Also published on this date: Wednesday, July 17, 2013: Maximum Shelf: Night Film

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hampton Roads Publishing Company: Becoming Baba Yaga: Trickster, Feminist, and Witch of the Woods by Kris Spisak, Foreword by Gennarose Nethercott

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

Severn House: A Messy Murder (Main) (The Decluttering Mysteries #4) by Simon Brett

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker


Plot Thickens for Rowling/Galbraith Novel

The intriguing and devilish case of Robert Galbraith's The Cuckoo's Calling continues to unravel after the big revelation earlier this week that J.K. Rowling wrote the crime novel, which has instantly risen from near anonymity to bestseller status.

Mulholland Books is going back to press for 300,000 hardcover copies of the book with a cover note identifying Galbraith as a pseudonym for Rowling.

A handful of fortunate readers currently own a signed copy of the novel, and bids for them "have topped $1,000 on eBay," according to the Associated Press. Rowling spokeswoman Nicky Stonehill said the author signed "a few copies."

"Yes, those books will have value," said Angel Webster of Bauman Rare Books in Manhattan. "The first edition is already a scarce commodity, and she only signed a handful of them under vague circumstances."

Bookstores were "in a mad dash to secure copies," the Modesto Bee reported. The Avid Reader at Tower in Sacramento did not have the book in stock when the news broke, and staff members were "trying to locate copies of the novel from a variety of distributors." By late Monday, the store "had indeed managed to secure a small shipment of the book from a distributor." Manager Don Kochis said what really makes an independent bookstore is having "books that people want or being able to get them in short order."
Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, Wis., sold its only copy shortly after opening Sunday and owner Daniel Goldin told USA Today he took 25 calls from readers, including a woman "who told me she had called about 50 stores around the country looking for a copy."

Forbes magazine suggested that "the real winners here are the online e-book stores.... With book shops genuinely caught out and lacking stock (surely the biggest sign this wasn't some fascinating long-con), anyone who wanted a copy of The Cuckoo's Calling was going to have to go digital. The Kindles of the world are likely going to be the only place to read the adventures of Strike for the next few days. It wouldn't surprise me if the book turns out to be one of the biggest selling e-books of the year--from the lowest reaches of the charts sales rocketed 158,000% and it hit the number one spot on Amazon."

Stephen King, who wrote several novels under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, cheered Rowling's decision, telling USA Today that "Jo is right about one big thing--what a pleasure, what a blessed relief, to write in anonymity, just for the joy of it. Now that I know, I can't wait to read the book."

Also in the USA Today, Shelf Awareness's own John Mutter questioned whether there could be a marketing method to the retail madness, noting it is "easy to imagine that the 'leak' (to the British newspaper) was countenanced. Her statement had none of the anger of someone whose secret was compromised.... It'll be interesting to find out how much Little, Brown knew and when... If they knew early on that Galbraith was Rowling, I can imagine she swore them to secrecy. And what publisher wouldn't obey such a request from J.K. Rowling?"

[Editor's note: Mutter adds that if Rowling and the publisher decided to make the author's true identity known, it may have been more to help the book find the audience Rowling thought it deserved than a simple financial consideration.]

This morning, the Bookseller reported that Rowling's spokesperson Nicky Stonehill said, "We can confirm the story in the Sunday Times was correct, and it was not a leak or elaborate marketing campaign to boost sales. We are not commenting any further." And Little, Brown has issued a statement, noting that the revelation "was not a leak or part of a marketing campaign. We were very pleased and proud to have published The Cuckoo's Calling, and we're delighted with the great response it has been met with from readers, reviewers and fellow writers. We're looking forward to publishing Strike's next installment in summer 2014."

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Former Bookseller Makes Good: Saunders New UVA Press Director

Mark H. Saunders is the new director of the University of Virginia Press, succeeding Penelope Kaiserlian, who served as director from 2001 until her retirement in 2012. For the past year, he has been interim director and editor-in-chief. He continues to head Rotunda, the press's electronic publishing initiative.

Saunders began his career as a buyer and events coordinator at Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C. He then joined Columbia University Press as East Coast sales representative and later became national sales manager. In 1995, he joined the University of Virginia Press as associate marketing manager and webmaster. He was later promoted to marketing and sales director and assistant director. He's also the author of Ministers of Fire, a spy tale published last year by Swallow Press. (See his Book Brahmin with us from our May 18, 2012, issue here.)

David Klein, the press chair and a professor at the university, said that Saunders "has a deep understanding of both the substantive and technical sides of publishing, outstanding leadership skills, and an exciting vision for the press in a fast-changing industry."

GLOW: Sourcebooks Landmark: A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler

Calgary Flood Update: 'Everything Is Far from Normal'

Last month, several Canadian independent bookstores offered assistance to those affected by flooding in Calgary, Alberta. Now, a number of publishers are also assisting indies in the area. Quillblog reported that bookseller Pages on Kensington, which had offered to replace books damaged by the flood at cost, has extended its original July 9 deadline.

Owner Simone Lee noted that "after spending two weeks with the emergency clean-up of my parents' house I knew that people weren't ready to sit down and think clearly about what they had lost, when they were still ripping out drywall.... There are so many displaced people, and the ones who get to stay are still dealing with sewer issues, insurance companies, contractor's quotes, etc. I've only been in the store myself now for three days, and still feel like the walking wounded... everything is far from normal."

Several publishers have joined the effort by offering increased discounts to pass on to flood victims. Coach House Books, Brick Books and the University of Alberta Press "have offered gratis copies, and Penguin Random House Canada has extended a 50% discount," Quillblog wrote.

BISG Survey: Students Seek Alternatives to Textbooks

Student use of alternative and illicit course materials is rising, according to the Book Industry Study Group's ongoing survey of Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education, conducted by Bowker Market Research. The percentage of students reporting they had downloaded course content from an unauthorized website has risen to 34% from 20% when it was first measured in 2010. During the same period, students who photocopied or scanned chapters of textbooks from other students rose from 21% to 31%.
"This is important behavior to track, especially since it's coinciding with other data that show declining student commitment to owning current editions of assigned texts," said Len Vlahos, BISG's executive director.

The latest study, which also features highlights from a parallel survey of higher ed faculty, noted that respondents said while students typically paid $110 for a print textbook and $58 for a digital edition (down slightly from last year's $118 and $65), they considered both print and digital course materials to be priced higher than their value to the class. Faculty respondents said prices should be in the $74 (print) and $40 (digital) range, also down from $79 and $48 last year.
For more information, or to order a copy, go to the BISG publications page.

Obituary Notes: Barbara Robinson; Ron Schoeffel

Children's author Barbara Robinson, "whose beloved and irreverent novel The Best Christmas Pageant Ever describes how a church play is hijacked by a Scripture-ignorant and all-around troublesome set of six siblings," died last week, the Boston Globe reported. She was 85.


Ron Schoeffel, a long-time editor at University of Toronto Press, died July 4, Quillblog reported. He was 77.


Megan Sullivan Leaving Harvard Book Store

In August, Megan Sullivan, head buyer at Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass., is joining America's Test Kitchen as an assistant editor. Carole Horne, general manager at Harvard Book Store, commented: "This job is a perfect fit for Megan, so we're happy for her, but we're very sorry to have her leave." Horne is accepting applications for the head buyer position at

Lunch with the Dog Who Knows 1,000 Words

Chaser demonstrating her skills.

"The great hope I have for our book is that it will help people realize just how smart dogs are," said retired psychology professor and animal lover John W. Pilley, during a lunchtime demonstration held to promote his upcoming book Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

His partner in the demonstration was the eponymous Chaser, a nine-year-old border collie with an impressive array of skills. During the demonstration, Pilley showed Chaser's ability to differentiate by name her various toys, mimic Pilley's movements, follow herding commands and even understand syntax and word order by deciphering multi-step instructions. For example, after putting several toys on the floor, Pilley told Chaser to place a toy dubbed "puff" next to a tennis ball and then bring the tennis ball to him; Chaser was immediately able to carry out these and similar instructions.

Chaser with John Pilley (red shirt) and his family.

"We demonstrated without any doubt the memory system and potential of dogs for learning," said Pilley, of his nearly decade-long work with Chaser. He began training Chaser when she was just a few weeks old. Pilley emphasized that the training, which typically lasted for four or five hours each day, was always mixed with play. The book, which will be released on October 29, recounts his time with Chaser and his lifelong love of dogs.

"I confess she's conditioned me," Pilley mused as he petted Chaser. "I spend more and more time playing her games." --Alex Mutter

Jonathan Galassi's Favorite Author

In the inaugural entry for its new Pub Talk series, Graywolf Press director and publisher Fiona McCrae interviewed Jonathan Galassi, president and publisher of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, which distributes Graywolf titles. Among our favorite exchanges:

How did you get started in publishing? Did you know right away that this was the career for you?
I did a couple of years of postgraduate study in England and decided I couldn't face what promised to be years of soul-destroying apprenticeship to the deconstructionists in graduate school. I wanted to be involved with contemporary writers and writing, so I thought I'd give publishing a try. And I'm still trying.

There are almost no schools for editing: how did you fine-tune your skills?
Editing is something you learn by doing. It's basically common sense, I think. You watch what your elders do and try it yourself. The proof is in the pudding. You get thrown into it and help the author to produce a coherent whole. There's no one right way to do it.

Can you admit to a favorite author?
Absolutely not! I'd be dead meat.

Do you think publishing is getting harder or easier in the digital world? What changes do you welcome?
Probably harder, but it's never been easy. It's necessarily about taking chances. Lots of books don't find their readers, no matter what you try. But I do think we're more and more knowledgeable about the varieties of ways to do this.

Book Trailer of the Day: The Heartbreak Messenger

The Heartbreak Messenger by Alexander Vance (Feiwel and Friends), a middle-grade novel about a boy who starts a business breaking up with people on behalf of their significant others.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Orville Schell on NPR's Diane Rehm Show

Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Orville Schell, co-author of Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century (Random House, $30, 9780679643470).

Movies: 12 Years a Slave; Dear Mr. Watterson

Fox Searchlight has released the first trailer for 12 Years a Slave, based on the 19th-century memoir by Solomon Northup, reported. The film, directed by Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame), stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Quvenzhane Wallis, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Scoot McNairy, Garrett Dillahunt, Alfre Woodard, Dwight Henry and Michael K. Williams. The film opens October 18.


Gravitas Ventures has acquired North American rights to Dear Mr. Watterson, Joel Allen Schroeder's documentary about Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. Gravitas Ventures is partnering with Submarine Deluxe for a November 15 theatrical and VOD release.

Where's Houellebecq? Author Who Vanished to Appear in Film

French author and "literature's perpetual enfant terrible" Michel Houellebecq, whose 2011 disappearance while on a book tour prompted international media coverage, will appear in a new film "clarifying" his book tour disappearance," the Guardian reported. At the time of his vanishing, Houellebecq's publisher claimed the author "simply forgot about it, as one does, and also didn't have access to e-mail or telephone. The life of a famous author!"

A French production company has finished shooting L'enlèvement de Michel Houellebecq (The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq), with the author playing himself. Director Guillaume Nicloux promised to "retrace the week he disappeared," describing the coverage as "truth, lies, suppositions" and promising the "truth goes well beyond fiction."

Books & Authors

Awards: SCBWI Late Bloomer; CWA Daggers

Edie Parsons won the inaugural Karen and Philip Cushman Late Bloomer Award, established by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators to honor "authors over the age of fifty who have not been traditionally published in the children's literature field," for her book Mercury Sea, a middle grade fantasy novel about the poetry of historical alchemy.


Several Dagger awards were announced Monday at the Crime Writers' Association's annual dinner in London. Longlists for the CWA Gold, Steel and John Creasey Daggers were also released. Shortlists will be revealed later this summer, with eventual winners named as part of the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards in the autumn. This year's CWA Dagger winners to date are:

Diamond Dagger: Lee Child.
Nonfiction Dagger: Midnight in Peking by Paul French
Ellis Peters Historical Dagger: The Scent of Death by Andrew Taylor
Dagger in the Library: Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer
International Dagger (co-winners): Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas, translated by Siân Reynolds; and Alex by Pierre Lemaitre, translated by Frank Wynne.
Short Story Dagger: "Come Away with Me" by Stella Duffy (The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime, Volume 10)
Debut Dagger: Finn Clarke

Book Brahmin: Stephen Kiernan

photo by Todd R. Lockwood

Stephen Kiernan, born the sixth of seven children, still eats incredibly fast. A former wrestler and rugby player, he wants everyone to know that he is not angry anymore. He has tended bar, operated a jackhammer and been a salesman, all of which prepared him ideally for decades working in newspapers. He is a doting dad to two amazing lads. Most of his writing occurs with a cat in his lap. He's the author of two nonfiction works, Last Rights and Authentic Patriotism. His debut novel, The Curiosity, was published by William Morrow on July 9, 2013.

On your nightstand now:

Mark Twain by Ron Powers, the first biography I've read slowly because it is so good; The Round House by Louise Erdrich; and last year's winners of the Bakeless Prizes at Breadloaf. Also half a dozen books I'm reading as research for my next novel, which I will not name under pain of torture.

Favorite book when you were a child:

In elementary school, we could mail-order paperbacks from Scholastic for 25 cents each, and I bought $2 worth every month. I was an omnivore: mysteries, histories, sci-fi and all the great sentimental dog books by Albert Payson Terhune. The other author I loved early was Tolkien. I grew up a 15-minute bike ride from a golf course. The summer I was 12, I would find a shady spot well away from the fairways, lie in the grass, and travel to Mordor for hours. My parents had a shelf of fancy books in red leather covers that no one else ever opened, which began my discovery of literature: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Black Beauty, Treasure Island, the collected stories of O. Henry.

Also, because I had five older siblings, I read precociously--Sometimes a Great Notion, As I Lay Dying, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Damon Runyon Omnibus, all before age 14. In high school my favorite was Tom Robbins's Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

Your top five authors:

Only five? Gabriel García Márquez, Leo Tolstoy, David McCullough, Knut Hamsun (despite his personal politics), Mark Twain. And now I could name 55 more.

Book you've faked reading:

In grad school in Iowa, I took a "great novels" seminar with Francine Prose, who told us that Proust's Remembrance of Things Past was her favorite novel. I made a valiant effort but repeatedly fell asleep while reading it. When class came, I participated actively for a while. Once the discussion passed page 400 or so, I closed my mouth. Since I tend to talk too much, perhaps not finishing certain books is good for me.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Pan by Knut Hamsun, a forgotten Nobel Laureate. So simple a love story, language as clear as water, with a strange and beautiful moral landscape. Also a few of my friends are immensely talented writers, and I am shameless about touting them. It is taking immense restraint not to name them here.

Book you've bought for the cover:

At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien, which I ended up liking only a little. But it was the blurb on the cover that got me: "This is just the sort of book to give your sister--if she's a loud, dirty, boozy girl." --Dylan Thomas.

Book that changed your life:

So many, and in such different ways, it's impossible to list. For example, the summer I was 15, I read, consecutively, Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Grapes of Wrath. By September I was a different person.

Favorite line from a book:

"The enemy of the black is not the white. The enemy of capitalist is not communist, the enemy of homosexual is not heterosexual, the enemy of Jew is not Arab, the enemy of youth is not the old, the enemy of hip is not redneck, the enemy of Chicano is not gringo and the enemy of women is not men.
We all have the same enemy.
The enemy is the tyranny of the dull mind.
The enemy is every expert who practices technocratic manipulation, the enemy is every proponent of standardization, and the enemy is every victim who is so dull and lazy and weak as to allow himself to be manipulated and standardized." --From Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins.

Or this:

"For if Jack Buggit could escape from the pickle jar, if a bird with a broken neck could fly away, what else might be possible? Water may be older than light, diamonds crack in a hot goat's blood, mountaintops give off cold fire, forests appear in mid-ocean, it may happen that a crab is caught with a shadow of a hand on its back, that the wind be imprisoned in a bit of knotted string. And it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery." --From The Shipping News by Annie Proulx.

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

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.

Writing habits:

While I carry my ideas around all day, fiddling with them like coins in my pocket, I write best in early morning--most days starting at 5:30 but sometimes as early as 3:30, facing east, on my laptop. Needless to say, I am therefore an expert at the deep, brief nap. During first drafting I rarely take even one day off, for fear of interrupting the dream. If I am working on a difficult passage, I'll grab a basic Bic pen and write longhand on a legal pad. I use the pens till they're empty, and have hundreds of Bics with empty ink cartridges. After many years of working in noisy newsrooms, it is now a deep pleasure to write in total silence.

Book Review

Children's Review: Bugs in My Hair!

Bugs in My Hair! by David Shannon (Blue Sky/Scholastic, $17.99 hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9780545143134, September 1, 2013)

As much as everyone would like to deny it, lice continue to be a problem wherever children gather. Caldecott Honor winner David Shannon (No, David!) takes the shame out of this reality by acknowledging that many children have had bugs in their hair. He tackles the topic with a winning blend of humor and facts.

Shannon gets right to the point with the opening line: "One day, my mom made a terrible, awful discovery... Head Lice!" In a style reminiscent of his No, David! and Good Boy, Fergus! Shannon introduces a redheaded boy watching his mother's meltdown--she leaps horror-stricken into the air, limbs flailing. Next, in a cartoon-like full-spread illustration, Shannon zooms in on the guilty creatures wrapping their six legs around the boy's red locks: "There were Bugs! In my Hair!! And they were laying Eggs!!!*" reads the text below. A footnote with an asterisk explains "*Lice eggs are called 'nits.' "

Shannon expertly toggles between the boy's real-life experience and his flights of fancy about the creatures' activities. The narrator digs his fingers into his red mop wondering, "What in the heck were they doing up there?" A turn of the page reveals the fanciful answer: "Lice-A-Palooza!" Lice play the banjo and the fiddle with limbs to spare, swinging from the poor boy's strands. A bug in full vampire regalia follows, revealing their true purpose: "Actually, they were feasting on my Blood.*" (Footnote: "*Ick!") The author-artist addresses the feelings of a child with head lice ("Everyone will know. I won't have any friends") and the misinformation circulated ("Relax. Dogs don't get head lice"). Even as the boy's mother "arm[s] herself with battle-tested anti-lice weapons" and applies the remedy, the ink and watercolor illustrations keep things light. The boy shares his worst nightmare--"If we didn't stop them they might... conquer the world!"--while Shannon depicts "Bugzilla!," a giant bug devouring trains and toppling buildings against an apocalyptic sky.

Shannon's hero lets readers know there is no guarantee the lice won't return, but also equips them with a treatment and with the knowledge that they are not alone in this potentially shameful predicament. This much-needed book provides both reassurance and comic relief. --Jennifer M. Brown

Shelf Talker: The Caldecott Honor–winning creator of No, David! presents the potentially shameful topic of head lice with a winning blend of humor and facts.

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