Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 12, 2008

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima

Take a Storytime Adventure into the World of Jessie Sima

News Community: Where Independent Minds Gather

The American Booksellers Association has launched community, a gathering place for supporters of independent retail businesses. The ABA said that "the community site lets consumers share information about indie retailers (including locations and specialties), comment on community issues, offer book recommendations and exchange personal communication. Visitors are encouraged to add stores to the national indie retailer map, to become fans of stores and to connect with like-minded indie enthusiasts."

Meg Smith, ABA's chief marketing officer, said the mission of the community is "to help people across the United States share and find great independently-owned businesses. By connecting indie-conscious people with local businesses, we're working to strengthen the health of Main Streets. Thriving local economies make for sustainable communities and happy residents." She called the new site "a work in progress. We're planning on rolling out new features and new content on a regular basis over the next six to 12 months."


Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima

Notes: Gioia Out at NEA; New Bookshop 'Surprised' in Wassila

Dana Gioia will leave his post as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts in January and "return to writing," according to today's New York Times.

"I’ve given up six years of my life as a writer," said Gioia. "I felt I had to go back to writing when I still have the kind of stamina to do it seriously." He added that he believed his successor will have an easier time of it than he did and "the real challenge will be to see how quickly and how capably we can grow the services of the NEA."

"When I arrived in Washington six years ago, the NEA was a wounded institution," he said. "It had been rocked by controversies for nearly 20 years. Half the people had been fired, the budget had been pretty much cut in half, and people were worried about the long-term existence of the agency. We had let the enemies of our funding dictate the national conversation."


Doylestown Bookstore, Doylestown, Pa., is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Bookselling This Week profiled the shop and owner Patricia Gerney, who credits her staff for the success story: "One of the most important things is the relationship you have with your workers. We're really like family. They're the ones who watch the merchandise, take on somebody else's responsibility when necessary, and they have to want the company to succeed as much as you do."


BTW also reported that Shannon and Leonard Cullip, who opened Pandemonium Booksellers in Wasilla, Alaska, this past June, have been surprised to find their community thrust into the national spotlight since Sarah Palin was named John McCain's running mate. "She's been very popular in the state and popular within the community of Wasilla," said Shannon. "There's a lot of excitement going through the store."


Sarah Fournier-Scanlon, the new owner of Boswell's Books, Shelburne Falls, Mass., will re-open the shop today with a reception honoring her predecessor, Rachel Popowich, who had operated the business since 1999, according to the Recorder.

"This is my first business," said Fournier-Scanlon. "I've been studying sustainability for the last four years--everything from sustainable agriculture to community-building. The bookstore seemed like a great way to get involved in the community. And, I've been a bibliophile most of my life. I'm also hoping the bookstore can be an alternative learning educational space. I would love to give book discounts to home-school educational programs."


Gregory Mcdonald, author of 26 books including the bestselling "Fletch" series of suspense novels, died last Sunday at the age of 71. The Associated Press reported that his last book, Souvenirs of a Blown World, a collection of his writings while working as a journalist for the Boston Globe, will be published by Seven Stories Press in early November. Today's New York Times has his obituary.


"The average Wyoming resident checked out nine books in 2005-06, compared with an average of five in California and two in Washington, DC.," according to the Economist, which touted the health of the state's libraries in an article headlined, "Why cowboys read."


More than half of the visitors to Bill Tancer's blog at in June chose to download a free chapter of his upcoming book, Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why It Matters, published by Hyperion September 2. The experiment, which involved homepage blogging and free pre-publication monthly chapter downloads, was launched May 29, when Hyperion and announced a three month partnership with Tancer, who is also general manager of Global Research at Hitwise, an online competitive intelligence company.

Hyperion noted that the online social book community iRead also participated in the experiment and found that approximately 7,356 customers who went to and Tancer’s blog opened the iRead book reader to check out the excerpt. According to Hyperion, "Click hits #22 on the extended New York Times Best Seller List dated Sept. 21."


If you give it, will they read? The Guardian's book blog looked at TOW Books as an example of the increasingly popular trend among publishers to offer free copies of certain titles to non-traditional review outlets: "John Warner, chief creative tsar of struggling independent publisher TOW Books, is so sick of sending his books out to newspapers and magazines and television shows for review, and hearing nothing back, that he's decided to give up on the media and send books directly to his readers."


A consensus hit at the recent DEMOfall '08 Conference was the unveiling of Plastic Logic's as-yet-unnamed digital reader, which Wired called "super thin and attractive . . . [the] device is as wide and long as a sheet of Letter-sized paper (8.5-by-11-inches), measures less than 3/10 of an inch thick and weighs less than a pound. The actual display area measures 10.7 diagonal inches."

Although a release date has not been announced, Wired reported that the company "expects to release its first reader in early 2009. Pricing has not been announced either, but officials said the reader would be 'priced competitively' with devices such as the Kindle, which currently costs $359."

CNET featured a video of Plastic Logic CEO Richard Archuleta demonstrating the prototype for what he calls "a business reading device."


God save the Queen's verse. For Andrew Motion, England's Poet Laureate, "the job of writing verse for the Royal Family is 'thankless' and gave him a case of writer's block," according to BBC News.


Effective January 1, National Book Network is distributing C&T Publishing, Concord, Calif., which specializes books on quilting, paper crafts and fiber arts. C&T is currently being distributed by Watson-Guptill.


Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima

IBNYC: Independent Booksellers of New York City Forms

The newly formed Independent Booksellers of New York City aims "to encourage New Yorkers and visitors to patronize independent bookstores. The group will serve as a resource for consumers (producing events and tools like a website and printed maps); as a professional support group for member businesses both longstanding and brand new (a rare forum for sharing methods and best practices); and as an advocate to publishers and lawmakers on behalf of bookseller concerns."

The group has the support of some 60 of "the community-based shops of New York City--new and used, specialized and general--which constitute the largest concentration of independent book retail in the country," IBNYC said. "In an increasingly homogenized world, these local businesses contribute to the city's rich character and long tradition of bookselling by providing shelf space for voices that might not otherwise find a home and by serving as venues for the presentation of important works and new ideas."

The group is "intentionally informal in structure" at this stage and has several working committees. Member stores must primarily sell books, have a storefront that is open to the public and be located within the five boroughs.

IBNYC makes its public debut this weekend at the Brooklyn Book Festival. At its booth (#20), it will make available an IBNYC bookstore map, tote bags, giveaways, announcements about bookstore events and literature about the importance of independent businesses.

The group's website, which is still being constructed, has an online map, links to member stores and an area to sign up for the newsletter.

Stores that have made "founding contributions" are Bank Street Bookstore, Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, Book Culture, BookCourt, Computer Book Works, Freebird Books, McNally Jackson, PowerHouse Arena, St. Mark's Bookshop, Strand Book Store and Urban Center Books. The group has been supported in various ways by Book Expo America, the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, Random House, HarperCollins, the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President and Housing Works Bookstore. For more information, contact or call Peter Miller of Freebird Books at 646-307-5579 or Kelly Amabile at Book Culture at 212-865-1588.


HarperStudio's First Title: Unpublished Mark Twain Pieces

HarperStudio, the HarperCollins imprint founded earlier this year by Bob Miller, former head of Hyperion, has announced its first list. The initial title is Who Is Mark Twain, a collection of some 22 previously unpublished works by the titan of American writing, which will be published April 21, the 99th anniversary of Twain's death.

Miller said that the pieces read like New Yorker Shouts & Murmurs items, and "a couple are publishing-related." In one, Twain discusses his method of testing material: he read aloud to a group of acquaintances, and if one particular man in the group fell asleep during the reading, Twain didn't publish the material.

Appropriately, too, for a publisher that aims to emphasize royalty-sharing over huge advances, Twain founded a publishing company that published Ulysses Grant's memoirs on a royalty-sharing basis--and helped make a fortune for the former president and general as well as Twain. In addition, Twain was published by Harper Brothers.

The three other initial titles are:

  • Emeril at the Grill by Emeril Lagasse, the first in a 10-book series, which will be released in time for Father's Day.
  • The 50th Law by Robert Greene and 50 Cent, in which the author of The 48 Laws of Power and the rap star discuss "how to live successfully by living fearlessly."
  • Burn This Book: PEN Writers on the Power of the Word edited by Toni Morrison, which includes pieces by Morrison, Salman Rushdie, Orhan Pahnuk, David Grossman and others.

HarperStudio expects to announce sales terms in the next few weeks. "It's been an odyssey to learn the needs of so many types of booksellers," Miller said. A range of accounts has expressed "enormous dissatisfaction with cumbersome, wasteful, expensive returns." But it's been difficult to find one set of terms, he continued, "that address the needs of all kinds of accounts, whether they are indies ordering for an appearance or wholesalers." The imprint will sell on both a returnable and nonreturnable basis but aims to make nonreturnable attractive enough for "most accounts to give it a try," Miller said.

For more about the 23 titles HarperStudio has signed up so far, check out the imprint's' blog.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: 1,000 Dollars and an Idea

Today on Cavuto on the Fox Business Network: Sam Wyly, author of 1,000 Dollars and an Idea (Newmarket Press, $24.95, 9781557048035/1557048037).


On Sunday on Meet the Press: Bob Woodward, author of The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008 (S&S, $32, 9781416558972/1416558977).


Movies: BBC Documentary--The Satanic Verses 20 Years Later

BBC2 plans to air a feature-length documentary later this year to mark the 20th anniversary of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses and the fatwa that was subsequently declared against the author. Although Rushdie did not participate in the making of the film, the Guardian reported that "his son and sister will take part."

The Guardian also noted that the BBC may have "run into some trouble among those who were involved in the original publication of the book who do not want to speak about it" and quoted "one publishing source," who said, "Most of the core people involved feel very strongly even today that they should keep quiet on any matters relating to The Satanic Verses and that it was enough that the hardcover [of the book] was kept in print throughout."


Books & Authors

Book Brahmins: Lori Andrews

Lori Andrews is the author of Immunity, published by St. Martins/Minotaur this month, The Silent Assassin (2007) and Sequence (2006), thrillers involving Dr. Alexandra ("Alex") Blake, a geneticist at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. Andrews has written 10 nonfiction books and was described by the American Bar Association Journal in 2008 as a "newsmaker of the year--a lawyer with a literary twist and the scientific chops to rival any CSI investigator." Her website is

On your nightstand now:  

Five Stories by J.D. Salinger, On The Road by Jack Kerouac (the reissued version as he originally wrote it before his editor added 2,000 commas) and swag from Thrillerfest--the advance readers copy of Katherine Neville's The Fire, her lustrous sequel to The Eight.

Favorite book when you were a child:  

In junior high, I worked in my dad's drugstore. When the customers thinned out, I would pick up paperbacks from the revolving rack and read a dozen pages or so of each (if I read more than that, it would crack the spine and the book wouldn't look new anymore). Consequently I've read a small section of every pulp novel of the late 1960s and managed to merge them together in my head. As a result, by the time I reached college, I gravitated to books like Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch, with its 155 chapters. You can read it straight through or follow Cortazar's instructions by reading the chapters in a different order. Even better was Marc Saporta's Composition No. 1, a novel where the pages come unbound in a box so you can shuffle them and read them in any order.

Your top five authors:  

I love mysteries and thrillers! Arturo Perez-Reverte, Robert K. Tanenbaum, Scott Turow, Sara Paretsky and Jeffery Deaver.

Book you've faked reading:  

Sigmund Freud's Interpretation of Dreams. Okay, sometimes a cigar is NOT a cigar. Why read the book?

Book you're an evangelist for:  

After a research trip to Vietnam in 2007 for my novel The Silent Assassin, I read--and was blown away by--Michael Herr's Dispatches, his trippy, powerful, literary coverage of the Vietnam War for Esquire. The book served as the basis for the movies Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket. Novelist John le Carré called it "the best book I have ever read on men and war in our time."  

Book you've bought for the cover:  

In the Shakespeare aisle, I saw a book with a graphically beautiful cover. In large type it said, "Kenneth Branagh," and under that, Hamlet. In small type below the title, it said, "by William Shakespeare." I couldn't help but marvel at the audacity of Branagh giving himself top billing for the screenplay of Hamlet. I'm looking forward to publishing Lori Andrews's Crime and Punishment. ("Yeah, Fyodor and I were just tossing back vodkas one night and I came up with this great idea for a book about a destitute student and a miserly pawnbroker and, like, the book practically wrote itself.")

Book that changed your life:  

Tom Wolfe's The New Journalism. Not only did it launch a new writing style--creative nonfiction--but it offered great life advice. He compared staying in graduate school with "the worst part of the worst Antonioni movie you ever saw"--giving people the okay to bail out of situations they detested. I read the book, skipped a law school class, and talked my way into a writing assignment for New York magazine.

Favorite line from a book:  

"Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people's vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse."--Janet Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:  

Joan Didion's The White Album for her ability to be both an observer and participant in popular culture. Also, William Styron's Sophie's Choice and John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman.

Which contemporary author would you like to have dinner with?

Michael Crichton.


Book Review

Book Review: You Can't Be President

You Can't Be President: The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America by John MacArthur (Melville House Publishing, $15.95 Paperback, 9781933633602, September 2008)

John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper's Magazine, takes a long, hard look at the old chestnut that anybody can rise to be President in our democracy. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln (three of MacArthur's political heroes) believed in that principle and hoped that America would safeguard and promote it throughout its history. How are we measuring up to the ideals of our forefathers, MacArthur asks as he surveys behind-the-scenes machinations that lead to selection of candidates for our highest office.

"Democracy in America is frozen by a two-party oligarchy and a campaign finance system that have raised the barriers of entry to our political process to nearly insurmountable heights," MacArthur concludes with equal parts of sadness and outrage. The sadness stems from his disappointment at confronting political reality as he finds it, and the outrage fuels his reformist zeal. Areas begging for reform come into sharp focus when he addresses barriers he identifies as problems facing you or me should we aspire to the Presidency.

First and foremost is the hostility political parties show to outsiders not toeing the party line. The obvious question is how can true democracy thrive in such a closed system? The unpleasant answer, MacArthur proposes, is that it can't, and we need change. MacArthur the Idealist may dream of a latter-day Abraham Lincoln emerging to form a viable new party, but in the meantime, MacArthur the Reformer wants us to know how boldly political machines and party bosses will defend their power to run things their way. He reminds us that without greater popular participation in the selection process, "party officials, along with the rich and well-organized pressure groups, have a vastly disproportionate say about who occupies the White House."

In one arresting section, MacArthur chronicles what the party system historically does to popular insurgents like Howard Dean and Eugene McCarthy. We as a society may love our political mavericks, but it seems political parties are less enamored of them. Nobody ever claimed politics was a clean game, but in our naivete it is hard for us to accept that campaigns of insurgents with new ideas and new blood elicit such fierce opposition within a party; what outrages MacArthur is how stacked the deck appears to be. His findings will outrage others too, perhaps to good effect.--John McFarland

Shelf Talker: A blistering indictment of the political and social forces that muffle the voice of the people in our beleaguered democracy grows into an invigorating wake-up call for real change.


Deeper Understanding

In Search of Paper Towns

John Green invites you on a journey in Paper Towns.
A journey of the mind, yes, but also an actual road trip
In search of Margo Roth Spiegelman.
What is a paper town?
Agloe, N.Y., is a paper town,
A fictional town created by cartographers,
That serves as a "copyright trap."
Who is Margo Roth Spiegelman?
The beautiful, magnetic, elusive obsession
Of Quentin Jacobsen, "Q,"
The narrator of John Green's third novel.
Q has lived next door to Margo since they were two,
In their Jefferson Park subdivision of Orlando, Fla.
He has been in love with her since they were nine.
On May 5, just before their graduation from high school,
Q spends a night with Margo that changes his life.
The next day, Margo disappears,
And Q realizes he has no idea who she really is
Or where she might have gone.
Margo does, however, leave behind a string of clues.
The first: A Woody Guthrie poster
Taped to the back of her window shade
That only Q can see from his bedroom window.
On the poster, the folksinger holds a guitar with a painted message,
"This machine kills fascists."
Margo's sister helps Q gain entry to Margo's room,
Where he and his buddies discover
Billy Bragg's album (an LP!) Mermaid Avenue,
With the exact same Guthrie image on the back cover.
A song on Bragg's album leads Q to Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.
In her copy, Margo has highlighted lines from "Song of Myself."
These lines provide additional clues.
(Among them: "You will hardly know who I am or what I mean"
And "I tramp a perpetual journey.")
Q sets aside the girl of his invention and,
With the help of his best friends, Ben and Radar,
Goes to great lengths to connect them
And to piece together a picture of the real Margo Roth Spiegelman.
At the end of July, a group of us traveled to
Grand Haven, Mich. (it is not a paper town),
For the taping of Paper Towns at Brilliance Audio.
Together we witnessed the many ways
That John Green reaches his readers.
This idea in Paper Towns of layering perceptions and details
Takes on greater meaning when you watch him with his audience.
In a round-table discussion with perhaps a dozen of them
And an audience of nearly 200 additional teens
At the Spring Lake [Mich.] District Library,
One teen tells Green that she read Paper Towns through once,
Then read Leaves of Grass and reread Paper Towns.
She pronounces that Green's novel was even better for
Having read Whitman.
Green is pleased: "The reason I wrote Paper Towns
Was to get people to read Whitman."
A student in the audience stands up and asks simply,
"Twain or Fitzgerald?"
"Twain is a bigger influence," answers Green soberly,
"Gatsby is the better work. No word is out of place in Gatsby."
Her question suggests an entire back-story.
Another audience member asks Green what it's like to work at home.
"Bleak," responds Green.
"The dog [Willie] was supposed to give me structure.
Nerdfighters has become my group of friends."
(More on Nerdfighters in a minute.)
When Green introduces to the audience Dan John Miller,
The narrator of the audiobook version of Paper Towns,
Green says, "My writing process
Involves reading aloud each new draft 50-100 times.
It's jarring when the phrasing on the audiobook
Is different from what's in your head; [with Dan] it's the same."
Although Miller and Green met for the first time in Grand Haven,
Green was already a fan of Blanche,
The "gothic-country garage band" that
Miller fronts with his wife, Tracee Mae Miller,
And also of his portrayal of
The Tennessee Two guitarist in the film Walk the Line.
Dan John Miller is a long, tall drink of water
Who can command a room of teenagers (and adults)
As he reads a racy section of the novel
(That Green often leaves out when he does readings;
One teen even thanks Miller for reading the text as written)
Then strums his guitar (no, it does not say, "This machine kills fascists"),
While lifting his powerful yet vulnerable voice
For his song, "Superstition" . . . ("Whenever I'm superstitious, it's bad luck").
On October 16, the laydown date for the book,
The audio version of Paper Towns will also release--
In six formats, including CD, MP-3, Overdrive, Audible and Playaway,
Available to teens in whatever form they prefer.
Green believes that audio is "intimate but collaborative."
He draws a parallel between the audiobook experience
And the visual experience of videoblogs:
"Videoblogs are community-oriented," he says,
"They are shaped by the viewer. TV is not."
The Web site Green established with his brother, Hank,
The two create videoblogs that simulate a conversation.
Green engages in everything from discussions of Catcher in the Rye
To Russia's invasion of Georgia
(While applying peanut butter to his face--not to be missed),
Often addressing Hank directly, as if in answer to a dare
(As with the peanut butter entry).
In a more recent videoblog [August 29], as a one-time brief resident of Alaska,
John Green discusses the selection of Sarah Palin
As Republican vice-presidential nominee.
He invites teens to comment and especially
Urges young Republicans to give their opinions.
Green treats his readers as peers, and his readers respect him.
He inspires them to think, to debate, to act.
It's hard to know whether they come to him first
As Nerdfighters or as fans of his books.
And it does not matter.
Paper Towns suggests that as human beings
We are always in search of deeper meaning, greater resonance.
Whether one discovers Q and Margo
Through the book, the audio version, or on,
Green gives them multiple maps to find him
And, in the process, themselves.--Jennifer M. Brown

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