Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Little Brown and Company: Wolf at the Table by Adam Rapp

Tor Nightfire: Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes

Severn River Publishing: Covert Action (Command and Control #5) by J.R. Olson and David Bruns

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers


Building to Be Razed, East Line Books Closing

Because the store's building will be demolished by a developer, East Line Books, Clifton Park, N.Y., is closing after the holidays, the Times Union reported.

"They are looking for someone with a project like a new hotel or new strip mall," owner Robyn Ringler told the paper. "My goal, since this came on so fast, is to have a normal two months of business. I don't want to deplete the inventory. I want to enjoy my customers."

Founded by Ringler in 2008, East Line Books sells new and used books, including a lot of fiction. The store also has a strong creative writing program, which Ringler will continue from her home.

She said had "offers to move to Amsterdam [N.Y.]," but it was too far. She also doubted she could find a similar space in Clifton Park for her rent of $1,000 a month.

University of California Press: The Accidental Ecosystem: People and Wildlife in American Cities by Peter S. Alagona

New Owner, Location for Penguin Bookshop, Sewickley, Pa.

The 84-year-old Penguin Bookshop, Sewickley, Pa., which had been put on the market in June by co-owners Janet and Bud McDanel, has a new owner and will soon have a new location. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Susan Hans O'Connor will take over the bookstore in January.

"I've been looking for a way to continue my passion for books and reading, and also a way to give back to the community in a way that's really personal to me," said O'Connor, who became a staff member in January. "We've been working to keep this very treasured local business going," she added.

In an e-mail announcing the sale, the McDanels wrote: "We feel certain that she will be a wonderful owner and is eminently qualified to carry the bookshop into the future."

The bookstore will move to 417 Beaver St. early next year. "We have very, very loyal customers and I'm hoping we can maintain all of the things everybody loves about the current store and move it into a sustainable space," O'Connor said.

On Amazon: Mrs. Bezos Pans Book on Mr. Bezos

Novelist MacKenzie Bezos, who has been married to Jeff Bezos since before Amazon was born, yesterday posted a one-star review of The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone (Little, Brown), writing, "Everywhere I can fact check from personal knowledge, I find way too many inaccuracies, and unfortunately that casts doubt over every episode in the book....

"While numerous factual inaccuracies are certainly troubling in a book being promoted to readers as a meticulously researched definitive history, they are not the biggest problem here. The book is also full of techniques which stretch the boundaries of non-fiction, and the result is a lopsided and misleading portrait of the people and culture at Amazon. An author writing about any large organization will encounter people who recall moments of tension out of tens of thousands of hours of meetings and characterize them in their own way, and including those is legitimate. But I would caution readers to take note of the weak rhetorical devices used to make it sound like these quotes reflect daily life at Amazon or the majority viewpoint about working there."

Bezos charges that Stone, who is a senior writer for Bloomberg Businessweek and a former New York Times reporter, dismisses "people whose accounts of a supportive and inspiring culture contradict his thesis" as "robots," and she quotes a few notes from "an archive of the thousands of thank you messages written to Jeff over the years."

Noting that the author did not interview Jeff Bezos for the book, she also knocks Stone for using such phrases as "Bezos felt," "Bezos believed" and "Bezos wanted."

She adds: "It may be that another telling of the Amazon story--for example, that people at Amazon have no secret agenda they've been able to keep hidden for 19 years, really do believe in the mission they keep repeating, and are working hard and of their own free will to realize it--would strike readers as less exciting than the version offered here. I sympathize with this challenge. But when an author plans to market a book as non-fiction, he is obliged to find a suspenseful story arc that doesn't rely on mischaracterizing or avoiding important parts of the truth."

The review, which until that point was the only comment by Amazon--or any Bezos--on the book (which had attracted much attention for details about Amazon's "cheetah"-like approach to "gazelle"-like small publishers, for example), got so much press yesterday that Amazon spokesperson Craig Berman wrote to Business Insider:

"Over the course of the author's reporting, Amazon facilitated meetings for him with more than half a dozen senior Amazon executives, during which he had every opportunity to inquire about or fact-check claims made by former employees. He chose not to. I met in person with him on at least three occasions and exchanged dozens of e-mails where he only checked a few specific quotes. He had every opportunity to thoroughly fact check and bring a more balanced viewpoint to his narrative, but he was very secretive about the book and simply chose not to."

Stone then told Business Insider: "I exhaustively fact checked the work with my sources. Amazon declined to make Jeff Bezos available for fact checking."

Reagan Arthur, publisher of Little, Brown, told the New York Times that the book was "scrupulously sourced and reported" and "has been reviewed widely and praised for its evenhandedness."

She said that what seems to be the one concrete mistake pointed out by MacKenzie Bezos--the year in which Jeff Bezos read The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro--will be corrected in later printings.

Stone noted that he had interviewed more than 300 current or former Amazon employees, adding, "Most of the readers and reviewers have been inspired by Amazon's story. To me, it's not an unflattering account."

Two Indies Among Small Business of the Year Semifinalists

Charis Books & More, Atlanta, Ga., and Afterwords Books, Edwardsville, Ill., are among the 25 semifinalists for Independent We Stand's 2013 Independent Small Business of the Year Award. More than 11,700 votes were cast for 265 nominees, and now semifinalist voting has begun at through December 1, when the 10 submissions that receive the highest number of public votes will be named finalists. A winner of "The Indie" will then be chosen by a panel of judges and announced December 4. The Indie winner receives a prize package valued at more than $15,000.

Nuevo Nombre: Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial

Effective yesterday, Random House Mondadori, whose headquarters are in Barcelona, Spain, has been renamed Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, reflecting its role as the Spanish-language publishing company of Penguin Random House. In November 2012, Bertelsmann acquired full ownership of what had been a joint venture between Random House and Mondadori that was formed in 2001.

The company's Mondadori imprint is also being renamed and is now known as Literatura Random House.

Obituary Note: Arthur Danto

Arthur Danto, whose articles and books "transformed the philosophy of art, and, along with his art criticism in the Nation, and the catalogues he wrote for exhibitions, also influenced the art world itself," the Guardian reported. He was 89.


Image of the Day: Words Without Borders Turns 10

Last Tuesday, nearly 250 people gathered at Tribeca Three-Sixty in New York City to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Words Without Borders, the nonprofit, online monthly magazine devoted to literary translations that was founded in 2003 by book editors Alane Salierno Mason and Dedi Felman. Mason, a senior editor at W.W. Norton and still very involved as board president, spoke at the occasion, as did Iranian author Goli Taraghi, who has been published by Words Without Borders and now by Mason at Norton, with a translated collection of stories, The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons.

The emotional highlight and center to the evening was the initial presentation of the James H. Ottaway, Jr. Award for the Promotion of International Literature to distinguished and beloved book editor Drenka Willen (pictured, with award). Poet Charles Simic read an original poem for the occasion, and essayist/translator/editor Eliot Weinberger gave a loving, eloquent introduction for Willen, who was greeted by a prolonged standing ovation. Never comfortable with the limelight, she seemed moved in her remarks, but also relieved when no longer speaking. Her remarkable roster of authors, including Nobel Literature Prize winners Günter Grass, Octavio Paz, José Saramago and Wislawa Szymborska was cited, though to this observer, it's no more impressive than that she continues to edit and introduce writers who might otherwise be unread here, with forthcoming novels by Antonio Muñoz Molina (Into the Night of Time, translated by Edith Grossman) and Daša Drndić (Trieste, translated by Ellen Elias-Bursać).

According to Words Without Borders executive director Karen Phillips, the evening raised more than $125,000, a record for the organization. Also part of the evening was the launch of WWB's Words Without Borders Campus education initiative. --Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash.

Big Stone Gap: Adapting the Novel, Movie & Town

Jenna Elfman at Tales of the Lonesome Pine.

What do author Adriana Trigani and bookseller Wendy Welch have in common? Their town. A movie is currently in production based on Trigani's novel Big Stone Gap. It is set in the town that also happens to be home to Tales of the Lonesome Pine Bookshop, which did a star turn of its own in co-owner Wendy Welch's book, The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book.

Star-gazing is well underway in the town, where recent sightings have included Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, Whoopi Goldberg and Jenna Elfman, the Roanoke Times reported, noting that "of all the big names roaming around Big Stone Gap these days, none draws forth more local appreciation than Trigiani, the hometown girl who moved to New York and made it big but held off making her movie for more than a decade until she found just the right deal to do what she really wanted to do all along: make the movie about Big Stone Gap in Big Stone Gap."

Welch's bookstore and cafe have been "a destination for some of the movie folk, including Elfman, who plays Iva Lou, the bookmobile librarian, in the movie."

Clay Smith Now Editor-in-Chief of Kirkus Reviews

Smith (l.) "buzzed for a good cause," along with Lois Kim, who succeeded him as literary director of the Texas Book Festival, and novelist Amanda Eyre Ward, this past spring, to raise nearly $80,000 for the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas.

Claiborne ("Clay") Smith has been appointed to the newly created position of editor-in-chief of Kirkus Reviews.

"Clay Smith has the passion and experience needed to drive development of the thoughtful content Kirkus is known for providing," said Kirkus Media COO Meg LaBorde Kuehn.

Smith joined Kirkus in November 2012 as features editor, and he will continue those responsibilities. He was previously the literary director of the Texas Book Festival and began his career in journalism at the Austin Chronicle, where he rose to the position of senior editor covering books. He is a graduate of the Cultural Reporting and Criticism graduate program at New York University.

Book Trailer of the Day: Fosse

Sam Wasson, author of Fosse (Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), talks about his struggle to complete his bio of the choreographer. With cameos by Nathan Lane, Andrea Martin, Eric Roberts and others.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Doris Kearns Goodwin Talks The Bully Pulpit

Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Tori Spelling, author of Spelling It Like It Is (Gallery, $26, 9781451628593). She will also appear on CBS's the Talk and CBS's Entertainment Tonight.


Tomorrow morning on Fox & Friends: Jason Redman, co-author of The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader (Morrow, $26.99, 9780062208316).


Tomorrow on the View: Liv Tyler, co-author of Modern Manners: Tools to Take You to the Top (Potter Style, $19.99, 9780770434083).

Also on the View: Giada De Laurentis, author of Giada's Feel Good Food: My Healthy Recipes and Secrets (Clarkson Potter, $32.50, 9780307987204).


Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Wil S. Hylton, author of Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II (Riverhead, $27.95, 9781594487279).

Tomorrow on CNBC's Closing Bell: Randi Zuckerberg, author of Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives (HarperOne, $27.99, 9780062285140).


Tomorrow on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 Later: Hill Harper, author of Letters to an Incarcerated Brother: Encouragement, Hope, and Healing for Inmates and Their Loved Ones (Gotham, $27.50, 9781592407248).


Tomorrow on Access Hollywood: Judy Smith, author of Good Self, Bad Self: How to Bounce Back from a Personal Crisis (Free Press, $16, 9781451650006).


Tomorrow on the Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson: Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism (Simon & Schuster, $40, 9781416547860).


Tomorrow night on the Daily Show: Monique Brinson Demery, author of Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam's Madame Nhu (PublicAffairs, $26.99, 9781610392815).

Macmillan Expands Screen Adaptation Efforts

Macmillan Publishers has formed Macmillan Entertainment "to strengthen its commitment to developing film and TV adaptations of its book titles," reported. Brendan Deneen, who has been an editor for the past three years at Thomas Dunne Books, will head up the new division. noted that "Deneen has been setting up film projects for Macmillan since 2010, when book, magazine and newspaper publishers really started seeing the revenue potential of holding onto ancillary rights and sharing in the riches of option deals."

"Macmillan Entertainment was originally launched as Macmillan Films from within Thomas Dunne Books," Macmillan CEO John Sargent said. "After several early successes, we decided to expand this strategy across the group. While we will be selective in our projects, Macmillan Entertainment will allow us to actively pursue film and TV opportunities, and Brendan's experience will prove valuable to both our authors and editors."

Books & Authors

Awards: Neustadt International Prize, WOLA-Duke Winners

Mozambican author António Emílio Leite Couto (Mia Couto) won the $50,000 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, which is presented every two years to a novelist, playwright or poet. The award is sponsored by the University of Oklahoma, the Neustadt family and World Literature Today. His first novel, Sleepwalking Land, "is widely considered one of the best African books of the 20th century," the organizers observed.

In her nominating statement, Gabriella Ghermandi praised him as "an author who addresses not just his country but the entire world, all human beings.... Some critics have called Mia Couto 'the smuggler writer,' a sort of Robin Hood of words who steals meanings to make them available in every tongue, forcing apparently separate worlds to communicate. Within his novels, each line is like a small poem."


The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster by Jonathan M. Katz (Palgrave Macmillan) has won the 2013 WOLA-Duke Human Rights Book Award, sponsored by the Washington Office on Latin America and Duke University.

The judges also listed an honorable mention for Kimberly Theidon's Intimate Enemies: Violence and Reconciliation in Peru (University of Pennsylvania Press).

Dr. Kathryn Sikkink, a member of the 2013 judging panel and winner of the 2011 WOLA-Duke Human Rights Book Award for The Justice Cascade, said that Katz has "written a gripping, well-written book, full of moving stories of the people of Haiti and the tragedies and triumphs of their lives during the adversity of the earthquake and the cholera epidemic, and vivid cameos of the very mixed bag of foreigners who seemed compelled to try to make things better there."

James McBride Stirs It Up with Storytelling and Song

Rousing renditions of "God's Gonna Set This World on Fire" and other gospel songs and spirituals had the crowd on its feet, dancing, clapping and toe-tapping, during a performance by James McBride and the Good Lord Bird Band at the Texas Book Festival in Austin late last month.

Between songs, McBride, who performed on saxophone and vocals, talked about his new novel, The Good Lord Bird (Riverhead), and read passages from it. He formed the band to promote the book, and the five-member group has been on the road entertaining audiences from Ohio to Orlando.

The author of the bestselling memoir The Color of Water and the novels Miracle at St. Anna and Song Yet Sung, McBride, who lives in New York, called this combination of two of his talents "a dream come true." He told Shelf Awareness shortly before taking the stage: "I love gospel music and always wanted to do a gospel performance outside of church. I know gospel music is popular, and I love to play it. So it seemed to me a good opportunity to do this."

The performance "is really arced completely around the book," McBride continued. The novel's central character is the "great and crazy" abolitionist John Brown, a deeply religious man who believed that god spoke to him and told him to take a stand against slavery. "He loved music, and the power of music in his life feeds into the power of religion."

The same deep feeling that compels musicians to create gospel music found a different sort of expression with the abolitionist. "If John Brown were a songwriter, he would've written a great song," McBride said. "But it inspired him to an act of criminality and disobedience that is now seen as an act of courage and brazenness and wanton revolutionary behavior."

The story is told through the eyes of Henry Shackleford, a young boy born a slave. After his father is killed in the crossfire between Brown and pro-slavers, 10-year-old Henry is snatched up by the abolitionist as he flees the scene and unwittingly becomes part of Brown's ill-fated crusade. Curly-haired, petite and wearing a potato sack that resembles a dress, "Henrietta" is mistaken for a girl and plays along, deciding it's safer to keep quiet about his gender.

Beginning in 1857 in the Kansas Territory, a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces, Henry rides along with Brown and witnesses his doomed raid on a federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Va., two years later. The raid was one of the catalysts of the Civil War and an act alternately regarded as heroic and extremist--Brown had hoped to launch an armed revolt and end slavery. "Henry is giving you the raw version of John Brown, which you really need," said McBride. While the abolitionist's motives may have been well-intentioned, "he wasn't always a good guy and he didn't always do good things. If you show all of that, he becomes believable."

The novel's title refers to the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, now believed to be extinct, a bird so large it would elicit the response "Good Lord" when people laid eyes on it. After kidnapping Henry, Brown turns over to the boy his good luck trinkets, one of which is a feather from a Good Lord Bird, a key symbol in the story.

A 2013 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction, The Good Lord Bird has garnered comparisons to Mark Twain's works for its irony and humor. "This is not a take-your-medicine novel," said McBride. "This is a book of comedy and caricature, and it's supposed to make you laugh and inform you at the same time."

New Yorkers can catch a performance by James McBride and the Good Lord Bird Band at BookCourt in Brooklyn on November 17. --Shannon McKenna Schmidt

Book Review

Review: My Mistake: A Memoir

My Mistake by Daniel Menaker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24 hardcover, 9780547794235, November 19, 2013)

A bout with cancer--now in remission--led Daniel Menaker (Good Talk) to reflect on his past and his career in publishing. He tells that story in My Mistake, with a breezy wit and fascinating insider portraits of people with whom he has worked over the years.

Menaker's "demanding, deep, wide in scope" classes at Swarthmore prepared him intellectually and emotionally for the work he would do later and the losses (parents, brother) he would suffer. He reads a piece by Tom Wolfe about the New Yorker, then edited by William Shawn, and its "hermetic, self-involved, highly ritualized life." He applies for and lands a job at this "brilliant crazy house."

He starts out as one of their legendary fact checkers, on the 19th floor of an old office building in midtown. The typing pool works in a "kind of glass cage," while Roger Angell's office is "magisterial." Menaker becomes another cog in the magazine's elaborate editorial process, as one person after another scrutinizes every page of copy. No word or phrase is too trivial for careful inspection; we establish, for example, that the tool used to tighten bolts on the space shuttle is a ratchet wrench, not a monkey wrench. After publishing his first story in the magazine, he moves up to copy editor, where he edits Pauline Kael's movie reviews (she tells him the result "doesn't sound like me, really") and attends film screenings with her ("Oh, that's just awful"). Eventually, he becomes the magazine's fiction editor.

After Tina Brown takes over, the amount of fiction is cut in half, "shunted from the front of the magazine to the back." So, after 26 years, when an opportunity to join Random House comes along, Menaker takes it. His first acquisition: George Saunders's CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.

He quickly learns the business. "150 more or less worthwhile books are published every week in this country," he reports--all part of a "grand cultural roulette" in which your chances of winning are very small. He becomes Random's editor-in-chief, and works with some very fine writers: David Foster Wallace, Salman Rushdie, Michael Cunningham, Elmore Leonard, Billy Collins, Elizabeth Strout and Colum McCann, to name just a few. "I have never seen better days. No mistake." --Tom Lavoie

Shelf Talker: A charming and revealing insider's look at the world of the New Yorker and big-time book publishing.

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