Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

Henry Holt & Company: Mihi Ever After (Mihi Ever After #1) by Tae Keller, illustrated by Geraldine Rodríguez

Berkley Books: River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer

Oxford University Press, USA: The World According to Proust by Joshua Landy

Chronicle Chroma: Bob Willoughby: A Cinematic Life by Bob Willoughby

Charlesbridge Publishing: Forever Cousins by Laurel Goodluck, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson

Tor Teen: The Luminaries by Susan Dennard

Quotation of the Day

Losing that 'Mom-and-Pop Home-Away-From-Home Feel'

"It's lost its mom-and-pop home-away-from-home feel. It feels more corporate now."--Aga Machauf, a Starbucks customer, who eeriely echoed an observation about customers simultaneously wanting to go out and feel at home that was made by restaurateur Danny Meyer at the Winter Institute and reported here on Monday.

"For them, the move to fully automated machines was inevitable, but they lost something. If you are a barista, you have to roast your own coffee. It's a necessity. You cannot compete by selling music or wi-fi."--Jon Cates, co-owner of Broadway Cafe, Kansas City, Mo., neighbor to a Starbucks that is closing after nearly a decade of competition.

Both quotations are from a New York Times story about Starbucks retrenching and trying to focus on basics.


Scribe Us: Our Members Be Unlimited: A Comic about Workers and Their Unions by Sam Wallman


Notes: Bookstore Genesis; Nova Scotia Store to Close

Where do bookstores come from? Jackie Tanase, Ellen Ward and Karen Schwettman, co-owners of FoxTale Book Shoppe, Woodstock, Ga., met in "a creative writing class, ran into a fox and a whole new chapter started to unfold," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. "As Ward and Schwettman approached their 50th birthdays in 2006, they took a trip to Denver. They visited an independent bookstore there and were hooked."

On Valentine's Day last year, the three friends "donned their signature fedoras" and closed the deal on a loan.  "Congratulations," they said, handing out cigars like proud parents. "It's a bookstore."

The fox? That's another story.


The Oxford, Ohio, Chamber of Commerce honored Howard Dubois, owner of Dubois Book Store, with a Lifetime Achievement Award, according to the Oxford Press.

"Howard DuBois opened his bookstore while still an undergrad at Miami University, over 60 years ago," said attorney Jim Robinson. "Since that time, he has operated his bookstore business with distinction. He has survived fire which destroyed his store, changing business mores, consumer demands and the technological explosion."


Canada's oldest bookstore, the Book Room, Halifax, Nova Scotia, will begin "an orderly shutdown of its retail store and dispose of its inventory" over the next few weeks and will close at the end of March, store president Charles Burchell told CBC News.

"I am extremely disappointed to make this announcement as the Book Room has been an institution in Nova Scotia," he continued. "The bookstore has survived two World Wars, the Great Depression and economic ups and downs over its 169 year history."


Noting that "quirky books abound in Tulsa [Okla.] stores," the Collegian touted "several used bookstores that can quench the desire for books with character, and often on the cheap." Among the bookshops profiled were Oak Tree Books, Gardner’s Used Books and Quicksilver Used and Rare Books.


Daniel Menaker, former Random House executive editor and fiction editor at the New Yorker, will host a new online book show called Titlepage, the first of which appears on March 3 on, according to today's New York Times. Menaker will lead a group of authors in discussions that are modeled in part after Apostrophes, the popular French book discussion TV show, Charlie Rose and others. The second show will be posted two weeks after the first.


Paz & Associates's next workshop for prospective booksellers is being held February 25-29 on Amelia Island, Fla., near Jacksonville. For more information, go to


A few more football titles join our pre-Super Bowl huddle:

The Pigskin Rabbi by Willard Manus (Breakaway Books, distributed by Consortium, $15, 9781891369230/1891369237). "Young Orthodox rabbi Ezekiel 'Ziggy' Cantor becomes the quarterback of the New York Giants, drilling passes with godlike accuracy, kicking miraculous field goals, playing out of pure love for the game, and catapulting the team toward invincibility. The fans love it, and chant lustily in Yiddish. The entire team, convinced of the luck of the Jewish, starts speaking Yiddish and eating matzoh ball soup. It's an over-the-top farce, and an outrageous satire of the classic American sports fantasy. Best of all--the Giants win the Super Bowl!"

[Thanks to Garth Battista of Breakaway!]


And from a blog by Michael Merschel, assistant arts editor/books, at the Dallas Morning News:

"Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football
by Jim Dent.

"The Blind Side by Michael Lewis, a look inside the world of an immense--and immensely talented -- high school athlete. Our critic said, "Mr. Lewis is a terrific reporter and a gifted prose stylist. He absorbs the vibrations of the world he immerses himself in without getting carried away."

"And, of course, the just-published Greatest Team Ever, which Cowboys fans might want to flip through while two morally inferior teams battle for the trophy that every true Dallas resident knows is the rightful property of Jerry Jones."


Go, Giants! 


Flyaway Books: The Coat by Séverine Vidal, illustrated by Louis Thomas

Winter Institute: Green Dream Team

Saturday lunch featured a free-flowing, casual conversation by what ABA COO Oren Teicher called "a dream team" of three very green authors and activists who addressed issues of the environment and local businesses as well as bookstores' potential roles in educating people about those subjects through books and by example--and even leading efforts to create a more sane, sustainable way of living and conducting business.

Each member of the dream team judged the current political and social environment as more positive than in the past five or 10 years. For her part, Stacy Mitchell, author of Big Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for American's Independent Businesses (Beacon), a senior researcher for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and a board member of the American Independent Business Alliance, said, "Something is happening among consumers." Recent highly-publicized problems with tainted toys have "woken people up," she continued. "People want to deal with merchants who know what they're doing and deal with manufacturers who care about products and kids."

In a related positive development, Mitchell said, "The environmental crisis has led people to think more about the economy and making their communities more self-reliant. They want to go to stores downtown and in their neighborhoods." Also the growth in numbers and growth in "maturity" of independent business alliances and buy-local groups has been "very encouraging."

Michael Shuman, author of The Small-Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses Are Beating the Global Competition (Berrett-Koehler), v-p of enterprise development for the Training & Development Corporation and co-founder of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, said he felt "upbeat, too," citing the "sea change that one sees everywhere bookstores are." There are two major trends, he continued: "All kinds of businesses are saying they are local. We hear of the local bank, the local food store. No one says they are not local." In addition, people are embracing brands affiliated with the local economy.

Bill McKibben, the environmentalist who writes about global warming, alternative energy and the risks associated with human genetic engineering whose latest book is Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future (Holt), characteristically took a philosophical view of the topic, noting that going back to Thoreau American thinkers and writers about the environment were "fixated on wilderness." But "over the years, people have honed in on solutions close to home." The reason for this, of course, is "the inescapable logic that the world will not be able to depend any longer on cheap fossil fuel. Thus the logic we operated under the last century of extending energy supply lines farther and farther makes less sense with each passing week." He emphasized that this new approach will not be a fad; rather it will be "the story of the century." Addressing booksellers, he said, "For those of you who survived the onslaught of the last 25 years, the curve of history is now moving in your direction." He congratulated the group and added, "You're weary, but you're all the tougher and smarter for it."

McKibben said he believes booksellers "can help accelerate the process" toward a more environmentally friendly world, in part because bookstores "are a very special business. You are a hub for helping people understand the world. You are one of the very few places where the community thinks about itself. By definition, your product is universal but your identity is local. You can lead the local business alliance; you lead naturally.

"Business people are always a little wary about alienating customers," McKibben continued, "but I think this one is all upside. Your customers are the kind of people who will love you for being more and more outspoken about this world."

Michael Shuman seconded McKibben's idea of the role of bookstores, saying, "Bookstores are not just a place for selling books and enhancing knowledge; they are also a place for getting people to think. They can be a Grand Central Terminal for cultural diversity and knowledge." Shuman advised booksellers to do more joint activities with other local businesses. He called shop local campaigns "a lot of fun. They're cheap and productive." Among side benefits: many businesses wind up selling other businesses' products that they wouldn't have done in the past because they never would have met and talked without local business alliances. One "fantasy" Shuman has: a bookstore that can deliver a book to a customer in 24 minutes, "not Amazon's 24 hours."

Shuman added, "It's great that we've stopped the bleeding of local independents. Now we have to win. You need to take advantage of every advantage you have, and you have a lot of advantages."

Stacy Mitchell noted that changes in "the policy landscape," particularly on the state level, are rectifying some of the longtime bias toward larger companies. "We need to have vibrant towns." She emphasized that local business owners often "underestimate their power."

McKibben called the big box store "just a machine for global warming. For the last 40 years, they've all been designed to burn as much fossil fuel as possible." He stressed that people need to change "how we conceive of ourselves," particularly "the intense identification of American consumers as individual consumers." Bookstore shelves are "filled with the testimony of people over 1,000 years showing that we are much more complicated than mere consuming machines." There is more to life than going to the mall or watching TV, he went on. Also "our collective measure of what constitutes the economy is so impoverished," he said. The economy is more than the GDP and stock market indexes.

"Hyperconsumerism does not make Americans particularly happy," McKibben noted. Studies have shown that the average American today is less happy than the average American in the 1950s and doesn't have as many friends as the average American 50 years ago. Bookstores are good locales "for becoming friends with others," he observed. "Wine bars are good, too." And a combination of the two are "particularly effective" in promoting friendships, he added with a smile.--John Mutter


PNBA Holiday Catalog 2022

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Russell Banks's Reserve

This morning's Book Report, the weekly AM radio book-related show organized by Windows a bookshop, Monroe, La., features two interviews:

  • Pamela Duncan, author of The Big Beautiful (Dial, $14, 9780385338387/0385338384)
  • Lynn York, author of The Sweet Life (Plume, $14, 9780452288225/0452288223)

The show airs at 8 a.m. Central Time and can be heard live at; the archived edition will be posted this afternoon.


Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Senator Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.), author of Why We Whisper: Restoring Our Right to Say It's Wrong (Rowman & Littlefield, $24.95, 9780742552524/0742552527).


Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Russell Banks, author of The Reserve (HarperCollins, $24.95, 9780061430251/0061430250). As the show described it: "Russell Banks, one of the great living American novelists, uses the 1930s novel of passion and betrayal--with its allied seductions, madness, and adultery--to explore America's class system; the relationships between art, politics and wealth; and the despoiling of the American Landscape. Although these are classic Russell Banks themes, this novel explodes with a passionate intensity that is exceptional for him."

(Note: An abridged version of this interview will be heard live on KCRW because of the station's semi-annual subscription drive. It will be archived in its entirety online.)


Tomorrow on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Nathan McCall, author of Them: A Novel (Atria, $25, 9781416549154/1416549153).


Tomorrow on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show: Colonel (Ret.) Ann Wright, whose Dissent: Voices of Conscience (Koa Books, $17.95, 9780977333844/0977333841) was just named the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression Book of the Month for February.


Book Review

Book Review: High Crimes

High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed by Michael Kodas (Hyperion Books, $24.95 Hardcover, 9781401302733, February 2008)

Before his death in January, Sir Edmund Hillary expressed deep dismay at what had become of mountaineering on Mt. Everest, whose summit he, with Tenzing Norgay, was the first to reach. "Human life," he said, "is far more important than just getting to the top of a mountain." In this disturbing, fascinating book, Michael Kodas illustrates with cold precision how that sentiment is shared by few, if any, of the people who now find their way to the world's highest peak.
A journalist for the Hartford Courant, Kodas covered his own disastrous Everest expedition in the paper in 2004. Among the other climbers on the mountain at that time were Nils Antezana, a 69-year-old doctor, and his guide, Gustavo Lisi, whose stories Kodas juxtaposes here with his own. As relations among his team members deteriorated before they even arrived in the Himalaya, Kodas discovered that thievery, prostitution, violence and graft are in abundance on Everest--and all that just in Base Camp. Farther up the mountain, where human decency seems to have taken permanent leave, things get worse. On slopes littered with frozen bodies, unscrupulous guides abandon their well-paying but inexperienced clients; Sherpas extort money for survival, and oxygen tanks, food and equipment are regularly stolen from the high camps. In a particularly chilling aside, Kodas describes how one supplier sells tanks filled with damp oxygen that will freeze at higher altitudes, rendering them fatally useless.

Kodas assigns a large part of the blame for this miserable state of affairs to a lethal combination of ego and ready cash. In the quest to add Mt. Everest to their "bucket lists," rich adventurers seek to go straight to the top whether or not they've had sufficient training, and there is no shortage of opportunists willing to profit from that desire. Certainly Gustavo Lisi, who left his client to perish in Everest's "death zone," then later stole the dead man's equipment, fits the latter mold. But in a tale full of villains, Lisi gets stiff competition from George Dijmarescu, the leader of Kodas's expedition, a wife-beating thug who threatened to harm Kodas in one of his many murderous rages. Yet Kodas is quick to point out that the few arguably "good" guys in his harrowing story must also share responsibility for the fate of Everest. Antezana foresaw trouble with his guide but pressed on regardless. Kodas himself admits to contracting "summit fever," a judgment-obscuring condition.
Why risk so much--morally and physically--to stand on the summit of Everest? Despite its ubiquity, "because it's there" hardly seems to address the question. Kodas suggests that the answer may have a great deal to do with unchecked avarice and that oldest of human flaws: hubris.--Debra Ginsberg


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