Shelf Awareness for Friday, April 2, 2010

Atheneum Books: Bulldozer's Christmas Dig by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann

St. Martin's Press: The Christie Affair by Nina De Gramont

Soho Crime: My Annihilation by Fuminori Nakamura, translated by Sam Bett

Candlewick Press: Hello, Little Fish!: A Mirror Book by Lucy Cousins

Merriam-Webster Kids: Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day: 366 Elevating Utterances to Stretch Your Cranium and Tickle Your Humerus by Merriam-Webster

Other Press: Lemon by Yeo-Sun Kwon, translated by Janet Hong

Ballantine Books: The Maid by Nita Prose

Quotation of the Day

The iPad: What Would Douglas Adams Think?

"I peep under the slip holder, and there it is. When I switch it on, a little sigh escapes me as the screen lights up. Ten minutes later I am rolling on the floor, snarling and biting, trying to wrestle it from the hands of an Apple press representative.... One melancholy thought occurs as my fingers glide and flow over the surface of this astonishing object: Douglas Adams is not alive to see the closest thing to his Hitchhiker's Guide that humankind has yet devised."

--Stephen Fry, author and actor, in a Time magazine article describing his recent meeting with Apple's Steve Jobs and brief, pre-release encounter with an iPad. 




House of Anansi Press: Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling by Esi Edugyan


Notes: Amazon's Deals & No-Deals; Burkle Pressures B&N

Under the shadow of the iPad's imminent debut, Amazon "agreed to halt heavy discounting of e-book bestsellers in new pricing deals" with Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins, the Wall Street Journal reported, noting that the agreements "mirror deals struck earlier this year with Apple for the iPad" under the agency pricing model.

On Thursday, as Hachette began its transition to the agency model, buy buttons for some of the company’s digital titles were missing at In an e-mail to authors and agents, Hachette's chairman and CEO David Young cautioned that, "as with any transition, we expect there will be a few hiccups along the way, and you may even see some short-term interruption in the availability of our e-books, especially in the first few days, as systems are being adapted to accommodate changes. We fully expect any such issues to be resolved within the first week, as we smooth out the new processes."

"People shouldn't overreact if an e-book isn't immediately available on one site or another," added Maja Thomas, senior v-p of Hachette Digital. "There are so many moving parts that there are bound to be some hiccups. But within a week or two much of that will be sorted out."

The Journal suggested that more "deals between publishers and Amazon could follow ahead of Saturday's iPad launch."


Penguin, however, has still not reached an e-book agreement with Amazon. GalleyCat reported that an e-mail sent from the publisher to agents and authors said, "In recent weeks we have been in discussion with our retail partners who sell e-books, including Amazon, to discuss our new terms of sale for e-books in the U.S. At the moment, we have reached an agreement with many of them, but unfortunately not Amazon--of course, we hope to in the future."

The e-mail also informed authors that "your newly released e-book is currently not available on Amazon, but all of your e-books released prior to April 1st are still for sale on their site. We want to also assure you that all of your books are available through other e-tailers and at bricks and mortar stores everywhere--from the large chains to the clubs to the independents and on their respective websites."


Sony "is also in transition," the Wall Street Journal reported. A notice on the company's Reader Store informed customers that "'some titles may be unavailable' during the transition to the new pricing model, which Sony's store has begun to implement. The note adds: 'Although most of the e-books will be priced from about $12.99 to $14.99, there will not be a broad pricing change across the Reader Store.'"


Ron Burkle's Yucaipa American Management fund is pressuring Barnes & Noble "to add three to four new independent directors to the board," Reuters reported, noting that in a filing Wednesday with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, "Burkle wrote that representatives from his fund discussed corporate governance practices with unnamed Barnes & Noble representatives on March 29." Burkle, who holds an 18.7% stake in the company, also repeated his request that B&N's "poison pill" policy be changed.


The American Booksellers Association has established a new Member Relations Department to "ensure that booksellers have a simple and convenient way to get information about the opportunities available to them as part of their membership," Bookselling this Week reported. Elizabeth Nichols and Kaitlin Pitcher are now the member relations managers who will serve as the main contacts for bookstore and provisional members.

Nichols is the liaison for stores in areas covered by the GLIBA, SIBA, MBA, MPIBA and PNBA. She can be contacted at 800-637-0037, ext. 6614, or Pitcher is the liaison for all provisional members, as well as stores in areas covered by the NEIBA, NAIBA, NCIBA and SCIBA. She can be reached at 800-637-0037, ext. 6666, or

"We heard from members that they weren't sure which ABA staff members they should speak to about different issues," said Meg Smith, ABA's membership and marketing officer, "and while booksellers are welcome to contact any staff members, this new member relations structure gives them an easy way to get an answer to any question. Even if Kaitlin and Elizabeth don't have the answer immediately, they'll find it."


A Cook County judge ruled against a Barbara's Bookstore in a dispute with its landlord over rent and taxes at the Oak Park location. Owner Donald Barliant said the bookshop, "which has been in Oak Park since the 1970s, including more than 20 years at Lake and Marion streets, will be moving to a new locale this summer," the Chicago Tribune reported. He added that he'd planned to move regardless of the judicial decision.


Next week, A Room of One's Own Bookstore, Madison, Wis., will celebrate 35 years in business. Co-owner Sandi Torkildson spoke with A.V. Club about the shop's success "in a market where a simple act of survival is cause for celebration."

Of the bookstore's evolution, she observed, "We still have a strong feminist emphasis, and large gay and lesbian sections, but we’ve certainly expanded much beyond that. It’s a matter of staying alive. We’ve changed our mission as other bookstores in Madison have closed. We’re in a city where people want a general bookstore. We knew we might catch a little flack for it. People weren’t coming in, [not] because they were anti-feminist, they just didn’t think we’d have what they wanted. It’s helped.

"We’ve been very lucky," Torkildson said. “Many people have helped us when we’ve needed it. We moved, and the library lent us carts. People showed up and helped. And that’s always been the case: If we need it, people help us."


On April 1, no joke, Books-A-Million announced it had bought a minority interest in Yogurt Mountain Holding, which has two stores in Alabama, home state of Books-A-Million.

BAM said that Yogurt Mountain is a self-service yogurt store that "features 16 rotating flavors all of which are fat free or low fat and offers over 50 toppings for consumers to choose from. Yogurt Mountain's stores cater to the growing trend in healthy foods in a unique and entertaining environment."


Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes debuted on USA Today's bestseller list this week at Number 69, with 75,000 copies in print as the author begins his 24-city book tour. USA Today took note of the fact that "some independent bookstores, enthusiastic about the novel, are donating a portion of their proceeds from tour events to Disabled American Veterans. These include Maria's Bookshop in Durango, Colo., where the idea originated; Third Place Books in Seattle; and the Clinton Book Shop in Clinton, N.J."


Obituary note: Mike Rose, a manager at Books & Co., Dayton, Ohio, died March 26, Publishers Weekly reported. He was 55 years old.


The Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library named recipients of 2010–2011 fellowships. From September to May, each fellow will have "an office in the library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, full access to the library’s research collections, and a stipend of $60,000," the New York Times reported.

This year's fellows include writers Mary Gaitskill, Annette Gordon-Reed, Larissa MacFarquhar, David Bezmozgis, Maile Chapman, Wells Tower, David Sandlin, Geoffrey Brock, David Hinton, Michael Meyer and Matthew Stewart.


Effective immediately, Michelin Travel & Lifestyle North America, publisher of guides, atlases and maps, has moved its trade distribution for North America to National Book Network, which will share distribution of folded and wall maps and European atlases with Rand McNally. Michelin had been distributed here by American Map Corp.


GLOW: Clarion Books: The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman

Borders Results Cause Stock to Jump 47%

On Wednesday, Borders Group reported that net income had risen in the fourth quarter, that it had paid off a $42.5-million loan from Pershing Square Capital Management and that it had secured new long-term financing. Wall Street liked the news: yesterday in eight times the usual trading volume, Borders stock closed at $2.54, up 47.7%.

Borders has a new $700 million senior secured credit facility that matures in March 2014, which replaces its current revolving credit agreement, which would have matured in July 2011.

Borders also closed on a $90-million term loan credit facility, most of which matures in March 2014.

The loan from Pershing Square, Borders's largest shareholder, was due yesterday, and it had already been extended several times, causing some doubt about the company's longterm viability.

Sales at Borders Group in the fourth quarter ended January 30 dropped 13.3%, to $937.3 million, and sales for the year dropped 13.9%, to $2.8 billion. Net income in the fourth quarter was $59.9 million, compared to $29.6 million in the same period a year ago. The net loss for the year was $109.4 million, compared to a net loss of $186.7 million for the previous year.

Sales at Borders stores open at least a year fell 14% in the fourth quarter and 14.4% for the year. Excluding multimedia, comp-store sales at Borders fell 10.2% in the fourth quarter and 10.8% for the full year. Comp-store sales at Waldenbooks fell 8.5% in the quarter and 8.1% for the year.

Borders Group interim president and CEO Mike Edwards commented: "Restoring the financial health and profitability of the company remains our top priority. We took important steps toward this goal with the long-term extension of our existing credit facility and the additional capital provided by the new term loan. We have made significant operational and financial improvements and will maintain those disciplines as we shift our focus now to growing market share by acquiring, engaging and retaining customers through a transformation of the Borders brand. I'm pleased with the cooperation we have received from our bank group, lenders, vendors, partners and associates who share our vision for a successful Borders."

Among highlights of the report:

Commenting on the drop of gross margin as a percentage of sales in the fourth quarter to 24.9% from 27.1%, the company said, "The shift from lower-margin multimedia product to higher-margin gifts and stationery and kids' categories had a positive impact on gross margin. However, this shift did not offset the negative impact of the de-leveraging of occupancy costs as a percent of sales, which resulted from the comparable-store sales decline. Gross margin was also negatively impacted by product markdowns in Waldenbooks Specialty Retail stores that closed during the quarter."

At the end of the fourth quarter, "inventory investment was $873.8 million, down $41.4 million, or 4.5%, from the prior year. The inventory decline was primarily attributed to the closure of Waldenbooks Specialty Retail stores."

Borders closed five superstores in the fourth quarter and seven during the year, ending with a total of 508 superstores.

Borders closed 186 Waldenbooks locations in the fourth quarter and 212 during the full year, ending with 175.


Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association: We're throwing a bookselling party and you're invited!

Media and Movies

Media Heat: The Easter Egg

This morning on Martha: Jan Brett, author and artist of The Easter Egg (Putnam/Penguin, $17.99 , 9780399252389/039925238X)


Today 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).

Berkley Books: 30 Things I Love about Myself by Radhika Sanghani

This Weekend on Book TV: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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, April 3

5 p.m. At an event held during the Virginia Festival of the Book, Rebecca Skloot talked about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Crown, $26, 9781400052172/1400052173). (Re-airs Sunday, April at 10 p.m. and Monday at 6 a.m.)

6 p.m. Encore Booknotes. For a segment that first aired in 2004, Chris Wallace discussed Character: Profiles in Presidential Courage (Rugged Land, $16.95, 9781590710548/1590710541).

10 p.m. After Words. Dimitri Simes interviews Jack Matlock, author of Superpower Illusions: How Myths and False Ideologies Led America Astray--and How to Return to Reality (Yale University Press, $30, 9780300137613/0300137613). (Re-airs Sunday at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., Monday at 3 a.m. and Sunday, April 11, at 12 p.m.)

Sunday, April 4

1 a.m. John Nagy, author of Invisible Ink: Spycraft of the American Revolution,
explores the spy efforts used by the British and the Continental Army (Westholme Publishing, $29.95, 9781594160974/159416097X). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 a.m. and Sunday, April 11, at 11 p.m.)

12 p.m. In Depth. John Dean, author and former White House counsel, 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, April 10, at 9 a.m.)   

8 p.m. For an event hosted by Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C., Nell Irvin Painter discusses her book The History of White People (Norton, $27.95, 9780393049343/0393049345). (Re-airs Monday at 5 a.m.)


Artemesia Publishing, LLC: The Last Professional by Ed Davis, illustrated by Colin Elgie

Movies: A Deep Blue Return for Travis McGee

Oliver Stone "is coming aboard to develop and possibly direct" Travis McGee, based on John D. MacDonald's The Deep Blue Goodbye, the first of 21 novels featuring the legendary fictional detective, Variety reported. Leonardo DiCaprio had already been cast as McGee. 


Sterling: Dracula: Deluxe Edition by Bram Stoker, illustrated by Edward Gorey

Books & Authors

Awards: Walter Scott Prize Shortlist

The shortlist for the inaugural £25,000 (US$38,179) Walter Scott prize for historical fiction includes Hodd by Adam Thorpe, Lustrum by Robert Harris, Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant, Stone's Fall by Iain Pears, The Glass Room by Simon Mawer, The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, the Guardian reported. The winner will be named June 19.

"They are giving history back its stories," said Alistair Moffat, chair of the judges. "The best way to understand the past is often to read a novelist rather than an historian. We need to know where we came from, what kind of people our ancestors were.... What people in the past believed--such as the absolute certainty about heaven and hell in the Middle Ages--is every bit as important in telling us what they were like as what they left behind in the historical record."


Shelf Sample: The Best of It

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we are choosing poems from some recent collections. This one is from The Best of It: New and Selected Poems by Kay Ryan (Grove Press, $24, 9780802119148/080211914X, March 2010).

Sonnet to Spring

The brown, unpleasant,
aggressively ribbed and
unpliant leaves of the loquat,
shaped like bark canoes that
something squashed flat,
litter the spring cement.
A fat-cheeked whim of air--
a French vent or some similar affair--
with enough choices in the front yard
for a blossomy puff worthy of Fragonard,
instead expends its single breath
beneath one leathery leaf of loquat
which flops over and again lies flat.
Spring is frivolous like that.
           --selected by Marilyn Dahl

"Sonnet to Spring" ©1996 Rpt. in The Best of It ©2010 by Kay Ryan, reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Grove Atlantic, Inc.


Book Brahmin: Sonia Sanchez

Sonia Sanchez--poet, activist, scholar--was Laura Carnell professor of English and women's studies at Temple University. She is the recipient of both the Robert Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime service to American poetry and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award. One of the most important writers of the Black Arts movement, Sanchez is the author of 16 books, including Morning Haiku, her first new collection of poetry in more than a decade, published by Beacon Press in February 2010.

On your nightstand now:

Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir
by Ngugi wa Thiong'o; The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater: 1945–1980, edited by Kevin Killian and David Brazil; Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama by Peniel E. Joseph. 

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett because it kept my daydreams alive, in a sense.

Your top six authors:

W.E.B. DuBois because he was a genius of the 20th century. Toni Morrison because she put African-American women on a world stage for examination and love. Maya Angelou because she gave us one of the classic autobiographies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and significant poetry of the 20th century. James Baldwin because he was an exquisite essayist. If you want to learn how to write an essay, read James Baldwin. Audre Lorde because she was a truth teller of women's rights and gay and lesbian rights. Alice Walker because she is a woman who writes about the liberation and power of black women and therefore all people.  

Book you've faked reading:

I never fake read anything. I have never even started a book without finishing it. I don't care how good or bad it was, I always took it to the end. Even if I threw it against the wall when I was finished with it.
Book you're an evangelist for:

The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambara. The novel tells us where we are and bids us to prepare for the future. An experimental novel that engages us in black culture.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions: Fiction, Essays, and Conversations by Toni Cade Bambara, with a preface by Toni Morrison. The reason I was drawn to this book was the beautiful picture of Toni Cade Bambara on the cover, taken when she was struggling through the rigors of cancer--her face and her smile say, "I am still here."

Book that changed your life:
W.E.B. DuBois's The Souls of Black Folk changed my life because when I began to teach this book in 1966–1967 at San Francisco State, it was quickly brought to my attention that DuBois was not an accepted name in the academic setting, along with Langston Hughes, Marcus Garvey and Richard Wright. I remember Jean Blackwell Hutson, curator of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, saying to me, "I thought you knew that if you taught these men and women you might create a stir."

Favorite line from a book:
"Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?"--the opening line from The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambara

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

I should re-read Beloved by Toni Morrison because it is a book you really need to read four and five and six times. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde because this is a collection of essays that illuminate the culture of women and America. She manages to bring together the different cultures and races, and the differences serve as a positive, not a negative.



Regnery Remains with Perseus

Regnery Publishing has been distributed by Perseus since 2007 and has no connection with its former distributor National Book Network, as was implied by one of our April Fool's stories yesterday. Our apologies for the error!


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Opening Days

April 1: National Poetry Month

To celebrate, I decided to buy some poetry at my local indie bookstore this week. For the record, I'm not one of those readers who only notices poetry 30 days a year. In fact, I've probably said some bad and cynical things in the past about NPM and April-only poetry readers. I'm not a poet, so I can get away with it.

I've also said some cynical things about poets who ask friends and colleagues for complimentary copies instead of buying poetry books. I may have even suggested once or twice that poetry sales in this country would skyrocket if there were a decline in this retail six-degrees-of-poetic-separation, ever-downward non-sales trend. Maybe I'm sorry about saying that. Maybe not.
In my office, I have shelves and shelves of poetry books. Quite often I open and read them, even in months that do not begin with A. But this week I thought it would be good karma to perform a ritual poetry buy. In the bookshop, I spent more than an hour scanning narrow spines, occasionally pulling a title and reading a few poems.

I don't know how your National Poetry Month is going thus far, but mine started with the acquisition of three books I just met and am getting to know better. That will take time, but I'm looking forward to it.

One collection I chose was The Heaven-Sent Leaf by Katy Lederer (BOA Editions, $16, 9781934414156/1934414158), and I can tell you the primary reason why it now belongs to me. I picked it after reading four lines in a poem titled "Brainworker" on page 37:

An echo, she sits upright, straight.
As if to play the lettered keys.
But these are typist's hands, her hands.
To play her heart, to play her brain, to play her silvery eyes.

I also bought The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry (Ecco, $19.99, 9780061583247/0061583243) because I read about it on the Words Without Borders website and have known for a while that it would be mine someday. Now it is. I can open this volume at random and explore. It is not a book I would ever read cover to cover. It's not made for that. I retain the option of surprise. This happened when the book fell open to Wislawa Szymborska's "The Joy of Writing," which ends:

The joy of writing.
A chance to make things stay.
A revenge of a mortal hand.

April 4: Baseball

This Sunday night the Major League baseball season opens with a Yankees-Red Sox game. Charles North's Complete Lineups (Hanging Loose Press, $18, 9781934909034/1934909033) was the third poetry collection I found and I couldn't resist its charms. This is a collection lineup cards--the names of starters for imaginary teams, listed by position and in their batting order. Many date back to 1972. Some are newer.

The lineups North assembles, taking into account variables like speed for a lead-off hitter and power in the number four spot, make this baseball/poetry hybrid entertaining and surprisingly provocative. For example, here's the starting lineup poem for movies:

1. A Day at the Races rf
2. The Maltese Falcon lf
3. Rules of the Game 3b
4. Children of Paradise cf
5. On the Waterfront 1b
6. The Lady Vanishes ss
7. The Baker's Wife 2b
8. Odd Man Out c
9. Masculine Feminine p

Play ball!

April 7: AWP Annual Conference & Bookfair

Next Wednesday, I'll be in Denver for Opening Day of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference and bookfair. This is an event quite unlike most of the trade shows I attend during the year. I have mixed emotions about it, but generally enjoy myself.

Although there will be headliners like keynote speaker Michael Chabon, one of the fascinating things about the AWP conference is the prominent role played by poets. Among this year's featured readers are Rita Dove, Kimiko Hahn, Marie Ponsot, Kevin Young, Robert Hass and many, many more. Poets matter here.

Known and unknown poets will congregate in hotel lobbies, bars and conference rooms during AWP 2010. At the bookfair, poets and small indie presses will be noticed by attendees in ways unimaginable at BEA. Poetry books sell at AWP, and the fact that it's National Poetry Month is coincidental to the transactions rather than a catalyst.

I'll probably buy more poetry in Denver next week. And the Colorado Rockies open their home season Friday.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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