Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Red Lightning Books: Weird Earth: Debunking Strange Ideas about Our Planet by Donald R Prothero

St. Martin's Press: The Awakening: The Dragon Heart Legacy, Book 1 (Dragon Heart Legacy, 1)

Houghton Mifflin: Igniting Darkness (Courting Darkness Duology) by Robin Lafevers

Clarion Books: Speak Up by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Ebony Glenn


Notes: Saving Wordsmiths; Selling Kindles

Wordsmiths Books, Decatur, Ga., has launched a "save our bookstore" fundraising campaign. "Beginning today, August 4th, and leading through a weekend fundraising event August 15th-August 17th, I am opening myself to your assistance," owner Zach Steele wrote on the bookshop's website. "The fact is that Wordsmiths Books is, as an idea and in execution, a great bookstore and it can be so much more given the chance. We are not fighting declining sales, nor are we fighting customer apathy, or even a lagging book market. We are fighting only the debt created by starting in the wrong location."

On his bookstore blog, Steele also noted that, in addition to the debt load accumulated at that more expensive original location, "we handled the sales for a large scale event recently that did not return the investment that we were required to pay up front.  Such is the way, I could say, but the timing was incredibly poor."


How many Kindles has Amazon sold since its autumn 2007 launch? TechCrunch reported that "240,000 Kindles have been shipped since November, according to a source close to Amazon with direct knowledge of the numbers. Doing a little back of the envelope math, that brings total sales of the device so far to between $86 million and $96 million (the price of the device was reduced to $360 from $400 last May). Then add the amounts spent on digital books, newspapers, and blogs purchased to read on the device, and you get a business that has easily brought in above $100 million so far."


Saturday was a very good day for Breaking Dawn. Hachette Book Group estimates the fourth book in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series sold 1.3 million copies in the first 24 hours after its midnight release, according to USA Today, which couldn't resist adding that "nothing competes with Harry Potter. Last July, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold 8.3 million books in its first 24 hours on sale."


The Philadelphia Bulletin profiled Baldwin's Book Barn, West Chester, Pa., and owner Tom Baldwin, who said, "When you put out something that is positive, it comes back at you when you give it heart."


A recent letter to the editors of the Washington Post called out "bookstore owners who may wonder why they're losing market share" with this suggestion: "I love books, and I used to love the look, feel and smell of bookstores. But now, with the exception of some independent bookstores that do discourage cellphone use, it's no longer fun to look for books in a bookstore. It's very hard to get acquainted with a book when there's a constant stream of people roaming by while yakking on their cellphones. . . . There are no cellphones to contend with when I shop for books on the Web!"


What not to eat. British celebrity chef and cookbook author Antony Worrall Thompson apologized for recommending the poisonous plant henbane, according to BBC News. In a Healthy & Organic Living magazine interview, Worrall Thompson said henbane was "great in salads." The magazine's website has issued an urgent warning that "henbane is a very toxic plant and should never be eaten."

"It's a bit embarrassing but there have been no reports of any casualties," said the chef. "Please do pass on my apologies."


Connecting the links. The University of Illinois Press blog directed readers to Mike Chasar's Poetry and Popular Culture blog, where he reprinted a piece, "Obama's Bitter Muse: Frank M. Davis," that had first appeared last April in the Iowa City Press-Citizen and the Des Moines Register. The essay explores the relationship between Frank Marshall Davis--poet, journalist and activist--and presidential candidate Barack Obama.


Red Lightning Books: The Legend of Bigfoot: Leaving His Mark on the World by T.S Mart, Mel Cabre

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
How I Built This
by Guy Raz

Houghton Mifflin: How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World's Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs by Guy RazAward-winning podcast host Guy Raz has written the definitive guide for aspiring entrepreneurs eager to transform their business idea into a successful enterprise. How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths of Success from the World's Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs, named after Raz's popular podcast, features stories of start-up adventures and valuable insider tips from the founders of Headspace, Bumble and Slack, among many others. It belongs "on the start-up bookshelf next to such classics as The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz and The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries," says Rick Wolff, senior executive editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, where in-house support for the book was universal. At a time when the world needs dynamic innovation more than ever, Raz's phenomenal storytelling skills will ignite in readers a desire to chase their own entrepreneurial dreams. --Shahina Piyarali

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 hardcover, 9780358216766,
September 15, 2020)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Friend or Frenemy?

This morning on Good Morning America: Ishmael Beah, author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (FSG, $12, 9780374531263/0374531269), which is now out in paperback.

Also today on Good Morning America: Kate Brennan, author of In His Sights: A True Story of Love and Obsession (Harper, $24.95, 9780061451607/0061451606). She is on the Diane Rehm Show tomorrow, too. 


Tomorrow on the Early Show: Andrea Lavinthal and Jessica Rozler, authors of Friend or Frenemy?: A Guide to the Friends You Need and the Ones You Don't (Harper, $14.95, 9780061562037/0061562033).


Tomorrow on the Today Show: Ron Suskind, author of The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism (Harper, $27.95, 9780061430626/0061430625). He will also appear today on NPR's On Point.

Also on the Today Show: Noah McCullough, author of First Kids (Scholastic, $7.99, 9780545033695/0545033691), and Mary Ellen Geist, author of Measure of the Heart: A Father's Alzheimer's, A Daughter's Return (Springboard Press, $23.99, 9780446580922/0446580929).


Tomorrow morning's Book Report, the weekly AM radio book-related show organized by Windows a bookshop, Monroe, La., features an interview with Lane Smith, author of Madam President (Hyperion, $16.99, 9781423108467/1423108469).

The show airs at 8 a.m. Central Time and can be heard live at; the archived edition will be posted tomorrow afternoon.


Tomorrow on PBS' Tavis Smiley: Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (Doubleday, $27.50, 9780385526395/0385526393).


Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Richard Brookhiser, author of George Washington on Leadership (Basic Books, $26, 9780465003020/0465003028).


University of Pittsburgh Press: The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories by Caroline Kim

Television: Mad for Frank O'Hara

Last week's premiere episode for the second season of the hit AMC television series Mad Men had a distinctly literary side effect. At the New York Times' Freakonomics blog, Stephen J. Dubner observed that one of the highlights of the show was an early scene in which conflicted ad man Don Draper "is having lunch in a bar and sees the fellow next to him reading Meditations in an Emergency, a collection of Frank O’Hara’s poems . . . Later in the show we see a beauty shot of the book’s cover as Draper himself reads it intently."

Dubner checked the book's Amazon sales ranking a few minutes after Draper read it and found a "rather mediocre No. 15,565. This morning, at 8:30 a.m., the book was ranked No. 161. That probably represents only 50 or 100 copies sold, but it’s a pretty fantastic leap for a 50-year-old book of poems."

The National Post put it in perspective: "A show about the birth of modern advertising pushing products which were released decades ago. This genius, it seems, is layered."


Rick Riordan Presents: Tristan Strong Destroys the World (a Tristan Strong Novel, Book 2) by Kwame Mbalia

Books & Authors

Attainment: New Books Out Next Week

Selected titles appearing next Tuesday, August 13:

Faces of Fear: A Novel by John Saul (Ballantine, $26, 9780345487056/0345487052) follows a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon whose artificially perfected wife commits suicide after being scarred in an accident.

Smoke Screen: A Novel by Sandra Brown (S&S, $26.95, 9781416563068/1416563067) explores the aftermath of an amnesic newswoman who wakes up next to a dead detective.

The Mercedes Coffin
by Faye Kellerman (Morrow, $25.95, 9780061227332/0061227331) is the newest Peter Decker & Rina Lazarus novel.

Legally Dead: A Novel by Edna Buchanan (S&S, $26, 9780743294775/0743294777) follows a former U.S. Marshal who arranges new identities for deserving people.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Reading Solzhenitsyn

Every bookseller knows the drill: A famous author dies and the publishing industry scrambles briefly to exercise its (our) tradition of retail mourning. Long neglected backlist titles are, momentarily, hot commodities; shrine-like displays appear on sales floors. It will happen again this week because Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is dead.

It's how we say goodbye.

And I want to do something as well; to pause and devote a column to Solzhenitsyn, which means that the series on bookstores and politics will have to wait until next week. For me, Solzhenitsyn isn't just another old, somewhat neglected writer riding off into history's sunset. I feel an obligation to tell you a little story about my decades-long connection to him; a reader's story, which inevitably makes it a writer's story and a bookseller's story.

Yesterday, I found myself engaged in a mourning ritual, which steadily grew into an awareness of telling details and memories:

I've been thinking about this curious, long-term writer/reader bond for a long time. In 2006, I wrote an essay, "Solzhenitsyn & My Dad," that began: "Since the early 1970s, I have always had ragged, read-and-reread copies of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Cancer Ward, and The First Circle within reach on my desk, wherever that desk has been. How does a reader find an author? Why did a young American reader connect so deeply with a Soviet dissident? I was no student of global politics or Soviet history. I was barely a student of Russian literature then. No, it was personal, as it often is when these connections are made."

A year before that, my review of the H.T. Willetts translation of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (FSG, $13, 9780374529529/0374529523) opened: "Every good reader has a book. You own it as much as the author does. You knew it was yours the first time you read it. Again and again over the years, you've turned to this book when you needed solace, inspiration, or perspective. Each time you've read it, each time you have opened at random to a page, you've found something that speaks directly to you. It's your book, after all. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is my book."

I'm not presumptuous enough to think that Solzhenitsyn would have cared about me being his reader. It's quite possible he'd have considered my response a misreading--a typically self-absorbed, Western, Godless, Capitalist co-opting of his intentions. But writers do not choose their readers.

Yesterday, I studied the bookmark in my copy of The First Circle. A folded page from a 35-year-old issue of Time or Newsweek, it features two full-page, color photographs back to back. In one, Solzhenitsyn is in his book-lined Moscow apartment, holding sons Ignat (16 months old) and Yermolai (3) on his lap. In the other, he sits alone on a snow-covered park bench.

I recalled that after he was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1974, Solzhenitsyn eventually landed in Cavendish, Vt., not far from where I live. He remained there for nearly two decades. Since Vermonters understand the need for privacy, we left him alone. The little country store in town pre-empted visitor requests for directions to his place with a sign out front that said, in essence, don't even bother to ask.

I watched my VHS copy of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a film I first saw in the early 1970s. I am always moved by Tom Courtenay's portrayal of Ivan and Sven Nykvist's stark cinematography.

I wished that I could read now the uncut edition of The First Circle that Harper Perennial will publish next year (Shelf Awareness, July 16, 2008).

I found, in The First Circle, a passage I'd highlighted long ago. As the zek Nerzhin prepares for his imminent removal to a harsher prison camp, he considers a way to preserve his notebooks, then accepts the inevitability his work must be destroyed:

The great library at Alexandria burned. In the monasteries they did not surrender but burned the chronicles. And the soot of the Lubyanka chimneys--soot from burned papers and more and more burned papers--fell upon the zeks led out to stroll in the boxlike area on the prison roof. Perhaps more great thoughts have been burned than have been published. If he managed to survive, he could probably do it all over again from memory anyway.

It was a miracle that Solzhenitsyn and his work survived. Who will read him in a hundred years? A thousand? I don't know. I am, however, still his reader now.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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