Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Workman Publishing: So Embarrassing: Awkward Moments and How to Get Through Them by Charise Mericle Harper

Candlewick Press: Evelyn del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez

Scholastic Press: Illegal: A Disappeared Novel, Volume 2 by Francisco X. Stork

Tor Books: Rhythm of War (Stormlight Archive, 4) by Brandon Sanderson

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


Notes: Love Letters; Rowling's Potter 'Prequel'

Sex and the shitty.

Love Letters from Great Men, the book Carrie Bradshaw reads while in bed with Mr. Big in the new film Sex and the City, is fictional, even though it cites real letters. Demand for the book has been high, according to the Associated Press, and has resulted in a run on a similar title, Love Letters from Great Men and Women: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day edited by C.H. Charles, first published in the 1920s and reissued last year by Kessinger Publishing ($31.95, 9781432576103/1432576100).

Kessinger, Whitefish, Mont., which says it uses "advanced technology to publish and preserve thousands of rare, scarce, and out-of-print books," appears to do so with low regard to copyright laws--so much so that its website invites copyright challenges. For an account of the ugly side of POD, see Denny Hatch's blog entry about Kessinger's apparent theft of his father's copyrighted 1947 biography of Franklin Roosevelt.


Audio Holdings has bought the assets of Durkin-Hayes Publishing and will begin reissuing many of Durkin-Hayes's classic bestselling audiobooks for the first time on CD as well as in other formats and with updated packaging. Durkin-Hayes has more than 1,000 master recordings in a range of categories, most of which are read by familiar people, including Margot Kidder, Ed Begley, Jr., Sam Waterstone, Jerry Orbach, Lauren Bacall, Julie Christie, Kathleen Turner, Linda Dano, Tom Bosley, Dick Cavett and Paul Sorvino.

Half the titles have been digitized, and Audio Holdings is continuing "to confirm rights and check master recordings for quality and completeness," the company said. Audio Holdings, whose president and CEO is Michael Gladishev, is distributed to the book trade by NBN.


An 800-word "prequel" to the Harry Potter series that J.K. Rowling wrote on a single sheet of paper sold for £25,000 (US$48,858) during a charity auction held at Waterstone's flagship London bookstore to benefit English PEN and a dyslexia charity.

According to the Associated Press, the handwritten "storycard," which "goes online Wednesday, does not offer hope for a new Potter novel. Rowling finished her card by writing, 'From the prequel I am not working on--but that was fun!'"

A dozen other authors and illustrators contributed cards to the auction, including Doris Lessing, Nick Hornby and Margaret Atwood. The AP reported that a "short mystery story by acclaimed playwright Tom Stoppard raised $7,816."


"Political books ride in on election's coattails," according to USA Today, which introduced a preview of upcoming titles by noting that Scott McClellan's bestseller What Happened "is just the warm-up act for more political books to come this presidential election year."


Saad Eskander, director of Baghdad's national library, still works in his troubled native city five years after returning to Iraq from London, where he spent 13 years in exile.

In a Guardian profile, when asked what a "cultural education" means to him, Eskander said, "We want to change people's orientation through our books. Otherwise there is no alternative but mosques. I would always say invest in secular education, because religious extremism is a cultural phenomenon--it is not wholly an armed phenomenon. We need to prove to people that there is an alternative."


Encyclopaedia Britannica has decided to get a bit wiki, according to Wired magazine, which reported, "In a bid to wed the comprehensive, grassroots information factory of Wikipedia with the authority of the traditional encyclopedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica is opening the floodgates for online user submissions into its 240-year-old publication--a move it long resisted and sniffed was akin to intellectual pollution."

It will not be completely open season on information, however, because "Britannica is going halfway to where it's never gone before: it is opening up its site to the crowd, but keeping the gates up against the barbarians as far as the official version of the publication concerned."


In an article headlined "Somerville bookstores few and far between," the Somerville News examined challenges faced by local booksellers present and past, reporting that rent has caused some Somerville bookstores to close or move--in the case of McIntyre and Moore Booksellers, a relocation earlier this year to Cambridge's Porter Square.

"For us, it was just too much for rent," co-owner Daniel Moore said. "It was nice to hear people say they were going to miss us but they didn't really buy anything when we there."

At Three Geese in Flight Books, manager Genevieve Robinson said, "Most of our sales come from internet buyers. I don't see people who come in who live nearby often."

"The bookstore business has fun and magic inherent. Dry cleaners don't," added the bookshop's owner, Samuel Wenger. "But it's a hard way to make a living. The rents are impossible. I have a fair rent and a good landlord, but it comes at the price of very little bookstore traffic. The only way to have a bookstore is to have an Internet business on the side."


After 26 years in business, Bill Healy, owner of Bibliomania, Schenectady, N.Y., is "packing it in," according to the Albany Times Union. Healy said he is reacting to the changing face of the city's downtown area: "There were a lot of downtown stores in the '80s and '90s, but since they left, the once-large base of shoppers has really diminished,"

He added that for years in-store sales accounted for 80% of his business. Now, however, only 10% comes from walk-in traffic.


"Book 'em" has taken on an entirely new meaning for one British police division. The Daily Mail wrote, "In the first commercial deal between an author and the police, a £9,000 [US$17,802] Hyundai Getz will soon be patrolling the streets of Sussex, embellished on all four sides with the name of Peter James. . . . His series of Brighton-based Roy Grace novels has sold more than three million copies worldwide and been translated into 30 languages."

Although James "has developed a close working relationship with Sussex police while researching his books," citizens may or may not be reassured by the fact that "the car will not be used to respond to emergency calls but is solely for use in the local community, to provide visibility and reassurance, and to provide a quick way for officers to get to their local neighbourhood areas."


University of California Press: A People's Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area, Volume 3 by Rachel Brahinsky, Alexander Tarr, Bruce Rinehart

A Bookstore Like 'A Wine Cellar . . . with Vintage Books'

In Racing Odysseus: A College President Becomes a Freshman Again (University of California Press, $24.95, 9780520255418/0520255410), Roger H. Martin, past president and professor of history emeritus of Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, Va., recounts a semester he spent as a 61-year-old freshman at St. John's College, Annapolis, Md., whose program focuses on the classics of Western tradition.

Concerning St. John's bookstore, whose director is Robin Dunn, he wrote:

"Just before seminar this evening, where we will tackle Plato's Meno, I pop over to the bookstore to try to find a good translation of Aeschylus's Oresteia, the work we will be reading later this week.

"The bookstore, located in the basement of Humphreys Hall, is unlike any I have ever seen. The room is dark and cool, with an arched brick wall in the back that gives one the vague feeling of being in a wine cellar. Instead of bottles of vintage wine, however, the shelves are filled with vintage books, indeed with every conceivable translation of the Great Books in the St. John's program. There are at least six translations of the Iliad alone!"


Milkweed Editions: The Shame by Makenna Goodman

Image of the Day: Don't Mind If I Do

The man with the tan, George Hamilton, at a BEA party at Il Cielo in Beverly Hills for his book Don't Mind If I Do, to be published in October by Touchstone, with (from l. to r.): Gillian Redfearn of S&S's sales team and Alison Nihlean and Laurie Outterside, both booksellers at Book People, Austin, Tex.


University of California Press: The Koreas: The Birth of Two Nations Divided by Theodore Jun Yoo

Library News: Early Word Gives 'Em What They Need

Congratulations to Nora Rawlinson, former editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly, former editor of Library Journal, former librarian extraordinaire and a great onetime boss and dear friend, who has founded with another ex-PW person, Fred Ciporen. (More about him in another issue!)

Rawlinson said that Early Word aims to be to libraries what a great sales rep is to bookstores: offering insight on forthcoming titles that appeal to their customers and tips on titles that are suddenly taking off.

The centerpiece of Early Word is Rawlinson's blog, "Give 'Em What They Want," where she writes every day in conversational and informative style about books libraries might otherwise miss or underbuy. "In libraries, there is so much else going on besides new books," Rawlinson said. "Librarians don't the time to look around and seeing what's taking off. I'm trying to give them quick and easy access to what's getting attention and rising in demand."

For the blog, Rawlinson said she watches movement on Amazon as well as checks librarians' catalogues and see what ordering patterns are. She also tracks reserve-to-copy ratios--in the case of Scott McClellan's What Happened the ratios showed extraordinary interest, rising to 10 to 1 and 20 to 1, in some places, she said. Librarians also tend to read more pre-publication reviews than consumer reviews and can miss trends in that area, which Rawlinson addresses in the blog and with links to consumer review media.

Besides commentary, Early Word features a variety of resources for librarians, including links to national and specialty bestseller lists and to publishers' e-catalogues. The site also offers information about book-related movies and TV and about one book/one community picks, a directory of publishers' library marketing staff and their special services for libraries. ("The librarians' sections on many publisher sites are hard to find," Rawlinson said.)

The next main project for Early Word is to create a group of readers advisory and collection development librarians who will be paired with various imprints. "The imprint would pitch to the librarian, who would then write about their picks and takes on the books on Early Word," Rawlinson said, explaining that "publishers don't have reps who call on libraries because even though they are 10% of sales, there are too many of them."

Rawlinson started posting in November, "just to get in rhythm and figure out what I wanted Early Word to be." By the ALA midwinter meeting in January, she talked with groups of librarians to get more information about what they wanted from such a site. By the PLA meeting in March, Early Word had a soft launch. For the moment, the focus is on adult titles but eventually the site will grow to include children's and YA books as well.

The arrival of Early Word is fortuitous: the importance of libraries continues to expand in the Internet Age, Rawlinson said. Library websites have long posted their holdings and allowed readers to reserve books. But now they offer downloadable audio and e-books, send out e-mail newsletters and are putting up staff recommendations. "These changes are bringing in a new group of users who don't have time to go to the library," she said. "Some of them come into the library once, to get a library card, and then do everything with the library online."--John Mutter


Berkley Books: The Ballad of Hattie Taylor by Susan Anderson

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Beer and Wine and The Gift of Time

Today on Fresh Air: Jesuit deacon Ron Hansen, whose new book, Exiles (FSG, $23, 9780374150976/0374150974), is based on the life of poet and Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins.


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Mehmet Oz, co-author of YOU: The Owner's Manual (Collins, $26.95, 9780061473678/0061473677).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Marnie Old, author of He Said Beer, She Said Wine (DK, $25, 9780756633592/0756633591).


Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Jorge Ramos, author of The Gift of Time: Letters from a Father (Morrow, $14.95, 9780061353109/0061353108).


Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Richard Price, author of Lush Life (FSG, $26, 9780374299255/0374299250). As the show described it: "This high-voltage interview with Richard Price (he spiels, riffs, and shoots off sparks) gives a rare insight into the way he orchestrates the complex of simultaneous perception in his writing. He proceeds with a strong sense of dread--ready for an attack from any and every direction."


Tomorrow on Oprah: Louise Hay, author of You Can Heal Your Life (Hay House, $14.95, 9780937611012/0937611018).


Tomorrow night on Larry King Live: Char Margolis, author of Discover Your Inner Wisdom: Using Intuition, Logic, and Common Sense to Make Your Best Choices (Fireside, $24, 9780743297899/074329789X).


Tomorrow night on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Richard Engel, author of War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq (S&S, $28, 9781416563044/1416563040).


Books & Authors

Awards: Eli M. Oboler Memorial

Congratulations to Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, who has won the Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award, presented by the Intellectual Freedom Round Table of the American Library Association, for his book From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America (Beacon Press, $18, 9780807044292/0807044296), now out in paperback.

Frederick J. Stielow, chair of the award committee, said that "Finan demonstrates that free speech has had its share of ups and many more downs. His highly readable journalistic account charts a tumultuous history from World War I into the immediate post 9/11 years. First Amendment principles were largely absent and the control shocking at the start of his narrative. They took time to evolve, but continued to suffer in a balancing act against calls for social order and fears of terrorism. His conclusion joins the spirit and concerns of the namesake of the Eli Oboler Award. Free speech can only survive through the determination of individuals and organizations to maintain the true ideals of America."

Named for the late Idaho University librarian who was "a champion of intellectual freedom who demanded the dismantling of all barriers to freedom of expression," the award is given every two years.


Book Review

Book Review: A Case of Exploding Mangoes

Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif (Knopf Publishing Group, $24.00 Hardcover, 9780307268075, May 2008)

Junior Officer Ali Shigri of the Pakistan Air Force, imprisoned in the depths of an ancient fort's dungeon, degraded, tortured, yet somehow resilient, is the untrustworthy narrator of Mohammed Hanif's dry new military black comedy, A Case of Exploding Mangoes. Shigri tells you the true account of the 1988 death of General Zia, the 63-year-old dictator of Pakistan, along with eight generals in a freak airplane accident four miles after take-off. Shigri should know all about it. He's the only man who stepped aboard that plane who is now alive.

Just how that can possibly be true you won't understand until the ending of Shigri's dark, funny confession. It's not that he lies. He just leaves things out. He's the leader of the Air Force's silent drill squad with a hidden agenda all his own, a rascal narrator who always keeps you guessing, who knows far more than he reveals. Every so often the reader gets a startling glimpse of another reality operating under the military decorum of the novel's surface--as when Shigri and his roommate are suddenly accused of having sex together, and the reader knows nothing about it.

There's a lot more the reader doesn't know.

Why was the narrator's father, Colonel Shigri, found hanging from the ceiling fan by his own bedsheet? What exactly is going on between Shigri and his roommate, Obaid, who mysteriously vanishes and then incriminates his best friend? Does Shigri know why a plane is missing from the base? What role does the unjustly imprisoned woman named Blind Zainab play in all this political scheming, and in particular, why oh why do we care about a crow who overhears her curse and periodically blows back into the story? Junior Officer Shigri knows the answer to all these questions. He's just not telling until he feels like it.

The novel alternates chapters between Shigri's limited, first-person account of the two months and 17 days leading up to the death of General Zia, and a third-person re-creation of General Zia's last days, swept up in confrontations with his wife, his TV celebrity mistress, a spectacular parachuting disaster, and yes, the fateful peregrinations of a certain crow. Just like that crow, the unpredictable plot never flies where you think it's heading in this odd, frequently brilliant, satirical deconstruction of a dictator's last days.--Nick DiMartino


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