Shelf Awareness for Thursday, February 13, 2014


Carolrhoda Books: The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project by Lenore Appelhans

Grove Press: Solitary by Albert Woodfox

Tor Teen: Dark of the West (Glass Alliance #1) by Joanna Hathaway

Blizzard Entertainment: How to Reach 100 Million Fans!

Quotation of the Day

Publishing Advice: 'Read a Lot, Be Present in the World'

"If you want to succeed in publishing, you have to read a lot. But you have to be present in the world as well: notice what others are reading, what motivates those choices, learn to understand how people hear about books."

--Joanna Prior, managing director of Penguin General, in an interview with the Guardian

Rare Bird Books, a Vireo Book: The Crown Lord by William Sirls


News

Powell's Closing Two of Three Airport Stores

Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., is reluctantly closing two of its three stores at Portland International Airport on June 30, when their leases end. The two stores are in Concourses C and D. Powell's Oregon Marketplace store, before airport security, will remain open.

In a memo to staff, CEO Miriam Sontz said, "The Port of Portland is working on a new vision for retail at PDX, and in spite of our efforts to negotiate a renewal of our leases and review other options for maintaining a concourse presence, we were unable to reach an agreement. We regret deeply the closure of these two stores. We are announcing this news five months before the actual closing date in order to work with staff to make this as smooth a transition as possible."

The first Powell's airport store opened in 1988.


Graywolf Press: Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays by Eula Biss


Audio of Our Boston Pubbing on Bombing Anniversary

On April 15, the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, Blackstone Audiobooks is releasing an audio version of Our Boston: Writers Celebrate the City They Love, which was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt last October. Edited by literary agent Andrew Blauner, Our Boston features original pieces by Boston journalists and writers, including Kevin Cullen, George Plimpton, Leslie Visser, Tova Mirvis, Pico Iyer, Bud Collins, Susan Orleans, Mike Barnicle, Shira Springer and more.

As Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has done with the printed book, portions of the proceeds will be donated to the One Fund. (The editor and contributors aren't accepting royalties to maximize donations to the One Fund.)


GLOW: Henry Holt & Company: Trust Exercise by Susan Choi


George Packer on Amazon's Secrecy and Isolation

In a post on the New Yorker's website, George Packer discusses the perils of Amazon's penchant for secrecy, a company-wide approach he encountered when working on "Cheap Words: Amazon is good for customers. But is it good for books?" his 12,000-word story in the current issue. (See our synopsis here.)

"I was naïve about tech companies until I started reporting on them," Packer writes. "They turn out to be at least as closed as companies in other industries. This seems backwards--aren't they filled with hardcore libertarians who want an end to privacy as we've known it, a more open and connected world? Apparently for everyone except themselves. And perhaps a sector that monetizes information is more likely to become obsessed with protecting it than if the product were oil or cars. But even in this atmosphere, Amazon is reflexively, absurdly secretive--only giving the absolute minimum information required by law or P.R. In response to a host of fact-checking questions, many of the company's answers were along the lines of 'We don't break out that number externally,' 'We do not share Kindle sales figures,' and 'As a general practice, we don't discuss our business practices with publishers or other suppliers.' "

Packer argues that "a culture of secrecy is bound to end up harming the institution itself, especially when it's firmly under the control of one leader, as Amazon is under Jeff Bezos. Without some permeability to the outside world, groupthink takes over, bad habits become entrenched, and a company, like a government, is slow to recognize problems that are apparent to everyone else. I saw this happening with American officials in Iraq, holed up in the Embassy in the middle of the Green Zone and beguiled by their own data points while the country outside spiraled down in flames."

Furthermore, "Amazon is up to its neck in the world of culture, where nothing good can be done without a little light and air. The fact that Bezos visited his newspaper [the Washington Post] last month with more stealth than George W. Bush flying into Baghdad--a visit that was so well hidden even from people at the famously wide-open Post that I managed to break the story in these pages--struck me as particularly bizarre. Why not just show up? Because secrecy is in Amazon's marrow. I'm certain that, sooner or later, this is going to create problems for Bezos's newspaper, and I'm fairly sure that one reason for the failure of Amazon's trade-publishing arm has to do with its isolation from the larger publishing world. If editors can't gossip, speak to reporters, and pick up intel, they're less likely to spot new talent and incubate ideas. They're also less likely to be trusted by writers. Book culture and non-disclosure agreements are inimical."


Bloomsbury: A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer


Booktrack: A Soundtrack with That E-Book?

Booktrack, a San Francisco company, has expanded from creating soundtracks for classic e-books "to letting both readers and authors create their own custom Booktrack from 30,000 different sounds and songs," CBS This Morning reported.

"The soundtrack is comprised of three types of sounds: background music, ambient noise, and sound effects," said company v-p Jason Hovey. "Reading really hasn't changed since it started. We bring music to something that needs a reinvention, which is reading."

Green Apple Books co-owner Kevin Ryan had a skeptical response to Booktrack: "Nobody knows what the book is going to look like in 10 years," he said. "So I think a lot of people are throwing stuff against the wall to see what happens.... How much farther away can you get from the quiet act of reading a book to yourself than having a soundtrack provided to you?"


Melville House Publishing: Dead Men's Trousers by Irvine Welsh


Obituary Note: Maggie Estep

Maggie Estep, the "writer-poet-performance artist and all-around cool person who came to some fame while living in the East Village in the early 1990s," died Monday, EV Grieve reported. She was 50. Gothamist noted that "in recent years she became a prolific novelist, writing mystery novels, dark comedies, and most recently 2009's Alice Fantastic." She was working on a novel called The Story of Giants at the time of her death.


Notes

Image of the Day: Bookworm Festival

Left to right: Bob Shea, Daniel Salmieri, Harper Paris, Judith Viorst, Melanie Scales (event chair), Gwendolyn Zepeda and Adam Rubin.

Last weekend Blue Willow Bookshop worked with librarians in greater Houston to coordinate the Bookworm Festival, celebrating emerging readers and those who write for them. The festival featured a keynote speech by Judith Viorst, author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day, and the new Lulu series of early chapter books. Authors and illustrators Harper Paris, Adam Rubin & Daniel Salmieri, Bob Shea and Gwendolyn Zepeda appeared in breakout sessions. More than 300 people attended the festival, ranging from toddlers to grandparents. Parent Tera Rush said "meeting the authors made those stories come alive for my kids."


French Voices Winner; Homage to André Schiffrin

Our Lady of the Nile translator Melanie Mathner and Archipelago Books won the French Voices Grand Prize (originally published as Notre-Dame du Nil by Scholastique Mukasonga) at a ceremony held last week at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in Manhattan. The book portrays 1970s Rwanda, just before the genocide, and was awarded the 2012 Prix Renaudot.

The evening not only celebrated the 12 finalists and winner, but also commemorated the life of André Schiffrin, longtime head of Pantheon Books and founder of the New Press, who died in December. Cultural Counselor Antonin Baudry said he was "humbled and inspired" by Schiffrin, who won the Legion of Honour Medal in 2011, and who "believed in the importance of publishing independent voices."

To begin the celebration, Baudry introduced three readings of French writers whom Schiffrin published in the U.S.: an excerpt from La Douleur by Marguerite Duras, read by Robert Harvey (one of the editors of the Pléiade edition of her work); Michel Foucault's Sexuality and Solitude, read by Eric Banks (director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University); and an excerpt from 1914 by Jean Echenoz, read by the book's translator, Linda Coverdale (who also translated Echenoz's Ravel).

 (l. to r.) Esther Allen, Georges Borchardt, Ellen Adler and Olivier Cohen.

John McArthur, president and publisher of Harper's Magazine--who referred to an indignant response he'd written to André Schiffrin's obituary in the New York Times by way of introduction to the evening's discussion--moderated a panel of literary lights: Esther Allen, translator, professor at Baruch College and founding member of French Voices; literary agent Georges Borchardt; Ellen Adler, New Press; and Olivier Cohen, founder and director of Éditions de l'Olivier. Adler referred to Schiffrin as "a gloomy person," but added that "all of us doing independent publishing are worried about what's ahead." Still, she gave the heartening example of Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow (2010), which had a first printing of 3,000 copies and now has 400,000 copies in print.

Olivier Cohen said that in France, editors serve as "petits patrons"--small operators--who had to "take care of our own business." They align with larger publishers; in Cohen's case, Éditions du Seuil. Cohen added that, in France, there are "many small imprints that survive and remain independent." Agent Georges Borchardt pointed out the irony of Schiffrin being fired by Random House for losing money, yet the agent receives "large checks" from Pantheon for books published under Schiffrin's leadership. He cited Foucault's Sexuality and Solitude, with a half million copies in print.

Borchardt argued that Americans have little interest in what's being written abroad, while Europeans have great interest in what's being done here, and that "Fifth Avenue bookstores are disappearing." Allen countered that among the 82 French Voices titles published (since the program's founding in 2006), a number went on to become bestsellers. From the audience, Michael Reynolds, editor-in-chief of Europa Editions, added, "I was inspired by Schiffrin's example. The number of independent booksellers has grown, so why do we have the impression that things are dire?"

Baudry echoed Reynolds's optimism, and announced the planned summer opening of a French bookshop at 972 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, which will offer 15,000 titles in French, as well as French books translated into English. Vive le livre! --Jennifer M. Brown


Lily Cole: Vogue Model, Bookshop Owner

British model Lily Cole is co-owner of the Claire de Rouen Bookshop on Charing Cross Road in London's Soho district, and calls it "the best thing she owns," the Evening Standard reported.

Cole became involved in the bookshop, which specializes in photography and fashion, after the death of its founder. With the store facing closure in 2011, Cole's friend Lucy Moore was asked to take over, but couldn't afford to, and Cole stepped in to help. Moore "did not mean to present an idea but I was like, 'I would love to help you keep a beautiful little bookshop alive,' " Cole said. "Every time... I walk by, I come upstairs and I look around and see what is new and open and find new treasures and discoveries, I feel so proud to be part of it."


Teresa Ronquillo Promoted at S&S Children's Division

Effective February 24, Teresa Ronquillo is being promoted to marketing coordinator in Simon & Schuster's Children's Division. She joined the company in 2012 as marketing assistant.



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Andy Weir Talks About The Martian

Tomorrow morning on NPR's Morning Edition: William Nicolson, author of The Romantic Economist: A Story of Love and Market Forces (Marble Arch Press/Atria, $16, 9781476730417).

---

Tomorrow on NPR's Science Friday: Andy Weir, author of The Martian: A Novel (Crown, $24, 9780804139021).


TV: House of Cards, the Book

With the new season of House of Cards premiering tomorrow via Netflix, Sourcebooks is publishing the book that inspired the series, first as an e-book today, then in print on March 11. Initially released in the U.K. in 1989, House of Cards has never been published in the U.S. For this new edition, author Michael Dobbs rewrote the ending and modernized the dialogue. Two other books in the series will be published later.

The series stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, winner of a Golden Globe for best actress in a TV drama.

Dobbs--aka Lord Dobbs of Wylye, a member of the House of Lords, who held high-level positions in the Conservative Party for many years--said, "I started writing House of Cards beside a swimming pool after a furious row with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. I had no idea it was about to change my life so completely. A quarter of a century later it's still doing that, changing my life, never knowing what to expect, and I'm incredibly excited to finally bring the series to the States."


Movies: Titan

Relativity has optioned the book Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller by Ron Chernow and will develop a film adaptation for director Lasse Hallstrom from a script by Craig Borten (Dallas Buyers Club), Deadline.com.

Borten sees similarities between Rockefeller and Dallas Buyers Club protagonist Ron Woodroof: "Each saw capitalism as a way to divide and conquer and accumulate but ultimately became most memorable for giving back. Lasse's early films like My Life As a Dog and Gilbert Grape changed my view of storytelling with his humanistic approach to characters. That was a major reason for me doing this."


The Weekend on Book TV: Savannah Book Festival

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this holiday weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Tuesday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, February 15
9 a.m. BookTV features live coverage from this year's Savannah Book Festival in Savannah, Ga. (Re-airs Sunday at 12 a.m.)

5 p.m. Book TV visits Macon, Ga., to interview several of the city's authors and tour its literary sites. (Re-airs Sunday at 11 a.m.)

7 p.m. Betty Medsger, author of The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI (Knopf, $29.95, 9780307962959). (Re-airs Sunday at 3 p.m.)

8:15 p.m. Daniel Stashower, author of The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War (Minotaur Books, $16.99, 9781250042668), at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, Ill. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

9 p.m. Jim DeFelice and Johnny Walker, authors of Code Name: Johnny Walker: The Extraordinary Story of the Iraqi Who Risked Everything to Fight with the U.S. Navy SEALs (Morrow, $26.99, 9780062267559).

10 p.m. After Words. Minneapolis Star Tribune Washington correspondent Corey Mitchell interviews Rep. Keith Ellison, author of My Country, 'Tis of Thee: My Faith, My Family, Our Future (Karen Hunter Publishing/Gallery Books, $25, 9781451666878). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. & 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Con Coughlin, author of Churchill's First War: Young Winston at War with the Afghans (Thomas Dunne, $26.99, 9781250043047).

Sunday, February 16
6:30 p.m. Peter Mansoor, author of Surge: My Journey with General David Petraeus and the Remaking of the Iraq War (Yale University Press, $28, 9780300172355).

8 p.m. Sandra Grimes, author of Circle of Treason: The CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed (Naval Institute Press, $29.95, 9781591143345), at Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C.     

10:45 p.m. Robert Field, author of Mother of Invention: How the Government Created "Free-Market" Health Care (Oxford University Press, $55, 9780199746750).


Books & Authors

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

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

Hardcovers
The Secret of Magic: A Novel by Deborah Johnson (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, $26.95, 9780399157721). "A young lawyer who is sent by Thurgood Marshall to Mississippi in 1946 to investigate the murder of a black soldier encounters a world both surreal and mysterious. Regina Robichard learns that the Jim Crow South is a world unto itself, but she also learns the power of narrative and story as she meets a reclusive author who produced the book that influenced her childhood. This is a novel of subtlety, incisive portraits, and a brilliant evocation of a time and place on the cusp of momentous change." --Bill Cusumano, Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, Mich.

The UnAmericans: Stories by Molly Antopol (Norton, $24.95, 9780393241136). "Antopol has written a pitch-perfect collection of stories that capture the essence of human survival and triumph: a grandmother sharing the tale of her harrowing sewer-line escape from the Nazis and her rescue by a young resistance worker who ultimately becomes her husband; an aspiring actor of Russian descent jailed during the McCarthy era who is attempting to build a relationship with his son; a struggling, middle-aged adjunct professor who worries that the play his daughter is producing may expose the secrets of his escape from Czechoslovakia. Each story is a gem to be savored." --Nancy Simpson-Brice, the Book Vault, Oskaloosa, Iowa

Paperback
Gun Machine: A Novel by Warren Ellis (Mulholland Books, $17, 9780316187411). "Ellis brings visual storytelling skills honed by his comic and graphic novel work, his obsessions with present and future technology, and his flare for fast-paced dialog to a novel that is part modern police procedural, part CSI drama, part serial killer monologue, and part techno thriller. What starts out as a really bad day for Detective John Tallow as he sees his partner shot dead in front of him suddenly becomes a potentially career-ending day with his discovery of an apartment full of guns that lead back to a host of unsolved murders. The plot moves forward at a relentless pace." --Scott Stearns, The Book Nook, Ludlow, Vt.

For Ages 9 to 12
Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones (Abrams, $16.95, 9781419707827). "Sam Toop was different from his schoolmates in 1880s Victorian London. He was able to see and talk to ghosts! The shy and reticent ghost Lapswood loves working alone pushing paperwork in the Ghost Bureau, which regulates all ghost activities, but he is transferred to London and charged with the impossible task of determining the cause and elimination of Black Rot, a spiritual infestation consuming ghosts and threatening the living. In Constable & Toop, the separate journeys of Sam and Lapswood intersect in a spellbinding and wonderful tale of kindness, compassion, hatred, and exorcism--a frothy mix sure to reward all readers!" --Jack Blanchard, Fairy Godmother, Washington, D.C.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday: February 18:

The Tastemaker: Carl Van Vechten and the Birth of Modern America by Edward White (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30, 9780374201579) is the biography of the writer and photographer who was a patron of the Harlem Renaissance.


Book Review

Review: The Last Gift

The Last Gift by Abdulrazak Gurnah (Bloomsbury, $26 hardcover, 9781620403280, February 11, 2014)

In The Last Gift, Zanzibar-born British writer Abdulrazak Gurnah takes on the themes of cultural identity and the weight of family secrets. This moving novel probes the concept of self and home, guilt and exile, and the meaning of the stories we tell to answer the fundamental questions of our lives.

Abbas and Maryam met in England when she was 17 and he was 34. He was a sailor from an unidentified African country. She was abandoned as an infant, shuttled among foster parents and finally adopted by an Indian couple whose kindness masked a latent abusiveness. "Yallah, let's go," he said when they ran away together against the objections of her foster parents. But Abbas has kept the story of his origins from Maryam and their children, Jamal and Hanna, who have learned not to ask, and they bear the weight of his silence. "What I want from them is a story that has a beginning that is tolerable and open, and not one that is tripped with silences," says Hanna, who was born and raised in their small English town and feels so British that she has dropped the H from her name. "I want to be able to say 'This is who I am.' " Instead, they live with a persistent feeling of apartness and shame.

When Abbas suffers a debilitating stroke and finally reveals the circumstances behind his exile from Zanzibar, it is neither so shaming as feared nor a tidy cinematic climax that releases Gurnah's characters. Instead, it is part of the process of living an unresolvable life. Hanna in particular wants to distance herself from what she calls the "vile immigrant tragedies" of her family's past and find her own way toward some acceptance of her unaccountable heritage.

Gurnah shifts the point of view among Abbas, Maryam, Hanna and Jamal seamlessly; the transitions don't interrupt the narrative or jar the reader. Gurnah is an astute observer of human nature. His characters are complex, memorable and utterly human as they navigate the stories of their lives and find what meaning those stories have for each of them. Everyone lives inside his or her own skin, and The Last Gift is a moving, sometimes profound novel that reveals four lives inside and out. --Jeanette Zwart

Shelf Talker: A nuanced and sensitive novel about identity, memory, and exile from the Booker-shortlisted author of Paradise and the Commonwealth Prize finalist Desertion.


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

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

1. The Ex Games by J.S. Cooper
2. The Ex Games 2 by J.S. Cooper
3. The Ex Games 3 by J.S. Cooper and Helen Cooper
4. Vivian's List by Haleigh Lovell
5. Under Locke by Mariana Zapata
6. Beauty from Love (Beauty Series 3) by Georgia Cates
7. Making Faces by Amy Harmon
8. Ignite by R.J. Lewis
9. Forever & Always by Jacinda Wilder
10. Burn by R.J. Lewis

[Many thanks to IndieReader.com!]


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