Shelf Awareness for Friday, May 4, 2012

Yen Press: The God of Nishi-Yuigahama Station by Takeshi Murase, Translated by Guiseppe Di Martino

Peachtree Publishers: Erno Rubik and His Magic Cube by Kerry Aradhya, Illustrated by Kara Kramer

Beacon Press: Kindred by Octavia Butler

Inkshares: Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel

Tundra Books: On a Mushroom Day by Chris Baker, Illustrated by Alexandria Finkeldey

Simon & Schuster: Register for the Simon & Schuster Fall Preview!

St. Martin's Press: Sacrificial Animals by Kailee Pedersen


General Retail Sales: April Is the Slowest Month

An early Easter, cold spring weather and a strong April last year put a damper on retail performances last month. Thomson Reuters said sales at the 19 stores it tracks rose just 0.8%, falling short of the 1.5% gain analysts had predicted, the New York Times reported, noting that "combined with strong sales at the start of the year, the lackluster April results indicated that an early burst of consumer spending did not last long."

"While projections were that consumer spending would continue to accelerate, there are signs that it may be slowing," said Alison Jatlow Levy of Kurt Salmon. She did not see this as recession-based, however. "The new consumer behavior is, 'I spend in little splurges,' or in peaks based on time of year."

Combining March and April numbers to take into account an early Easter still showed "retail sales were rising more slowly. For March and April combined, retailers' same-store sales increased by 2.5%, versus the 5.4% gain they posted for the same period a year ago," the Times wrote.  

The Wall Street Journal cited rising gas prices in the second half of April as another factor.  

"We knew Easter would produce a strong March, and that was built into analysts' expectations for April," said Barbara Kahn of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. "The fact that April's numbers have softness shows this is a rocky economic recovery and people are still a bit cautious."

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

Jana Cashes in on B&N/Microsoft Deal

Jana Partners, the hedge fund that accumulated shares representing nearly 12% of Barnes & Noble two weeks ago to become the company's fourth-largest investor, "has already logged gains from its well-timed investment," the Wall Street Journal reported. On Monday, the day Microsoft's $605-million investment spiked B&N's stock price nearly 50%, Jana sold one million shares at $24.42 each. It had originally purchased nearly seven million shares of B&N when the stock was trading below $12.

GLOW: Torrey House Press: Life After Dead Pool: Lake Powell's Last Days and the Rebirth of the Colorado River by Zak Podmore

Strandberg Is ABA's Director of Member Technology

Effective Monday, Neil Strandberg will join the American Booksellers Association in the newly created position of director of member technology, Bookselling This Week reported. Strandberg was manager of operations at the Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, Colo., where he has worked for the past 23 years.

"We’re delighted that Neil will be joining ABA's full-time staff," said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. "He will be working on a wide range of matters at ABA as a member of our senior staff, though, at the outset, he will be heavily focused on the technology side. Neil's many years in bookselling will help us ensure that everything we do at ABA is as bookseller-friendly as possible. It's become clear that given all the initiatives and new projects that we are undertaking at ABA, we needed additional staff help. Though Neil is saddened to be leaving Denver and Tattered Cover, I know he's up to the challenge of working here at ABA, and I’m thrilled he’ll be joining us."

Strandberg said Tattered Cover owner Joyce Meskis and "the whole Tattered Cover family" have "supported and affected my life in so many positive ways that even thinking about life beyond this store and these people had to include more than a mere change of jobs. I am unbelievably excited to be joining ABA. I look forward to stretching my mind in new directions, while at the same time putting to good use everything I've learned over the last quarter-century.”

As of Monday, Strandberg can be reached at; 800-637-0037, ext. 6627; or 914-373-6627.

Harpervia: Only Big Bumbum Matters Tomorrow by Damilare Kuku

Google Seeks Dismissal of Book-Scanning Lawsuit

U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin, who rejected a $125-million settlement last year, heard arguments in Manhattan yesterday regarding motions by Google "to deny the authors the right to proceed as a class and to dismiss the organization's case," Bloomberg reported, noting that Google's dismissal request alleged that "the group can't represent the owners of the books' copyrights." Chin said he would rule later on the motions.

"It would be a terrible burden on the court if each individual author was forced to litigate," argued Joanne Zack, a lawyer for the Authors Guild. "A class action is superior."

Daralyn Durie, a lawyer for Google, contended the "ultimate question is who owns the rights to display a small excerpt of the work. Many authors contracted that right away to publishers." Durie also claimed the company’s scanning project had been an "economic benefit" to many authors.

In court papers, Google said that "because the guild doesn't claim to own the copyrights at issue, it can't sue on behalf of authors."

The Washington Post reported that Zack recommended the judge "certify the authors as a class because millions of them would not have the money to go to court and because the potential financial reward for doing so would not be high enough to make it practical. She said they also might be intimidated fighting a company as large as Google."

"This action does cry out for mass litigation to adjudicate the mass digitization," she said. "This is a classic case for a class action because we’re talking about blanket policies that affected millions of people and we’re talking primarily about legal issues--infringement, fair use--that can be determined based on common questions of law and fact."

Chin agreed that Google is "hoping that individual authors won't come forward," and questioned whether the company really wanted to face multiple lawsuits. "It would take forever. It just seems to make sense to address that on a group basis whether through an association or whether through a class action."

BEA Power Readers Welcome Page Activated

"BEA is opening its doors to a select group of book fans, accessible through your neighborhood bookstore," announces BookExpo America's Power Readers welcome page, which has been activated and features a list of the "select group of neighborhood bookstores" that are participating in the inaugural BEA Power Reader Day.


Images of the Day: Young Chef's Dream Comes True

When Rachael Ray's producers heard about Jack Witherspoon, the 12-year-old who, while recovering from cancer treatment, watched the Food Network and got hooked on cooking then and wrote Twist It Up: More Than 60 Delicious Recipes from an Inspiring Young Chef (Chronicle), they conspired with the publisher and Posman Books in Grand Central Terminal in New York City to cook up a surprise for the young cookbook author.
Chronicle flew Witherspoon from California to New York ostensibly just for a book signing at Posman. During the signing, Ray appeared and whisked him off for an appearance on the show, which aired on Wednesday.


The Book Loft at 35: 'It’s Like a Library at Hogwarts'

The Book Loft, Columbus, Ohio, "a labyrinth of books, with corridors connecting 32 rooms in a building that spans the length of one city block is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year," the Lantern reported.  

Co-owner Carl Jacobsma cautioned that first-time visitors should "expect to be surprised, because it is unlike any other bookstore," adding that the store has been successful despite challenges from chains and online retailers: "The (independent bookstores) that are established, like we are, continue to survive alongside major chains.... I think we have a niche that people come here for. They don't want to just order something off the Internet. They want to come here and handle the book and look at it. They want to read the excerpts from it."

Customer Dan Conway agreed: "It's like a library at Hogwarts. And I like the close environment of the store. Barnes & Noble is nothing like that."

Cool Idea of the Day: Milkweed's Free-Wheelin' Summer

The staff at Milkweed Editions "is committed to treading a lighter foot on the planet. Few of us drive ourselves to work, even on the harshest of Minnesota winter mornings. We're a rowdy bunch of avid cyclists, carpoolers, persevering pedestrians, and bus-riding idealists," according to the publisher's blog, which featured profiles of staff members who "have set challenges for themselves to reduce their time spent behind the wheel of a car from May 1 to October 31."

"At Milkweed, we’ve made it a goal to produce books as sustainably as possible," noted associate editor Allison Wigen. "To really work toward this goal, responsibility rests not only on the organization, but also on the individual. Organizationally, great about the 'green' initiatives we're undertaking. But on an individual level, I find a great deal of room for improvement in my own workweek routines--especially those routines that offer an easy, 'greener' alternative."

Two Shades of Gray: A Case of Mistaken Identity

While E.L. James is attracting crowds numbering in the hundreds during her current book tour for erotic bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey, another author has found herself experiencing more than the occasional case of mistaken identity. Entertainment Weekly's Shelf Life blog reported that Ruta Sepetys is also making appearances for the paperback edition of her book Between Shades of Gray, which is "a phenomenon in its own right, landing on several 2011 year-end best lists, and even more impressively, getting teens to read about genocide in Baltic countries at the hands of Stalin’s regime."

While Sepetys is drawing crowds interested in her YA novel, she is also encountering many confused Fifty Shades of Grey fans. "The subject has come up at every high school and every bookstore I’ve been to," she said, adding that she considers the title confusion a positive since "many of the E.L. James fans who wander into her readings--most of them men, she notes--stick around and end up learning something," Shelf Life wrote.

Rare Discovery in the Rare Book Room

"I have to show this to somebody." The New York Times reported that this was the initial reaction book conservation technician Marie Malchodi had when she "opened yet another leather-bound book, one of more than 300,000 rare volumes in the hold of the John Hay Library [at Brown University]. With surgical precision, she turned the pages of a medical text once owned by Solomon Drowne, Class of '73 (1773, that is). And there, in the back, she found a piece of paper depicting the baptism of Jesus. It was signed: 'P. Revere Sculp.' "

The rest, including confirmation that she had "uncovered only the fifth known copy of this particular engraving," is history.

"It's really a great moment," Hewes said. "That moment of discovery."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Cynthia Sass on the Today Show

This morning on the Today Show: Cynthia Sass, author of S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches (HarperOne, $15.99, 9780061974656). She will also appear on Dateline.


This morning on Imus in the Morning: Gustavo Arellano, author of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America (Scribner, $25, 9781439148617).


This morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe: Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, co-authors of The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto (SmileyBooks, $12, 9781401940638).


Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (Pantheon, $28.95, 9780307377906).


Tomorrow on CNN with Don Lemon: Lisa Bloom, author of Swagger: 10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness, and Thug Culture (A Think Book/Vantage Point, $26.99, 9781936467693).


Tomorrow on NPR's Weekend Edition: John Irving, author of In One Person: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781451664126).


Walter Mosley Launches Production Company

Author Walter Mosley is teaming up with producer Diane Houslin to launch a production company called B.O.B. Filmhouse (Best of Brooklyn Filmhouse), reported, adding that Mosley "has had numerous books optioned and produced before, but now, for the first time, will play an active role in seeing them transformed into films and television series."

Mosley called Houslin "the perfect partner. Her experience is invaluable and offers a good balance to what I can bring to the conversation. This is a time of such great change in the business--from how we tell stories to where our readers and audiences find them--that I am excited to be a part of the whole process."

The company already has several projects underway, including The Long Fall, based on Mosley’s Leonid McGill novels, in development at HBO and a film version of Man in My Basement.

Books & Authors

Awards: Orion; Arthur C. Clarke; Miles Franklin

Author and biologist Carl Safina's The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World won the Orion Book Award, which is given "in recognition of the book's success in addressing the human relationship with the natural world in a fresh, thought-provoking, and engaging manner."

Speaking on behalf of the jury, H. Emerson Blake, editor-in-chief of Orion magazine, praised the winning book's "graceful celebrations of nature, compassion for living things, and total devotion to the idea that things are interconnected are consistent with everything that the Orion Book Award stands for, and that Orion has stood for 30 years."


Jane Rogers won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for her novel Testament of Jessie Lamb. The winner was announced earlier this week during the SCI-FI-LONDON Film Festival.

"The Testament of Jessie Lamb is a fantastic novel and I'm thrilled to have it join the Clarke Award's winning list of best science fiction books of the year, "said award director Tom Hunter. "A big part of our role at the award is to listen out for all the buzz and chatter around the books being submitted, and it was fascinating to watch the positive word of mouth for the book spreading across the science fiction community over the past year; something I hope will only continue to grow now that Jane Rogers has won this year's award.”

Finalists have been named for the $50,000 Miles Franklin Literary Award, which honors a novel of the highest literary merit and "must present Australian life in any of its phases." This year the judges were authorized "to use their discretion to modernize the interpretation of Australian life beyond geographical boundaries to include mindset, language, history and values." A winner will be announced June 20 in Brisbane. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Blood by Tony Birch
All That I Am by Anna Funder
Foal's Bread by Gillian Mears
Cold Light by Frank Moorhouse
Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett

Book Brahmin: Ray A. March

Journalist Ray A. March has lived much of his life on California's Monterey Peninsula. His first major book, an oral history, Alabama Bound: Forty-Five Years Inside A Prison System (University of Alabama Press), was nominated for the National Book Award. March is co-founder, with his wife, Barbara, of Modoc Forum, which sponsors the annual Surprise Valley Writers' Conference. His most recent book, released by the University of Nebraska Press in April 2012, is River in Ruin: The Story of the Carmel River.


On your nightstand now:

I recently finished The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje, whose work I greatly covet and admire. After that I read William Kennedy's Chango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes, another of my favorite contemporary authors, but the transition between the two books was difficult because of their vastly different styles. In between I read books by journalists, particularly works on Watergate.

Favorite book when you were a child:

When I was in the second grade, my maternal grandmother gave me a subscription to "Wee Wisdom," but I couldn't read and subsequently flunked the second grade. Later, when I could read, I moved on to books by Howard Pease and his sea-going adventurer Tod Moran character.

Your top five authors:

A tough one because five doesn't cover it: Albert Camus, Walker Percy, John Hawkes, Franz Kafka and Robinson Jeffers. Trust me, it's not as dark as it sounds.

Book you've faked reading:

The Bible, but I got an "A" on my high school book report. It was the only "A" I ever got in English because I transferred to typing, but as it turns out I wasn't good at that, either.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I don't think "evangelist" is the right word as it's used here, but I will go along with it. What I "push" on my friends depends on the circumstances. One book is The Morning the Sun Went Down by Darryl Babe Wilson. Another is Michael Ondaatje's Coming Through Slaughter.

Book you've bought for the cover:

When I was younger, any book by Mickey Spillane, especially My Gun Is Quick. But maybe it was the title I went for! I was also a sucker for the covers of H. Vernor Dixon's Gold Medal paperbacks, such as The Hunger and the Hate.

Book that changed your life:

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger did not change my life but it certainly validated it after identifying with Holden Caulfield when I was about 16--when the book first came out.

Favorite line from a book:

"There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it." --from Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton.

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

The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. I've read it twice over the years.

Authors who have most influenced you, positively or negatively:

From a negative point of view, I would say Ernest Hemingway because we all tried to imitate him, not seeing that his simple lines were not so simple after all. From a positive view, I think J.D. Salinger gave many of us permission to break through traditional writing and develop new voices, new dimensions.


Book Review

Review: The Lola Quartet

The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel (Unbridled Books, $24.95 hardcover, 9781609530792, May 8, 2012)

Following her acclaimed Last Night in Montreal and The Singer's Gun, Emily St. John Mandel's The Lola Quartet is another engrossing tale of things not being what they seem or going terribly wrong, exploring questions of identity, family and the near impossibility of being the person you want to be.

Nearing high school graduation in Sebastian, Fla., the Lola Quartet is playing one last gig. They are in the back of a pickup truck behind the gym: Daniel on bass, Gavin on trumpet, Sasha on drums and Jack on his saxophone. Anna, Sasha's half-sister and Gavin's girlfriend, usually hangs out with the quartet when they rehearse and attends all their gigs. Tonight, however, she is nowhere to be seen, until she floats a paper airplane down to Gavin. On it is written "I'm sorry." He doesn't see her again for 10 years.

Gavin goes to Columbia in the fall, gets a degree in journalism and goes to work for a newspaper. He has a girlfriend, Karen, a decent job and a respectable future--until Karen has a miscarriage that causes their breakup, then he's caught writing fraudulent copy in three stories and loses his job. While he is living in a near-fugue state and maxing out his credit cards, he gets a call from his sister, Eilo. Eilo deals with foreclosures and while doing a "cash for keys" transaction with an owner, she saw a child who looks just like Gavin--and Eilo took her picture. That act is the beginning of a dangerous odyssey involving several people.

Gavin moves back to Florida to look for Anna and his putative daughter, concluding that the reason she disappeared was that she was pregnant. If that were all there was to it, there might be a happy ending. Instead, he learns that Anna has run afoul of a meth dealer who has been after her for 10 years.

Daniel and Jack are both involved, and Sasha is drawn into a "plan" that Gavin knows little about. He tries everything to find Anna, talk to her, meet his child and assume responsibility, but no one will help him. For all the wrong reasons, nothing he does works; in the end, he becomes complicit in a world he never made.

Mandel keeps the reader wondering if there is any hope for a recapture of the harmony the quartet once shared as Gavin approaches each one in his attempt to get it right. --Valerie Ryan

Shelf Talker: A quartet of musicians and friends breaks up after high school and falls apart in every way possible.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Free Comic Book Day Is Much More than Bam! Pow!

Free Comic Book Day always makes me smile. I don't know why. Well, sure I do. Nostalgia plays a role, since I inherited my first stack of comics when I was about 11 from a kid who was a few years older. He was also smaller, despite the fact that his nickname was Moose.

Within a few years, I'd expanded that collection with issues featuring then-new superheroes like Spider-Man, Thor and Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos. Eventually, however, I passed all of them along to my younger brothers because that's just the way it worked then, a rite of passage I didn't question.

Every year since 2002, FCBD comes along again to remind me about all that. Why wouldn't I smile? But it's also serious business. I love to watch the momentum build as I read articles from local papers nationwide in which indie comic book retailers express their enthusiasm for a day during which they get to occupy center stage.

And it's certainly not a coincidence that the The Avengers opens today in multiplexes everywhere. Studios know a good thing when they see it, too, and a comics-themed movie released the day before FCBD is definitely well-timed.

Comics matter.

Forbes magazine noted that free comics are a revenue generator. "I'm told by a lot of retailers, and I'll bear that out in my own store, that Free Comic Book Day is one of the best days of the year in terms of business," said Joe Field, FCBD's founder and the owner of Flying Colors Comics, Concord, Calif. "We use Free Comic Book Day as a way to just get people ignited about comics... and to come back to the store week after week. It turns out, with the number of people who show up, it's no secret that it's become one of the best business days of the year."

The Gaithersburg Gazette observed that FCBD "may serve as an origin story for those who have not ventured far into the medium."

Chris Pobjecky, co-owner of Yancy Street Comics, Port Richey, Fla., confirmed this theory in the Suncoast News. He said his shop "has been growing as though it had been bombarded by gamma rays," expanding three times in 10 years. "I love the fact there's more people reading now, especially kids." He added that the myriad graphic options available have also played a role: "It isn't all just, 'Bam!' 'Pow!,' Spider-Man battling Dr. Octopus all the time."  

In the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Robert Lewis, owner of Wishing Well Comics, said, "Because it gets so much press, we get a lot of parents in who have never taken their kids to a comic shop before. Sometimes when they see that the books excite their kids and interest them in reading, they become regular customers and the kids become avid readers."

Terry Grant, owner of Third Coast Comics, Edgewater, Ill., told Gapers Block that FCBD "remains an event that is just awesome for families with small kids as well as long time fans, without being filled with speculators.... I think FCBD does a great job bringing new faces to shops and new readers to comics by virtue of the fact that I'm still having new people coming up to me from last year's FCBD and mentioning a book, artist, writer or publisher that I suggested for them."

Acme Comics has partnered with the Natural Science Center of Greensboro this year to offer a second location for handling the anticipated turnout of about 4,000 people, the News-Record reported. Recently the city council declared that on the first Saturday in May, Greensboro will be known as "Comic Books City, USA."

A couple of days ago, I saw Morgan Spurlock's documentary Comic-Con Part IV: A Fan's Hope. Then I watched it again because it also made me smile. I will never be part of this world, which is okay because I surrendered my comics cred long ago when I betrayed my collection of superheroes and sacrificed them to the most cruel and invincible of archvillains--younger brothers, armed to the teeth and dirty fingers with weapons like ice cream, cola and peanut butter.

FCBD is an annual reminder for the rest of us that maybe a little more Bam! Pow! in our lives wouldn’t be such a bad thing. In Spurlock's film, DC Comics writer Grant Morrison observed: "The superhero is a kind of last, small broken ideal of what we might all become one day if we'd just get it together and stop being assholes." And that's funny, too. So stop by an indie comic book retailer tomorrow. It's where all the best superheroes hang out.--Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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