Shelf Awareness for Thursday, April 24, 2008

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


Notes: Starbucks Grabs Doggy Tale; New York Writes E-tailers

Starbucks's next book selection, which will be featured in all the company's stores in the U.S., is The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (Harper, $23.95, 9780061537936/0061537934), USA Today reported. Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment, told the paper that the novel, narrated by a dog, is "an inspirational story told from such a unique perspective." [Editor's note: for a unique perspective on the book and Garth Stein, see publisher Jenn Risko's story below, "The Art of Meeting an Author in a Cafe."] The book will be published May 13.

Other Starbucks book selections in the past two years have included For One More Day by Mitch Albom, A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah and Beautiful Boy by David Sheff.


New York State has sent notices to the 500 largest online retailers in the state, "saying they have to register and begin collecting sales taxes by June 1," Newsday reported. "Companies must comply if they do $10,000 worth of business in the state and have agents within the state acting on their behalf. If they don't comply, the state can audit and assess them for past liabilities."

The new law requiring out-of-state e-tailers to collect sales tax was passed as part of the state's new budget., one of the main companies affected by the law, had no comment this week. In February, however, Amazon v-p Paul Misener called the measure a "tax increase" and questioned the constitutionality of the law. According to Newsday, "Many observers have speculated that the law will be challenged, pointing to a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said out-of-state retailers could not be required to collect sales tax unless they had a brick-and-mortar presence in a state."

Proponents of such measures cite Amazon's affiliate program as a sufficient nexus to be required to collect sales tax on purchases in New York and other states with sales taxes.


After a mistrial and many delays, prosecutors have dismissed all charges against Gordon Lee, the Rome, Ga., comics shop owner who was charged with obscenity for giving a copy of Alternative Comics #2 to a minor during a street fair. The comic book included a depiction of Pablo Picasso nude in a non-sexual context.

Neil Gaiman announced the dismissal at New York Comic Con last week. Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which spent $100,000 helping to defend Lee, commented: "This is a victory for Gordon and a victory for comics. For more than three years, the comics world has stood behind Gordon's innocence and now we are vindicated."


Edith Wharton's home in Lenox, Mass., has received another stay of execution, today's New York Times reported. Faced with foreclosure because of financial problems (Shelf Awareness, April 2, 2008), the group that owns and runs the Mount, as the house is called, received another postponement in its deadline, this time to May 24, from a local bank. The foundation has raised $800,000 of the needed $3 million.


The Desert Sun profiled Holly Escobedo, who opened the Book Rack, La Quinta, Calif., 10 years ago. The store, which stocks used books and whose most popular categories are mysteries, suspense and romances, not only sells the titles but rents them. Customers can rent bestsellers for $3.50 a week or $4.50 for two weeks.


Ruebén Martinez, owner of Librería Martinez bookstore, Santa Ana, Calif., and recipient of a $500,000 "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation in 2004 for his efforts to promote reading among California's Latinos, is now struggling to keep his bookstore open, according to the Orange County Register.

The Register noted that Martinez, "a barber by training . . . used to tell his customers about the importance of reading while he cut their hair--even sending them home with books and magazines. Out of that grew his bookstore, which specializes in Latino authors and bilingual children's books."

"My accountant says, 'You can't go on like this, you're losing money,'" said Martinez, who will meet soon with other business owners and advisors to formulate a plan for remaining open. "We're behind on everything. We're just behind. . . . It's just that times are hard right now. I just don't have any answers right now. I do want to continue. I do."

NPR featured an interview with Martinez in 2004.


Bookselling competition down the street or out at the mall is one thing, but what happens when your competitor arrives at the docks? The Jamaica Gleaner reported that "book merchants in Montego Bay are concerned with the significant decrease in sales since the MV Logos II book ship docked at the Montego Freeport on April 16.

"It has been like a ghost town in here since the book ship arrived and we have noticed a significant decline in our sales ever since," said Marion Brooks, branch manager of Sangster's Book Stores.

Anthony Chambers, managing director of Chambers Book Store, added, "They are operating a business like the rest of us who have to pay taxes, and if they are not paying any tax while they are here, then I don't think that they should just come in and eat away our profits while they are here."


"Delicious books for foodies, travel fans" were featured by the Detroit Free Press, which advised readers to "stir in the magic ingredient of travel and you will have an endless supply of food for thought."


Young Chinese readers have mixed feelings about buying books online, according to the Xinhua News Agency. While some praise the saving of time and money, others remain hesitant.

"I am not comfortable with online buying, as the brief descriptions on websites don't give me a comprehensive view of the books," said 27-year-old Zhao Zheng, who reportedly spends half of his salary on books. "I have to visit bookstores and browse part of the story before making a final decision."


Berkley Books: Sadie on a Plate by Amanda Elliot

Red Letter Day for La Casa Azul

In a reversal of the usual order, Aurora Anaya-Cerda is opening her new store, La Casa Azul Bookstore, online first and later this year in bricks-and-mortar form in the East Harlem section of New York City. Online and in "reality," La Casa Azul (meaning blue house and named after artist Frida Kahlo's home in Mexico City) will offer "a wide range of books and music from the United States, México, Latin America and the Caribbean," reflecting "the international Latino communities shaping the United States and many parts of the world." The books will be in Spanish and English and include works by Junot Diaz, Isabel Allende, Sandra Cisneros, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Esmeralda Santiago and Oscar Hijuelos, among many others. The storefront will feature organic coffee, live performances, recorded music, art and other Latino-inspired products.

This evening in East Harlem, La Casa Azul is celebrating the website launch. The store's address online is

Anaya-Cerda describes herself as a "Latina social entrepreneur" and has worked at several independent bookstores and as a teacher and community organizer. She may be reached at 646-413-5251 or The store's My Space listing is at


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

Quarterly Results: Amazon Sales and Earnings Jump

Sales in the first quarter ended March 31, net sales at rose 37% to $4.13 billion, and net income rose 30% to $143 million. The company attributed the gains to low prices, improved inventory and increased affiliate sales.

Among highlights:

  • Amazon continued to be mum about Kindle unit sales, saying only that "Kindle selection continues to grow--with more than 115,000 titles now available, up from 90,000 at launch."
  • The company launched Amazon TextBuyIt, a service that lets customers use text messages to find and buy products sold on Amazon, allowing customers to shop, compare prices and buy from any mobile device.
  • Sales at Amazon's U.S. and Canadian sites were $2.13 billion, up 31% from the same period a year earlier.
  • International sales--at Amazon's U.K., German, Japanese, French and Chinese sites--were $2.01 billion, up 44% from first quarter 2007, and increased to 49% of worldwide net sales compared with 46% a year ago. Excluding the effect of the weak dollar, international sales grew 31%.
  • Sales of what Amazon calls "worldwide media"--which includes books, music and movies--grew 28% to $2.54 billion, slightly more than half of all sales.


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

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: Morrow Publicist's Survival Guide for Teen Girls

Today on Fresh Air: Charles Barber, author of Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation (Pantheon, $26, 9780375423994/0375423990).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Sarah Burningham, author of How to Raise Your Parents: A Teen Girl's Survival Guide (Chronicle, $12.99, 9780811856966/0811856968). A special congratulations to the author, who is associate director of publicity at William Morrow.


Tomorrow morning on the Early Show: Michael Tonello, author of Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World's Most Coveted Handbag (Morrow, $25.95, 9780061473333/0061473332).


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Mario Batali, author of Italian Grill (Ecco, $29, 9780061450976/0061450979).


Tomorrow night on 20/20: Arianna Huffington, author of Right Is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution, and Made Us All Less Safe (Knopf, $24.95, 9780307269669/0307269663). She will also appear tonight on Real Time with Bill Maher.


Tomorrow night on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Doug Fine, author of Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living (Villard, $24, 9781400066445/1400066441).


This Weekend on Book TV: L.A. Times Festival of Books

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, April 26

2 p.m. Live coverage of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, including panels as well as interviews and call-ins with authors in attendance. (Re-airs Saturday at 11 p.m.)

8 p.m. Daniel Weintraub, author of Party of One: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rise of the Independent Voter (Polipoint Press, $19.95, 9780979482229/0979482224), contends that Schwarzenegger's success working with both Republicans and Democrats is the prototype for future politicians.    

9 p.m. Richard Florida, author of Who's Your City: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life (Basic Books, $26.95, 9780465003525/0465003524), argues that in the era of globalization it still matters where people call home. (Re-airs Monday at 6 a.m. and Saturday, May 10, at 8 a.m.)
10 p.m. After Words. Nick Gillespie, editor of and, interviews Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason (Pantheon, $26, 9780375423741/0375423745). Jacoby offers a critique on American society. (Re-airs Sunday at 9 a.m., Monday at 7 a.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m.)

Sunday, April 27

11 a.m. Barry Goldwater, Jr. and John Dean, co-authors of Pure Goldwater (Palgrave Macmillan, $27.95, 9781403977410/1403977410), talk about the life and views of the late senator. (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 4, at 3 p.m.)

1 p.m. First Lady Laura Bush and her daughter Jenna Bush sign copies of their children's book, Read All About It! (HarperCollins, $17.99, 9780061560750/0061560758), at a Borders bookstore in Washington, D.C. (Re-airs Saturday, May 3, at 7:35 p.m.)
1:30 p.m. Live coverage of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books continues. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)


Books & Authors

The Art of Meeting an Author in a Cafe

Two years ago, before the Shelf had offices or employees, our mail went to a post office box in Seattle. Once a week, my ritual was to collect the mail, go to a café and eat lunch--just to get out and feel social. One day at the luncheonette counter, I saw the owner of the restaurant sidle up to a man sitting three stools down from me and say, "Hey Garth! How's the book coming?" I glanced sideways over at the man. He looked, well, not scary. (Okay, fine. He's spiffy.) I wondered: do I introduce myself? Could he be the feared author who gloms on to anyone in publishing? I took the risk. It turned out that he knew about the Shelf and that he wasn't the glom-my type. So, about once a month we'd meet for lunch and talk book biz. A few months later, he came to lunch with a large box--the manuscript. Gulp.

Of course, we all have stories in this biz about loving a book, hating the author, and vice versa. I liked Garth and his family. We were neighbors. I really didn't want to hate his book.

I took the manuscript home and stared at it for a week. The title page read "The Art of Racing in the Rain." Hmm. Okay. Good title. I dove in.

The Art of Racing in the Rain
by Garth Stein is told from the point of view of a dog named Enzo who aspires to be a racecar driver like his owner, Denny. The TV is left on during the day while Enzo's owner is working, so he's learned a lot about the world. (He's often quite miffed at not possessing opposable thumbs.) Through Enzo, we learn the story of how his master fell in love with his wife, Eve, the addition of their daughter Zoey, and how it all tragically unraveled. Have a box of Kleenex near.

Early on in my reading, I kept trying to meld the baker from The Godfather (the only other Enzo I've known) with the early moments of the movie Splash where Daryl Hannah the mermaid learns to speak English from watching TV. But I quickly learned there were no models for Enzo. He was completely original and calming in a Zen-like way. You're totally under the spell of a dog who's telling us his completely believable and authentic story.

The test of a good book for me is to read it, put it away, then see if I can still hear the voices, miss the characters and wish it hadn't ended. I said nothing to anyone about Garth's book for three weeks after I had read it. Later as I was playing with marketing ideas for it, I knew it was special and brilliant. (I'm still very partial to a campaign based around "What Would Enzo Do?")

When I called Garth to tell him what I thought, he said, "Well, I'm glad you liked it, because my agent just turned it down." Then began the saga. During the next few months, several more agents passed on this gem. The rejections came with explanations like, "It's not what they are looking for." "No one knows how to market it." "Too much (or too little) like everything else."

What the--? Hello? Did you even read it? Arrgh! I was incensed. I think it's one of the hardest things to bear in this biz: when the good books don't make it.

But finally, Garth found an agent who understood The Art of Racing in the Rain. It went out, and the offers started to come in. They started small and progressively got, well, almost other-worldly. Keep in mind that Garth had published two other books to critical acclaim, but without significant sales numbers.

In the end, the fine folks at HarperCollins won it for $1.2 million, English-only rights. I saw Garth about a week after this, running along the lake, near the neighborhood where we both live. I stopped him by asking if he was that "rock star author Garth." He laughed and answered, "My Mom calls me everyday lately and says, 'Really? Are you sure they want it? Did you hear that number right?' "

The Art of Racing in the Rain
will be out in mid-May. Get ready. Read this wreckingly great novel. Meet Garth. Get him in your store.

We at the Shelf think it's going to be huge. I'm almost afraid of walking into Target one day and seeing little stuffed movie tie-in Enzos everywhere.

No one should begrudge Garth a smidgeon of his success. I certainly can't. This, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that my daughter stars in his book trailer. Ahem. Click here to see it.--Jenn Risko


Awards: Literature to Life Goes to Frank McCourt

Frank McCourt is receiving the Literature to Life Award from the American Place Theatre next Tuesday at the organization's 2008 Gala in New York City. Literature for Life is a program that presents adaptations of literature in schools around the country. The performances are verbatim book adaptations in which actors often play more than 10 characters at a time.

More than 500 schools have participated in the program, reaching more than 100,000 young people and educators annually. In addition to performances in the schools, the program also offers residencies to assist teachers in the classroom.


Children's Book Review: The Underneath

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by David Small (S&S/Atheneum, $16.99, 9781416950585/1416950583, ages 8-12, May 2008)

From the moment this novel begins, readers will feel they are in the hands of a master storyteller. The rhythm of the telling unfolds like a primal drum beat, the pulsing of the heart. The setting is an ancient piney woods forest on the Sabine River that separates Texas from Louisiana. The story unfolds through an omniscient narrator, who takes the part of the creatures that inhabit the forest. Humans walk here, but the power lies among the trees themselves, with the Alligator King who has ruled the river for a thousand years, and the even older Grandmother Moccasin, the venomous half-serpent, half-human who sits curled up, trapped, in a jar buried under an old loblolly pine . . . and waits. The narrative begins with a cat: "There is nothing lonelier than a cat who has been loved, at least for a while, and then abandoned on the side of the road. A small calico cat."

With that first line of her first novel, Appelt (Oh My Baby, Little One) translates the universal to the specific. And that opening sets up the dilemma of nearly every character who passes through these pages: that small calico, the twin kittens to which she gives birth, the bloodhound with whom the calico finds unlikely companionship and love, and, yes, even Grandmother Moccasin. The human villain, Gar Face, named for the scar his father left him in a drunken strike one night, was once a boy, and now an embittered man who seeks to kill the Alligator King and who beats his bloodhound, the hound that cares for the calico cat. (A stunning drawing by Small, an aerial view of Gar Face in his boat, the gargantuan gator lurking beneath, illustrates how impossible the man's dream.) Here is the story of characters who have loved deeply and, when betrayed, seek revenge. Grandmother Moccasin once loved so deeply she took a human form and, after her love betrayed her, resumed her serpent shape for all eternity. But that was not the end of her betrayal: she had a daughter, too, Night Song, whom she loved most of all, but who left Grandmother due to her love for a man. Readers will feel a sense of inevitability as all these lives in the forest, ancient yet present, begin to entwine: Gar Face and the Alligator King, Grandmother Moccasin and Night Song, the hound, the calico and her kittens. The primal drumbeat quickens, and the story toggles between the ancient tale of Grandmother Moccasin and the present-day plight of the calico kittens living below the rageful Gar Face's porch, the Underneath. Appelt makes clear that there can be no joy without sorrow, and her ending is triumphant. Readers will want to return to these piney woods on the Sabine River again and again.--Jennifer M. Brown


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