Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, June 15, 2011

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

Knopf Publishing Group: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St John Mandel

Algonquin Books: The Wonders by Elena Medel, translated by Lizzie Davis and Thomas Bunstead

Minotaur Books: The Shadow House by Anna Downes

Soho Crime: One-Shot Harry by Gary Phillips


Image of the Day: a proper cup

Last Saturday the Voracious Reader, Larchmont, N.Y., celebrated the grand opening of its new café, called "a proper cup." Owner Francine Lucidon and Mayor Josh Mandell cut the ribbon as readers/tea drinkers looked on. Besides free chocolate, free posters and craft making, events included signings by Rob Sharenow, author of Berlin Boxing Club (HarperCollins); New York Times columnist Alina Tugend, author of Better by Mistake (Riverhead Books); Charise Harper, author and illustrator of Cupcake (Hyperion); and Lena Roy, author of Edges (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Roy, who is a granddaughter of Madeleine L'Engle, is also director of Writopia Westchester, which offers writing workshops for kids, some of which will be held at the Voracious Reader this summer.

Lucidon commented on why she opened the café: "In these rapidly changing times almost everyone seems to be selling books, from the local hardware store to the super market. The answer to these changes is not to sell more stuff, be it toys or T-shirts, but to look at the larger picture.

"We want to create a hub for book culture... a place where readers and writers mingle, a community of ideas and interests, and a place where families can catch their breath and regroup from the overscheduled, hyperpaced lives the times seem to demand... a place to slow down and smell the tea."


Broadleaf Books: A Complicated Choice: Making Space for Grief and Healing in the Pro-Choice Movement by Katey Zeh

Bookstore Sales Inch Up in April

April bookstore sales rose 1.8%, to $887 million, compared to April 2010, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. For the year to date, bookstore sales have climbed 0.2%, to $4.983 billion, aided by a significant upward revision of March numbers. (Instead of falling 5.8%, to $906 million in March, as preliminary figures indicated, bookstore sales that month rose 1.1%, to $973 million.)

Total retail sales in April rose 7.5%, to $389.4 billion, compared to the same period a year ago. For the year to date, total retail sales have risen 8%, to $1,470 billion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books and do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.

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

Notes: Amazon Affiliates Expendable; Multicultural Picture Books

"Does Amazon need its affiliates?" asked the Motley Fool in assessing recent blows to the company's Associates program in states where online sales tax collection has become an issue.

"We're at the point where Amazon may no longer need the Associates program, anyway," the Motley Fool suggested. "The success of its Prime loyalty membership plan is already keeping customers close. There can't be too many people out there who haven't heard of, and if a website or blog is generating enough sales volume through referrals to Amazon's product pages, there are alternatives.... These solutions may not always be as ideal as sifting through Amazon's massive and growing virtual storefront, but it's not the end of the world. It also won't be the end of the world for Amazon, which no longer needs the affiliate-fueled sales the way it did when it launched the program in the 1990s."


The not-so-simple Kindle e-reader. CNet News reported that Amazon "is prepping a new 10-inch color Kindle tablet that would support streaming video and sell for around $399." Citing a report recently released by investment firm Detwiler Fenton, CNet News said the device, code-named Hollywood, will include "a promotional video service with Amazon reportedly offering the same movie service that it now offers for free to its Prime customers. The service would be free to Hollywood buyers for a certain amount of time." Detwiler Fenton said it believes the $399 price tag "should be low enough to give it some traction against the iPad."


A solid majority of adults in the U.S. believe in the importance of multicultural picture books for children, but many find it difficult to obtain them. According to a recent telephone survey of a thousand adults conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, 78% said they believe that it is important for children to be exposed to picture books that feature main characters of various ethnicities or races, while 33% reported that it is difficult to find such books.

The survey also found that 73% of parents and 49% of adults have purchased a children's picture book with a protagonist of a different race or ethnicity from the child who will be reading the book, while only 10% consider it important to match the race or ethnicity of the main character of a picture book to the race or ethnicity of the child who will be receiving the book.

"It's reassuring that so many adults recognize the value in exposing children to books that portray people of all colors and ethnicities," said Deborah Pope, executive director of the foundation. "What's disheartening though is that, even today, these books are few and far between. Young children learn by what they see--they need to have quality books that show what joins us rather than what separates us."

When asked which factors they consider when selecting a children's picture book, survey respondents cited interesting stories (62%) and important lessons (61%), followed by eye-catching pictures (41%). "At the end of the day, people just want children to be exposed to good books," said Pope. "I encourage them to look for children's picture books that promote universal experiences and help expand the definition of what it means to be a child in a world with endless possibilities."


In a New York Review of Books blog post headlined "Reading in the Cloud," Sue Halpern considered the future implications of Apple's iCloud as well as the June 30 launch of 24Symbols, which will allow readers to stream books through a cloud-based subscription service: "Subscribers who do not want to pay a fee can join for free; the books they read will come with small ads. Publishers will be paid a percentage of the ad revenue and a percentage of the subscription fee based on the total number of pages of their books that are read in a month. Books whose readers lose interest part way through generate proportionately less money than those that are read to the end."

Halpern wrote that she wants to believe "paying a small fee to be able to read any number of books will not further undermine public libraries and bookstores; I'd like to believe that in places where there are no public libraries, having yet another way to access books will be a good thing. I want to believe that having a free, ad-based reading service will eliminate book piracy while still providing a revenue stream to writers. (I'm eager to see what sorts of 'contextual' ads they come up with for, say, Gravity's Rainbow.) And I want to believe that when my publisher finds out that the only people reading my books come from a notoriously parsimonious demographic, and most of them never get past the first three chapters anyway, I will still have a career.

"In the meantime, I will subscribe to 24Symbols (making sure to at least turn every page of every book I select) while continuing to 1) download books and read them on my iPad, 2) buy actual, physical books in actual, physical stores, and 3) go to the library. None of these things are mutually exclusive unless we make them that."


Author Cory Doctorow has teamed up with McNally Jackson Books, New York, N.Y., to print and sell his short story collection With a Little Help. The book will be printed on the McNally's Espresso Book Machine. At Boing Boing, Doctorow wrote: "I'm really excited to see how this works out, as there are plenty of amazing stores in the USA with Espresso machines with whom I'd be delighted to make similar arrangements."


Starring in the most recent TV commercial for Northshire Bookstore, Manchester, Vt., are Eva and Hilary Morrow, third generation booksellers and the daughters of Northshire's general manager Chris Morrow.


Jeffery Deaver told a crowd gathered at the downtown Manhattan restaurant Imperial No. Nine that when the estate of Ian Fleming had asked if he'd be interested in writing an authorized James Bond novel. "I debated all of five seconds," he joked, and soon after got started on Carte Blanche, which Simon & Schuster released in the U.S. this week. The main challenge, he said, in updating Bond for the 21st century was to retain the flair and panache that Fleming gave Bond in the 1950s while making him a believable figure in a more politically correct contemporary setting. In addition, "I had to make the character work in my type of thriller"--plot-driven, where Fleming placed greater emphasis on character, he explained.

What did Deaver make of the mild controversy that's emerged in the U.K. about Bond being handled by an American thriller writer? "It's an author's job to create credible, living, breathing characters," he said. Bond was just another challenge... and it was just as challenging for me to write about Felix Leiter, the American CIA agent." Deaver did plenty of research for the novel, spending months overseas studying the intricacies of the British intelligence network and the nuances between American and British English. "And the book's been out for three weeks there," he noted, "and nobody has caught me in any slip-ups."--Ron Hogan


Let the debate begin: The 100 greatest nonfiction books of all time were chosen by the Guardian's book desk writers, who observed: "The list we've come up with rewards readability alongside originality, heaps praise on perfect prose and rounds it all off with a dash of cultural significance. It's clearly a mug's game to make any kind of claim for definitiveness but, whatever you make of our list and its (doubtless many) omissions and imperfections, there's no question that it features a whole heap of truly great books."


Summer reading with a French twist: To help you prepare for Bastille Day next month, Jacket Copy featured a "summer's worth of French reading" in the form of a dozen recommended titles "on France, French living, French houses, French charm, French cinema, French theatre, walks in Paris, train rides in France, and of course, the language."


Author Lauren Groff shared her summer reading plans with the Book Bench: "Summer in central Florida is like winter in New York, in that most sane people go outside only under duress. Add to this that I have an enormous and very hungry new baby whom I have to feed for four hours a day, which forces me to sit down, and a ukase handed down by my husband to the effect that I'm not allowed to buy any more books until I've cleaned out my intimidating to-be-read shelves, and the result is an enormous reading project."


Swim the Fly author Don Calame selected his top 10 funny teen boy books for the Guardian, noting that there is "nothing quite like laughing out loud while reading. It's actually quite a rare occurrence. Laughing at a movie or a television show somehow seems more natural. But big belly laughs from reading a book? It just doesn't happen that often. Which is why when it does, it feels great. Maybe a bit embarrassing if you're in public. But there's something really fun about it, too. Like you're in on a joke that no one else around you gets."


Book trailer of the day: The Devil Colony: A Sigma Force Novel by James Rollins (Morrow).


International Publishers Marketing has added the following to publishers from South Africa to its client lists:

New Africa Books, whose imprints are David Philip, a publisher of general books that have won many literary awards since 1971; Spearhead, a publisher of self-help and alternative lifestyle books; New Africa Education, publishing for and beyond the South African national curriculum, and a publisher of illustrated children's books.

Briza Publications, which was established in 1990 to publish the Guide to Grasses of South Africa in both Afrikaans and English editions. The company now publishes a range of nonfiction, with an emphasis on botany and natural history, for the layman as well as specialists and academics.


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

Akashic Makes the Lions Roar

 The wildly popular Go the F**K to Sleep (Akashic Books), had its official launch at last night at the New York Public Library last night. Actor Judah Friedlander (l.) read from the book, and author Adam Mansbach (center) and artist Ricardo Cortés (r.) engaged in conversation with Paul Holdengräber, director of public programs at the NYPL, for the finale of the season's Live from the NYPL series. "My goal is to make the lions roar," said Holdengräber, admitting "I never had the delight of cursing this much on stage." He had asked former NYPL guest Werner Herzog to tape a reading of the book for the evening's event as the pages turned on a large screen for the audience. "What's great about Herzog is he gives it his all," Mansbach commented in response to the reading. "Samuel Jackson is doing the audiobook version, and you hear his mounting frustration, but not with the sense that if you don't go to sleep, he'll burn down your house. It's probably his best work since Pulp Fiction." [Jackson's reading, which the Washington Post described as "pretty bleeping good," is available free for a limited time from Audible.]

The author said the book began as a joke to a friend on Facebook, "Be on the lookout for my forthcoming children's book, Go the F**k to Sleep." After a few weeks, the idea congealed. Then Mansbach approached Cortés, who'd been the art director for a hip-hop magazine he'd started in college, to illustrate it. Cortés likes the way the hint of the "UC" shows in the moon image on the cover. "That keeps it real," the artist said. Johnny Temple, founder of Akashic Books, told Holdengräber he was not afraid of F**K in the title; his first great success as a publisher was with the publication in 1997 of The F**kup. Temple said it's been interesting to see how publishers translating the book are handling it, since the title phrase is colloquial. A Christian group, Family First, is attempting to thwart efforts to publish the book in Australia and New Zealand. One might be tempted to say, "What the F**K?" given that there are already 400,000 copies of the book in print and it's #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Open Road Media launched the ebook version simultaneously with Akashic's hardcover yesterday.--Jennifer M. Brown


GBO Pick of the Month: The Stronger Sex

For its book of the month for June, the German Book Office in New York has picked The Stronger Sex by Hans Werner Kettenbach, translated by Anthea Bell (Bitter Lemon Press, $14.95, 9781904738671).

In the book, according to the GBO, young lawyer Alex Zabel aims to defend a lying, power-obsessed adulterer and ruthless industrialist accused of wrongfully dismissing his mistress. She is 34, he is 78, wheelchair bound and dying of cancer. "As Alex deals with this hopeless case, his empathy for his repulsive client grows as he finds himself sexually attracted to his client's elderly wife. The Stronger Sex is a meditation on old age, power, sexual lust, and revenge."

Author Hans Werner Kettenbach published his first book at age 50 after jobs that included construction worker, court stenographer, football journalist, foreign correspondent in New York and, most recently, newspaper editor. His crime novels have won the Jerry-Cotton Prize and the Deutscher-Krimi Prize; five have been made into films, including Black Ice, also published by Bitter Lemon Press.

Anthea Bell won the 2010 Schlegel-Tieck prize for her work on Stefan Zweig's novella Burning Secret and has translated other works by Kettenbach as well as Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald and works by E.T.A. Hoffmann.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Mara Hvistendahl on NPR's Morning Edition

This morning on NPR's Morning Edition: Mara Hvistendahl, author of Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men (PublicAffairs, $26.99, 9781586488505).


Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: John A. Farrell, author of Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned (Doubleday, $32.50, 9780385522588).


Movie: Mr. Popper's Penguins

Mr. Popper's Penguins--starring Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino and Angela Lansbury--opens this Friday, June 17. The movie is based on the classic 1938 children's book by Richard and Florence Atwater, which is available in a movie tie-in edition (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $6.99, 9780316186469).


Steven Pressfield: Adaptations 'Less Satisfying than the Book'

Bestselling author Steven Pressfield addressed "the ongoing question of book vs. movie" at Word & Film: "The Godfather, yes. To Kill a Mockingbird, definitely. Maybe a few others. But with these notable exceptions, almost every adaptation of a novel is less satisfying than the book itself. Why? Not because film is an inferior medium. You and I love film. But the form demands truncation, condensation, and simplification--and none of these helps any work of fiction." Pressfield also noted the particular challenges faced by a novel-to-film adapter:

  1. Make it shorter. A lot shorter.
  2. Make it work in a rhythm.
  3. Find the core throughline and cut everything else.
  4. Strip it down to three acts.
  5. Lose all interior prose and poetry.
  6. Cut all long speeches.
  7. Make it work for a single star.

"Nothing is better than a great film," Pressfield observed. "But the overflowing chalice of the novel, particularly a full-blooded one, is often more than the shot glass of film can contain. A lot of good booze gets spilled onto the floor. Often short stories (see Philip K. Dick) or even magazine articles make better material for adaptation than full-on novels. The adapter doesn’t need to be loyal. He can tear down and build afresh."


Books & Authors

Awards: Boston Globe-Horn Book; Elizabeth Longford; Thriller

Winners of the 2011 Boston Globe-Horn Book awards for excellence in children’s and YA literature are:

Fiction: Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones (Candlewick)
Nonfiction: The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, & Treachery by Steve Sheinkin (Flash Point/Roaring Brook)
Picture Book: Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes by Salley Mavor (Houghton)


Yesterday Philip Ziegler was honored as this year's winner of the £5,000 (US$8,114) Elizabeth Longford prize for historical biography. The Bookseller reported that the judges praised Zeigler's Edward Heath: The Authorized Biography as a "fully rounded, compelling and ultimately moving portrait of a flawed but impressive personality as well as of a major and often forward-looking politician. This was done through sensitive use of oral evidence and personal testimony and a wide and scholarly trawl through many archives, and also by a very distinguished literary style--sharp, engrossing, graceful and consummately blending irony with sympathy. It is a master-class in political biography."


Nominees for the 2011 Thriller Awards, which are sponsored by International Thriller Writers, can be found here. The winners will be announced July 9 at ThrillerFest in New York City.


Book Brahmin: James Wallenstein

James Wallenstein's work has appeared in GQ, the Believer, Antioch Review, Boston Review and the Hudson Review, among other publications. His debut novel, The Arriviste, just been published by Milkweed Editions (June 7, 2011). He lives and writes in New York.

On your nightstand now:

My nightstand has been taken over by children's books. I just moved the pile so that I wouldn't have to answer with the titles of a lot of children's books and exposed Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier, A Good Place for the Night by Savyon Liebrecht, Stet by Diana Athill, Things Unsaid: New and Selected Poems by Tony Connor, Raised-Bed Vegetable Gardening Made Simple by Raymond Nones and a stack of old magazines.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Bendemolena by Jan Slepian. I see that it has been reissued as The Cat Who Wore a Pot on Her Head, which is what it's about--a cat who puts a pot on her head. Though I prefer the original title.

Your top five authors:

Beats me. Chekhov would be right up there. But after him? The books that thrill you seem incomparable. This is part of what makes them thrilling, I suppose.

Book you've faked reading:

Sometimes when I read the longer Dr. Seuss books like Horton Hears a Who and McElligot's Pool to my son, my attention wanders. Reading aloud without really listening seems worse than lying in conversation about what you've read. As for books for grownups, suffice it to say that you could make a small but respectable library out of the books I was assigned to read for school and didn't.

Books you're an evangelist for:

Taras Bulba by Gogol; The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal; Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. But these are classics and hardly need evangelizing for. Somewhat less well-known books that I'd be happy to read again and again are Independent People by Halldor Laxness (which I read because Brad Leithauser is such a great evangelist for it), At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien and Great Plains by Ian Frazier.

Book you've bought for the cover:

None that I can recall. We had Erica Jong's Fear of Flying in the house when I was a kid. I started to read it because of the cover. We also had Nin's Delta of Venus. I don't remember the cover but the title intrigued me, even though I didn't understand it.

Book that changed your life:

Tough question. Keats's letters. There's that book How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton. Unfortunately, I haven't read it. But I have read Proust. Since I haven't read de Botton's book, I don't know whether he says this, but in case he doesn't, I'll note one of the pleasures of reading Proust. Most books make an implicit distinction between reading and living. When you read them, you're aware that you're not doing things like the ones being represented--you're not in Pamplona for the running of the bulls, you're not parachuting, boxing, spying, sailing or dying. (Okay, you are dying, though slowly.) Proust isn't like that. He puts the reader on the same footing as the writer. You don't feel like what you're doing is less vital than what you're reading about. You may long to live fully but you've got company in Proust's narrator, who's cut off from his experience and yet is living more fully and in a way allowing you to live more fully than you probably have.

Favorite line from a book:

I came across this the other day in a story by Etgar Keret called "Missing Kissinger": "There are two kinds of people, those who like to sleep next to the wall, and those who like to sleep next to the people who push them off the bed."

Best story title:

Here are two: "Disorder and Early Sorrow" (Thomas Mann) and "Kierkegaard Unfair to Schlegel" (Donald Barthelme).

Book you've read that almost no one else has:

The Unfortunate Fursey by Mervyn Wall.

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

Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.


Book Review

Children's Review: Bake Sale

Bake Sale by Sara Varon (First Second/Macmillan, $16.99 paperback, 160p., ages 10-up, 9781596434196, August 30, 2011)

Sara Varon (Robot Dreams) once again proves that reaching one's personal goals can also benefit the community. The charming and resourceful stars of her picture book Chicken and Cat transformed a vacant lot into a community garden. In this six-chapter graphic novel, equally charming best friends Cupcake and Eggplant collaborate and encourage each other to achieve their dreams. Cupcake rises at 6:30 each morning and walks to the Sweet Tooth Bakery. He starts a pot of coffee and bakes until his display cases are full. Two thin legs support his yellow-wrapper middle and pink frosted head with a beret-like cherry cap. He polishes the awards on his wall, which attest to his talents ("2006 Best Fruit Pie," "2008 Most Perfect Cookie"), not to mention the personal testimonials. Tomato, picking up a special order, tells him, "My gardening club goes crazy for your carrot cake." After work, Eggplant (balanced on matching purple legs) picks up Cupcake for band practice. "The 4th of July parade is right around the corner," Eggplant reminds him.

The buddies head around the corner to Eisenstein's Sandwich Shop (which fans of Manhattan's Flatiron district will recognize as Eisenberg's, right down to the Russian bookstore on the second floor). As Carrot waits on the pair, Eggplant tells Cupcake about his Aunt Aubergine in Turkey, his plans to visit her, and her new cookbook, which he shares with Cupcake. When Cupcake discovers that Aunt Aubergine and Turkish Delight, a famous pastry chef, are business partners, he can think of little else. He decides to save up for a ticket to travel with his friend, and Eggplant helps him make some hard choices to scrape together airfare. Everything about this confection speaks to cooperation. Eggplant covers the occasional Saturday at the Sweet Tooth so Cupcake can raise the extra cash for the trip. Over the seasons, the resourceful baker taps into community events, making animal-shaped marzipan treats for the Blessing of the Animals on St. Francis of Assisi Day in October; cupcakes with British and American flags for a big November boxing match; and dog biscuits for February's Westminster Dog Show--and sets up a table outside the events.

Because Varon ties her compositions to such a concrete reality, she makes it seem perfectly plausible that a soda can could walk a Dalmatian and a parrot would perch on its strawberry owner. Fellow band members include Brown Egg, Avocado and Donut, and, at a Russian and Turkish bath house, a red beet (think Borscht) hands out towels to Eggplant and Cupcake. When Eggplant loses his job, Cupcake comes through for him. This humorous and heartwarming tale celebrates good food, true friendship and their ripple effects throughout a city neighborhood (with seven fairly simple recipes so readers can get started, too).--Jennifer M. Brown


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Titles in Florida Last Week

The following were the bestselling books at independent bookstores in Florida during the week ended Sunday, June 5:

1. Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow
2. In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
3. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
4. The Greater Journey by David McCullough
5. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
6. Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach
7. Room by Emma Donoghue
8. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
9. The Jefferson Key by Steve Berry
10. The Beach Trees by Karen White

Reporting bookstores and their handselling favorites:

Book Mark, Neptune Beach: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Books & Books, Coral Gables, Miami Beach, Bal Harbour: S'Mother by Adam Chester
Inkwood Books, Tampa: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Vero Beach Book Center: Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow

[Many thanks to the booksellers and Carl Lennertz!]

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