Shelf Awareness for Thursday, June 2, 2011

Union Square Kids: The Door That Had Never Been Opened Before by Mrs. and Mr. MacLeod

Shadow Mountain: The Queen and the Knave (Proper Romance Victorian) by Sarah M. Eden

Andrews McMeel Publishing: The Wheel of the Year: An Illustrated Guide to Nature's Rhythms by Fiona Cook, illustrated by Jessica Roux

Tor Nightfire: What Feasts at Night (Sworn Soldier #2) by T. Kingfisher

Amulet Books: Nightbane (the Lightlark Saga Book 2) by Alex Aster


Image of the Day: Winning Jump

As Austin Ratner accepted the fifth annual Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature Tuesday evening, he told the audience gathered at Manhattan's Center for Jewish History about doing the research for The Jump Artist (Bellevue Literary Press), his novel about the life of photographer Philippe Halsman, and coming across a letter Halsman wrote from an Austrian prison to his girlfriend: "Tell me, Ruth, have you ever felt you were flying?" It's a universal dream, Ratner acknowledged, but one with particular resonance to Jewish history, in which, he explained, "the wish to rise up and its predicate, the dread of extinction," were pervasive themes--even, he continued, in the story of Superman (whose creators, like Ratner, hailed from Cleveland). He spoke of the hope with which every author starts to tell a story, and described the Rohr Prize as a sort of fulfillment that "makes me feel, myself, like Philippe Halsman, the jump artist." And then he stepped away from the microphone and, in the center of the stage, performed the sort of leap Halsman was able to coax out of celebrities from Marilyn Monroe and Richard Nixon to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

During the ceremony, the Jewish Book Council, which presents the $100,000 prize each year to an emerging author whose work promotes an interest in Jewish themes, also gave the $25,000 Sami Rohr Choice Award to Joseph Skibell for A Curable Romantic (Algonquin). The other three finalists--Allison Amend, Nadia Kalman and Julie Orringer--were also in attendance. Next year's prizes, which will focus on nonfiction titles, will be presented in Jerusalem.--Ron Hogan

photo courtesy Jewish Book Council


Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Notes: Bidder for Borders; Online Sales Tax Votes

Gores Group, a private equity firm based in Los Angeles, is in discussions to purchase more than 200 of Borders's 405 remaining stores "in a deal that would keep the bookstore chain operating as a going concern," according to the Wall Street Journal. "People familiar with the matter" said the stores and other assets could fetch "roughly $200 million or so" and that "other suitors, whose identities couldn't be learned, are also in discussions with Borders."

The company headed by Alec Gores "is known as a distressed investor, scooping up stakes in ailing companies and trying to rehabilitate them," the Journal noted, adding that "interest in Borders has increased since Liberty Media Corp.'s recent bid for Barnes & Noble, valuing the chain at roughly $1 billion."

A brief profile of Alec Gores in the Journal noted that he and his brother Tom appear to be intent on assembling an entertainment conglomerate. They "recently joined forces to buy Alliance Entertainment, which distributes DVDs, CDs and video games to stores such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Target." They have also explored "buying at least three Hollywood movie studios, including Miramax," and in 2008 the Gores "plowed about $100 million into radio programming company Westwood One."

The Journal called the Gores brothers "a three-headed Los Angeles powerhouse. Brother Tom heads another private-equity firm, Platinum Equity. Sam Gores leads Hollywood talent agency, Paradigm. Sam has acted as a consultant for his brothers' forays into the entertainment business."


The last nine Borders stores in Australia will close during the next two months, Bookseller and Publisher Online reported. Some 315 Borders employees, 203 of whom are full timers, will lose their jobs.

The administrator for the bankrupt parent company, REDgroup Retail, decided to close the stores because "no buyers had emerged" after a plan for REDgroup Retail to emerge from bankruptcy was not supported by creditors. The administrator had already closed 17 Borders stores in Australia (along with 55 Angus & Robertson stores) since REDgroup Retail declared bankruptcy in February.

The five Borders stores in New Zealand remain open and are part of the package of New Zealand REDgroup Retail stores being sold to Project Mark, a company controlled by Anne and David Norman (Shelf Awareness, May 27, 2011).

The closings mark the end of what had once been a bold move by Borders to expand about as far away in the English-speaking world as an American bookseller could go. Taking into account differences in population, Borders's 26 stores Down Under were the equivalent of nearly 400 stores in the U.S. The first Borders store in Australia opened in 1998.

As part of its divestment of international operations, in 2008 Borders sold its stores in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore to the company that eventually became the short-lived REDgroup Retail.

Borders UK, Borders Group's other major expansion abroad, was similarly snakebit: it was sold in 2007 and closed in 2009.


On Tuesday, the California State Assembly passed a bill "aimed at closing a legal loophole that allows Inc. and other Internet retailers to avoid collecting California sales taxes on purchases made via computer," the Los Angeles Times reported. The measure will now be sent to the Senate.

The bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Charles Calderon, said its passage would save thousands of California jobs: "If you oppose this bill, you support tax evasion and are anti-business and are not listening to your constituents."


In South Carolina, the House voted 90-14 to approve a compromise brokered last week in the Senate. The measure now goes to Governor Nikki Haley, who previously said she will not veto it. The Associated Press (via the Seattle Times) reported that the final deal "gives Amazon a five-year exemption from collecting sales taxes from South Carolina's online shoppers. In return, the online retailer must create the full-time jobs with health benefits and invest at least $125 million through the end of 2013."

Brian Flynn, spokesman for the state chapter of Alliance for Main Street Fairness, said, "We appreciate the efforts of the legislators that stood up for retailers and thank them for debating the merits of sales-tax exemption incentives. In the end, important questions were raised about the fairness of giving one company a government granted competitive advantage over existing retailers here in South Carolina."


Three in 10 British children live in households that do not contain a single book, according to a recent survey by the National Literacy Trust of more than 18,000 young people across U.K. The Daily Mail reported that the study "also found almost 40% of those aged eight to 17 live in homes with 10 or fewer books--although 85% of those aged eight to 15 own a games console, and 81% have a mobile phone."


The Hachette Book Group announced that mega-bestselling author James Patterson's e-book sales have topped three million copes, with two million coming in the last 11 months alone, the Associated Press reported.  


What do the booksellers at Green Apple Books, San Francisco, Calif., think of Amazon's recent "most well-read cities in America" list? They're glad you asked.

In a Green Apple Core blog post titled "Are San Franciscans really illiterate?" Pete Mulvihill noted that the City by the Bay was conspicuous by its absence from the list, which he considers a good sign: "Clearly San Franciscans recognize the value of shopping at locally owned independent stores. They support stores that collect and remit sales tax to California, that donate to local school fundraisers, that are owned by people who live and work and parent in San Francisco. They prefer interacting with other human beings when looking for something to read. They trust our personal recommendations instead of an algorithm."


Author Caroline Leavitt interviewed bookseller Patrick Darby, owner of Novel Places, Clarksburg, Maryland, which will celebrate its grand opening July 2 in a "new" location that was "the original building of Clarksburg. It started out as a trading post, and eventually became a general store."

Darby, who has "been in the bookselling business for 30 years, but always with chains and university stores," actually started Novel Places five years ago, but learned from experience as "lease deals fell through, and I ended up online and distributing to coffee shops. When I sublet in a coffee shop in Clarksburg, I quickly realized the mystery and children market needed to be tapped. The new store focuses heavily on children books and toys, but sells all categories, especially mystery."

Darby said he is "looking for the store to be the town meeting place. Each community here has a center, but this will be the place to catch up on all happenings in Clarksburg, and be a place to discuss books and gather socially. Authors can help by reading and signing books, but also be part of the activities we plan during the year. I believe people will support local independent bookstores more when they see the authors giving back to the store and the community. It's about the partnerships and energy generated through support."


Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin is under discussion on Twitter right now. Yesterday, the first month of 1book140's book club officially began under the hashtags #1b140_1 (for Part I) and #1b140_2 (for Part II). The complete schedule is available here.

Sponsor Atlantic magazine has a helpful q&a here with "everything you need to know to participate in our book club," including this basic description of 1book140: "An international book club inspired by the One Book, One City programs. Every month we all choose a book to read. The following month we read it. The discussion takes place largely on Twitter, though we will also link to people's blogs and Tumblr and Facebook pages as well, and provide regular summaries of the conversation at"


One price we all pay for other peoples' fame is that increasingly the novel "has become another piece of merchandise stamped with the name of celebrities, who often pass off the book as their work alone despite the nearly universal involvement of ghostwriters. And the publishing industry has been happy to oblige," the New York Times reported.

"Publishers are smart enough to cash in where it's appropriate," said literary agent Ira Silverberg. "The question, I think, for many of us is: Is it simply commerce and we should laugh it off? Or does it take a slot away from a legitimate writer?"

Good question.


Cool idea of the day: In the tradition of Chicago's legendary CowParade exhibition, Iowa City is about to launch "another public art celebration--this time focusing on our area's unique literary culture and love of reading, writing, and literature. It's time to come together for the world's first Book Marks project, to benefit the City of Literature USA and three of our beloved public libraries." In 2008, UNESCO designated Iowa City as the third City of Literature in the world, and the only one in the U.S.

Michael Lieberman's Book Patrol blog featured a Book Marks video as well as photos of the upcoming exhibition, which kicks off Friday with "over 60 book-themed statues, each 5 feet by 3½ feet, that will be displayed throughout the county from June through October. As with similar 'parades' each sculpture has a sponsor and after the exhibit any pieces that are not purchased by the sponsor will be auctioned off, in this case for worthy book causes."


Suggesting a few crime fiction picks for summer reading, NPR's Maureen Corrigan observed: "Whether you crave reading about strange acts of retribution in the chill mists of Norway and Scotland; or resurrections of Hitchcock out of the fog of northern California; or battles with bullies in smoggy suburban Philadelphia and sooty mid-town Manhattan, this summer's mysteries will help you move on from fruitless longing for Lisbeth Salander and that dragon tattoo of hers."


For the Guardian, Caradoc King, author of Problem Child, chose his top 10 childhood memoirs, "the best books about what it's really like to be young."


Font geeks take note: Making Faces: Metal Type in the 21st Century is a new documentary by Richard Kegler about the late Jim Rimmer, the Canadian designer of nearly 200 typefaces.

The New York Times spoke with Kegler, who observed: "In any field of expertise there is a history and a cumulative reason that things are the way they are. How many Adobe Illustrator users know that kerning, leading, Picas and points are terms that should have absolutely no relevance on the computer, but do, since they are direct analogies to the terms and processes of hundreds of years ago? The more time that designers spend on the screen, the more valuable the hand processes become. There is great subtlety and unique flavor in heirloom typefaces."


Book trailer of the day: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Quirk Books).


Shelf Awareness Job Board: Click Here to Post Your Job

BEA: Book Challenges, Fear & Fostering Conversation

"These complaints arise all over the country. There is no geographic center," said Joan Bertin, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, in her opening remarks last week as moderator of the BEA panel "Book Banning 2011: A Report from the Front Lines of the Battle for Free Speech." Bertin observed that complaints "involve not just the books you might expect, but also books you might not think of," and noted there has been an increasing number of "attacks on high school advance placement classes."

The panel featured authors Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak, Chains) and Robie Harris (It's Perfectly Normal, It's So Amazing!, It's Not the Stork!), as well as retired librarian Pat Scales, a former president of ALA's Association of Library Service for Children. It was sponsored by the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, along with the Association of American Publishers, Freedom to Read Foundation and PEN American Center.

Introducing Harris, Bertin said, "We get lots and lots of complaints about her, so she must be doing something right."

Harris noted that she didn't think "any of us set out to do an edgy" book, but rather they wrote with the best interests of children and teens in mind. On the other hand, she conceded, "We have to take into account the times we live in." She mentioned a particular book challenge case in Ocala, Fla., where select pages from It's Perfectly Normal were photocopied to be presented as evidence at a community meeting, after which the copied pages were taken away to be burned. "They burned the words that as a citizen I have the right to say."

Harris also expressed concern that "we may subconsciously self-censor ourselves," citing as an example how she caught herself changing a title on a work-in-progress before realizing what was happening and returning to the original. She also praised librarians, "who are on the front line" in many of these debates.

Anderson looked beyond the headlines to try to understand the motivations behind book challenges. "I'm a preacher's kid," she said. "My dad is a Methodist minister. I understand the conservative mindset, especially the religious conservative mindset."

Noting that parents' fear for their children's well-being is often a primary cause of book challenges, Anderson said, "My approach is to honor that fear. Usually these are people who are good people. They love their kids. I haven't met a person who doesn't. Those of us who consider ourselves open-minded tend not to be open-minded with people on the other side of the equation."

At the same time, however, "there are people manipulating that fear" to promote political and/or religious agendas. Anderson cited an example in Missouri, where Wesley Scroggins called Speak pornography. "I wrote a blog post saying why this is not pornography. The story blew up, in large part because of the book blogging community." Anderson also bought 20 copies of Speak "from my indie bookseller and sent them to people in the [Springfield] community. The guy was driven back into his hole. If we don't respond in an appropriate way, then we just give them our flag."

She also noted that it is not just the conservatives who challenge books. Anderson received some "push back" for Wintergirls, her novel about eating disorders. Fear was again the catalyst, with parents saying, "I would never want to ban a book or a censor a book, but...." What ultimately matters most for her, however, is when "I get the e-mails from readers at four in the morning saying, 'Thank you, this is me.' "

Scales focused her presentation on organized groups ("some are religious, some political") that often can function as a primary engine behind these challenges. Websites like Common Sense Media and Facts on Fiction offer snapshot book reviews ("All you see at the top of the page is what to watch out for," she said), highlighting language, sex and violence issues with the work, and "parents are using these websites" as guideposts. Clarification is key: "We just have to keep plugging along with our court cases and getting into newspapers where we can," Scales said.

In response to a question from the audience, Anderson advised booksellers to "have a place in your store that customers get used to where they can find out about challenges keeps that conversation going." The panelists agreed that keeping that conversation alive year round--and not just during Banned Books Week--is crucial.--Robert Gray


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Lisa Bloom on CNN's American Morning

Tomorrow morning on the CNN's American Morning: Lisa Bloom, author of Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World (Vanguard, $25.99, 9781593156596).


Tomorrow on Fox & Friends: Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski, authors of Resurgent: How Constitutional Conservatism Can Save America (Threshold, $27, 9781451629262).


Tomorrow on a repeat of OWN's Gayle King Show: Bethenny Frankel, author of A Place of Yes: 10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want Out of Life (Touchstone, $24.99, 9781439186909).

This Weekend on Book TV: Printers Row Lit Fest

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this Memorial Day 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, June 4

11 a.m. Book TV offers live coverage of the Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest, including seven author talks/panel discussions. (Re-airs Sunday at 12 a.m.)

8:15 p.m. David Sirota, author of Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explains the World We Live in Now--Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything (Ballantine, $25, 9780345518781), argues that the 1980s have set the stage for what he considers today's militaristic and narcissistic America. (Re-airs Saturday at 1 p.m.)

10 p.m. After Words. Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Richard Murphy interviews Michael Totten, author of The Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hezbollah, and the Iranian War Against Israel (Encounter Books, $27.95, 9781594035210). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m., Monday at 3 a.m. and Sunday, June 12, at 12 p.m.)

Sunday,  June 5

12 p.m. In Depth. Eric Posner, author most recently (with Adrian Vermeule) of The Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic (Oxford University Press USA, $29.95, 9780199765331), joins Book TV for a live interview. Viewers can participate in the discussion by calling in during the program or submitting questions to or via Twitter (@BookTV). (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m. and Saturday, June 11, at 9 a.m)

7 p.m. At an event hosted by hosted by McNally Jackson Books in New York City, Micah Sifry, author of Wikileaks and the Age of Transparency (Counterpoint, $15.95, 9781582437798); and Douglas Rushkoff, author of Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age (OR Books, $23, 9781935928157), discuss technology's impact on the world.

8:15 p.m. John Miller, author of The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football (Harper, $25.99, 9780061744501), recounts how Roosevelt helped rescue the violent sport from being banned, which ultimately led to the creation of the NCAA. (Re-airs Saturday, June 11, at 2:45 p.m.)

10 p.m. Andrea Wulf, author of Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation (Knopf, $30, 9780307269904), focuses on the first four Presidents and their fondness for gardening. (Re-airs Saturday, June 11, at 8 p.m.)


Take Two: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trailer

Sony has released an "official" green-band trailer for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the English-language version of Stieg Larsson's novel, "after the slightly less tame red-band one [Shelf Awareness, May 31, 2011] we had for you over the weekend was taken down all over the Internet by the studio, which claimed it was unauthorized. Publicity ploy or no, the new one is below, and it still looks pretty darn good," reported.

Theater: A Date for Carrie

The New York Times reported that "after a year of work, MCC Theater’s stab at salvaging the musical Carrie from the Broadway flop hall of shame" has progressed to the point where the company plans to produce the show next season, with preview performances set to begin Off Broadway on Jan. 31, 2012. The cast includes three-time Tony Award nominee Marin Mazzie as the mother, Margaret White and Molly Ranson as Carrie. Director Stafford Arima "has been overhauling the show with its original creators"--book by Lawrence D. Cohen, music by Michael Gore and lyrics by Dean Pitchford.

For the new stage adaptation of Stephen King's novel, the "dialogue and narrative structure of this Carrie will be revamped and about half of the songs will be different from the 1988 Broadway production, which closed after 16 previews and five regular performances in the face of terrible reviews," the Times wrote.

Books & Authors

Awards: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

Peruvian author Santiago Roncagliolo's novel Red April, "an outstandingly gripping and eloquent political thriller, and a searching meditation on the blurred boundaries between good and evil, order and chaos," won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. He and translator Edith Grossman, "a true star of her exacting art, at the top of her form," will share the £10,000 ($US16,450) prize, the Independent reported.

"I can't believe what has happened with this novel," Roncagliolo said. "It was bestseller here [in Spain]; it made a big impact in Peruvian society. It's amazing what a book can do."

Roncagliolo bested a shortlist of titles that "all gained warm endorsements from the panel": Alberto Barrera Tyszka's The Sickness (translated by Margaret Jull Costa); Per Petterson's I Curse the River of Time (Charlotte Barslund, with the author); Orhan Pamuk's The Museum of Innocence (Maureen Freely); Marcelo Figueras's Kamchatka (Frank Wynne) and Jenny Erpenbeck's Visitation (Susan Bernofsky).


Tip of the Stetson to Craig Johnson

Mystery author and Wyoming resident Craig Johnson knows not to appear at signings without his signature accessory: a cowboy hat. Although space is at a premium when he travels by motorcycle, "I have to designate one entire saddlebag just for holding my hat," he said. One year he sported a baseball cap on tour instead. "Everybody was totally disappointed. Every time I showed up at an event people asked, 'Where's your hat?' "

With hat in hand, Johnson is trekking across the country this summer promoting Hell Is Empty (Viking, $25.95, 9780670022779), the seventh novel is his series starring Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire, and the newly released paperback edition of Junkyard Dogs (Penguin, $14, 9780143119531). After a national, publisher-sponsored tour takes him to 15 cities from Pennsylvania to California, Johnson will hit the road again to visit independent bookstores in the West and Northwest.

Johnson's mode of transportation during the regional excursion is an iron steed dubbed Rocinante, a nod to Don Quixote's horse and John Steinbeck's camper-truck. Putting the seldom-used motorcycle (which gets excellent gas mileage) to good use was part of the motivation for the tour. "I thought I was going to have to donate it to the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles," joked Johnson. In the five years he has been doing the road trip, the number of stores he visits has increased from a few to nearly 20 in six states--Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Oregon and Washington.

Johnson sets aside about two months each year for book-related travel, an undertaking he looks forward to after the solitude of writing. "When it comes time for me to go on tour, I've got to be honest. I really enjoy it," he said. "I like meeting people who have read my books and discussing what's happening with the characters, where they're going, the relationships, and the underpinnings of the sociological and cultural aspects of the stories."

Johnson moved to Ucross, Wyo., two decades ago after a rather nomadic lifestyle--residing in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New York City. "I had some education in writing, but I wasn't so sure that I had something to write about," he said.  For me it was important to go out and experience life, which sounds very Hemingway- or Steinbeck-esque. But that's the way I felt about it. If you're going to write about people then you had better go out there and see who people are. Not just the ones in your neighborhood but all over the country."

Turns out, Johnson found his stories in the dramatic landscape and intriguing inhabitants of the American West. "If you ever come to Wyoming, you'll meet all the people that are in my novels," he confessed. Home for the writer is a 260-acre ranch. He built the house himself--living in a tent during construction--along with a garage, barn and corrals. "Building the ranch was probably the only way I could settle in and stay in one place," Johnson said.

The abode is situated in the shadow of the Bighorn Mountains, where much of Hell Is Empty takes place. In his latest adventure, Longmire aids an FBI taskforce transporting a group of prisoners though the mountains. When the convicts escape and reinforcements are trapped by impassable roads during a severe snowstorm, it's up to the sheriff to stop the bad guys.

Woven throughout the nail-biting storyline are elements of western lore, Indian mysticism and references to Dante's Inferno. Mystery readers "want what literary fiction has to offer--fully developed characters, arc of storyline, place, history, humor," Johnson noted. "They want all of those things, and at the end they want to know who the hell did it." Making sure fans get their money's worth is his top priority. "I treat it like a contract between myself and the reader. When they shell out hard-earned bucks for my books, I need to come through with all of those things--the literary aspects and the crime fiction aspects. If I fail, I don't expect them to pick up the next contract."

Sheriff Longmire and his comrades have garnered fans around the globe, from China to the Czech Republic. The characters and their creator are especially popular in France, where Johnson has visited eight times in the last two years to promote the page-turners and accept awards. (A group of schoolchildren once befriended "le cowboy" outside the Louvre in Paris.)

Johnson recently returned from New Mexico, where the pilot for the A&E television series Longmire was filmed. What is it like for him to see his characters come to life? "I acquaint it with having a houseplant for 10 years and then getting up one morning and all of a sudden it starts talking to you. It's a little unsettling. But it's also wonderfully fantastic because they've done such an amazing job." He was invited to be a creative consultant on the set, where actors toted copies of his books and avid reader Lou Diamond Phillips (cast as Longmire's friend Henry Standing Bear) quoted passages to him from the text.

As Johnson indulges his wanderlust and logs the miles this summer, his focus is on renewing contracts with readers and on lassoing new ones. Whether it's a gathering of two or two hundred, "it really doesn't matter to me," he said. "If someone has made the effort in this chaotic, hectic world to track you down on tour and come into a bookstore and talk with you about your books, that's a wonderful thing."

To track down Johnson, check the tour schedule on his website.--Shannon McKenna Schmidt


Book Review

Book Review: A Bouquet of Barbed Wire

Bouquet of Barbed Wire by Andrea Newman (Serpent's Tail/Consortium, $14.95 trade paper, 9781846687723, June 2011)

When this novel was first published in 1969, followed by a steamy TV adaptation, it was quite controversial. Now, the book is back and another TV version was recently screened in the U.K., though not yet available in the U.S. At first blush, the tale of a father's obsessive love for his daughter might seem like a limited theme, but before story's end there is a good bit of discussion and psychological meandering about an appetite for violence on the part of the mother and daughter, Cassie and Prue, that overrides the scintillating whiff of possible incest.

Peter Manson is beside himself with anger and anguish when his beloved Prue, 19 and pregnant, insists on marrying layabout loser Gavin. Peter cannot be civil to Gavin, even at story's end when so much has been lost. In a daze of confusion and pain, Peter starts an affair with his new secretary, Sarah, a girl with her own complexities. She understands her position with Peter: "You're in love with Prue. Not me, or your wife, just Prue. You can't bear her being married, you can't bear her being pregnant. You don't want me as a person, you just want someone to take your mind off her. But nobody can because you're obsessed with her." That sums up the pivotal conundrum of the novel. There is no actual incest, but it is patently obvious what is at the center of Peter's unregenerate rage.

In a momentary lapse of judgment, Peter takes Sarah to Prue and Gavin's flat while they are on holiday. The friend who waters the plants catches them in flagrante delicto. Gavin can't wait to tell Prue, and Prue then can't wait to confront her mother and father with her knowledge, while they are all together for dinner.

Prue is selfish, spoiled and has a penchant for inviting a violent reaction to her taunting behavior. The night of her revelation, she gets that reaction in spades. Gavin beats her and she ends up in the hospital. From here to the end, the melodrama is about knee deep, with several excursions into amateur psychology regarding sadism and masochism and the thrill of personal danger, especially when it is invited. There is much pain, both psychic and physical, inflicted all around, and still more to come. Gavin, the free spirit, has yet another arrow in his quiver and Cassie has her own secret to reveal. In spite of yourself, you will not be able to stop reading.--Valerie Ryan

Shelf Talker: A father's obsessive love for his daughter and an affair with his secretary tears his family apart. He is not the only guilty party.


Deeper Understanding

The Future of Bookselling

(Loosely Told in Three Acts)

1. "There are two kinds of companies--those that work to raise prices and those that work to lower them."--Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of

On February 15, 2011, few were surprised by the news Borders had filed for bankruptcy.  Bookstores around the country have been suffering from the same fate. A few days earlier, indie stalwart Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., announced it was laying off 7% of its workforce. The regional bookseller Joseph-Beth Booksellers entered bankruptcy with nine stores and emerged with five stores, one of which is closing. In a search through retail obituaries, we'd find 18 bookstores closed, went bankrupt or were in search of a new owner since Borders entered bankruptcy in February.

Given the grim news, how can retail booksellers continue to stay in business?  Empty bromides like "Work Harder!" and "Do Something Different!" fray the nerves of those working at bookstores around the country. Maybe things would be different if we could clearly see how to be different.


2. "CSV-5 has better throughput, but Cal-12 has better pavement. That is typical--Fairlanes roads emphasize getting you there, for Type A drivers, and Cruiseways emphasize the enjoyment of the ride for Type B drivers."--Neal Stephenson in Snowcrash

Kevin Maney, the longtime technology writer for USA Today, has a theory that businesses have one of two options when they compete. The first option is to compete on convenience--make a simple-to-use product, make it widely available and charge the lowest possible price. Oreo cookies and Netflix come to mind.

The second option is to pursue fidelity: produce a high-resolution experience which the customer values for its uniqueness. My mother's homemade Grand Champion chocolate chip cookies and Avatar in IMAX 3-D contrast well to convenient alternatives.

Maney says when Amazon launched the Kindle, it pursued the fidelity side of the continuum. In interviews at the time, Jeff Bezos talked about the importance of emulating the experience of reading a book--the size of the screen, the weight of the object. Bezos even mentioned that the product team studied the book's vanilla-like scent and considered how to include that in the device. The entire approach left the market confused. Amazon was a company that for its entire existence had pursued one goal: using low prices, infinite shelf space and quick delivery to make buying things as convenient as possible.

With the introduction of Kindle 2 in 2009, Amazon reverted to its old message. "Books in 60 seconds" was the new tagline. Everything in Amazon's marketing and PR since then has been about convenience. Each chance it gets, the retailer announces that e-book sales are overtaking some form of print book (using subjective statistics). Every week in the New York Times Book Review, its full-page ad opposite the week's bestseller lists tells readers how easily they can download any of those titles from Amazon. Convenience has come in the form of lower and lower prices, most recent being the addition of an ad-supported Kindle that costs $114.

E-books and the myriad of devices people will use to read books play directly to the market of convenience, a market that retail storefronts selling "p-books" will never be able to properly satisfy.


3. "Bookselling was and is for me a cultural and political expression, an expression of progressive change, of a challenge to oppressive authority, of a search for a community of values which can act as an underpinning of a better world. The true profit in bookselling is the social profit; the bottom line, the measure of the impact of the bookshop on the community."--A. David Schwartz (1938-2004)

The passing of Seattle bookseller Kim Ricketts caused me to reflect on what she accomplished and what it means to the retail segment of book publishing. Anyone in bookselling knows the story of Kim's migration from the University of Washington bookstore to her own business creating events that sold books. I was fortunate to be a beneficiary of her efforts firsthand during the launch of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time in 2009. At corporate events, like the one I spoke at, as well as her other events, Kim brought together wonderful groups of people who shared curiosities and passions. And while it is important for me to pay tribute Kim and the business she built, it is even more important for all of us to understand what Kim Ricketts Book Events exemplifies for the future of bookselling.

Too few booksellers understand that the only strategic play for this entire retail segment is on the fidelity side of the continuum. Kim understood this in spades. Her popular Cooks & Books events attracted the country's top chefs to share a meal and tell stories to those gathered from the foodie community of Seattle. Each attendee went home with latest cookbook from that celebrity and wonderful memories. For that privilege, attendees paid two to four times the cover price of the book.

800-CEO-READ, the book retailer in Milwaukee where I spent six years, is a niche player with its specialty in business books, but that fails to explain fully its different approach to fidelity. While the book retail distribution system is designed to get a single book into the hands of an individual, selling one book at a time, 800-CEO-READ sells tens or hundreds of books at a time to organizations that use books for meetings, training or large industry events. While the revenue and the margins are markedly better, these orders generate a different set of costs--including a call center to manage the requirements of corporate sales to a shipping department that understands global logistics. It is hard to call this bookselling by standards we are all familiar with.

In its flagship City of Books location, Powell's Books has created a Disneyland-like destination--I don't mean in the costumed characters sense (though you can get a green-screened photo of yourself in front of the store printed on a T-shirt). The store stocks more than a million new and used copies of books, more than in any Barnes & Noble. Like Ameoba Records in Hollywood, Calif., Powell's has created a high definition experience that makes the store a destination for any book lover.


Kevin Maney offers a final caution. Trying to offer both convenience and fidelity is a strategic mirage and will lead customers to wonder why they need your products. Starbucks doesn't want to admit that as a 17,000 store global chain it is a convenience play (and the reason VIA "Ready Brew" is successful is because of that). The U.S. Postal Service, which lost $2.6 billion in the first quarter, lives in the dying space between the next-day fidelity of FedEx and the convenience of text messages. Do we need to talk about 35mm film?

Booksellers need to realize that Amazon is not their competition; convenience is.  Retail booksellers need to provide higher fidelity experiences for their customers and answer the question: "What can I do better?" Or put another way: the book is the start, and not the end to the experience customers want to have.

Todd Sattersten is the founder of BizBookLab, a company that identifies, develops, and launches business books around the world. He lives in Portland, Ore.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Titles on in May

The bestselling books on in May:

1. Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky
2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
3. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
4. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
6. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
7. The Dukan Diet Recipe Book by Pierre Dukan
8. Jamie's 30-Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver
9. How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
10. Obama's Wars by Bob Woodward

The bestselling signed books on in May:

1. Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof
2. Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver
3. In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
4. The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler
5. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
6. Blackout by Connie Willis
7. If You Ask Me by Betty White
8. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
9. All Clear by Connie Willis
10. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

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