Shelf Awareness for Friday, January 25, 2008

Union Square Kids: The Door That Had Never Been Opened Before by Mrs. and Mr. MacLeod

Shadow Mountain: The Queen and the Knave (Proper Romance Victorian) by Sarah M. Eden

Andrews McMeel Publishing: The Wheel of the Year: An Illustrated Guide to Nature's Rhythms by Fiona Cook, illustrated by Jessica Roux

Tor Nightfire: What Feasts at Night (Sworn Soldier #2) by T. Kingfisher

Amulet Books: Nightbane (the Lightlark Saga Book 2) by Alex Aster


Notes: Rescuing Bookstores; Waiting for Dan Brown

Several beleaguered independent bookstores "have been drawing more than pity from devotees," according to the Wall Street Journal, which reported on an intriguing recent trend: "From Chicago to Brooklyn, N.Y., and from Houston to Eugene, Ore., loyal customers have been stepping up and putting down serious cash to save their neighborhood bookstores. These individuals see themselves more as donors than investors, committed to saving the ambiance and personal service of their local store."

Among the booksellers mentioned in the piece were Brent Books and Cards, Chicago, Ill.; Kepler's Books and Magazines, Menlo Park, Calif.; Tsunami Books, Eugene, Ore.; Brazos Bookstore, Houston, Tex.; Community Book Store, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Women and Children First, Chicago, Ill.

"Thanks to the cash injections," the Journal concluded, "many of the stores have been able to advertise and, as a result, have seen double-digit increases in sales percentages. Even better, perhaps, the activists have at long last put their money where their mouths are."


Cracking the Dan Brown code. According to today's WSJ, "no book has been as eagerly awaited as Mr. Brown's next novel, purported to be about freemasonry and the Founding Fathers. The problem is, it is still awaited . . . and awaited . . . and awaited."

The Journal called mega-bestseller The Da Vinci Code "the biggest publishing event in decades," spawning "literary knockoffs," explanatory nonfiction titles and substantial growth in European tourism to sites mentioned in the novel. The article also noted that, "when Bertelsmann AG reports 2007 results in March, it will be the first time since 2002 that it didn't get a boost from The Da Vinci Code."

So, where's the next book? Neither Brown's agent nor the author himself will say, but literary agent Laurence Kirshbaum offered this perspective: "When a major author doesn't deliver, you get down on your knees and pray. You can't threaten, you can't cajole, you wait. . . . When you have that level of success, you feel an obligation. He's climbing Everest times 10. He probably wants to make the next book perfect."


Little Bookworms, Lakewood Ranch, Fla., will expand its inventory to include children's apparel beginning in March, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, which noted that "about half of the 1,200 square-foot store will be devoted to children's apparel. Books will continue to occupy the other half."


The Tigard Times asked Portland, Ore., area booksellers Phil Clark and Frank Payne of Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing, and Will Peters of Annie Bloom's Books to recommend "thought-provoking winter reads." They did.

"If none of the above titles pique your interest," the article concluded, "stop by your neighborhood bookstore and ask what's new in your favorite section. Or visit to find the Book Sense Picks, a monthly selection of eclectic new books chosen by independent booksellers."


Stephen King by the numbers is an eerie, interactive feature at USA Today:

37--Number of languages in which his books are published.

5--Number of novels not set at least partially in Maine.


Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

AAP Sales: Upward Swing Continues for November

Book sales in November increased 8% to $859.1 million, based on sales at 81 publishers as reported to the Association of American Publishers. Sales for the year to date rose 9% to $9.4 billion.

Stronger categories:
  • E-books rose 36.4% (with sales of $2.5 million).
  • Professional and scholarly rose 34.9% ($68.3 million).
  • University press paperbacks increased 34.3% ($6.2 million).
  • Children's/YA paperbacks were up 24.8% ($45.8 million).
  • University press hardcovers gained 17.5% ($6.7 million).
  • Adult mass market increased 14.8% ($84.1 million).
  • Higher education rose 14.7% ($216.2 million).
  • Children's/YA hardcovers increased 11.4% ($60.9 million).
  • Adult paperback sales were up 8.3% ($107.6 million).
  • Religious books increased 3.6% ($49.8 million).
Weaker categories:
  • Audiobooks declined 24.1% ($15.4 million).
  • Adult hardcovers were down 7.4% ($194.3 million).
  • El-Hi basal and supplemental K-12 decreased 2% ($103.2 million)

Shelf Awareness Job Board: Click Here to Post Your Job

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Tasty, Funny, Scary

This morning on the Today Show: Padma Lakshmi, author of Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day (Weinstein Books, $34.95, 9781602860063/1602860068).


Tonight on Charlie Rose: A conversation with actor and comedian Steve Martin, author of Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life (Scribner, $25, 9781416553649/1416553649).


Tomorrow on the Weekend Today Show: Stephen King, author of Duma Key (Scribner, $28, 9781416552512/1416552510).


Tomorrow on NPR/PRI's Studio 360: Samantha Hunt, author of The Invention of Everything Else (Houghton Mifflin, $24, 9780618801121/061880112X).  


Books & Authors

Image of the Day: Tip o' the Hat to Anita Silvey

Known for her chic chapeaux as well as for heading up the Horn Book and Houghton Mifflin Children's Books, Silvey (second from l.) celebrated as winner of the 29th annual Jeremiah Ludington Memorial Award at the EPA banquet (with Tom Korman, DK Publishing; Ben Conn, Knowledge Industries; and Margaret Coffee, Scholastic).


Awards: Borders Original Voices

The following were the four book winners of the 2007 Borders Original Voices Awards, with comments from the selection committee:
  • Fiction: The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall (Canongate). "Hall created a great read for anyone willing to surrender disbelief and trust him as a storyteller even if the narrator can't be trusted."
  • Nonfiction: When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa by Peter Godwin (Little, Brown). "The story took readers somewhere unfamiliar and taught them something new. For those readers who thought they knew something, the book challenged that knowledge."
  • Children's picture book: Wolf! Wolf! by John Rocco (Hyperion) "This story has a delightfully clever and different ending than a reader would expect and is a charming read aloud for any child."    
  • Young adult/independent reader: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: A Novel in Cartoons by Jeff Kinney (Abrams). "Nostalgic adults will empathize with Greg's snarky narrative about friends and family, further reminding readers why it's good not to be 12 anymore."

The awards honor "fresh, compelling and ambitious works from new and emerging talents." Winners receive $5,000. Borders store employees and corporate office employees made nominations; winners were selected by a committee of corporate staff members representing each of the four categories.


Book Brahmin: Toby Barlow

Toby Barlow is executive creative director at the advertising agency JWT in Detroit, Mich., and a contributor to the literary magazine n+1 and the Huffington Post. He splits his time between Detroit and New York City. Sharp Teeth, his first book, was just published by Harper in January.

On your nightstand now:  

Against the Day. I find a paragraph or two of Pynchon to be the most potent dream generation medication available on the market today.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship by Arthur Ransome. The heroes of the story are a bunch of loud, drunken louts who overthrow the Tsar. Someone should make a children's movie of it.

Book you most enjoyed reading to your child:  

Mama Don't Allow
by Thacher Hurd. It has everything a great story needs: betrayal, music, reptiles.

Your top five authors:  

Barry Hannah, P.G. Wodehouse, Dostoyevsky, Henry Fielding, Dorothy Sayers

Book you've faked reading:

If you include high school and college assigned reading, then too many to count.

Books you are an evangelist for:  

Homeland by Sam Lipsyte, The Keep by Jennifer Egan, Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union. I used to be quite the evangelist for Barry Hannah's Bats Out of Hell but then people started steering clear of me.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Venus on the Half Shell by Kilgore Trout, when I was 14.

Books that changed your life:

The Idiot by Dostoyevsky. I'm not sure how it changed my life, but things were different afterwards. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 by Hunter S. Thompson had more predictable consequences.

Favorite line from a book:

"Virtue was always one hell of an idea."--From William Kennedy's Roscoe

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

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Book you have re-read most often:  

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett


Book Review

Book Review: Life Class

Life Class by Pat Barker (Doubleday Books, $23.95 Hardcover, 9780385524353, January 2008)

Pat Barker's new novel is the Booker Prize-winning master at her best. Life Class is her tribute to the art world of pre-War London, following the careers of three young art students encountering the horrors of an unimaginable war, and asking how are should respond to a world erupting into violence and aggression. Turn away and have nothing to do with it? Or plunge into the battlefield and re-create it?

Paul Tarrant is doomed to a life of working in the ironworks but comes to London on his grandmother's legacy to pursue his real dream: painting. Kit Neville is the son of a successful war correspondent and already becoming famous for his aggressive, noisy modern canvases. He's desperately in love with Elinor Brooke, from the landed world of privilege, who has won a scholarship to the Slade, the legendary art school in London where they all meet. There Paul falls in love with Teresa, an art school model with a violent stalker of a husband. And Elinor begins to fall in love with Paul. They all remain true to their own talent in their own way as they're pulled apart and flung together by the war that engulfs them all.

Intermingled with the fictional characters are the real-life womanizing painter Augustus John, the eccentric Lady Ottoline Morrell, the greatest aristocratic hostess of her time, and Dr. Henry Tonks, the Victorian surgeon who became an artist and helped pioneer techniques of plastic surgery on the disfigured young soldiers returning from the horrors of the trenches.

In her usual clear, clean, effortless prose, Pat Barker tells a compelling story that never lets up momentum, avoids sentimentality and predictability and concludes in an extremely satisfying manner while asking powerful questions about the role of war in art, unanswered questions with plenty of ammo for all sides. She creates characters with passions and values you believe in, talented young people you care about in a world where art and war and love converge.-–Nick DiMartino


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Baby Boomers Won't Stop Shopping

Cue the theme music from Jaws. Baby boomers are in the retail waters and they're not leaving soon. Will they still be reading in 2018 or 2028 or 2038? Yes. Will they still be buying books in bricks-and-mortar bookstores?


That's the challenge for booksellers. As I mentioned in the first column of this series, BBs can be irritating and fickle. We always have been. A BB backlash already exists. Think Chris Buckley's novel, Boomsday, where a boomer suicide proposal (with financial incentives, of course) falls under the euthanasia euphemism, "Voluntary Transitioning." Think the Baby Boomer Death Counter. Tip of the iceberg.

Cue the shark music again.

Yet somewhere, in the middle of all this controversy and opportunity, the book world will have to find a way to surf boomer-infested waters. One of the questions I initially asked readers was whether tech-savvy BBs will be transferring their book reading and buying habits to an online environment by the year 2018.

Susan Fox, co-owner of Red Fox Books, Glens Falls, N.Y., describes herself as a non-boomer who is also part of the last generation to have grown up without computers. She believes that paper books and bricks-and-mortar stores are safe for now: "I don't see boomers (or my generation, for that matter) reading novels on the computer in the way that younger generations who know nothing but computers will."

Fox added that something "no one mentioned in their comments (denial, perhaps?) is large print. I just sold a copy of The Alchemist large print edition to an aging boomer. Just as we're seeing spa cuisine make its way into retirement homes, we're going to start seeing interesting, diverse titles make their way to large print. Maybe even debut authors!" 

Missie Olm of the Reader's Loft, Green Bay, Wis., feels that while some boomers may gravitate to an online reading life, "bricks-and-mortar stores have less likelihood of losing them to the ether than we do the younger generations. They want to talk about what they know about--in person. They want the interaction that the cozy independent bookstore can offer. I think this is the generation that may be doing their research online, but we'll still get the pleasure of their company. Until mobility becomes an issue. Then you start delivering, for those favorite customers that you've worked with for the last 10, 20, 30 years."

"Your 2018 question is harder to answer," admits Pamela Grath of Dog Ears Books, Northport, Mich. "Yes, there are those of us who have gotten over our technophobia, but whether online or bricks-and-mortar sales will be a larger growth area a decade from now is anyone's guess. I've been a bookseller for 15 years, and all I can say for sure about the future is that it will be different. When online skyrocketed, I jumped, and for a couple of years what I was doing worked, but then everything changed, and I had to change again, too. Boomers in general may re-invent themselves over and over out of excitement or new enthusiasms; indie booksellers must re-invent themselves continuously to stay alive. The world is dynamic, and bookselling is a challenging way of life."

Carol White of RLI Press is closely tied to the recreational vehicle industry: "In our travels, representing 'Go RVing' to the boomer market, we talk to hundreds of boomers about their 'retirement' years. As you say, they are fiercely independent and believe their demographic is just themselves.

"I think bookstores will continue to attract boomers, as long as the bookstores continue to change to meet what boomers want. The ones that are most attractive to me are ones that are a combination of a living room and a library. Most boomers, although tech-savvy, would rather actually talk to each other than to text or IM each other. Make it convenient and fun to do that and the bookstores will continue to have their place on our radar."

For added perspective, Susan Fox recommends "an interesting section in Paco Underhill's Why We Buy about the aging population and the need for stores to try to meet their needs. Things like bigger signs, better lighting, books that deal with aging and retirement (and yoga). I agree with him that this is something we'll need to consider since the boomers aren't (thankfully) going to stop shopping."

No need to get out of the water yet. Baby boomer sharks don't bite; they buy.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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