Shelf Awareness for Friday, April 16, 2010

Storey Publishing: The Universe in Verse: 15 Portals to Wonder Through Science & Poetry by Maria Popova

Tommy Nelson: You'll Always Have a Friend: What to Do When the Lonelies Come by Emily Ley, Illustrated by Romina Galotta

Jimmy Patterson: Amir and the Jinn Princess by M T Khan

Peachtree Publishers: Erno Rubik and His Magic Cube by Kerry Aradhya, Illustrated by Kara Kramer

Beacon Press: Kindred by Octavia Butler

Inkshares: Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel

Tundra Books: On a Mushroom Day by Chris Baker, Illustrated by Alexandria Finkeldey

Blue Box Press: A Soul of Ash and Blood: A Blood and Ash Novel by Jennifer L Armentrout

Quotation of the Day

Not Bad for an After-Hours Gig

"I was a little surprised. I guess there's money to be made in publishing."--Joseph Thorndike, director of the Tax History Project, commenting in the Christian Science Monitor on the $5.5 million in earnings reported by President and Mrs. Obama, mostly from book royalties.

Weldon Owen: The Gay Icon's Guide to Life by Michael Joosten, Illustrated by Peter Emerich


Images of the Day: The New Elliott Bay Book Company

Hundreds of people turned out yesterday for the block party thrown by the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce in celebration of Elliott Bay Book Company's grand reopening in the Pike/Pine district of Capitol Hill, one of Seattle's fastest-growing cultural hubs. Housed in a beautifully restored industrial building, the bookstore evokes much of its original Pioneer Square location with heavy exposed beams, creaky wooden floors and an upstairs loft, but improves upon it with a more open and efficient layout that is awash in natural light through skylights and a grid of windows across the front of the store. Elliott Bay’s signature cedar bookcases made the move with the books.


The eclectic mix of neighborhood habitués in attendance showed genuine enthusiasm for the arrival of a full-service independent bookseller. There was a sense that Elliott Bay has been reborn in a supportive community and can look forward to a renewed and brilliant future, much more promising than continuing primarily as a downtown tourist attraction.--Alex Baker

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

Notes: Amazon's Take on E-Book Sales Tax

Ironically, for a company that has fought sales tax collection, Amazon appears to be defining the agency model plan, which most of the major publishers are adopting for e-books sales, in a way that would make publishers responsible for collecting sales tax in many states--and publicizing it, according to

In a posting on a Kindle Community page, Amazon wrote:

"Several publishers have recently changed the nature of their relationship with Amazon, moving to a business model whereby the publisher, not Amazon, is the seller of record for their books. Kindle books sold under this model are subject to sales tax based on the publisher's state tax reporting obligations and the taxability of digital books in those states. Books where the publisher is the seller of record say "This price was set by the publisher." Nothing has changed with respect to sales taxes on Kindle books where Amazon is the seller of record."

And on its sales tax requirement page, Amazon listed four large publishers as merchants and noted the states in which it believes they should collect sales tax.


The Boston Globe traces the encouraging tale of how the Pulitzer Prize–winning Tinkers by Paul Harding (l.) came to be published after sitting in a drawer for three years. The "unlikely success story" highlights the power of word of mouth for making a successful book: "a handful of people who were so moved by the richly lyrical story of an old man facing his final days that they had to tell others about it."

The stars included Jonathan Rabinowitz of Turtle Point Press, Erika Goldman of Bellevue Literary Press (Tinkers's eventual publisher), Michael Coffey of Publishers Weekly, Lise Solomon of Consortium and Sheryl Cotleur of Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif., plus other booksellers and writers.

The author put in a lot of post-publication work, too. In the past year, Harding "drove all over, whether to bookstores or people's living rooms. 'People would get together, and they'd cook food, and they'd read the book, and I'd sit amongst them and do the Q&A,' he said."


Book trailer of the day: The Karma Club by Jessica Brody (FSG Books for Young Readers).


The Seattle Mystery Bookshop in Pioneer Square has had "a noticeable drop in sales" since the city forced owner J.B. Dickey to remove a sandwich board down the block that helped point locals and tourists to the store, wrote.

The city limits sandwich boards to just one outside a store. Dickey said he has used sandwich boards almost since opening neary 20 years ago.

Harpervia: Only Big Bumbum Matters Tomorrow by Damilare Kuku

London Book Fair: Foiled

Cool idea of the day: famous Foyles Bookshops, which is the official bookshop of the London Book Fair and will be in the Literary Cafe there, is offering a 10% discount for fair visitors or exhibitors at any of its stores, starting tomorrow and lasting through Friday, April 23.

Sadly, because of closed airspace in much of northern Europe, it appears that few North American travelers will be able to take advantage of the Foyles offer. At Shelf Awareness we know how dire the situation is: publisher Jenn Risko was supposed to be landing in London this morning, but her flight was cancelled. As of last night, her best backup offer is a Monday evening flight to Paris and then Eurostar to London on Tuesday, midway through the fair. Editor-in-chief John Mutter currently awaits cancellation of his flight this evening. Who knew volcanic ash had such power?


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Secrets of a Jewish Mother

This morning on the Today Show: Real Housewives of New York City star Jill Zarin, her sister, Lisa Wexler, and their mother, Gloria Kamen, authors of Secrets of a Jewish Mother: Real Advice, Real Stories, Real Love (Dutton, $25.95, 9780525951797/0525951792), which is being published today.


Tomorrow on NPR's To the Best of Our Knowledge: Gordon Hempton, author of One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Quest to Preserve Quiet (Free Press, $16, 9781416559108/1416559108).


Television: Tess Monaghan Meets Tina Brown

Bill Haber and Tina Brown were "on the lookout for a good femme-led gumshoe drama" and "think they've found their woman in author Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan character," Variety reported. Haber's Ostar Productions has optioned Lippman's In a Strange City and Jay Cocks (Gangs of New York) "has been tapped to adapt the book. Haber intends to shop the project to network and cable buyers for next year's development cycle."

"She's an inspired creation," said Brown. "It's amusing and ingeniously plotted and very contemporary. It just cries to be a TV show." Brown is also working with Haber on an adaptation of Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons for HBO. 


Movies: Larsson's Millennium Trilogy in English

Sony subsidiary Columbia Pictures has purchased the English-language movie rights to the late Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. The Huffington Post reported that "Yellow Bird AB, which made Swedish-language movies based on the books, will work with Columbia Pictures on the Hollywood versions, for which filming is expected to start next year."

Scott Rudin (No Country for Old Men; Schindler's List) will produce, and screenwriter Steve Zaillian will adapt the novels for film. No director has been named yet. "It's a little bit complicated, since we need someone who wants to, and can, do all three films," said Yellow Bird CEO Mikael Wallen. "There is a shortlist and a decision should be made soon."


Books & Authors

Awards: IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Shortlist

The shortlist for this year's €100,000 (US$135,483) IMPAC Dublin Literary Award includes The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, In Zodiac Light by Robert Edric, Settlement  by Christoph Hein, The Believers by Zoë Heller, Netherland by Joseph O'Neill, God's Own Country by Ross Raisin and Home by Marilynne Robinson, the Guardian reported.

Anne Fine, one of the judges, said the panel was not concerned with singling out books by big-name authors. "I am often amazed by how sloppy the books by massive names are," she said. "Sometimes we took a deep breath before agreeing that probably this book, had it been written by a debut author, would not have been looked at."


Shelf Starter: Where's My Wand?

Where's My Wand: One Boy's Magical Triumph over Alienation and Shag Carpeting by Eric Poole (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, $24.95, 9780399156557/0399156550, May 27, 2010)

Opening lines of a book we want to read:

"As God is my witness," Mother shouted, "I will not live in this chaos!"

It was a muggy St. Louis summer night in 1969. As our mother screamed at our father behind the closed door of their bedroom--"Did you even get halfway through this list?" she hollered, slamming the daily checklist of duties she made for him onto the dresser--Val and I focused on the faint electrical buzzing of the Black and Decker bug zapper hanging over the patio, as it systematically executed unsuspecting mosquitoes.

It was ten p.m. and no one was outside, but our mother kept the zapper running 24 hours a day as a silent screw-you to Mother Nature. To offset the cost of this outdoor insect patrol, she set the air conditioning of our suburban tract home at a toasty 84 degrees, so we all slept in small pools of perspiration, secure in the knowledge that those bugs knew who was boss.

I clung to my twelve-year-old sister Valerie, both of us sweating profusely as she climbed into her canopy bed fringed in multi-colored hippie beads. She squeezed my hand tightly....

"I will not be married to a sloth!" Mother thundered as I quietly reached for Val's dictionary to look up what Dad had just been called.

The bedlam Mother referred to was that created by our father opting to play Kerplunk with Val and I that afternoon, instead of completing item #7, alphabetizing the Christmas decorations stored in the garage, or #13, washing the light bulbs on the dining room chandelier. --Selected by Marilyn Dahl

Book Brahmin: Duane Swierczynski

Duane Swierczynski is the author of several crime thrillers, most recently Expiration Date, published March 30 by St. Martin's Minotaur. He also writes for Marvel Comics and has collaborated with CSI creator Anthony E. Zuiker on a series of "digi-novels" called Level 26. You can visit him at and

On your nightstand now:

David Peace's Occupied City. So far it's fascinating, dense, compelling and more than a little insane.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Movie Treasury of Horror Movies by Alan G. Frank, though I didn't know the title or author when I was a kid. It's a survey of horror flicks, with a special emphasis on the Hammer films from the 1960s/early 1970s that my dad had bought and foolishly left in the family bookcase. My God, did this book scare the living crap out of me. Page after page of stabbings, tongue-gouging, claw hammer-fu, frozen Nazis, crazy vampire women... you name it. The damned thing gave me endless nightmares, but I couldn't put it down. My younger brother and I read it so much, it eventually started to fall apart. I found a mint copy at a used bookstore just a few weeks ago, which is the only reason I know the title and author.

Your top five authors:

There are too many favorite living authors to narrow it down to five, so here are my top dead ones: James M. Cain, Fredric Brown, David Goodis, Philip K. Dick, Joseph Moncure March. I should also include Donald Westlake, but I'm still very much in denial about him being gone.

Book you've faked reading:

James Joyce's Dubliners, back in high school. (Sorry, Mr. Oliver.) At the time (1988) I was into the whole splatterpunk school of horror novels--guys like Clive Barker, David J. Schow, John Skipp & Craig Spector, Rex Miller. So, put one of those books down in favor of a bunch of stories about moody Irish people? Uh, yeah... get right on that.

Book you're an evangelist for:

On the nonfiction side: Geoffrey O'Brien's Hardboiled America, a brilliant look at hardboiled and noir writers from the mid-20th century. O'Brien's suggested reading list is alone worth the cover price; I've been ticking off titles for over a decade now.

On the fiction side: Jean-Patrick Manchette's The Prone Gunman. It's the book I recommend whenever people ask me for a crime novel beyond the usual suspects.
Book you've bought for the cover:

Way too many to name. I'm a vintage paperback junkie, so I've literally purchased pounds of meh titles that happen to have amazing covers. If only the stories inside lived up to the stories on the outside....

My favorite blog is Rex Parker's Pop Sensation, where Mr. Parker brilliantly and savagely critiques the covers of the paperbacks from his collection.
Book that changed your life:

This is so hard to narrow down, but two stand-outs are Joe Lansdale's Cold in July and Robert Ferrigno's The Horse Latitudes. These paperbacks were the gateway drugs that took me from horror to crime--and made me realize that they're just two sides of the same coin.

Favorite line from a book:

"Ray, old buddy, one of the things I'll never be able to forget is the look on your face when you strolled into your bedroom and discovered me there with your wife."--From George Garrett's "A Record As Long As Your Arm," from his collection An Evening Performance.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Charles Willeford's Pick-Up. Don't let anybody tell you anything about it. Just read it.

Book Review

Book Review: To Teach

To Teach: The Journey, in Comics by William Ayers (Teachers College Press, $15.95 Paperback, 9780807750629, May 2010)

The eight chapter titles of To Teach, including "Seeing the Student," "Creating an Environment for Learning" and "Liberating the Curriculum," are by no means misleading--they promise a serious assessment of trends in contemporary education, which William Ayers delivers with passion and authority. But the buttoned-up chapter titles don't really prepare us for the fact that the text (mostly dialogue balloons) and artful cartooning within each chapter are anything but dry and abstract. Using arresting visuals and snappy design for this graphic memoir, Ayers and Ryan Alexander-Tanner succeed in setting the principles from the bland chapter titles spinning with wit and animate concepts you might have worried would be dull. The result is education at its best: you learn and have fun, too.

Alexander-Tanner's style is especially well-suited to illustrating the contrasts between his own and Ayers' senses of humor. Alongside Ayers's discussion of designing the right kind of creative environment, Tanner slips in a visual of his own workspace (in which he also lives): mothers will wring their hands and weep at the chaos and filth that he regards as heaven. And when Ayers proclaims a key point in bold type ("Labelling students has become an epidemic in our schools... [and] suppresses possibility"), Tanner's cartoon snarkily places him on an upside-down soapbox. Ayers, with self-deprecating humor, loves the joke on himself. Their collaboration here radiates sweet good feeling throughout.

The presentation of Ayers's ideas in the medium of a graphic memoir is so engaging that many may miss how innovative his thinking is unless we recall our own educational experiences, when exciting classes and great teachers were the exception and boring classes, uninspired instruction and clocks whose hands never seemed to move were the norm. The approaches that Ayers advocates spring not from theory but from the real-world experience of many teachers who strive to create classrooms for active learning. "All teachers must become students of their students," he proclaims in his call for observing each child as an individual in the classroom; one size does not fit all when it comes to learning.

"We all have lots of things we're good at and other things we're learning to do better," he tells his students in one frame that emphasizes the pluses rather than the minuses. "As long as I live, I am under construction," he assures us when he invites the rest of us to join in the same kind of continuing adventure.--John McFarland

Shelf Talker: An innovative educator's graphic memoir that is as sweet, smart and sassy as it is inspiring.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: AWP 2010 & the Book as Sacred Object

Last Friday night in Denver, sometime between 9 and 10 p.m. Mountain time, I watched literary legend--or at least one of my literary legends--Gary Snyder walk slowly to a podium and gaze out at an audience of at least 600 people in the cavernous Four Seasons Ballroom of the Colorado Convention Center.

"This is one big hall," Snyder remarked. "I came by earlier to see the room and couldn't see the end of it."

He might have been scanning California's Great Central Valley, thinking once again, as he wrote in Mountains and Rivers Without End, "us and our stuff just covering the ground."

But he wasn't. Instead, he saw row upon row of writers, writing instructors, writing students and writing program administrators on his first visit to the conference and said, "I can't believe how big this is. Go for it, kids. America needs more good writers."

Snyder's reading was one of the highlights of a three-day literary extravaganza known as the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference and Bookfair. About 8,000 people were in Denver for meetings, panels, readings and socializing (okay, maybe a little networking, too). Writers, writers, everywhere.

Unlike my trips to BEA or regional bookseller shows, I always feel a bit like a fringe player at AWP even though I have my credentials handy--an MFA in writing from Bennington College--just in case someone asks to see my papers.

A lot of my work in Denver was decidedly offsite, including a nice reception Thursday night with the good folks from Unbridled Books and author Masha Hamilton, as well as a great conversation with MPIBA director Lisa Knudsen Saturday.

On Friday, while wandering through the book fair, I stopped by the Tattered Cover's display table, where Marti Stewart told me sales had been brisk. Even as I stood there, people were buying books, especially poetry collections. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, poetry matters at AWP.

At a panel titled "Shameless Book Promotion: Squad 365 Rides Again," which was presented to an overflow crowd at the Hyatt Regency, poet Todd Boss talked about creatively promoting his work, including his self-appointment as poet laureate of Nina's Café in St. Paul, Minn., and his acceptance of commissioned work.

"I want my poetry to reach a popular audience," he observed. "I find it troublesome that I should be forced to admit such a thing as if it were shameful." Boss also rejects the notion that poetry is an elite art form reserved for a certain class of reader: "In other countries around the world, contemporary poets are populist heroes, household names. This is not because those country’s populations are more educated nor because their poetry is less sophisticated. Rather, it is because in those cultures poetry is perceived as belonging to all audiences. It is viewed as a public resource."

Which brings me back to Gary Snyder. In 1970, I bought Riprap, & Cold Mountain Poems for $1.50, and have had that book within reach for nearly four decades. Snyder was 40 years old when I got my copy. Now he's 80.

This book has become an object that transcends its modest packaging. Maybe not a sacred object; I'm not that sentimental. But if I open to page one, I see lines I bracketed when I was 20 years old:

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

In a couple of weeks I'll be 60, and if I picked up this book for the first time now, I'd probably still highlight those lines. And these, on page six:

All the junk that goes with being human
Drops away, hard rock wavers
Even the heavy present sems to fail
This bubble of a heart.
Words and books
Like a small creek off a high ledge
Gone in dry air.

What does it mean? You already know what it means.

"Fortunately, my poetry is not that complicated," Snyder said in Denver as he made a case for demystifying his art. "You don't need to be an architect to walk into a building."

I'm glad I crossed the continent last week to hear him read. I resist the deification of paper for its own sake, have e-books on my iPod and read newspapers on my laptop, but maybe my copy of Riprap is a sacred object after all.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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