Shelf Awareness for Thursday, September 21, 2006

Harper Voyager: Dragon Rider (Soulbound Saga #1) by Taran Matharu

Page Street YA: The Final Curse of Ophelia Cray by Christine Calella

HarperOne: I Finally Bought Some Jordans: Essays by Michael Arceneaux

Tor Nightfire: Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes

Severn River Publishing: Covert Action (Command and Control #5) by J.R. Olson and David Bruns

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz


Notes: Robin's 70th; Store Openings

On the eve of the store's 70th anniversary celebration this weekend, the Philadelphia Inquirer profiles Larry Robin and Robin's Book Store with flair, saying, "Squeezed by latte-dispensing superstores and Internet-easy book purveyors, Robin keeps his store on South 13th Street alive with his will and eccentricity, and a belief that books are art, light and salvation."

Robin told the paper, "I've adapted by not changing. I'm cantankerous and obstinate, and I've kept my store as an arts nexus and a community center."

Samantha Barrow, an appreciative poet, called Robin "an artist who uses writers as a volatile paint supply. He mixes us up and lets us explode. It's a great time."

Among other things, Robin's Book Store is celebrating its anniversary with a reading from Allen Ginsberg's Howl.


Books Inc. is officially opening its new store at Opera Plaza in San Francisco next Wednesday, September 27, with an appearance by Shawn Decker, author of My Pet Virus. The next night Jed Rubenfeld, whose The Interpretation of Murder has just appeared, will make an appearance.

The 5,000-sq.-ft. store, Books Inc.'s largest, is being managed by Calvin Crosby. Books Inc. has added five stores since 2000. With roots going back to 1851, it is one of the oldest stores in the country.


In November 2007, Barnes & Noble will open a store in Murfreesboro, Tenn., in the Avenue Murfreesboro at 2615 Medical Center Parkway. The store will stock the usual nearly 200,000 book, music, DVD and magazine titles.

HarperOne: Be a Revolution: How Everyday People Are Fighting Oppression and Changing the World--And How You Can, Too by Ijeoma Oluo

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Updike Catches Rabbit

This morning on the Today Show: Linda Kaplan Thaler, author of The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness (Currency, $17.95, 0385518927).


This morning on Good Morning America: Stedman Graham, author of Diversity: A New Plan for the 21st Century (Free Press, $25, 0743234375).


Today KCRW's Bookworm offers part 2 of its interview with John Updike, focusing on Rabbit Angstrom: The Four Novels (Everyman's Library, $32, 0679444599). As the show put it: "A New York Times poll indicated that Updike's quartet of Rabbit novels is one of the five most important achievements in fiction in the past quarter century. Here, Updike agrees that the books represent the peak of his attainment, and he reminisces about his creation of Rabbit Angstrom and his decision to kill him off at the end of the 20th century."


Today on the View, comedian Bob Newhart, whose new book is I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This!: And Other Things That Strike Me As Funny (Hyperion, $23.95, 1401302467).

Also on the View, Jeremy Iversen talks about his High School Confidential (Atria, $25, 0743283635).


Today on WAMU's Diane Rehm Show: Kitty Dukakis, author with Larry Tye of Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy (Avery, $24.95, 1583332650).


Today former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey continues to talk about his new book, The Confession (Regan Books, $26.95, 0060898623). He's on Larry King Live and the Late Show with David Letterman.


Tonight on the Colbert Report: Daniel Ellsberg, author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (Penguin, 0142003425). 


Harpervia: Behind You Is the Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj

Books & Authors

This Weekend on Book TV: The Middle East and the U.S.

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

Saturday, September 23

10:15 a.m. Public Lives. At an event hosted by Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C., Washington Post reporter Wil Haygood talked about his 1993 book, King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (Amistad, $15.95, 0060842415), about the life and career of the former Harlem congressman.

6 p.m. Encore Booknotes. In a segment that first aired in 2001, Laura Claridge discussed her book Norman Rockwell: A Life (Modern Library, $16.95, 0812967232). Rockwell, she said, was a complicated man whose work is now seen in a more positive light by a new generation of critics.

7 p.m. General Assignment. A resident of Lebanon during its civil war, Cathy Sultan, author of Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides (Scarletta Press, $15.95, 0976520125), discusses interviews she conducted with Israelis and Palestinians and examines prospects for peace in the Middle East.

9 p.m. After Words. Richard Cizik, v-p for governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, interviews Patrick Hynes, Republican Party political consultant and author of In Defense of the Religious Right: Why Conservative Christians Are the Lifeblood of the Republican Party and Why That Terrifies the Democrats (Nelson, $24.99, 1595550518). (Re-airs Sunday at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.)

Sunday, September 24

10:30 a.m. Economist Arnold Kling talks about the high cost of health care in America, and offers his recommendations for reform, as outlined in his book Crisis of Abundance: Rethinking How We Pay for Health Care (Cato Institute, $16.95, 1930865899).

7 p.m. Sarah Chayes, author of The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban (Penguin, $25.95, 1594200963), argues that the government of Afghanistan is ineffective and corrupt and the security situation in the country is getting progressively worse. (Re-airs at 7 a.m. on Monday.)

10 p.m. General Assignment. Kurt Muse talks about his book, written with John Gilstrap, Six Minutes to Freedom: How a Band of Heroes Defied a Dictator and Helped Free a Nation (Kensington, $23.95, 0806527234), the story of his rescue by the U.S. Army's Delta Force after Manuel Noriega's forces arrested him for broadcasting on an underground radio station and encouraging civil resistance. He also chronicles the torture he witnessed in Panama's Modelo Prison.

University of California Press: The Accidental Ecosystem: People and Wildlife in American Cities by Peter S. Alagona

Book Review

Mandahla: Monique and the Mango Rains Reviewed

Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali by Kris Holloway (Waveland Press, $17.95 Paperback, 9781577664352, September 2006)

This captivating and tender story begins in 1989 in West African Mali, home to Timbuktu, the medieval center of Islamic learning, and to the fabled 13th-century kingdom of benevolent King Sundiata Keita, upon whose life "The Lion King" was based. In Mali's southeastern region, which contains the village of Nampossela, women have one of the highest fertility rates in sub-Saharan Africa, along with one of the highest maternity-mortality ratios in the world. Kris Holloway was a Peace Corps volunteer from the Midwest, ready for adventure and ready to make a difference. When she joined the Corps, she knew nothing of Mali or of the friend she would find. "I also didn't know the immensity of the sky when there is nothing to tarnish its glory . . . Nor did I know that my friendship with Monique would continue long after my service was over and that I would return to Mali, after eight years away, to mourn her death in childbirth. Or that I would write a book about our friendship, about her life, and about women's ancient struggles and abiding strengths. I couldn't have known any of this, for all I had was a slip of paper, an invitation to join, a sliver of promise."
With that promise, she goes to Nampossela to work with its 1,400 inhabitants, and with Monique Dembele, the midwife and sole health care worker. Monique was 24 when Kris came to the village, and this is what she had to work with to oversee childbirth: a folded square of cotton cloth, a dented trunk serving as a supply cabinet, a medical kit and a frayed birth ledger. Even so, she succeeded as midwife. The dùgùtigi--chief of the village--tells Kris that some women won't go to Monique because of her young age; however, "the truth is this: those who give birth with Monique find a baby; and those who do not sometimes lose a baby." She had no vaccines for the villagers, because there was no generator, thus no refrigeration. One of the successes of Kris' time in Nampossela was building a new birthing house; another was getting funding for birth control pills from World Vision.
There is so much to appreciate and enjoy in this book--the anthropological aspects; the warm friendship between Kris and Monique; the insights into village life and people; the description of Peace Corps life, often laced with rueful humor: "Low plants stretched out in long rows. They were so green and bright, so positively eager to be stripped of their seed. But that did not make up for my inexperience." Above all, Holloway's book is a portrait of Monique--intelligent, lively, and generous--and their gift of friendship. Monique works at everything a woman typically does plus her medical duties. Her husband, François, gets her salary, which is typical in Mali. "Without me, he would not find his radio, his jeans, and the moped. Without me, he would find nothing." She calls him only le gars, the guy. There was always unease between them, and indeed, he is an arrogant layabout. If she had known his character, she never would have agreed to marry him. But she perseveres, caring for her son, Basil, cooking for her husband's family, teaching women how to prepare baby food and re-hydration drinks, tending to injuries and illness and delivering babies. When heartbreak strikes, she has only Kris to confide in. "Her life demanded that her grief reside within her. Outside these walls, her wound could never be revealed--the rhythm of custom and duty its balm and its cloak."
Monique and the Mango Rains is a plainly-written book, in perfect style for the subject, threaded with austere elegance: "Light from the waxing moon shimmered on the straw of the village roofs and washed over the ground . . . The sky was clean." It is a story of generosity and grace, of a friendship embodied by the mango rains, the small rains that come when the earth is dry to sweeten the fruit.--Marilyn Dahl

The Bestsellers

Octavia Books Bestsellers--And Why

Some 15,000 tomes line the shelves at Octavia Books in New Orleans, La., yet nearly half of the titles on the store's bestseller list (for the week ending September 16) are about the same subject: Hurricane Katrina. Others illuminate the history and geography of New Orleans. "I would say the majority of the books we sell here are not local books, but the majority of the bestsellers right now are," said Octavia Books owner Tom Lowenburg.

Octavia Books suffered minor damage during the hurricane and was back in operation five weeks after the storm. Located in uptown New Orleans and not on a major tourist thoroughfare, the store's customer base is primarily local residents. Of those customers, "some people want more information about the storm," said Lowenburg. "And some people simply want something to help them escape right now."

Those looking for information about the storm and its effects are turning to books displayed on themed tables such as Path of Destruction by John McQuaid and Mark Schleifstein, both Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, and The Great Deluge by historian and Tulane University professor Douglas Brinkley. Ranking one spot above Brinkley's book in the No. 3 spot is Breach of Faith by Jed Horne, an editor at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, who received a Pulitzer Prize for his part in the paper's coverage of Hurricane Katrina. At No. 7 on the list is 1 dead in attic, a collection of Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose's writings that appeared in the paper in the months following the hurricane. All proceeds from the self-published book are being donated to two local charities: ARTDOCS, which provides medical care for musicians and artists, and Tipitina's Foundation, which teaches high school students about the music business and also provides instruments to the New Orleans public school system.

Other New Orleans-related bestsellers include the hefty (and pricey) volume Geographies of New Orleans. Five years in the making by geographer Richard Campanella, who appeared at Octavia Books earlier this month, it combines historical sources with custom-made maps, graphs, photos and satellite images that explore the landscape of New Orleans pre-Hurricane Katrina. In the memoir Song for My Fathers, former Time Paris bureau chief Tom Sancton recalls his youth in New Orleans in the 1950s and '60s when he learned to play traditional jazz from a group of older black musicians. Hurricane Katrina hit the city mere days before Phillip Collier's Missing New Orleans was scheduled to go to press, and staffers of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art took the final galleys of the pictorial book (which features vintage postcards and photographs of New Orleans) with them for safe-keeping when they evacuated the city.

The novel Last of the Red Hot Poppas is one of three fiction titles on the list. Its appearance in the No. 1 spot is due in part to a reading and signing with local author Jason Berry that took place at Octavia Books last week. Part political satire, part whodunit, it's the debut novel for Berry, who has written several nonfiction works. Geraldine Brooks' March has been selling steadily at the store, and Pat Conroy's early, semi-autobiographical novel The Water Is Wide owes its bestseller status to a local reading group that selected it as a book club pick.

"Our customers have made us feel appreciated," said Lowenburg. "I think people are very supportive of local businesses right now in New Orleans because of what's happened. They understand how fragile the economy is, so they're purposely shopping locally."

Whether it's an attempt to understand the devastating consequences of an act of nature, a look back at the musical heritage of the Big Easy or the desire for an escapist read, Lowenburg is happy to assist his customers in finding what they want. "It's a very interesting time to be a bookseller in New Orleans," he said. "A good bookstore is at the heart of a community, we believe, and we try to fill that role even in a troubled time like this. And New Orleans is having a troubled time, there's no doubt about it."--Shannon McKenna

Octavia Books' bestsellers during the week ended Saturday, September 15:

1. Last of the Red Hot Poppas by Jason Berry (Chin Music Press, $24.50, 0974199524)
2. Geographies of New Orleans: Urban Fabrics before the Storm by Richard Campanella (Center for Louisiana Studies, $49.50, 1887366687)
3. Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City by Jed Horne (Random House, $25.95, 1400065526)   
4. The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley (Morrow, $29.95, 0061124230)
5. Path of Destruction: The Devastation of New Orleans and the Coming Age of Superstorms by John McQuaid and Mark Schleifstein (Little, Brown, $25.99, 031601642X)
6. The Water Is Wide by Pat Conroy (Bantam, $7.99, 0553268937)       
7. 1 dead in attic: Post-Katrina Stories by Chris Rose (CR Books, $13, 0977771504)     
8. Phillip Collier's Missing New Orleans by Phillip Collier et al. (Ogden Museum of Southern Art, $39.95, 0977254402)                    
9. March by Geraldine Brooks (Penguin, $14, 0143036661)                           
10. Song for My Fathers: A New Orleans Story in Black and White by Tom Sancton (Other Press, $24.95, 159051243X)     

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