Shelf Awareness for Thursday, December 1, 2011


Random House Graphic: Bug Boys by Laura Knetzger

Tor Books: Deal with the Devil: A Mercenary Librarians Novel by Kit Rocha

Wednesday Books: The Mall by Megan McCafferty

Houghton Mifflin: The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey

News

B&N Second Quarter: Digital Sales Up, Net Loss Halved

In the second quarter ended October 29, sales at Barnes & Noble dipped 0.6%, to $1.89 billion, and the net loss was $6.6 million, slightly more than half the loss of $12.6 million in the same quarter last year.

Sales in B&N bricks-and-mortar stores fell 1%, to $918 million, and sales at stores open at least a year slipped 0.6%. Comparable store sales improved each month through the quarter. The company noted that "physical book sales declined, offset by increases in Nook products and were positively affected by the liquidation of the remaining Borders stores."

B&N.com sales jumped 17%, to $206 million, largely because of higher sales of e-books and Nook e-readers.

B&N College sales fell 4%, to $768 million, mainly because of "a shift from selling new and used textbooks to lower priced, higher margin textbook rentals." Sales at stores open at least a year were down 0.4%.

The company said that sales over the Thanksgiving Day weekend at stores open at least a year rose 10.9%. CEO William Lynch commented: "Based on early sales and traffic results in stores we are encouraged by our prospects for this upcoming holiday."

B&N said that although it has seen and expects sales to rise above expectations, "it plans to invest more heavily in customer acquisition activities to fuel Nook digital growth. These investments primarily include promotional activity and advertising for Nook products, as well as technology costs related to developing other opportunities."


GLOW: Other Press: Serenade for Nadia by Zülfü Livaneli, translated by Brendan Freely


With Move, Sam Weller's to Become Weller Book Works

When Sam Weller's Bookstore, Salt Lake City, Utah, moves at the end of the year to a new site in Trolley Square, the iconic store, founded in 1929, will be renamed Weller Book Works and feature a new logo and look. Originally called the Zion Bookstore, the store has had several names and five locations.

Tony Weller, the third generation of Wellers to own the store, explained the changes: "Sam Weller was a gregarious, energetic bookman whose reputation was known across the country. He was a powerful man and a dedicated father who had a giant influence in my life. But his energy hasn't been strongly felt in the store since he lost his eyesight in 1997. Sam passed away in 2009. For all our love and respect for the bookstore we have been on Main Street, we felt that this store designed and built by Catherine [Tony's wife and manager of retail operations], our team, and me wouldn't be, and simply couldn't be called Sam's anymore."

Catherine Weller added: "We settled on 'Works' rather than store because it is an active word and we're active booksellers. Works has good connotations. This works. Books work (without batteries and for hundreds of years). It works for me. We work with you. We like the industrial association and think it fits nicely into the old trolley garages into which our new store is being built."

The new location has about 10,000 square feet of space, about the same as the main level and mezzanine of the current store, which also has a large basement. Referring to the retail vacancies, longtime construction projects and inadequate parking around the current store, Tony Weller said, "One might say we have traded our basement for free parking and retail neighbors."

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Weller Book Works will have "a coffee shop and eatery." The paper described Trolley Square as a "venerable, recently remade shopping center. The [store's] site was formerly occupied by theaters--and before that was a garage for the city's street car fleet." The store is next to "a spacious atrium, which can be used for large gatherings when authors speak or for book signings." The space itself is "spacious and filled with light," the Tribune said.

The current store closes on Christmas Eve, and the new store opens January 6. The Wellers are seeking volunteers to help them move.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: A Tender Thing by Emily Neuberger


Amazon, eBay Trade Congressional Jabs

In what might have been billed an online retailer heavyweight championship bout, Amazon and eBay "had it out in a public brawl" yesterday during a congressional hearing on collecting sales tax for Internet purchases, CNN reported, noting that representatives of the two companies "swapped barbs and accusations of everything from being misleading to outright profiteering."

When eBay executive Tod Cohen explained the company's opposition to a tougher sales tax law, contending it would hurt small merchants using its platform, Amazon's Paul Misener, v-p of global public policy, dismissed eBay's small business credentials, saying: "Let's recall, eBay has facilities in 20 states around the country, they have fulfillment centers in eight states around the country. It is not an isolated business, as it would suggest. They also, of course, are a multi-billion-dollar company."

Cohen argued that if "eBay was a retailer, of course, where it had a physical presence, then we'd have an obligation. EBay is not a retailer. EBay is a marketplace."

But Misener accused eBay of "taking advantage of Texas hospitality" by accepting a $3 million state economic development grant to build a facility in Austin while not collecting sales tax there, CNN wrote.

"That's Mr. Bezos from Amazon's position from two years ago," Cohen countered.

"Well, things change, things happen," said Rep. Hank Johnson (D.-Ga.) in the role of referee.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Deep by Alma Katsu


Jerusalem Bookseller Agrees to 'Modesty Standards'

The owners of a religious bookstore in Jerusalem's "ultra-Orthodox" Mea She'arim neighborhood have decided to accede to the demands of an extremist group called Sikrikim, which had accused the store of "promoting immodesty." The Jerusalem Post reported that since Ohr Hachaim/Manny's opened in March 2010, "the group has smashed its windows more than a dozen times, glued its locks shut, thrown tar and fish oil at the store and dumped bags of human excrement inside. The owners were also personally threatened multiple times."

Although police arrested a central figure in the attacks in September and the shop increased protective measures, a large demonstration outside the store last weekend proved to be the turning point for the owners and they agreed to a compromise.

Marlene Samuels, one of the store's managers, said the bookshop will "put up a large sign requesting that all customers dress modestly. A mashgiach, who checks the store's inventory to make sure there are no controversial books, will go over the books in the coming week and require that some books be removed from the shelves, though they will not be permitted to remove any English books," the Post wrote.

"In the beginning, the owners thought it would stop, that it was temporary, but it didn't stop, it got worse and worse," said Samuels. "[When] the police started to make arrests and became more active, it quieted them down, but it didn't stop them, and it's never going to end 100%."

 


Breakwater Books Stays the Course

The week before last John Mutter of Shelf Awareness spent two days with New England Independent Booksellers Association executive director Steve Fischer visiting bookstores in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. It was a great little working vacation! Here's the second part of a multi-part series reporting on what we saw.


In a time when many bookstores are trying in a variety of ways to reinvent themselves, Breakwater Books, Guilford, Conn., is, for the most part, sticking with the tried and true, a policy followed by Marion Young and Marion Harold, who founded the store 40 years ago this coming February, and now by owner Maureen Corcoran.

"For the most part, we're about books," Corcoran said. There are only a few sidelines in the store--cards and "the occasional pen," as Corcoran put it. "We reluctantly expanded cards because they sell so well." Breakwater Books has no café. In fact, Corcoran laughed, "I don't even want coffee in the store." She considered selling magazines but doesn't for space reasons.

As for the digital revolution, "We're taking a stand," Corcoran said. "We don't sell e-books. Never has anyone come in asking for them. And many people say they're glad we're purists."

The result is a pleasant book experience: the store has solid, appealing wooden shelving, a strong inventory, many nooks and crannies, a discrete, entertaining children's area, a few chairs scattered about for reading.

Still, Breakwater has not been immune to the changes in the business. Last January "everyone got reading devices and sales went off a cliff through April," Corcoran said. The store reacted quickly, cutting hours and inventory. Because the rest of the staff is part-time, Breakwater has a lot of flexibility. "We run a tight ship," Corcoran said.

But sales improved in the summer, and Breakwater Books is "off to a good start for Christmas," Corcoran said two weeks ago. There has been a drop in hardcover fiction, and mysteries have taken "a little bit of a ding" from e-reading devices, Corcoran said. But hardcover fiction sales are strong and history does particularly well. Guilford is a somewhat academic community with strong ties to Yale University. ("The Trilateral account is one of our largest," Corcoran said.) The mix is changing a bit as the town becomes more of a New York bedroom community and less agrarian and academic. That has meant, for example, that sales in many how-to categories have dropped off. "They don't do crafts, carpentry or gardening," Corcoran said. But she noted that coffee table books on gardening do well.

Likewise, cookbooks have become less popular among customers in their 20s, who are "getting recipes from phones and devices." The store has small science fiction and graphic novel sections.

Travel is doing well, particularly guides from such major imprints as Fodor's, Frommer's, DK, Rough Guides and Lonely Planet, but "the lower-end guides" are shrinking as the young backpackers they're aimed at increasingly go online for travel information.

Children's books sales have "always been strong."

Among the store's bestsellers are Learning to Die in Miami by Carlos Eire, who lives in Guilford, A Treasury of Guilford Places by Joel Eliot Helander and Hometown Guilford, a book of poetry by Gordy Whiteman, which is sold only in Breakwater Books. The store takes local books on consignment.

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In late September, Breakwater Books became the set for a scene in the movie Great Hope Springs, directed by David Frankel and starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell. The movie makers rented out the store for two days but wound up wrapping the scene in one day. In the scene, Streep bought several books at the store from one of the staff members.

Oddly, the crew bought boxes from Barnes & Noble, rearranged some of the hardcover sections, putting some books faceout and taking out red books and paperbacks, aiming for "colors that don't shout," Corcoran said. The crew also redid the logo in the window and raised the awning, but decided to keep the name of the store for the movie, which is set in Maine but was mostly filmed in nearby Stonington, Conn.

In December next year, look for the store on the silver screen!


Notes

Image of the Day: Shaq Cuts Loose in Santa Monica

On Tuesday night, Shaquille O'Neal signed copies of his new book, Shaq Uncut: My Story (Grand Central), for hundreds of fans at Barnes & Noble in Santa Monica, Calif.

 


Return of the Scottish Paper Sculptor

The Scottish library and museum paper sculptor has returned!

The anonymous paper sculptor, who has left exquisite paper creations in several libraries and museums in Scotland (Shelf Awareness, September 20, 2011), recently left three more items in the Scottish Poetry Library, NPR reported. The items are a cap that looks like a wren, gloves and a note saying that these were the last of 10 sculptures that the sculptor is leaving, and that she plans to remain anonymous. The sculptures, she said, are thank-you gestures "in support of special places."



Dictionary.com's Word of the Year: 'Tergiversate'

"Tergiversate" ("to change repeatedly one's attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject, etc.; equivocate") was named Dictionary.com's 2011 word of the year, the Huffington Post reported, observing: "So we could say that, in 2011, the stock market tergiversated; or that the public tergiversated about Occupy Wall Street."

Jay Schwartz, Dictionary.com's head of content said, "We're taking a stand on this choice. We think that it's immensely rewarding to find existing words that capture a precise experience, and this year, tumult has been the norm rather than the exception. There are contested public spaces around the world, where people are demonstrating in one direction or another. Opinions and circumstances have been oscillating so much."

This year's verbal shortlist included "occupy," "austerity," "jobs" (both the noun and the person), "zugzwang" and "insidious."
 


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Mark Kelly on Imus in the Morning

This morning on Imus in the Morning: Mark Kelly, co-author of Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope (Scribner, $26.99, 9781451661064).

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Saturday on Fox & Friends: Peter Schweizer, author of Throw Them All Out (Houghton Mifflin, $26, 9780547573144).

 


Movie Shorts: Deathly Hallows 2 Deleted Scene; John Carter

The Hollywood Reporter featured a deleted scene from Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. The Goblins of Gringotts "shows the characters played by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint plotting to break into Bellatrix Lestrange's vault in the Gringotts Wizarding Bank." The clip is a bonus feature on the movie's Blu-ray disc.

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In response to a new teaser trailer for John Carter, Wired magazine observed that it "looks like director Andrew Stanton (Wall-E) is on the right track with his sci-fi epic based on Burroughs's Barsoom series--all huge battles and cool gear and Carter (played by Friday Night Lights's Taylor Kitsch) giving warrior-inspiring speeches."
 


TV: HBO's Faulkner Project; The Firm Trailers

Producer David Milch (NYPD Blue; Deadwood) has signed a new production deal with HBO "that will allow him to produce television shows and movies from the literary works of William Faulkner," the New York Times reported.

"I'm not, probably, the first person they would have thought of approaching them," he said, referring to his protracted discussions with the William Faulkner Literary Estate. "But a number of conversations were fruitful and here we are."

The Times noted that under the terms of their agreement, Milch and Lee Caplin, the estate's executor, will work together to select material. "My hope is to steer the project, as much as to be its source," said Milch, adding that "conversations were ongoing" with writers and artists who would handle the adaptations.

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NBC released three teaser trailers for its new series based on John Grisham's The Firm, starring Josh Lucas. Entertainment Weekly noted that the project "is more like a sequel than an adaptation, picking up years after Mitch McDeere broke free of working for an evil mob-owned law firm. But darn it, they just won't leave him alone."
 


This Weekend on Book TV: David Brooks in Depth

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this week from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, December 3

9:30 a.m. At an event hosted by the Strand bookstore in New York City, Nomi Prins talks about her historical novel Black Tuesday (CreateSpace, $14.99, 9781463557669). (Re-airs Sunday at 1:30 a.m.)

1:30 p.m. Eliot Cohen, author of Conquered Into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles Along the Great Warpath That Made the American Way of War (Free Press, $30, 9780743249904), examines the conflicts fought in the region between Albany and Montreal since the 1600s. (Re-airs Sunday at 9 a.m. and Monday at 6 a.m.)

2:45 p.m. Frances Moore Lappe, author of EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want (Nation Books, $26, 9781568586830), argues that people should not be pessimistic about solving the ecological problems facing the planet. (Re-airs Sunday at 7:45 p.m.)

7 p.m. Former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm presents her book A Governor's Story: The Fight for Jobs and America's Economic Future (PublicAffairs, $27.99, 9781586489977). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

8:30 p.m. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer talks about her book, Scorpions for Breakfast: My Fight Against Special Interests, Liberal Media, and Cynical Politicos to Secure America's Border (Broadside Books, $25.99, 9780062106391). (Re-airs Sunday at 7 p.m.)

9:15 p.m. Fred Wilcox discusses his book Scorched Earth: Legacies of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam (Seven Stories Press, $23.95, 9781609801380) with Noam Chomsky, who wrote the introduction. (Re-airs Sunday at 5:15 p.m.)

10 p.m. After Words. Toby Harnden interviews Max Hastings, whose latest volume on World War II is Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945 (Knopf, $35, 9780307273598). (Re-airs Sunday at 6 p.m. & 9 p.m., and Monday at 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. At an event hosted by Busboys & Poets, Washington, D.C., Robert P. Moses, one of the editors of Quality Education as a Constitutional Right: Creating a Grassroots Movement to Transform Public Schools (Beacon Press, $16, 9780807032824), speaks about the issue. (Re-airs Sunday at 3 p.m.)

Sunday, December 4

12:15 a.m. At an event hosted by Carmichael's Bookstore, Louisville, Ky., Charles Flood presents Grant's Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant's Heroic Last Year (Da Capo Press, $27.50, 9780306820281). (Re-airs Sunday at 4:15 p.m.)

12 p.m. In Depth. Columnist and political commentator David Brooks, author most recently of The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement (Random House, $27, 9781400067602), joins Book TV for a live interview. Viewers can participate in the discussion by calling in during the program or submitting questions to booktv@c-span.org or via Twitter (@BookTV). (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m.)
 



Books & Authors

New York Times's 10 Best Books of 2011

The New York Times has released the "10 best books of 2011":

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (Little, Brown)
11/22/63 by Stephen King (Scribner)
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (Knopf/Vintage Contemporaries)
Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson (Ecco)
The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht (Random House)
Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens (Twelve)
The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son by Ian Brown (St. Martin's)
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable (Viking)
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War by Amanda Foreman (Random House)


Book Review

Review: Smut: Stories

Smut: Stories by Alan Bennett (Picador, $14 trade paper, 9781250003164, January 3, 2012)

Forty years ago in London's West End, the farce No Sex Please, We're British premiered. No concept could be more alien to the perspective of playwright (The History Boys) and actor Alan Bennett, who here gives us a pair of spritely novellas about the perils and sometimes ironic consequences of sexual desire.

The protagonist of "The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson" is a 55-year-old woman "beached on the shores of widowhood after a marriage that had been, she supposed, like many others... happy to begin with, then satisfactory and finally dull." She supplements her income from renting out a room in her house with work as a "Simulated Patient," hired to dramatize the symptoms of illnesses to sharpen the diagnostic skills of fledgling medical students.

But Jane Donaldson's life takes a decidedly unusual turn when her two young lodgers offer to allow her to observe their lovemaking in lieu of their overdue rent payments. Uncomfortable as she is at first with the offer, when the young couple departs she realizes the experience has "left her with a curiosity, a prurience even, that associating it with freedom, release and a new life, she was not now anxious to suppress." And it enables her to deal deftly with the persistent advances of Dr. Ballyntyne, whose acerbic comments on the performance of the medical students under his tutelage are comic highlights of this gentle story.

One almost needs a scorecard to keep track of the erotic permutations of the characters in "The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes." Graham Forbes, a "handsome man," decides to marry Betty Greene, a woman "not nearly as good looking as himself and even slightly older." With an impressive economy of language and incident, Bennett reveals that good-looking Graham may not be the man his mother, Muriel--not shy about expressing her dismay at her son's choice of a marriage partner--believes him to be. Meanwhile, the elder Mr. Forbes's dissatisfaction in his marriage and his handyman work at the newlyweds' home leads to a deepening of his relationship with his daughter-in-law that might charitably be described as unconventional. A male prostitute enters into this ménage à quatre, and the betrayals and acts of duplicity multiply with dizzying speed and to startling and ultimately hilarious effect.

"Sex: the pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable," Lord Chesterfield, the 18th-century British diplomat, said. All that may be true, but there's a gift to writing about it in the lighthearted yet confiding way Alan Bennett does in these tales, delivering great literary pleasure in their telling. --Harvey Freedenberg

Shelf Talker: In two novellas, Alan Bennett offers a customarily witty look at the British perspective on sex.


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