Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 27, 2012

Grove Atlantic: The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom

Feiwel & Friends: A Delayed Life: The True Story of the Librarian of Auschwitz by Dita Kraus

New Directions: Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming by László Krasznahorkai, translated by Ottilie Mulzet

Workman Publishing: Real Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A 28-Day Program to Realize the Power of Meditation (Second Edition, Revised) by Sharon Salzberg

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Jim Rugg

Clarion Books: The Thief Knot: A Greenglass House Story by Kate Milford


Amazon's Second Quarter: Profits Plummet As Investments Rise

In the second quarter ended June 30, net sales at rose 29%, to $12.8 billion, while net income fell 96%, to $7 million. Sales and income were both below analysts' estimates.

The company has continued to invest heavily in expansion, including opening 18 distribution centers this year, aiming to provide quicker shipping to more customers. Six of those warehouses are now open.

As the Wall Street Journal put it: "Amazon has expanded beyond its roots as an Internet book seller, investing aggressively in new shipping centers, data centers, online video content and its own line of gadgets including the Kindle Fire tablet. The effort has depressed profits in recent quarters, while revenue has strengthened."

Still, Wall Street is used to the Amazon emphasis on growth at the expense of profits. In after-hours trading, Amazon stock rose several dollars a share above its closing price of $220 per share.

Among the tidbits doled out by the online retailer:

  • The Kindle Fire is the company's single-bestselling product, and the top 10 are Kindle, Kindle books and accessories.
  • 20 of Amazon's top 100 Kindle titles were by Kindle Direct Publishing authors.
  • North American sales rose 36%--higher than the company's overall sales growth--to $7.3 billion, while international sales, representing the rest of the world, rose 22%--less than overall sales--to $5.5 billion.
  • Worldwide media sales, which includes books, grew 13%--less than half the rate of overall sales growth--to $4.1 billion.
  • Worldwide electronics and other general merchandise sales rose 38%, above overall sales growth, to $8.2 billion.
  • Media sales grew 18%, to $1.9 billion, in North America and increased 8%, to $2.3 billion, internationally.

The company predicts than in the third quarter, net sales will be between $12.9 billion and $14.3 billion, up between 19% and 31%.

In the company release about quarterly results, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos extolled again Amazon Prime, which he called, perhaps with some hyperbole, "the best bargain in the history of shopping--this is not hyperbole." The seven-year-old program still costs $79 and offers free two-day shipping on 15 million products, and includes 170,000 books that can be borrowed for free by Kindle owners.

Ingram: Congratulations 2019 National Book Award Winners - Learn More>

St. Mark's Starts Crowdsourcing Campaign

St. Mark's Bookshop in New York City has begun a crowdsourcing campaign on to raise $23,000 during the next three weeks to help it move to a more affordable location and develop "a more sophisticated online presence." For different levels of contributions, the store offers different benefits, such as for $10, a $10 gift certificate and acknowledgement on the store's "thank-you wall," and for $100, "two invitations to the grand opening of the new store and a specially designed bookmark by a local East Village artist" as well as 10% off of all purchases for the next year."

The store has had financial difficulties for several years and received a temporary rent reduction from its landlord, Cooper Union (Shelf Awareness, November 3, 2011), but has said it must move.

Soho Press: The Seep by Chana Porter

New Lines: Skyhorse Classics, Seven Stories Kid's Books

So long, zombies and vampires.

Skyhorse Publishing is launching the Skyhorse Classic series this fall with "two new erotic interpretations of literary classics." The titles we've all been waiting for are Jane Eyrotica by Charlotte Bronte and Karena Rose, which, Skyhorse said, "explores the hidden sexual nature of Jane and Mr. Rochester's relationship, unveiling twenty-first-century eroticism behind the closed doors of Thornfield Hall," and Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and Audrey Ember, "hotter, lewder, sexier, steamier, and more morally corrupt than Oscar Wilde's original story."


In a different vein, Seven Stories Press is launching Triangle Square Books, a young readers imprint with an emphasis on "combining social justice and good story-telling." The house has published some books for younger readers but not in a concerted way.

The first four titles of the new imprint, which are appearing this fall, are Trevor: A Novella by James Lesesne; an illustrated YA edition of A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki and adapted by Rebecca Stefoff; The Story of the Blue Planet by Andri Snaer Magnason; and Do You Dream in Color? Insights from a Girl Without Sight by Laurie Rubin.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Providence by Max Barry

London Olympics Setting Book Records, Too

Anticipation for the 2012 London Olympics has prompted record levels of publishing activity focused on the Games, according to Bowker, which reported that 120 print and digital books have been released this year, eclipsing the previous record of 109 titles in 2008 for the Beijing Summer Games.

The Winter Olympics underperform by comparison, with the 2010 Vancouver Games generating only 55 new titles. Kelly Gallagher, v-p, Bowker Market Research, said that while "the Winter Games' impact on publishing is harder to track because of their February timing, we see a clear trend for Summer Games to spark a lot more publishing activity. Popular sports combined with big personal medal counts, such as those of Michael Phelps, adds to the ability of publishers to capitalize on interest surrounding and sparked by the Games." Thirty-two books have been produced about American swimmer Phelps, including nine in 2008, 21 in 2009 and two in 2010.


Image of the Day: Illustrators Leave Huge Calling Card

Yesterday at Brown Dog Books & Gifts, Hinesburg, Vt., four children's book illustrators visited and painted a mural outside the store. The artists and their work: (from l.) Tracey Campbell Pearson, Amy Huntington, Sarah Dillard and Liza Woodruff.



Instructional Video of the Day: Writing Sex Scenes

In time for the Romance Writers of America conference, Open Road authors Erica Jong, Lawrence Block, Patricia Gaffney, Suzanne Forster and Eileen Goudge talk about the delicate art of writing sex scenes.

ABFFE Seeks Art for Banned Books Week Auction

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression is seeking donations of original children's art for an online auction that will be conducted during Banned Books Week, which is being held September 30-October 6. The first such auction, building on the Children's Art Auction held annually at BookExpo America, was held last year and raised more than $5,000.

For more information, see "Frequently Asked Questions about the Banned Books Week Online Auction." A donation form has also been posted; donation deadline is September 12. Questions can be sent to ABFFE president Chris Finan at


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Two Foot Fred on Fox

Tomorrow on Fox & Friends Weekend: Fred Gill, author of Two Foot Fred: How My Life Has Come Full Circle (Howard, $22.99, 9781451636215).

Also tomorrow on Fox & Friends Weekend: Neil Barofsky, author of Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street (Free Press, $26, 9781451684933). He will also be on CNBC's Wall Street Journal Report with Maria Bartiromo on Sunday.


Tomorrow on Fox's Huckabee: Squire Rushnell, author of Divine Alignment (Howard, $19.99, 9781451648560).


Tomorrow on NPR's Weekend Edition: Ben Macintyre, author of Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies (Crown, $26, 9780307888754).


Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition: Charles Yu, author of Sorry Please Thank You: Stories (Pantheon, $24.95, 9780307907172).

Movie Project: Time and Again Again

Lionsgate has acquired feature film rights to Jack Finney's 1970 novel Time and Again, a "book Hollywood has spent decades trying to bring to the big screen," Variety reported. Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity; Mr. & Mrs. Smith) is directing, and will produce the movie with his Hypnotic partner Dave Bartis.

Variety noted that the project "has a long history, as Robert Redford began developing Time and Again for Universal Pictures in the mid-1990s after he was introduced to the book by Paul Newman. Newman, Woodward and their producing partner John Foreman were the first to option the rights."

Books & Authors

Awards: CLPE Poetry for Children

British poet Rachel Rooney won the CLPE Poetry Award for her debut collection The Language of Cat, the Guardian reported. The prize is given by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education for a book of poetry for children. Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy praised Rooney's collection as "a well-crafted, stimulating and un-patronizing box of delights, always accessible and constantly inventive."

Book Brahmin: Jefferson Morley

Journalist and editor Jefferson Morley grew up in the Central West End of St. Louis, on the Lower East Side of New York City and near the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. He has reported for Harper's, the New Republic, the Nation and the Washington Post, and in 2007 became editorial director of the nonprofit Center for Independent Media. His first book was Our Man in Mexico, a biography of spymaster Winston Scott (2007), which illuminates the hidden history of the CIA's role in the JFK assassination story. Morley's new book, Snow-Storm in August: Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten Race Riot of 1835 (Nan Talese/Doubleday, July 3, 2012), examines the tumultuous multiracial history of the nation's capital.

On your nightstand now:

Blood Money by David Ignatius. This easy-to-read thriller evokes the realities of the U.S. drone war, capturing both American hubris and Pakistani rage with critical empathy and credible insider detail; The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. I want to understand marriage from a woman's point of view; needless to say, I have not finished it yet.

Favorite book when you were a child:

When I was about eight years old, I devoured all of the Encyclopedia Brown books by Donald Sobol. I wanted to be Leroy Brown, the kid who figured out what the adults could not. Not much has changed.

Your top five authors:

Gore Vidal, John le Carré, Don DeLillo, Robert Musil, Philip Roth.

Book you've faked reading:

I never fake reading a book. I just fake finishing them.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Brothers by David Talbot. This deeply researched study of what Bobby Kennedy really thought about the causes of his brother's death is the antidote to a thousand stupid JFK sound bites.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I never bought a book for its cover, only stolen them.

Book that changed your life:

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. When I read this book in high school, the combination of exuberant writing, lavish reporting, hilarious details and unsentimental analysis sentenced me to a life of journalism.

Favorite line from a book:

"I was born nowhere/ and I live in a tree." It's the start of a poem I wrote in the fifth grade, which opens Kenneth Koch's classic book about teaching poetry, Wishes, Lies and Dreams.

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

The Princess Casamassima by Henry James. About 25 years ago, I became entranced by this slow but grand political novel whose drama is encapsulated in this passage:
"The monuments and treasures of art, the great palaces and properties, the conquests of learning and taste, the general fabric of civilization as we know it, based, if you will, upon all the despotisms, the cruelties, the exclusions, the monopolies and the rapacities of the past, but thanks to which, all the same, the world is less impracticable and life more tolerable." I want to go back and see if I still find that convincing.


Book Review

Review: Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child

Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz (Knopf, $29.95 hardcover, 9780307272225, August 7, 2012)

No one has done more to change American attitudes toward food and home cooking than Julia Child. For more than 30 years, this television icon inspired and encouraged viewers' culinary pursuits with her confident joie de vivre and a voice Bob Spitz describes as "a cross between Tallulah Banks and a slide whistle." Spitz's Dearie, published to coincide with the centennial of Child's birth, is a comprehensive biography that fizzes with the humor and spirit of its subject's remarkable life.

While Child is best remembered for her career in television, she did not make her first on-screen appearance until she was 50. Spitz's prologue concerns Child's television debut, an anecdote featuring a studio staff both fascinated by her charisma and panicked that her wild whisking would cause her blouse to burst open. After that story, Spitz rewinds the clock and takes the time lovingly to detail Child's youth and quest for meaning and maturity. A late bloomer, she fluttered through life as a social butterfly with ambition but no purpose. Spitz shows that those formative years and an adolescence that stretched into adulthood allowed her to develop the independent, rebellious spirit that would help her shine a bright light against the onslaught of over-processed convenience foods in American supermarkets. He also devotes ample space to the history and character of Paul, Julia's husband, an artistic and romantic man of the world who considered his wife "a veritable goddess" and with whom she enjoyed years of wedded bliss.

Spitz and Child intended to collaborate on her biography, a decision made as they toured Sicily together in 1992, when Spitz interviewed Child for several magazines and developed "a crush" on the outspoken and down-to-earth celebrity. Unfortunately, Child passed away while Spitz was completing another biography (The Beatles), but he continued the project with her blessing, through letters and diaries belonging to Julia and Paul Child as well as her closest friends Simone "Simca" Beck and Avis DeVoto, along with interviews with surviving friends, family and colleagues. Dearie may not be the only biography of Julia Child on bookstore shelves, but Spitz's joyous and definitive rendering of an American icon will inspire readers in the kitchen and beyond. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger, Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: Spitz's comprehensive biography of American icon Julia Child, filled with humor and spirit, arrives just in time for the centennial of her birth.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Open Endings 2--The Unfinished Book as Art

"Imagine an artist's book that is also a reader's book," I wrote in Tin House magazine eight years ago. "A Humument lures its readers into an intoxicating world of color and form, wit and intellect, love and lust. The art delights. The words intrigue. The combination astonishes."

After considering the art of the unfinished read last week, I kept thinking about that multifaceted word "finish" as it applies to books and, specifically, British artist Tom Phillips, who has been finishing--as well as unfinishing--his Humument project since 1966. What appealed to me about Phillips when his art first came to my attention was the way his love for words and literature infused his work ("After Henry James," "Iris Murdoch," "Curriculum Vitae," "Samuel Beckett," "A TV Dante").

"I love the smell of a library and the feel of books," he once observed. "Most of all I love the serendipity and the aleatory quirks of browsing. The only time I decided to sell off seemingly unwanted volumes I was cured immediately of such rash behavior by a happy accident. Having made a tottering pile I slipped and knocked it over. All the books tumbled down the stairs. One alone reached the bottom and lay there, open at a page which solved a problem in my work that had long troubled me and which I had despaired of solving. Much labor was saved, except for the chastened replacing of all the books back on the shelves. Every book, however unpromising, will turn out to have its day."

One book that has had nearly "its half-century" in the artist's life is A Human Document, W.H. Mallock's turgid romance novel, published in 1892. For the past 45 years, Phillips has been acquiring used copies and "treating" the pages with his art, while leaving selected words from the original text exposed. In the process, he has become Mallock's consummate and all-consuming reader, creating an illustrated narrative in verse that merges the contemporary with the Victorian. Even his title, A Humument, is a treatment of A Human Document.

I bought this year's fifth revised edition of A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel (Thames and Hudson), though I already possessed copies of the second and fourth editions. All are essentially stand-alone volumes because selected pages have been replaced each time. There are more than 80 new pages in the latest edition.

"I have so far extracted from this book well over a thousand segments of poetry and prose and have yet to find a situation, a sentiment or thought which his words cannot be adapted to cover," Phillips wrote in his revised introduction. "That Mallock and I were destined to collaborate across a century became quite clear when I tested other fictions and discovered nothing to equal him in the provocation of fresh conflations and conjunctions of word and phrase."

This weekend, Phillips will be attending an Olympic table tennis competition in London, and even this bit of recreation inspired a new treatment when he realized that it "seemed about time A Humument serviced both ping and pong. The latter is hard to find in the prose of W. H. Mallock yet I did discover it lurking in the middle of 'sponge' (on page 286) which may be the only word in English in which it is secreted."

The evolution of words intrigues Phillips, who noted that Mallock could not have imagined the future use of "plane" or how "a simple word like 'net' would grow immeasurably in significance." And last year he suddenly found on page 9 the core letters for "app" and "facebook."

This curious and organic bond between the artist and a long-dead novelist is also evolving technologically. There is a website and a recently introduced iPad/iPhone app, which can be employed as "an oracle with appropriately random access and suitably cryptic advice." The I Ching meets Apple by way of Mallock/Phillips.

As irresistible as A Humument is to read, the original pages are also stunning to view in person. In 2005, I saw a selection of them at Flowers, a small gallery in New York City, but that was just an appetizer for next year's exhibition of the work in its entirety at MASS MoCA.

Like some vast, unfinishable book, A Humument continues to expand within the borders of its 367 pages, though Phillips conceded that some of his original treatments "have evaded changes, especially the ones whose original solutions have stood up for almost fifty passing years. I retain the option of leaving them as they are, thereby forestalling the absolute end of my venture, even if hanging on to the book in such a way may be thought a suspect strategy synonymous with hanging on to life itself."--Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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