Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.
In honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, we won't publish Shelf Awareness on Monday. See you again Tuesday morning!
In honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, we won't publish Shelf Awareness on Monday. See you again Tuesday morning!
"We feel we're been threatened by the likes of Amazon. Now we have the option of being a bookstore, a publisher or a printer."--Vladimir Verano, lead publisher at Third Place Press, the new imprint of Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, Wash., in an article in the Seattle Times about the store's new Espresso Book Machine. Incidentally, many print orders at Third Place are for books in the public domain on Google Books. (More on the Espresso Book Machine below.)
The main location of La Pléiade, near the presidential palace, was destroyed in Tuesday's earthquake in Haiti, according to Livres Hebdo. Bookstore owners Solange and Monique Lafontant and their staff survived and their branch in Pétionville is intact.
Sadly PEN Haiti president and Quebec author Georges Anglade, originally from Haiti, and his wife died in the earthquake.
Books-A-Million is collecting donations to support Haitian relief efforts being made by the Salvation Army, which operates schools, clinics, a hospital, feeding programs and children's homes in Port-au-Prince. Customers can make donations in all BAM stores as well as online.
In settlements with the Justice Department, three colleges have agreed not to use e-book readers, particularly the Kindle DX, "unless the devices are fully accessible to students who are blind and have low vision," the Resource Shelf reported. The settlements were made under provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
On Demand Books and Xerox have agreed to market and sell jointly a Xerox copier/printer with On Demand's Espresso Book Machine, the companies have announced.
With the Xerox 4112, the Espresso can produce a 300-page book in less than four minutes.
Bookselling This Week surveyed some of the 40 ABA member stores that opened last year. "To meet the challenges of the Great Recession, the new owners carefully fashioned business plans, put together curated book inventories, added an array of gift and other non-book items, and sought unique ways to promote their stores," BTW wrote.
Among stores profiled: Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, Wis., Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, Wis., Kennebooks, Kennebunk, Me., Read All Over, Port Arthur, Tex., the Reading Bug, San Carlos, Calif., and Paragraphs on Padre Boulevard, South Padre Island, Tex.
Bookselling This Week outlined plans for the next six months for IndieCommerce, which includes finishing the shift of stores to the Drupal platform and then upgrading all stores to the latest version of Drupal and Ubercart.
A visitation and memorial service for Bob Simoneaux, co-owner of Chester County Book & Music Company, West Chester, Pa., who died on Monday (Shelf Awareness, January 12, 2010), will be held on Friday, January 29, in West Chester at the DellaVecchia, Reilly, Smith & Boyd Funeral Home, Bookselling This Week noted.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to West Chester Area Senior Center, 530 E. Union St., West Chester, Pa. 19382 or Neighborhood Hospice, 400 E. Marshall St., West Chester, Pa. 19380.
Book trailer of the day: Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle by Michael Benson (Abrams). Last week the New York Times Science section said that " 'exquisite' does not really do justice to the aesthetic and literary merits of the book."
Cool idea of the day: Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y., is launching a monthly literary humor night and will feature in part writers and ex-writers for the Daily Show, 30 Rock and other TV shows, according to the Brooklyn Paper.
The series begins next Thursday, January 21, and will be held the third Thursday of every month.
Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., is soliciting nominations for the 2010 Puddly Awards, honoring the best book of the decade, as voted by powells.com readers. Winners of the Golden Galoshes will be announced in early February.
Titles published by Canadian house Fitzhenry & Whiteside will be distributed in the U.S. by Ingram Publisher Services. The new agreement includes books published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside's wholly owned publishers--Fifth House Publishers, Red Deer Press, Stoddart Kids and Robert J. Sawyer--as well as Canadian and European publishers distributed by Fitzhenry & Whiteside, including Thistledown Press, Hades Publications, Edge and Telos Publishing.
Fitzhenry & Whiteside currently has more than 1,300 titles in print. Fitzhenry & Whiteside is considering using POD with Ingram's Lightning Source to bring back into print many of its titles still under copyright.
November bookstore sales fell 2%, to $1.025 billion, compared to November 2008, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. Through November, total bookstore sales for 2009 fell 0.9%, to $14.579 billion.
By comparison, total retail sales in November rose 2.5%, to $347.175 billion compared to the same period a year ago. Through November, total retail sales for 2009 were down 4%, to $3,730.15 billion. Bookstores continue to do better than most retailers.
Note: under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books and do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.
Tomorrow on NPR's Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me: the group They Might Be Giants, authors of Kids Go! (Simon & Schuster, $19.99, 9780743272759/0743272757).
On Monday on Good Morning America: Bob Greene, author of The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781416588382/1416588388).
On Monday on the Today Show: Patricia Moreno, author of The IntenSati Method (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, $21.99, 9781439152973/1439152977).
On Monday on Fox News's Hannity Show: Marc Thiessen, author of Courting Disaster: How the CIA Has Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama is Inviting the Next Attack (Regnery, $29.95, 9781596986039/1596986034).
Monday on the View: Republican Party chairman Michael Steele, author of Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda (Regnery, $27.95, 9781596981089/1596981083).
Monday on Talk of the Nation: Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser, authors of It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure (Harper Perennial, $12, 9780061719431/0061719439).
Monday on the Colbert Report: Emily Pilloton, author of Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People (Metropolis Books, $34.95, 9781933045955/1933045957).
Lionsgate has acquired the movie rights to Heidi Murkoff's bestselling pregnancy guide series, What to Expect When You're Expecting, from Phoenix Pictures, which held the option and will team with Lionsgate to produce the film. Heather Hach, who is nine months pregnant, is writing the adaptation.
The movie "will follow the relationships of seven couples as they experience the thrills, terrors, surprises, aches and pains of preparing to embark on life's biggest journey, parenthood," according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Winners of Borders Group's 2009 Original Voices Awards, recognizing "original and compelling works by new authors," are:
The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim (Holt). The selection committee called this "a thought-provoking novel that will stick with you after reading it because of its atmosphere, life lessons and historical perspective."
Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford (Penguin Press). The committee commented: "Crawford's blending of philosophical analysis and personal narrative makes for a wonderfully thought-provoking--and at times very humorous--read. It's very timely as well, given the evolution of our economy."
After by Amy Efaw (Viking). The committee said, "By all of today's standards, Davenport should be a despicable character, though through airtight storytelling, Efaw pulls readers into the thought process of the character and allows them to actually sympathize with her."
Each winner receives $5,000, and their titles will be featured in the company's stores.
Winners of the 2009 BookBrowse Reader Awards, voted on by BookBrowse's members and subscribers, are:
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Best First Novel:
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Most Popular Nonfiction:
Abigail Adams by Woody Holton
Most Popular Children's Book:
The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
Best Novel Runners Up:
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet by Jamie Ford
The Housekeeper & The Professor by Yoko Ogawa
On your nightstand now:
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. I'm reading it to my daughter, Lotte. It's astonishing to see that although the English language has changed radically in 80 years, the fundamentals of plot and narrative, the things that delight children, haven't changed a bit.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis. Seriously. My mother gave it to me when I was 10 and I loved it. (I was a childhood freak)
Your top five authors:
Oh, this changes all the time, and I'd hate to be absolute about it, but let's say: Thomas Harris, John Updike, Karin Slaughter to kick off. Ian McEwan deservedly walks off with a top literary prize pretty much every year, but you could equally stick red foil on his covers and stack them high in airport outlets. And Kawabata Yasunari's Snow Country is the most atmospheric novel ever written. Ever.
Book you've faked reading:
While staying with my brother at our father's farmhouse in the south of France, we had a competition to see who could read the most of Ulysses before he/she lost the will to live. I won at 96 pages. Victorious, I threw the book out of the window and nearly killed the neighbor, who'd been in dispute with my father for years over a boundary. Sorry, I'm a heathen, but I believe nearly killing that irritating git was the greatest contribution Ulysses ever made to the human race.
Book you're an evangelist for:
The "voice" in a work of fiction is such a delicate thing--one's belief in it can be damaged so easily. Nothing threatens that trust more than knowing too much about the author. For example, Arthur Golden's photograph on the cover of Memoirs of a Geisha destroyed the beauty of the geisha's voice for me. Sadly, modern publishing invites this--it demands a writer is as much a commodity as the book itself. For this, I blame Dickens who popularized the idea of personal appearances by authors. When "Inger Ash Wolfe," already published under a different name, published The Calling and refused to identify herself or make public appearances, the book world turned its back on one of the best thrillers written this year. So that would be the title I'd have to be preachy about. Not just because it's a damned good read, but because of what its publication experience says about the current book publishing/buying climate.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Any of Joanne Harris's books.
Book that changed your life:
Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. It proved it was possible to create a fast-paced twisty thriller with all the finesse and grace of a top literary writer.
Favorite line from a book:
The opening line of Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess. "It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me." Woah. Now there's a sentence that does the work of an army in terms of plot and characterization and pacing.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Lord of the Rings. I'm not a 16-year-old boy, but whenever I see a new hillside or plain or town I view it through Tolkien eyes and see ringwraiths and dwarfs waiting in the shadows.
Between Terror and Tourism: An Overland Journey Across North Africa by Michael Mewshaw (Counterpoint LLC, $16.95 Paperback, 9781582434346, February 2010)
Michael Mewshaw's idea of a lovely present for his 65th birthday was to travel across North Africa from Egypt to Morocco by land. "The pleasure of being where I had never been before, doing what I had never done, bound for who knew what--I found it all thrilling," he crowed to friends who saw his itinerary as crazy and dangerous. You're only 65 once, he reassures himself as he disregards all warnings and packs his medications.
On the otherwise grueling 4,000-mile journey, Mewshaw has a few quiet moments for sidetrips to certain literary shrines. In Alexandria, it's the home of revered poet C.F. Cavafy (now a museum); in Algiers, he wangles his way into the apartment in which Albert Camus grew up; in Tangier, he retraces the steps of Paul Bowles and reunites with Mohammed Mrabet, one of Bowles's protégés. These visits thrill Mewshaw on a purely literary level, but, in each instance, they raise troubling questions about influences of colonialism and sexual politics in each writer's work.
That duality between thrills and troubling political questions defines Mewshaw's entire journey. Gorgeous or odd places exist first as themselves and then as platforms from which to consider the legacy of a colonial past and the highly politicized present. Mewshaw, for example, sees his tour as a way to learn, yet an audience member at a lecture in Alexandria challenges his traveling as being just another species of colonialism. Is his adventure at the expense of less fortunate others? Is he forever tainted by the monstrosity of others?
Mewshaw has done his homework, though. He can't cross Libya (a country paralyzed with fear of what dictator Moamar Qaddafi will do next, but currently comparatively wealthy from oil revenues) without remembering that "Between the initial Italian invasion, in 1911, and World War II, a quarter of the country's population had been eradicated." Thoughts of other similar atrocities haunt him in Tunisia and Algeria although he notes that each country is distinct from the others.
On his trek, he visits places of great power and beauty, including an area of Nefta, Tunisia, originally built of mud and salt, that dissolved when hit by a freak rainstorm. Look at the remains of a disaster alongside the surviving beauty of Nefta and take a deep breath. Know that the threat of terror is constant and still step forward to learn more. Mewshaw tells us that memorable travel should be an experience on the knife edge between "awful" and "awesome." By that measure, at 65 he had an incomparable trip.--John McFarland
Shelf Talker: Intense, vicarious pleasure alternates with mind-boggling history lessons in a dazzling trip across largely uncharted territory.
As I wandered through the virtual stacks of Harper's archive researching last week's column, I noticed that references to another corner of the book trade came up quite often--bookselling in all of its passionate, literate, insightful and perpetually endangered glory. So I decided to bookend those old publishing industry analyses with a few bookshop memories.
1. September 1892 Harper's observed that bookshops in cities and villages "used to be an intellectual centre where readers met, not only to keep the run of the thought of the world, but to exchange ideas about it. Few are so now. Bookshops generally throughout the country have changed their character. The booksellers say that it does not pay to keep a stock of standard literature, nor to put on their counters the pick of the best books that are published every week. Their book-stalls have become shops of 'notions,' of bric-a-brac, of games, of newspapers and periodicals, of the cheap and flimsy temporary product of commercially directed press, with only an occasional real book that has attained exceptional notoriety."
2. April 1937 I was surprised to discover that children's book sections, which are now a profitable bookstore staple, weren't always so. Writing about the Children's Spring Book Festival, May Lamberton Becker praised the quality of children's books, but she also bemoaned the fact that for much of the year, most people "would scarcely know that they are there. Where are they, indeed, in far too many of our bookshops all these long months between the first of January and the middle of September?
"I know where to look for them when I visit a typical shop of this kind. I go straight through to the back of the store. Under the stairs, there they are, the children's books, with the decorations left over from last Christmas tucked in with them, ready for next Christmas's display. Books for children, it would appear, are in such places considered solely as holiday gifts and expected to hibernate for the rest of the year."
3. July 1954 A gentleman named Siegfried Weisberger, who closed his bookshop in Baltimore after 29 years in the business, said the "age of the boob is upon us" because the country had entered an era when people want "bucks, not books."
Curious whether bookselling was a vanishing profession, Harper's surveyed publishers, booksellers and sales reps, discovering that the "pedigreed bookseller, the old ideal of the classical scholar and man of letters who sold books for the sheer joy of being among them has, to be sure, pretty largely disappeared. The modern bookseller is a book-lover too, albeit a practical one. He must look to his bookkeeping as well as his books. His costs are going up. His margin of survival is beset with books which should have been best sellers but which were something less than that. He likes to be among books, but he likes to be among customers more."
4. October 1965 Alan Levy, in his essay "Lost in the Bookshops of New York," wrote that the American bookseller "has been sounding his own death knell for more than half a century, while struggling to live with such cancerous growths as bicycles, automobiles, telephones, television, movies, department stores, coupon advertising, book clubs, Sunday supplements, magazines, Time-Life Books, paperbacks, Little Blue Books, Modern Library, public libraries, lending libraries, and remaindering."
He cited Brentano's retail strategy as an example of how booksellers were fighting back by meeting the threat of discounters like E.J. Korvette "with, among other weapons, a superb paperback palazzo in the main store (13,000 titles, arranged by category, not by publisher) and the creeping non-book merchandise upstairs (stuffed Kookie Gonk, $5; bust of John F. Kennedy, $50)."
5. August 1985 In a condensed version of a discussion held at the ABA convention in San Francisco, Hillel Stavis, owner of WordsWorth bookshop, Cambridge, Mass., disagreed with others on the panel that the book trade's mission was to give the public what it wants: "After all, bookstores should not serve merely as an afterword to whatever is happening in the general society; they are, or should be, an active and a positive force. Independently owned stores should resurrect the backlist titles not carried by the chains and support new titles from small presses. Although chains like B. Dalton do offer a wide selection, the general trend is toward blockbusters; and as the chains capture an increasing share of the market, their ever-narrowing selection will come to dictate what publishers publish. But in the long term, this narrowing selection will produce a non-reading public, which will be detrimental to both chains and independents."
What's past is prologue, indeed, Mr. Shakespeare.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)
The following were the bestselling books at member bookstores of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association in December:
1. U Is for Undertow by Sue Grafton (Putnam)
2. Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James (Knopf)
3. 9 Dragons by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
3. Trial by Fire by J.A. Jance (Touchstone)
5. The End of the Road by Sue Henry (Obsidian)
6. The Paris Vendetta by Steve Berry (Ballantine)
7. The Professional by Robert B. Parker (Putnam)
8. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (Knopf)
9. Fired Up by Jayne Ann Krentz (Putnam)
9. The Price of Malice by Archer Mayor (St. Martin's)
9. Alone by Loren D. Estleman (Forge)
1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Vintage)
2. The Private Patient by P.D. James (Vintage)
3. Eggs Benedict Arnold by Laura Childs (Berkley)
4. Dog on It by Spencer Quinn (Atria)
5. The Price of Butcher's Meat by Reginald Hill (Harper)
6. Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell (Back Bay)
7. Tower by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman (Busted Flush)
8. Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear (Picador)
8. Mrs. Malory and Any Man's Death by Hazel Holt (Berkley)
8. Thai Die by Monica Ferris (Berkley)
[Many thanks to the IMBA!]