Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Yearling Books: When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

Pantheon Books: Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Scholastic Press: The Guardian Test (Legends of Lotus Island #1) by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Kevin Hong

Tor Books: The First Bright Thing by J.R. Dawson


Amazon's Treatment of Workers Investigated in Germany

Following a half-hour report last week by the ARD network alleging that seasonal workers at Amazon's warehouses in Germany, its second-largest market after the U.S., have been underpaid and maltreated--and that one neo-Nazi company provided abusive "security" at one warehouse and its housing for foreign workers--the company is scrambling to contain the damage.

As Deutsche Welle put it, the ARD piece "explored tiny temporary accommodation, unreliable bus transportation to and from Amazon offices, temporary and unsecured contracts, as well as the last-minute outsourcing of work contracts to employment agencies--reportedly paying less than the wages advertised on the original job application."

The last point has become a national issue. On Sunday, federal Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Ursula von der Leyen said that the government would investigate charges of underpayment of workers. She threatened that the licenses of Amazon contractors may be revoked.

The news that attracted the most revulsion concerned a security firm with the unfortunate acronym HESS (Hensel European Security Services), also the name of Hitler's Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess. ARD accused HESS of harassing immigrant workers living in Amazon housing near one Amazon warehouse. HESS employees were said to wear clothing designed by Thor Steinar, a Berlin brand linked to neo-Nazis. HESS has denied the accounts; yesterday Amazon said it had severed ties with HESS.

But the "security" problems may not be limited to HESS. ARD also alleged, as the Independent noted, "a broader climate of intimidation at Amazon's seven logistics centers in Germany, including threats of random staff searches, constant pressure to perform better and firing of workers who complained. It also appeared to show employees' rooms being searched, and staff being frisked at breakfast and constantly watched."

Minus the neo-Nazi angle, the charges are reminiscent of stories in recent years about conditions in Amazon warehouses in the U.S., some of which for a time had no air conditioning in brutal heat and where the company favors hiring temporary workers in an attempt, some say, to keep pay low and make it more difficult for unions to organize Amazon operations.

Not surprisingly, some German consumers and union leaders have reacted negatively. And at least one publisher has said he will no longer do business with Amazon. In an "Adieu Amazon" letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, which appeared in Boersenblatt, Christopher Schroer, who publishes art books, monographs and exhibition catalogues under the Ch. Schroer and Neue Sachlichkeit imprints, had several complaints:

  • Amazon's insistence on an "exorbitant" 50% discount and 5% stocking fee (even when Amazon doesn't stock the books).
  • Amazon's use of "tricks" to avoid taxes, including requiring bills to be sent outside the European Union.
  • The appearance of new books on the "damaged" book section of Amazon Marketplace.
  • The outsourcing of many of the Amazon staffers publishers deal with to India, where there is less protection and fewer rights for workers than in Europe.

Referring to the ARD report, Schroer objected, too, to Amazon's treatment of immigrant temporary workers. "These people, your employees, your 'human capital,' you treat just as unfairly as you already have treated us."

In conclusion, he said, "You are, you never were and you never will be a company that treats people like people, publishers like partners and customers like kings. You are not a company that is committed to the cultural treasure of the book. You are not a company that has social and ethical principles."

In Buchreport, German e-commerce expert Gerrit Heinemann said he expected little fallout for Amazon from the general public in Germany because "there is no real alternative to Amazon," which has the highest rating for customer satisfaction. "The fact is that in comparison to Amazon, most online retailers are simply bad."

Heinemann noted, too, that Amazon is an example of American companies in the new economy that focus on low prices, which necessitate low costs. In some ways, Apple is worse about this than Amazon, "but ask an Apple customer if he'll give up his Apple product...."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Only Game in Town by Lacie Waldon

Learned Employee Buys Learned Owl Book Shop

Liz Murphy, owner of the Learned Owl Book Shop in Hudson, Ohio, has sold the store to employee Kate Schlademan.

Schlademan will take full ownership next month, on March 15. Murphy, who has owned the store for 30 years, will remain in an advisory role for the foreseeable future, to ensure a smooth transition.

"At this point I'm not planning to make any major changes," said Schlademan. "In fact, Liz will stay on as a consultant, to make sure we don't change the things that the community loves about the bookstore."

Schlademan and Murphy

"Despite rumors that I will be leaving town and traveling the world, this is not so," wrote Murphy in an e-mail announcing the sale of the store. "I am very committed to making sure Kate's next chapter is successful--I plan to be her best customer for years to come." She added that she is not much of a traveler anyway. "Give me my garden in the summer, a fireplace in the winter, a pile of books and a glass of wine, and I am most content to stay at home."

Schlademan used Indiegogo, the online crowdfunding platform, to raise money to purchase the bookstore. "A good friend of mine was in a band, and used Kickstarter to make an album," she explained. "When I was trying to come up with ways to find funding, it was difficult to find investors, so I looked into Indiegogo."

A good portion of Schlademan's backers came from the Learned Owl's community, in addition to friends, family and some complete strangers.

In March 2011, Murphy hired Schlademan to be a storyteller during the first annual International Festival in Hudson. She then joined the staff, became events coordinator, and "at least unofficially, my full-time manager for the past year," Murphy wrote.

Before being hired by Murphy, among other jobs, Schlademan worked at the now-closed Dubois Bookstore in Kent, Ohio, spent seven years with Borders and taught kindergarten in South Korea for five years. --Alex Mutter

GLOW: Putnam: The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams

Nicholas Hoare to Close Flagship Store

Canadian bookseller Nicholas Hoare, who closed his Montreal and Ottawa locations last year, will shutter the flagship store in Toronto April 1. "After much reflection, and forty years of service, Nicholas Hoare is retiring," he announced on the store's blog, adding: "Thus concludes a golden era in bookselling, from three entirely different cities, each with its own character, style and tastes."

The bookstore's Front Street lease is up for renewal, and Hoare has decided to mark his 70th birthday "with an orderly run-off, the sale of his trademark fixtures, and a full-time move to his 350-acre property in Nova Scotia," where his plans include "a fledgling vineyard; revamping the garden; and pure book porn: the construction of an 18,000-volume library from scratch. The latter will play a predominant part in our blog going forward, along with the property as a whole."

On behalf of his staff, Hoare offered "a 12-gun salute to our many customers, old and new. It's been a privilege to serve you; we're profoundly grateful; and we wish you and your reading well."

Noting that the bookstore has been "one of the cosiest places in Toronto to hang out and read for more than 40 years," Torontoist replied: "On behalf of a great many readers in Toronto, we wish the same to you."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Love & Other Scams by Philip Ellis

WI8 Book Buzz Part I: Fiction Debuts, Breakouts and Old Faves

Now in its eighth year, the American Booksellers Association's Winter Institute continues to be a fertile place for launching the bestsellers of the future. As Geoffrey Jennings from Rainy Day Books in Kansas City--host city of this year's Winter Institute--observed, "It would behoove people to pay attention to what books come out of the Winter Institute." At the first Winter Institute, for example, Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants broke out, and last year The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate was a Winter Institute favorite--and went on to win the Newbery last month.

Atop bookseller fiction buzz lists going into Winter Institute 8 this coming weekend are On Sal Mal Lane by Ru Freeman (Graywolf, May) and We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown, May). On Sal Mal Lane opens on a street that represents a mix of the population of Sri Lanka on the brink of civil war in the late 1970s and early 1980s. We Need New Names, a debut novel, takes place in Zimbabwe and focuses on a group of children, among them Darling, a 10-year-old from a middle-class family forced to move to a shantytown as the country falls into unrest and unbelievable brutality. They often don't have enough food but are exposed to plenty of American television. The title comes from a chapter in which the children play "ER" as they deal with a medical problem of one of their own and decide that they need names different from the TV characters. Eventually Darling leaves Zimbabwe to live with an aunt in Detroit--which, said Annie Philbrick from Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn., gives the author license to take the book in an even deeper direction, looking at America through the immigrant girl's eyes. "I needed to put it down every once in a while," said Philbrick, who called the writing "sparse."

We Need New Names was "like nothing I have ever read before," said Calvin Crosby, from Book Passage in Corte Madera, Calif. Cathy Langer, book buyer at the Tattered Cover in Denver, gave both books a rave, and likened Devi, the girl at the center of On Sal Ma Lane, to Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird and Swede from Peace Like a River

Langer called Freeman's writing "cinematic" and compared On Sal Mal Lane with Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone. "It's that rich and deep," she said. Freeman's previous novel, A Disobedient Girl was published in seven languages and Bulawayo's debut, We Need New Names, won the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing.

"Booker worthy": that's how Sheryl Cotleur, from Copperfield's Books in Petaluma, Calif., described another buzz favorite, Kate Atkinson's Life After Life (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown, April). Cotleur admitted that the premise sounded a little "hokey"--it opens with the main character being stillborn and goes on to have her and others step into different versions of their same lives (one has a gun pointed at Hitler in a café)--"but the book is really well done." Gayle Shanks from Changing Hands in Tempe, Ariz., said she could not understand how Atkinson managed to keep what happens to all the characters in the various versions of their lives straight. "She did not make one mistake," Shanks said.

This will be confusing, but there's another book being promoted at Winter Institute with the title Life After Life. This one is from Algonquin (March) and is by indie favorite Jill McCorkle. It features a cast of incredible characters who occupy the Pine Heaven Retirement Center. "If I ever have to live in a retirement home, this is the kind of place I want to live in," said Philbrick.

To add to the confusion--or confluence of great writing--both novels titled Life After Life will share the top spot for the Indie Next Pick in April.

Many booksellers look for books that likely will take their writers to new prominence, and this year Mark Slouka (known for Lost Lake) and Philipp Meyer (who wrote American Rust) fit that bill. "It's Lonesome Dove meets Cormac McCarthy," said Mitchell Kaplan, from Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla., about Meyer's The Son (Ecco, May), which deals with the founding of Texas as observed by many people across generations. Slouka's Brewster (Norton, Aug.) is about two boys growing up in upstate New York on the cusp of the Vietnam War. The Tattered Cover's Langer--who was a teenager during that time--said she had flashbacks about a boyfriend who was getting his draft number. "At first I thought it was a guy novel," Langer said, but it really gripped her.

Winter Institute has also established itself as a place for debut novelists to be noticed. Among debuts on the radar this year: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (Hogarth, May), The Blood of Heaven by Kent Wascom (Grove, June), Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller (Houghton Mifflin, May), The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (Harper, April) and The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma (Viking, March).

Bill Cusumano from Nicola's in Ann Arbor, Mich., called Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena "just outstanding. He writes a narrative that is far beyond a first novel." The gritty novel, set in Chechnya between Russia's occupations, focuses on a "little pocket of humanity" among a society torn on all sides and riddled with thieves, Cusumano said. And he called The Blood of Heaven "fierce"--that novel is set in the early days of the U.S. and involves the conspiracy by Aaron Burr possibly to set himself up as head of state in an independent country in the West or Mexico. "I will be very careful who I handsell that one to," said Cusumano.

For Norwegian by Night--which takes place in Norway, where a former marine sniper in Korea settles with his granddaughter and her new husband--Houghton's tagline is: "a literary novel, a thriller and the funniest book you will ever read about war crimes and dementia." As Bank Square's Philbrick said: "What can go wrong with that? And it even has the word 'Norwegian' in the title."

The Golem and the Jinni is about two supernatural beings who befriend each other in 1899 New York, and The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards is a contemporary novel about two male writers from very different backgrounds who meet in college and vie for the attention of the same outlandish young woman. Noting that readers do not always want to read dark fiction, Jennings though both of these titles might have more mainstream appeal than the debut novels with heavier premises.

Among the most celebrated debuts at Winter Institute 8 is The Circle of Thirteen (Turner, Oct.) by Bill Petrocelli, longtime co-owner of Book Passage. "How fun is that?" said Shanks. The jacket copy reads, "Set in a turbulent futuristic society, this provocative drama follows one woman's investigation into the dark forces unleashing chaos around the world"; the ARC features blurbs from Abraham Verghese, Martin Cruz Smith, Katherine Neville and Lisa See. Cusumano said that all book buyers will want to grab a galley of The Circle of Thirteen.

Among authors attending Wi8 with new novels are: Jeannette Walls (The Silver Star, Scribner, June), Curtis Sittenfeld (Sisterland, Random House, June), Christina Schwarz (The Edge of the Earth, Atria, April) Cathleen Schine (Fin and Lady, Sara Crichton/FSG, July), Ann Hood (The Obituary Writer, Norton, Feb.), Ruth Ozeki (A Tale for the Time Being, Viking, March) and Gail Godwin (Flora, Bloomsbury, May).

Jennings predicted that the new Ozeki will "go nuclear"; Walls's book will make her a brand name ("if she isn't one already"); and Hood's novel will be "pretty reliable for us." Valerie Koehler from Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston called Schwartz's Edge of the Earth "good, solid historical fiction."

Tomorrow: check out the buzz from indie presses, selected sleepers and nonfiction. And on Thursday we take a look at YA and children's authors at Winter Institute 8. --Bridget Kinsella

Corrected: An earlier version of this story misquoted Cathy Langer in regard to the character Devi in On Sal Mal Lane.


Image of the Day: Master Wings Unfolds

Photo: Jake Hennes

On February 12, exactly 40 years to the day after the author's release after six and a half years as a POW in North Vietnam, the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago launched the first book under its Master Wings Publishing imprint, Taps on the Walls: Poems from the Hanoi Hilton by retired Air Force Major General John Borling. In his honor, the Library hosted a panel discussion about the American POW experience during three wars. Here Borling (r.) appears with co-panelist retired Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum, a Gulf War veteran, former POW and author of She Went to War.

U.K. Community Bands Together to Safeguard Bookshop's Future

Noting that there has been a  a "near 10% increase in U.K. co-operative enterprises over the last two years, rising from 5,450 (in 2010) to approaching 6,000," the Guardian focused on Crediton Community Bookshop, where a "desire to share the love of reading with the next generation is driving a Devon community on towards securing a new chapter for its popular bookshop." Nearly 200 people are now members of the Crediton Community Bookshop and more than £20,000 (US$31,080) has been raised to enable the not-for-profit society "to safeguard the much-loved store's future."

"This is an incredible opportunity for anyone who shares a love of reading to say that they played a part in saving the community bookstore for the next generation," said Ken McKechnie, a founder member and director of Crediton Community Bookshop.

"We are witnessing communities across the country, driven by needs other than to maximize profit, turning to co-operative solutions for the running of businesses and services," said Michael Fairclough, head of community and co-operative investment for the Co-operative Group. "The general public is increasingly concerned for accountability, sustainability and transparency and, enterprises such as this show how by working together, people can promote community cohesion and, tackle some of the unprecedented challenges currently facing our society, environment and economy."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Clive Davis on The Soundtrack of My Life

This morning on Imus in the Morning: historian Doug Brinkley talks about working with Johnny Depp on the introduction for a reprint of House of Earth by Woody Guthrie (Harper, $25.99, 9780062248398).


This morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe: Michael Hainey, author of After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story (Scribner, $26, 9781451676563).


This morning on the Today Show: Chloe Coscarelli, author of Chloe's Vegan Desserts (Atria, $19.99, 9781451636765).


This morning on Good Morning America: Clive Davis, author of The Soundtrack of My Life (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781476714783). He will also appear today on the View, Katie and Nightline and tomorrow on Jimmy Fallon.


This morning on Fox & Friends: Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, authors of Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing (Twelve, $27.99, 9781455515158). They will also appear on NPR's Marketplace.


Today on CBS's the Talk: Jackie Collins, author of The Power Trip (St. Martin's, $27.99, 9780312567477).


Today on the View: Brandi Glanville, co-author of Drinking and Tweeting: And Other Brandi Blunders (Gallery, $25, 9781476707624), will co-host.


Today on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: David Shambaugh, author of China Goes Global: The Partial Power (Oxford University Press, $29.95, 9780199860142).


Tonight on Jimmy Kimmel Live: Mike Piazza, co-author of Long Shot (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781439150221).


Tonight on the Colbert Report: Emily Bazelon, author of Sticks & Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy (Random House, $27, 9780812992809).


Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Jess Bravin, author of The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay (Yale University Press, $30, 9780300189209).


Tomorrow on Dr. Oz: Lauren F. Streicher, M.D., author of The Essential Guide to Hysterectomy: Advice from a Gynecologist on Your Choices Before, During, and After Surgery, Second Edition (M. Evans, $22.95, 9781590772119).


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

Tomorrow night on the Daily Show: Helaine Olen, author of Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry (Portfolio, $27.95, 9781591844891


Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: David Goldhill, author of Catastrophic Care: How American Health Care Killed My Father--and How We Can Fix It (Knopf, $25.95, 9780307961549).

TV: Baldacci Series Greenlighted

TNT has greenlighted a new untitled private-eye drama based on author David Baldacci's series characters Sean King and Michelle Maxwell. The project, which will star Jon Tenney (The Closer) and Rebecca Romijn (X-Men), has a 10-episode order. Baldacci is a consultant on the series, which is scheduled to premiere next summer. The cast also includes Michael O'Keefe (Michael Clayton), Chris Butler (The Good Wife) and Ryan Hurst (Sons of Anarchy, Wanted). Baldacci introduced King and Maxwell in his 2003 novel Split Second and they returned in Hour Game, Simple Genius, First Family and The Sixth Man.

Movies: The Host; Crimefighting Oliver Twist

Open Road released a featurette about the movie adaption of The Host, featuring commentary by author Stephenie Meyer as well as stars Saoirse Ronan and Max Irons, reported. Andrew Niccol directed the film, which opens March 29.


Sony is developing a new project titled Dodge and Twist, an updated version of Charles Dickens's classic novel that "takes pickpocketing rivals Oliver Twist and Artful Dodger and re-imagines them 20 years down the road. The two are on opposite sides of the law and get embroiled in an affair to steal the Crown Jewels," according to the Hollywood Reporter. Cole Haddon, creator of NBC's upcoming Dracula, is writing the script. Matt Tolmach is producing with Ahmet Zappa and his Monsterfoot Productions. THR noted that the project "is set on an idea by Zappa and not on the more serious book of the same name by Tony Lee."

Books & Authors

Awards: Pannell Nominees; BCALA Literary Winners

Congratulations to the nominees for this year's WNBA Pannell Awards, which recognizes bookstores that "enhance their communities by bringing exceptional creativity to foster a love of reading in their young patrons." The nominees in the general bookstore category are:

Avid Book Shop, Athens, Ga.
Byrd's Books, Bethel, Conn.
Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Newtonville Books, Newtonville, Mass.
Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass.
Main Street Books, Davidson, N.C.
Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, Calif.
Park Road Books, Charlotte, N.C.

In the children's specialty store category:

Books and Cookies, Santa Monica, Calif.
4 Kids Books & Toys, Zionsville, Ind.
Hooray for Books, Alexandria, Va.
The Bookbug, Kalamazoo, Mich.
The Voracious Reader, Larchmont, N.Y.
Children's Book World, Los Angeles, Calif.


Winners have been named for the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) Literary Awards, which recognize excellence in adult fiction and nonfiction by African American authors. This year's category winners are:

First novelist: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis (Knopf).
Fiction: Freeman by Leonard Pitts, Jr. (Bolden Books/Agate).
Nonfiction: Benjamin Elijah Mays: Schoolmaster of the Movement by Randal Maurice Jelks (University of North Carolina Press).
Poetry: Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place by bell hooks (University Press of Kentucky).

BCALA's Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation honoree is The 21st-Century Black Librarian in America: Issues and Challenges, edited by Andrew P. Jackson (Sekou Molefi Baako), Julius Jefferson Jr. and Akilah S. Nosakhere (Scarecrow Press).

Book Review

Review: The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend

The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend by Glenn Frankel (Bloomsbury, $28 hardcover, 9781608191055, February 19, 2013)

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Frankel very smartly explores new territory with The Searchers, an illuminating and insightful inquiry into the complex nexus where history, film and popular culture meet. His subject seems to be one of the greatest films ever made, but it's really about how that film is the "greatest Hollywood film that few people have seen." The claim seems counterintuitive--after all, it's one of the most famous movies of the 20th century--but Frankel suggests there are layers to John Ford's The Searchers that most of its audience won't have noticed.

First comes the history: it was a desperate time for the nomadic Comanches in the winter of 1836. Many had died from hunger and disease; they blamed the white settlers. A hunting party raided the Parker family's East Texas ranch, brutally slaughtering five and capturing five, including a nine-year-old "blonde, blue-eyed princess," Cynthia Ann Parker. Her uncle, James Parker, spent the next eight years searching for her. She was raised by the tribe, married a Comanche chief and had children. Twenty-four years later, in 1860, she was "rescued" by the Rangers. She never saw her children again, and never readjusted to the white world. She died in 1870.

Next comes the book. Cynthia Ann Parker's story was one of the most famous captivity narratives, described by Frankel as America's "first indigenous literary genre." Alan Lemay was a successful author of westerns when he discovered her story; he knew he had to write a novel about it. The Searchers was published in 1954 to much acclaim; the film rights were bought by a wealthy businessman who had recently hired Merian C. Cooper as his executive producer. Cooper's other business partner was filmmaker John Ford.

To play Ethan Edwards, the novel's protagonist, Ford cast his favorite actor, his good friend John Wayne, against type as a contemptuous, brutal, racist Indian hater. Ford had just come from a difficult shoot on another picture and was eager to return to Monument Valley, a preferred location for making his westerns. Once the film was written and filmed, Ford cut and pared it down to its essence, a "lyrical ambiguity" weaving "myth and truth into a seamless fabric."

The "relentless ambiguity" of The Searchers "defeats us," Frankel writes. "We honor its ambition and its artistry. But we have no firm sense of what it means nor how truly great and disturbing it is." Similarly, this book is ambitious, and disturbing, and oh so good. --Tom Lavoie

Shelf Talker: A superbly written, highly entertaining mixture of American history and popular culture that reveals anew one of our greatest films.

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