Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Tor Nightfire: Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Big Picture Press: Art of Protest: Creating, Discovering, and Activating Art for Your Revolution by De Nichols

Callaway Arts & Entertainment: The Beatles: Get Back by The Beatles, photographed by Linda McCartney

St. Martin's Press: The Christie Affair by Nina De Gramont

Soho Crime: My Annihilation by Fuminori Nakamura, translated by Sam Bett

Candlewick Press: Hello, Little Fish!: A Mirror Book by Lucy Cousins

Merriam-Webster Kids: Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day: 366 Elevating Utterances to Stretch Your Cranium and Tickle Your Humerus by Merriam-Webster


Bookselling Notes: BAM Back; SEBA Help; Boss Best Rep

Sales at HMV, which owns Waterstone's and is the leading contender to buy Ottakar's, declined in the U.K., particularly in London, following the July bombings, according to the BBC. In the four months since May 1, sales at stores open at least a year in the U.K. and Ireland were down 9.2%. At Waterstone's, sales of books dropped 6.4%. International sales were up.


The parent company may be having trouble with internal accounting, but Books-A-Million's Pensacola, Fla., branch reopened last Tuesday "bigger and brighter." The store was closed more than a year after Hurricane Ivan caused "several million" dollars of damage. Most of the store and staff is new, according to the Pensacola News Journal.


The Southeast Booksellers Association (soon to be the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) is donating $25,000 to the Bookseller Relief Fund, set up by the ABA to help meet the humanitarian needs of booksellers affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as well as other disasters.

The SEBA contribution, which matches the ABA's seed money, comes from the association's board reserve fund. "As hurricane season has become a part of the southern landscape in recent years, it is important that there be an avenue for booksellers who suffer from disasters," SEBA president Sally Brewster of Park Road Books, Charlotte, N.C., said in a statement. "Many SEBA bookstores, even as far back as Hurricane Hugo, have suffered losses and there has not been a way to directly help those bookstores."


Penguin rep Eric Boss has won the Gordon Saull Rep of the Year Award, presented at the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association gathering in Denver this past weekend. The award recognizes the region's outstanding rep and is voted on by MPBA member bookstores. Boss formerly was general book department manager at Auraria Bookstore in Denver and recently joined the general book committee of the National Association of College Stores.


Four years ago, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, Joel and Jill LaSalle bought the Golden Braid Bookstore and took the neighboring Oasis Café, a vegetarian restaurant, only because the previous owner insisted on selling the two businesses as a package. Now the revamped Oasis is Joel's "passion." Following remodeling and a revamping of the menu, sales are up 35%.


Buck-A-Book, the New England bookstore chain that once had 30 stores, may be down to its last few cents. After closing seven of its last 15 stores this spring, the Associated Press reported that it is closing five stores in Massachusetts and perhaps two more in Connecticut, leaving at most one Buck-A-Book.

Most of the 14-year-old company's book stock has been remainders.


No surprise, as Katrina and gas price hikes took their toll: U.S. consumer confidence fell 20 points in September, to 86.6, the largest one-month drop in 15 years.


M. Scott Peck, M.D., author of the longtime bestseller The Road Less Traveled, died on Sunday at 69, according to wire reports. He had suffered from pancreatic and liver duct cancer.

Peck blended psychiatry and spirituality in The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth (Touchstone, 25th Anniversary Edition, $14, 0743243153), which was first published in 1978 but didn't become a mega bestseller until five years later. The book has sold more than six million copies in North America.

Berkley Books: Sadie on a Plate by Amanda Elliot

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
Four Treasures of the Sky
by Jenny Tinghui Zhang

GLOW: Flatiron Books: Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui ZhangDaiyu, named after a tragic heroine, is the young protagonist of Jenny Tinghui Zhang's stunning debut novel, Four Treasures of the Sky, a work of historical fiction set in the 1880s. Daiyu happily follows a stranger when he promises her a full belly, but instead of feeding her noodles, he smuggles her from China to California, where she begins a dizzying journey that fuses folklore and history with a masterful eloquence. "There's still a strong bias toward thinking of the lone cowboy as the quintessential symbol of the West," says Flatiron senior editor Caroline Bleeke, who quickly fought to preempt the book after reading an early manuscript. "But that elides the experiences of everyone else, particularly women and POC." A book to sit alongside Yaa Gyasi's Homecoming and Anna North's Outlawed, this is a powerful tale of reclamation, spun with soul by a remarkable new talent. --Lauren Puckett

(Flatiron Books, $27.99 hardcover, 9781250811783, April 5, 2022)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Unlikely Angel

Today Oprah talks with Ashley Smith, author of Unlikely Angel: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Hostage Hero (Morrow/Avon, $24.95, 0310270677).


WAMU's Diane Rehm Show reasons with Diane Wilson, author An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas (Chelsea Green, $27.50, 1931498881).


On WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show today:

  • Myla Goldberg talks about her new novel, Wickett's Remedy (Doubleday, $24.95, 0385513240).
  • Robert D. Kaplan makes noise for his new book, Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground (Random House, $27.95, 1400061326).

Yesterday on Fresh Air, Philip Roth discussed the new Library of America volumes collecting his titles.

Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association: We're throwing a bookselling party and you're invited!

Books & Authors

Attainment: New Books Next Week, Vol. 1

A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 by Simon Winchester (HarperCollins, $27.95, 0060571993) goes on sale October 4. By the author of The Professor and the Madman and another natural disaster bestseller, Krakatoa, this book is making shock waves just in time for the upcoming centennial of the event.


The Assassins
by Oliver North and Joe Musser (Broadman & Holman, 1594630127, $24.99) concludes the trilogy that began with the bestselling novels Mission Compromised and The Jericho Sanction. When terrorists attack multiple targets in Saudi Arabia, an oil crisis and hyper-inflation cripple world travel and economies. Congress authorizes a team of deadly specialists to amend the situation; however, they uncover a plot far more sinister: a plan to attack Washington D.C. with nuclear weapons. On sale October 3.


The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson (Andrews McMeel, $150, 0740748475) is the ultimate collection for Calvin and Hobbes fans. This three-volume set comes in a sturdy slipcase and features every cartoon that appeared in syndication during the strip's run (between 1985 and 1996). It will be available on October 4.

Berkley Books: 30 Things I Love about Myself by Radhika Sanghani

Deeper Understanding

Second Wind for Breathe Books

Perhaps the most energetic, enthusiastic new bookseller in the U.S. is Susan L. Weis, "proprietress" of Baltimore's Breathe Books, a 700-sq.-ft. New Age/mind/body/spirit store she opened last October.

"I'm going on a year and actually I've already turned a profit," she told Shelf Awareness. "I'm two years ahead of my business plan." In her first nine months, she had sales of just under $150,000. How does she do it? "I run a tight ship, order smartly and host dozens of events at the store and offsite every month," she said. "It's all so exciting. The gods and spirits were guiding me to the right time to do it." She went so far as to call it "the most satisfying thing I've done in my whole life. I've never worked harder, but I'm happier than ever."

Weis is also exceptional for spreading the word about the store and doing a kind of offsite selling that many in the industry consider a no-brainer but which is as rare as blockbuster foreign film with subtitles: selling books at a movie theater.

A kind of New Age cult movie, the film What the Bleep Do We Know? opened the same day as Breathe Books. "I knew it had a huge word-of-mouth following," Weis said, so she went to a theater where it was showing and asked if she could sell related books in the lobby. "Over six weeks I sold more than 500 books, " she said, adding that she used the occasion to talk up Breathe Books. "I would say, 'Do you know we have this new bookstore?' " Of the titles she sold, the most popular was The Hidden Messages in Water by Masaru Emoto. Weis has established a relationship with the publisher, Beyond Words; in late October, Emoto is conducting a seminar in Baltimore that is sponsored by Breathe Books. In addition, JZ Knight, founder of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment and one of the people featured in the movie, will appear in November at an event co-sponsored by the store.

Weis has set up similar events and relationship with groups in the area. "I knew you don't open a store and figure that's it," Weis commented. With experience as a bookstore events coordinator and p.r. person, "I knew there had to be a big p.r. and events component." Luckily, she continued, "I love doing authors events, workshops and classes."

Store inventory is about 65% books, 15% music and 20% gifts. Breathe Books includes a fiction section and "Susan's favorites," many of which are literary bestsellers Weis likes; altogether there are1,500 titles  in 60 sections. Children's books have proven popular; the nondenominational spiritual kids' section has turned three or four times since the store opened. Besides books, the store sells Buddhist statuary and artwork, gemstones, lotus candle holders, tarot cards and affirmation card decks. In the store, customers may listen to a whole CD, which Weis noted is important because, for example, massage therapists need to hear more than 15 seconds of music to know if the music is right for them.

The store is located in uptown Baltimore in Hampden on a "really funky street" called the Avenue. It's full of galleries and cafes and unusual stores that sell such things as Parisian shoes and chocolates. Nearby are two other bookstores, one used and other a 'zine/sf store. There are no other New Age bookstores in Baltimore.

Breathe Books is in a Victorian mansion and "looks like my house," Weis said. "It's warm and inviting." She has already run out of space for events so she converted the garage and also rents space to groups, which brings in a little extra income.

Weis's path to bookselling has been long. "I've always wanted to have a bookstore," she said. "But I wasn't sure how to make a go of it." In the 1990s, Weis worked for Barnes & Noble and the late Bibelot Books, as an events coordinator and in public relations. For five years afterwards, she worked at ad agencies. Several years ago, while in Los Angeles on a business trip, she visited the Bodhi Tree Bookstore and had a vision. "I loved it," she said. During the next two years, as she planned to open Breathe Books, "I was constantly inspired by the Bodhi Tree."

During the first year of preparation, she planned "really hard." During the second year, "I was totally petrified." Weis got moving again went she took part in a "wonderful Buddhist meditation retreat," where she realized "I had to go on and get over my fears." Then, last year, she went to BEA in Chicago and took part in the bookselling school put on by Paz & Associates. She also received important help from the Coalition of Visionary Resources, consisting mostly of New Age bookstores and gift shops.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Weis had been working on her business plan "all along" and "knew that the community needed a mind/body/spirit store." In this part of the city, there are a lot of yoga studios, alternative therapy practioners, and hospitals doing alternative therapy. Apparently the vibes are right. "The community has been so supportive," she said with awe.

Breathe Books is located at 810 W. 36th St., Baltimore, Md., 21211; 410-235-7323;

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