Shelf Awareness for Monday, April 22, 2013


Dutton Books: Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

Disney-Hyperion: The Mirror Broken Wish (Mirror #1) by Julie C. Dao

Basic Books: Dog-Eared: Poems about Humanity's Best Friend by Duncan Wu

Abrams Comicarts: Drawing the Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Voting in America by Tommy Jenkins, illustrated by Kati Lacker

News

Canada Approves Random House-Penguin Merger

The Canadian Competition Bureau and the Department of Canadian Heritage have approved the merger of Penguin Group and Random House without conditions, joining the U.S., E.U., Australia and New Zealand in clearing the deal. Regulatory authorities in China and several other countries are considering the transaction.

Under the merger, which was announced last October, Bertelsmann, owner of Random House, will own 53% of Penguin Random, and Pearson, which owns Penguin, 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.


University of California Press: Deviant Opera by Axel Englund


Penguin and EU Reach Agency Pricing Agreement

Penguin reached an agreement with the European Union "to settle its antitrust investigation over agency pricing, in order to 'clear the decks' ahead of the company's proposed merger with Random House," the Bookseller reported, noting that under the deal, Penguin "would not 'restrict, limit or impede' e-book retailers' discounts or their ability to 'set, alter or reduce retail prices for e-books' for two years."

The EU called the proposed commitments "substantially the same as those proposed by Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette, Holtzbrinck and made legally binding by the Commission in December 2012." Competitors and customers have until May 19 to comment on the proposal, which would then become legally binding if no substantial changes are recommended.

In a statement, Penguin confirmed that "subject to the market test currently under way, it has reached an agreement with the European Commission to settle its investigation.... Penguin's position that it has done nothing wrong remains unchanged and the company continues to believe that the agency pricing model operates in the best interests of consumers and authors. While we disagree with some elements of the commission's analysis, we are settling as a procedural matter to clear the decks in anticipation of our proposed merger with Random House."


GLOW: Tor Books: The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey


Russian Report: Amazon.ru Next?

Amazon appears to be "gearing up for the latest chapter in its international expansion: an operation in Russia," according to TechCrunch, which cited an article in the Russian edition of Forbes reporting that the online retail giant "has opened its first office in the country, headed by Arkady Vitrouk. Vitrouk is the former general director of ABC-Atticus, a publishing group owned by media baron Alexander Mamut."

TechCrunch also noted that Vitrouk's LinkedIn profile refers to him as "director of Kindle Content for Amazon in Russia.... Looking a little closer, Amazon is hiring for at least three other positions for Russia specifically for its Kindle business and the sourcing of local content: a senior product manager for Kindle content pricing, and a principal for content acquisition for Kindle Russia, and another content acquisition manager."


G.P. Putnam's Sons: This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens


Politics and Prose and a 'Smooth Transition'

This is the first part of a three-part article.

For Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine, who have owned Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C., for nearly two years, the primary challenge has been to retain the qualities that have made the 29-year-old store an icon while at the same time institute significant changes and updates--some of which are very much in the public eye. Graham joked, "People ask us to describe our main objective, and I say our mission is basically not to screw it up."

Actually, the new owners--he was an author, she has worked at the Clinton White House and the State Department, and both are former Washington Post staffers--have done much more than not screw it up. They've reconfigured and improved much of the main space of the 11,000-square-foot store; they've restructured the management of the store, adding several positions and making the structure "flatter" so that they are closer to the other 56 staff members; they're expanding programs the store is known for, particularly events and travel; and partnering more with other organizations and institutions. At the same time, they've made money--and are continuing to make changes.

Still, links to the past remain strong. "I can't imagine a smoother transition," Graham said. Barbara Meade, the longtime co-owner with the late Carla Cohen, formally retired at the beginning of the year. "As part of the sale, she committed to staying on for six months," Graham said. "We hoped she'd stay longer, and she did, in six-month increments." For two or three days a week, she worked in the same office with Graham and Muscatine. "It was great to have her right here and be able to ask her about anything."

Meade still comes in the store regularly and introduces some of the store's many events. David Cohen, Carla's husband, also introduces authors occasionally. "They've been wonderful and complimentary, and we keep them informed," Graham said.

But from the beginning, the new owners knew that "some change would be necessary," Graham said. "Carla herself used to advocate for changes in ways big and small." The trick, he continued, has been pacing. Change needs to occur "in the right sequence. There's only so much that the extraordinary staff can manage at once."

Store Layout
Graham and Muscatine made the most visible changes in the front of the store, in large part to address problems of crowding at the cash registers and at events. "At first we thought of adding a floor or expanding in the back," Graham said. "Then we realized that the answer lay inside the walls of the store."

The solution included moving the cash registers to the side of the store from the center; adding two more cash registers, for a total of five, and creating more space in front of the registers for busy times; taking down several walls that hid inexplicably empty spaces; removing extensive shelving around some structural columns and removing one column completely; relocating the information desk away from its former "prime" location; and adding more display tables. Altogether, the changes "freed up the center of the store" and have allowed more space for events, improved sight lines and improved the flow of customers.

Happily, "the vast majority of the community was pleased by the changes," Muscatine said. "They understood and appreciated what we did. Some said, 'We can see more of the store!' " The biggest test came during the holiday season, when lines moved faster and customers noticed more books, she said.

The pair also changed signage--including adding explanations on the event books table--and the front windows now have what Graham called "more rigorous displays."

In addition, sidelines, which were in various locations through the store, have been consolidated, making it easier for customers--and staff--to find items. (Sidelines traditionally have accounted for about 6% of Politics and Prose revenue, an amount Graham and Muscatine would like to increase, "without compromising the taste and spirit of the store," Graham said.)

Muscatine described the ideal sidelines for the store as "whimsical, clever, the 'brainfood' category of puzzles and games, and anything connected with reading." Sometimes that book connection is stretched so that, for example, a cozy throw, socks and pillows are included--"all useful while reading." Sales of Politics and Prose's iconic "so many books, so little time" T-shirts have improved since they were moved to a rack near the front door.

Graham said the store is "constantly on the prowl for sidelines--and on the prowl for space in the store for them." --John Mutter


Peachtree Publishing Company: Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog by Lisa Papp


To E.L. Konigsburg

Elaine Lobl Konigsburg, two-time Newbery Medalist--in 1968 for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; and again in 1997 for The View from Saturday--died on Friday, April 19, at the age of 83.

Is the Metropolitan Museum of Art the place
to which you wanted to run when you were a child?
How well you embodied the yearnings of young Claudia
as she stole away to a place of comfort.
You captured a New York in which children
could walk 40 blocks from the Met
to the main branch of the New York Public Library
in search of answers,
and then to the Donnell--
then devoted to children, and now closed.

How did it feel
to be one of the elite handful
who has won two Newbery Medals,
for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in 1968,
and in 1997 for The View from Saturday?
And the only author to win a Newbery Medal and Honor
in the same year--1968 (the Newbery Honor went to
Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth)
for your first two novels?

At a luncheon for Silent to the Bone
you spoke of the connection between Branwell's muteness
and "ma," the Japanese term for what we call "negative space."
Ma suggests a simultaneous awareness of form and non-form
resulting in an intensification of vision.
"Negative space" omits the idea of holding both
form and non-form at once.
Even though you are no longer with us,
your words, your awareness, your insights
into human nature remain.
You've made art, language, and life richer.
--Jennifer M. Brown


Berkley Books: The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous


Notes

Image of the Day: A Delicious Author Event

Last Friday, at the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association's Spring Forum at Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, Mich., Mardi Jo Link spoke and ready from her new memoir, Bootstrapper (Knopf), which appears in June. She was surprised by a cake from Zingerman's with her book cover on it, allowing her, as she wrote, "to read from my book and eat it, too!"


James Patterson: 'Who Will Save Our Books, Bookstores, Libraries?'

On the back cover of yesterday's New York Times Book Review, author James Patterson took out a striking full-page ad that reads in part, "The Federal Government has stepped in to save banks, and the automobile industry, but where are they on the important subject of books? Or, if the answer is state and local government, where are they? Is any state doing anything? Why are there no impassioned editorials in influential newspapers or magazines? Who will save our books? Our libraries? Our bookstores?"

He also listed 38 titles ranging from All the President's Men and To Kill a Mockingbird to A Fan's Notes and Maus, saying, "If there are no bookstores, no libraries, no serious publishers with passionate, dedicated, idealistic editors, what will happen to our literature? Who will discover and mentor new writers? Who will publish our important books? What will happen if there are no more books like these?"


Cool Idea of the Day: Amazon Amnesty

In a campaign aimed to help "people to understand what Amazon is doing and make an informed choice to have choice," Pages & Pages Booksellers, in Mosman, Australia, just north of Sydney, is offering what it calls a "Kindle amnesty." On the third Saturday of every month, customers who purchase a BeBook e-reading device from the store and trade in a Kindle at the same time, will receive a $50 gift voucher.

photo: Mosman Daily

In the announcement, general manager Jon Page, who is also president of the Australian Booksellers Association, noted that in Australia, Amazon has more than 65% of the e-book market and more than 75% of e-reading devices. "Kindle has become the default term for an e-reader but most readers don't understand that it is an Amazon product and there are other, better, reading devices on the market." They also don't understand that "the Kindle locks them into buying from Amazon only. Amazon limits readers' choices and walls them into their garden. But you don't have to be."

By contrast, Pages & Pages sells e-books and e-readers that work on "any tablet or smart phone as well as all other non-Kindle e-readers like the Sony eReader or Kobo device…. Come in for a demonstration. Pages & Pages are also happy to set up any device for e-reading. Unlike Amazon, Pages & Pages can give face-to-face customer service and advice. There is also a bin in store for old Kindles."

Unlike Amazon, Pages & Pages, he said, also "support local schools, pay taxes in Australia, employ local people, give Mosman Village character, respect readers privacy, none of which Amazon does."

Page said, too, that e-books are "not a threat to physical bookshops. This new format presents bookshops and readers with many wonderful opportunities to sell and read more books. What does threaten bookshops is a company who engages in uncompetitive behaviour, pays no tax in Australia and misleads readers with restrictive devices and fake book reviews."


Page & Palette: 'Still Alive at 45!'

Karin Wilson, third-generation owner of 45-year-old Page & Palette bookstore, Fairhope, Ala., "spoke this month at the Fairhope Museum of History about her love of books and authors, as well as the challenges facing independent bookstores, including her own--a downtown landmark and destination point for fans of the written word for nearly half a century," the Courier reported. She and husband Kiefer purchased the store in 1997 from her grandmother, Betty Joe Wolff.

Wilson "made an appeal during her talk--a gentle one--for the town to join in support of the store," the Courier wrote, adding that she "spoke frankly about the financial challenges facing the store, as well as the value that a local business brings to a community. She discussed the need for this kind of support and said that P&P fans have rallied around the store and set up meetings to present ideas that might boost the store's sales and stabilize its place in the community."

P&P's outreach efforts also include a T-shirt proclaiming: "Still Alive at 45!"


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Salman Rushdie on the Daily Show

This morning on CBS This Morning: Charles Graeber, author of The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder (Twelve, $26.99, 9780446505291).

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This morning on Good Morning America: Richard Besser, author of Tell Me the Truth, Doctor: Easy-to-Understand Answers to Your Most Confusing and Critical Health Questions (Hyperion, $24.99, 9781401324834).

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This morning on the Today Show: Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, authors of The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business (Knopf, $26.95, 9780307957139). Schmidt will be on the Colbert Report tomorrow night.

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Today on CBS's the Talk: Glennon Doyle Melton, author of Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed (Scribner, $25, 9781451697247).

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Today on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings: A Novel (Riverhead, $27.95, 9781594488399).

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Today on Rachael Ray: Carol Burnett, author of Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story (Simon & Schuster, $24.99, 9781476706412). Tomorrow night she'll be on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

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Today on Tavis Smiley: Mary Williams, author of The Lost Daughter: A Memoir (Blue Rider, $26.95, 9780399160868).

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Tonight on the Colbert Report: Michael Pollan, author of Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (Penguin Press, $27.95, 9781594204210). Tomorrow he'll be on NPR's Marketplace, MSNBC's the Cycle and the Dr. Oz Show.

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Tonight on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson: Philip Kerr, author of A Man Without Breath (A Marian Wood Book/Putnam, $26.95, 9780399160790).

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Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Fabio Viviani, author of Fabio's Italian Kitchen (Hyperion, $24.99, 9781401312770).

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Tomorrow morning on CBS This Morning: Abraham Morgentaler, author of Why Men Fake It: The Totally Unexpected Truth About Men and Sex (Holt, $26, 9780805094244).

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Tomorrow on MSNBC's Morning Joe: Erica Grieder, author of Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas (PublicAffairs, $26.99, 9781610391924).

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Tomorrow on Bill O'Reilly: David Hunt, co-author of Terror Red (Forge, $24.99, 9780765332899).

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Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: David Rohde, author of Beyond War: Reimagining American Influence in a New Middle East (Viking, $27.95, 9780670026449).

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Tomorrow on Access Hollywood: Tom Sizemore, author of By Some Miracle I Made It Out of There: A Memoir (Atria, $26, 9781451681673).

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Tomorrow night on the Daily Show: Salman Rushdie, author of Joseph Anton: A Memoir (Random House, $30, 9780812992786).


American Psycho: The Musical

A musical based on the novel American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis will premiere at London's Almeida Theatre December 3 and will run until January 25. The Guardian reported that the show, which has the tagline "a bloody satire," is being scripted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (TV's Glee and Broadway's Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark), with music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik. "The team behind the American Psycho musical said they wanted to try out the production in London first, rather than taking it straight to Broadway," the Guardian wrote.



Books & Authors

Awards: Los Angeles Times; Chautauqua; Thomas Wolfe

Winners of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, which were announced Friday to launch the L.A. Times Festival of Books, are:

Biography: The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert A. Caro (Knopf)
Current interest: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo (Random House)
Fiction: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (Ecco)
First fiction: Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead (Knopf)
Graphic novel: Everything Together: Collected Stories by Sammy Harkham (PictureBox)
History: America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas and the Compromise That Preserved the Union by Fergus M. Bordewich (S&S)
Mystery/thriller: Broken Harbor by Tana French (Viking)
Poetry: Poems 1962-2012 by Louise Glück (FSG)
Science and technology: Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History by Florence Williams (Norton)
Young adult literature: Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (Little, Brown Books For Young Readers)
Lifetime achievement: Kevin Starr
Innovator's award: Margaret Atwood
 
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The finalists for the 2013 Chautauqua Prize are:

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (HarperCollins)
The President's Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy (Simon & Schuster)
Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King (HarperCollins)
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (HarperCollins)
The Names of Things by John Colman Wood (Ashland Creek Press)

The winning book will be selected from this shortlist and announced in mid-May.

In its second year, the Chautauqua Prize is given by the Chautauqua Institution to a book of fiction or literary/narrative nonfiction that "provides a richly rewarding reading experience" and to the author for "a significant contribution to the literary arts." The winning author receives $7,500 and all travel and expenses for a one-week summer residency at Chautauqua.

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Kevin Winchester of Waxhaw has won the 2013 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, sponsored by the North Carolina Writers' Network, for his short story, "Waiting on Something to Happen."

Honorable mentions went to Ashley Memory for her story "Once in a Blue Moon" and to Jacob Appel for "Some Helpful Background for the Incoming Tenant."

Final judge Ruth Moose called the winner "a powerful story, with sparse dialogue, at a critical juncture in the life of a tragic hero. Not a word is wasted, and the emotion skillfully underplayed so that the reader's mind fills in the backstory."

Winchester wins $1,000, and his story, along with the two honorable mentions, will be considered for publication by the Thomas Wolfe Review.


Book Review

Review: Pacific

Pacific by Tom Drury (Grove Press, $25 hardcover, 9780802119995, May 7, 2013)

Tom Drury's 1994 debut novel, The End of Vandalism, captures the resolve of hapless Midwesterners living in fictional Grouse County with deadpan comic empathy. In Pacific, his fifth novel, Drury demonstrates that his dialogue-dominated style is equally suited to West Coast adolescent anomie and the dissimulating viciousness of show business. Although the narrative is divided between the ongoing struggles of Grouse County favorites and the efforts of 14-year-old Micah Darling to adjust to his mother's shinier life in Los Angeles, no prior knowledge of The End of Vandalism (or its 2000 sequel, Hunts in Dreams) is required to enjoy Pacific.

One of the great strengths of Drury's fiction is his ability to suggest the deep funny-sadness of life without sinking to ridicule or bathos. He celebrates quirkiness of speech and habit for its ability to particularize the individual beyond stereotype. Unexpected gestures connect characters and reveal wounds of the heart. There is no condescension or mockery toward anyone; even at their most self-deluded or mentally unstable, Drury invests his characters with a warm-blooded immediacy that demands respect.

It's a very leveling perspective, one in which the hopes and disappointments of a lifelong miscreant and a retired sheriff are given equal weight, and the privileged princesses of L.A. are no less deserving of understanding than a Midwestern boy who has been imported into a landscape that seems friendly yet offers him little connection.

It's rare to read a novel with so little cliché or convoluted prose, in which the dialogue is both believable and exceptional. For example, Micah's new stepbrother tells him, "Everybody falls in love with Charlotte. It's like a law of nature. Gravity, then Charlotte." Or consider the tender subnotes in Micah's exchange with Lyris, the half-sister who raised him, just before he leaves:

"Who will call me 'boy' in California?"
"No one, that's why you shouldn't leave."
"Do you think so?"
She shrugged. "Go and see what it is."

Composed of forward-moving scenes, with very little exposition and zero banal musing, Pacific covers a lot of ground for such a lean novel: two very different American communities, a dozen well-developed characters, several career transitions, two noirish subplots and, most affectingly, one Midwestern teen's root shock when he gets plunked down in L.A. --Holloway McCandless

Shelf Talker: A dialogue-rich novel about life in the quirky Midwest and shiny L.A. by the author of The End of Vandalism.


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

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

1. Life Code by Dr. Phil McGraw
2. Falling into You by Jasinda Wilder
3. To Die For by various authors
4. The Bet by Rachel Van Dyken
5. Music of the Heart by Katie Ashley
6. Wide Awake by Shelly Crane
7. Surrender Your Love by J.C. Reed
8. Light in the Shadows by A. Meredith Walters
9. Real by Katy Evans
10. Second Chance Boyfriend by Monica Murphy

[Many thanks to IndieReader.com!]


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