PNBA Part 1: Reps' Picks of the Lists

While attendance was down at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association's annual trade show, held in Portland, Ore., September 10-12, the crowd was enthusiastic and busy. There were educational sessions on Thursday, publisher displays on Friday and Saturday morning and author events on all days. Thom Chambliss, PNBA's executive director, was cautiously optimistic about the future of the trade show, although the association will make some cuts in other programs. The immediate question is whether this is a momentary problem or whether it will continue. House reps say the cuts in participation will probably be permanent, so Chambliss is looking for more partnering opportunities and connection with compatible vendors.

This year, like other regional bookseller associations, PNBA had a tough job selling ads for its holiday catalogue, but marketing director Brian Juenemann concentrated on small presses, looking for the best books he could find, resulting in a catalogue focused on what member stores will sell well.

Chambliss said he thinks tweaking trade shows is not the answer for continued growth and value for members. Working on a blog, on new media avenues (there were Facebook, Twitter and blog mentors at the show), partnering with other businesses, a public website--all are ideas he's considering.

Based on bookseller conversations, Chambliss said that business is picking up, and since it's still all about books (and some sidelines, maybe some coffee), we offer some rep favorites of new titles from the fall and winter lists.

George Carroll, Redsides Publishing Services, said he was excited to see the reaction to Horacio Castellanos Moya's forthcoming Dance with Snakes (Biblioasis, $15.95 paper, September). It's a fast paced, incredibly well written, albeit disturbing book. He said, "It reignites my faith in booksellers' support of edgy literature in translation." Dan Christaens from Norton was eager to point out that New Directions also has a Moya title with a much prettier cover, The She-Devil in the Mirror ($14.95 paper, September)--a twisted, hilarious detective story. George countered with two titles from University of California Press: The Book of Codes by Paul Lunde ($29.95, September) and Historical Atlas of the American West by Derek Hayes ($39.95, October), the most pawed-over books at his booth. Edward Lear's Nonsense Songs & Stories, a facsimile edition (University of Chicago, $29.95, August), also received lots of attention. "And if bookseller interest in Tariq Ramadan's personal story translates into sales and support of his forthcoming What I Believe (Oxford, $12.95 hardcover, October), I'll be most happy." Christaens also pointed out Thomas Lynch's short story collection, Apparition and Late Fiction (Norton, $24.95, February 2010), saying that he's "every bit as accomplished a storyteller as Alice Munro." In the Valley of the Kings by Terrence Holt, another short story collection (Norton, $23.95, September), gets equally high praise: "It could last for the ages; it has echoes of 19th century masters."

Steve Ballinger of Princeton University Press picked Why Not Socialism by G. A. Cohen ($14.95 hardcover, September). It's a small book, stocking-stuffer sized, in which the author uses the metaphor of camping to defend socialism--REI meets Friedrich Engels. A bit more mainstream is Mathematicians: An Outer View of an Inner World, which is a lovely coffee-table book with full-page black-and-white portraits of 92 mathematicians taken by Mariana Cook, with an autobiographical piece on the opposite page ($35, June). It would be a great gift not just for the mathematically inclined, but for anyone who likes photography or memoir.

Tundra has two picture books that Steve Jadick of Suib and Associates said were perfect for the gift-giving season. One is called A Thousand Years of Pirates, and the illustrator, William Gilkerson, has a very N.C. Wyeth-like style ($32.95, November). Tying in with a renewed interest in Alice in Wonderland with the Johnny Depp movie due in the spring, Oleg Lipchenko has illustrated Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with slightly dark, eastern European art ($22.95, November). Jadick also pointed out a favorite of ours from BookExpo America, Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress by Candacy A. Taylor (Cornell, $19.95 paper, September). Filled with color photos and interviews, it captures what coffee shops are about and celebrates places where waitresses really do know your name and how you like your eggs. Jadick's wife, Theresa, chose a Charlesbridge book, Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective: Bad Bugs Are My Business by David Biedrzycki ($16.95, July), a sequel to the eponymous first book, for its deadpan humor and clever wordplay.

Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same by Mattox Roesch was sales rep Christine Foye's pick (Unbridled, $15.95 paper, September). Steven Wallace from Unbridled seconded her choice and touted 31 Hours by Masha Hamilton (Unbridled, $24.95, September), saying this novel about a mother whose son has been recruited by terrorists hits where Updike's novel missed. He also pointed out Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius by Colin Dickey ($25.95, September) about the obsession over the skulls of the famous and talented. It's the first non-memoir nonfiction book the house has published.

Peggy Lindgren from Macmillan said Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey-Fitzhenry (Walker, $9.99 paper, December) is one of the funniest books she's read in a long time. It's a YA novel about a 16-year-old girl who becomes a vampire and her five older, protective brothers. Peggy's colleague, Reed Oros, was enthusiastic about The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History by Jason Vuic (Hill & Wang, $25, March 2010), a microcosmic history of something with the best intentions that went horribly wrong. He also likes Pearl of China by Anchee Min (Bloomsbury, $24, March 2010), the story of Pearl Buck and her Chinese friend Willow, from their girlhoods together through the time of the Cultural Revolution.

University of Washington Press has some incredible titles on its list. We were enthralled by Preston Singletary: Echoes, Fire, and Shadows by Melissa G. Post ($45, July), because, quite simply, he's a genius. For nearly two decades, Singletary has combined two cultures--his Tlingit ancestry and the Studio Glass Movement. This is a mid-career retrospective, and if you have any interest in glass or Native American art, this book is a must. Lori Barsness of the Press pointed out Kids Design Glass by Benjamin Cobb and Susan Linn ($40, November). Kids Design Glass began as a temporary educational program at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Wash., and has developed into a charming collection of art. A children's comic-style booklet, "Pip! The Baby Monster and How He Was Made at the Museum of Glass," and a DVD showing the creation of Recycled Robot are included. David Diehl, who sells the Press for Hand Associates, picked The Love Israel Family by Charles LeWarne ($24.95, October), a complex and fascinating study of a Northwest cult.

More books (and a few sidelines) tomorrow.--Marilyn Dahl

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