Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 15, 2011

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima

Take a Storytime Adventure into the World of Jessie Sima

Quotation of the Day

Why Librarians 'Need to Be More Like Lady Gaga'

"This is one of the most exciting times to be a teacher-librarian in our country and is also the scariest. A revolution is at hand, and we need to be nimble, daring, digital and shift both our practice and the way the world thinks of school librarians and libraries. Some revolutions compel you to throw everything out. This revolution is easy... keep what you love but just make a shift....

"Shift perception! We need to be more like Lady GaGa than Lady Bird Johnson. We need to establish a clear, pervasive, vibrant, and involved presence in their school, community, and on the web. The more visible librarians are the less likely that they’ll be taken away. Those teacher librarians who are hiding their brilliant programs under a bushel, that's when they're most likely to get cut. We need to stay positive, be proactive, and always be professional!"

--Gwyneth Anne Jones, a teacher-librarian in Laurel, Md., who writes the Daring Librarian blog. Jones's piece was featured in yesterday's Washington Post.

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima


Image of the Day: Dragon Devotees

George R.R. Martin came to the Barnes & Noble in Manhattan's Union Square last night to talk about A Dance with Dragons (Bantam), the fifth book in his A Song of Ice and Fire cycle, and some folks were willing to spend most of the day waiting outside the store to see him. The first batch of fans arrived at 8 a.m. to guarantee they'd get the best seats--including Chris (in the "Winter Is Coming" T-shirt) who's been a fan of the series since buying A Game of Thrones the week it came out in 1996. His favorite is A Storm of Swords (book three), which features a particularly shocking plot development, even for a series which has become famous for its unexpected twists. "I hear there's a moment like that in this one," he said. (One of his friends countered that it wasn't quite as momentous as that scene, but then went shtum to prevent even an accidental spoiler.) As we were talking, a passerby asked why everybody was standing out on 17th Street; when told about Martin's in-store event, she squealed "TONIGHT?" and declared she would be back later to grab a spot in the line. --Ron Hogan


Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima

Notes: Borders Embraces Liquidators; Pubs Unite in U.K.

The Borders Group bankruptcy court judge has approved a change in next week's auction that makes a group of liquidators the "stalking horse" bidder--or default bidder--rather than Najafi Cos., which had offered $215.1 million as well as the assumption of $220 million in debt.

The move came after the unsecured creditors committee had objected to the Najafi bid, saying that Najafi was not obligated to keep Borders as a going concern and that Najafi could liquidate the company in a way that results in less money for creditors than a straightforward liquidation. (Najafi said it does not want to liquidate Borders but did not amend its offer to forestall that possibility.) The liquidators have estimated that they can bring in $252 million to $284 million.

At yesterday's hearing, "Borders said it hoped Najafi or other parties will come forward with a bid that would keep the company in business," the Wall Street Journal wrote.

In response to some landlords' complaints about the "tight timetable between the July 19 auction and a July 21 sale hearing," Borders said "it might try to break the sale hearing into different parts so parties would have more time to decide whether to object. Judge Glenn said he liked that idea."

Borders has 11,000 employees and 400 stores.


The iriver Story HD, which goes on sale on Sunday and uses a Google eBooks platform, does not link to IndieCommerce sites for e-book purchases but apparently will read e-books purchased from IndieCommerce websites, Bookselling This Week noted in a FAQ.

Of special interest: a note that the ABA "is moving forward with development of an e-reader app and is talking to device manufacturers about creating a device that would come with the app preinstalled. Google is supporting and encouraging this effort by providing us and potential partners with access to the same APIs used by iRiver."


In the U.K., the Publishers Association and the Independent Publishers Guild have teamed up to oppose the Amazon purchase of online book retailer the Book Depository (Shelf Awareness, July 5, 2011), the Bookseller reported. The purchase is being reviewed by the Office of Fair Trading.

The organizations--who are working together for the first time in this way--encouraged the Office to expand their inquiry beyond the Amazon-Book Depository deal "to investigate the fairness of the market share internet-only retailers have in comparison to physical bookshops."

Richard Mollet, CEO of the PA, said: "Whatever the decision in this particular case, we feel it is high time that competition authorities took a closer interest in the developments of the book retail market--especially given that data from [Book Marketing Ltd.] shows that internet-only retailers have 31% of the retail market by value, and growing."


Word Up, the pop-up bookstore in northern Manhattan that was set to close yesterday after a month in existence, will stay open through the summer, reported. The store's landlord, Vantage Properties, will allow the store to stay open until the end of September.

Founded by the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance and Veronica Liu, managing editor of Seven Stories Press, Word Up has a volunteer staff and has a variety of needs for material and help--a list that just got longer.


Congratulations to Books Inc., with a dozen stores in California, which is celebrating its 160th anniversary with "a lot of parties," including "35 small celebrations at its Laurel Village location, 10 at Mountain View, five at Opera Plaza," as Bookselling This Week put it. Owners Michael Tucker and Margie Scott Tucker added, "Other than that we just eat cake every day."

Michael Tucker, whose term as president of the ABA ended in May, noted one effect of the closing of many Borders stores, saying, "There are tremendous opportunities to connect with new customers and reconnect with old ones. And the value of all independents has gone up because they can quickly adapt to the changing needs of the community."

He said many communities have wanted Books Inc. to open in their areas but that this year Books Inc. is concentrating on renovating existing stores.


(Regal) book trailer of the day: The Pirate King by Laurie B. King (Bantam), the 11th book in the Russell & Holmes series, which appears in September.


Float like a digital butterfly, sting like a legal bee. Bloomberg reported that Muhammad Ali Enterprises has sued Kobo, accusing the company of trademark infringement for using Ali's signature slogan "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" in a New York Times advertisement. According to the complaint filed Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan, Kobo's ad "made commercial use of the Muhammad Ali slogan and Muhammad Ali's name without permission from or compensation to Muhammad Ali Enterprises."


"First we had slow food, then slow writing and now, quite naturally it seems, we have slow bookselling," the Guardian's Lee Rourke observed in his profile of the Book Barge, a floating bookshop on a canal boat.

"By setting up on a canal boat, we hope to promote a less hurried and harried lifestyle of idle pleasures, cups of tea, conversation, culture and, of course, curling up with an incomparably good Book Barge purchase," said owner Sarah Henshaw. "I hoped that by creating a unique retail space, customers would realize how independent bookshops can offer a far more pleasurable shopping experience than they're likely to find online or on the discount shelves at supermarkets."


Esi Edugyan, author most recently of Half Blood Blues, chose her top 10 tales of Americans in Europe for the Guardian. "It's a complicated affair, the attraction the New World feels for the Old. Europe's been many things to Americans, over the shared span of their histories--a seat of both liberty and oppression, power and corruption, of art, literature, even language itself.... Not all of these books are, strictly speaking, 'expat' works. But each reckons with the complicated inheritance North Americans have had to come to terms with, and still do, when understanding their place in the world: with that dazzling, elusive, imaginary place called Europe."


A Pretty Book featured a selection of unusual bookshop signs that "use large figures catch your eye and one is a little creepy."


From the archives: Buzzfeed unearthed a 1993 video featuring Christopher Walken reading The Three Little Pigs.

Sales: Bookstore Sales Up 1.6% in May

May bookstore sales rose 1.6%, to $1.048 billion, compared to May 2010, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. For the year to date, bookstore sales have climbed 0.5%, to $6.032 billion.

Total retail sales in May rose 7.9%, to $400.9 billion, compared to the same period a year ago. For the year to date, total retail sales have risen 8%, to $1,871 billion.

So far this year, bookstore sales have been erratic, falling 4.6% in January, rising 9.3% in February, falling 5.8% in March, rising 1.8% in April and now rising again.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books and do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Rock the Casbah

Tomorrow on NBC's Weekend Edition: Stefan Merrill Block, author of The Storm at the Door (Random House, $25, 9781400069453).


Tomorrow on NPR's Weekend Edition: Robin Wright, author of Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World (Simon & Schuster, $26.99, 9781439103166). Wright is also on Meet the Press on Sunday.


Sunday on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS: David McCullough, author of The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (Simon & Schuster, $37.50, 9781416571766).


Movie Casting: The Paperboy; El Futuro

John Cusack will replace Tobey Maguire in The Paperboy, director Lee Daniels's (Precious) adaptation of Pete Dexter's novel. The film also stars Zac Efron, and the Guardian reported that "Matthew McConaughey and Nicole Kidman are expected to take key roles."


Rutger Hauer is "in advanced talks" to join the cast of director Alicia Scherson's El Futuro (The Future), adapted from Roberto Bolano's novella Una Novelita Lumpen. Variety reported that Hauer "is circling the role of Maciste," while Nicolas Vaporidis and Luigi Ciardo "are attached as protags alongside previously announced Chilean actress Manuela Martelli." Filming began yesterday. 


Television: Moby Dick; The Take

The Encore Network's initial venture into original programming will launch soon with three programs, two of which are book adaptations. A new version of Herman Melville's Moby Dick, starring William Hurt, Ethan Hawke, Donald Sutherland and Gillian Anderson, will premiere on August 1, the Wrap reported. Debuting later this fall is a four-part miniseries based on Martina Cole's thriller The Take, starring Tom Hardy, Brian Cox and Kierston Warein.


Books & Authors

Book Brahmin: Colin Cotterill

Colin Cotterill was born in London in 1952, traveled the world, worked in Israel, Australia, the U.S. and Japan, then began training teachers in Thailand. Cotterill became involved in child protection in the region and, with his wife, set up a book and scholarship program and runs a small school for the children of Burmese migrants near his home in Chumphon in the south of Thailand.

All the while Cotterill has continued with his two other passions: cartooning and writing. His work with trafficked children spurred him to write his first novel, The Night Bastard. Since 2001, he has written 13 more books, including the popular Dr. Siri series, set in Laos. He is launching a new series with Killed at the Whim of a Hat (Minotaur, July 19, 2011).


On your nightstand now:

Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. It was on my nightstand in Chiang Mai and moved south with me, along with the lamp and the piggy bank, which were also yellow. They're all in the same position now. I call it "Still Life with easy nurses and loose change by lamplight... in yellow."

Favorite book when you were a child:

Books were just wanky and pooey. Can I have a magazine? If I can, it would have to be Mad. I loved that magazine. Its illustrators were gods. They forced me to read. If I'd had any money, I would have traveled to the States and become their slutty boy groupie.

Your top five authors:

Bill Bryson, Paul Theroux, Norman Lewis, Malcolm Gladwell, Haruki Murakami. If you asked me again in a week or two, I'd have five different authors, as my Billboard top 100 fluctuates with the change of seasons and the erosion of memory. There are always travel writers at the top, followed by investigative journalists who make you step off the status quo, then a good dollop of the dark fantastic.

Book you've faked reading:

I think it was a Barbara Cartland romance. I knew Stella from geography was into her. I was trying to do Stella the same favour. I found one in the library and took it to the lunch canteen. I flipped it open and stood it up and started devouring it along with my spam quiche. No reaction. I found out later Stella was short-sighted and too vain to wear glasses. A year later, the library fined me for the Barbara Cartland I'd thrown in the trash.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Norman Lewis's A Dragon Apparent. Perhaps not an evangelist, exactly--more a Latter Day Avon Lady. I did tell a couple of people they should look at it if they wanted to be travel writers. Lewis was a quirky traveler who did the unusual, saw what he wanted to see and bugger the publisher.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Pocket Massage for Stress Relief because I thought it was about... well, never mind.

Book that changed your life:

Spike Milligan's Puckoon. For me it was the equivalent of a girl growing up in a boy's body and learning that Margaret Thatcher had at some stage been female. It was as if all the secret weirdness I'd been harbouring inside was suddenly validated. I was not alone. A book that was quite ridiculous had been published and people were buying it and laughing raucously. I could be a swan.

Favorite line from a book:

"Education isn't everything, for a start it isn't an elephant." --Spike Milligan, Puckoon

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

Janet and John, first year reading series. This time I'd do it without stuttering, without Miss Clapp tittering behind her hand, without Phillip Lambourne firing rubber bands at me. This time I'd get it right and there would be no ongoing fear of reading aloud in front of strangers.

What colour underwear you have on:

Black with white lines (vertical).

Book Review

Book Review: This Beautiful Life

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman (Harper, $24.99 hardcover, 9780062024381, August 2, 2011)

In a scenario as timely as today's headlines, Schulman (A Day at the Beach) has created a cautionary tale whose centerpiece is an e-mail that goes viral.

Jake Bergamot, a 15-year-old prep school kid, goes to a party that he doesn't particularly want to attend, has too much to drink and is hit on--hard--by his eighth-grade hostess, Daisy. Jake's friends razz him about robbing the cradle and he peels Daisy off his person as quickly as possible and bolts for the subway and home.

The next morning he turns on his computer and finds an e-mail from Daisy, a video so frankly pornographic it is like nothing he has ever seen. He quickly sends it to his best friend, who sends it on, who sends it to... within hours, around the world it goes. If that were all there were to this story, it could be dismissed out of hand, because we have heard it many times recently. Alas, such is not the case. Jake's action is just the catalyst for so much more.

Jake, his parents, Richard and Lizzie, and his six-year-old sister, Coco, an adopted Chinese girl, have recently moved from Ithaca to Manhattan, where Richard is now senior executive vice chancellor of Astor University of the City of New York, working on a project that will reclaim real estate, create jobs and schools and all the good stuff that everyone wants. All is going well, until he is told by his boss to stay underground "until this all blows over." No one wants someone whose kid has screwed up so publicly making decisions for their children.

Lizzie and Coco were on a mom-and-daughter birthday party sleepover at the Plaza Hotel on the night of Daisy's party. Lizzie is not entirely comfortable in this crowd and even less so after Jake's big mistake. She is an authentically rendered example of what happens to a well-credentialed, multi-degreed woman who tosses it all in to stand by her man as he climbs the ladder of success. She admits, "It's just that this beautiful life... I can't manage it." Schulman has written an incisive exploration of a family owning up to what each of them really wants and what it will cost all of them. --Valerie Ryan

Shelf Talker: An adolescent mistake--an e-mail gone viral--causes a family to come unglued.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The Fictional Music of Handselling

Is there any reason why we can't "spend the long summer evenings listening to Lola play the cello and reading aloud from the World's Great Books stacked right alongside the cases of Early Times..."? We'll clarify this seasonally rhetorical question at the end of the column, but let's first consider last week's primary query regarding the fictional art of handselling: "What are your favorite characters reading these days?" While many of your responses turned out to be book oriented, music played a significant role as well.

"I don't think I'd ever had a character handsell me a book until this year when I read Among Others by Jo Walton," noted Kara Garland of Powell's Books at PDX, Portland, Ore. "The main character wrote so lovingly of books that I ended up buying two based on her descriptions and adoration of these books: Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot and The Wind's Twelve Quarters by Ursula LeGuin."

Jessica Stockton Bagnulo of Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y., said, "I'm sure the handselling thing has happened to me dozens of times with different books, but I know of at least one fictional character who sold me on a whole philosophy of reading as well as particular works: L.M. Montgomery's Anne Shirley. I wouldn't have known the (slightly melodramatic) romantic thrills of old ballads like 'The Highwayman' or the heroines of Tennyson without Anne's obsessions with them, and her deep engagement with the imaginary worlds of books justified and exacerbated my own. (I read the entire Anne series every summer from the ages of about 10 to 17 or so.)"

She also suggested another level to this question in "the longing experienced when fictional characters are reading fictional books. For example, in one of my most recent favorites, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran, the main character has built her life around a mesmerizing-sounding book called Detection by a fictional author, Jacques Silette. In some platonic Borgesian library, these imagined books within books must exist, along with the unwritten masterpieces of real-life authors."

For Dennis Johnson of Melville House Publishing, fictional handselling indirectly convinced him to publish a book: "In our new Neversink Library series, we're publishing a long-out-of-print French book called The Madonna of the Sleeping Cars by Maurice Dekobra. It's a spy novel, probably the first book to use the Orient Express as a setting (the 'sleeping cars' in the title), and was one of the biggest-selling books in the world in the 1920s, selling hundreds of thousands of copies in multiple languages. But it's been out of print for decades now. So how did we hear about it? Because a bookseller (Barry Rosnick, the former buyer for Books Inc.) pointed out to me that every time the protagonist gets on a train in an Alan Furst novel, he observes someone reading The Madonna of the Sleeping Cars. As a religious reader of Alan Furst novels, this led to my 1) slapping my head with a resounding thwack, and 2) tracking down the book."

Could an author's taste in music handsell their work? Carol Schneck of Schuler Books and Music, Okemos, Mich., observed that she "started reading Ian Rankin's books after seeing an article in a British popular culture magazine that featured songs from his iPod and thinking, 'This guy likes really great music; maybe I'd like his books.' It was a long time ago, so I don't remember all the songs, but it included Joy Division and the Jesus and Mary Chain. Sure enough, I love his writing, and several of the Inspector Rebus books are named after Rolling Stones albums. There's a personal playlist as well as one for Inspector Rebus." 

And what about the subconscious, even accidental, handselling techniques of musicians? Todd Stocke, v-p, editorial director at Sourcebooks, said his introduction to Carson McCullers came "because of a still-confusing name-drop in a Paul Westerberg song. He references 'Carson McCullers' in an early '90s song, 'Dice Behind Your Shades.' There's little context in the song, nothing that to me suggests her as inspiration or that the song’s about her or any portion of her books. I did get to read The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter out of the deal, but the song reference still confounds me and I guess I'm good with that."
Stocke also noted that his introduction to the works of Paul Bowles and Anne Rice came from the same source--Sting: "I remember reading that the Police song 'Tea in the Sahara' on the Synchronicity album was entirely based on Bowles's The Sheltering Sky and I confirmed that by reading it. As I recall (going back about 20 years now), it picked up the imagery from one specific scene in the book. Roughly the same time period, I remember reading that the solo Sting song 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' was inspired by Anne Rice's vampire novels, or perhaps more specifically Interview with a Vampire. Happily I got to tear through those novels before Tom Cruise got hold of Interview. And I guess we can confirm from those two that Sting's a reader of pretty diverse genres."
Where do we go from here? How about the fictional inebriation of handselling? For example, I read Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins during the 1970s. While I managed to resist the gin fizzes that give Dr. Tom More so much trouble, I did purchase a bottle of Early Times whiskey because he stores 15 cases in room 202 of a ruined Howard Johnson's motel, where he has sequestered himself "in these dread latter days." Unfortunately, Early Times turned out to be a much better plot device than fiction-inspired inebriant.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Titles in Florida Last Week

The following were the bestselling books at independent bookstores in Florida during the week ended Sunday, July 10:

1. In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
2. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
4. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
5. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
6. One Summer by David Baldacci
7. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
8. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
9. Hell's Corner by David Baldacci
10. Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach

Reporting bookstores and their handselling favorites:

Books & Books, Coral Gables, Miami Beach, Bal Harbour: Adrenaline by Jeff Abbott
Book Mark, Neptune Beach: A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano
Inkwood Books, Tampa: A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano
Vero Beach Book Center: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

[Many thanks to the booksellers and Carl Lennertz!]

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