Shelf Awareness for Friday, August 3, 2012

Algonquin Young Readers: The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill

St. Martin's Press: Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

Atria Books: The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner

Carolrhoda Books (R): Today Is Different by Doua Moua, illustrated by Kim Holt

Tor Teen: Victories Greater Than Death (Unstoppable #1) by Charlie Jane Anders and Tor Teen: Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak (Unstoppable #2) by Charlie Jane Anders

Sourcebooks Landmark: Her Hidden Genius by Marie Benedict

Tordotcom: Seasonal Fears by Seanan McGuire


Partners & Crime Mystery Booksellers Closing

Partners & Crime Mystery Booksellers in New York City will close September 20 after 18 years in business. The decision was announced on the shop's website and Facebook page, offering a thank you to patrons and noting: "We've had a great run and have enjoyed helping a generation of readers find the books they love. We've had a lot of fun, learned a tremendous amount, and enjoyed our time with all of you--customers, authors and publishers."
Jeremiah's Vanishing New York noted that "one of the store's stocked shelves serves as a secret entrance to a back room where the shop hosts monthly performances of 'old-time radio plays.' Says one Yelp reviewer, 'It's like going back in time to 1940's New York City. This store is one of the reasons why I love living in NYC.'

"This can't happen on a Kindle."

Atlantic Monthly Press: Beyond Innocence: The Life Sentence of Darryl Hunt by Phoebe Zerwick

General Retail Sales in July: Expectations Exceeded

General retail sales showed significant gains in July as "low- and mid-priced stores" like Target, Costco, Kohl's and Macy's "helped push sales past analysts' estimates," the New York Times reported. For the month, sales at stores open at least a year rose 4.3%, compared to July 2011, at the 20 retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters. The number was well above expectations of a 1.5% gain.

Chris Donnelly of Accenture called the results a good sign as retailers head into the back-to-school months of August and September: "It's a hard month to see as a bellwether typically, because it's so slow, but when you look at the trend we saw in July and frankly in June, you still see better-than-expected consumer spend. The macro issues facing the U.S. consumer don't give a lot of optimism, and the actual spending consumers are doing, particularly recently, is encouraging."
MarketWatch reported that while July "is the smallest month of retailers' fiscal second quarter (about 30% of the quarter's sales) and mostly a clearance-driven period, the mostly better-than-expected results bode well for back-to-school, the industry's second-biggest selling period after the Christmas holiday."

Ken Perkins of Retail Metrics commented: "We are far more encouraged about [back-to-school] than we were coming out of June. We still think it's going to be very competitive and highly promotional, but the strength in July suggests consumers may follow through."

Ingram Booklove: An Exclusive Rewards Program for Indie Booksellers

North Carolina Book Festival Opens Today

The first High Country Festival of the Book takes place today and tomorrow in Blowing Rock, N.C., and includes a Civil War symposium, a writing workshop, children's events, a teen writers presentation, author signings and book sales. Sponsored by the Friends of the Watauga County Public Library, the festival will Rita Mae Brown, Robert Morgan, Fred Chappell and others.


AuthorBuzz for the Week of 01.17.22

Taiwanese Bookstore Chain Opening Hong Kong Branch

Eslite Bookstore, one of Taiwan's largest book retailers, will open its first overseas branch in Hong Kong Saturday. The Standard reported that the retailer, which designs its shops "as art and mall complexes that provide round-the-clock services," is launching the new 41,000-square-foot, three-story location in Hysan Place, featuring coffee shops, boutiques, art galleries and exhibition areas, as well as more than 230,000 books. Eslite plans to begin with 24-hour service and monitor whether there is a market for it in Hong Kong.

Atheneum Books for Young Readers: Some Questions about Trees by Toni Yuly

E-Reading in the Dark: Onyx Lights Up

Amazon is expected to release a frontlight-equipped Kindle to compete with Barnes & Noble's Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight, but "might be beaten to the punch by a small Chinese e-reader maker," the Digital Reader reported, noting that Onyx posted a video of its latest prototype, which is called "the Onyx Touch at the moment. They've taken their touchscreen equipped e-reader, the Boox i62, and modified it so it has a frontlight."  

Onyx has been selling the i62, which "looks to be heavily influenced by the Nook," since early this spring. While the company hasn't committed to a release date yet, the Digital Reader wrote: "We might even see this device hit the market before a similarly equipped Kindle, but I wouldn't bet on it. Amazon can afford to throw a lot more resources at the problem."

Obituary Note: John Keegan

John Keegan, "an Englishman widely considered to be the pre-eminent military historian of his era and the author of more than 20 books, including the masterwork The Face of Battle," died yesterday, the New York Times reported. He was 78.

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
by Jennifer Ziegler

GLOW: Margaret Ferguson Books: Worser by Jennifer ZieglerSeventh grader Will Orser is exacting and precise with his words, which makes the grammatically incorrect nickname "Worser" especially frustrating. Introverted Worser hides out in a bookstore, where he expands his lexicon and finds new friends. Veteran author Jennifer Ziegler compassionately conveys Will's transformation; her storytelling voice led publisher and editor Margaret Ferguson to acquire the title: "[Will] is a flawed character who comes to understand that many of his perceptions about life and people aren't true and by the end of the book, he is richer for that knowledge." With tenderness and authenticity, Ziegler delivers an emotional gut-punch for language-loving readers. --Kit Ballenger

(Margaret Ferguson Books, $17.99 hardcover, ages 9-12, 9780823449569, March 15, 2022)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported



Image of the Day: 50 by 50

Last week at the Dance New Amsterdam studio space in New York City, Cameron + Co. held a launch party for 50 Main Street: The Face of America by photographer Piero Ribelli. Born in Italy, Ribelli moved to the U.S. 25 years ago and gave himself the goal of visiting all 50 states before he turned 50. That quest led to this book, a collection of 50 portraits and 50 stories of 50 people in 50 towns in each one of the 50 states, all found at the same address: 50 Main Street. Here Ribelli poses with his wife, Rose Austin-Ribelli, who gave birth to their twin boys, Hendrix and Morrison, just two weeks earlier.


Indie Bookstores 'Help Us Find the Others Like Us'

"When I say, 'local bookstore,' odds are good the first thing that comes to mind is not a book you've bought, but a person, a sense of place, even just a vague cozy feeling," wrote Wendy Welch in a Huffington Post piece headlined "The Importance of Local Bookstores."

Welch, whose book The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book will be published by St. Martin's in October, is co-owner of Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Books, Big Stone Gap, Va.

"When people come into our 39,000-volume-strong shop, their breathing changes," she observed. "Their expressions soften, steps slow, eyes stop darting. Hands unclench from cell phones as they mutter, 'Call you later.' And then they just stand there, letting their eyes drift over the shelves while that indefinable bookshop magic does its work.... [I]ndependent bookstores help us find the others like us. Booksellers hear customers' voices in the shop, and hook them up with the voices they will value on the printed page. It's so much more than a sale. It's an affirmation."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Elissa Montanti on CNN's Weekend Early Start

Tomorrow   , author of I'll Stand By You: One Woman's Mission to Heal the Children of the World (Dutton, $25.95, 9780525952954).


Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday: Tabish Khair, author of The Thing about Thugs (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24, 9780547731605).

Movie: Total Recall

Total Recall, based on a short story by Philip K. Dick and its 1990 film adaptation, opens today. Colin Farrell fills Arnold Schwarzenegger's role as Douglas Quaid, a factory worker and inadvertent participant in a Martian rebellion. The film also features Kate Beckinsale, Bill Nighy, Bryan Cranston, Jessica Biel, Ethan Hawke and John Cho.

Books & Authors

Awards: Canadian Authors Association

The Canadian Authors Association announced the winners of its annual literary awards, which honor writers "who maintain literary excellence along with popular appeal," Quillblog reported. This year's winners are:

Canadian history: Nation Maker: Sir John A. MacDonald: His Life, Our Times, Volume Two: 1867–1891 by Richard Gwyn
Fiction: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
Poetry: Sunrise in the Eyes of the Snowman by Goran Simić
Emerging writer: The Patrol: Seven Days in the Life of a Canadian Soldier in Afghanistan by Ryan Flavelle

Book Brahmin: Tiffany Reisz

Tiffany Reisz's books inhabit a sexy shadowy world where romance, erotica and literature meet and do immoral and possibly illegal things to each other. She describes her genre as "literary friction," a term she stole from her main character, who gets in trouble almost as often as the author herself. Reisz's debut novel, The Siren, was published by Mira on July 24, 2012. Reisz describes it as "not your momma's Thorn Birds," and she means it. Reisz lives in Lexington, Ky.

On your nightstand now:

Priests: A Calling in Crisis by Father Andrew Greeley. Why would a BDSM erotica writer have a book about the modern Catholic priesthood on her nightstand? Read The Siren and then you won't have to ask.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Every summer for years, I'd wait for a hot and rainy day, curl up in the air conditioning inside the house and read every single book in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis as thunder and lightning danced outside the walls. Apocalyptic weather seemed the best background music for books that seemed so utterly cosmic to me. They are then and now nearly as sacred to me as the Bible itself.

Your top five authors:

Best genre writer: Anne Rice (don't argue with me on this because you will not win. She did the best erotica and the only original vampire novel since Dracula).
Best Kentucky writer: Robert Penn Warren. Nobody ends chapters like Robert Penn Warren. I can quote chapter endings from All the King's Men from memory. "Little Jackie made it stick." And so did Robert Penn Warren.
Best women's fiction writer (a term I loathe): Haven Kimmel. The Solace of Leaving Early changed me (for the better I hope although the jury's still out.)
Best nonfiction author I'm not dating: Anne Lamott. When my faith needs a balm or my writing a kick in the pants, I can always turn to this dreadlocked prophetess for the inspiration I need. We Christians Who Say the F-Word need to start our own denomination.
Best nonfiction author I am dating: Andrew Shaffer, whose book Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love introduced me to his intelligence and sharp wit long before we met face to gorgeous face. His book might be about losing at love but he wins in my book. (And his book Fifty Shames of Earl Grey, a parody of you-know-what, is just out.)

Book you've faked reading:

In high school, I was supposed to read Crime and Punishment. "Supposed to" is the operative phrase in the previous sentence.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Keep by Jennifer Egan. I put my money where my mouth is with this beautiful book about the power of imagination and the freedom that writing brings. I've bought and given away at least four copies of the book. I'll keep doing it until the entire world has read this book.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Last Girl by Kitty Thomas. This cover is almost as weirdly wonderful as Kitty's stories.

Book that changed your life:

This honor goes to a trilogy: The Sleeping Beauty Chronicles by Anne Rice. At age 16, I started reading these books after four straight years of reading sweet Regency romances and light fantasy novels. Nothing I've read or written has been the same since.

Favorite line from a book:

I learned from Lee Smith how a good writer can turn an entire story on a dime. You'll think you're reading one kind of book and then one line will reveal you've crossed the border into foreign territory. The book Saving Grace seems to be about a little girl in the south traveling with her devout parents--her quietly spiritual mother and her preacher father. A cozy beginning, sweet and bucolic... until you get to this line at the end of a scene when the little girl Grace is trying to fall asleep one night, and you discover Daddy isn't the simple country preacher you thought he was: "Sometimes I'd hear the serpents rattling in their boxes under our beds, but I was used to the sound, and finally it would put me to sleep."

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

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle. Every writer has that one book, that first book, that one special story that blew their mind open as a kid that elevated reading from a pastime to something almost spiritual or magical. The story of the tesseract and of misfit children using love to fight cosmic evil was the one that did it for me. I would write middle grade fiction if I could, but a book for children requires a kind of wisdom I don't yet possess.

Fave book on writing:

I tell all aspiring writers to read Stephen King's On Writing. Don't bother reading a book about the craft of writing by some Ph.D. you've never heard of. If you want to learn how to write a bestseller, read the book on writing by the man who's done it--50 freaking times.


Book Review

Review: The Way the World Works: Essays

The Way the World Works: Essays by Nicholson Baker (Simon & Schuster, $25 hardcover, 9781416572473, August 7, 2012)

As one would expect from a writer whose works include everything from a novel consisting of an extended phone sex encounter (Vox) to a controversial examination of the origins of the Second World War (Human Smoke), Nicholson Baker's second collection of essays, lectures and journalism, The Way the World Works, richly deserves the label eclectic.

Few essayists today write with such enthusiasm about such a diversity of subjects. Among these 34 pieces are a healthy assortment of personal essays, including a stimulating piece on his practice of copying favorite literary passages into his commonplace book, a tribute to summer's simple pleasures and an account of a Sunday at the dump in his Maine home town.

Baker also revisits the theme of Double Fold, his 2002 polemic against libraries' "assault on paper." The book purge overseen in the 1990s by Kenneth Dowlin, the former director of the San Francisco Public Library, is the subject of a savage attack in "Truckin' for the Future." But Baker is equally quick to lavish praise on the Duke University Libraries in a speech delivered at the opening of a multimillion-dollar facility dedicated exclusively to the storage of books.

Despite his aggressive defense of the printed word, Baker is anything but a technophobe. Among other pieces, he delivers an enthusiastic tribute to the "incredible thing" called Wikipedia. He's somewhat less enamored of the Kindle for which he paid $379 in 2009, as he describes in a piece that offers a succinct description of the creation of Vizplex, the e-ink responsible for the device's display. In a 2009 review, though, he admitted he's "fond of" Google, and he extends a warm tribute to Steve Jobs, "the king of the world of making good things flow better."

In the lengthy piece entitled "Why I'm a Pacifist," Baker advances an earnest, if naïve, argument that the lives of millions of Jews would have been spared had the Allies accepted the urgings of groups like the War Resisters League and negotiated an armistice with Hitler. It's possible to appreciate his diagnosis that "war never works" without accepting that prescription.

Recalling in "The Nod" a (literally) passing encounter with John Updike, Baker writes of how much he wanted to tell the author "how happy it made me to know that he was out there working." That's the way you're likely to feel after spending a few hours in the company of Nicholson Baker. --Harvey Freedenberg

Shelf Talker: In this eclectic collection of essays, novelist Nicholson Baker explores everything from his passion for paper to the roots of his pacifist beliefs.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: McLean & Eakin Turns 20... & Looks Ahead

Congratulations to McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, Mich., which is celebrating its 20th anniversary tonight with an open house.

While it's a tradition and a pleasure for us at Shelf Awareness to showcase indies when they mark a significant birthday, this week I wanted to do something a little bit different.

McLean & Eakin's co-owner Matt Norcross and I have had a number of conversations over the years about the book trade, so even as we honor the legacy of a great indie bookshop--opened in 1992 by his mother, Julie--I couldn't resist asking him to scan the uncharted, maybe even perilous, waters ahead.

"I truly believe that if indies play their cards right they should expect sales growth for the foreseeable future, but we must be careful to not take this growth for granted," he observed. "Each new face in our stores, each new customer purchase should be treated like a gift. It's a new opportunity to connect with a customer and create a lasting relationship and if that opportunity is squandered, then a growth in sales will only be temporary. It seems like a given, but all stores should also pay very close attention to their cash flow; we need to find ways to improve our margins. We need to challenge our partners in publishing to be brave and try new models. Token measures will only delay our demise. The time to be bold is now. For example, I think ideas like manufacturer retail pricing and e-book windowing are two game-changing ideas that are talked about a lot, but have yet to be put to the test."

Of course, you don't survive for 20 years in this business without making some prescient decisions along the way to sustain that momentum. Norcross said the bookstore's 10% for schools program, which was started by his mother, "has been a very powerful addition to the store's outreach. The program allows customers to designate an area school or nonprofit to donate 10% of their purchase. Every six months, we issue gift cards to the organizations for the total amount. This has turned area educators into some of our best promoters because they know if their student's parents shop with us they'll also reap the benefits. To date the program has raised nearly $116,000 dollars."

He also cited the recent addition of 99-cent shipping on all orders as "a big boost for Web sales, but it is also helping sales in the store. All of our staff are trained to handle Direct To Home orders through Ingram and they love having the ability to tell customers we can get any book they want to their house for 99 cents. It's been great to see them embrace this as a way to rescue a sale that might otherwise go to Amazon. They feel empowered."

What's next on the agenda for McLean & Eakin? "Ramping up our book fairs and strengthening our ties with schools throughout our region. Even when these fairs don't result in a huge amount of sales, they get our name in front of people in our area. It increases our reach without creating another new rent or mortgage, which is wonderful."

Noting the often-cited statistic that "indie customers buy one in four books from our stores, if we're lucky," Norcross observed: "That's in part because of steep discounts, but also because we haven't continued to provide our customer with the content they want. I believe we should stop focusing on e-books as the only digital content worth pursuing. We need to revisit the bookstore of the 80s and 90s and see what content they would sell--books, audiobooks, music, movies and magazines. Every one of these mediums has a digital form and we should be pursuing the ability to sell all of them, not just e-books. The more we can provide, the more we'll become a destination for our customers. I want to get more than one out of four, and I think we can."

He is also convinced that the natural evolution of digital media is from DRM to DRM-free: "It happened with music, it's happening with digital audiobooks to a great degree, and it has begun to happen with e-books. I wouldn't be surprised to see the day we can buy DRM-free movies and TV shows. Without DRM, retailers and the customers will have a better experience and more books, music and movies will be sold because of it. I hope to see the day in our business when we can just get back to selling the stuff we love no matter the format. We'll all be better for it."

As far as the long-term picture is concerned, Norcross believes "there is about to be a new chapter written in the story of indies and e-books and I'm very excited about it. The American Booksellers Association has been working very hard to find a solution that will not only be a good fit for booksellers, but also for our customers. I believe they have found it. Individual store success will vary in large part according to how much energy they are willing to dedicate to it. Things like websites and e-books are not always what we as booksellers want to focus our energies on, but the fact of the matter is that our customers have this interest and a wise business person will listen to what his customers are asking for, and then find a way to provide it."--Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

AuthorBuzz: Morgan James Publishing: Racing with Aloha: An Inspiring Journey from Humble Barefoot Maui Boy to Champion in the Water by Fred Haywood
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