Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 15, 2013


Penguin Press: How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency by Akiko Busch

Celadon Books: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Anthony Bourdain/Ecco: Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison by Jason Rezaian

Grove Press: Solitary by Albert Woodfox

Editors' Note

News

Valentine's Gift: Justice Department OKs Penguin Random House

The Department of Justice has approved the proposed merger of Random House and Penguin, which was announced last October. Among other authorities reviewing the merger are the European Commission and the Canadian Competition Bureau. The publishers' parent companies, Bertelsmann and Pearson, respectively, expect that they will receive necessary approvals for the merger in the second half of the year.

Bertelsmann chairman and CEO Thomas Rabe commented: "This positive first decision by one of the antitrust authorities is an important milestone on the path to uniting two of the world's leading publishing companies into a truly global publishing group. It will enable investments worldwide in new digital publishing models, in new distribution paths, products and services and in the major growth markets. Penguin Random House points the way to the international future of the book."

Under the proposed merger, Bertelsmann will own 53% of Penguin Random, and Pearson will own 47%. The merged company will include all of Random House and Penguin Group's publishing units in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa, as well as Penguin's operations in China and Random House's publishers in Spain and Latin America. Bertelsmann's German publishing group, Verlagsgruppe Random House, is not included in the merger.


GLOW: Henry Holt & Company: Trust Exercise by Susan Choi


Tools of Change: Publishing Optimists

"Yes, bookstores are closing," American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher conceded during his Thursday morning presentation at the Tools of Change digital publishing conference, "and they will continue to close. But the real story is that new stores are opening and existing store sales are better than they were before." And though Teicher stressed his belief that physical books will continue to be the dominant component of the indie bookstore economy, "being able to say yes to our customers when they want to order e-books is a huge strategic asset," and he expects that digital book sales through indies will continue to grow.

Teicher was particularly enthusiastic about the recently launched partnership between participating ABA stores and Kobo, which he said has led to "thousands and thousands" of new Kobo accounts--as well as a distinct profile in the types of e-books indie customers are ordering as opposed to the wider Kobo customer base. And though "our major online competitor [Amazon.com] has lots of built-in advantages," he said--including the Department of Justice's imposition of "a wrongheaded solution where there was in fact no problem"--he remains confident that "there isn't yet any online equivalent to the experience of browsing and discovery in a physical bricks-and-mortar bookstore."

That point was subtly reinforced during a Wednesday presentation by Goodreads CEO Otis Chandler, sharing data from a recent survey of Goodreads members. Although recommendations from friends remain the most frequent way people learn about new books (and Goodreads reviews compete very closely with "the media" as another means of discovery), bookstores are still playing a prominent role, especially when it comes to trade paperbacks. The Goodreads survey also had some insights into e-book usage: 37% of those surveyed who own smart phones use them to read e-books, as do 86% of tablet owners (and for 32%, the tablet was the only device on which such reading took place). People are also less passive e-book consumers than some observers may have assumed; 73% claim to "shop around" with different vendors looking for the best price, and many are reading on two or more different platforms. iPad owners, for example, are likely to buy and read e-books via the Kindle or Nook apps as well as through the iBookstore.

Underscoring the current industry obsession with "discoverability," Chandler pointed out that when they're done with a title, 83% of those surveyed look for other books by that author, while 75% conduct a wider search for similar books.

Talking about literary economies: Kevin Smokler, Stephanie Anderson, Kassia Krozser, Rachel Fershleiser and Dan Blank

The discoverability problem also came up during a Tuesday session on "local literary economies," with Stephanie Anderson, the head of reader's advisory for the public library in Darien, Conn., observing that "we keep getting these half-formed technologies that have a lot of promise--and then never get any better." Tumblr's Rachel Fershleiser concurred: "A lot of people in tech suck at talking to people in the book world and asking if they'd ever use this thing."

Fershleiser also warned against getting caught up in the numbers of online audience building: "Ten thousand users is not a community. Ten million users is not a community"; a community, she explained, is distinct from a user base in that its membership will actually talk among themselves about a product or a book without prompting by the developer or publisher.

Events programming, the panelists agreed, had a vital role in any local literary community. As We Grow Media consultant Dan Blank said, however, "too often, we do events around the idea that 'I need to sell my book,' " so it's useful to come up with other "hooks" around which to create an event. (Fershleiser shared some of her prior experience as an events director at Manhattan's Housing Works Bookstore.) Booksquare's Kassia Krozser stressed the need to schedule events around customers' availability, citing her own occasional frustration as a Los Angeles commuter who found it next to impossible to get back to Pasadena by 7 p.m. for author events at Vroman's.

The dominant mood at any TOC conference is always one of barely constrained optimism, and Tim O'Reilly's Wednesday morning keynote address set the tone. "Fear of the future is abating," he proclaimed, and the role of TOC's attendees was to figure out "how to make the right futures happen." To that end, he spoke approvingly of YA author John Green's success in building an online community so robust it could sell out Carnegie Hall in just a few hours, and singled out Green's blurring of the line between "publishing and making stuff on the Internet." Closing presentations by Mark Waid of Thrillbent Comics and Brain Pickings' Maria Popova might be seen as underscoring that point--and, to some extent, ratified O'Reilly's belief that producing things that "matter" is more important than making money from them. As Waid said after demonstrating a digital comics platform with an amazingly fluid transitional style impossible on paper, "All I really want to do is move the football another 30 yards down the field." --Ron Hogan


New Press: Thick and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom


Dawn Davis Joining Atria, Will Head New Imprint

Effective April 1, Dawn Davis, publisher of HarperCollins's Amistad imprint, is joining Simon & Schuster's Atria Publishing Group, where she will be v-p and publisher of a new imprint that has yet to be named.

The new imprint will publish literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, journalism, memoirs and pop culture. Atria president and publisher Judith Curr commented: "Dawn Davis has impeccable credentials, great taste, and a discerning eye that enables her to discover unexpected books and unknown authors that go on to receive the highest praise and find wide audiences."

Davis joined HarperCollins 12 years ago as editorial director of Amistad and executive editor of HarperCollins. Before that, she held editorial positions at Vintage Books and the New Press.


Rare Bird Books, a Vireo Book: The Crown Lord by William Sirls


BookExpo America Names Additional Speakers

Chelsea Handler, Diana Gabaldon, Wally Lamb and Octavia Spencer have been added to the author breakfasts lineup for this year's BookExpo America, joining previously announced speakers, Bookselling This Week reported.

Handler (whose new book is as yet untitled) will serve as emcee for Thursday's Book & Author Breakfast featuring Lamb (We Are Water), Doris Kearns Goodwin and an author to be determined.

On Friday, Spencer (Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit) will emcee the Children's Book & Author Breakfast, featuring Mary Pope Osborne, Rick Riordan and Veronica Roth.

Gabaldon (Written in My Own Heart's Blood) joins Saturday's Adult Book & Author Breakfast, which includes Chris Matthews as emcee, Helen Fielding and John Lewis.


World Book Night U.S.: 12 Kick-Off Events Planned

Planning for World Book Night U.S. on April 23 continues to speed up:

  • Giver applications for this year closed two weeks ahead of last year's deadline with all targets met for an ideal number of qualified givers in a broad range of locations and community environments. Some 6,200 towns and cities will be represented this year, up from 5,800 last year.
  • The 500,000 special WBN 2013 paperbacks are coming off press ahead of schedule.
  • Giver acceptances are on schedule to go out by e-mail in late February; bookstores and libraries will be notified of their givers in late March.
  • Host bookstore and library sign-up is completed, and there will again be more than 2,000 WBN host locations this year. Some 250 more libraries signed up this year than last year, thanks to help from the ALA.
  • The WBN book-and-author social media campaign that kicked off last fall will continue year-round. The current phase features WBN pick theme discussions, which will be followed this spring by giver anecdotes about sharing and community and this summer by book recipient feedback.
  • Plans are set for 12 World Book Night kick-off events around the country on the evening of Monday, April 22, featuring WBN authors. One of these events stars Ann Patchett and James Patterson, who will appear together at Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn. A map of all the events will be released shortly.


Commenting on the multiple April 22 kick-off events, World Book Night U.S. executive director Carl Lennertz said: "We've all been envious of the U.K.'s Trafalgar Square pre-WBN shindig a few years back. I've always felt that cool as that was--and Jamie Byng and Julia Kingsford pulled off a miracle with that event--WBN in these rebellious states could not be New York-centric. It had to be coast-to-coast. The human 'Read Books' under the Arch pulled together by the St. Louis Indie Alliance was pretty friggin' beautiful, so this year, we'll try and match it all with simultaneous events in a dozen places across America. Along with a few surprises in the works, and with pre-WBN receptions at more than 2,200 stores and libraries the week of April 15, I think we'll have a pretty great show of book love that would please Shakespeare, Cervantes--and Admiral Nelson."


Obituary Notes: Ronald Dworkin; Alan Sharp

Ronald Dworkin, a legal philosopher, public intellectual and writer who was also "a mainstay of the New York Review of Books, contributing articles to it for decades," died yesterday, the New York Times reported. He was 81.

---

Alan Sharp, who began his writing career as a novelist before becoming a screenwriter "whose brand of dark, lyrical and densely plotted work, including the screenplay for Arthur Penn's Night Moves, made him a critically admired if largely unknown figure in Hollywood," died last Friday, the New York Times reported. He was 79.


Notes

Image of the Day: Valentine's Day S.E.C.R.E.T.

In a Valentine's Day promotion of the new erotic novel S.E.C.R.E.T. by L. Marie Adeline, Broadway employees and 10 male models hit the streets of New York City yesterday, passing out postcards about the novel and the S.E.C.R.E.T. New Orleans Girls Weekend Sweepstakes. At Port Authority: (from l.) one of the models; associate marketing manager Jessica Prudhomme; editorial assistant Sarah Murphy; model; marketing assistant Danielle Crabtree; marketing assistant Lauren Velasquez; and publicity assistant Mary Coyne.


Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance: 'Help Longfellow Books'

As was noted earlier this week, Longfellow Books, Portland, Maine, suffered severe water damage during the blizzard that hit the Northeast last weekend, and many have asked how they can help the indie recover. The Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance has put together a list of things people can do, including a cash mob scheduled for March 2, under the banner: "Ready to LOVE Longfellow Books?"


For Sale: Authors on Vinyl

Greg Gatenby, the founding artistic director of Toronto's International Festival of Authors, has another claim to book world fame as owner of the world's largest collection of authors on vinyl. The National Post reported that Gatenby is selling his more than 1,700 spoken-word LPs, which have "never been appraised; record collectors don't know literature, while rare book dealers don't know much about records." The minimum bid on eBay is $10,000, but the collection can be purchased immediately for $80,000.

His obsession began decades ago in New York with the purchase of a record featuring Colette reading her own work. "I didn't know that there was such a thing." he said. "I started to go to record stores, which I'd never gone into before." The rest is vinyl history, as his collection evolved to include "almost every major writer and literary figure of the 20th century."

The National Post noted that among the rare treasures are "Tennessee Williams reading from The Glass Menagerie, with a cover by Andy Warhol; Bertolt Brecht's testimony before the Committee on Un-American Activity and Maya Angelou billed as 'Miss Calypso.' Many have never been opened, most are in mint condition. 'They didn't get played over like the Beatles,' says Gatenby."



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Michael Hainey on NPR's Weekend Edition

Tomorrow on NPR's Weekend Edition: Michael Hainey, author of After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story (Scribner, $26, 9781451676563).

---

Tomorrow on NPR's All Things Considered: Napoleon Chagnon, author of Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes--the Yanomamo and the Anthropologists (Simon & Schuster, $32.50, 9780684855103).

---

Tomorrow on CNN Weekend: Robert H. Lustig, author of Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease (Hudson Street, $25.95, 9781594631009). He is also on Current on Monday.

---

Tomorrow on PRI's Studio 360: Julia Rothman, author of The Where, the Why, and the How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science (Chronicle Books, $24.95, 9781452108223).

---

Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition: Tanis Rideout, author of Above All Things (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, $26.95, 9780399160585).

---

Monday on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show: Becky Aikman, author of Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives (Crown, $26, 9780307590435).

---

Monday on Chelsea Lately: Hoda Kotb, author of Ten Years Later: Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives (Simon & Schuster, $25, 9781451656039).


TV: Reamde

Chris Weitz will write and direct a TV series adaptation of Neal Stephenson's novel Reamde and co-executive produce the project with his brother Paul for Fox TV Studios. Deadline.com reported that the brothers were nominated for an Oscar for About A Boy, which they co-wrote and co-directed. Chris also produced and directed A Better Life, wrote and directed Golden Compass and directed The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Paul wrote, directed and produced Being Flynn and In Good Company, and directed and produced the upcoming comedy Admission.

"The Weitz brothers are an eclectic force of nature, with an ability to tap into unusual and unexpected worlds and work multiple genres but always with complicated, messed-up characters whom we remember," said FtvS president David Madden.


Books & Authors

Awards: Waterstones Children's Books; The Hindu Literary Prize

The 18-title shortlist has been announced for this year's Waterstones Children's Book Prize, which was "created to reward and champion new and emerging talent in children's writing." Six books compete within each of three categories--picture books, fiction for 5- to 12-year-olds and YA. Category winners receive £2,000 (US$3,108), and then vie for the title of £3,000 Waterstones Children's Book of the Year 2012. Winners will be announced March 21 in London.

---

Finalists have been named for The Hindu Literary Prize, a celebration of Indian writing in English. Watch journalist and author Nilanjana Roy present the list here. The winner will be announced this weekend. The shortlisted titles are:

Difficult Pleasures by Anjum Hasan
Bitter Wormwood by Easterine Kire
Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil
Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto
The Extras by Kiran Nagarkar


Book Brahmin: Manisha Jolie Amin

Manisha Jolie Amin was born in Kenya to Indian parents, who immigrated to Australia when she was a young girl. She grew up listening to her mother tell her mythical tales about India while her father played the Indian flute. She lives in Sydney, Australia. Dancing to the Flute (Atria, February 26, 2013) is her first novel.

On your nightstand now:

I like reading a number of books at the same time, depending on my mood, so at present I have Savour the Moment by Nora Roberts (for sweetness and light); Ragnarok: The End of the Gods by A.S. Byatt (for mythology and because I love the way she writes); The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (it takes me back to childhood, when I first discovered Anne and the other Montgomery books); and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle (to expand my perceptions); as well as Remembering Aboriginal Heroes by John Ramsland and Christopher Mooney (strong book about the Aboriginal people who really made this nation and took a stand).

Favorite book when you were a child:

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers--as different from the Disney movie as processed cheese is from a good Stilton! This was the first book that made me cry. When the west wind arrived and Mary left, I didn't want this conceited, feisty magical woman to leave my world. It was then I realized the power of books and the power of the imagination.

Your top five authors:

Why limit the number? It really depends on my mood on a particular day and what I'm reading at the time. These five often come up, however: I love John Suter Linton, Jacob Ross, Jeanette Winterson, Minette Walters, Toni Morrison--and so many others.

Book you've faked reading:

I can't remember having faked reading a book. My guilty pleasure is not admitting to having read and liked particular books! I now carry my chick lit and gothic novels with pride, just as I do my literary favorites! Oh and I've faked liking a book--that's when I've met authors and really didn't want to let them know that their book didn't hold me.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Pinter Bender by Jacob Ross. It's beautiful and transports you to another world, that of Grenada. This book haunts me, as do the characters and the imagery.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. A stunning white cover with a soft matte coating. I used to walk past the book on purpose in bookshops and department stores just so I could stroke the cover! It took me a few months to buy the book as it wasn't something I'd normally read--but that cover seduced me and I can still feel the same emotions I did then when I think of it!

Book that changed your life:

There are two. The first is one I won't name, because it was so clumsily written I started to correct it in my mind while reading. That book gave me the confidence to write in the first place. Then there was Ghostwritten by David Mitchell which opened the world of fragments and connected stories to me.

Favorite line from a book:

"Don't ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn't fall in love, I rose in it." --from Jazz by Toni Morrison.

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

A Charmed Life by Dianna Wynne Jones. DWJ is one of my favorite children's authors. I still read her books and I wonder if she would have made as big an impression on me if I read her first when I was an adult rather than a child.

Why did you choose India as your backdrop in Dancing to the Flute:

Because India fascinates me as an Indian who has never lived in that country for any length of time, but who keeps going back. I wanted to write about the little things that I loved and the people who saw the world through what they could do rather than what they couldn't.


Book Review

Review: The Grammarian

The Grammarian by Annapurna Potluri (Counterpoint, $24 hardcover, 9781619021020, February 12, 2013)

The dizzying high point of Annapurna Potluri's The Grammarian occurs when its two main characters, who differ greatly in origin and circumstance, reach a moment of near-sublime connection. One of them is a Frenchman, the other an Indian girl, and the moment--though innocent--is fraught with taboos. "Sitting next to her, in this stateless state, that nation without words that exists in the space between two people," the Frenchman thinks, "how silly those things seemed: countries and maps and borders, empires and colonies, those absurd constructs of his world, that world of men...."

The beauty and hope of this particular moment is fatally ruptured, but not before it encapsulates the ambitious themes of Potluri's sweeping debut novel--the limitations and possibilities of language, the struggle for love and freedom, an impassable cultural and political divide and the ultimately failed attempt to bridge it.

Written in supple, sensuous prose that aches with memory and regret, The Grammarian unfolds as handsome Alexandre, a young and ambitious academic, travels from Paris to southern India in 1911 to write a grammar of Telugu ("an agglutinating language; a sentence could stream off like bars of opera"). He is hosted by wealthy Shiva Adivi, an "aristocrat sympathetic to Europeans," who has two teenage daughters: the younger radiantly, unfairly beautiful, and the elder, Anjali, disfigured by a childhood illness and doomed to be plain, bitter and alone.

Alexandre and Anjali, both outsiders, form an unlikely friendship. He is drawn to her curiosity and intelligence, while she yearns for love and recognition untouched by the pity and barely veiled disgust she's used to. Anjali's life pivots around the transcendent experience described above; though Alexandre's impulsive and tragically misguided kindness has devastating repercussions for her, it also opens her to a joy and freedom she had never known.

The Grammarian is full of these moments of connection and fracture, friendship and alienation, hope and brutal disillusionment. Potluri writes with uncommon elegance, her keen empathy and flair for metaphor in artful marriage with her own background in linguistics. In The Grammarian, she shows language is imperfect, but vital--and seems to speak through the grammarian himself when he finds that "understanding language, like philosophy or religion, but unlike physics or biology, was to understand something profoundly human, and close to the heart." --Hannah Calkins

Shelf Talker: A richly drawn portrait of the chaos and color of imperial India--a debut novel that spans more than half a century, three continents and the unreachable distance between two people. 


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Broadcasting Local on the Chuckanut Radio Hour

Shop local meets broadcast local. In the still center of that spinning wheel of digital retail chaos--e-mails, Tweets, Facebook updates, blog posts, Instagram pics--that is the contemporary bookseller's daily round of local outreach tasks, there's a certain comfort to be drawn from noting the success of an old-fashioned radio variety program created and hosted by Chuck and Dee Robinson, owners of Village Books, Bellingham, Wash.

January marked the sixth anniversary of the Chuckanut Radio Hour. Taped before a live audience, the show generally features a guest author; what I've seen described as "some groaner jokes" by Chuck, Dee and announcer Rich Donelly; and an episode of "The Bellingham Bean" serial radio comedy. There is also live music, a new essay by Cascadia Weekly columnist Alan Rhodes, poetry by house poet Kevin Murphy and other bookish treats.

"The show is now broadcast on three low-power community radio stations," said Chuck. "KMRE is the one here in Bellingham and reaches the largest audience. The station can be streamed at any time, but we don't do the show live. CRH plays on the station every Saturday evening at 6 p.m. and every Sunday at 9 p.m. The shows play in rotation. We don't even know which show will play." With two other small stations in the area now featuring the program as well, "I guess that means we're syndicated," he quipped.   

When Chuck was approached in 2007 about doing some sort of radio program, he drew inspiration and format ideas from Thacker Mountain Radio (Square Books, Oxford, Miss.) and Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion.

"I think part of the appeal is the reflection of a time we remember as simpler--whether it actually was or not (memory does strange things)," he observed. "Though folks my age--I just became a Medicare baby in November--were on the tail end of old-time radio, early television (Ed Sullivan, the Tonight Show, etc.) was really old-time radio on TV. So I think for a lot of us there's a bit of nostalgia involved. Some of us really do like corny jokes."

Since Village Books is also committed to outreach through social networking, Chuck considers CRH to be both a complement and a counterpoint to those efforts: "Our audience for the show, depending of course on what author is featured, trends slightly older than our general audience. To the extent that most of these folks don't likely spend much time on Twitter, the show is likely a counterpoint to what they see others doing. And, to those who do Tweet and Facebook, this might be providing a respite. We do use social media to promote the show and we often have comments, especially on Facebook, about particular shows."

Division of labor while maintaining consistency in a bookstore's "voice" is the eternal challenge for booksellers everywhere, but Chuck noted that Village Books has managed to bridge the outreach gaps well: "We have one person who manages our social media. Lindsey McGuirk is pretty attuned to the philosophy of the store and also seems to have a great understanding of the 'conversational' nature of social media and how it can be used to build relationships. She does a great job of balancing marketing, with providing interesting general information, to having conversations with folks and asking questions. Other staff members have their own blogs and often guest blog on our site."

Who attends CRH performances? While the live audience tends to be in the 45-50 age range, Chuck said that can change depending upon the guest author for a particular show: "T.C. Boyle drew a bit younger audience, as did Cheryl Strayed, but I think for the most part that the radio hour format appeals more to an older audience. We are, however, about to test that notion as we move the show to an auditorium at Whatcom Community College in March. We'll be integrating some faculty, staff and students into the programming, and in our partnership agreement, they'll be able to attend for free."

He noted that one of the more surprising revelations about the show's audience occurs whenever he asks how many are seeing CRH for the first time and a considerable number of hands go up. "We thought after 60-plus shows we would have tapped the local audience, but apparently not."

Happy anniversary, CRH. As Chuck summed it up so well in a recent blog post, "Whoda thunk it? Six years and the Chuckanut Radio Hour is still going strong." --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now).


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by IndieReader.com.

1. Collide by Gail McHugh
2. Wait for Me by Elisabeth Naughton
3. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
4. Someone to Love by Addison Moore
5. Tall, Dark and Deadly by Lisa Renee Jones
6. Text Appeal by Lexi Ryan
7. Fallen Too Far by Abbi Glines
8. Beauty from Pain by Georgia Cates
9. Fate Interrupted by Kaitlyn Cross
10. The Good Lawyer: A Novel by Thomas Benigno

[Many thanks to IndieReader.com!]


Powered by: Xtenit