Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

Henry Holt & Company: Mihi Ever After (Mihi Ever After #1) by Tae Keller, illustrated by Geraldine Rodríguez

Berkley Books: River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer

Oxford University Press, USA: The World According to Proust by Joshua Landy

Chronicle Chroma: Bob Willoughby: A Cinematic Life by Bob Willoughby

Charlesbridge Publishing: Forever Cousins by Laurel Goodluck, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson

Tor Teen: The Luminaries by Susan Dennard


Leveling the E-Playing Field

Margot Sage-EL, owner of Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, N.J., writes:

I read the letter yesterday from M.J. Rose extolling the virtues of the e-book with much dismay on several levels (bypassing a fave indy because it was too cold and out of the way) but was immediately struck by the conflict of release dates. Why would Amazon have an e-book version available well before the book was released to the trade? We can, as indies, try our best to compete when the playing field is level, but we don't have a chance if certain vendors are given priority. I was assured though by HarperCollins, after investigation, that the early release date of The Miracles of Prato was the publisher's error. So in the future, we indies may be out of the way, we may be out in the cold, but we'll have books available at the same time as e-books are released.


Scribe Us: Our Members Be Unlimited: A Comic about Workers and Their Unions by Sam Wallman


Notes: Ripples from Borders/Walden Closings; Poetry

The Waldenbooks in the Volusia Mall in Daytona Beach, Fla., which closes on Saturday--one of the 100 or so Waldenbooks to be closed in the past two years--in effect will be replaced by a Books-A-Million that is opening in the mall in April, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.

Mall owners had been wooing BAM for several years and are relocating several other tenants to create a 15,000-sq.-ft. space for the store. Several customers told the paper that they welcomed the new BAM outlet.


The nearest major indie to the Tempe, Ariz., Borders that is closing is not gloating. Gayle Shanks, co-owner of Changing Hands, told the ASU Web Devil, "When any bookstore closes, it is a loss to the community."

She suggested that Changing Hands would not draw a lot of customers from Borders, a favorite of students at Arizona State University, because many of the students don't have much money for books and have enjoyed spending time at Borders in large part because of "the free Internet, free music stations and essentially 'free' magazine rack."


"Praise Song for the Day: A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration" by Elizabeth Alexander will be published as a commemorative chapbook edition by Graywolf Press on February 6. According to the publisher's website, Alexander "crafted the poem for the occasion, drawing inspiration from poets such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Hayden, and Walt Whitman."


Check out,
Founded by Michael Mart and George Wallace.
Weekly videos of a poet reading his or her poetry.
Free for bookstores and others
To upload to their websites.


Alternately fascinating and unsettling, poetryanimations "is a YouTube channel put together by British videographer Jim Clark. His project animated old images of famous [poets] to make it appear as if they are reading their poems. Some of the recordings are the poet's reading their works. Where archived readings were unavailable, they are voiced by other readers," according to the National Post, which showcases a few favorites. 


Two-term Oxford, Miss., mayor Richard Howorth, co-owner of Square Books, will not seek a third term and will return to bookselling, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported. He hasn't ruled out running for alderman, however, admitting, "I've kind of gotone eye on the composition of the next board and am trying to figureout whether a former mayor would be more of a help or a pest in serving."

Howorth said, "I've been away from my business for a long time," adding that his staff members have "done a wonderful job without me, but it's time in the life of the business and my own life cycle."


Bad news for one indie bookseller is never good news for another. Lisa Baudoin, owner of Books & Company, Oconomowoc, Wis., told the Freeman the recent announcement that Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops would close at the end of March was "sad."

"I don't know if it's the economy as much as it is the playing field," she said. "It's Amazon, discount stores, the availability that makes it a challenge (to operate an independent bookstore)."


Included among the News-Tribune's "101 Things to Do in Ballard" is a visit to the neighborhood's Abraxus Books, Seattle, Wash., where "you won't find espresso machines and People magazine. You'll find the musty smell of old books . . . For the past twelve years owner Tony Topalian has run the kind of bookstore that actually feels like a bookstore, not a multi-level department store for books."


Effective February 1, Ryland, Peters & Small and CICO Books will be distributed by the Maple Press Company's Mount Joy Distribution Center, which is located at 1000 Strickler Rd., Mount Joy, Pa. 17552.

The companies have been distributed by Stackpole Distribution, which will accept authorized returns until February 15.

The customer service department remains the same and can be contacted for orders, order inquiries and return authorizations either by phone at 877-342-1478, by fax at 201-840-7242 or by e-mail at


Flyaway Books: The Coat by Séverine Vidal, illustrated by Louis Thomas

Image of the Day: Barack Obama, Full Circle at Vertigo

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the day before Barack Obama became president, Coretta Scott King Award winners Nikki Grimes and Bryan Collier signed copies of their book, Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope at Vertigo Books, College Park, Md. Nearly 120 people showed up, 140 books were sold and the store collected 10 cases and more bags of food for a food drive. Best of all, as co-owner Bridget Warren said, "Vertigo hosted Barack Obama in 1995, and we were thrilled to introduce him as our President to another generation."


PNBA Holiday Catalog 2022

Obituaries: Les Phillabaum, Malcolm MacPherson

Les Phillabaum, longtime director of Louisiana State University Press and a leading publisher of Southern literature, died on January 14, the Baton Rouge Advocate reported. He was 73 and had retired from the press in 2003.

Phillabaum began his publishing career as a manuscript editor at Penn State Press, became editor-in-chief of the University of North Carolina Press in 1963 and in 1970 joined LSU Press as executive editor and associate director. He became director in 1975.

During his time at LSU Press, he published A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, which was the first university press book to win a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He also published more than 200 poetry books, two of which won Pulitzers.

Current press director MaryKatherine Callaway wrote in a note to AAUP directors: "Les was an early champion of many distinguished writers, publishing work by Joyce Carol Oates, James Lee Burke, Miller Williams, C. Vann Woodward, Lisel Mueller, Henry Taylor, Drew Gilpin Faust, Fred Chappell, Louis Rubin, David Slavitt and Fred Hobson. He worked with Mobil to develop the Pegasus Prize for Literature, designed to promote translations of award-winning fiction from other countries, and that series included several outstanding books, such as Keri Hulme's The Bone People, The Year of the Frog by Martin Simecka and Turbulence by Jia Pingwa. He helped revive interest in Robert Penn Warren by publishing John Burt's monumental edition of Warren's collected poems and reprinting several of the novels."


Malcolm MacPherson, a journalist who wrote 15 books, died on January 17 at the age of 65, Melville House, one of his publishers, said. MacPherson had a heart attack while at home with a gathering of friends and family celebrating the inauguration of Barack Obama as President.

One of his more recent books, Hocus POTUS, published in 2007 by Melville House, was a satire set in Iraq after the invasion and was based on MacPherson's experience there as a correspondent for Time magazine. He was also the author of several books of nonfiction published by Random House that became bestsellers, such as Roberts Ridge (2005), reportage about one of the bloodiest battles of the war in Afghanistan, and Time Bandit (2008), about fishermen working in the Bering Sea.

Shelf Awareness had the privilege of interviewing MacPherson about Hocus POTUS (Shelf Awareness, August 21, 2007). MacPherson was a talkative, friendly, entertaining, wise man. Speaking about the book and its prospects, he said, "I have to take a Zen approach. . . . Hocus POTUS either twigs with the readers of America or doesn't. I've always had modest expectations for this. For some, book publishing is like running around in a field in a rainstorm hoping lightning hits you, which is a one in a 20 million chance. I'm too old for that. I'd rather just stand there in the rainstorm."

Dennis Johnson of Melville House wrote: "Having been raised in the shadow of Disneyland--the construction of which he witnessed as a child, and later wrote about in his novel In Cahoots--may have contributed to the sense of life as a great, good-hearted adventure that Malcolm imparted to those of us lucky enough to call him a friend. He seemed to find cause for cheerful wonderment in even the most dire situations. While writing his book about the Alaskan fishermen, he once called his editor at Melville House from the middle of the Bering Sea, well-known as some of the most treacherous waters in the world, to chat, casually mentioning that the fishing boat he was on had lost power and would most likely not be rescued for another day or two. When the editor suggested he might want to conserve the batteries of his cell phone, Malcolm replied, 'I know. I just wanted to see if I could get a connection. It's the damnedest thing, isn't it?' "


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Wedding Etiquette

Today on NPR's Fresh Air: journalist Gwen Ifill on her new book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama (Doubleday, $24.95, 9780385525015/038552501X).


Tomorrow morning on the Early Show: Anna Post, author of Do I Have to Wear White?: Emily Post Answers America's Top Wedding Questions (Collins Living, $14.99, 9780061563874/0061563870).


Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Part 1 of a series with Toni Morrison, author of A Mercy (Knopf, $23.95, 9780307264237/0307264238). As the show put it: "In this first of two conversations with Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, we explore the backgrounds of her novel A Mercy. How did she find the textures of pre-colonial America: the feel of the land; the wildlife; the proliferation of races, nationalities and ambitions?"


Tomorrow on NPR's Fresh Air: P. W. Singer, author of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century (Penguin Press, $29.95, 9781594201981/1594201986).


Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Jon Meacham, author of America Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House (Random House, $30, 9781400063253/1400063256).


Books & Authors

Awards: Pannell Nominees; O'Dell Winner: Chains

Nominees for the 2009 Lucile Micheels Pannell Award, sponsored by the Women's National Book Association and Penguin Young Readers Group and given to a general bookstore and a children's-only bookstore "that excel at inspiring the interest of young people in books and reading," have been chosen.

WNBA will present the Award to the two bookstores at BookExpo America 2009 in New York. Each recipient will receive $1,000 and a framed piece of original art by a children's book illustrator. A jury of five book industry professionals will select the award winners from among these nominees:

  • . . . and Books, Too!, Lewiston, Idaho
  • As the Page Turns Bookstore and Gallery, Northville, Mich.
  • Baker Books, North Dartmouth, Mass.
  • Changing Hands, Tempe, Ariz.
  • Cowan's Book Nook, East Ellijay, Ga.
  • Downtown Books, Craig, Colo.
  • Garfield Book Company at PLU, Tacoma, Wash.
  • Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Mrs. Nelson's Toy & Bookshop, LaVerne, Calif.
  • St. Helens Book Shop, St. Helens, Ore.
  • Schuler Books and Music, Okemos, Mich.
  • That Bookstore in Blytheville, Blytheville, Ark.
  • The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Urban Think! Bookstore, Orlando, Fla.
  • Wild Rumpus Books for Young Readers, Minneapolis, Minn.


Laurie Halse Anderson has won the 2009 Scott O'Dell Award for Chains (S&S, October 2008), narrated by teenaged Isabel Finch during the Revolutionary War. Although Isabel and her enslaved five-year-old sister were to be freed upon the death of their mistress, the woman's heir sells the siblings to a new owner in New York City--that is the first of the betrayals that lie ahead, but also the beginning of Isabel's fight for freedom. The award, established by O'Dell (best known as the author of The Island of the Blue Dolphins), is given annually to a meritorious work of historical fiction and includes a $5,000 prize. Chains was also a National Book Award Finalist, just like Anderson's debut novel, Speak (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999).


Attainment: New Titles Appearing Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, January 27:

The Associate by John Grisham (Doubleday, $27.95, 9780385517836/0385517831) follows a new member of the world's largest law firm.

Dark of Night (Troubleshooters, Book 14) by Suzanne Brockmann (Ballantine, $25, 9780345501554/0345501551) pits the elite security team Troubleshooters Incorporated against a shadow government force known as the Agency.

Basketball Jones by E. Lynn Harris (Doubleday, $22.95, 9780767926270/0767926277) explores the relationship between an NBA player and his secret boyfriend, whose life becomes unsettled when the basketball star is pressured into marrying a gold digger.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel by Jamie Ford (Ballantine,$24, 9780345505330/0345505336) chronicles the life of a Chinese-American during World War II anti-Japanese hysteria and after the death of his wife in 1986.


Book Review

Book Review: No Angel

No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels by Jay Dobyns (Crown Publishing Group (NY), $25.95 Hardcover, 9780307405852, February 2009)

Unfortunately, as demonstrated by yet another high-profile example (read: Angel at the Fence and Oprah), truth in memoir still seems to be an elusive quality. Even allowing for "the truth as I experienced it" type of artistic license, it is becoming increasingly difficult not to assume embellishment in all but the blandest of personal narratives. Happily, however, such skepticism detracts not one iota from No Angel, ATF agent Jay Dobyns's fascinating tale of the years he spent undercover with the Hells Angels. Even if Dobyns did not have extensive documentation to support his account (which he does) and was relying solely on his own memory of the events (which he does not), the book is so viscerally involving that it simply wouldn't matter.
At the start of "Operation Black Biscuit," the effort to infiltrate an Arizona chapter of the Hells Angels, Jay Dobyns was a 40-ish married father of two children who'd been working undercover for more than a decade. With a bullet scar in his chest from a weapons bust gone bad, tattoos on both arms and Southern rock band hair, he looked--and felt--the part of "Bird," his badass biker outlaw alter ego. The Hells Angels certainly bought it, ultimately inviting Dobyns and his posse (composed of fellow agents and confidential informants) to become "prospects," the precursor to joining the club as full members (or "patches"). And what a club it is. Dobyns dispatches any romantic illusions of the outlaw biker lifestyle in short order, describing the byzantine and often ridiculous rules of conduct, dress and fealty governing every moment of a Hells Angel's day (much of which is excruciatingly boring and filled with endless meetings, bad food and constant macho posturing). But as Dobyns makes clear, no matter how laughable some of the situations he found himself in (the absurd HA wedding he hosted is one example), the Hells Angels themselves--violent, cruel, misogynistic, marginally intelligent and often drug-addled--are not funny at all.
Despite the "hellish" nature of his assignment, Dobyns found himself drawn into the Hells Angels culture, perversely honored when club leaders trusted and befriended him, and his Bird persona began to take over. That we--and he--see this coming from the beginning makes his transformation no less affecting or believable. Dobyns and his talented co-writer Nils Johnson-Shelton keep the pace brisk, the suspense high and fill every page of this memoir with compelling details and facts about everything from the embroidered patches on the Hells Angels' vests to the Harley-Davidsons they ride. But, as the end result of the sting operation shows, the one question Dobyns can't yet answer is whether or not it was worth it.--Debra Ginsberg
Shelf Talker: A fascinating view inside the world of the Hells Angels by an ATF undercover agent who spent years becoming one of them--and nearly lost himself in the process.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Where Will You Be Reading Next?


In response to last week's column, Doug Siebold, publisher of Agate Books, shared his recent post to a group discussion administered by Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks at LinkedIn, the business social networking site. Siebold envisions "the e-book turning into a complementary format, like the audiobook did 20 years ago. I think only the heaviest readers, e.g. students and academics, will really need a dedicated appliance, and even then it will need to come down under $100 for people to adopt it in big numbers. Using Stanza myself on my iPod Touch really opened my eyes--it's perfect for incidental reading, like at the doctor's office or waiting in line or on the train, and in situations like those the backlit screen is a real plus, and not the negative so many assumed it would be."

Stephanie Anderson, new manager of WORD bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y., is an indie bookseller trying to address "now" and its implications for her profession. She begins by considering the "old chestnut" theory that some readers will always want traditional books.

"Well, I do think that the old chestnut is important," she observes. "When I worked at Moravian Book Shop, our clientele was much older, and we would be doing them a disservice by really pushing e-books. Some readers always will want to handle a book, and I suspect the percentage of that group is more likely to shop at an indie store than a random sampling of readers. So the real challenge, I think, is how do we serve our existing, loyal (to us and to physical books) customers but also serve customers that want e-books. How do we balance? And how do we keep an eye on the balance as it changes? I think the rapid and stunning popularity of the iPod is a good example here. I was in high school when it was introduced, and then it was this cool, young-people thing. But now my grandfather has one. He loves it (but he, and I, still have CDs, too)."

Anderson believes that, "If there isn't a place for e-books in the indie store retail future, there isn't an indie store retail future. I like your Genius Bar example. That is always what I've envisioned--you handsell the book and then the customer sets their e-reader into the dock, pays you, downloads the book, and leaves. It's important for indie booksellers to look at this as an opportunity, not, groan, another thing to add to an already busy day. As I see it, once most books are available in e-book form, and presumably stored on someone else's server and accessible through the Internet, the so-called advantage that chain and online bookstores have in terms of number of titles available just disappears. Everyone is on a level field now--except that we still have the advantages we've always had, like solid customer service/hospitality, staff who read books and handsell well, etc."

Can booksellers redefine and reinvent their handselling expertise for the digital age? Anderson offers a personal example: "I have handsold books through my blog to people I have never seen before and never will, because I don't even know where they live. I think Twitter can do this too, I hope to experiment with that this year with a store Twitter feed and track sales of books mentioned on blog or Twitter."

Anderson adds that she has "just switched jobs and I think my new boss is willing to let me play with a lot of these ideas, although I think the industry is still at least a year away from any serious implementation of bookstore-level downloads of e-books. The neighborhood I'm in now is younger and more technology-literate, and so I plan to keep a very close eye on any developments. I would love WORD to be one of the first stores to make this work. Personally, my G1 (Google and T-Mobile's response to the iPhone) is arriving in the mail today, and I look forward to playing with the e-book readers that develop for it. I have a personal Twitter and I'm going to be running a store one as well."

And what comes after now?


For Anderson, this means "keeping an open mind, and always remembering that whatever comes next, it's going to have to work just as well at my new store as my old one. Both groups of customers are important to the success of indies, and I don't want one to get left behind or the other to get out of our grasp."--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


Powered by: Xtenit