Shelf Awareness for Thursday, February 9, 2006


Gallery Books: The Lion Women of Tehran by Marjan Kamali

Other Press (NY): Deliver Me by Malin Persson Giolito, translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles

Two Trees: Among Friends: An Illustrated Oral History of American Book Publishing and Bookselling in the 20th Century edited by Buz Teacher and Janet Bukovinsky Teacher

Atlantic Monthly Press: I Cheerfully Refuse by Leif Enger

Quotation of the Day

'Sometimes Exasperating' Readers

"Books and their readers are the most fascinating and the most interesting and, arguably, the most eccentric and sometimes exasperating group of individuals you can find. I love to walk into the store and see two customers in a face-off in the theology section or the politics area."--Dave Dutton, who is in the process of closing his new, used and collectible bookstore, Dutton's Books in North Hollywood (which is separate from Doug Dutton's stores in Brentwood and Beverly Hills), in a story in Los Angeles City Beat.


Neal Porter Books: Angela's Glacier by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Diana Sudyka


News

Notes: Grammy Audio Winners; Bookseller Charged

Congratulations to Senator Barack Obama, who won a Grammy for best spoken word album for the audio edition of Dreams From My Father (Random House Audio) and to Marlo Thomas and friends, who won best spoken word album for children for Marlo Thomas & Friends: Thanks & Giving All Year Long, produced by Christopher Cerf and Thomas (Warner Strategic Marketing).

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Cool, fertile idea of the day: Chapter 11, the Atlanta, Ga., area bookseller, is selling gardening, landscape design, outdoors titles and more at the Southeastern Flower Show at the Georgia World Congress Center through Sunday. It's also coordinating book signings by more than 20 gardening authors.

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Federal prosecutors have charged that Abdulrahman Farhane, a U.S. citizen born in Morocco who runs the House of Knowledge bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y., aided terrorists, the New York Times reported. Farhane's lawyer said that the government's charges rest on accusations from the informer who set himself on fire in the front of the White House in November 2004 in a dispute with the FBI over pay. Farhane said, "I'm not guilty, I didn't do anything. This is my country, I love this country, I work hard."

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Between November 15 and December 15, Borders and Walden encouraged customers to donate more than $450,000 to benefit First Book, the program that provides books to children in need. The money has been converted to Borders and Walden gift cards, which are being distributed to organizations affiliated with First Book, including Head Start and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Borders had made a kickoff donation of $50,000, which brings the total donated to $500,000.

The groups will work with local Borders and Walden stores, which will host story times and other events and help children select titles. For many of them, it will be their first trip to a bookstore and first time picking out a new book.

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Eugene and Springfield, Ore., take a slight twist on the one book, one city program. Appropriately for the Pacific Northwest locale, the cities' annual event--one book, two cities?--is called Readin' in the Rain. The 2006 iteration will shine attention on Crescent, the novel by Diana Abu-Jaber about a love affair set in the Iraqi expatriate community in Los Angeles.

The Umbrella Opening event last Friday featured a bellydancer, live Turkic and Arabic music by the Ala Nar band and a talk about the book. On Thursday, Feb. 23, Abu-Jaber will stage a free reading, and the following Saturday, she will sign at a dinner fundraiser. During the month, book discussions will take place at libraries and bookstores in the area.

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In Other Words, the nonprofit feminist bookstore in Portland, Ore., has moved to a new location, at 8 N.E. Killingsworth, the Portland State University Vanguard reported. The 13-year-old store is paying less rent but has nearly twice the floor space. The store hopes to use the extra space for lectures, community readings and other events. It also has begun partnering with neighboring businesses, including the Talking Drum Bookstore.

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Bantam aims to try a proven technique for building buzz among booksellers on consumers: in ads in the current New Yorker, it's offering free ARCs to the first 100 people who visit the Web site for The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist, a September thriller.

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The Baltimore Sun shed some light on Basset Books, a used and antiquarian bookstore that sells a lot of children's and military books and has substantial sales online. Founded in 1998 by Jan and Dan Riker, who now have Geoff Gibson, a former HarperCollins rep, as a partner, the store is in the Savage Mill marketplace in Savage, Md. Basset Books is named after the Rikers' dog, and is cheerfully reminiscent of Waldenbooks's brief experiment in superstores--Basset Book Shops--in the early 1990s.


GLOW: Avid Reader Press: The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley


Book Passage Fans Lobby Town for Help

On Tuesday night, some 100 people asked the Corte Madera Town Council to enact measures to protect Book Passage from a 27,000-sq.-ft. Barnes & Noble that intends to open in October in the Town Center shopping mall a block away from the 30-year-old store (Shelf Awareness, January 25), the Marin Independent Journal reported.

Speakers asked the council to enact a three-month moratorium on the leasing, construction or remodeling of any retail space of 20,000 square feet or more and to create a task force to develop an ordinance to restrict or control the opening of any large stores that would threaten "local diversity, balance and community life--and would undermine the viability of locally owned businesses."

Bill Petrocelli, co-owner of Book Passage, spoke for the measure and against B&N, saying, "I would say this even if it were not my business that was on the line."

Mayor Jin Yang, who had earlier said the town council couldn't make a decision on private business matters, commented that "the messages are very clear" but told people not to expect "any miracle decision" immediately.


Soho Crime: Ash Dark as Night (A Harry Ingram Mystery) by Gary Phillips


Pennsylvania County Seeks Bookstore

Wellsboro, Pa., is looking for a bookstore.

Via a notice publicized by the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, resident Michael Capuzzo, publisher of Mountain Home magazine, said that Wellsboro is the seat for Tioga County, which attracts more than a million tourists annually, has a variety of cultural events, including the eight-day Endless Mountains Music Festival, and plans to build a performing arts center.

"There's a population of educated, affluent, creative and friendly people, mobs of tourists, and not a bookstore in town or county," he continued. The closest stores are Otto's in Williamsport, 50 miles south, and a Barnes & Noble in Corning, N.Y., about 50 miles north.

Capuzzo promised "a coterie of support from a devoted artistic and business community. We even own a lovely 19th Century Main Street building where a friendly arrangement could be had." For more information, call 570-724-3838.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Prince Charming; Governor Huckabee

This morning the Early Show has it all with guest Michelle Singletary, author of Your Money and Your Man: How You and Prince Charming Can Spend Well and Live Rich (Random House, $19.95, 1400063787).

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Today on KCRW's Bookworm: Myla Goldberg, author of Wickett's Remedy (Doubleday, $24.95, 0385513240). As the show describes the segment: "The author of Bee Season tiptoes toward an acknowledgement of her dark vision. She has written a novel in which almost every character dies in the 1918 influenza epidemic--and their ordinary lives, in general, are no picnic. Since Goldberg is a hopeful person, how did her work turn so grim?"

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Today on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show: Carl Reiner on his new novel, NNNNN (S&S, $21, 0743286693). Also, in the wake of James Frey's revelations, the show explores what it calls "the dirth of publishing fact checkers." (Maybe a special on the "dirth" of radio proofreaders would be appropriate, too.)

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Today Oprah hosts her favorite trainer, Bob Greene, author of, among other titles, Total Body Makeover (S&S, $14, 0743254066), Get With the Program (S&S, $12, 0743238044) and The Get With the Program Guide to Fast Food and Family Restaurants (S&S, $12.95, 0743256212).

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Today the Diane Rehm Show features Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, author of Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork: A 12-Stop Program to End Bad Habits and Begin a Healthy Lifestyle (Center Street, $19.95, 0446578061).

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Tonight the Daily Show with Jon Stewart warms up to Eugene Linden, author of The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations (S&S, $26, 0684863529).

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Yesterday Talk of the Nation talked with Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis, whose new book is The Cold War: A New History (Penguin Press, $27.95, 1594200629).


This Weekend on Book TV: Alexander the Great

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's Web site.

Saturday, February 11

7 p.m. Encore Booknotes. In The Stevensons: A Biography of an American Family (Norton), Jean Baker traced the family that has included Adlai Stevenson II, the former Illinois governor and two-time presidential candidate; Adlai Stevenson, Grover Cleveland's Vice President; and Adlai Stevenson III, former Illinois senator.

9 p.m. Public Lives. John Prevas talks about his book Envy of the Gods: Alexander the Great's Ill-Fated Journey Across Asia (Da Capo), in which he argues that Alexander the Great was not as glamorous as portrayed in popular history and film and kept expanding his empire out of sheer megalomania.

Sunday, February 12

5 p.m. History on Book TV. Rebecca Lemov discusses her book World as Laboratory: Experiments with Mice, Mazes, and Men (Hill and Wang), in which she traces the development of human engineering.



Deeper Understanding

Children's Publishing: Room to Grow

The children's book business is sound but appropriately has many areas in which to grow and develop, particularly in reaching non-readers and competing with other leisure activities. Such was the consensus of the "presidents panel" at the winter conference of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, held last weekend in New York City. The chiefs who addressed the state of children's publishing were Chip Gibson, Doug Whiteman and Lisa Holton, children's division presidents at Random House, Penguin and Scholastic, respectively.

For the most part, publishers described the same mixed sales trends. Among them: even counting in the phenomenon of Harry Potter, children's book unit sales have been flat for years, and picture books have been in a slump. Still, as Whiteman put it, "sales of books for teens and the middle grades have more than picked up the slack." He found this change particularly heartening and credited Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket books with helping to give reading "a boost as a leisure-time activity." Popular categories in that age group, he continued, include mystery, fantasy, chick lit and sports.

Gibson noted an "incredibly thin line between sophisticated YA and the adult market." Whiteman admitted that the boundaries for teen lit are pushed "every season" and reiterated that the growth in this part of the market has been positive, creating "a bridge between children and adults" in reading.

Despite the optimism, each panelist stressed that there are many children they are not reaching. "Two-thirds of kids are reading below grade level," Holton said. "We can reach the majority, but we have to go out and find out about them and find out what turns them on."

Holton added that at a recent Scholastic book fair in Charlotte, N.C., children at a school where 80% of the kids qualified for free lunches cleaned out the $2 paperbacks because "each wanted to walk away with a book in hand."

"Our industry reaches a fairly narrow band of American society," she continued. "We need to use technology to reach them. And we have to make the case for the pleasure of reading rather than just as an instructional thing."

In the same vein, Gibson said, "I suspect that we're all struggling with the Hispanic market." Noting that the dollar store is the fastest-growing segment of the market, he predicted that more publishing would be done at the "super high end and super low end."

Marketing Moves

The three emphasized, too, that marketing is becoming ever more important.

"Traditionally we were lazy," Whiteman said. "We left marketing to retailers and education jobbers. Now we have to market to consumers using podcasts, e-mails, text messages, blogging," even "distributing galleys at the beach or movie premieres."

The panel also agreed that children's publishers need to embrace new technology, even though most felt that print will never be replaced by electronic readers--or surpassed by what Gibson called "the noise from iPods, video games and TV." As Whiteman said, "Today's children are growing up with a completely different world view. They are not wedded to print and recorded music" the way previous generations have been. "We need to accept this change to harness the power of demography."

No one had kind words for the No Child Left Behind Act. Whiteman commented, "When you surround the word child with three negative words, you shouldn't be surprised by what you get."

Holton said that the Act's required tests, paperwork and bureaucracy distracted teachers from learning about "our books" and teaching reading. Holton urged the audience to "look at the country" and help "protect the beauty and gift of reading."

Chain Stores

Asked about chain stores, the panelists had mixed reactions. On the positive side, the stores have been a "boon from a revenue standpoint," Whiteman said. "The ability to sell a large quantity of books has gone up, and we can market books relatively uniformly."

As Gibson said, "It's never been a better time to be a book consumer in the U.S. There have never been so many places to find books," adding that they are available now in warehouse clubs, on Amazon, in mass market stores such as Wal-Mart and Target, the latter of which "has a hell of a good book department."

And Holton said, "Hits can be bigger, which can be a great thing."

But each panelist cited disadvantages. Whiteman pointed to "the huge buying power of two or three people. If one or two don't go along with you, it's very difficult to launch a new book or series."

Holton said that because of the increased retail space available, "we as an industry way overpublish." She stressed, too, that "in the old days," publishers received all kinds of help from retailers. "Now we're often putting books in the market without any help. It's up to us to communicate in 30 seconds why a reader should pick up a book."

Gibson said that publishers need to be reminded to "cultivate the vital middle list."

Celebrity Books

Children's books by celebrity authors proved an unpopular subject with the audience.

Holton defended celebrity titles in part, pointing out that such titles can make enough money to help publishers publish other books, support literacy and do other positive things.

For his part, Whiteman called it "bad to shun any category that can produce some really good books" and emphasized that some celebrity books appeal to kids. That said, he went on, "The reality is that there are too many. We as publishers need to be more selective."

Gibson's message was best received: he called celebrity books "a dicey proposition, like bad crack." The problem with them, he explained, is that "they tend to cost a lot and often are not a good economic bet."


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