Shelf Awareness for Monday, June 15, 2009
Quotation of the Day
Seaside Classic: 'Best Beach Read of All Time'
"The best beach read of all time is To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf's luminous 1927 novel that is about--aptly--a seaside vacation, although admittedly that's a bit like saying Moby Dick is about a fishing trip. . . . Once a novel is classified as 'literature,' something awful seems to happen; people start revering it and stop reading it. The book is placed on a high shelf, maybe even tucked inside a glass-fronted cabinet, and there it sits--admired to death, in effect. If Woolf still had a say in the matter, I think she'd much prefer glimpsing a copy of To the Lighthouse with a smear of suntan lotion on its crinkled cover or with a bug crushed between pages 101 and 102."--Julia Keller in the Chicago Tribune.
Notes: Obama Beats McCain; Kindle Book-Signings
If you're keeping score at home, "Barack Obama not only beat John McCain at the ballot box last year, he also crushed him in the bookstores." According to the Washington Post, "McCain reported earning $20,539 in royalties last year" from Character Is Destiny and Faith of My Fathers.
President Obama, on the other hand, earned "about $2.6 million last year" from sales of The Audacity of Hope and Dreams From My Father, the Post reported, noting that, "to add insult to injury, McCain was also beat out in the royalties race by another prominent Democrat: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) reported $136,000 in income from The Good Fight."
Would you sign my Kindle, please? The New York Times reported that fears the increasing popularity of electronic reading devices could signal the end of author book-signings may be slightly exaggerated.
During a recent event at Manhattan's Strand bookstore featuring David Sedaris, a man "presented his Kindle, on the back of which Mr. Sedaris, in mock horror, wrote, 'This bespells doom.'" An Amazon spokeswoman "declined to respond" when asked if this was becoming a trend, but "it has been happening at least intermittently for more than a year," according to the Times.
Wyn Morris, owner of the Morris book shop, Lexington, Ky., shared this great video of the installation of a backdrop/mural for the store's cash register area designed by artist James Shambhu.
"Coastal Bellingham Beckons," observed National Geographic Traveler. "Washington's Bellingham and its environs capitalize on and protect their primo location."
One of the destinations highlighted was "the Fairhaven District, a square mile or so of turn-of-the-century buildings turned to modern uses: Village Books stretches across three floors, two cafés, and who knows how many new and used volumes waiting to be browsed."
The Independent Book Publishers Association has named a new president and three new board members, who will begin two-year terms effective July 1. The president of the board of directors is Carlene Sippola, owner and CEO of Whole Person Associates. She previously served on the IBPA board for four years. New board members include Danny O. Snow, a senior fellow of the Society for New Communications Research; Dr. Patti Phillips, president and CEO of ROI Institute; and Stephanie Stewart, the U.S. sales and marketing manager and the government grants coordinator for Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
The legendary "curse of the Bambino," which fueled the Yankees-Red Sox baseball rivalry for decades, may have taken on new meaning last week when, according to the Boston Herald, Yanks pitcher A.J. Burnett was thrown out of "Barnes & Noble in the Prudential Center for swearing on his cell phone . . . the security guard told a couple of customers after the fact that he was aware that Burnett had stunk it up the night before but, 'he shouldn’t take it out on the kids.'"
Do you know the difference between "honeyfuggle" and "hookem-snivey"? After five decades of research, the final volume of the Dictionary of American Regional English, "S to Z," is scheduled to be published next year. NPR's Weekend Edition reported that the "first volume of the DARE was released in 1975, with additional volumes following in time. . . . The DARE project, as it is known, was initiated in the 1950s by Frederic Cassidy, a well-known linguist who sent field workers out across the country in 'word wagons' to interview people." Once the final volume is in print, the complete dictionary will contain 75,000 entries.
In the Guardian, Robert McCrum suggested that "literary history could have been dramatically different if some classics had been published under their working titles." In additon to speculating on the fate of George Orwell's 1984 had it been released as The Last Man in Europe, McCrum also asked: "And what about Portnoy's Complaint (A Jewish Patient Begins his Analysis) or The Waste Land (He Do the Police in Different Voices) or Gone With the Wind (Baa! Baa! Black Sheep)?"
"Politics," Carol Ann Duffy's first poem as the U.K.'s new poet laureate, was published in the Guardian.
Obituary Note: Beat poet Harold Norse, called by William Carlos Williams "the best poet of your generation," died last week. He was 92. In his obituary, the Los Angeles Times observed that "Norse was mentor or peer to great talents in 20th century American literature, including Tennessee Williams, James Baldwin and Allen Ginsberg."
Sand, Water, Words: Summer Reading Lists
On NPR's Morning Edition, Susan Stamberg hosted three independent booksellers who shared their picks for the "Summer's Best Reads." Stamberg noted, "Whatever your reading pleasure--be it fiction, nonfiction, poetry, memoir or graphic novels--you're sure to find page after page of pleasant escape in the recommendations that follow." The choices:
Rona Brinlee, the Bookmark, Atlantic Beach, Fla.
- The Four Corners of the Sky by Michael Malone
- The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
- The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
- The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
- Stone's Fall by Iain Pears
Chris Livingston, the Book Shelf, Winona, Minn.
- Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart
- The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang
- The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
- Laura Rider's Masterpiece by Jane Hamilton
- A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Lucia Silva, Portrait of a Bookstore, Studio City, Calif.
- Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen
- Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories by Kevin Wilson
- Mirrors by Eduardo Galeano, translated by Mark Fried
- The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert (text and illustrations) and Didier Lefevre (photographs)
- Oh! A Mystery of Mono No Aware by Todd Shimoda, artwork by Linda Shimoda
A special "Summer Reading Issue" in the Washington Post included "Beach Buddies: Authors Pick Literary Partners for Fun, Sun," for which writers chose a "book character they would like to accompany them for a day on the beach." A sampling:
Christopher Moore--"The Wife of Bath from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. She's got moxie, knows how to 'swynke it, swynke it,' and she's English, so you can watch her crisp in the afternoon sun."
Garrison Keillor--"Emily Dickinson, the heroine of her own poetry ('Wild Nights!' and others). I just think she needs to get out of that cold dark house in Amherst and spend a sunny day at a beach where, I am pretty sure, she would slip into a two-piece and lie under a parasol and we'd have hot dogs and cold beers and talk and talk and talk."
The Houston Chronicle showcased "Hot titles available for summer reading," observing that "it is apparently one of the cardinal rules of the publishing industry: Books released in the summer must be the perfect accompaniment to days spent lazing on the beach. Publishers promise 'a breezy beach read' or 'a book in search of a beach.' We all know what that really means: a book that doesn't require too much concentration or a book you can read with one eye while watching your kids with the other." As an alternative, the Chronicle suggested "some smart summer books to help fire the synapses."
"Text appeal: Our guide to summer reading" was the headline introducing the National Post's comprehensive guide to sand-dusted tomes.
Oprah's Book Club recommended "20 Tantalizing Beach Reads" because "summer is a time to stray from the beaten track, to read books that might elude you in the busier season. We've got sweet, salty reads for bathing and beyond."
Author Kenneth Davis offered "a historian's summer reading list with a slight twist: a 'water' theme" at the Huffington Post.
BEA Panel: Going Digital
"Newspapers mistakenly believed that what they sell is content," said Andrew Savikas, v-p of digital initiatives, O'Reilly Media, at the BEA panel called Going Digital: An Industry Discussion on Selling E-Content. Instead, newspapers "sell your attention; they pay for it with their editors and writers." This statement, in many ways, framed the panel's discussion about content, what form it may take and how it's delivered. "[The newspapers] don't own your attention, and unless they get it back, they can't win you with content."
It's no longer about just hardcover versus paperback, but also being able to explain to customers about the pros and cons of the Kindle or other e-readers, said Jenn Northington, events and marketing manager at the King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah.
King's English recently ran a special promotion on Twitter: "Be our 600th follower and win an ARC of Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, #1 on the June IndieNext list! (US shipping only)." She said she can use this list of followers to learn more about her customers. "We don't know how many of our patrons have e-readers, but we'll find out." The King's English Web page not only gives information about the store and how to connect in person, but about how to connect online and has attracted customers from as far away as Australia. The "sales percentage is not the point," says Northington. Rather the store is building toward a future where business may be conducted in a variety of ways.
Len Vlahos, ABA chief program officer (and now ABA's COO), said that since the announcement of the IndieBound iPhone application nearly two months before BEA, there had been 50,000 downloads of the app and ABA had spent no marketing dollars to achieve that. At the time of the panel, the IndieBound app was No. 4 on the iPhone list of the most popular free book applications.
To illustrate how fast e-events occur, Vlahos pointed out that in the three days before the panel, Baker & Taylor and OverDrive had concluded a distribution and licensing agreemnt, Ingram had announced a reorganization to become Ingram Content Group and the New York Times had reviewed a new Cool E-book Reader [or "Cool-er" from the British company Interead]. (It's "deeply flawed," reported Vlahos based on the review, "but watch for future versions.")
"Only three developments?" quipped Mark Nelson, digital content strategist for the National Association of College Stores and v-p of strategy and development for NACS Media Solutions. "That's a slow week."
Nelson tracks publishing developments on his blog, the Cite, and said that NACS thinks of itself as a "digital concierge for students." He suggested another way to look at content distribution: "Rather than print and distribute, let's distribute and print." As an example of this, Nelson said college stores often give away digital versions of a title while they're waiting for the print edition to arrive.
Vlahos stressed the need for independents to be equally fluid. "We can't move fast enough on this," he said. The ABA has embraced a multi-faceted approach, he said:
- Indie e-commerce: ABA is forging relationships that allow bookstores to sell e-books to customers.
- The iPhone application.
- E-book reader sales: The ABA is close to announcing an alliance with an e-book reader partner that would allow booksellers to sell e-readers in their bookstores.
Questions from booksellers in the audience highlighted the gray area that bricks-and-mortar stores inhabit between the physical and digital book world. One bookseller said, "It feels like we're a showroom. Do we need to post something that says, 'Ask us about e-books?' "
Another bookseller asked about the strategy of bundling an e-book or audiobook with a hardcover, at a slightly higher cover price, and about low e-book pricing that may not recoup all of the costs the publisher has incurred to produce a title. Nelson answered, "The customer cares how much [the book in whatever form] is worth to them--they don't care if the publisher thinks the digital edition is worth as much as the print version." He said that we need to move toward a "revenue sharing" model, in which the reseller gets a share of the profits. He pointed out that Amazon is losing money on the Kindle and that more people are currently reading books on Stanza than on the Kindle.
Expressing concern about the growing e-presence of Google and Amazon, one bookseller pointed out that historically publishers preferred to deal with a group rather than one or two major distribution networks. Vlahos agreed, "As frightened as we are of Amazon [moving content] vertically, publishers are more frightened."
Another bookseller expressed concern about selling unprotected pdfs with no embedded encryption. In response, Savikas invoked Tim O'Reilly, who has said that "piracy is progressive taxation." He continued that people generally equate pirating property with lost sales, "but someone who would choose an illicit download wouldn't otherwise purchase it." Savikas said that people generally want to "do the right thing" if they can, and that activity on filesharing devices often act as a gauge for consumers' interest.
Another bookseller asked about the new generation of readers, teens who are already doing most of their e-reading, calling and texting on their cell phones. Savikas, returning to his example of the erroneous newspaper assumption that they sell content rather than attention, suggested that it's not that teens won't spend money. "They'll pay $3.99 for a ringtone," he pointed out. "If we understand how we're adding value, it opens up a range of possibilities." Savikas suggested that we need to think about what business we're really in: "It's not just a physical book. A book is a device, like an e-book is a device. We can make the argument that [consumers] should come to us."
Northington agreed, sayining, "Booksellers, as curators, offer a specific collection of titles with a specific reason we've bought the books we've bought. We're a destination--for events, for sales and as a filter [for all the titles out there]."--Jennifer M. Brown
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Queen Takes King
This morning on the Today Show: Bethenny Frankel, author of Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting (Fireside, $16, 9781416597988/1416597980).
Also on Today: Gigi Levangie Grazer, author of Queen Takes King (Simon & Schuster, $25.99, 9780743291996/0743291999).
This morning on Good Morning America: Julie Morgenstern, author of SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life: A Four-Step Guide to Getting Unstuck (Fireside, $15, 9780743250900/0743250907).
Today on the Diane Rehm Show: Jason Kersten, author of The Art of Making Money: The Story of a Master Counterfeiter (Gotham, $26, 9781592404469/1592404464).
Today on Access Hollywood: Lauren Conrad, author of L.A. Candy (HarperCollins, $17.99, 9780061767586/0061767581). She also on the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien tomorrow night.
Today on the Laura Ingraham Show: Suzy Welch, author of 10-10-10 (Scribner, $24, 9781416591825/1416591826).
Today on PBS's Tavis Smiley: Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, authors of Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography (Simon & Schuster, $25, 9781416559382/1416559388).
Tonight on the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien: Joe Torre, author of The Yankee Years (Doubleday, $26.95, 9780385527408/0385527403).
Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Karen Pryor, author of Reaching the Animal Mind: Clicker Training and What It Teaches Us About All Animals (Scribner, $25, 9780743297769/0743297768).
Tomorrow morning on the Early Show: Gigi Levangie Grazer, author of Queen Takes King (Simon & Schuster, $25.99, 9780743291996/0743291999).
Tomorrow morning on Fox News's Fox & Friends: Glenn Beck, author of Glenn Beck's Common Sense: The Case Against an Out-of-Control Government (Threshold Editions, $11.99, 9781439168578/1439168571).
Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Matthew M. Aid, author of The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency (Bloomsbury, $30, 9781596915152/1596915153).
Tomorrow on Fox New's Strategy Room: Maria Celeste Arraras, author of Make Your Life Prime Time: How to Have It All Without Losing Your Soul (Atria, $21, 9781416585817/1416585818).
Tomorrow on All Things Considered: Monica Ali, author of In the Kitchen (Scribner, $26.99, 9781416571681/141657168X).
Tomorrow night on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Tom Folsom, author of The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld (Weinstein Books, $24.95, 9781602860810/1602860815).
Movies: Cunningham's Chiller Screenplay; Coraline Wins Prize
A "scary genre thriller from a most unlikely source: Michael Cunningham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours," was acquired by Screen Gems, according to Variety, which "prevailed in a spec auction" for Beautiful Girl, a story that "concerns a shy but brainy high school girl who returns for senior year after having slimmed down six dress sizes. She finds herself flirting with the handsome English lit teacher, but the mutual crush turns deadly when the teacher's obsession with the student compels him to exact maniacal revenge on everyone who was cruel to her."
Cunningham is a "genre junkie, even if his love of blood-soaked movies didn't seep into his books," Variety reported.
"While I was writing about Virginia Wolff, my mind was never far removed from the idea of girls in bikinis being hacked up by guys wearing hockey masks, and I vowed that if I ever had a good idea, I would write one of these scary movies," Cunningham said, adding, "This summer, I will finish a novel where nobody gets anything gouged out of them, but my plan is to then write another idea I have for an actual monster movie. As it turns out, we sometimes find we can do more than one thing in our lives."
Henry Selick's Coraline, the stop-motion 3-D adaptation of Neil Gaiman's bestseller, "shared the best feature nod at the 33nd Annecy Animated Film Festival, Europe’s most important toon confab," Variety reported. Mary and Max, directed by Adam Elliot, was the co-winner.
"These two films aren’t straight family fare, and have a very strong identity," said Serge Bromberg, the festival's artistic director. "In their own way, they are auteur films."
Books & Authors
IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites
From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next picks:
Wanting: A Novel by Richard Flanagan (Atlantic, $24, 9780802119001/080211900X). "Richard Flanagan has now written five great novels, including the stunning, highly praised Gould's Book of Fish. His latest is a simple tale based in history, in which Flanagan takes three sensational events, well-known to Victorian England, and imagines how they were played out by the iconic characters involved: Sir John Franklin, governor of the penal colony of Van Diemen's Land and later a doomed Arctic explorer; Charles Dickens; and Mathinna, a beautiful, charismatic aboriginal child adopted by the Franklins in an infamous experiment. Wanting is about desire, and about lack, and the very real tragedy of colonization. How Flanagan brings these events and themes to life is genius."--Lisa Howorth, Square Books, Oxford, Miss.
In the Sanctuary of Outcasts: A Memoir by Neil White (Morrow, $25.99, 9780061351600/0061351601). "Mississippi wheeler-dealer Neil White, after years of snowballing financial deals and deceptions, finds himself assigned to a year in a Federal correction facility in Carville, Louisiana, home to the last people in the continental U.S. with Hansen's Disease--better known as leprosy. From the unlikely combination of inmates and patients, White struggles to discover new values and to understand a little-known world."--Carolyn Chesser, Bayou Book Company, Niceville, Fla.
A Thread of Truth by Marie Bostwick (Kensington, $15, 9780758232151/0758232152). "A Thread of Truth is a captivating story of an abused wife who is caught in a cycle of constant flight from her abuser. This novel has wonderful characters, a fast-moving plot, and a strong message of friendship and community. A really good read, especially for book groups."--Linda Vinstra, Great Northern Books and Hobbies, Oscoda, Mich.
For Young Adults
Twenty Boy Summer: A Novel by Sarah Ockler (Little Brown, $16.99, 9780316051590/0316051594). "Anna and Frankie are looking for a summer fling in California--but they are still grieving for Matt, who was Frankie's brother and Anna's secret boyfriend. As Anna tries to shoulder Frankie's grief, and her own, the secret of her romance with Matt threatens to destroy their friendship. This book has all the things you want in YA fiction: a secret, a romance, a friendship, and great writing."--Jake Hallman, A Great Good Place for Books, Oakland, Calif.
[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]
Book Review: Where Underpants Come From
Where Underpants Come from: From Checkout to Cotton Field-Travels Through the New China and Into the New Global Economy by Joe Bennet (Overlook Press, $25.95 Hardcover, 9781590202289, July 2009)
Joe Bennett looks from a pair of underpants to their price tag and back again. He is puzzled that anything made in China and transported thousands of miles to New Zealand could sell for 87 cents and be so nice. In dogged determination to understand, he decides to "trace all the constituent parts of the underpants to their source," and covers a vast amount of territory in the process. He journeys to Urumqi (in Xinjiang province in China's far west), where long-staple cotton grows, is harvested, baled and turned into thread; he visits Quanzhou (in Fujian province, a two-hour flight south of Shanghai), where the fine cotton thread is knitted into fabric and made into underpants; he drops by the port of Shanghai to watch technicians pack goods into containers ready to ship, and more.
At every stage of the manufacturing and distribution process, Bennett finds rampant entrepreneurial mania. As if the instinct to do business was unleashed with a vengeance in China after 40 years of Mao, he writes, "While the corporate West salivates over the Chinese market with its billion potential customers, the corporate Chinese salivate over the Western market with its billion actual customers."
Much more than an intrepid investigator reporting how his underpants found their way to his body, Bennett is a delightful guide on an off-the-beaten-track-tour of the New China. Other visitors to Shanghai would hightail it to Pudong (in 1990 the site of vegetable gardens and pig farms) to gawk at the array of flashy high-rises rivaling Manhattan; Bennett treks out to Tangshan Free Trade Area, Shanghai's new container ship port, the biggest in the world. In Bangkok, while Western tourists troll through the sex emporia, he searches for the elusive tree that produced rubber for the elasticized waistband of his underpants.
Because of his wildly idiosyncratic itinerary, the restaurants he patronizes and the people he meets are far from run-of-the-mill: enjoy his every bite of a freshly killed millipede; make the acquaintance of a whole slew of previously uncelebrated factory workers, engineers and entrepreneurs. The good time he has on his adventures from one end of China to the other is infectious. Of all that he sees, though, nothing captures his imagination like Chinese driving habits. "China doesn't have motorbike gangs. China is a motorbike gang," he says with veiled admiration of those who drive like paramedics and regard rear-view mirrors as purely decorative.--John McFarland
Shelf Talker: A delightful and informative tour of the New China through the lens of the fancy underpants of a very funny New Zealander.