Shelf Awareness for Monday, August 22, 2011


Harper: Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

St. Martin's Press: Just Work: Get Sh*t Done, Fast & Fair by Kim Scott

Haymarket Books: We Still Here: Pandemic, Policing, Protest and Possibility by Marc Lamont Hill, edited by Frank Barat

Shadow Mountain: Miracle Creek Christmas by Krista Jensen

Graydon House: The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little

Grand Central Publishing: What's Mine and Yours by Naima Coster

News

Image of the Day: Under the Tuscan Sun

 

Book lovers on an Adventures by the Book literary tour of Tuscany earlier this summer met with Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun, and other authors inspired by the region. Here the group, including Adventures by the Book founder and owner Susan McBeth (third from l. in the front), gathered outside the Osterio del Teatro in Cortona after lunch with Mayes (second from l. in the front). Mayes was in town for the annual Festival del Sole, which she co-founded.

 


University of California Press: Epic Books Make Epic Gifts


Notes: 'A Healthy E-Book Business'; Obama Vacation Reading

 

On NPR's On the Media, Mike Shatzkin, head of the Idea Logical Company, co-head of Publishers Launch and publishing pundit about town, spoke at length about "what Amazon is up to."

Concerning Amazon's expanding publishing program and whether its books will be distributed outside Amazon, he said, "Amazon's desire in signing up authors directly is to monopolize the e-books for the Kindle platform.... Barnes & Noble has said [to Amazon], 'We might stock your books but only if you make the books available through the Nook platform,' and I don't think it's Amazon's intention to make the books available through the Nook platform."

Concerning the agency plan used by the six major publishers for e-book sales: "The commercial impact is that Amazon was on its way to a monopoly, and because of the agency pricing scheme we now have a healthy Barnes & Noble e-book business. We have Google and Kobo and Apple. We have a multi-retailer e-book business, and Amazon's e-book monopoly is nothing like what it looked like it was going to be two or three years ago, which I think is good for the industry and ultimately good for the consumer."

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In what has become an annual summer ceremony on Martha's Vineyard, the media covered President Obama's book-buying trip to Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven.

The Washington Post reported that as the president entered the bookshop, he said, "They’ve got to buy some books," referring to daughters Malia and Sasha, adding that one of them had a school assignment.

After a 15-minute shopping trip, Obama "was seen holding five or six books," including Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Daniel Woodrell's The Bayou Trilogy, the Post wrote.  

ABC News later reported that the president also purchased Rodin’s Debutante by Ward Just and brought three books with him--Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, To the End of the Land by David Grossman and The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. "No word yet on what the girls purchased. Stay tuned," ABC News wrote.

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Location, location, location. Few booksellers (other than Bunch of Grapes) garnered as much publicity over the weekend as Charles Mysak, who, more than a decade ago, "snagged a primo parking spot on the corner of Columbus Avenue and 68th Street--and he hasn't budged since," the New York Post reported, noting that the sidewalk bookseller stores his inventory in a green '94 Civic "and feeds the meter $36 a day--in quarters--to hold on to the spot."

"I've been here for 11 years," he said. "Barnes & Noble is now closed. I'm the last resource for books. I'm here from 7 to 7 every day."

Racked discovered that he appears on Google Street View.

Laughing Squid featured a short documentary on Mysak that was filmed earlier this year.

"Almost every day we move the car," he told Jalopnik.com, which offered video proof. "A lot of people don't believe that--they look at the car, they don't think it's ever moved. I tell them: 'You come here at 6:30 in the morning, you'll watch me in action!' "

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Cool idea of the day. To help promote events, Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif., has created a crossword puzzle, in which the answers are names of some of the writers scheduled to appear at the bookshop this fall. Most answers require a person's name, with only the surname necessary. The dates following each clue reveal when an author will be appearing at Book Passage. Linked dates take you to an available event page on the store's website.

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Book trailer of the day: The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams (Bantam), which publishes August 30.

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Traditional print book piracy
. The Daily What caught these two Barnes & Noble patrons "pirating" cookbooks in the store's café.

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Positing the theory that "the right book can open up a whole new world of scientific information," MSNBC's Cosmic Log recommended 10 books for a summer field trip, which offer "a little science, a little travel, and little or no math required."

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The American Advisory Committee of the Jerusalem International Book Fair will hold a memorial tribute to the fair's longtime chair and managing director Zev Birger on Thursday, September 22, at 6 p.m. at the Random House Building, 1745 Broadway, 2nd Floor, New York, with a reception following hosted by Random House. Reservations are necessary to pass through lobby security. Please RSVP by Wednesday, September 14, to philip@jibffellowship.com.

Birger, who died in Jerusalem in May after being hit by a motorcycle, was a friend of many thousands of bookpeople around the world, including nearly 450 editors and agents awarded fair fellowships since 1985. To leave remembrances or comments on Birger's Tributes page on the committee's website, go to jibffellowship.com.

A program in Birger's name will launch at the next book fair in 2013. Donations for its creation and endowment may be made to the Ariel Municipal Company Ltd., Bank Leumi, Agudat Sport Hapoel Yerushlayim 1, Jerusalem, Branch no. 901, account no. 6433300/99.



ECW Press: Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal by Greg Renoff


Fake Online Reviews; Scanning Amazon's Top Reviewers

For $10, we were willing to do a glowing news item about the New York Times's front-page Saturday story about fake online reviews, including some book reviews on Amazon. But we really did like the story so we'll go ahead anyway:

Online reviews of products and services, which have become ever more important to online retailers, have spawned a rash of "review factories"--independent companies that hire people to write reviews of things they know little or nothing about and then sell them to online retailers.

The Times spoke with one reviewer who was hired by a review factory to write Amazon reviews for $10 each. Freelance writer Sandra Parker said, "We were not asked to provide a five-star review, but would be asked to turn down an assignment if we could not give one." The Times noted that Parker's "brief notices for a dozen memoirs are stuffed with superlatives like 'a must-read' and 'a lifetime's worth of wisdom.' " It was not clear how the review factory dealt with Amazon or publishers of books listed on it.

Commenting in general on the subject of biased reviews, Amazon's director of community Russell Dicker told the paper: "Any one review could be someone's best friend, and it's impossible to tell that in every case. We are continuing to invest in our ability to detect these problems."

A Cornell study described fake reviews involving Chicago hotels as "a narrative talking about their experience at the hotel using a lot of superlatives, but they were not very good on description. Naturally: They had never been there. Instead, they talked about why they were in Chicago. They also used words like 'I' and 'me' more frequently, as if to underline their own credibility."

The Times quoted another Cornell report on a survey of some 166 of Amazon's top 1,000 reviewers that offers a detailed history of reviews at Amazon, the importance of those recommendations to persuade some customers to buy and how Amazon has changed reviewers' rankings in the last several years.

Without being paid or receiving any other kind of remuneration, we give this 90-page report five stars. It's gripping, ripped from today's headlines (actually it contributed to a Saturday headlines) and a must-read for Amazon watchers. And we love its title: How Aunt Ammy Gets Her Free Lunch.

Tidbits from the report about the 166 respondents:

70% are male. 11% are retirees. 92% have college degrees. 14% are writers, the single-largest category. Only three are librarians. 39% of the respondents "report that they are engaged in or have been engaged in producing the same sorts of material that they review."

Reviewers review all kinds of products, and only 56% of the respondents mainly review books. The report noted: "A respondent who described himself as a 'senior book reviewer' for a magazine carries out reviews of energy pills and post-its. A published poet reviews a volume of poetry followed by a review of a toilet brush. A reviewer who has published no less than 38 novels has, as her latest item reviewed, a pair of left-handed scissors."

While the top 10 reviewers posted 60,317 reviews among them as of May 2010 and the No. 1 reviewer, Harriet Klausner, had 21,870 reviews, only 12 out of 166 respondents write more than 20 reviews per month.

85% of the reviewers have been sent free books or other products to review by publishers, authors and the like. The books are primarily ARCs, "many of lower quality." The reviewers choose "overwhelmingly" to review those books. Few reviewers acknowledge in their reviews receiving such products, although participation in Amazon's Vine program, under which some reviewers receive a range of products, is noted in the reviews.

While most of the reviewers are driven by altruism, they are concerned about their rankings. "In order to maintain their ranking, a level of productivity is demanded that seems to go against the grain of serious book reviewing," the report found. "Reviewers, especially the more prolific ones, are starting to cut corners and find ways of upping their productivity."

In conclusion, the report said:

"Amazon is getting its free lunch but the reviewers are getting their lunch too; they are rewarded by recognition, status, self-fulfillment, satisfaction, and the small utilitarian benefits we have noted. Their relationship with Amazon the company is, however, ambiguous. They of course are well aware that in a sense they owe it all to Amazon, but their relationship to Amazon, who they affectionately refer to as 'Ammy,' is rather as if to a distant, powerful, and extremely wealthy, Great-aunt. They do small menial work for the family business and Aunt Ammy, who owns it, is careful to pat them on the back while she gets richer and richer; and there is nothing they like to do better than bitch about this and Ammy's latest whims!"

 


House of Anansi Press: Ridgerunner by Gil Adamson


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Laura Lippman and Her Most Dangerous Thing

This morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe: Conrad Black, author of A Matter of Principle (McClelland & Stewart, $35, 9780771016707).

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This morning on NPR's Morning Edition: Alexandra Fuller, author of Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (Penguin Press, $25.95, 9781594202995).

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Today on KPCC: Lisa Bloom, author of Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World (Vanguard, $25.99, 9781593156596).

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Today on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Laura Lippman, author of The Most Dangerous Thing (Morrow, $25.99, 9780061706516).

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Today on NPR's Fresh Air: Alice Waters, author of 40 Years of Chez Panisse: The Power of Gathering (Clarkson Potter, $55, 9780307718266).

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Tonight on a repeat of the Daily Show: Matt Long, author of The Long Run: A New York City Firefighter's Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete (Rodale, $15.99, 9781609611798).

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Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock, authors of The Casserole Queens Cookbook: Put Some Lovin' in Your Oven with 100 Easy One-Dish Recipes (Clarkson Potter, $17.99, 9780307717856).

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Tomorrow morning on Live with Regis and Kelly: Jimmy Fallon, author of Thank You Notes (Grand Central, $12, 9780892967414).

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Tomorrow on a repeat of the View: Betty White, author of If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won't) (Putnam, $25.95, 9780399157530).

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Tomorrow on a repeat of NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Michael Crummey, author of Galore (Other Press, $15.95, 9781590514344).

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Tomorrow on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live: Roseanne Barr, author of Roseannearchy: Dispatches from the Nut Farm (Gallery, $26, 9781439154823).


Movie: Brighton Rock

Brighton Rock, based on the novel by Graham Greene, opens this Friday, August 26, at art houses. Sam Riley, Helen Mirren, John Hurt and Andy Serkis star in the story of Pinkie, a teenage gangster who commits a murder--and his desperate, violent attempts to cover it up and keep control of his gang.

 


Books & Authors

Awards: Hugo, Midwest Booksellers Choice Winners

The winners of the 2011 Hugo Awards, honoring the best in science fiction and fantasy and presented on Saturday at Renovation, the World Science Fiction Convention in Reno, Nev., are:

Best Novel: Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (Ballantine Spectra)
Best Novella: The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang (Subterranean)
Best Novelette: "The Emperor of Mars" by Allen M. Steele (Asimov's, June 2010)
Best Short Story: "For Want of a Nail" by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov's, September 2010)
Best Related Work: Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O'Shea (Mad Norwegian)
Best Graphic Story: Girl Genius, Volume 10: Agatha Heterodyne and the Guardian Muse by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Inception written and directed by Christopher Nolan (Warner)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Doctor Who: "The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang" written by Steven Moffat; directed by Toby Haynes (BBC Wales)
Best Editor, Short Form: Sheila Williams
Best Editor, Long Form: Lou Anders
Best Professional Artist: Shaun Tan
Best Semiprozine: larkesworld, edited by Neil Clarke, Cheryl Morgan, Sean Wallace; podcast directed by Kate Baker
Best Fanzine: The Drink Tank edited by Christopher J. Garcia and James Bacon
Best Fan Writer: Claire Brialey
Best Fan Artist: Brad W. Foster

Also awarded at the ceremony, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (sponsored by Dell Magazines): Lev Grossman

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The winners of the Midwest Booksellers Choice Awards, honoring authors from and books about the Midwest and voted on by members of the Midwest Booksellers Association, are:

Adult Fiction: Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr (Akashic Books)
Adult Nonfiction: The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure (Riverhead/Penguin Group)
Poetry: Swallowing the Soap by William Kloeforn (Bison Books/University of Nebraska Press)
Children's Literature: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (Delacorte Press/Random House)
Children's Picture Book: Elsie's Bird by Jane Yolen and David Small (Philomel/Penguin)

The awards will be presented on September 22 during the MBA's trade show in Minneapolis, Minn.


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover

The Adjustment by Scott Phillips (Counterpoint, $25, 9781582437309). "Wayne Ogden has returned home from World War II, working as a caretaker and procurer for his debauched boss, while itching for the same action he had as a shady supply sergeant. It doesn't take long before he gets involved in blackmail, pornography, and murder even as he receives a bunch of mysterious letters from someone aware of his criminal past. Playing fast and loose with the dark side of the Greatest Generation, Scott Phillips once again creates a tight, funny noir that's rich in character, and makes the profane sacred." --Scott Montgomery, Book People, Austin, Tex.

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin (Delacorte, $25, 9780385344159). "In this marvelous fictionalized 'autobiography' of Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump, known by many names during her miniature life but most famously as Mrs. Tom Thumb, Vinnie becomes a heroine to America and the world during the Gilded Age. A leading celebrity as part of Phineas Barnum's human curiosities in his American Museum in New York City, Vinnie uses her intelligence and ambition to bring love and admiration to the 'small' world within the 'tall' world surrounding her. Benjamin offers a poignant story that will insert itself into every reader's heart." --Carol Hicks, Bookshelf at Hooligan Rocks, Truckee, Calif.

Paperback

The Call: A Novel by Yannick Murphy (Harper Perennial, $14.99, 9780062023148). "This sweet, funny novel--told in a series of call reports from a country vet--details the life of a family whose peace is shattered when their young son is left comatose from a hunting accident. The warmth, humor and believability of the characters--including the four-legged variety--balance out the darker elements of the story and make The Call an absolute delight to read. E.B. White meets James Herriot with just a touch of Jonathan Safron Foer." --Carol Schneck, Schuler Books & Music, Okemos, Mich.

For Ages 9 to 12

Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and an Incredible Journey by Erin Moulton (Philomel, $16.99, 9780399255151). "Since forever it seems, Maple has listened to Mamma sing a lullaby about the Wise Woman who has the power to grant wishes. When Lily, Maple's tiny, sickly baby sister, is born too early, Maple knows what she must do. In need of a miracle, she and her older sister Dawn venture off to seek the Wise Woman's magic on a journey that is filled with danger and discovery, frustration, and hope. A riveting story of a close-knit, loving family and the real source of miracles." --Christopher Rose, Andover Bookstore, Andover, Mass.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]



The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Titles in St. Louis

The following were the bestselling books at independent bookstores in and around St. Louis, Mo. During the week ended Sunday, August 14:

Adult

1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
2. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
3. Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach
4. The Adjustment by Scott Phillips
5. Noir at the Bar edited by Scott Phillips and Jedediah Ayers
6. Paris Wife by Paula McLain
7. The Light Bringer by Chris DiGiuseppe and Mike Force
8. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
9. Is God a Christian?: Creating a Community of Conversation by R. Kirby Godsey
10. The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

Children's/YA

1. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
3. The Bridge to Never Land by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
4. The Wizard of Oz Scanimation by Rufus Butler Seder
5. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
6. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
7. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
8. Every Day on Earth by Steve and Matthew Murrie
9. Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
10. Taking Cerebral Palsy to School by Mary Elizabeth Anderson

Reporting bookstores, all of which are members of the St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance: Left Bank Books, Main Street Books, Pudd'nhead Books, Subterranean Books, Sue's News.

[Many thanks to the booksellers!]


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