Shelf Awareness for Thursday, November 18, 2010


Random House Books for Young Readers: Lights, Camera, Middle School! (Babymouse Tales from the Locker #1) by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Greenwillow Books: Nothing by Annie Barrows

Time Inc. Books: BookExpo Events

Wednesday Books: I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

Bloomsbury: BookExpo Titles

Little, Brown and Company: The Futilitarians: Our Year of Thinking, Drinking, Grieving, and Reading by Anne Gisleson

Editors' Note

'Tis the Season

Booksellers, librarians, publishers, what's going on in your corner of the bookselling world this holiday season? Shelf Awareness would love to hear about events, promotions, displays, favorite handsells, gift suggestions, charitable initiatives and other holiday-related happenings for possible inclusion in our coverge of the holiday sales. Contact Shannon McKenna Schmidt.



Flatiron Books: Book Expo Galley Giveaway


Quotation of the Day

'Write About What You Don't Know Everything About'

"The milieu of the book is the art world. And the reason I chose the art world is I knew enough about it, but I don't know everything about it. And I like that. I could have picked the milieu to be show business, but I feel like I know too much about that."

--Steve Martin discussing his new book,
An Object of Beauty
(Grand Central), with the New York Times.

 

 


Auzou: ALA Annual 2017



News

National Book Awards: Surprises


"I am totally unprepared and I am totally surprised," Jaimy Gordon said as she accepted the National Book Award for Fiction for Lord of Misrule, and the rest of the audience could have said much the same. When Joanna Scott announced Gordon's name, cheers erupted from the McPherson & Co. table at one end of the Cipriani Wall Street ballroom, and her future paperback publishers at Vintage cheered at the other end, but the space between was filled with a stunned silence that was finally broken by applause when Gordon stepped up on the small stage.

After the ceremony: (from l.) Jaimy Gordon, author of Lord of Misrule (fiction winner); Patti Smith, author of Just Kids (nonfiction); Terrance Hayes, author of Lighthead (poetry); and Kathryn Erskine, author of Mockingbird (young people's literature).

But surprise was arguably the theme of the evening: Patti Smith accepted her nonfiction award for the memoir Just Kids (Ecco) while fighting back tears of happiness, while Terrance Hayes (who won for his poetry collection, Lighthead, from Penguin) admitted that he hadn't prepared any remarks. Only Kathryn Erskine, whose Mockingbird (Philomel) won in the young people's literature category, appeared not to be caught completely off-guard, but she could hardly be seen as cocky--she spent some time before the ceremony began enthusiastically praising her four competitors. "They are all strong, important novels," she said, then offered detailed talking points on each one.

("This book wasn't even finished in July," Gordon said when the show was over, "and it had been unfinished for 10 years." It wasn't until Bruce McPherson said he was holding her to a promise to let him publish the book this summer that she buckled down and completed the manuscript in time for submission to the National Book Award jury.)

Earlier in the evening, the National Book Foundation had honored Sesame Workshop co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney with its Literarian Award: "Is that even a word, literarian?" quipped master of ceremonies Andy Borowitz. "It's like the National Book Awards can make up their own words." Jon Scieszka's introductory remarks were interrupted by surprise guest star Elmo, who stood by listening patiently during Cooney's acceptance speech along with Kevin Clash. Then Tina Brown introduced Tom Wolfe, recipient of this year's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, after which Wolfe told the audience about the origins of his journalistic career, from his college graduation to his travels on the bus with Kesey and watching the Black Panthers party in Leonard Bernstein's living room. He even sang a bit of "The Girl from Ipanema," explaining that he'd met Antonio Carlos Jobim at another party.

If anything could be said to some the evening up, it was Patti Smith's acceptance speech. "I've always loved books, all my life," she began, explaining how she had dreamed, as a young clerk at a Scribner's bookstore, of having a book of her own, and of winning the National Book Award. She ended with a plea to the assembled publishers: "Please, no matter how we advance technologically... never abandon the book." It was a message the crowd eagerly took to heart.--Ron Hogan

 


G.P. Putnam's Sons: A Paris All Your Own: Bestselling Women Writers on the City of Light by Eleanor Brown


Image of the Day: Nutmeg State Book Nuts

Sales at last weekend's 19th Connecticut Children's Book Fair, a project of the UConn Co-op and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, rose compared to last year. Several thousand attendees heard from and met 24 authors and illustrators, including (from l.) author and illustrator Alison Paul; author and illustrator Susan Kuklin; author Leslie Connor; with librarian Linda Williams.

 


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: Roald Dahl Challenge


Notes: E-Fans Surveyed; B&N Shareholders Take Poison Pill

Among key points in the first installment of the latest Book Industry Study Group survey of consumer attitudes toward e-book reading:

  • More than 40% of e-book readers have reduced the number and dollars spent on hardcovers and paperbacks.
  • Retailers are becoming more important than publishers as a source of information about e-books.
  • General fiction and mysteries are the fastest-growing e-book genres.
  • More respondents received e-readers as gifts than bought them for themselves.
  • Respondents who bought devices for themselves most often were motivated by suggestions from friends.
  • The iPad has only a marginal impact on the popularity of the Kindle and Nook.
  • Heavy to moderate book buyers want e-devices that don't have a lot of other options.
  • The iPad may bring new and light e-book buyers into the market.


Data for the report is based on monthly surveys of a rolling sample of 3,000 people who read e-books or have e-readers or both. For more information and to order a copy of the study (with discounts for BISG members), click here.

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At a special meeting yesterday, Barnes & Noble shareholders voted in favor of the poison pill plan adopted by the board a year ago that led to a bitter battle for board control between B&N chairman Len Riggio and dissident shareholder Ron Burkle in September.

The company said that about 72% of B&N's shares were voted and about 61% of those voting supported the shareholder rights plan.

The poison pill limits outside shareholders from owning more than 20% and exempts the Riggio family, which owns at least 29% of the company, from that provision. Recently the board amended the plan by limiting its grants of more shares to the Riggios and requiring the Riggios to dispose of any current stock options they exercise.

In related B&N news, the Wall Street Journal said "about eight or 10 strategic companies and private-equity firms" are interested in buying the company, which put itself on the block this summer. "First-round bids have already been submitted and the next round of offers are due in a few weeks."

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Citing health problems, Pat Carrier, head of Globe Corner Bookstore, Cambridge, Mass., has put the travel and map store up for sale and has had talks with several prospective buyers, according to the Boston Globe.

"If the economic climate were better, we might have taken a look at hiring someone to do what I do at the store," he said. But "the way things are, I decided it made more sense just to sell."

Carrier began running the historic Globe Corner Bookstore in 1982, when it was in Boston, and bought the company in 1992. In 1995, it opened one of the first bookstore websites. In 1988, Globe Corner first opened a store Cambridge.

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Book trailer of the day: Clea Raymond, heroine of Elixir by Hilary Duff (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), takes viewers on a European tour in search of her missing father. 

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Hamish & Henry Booksellers, Livingston Manor, N.Y., plans to close next spring, "ending the life of a store that not only symbolized the hamlet's renaissance and fed local book-lovers, but also raised money for flood victims and drew customers to other Main Street businesses," the Times Herald-Record reported.

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Working on your holiday wish list yet? Unbridled Books is here to help with an entertaining #holidaywishlist hashtag launched by its Twitter account. Samples:

"@unbridledbooks #holidaywishlist President Obama to invite @PeterGeye to the White House to talk about SAFE FROM THE SEA. "

"@unbridledbooks RT@russmarshalek: @unbridledbooks if james franco optioned SINGER'S GUN #holidaywishlist [That would indeed be cool!]"

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REDgroup Retail, parent company of Australian bookstore chains Angus & Robertson and Borders, "has lost its chief executive and is considering cutting jobs as consumer expenditure falls and Australian booksellers lose business to the Internet," according to the Sydney Morning Herald. REDGroup CEO David Fenlon resigned last week.

---

Kathi's Books, a new shop in Chino Valley, Ariz., will host its soft opening November 26, and debut officially November 29. The shop, owned by Dana and Kathi Dore, will sell new and used books, used CDs and DVDs, antiques, clothing and crafted items, the Chino Valley Review reported.

Kathi's Books is located in the Lively Center, 318 West Perkinsville Road, Suite 10, Chino Valley, Ariz.; 928-636-0614 or 928-925-4185.

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The information horse & carriage path. Lapham's Quarterly featured a video explaining how "Stanford researchers create a data visualization of the 15,000 letters Voltaire sent over eighty years, many of them while he was in exile near the Swiss border" as part of the university's Mapping the Republic of Letters project. 

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Inspired by this week's release of President Barack Obama's Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to my Daughters, Flavorwire showcased "15 Children's Books Written by Famous People."

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Sean Concannon, who is leaving Parson Weems Publisher Services as a principal at the end of the year, has become acting executive director of the National Association of Independent Publishers Representatives. Paul Williams, longtime executive director of NAIPR, died in August.

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Susan Savory has joined Bunch of Grapes, Vineyard Haven, Mass., as children's buyer. She has been manager of the Andover Bookstore, Andover, Mass., and owned Shoofly Pie, a children's bookstore in Portsmouth, N.H. She has also worked in antiques, real estate and textile design and has a degree in illustration.


Trending: #FridayReads

 

It's been a little over a year since Bethanne Patrick (aka @thebookmaven) wondered aloud on Twitter, "What are you reading?" A few responses grew to hundreds, and in the past six weeks, the #Fridayreads meme has exploded, jumping from a bit under 2,000 responses weekly to well over 3,000. While it hasn't yet become a trending topic, #FridayReads is worldwide. Tweeps from as far away as Australia and Europe regularly participate, as do plenty of famous authors: @NeilHimself, @JoeHill, @HariKunzru, @TracyChevalier, @JulieKlam, @ChrisBohjalian, @RLStine, @MJRose, @ElizMcCracken, @JonClinch, @Urrealism.

Patrick, managing editor and host of WETA's Book Studio, explained, "Our hope with FridayReads is, simply, to celebrate and promote reading. It's not about one kind of book or another. Audiobooks, even magazines and monographs count." Each participant is counted only once, no matter how many tweets he or she contributes. "Unlike a traditional book club, there's no need to share analysis--unless you want to. Many people have commented that they've discovered new books through FridayReads," she said.

Patrick attributes the recent jump in participants to "vigorous early and late promotion to capture a global audience." Indeed, she's on Twitter all day and night on Friday, hitting every time zone and encouraging everyone to share.

She recently launched a Facebook page for FridayReads; it drew more than 1,500 "likes" in less than 24 hours. Along with an additional place for people to post their FridayReads, the Facebook page provides an archive, RSS feed, FAQs and lists weekly prizes donated by authors and publishers (tomorrow's loot includes a shiny silver Kobo e-reader). "Prizes help get readers excited to share with their friends," Patrick added.

Future plans include a holiday gift list and a FridayReads Top Ten list, "a 'real-time' reading list that will show what people are actually picking up, as opposed to what they buy but never crack open." Patrick is thrilled with the response: "This is a community that includes everyone: readers, authors, writers, librarians, booksellers, critics, bloggers, editors, publicists, salespeople, publishers. FridayReads matters: it bands us together in the shared joy of reading and encourages us all to read more."

 


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Amy Sedaris on the Late Late Show

This morning on the Today Show: Lidia Bastianich, author of Nonna Tell Me a Story: Lidia's Christmas Kitchen (Running Press Kids, $15.95, 9780762436927/0762436921). She is also on the View tomorrow.

Also on Today: Gary Kaminsky, author of Smarter Than the Street: Invest and Make Money in Any Market (McGraw-Hill, $26, 9780071749220/0071749225).

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Tomorrow morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe: Steve Rattner, author of Overhaul: An Insider's Account of the Obama Administration's Emergency Rescue of the Auto Industry (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 9780547443218/0547443218).

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Tomorrow night on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson: Amy Sedaris, author of Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People (Grand Central, $27.99, 9780446557030/044655703X).

 


New Harry Potter Film Already a Record Breaker

Warner Bros. told Deadline.com to "get ready for a record-breaking weekend" after the 12:01 a.m. Friday opening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. The movie "will play in a whopping 3,700 midnight locations, which is a record, with the screen count to adjust based on the demand so that figure could climb even higher. The general theater count for Friday's release is already 4,125, a November record for the Harry Potter franchise, with over 9,000 screens," Deadline.com wrote. In addition, Warner Bros "has lined up 239 IMAX Theatres, another record (the last HP only had 166 IMAX screens)."

Online ticket seller Fandango said the movie has sold out more than 2,200 showtimes in advance of its opening and represents 96% of Fandango's daily ticket sales. In a sign of the times, Fandango's Harry Medved said, "A healthy percentage of Part 1 tickets were sold via Fandango’s mobile apps for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7 and Palm Pre."

 


Amazon: 'You Oughta Be In Pictures'

Amazon has launched Amazon Studios, inviting filmmakers and screenwriters to submit full-length movies and scripts to compete for monthly and annual Amazon Studios Awards. The company said it will offer a combined $2.7 million during a year's worth of monthly and annual contests for best scripts and movies, and will seek to develop the best projects as commercial feature films under a first-look deal with Warner Bros.

For the 2011 Annual Awards, Amazon Studios will give $100,000 for the best script and $1 million for the best movie submitted by December 31, 2011. To be eligible for the first monthly awards, test movies and scripts must be uploaded by January 31. Winners of the first monthly awards will be announced near the end of February--$100,000 for the best full-length test movie and $20,000 each for the two best scripts.

The initial Amazon Studios industry panelists are Jack Epps, Jr., screenwriter and chair, writing division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts; Mark Gill, producer and former president of Miramax and Warner Independent Pictures; screenwriter Mike Werb and Michael Taylor, producer and chair, production division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Under the Amazon Studios development agreement, if a filmmaker or screenwriter creates a project with an original script and it is released by Amazon Studios as a theatrical feature film, the submitter will receive a rights payment of $200,000; if the movie earns more than $60 million at the U.S. box office, the original filmmaker or screenwriter will receive a $400,000 bonus. If Warner Bros. chooses not to develop a particular project, Amazon Studios can produce it in cooperation with another studio.

The New York Times noted that Amazon observers "sensed other strategies afoot. Consumers think of Amazon first when it comes to digital books, but the company has struggled to compete with Apple's iTunes in digital music and television. An Amazon film and the surrounding publicity would help make the company a top-of-mind destination as Hollywood movies become more widely available on the Web. It also could be a pre-emptive competitive move: There is speculation that Netflix could try and get into content creation."

 


This Weekend on Book TV: Miami Book Fair Live

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, November 20

9:30 a.m. David Horowitz, author of Reforming Our Universities: The Campaign for an Academic Bill of Rights (Regnery, $27.95, 9781596986374/1596986379), argues that America's universities are promoting leftist ideologies. (Re-airs Saturday at 11 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m. and Sunday, November 28, at 5:45 a.m.)

11 a.m. Garland Tucker, III, author of The High Tide of American Conservatism: Davis, Coolidge, and the 1924 Election (Emerald Book Company, $29.95, 9781934572504/1934572500), talks about the last time both political parties fielded conservative candidates. (Re-airs Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 10 p.m.)

12 p.m. Book TV features live coverage of the 2010 Miami Book Fair International, with appearances by authors Sebastian Junger, Karl Marlantes, Edwidge Danticat, Carlos Eire, Ngugi Wa Thiong'o and Salman Rushdie, as well as interviews and viewer call-in segments with several authors attending the fair. (Re-airs Sunday at 12:30 a.m.)

8 p.m. Book TV presents the 61st annual National Book Awards from New York City. (Re-airs Sunday, November 28, at 4 p.m.)

10 p.m. After Words. Sanho Tree interviews John Dower, author of Cultures of War (Norton, 29.95, 9780393061505/0393061507). Dower examines the institutional behaviors and individual beliefs that contributed to Pearl Harbor, the bombing of Hiroshima, the 9/11 attacks and the invasion of Iraq. (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Sunday, November 28, at 12 p.m.)

Sunday, November 21

10:30 a.m. Book TV continues live coverage of the Miami Book Fair International, featuring authors Ron Chernow, Simon Winchester, Meghan McCain, John Avlon, Bill Press, Douglas Schoen and Jonathan Franzen. (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m.)

8:15 p.m. Michael Hirsh, author of Capital Offense: How Washington's Wise Men Turned America's Future Over to Wall Street (Wiley, $26.95, 9780470520673/0470520671), appeared on C-SPAN's Washington Journal program to talk about his new book. (Re-airs Sunday at 5 a.m.)

 

 


Books & Authors

E-Book News: Kennedy Detail; Saramago Collection


Together with CBS News and the Discovery Channel, Gallery Books and Simon & Schuster Digital have released an enhanced e-book of The Kennedy Detail: JFK's Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence by Gerald Blaine with Lisa McCubbin to tie in with the Discovery Channel's premiere of The Kennedy Detail next Monday, November 22, the anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.

The enhanced e-book features nearly 30 minutes of video, including a 60 Minutes interview with Secret Service agent Clint Hill, Walter Cronkite's announcement of the death of President Kennedy and other CBS News contemporary reports. The enhanced e-book also has previously unpublished photos from the book. To see a preview of the enhanced e-book, click here.

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is publishing 12 novels and a novella by the late Nobel laureate José Saramago as an e-book collection for $36, according to the New York Times. The collection includes an introduction by Ursula K. Le Guin and the novels Blindness, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ and Baltasar and Blimunda.

 

 


Gift Books 2010, Just the Beginning...

 

It's such a cliché to say "So many books, so little time," but that cliché is staring me in the face and coming home to roost, mixing more clichés and metaphors because I'm overwhelmed almost to the point of insensibility, with all the good books for this year. The only thing for it is to plunge in, starting with a charming little book from Workman, Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg ($11.95). Ostensibly for ages 4-8, this is a book you can give to someone of any age, because it's fun and its lesson is timeless. A spill or bent corner or scrap of paper is not necessarily a mistake--it's an opportunity, it's a chance to be creative. With a paint spill, flaps open to show some puppies drawn within the spill, then some ducks, then an elephant. "A smudge and a smear... can make magic appear."

Want something a bit more adult? Then try the audio version of Life by Keith Richards (Hachette Audio, $34.98 unabridged). It's gotten fabulous reviews, and the audio is read by Richards, Joe Hurley and Johnny Depp. Wow. Listen to the opening in Richards's raspy voice--"Believe it or not, I remember everything, so get ready for the ride. It starts with a bang."--and you'll be hooked. A book/audio hybrid is The 100 Best African-American Poems, selected by Nikki Giovanni (Sourcebooks, $22.99). There are actually more than 100 poems here, since Giovanni counts like we all do when we love something. There are 36 readings on the CD, with 34 poems--a few are read by both the poet and by others. This is worth it just to hear Robert Hayden read "Those Winter Sundays." More poetry, this time with art, comes from Melville House, where Mahendra Singh has turned The Hunting of the Snark ($14.95) into a graphic novel. It's done in the style of 19th-century engravings, but with a twist of surrealism, as befits Carroll (even though Singh says he wouldn't have approved). He throws in references to Douglas Adams, Max Ernst, The Yellow Submarine, the RCA dog and Buddhist stupas, to name a few. Challenging and delightful.

Another graphic book with a twist is I See the Promised Land: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Tara Books, $16.95). The publisher calls it a jam session between two storytelling traditions--African-American writer and blues singer Arthur Flowers tells the story with a narrative and sidebar comments, while Manu Chitrakar, a Bengali scroll painter, illustrates the story in the idiom of Patua art. The result is a powerful tale whose strength is increased by the mythic quality of the artwork. One more graphic book (it's hard to stop--there are so many good ones): War Is Boring by David Axe and Matt Bors (NAL, $12.95) is the memoir of a young war journalist. It's hard to do better than to quote the subtitle: Bored Stiff, Scared to Death in the World's Worst War Zones. East Timor, Afghanistan, southern Iraq, Nicaragua, Somalia--over the course of four years, Axe began to write more and more about the true victims of war. The story is laced with black humor: in East Timor, when a guy in a bar says there's no war there, Axe says he "watched a man get speared today. What do you call that?" The reply: "Tuesday." Matt Bors's art is perfect for the narrative: spare and hard but still nuanced.

For the past 17 years, Otto Penzler has commissioned an original story to be produced as a pamphlet and given to customers of his bookstore each Christmas. These have now been collected in Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop (Vanguard Press, $24.95). In "Murder for Dummies" by Ron Goulart, a YA author is inspired to commit crimes because one day in the store he gets fed up with "another halfwit book about yet another lady private eye," a book with a lousy opening and another he deems tripe. He decides to write an adult mystery that will make it to the bestseller list--one way or another. Michael Malone offers a story with police chief Cuddy Mangum, always a reason to rejoice, and Donald Westlake writes about John Dortmunder, who's up to the usual: "It was hard to run, Dortmunder was discovering, with your pockets full of bronze Roman coins." If you are a mystery fan, a must-get book is Amos Walker: The Complete Story Collection by Loren D. Estleman (Tyrus Books, $32.95). Weighing in at 600 pages, it most definitely is "complete," and a treat. Detroit has never been as brilliantly limned as it is in Estelman's prose, and Walker, with his cigarettes and cheap Scotch, has a dark wit that is antidote to his city's decay and corruption. Estleman is one of the finest writers in the genre.

Another book that brilliantly captures the Motor City is Detroit Disassembled, with photographs by Andrew Moore and text by Moore and poet Philip Levine (Damiani/Akron Art Museum, $50). Much of Detroit is in ruins, and Moore's photographs track the decline while capturing a stark and often lush beauty in the decay. The trashed Arnold Nursing Home with "God has left Detroit" painted on a wall; moldering books in the schoolbook depository sculpted into a landscape of chalkstone hills; the former Mark Twain Public Library with racks of curling paperbacks settling into the debris; the ruined gothic splendor of the Detroit Dry Dock Company with a homeless shelter in the corner--the photographs are stunning, with saturated color and a haunting, tragic beauty.

More to come. Maybe some Jane Austen. Maybe some rap. Certainly a cookbook or two.--Marilyn Dahl

 


Book Review

Mandahla: A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers

A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers by Will Friedwald (Pantheon Books, $45.00 Hardcover, 9780375421495, November 2010)

Such a dull title for such an enthusiastic book! Will Friedwald started this project in 2001, and now, nine years and more than 800 pages later, has produced a fabulous guide to the great singers. Friedwald is opinionated and witty, and covers more than 200 vocalists, including a few that may surprise (Jimmy Durante, Shirley Temple) and some that may be unfamiliar (Jackie Paris, Joe Mooney). He uses the Great American Songbook as a means of choosing the singers he writes about, saying that the line between jazz and pop vocals is blurry and eminently crossable, and his book "is driven, to a degree, by songs... the essential criteria by which artists were or were not included." He then focuses on those who have made a vital contribution to the songs, those for whom the songbook "was mother's milk." He has a jazz bias, so his pop singers swing, and a generational bias for the middle of the 20th century, but does include later vocalists like Diana Krall, Kevin Mahogany and Harry Connick, Jr. (in a chapter about "Retro Crooner Boychicks").

Friedwald gives the singers much more than a cursory few paragraphs. He devotes seven pages to Johnny Hartman, a fitting number for a brilliant artist who didn't achieve success until 15 years after his death, when Clint Eastwood used some of his vocals in The Bridges of Madison County. His success was never equal to his talent; he was one of the greatest interpreters of love songs, and his classic album with John Coltrane is essential listening. "It wasn't just a question of a deep, sensual voice, which he certainly had; it was his romantic attitude." He favored a more positive kind of love song, and even when singing "Lush Life" or "It Never Entered My Mind," he has a melancholy touch, and "never followed [Sinatra] down the abyss of despair into which the Voice often led his listeners."

In writing about Mabel Mercer, usually regarded as the quintessential cabaret singer--and "by extension, one of the most sophisticated individuals ever to prance upon the planet"--he notes that her genius is in retrogressing to young girlhood, cutting through sophistication and urbanity. "This explains the preponderance of songs in 3/4 time. The waltz is the time signature of the fair... when the world was so much younger than we and merry as a 3/4 carousel. These contradictions are what give her work layers, what provides it with texture." While not in 3/4 time, "The Way We Were" captures the tension she evokes between memories of youth and wisdom of age.

Friedwald's descriptions of vocalists and songs will send you right to YouTube or iTunes or Pandora, if not to your own collections, to listen. How could you resist Sam Cooke's "Smoke Rings"? "To say that Cooke sings it soulfully is an understatement; he sings of smoke rings as if they were manifestations of the human soul, and their aerial ascent becomes a flight straight to heaven."

He's not afraid to make controversial pronouncements: "If Streisand could tone down what she does vocally, she might be regarded as an artist to be mentioned in the same breath as Sinatra and Garland." She is incapable of easing up, "whether on a note, on the beat, on the band, on the words, on anything. Everything is a pounce, pounce, pounce all the time...." In listening to "Bewitched," Friedwald says he feels exhausted when she's finished. But then, he also says that Love Is the Answer is Streisand's best album in 40 years. "She sings with a subtlety and reserve that, in her canon, is rare if not unprecedented." With "Here's to Life," she has clearly paid attention to Shirley Horn's subtle and definitive version; with "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," "old pro that she is, [she] actually sustains interest throughout."

This is a rich and provocative collection, starting with Lorez Alexandria and ending with Edythe Wright, with long stops for the usual suspects (Bennett, Sinatra, Cole, Fitzgerald, Vaughn). Filled with insight, personal stories about the singers, and acerbic wit ("I can live without 'If You Go Away'--Jacques Brel doesn't exactly compose melody; what he writes is a script for pop song divas to get all Medea on our ass..."), it's a delight as well as a definitive and indispensable work of music criticism.--Marilyn Dahl

Shelf Talker: Witty and opinionated critical biographies of more than 200 jazz and pop vocalists--an indispensable collection.

 


Deeper Understanding

The Nitty Gritty: A Very Enhanced E-Book

E-books have come a long way since their early days (remember the Gutenberg Project?). While publishers are still working out the kinks--metadata and formatting issues among the most prominent--some are also experimenting with the burgeoning capabilities of e-readers, in particular audio and video. In January, I noted that Vook and McSweeney's both offered good examples of enhanced e-reading. Since then, others have followed suit. In September, Knopf Doubleday released its first enhanced e-book, for Charles Yu's How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

Full disclosure:
How to Live Safely is a favorite of mine, and I've been involved in promotion since before its release date (purely out of a place of enthusiasm--no compensation aside from that book-recommendation-glow involved). When I learned that Knopf had created an enhanced e-book, I asked Yu's editor Timothy O'Connell to dish about the reasoning behind the enhancements and the process. My questions and his answers:

Why experiment with this book in particular?

This is a novel about a son searching for his father through quantum space-time. It is full of loops, alternate time lines and set in a universe that is slightly damaged and only 93% complete. Given the nature of that world (open, unfinished), it's almost like the book was asking to be tinkered with, as if it had ports where you can plug in peripheral devices, auxiliary stories. Yu pushes the bounds of fiction in How to Live Safely--we wanted to push the bounds of how a book was published. So I approached Andy Hughes, the head of production for Knopf, and asked what he thought about producing a one-off metal version. (METAL! In an era when everyone says the physical book is dead.) Andy got this grin on his face and said that this book was a perfect candidate to publish both as an enhanced e-book and unique physical one. Knopf, as everyone knows, has a history of making beautiful clothbound books, but this was an opportunity to publish a gorgeous physical book simultaneous with the most advanced digital version possible. Others agreed because sci-fi sells in digital, is inherently futurist and the work itself is essentially a love letter to the genre. This would also be Knopf's first enhanced e-book, which was exciting because it presented us with a significant marketing opportunity.

Charlie, of course, could not have been more enthusiastic from the outset. He made himself completely available, writing scripts for the audio elements, creating ad copy for a job on the Death Star and coming up with a new bonus story, among other things. Not every author would be up for that, and I think it is a testament to him and the trust he placed in us, which is very gratifying.

Please talk about the creation process for the digital versions of How to Live Safely. There are a couple--how do they differ, and why make more than one?

There are two versions of the e-book for How to Live Safely: the regular e-book and the enhanced A/V e-book. Both have photos, illustrations, links and a bonus secret story (like a hidden track on a CD, which is, of course, now no longer a secret), but the enhanced version also has audio and video elements. The essential question when putting them together was how do we make a beautiful e-book, in form and function as well as content, that does not distract from the main matter at hand, which is the text.

Resources are always an issue, so we hired an intern, Josh Raab, for this project. He was basically the guy who made it all happen. Josh and Chris Mitchell in Random House digital came up with the idea of hyperlinking words in the novel to end-notes that were images and illustrations or further links to the web. This way the text was never truly interrupted. The book just links to itself, which is kind of cool given the book's plot line. So all the extra content (aside from the video and audio in the enhanced version) is stored at the end of the book. A reader hits the hyperlink and it takes them to the image or footnote, then they hit a return link and they are right back where they started. We had to try this on every device to make sure it worked. At one point, we had a Kindle, a Sony Reader, a nook, an iPhone and an iPad in constant rotation.

We weren't sure about the A/V version. We had no budget and three weeks to do it. There was no movie from which to pull video, and the idea of adding an interview with or notes from the author seemed, well, boring. We wanted to enhance the book. So Josh began combing YouTube and Vimeo 24/7 and would send Charlie and me links to his ideas. Then the three of us would decide which made sense and where they could go (after clearing the rights). As far as I know, nothing like it had been done. It certainly felt new to us.

All told, we had seven A/V elements, just to give you an idea how selective we were and how much work went into it. Sometimes I wondered if Josh reached the end of the Internet in his quest to find strange videos about time travel and odd geometric shapes.

At the end of the day, we had a blast. Not only were we able to collaborate on a project we all loved, we were able to engineer a very good result, especially when you consider some of the posts on Twitter. Lydia Ondrusek, a writer who goes by littlefluffycat, said "ahmahgah... the special a/v edition of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is astounding." Another user added "done, and not overdone--a great example of what CAN be done. Awesome." And those are exactly the types of reactions I was hoping for.--Jenn Northington


Up next on the Nitty Gritty: how does the reading experience compare with the enhanced e-reading experience?

 


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Titles in Chicagoland Last Week

The following were the bestselling books at independent bookstores in and around Chicago during the week ended Sunday, November 14:

Hardcover Fiction

1. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris
2. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larrson
3. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
4. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
5. The Confession by John Grisham
 
Hardcover Nonfiction

1. Decision Points by George W. Bush
2. Barefoot Contessa by Ina Garaten
3. I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron
4. Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 by Mark Twain
5. Life by Keith Richards
 
Paperback Fiction

1. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
2. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide by Ntozake Shange
3. Saving Ceecee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
4. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larrson
 
Paperback Nonfiction

1. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
2. When Everything Changed by Gail Collins
3. I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
4. The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison
5. The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholson Taleb
 
Children's

1. The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney
2. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
3. It's a Book by Lane Smith
4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kenney

Reporting bookstores: Anderson's, Naperville and Downers Grove; Read Between the Lynes, Woodstock; the Book Table, Oak Park; the Book Cellar, Lincoln Square; Lake Forest Books, Lake Forest; the Bookstall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka; and 57th St. Books; Seminary Co-op; Women and Children First, Chicago.

[Many thanks to the booksellers and Carl Lennertz!]

 


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