Shelf Awareness for Thursday, October 30, 2008

Harper: Evil Eye by Etaf Rum

Tor Books: Starling House by Alix E. Harrow

St. Martin's Press: The Last Outlaws: The Desperate Final Days of the Dalton Gang by Tom Clavin

Page Street Kids: Payden's Pronoun Party by Blue Jaryn, illustrated by Xochitl Cornejo

Annick Press: Dragging Mason County by Curtis Campbell

Flatiron Books: Where There Was Fire by John Manuel Arias


Notes: Bookstore Map; Vertigo Alert; Candidates' Book Faves

Congratulations to the New England Children's Bookselling Advisory group at the New England Independent Booksellers Association, which has completed the Interactive Author Touring Map. The map, part of the NEIBA website, is a resource for people visiting or researching New England bookstores with strong children's specialties. Stores are indicated with initials on the map; clicking on the initials brings up store websites.


"It's been a thoroughgoingly crappy year for local booksellers--first Karibu, then Olsson's," observed Washington City Paper in its report that Vertigo Books had posted a request on its website for customers to "vote with your dollars now if you value our local economy and this store."

Bridget Warren, Vertigo's co-owner, told Washington City Paper that, "as far as cost savings . . . 'anything we can cut has pretty much been cut.' So she and co-owner Todd Stewart will look to see how the Christmas sales season pans out. And though she doesn't anticipate Vertigo closing its doors, the store's blog post was intended to deal clearly with people about how dire the stakes are."

"There was a sense of disappointment and dismay at the way Karibu and Olsson's closed down," she said. "I wanted people to be on alert."


We offer a hearty welcome back (after a two-year hiatus) to Dennis Johnson's legendary MobyLives, one of the original, and best, literary blogs in the book world. "That whale is still out there, man!" and it's living at the new website for Melville House Publishing.


CBS News anchor Katie Couric asked both John McCain and Barack Obama to name their favorite books--a formidable question for any of us. The Christian Science Monitor reported that their "choices are illuminating--and yet at the same time completely unsurprising. Both candidates stuck with American classics, although of different generations. McCain says his favorite book is Ernest Hemingway's 1940 Spanish civil war novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. Barack Obama's favorite is Toni Morrison's 1977 novel Song of Solomon."


The Guardian showcased some of the repackaged titles that readers of George Murray's Bookninja blog sent in response to this challenge: "Are top novelists being rebranded to meet the purchasing habits of an embiggened sector of stupid readers? I propose we hold a contest here. It's been a while. And you probably all have Photoshop by now. So take your favourite literary novelist and 'rebrand' one of their titles to appeal to more popular sectors: chicklit, thriller, romance, sci-fi/fantasy, celebrity kids' book, etc."


"Stephen King, the most famous writer in the world, picked up my book because he didn't like the cover," said Mischa Berlinski in a USA Today piece recounting the moment last year when King, while browsing in a bookstore, happened to see "Berlinski's debut, Fieldwork, a murder mystery set in Thailand. King hated the jacket but loved the book; he praised it in Entertainment Weekly. Then it became a 2007 National Book Award finalist. Wednesday, Berlinski, 35, was among 10 promising writers awarded $50,000 by the Whiting Foundation. (See more about the Whiting Awards below.)


Effective January 1, George Carroll of Redsides Publishing Services is adding the University of Chicago Press, Northwestern University Press and the University of Hawaii Press to his current representation in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. He has represented all three presses for many years in the Pacific Northwest and has worked with the University of Chicago Press since he started as an independent book rep 25 years ago. Carroll has recently shifted his focus from general trade publishers to academic, environmental and university presses. "I'd rather not be remembered as the guy who sold the book on different ways to make toast or stuff to paste on your cat's head," he said.


Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster: Drowning: The Rescue of Flight 1421 by T.J. Newman

Second Quarter: Indigo Sales and Earnings Dip

At Indigo Books & Music, Canada's largest bookseller, revenue in the second quarter ended September 27 fell 1.9% to $205.3 million (about US$174 million) and net earnings dropped slightly to $3.2 million (US$2.7 million) from $3.3 million (US$2.8 million) in the same period last year.

Sales at superstores open at least a year rose 2% while same-store sales at Coles small-format stores rose 7.4%. Sales at, Indigo's online retailing site, fell 19.8% to $21.1 million (US$17.9 million). If sales of Harry Potter a year earlier are excluded from the comparison, online sales grew 4.7% in the quarter.

In a statement, CEO Heather Reisman said, "We knew it would be tough to grow the top line against this quarter last year given the phenomenal success of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Still, we were pleased with the bottom line results given today's challenging economic climate."

During the quarter, the company also opened two new superstores, in Saint John, New Brunswick, and Winnipeg, Manitoba.


GLOW: Pajama Press: The Imaginary Alphabet by Sylvie Daigneault

Media and Movies

This Weekend on Book TV: Letter To My Daughter

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, November 1

9 a.m. Public Lives. Washington Post staff writer Liza Mundy, author of Michelle (S&S, $25, 9781416599432/1416599436), presents her biography of Michelle Obama. (Re-airs Sunday at 4:15 p.m.)

6 p.m. Encore Booknotes. For a segment that first aired in 2003, Amy Chua, author of World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability (Anchor, $15.95, 9780385721868/0385721862), argued that free markets do not spread wealth evenly among countries.

7 p.m. Maya Angelou, author of Letter to My Daughter (Random House, $25, 9781400066124/1400066123), discusses her first collection of essays in 10 years. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

10 p.m. After Words. Lee Woodruff, wife of Bob Woodruff, the ABC News anchor severely injured in Iraq, interviews Kimberly Dozier, author of Breathing the Fire (Meredith Books, $24.95, 9780696238376/0696238373). Dozier, who was the victim of a car bomb while reporting on the Iraq War in 2006, talks about that experience and her long road to recovery. (Re-airs Sunday at 1 a.m., 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.)

11 p.m. For an event hosted by Olsson's Books, Washington, D.C., David Carr, author of The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life--His Own (S&S, $26, 9781416541523/1416541527), recounts his addiction to crack cocaine and alcohol and the journalistic practices he used to research and report on his life story. (Re-airs November 2 at 8:10 a.m.)

Sunday, November 2

2 a.m. Bill Murphy, Jr., author of In a Time of War: The Proud and Perilous Journey of West Point Class of 2002 (Holt, $27.50, 9780805086799/080508679X), profiles the first West Point class to graduate and go directly to serving as officers in the Iraq War. (Re-airs Sunday at 7 p.m.)

12 p.m. In Depth. Cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, author most recently of The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature (Penguin, $16, 9780143114246/0143114247), joins Book TV for a live interview. Viewers can participate in the discussion by calling in during the program or e-mailing questions to (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m. and Saturday, November 8, at 9 a.m.)


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Hike by Lucy Clarke

Media Heat: Tom Brokaw's Boom!

This morning on the Today Show: Elisa Strauss, author of Confetti Cakes For Kids: Delightful Cookies, Cakes, and Cupcakes from New York City's Famed Bakery (Little, Brown, $29.99, 9780316118293/031611829X), will demonstrate Halloween treats from the book.


Tonight on the Charlie Rose Show: Tom Brokaw, author of Boom!: Talking About the Sixties: What Happened, How It Shaped Today, Lessons for Tomorrow (Random Hosue, $18, 9780812975116/0812975111).


Tomorrow on Oprah: David Foster, author of Hitman: Forty Years Making Music, Topping the Charts, and Winning Grammys (Pocket, $26, 9781439103067/1439103062).


Tomorrow on 20/20: Adam W. Shepard, author of Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream (Collins, $19.95, 9780061714368/0061714364).


Tomorrow night on the Late Show with David Letterman: Alan Zweibel, author of Clothing Optional: And Other Ways to Read These Stories (Villard, $22, 9780345500861/0345500865).


Books & Authors

Children's Book Review: Mystery Ride!

Mystery Ride! by Scott Magoon (Harcourt, $16, 9780152060213/0152060219, 40 pp., ages 3-7, November 2008)

Ever since Magoon's debut with Ugly Fish (by Kara Lareau), the art director-cum-artist has used asymmetrical-looking expressions on slightly off-kilter characters to great effect. Here he employs them in the theme of the classic childhood experience: piling into the family car for a "mystery ride." The middle child of three siblings narrates his family's experience in their four-door, amply proportioned red car--for both exciting and boring outings. The parents and progeny start off with cheerful expressions: "Sometimes when my parents gather my brothers and me into the car, we go to really fun places." Several examples in full-bleed spreads with minimal text follow: "Like here," the narrator's dialogue bubble states, as he stands in front of a toy store; "Or here," he announces at a "scenic overlook" at peak leaf-peeping time. But then there are those other times. "We ride along for a few miles in happiness--until we sense something's wrong," says the middle brother. The older sibling looks up from his book, the toddler raises his fists, and the narrator, riddled with anxiety asks, "Where are we going?" "Mystery ride!" Mom and Dad answer, with manufactured glee. The three children in the back seat look terrified as the narrator reels off their dismal destinations, including a hardware store, the dump and ("Then it got really bad") the department store where Mom emerges from the fitting room in polka-dot slacks (the children slump on a lounger). After the crowning blow at the Laundromat, the brotherly trio hits bottom, surrounded in the back seat by a shadowy teal-gray haze: "Desperate for entertainment, we tried singing, 'Mystery ride, mystery ride, do you want to go on a mystery ride? No!' " But wait, as Magoon shifts the perspective to a board game-style view of the route they've traveled, the boy senses "a familiar turn," and Mom and Dad reward their patient passengers at the penultimate stop. The author-artist empathizes with the full range of children's emotions while lightheartedly celebrating family togetherness through good times and bad.--Jennifer M. Brown


Awards: Whiting Writers' Awards

The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation has named 10 winners of 2008 Whiting Writers' Awards, which have been given annually since 1985 to writers of exceptional talent and promise early their careers. The recipients, who will each receive $50,000, were announced at a ceremony at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City yesterday.

This year's winners are Mischa Berlinski, Laleh Khadivi, Manuel Muñoz, Benjamin Percy and Lysley Tenorio for fiction; Rick Hilles, Douglas Kearney and Julie Sheehan for poetry; Donovan Hohn for nonfiction and Dael Orlandersmith for plays.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: In Paperback Dreams Begin Responsibilities

We made Paperback Dreams because we believe in what booksellers do. . . . I think it's important for booksellers to keep telling their stories.--Alex Beckstead, producer and director.

On the Paperback Dreams website, the PBS documentary is described as "the story of two landmark independent bookstores and their struggle to survive. The film follows Andy Ross, owner of Cody's Books, and Clark Kepler, owner of Kepler's Books, over the course of two tumultuous years in the book business."

Of course, there is much more to the tale. If you haven't seen this work yet, please take a moment right now to watch the trailer, which gives you just a taste of how deftly the film blends the contemporary with the historical, and people with place.

I saw Paperback Dreams last month, on the final day of the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association trade show and annual meeting in Colorado Springs, Colo. My first reaction was that it was extraordinary--informative, compelling and cautionary. It's also bittersweet, gut-wrenching and wry. As complex and emotion-driven as running a great bookstore.
In the weeks since then, I've come to realize that it is also a deeply haunting film in the best sense. I think about it often, unexpectedly. It has inspired me to see the book world in a slightly altered light and made me more aware than ever of both the value and vulnerability of my chosen profession.

Such thoughts lead quite naturally to curiosity and questions, so I posed a few to the most logical person--Paperback Dreams' producer and director, Alex Beckstead.

Whom did you envision as the target audience for this film?

I wanted this to be a film for people who love bookstores. That includes booksellers, publishers and readers. One of the things I learned from talking to people involved in the Kepler's story in early 2005 was the importance of awareness. People love independent stores so much, but they start to be seen as part of the permanent landscape. But that's simply not the case. I think there's a general sense among the book-loving public that times are hard for the independents, but I think they fail to realize just how big a struggle it is, and the level of passion and dedication that go into selling books. I have been thrilled with the response from booksellers and publishers, who have been very positive, and whom I hope will be able to use the film as a tool to call attention to both the fragility but also the importance of what they do.

What are you hoping for in terms of audience reaction?

I want people to think more about where they buy their books and realize that those transactions are connected to the shape of their community and quality of life. You actually do get something for the few dollars more that you spend on a book in an independent--you get a bookstore where people who live in your community work and are passionate about what they do. You help them survive to sell another day. When a bookstore is thriving, it can be an integral part of the intellectual life of a community. The chains and the big Internet resellers, which have good qualities, can't be part of your community like an independent can.

What has the reaction been like thus far?

So far the reactions have been universally positive. Although when we screened at Kepler's, one woman protested, because the film made her feel that she had to be part of "the counterculture" to be connected to her local bookstore. I told her that if you still read books, like it or not, you are part of a counterculture, one that you should be proud of. She didn't buy that. But I do . . .

Paperback Dreams is currently airing on PBS stations and at bookstore screenings across the country. "We can send promotional materials to stores that would like to help get the word out about the broadcast," Beckstead adds, "and are happy to set up screenings with any store that would like to do one."

A DVD is also now available, with more than an hour of bonus features, including extended author readings and interviews with publishers and writers that had to be cut from the film due to time. Although it can be purchased on the website, wholesale pricing is also offered to bookstores interested in selling it (contact

I don't do movie reviews in this column, of course, but for what it's worth, I give Paperback Dreams two thumbs up, five stars, and four Videohound Golden Movie Retriever bones. Just watch it.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


Powered by: Xtenit