Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 11, 2011


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Editor by Steven Rowley

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Five Feet Apart by Rachel Lippincott with Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis

Ballantine Books: Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

Central Avenue Publishing: Pickle's Progress by Marcia Butler

Bitter Lemon Press: Evil Things by Katja Ivar

Delacorte Press: Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

Quotation of the Day

'Score One for Print Publishing'

"[Knopf] published it so beautifully that Kindle readers have e-mailed me to say that they were forced to buy the hardback to read the PowerPoint. So score one for print publishing."

--Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, accepting the NBCC award for fiction last night (see the full list of winners below).

Oxford University Press: Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War by Elizabeth R. Varon


News

Image of the Day: Singing at Home

 

More than 300 people attended an event last Saturday hosted by the Open Book, Westhampton Beach, N.Y., featuring Jodi Picoult and Ellen Wilber for Sing You Home (Atria), Picoult's new novel that includes a CD with music written and performed by Wilber with lyrics by Picoult. The appearance had special meaning for Picoult in several ways: she was born and raised in nearby Nesconset and her book The Tenth Circle was the subject of much controversy four years ago when the Westhampton Beach High School removed it from a suggested 9th grade reading list. Here from l.: Wilber, Picoult and Open Book owner Terry Lucas.

 


Ecco Press: White Elephant by Julie Langsdorf


Notes: Illinois Sales Tax Collection Bill Now Law, Amazon Departs


Illinois Governor Pat Quinn yesterday signed a bill requiring online retailers with "broad networks of online affiliates" in the state to collect sales tax on purchases by residents, Bookselling This Week reported.

As it had threatened and has done in similar situations in other states, Amazon.com responded to the new law by announcing yesterday that it is cutting ties to all its affiliates in Illinois.

The state has about 9,000 affiliates, according to the Performance Marketing Association as quoted by the Wall Street Journal. Rebecca Madigan, director of the affiliate trade group, said that those Illinois affiliates "generated $611 million in advertising revenue in 2009 and tax revenue of $18 million." She estimated that the state will lose 25% to 30% of that tax revenue because the affiliates will lose business, cut jobs or move out of the state. But already, Bloomberg noted, Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart and Sears are seeking to sign up the former Amazon affiliates.

ABA CEO Oren Teicher praised Governor Quinn for "standing up for bricks-and-mortar retailers" and ensuring that "the retail marketplace in Illinois will be competitive and fair." He added that the new law will "bolster sales tax fairness efforts in other states" and attributed its passage to the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and "the grassroots efforts of a large and diverse array of retailers in the state. We especially thank our independent bookstore members in Illinois for their tremendous outreach efforts, from letter-writing campaigns to face-to-face meetings with legislators and the governor's staff."

Teicher also took aim at Amazon.com, saying, "Those companies that would fire their affiliates simply to maintain an inequitable competitive advantage over retailers that obey the law clearly show their true colors. A belief that laws apply only to those who are smaller or who are unwilling to resort to threats or loopholes is characteristic of the worst sort of corporate citizen. We certainly hope companies like Amazon.com rethink their decision to fire affiliates, and we remain grateful that the governor took the tough, principled stand on behalf of in-state retailers."

Becky Anderson, v-p of the ABA and co-owner of Anderson's Bookshops in Downers Grover and Naperville, Ill., said that Governor Quinn "has helped Main Street businesses like mine and thousands of others. He has helped to increase jobs in the state for tax-compliant retailers and helped to secure needed revenue for our state and communities."

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The administrators of the bankrupt REDgroup Retail are putting the company's bookstores in New Zealand up for sale, it announced yesterday. The stores include 74 Whitcoulls locations, nine Bennetts and five Borders operations. The administrators said there have already been some unsolicited bids for the New Zealand stores.

In contrast to the situation in Australia, where REDgroup Retail has already laid off some 321 people and begun closing 38 stores, there have been no closings or firings in New Zealand.

"To some degree this is about testing the waters and potentially establishing the market value of the business," administrator Steve Sherman said. "But it will also allow us to develop a well-informed opinion about the best course of action for creditors."

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The Wall Street Journal examined online clubs that allow members to exchange e-books for free. "Some publishers, which are monitoring the sites closely, say they fear that making books available for loan may deter people from buying physical and digital books," but "the lending sites' founders say they are helping publishers because their users, after borrowing books, can purchase other books in the same series or by the same author." Hmmm.

The sites have proliferated since December, when Amazon began allowing Kindle users to lend e-books, something that was already possible with Barnes & Noble's Nook.

BookLending, which opened two months ago, now has more than 16,000 registered users who have made a total of nearly 20,000 book loans so far, the Journal said.

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Goodreads is buying Discovereads.com, which uses an algorithm for recommending books that Goodreads says is better than Amazon's "because Amazon considers books a customer has browsed or bought, so buying a gift for a child could throw off the recommendations, for instance," the New York Times wrote.

Goodreads will also use the recommendations "to help authors and publishers advertise their books to readers who are most likely to be interested in them," the Times added. "Seventeen thousand authors, including James Patterson and Margaret Atwood, use Goodreads to advertise."

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Charis Books & More, the for-profit feminist bookstore, and Charis Circle, the store's nonprofit arm, Atlanta, Ga., are planning to move into a larger location within a year, the Georgia Voice reported. The new location will be called the Charis Feminist Center and may be in Decatur, "where many of Charis' customers live." The new center will have a coffee shop, share space with other nonprofits and offer more programming.

To make the move, Charis is putting its current store up for sale and has begun a $1 million capital campaign, whose co-chair is the same woman who "gave Linda Bryant the seed money to open Charis 37 years ago."

"We're excited for change and to be in a space that is more accessible to more people," Charis Books & More co-owner Angela Gabriel told the Voice. "We've been discussing and dreaming about this for 10 to 15 years and finally we have the right people on board to make that happen."

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Let them eat cake! The treat is being served tomorrow afternoon at {pages}: a bookstore in Manhattan Beach, Calif., in celebration of the store's one-year anniversary. Since opening the shop (Shelf Awareness, March 11, 2010), partners Patty Gibson, Linda McLoughlin Figel and Margot Farris have, they say, "changed the downtown cultural climate in a town that had a tendency to be more infatuated with a good burrito than a good book."

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Book trailer of the day: The Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge by T.J. English (Morrow).

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Taschen and Phaidon are "two art publishing houses with two very distinct reputations," Flavorwire observed in announcing a biblio-grudge match: Taschen vs. Phaidon: Collector's Edition War. Among the categories being contested were "the book that costs more than a new car" and "the book that could double as porn."

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Justin Cartwright, author of Other People's Money, selected his top 10 state of the nation novels for the Guardian, noting that when "nations are undergoing some form of stress, be it financial or ethical or even military, state of the nation novels tend to be more numerous; they come in many guises, but they have one thing in particular, that they provide a commentary or a judgment on the times."

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Don't panic. In featuring a set of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy tattoos, Boing Boing noted that "illustrating the flowerpot/whale scene is particularly poignant, as it is perhaps the most humorously existential moment in one of the great existential comedies of all time."

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Candlewick Press has created a new imprint, Nosy Crow, that will publish in the U.S. and Canada a majority of U.K. publisher Nosy Crow's titles. The imprint will launch with 10 children's titles this fall, including Pip and Posy: The Little Puddle and Pip and Posy: The Super Scooter, the first titles in a new series by illustrator Axel Scheffler, illustrator of The Gruffalo.

Karen Lotz, president and publisher of Candlewick Press, praised Wilson's "exceptional depth of experience in global children's publishing and her innovative vision for our industry's future both shine through the launch of Nosy Crow."

Kate Wilson, founder and managing director of Nosy Crow, said that Candlewick and Nosy Crow "share the culture and liberties of independent publishers, and we share our exclusive focus on--and passion for--creating great things for children to read."

Last fall at the annual meeting of the Book Industry Study Group, Wilson spoke at length about her vision for the new company (Shelf Awareness, September 29, 2010).

 


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Media and Movies

Media Heat: Harry Potter on CBS Sunday Morning

Sunday on CBS Sunday Morning: Shepherd Mead, author of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Simon & Schuster, $14, 9781451627091). Daniel Radcliffe, star of the Broadway adaptation, will also appear.

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Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition: Annia Ciezadlo, author of Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War (Free Press, $26, 9781416583936).

 


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Fifty Things That Aren't My Fault: Essays from the Grown-Up Years by Cathy Guisewite


Television: Hemingway & Gellhorn

A number of actors have been added to the cast of HBO's biopic Hemingway & Gellhorn, starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman in "the tumultuous romance and subsequent marriage of literary master Ernest Hemingway (Owen) and up-and-coming war correspondent Martha Gellhorn (Kidman), following them through the Spanish Civil War and beyond," Deadline.com reported.

The cast now includes David Strathairn as John Dos Passos, Molly Parker as Hemingway's second wife, Pauline; Parker Posey as his fourth wife, Mary; Rodrigo Santoro as Zarra, a Spanish Loyalist and friend of Dos Passos; Lars Ulrich as Joris Ivens, the Dutch documentarian of The Spanish Earth; Santiago Cabrera as war photographer Robert Capa; Saverio Guerra as Hemingway's close friend Sidney Franklin; and Peter Coyote as editor Maxwell Perkins. Diane Baker will play Gellhorn's mother and Tony Shalhoub will play Koltsov, a Russian journalist.

 


Movies: Gaiman to Write Monkey King Scripts

Neil Gaiman will write English-language scripts for "a big-budget series of 3D feature films based on Journey to the West, China's classic novel about the adventures of the Monkey King," the Hollywood Reporter wrote. He will work with prominent Chinese television producer Zhang Jizhong on a trilogy.

Gaiman told THR that "the best part of his recent 10-day visit to China from his home near Minneapolis had been arguing with Zhang, 59, about which plot lines from the complex 2,000-page story to keep for the film series Zhang last year boasted would cost about $300 million to make."

"We have to do what Peter Jackson did with Lord of the Rings," said Gaiman. "We have to make it filmic, non-episodic. This story is in the DNA of 1.5 billion people." Guillermo Del Toro is being courted to direct.

Gaiman also said the opportunity to work with Zhang came along just when he'd run out of steam writing a book about Journey to the West: "There he was, my third act." Gaiman plans to turn his work with Zhang into an ending for the book begun for HarperCollins in 2007, according to THR.

Asked if he thought he might have issues with China's censors, Gaiman replied, "Monkey is irrepressible. The moment that you try to censor Monkey, he's not Monkey anymore."

 



Books & Authors

Awards: NBCC Winners

Winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards, honored last night, with comments from the NBCC:

  • Fiction: Jennifer Egan for A Visit from the Goon Squad (Knopf). "A novel at once experimental in form and crystal clear in the overlapping stories it delivers, offering us a sense of youth and what gets lost along the way."
  • Nonfiction: Isabel Wilkerson for The Warmth of Other Suns (Random House). "A magisterial work, taking its title from a poem by Richard Wright, that chronicles the movement of the six million African Americans who left the Jim Crow South starting in the early 20th century and spread throughout the country."
  • Autobiography: Darin Strauss for Half a Life (McSweeney's). "A brave and heartbreaking account by the novelist of the half a life he's spent coming to terms with an accident he was in that caused a classmate’s death."
  • Biography: Sarah Bakewell for How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (Other Press). "A fresh and original treatment from British author Bakewell, a former curator, of the great French essayist in a book that remakes the concept of literary biography."
  • Poetry: C.D. Wright for One with Others: [a little book of her days] (Copper Canyon). "A book that affectingly blends poetry and journalism to detail a significant moment in the Civil Rights Movement in Arkansas."
  • Criticism: Clare Cavanagh for Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland, and the West (Yale University Press). "A deeply scholarly yet lucid study of hundred years of poems in three languages from the Northwestern University professor."

 


Book Brahmin: Brian McLaren

Brian D. McLaren is an author, theologian, activist and networker. He's written or co-written more than a dozen books, and his writing and speaking cover a range of topics. Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words will be published on March 15, 2011 (HarperOne); it describes a dozen spiritual disciplines that facilitate a "naked" life with God and others. He and his wife, Grace, live in Florida and have four adult children.

On your nightstand now:

Thank God for Evolution by Michael Dowd; Anatheism by Richard Kearney; The God Who Is Here by Peter Traben Haas; Shame by Gregg Garrett.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was a big fan of all the Borrowers books by Mary Norton. Then there was Rascal by Sterling North.

Your top five authors:

Walker Percy, Wendell Berry, Orson Scott Card, Mary Oliver, Paul Tournier.

Book you've faked reading:

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Adventure of Living by Paul Tournier.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Reason for Hope by Jane Goodall.

Book that changed your life:

The Message in the Bottle by Walker Percy.

Favorite line from a book:

"Lucky is the man who does not secretly believe that every possibility is open to him."--Walker Percy, The Last Gentleman

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

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.

 


Book Review

Book Review: Volt

Volt by Alan Heathcock (Graywolf Press, $15.00 Paperback, 9781555975777, March 2011)

There are short story writers who are masters of characterization and others adept at creating vivid, memorable settings. In his first collection, Alan Heathcock blends both talents to create a stark, memorable portraits of small-town life.

Most of Volt's stories are set in the fictional town of Krafton, "no place for a young person with half a brain," as one character describes it. The town is never explicitly located, but Heathcock has an affinity for describing a natural world that evokes the bleak but beautiful landscapes of the western United States (he teaches creative writing in Idaho). Sudden, violent death haunts the town's inhabitants, and disasters like floods and fires are never distant.

Several of the tales feature Helen Farraley, the grocery store manager improbably turned town sheriff. "Peacekeeper" employs a time-shifting chronology to tell the story of her decision, whether from inexperience, fear or misguided compassion, to conceal the circumstances of a teenage girl's murder and mete out her own brand of rough justice to the killer. In "The Daughter," she's investigating the disappearance of a boy last seen in a corn maze. And in the title story, her arrest of a man who fails to appear for a court date leads her into a tangled world of family violence, with the burden of the town's wrongdoing finally causing her to imagine "God in Heaven just as weary, slouched on his golden throne and deciding to try a smaller flood or two just to see if we'd save ourselves and spare him the effort."

Though religious concerns aren't an overt theme of the collection, Helen's musing reflects the biblical notions of sin, grace and redemption that insinuate their way into these stories. The opener, "The Staying Freight," tells of a father who kills his young son in a farming accident and then leaves town on foot, eventually performing a twisted sort of penance by allowing himself to serve as a punching bag for drunken bar patrons in a distant town. "Lazarus," a quiet, moving story, focuses on Pastor Vernon Hamby (like Helen, a recurring character), the town's Baptist minister. He longs to reconcile with the wife of 30 years who has left him but must accept his inability to overcome a tragic loss that's helped sunder their relationship: "But even if not spoken, everything had finally been said," is the sad benediction he pronounces over their failed marriage.

With these and other stories, readers who admire the kind of vivid, distinctive short fiction displayed in Richard Ford's Rock Springs or David Means's Assorted Fire Events will be excited to discover a familiar but wholly original new voice in Alan Heathcock.--Harvey Freedenberg

Shelf Talker: In a collection of well-crafted stories, Alan Heathcock portrays some of the harsh realities of small-town life.

 


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Celebrating 'Mom & Pop' Bookstores 2.0

Did you know that March 29 is National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day? I learned about it in a recent e-newsletter from Titcomb's Bookshop, East Sandwich, Mass. Store manager Vicky Titcomb said they discovered the holiday by "lucky coincidence," and decided at a staff meeting to celebrate this year with an event paying tribute to her parents, Ralph and Nancy, who founded the bookstore in 1969.

"In our minds, the perfect, positive response to the closing of the Borders stores was to celebrate the smaller independent family bookshops, such as ours," Vicky recalled. "Like many, many independent bookshops, ours is a family-owned business, so the idea of celebrating my parents, who founded the business and are still quite active in it, was perfect. We'll make some treats, serve coffee and tea and decorate--it will be a little party."

Vicky grew up in the book trade "and was very proud of what my parents did." During the early years, they sold only antiquarian books, beginning as a mail-order store in Connecticut. "I remember helping to collate the catalogues my father prepared. He would put stacks of pages on the dining room table and we'd all walk around the table compiling the catalogue and getting it ready to mail. The fun would really start in the coming days when the phone would ring and the books would be sold."  

When the family moved to East Sandwich and opened their bricks-and-mortar location, Vicky, a high school sophomore, was "delighted to earn $1 per hour in the bookshop after school or on weekends." She left for college in 1972, returning in 1991 to help out in the bookshop.

"My dad was the expert in old books and he was very patient in teaching me and letting me make mistakes," she said. "In general, it's been an evolution of responsibilities as I learned more about the business. I feel like the bookshop is an incredible gift. Everyone who knows my parents knows that they have run a good and honest business. There's a lot of good will they have earned over the years."

One of the primary challenges a "mom & pop" business faces "is dealing with the natural hierarchy of a family--parents taking care of everything, older children generally the boss of the younger ones," she observed. "It can be tough for everyone to make that shift in roles as a business matures and responsibility and decision making shifts from older to younger. I've been blessed with very patient and supportive parents, which has made this transition easier."

Vicky credits former ABA CEO Avin Domnitz for providing a platform through which the Titcombs could begin talking about money and finances, which "made us a much healthier business. When we were growing up, we really didn't talk about money in our family--except that with a large family, we knew we needed to be thrifty. It was really hard and awkward for all of us to talk about money in the business. I remember almost putting the store under at one point by buying too much inventory. I had no idea of the effect of inventory on cash flow and profitability. Once we really started looking at the company financials, I realized how important it was to get on track. It took a long time to get out from under that debt, but we did it."

The "transition" from one generation to the next has really been a gradual development. "There wasn't one moment when things changed," Vicky noted. "Things just evolved. For example, we began stocking more and more new books in the shop, and that wasn't an area my father was interested in. Selling used and rare books on the Internet really changed the way we did business. We loved it, but it was not as much fun for my father any more. Much more time was spent listing books on the computer and shipping them out. There was less customer loyalty--everything is based on price on the Internet. On the other hand, I was excited about the possibilities and not as tied to the way things used to be. Looking at all the changes of today's bookstore, I sometimes think I feel like my father felt years ago." 

Vicky also expanded some areas of the business her parents were less interested in, like new children's books and events: "Our events have grown and become an important part of our business. My parents have always encouraged me to grow the business. And we talk about where we want the business to be and who will do what."

Many of those conversations take place during staff meetings in her parents' house, to which the bookstore is attached. "The kitchen is our lunch room, too," Vicky said. "I make everyone feel like part of the family, I think. My dad is more or less retired from the bookshop, but I know I can call on him when I need his help or just need to talk something out. My mom buys the greeting cards and stationery, and we get lots of compliments on her choices. She is always there to help with any special events, make a sign, or pitch in for almost anytime we need her. She has a great sense of style and makes great signs and displays."

"Mom & Pop." It does have an old-fashioned ring, though many of the country's best and longest running indie bookstores began as family operations. Vicky admits she's not a big fan of the term "because there's an implication that a mom and pop business would not be up to date in technology and the latest developments in its industry--and most of us run very good, up to date businesses. But I'm happy to celebrate National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day as one more way to raise people's awareness of the special small businesses that are such an important part of our communities--particularly bookshops, of course. In general, we keep our focus on serving our communities well over the long haul--we're not looking for a quick buck, but work to build our businesses and we value each employee."

Maybe this year we should celebrate Mom & Pop Bookstores 2.0.

The generational transition for Titcomb's Bookshop is an ongoing process, Vicky noted. "Honestly, in most ways I really don't think about it being 'their' store or 'mine.' I think of this as very much a family business and we are all family. Everyone in the family helps out from time to time, depending on their interests and our needs. It's wonderful to see how proud the next generation is of their bookshop."--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

 


The Bestsellers

Top Book Club Books in February

The following are the most popular book club books during February based on votes from readers of 27,000 book clubs registered at Bookmovement.com:

1. Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue
2. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
4. Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave
5. Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen
6. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
7. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
8. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt: A Novel by Beth Hoffman
9. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel by Jamie Ford
10. The Forgotten Garden: A Novel by Kate Morton

Rising stars:

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
Juliet by Anne Fortier


[Many thanks to Bookmovement.com!]

 


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