Shelf Awareness for Friday, October 31, 2008

Mariner Books: Everyone This Christmas Has a Secret: A Festive Mystery by Benjamin Stevenson

Grove Press: Brightly Shining by Ingvild Rishøi, Translated Caroline Waight

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Broadleaf Books: Trespass: Portraits of Unhoused Life, Love, and Understanding by Kim Watson

Nancy Paulsen Books: Sync by Ellen Hopkins

Running Press Adult: Cat People by Hannah Hillam

Beaming Books: Must-Have Autumn Reads for Your Shelf!

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger


Notes: New Stores; Island Store for Sale

Bookselling This Week continues its Bookselling in Tough Times series with a focus on remainders. The attraction of remainders, in a nutshell: "They cost less and offer a higher markup." Who can argue with that?


During August and September, 14 ABA members stores opened, including one branch store, a non-storefront location and a store in Panama. See Bookselling This Week for contact and website information.


Lil Stone, owner of Catalina Island's Sugarloaf Bookstore, Avalon, Calif., has decided to put her 20-year-old bookshop up for sale, the reported.

"I practically bolted the last stud in place. It's my baby. I was there at the beginning," said Stone. "And I've loved every minute of it. . . . We get all the boaters, tourists and locals here year-round."

Although Stone decided to sell the bookstore about a year ago, the added that she "only recently started advertising it. When it's sold, new owners will receive the entire inventory--complete with hardbound and paperback books, magazines and videos. The bookstore also carries a large pottery selection for visitors seeking souvenirs and mementos. Her asking price for the business is $375,000."

Stone has offered to assist the new owner with the transition. "I'll be around to help," she said. "I want to leave feeling that Sugarloaf is in safe hands."


The Country Bookshop, Plainfield, Vt., was profiled in the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, which noted that the used bookshop's owner, Ben Koenig, "said in the last couple of years, he has noticed a growing interest among the general populace in supporting local businesses. He said he has gotten calls from people who wanted to see whether he had a particular item before looking on the Internet."


Test your Halloween IQ with the Guardian's "Literary witches quiz."


The Cleveland Plain-Dealer finds politics in the pages of graphic novels, including endorsements, subtle endorsements and biobooks.


If book buyers in the U.K. were U.S. voters, Barack Obama would win next week's presidential election, the Guardian reported, noting that "Obama's two autobiographies, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream and Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, have sold over 130,000 copies between them, according to the U.K.'s book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan. McCain, by contrast, barely tops 2,000 with his Hard Call: Heroes Who Made Tough Decisions and Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir."

The article also noted that "online book retailer the Book Depository estimates that of the 350 U.S. election books it has sold lately, 96% have been Obama titles. 'According to the Book Depository's global book-buyers: Democrats read, Republicans don't; Palin isn't popular, Biden is invisible. If the Book Depository's customers were voting it would be an Obama landslide,' said Mark Thwaite, managing editor of the site."


On the 15th anniversary of its top-150 bestseller list, USA Today offered a "decade and a half" list (not surprisingly, an author named Rowling holds seven of the top nine spots) as well as a look back at some "awards for stamina," including:

  • What to Expect When You're Expecting (1984) by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg and Sandee Hathaway, for most weeks in the top 150--739. A new version by Murkoff and Sharon Mazel released last spring has been on for an additional 29 weeks.
  • John Grisham, with 14 titles in the top 150, more than anyone else, and the most weeks at No. 1: 100, topping Rowling at 70.
  • Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) is the most popular classic at No. 22.
  • Oprah Winfrey, whose book club has made 62 selections since 1996, influenced but did not dominate the list. Five of her picks are in the top 150, including Eckhart Tolle's self-help guide, A New Earth, at No. 31.

Peachtree Teen: Compound Fracture by Andrew Joseph White

Above the Treeline Launches into Edelweiss

Above the Treeline is beginning to test Edelweiss, an online, interactive product that offers the information of traditional print catalogues electronically and allows the material to be customized, updated, managed, enriched and more. In addition, orders and bibliographic material can be integrated into retailers' point-of-sale systems. Edelweiss will likely be a "freestanding online module," available at no charge to book buyers, regardless of whether they use Above the Treeline, as well as offered to other users of catalogues such as publicists, bloggers, agents and others.

Edelweiss allows sales reps to mark up their publishers' titles for specific retailers. Reps can either do so through Edelweiss or create their own printable pdf versions of the catalogue.

Book buyers can manage their catalogues in an online library and search the catalogue by category, custom tags, pub dates, etc. Additionally, users can customize what they want to see about titles in a manner similar to a My Yahoo or iGoogle home page, where widgets such as "illustrations," "publicity/marketing info" or "notes from reps" can be placed on the page.

In addition, changes such as drop-in titles, new prices or new covers can be viewed by buyers and reps in a central area or via RSS feeds.

Edelweiss will be tested for six months. Participating publishers are Chronicle Books, HarperCollins, Wiley, Penguin Group (USA), Random House, Simon & Schuster, Thomas Nelson and Tyndale House. Bookseller participants will be announced over the next two months.

"Edelweiss is a natural offshoot of what we do--which is to provide collaborative tools to help improve efficiency in the publishing industry," Above the Treeline CEO John Rubin said in a statement. "Instead of just porting catalogues designed to be viewed as hard copies online, we've used the opportunity to really redefine the new title buying experience in an optimal way for both buyers and sales reps."

Avin Domnitz, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, which has endorsed Edelweiss, said, "The development of interactive catalogs offers both publishers and booksellers new efficiencies and flexibilities, and Edelweiss allows every bookseller, regardless of size, the ability to participate."

Gabe Wicks, v-p of Thomas Nelson's Design and Multimedia Group, said, "Paper catalogues tend to be outdated the second they're off the press, yet we've come to expect that weakness as simply a 'given' in the book world. With the advent of Edelweiss, we've lost that excuse completely. It's time for our catalogs to be the first source for the latest product information."

And Kathy Smith, senior v-p, sales administration at HarperCollins, said that Edelweiss "complements our own digital catalogue initiative while addressing some of the specific concerns voiced by members of the American Bookselling Association. It's encouraging to see the different ways publishers and booksellers are taking advantage of new technology so that we can all spend more of our valuable time selling the books we love."


Inner Traditions: Expand your collection with these must-have resource books!

Pennie Picks The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has picked The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (Dial Press, $22, 9780385340991/0385340990) as her pick of the month for November. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she wrote:

"Sometimes I decide to read a book because the author intrigues me or the back story behind the novel is completely fascinating. I chose this month's pick . . . because the story behind the book is both tragic and beautiful. I'm saddened that Mary Ann Shaffer never got to see her novel published, but I'm also thrilled that her niece Annie Barrows was able to step up and see the book to completion.

"But the book is more than its history. It stands on its own as an impressive novel. I was sad to reach the final pages as I was not ready to say goodbye to the characters I'd come to know and love."


Media and Movies

Television: Not So Little Dorrit Coming from BBC

In touting the latest epic BBC adaptation of a literary classic, Variety observed: "Toxic debt, failing financial institutions, lax regulation--ring any bells? As fate would have it, all of the above underpin the BBC's latest period drama blockbuster, a marathon adaptation of Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit, which bowed on flagship web BBC1 on Sunday and is certain to strike contemporary resonances."

The miniseries is expected to air in the U.S. on PBS's Masterpiece Theater next year, in eight one-hour episodes.

The early buzz? According to Variety, "it is impossible to imagine any other broadcaster tackling something of this ambition and succeeding on this scale. The cast--a roll call of home-grown thesps including Matthew Macfadyen, Tom Courtenay, Andy Serkis and Mackenzie Crook--are clearly in their element. Relative newcomer Claire Foy is utterly convincing as Little Dorrit. The photography is imaginative, and there is enough dramatic tension to keep Dickens skeptics on the edge of their seats. . . . What ensues is totally absorbing, a master class in period literary drama."


Books & Authors

Awards: Eliot Poetry Prize Shortlist; Huston Smith Winner

Mick Imlah, whose first collection in two decades, The Lost Leader, won the Forward Prize (Shelf Awareness, October 9, 2008) earlier this month, is the favorite among the 10 books shortlisted for the £15,000 T.S. Eliot prize, according to the Guardian. The winner will be announced January 12 and receive the award from Eliot's widow, Valerie Eliot. Previous recipients include Les Murray, Ted Hughes, Carol Ann Duffy and Seamus Heaney.

The T.S. Eliot Prize shortlist includes:

  • Europa by Moniza Alvi
  • The Glass Swarm by Peter Bennet
  • For All We Know by Ciaran Carson
  • Full Volume by Robert Crawford
  • Life Under Water by Maura Dooley
  • Theories and Apparitions by Mark Doty
  • Nigh-No-Place by Jen Hadfield
  • The Lost Leader by Mick Imlah
  • Hide Now by Glyn Maxwel
  • Yellow Studio by Stephen Romer


HarperOne is awarding the first annual Huston Smith Publishing Prize to Bradley Malkovsky, an associate professor of comparative theology at the University of Notre Dame, for his manuscript God's Other Children: The Many Religions and the Quest for Understanding in Sacred India. Malkovsky wins a contract for HarperOne to publish the book and a $25,000 advance against royalties.

The Huston Smith Prize goes to "the author whose unpublished work best reflects the spirit of Huston Smith's life and work. Defined broadly, this will be a work of non-fiction written for a popular audience that promotes the cause of religious understanding in the world and its interface with culture."

HarperOne described God's Other Children as "a spiritual travelogue that presents a number of important and unexpected encounters and conversations the author has with Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists in an India undergoing sweeping cultural changes. With a degree in Catholic theology, Malkovsky originally traveled to India to study Hinduism, but soon fell in love and married into a Muslim family. Through the spiritual and theological reflections woven into the narrative, he emphasizes the distinct beauty and wisdom of each tradition as well as its commonalities with other traditions of spirituality."



Book Brahmin: R.L. Stine

On Halloween, one of the kings of horror answers questions about the books that have most influenced him. Robert Lawrence Stine, known to millions of children as R.L. Stine, began his Goosebumps series in 1992 (after publishing Fear Street in 1989). With a blend of humor and hair-raising plot twists, Stine has attracted readers around the globe: Goosebumps has been translated into 32 languages. This year he launched the Goosebumps HorrorLand series, featuring some creepy old friends (Slappy the evil dummy and the Haunted Mask) and many new characters. His fifth in the HorrorLand series, Dr. Maniac vs. Robby Schwartz, was published October 1 by Scholastic.

On your nightstand now:

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry, The Girl of His Dreams by Donna Leon, Liberty by Garrison Keillor, Walking Shadow by Robert B. Parker.
Favorite book when you were a child:

Pinocchio. The original was very violent and alarming.
Your top five authors:

Ray Bradbury, P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, Georges Simenon, John Dickson Carr.
Book you've faked reading:

Book you're an evangelist for:

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury and Time and Again by Jack Finney.
Book you've bought for the cover:

Popcorn by Ben Elton. The cover looks like a popcorn box--irresistible!
Book that changed your life:

Mad Magazine, Tales From the Crypt comics, Barefoot Boy with Cheek by Max Shulman, Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury.
Favorite line from a book:

Most dialogue between Jeeves and Bertie Wooster, especially in Right Ho, Jeeves.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Pale Fire by Nabokov.

Book Review

Book Review: My Jesus Year

My Jesus Year: A Rabbi's Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith by Benyamin Cohen (HarperOne, $24.95 Hardcover, 9780061245176, October 2008)

In this strikingly original memoir, Benyamin Cohen, the son of an Orthodox rabbi, spends a year striving to rejuvenate his Jewish faith in an unlikely place--among the Christians of his native Georgia. My Jesus Year stirs together keen-eyed journalism and a spiritual quest to create a book that can be read both for its heartfelt examination of one man's religious faith and as a revelatory tour of the landscape of Christian life in the U.S. today.

Despite a lifelong fascination with Christianity (he grew up in a house across the street from a Methodist church), Cohen makes it clear he's not looking for a new faith to supplant his traditional Judaism. Throughout his "Jesus Year" he never abandons his Jewish practice, praying three times daily and adhering to Judaism's myriad and often arcane ritual commandments. But it's that very ritual that's transformed him into "an observant Jew who simply went through the motions while failing to reach the spiritual depths of being a member of the tribe." Through his intense exposure to Christianity he's hoping to discover a spiritual elixir to refresh his feelings about his own faith.

Like a hungry diner at an all-you-can-eat buffet, Cohen strives to sample every variety of Christian practice. He spends a Sunday morning with thousands of worshippers in a megachurch, accompanies two young Mormon missionaries to a session with one of their converts and visits a Trappist monastery. He's perplexed by the appeal of Ultimate Christian Wrestling and even enlists a Catholic friend to sneak him into a confessional. Cohen's account is made more intriguing by the fact that his wife is the daughter of a Methodist minister who herself had converted to Judaism before they met. Her family's Christmas gift to him of a Talmud is one of the story's more startling moments. Focusing less on theology and more on what William James called the "varieties of religious experience," he's refreshingly nonjudgmental, refusing to yield to the temptation to condescend to the faith of others. In contrast to Shalom Auslander, one of his Orthodox contemporaries who raged against his traditional upbringing in the recent memoir, Foreskin's Lament, Cohen substitutes an appealing angst and self-deprecating humor for corrosive rage.

By the time Cohen reaches the end of his journey he strikes us as a mature Dorothy concluding, after her visit to Oz, "There's no place like home." Or, as he puts it more colorfully, and with only the slightest touch of irreverence, "Hanging out with Jesus has made me a better Jew." Hanging out with Benyamin Cohen in this spirited, spiritual memoir offers its own ample pleasures.--Harvey Freedenberg

Shelf Talker: In this heartfelt and captivating memoir, a rabbi's son goes searching among Christians to find his Jewish faith.


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