Shelf Awareness for Friday, November 2, 2012


Little Brown and Company: Little Weirds by Jenny Slate

Other Press: Metropolitan Stories by Christine Coulson

Rick Riordan Presents: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1) by Kwame Mbalia

imon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Becoming Rbg: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Journey to Justice by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Whitney Gardner

Workman Publishing: Atlas Obscura, 2nd Edition: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders (Second Edition, Revised) by Joshua Foer, Ella Morton, Dylan Thuras

Magination Press: Snitchy Witch by Frank J. Sileo, illustrated by MacKenzie Haley

Sourcebooks Explore: Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children by Kath Shackleton, illustrated by Zane Wittingham

Editors' Note

Sandy and Shelf Awareness

While Shelf Awareness's business office is in Seattle, Wash., far from Hurricane Sandy, most of our editors live on the East Coast and were in the path of Sandy. On Monday, as the storm bore down, we tried to plan on how to continue publishing but were constrained because we didn't know how each of us would be affected. Our worst-case scenario: we would have an issue set up Monday night, ready to go the next morning, and if all the editors lost power and it didn't appear by 9 a.m., newsletter and web producer Amber Elbon in the Seattle office would send it. As for the following issues, perhaps a few of us would jump in a car and drive until we found light and power.

But luckily, we fared well in the storm crapshoot. Managing editor Robin Lenz, who lives in South Orange, N.J., has had power continuously even though most of her town lost power--and still doesn't have it. (Friends have been charging devices and taking showers at her place.) Contributing editor Robert Gray, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was in the part of town that didn't lose power. Children's editor Jennifer M. Brown lives on relative high ground on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and was likewise spared. However, editor-in-chief John Mutter, who lives in Montclair, N.J., lost power at 11 p.m. Monday night--and is told it should be restored in seven to 10 days! (Luckily he has hot water, a gas stove for cooking and a small office with power for charging many devices, but he's been sidelined somewhat trying to get used to living with 18th-century technology. "My e-quill needs sharpening!")

Robert and Robin worked beyond the call of duty putting out the issues this week, making them read and look as though nothing unusual were happening. They were also responsible for our excellent coverage of the storm's effect on the business and booksellers. Many thanks!

Our Seattle colleagues sent transcontinental support and were ready to do whatever they could to help. Many thanks to them, too!

We also were fortunate in that Xtenit, which mails our newsletters and powers our website, operated without a hiccup in service. Xtenit's Brian McFadden explained: "In 2002, we switched data centers primarily because of security and disaster-related issues. During the 2003 blackout and subsequent storms, there have been no problems. We have built out our datacenter redundancy since then, should an even more significant disaster occur. Ironically many of the hosting providers having problems now are located in the same data centers we rejected in our 2002 analysis. I heard stories about data centers that had generators on their roofs, but did not plan for getting fuel to the roof."

For all of you who at home or at work or both have lost power, suffered damages, even in some cases lost homes, we send you our best wishes and hope for a quick recovery--in all ways.


Starscape Books: Freeing Finch by Ginny Rorby


News

General Retail Sales in October: Gains, Then Stormy Finish

General retail sales rose as shoppers "continued to spend steadily at retailers in October, from discounters all the way to the high end, suggesting consumer confidence heading into the holiday season," the New York Times reported. For the month, sales at stores open at least a year increased 2.7% at the 18 retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters. A shift by the Rite Aid drugstore chain toward cheaper generic drugs affected the overall figure, which "would have been 4.7%, above analysts' expectations of a 4.3% increase," the Times wrote.

"You're seeing solid single-digit numbers not just one month but consistently for the past few months,” said Madison Riley of Kurt Salmon. "It reflects a steadily improving economy and therefore, steadily improving consumer confidence."

The Times also noted "all retailers' eyes were on the impact of Hurricane Sandy. Most retailers' fiscal October ended on Saturday, so while a few stock-up trips made it into the October results, most of those, along with poststorm spending and the impact of store closures, were not included in October results."
 


GLOW: Farrar, Straus and Giroux BFYR: The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski


AAP Sales for July: Down 1.4%

In July, total net book sales slipped 1.4%, to $2.123 billion, representing sales of 1,184 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers. For the year to date, net book sales have risen 2.9%, to $7.915 billion.

Category

Sales

% Change

Children's/YA e-books

 $17.7 million

  89.9%

Univ. press e-books

 $900,000

  80.6%

Adult paperbacks

 $145.4 million

  49.7%

Adult e-books

 $120.1 million

  47.4%

Univ. paperbacks

 $6.7 million

  21.3%

Downloaded audio

 $10.2 million

  15.7%

Religious e-books

 $4.9 million

   9.2%

Univ. hardcovers

 $6.4 million

   8.5%

 

 

 

Religious hardcovers

 $17 million

  -1.1%

Audiobooks

 $7.6 million

  -4.6%

Adult hardcovers

 $84.4 million

 -14.1%

Professional publishing

 $87.9 million

 -14.9%

Children's/YA hardcovers

 $36.9 million

 -17.8%

Religious paperbacks

 $12.1 million

 -18.9%

Adult mass market

 $35.7 million

 -20.5%

Children's/YA paperbacks

 $35.9 million

 -23%

 


Blue Rider Press:  One Day: The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America by Gene Weingarten


Post-Sandy Book Trade Update

Indie bookstores along the East Coast continued to check in with post-storm updates. On the devastated Jersey Shore, Rita Maggio, owner of BookTowne in Manasquan, N.J., reported that although "the inlet in Manasquan is torn up," Main Street, where the store is, is inland from the beach and was undamaged. Still, because of toppled trees, it's difficult to get around, and the store will be closed until power comes back on.

Closer to New York City, Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, N.J., has had no power since the storm hit but was open for a few hours Wednesday and from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. yesterday. Most of the town has no power, and the local utility is estimating it will take 7-10 days to restore it. Still, in a nicely cheerful Facebook post, the store encouraged people to visit: "Plenty of light from the windows and camping lanterns. Come by and schmooze a bit. You know you're dying to get out of the house and it's time to replenish your stack of books!"

The L.A. Times reported on WORDS in Maplewood, N.J., where numerous downed trees are still blocking roads and hampering power restoration. Store owner Jonah Zimiles said the store, located downtown, is powered up and open. "The lights are on, neighbors are stopping by to charge up their phones, and readers are browsing. Some may even leave with a book."

In an article headlined "Delaware in a back to business mode after Hurricane Sandy," WHYY.com reported that Gemma Buckley, owner of Wilmington's Ninth Street Book Shop, "returned to her store Tuesday to check for damage and prepare to reopen."

In New York City, Posman Books posted on Facebook that its Grand Central Terminal store "is up and open for business. Hooray! Hope to have good news soon about Chelsea Market and Rockefeller's triumphant returns."

Harleysville Books, Harleysville, Pa., announced on its website: "Our power is back on and we're open for business.  If your power is still out, come in to warm your hands, have some complimentary coffee and charge your phone. If your power is on and you just need to get yourself and the kids out of the house, come in to have fun too!"

"Sandy spared our little house of books! Updated events calendar is online, some events were cancelled but this Friday and Saturday's events are still ON!" La Casa Azul Bookstore in New York City posted on its Facebook page.

---

The New York Public Library reported it had "sustained virtually no structural damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy; any minor damage was repaired very quickly by the Library's Facilities team. As a result, 62 branches (including seven that were not open on Nov. 1) will be open on November 2."

---

With headquarters below the blackout line in Manhattan, Barnes & Noble headquarters are closed. The big B&N warehouse in Monroe Township, N.J., has been closed several days, too.

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The American Booksellers Association lost power for a time at its headquarters in Tarrytown, N.Y., and its website has been down since the storm hit. This week it was unable to compile its National Indie Bestseller List or its regional independent bestseller lists, but hopes to be back online next week.

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At a Red Cross shelter located in Chairville Elementary School, Medford, N.J., Kathy Dempsey set up a "Little Storm-Shelter Library" She wrote: "When the storm came in, the 20-plus shelter residents spent lots of time eating, talking, reading, and playing games. The little library saw plenty of use, and received many positive comments from volunteers."

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Simon & Schuster was hoping that its warehouse in Riverside, N.J., would be fully operational by the end of the day yesterday. Customers were advised to place orders through PubEasy, PubNet, corporate EDI and fax. The customer service number, 800-223-2336, has been limited.

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Open Road Integrated Media, which is based in New York's SoHo neighborhood and still without power, did an #OpenRoadRollCall on Twitter, asking the staff to post twitpics of their temporary work stations. Marketing manager Iris Blasi told us: "By far the best was our director of children's acquisitions all dressed up for work in his trademark bow tie--only, with a nod to working from home, sans pants. I think it's doing a lot to make us all a little less lonely during what's been a difficult week for the whole city."
 


 Peachtree Publishing Company: Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws That Affect Us Today (Revised) by Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinso


B&N Jumps Track on D.C.'s Union Station Closure

A day after Barnes & Noble announced the imminent closing of its Union Station bookstore in Washington, D.C., company spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating said B&N will remain at the location after all, thanks to a new deal.

Keating told the Washington Post that "the developer reached out to us to offer us a one-year extension on our lease, which we are going to sign. Therefore, the store will not be closing at the end of the year.... I am told the developer called and extended the offer shortly after your story posted."
 


imon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Max & Ruby and Twin Trouble (Max and Ruby Adventure) BY Rosemary Wells


Notes

Image of the Day: Indie Bookshop's World Champion Service

Independent bookstores are always there when you need them, even during the San Francisco Giants World Series victory parade this week. Bonnie Stuppin, co-owner of Alexander Book Company offered this report from the scene:  

"When I was coming in to work, I crossed Market Street at 7 a.m. and was a bit surprised to see people solidly lined up, several bodies deep, along the barricades that were already in place for the eleven a.m. parade. Now if there is one thing I've learned from all the years of being around a parade, it is that people like to arrive early to secure a good spot. It's often cold, and they get a warming beverage from any number of nearby coffee shops. The owner of Sammy's Liquor down the block from me told me this afternoon that he had people waiting at his door AT 7:30 A.M. who were ready to start their day with some of his products!! People kept their kids out from school so that they could see and experience the parade in person.

"And do you know what all that means? Yes, all those thousands of people need to pee at some point. Which is where I come in, and decided to put a couple of signs up in our restrooms for the day. I will say that we had NO complaints, and a lot of people thanked us profusely for letting them use the facilities. A few people even looked around the store. That said, we did about half a normal day's customers and sales, so clearly even our regular customers stayed away."
 


Albuquerque Booksellers 'Fight the Good Fight'

Independent bookstore owners in Albuquerque, N.M., "say the demand for traditional books and support for bookstores are far from lost," Alibi Weekly reported in its feature on some of the city's indies, including Page One, Book Stop, Bookworks, Bird Song Used Books and Downtown Books.

Page One filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February 2011, but buyer Craig Chrissinger called the move "a wake-up call" as the store scaled down, continuing to offer new books while focusing more on used and rare items. "What is working the best is used books because a lot of stuff has not come out electronically yet."

"We live in a pretty disposable society," said Jerry Lane, owner of used bookstore Book Stop. "I'm probably at the tail end of that last generation that thinks opening a house full of these things is a good deal."

Wyatt Wegrzyn, co-owner of Bookworks, observed: "The only reason we're around is because we have a supportive community. We have customers that keep coming back in. I'm so grateful."



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Nate Silver on CBS Sunday Morning

Tomorrow on CNBC's Wall Street Journal Report: Chrystia Freeland, author of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else (Penguin Press, $27.95, 9781594204098).

---

Tomorrow on MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes: Darrell Hammond, author of God, If You're Not Up There, I'm F*cked: Tales of Stand-Up, Saturday Night Live, and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem (Harper, $25.99, 9780062064554).

---

Tomorrow on Sedge Thomson's West Coast Live: Thaisa Frank, author of Enchantment: New and Selected Stories (Counterpoint, $16.95, 9781582438108).

---

Sunday on CBS Sunday Morning: Nate Silver, author of The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don't (Penguin Press, $27.95, 9781594204111).

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Sunday on Meet the Press: Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, $21, 9780743270755).

 


TV: The Carrie Diaries Trailer

The CW network has released a trailer for The Carrie Diaries, based on Candace Bushnell's prequel series to her Sex and the City books, hit HBO show and films, Indiewire reported. The Carrie Diaries will premiere in January.
 


Books & Authors

Awards: FT-Goldman Sachs Winner; Hill Sports Book Shortlist

Steve Coll has won the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award for Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power (Penguin Press), which the judges called "a hard-hitting investigation of the notoriously secretive ExxonMobil Corporation, beginning with the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989 and closing with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010." The prize carries an award of £30,000 (about $48,600).

The runners up, each of whom receives £10,000 ($16,200), are:

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson (Crown Business)
The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk-taking, Gut Feelings and the Biology of Boom and Bust
by John Coates (Penguin Press)
Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography
by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster)
What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets
by Michael J. Sandel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence
by William L. Silber (Bloomsbury Press)

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Finalists for the 2012 William Hill Sports Book of the Year have been named. The winner, which will be announced November 26 in London at Waterstones Piccadilly bookstore, receives a £24,000 (US$38,710) cash prize, as well as a £2,000 William Hill bet, a specially-commissioned hand-bound copy of their book and a day at the races. This year's shortlisted titles are:
 
That Near-Death Thing: Inside the TT--the World's Most Dangerous Race by Rick Broadbent
Running with the Kenyans: Discovering The Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth by Adharanand Finn
The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France--Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle
Be Careful What You Wish For by Simon Jordan
Fibber in the Heat by Miles Jupp
A Life Without Limits: A World Champion's Journey by Chrissie Wellington, with Michael Aylwin
Shot and a Ghost: A Year in the Brutal World of Professional Squash by James Willstrop with Rod Gilmour
 


Book Brahmin: Adele Griffin

Two-time National Book Award finalist Adele Griffin (Where I Want to Be; Sons of Liberty) once again explores the dynamics of a family with her tale of two sisters who were once close and are now estranged, All You Never Wanted (Knopf, ages 14-up). She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her husband and young daughter.

On your nightstand now:

I have so much to-do reading by day that I won't multi-task the nightstand--a sacred no-rush zone. On it now: Spit Back a Boy by Iain Haley Pollock, and I am enjoying my time with it.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Bridge to Terebithia. In fifth grade, I cut class(room) and hid in the library to finish that book. A singular act of nerd rebellion.

Your top five authors:

My OCD demands I make this a tidy top six, divided into pairs.

Roald Dahl and Robert Cormier--because they made me want to write for kids.
Thomas Hardy and George Eliot--because I returned to them so often.
Meg Wolitzer and Jennifer Egan--because I read them with such intensity and joy.

Book you've faked reading:

Moby Dick. I've faked my way through many conversations about it, too. I have lots of completely unfounded, ignorant opinions of that book.

Book you're an evangelist for:

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. I'm not wild for dystopian, but this world was a harrowing vision. I was fully harrowed.

Book you've bought for the cover:

None. But I will buy for the jacket flap. In my first job as an editorial assistant, I wrote jacket flaps and I've never lost my romantic spark for them.

Book that changed your life:

Nothing to Be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes. I hold onto passages and meditations, it's a powerful sermon for me.

Favorite line from a book:

"Poets can't, don't, shouldn't drive. (British poets can't or don't drive. American poets drive, but shouldn't.)" --Martin Amis, Experience: A Memoir

This kills me every time. It's a great smartass joke, but I think it also works as an insight into the challenge of reconciling a vivid interior world with a "normal" public life.

Or maybe I just love it because I don't drive.

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

It's a tie: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. That book gave me everything I need--enormous narrative; complicated, haunting characters; the drop-everything imperative to finish. It's a feast. And When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead: it's a perfect jigsaw puzzle of time-travel. I read it in such delight and I reread it with such respect.

Okay, here's my question to myself: Speaking of time-travel, what's happening right now in children's publishing that interests you?

I think we're in exciting times in terms of the ever-expanding definition of the word "book" past its narrow physical construct. Whether it's through e-devices, or animated books, or books targeted to, for example, dyslexic children who see and process so differently--needs are being met in all kinds of inventive ways. Lots of options. That, to me, is very cool.

 


Book Review

Review: Prosperous Friends

Prosperous Friends by Christine Schutt (Grove Press, $24 hardcover, 9780802120380, December 2012)

Prosperous Friends is a beautifully painted picture of a very ugly couple.

The ugliness isn't physical. In fact, Ned and Isabel Bourne are both attractive; he is handsome, like a "sleek boy in an ad for cologne," and she is lovely, expressive, slim. They are young, they are writers, they are of some indeterminate means and they travel the world. But the Bournes' outwardly glamorous life is rotted--beautifully, elegantly, descriptively rotted--by their yawning emotional emptiness and destructive disregard for one another.

Ned and Isabel, as well as their prosperous friends of the title, are not likable characters. They are selfish, weak and duplicitous, and it's difficult to work up any sympathy for the victims of their many betrayals (usually each other).

If this doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement for Prosperous Friends, consider this: the progressively nasty implosion of the Bournes' marriage is presented to us by Christine Schutt (All Souls), an author known for the strange poetry and intimacy of her writing. In her hands, what could have been a frankly tiresome novel about self-involved, self-loathing, undeservedly affluent people and the ways they hurt each other daily becomes a compelling, almost voyeuristic, study of two complicated relationships.

The second, older couple is Clive and Dinah Harris, who grant the Bournes use of their empty house in coastal Maine (The Bridge House: "1858, yellow clapboard, the yellow almost all worn away. Old trees. Old windows, wiggly glass. No bridge figured into it."). Clive, of "high color and white hair," is a celebrated, arrogant painter with whom Isabel has had a strange and unsatisfying affair; Dinah is a poet who, in all her underappreciated graciousness, may be the book's only appealing character. The four of them, even the ones who are married to each other (especially the ones who are married to each other), seem to lack connection, but Clive and Dinah's marriage appears to work--while Ned and Isabel are just doomed.

Written in a dreamy, fragmented style highlighted by frequent shifts in perspective, this is not a book to read if you seek sympathetic characters or a satisfying, conventional plot. But if you want to get lost in writing rich with ringing, sensual descriptions--and observe superficially successful lives you won't envy--drop in on Prosperous Friends. --Hannah Calkins

Shelf Talker: Marriage and sex, art and ambition, fidelity and betrayal--these are a sticky mix in Schutt's beautifully rendered, discordantly poetic portrayal of a young couple's collapse.



Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Vote Early, Read Often

"Unfortunately, I have my father's bowel, which is subject to conservative rages & liberal terror."--Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins

Somewhere today, this is about to happen: A customer will enter a bookshop and immediately complain about the selection of high-octane, politically-charged books there, accusing the first available bookseller (cashiers being the most convenient and likely victims) of using the store's inventory and display space to espouse views that run counter to, well, that particular customer's.

Or, a customer will enter a bookshop (maybe one located in a swing state, maybe not) and do some hasty, furtive rearranging, so a book by or about a notable Democrat or Republican, a liberal or conservative, ends up prominently showcased in the fiction section.

Nothing new. These little invasions have been occurring every day nationwide since we all hit the unpaved road to the White House once again. I don't even need empirical research to back up the claim. I can rely confidently upon anecdotal evidence gathered from 15 years as a frontline bookseller, spanning five presidential campaigns. It's not hard to do the math, given the frequency with which I witnessed such all-consuming bad consumer behavior and the number of bookstores still operating in the U.S.

But as the 2012 campaign winds down--while, against all known laws of physics, simultaneously heating up--and Election Day looms, one subtle aspect of the ceremonial browbeating and breast-beating may be overlooked.

After the returns are finally in, the returns begin.

That is not a Zen koan. As booksellers (particularly buyers) know all too well, next week many of the books that have been battling one another for votes (aka readers) during the past year will be as out of season as those Halloween children's picture books that are being packed up right now, and as out of office as the losing candidates.

Rant lit books are the first to go. They're the ones that weren't simply published, but hurled ferociously across our ever-expanding political divide in a high stakes game of biblio-dodgeball. Whether face-out or spine-out, on shelves or displays, they've been harassing innocent customers for months with angry titles that scream: "Let me tell you about those unscrupulous idiots on the other side!"

Not all books about the election fell under the category of rant lit, of course, but as the campaign stakes increased, there was inevitably a comparable spike in publication of titles featuring variations on a theme of How Barack Obama Is Ruining the U.S.A. or How the Conservative Right Wing Is Ruining the U.S.A. Subtitles occasionally added a small measure of context.

Customers responded. Some bought a few of the screamers. Some complained about the noise. Others complained too much of that noise was coming from just one side of the political spectrum and demanded equal shelving. Whether deserved or not, booksellers, like elected officials, were often accused of bookish gerrymandering.

As with every narrative, however, "The End" arrives eventually. An odd thing will happen next week, right after Election Day, when all those furious books shut up. At first it may seem ominous, like the kind of quiet you have in a war movie, when one guy in the foxhole says, "What's that?" and the other guy says, "I don't hear nothing" and the first guy says, "That's what I mean."

It's not ominous. It’s a truce. You wait for another barrage, another livid reader, but this time the quiet persists. The screaming titles are still there, but they've lost their voices due to agenda-driven laryngitis. Their time is up. Some may seem to be pinching their lips together in frustration, holding their breath, waiting for the next opportunity to rant. Others, many others, will be quiet simply because they have nothing more to say. They're exhausted and irrelevant. They've won or they've lost. Their pages, for the moment, are sealed.

Within weeks, of course, they'll be replaced by more timely, equally furious titles and a post-election book-lashing will start the whole battle again.

But here's my Election Day recommendation. Call it a prescription: Next Tuesday, vote for the candidate of your choice, then find a quiet corner, an irresistible rant-less read and enjoy the few precious moments of quiet while they last.--Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now).
 


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