Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, November 4, 2008
B&N 'Bracing for a Terrible Holiday Season'
Barnes & Noble is "bracing for a terrible holiday season" and expects "the trend to continue well into 2009, and perhaps beyond," B&N chairman Len Riggio wrote in a memo to employees quoted by the Wall Street Journal, which has a link to the full memo.
"Never in all of the years I've been in business have I seen a worse outlook for the economy," Riggio continued. "And never in all my years as a bookseller have I seen a retail climate as poor as the one we are in. Nothing even close."
He said, too, that B&N has suffered from this financial and credit crisis, "albeit not as severely as most retailers, and certainly not as much as other booksellers." Sales at stores open at least a year had fallen recently for the first time in B&N's history.
Riggio predicted that "the decline in retail traffic will affect our business as less people will pass our doors, and competition for the remaining business will become more intense. The result will be a 'Darwinian' environment (only the fittest will survive), and the retail species will have to adapt or face extinction. We have and will continue to adapt, and we plan to be around for a long time."
Among the measures the company is taking: B&N will "curtail greatly" store openings and sharply cut discretionary spending. Still, there is much "good news," Riggio continued. "Not the least of which is our being the industry leader by all of the important metrics: sales, sales per square foot, store and company profitability, cash flow, free cash flow, etc. In fact, we still intend to pay out a $50 million dividend to our shareholders this year. In addition, we have a solid balance sheet, excellent standing with the banking community, and more importantly, a large line of unused credit to draw upon. And, even with this year's large sales shortfall, we will make a decent profit, and end the year without owing a penny to our banks."
He thanked management and "superb store managers, hard working home office staff, and the thousands of great booksellers in all of our stores."
Notes: Amazon's Top 100; Atticus Finch for President!
Amazon has compiled its Best Books of 2008, which besides the editors' top 100 picks, includes the top 100 bestselling titles, "dozens more top 10s in categories from audiobooks to teens, and--for the first time this year--our top 10 book covers and videos."
On the Omnivoracious blog, senior books editor Tom Nissley called the editors' list one "that snuck up on us, especially our #1 pick," The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher, which was moved up twice by Knopf after the book made the Booker Prize shortlist and is just now being published. The second and third titles are Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg (Other Press) and Nixonland by Rick Perlstein (Scribner).
A woman from Madison, Wis., her handmade Obama T-shirt, Martha Stewart and the Book Stall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka, Ill.
Sound like the makings for an unusual story? On election eve, the Wisconsin State Journal told the tale.
Twice Told bookstore, Ballston Spa, N.Y., is seeking a business partner, according to the Saratogian, which reported that owner Ursula Abrams is looking for "someone who can bring fresh ideas to the business, which has seen only modest growth since 2005" and is "open to the idea of a potential buyer acting purely as financial backer or as a more hands-on managing owner."
"I'm kind of at a point where I've been running the store on my own for five years and feel like in some ways, I've taken it the point where I can on my own," Abrams said. "I want to try to get more people involved and see where someone else's energy can take it."
Barnes & Noble store openings scheduled for November 12:
- A 40,000-sq.-ft. store in the Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook, Ill., that will replace the current store in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. This is one of the largest B&Ns in the Chicago area.
- A store in the Neshaminy Mall in Bensalem, Pa., northeast of Philadelphia.
- A store in the Hamilton Place Mall in Chattanooga, Tenn. This will replace the current store at 2230 Hamilton Place Boulevard, near the mall.
Books-A-Million has opened the following stores:
- A 23,000-sq.-ft. store in the Houston Pavilions in Houston, Tex., the company's 11th store in Texas.
- A 15,500-sq.-ft. store in the Statesboro Crossing mall in Statesboro, Ga., near Savannah, BAM's 16th store in Georgia.
- A 15,500-sq.-ft. store at 1540 S. Main Street in Blacksburg, Va., near Roanoke.
- Yet another 15,500-sq.-ft. store, at 4145 Phoenix Avenue in Ft. Smith, Ark.
An amusing note on election day: Jessica James, author of historical nonfiction, polled visitors of her website about "the literary character they think best exemplifies the qualities of a U.S. president." The landslide winner, with 56% of the vote, was Atticus Finch of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.
Second, with 15% of the vote, was Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice--who would not qualify because of his foreign birth, but no matter. Third place was a character from one of James's own novels: Colonel Alexander Hunter from Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia.
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Tom Brokaw's Boom!
Tomorrow night on the Late Show with David Letterman: Tom Brokaw, author of Boom!: Talking About the Sixties: What Happened, How It Shaped Today, Lessons for Tomorrow (Random House, $18, 9780812975116/0812975111).
Books & Authors
Awards: Guardian First Book Prize Shortlist
The Guardian's first book award shortlist includes five works that Claire Armitstead, chairwoman of the judges, called "sophisticated books that require a big investment from the reader--an investment for which they are richly rewarded."
The shortlisted titles are The Rest Is Noise by Alex Ross, Stalin's Children by Owen Matthews, God's Own Country by Ross Raisin, A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz and A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif.
The £10,000 (US$15,732) prize is open to debut fiction, nonfiction and poetry published in the U.K. According to the Guardian, "this year, Waterstone's readers' groups from Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Bath, Oxford and London, plus one based online, helped narrow down the 10-strong longlist to five books. Their combined voting power was greater than that of the panel of four judges."
Attainment: New Books Out Next Week
Selected new titles appearing next Monday and Tuesday, November 10 and 11:
Just After Sunset by Stephen King (Scribner, $28, 9781416584087/1416584080) is the latest collection of King's horrific short stories.
A Mercy by Toni Morrison (Knopf, $23.95, 9780307264237/0307264238) centers on the newly established slave trade in 1680s America.
YOU: Being Beautiful: The Owner's Manual to Inner and Outer Beauty by Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz (Free Press, $26.99, 9781416572343/1416572341) provides holistic methods for achieving beauty.
The Hour I First Believed: A Novel by Wally Lamb (Harper, $29.95, 9780060393496/0060393491) follows two teachers who start working at Columbine High School in 1999.
The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck (Threshold Editions, $19.99, 9781416594857/141659485X) is a story about Christmas during childhood.
Big Boy Rules: America's Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq by Steve Fainaru (Da Capo Press, $26, 9780306817434/0306817438) is by the Washington Post writer and winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.
The Bodies Left Behind: A Novel by Jeffery Deaver (Simon & Schuster, $26.95, 9781416595618/1416595619) takes place in rural Wisconsin where a vacationer and a deputy must escape ruthless criminals.
Call Me Ted by Ted Turner and Bill Burke (Grand Central, $30, 9780446581899/0446581895) chronicles the life and career of a renowned entrepreneur.
Rickles' Letters by Don Rickles and David Ritz (Simon & Schuster, $25, 9781416596639/1416596631) is a collection of comedic (and fake) correspondence. For example: "Rickles to Mrs. Lincoln: 'Sorry you had problems at Ford's Theatre last night, but could you get me a couple of aisle tickets for the Saturday matinee?' "
Book Review: Songs for the Missing
Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan (Viking Books, $25.95 Hardcover, 9780670020324, November 2008)
"Missing Child." It's a headline we've seen often in life as well as fiction, one that never fails to elicit cold fear and dread. Unless personally affected, most of us stop at that newspaper headline or TV appeal for information, unwilling or unable to absorb the weight of such a tragedy. As a result, few of us know, or can imagine, what happens to a life, a family or a community after a child goes missing--and cannot be found. Novelists have tackled this difficult subject before with varying degrees of success. None, however, has come close to the precision and grace of Stewart O'Nan in his outstanding new novel, Songs for the Missing.
It's the summer of 2005 and 18-year-old Kim Larsen is about to escape her stifling Ohio hometown for the freedom of college. Carefree and confident, she heads out for the late shift at the Conoco mini mart where she and a girlfriend work "like two captured mermaids displayed in a tank." But Kim never shows up at work and never returns home. It isn't until the following morning that Kim's parents, Ed and Fran, realize she is missing and begin a frantic search that will go on for years without resolution. The police can't be sure that, as an adult, Kim hasn't disappeared intentionally, but the Larsens (including Kim's sulky, nerdy younger sister Lindsay) are sure that Kim has been abducted. Fran gives a press conference and organizes volunteers to search in groups. Ed follows a lead to a neighboring town and stays there for six weeks. The seasons turn, and Kim's friends leave for college. Volunteers dwindle. Lindsay compensates by attempting to become "perfect." One year closes and then another with no leads and no closure.
O'Nan shifts his point of view between Kim's parents, sister and friends and hits each with pointillist accuracy, creating complex portraits of each individual as well as the shifting mood of the town itself. Most impressive, however, is the precision with which O'Nan conveys the transformation of a family's fresh terror into a kind of quotidian torture as the weeks and months drag on. There is a measure of suspense here too, but, just as he did with the terrific Last Night at the Lobster, O'Nan creates his narrative tension out of the relationships between his multilayered characters. There is none of the easy sensationalism here that his subject might suggest and not a single wasted sentence. Powerful, honest and at times elegiac, this absorbing and masterfully written novel is not to be missed.--Debra Ginsberg
Shelf Talker: A brilliantly observed novel about a family's worst nightmare that lingers in the imagination long after the last page is turned.
Shelf Talker: Graphic Lit, Holiday Edition
The holidays are perhaps the best time to bring a couple of new works of graphic literature (aka comics) into your bookstore, even if you don't emphasize them the rest of the year. Most of these titles are priced comparably with traditional words-only books, and they look special and beautiful in your displays and in the hands of a lucky gift recipient. Here are a dozen titles I think are among the best graphic lit bets for bookstores for the holidays, with a "shelf talker" style description of what makes them great and notes to booksellers following. I'd love to hear from you about the graphic novels you're reading, recommending and selling in your store!--Jessica Stockton Bagnulo
For kids and teens:
The Mice Templar, Vol. 1: The Prophecy by Bryan J. L. Glass (Image Comics, $29.99, 9781582408712/1582408718)
Swords and the supernatural abound in the ongoing saga of the young mouse Karic, whose destiny is to restore the fallen order of the mice Templar. This collection of the first six comics in the Mice Templar series is perfect for kids and young adults who love stories of adventure and magic.
Moomin: The Complete Tove Jannson Comic Strip, Book 3 (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95, 9781897299555/1897299559)
This third volume of beloved Norwegian author Jansson's work to be reissued makes for a lovely set of stories about the gentle hippo-like Moomin and his friends and family, drawn and written as whimsically as children's books, but full of awkward, hilarious, even dark situations that adults will find familiar.
Also available: Moomin Book 1 (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95, 9781894937801/1894937805) and Moomin Book 2 (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95, 9781897299197/1897299192)
Aya of Yop City written by Marguerite Abouet, art by Clement Oubrerie (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95, 9781897299418/1897299419)
The second volume of lively adventures with Abouet's young protagonists is as contemporary as the Gossip Girls, though it takes place during the prosperous period of the 1970s in a rural city in the African country of Ivory Coast. Unwed motherhood, infidelity and rampant flirtation may give some parents pause, but Abouet deals with the subjects with honesty and subtle observations of class and gender, and the responsible, ambitious title character is a true role model.
Also available: Aya (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95, 9781894937900/1894937902)
Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez (Vertigo, $19.99, 9781401203689/1401203663)
Gilbert, one of the hugely talented Hernandez brothers, tells a poignant and surreal story of teenager Miguel Serra, who wakes from a coma to find himself moving in slow motion. As he figures out his relationship with his girlfriend and his best friend and chases down the mysterious Goat Man in the lemon orchard, Miguel's trip through suburbia is compelling, insightful and dreamily strange, perfect for a teen audience.
Best American Comics 2008 (Houghton Mifflin, $22, 9780618989768/0618989765)
Houghton Mifflin does it again, with a collection that truly represents the best of the last year in comics. From the gorgeously textured cover by Eleanor Davis to works by everyone from Alison Bechdel (Fun Home) to Matt Groening (The Simpsons), this book offers incredible comics bang for your buck.
Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! by Art Spiegelman (Pantheon, $27.50, 9780375423956/0375423958)
A fantastic retrospective from the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of Maus, this oversized volume contains a reprint of Spiegelman's classic 1970s collection, Breakdowns, surrounded by his contemporary reflections on his journey in the world of comics.
Explainers: The Complete Village Voice Strips (1956-1966) by Jules Feiffer (Fantagraphics Books, $28.99, 9781560978350/156097835X)
As seen on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, this is a collection of the grown-up work of Jules Feiffer, also a children's book author. Talky, satirical, politically and psychologically astute, Feiffer's strips influenced future comics writers from Gary Trudeau to Art Spiegelman, and this beautiful hardcover is a perfect reintroduction--or introduction, for the uninitiated--to a great cartoonist.
Comic Book Tattoo by various artists (Image Comics, $29.99, 9781582409641/1582409641)
Tori Amos is the kind of musician who inspires fierce loyalty, and that's especially true among comics artists. The anthology collects often beautiful visual stories based on Amos's song lyrics by more than 70 well-known names in comics, and the introduction is by Tori's close friend Neil Gaiman.
Also available: Comic Book Tatto hardcover slipcased special edition (Image Comics, $75, 9781607060314/1607060310)
Omega The Unknown written by Jonathan Lethem, art by Farel Dalrymple (Marvel Comics, $29.99, 9780785130529/0785130527)
Omega the Unknown was a quirky superhero comic that had a brief run in the 1970s, when it found a fan in author-to-be Jonathan Lethem (Motherless Brooklyn, etc.). Lethem teams up with talented artist of awkwardness Dalrymple to reimagine the story of a mute superhero and the teenage boy with whom he shares a strange destiny.
Local written by Brian Wood, art by Ryan Kelly (Oni Press, $29.99, 9781934964002/193496400X)
This is a collection of poignant stand-alone stories about 12 years in the life of one character: Megan McKeenan, who hops from city to city across the U.S. in a search for identity and home. Wood and Kelly extensively researched their locations, from Portland, Ore., to Brooklyn, N.Y., and local landmarks from 12 very different cities feature prominently in the stories.
This celebration of American local culture wouldn't be out of place on a "shop local" display, especially if your town is one of those featured! Link to Wikipedia entry listing all 12 locations.
Collector's Editions: Willie & Joe: The WW II Years by Bill Mauldin (Fantagraphics, $65, 9781560978381/1560978384)
Homely, irreverent, perpetually muddy, Bill Mauldin's classic GIs Willie and Joe dealt with their lot with a hilarious skeptical stoicism that seems uniquely American. This slipcased hardcover collection is a great gift for a dad, uncle or granddad who enjoys a wry laugh at the expense of the muckity-mucks who got us all into this mess.
The Adventures of Tintin: Collector's Gift Set (Little, Brown, $150, 9780316006682/0316006688)
The adventures of boy reporter Tintin, his dog, Snowy, and his friends Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus and the rest are some of the greatest classics in the world of comics (I received one or two volumes every Christmas as a kid, and they kick-started my love of reading). This boxed set is a big gift, but it does represent a significant savings over buying all 21 volumes separately, and it's an investment in years of joyful reading.
A note on distribution. If you'd like to get any of these titles into your store, all are typically available through major wholesalers:
Image, Marvel, and Oni are distributed by Diamond Book Distributors
Vertigo and Pantheon are distributed by Random House
Fantagraphics is distributed by Norton
Little, Brown is distributed by Hachette
Drawn & Quarterly is distributed by Macmillan