Shelf Awareness for Thursday, March 4, 2010

Jy: Gabby and Gator by James Burks

St. Martin's Press: The Unwilling by John Hart

Simon & Schuster: Unicorns Are the Worst! by Alex Willan

Algonquin Books: Let's Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih

Candlewick Press: In the Half Room by Carson Ellis

Quotation of the Day

'Could at Gunpoint Write the Life Story of a Telephone Pole'

"One of those young writers who is brilliantly drunk with words and could at gunpoint write the life story of a telephone pole."--Jim Harrison on the late Barry Hannah.


Weiser Books: Witch Hunt: A Traveler's Guide to the Power and Persecution of the Witch by Kristen J Sollee


Notes: Amazon Applies for Canadian Visa has applied to the Canadian government's heritage ministry for permission to open an operation inside the country, the Bookseller reported. The proposal was issued January 27 and could take 45 days to rule on.

Amazon sells to Canadians via, but ships from outside the country. "Moving into the country would mean the company could ship to Canadian consumers more quickly and cost-effectively," the Bookseller noted.

Canada has strong cultural protection rules, designed to prevent U.S. influences from overwhelming Canadian culture, rules that limited, for example, the expansion of Barnes & Noble and Borders into Canada in the 1990s.

Carolyn Wood, director at the Association of Canadian Publishers, told the Bookseller: "There's a belief that Canadian-owned retailers will be more likely to promote Canadian books. [Amazon] presumably will have to commit to a business model that proves it is in net benefit to Canadians." She added that she thought that an Amazon facility in Canada would put additional pressure on Indigo's online operation, saying, "It has been difficult to compete with as it is."

Canadian booksellers had protested the founding of in 2002, arguing that the online store "violated regulations that prohibit foreign ownership," the Bookseller wrote. But the Canadian government said that such regulations were not violated because at the time Amazon didn't have a business located in Canada.


Borders Group is asking lenders to extend a $1.125-billion loan due July 2011 and loan holders have responded by demanding that the company repay some of the $360 million outstanding on the loan, the Financial Times reported.

The Bank of America has apparently approached investors seeking to interest them in a new $100-million offering. While the financial details are a bit tough to summarize, the bank asserted that were Borders to declare bankruptcy, lenders should be covered, in part based on "historical liquidation values for book retailers."


iMilestone: there are now more books in iTunes than games, according to Mobclix (via Mobclix said there are more than 26,000 books in iTunes compared to a little more than 24,000 games. Books are now the largest category in the store.


BookHampton, which has four stores on the eastern end of Long Island, N.Y., will close its Amagansett store, which it opened two years ago, according the East Hampton Press.

Owner Charline Spektor said, "We just didn't see the kind of foot traffic we were expecting. There was a surprising shortage of parents and children throughout the winter months."


Book trailer of the day: I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells (Tor).


Although tributes to the legendary Shakespeare and Company bookshop, Paris, are not uncommon, the Guardian's book blog shared the particularly hearfelt impressions of Stephen Emms on his first visit.

"Everything here encourages creativity," he wrote, noting visitors are so effusive that the shop installed "a 'mirror of love,' where hundreds more scribblings are pinned, from the surreal to the touching.... As I leave, the western facade of Notre Dame is noisy with tourists. I cross the square, haunted by one of the messages tacked to the mirror. Hand-written by the mother of a 21-year-old bipolar man who killed himself by jumping off Brooklyn Bridge, it read: 'I've spent the last hour trying to decide if I should end my life. If he could have discovered your bookshop, perhaps he would have survived. I want to thank you for this place and the hope it gives.' Not only does that seem to underline the redemptive power of literature, but also something less tangible: the balm of environment."


Sometimes there is such a thing as bad publicity. Quillblog reported that a recent campaign to keep the financially challenged Toronto Women's Bookstore open was successful, but "all the media attention their fundraising garnered has caused suppliers to either cancel their accounts or put them on prepaid terms." A letter posted on the bookstore's website noted that "we are looking for one or more fabulous TWB-loving individuals who would like to buy the bookstore for pennies and run it as owners." Their deadline for reaching agreement on the sale of the bookstore is April 15. If they are unable to find a buyer, TWB "will have no choice but to voluntarily wind the business down for the end of May."


Several authors picked their favorite books of the past decade for the Guardian. Among the chosen few: Le Bal by Irène Némirovsky (picked by Ian McEwan), A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (Terry Pratchett), The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Joshua Ferris) and The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (Roddy Doyle). A complete list of the nominations is available here.


Readers at the Millions were invited to judge a few books by their covers in a side-by-side comparison of U.S. and U.K. jacket designs.


KidsBuzz for the Week of 09.28.20

Image of the Day: Fun with Physics

Last month theoretical physicist Sean Carroll spoke at Book Works, Del Mar, Calif., about his new book, From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time (Dutton). Some 100 people attended, and Carroll commented that he's always happily surprised to see so many people come out for a night of theoretical physics. C-Span was on hand and will air Carroll's talk next Monday, March 8, at 6 a.m. ET.

In photo, standing (from l.): bookseller Elena Spagnolie; Gill Williamson, a customer and retired physics alum from Caltech; Book Works owner Lisa Stefanacci; Book Works founder and former owner Milane Christiansen; bookseller Joanna Poceta; publicity manager Jet Hopster; events manager Jenn Chinn. Seated: Sean Carroll with his wife, science writer Jennifer Ouellette.

Carroll has a blog as well as a weekly interactive book club where he discusses his book chapter by chapter.

GLOW: Temple University Press: Do Right by Me: Learning to Raise Black Children in White Spaces by Valerie I. Harrison and Kathryn Peach D'Angelo

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Lenin's Brother

Tomorrow on the Book Studio: Philip Pomper, author of Lenin's Brother: The Origins of the October Revolution (Norton, $25, 9780393070798/0393070794).


Saturday morning on the Early Show: Bethenny Frankel, author of The Skinnygirl Dish: Easy Recipes for Your Naturally Thin Life (Fireside, $16, 9781416597995/1416597999).


Soho Press: The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata by Gina Apostol

Movies: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton and starring Mia Wasikowska as Alice and Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, opens this Friday, March 5. There are a variety of editions available of the classic tale by Lewis Carroll, including a new edition illustrated by Camille Rose Garcia (Collins Design, $16.99, 9780061886577/0061886572).

In addition, we strongly recommend Alice I Have Been: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin (Delacorte, $25, 9780385344135/0385344139), published in January, which tells the story of the "real" Alice, Alice Liddell, who Carroll befriended when she was a young girl (Shelf Awareness, October 26, 2009).


This Weekend on Book TV: No Apology

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, March 6

7 p.m. Melville House Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y., hosts a discussion about how publishing can change in the era of digital books. Panelists include Richard Nash, former editor of Soft Skull Books and developer of Cursor, and Colin Robinson, former publisher of Verso Books and the New Press. (Re-airs Monday, March 15, at 7 a.m.)

8:30 p.m. Timothy Ferris, author of The Science of Liberty: Democracy, Reason, and the Laws of Nature (Harper, $26.99, 9780060781507/0060781505), examines the relationship between the scientific revolution and the rise of liberalism and democracy.  (Re-airs Sunday at 4 a.m., 3 p.m.)

10 p.m. After Words. Mitt Romney talks about his book, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness (St. Martin's, $25.99, 9780312609801/0312609809). (Re-airs Sunday at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., and Monday at 3 a.m.)

Sunday, March 7

12 a.m. For an event hosted by the Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass., Shankar Vedantam discusses his book, The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives (Spiegel & Grau, $26, 9780385525213/0385525214) (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m. and Monday at 4 a.m.)

12 p.m. In Depth. T.R. Reid, author most recently of The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care (Penguin, $25.95, 9781594202346/1594202346), joins Book TV for a live interview. Viewers can participate in the discussion by calling in during the program or e-mailing questions to or via Twitter (@BookTV). (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m. and Saturday, March 13, at 9 a.m.)

7 p.m. David Horowitz, author of A Cracking of the Heart (Regnery, $24.95, 9781596981034/1596981032), commemorates his late daughter by discussing their political clashes and eventual discovery of common ground.  (Re-airs Sunday 11 p.m.)

10 p.m. Shane Harris, author of The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State (Penguin, $27.95, 978-1594202452/1594202451), argues that recent initiatives created a surveillance state against U.S. citizens instead of foreign terrorists.  


Books & Authors

Awards: Story Prize, Arabic Fiction, Great New Writers


Daniyal Mueenuddin has won the Story Prize for In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, a collection of eight connected stories set in southern Pakistan and centering on the estate of a feudal landowner. Last night at a ceremony, reading and discussion with Larry Dark, director of the Story Prize, in New York, Mueenuddin received $20,000 and an engraved silver bowl.

Runners up for the Story Prize were Victoria Patterson for Drift and Wells Tower for Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. They received $5,000 each and also read from their collections and discussed their work at the ceremony.

The judges said that Mueenuddin's stories are written "with a deep sense of knowing; as though Mueenuddin's skin is a particular kind of porous; there is an ache, an inescapable constant melancholy, our masterful guide, knows too much, feels too deeply--if such a thing is possible. Each story, on its own, shines; layered together, there is a celebration of the beauty of the landscape, humor in the everyday, the irrefutable power of family and a lingering sadness for all who have not gotten quite what they wanted."


Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles by Abdo Khal has won the 2010 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. The book was published last year by Al-Jamal Publications of Baghdad and Beirut. The author wins a total of $60,000.

The chair of judges, Kuwaiti writer Taleb Alrefai, called Spewing Sparks as Big as Castles "a brilliant exploration of the relationship between the individual and the state. Through the eyes of its two dimensional protagonist, the book gives the reader a taste of the horrifying reality of the excessive world of the palace."


Winners of Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers Awards:


First prize: Victor Ladato, for Mathilda Savitch (FSG)
Second prize: Barbara Johnson, for More of This World or Maybe Another (HarperPerennial)
Third prize: C.E. Morgan, for All the Living (FSG)


First prize: Dave Cullen, for Columbine (Twelve)
Second prize: Toby Lester, for The Fourth Part of the World (Free Press)
Third prize: Neil White, for In the Sanctuary of Outcasts (Morrow)


Shelf Starters: Claiming Ground

Claiming Ground: A Memoir by Laura Bell (Knopf, $24.95, 9780307272881/0307272885, March 9, 2010)

Opening lines of books we want to read:

The sheepwagon door stands open to the early dawn. There are times when sleeping inside feels little different than sleeping outside like the dogs curled in their scratched beds or the sheep planted against one another across the rise. There's a blanket, a curve of metal roof, a shelf of books above the bed. From up in the McCullough Peaks a lone coyote yips, sharp and high. There comes an answer, closer, the voices halting at first, then unraveling slowly into a mad chorus of wavering howls. Through the doorway, I see the dogs appear and settle their haunches into the dirt. They watch out over the land, their ears shifting to the cries like antennae. When silence returns, they lower themselves to the ground, still listening.

Under the covers, my hands are still against my bones, the edge of longing too great to name or call up. I wish for a fire to be lit in the iron stove by the door. I wish for the smell of coffee, a cup warm in my hands, a voice to say my name.

A dawn wind rustles loose tin and whispers through stiff sprigs of sage, their seedheads quivering against the wind for as far as I can see into the murky light and beyond, into the empty miles. East, across the Bighorn Basin, the horizon of mountains bears up the salmon wash of morning. --selected by Marilyn Dahl

Book Review

Book Review: The Three Weissmanns of Westport

The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine (Farrar Straus Giroux, $25.00 Hardcover, 9780374299040, February 2010)

When a book lover picks up a novel purporting to be a retelling of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, said book lover may be forgiven for having certain anxieties. Has our beloved Jane not suffered enough indignities this year, dear reader? Her unfortunate bout with zombies, her entanglements with sea monsters... it hardly seems fair to subject the Austen canon to yet another reimagining. But take heart, Austen fans, for the newest entry is Cathleen Schine's The Three Weissmanns of Westport, and it is a marvelous book. Schine has proven herself skilled at the comedy of manners (most notably 1994's Rameau's Niece), and her books are as effervescent and full of charm as any being written today. The Dashwoods--pardon, the Weissmanns--are in good hands.

The titular Weissmanns are mother Betty, recently displaced from her Central Park West home and abandoned by her husband of nearly 50 years, and adult sisters Annie and Miranda. They have taken refuge from a cold, cruel Manhattan in Westport, Conn., in a dilapidated cottage owned by garrulous cousin Lou. The parallels abound but the resolutions for these three look a bit unlike Austen's. The world, apparently, is a different place than it was in the 19th century. The mating rituals are familiar, however, as are the economic concerns.

Happily the pleasures in revisiting Austen quickly become secondary to the pleasures of reading Cathleen Schine. Her skills as a comic novelist are apparent from page one: "Irreconcilable differences?" she said. "Of course there are irreconcilable differences. What on earth does that have to do with divorce?" And this gem, on Miranda's downfall as a hotsy-totsy literary agent whose stable of authors, memoirists of a certain stripe, are revealed to be big fat liars:

It was around this time that Miranda made her infamous appearance on Oprah.... She felt like a corrupt politician stonewalling the press, like a criminal, like one of her disgraced writers. But Miranda knew that what she was saying to this woman, who hardly seemed real she was so very Oprah-like, was not only true, it was profound. Why did no one understand when she tried to explain? When she told them that her writers' stories were real-life stories even when they were lies?

"Because in real life people make things up," she said to Oprah.

But Oprah shook her iconic head and Miranda was overwhelmed with shame.

There are holidays, tears, secrets and jokes--all the familiar elements that one expects in a good domestic comedy. While enjoying the book fully on its own merits, every once in a while the reader is reminded that she is seeing through to something else, a palimpsest of two other sisters, in different clothes, in different times. And that, dear reader, is the next level of joy that Cathleen Schine provides us with in this, her newest book, a delight.--Michael Wells

Shelf Talker: A charming comedy of modern manners that uses Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility as a touchpoint. Warm, witty and wholly enjoyable.

Michael Wells has been selling books since he was 17 years old. He spent his college years deep in the libraries of the Midwest. After moving to Seattle he began working at Bailey/Coy Books, where he eventually became manager of the store, a position that he held for 15 years. When Barbara Bailey retired in 2003, Wells purchased the store. Bailey/Coy Books closed in November 2009, but Michael's book-loving ways continue.


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Titles in Chicagoland Last Week

The following were the bestselling titles at independent bookstores in and around Chicago during the week ended Sunday, February 28:

Hardcover Fiction

1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
2. The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell
3. Postmistress by Sarah Blake
4. Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler
5. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Hardcover Nonfiction

1. Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
2. Just Kids by Patti Smith
3. Staying True by Jenny Sanford
4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
5. Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Paperback Fiction

1. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
2. A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
4. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
5. Drood by Dan Simmons

Paperback Nonfiction

1. Food Rules by Michael Pollan
2. The Lost City of Z by David Grann
3. Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler
4. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
5. American Thighs by Jill Conner Browne


1. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
2. Percy Jackson #3: Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
3. Hunger Games #2: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
4. Percy Jackson #1: Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid #1 by Jeff Kinney

Reporting bookstore: Anderson's, Naperville and Downers Grove; Read Between the Lynes, Woodstock; the Book Table, Oak Park; the Book Cellar, Lincoln Square; Lake Forest Books, Lake Forest; the Bookstall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka; and 57th St. Books; Seminary Co-op; Women and Children First, Chicago.

[Many thanks to the booksellers and Carl Lennertz!]


KidsBuzz: Vesuvian Books: 7th Grade Revolution by Liana Gardner
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