Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 22, 2011


Insight Editions: Unstoppable: Siggi B. Wilzig's Astonishing Journey from Auschwitz Survivor and Penniless Immigrant to Wall Street Legend by Joshua Greene

Scholastic Press: Muted by Tami Charles

Berkley Books: The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Walker Books Us: Welcome to Your Period! by Yumi Stynes and Melissa Kang, illustrated by Jenny Latham

Scholastic Press: Ground Zero by Alan Gratz

Quotation of the Day

Booksellers: 'Matchmakers of the Book Ecosystem'

"Sixty-four million Americans read five hours a week or more, 16 million Americans report they have engaged in creative writing, and more than 2 million titles went on sale in the U.S. last year. With all that supply and demand, we need matchmakers, people with expertise, knowledge, and intuition to connect people with books, to offer help in choosing what to read.... Bookstores can and should be sites for this conversation. Increasingly, the good ones are places where people seeking deeper engagement with their culture and society choose to congregate. They are offering language classes, reading groups, singles nights, writing workshops, self-publishing solutions....

"We may think of bookstore clerks as just underpaid drones, but the reality is that most people who work in bookstores do so because they love reading and writing. I believe that Borders employees past and present can become part of an emerging system of supporting writing and reading, whether in new bookstores or new online ventures, operating as the matchmakers of the book ecosystem."

--Richard Nash, Richard Nash, founder of Cursor and publisher of the Red Lemonade imprint, in a commentary for CNN headlined "The Lesson of Borders: Bookstores Need to Guide Us."

 


Berkley Books: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto


News

Borders Liquidation Starts; BAM May Buy 35 Stores

The Borders bankruptcy court judge yesterday approved the liquidation of the 40-year-old company, but with a twist: up to 35 of the 399 stores to be shuttered may be bought by Books-A-Million.

For several weeks, it had been rumored that Books-A-Million was interested in some of the stores. Yesterday a Borders lawyer said in court that the two companies are negotiating for BAM to buy 30 stores with an option to buy five more, saving as many as 1,500 jobs from the 10,700 that will vanish when Borders closes. There is some urgency about the deal since BAM wants the stores as is, not after a going-out-of-business sale. According to the Wall Street Journal, if a deal is reached, BAM will buy the stores from the two main liquidators--Gordon Brothers and Hilco--and the unsecured creditors' committee will support the deal only if it adds more value for them.

The stores in which BAM expressed interest range across the country, from Maine to California, with the single-largest group in Pennsylvania. Most are not in large cities but are in regions where BAM, whose 231 stores are in the South and Midwest, has little or no presence. BAM opened in at least several locations of Borders stores vacated in the first wave of closings after the company's bankruptcy filing in February.

Books-A-Million would "acquire the inventory
and merchandise at the included stores, then negotiate with landlords on leases," according to Reuters.

The sales at most stores begin today. Borders indicated that gift cards will be honored during the sales, Borders Rewards Plus members will continue to receive discounts through August 5, and Borders Bucks will be honored until they expire July 31.

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While lamenting the loss of jobs for so many booksellers and the blow to the book business, the American Booksellers Association and Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association both had advice on measures indies can take in reaction to the closing of Borders.

For the ABA's "action kit," click here.

Deb Leonard of GLiBA made these suggestions for booksellers near a Borders that's closing:

1. Pick up some new fixtures for a bargain price.
2. Check out their staff for possible new hires.
3. Contact community organizations that usually do event orders through Borders stores, and offer them the same discount that Borders offered to move their business to your store.
4. Continue to beat the drum about buy local, and how your store contributes to the community, while buying online does not.
5. If you sell e-books, make sure that you trumpet that fact in every possible way: signs on your front door, signs on bookshelves, written on the bottom of your store receipts or bookmarks, or heck, get a tattoo if you are so inclined, but make sure that every customer knows that you sell e-books!

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Among many touching tributes to the fallen company are some on a Facebook page for former Borders employees. For example, Neil Carver wrote:

"Jan 3, 1990, chalklined and fixtured Store #02 in Columbus. Nearly died on day 3 of the sort due to rupturing appendix, but made it back after a week or so... spent the next 19 years at Borders. Shit canned March of 2009. I did not miss Borders then. It had ceased to be an organization worth caring about, because it had ceased to be an organization that cared... but what it had been was culturally powerful and intensely personal... as demonstrated by this page and all these people. My thought... do not mourn what has passed, but remember what was so great... the passion for knowledge and art and the written word, the cultural touchstone that was built on this passion, and most of all the people who generated all of that passion... and take that to wherever you are now, wherever you go next. Borders proved that a business and a job could be a community and a lifestyle that transcended base mercantilism. It doesn't matter that it didn't last, what matters is that it was, and you were part of it."

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And PBS NewsHour's Arts Beat spoke at length about the state of bookselling with booksellers at eight major indies. Our favorite reply came from Neil Strandberg, manager of operations at the Tattered Cover, Denver, Colo., who said in part:

"I have every reason to believe that in 10 years' time there will be a retail setting that everyone recognizes as the logical descendent of today's retail bookstores. The trick for all of us is to juggle declining printed book sales with new products and new services and the appropriate amount of real estate in the right location. Hardly an easy task but if the indie community has anything going for it, it is the fact that we are a feisty, determined, creative bunch that love what we do. Taking a cue from some of the technologies that been so disruptive, collectively the indie community is crowd-sourcing the sustainable bookstore-like thing of tomorrow. One of us is going to figure this out."

 

On Monday Shelf Awareness will publish more commentary about the end of Borders and the challenges of bookselling.


Beaming Books: Inspiring New Nonfiction from Broadleaf Books


Notes: Google's Pottermore Deal; Harper Lee's Soccer Sales

Google is an e-muggle no more, but Amazon's wizardly fate is still not sealed. This week Google announced its partnership with J.K. Rowling's Pottermore website in a deal that will make e-book versions of the Harry Potter series available on Google's eBooks reader. The Los Angeles Times noted that the arrangement "also makes Google's payment service Google Checkout the official third-party form of payment for Pottermore," and allows Rowling to put her e-titles "on smartphones, tablets, e-readers and computers without having to split the sales with companies such as Apple or Amazon, who typically keep about 30% of sales."

Craig Vodnik of the digital blog BuildingKeystones.com said, "It could be a really, really big deal if this works out based off the titles she's written and she's just so well-known. From the publisher's perspective it's a big deal because it could give them some control over how they distribute their products."

It may be premature to eliminate Amazon from the equation, however. A spokesman for the company told paidContent.org: "We’re working closely with Pottermore to make sure Kindle customers will be able to buy and read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books."

What remains unclear is whether Kindle "will be forced to start supporting the open EPUB format for Harry Potter, or whether Amazon will manage to swing a deal that has Pottermore selling the Harry Potter e-books in the proprietary Kindle format," according to paidContent.org, which added: "The former seems more likely since there have also been rumors that the Harry Potter e-books will be DRM-less. And with Amazon reportedly releasing a tablet and two new Kindles this fall, the company could fairly quietly roll out EPUB support mixed in with a string of other announcements."

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Sales of To Kill a Mockingbird at Amazon.co.uk jumped 123% and the book has climbed as high as #25 on the site's Top 100 list (compared to #803 on Amazon.com) since David and Victoria Beckham said Harper Lee was the inspiration for their new daughter's name, the Daily Mail reported.

Here's how the soccer legend and his former Spice Girl wife made their decision: "A lot of thought goes into our children's names and Harper was a name that we've loved for a long time for a couple of reasons," said David. "One reason is Harper's an old English name which we loved and one of the other reasons was Victoria's favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird and the author was Harper Lee. It's a very strong, passionate book. That's where Harper came from."

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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, has drawn criticism for telling a group of librarians and book industry officials Wednesday that they "should not let harmful books enter our book market on the basis that we let them [readers] choose [what they want to read]. Like poisonous, dangerous and addictive drugs which are not available for everyone without restriction... as a publisher, librarian or an official in the book industry, we don't have the right to make [such books] available to those without knowledge. We should provide them with healthy and good books."

The Guardian reported that Ataollah Mohajerani, Iran's former culture minister, said the ayatollah was concerned with "literary, philosophical and social" books that might challenge his legitimacy. "I think that he is very much concerned about books that can either implicitly or explicitly target his position as the supreme leader and also his legitimacy." Mohajerani added that Khameini's "comments stem from a traditional clerical mentality that clerics guide people as shepherds guide their sheep, this is a viewpoint that doesn't have any place in today's life."

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Thanks to the Regulator Bookshop, Durham, N.C., for sharing links to "Awesome People Reading" as well as Independent Weekly's report on the first Durham Pun Championship, hosted by "the perpetrator of this event," Regulator owner Tom Campbell.

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Jewish News Weekly explored Henry Hollander's bookshop, "located in one of the anonymous row houses lining the avenues near San Francisco's Golden Gate Park," but with no sign out front of the bookstore that specializes in Judaica because "a sign on this shop would be so L.A."

Hollander remains unintimidated by the digital age: "Books are ubiquitous. They are super-common objects. Hundreds of millions of them. There is something about an actual book that people like." He is even optimistic, noting that he still sees people under 30 browsing his stock. "When you publish a book, it's an aspirational statement. You want people to understand something you think you've figured out. I'm sitting on the traces of thousands of peoples' efforts."

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Bookberries bookshop in New York City will close July 27 after 15 years in business. Manager Clarence George told DNAinfo.com that the "main reason we're closing was because of the rent increase. It couldn't be done any longer. Business hasn't been good the past few years. Since 2009, I've been expecting it. That was a terrible year, and it's been deteriorating ever since. It's probably the economy, a general lessening of purchasing. A big factor was Amazon and e-books.... I don't think they'll be publishing books on paper in the next few years."
 
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Mid-summer pop quiz. "Which schoolboy is forever scruffy and frowning?" The Guardian tests your knowledge of "favorite fictional characters in the classroom. Let's see if you've done your homework. Pens at the ready...."

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Flavorwire suggested "10 unrealized book-to-film adaptations we’d like to have seen."

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"Game On! 5 Winning Summer Sports Books" were recommended by NPR's Linda Holmes, who noted that while "the traditional 'beach read' set heads off for the summer with pails and shovels in hand, those who prefer a box score and a beer in the bleachers might be just as happy to settle in with a few good reads of their own."

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Lauren St John, author of the White Giraffe series, chose her top 10 animal adventures for the Guardian and wrote that her writing draws upon "one of the most intense and rewarding relationships of my childhood, my love for my horse, Morning Star, and the animal books I read then, which portrayed the similarly rich relationships of other children or adults with otters, horses, lions and even tadpoles. These are some of my favorites."

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"Vive et vive de longues années le grand Maître pour charmer le monde et propager ses grandes idées de charité universelle." Letters of Note featured a birthday message to Victor Hugo, written in 1885 by Alfred Nobel.

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Book trailer of the day: Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles (Walker), the third title in the Perfect Chemistry trilogy. The trailer features actors Gabriel Chavarria, Alexander F. Rodriguez and Giancarlo Vidrio.

 


Book Industry Charitable Foundation: Double your donation!


AAP Sales in May: E-Books 11.1% of All Book Sales

Net sales of books in the U.S. during May fell 7.9% to $662.1 million, as reported by 93 publishers to the Association of American Publishers. E-books continued to grow at an astronomic pace--up 146.9%, to $73.4 million, representing 11.1% of all books sold on a dollar basis. Last year, with sales of $29.7 million, e-books accounted for only 4.1% of May sales. This May, the core parts of traditional publishing declined in most categories, and particularly mass market, down 39.4%, and adult hardcover, off 38.2%.

CATEGORY

SALES

% CHANGE

E-books

$73.4 million

146.9

Downloaded audio

$8 million

13.8

Religious books

$49.7 million

21.6

Children's YA/paperback

$41.7 million

4.7

Univ. press paperback

$2.9 million

3.4

 

 

 

Higher education

$159.4 million

-1.7

Children's YA/hardcover

$51.5 million

-11.4

Univ. press hardcover

$3.4 million

-12.2

Adult paperback

$94.9 million

-14.3

Professional

$47.1 million

-17

Audiobooks

$9.9 million

-20.9

Adult hardcover

$85.6 million

-38.2

Adult mass market

$33.3 million

-39.4

 


Cool Idea of the Day: Buy One Book, Give Two

At Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C., this past weekend, Erica S. Perl sold 100 copies of her new middle grade novel, When Life Gives You O.J. (Knopf)--and for each book donated $2 to First Book, the literacy organization, providing, she explained, "a book to a child in need for every book that sold at the party." (It costs First Book $2 for each book donation.) But that's not all. First Book matched Perl's donation, so the author sold 100 books and 200 were donated to children in need. And there's more: Perl will continue to match sales of When Life Gives You O.J. at Politics & Prose from now through July 31 (up to $1,000). Perl is senior director of publisher relations at First Book--and she's obviously walking the walk.

 


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Hoda Kotb on Morning Joe

This morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe: Hoda Kotb, author of Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee (Simon & Schuster, $15, 9781439189498).

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Today on the Joy Behar Show: La Toya Jackson, author of Starting Over (Gallery, $26, 9781451620580).

 


Movies: John Carter; The Hobbit; Walter Mitty

The first trailer for John Carter, Andrew Stanton's adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, "rips you open with the sword of Martian awesomeness," io9 observed, adding: "It's chock full of swordplay, heroic destiny, cool-looking ships, and insane Martian vistas. Can we wait? We cannot."

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Peter Jackson released his third behind-the-scenes production video diary for The Hobbit.

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Ben Stiller "is now in talks" with 20th Century Fox to direct as well as star in a new adaptation of James Thurber's story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," Variety reported, calling the project "a reimagining of the 1947 comedy starring Danny Kaye." Steve Conrad (The Pursuit of Happyness) is writing the script.




Books & Authors

Awards: Theakstons Crime Novel; N.Z. Book Industry

Lee Child won the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, which celebrates the best in crime writing among British and Irish authors, for his Jack Reacher thriller 61 Hours. Child received the £3000 (US$4,890) cash prize, along with a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by Theakstons Old Peculier.

P.D. James was honored with the Theakstons Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award.

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Winners of the 2011 THORPE-Bowker New Zealand Book Industry Awards were honored this week during the Booksellers NZ Conference in Wellington.



Book Brahmin: Jonathan Green

Jonathan Green is a journalist who has reported on corruption in oil-rich Kazakhstan, the destruction of the rain forest in Borneo and human rights abuses connected to gold mining in West Africa, among many other topics. He received the Amnesty International Media Award for Excellence in Human Rights Journalism, and won the American Society of Journalists and Authors Outstanding Book Award 2011 for Murder in the High Himalaya, which was released in trade paper by PublicAffairs on May 31, 2011.

 

On your nightstand now:

Errol Morris, Believing Is Seeing; Kris Holloway, Monique and the Mango Rains; Colin Thubron, To a Mountain in Tibet.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The entire Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. As a young boy I was enraptured with these stories after my aunt gave me the entire box set one snowy Christmas. The spiritualism and metaphor of Aslan the lion and the wicked witch was very powerful to me.

Your top five authors:

Only five? Lawrence Wright, Peter Matthiessen, Nik Cohn, Aldous Huxley, Samantha Power. But ask again in five minutes and the list would completely change.

Book you've faked reading:

Parenting for Dummies. But please don't tell my wife that.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Almost anything by Ryszard Kapuscinski. Also, The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America by Sally Denton and Roger Morris. A real inspiration for investigative journalists.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Pete Hamill's Forever.

Book that changed your life:

I should say 1984 by George Orwell or Brave New World by Aldous Huxley because they both had a profound affect on me. But, really, most influential was the entire Biggles series by W.E. Johns. At 12 or 13, I absolutely adored the maverick pilot Biggles and the scrapes he got himself into. It lit a fire in me for adventure and justice, and a need to buck the system. Although, I imagine, that these are probably not the most PC reads these days.

Favorite line from a book:

"People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word." --1984, George Orwell.

And, "My enemy is my greatest teacher."--the Dalai Lama

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

Roots by Alex Haley. I'd long since had a sense that everything I was reading was told from a white American or European perspective. For the first time I was told a story through the eyes of a black slave. It rocked my world. As a journalist, I am much more interested in telling stories from the perspective of refugees or the dispossessed--those who have no voice--rather than Westerners who are often just witnesses in safety to the world as it is today. Compassion is important in a writer.

 


Book Review

Book Review: Humiliation

Humiliation by Wayne Koestenbaum (Picador, $14 trade paper, 9780312429225, August 2, 2011)

Few rational people would want to know what it feels like to be disgraced former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. But even if our personal failings aren't exposed in front of a bank of television cameras, who hasn't endured moments of shame or embarrassment, or experienced a shiver of vicarious pleasure at another's disgrace? The universality of those emotions provides fertile territory for poet and critic Wayne Koestenbaum to explore in this provocative study of the subject of humiliation.

After a time, one loses count of the blizzard of historical, artistic, cultural and political references scattered through the concise numbered paragraphs that comprise this short (182 pages) book. There's ample material here to engage aficionados of pop culture, from a discussion of Alec Baldwin's ranting voice mail message to his adolescent daughter to television shows like The Swan, a Fox reality program featuring "disturbed women [who] ask to be humiliated on television so that they might end up beautiful." Through these and myriad other examples, Koestenbaum makes a persuasive case that television is little more than "a manure pond of humiliation, contaminating the viewer," and raises the legitimate question whether our eagerness to exult in the humiliation of others defines contemporary American culture.

Koestenbaum doesn't confine himself to stories ripped from the pages of Us Weekly. Admittedly, it takes some patience to follow the thread of his argument when Humiliation veers off into discussions of obscure (at least to nonacademic readers) artists like Antonin Artaud and Glenn Ligon, or discourses on terms like "abreaction" and "desubjectification." But for the most part, it isn't long before Koestenbaum startles with a bold leap of argument, some elegant turn of phrase or a striking personal anecdote that steers his account back to more accessible, if no less controversial, ground--as with his assertion that humiliation doesn't lack for positive attributes, "a kiln through which the human soul passes, and where it receives burnishing, glazing, and consolidating."

So by joining the ranks of humiliated public figures--Richard Nixon's self-pitying resignation; Ted Kennedy justifying his behavior at Chappaquiddick--Anthony Weiner is merely one more example, as Koestenbaum reminds us, that "there will always be another public figure falling, another man... to confess, in public, a shameful act, and to submit to the televised spanking." Even as we recognize the wearying inevitability of this behavior, it's fair to ask, as Koestenbaum does, why we are "captivated by ruined men, or men who melodramatically narrate their own ruin," and whether our near obsession with their debasement says as much about us as it does them. --Harvey Freedenberg

Shelf Talker: Poet and critic Wayne Koestenbaum takes a lively and highly original look at a painfully universal human emotion.

 


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The New England Indie 'Heat Index' Tour

Hot summer reads took on a whole new meaning for me yesterday when I retrieved a couple of books from the backseat of my car. It had been parked in the sun for several hours, so "scalding" summer reads was probably a more appropriate description. The temperature in the Northeast was just beginning its relentless climb from pre-heat to what has now become a full scale human bake-off competition.

Thanks to air conditioning, those books have since cooled back to normal temperature for tree-based material, but the sub-Fahrenheit 451 singeing of my fingers did shock me into a bad summer books mood. Maybe the official demise of Borders after a long illness had its effect as well--something along the lines of "If you can't take the heat..."

So I decided to get out of the proverbial kitchen with a quick virtual tour of some New England bookstores via their e-newsletters, blogs and websites, just to see how they are staying cool in the face of that most bookish-sounding of weather gauges, the "heat index."

Brookline Booksmith, Brookline Mass., offered some helpful summer pointers for its customers: "It's going to be hot this week. We all know it, we all will go through it together, and complaining about it won't cool any of us down. Let's find solutions. We sell umbrellas to keep the sun off our heads. We sell little portable fans to dry the sweat on our brows. We sell books, because when your mind and imagination are fully engaged, heat and humidity are trivial. Except that the pages curl. So... we sell e-books! We also have author readings, which are held in an air-conditioned room, and are free. Make this your mission and your pleasure this week, to come to your local indie bookstore and find out what these humble traveling authors have to tell us."

In its e-newsletter, Galaxy Books, Hardwick, Vt., observed: "You only need to look at the multitude of summer reading lists that have been collecting over the past month or so to know that summer is a great season for book lovers.... You can even find our own Linda Ramsdell's top picks at VPR's Vermont Edition, where she had a guest spot on the program's summer reading show. We hope you'll find some time to enjoy a book or two (or more!) this summer, and we would love to help you find the perfect read."

Many bookstores feature staff-driven beach reads lists, of course, but Josh Cook of Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass., offered a cautionary note in addition to his recommendations: "Since I've been out of school, I stopped buying into the whole 'Summer Reading' idea. There are books you read to relax, books you read for entertainment, books you read to stretch your intellect... and it's the use and not the season that determines what book I pick up. That said, the idea of 'Summer Reading' provides a great opportunity for book people to tell the world about the best books out there, and so here are two great books that have come out this summer that make great reading whenever you get to them."

Chilling as a morgue slab. Mystery on Main Street, Brattleboro, Vt., featured a "Deadly Summer" list of authors who "will be giving us some great reads during the summer months."

For a cool summer visual effect, try the cove-view Camerascotta webcam at the website for Maine Coast Book Shop in Damariscotta.

Titcomb's Bookshop, East Sandwich, Mass., is in a celebratory beach reading mood: "Summer on Cape Cod! Could anything be nicer? People are happy.... The shop is bustling.... There's an energy all around us that is fueled with warm summer breezes, barbecue, homemade ice cream, suntan lotion, miniature golf--and good books.... One of the joys of the summer is taking time to read a good book, especially if you're sitting on a porch or out on the beach."

Looking ahead, R.J. Julia Booksellers is teaming up with the Madison, Conn., Chamber of Commerce on August 18 for Beachcomber’s Night, "an evening of shopping and entertainment in downtown Madison," and will host an Ice Cream Giveaway August 15.

And yesterday an e-mail hit my inbox from the Book Rack Bookstore, Newburyport, Mass., that featured an intriguing subject line--"Free Dogfish Head Beer and a Cool Author to Listen to!" The reminder for an upcoming event ended with an irresistible invitation: "Join us for some cold beer and treats and listen to some great stories... in our air conditioned store."

Staying cool. An excellent indie bookseller I know judges a nonfiction book by the quality of its index. Maybe we should judge a good summer read (and great summer bookshop) by its ability to make us forget momentarily about that heat index.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)



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