Also published on this date: Friday, February 22, 2013: Kids' Maximum Shelf: Panic

Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 22, 2013


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

News

Welcome Heather Young!

We welcome Heather Young to the Seattle Shelf Awareness team as our new sales manager. After years working in Seattle-area bookstores and a college internship at a literary agency, she headed east. In New York City, she worked in advertising at HarperCollins and as a copy editor for both Time Out New York and Martha Stewart's dearly departed Everyday Food. Eight years later, she returned to Seattle, and New York's loss is our gain.

Heather wins the all-time award for the most unsolicited recommendations in the history of the Shelf! She's already won us over with her ninja organizational skills, her fun and smart demeanor and her incredible baked goods.


Starscape Books: Freeing Finch by Ginny Rorby


Ridout Will Leave Phaidon

Amanda Ridout, managing director of Phaidon Press, will leave the company next month "to pursue personal projects." The Bookseller reported that Ridout joined the publisher in August 2010, having left HarperCollins the previous year. Her departure comes four months after the company's acquisition by the family of private equity billionaire Leon D. Black.

"Phaidon Press is a wonderful business with extraordinary product, a powerful brand and a genuine global reach," Ridout said. "I wish the company, the team and all the creative contributors the very best for many exciting and successful years ahead."

Phaidon's CEO David Davies said Ridout has "played a key role in the recent growth of Phaidon and we all wish her the very best with her new projects."


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


Atria Launches Rachael Ray Imprint

Atria is launching Rachael Ray Books, a new imprint with the bestselling writer and television personality who has sold more than 10 million copies of her 20 published books. Rachael Ray Books plans to publish two to three titles per year from people Ray has met and wishes to mentor. Each title will include a foreword written by her.

"I believe that quality of life is less about what's in your bank account and more about an adventurous spirit--whether it's getting lost among the locals when you travel or as simple as trying a new recipe," said Ray. "I wanted to be able to showcase writers and authors who help us all live the good life--that is the purpose of forming this imprint and the focus of my own work."

Judith Curr, president of the Atria Publishing Group, called the new imprint "an exciting partnership between Atria and Rachael Ray, and we look forward to bringing new talents to the public."

The first two titles to be published by Rachael Ray Books will be Beating the Lunch Box Blues by Associated Press food editor J.M. Hirsch in September and Fake and Bake by executive pastry chef Heather Bertinetti in October.


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


NAIBA's Publisher Advocate Program Rolls Out

The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association's Publisher Advocate Program, which brings marked-up Edelweiss catalogues to indie booksellers who have no access to publishers' field reps or telemarketers, has grown to include reps from 15 publishing houses and more than 24 NAIBA member stores.

The program is voluntary, and reps who participate have no obligations other than sending out their catalogues. Representatives can sign up to compose specific catalogues, general lists or collections. NAIBA's goal, it has told reps, "is to make sure all your titles are represented and presented to booksellers who need your expertise."

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance has already adopted the program "word for word," and other regional associations are considering it.

Bob Werner, a sales representative for Macmillan and NAIBA board member, spearheaded the initiative, while NAIBA executive director Eileen Dengler is seeking to get volunteers in place for the next selling season. Interested publishing representatives or booksellers should contact her.


 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


3X3X3: Graywolf Launches Poetry Tours

Graywolf Press has launched a new event series that aims to take poets published by the press on the road to do three readings in three cities in three days.

The inaugural tour took place February 5-7, and featured stops at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco; Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass.; and McNally Jackson in New York City. Poets D.A. Powell (Useless Landscape), Nick Flynn (The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands), Mary Szybist (Incarnadine) and Dobby Gibson (It Becomes You) participated. Gibson and Szybist went to all three events; Flynn went to two; and Powell went to the third.

At Harvard Book Store: bookseller Tara Metal, with poets Dobby Gibson, Nick Flynn, Mary Szybist and David Rivard

"It's something we're embarking on both to celebrate the legacy of great poetry that Graywolf is known for, and in an effort to draw bigger crowds out for poetry events around the country," explained Graywolf marketing and publicity associate Marisa Atkinson. "The response we've already seen has been fantastic, and we hope this is the beginning of what will become a longstanding tradition here at Graywolf."

Participating booksellers were enthusiastic about the readings. "There was excellent attendance," Peter Maravelis, events coordinator at City Lights, said. The crowd was standing room only, with a line of people going downstairs, and sales were robust.

In all, Maravelis estimated that 80-100 people attended, which he called "really unheard of. Twenty years ago, maybe 10 or 20 people would have showed up. I think what we're seeing is a renaissance in the interest of poetry."

Rachel Betz Cass, of Harvard Book Store, reported similar results: "There were a lot of people in attendance who had never gone to one of our events or had no idea that we even did events. It brought in a lot of new people, so clearly there are a lot of people out there interested in going to poetry events."

In the spring, Graywolf plans to bring Stephen Burt (Belmont), Sophie Cabot Black (The Exchange) and Brian Russell (The Year of What Now) to bookstores in New York City, Chicago and the Twin Cities. Stops in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., are already planned for the fall tour, which will feature Harryette Mullen (Urban Tumbleweed), Thomas Sayers Ellis (Skin, Inc.), Hailey Leithauser (Swoop) and Dexter Booth (Scratching the Ghost). --Alex Mutter


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


Brilliant Books Closing Suttons Bay Store

Calling it "an incredibly sad day," Brilliant Books announced that it has lost the lease to its store in Suttons Bay, Mich., and will be closing in a few weeks. The store in Traverse City will remain open.

On the bookstore's Facebook page, owners Peter and Colleen Makin wrote: "We are all devastated, especially Amalia Venturi who worked so hard to make the store look so good over the past nine months. But there is nothing we can do. The landlord has decided he doesn't want to lease the building to us and has told us we must be out by the end of March."

Venturi will join the Traverse City staff while the Makins are "exploring all options to return to Suttons Bay. It's where we started. It's where we belong."


Obituary Note: Debbie Ford

Debbie Ford, a former drug addict who changed her life after hearing Deepak Chopra speak and went on to write popular self-help books, including the bestselling Dark Side of the Light Chasers, died last Sunday, the New York Times reported. She was 57.


Notes

Image of the Day: Launching Float for a Good Cause

A launch party was held February 15 at the Rocky Neck Cultural Center in Gloucester, Mass., for JoeAnn Hart's latest novel, Float, which is by published by Ashland Creek Press, an Oregon-based small press that specializes in environmental literature. To help raise awareness of the dangers posed by marine plastics to the environment, more than 100 guests brought a piece of plastic recovered from the beach to the event in exchange for a raffle ticket to win prizes, including fish fertilizer and books. Raffle tickets were also awarded to everyone who had a copy of Float signed. Pictured are Hart (r.) and cover artist Karen Ristuben (l.) signing copies of the novel.


Cool Oscar Idea of the Day: 'Hooray for Hollywood' Display

Film-themed displays are a common sight in bookstores this week as anticipation gears up for Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony. On the Boswell and Books blog, Daniel Goldin, owner of Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, Wis., considered the relationship between fiction and Hollywood, offering a behind-the-scenes peek at how he arrived at the decision to create a "Hollywood table" this year.

"There is something about the film industry that attracts writers," Goldin wrote, noting that there is also a "curse of Los Angeles, the idea that books set there simply don't live up to potential, at least outside of the Southern California market. They just don't travel well compared to books, say, set in New York.... Critics see Hollywood is too pulpy for attention. No, not pulpy, that's too positive--trashy."

Reading an advance copy of Christine Sneed's Little Known Facts helped change Goldin's mind, however: "Immediately after finishing this wonderful novel, I thought, 'We have to do that Hollywood table.' "


Personnel Changes at the German Book Office, Frankfurt Book Fair

Riky Stock, director of the German Book Office in New York for the past 10 years, is adding another responsibility: she will also manage the Literary Agents and Scouts Centre (LitAg) at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Michelle Turnbach has joined the Frankfurt Book Fair as sales manager for the English-language world and will be based in New York City. She previously worked at Baker & Taylor, where she developed the company's European and Southeast Asian retail opportunities.

After many successful years working for the Frankfurt Book Fair, Susanne Schettler has left the company to pursue professional development in a new area.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Mike Piazza on NPR's Weekend Edition

Tonight on PBS's Moyers & Company: Richard Wolff, author of Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism (Haymarket Books, $15, 9781608462476).

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Tomorrow on NPR's Weekend Edition: Mike Piazza, co-author of Long Shot (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781439150221).

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Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition: Ellen Meister, author of Farewell, Dorothy Parker (Putnam, $26.95, 9780399159077).



Books & Authors

Awards: L.A. Times Finalists; American History Book

Finalists in 10 categories have been named for the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, which will be awarded April 19 on the eve of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. This year's Innovator's Award goes to Margaret Atwood "for her efforts to push narrative form" and the winner of the Robert Kirsch Award is Kevin Starr, the former state librarian and author of the California Dream series, covering the history of the state from 1850 to 2002.

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Robert Caro won the $50,000 New-York Historical Society's American History Book Prize for Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power, the fourth volume in his biography of the 36th president, the New York Times reported. Caro will be honored in April during the historical society's annual Weekend With History event, where he will also receive an engraved medal and the title "American Historian Laureate."


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcovers
The Imposter Bride: A Novel by Nancy Richler (St. Martin's, $24.99, 9781250010063). "Shortly after World War II, Lily arrives in Montreal to marry Sol Kramer. Sol rejects her, so his brother, Nathan, out of pity, marries Lily instead. Pity turns to love, but it isn't enough for Lily, who disappears, leaving an infant daughter, Ruth, behind with Nathan. Family members thought Lily was an impostor, posing as a cousin, but who was she? Through the years, Ruth struggles to learn more about her mother through a diary, an uncut diamond, and shiny rocks arriving in the mail. Beautifully written, wistful, and suspenseful, the stories of Lily and Ruth are each a glimpse of the heartache that is the aftermath of war." --Joanne Doggart, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Chatham, Mass.

Indiscretion: A Novel by Charles Dubow (Morrow, $25.99, 9780062201058). "Beautiful Maddy and her successful author husband, Harry, have an idyllic marriage. Living in the Hamptons, perfectly suited to one another, and always surrounded by a close circle of friends, they draw admirers like moths to a flame. Enter Claire, a young New Yorker, who quickly becomes enamored of the couple and inserts herself within their circle. While young and innocent, Claire's presence will ultimately destroy everything Maddy and Harry hold dear. Narrated by Maddy's childhood best friend, Walter, who is also secretly in love with her, this tale is mesmerizing in its telling." --Meaghan Beasley, Island Bookstore, Duck, N.C.

Paperback
The Fate of Mercy Alban: A Novel by Wendy Webb (Hyperion, $15.99, 9781401341930). "Ghost story? Murder mystery? Gothic novel? The Fate of Mercy Alban is a little of each genre making for an excellent read. At the death of her mother, Grace Alban returns to the childhood home she has avoided for two decades. Upon her return, she learns that her mother's death occurred under some unnerving circumstances. The Alban family is notorious for using their immense wealth to cover up history, and Grace is determined to learn the truth, be it paranormal, criminal, or sinister. This is a compelling read that will have you guessing until the very last sentence!" --Kerri Childs, Kerri's Korner Bookstore, Fairmont, W.Va.

For Teen Readers
Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin (Tanglewood Press, $17.95, 9781933718750). "Set six months after the super volcano under Yellowstone erupts, this sequel to Ashfall finds Alex and Darla trying to cope with their new, primitive world. Mullin makes the reader feel the reality of what would happen following such a catastrophe. I could not put Ashen Winter down!" --Allison Skaggs, Lowry's Books, Three Rivers, Mich.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Brahmin: Molly Weatherfield

First published in 1995, Molly Weatherfield's Carrie's Story has become a cult classic for readers of BDSM erotica. In 2006, Playboy called it "one of the 25 sexiest novels ever written." Cleis Press has just reissued Carrie's Story in a new edition introduced by Tristan Taormino. A reissue of its sequel, Safe Word, will follow in April 2013. Molly Weatherfield is a retired computer programmer who (under her real name, Pam Rosenthal) has also published several historical romances, including The Edge of Impropriety, which won a RITA award (best historical romance) from the Romance Writers of America in 2009. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, a longtime independent bookseller.

On your nightstand now:

Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel, Broken Harbor by Tana French, Whip Smart by Melissa Febos, Driven by Megan Hart and The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood: Versions of the Tale in Sociocultural Context by Jack Zipes.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. But I should add that the Alcott book that in some ways affected me more deeply was a far inferior one, Rose in Bloom, which had the first charming rogue character I'd ever encountered in a book. When Charlie dies, thrown from his horse after a debauched night out on the town, I wept far into the night.

Your top five authors:

Marcel Proust, Grace Paley, David Foster Wallace, Colette and Charlotte Brontë (Villette rather than Jane Eyre).

Book you've faked reading:

When an editor asked me if I could write something on Günter Grass, I said, "Sorry, I haven't read anything but The Tin Drum." But actually I hadn't even that. I'd started it in my teens, was like "what's up with this?" and gave it up. But I was too embarrassed to say that.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Two by smart, funny women. When Katha Pollitt's memoir Learning to Drive came out, I bought copies for a gaggle of female friends and relatives as well as for my son. And I'm always trying to get people who don't read romance to read my romance-writing partner in crime, Janet Mullany, particularly her Regency chicklit series, the best and funniest of which, I think, is Mr. Bishop and the Actress.

Book you've bought for the cover:

1984 by George Orwell. The '50s Signet version with a very Ava Gardner-looking Julia in a low-cut jumpsuit. She also wears a huge button that said "Anti-Sex League" but that screamed SEX to me at 12 (as it also did to my 12-year-old future husband, who--unknown to me but practically simultaneously--went out and bought his matching copy).

Book that changed your life:

Story of O by Pauline Reage made me wonder for several decades about the power of BDSM fantasy--until I wrote the Carrie books to see what would happen if I engaged the fantasy head-on, with my intellect, sense of humor, feminist sensibility and whatever writer's voice I could muster.

'Sense of humor' isn't usually considered an aspect of BDSM erotica.

It was for Susan Sontag in her essay "The Pornographic Imagination." And it always has been for me: all that chatty hyper-awareness on the part of the narrator (who's almost always the bottom) can allow for a kind of implicit irony in the form.

Favorite line from a book:

Two again:

"Well, you know or don't you kennet or haven't I told you every telling has a tailing and that's the he and the she of it." --from Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. Which I don't for a minute want you to think I've read (any more than I've read The Tin Drum). But I have the wonderful Joyce Society recording of Joyce reading this passage aloud, and I can practically sing along with it, so I hope that counts.

"Various variables toted up mass and speed and English, calculating the thresholds between bounce and break, between shatter and slide and spin." --from Plowing the Dark by Richard Powers (it's about computer programming, language and lots of things that fascinate me; I reviewed it for Salon.com).

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

The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth gave me genuine ghost-story goose-bumps that I'd love to get again from it, but somehow I don't think I would.


Book Review

Review: Benediction

Benediction by Kent Haruf (Knopf, $25.95 hardcover, 9780307959881, February 26, 2013)

Once again, Kent Haruf (Eventide, Plainsong) takes readers to Holt, a small town in the high plains of Colorado where ordinary people live with daily pain and sadness, grief and joy, underpinned by compassion and concern for each other.

The centerpiece of the novel is Dad Lewis, so called by everyone after his daughter, Lorraine, was born. He is dying of lung cancer and his wife, Mary, is caring for him, along with Lorraine, who has hurried home from Denver to keep the vigil. Lorraine's brother Frank is long estranged from the rest of the family, but his absence hovers over them every day.

Dad has owned and run the town's hardware store for many years. Once, when he caught a former employee stealing, he banished him from the store, wouldn't allow him to make restitution, told him to leave town and did not press charges. Later, after that man kills himself in despair over no work and the need to support a family, Dad quietly provides for the widow until she remarries.

Dad's next-door neighbor Berta May has just taken in her young granddaughter, Alice, whose mother died of cancer. Lorraine, who lost her daughter at 16 in an auto accident, is immediately drawn to Alice, inviting her to visit whenever she wants. But Alice is reminded of her mother when she sees Dad, and is thus reluctant to spend time with the Lewises.

The Johnson women, Willa and Alene, do all that they can to make life more pleasant for Dad and his family, as well as for Berta May and Alice. They are true friends, always ready to help. Their own stories form part of the warp and woof of the tapestry that is life in Holt.

Meanwhile, a new minister sets the cat among the pigeons when he preaches about the Sermon on the Mount as if it should be taken seriously: turn the other cheek, love your enemies. The congregation bolts, calling him a terrorist for not hating the people with whom we are at war. He must make a decision.

In trademark Haruf style, there is neither grand display nor hysteria, no high drama--just the playing out of life stories as they happen, like rolling out a ball of twine and watching where it goes. The cadence and the stories are irresistible. The benediction here is that the reader is allowed to follow along. --Valerie Ryan

Shelf Talker: Kent Haruf returns to Holt, Colo., illuminating the lives of friends and neighbors whose lives intersect around the death of Dad Lewis.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Handwriting Between the Pages

"This is an old book. Grandma has read it. Please return. I can get the new paperback I saw in Costco. Love, Mom."

One of the little pleasures of my reading life is receiving the B-Mail newsletter from Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Mass. In each issue, there is a Used Book Cellar "Find of the Week." Sometimes the hastily scribbled notes are funny and sometimes poignant, but always irresistible. It's as if they weren't lost or abandoned at all, but finally discovered their true home and value between those pages.

Exegesis is also part of Brookline's Find of the Week ritual. Here's the commentary on Mom's Costco note above: "This makes my heart hurt. While you're there, we're almost out of mustard and Alaskan king crab spread. Get a gallon of each. And eight dozen bottles of sparkling cider. Unless they don't let you get just half the package, in which case go ahead and get sixteen-dozen. And twenty tubes of toothpaste. Please."

The casual and yet deeply personal handwriting in these scraps affects me as a reader because it is so human in a fragile, unintentionally revealing way that text messages ("pls give gram hr bk getting 14u @costco") or viral tweets can't possibly emulate.

Handwriting isn't a lost art, or at least not an art lost on me. When I visit a bookstore, I'm always drawn to shelf talkers that are handwritten. Even legibility is secondary to the enthusiasm invoked by a pen's scrawl across the surface of a card. I'm also on the lookout for those faded, handwritten, often outdated reminders that cling by frayed yellow tape to cash registers ("Use shift-F4 to...") or over staff break room sinks ("You're mother doesn't work here. Wash your own dishes!"). For pure entertainment, however, there's nothing quite like children's handwritten contributions to bookstore suggestion boxes ("Need more chairs for us kids!").

I'm not a handwriting purist, which is perhaps one reason the scraps intrigue me. Just in case you missed it, January 23 was National Handwriting Day, brought to you, not coincidentally, by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association, which represents the $4.5-billion industry of pen, pencil and marker manufacturers. Its purpose is to "alert the public to the importance of handwriting," offering "a chance for all of us to re-explore the purity and power of handwriting." Sorry you didn't get my handwritten greeting card.

Probably the reason I'm paying more attention lately is because I just finished reading Philip Hensher's The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting, in which he observed: "Our attitude to our own handwriting is a peculiar mixture of shame and defiance: ashamed that it's so bad and untutored, but defiant in our belief that it's not our fault. What shame and defiance have in common, of course, is the determination to leave the cause of the shame and defiance unaltered."

I get that. My own "hand" is deeply influenced by the slight childhood trauma of switching schools in the middle of first grade and having to adapt in mid-stream from print to cursive. The end result is a relatively legible, if visually jumbled collection of print and cursive letters lining up like mismatched train cars (judge for yourself in this example).

After I changed schools, my former teacher wrote a consoling note to my mother regarding little Robert's apparent struggle to adapt. She conceded that while "many schools do start writing in the first grade," most of the districts in the area didn't begin teaching cursive until third grade. It didn't get better from there. I hesitate to even mention the nuns. In sixth grade, Sister Philomena checked "N" on my report card under penmanship: "Needs help; is progressing but below grade level."

Thus, handwriting eventually became more of a spectator sport for me, and when I need a fix, Brookline Booksmith always delivers with treasures like this postcard: "Hello--Here in Riverside, Conn., for the meeting of the Titanic His. Soc. Met a survivor and got his signature..."

As I mentioned before, Brookline has a true gift for handwriting exegesis: "It concerns me that this message is abruptly cut off. Did anyone out there ever hear any word from attendees of the 1971 Titanic Historical Society reunion in Riverside, CT? From what I know of the original tragedy, it took some hours for the ship to go down, but I fear that whatever befell this postcard's author was rather more sudden. Perhaps the iceberg simply dropped upon the top of the building this time. That would explain it." Nicely played, Brookline. Couldn't have written it better myself.--Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now).


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