Shelf Awareness for Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mariner Books: Everyone This Christmas Has a Secret: A Festive Mystery by Benjamin Stevenson

Grove Press: Brightly Shining by Ingvild Rishøi, Translated Caroline Waight

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

Broadleaf Books: Trespass: Portraits of Unhoused Life, Love, and Understanding by Kim Watson

Nancy Paulsen Books: Sync by Ellen Hopkins

Running Press Adult: Cat People by Hannah Hillam

Beaming Books: Must-Have Autumn Reads for Your Shelf!

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

Quotation of the Day

Bookstores 'Are Absolutely, Positively, Completely Alive'

"[B]ookstores are absolutely, positively, completely alive.... But even with Amazon, even with electronic publishing, even with the Internet and TV and movies and every little downloadable thing competing for attention, bookstores are still out there. Hosting readings. Holding events. Filling their shelves with books you might want, and ordering other ones upon request when it turns out you might want something they don't have. Providing a place to drink coffee and use wi-fi and wait for your friends and just browse away a half-hour on a Saturday afternoon just because.

"Books are part of it. Books are the core. But if you've ever done more in a bookstore than just purchase a book, you understand that their purpose goes well beyond that transaction.... They're not dead or gone or empty. And they won't be, unless we let them."

--Jael McHenry, in a blog post for Intrepid Media responding to Stephen King's recent Wall Street Journal pronouncement that "bookstores are empty. It's sad. I remember a time when Fifth Avenue was lousy with bookstores. They're all gone."


Peachtree Teen: Compound Fracture by Andrew Joseph White


Image of the Day: Powerful Sign for Wimpy Kid

In honor of The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney, the fifth volume in the Diary of the Wimpy Kid series, which goes on sale this coming Tuesday, Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville, Ill., dressed up with a sign that runs the length of the storefront. It took a day to put up the 50-ft.-wide display.


Inner Traditions: Expand your collection with these must-have resource books!

Notes: Soft Skull Closes NY Office; Toni Morrison Honored

Soft Skull Press, the independent publisher that was acquired by Counterpoint in 2007, closed its New York office last Friday and laid off editorial director Denise Oswald and associate editor Anne Horowitz.

Counterpoint's CEO Charlie Winton told the New York Observer that Soft Skull "will live on from California, though there will not be anyone there dedicated to running it.... Eventually Mr. Winton hopes to designate a 'point person' within Counterpoint who would be responsible for overseeing the Soft Skull list, but he does not expect to appoint a full-time editorial director."

Oswald said there had been pressure over the past year and a half from Counterpoint to publish more books in order to increase revenue, according to the Observer. "I tried to explain that we can't do the work of producing good books if we're just trying to do books at volume," she said. "Anne and I were working tremendously long hours just to try to stay on top of the workload and trying to bring in more projects."

Former Soft Skull publisher Richard Nash observed that publicity and marketing efforts had been problematic: "Anne and Denise were acquiring books that exemplified the Soft Skull spirit. But another part of the Soft Skull spirit is the drum banging, and their books weren't getting the drum beat hard enough for them."


Toni Morrison has been inducted into the French Legion of Honor society. The Huffington Post reported that Frederic Mitterrand, Minister of Culture and Communication, called Morrison "the greatest American novelist of her time.... I want to tell you that you incarnate what's most beautiful about America... (that) which gives a black child, born during segregation into a modest family in a medium-sized Ohio city an exceptional destiny. You were the first woman writer to tell the painful history of Afro-Americans."

Morrison said she has "always felt welcomed in France and especially in Paris, and it's important to me, the receipt of this medal, the Legion of Honor, because now I know in addition to being welcomed, I am prized."


Book embargoes are making news once again this week as the New York Times "obtained" a copy of President George W. Bush’s memoir Decision Points, which is set for a November 9 release. In the Washington Post, Steven Levingston wrote: "Book publishers have gone to great lengths in the past year to keep big political memoirs out of the hands of journalists. In response, journalists have worked themselves into a lather to obtain them. But outside of newsrooms and political parlors, it's a safe bet that most Americans are not salivating over the juicy details."

Levingston concluded that "publicists may pull their hair out trying to protect their embargo and members of the media may fall over themselves to break it, but it's hard to say if there are any winners in this game. In fact, the two biggest losers may be the customers and the booksellers. Both miss out when books that are hyped online aren't available for purchase at the store. Will a disappointed reader's interest still be piqued next week?"


Carpe Librum Booksellers, Knoxville, Tenn., plans to close by the end of the year. reported that co-owner Shiela Wood-Navarro said the indie bookstore--which she opened six years ago with Flossie McNabb, Claire Poole and Martha Arnett--had been hit hard by the economy and changing book business.

"It seemed the time to make the decision even if it was one we didn't want to make. But with the economy and the book industry changing so much, it's gotten increasingly difficult," said Wood-Navarro.

In an e-mail sent to Carpe Librum customers, the owners said, "We hoped our store would grow into a community bookstore as well as a meeting place for authors, readers, and book lovers. Well, it happened! We opened and you came in droves to our many events and to inspect and buy our handpicked books. Or, just to browse and eavesdrop or join in on conversations and book discussions. You were more than just customers, but friends and partners in the small book world of Carpe Librum.

"Regrettably, the changing dynamics of book distribution combined with the current state of the economy have encroached on our little world. After much thought, we have reached the painful decision not to renew our lease in January. Nonetheless, we plan to have the BEST HOLIDAY SEASON ever and count on your continued support."


Barnes & Noble has reversed its previously announced decision to close the bookstore at University Park Village, Fort Worth, Tex. (Shelf Awareness, October 12, 2010). The Star-Telegram reported that B&N and property managers reached an agreement "that extends the store's lease for several years."


Brownstone Books, Brooklyn, N.Y., has closed after 10 years in business. Customers and supporters have been leaving messages of support and consolation on the bookshop's Facebook page, including the following: "Your store has made an amazing positive contribution to the neighborhood. Your Wednesday and Saturday story time sessions have been a vital component in my daughter's love of reading, for which I will always be grateful. They say 'it takes a village' so thanks for being a part of all of ours."


Digital versions of 14 James Bond books by Ian Fleming will be published in the U.K. for the first time, "but not through their current print publisher Penguin. The e-books instead are to be published by Ian Fleming Publications, which has administered the rights to the Fleming estate since the author died in 1964," the Bookseller reported. The Bond novels first launched as e-books in the U.S. in 2008.

The titles are scheduled to be available today, the result of a deal that "throws a spotlight on how agents and publishers are scrambling for digital rights not previously assigned under old publishing contracts." While Penguin holds the license to publish the Bond books in print editions for two more years, "it would not renew the relationship without digital rights included," according to the Bookseller. The publisher's stand was backed by agent Anthony Goff, who is president of the Association of Authors Agents: "It remains my view and that of most agents that we should not be seeking to separate out rights to different formats."

Another agent, Piers Blofeld, said he was not surprised by the move: "It makes little sense for a brand like this to share revenue with a publisher, James Bond hardly needs a publisher’s distribution and marketing skills, such as they are."


Huffington Post readers chose "7 Movies That Are Better Than the Book."


Congratulations to Mike Jones, director of sales at Keen Communications, which includes Wilderness Press, Menasha Ridge Press and Clerisy Press. Tuesday night Jones was elected to the City Council of West Linn, Ore., a town of 25,000 just south of Portland. A civic booster already, Jones noted that last year West Linn was selected by Money magazine as one of the 100 Best Small Cities in the United States.


Book trailer of the day: Passion: Erotic Romance for Women edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel (Cleis Press).


To help celebrate the fifth annual NY Art Book Fair, which begins tomorrow, "10 Art Book Publishers You Should Know About" were showcased by Flavorwire.


Video treasure of the day, unearthed by MobyLives: John Cleese, Bookseller.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Bill O'Reilly on Real Time

Tomorrow morning on Morning Joe: Stacy Schiff, author of Cleopatra: A Life (Little, Brown, $29.99, 9780316001922/0316001929).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Robyn Silverman, author of Good Girls Don't Get Fat: How Weight Obsession Is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It (Harlequin, $16.95, 9780373892204/0373892209).

Also on the Today Show: Adam Carolla, author of In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks: . . . And Other Complaints from an Angry Middle-Aged White Guy (Crown Archetype, $25, 9780307717375/0307717372).


Tomorrow Oprah celebrates the 25th anniversary of the movie The Color Purple, based on the book by Alice Walker (Mariner, $14.95, 9780156028356/0156028352).


Tomorrow on NPR's Science Friday: Sam Harris, author of The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (Free Press, $26.99, 9781439171219/1439171211).


Tomorrow night on Real Time with Bill Maher: Bill O'Reilly, author of Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama (Morrow, $27.99, 9780061950711/0061950718).


Tomorrow night on the Late Show with David Letterman: Tracy Morgan, author of I Am the New Black (Spiegel & Grau, $25, 9780385527774/0385527772).

This Weekend on Book TV: Proud to Be Right

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, November 6

8 a.m. Jay Weiner, author of This Is Not Florida: How Al Franken Won the Minnesota Senate Recount (University of Minnesota Press, $24.95, 9780816670383/0816670382), recalls the 2008 Senate race between Democrat Franken and Republican incumbent Norm Coleman. (Re-airs Sunday at 5 a.m. and 6 p.m., and Monday at 6 a.m.)

9 a.m. Book TV features coverage of the awards ceremony for winners of the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, which recognizes "outstanding book collecting efforts by college and university students." (Re-airs Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 6 a.m.)

11 a.m. For an event hosted by Village Books, Bellingham, Wash., Peter Laufer talks about his book Forbidden Creatures: Inside the World of Animal Smuggling and Exotic Pets (Lyons Press, $19.95, 9781599219264/1599219263). (Re-airs Sunday at 4 a.m.)

12 p.m. Keith Jeffery, author of The Secret History of MI-6: 1909-1949 (Penguin, $39.95, 9781594202742/1594202745), was given unprecedented access to the MI-6 archives to assist in his examination of the organization. (Re-airs Saturday at 11 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m.)

3 p.m. For an event hosted by Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C., Seth Stern and Stephen Wermiel, co-authors of Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35, 9780547149257/0547149255), recount the life and career of the Supreme Court Justice. (Re-airs Sunday at 4 p.m.)

10 p.m. After Words. Presidential historian Richard Norton interviews biographer Nigel Hamilton, author of American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush (Yale University Press, $35, 9780300169287/0300169280). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., Monday at 3 a.m. and Sunday, November 14, at 12 p.m.)

Sunday, November 7

12 a.m. Arianna Huffington discusses her book Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream Book Party (Crown, $23.99, 9780307719829/0307719820). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m. and Monday at 5 a.m.)

12 p.m. In Depth. Jonah Goldberg, editor of Proud to Be Right: Voices of the Next Conservative Generation (Harper, $15.99, 9780061965739/0061965731), joins Book TV for a live interview. Viewers can participate in the discussion by calling in during the program or submitting questions to or via Twitter (@BookTV). (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m. and Saturday, November 13, at 9 a.m.)

3 p.m. For an event hosted by Books, Inc., Berkeley, Calif., Bill Smoot, author of Conversations with Great Teachers (Indiana University Press, $24.95, 9780253354914/0253354919), talks about what makes exceptional teachers so effective. (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m. and Monday at 7 a.m.)


Television: Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea

NBC has picked up a comedy project titled Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea, adapted from Chelsea Handler's books and described as "an autobiographical multi-camera comedy based on Handler's life in her twenties," reported. Handler will not star in the show, which "will be centered on a twentysomething woman named Chelsea who won't have the same profession as comedian/author Handler but will carry a lot of the traits in her character as depicted in Handler's three best-selling autobiographical books: My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands, Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea and Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang."

Movies: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; Gulliver's Travels

20th Century Fox has set June 22, 2012, as the release date for the movie version of Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which will be directed by Timur Bekmambetov and produced by Bekmambetov, Tim Burton and Jim Lemley, reported.


Jonathan Swift could be the hot holiday author this year. noted that a new trailer has been released for the latest film version of Gulliver's Travels, starring Jack Black, which will be released December 22. 


Books & Authors

Awards: Booktrust Teenage Prize

Gregory Hughes won the £2,500 (US$4,000) Booktrust teenage prize, which recognizes the best contemporary writing for teenagers, for his "astonishing" debut novel Unhooking the Moon. Hughes told the Guardian "that he wrote the book in Iceland over a period of eight months, writing for six to seven hours every day, in a room so small he could touch both walls when he held out his arms."

Chair of judges Tony Bradman said, "As a writer Gregory Hughes has a genuinely unique voice. Unhooking the Moon is original, poignant and funny and full of terrific characters and gripping storytelling, while also managing to explore the kind of themes teenagers will find engaging. It's also a first novel, so Gregory's achievement is all the more astonishing. I have no doubt that this debut marks the beginning of a great career."

Hughes triumphed over a shortlist that included Marcus Sedgwick's Revolver, Charlie Higson's The Enemy, Jason Wallace's Out of the Shadows, Zizou Corder's Halo and Sarra Manning's Nobody's Girl.


German Book Office Picks The Weekend

For its November Book of the Month, the German Book Office has chosen The Weekend by Bernhard Schlink, translated by Shaun Whiteside and published by Pantheon on October 12.

The GBO wrote about The Weekend: "Convicted of quadruple murder and numerous acts of terrorism on behalf of the radical left, Jörg spent 24 years in prison before being unexpectedly pardoned. His sister, Christiane--whose obsessive concern for her brother's welfare has turned her into a borderline recluse--arranges a gathering to welcome Jörg back into society. Among those assembled are journalist Henner, whom Jörg believes betrayed him to the police; quiet Ilse, using the weekend to begin a novel about a common friend's alleged suicide; and Marko, a young revolutionary keen on convincing Jörg to use his newly earned freedom to speak out against the current government."

The Weekend is a "meditative novel on the past's grip on the present and the possibility--or impossibility--of redemption."

Bernhard Schlink is best known as the author of The Reader, which was made into a movie. He has written other novels and is professor of public law and the philosophy of law at Humboldt University in Berlin.

Shaun Whiteside has translated many books from French, German, Italian and Dutch. His translation of Magdalene the Sinner by Lilian Faschinger won the Schlegel-Tieck Prize in 1997.


Book Review

Book Review: Burnt Books

Burnt Books: Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav and Franz Kafka by Rodger Kamenetz (Schocken Books Inc, $25.00 Hardcover, 9780805242577, October 2010)


It's hard to imagine two more disparate characters: the Hasidic rabbi rooted in the life of the 18th-century shtetl and the secular novelist of early 20th-century Prague. And yet in linking the biographies of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav and Franz Kafka in this profound study, poet and scholar Rodger Kamenetz weaves a web of connection so intricate it seems plausible that one of his subjects might have stared into a mirror and seen the other's face.

The most obvious correspondence, and the incident that lends the book its title, is the direction each gave a close friend near the end of his life to burn his books. In Rabbi Nachman's case, a disciple acceded to that request, and, as is more widely known of Kafka, his acolyte Max Brod defied that directive. But this strange request only superficially unites the two men, and it is in its painstaking yet lively literary exegesis of their at times eerily similar works that Burnt Books excels.

Kamenetz's thesis is that the Hasid and the novelist "both adopted the same literary form, the Hasidic parable, and made it entirely new." Indeed, he suggests, the parallels between some of their stories are so strong he imagines "somehow Franz Kafka was a reincarnation, a gilgul, of Rabbi Nachman."

In brief but penetrating chapters, Kamenetz compares the themes of Kafka's classic stories to the more obscure but equally masterful tales of the rabbi. "In The Trial and 'The Humble King,' " for example, "both men write a midrash (commentary) on Job, using the metaphor of a cosmically unjust legal system." Most of all, this is a book about the power of stories because, Kamentz concludes, "our souls are made of the stories that we've taken in most deeply, that have become part of us. The literature we love mingles with our deepest substance."

Although it's not as exotic as the Tibetan trip Kamenetz chronicled in The Jew in the Lotus, there's also a journey at the heart of Burnt Books. After a visit to the Ukraine town of Kamenetz-Podolsk, he joins some 20,000 followers of Rabbi Nachman on an ecstatic Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to Uman, where the rabbi died in 1810. He carries with him a coffee mug bearing a likeness of Kafka, as if to symbolically unite his two subjects. "These two dead Jews must meet," he asserts, "for their spirits still haunt the world."

As might be expected in a volume that treats the lives of two such complex figures in a short space, some of its concepts will be challenging to the casual reader. Still, one comes away from this enchanting, often deeply moving book inspired and wanting to learn even more about these two astonishing men.--Harvey Freedenberg

Shelf Talker: Rodger Kamenetz's dual biography of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav and Franz Kafka is an intellectually stimulating exploration of the lives of two classic Jewish storytellers.


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, October 31:

Hardcover Fiction

1. The Confession by John Grisham
2. Room by Emma Donoghue
3. Our Kind of Traitor by John Le Carre
4. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris
5. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Hardcover Nonfiction

1. Life by Keith Richards
2. Barefoot Contessa by Ina Garten
3. At Home by Bill Bryson
4. Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 by Mark Twain
5. Wicked River by Lee Sandlin
Paperback Fiction

1. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
2. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
3. Saving Ceecee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
4. Good Enough to Eat by Stacey Ballis
5. Track of Sand by Andrea Camilleri
Paperback Nonfiction

1. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
2. Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne
3. Listen to the Echoes: Ray Bradbury Interviews by Sam Weller
4. The Great Depression by Benjamin Roth
5. Weekends at Bellevue by Julie Holland

1. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
3. Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems
4. Big Nate Strikes Again by Lincoln Peirce
5. Big Nate in a Class by Himself by Lincoln Peirce

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.

[Many thanks to the booksellers and Carl Lennertz!]


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