Shelf Awareness for Monday, December 21, 2009

Harper Voyager: Dragon Rider (Soulbound Saga #1) by Taran Matharu

Albatros Media: Words about Where: Let's Learn Prepositions by Magda Gargulakova, illustrated by Marie Urbankova

Blackstone Publishing: Ordinary Bear by C.B. Bernard

St. Martin's Griffin: One Last Shot by Betty Cayouette

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Page Street YA: The Final Curse of Ophelia Cray by Christine Calella

Quotation of the Day

Theft Recommendations

"It's so bad lately that I feel like our staff recommendation cards should read: 'BookPeople Bookseller recommends that you steal ________.' "-- Elizabeth Jordan, head book buyer, BookPeople, Austin, Tex., in a story in the New York Times Book Review yesterday about book theft.


HarperOne: Be a Revolution: How Everyday People Are Fighting Oppression and Changing the World--And How You Can, Too by Ijeoma Oluo


Notes: Stormy Holiday Sales; French Court Blocks Google

Last-minute shoppers may compensate for the weekend's unwelcome--at least from a retail perspective--White Christmas blizzard on the East Coast. The bad weather wasn’t enough to prompt the National Retail Federation to revise its forecast for a 1% drop in holiday sales, according to Bloomberg. "Some retailers may extend promotions into Monday and Tuesday to attract shoppers they had hoped to get during the last weekend before Christmas," observed Ellen Davis, an NRF spokeswoman.

New York's Strand bookstore was setting a record sales pace on Saturday until the storm intensified. Co-owner Nancy Bass Wyden told Bloomberg that the Strand "had about $125,000 in sales that day, compared with about $137,000 on the Saturday before Christmas last year."

The New York Times reported that Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for the market research firm NPD Group, called the storm "the bad news," but added that the "good news is it is only one day and most stores will get it back over the week or online." He cautioned, however, that the "biggest losers from the blizzard were probably regional retailers and local merchants... which he estimated could lose up to 2% of sales."


The welcome mat is not out for Google in France. On Friday, a French court found the company "guilty of copyright infringement for scanning books and putting extracts online without a French publisher's consent, a ruling that could hinder the Internet giant's drive to create a global online library," the Wall Street Journal reported, noting that the "court ordered the company to pay €300,000 ($430,000) to French publisher La Martinière and to remove online extracts of its books." Google said it would appeal the ruling but abide by it for now.

La Martinière, the French Publishers' Association and authors' groups SGDL "had argued that Google was exploiting that heritage, and called scanning an act of reproduction," according to Reuters (via the New York Times).

"Even if we can't undo the process of digitalization, this means they cannot use any of the digitized material any more," said Yann Colin, a lawyer for La Martinière.


Cool idea of the day. Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Book Shop, LaVerne, Calif., winner of the 2009 Lucile Micheels Pannell Award in the children's specialty store category, has begun its first annual Book Awards.
"What books did you love in 2009?" general manager Andrea Vuleta and her team have asked their customers. Citing the Newbery and Caldecott Awards, which are chosen by adults, they suggest it's time to go to the source and ask families what books they've enjoyed this year. "Since we are actually in the business of selling books to kids or for kids, we decided to take a new look at this type of award by creating our own version--nominated and voted on by our readers and customers." Readers can nominate their favorites now through December 31 in three categories: picture book; children's novel (up to age 12); and young adult novel. They can then cast their votes between January 1-31 for the top three in each category.


The impending closure of Barnes & Noble's B. Dalton division stores nationwide continues to have a newsworthy ripple effect on communities just becoming aware of their imminent bookshop void.

In Belmont, Mass., the Charlesbank Bookshop will shut down January 16, and the the Boston Globe reported that "some residents fought to save the store. They asked Barnes & Noble, which leases its Leonard Street space between a Starbucks and a Bruegger's, to delay the closing for a year and give them a chance to patronize the store more to try to increase sales."

Laredo, Tex., will have no bookstore when the B. Dalton closes there (Shelf Awareness, December 17, 2009), and a save-the-bookstore committee has been hastily organized, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"Maybe someone will give us a try," said Xochitl Mora Garcia, Laredo's public-information officer. "There's a huge, huge community of readers here."


Calling blogs "the poster children of online media," BookNet Canada explored the book trade blogging world and praised Words Worth Books, Waterloo, Ontario, for the way each of its four active blogs--How to Furnish a Room, Words Worth Books Book Club, Raymond Chandler Drank Here and Edge of Seventeen--"serves a particular niche. Instead of trying to do too much with one blog, they've broken it down to serve everyone better."

Other notable factors contributing to Words Worth's blogging success were frequent updates, an open comments section to foster conversation and a personal touch: "Pictures of the employees appear frequently and personal contact information is provided--readers are even encouraged to e-mail and ask for specific recommendations." The environment also lends itself to "digital hand selling: These blogs are a great example of how an indie bookstore can do what they do best while shifting with technology and the way their customers shop," according to BookNet Canada.


Publishing veteran Robert B. Wyatt's distinguished career included work as an editorial director at Avon Books and Delacorte Books for Young Readers, editor-in-chief of the mass market division of Ballantine Books, as well as the establishment of his own imprint for St. Martin’s Press during the 1990s. Now he has revived A Wyatt Book Inc. to self-publish a pair of hiw own bookseller-themed works of fiction, Jam & the Box and The Fluffys & the Box, through Ingram's Lightning Source POD program.

Wyatt, who has also been volunteering recently at the Golden Notebook bookstore, Woodstock, N.Y., is chronicling his bookish adventures, past and present, on the Bob & the Boxes website.

Describing his new venture in third person, Wyatt wrote: "In the midst of book publishing a decade or so ago, he would have frowned upon anyone who published his own work and would have been surprised that he would do so himself. That was a different time for book publication. Now, book publishing is inching its way toward being the joyous enterprise it once was: there are new ways of doing it.... Wyatt is having fun working on a book from its first word: 'Jamison,' to its last--and best--word: 'happiness.'"

"I just want to have a good time making books one way or another," he told the Woodstock Times.


Book trailer of the day: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (Dial).


Where's Waldo? Found! By 50 million children.

The Where's Waldo? book series has reached the 50 million-copy sales mark worldwide, Candlewick Press and Classic Media have said. In addition, the Where's Waldo? The Fantastic Journey game, created by Ludia Inc., for iPhone and iPod Touch hit the #1 app spot in the U.S. and Canada within 48 hours of its launch on December 9 and remains among the top 10 apps and is #1 in games. First published in 1987, Where's Waldo? is now sold in more than 30 countries and in 25 languages. Waldo fans can join the search online at


Effective immediately, Brant Janeway has been named marketing director of Macmillan Audio. Most recently he worked in advertising sales for and earlier was director of advertising at Bantam Dell and director of marketing and publicity for Plume Books and Hudson Street Press. He began his publishing career in publicity at Random House.


Harpervia: Behind You Is the Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj

Image of the Day: A Pillar of Bookmarks

In response to Robert Gray's column "Between the Pages--Collecting Bookmarks," in Friday's issue of Shelf Awareness, Amy Thomas of Pegasus and Pendragon Books, Oakland, Calif., wrote: "Thought you might like to see our bookmark pillar. We also just spotted our bookmark in the Brown Alumni catalogue cover--that was fun. One of my favorite bookmarks promises 'special orders personally attended to'--reminding me of those far-off days when special orders were a pain and an ordeal!"

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Larry McMurtry's Literary Life

Today on Fox News' Glenn Beck: Richard Paul Evans, author of The Christmas List (Simon & Schuster, $19.99, 9781439150009/1439150001).


Tonight on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon: Jeffrey Ross, author of I Only Roast the Ones I Love: Busting Balls Without Burning Bridges (Simon Spotlight, $24.99, 9781439101407/143910140X).


Tomorrow morning on Morning Edition: Larry McMurtry, author of Literary Life: A Second Memoir (Simon & Schuster, $24, 9781439159934/1439159939).


Tomorrow on the Joy Behar Show: Steve Ward and JoAnn Ward, authors of Crash Course in Love (VH1, $17.99, 9781439177334/1439177333).


Tomorrow on Oprah: Sarah Palin, author of Going Rogue (HarperCollins, $28.99, 9780061997877/0061939897).


Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Bruce Feiler, author of America's Prophet: Moses and the American Story (Morrow, $26.99, 9780060574888/0060574887).


Tomorrow night on Larry King Live: E. Benjamin Skinner, author of A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery (Free Press, $16, 9780743290081/0743290089).


Tomorrow night on the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien: Lance Armstrong, author of Comeback 2.0 (Touchstone, $27.99, 9781439173145/1439173141).


Television: Booking HBO's The Pacific

In addition to the two books mentioned Friday as inspirations for HBO's upcoming 10-part miniseries, The Pacific, (Shelf Awareness, December 18, 2009), an official companion volume by Hugh Ambrose will be published.

In The Pacific (NAL Hardcover, $26.95, 9780451230232/045123023X, March 2, 2010), Ambrose--son of Band of Brothers author Stephen Ambrose--focuses on three U.S. Marines who are major characters in the miniseries and provides additional insight into other aspects of the war by detailing the experiences of two other servicemen, a U.S. Marine who served as a prisoner of war in the Philippines and a U.S. Navy carrier pilot who led numerous bombing runs. In addition to writing the book, Ambrose served as a historical consultant for the HBO miniseries. 


Books & Authors

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:
A Year of Cats and Dogs
by Margaret Hawkins (Permanent Press, $28, 9781579621896/1579621899). "At the end of a long relationship, Maryanne is spurred into action, or rather inaction, as she 'cleans house' in her life and some surprising and wonderful things move into the space that she creates. Maryanne is a very real character and a true seeker. We should all be that brave."--Anne Wilde, Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, Wis.
America's Prophet: Moses and the American Story by Bruce Feiler (Morrow, $26.99, 9780060574888/0060574887). "Do you think you know all about the Pilgrims, the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, the emancipation of slaves and Martin Luther King, Jr.? Think again. I thought I did until I read America's Prophet, a thoroughly enjoyable and accessible book, with a surprisingly fresh focus on American history."--Fran Wilson, Colorado State University Bookstore, Fort Collins, Colo.
The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder's Journey Through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows by Kent Nerburn (New World Library, $14.95, 9781577315780/1577315782). "The Wolf at Twilight continues the story begun in Neither Wolf Nor Dog. Nerburn and Indian elder Dan embark on a journey into Dan's past, facing a painful legacy as they search to discover the fate of Dan's sister. If you have read Nerburn's earlier works, you'll want to read this beautifully told book. If you're not familiar with Nerburn's writing, this book will be a good place to start."--Sally Wizik Wills, Sister Wolf Books, Park Rapids, Minn.
For Ages 4 to 8
First Ballet by Deanna Caswell, illustrated by Elizabeth Matthews (Hyperion, $16.99, 9781423113539/1423113535). "If ever a book proved the idea that less is more when it comes to picture book rhyme schemes, it is First Ballet. This delightful book not only captures the magic of loving the ballet, but it conveys the charm of truly being captivated by anything magical."--Kenny Brechner, Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers, Farmington, Me.
[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Book Review: The Unnamed

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris (Reagan Arthur Books, $24.99 Hardcover, 9780316034012, January 2010)

The word "gifted" is so often attributed to writers that it has almost lost its luster, becoming in some cases merely a synonym for "good." Yet, at the risk of adding to the pile, there is no better word to describe Joshua Ferris (author of Then We Came to the End) whose second novel, The Unnamed, is an extraordinary piece of work.

The deceptively simple plot concerns Tim Farnsworth, a successful partner in a law firm, who lives in New York City with his devoted wife, Jane, and teenage daughter, Becka. Tim loves his job, his family and his life, but as the novel opens he contemplates what it will mean to lose everything. The reason for this is the return of a mysterious--unnamed--disease that causes him to start walking and keep walking until he collapses from exhaustion. Although this sounds like a contrived device, Tim's affliction reads as completely authentic. Tim and Jane (who is in remission from cancer) have made the rounds of physical and mental health specialists but have come up short every time. Nobody can explain or diagnose Tim's illness and there is nothing he or Jane can do to keep him from walking miles upon miles through dangerous neighborhoods in treacherous weather. Unable to stop him, Jane tries to at least protect her husband; she gives him a backpack full of gear and a GPS so that she will know where to pick him up when his body gives out (often in the middle of the night). Inevitably Tim walks himself out of his job, his health suffers, and his relationships with Jane (who becomes an alcoholic) and Becka deteriorate, despite the sacrifices they all make for each other. But when Tim's illness goes into a sudden remission, he and Jane are able to rebuild their lives and their marriage, taking nothing for granted and finding pleasure in each other. Then one day, an agonized Tim calls Jane and tells her, "It's back."

There are many ways to read Tim's disease; as an allegory of social dysfunction or, more obviously, addiction, but Ferris never sacrifices story in the service of theme. His striking originality (a hallmark of his first novel) and stunning language allow great depth of feeling from a completely literal read. That feeling, however, cannot be classified as an optimistic one. A meditation on love, selfishness and the human condition, The Unnamed is a beautifully told, profoundly sad tale that resonates long after the last page is turned.--Debra Ginsberg

Shelf Talker: A beautiful, sad and strikingly original story of an ordinary man with an extraordinary affliction from the wildly talented author of Then We Came to the End.


Deeper Understanding

The Nitty Gritty E-Reader

Shelf Awareness welcomes Jenn Northington, general manager at breathe books, Baltimore, Md., who will write a regular column about her e-reader experiences. Here's the first installment:

I've been a bookseller for five years, four of those at the independents Changing Hands, the King's English and, currently, breathe books, and I'd like to remain a bookseller for the next 50. This requires, of course, that there still be bookstores 50 years from now--an uncertain future I am heavily invested in. Simultaneously, I am excited about the possibilities that I see digital publishing bringing to booksellers and bookstores (physical ones, I should note). While I've expressed this enthusiasm at two panels for the ABA this year (BEA and NAIBA), I've also heard (and sometimes agreed with) the, shall we say, less enthusiastic views.

Because digital publishing is still developing, most of the reviews, articles, blogs, etc., are commentary or speculation, feature lists or (frequently) wish-lists. This has made me wonder: What is it like to own and use an e-reader? How does e-reading compare with reading, something I've been enjoying for practically my entire life? With help from Shelf Awareness, I decided to join the ranks of the estimated five million e-reader consumers. My goal is to uncover and report on all the nitty gritty details of e-reading that get lost in the pro and con rhetoric.

My aim is not to put digital publishing on a pedestal nor to grind it into the dust. Rather I hope to give booksellers a platform of hard knowledge about e-readers that will enable us to talk to our customers thoughtfully and accurately, without judgment.

The first order of business was to pick my weapon of choice. Lord knows, there are umpteen million e-readers. However, I tend to ignore reviews in favor of my "poke it before you buy it" policy--if a piece of software or hardware doesn't do what I want or expect it to do, I move right along (unless I am absolutely forced to use it for some reason). This puts 90% of e-readers out of the running; the only ones you can try before you buy are the Sony Touch and Pocket Editions, and Barnes & Noble's nook. (The Kindle was out of the running automatically because--need I say it?--if it doesn't support the ePub format, it doesn't support independent bookstores. Plus, you can't get your hands on it without purchasing it.) The time I spent at Best Buy and B&N was fascinating, and not at all what I expected. I encourage every bookseller to do the same--even 20 minutes playing with an e-reader is an investment in your job, in your ability to talk knowledgeably to customers about books in all their many forms.

I spent about an hour at Best Buy playing with the Sony floor models, and was shockingly underwhelmed. For second-generation devices, I found the Sony Readers disappointing at best.

The Pocket Edition is attractively small and very basic. It does the minimum of what you'd expect an e-reader to do: it holds books and turns pages (and when I say turns pages, I mean that the screen goes gray and wiggly for a second. This was true for all the e-readers I played with). The buttons are pretty obvious, and work as you'd expect them to (which is actually something of a feat, in this day and age), and aren't in obnoxious locations. For $200 though (did I mention I'm cheap?), I expect a little more function.

The Touch Edition was especially disappointing, since I had read reviews that got me excited. Yes, it has a touch screen, which means fewer buttons, which in theory is a good thing. It also has a stylus. You can write with it, right on the screen, and highlight passages--which is pretty neat. However, I soon found that the controls are less than precise. I'd try to highlight something and get the auto-dictionary instead--the stylus would select a word and up would pop the definition. This was fun at first, but ended up being more annoying than anything, because it happened at the drop of a hat. You can also make notes, annotate, bookmark and play certain types of audio files. But even with all that function, the experience was so bland and clunky that I reconsidered this column. If you went by the Sony models, you'd think that e-readers had a very long way to go before they were worth it.

The nook, to my immense surprise, rekindled my faith. At first sight, it's much better-looking than either of the Sony editions. The reading screen is somehow crisper (they could be exactly the same, but the nook's looked better, I swear), and the navigation screen (a separate touch-screen beneath the reading screen) is functional and beautiful. It takes a little getting used to, since you want to poke both the reading and nav screens, but only one of them will respond to touch. Once I got going, though, the more I wanted it. Bookmark a page? Yes. Highlight a paragraph? Yes. Dictionary? Yes (in theory--the actual definitions weren't uploaded on the floor model). Play music? Yes. Get more books? Absolutely; it can connect to a wireless hotspot--which, I should note, neither the cheaper Sony Pocket or the more expensive Touch can do. All of these other features may be standard, but the actual user experience was engaging and easy, miles away from the blah feel of Sony. Many reviewers have commented on the slow page turning, which was, initially, very slow indeed, but a minute or so after the book was loaded, the lag matched the Sony models. And because the nook is running the Android operating system, you'll be able to upgrade the software and download apps, similar to the iPod Touch. Which means your nook will be only sort-of obsolete in three months. Add to that an interchangeable battery (which no one else has), and you've sold me.

I spent some time speculating with the sales guy (if you're in the Johns Hopkins B&N, tell Michael that Jenn says hi!) about why the nook felt so much better than the Sony models. His theory is that it's because book people are behind the nook, and I have to wonder if he's right. Sony's had a lot of time to get this stuff right, and just ends up looking... behind. The nook, on the first go-round, is very impressive--at least for the 40 minutes I played with it in the store.

One thing I found odd: none of these e-readers has a light (as far as I could tell). I assume this is because e-Ink is, by definition, not backlit. Basically, you're trading reading in bed for reading in direct sunlight. I do more of the former than the latter, so this disappoints me to no end. Apparently B&N already has special nook lights for you to buy. Which should go nicely with your Kate Spade cover... (you think I'm kidding? Visit

Here's the kicker: because of the high demand for e-readers, the only one available immediately (when I went looking; things may have changed in the past week) was the Sony Pocket. So I'll be waiting until February for my nook to arrive. But not to worry! The next of the installment of the Nitty Gritty: what to do while you're waiting for your e-reader.


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