Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Little Brown and Company: A Line in the Sand by Kevin Powers

Berkley Books: Business or Pleasure by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Berkley Books: The First Ladies by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

Texas Bookman Presents Texas Remainder Expo

Minotaur Books: Deadlock: A Thriller (Dez Limerick Novel #2) by James Byrne

Ballantine Books: The Second Ending by Michelle Hoffman

Tor Books: One for My Enemy by Olivie Blake

Henry Holt & Company: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

Quotation of the Day

Evison: 'Brick and Mortars Still Rule the Book World'

"In the past eight weeks, I've visited more than forty independent bookstores all over the continent, and every one of them had its own personality, and virtually every one of them was owned by an impassioned soul, who had bought themselves into a low paying job by buying a bookstore. Oh, and virtually every one of them was a pillar of their community, who put their money right back into said community. And guess what else? All their employees were impassioned people, who happened to be local, and happened to like working for a low wage, if only because it allowed them to work around books, and to spread the word about books and authors, and none more so than the those who otherwise might fall under the radar, or the search engine."

--Jonathan Evison, author of West of Here, in a post at Three Guys One Book headlined: "Why Brick and Mortars Still Rule the Book World, and Why We Must Shop at Them Even If It Costs a Couple Extra Bucks and Few Extra Minutes."


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Killing Me by Michelle Gagnon


Image of the Day: Some of Our Favorite Booksellers


At its annual retreat last week, many former presidents and members of the advisory council joined the board of the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association to discuss needs and goals for the future. Front row: Laura Ayrey, MPIBA executive director; Liesl Freudenstein, Boulder Book Store; Catherine Weller, Sam Weller's Bookstore; Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover Bookstore; Gayle Shanks, Changing Hands Bookstore. Second row: Andy Nettell, Arches Book Company; Meghan Goel, BookPeople; Jacqie Hasan, Old Firehouse Books; Anne Holman, King's English Bookshop. Third Row: Drew Goodman, University Campus Store-University of Utah; Tom Faherty, Faherty & Associates; Nicole Magistro, the Bookworm of Edwards; Matt Miller, Tattered Cover Bookstore; Joe Foster, Edelweiss/Above the Treeline; Andrea Avantaggio, Maria's Bookshop; Susie Wilmer, Old Firehouse Books; Michele Sulka, Random House.

Texas Bookman Presents Texas Remainder Expo

Notes: Fire Damages Book Cellar; Modern Times's New Home

A six-alarm fire Sunday night at the historic Brooks House in downtown Brattleboro, Vt., has caused severe damage to the Book Cellar, according to the Republican. The Book Cellar is located in the former hotel, which now has 59 apartments, 15 storefronts and a radio station.

Book Cellar owner Lisa Sullivan, a New England Independent Booksellers Association board member who also owns Bartleby's Books in Wilmington, Vt., was on vacation. Everyone is reportedly safe.


Good news from Modern Times Bookstore in San Francisco, Calif.: the store, which has to vacate its space by the end of the month (Shelf Awareness, March 16, 2011), has a new location, at 2912 24th Street, between Alabama and Florida, in the old China Books location. The store plans to open in the new site at the end of May.

Modern Times said that the space is smaller "but we believe it will offer us an important opportunity to focus our stock and prioritize our mission as a progressive resource for the bay area and a neighborhood bookstore for the Mission."

The store is hosting a 40th Anniversary/Moving Party this Saturday, April 23, 3-6 p.m., with performances by Modern Times all-stars, and will have a volunteer moving party on April 30, its last day in the current space.


In West Hollywood, Calif., the Bodhi Tree Bookstore continues in business and continues to talk with "prospects who have the vision and energy to operate a store and engage a new generation of readers and seekers," the store said yesterday. Longtime owners Stan Madson and Phil Thompson have sold the building and since January 2010 have been looking for a new owner who would buy the famed metaphysical store's inventory and continue the store in a different location.

To help "send the message that the customer base will be there for the next 'incarnation,' " the Bodhi Tree is offering a 20% discount to all customers who say the phrase "Bodhi 4ever" when making purchases from now through Monday, May 2.


As the strong Canadian dollar hovers at par with the weak U.S. dollar, one Canadian bookseller is again responding as it did four years ago, when the loonie and the buck were of equal value: Audreys Books in Edmonton is selling U.S. books at the lower U.S. dollar price printed on the books, the Edmonton Journal reported.

"I would be comfortable if these books were 10% above the U.S. price to take into account shipping and warehousing, but some books are 20% or sometimes 25% higher and that's unacceptable to us," co-owner Steve Budnarchuk told the paper.

Another independent in Edmonton, Greenwoods' Bookshoppe, is not considering a similar move because, Gail Greenwood said, "publishers and distributors, unlike in 2007, are responding much quicker to book pricing. We feel right now the average price is 10% to 15% over U.S., and that's a good price compared to some of the other products retailers are bringing in, like electronics and clothing, which are averaging anywhere from 20% to 25%. Book buyers are getting a pretty good deal."


Lacy Simons, manager of the bookstore part of Rock City Books & Coffee, Rockland, Maine, has raised most of her goal of $5,000 to buy the book operation, the Bangor Daily News reported.

She has used social media to raise the money (Shelf Awareness, March 25, 2011). "We've had some local people, but overwhelmingly it's been from people who have never even been to the store," Simons told the paper. "I think people tend to think of Twitter and Facebook as being kind of impersonal, but when random strangers entrust their money to you because they support your cause, it feels really personal and organic. You really do feel connected."

She hopes to take ownership of the bookstore in mid-May and will then change the name to Hello Hello. According to the paper, she will focus on "getting more new books in and increasing gifts and other forms of merchandise." She'll also change the look of the space.


Book trailer of the day: Forty Beads: The Simple, Sexy Secret for Transforming Your Marriage by Carolyn Evans (Running Press).


Writing on her blog, Inklings, bookseller Charlotte Ashley pays homage to the books being returned that "we'd been holding on to as long as possible for sentimental reasons; books which 'should' sell. What's maybe more depressing is that books that don't sell usually fall into very specific categories, and so maybe as booksellers we should learn simply not to order from these lists." Among those heartbreaker categories:

  • Young Adult Literature Not Featuring the Occult
  • Chinese Literature
  • Post-Soviet Russian Novels
  • NYRB Classics

"Become someone else. Pick your hero at Mint Vinetu." My Modern Metropolis featured an advertising campaign for a Lithuanian bookstore.


From Boing Boing, a headline that says it all--"L.A. Library, 1960: Gun-toting child reads bunny book."


Artist and designer Sebastian Errazuriz's Metamorphosis bookshelf was inspired by memories of the thick ivy in his grandmother's garden, Modern Residential Design reported.


With David Foster Wallace's The Pale King making headlines in the book world, it seems like the perfect time to craft a literary mixtape for Hal Incandenza, the protagonist of Infinite Jest. Flavorwire imagined what Hal would "perfect his serve, talk to BooBoo and light up his one-hitter to."


Sourcebooks Young Readers: Global: One Fragile World. an Epic Fight for Survival. by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano

More on Mortenson: Viking to Review Work

In a statement yesterday, Viking, the publisher of Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, said it will review the book and its contents with the author, according to the New York Times.

The paper quoted a statement from Carolyn Coleburn, a Viking spokesperson: "Greg Mortenson's work as a humanitarian in Afghanistan and Pakistan has provided tens of thousands of children with an education. 60 Minutes is a serious news organization and in the wake of their report, Viking plans to carefully review the materials with the author."


On, Jon Krakauer, author of Into Thin Air, among other titles, expanded on his charges against Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and founder of the Central Asia Institute. The headline of the 77-page story said it all about his point of view: "Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way." The piece will be released as an Amazon Kindle Single tomorrow; Krakauer is donating the proceeds to the American Himalayan Foundation's Stop Girl Trafficking Project.

Besides asserting that Mortenson "fabricated substantial parts of his bestselling books Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools," Krakauer said that Mortenson "has also misused millions of dollars donated by unsuspecting admirers," including Krakauer.

One eye-opening section about his books reads:

"Using CAI funds, Mortenson has purchased many tens of thousands of copies of Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, which he has subsequently handed out to attendees at his speaking engagements. A significant number of these books were charged to CAI's Pennies for Peace program, contrary to Mortenson's frequent assertions that CAI uses 'every penny' of every donation made to Pennies for Peace to support schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Rather than buy Mortenson's books at wholesale cost from his publisher, moreover, CAI has paid retail price from commercial outlets such as Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. Buying from retailers allows Mortenson to receive his author's royalty for each book given away, and also allows these handouts to augment his ranking on national bestseller lists. (Had he ordered the books from his publisher, Mortenson would not have received a royalty, nor would bestseller lists reflect those purchases.) According to one of Mortenson's friends, when he learned that Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love had bumped Three Cups of Tea from number one down to number two on the New York Times paperback nonfiction list, 'Greg was furious. He started buying books like crazy, with the CAI credit card, to try and put Three Cups back on top.' "

Another example of an apparent certain looseness with Institute funds: "CAI has routinely paid for extravagances such as a four-day excursion by Mortenson to the Telluride Mountain Film Festival in May 2010, where he was a featured speaker. A Learjet was chartered to fly Mortenson, his wife and children, and four other individuals from Montana to Colorado and back. CAI rented multiple residences in Telluride to house the entourage. Lavish meals were billed to the foundation. The jet charter alone cost CAI more than $15,000."


Outside Online had a long q&a with Mortenson, in which the author laid some of the blame for inaccuracies in Three Cups of Tea on his co-writer, David Oliver Relin. Speaking of trips and events being compressed, he said, "So, rather than me going two or three times to one place, he would synthesize it into one trip. I would squawk about it and be told that it would all work out."


Tor Books: One for My Enemy by Olivie Blake

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Plastic: A Toxic Love Story

Today on Fresh Air: Susan Freinkel, author of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 9780547152400).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Kristin Gore, author of Sweet Jiminy (Hyperion, $23.99, 9781401322892).


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Paul Allen, author of Idea Man: A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft (Portfolio, $27.95, 9781591843825).


Tomorrow on Oprah: Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Peace and Plenty: Finding Your Path to Financial Serenity (Grand Central, $24.99, 9780446561747).


Tomorrow on the Talk: Maya Soetoro-Ng, author of Ladder to the Moon (Candlewick, $16.99, 9780763645700).


Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Manuel Muñoz, author of What You See in the Dark (Algonquin, $23.95, 9781565125339). As the show put it: "Although shot in the studio, the Hitchcock thriller Psycho takes place, largely, in California's Central Valley, in the infamous Bates Motel. Manuel Muñoz, who was born in the Central Valley, imagines a crime of passion set there, which he deviously juxtaposes with Psycho's mayhem. He asks significantly, what's a Mexican American realist doing mixing plot lines with Hitchcock, the master of suspense?"


Tomorrow on the John Batchelor Show: Jennet Conant, author of A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781439163528).

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams

Television: Gaiman's American Gods

HBO "has begun talks" to acquire Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods, which the network hopes to develop into a fantasy series, reported, noting that the "project was brought to HBO by Playtone partners Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, and it was brought to them by Robert Richardson. The plan is for Richardson and Gaiman to write the pilot together."


Directors set for Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, The Passage

Lionsgate has hired Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) to direct the movie version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, based on the Seth Grahame-Smith novel, wrote.

"We are so excited to have Craig Gillespie on board this film," said Alli Shearmur, Lionsgate president of motion picture production. "His sensibility spans from genre-bending horror to elegant character-driven comedy, which is perfect for this movie."


Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) will direct The Passage, adapted from Justin Cronin's novel, for Fox 2000, reported.  


Books & Authors

Awards: Pulitzer, Lukas Winners

The winners of the Pulitzer Prizes in the letters and drama categories, announced yesterday:

Fiction: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Knopf)
General nonfiction: The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner)
History: The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner (Norton)
Biography: Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow (Penguin Press)
Drama: Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris
Poetry: The Best of It: New and Selected Poems by Kay Ryan (Grove Press)


The winners of the 2011 Lukas Prizes, which "recognize excellence in nonfiction that exemplify the literary grace and commitment to serious research and social concern that characterized the work of the awards' Pulitzer Prize-winning namesake, J. Anthony Lukas," are:

J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize ($10,000):

Winner: Eliza Griswold for The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)


Jefferson Cowie for Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class (New Press)
Paul Greenberg for Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food (Penguin Press)
Siddartha Mukherjee for The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (Scribner)

Mark Lynton History Prize ($10,000):

Winner: Isabel Wilkerson for The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration (Random House)

Finalist: Patrick Wilcken for Claude Levi-Strauss: The Poet in His Laboratory (Penguin Press)

J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award ($30,000):

Winner: Alex Tizon for Big Little Man: The Asian Male at the Dawn of the Asian Century (to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)


Joe Mozingo for The Fiddler on Pantico Run (to be published by Simon and Schuster)
Florence Williams for Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History (to be published by Norton)


Shelf Starter: The Girl's Guide to Homelessness


The Girl's Guide to Homelessness: A Memoir by Brianna Karp (Harlequin, $16.95 trade paper, 9780373892358, April 26, 2011)

Opening lines of a book we want to read:


The Walmart lot was cold in the night air, even for southern California. I hadn't brought enough blankets and would need to swing by the thrift store and pick up a few more. Everything was well-lit by the streetlamps and eerily quiet. There were maybe a dozen other trailers around when I arrived, but no sign that actual people might live in them at all....

How could I sleep? I was more weary than I'd been in a long time, but I flicked on a solitary flashlight and tried to read a book, although you couldn't exactly call it reading. It was more like staring blankly at the page, eyes racing over the words without comprehension as my mind created scenarios one after the other, each more horrible than the last. What if I awoke to the brisk tapping of police batons on my windows? What if they knew I was planning on staying here longer than a night or two? What if they could sense it? What if I awoke at a tilt, all my boxes hurtling from one end of the trailer toward my head, as a tow truck dragged me away, screeching for help, muffled and buried under hundreds of books?

I had never much thought about homelessness or homeless people.... I had never thought about how those homeless people ended up there. I had never once thought to ask, "Why would a lazy person choose that life?" It seems like a really hard, scary, uncertain life. It seems like the last kind of life a lazy jackass would choose.

I was ashamed of myself, thinking back on it. In a way, this was my atonement, my penance for being so self-righteous all those years. Serves me right, I realized wildly.

It was Thursday, February 26, 2009. I was homeless.

But then, it's not really enough to tell you that I'm homeless, is it? You want to know who the hell I am and how I got here. --selected by Marilyn Dahl


Michael Burke: Mysteries, Math and Metaphors


When artist-turned-author Michael Burke needed a name for the main character in his mystery series, he had one at the ready. As a child, he wanted to change his own name to Blue Heron after a sighting of the magnificent bird. He stuck with his given moniker but, decades later, knew what to call the detective in his debut novel, Swan Dive (Pleasure Boat Studio/Caravel, $15, 9781929355501), and its follow-up, Music of the Spheres ($16, 9781929355709).

John "Blue" Heron is a down-on-his-luck private investigator in a derelict New England industrial town. A study in contrasts, he lives in a run-down apartment building dubbed the Dung Hill Arms and drinks carefully crafted martinis (gin, two drops of vermouth, a twist of lemon and lots of ice). He's a daydreamer and a bit of a slacker who ruminates on the nature of the universe and has Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" as his cellphone ringtone.

Gritty, witty and unabashedly racy, the books have garnered Burke comparisons to Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane--with a twist. He intertwines the hardboiled storylines with elements of mythology and astronomy. "I like the idea of giving readers something else to think about," said Burke. Swan Dive is loosely based on the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan, with Blue navigating an intricate web of family deceit and treachery. (The book's cover features a painting by an artist friend of the author.)

In Blue's second adventure, despite a few threats on his life, he refuses to quit until he cracks a seemingly unsolvable case involving blackmail, infidelity and murder. The tome's title derives from the Pythagorean concept of the Music of the Spheres, "a harmony, musical notes of frequencies created by the rotation of the planets," muses Blue while staring out over the railroad yards by his apartment and gazing at the night sky. It's also the name of a stage act put on by Stella Starlight, a stripper Blue befriends and beds.

Looking to the heavens for inspiration on plot points came naturally for Burke. After graduating from Harvard with an architectural sciences degree and doing a stint in the Army, he embarked on a career as an astronomer and spent several years with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in far-flung locales like Hawaii and Iran. He then earned a Master's in urban planning from Columbia University and worked as a transportation planner in New York City, where he currently lives.

Burke's career path took a dramatic turn 35 years ago when he decided to become an artist. "It was either a very brave thing to do or a total copout--probably a combination of both," he said. Some of his sculptures, prints and drawings incorporate scientific concepts or mathematical equations, intriguing enhancements to the works rather than their focus. "I never want someone to look at it and think they're going to have to take a test," explained Burke. His pieces are in private collections and on display at various museums and libraries, including the Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence, Italy, and the Paterno Library at Penn State University.

Swan Dive wasn't the first page-turner Burke produced. His portfolio includes a series of book sculptures crafted from aluminum. The pieces, which range in height from 14 inches to six feet, feature four or five hand-cut pages and usually have a mathematical theme. They open and close like traditional books and can be positioned upright for display.

Burke's creative endeavors were influenced both by his mother, an artist and mathematician, and his father, philosopher Kenneth Burke. After his father declared himself to be an "agro-bohemian," the family relocated from New York City to a farmhouse in a rural section of northwestern New Jersey. He said, "I grew up out there without any plumbing, without any electricity, and no heating. No phone. We pumped our own water. It sounds very much like Abe Lincoln." William Carlos Williams, Ralph Ellison and other notables were frequent guests. In the outhouse was a wire toilet paper holder made by sculptor Alexander Calder--a hand with the middle finger sticking up to hold the roll of tissue.

In high school and college, Burke struggled with writing and never envisioned that he would become a novelist. Blue came into being while he was on an extended visit to India, where his wife, a teacher, was studying literature. The couple lived in an apartment for a month in Mumbai, and he began feeling claustrophobic in the intensely crowded city. "I started to go a little crazy in a way," he said. "I was not centered at all." He channeled his anxiety into middle-of-the-night writing sessions.

Burke wrote what eventually became chapter 17 of Swan Dive, "an over-the-top sex scene," he said. "I liked it so much I had to figure out a whole plot to go around it. I'm not a writer, but I've always been a problem solver. Even sculptures I set up as problems. So the whole thing turned out to be one huge problem: how to keep this scene in the book and make it work."

Most of Swan Dive and Music of the Spheres were written at the family homestead in New Jersey, where Burke and a bevy of relatives regularly convene. (There is now electricity and plumbing.) A third mystery is in the works, with four random chapters completed so far. "In a sense, I'm doing the same kind of thing," Burke said. "I've given myself a problem. I have to take these four totally disconnected chapters and make them into a book."

After finishing Swan Dive, one reader commented that she recognized traces of the author in Blue. Although the novel is not autobiographical, Burke did confess to two sharing two traits with his fictional detective. "I'm a total daydreamer," he said. "And I drink martinis. Just make sure they're very dry." --Shannon McKenna Schmidt


Book Review

Book Review: The Great Night

Great Night by Chris Adrian (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26 hardcover, 9780374166410, April 26, 2011)

In the spring of 2009, the New Yorker published "A Tiny Feast," a short story by Chris Adrian about Titania and Oberon coping in the contemporary world as their latest changeling child underwent leukemia treatment in a pediatric cancer ward. Adrian's characterization of the fairy monarchs retained their otherworldliness while also perfectly capturing the human anger and frustration of watching a loved one suffer and being powerless to help.

The tale serves as an extended flashback in Adrian's latest novel, The Great Night, which borrows the structure of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream with both comic and tragic overtones. Titania lashed out at Oberon after the child's death, and he was so stung by her last outburst that he simply walked away; a year later, as the story begins on Midsummer's Eve in San Francisco's Buena Vista Park, she is so distraught at his continued absence that, at the start of the Great Night festivities, she recklessly releases Puck from his bonds of magical servitude. He immediately uses his freedom to begin destroying the fairy court and everyone in it, with several humans inadvertently caught up in the turmoil.

One group closely mirrors the Shakespearean subplot of Bottom and his fellow rude mechanicals, only this time it's a troupe of homeless men and women acting out a musical version of Soylent Green concocted by their leader, Huff (the most fully delineated of the bunch). While these scenes are played primarily for comic effect, the other three mortals in the park have much more tragic backstories, echoing Titania's loss of her husband. Henry, a pediatric doctor, has had a relationship torn apart by obsessive-compulsive disorders emerging from a childhood abduction trauma. Will's girlfriend left him after he cheated on her, and Molly is still grieving after her boyfriend's suicide. Eventually the three cross paths, and it proves to be no coincidence that this trio should find each other. (Long before those revelations unfurl, though, they were all headed to the same party, at the home of the tantalizingly-symbolic-sounding Jordan Sasscock, which turns out to be an in-joke reference to Adrian's previous novel, The Children's Hospital.)

Adrian revels in the complexities of a multi-threaded narrative but leaves plenty of clues for astute readers to see how the pieces will fit together in the final act. As with "A Tiny Feast," though, some of the most enjoyable aspects of this story are found in little moments when the human and fairy worlds collide: Titania's discomfort on a blind date, or the exasperation of fairy underlings (who've named themselves after streets just outside the park) with mortals who react to their presence by assuming they must be dreaming. Though The Great Night may not supplant The Story of Edgar Sawtelle as the most popular among recent literary retellings of Shakespeare, Adrian's optimistic vision of love's capacity for renewal despite the thrashings of adversity and despair will surely weave its spell over many readers. --Ron Hogan

Shelf Talker: Adrian was recently anointed by the New Yorker as one of its "20 Under 40," so this novel is likely to be viewed with great interest. On the spectrum of literary fantasy, it could fit on a bookshelf with Kelly Link and John Crowley.


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