Shelf Awareness for Monday, September 8, 2014

Yearling Books: When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

Pantheon Books: Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Scholastic Press: The Guardian Test (Legends of Lotus Island #1) by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Kevin Hong

Tor Books: The First Bright Thing by J.R. Dawson


Rizzoli to Reopen in Manhattan Next Spring

The Rizzoli Bookstore in New York City is returning. The Wall Street Journal reported that the bookstore, which had to leave its elegant space on W. 57th Street in April, will re-open next spring at 1133 Broadway, between 25th and 26th Streets, on the ground floor of the St. James Building, an 1896 Beaux-Arts building.

The new store will be about the same size as the Midtown store--5,000 square feet--all on one level. The ceilings are 18 feet high and the space will feature many of the beautiful fixtures from the old store, including bookshelves, chandeliers, sconces and furniture.

"Rizzoli executives looked at more than 150 locations, including Brooklyn, whittled the list down to six, and then to two before choosing the space in the Nomad neighborhood," the paper wrote. "They also used focus groups to identify the best location for a high-end destination bookstore in the city."

The area had been seedy for many decades but has been having something of a renaissance. It's near Madison Square Park, several boutique hotels, galleries and Eataly, the very popular Italian food emporium.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Only Game in Town by Lacie Waldon

New French Bookstore Ready to Open in NYC

The bookstore planned for the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S. building, announced last October, will open on Saturday, September 27. Called Albertine: Books in French and English, the bookstore and reading room is devoted to works in French and in translation and will stock more than 14,000 contemporary and classic titles from over 30 French-speaking countries around the world.

The space will also be "a permanent venue for free events and debates" and is located at 972 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10075. The French Consulate is at 934 Fifth Ave.

GLOW: Putnam: The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams

Amazon: Authors United's Next Move; Why No Profit?

Authors United is being "forced to move on to our next initiative" because of Amazon's continued dispute with Hachette, the Bookseller reported, noting that in his most recent letter to authors, Douglas Preston said he hoped Amazon would not "start targeting" Simon & Schuster, with which it has recently entered negotiations.

"Amazon is continuing to sanction books: 2,500 Hachette authors and over 7,000 titles have now apparently been affected," Preston wrote. "Hachette authors have seen their sales at Amazon decline at least 50% and in many cases as much as 90%. This has been going on for six months and it has been particularly damaging to struggling debut and midlist authors."

Noting that Amazon has been "falsely" trying to portray Authors United as a group of "rich authors who are seeking higher e-book prices, while it is fighting on behalf of the consumer for lower prices," Preston added: "Unfortunately, some media outlets have bought this Amazon disinformation campaign. We have not, of course, made any statements whatsoever on book pricing. Our point is simple: we believe it is unacceptable for Amazon to sanction books as a negotiating tactic. Amazon has other negotiating tools at its disposal than harming the very authors who helped it become one of the largest retailers in the world. Amazon could stop the sanctions tomorrow while continuing to negotiate with Hachette."

Last week, Preston told BBC Radio 4's The Report that the group's next step would be a "very unpleasant surprise" for Amazon.


In a detailed financial analysis of Amazon called "Why Amazon Has No Profits (And Why It Works)," Benedict Evans of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz in San Francisco points out that Amazon has "dozens and dozens of separate teams, each with their own internal P&L and a high degree of autonomy.... Some are relatively old, and well established, and growing slower, and are profitable. Others are new startups building their business and losing money as they do so, like any other new business. Some are very profitable, and some sell at cost or at as loss-leaders to drive traffic and loyalty to the site…"

He says that the company's lack of profit is no accident. "Someone at Amazon has the job of making sure that each quarter, [the overall company result] nets out to as close to zero as possible, at least as far as net income goes. That is, the problem with net income is that all it tells us is that every quarter, Amazon spends whatever's left over to get the number to zero or thereabouts. There's really no other way to achieve that sort of consistency....

One reason for this is strategic. "Amazon has perhaps 1% of the US retail market by value. Should it stop entering new categories and markets and instead take profit, and by extension leave those segments and markets for other companies? Or should it keep investing to sweep them into the platform? Jeff Bezos's view is pretty clear: keep investing, because to take profit out of the business would be to waste the opportunity. He seems very happy to keep seizing new opportunities, creating new businesses, and using every last penny to do it.

"Still, investors put their money into companies, Amazon and any other, with the expectation that at some point they will get cash out. With Amazon, Bezos is deferring that profit-producing, investor-rewarding day almost indefinitely into the future.This prompts the suggestion that Amazon is the world's biggest 'lifestyle business'--Bezos is running it for fun, not to deliver economic returns to shareholders, at least not any time soon."

In a piece about Evans's analysis in Forbes, Tim Worstall, a fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London, pointed out another aspect of Amazon's determination not to make a profit, while irritating to some investors. The company's approach ensures "there's no profit to then be taxed away. Money gets spent on developing the firm not on paying for diversity advisers after it's been washed through Westminster or Washington D.C."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Love & Other Scams by Philip Ellis

Obituary Note: Victor J. Stenger

Victor J. Stenger, one of Prometheus Books' "most prolific and important authors," died on August 27. He was 79.

An adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado and professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii, Stenger's bestselling book was God: The Failed Hypothesis. Tomorrow is the pub date of Stenger's 13th Prometheus book, God and the Multiverse: Humanity's Expanding View of the Cosmos.

Prometheus publisher Jonathan Kurtz commented: "Victor Stenger was a visionary thinker. He had the rare ability to write for the academic reader as well as the layman. He was the ultimate professional and a close friend of Prometheus, with a relationship going back many years. We will miss him greatly."

Fall Shows: SIBA and NAIBA

The annual trade shows of the Southern Independent Bookstore Alliance and the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association--this year held in different parts of Virginia--kick off the fall season of regional booksellers association meetings. As usual, the shows are full of a range of educational sessions and offer myriad opportunities to meet and learn about many, many authors and their new titles. Here are highlights from SIBA's and NAIBA's programs:

The Southern Independent Bookstore Alliance's Discovery Show takes place Fri.-Sun., Sept. 19-21, at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel in Norfolk, Va. Friday begins at 7:30 a.m. with an Industry Breakfast for SIBA members. At 8:20, to help plan for next year's Indie Bookstore Day, Northern California Independent Booksellers Association executive Hut Landon will talk about California Bookstore Day. There are 13 discussions and author panels before a noon Kick Off Lunch with S.C. Gwynne (whose newest book is Rebel Yell) and Scott Westerfeld (Afterworlds). Six afternoon author panels lead into the First 180 Days event, a meet and greet with 19 authors releasing books in the first half of 2015. A SIBA Supper, featuring Sean Brock (Heritage), Steve Berry (The Patriot Threat) and Azar Nafisi (The Republic of Imagination), runs from 7 to 9 p.m. At 9:30, SIBA will hold a wake celebrating the life of colleague Matt Bibb, who died suddenly after last year's show.

Saturday starts with a 7:30 a.m. Taste of the Town Breakfast featuring Charles Todd (Fine Summer's Day), Geronimo T. Johnson (Welcome to Braggsville), Karen Abbott (Liar Temptress Soldier Spy) and Katy Simpson Smith (The Story of Land and Sea). Exhibits are open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with a break between 1 and 2:30 for a Thanksgiving for James Patterson Lunch. Parapalooza with emcee Tim Federle (Better Nate Than Never) and 13 other authors starts at 5:30. The 7 p.m. Saturday Supper features Charles Martin (A Life Intercepted), Rick Bragg (Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story) and Francine Bryson (Blue Ribbon Baking from a Redneck Kitchen). The Shoe Burnin' Show, a musical storytelling show, runs from 9:30 to 11.

The Good Catch Versailles Everglades Mango Beer Breakfast kicks off Sunday's events at 7:30 a.m., featuring Mark DeNote (The Great Florida Craft Beer Guide), Jen Karetnick (Mango), Mac Stone (Everglades: America's Wetlands), Ana Quincoces (The Versailles Restaurant Cookbook) and Pam Brandon and Heather McPhearson (Good Catch: Recipes and Stories Celebrating the Best of Florida's Waters). Exhibits are open from 9 a.m. to noon. The winners of the $1,000 Buyers Raffle and $1,000 Table Display Contest will be announced at 11:45, along with the Bibb Pick, in honor of Matt Bibb. The Moveable Feast of Authors & Signings, from noon to 3 p.m. with 16 guest authors, closes the show.


The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association's Fall Conference takes place Fri.-Sun., Sept. 19-21, at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va. Registration opens Friday at noon, followed by a 3 p.m. shuttle bus departure for a tour of iconic Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., and a Preview Supper with Malcolm Brooks (whose latest book is Painted Horses), Maureen Corrigan (So We Read On), Marla Frazee (The Farmer and the Clown) and Bryan Stevenson (Just Mercy) at 7 p.m.

Saturday kicks off with an 8 a.m. author breakfast featuring David Baldacci (The Finisher), Marisa de los Santos (The Precious One), Mac Barnett (The Terrible Two) and Richard Blanco (The Prince of Los Cucuyos). Exhibits and presentations are scheduled throughout the day, including a keynote presentation on the role of technology in bookselling with Franklin Foer (Insurrections of the Mind: 100 Years of Politics and Culture in America) and Andrew Keen (The Internet Is Not the Answer) and several new title discovery events, which include an editors buzz panel and children's pick of the lists. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks Reception, with 15 guest authors, starts at 7 p.m., followed at 8 by the awards banquet, honoring book of the year winners, Legacy Award winner Jules Feiffer (Out of Line: The Art of Jules Feiffer), Helmuth Sales Rep of the Year winner Joe Ginis of Workman Publishing, and Joe Drabyak Handseller of the Year winner Michael Fortney from Chester County Book Company. Saturday concludes with a Wine-Down Reception and more guest authors at 9:30 p.m.

Sunday begins with NAIBA's annual meeting at 8 a.m. and another author breakfast at 8:30, this time including Jon Meacham (Thomas Jefferson: President and Philosopher), A.S. King (Glory O'Brien's History of the Future), Michelle Knudsen (Evil Librarian) and Jon Ronson (Shame). Events continue throughout the morning with information on bookselling demographics and a money management session for owners and sessions for frontline and children's booksellers. The Discover New Authors Movable Feast starts at 12:15 p.m., where authors dine with and handsell their titles to booksellers.


Image of the Day: Mütter Fans

Last Thursday, the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, Pa., hosted the publication party for Dr. Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine (Gotham Books), a biography of Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter, the brilliant and eccentric medical innovator who revolutionized American surgery and founded the museum of medical oddities. Joseph Fox Bookshop handled book sales for the event. Pictured (l.-r.): Elena Stokes, Wunderkind PR; Yfat Reiss Gendell, Foundry Media; Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz, author of Dr. Mütter's Marvels; Ernie Cline, author of Ready Player One; Tanya Farrell, Wunderkind PR.

Happy 30th Birthday, Politics & Prose!

Yesterday, Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C., celebrated its 30th anniversary with a day of events, including a story hour, juggling, drawing sessions--and at 5 p.m., a champagne toast and party, including a video celebrating 30 years of Politics & Prose. Pictured here are current owners Lissa Muscatine (l.) and Bradley Graham (r.) flanking former longtime co-owner Barbara Meade and David Cohen, husband of the late Carla Cohen, who founded the store with Meade.

Iconic Haslam's Book Store Has 'Something for Everybody'

"If you're a reader, or know a reader, chances are you'll find a book to purchase or a gift to buy at Haslam's Book Store, a St. Petersburg institution since 1933," the Laker/Lutz News reported in its profile of the legendary Florida bookshop originally opened by John and Mary Haslam "at the height of the Great Depression." The bookstore has operated at four locations over the decades and "now takes up about three-quarters of a city block, offering 300,000 to 400,000 new and used books."

"It's bigger than a lot of libraries, and nowadays, we have more books than a lot of libraries," said Ray Hinst Jr., who operates the business with his wife and partner, Suzanne Haslam. (Son Ray Hinst III also works at the store, representing the fourth generation of the family-owned business.) "We try to have something for everybody. We specialize in what the cash register says the community and the market wants. We don't have an agenda. If there's a category that sells and there are books available in that category, we'll go ahead and do it....

"You have to pay attention to your customers, to your market. If your market changes, you need to change with it. In a lot of cases, that may be what happens to family businesses, the market changes--there's an evolution in the service or the product in which they have chosen to engage, and they don't make that transition. They don't reflect what's going on."

Media and Movies

TV: The 50-Year Argument

A trailer is out for The 50 Year Argument, Martin Scorsese's HBO documentary about the New York Review of Books. Indiewire reported that the project, co-directed with editor David Tedeschi, "sees the pair cast their eyes over half-a-century of the magazine. Featuring contributions from Joan Didion and Michael Chabon, among others, the film screened at Telluride over the past weekend" and will air on HBO September 29.

Radio: Good Omens

BBC Radio 4 will collaborate with Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett "to create the first ever dramatization of their co-penned cult-classic, Good Omens: The Nice & Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch," BBC News reported. The team behind Radio 4 and 4 Extra's Neverwhere has reunited for the project, with Dirk Maggs (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) directing his adaptation and producer Heather Larmour "ably assisted by Neil Gaiman." Recording began over the weekend "in a secret London location" for the radio drama, which is scheduled to air in December. The star-studded cast will include a host of delightful cameos, from the Gardeners' Question Time team to Neil and Terry themselves," BBC News wrote.

Media Heat: Senator Gillibrand on the Daily Show

This morning on the Today Show:

Danielle Fishel, author of Normally, This Would Be Cause for Concern: Tales of Calamity and Unrelenting Awkwardness (Gallery Books, $24.99, 9781476760230).
Steve Harvey, author of Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success: Discovering Your Gift and the Way to Life's Riches (Amistad, $25.99, 9780062220325).
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, author of Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World (Ballantine, $26, 9780804179072). Gillibrand will also appear tomorrow night on the Daily Show.


This morning on Imus in the Morning: Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism (Simon & Schuster, $22, 9781416547877).


Today on Fresh Air: Maureen Corrigan, author of So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures (Little, Brown, $26, 9780316230070).


Today on NPR's On Point: Christian Rudder, author of Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking) (Crown, $28, 9780385347372).


Today on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Najla Said, author of Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family (Riverhead, $16, 9781594632754).


Today on Tavis Smiley: Diane Ravitch, author of Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools (Vintage, $16.95, 9780345806352).


Tonight on the Tonight Show: Jason Segel, co-author of Nightmares! (Delacorte, $16.99, 9780385744256). He will also appear tomorrow on the Today Show and the Colbert Report.


Tomorrow on Al Jazeera's Real Money: James K. Galbraith, author of The End of Normal: The Great Crisis and the Future of Growth (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781451644920).


Tomorrow on Charlie Rose: Henry Kissinger, author of World Order (Penguin Press, $36, 9781594206146).


Tomorrow on Dr. Oz: Liza Long, author of The Price of Silence: A Mom's Perspective on Mental Illness (Hudson Street Press, $25.95, 9781594632570). She will also appear on CNN's Erin Burnett Out Front.


Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: I. Glenn Cohen, author of The Globalization of Health Care: Legal and Ethical Issues (Oxford University Press, $100, 9780199917907).

Books & Authors

Awards: Paul Engle; Edna Staebler

Luis Alberto Urrea won the $10,000 Paul Engle Prize, presented by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization to recognize "an individual who, like Paul Engle, represents a pioneering spirit in the world of literature through writing, editing, publishing, or teaching, and whose active participation in the larger issues of the day has contributed to the betterment of the world through the literary arts." The author will be honored October 4 during a special ceremony as part of the Iowa City Book Festival.

"Maintaining the work of witness in the face of ever shifting career developments and demands is a daunting task," Urrea said. "This award renews my commitment and vision; validation of this sort is so energizing and will impact my work for some time. The concept of a literature of witness--of bearing witness--has embedded in it the need for action. One must not simply hide in the shadows and type; one must also stand in the light."


Arno Kopecky won the $10,000 Edna Staebler Award, presented to Canadian writers for a first or second published book, for The Oil Man and the Sea: Navigating the Northern Gateway, Quillblog reported. Kopecky will be honored at a ceremony November 13.

What If?: Nuclear Blasts, Disintegrating Baseball Players

"As we were heading over, I did some quick calculations and figured out that if we're going to fill every floor about floor-to-ceiling with McDonald's playpen balls, it would take in the neighborhood of 35 to 40 million of them," remarked Randall Munroe, former NASA roboticist, creator of the webcomic xkcd and the author of the new book What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in New York City last Friday night.

Randall Munroe

"That would cost you in the neighborhood of $10 million," he continued. "If any Barnes & Noble people here are thinking about spicing things up, making it a more interesting shopping experience, I think they should really consider that investment."

Munroe gave an engaging talk about his background, his methods and some of his favorite What If? scenarios before answering a few audience questions and then signing books for more than 400 fans. The line wound around three floors of the bookstore, and the author didn't finish signing until after 11 p.m. He began his presentation with the very first question he answered on his What If? blog: What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?

The answer, in short, is "a lot of things," and none of them happen to be very good for the pitcher, batter or anyone remotely close to this hypothetical baseball diamond. Among those many things, the baseball would hit the air molecules in its path so hard that nuclear fusion would occur, the pitcher would begin disintegrating as soon as the ball left his hand, and the batter would likewise be disintegrated before even seeing the ball leave the pitcher's hand.

"The last thing I wanted to look up was what the rules of baseball say about this situation. And it turns out they're a little ambiguous; they don't really address this for some reason," Munroe deadpanned. "But my best guess is that in this situation the batter would be considered hit by pitch, and would be eligible to take first base, if it still existed."

The What If? blog, Munroe recounted, grew out of a day he spent teaching a class on the physics of energy for summer program for high schoolers at MIT. He'd never done a physics lecture before, and for the first hour of the class gave what he considered to be a standard, run-of-the-mill talk. The students were listening, but Monroe could tell that they weren't very interested.

"I recognized that 'I'm sort of listening but my mind is wandering' expression, because that's the expression I had through my entire undergraduate, high school, middle school education," he said. "I remember being that student."

At some point during the lecture, the subject of Yoda came up, and then to give an example of potential energy, Munroe used the scenario of Yoda lifting Luke Skywalker's X-Wing with the Force in The Empire Strikes Back. If they could figure out the weight of an X-Wing, Munroe told them, they could figure out Yoda's power output. Suddenly, the students were paying much closer attention, and they reached the answer faster than Munroe could walk them through it. It wasn't that he had abruptly begun explaining the information better, he pointed out, it was that he had asked a question they cared about.

Once they determined Yoda's power output, the students compared that figure to things in real life (Yoda's power output in that scene, incidentally, is a little bit less than that of an electric Smart car), and from there they started looking at other expressions of power in popular fiction, such as Sauron's eye exploding in the final The Lord of the Rings movie. The students were coming up with questions faster than Munroe could begin to answer them.

In this burst of interest, Munroe saw reflections of himself: although advanced mathematics had had their own abstract pleasures, they were never the things that had truly interested him as a student. They were instead tools that let him answer fascinating questions.

What If? became a way of collecting, and answering, some fascinating questions. For the blog, Munroe answers one question each week. Sometimes, if a submission is too complex, he has to give it a pass in favor of a less complicated question. One of the joys of working on the book, he explained, was that it gave him some time to return to some of those passed-over questions. One old favorite that he finally answered: What if you build a periodic table where every brick is made from the corresponding element?

xkcd fans waiting for Munroe at B&N.

It would begin harmlessly enough, with bricks of hydrogen and helium dissipating into the air. Then you'd have a brick of pure fluorine--one of the most dangerous and most reactive chemicals out there--to worry about, and before long you'd have toxic gasses from sulfur, arsenic and phosphorous fires on your hands. Things would start to get really bad when you reached the element astatine--a radioactive element that decays so quickly and so violently that it heats up to the point where it's brighter than any possible external light source. And by the time you'd reach the bottom row of transuranic (after uranium) elements, the resulting chain reaction would be like a nuclear bomb that kept going off. Said Munroe: "After the first five seconds, it would be exploding less, but still exploding."

Ever since the popularity of What If? took off, many people have asked Munroe if he's doing it all for education, to popularize the tools of science, to drum up interest in the STM fields, or something to that effect.

"Maybe a little, but not really. My goal with this is to find out the answers to these questions," he said. "If I think about it in the abstract, when I'm far away from it and not working on a question, then sure, I want to communicate about science and how cool these things are. But when I'm actually doing this, what I want to know is, how powerful is Yoda?" --Alex Mutter

Book Review

Review: The Paying Guests

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (Riverhead Books, $28.95 hardcover, 9781594633119, September 16, 2014)

The Paying Guests, an absorbing and richly satisfying historical novel, is set in the midst of the collapsing social order of post-World War I England. It seduces the reader with the promise of another period domestic drama that mines class differences. This novel, however, is by Sarah Waters (Tipping the Velvet), and as she did in her Man Booker Prize-shortlisted Fingersmith, she adds an illicit love affair between two women and, midway through, recasts it as a twist on a murder mystery. This premise may sound impossibly ambitious, but Waters is a gifted storyteller and her sixth novel delivers on many levels.

Frances Wray, unmarried and with a reputation for being outspoken, lives with her mother in their large house near London in Champion Hill, a neighborhood of large gardens and leafy trees. Her father's death some years earlier left them in debt, and her two brothers were killed in the war. She's had to let the servants go and learn to clean the house herself, but it is not enough, and she is forced to take in lodgers. They arrive in the form of the Barbers, a boisterous young couple whose gaudy belongings now crowd the rooms across the landing from Frances's serene, elegant bedroom.

Leonard Barber leaves every day for his job as an insurance clerk in London, and though her mother disapproves, Frances strikes up a friendship with his wife, Lilian. As the unhappiness of the Barbers' marriage gradually becomes clear, the two women grow closer and Frances, regretting a love she gave up years earlier at her mother's insistence, pursues and wins Lilian. They are happy in their clandestine affair until their lives are transformed by a murder and its aftermath, which threatens everything they hold dear.

Waters perfectly captures the conventions of the time. The narrative voice belongs to Frances, and the language has the easy elegance of the educated gentility of post-war England. Frances is in some ways a modern young woman, politically aware and forward-thinking, but she is also a product of her upbringing. She might dismiss her mother's wish that she spend time with friends of a similar "background" but is still bound by duty and the expectations of her class.

Frances has a rich interior life, and Waters delivers plenty of emotional tension along with the murder drama. The result is a novel that defies categorization as either commercial or literary fiction. A reinvention of the English period drama, The Paying Guests should establish Waters as one of Britain's best contemporary storytellers. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Shelf Talker: This English period drama about a love affair between two socially mismatched women in post-World War I England takes an unexpected turn into a sweeping, multifaceted crime drama.

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