Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 10, 2010

Workman Publishing: Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think about Abortion by Gabrielle Stanley Blair

Simon & Schuster: Defend Banned Books

Simon & Schuster: Defend Banned Books

Blackstone Publishing: River Woman, River Demon by Jennifer Givhan

Sourcebooks Explore: Black Boy, Black Boy by Ali Kamanda and Jorge Redmond, illustrated by Ken Daley


Murdoch's 'Next Battle Ground': Weekly Book Review Section

At a time when book coverage is gradually disappearing from newspapers nationwide, Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal plans to launch a weekly book review within the next few weeks. The New York Observer reported that the publication is "a pull-out section that will be inserted in one of the newly created sections for the Weekend Journal... It is unclear how many pages will be dedicated to the new book review, but one source said it will be 'significant,' though it's uncertain if that means it will surpass the Times' usual 20-plus pages for its weekly Sunday Book Review, or if it will be in the same ballpark."

Robert Messenger, a former editor at the Weekly Standard and the Atlantic, and one of the founding editors of the New York Sun, "will be in charge of the weekly book review section and will also oversee the Journal's daily book reviews for the web and for the paper. Erich Eichman, who has been the books editor at the Journal since 1994, will now report to Mr. Messenger," the Observer wrote, adding that the book review will be inserted in a new section edited by recent Journal hire Gary Rosen, a former editor at Commentary and, most recently, the chief external affairs officer at the John Templeton Foundation.

The Observer concluded that Murdoch, "who is taking on the Times in New York, has chosen his next battle ground."

blogger Michael Noerr wrote that "Murdoch hates the NYT so much that his quest to destroy it has been described as 'Ahab-like' and he certainly has the coin to finance his hunt for the, er, gray whale. The majority of the changes at the WSJ over the past three years (Murdoch bought the paper in the summer of 2007) can only be understood in terms of positioning the paper as a NYT-killer. Why else a new Metro section focused on New York City, or the beefed up editorial staffing at foreign bureaus? The Times books coverage is world-renowned. Of course Rupert is going to attack it. All of which is great news for book lovers everywhere."


G.P. Putnam's Sons: All I Want for Christmas by Maggie Knox

Notes: Best Buy to Sell Kindle; 'Being Niche'

Best Buy has joined the list of Kindle retailers. CNET reported that the electronics chain "will expand its lineup of e-book readers by selling the Amazon Kindle in the coming weeks. Best Buy will display the Kindle and its rival readers [B&N's Nook and Sony's Reader] at prime locations at the end of store aisles, giving shoppers the opportunity to check out each model side-by-side."

"There's no question that e-readers have found their rightful place in today's digital lifestyle," said Chris Homeister, senior v-p and general manager of home entertainment for Best Buy. "Our goal is to help people choose the device that's right for them by providing the broadest selection of popular e-readers of any retailer, in one convenient place that enables people to easily see, touch, try and buy."

The Motley Fool weighed in on the announcement by asking, "Aren't the two companies fierce competitors? They're both trying to sell consumer electronics, media, and even digital media. If Best Buy succeeds in moving more Kindles, it will strengthen a rival."

Nevertheless, Motley Fool approved the deal, noting that "the intentions do crystallize when one considers Best Buy's plan to expand its in-store e-reader displays.... Those displays would look awfully barren without the category killer. Best Buy would look dumb if it only stocked two of the three video game consoles. Even if it fattens Amazon's coffers--that's if Amazon is turning a profit at these ridiculously low price points--it's in Best Buy's interest to not appear out of touch to its customers. Yes, it's a strange move--but it's the right move."


In a letter to shareholders regarding the company's upcoming annual meeting September 28, Barnes & Noble's board of directors highlighted steps taken to build the company’s value and criticized Ron Burkle and Yucaipa Companies by contending that "we believe that he would like the ability to form a control bloc with another Los Angeles-based investor, Aletheia Research & Management, Inc.... We believe Burkle's agenda is self-serving, and your Board strongly urges you to reject his proposals."

The board urged shareholders to "vote FOR your Board's nominees and AGAINST Yucaipa's non-binding proposal by simply signing, dating and returning the enclosed WHITE proxy card TODAY in the postage-paid envelope provided, or by following the easy instructions to vote by telephone or Internet. Your Board is unanimous in its opposition to Burkle and requests you simply discard any Gold proxy card you may receive from him."


Being niche. Several indie bookstores in the San Francisco area are "having success with innovative strategies" by "being niche, maintaining a reasonable overhead and pro-actively engaging community, online and off," the New York Times reported.

Celia Sacks, who opened Omnivore Bookstore in 2008 as the economy was tanking, carries about 2,500 new and antiquarian titles on food-related subjects. "I just thought that with starting something in the recession, there’s nowhere to go but up," she said.  

"Being a specialty store gave us something that would distinguish us," said Alan Beatts, owner of Borderlands, which specializes in science fiction. "We are serving a special demographic, and we receive customer loyalty in return."

"M" Is for Mystery "moved into a bigger space eight years ago and does brisk business both online and in-store, relying on autographed books to increase its bottom line," the Times wrote.

Although a general-interest bookshop, the Booksmith's "special depth in countercultural and music fare--befitting its Haight location--has made events a cornerstone of its business."

"The bookstores that are surviving are being really creative," said co-owner Christin Evans. "We come from management consulting, and we walked into this business with our eyes wide open."

The Times noted, however, that some "older specialty stores, like Marcus Books and A Different Light, specializing in African-American and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender literature respectively, have dealt with long-term changes in their customer base."


Cool idea of the day: in a twist on Banned Books Week displays, Printed Page Bookshop, Denver, Colo., is displaying some 100 banned and challenged books--and one title that has not been banned or challenged. The person who can correctly identify the one exception wins a gift certificate at the store, where 15 independent book dealers operate.


Centuries & Sleuths bookstore, Forest Park, Ill., is celebrating its 20th anniversary throughout September with a series of panels, the first of which, held last weekend, "featured 20 local authors who have had a part in the store's history," Bookselling This Week reported.

"We had such a huge attendance. It all just fell into place," said owner Augie Aleksy, who opened his bookshop--specializing in history, mystery, and biography--in 1990. "I definitely didn't want to be a general bookstore. And this is what I had an interest in."

After two decades in business, Alesky is still optimistic about his vision: "The store has just been a huge success. Both financially, and in the spirit of what I always wanted to do."


Toby Blackwell, owner of the Blackwell bookstore chain in the U.K., said he will set up an employee partnership model and hand over control of the company to its 900 employees, the Guardian reported. Blackwell's Oxford head office will close, with its staff relocated to work in the stores. The firm has 37 permanent bookshops and 40 that open temporarily on university campuses at the beginning of each term.

Blackwell told the Guardian "he was determined that the company founded by his great-grandfather would remain independent and wanted to harness the 'unrivalled specialist knowledge' of his booksellers to ensure the future of the retailer."

"I believe that every single one of our people is important, and can, if respected and encouraged, contribute ideas to make Blackwell's more efficient and innovative," he added. "I have therefore decided to emulate the highly successful John Lewis--and Waitrose--share partnership structure for Blackwell's. I have been studying this in detail and practice."

The Guardian noted that both the John Lewis department store and Waitrose supermarket businesses, which are the largest employee-owned groups in the U.K., "have proved far more resilient than many other businesses through the recession, and have outperformed most of their high-street rivals."


Operation Bookseller. Defense Department officials are "negotiating to buy and destroy" the 10,000-copy first printing of Operation Dark Heart by Anthony A. Shaffer, a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer and a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. The New York Times reported that the Pentagon alleges the Afghan war memoir contains intelligence secrets, despite the fact that "Army reviewers suggested various changes and redactions and signed off on the edited book in January, saying they had 'no objection on legal or operational security grounds' and the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, planned for an Aug. 31 release."

By the time DIA objections surfaced, "several dozen copies of the unexpurgated 299-page book had already been sent out to potential reviewers, and some copies found their way to online booksellers. The New York Times was able to buy a copy online late last week."

"It’s an awkward set of circumstances," said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. "The government is going to make this book famous."

An agreement has nearly been reached "over what will be taken out of a new edition to be published September 24, with the allegedly classified passages blacked out. But the two sides are still discussing whether the Pentagon will buy the first printing, currently in the publisher’s Virginia warehouse, and at what price," the Times wrote.


During the first quarter of 2011, Quallcomm plans to launch, "in connection with a partner, a device, probably an e-book reader, that features its Mirasol color screen technology," Pocket-lint reported, adding that Qualcomm "has been demonstrating its e-ink technology for some time now to press and prospective partners, with possible suitors, such as Amazon (for the next generation of the Kindle), rumored to be interested."


Kobo has released the Kobo Desktop Application for notebook and desktop computers.


Obituary note: Thomas Guinzburg, the co-founder of the Paris Review who later became president of Viking Press, died Wednesday. He was 84. "He was a marvelous combination of idealist and realist," said colleague Robert B. Silvers in the New York Times. "He was always encouraging the Review not to be deterred from discovering young writers of quality. At the same time he had a grasp of the really rough details of commercial publishing."


CFO magazine interviewed former Borders CFO/COO Mark Bierley about his departure from the company to work for a convenience-store chain (Shelf Awareness, September 3, 2010), noting that the move "seemed at first like a familiar story: finance executive makes a hasty escape from a tempestuous CFO job."

Bierley, however, explained that a new opportunity and a geographical change from Michigan to North Carolina were the primary catalysts. "I love the Borders brand. This is a personal decision. It's a change that has nothing to do with the company's change in strategy."

CFO added that "any thought that he is leaving suddenly, just after being named COO of the Borders operating unit--which brought him a $225,000 raise in base salary to $600,000, according to company filings--is not the case, according to Bierley. A move, he says, had been on his mind for a while. The promotion to Borders COO largely recognized his experience performing functions at the company that a COO would normally do, he adds."


Jeanette Limondjian, editor-at-large, v-p of new business development for Barnes & Noble, has left the company "after a 40-year career as a bookseller," Galleycat reported. In a statement, B&N noted that "Jeanette says she is most proud of her creative contribution to the successful growth of B&N and its mission to democratize bookstores and make them a friendly and comfortable place to shop for books."


A copy of John James Audubon's Birds of America, "billed as the world's most expensive book," will be sold at auction by Sotheby's in December, BBC News reported, adding that only 119 complete copies are known to exist, and all but 11 of them belong to museums and libraries. Ten years ago, another edition of the book sold for $8.8 million.  


The Gwyneth effect. A cookbook recommendation by actress Gwyneth Paltrow on her blog GOOP spurred an unanticipated sales boost for Amy Pennington, author of Urban Pantry: Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable and Seasonal Kitchen.

Pennington told the Christian Science Monitor that when she "did a cooking demo at a farmers' market in Atlanta, some people came very early on to buy Urban Pantry and have me sign it for them. As I'm not from Atlanta, I asked everyone how they heard about Urban Pantry and the overwhelming response was, GOOP!... The book climbed up the day GOOP sent out their newsletter and made the top-100 bestsellers list for the day. There is no doubt that her e-mail exposed Urban Pantry to a large audience of people who are like-minded."


Book trailer of the day: The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide by Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor (Harper Perennial), which will be published October 12.


Here's 2day's recipe from Workman's Eat Tweet by Maureen Evans (1020 rcps @ 140 chars each) culled from Twitter's @cookbook:

Skillet Spaghetti

Brwn½c onion&shroom/T garlc&olvoil. Boil+2c tom/½c TomSauce&h2o/T tompaste&ItalianMix/s+p; +10oz raw spagheti. Simmr~20m.


Publishers Group West has added the following new clients:

Cartoon Books, comic artist Jeff Smith's publishing company that includes Smith's RASL franchise and Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volume, which will ship in October in a new design.
MP Publishing, a U.K. book and e-book publisher, whose print books PGW will distribute in the U.S. and Canada. MP Publishing will publish six to eight titles annually; it makes its North American debut with an anthology of essays by Southern authors including Pat Conroy, William Gay and John Grisham called Don't Quit Your Day Job, which is edited by Sonny Brewer.
Breadpig, publisher of the collected webcomic xkcd by Randall Munroe.
Bazillion Points, Brooklyn, N.Y., which publishes heavy metal books, including Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook.
Verse Chorus Press, a music, art and literature publisher (authors include Luc Sante) and parent of Yeti magazine.
Tinderbox Press, publisher of the annual Complete Price Guide to Watches.
Wise Parenting Press, a new book and audio publisher that aims to enhance bonds between parents and children.


Disney-Hyperion: Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things by Maya Prasad

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!

How Am I Doing?
40 Conversations to Have with Yourself

by Dr. Corey Yeager

GLOW: Harper Celebrate: How Am I Doing?: 40 Conversations to Have with Yourself by Dr. Corey YeagerWho is the most important person in your life? What determines your joy? What mistakes have you learned from the most? Corey Yeager--a psychotherapist who works with the Detroit Pistons basketball franchise--poses 40 self-reflective questions to facilitate positive personal change. His inviting, empathetic approach came to prominence via the Apple TV series The Me You Can't See, produced by Oprah and Prince Harry. Dr. Yeager draws from his own life story to dispel mental health stigmas and help others gain greater personal clarity. Danielle Peterson, senior acquisition editor at Harper Celebrate, says, "The format of How Am I Doing? makes it a stand-out in the mental health genre--an excellent choice for someone looking for high-density wisdom in small, bite-sized doses." Yeager's winning insights deliver a slam-dunk of empowered inspiration bound to elicit tremendous personal reward. --Kathleen Gerard

(Harper Celebrate, $22.99 hardcover, 9781400236763, 
October 18, 2022)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Tim Egan on Fresh Air

Today on Fresh Air: Tim Egan, author of The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America (Mariner Books, $15.95, 9780547394602/0547394608).


On CBS Sunday morning: Capt. Scotty Smiley, author of Hope Unseen: The Story of the U.S. Army's First Blind Active-Duty Officer (Howard, $24.99, 9781439183793/1439183791).


Shelf Awareness Job Board: Click Here to Post Your Job>

Television: The True Adventures of a Terrible Dater

CBS is developing a situation comedy based on the upcoming book The True Adventures of a Terrible Dater by Susan Brightbill, an actress and former VH1 VJ. Variety reported that the show "centers on a single woman--who works as an architect in Chicago--and her friends as she navigates the world of dating." Sheldon Turner and Jennifer Klein are executive producers for the project from Warner Bros. TV.


Movies: Reagan

Reagan, a $30-million film version of former President Ronald Reagan's life, will be released next year. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the project, which is based on Paul Kengor's books The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life, is being co-produced by Mark Joseph--who optioned the books four years ago--and Ralph Winter. Jonas McCord wrote the script. Neither actors nor a director have been signed yet.


Books & Authors

Awards: Penguin Prize for African Writing

Winners of the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing, which highlight the diverse writing talent on the African continent and make new African fiction and nonfiction available to a wider readership, are You’re Not a Country, Africa! by Pius Adesanmi (nonfiction) and Patchwork by Ellen Banda-Aaku (fiction).

"We were overwhelmed by the number of entries for these two awards and, after hearing from the judges and readers who read the submissions, encouraged by the writing talentcoming out of our continent. Congratulations to the two worthy winners," said Alison Lowry, CEO, Penguin Books South Africa.


GBO September Pick: Fame

The German Book Office's Book of the Month pick for September is Fame: A Novel in Nine Episodes by Daniel Kehlmann, translated by Carol Janeway (Pantheon), which will be published September 14.

The GBO wrote about Fame: "Imagine being famous. Being recognized on the street, adored by people who have never even met you, known the world over. Wouldn't that be great?

"But what if, one day, you got stuck in a country where celebrity means nothing, where no one spoke your language and you didn't speak theirs, where no one knew your face (no book jackets, no TV) and you had no way of calling home? How would your fame help you then? What if someone got hold of your cell phone? What if they spoke to your girlfriends, your agent, your director, and started making decisions for you? And worse, what if no one believed you were you anymore? When you saw a look-alike acting your roles for you, what would you do? And what if one day you realized your magnum opus, like everything else you'd ever written, was a total waste of time? What would you do next? Would your audience of seven million people keep you going? Or would you lose the capacity to keep on doing it?"

Kehlmann has won a variety of prizes including the Candide Prize, the Literature Prize of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Heimito von Doderer Literature Award, the Kleist Prize, the WELT Literature Prize and the Thomas Mann Prize. His Measuring the World has been translated into more than 40 languages.

Carol Janeway has translated many books from German into English. Her best-known translation was Bernhard Schlink's The Reader.


Book Brahmin: Joan Frances Turner

Joan Frances Turner is the author of Dust (Ace Books, September 7, 2010), a story of survival beyond the grave from the undead point of view. Turner was born in Rhode Island and grew up in the Calumet region of northwest Indiana, where she still lives with her family and practices law under a different name.


On your nightstand now:

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt; The American Girl by Monika Fagerholm; Wine Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems 1946-2006 by Donald Hall; Death of an Expert Witness by P.D. James; Boswell's Presumptuous Task: The Making of the Life of Dr. Johnson by Adam Sisman; Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner.


Favorite book when you were a child:

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I scrounged up "spy clothes" and "spy tools" (a hoodie, a flashlight and a Swiss army knife) and roamed my neighborhood with a notebook just like she did, though it's just not the same having a "spy route" in the suburbs.


Your top five authors:

Angela Carter, Monika Fagerholm, Mary Gaitskill, Patricia Highsmith, Joyce Carol Oates. That's a severely truncated list because I can't possibly pick just five.


Book you've faked reading:

Bramble Bush: On Our Law and Its Study by Karl Llewellyn. I received it from a well-meaning family friend when I was accepted into law school and fled screaming by page five.


Book you're an evangelist for:

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban. One of the best dystopian novels I've ever read, and the very best post-nuclear dystopian novel: imagine the infamous British telefilm Threads, a thousand years down the road. I also nag everyone I know to read Anthony Powell's marvelous A Dance to the Music of Time, so they can join me in fearing and loathing Kenneth Widmerpool.


Your "guilty pleasure" books:

The thriving cottage industry of Francophile self-help books that profess to teach you to eat/dress/live/think like French women, all of whom of course are earthbound déesses. Strangely, their advice never seems to include, "Learn French, because then you can skip all this very American self-improvement silliness and go straight to Colette."


Book you've bought for the cover:

Wonderful Women by the Sea by Monika Fagerholm. It was a simple four-color cover with a woman splashing through beach waves but for reasons I couldn't explain, it just drew me in. As it happens, the book itself drew me in so far that I now reread it several times a year and it keeps revealing itself in amazing new ways.


Book that changed your life:

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. The language of that book was so visceral, so immediate, so supremely hyperreal that reading it was like stumbling into the narrator's roomful of blinding white lights. I only wish I could write so well, but knowing someone else could is enough.


Best book you've ever read that you were certain you'd hate:

I picked up Richmond Lattimore's translation of the Iliad solely from a vague, dreary sense that I "should" read the Iliad, and by the end was stunned and heartbroken for both sides of the battle. The final line, "Such was their burial of Hector, breaker of horses," nearly made me cry.


Favorite line from a book:

The opening line of Ruth Rendell's A Judgment in Stone: "Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write." It tells the reader the full unvarnished truth and yet raises an entire novel's worth of very complicated questions.


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

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. It combines a rarity for that time period--a lesbian love story that doesn't end in utter misery--with her incredible gift for suspense, escalating dread and characters who are strange and unsettling yet never mere caricatures.



Book Review

Book Review: The Elephant's Journey

The Elephant's Journey by Jose Saramago (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $24.00 Hardcover, 9780547352589, September 2010)

A charming, heartfelt animal tale isn't what we expect from the late Nobel Prize winner José Saramago--least of all one in which the pachyderm unleashes genuine emotion in everyone who crosses its path.

His grim, unrelenting Blindness may be most readers' idea of the definitive Saramago, but don't underestimate his lighter works, his mystical, humane The Cave and farcical The Double. His newest novel, The Elephant's Journey, is squarely in the second group. Based on a true event in 1551--the wedding gift of an elephant sent by Dom João the Third, King of Portugal, to the Archduke Maximilian of Austria, and chronicling the elephant's journey across Spain to Vienna--the tale unfolds like a medieval tapestry, told with delightful irony and whimsical good humor. The elephant is a total charmer, as is the host of colorful characters who fall under his spell, but the chronicler's tone of voice is Saramago's supreme achievement, a comical banquet of ironic understatements, convoluted thinking and universal platitudes.

True, there are still Saramago's trademark eccentricities that make his novels troublesome-going for some: paragraphs that go on for pages, no quotation marks, dialogue separated only by commas, and this time he even declines to capitalize names. The extra attention this demands only slows the reader down and immerses one deeper in the Portuguese world of 1551, when many people had no idea what an elephant even looked like.

Solomon is not an African elephant with big ears, he's a somewhat smaller Asian elephant with freckles and hair. He weighs four tons. He's mistaken by terrified villagers for God, and tricked into kneeling before the basilica by the priest. A passionate battle with Austrian soldiers nearly erupts over who exactly will be delivering the elephant to the Archduke. The porters are reduced to tears saying goodbye to him. Solomon touches everyone who crosses his path--the archduchess, the commanding officer--and these heartfelt moments in this ironic epic tale add an element of beguiling sincerity. The love between Solomon and Subhro, the mahout who tends and rides the elephant, is particularly poignant, which heightens the drama of the novel's final third section as Solomon follows in the footsteps of Hannibal, trekking through snowstorms in the Alps.

With set-piece after set-piece brought to life with economy and wit, this picaresque collection of Solomon's adventures has an earthy dignity (his defecations are titanic) and builds cumulatively to the climactic rescue of a child that's oddly unsentimental and strangely moving. --Nick DiMartino

Shelf Talker: A charming tale from José Saramago, immersing the reader in an elephant's journey from Spain to Vienna in 1551.



Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The Five-Minute Rule

New York's commuter trains have the one-minute rule. Booksellers have the five-minute rule. When I hosted events, I could set my watch by the audience members who arrived at 7:05 for a 7 p.m. event. Turns out my experience isn't unique.

Jessica Stockton Bagnulo of Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn N.Y., said, "We so have a five-minute rule. It's actually a five- to 10-minute rule, which sometimes goes as long as 20. We rarely have people show up en masse until about two minutes after the event is supposed to start, so we give them some time to settle in. One time only we got an annoyed e-mail that we had waited too long to start (which was kind of fair--it was 25 minutes later and the author was drinking wine in the back with her friends and the customer didn't realize she could have joined in the wine drinking rather than waiting in her seat.) But punctual, our Brooklyn audiences are not."

"Five-minute rule for sure," agreed Bookshop Santa Cruz's Casey Coonerty Protti. "Santa Cruz is a last-minute audience as well and we don't want to prematurely cut off browsing for the author event book or anything else. Our start time is 7:30 so people are usually trying to fit in dinner after work and make it to our event. Now, for the huge events that people are lining up way in advance, we usually start more on time.  Also, sometimes authors don't arrive until 7:30 on the dot!"

Valerie Koehler of Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Tex., uses "the five-minute rule because yes, many people run late. We don't have the problem that we had for years now that the freeway is 18 lanes wide--the authors were always the late ones! On the other hand, I start both store bookclubs and storytime on the dot. The attention span of a two-year-old may only be five minutes and I like to finish book club in the evening and go home (especially since I've been here since 9 a.m.)."

The rule is often in effect at Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, Wis., though Daniel Goldin said he's "been known to start as late as 7:15, depending on other factors. And still I usually get as many as a third of my customers coming to events after they start. I've not had any complaints, though I do have the other rule that the people lose interest after an hour (in that purchases go down and sometimes folks even start walking away), and I suspect they include that five-minute delay in their 60 minutes."

Malaprop's Bookstore, Ashville, N.C., is "not strict on starting," said Linda Barrett Knopp. "We are located downtown and sometimes finding a parking spot is a challenge, so many people do arrive en masse right at 7 p.m. or a few minutes after. Our customers are pretty laid back ('relaxed' is the vibe in Asheville). If we were super punctual, it might freak them out."

Local rules apply for Village Books, Bellingham, Wash., according to Chuck Robinson: "We tell folks that we start at 7 p.m., Bellingham time, which is five minutes behind the rest of the world. We've had no problems with this. Bellingham is a real 'last minute' town."

The five-minute rule is a natural extension of the way events are held at McLean and Eakin Bookstore, Petoskey, Mich. According to Matt Norcross, "We tend to begin our signings with a little mingling and wine & cheese with the author and the 'start time' is when we try to direct people to their seats so we can get the talk started. We have had many event start times dictated by the author, though, as I'm sure many other booksellers have. I've 'tap danced' and did an impromptu book talk while an author kept over 120 people waiting an extra 30 minutes (frankly, I ended up with a lot of extra sales because of it) and I've even had to call the local bar once to get the author off the stool and into the store. Events, even the best-planned, are always an adventure."  

Starting time strategy "is constant conversation here and we generally take it on a case by case basis," said Besse Lynch of the Bookworm of Edwards, Edwards, Colo. "Our events are structured a bit differently than most other indie bookstores. Typically when we host an author, we close the store and sell tickets to the event to including wine and appetizers (from our cafe). Because this format naturally lends itself to conversation and a cocktail party style gathering, our guests usually don't mind that we start a few minutes late. They get a chance to nibble on some yummy treats, catch up with friends and even mingle with the author before we start the show."

Rainy Day Books, Fairway, Kan., hosts more than 300 offsite events a year, so timing is an almost daily concern for Roger Doeren: "Flexibility is favorable over rigidity. We target our author event start times usually at 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m., depending on the venue. Either way, we allow time for our attendees and our authors to comfortably settle in before we officially start our presentation. Sometimes a combination of crowd management, security, traffic and weather can cause slight delays (10 to 15 minutes) in our attendees and authors arriving and settling in on time. We make informative and repetitive announcements for about 30 minutes before our start time so that the arriving attendees are made aware of our upcoming author events, our community partners, our thanks and other details."

So, variations on the five-minute rule are apparently in effect coast-to-coast, but Matt Norcross suggested another events dilemma question: "Do any booksellers have a polite way to wrap up/cut off an author who could go on talking all night? I loathe this (cutting people off) and more often than not let people ramble far too long." Any suggestions?--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Titles in Chicagoland Last Week

The following were the bestselling books at independent bookstores in and around Chicago during the week ended Sunday, September 5:

Hardcover Fiction

1. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
2. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
3. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
4. The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise by Julia Stewart
5. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
Hardcover Nonfiction

1. The Tiger by John Vaillant
2. Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
3. Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern
4. SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt
5. The Big Short by Michael Lewis
Paperback Fiction

1. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
2. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Steig Larsson
3. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
4. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
5. One Day by David Nicholls

Paperback Nonfiction

1. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
2. Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford
3. Lit by Mary Karr
4. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
5. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

1. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
2. My Mommy Hung the Moon for Me by Jamie Lee Curtis
3. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
5. It's a Book by Lane Smith

Reporting bookstores: Anderson's, Naperville and Downers Grove; Read Between the Lynes, Woodstock; the Book Table, Oak Park; the Book Cellar, Lincoln Square; Lake Forest Books, Lake Forest; the Bookstall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka; and 57th St. Books; Seminary Co-op; Women and Children First, Chicago.

[Thanks to the booksellers and Carl Lennertz!]


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