Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Penguin Press: Winter by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Ecco Press: Varina by Charles Frazier

House of Anansi Press: The Break by Katherena Vermette

Algonquin Books: Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick and Marc Rosenthal

Quotation of the Day

O'Reilly: 'Buy Where You Shop'

"But as a consumer, it's wise to realize the long-term implications of your choices. Shop at the big box store for the better price, and lose the small local store that was so convenient; browse the shelves or racks in a brick and mortar store, then buy online? How long do you think you'll be able to do that? My advice remains the same as it was in 2003: Buy where you shop. If you discover a product online, buy it there. But if you discover it in a store, buy it there. Don't save a few dollars now, and lose the opportunity to shop at a local merchant in the future.--Tim O'Reilly, from his column, "Why Using ShopSavvy Might Not Be So Savvy," at O'Reilly Radar.

 


Quirk Books: My Lady's Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris


News

After the Storm: Online Sales, Delayed Shopping, Extended Hours

The winter storm that ravaged East Coast bricks-and-mortar retailers did not deter online shoppers. The Associated Press reported that weather research firm Planalytics said the storm "may have put at least a $2 billion dent in 'Super Saturday,' which usually accounts for $15 billion worth of sales nationwide."

Online retail sales, on the other hand, rose 22.4% for the weekend compared with 2008, according to Web research company Coremetrics, which tracked an increase of 24.8% in Saturday sales, the AP wrote.

"This teaches consumers that maybe those of us that procrastinate, we still have time to go online very close to Christmas," said John Squire, Coremetrics' chief strategy officer. The company found "the average shopper spending and ordering more on Saturday, when the weather's effects were deepest, than Friday. Even online sales Monday morning were strong as shoppers raced to make purchases so they could be delivered by Christmas."

The AP also noted that "retail Web traffic peaked at 2.9 million visitors per minute Saturday night, according to the Akamai Retail Net Usage Index. That was up from 1.9 million on the Saturday before Christmas in 2008, though that day--December 20--was closer to Christmas than this year. The Sunday peak was 3.5 million visitors per minute, compared with 2.2 million on the Sunday before Christmas last year."

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Storm-hindered shoppers may still have money to burn, however. Reuters reported that a survey by America's Research Group and UBS Investment Research "found the storm hampered purchases as a whole, with nearly 42% of consumers saying they still have gifts to buy, compared with 21.5% who were still shopping at the same point last year."

The Wall Street Journal called this situation a "holiday cliffhanger" that is "leaving retailers still uncertain about how well the season will end up." Memories of last year's recession-fueled discounting frenzy may also be contributing to the delay, as "more than half of ARG-UBS respondents said they were waiting for discounts of 50% or greater before they would complete their shopping."

Hoping to squeeze every dollar out of Christmas week sales, a "host of retailers are extending their store hours in the Northeast. Toys 'R' Us, for instance, said that more than 300 stores would be open 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. through Wednesday. Target Corp. and Barnes & Noble Inc. also said they were lengthening hours of operation," according to the Journal.

Also, in response to the storm disruption, Borders Bookstores throughout Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, as well as New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh planned to remain open until midnight from Monday, December 21, through Wednesday, December 23.

 


Trinity University Press: Arte Kids - Bilingual Board Books


Notes: Final Day for Borders U.K.; New Owner at City Lights

By day's end, all 45 Borders U.K. stores will have been shuttered (Shelf Awareness, November 30, 2009), but last night about 50 former Books Etc. employees gathered for a "wake" held at a public house in central London. The Bookseller reported that they were joined by surprise guests Richard and Philip Joseph, who founded the Books Etc. chain that was later sold to Borders. The last of those nine shops closed Saturday.

Richard Joseph decided to attend and pay his respects after "his final bid for 'a bunch of stores' had been rejected by administrator MCR," the Bookseller wrote. In an earlier article, Joseph observed: "I made a serious attempt to buy a bunch of stores, but it's not going happen. All I can tell you is that I tried really hard. I feel terrible for the Borders people, the Starbucks people, everyone.... Regrettably, discussions are now at an end.... It's a great shame--it could have been a great success."

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Joyce and Allen Moore, co-owners of City Lights Books, Sylva, N.C., since 1986, sent an e-mail newsletter to their patrons yesterday, extending holiday greetings and gratitude. They also had an announcement to make:

"As of the beginning of the new year Allen and I will be selling the business to Chris Wilcox," wrote Joyce. "Chris is a long-time employee and a person that most of you know as a dedicated, helpful and knowledgeable bookseller. I cannot imagine anyone more suited to navigating the future of bookselling than Chris."

Joyce also noted: "As I begin my 66th year and a new decade, I feel the need to slow and simplify my own life, but I believe that I am leaving the store in capable hands, well suited to dealing with the evolving complexities of the bookselling world."

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Barnes & Noble customers anticipating a Nook-less Christmas due to product shortage can now look forward to more than coal in their stockings this year. The Wall Street Journal reported that the company "has told customers who pre-ordered the Nook that if their electronic-book reading devices don't arrive by December 24, they will be given an online $100 gift certificate."

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Skip Prichard, president and CEO of Ingram Content Group, talked about his love of books, anticipating changes in the digital world and other relevant topics in an interview with the Tennessean.

"Every publisher is wrestling with what comes next, whether it's in the commercial or educational space--the relevance of digital products. One of our favorite quotes around Ingram is (hockey legend) Wayne Gretzky's quote: 'I skate to where the hockey puck will be.' We're always trying to position Ingram where the puck will be. We're trying to anticipate where consumers and publishers are moving, and to grow or acquire businesses that serve those needs."

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The Omaha, Neb., area is losing two of its indie bookstores: 30-year-old Lee Booksellers, Lincoln (as first noted in Shelf Awareness, December 2, 2009), and two-year-old Confluence Books, Bistro and Business Center, according to the World-Herald.

"It is a very tough world for independent booksellers, because there is so much competition," said Linda Hillegass, owner of Lee Booksellers with her husband, Jim McKee. "Books are everywhere." In addition to the economic downturn, an expiring lease and prospects for retirement contributed to the decision. "Sales had slowed because of the economy, and that was another reason we were not interested in signing a lease,” she said. “But it really amounts to the fact that we just got old.”

In a press release, Sue Lynn, owner of Confluence, "addressed the 'headwinds' contributing to her decision to close the store December 31: two minimum wage increases in the past 18 months; inability to get credit from banks; interest rate increases by credit card companies to as much as 32 percent; and city, county, state and federal tax burdens that consumed 20% of revenues," the World-Herald wrote.

"Now you have the daunting prospect of health care reform and additional taxes being levied on small businesses in 2010," she added. "A little too much to ask of small business today."

For those shops still in business, "'flat' is the new 'good,'" Beth Black, owner of the Bookworm, Omaha, told the World-Herald in noting that her bookshop has had comparable numbers of shoppers to last year, but they are spending a bit less.

"Not a whole lot less, but $5 or $10--enough that you see it. Or instead of buying a hardcover, they'd rather that you come up with two paperbacks," she observed.

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Last weekend, Buenos Aires, Argentina, celebrated its annual its annual Noche de las Librerias--Bookstore Night. NPR's Morning Edition reported that "the city closes a main avenue, and places sofas and chairs where cars and trucks normally idle. People with books from the many bookstores lining the avenue lounge in the seating and a festival atmosphere replaces traffic."

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The Santa Monica Dispatch praised Arcana Books as "the most interesting store on the Third Street Promenade, and one of the most interesting stores in the Los Angeles area.... Arcana just extended its lease, which is very good news for those of us who are devoted to independent book stores. If you don’t know it, you should."

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In an interesting twist on an all-too-familiar theme, Larry Hughes at Huffington Post Books selected the "10 Best Years That Are Books," focusing on years that have been published as book titles, like 1421: The Year China Discovered America by Gavin Menzies and 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl by Daniel Pinchbeck

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Another oddly helpful book list appeared in the Guardian, where comedian Tim Key chose his "top 10 bite-size books," otherwise known as "books that won't detain you long."

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And Entertainment Weekly's Shelf Life blog tried to assist readers by naming not only EW's best books of 2009--In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin and Zeitoun by Dave Eggers--but also its pick for worst book of the year: How to Be Famous by Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt.


Thomas Nelson: Perennials by Julie Cantrell


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Walter Isaacson, Orhan Pamuk

Tomorrow on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews: Walter Isaacson, author of American Sketches: Great Leaders, Creative Thinkers, and Heroes of a Hurricane (Simon & Schuster, $25.99, 9781439180648/1439180644).

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Tomorrow night on the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien: Derek Fisher, author of Character Driven: Life, Lessons, and Basketball (Touchstone, $24.99, 9781416580539/1416580530).

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Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Scott G. Eberle, author of Classic Toys of the National Toy Hall of Fame (Running Press, $29.95, 9780762435654/0762435658).

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Thursday on the Diane Rehm Show, in a repeat: Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, authors of Julie Andrews' Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies (Little, Brown, $24.99, 9780316040495/0316040495).

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Thursday on KCRW's Bookworm: Orhan Pamuk, author of The Museum of Innocence (Knopf, $28.95, 9780307266767/0307266761). As the show put it: "The Nobel Prize helped to set the fiction of Orhan Pamuk (and Turkish literature in general) in a contemporary global frame. Our conversation centers on the problem of national versus global literatures. Pamuk has faced criticism from Turkish critics who claim he is betraying, or even ridiculing, Turkish customs to the wider world. Pamuk defends the 'literature of memory' and its right to tell its truth."

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Thursday on Dr. Phil: Jane Velez-Mitchell, author of iWant: My Journey from Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life (HCI, $24.95, 9780757313714/075731371X).

 


Television: Gaiman's Bookstore Inspiration; Another Pacific Book

You never know where inspiration will strike. Author Neil Gaiman told SciFiNow that the idea for Statuesque, one of Sky1 TV's 10-Minute Tales, came when he "was at the bookstore Housing Works in New York, who had asked me and Amanda Palmer to do an event together.

"So we were in the middle of our event--she had been playing songs and I had been reading and in the middle we did a Q&A with the audience. People had handed in some questions and I had just read a short story that I had written and we were talking about some of the coincidences in knowing each other, in that Amanda had been a human statue and I had written a very creepy short story about a human statue. It’s a story that got picked up in Best Horror and stuff like that so it was definitely not heart-warming, about a human statue that essentially begins stalking somebody. We were just talking about things and there was one of those weird moments when words come out of your mouth and you’re barely even listening to the words that come out of your mouth. You’re just talking and I found myself saying: 'I wonder if statues have bird watchers? People who go and look at them and people who tick them off and have statue fanciers?' And there was a certain moment when I realised that I had a movie in my head and I had this short film, so I said: 'Excuse me,' and I pulled out my notebook and wrote it down, because I knew it wouldn’t necessarily be there if I didn’t. So that was really where it all began."

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Another book that will be published in conjunction with HBO's 10-part miniseries, The Pacific (Shelf Awareness, December 21, 2009) is Islands of the Damned: A Marine at War in the Pacific by R. V. Burgin (NAL, $24.95, 9780451229908/0451229908, March 2, 2010). Burgin, who will be portrayed by Martin McCann in the series, served as a sergeant in the First Marine Division during World War II, and is a veteran of the campaigns for New Georgia, Peleliu and Okinawa.

 


Movies: Hidden Secrets in Twilight: New Moon

Chris Weitz, director of Twilight: New Moon, is unveiling 10 "little things he embedded in the film" for Entertainment Weekly, including hidden wolves ("Look for an upside-down engraving of a wolf in the shot of the bowl in which Carlisle burns his first-aid equipment; on Jacob's T-shirt when he meets Bella in the school parking lot for the first time; and a wolf trinket on the dream-catcher that he gives her.") and vampire elevator music ("When Edward, Bella, and Alice get into the elevator on their way to see the Volturi, the music playing in the elevator is from Strauss' Die Fledermaus (a.k.a. The Bat).").

 



Book Review

Book Review: Into the Story

Into the Story: A Writer's Journey Through Life, Politics, Sports and Loss by David Maraniss (Simon & Schuster, $26.00 Hardcover, 9781439160022, January 2010)


 
There are many journalists skilled at crafting political profiles, and sportswriters a-plenty in this country. Rare are those who combine formidable talent in both fields, the sort Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter David Maraniss demonstrates in this eclectic collection of more than 25 years of his work.
 
Best known for biographies of figures like Bill Clinton and Al Gore, Maraniss has chosen here to focus on some of the more obscure portions of their stories. He recounts Rhodes Scholar Clinton's transatlantic crossing in 1968, a trip that revealed elements of the future president's persona. The Gore story is the comical tale of a bungled sting operation against a minor local politico during his abbreviated newspaper career in Nashville. Maraniss scrutinizes Jesse Jackson's relationship to Martin Luther King, Jr., illuminating the skillful, if not entirely forthright way Jackson exploited that connection to advance his career. In the book's introduction, Maraniss endorses the proposition that "most people are a combination of good and bad and that it is always worth the effort to try to understand them," a guiding principle reflected in his writing about these figures.
 
The sports-focused section of Into the Story contains four pieces drawn from Maraniss's writings on Vince Lombardi and Roberto Clemente, among others. More provocative than the extended account of the Packers-Cowboys 1967 "Ice Bowl" is a brief meditation on whether Lombardi's fundamentalist coaching style would have worked in the age of tattooed athletes, end zone dances and multimillion endorsement deals. Maraniss concludes, on persuasive evidence from Lombardi's players, that it would. "Out of the Sea" recounts Clemente's tragic death in a plane crash on December 31, 1972, as he accompanied a shipment of relief supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims.  A generous portrait of Muhammad Ali in middle age rounds out this section.
 
More than anywhere else in this fine collection, David Maraniss's sensitivity and grace as a writer are revealed in the stories that focus on members of his family. "Losing Wendy" is a tribute to his sister, a music teacher killed in car accident in 1997, whose quiet devotion leads him to a powerful reflection on "the people our modern celebrity culture honors."  In "Uncle Phil's Brain," he tells the heartbreaking story of his mother's brother, hospitalized for 17 years for mental illness in an era before the availability of drugs that almost certainly would have ameliorated his condition.
 
In this sampling of David Maraniss's diverse and celebrated career, the author has invited his readers to accompany him on what he describes as an "educational and fulfilling lifelong journey." It's a trip well worth taking.--Harvey Freedenberg
 
Shelf Talker: In this selection of 32 samples from his diverse career, award-winning journalist David Maraniss explores the worlds of politics, sports and family.
 


Deeper Understanding

Debut Author: That Magical Connection

Brad Parks is the author of Faces of the Gone (St. Martin's Press), the first in the Carter Ross mystery series. Parks is a former staff writer at the Washington Post and the (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger.

 

Every author has that story of a book signing that becomes an unqualified disaster--the one whose only attendees are an embarrassed writer, a forlorn store owner and a towering stack of hardcover books that never gets smaller. As I started out Sunday, I felt certain it was about to be my turn.
 
This was Day Four of the book tour for my debut novel, Faces of the Gone. The weather in New Jersey was miserable with strong chance of disgusting: 34 degrees and driving rain.
 
Then my car wouldn't start. The steering wheel on my 1995 Honda Civic had somehow locked, preventing me from turning the ignition.
 
No problem. I had left myself an extra half-hour to reach my first stop, Mendham Books, out in Mendham, N.J. I was calm. Summoning all my knowledge of automobile repair, which would fit nicely in a semi-used Tic-Tac container, I began yanking on the wheel, forcing the key and making desperate moaning noises.
 
Strangely, this didn't work.
 
I imagined the consequences of my no-show: the disappointment among the few (if any) fans who showed up, the irate store owner, the blackball next to my name in the close-knit community of independent booksellers. So I returned to my dispassionate analysis of the situation--which, to the uninitiated, might have looked like a grown man getting hysterical.
 
Finally, after 20 minutes of increasingly undignified struggle, the car started and I tore out of the driveway. As I climbed First Watchung Mountain toward Mendham, the temperature dipped and the road grew treacherous. I passed my first accident. Then my second. Then my third. The radio reported parts of Interstate 287 had been closed due to black ice.
 
When I passed my fourth accident--an SUV flipped over on its roof--I finally began questioning my sanity. A 1995 Honda Civic is not known for being among the most sure-footed vehicles, especially when it has balding tires and a front end in serious need of alignment. And here I was, slipping up and down the hills of Morris County out of some misguided sense that my four-day-old perfect attendance record needed to be preserved.
 
And for what? People barely show up for little-known debut authors in ideal conditions, much less on days where there are at least a dozen perfectly good excuses to stay home.
 
But then I reminded myself of my Ultimate Fear. I knew that if my first book tanked, the long and successful career I dreamed of building--the one where I would start small but engender a large and loyal following for the beloved Carter Ross mystery series--would end abruptly. Since signing a two-book contract with St. Martin's Press/Minotaur in July 2008, a good portion of my actions have been motivated by that fear.
 
The marketing strategy that resulted, hemmed though it was by limited resources, was two-pronged. Part One was to reach hardcore mystery enthusiasts via the Internet, which I primarily did through a series of online interviews and guest blogs, everything from "How My Kids Made Me a Better Writer" to "Ten Things Crime Fiction Writers Can Learn from Paris Hilton."

Part Two involved tire rubber and shoe leather: I would focus the majority of my in-person appearances around northern New Jersey, where the book is set and where I spent 10 years as a reporter with the (Newark) Star-Ledger. A friend of mine, a fabulous and tenacious former Melville House editor named Becky Kraemer, volunteered to help with publicity, and she had gotten me placed with a variety of hyperlocal blogs like Patch.com and Baristanet, in addition to local newspapers large and small, and even local video.
 
Early on, the tour had been fantastic. We kicked off at the Newark Public Library, which put on a lovely event in its grandest room, Centennial Hall. Next it was Words Bookstore in Maplewood, where we filled every available seat and then some. (Before moving to Virginia for my wife's job, we lived in Maplewood, and therefore I had many former neighbors to guilt into attending.) Saturday was a scorched-earth tour of meet-and-greets at local independents, including Town Bookstore in Westfield, Watchung Books in Montclair and Sages Pages in Madison, all of which went well.
 
But Mendham, clearly, was going to be my Waterloo. I arrived with five minutes to spare, grabbed my Faces of the Gone bookmarks, and dashed through a downpour from my car to the storefront.
 
Upon stepping inside, I immediately received a call from a friend saying she wouldn't be able to make it: even if she could get down her driveway, she'd never be able to get back up.
 
The store was all but empty. In an attempt at encouragement, owner Tom Williams told me about the rainy day when Garrison Keillor came to his store and still managed to fill it. And I'm thinking, That's great, but Garrison Keillor has invented fictional ice fishing tournaments that are more famous than me.
 
I was quite sure I was going to spend the next hour staring at my fingernails while the owner pondered how long he would have to wait before returning all of my unsold books to St. Martin's, which would then begin formulating plans to give my second book a print run of 150.
 
Then Kate Lincoln walked through the door.
 
I had never met Kate before that moment. But now I know she's a 53-year-old homeopath and aspiring writer from nearby Bernardsville. She had heard about Faces of the Gone through a crime fiction blog called the Rap Sheet. A former journalist, too, she was drawn to a story where the protagonist is an investigative newspaper reporter. She studied my website and decided I was worth meeting. As I was sliding my way toward Mendham Books, she had departed her house over her husband's objections and made her own harrowing journey.
 
"I have so many questions for you," she announced as we introduced ourselves.
 
We talked about writing (hers and mine), newspapers, books and a host of other topics. She said she doesn't purchase many hardcover books and viewed each one as an investment in the author--a buying decision she makes only after careful consideration. A half-hour later, she walked out of the store with a signed, personalized copy of Faces of the Gone.
 
The next day I heard from Kate, telling me about specific passages of the book she enjoyed. My story was clearly coming alive in her mind, and as a writer it felt immensely gratifying. It reminded me of something that, in all my fretting over a blog tour and a publicity campaign (and, yes, even a non-starting Honda) I had allowed myself to forget: all of us in this business, whether we're authors, librarians, booksellers or publishers, got into this game to help forge that magical connection between writer and reader.
 
And on one slushy Sunday in New Jersey, I made one.

 

 


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