Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, March 22, 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

Quotation of the Day

Bookstores 'Can't Survive for Sentimental Reasons'

"As it happens, the Barnes & Noble at Lincoln Center has just closed, to be replaced by a Century 21 discount retailer. I had a conversation about it a few weeks ago with a colleague who lives on the Upper West Side. We were both dejected, because it had a good philosophy section and because, even if it was a chain, a bookstore was consonant with the neighborhood's literary history. These stores really do become fixtures in our mental landscapes.

"They can't survive for sentimental reasons, though. I bought my copy of Open City at BookPeople, the largest independent bookstore in Texas, which has been a downtown fixture for several decades. In the 1990s, faced with the prospect of a big-block bookstore moving in across the street, the owners commissioned a study on the economic impact of spending money at locally-owned stores rather than at chains. The analysis was convincing. BookPeople stayed. Whole Foods took over the spot across the street. The jilted competitor was Borders."

--the Prospero blog in the Economist


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


The Bookstore, a Place to Go When the Lights Go Out

Tina L. Vierra, salon coordinator at Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif., recounts how she and other booksellers reacted the day the power went out:

I first became a bookseller in 1986, before automated cash registers and computerized inventories. And I loved the challenges those days presented; you had to add up totals, compute tax, count change back to a cash customer. And you had to know your inventory pretty much by heart.

When the latest spring storm knocked out the power at Book Passage last Sunday afternoon, we decided to stay open, at least as long as the daylight held out. The booksellers and I hauled out the old-fashioned credit card sliding devices and cash receipt books, and put a chalkboard out front proclaiming, "Open until Sundown!" After all, we figured, you don't need electricity to read a book, at least as long as the daylight holds out.

Since the nearby mall shops all decided to close, we had a small flood of customers. The café sprang into gear serving cold sandwiches and soft drinks. My booksellers, who know our inventory pretty darned well, walked the floors helping customers find the books they wanted and offering recommendations. With our telephone and paging systems between the two buildings also out, we synchronized our personal cell phones and called each other as needed. When a customer wanted a book but couldn't remember the exact title or author, Andy whipped out his mobile phone and looked it up on the Internet, then went to the right section and handed it to the customer.

Delighted patrons picked up on our spirit of fun and adventure and patiently waited as we hand-wrote receipts and counted their change the old-fashioned way. They browsed, mingled, read a newspaper over a sandwich in the café and agreed that a community bookstore with a willingness to remain open and serve its patrons was the best place to be when the lights went out.


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


Image of the Day: Tiger Tales

The Brentwood branch of DIESEL: A Bookstore, in Santa Monica, Calif., seized a trend in book titles by the tail and created this very current window display.



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

Notes: Microsoft Sues B&N; City Paying for Borders Departure

Yesterday Microsoft sued Barnes & Noble, as well as manufacturers Foxconn and Inventec, for patent infringement by the Nook e-reader and the Nook Color tablet, both of which run the Android operating system. The lawsuits were filed in both the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.
"The Android platform infringes a number of Microsoft's patents, and companies manufacturing and shipping Android devices must respect our intellectual property rights. To facilitate that we have established an industry-wide patent licensing program for Android device manufacturers," said Horacio Gutierrez, corporate v-p and deputy general counsel for intellectual property & licensing at Microsoft. "HTC, a market leader in Android smartphones, has taken a license under this program. We have tried for over a year to reach licensing agreements with Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec. Their refusals to take licenses leave us no choice but to bring legal action to defend our innovations and fulfill our responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year to bring great software products and services to market."

Microsoft added that the patents in question include "natural ways of interacting with devices by tabbing through various screens to find the information they need; surfing the Web more quickly, and interacting with documents and e-books."

GeekWire wondered how many anti-Android patents Microsoft had "up its sleeve," noting that in reading through the B&N lawsuit, "it would have made sense to see a lot of crossover with the patents cited in Microsoft's suit against Motorola last year for its use of Android. That's not the case. The new lawsuit against B&N cites a completely different slate of patents."

ZDNet suggested this development is significant because Microsoft, which had "previously gone after Android phone makers, are making it clear they are coming after the Android tablet space which is heating up. The Nook and Nook Color readers are basically Android tablets that are aimed at reading e-books.... It is not coincidental that Barnes & Noble is an easy target for Microsoft. The company has been struggling in its competition with Amazon's book-selling business, including the growing e-book space. It is likely that Barnes & Noble was too easy a target for Microsoft to pass up with this suit that is no doubt the first of several."


In one of the more surprising stories relating to Borders Group's bankruptcy, the city of Pico Rivera, Calif., near Los Angeles, will over the next six years have to pay monthly at least $10,833.33 and maybe $33,932.91 on the outstanding lease of a Borders superstore that is one of the 200 currently being closed, the Whittier Daily News reported.

In 2003, the town spent $1.6 million in federal grant money to lure Borders to the Pico Rivera Towne Center, and agreed to subsidize the store's rent to the tune of $10,833.33 a month. Now that Borders is leaving, the 15-year lease with the mall developer calls for the city to pay $33,932.91 a month for the rest of the lease--six years--or until a new tenant arrives. The City Attorney is reviewing the agreement; some believe the city need only pay the rent subsidy. In any case, the city hopes to negotiate with the developer to reduce payments. At the lower amount, the city could pay the developer up to $780,000; at the higher end, the possible amount totals more than $2.4 million.

The store has 18,100 square feet of space and has generated about $35,000 a year in sales tax for Pico Rivera.

Councilman Gregory Salcido, who championed the effort to bring Borders to Pico Rivera, said that grant money set aside will cover the Borders costs and that the situation would have a "negligible effect" on the city and residents. "We were able to put something aside to attract a first-class bookstore to Pico Rivera," he said. "We were the only predominantly Latino community with a national chain bookstore."


The city of Los Angeles is known for many things, but LAist noted that thanks "to an unfortunate reputation as a not-so-literary city, L.A. local bookshops are often and unduly overlooked. But, forget what you might have heard (or haven't heard, for that matter). Our local bookstores are big, small, specific, general, used, new, and all-around unique."

To help remedy the situation, LAist featured a guide to some of the city's best indie bookstores, observing: "Believe it or not, this list is hardly complete. While it might be breaking news to some, many locals know that indie bookshops are essential to L.A.'s unique neighborhoods. Would Los Feliz be complete without Skylight, the Sunset Strip without Book Soup, Boyle Heights without Libros Schmibros? So get out and explore L.A.'s literary hotspots and support our local bookstores in fostering the less publicized, but more compelling culture thrumming at Los Angeles' core."


The Guardian has embarked on a continental lit tour with its New Europe series, which features editors reflecting on the literary scene in their countries. Last week Sebastian Hammelehle of Der Spiegel examined the current German literary landscape.

This week Raphaële Rérolle of Le Monde reflected on French book world: "To understand what literary life in France is like, imagine a pond. A pond that's getting smaller and smaller, with just as many fish in it, so that the water is getting more and more crowded. You can guess what happens: each one has less and less space to evolve, to find food, and even to develop the energy required to discuss ideas. Sales of books continue to be weak in 2011, after a particularly flat year for publishers and bookshops."


Musician Steve Earle, who "might just get away with being cast as Rubeus Hagrid," talked about his reading life in an interview with the Telegraph: "I mainly read nonfiction, and that's probably because I have a huge amount of insecurity about my lack of education and the things I don't know. But I loved the Harry Potter books. When the Potter Phoenix book was released in 2003 I was living with a woman and her 10-year daughter and we went out at midnight to get a new copy. There were kids lined up to buy a f------ book. I thought that was so cool. I know a lot of kids gave up on the Potter books but I read every one.... Another book I really loved was Michael Ondaatje's Coming Through Slaughter, a historical account of Buddy Bolden's last few years. Fiction is what I read least and then it tends to take the place of drugs. I get addicted and go back to things like Tolkien."


"Because someone had to do it," John Scalzi created an electronic publishing bingo card


Book art of the day:

Buzzfeed featured a "Written Portraits" project for Dutch Book Week in which Souverein "crafted the faces behind famous biographies. Each bust was created using actual pages from the book about their subject."

Brian Dettmer's "coolest book sculptures" were showcased by the Huffington Post. "My work is a collaboration with the existing material and its past creators and the completed pieces expose new relationships of the book's internal elements exactly where they have been since their original conception," the artist observed.


Book trailer of the day: Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words by Brian D. McLaren (HarperOne).


Book Sales Down at Hastings

In the fourth quarter ended January 31, total revenues at Hastings Entertainment fell 8.9%, to $160.5 million, and net earnings were $3.8 million, compared to net earnings of $9.1 in the same period a year ago.

Sales at stores open at least a year fell 3.2%. The company operated three fewer stores in the quarter and added a concept store, Sun Adventure Sports.

Comp-store sales of books in the quarter fell 7%, compared to a drop of 1.9% in the same period a year earlier. The company attributed the drop to "decreased sales of new trade paperbacks, mass market books, and hardbacks, which to some degree is attributable to the increasing popularity of electronic book readers, and lower sales of magazines. These decreases were partially offset by increased sales of used hardbacks, which increased approximately 10.0% for the quarter, and sales of value books, which increased 12.5%."

CEO and chairman John Marmaduke commented on the results in general for the quarter: "Our revenues for the fourth quarter were impacted by the price of gasoline, the continued economic climate and inclement weather during January in most of our markets. January accounted for the majority of our decrease in comp revenues for the quarter. Additionally, we decided to be less promotional during the holiday season, beginning with black Friday, which had some impact on revenues but was a major contributor to our increase in merchandise gross margin dollars and rates. One of our key initiatives for fiscal 2010 was the expansion of our new and used comics category.  We now have an expanded comic footprint in 126 of our stores which resulted in over $5 million in revenues during fiscal 2010, an increase of approximately 41% compared to fiscal 2009."

For the full fiscal year ended January 31, net sales fell 1.9%, to $521.1 million, and net earnings were $1.7 million, compared to net earnings of $6.9 million in the same period a year earlier.

For the year, comp-store books sales fell 4.2% compared to a drop of 0.9% in the previous year. Hastings said that sales of books fell primarily because of "lower sales of new trade paperbacks, mass-market books, and hardbacks, which to some degree is attributable to the increasing popularity of electronic book readers, and lower sales of magazines, partially offset by increased sales of used trade paperbacks and hardbacks. The decrease in new trade paperbacks was also driven by a less favorable comparison to prior year sales of titles in the Twilight Saga series by Stephenie Meyer as sales of these titles decreased approximately $0.6 million, or 75.4%, for fiscal 2010."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Harlan Coben on the Today Show

Tonight on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart: T.J. English, author of Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge (Morrow, $27.99, 9780061824555 ).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Harlan Coben, author of Live Wire (Dutton, $27.95, 9780525952060). He'll also appear on MSNBC's Morning Joe.


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Rocco DiSpirito, author of Now Eat This!: 150 of America's Favorite Comfort Foods, All Under 350 Calories (Ballantine, $22, 9780345520906).


Tomorrow morning on CNN's American Morning: Bethenny Frankel, author of A Place of Yes: 10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want Out of Life (Touchstone, $24.99, 9781439186909).


Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show, readers review The Masters by C.P. Snow.


Tomorrow on CBS' the Talk: Kristi Yamaguchi, author of Dream Big, Little Pig! (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $16.99, 9781402252754).


Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Nathan Myhrvold, author of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking (The Cooking Lab, $625, 9780982761007). [Editor's note: the price of this full-course six-volume set is not a typo!]


Books & Authors

Sustainability: Rethinking Paper & Ink

Appropriately appearing in time for Earth Day, Rethinking Paper & Ink: The Sustainable Publishing Revolution by Jessicah Carver and Natalie Guidry is an expansion of its 2009 booklet with the same title, the first entry in the OpenBook series launched by Ooligan Press, Portland, Ore. The original booklet was by Melissa Brumer and Janine Eckhart, founders of the press's sustainable publishing initiative.

This is not a how-to guide, but rather a book aimed at starting and, well, sustaining a discussion about how "publishing professionals, sustainability advocates, and the everyday book lover" can make "the most responsible decisions possible in their operations, advocacy, and reading choices."

There is a lot of concrete advice here, and no part of the business is too small to note ways of doing things in a more environmentally friendly way. For example, the authors suggest that publicists update mailing lists frequently to avoid sending material to undeliverable addresses or sending duplicate material.

Broader recommendations include that paper manufacturers "expand their recycled paper options, exploring better alternative fibers, and working with certification bodies to ensure that any virgin fiber is harvested sustainably. Printers can strive to offer more sustainable printing options, including paper, ink, and less wasteful printing processes. Ink manufacturers can work together to create a universal ecolabel that transparently represents their product." The supply chain can be made more efficient, and publishers are given the biggest challenge: they should, the authors say, adopt a business model that adds social and environmental measures to the traditional financial measure of performance.

Rethinking Paper & Ink has many references, a list of resources and a very helpful glossary. (We are embarrassed to say that until this book came along, we thought "blad" was borrowed from Scandinavian languages and not simply an acronym for basic layout and design.)

Ironically there is some concern about the sustainability of Ooligan Press itself. Established in 2001, the press is an independent, nonprofit publishing house that operates in conjunction with Portland State University's graduate writing program. Like many state schools, PSU is grappling with a shrinking budget, and according to the press's website, the graduate publishing program, which has 120 students, is "on the chopping block." One key indicator of the problem: program director Dennis Stovall is retiring in December, and there is no plan to hire a replacement. Sadly if changes aren't made, "instead of students learning how to run a press, they will learn how to dismantle one." For now, students are conducting a letter-writing campaign.


Attainment: New Books Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing Tuesday, March 29:

The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell, translated by Laurie Thompson (Knopf, $26.95, 9780307593498) is the 11th and final mystery with Swedish detective Kurt Wallander. [Editor's note: No!]

If It Makes You Healthy: More Than 100 Delicious Recipes Inspired by the Seasons by Sheryl Crow, Chuck White and Mary Goodbody (St. Martin's Press, $29.99, 9780312658953) focuses on recipes using locally available produce.

Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial by Janet Malcolm (Yale University Press, $25, 9780300167467) recounts the trial of Mazoltuv Borukhova, who was accused of using a hitman to murder her ex-husband.

The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel (Crown, $30, 9780517580516) is the sixth Earth's Children novel.

Lessons From the Mountain by Mary McDonough (Kensington, $25, 9780758263667) is the autobiography of the actress who played Erin on the Waltons.

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later
by Francine Pascal (St. Martin's Press, $21.99, 9780312667573) continues the Sweet Valley High series.

Lover Unleashed by J. R. Ward (NAL, $27.95, 9780451233165) is book nine in the fantasy Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

Devious by Lisa Jackson (Kensington, $25, 9780758225658) is the seventh novel featuring New Orleans detectives Reuben Montoya and Rick Bentz.

Now in paperback

Have a Little Faith: A True Story by Mitch Albom (Hyperion, $13.99, 9781401310462).

The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher (Bantam, $15, 9780385343916).

The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg, translated by Steven T. Murray (Free Press, $15, 9781451621747).


Book Review

Book Review: The Rise of the Iron Moon

Rise of the Iron Moon by Stephen Hunt (Tor Books, $26.99 Hardcover, 9780765327666, March 2011)

Stephen Hunt introduced readers to the Kingdom of Jackals with The Court of the Air (Tor, 2008), a steampunk adventure with not one but two orphans thrust into heroism: Molly Templar, the last in a bloodline capable of controlling the ancient god-like Hexmachina, and Oliver Brooks, a half-human, half-fey lad forced on the lam after his uncle stumbles onto a massive conspiracy and is assassinated. That novel culminated with an epic battle against the Commonshare--imagine a 19th-century cyborg version of the Khmer Rouge, with Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" as a guiding principle--and it's hard to imagine how Hunt could top that for excitement. 2009's The Kingdom Beyond the Waves, also set in the world of Jackals but with a mostly different cast of characters, was highly entertaining but not quite as exciting overall. But The Rise of the Iron Moon successfully ups the stakes, offering a fast-paced remix of The War of the Worlds.

In the years since Jackals defeated the Commonshare, Molly has become a celebrated author of "celestial fiction," while Oliver fights evil as Hood-'o-the-Marsh, a Shadow-like vigilante wielding a pair of magical guns. (Hunt's pulp influences are many; that he's able to blend them into a diversified but internally consistent world is a testament to his literary skill.) Molly's astronomer friend, the steamman Aliquot Coppertracks, believes he has discovered evidence of life on the neighboring planet of Kaliban, and a strange blue man soon comes to warn them that it's true... and the invasion force is already on its way. But the surprise visitor also brought with him another orphan: Purity Drake, an escapee from Jackals' Royal Breeding House who possesses a power a full order of magnitude higher than Molly or Oliver's.

The counterattack against Kaliban's "Army of Shadows" is fought on two fronts: Molly commandeers a spaceship and leads the motley crew on board during the unexpected launch to the aggressor planet to rendezvous with the rebel underground, while Oliver guards Purity as she flees across Jackals, taking faltering steps toward her destiny. Once the battle is fully engaged, Hunt rarely gives readers opportunity to catch their breath. Certain aspects of his "ripping yarns" pastiche voice work better than others; the deliberately cornball brogue of Commodore Black, for example, may prove grating to some readers' ears. (Yet he must be one of Hunt's favorite creations, for he features prominently in all three Jackelian stories.) And, yes, you've seen many of these tricks before (and what is it with Hunt and orphans?), but the sleight of hand is so expert that these familiar emotional manipulations might still affect you as if you're reading them for the first time. Now it's really hard to see how he's going to top himself in the next novel.--Ron Hogan

Shelf Talker: Readers expecting finely tuned realism may find Hunt's stylistic fidelity to his 19th-century inspirations cartoonish, but fans of authors like Cherie Priest (Boneshaker) or Scott Westerfield (Leviathan) can find much to enjoy.


The Bestsellers

Top 25 Book Group Books Last Year

The top 25 book group discussion books of 2010, based on reports by book clubs, according to

1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
4. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
5. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
6. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
7. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
8. A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
9. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
10. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
11. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
12. Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
13. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
14. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
14. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
16. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time by Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin
17. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
18. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
19. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
19. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
21. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
22. South of Broad by Pat Conroy
23. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
24. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
25. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

"The Help has been a mainstay on many bestseller lists for over a year now, and its appeal made it a must-read for book groups even in hardcover," Carol Fitzgerald, president of, commented. "Also, it was nice to see To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010 on the list. We are certain that this was a re-read for many of the members of reporting book groups."



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