Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Random House Studio: Remember by Joy Harjo, illustrated by Michaela Goade

Oxford University Press, USA: Spring Reads

Chronicle Books: Tap! Tap! Tap!: Dance! Dance! Dance! by Hervé Tullet

Minotaur Books: The Golden Gate by Amy Chua

Charlesbridge Publishing: Glitter Everywhere by Chris Barton, illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat

Quotation of the Day

Vroman's Display: 'Books Amazon Doesn't Want You to Read'

"We have put up our display of 'Books Amazon Doesn't Want You to Read.'"--@Vromans tweet in reaction to Amazon's de-ranking of LGBTQ books (Shelf Awareness, April 13, 2009). In a subsequent bookstore blog post titled, "Amazonfail & The Cost of Freedom," Vroman's observed that "independent publisher sales rep John Mesjak put it best when he tweeted this statement: 'I haven't read all of #amazonfail, so I am likely repeating, but my takeaway: this S#!T happens with monoculture gatekeepers. Go IndieBound!'"


Candlewick Press (MA): Have You Seen My Invisible Dinosaur? by Helen Yoon


Amazon Responds to Critics, but Questions Persist

In response to the negative attention drawn to Amazon's de-ranking of certain titles on its website, company spokesman Drew Herdener issued the following statement Monday, as reported by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

"This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

"It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles. In fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

"Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future."

The New York Times featured an overview of the incident, including remarks by Daniel Mendelsohn, whose memoir, The Elusive Embrace, lost its sales ranking over the weekend: "There are mistakes and there are mistakes. At some point in this process, which I don't understand because I'm not a computer genius, the words gay and lesbian were clearly flagged, as well as some kind of porno tag. I say, do I want my book in anyone's mind to be equivalent to a porno? And the answer is no."

The Associated Press reported that Gore Vidal, whose classic The City and the Pillar had been unranked by Amazon, said, "What kind of a childish game is this? Why don't they just burn the books? They'd be better off and it's very visual on television."

And on his blog, former Soft Skull publisher Richard Nash wrote that his "personal background likely has more in common with the Amazon employees, however high up, than it does the with authors whose books are affected. As such I'm hereby saying to the ham-fisted error-makers: what happened was really really bad."

Nash argued that "the onus is on us, as Tim Wise has taught so well on the topic of white privilege. We cannot be given the benefit of the doubt, because it is always us who get the benefit of the doubt in our society, and if we are to take the pink and lavender dollars, and if we are to say, you don't need A Different Light, or Oscar Wilde Bookstore, we'll hook you up just fine, then we can never let this happen. I learned this as a straight white male publisher of queer books, it was why I took care to try to find staff who are gay or trans, to catch my complacency, my temptation to think I deserved the benefit of the doubt.

"I didn't, nor does Amazon. The vigilance and outrage demonstrated on Twitter are necessary, not because the folks at Amazon are bad people, but because the books that were de-ranked were de-ranked because it is always the outsider whose books get de-ranked and 'mainstream' society and the capitalist institutions that operate within it, whether my old company or Amazon, must self-police ruthlessly in order to guard against this kind of thing happening."


Zibby Books: Super Bloom by Megan Tady

Notes: Brown Bookstore's Director Hunt; NEIBA to Host Vt. Event

This week the university administration is reviewing applications for a new director of the Brown Bookstore at Brown University, Providence, R.I., the Brown Daily Herald reported. Manuel Cunard, who was director of the store since 2006, retired abruptly in February. During his tenure, the store had extensive renovations, opened the College Hill Cafe and revamped its online presence. Not long before his arrival from Wesleyan Unversity, an extensive campaign was successful in encouraging the university not to lease the store.


The New England Independent Booksellers Association board and advisory council are hosting an author luncheon and educational shop talk on Wednesday, June 17, in Brattleboro, Vt. Called "All About the Books," the event includes discussions by more than a dozen authors about their new books, readings and bookseller roundtables that will focus on sharing practical tools for weathering the current cold retail climate. The event is free for NEIBA members; space is limited. For more information and to register, click here.


The next Barnes & Noble Recommends selection is Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas, which is being published by St. Martin's today. Under the program, the book be the focus of a variety of B&N store events as well as reading group discussions. The store is also providing a free reading group guide about the book. B&N Recommends are chosen by B&N booksellers from across the country and are recommended unconditionally.

"Readers will be hooked on Prayers for Sale from the very first page," Jaime Carey, chief merchandising officer of B&N, said in a statement. "Sandra Dallas deftly blends historical details and quilting lore with authentic voices and emotional truths."

B&N called Prayers for Sale "the engrossing tale of a wise older woman with a lifetime of stories to tell, and a 17-year-old with prayers that need answers. Set in 1930s Colorado, it's a novel in which the drama, humor, and passions of one very full life are stitched into the fabric of another. Eighty-six-year-old Hennie has lived in Middle Swan, a gold-mining town in the Rockies, since before Colorado was a state. Nit has recently arrived in town with a recent history that reminds Hennie of her own youthful hopes and sorrows. Finding common ground in their Southern heritage and a love of quilting, an improbable bond is formed as Hennie captivates Nit with vivid memories that reach back to the mid-1800s. Summoning the feelings, dreams, and satisfactions of Hennie's years as a woman, mother, and wife, these stirring yarns serve as a healing balm for Nit--and help her piece together a new beginning for her own family."


"Iraq, once a country of fervent readers, now starves for books" was the headline for a McClatchy article that reported "students often can't find the books they need. Libraries and schools are understocked, and many bookstores are closed. At those that are open, academic selections are usually limited. College-level texts, books on specialized subjects and recent editions are the hardest to come by. Most elementary and high school students use decades-old materials."

"Some say books are a small matter compared to many of Iraq's issues, but I say this is not true," said Alaa Makki, a Sunni Muslim lawmaker who heads the Iraqi parliament's education committee. "Without knowledge and educated people, who will solve these things? I believe education is the path to solve all (Iraq's) problems, even the political problems and the security issues."

"It's true it may be hard to find academic books in Iraq, but the Iraqi reader is still an educated reader," Ahmed Basim, a Baghdad bookshop owner said. "So they appreciate this [book] fair. They long for these books."


Boing Boing highlighted "terrific Charles Dickens cigarette cards in the New York Public Library's Dickens' Gallery online collection."


The Guardian's book blog explored "the timeless appeal of the pony book," observing that  "There can't be many girls riding actual ponies these days, but they still want to read about them. . . . How many small girls own a pony? How many small girls even come within mucking-out distance of one of these snorting, flatulent, white-eyed quadrupeds? How many would want to spring out of bed at stupid'o'clock and start grooming their vermicious mounts should they possess one? But still the pony book persists."


Richard Price, T. C. Boyle, Jorie Graham and Yusef Komunyakaa were  named to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The Associated Press (via the New York Times) reported that the "new members will be inducted in a ceremony next month and will be allowed to serve on academy committees that award prizes, but otherwise they have no official responsibilities."

The AP described Price and Boyle as "two authors generally not fond of honors or distinctions," noting that Price had said in 1999, upon learning he'd won a literary prize from the academy, that he "thought maybe I get discounts at local restaurants."



GLOW: Avid Reader Press: My Name Is Iris by Brando Skyhorse

Eureka! Finding a Happy Mix

Even by California standards, Eureka--and the rest of Humboldt County--is considered an odd mix: steeped in logging and indigenous histories, environmentalist and political fringe friendly and known as a hotbed for the cultivation of marijuana.

In the middle of all that on 2nd St. in the Old Town section stands Eureka Books, an odd mix in its own right whose combination of inventory and activities are why it reports increased sales even in these difficult economic times.

Housed in a building dating from 1879, Eureka Books features cast iron columns out front, skylights in its high ceilings and a second story mezzanine that goes around the store, giving it a spacious quality. The smell is quintessential antiquarian bookstore. (Has anyone bottled that?) Built as a men's clothing store, the site has its own mixed history, having been a logger bar in the 1950s. Later, part of the mezzanine was closed off and a new bar/brothel, with an entrance from the back alley, was added.

"Customers still come in and say they remember seeing the girls upstairs," said Amy Stewart, one of the store's owners and the author of several books, including Flower Confidential and Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities, to be published by Algonquin next month. In December 2007, as the former owners retired, Stewart, her husband, Scott Brown, and another local couple, Jack and Peggy Irvine, bought Eureka Books.

Brown, a life-long book collector, said that the first time he walked into the store 17 years ago he thought to himself that he should buy it when the owners retired--although he never expected that to happen. Brown manages the store and is head buyer; Stewart manages the financial records and pitches in when needed. The other co-owners drop in regularly.

Local history is by far the most popular book category, which means logging, indigenous communities and railroads. At one time, Eureka featured 20 miles of cable cars, and the logging companies transported lumber via their own rails until the Northwestern Pacific hooked Humboldt to its rail lines.

"I see a good railroad book, I buy it," says Brown.

Slowly Eureka Books is selling new books, mostly by locals and/or of local and regional interest. "We're sort of feeling our way with the new books," Stewart said.

Mixed among the antiquarian stacks along the walls are prints and other treasures--all for sale, often tied to local history. Just past the counter (a desk with no cash register where transactions are recorded by hand), the new owners created a substantial display space for art work--Eureka Books' biggest sideline. Recently the store participated in Arts Alive, a monthly evening event in Old Town. Even in their small town, Stewart said Arts Alive always brings in new customers and represents the store's biggest monthly sales.

The art exhibits and treasures around the store add to both the curated ambiance and purpose of Eureka Books--which is why the staff manages online sales very closely so as not to prevent its loyal bricks-and-mortar customers from having access to the best stuff. On a slow day, Brown will post some things on eBay, but it is not a substantial part of the business.

Currently on display are vintage bird prints, but the store's art inventory includes maps, posters, blueprints and other original prints. The previous owners had display cases for some art and kept some in flat drawers, but the new crew wanted to highlight the art and expand its sales. New ledges built into the walls make it easy to change the exhibits. And when there's no art exhibit, illustrated books can be displayed, opened (even those marijuana books that do so well in Eureka).

On May 1, Eureka Books will launch Stewart's Wicked Plants. The wicked plants that have felled people throughout history--including Socrates and Lincoln's mom--were illustrated by artist Briony Morrow-Cribbs, using an etching technique that dates back to Rembrandt. They appear in black and white in the book, but the original color prints will be part of--and for sale at--Eureka's launch for Wicked Plants. (For more about the book, see Stewart's funny Wicked Plants trailer.)

Some sick and killer stuff--even for a bookseller from Eureka.--Bridget Kinsella


Obituary Note: Henry Hubert

Henry Hubert, a former bookseller in New York City and rep in the Rocky Mountain area, died this past Saturday at his home in Arvada, Colo.

Hubert started his career in the book business in 1959, working for Scribner's Bookstore in New York City, then worked at Simon & Schuster, first in the sales department, then as a rep based in Denver. Later he was an independent rep for Oxford University Press, the University of Chicago Press, Human Kinetics, Adams Media and others.

Rep Jock Hayward called Hubert "a real gentleman. He was revered by the buyers he called on. He was a lover of fine wine. He would only have dinner with you, if you allowed him to order the wine. For many years he made appointments for his selling trips to Santa Fe only after consulting the Santa Fe Opera summer schedule."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: A Little Bit Wicked

Today on Good Morning America: Donald Trump, author of Think Like a Champion: An Informal Education In Business and Life (Vanguard Press, $24.95, 9781593155308/1593155301). Trump is also on Larry King Live tomorrow night.


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Tori Spelling, author of Mommywood (Simon Spotlight, $25, 9781416599104/141659910X). She will also appear tomorrow on the View, Fox's Hannity Show, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight and EXTRA!.


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Kristin Chenoweth, author of A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages (Touchstone, $25, 9781416580553/1416580557).


Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Alan Huffman, author of Sultana: Surviving the Civil War, Prison, and the Worst Maritime Disaster in American History (Collins, $26.99, 9780061470547/0061470546).


Tomorrow on the Colbert Report: Jim Lehrer, author of Oh, Johnny (Random House, $25, 9781400067626/1400067626).


Tomorrow on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Don Rickles, author of Rickles' Letters (Simon & Schuster, $25, 9781416596639/1416596631).


Movies: Sheen Added to New Moon Cast

Michael Sheen, best known for his roles in Frost/Nixon and The Queen, has been added to the cast of The Twilight Saga: New Moon, adapted from the bestselling novel in Stephenie Meyer's vampire series.

Variety reported that Sheen "will portray the leader of the Volturi, an Italy-based coven of vampires," adding that the actor's resume includes playing "a werewolf in all three Underworld films."

New Moon began shooting last month, with Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson reprising their Twilight roles as Bella and Edward. According to Variety, Twilight has grossed $380 million worldwide.


Books & Authors

Awards: Philip K. Dick Award

Emissaries from the Dead by Adam-Troy Castro and Terminal Mind by David Walton were co-winners of the Philip K. Dick Award, presented annually for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the U.S. Results were announced at Norwescon 32, in SeaTac, Wash. The 2009 judges wre Daniel Abraham (chair), Eileen Gunn, Karen Hellekson, Elaine Isaak, and Marc Laidlaw.


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, April 21:

First Family by David Baldacci (Grand Central Publishing, $27.99, 9780446539753/0446539759) follows a former secret service agent's attempt to rescue the president's kidnapped son.

Perfectly Imperfect: A Life in Progress by Lee Woodruff and Bob Woodruff (Random House, $25, 9781400067312/1400067316) explores the challenges faced by the wife of Bob Woodruff, the ABC anchor who suffered a serious brain injury in Iraq.

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
by Alexander McCall Smith (Pantheon, $23.95, 9780375424496/0375424490) is the newest mystery in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.

Shadows Still Remain: A Novel by Peter De Jonge (Harper, $25.99, 9780061373541/0061373540) tells the story of an NYPD detective in pursuit of a missing college student.

The Power of Small: Why Little Things Make All the Difference
by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval (Broadway Business, $17.95, 9780385526555/0385526555) advocates focusing on the small events in daily life.

Deadlock by Iris Johansen (St. Martin's, $26.95, 9780312368111/0312368119) follows a U.N. archeologist hunting for a lost Russian treasure in Afghanistan.

The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business by Tara Hunt (Crown Business, $25, 9780307409508/0307409503) compiles strategies for using the Internet to improve business without being regarded as spam.

Now in paperback:

Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin (St. Martin's, $13.95, 9780312348663/0312348665).


Shelf Sample: Poems 1959-2009 by Frederick Seidel

When I looked for a copy of Frederick Seidel's poems (FSG, $40, 9780374126551/0374126550, April 7, 2009), it hadn't occurred to me that National Poetry Month was upon us--I was responding to a post from my favorite blogger, Ta-Nehisi Coates (author of The Beautiful Struggle). On the occasional Friday, he has a poetry post, and March 20 it was "October" by Frederick Seidel. Coates says, "I'm extremely embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of [this poet]. Someone should slap me." I had not heard of Seidel, either, but rectified that matter post-haste. Deemed by many to be among the finest poets writing in English, Seidel can be brutal and sophisticated, visionary and political, elegant and tender. The first poem I read, "Prayer," contained these lyrical spring lines: "Only a child's Crayola/ Could color a taxi cab this yellow/ In a distant city full of yellow flowers." So here's a poem for National Poetry Month:


None of the Above
Stays down here below.
My going very fast
Describes the atmosphere.

And when I die,
We orbit way
Above the sky of
And return
From stars.

We fall from stars
In all the colors of Brazil,
Of Africa, Iran.
We stir a black hole swirl, star
Figure skaters twirling on the black, galaxies

Unspooling on the surface tension
Of the morning coffee
In the cup.
The tiny bubble prickles
Are a house, a dog, a car.

One day an asteroid will come,
A mountain coming from the sky,
And from a long way off at last
The truth will see
Nothing can be done and nothing can remain.

-–Marilyn Dahl


The Bestsellers

Most Popular Mysteries in March

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

1. All the Colors of Darkness by Peter Robinson (Morrow)
2. Dead Silence by Randy Wayne White (Putnam)
2. Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear (Holt)
4. Fault Line by Barry Eisler (Ballantine)
5. Night and Day by Robert B. Parker (Putnam)
6. Whisper to the Blood by Dana Stabenow (St. Martin's)
7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson (Knopf)
8. Cape Disappointment by Earl Emerson (Ballantine)
8. The Long Fall by Walter Mosley (Riverhead)
10. Cream Puff Murder by Joanne Fluke (Kensington)


1. Scoop! by Hannah Dennison (Signet)
2. Mrs. Brightwell in the Nick of Time by Emily Brightwell (Berkley)
3. Hell's Bay by James W. Hall (St. Martin's)
3. Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn (Mira)
5. Tell Me, Pretty Maiden by Rhys Bowen (St. Martin's)
6. Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley (Touchstone)
7. August Heat by Andrea Camilleri (Penguin)
8. Ghouls Just Want to Have Fun by Victoria Laurie (Obsidian)
9. The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith (Anchor)
10. The Silver Needle Murder by Laura Childs (Berkley)

[Many thanks to IMBA!]


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