Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, April 12, 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: A Long Walk


The Secret Garden Bookshop, Seattle, Wash., hosted the book launch party for Carole Estby Dagg. She entertained a large crowd by describing the walk from Spokane to New York City that her great-aunt and great-grandmother undertook in 1896, as related in her YA historical novel, The Year We Were Famous (Clarion Books). The author sewed her own costume and collected contents for her carpetbag based on what she found doing research for her novel.



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


Notes: Ad-Supported Kindle Debuts; Freese Leaving NBN

Amazon has introduced a "new Kindle family member," the Kindle with Special Offers, which retails for $114, or $25 less than the company's lowest-priced e-reader. Customers who opt for this version will see advertising on the screensaver and on the bottom of the home screen. Currently available for pre-order, Kindle with Special Offers is scheduled to ship on May 3.

During the initial weeks, the deals will include a $10-for-$20 Amazon.com gift card; $1 for an album in the Amazon MP3 store; and a $100 gift card with a new Amazon Rewards Visa card. Buick, Olay (Procter & Gamble), Visa and Amazon.com Reward Visa Card (Chase) are sponsoring the first series of screensavers. Amazon also introduced AdMash, a Kindle app and website where customers can preview and offer feedback on advertisements.

Kindle director Jay Marine told the Associated Press "that the release of a cheaper, ad-studded Kindle is Amazon's way of getting the device into the hands of more people." The AP noted, however, that "it also shows Amazon is getting more aggressive in its efforts to lure consumers tempted by competing e-readers and bombarded by ads for Apple Inc.'s latest iPad and a growing number of competing tablet computers."

"We think customers are going to love it," said Marine, adding that the advertisements will change frequently and there will not be any ads in the Kindle books themselves. "It was very important that we didn't interfere with the reading experience."

Cnet News wondered "why $114 and not some other number, say $99? Apparently, Amazon isn't willing to go quite that low quite yet... Obviously, if the new ad-supported version works well for Amazon and attracts enough sponsorship deals, you can expect the price of the Kindle to continue to drop. Naturally, plenty of folks will feel that if they're being served ads, the Kindle should cost less than $100--or even be free." Judging by early reaction on Twitter, many people think the price break isn't enough to put up with the ads.

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Rich Freese is leaving National Book Network, where he has been president for nearly two years (Shelf Awareness, June 16, 2009). In an announcement, CEO Jed Lyons said that the decision came following the distributor's move in January to reduce its client list "in order to have the time and resources to devote to a smaller stable of publishers." At the time, NBN let go seven people, many longtimers and mostly in the sales force, including Spencer Gale, Gail Kump, Ed Lyons, Chris Cassel, Ray Wittrup, Dina Fullerton and Tressa Helvey.

Now that NBN has the "new business model in place," Lyons continued, Freese and the company "have mutually agreed that now is a good time for Rich to step down as president of the company to explore new opportunities." Lyons thanked Freese for his "leadership of NBN."

This was Freese's second stint at NBN. He had worked at the company for nine years until 2001, leaving as senior v-p of sales. He then was president of MotorBooks International, president of PGW and president of BookMasters Distribution Services.

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The challenges facing Canadian chain Indigo Books & Music and company CEO Heather Reisman were examined by the Globe & Mail, which noted that the "wave of digital adoption that swept through music and video retailing, decimating them, is now hitting booksellers, forcing them to redefine their business model." With half of the book retailing business in Canada, Indigo "remains healthier than its U.S. counterparts, but sales growth is sluggish and Reisman is setting in motion a new plan."

"In the book industry, when you are in a situation where you know that 40% of your business is going to go digital--you need to change," she said. In addition to having a "toehold in the digital books business," Reisman's vision of Indigo as a "cultural department store" means "betting more than ever on other categories. Indigo is stepping up its offerings of tableware, toys and tote bags--even putting comfy chairs back in the stores, in the hope of stemming the tide of consumers abandoning the retailer for Web-based alternatives."

Her goal over the next two or three years is to increase non-book sales from 15% to 40% of the company’s business to replace lost book revenues. "The only way to stay in the book business is to find the ability to marry our book offerings with other products that our customer would value," she said. "I think of that as affordable items with intrinsic value."

Reisman also observed that this is "a defining moment in physical book retailing, just as I think we’re in some ways in a defining period for physical retailing. If you don’t do something, you’re not going to be in business."

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The Indiana Retail Council and the Alliance for Main Street Fairness held a news conference in the Indiana Statehouse yesterday, urging legislators to compel online retailers like Amazon to pay sales tax "beginning the next budget cycle, netting the state somewhere near $300 million per year," the Associated Press (via the Chicago Tribune) reported.

"The failure of internet retailers to collect sales tax puts Indiana retailers at a 7% disadvantage that is costing the state revenue and brick-and-mortar retailers the chance to grow," said council president Grant Monahan.

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In a post headlined "Local businesses can learn from the Tattered Cover," DenverLocal offered some love to its favorite community bookstore, calling it "the perfect example of what a local business should be.... The Tattered Cover isn't just about books. It's about people who love books; people who write them, people who read them."

Citing a preference for experience over low prices, DenverLocal observed: "I'm not saying that buying things should be life-changing, but buying something from a business that loves that thing can be quite enjoyable. That's what local businesses can offer. Passion."

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Cool idea of the day: Excerpts from Roald Dahl's books will appear on millions of cereal boxes during the next few weeks, to help encourage British children to read. The Telegraph reported that the promotion resulted from a deal struck among Puffin, Dahl's estate and the supermarket chain Asda. Excerpts from The Witches, The Twits, The BFG, Danny: The Champion of the World and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will be printed on the back of the supermarket's own-brand children's cereals.

"The great thing about a cereal box, is that it potentially is reaching millions of households that just don't read any literature outside of school," said Francesca Dow, managing director of Penguin's children books. "There could be an enormous number of children discovering Roald Dahl for the first time, bleary eyed over the breakfast table."

Dow added, "There is a real awareness in the publishing world that there is an increasingly tight competition for children's time, especially from digital activities such as games consoles, as they grow up. And combine that with anxieties about school budgets being cut and libraries closing and we need to find different ways to get books in front of children, especially children growing up in households that don't read."

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A 500-year-old book was discovered recently at an "Antiques Roadshow-style fundraiser" in Sandy, Utah. KSTU-TV reported that the man who donated $2 to find out how much a book he had inherited was worth learned the answer is more than $100,000.

"Usually at these kind of things you are mostly being polite to people and disappointing them," said appraiser Ken Sanders. "A gentleman walked in and said I've got a really important book here and I'm sitting there rolling my eyes and thinking, 'yeah, sure you do.' And then he opens it up and it's a Nuremberg Chronicle from 1494.... Outside of museums I've never seen one before in my life and I most assuredly didn't expect to find this book in Sandy, Utah today." The owner said he wanted to sell the book to a museum or library.

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"What do you get for the book nerd who has everything--or at least all of the paperbacks that their apartment can hold?" asked Flavorwire before helpfully offering a few irresistible suggestions in a post headlined "Design Porn: Accessories for Bookworms."

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A title by any other name. The Paris Review featured "a glimpse of what James Salter’s process was like with his novel Light Years... Salter seems so close at points, circling back to light and years, sometimes on the same page but not always the same line, ranking his favorites and weighing the opinions of others. "

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Book trailer of the day: Enclave by Ann Aguirre (Feiwel & Friends), the first book in the Razorland series and the author's first YA novel, appearing today.

 


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


National Library Week: Challenged Books; Librarian Flash Mob

Yesterday, the American Library Association released its list of the top 10 list most frequently challenged books of 2010. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins made the list this time in "what's become a virtual rite of passage for young adult sensations," the Associated Press (via the Washington Post) reported.

"I've read in passing that people were concerned about the level of violence in the books," Collins said. "That's not unreasonable. They are violent. It's a war trilogy."

This year's top 10 are:

  1. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson Reasons
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  3. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  4. Crank by Ellen Hopkins
  5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  6. Lush by Natasha Friend
  7. What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
  8. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
  9. Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie
  10. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer


"It almost makes me happy to hear books still have that kind of power," Alexie said. "And there's nothing in my book that even compares to what kids can find on the Internet."

The ALA reported 348 challenges to books in 2010 and at least 53 outright bans. According to Barbara M. Jones, director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, some books on the list "reflect current trends and changes in technology, including Hunger Games, inspired in part by reality television; Aldous Huxley's classic Brave New World, which anticipates antidepressants and artificial fertilization; and a work of nonfiction: Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich's despairing account of trying to get by as a waitress, maid and Walmart worker," the AP noted.

"The closer books come to things that are really happening in a lot of lives, the more they become a reminder of what people don't like to think about," Jones said, adding that Ehrenreich's book "really hits hard what it's like to have a low paying job."

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To celebrate the launch of National Library Week, librarians from Holyoke, Mass., organized a "freeze flash mob" at the Holyoke Mall, where "about 75 people stopped everything they were doing to read a book," WWLP-22 reported.

“Would we do it again? Well there's a spontaneous factor there that's hard to duplicate, but I think that it's a fun event and I think it's something people wouldn't expect from librarians,” said librarian Becky Plimpton.

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The New York Public Library is celebrating William Shakespeare's April 23 birthday by hosting a series of events this week at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. If you can't go, "but still want to get your Shakespeare on," the NYPL featured a list of books "that are either modern re-tellings of Shakespeare's classics or novels featuring and/or inspired by characters he created."

 


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


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Pat Benatar on Oprah

This morning on the Today Show: Maya Soetoro-Ng, author of Ladder to the Moon, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Candlewick, $16.99, 9780763645700), a tribute to the author's mother, Ann Dunham, also mother of President Barack Obama. Soetoro-Ng will also be on CNN American Morning tomorrow.

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Tomorrow on the Today Show:

Shirley MacLaine, author of I'm Over All That: And Other Confessions (Atria, $22, 9781451607291).
Maria Menounos, author of The EveryGirl's Guide to Life (It Books, $19.99, 9780061870781).
Eric Greitens, author of The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL (Houghton Mifflin, $27, 9780547424859).

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Tomorrow on Good Morning America: Gwyneth Paltrow, author of My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness (Grand Central, $30, 9780446557313). She will also appear on Live with Regis and Kelly.

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Tomorrow on Oprah: Pat Benatar, author of Between a Heart and a Rock Place: A Memoir (Morrow, $25.99, 9780061953774).

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Tomorrow on the View: Abby Sunderland, author of Unsinkable: A Young Woman's Courageous Battle on the High Seas (Thomas Nelson, $22.99, 9781400203086).

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Tomorrow on Ellen: Jerry Weintraub, author of When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man (Twelve, $13.99, 9780446548168).

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Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Governor Deval Patrick, author of A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life (Broadway, $21.99, 9780767931120).

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Tomorrow on Jimmy Kimmel Live: Eva Longoria, author of Eva's Kitchen: Cooking with Love for Family and Friends (Clarkson Potter, $29.99, 9780307719331).

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Tomorrow on the Late Show with Craig Ferguson: Ashley Judd, author of All That Is Bitter and Sweet: A Memoir (Ballantine, $26, 9780345523617). She will also appear on Tavis Smiley.

 


Television: The Knitting Circle

HBO Films has optioned the rights to The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood. Deadline.com reported that Katherine Heigl (Grey's Anatomy) will star in and produce the project "with her mother and producing partner Nancy Heigl through their Abishag banner, along with Pine Street Pictures. Dirty Sexy Money creator and award-winning playwright Craig Wright will write the adaptation. This marks Wright's return to HBO, where he started his TV writing career on Six Feet Under, a gig that earned him Emmy and WGA nominations."

 

 


Movies: Life of Pi; The Pact

Tobey Maguire has been cast in Ang Lee's adaptation Yann Martel's novel Life of Pi, which is shooting in India. Deadline.com reported that Maguire will play a writer interviewing the boy--who was stranded on a life raft with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a tiger--as an adult.

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Danish production company Nimbus Film, which is planning an English-language movie about the later years in the life of Out of Africa author Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), "secured the adaptation rights to The Pact, poet Thorkild Bjornvig's 1974 memoir about his stormy relationship with Blixen," Variety reported. Blixen was also the author of Babette's Feast, a story adapted into an Oscar winner for best foreign film.

"We have the highest ambitions for the project, envisioning it as a kind of hauntingly beautiful, natural sequel to Out of Africa," said producer Lars Bredo Rahbek, who added that the movie will feature "top-level American and European talent."

 


Books & Authors

Awards: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Shortlist

Finalists have been named for the £10,000 (US$16,388) Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, which honors the best work of contemporary fiction in translation and is split equally between writer and translator, the Guardian reported. This year's shortlisted titles, from which a winner will be chosen and announced May 26, are:

Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky from the German
Kamchatka by Marcelo Figueras, translated by Frank Wynne from the Spanish
The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk, translated by Maureen Freely from the Turkish
I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson, translated by Charlotte Barslund with Per Petterson from the Norwegian
Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo, translated by Edith Grossman from the Spanish
The Sickness by Alberto Barrera Tyszka, translated by Margaret Jull Costa from the Spanish

 

 


California Bookseller Turns Author

This week, in the front windows at Point Reyes Books in Point Reyes Station, Calif., a certain title has pride of place: Emotional Currency: A Woman's Guide to Building a Healthy Relationship with Money (Celestial Arts/Ten Speed Press, $14.99, 9781587610684) by Dr. Kate Levinson, who owns the store with her husband, Steve Costa. "My own mini celebration for the book is taking over the storefront windows," she said. "As a bookseller I get to do that."

Along with being a bookseller and serving on the board of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, Levinson holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She maintains a private practice in Oakland and also leads Emotional Currency workshops that encourage women to explore and understand their emotional ties to money.

Inspired by the powerful stories of workshop participants and patients in her practice, as well as drawing on her own experiences with money, Levinson began drafting a book proposal more than a decade ago. "I wanted to encourage others to become curious about their own money stories--stories that we often even aren't aware of ourselves, let alone ever share with one another because it's taboo to talk about money," she said.

Levinson worked on the proposal intermittently and then looked for an agent, a search that proved unsuccessful. At Costa's suggestion they bought the bookstore in 2002, after which her time was taken up helping to run the retail business and conducting her practice. "I thought I was over and done with the fantasy of writing this book," she said. But the idea "kept coming to mind, kept returning," and eventually she revisited the proposal.

"Despite not thinking about or working on the proposal for the first six years of owning the store, it was actually because of the store that the book got published," noted Levinson. "Something I did only because my husband wanted to led me to something I'd been wanting in my own life--even though I couldn't see the connection at the time."

What happened next was "synchronistic," Levinson said. In 2008, during the inaugural Geography of Hope Conference--a nature- and conservation-focused literary and arts event co-founded by Costa--she met Carl Brandt, the late author and environmentalist Wallace Stegner's literary agent. He offered to read the proposal, and Levinson ended up signing on with Brandt's business partner, Gail Hochman.

When Levinson hit a stumbling block early in the process of writing Emotional Currency, she turned to an acquaintance for assistance: former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who has appeared at Point Reyes Books to promote his own works. "I needed reassurance from someone who I wasn't close with, and who I respected, that this was a worthy topic," Levinson explained. "He reassured me primarily by telling me a story about his mother and money. I went home and started writing the book."

A bookstore customer, Frances McDormand--who Levinson met when the actress came looking for The Joy of Cooking--has endorsed Emotional Currency, saying, "Finally! A beautifully written, straightforward guide to understanding money. Reading Emotional Currency evoked many of my own emotional memories about money. The book underscores that, for women, money provides both opportunities and choice."

Many Point Reyes Books customers have ordered Emotional Currency in advance. Some readers have taken Levinson's workshop and have an idea of what's in the book, while others are interested in learning more about the author's professional life outside bookselling. "They know me as the person who sells them books and puts on author events, and I think they're really curious," said Levinson.

A party celebrating the book's release will take place on Saturday evening at Toby's Feed Barn in Point Reyes Station. The general store and working feed barn (hay bales serve as seating) is where large author events are held--and now it's Levinson's turn to be in the spotlight. So how is it being on the other side of the publishing process? "Scary and exciting and wonderful," she said.

Levinson appears at DIESEL, A Bookstore in Oakland tonight and is doing events at several other Northern California stores in the coming months. At this year's Winter Institute she met booksellers from other parts of the country who invited her to promote Emotional Currency at their stores. Her tour stops include Maria's Bookshop in Durango (May 16), the King's English in Salt Lake City (May 19) and Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis (June 12).

"Bookselling, where people share their wisdom with you, is so different from the field of psychology, where everything is hidden and private and you pay for information," said Levinson. "I'm always amazed at the generosity and camaraderie of independent booksellers. We really are a community--booksellers, sales reps, authors, publishers. It's a lovely tribe to belong to."--Shannon McKenna Schmidt

 


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, April 19:

Reading My Father: A Memoir by Alexandra Styron (Scribner, $25, 9781416591795) explores the upbringing of William Styron's youngest daughter.

Idea Man: A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft by Paul Allen (Portfolio, $27.95, 9781591843825) gives an insider's account of the dawning of the digital age.

The Sixth Man by David Baldacci (Grand Central, $27.99, 9780446573108) is a new mystery with former Secret Service agents and current private investigators Sean King and Michelle Maxwell.

The Hypnotist by M.J. Rose (Mira, $14.95, 9780778329206) is the third Reincarnationist novel.

Eve by Iris Johansen (St. Martin's Press, $27.99, 9780312651206) features forensic sculptor Eve Duncan in her 11th investigation.


Now in paperback:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith (Grand Central, $13.99, 9780446563079).

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (Anchor, $15, 9780385720960).

 



Book Review

Book Review: Seconds Out

Seconds Out by Martin Kohan, trans. by Nick Caistor (Serpent's Tail, $14.95 trade paper, 9781846686375, March 2011)

What does Jack Dempsey falling out of the ring during the 1923 world heavyweight boxing championship in New York have to do with Richard Strauss conducting Gustav Mahler's First Symphony? Or with the suicide of an Austrian cellist from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra found hanged in his room in the City Hotel? Or, for that matter, with the building of the Palacio Barolo, a 22-story monument to the Divine Comedy in downtown Buenos Aires? Quite a lot, suggests Argentinean writer Martin Kohan in his delightfully daring maze of a novel, Seconds Out.

In part, the novel is an historic re-creation of Jack Dempsey's notorious fall through the ropes of the boxing ring into the audience, as immortalized in the famous George Bellows painting, which publisher Serpent's Tail has smartly made the cover of the book.

But the novel is also part murder mystery--on the same day as the fight in New York, a cellist is found hanged in a Buenos Aires hotel roomand part continuing argument between two old friends on a small-town newspaper, realist Verani and idealist Ledesma, one of whom is about to die.

To inform the people of Argentina of the results of the fight before the age of television, a blue beacon will shine from the top of the Palacio Barolo if the Argentinean champion Luis Angel Firpo is victorious, and a red beacon will mean that Dempsey is still the champ. In one of the cruelties of fate, the wrong beacon is lit.

Don't look here for complex characters or emotional involvement--it's not that kind of novel. Instead of a plot, it has a mosaic of fragments that continue from chapter to chapter, with the architecture of a maze in which certain doors connect in unexpected ways.

It's a layered maze. The actual story at the newspaper celebrating its 50th anniversary takes place in 1973. The boxing match takes place 50 years earlier, and is researched for a special supplement commemorating the newspaper's foundation. But the whole account is being written down 17 years after the supplement, by narrator Roque, who isn't even 20 when fellow newsmen Verani and Ledesma begin their research into the past.

The novel's 17 chapters represent the 17 seconds on the referee's stopwatch, from the moment Dempsey falls backward through the ropes until he climbs back into the boxing ring. These 17 seconds are significant. Captured on blurry archival film footage of vintage 1920 stock, those 17 seconds are seven seconds longer than the count of 10 seconds that records a technical knockout. They are Kohan's proof in this literary puzzle that Dempsey was officially defeated, that the boxing championship of the world was awarded to the wrong man.--Nick DiMartino

Shelf Talker: A dazzling maze of a novel involving the 1923 Dempsey-Firpo fight, Argentine newspapermen and the murder of a cellist.

 


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