Shelf Awareness for Friday, April 10, 2009

Tor Nightfire: Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Big Picture Press: Art of Protest: Creating, Discovering, and Activating Art for Your Revolution by De Nichols

Callaway Arts & Entertainment: The Beatles: Get Back by The Beatles, photographed by Linda McCartney

St. Martin's Press: The Christie Affair by Nina De Gramont

Soho Crime: My Annihilation by Fuminori Nakamura, translated by Sam Bett

Candlewick Press: Hello, Little Fish!: A Mirror Book by Lucy Cousins

Merriam-Webster Kids: Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day: 366 Elevating Utterances to Stretch Your Cranium and Tickle Your Humerus by Merriam-Webster


Notes: CRP on Patriot Act; Changing Hands on Turning 35

A memo sent by the American Booksellers Association, American Library Association, Association of American Publishers and PEN American Center on April 7 urged Congress "to exempt bookstores and library records from Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act," Bookselling this Week reported, adding that the appeal "is the latest phase in the Campaign for Reader Privacy (CRP), the groups' five-year effort to restore reader privacy safeguards stripped away by the Patriot Act. Although the Patriot Act is set to expire at the end of the year, legislation is under consideration that would extend the law."

"We believe the time has come to reassure Americans that the government is not reading over their shoulder," said ABA COO Oren Teicher.


Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, Ariz., celebrated its 35th anniversary last weekend with an all-day party. Gayle Shanks, ABA president and the bookstore's co-owner, told BTW, "We had a lovely 35th birthday celebration. The store was filled with customers who all claimed to have been shopping at our store since day one, some of whom I recognized, and some for whom I think it was a figment of their imagination. But it was fun to have so many claim to have been shopping here since 1974."

Shanks added that the highlight of the day was seeing people who'd been customers when they were kids bringing their own children to the bookshop. "That really touched my heart," she said. "I saw a woman with her two young children, and I remembered when she was their age. Her kids were dancing with Peter Rabbit. I got so emotional. The tears were pouring. . . . It was really wonderful. It was quite a magical day."


Indigo Rose Books and Gifts, Fort Collins, Colo., will open this weekend at the site of the former Old Corner Book Shop. The Coloradoan reported that Judith Winterowd purchased the bookstore on March 12 from former owner Jane Tester, who had to close the business in February due to health issues.

Jacky Canton, Tester's daughter, told the Coloradoan they "are happy to have sold the store to someone who is willing to run it as a bookstore like her mother wanted."


Hicklebee's bookstore, San Jose, Calif., was selected by State Senator Joe Simitian as his district's Small Business of the Year, reported. Hicklebee's, which specializes in books for children and young adults, will celebrate its 30th anniversary April 18.

"Hicklebee's is a champion in the world of reading," said Simitian, who chose an independent bookstore for the fifth year in a row. "Over the years they've introduced generations of children to the magic of books. Hicklebee's continued success--despite the challenges bookstores face today--demonstrates that they're valued by our community. . . . As we watch the continual 'malling of America,' we ought to take a moment to appreciate our locally-owned, neighborhood bookstores. They are helping to grow the next generation of well-read young adults."


In the Huffington Post, Max Wheeler, part-owner of Equator Books, Venice, Calif., wrote that the rare and out-of-print bookshop "will be forced to close its doors very soon without your help. It seems that there is no longer enough money or will in the collective coffers of Los Angeles book lovers and cultural elite to sustain an institution that serves its city and neighborhood with a unique, hand-selected inventory of art and literature.

"There must be a believer out there," he concluded, "one with both the foresight and resources to keep our city from becoming a wasteland of corporate chain stores, uninspired conformity and heartless mediocrity, and we think saving Equator Books would be a very good place to start."


Noting that "in an era of economic uncertainty and consolidation, even the short story could use a little additional support," the New York Times reported that Random House's Anchor Books will partner with the PEN American Center and rename its annual O. Henry Prize Stories collection the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories. The change will take effect with the 2009 collection, edited by Laura Furman.

Nevada has gotten into the spirit of National Poetry Month. The Reno Gazette-Journal reported that the Nevada Arts Council website is featuring a new poem every weekday during the month of April.


Bookselling this Week continued its series on candidates for the 2009 ABA board of directors elections with a profile of Beth Puffer of Bank Street Bookstore, New York, N.Y. Puffer, a current member of the board, is up for election to a second three-year term.


If you think you're seeing vampires everywhere lately, there's a logical reason. According to USA Today, sales of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Series books "accounted for about 16% of all book sales tracked by the [USA Today bestseller] list in the first quarter of 2009. That's about one in seven books."


And vampires aren't the only monsters devouring our pop culture attention spans. USA Today observed that "another contingent of the undead is storming our pop culture landscape. Zombies are everywhere." The recent success of the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was cited as one example of a trend that was also explored by the Guardian.

J.K. Rowling has ended her role as patron of the Multiple Sclerosis Society Scotland. Her mother suffered from the disease and the author had been a supporter of the charity for nearly a decade. According to the New York Times, Rowling said "she had been unable to resolve a dispute between the group’s national office in Edinburgh and its management in London."


Berkley Books: Sadie on a Plate by Amanda Elliot

General Retail Sales: March Dip

In March, general retail sales fell slightly, 1.8% as measured by Thomson Reuters and 2.1% by Goldman Sachs. Continuing trends noted earlier, Wal-Mart and other discount stores had the best performances; luxury and department stores had the worst results.

There were some notes of optimism by observers. The Wall Street Journal observed that "several hard-hit apparel and department store chains raised their quarterly profit outlooks, underscoring how tighter inventories and cost cutting are helping improve margins." And "consumer confidence is rebounding with the stock market, bolstering hopes that the steep sales drop in the fourth quarter has abated. Still, joblessness and frozen credit markets continue to weigh on consumer spending."

Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics, told the Journal: "It's going to be a long, slow 'U' shaped recovery, not a 'V.' "

Matthew F. Katz of AlixPartners, told the New York Times, "We're not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination. We've seen a lot of mortgage reapplications and refinancings. And we've seen a slight blip in expenditures. However, if you listen to what folks are telling us, there's a new normal out there."

The Times described that new normal as "people are saving more and thinking carefully about how they spend."

Among discounters, March sales at Wal-Mart and Costco stores open at least a year rose 1.4% and 3%, excluding gasoline sales. Sales at Kohl's dropped 4.3%, Target fell 6.3% and the Gap was down 8%. At Saks, same-store sales fell 23.6% and at Nordstrom were down 9%.


Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association: We're throwing a bookselling party and you're invited!

BISG's Making Information Pay Conference: The Lineup

The Book Industry Study Group has confirmed speakers and sessions for its Making Information Pay conference, which will be held Thursday, May 7, in New York City. The program includes:

  • Leigh Watson Healy, chief analyst, Outsell, who will speak on the subject of A Time of Great Change.
  • Mike Shatzkin, founder and CEO, the Idea Logical Company, on the Publishing Climate 2009: Wrestling with Change
  • Jim King, senior v-p and general manager, BookScan U.S., talking about the Retail Perspective: What's Up? What's Down?
  • Kelly Gallagher, general manager, business intelligence, Bowker, whose subject is the Customer's Always Right: Who Is Today's Book Consumer?
  • Dominique Raccah, publisher and CEO, Sourcebooks, on Business Unusual: Rethinking the Publishing Enterprise in Response to Changing Times
  • Marcus Leaver, president of Sterling Publishing on the New Marketing Budget: Breaking Traditional Marketing Allocations to Build a More Effective Model
  • Josh Marwell, president of sales, HarperCollins, speaking about the 21st Century Catalogue: A look at HarperCollins's Initiative to Shift from Print to Digital Catalogues
  • Dave Thompson, v-p, sales analysis, Random House, who will talk about Squeezing the Most Sales from Non-Book Accounts: Tactics for Working with Inexperienced Buyers in Mass Merchant and Other Non-Book Accounts

For more information about the conference, go to BISG's website.


Berkley Books: 30 Things I Love about Myself by Radhika Sanghani

Fodor's on BEA: New York City for Free

[Editor's note: Fodor's is kindly offering BEA tips, which will run weekly between now and the show. This is the first installment.]

If you're going to BookExpo America for more than a day, you'll probably need to escape from the endless meetings and booth-hopping. Or as they say in professional wrestling, you'll need to tag out for a second or two. Luckily there are many classic New York sights very close to Javits Center. And better yet, most of them are free.

Here are some of our favorite low-cost (or free) things to do within reach of the convention. We've organized them roughly by proximity to Javits, so start at the top.

Tipple at the Algonquin Hotel

Pretend you're Dorothy Parker or George S. Kaufman and have a vodka martini in the understated elegance of this legendary hotel. Literary types and plutocrats schmooze in the hallways, and signed works of former Round Table raconteurs can be checked out of the library. Even Matilda, the resident cat who languishes in the parlorlike lobby, seems to know that the draw here is the ghost of its literary past. 59 W. 44th St. between 5th and 6th Avenues.

Visit Grand Central Terminal

Marvel at Grand Central Terminal's spectacular main concourse; the ceiling painted with the constellations of the zodiac is one of the city's treasures. Don't forget to stop for oysters and a quick drink at the Oyster Bar. 42nd St. at Park Ave.

Take in Some Free Modern Art

Explore the new Museum of Modern Art on Friday between 4 and 8 p.m., when the $20 entry fee is waived during Target Free Friday Nights. Tickets are not available in advance, so plan to wait in line. 11 W. 53rd St., between 5th and 6th Aves.

Hoof It Past Great Architecture

A stroll down Park Avenue from 53rd Street to 47th Street takes you past some legendary New York buildings. The Waldorf Astoria (301 Park Ave.) is a riot of art deco prowess. Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building (375 Park Ave.) single-handedly brought the International Style to America, and Gordon Bunshaft's Lever House (390 Park Ave.) popularized the glass curtain wall in American architecture.

Catch a Rising Star

Juilliard School, the famous conservatory, offers free student concerts in classical music, drama and dance. Free tickets are available at the Juilliard box office for theater performances; there's also a line for standby an hour before the show. Smaller acts don't require tickets beforehand. 144 W. 65th St.

Drop In at the Met

Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the $20 entry fee is really a suggested donation. You may get some eye-rolling from the cashier, but it's a small price to pay for access to so many world-famous works. 1000 5th Ave. at 80th St.

Stop and Enjoy Central Park

Spring in the Central Park Conservatory is pretty hard to beat; the pathways beneath the blossoming trees are gorgeous. For a great panoramic view, consider having a drink on the roof of the Met. 5th Ave. at 105th St.

Escape the Craziness of BEA to . . . Watch People Be Crazy

Watch wannabe trapeze artists swing and soar at the Trapeze School New York (as shown on Sex and the City). They've helped locals and visitors alike make leaps of faith since 2002. Pier 40 at Houston St.
Explore the Federal Reserve Bank

Two key New York City themes--money and art--meet at the Federal Reserve Bank. Some $99 billion worth of gold belonging to 60 countries and international organizations is stored 50 feet below sea level in this building that looks like a Florentine palace. Free 60-minute tours are given Monday through Friday.

Visit the City's "Other" Central Park

Riverside Park, which stretches four miles from 68th to 158th Streets along the Hudson River, is a New York City treasure. Wander along the river promenade to the 79th Street Boat Basin, and watch the sun go down while sipping a cocktail at the Boat Basin Cafe (top of the curving stone steps at 79th Street and the promenade).

For more information, check out Fodor's New York City 2009, the full-color guide that the
New York Times calls "the can't-go-wrong choice for just about any [traveler] to the Big Apple." You can also find great deals, book a trip and share your travel tales on


G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
Four Treasures of the Sky
by Jenny Tinghui Zhang

GLOW: Flatiron Books: Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui ZhangDaiyu, named after a tragic heroine, is the young protagonist of Jenny Tinghui Zhang's stunning debut novel, Four Treasures of the Sky, a work of historical fiction set in the 1880s. Daiyu happily follows a stranger when he promises her a full belly, but instead of feeding her noodles, he smuggles her from China to California, where she begins a dizzying journey that fuses folklore and history with a masterful eloquence. "There's still a strong bias toward thinking of the lone cowboy as the quintessential symbol of the West," says Flatiron senior editor Caroline Bleeke, who quickly fought to preempt the book after reading an early manuscript. "But that elides the experiences of everyone else, particularly women and POC." A book to sit alongside Yaa Gyasi's Homecoming and Anna North's Outlawed, this is a powerful tale of reclamation, spun with soul by a remarkable new talent. --Lauren Puckett

(Flatiron Books, $27.99 hardcover, 9781250811783, April 5, 2022)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Media and Movies

Media Heat: The Blue Zones

This morning on Good Morning America: Dan Buettner will unveil the latest Blue Zone expedition sponsored by AARP and National Geographic. Buettner's related book is The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest (National Geographic, $14.95, 9781426204005/1426204000), available in paperback on April 21.


Movies: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber and based on the book by Michael Chabon, opens today in limited distribution. The film stars Jon Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sienna Miller, Nick Nolte and Mena Suvari. The book is available from Harper Perennial ($10, 9780061687570/006168757X).


Books & Authors

Awards: Atwood on Canadian National Biz Book Prize Shortlist

Although better known as a Booker prize-winning novelist, Margaret Atwood is one of five writers shortlisted for the Canadian National Business Book award for her book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth. According to the CBC, prize organizers called Atwood "an intelligent outsider who seams together patterns and facts that provide context to the current crisis and where it slots into the human experience."

Atwood's competition for the $20,000 (US$16,299) prize includes Izzy: The Passionate Life and Turbulent Times of Izzy Asper, Canada's Media Mogul by Peter C. Newman, Stampede!: The Rise of the West and Canada's New Power Elite by Gordon Pitts, The Uncrowned King: The Sensational Rise of William Randolph Hearst by Kenneth Whyte and Relentless: The True Story of the Man Behind Rogers Communications by Ted Rogers.


Shelf Starter: Eat Sleep Sit

Eat Sleep Sit: My Year at Japan's Most Rigorous Zen Temple by Kaoru Nonomura (Kodansha, $24.95, 9784770030757/4770030754, April 2009)

Opening lines of books we want to read:


I awoke to the sound of rain. The long dark night, stretching interminably without beginning or end, I'd gone through alone. Yet at some point in the blackness of night I'd fallen asleep, slipping into what now seemed an unthinkably deep and quiet slumber.

It's raining, I thought. From between the covers I listened to the cold splat of rain on leaves in the garden, surprised to find myself so clear-headed. Apart from the unaccustomed interior of the room before my eyes, this was a perfectly ordinary morning, no different from any other.

When I left the old-fashioned inn, the wall clock was about to strike noon. After settling my bill, I placed my few remaining coins in the charity collection box on the counter and slid open the latticed front door. Fat drops of rain were still striking the cobblestones in the narrow lane outside. For a moment I hesitated, unwilling for the rain to stain the new split-toe socks in which my feet were awkwardly ensconced, but once I stepped outside it wouldn't matter anymore.

* * *

The road to [Eiheiji monastery] stretched peacefully through rolling hills that spread out in all directions like ripples on a lake. A single road. I pondered this. Roads come into being as people begin to travel with new purpose in places previously unmarked, each miniscule step helping to wear a path in the ground. This road in particular evoked that image for me. I started walking in silence, possessed of neither the means nor the will to fend off the falling rain, heading doggedly toward Eiheiji.

--Selected by Marilyn Dahl


Book Brahmin: Philip Gulley

Philip Gulley is the author of Front Porch Tales and the Harmony series as well as If Grace Is True and If God Is Love, co-written with James Mulholland. Gulley's latest book, I Love You, Miss Huddleston: And Other Inappropriate Longings of My Indiana Childhood, is being published this month by HarperOne. He and his wife, Joan, live in Danville, Ind., with their sons, Spencer and Sam.

On your nightstand now:

This week I'm reading John Grisham's latest, The Associate. And Diane Butler Bass's A People's History of Christianity.
Favorite book when you were a child:  

It was a book set in the early days of Indiana, Bears of Blue River by Charles Majors. A fun, fun read.

Your top five authors:  

E.B. White, Garrison Keillor, John Spong, Marcus Borg and Bill Bryson.

Book you've faked reading:  

I like to pretend I'm worldly, so I occasionally mention I've read The Koran, even though I haven't.

Book you are an evangelist for:  

The Letters of E.B. White. It's like peering through someone's window and spying on them.

Book you've bought for the cover:  

Salt by Mark Kurlansky. It looked intriguing, and was.

Book that changed your life:  

Why Christianity Must Change or Die by John Shelby Spong. It changed the way I "do" church.

Favorite line from a book:  

It's from one of my own books, but I'm too modest to say so. Well . . . maybe not. "There is a holiness to memory, a sense of God's presence in these mangers of the mind. Which might explain why it is that the occasions that change the least are often the very occasions that change us the most."--Christmas in Harmony

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

On Writing by Stephen King. I love reading about how other writers write.

Book you wish you had written:  

Stuart Little. If I had written Stuart Little, it would have provided enough income each year for me to goof off nine months out of twelve. I would have also liked to have written my favorite scene, when Stuart gets stuck in the refrigerator and warms up by asking for a nip of brandy.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Poetry Month at 15,000 Feet & Ascending

This year, National Poetry Month sometimes feels like Poetry Day or Poetry Hour or Poetry Minute to me . . . in a good way. The leisurely websiteseeing helicopter has been replaced by jet speed.

As I write this column on my laptop, I keep glancing over at my iMac screen like an edgy air traffic controller monitoring takeoffs and landings ("Seamus Heaney, climb and maintain 15,000; Cavafy, you're cleared to land on runway 27 left"). Twitter updates are scrolling by and poetry-themed Tweets take virtual flight in 140 characters or less:

  • @FSG_Books notes that Jonathan Galassi has written about Susan Wheeler's new collection, Assorted Poems.
  • @NewDirections offers thoughts on this Christian Bok Tweet: "Poetry is not language at play, but language out of work, deliberately unemployed--thus poetry commits a kind of welfare fraud upon us all."
  • @FaberBooks exclaims: "Wow, just got treated to Seamus Heaney reading in our offices! Don't worry, we've filmed it and will share it with you all soon."
  • @AAKnopf's Poem-A-Day is "On the Jetty" by C. P. Cavafy (and shortly after giving us that link, @AAKnopf ReTweets @ConnieAnnKirk's discovery: a video of Sean Connery reciting Cavafy's "Ithaca" to music by Vangelis).
  • @norton_fiction introduces the latest in Robert Pinsky's Poems Out Loud series: "I Love You, Man. Paul Rudd has nothing on Fulke Greville's poem 'Elegy for Philip Sidney.'"
  • @RichRennicks shares a "great website celebrating Seamus Heaney's 70th birthday."
  • @joebfoster notes that his "favorite book o' poetry to handsell" is New European Poets, edited by Wayne Miller and Kevin Prufer.

It's a stressful environment being a Twitter traffic controller, so I switch to the more leisurely pace of e-mails (the new snail mail) and some responses to last week's column.

Penny McConnel, co-owner of the Norwich Bookstore, Norwich, Vt., wrote, "We have an annual poetry month event when people bring a poem or two to read; either their own or a favorite written by someone else. The audience ranges from kids to oldsters and everyone loves the event. We start getting inquiries in January checking to make sure it will happen again."

On April 16, Chapter One Book Store, Hamilton, Mont., is hosting "a 'Poetry Out Loud' night," noted co-owner Russ Lawrence, adding that the event is "particularly targeted at high school students but open to all. Read or recite a short piece, our judges will render their verdicts based on interpretation, passion, and whatever random factors enter into it. There are real, published rules for events like this, but I think we’ll mostly just make it up!"
Steve Scolca, who is a bookseller as well as manager of Internet marketing at Norton, sent a "Dispatch to the Poetry Month Website-seeing Helicopter" highlighting the publisher's "Poetry Month Bonanza," including "What Is Poetry For?" which was filmed at the AWP Conference in Chicago in February and features 11 poets answering that primary question.

Then I decide to abandon technology altogether for memory and confession. Maybe I'll call this the iPoem section. I've spent enough cash in Apple stores in recent years to permit momentary borrowing of the sacred "i."

Debates about the merits of confessional poetry are ongoing and probably unending, but since I'm not a poet, I can change the focus slightly and introduce another concept: confessional reading of poetry.

Here's my Poetry Month confession. In the late 1960s, during my sophomore year in college, I took a creative writing course. For the first class, the instructor asked us to bring in books by our three favorite poets. I chose John Berryman and Theodore Roethke (to whom I'd been introduced the previous term) and Rod McKuen. Yes, that Rod McKuen. The class response was brutal. I'm surprised I ever read another poem by anybody.

Shortly afterward, I discovered Gary Snyder's Riprap, & Cold Mountain Poems and my career as a poetry reader was back on its flight path. Now I know that altitude--as well as attitude--is relative.

Setting websiteseeing helicopters and Twitter traffic controllers aside for a moment, I celebrate Poetry Month this week with the deceptive simplicity of Gary Snyder's closing lines from "Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout":

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

Later in the day, we fly again as @AAKnopf ReTweets @mcnallyjackson: "We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars."--Jack Gilbert, "Tear It Down."--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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