Shelf Awareness for Thursday, January 27, 2011


Tor Books: Warrior of the Altaii by Robert Jordan

Flatiron Books: The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

University of California Press: Creativity and Copyright: Legal Essentials for Screenwriters and Creative Artists by John L. Geiger and Howard Suber

Tu Books: The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas

DC Ink: Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia, illustrated by Gabriel Picolo

Quotation of the Day

'Vive the Independent Bookseller!'

"When my first work of fiction, Legend of a Suicide, was published in France, I learned some surprising lessons about the astounding power of the independent bookseller. Things are done a bit differently there in a way that especially highlights the role of a store like Powell's and sheds light on how difficult and precious is the work it does....

"I wondered after my very positive French experience if perhaps there was a different reading public in France than in the U.S., a more reliable audience willing to read a greater range of works--a more receptive literary reader. And then I realized that American readers of exactly this bent do exist, but they are somehow harder to find. And this is where our independent booksellers step in. Though not bolstered by the protections of their government (or the implicit insurance of a devoted public), our indie booksellers bring everything that is great in French publishing to readers who chose them as their gatekeepers."

--David Vann, author most recently of Caribou Island, in "Vive the Independent Bookseller!" at Powell's Books Blog.

 


Tor Books: Warrior of the Altaii by Robert Jordan


News

Notes: Kindle Singles Debut; E-Readers in African Schools

Kindle Singles, the program announced by Amazon last fall (Shelf Awareness, October 13, 2010) to showcase written works in the 5,000 to 30,000 word range, has released its initial list of titles, including pieces by Rich Cohen, Pete Hamill, Jodi Picoult, Darin Strauss and Ian Ayres. These works, "expressed at their natural length," are now available for both Kindle devices and app users at prices between 99¢ and $4.99.  

Electronista observed that the Kindle Singles format "is more widely considered an attempt by Amazon to spur e-book downloads by lowering the price well below the typical $10 asking price for a full novel or nonfiction book. Kindle books are already outselling paper through Amazon, but Singles would bring pricing closer to that of music and potentially attract those who otherwise would avoid paying for digital reading. Singles also give it a potential exclusive that wouldn't be matched by Apple or Barnes & Noble."

While noting that Kindle Singles sounds like "the name for a new online dating service for Kindle owners," Cnet News reported, "For now anyway, it seems as if the 'Kindle Single' designation is just a way for authors to set readers' expectations for what they're buying. Ideally, Amazon would break out Singles into its own store (there's a top-10 bestseller list for Singles, but nothing beyond that). Oh, and an online dating service for Kindle owners would be good, too. You never know what a little e-book swapping might lead to."

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Worldreader.org is piloting a new campaign that would deliver e-readers to school children in Ghana. Mashable reported that the devices "will function as all-purpose textbooks by providing instantaneous access to the thousands of books now digitally available."

Susan Moody, Worldreader.org's director of communication, said that while the organization has been using Amazon’s Kindle, it is "e-reader agnostic" and "will be working with manufacturers to share specs for a ruggedized e-reader built for the needs of the developing world."

Mashable noted that in addition to books from around the world, the nonprofit "has shown an equal interest in delivering local culture. It has partnered with eight African publishers to digitize local content and textbooks. It now has permission from the Ministry of Education in Ghana to take the program across the country, reaching millions of school children. The organization's workers hope to expand the program to other parts of Africa and eventually to developing countries and continents across the world."

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In an interview headlined "A Bookworm Finds His True Calling," today's New York Times profiles Stephen C. Barr, 25, a junior literary agent at Writers House who "switched his career objective from editor to agent early on," was promoted to junior agent from agent assistant last year.

"Even as a little kid, I remember being obsessed with books," said Barr. "I was eight or nine when I saw a novelty sweater in a gift catalog and told my parents I had to have it because of the logo: 'So many books, so little time.' It only came in adult sizes, but I wanted it so badly they had one made for me.

Before landing at Writers House, Barr, who describes himself as "freakishly, dangerously ambitious," took an internship route that led him to Hotchkiss and Associates: "They do film and book deals, and I was pretty much their call center. I manned the phones, but also learned a lot about translating a book into film, about what is essential and what’s superfluous to a story, which are also crucial skills in finding a good book and making it better. I got the Writers House internship in February of 2008. I loved it here immediately. I did everything possible; I read my butt off, expressed my opinions, and that May I was hired as an assistant."

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Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, the parenting book that launched a thousand debates in the U.S. recently, is now on the shelves of Beijing bookstores, though "much of the incendiary packaging had been toned down," Xinhua reported. "Gone was the crimson background to the title words on the version that made Amazon's best-seller list. Instead the Chinese book displays the smiling Yale Law School professor in a black suit, arms crossed, against the Stars and Stripes. Above her is the Chinese title: Being an American Mum."

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"We bibliophiles are a romantic bunch, aren't we?" asked the Book Bench rhetorically to introduce a piece offering Valentine's Day advice for book lovers:

"Le Pavillon Des Lettres, barely a season old, is pleased to remind you that not only is Paris still the city of love, but one that loves reading as well.... The 26 rooms, each named after a different author, from Andersen to Zola (the entire alphabet is represented, thanks to Queiroz and Xenophon), also boast iPads, wi-fi and a substantial library....

"If Paris is too far away, and if, perhaps, you have no one to play Romeo to your Juliet, there's always Manhattan's book-themed stopping place, the Library Hotel, to which you might take a date found on Alikewise, the place to conjure a literary soulmate at the click of a mouse."

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Kate Childs, associate publicist at Random House, has nice things to say about Water Street Bookstore, Exeter, N.H., in Matchbook magazine's "Postcard from Your Hometown" column (click to page 148 to read the profile): "As someone who now works in publishing, I can't for a minute discount the influence this little shop had on my upbringing. I lived for the days when I was taken to the bookstore or the Exeter Library to get the next book in a series or scan the shelves for a new acquisition. I became a reader because of those two places, and it's reassuring and thrilling to visit Water Street Bookstore these days and see that it's still a hub of the community." 

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U.K. publisher Visual Editions has given Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman "the loopy graphic treatment it deserves." Fast Company noted that before there was a McSweeney's or an Everything Is Illuminated or a Pale Fire, there was "THE modern proto-hypertext and a novel that's been begging lo these many years to be turned into graphic-design porn."

The new edition "is a visual free-for-all. The book's got pages of dotted spot varnish to represent sweat and a folded page for a shut door. One page, marbled in the original Shandy, is here a moire of a black-and-white photograph--a reference to contemporary printing techniques in the same way that marbling was high-tech in Sterne's day. All told, it's a perfectly insane way to illustrate a perfectly insane book. And that's the point."

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Books at Berlinale, which brings the publishing and film worlds closer together during next month's Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin, will feature a "Breakfast & Books" program February 15, at which 10 novels will be showcased:

The Mall by S.L. Grey
Small Change for Stuart by Lissa Evans
Heldensommer (Summer of Heroes) by Andi Rogenhagen
De Bewaker (The Guard) by Peter Terrin
Mi nombre es Victoria (My Name Is Victoria) by Victoria Donda
Lo verdadero es un momento de lo falso (The True Is a Moment of the False) by Lucia Etxeberria
Non ci sono pesci rossi nelle pozzanghere (Goldfish Don't Live in Puddles) by Marco Truzzi
Rossmore Avenue by Vanessa Caffin
Nenäpäivä (Red Nose Day) by Mikko Rimminen
Andernorts (Elsewhere) by Doron Rabinovici.


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To help celebrate Amnesty International's 50th anniversary and the publication of Freedom, an anthology of short stories paired with the 30 rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Flavorwire also recommended "ten nonfiction titles to complement their fictional counterparts with a deeper look at specific UDHR issues."

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E.C. Osondu, author most recently of Voice of America, recommended his top 10 immigrants' tales for the Guardian, noting that he has "always been fascinated by how an individual is--or is not--changed by a new environment. I explore this in my stories, not just from the point of view of those coming to the west for the first time, but also the westerner in Africa. I think Jhumpa Lahiri's phrase Unaccustomed Earth is such a neat expression because it captures this state of being succinctly. In-betweenness--that state of neither fish nor fowl, mortal nor spirit--is also fascinating, and is of course the existential state of the immigrant. He is not fully of this place yet he is no longer of that."

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Pop quiz of the day: Mental Floss wondered if readers could distinguish between the lexicons of Harry Potter’s favorite game, Quidditch, and Olympic curling.

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Jennifer Hunt, fiction editorial director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers is moving to Los Angeles, Calif., and setting up a West Coast office at her home for the company. She will continue to oversee the acquisition and development of the middle grade and YA fiction lists and will now "explore opportunities in the entertainment and digital arenas."

She has been with the company for 10 years.

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Book trailer of the day: The Violets of March by Sarah Jio (Plume).

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Nicole Kalian Abbott is leaving her position as associate director of publicity at Free Press to join JCPR, a PR firm in New Jersey. As of February 1, she can be reached at nicole@jcprinc.com. In her decade in publishing, she's worked with authors including Valerie Bertinelli, Dr. Stephen Covey, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, S.E. Hinton, Orson Scott Card and, most recently, Mira Bartok, author of The Memory Palace.

 


Binc Foundation: Indies with Impact: Win a grant from Penguin Random House for your bookstore and a community partner - Apply now!


Digital Book World: Competing in a Changing Marketplace

As the second Digital Book World conference began in the ballroom of the New York Sheraton Tuesday morning, Forrester analyst James McQuivey encouraged the crowd to "pat yourselves on the back for choosing to believe" in the e-book market; according to a recent survey, he said, 89% of the publishing executives consulted were optimistic about how the digital revolution would affect the industry, and 83% believed their companies were ready to compete in the changing market place (although, on a more sobering note, not all of them had a plan for that yet). Good thing, too: as e-reader prices had dropped "dangerously close" to $100 two years earlier than Forrester had anticipated, e-book sales were expected to rise another 139% this year, to $1.3 billion, and quite possibly encompass half of all book sales by 2014--a prediction which left some audience members nonplussed.

The heat came back on quickly, however. During the q&a session of Tuesday morning's "CEO panel," Sarah Wendell of the romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books asked Macmillan president Brian Napack why, if his company was committed to getting its books into the hands of readers, its e-book offerings were not available to libraries. Napack answered that Macmillan was "looking for a business model" that would justify putting electronic copies in circulation through libraries. Open Road Integrated Media CEO Jane Friedman immediately countered that the time to get e-books into libraries is now--the idea that people who borrow books from libraries don't buy books was becoming outmoded, she argued, and it is time to take those people seriously as a potential audience.

The following morning's presentation of data from the Digital Book World/Verso consumer survey certainly seemed to support Friedman's hypothesis. Of those surveyed, 44.7% obtained books from their local libraries, with substantial engagement at all income levels. Furthermore, 51% of the women surveyed had obtained at least one book from a library--a point of data that became significant when subsequent presentations by BISG/Bowker and iModerate refined a portrait of the e-book market's "power buyer" as a urban or suburban woman, age 30 to 44, who was highly likely to be fully employed. (In other words, noted Bowker's Kelly Gallagher, the driving force behind e-book sales is "looking more and more like the core book buyer.")

So enthusiasm for Wednesday afternoon's "E-books: Where Do Libraries Fit?" panel was high, and it got off to an aggressive start when Christopher Platt of the New York Public Library announced that "current content is king" where library patrons looking for e-books are concerned. "If the publisher of Freedom made [an e-book] available to us, we would buy multiple copies tomorrow," Platt said. Instead, because patrons don't know that Macmillan is withholding digital titles from libraries, they blame the libraries for not carrying a book they want to read.

George Coe of Baker & Taylor reinforced the importance of frontlist content, reporting that, on the print side of things, "98% of public library spend is within 18 months of publication." Random House's Ruth Liebmann stressed her house's commitment to getting libraries the books they want, in both digital and physical formats, on publication day, while Steve Potash, CEO of the eBook distributor OverDrive, insisted--without calling Macmillan out by name--that any publisher still looking for a viable business model for selling e-books to libraries is missing out. OverDrive's digital checkout system, which limits each e-book to access by a single patron at any given time, works, he said; it not only circulates books while protecting them from piracy, but simply having the books in the library's online catalogue improved their visibility and could even spur sales, especially when the library's website included buy buttons, as the New York Public Library's has for the last few weeks. (The program is so recent, Potash noted, that it is still too early to draw conclusions about the impact of those buy buttons on patrons' online experience.)

Meanwhile, independent booksellers could take comfort in a finding from the DBW/Verso survey: 80.7% of the participants said they would likely purchase e-books online from their local indies if the books were available at competitive prices. In a panel called "Indie Bookstores Still Count," Stephanie Anderson, manager at WORD, Brooklyn, N.Y., discussed her store's experience implementing Google eBooks into its website, as part of a larger effort to make that site "as much an extension of the bookstore as possible." Although indies seem to be in a resurgence, many attendees worried about the fate of Borders and Barnes & Noble; as BooksOnBoard president Bob Livolsi framed it at another panel, "The showcase for books is the bookstore," and at the chains at least, "the bookstores are closing up."--Ron Hogan

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Children's Books as a "Crystal Ball"

In a day of back-to-back children's programming on Wednesday during Digital Book World, the themes that kept rising to the top were "adaptability" and "discoverability."

Kristen McLean moderated two of the three panels. "Understanding the Children's Book Marketplace" focused on findings of the Bowker/PubTrack study of the buying habits of parents with children 0-12 and of teens themselves, commissioned by the Association of Booksellers for Children (while McLean was ABC's executive director; the ABC merged with the ABA earlier this month) and five major publishers. Her second panel, "Connecting with Kids," addressed how to reach these readers. At the start of each panel, she charged the audience to see the survey results as a predictor: "If we're trying to figure out the future of our whole industry, there's no better crystal ball about where reading is going."

The study's most surprising finding for McLean was "the destruction of the myth that YAs are universally adapting to all technologies and also that they're disconnecting from their families." Teens use technology for their social networking but prefer books in their hands rather than on e-readers. Bowker's Kelly Gallagher labeled it "digital fatigue." Gallagher also pointed out that while e-books are not social, paper books are social. "As e-books open themselves up for more potential to share, it will be interesting to see if this changes," he said. Jacob Lewis, founder of Figment validated Gallagher's theory (in the later panel) when he spoke about the beta testing of Figment.com last year: the kids were not interested in replicating a Facebook experience elsewhere, but they were interested in socializing around the creation of their own content. "Kids don't look at reading as a solitary experience," Lewis said. "They want to have communication around it, which makes it possible to build social tools around those things."

Also, to McLean's point about the myth of teens' disconnectedness from their families, the Bowker/PubTrack survey showed that parents, friends, other family members and teachers are trusted resources for books--even for teens. That means publishers must take an online/offline "integrated approach," according to Judith Haut, senior v-p, communications and marketing, for Random House. "Bookstores, schools and libraries will continue as gatekeepers. That's the offline," Haut said. "We also know that kids are online, and it can't be an in-your-face billboard approach, but rather a meaningful dialogue from a trusted source."

Scholastic's Alison Morris, who spent 12 years as a bookseller, pointed out that it can also go the other way: "Parents often find out about books from their kids." Morris added, "What's missing is a good way to discover new books. Where do people get most of their recommendations? [According to the survey] they are all over the map." McLean agreed: "There's a filtering experience that goes on in a bookstore that's going to be very hard to replicate. With 290,000 books published every year, the consumer needs help making sense of it."

For all the talk of "vertical" marketing for adult books at DBW, McLean said, the model doesn't work for children's books. Is it possible or even desirable "to develop a cradle-to-college" marketing strategy?" McLean asked of the later panelists. Lewis said, "It's possible to curate communities of readers that gives them a chance to discover new books, new content, authors. Whether that takes them from cradle to college I don't know, but there are ways to be active participants in these spaces." Deborah Forte, president of Scholastic Media, said the goal is for children to fall in love with the content and want to come back to it in a variety of experiences. "How do you keep that personal relationship with the child as they navigate the digital spectrum and all that noise?" she pointed out, "When they go into a bookstore, it's a quiet environment [dominated] by books. As they go on the screen, you have to create an ecosystem with marketing touchpoints."

Young readers want to know the authors are authentic. Alloy's Sara Shandler pointed out that years ago, pseudonymous authors on series were the norm. Now kids want to have a relationship with the author, read his or her blog, see pictures of the author's desk.

Will there be a trigger that sends teens to the e-reader, and if so, what will it be? As Forte phrased it, "How do you create the value proposition of e-reading? No one knows yet what it is. What's going to drive it is something they really love."--Jennifer M. Brown

 


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Polite Society by Mahesh Rao


WI6: Mitchell Kaplan, Bookseller, Mogul

Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books, with stores in South Florida, the Cayman Islands and Westhampton Beach, N.Y., has been involved in more varieties of business ventures than any bookseller we know. At a Winter Institute panel on new partnerships between booksellers and publishers, he discussed some of these ventures and said he hoped booksellers would feel that "if you have something you'd like to pursue that flows naturally out of the book business or what you're doing now, you might say, 'Why not?' " He noted that he has always had an entrepreneurial spirit--he was a founder of the Miami Book Fair International--but that six or seven years ago, he decided simultaneously to try to "create value" out of the many relationships he had in the industry and community as well as have "a good time."

Among the projects he's done in the past few years:

Kaplan became a "kind of co-agent" on Bringing Home Adam: The Abduction That Changed America by Les Standiford with Joe Matthews, about the famous Adam Walsh case, which is being published by Ecco in March. The project began when Matthews, "a burly Miami Beach detective, came to me and gave me a huge sheaf of papers," Kaplan said. Mathews had worked on the case, which occurred in 1981--and led Adam's parents to create America's Most Wanted--and he had finally identified Adam Walsh's killer. Kaplan introduced Matthews to Standiford, the author and director of the creative writing program at Florida International University--they met and wrote the book.

Kaplan facilitated another deal between a customer and Ausbert de Arce and Petra Mason of Assouline Books fame (the art book publisher has consignment displays in two Books & Books stores). The resulting book is appearing next month: it's called South Beach: Stories of a Renaissance by Charles J. Kropke and Eleanor Goldstein with artwork and photos by Joe Davis and photos by Petra Mason. Kaplan said that he can sell "thousands and thousands" of copies of the $49.95 title.

This collaboration led the principals to form a contract publishing group, which is working on another project: a book by Allen Susser, a Miami chef, author of The Great Mango Book: A Guide with Recipes, who also works at the Jade Mountain resort in St. Lucia. The book will be about St. Lucia as much as Susser and include many photos. Because of connections with the fashion photography industry, "we may have a little cookbook with photos by Bruce Weber, and I'll be able to make a little money on it," Kaplan said.

Kaplan is publishing a book with John Dufresne, author of Louisiana Power & Light. Blue Christmas, an anthology of original "non-sentimental" Christmas stories from "interesting" authors, will appear in December.

Kaplan also talked about his alternate life as a movie producer (Shelf Awareness, September 3, 2008). In 2008, the Mazur/Kaplan Company optioned The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by the late Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece Annie Barrows (Dial Press). Fox 2000 is going to produce the film, and Kaplan happily said at the session that "I'm allowed to say that Kate Winslet is attached to it." The company has optioned other books, including Delirium by Lauren Oliver and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson.

"What we do as booksellers is extremely valuable," Kaplan told the audience. "You should be able to leverage that." He noted that it was important for booksellers to be a part of deals that they help make. "I wouldn't do any of these projects if I don't make money," he said. "In past I would have put people together and hoped for a karma credit."--John Mutter

 


G.P. Putnam's Sons: First Cosmic Velocity by Zach Powers


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Joanne Chang on the Martha Stewart Show

Today on NPR's Marketplace: Vivian Thomson, author of Garbage In, Garbage Out: Surviving the Problems with Long-Distance Trash Transport (University of Virginia Press, $21.50 paperback, 9780813928258).

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Tomorrow on the Martha Stewart Show: Joanne Chang, author of Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Café (Chronicle, $35, 9780811869447).



This Weekend on Book TV: Words & Money

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, January 29

9 a.m. James Buckley, author of Freedom at Risk: Reflections on Politics, Liberty, and the State (Encounter Books, $25.95, 9781594034787), argues against the expansion of the federal government. (Re-airs Sunday at 1:30 a.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m.)

10 a.m. Andre Schiffrin, author of Words & Money (Verso, $23.95, 9781844676804), examines the current state of the American media and posits different models to resurrect a flawed industry. (Re-airs Monday at 1 a.m.)

12:45 p.m. Edward McClelland, author of Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President (Bloomsbury Press, $24, 9781608190607), chronicles President Obama's first campaign for the Illinois State Senate. (Re-airs Sunday at 3 a.m. and 7 p.m.)

2 p.m. At an event hosted by AfterWords Bookstore, Chicago, Ill., Emily Lambert, author of The Futures: The Rise of the Speculator and the Origins of the World's Biggest Markets (Basic Books, $26.95, 9780465018437), looks at the history and purpose of the Board of Trade, Mercantile Exchange and other futures markets. (Re-airs Sunday at 8 a.m. and 8:15 p.m.)

7 p.m. Chris Hedges, author of Death of the Liberal Class (Nation Books, $24.95, 9781568586441), contends that liberals have been gradually corrupted by corporate entities. (Re-airs Sunday at 2 p.m.)

10 p.m. After Words. Max Boot interviews Peter Bergen, author of The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda (Free Press, $28, 9780743278935), a comprehensive look at the war on terror. (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. "The Military-Industrial Complex--50 Years Later" is the subject of a conversation between William Hartung, author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex (Nation Books, $25.95, 9781568584201), and David Eisenhower, author of Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969 (S&S, $28, 9781439190906). (Re-airs Sunday at 4 p.m.)

Sunday, January 30

7 a.m. Patrick O'Donnell, author of Give Me Tomorrow: The Korean War's Greatest Untold Story--The Epic Stand of the Marines of George Company (Da Capo, $26, 9780306818011), talks about one of the most highly decorated and bloodied companies in the Korean War. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

 


Television: The Council of Dads

Fox TV has picked up the Peter Tolan's comedy pilot The Council of Dads, based on Bruce Feiler's nonfiction book The Council of Dads: A Story of Family, Friendship, and Learning How to Live. Deadline.com reported that "Tolan and producing partner Michael Wimer are executive producing, with Feiler serving as a consultant. After a bidding war, the project originally landed at Fox in September with a $1.5 million pilot production commitment. Shows based on books were red-hot during pitch season, but Council of Dads is the first such project to make it to pilot so far."

 


Film-to-Book Adaptation: Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood, an upcoming, ultra-modern reinterpretation of the classic fairy tale starring Amanda Seyfried as "the crimson-caped protagonist, looks to be a long, long way from Grandma's house and a lot closer to the violent psycho-sexuality of those fraternal creeps, the Brothers Grimm," Shelf Life observed.

A novelization of the film's screenplay, written by first-time author Sarah Blakley-Cartwright, was published this week by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. For the enhanced e-book edition of the novel, director Catherine Hardwicke, screenwriter David Johnson and Blakley-Cartwright discussed the film and the writing process, and Shelf Life featured excerpts from the conversation.

 



Books & Authors

Awards: Best Translated Books Longlist; Lionel Gelber Shortlist

The 25-title fiction longlist for the 2011 Best Translated Book Awards includes 25 authors from 19 countries, writing in 12 languages. The award carries a prize of $5,000. See the full longlist here.

The longlist is "a testament to the number of high-quality works in translation that are making their way to American readers, thanks to a number of talented translators and exciting publishing houses," said awards co-founder Chad W. Post of Three Percent at the University of Rochester.

Monica Carter, one of the fiction judges, commented: "These books represent a global perspective that that, due to the dedication and talent of the translators, can open up the world to readers of English."

The 10-title fiction shortlist will be announced on Thursday, March 24, concurrent with the announcement of the finalists for the poetry award. Winners will be announced on April 29 in New York City as part of the PEN World Voices Festival.

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Finalists for the $15,000 Lionel Gelber Prize, which honors the world's best book on global affairs, include Yalta: The Price of Peace by Serhii M. Plokhy, Why the West Rules by Ian Morris, Arrival City: The Final Migration and our Next World by Doug Saunders, The Hungry World: America’s Cold War Battle Against Poverty in Asia by Nick Cullather and Polar Imperative: A History of Arctic Sovereignty in North America by Shelagh D. Grant. The winner will be announced March 1, the National Post reported.

 


Book Review

Book Review: The Weird Sisters

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (Amy Einhorn Books, $24.95 Hardcover, 9780399157226, January 2011)

Small wonder these girls are weird: they have a father who thinks in iambic pentameter and quotes the Immortal Bard rather than holding an ordinary conversation! Eleanor Brown makes an auspicious debut with this very fetching novel about Rose (Rosalind, As You Like It), Bean (Bianca, The Taming of the Shrew) and Cordy (Cordelia, King Lear). Despite their father's eccentricities and their mother's rather vague presence, there is no malice anywhere, and real concern, care and counsel are voiced. Well, at least that's true of the parents; the sisters kvetch and carp, as sisters will.

The story takes place in Barnwell, Ohio, where their father, Dr. James Andreas, is a--guess what--Shakespeare scholar. Rose is perfectly content to remain there, but Bean and Cordy couldn't get out fast enough. Their exits didn't work so well and now they have returned. All three girls/women--27, 30 and 33--are now under the family roof, ostensibly to assist in the care of their cancer-stricken mother, but really to find refuge from a less-than-friendly world.

Rose, an academic, is mired in a job that is not exactly what she had in mind, engaged to a good man who is currently at Oxford for a short term. When he is invited to stay on and asks Rose to join him there, she panics. What will the family do without her? She is the only organized one, the one who alphabetizes the spices in the cupboard, buys the groceries, tends to her mother's sickroom needs.

Bean, a fashion maven, a flirt and an embezzler, has returned home because she was fired from her Manhattan job. Her employers were good enough not to prosecute with the promise that restitution would be made. When she first arrives in Barnwell, from which she fought to escape, her first agenda is to reassure herself that she is still the man-trap she always was. On her first trip to the local bar, that illusion is destroyed. So she jumps into bed with an old professor whose wife she is very fond of and starts vamping the local Episcopal priest. Self-loathing is Bean's portion for these antics.

Flibbertigibbet Cordy has returned home pregnant, not knowing who the father is. She is broke, unskilled and determined to keep her baby. She bolts once, early on, but settles in for the long pull and begins to carve out a place for herself and her baby.

In the voice of an omniscient narrator, we learn that change is in the air. Appropriate Shakespearean quotes pop up here and there because the girls know the Bard almost as well as their father. The narrator and the quotes are clever ways of moving the story along, and move it does, as decisions are made and roads taken that we would not have guessed at the beginning. But even if we did, the author's graceful style and appealing portrait of a real family are enough to keep us going.--Valerie Ryan

Shelf Talker: A fine debut novel about three grown-up sisters and their parents in a small town in Ohio who find themselves under the same roof again, and realize that change is called for.

 


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Titles in Chicagoland Last Week

The following were the bestselling titles at independent bookstores in and around Chicago during the week ended Sunday, January 23:

Hardcover Fiction

1. An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
2. Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland
3. The Empty Family by Colm Toibin
4. Room by Emma Donoghue
5. A Lonely Death by Charles Todd
 
Hardcover Nonfiction

1. Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
2. Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand
3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
4. The Best of America's Test Kitchen by America's Test Kitchen
5. Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain
 
Paperback Fiction

1. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Ellen Simonson
2. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
3. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
4. True Grit by Charles Portis
5. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
 
Paperback Nonfiction

1. Just Kids by Patti Smith
2. Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott
3. Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love by Andrew Shaffer
4. The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published by Arielle Eckstut
5. Heart and Soul of the Cubs: Ron Santo by Chicago Tribune

Children's

1. Of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama
2. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip and Erin Stead
3. Olivia Goes to Venice by Ian Falconer
4. Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
5. The Rivalry: Mystery at the Army-Navy Game by John Feinstein

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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