Shelf Awareness for Friday, December 20, 2013


Delacorte Press: Six of Sorrow by Amanda Linsmeier

Shadow Mountain: To Love the Brooding Baron (Proper Romance Regency) by Jentry Flint

Soho Crime: Exposure (A Rita Todacheene Novel) by Ramona Emerson

Charlesbridge Publishing: The Perilous Performance at Milkweed Meadow by Elaine Dimopoulos, Illustrated by Doug Salati

Pixel+ink: Missy and Mason 1: Missy Wants a Mammoth

Bramble: The Stars Are Dying: Special Edition (Nytefall Trilogy #1) by Chloe C Peñaranda

News

James Patterson Launches 'Winter Book Bucks' Program

Author James Patterson, an advocate for both children's literacy and independent bookstores, has launched the first annual Winter Book Bucks, the latest addition to his Book Bucks programs that began with College Book Bucks in 2010 and continued with Summer Book Bucks this year, Bookselling This Week reported.

Parents who sign up at the Winter Book Bucks Web page, and pledge their children will read two books during winter break, will be entering them to win one of 50 $100 book shopping sprees at their local IndieBound-affiliated bookstore. Parents can submit an online entry form between December 18 and January 13. Winners will be announced in early February.

"My Winter Book Bucks program reminds parents to get their kids reading during the holiday break and encourages families to shop at their local independent bookstores," said Patterson. "I can't think of two more important missions this holiday season."


BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!


South Main Book Juggler Off to Fast Start

"The elements just fell into place," said Clayton Andrus, who opened South Main Book Juggler in Memphis, Tenn., with his wife, Jean Williams Andrus, in late October. Though they had no previous experience as booksellers, the husband-and-wife pair had thought of opening a bookstore for a long time. The discovery of a great location, and the broader resurgence of the South Main Historic Arts District in Memphis, helped the couple finally take the plunge.

"The South Main District is really centered on art, restaurants and boutique shops," explained Clayton Andrus. He and his wife moved to the neighborhood about five years ago, after spending close to 25 years in the suburbs. "It's very neighborhood oriented; everybody knows each other. It's really filled up in the last few years, but the one thing that was missing was a bookstore."

South Main Book Juggler is a 1,000-square-foot, predominantly used bookstore coupled with an eclectic gift shop for "local folks." The store's new books consist of titles pertaining to Memphis, especially the city's musical heritage and civil rights movement, and children's books. In the approximately eight weeks since the store opened, Andrus has been most surprised, and pleasantly so, by the amount of children's books that he has sold.

"You wouldn't think that downtown Memphis would have so many kids," commented Andrus. "But then you also get aunts, uncles and grandparents who come through and want to buy presents for family."

The store's opening coincided with the city's annual River Arts Festival (a celebration of "original fine arts, real Memphis music and great Southern food"), which lasted from October 25 to October 27. Between building inventory and Clayton assembling all of the store's shelves by hand, it took a frantic push to get the store open in time for the weekend-long festival. Sales have been steady since, and Andrus described the last weekend of November as "dynamite." Severe weather during the last two weekends has slightly dampened things, but holiday sales remain strong.

The Andruses have not yet hosted their own events, but they have stayed open late for Trolley Night (a street fair-like celebration in the South Main Historic District on the last Friday of every month) in October and November, partnered with other local retailers for promotions and displayed works by local artists in their store. They're working to schedule events with local and regional authors, including Robert Gordon (Can't Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters and It Came from Memphis) and John Pritchard (Sailing to Alluvium), and talking to people in the neighborhood about starting a book club. The store has a basement space in which Clayton presently builds the store's bookshelves and other fixtures, but the couple has considered eventually turning that into an events space.

"This has been a dream of my wife's for years," said Clayton Andrus, who retired two years ago. Jean Andrus, who has been "semi-retired" for close to eight years, spent a long time working as a librarian. "Books have always been a huge part of her life," he said. "They're in her blood. She's such an avid reader and I'm always in awe of her knowledge of books. And so far we've been just overwhelmed with great feedback from people. This whole thing might just work." --Alex Mutter


AuthorBuzz for the Week of 04.22.24


Accent on Books Is Closing

Accent on Books, Asheville, N.C., will close in mid-January after 30 years in business, the Citizen-Times reported. Owners Lewis Sorrells and Patrick Covington had put the 1,700-square-foot bookshop, which specializes in children's books and spirituality titles, on the market last spring, but no potential buyers appeared. Sorrells said that it was time for a change, the Citizen-Times wrote, adding that Covington had "considered carrying on with the store, but decided to move on too."

Covington said he will miss the people: "We've known customers and their children, and now their children have grown up and come back to shop."


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Four Weekends and a Funeral by Ellie Palmer


Second Tax Break for Amazon's Florida Plans

The Polk County Commission granted Amazon its second tax break this year. This one is for a planned packaging and sorting operation in a warehouse near Interstate 4 and U.S. 27, north of Davenport, Fla, the Lakeland News Chief reported, noting that under the agreement, the online retailer "will receive a 75% property tax abatement for 10 years. That will total an estimated $840,710." In July, the commission had approved a $4.5 million property tax break for Amazon in connection with its plans to build a fulfillment center on County Line Road in Lakeland.


Taschen Opens 'Mini-Boutique' at Art Gallery of Ontario

Taschen Books has opened a "mini-boutique" inside the Art Gallery of Ontario, Quillblog reported, noting that the "shop within a shop" is a first for Canada and is modeled after a similar one at the Art Institute of Chicago. Taschen titles sell well at the AGO, according to Roberta Samec, owner Hornblower Group, the publisher's Canadian sales representative.


Obituary Note: Paul Torday

British novelist Paul Torday, whose debut novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was a surprise bestseller and adapted into a 2011 film, died Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. He was 67.


Notes

Holiday Reminder: Neil Gaiman's Indie Bookstore Contest

Neil Gaiman returned to his blog this week after a protracted absence "like Odysseus... to slay this blog's suitors and regale us with tales of his adventures in the interim." His first post was a reminder to his fans that "since the first of November, and continuing on through the end of the year, a contest has been running among independent U.S. book stores. The prize is a visit from Mr. G, and to win a store has simply to sell the most copies of The Ocean at the End of the Lane during the contest period."

He included a list of participating stores and advised: "Christmas is a week away, so if you act quickly there may yet be time to get in some holiday shopping and help push your local store into the lead!"


Bookseller Mitch Kaplan Honored as Teacher

"For two and a half years, Mitchell Kaplan taught English literature at Southridge Senior High School, never really knowing the impact he would leave on his students," the Miami Herald reported in its feature on an emotional reunion last Saturday between Kaplan and some of his students "from the classes of 1983 and 1984 in the courtyard of his Books & Books store in Coral Gables."

"I recognize a lot of them," he said. "I guess we all aged well.... It's humbling and very meaningful to me for these kids to have felt I made an impact 30 years later. Teaching was wonderful and it taught me so much. I was very fortunate to have a bunch of students that were so well grounded. I predicted they would do well."

Manuel Martinez, class of 1983 and now a Spanish literature professor in Ohio, organized the reunion "after running into Kaplan at Books & Books over the years and having former classmates ask about him frequently," the Herald wrote.

"He was such a special teacher," Martinez said. “He had this rare combination of passion and youthful enthusiasm.... His love for literature was deep. He had this cultural way of life and we all think of him as an influence."


Indie Booksellers Pick 'Best Overlooked Books of 2013'

What were the "best overlooked books of 2013?" To help answer that question, New Hampshire Public Radio's Word of Mouth program featured "two seasoned purveyors of overlooked books": Michele Filgate, events coordinator at the Community Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Liberty Hardy, events coordinator at Riverrun Bookstore, Portsmouth, N.H.


Cottage Book Shop Focused 'On All Things Local'

During the 18 years that Barbara Siepker has owned the Cottage Book Shop, Glen Arbor, Mich., "her focus has been on all things local," Bookselling This Week reported, noting that three years after she purchased the business, Siepker learned of an 80-year-old log cabin whose owners wanted it moved from the shores of Glen Lake.

"It was a perfectly charming cabin and a match for the name I had purchased from the original owner," she said. The cabin was subsequently "moved intact a mile away to a pine patch in the heart of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore, where it was restored and winterized to provide a cozy setting for browsing books." BTW wrote.

While the local year-round population is about 700, it jumps to more than 2,000 in the summer, with an additional million visitors per year at the national park. This influx inspired Siepker to launch a second business. Noting the lack of regional books available, she started Leelanau Press in 2000 "as a way to highlight the area while featuring local talent in every step of the process--from the authors, to the editors, to the book designers."

Siepker now has plans to move away from active management of the store, and Sue Boucher, former Lake Forest Book Store owner, has agreed to "help manage the business, with an eye towards taking over the business in the near future," BTW noted.

"The combination of bookstore and publishing has worked well together," said Siepker. "Booksellers are in unique positions to know what sells, how it needs to be presented, and the kind of impact it can make on a community. I find it gratifying to make a lasting contribution to our local community."


Brilliant Books Garners 'Surprise' National Following

On its store website, Brilliant Books, Traverse City, Mich., considered a surprising development this year: "How the Internet saved something it was credited with killing. What does a small bookstore in a small Northern Michigan seasonal town do to keep its vast summer audience engaged all year?"

To meet this challenge, the bookstore launched its Surprise Book of the Month Club, which "immediately took off. Dozens of summer visitors signed up.... Fast forward to late 2013 and the power of social media and the Internet has given a quaint indie bookstore a national audience. This year hundreds, yes hundreds, of folks from across the country are discovering Brilliant Books' Book of the Month program and signing up their loved ones for a year of surprise books."

"It was early November when we first noticed people for whom we had no record were signing up" said owner Peter Makin. "We would ask how they found us and were astonished when they told us they had searched online for a book a month gift and found us. Apparently, our reputation for great selections and a program that worked had elevated us in the search rankings to the point where we were a legitimate, trusted national brand, albeit a very small one."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Michael Connelly on Face the Nation

Tonight on CNN's Piers Morgan: Glenn Beck, author of Miracles and Massacres: True and Untold Stories of the Making of America (Threshold, $27, 9781476764740).

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Sunday on Face the Nation: Michael Connelly, author of The Gods of Guilt (Little, Brown, $28, 9780316069519).


Harry Potter & the Theatrical Adaptation

A play based on J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series will open in London's West End within two years. The Daily Mail reported that although Rowling will not write the stage piece, she is a co-producer and will collaborate with a playwright on the project, which will be "steered by prominent London and New York producers Sonia Friedman (The Book of Mormon; Mojo) and Colin Callender (Nicholas Nickleby; Lucky Guy)."

The theatrical adaptation will explore the "previously untold story of Harry Potter's early years as an orphan and outcast" and "offer a unique insight into the heart and mind of the now legendary young wizard. A seemingly ordinary boy, but one for whom destiny has plans," according to the Mail.
 
Rowling said her co-producers' vision "was the only one that really made sense to me, and which had the sensitivity, intensity and intimacy I thought appropriate for bringing Harry's story to the stage. After a year in gestation, it is very exciting to see this project moving onto the next phase."


TV: Game of Thrones Teaser; Top of the Morning

"Joffrey at his wedding. Tyrion in chains. A clean-shaven Jamie." HBO offered the "first few tantalizing glimpses of Game of Thrones season 4," Entertainment Weekly reported, noting that the network's year-end trailer "has highlights from 2013 and first-look footage from next year's programming."

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The Lifetime network is developing a TV movie adaptation of Brian Stelter's book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV. Deadline.com reported the movie will be executive produced by Liz Gateley and Tony DiSanto, but Stelter "has had virtually no involvement with the project."



Books & Authors

Awards: Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry

Scottish poet Douglas Dunn won the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in recognition of his lifetime contribution to literature, BBC News reported, adding that the "protege of Philip Larkin... is best known for Elegies (1985), a moving account of his first wife's death." The Queen will present him with his medal next year.

Committee chair and poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy said Dunn's "sparkling, erudite and distinguished body of work has long been one of the grace notes of British poetry. His Elegies are among the most touching and honoring pieces of recent decades, giving us poems that will live for generations."


Book Brahmin: Brenda Knight

photo: Krisha Bhat

Brenda Knight grew up on a farm in Point Pleasant, W.Va., and learned how to appreciate life from her mother, Helen. After a brief career as a high school English teacher, Knight is now a 20-year publishing veteran and the author of the American Book Award-winning Women of the Beat Generation, Rituals for Life and Wild Women and Books. She is an avid gardener and seed saver and volunteers for the American Cancer Society as a counselor for the newly diagnosed. Knight is publisher of Cleis Press and Viva Editions, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

On your nightstand now:

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. The book has not disappointed, and I'm now a diehard Karen Russell reader. Karen is a prodigious talent, absolutely deserving of all the raves.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I loved Grimm's Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Andersen and Little Women all for very different reasons. The wild imaginings in the fairy tales really appealed to my young mind. I find Andersen's "The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf" is in its own way an equal to Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and a good reminder of the perils of hubris.

Your top five authors:

First, Chaucer (my Master's thesis was on "Troilus and Criseyde"): having studied astrology and metaphysics, I was able to understand many of the references Chaucer was making in a wholly different way. Second, A.S. Byatt: Possession was my first Byatt book, and after that I will read anything by her. Third, Umberto Eco: his work can be devoured for pleasure, but along the way you are learning about history, literature, science, medicine, religion, all manner of things. You end up for the better having read him. Fourth, Stendhal of The Red and The Black: I found it accidentally whilst loitering in the library when I was a high school senior. I remember that excitement of having discovered one of the greats all on my own. Lastly, serious scholar of Anglo-Saxon arcana J.R.R. Tolkien is a favorite--he was my inspiration to become a medieval lit major. I'm greatly admiring of the fact of that he was a serious scholar and Oxford don, all the while creating a folkloric work that went on to become one of the most commercial of all times.

Book you faked reading:

The Bible. As an English major, I took a "Bible as Literature" course, and could barely get beyond the "begets" in the Old Testament. We also studied the Apocrypha texts, which I found wildly entertaining. I very much enjoyed the stories of the badly behaved childhood Jesus.

Books you're an evangelist for:

Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now by Douglas Rushkoff. Among the many cogent points Rushkoff makes in this tome is that we are now living in a time of narrative collapse. I take very seriously his warning stance that "When the storytelling in a culture goes bad, the result is decadence." Present Shock has completely changed how I view the precious resource of time and how I choose to use it.

Book you bought for the cover:

Helen Dunmore's Talking to the Dead. It has a gorgeously beautiful jacket with slots to see the title. When you move the jacket just a quarter of an inch, you can't see the title. I like that. Lucky for me, the book itself is just as good as its cover.

Book that changed your life:

There are many that have greatly affected my life, but there is only one that is a major life-changing read and reread: Roberto Calasso's The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. I've read it 11 times. I have studied and read mythology throughout my life, including quite a few translations of Homer and Virgil. But upon reading Calasso's brilliance, I suddenly understood the interlinking of all mythology. I agree wholeheartedly with Gore Vidal's high praise that "Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony is a perfect work like no other. He has re-created in a blaze of light the morning of our world... a numinous text to be placed beside--ahead of?--Old and New Testaments." (But don't tell my mom.)

Favorite line from a book:

"A life in which the gods are uninvited is not worth living." --Roberto Calasso.

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

Donna Tartt's The Secret History, which is a parable of what could happen when classical students take their studies too far. I'm looking forward to The Goldfinch and its almost 800 pages, but will remember Stephen King's advice to not drop it on my foot.

Your favorite "books about books":

There are two. Simon Winchester's The Professor and the Madman, which is the strange backstory to the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. The other is Eric Auerbach's Mimesis, basically a history of European literature, from The Odyssey to Ulysses. I realized I had a fairly shallow understanding of the topic, and this book really got me to the next level in becoming a "depth reader" and reading beneath the surface, seeing the interconnections, complexities... the essay on "Odysseus' Scar" alone is dazzling.


Book Review

Review: The Undercover Economist Strikes Back

The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run--or Ruin--an Economy by Tim Harford (Riverhead, $27.95 hardcover, 9781594631405, January 16, 2014)

 In The Undercover Economist Strikes Back, British economist and financial journalist Tim Harford offers "a determined and practically minded poke-around under the hood of our economic system." Focusing on macroeconomics--the study of phenomena like inflation and recession at the societal level--this breezy yet informative work serves as a useful companion to Harford's explorations of individual economic decision making, The Undercover Economist and The Logic of Life.

Harford has structured the book as an exchange between the erudite and patient economist of the title and a policy maker to whom he's offering a "user's manual" on "how the economy works, why it misfires and what to do about it." His approach to some of the most heated economic debates, such as how much inflation is good for the economy, is generally evenhanded. It is possible, though, to detect a slight tilt toward Keynesianism, which advocates that governments, in difficult times like the Great Recession that began in 2007, should resist the temptation to turn to austerity and instead pump money into circulation to stimulate demand.

Harford casts a wide net over the standard array of topics--fiscal and monetary policy, unemployment, GDP, growth--that fuel modern economists' most heated debates. Whether he's using the story of a failed babysitting cooperative started by Capitol Hill staffers in the 1970s to illustrate the subject of pricing, or a recession in German prisoner of war camps at the end of World War II to introduce the paradigm of classical economics, he's consistently adept at contriving memorable, if homely, examples to make his points. He exhibits the skill of the best popularizers, introducing a host of frequently abstruse concepts in easy-to-grasp terms, without oversimplifying or condescending to his readers.

"If economic policy was something we understood as well as we understand, say, building a bridge," Harford writes, "there wouldn't be such arguments about it." In this primer, he does an outstanding job explaining why the so-called laws that purportedly govern a complex and ever more interconnected world economy can never be tested in a "robust scientific experiment." It's for that reason, he concludes, economists should be much more open-minded (and certainly more humble) than they are. And it's why we, armed with some of the wisdom gleaned from this book, should greet their categorical pronouncements with a healthy dose of skepticism. --Harvey Freedenberg

Shelf Talker: British financial journalist Tim Harford delivers a lively brief survey of the subject of macroeconomics, making its arcane aspects comprehensible without pretension.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The Holiday Season--It's a Wrap

So... this happened, which led me to think about the delicate, and occasionally indelicate, art of "professional" holiday season gift wrapping. By professional, I mean the people doing the wrapping are being paid. By "people," I mean, of course, booksellers.

On Christmas Eve, sometime during the late afternoon in most indie bookstores, one final customer will arrive at the checkout counter with an armload of stuff, and a bookseller or two will accept the challenge of wrapping these almost ceremonial purchases. The gift paper choices at that point may be limited; of the three or four or six rolls on display, a couple will no doubt be simple cardboard memorials to Christmas wrap options past.

But that wrapping station scene represents the culmination of weeks of intense handiwork with paper, ribbons and bows. Some may think booksellers have it easy. I mean, how hard can it be to wrap a book? Those people, however, have never tried to make a presentable present out of a stuffed giraffe or a box-less set of Buddha bookends. There are any number of paper-resistant challenges in a bookstore. Wrapping a cat is mere child's play by comparison. And those doubters have clearly never dealt with a long line of customers armed with very specific requests ("When you wrap that third book, on the outside could you also add this candy cane and this bookmark wrapped separately... and this Virginia Woolf keychain and...?"), each of which is graciously fulfilled.
 
For booksellers who aspire to greatness this weekend, inspiration can be found among your contemporaries--Patricia Zapata won this year's Scotch Brand Most Gifted Wrapper Contest, which asked competitors to wrap items like a toy castle, a kids' go-kart or a giant two-person paddle boat--as well as your predecessors: Mrs. Juliet Koenig Smith's 1965 obituary in the New York Times called her "a specialist in gift wrapping" who "was often called upon by leading stores for difficult or important projects. She wrapped many gifts for presentation to Presidents and other officials. Once she wrapped an entire automobile for a television commercial."

Could a bookseller do that? Absolutely. Bring on the paddle boats and cars, though I guess we should concede that not all gift wrappers are created equal. Some booksellers were born to wrap; others have gift wrapping duty thrust upon them. You can train almost anyone to wrap a book, but only the truly gifted can draw gasps of appreciation for a well-wrapped stuffed giraffe.

The Australian Booksellers Association has been using the peculiar trials inherent in gift wrapping as a book-selling promotion this year with a series of posters, including "A Christmas Guide: How to Wrap Awkwardly Shaped Presents... Or You Could Just Buy a Book."

Wrapping under pressure and public scrutiny is another issue altogether. During holiday crunch time, seasoned booksellers always raise their game while wrapping endless stacks of items, in full view and following detailed instructions ("Put Harry's name on the Grisham and Patterson; Sally on the John Green; Papa on the card game..."). By the way, this is the perfect time to recite a silent, seasonal prayer of thanks for Post-it Notes.

In any endeavor where intensity and volume meet flailing arms and liquid refreshments, disasters inevitably occur. A former colleague reminded me of the time one of our fellow booksellers "jostled a cup of hot chocolate she was drinking into a shopping bag with five really big expensive art books I had just gift-wrapped. They were totally ruined. I had to sneak out of the gift wrap room and surreptitiously find duplicates on the shelf. Luckily, we had every one of them but I was terror-stricken. The customer never knew anything other than her gift wrapping took an extraordinarily long time."

On Tuesday afternoon, after that last gift is wrapped (for customers, anyway) and the bookshop doors are locked, booksellers will be free to exhale and--if I may suggest--take some holiday post-wrapping refreshment advice from chef Mario Batali, who offered the following advice last Sunday in the New York Times: "A cold afternoon of present-wrapping can use a warm touch. Heat up a cup of skim milk with a teaspoon of vanilla and then make a double espresso. Mix the two in a large goblet, then add a shot each of peppermint schnapps and Jack Daniels. Stir gently, then get back to work."

But don't go back to work too soon. Try to get some rest before Thursday because, well, you know the drill. What do most booksellers have to look forward to on the day after Christmas? You'll arrive at work to see a line already forming outside your bookstore in hopes of snatching up discounted gift wrap for next year's holiday season. Next year?!!! --Robert Gray, contributing editor


AuthorBuzz: St. Martin's Press: The Rom-Commers by Katherine Center
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