Shelf Awareness for Monday, July 26, 2010


Harper: A Crooked Tree by Una Mannion

Algonquin Books: Let's Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih

Simon & Schuster: Unicorns Are the Worst! by Alex Willan

Candlewick Press: In the Half Room by Carson Ellis

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Kondo & Kezumi Visit Giant Island by David Goodner, illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi

Candlewick Press: A Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Shawn Harris

Quotation of the Day

Australian Author 'Never Met a Bookstore That I Didn't Love'

"I have never met a bookstore that I didn't love. And I've met a lot. I can't seem to help myself. It's a habit, an obsession, a life's work. Drop me anywhere and it's like a homing device starts blinking in my brain.... Every bookstore is different, just like the people who own them, and yet there are threads that tie them together. The books for one thing. All those covers. All those blurbs. The dim nooks and corners where shelves meet. The spines, lined up, row upon row, covers turned face out every so often, calling you to come a little closer. I always feel, if I could just stand quietly enough, I might actually hear the faint whispering of thousands of stories jostling together on the shelves, waiting to be chosen."

--Author Kate Morton, speaking at the Australian Booksellers Association's annual conference (via the Australian).

 


Sourcebooks Explore: No Reading Allowed: The Worst Read-Aloud Book Ever by Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter, illustrated by Bryce Gladfelter


News

Notes: 'Wylie World'; E-Book Experiences

Cool idea of the day: under signs saying "this book not for sale," today Square Books, Oxford, Miss., put up "Wylie World," a display in its front window of a range of titles represented by the Wylie Agency, which last week announced that it is selling the only e-editions of 20 books represented by the agency exclusively on Amazon's Kindle for two years (Shelf Awareness, July 22, 2010).

On its website, the store called the exclusivity deal "a bit like our selling you books that you could read only using the bedside lamp you must also purchase from us." It also said the deal is "a soiling of the First Amendment that so many of the agency's authors, such as Arthur Miller and Salman Rushdie, have fought so hard to protect."

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"I'm a books person. Yes, I have a Kindle. I used it for an hour and a half and put it in the closet," Andrew Wylie told the London Observer in an interview published April 18. Quillblog mischievously recalled the comment in the wake of Wylie's deal with Amazon.

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On his blog, Mike Shatzkin of Idea Logical Company offers a coherent history of the sometimes confusing subject of e-book rights and royalties, putting the Wylie-Amazon deal and reaction to it in perspective. His conclusion, for now:

"Even if the publishers pushing back manage to win this round with Wylie, and they well might, I don't think the 25% royalty can hold for very long. As more and more of the business shifts to e-books, companies without the legacy costs that big publishers have will find it easy to pay higher royalties than that and agents will keep doing the math about how many sales they can afford to lose and still end up ahead in dollars with a higher e-book royalty. As Amazon should have learned in their fight with Macmillan in January, it isn't smart business to draw a line in the sand marking a position you ultimately can’t defend. I hope every big publisher in town will take that lesson on board."

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Scott Kirsner spent his summer vacation reading books, magazines and newspapers on e-readers and recounted the experience for the Boston Globe.

"I tried to stay out of bookstores on my vacation, to maximize my dependence on the e-readers, and was mostly successful," he wrote. "But I couldn't keep my son out of Where the Sidewalk Ends, an independent bookstore in Chatham with a separate children's wing. One of the books he wanted to look at was Scarry's Biggest Word Book Ever, a hardcover volume nearly 30 inches wide when open on the floor. As he sat at the edge of its board-like pages, the book filled most of his field of vision with steam locomotives and pickle cars and backhoes. It was hard to imagine an e-book ever duplicating that experience.

"And then back in Cambridge, the Harvard Book Store offered tables stacked high with new releases, a calendar packed with author events, and a helpful information desk staffer to answer a question about when the new Carl Hiaasen novel would be out. While the e-readers serve up books in a fast, convenient, and cost-effective way--and there are few better formulas for success in American business--I'd missed the rich experience of spending time in a good bookstore."

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"There was a time when people said books on CDs would be the end of the book. It wasn't. That's how we regard the e-book, as another format," Susan Novotny, owner of the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y., told the Business Review in reaction to Amazon's recent announcement that Kindle e-books were now outselling hardcovers at the company.

"We independent booksellers are a pretty resilient lot," Novotny said. "We’re not intimidated by all these gizmos.... Those of us that survived the growth of Amazon and the big boxes in the 90s are a tenacious and nimble lot."

She added that despite the many new electronic options for readers, she is "not seeing any difference" in customer activity. "Most people that shop in my store are hard-core readers that buy 50 or 60 books a year and read a whole lot more than that and augment that with the library and friends. They are not necessarily heavily into experiencing a book in electronic format. They like to hold the book, experience the book, smell the book, crack the spine, enjoy the book in their hand and then when they’re done keep it on the shelf or give it to another reader."

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The San Francisco Chronicle's "Five Places" feature selected locations in which "those looking to celebrate history's great stories (whether on paper or pixel), or who are just fans of the paper smell that wafts from bookstores and libraries, will find happiness."

Spotlighted destinations included the San Francisco Public Library; Powell's City of Books, Portland, Ore.; the International Printing Museum, Carson, Calif.; the Library Bistro and Bookstore Bar, Seattle, Wash.; and the Sylvia Beach Hotel, Newport, Ore.

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Congratulations to Taylor Books, Charleston, W.Va., which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this month.

Owner Ann Saville told the Gazette, "I never had a desire to open a bookstore. I just wanted to live downtown and I loved these old buildings." Still, after going to ABA Booksellers School, she has created what one customer called "a unique institution. My friends from larger cities are often jealous they don't have the equivalent available to them. This is a bookstore, coffee shop, wine bar and place with live music on the weekends."

There is also a gallery that offers drawings, paintings, sculpture as well as jewelry, glassware and other crafts by local artisans.

Saville and her late husband, Paul, bought the building where the store is located. She has lived upstairs since then and bakes scones daily to sell in the store. "This is a marvelous way to grow old," Saville told the paper.

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"I thought it was something I would be doing for six months and leave town and do something else. That was 38 years ago," said Archie Kutz, co-owner of Lift Bridge Book Shop, Brockport, N.Y., for a profile of his business in the Democrat & Chronicle.

Pat Kutz added that the indie, which has been open since 1972, is a testimony to the value of a long business lifetime: "The stores that are more than 30 years old, that are still open, are very strong."

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The Triple Goddess Bookstore, Okemos, Mich., is one of "three prominent downtown Okemos properties [that] could end up being the latest casualties of tough economic times, according to the Lansing State Journal, which reported that "Comerica Bank has begun foreclosure proceedings against Travelers Club Restaurant and Tuba Museum, White Bros. Music and the building housing the Triple Goddess Bookstore. All three properties are owned by William White."

Linda Fausey, who helps out at the bookstore, said co-owners Dawne and Alan Coe "plan to stay put for the time being," the State Journal wrote.

"The bookstore is doing fine. We have no plans to close the bookstore. If we have to move we will do so, but we hate to see this corner go down," Fausey said. "We're losing so much of what we have left of our culture these days. We have seen so much of this happen, and we don't seem to be able to do anything to stop it."

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The first rule of Jane Austen's Fight Club? "One never mentions fight club."

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Congratulations to Josh Christie of Sherman's Books and Stationery, Freeport, Me., winner of the Rusty Drugan Scholarship for Emerging Leaders. The annual award is sponsored by the New England Independent Booksellers Association and honors the late Wayne "Rusty" Drugan, who was NEIBA executive director from 1992 to 2006.

Congratulations, too, to Ellen Pyle of Macmillan, who has won the Gilman Award for outstanding service as a sales representative to New England independent bookstores.

Both awards will be presented at NEIBA's fall conference Friday, October 1, in Providence, R.I.

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Shelf Awareness book reviewer Nick DiMartino, whose day job is at the University Bookstore, Seattle, Wash., recently taught the art of book reviewing to 16 high school students in the Puget Sound Writing Project at the University of Washington. The students were led by Steven Garmanian, a teacher at Everett High School, Everett, Wash.

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Effective September 1, Marie du Vaure is joining Copperfield's, which has nine locations in northern California, as frontlist buyer. She has been head buyer at Vroman's, Pasadena, Calif., for eight years and has worked at several other independent bookstores in Los Angeles. She was raised in Southeast Asia, educated in France, has worked in the U.S. for the past two decades and replaces Ty Wilson, who has become a sales rep at PGW.

Copperfield's CEO Tom Montan commented: "Replacing Ty was really an impossibility, but the candidates that surfaced were amazing and the choice was very difficult. I am very excited to be bringing Marie on board and her huge talent and wonderful personality will be a great match for Copperfield's and will help carry the work that Ty has done over the last many years into the future."

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Ron Marshall, who at the beginning of the year left his positions as president and CEO of Borders Group to become CEO of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., has stepped down after the grocery retailer reported that its loss grew in the first quarter, according to the AP. Shares of A&P dropped to at least a 25-year low.

Marshall had been at Borders a year and has had a reputation for turning around troubled companies.

 


University of Minnesota Press: My Life in the Purple Kingdom by Brownmark and Cynthia M Uhrich


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Carl Hiaasen on Today Tomorrow

This morning on Imus in the Morning: Jerry Della Femina, author of From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor: Front-Line Dispatches from the Advertising War (Simon & Schuster, $14, 9781451609905/1451609906).

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Today on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Alexander Humez, Nicholas Humez and Rob Flynn, authors of Short Cuts: A Guide to Oaths, Ring Tones, Ransom Notes, Famous Last Words, and Other Forms of Minimalist Communication (Oxford University Press, $19.95, 9780195389135/0195389131).

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Tonight on the Daily Show: William Rosen, author of The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention (Random House, $28, 9781400067053/1400067057).

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Tonight on the Colbert Report: Hephzibah Anderson, author of Chastened: The Unexpected Story of My Year without Sex (Viking, $25.95, 9780670021864/0670021865).

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Tomorrow morning on Imus in the Morning: Fred Goodman, author of Fortune's Fool: Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Warner Music, and an Industry in Crisis (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9780743269988/0743269985).

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Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Carl Hiaasen, author of Star Island (Knopf, $26.95, 9780307272584/0307272583).

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Tomorrow on NPR's Fresh Air: Jonathan Eig, author of Get Capone: The Secret Plot That Captured America's Most Wanted Gangster (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781416580591/141658059X).

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Tomorrow on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show: Dave Zirin, author of Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love (Scribner, $25, 9781416554752/1416554750).

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Tomorrow on Hannity: Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, authors of The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War on America (Threshold Editions, $27, 9781439189306/1439189307).

 


Storey Publishing: Wake Up Grateful: The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted by Kristi Nelson


Movies: A Contract with God

Will Eisner's graphic novel A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories will be adapted into a live-action film by writer-producer Darren Dean, with its four chapters helmed by different directors: Alex Rivera (Sleep Dealer), Tze Chun (Children of Invention), Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy) and Sean Baker (Prince of Broadway), according to the Hollywood Reporter.

 


Rick Riordan Presents: City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda


On Stage: Elton John's Animal Farm

Elton John and Lee Hall--who collaborated on the musical Billy Elliot--will team up again for a stage version of George Orwell's Animal Farm.

The Daily Mail reported that Hall called the novel "perfectly suited for the stage and pointed out that there are phrases such as 'All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others' that lend themselves to lyrics."

"I'm deep into it, writing songs for pigs and other four-legged friends," he added, noting that work on the project would begin after the summer. "Having worked with him on Billy Elliot, I know that Elton likes to have the lyrics done and have them in front of him so I'll work on a batch before I give him anything to look at. I would think it's going to take about two years before it's all ready to go."

 



Books & Authors

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover

The Ice Princess: A Novel by Camilla Lackberg, translated by Steven T. Murray (Pegasus, $25.95, 9781605980928/1605980927). "This book is not just a truly gripping crime novel, but also an exploration of the hidden depths and forgotten secrets of a small community. Like the very best crime fiction, The Ice Princess is as much about discovering the truth of the characters as it is about discovering the truth of 'whodunnit.' "--Billie Bloebaum, Powell's Books at PDX, Portland, Ore.

I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee (Gallery, $25, 9781439142738/1439142734). "This memoir from the Daily Show correspondent is witty, raw, honest, and hilarious. From her oddly large and ever-changing family with its secret affairs and obscurities to her childhood obsession and crush on Jesus, Samantha tells us how her uncomfortable it was to grow up fast. Recalling awkward stages of her life, complete with revealing, novel views on an array of subjects, Samantha leaves us shocked and completely infatuated. I desperately want to read more!"--Jennifer Chinn, the Book Works, Del Mar, Calif.

Paperback

The Quickening: A Novel by Michelle Hoover (Other Press, $14.95, 9781590513460/1590513460). "This exceptional debut novel reminded me of the writing of Willa Cather. It is the story of two women, struggling to survive in the hard country of 1900s Midwest farmland. Their tentative and unlikely friendship is forged by their need for companionship and survival. The Quickening is not just a good historical novel, it is a lyrical exploration into the human condition under great hardship."--Lanora Hurley, Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, Wis.

For Ages 9 to 12

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine (Philomel, $15.99, 9780399252648/0399252649). "Mockingbird tells of Caitlin, an 11-year-old girl living with Asperger's syndrome. Erskine offers a remarkable window into the world of an autistic child. Readers will gain both understanding and empathy. We think of heroes as those who save the lives of others. Often, real heroes simply live out their own lives. This is a memorable and moving book."--Christopher Rose, Andover Bookstore, Andover, Mass.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

 


Chess Piece: Masters of Technique

The World Cup and Tour de France are over. Baseball has yet to head into the final stretch. The U.S. Open doesn't get into high gear until the end of next month. For high-minded, distracted sports fans, here's a timely book: Masters of Technique (Mongoose Press, distributed by NBN, $24.95, 9780979148262/097914826X).

Editor Howard Goldowsky calls it "the first of its kind--the first literary chess fiction anthology." In compiling Masters of Technique, he had to make at least 12 moves, some more complicated than others. He recounts them here:

"Ed Falco's story was actually written for our book, but he found a home for it at the Gettysburg Review before we went to press. Wells Tower (who just became one of the New Yorker's top 20 writers under 40) wrote a fantastic, spellbinding nonfiction piece about a homeless chess hustler for the Washington Post, which won a chess journalism award--this is how I first learned about Tower's skill. His story is obviously a reprint (with one change!). The idea for the story seems to have originated from the Washington Post piece. A few reprinted older stories I just liked too much to exclude (Levery and Wheatcroft's work). Steven Carter is a life member of the U.S. Chess Federation, so I had an easy time contacting him. Katherine Neville is famous for her chess novels. Paul Eggers has written some fantastic chess fiction, so I've been in touch with him over the years via fan mail. Michael Weinreb wrote the award-winning Kings of New York. When I interviewed him for a chess magazine about that book, I learned that he received an MFA in creative writing from Boston University. Patrick Somerville wrote a short short about chess for Esquire magazine. I read the piece, Googled his name, and that's how he got on board. Katie Katimura wrote a fantastic novel about mixed martial arts fighting (a metaphorically close relative to chess, believe it or not), so I contacted her out of the blue, wondering if she wanted to write a story relating fighting to chess. She agreed to contribute, but wound up writing about Alzheimer's and chess. Seven or eight stories are original."

A "small, young" publisher, Mongoose was able to entice the writers to volunteer their services for Masters of Technique. The press plans to give at least half of the proceeds to young chess players who qualify for international competition but need help paying for airfare, lodging, etc.

 


Book Review

Mandahla: The Disappearing Spoon

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean (Little Brown and Company, $24.99 Hardcover, 9780316051644, July 2010)



The Disappearing Spoon
is a marvelous collection of stories about the elements of the periodic table. You may think this is an arcane undertaking--how much do we really remember (or want to remember) of that chart hanging on the classroom wall? Sam Kean says part of the frustration you might have had with the periodic table was that, even though you could consult it during exams, "a gigantic and fully sanctioned cheat sheet, it remained less than frickin' helpful." Most people recall the table with fear and loathing, but Kean is enthralled by the table, and the tales of obsession, quirkiness and mystery that surround the elements. For instance:

Marie Curie isolated polonium, but Kean says that "naming her first element after Poland contributed nothing to [the country's independence efforts]. In fact, it turned out to have been a rash decision. As a metal, polonium is useless. It decays so quickly it might have been a mocking metaphor for Poland itself."

"The lightest element in poisoner's corridor is cadmium, which traces its notoriety to an ancient mine in central Japan."
 
"Gold is an aloof metal." Other metals can be mistaken for gold because they shine, like calaverite. "You can imagine a raw, dirty eighteen-year-old hauling in calaverite nuggets to the local appraiser in Hannan's Find, only to hear the appraiser dismiss them as a sackful of what mineralogists classify as bagoshite."

How about the story of David Hahn, who grew obsessed with dangerous elements? He wanted to solve the world's energy crisis and break its addiction to oil. He desired this so badly--"as badly as only a teenager can want something--that this Detroit sixteen-year-old, as part of a clandestine Eagle Scout project gone berserk in the mid-1990s, erected a nuclear reactor in a potting shed in his mother's backyard."

The science is fascinating; the stories amazing, astounding and sometimes tragic; and Kean's enthusiastic wit runs throughout the book ("Back in berkelium, californium, anger followed shock."). If you thought you wouldn't be captivated by a science book, think again. The Disappearing Spoon will change your mind.--Marilyn Dahl

Shelf Talker:
A fascinating and witty tour through all the elements of that bane of high school chemistry, the periodic table.

 


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