Shelf Awareness for Friday, May 8, 2009

Workman Publishing: Overthinking about You: Navigating Romantic Relationships When You Have Anxiety, Ocd, And/Or Depression by Allison Raskin

Wednesday Books: Together We Burn by Isabel Ibañez

Harper: Aurora by David Koepp

Gibbs Smith: Life Is Golden: What I've Learned from the World's Most Adventurous Dogs by Andrew Muse

Bloomsbury Publishing: Catch the Sparrow: A Search for a Sister and the Truth of Her Murder by Rachel Rear

Zest Books (Tm): How to Be a Difficult Bitch: Claim Your Power, Ditch the Haters, and Feel Good Doing It by Halley Bondy, Mary C. Fernandez, Sharon Lynn Pruitt-Young, and Zara Hanawalt

Scholastic Press: It's the End of the World and I'm in My Bathing Suit by Justin A. Reynolds


Notes: BISG's Making Information Pay; ABA CEO's Contract

One of the highlights of yesterday's Making Information Pay conference sponsored by the Book Industry Study Group was a statistic that put the current book market in a bit of perspective: so far in 2009, unit sales of books are down 1.2%, according to Dave Thompson, v-p of sales analysis at Random House. Thus, he said, despite the many changes occurring in the business and the "worst market we've ever seen . . . we're not in a death spiral." Moreover, he stressed, these sales don't include Wal-Mart, e-books and downloaded audiobooks.

Still most of the rest of the seminar focused on what BISG executive director Michael Healy called "truly transformational forces" in the book industry, including the changing tastes and habits of the reader, changing sales channels and how publishers are responding and should respond. Among themes: publishers have to recognize that the market has become more diffuse than ever and need to think "deeper" than broad book categories. As Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks put it: "We are competing harder in fewer categories. We're organizing internally around categories and category users and want to get to know readers better."

We'll have much more information from the seminar next week.


As part of a transparency policy, ABA president Gayle Shanks and vice-president Michael Tucker announced details regarding the contract for incoming CEO Oren J. Teicher. Bookselling This Week reported that "the ABA Board has entered into a five-year contract with Teicher, and the contract begins on June 1, 2009. His annual salary will be $275,000. The contract also provides for Teicher to be eligible for the ABA employee benefit package. (Given current economic conditions, ABA has temporarily suspended SEP and 401(K) contributions.)."

"We are delighted to have fashioned with Oren--the Board's unanimous choice for the job--an agreement that will serve ABA very well in the years to come and one with which he is pleased," said Shanks and Tucker in a joint statement. "The search committee and the Board wanted to be certain that the entire process of selecting a new CEO, and the terms of the contract, would be as open and as transparent as possible. We believe we have fully lived up to that commitment."


One element of this year's electronic voting procedure for ABA's Board of Directors may change. According to BTW, "Before ABA could send bookstores a ballot via electronic means, however, due to the way ABA's Bylaws are written, this year members had to opt in to the process. To allow for future electronic voting without the need for members to opt in, the Board of Directors has approved an amendment to the ABA Bylaws that will be put to a vote by membership at the ABA Annual Membership Meeting at BookExpo America."


"The idea of the store was that if you wanted to build a neighborhood, you needed to have a bookstore," Bruce Harris, owner of Urban Think bookshop, Orlando, Fla., told the Orlando Business Journal, which profiled the nonprofit bookshop and its wide-ranging community outreach efforts.

"I do this as a community bookstore," Harris said. "When I say the bookstore is mine, I say it loosely. All profits go to support our foundation, so if people believe in supporting literacy for grade school-age kids, we’re doing something about it."


Black Cat Books, which had sold used and collectible books in Sag Harbor, N.Y., since 1996, has just reopened in its new Bridgehampton space, the East Hampton Star reported

"In Sag Harbor space was a real issue,” said owner Dawn Hedberg. "For years, we wanted to make the move onto Main Street, but space never came up. It was really hard to find enough space to do a nice bookstore that was anything near affordable."


Fort Collins, Colo., is "flush with independent bookstores that go head-to-head with the big boys by providing new, used and rare reads," observed Fort Collins Now in its look at indies in the region, including Old Firehouse Bookstore, Matter Bookstore, Old Corner Bookstore (which has undergone a change of ownership and will soon become Indigo Rose Books and Gifts), Al's Bookstand, Reader's Cove, Book Lovers and BookEnds.

"We try to be an actual community bookstore rather than just a provider of books," said Charles Kaine, owner of Reader's Cove. "We try to be unique and original . . . but I won't lie to you, it’s been a tough row to hoe."


Calling it "a 21st-century version of the age of discovery, teams of computer scientists, conservationists and scholars are fanning out across the globe in a race to digitize crumbling literary treasures," the Wall Street Journal reported. One effect of this quest has been the discovery of  "unexpected troves of new finds, including never-before-seen versions of the Christian Gospels, fragments of Greek poetry and commentaries on Aristotle. Improved technology is allowing researchers to scan ancient texts that were once unreadable."


In its summer books preview, USA Today suggested: "Ask booksellers what books are hot this summer, and they cite fare that should appeal to readers in a tough economy." A seasonal release calendar was also featured.

"Everyone says it's better than the first one, and the first was pretty stunning," said Karen Corvello of R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Conn., regarding The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson (July 28), the follow-up to last year's bestseller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.


The art of the book. Boing Boing showcased the work of two book artists: Thomas Allen, who "cuts the figures from vintage paperbacks and folds them up and out of the cover to create dioramas" and Nicholas Galanin's "wonderful collection of sculptures made from books, featuring reliefs of faces and traditional Tlingit forms."


A good friend of Shelf Awareness, former bookseller and former Simon and Schuster field sales director, Roger S. Williams has left Peterson's Publishing Group after having made the company's study aids program profitable. Asked what he will be doing next, Roger said, "Well let's see, I don't have any talent to be an author, so the only things I haven't done in this industry are librarian or agent." He may be reached at or 609-865-0982.



Berkley Books: Harlem Sunset (A Harlem Renaissance Mystery) by Nekesa Afia

General Retail Sales: April Growth

In April, general retail sales gained 1.2%, as measured by Thomson Reuters. While Wal-Mart, with a 5% rise, drove the increase, there were other signs that consumers were starting to spend again.

The Wall Street Journal observed that "lower-end department stores also posted improved results, signaling that consumers are increasing their spending beyond the discount chains. However, the pain is continuing for luxury chains and some midmarket retailers."

"Before things get better, they have to stop getting worse," Michael McNamara, vice-president for research and analysis at MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, told the Journal. "It's pretty clear that things have stopped getting worse."

The New York Times noted that the "Easter holiday fell in April this year, a boost for stores selling children’s clothes and for pharmacies and discounters that sell Easter candy. . . . Although consumer spending has shown some signs of stabilizing, growing 2.2% in the first three months of 2009, shoppers do not seem likely to return to their spendthrift ways anytime soon. Unemployment is still rising, incomes are falling, and while consumers are not as frightened as they were a few months ago, they are still wary about the economy."

"People are feeling a little bit more confident and optimistic," Linda Tsai, a specialty retail analyst at MKM Partners, told the Times.

The Wall Street Journal cautioned, however, that "future industry reports will be vastly different because of Wal-Mart's decision to report sales on a quarterly, rather than monthly basis."


ECW Press: Play It Right: The Remarkable Story of a Gambler Who Beat the Odds on Wall Street by Kamal Gupta

The World's Gain, Bookselling's Loss

Russ and Jean Lawrence are selling their share of Chapter One Book Store, Hamilton, Mont., to their partner, Shawn Wathen, and then leaving the country June 3 to train and work as Peace Corps small business development volunteers in Peru for 27 months. Russ wrote, "We had been led to expect about three months' notice before our posting and were slotted for a September departure, but they called us a couple of weeks ago and offered us the Peru slots, but only if we could get our affairs resolved in five weeks--and they needed to know by the next day. We took a deep breath, a long walk, and had a (very encouraging) conversation with Shawn before signing on."

Unfortunately for the rest of us, the Lawrences won't be at BEA. Russ, a former ABA president, said, "We're very sorry we won't be there to say goodbye and to thank to our many, many friends in this wonderful universe. It's been a great run and, as with any job, it's the people who made it so."

The Lawrences don't know yet what "jobs" they'll have in Peru--likely "working with an artisan co-op or a group of farmers to help them develop better business skills, marketing, and provide know-how. Some volunteers also work on tourism development, and most also work on secondary projects based on their community's needs and resources, and the volunteer's imagination." But Russ said they're prepared for most anything. "I think that in addition to our 23 years at Chapter One Book Store, my experience with ABA's Book Sense and IndieBound programs will be invaluable. So will my experience doing improv."


University of California Press: When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973, with a New Preface by Leslie J. Reagan

Fodor's on BEA: Dinner in Midtown West

It's true that tourist traps abound on the Great White Way, but fortunately you needn't head far from Times Square to score a stellar meal. Some of the best steak houses and Italian restaurants are located here, and many eateries offer budget pre-theater dinners. We've narrowed the field for BEA attendees, selecting the best spots in Midtown West for a range of experiences and prices.

Unlike the mostly kitschy, theme restaurants that occupy Times Square, the sleek Blue Fin (1567 Broadway, near 47th St., 212-918-1400, dinner entrées $22-$32) is a refreshing departure. Watch the crowds go by from the corner glass bar before heading up the large staircase to a more intimate dining area. Seafood is the specialty here with entrées like crispy skin salmon, Atlantic cod and Florida red grouper.

Toloache (251 W. 50th St., between Broadway and 8th Ave., 212-581-1818, dinner entrées $20-$27), a festive Mexican cantina with oversized bronze chandeliers and gold and terra-cotta tones throughout, is a top foodie destination for its fresh ceviches, guacamoles and standout dishes like the Negra Modelo-braised brisket taco or the quesadilla with black truffle and huitlacoche (corn mushroom).

A mixed crowd of tourists, theatergoers and thespians frequent Joe Allen Restaurant (326 W. 46th St., between 8th and 9th Aves., 212-581-6464, dinner entrées $18-$30), a pre-theater favorite. This casual yet classy restaurant serves reliable American cuisine. Don't fret about missing the show--the Broadway-knowledgeable staff will make sure you get to the theater in time for the opening number.

Plates of fresh antipasti are displayed right as you walk into Bond 45 (154 W. 45th St., between 6th and 7th Aves., 212-869-4545, dinner entrées $22-$47). This Italian eatery, with a dark-wood bar and leather-backed booths, serves a variety of pizzas, pastas and steaks. With a separate pre-theater menu, this Theater District hot spot is an ideal option for dining and then dashing to your show of choice.

The design at Quality Meats (57 W. 58th St., near 6th Ave., 212-371-7777, dinner entrées $21-$46) is inspired by classic New York City butcher shops in its use of warm wood, stainless steel and white marble. Sit at the bar to peruse the extensive menu of wines and single-malt scotches. Then retire to the dining room for sophisticated riffs on steak-house classics like beef Wellington.

Steak aficionados should know that Midtown has superior meats on every block. Here are some sure bets: Ben Benson's Steak House (123 W. 52nd St., near 6th Ave., 212-581-8888, dinner entrées $26-$48) and Uncle Jack's Steakhouse (440 9th Ave., at 35th St., 212-244-0005, dinner entrées $30-$65) serve quality steaks, but at substantial prices.

For more New York City restaurant recommendations, check out
Fodor's New York City 2009, the guide The New York Times calls "the can't-go-wrong choice" or visit


Media and Movies

Media Heat: What Is Your Self-Worth?

Tonight on Charlie Rose: Cheryl Saban, author of What Is Your Self-Worth?: A Woman's Guide to Validation (Hay House, $24.95, 9781401923952/140192395X).


Movies: Holmes Redux; The Interpretation of Murder

USA Today offered an "early look" at the latest inhabitants of 221B Baker Street--Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law's Dr. Watson--in Guy Ritchie's version of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories.

"Initially, we were just infusing the dialogue with Doyle-isms," said Downey. "Now we tend to speak a little more on his behalf."

When first considering the challenge of another in the long tradition of Holmesian interpretations, Ritchie said, "I didn't really think of the downside as much as I thought about the upside. I was a Holmes fan when I was a child. They are the first stories I remember. I also liked the approach the studio was coming at. To me, it was the perfect segue from small independent films to something more ambitious and quintessentially English. So I've got my cake and I can eat it."


Alex Holmes will rewrite and direct The Interpretation of Murder, an adaptation of Jed Rubenfeld's novel, for Warner Bros. Variety reported that Paula Weinstein is producing the story that "follows a Sigmund Freud protege who discovers a trail of sadistic murders in turn-of-the-century New York. Chris Kyle wrote the first draft of the screenplay."


Books & Authors

Awards: Triangle; Irish Book

The Publishing Triangle's 21st Annual Triangle Awards--honoring the best lesbian and gay fiction, nonfiction, and poetry published in 2008--were presented last night in New York City).

The Triangle awards winners:

  • In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain by Andrea Weiss (Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction)
  • Drifting Toward Love by Kai Wright (Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction)
  • Interpretive Work by Elizabeth Bradfield (Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry)
  • Boy with Flowers by Ely Shipley (Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry)
  • Light Fell by Evan Fallenberg (Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction)
  • The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel (Ferro-Grumley Awards for LGBT Fiction)

Martin Duberman was honored with the 2009 Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement, and Carole DeSanti won the Publishing Triangle’s Leadership Award.


Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture won both the Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year Award and The Tubridy Show Listeners' Choice Award at the "glittering Irish Book Awards 2009 ceremony in the Mansion House in Dublin," the Irish Independent reported.

Marian Keyes won the Easons Popular Fiction Award for her novel, This Charming Man. Seamus Heaney took the Argosy Non-Fiction Award for Stepping Stones and Edna O'Brien was honored with the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award.

Other winners included Ronan O'Gara's autobiography (Energise Sports Book of the Year), Alice Taylor's The Parish (Best Irish Published Book of the Year), Alex Barclay's Blood Runs Cold (Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award), Ronan O'Brien's Confessions of a Fallen Angel (Newcomer of the Year), Derek Landy's Playing with Fire (Children's Award, senior section) and Benji Bennett's Before You Sleep (Children's Award, junior section).


Book Brahmin: Martin Millar

Martin Millar is Scottish, from Glasgow, but has lived in London for a long time. He writes books under his own name and has also written a series about Thraxas under the name of Martin Scott--in 2002 he won the World Fantasy Award for Thraxas. He's published 16 books, "sometimes successful, sometimes not so successful." Soft Skull Press has been publishing Millar in the U.S., with Milk, Sulphate and Alby Starvation, The Good Faeries of New York, Suzy, Led Zeppelin and Me and Lonely Werewolf Girl. His latest is a novel, Lux the Poet, is being published this month.

On your nightstand now:

Complete Letters of Pliny the Younger. His correspondence dates from 97-112 A.D., and contains all sorts of fascinating information about ancient Rome, including his first-hand account of the eruption of Vesuvius that buried Pompeii. I'm interested in anything from ancient Rome and Greece.

Also, quite a few volumes of manga, including Claymore by Norihiro Yagi, Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto and others. I like Japanese comics, and recently I've been reading a lot of them.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Biggles books by Captain W. E. Johns. Biggles was a fighter pilot in the First World War. As I child, I often imagined myself heroically piloting a Sopwith Camel biplane over enemy lines.

Your top five authors:

P. G. Wodehouse, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Somerset Maugham, Cicero. I appear to be living in the past.

Book you've faked reading:

Moby Dick. Turgid. I hated it. Nothing would induce me to finish it. But I did pretend to read it because a girl I knew really liked it. Seems strange now I think about it. Why on earth did she like Moby Dick so much?

Book you're an evangelist for:

Hmm. I can't think of any. If I was recommending anything, it would probably be Somerset Maugham, but I doubt anyone would listen. He was a really fine storyteller. His writing was quite plain and unadorned, and I like that.

Book you've bought for the cover:

None that I can remember.

Book that changed your life:

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. I doubt I'd have got started on my writing career if I hadn't read that. That led me on to Slaughterhouse-Five, which was also a very important influence.

Favorite line from a book:

"A lesser man, caught in this awful snare, would no doubt have ceased to struggle; but the whole point about the Woosters is that they are not lesser men."--From Right Ho Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse. (I've borrowed and adapted that line a few times.)

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

I wish I could read all the Jeeves and Wooster novels by P. G. Wodehouse again for the first time. They're the funniest books ever written.

Name a really great filmed version of a book:

Election, a novel by Tom Perrotta, film version directed by Alexander Payne, starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon. Election was a good novel, and I thought the film version was brilliant.


Book Review

Mandahla: Larry's Kidney

Larry's Kidney: Being the True Story of How I Found Myself in China with My Black Sheep Cousin and His Mail-Order Bride, Skirting the by Daniel Asa Rose (William Morrow & Company, $25.99 Hardcover, 9780061708701, May 2009)

The subtitle seems to say it all: (Being the Story) of How I Found Myself in China with My Black Sheep Cousin and His Mail-Order Bride, Skirting the Law to Get Him a Transplant--and Save His Life. What it doesn't say is how funny and warm and outrageous Larry's Kidney is. The escapade begins when Daniel Rose's long-lost cousin calls after several decades of silence to ask if he'll go on a jaunt to China for Larry's kidney transplant and possible marriage (Larry is always ready to save money by combining two tasks). Why Daniel? He's the only person left who would answer Larry's phone call; Larry takes "black sheep" to a new level:

"Mad? You mean, for ratting me out to the FBI that time, telling them I'd inflated my income on a condo mortgage application, which you specifically advised me to do because you needed the commission?"

"I was upset, Dan. I'm not proud of it."

And that's mild compared to the fatwa Larry issued against Cousin Burton.

Now Larry, scammer, operator, finagler par excellence, needs help, because he can't wait years for a transplant in the U.S. However, there's one small glitch to getting a transplant in China: it's illegal for a Westerner. But loopholes are Larry's bread and butter, so he's confident his plan will work.

Dan heads to Beijing, soon discovering that any success they will have depends on guanxi--connections, personal relationships under the radar. Larry, meanwhile, looking like death chewing on a cracker, is ensconced in a hotel armed against the cuisine with a suitcase full of Girl Scout cookies, and armed against the dirt with a cleaning woman, who turns out to be Mary, his mail-order fiancée. As Larry spins his life story and his current plans, Daniel is frazzled from jet-lag and dazzled by Larry's spiel: "I'm held captive by a snake charmer . . . There's a certain relief in surrendering to such masterful manipulation . . . God help me. I'm joining the cult of Larry."

And so the search is on for the clandestine kidney. Dan starts by e-mailing anyone he can think of who might have even a tenuous lead, while Larry undergoes dialysis and subsists on cookies and Coke. Finally at an expat Sabbath service, Chinese guanxi and Jewish guanxi intersect in the Australian owner of a surgical instrument company, and Dr. X is found in an industrial city of little charm that is also a center for exceptional hospitals. Aiding and abetting the trio is the lovely Jade, a waitress who volunteers to help them as they move "their little opera" to Shi. Shi has breathtaking (literally) pollution--"Beijing's vaporized Frappuccino was impressive, but this is something to stand in awe of . . . An ivory-gray effluvium stops your vision after two blocks out of five stories up." This will be home for weeks.

Rose's writing is by turns hyperbolic and hallucinatory as he deals with the outlandish situation and his wacky cousin. Sometimes slapstick, sometimes caustic, Larry's Kidney is also sweet and thoughtful as Daniel finds himself improbably falling in love with China.--Marilyn Dahl

Shelf Talker: A hilarious story about two cousins in China, one searching for a kidney and true love, the other aiding and abetting.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The Book Circus Is Coming to Town!

Ladies and Gentlemen! Children of all ages! Welcome to the greatest book show on earth! A weekend of thrills! A weekend of reading fun! A weekend at BookExpo America in New York City!

This year's edition of our industry's annual Big Top extravaganza will take place May 29-31 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, perched beside the glittering waters of the Hudson River, otherwise known as the auxiliary runway for U.S. Airways Flight 1549. (We recommend LaGuardia, Newark or JFK airports as preferred arrival venues.)

But unlike Ringling Bros., BEA's circus won't be limited to three rings. There will be dozens, spreading in concentric arcs from a nucleus on the convention floor throughout the city, encompassing hotels, restaurants, bars and more. Business will mix seamlessly with pleasure and the workday will run from dawn to dawn.

So welcome, my friends, to the show that never ends . . . until Sunday.

BookExpo really does have a little something for everyone--ringmasters and stagehands, high-wire artists and tightrope walkers (financially, anyway), clowns happy and sad, literary lions and tigers and bears.
Oh my!

But what about that big ol' mean-looking pachyderm lurking in the corner? Could it be the future of publishing? A rogue elephant in the center ring? Maybe if we're lucky, we can nudge it into the spotlight and make it stand on its hind legs for a few days, balance precariously on a huge ball, hoist a publicist into the air with its trunk. Maybe, just maybe, it will think we're the ones in control.

Are you going to the book circus this year? We'd love to hear about your strategies and memories.

I love BEA. I'm a trade show junkie. My first book event was the 1993 ABA show in Miami. I attended Booksellers School there and had my initial glimpse of center ring--the exhibition floor.

At some point that weekend--as I attended a lush, downtown rooftop garden launch party for Oprah Winfrey's autobiography (a book that never hit the presses, as it turned out) and a suitably spooky dinner for Anne Rice at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables; or as I walked on Miami Beach wearing a suit and carrying my shoes in socks, like a beached mobster--it occurred to me that this was a pretty damn good perk for a frontline bookseller from Vermont.

Sixteen years later, I'll resist the temptation to imagine Bookocalypse Now. The economy stinks. The publishing industry may not be underwater, but it's definitely paddling real hard on the surface. Booksellers have to measure every penny spent and their decisions about attending or not attending BEA are more challenging than ever. And how can one not speculate about a virtual BEA for E-books in the "distant" future, held exclusively on Twitter and Facebook? Okay, we can resist that last one for awhile.

But just a couple of weeks from now, the circus will come to town. There are logical, businesslike, serious reasons for me to attend BookExpo, but I never forget why I really want to be there. BEA is the bookseller's Big Top extraordinaire--all those energetic attendees and performing exhibitors. (Watch me pull a bestseller out of my hat!)

When I was a full-time bookseller, my prime directive at BEA was to find the unexpected book, the one that might never cross my desk otherwise. Finding that unexpected book(s) was pure pleasure, and good business.

It almost doesn't matter how many years I've been going to this thing or what the current state of the industry might be; BEA always makes me feel that the coming year will be a good one. I used to leave the show wanting to hit the ground (aka the bookstore's sales floor) running and sell the hell out of the autumn list.


For a registered member of the International Society for Cynics and Fatalists, that's one amazing side effect. As we approach this year's BookExpo, fending off the logical realization that our collective heads may be in the collective lions' mouths, the reader and bookseller in me still expects inspiration to happen there.

I'll wander the aisles at BookExpo like a fisherman on the riverbank looking for the flash of something--a jacket, a title, a familiar author's name--that tells me I should pause and cast a line here, or here, or there.

But fishing is a quiet sport, and we're talking Big Top here (or "Over the Top," as Ringling Bros. modestly claims). So, tell me, are you running away to join the circus, too?--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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