Shelf Awareness for Monday, October 16, 2006


Sourcebooks Landmark: Long After We Are Gone by Terah Shelton Harris

Delacorte Press: Last One to Die by Cynthia Murphy

Margaret Ferguson Books: Not a Smiley Guy by Polly Horvath, Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Indiana University Press: The Grim Reader: A Pharmacist's Guide to Putting Your Characters in Peril by Miffie Seideman

Hell's Hundred: Blood Like Mine by Stuart Neville

Spiegel & Grau: Tiananmen Square by Lai Wen

Tor Books: The Daughters' War (Blacktongue) by Christopher Buehlman

News

Notes: Blockbuster Bust; B&N Opening and Closing

In a front-page story, today's Wall Street Journal seeks to interpret the fate of Jed Rubenfeld's debut novel, Interpretation of Murder, for which Holt spent $500,000 on a marketing campaign intended to make it a September blockbuster. Most everything went according to plan for the work of historical fiction, which features Sigmund Freud, but while sales have been respectable for a first novel, they haven't been at blockbuster levels. The Journal says the main culprit was The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, which came out at the same time and was embraced even more enthusiastically by booksellers, including Barnes & Noble, which made The Thirteenth Tale its first pick for B&N Recommends, a program that aims to focus all the stores 40,000 employees on handselling one title.

Disappointed, the Journal noted that Holt nonetheless had a fortuitous little lift that displays the vagaries of publishing: "On Sept. 20, when the bad news about Mr. Rubenfeld's book was coming over the transom, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gave a speech to the United Nations. He held up a copy of Noam Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance and praised the book, which shot up the Amazon bestseller list, prompting the printing of an additional 50,000 copies to meet demand. Mr. Chomsky's publisher: Henry Holt & Co."

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Next spring Barnes & Noble plans to open a bookstore in Newnan, Ga., near Atlanta, in the Forum at Ashley Park at 35 Ansley Dr. The store will stock the usual nearly 200,000 book, music, DVD and magazine titles.

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The Barnes & Noble store in Hartsdale, N.Y., in Westchester County, will close early next year when its lease expires, the Journal News reported. The store is among many retailers that have left the town's Central Avenue business district, where real estate has become more expensive and some believe condos will replace stores.

A local attorney who wants to see retail reinvigorated in the town said about his neighborhood: "For Edgemont people, Barnes & Noble is like our surrogate library. It's very disappointing for my kids that we won't be able to run over there." A town supervisor said he wants to see a bookstore return to the area--as well as a movie theater, following the closing of one last month.

Coincidentally on Friday, a car crashed through the front of the store, according to the paper. The driver and an employee were injured.

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Books-A-Million has opened a 15,500-sq.-ft. store in Southaven, Miss., just south of Memphis, Tenn., according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal. The store is in the Southaven Towne Center, a lifestyle center, and is "the first major bookstore in DeSoto County," the paper said. Dennis Sullivan, the store's assistant general manager, commented: "We actively seek out locations that don't have" major bookstores.

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The Chicago Defender profiles the Afrocentric Bookstore in the Bronzeville section of Chicago. Desiree Sanders founded the store 16 years ago. Its motto: "seeing the world through an African point of view."

The paper wrote: "The sweet smell of lavender incense welcomes visitors to a vibrant display of African ethnic crafts and neatly stacked rows of books ranging from ancient Egypt and civil war histories to soul food cooking. Afrocentric Bookstore has all the ingredients to warrant second and third helpings: friendly and knowledgeable staff, a wide selection of books and a desire to help you find what you came looking for."

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On the occasion of Coliseum Books announcing its second closing, the New York Times remembers legendary city bookstores that, as the paper of record put it, "live only in the mind." Among them:

  • Scribner's on Fifth Avenue, which HarperCollins's Carl Lennertz called "a beautiful palace. It was like something in the New Yorker, what a New York bookstore should be."
  • Books & Co., with its Wall of literature about which Harold Bloom said, "No clinkers in there."
  • The Eighth Street Bookshop, where owner Eli Wilentz offered all kinds of books, saying, "If you can hold it together with staples, we'll sell it."


Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Roswell Johnson Saves the World! (Roswell Johnson #1) by Chris Colfer


Dog Days of August: Bookstore Sales Off 7.7%

Bookstore sales in August were $2.001 billion, down 7.7% from $2.167 billion in the same month in 2005, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Total retail sales rose 6.3% to $345.181 billion compared to $324.612 billion in August 2005.

For the year to date, bookstore sales were $10.548 billion, down 2% from $10.765 billion in the first eight months of 2005.

Through June, sales for the year to date had been up 0.8%, but with the 9.3% drop in sales in July compared to July 2005, year to date sales slipped into negative territory.

July comparisons were hurt because of strong sales in the summer of 2005 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The magic of that excuse may not be as potent for August.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books and do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.


Harper: Sandwich by Catherine Newman


PNBA: A Small World of Good

First concerning the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association show, held this past weekend: the weather report. The rap on the Northwest is that it rains all the time. Not so. It was 78 degrees and sunny in mid-October, conjuring the possibility of drinks on the deck, gentle zephyrs rustling the fall leaves, a warm sun caressing the shoulders . . . but, because we are good and faithful booksellers, we passed up those pleasures to spend hours on end in a basement bunker. Great place to wait out a nuclear holocaust; no place for grownups on a sunny day.
 
But on with the show! Thom Chambliss, executive director of PNBA, confirmed what the eye could see: attendance was down. He said, "We will be downsizing the venue, based on these numbers. We are also hearing that the show is too late this year; some of these books would already be in stores if the show were held earlier." PNBA had responded to requests to hold the show later, and now that decision falls into the category of "no good deed goes unpunished" or "be careful what you ask for." Even Jim Harris, who could find the bright side of a tomb, allowed, "It is a bit slow." Perception, at least, would improve if we were all together in a smaller venue. Just like serving dinner on a salad plate; you get it all, it's just cozier.
 
Educational workshops were well attended and universally praised. The Feast of Authors sold out before the show began, one author breakfast was up a little, one down a little. The Celebration of Authors was a big hit, once again. All of the above should satisfy the bean counters, the doomsayers, the cockeyed optimists and anyone else who is keeping score.

Books that were mentioned again and again were Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape conceived by Barry Lopez, with a stunning editing job done by Debra Gwartney (Trinity University Press). Another was From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog named Lava by Jay Kopelman with Melinda Roth (Lyons Press), and the Buzz Book Pick: The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson (Riverhead).
 
One of my faves from this show was the World of Good booth. World of Good partners with 150 artisans in 31 countries who, through their craft, are preserving their culture, contributing to their communities and building sustainable, environmentally friendly local economies. Is this not a blue state dream come true? Baskets, boxes, jewelry, journals, hats, pottery--all fair trade certified, and not a junky item in the lot! This is the place for your customers to do all their Christmas shopping at once. Check them out on www.worldofgood.com. Other great sidelines were glasses, book lights, Moleskine journals and Magnetic Poetry back again, this time with games. What we love about these wonderful things is that they are one of our few chances to garner a Keystone markup while dressing up our stores with appropriate book-related items.
 
No matter how long we have been in this business (27 years for this girl), we know that there is always more to learn. Education workshops are the place to fill in the blanks, or just remind ourselves of what's important. This show had an embarrassment of riches. Some of the ones most remarked: the ABA presentations, Len Vlahos on improving efficiency and Above the Treeline, Oren Teicher on creating killer events. These guys know their stuff and are always ready to answer questions and tailor their expertise to fit the individual store. Scott Foley on handselling, Peter Kahle on giving successful readings, Brian Juenemann on the use of the holiday catalogue and Judy Hobbs on picks of the children's lists were also singled out for high praise. Of course, let us not forget those great "Picks of the Lists" sessions given by our beloved reps. Always a good place to see something that you might otherwise pass by.
 
Speaking of that, and them, one of the best parts of any show is seeing our reps and each other. It has been said, ad nauseam, that we are a great bunch o' folks, and it's true, it's true! We are smart, funny, dedicated, lively, indomitable, friendly, accessible, helpful . . . WE ARE BOOKSELLERS!!  See you in Seattle in the spring!--Valerie Ryan, owner of Cannon Beach Book Co., Cannon Beach, Ore., who was helped in her reporting by Kay Aya, her children's book buyer, and Sally McPherson, general dogsbody and first rate part-timer and helper-outer.


Spiegel & Grau: Tiananmen Square by Lai Wen


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Annie Leibovitz's Self-Portrait

This morning on the Today Show: Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine, authors of Trinny and Susannah Take on America: What Your Clothes Say about You (Collins, $19.95, 0061137448).

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Today on Imus in the Morning: 60 Minutes personality Andy Rooney sounds off about his new essay collection, Out of My Mind (PublicAffairs, $26, 1586484168).

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This morning on the Early Show: the fearless Arianna Huffington will talk about her new book, On Becoming Fearless (Little, Brown, $21.99, 0316166812).

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Today on WAMU's Diane Rehm Show: Annie Leibovitz, who presents a selection of her work in A Photographer's Life, 1990-2005 (Random House, $75, 0375505091).

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Today on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360: John Naisbitt, author of Mind Set!: Reset Your Thinking and See the Future (HarperBusiness, $24.95, 0061136883).
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Today on Fox and Friends: Malika Oufkir, whose new memoir is Freedom: The Story of My Second Life (Miramax, $23.95, 1401352065).

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Today on Fox's Hannity and Colmes: David Kuo continues to plug Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction (Free Press, $25, 0743287126).

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Today on the Tavis Smiley Show: Katherine Ketcham, author of Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption (Viking, $25.95, 0670037893).

Also today on the Tavis Smiley Show: Larry Miller, author of Spoiled Rotten America: Outrages of Everyday Life (Regan Books, $25.95, 0060819081).

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Today on the Charlie Rose Show: David Mamet, author of The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-Hatred, and the Jews (Schocken Books, $19.95, 0805242074).

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Tonight on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Frank Rich, the New York Times columnist and author of The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina (Penguin, $25.95, 159420098X).

 


Books & Authors

Award: Nobel Peace Prize Winner's Books in the Bank

Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus (who shares the honor with Grameen Bank, which he founded and heads) is also an author. PublicAffairs published the Bangladeshi laureate's Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty ($15, 1586481983). It has also just acquired another book by the Vanderbilt Ph.D., which will "outline the next phase of the microlending movement." No deposit date for the second book has been set yet.

In announcing the award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee stated: "Muhammad Yunus has shown himself to be a leader who has managed to translate visions into practical action for the benefit of millions of people, not only in Bangladesh, but also in many other countries. Loans to poor people without any financial security had appeared to be an impossible idea. From modest beginnings three decades ago, Yunus has, first and foremost through Grameen Bank, developed micro-credit into an ever more important instrument in the struggle against poverty. Grameen Bank has been a source of ideas and models for the many institutions in the field of micro-credit that have sprung up around the world."


Book Sense: May We Recommend

From last week's Book Sense bestseller lists, available at booksense.com, here are the recommended titles, which are also Book Sense Picks:

Paperback

Dermaphoria by Craig Clevenger (MacAdam Cage, $13.50, 1596921021). "This most singular and suspenseful tale opens in a jail cell, with its protagonist suffering a mysterious amnesia. As his memory returns, he recalls his past life as a clandestine chemist, synthesizing pharmaceuticals for an organized crime syndicate. Chronicled in surreal, psychedelic prose, this suspenseful novel effectively blurs the boundaries between truth and fiction."--Brian Good, The Doylestown Bookshop, Doylestown, Pa.

Hardcover

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (Crown, $24.95, 0307346609). "Brooks' latest left me absolutely stunned. This was a deeply serious book, full of heart and intelligence, a fantastic story realistically told that gripped me from the first chapter. I was touched, I was moved, I was frightened, and I loved every minute of it."--Brian Schaefer, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, Ohio

There Is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Africa's Children by Melissa Fay Greene (Bloomsbury, $25.95, 1596911166). "This is a poignant, painful, important, and inspirational story of a truly remarkable woman, Haregewoin Tefarra, who rescues and cares for Ethiopian AIDS orphans."--Sally Van Wert, MacDonald Book Shop, Estes Park, Colo.

For Ages 9 to 12

The Beast of Noor by Janet Lee Carey (Atheneum, $16.95, 0689876440). "Based on a legend from the British Isles, the Beast of Noor is a large phantom dog that has been roaming the dark Shalem Woods for 300 years. When brother and sister Miles and Hanna Ferrell take it upon themselves to right an ancient family wrong, we begin a story with breathtaking descriptions and cinematic action."--Elly Smith, Parkplace Books, Kirkland, Wash.

Bread and Roses, Too by Katherine Paterson (Clarion Books, $16, 0618654798). "From Lawrence, Massachusetts, to Barre, Vermont, we follow the lives of textile mill workers and their fight, and learn how social causes and personal growth can become synonymous. This is a serious and thoroughly researched book from a two-time Newbery-winning author."--Diana Carroll, Quail Ridge Books & Music, Raleigh, N.C.

[Many thanks to Book Sense and the ABA!]



Book Review

Mandahla: Now in Theaters Everywhere Reviewed

Now in Theaters Everywhere by Kenneth Turan (PublicAffairs, $26.00 Hardcover, 9781586483951, October 2006)


 
Normally I would skip a book of movie reviews, but the opening chapter of Kenneth Turan's collection is devoted to my all-time favorite movie, Blade Runner (yes, you are free to challenge my choice), and includes extensive quotations from one of the sexiest actors alive, Rutger Hauer (the others: Sean Connery, Clive Owen, Don Cheadle, George Clooney, Harry Connick, Jr., Denzel Washington, and yes, you can add to the list). So I read it, and found myself creating an extensive list of movies to see, while contemplating a Netflix subscription.
 
The idea for this book began to germinate after a few Cannes Film Festivals where exceptional films (such as Mystic River and L.A. Confidential) were ignored, in what Turan sees as "a determination to dismiss cinema contaminated by the stink of Hollywood." He believes movies that are both intelligent and mainstream entertainment are in danger of disappearing, and in Now in Theaters Everywhere he praises these films (his last book, Never Coming to a Theater Near You, is about small, independent films). He focuses on the early '90s through mid-2006, covering all genres, including animation and spectacle. The first section is devoted to action/thriller movies, "one genre Hollywood hasn't forgotten how to make." His descriptions can be as thrilling as a scene from one of the movies he mentions: director John Woo is known for "a cinema of violent delirium so breathtaking it plays like visual poetry . . . and for the sincerely sentimental underpinnings of his work"; in Heat, "the dark end of the street doesn't get much more inviting than this"; Insomnia "understands how immorality can ooze into goodness like a drop of blood seeping into a white shirt." He points out more than thrills and chills when a movie goes further: "Don't plan on getting much sleep after seeing Crimson Tide. It's not just that the tension, tangible enough to be eaten off a plate, is capable of squeezing out your every last breath. It's that a troubling moral dilemma has been placed at the heart of a crackling good piece of popular entertainment."
 
The critic's paean to Clint Eastwood is worth the price of admission, so to speak. Does anyone not yet think he is a genius? With his direction of Mystic River, he's described as the last old master in Hollywood, "just as reliable in his sphere as Rembrandt and Rubens were in theirs." He's "American film's last and best classicist . . . who's aged better than a Sideways pinot noir . . . his increasingly fearless and idiosyncratic choice of material has made him more of an independent filmmaker than half the people at Sundance." In Million Dollar Baby, "seeing [Eastwood and Morgan Freeman] genially trying to out-underact each other is one of [the film's] most satisfying pleasures; a scene in which they share a conversation about, of all things, socks, is a master class in how understated acting can be used to magnificent effect."
 
Turan, film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, throws in a bit of literary criticism to good effect (citing John Grisham and F. X. Toole, for instance), and picks up on aspects of a film that often go right by an audience. In discussing Spike Lee's Inside Man, he says the director found ways to be slightly off the mark--most obviously, by using Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster in departure roles, but more subtly by beginning the film with the disorienting rhythms of Bollywood composer A. R. Rahman. He creates excitement for a type of movie some of us have dismissed as too "mass market," and I for one will now be seeing more big movies and watching with a more discerning eye. It's easy to be enthusiastic about a movie critic with whom you agree; it's better to be enthusiastic about criticism that gets you to rethink or thoughtfully consider your impressions. Kenneth Turan provides that sort of criticism with intelligence and passion (read his take on the polarizing There's Something about Mary). He says, "Although it may not be really fashionable to do so, these films need to be celebrated. First of all, as the ones included in this book demonstrate, the best of the lot are tremendously entertaining. But more than that, if we abandon mainstream studio films that reach out skillfully and thoughtfully to a mass audience, we will be abandoning a key part of our artistic heritage, of film's legacy, of its gift to us."--Marilyn Dahl


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