Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nightfire: At Nightfire, Halloween is 24/7! A new imprint dedicated to horror!

Duke University Press: Point of Reckoning: The Fight for Racial Justice at Duke University by Theodore D Segal

Scribner Book Company: Red Island House by Andrea Lee

Shadow Mountain: The Gentleman and the Thief by Sarah M Eden

Quotation of the Day

'Books Are Social Creations'

"Books are social creations. They are borrowed, shared, recommended, and discussed in the physical world every day. Publishers send authors out to book signings, interviews, and speaking engagements in the hopes of bringing together like-minded book fans to ignite discussion and spark a hopefully-lively word-of-mouth campaign. The goal of marketing books online is no different. Social media platforms and new content recommendation tools not only make these digital communities possible, but they also increase the speed and range of the word-of-mouth campaigns ten-thousand times over."--Jesse McDougall, owner of Catalyst Webworks, in an interview with Follow the Reader


Pamela Dorman Books: The Push by Ashley Audrain


Notes: Random House Resists iPad; Gilbert Joins B&N

Random House books might not be available for Apple’s iPad when it is released next month. The Financial Times (via the reported the publisher "fears the effects of the tablet device on the pricing of electronic books."

Markus Dohle, Random House CEO, isn't ruling out the possibility of reaching a deal before then, "but said he was treading carefully, as Apple’s pricing regime could erode established publishing practices," the Financial Times wrote. Dohle added that the iPad and iBookstore signified "changes, in particular for our stakeholders," which required Random House to consult further with its authors and their agents.


Dan Gilbert has joined Barnes & Noble as executive v-p, operations and customer service. He was formerly v-p of customer operations at Cisco Systems and earlier was v-p, customer service and quality, at Palm, Inc., and was director of delivery operations for the Webvan Group. He was also served as a consultant with A.T. Kearney, Andersen Consulting and McKinsey & Company.

William Lynch, who was named CEO less than a week ago, commented: "Dan is a perfect fit for Barnes & Noble as we leverage our world class brick and mortar stores to scale as a major e-commerce retailer and digital media company with multi-channel capabilities."


In its ongoing negotiations regarding e-book pricing, Amazon might benefit from letting publishers win, suggested the Motley Fool's Eric Jhonsa, who wrote that Amazon's acceptance of the agency model could ultimately benefit the company: "Under the wholesale model, the company actually loses money on the sale of many best-sellers, which it often sells to Kindle users below cost in order to stimulate e-book demand. While under the agency model, Amazon is guaranteed to make a healthy gross profit on every e-book sale. And with a recent Cowen & Co. report estimating that Kindle content sales will grow from $160 million in 2009 to nearly $3 billion in 2015, those profits could quickly add up."

Jhonsa also contended that Amazon's "squabbles with book publishers highlight the flawed nature of the Kindle's current business model.... Amazon's strategy has the effect of not only alienating publishers who think that getting consumers accustomed to artificially low book prices will hurt their business long term, but also inflating Kindle prices to a point where many readers deem them to be too expensive."


Another sign of the e-times we live in? GalleyCat was tracking critical response of a different kind to The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis. By late yesterday afternoon, more than 70 Kindle owners had given the book a 1-star review, with many expressing their disappointment that a Kindle edition is not yet available. 

Reviewer Cristiano Pierry even quoted Lewis talking about the Kindle in 2007: "The coolest thing, by far, is that you think of a book you'd like to read, someone tells you about a book you'd like to read, and in 30 seconds, it's on your screen, all of it."

Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room, Ann Arbor, Mich., is a "downtown favorite" and "remains a strong presence" in the city, according to

"We have a variety of things going on organized by a variety of people," said manager Rachel Pastiva. "We are more than a book store; I see Crazy Wisdom as a community resource, and a lot of people see us that way."


I Said "Read Me!" book store and coffee shop, Tamaqua, Pa., opened this week, the Republican Herald reported. Although the shop is owned by Sarah Fucci, assistant manager Allison Sanders came up with the unusual name.

"It just kind of popped out one day when Sarah was trying to decide what to name it," she said. "We are both a little sarcastic in nature and it just seemed to fit."

"I wanted to do this for a while but when I heard Waldenbooks was closing, it finally gave me the push I needed," Fucci added. "I was on my lunch break at work and I turned to my friend and said, 'I'm giving my two-week notice,' and that's what I did."


Planting the seeds of an idea takes on a whole new meaning at Mother Nature Network, which featured recycled book pots: "The concept--old books with holes carved into the middle to accommodate soil and a small houseplant--is simple enough (perhaps even enough for a DIY job) and quite beautiful."


Book trailer of the day: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam). (Be sure to watch until the very end!)


NPR's What We're Reading list this week includes Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes, Known to Evil by Walter Mosley, Dog Boy by Eva Hornung and The Heights by Peter Hedges.


If you've been anxiously waiting for "the next big book," watch this video review by the Guardian's art critic Adrian Searle of "The History of the Saatchi Gallery--all 35kg of it--to find out whether it's a tome for discerning art lovers or just an oversize paperweight."


Is the Get London Reading iPhone app posing a new threat to the city's citizens? Guardian books blogger Shirley Dent observed that she's "become one of those people who traipse down the street attached to their smartphone, thumbs a-go-go. Truth is, I've become hooked on this free Get London Reading app, which brings the locale you are in at any given moment to literary life."


Andy Hunter of Electic Literature showcased "5 Wonderfully Weird Book Videos" on the Huffington Post and noted that  "we find video generally works best when it isn't tethered too tightly to the text. At Electric Literature, we simply give an artist or animator a sentence to riff on, often leading to something strange, beautiful and unforeseen. We love it when a book video gets weird." 


This summer National Book Network's U.K. subsidiary, NBN International, is moving to a new 80,000-sq.-ft. facility that offers more operations space. The building is less than a mile from its existing facility, in Plymouth, England.

NBNi managing director Chip Franzak, who is also CFO of the Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, NBN's parent company, said that "the consolidating distribution market, increasing use of Print-on-Demand and digital publishing channels do not mean the end of customer services or print book distribution. Our U.K. business is growing healthily and we need more space to accommodate inherent sales growth and the new publisher clients moving to us." In fact, NBNi's total publisher sales were more than $46 million, compared to $18 million six years ago.

In related NBNi news, Sheila Bounford has been promoted to deputy managing director, and Ian Wordsworth, the longtime IT manager, becomes operations manager.


Liz Querio has joined Sourcebooks as marketing manager. She was formerly a senior marketing specialist with OfficeMax.


GLOW: Hanover Square Press: The Jigsaw Man (Inspector Anjelica Henley Thriller) by Nadine Matheson

Image of the Day: Borders Books Bounty Hunter

Duane ("Dog the Bounty Hunter") Chapman signed his new book, Where Mercy Is Shown, Mercy Is Given (Hyperion) at the Borders in Northridge, Calif., last week. Several hundred people--none apparently with bounties on them--attended. Filming were A&E's Dog the Bounty Hunter and E! True Hollywood Story. Chapman is wearing sunglasses; Beth Chapman is on the left; and Borders employees (from l.) Matthew Michaelson, Bryan Wolfson, Ashleigh Sauer, Sarah Contreras, John Moore and Michelle Sucillon.

University of California Press: Beethoven, a Life (1st ed.) by Jan Caeyers, translated by Brent Annable

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Harlan Coben, Desmond Tutu

This morning on the Today Show: Harlan Coben, author of Caught (Dutton, $27.95, 9780525951582/052595158X).


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Jamie Oliver, author of Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals (Hyperion, $35, 9781401323592/1401323596).


Tomorrow on the View: Jennifer Love Hewitt, author of The Day I Shot Cupid (Voice, $23.99, 9781401341121/1401341128).


Tomorrow on NPR's All Things Considered: Mike Trinklein, author of Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It (Quirk Books, $24.95, 9781594744105/1594744106).


Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Lisa Miller, author of Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife (Harper, $25.99, 9780060554750/0060554754).

Also on Diane Rehm: Desmond Tutu, author of Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference (HarperOne, $25.99, 9780061706592/0061706590).


Tomorrow on NPR's All Things Considered: Mike Trinklein, author of Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It (Quirk Books, $24.95, 9781594744105/1594744106).


Tomorrow on The Gayle King Show: Julie Genovese, author of Nothing Short of Joy (Behler Publications, $15.95, 9781933016597/1933016590).


Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Barbara Epler, editor-in-chief of New Directions.

Berkley Books: Dangerous Women by Hope Adams

Movies: Little Brother

Angryfilms has optioned Little Brother by sci-fi author and Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow for a movie adaptation. Sales of the YA novel, which became a bestseller even though Doctorow also offered a free online version, were "boosted by stellar reviews and recommendations from authors including Neil Gaiman," the Hollywood Reporter wrote. 


Books & Authors

Awards: PEN/Faulkner; Hans Christian Andersen; Dan David

Sherman Alexie's War Dances (Grove Press) won the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

Al Young, who served on the panel of judges with Rilla Askew and Kyoko Mori, said, "War Dances taps every vein and nerve, every tissue, every issue that quickens the current blood-pulse: parenthood, divorce, broken links, sex, gender and racial conflict, substance abuse, medical neglect, 9/11, Official Narrative vs. What Really Happened, settler religion vs. native spirituality; marketing, shopping, and war, war, war. All the heartbreaking ways we don't live now--this is the caring, eye-opening beauty of this rollicking, bittersweet gem of a book."

Alexie will receive his prize May 8 at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C., during an awards ceremony that will also honor PEN/Faulkner finalists Barbara Kingsolver for The Lacuna (Harper), Lorraine M. López for Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories (BkMk Press), Lorrie Moore for A Gate at the Stairs (Knopf) and Colson Whitehead for Sag Harbor (Doubleday).


The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, presented every two years by the International Board on Books for Young People, are given to an author and an illustrator whose "complete works have made an important and lasting contribution to children's literature." Winners this year are:

Author: David Almond of the U.K. The judges said Almond "captures his young readers' imagination and motivates them to read, think and be critical. His use of language is sophisticated and reaches across the ages."

Illustrator: Jutta Bauer of Germany. Judges praised her "philosophical approach, originality, creativity as well as her ability to communicate with young readers."

The prizes will be presented will be presented at the IBBY Congress in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, on September 11.


Margaret Atwood and Amitav Ghosh will share $1 million as recipients of the 2010 Dan David Prize, awarded annually for achievements in science, technology and culture.

The award recognizes individuals in three time dimensions--Past, Present and Future. Atwood and Ghosh are being honored under the "Present" banner for "Literature: Rendition of the 20th Century." Winners are required to give 10% of the money to graduate students in the same field of work. The laureates will be honored at an awards ceremony May 9.


Shelf Starter: Dead End Gene Pool

Dead End Gene Pool: A Memoir by Wendy Burden (Gotham Books, $26, 9781592405268/1592405266, April 1, 2010)

Opening lines of books we want to read:

It's a testament to his libido, if not his character, that Cornelius Vanderbilt died of syphilis instead of apoplexy.

In 1794, a few miles from where his powdered bones eternally lie, within the eight-foot-thick walls of the largest tomb ever built in America, the origin of my family's fortune was born into what would prove to be a very material world. As the sixth of nine children, Cornelius was expected to pull his weight. At eleven he had dropped out of school, and at sixteen he was piloting his own small ferryboat. At nineteen he married his cousin Sophia Jackson (an act of consanguinity that arguably heralded the start of our genetic troubles) and set about fathering the first of thirteen children. By twenty-one the Vanderbilt name was on several schooners, and by thirty-five Cornelius has earned the sobriquet of commodore and controlled a network of steamboat routes that traveled up and down the East Coast. At seventy he had the wherewithal to switch from steamships to railroads. And at seventy-five he eloped to Canada to marry a thirty-one-year old woman named Frank.--Selected by Marilyn Dahl

Book Brahmin: Laura Kasischke

In addition to the novella Eden Springs (Wayne State University Press, March 15, 2010), Laura Kasischke has published seven novels and seven collections of poetry. She's been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and several Pushcart Prizes. She teaches at the University of Michigan and lives in Chelsea, Mich., with her husband and son.

On your nightstand now:

I have several issues of Poetry magazine, which I'm reading and rereading, and also Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl by Mary Mycio (horrifying and fascinating: there's so much thriving wildlife there, an abandoned Eden, and all of it radioactive) and Fugue State--stories by Brian Evenson. a writer new to me. The stories are eerie and completely memorable.

Favorite book when you were a child:

All of Laura Ingalls Wilder and, later, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.

Your top five authors:

William Butler Yeats, poet Tomas Tranströmer, Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, Gustave Flaubert.

Book you've faked reading:

Oh, I don't want to name names, because it was written by an acquaintance--there's no chance the acquaintance will read this, so I don't feel bad saying that. From the first chapter, I knew it was so mean-spirited that I couldn't go on and stay on polite terms with this acquaintance. A lot of jokes at the expense of children and cats! And I recognized one of the characters as a mutual friend--parodied in cringe-inducing ways. So I said, "I found your book eye-opening and jaw-dropping," and it seems this was taken as a compliment, and the assumption was that I'd read it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

"The Horla" by Guy De Maupassant. It's not just your typical slow-descent-into madness story. A scary, believable journey into another dimension.
Book you've bought for the cover:

David Searcy's Last Things. I'm sure it'll be a great novel (I loved his Ordinary Horror), but I haven't had time to read it yet, and even if it's not good, it's worth the cover--an orange-red sunset with a ragged scarecrow staring out of an all-encompassing fog.

Book that changed your life:

Elie Wiesel's Night. It was not only the book that changed my life, but the fact of the writer's having been able to write it and having been able to live through its details and go on living and writing in this world as such a decent, alert human being.

Favorite line from a book:

It's a line from a poem ("The Light Streams In") by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Fulton. But you might have to read the whole poem to see why the line "The countdown has begun" is so good!

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

Dante's Inferno--but I'd also have to go back to the time in my life when I was in a class taught by the best instructor I'd ever had--Cindy Sowers at the University of Michigan--back when I had no idea such a poem existed, or how one would ever read it, and Dante and Cindy Sowers cracked the universe open for me.

Book Review

Children's Review: The Red Umbrella

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.99 Hardcover, 9780375861901, May 2010)

Christina Diaz Gonzalez's moving and inspiring debut novel is a mosaic of subtle shifts in the life of one teenage girl, set against a backdrop of political extremes in 1961 Cuba. The book's events cover just shy of a year, and it opens with 14-year-old narrator Lucía on the beach with her seven-year-old brother, Frankie, as they watch a white heron migrate north and she realizes, "It was time for us to go, too." It is May 2, 1961, the day Castro ruled out elections in Cuba, and a line of army trucks passes the siblings as they make their way home. The next day, their father's boss is arrested at the bank. Then Lucía's best friend, Ivette, becomes involved with the Jóvenes Rebeldes ("Since when do you go to those meetings?... Aren't you the one who says it's more important to change your nail polish than change the government?" Lucía asks Ivette). At first, Lucía thinks her parents are being too protective, not letting her join Ivette at the meetings. But when Lucía discovers their kind-hearted pharmacist hanged in a public park for attempting to stage a peaceful protest, she is deeply shaken, and begins to question the motives behind the movement. Another pivotal scene involves soldiers' discovery of a secret cache of Lucía's family's few belongings. Could Ivette have betrayed Lucía?

Gonzalez smoothly combines her heroine's painful coming-of-age with a country's bitter awakening to Castro's larger agenda. Teenagers were expected to leave their families and join brigades across the countryside, "getting rid of gusanos"--antirevolutionaries. Lucía's parents make the wrenching decision to send Frankie and Lucía to the United States alone, with the hope of obtaining visas and following them afterward. "Operation Pedro Pan," the author's note explains, "was the largest exodus of unaccompanied children ever in the history of the Western Hemisphere." The people who help Lucía and Frankie along the way are kind, and yet Gonzalez makes us keenly aware of all that they have left behind--the aroma of café con leche at breakfast, "the music that would surprise your ears as you passed by an open window," their parents' loving embrace. The pacing of events is at times uneven, but the placement of details reads like poetry--the leitmotifs of the white heron, Abuela's diamond earrings, and the titular red umbrella. By focusing on one family's experience, Gonzalez allows readers to view the sacrifices made by an entire population, and understand the courage it takes to leave everything you know, believing you can know something better.--Jennifer M. Brown


Georg Letham, Physician and Murderer, a 1931 Title

Georg Letham, Physician and Murderer by Ernst Weiss, translated by Joel Rotenberg (Archipelago Books, $17 trade paper, 9780980033038/0980033039, March 2010) was originally published in 1931, not 1939, as we mistakenly said in yesterday's review of the book. Our apologies!


Deeper Understanding

Children's Book Buyers Ponder the Way Ahead in 2010

The Children's Book Council held the second annual CBC Forum, "The Buyer's Perspective: Looking Back on 2009 & Looking Ahead to 2010," late last month at the Scholastic Auditorium in New York City. Panelists were Trevor Dayton, v-p, kids and entertainment, at Indigo Books & Music, the Canadian bookstore chain, for an encore visit; Bob and Mary Brown, owners of Books, Bytes & Beyond, a children's bookstore in Glen Rock, N.J.; Michael Strouse, manager of the Scholastic Store in SoHo; and Jan Lamb, coordinator of youth collections for the New York Public Library.

A Look Back at 2009

"Traffic is the key driver" for the Indigo stores, and this holiday season, without a new Twilight Saga title, traffic declined, Trevor Dayton said. Indigo has "spent millions" to renovate some 25 stores to attract families with children and has slated 20 more for next year. Mary Brown continued to freshen the look at Books, Bytes, & Beyond for patrons who made "multiple visits" over the holidays. She said that with many publishers canceling displays, the store had to figure out other ways to feature titles and keep new releases front and center, and increased e-newsletter outreach to schools and libraries. Michael Strouse created a guest rewards program and held two holiday events at the Scholastic Store, and vendors were invited to work in tandem with store employees. For Jan Lamb at New York Public Library, internal blogging about new books, tied more closely to a book's release dates, generated enthusiasm and motivated families to visit the NYPL branches.

Strong Sellers in Fall 2009

All of the panelists said that Wimpy Kid and 39 Clues titles continue to sell very well, and that there were no sleeper hits. Star Wars still thrives at Indigo, according to Dayton, including LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary and Klutz's Draw Star Wars: The Clone Wars. He said the chain recently added a touch-screen computer for store searches, and Star Wars consistently ranks in the top 10. Strouse said Suzanne Collins's titles do well at the Scholastic Store, and Where the Wild Things Are was the top picture book seller in the fall. He noted "a surge in classic books" in general. Bob Brown said that given Books, Bytes, & Beyond's close relationship with the children and educators it serves, he's found books that "convey the values of childhood" sell best. Lamb took a sampling of top titles circulating from the Riverside Branch (on W. 67th St.); many of the classics continue to do well. She cited examples such as Little Women, Death's Door by Betsy Byars (part of the Herculeah Jones mystery series), The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland and Pure Dead Magic by Debi Gliori. The Wimpy Kid life-size standee also brought welcome attention to Dog Days upon its release, Lamb noted. Dayton said the standee also drove traffic at Indigo, adding, "The best marketing dollars are spent getting your book in front of our traffic."

Dayton then apologized to the audience for his statement last year that publicity doesn't work. "Publicity does work," he conceded, especially in the case of Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, which "cracked the top 50" bestselling titles at Indigo. "Word of mouth is key for  teens." Strouse said YA books were also buoyed by adults crossing over into teen books like The Hunger Games. Mary Brown pointed out that the Twilight Saga started the trend, and that she's also seen more growth in family read-aloud titles, such as the Percy Jackson books.

The Price Wars

Although none of the panelists felt any direct effects from the fall price wars involving Amazon, Wal-Mart's website and others, nor the more recent struggle between Amazon and publishers to set e-book prices, Bob Brown expressed the larger concern that lurked like the pink elephant in the room: "Anytime there is downward pressure on the price of a book, it is of concern to us." Dayton agreed with Brown, and added that he thought consumer expectations have fixated on a $9.99 price as acceptable for adult e-books. Jan Lamb noted that digital audiobooks tend to circulate more widely than e-book downloads at the New York Public Library, where Overdrive is popular. The library has stocked e-books since 2005, and Lamb said patrons enjoy both BookFlix (which pairs video presentations of a children's book with related nonfiction titles) and TumbleBooks (picture books animated with sound and music). She noted that five million children's (print) books and one million YA books circulate annually.

Biggest Challenges

The economy continues to be the biggest challenge, according to Strouse, despite good fall sales credited to an uptick in New York City tourism and tightly controlled buys. Mary Brown said educating parents and teachers about new books and the best books to be reading with children continues to be a challenge. It's also a struggle to reinforce the idea that just because a child can read a book that tests at a certain reading level does not mean that she should. Often the themes are more sophisticated than the reading level reflects. Dayton noted that so far, children's books have been shielded from some of the issues affecting the adult book world.

Audience Q&A

Questions from the audience targeted specific genres. When asked how picture books are doing, Mary Brown said, "As kids have less time, they're reading picture books more in school." She suggested publishers create lists correlating picture books with curriculum areas and make available a teachers' guide on how to use picture books as part of the curriculum. Because of the weak U.S. dollar, Dayton said, the picture-book category is growing steadily. Backlist continues to do well because of what he called "the nostalgia factor." But Dayton believes it's a category that's "overpublished."

In response to another question, Mary Brown said that her store sells a lot of nonfiction because of its alliance with local schools, but she'd love to see more sports books published. Sounding the Star Wars theme again, Dayton said that in addition to doing well with the DK visual dictionary for Star Wars, he feels that the category has grown with Twilight and Percy Jackson companions, while institutional nonfiction has been shrinking.

Graphic novels do well across the board, "manga not so much," according to Mary Brown. Books, Bytes, & Beyond also does well with the Sardine and Magic Pickle books. Strouse has seen a consistent uptick in graphic novels over the last four or five years. While the Bone and Wimpy Kid series continue to sell well to 7- to 12-year-old boys, manga tends to do better with 12- to 16-year-old girls, Dayton said. That segued nicely into a question about whether there had been an increase in boy readers commensurate with the rise in boy fiction. Dayton said that the breakdown of Wimpy Kid readers was roughly 40/60, girls to boys, and the same is true for Percy Jackson. He estimates about 80% of YA sales are to girl readers.

"Are you tired of the paranormal books?" asked an audience member. "We get tired of trends before our customers do," Dayton answered. He added  that if he takes down a table with the trendy books, "sales dip," and if he restores the table, sales go up. He likes "the angel twist and the dystopian trend." Mary Brown is looking forward to a title with a reincarnation theme, The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller (Penguin/Razorbill, August 2010).--Jennifer M. Brown

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