Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Insight Editions: Unstoppable: Siggi B. Wilzig's Astonishing Journey from Auschwitz Survivor and Penniless Immigrant to Wall Street Legend by Joshua Greene

Scholastic Press: Muted by Tami Charles

Berkley Books: The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Walker Books Us: Welcome to Your Period! by Yumi Stynes and Melissa Kang, illustrated by Jenny Latham

Scholastic Press: Ground Zero by Alan Gratz

News

Notes: RIchard W. Seaver; Stacey's Bookstore to Close

Very sad news: Richard W. Seaver, founder and president of Arcade Publishing, died suddenly on Monday. A memorial service will be announced soon. Arcade asked that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to:

PEN American Center
588 Broadway, Suite 303
New York, N.Y. 10012

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Stacey's Bookstore, the " iconic shop that called Market Street home for all of its 85 years and had carved out a niche for technical publications," will close in March, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. General manager Tom Allen said the bookshop's sales "had dropped 50% since March 2001. . . . But the final blow was the crumbling economy, which hit hard during the holidays. Stacey's sales in the fourth quarter of 2008 plummeted 15% from the same period in 2007."

"That in itself would not have spelled the end," said Allen. "But it came on top of several years of more gradual decline."

"I'm devastated," added customer Melissa Davis, who had vowed to shop at Stacey's more often in the wake of other indie closings in the Bay area. "If you lose an independent bookstore, you're losing an independent voice."

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What's in a holiday sale name? The Yakima, Wash., Herald-Republic reported that one of the major promotions for Inklings Bookshop during the holiday season, its 12 Days of Christmas sale, "prompted lots of purchases, but it also irritated one of the store's customers who felt that he needed to chastise the store and owner Susan Richmond for what he felt was an inappropriate name for the pre-Christmas sale."

The customer wrote, "I'm all for you raking in the big bucks during the holiday season (all businesses must do this to some extent), but it really rankles me that it seems you don't seem to know when Christmas is. Call your pre-Christmas sale 12 Days Before Christmas, or something like that. Prepositions are occasionally important."

Richmond, in the spirit of both seasonal and grammatical propriety, offered her "formal recantation where I hereby annul, back off, backtrack, call back, countermand, disavow, disclaim, disown, renounce, repeal, rescind and otherwise unsay what I said before. The Twelve Days of Christmas at Inklings Bookshop shall be forevermore, only after Christmas, but do keep an eye out for next year's Christmas Countdown!"

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"East Harlem is defying the odds, becoming a hotbed for book lovers," reported WNYC, noting that during "the past year and a half, one Latino-centric bookstore opened, and the neighborhood's cultural institutions, cafés and bars are hosting weekly literary events."

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The home page for Rainy Day Books, Fairway, Kan., features a video in which co-owner Vivien Jennings shares her thoughts on the bookshop's mission.

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Jifeng Bookstore, which author Zhang Hong once described as a "small spiritual space in the material forest," will "stay open after successful rent negotiations," Shanghai Daily reported. "It had been feared that Jifeng might close when its 10-year contract expired at the end of last year and store officials had been negotiating with Shentong managers in order to keep the rent affordable."

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Conversations With God author Neale Donald Walsch has admitted that a Christmas pageant essay he recently posted at his Belief.net blog was actually the work of Candy Chand, whose "Christmas Love" was published a decade ago in the spiritual magazine Clarity and reprinted in Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul in 2000.

The New York Times reported that "except for a different first paragraph in which Mr. Walsch wrote that he could 'vividly remember' the incident, his Dec. 28 Beliefnet post followed, virtually verbatim, Ms. Chand's previously published writing." The blog post has been removed and, according to the Times, "Beliefnet said Mr. Walsch had withdrawn from the site's blogging roster."

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In the Guardian, Robert McCrum suggested that an economically dismal year "can only be good news for secondhand book dealers. So my prediction for 2009 is that the devoted book reader will beat a path ever more urgently to those forgotten, out-of-the-way corners of musty tranquility of which the shopping class knows nothing. . . . Out with the new book, and in with the old: that's my statement for this week."

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"Obama + Books = Good Reading," declared the Washington Post in its book roundup of "serious, funny and commemorative takes on the Obama candidacy over the past year."

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Netherland by Joseph O'Neill headed a list compiled by Booktrust from "more than 2,000 end-of-year recommendations published in the British press ahead of Christmas," according to the Guardian. The novel was named "book of the year" 17 times, followed by the top nonfiction choice, Richard Holmes's The Age of Wonder (15), and Zoe Heller's The Believers (14).

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A digital archive of documents, photographs and books from Ernest Hemingway's time in Cuba is now available to scholars. The Guardian reported that the materials "sat for decades in the dank, mouldy basement of Hemingway's home seven miles outside Havana. Among the gems are an unpublished epilogue to his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls and a screenplay for The Old Man and the Sea."

 


Berkley Books: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto


Pennie Picks: Such a Pretty Fat

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has picked Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest to Discover If Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, Or Why Pie Is Not the Answer by Jen Lancaster (NAL, $14, 9780451223890/0451223896) as her pick of the month for January. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she wrote:

"If 15 minutes of laughing burns 10 to 40 calories, I recommend Jen Lancaster's Such a Pretty Fat as a New Year must-have weight-loss tool. The memoir, Lancaster's third, chronicles her quest to lose weight. She succeeds, but not without some swearing, body aches and a few late-night, Ambien-induced online purchases.

"Lancaster's sometimes caustic wit had me laughing out loud--and nearly falling out of my chair. I imagine I'm not alone in relating all too well to her experiences with gyms, weight-loss programs and wavering self-control. Whether Lancaster's words hit home or not, I dare anyone to read this book and not laugh."

 


Beaming Books: Inspiring New Nonfiction from Broadleaf Books


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Suze Orman's 2009 Action Plan

Today on the Diane Rehm Show: a discussion of the role of libraries in economic hard times.

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Tonight on the Charlie Rose Show: William F. Baker, co-author of Leading with Kindness: How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results (AMACOM, $24.95, 9780814401569/0814401562).

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Tomorrow morning on Morning Edition: Gregory Feifer, NPR's Moscow correspondent and author of The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan (Harper, $27.99, 9780061143182/0061143189).

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Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: John Quinones, author of Heroes Among Us: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Choices (Harper, $24.95, 9780061733604/0061733601). He is also on 20/20 later tomorrow.

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Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Hilary Black, author of The Secret Currency of Love: The Unabashed Truth About Women, Money, and Relationships (Morrow, $24.99, 9780061560965/0061560960).

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Tomorrow on NPR's Fresh Air: Catherine Hickland, author of The 30-Day Heartbreak Cure: Getting Over Him and Back Out There One Month from Today (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, $19.95, 9781416958871/1416958878).

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Tomorrow on Oprah: Suze Orman, author of Suze Orman's 2009 Action Plan (Spiegel & Grau, $9.99, 9780385530934/0385530935). She's also on Larry King Live tomorrow night.

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Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Amitav Ghosh, author of Sea of Poppies (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, 9780374174224/0374174229). As the show put it: "With Sea of Poppies, a trilogy begins! Few know that the opium that fueled the Opium Wars was grown and processed in India. Ghosh locates the heart of a pernicious global network--drugs, slavery, indentured servitude, profiteering on a previously unimagined scale--in the innocent poppy blossom."

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Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Lawrence Lessig, author of Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy (Penguin Press, $25.95, 9781594201721/1594201722).

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Tomorrow night on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson: Amy Sedaris, author of I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence (Grand Central, $15.99, 9780446696777/0446696773).

 


Book Industry Charitable Foundation: Double your donation!


Movies: Fitzgerald's Hollywood Remake

Following closely on the profitable literary heels of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, two more adaptations of F. Scott Fitzgerald's works are on the way. According to Variety, John Curran will direct The Beautiful and the Damned, with Keira Knightley in the role of Zelda Sayre, and "Baz Luhrmann recently acquired rights to turn Fitzgerald's masterpiece The Great Gatsby into a new film."

 


Books & Authors

Lincoln Log, Part 1: Books About the 16th President

In honor of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth, this coming February 12, Shelf Awareness is offering a selected listing of books related to the 16th president. Some are new, some are backlist, and all are recommended either by booksellers, librarians or proud publishers. This is the first part of a multipart feature, compiled with help from Tobias Mutter:

Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America by Andrew Ferguson (Grove Press, $14, 9780802143617/080214361X).

Joe Drabyak of Chester County Book & Music Company, West Chester, Pa., said of this 2007 book: "As the author gleefully notes in the preface, more books have been written about Abraham Lincoln that any other American--nearly 14,000 in all. With grace, insight, and great good humor Ferguson travels the blue highways in an attempt to discover the stories behind our fascination with the 16th president. During the course of the journey readers come to know a Lincoln that was an icon, an enigma, an intimate, and an enemy. And it is a journey well worth taking--honest!"

Vicki Erwin of Main Street Books in St. Charles, Mo., also recommended this title, observing that Land of Lincoln "gives a great overview of exactly how much influence Lincoln still has today." The author visits and discusses "books, authors, museums, collectors, impersonators and more. It brings the Lincoln influence into the here and now. The book is written with charm and humor and was a great read."

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Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon & Schuster, $21, 9780743270755/0743270754).

Kathy Simoneaux of Chester County Book & Music Company, West Chester, Pa., said of this 2005 title, which coined a phrase repeated frequently in reference to President-elect Obama's own cabinet: "Though much ballyhooed now, my takeaway from the book was an intimate and tender portrait of a remarkable politician, President, husband and father. Goodwin's prose makes the heartbreak of his assassination palpable and can move one to tears."

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Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson (Harper Perennial, $15.95, 9780060518509/0060518502).

Kathy Simoneaux also recommended this 2006 title, saying, "I thought I knew this story, but I was wrong. Swanson exposes the colorful characters behind the plot, the fascinating details of the chase and subsequent punishment of those involved. Fast paced and exciting."

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George Rishel, owner of the Sly Fox bookstore, Virden, Ill., and a Lincoln specialist, recommended several titles:

Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief by James M. McPherson (Penguin Press, $35, 9781594201912/1594201919).

Concerning this October book, Rishel said: "Lincoln developed the role of President as Commander in Chief in ways that still shape that function."

Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power
by Richard Carwardine (Vintage, $15, 9781400096022/1400096022).

"There have been many Lincoln biographies, but this one comes from an Oxford Don and offers a British perspective on our 16th President. It has been selected as the Lincoln Statewide Read for Illinois in 2009." This was first published in 2006.

Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861 by Harold Holzer (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9780743289474/0743289471).

"A noted Lincoln scholar offers a look at the transition period between the election of Lincoln in November 1860 to his inauguration in March 1861. It was an eventful, often overlooked period, but bears a remarkable resemblance to today's transition periods." Published in October.

Abraham Lincoln Comes Home by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Wendell Minor (Holt, $16.95, 9780805075298/0805075291).

"A wonderful story of a boy and his father who journey by wagon to the rail line to view Lincoln's funeral train. An afterword offers factual information about the train's trip and route. One of the best of the new Lincoln books for children." Published in August.

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The Day Lincoln Was Shot
by Jim Bishop.

Jean Ross, branch administrator of the Potomac Community Library in Woodbridge, Va., said this 1955 classic "should be required reading for all high school students. The 'you are there' quality of the storytelling draws any reader into the story and once there, readers find themselves enamored of, and wanting to know more about, Lincoln and the time period in which he lived."

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Lincoln Shot: A President's Life Remembered by Barry Denenberg, illustrated by Christopher Bing (Feiwel & Friends, $24.95, 9780312370138/031237013X).

Chris Rickert, general manager of Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Pittsburgh, Pa., said, "I was taken by the wonderful period-newspaper style presentation and the fantastically oversized hardcover binding. It might be designed to interest younger readers, but I picked up a copy as soon as I saw it in our store and have it proudly displayed in front of my bookshelves at home (it's too tall to actually fit on the shelf!). It's also the perfect gift for the Lincolnophile who has everything else in print!" Published in September.

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Abraham Lincoln
by Carl Sandburg, the six-volume work that was first published in 1926. The masterful classic, recommended by many, also appears as a condensed, 800-page paperback:

Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and The War Years
by Carl Sandburg (Mariner Books, $26, 9780156027526/0156027526).

 


Awards: EPA's Jeremiah Ludington Award

Kevin Henkes, author of Kitten's First Full Moon and Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, among other titles, has won the 30th annual Jeremiah Ludington Award, sponsored by the Educational Paperback Association. The award honors the association's founder and is presented annually to "an individual who has made a significant contribution to the paperback book business." Henkes will receive a framed certificate, and the EPA will give a $2,500 check to the charity of his choice.

 



Book Review

Book Review: 'A Long Time Coming'


 
Since 1984, a team of Newsweek reporters have specialized in producing an insider's first look at just-completed presidential campaigns--having unusual access during the campaign in exchange for a promise not to publish information gleaned from it until after the elections. This latest entry in the series, the beneficiary of drama both inherent and synthetic, is a briskly told, entertaining contribution to what soon will become a torrent of books about this remarkable election.
 
Weeks before the inauguration, Barack Obama's election has taken on an air of inevitability, though that was hardly the case deep into the fall of 2007. On the night of January 3, 2008, however, when 250,000 Iowans appeared at caucuses to express their presidential preference, it was apparent his message of change had begun to take hold. That message, when combined with a disciplined campaign organization that melded a powerful grassroots effort with ingenious use of cutting-edge technology, resonated with voters in a way that startled even seasoned political experts.
 
While acknowledging the skill of Obama's team, the Newsweek reporters are unsparing in exposing the occasionally humorous blunders of Hillary Clinton's campaign strategists like Mark Penn, who operated from the premise that her nomination and election were preordained. As for the Bush-hobbled Republicans, while Evan Thomas and his colleagues probably are correct in concluding that "McCain could have performed flawlessly and still succumbed to economic reality," the account of his advisors' decision to shut down the Straight Talk Express (the "pirate ship" as one reporter described it), leaves little question that a more effective campaign could have produced a result that, if no different, at least might have been more in doubt when November 4 arrived.
 
Those troubled souls still in withdrawal from their daily fix of Hardball/Countdown/Rachel Maddow or who haven't yet deleted fivethirtyeight.com from their list of bookmarks may not find much that's new or startling in this book. For them, its liberal helping of photographs--some of them startlingly candid--should bring some solace. And there's the transcript of an extensive and revealing May 2008 interview with Barack Obama, in which he comments, "I've never felt that my worth is dependent on me winning this presidential campaign, that I have something that I have to prove." For less-obsessed observers, the book is an informative recap of a campaign suffused with sensitive and potentially explosive themes of race and gender along with more than its share of pure human drama.
 
Historians and political strategists will spend years deconstructing the story of the 2008 presidential campaign. Barack Obama's election was historic not only because of who won, but also for how he did it, as this book reminds us. Now comes the hard part.--Harvey Freedenberg
 
Shelf Talker: Evan Thomas and an experienced team of Newsweek reporters have produced an informative and entertaining first look at the story of one of the most remarkable campaigns in American political history.
 

 


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'The Thin Ice of a New Day'

Meanwhile back in the year one.

As 2009 begins, I find myself channeling Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. I'm not sure why, but I hope it presages more of a "Songs from the Wood" kind of year than an "Aqualung" one for all of us.

In my final column of 2008, I posed the giddily optimistic--under current circumstances--question, "What if it all works out?" Author and marketing wizard M.J. Rose asked if she could reprint it on her great blog, Buzz, Balls & Hype. I said yes, and then discovered that the request triggered a strange sort of nostalgia. I started a blog in the fall of 2004 called Fresh Eyes: A Bookseller's Journal. This was during the Paleolithic era, when there were only a few million instead of a gigazillion blogs roaming the virtual savanna. M.J. was there long before I was, and her request made me wonder what was on my blog mind in January, 2005, when I was still a full-time bookseller and buyer. What follows is a blend of quotation and paraphrase, but since the words are mine, I'll go light on the punctuation:

2005: As a bookseller, I've met people at every level of the so-called publishing pipeline, though of course I spend the bulk of my time with that most elusive of creatures, the reader. I voraciously ingest all news about the business. I often talk with publishing folks by e-mail or in person. I try to read the ever-altering surface of the business the way a sailor reads ripples caused by wind shifts.

I do not feel jaded by the industry, nor do I feel alienated from the publishing world, nor do I think that most publishers and editors are out of touch with the readers I work with every day. I feel weirdly hopeful in the face of every negative bar chart and snarky column, even though I'm a devoted fatalist at heart.

There's a scene in the football movie North Dallas Forty that I often recall whenever I'm thinking about my "place" in the publishing industry. Wide receiver Phil Elliott (Nick Nolte) has been summoned a meeting at the corporate, high-rise headquarters of the team's owner, Conrad Hunter Enterprises (Oil, Electronics, Chemicals, Construction, Export-Import, Hotels, etc.).

In the lobby, Elliott is cornered by Mr. Hunter himself, who puts a friendly arm on Phil's shoulder and not-so-subtly reminds him who the fox is in the pecking order of this big biz chicken coop. "Now, Phil, people who confuse brains and luck can get in a whole lot of trouble," Hunter says in a Texas drawl that comes across as both paternal and manipulative. "Seeing through the game is not the same as winning the game."

Seeing through the game is not the same as winning the game.

News about the business of books, whether positive or negative, is crucial and useful, but it's just one ingredient in an extremely complex recipe. Skill is important. Luck is important. Timing is important. Publicity is important. Everything is important.

Some of it can be controlled.

I can't help but see through the game. I still think I can win it. There is a lot of negativity out there. Writers work hard, often for little or no financial reward (so do booksellers; some choices I made, huh?). They've been hurt by rejection and less than aggressive marketing efforts from their publishers. They feel, often justifiably, that they have to do all the work themselves to get their books any attention.

Editors are swamped with manuscripts good and bad, solicited and unsolicited. Sales and publicity departments must handle too many books at once. Bookstore buyers spend hours every day looking at hundreds of titles, reciting a litany that runs something like, "five of those, two of those, no, no, no, one, no, two . . ."

Everybody's buried. Everybody thinks that no one else understands.

We need to understand, however, the positive as well as the negative. I don't think we're all whining. In fact, we're equal parts Pollyanna and Eeyore.

2009: I'll be in New York next week for a few days, and at some point in every conversation I have with people who work in this business, one of us will ask, "What are you reading?"

It's still about the books.

Skating away,
Skating away,
Skating away on the thin ice of a new day
.

Tie those laces tight, my friends. Maybe the ice will hold--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

 


The Bestsellers

AbeBooks.com's Top 10 in 2008

The top 10 bestsellers on AbeBooks.com during 2008:

1. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
2. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
3. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
4. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
5. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
6. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey
7. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
8. Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

[Many thanks to AbeBooks.com!]

 


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