Shelf Awareness for Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hampton Roads Publishing Company: Becoming Baba Yaga: Trickster, Feminist, and Witch of the Woods by Kris Spisak, Foreword by Gennarose Nethercott

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

Severn House: A Messy Murder (Main) (The Decluttering Mysteries #4) by Simon Brett

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker


Notes: PGW Keeps Name; Prison Bureau Reverses Library Policy

Farewell, poetically named Transition Vendor!

The bankruptcy court overseeing the AMS case has approved Perseus Books Group's purchase of the PGW name, various intellectual property rights and other assets, including PGW's office leases in Berkeley, Calif., and New York City, where sales, marketing and administrative staff are located. The West Coast staff of the former Avalon Publishing Group, which Perseus bought earlier this year, will be moved into the Berkeley PGW office in December.

In a statement, Susan Reich, president of PGW, said, "This is very important news to both PGW employees and clients, all of whom hold the PGW name in high regard."


The federal Bureau of Prisons has rescinded its policy purging prison chapel libraries of books and other material not on its list of approved titles, the New York Times reported. The policy, subject of a class action lawsuit, had been opposed in recent weeks by a range of groups after it received national publicity.

In an e-mail message, the bureau said it "will begin immediately to return to chapel libraries materials that were removed in June 2007, with the exception of any publications that have been found to be inappropriate, such as material that could be radicalizing or incite violence. The review of all materials in chapel libraries will be completed by the end of January 2008."


We offer straight-forward congratulations to Oblong Books & Music of Millerton and Rhinebeck, N.Y., which for the second year in a row has been chosen the Best Bookstore in the Hudson Valley by Hudson Valley Magazine.

The magazine wrote: "There's nothing quite like an independent bookstore. The coziness, the quirkiness, the knowledge, and the personality--these twin treasures have all that and more, including a bounty of books and lots of local author events."

Owned by father and daughter Dick and Suzanna Hermans, Oblong opened originally in Millerton in 1975. The second store, in Rhinebeck, opened in 2001. Dick Hermans is the newly elected treasurer of the New England Independent Booksellers Association.


Cabbages and Kings bookstore, Chatham, Mass., will close October 14, just months shy of its silver anniversary, according to the Cape Cod Chronicle. Owned by Bess and Jack Moye, the bookshop "has fallen victim to a number of factors, including competition from on-line mega-stores such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and an economy that has sputtered since Sept. 11, 2001."

David Gessner, author of Soaring With Fidel, said, "There will be a huge hole in the Cape literary community. I have done a brunch for every one of my books and had planned on doing them for each future book. Each time Jack and Bess made it a personal celebration. It was a great way to interact with Cape people, and Cabbages and Kings will be deeply missed."


Sisters Sherri Wright and Traci Giganti have expanded their three-year-old bookstore, Book Crossing, Brunswick, Md., into an apartment next door, the Frederick News Post reported. The catalyst appears to have been a seminar at BEA in New York on growing a business. "The presenter said it was best to expand in the same area if you can," Giganti told the paper. "We were asking ourselves 'Are we going to do this?' We were busting at the seams. You can get stagnant under those conditions."

The new space includes a central children's area and the book nook, where group events are held. The extra space also allows the store to do more cross merchandising. For example, cookbooks are displayed alongside gourmet foods, and copies of Wizardology and Dragonology are next to related puzzles.


Another case of excellent market timing? 

In its first week on sale, The Age of Turbulence by former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan has sold 129,000 copies, as measured by Nielsen BookScan (about 75% of overall sales), leading the Wall Street Journal to speculate that book buyers were showing some "irrational exuberance."

"It exceeded our expectations, which were high," Antoinette Ercolano, v-p, trade book buying, at Barnes & Noble, told the Journal. "Given what's going on with the stock market and housing crisis, readers may be looking for answers."


A life-changing book list was featured in the Guardian, where leading feminists Jessica Valenti, Natasha Walter, Rebecca Walker, Julie Bindel, Ariel Levy and Joan Smith recalled the writers who first introduced them to the women's movement.


Does Google judge a book by its title? The Australian suggested that some book titles are "chosen to make it easy to find in a database search."

The example cited was a study of globalization, nationalism and tribalism, which author Paul James had originally titled Global Savage. "When it appeared in bookshops, though, the book bore the rather pedestrian title Globalism, Nationalism and Tribalism: Bringing Theory Back In."


Effective January 1, Portfolio Books, the U.K. sales and distribution company, will use National Book Network International's warehouse and distribution facilities. With the change, Portfolio is closing its warehouse in Perivale.

In a statement, Portfolio managing director David Lester said that the "partnership enables us to focus more energy on driving sales at the same time as ensuring the top quality distribution publishers expect from us."

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Media and Movies

Media Heat: Amy Zegart and Spying Blind

This morning on Good Morning America: Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories (Knopf, $27.95, 9781400040780/1400040787).


Today on KCRW's Bookworm: Viken Berberian, author of Das Kapital: A Novel of Love and Money Markets (S&S, $23, 9780743267236/0743267230). As the show describes the segment: "Even though he is writing in a post-modern apocalyptic vein about billionaire stock traders, terrorists and nationalists, Viken Berberian believes that love, yes love, conquers all. Does he really mean it?"


Today on the Diane Rehm Show: Amy Zegart, author of Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11 (Princeton University Press, $24.95, 9780691120218/0691120218).


Today on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Nicole Hollander, author of the comic strip Sylvia, discusses her book, Tales of Graceful Aging from the Planet Denial (Broadway, $19.95, 9780767926539/0767926536).


Today on NPR's All Things Considered: Amy Bloom, whose new novel is Away (Random House, $23.95, 9781400063567/1400063566).


Today on the View: Senator Barack Obama, whose latest book is The Audacity of Hope (Crown, $25, 9780307237699/0307237699).


Tonight on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Ken Burns, co-author of The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945 (Knopf, $50, 9780307262837/0307262839).

GLOW: Sourcebooks Landmark: A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler

This Weekend on Book TV: National Book Festival Live

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday 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, September 29

10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Live coverage of the National Book Festival from the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Re-airs Saturday at 8 p.m.)

6 p.m. Encore Booknotes. In a segment first aired in 1990, Harold Stassen, author of Eisenhower: Turning the World Toward Peace, gave a personal account of the Eisenhower presidency and the Cold War.

Sunday, September 30

12 p.m. At the National Book Festival, Korean War veterans who were interviewed by the late David Halberstam for his book, The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War (Hyperion, $35, 9781401300524/1401300529), talk about their experiences.

1:30 p.m. Tom Wiener, historian for the Veterans History Project, moderates a discussion at the National Book Festival with World War II veterans who were interviewed by Ken Burns for The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945 (Knopf, $50, 9780307262837/0307262839).

6 p.m. After Words: Charles Peña interviews Norman Podhoretz, author of World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism (Doubleday, $24.95, 9780385522212/0385522215). Podhoretz argues that the "war against Islamofascism" is as important for our country to engage in as World War I, World War II and the Cold War. (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m., and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

7 p.m. David Cole, co-author of Less Safe, Less Free: Why America Is Losing the War on Terror (New Press, $26.95, 9781595581334/1595581332), and Bradford Berenson, former Associate Counsel to President Bush, debate the merits of the U.S. government's response to 9/11.

Books & Authors

Awards: MacArthur Geniuses

Among winners of MacArthur "genius" grants, worth $100,000 a year for five years:

The double-blessed Stuart Dybeck, author of the short story collections The Coast of Chicago and I Sailed with Magellan, who yesterday also won the 2007 Rea Award for the Short Story, worth $30,000.

Saul Griffith, "an inventor engineering innovations spanning optics, high-performance textiles, and nanotechnology to benefit the world," who with fellow MIT graduate student Joost Bonsen, is co-author of Howtoons, illustrated by Marvel and DC Comics artist Nick Dragotta, to be published by HarperCollins Children's Books in November ($15.99, 9780060761585/006076158X). The title features a brother and sister who model 15 inventions that readers can build.

Book Review

Children's Review: Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood by Jerry Pinkney (Little, Brown Young Readers, $16.99 Hardcover, 9780316013550, October 2007)

One of Jerry Pinkney's many gifts is his ability to keep a child's sensibility front and center. In his retelling of this classic tale about the dangers of straying, the front endpapers convey the safe, snug home Little Red Riding Hood shares with her mother. Smoke rises from the chimney, tall birches extend far outside the full-bleed spread, and deer wander freely along the dirt roads. The title page shows the young heroine's mother (in a mirror image of Whistler's famous portrait of his mother), fashioning the girl's flame-colored cape while a cat plays with a spool of red thread. All of these details convey the love with which Mother extends her warning, that on her way to Grandmother's house, the girl must "be certain to go straight there." Pinkney answers the burning question of why the wolf that bars her way does not gobble down the girl right there in the woods (he "had a mind to eat her up at once--but he thought better of it when he heard the chop, chop of woodcutters working nearby"; and indeed, the woodcutters can be seen through an opening in the trees). The lupine villain devours Grandmother offstage, and readers see him licking his lips after swallowing Little Red Riding Hood whole. Even as the woodcutter delivers his fatal blow to the wolf ("with one stroke of his ax"), the only sign of violence is the shadow of the woodcutter's raised weapon, and a flurry of jays and cardinals fleeing the snow-covered firs outside of Grandmother's cozy cottage. The next scene shows Grandmother and granddaughter safely delivered from harm's way, the wolf so placid in death that he appears to be sleeping in the bed behind them. Pinkney makes the sense of relief so palpable that Grandmother's repetition of Mother's words ("Now, little miss, you be certain to go straight home") contains a whiff of humor. The closing endpapers depict a serene wood as the young heroine's red cape stands out in the wintry woods, her home just yards away, and evidence of a fire still warming the hearth. Despite the inevitable menace crucial to the story, Pinkney emphasizes the importance of family and leaves youngsters with the feeling that all is right with the world.--Jennifer M. Brown

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Linda Urban 'Breaks on Through' With Novel

Are all booksellers writers? Not quite, though it often feels like most of my colleagues are "working on a book." So, when a bookseller finally does "break on through to the other side," it's a noteworthy event.

Linda Urban, former marketing director at Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, Calif., is the author of A Crooked Kind of Perfect (Harcourt, $16, 9780152060077/0152060073), a middle-reader novel about 11-year-old Zoe Elias, who dreams of playing piano at Carnegie Hall (see Shelf Awareness review, August 2, 2007).

How do you get to Carnegie Hall (or even to writing a novel about wanting to get to Carnegie Hall)?

Read, write and rewrite.

According to Michigan-born Urban, it all began when she read Little Women at nine and decided to become Jo March. "Jo, you may remember, wrote in her freezing cold attic, so I dragged a card table and a folding chair into the unfinished room above our garage. There I wrote long stories in which nothing much ever happened."
Becoming a writer was not an option for her then. "I loved writing when I was a kid, but never really considered creative writing as a career path. My parents raised me to be more practical than that, and when my dad died while I was still in high school, I clung to that practicality."

At Wayne State University, she focused on journalism and advertising, earned her Master's in English, and then moved west to study film and television critical theory at UCLA. She also began working at Vroman's "and discovered that bookselling was a lot more fun than writing my dissertation. In fact, it was more fun than any other job I had ever had. I was hooked."

Her writing life was still on hold. Urban's father had died at 40, and she believed that she would die by the time she was 36. "I turned 37 and was suddenly struck by what a gift that was. It gave me the courage to try something highly impractical. Despite the fact that I was still working and now raising a child, I decided to try writing again. I got up every morning and wrote for an hour before going to work."

She submitted picture book manuscripts to publishers "and received rejections--but nice ones, with encouragements to send more things. That was enough to keep me setting the alarm clock."
Her first sale, Mouse Was Mad, "is currently being illustrated by Henry Cole and is scheduled for release by Harcourt in the spring of 2009. I had a two year old when I wrote it and--surprise!--the book is about tantrums."

A Crooked Kind of Perfect was also conceived as a picture book, but Jeannette Larson, her editor at Harcourt, "encouraged me to try it as a novel. It took a year or so of thinking about it--during which time, I moved cross country [to Vermont] and had another baby--before I gave it a shot. Once I started writing, the book came pretty quickly."

Urban believes her experience as a bookseller has been an asset. "Vroman's was my MFA. I read more while I worked there than I ever did in real graduate school and I had to process more of what I read, too, so that I could talk about it intelligently with customers and colleagues. I heard thousands of authors read from their work and talk about their process. For nine years, I hosted a summer writer's workshop series on Saturday mornings. Writers, agents, illustrators, and editors all came to give hour-long workshops to aspiring authors. Secretly, I took notes."
She also suggests that authors should know more about the marketing process. "I'm anti-ignorance. Ignorance is expensive. When I was at Vroman's, I opened tons of mail from authors who were trying to promote their books. Many of them mass-mailed generic notes with boring press releases attached, or they spent lots of money to have toothbrushes or napkin rings imprinted with the title of their book, or four years after publication they were requesting a signing at 'Vermin's Bookstore.' I knew not to do those things."

Urban places great faith in her bookselling roots. "Booksellers are some of the kindest, most friendly, most encouraging folks on the planet. They are my people, you know? It is weird to be on the other side of the desk, though. I'm always wanting to straighten the stacks and answer customer inquiries. I can't seem to help myself. I go into a bookstore and invariably handsell somebody else's novel."--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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