Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 4, 2011


Marvel Press: Okoye to the People: A Black Panther Novel by Ibi Zoboi, illustrated by Noa Denmon

Minotaur Books: The Shadow House by Anna Downes

Soho Crime: One-Shot Harry by Gary Phillips

Ballantine Books: The Other Dr. Gilmer: Two Men, a Murder, and an Unlikely Fight for Justice by Benjamin Gilmer

News

Image of the Day: Sea Captain's Wife

At a luncheon at Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn., for Beth Powning, author of The Sea Captain's Wife (Plume), store co-owners Patience Banister (l.) and Annie Philbrick flank Powning. Philbrick called the event "absolutely fabulous."

Photograph: Peter Powning



G.P. Putnam's Sons: Booth by Karen Joy Fowler


Notes: General Sales Up; Bookstores on the Move

Despite bad weather in much of the country early in the month and higher gasoline prices later in the month, sales at general retailers rose 4.2% in February, as tracked by Thomson Reuters.

Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics, told the New York Times: "It doesn't mean there are no headwinds, but I think this is moving in the right direction." Still, the Times noted that "the retail sector has been struggling as rising commodity costs and stubborn unemployment have held back the discretionary spending of consumers, and retailers have responded in recent months with discounting and promotions."

The department store index rose 5.3%, and the discount store index was up 4.9%. Among the best results: sales at Costco stores open at least a year rose 8%, Nordstom was up 7.3%, Penney rose 6.4%, Macy's gained 5.8% and BJ's Wholesale Club rose 5.5%.

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Heirloom Book Company, a "bookstore devoted to cookbooks, wine and food art," will open April 1 at 123 King St., Charleston, S.C., the Post & Courier reported, noting that Brad Norton, Bryan Lewis and Carlye Dougherty just signed a two-year lease for the 1,400-square-foot site.

The new bookstore will also carry titles on farming, gardening, home brewing, cocktail culture, wine collecting and "a sizable stock of rare, out-of-print books, as well as prints, photographs and other ephemera. It plans to host signings, art exhibitions and other events, some in conjunction with restaurants, farms and other local food organizations," the Post & Courier wrote.

Norton is president of Palmetto Distributing of North Charleston, a wine and beer company, and has been collecting rare books for more than 20 years. Lewis, COO of Palmetto, "will bring his experience in sales and marketing, as well as his interest in the rare cookbook business to the venture" and Dougherty's experience includes working as the editor of the Kiawah Island Legends magazine for the past several years.

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Trend of the month: bookstores on the move?

In December, Jay Philips moved his discount bookstore, Books & More, to Norwell, Mass., after having similar stores with the same name, first in Plymouth, then in Carver. The Carver location closed last September.

Philips told the Patriot Ledger that he sought a site farther north and with heavy traffic flow, "a location with a larger population base near Boston, which would have demographics fitting for a literate consumer who would appreciate a discount bookseller with quality titles for adults and kids."

He has owned, operated, managed and worked in bookstores since 1989.

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And in Louisiana, Vanessa Efferson has moved her five-year-old Raven Bookstore to Grand Cane from Homer, about 65 miles away, after her husband accepted a new job. "It was my lifelong dream to own a small-town bookstore, so I packed it up and took it all with me," Efferson told Bookselling This Week.

Efferson and her daughter, Hannah, who helps run the store, were recruited by several Grand Cane aldermen. The store has shrunk to 875 square feet of space from 2,000, "but we did it well, and now have a quaint, eclectic little shop," she said.

Bestsellers are nonfiction, mainly biographies and Louisiana history. The store has a coffee bar with wi-fi and sells literary gifts, games and puzzles, too. "The Raven is also involved in all kinds of community and cultural events, from artfests and open mic nights to haunted tours and writer's workshops," BTW noted.

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The Wall Street Journal offered an unusual "remembrance" of Walter Zacharius, founder of Kensington Publishing who "built one of the largest independent book publishers in the nation by exploiting niches the bigger houses ignored" and who died on Wednesday at age 87.

Zacharius founded Kensington in 1974 as a historical romance publisher, but typically for Zacharius, Kensington  wound up publishing in a range of subjects and formats, everything from medical guides with the Mayo Clinic to a book about O.J. Simpson that was written in six days and appeared 11 days after the murder of his wife.

Our favorite quotation: commenting on publishing books by Tim LaHaye, author of the Left Behind series, whose apocalyptic Christian viewpoint might not blend with Zacharius's support of "educational and Jewish causes," Zacharius said that LaHaye "sells zillions of books."

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Congratulations to Philip Rafshoon, owner of Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse, Atlanta, Ga., who has been named the winner of the 2011 Alumni Legacy Award by Georgia Tech's Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. The prize committee nominated Rafshoon "because of the invaluable leadership he has shown in the Atlanta community." According to Fenuxe Magazine, Rafshoon is the first openly gay person to receive the award.

"I think it's just phenomenal that they've awarded it to a very openly gay person who has done a lot of work in the LGBT community," Rafshoon told the magazine.

Rafshoon receives the award on March 15, right after he returns from a trip to Mexico to celebrate his birthday. "It's a real nice birthday gift," he said.

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Book trailer of the day: Ugly Beauty: Helena Rubinstein, L'Oreal, and the Blemished History of Looking Good by Ruth Brandon (Harper).

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The bookstore of the week of the Los Angeles Times' Jacket Copy blog is Portrait of a Bookstore in Studio City, which has 900 square feet of space inside the Aroma Café and features titles that "are very carefully selected by people who really care about the books they stock and read." Fiction and memoirs do very well.

The store marks its 25th anniversary in May.

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Also in southern California, LA Weekly has discovered the secret to successful indie bookselling: "A bit of spectacle, a bit of soft sell, plus drinks and perhaps a cheese plate. At bookstores, those elements come together these days to form what are known as 'events.' They have become de rigueur for booksellers hoping to avoid Chapter 11."

"We definitely see a significant boost in total sales when we have events," said Max Probst of Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, Calif.,

Vroman's events planner Ashley Ravelo said finding the right components for a successful event can be "pretty tricky," but generally snacks put people at ease, kids need hands-on activities and adults can hang with more casual stuff but require a bit of structure, too. "There's no checklist. You know it's a good event if people would return for future events."

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The e-book revolution has hit Missoula, Mont., but indie bookseller Fact and Fiction "celebrating their 25th anniversary in March, and manager Barbara Theroux says they are now offering e-books on their website to stay current," KPAX-8 reported.

"If you're starting to lose business because of onlines sales, then you need to be online," said Theroux. "Eight to nine percent of book business, that can help your bottom line."

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Obituary note: Victor Martinez, whose semi-autobiographical novel Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida won the 1996 National Book Award for young people's literature, has died, the Los Angeles Times reported. He was 56.

 


University of California Press: Savage Journey: Hunter S. Thompson and the Weird Road to Gonzo (1st ed.) by Peter Richardson


Obituary Note: Foxy Jones

Foxhall Jones, better known as Foxy, died on Sunday in Salisbury, Conn., "quickly and peacefully with his wife, Kitty Benedict, at his side," according to the Lakeville Journal. He was 85.

A Marine in World War II who was wounded twice on Iwo Jima, Jones joined Harper, the predecessor of HarperCollins, shortly after graduating from the University of Virginia in 1947.

He was a legendary and much-beloved sales rep for 35 years in the Northeast. The Lakeville Journal noted that one bookseller always looked forward to his visits because "he was one of the few honest booksellers that actually read many of the books and would share his opinions about which books he thought would sell in that particular store."

The paper added: "It was one of those rare jobs where he got to do what he loved: talk about books, meet interesting people, sneak in a little golf and travel the northeast."

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Salisbury Visiting Nurse Association. A memorial will be held in several months.

 


Little Bigfoot: A Home Under the Stars by Andy Chou Musser


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Crazy U and Henry's Demons

Tomorrow on NPR's Weekend Edition: Andrew Ferguson, author of Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid into College (Simon & Schuster, $25, 9781439101216).

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Tomorrow and Sunday on CNN's Special with Sanjay Gupta: Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (Scribner, $30, 9781439107959).

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On CBS Sunday Morning: Patrick and Henry Cockburn, authors of Henry's Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son's Story (Scribner, $25, 9781439154700).

 


The Pitch: Woodward & Bernstein Meets Larsson Meets Bourne

Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks has acquired the screen rights to WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy by Guardian journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding. The movie is being "conceived as an investigative thriller in the mold of All the President's Men."  

Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief, Guardian News & Media, called the project "Woodward and Bernstein meets Stieg Larsson meets Jason Bourne. Plus the odd moment of sheer farce and, in Julian Assange, a compelling character who goes beyond what any Hollywood scriptwriter would dare to invent."

DreamWorks has also secured rights to Inside WikiLeaks by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Assange's former colleague. Deadline.com suggested that a "good template for what they are thinking is The Social Network, where Aaron Sorkin not only used the Ben Mezrich book The Accidental Billionaires as a resource, but gathered actual testimony from the lawsuits filed against Mark Zuckerberg that detailed the formation of Facebook and provided high drama. That allowed the film to be made without a rights deal from Zuckerberg."

 


Books & Authors

Awards: Story Prize; American History Book; Believer Shortlist

Anthony Doerr has won the $20,000 Story Prize for his collection Memory Wall (Scribner), a book of six stories set in locales around the globe and sharing memory as a key element. Memory Wall is his fourth book and second short story collection.

The judges commented: "It is the shimmering space between the two planes of reality and memory that Doerr captures with immense sensitivity. He is adept at evoking a variety of places and different times in history, conjuring sharp settings in which the fragility of his characters is played out. The diversity of backgrounds underscores his poetic skill at illustrating his themes of emotional distancing and the resilience of hope. While he displays a rare imagination in the handling of his subjects, he maintains a beautiful and quiet grace in his precise, spare style, providing a harmonious resonance to all of the stories."

The other finalists for the Story Prize were Yiyun Li, author of Gold Boy, Emerald Girl (Random House), and Suzanne Rivecca, author of Death Is Not an Option (Norton). Each received $5,000.

All three finalists read and were interviewed by Story Prize director Larry Dark at an event Tuesday night in New York City. Story Prize founder Julie Lindsey announced the winner.

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Ron Chernow has won the American History Book Prize, sponsored by the New-York Historical Society, for Washington: A Life (Penguin Press), according to the New York Times. The Society said the biography of George Washington will "undoubtedly become the definitive life of our first president." The $50,000 prize will be presented April 8.

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Finalists for the the Believer Book Award, which showcases novels and story collections the magazine's editors "thought were the strongest and most underappreciated of the year, are:

S P R A W L by Danielle Dutton (Siglio Press)
Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles by Kira Henehan (Milkweed Editions)
Next by James Hynes (Reagan Arthur Books)
The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich (Two Dollar Radio)
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray (Faber & Faber)

The winner will be announced in the May issue.

 


Pennie Picks The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has chosen The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow (Algonquin Books, $13.95, 9781616200152) as her pick of the month for March. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she wrote:

"From the moment I first saw the title, I knew I had to read Heidi W. Durrow's The Girl Who Fell from the Sky. It begged so many questions: Who is this girl? How did she come to fall from the sky (of all places)? And what's going to happen to her now?

"Durrow had me spellbound from the start. Her debut novel tells the believable story of Rachel, a girl with brown skin and blue eyes. She's forced to make sense of both what's been left behind and what lies ahead.

"Trapped between races--a place not so unlike the no man's land between heaven and earth--Rachel struggles to understand relationships and figure out where she fits in. I see Rachel as a person who doesn't want to be forced into convenient categories. She just wants to be who she is. Like so many of us, she is just looking for a soft place to land."

 


Book Brahmin: Joshua Foer


Joshua Foer's writing has appeared in National Geographic, Esquire, Slate, Outside, the New York Times and other publications. He is the co-founder of the Atlas Obscura, a guide to the world's curious places. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (Penguin Press, March 3, 2011) is his first book

 

On your nightstand now:

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. I never used to read biographies. But every year I get older, I enjoy them more and more. By the time I'm an old man, I expect to read nothing else.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Anything and everything by David Macaulay.

Your top five authors:

Each for very different reasons: Italo Calvino, Philip Roth, Vladimir Nabokov, Cynthia Ozick, Jared Diamond.

Book you've faked reading:

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I suspect I'm not alone in that.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Banvard's Folly: Thirteen Tales of People Who Didn't Change the World by Paul Collins.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Secret Museum of Mankind, on title alone. It turned out to be my best used bookstore find of all time. The book, which was published in the 1930s, is nothing more than a collection of titillating black-and-white photographs of the world's "primitive" peoples doing "primitive" things.

Book that changed your life:

Three: Richard Dawkins's The Selfish Gene; Daniel Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea; and Stephen Jay Gould's Ever Since Darwin. I read them back-to-back-to-back in high school, and decided that I wanted to become an armchair evolutionary biologist. In college, I majored in evolutionary biology, but discovered that I didn't have the discipline or temperament to be a real scientist. That's how I ended up writing about science instead of doing it.

Favorite line from a book:

I fear it may be a terrible cop-out to say this, but it's true: everything that springs immediately to mind is either Shakespeare or the Bible.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

The Odyssey.

 



Book Review

Book Review: My Father's Fortune

My Father's Fortune: A Life by Michael Frayn (Metropolitan Books, $25.00 Hardcover, 9780805093773, February 2011)

Family memoirs are written for many reasons, often with nostalgia, self-justification or just plain sensation in mind. Novelist and playwright Michael Frayn (Headlong) innocently burrows into his family's past at the behest of his daughter who asks him "to tell her a little more about the world, forever lost to her, that has helped make her what she is." Not expecting to uncover dark purposes in cobwebbed corners, he does, of course, find complexities where he had not suspected any, since that's what families do: bury some things, elevate and memorialize others.

As we would expect of the author of plays so different as the sublimely farcical Noises Off and the cerebrally provocative Copenhagen, Frayn can fluidly segue from a gut-bustingly hilarious description of a bumbling language instructor who can barely communicate in one language, much less teach Frayn three others, to the meditation, "All accounts of the past are... formalizations of what was once before us an endlessly confusing and unformalized present." Frayn, playful and serious simultaneously, is expert at making seemingly simple words resonate with striking multiple meanings. His father, Tom, for example, loved driving around London's crazy streets; he was also frugal to the point of hardly ever buying anything, certainly not deluging his children with presents. Tom did, however, often drive Michael to bus stops or on short hops around town, and Frayn recalls, "It's something he can give me, something he's always happy to give me: a lift." A lift is also what Michael got from his father's famous smile--a perennial gift by which everyone knew him.

"It's difficult to know, when you look at somebody's life, what you could give the person credit (or blame) for and what you should put down to luck," Frayn writes about his father's winding path through life, spirited, self-assured and unfailingly genial. When he was losing his hearing, he turned up his personality to make himself more of a character, incorporating the increasing disability into his renowned repertoire of patter. His father left very little in the way of material goods, yet Frayn knows he is a beneficiary of a legacy beyond price--a sense of humor; a freedom from restrictive belief systems; a model for loving one's family; and the smile that he carries on his own face.

Actress Stockard Channing was recently quoted as saying, "One of the natural processes of life is to get past your parents and to forgive them and treat them as separate human beings. It's one of the obligations of being an adult. And sometimes it's unbelievably difficult, because you give up blame, you have to acquire responsibility." Michael Frayn demonstrates in his engaging memoir that he is fully adult by Channing's exacting standard.--John McFarland

Shelf Talker: An engaging family memoir that balances insight, hilarity and emotion as only a writer like Michael Frayn can.

 


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Soon to Be a Minor Motion Picture

Publishers love movies. Readers love movies, though often not quite as much as they love the books from which those films were adapted. There's even a mantra: "The book was better."

Oscar really loves books, too, as last Sunday's Academy Awards proved once again (Shelf Awareness, February 28, 2011). Book-to-film adaptations have long found favor with Academy voters. Decade after decade, any sampling of Best Picture winners turns up books like All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), All the King's Men (1949), From Here to Eternity (1953), Tom Jones (1964), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Ordinary People (1980), The English Patient (1996), No Country for Old Men (2007) and many, many more.

In bookshops you'll often find movie tie-in book displays. Long before those special editions are published, books being cloned for screen life feature caveat emptor stickers or embossed gold medallions proclaiming: "Soon to be a major motion picture." I'm not sure the phrase "motion picture" is used much now except on these books. It has the musty feel of "silver screen." It sounds like something Louis B. Mayer or Darryl F. Zanuck would say 75 years ago.

Since "Soon to be a major motion picture" on a book jacket is essentially rendered meaningless by nature of its ubiquity and creakiness, I wonder what might happen if, as a bookstore customer, I ever saw a variation on that theme, like "Soon to be a minor motion picture" or "Soon to be a movie worth seeing... we hope." Even a minimalist approach would be an improvement: "Soon to be a movie." A couple years later, perhaps old movie tie-in editions could have new stickers confessing: "Seemed like it would be a major motion picture."

I love books and I love movies. Sometimes I even love films based on books. I accept that adaptation is an inexact art; that the movie is not the book and vice versa. "I'm always trying to make something that is impossible to film," said Kazuo Ishiguro. "Why would somebody just read a novel when they can see it on TV or in the cinema? I really have to think of the things fiction can do that film can't and play to the strengths of the novel. With a novel you can get right inside somebody's head."

And yet, I think Remains of the Day is an excellent book and movie. I am also fond of some adaptations of novels I've never read--Enchanted April, The Shining, Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep). I even have a few favorite adaptation actors, including Anthony Hopkins (Remains of the Day, Howards End, The Silence of the Lambs) and Emma Thompson (too many to mention, and not all of them with Hopkins). Looking to a new generation, I have high lit/film expectations for Mia Wasikowska (Defiance, Alice in Wonderland and the upcoming version of Jane Eyre).

There are a handful of movies that have come acceptably--if not perfectly--close to the imagined film in my mind as I read each book. I've seen them dozens of times, and own the DVDs (or, in one case, the VHS tape because the world has apparently abandoned Denisovich altogether). These are among the choices that would be on my iPad Movie Mixtape:

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
A Month in the Country
Being There
Brideshead Revisited (1981 mini-series)
True Confessions

But if there is a book-to-film category that does not get enough credit or attention, it's one I now think should have its own Oscar category: Worst Adaption of an Original Literary Work but I Love It Anyway.

And the winner is... The Comedians.

Starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor and based (I use the term loosely) on Graham Greene's novel set in François "Papa Doc" Duvalier's Haiti, this is one of the lamest literary adaptations in film history. That's an exaggeration, I know, but we're talking Hollywood after all. So here's my confession: I love this film almost as much as I do the novel. May Graham Greene's ghost forgive me.

Your own confessions and nominations for this award are welcome. While everyone else is focusing on "Soon to be a major motion picture" displays, let's gather nominations for the Worst Adaption of an Original Literary Work but I Love It Anyway award.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

 


The Bestsellers

In Demand: Most Ordered Children's Books

The following were the most-ordered upcoming children's titles on Edelweiss during the last 60 days. The listings include links to the titles on Edelweiss and links to the publishers' e-catalogues:


  1. The Kane Chronicles, Book Two: Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan (Hyperion, May 3) - Disney Book Group Summer 2011
  2. The Kane Chronicles, Book One: Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan, August 16) Disney Book Group Summer 2011 Add-on Titles
  3. Skippyjon Jones, Class Action by Judy Schachner (Dutton, July 12) - Young Readers The Penguin Dozen
  4. What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (Viking, May 10) - Adult Hardcover Summer 2011
  5. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (Penguin/Razorbill, June 14) - Young Readers Group Summer 2011
  6. Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator! by Mo Willems (Balzer + Bray, May 1) - HarperCollins Children Summer 2011 Compilation
  7. Warriors Super Edition: Crookedstar's Promise by Erin Hunter (HarperCollins, July 1) - HarperCollins Children Summer 2011 Compilation
  8. Theodore Boone: The Abduction by John Grisham (Dutton, June 7) - Young Readers Group Summer 2011
  9. The Warlock by Michael Scott (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, May 24) - *Random House Children's Omni, Su11
  10. The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall (Knopf Books for Young Readers, May 10) - *Random House Children's Omni, Su11

 

[Many thanks to Above the Treeline and Edelweiss!]

 


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