Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Forge: Remembrance by Rita Woods

St. Martin's Press: Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Quirk Books: Forking Good: An Unofficial Cookbook for Fans of the Good Place by Valya Dudycz Lupescu and Stephen H Segal, illustrated by Dingding Hu

DC Zoom: Green Lantern: Legacy by Minh Le, illustrated by Andie Tong

Workman Publishing: Halloween Titles by Various - Click here for more information!

Quotation of the Day

Christmas & 'The Library at Pooh Corner'

"On that December day last year, my friend and I headed out into Midtown. New York was all dressed up for Christmas. There on the corner was the restaurant where my father used to take me. There was the Daily News building, where I had a job in 1984. There was the lollipop street clock at 43rd Street and Fifth Avenue where my sister and I used to meet. I haven’t seen her in a long time.

"And I thought of the ending of The House at Pooh Corner, in which our hero takes his leave of the companions of his youth: 'But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his bear will always be playing.' "

--Jennifer Finney Boylan, author most recently of Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror, in a New York Times Op-Ed piece headlined, "The Library at Pooh Corner."

 


GP Putnam's Sons: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid


News

Notes: 8 Million Kindles Sold in 2010; Indie E-Reader Lessons

Amazon may sell more than 8 million Kindles this year, "at least 60% percent more than analysts have predicted, according to two people who are aware of the company's sales projections," Bloomberg reported. One of the sources said the company sold 2.4 million Kindles in 2009.

Analysts at Citigroup, Barclays Capital, BGC Partners and ThinkEquity estimated that Amazon would sell about 5 million Kindles this year. Caris & Co. predicted 4.8 million, while Goldman Sachs Group Inc. projected 4 million to 5 million, Bloomberg wrote.

ZDNet questioned whether exact Kindle sales figures are ultimately all that important. "Sure, they matter. But a note by Macquarie Equities Research analyst Ben Schacter suggests that there’s an even more important gauge in brand awareness. He wrote: 'Not only has the Kindle been a success (we estimate ~7.5m units sold), but its Kindle Everywhere strategy has also defined Amazon and the Kindle brand as the e-book retailer, in our opinion. While Apple, Google, B&N, Sony, and others will continue to compete, we expect Amazon to remain in the leadership position for the foreseeable future. Notably, despite the success of the iPad, we think that Amazon remains the leader for the actual e-books, even on the iPad.' "

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Cool idea of the holiday season: R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Conn., has an unusual approach for promoting e-books and e-readers. While Len Vlahos, COO of the American Booksellers Association, is helping out at R.J. Julia this week, the store is encouraging customers to bring their e-readers in. "Len will show you how simple it is to purchase and download books from our website--how cool to give an e-reader with books already loaded and ready to go! Our booksellers will help you choose the perfect books, and heck, we'll even gift wrap your e-reader for you!"

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NPR's Talk of the Nation focused on how the e-book boom changes bookselling and publishing. Guest Peter Osnos, founder of PublicAffairs, said he uses the phrase "Good books any way you want them, now." He observed that the "essence is that the reader gets to choose the means by which they will access the book. That doesn't mean there won't be printed books. Printed books will, I think, be around forever because they're wonderful to have. They become part of your life. But I've noticed, for example, my wife, who is an inveterate reader, and we have, as you can imagine as a publisher and readers, we have a house full books, four out of five, five out of six, these are books she wants to read but not necessarily own."

Osnos also noted that the e-book boom has become less of a disadvantage for indie booksellers because they "are beginning to join, basically, the parade. They understand the need to serve the customer in all the ways the customer wants to be served. If somebody comes in and asks for a book, the last thing they want to be told is: You can't have it. So what I think is developing is a sense that every transaction that takes place in a bookstore or online can be closed, that if you think you want to read a book, the odds are, overwhelmingly, you'll be able to do it, sometimes, usually in under a minute."

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"What people come to us for is for the customer service and the feel of the old style bookstore," said Claire Benedict, co-owner of Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, Vt., told WCAX-TV, which reported that the bookshop has "remained competitive in the midst of recession.... Now, in a unlikely twist, the emerging technology of electronic books is helping to level the playing field for this and other independent stores."

"It kind of gives Borders and the chains the same kind of problems that we have, wherein they want to bring people into their stores but now people have another alternative to staying home and doing everything online," said Benedict, whose store doesn't offer e-books at this point. "It's something that independent book sellers talk about all the time, but I don't think that any of us really know what's going to happen or how it's all going to shake out or how popular e-books are going to be. Is the paper book going to go the way of the CD or is there going to be room for both? I think there's going to be room for both."

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Gateways Books & Gifts, Santa Cruz, Calif., plans to close at the end of January unless a buyer can be found for the 32-year-old business that specializes in personal growth, yoga and New Age spirituality books. The Sentinel reported that, "in the store, notices about the change sit on the counter, addressed 'To Our Beloved Community.' On a recent day, a looming deadline of February 1 to find a buyer was hard to miss as customers expressed sadness and asked how the sale was going." Gateways is a project of Hanuman Fellowship, a nonprofit that also sponsors Mount Madonna Center, Pacific Cultural Center and the Sri Ram orphanage and school in India.

"We are trying to find good stewards for it," fellowship president Ward Maillard said. "We have analyzed it pretty carefully and think someone can make a go at it if they can devote the time to it. I'm still hopeful, but obviously we are running out of time."

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Some last minute gift suggestions for readers:

"If you're still flailing around for ideas, look no further than your favorite bookseller for one of these recent releases suggested by our crew of ink-stained elves," the Detroit News wrote.

Rachel Syme recommended "Weird And Wonderful Books: 2010's Hidden Gems" for NPR, noting that she is "most thankful for the lesser-known gems I discovered and devoured. Many of these books experiment with literary forms or even change the basic idea of what a 'book' looks like. They all changed the way I understand writing and writers."

Yoga Journal featured a Holiday Book Gift Guide "for a meaningful gift that someone could actually use. The right book can inspire, teach, or just add a little humor."

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Sign of the e-times: in a first for both publisher and author, Avon has launched Storming the Castle, an e-book original by Eloisa James, which tells the tale of Wick, introduced in A Kiss at Midnight.

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Robert Sabuda, "the superstar of the modern pop-up book," was profiled by the National Post.

Regarding the thrill of a great pop-up, Sabuda said, "We call that the 'wow' moment and it's utterly universal.... It's about inviting you in. In a very non-traditional way."

Unlike e-books, "a well-loved movable book may eventually be too pooped to pop. The Wizard of Oz opens with a cyclone that rises nine inches from the page and whirls around with a dowel and a string. Sabuda fans often bring that book to his in-store signings," the Post wrote.

"It's not unusual that when I open it, there's no cyclone, or sometimes just a string, and yet they bring that book," Sabuda observed. "It means it's important, it's made an impression and it's had a life of its own in your life. You just can't get that with an e-reader."

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Mental Floss showcased "Rejection Letters Received by Bestselling Authors."

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To celebrate the shortest day of the year, the Guardian offered a "darkness in literature" quiz, "devoted to all things murky and tenebrous in the literary world."

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Poetic decorations. Flavorwire reported that the "rogue artists of Luzinterruptus" have been working an ambitious project this holiday season: "In honor of a poetry festival in Madrid, the group stuffed 1,000 envelopes with tiny lights and poems by 17 writers and hung them in the garden outside the building where the event was being held. On the festival's final night, 100 of the illuminated envelopes were distributed to attendees to send through the mail.

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Plata Publishing, the publishing arm of the Rich Dad Company, which publishes books by Robert and Kim Kiyosaki, including most of the Rich Dad series, has entered into an agreement with Perseus Distribution for Perseus to sell and distribute the majority of the Rich Dad backlist and all forthcoming Plata Publishing titles. The first such book is Unfair Advantage by Robert Kiyosaki. The agreement covers worldwide English distribution, excluding Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

The deal includes Rich Dad Poor Dad, the paterfamilias of the series.

 


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Holiday Hum: Record Revelers and More at Burry Bookstore

This year's holiday open house at Burry Bookstore in Hartsville, S.C., , held annually the Thursday before Thanksgiving, was "phenomenal," said owner Emily Burry Phillips. "It was the best open house we have on record, both in terms of sales and customer count."

Along with promotional efforts by a local business alliance, which ran television and radio advertising, Phillips credits social media outreach by herself and other retailers on Twitter, Facebook and blogs as a crucial factor in drawing the considerable crowd. Another reason was the appearance of Bond Nickles (with Phillips, in photo), who "brought in a lot of traffic," noted Phillips. A public information coordinator at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and a Hartsville native, Nickles signed copies of his children's book, A Brown Thrasher, based on the true adventures of a baby bird brought home by a pet cat and cared for by his family.

Burry Bookstore has been hosting an open house since at least 1986, the first year for which there are store records. Their celebration inspired the town's Downtown Christmas Open House, which has been taking place for about a decade. Bookselling is a family tradition for Phillips, whose father opened the store when she was eight. She grew up working there and purchased the business in 1994.

In six spacious storefront windows, which face a main thoroughfare and are decked out with lighted snowflakes, faux snow, a Santa figure, a nativity scene and other decorations, are different displays featuring bestsellers, holiday-themed titles, children's books and calendars like Ah, the Beach!.

Books highlighted in the store's weekly e-mail newsletter are popular gift selections, such as George W. Bush's Decision Points, the top seasonal seller. The former commander-in-chief's memoir is followed by Carolina Christmas: Archibald Rutledge's Enduring Holiday Stories, edited by Jim Casada, a collection of tales by the late nature writer and South Carolina's first poet laureate.

Prominent placement has rung up sales for the Melinda Long's picture book The 12 Days of Christmas in South Carolina, which is displayed near the cash wrap, and so has word of mouth. After a school library media specialist saw the book in the store's newsletter, she in turn e-mailed colleagues and told them where they could purchase it. Phillips works closely with three school districts, providing books to teachers and media specialists and often giving workshops and presentations. "This is a huge supplement to our normal business," Phillips said.

Phillips's handsells this season include Patti Callahan Henry's The Perfect Love Song: A Holiday Story and Karen White's On Folly Beach and Falling Home. The two novelists, both of whom appeared at the store this fall, have garnered serious fans among the store's staff.

Last January, Phillips introduced a monthly program offering a 25% discount on select titles that are ordered in advance and paid for by the last day of the previous month. Books are chosen based on information about favorite authors provided by subscribers when they sign up for the store's newsletter. There are typically 10-15 orders per month, with a spike in October sales (for November releases) as customers got a head start on holiday shopping.

Launched in late June, the members-only Super Shopper Club has an annual fee ($25 for individuals, $40 for families) that entitles customers to 25% off New York Times and Christian Booksellers Association hardcover bestsellers, 20% off other hardcovers and 10% off everything else, excluding items that are already marked down. "I thought about it long and hard before I did it," Phillips said. "What we want to do is build loyalty. We're willing to offer a discount to customers who will be loyal to us and come to us first." So far 250 people have signed up for the club.

A tradition of sorts at Burry Bookstore is a substantial purchase by a bighearted customer who selects a different children's Christmas book each year for the more than 30 recipients on her gift list. This year the store provided copies of Lisa Tawn Bergren's God Gave Us Christmas, along with enough paper, ribbon and decorative gold seals to wrap all the books.

Overall holidays sales at Burry Bookstore are down from last year, although Phillips is anticipating a flurry of last-minute shoppers. If the store happens to be out of a particular book a customer wants this week, they'll supply a gift card with the desired title written on it and a note stating that the recipient can pick it up the week after Christmas. The gift card can be paired with unique store-branded merchandise like a 22 oz. candy-filled stein or a t-shirt bearing the slogan, "We are not a chain. We are a link in our community."--Shannon McKenna Schmidt

 


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Mary Ruefle on KCRW's Bookworm

Next Monday morning on the Today Show: Claire Robinson, author of 5 Ingredient Fix: Easy, Elegant, and Irresistible Recipes (Grand Central, $29.99, 9780446572095/0446572098).

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Next Wednesday in a repeat of the Talk: Meghan McCain, author of Dirty Sexy Politics (Hyperion, $23.99, 9781401323776/1401323774).

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Next Thursday, December 30, on KCRW's Bookworm: Mary Ruefle, author of Selected Poems (Wave Books, $24, 9781933517452/193351745X). As the show put it: "When you hear Mary Ruefle reading her poems, you will quickly become entranced by their accessibility: they are funny and heartbreaking--simultaneously. We talk about her 'erasure' process, in which a poem is 'found' by using white-out on a pre-existing page of text. Then, we tackle the million dollar question. Can she be a poet all the time, every moment, every day?"



This Weekend on Book TV: The Man Who Invented the Computer

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this holiday weekend from 8 a.m. Friday 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, December 25

8:45 a.m. David Beckmann, author of Exodus from Hunger: We Are Called to Change the Politics of Hunger  (Westminster John Knox Press, $14.95, 9780664236847/0664236847), talks about the advancements in the fight to end hunger and argues that the main constraints are political. (Re-airs Saturday at 1:45 p.m. and Sunday at 5:45 p.m.)

11 a.m. Mary Frances Berry and Josh Gottheimer discuss their book, Power In Words: The Stories Behind Barack Obama's Speeches, From the State House to the White House (Beacon Press, $24.95, 9780807001042/080700104X). (Re-airs Saturday at 4 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. and Monday at 2 a.m.)

12 p.m. Michael Korda talks about his book Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia (Harper, $36, 9780061712616/0061712612). (Re-airs Saturday at 5 p.m.)

10 p.m. After Words. Cecilia Kang interviews Jane Smiley, author of The Man Who Invented the Computer (Doubleday, $25.95, 9780385527132/0385527136). Smiley chronicles the life of John Atanasoff, who developed the first computer in the late 1930s. (Re-airs Sunday at 3 a.m., 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., and Monday at 12 a.m.)

Sunday, December 26

9:45 a.m. Julian Zelizer, author of The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment (Princeton University Press, $29.95, 9780691149011/0691149011), examines the Bush administration's decisions on public and foreign policy matters. (Re-airs Sunday at 4 p.m. and Monday at 5 a.m.)

10 p.m. Ed Tracy, president and CEO of the Pritzker Library, interviews Rick Atkinson, winner of this year's Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. (Re-airs Monday at 6:30 a.m., Friday, December 31, at 3:30 p.m.; Sunday, January 2, at 7:30 p.m. and Monday, January 3, at 5:30 a.m.)

 


Movies: The Lost Symbol

Step aside, Steven Knight. The Oscar-nominated screenwriter (Eastern Promises) "first took a run" at a screenplay for The Lost Symbol, but he has been replaced by Dan Brown, who is now rewriting the film adaptation of his novel for Columbia Pictures. According to the Hollywood Reporter, "Ron Howard and Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment is once again producing, but Howard, who directed the first two Brown adaptations, has not committed to directing Symbol. Nor has star Tom Hanks officially come on board to reprise Langdon."

 



Books & Authors

Our Top Ten Lists: Part IV

The final Top 10 lists from Shelf Awareness folk...  (see here, here and here for the rest).

Top 10 Books of 2010: John Mutter, editor-in-chief

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (Atlantic Monthly/El Leon Literary Arts). Who thought a novel starring American marines during the Vietnam War could cover new ground? And a wonderful publishing story. Otherwise, what my colleagues have said.

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean (Harper Perennial). The part of this book set in the "present" nicely captures the bizarre, fascinating aspects of Alzheimer's, including the lack of filters and the way pieces of memory flow in new ways--while the basic story, set during the Siege of Leningrad in World War II, is gripping. Marina is a guide at the Hermitage, and helps evacuate most of its treasures. Left to take care of the famous museum, Marina continues to give tours for herself and others, describing in detail artwork that once hung on the empty walls. If she and others remember, certainly the treasures continue to exist.

Pravda by Edward Docx (Mariner Books). This is a great portrayal of the bleaker side of modern-day  St. Petersburg (although much action takes place in New York, London and Paris). None of the characters--Russians and Brits--are particularly appealing, yet they are smart, deep, fascinating and mysterious. Their perplexing story has roots satisfyingly deep in the Soviet era.

Just Kids by Patti Smith (Ecco). The writing is choppy at times, but this is a wonderful memoir of a deep, loving, unusual relationship that had so much to do with Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe encouraging each other artistically and helping each other find their creative paths, wherever they led. Just Kids struck a chord: the book won the National Book Award for nonfiction and the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association Nonfiction Book of the Year award.

Wallflower by Holly-Jane Rahlens (Berlinica Publishing). The debut title by a new U.S. press specializing in books about Berlin, this YA novel with its smart, poignant, wisecracking voice works for adults, too. Wallflower takes place during the course of a day two weeks after the fall of the Wall in 1989, when Molly Lenzfeld, who is about to return to New York, decides to visit newly opened East Berlin to see the house where her late mother, who was Jewish, lived before fleeing the Nazis. On her long, convoluted trip via subway to the east, she meets Mick, an East German boy a few years older--and her life changes forever.

Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdett (Vintage). A savory follow-up to Bangkok 8, both of which feature devout Buddhist Thai detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, whose mother and whose boss, Colonel Vikorn, are co-owners of a brothel. Jitpleecheep is "asked" by Colonel Vikorn to work on a case that involves a dead CIA agent, which brings Westerners and their perplexing behavior into the mix. Reading these books is a body and soul experience: what better way to consider Buddhist approaches to life than in such a chaotic, beautiful, sweaty tale?

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell (Riverhead). In decidedly modern language, Vowell surveys the Puritans, who she finds surprisingly sympathetic. Prim stereotypes aside, the Puritans loved the written word, they had deep, often admirable beliefs and they had passionate, occasionally bloody disputes about how to live proper lives.

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky (Vintage International). A sprawling novel set during the fall of France in 1940 that Nemirovsky wrote while in flight as Nazi soldiers advanced. Tragically, she was captured and died in Auschwitz, but her daughters kept the manuscript, which was published for the first time only in 2004.

Before the Frost by Henning Mankell (Vintage Crime). Another year, another Kurt Wallander mystery. For me, these need to be rationed because of the gloomy, often flat narrative. Still, the grind is rewarding, and once again, in Before the Frost, set on Wallander's home ground of Skåne in southern Sweden, Mankell tells a gripping story, which in this case involves an extreme religious group bent on punishing sinners. The addition of Wallander's daughter to the police force and the series is brilliant and leavening.

A Different World: From Old Germany to New England by Rudy Mutter (self-published). Family stories: a lovely way to remember the old tales and still hear his voice.

 

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Top 10 Books of 2010: Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor

In a year of abundance, a baker's dozen.

Art & Max by David Weisner (Clarion/HMH). A master picture book maker and three-time Caldecott Medalist reminds us that no matter how skilled and experienced we may become, the beginner always has much to teach us about open-mindedness and experimentation.

A Ballet for Martha: The Making of Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook/Macmillan). In this glorious picture book, the story of how Martha Graham, Aaron Copland and Isamu Noguchi came together to create a uniquely American ballet becomes an ode to creativity, innovation and--appropriately--the pioneer. As spare and as graceful as the dance it celebrates.

Bunny Days by Tao Nyeu (Dial/Penguin). With a simplicity of plot and palette that calls to mind the work of Dorothy Kunhardt, Tao Nyou's picture book takes a fresh approach to a trio of tales about a sextet of bunnies and their snow-white (genderless) ursine guardian, who ceaselessly shows them unconditional love.

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus (Amulet/Abrams). A 14-year-old Japanese fisherman rescued by an American whaling ship in the 1840s finds that these men are not as barbaric as he's been taught. Based on the true story of John Mung (born Manjiro) and liberally illustrated with his own drawings, this novel of an extraordinary quest chronicles how one man built a bridge between Eastern and Western cultures.

How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills (Schwartz & Wade/Random House). A "little yellow bird" in search of a student sets her sights on Rocket, a black-and-white dog who loves to nap. The passionate teacher awakens the pup to "the wondrous, mighty, gorgeous alphabet" and the rewards of reading and friendship.

Ling & Ting by Grace Lin (Little, Brown). Identical twins with delightfully different personalities lead beginning readers through a quintet of stories by the Newbery honor author and gifted artist. Humor and surprise twists abound.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad/HarperCollins). Eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters travel from the Brooklyn home they share with their father, to Oakland, Calig., to spend the summer of 1968 with the mother who abandoned them seven years before. In this National Book Award finalist, we see the larger political scene through Delphine's eyes, as she and her sisters attend a camp run by the Black Panthers. We also witness a girl struggling to understand and forgive a mother who needed to raise herself before she could raise her children.

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper (Atheneum/S&S). Through a first-person narrative, the author inhabits the brilliant, frustrated mind and unresponsive body of nearly 11-year-old Melody Brooks, who suffers from cerebral palsy. The heroine's struggle to make herself known, with all of her exceptional intelligence and wit, is a journey well worth taking and will leave you with a wider world view.

A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz (Dutton/Penguin). Oh what a treat awaits those readers not yet ready for Lemony Snicket and his Unfortunate Events (and also those who are). Here is a narrator to love, telling small children to leave the room--oh the blood, the gore! And, let's face it, the Brothers Grimm wrote gore galore. Hansel and Gretel get larger roles in this drama, and you will see tales you thought you knew in a brand new light. But not too much light: this one youngsters will want to read by flashlight under the covers.

There's Going to Be a Baby by John Burningham, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury (Candlewick). If Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury created the definitive book for babies with Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, then Oxenbury together with her husband John Burningham do the same for a child expecting a new sibling. Perfection.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (Dutton/Penguin). Two high school students with the same name meet by happenstance in a Chicago porn shop. Although they could not be more different, both Will Graysons will never be the same, due to an irresistible, larger-than-life gay football player and musical theater genius named Tiny (picture George Hearn in La Cage Aux Folles as a young man). Green and Levithan alternate narratives and offer comic moments and rare insights into male-male and male-female intimacy--of both the platonic and romantic varieties.

Zora & Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon (Candlewick) and The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Peter Sís (Scholastic). These two extraordinary novels plumb the childhoods of two literary greats. Within the framework of a mystery, Zora & Me imagines the childhood that shaped the philosophy and writing of Zora Neale Hurston. The Dreamer suggests the underpinnings of the gifted poet and activist Neftalí Reyes, whom we know as Pablo Neruda, with illustrations that hint at the magical realism in his poetry. These are books for the gifted young artists in your life, marching to their own music; they are not alone.

 


Book Review

Children's Review: Wheels of Change

Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (with a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy (National Geographic Society, $18.95 Hardcover, 9781426307614, January 2011)

How did the refinement of the bicycle lead to a woman's right to vote? Sue Macy's (A Whole New Ball Game: The Story of the All-American Girls' Professional Baseball League) compulsively readable history traces the bicycle's ascent from 1876, when Col. Albert Augustus Pope first saw the bicycle in Philadelphia, to its plummet in 1897, when "the American bicycle boom goes bust" and the first motorized cycles began to dominate the market, then the automobile. In the intervening years, the bicycle changed the way we advertise and exercise, the way women dress, and contributed to their sense of independence. Susan B. Anthony said the bicycle did "more to emancipate women than anything else in the world."

With an open, airy design akin to a magazine layout, an abundance of photographs, reproductions of articles and full-color advertisements, delectable facts and quotes from primary sources, the book invites readers to dip in and out. But they will eventually want to read it straight through so as not to miss one scrumptious detail. Colorful characters such as Charlotte Smith embodied the paradoxes of this era: Smith fought for the rights of female workers for 15 years, but focused much of her wrath on the bicycle, calling it "the devil's advance agent morally and physically in thousands of instances." Passionate debates raged about whether women should ride a bicycle in a skirt or be allowed to wear bloomers (interestingly, San Francisco was ahead of New York on this issue—the prevailing breezes from Golden Gate Park being the primary factor in endorsing the bloomers). Albert Pope provides a through line for the bicycle story, as one who pioneered what we think of as a kind of modern propaganda campaign, raising awareness and positive associations for the bicycle. He also led manufacturing, and even took a stand (through his advertisements) in favor of bloomers.

Full-color spreads at the close of each chapter demonstrate how much bicycles contributed to turn-of-the-20th-century culture. These sections showcase advertisements, songs, a unique vocabulary and entire magazines devoted to cycling. Macy gives the stage to women inventors, celebrity female cyclists (such as Dora Rinehart, who pedaled 17,196 miles in 1896 alone), and closes with a double timeline that charts events in both cycling and women's history. Enlightenment and entertainment of the highest order.--Jennifer M. Brown

 


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The True Spirit of Bookstore Boxing Day

They are a memory for me now. I haven't worked in a bookstore for some time, though I can easily imagine what they will look like next Sunday, the day after Christmas, as they huddle outside the locked door of a bookshop somewhere--waiting, waiting, waiting for the clock to strike the opening hour. It's a future I can predict because I'm talking about futurist consumers.

Wrapped snugly in parkas, mittens and scarves, they stomp boots on cold pavement to keep their toes warm and wait, patiently at first and then impatiently, in sub-freezing temperatures. They eye one another warily. Someone may ask for the time as the magic hour nears. Another might see a friend or neighbor and have a casual conversation about the predicted chance of snow flurries or ask, always with one eye on the shop's doors, about holiday festivities:

"How was your Christmas?"    
"Wonderful. The whole family..."

The sound of a turning lock cuts off all conversation. It is time. Now they have only one thing in common--a fierce dedication to the sweet science of Bookstore Boxing Day bargain hunting.

As the doors open, the hunters race--more of a slow-paced Running of the Bows, actually--toward displays featuring holiday-related merchandise discounted 50%: gift wrap, ribbon, greeting cards, ornaments and a zillion themed trinkets; all that leftover inventory the sidelines buyer was staring at, with a slightly defeated expression, while sipping eggnog after the store closed Christmas Eve afternoon.

I observed this ritual for many years, and only now do I realize what I was seeing as post-Christmas shoppers lugged multiple baskets overflowing with holiday stuff to the register barely 24 hours after having tossed piles of crumpled wrapping paper in the trash.

They represent a triumph--modest, but genuine--of the human spirit. Bookstore Boxing Day's morning rush is an optimistic act that I, a confirmed fatalist, can only envy. It's a bold statement by these committed retail hunters that makes certain brave assumptions about the future in a world rife with uncertainty. Not least among these are the following facts: They plan to be alive 12 months from now; they assume they will be able to find, when needed, the wrapping paper rolls and bows they are storing away; and they are confident they won't be tempted by new Christmas card designs, which will begin appearing in the shop around Labor Day.
    
Traditional Christmas celebrations, whether secular or sacred or both, look to the past for tidings of comfort and joy.

Bookstore Boxing Day is all about the future. These time traveling holiday shoppers will be ready for December 2011.

Cynicism is easy. I look back to George Orwell. Not the 1984/Animal Farm author, but the Orwell who wrote, in his "Bookshop Memories" essay: "At Christmas time we spent a feverish ten days struggling with Christmas cards and calendars, which are tiresome things to sell but good business while the season lasts. It used to interest me to see the brutal cynicism with which Christian sentiment is exploited. The touts from the Christmas card firms used to come round with their catalogues as early as June. A phrase from one of their invoices sticks in my memory. It was: '2 doz. Infant Jesus with rabbits.' "

And I look at the present, where this week Slate's Kate Julian asked "Did Facebook Kill the Christmas Card?" and predicted "2010 will go down as the year the holiday card lay dying." She hedged that bet a little, noting that although anecdotal evidence is plentiful, numbers are hard to come by: "Like all kinds of paper mail, holiday card deliveries have been steadily declining for years, but the postal service hasn't finished compiling its numbers for last December, let alone this one. And various greeting card industry representatives predict only a modest drop in card sales this year. I meet their optimism with skepticism--it seems unfair to expect the greeting card people to trumpet their own decline."

On Sunday, however, the post-Christmas bargain hunters will be waiting in the cold for a chance to scoop up boxes of holiday cards for future use. Maybe sales numbers are fading. Maybe, as a demographic, these shoppers represent the past to analysts. But this year at least, I'll raise a glass to that hardy band of consumers who embody the true spirit of Bookstore Boxing Day.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

 


The Bestsellers

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales in 2010

With no book on the list selling for less than $14,000, "it was a bumper year for rare bookselling on AbeBooks," according to the company. Also showcased on the website are the most expensive sales in children's books, art books, photography, poetry, religious & theology books, science books, ephemera, flower books, modern firsts, romance, science fiction & fantasy and books written by a president.

Top 10 Most Expensive Sales in 2010
:

  1. Arabic Manuscript of Al Wajaza Fi Sihhat Il Qawl Bi l Ijaza ($45,000)
  2. Archive of Letters, Manuscripts, Documents, Articles and Ephemera by Oriana Fallaci ($28,994)
  3. Moby Dick; or The Whale by Herman Melville ($28,900)
  4. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon ($27,500)
  5. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming ($19,529)
  6. Ottoman Atlas ($19,500)
  7. The Works of Herman Melville (16 volumes, $17,250)
  8. The Botanical Magazine by William Curtis (42 volumes, $15,592)
  9. Book of Kells ($14,859)
  10. Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States by Joseph Story ($14,062)

 


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