Shelf Awareness for Monday, September 29, 2008

Yearling Books: When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

Pantheon Books: Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Scholastic Press: The Guardian Test (Legends of Lotus Island #1) by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Kevin Hong

Tor Books: The First Bright Thing by J.R. Dawson

Editors' Note


Notes: New Bookstore in Old Bookstore Site; Stores Honored

Last month, Anne Mancilla, a recently retired teacher, opened Explore! The Book Store, Clifton Springs, N.Y., in a building that reported "has been a bookstore for more than 100 years. [Mancilla] recalls growing up in the village and buying the Sunday newspaper at the Devereaux Book Store. That shop originally opened in 1880 and was purchased in the 1920s by Richard Devereaux Sr. After his death in 1945, his wife and children continued operating it until the early 1990s. It has held a variety of retail establishments since then, and a sign announcing 'The Book Store,' spelled out in black-and-white tiles on the threshold, has never disappeared."

Explore! sells new and used books and is located at 18 E. Main St., Clifton Springs, N.Y. 14432; 315-521-0832.


Congratulations to King's Books, Tacoma, Wash., one of three winners of the Tacoma Arts Commission's 2008 AMOCAT Arts Awards, which recognize "community members' vision, dedication and action in creating a lively arts community in Tacoma."

King's Books won in the "Community Outreach by an Organization" category for its "work with community organizations to host a wide variety of artistic and cultural events, becoming a central force of activity. King's Books showcases the letterpress and book arts community, hosts frequent author and poetry readings, raises money for public schools and libraries, assists local organizations with fundraising and provides a venue for other literary and cultural events year-round."


Classics Used and Rare Books, Trenton, N.J., owned by Eric Maywar, was named business of the year by the Trenton Council of Civic Associations. reported that the bookshop earned its award "because of the variety of programs it hosts that have drawn the community into the bookstore."


The Cape Cod Times unearthed some bookselling wisdom for our times to highlight its report on NEIBA's fall trade show: "Apparently, there's an old saying that in a tough economy, booze and books continue to sell. The former, because people don't stop drinking no matter what, and the latter because books represent a purchase of lasting value, plus you can find anything in the world within the covers of a book . . ."

"We sell the experience," said Caitlin Doggart, co-owner of Where the Sidewalk Ends bookstore, Chatham, Mass. "The whole experience of coming in is pleasurable. People can buy books anywhere, but the attraction of independent booksellers is the energy."


"Some business owners have customers. Jo Kassabaum has friends who happen to spend money at her store," observed the Tampa Tribune in its profile of the Book Shack, Dade City, Fla., and Kassabaum, who has owned the business for 29 years.

"My sister-in-law had a book store in Waukesha, Wis.," said Kassabaum. "We were talking one evening, and she said she had some extra books. She said, 'If you have a place to open a store, I'll send them to you if you pay the shipping.' She sent me 9,000 books. She hadn't discovered sidewalk sales yet."


Scieszka @ NBF No. 1: Dick, Jane & Sally early reader books as scifi? Children's author Jon Scieszka told his audience at the National Book Festival that when he was a child, he became intrigued by "strange books at school about an 'alien' family," according to the Associated Press.

"There was a boy, two girls, a mom and a dad and they talked in the weirdest way," he said. "Instead of saying 'Hey, look at that dog,' they would say 'Look. Look. See the dog. That is a dog.'" Scieszka assumed these strange aliens must fear they would forget each other's names, since they kept repeating them: "So if Jane didn't see the dog, Dick would say 'Look, Jane, look. There is the dog next to Sally, Jane. . . . The dog is next to father, Jane. Ha. Ha. Ha.'"


Scieszka @ NBF No. 2: What do boys want to read? The Washington Post shared some National Book Festival observations from our author du jour: "'We've had this problem with boys not achieving and reading for a long time,' Scieszka says, noting that although we're generalizing about boys, there are always exceptions. 'For the longest time, you couldn't even say boys and girls were different. It was taboo in the educational world.' But different they are, biologically and socially, he asserts. Boys need 'move time,' which they're getting less and less of in school these days. 'That's how they're built,' he says."

Scieszka also told the Post that "the biggest change we can all make in giving boys a love of reading is to expand our definition of reading beyond fiction. . . . [Boys would] rather read nonfiction or humor, graphic novels, science fiction, action adventure, audio books, or online reading and magazines."


Bridget Marmion, senior v-p and director of marketing of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's trade and reference division, is becoming chair of the Association of American Publishers's trade publishers executive committee.

She succeeds Bob Miller, president of HarperStudio, who has been chair since 2002. AAP president and CEO Pat Schroeder praised Miller for his "commitment and leadership."


Tim Brazier has joined Kaplan Publishing as publicity director. He was formerly publicity manager at Basic Books and began his career in publicity at HarperCollins.

Brett Sandusky has joined Kaplan Publishing as marketing manager. He has been a marketing manager in publishing in the U.S. and abroad, most recently at Shared Marketing Service. He holds a graduate degree in comparative literature from the Sorbonne.

In a statement, Michelle Patterson, Kaplan's executive director of marketing, said that Brazier and Sandusky were hired to "bring the sort of experience we need to match the new direction of our publishing program," which includes an increase in trade publishing, particularly in health, law and education.


Effective January 1, Simon & Schuster will handle all sales, distribution and fulfillment for Cider Mill Press Book Publishers titles to trade and specialty accounts. Cider Mill is currently distributed by Sterling Publishing.

Founded in 2005 by John F. Whalen, Jr., an S&S and Running Press alumnus, Cider Mill Press, Kennebunkport, Me., has published nearly 100 titles, many of which are brand-name gift books. Last fall it launched Applesauce Press, a children's imprint, and will soon add the Cider Mill Audio line. Cider Mill has publishing partnerships with companies and brands such as Paramount Pictures, United Media and the Charles Schultz Estate, DC Comics, Archie Entertainment, Wham-O and Crayola Brands.

In a statement, Michael Selleck, S&S executive v-p, sales and marketing, said that the company's new client "has very quickly established itself as an enterprising new publisher with a highly desirable line of innovative gift books. Their adult, children's and audio titles are a perfect complement to our existing lists, and we will work very closely with them to expand their business."


GLOW: Putnam: The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Robert Wagner and Pieces of My Heart

This morning on the Today Show: Alice Schroeder, author of The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life (Bantam, $35, 9780553805093/0553805096).


Today on the Today Show and All Things Considered: Diahann Carroll, author of The Legs Are the Last to Go: Aging, Acting, Marrying, and Other Things I Learned the Hard Way (Amistad, $24.95, 9780060763268/0060763264).


Today on the Diane Rehm Show: Ken Silverstein, author of Turkmeniscam: How Washington Lobbyists Fought to Flack for a Stalinist Dictatorship (Random House, $24, 9781400067435/140006743X).


Tonight on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Robert Wagner, author of Pieces of My Heart: A Life (HarperEntertainment, $25.95, 9780061373312/0061373311).


Tonight on the Colbert Report: Paul Begala, author of Third Term: Why George W. Bush Hearts John McCain (S&S, $15, 9781439102138/1439102139).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Derek Armstrong, author of Drew Peterson Exposed (Kunati, $25.95, 9781601641878/1601641877).

Also on Today: Peggy Noonan, author of Patriotic Grace: What It Is and Why We Need It Now (Collins, $19.95, 9780061735820/0061735825). She also appears on Shannity & Holmes.


Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Nancy A. Nichols, author of Lake Effect: Two Sisters and a Town's Toxic Legacy (Island Press, $24.95, 9781597260848/1597260843).


Tomorrow on Dr. Phil: Kim and Fred Goldman, who will talk about If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer by O.J. Simpson (Beaufort Books, $14.95, 9780825305931/0825305934).


Tomorrow night on Last Call with Carson Daly: Bill Tancer, author of Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why It Matters (Hyperion, $25.95, 9781401323042/1401323049).


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Love & Other Scams by Philip Ellis

Books & Authors

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next picks:


City of Refuge by Tom Piazza (HarperCollins, $24.95, 9780061238611/0061238619). "Tom Piazza's novel follows two families through their trials and tribulations during and after Hurricane Katrina. Piazza's story really captures the reality of the tragedy--the fears, the doubts, and the hopes that everyone experienced after this life-altering event."--Britton Trice, Garden District Book Shop, New Orleans, La.

Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg (Other Press, $24.95, 9781590511916/1590511913). "A haunting memoir of a father and wife dealing with a daughter's sudden psychotic breakdown. Filled with brilliant imagery and the strain her illness brought to her family, this is an important book that will bring some element of understanding to such painful situations."--Amy Ellis, Front Street Books, Alpine, Tex.


Matters of Faith by Kristy Kiernan (Berkley, $14, 9780425221792/0425221792). "This story of what happens to a family in the aftermath of a crisis that puts one child in harm's way asks tough questions about faith, marriage, love, and forgiveness. Kiernan's characters are complex and fully realized, and her South Florida setting is almost like another character."--Beth Simpson, Cornerstone Books, Salem, Mass.

For Teen Readers

What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson (Delacorte, $15.99, 9780385735070/0385735073). "A stunningly tender first novel that explores friendship, family, and first love. Two brothers discover that, even through puzzling and difficult times, their bond is much stronger than they imagined."--Jean Ernst, Wild Rumpus, Minneapolis, Minn.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


MBA Trade Show: Bookseller Pick of the Lists

Four booksellers shared their "Pick of the Lists" choices at the Midwest Booksellers Association Fall Trade Show, held last week in St. Paul, Minn.:

Adult Books

Peggy Bieber, owner of Little Professor Book Center, Aberdeen, S.D.:

  • Wild Bill and Calamity Jane: Deadwood Legends by James McLaird (South Dakota State Historical Society)
  • Not Your Mothers Weeknight Cooking: Quick and Easy Wholesome Homemade Dinners by Beth Hensperger (Harvard Common Press)
  • 8 Sandpiper Way by Debbie Macomber (Mira)
  • The Man in the Blizzard by Bart Schneider (Three Rivers Press)
  • Snow Blind by Lori G. Armstrong (Medallion Press)
  • His Name Is Jesus by Max Lucado (Thomas Nelson)
  • A Dog Named Christmas by Greg Kincaid (Doubleday)
Sue Zumberge, manager of Common Good Books, St. Paul, Minn.:
  • The Plain Sense of Things by Pamela Carter Joern (University of Nebraska Press)
  • Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman (Scribner)
  • The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell (Riverhead)
  • I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass (Pantheon)
  • Hands of My Father by Myron Uhlberg (Random House)
  • Company of Liars by Karen Maitland (Delacorte Press)
  • Ballistics: Poems by Billy Collins (Random House)
  • The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow by Tim Kehoe (Hocus Pocus Press) Sue: "I am including one for kids 9-14. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am not aware of any other book like it. It really encourages kids to be inventive, and the inventions are fabulous."

Children's Books

Ellen Davis, owner of Dragonwings Bookstore, Waupaca, Wis.:

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
  • Impossible by Susan Werlin (Penguin)
  • Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi (Viking Juvenile)
  • Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech (Joanna Cotler)
  • Schooled by Gordon Korman (Hyperion)
  • Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski (FSG)
Ellen Scott, children's books department manager, the Bookworm, Omaha, Neb.:
  • Dodger and Me by Jordan Sonnenblick (Feiwel & Friends)
  • The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli (Dutton)
  • The Postcard by Tony Abbott (Little, Brown)
  • The Big Little Book of Happy Sadness by Colin Thompson (Kane/Miller Book)
  • My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath (Schwartz & Wade)

The Snowball: Buffett Biography Hits Today

In many ways, the timing for the first authorized yet independent biography of legendary investor Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, couldn't be better: in the midst of the Wall Street meltdown, Buffett is in the news again. Last week he bought a $5 billion chunk of former investment bank Goldman Sachs and took over Constellation Energy, which owns four nuclear power plants, for $4.7 billion. Most important, he's one of the few titans of industry and investing who remains untarnished--in large part because of his level-headed, traditional business philosophy.

In The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life ($35, 9780553805093/0553805096), published today by Bantam Books, author Alice Schroeder delineates Buffett's recipe for success, which she described to Shelf Awareness as, "Don't bet more than you can afford to lose. Don't get greedy. Don't feel you have to stay in the game for higher stakes." She readily called his approach common sense, but unfortunately for most of us, common sense has been a rare commodity on Wall Street.

Schroeder, an MBA, CPA and former Wall Street analyst, spent five years researching and writing The Snowball. She conducted several hundred hours of interviews with Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, and spent thousands more hours "hanging around in his office, watching him work, traveling with him and going through his files." The book's title refers to Buffett's concept that life and investing for him is like rolling a snowball down a hill in wet snow, accumulating more and more.

Buffett gave Schroeder free rein for creating her biographical snowball. "In effect, Warren made me CEO of the book," Schroeder continued. "It's the way he runs his businesses." Buffett promised not to ask for changes and encouraged Schroeder to speak with others and use their version of events if they contradicted his. "He didn't know whom I was interviewing or where I was heading," she said. "There were times obviously that it made him very vulnerable. Few people would put themselves in such a situation. It was courageous of him."

This approach was particularly delicate in the book's open discussion of Buffett's complicated personal life--one might say that compound interest and credit swap took on different meaning in that arena. Still, when Buffett read the book just before it was printed, he did not ask for any changes, Schroeder said. As for his take on The Snowball, she said, "I'll leave it for him to comment." So far, he has not spoken about the book publicly, which Schroeder said was typical of his modest style.

Schroeder wrote the book, she said, with a reader in mind: "a friend of mine in Houston who is the mother of two and a housewife. The Snowball takes the reader through the history of Warren's business life in a way that helps to demystify people about business. Sometimes business is viewed as a priesthood, and fairly simple concepts are dressed up in difficult language. I wanted to make it understandable."

The book is designed, too, to help readers see that many of them are "more financially sophisticated than they realize they are or can be," she said. For all the their brash self-confidence, the "supposed rocket scientists" on Wall Street didn't understand basic business principles, she continued. "If you borrow 100 times what you have and something goes wrong, obviously there will be problems. It's like taking a $1 million mortgage on a house that's worth $10,000. Ordinary people don't run their affairs that way, and Warren doesn't either."

Schroeder's book tour begins appropriately in Omaha, Neb., where Buffet lives, at the Bookworm, which has acted as the official bookseller during Berkshire Hathaway annual meetings (Shelf Awareness, May 10, 2006). Then she travels to a variety of cities and will be a featured speaker at the Texas Book Festival, held in Austin November 1-2.

The author is also touring online, so to speak: The Snowball is the subject of a digimentary, an Internet documentary, that airs in weekly episodes on YouTube, beginning today. "It's a visual tour of the book," Schroeder explained. "I narrate some of the material in the book and talk about research and stories." Scenes were filmed in Omaha, Washington, D.C., and New York City. "Our feeling is that readers would appreciate a multimedia experience and would like to see Warren's childhood home, his junior high school" and other places that were important in his life.

For Schroeder, the publishing experience was a shock, particularly when she was asked to make revisions on galley. "I was used to things being automated to the maximum for efficiency," she said. "I couldn't believe people were sitting around with pens and pencils writing on galleys." (She made a pdf of the galleys and indicated changes on that.) "I imagine I was a pain as an author because I insisted on making changes down to the last minute."

An avid reader since age two, Schroeder said that her Wall Street writing experience--research reports and a weekly newsletter--"was better than having no writing background at all. I knew the difference between 'which' and 'that,' but I didn't know grammar to the degree I should. I learned about dangling participles late in the process."

She needed help, she said, with "narrative, transitions and character." She praised her agent David Black--"he walks on water"--who "felt I had an ear and a voice and basic writing skills." He assumed that if there were structural problems, he could bring in a book doctor--although he didn't tell Schroeder this until after she mastered the task. Every time Schroeder handed something in, "he would say it wasn't right and needed work," she remembered. "It was hard to hear that over and over, but when I finally heard that it was good, that meant the world to me."

Schroeder did not look at other business biographies for models. Instead she found inspiration in:

  • The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America by Louis Menand, which she called "a biography of ideas with many characters. Menand conveys a lot of really complex abstract conceptual information in a biographical manner. It is a wonderful read."
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond, which was "fantastic" for "relating reams of technical information in an entertaining way."
  • Buddha by Karen Armstrong, part of the Penguin Lives series, which is "a very simple explanation of Buddhism in laymen's terms and a biography about a man about whom little is known."
She also praised John Brooks, author of The Go-Go Years and "dean of business book writers," for "writing about great business crises with humor and empathy for the people involved" and avoiding "a scolding tone or delighting in people getting their comeuppance." In the same vein, Schroeder admires Cervantes and Jane Austen, who "understood human nature and could convey a character and the flaws of that character without being cruel or inhuman."

As for possible future books and projects, Schroeder, who was married in April, said, "My first goal is to on a honeymoon."--John Mutter


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