Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 9, 2011

Grand Central Publishing: These Impossible Things by Salma El-Wardany

Gibbs Smith: Life Is Golden: What I've Learned from the World's Most Adventurous Dogs by Andrew Muse

Bloomsbury Publishing: Catch the Sparrow: A Search for a Sister and the Truth of Her Murder by Rachel Rear

Zest Books (Tm): How to Be a Difficult Bitch: Claim Your Power, Ditch the Haters, and Feel Good Doing It by Halley Bondy, Mary C. Fernandez, Sharon Lynn Pruitt-Young, and Zara Hanawalt

Scholastic Press: It's the End of the World and I'm in My Bathing Suit by Justin A. Reynolds

Forge: Carolina Moonset by Matt Goldman

Hogarth Press: Acts of Service by Lillian Fishman

Quotation of the Day

Browsing: A 'Crucial Component of Information Discovery'

"Putting aside the physical niceties of brick and mortar information repositories, one thing the Internet has yet to reproduce is the ability to easily and pleasantly browse its vast reaches. Browsing is a crucial component of information discovery; it allows an information seeker to expand organically upon an initial vague, often unarticulated need."

--Laura Larsell, information ontologist at Trap!t, in her Mashable piece headlined "Why Browsing Is So Important to Content Discovery."


Wiley: Suddenly Hybrid: Managing the Modern Meeting (1ST ed.) by Karin M. Reed and Joseph A. Allen


Image of the Day: Blytheville Bookstore's Birthday Bash

That Bookstore in Blytheville, Blytheville, Ark., celebrated its 35th anniversary with a party that included birthday cake featuring images of authors who have visited the store, including Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, John Grisham, Helen Oxenbury and Carmen Deedy. At the end of the festivities, attended by 75 customers, Rhoda Yost won a drawing for a 3.5-minute shopping spree. Owner and founder Mary Gay Shipley thanked customers for "35 years of great memories and loyalty."


GLOW: Margaret Ferguson Books: Worser by Jennifer Ziegler

Notes: BAM Stores Closing; Kobo Sues for Borders License

While in the process of acquiring several former Borders locations, Books-A-Million is also culling some of its older stores, including those in Tupelo, Miss., Macon, Ga., Asheville, N.C., and Florence, S.C.

The BAM in Tupelo, which has been open for 15 years, began its liquidation yesterday. On Wednesday, "the employees were directing customers to BAM stores in Corinth and Columbus. They also were boxing up books and merchandise on center displays," the NEMS Daily Journal reported, adding that the store's manager had confirmed the liquidation, but said she wasn’t authorized to disclose more details.

Seventeen years after opening, the Macon outlet displayed similar signs and an employee told the shop would be closed by October 8.

In Asheville, signs were posted on the door of the 20-year-old BAM location that read "Store Closing, this location only" and "Everything must go," while the staff "told customers the store would close September 17, according to the Citizen-Times.

The Florence BAM will close September 17 after 15 years in business, costing about 20 jobs, according to the Morning News.


Kobo has filed a lawsuit in New York bankruptcy court, hoping to stop the license for its e-reader from falling into the hands of the purchaser of Borders's intellectual property assets when they are put up for auction. Borders had been the Canadian e-reader company's only U.S. partner. reported that Kobo "wants to prevent whoever wins the auction from obtaining the customer data. The company may also be worried because the licenses are likely to contain an exclusivity clause that prevent Kobo from partnering with another seller. Borders at one point had an 11% stake in Kobo."

Jeffrey Gleit, a lawyer for Borders, told the licenses are not part of the auction sale. Trademark lawyer Shon Lo observed that "generally, a trademark license can’t be assigned without the owner’s permission."


An evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. Beginning in Los Angeles on Halloween, "pop-culture freaks and geek newlyweds" Palmer and Gaiman will be "taking their domestic and creative union to the West Coast this fall with a short tour," Wired reported, noting that the project "already boasts a complementary Kickstarter project that has grabbed more than $70,000 in funding in just a few days, with weeks to go."

According to Palmer, "This show will be very different beast from the loud, crazed rock shows that I'm accustomed to... and also very different from the relatively well-behaved readings to which Neil is accustomed. This tour is a like one big, long reception in which our two fan-families get to meet each other."

Gaiman hopes "that Amanda's fans will put up with the messy-haired Englishman reading them stories, and that mine will enjoy the beautiful lady singing them songs of angst, post-modernism and woe. Or possibly vice versa."


It may be the dawn of the age of e-books, but last week Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand struck a blow for print editions by surpassing the one million copies in hardcover sales, USA Today reported.

"In this time of explosive growth in e-book sales, the mega-success of Unbroken in hardcover clearly underscores that the demand for print editions of great reads is still enormous," said Gina Centrello, Random House president and publisher.


Justin Moodie, publishing director, digital at Dorling Kindersley, discussed the present and future state of book apps in the Guardian. With its emphasis on the visual, DK has "always been designing things for tablets, you could say, it's just that until now the tablets were made of paper!" said Moodie. "We design books for reluctant readers: anyone should be able to open any DK book at any page and be absorbed immediately, and it's the same with a tablet app."

He noted that social networking is the key to the immediate future for book apps: "The next step, and it's difficult to do, is collaboration. People using the same app and having some sort of shared experience. It's about playing to the strengths of the device, not just taking the things we already do and porting them over."


Last week Maple Street Book Shop celebrated the grand opening of its new store at the New Orleans Healing Center (NOHC). Bookselling This Week reported that several thousand people attended "the extravagant festivities" at Maple Street's third location.

Store manager Ben Jenkins called the opening "a huge success....  The feedback from those who attended was extremely positive. People seemed genuinely enthusiastic to have a bookstore in this area." Maple Street plans to open a fourth location in mid-October near the Mid-City neighborhood.


The co-owners of St. Mark’s Bookshop in New York City "are pressing their landlord, Cooper Union, to reduce the $20,000-per-month rent for the space in the base of the dormitory building at Third Avenue and Stuyvesant Street," the Local East Village reported.

"The economy crashed, business declined more and more, and the rent has become very burdensome, said co-owner Terence McCoy. "All our 40-hour employees are now working 24-hour weeks. We laid off a lot of part-time people.... We make more from social security checks than from the store. We just want to keep it open."

Although Community Board member Bob Zuckerman called the shop’s rent "market rate," the Economic Development Committee voted 9-0 "to endorse the owners’ efforts to have it reduced, saying the 33-year-old shop constituted a 'special case' because of its value to the neighborhood," the Local East Village wrote.


Results from a new study appear to confirm recent findings at the University of Toronto that claim fiction affects a reader's personality (Shelf Awareness, August 26, 2011).

Researchers at the University at Buffalo gave 140 undergraduates passages from either Stephenie Meyer's Twilight or J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to read, then put them through a series of tests. The study's authors, Dr. Shira Gabriel and Ariana Young, applied what they called the Twilight/Harry Potter Narrative Collective Assimilation Scale, in which the students were asked questions "designed to measure their identification with the worlds they had been reading about.... Their moods, life satisfaction and absorption into the stories were then measured," the Guardian reported.

The study found that participants who read Harry Potter chapters self-identified as wizards, while Twilight readers self-identified as vampires, and "belonging to these fictional communities actually provided the same mood and life satisfaction people get from affiliations with real-life groups."


NPR's Monkey See blog explored the popular Twitter literary phenomenon of adopting "the identities of famous authors, both living and dead. There is no pretense of reality in these imitations--it is a game, an inside joke--and people are really getting into it."

Although there are writers like Wendy McLure (@HalfPintIngalls) tweeting "semi-professionally," the majority of the "140 character impersonators are not working with any kind of commercial imperative. They are simply trying to break down writers' iconic styles into 140 characters as a labor of love or comedy, often playing with the novelty of pairing an author's style with the technology of the modern age," Monkey See wrote.


It's not just Twitter that's benefiting from lit impersonations. The New Yorker's Book Bench blog reported on the art of "crafting Yelp reviews in the style of Cormac McCarthy," including this tasty excerpt from "Cormac M.'s" two-star review of Papalote Mexican Grill in San Francisco's Mission District:

"His eyes shift upward to a circling vulture, a sentinel of inevitability. The blood is almost black. He has another hour at most. The pain comes in waves, lingering like the burn of bad whiskey. One bullet left in the Colt. Something as yet unheralded has died when a quesadilla comes on a spinach tortilla."


Creepy book trailer of the day: Bedbugs: A Novel by Ben H. Winters (Quirk Books).


Molly Barton has been promoted to v-p, digital publishing, business development and strategy at Penguin Group.

In her career at Penguin, she has helped launch Book Country, developed the eSpecial program, expanded the company's connection with Starz TV network and helped launch several major apps and is on the board of Bookish.

University of California Press: When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973, with a New Preface by Leslie J. Reagan

Media and Movies

Media Heat: David Gessner on PRI's Living on Earth

Today on PRI's Living on Earth: David Gessner, author of My Green Manifesto: Down the Charles River in Pursuit of a New Environmentalism (Milkweed Editions, $15, 9781571313249) and The Tarball Chronicles: A Journey Beyond the Oiled Pelican and Into the Heart of the Gulf Oil Spill (Milkweed Editions $24, 9781571313331).


Today on Glenn Beck: Richard Paul Evans, author of Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 (Mercury Ink, $17.99, 9781451656503).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Christine Pisera Naman, author of Faces of Hope 10 Years Later: Babies Born on 9/11 (HCI, $10.95, 9780757316265).


Tomorrow on NPR's All Things Considered: Andrea Raynor, author of The Voice That Calls You Home (Atria, $14, 9781416596127). She also appears Sunday morning on Good Morning America.


Sunday on Animal Planet's Hero Dogs of 9/11 special: Genelle Guzman-McMillan, author of Angel in the Rubble: The Miraculous Rescue of 9/11's Last Survivor (Howard, $24, 9781451635201). She will also appear on an NBC special with Brian Williams.


Paraclete Press (MA): God, Grace, and Horses: Life Lessons from the Saddle by Laurie M. Brock

Books & Authors

Awards: Victorian Prize for Literature

Kim Scott won the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature, Australia's richest literary award, for That Deadman Dance, which "explores the relationships between 19th-century British settlers and the indigenous people on the coast of Western Australia," the Wall Street Journal reported. In June, Scott's novel won the Miles Franklin Award, making him the first indigenous writer to earn that prestigious award twice (his novel Benang won in 2000).

"It’s reassuring and gratifying and should be confidence boosting," Scott said. "We’ll see. Last time I won a couple of awards for a novel, that was my last novel and that was about 11 years ago, so I wouldn’t want to have to wait that long before I wrote another one."

That Deadman Dance is scheduled to be released in the U.S. and Canada in January.

Books for Understanding: September 11, 2001

The Association of American University Presses has updated and revised its Books for Understanding bibliography of September 11 titles, which was originally published the week after the attacks. The revised version has added works that examine the effects of the attacks on witnesses and first responders as well as on international relations and civil liberties. The bibliography now lists almost 1,100 titles published by 78 university presses on terrorism, the World Trade Center, Afghanistan, foreign policy, political Islam and more. Titles include:
  • Until the Fires Stopped Burning: 9/11 and New York City in the Words and Experiences of Survivors and Witnesses by Charles Strozier (Columbia University Press, 2011)
  • Arab Detroit 9/11: Life in the Terror Decade edited by Nabeel Abraham, Sally Howell, and Andrew Shryock (Wayne State University Press, 2011)
  • 9/11: The Culture of Commemoration by David Simpson (University of Chicago Press, 2006)

Book Brahmin: Jane Lynch

Television and film actress Jane Lynch (who plays Sue Sylvester on Glee) grew up on the South Side of Chicago and currently lives in Los Angeles. She married Dr. Lara Embry in 2010, and was lucky enough to get two daughters in the deal. Happy Accidents, her memoir, has just been published by Voice (September 13, 2011). Watch Jane's hilarious book trailer here.

On your nightstand now:

The Wisdom of Menopause by Dr. Christiane Northrup. I usually read it in the middle of the night while hot-flashing.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye by Kenneth P. O'Donnell. I was Kennedy-obsessed as a kid.

Your top five authors:

David McCullough, John Irving, David Sedaris, Nora Ephron, Dr. Christiane Northrup. After I read historical biographies, I like to laugh.

Book you've faked reading:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I was about 23, and I would "read" my dog-eared Penguin copy while on the subway trying to look educated.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. I bought multiple copies to give away to friends. I inscribed them with "this will change your life." 

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I read it and loved it in the early '80s and re-read it recently and thought it was rather silly.

Book that changed your life:

Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav.

Favorite line from a book:

"An authentically empowered person is one who is so strong, so empowered, that the idea of using force against another is not a part of his or her consciousness." --Seat of the Soul.

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

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.


Book Review

Review: Temporary Perfections

Temporary Perfections by Gianrico Carofiglio, trans. by Antony Shugaar (Rizzoli Ex Libris, $24.95 hardcover, 9780847836307, September 13, 2011)

Criminal defense attorney Guido Guerrieri makes a welcome return in this fourth novel in Gianrico Carofiglio's series set in Bari on the Adriatic coast of southern Italy. Sardonic, ironic and laconic, Guerrieri is good company when he isn't busy. Since people are still getting into trouble on charges of drug dealing and prostitution, though, he keeps his nose to the grindstone as he strives to represent his clients well. "The profession is full of scoundrels, shysters, virtual illiterates, and even a few genuine criminals," he says of his colleagues, but he takes on an unusual assignment from one civil lawyer whom he respects.

Manuela Ferraro has disappeared, and her parents are distraught that the Carabinieri are closing the case on her. They ask Guerrieri to find out if there might be leads or other avenues that the Carabinieri have not followed up on so the case can remain open. Years of criminal defense practice come into play as Guerrieri interviews the Carabinieri, the prosecutor who has been handed the case and Manuela's friends. Guerrieri displays in laid-back detail (or as laid-back as it gets for someone so tense and anxious) the approach he has perfected for handling a case. Fans of legal thrillers will be fascinated by his preferred methods and will truly believe and accept that his best friend is literally a punching bag (nicknamed affectionately Mister Bag) to whom he confesses all. The punching bag takes a beating, can keep secrets and never criticizes, making their relationship the most beautiful one in his life.

Guerrieri conducts a series of interviews that seem not to add much to the facts of the case that are already known, yet certain discrepancies nag at Guerrieri's inner prosecutor. Guerrieri shakes up one person by stating, "No one ever tells the whole truth, especially when they're talking about themselves," and flushes out more than he had hoped for. Persistence in pursuing hunches is key to answering the still-open questions about Manuela Ferraro's disappearance, and finding those answers, Guerrieri tells Mister Bag, is all the proof he needs that "There are times when it is indispensable to do things the right way." --John McFarland

Shelf Talker: An intricate and satisfyingly leisurely legal mystery that also lays out how a sardonic criminal defense attorney runs a busy practice in Bari, Italy.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: An Indie Bookseller's Dream Comes True

"I dream of the day I can run events, handsell to curious customers and organize Avid Bookshop's shelves--but for now I have to bide my time and wait for the stars (and dollars) to align," Janet Geddis told me almost two years ago after I met her at SIBA's fall trade show.

Next month, Avid Bookshop will achieve genuine bricks and mortar status at 493 Prince Avenue in Athens, Ga. Geddis anticipates a soft opening in about four weeks, aiming for a grand opening by mid-October. Shelving (previously used by Chapters Literary Bookstore, Washington, D.C.) arrived yesterday, and most of her new book inventory should be there soon. "Once the shelves are positioned and we're ready to click 'submit' on our opening inventory, we'll keep everyone updated with a firm grand opening date. We haven't formally hired anyone yet, but we do have a list of at least 20 people who are applying (and we haven't even advertised the bookselling positions yet!)," she noted.

In many ways, Geddis has been living the irresistible and perilous life of an indie bookseller since she went public with her intentions in a blog post at I'm an Avid Reader on July 12, 2009. She has built strong community ties in Athens and done her homework--studying the industry, establishing an online version of Avid Bookshop, attending trade shows and conferences, connecting with a large network of other booksellers and scouting for the perfect location.

There is a narrative arc to this process (I was reading the opening lines of the tale a couple of years ago), so it is perhaps not surprising that an early and strong supporter of Avid Bookshop has been a storyteller from New England, the novelist Katharine Weber.

When Geddis created her Avid Bookshop fundraising page on in 2010, "lots of generous people donated to the Avid startup funds, but Katharine's donation was bigger than most. She applauded my efforts and said that when the shop opened its doors, she'd love to fly down and do an event."

That offer became a reality earlier this week, when Weber conducted the first in-store events (see a video excerpt here) in the "raw space" that will soon be Avid Bookshop. She requested that her writing workshop be billed as an Avid fundraiser and, aware the space wasn't set up for a crowd yet, "had the idea that anyone who brought his/her own chair could get a discount to the workshop," said Geddis. "When the night was over, we'd keep the chairs we can use and donate the rest to the Habitat for Humanity Re-use Store up the street. Katharine also raffled off a private crit session. After the workshop, we hosted a 'meet the author' event where Katharine read from her latest book, The Memory of All That, and signed copies."

Geddis called the weekend events emblematic of her overall reception into the land of bookselling: "I guess this is all to say that, once again, the generosity of the people I've met in this industry has overwhelmed me. Were it not for fellow booksellers who offered up all their help from the beginning, I wouldn't have found this a viable plan. Were it not for the enthusiasm of journalists, I never would have had anyone outside of Athens hear about the bookshop. And were it not for virtual strangers reading your newspaper, I never would have gotten as much startup money and goodwill sent my way. And I certainly wouldn't have been able to welcome a New England author, one I'd never met, to my soon-to-open bookshop. I just love this world I've come into and love knowing that this really is the job for me."

Weber was also impressed by the experience, noting: "It is incredible to me how this town has embraced Janet's vision every step of the way. What she has done, creating a strong online presence first, and now the bricks and mortar, seems unusual but fruitful, as her relationships exist, her accounts are there, and her vision for every aspect of the store, from the shelving to the children's area to the coffee is so developed. Everything she can implement now has been thoroughly explored and refined, which seems like a huge advantage for a new bookshop."

When she first contacted Geddis about the proposed bookshop, Weber said she "wanted to help make it real, to offer her a future vision of authors coming from out of town to do events in her lively, successful store, because I thought this sense of the future would be helpful and encouraging at this stage of the plan.

"I was probably also being encouraging to myself as a novelist who has had the sad discovery that each time I have a new book in the works and am asked to list places where I have had good events for my previous books, more wonderful indies have closed. Bookstores like these, with thoughtful, literate booksellers who have a passion for books and know how to handsell books like mine, have made all the difference for me as an author."

Weber concluded with a bookstore blessing of sorts: "Surely someone who wants to do this, someone willing to invest her life, as Janet has, in opening a new independent bookstore in these perilous times, someone so inspiring to me, is deserving of being inspired herself. And now here we are! Welcome to the Avid Bookshop!" We heartily agree. --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, September 4:

1. In My Time by Dick Cheney
2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
4. The Cuban Kitchen by Raquel Roque
5. Swamplandia by Karen Russell
6. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
7. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
8. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
9. Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber
10. Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo

Reporting bookstores and their handselling favorites:

Books & Books, Coral Gables, Miami Beach, Bal Harbour: Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber
The Book Mark, Neptune Beach: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
Inkwood Books, Tampa: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Vero Beach Book Center: In My Time by Dick Cheney

[Many thanks to the booksellers and Carl Lennertz!]

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