, $24, 9780385532457/0385532458).


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Steven D. Levitt, coauthor of SuperFreakonomics (Morrow, $29.99, 9780060889579/0060889578).


Tomorrow on NPR's Here and Now: Paul Milo, author of Your Flying Car Awaits: Robot Butlers, Lunar Vacations, and Other Dead-Wrong Predictions of the Twentieth Century (Harper, $14.99, 9780061724602/0061724602).


Tomorrow on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer: Kati Marton, author of Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781416586128/1416586121).


Tomorrow on the Martha Stewart Show: Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz, authors of You: Having a Baby (Free Press, $26.99, 9781416572367/1416572368).


Tomorrow night on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon: Deepak Chopra, author of Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul: How to Create a New You (Harmony, $25, 9780307452337/0307452336).


William Morrow & Company: The God of Good Looks by Breanne Mc Ivor

Movies: Let the Great World Spin

J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias) "is hoping to option the rights to adapt Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin," according to the New York Times, which reported that the writer, producer and director "said he was close to signing a deal" with the author of this year's National Book Award winner.

"It was just a book that felt as compelling and poetic and funny and messy and heartbreaking and dizzying as any I’ve read," said Abrams.

"Hopefully we’re going to get a little cottage in the west of Ireland and go hang out for a while and work out a structure for the film," added McCann. "And then I’ll go away and write it."


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Celebrants by Steven Rowley

Books & Authors

Awards: Grand Master Joe Haldeman

Joe Haldeman will be honored as the next Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master for 2010 by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The designation "recognizes excellence for a lifetime of contributions to the genres of science fiction and fantasy."

Haldeman is the author of 20 novels and five collections. The Forever War won the Nebula, Hugo and Ditmar Awards for best science fiction novel in 1975. Other notable titles include Camouflage, The Accidental Time Machine and Marsbound as well as the short works "Graves," "Tricentennial" and "The Hemingway Hoax." Starbound is scheduled for a January release. SFWA president Russell Davis called Haldeman "an extraordinarily talented writer, a respected teacher and mentor in our community, and a good friend."

Haldeman officially receives the award at the Nebula Awards Weekend in May in Hollywood, Fla.


Reading the West: December Picks

The following are December's selections for the Reading the West program, sponsored by the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association and honoring "exceptional new books and authors" from the region:

Crossers: A Novel by Phillip Caputo (Knopf) about "the brutality and beauty of life on the Arizona-Mexico border and about the unyielding power of the past to shape our lives." The selection committee commented: "A great examination of the problems at the border. Caputo can write."

Western: A Novel
by Christine Montalbetti, translated by Betsy Wing (Dalkey Archive Press), the story of "a mysterious cowboy--a stranger in town with a terrible secret." The committee said, "Wow. Beautiful examination of the spaghetti Western from the perspective of a Frenchwoman. Very different."


Book Review

Book Review: The Theory of Light and Matter

The Theory of Light & Matter by Andrew Porter (Vintage Books USA, $14.00 Paperback, 9780307475176, January 2010)

Released in a limited printing last year by the University of Georgia Press and likely eluding the radar of many booksellers and readers, Andrew Porter's Flannery O'Connor Award-winning short story collection now has been published in a paperback edition by Vintage Books. In these 10 stories, most set in suburbia, Porter demonstrates a sure handed grasp of plot and character and a restrained prose style reminiscent of craftsmen like Richard Ford and Tobias Wolff.
All of Porter's stories feature first person narrators, several of whom look back on a striking event of their adolescence with a feeling of wistfulness--suggesting a loss of innocence or the assimilation of adulthood's first, painful lessons. Particularly affecting are "Departure," a Pushcart Prize winner, the tale of a Pennsylvania teenager's hopeless flirtation with an Amish girl, and "Coyote," where a boy watches his father, a failed documentary filmmaker, slip into madness as he loses his tenuous grip on both his marriage and his career.
Porter has a sharp eye for the dance of family life, like the narrator of "Connecticut," reflecting on the autumn he discovers his mother's lesbian relationship with a neighbor: "I studied her as I used to study insects when I was younger, keenly aware of any subtle movement, convinced somehow that there was a hidden mystery that would be revealed if I stared long enough."
"Skin" is a departure from the style of its companions, an intense and chilling piece of flash fiction casting the thoughts of a young husband forward from an afternoon of lovemaking to the discovery of his wife's apparent infidelity and the abortion of "the child we have just signed away."
The opening sentences of "Hole," the grim account of a young adult's guilt over the death of his friend in a bizarre accident, showcase the precision of Porter's prose: "The hole was at the end of Tal Walker's driveway. It's paved over now. But twelve summers ago Tal climbed into it and never came up again."
In the book's title story, the only one featuring a female narrator, Porter introduces Heather, a college student struggling to reconcile her affection for her much older physics professor and her love for her fiancé, a handsome swimmer. Here, as in each of his tales, Porter is adept at plotting the complex geometry of intimate relationships.
On the strength of this impressive collection and with a novel forthcoming, Andrew Porter is a writer whose work seems destined to attract an appreciative following.--Harvey Freedenberg
Shelf Talker: A strong debut story collection from a writer who has staked out his turf in America's suburbs and the lives of their inhabitants.



Deeper Understanding

Our Top Ten Lists 2009, Part Two

We asked Shelf Awareness people for their 10 (or so) favorite books of the past year. Most of these titles were published in 2009, but not all, since we wanted to know what gave them reading pleasure no matter the pub date.

John Mutter

Stardust by Joe Kanon (Atria). Set in 1945 in Los Angeles, this book is all about the movie business, the beginnings of the Red Scare, German emigres (Bertolt Brecht has a few lines, Thomas Mann keeps his distance), a murder mystery, the dreamworld of Hollywood and the dreamworld of real life. Great book, great ending, can't wait for the movie.

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson, translated by Reg Keeland (Knopf). Who'd have thought the second volume of this Swedish mystery would be even better than the first book in the series?!

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest by Stieg Larsson (Quercus). Who'd have thought the author could top volume two?! We were lucky enough to get a copy of the third volume in the series in Frankfurt since it's been out in the U.K. for many months; Knopf won't release it here until May. While finishing it, we mourned the author's death all the more.

Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr (Penguin, 1989, 1990 and 1991). These three titles collected in one volume feature detective Bernie Gunther, who must have been a cousin of Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade. March Violets and The Pale Criminal are set in 1930s Berlin, where Gunther, who loathes the Third Reich, gets involves in cases that lead him to bump up against powerful Nazi figures--and wind up with him involuntarily rejoining the criminal police. A German Requiem is set in the postwar period, and despite the name, most of the action takes place in Vienna. Amusing, sharp, intriguing and so very sad all at once.

Bikeman: An Epic Poem by Thomas F. Flynn (Andrews McMeel, 2008). A tender, appropriate way to remember September 11 by the CBS reporter who rode his bicycle to the Twin Towers and nearly died when he was trapped in the cloud of debris in a parking garage whose one exit was blocked.

Blue Suburbia: Almost a Memoir
by Laurie Lico Albanese (Harper Perennial, 2004). Another epic autobiographical poem, one that tells the author's story, which by turns is heartbreaking and delightful. Coincidentally Blue Suburbia was included this past weekend in USA Today's "5 Unique Finds for Book Lovers."

The Best Game Ever: Pirates vs. Yankees, October 13, 1960
by Jim Reisler (Da Capo). Arguably it's good background to have been a child living in Pittsburgh that day and remember the spontaneous block party that broke out after Bill Mazeroski's legendary home run. Still anyone with some interest in baseball can appreciate this artfully done book that intersperses inning-by-inning action with a history of the teams and their colorful players, the season to that point and the contrasts between the Big Apple and Iron City.

China: Empire of Living Symbols by Cecilia Lindqvist, translated by Joan Tate (Da Capo, 2008). For those of us fascinated by Chinese, this offers detailed histories of many basic characters, showing their earliest forms, which often were representational, and their stylized modern versions. The author also traces how characters grew out of daily life and reflect old norms--the difference in the meaning of compound characters involving the characters for man and for women, for example!

Drink, Play, F@#k: One Man's Search for Anything Across Ireland, Vegas, and Thailand
by Andrew Gottlieb (Black Cat/Grove/Atlantic). This gives amusing balance to Eat, Pray, Love--the title alone is worth the price of admission.

Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener (1946). The classic first work by Michener, the basis for the musical, holds up nicely.

Shannon McKenna Schmidt
American Fuji by Sara Backer (Berkley). I was intrigued to read this novel, the story of two Americans whose lives intersect in Japan, after writing about it for Shelf Awareness [September 14] and talking with bookseller Marilyn Lustig. Word of mouth works!
The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser (Smithsonian). A fascinating foray into the art underworld as journalist Ulrich Boser cracks a cold case--the $50 million robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1989.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson (Vintage). A riveting (addictive!) thriller. I'm looking forward to following along with quirky, unpredictable Lisbeth Salander in The Girl Who Played with Fire.
The Lion's Eye: Seeing in the Wild by Joanna Greenfield (Little, Brown). Greenfield offers a lyrical and vivid account of her time spent observing chimpanzees in the rain forests of Uganda and the personal obstacles she overcame to get there.
Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance by Gyles Brandreth (Touchstone). Flamboyant playwright Wilde taps into his powers of deduction to solve crimes in Victorian London. His latest adventure is Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man's Smile.
Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal by Julie Metz (Voice). After the sudden death of her husband, Julie Metz discovered that he had been cheating on her for years. In this remarkably honest and inspiring memoir, she shares the story of how she put her life back together.
The Sound of Water by Sanjay Bahadur (Atria). A harrowing, thought-provoking, beautifully written novel based on a real-life incident, a mining disaster in a remote region of India and told from three perspectives: the trapped men, their family members and company officials.
Swan Dive by Michael Burke (Caravel). Set in a New England factory town, this gritty, witty and risque crime novel stars a down-on-his-luck detective and is loosely based on the myth of Leda and the Swan.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (Delacorte Press). At her family's ramshackle estate in the English countryside, 11-year-old Flavia de Luce spars with her older sisters, concocts poisons and solves a murder. Atmospheric and fun.
This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa's First Woman President by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Harper). Tough, smart and funny, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recalls how she came to lead once war-torn Liberia and details the centuries-old ties between her country and the U.S.
Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor (Viking). In this eloquent memoir, Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter, Ann, recall their travels together in Greece and France as well as their emotional and spiritual journeys. Along the way, Kidd shares how she came to write her debut novel, The Secret Life of Bees.
Robert Gray
Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada (Melville House, translated by Michael Hofmann). Easily my favorite book of the year, this beautifully crafted novel of working class people trying to take a stand in Nazi Berlin was praised by the New York Times as a "signal literary event of 2009." 

In the First Circle: A Novel (The Restored Text) by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (HarperCollins, translated by H.T. Willetts). It was a thrill to revisit this uncensored edition of what I've long considered one of the most important books published in my lifetime.
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. Sure he won the National Book Award and everybody's reading him now, but I've been a fan of McCann's work for more than a decade. The elegant, intelligent grittiness of this New York novel is precisely what I've come to expect from one of our best writers.
Memories of the Future by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (NYRB Classics, translated by Joanne Turnbull). Speculative fiction from Russia, this collection subtly twists perceived reality with intelligence and starting imagination. I loved "The Bookmark," and lines like "the bookmark looked affronted and slightly grumpy."
31 Hours by Masha Hamilton (Unbridled Books). An exploration of post-9/11 New York from multiple perspectives, this was a brilliant and irresistible, provocative and evocative literary thrill ride that probed the deeply human causes and consequences of terrorism.
Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatín (City Lights Books, translated by Kurt Hollander). Imagine a salon that becomes "the Terminal," a surreal yet all too real refuge for strangers "who have nowhere else to die." I'm still haunted by the narrative voice and the aquariums. (You'll have to read it to find out about them.)
The Pig Comes to Dinner by Joseph Caldwell (HarperCollins). Yes, you can read Caldwell just for the fun of it. If you are a fan of smart, biting Irish humor, this second volume of Caldwell's trilogy (after the delightful The Pig Did It) continues my favorite porcine misadventures.
Dread: How Fear & Fantasy Have Fueled Epidemics from the Black Death to Avian Flu by Philip Alcabes (PublicAffairs). One of the best explorations of our strange, instinctive need to overreact to often misperceived threats like epidemic scares. A clearheaded look at our instinctive human fondness for mass anxiety and panic.
The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution
by Denis Dutton (Bloomsbury Press). Does my taste in art reflect evolutionary traits shaped by Darwinian selection? I thought so before reading Dutton's book, and found that he makes an intriguing and enlightening case for the possibility that my instinct was correct.
Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk (HarperStudio). Anyone who wants to understand how the alchemy of passion and knowledge can produce gold (whatever your gold may be) in business and life should pay attention to Gary Vaynerchuk. His presentation at BEA was an impressive tasting; his book is insightful, inspiring and even a little intoxicating.

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