Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Forge: Remembrance by Rita Woods

St. Martin's Press: Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Quirk Books: Forking Good: An Unofficial Cookbook for Fans of the Good Place by Valya Dudycz Lupescu and Stephen H Segal, illustrated by Dingding Hu

DC Zoom: Green Lantern: Legacy by Minh Le, illustrated by Andie Tong

Workman Publishing: Halloween Titles by Various - Click here for more information!

News

Notes: Random's Olson to Step Down; Store Changes

Peter Olson, CEO of Random House for 10 years, will resign in the next few weeks, the New York Times reported. Apparently Olson "has come under mounting pressure in recent months as Bertelsmann's financial results have been damaged by lower profits at Random House and steep losses in its American book clubs, which he also oversees."

Sales at the company fell 5.6% last year, "hurt by the eroding dollar and weak consumer spending," and operating profit fell 4.9%. While the house published such bestsellers as Playing for Pizza by John Grisham, On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, Giving by Bill Clinton and Women & Money by Suze Orman, it had no blockbusters like The Da Vinci Code.

If this reason is the key one, it's ironic because Olson was well-known in the business for firing executives who didn't meet their numbers. 

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Citing "a sluggish economy and increased costs," the Bookland branch in Rockland, Me., that opened two and a half years ago (Shelf Awareness, July 18, 2005), is closing. The Bookland store in Brunswick, about 50 miles away, is remaining open.

Brunswick Bookland was one of the Bookland of Maine stores bought by some employees following the former parent company's 2000 bankruptcy. It opened the 18,000-sq.-ft. branch in Rockland after being approached by the developer of the Breakwater Marketplace Building, which had been renovated.

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Portland, Ore., is a "day-tripper's paradise," according to the San Jose Mercury News. A "whirlwind six-hour visit" must begin, of course, at Powell's City of Books, "a dangerous place to visit if you're flying home, because you're sure to exceed your luggage limit with all the books you'll buy. The store's unfathomable layout, with color-coded rooms on multiple levels ('The Purple Room: Where past meets present') made no sense to me, but getting lost in the stacks of the Rose Room, the Pearl Room and the Gold Room was part of the fun."

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Brad Stephenson, owner of B.D.S. Books, Fargo, N.D., told In-Forum.com that the store's new space "is terrific. It's brighter. The aisles are wider. It's cleaner."

When asked why he bought a used bookstore in Fargo years ago, Stephenson replied that the city "needed a good used bookstore. Somebody had to take that massive pile of inventory [the previous owner] had and straighten it out. He had been there since 1982. That somebody had to be crazy. I was, so I did."

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Wonder what all the other kids are reading these days? The Washington Post reported that the Renaissance Learning report, What Kids Are Reading, "calculated the books most read by more than 3 million schoolchildren last year." You can see the complete list at the Post, but the number one titles by category include:

  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (first grade)
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff (second grade)
  • Charlotte's Web by E.B. White (third grade)
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume (fourth grade)
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (fifth grade)
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (sixth grade)
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (seventh and eighth grades)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (ninth through twelfth grade)

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For potential bulls and bears, US News & World Report featured a list of "Must-Read Books for Novice Investors."

 

 


GP Putnam's Sons: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid


Cool Idea of the Day: How to Stimulate the Economy

From a store e-mail from Jeff McCord, owner of Bound to Be Read Books, Atlanta, Ga., one that can be applied to new books as well:

"If you're trying to decide how to stimulate your local economy (and yourself!) with your tax rebate check, we can help!
 
"Buying used and discount books is a great way to stretch your buying power. Almost every used book and most new discount books at Bound to Be Read are at least 50% off the original retail price.
 
"Combine that with our built-in 10% cumulative discount for Loyal Customer Program members and the savings really add up!
 
"Stretch your tax rebate dollars--and stimulate your local economy--when you buy used books!"

 


800-CEO-READ is now Porchlight - Click here to learn more!


Pennie Picks Three Thoroughbreds by Dick Francis

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has picked three titles by Dick Francis as her pick for May: Decider (Berkley, $13.95, 9780425222706/0425222705), Slay Ride (Berkley, $13.95, 9780425222720/0425222721) and Wild Horses (Berkley, $13.95, 9780425222713/0425222713), all out in new trade paperback editions. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she writes:

"When I take the time to search my memory, it's fair to say that one of my dad's favorite places was the racetrack. He reveled in the atmosphere of excitement and the beauty and power of the horses. Now, years later, it's difficult for me to think of one without the other. This month's pick is not a single title, but three, by the author to turn to if you want a good story about horse racing and what happens on and off the track. By choosing to highlight three of Francis' novels, I hope to honor his knowledge of racing, his talent as a writer and my love and respect for my father."

 


Media and Movies

Media Heat: David Gilmour on Film and His Son

Today on Fresh Air: former Vice President Al Gore, author of The Assault on Reason (Penguin, $16, 9780143113621/0143113623), which is now out in paperback.

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Today on Talk of the Nation: David Gilmour talks about his memoir, The Film Club (Twelve, $21.99, 9780446199292/044619929X), and why he let his teenage son drop out of school.

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Tonight on ABC World News with Charles Gibson: John Medina, author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (Pear Press/Perseus, $29.95 includes DVD, 9780979777707/0979777704).

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Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Jo Frost, author of Confident Baby Care: What You Need to Know for the First Year from America's Most Trusted Nanny (Hyperion, $15.95, 9781401309060/1401309062).

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Tomorrow on the Today Show: Michael A. Sheehan, author of Crush the Cell: How to Defeat Terrorism Without Terrorizing Ourselves (Crown, $24.95, 9780307382177/0307382176).

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Barbara Walters, author of Audition: A Memoir (Knopf, $29.95, 9780307266460/030726646X), will appear tomorrow on Good Morning America, Imus in the Morning, NPR's Morning Edition, Fox's Bill O'Reilly and ABC's 20/20.

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Tomorrow on the Martha Stewart Show: Virginia Willis, author of Bon Appetit, Y'all: Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking (Ten Speed Press, $32.50, 9781580088534/1580088538). The show is dedicated to celebrating Mother's Day; the audience is made up of mothers and daughters, and Willis's mother will be there.

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Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: David Rothenberg, author of Thousand Mile Song: Whale Music in a Sea of Sound (Basic Books, $27.50, 9780465071289/0465071287).

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Tomorrow night on Larry King Live: Mary Tillman, author of Boots on the Ground by Dusk (Modern Times/Rodale, $25.95, 9781594868801/1594868808).

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Tomorrow night on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Jimmy Carter, author of A Remarkable Mother (S&S, $22.95, 9781416562450/1416562451), a biography of his mother, Lillian Carter. A 1978 book by the late Miz Lillian, Away From Home: Letters to My Family (S&S, $12, 9781416576600/1416576606), has been reissued.

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Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: George Johnson, author of The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments (Knopf, $22.95, 9781400041015/1400041015).

 

 


Books & Authors

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, May 13:

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (Harper, $23.95, 9780061537936/0061537934) is the story of a dog and his race car driver owner from the point of view of the dog. (See a review below.)

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey (Harper, $26.95, 9780061573132/0061573132) follows a variety of struggling Los Angeles residents.

Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs by Elissa Wall and Lisa Pulitzer (Morrow, $25.95, 9780061628016/0061628018) chronicles the story of a girl who was forced to marry her cousin at age 14.

Up Till Now: The Autobiography by William Shatner and David Fisher (Thomas Dunne Books, $25.95, 9780312372651/0312372655) explores the life and career of the actor.

Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin (St. Martin's, $24.95, 9780312348670/0312348673) follows a woman who questions her current marriage after meeting an old boyfriend.

Scream for Me by Karen Rose (Grand Central, $16.99, 9780446509206/0446509205) continues the story of Special Agent Daniel Vartanian, a detective hunting a serial killer.

The Steel Wave: A Novel of World War II by Jeff Shaara (Ballantine, $28, 9780345461421/0345461428) follows Allied and Nazi leaders during the D-Day invasion.

Shadow Command: A Novel by Dale Brown (Morrow, $25.95, 9780061173110/0061173118) takes place aboard a secret military space station as it tries to defend against a covert Russian attack.

Now in paperback:

Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson (S&S, $17.95, 9780743264747/0743264746).

 


Book Brahmins: Hillary Jordan

Hillary Jordan grew up in Dallas, Tex., and Muskogee, Okla. She received her B.A. in English and political science from Wellesley College and spent 15 years as an advertising copywriter before coming to her senses and starting to write fiction. She got her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. Mudbound, published by Algonquin Books in March, is her first book. It won the 2006 Bellwether Prize for Fiction, awarded biennially to a debut novel that addresses issues of social justice. Hillary's short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals, including StoryQuarterly and Carolina Quarterly. She lives in Tivoli, N.Y. Here she answers the usual questions, plus a good one of her own:

On your nightstand now:

Jennifer Cody Epstein's The Painter from Shanghai, Jack O'Connell's The Resurrectionist, Ethan Canin's America America, Augusten Burroughs' A Wolf at the Table and too many others to count.
 
Favorite book when you were a child:

Alice in Wonderland
. That, and the copy of Tropic of Cancer I discovered hidden in a drawer in my mother's bureau when I was about 13. Fascinating stuff . . .

Your top five authors:

Jane Austen, Flannery O'Connor, Andre Dubus (Sr.), Kazuo Ishiguro, Michael Cunningham.

Book you've faked reading:

Ulysses. I've attempted it half a dozen times and never could get through it and don't ever plan to try again. What's more, I think all the people who consider it the best book of the 20th century are just plain nuts. What a relief to finally get that off my chest.
 
Book you are an evangelist for:

Tales from the Town of Widows
by James Cañón. A feast for anyone who relishes beautiful, intelligent writing infused with humor and humanity.
 
Book you've bought for the cover (and the title):

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
by Mark Haddon.
 
Book that changed your life:

Charlotte's Web
. To this day, I still find it difficult to kill spiders.
 
Favorite line from a book:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."
 
Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Lord of the Rings. I feel a surge of pure envy whenever I see a young person reading it.

Books I wish I'd written:

Ann Patchett's Bel Canto, Michael Cunningham's The Hours, Nicole Krauss' The History of Love and the Harry Potter series.

 



Book Review

Mandahla: The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (Harper, $23.99 Hardcover, 9780061537936, May 2008)



I did not want to love this book. I put it down several times, once on a plane, halfway read, because I knew I was about to cry. I don't like being manipulated, perhaps because I'm a pushover. I also thought, the story is too melodramatic; how can one man have so much bad karma? And yet . . . I kept reading, I kept weeping (many thanks to the server at 35th St. Bistro for the extra napkins; I think I made a sale), and I was won over.

The narrator, Enzo, is a dog, a charmer, and erudite, too. He's learned about life from his owner, Denny, by watching and listening carefully (what else can he do?), and from TV. He and Denny especially like to watch racing tapes together, for Denny is a race car driver, when he can afford it, and Enzo is a racer at heart.

Racing, both in fact and metaphor, anchor the book. Racing in the rain requires a relaxed posture, a light foot on the pedals, a deft touch with the steering wheel, the ability to anticipate. When Enzo finally makes his peace with Eve, Denny's wife, he says: "She was my rain. She was my unpredictable element. She was my fear. But a racer should not be afraid of the rain; a racer should embrace the rain . . . By changing my mood, my energy, I allowed Eve to regard me differently. And while I cannot say that I am a master of my own destiny, I can say that I have experienced a glimpse of mastery."

Enzo has strong opinions about destiny, about people and about dogs, believing that man's closest relative is not the chimpanzee, but is, in fact, the dog. His logic: The so-called dew-claw is evidence of a pre-emergent thumb, and this is either snipped off or bred out of dogs in order to prevent them from becoming dexterous. And the clincher? Consider the werewolf:
The full moon rises. The fog clings to the lowest branches of the spruce trees. The man steps out of the darkest corner of the forest and finds himself transformed into . . .

A monkey?

I think not.
For all of Enzo's philosophizing, he is still a dog, and his doggishness frustrates him--gestures are all he has, and he wields them judiciously, barking at Denny when he starts to drink too much, chewing up court papers when Denny starts to capitulate to his in-laws' lawsuit and transforming a hot pepper into an act of richly deserved retribution. In a wild moment of grief, reverting to pure dog, he kills and eats a squirrel.

At the end of the book, feeling both sorrow and joy, I turned back to something Enzo said about Denny, which also sums up this remarkable dog: "The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles--preferably of his own making--in order to triumph. A hero without a flaw is of no interest to an audience or to the universe." Enzo, and Denny, are heroes truly worth our attention.--Marilyn Dahl

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