Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 6, 2008

St. Martin's Press: Humans by Brandon Stanton

Andrews McMeel Publishing: Cat Ninja, Volume 1 by Matthew Cody, illustrated by Yehudi Mercado

Berkley Books: In the Garden of Spite: A Novel of the Black Widow of La Porte by Camilla Bruce

Candlewick Press (MA): Stink and the Hairy, Scary Spider by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Scholastic Press:  The Captive Kingdom (the Ascendance Series, Book 4) by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Disney-Hyperion: The Mirror Broken Wish (Mirror #1) by Julie C. Dao


DIESEL: A Third Bookstore to Open in Brentwood

DIESEL, A Bookstore, which has stores in Oakland and Malibu, Calif., plans to open a third store in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles on September 1. The 1,500-sq.-ft. space is in the Brentwood Country Mart, which was founded in 1948 and originally included a small bookstore that is long gone.

A new owner of the shopping center--"a series of barns with central courtyards," as DIESEL co-owner John Evans described it--had approached many California book retailers in the past year or more in an effort to have a bookstore again as part of the mix. After Doug Dutton announced the closing of Dutton's Brentwood, which is a little over a mile away, he approached bookstores again, and this time DIESEL was interested.

Evans said that the space was a comfortable fit for DIESEL--its Malibu store, which opened six years ago, has 1,600 square feet of space, and the Oakland store, founded 19 years ago, has 2,400 square feet. "It's slightly on the small end of what we have, but we're good at having a high range of titles in a small place. Most stores our size are less diverse and have fewer small press and university press titles." The stores carry approximately 13,000-15,000 titles each and vary little although "Malibu carries more surfing books and Oakland has more lefty books."

He said that some reps and others in the business have congratulated him and co-owner Alison Reid on opening a third store but expressed concern about them being too busy. Evans said that, of course, he has worried about being overwhelmed, "but it's also fun and exciting. Opening a store in a neighborhood like Brentwood, which wants a bookstore, provides a lot of satisfaction. It's like selling a book that will change a person's life rather than just provide entertainment."--John Mutter


Berkley Books: Our Italian Summer by Jennifer Probst

Notes: General Sales Up 2.8%; Obamabookarama

Discounters and warehouse clubs had strong, better-than-expected sales in May as consumers seemed to spend federal rebate checks on basics and ever more people tried to stretch their dollars. "The rebate checks were going to be a wild card this month, but it certainly looks like they kicked in," Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics, told the New York Times.

Retail Metrics estimated that sales at U.S. retailers' stores open at least a year rose 2.8% in May, twice what was expected, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Sales at Wal-Mart stores open at least a year rose 3.9%; Sam's Club was up 3.6%; Costco rose 5%; and BJ's Wholesale Club was up 6.8%.

By contrast, department stores and clothing stores were off. Same-store sales at Saks fell 8.7%, Penney was down 4.4% Kohl's was off 7.2%, the Gap fell 14%.


The AP polled booksellers about books by and about Senator Barack Obama. Early returns:

  • Political books will be big again this election cycle. "We anticipate strong customer interest in titles regarding the issues, candidates and election process," Bob Wietrak, v-p of merchandising at Barnes & Noble, said.
  • Because Obama is such a good storyteller, books by him may continue to outsell books about him. As Carla Cohen, co-owner of Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C., put it, "He tells his own story so eloquently I can't imagine a book about him selling so well."
  • Still, as Priscilla Painton, editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster, said, "There are two reasons why more Obama books might get traction: First, there's a market for a professional journalist telling the story drawing on all kinds of sources, not just Obama's version. But you also have to remember that lots of folks are only now waking up to the idea that he could be president, and so there's a second wave of buyers out there ready to read about him."


The Concord Monitor offers a heartfelt tribute to Jim Mitchell, the co-owner of MainStreet BookEnds, Warner, N.H., who died suddenly two days ago.


Richard and Marlene Garrison, owners of the Dragon's Horde, Danville, Ill., will reopen their bookstore at a new location with a new name just 10 weeks after the business was destroyed by fire. The News-Gazette reported that the shop, formerly called Danville Book World, "will open on Monday, just down the block from the site of the former store."

"I have really missed the people," Richard said. "I hope to fill up the shelves of the store quickly, but I am really looking forward to the return of my regular customers. . . . I was contacted by a lot of people who told me the store fills a need in the community."


Amazon Bookstore Cooperative, Minneapolis, Minn., which had been looking for a buyer since last winter (Shelf Awareness, February 13, 2008), "will close its doors at the end of the month, after nearly 38 years in business," according to

"It's very difficult for an independent bookstore to stay open today," said Barb Wieser, the staff-owned cooperative's most senior employee. "Between the Internet and the onslaught of the chains, and now the worsening economy, it's just too hard. There are no large independents in the Twin Cities."


The Martha's Vineyard Times offered a compelling memorial for Sun Porch Books, Oak Bluffs, Mass., mourning "the loss of yet another independent bookstore . . . it is the most wonderful thing to be advised, to have one's tastes recognized and provided for. . . . The good news is that, having no big-box book emporium here, we are indeed fortunate to have two other independent bookstores close at hand, and we must treasure them. We can't depend upon the traveler stopping in to browse to keep them afloat. We must buy local. Buy your books where you live."


Gotcha! Police arrested the man who allegedly stole nearly $1,000 from Empire Books, Huntington, W.Va. Monday afternoon (Shelf Awareness, June 5, 2008). WSAZ-TV reported that "34-year old Shannon Lee Johnson of Catlettsburg, Ky., has been charged with robbery, and breaking & entering."


Comedian Adam Sandler answered USA Today readers' questions, including this one from Donna Meaux, Rayne, La.: "Do you have a book recommendation for my book club?" Sandler's answer? "QB VII by Leon Uris, or any of the MadLibs collection."


Barnes & Noble is celebrating the fifth anniversary of its B&N Classics series--300 titles and total sales of more than 10 million--with two promotions through July 7. A "buy two, get one free" offer is available both in B&N stores and at B& In addition, B& is offering three library collections at a discount: the B&N Classics Library, a 200-volume set, is going for $869.95, and the Great Novels and Tales of Adventure series, six and eight books respectively, are available for $29.95.


Congratulations to the Booksmith, San Francisco, Calif., which just won the "Best Author Appearances" category from SF Weekly in its annual "Best of the Bay" issue.


AuthorBuzz for the Week of 08.10.20

Lightning Source+Ingram Book Group=Ingram Lightning Group

Lightning Source, Ingram's POD subsidiary, is being combined with Ingram Book Group. The new entity will be called Ingram Lightning Group and be led by David "Skip" Prichard, president and CEO, who was appointed head of the Book Group earlier this year (Shelf Awareness, January 22, 2008).

J. Kirby Best, president and CEO of Lightning Source for six years, will help with the transition and then leave the company. David Taylor, who has been Lightning's senior v-p of global sales and managing director of Lightning Source U.K., will become president of Lightning Source and report to Prichard.

"When Lightning Source was established 11 years ago, it was important to carve out a separate niche for purposes of clarity in the marketplace," Ingram Content Companies chairman John Ingram said in a statement. "Today, Lightning is widely recognized and, in fact, is known as 'the authority' in print on demand technology and service. Along the way, we have also learned how important it is for Lightning and Ingram Book to coordinate their work very closely."

Just this week while publisher PublicAffairs awaited more copies from traditional printers, Lightning Source printed thousands of copies of What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception by former Bush White House press secretary Scott McClellan that went to Ingram Book to fulfill orders from booksellers (Shelf Awareness, June 5, 2008).


BINC: Book Auction to Benefit BINC - Click Here!

Pennie's Pick: Through a Glass Darkly

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has picked Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen (Sourcebooks Landmark, $16.95, 9781402200441/1402200447) as her June pick. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she writes:

"I understand that historical fiction may not be everyone's cup of tea. For fans of the genre, this month's [pick] will undoubtedly be a huge literary treat. For readers who aren't typically fans of historical fiction, I can't help but think that this is the book that will change your mind.

"Set in London in the early 1700s, this novel has everything: passion, greed, familial conflict, intrigue and betrayal. The rich details and engaging characters only add to one's reading pleasure."


University of California Press:  Republican Jesus: How the Right Has Rewritten the Gospels by Tony Keddie

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Steve Martini and Joey Altman

Now on Writer's Roundtable, hosted by Antoinette Kuritz: an interview with Steve Martini whose new book is Shadow of Power (Morrow, $26.95, 9780061230882/006123088X). The program is available on and


Tomorrow morning on the Early Show: Joey Altman, author of Without Reservations: How to Make Bold, Creative, Flavorful Food at Home (Wiley, $35, 9780470130452/0470130458).


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Little Threats by Emily Schultz

Books & Authors

Book Brahmin: Jonathan Miles

Jonathan Miles is the cocktails columnist for the New York Times and books columnist for Men's Journal. His journalism, essays and literary criticism have appeared in many publications, including the New York Times Book Review, GQ, the New York Observer and the Oxford American, and have been selected many times for the Best American Sports Writing and Best American Crime Writing anthologies. Houghton Mifflin has just published his first novel, Dear American Airlines. A former longtime resident of Oxford, Miss., he lives in Warwick, N.Y., with his family.


On your nightstand now:

A tottering mess of galleys, magazines, a puppy-training guide, and, for a current project, two histories of trash disposal in America. But I always keep one book there for pure pleasure. Right now it's Neal Polk's restored edition of Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men.
Favorite book when you were a child:

Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner. I used to endlessly re-read it to see if maybe maybe the dog wouldn't always die in the end. The dog always did. Dammit.

Your top five authors:

William Faulkner, Jim Harrison, Joseph Mitchell, John Updike, Greil Marcus.

Book you've faked reading:

Every book assigned to me in high-school English classes--seriously, all of 'em--except for Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. That one sneaked through and upturned my life. A few months after reading it, I headed to Mississippi.
Book you are an evangelist for:

Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale. In fact, I just preached about it last night to a French girl who was sitting beside me on a plane. Sometimes I don't trust that people will actually follow up on my recommendation so I buy it for them. Not for the French girl, though. I just wrote the title in the back of her Lonely Planet: USA guidebook.
Book you've bought for the cover:

Zbigniew Herbert's The Collected Poems 1956-1998. The cover shows Herbert, on a black background, lighting up a cigarette. He looks like he's about to tell you something worth knowing, which in fact he was.
Book that changed your life:

See As I Lay Dying, above.
Favorite line from a book:

The final line of Roberto Bolaño's By Night in Chile: "And then the storm of shit begins."
Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Barry Hannah's Bats Out of Hell. That collection showed me what you could do with language--as with an electric guitar, you could run it through a distortion pedal, add some reverb, crank up the amp volume, make it scream and howl, wake the neighbors.

Book that required multiple readings to appreciate:

Richard Ford's The Sportswriter. Tried reading it in my early 20s. Yawn. Revisited it a few years later. Yawn again. I took another stab at it in my 30s, when I'd had some life behind me, some disappointments, some scar tissue on the heart. And then I downed it in one big awestruck gulp.


Book Review

Book Review: Accidentally on Purpose

Accidentally on Purpose: A One-Night Stand, My Unplanned Parenthood, and Loving the Best Mistake I Ever Made by Mary Pols (Ecco Press, $24.95 Hardcover, 9780061256929, June 2008)

At age 39, Bay Area film critic Mary Pols discovered she was pregnant after a one-stand with Matt, a hunky but unemployed (and unmotivated) man 10 years her junior whom she'd met in a bar. It was a plot worthy of one of the movies she screened weekly, but Pols, who had decided to have the baby even before the extra line appeared on her pregnancy test, had no idea where it would lead. Realizing that her circumstances were less than ideal--she was living paycheck to paycheck already--but understanding that this might be her last chance to have a child, Pols prepared herself for single motherhood even as she informed Matt that he was about to become a father. But Matt surprised her with his immediate and enthusiastic support. Their subsequent journey into parenthood (and its attendant gamut of emotions) forms the bulk of this frank, funny and immensely readable memoir.
As she hashed out plans for living arrangements, maternity leave and day care, Pols found plenty of help from her many loyal friends (one of whom put her up in a trailer while she saved money for a bigger place) as well as her family. The youngest of six, Pols maintained close ties with her siblings and parents (both in their 80s when she became pregnant). But this support could not insulate Pols from the emotional turmoil of pregnancy. Continuing a sexual relationship with the almost pathologically passive Matt led her first to confused attachment and then despair when it became obvious that they would never fall magically in love and live happily ever after. The physical indignities and hormonal madness of childbirth and the postpartum period, which Pols relates with spot-on accuracy and gallows humor, also took their toll.
Most difficult for Pols, however, was that both her parents went into decline soon after her son was born. In the book's most moving section, she describes trying to find a balance between her joy in becoming a parent and her deep sadness in losing both her mother and father within the same year. Learning to co-parent with Matt would be less easy to resolve. Although driven to distraction by his immaturity and lack of direction, Pols finally learns to appreciate Matt's sweet and complete devotion to their son and begins to realize "the limitations of all my old expectations." Both thoughtful and candid, her book is an entertaining, refreshing look at family and what it means to be a parent.--Debra Ginsberg

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: My Life in the Spy Game

Political intrigue was in the air last week. I watched the feeding frenzy over Scott McClellan's What Happened at the same time I was reading Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks "writing as Ian Fleming."

Boys will be boys, of course, in fiction as well as nonfiction, and the confusion can only be enhanced by incidents like a CNN report on "the most flamboyant book launch in London's history," during which "the Royal Navy enthusiastically hosted the book's launch party aboard the guided missile destroyer Exeter."

I'm not spy obsessed. After I read the new Bond book, I changed direction and read Joseph O'Neill's beautiful Netherland. Okay, I confess that this week I'm devouring Alan Furst's latest, The Spies of Warsaw.

So, perhaps it's time for my own debriefing.

The story of my life in the spy game began in the mid-1960s, when I started reading the Bond novels in high school. How deep the obsession became can be gleaned from a single clue, easily found in my high school yearbook, which for reasons of security (or insecurity) remains in my possession.

On page 52, there is a "Senior Class Prophecy," predicting what the graduating class of 1968--a class as ordinary as any in yearbooks throughout history--would be doing 50 years hence.

The editorial staff looked into their crystal ball and wrote the following: "Bob Gray . . . famed critic of Ian Fleming."

Hasn't happened yet, but the clock is still ticking.

My other Fleming connection is more personal: My wife's father, the actor Joseph Wiseman, played Dr. No in the first Bond movie.

So many films and books have come along since then, I can't help but wonder why we have this continuous threading of Bond into the lives of boys of all ages? As everything he represented gradually went out of style, he didn't.

I do have a theory, at least as far as my life in the spy game is concerned. Please forgive the minor psychological revelations, but we're all readers here, right? And we know what readers are like.

In retrospect, I think Bond taught me a couple of survival skills that were priceless during high school and have been of some use ever since. First among these was "Keep your back to the wall," a spy game tenet akin to Taoism's "The god that can be spoken of is not the absolute god," or Buddhism's "To live is to suffer," or golfism's "Keep your head down."

The second, and perhaps more important, skill was Bond's instruction in the art of "cool."

There is another entry worth noting in my high school yearbook dossier. It's from page 62, where a "Senior Class Will" offers the following tidbit: "Bob Gray leaves his cool to Mark Graziano."

For the record, my alleged "cool" wasn't the revolt of a high school bad boy driving fast cars and getting drunk every weekend. My cool wasn't the hazy merriment of a nascent hippie. My cool wasn't even the still heart of a quarterback surveying the chaos of a football field, knowing he's going to be crushed by an onrushing linebacker, but waiting a split second longer before letting the ball fly to a receiver just breaking into the open.

No, my cool was, I suspect, nothing more than emotional detachment, a stepping back from the world, watching myself watch . . . everything else.

Oddly enough, I also see that character trait in Hans van den Broek, the protagonist of Netherland, and in Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier in The Spies of Warsaw.

In the recent film version of Casino Royale, M warns Bond about getting emotionally involved in an upcoming assignment. "I would ask you if you could remain emotionally detached," she says reflectively, "but I don't think that's your problem, is it?"

No, Bond agrees.

Sometimes I think of my life in the spy game as a brief stretch of time in my late adolescence. Sometimes I think that time was merely boot camp because here I am now, turning a new page--this digital one, in fact--in my relationship with Ian Fleming.

The past doesn't vanish; it's just an incomplete dossier on file. More than 40 years have passed since I trained to be a spy. Behind the glass of a bookcase in my office stands a Dr. No action figure. I know he's an evil madman bent upon world domination, but, hell, he's also my father-in-law.

Happy 100th birthday, Mr. Fleming, and here's wishing you many more.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


The Bestsellers Bestsellers: 007 Again in Action

The following were the top 10 bestsellers on during May:

1. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
2. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
3. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
4. Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks
5. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
6. The Shack by William P. Young
7. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
8. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
9. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
10. Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

[Many thanks to!]


AuthorBuzz: Berrett-Koehler Publishers: Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Mind, Body, and Spirit by Mary-Frances Winters
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