Shelf Awareness for Monday, April 17, 2006

Sourcebooks Landmark: Long After We Are Gone by Terah Shelton Harris

Delacorte Press: Last One to Die by Cynthia Murphy

Margaret Ferguson Books: Not a Smiley Guy by Polly Horvath, Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Indiana University Press: The Grim Reader: A Pharmacist's Guide to Putting Your Characters in Peril by Miffie Seideman

Hell's Hundred: Blood Like Mine by Stuart Neville

Spiegel & Grau: Tiananmen Square by Lai Wen

Tor Books: The Daughters' War (Blacktongue) by Christopher Buehlman


Notes: Spark Dies; Chains Reappear in Biloxi; Red Canoe

Muriel Spark, the Scottish-born writer who wrote more than 20 novels, several biographies and a memoir and lived in Italy that last 30 years, died on Friday at age 88, according to news reports.

Spark, who combined comic observation with an often cold sensibility, was best known for her 1960 novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Perennial Modern Classics, $12.95, 0060931736), which became a hit play in London and New York and then a 1969 movie starring Maggie Smith, who won a best actress Oscar for the role.

Her most recent title was The Finishing School (Anchor, $12.95, 1400077397).


A Borders Express is replacing a Waldenbooks in the Edgewater Mall in Biloxi, Miss.--one of many stores lost because of Hurricane Katrina--the Biloxi Sun Herald reported. The store should open April 23.

District manager Joe Ewing told the paper that pre-Katrina bestsellers at the Biloxi Walden were "lots of fiction, science fiction, mysteries and romance novels" and added that manga was "very big."

The store is "the first of the bookstore chains to reopen in Harrison County," the paper said. A Barnes & Noble is scheduled to open May 24 in the Crossroads Shopping Center, and a Books-A-Million should reopen in about six weeks.


An often-overlooked aspect of the debate over textbook pricing is that elementary and high school students and parents in some states pay for textbooks. The Chicago Tribune examines the issue in some Illinois school districts, where parents are protesting markups on titles.

The paper noted that "Illinois collects more textbook revenue from parents than any other state, about $74 million in 2002-03, according to the most recent federal data. Twenty-eight states collect no textbook fees."


The Baltimore Sun sings the praises of Alina Watkins, who leads Wednesday morning singalongs at Red Canoe Children's Books & Coffee House, which opened last year.

Now Wednesdays are the store's busiest day, and "as word got out that the Red Canoe's cafe was the sort of place where no one would look askance if toddlers threw raisins and moms breast-fed, some of the Wednesday regulars started coming other days to eat lunch or buy books."

The paper says that Watkins's music career has done well, too: she receives offers "for paying gigs at birthday parties and summer camp singalongs" and has recorded a CD called Live at the Red Canoe.


Further in the "odd" request department that resulted in several letters last week, Gloria Veltman of So Many Books, So Little Time, a used bookstore in Traverse City, Mich., said that only last Friday "a customer asked me to baby sit her three-month old for an hour!" Veltman added that she once dog sat for a customer while she went to the shoe store nextdoor.

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Roswell Johnson Saves the World! (Roswell Johnson #1) by Chris Colfer

Q&A 1: Paco Underhill: Books as 'Religion'

In a Q&A with Bookselling This Week, Paco Underhill, the retail guru who will speak at the ABA's Day of Education on Thursday, May 18, just before BEA officially opens, was his usual provocative, challenging self. Among his comments:

  • "In terms of the survival of a bookseller, you have to remember that you're selling not books, but that you're selling to booklovers. Therefore, accessorizing your store [with gift items] is a smart way of building margin and equity with your customers. There's a sense I get when I talk with some booksellers that by selling a branded chocolate bar or a literary-focused potholder somehow you are whoring yourself, and I think that is just downright foolish."
  • "Why not commingle used and new product? If Amazon is doing it, why isn't the local bookstore? If booksellers are hungry for margin and publishers are only giving whatever margin they'll give, why not put new and used books all in the same place?"
  • "Books, for many of us, aren't about reading, they aren't about knowledge, they are a religion. I like having books in every corner of my house. A bookstore is the one place where I give myself permission to buy whatever I want."

Harper: Sandwich by Catherine Newman

Q&A 2: Steve Riggio: 'Something Unique'

Saturday's New York Times offered a Q&A with Barnes & Noble CEO Stephen Riggio, who, among other things, said:

  • "It's a good time to be in the book business. The heaviest book buyers are over 40 years old and that's the fastest-growing segment of the population. . . . And there's a post-9/11 baby boomlet that is good for sales of children's books."
  • "[E-books and podcasts are] a very, very tiny market. As the writer Paul Auster told me recently, the book is a perfect technology. If it were invented today, it would be revolutionary."
  • "Books are relatively inexpensive--a good value when compared to other forms of entertainment. And they have value and people collect them."
  • "Over the last two years, there has hardly been, in the adult hardcover category, a major blockbuster title. . . . Bestsellers represent less than 5% of our sales."
  • "We see our Web site not just as an advertising vehicle, but as an online catalog. There was a recent study that found 47% of people who researched the product online then bought the product offline."
  • "We've created something unique in American retail: a store where you can enjoy spending leisure time. When was the last time you hung out at an office supply store? In hundreds of communities across America we have become the community cultural center."

Spiegel & Grau: Tiananmen Square by Lai Wen

In Memoriam: Sam Plummer

Chris Kerr of Parson Weems sends this appreciation:

Publishing lost a friend last week. Sam Plummer (Samuel C. Plummer, IV), long-time textbook editor and writer, died of leukemia on April 7. His wife, Vera Plummer, is the widely-admired, long-tenured manager of trade sales at Oxford University Press. Sam was known for his wit, devotion to classical music and opera and commitment to public service. He was an active member of the Croton on Hudson (N.Y.) Caring Committee and a former school board member. Among his friends, he is remembered for the constancy of his devotion to the Chicago Cubs. A Yankees fan Web site, Bronx Banter, noted that Sam was "straight-outta-the Midwest" even though he had lived in New York more than 30 years, and that he was also a "classic Yankee-hater" but that "it wasn't personal."
A memorial card prepared by his family quotes an apt poem by Alexander Pope:

But where's the man, who counsel can bestow,
Still pleas'd to teach, yet not proud to know?
Unbias'd, or by favour or by spite;
Not dully prepossess'd nor blindly right;
Though learn'd, well-bred; and though well bred and sincere;
Modestly bold, and humanly severe?
Who to a friend his faults can freely show,
And gladly praise the merit of a foe?
Blest with a taste exact, yet unconfin'd;
A knowledge both of books and human kind;
Gen'rous converse; a soul exempt from pride;
And love to praise, with reason on his side?

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jane Fonda So Far

This morning the Early Show wakes up with Mark Hyman, M.D., author of Ultrametabolism: Awaken the Fat-Burning DNA Hidden in Your Body: The Simple Plan for Weight Loss (Scribner, $25, 0743272552).


Tonight on the Charlie Rose Show, guest host Barbara Walters talks with Jane Fonda, whose My Life So Far (Random House, $16.95, 0812975766) is out in paperback.


Tonight on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Jim Cramer, author of Jim Cramer's Real Money: Sane Investing in an Insane World (S&S, $26, 0743224892).

Books & Authors

Touring by Special Arrangement: Hal Niedzviecki

How special is this promotion?

In his new book, Hello, I'm Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity (City Lights, $15.95, 0872864537), Hal Niedzviecki posits that the current culture celebrates individuality and specialness to the point where rebellion and individuality have become "the most conformist of behaviors." Niedzviecki is the founder and publisher of Broken Pencil: The Magazine of Zine Culture and the Independent Arts and author of We Want Some Too: Underground Desire and the Reinvention of Mass Culture, among other titles.

To highlight the special title, City Lights and Niedzviecki are offering a contest with a special prize. On the contest Web site,, participants make the case for why they are "the most special person ever." Text should not be more than 200 special words; pictures are optional. The prize is a virtual lunch with Niedzviecki and his publisher at City Lights, Elaine Katzenberger, during which the winner can pitch a book idea. Other prizes include a subscription to Broken Pencil; a copy of Smell It, an earlier book by Niedzviecki; and a Broken Pencil spoken word CD. There will also be a "people's choice" winner, voted on by the public.

Niedzviecki has embarked, too, on a special tour for the book called The Hello I'm Special Road Show. People who attend will be encouraged to prove in five minutes or less "live and in the flesh" why they might be the most special person ever. Some contestants will be "celebrity" contestants; a changing panel will judge. Prizes include City Lights titles, Broken Pencil subscriptions, copies of Hello, I'm Special.

It won't be easy to win these special contests. On his blog, the author describes the contests this way: they're "sardonic in its tone and meant to expose the fact that there is almost nothing we can do anymore to stand out from the crowd and show why we are really and truly special."

But in his report on his tour so far, which has included appearances at the Brown Bookstore in Providence, R.I., and the Harvard Coop in Cambridge, Mass., Niedzviecki gives a clue as to what might be special. At the Coop, according to the author, "an enthusiastic group took in the Hello I'm Special Road Show which culminated in awarding the grand prize to a young woman who presented us with a list of magazines she subscribes to. With the help of Damon of Damon and Naomi and comedian Eugene Mirman, we decided that anyone who subscribes to magazines on the topics of rendering, butchering and manure deserves specialness. Are you a butcher? Euguene asked. No, our winner said, I'm just curious."

Special appearances are scheduled for upstate New York, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Ann Arbor, Mich., and, of course, San Francisco, home of City Lights.

Dude, Check Out the Fratire

Yesterday's New York Times drank up the male version of chick lit: titles "that combine a fraternity house-style celebration of masculinity with a mocking attitude toward social convention, traditional male roles and aspirations of power and authority," a category it calls fratire.

"All of this is a reaction against over-socialization, or maybe an over-feminization of the culture," Kensington editor Jeremie Ruby-Strauss, who has published some fratire titles, told the paper. "I think all of these books are about men searching for a model other than what they're being told to do, something more rebellious, less cautious and less concerned with external approval."

Pioneering titles include I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max, The Modern Drunkard by Frank Kelly Rich, Real Ultimate Power: The Official Ninja Book by Robert Hamburger and the upcoming The Alphabet of Manliness by Maddox.

The books share certain qualities. Often their authors use pseudonyms. Many of the books and authors got their start online and through blogs, and were initially rejected by most mainstream publishers. Many of the titles have sold at least 30,000 copies. And last but not least the books revel in drinking, sex, drugs and slacking off. And their audience is, well, untraditional among booklovers. For example, Tucker Max told the paper that his readership is composed of "dudes who can't spell 'dude' right."

Book Sense: May We Recommend

From last week's Book Sense bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Book Sense Picks:


Catbird by Stephen March (Permanent Press, $26, 1579621260). "This story of a musician struggling in the face of a failed marriage and his father's suicide is a wonderfully unsettling story about loss and redemption."--Pam White, Skyland Books, West Jefferson, N.C.

Patriots Act: Voices of Dissent and the Risk of Speaking Out: An Oral History
by Bill Katovsky (Lyons Press, $22.95, 1592288162). "This is an eclectic collection of interviews with Americans who have spoken out, often at great personal risk, about issues important to them and to all of us. Included are well known public figures like Daniel Ellsberg, Max Cleland, and Mort Sahl. Equally inspiring are the stories of peace activist Kathy Kelly and California National Guardsman Lorenzo Dominquez. This book will make a great graduation gift."--Mary Gleysteen, Eagle Harbor Book Company, Bainbridge Island, Wash.


Me & Emma by Elizabeth Flock (Mira, $12.95, 0778322858). "After their father is murdered, eight-year-old Carrie and six-year-old Emma are left to fend for themselves with an abusive stepfather and a mother who just doesn't care. A heart-wrenching look at a broken family and the children struggling to survive, this novel shows a writing talent that's both skillful and original."--Rachel Cunningham, The Avid Reader, Davis, Calif.

For Children to Age 8

If You Decide to Go to the Moon by Faith McNulty, illustrated by Steven Kellogg (Scholastic, $16.99, 0590483595). "McNulty and Kellogg invite readers to use their imagination to go on the trip of a lifetime, traveling in a rocket, exploring the dusty, gray surface of the moon, and returning to the abundant color and variety of life on earth. Kellogg's illustrations are extraordinary."--Ellen Davis, Dragonwings Bookstore, Waupaca, Wis.

John Denver's Take Me Home, Country Roads: Score and CD Included, adapted and illustrated by Christopher Canyon (Dawn Publications, $19.95, 1584690720). "An ageless illustration of a timeless message! Christopher Canyon brings you home to family reunions, classic characters (especially the autos), and priceless scenery. The quilt-style watercolors are rich with detail, as is John Denver's original message."--Terry Hutchison, Y.E.S.S. the Book Hutch, Durango, Colo.

[Many thanks to Book Sense and the ABA!]

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