Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 23, 2011

Algonquin Young Readers: the Beautiful Game by Yamile Saied Méndez

Berkley Books: Books that will sweep you off your feet! Enter Giveaway!

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Pumpkin Princess and the Forever Night by Steven Banbury

St. Martin's Griffin: Murdle: The School of Mystery: 50 Seriously Sinister Logic Puzzles by GT Karber

Quotation of the Day

In Book Retailing, Neatness Doesn't Count

"Some people don't like too much order in bookshops and want to feel like they're finding something. You can have 300,000 books perfectly arranged on the shelf, and every time, people will walk in and want to look at the books stacked up on the floor. So if you really want to sell something, jumble it up and pitch it on the floor."

--Larry McMurtry, author and owner of Booked Up, Archer City, Tex., in "How to Run a Bookstore" in Bloomberg BusinessWeek.


Blackstone Publishing: Rogue Community College: A Liberty House Novel by David R Slayton


Missouri Compromise... Not

Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, writes concerning what yesterday we called "the unbanning... sort of" of Slaughterhouse Five and Twenty Boy Summer in the Republic, Mo., school district:

The seeming compromise is nothing of the sort. The books have been banned from the classroom and closeted in a restricted section of the school library where they can only be checked out by adults!

Taken on the eve of Banned Books Week, the decision by the Republic school board underlines the importance of continuing to fight for free speech.



Delay As Judge Debates Borders IP Privacy Issues

The sale of most of Borders Group's intellectual property assets to Barnes & Noble is being delayed because the judge in the bankruptcy case said yesterday that he needed more time to consider privacy issues, Reuters reported.

As noted here yesterday, B&N is objecting to an ombudsman's recommendation that customers who joined Borders's loyalty program before May 27, 2008, need to approve having their information transferred to B&N.

In the hearing yesterday, Borders sided with B&N, but the judge said he worried that federal and state regulators would question the privacy issue. B&N has said that it has strong privacy policies and that 31% of the customers at issue are already B&N customers.

A lawyer for B&N said the company is "very much interested" in completing the deal but is concerned the deal might fall apart "unnecessarily." Another hearing is scheduled for Monday.

'Comprehensive Backlist': New HarperCollins DPR Program

This fall HarperCollins will launch a "Comprehensive Backlist" program, which allows bricks-and-mortar bookshops with the Espresso Book Machine to promote and sell the publisher's backlist titles. The bookstores will be able to offer trade paperbacks from the HarperCollins catalogue through a mix of traditionally printed books and print on demand, with the latter sold on an agency model. HarperCollins trade paperback books, including adult and children's titles, will be available on Espresso Book Machines starting in November. Titles from Zondervan and HarperCollins Canada will be available early next year.
"Even as digital book sales grow, bookstores continue to be an important place for customers to shop for physical books," said Brian Murray, president and CEO of HarperCollins. "The goal of this initiative is to give the local bookseller the capability to provide customers with a greater selection of HarperCollins titles in a physical environment. For authors this is a win; titles will be more broadly available, which increases sales with full print royalties. Depending on the size of the store, 25%-80% of our backlist titles are not stocked due to physical space limitations. Digital-to-Print at Retail (DPR) technology means the books will be there for the consumer at small and large bookshops."

Dane Neller, CEO of On Demand Books, which makes the Espresso Book Machine, called DPR "a powerful new sales channel for publishers. It eliminates lost sales due to out-of-stock inventory and provides a new marketing platform in partnership with bricks-and-mortar booksellers."
Harvard Bookstore owner Jeffrey Mayersohn noted that the "ability to have available any book that our customers could possibly ask for is key to our vision of how to thrive in this challenging environment. The HarperCollins partnership with On Demand Books brings us much closer to realizing that vision. This is great news for independent bookstores everywhere."

Northshire Bookstore's Chris Morrow agreed: "With HarperCollins making their titles available for the Espresso Book Machine, the original vision and full potential of the machine will begin to be realized. Thousands more titles will be directly available to my customers, and we will capture many, many sales which are currently lost. I hope other publishers see the potential of this sales channel and get on board. This can be a key element in the development of the bookstore of the future."

In Powell's Reoganization, Eight Managers Let Go

In a move the company called a response to "the rapidly changing book industry," Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., has let go eight managers and CEO of operations Ann Smith is retiring. President Emily Powell, daughter of founder Michael Powell, is becoming president and CEO, managing marketing and store operations, while COO Miriam Sontz will manage inventory, IT, finance and facilities.

According to the Oregonian, related changes include the appointment of a new director for the main store, the merging of the e-commerce marketing and publicity departments and the hiring early next year of a marketing director who will handle marketing for the whole company.

Powell said, "It is our goal to have the right book in the right place at the right price. We can accomplish this goal by integrating similar functions throughout the company that operated independently in the past. We have also renewed our focus on customers as part of this process." In an e-mail to employees, she said that the departing managers "will be greatly missed."

This is the second major cutback this year for the store. In February, Powell's laid off 31 employees, about 7% of its staff at the time, citing "an industry-wide decline in new book sales, rising healthcare costs, and the economy" (Shelf Awareness, February 9, 2011).


Sixth Annual Carle Honors

Last night at Guastavino's in New York City, a glittering group of 300 authors, artists and other book-makers and enthusiasts gathered for the Sixth Annual Carle Honors, hosted by the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Leonard S. Marcus, founding trustee of the Carle Museum and children's literature scholar and author, introduced the first award recipient, Karen Nelson Hoyle. As professor and curator of the Children's Literature Research Collections at the University of Minnesota, Hoyle was honored for her work as a "bridge" ("bring[ing] the art of the picture book to larger audiences"). Since joining the University in 1967, she has built up the Kerlan Collection's archive alone to 100,000 children's books, original manuscripts, artwork and more. Marcus, who has traveled to Minneapolis to conduct research at the Kerlan Collection, praised Hoyle's policy of "openness and accessibility." Hoyle said she has welcomed scholars from Australia, Japan and Sweden, as well as 20 local colleges and university, and thanked the Carle Museum for honoring "a librarian and curator."

"Jeanne Steig has a talent for making happiness visible in all of her works," said Holly McGhee, president of Pippin Properties, in her introduction to Steig as the "angel" recipient. McGhee has counted Ms. Steig as part of her "inner circle" for 20 years. "The Carle Museum gave a beautiful exhibit to Bill's work," said Jeanne Steig in her acceptance speech, referring to her late husband, William Steig. "Now it has given a home to Bill's drawings." In an elegant transition, she said, "I also have an angel of my own in Michael di Capua," the honoree in the "mentor" category who published many of both the Steigs' works.

Maurice Sendak, in a video recording, made the introduction for his longtime editor, Michael di Capua. Sendak talked about "the art of editorship – it's not treated as art, but Michael was an artist," he said. "We fight. He has a way of picking on you until you want to hit him," he adds wryly. "But it enhances the work; it benefits the work. He asks, 'Are you holding it back?' Sometimes you're compromising without knowing you're compromising. Michael is as much an artist as an artist."

In an acceptance speech that offered evidence as to why he's such an effective mentor, di Capua (pictured here with Scholastic colleagues Tracy van Straaten (l.) and Rachel Coun) said he felt honored to be included in the distinguished company of his predecessors, Anne Beneduce (Eric Carle's longtime editor), Margaret McElderry, Susan Hirschman and Walter Lorraine, "all of whom have contributed to the making of distinguished picture books." He then thanked the designers and production managers by name who have been "just as obsessive as I have about perfecting the physical book itself." A colleague pointed out to di Capua that the previous honorees in this category had all retired by the time they received the award, but he said, "as long as I have my wits about me and my health, I'm sticking around."

"When Lois Ehlert picks me up at the Milwaukee Airport," began poet and artist Ashley Bryan in his introduction to the "artist" award winner, "she says, 'Which first, hotel, museum or village bazaar?' and I say, 'Village bazaar!' That's where the great treasures in Lois Ehlert's work come from. The forms, shapes and colors we love." He adapted his poem "The Artist" from his book Sing to the Sun and read it in honor of his friend and fellow artist. Ehlert (pictured here, flanked by Ashley Bryan (l.) and editor Allyn Johnston) kept her speech brief, explaining that "Midwesterners don't like to brag." But she did say she hides hearts in all of her books. She thanked her longtime editor Allyn Johnston and Mother Nature, and said you know you're getting older "when your body of work looks younger than the body you live in." --Jennifer M. Brown


College-Bound Gift Certificates for IndieBound Stores

Author James Patterson will donate $70,000 in gift certificates redeemable at IndieBound Stores during the second annual College Book Bucks program, which supports college-bound high school seniors. Bookselling This Week reported that 230 winners of the College Book Bucks contest will receive gift certificates ranging from $250 to $1,000 for use at any IndieBound-affiliated independent bookstore. Qualifying students can enter the competition by visiting and submitting an essay that answers the question: "How has your favorite book inspired you toward what you’d like to do in life?" The submissions will be read by Patterson and members from his board. Deadline for submissions is December 31. Winners will be announced nationally on March 1, 2012.

"We know college is awfully expensive these days," said Patterson. "My hope with these awards is to give some promising students some help picking up the books they’ll need for their studies."

BTW added that "for each contest submission that comes as a result of a referral from an IndieBound store, the store will have a chance to win signed books and other prizes."


Image of the Day: Entertainment Royalty

More than 200 fans came to the Grove in Los Angeles Wednesday night to celebrate the publication of You Are Not Alone--Michael: Through a Brother's Eyes by Jermaine Jackson (Touchtone). Here: Jackson (c.), with La Manda Davis, daughter of legendary Motown producer Hal Davis, who produced the Jackson 5, along with her fiancée, Manny Davis (l.), son of Sammy Davis Jr.


NBF Lifetime Achievement Honor for Mitchell Kaplan

At this year's National Book Awards ceremony, Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books bookstores and co-founder of the Miami International Book Fair, will receive the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, the National Book Foundation announced yesterday. Poet John Ashbery will be honored with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

The 62nd National Book Awards ceremony and benefit dinner will take place November 16 in New York City, hosted by actor, writer and musician John Lithgow.

Booksellers Rock: Josh Christie

This month's Booksellers Rock! profile from Algonquin Books focuses on Josh Christie of Sherman's Books and Stationery, Camden, Maine. Our favorite answer:

What makes our neighborhood and customers awesome:

"Well, we've really got two different types of customers; folks from here and folks 'from away.' Both are awesome.

"During the winter, our customer base is pretty much all locals. We’ve got a handful of great local book clubs that always pick fantastic books, including a self-directed club made up of 5th graders. Freeport is a town that gets cold and quiet during the winter, and our customers need good, beefy books to get them through the lean months.

"During the summer, coastal Maine is just crazy busy, and summer people cruising through to buy books is great. Whether they're looking for light summer fiction or the newest prizewinners, the summer crowds ask for a huge variety of books. Not only does this keep us on our toes, but it means that over the decades we've built up a phenomenal and eclectic inventory."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Susan Orlean on NPR 's Weekend Edition Saturday

This morning on Imus in the Morning: Jacques Steinberg, author of You Are an Ironman: How Six Weekend Warriors Chased Their Dream of Finishing the World's Toughest Triathlon (Viking, $27.95, 9780670023028).


Tomorrow on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday: Susan Orlean, author of Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend (Simon & Schuster, $26.99, 9781439190135). She is also on CBS's Sunday Morning.


Sunday on Fox News Live: William Joyce, author of The Man in the Moon (Atheneum, $17.95, 9781442430419).  

Movie Casting: King of Heists

Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker), who earned an Oscar nomination for The Town, is "back in bank robbery mode" as the star of King of Heists, an adaptation of J. North Conway's book King of Heists: The Sensational Bank Robbery of 1878 That Shocked America, reported. Will Staples is writing the script.

Renner and his Combine partner Don Handfield will produce with Teddy Schwarzman of Black Bear Pictures, which optioned the book and plans to finance development and production.

Books & Authors

Awards: St. Francis College Literary Prize

Jonathan Dee Won $50,000 St. Francis College Literary Award, which is aimed at encouraging mid-career authors to continue honing their craft, for his novel The Privileges (Random House).

"So much of being a writer is about disappointment and discouragement. Tonight I feel the exact opposite. I feel nothing but encouraged," said Dee after being honored during the Brooklyn Book Festival last weekend.

Dee's novel bested a shortlist that included Kevin Brockmeier's The Illumination (Pantheon), Joshua Cohen's Witz (Dalkey Archive), Yiyun Li's Gold Boy Emerald Girl (Random House), Marlene van Niekerk's Agaat (Tin House Books) and Brad Watson's Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives (Norton).

Book Brahmin: Kiki Hamilton

Kiki Hamilton's debut, The Faerie Ring (Tor Teen, September 27, 2011), is a YA novel of mystery and adventure set in 1870s London. She lives near Seattle, where it rains only part of the time... (a large part of the time.) You can watch the video for her book here.

On your nightstand now:

The Knowledge of Good and Evil by Glenn Kleier, Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks, Warped by Maurissa Guibord and White Cat by Holly Black. Erm... I'm a little behind in my reading....

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Swing in the Summerhouse by Jane Langton, The Wicked Enchantment by Marg Benary-Isbet, The Lion's Paw by Robb White, all of Lang's Fairy books. You didn't seriously think I'd pick just one, did you?

Your top five authors:

J.K. Rowling, Megan Whalen Turner, Dan Brown, Harlan Coben, Robb White.

Book you've faked reading:

I plead the Fifth.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I loved The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. I thought her characterization of Eugenides was brilliant, and the plot kept you turning the pages right to the surprising ending.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I loved the cover of Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. After seeing that image, I had to read the story behind it.

Book that changed your life:

Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody. I read it as a teenager shortly after it came out in 1968. So powerful and honest, especially for that era when the civil rights movement was happening. It's one of those books I had to track down as an adult, just so I could have it close.

Favorite line from a book:

This is a header quote from Chapter 10 of Only Love Is Real by Brian Weiss, M.D.:

I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell;
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore,
You have been mine before--
How long ago I may not know;
But just when at that swallow's soar
Your neck turned so,
Some veil did fall--I knew it all of yore. --Dante Gabriel Rosetti 

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

Harry Potter. Somewhere, sometime, I'm going to find the time to read all seven, start to finish again, one right after the other and then I will be in reader's paradise.

What is the book you most want to read?

I'm looking forward to reading Stephanie Perkins's next novel: Lola and the Boy Next Door.


Book Review

Review: The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt (W.W. Norton, $26.95 hardcover, 9780393064476, September 26, 2011)

Beautiful handwriting was Poggio Bracciolini's ticket to employment in 15th-century Italy, eventually landing him a position as apostolic scriptor for popes. As Stephen Greenblatt (Will in the World) shows so brilliantly, Poggio did not achieve fame by his hand alone, though; he earned it with his nose for scavenging in the libraries of far-flung monasteries.

Joining a group of book hunters that he met in the papal court, Poggio gained access to monastery libraries that housed thousands of unread books and dug through the shelves in search of copies of tomes written during the glory days of the Roman Empire. During the winter of 1417, in a German monastery, Poggio found a long poem entitled "De rerum natura" ("On the Nature of Things") by someone named Titus Lucretius Carus. He recognized the poem's aesthetic qualities immediately, had a scribe make a copy (books did not leave the monastery premises under any circumstances) and eventually sent the copy to his Florentine friend Niccolò Niccoli.

In his poem, Lucretius had distilled the work of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. "The highest goal of human life is the enhancement of pleasure and the reduction of pain," Lucretius wrote, in addition to noting that the universe was not created for or about humans. After a thousand years in the shadows, the words of Lucretius struck the writers and artists of Renaissance Italy like a thunderbolt. Culture, from the sixth century until the 15th, had been operating under the principle that the pursuit of pain trumped the pursuit of pleasure; this poem challenged that central fact of life along with almost every other element of Christian orthodoxy at the time. Inquisitions and the burning of heretics were the rewards for such challenges then, yet once the poem was again in circulation, there was no going back, no matter what the dangers.

Greenblatt writes with such fluency and facility of the process by which "De rerum natura" reentered the cultural consciousness that we are pushed to consider the alternative: What if Poggio had not found the book in the monastery's library? Greenblatt's tale, with its unspoken implication of how easy it would have been to have lost "De rerum natura" for all time, makes us hyper-aware of our ability now to download any text, ancient or brand-new, in a matter of seconds from the Internet without fear of being drawn and quartered for satisfying our all-too-human intellectual curiosity. --John McFarland

Shelf Talker: Every tale of the preservation of intellectual history should be as rich and satisfying as Stephen Greenblatt's history of the reclamation and acclamation of Lucretius's "De rerum natura" from obscurity.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: What Do Booksellers Love to Read & Handsell?

With all the chatter about personalized algorithmic book recommendations wafting through the digital air, I'm here to offer an organic alternative. Caution: you will have to pay attention, do your own sorting and use your mind. You will have to... read.

Since early August, Hans Weyandt, co-owner of Micawber's Books, St. Paul, Minn., has been on an epic biblio-quest to assemble a kind of reader's holy grail by collecting Top 50 recommendations and/or handselling favorites from some of America's best indie booksellers (Shelf Awareness, September 2, 2011).
From the moment he called this summer and let me know what he was up to, I've been excited about the prospect, and thus far the results are spectacular. Weyandt posted his own list August 31 at Mr. Micawber Enters The Internets and has added 14 others since then. There are more to come.

The range of selections has been impressive. Consider just the first five titles mentioned by Paul Yamazaki of City Lights Books, San Francisco, Calif.:
100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
A Secret Location on the Lower East Side by Steve Clay
Aime Cesaire: The Collected Poetry
Arcades Project by Walter Benjamin
Ark of Bones by Henry Dumas

Across the continent, Toby Cox of Three Lives & Company in New York City started with these:
Wilderness Tips: Stories by Margaret Atwood
Another Country by James Baldwin
The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter
2666 by Roberto Bolano
Mystery Ride by Robert Boswell

Somewhere in the geographic middle, Kelly von Plonski of Subterranean Books, St. Louis, Mo., began with:
Firmin by Sam Savage
Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

If I were still a bookseller, I'd be thrilled to share this wealth with my customers. As a reader, I'm deeply intrigued by the range of selections. Not only have I already added far too many new titles to my infinite library of must-reads, but I've also spent a lot of time conjuring up--or should I say narrowing down--my own Top 50 list.  

In an introductory post last month, Weyandt explained the backstory to his project: "I had a customer ask me for 10 of my Top 100 books. Initially I thought she meant Micawber's all-time bestsellers. When I started plucking books off the shelves she straightened me out, 'No, I mean your personal favorites.' Well then--now we had a crazy fun task at hand. So it got me to thinking how cool it would be to compile similar lists from other indie booksellers."

Weyandt took a little time from this week's Midwest Independent Booksellers Association trade show to share some thoughts on his work-in-progress, which he said "continues to be fun, informative and unpredictable."

When asked what his "big picture" reactions, both personally and professionally, have been, he replied that "the surprises are too many to name. The biggest, for me, is that although the lists are odd and unique in wonderful ways, there is almost always a very common or normal book on each list and it is that that reminds me that all of us (booksellers) are normal readers in the beginning and in the end. General trends are very few. Big picture, both professionally and personally, is the idea that indie booksellers do bring a depth and breadth of knowledge that is important and valuable to communities. These lists, taken individually and collectively, are a strong indication of that." lists have already garnered positive reactions both locally and nationally: "Our customers are loving it," Weyandt observed. "We sell books off the lists. People are reminded of things 'they meant to read.' Book trade people have also been very kind in giving encouragement and asking when I'll be starting lists for the reps and editors and publishing people."

Quite naturally, it is not just Hans Weyandt the bookseller who is being influenced by the project, but Hans Weyandt the reader as well. "I've already read two books I never knew about and liked them both very much," he noted. "I have mental and hand-written to-be-read lists and let's just say that they've increased by dozens. I gave some thought to reading one book from each list. And I still may do that for the original 20. But I have a lot of other piles of 'should' read and want to read."

I'm not giving away any house secrets to reveal that consistently some of the most clicked-through news links at Shelf Awareness are book recommendation lists. We all wonder what we should be aware of... and what we've missed. For readers, book guilt is good.

"A number of people have mentioned this," Weyandt said. "We do seem to love lists--maybe due to the messiness of life or how chaotic it currently is with technology buzzing every which way. A list is nice and neat and makes sense--or if not sense, it points us toward new things in a concrete way. Plus, especially with these book lists, most people can get a sense of whether a given list is their kind of thing. People react to all of them with enthusiasm, but for certain readers a particular list is pure magic."

Do yourself a favor. Add Micawber's Top 50 project to your must-read list.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

Weyandt photo: MPR Photo /Andris Straumanis

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