Shelf Awareness for Monday, March 10, 2008

Workman Publishing: How Magicians Think: Misdirection, Deception, and Why Magic Matters by Joshua Jay

Atheneum Books: Out of My Heart by Sharon M Draper

Bloomsbury Publishing: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Blackstone Publishing: I Am Not Who You Think I Am by Eric Rickstad

Scholastic Press: Room to Dream (a Front Desk Novel) by Kelly Yang

Andrews McMeel Publishing: A Tale as Tall as Jacob: Misadventures with My Brother by Samantha Edwards

David Zwirner Books: Making a Great Exhibition by Doro Globus, illustrated by Rose Blake

Tor Books: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini


Seattle: Book Industry Tastemaker

"The combined power in the book industry" of, Starbucks and Costco, "three companies that increasingly influence what America reads," has put Seattle "in the position of tastemaker," the New York Times writes.

Interestingly Seattle's big three have widely varying approaches to bookselling. Amazon tries to offer every book ever printed--and then some. Costco stocks about 250 titles at any time in its 383 warehouses. And Starbucks has sold two or three titles in the past year.

Among points in the article:

  • In the last two years, sales of books through nontraditional outlets grew $260 million, Al Greco, master of book numbers and marketing professor at Fordham, said.
  • Starbucks Entertainment, which oversees book, music and movie selections for the company, has been in Los Angeles since 2006.
  • Amazon's seven-person editorial team is mostly in their 30s and "constantly reviews books and recommends its favorites."
  • Costco's book buyer, Pennie Clark Ianniciello, "has an uncanny knack for leading customers to buy books, for molding their tastes," according to Jeff Rogart of HarperCollins. The title she recommended in February, Mr. Lincoln's Wars by Adam Braver, sold more in one month at Costco after a Pennie pick (see her latest, for March, below) than it had sold nationally in the three years beforehand.

The article also highlights the rise of Seattle's Nancy Pearl, librarian, author of Book Lust and commentator of NPR. Surprisingly the Times overlooks the West Coast office of Shelf Awareness . . .


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Still Life by Sarah Winman

Notes: Harry Potter and the Litigating Author; Book Boomers

The trial in the case of Warner Bros. and J.K. Rowling against RDR Books for wanting to publish The Harry Potter Lexicon will take place in New York City March 24-26. The trial consolidates an injunction hearing that had been scheduled before.


Baby boomers are collecting the books they loved when they were children, according to the Tampa Tribune.

"We are visually oriented, having grown up with TV. Illustrated books have an appeal to us," said Mike Slicker, owner of Lighthouse Books, St. Petersburg, Fla., and an organizer of the upcoming Florida Antiquarian Book Fair.

Steve Bolter, owner of Sleuth Books, Palm Coast, Fla., "agrees there has been a boom in old children's books, especially the juvenile series featuring the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and other favorites. Nostalgic baby boomers also gobble up Dr. Seuss books and even the Little Golden Books. Bolter has some himself, including his childhood favorite, The Pokey Little Puppy."

"As we get older, we think more and more about our childhoods," he added.


Mae Goodman "was the most imaginative, the most distinguished bookseller that I've ever known," Stuart Brent said in the Chicago Tribune's obituary for Goodman, who was 101 when she died March 2.

From 1958 through the 1980s, she was "a fixture" in bookselling legend Stuart Brent's store, which Brent, 95, closed in 1996. His son, Adam, also praised Goodman: "You encountered an absolutely charming and energetic woman who would recommend 10 books that you had to read immediately. She probably read two books a night."


The diverse reading habits of Marines stationed overseas were documented in the Los Angeles Times by Tony Perry, who "has been to Iraq as an embedded reporter on several occasions."

Perry noted that books by Dean Koontz, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Stephen King, Scott Turow and Louis L'Amour "are everywhere. But I always find something unique: a well-thumbed copy of Henry James' 1909 book The Ambassadors in a plywood shack at Camp Fallouja's helicopter landing zone and John Hersey's 1956 novel A Single Pebble in a recreation room at the Al Asad airfield, among them."

Abandoning journalistic objectivity, Perry admitted that he often adds to these informal libraries: "Among the books I'm leaving behind this year is one about Vasily Grossman. He was an 'embedded' reporter with the Red Army during WWII, a sort of Soviet Ernie Pyle, so I claim him as a spiritual godfather."


Parallax Press: How to Live When a Loved One Dies: Healing Meditations for Grief and Loss by Thich Nhat Hanh

Espresso POD Machine: A College Store's Introductory Course

Although the cost has been significant, the University of Alberta Bookstore, Edmonton, Alberta, which installed an Espresso Book Machine last November, has found the POD machine to more than meet expectations, according to Todd Anderson, director of the Alberta Bookstore, who spoke at a seminar at the CAMEX show and National Association of College Stores meeting in San Antonio, Tex., last week.

The benefits of the Espresso machine have been both tangible and intangible. "The machine is a symbol of change for a lot of our professors and students," Anderson said. "They are very excited."

At the same time, the store printed more than 50 titles in the first three months of operation, saved students buying some of the textbooks significant amounts of money and has kept the machine humming. The production model that the Alberta store has is "a workhorse and just what we need," Anderson said. "We are running flat out."

Before the machine's installation in November, the store devised a marketing plan, but it turned out the plan wasn't needed. "Everyone came to us," Anderson said. The machine was created by the company owned by former Random House executive Jason Epstein and others. Another one has just gone into use at Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt. (Shelf Awareness, February 20, 2008).

Among the main reasons the store obtained one of the machines were to save money for students; keep old editions of books in print; make custom anthologies; print public domain titles; be a printer for for-profit publishers (particularly short-runs from small publishers); serve vanity presses; and print conference proceedings, user manuals, etc.

The machine can handle most any job except that it does not print color inside the book, so that, for example, the machine doesn't work well for gardening books, Anderson noted.

From November through the beginning of February, the store printed 53 titles in 74 business days: 16 were from digital files; 12 were textbooks; 13 were self-published, mostly novels and family histories; six titles were out-of-print; 3 titles came from writing courses; 2 were research papers; and one was a presidential address. The store made 2,364 copies of books for a total of nearly 540,000 pages. The store does not use the machine for course packs.

A bestseller has been Blue Moon Poetry, with more than 440 copies sold. It has become, Anderson said, "a model of sell one, print one rather than print one, sell one."

A typical Long Tail title is The Dictionary of the Cree Language, which the store "brought back" to life.

The average cost of production is "about one cent a page" and the store charges five cents a page--and more for high-quality paper. But it is revamping its pricing structure, effective May 1. The store will price vanity press and series titles closer to LuLu prices and aims to "subsidize the cost of the machine and the cost of textbooks," Anderson said. "I want to sell textbooks, not be a printer."

The store found that using heavy paper for books--30 and 32 lb. paper--made some longer ones very thick, so that for long titles, it uses 20 lb. paper now.

One staff member--who just turned 21--has become the "expert" on the Espresso machine, although eight people know how to use it.

The machine manufactures a book in about five minutes. The main "bottleneck" now is the binding machine with shear. Even with new models, Anderson sees the gluing process as a continuing bottleneck. "The length of a book doesn't matter," he said.

So far there have been only a few major technical glitches: Edmonton's dry climate helped wear out a gear and a belt broke. But the problems have been "easy to diagnose," Anderson said.

The machine operates in the public part of the store and draws "a ton of traffic," Anderson said, so much so that the store had to put a stanchion around the machine. The store offers tours of the machine.

Some publishers--most notably McGraw-Hill, which is allowing the store to print from its Primis Online catalogue--have cooperated fully with the store. "Other publishers are waiting and seeing," Anderson said. "There is a certain amount of fear." The store has followed copyright law "to the letter," Anderson emphasized, and reports the number of digital copies made to publishers who send or license digital files of books.

POD is good for the bookstore and the book world, Anderson maintained. "We see POD extending the life of the print book and extending the Long Tail," he said. "We will have e-books," but the book will retain a major place.--John Mutter


American Booksellers Association: ABA Children's Institute, August 30 - September 1! Register today!

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Good People, Bad Things

This morning on the Today Show: former head of the Manhattan D.A.'s sex crimes unit Linda Fairstein, author of Killer Heat (Doubleday, $26, 9780385523974/0385523971).


Today on NPR's On Point: Robin Wright, author of Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East (Penguin Press, $26.95, 9781594201110/1594201110).


Today on HBO's Real Sports: C. Vivian Stringer, coach of the Rutgers women's basketball team and author of Standing Tall: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph (Crown, $24.95, 9780307406095/0307406091).


Today on the Diane Rehm Show, in a repeat: Jodee Blanco, author of Please Stop Laughing at Us . . . One Survivor's Extraordinary Quest to Prevent School Bullying (BenBella Books, $14.95, 9781933771298/1933771291).


Today on NPR's All Things Considered: Sebastian Horsley, author of Dandy in the Underworld: An Unauthorized Autobiography (Harper Perennial, $13.95, 9780061461255/0061461253).


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Debbie Ford, author of Why Good People Do Bad Things: How to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy (HarperOne, $24.95, 9780060897376/0060897376).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Laura Schlessinger, author of Stop Whining, Start Living (Harper, $24.95, 9780060838331/0060838337).


Tomorrow morning on NPR's Morning Edition: Scott Simon, author of Windy City: A Novel of Politics (Random House, $25, 9781400065578/1400065577).


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Tori Spelling, author of Stori Telling (Simon Spotlight, $24.95, 9781416950738/1416950737). She also appears today on the View and Larry King Live.


Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Richard Sennett, author of The Craftsman (Yale, $27.50, 9780300119091/0300119097).


Tomorrow night on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Grover Norquist, author of Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government's Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives (Morrow, $26.95, 9780061133954/0061133957).


Rebel Girls: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic, 4 edited by Lilly Workneh

Books & Authors

Pennie Picks Suite Francaise

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has picked Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky (Vintage, $14.95, 9781400096275/1400096278) as her pick for March. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she writes:

"When I pick up a book, I immediately turn to any notes in the back. Had I not done that with this month's pick, Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise, I would not have appreciated the depth of her work. Not only did Nemirovsky write a gripping story of World War II France, but she did it with the war raging outside her door. Add to that the fact that she was taken away to Auschwitz, where she died, and readers are left feeling the loss of a novel and an author's life that both came to untimely ends. I cannot thank her daughter enough for making sure this work was published."


Unbound: This Party's Dead: Grief, Joy and Spilled Rum at the World's Death Festivals by Erica Buist

Book Sense: May We Recommend

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


Ice Trap: A Novel of Suspense by Kitty Sewell (Touchstone, $24.95, 9781416539971/1416539972). "Meet Dafydd Woodruff, a successful doctor in Wales. Dafydd's life is going along quite well until he receives a letter from a 13-year-old girl from northern Canada, where years ago he worked as a doctor in a small town. In the letter, she claims he is her father, and Dafydd returns to the town to try to discover the truth. The twist and turns--and final outcome--will keep you reading this suspenseful first novel well into the night."--Sue Richardson, Maine Coast Book Shop, Damariscotta, Me.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller (Dutton, $24.95, 9780525950493/525950494). "This is a carefully documented and intelligently reasoned response to today's skeptics. The Reason for God is remarkable in its breadth. It challenges the intellectual mind and satisfies the searching soul."--Jan Owens, Millrace Books, Farmington, Conn.


A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants by Jaed Coffin (Da Capo, $16, 9780306815263/306815265). "This is a wonderful memoir from a young Thai-American about his choice to spend time being a monk in Thailand. Cultural details enhance this everyman's story, which is more timely than ever in a world where more and more multiethnic people are trying to find their identities."--Syrinda Sharpe, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

For Ages 9 to 12

Kiki Strike: The Empress' Tomb by Kirsten Miller (Bloomsbury, $16.95, 9781599900476/1599900475). "This sequel to Inside the Shadow City features the original Irregulars--six teenage girls. Oona's family conflict may break up the group, and art thieves, animal rescue, and humans appear in this novel, too. The Irregulars can handle any situation admirably . . . and kick butt as needed."--Andrea Vuleta, Mrs. Nelson's Toy & Book Shop, La Verne, Calif.

[Many thanks to Book Sense and the ABA!]


Book Review

Book Review: Living Carelessly in Tokyo and Elsewhere

Living Carelessly in Tokyo and Elsewhere: A Memoir by John Nathan (Free Press, $26.00 Hardcover, 9781416553458, March 2008)

Fresh from an outstanding undergraduate career at Harvard College, in 1961 John Nathan was ready to explore the world, starting with Japan. Nathan was another American innocent abroad, and his memories of those early years display all the charms associated with eager romantics encountering fascinating new territories. Observations on the mundane ("Japanese neither roast nor bake") alternate with awe at his experiences ("I was in the presence of an intriguing and lovely mystery"), and he renders his youthful discoveries with exuberance. By themselves, his stories about novelist Yukio Mishima are worth the price of admission. Who else would tell us how obsessed Mishima was when sandpapering a pair of Levi's to make them look identical to Brando's in The Wild Ones? Who else would give us the low-down on what a terrible dancer Mishima was? And who else could be so naïve to miss that Mishima--though married with children--was as gay as a goose?

A master storyteller, Nathan recounts a wealth of vivid and concrete tales from his journey. The high points alone constitute a killer résumé: selection as the translator of Mishima's The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea into English; his meeting Kenzaburo Oe and subsequent assignment to translate Oe's novel A Personal Matter, a critical element in Oe's winning the Nobel Prize in Literature; a distinguished academic career; author of books on Mishima and the Sony Corporation; and acclaimed filmmaker and documentary producer.

Nathan's amazing string of achievements is on record; from his mature perspective today, however, he appears to feel he pulled them off almost despite himself. Either brutally honest or determined to beat himself up, he shares confessions like, "I had already let important connections unravel through inattention and that predilection for carelessness has been a bane to me all my life." Then he provides specific instances to back up his harsh judgment of himself. Describing an appointment with Ismail Merchant to discuss the film rights to Oe's A Personal Matter, he states, "for some reason I had gotten stoned before he arrived." Up in smoke (literally) went that important deal!

Try as Nathan might to dismiss his accomplishments and good fortune as merely being in the right place at the right time, this candid, involving and highly-readable memoir indicates that he may not be giving himself enough credit for being talented, driven and charismatic.--John McFarland  


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