Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hampton Roads Publishing Company: Becoming Baba Yaga: Trickster, Feminist, and Witch of the Woods by Kris Spisak, Foreword by Gennarose Nethercott

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

Severn House: A Messy Murder (Main) (The Decluttering Mysteries #4) by Simon Brett

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker

Quotation of the Day

Publishers 'Take the Summer Off'

"It's summer, and publishers take the summer off, starting about April 15 and resuming shortly after Labor Day. They work hard through early September until the Jewish holidays, which they observe for the full three weeks from Rosh Hashonah to Shemini Atzeret. Columbus Day and Thanksgiving pretty much wipe out October and November, and December is of course gone to Christmas. Their offices are open at greatest length for a couple of weeks in each of January, February and March before they shut down again for the summer, as noted, in April."

--David Frum, quoting a "literary friend" in his Atlantic piece
"Why Your Publisher Won't Answer Your Email."

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Image of the Day: Show-offs


On Tuesday, June 29, Brad Thor launched the tour for Foreign Influence (Atria), his latest thriller starring ex-Navy SEAL Scot Horvath, at Books & Greetings, Northvale, N.J., to an SRO crowd. Here Thor and Books & Greetings owner Kenny Sarfin (r.) show each other's stuff.


GLOW: Sourcebooks Landmark: A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler

Notes: Borders Selling Paperchase; Censorship Suit in Bay State

Borders Group is selling its Paperchase stationery subsidiary to Primary Capital, a U.K. private equity firm, for about $31 million and will use at least $25 million of the proceeds to reduce outstanding debt on its $90 million term loan credit facility. Wall Street liked the news: yesterday Borders stock closed at $1.61, up 9.5%.

In 1999, Borders bought 15% of Paperchase, which was founded in the U.K in the 1970s. In 2004 Borders bought most of the rest of the company--excluding 3%. At the time, Paperchase was valued at $34.1 million, including the assumption of $4.1 million of debt.

Paperchase sells stationery, cards and gifts and has both stand-alone stores and sections in Borders stores. After the sale, Borders will continue to carry Paperchase products.

Mike Edwards, president of Borders Group, called the sale "another major step in strengthening our balance sheet--and enables us to place an even greater focus on our financial and strategic initiatives, which are vital to a Borders turnaround and revitalization of the brand."


A group including the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Harvard Bookstore, Cambridge, Mass., Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass., the AAP, the ACLU and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has filed suit against a Massachusetts law that went into effect on Monday banning from the Internet sexually explicit material that could be harmful to minors. The group argues that the law is "a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to shield children from explicit and otherwise harmful material online" that is "too broad and cannot be enforced," the Boston Globe wrote. Under the law, violators may be fined $10,000 or sentenced to five years in prison or both.

Speaking of the law's possible effect on the store's website, Carole Horne, general manager at Harvard Bookstore, told WBUR, "A lot of the book jackets have photographs of nudes, some of them deal with sexually explicit material, and we are concerned that somebody could decide that's harmful to minors and go after us."

The law tightens up an earlier law banning the sale of sexually explicit material to minors that had not included the Internet.


A Wall Street Journal piece yesterday about signings in New York City bookstores, a kind of guide to which Barnes & Noble and Borders locations are most prestigious and most suited to particular types of books, received some strong reaction.

In a thoughtful blog post, Overlook Press took a second look at some of the issues, writing in part: "Even a chain store will have its own personality, whether it's in terms of size, accessories (the Lincoln Triangle B&N has a piano and excellent video equipment), or the surrounding neighborhood. An author who's a West Village or Upper East Side resident or native will often get the best response there."


Book trailer of the day: Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James (Bantam), published yesterday.


The New York Times surveys nanny novels, which "still draw a keen audience" nine years after the publication of The Nanny Diaries. The books showcase "complex and imperfect nannies whose personal stories intersect with thorny larger questions about race, class, immigration and parenthood."


Will Leathem, co-owner of Prospero's Books, Kansas City, Mo., "couldn't imagine a city like Blue Springs without the kind of book store he and [Beth King] will be reopening on Friday," the Examiner reported.

"The people I've met here in Westport have ties to the Blue Springs area, and throughout the years they have been asking us to move out to the area," he said. "They've kept telling us, 'You've got to move out to Blue Springs, you have to.' "

Leathem expressed interest in Parkside Books earlier this year when he heard that one of the owners was retiring. His subsequent negotiations with King have resulted in the shop's official grand reopening as Prospero's Parkside Books.

King welcomed the change: "The store was up for sale last year, but last January wasn't a good time to try and sell anything," she said, adding that when Leathem approached her, "I offered to co-manage with him and we went from there. I knew there was potential in the store.... This is good news. You know how it is when a dream comes true?”


"Just about the only thing I enjoy more than fried seafood in summertime is finding a new bookstore," mused Boston Bibliophile in the opening of a blog post about her recent day trip to Cape Ann, on Boston's north shore, "to visit four new-to-us used bookstores."


"There's something quite magical about going into used bookstore," wrote CultureMob to introduce its "recommendations for the best used bookstores in Washington, D.C. Visit them all and pick up those books you have been meaning to read."


A brief history of the slush pile was featured in the Awl, which concluded that the term "is loaded with numerous shady insinuations. From the Post's first deployment of 'slush pile' to Van Loan's unethical reporter and ship slush emerges the foul and mercenary undertones that resonate into our modern use of 'slush pile.' One does often associate slush piles with the trash bin. Is that where J.H. Seward & Co.'s rotten sawdust fruit should have gone? How about leftover cooking fat? Or irresponsible journalism? Apparently not. Just ask fans of John Ashbery, Philip Roth, Harry Potter and Twilight, slush pile rescuees all."


Just in time for last night's All-Star game, the Huffington Post featured "16 of the Greatest Books About Baseball." 


Effective August 2, John Groton is joining National Book Network as v-p of sales. He has held senior and executive sales positions at Simon & Schuster, Random House, Globe Pequot Press and most recently Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

He will be based in Stonington, Conn., and have offices in New York City and Lanham, Md. He may be reached at


Lotz New Joint Group Managing Director of Walker Group

Karen Lotz has been named joint group managing director of the Walker Group--which includes Candlewick Press, Walker Books UK and Walker Books Australia--effective immediately. David Heatherwick will step down as group managing director, a position he held for more than 20 years; he will continue as the Walker Group's finance director.

In her new role, Lotz will coordinate publishing efforts across the group, develop a more global approach to publishing and marketing, and oversee Walker's digital, brand and licensing business, as well as help manage the Walker Group. She will remain based in Candlewick's Somerville, Mass., office and continue as its president and publisher. Lotz joined Candlewick Press in 1999 and has overseen a growth in the sales of its U.S.-originated portion of the list from $5 million in 1999 to $28 million in 2009.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Frank Deford on Bliss, Remembered

Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Frank Deford, author of Bliss, Remembered (Overlook, $25.95, 9781590203590/1590203593).


Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (Doubleday, $25.95, 9780385501125/0385501129). As the show put it, "A little girl is able to taste sadness in her food. Her brother, who has become emotionally withdrawn, is able to turn himself into inanimate objects. Aimee Bender shows how by using the techniques of fairy tales, legends and magic realism, her novels and stories about family dysfunction are transformed into narratives about growth and change."


Movies: Unscrupulous

Television producer William Rabbe has optioned The Ohio Gang: The World of Waren G. Harding by Charles L. Mee. Variety reported that Rabbe plans to adapt the book about President Harding's administration, which was published in 1980, "into a political-thriller feature called Unscrupulous." Director, screenwriter and cast have not been attached to the project yet.


Television: My Life As an Experiment

Reveille Productions and Jack Black's Electric Dynamite Productions have optioned the television rights to My Life As an Experiment: One Man's Humble Quest to Improve Himself by Living as a Woman, Becoming George Washington, Telling No Lies, and Other Radical Tests by A.J. Jacobs. The project they have in mind is "a potential half-hour comedy series," reported.

"I'm being radically honest when I say I'm thrilled to be working with Reveille and Jack Black, and I'm looking forward to helping them transform these stories from my life into a series," Jacobs said.


Books & Authors

Awards: Authors' Club Dolman Travel Book of the Year

Ian Thomson's The Dead Yard, a "gritty portrait of modern Jamaica," won this year's £2,500 (US$3,770) Authors' Club Dolman Travel Book Award for narrative travel writing, the Telegraph reported.  
Michael Jacobs, chairman of the judges, called The Dead Yard "not just a beautifully written and very rich account of a distant place, but also of vital importance for the understanding of a major element in contemporary British culture."

Thomson's work bested a shortlist that included Along the Enchanted Way by William Blacker, A Single Swallow by Horatio Clare, Eleven Minutes Late by Matthew Engel, Out of Steppe by Daniel Metcalfe, Lost and Found in Russia by Susan Richards and Tequila Oil: Getting Lost in Mexico by Hugh Thomson.


Book Brahmin: Chevy Stevens

Chevy Stevens grew up on a ranch on Vancouver Island and still calls the island home. When she's not working on her next book, Never Knowing, she's hiking with her husband and dog in the local mountains. Still Missing (July 6, 2010, St. Martin's Press) is her first novel. 

On your nightstand now:

I just finished The Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley, a really interesting thriller about a family struggling to survive a pandemic, and I'm currently reading Sylvia by Bryce Courtenay. I'm looking forward to starting Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. I've heard fabulous things!
Favorite book when you were a child:

My dad introduced me to the Xanth series by Piers Anthony and I devoured them. There was something so wonderful about the idea of a magical world running parallel to ours. Piers Anthony is amazing with wordplay and puns. I also had a tendency to steal my mom's books, so I read Clan of the Cave Bear, some V.C. Andrews and lots of Harlequins long before I should have been reading any of that material!

Your top five authors:

Oh, this is hard because I love so many authors for different reasons. But these are the authors I've probably read the most books by: Ed McBain, Bryce Courtenay, Michael Connelly, Pat Conroy and Stephen King. That was tough!

Book you've faked reading:

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I really wanted to because it's a classic and referenced constantly, but I just couldn't do it.
Books you're an evangelist for:

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay.
Book you've bought for the cover:

Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. There's a wonderful bookstore on Vancouver Island in an old bank that my father took me to when I was young. I still remember gazing up at this book on the top shelf. We went back twice and then he bought it for me. I still have it.

Book that changed your life:

Wow, that's another hard one! I believe everything I've read impacted me one way or another--even the act of writing my own book changed my life. But I guess if I had to pick, I'd say The Power of One.
Favorite line from a book:

"First with the head and then with the heart." It's from The Power of One and sums up why I love that story so much.

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

The Power of One. I just bought it again recently. Told you I was an evangelist for this book!



Book Review

Children's Review: Heart of a Samurai

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus (Amulet Books, $15.95 Hardcover, 9780810989818, August 2010)

Preus (The Legend of the Lady Slipper) takes readers on a page-turning, salty adventure based on a true story about bridging a cultural and geographic divide. A group of Japanese fisherman, blown way off course by a storm at sea, winds up on a deserted island in the Pacific in 1841. They are rescued by barbarians--Americans aboard a whaling ship called the John Howland. The story unfolds through the eyes of Manjiro, who is 14 at the time of the rescue, and whose curious nature and open-mindedness convince him that he would be well-suited to the life of a samurai. In Japan in the 19th century, however, a boy born to a fisherman carries on as a fisherman, as does his son and his son after him. But when Manjiro proves himself an able seaman, Captain Whitman invites the boy to return to America with him and be raised as his son. At that time, the Japanese believed that those who went too far offshore should be imprisoned, and for Manjiro (whom crew members name John Mung), the captain's offer is one he cannot refuse--especially after he asks the boy, "What are your hopes and dreams?"

Through Manjiro's perspective, we see the differences between the two cultures, as well as the values they share. At the beginning of his journey with the American whalers, Manjiro notes, "These were certainly barbarians if they killed animals to make shoes! Such a thing was against the law in Japan." Yet much later, when Manjiro finds himself in the position of harpooning a whale, "he remembered how repulsed he'd been that these foreigners could kill so cruelly." His ability to reflect on his own actions and to judge himself by the same standards by which he measures others earn him the respect of not only his fellow shipmates but also of the New England townsfolk where he makes his home with Captain Whitfield. "Americans and the Japanese, when you boiled it down, were more alike than they would ever admit," Manjiro thinks. "They both thought they were better than other people--and each thought they were better than the other!" Part One begins with a quote from the Samurai Creed, and the remaining parts open with quotes from Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai. We watch the fisherman's son fulfill his own seemingly grandiose claims in both attitude and outlook: Manjiro "had encountered both beauty and pain. Now he understood that was how it would always be--no matter where he went in the world." Preus makes a compelling case for the evolution of the teen who would grow up to play such a pivotal role in the changing of Western attitudes toward Japan, and Japan's attitudes toward the West. Beautifully written and liberally illustrated with Manjiro's own drawings, this impressive novel charts not only a boy's coming of age, but also two countries edging closer to enlightenment.--Jennifer M. Brown


Deeper Understanding

Hashtags Could Save Publishing

Twitter has been hyped (and over-hyped, some would argue) in the book industry for many things, one of which is to improve communication between booksellers, readers and publishers. But trying to track conversations on Twitter is like trying to find a specific needle in a giant stack of needles--unless you have a hashtag. Hashtags, for the uninitiated, are a way for people to "tag" their tweets with an agreed-upon word or phrase that follows the # symbol, so that others who may not be online at the same time or part of the same discussion can search for them, see who is saying what and join in. And yesterday saw the birth (and then explosive expansion) of #dearpublisher.

Booksellers will often tweet general musings and requests in the form of tiny letters; for example, yesterday afternoon I wrote:

HarperPerennial observed that a tag would be helpful in tracking these kinds of tweets and offered #dearpublisher as a solution.

The tag was swiftly picked up by booksellers, publishers and readers alike, and within a few hours a search for #dearpublisher turned up hundreds of diverse requests and observations, ranging in tone from thoughtful to snarky (and often both).

Katrina Lantz: Combine ebooks with hardcovers, but please don't stop printing books ever. The book is not dead. It just had babies.

Bloggers[heart]Books: I've seen a LOT of gorgeous covers this year. But why are people not allowed to have a head anymore?

Kevin Smokler: Will I be able to pay one price for both a paper book and a digital copy anytime soon?

Justina Ireland: People of color don't all live in the ghetto or have abusive parents or wish they were white. Why can't we be vampires?

BriMeetsBooks: I really dislike books with wheels for kids. They never stay on the shelves.

And publishers responded, such as PublicAffairs: PublicAffairs code of conduct: I swear we will never publish a stupid book, books about zombies or vampires, or chick lit.

If communication is key, then Twitter could bridge the oft-lamented gap between publishers, booksellers and readers with initiatives like #dearpublisher. While publishing houses will certainly get conflicting feedback and some tweets will be less helpful than others, trends can become clear. For example, Katrina Lantz and Justina Ireland's tweets quoted above had become "Top Tweets" (meaning that many other users had Re-Tweeted, or seconded, them) by 10 p.m. last night. At the very least, publishers will get to know readers and booksellers in a way that hasn't been possible before.

Other tags on reading and the book industry, some more (ahem) playful than others:

  • #askagent, in which agents field questions from writers and readers
  • #bookrageous, chronicling some of the outlandish things readers and booksellers are doing in honor of their favorite books
  • #bookstorebingo, which tracks some of the crazier things customers say to booksellers
  • #followreader, featuring weekly conversations exploring the evolution of publishing as an industry
  • #fridayreads, which encourages Twitter users to exchange notes about what they're reading on a given Friday
  • #pantyworthy, the book version of throwing panties at your favorite band
  • #pubQT, in which publishing veterans Ron Hogan and Ed Nawotka answer questions and encourage conversation about the future of publishing.--Jenn Northington

Bookstore Bingo FTW

Years ago, when I worked at a large bookstore in Manhattan, I often muttered to myself: "Retail. Only the strong survive." Judging by the many, many wonderful entrants in yesterday's round of #bookstorebingo on Twitter--aka Crazy Things Customers Say, fueled by yesterday's Notes from an ER Bookseller--some things never change.

Apparently, quite a few customers just didn't pay attention in school:

GlennWhidden: Do you have (pause, consult reading list) Hamlet? It's by (pause, consult list again) Shakespeare?

LFrannie33: Overheard: "Can you tell me who the author of Shakespeare is?"

mmerschel: "Do you have Shakespeare in English?"

Bookdwarf: I'm looking for a book but I only know the title, not the author. It's called Dante's Inferno.

VillageBksBham: "Who wrote Jane Austen?"

ragesinggoddess: @Watermarkbooks had a summer-long Jane Austen bookclub. Had someone ask when she would be there.

delmorepilcrow: "Where do yall keep the true fiction?"

joebfoster: "I definitely don't want nonfiction. I like autobiographies and history."

Then there's those memorably weird (sometimes unsettling) queries:

Bookdwarf: "Do you have books on monkeys, monkeys doing things like people?" (turns out they wanted monkeys having sex)

joebfoster:"This is the only bookstore I've ever been in that didn't have a popcorn machine."

LFrannie33: "I'm here for a Bible, not the KJV or anything. I'm looking for the original. You know the one that God wrote."

joebfoster: One of my all-time faves: "My new girlfriend is pretty churchy. Would a Gutenberg Bible be a good gift?"

handeebks: Another fave from the brick & mortar days "Do you have any books with red covers? I'm redecorating my living room in red."

ChatNoirBooks: Cust asks about return policy so I ask her why.... "Well if I don't lose weight I should be able to return the book right?"

julialikesbooks: "I'm looking for white supremacy books. I tried to order them and they were stopped at the border. Can you imagine?!" #bookstorebingo

KatherineBoG: We keep getting emails from a guy who wants us to do an event w/ Pam Grier. He has no connection, just want to meet her 

amyeureka: Overheard @EurekaBooks: Kid: "What is this place?" Mom: "It's a library." 

Handeebks: "What do you mean? Why can't I leave my 3-5 yo (unattended) in your shop while I go next door?!?"

chelseathe: Customer asks where 'nonfiction' is. I say it's broken up into history/bio etc. She calls us a bad bookstore. Really?

corpuslibris: Most commonly asked non-book-related question: Do you have a copy machine? 2nd most common: Do you sell stamps?

And that saying about how "the customer is always right"? Not so much.

bookladysblog: My favorite #bookstorebingo mistaken title: The Glass Menage a Trois.


KatherineBoG: Woman asked for CRUCIBLE, I gave it to her, she said "not the screenplay. The REAL one."

joebfoster: 2nd week as bkseller, lady looking for the KITE WALKER. Was PISSED when I suggested that KITE RUNNER might be a quicker read.

ChatNoirBooks: Oooo Ooo - Tillers of the Earth. Was completely insulted when I suggested she might be looking for Pillars of the Earth.

3rdplacepress: "Do you have Atlas Rugged?". "Uh. No, don't you mean Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand?". "No. I need Atlas Rugged."

KatherineBoG: Woman was outraged that we had signed Susan Branch bks b/c she said Branch died 2 yrs earlier. We had her in the week before.

lauriemuchnick: When I worked at Waterstone's Charing Cross Road, people would ask, Is this Foyle's? I never said, Can you read the sign?

Sometimes, these experiences lead to rewarding moments of win:

ragesinggoddess: I like to think my ability to track down books from customer-provided cover colors is legendary.

ChatNoirBooks: I'm looking for a book. It had a chicken on the cover & my sister really liked it. Total WIN with no more info we found it.

GlennWhidden: Do you have those mystery novels by Angela Lansbury? I said yes and showed him the books by "Jessica Fletcher." He was happy.

And perhaps my favorite:

joebfoster: Someone once told me that the US government classified ANGELS & DEMONS as fiction to help the Vatican with the cover-up.   --Robin Lenz


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