Shelf Awareness for Thursday, April 21, 2011

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick

Grove Press: Reptile Memoirs by Silje Ulstein, translated by Alison McCullough

Beach Lane Books: The Great Zapfino by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Marla Frazee

Princeton University Press: Twelve Caesars: Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern (Bollingen #669) by Mary Beard

Berkley Books: Our Last Days in Barcelona by Chanel Cleeton

Henry Holt & Company: Sleepwalk by Dan Chaon

Wednesday Books: Together We Burn by Isabel Ibañez

Quotation of the Day

Pulitzer Winner: 'Poems Are Even Better than Tweets'

"I never, ever worry about poetry or its survival because it's the very nature of a poem to be that language that does survive. Poems are even better than tweets--they don't require any electronic equipment. They can lodge right in your brain. They are by nature short. You don't even have to remember all of them--you can remember just a phrase. That can be something you can turn to in any emergency, good or bad. You'll pluck out a little group of words, just maybe a phrase, and that's exactly what poetry is for. It's for the things that really last. Because it lasts."

--Kay Ryan, whose collection The Best of It (Grove Press) won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan


Image of the Day: Hands Up for Michael Connelly

At an Inkwood Books event held at Four Green Fields Irish Pub, Tampa, Fla., St. Petersburg Times book editor Collette Bancroft held a conversation with Michael Connelly about his new book, The Fifth Witness. Here the crowd of several hundred reacted as Connelly, who took this picture, asked them to raise their hands and "plead the Fifth."

Chronicle Books: Have You Ever Seen a Flower? by Shawn Harris

Notes: Joseph-Beth Bankruptcy Auction Takes 'Shocking Turn'

In what the Lexington Herald called a "shocking turn," Robert Langley of Langley Properties--owner of the Mall at Lexington Green--"pulled financial support" from Neil Van Uum, president of Joseph-Beth Booksellers, and outbid him for the company's Lexington, Cincinnati and Cleveland stores at a bankruptcy auction yesterday.

"My main concern was making sure the stores wouldn't liquidate," Van Uum said. "I put together enough money to beat the liquidators, but (Langley) kept coming, and I couldn't fight him off any longer."

Top bidder for the Davis-Kidd store in Memphis and the Fredericksburg, Va., Joseph-Beth was the Gordon Brothers liquidation chain, though Van Uum said a deal has been worked out for the Fredericksburg store to transfer to Books-A-Million, the Herald reported.

Van Uum added that the Memphis landlord "was also part of my (financing) team and didn't take nicely to what Robert was doing." He said that Langley informed him the move was made to "safeguard" the future of Lexington Green.

"I have the utmost respect for Neil Van Uum, and I made a business decision that I thought would be best for Joseph-Beth and Lexington Green," Langley said. "Neil is a good guy; he did a great job starting Joseph-Beth."

The next step in the proceeding will be a hearing April 27 at bankruptcy court in Lexington, seeking approval of the auction results, the Herald wrote.


In the Kansas City Star, columnist Steve Rose praised Rainy Day Books, noting that owner Vivien Jennings and her bookstore "should have been squashed like a bug years ago.... Yet, somehow Rainy Day Books has not only survived, but appears to be outlasting the brick-and-mortar giants."

Rose credited the shop's success to the fact that "Jennings saw an opening for a niche no one else was filling. She went ultra-personal when everyone else was impersonal. She pampers each loyal customer, recommending books to their tastes. And, perhaps most important, Jennings has put Kansas City--and her bookstore--on the map."

Rose concluded that "we need Rainy Day Books to remind us that, against all odds, a few home-owned stores can still make it. Undoubtedly, those who have survived have also found their very special niche."


The financial troubles at Borders Group have sparked feelings of nostalgia for's columnist Thornton Kennedy, who recalled Atlanta's Oxford Books, a "venerable" indie that was "heaven on Earth for anyone who ever read a book.... It was one of the first bookstores in country to have a coffee shop, the Cup & Chaucer."

Owner Rupert LeCraw opened Oxford Books in 1973 and it "experienced a rapid ascent in the 1980s," expanding its space at Peachtree Battle Shopping Center and opening other branches. "To many, though, Oxford’s home was always Peachtree Battle," Kennedy wrote. "That location closed in summer 1996. By 1997, the company was bankrupt and the Pharr Road location closed as well. Oxford II (now called Oxford Comics & Games) is still around and houses an outstanding collection of comic books at its Piedmont Road location. Perhaps one of these empty Borders locations will attract a Rupert LeCraw to open another truly independent, quirky, magnificent bookstore. There is a need, even if it is just to create a place to get lost among the books."


Blue Collar, White Collar, No Collar: Stories of Work (Harper Perennial) was published this week. Proceeds from the anthology's sales will go to 826Michigan. Richard Ford, the story collection's editor, spoke with the New Yorker's Book Bench blog about the project's genesis: "The anthology was my good idea. 826Michigan invited me to come visit and to see what they’re about. I did; and I was so taken by the variety of good things they do there (teaching children to write, acquainting them with what publication might mean, getting kids to act together in projects, even down to helping children with their homework) that I volunteered to dream up something I could do to help fund their efforts. The anthology was what I came up with."


Does anyone want to be "well-read?" Roger Ebert considered this question in a thoughtful essay for the Chicago Sun-Times. "That's how I've done my reading: Haphazardly, by inclination. I consider myself well read, but there has been no plan," Ebert wrote, concluding: "Why do I think reading is important? It is such an effective medium between mind and mind. We think largely in words. A medium made only of words doesn't impose the barrier of any other medium. It is naked and unprotected communication. That's how you get pregnant. May you always be so."


Sam Munson, author of The November Criminals, suggested "the best novels, from Invisible Man to Wonder Boys, featuring marijuana and its users" for the Daily Beast. "Being high is just not all that remarkable--less suited to literature, our culture suggests, and more suited to movies (some of which, like The Big Lebowski, undoubtedly the most penetrating treatment of the subject, are serious and subtle works of art), television, horrible jam bands (yep, they still exist), rap videos, and various effusions on YouTube. And yet, if you look closely, it's there, it's leached into literature."


Screenwriter, producer, director and composer Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, Firefly) spoke with the New York Times about Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, the wildly successful Internet musical starring Neil Patrick Harris; as well as the recently published companion volume Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: The Book (Titan Books).


Book trailer of the day: Expand This Moment: Focused Meditations to Quiet Your Mind, Brighten Your Mood, and Set Yourself Free by John Selby (New World Library)


Anna McKean has been promoted to publicity manager for Simon & Schuster Children’s Books. She joined the publicity department at S&S in 2008, after nearly three years at FOX Searchlight. Her P.R. campaigns include bestselling authors and artists such as Jon Scieszka, Becca Fitzpatrick, Carter Goodrich, Scott Westerfeld, Laurie Halse Anderson and, most recently, the launch of Brandon Mull’s Beyonders series, A World Without Heroes.


Ingram Booklove: An Exclusive Rewards Program for Indie Booksellers

Amazon Update: Tenn. Tax Deal; German Kindle; Library Lending

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said he accepted arguments made by his predecessor, Phil Bredesen, "in which the then-governor justified his support of Amazon’s plan to build two distribution centers--and not pay state sales taxes--despite expected blowback from 'brick-and-mortar' retailers," the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported. Bredesen struck a deal with Amazon to build two distribution centers in the state following Haslam's November election, but before he took office January 15.

"I said, 'Well, explain to me why you'd do that,' " Haslam told the Times Free Press. "And he [Bredesen] said, 'Well, in my book, they [Amazon] can either build there in Chattanooga or they can go nine miles away in Georgia and build and do the same thing.' " Haslam confirmed Amazon would not be required to collect sales taxes on purchases made by Tennessee customers, and said that although he wasn't involved in the original negotiations, he assumed that the deal was a precondition for Amazon agreeing to spend $139 million on the distribution centers.

Haslam also made a case for a national solution to resolve the Internet sales tax issue: "I think the time is ripe.... What's changing now is you have all the states going to say, 'All right Congress, we understand the world's changed. We're going to be getting fewer dollars from you, but we need you all to pass this and allow us to start collecting Internet sales tax.' "

But Tennessee Senator Bob Corker "sees little movement on the issue this year, with federal lawmakers focused on slashing federal spending," the Times Free Press wrote. He added that the issue "is not even on the radar screen. I've had no discussion."

Bill Fox, director of the University of Tennessee Center for Business and Economic Research, observed: "If you want to shop in the middle of the night, I think you ought to be able to do that, but I don't think we ought to subsidize it."


In yet more Amazon news, the company has launched a German-language version of the Kindle. According to Buchreport, is offering 650,000 titles, of which about 25,000 are German-language titles that include 71 of Spiegel magazine's top 100 bestsellers as well as thousands of classic from Project Gutenberg. Amazon called it "the largest selection of e-books in all of Germany."

Amazon is pricing the Kindle with wi-fi at €139 and with 3G €189, the same numerals as the devices' prices in the U.S. But since the euro is worth about $1.42, these prices are premiums on U.S. prices. The first generation devices do not have German-language instructions. The company has free apps available for a range of devices.

For now, purchasers of German Kindle e-books will not be able to lend, apparently because of objections from German publishers. Newspapers and magazines are included in offerings.

As part of the launch the Kindle Direct Publishing Program has been expanded from the U.S., U.K. and Canada to Germany, Austria and another 100 countries.


Later this year, Amazon will launch Kindle Library Lending, working with OverDrive, a digital content provider for more than 11,000 public and educational libraries in the U.S. Although other e-reading devices on the market have been offering library books, this is Kindle's initial venture into the field. Customers will be able to read a library book on any Kindle device or Kindle app, and if a Kindle book is checked out again or that book is purchased from Amazon, all of a customer's annotations and bookmarks will be preserved.

Jacket Copy had some questions about the announcement: "When, exactly, will libraries offer e-books for the Kindle? According to Amazon's press release, 'later this year'... Other major specifics were left out of the announcement: the length of the lending period, which publishers will participate in the program, and if there will be any limit to the number of times a Kindle e-book can be checked out. All of these questions remain significant when it comes to talking about libraries and e-books."


A bestseller, but at what price? Today's Wall Street Journal, which examined Amazon's digital bestseller list yesterday and found 15 e-books priced at $5 or less, reported that the "nation's largest book publishers are facing increasing pricing pressure on the digital front as the number of cheap, self-published digital titles gain popularity with readers seeking budget-minded entertainment."

"They're training their customers away from brand name authors and are instead creating visibility for self-published titles," said an unnamed senior publishing executive.


Berkley Books: Harlem Sunset (A Harlem Renaissance Mystery) by Nekesa Afia

Cool Idea of the Day: The 'Guys Read' Book Group

"An amazing thing happened last Sunday at 6:30 p.m., as 15 boys--ages 8 to 11--sat rapt with attention, taking part in a virtual meet-and-greet with an author to talk about his latest book," the Mercer Island Patch noted in its piece on "Guys Read," a new reading project initiated by parents in the Lakeridge and West Mercer, Wash., area.

Megan Hand started the book group when Cooper, her nine-year-old son and a reluctant reader, brought home a flyer from Lakeridge Elementary School that suggested holding a 'book party' to get boys interested in reading the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series by Kathryn Lasky.

"I thought this was going to be a one-off thing," she said. "But I had Cooper invite his friends and their moms from his class at Lakeridge and West Mercer (Elementary), and I promised we'd read the book as a group and go see the movie afterward."

When 15 boys and their mothers attended the first meeting, the project was officially launched. "The kids went berserk," said Hand. "They insisted that we do another book, until now we're on our seventh book. They say third grade is the year you go from learning to read to reading to learn; every single boy in our group leaps to the next amazing book--they love it."


Media and Movies

This Weekend on Book TV: Inventing George Washington

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend 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, April 23

1:15 p.m. Jennet Conant, author of A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS (S&S, $28, 9781439163528), recounts the couple's experiences in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II and the early stages of the Cold War. (Re-airs Sunday at 8:15 p.m.)

5 p.m. At an event hosted by the Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass., Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry) (University of California Press, $26.95, 9780520258822), argues for changes in the ways people sort and receive information online.

7 p.m. Robert Hirst, general editor of the Mark Twain Project at the University of California, Berkeley, chronicles the path to publication of The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume One (University of California Press, $34.95, 9780520267190). (Re-airs Sunday at 2 p.m.)

8:30 p.m. Vincent "Buddy" Cianci, Jr. talks about his book Politics and Pasta: How I Prosecuted Mobsters, Rebuilt a Dying City, Dined with Sinatra, Spent Five Years in a Federally Funded Gated Community, and Lived to Tell the Tale (Thomas Dunne Books, $25.99, 9780312592806).
10 p.m. After Words. Peter Henriques interviews Edward Lengel, author of Inventing George Washington: America's Founder, in Myth and Memory (Harper, $25.99, 9780061662584). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Sarah Vowell, author of Unfamiliar Fishes (Riverhead, $25.95, 9781594487873), examines the Americanization of Hawaii that began with the arrival of New England missionaries in 1820. (Re-airs Sunday at 1 p.m.)

Sunday, April 24

7 p.m. Howard Schultz, author of Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul (Rodale, $25.99, 9781605292885), recounts his return as company chairman and CEO in 2008 after an eight year absence.  

10 p.m. James Carroll, author of Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9780547195612), discusses the history of the city, as well as the religious fervor and conflicts it has inspired.      


Gaiman's Dr. Who Episode a 'Weird Game-Changer'

This Saturday on BBC America, Dr. Who begins a new season that will include an episode written by Neil Gaiman, who told io9 he hopes his contribution "is a kind of a weird game-changer in a way. You always want to take what's been done before, and make it a little more magic when you give it back."

Gaiman's episode, titled "The Doctor's Wife," will air during the fourth week of this season, and is set in a spaceship graveyard. "I think, for me... Doctor Who begins in a junkyard," he said. "The entire story. Forty seven years ago, the very first episode was set in a junkyard. And so, trying to decide where I want to set my episode, and write an episode that really was a love letter to Doctor Who, the idea of setting it in essentially the Totter's Lane at the end of the universe, seemed like a really good place to start."

Gaiman also noted his ambition for this episode is "that what will work is kids watching it, hiding behind cushions and hiding behind the sofa. And I hope it'll be the equivalent of what my daughter did when she was watching one of the episodes where she wound up quietly, silently soaking my T-shirt with tears while she was watching. I would like it if, somewhere, maybe a kid will do that. That's, I think, the most important stuff that you do to the mythos, which is that you give somebody something glorious to remember and take with them."


Jennifer Egan: From Pulitzer to HBO Series

A great week just keeps getting better for Jennifer Egan and her novel A Visit From The Goon Squad. On Monday, Egan won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and yesterday HBO announced it will develop "her sprawling tale into a TV series. Groundswell's Michael London will be executive producer and Jocelyn Hays Simpson will be co-exec producer. Egan will be a consultant. The network hasn't yet set a writer to draft the series pilot, but it will happen quickly.... The deal was in the works before Egan won the Pulitzer, but her reps at ICM just closed with HBO. It's the first big TV project for Groundswell," reported.


Books & Authors

Awards: Desmond Elliott Longlist; Man Booker Best of Beryl

A longlist of 10 authors has been selected for the £10,000 (US$16,410) Desmond Elliott Prize, which honors a first novel written in English and published in the U.K. The shortlist will be announced in May, with the winner named in June. You can see the complete longlist here.


Beryl Bainbridge's 1998 novel, Master Georgie, won a public vote and earned the Man Booker Best of Beryl, a special prize created to honor the late author who was shortlisted a record five times for the Booker Prize and never won. The voting was very close, with Master Georgie just edging Every Man For Himself.

"Beryl was a very gracious non-winner and no Man Booker dinner was complete without her. She may have been known as the eternal Booker Bridesmaid, but we are delighted to be able to finally to crown Master Georgie a Booker Bride," said Ion Trewin--literary director of the Man Booker Prizes--who presented a "one-off, designer-bound copy of the book" to Bainbridge's daughter Jojo Davies and grandson Charlie Russell at a party in Soho celebrating the author's life. 


Listening to Listening to Country

Mary Dalmau is general manager of Reader's Feast Bookstore in Melbourne, Australia, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this September. She is a former president of the Australian Booksellers Association and a regular contributor to publishing courses and library advisory boards. Here she urges American booksellers, librarians and readers to seek out Listening to Country by Ros Moriarty, a book "with universal relevance and resonance well beyond Australia that causes the reader to ponder our connection to the physical environment, our sense of ourselves within our family unit and the ways in which cultures clash or accommodate each other. It is also a simply told, beautifully written memoir: author Ros Moriarty seamlessly weaves her life into the narrative."

Dalmau's story about the book is also an illustration of how a passionate bookseller championing a book can make that book into a success for the author, the publisher--as well as for her bookstore. Listening to Country was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and appears here in the U.S. May 1 through Trafalgar Square ($17.95, 9781741753806).


As a career bookseller in Australia, I have specific touchstones that signify the highlights of my 34 years in the trade. One of these touchstones was becoming aware of this book. I was in my lift-well (the room off the bookstore floor where the marketing work for our business, Reader's Feast, gets done). It was late at night and I was compiling our quarterly guide.

The first thing to strike me was the cover of Listening to Country--it is a luminous photograph of Ros standing looking across water. The colors are "outback" colors and the scene is overlaid with graphics that connote Aboriginal art. I opened the book and began to read. Some two hours later, well beyond midnight, I knew I had to leave the store and get home (!), but I also knew I had discovered a writer and book of special note. A few days later, I penned my review for our book guide:

"As I write this review, I am yet to finish Listening to Country. I could have finished it by this time but I am savoring the experience of 'listening' to this book. It is perhaps the most lyrical and evocative book I have read in years. Ros Moriarty is married to John, an Aboriginal man, and they have three children. From the earliest years of their marriage, they have travelled home to John's country and family, a journey that, each time, holds special meaning for everyone as John was taken from his mother when a young boy (one of the "stolen generation"--Aboriginal Australians taken from their families by the government and relocated with white Australian organizations such as church-run missions). With her children now young adults, Ros undertakes an extraordinary journey with John's female relatives. She travels to the Northern Territory's Tanami Desert with these remarkable women to perform ceremony.

"Ros Moriarty, in sharing her experiences with us, has created a beautiful rendering of the wonder that results when one human being connects with another. She has provided a lovely portrait of the natural grace and humility of good women. And, she has offered her readers the chance to just be still and listen to this land, its people, and our own hearts."

The author's travels into the country of John's female relatives are interspersed with information about her life in Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney as she and John forged a business together that today is the Jumbana Group--the company responsible for the design of Qantas planes painted in the colors and symbols of Aboriginal Australia. An especially poignant sequence in the book is when Ros and John are in front of the world's media as a painted Qantas plane is coming out of grey skies over Osaka, Japan, and John is experiencing a bittersweet wonder at "his" land, art and culture being celebrated when it is so often derided and misunderstood.

From my Spanish and Irish heritage I have been aware of the sense of "welcome" synonymous with both cultures. Reading Listening to Country was most affecting for me when I realized that such cultural attributes are inherent in the Indigenous people of Australia over thousands of years. The sense of belonging is not the preserve of a few but is at the core of how Aboriginal people live; and it extends to the physical landscape. They belong to this land and are deeply connected to it in ways we can only imagine. Any person interested in how we save this planet from the destruction wrought over the past century will find the ethos of our Indigenous people instructive.

I have been able to champion Listening to Country to a position in our bestsellers for the year 2010; indeed we listed it as Reader's Feast Favourite Book of the Year in our end-of-year marketing. My review in our guide was supported by in-store displays and it became the first book we promoted heavily through Facebook and Twitter. Listening to Country was shortlisted for two national book awards in Australia and we hosted an evening with Ros in our store. She was also one of our guests at our annual "Writers at the Convent" festival two months ago. Her book was reprinted at the beginning of this year, I believe largely on the evidence of its appeal from the sales in my bookstore. Our opening order of 30 copies has been followed by several more, for a total in the hundreds. Listening to Country was recently included in an annual, national campaign that lists a select number of Australian and international titles that are "must reads."

The subtitle of Listening to Country is "a journey to the heart of what it means to belong." It is a journey Ros undertook in a physical sense but one she also takes the reader on. For me, it has become a defining book. It articulates my sense of belonging to my family and provides markers for how better to survive the world as I travel through it. Our success at Reader's Feast with the book has provided an added dimension to its impact on me. Our ability to champion Listening to Country is a source of great pride--to discover a book, to love it, to spread the word about it is a joy. It is also conducive to successful bookselling.


Book Review

Book Review: French Leave

French Leave by Anna Gavalda, trans. by Alison Anderson (Europa, $15 trade paper, 9781609450052, April 26, 2011)

Without a wasted word on preliminaries, author Anna Gavalda (Hunting and Gathering) charges into her humor-laced narrative with a swift, economical, almost abbreviated style that tells you just enough to get to the next sentence, with only enough time for a quick laugh at her barbed, no-holds-barred take on modern times.

Garance Lariot, the 20-something narrator, is forced to ride in the car with her adored brother's intolerable wife. Simon, older brother and pillar of the family, admits to being tired of his work and his life (not to mention his wife's neurotic obsession with germs). The three of them are en route to a cousin's wedding. Their sister Lola will join them on the way; their brother Vincent will meet them there.

When Vincent fails to show up for the ceremony, the other three siblings impulsively take "French leave" from the marital festivities and set off to find their brother at the chateau where he works as a guide, abandoning the bothersome sister-in-law. Inadvertently, they escape from one wedding only to find themselves accidentally caught up in another; they cross paths with a homeless dog who knows immediately when he locks eyes with his future owner; and end up having a much better time than they ever could have had with their own relatives.

The narrative unfolds in brisk snatches of dialogue with cinematic swiftness. The exuberance of the Lariots crackles through their words, and their joy in each other's company is so contagious the reader feels lucky to be included. The siblings' love for each other is tangible, brothers and sisters genuinely delighted to be reunited. Feisty and passionate, they share the songs and books and movies of their lives, the way they've continued to love each other for almost 30 years. Replete with witty banter and catty repartee, with snotty comments and arch rebuttals, the smart-alecky style is often laugh-out-loud funny.

Unexpectedly, the Lariot siblings are struck by a magical awareness of how much they mean to each other, of the treasure they share in each other's company, with no guarantee of how long their joy in each other can last. How many more years do they have left? Playing hooky from their social obligations, the brothers and sisters have been granted a moment of grace, captured by Gavalda in spare, simple strokes in a little novel as light as fresh air. --Nick DiMartino

Shelf Talker: The story of four siblings playing hooky from a family wedding, told in brisk snatches of dialogue with cinematic swiftness. With witty banter and arch rebuttals, the smart-alecky style is often laugh-out-loud funny.


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