Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 8, 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

Quotation of the Day

'The Future Reading You Save May Be Your Own'

"So, fellow local writers, when we go to a reading at Porter Square Books, we should buy something, even if it's not the book being featured. No one begrudges buying a ticket when we go to the movies, but for some reason we think spending an hour and a half at a bookstore listening to something we'll never hear anywhere else should be free. We should buy the books we want to own at PSB. And we should tell our local readers why they should buy our book at PSB, even if it costs more. Almost any book you can get from Amazon, including e-books, you can get from PSB: if it's not on the shelves today, you can order it. I'm sure most of us follow these rules already, but in tough times, for writers AND bookstores, they seem worth repeating. The future reading you save may be your own."

--Author Leslie Brunetta in a post titled "Buying In" on the Porter Square Books Blog.

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


News

Image of the Day: Unlikely Brothers

Last week, at McNally Jackson Booksellers in New York City, NBC's Ann Curry moderated a discussion with John Prendergast and Michael Mattocks, authors of the memoir Unlikely Brothers: Our Story of Adventure, Loss, and Redemption (Crown). Here's Curry with Mattocks and Prendergast.

 

 


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


Notes: Liberty Media's Malone on B&N Offer; 'Appstore' Ruling

In his first public remarks since offering to acquire 70% of Barnes & Noble's stock for $17 a share (Shelf Awareness, May 20, 2011), John Malone, chairman of Liberty Media, said the deal "would be a bit of a flier for us, on whether or not Barnes & Noble can play competitively with the likes of Apple and Amazon in the digital transformation. That's really the bet."

The New York Times reported Malone also acknowledged that bricks-and-mortar stores will have their role: "We believe that publishers like the existing physical bookstores, they like having a partner in distribution who lives and dies in the book business as opposed to just commoditizing it, which these other players do. So I think you go into it with an edge in your relationship with the publishers."

Comparing the challenges faced by the bookselling business to an epidemic, he observed: "It's kind of like the people that survive a small pox epidemic. If you're still alive, well, maybe you got a chance of living a long life. But on the digital side, which is the only way for Liberty to play in this game, you have to believe that this is going to be a very important business, broadly defined, and you can keep market share that makes your presence in this business a good return."

The Wall Street Journal wrote that Liberty's chairman expressed confidence his company will be able to work well with B&N's chairman and largest shareholder, Leonard Riggio. Malone said if Liberty "couldn't work with Len, we wouldn't do a deal. We are not into hostile deals."

B&N issued a statement noting that Riggio "couldn't think of a better partner than John Malone and a finer group of executives than the team at Liberty."

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Amazon plans to open a fourth distribution center in Arizona. While state officials celebrated the completion of a 1.2 million-square-foot facility, which opened last year, Amazon said it will open a similar-sized facility in Phoenix this fall.  

"Amazon is a quality employer, so I'm proud they’ve chosen to invest in Arizona," said Governor Jan Brewer. "The company’s newest facility means even more jobs for Arizona citizens, and is one more sign that our economy is on the right track. The recent launch of the Arizona Commerce Authority and announcements like this by Amazon prove that Arizona is open for business."

The Associated Press (via Forbes) noted that, with the announcement earlier this week of a new fulfillment center in Plainfield, Ind., Amazon is sending a message by "steering business toward states that are not pressing the Internet retail giant on collecting taxes."

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Amazon can keep its "Appstore" for the time being. In an opinion filed with the U.S. District Court for Northern California, Judge Phyllis Hamilton denied Apple's request for a preliminary injunction that would have forced Amazon to remove the name while awaiting a trademark-infringement trial in October, CNet News reported.

Hamilton ruled that Apple "has not established a likelihood of success on its dilution claim. First, Apple has not established that its 'App Store' mark is famous, in the sense of being 'prominent' and 'renowned.' The evidence does show that Apple has spent a great deal of money on advertising and publicity, and has sold/provided/furnished a large number of apps from its AppStore, and the evidence also reflects actual recognition of the 'App Store' mark. However, there is also evidence that the term 'app store' is used by other companies as a descriptive term for a place to obtain software applications for mobile devices. "

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"A Minimal, Futuristic Library. And--Gasp--It’s Got Books!" Fast Company's headline aptly described Japan's Kanazawa Umimirai Library, which "is like an art gallery for dead trees. It's got a minimal white reading room that stretches 148 feet by 148 feet and has precisely one decorative element, the stacks."

Coelacanth K&H Architects noted that the design strategy was to surround visitors with "a treasure trove of books" and evoke their "overwhelming physical presence, something that the convenience of electronic and digital books cannot offer."

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Surfing the crime wave. The Wall Street Journal reported that "as print sales continue to plummet, several publishing houses are launching mystery imprints in hopes of gaining a toehold in the thriving crime-fiction market." The Journal focused on Little, Brown's new suspense imprint Mulholland as well as MysteriousPress.com, where Otto Penzler, owner of New York's Mysterious Bookshop, "is teaming up with Open Road Media to digitally publish out of print and backlisted books of iconic writers such as James Ellroy and Donald Westlake" as well as some original works.

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In the decade since co-owner David Cheezem opened Fireside Books, Palmer, Alaska, he "has learned quite a bit about his dual role as small town merchant and community busybody," the Anchorage Press reported, noting that last fall the bookseller "found himself taking a different public step. Instead of working in the system, he attacked it." Cheezem was one of three bookstore plaintiffs--along with Title Wave Books and Bosco's Comics in Anchorage--in an ACLU suit against the state regarding a censorship law passed by the legislature (Shelf Awareness, September 2, 2010). Last week that law was thrown out by U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline.

"There was a part of me that was kind of frightened to put the store's name on this," Cheezem said of the lawsuit. But The Press wrote that "he referred to the First Amendment as 'that sacred part' of the Constitution which booksellers and librarians defend every day just by doing their jobs. In the end, that seemed more important than keeping his head down in Palmer or the name of his bookstore out of a federal court file."

"I feel that if you are a bookseller, and you are professional, you stand up for the First Amendment. It's not just about moving product," he said.

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Bookselling This Week profiled Barrington Books, Barrington, R.I., which was opened 25 years ago by Hamilton Allen as a Little Professor franchise, became an indie under its current name 10 years later and has been owned by Dana Schectman since 2008.

"The bookstore has been a staple in the community for over 25 years," said Schectman. "It was a store that was always more than just a bookstore, it was a community meeting place, and that was my motivation for taking it over when [Allen] was retiring. I was so afraid that someone else would buy it and change it."

Store manager Jennifer Massotti added that the bookshop "has always been focused on customer service, and we will continue to do so going forward. While books will always be the soul of the business, our offerings continue to evolve as the needs of our customer base evolve."

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The future of Obelisk bookstore, San Diego, Calif., is in doubt after a fire Wednesday severely damaged the historical building in which it is located. San Diego Gay & Lesbian News reported that owner Brett Serwalt "is still gathering information from the city Fire-Rescue Department about the extent of damage to his bookstore."

On Facebook, Serwalt wrote: "As I get more details I'll keep you all posted. Shortly after the fire was finally extinguished, a structural engineer suggested that the building might not need to come down. This surprised me. I'm hoping they let me inside this morning so I can finally see how bad it is."

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"Is it a town without a bookstore?" asked the Santa Rosa Press Democrat's Chris Smith, who offered his "worst-case scenario: We all shop online at home, get great deals and avoid paying sales tax, then walk quickly through our lifeless downtowns with wired plugs blocking our ears."

Smith cited a dispatch to customers from Andy Weinberger, co-owner of Reader’s Books, Sonoma, Calif., as an important call for more indie awareness. "Are we a community or just a collection of houses where people sleep at night?" Weinberger wrote. "Do we care about our local shops and services or are we just looking for what's cheap and convenient and tax-free?"

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Literary games for bored book nerds were featured by Flavorwire, which hoped to "introduce a few games into your summer repertoire, so you have something to do if you're bored at your beach house (or more likely, during the long train ride to a beach). Like Prince says, you don't have to be rich to be our girl... or well-read to play our literary games."

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Audiobook Trailer of the Day: Here’s a lesson in reverse psychology for reluctant (boy) summer readers... a joint venture from Roaring Brook Press and Brilliance Audio for their release of Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading, narrated by MacLeod Andrews, and written by author Tommy Greenwald and Curious City’s Kirsten Cappy.

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Cool and touching video of the day: Abrams employees, including president and CEO Michael Jacobs, have joined other companies and institutions and made a video for the It Gets Better Project. See it here.

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Kate Lloyd has been promoted to assistant director of publicity at Scribner. She was formerly publicity manager and joined the company in May 2010.

 


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


General Retail Sales: June Heats Up

Retail sales in June "blew by analyst expectations and suggested that consumers, at least when they were shopping, were feeling good," the New York Times reported, adding that despite concerns "a drop in consumer confidence and high gas prices would damp results, every sector that is tracked by Thomson Reuters--from discount to luxury--on Thursday reported increases at stores open at least a year." Thomson Reuters said sales at stores it tracks rose 6.5%, well above the 4.9% increase most analysts had anticipated.

"It reflects that despite all the bad news, the consumer still basically feels like they've got money in their wallet," said Al Sambar, a retail strategist at Kurt Salmon.

With a gain of 9%, discount stores turned in the strongest performance, though every sector had positive comparable sales. The Times noted that "companies with the best results and that beat analyst expectations by the widest margins cater to all sorts of shoppers," including Costco (up 14%), Saks (up 11.9%), Kohl's (up 7.5%) and Dillard's (up 6%).  

"June is somewhat of a transition month for retail, said Michael McNamara of SpendingPulse. "Some categories are ending one season and getting ready for the next, such as apparel. Other categories are depending more on the summer travel season."

The Wall Street Journal, however, noted that much of the increase could be attributed to higher levels of promotional activity, and cautioned: "The deep discounting at U.S. stores now may make it seem like it's Christmas in July--but don't expect the deals to last until the real holiday season. In the face of higher costs, retailers are lowering inventory levels for the second half of the year to avoid promotional discounts on overstock and encourage full-price selling to protect fragile margins."

 


Media and Movies

Media Heat: The Millionaire Messenger

Today on the View: Brendon Burchard, author of The Millionaire Messenger: Make a Difference and a Fortune Sharing Your Advice (Free Press, $14.99, 9781451665994).

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Sunday on ABC's Primetime with Diane Sawyer: Jaycee Dugard, author of A Stolen Life: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster, $24.99, 9781451629187).

 


HP7 Countdown: London Premiere & 8 New Video Clips

Coverage of yesterday's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 London premiere included red carpet video from Entertainment Weekly, as well as photos from USA Today of J.K. Rowling; stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint; and the legion of muggles who waited as long as 24 hours for a glimpse of their favorite wizards. The Hollywood Reporter unveiled eight new video clips from the movie, which will be released in the U.S. next week.

BBC News reported that J.K. Rowling thanked the actors for "the amazing things they did for my favorite characters" and said to her fans: "Thank you for queuing up for the books for all those years, for camping out in a wet Trafalgar Square." 

 



Books & Authors

Awards: Australian Prime Minister's; International Literature

Stephen Daisley has won the 2011 Australian Prime Minister's Literary Award for Fiction for his debut novel, Traitor (Text Publishing). The award has an A$80,000 (about US$84,300) prize.

Traitor tells the story of a young New Zealand soldier and a Turkish doctor thrown together during the Gallipoli campaign in World War I. The judges praised the book as "timely, challenging and calm in the sympathy that it extends towards the Islamic faith... Traitor is brilliant, poignant and provoking. Its tactile, redolent evocation of the physical world of sheep-farming in New Zealand and of warfare at Gallipoli--while this recalls material in many Australian novels--is also utterly distinctive."

Traitor's win marks the second year in a row that a Text title has won the prize. Last year, Dog Boy by Eva Hornung won the Australian Prime Minister's Literary Award for Fiction.

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Venushaar by Russian author Michail Schischkin, translated by Andreas Tretner, won the International Literature Award, honoring works of "international prose translated into German for the first time." The €35,000 (US$31,450) prize, which has been awarded annually by the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and the foundation Elementarteilchen since 2009, is divided between the author (€25,000) and translator (€10,000).

 


Book Brahmin: Alan Glynn

Alan Glynn is the author of The Dark Fields (the basis for the film Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro) and Winterland (Picador, July 2011). His next book will be Bloodland (Picador, January 2012). He is married with two children and lives in Dublin.

On your nightstand now:

James Kaplan's Frank: The Voice, and man, I don't want this one to end; F. William Engdahl's Gods of Money and China Miéville's The City and the City.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I could almost feel the Tenniel illustrations stretching the synapses in my brain.

Your top five authors:

James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler, Thomas Pynchon, J.G. Ballard.

Book you've faked reading:

Middlemarch. It always seemed easier just to nod along. I'll read it some day. Though after a certain age you lose the need to fake having read stuff. I once tried it on with The Golden Bowl but didn't get away with it. Ouch!

Book you're an evangelist for:

Robert Caro's Means of Ascent, an indispensable primer on power and politics, and the most riveting book I've ever read.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Rick Perstein's Nixonland. Not just the cover, which is eye-catching enough, but that title, irresistible. I would have bought the book even if it'd turned out to be a user's manual for a vacuum clearer. 

Book that changed your life:

At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien. I hadn't known you were allowed to do this kind of thing with form and language, and all in the service of getting laughs. Like a slo-mo shift from black-and-white to color, it changed how I saw the world.

Favorite line from a book:

Has to be from the last page of Gatsby: "He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it."

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

Catch-22. I was 14 when I first read it, and in no subsequent attempt have I managed to get beyond page 20 or so. But, wow, that first time was exhilarating.

 


Book Review

Book Review: Stone Arabia

Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta (Scribner, $24, 9781451617962, July 12, 2011)

Like her National Book Award-nominated Eat the Document, Dana Spiotta's new novel has its roots in the 1970s. This time, however, instead of focusing on the political currents of that era, she's turned her attention to the intimate details of family life, the slow erosion of dreams and the faint persistence of hope.

Narrated mostly in the voice of Denise Krasnis, a woman in the midst of a struggling midlife, Stone Arabia is the story of her relationship with her older brother, Nik Worth, a talented if only modestly successful post-punk musician in bands with names like the Demonics and the Fakes, who now, in 2004, lives in obscurity in Los Angeles's Topanga Canyon, barely subsisting on a bartender's income. When he's not working on a massive collection of materials he has assembled to create an elaborate fictional narrative of his life he calls "The Chronicles" (Denise ironically entitles her story "The Counterchronicles"), he's recording an equally imposing, provocative series of experimental CDs he distributes in only a handful of copies.

As was the case for the characters in Spiotta's previous novel, Denise can't escape the incessant drumbeat of stories from the wider world. She's obsessed with the "television bombardment of violent events," the "odd back-and-forth between the ticker crawling beneath and the incongruent images above it." These "breaking events"--the torture at Abu Ghraib prison, the Chechnya school massacre, the disappearance of a young Amish girl in upstate New York--insinuate their way into Denise's life as she realizes, with regret, that she "had, in middle age, become a person whose deepest emotional moments happened vicariously."

Spiotta perfectly captures the emotional stew of love, frustration, anger and, perhaps most poignantly, the lack of communication that are the stuff of sibling relationships: "We don't talk out everything," Denise tells her daughter, Ada, a filmmaker who's working on a documentary on her uncle's career. "We keep a lot in the air between us." And as she watches, with tender concern and rising alarm, her brother's increasingly reclusive behavior, she must deal with their mother's early dementia, while obsessing over her own occasional memory lapses and fearing she's destined for the same fate.

In a voice that rarely rises above an intense whisper, Dana Spiotta's portrait of Denise and Nik is a tender, inwardly focused story that leaves us with some profound questions: How well do we know the ones dearest to us and, in the face of our most well-intentioned efforts, can their inner lives ever truly be known? --Harvey Freedenberg

Shelf Talker: Dana Spiotta's new novel is an intimate exploration of the complex territory of an adult sibling relationship.

 

 


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The Fictional Art of Handselling

What are your favorite characters reading these days?

Do you recall the first time a fictional character handsold you a book, that mirror-within-a-mirror moment when you were reading over the shoulder of a protagonist who was engaged with a book you suddenly found irresistible; who convinced you that you had to acquire that particular title as soon as possible?

Maybe you underlined the relevant passage, scribbled a note in the margin or on a scrap of paper. It's happened to all of us many times during our reading lives. If you are or have been a bookseller, it's a familiar behavior pattern, a distant cousin of the double-play handsell, which occurs when someone overhears your conversation with a customer and asks, "What's that book you're talking about?"

We should recognize and appreciate the subtle work of our imaginary kindred handsellers, and now you have your opportunity.

But first let me give full credit for this column idea to Leslie Reiner, co-owner of Inkwood Books, Tampa, Fla. She sent me an e-mail recently suggesting that it would be fun to learn what other peoples' experiences have been in the world of, well, imagined readers of real books.

"While reading the new Ken Bruen mystery, Headstone, I came to a page (actually two: 37 and 153) where the main character, Jack Taylor, lists a few of his favorite authors. I found that I quickly jotted down new names to try out, and then realized I was basically being handsold books by an alcoholic, Irish P.I. who is a fictional character. It made me think of all the other times favorite characters in books will refer to favorite authors or titles (or music--Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos, and so many of the Brit and Irish writers, mention music)."

This quite naturally led her to wonder what "our favorite characters are reading these days."

Reiner said she is "always aware of when a character is reading a book or goes into a bookstore, and of course my heart aches when they frequent the chain stores. (But I forgive them as they are being controlled by the author.) As I read heavily in mystery among the Brits, Scots and Irish, I would imagine that the detectives in Bruen, Jon Harvey, Rankin, Mina, Hill, MacBride all may have characters who read and listen to music."

But why should we have faith in them to be great handsellers?

"As for why we would trust the alcohol-dependent, relationship dysfunctional characters in our favorite mysteries, I can only confess that I am half in-love with most of them, and relish a peek into that part of their personalities," Reiner observed. "And if I love the writing in the book I am reading, then it's a safe bet that I can trust the subtle handselling of the protagonist. Is it a form of helping a friend? A salute to an idol? A strange sort of product placement? I don't know, and don't care; I am simply happy for the tips."

I confess that I'm absolutely susceptible to fictional handselling and have been for much of my reading life, probably since Larry (in Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge) talked me into reading the Bhagavad Gita, and as recently as last week, when Josh (in The Swinger by Michael Bamberger and Alan Shipnuck) prompted me to start looking for a collectible copy of the classic Golf Is My Game by Bobby Jones.

And don't forget music. As Reiner noted, fictional handselling extends to that sphere as well. I discovered Bruckner's symphonies in the pages of Colin Wilson's The Philosopher's Stone four decades ago, and in May, Julius (Open City by Teju Cole) talked me into buying some Mahler and Sibelius. I have Michael Connelly's police detective Harry Bosch to thank for tipping me off to some of my favorite jazz artists--Frank Morgan, George Cables and Tomasz Stanko.

Sometimes fictional handselling even reaches beyond individual readers to become an international phenomenon. When Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient was published in 1992, Almásy's deep attachment to The Histories by Herodotus--for its content as well as its service as a scrapbook and journal--fostered renewed interest in the ancient work. It was probably less than coincidental that a year after the release of the film adaptation, a new Everyman's Library edition was published.

Perhaps the best mirror-image literary highlight in the annals of fictional handselling is a moment in The Razor's Edge when the narrator (a writer remarkably similar to Maugham) stops off at a Paris bookshop to purchase "the translation of a novel of mine that has recently appeared" as a gift for another character in the book.

Now tell us about your favorite fictional readers. What great titles have they handsold to you over the years?--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

 


The Bestsellers

Top Book Club Books in June

The following are the most popular book club books during June based on votes from readers and leaders of more than 30,000 book clubs registered at Bookmovement.com:

1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
2. Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue
3. Cutting for Stone: A Novel by Abraham Verghese
4. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
5. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
6. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel by Jamie Ford
7. The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McLain
8. Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave
9. Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen
10. Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls

Top two risers:

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin (New at #24)
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See (New at #30)

[Many thanks to Bookmovement.com!]


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