Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Notes: Cyber Monday Sales Up 11%; Amazon Hits New High
By early evening yesterday, online shoppers had spent 11% more on Cyber Monday than they did last year, according to Coremetrics (via the Wall Street Journal). But the paper noted that the average transaction fell 14% from last year "in a sign that shoppers were chasing discounts and spreading out purchases."
Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru observed, "The person that would have shopped in the mall on a Saturday later in December is going online on Cyber Monday because they got an email, finding some great deals and deciding to purchase."
In offering a range of discounts and deals, online retailers used "new technology to connect with shoppers," including Twitter feeds, the Journal said. Mobile apps listing deals were also very popular.
The e-reader battle between Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble played out on Wall Street yesterday in striking fashion. Amazon's stock rose 3.2% to $135.91, an all-time high, adjusted for splits, after the company announced that sales of the Kindle in November were the best yet, that it is "the #1 bestselling product across all product categories on Amazon" and that businesses and organizations are buying the device "in large quantities" for employees and customers. By contrast, after B&N said it would begin shipping the Nook yesterday but wouldn't have any in stores for demonstration purposes until next Monday, its stock fell 4.3%, closing at $23.34.
Although both companies have been moot about unit sales, Cinthia Portugal, an Amazon.com spokeswoman, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "For every 100 books we sell in physical, we sell 48 Kindle books. This is up from 35 books for every 100 in May. Our customers tell us they read more with Kindle because they never have to worry about running out of books."
The Olivetti manual typewriter on which Cormac McCarthy guesses he has written five million words since 1963 is up for auction at Christie's, which estimated it could bring $15,000-$20,000, the New York Times reported. The author of The Road, No Country for Old Men, Blood Meridian and All the Pretty Horses, among other works, plans to donate the proceeds to the Santa Fe Institute.
Check out dispatches from the Guadalajara Book Fair by Monica Carter, who put together the world literature section at Skylight Books, Los Angeles; buys Spanish and French titles for the store; and discusses translated literature on her blog, SalonicaWorldLit. Her accounts of the fair are on the blog.
The shortlist for the 2010 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Awards may be seen here. Winners will be announced in January.
Bookreporter.com is again celebrating the holiday season with three features:
- Holiday Basket of Cheer contests with five prizes that will be given away through January 8. Featured books are paired with other goodies in a basket.
- "What to Give/What to Get" Gift Suggestions, which offers book suggestions in 14 categories, including Holiday Spirit: Perfect Selections for Holiday Reading; Great Tools for Readers & Writers: Accessories for Booklovers; and Stocking Stuffers: Books Small Enough to Pack Up in Stockings and Buy in Quantity.
- Author Holiday Blogs through Christmas Day, which includes guest posts about gift-giving and -receiving by more than 50 authors, including Sandra Brown, Stephen Coonts, Sandra Dallas, Barbara Delinsky, Jamie Ford, Robert Goolrick, Kristin Hannah, Marcia Muller, Lisa Scottoline and Donna VanLiere.
For details go to bookreporter.com.
Neil Levin, who has 25 years of publishing experience, has launched EverPub, which "enables authors and publishers to easily harness the most up-to-the-minute marketing techniques and channels."
On EverPub, authors and publishers can build a book/author website that includes contact information, biographies, author backlist information, blog posts, reviews, press releases, book trailers, links and feeds to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Levin said, "EverPub is the next evolutionary step in publishing, where authors now need to find and engage their readers in noncommercial spaces to make them not just customers, but community members. Despite our highly sophisticated technology offering, EverPub is rooted in a deep understanding of changed buying habits, publishing, and better yet, publishers."
Levin was publisher at Time Life Trade Books and also held senior-level positions at National Book Network, Chilton Book Company, Chelsea House Publishers and Grolier Encyclopedia.
Tale of Two Websites: Copperfield's Books and Lift Bridge
At the same time that Copperfield's Books has upgraded its website, the retailer has added computer kiosks featuring the site in its eight stores in Sonoma and Napa counties in California. Called Oliver--in another Dickensian reference--the kiosks allow customers to browse books and make transactions online, buy gift cards and check stock in all the Copperfield's Books stores.
The kiosks were added in part because a recent survey of customers found that 80% of the users of Copperfield's website browse there but buy the books at the company's bricks-and-mortar stores.
Among other changes made because of how customers use the website: customers can reserve a book online for pickup at one of the stores; and customers can see if there are used copies of the books they want available at the two Used & Rare Copperfield's Books.
Copperfield's Books also obviously has some fun on the site. In September, it had a contest tied in with Ken Burns's National Parks: America's Best Idea that included as a prize a trip to Yosemite National Park--this promotion drew more than 500 entries. And last month it introduced a Classics and Monsters Writing Contest based on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The Get Your Head in a Book contest features customers' photos with appropriate book covers partly or fully obscuring their faces.
The bookseller also uses a lot of video on the site: Copperfield's Books posts videos of many of its 150 events a year. It does a top 10 countdown of hardcover bestsellers each week, and offers videos of its staff picks and teacher-recommended lists.
CEO Tom Montan said that Copperfield's Books' "website has increased our store traffic and sales."
Archie Kutz, owner of Lift Bridge Book Shop, Brockport, N.Y., told the Democrat & Chronicle that in an age of stiff online competition, his bookstore has "found ways to make the Web work for it."
"We have to have people come into our store and see what we offer," he said. "We have used our website as a marketing tool to get people in the store. People are going to shop the way they want to shop; we haven't found a way to stop that. We have, though, been able to get our business out to more people."
Lift Bridge Book Shop's "college section on the website is key with the State University College at Brockport just a few blocks away."
"It is still a big push for us in September and then again in January," Kutz added. "We are constantly in contact with the school to find out what we need to have so we are ready when the students call. Once books got up over $100, there was a big push to buy books online. We try to help with the costs as much as we can."
Image of the Day: The Grinch Who Sells Books for Christmas
Grinch for a day (and we hope not longer):
Josh Stevens, marketing and events coordinator at Read Between the Lynes, Woodstock, Ill., on Sunday at the town's annual holiday parade.
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Lance Armstrong and Comeback 2.0
Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Julie Powell, author of
Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession (Little, Brown,
Tomorrow night on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Lance Armstrong, author of Comeback 2.0: Up Close and Personal (Touchstone, $27.99, 9781439173145/1439173141).
Movies: Beautiful Creatures
Warner Bros. has acquired the screen rights to Beautiful Creatures (Little, Brown, $17.99, 9780316042673/0316042676), the initial volume in a five-novel series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Variety reported that Richard LaGravanese will write the script and direct the film, with Erwin Stoff producing.
"I love supernatural stories that have well drawn mythologies, and I liked that this book has all the basic elements of a classic first love story with a supernatural layer over it," LaGravanese said. "So the first time they hear the words boyfriend and girlfriend, they accidentally overhear each other telepathically. Their first kiss comes after he saves her life and their first date is part of a bigger adventure that leads to the unraveling of the mysterious curse that haunts her family." He recently adapted Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants for Fox 2000.
Books & Authors
Awards: Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Prize
Jonathan Littell, whose 2006 novel Les bienveillantes (The Kindly Ones) was a Prix Goncourt winner, has been named this year's recipient of the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award for the same work. In topping a distinguished shortlist that included Philip Roth, John Banville, Paul Theroux and Nick Cave, Littell's book also became the first translated work to win the prize.
While praising the novel as "in part, a work of genius," the judges also noted that "a mythologically inspired passage and lines such as 'I came suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg' clinched the award for The Kindly Ones. We hope he takes it in good humour," the Guardian reported.
Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week
Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, December 8:
Divine Misdemeanors: A Novel by Laurell K. Hamilton (Ballantine, $26, 9780345495969/0345495969) is book eight in the Meredith Gentry fantasy series.
The Disciple by Stephen Coonts (St. Martin's, $26.99, 9780312372835/0312372833) explores a scenario in which Iran is on the verge of using nuclear weapons, a nightmare only Tommy Carmellini can stop.
Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil by Drew Karpyshyn (LucasBooks, $27, 9780345511560/0345511565) is a Star Wars novel set in the Old Republic.
More Gift Books for the Holiday Season
This is the second in our ongoing series highlighting gift books for the holiday season.
Books for nostalgia lovers:
America's Kitchens by Nancy Carlisle and Melinda Talbot Nasardinov (Historic New England/Tilbury House, $34.95 trade paper, 9780884483083/0884483088, October 2008)
If you missed this book last year, now's the time to check it out. It's a lavishly illustrated history from the 1700s to the 1970s, with photos, advertisements and text, with subjects like "After the Civil War," "New Mexico Foodways," "Two Levittown Kitchens" and "The Ideal Postwar Kitchen." It's all here, from butteries to raisin seeders to TV dinners and Tupperware. A delight for foodies and historians.
Fill 'er Up: The Glory Days of Wisconsin Gas Stations by Jim Draeger and Mark Speltz (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, $29.95, 9780870203930/0870203932, October 2008)
Another offering from last year, but it's so neat we had to include it. Maybe I'm partial because my father owned a Texaco gas station, but I do love this book. Filled with photographs and old advertisements, the stations run from standard boxes to old English cottages to prefabs (that could be disassembled and moved to a better location) to red-roofed pagodas and Tudor homes.
Where Discovery Sparks Imagination: A Pictorial History of Radio and Electricity by John D. Jenkins (American Museum of Radio and Electricity, $34.95, 9780979456909/0979456908, June 2009)
This lavishly illustrated book (more than 600 photographs) starts with the rise of electricity in the 17th century and follows electrical inventions through the radio. Esoterica like Zamboni perpetual motion machines are included, but half the book features radios, and they are spectacular: a mahogany loudspeaker inlaid with mother-of-pearl handcrafted in Czechoslovakia; a Chippendale console with hand-painted Chinese scenes; a Bakelite Kadette radio with an ornate grille; and handsome floor consoles.
Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress by Candacy A. Taylor (Cornell University Press, $19.95 trade paper, 9780801474408/080147440X, July 2009)
"It all starts with a cup of coffee... the quintessential tonic of the roadside restaurant and an entry point into a relationship that, for many waitresses, can last more than thirty years." From the Sip 'n Bite in Baltimore to Ole's Waffle hop in Alameda, 57 waitresses in 38 towns tell their stories. In plentiful color photos and text, Taylor captures what coffee shops are about, celebrating places where waitresses really do know your name, and how you like your eggs.
Oaks Park Pentimento: Portland's Lost and Found Carousel Art, photographed by Jim Lommasson (Oregon State University Press, $25, 9780870715785/087071578X, November 2009)
The center column of a historic carousel in Portland, Ore., was originally painted by anonymous German and Italian immigrants--a woman with a parasol, renderings of Arabs and Native Americans, a dancing girl. In 1944, the panels were painted over with Oregon landmark scenes. Over the years, the images flaked and faded, resulting in double exposures--pentimentos--that are haunting. A girl with a doll stands in a forest lake, an Arab on a camel wanders through mountains or maybe ocean waves. The images are dreamy, and lost again, since the original paintings have now been restored.
Books for inspiration and joy:
Grace Notes: Daily Readings with a Fellow Pilgrim by Philip Yancey (Zondervan, $19.99, 9780310287728/0310287723, October 2009)
When you have the admiration of Billy Graham and Anne Lamott calls you her favorite Christian writer, you're covering a lot of ground. Philip Yancey is on many Christians' list of favorite writers, and, I'd imagine, on some others' lists as well, because Yancey does not fit into a stereotyped niche--he credits Martin Luther King Jr., Shusaku Endo, Annie Dillard and Robert Coles as spiritual directors. This collection from his books and articles is a treat for his fans and a good introduction for future fans.
A Year with Rilke: Daily Readings from the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke, edited by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows (HarperOne, $22.99, 9780061854002/006185400X, November 2009)
This is a good way to read Rilke--a bit at a time, to let it sink in and resonate. The temptation with Rilke, at least for me, is to overindulge and thus be overwhelmed by the beauty and profundity in his writing. In these selections from his poetry, prose, letters and journals, Rilke "points to the sacred as inseparable from the relations and processes of life."
Yiddish Yoga: Ruthie's Adventures in Love, Loss, and the Lotus Position by Lisa Grunberger, illustrated by Art Glazer (Newmarket Press, $15, 9781557048356/1557048355, October 2009)
Not being a yoga fan (I know, a minority of one), I gave this book to a friend who practices. She raved about it, as did other women in her class. So I took another look, and fell in love with Ruthie, a recently widowed, 72-year-old New Yorker with a bit of a mouth. She's grieving, she's stiff and her mantra is "Valium, thank you, valium, thank you." As she goes to class, she unbends, she lets go, she forgives, while mixing yoga traditions with Jewish. I will be giving yoga another try, with Ruthie as my guide. It's an absolute delight.
Mansions of the Heart: Exploring the Seven Stages of Spiritual Growth by R. Thomas Ashbrook (Jossey-Bass, $22.95, 9780470454725/0470454725, October 2009)
Ashbrook, a director of spiritual formation, has written a book for people who want to go deeper into their life with God. Using Teresa of Avila's writings, along with those of John of the Cross, he speaks to matters of the soul, and invites seekers to walk with God, rather than "stumble along some distance behind."
Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O'Brien (Free Press, $15 trade paper, 9781416551775/1416551778, June 2009)
In case you missed the hardcover last year, pick this up in the paper edition. How could you not love this book? An injured baby barn owl? Named Wesley? Rescued and kept for 19 years by biologist Stacey O'Brien, Wesley teaches her lessons about owl behavior and love and courage--standard fare for animal books, but raised to a high level by O'Brien's prose and Wesley's considerable charm.
Sisters: An Anthology, edited by Jan Freeman, Emily Wojcik and Deborah Bull (Paris Press, $20.95 trade paper, 9781930464124/1930464126, December 2009)
This anthology is a collection of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and a play that focuses on a very special relationship. Emerging and well-known writers, among them Rita Dove, Barbara Kingsolver, Mary Karr, Julia Glass and Audre Lorde, write about the love, the drama, the humor and the heartbreak of being a sister. Marie Louise Kaschnitz has a poignant dialogue with her dead sibling; M.F.K. Fisher writes about her proud older sister Norah, and a sad moment when Fisher rejected her; Joyce Armor tells, in verse, of tables being turned and a trick gone awry in "Sweet Dreams." It's a great book for anyone who has a sister, now or in the past.--Marilyn Dahl
Book Review: Memoir
Memoir: A History by Ben Yagoda (Riverhead Books, $25.95 Hardcover, 9781594488863, November 2009)
With Sarah Palin crisscrossing the country hawking her new memoir, there couldn't be a better time to read a lively and thoughtful history of the genre like this one by University of Delaware professor Ben Yagoda.
After opening with a concise and often witty survey of the myriad subgenres that comprise our contemporary "Memoir Universe"--from canine chronicles to "shtick lit" (memoirs that describe a year pursuing some unusual project)--Yagoda turns to a chronological review of key turning points in the history of autobiography. From Caesar's Commentaries to celebrity tell-alls (almost invariably produced with the aid of a ghost writer) to gripping tales of family dysfunction, this account reveals a persistent fascination with the power of personal narrative.
A dominant theme is the existence of the frequently indistinct line in memoir between truth and fiction. Crediting Daniel Defoe as "one of the first authors to exploit the fact that human beings respond powerfully to narratives that are (or make credible claims to be) true," the three centuries of memoirs that followed often reflected that tension. Yagoda even detours briefly into the world of autobiographical fiction, contending that in works spanning the period from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to Philip Roth, "it's hard to find an important American novel that's not some variation on a memoir."
Yagoda also helps us recall that controversies over the veracity of memoirs like the one that swirled around James Frey's A Million Little Pieces (originally pitched as a novel and published only when represented as fact) are anything but new. He cites, in one of several prominent examples, the furor over Clifford Irving's faux Howard Hughes memoir that resulted in a jail sentence for the author (and spawned a movie Irving disavowed because it took too many liberties with the truth). Yagoda also pinpoints the roots of wildly popular memoirs like Angela's Ashes and Running with Scissors in Edmond Gosse's 1907 memoir, Father and Son: A Study of Conflicting Temperaments, which "prefigures the narrative of a beleaguered, constricted, abusive or otherwise troubled childhood."
According to the Modern Library, seven of the top 20 English-language nonfiction books of the 20th century are memoirs or autobiographies. Indeed, memoirs have become so ubiquitous they've even inspired at least one satirical novel, Brocke Clarke's hilarious An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England. With our obsessive interest in the lives of celebrities and the pervasiveness of an ethic of confession, the spigot won't be turned off any time soon. In such a literary world, Ben Yagoda's spirited, informative history will be a useful book to keep close at hand.--Harvey Freedenberg
Shelf Talker: Ben Yagoda's sharp and entertaining history of the memoir is essential reading as memoirs assume a dominant place in our literary culture.