Shelf Awareness for Friday, December 18, 2009

Inkyard Press: Ring of Solomon by Aden Polydoros

Chronicle Prism: Men in Blazers Present Gods of Soccer: The Pantheon of the 100 Greatest Soccer Players (According to Us) by Roger Bennett, Michael Davies, and Miranda Davis; illustrated by Nate Kitch

Neal Porter Books: I Don't Care by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal

Tor Nightfire: The Spite House by Johnny Compton

Candlewick Press (MA): Build a House by Rhiannon Giddens, illustrated by Monica Mikai

Popular Book Company (Usa): Complete Curriculum Success Series, Math Success Series, English Success Series, 365 Fun Days

Yen on: Fox Tales by Tomihiko Morimi, translated by Winifred Bird

Quotation of the Day

Dear Santa: 'Save Independent Bookstores'

"Dear Santa, all during 2009 I've been nice (okay, okay, I was a little naughty, but only once or twice!), and now I have a very special request. Can you figure out a way to save independent bookstores? More and more of them are closing, and it's very scary. Do you have a favorite indie at the North Pole, Santa? I hope you do, because a bookstore like that is a fabulous place to be--surrounded by books and book lovers--on a cold, snowy day."--Author Gail Farrelly's letter to Santa in the Baltimore Sun's Read Street blog. 


Tiny Reparations Books: Gone Like Yesterday by Janelle M. Williams


Notes: Holiday Shoppers Cautious; States Focus on Sales Tax

"Budget-oriented shoppers appear to be playing a game of chicken with retailers this year, waiting for steeper discounts from stores than the 30 percent to 50 percent off already on offer," Reuters wrote. "But analysts expect retailers to hold their ground in the week before Christmas."

While some predict sales only equal to last year, the game of chicken could make for stronger sales on "Super Saturday" weekend, the last weekend before Christmas, which begins tomorrow. [Editor's note: Where did this month go?] In fact, ShopperTrak predicts that sales this weekend will be higher than Black Friday weekend, which is usually the biggest shopping period of the year.


State governments facing budget shortfalls "will be looking at different ways to increase sales and use tax revenue," according to Bookselling this Week. In a recent white paper, "The Impact of the Loss of State Sales and Use Tax Revenue," CCH--a provider of tax, accounting and audit information, software and services--indicated that these strategies may include "beefing up tax collection staff, increasing tax rates, becoming a member of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, or following New York State's lead and passing e-fairness legislation."

"This report makes it abundantly clear how significant the issue of e-fairness is and how it is imperative that we urge states to act now," said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. "As online shopping grows, states will suffer increasing sales tax revenue declines and larger budget shortfalls as significant remote retailers eschew their legal obligation to collect and remit sales tax. We continue to believe that a simple, direct solution is the equitable enforcement of existing sales tax laws."

BTW also noted that several states have increased or plan to increase their sales tax rates, including California, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada and Utah.

"For our member booksellers in these states, it is imperative that we get the word out that the first order of business in meeting the challenge of falling sales tax revenue is to equitably enforce existing sales tax laws," said Teicher.


The Canadian Booksellers Association has scheduled its National Conference for May 28-30, 2010, at the Delta Toronto Airport West Hotel. The event will take place right after BookExpo America in New York City, May 25-27.

Quill & Quire reported that "CBA executive director Susan Dayus says she hopes to capture booksellers and publishers who may be returning from BEA by way of Toronto. 'We felt some people who come from out of town and may be attending BEA could come back through Toronto to attend our event and avoid that dual fare,' Dayus said."


Highlighting its "Best of the Decade" choices, the Baltimore Sun's book blog Read Street singled out indie bookstores, noting that the "decade has brought intensified pressure on independent bookstores. It seems odd to include that trend on a 'decades best' list, but it certainly has been a major factor in shaping the landscape of booksellers. And you've got to admire and respect the fact that they fight on, against long odds....  Here's hoping that there are enough lovers of literature to keep indies thriving in the coming decade."


Dennis and Linda Ronberg, co-owners of Linden Tree Children's Recordings and Books, Los Altos, Calif., are planning their retirement, and the Mercury News reported that unless they find a buyer, their "independent, kid-centric and quaint" bookshop "could start holding going-out-of-business sales early next year."

"We don't make a lot of money," said Dennis, "but it is so rewarding in other ways. . . . It's not that the store is doing poorly. It just seemed like kind of a natural time to (retire)." The Ronbergs have been in discussion with "several potential buyers, and hope to know more after New Year's," the Mercury News wrote.

"(Buyers) kind of want to know how we've done for the year, and I think we've done OK," he added.


Mountain Lore Books & More, Hendersonville, N.C., will close for regular business December 26. The Ashville Citizen-Times reported that the store issued a statement saying, "Due to the poor economy and resulting significant decrease in sales, we are unable to continue as a standalone bookseller." Mountain Lore plans to hold a liquidation sale in January.


Bookselling this Week profiled John and Michelle Presta, who founded Reading on Walden bookstore, Chicago, Ill., in 1991 and "got their start in politics about a decade later working on the campaign of then-congressional hopeful Barack Obama." The Prestas are co-authors of Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots: How Barack Obama, Two Bookstore Owners, and 300 Volunteers Did It (Elevator Group Publishing, $24.95, 9780981971926/098197192X, January 2010).

John recalled how his early encounter with Obama's writing sparked his later involvement. "We ordered a copy of the paperback of Dreams from My Father, then published by Kodansha Globe," he said. "We even tossed around the idea of a book signing since we loved to host local authors.... The book was the catalyst, [but] it was on March 13, 2000, when my wife, Michelle, and I talked to Obama at length, and I realized, 'This man is going to be president one day. He has it.'... He had that gift of making you feel like the only person in the room."

"The words 'independent booksellers' connotes involvement in the community," said John. "Booksellers are catalysts for change, and it is what independent booksellers have done for many years."


Obituary note: Novelist and journalist C. D. B. Bryan, best known for Friendly Fire, his 1976 book about the accidental death of a soldier in Vietnam, has died. He was 73. The New York Times praised his career as that of "an old-fashioned man of letters."

NPR's Ketzel Levine harvested "2009's Crop Of Great Gardening Books."


The application form is now available for the National Book Foundation's Innovations in Reading Prize 2010. Each year, the NBF awards a number of prizes of up to $2,500 each to individuals and institutions--or partnerships between the two--that have developed innovative means of creating and sustaining a lifelong love of reading. Postmark deadline for all materials is February 17, 2010.


Congratulations to Kirsty Melville, who has been named president of the book division of Andrews McMeel Publishing, a new position. Before joining the company in 2005 as executive v-p and publisher, she was v-p and publisher at Ten Speed Press for a decade and earlier was founding publisher of Simon & Schuster Australia.

AMP CEO and president Hugh Andrews said that the company has benefited from Melville's "creative vision and remarkable dedication to fostering and guiding innovative strategies to fruition. She skillfully conceived, developed and launched AMP's cookbook program, streamlined our product offerings, accelerated our digital and online presence, and provides energy and leadership to editorial, marketing, sales and production teams to positive effect, resulting in an enhanced value and range of titles and in New York Times best sellers."


GLOW: Disney-Hyperion: Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow

AAP: October Sales Jump 10.2% as E-Books Soar

In October, net book sales rose 10.2%, to $725.8 million, as reported by 89 publishers to the Association of American Publishers. For the year to date, net book sales are up 4.1%.

Publisher numbers for e-books were particularly noteworthy, with October sales of $18.5 million, compared to $5.2 million in 2008. Year-to-date sales in aggregate for the period of January-October 2009 reached $130.7 million, compared to $46.6 million for the same period last year, reflecting a 180.7% increase. According to AAP reports, trade market e-books currently account for 3% of total trade sales.

Other results by category:

  • Adult paperback increased 37.5% to $130.4 million.
  • El-Hi was up 29.6% to $190.6 million.
  • Children's/YA paperback increased 20.2% to $52.7 million.
  • Higher education jumped 6.9% to $23.4 million.
  • Adult hardcover rose 6.3% to $259.9 million.
  • Professional and scholarly were up 3.5% to $48 million.
  • Religion declined 8.5% to $60.3 million.
  • Adult mass market was down 1.8% to $61.2 million.
  • Audiobooks dropped 1.8% to $19.7 million.
  • University press hardcover fell 1.5% to $5.3 million.
  • University press paperback decreased 1.4% to $3.6 million.
  • Children's/YA hardcover fell 0.5% to $87.9 million.


Harper: Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes

Image of the Day: A Book Tree Grows in Australia

Like Chicklet Books in Princeton, N.J., which has several Christmas trees made out of books (depicted here yesterday), the Adelaide Hills Council Library Service in Woodside, South Australia, has its own unusual tree species. The library's is made from used books for the body of the tree, magazine pages for the stars and cassette tape for the tinsel--all old library stock left over from the last book sale. One of our most geographically distant readers, Zoe Lewis, youth services officer at the library, wrote, "Our customers love it."

BINC: Carla Gray Memorial Scholarship

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Perfect 10 Diet

Today on the View: Dr. Michael Aziz, author of The Perfect 10 Diet (Sourcebooks, $24.99, 9781581827040/1581827040), which will be published in January, during a segment about hot diet trends in the New Year.


On Sunday on Good Morning American Weekend: They Might Be Giants, authors of Kids Go! (Simon & Schuster, $19.99, 9780743272759/0743272757).


Television: HBO's The Pacific

The Pacific, an HBO 10-part miniseries, will debut March 14 and air Sundays through May 16. Variety called the project, which boasts Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman as executive producers, "the pay cabler's complement to Band of Brothers."

Starring James Badge Dale, Joe Mazzello and Jon Seda, The Pacific is based on Robert Leckie's Helmet for My Pillow (Bantam, $19, 9780553763591/0553763598) and Eugene B. Sledge's With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa (Presidio Press, $7.99, 9780891419198/0891419195).


Movies: War Horse

Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks partner Stacey Snider have acquired the rights to Michael Morpurgo's novel War Horse (Scholastic, $16.99, 9780439796637/0439796636). Variety reported that the story, which "recounts the extraordinary friendship between a boy and a horse who are separated but whose fates continue to be intertwined over the course of WWI," was originally published in 1982 and was a runner-up for the Whitbread Award.

"From the moment I read (the book), I knew this was a film I wanted DreamWorks to make," said Spielberg. "Its heart and its message provide a story that can be felt in every country."


Books & Authors

Awards: International Prize for Arabic Fiction

A panel of judges from Kuwait, Egypt, Tunisia, France and Oman named six finalists for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction during the Beirut International Book Fair in Lebanon. The winner will be announced March 2, 2010, at an awards ceremony during the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, according to the Khaleej Times (via Book2book).

The 2010 International Prize for Arabic Fiction shortlist:

  • A Cloudy Day on the West Side by Muhammad Al Mansi Qindeel (Egypt)
  • Beyond Paradise by Mansoura Ez Eldin (Egypt)
  • America by Rabee Jabir (Lebanon)
  • She Throws Sparks by Abdo Khal (Saudi Arabia)
  • The Lady from Tel Aviv by Rabai’ Madhoun (Palestine)
  • When the Wolves Grow Old by Jamal Naji (Jordan)


Book Brahmin: Charles Todd

Charles and Caroline Todd, mother and son writing together as Charles Todd, have created the Inspector Ian Rutledge series (the latest of which are A Matter of Justice, now in a Harper trade paperback, and the new hardcover The Red Door, to be published by Morrow on December 29), novels of murder and suspense seen through the eyes of a Scotland Yard inspector who has survived World War I. They've also launched a new series with a female protagonist, Bess Crawford (A Duty to the Dead, Morrow), who in the midst of that same war finds that murder doesn't wait for peacetime. They've written one stand-alone book, The Murder Stone, and many short stories appearing in anthologies and Strand magazine. They live in North Carolina and Delaware, respectively.
On your nightstand now:
Charles: Look Again by Lisa Scottoline.
Caroline: I usually have two book or three books on the nightstand--one by an established author, the other by a new writer I want to try. And the third is often an old favorite. The established author just now is Yrsa Sigurdardottir, who wrote Last Rituals. I've been interested in Iceland since I read the Icelandic Sagas many years ago, and Yrsa not only brings modern Iceland to vivid life, she incorporates the rich vein of Icelandic lore into her murders. Fascinating reading. Matt Hilton is a former British policeman, and his first novel, Dead Man's Dust, is more noir, fast-paced and different. The third book just now is an old friend, Lee Child's latest Reacher.
Favorite book when you were a child:

Charles: Thirty Seconds over Tokyo by Ted Lawson.
Caroline: One rainy summer holiday, my father read us Stevenson's Treasure Island and Poe's The Goldbug. We were on Nag's Head, N.C., where pirate treasure could be buried, and the atmosphere and the possibilities captured my imagination. Pirates, codes and buried treasure--what could be more exciting? And I have to admit that Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles ran a close third--what's more eerie than a haunted moor and a ghostly dog? I think that's why we write psychological suspense, Charles and I--because I read the same stories to my own children.
Your top five authors:
Charles: C.S. Forrester, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Jack Higgins, Fredrick Forsyth, Tom Clancy. That is so hard to keep to five. Lee Child, S.J. Rozan and Michael Connelly are some of the outstanding authors writing today. Ask me for 50 names and I would ask for more space.
Caroline: This list changes constantly. At the moment, it's Lee Child, Dorothy Dunnett, Stuart Kaminsky, Michael Connolly and David McCullough. I've always admired Winston Churchill's use of the English language, and Katherine Neville's Eight got high marks for clever storytelling.
Book you've faked reading:
Charles: Das Kapital by Karl Marx. I eventually finished the book by hitting the snooze button on an alarm clock. Read for nine minutes, wake up and repeat.
Caroline: The Brothers Karamazov. Everyone said it was a must read. I like to choose my own books, and the more friends raved, the more I resisted. That was my short-lived existential period in college, and in the end, I said I'd read it to escape the pressure. I also said I thought it was overrated.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Charles: A Prayer for The Dying by Jack Higgins. His look at decision making makes this more than a mere thriller. With more than 60 titles to his credit, Higgins always has the ability to make you reevaluate your own life experience.
Caroline: Geoffrey Household's Rogue Male. There are only two characters in it, and the suspense is wonderfully balanced between the man who is sent to kill and the man who is determined to survive, even if he must resort to primitive methods. It taught me a great deal about writing. A more recent enthusiasm is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I've never liked books using letters to create the story, but this is the resounding exception. I always look for exceptions to my hang-ups. Even Dostoevsky.
Book you've bought for the cover:

Charles: Nothing Lasts Forever by Sidney Sheldon. What can I say?

Caroline: Robin Hathaway's Scarecrow. It was an evocative jacket, and the book lived up to it. Sometimes you make great discoveries that way.
Book that changed your life:
Charles: The Bible and so many more. The moral compass that circumscribes and keeps us in due bounds.
Caroline: Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal. The plotting of that novel was impressive, and taught me more about plot vs. plotting than 10 years of experience. To bring such a story to life, even when you know De Gaulle wasn't assassinated, showed the hand of a master.
Favorite line from a book:
Charles: "In the middle of the road of my life I awoke in the dark wood where the true way was wholly lost."--Dante Alighieri in The Inferno. I see that as a parallel to Frost's "The Road not Taken." Choices made and choices in the future.
Caroline: Easy choice--the opening lines from Rafael Sabatini's Scaramouche:  "He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad. And that was his only patrimony." How many people can so brilliantly define their protagonist in just two lines?

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

Charles: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. The first mystery with one of my favorite detectives. And yes, he was before Miss Marple! Christie could capture a male and female protagonist with equal finesse.
Caroline: My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier. It has the most ambiguous ending of any mystery I can think of, and I'd like to relish the shock of it again. But now as I read, I'm looking for clues to define that ending.
What other literary interest describes you as a person?
Caroline: My love of poetry. The sounds of words that belong together and that resonate long after the book is closed. Language is a part of our writing as Charles Todd, and this rich background in all the great and not so famous poets taught me at an early age to value the right word. One of our characters in the Rutledge series was a poet, and she has been a favorite of ours ever since because she touched something deep within us, beyond the writer.


Book Review

Book Review: Crazy Like Us

Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche by Ethan Watters (Free Press, $26.00 Hardcover, 9781416587088, January 2010)

Ethan Watters stirs up one controversy after another in this provocative study of mental illness diagnosis and treatment in cultures other than our own. In the best investigative reporting tradition, he examines the incidence and current treatment regimens for anorexia in Hong Kong, schizophrenia in Zanzibar, depression in Japan and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia following the tsunami of 2004.

Watters argues that we have effectively spread worldwide an idea that "mental illnesses exist apart from and unaffected by professional and public beliefs and the cultural currents of the time." This has occurred through the prevailing use of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a basic reference tool; training of other countries' mental health professionals in the West; and drug companies' marketing campaigns that emphasize predominantly Western perspectives. In interviews, he hears again and again that mental health professionals, by ignoring important cross-cultural factors, may be doing more harm than good in many circumstances.

Watters's report on mental health practitioners arriving in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami with very little understanding of the country and culture is particularly disturbing. The generally accepted Western course for effective healing from PTSD is to process the trauma experience with the help of a trained therapist. Watters views the wholesale application of Western treatments in Sri Lanka (without taking account of the culture and recent brutal 30-year-long civil war) as having been a monumental waste of energy and resources.

That well-intentioned failure is still not as disconcerting as the story Watters has to tell about GlaxoSmithKline (manufacturers of Paxil) in Japan. "The psychiatric category of depression was not a widespread public concern, and the capacity to experience great sadness was considered not a burden but a mark of strength and distinction," Watters writes of Japanese beliefs before 2000. Despite Japanese thinking to the contrary, GlaxoSmithKline saw a huge potential market for Paxil and mounted a massive marketing campaign that combined savvy marketing and questionable scientific research. That campaign eventually bulldozered cultural resistance and long-held beliefs--by 2008, GlaxoSmithKline was selling $1 billion of Paxil annually in Japan.

"The ideas we export to other cultures often have at their heart a particularly American brand of hyperintrospection and hyperindividuality... [reflecting] the Cartesian split between the mind and the body, the Freudian duality between the conscious and the unconscious," Watters notes as he implores all to carefully consider cross-cultural factors at play when storming in to treat mental illness in other countries.--John McFarland

Shelf Talker:
A provocative study of American mental illness treatments that often harm, not help, people in other countries.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Between the Pages--Collecting Bookmarks

What is the common link between Cyril Connolly's The Unquiet Grave and an exhibition of Renoir paintings at the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; between Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins and Vanessa Redgrave's performance in Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking on Broadway?

As I fanned through the pages of my books while researching a recent column on bookmarks, I noticed a startling number of sheltered ticket stubs to theater, art and music performances. I'm not a collector by nature, but apparently I am a hoarder of bookmark stubs.

Lauren Roberts, on the other hand, is a genuine collector of bookmarks. The founder of BiblioBuffet, where she co-writes a column, "On Marking Books," with Laine Farley, Lauren has also teamed with Alan Irwin of the Bookmark Collector blog to organize the first Bookmark Collectors Virtual Convention, a 24-hour online event scheduled to begin next February 20.

"I collect them, and I love discovering the stories behind them, or at least about them. My collection actually began with a clump of hair that had been acting as a bookmark in a book for so long it had left its own mark," Lauren recalled. "Currently I own more than 1,300 bookmarks. Most but not all are antiques that are past their days of work. Too heavy for today's book paper or too fragile to risk, they sit either on display or in their own special acid-free albums."

Among her collection's prizes are "two silk bookmarks from the 1936 Olympics; a brass one whose top is in the shape of a lobster claw, one side being a lovely stone, the other brass; a die-cut vase with flower bookmarks that can be removed from it (and which has no indication of who made it, why or what it's purpose was); a World War II propaganda bookmark; an old typewriter bookmark; government bookmarks; women's suffrage (my research indicates to me this might--might--be Carrie Chapman's mother); a hero who had been unknown to me before I acquired this bookmark; stockings; Paisley flour; gloves; commemorations of the death of Prince Albert; the opening of the Cabanne Public Library; a bookmark to mark a theatre production; and tea (I especially like the older woman)."

In the U.S., the bookmark collecting field was "so small it was nearly non-existent" until a few years ago," Lauren observed. "Now, however, interest in them has increased. That's good in one way--more antique ones are being saved--and less so in another because the better ones are increasing in price."

I wondered whether she is a bookmark watcher in public places, as most of us check out what other people are reading. "Oh yes," Lauren admitted. "I am curious about what people are reading and what, if anything, they are using for bookmarks. Thankfully, I haven't seen any physical bookmark that gives me the willies. Most people, at least in public, seem to use either the book jacket's flap, a Post-it, a business card or a piece of newspaper ripped out from their morning's read. I don't consider dog-earing a page as a bookmark, though some use it for that reason, but I do see that. It makes me shudder."

Naturally I couldn't resist asking her what a bookmark collector uses to mark her own place when reading. She confessed that while she now primarily uses BiblioBuffet bookmarks, she "used to go through my collection, when it was a lot smaller, and choose a bookmark for each book I read. I tried to tie it to the book. I can't remember most of them, but I do remember choosing a red maple leaf for Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. (Now a maple leaf is not a bookmark per se, but it had been part of a large bookmark collection I bought on eBay so it became one of mine.

"What I found though, especially as I bought more expensive ones, was that they were not suited to today's books. Many of the metal ones that were so common in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were heavy by today's standards and would damage modern books. Many of the paper or silk ones were fragile too. Generally they weren't treated all that well--they are, after all, ephemera--and by the time they get to the collectors' hands today they have been through a lot."

My favorite bit of ephemera from my bookmark search turned up in a first edition of Michael Murphy's Golf in the Kingdom, where I found the ticket stub for a soccer game I attended in 1966 between Santos of Brazil and Inter Milan of Italy at Yankee Stadium. That one marks a book, a place and a time.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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