Happy Fourth of July!
Because of the Independence Day holiday on Monday, this is our last issue until Tuesday, July 6. See you then!
Because of the Independence Day holiday on Monday, this is our last issue until Tuesday, July 6. See you then!
"A lot of publishers are looking at this because they don't want to miss the next Stieg Larsson."--Kelley Ragland, editorial director of Minotaur Books, in a Wall Street Journal story "Fiction's Global Crime Wave," about the newfound popularity of mysteries from around the world in the U.S.
At ALA earlier this week, Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown, authors of the new YA gothic story Picture the Dead (Sourcebooks) appeared in period costume, signed books and took photos with librarians using artwork from the book in picture frames. Here (from l.) Betty Lee of the Rockville (Md.) Library posed with Griffin and Brown.
In a section called "Bookstores We Love for Their Spirit of Independence," the Huffington Post is encouraging readers to post pictures and descriptions of their favorite independent bookstores--and vote on them. So far more than 50 stores are included.
Despite a small market share for indies, the Huffington Post said, "An indie bookstore can still have impact on publishing--staff can hand sell a book and push it to visibility, and nobody makes a better reading recommendation than an indie bookseller."
Congratulations to Cannon Beach Book Company, Cannon Beach, Ore., which celebrated its 30th anniversary on Tuesday with "cake, champagne and lots of visitors," according to owner Valerie Ryan, who moonlights as a Shelf Awareness book reviewer (see her work below). From l.: Deb, Maureen, Kay, Valerie and Cami.
Bookselling This Week has a long obituary for "legendary bookseller" Virginia Hobson Hicks, who died on Tuesday, June 22, on St. Simons Island, Ga. She was 87.
Hicks and her husband, Harold Hicks, ran Books on the Bluff, Eulonia, Ga., and earlier owned the Book Shop in Brunswick, Ga. They also owned the Book Shop Press, which has published out-of-print local-interest books.
Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance executive director Wanda Jewell called Hicks "a bookseller's bookseller. She always had a surprising Southern tale that involved industry insiders (or created them), from giving Pat Conroy his first ever book signing, to growing up across the street from the Ingram family. She came from a long line of Southern booksellers."
On the store's 40th anniversary, BTW profiled Howard's Bookstore, Bloomington, Ind., which was founded by Howard and Mary Jane Canada and is now owned by their daughter, Joie Canada.
The 2,000-sq.-ft. store is downtown and emphasizes service, including special orders and delivery, sometimes by Canada herself.
At 66, Canada has considered retiring, she said, "But then I think that my dad didn't retire until he was 80. Work keeps you alive."
A year and a half after buying the Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass., Jeffrey Mayersohn called the experience "wild and fantastic," telling BTW, "I knew--but didn't fully appreciate--both how much work it is and how much fun I'd have."
Among changes: the store has added an Espresso Book Machine; is redesigning website, which should launch next month; and has started a book delivery service in conjunction with Metro Pedal Power.
The aim, Mayersohn said, is to be able to tell customers that for "any book ever written, you can either buy in our store or have delivered to your house the same day."
Books & Books Westhampton Beach in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., opened officially yesterday and will celebrate this weekend with several author appearances. This afternoon Christina Gonzalez talks about her new novel, The Red Umbrella, and tomorrow at 6 p.m. Pulitzer-winner Jonathan Weiner discusses his new book, Long for This World. The store is also hosting a summer-long exhibit called Written in Their Faces, photographs by Susie J. Horgan of such writers as Maya Angelou, Frank McCourt, Salman Rushdie, Richard Ford, Peter Matthiessen, Jhumpa Lahiri, Christopher Hitchens and more.
Co-owner Jack McKeown (r.) noted that after spending three months working 14-hour days to get the store ready, he's lost eight pounds. He wrote: "I'm thinking of branding it as the 'Independent Booksellers Start-Me-Up Diet.' Who needs a Stairmaster when you're shelving books for hours a day?"
The residents and many summer people of Westhampton Beach will have a full bookstore weekend. The other bookstore in town, the Open Book, is celebrating Independents Week this way: tonight a barbershop quartet will stroll the streets with Open Book balloons. Tomorrow anyone wearing an "I 'Heart' the Open Book" T-shirt gets a 20% discount at the store. Besides the regular story time at the Farmers Market, there is a 4 p.m. storytime tomorrow with Clifford, the Big Red Dog. The Open Book also will keep its doors open late on Sunday so customers can come by after the fireworks for free coffee and cookies.
In addition, on Saturday, July 17, the store is hosting the launch party for Finny by Justin Kramon (Random House). As owner Terry Lucas noted: "Justin worked for me when I first opened in 1999. He wrote in the mornings and worked at the Open Book a few afternoons so I could be with my kids after school. We are so proud of him and feel like we played a little part in this book."
Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, Wash., bid farewell to longtime bookseller Cheryl McKeon on the bookshop's blog, noting that in addition to "earning the respect and devotion of our customers, Cheryl has been a prominent and respected figure within the larger bookselling community. She has represented Third Place Books in multiple organizations including as a board member of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association and the Lake Forest Park Reads Committee. Beyond this impressive resume, however, is a true friend and colleague who will be greatly missed. Cheryl is family for us here at Third Place. It is hard to say goodbye to family. Cheryl, we wish you and your family the best in your new home. You have been a huge part of what Third Place Books is at its best and your work and legacy here will be felt well into the future."
Bobby Harrell, a 27-year-old library assistant in Bowling Green, Ky., described what it's like "to command a bookmobile" for USA Today's Pop Candy blog: "I like it when a parent tells me their son or daughter doesn't like to read, because I know there's a book for everyone, and I try very hard to find it. I also know what it's like not being able to read well. If it weren't for a teacher's help in elementary school, I don't know where I'd be today. Helping a child read better makes them a reader for life. I have adult patrons now who've been coming to bookmobiles since they were toddlers that are proof of that."
With evidence presented in slideshow format, New York magazine offered "27 Reasons that Eclipse the movie is better than Eclipse the book."
Janna Rademacher has joined Milkweed Editions as managing director. She worked at Graywolf Press for 15 years, most recently as managing director and earlier was a bookseller. She left Graywolf in 2007 and has worked with several literary presses as a consultant. She is working part-time at Milkweed Editions until September 1 while she completes freelance commitments.
Effective July 12, Ethan Rutherford is joining Milkweed Editions as managing and publicity director. He began his career as a bookseller at Three Lives & Co. in New York City and later worked in publicity and marketing at Walker and Co., Vintage and Farrar, Straus & Giroux. His work has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2009 and many literary magazines.
Today on Fresh Air: a conversation with W.S. Merwin, the next U.S. poet laureate.
Tomorrow on NPR's Weekend Edition: Howard Norman, author of What Is Left the Daughter (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, 9780618735433/0618735437).
Tomorrow on the John Batchelor Show: Sydney Schanberg, author of Beyond the Killing Fields: War Writings (Potomac Books, $27.50, 9781587875056/1587875052).
Tomorrow on Entertainment Tonight: Randy Schmidt, author of Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter (Chicago Review Press, $26.95, 9781556529764/1556529767).
On CBS's Sunday Morning: Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, authors of Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography (Simon & Schuster, $15, 9781416559399/1416559396).
Sunday on Larry King Live: Elizabeth Edwards, author of Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities (Broadway, $15, 9780767931564/0767931564).
Monday on Talk of the Nation: Paco Underhill, author of What Women Want:The Global Marketplace Turns Female Friendly (Simon & Schuster, $25, 9781416569954/1416569952).
On Sunday, July 11, PBS Masterpiece Mystery! is airing Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express starring David Suchet as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, the first of a trio of new Poirot mysteries that will appear here. Third Girl airs July 18, and Appointment With Death airs July 25. On Wednesday, July 7, PBS is airing an hour-long documentary of a present-day journey aboard the train also starring David Suchet, called David Suchet on the Orient Express.
To celebrate Christie (whose 120th birthday is this year), Poirot and Murder on the Orient Express, Masterpiece Mystery! is organizing events that would surely make M. Poirot raise an eyebrow at new technology. An online Q&A with David Suchet will take place at pbs.org/masterpiece/poirot, and a Twitter event during the broadcast of Murder on the Orient Express will include experts from Mystery Readers International, Mystery Scene and the Strand magazines. Hashtag @mystery_pbs and TweetGrid is http://is.gd/cKuvj.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, who has adapted all of the Twilight Saga novels for the big screen, said her relationship with series creator Stephenie Meyer "has been great. When I started out, I was nervous. She’s the author of these books. I was really worried she was going to subsume my process. So I kept her at bay for the first half of the first one. In the middle of writing it, I met her and went, oh, wow, my fears are completely unfounded. She is someone who is really collaborative and not precious about the work. If there’s a better idea out there--if I saw a scene different than she saw it, she’s really open to it. Which is... shocking. Once I got that about her, I began to use her as a resource a great deal more. Since then, that’s only deepened and expanded. She’s been a great collaborator, I’d have to say one of my favorite collaborations, ever. She’s one of my main sources. Whenever I’m stuck on something, I’ll call or email her for ideas."
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick won the £20,000 (US$30,349) BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction. Chair of the judges Evan Davis said, "It is the personal detail in Nothing to Envy that makes it both gripping and moving. Nowhere will you find a better account of real life in North Korea, a society that is all too easily comically typecast by massive parades of co-ordinated flag-wavers. I think we knew this book had something when we found ourselves reading it out loud to spouses and partners. And it is a real testament to Demick’s writing, that a book on such a grim topic can be so hard to put down."
Philip Gross's I Spy Pinhole Eye, "a collaborative work between the poet and photographer Simon Denison, who used a pinhole camera to transform the footings of electricity pylons," won the £10,000 (US$15,089) Wales Book of the Year award, BBC News reported.
The Media Wales People's Choice Prize, chosen by the public via an online poll, went to poet Richard Marggraf Turley's Wan Hu's Flying Chair; and Manon Steffan Ros won the Welsh-language prize for Fel Aderyn (Like a Bird).
Not the least because a pair of alleged Russian spies lived several blocks away from editor-in-chief John Mutter, we're all the more interested in espionage and derring-do and were struck by a title that in a stroke of good timing was published last week: Intelligence: A Novel of the CIA by Susan Hasler (Thomas Dunne, $24.99, 9780312576035/031257603X). The author spent 21 years working for the Company as an analyst.
In Intelligence, set after 9/11, Maddie James and fellow terrorism experts in "an intelligence agency" warn of another major terrorist attack. Their warnings fall on deaf ears as the administration stresses its victories in the War on Terror. Still, the team comes close to stopping the attack. When the administration blames Iran despite a lack of evidence, the team fights all kinds of forces to make the truth known.
Among Hasler's fans, Eric Van Lustbader said, "Not since Catch-22 has a novel with such trenchantly mordant wit illuminated the inherent insanity of institutionalized war." And Madison Smartt Bell called Intelligence "a riveting book--funny and frightening to the same degree--and also, a lot of it's probably true."
Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has chosen The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Press, $8.99, 9780439023528/0439023521) as her pick of the month for July. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she wrote:
"Have you ever resisted reading a book even if everyone you know--whose book opinions you respect--has been over the moon about it? When you finally do read it, you're so enchanted with the book that you wonder what took you so long.
"That scenario is a fair assessment of my relationship with Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. Once I picked it up, I could not put it down. The life-and-death plot has adventure, young love and a focus on family and community. The story is admittedly a little disturbing, but it's also addictive.
"If you're new to this book too, there is one benefit of starting the young-adult trilogy now: the second book is already out, and the third will be available next month."
For its July Book of the Month, the German Book Office in New York has chosen Rage and Time: A Psychopolitical Investigation by Peter Sloterdijk, translated by Mario Wenning (Columbia University Press, $34.50, 9780231145220/0231145225).
The publisher described the book this way: "While ancient civilizations worshipped strong, active emotions, modern societies have favored more peaceful attitudes, especially within the democratic process. We have largely forgotten the struggle to make use of thymos, the part of the soul that, following Plato, contains spirit, pride, and indignation. Rather, Christianity and psychoanalysis have promoted mutual understanding to overcome conflict. Through unique examples, Peter Sloterdijk, the preeminent posthumanist, argues exactly the opposite, showing how the history of Western civilization can be read as a suppression and return of rage.
"By way of reinterpreting the Iliad, Alexandre Dumas's Count of Monte Cristo, and recent Islamic political riots in Paris, Sloterdijk proves the fallacy that rage is an emotion capable of control. Global terrorism and economic frustrations have rendered strong emotions visibly resurgent, and the consequences of violent outbursts will determine international relations for decades to come. To better respond to rage and its complexity, Sloterdijk daringly breaks with entrenched dogma and contructs a new theory for confronting conflict. His approach acknowledges and respects the proper place of rage and channels it into productive political struggle."
Sloterdijk is professor of philosophy and president of the State Academy of Design at the University of Karlsruhe. His works include the philosophical Critique of Cynical Reason and the Spheres trilogy. Wenning is assistant professor at the University of Macau and has written in the areas of critical theory and German idealism.
Nic Brown is the author of the novels Floodmarkers (selected as an Editor's Choice by the New York Times Book Review) and Doubles (Counterpoint, June 15, 2010). His work has appeared in the Harvard Review and Glimmer Train, among many other publications. Starting in the fall, he will be a professor of English at the University of Northern Colorado.
On your nightstand now:
Stoner by John Williams. Have you read this book? It's not about a pothead, but rather a solitary professor in the Midwest in the early 20th century. Williams (no relation to the composer of the Star Wars theme song) paces it so expertly, trusting the reader on every page. There are no fireworks. Just precise prose detailing a devastating and lovely story.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Go ahead, laugh. I was way into it. Here's a line I can quote from memory: "Tasslehoff's topknot bobbed."
Your top five authors:
In no order: James Salter, Graham Greene, Denis Johnson, Francis Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway.
Book you've faked reading:
Paradise Lost. Oh Lord. I tried.
Book you're an evangelist for:
The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It's the one book I always feel confident recommending. How can you not get totally hooked? It's literary, it's a thriller, it's written beautifully. Well, my Dad didn't like it that much, actually. Or my office mate, come to think of it (she never told me if she finished). But I'm standing behind it. Go, read!
Book you've bought for the cover:
Third Edition Columbia Encyclopedia, 1963. Giant brown tome with a gold crown embossed on a red spine. It looks both incredibly important and sort of pitiful in a very lovable way.
Book that changed your life:
Jesus' Son, by Denis Johnson. Proved you could be heartbreaking and hilarious and really very weird simultaneously.
Favorite line from a book:
"When it rains, I keep dry underneath a toadstool."--I Am a Rabbit, Ole Risom (illustrated by Richard Scarry). It's funny to think of the amount of time I spend reading children's books to my daughter. Hundreds and hundreds of hours. But this one never gets old. The author Matthew Vollmer gave it to me as a gift, and I hereby officially thank him.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. When I read the last line, my brain almost exploded. I can never put the pieces back together now.
The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life by William Nicholson (Soho Press, $24.00 Hardcover, 9781569476475, July 2010)
William Nicholson is the author of the Noble Warriors Wind on Fire trilogies, as well as the Academy Award-nominated screenplays for Gladiator and Shadowlands. His writerly style would translate well to the screen: lots of dialogue, interior monologues and a breezy way with serious concepts.
On the surface, this is a contemporary tale of life among the English gentry, Sussex-country style, but there is great turmoil behind the scenes. Laura Broad, married mother of two, has just received a letter from Nick Crocker, her first love, who broke her heart 20 years ago. He is in town and wants to see her. This causes her to reexamine her marriage, her children, her entire domestic arrangement. Henry, her TV director husband, has problems of his own: a star who insults him on the set and tells him he can't do his job. Their son, Jack, has just written a composition that his teacher, Alan Strachan, did not smile upon. Henry is livid, railing against a teacher who thinks that punctuation is more important than concept.
Alan has just had his own writing rejected and is consoling himself with the porno telephone line when his delusional duplex neighbor comes screaming to his door, insisting that there is strange "banging" going on. Because he helps her, she decides that they will be lovers, even though she's old enough to be his mother.
The village rector, Miles Salmon, has lost his faith and, with it, his vocation. Out of kindness, he agrees to hold a private funeral for the dog of one of his parishioners. Why shouldn't there be animals in heaven, he reasons? A small local news story about the funeral is picked up and turned into a cause célèbre, costing Miles dearly.
Another of Alan's students, Alice, is being bullied by classmates. The teacher is oblivious until Alice's mother, Liz, points it out. Because he is attracted to Liz, he makes things right for Alice. In the process, it seems possible that Alan and Liz, who has yet to get over her ex, might get together, thwarting the dreams of Alan's neighbor and getting the ex out of the picture forever.
The only remaining farmer in this prettified countryside is losing his shirt and being harassed by preppy schoolboys nearby. One of them witnesses him killing a dog (the dog for whom the funeral is held) and this sets up a terrible situation for Dogman, as the farmer is called.
Nicholson interweaves all of these lives and stories in an insightful and entirely believable way, making trenchant observations about life in a small town, life with children and the state of matrimony.--Valerie Ryan
Shelf Talker: Life in a Sussex village may seem bucolic, but the villagers are all struggling with their own unhappiness, demons and delights.
Because we like it so much we want to get this right! Here is the correct cover for Water Ghosts by Shawna Yang Ryan, reviewed here (again) yesterday. This Penguin paperback edition appears July 27; the book was originally published as Locke 1928 by El León Literary Arts in 2007.
July Fourth is the official opening day of Beach Reading Season, and I've been invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch (um, book) before a major league barbecue at Hampton Beach, N.H., on Sunday.
Well, no, that isn't true. But as we roll into the holiday weekend and all those languorous summer hours to follow, reading--particularly "beach reading," whether or not you're literally at a beach--does matter to more people. The pressure is building among both dedicated and seasonal readers who are searching for the perfect summer books. What should they read? What shouldn't they read? What if they don't have time to read everything they take on vacation? What if they waste time reading the "wrong" books?
To smooth this annual transition to biblio-beach mode, booksellers, publishers, newspaper columnists and bloggers compile lists of summer recommendations. As an industry, our helpful advice to the public is simple: buy lots of great books, read them voraciously, and then buy more.
For those of us in the book trade, however, it gets a little more complicated. We read for a living, so what do we do on our vacations? I'd like to share a little strategy I'm using to enhance my hot weather reading this year. I plan to read well, but slowly--Dog Days of summer slow.
Once upon a time I was a slow reader, in the best sense of the concept. I lingered over pages, paragraphs and sentences. I underlined. I copied sections into commonplace books. I read aloud to any unsuspecting soul who happened to enter the room: "Listen to this."
From Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient: "Read him slowly, dear girl, you must read Kipling slowly. Watch carefully where the commas fall so you can discover the natural pauses. He is a writer who used pen and ink. He looked up from the page a lot, I believe, stared through his window and listened to birds, as most writers who are alone do. Some do not know the names of birds, though he did. Your eye is too quick and North American. Think about the speed of his pen. What an appalling, barnacled old first paragraph it is otherwise."
Before I started as a bookseller in 1992, I was practically monogamous when I read. I could spend a month with a book, six months with an author. Pages were covered with marginalia. I lived in them for long periods, then moved on, as if strolling a narrow garden path rather than weaving through rush hour traffic.
Suddenly, however, I had to change my game and learn how to read faster without sacrificing concentration, comprehension and pleasure. At the bookstore, customers thought I was a reading machine. They would sometimes ask, with unmasked awe, "How many books do you read a week?"
The answer is, as you know, complicated. I cheated. Ours is a world with stacks upon stacks of guilt-inducing ARCs waiting for their turn; of 50-pages-and-out reading. The relevant question from my customers should have been: "How many books do you finish a week?"
I did, however, learn how to be a more promiscuous reader during the 15 years I spent as a frontline bookseller and I haven't shaken that habit. Often I have three, four or five books going at once, and continue to cast my eyes with longing at the endless stream of new, tempting titles that come across my desk.
I don't necessarily like this feeding frenzy mentality, but it's what we work with in our profession. We're expected to know a little something about a lot of books; a little more about several key books; and a lot about a chosen few. We do our best to oblige.
Which brings me back to my reading plans for the summer. Beginning this holiday weekend, I'll experiment by slow-reading some of May Sarton's journals. Slowing down will take some practice after all these years, just to avoid getting the bookish bends. My transitional period currently involves a frontlist fix of Alan Furst's Spies of the Balkans and Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens.
There's another paragraph in The English Patient I like. Hana is reading again, this time to herself: "She entered the story knowing she would emerge from it feeling she had been immersed in the lives of others, in plots that stretched back twenty years, her body full of sentences and moments, as if awaking from sleep with a heaviness caused by unremembered dreams."
Sounds good to me. It's summertime, and the reading will be easy.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)