Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Workman Publishing: Paint by Sticker: Plants and Flowers: Create 12 Stunning Images One Sticker at a Time! by Workman Publishing

Sourcebooks Landmark: The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris

Simon & Schuster: Recording for the Simon & Schuster and Simon Kids Fall Preview 2022

Soho Crime: Lady Joker, Volume 2 by Kaoru Takamura, translated by Allison Markin Powell and Marie Iida

Berkley Books: Once Upon a December by Amy E. Reichert; Lucy on the Wild Side by Kerry Rea; Where We End & Begin by Jane Igharo

Kensington Publishing Corporation: The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman

St. Martin's Press: Wild: The Life of Peter Beard: Photographer, Adventurer, Lover by Graham Boynton

News

Notes: Snowball Chill; Oscar Wilde to Close

While remaining generally supportive, Warren Buffett is apparently displeased enough with The Snowball, the biography of him by Alice Schroeder, that he has canceled a traditional annual dinner at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting at which Schroeder would ask Buffett a range of questions, according to the New York Times.

Reportedly Buffett was not pleased about her portrayal of his complicated personal life. The investor had given Schroeder full access and freedom to write as she wanted.

Schroeder told the Times, "We're still in touch with each other. But now that the book is finished, it is not as frequent as before. You can conjecture what you want from that. I will not stop the conjecture."

Last fall, when The Snowball was published, Schroeder said that Buffett encouraged her 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 told Shelf Awareness. "There were times obviously that it made him very vulnerable. Few people would put themselves in such a situation. It was courageous of him." (Shelf Awareness, September 28, 2008)

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The landmark Oscar Wilde Bookshop in Greenwich Village will close March 29. Owner Kim Brinster told the New York Times that the current economic crisis is a primary factor in the decision. The closing of what is "believed to be the oldest gay and lesbian bookstore in the country . . . came nearly six years after the store was about to close, only to be given a last-minute reprieve when a new owner bought it," the Times added.

In an e-mail message to customers yesterday, Brinster shared the news "with a sorrowful heart . . . We want to thank all of our customers for their love and loyalty to the store over the years. You have helped make this store a world wide destination and all of us at the store have enjoyed welcoming our neighbors whether they are next door or half way around the world."

Brinster told the Times that "sales had declined by double-digit percentages, compared with a year ago, each month since August. On Tuesday, she noted, the store had only two paying customers."

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Perhaps because he had other things on his mind at the time, the pilot of US Airways Flight 1549 lost a library book when his plane crashed in the Hudson River earlier this month. Extra TV reported that when he called to report the loss, the Fresno State Library not only waived his lost book fee, but "also dedicated a replacement copy to heroic Captain Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger! It gets better--the book was about ethics!"

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Cool idea of the day.

Meagen Kucaj, publicity manager of Shaman Drum Bookshop, Ann Arbor, Mich., wrote that the store "hosted its best event ever--a marriage proposal! We were approached by a customer who asked if he could propose to his girlfriend at the store, as we are her favorite bookstore. He placed the ring on a bookmark inside Jeffrey Eugenides's collection My Mistresses's Sparrow Is Dead. He then put the book on display and waited patiently while she browsed the entire store. Finally, she came to the kiosk with the book and he pointed it out to her. She picked it up and looked confused until she opened it. Of course, she said yes! The bookseller at the desk was applauding, the bride-to-be was so surprised and delighted, and the groom-to-be could only thank himself for planning such a romantic moment."

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On Monday we mentioned a new book club at the Red Balloon Bookshop, St. Paul, Minn., for adults who love children's literature. Several people noted that other bookstores have similar clubs--and interestingly they're also in the Midwest.

Ellen Scott at the Bookworm, Omaha, Neb., has a club called AardBaark with the same focus as the Red Balloon's. And in Wayzata, Minn., not far from the Red Balloon, the Bookcase started working with the Children's Literature Network and for about six months has been running the Chapter & Verse book club.

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In a column in the Orlando Sentinel about Florida sales taxes not being collected by out-of-state online retailers, Bruce Harris, owner of Urban Think!, commented: "This just seems like an easy one. . . . I mean, at some point, we have to actually pay for what we need in this state."

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HarperCollins has published its first video book, a video edition of What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis, a hardcover title published by Collins Business and priced at $26.99. The video edition runs 23 minutes and is available on Amazon.com for $9.99.

The video was created in the HarperCollins Digital Video Studio. In it, Jarvis, who is a media columnist, blogger and owner of Buzzmachine.com, examines Google's approach to business and its applications to other organizations.

"Part of our mission is to help authors find new and complementary ways to present their ideas to consumers through multiple platforms, formats and channels," Brian Murray, HarperCollins president and CEO, said in a statement. "A video edition of Jeff's book is a terrific example of a product that is both a viral marketing tool and possibly a new revenue stream."

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Amazon.com and CreateSpace are accepting submissions for the second annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award through this coming Sunday, February 8, or until 10,000 entries have been received, whichever comes first. The winner of the contest receives a publishing contract with Penguin Group and a $25,000 advance.

On March 16, 500 quarterfinalists, selected by Amazon expert reviewers, will be announced. On April 15, the group will be winnowed down to 100 by Publishers Weekly reviewers. Beginning May 15, Amazon.com customers will vote between three finalists selected by Penguin Group editors.

The winner of the first Breakthrough Novel Award last year was Bill Loehfelm for Fresh Kills, a thriller set on Staten Island in New York City that was published last August.

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The publishing program of La Leche League International, which supports breastfeeding, is moving to Ballantine Books, which has acquired North American rights.

The first two books in the program will be an updated version of La Leche's classic, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, to be published in late spring 2010, and a nutrition guide/cookbook for nursing mothers.

 

 


Vintage: Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin


Borders 'Eliminates' 16 Executives

Borders Group has made another round of layoffs at the corporate level, eliminating six v-p and 10 director positions, most of which are at the company's headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The affected people include Ken Armstrong, executive v-p of U.S. stores; Susan Harwood, senior v-p and CIO; Kevin Ertell, senior v-p, e-business; the v-p of real estate; v-p of human resource services; and v-p, creative. In addition, Fred Boehler, senior v-p, logistics, is leaving the company.

The 10 director positions include sales director and Waldenbooks specialty retail regional director as well as directors for Paperchase gifts and stationery, merchandise strategy, merchandise planning and replenishment and national event marketing.

CEO Ron Marshall, who is just completing his first month in the post, commented in a statement, "As we address the immediate priority of getting our company's financial house in order, one of our goals is to more aggressively reduce annual expenses. It is difficult to make the decision to eliminate jobs, especially those of talented and dedicated leaders who have significantly contributed to our organization, yet streamlining our leadership and eliminating management layers will help us be more agile and at the same time advance us toward our expense reduction goals."

As a result of the changes, Steve Davis, senior v-p of Borders Group operations, will also become head of the store operations group. Chief administrative officer Dan Smith will take on responsibility for information technology. Rich Fahle will now be v-p, Borders.com.

Last June, Borders cut 274 corporate jobs, 156 at headquarters, representing about 20% of the corporate staff (Shelf Awareness, June 3, 2008).

 


Beaming Books: Sarah Rising by Ty Chapman, illustrated by Deann Wiley


Winter Institute, Part 3: Edelweiss

At the Winter Institute, John Rubin, founder and head of Above the Treeline, the sales tracking system that many booksellers credit with greatly improving their turns and margins, gave an update of Edelweiss, his company's interactive online catalogue project that is currently being tested by 10 publishers and "a good number" of booksellers. The 10 publishers consist of eight general trade publishers and two Christian houses.

Announced last year (Shelf Awareness, October, 30, 2008), Edelweiss contains all the information in a publisher's print catalogue and allows the material to be customized in a variety of ways by reps and booksellers and allows orders and other material to be integrated into point-of-sale systems. The catalogues will be free for booksellers and can be used by retailers that do not use Above the Treeline.

Rubin outlined a range of advantages of the electronic catalogue. Among them: savings for publishers on the millions of dollars they spend every season on printed catalogues; the e-catalogue is much more environmentally friendly than printed catalogues; an e-catalogue improves the breadth and timeliness of the information contained; there are an unlimited number of illustrations that can be loaded; the e-catalogue can have links to authors' websites. In addition, all kinds of information, including jackets and titles and more, can be updated easily.

E-catalogues also "improve how reps and booksellers communicate," Rubin said, in part because reps are not "just presenting bibliographic material." They are creating specific mailings for accounts and are looking at it all "asychronistically," Rubin said.

For booksellers, a major advantage of Edelweiss is the ability to manage catalogues in one place instead of having stacks of hardcopy catalogues. Booksellers can also "slice and dice" the catalogues, whether to see "all June titles, all children's titles, all fiction," etc.

Although one audience member feared that reading catalogues on a computer could require more time than reading printed catalogues, Rubin said that customization makes the buying process occur faster. "Our goal is to make this a better experience than hard print catalogues," Rubin said.

"We're learning a lot," Rubin said of the test, which has been running since November 1 and will end May 1. Edelweiss is loading catalogue data and reps are sending mailings to booksellers. All of these steps are "a new process," particularly for publishers.

Among other aspects, during the test, Edelweiss is configuring how the e-catalogue would work for stores with multiple locations. It is also addressing POS and ordering issues.

Rubin said that in terms of training, Edelweiss is more "intuitive and straight-forward" than Above the Treeline.

Because some reps and booksellers want printed catalogue material, Edelweiss is working with Lightning Source on making hard copies of the electronic catalogues for those who want them. Rubin noted that using flexible pdfs, booksellers can also print out what they want.

Possible future applications include making Edelweiss e-book friendly and using it to help receive coop funds.

An application that was received enthusiastically by booksellers but with some wariness by publishers is an area where buyers can blog about books in the catalogue, a place all other buyers would have access to and publishers could see but not be able to edit. "Likely we'll have to regulate this," Rubin said.

Asked why the program was called Edelweiss, Rubin said that the alpine flower blooms above the treeline.--John Mutter

 


Shelf Awareness Job Board: Click Here to Post Your Job>


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Azar Nafisi on Memory and Writing

Today on Fox's O'Reilly Factor: Bernard Goldberg, author of A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (and Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media (Eagle Publishing, $25.95, 9781596980907/1596980907). Goldberg is also on Fox's Glenn Beck Show tomorrow.

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Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Azar Nafisi, author of Things I've Been Silent About: Memories (Random House, $27, 9781400063611/1400063612). As the show put it, "Azar Nafisi is one of the most powerful advocates literature has. After writing Reading Lolita in Tehran, her memoir about reading forbidden books in a repressive culture, she has taken on a new source of repression--the family. In this conversation, we explore how memory and writing alter our experience of the past."

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Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Liaquat Ahamed, author of Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World (Penguin, $32.95, 9781594201820/159420182X).

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Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Neil DeGrasse Tyson, author of The Pluto Files (Norton, $23.95, 9780393065206/0393065200).

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Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Steve Martin, author of Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life (Scribner, $15, 9781416553656/1416553657).

Also on Colbert: Emmanuel Jal, author of War Child: A Child Soldier's Story (St. Martin's, $24.95, 9780312383220/0312383223).

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Tomorrow night on Late Night with David Letterman: Joe Torre, author of The Yankee Years (Doubleday, $26.95, 9780385527408/0385527403).

 


Books & Authors

Awards: Discover Great New Writers Finalists

The finalists for Barnes & Noble's 2008 Discover Great New Writers Awards are:

Fiction:

Zachary Lazar for Sway (Little, Brown)
Gin Phillips for The Well and the Mine (Hawthorne Books)
Benjamin Taylor for The Book of Getting Even (Steerforth Press)

Nonfiction:

David Sheff for Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey through His Son's Addiction (Houghton Mifflin)
Eric Weiner for The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World (Twelve)
Nia Wyn for Blue Sky July: A Mother's Story of Hope and Healing (Dutton)

The winners in each category receive a $10,000 prize and a year of additional promotion in B&N stores. Second-place finalists receive $5,000, and third-places finalists take home $2,500. Winners will be announced March 4.

 


Book Brahmin: Brad Gooch

Brad Gooch is the author of a new biography of Flannery O'Connor, Flannery, which Little, Brown is publishing February 25, as well a biography of Frank O'Hara, City Poet. The recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Guggenheim fellowships, he earned a Ph.D. at Columbia University and is a professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey.
 
On your nightstand now:

Dostoevsky's The Idiot.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Old Testament Coloring Book
.

Your top five authors:

John Ashbery, Flannery O'Connor, Marcel Proust, Raymond Carver, Elizabeth Bishop.
 
Book you've faked reading:

Dostoevsky's The Idiot.

Book you're an evangelist for:

His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman.
 
Book you've bought for the cover:

God: A Biography by Jack Miles (all-white cover).

Book that changed your life:

Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton.

Favorite line from a book:

"What makes Iago evil? some people ask. I never ask."--Opening of Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Melville's Moby-Dick.

 



Book Review

Book Review: First Execution

First Execution by Domenico Starnone (Europa Editions, $15.00 Paperback, 9781933372662, February 2009)



A 60-plus professor in Naples discovers that his former student Nina has been arrested for armed conspiracy. When he visits her, she urges him to go to her friend's vacated home, find the book The Death of Virgil and copy out the underlined passage on page 46. Forever the idealist, believing his student is fighting injustice, the professor risks being followed, goes to the friend's home and searches the bookshelf. The book is not there.

Then the professor goes into the bedroom and finds the book by the bed.

At that point, the author intrudes, regrets the finding of the book in the bedroom and decides to cancel that part of the story. Suddenly you're no longer in an international crime novel--you find yourself in Pirandello and Calvino country. The author confesses that in reality the student was a boy, that he never went to see him and doesn't really like the story very much anyway.

Domenico Starnone's First Execution starts out like a promising Mediterranean noir but soon becomes a humane, angry little crime thriller about the writing of a crime thriller. Some sequences are done twice. Some expositions are tried in several ways. At one point, you go back to the original outline. And when the violent, bloody murder happens two-thirds of the way through the book, well, the bloodbath is the murder of a squawking, bulging-eyed chicken.

Another former student turns up as the police officer investigating the professor, a student the professor never noticed because he was stupid and ugly. Then the professor receives a threatening call from a man demanding to know the underlined sentence on page 46. When the professor confesses that he couldn't find the book, the guy says ominously. "I'll be there in two hours. Make sure you have what you promised."

There is one suspenseful sequence after another, but sometimes the same sequence more than once, tried two different ways, or deleted after you read it. The author lets us in on his choices and failures. He sets up his surprises like a master puppeteer, and we watch him pulling the strings, never casually, never just clever, always with his urgent humanitarian commitment. The author's exploration of the violence buried inside himself is eloquent and searing.

Within this tight little 163-page marvel, Starnone creates characters you care about, a labyrinth of a plot and plenty of trap doors swinging open under your feet in an exhilarating, heartfelt tour de force.--Nick DiMartino

Shelf Talker: A clever, suspenseful crime thriller about the writing of a crime thriller, with twists, turns, reversals and trapdoors.

 


The Bestsellers

Mystery Booksellers' Top Sellers in 2008

The bestselling titles during 2008 at member bookstores of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association were:

Hardcover

1. From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris (Ace)
2. Cockatiels at Seven by Donna Andrews (St. Martin's)
3. Nothing to Lose by Lee Child (Bantam)
4. The Given Day by Dennis Lehane (Morrow)
5. The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
6. Hell's Bay by James W. Hall (St. Martin's)
6. Careless in Red by Elizabeth George (Morrow)
8. Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais (Simon & Schuster)
9. Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear (Holt)
10. Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva (Putnam)
10. Swann Peak by James Lee Burke (Simon & Schuster)

Softcover

1. The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster)
2. In the Woods by Tana French (Penguin)
3. Volk's Game by Brent Ghelfi (Picador)
4. Murder Is Binding by Lorna Garrett (Berkley)
5. Still Life by Louise Penny (St. Martin's)
6. Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler (Bantam)
6. Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann (Flying Dolphin)
8. Dying in a Winter Wonderland edited by Tony Burton (Wolfmont)
9. Consequences of Sin by Clare Langley-Hawthorne (Penguin)
10. Masie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (Penguin)

[Many thanks to the IMBA!]

 


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