Shelf Awareness for Thursday, February 25, 2010

Insight Editions: Unstoppable: Siggi B. Wilzig's Astonishing Journey from Auschwitz Survivor and Penniless Immigrant to Wall Street Legend by Joshua Greene

Scholastic Press: Muted by Tami Charles

Berkley Books: The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Walker Books Us: Welcome to Your Period! by Yumi Stynes and Melissa Kang, illustrated by Jenny Latham

Scholastic Press: Ground Zero by Alan Gratz


Notes: Scribd's Mobile Option; Publishers & the iPad Effect

Scribd's "send to device" feature, which allows users to send documents to their e-readers or smartphones (Shelf Awareness, February 11, 2010), launched this week. Wired magazine showcased the option and noted that it will support most smartphones, as well as e-book readers like the Amazon Kindle, B&N's nook, Sony Reader and Cool-er. Scribd also plans to offer apps for the Android OS, iPhone and other devices by late March.

Company CEO Trip Adler told Wired, "These apps will synchronize with Scribd on other platforms--so you could leave off reading a long document at your desk and pick up where you left off on your iPhone. Like the Scribd website, the apps will also include social features, so you can share documents you particularly like with your friends, for instance."


Dan Brodnitz has been speaking with e-book and book publishing professionals since the Apple iPad's unveiling last month to get "their impressions of what they saw and their thoughts on what the iPad might mean to electronic book publishing." He shared some of their reactions at PBS's Mediashift.

"It seems as though we may be moving from a world where retailers compete on prices to a world where the publisher will fix the price, all the different retailers will have the same price, and it will be up to the publisher to innovate and try different prices and see what will work best," said Hadrien Gardeur, co-founder and CEO of "If we have a fixed-price model, we'll likely get much better innovation and more retailers. We can really create an ecosystem with this kind of model, where with the other model it was very hard for smaller retailers to compete."

Citing the iPod, Peter Balis, director of digital content sales for Wiley, said, "Apple has an incredible track record of late of converting consumers to digital adoption. If anybody has the power to follow up on the great work that Amazon has already done to create the tipping point, it's Apple."

Roger Stewart, editorial director at McGraw-Hill Professional, observed that the "reason publishers have long believed the iPad would have the potential to be a game changer is not because it was designed to be an e-book reader. It's a game changer because it does everything else well and, by the way, it also happens to be a great e-book reader."

Andrew Savikas, O'Reilly Media's v-p of digital initiatives, suggested that "most of what the publishers seem to be looking for in the iPad... is a large scale market for digital books with a platform that provides the opportunities for rich media and has reasonably attractive payment terms, including the ability for publishers to set their own price. All of that has actually already been part of [Apple's] existing App Store really since it launched."

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, called the iPad "an evolutionary step, not a revolutionary step.... Really, all they've done is replicate the book experience on a digital device. It's begging to go so much further."


Urban Books Store, Pleasantville, N.J., was profiled by Atlantic City Weekly, which praised the "black themed, owned and operated bookstore... that reminds me of my favorite Philadelphia book store. The one exception is that at Urban Books, I can shop for more than 15 minutes without running out to a meter/kiosk to make sure my car is alright.... Inside the store are books on every subject you could imagine."

South Hadley, Mass., has chosen Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at Time for its community reads program, according to the Republican. South Hadley Reads started in 2002 as a cooperative effort of the Odyssey Bookshop, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley Public Library, Gaylord Memorial Library and the South Hadley Senior Center, with sponsorship from People's Bank. 


"I think the simplicity of Chinese bookstores and the complexity of U.S. bookstores actually reflect differences between the two cultures," wrote Li Yajuan in the Global Times, suggesting that while "bookstores in China are simply stores that sell books," U.S. bookshops "are more like a mix of Grand Central Station and a kid's playground."


While conceding that "tattoos aren't always the product of a good decision," Entertainment Weekly's Shelf Life blog gave high marks to the upcoming Penguin Inks series, for which the publisher commissioned tattoo artists and illustrators to reimagine the covers of J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians, Martin Amis's Money, Keri Hulme's The Bone People, Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary, David Foster Wallace's The Broom of the System and Ian Fleming's From Russia with Love.


The Washington Post's Short Stack blog featured the eulogy Robert B. Parker's son David read at his father's memorial service earlier this month.


A mint-condition copy of the rare Action Comics No. 1 sold for $1 million in a deal between a private collector and buyer that was brokered by Vincent Zurzolo, co-owner and COO of the and its sister dealership, Metropolis Collectibles, the Washington Post reported. The comic, published in 1938, was the first to feature Superman.

"The person who bought it is an avid Superman fan and was extremely excited to get it," Zurzolo said, adding, "This sale is groundbreaking. It changes the game for comic-investment collectibles.... As a collectible and an investment, comic books have trailed behind other categories. This sale is putting us into a similar playing field as even rare gemstones and antiques."


Salman Rushdie plans to write a book about his years living under the threat of a fatwa issued against him by the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Guardian reported.

"It's my story, and at some point, it does need to be told," he said at Atlanta's Emory University, where an exhibition of his correspondence, notebooks, photographs, drawings and manuscripts will open on Friday. "That point is getting closer, I think. When [the archive material] was in cardboard boxes and dead computers, it would have been very, very difficult, but now it's all organized."


Book trailer of the day: John Wray, author of Lowboy (Picador; now in paperback), interviews Zach Galifianakis--co-star of The Hangover--playing the role of John Wray. Dry and hilarious.


Aifric Campbell, who chose her top 10 jobs in fiction for the Guardian, wrote: "Work--and its absence--shapes our destinies and lays our souls bare." 


Berkley Books: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto

Image of the Day: Trigiani's Valentine

Some 360 people attended a Valentine's brunch on February 13 at Rockleigh Country Club, Rockleigh, N.J., to celebrate the publication of Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani (HarperCollins). The sponsoring bookstore for "the world's biggest book club," as owner Kenny Sarfin put it, was Books and Greetings, Northvale, N.J. Here during a break were (from l.) Sarfin, Dorothy Shearn, Trigiani, Kathy Coyne and store manager Michelle Gersh.



Beaming Books: Inspiring New Nonfiction from Broadleaf Books

Media and Movies

This Weekend on Book TV: China's Megatrends

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this week from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, February 27

8 a.m. Shoshana Johnson, author of I'm Still Standing: From Captive U.S. Soldier to Free Citizen--My Journey Home (Touchstone, $23.99, 9781416567486/1416567488), served with the U.S. Army from 1998 to 2003 and was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Prisoner of War medals.  (Re-airs Saturday at 11 p.m. and Monday at 4 a.m.)

10:45 a.m. Former provost at Columbia University Jonathan Cole talks about his book The Great American University: Its Rise to Preeminence Its Indispensable National Role Why It Must be Protected (PublicAffairs, $35, 9781586484088/1586484087). (Re-airs Sunday at 7 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.)

5 p.m. For an event hosted by the Strand Bookstore in New York City, James McGrath Morris, author of Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power (Harper, $29.99, 9780060798697/0060798696), and Michael Wolff, author of The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch (Broadway, $29.95, 9780385526128/0385526121), discuss their biographical subjects. (Re-airs Sunday at 7:30 p.m.)

8:30 p.m. Doris Naisbitt and John Naisbitt, co-authors of China's Megatrends: The 8 Pillars of a New Society (HarperBusiness, $27.99, 9780061859441/0061859443), talk about the future of China and its impact on us. (Re-airs Sunday at 1 p.m.)

10 p.m. After Words. Christopher Hitchens interviews George Packer, editor of George Orwell's Facing Unpleasant Facts (Mariner, $14.95, 9780156033138/0156033135) and All Art Is Propaganda (Mariner, $14.95, 9780156033077/0156033070). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

Sunday, February 21

3:30 a.m. Co-authors Jon Jeter and Robert Pierre discuss their book, A Day Late and a Dollar Short: High Hopes and Deferred Dreams in Obama's "Postracial" America (Wiley, $25.95, 9780470520666/0470520663). (Re-airs Sunday at 9:30 a.m.)

5 a.m. Kathryn Jacob, author of King of the Lobby: The Life and Times of Sam Ward--Man-About-Washington in the Gilded Age (Johns Hopkins University Press, $40, 9780801893971/0801893976), recalls Washington's most powerful lobbyist during the mid-19th century. (Re-airs Sunday at 11 p.m.)

6 a.m. Jesse Holland, author of Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History In and Around Washington, D.C. (Globe Pequot, $14.95, 9780762745364/0762745363), presents a history of the slave labor used to complete the construction of the U.S. Capitol and White House. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)


Book Industry Charitable Foundation: Double your donation!

Television: Masterpiece Theater's The 39 Steps

This Sunday PBS's Masterpiece Theater airs a new version of The 39 Steps, made famous by Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 movie and based on the book by John Buchan. Rupert Penry-Jones stars as secret agent Richard Hannay, who battles German spies on the eve of World War I.


Movies: Fourth Realm Trilogy; The Bourne Speculation

Fox acquired the film rights to the bestselling Fourth Realm trilogy by reclusive author John Twelve Hawks, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Alex Tse (The Watchmen) will write the screenplay. Producers are Gil Netter (The Blind Side) and Andrew Tennenbaum (The Bourne Identity).

The acquisition has refueled interest in speculating about the real identity of John Twelve Hawks, and New York magazine reported that "famous fake memoirist" James Frey is the current target, inheriting the dubious honor that "has previously landed on James Patterson, Stephen King, and Michael Chabon."

Although Frey is co-writing a six-part sci-fi series under the pseudonym Pittacus Lore, he dismissed (sort of) any connection with the Fourth Realm trilogy in a statement to the New York Post: "I will neither confirm nor deny that I am John Twelve Hawks, Pittacus Lore, or anyone else.... I will say that I have done, and I am continuing to do, projects that will come out anonymously or with invented names on them."


Fast Company
explored the flourishing online rumor mill regarding possible source material for the next Jason Bourne movie. Since no one can ask the late Robert Ludlum, Fast Company suggested we "simply follow the author on Twitter, become a fan of his on Facebook, and watch some of his promotional videos on YouTube. No, not Ludlum, a different bestselling author: Eric Van Lustbader. Lustbader is Ludlum's heir apparent, and he's already published five Bourne books. Now he's promoting his latest novel, Last Snow, and tapping social media to drop clues about which book may serve as the inspiration for the next Bourne movie."


Books & Authors

Awards: Diagram Prize for Oddest Title Shortlist

The contenders for this year's Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year have now been narrowed down to a shortlist of six from the "very longlist" named earlier this month (Shelf Awareness, February 5, 2010). The winner will be chosen by public vote at the's website and announced March 26.

The shortlist includes oddsmakers' choice Afterthoughts of a Worm Hunter by David Crompton, Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich by James A. Yannes, Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes by Daina Taimina, Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots by Ronald C Arkin, What Kind of Bean Is This Chihuahua? by Tara Jansen-Meyer and The Changing World of Inflammatory Bowel Disease by Ellen Scherl and  Maria Dubinsky, the Guardian reported.

"Two other wormy tomes have made previous Diagram shortlists," noted the Bookseller's Horace Bent. "New Guinea Tapeworms and Jewish Grandmothers made the 81 shortlist, while Earthworms of Ontario missed out to Reusing Old Graves in 95. Crompton's Worms could wriggle a win."


Shelf Starters: The Journal Keeper

The Journal Keeper: A Memoir by Phyllis Theroux (Atlantic Monthly Press, $24, 9780802118974/080211'8976, February 23, 2010)

Opening lines of books we want to read:

In 1972, after our third and last child was born, we moved from a small frame house in Washington, D.C., into a gigantic frame house farther toward the edge of town. It was the house of my dreams, with seven bedrooms (the family moving out had raised eleven children there), a cozy kitchen, and a front window that looked out onto a 1950s-era neighborhood full of big trees and little children sucking popsicles as they whizzed down the street on their bicycles. As I stood in the front hall and mentally plugged in the Christmas lights, I knew I could spend the rest of my life here. What I didn't know was that "the rest of my life" was about to end.

Or did I? Looking back, there were signs, some of them quite large. But I wasn't interested in reading them. I wasn't interested in doing anything but working and reworking the classic Vogue pattern I had chosen for my life until it fit correctly. Step One: Get married. Step Two: Have children. Step Three: ...This was the one that was giving me trouble. --Selected by Marilyn Dahl

Book Review

Book Review: Curtains

Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-In-Training by Tom Jokinen (Da Capo Press, $15.95 Paperback, 9780306818912, March 2010)

Becoming an apprentice undertaker seems an odd career choice for a man of 44 whose prior job titles include radio producer, editorial cartoonist and railroad operator. Yet this is precisely what Tom Jokinen did, motivated, he claims in Curtains, by a need to understand both the ways in which we cope with the inevitability of death and the industry that caters to it. Jokinen seems to have an audience in mind from the start, however, and while his intent is not to expose the funeral industry, the nature of his interest in the trade often feels more journalistic than philosophical. The result is an interesting, thoughtful and often wry report on the state of the modern "death business."
Jokinen begins his journey with a reference to author Jessica Mitford, who turned the funeral industry on its ear in the 1960s with An American Way of Death. Neil Bardal, the good-natured, third-generation Winnipeg funeral director who takes Jokinen on, admits that when Mitford's book revealed how much people were actually spending to bury their dead, he and his colleagues were forced to rethink their long-standing business models. Cremation counts for a big part of this change. Whereas only about 5% of people opted for cremation a few short decades ago, Baby Boomers now choose this much less expensive option first. The difference (about $1,200 for cremation versus about $10,000 for a "full fig" funeral) has had a huge impact on the business. Funeral directors like Bardal have had to become creative in order to stay afloat financially. This includes all manner of specialty receptacles for cremated remains (jewelry, teddy bears, specially designed urns) as well as tailored services at the crematorium itself.
While not quite as wittily irreverent as Mary Roach on the same subject (in Stiff), Jokinen takes a sort of controlled glee in sharing the visceral details of his work, which are fascinating, if not for the squeamish. We learn exactly what happens to a body during cremation and how the ashes are processed afterward. The specifics of decomposition and embalming are covered here, too--in great detail. Despite his macabre (and one could argue, necessary) humor, Jokinen never loses respect for the dead, nor for the living who mourn them. Moreover, his investigation into different rituals (he visits a Jewish funeral home and attends a Mennonite burial) and the new trend of "green" funerals yields some provocative and moving conclusions about the human condition.--Debra Ginsberg
Shelf Talker: A thoughtful, provocative and often wry account of the modern funeral industry by an apprentice undertaker.


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