Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, November 29, 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


NEIBA Hooks Fischer for New Executive Director

Steve Fischer, who has worked at bookstores and as a rep for several decades, has been hired as the new executive director of the New England Independent Booksellers Association. He replaces Rusty Drugan, who announced in August that he would be resigning for health reasons.

Fischer began his bookselling career at the Vermont Bookshops in Middlebury and Waitsfield, where he worked for six years. In 1979, he became the mid-Atlantic sales rep for Harper & Row, then Harper's New England rep in 1983. In 1991, he moved into international sales with a somewhat larger territory--it included the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada. In 1995, he managed HarperCollins's account with Barnes & Noble, and in 1998 became sales director of Tuttle Publishing. Most recently he worked at Bunch of Grapes bookstore on Martha's Vineyard and at Red Wheel, Weiser/Conari.

In an announcement, NEIBA president Allan Schmid of Books Etc., Portland, Me., said that Fischer "brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience on both bookselling and publishing sides of the business. He is very excited about the new strategic plan and about shepherding it into reality. He is gregarious by nature, creative, and, above all, a consummate book person."

Fischer will be in the NEIBA offices in Cambridge, Mass., part time until January 2, when he begins working full time.

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

Philip Turner to Join Sterling, Head New Imprint

Former bookseller makes good.

Philip Turner, v-p and editor-in-chief at Carroll & Graf, Thunder's Mouth and Philip Turner Books at Avalon Publishing, is joining Sterling Publishing, the Barnes & Noble subsidiary, to direct a new narrative nonfiction imprint called Union Square Press.

Beginning next fall, Union Square Press will publish some 40 titles a year in a range of subjects, including adventure, biography, culture, current and international affairs, the environment, history, politics, social issues and sports. The company will also create a Union Square Press paperback program devoted to revivals of out-of-print books, reprints in trade paperback of both its own and other publishers' titles and paperback originals.

Turner will also take to Sterling a program he has been developing with Avalon for a line of books featuring "truthtellers, whistleblower, and muckrakers." An example of that line is the first Philip Turner Books title, On the Brink: An Insider's Account of How the White House Compromised American Intelligence by former CIA official Tyler Drumheller.

"I call them imperative books," Turner told Shelf Awareness. "Often the authors are the only ones who can write them, as is the case with On the Brink." He added, "I think booksellers being who they are will understand this concept and bring an energy to these books that will be significant."

During his seven years at Avalon, Turner acquired and published such books as The Woman Who Wouldn't Talk by Clinton family friend Susan MacDougal, The Politics of Truth by Ambassador Joseph Wilson whose wife was outed as a CIA employee by the White House and Shake Hands With the Devil by Lt. General Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian who led the U.N. mission in Rwanda during the genocide 12 years ago. Recently he also published Wendy Werris's An Alphabetical Life: Living It Up in the Business of Books, which was excerpted in Shelf Awareness this fall.

Turner began his career in 1978 as a co-founder with his family of Under Cover Books, an independent bookseller in Cleveland, Ohio. Since leaving Under Cover in 1986, Turner has held a number of senior editorial positions, including executive editor at Times Books and editor in chief of Kodansha America. He joins Sterling January 15.

Harpervia: Behind You Is the Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj

Notes: Payday for Houghton Owners; Diehl Dies;

The private equity fund owners of Houghton Mifflin are close to an agreement to sell the company to Riverdeep Group, the Irish educational software company that, as today's Wall Street Journal put it, "has aggressively bought software companies that serve schools in the U.S. and internationally."

The deal is worth about $1.7 billion plus the assumption of another $1.7 billion in debt. The owners--Thomas H. Lee Partners, Bain Capital and the Blackstone Group--bought Houghton Mifflin from Vivendi in 2002 for $615 million and $1 billion in assumed debt. Besides money from the deal, during their ownership the private equity companies have paid themselves dividends and other payments of about $435 million, the Journal said.

Hougton Mifflin is the country's fourth-largest textbook publisher and had net sales of $1.28 billion, 90% of which were from educational materials.


William Diehl, who wrote such thrillers as Sharky's Machine, Primal Fear, Thai Horse and Eureka, died on Friday in Atlanta, Ga., of an aortal aneurysm. He was 81.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an extensive and touching obituary, which retells the wonderful story of how Diehl began his career as an author. At age 50, he was bored while serving on a jury and started writing fiction on a notepad--which led to Sharky's Machine, his first novel.

At his death, Diehl was finishing a 10th novel, which should be published next year.


BISAC, the Book Industry Study Group's standards committee, has approved revised specifications for the placement of the bar code on the inside front cover of strippable mass market paperbacks that will make readings of the bar code by automatic sortation equipment more accurate. The sorters are used by booksellers, wholesalers and distributors to count stripped covers and group them by vendor. The key elements of the new specifications: the dimensions are important and clearance from the front edge is especially critical.

Now that we've gotten you excited, go to BISG's Web site or contact the Book Industry Study Group at for more information.


On Cyber Monday, the No. 1 fiction title at Barnes& was James Patterson's Cross, and the No. 1 nonfiction title was Senator Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope.

Books most ordered in advance were Michael Crichton's Next and Dean Koontz's Brother Odd. Both books are now out.

B& promoted Cyber Monday with a free travel bag with a $75 purchase, discounts as high as 50% on some DVDs and a "buy two, get one free" on special collection books.


This coming Saturday and Sunday, December 2-3, the annual Independent and Small Press Book Fair takes place at the Small Press Center, 20 W. 44th St. in New York City. The fair is free and features some 150 independent presses as well as a full schedule of literary, publishing and cultural events.

Among events are an interview with Michael Cunningham, author of Specimen Days and The Hours; a conversation with Mark Crispin Miller, co-author of Screwed, and Greg Palast, author of Armed Madhouse, about the 2004 election in Ohio; a panel by PEN American Center; and a discussion with poets Anne Waldmann and Eileen Myles. For more information, check out


Indigo Books & Music, Canada's largest bookseller, and iUniverse, the self-publishing service, are setting up a program whereby some authors using iUniverse will be able to, as the companies put it, "fulfill their dream--prominent placement of their books in a Chapters, Indigo or Coles store."

The titles selected will have to have the iUniverse Publisher's Choice designation, which means they will have met standards "established by iUniverse that are in line with the editorial and cover design demands of today's competitive marketplace." The titles will be featured in a high-traffic area of a Chapters, Indigo or Coles store for at least 60 days or longer if the book continues to sell.

In a statement, Joel Silver, senior v-p of print procurement for Indigo, said, "As Canada's leading bookstore chain, we want to support the best of home-grown talent and help outstanding new authors get discovered. By displaying their self-published books on our shelves, we can help increase awareness of their work to millions of booklovers in Canada who shop with us each week."


Two rep groups, R&R Book Co. and Proe & Proe Associates, have merged to form the Empire Group, according to NAIPR's Call Report. Proe & Proe's strength in independents and R&R's strength in national accounts were a key reason for the merger. Covering a territory that includes the mid-Atlantic and New England, Empire Group is composed of Richard Re, Tony Proe, Jayne Martin, Ruth Hook, Ken Avery, Scott Wythe, Tricia DeFelice, Deborah A. Louise (special markets) and Lisa Balogh (office manager). Back office services and special sales will be located in Syracuse, N.Y., the current Proe & Proe office. Dick Ryen has retired from R&R. 

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

Media and Movies

Movies: The Good German

Directed by Steven Soderbergh, The Good German is set in Berlin just after World War II and is based on the novel by Joseph Kanon, whose life as a writer took off after he ended his career as a publisher at Dutton and Houghton Mifflin. The movie stars George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire, Robin Weigert and Dave Power and opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, December 8, and nationally on December 25.

Already the cast is doing some promotion: George Clooney will appear tonight on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Tie-in editions are:

  • Trade paper (Picador, $14, 0312426089)
  • Mass market (St. Martin's, $7.99, 0312942109)
  • Abridged CD read by Stanley Tucci (S&S Audio, $14.95, 0743564227)

Media Heat: Waist Management and Crossing State Lines

Today on the Oprah Winfrey Show: Dr. Mehmet Oz, co-author of You on a Diet: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management (Free Press, $25, 0743292545). You know this means even more demand for this title.


The Book Report, the weekly AM radio book-related show organized by Windows a bookshop, Monroe, La., will feature three author interviews and has the theme "smorgasbord":

  • Mo Willems, author and illustrator of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (Hyperion) and its sequels as well as several other children's books and You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons: The World on One Cartoon a Day (Hyperion, $12.99, 0786837470).
  • Colleen Rush, author of The Mere Mortal's Guide to Fine Dining (Broadway, $12.95, 0767922034)
  • David Horton, author of America Exposed (SoundHole Publishing)

The show airs at 8 a.m. Central Time and can be heard live at; the archived edition will be posted this afternoon.


Today on the Martha Stewart Show: John Leguizamo, actor, comic and author of the memoir Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas, and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends: A Life (Ecco, $25.95, 006052071X).

Also on the Martha Stewart Show: Matt Lewis, owner of Baked in Brooklyn and one of the authors of Chocolate Bar: Recipes and Entertaining Ideas for Living the Sweet Life (Running Press, $24.95, 0762419210).


Today on WAMU's Diane Rehm Show: Andrew Koppelman, author of Same Sex, Different States: When Same-Sex Marriages Cross State Lines (Yale University Press, $35, 0300113404).


Tonight during a 20/20 special on charity called "Cheap in America": Arthur Brooks, author of Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism (Basic Books, $26, 0465008216), which has just been published.


Tonight on the Charlie Rose Show: Garry Wills, author of What Paul Meant (Penguin, $24.95, 0670037931)


Tonight on the Colbert Report: Nora Ephron, whose new book is I Feel Bad About My Neck (Knopf, $19.95, 0307264556)


On Late Night with Conan O'Brien: Martha Stewart, author of Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook: The Essential Guide to Caring for Everything in Your Home (Crown, $45, 0517577003).

Books & Authors

Mandahla: A Trio of Travel Titles Reviewed

The Art of Rough Travel: From the Peculiar to the Practical by Sir Francis Galton (The Mountaineers Books, $15.95, 1594850585, October 2006)
This compendium of advice from a 19th century explorer would be a fine book to consult while standing in a long security line--the situations Galton addresses make current travel restrictions seem a cakewalk (see: "Revolting Food, That May Save the Lives of Starving Men"). The advice is often actually practical--how to find one's way down a hillside or through a forest, how to tie elementary knots--and is often charming: "In countries where they can be used without danger, cattle bells should always be taken; it adds greatly to the cheerfulness and gregariousness of the animals--mules positively require them. Hard wood is sonorous enough for bells."
Some facts are surprisingly current: "It is in the nature of women to be fond of carrying weights; [a modern woman] has hardly ever pockets of a sufficient size to carry small articles; for she prefers to load her hands with a bag or other weighty object." The offbeat tips are fascinating (and abundant), as in the suggestion for secreting jewels, wherein the jewels are buried in the traveler's flesh, optimally in the same spot as one's vaccination; a traveler thus provided "would always have a small capital to fall back upon, though robbed of everything he wore." While Galton's writing provides much to amuse today's readers, his counsel is frequently relevant and elegantly stated. At the end of a journey, he stresses the importance of keeping memoranda, saying, "It appears impossible to a traveler, at the close of his journey, to believe he will ever forget its events [but] crowds of new impressions, during a few months or years of civilized life, will efface the sharpness of the old ones . . . passed out of [his] memories like the events of a dream."
The Week-End Book edited by Francis Meynell (The Overlook Press, $17.95, 1585678139, May 2006)
The Week-End Book was first published by the Nonesuch Press in June 1924, and with various editions and alterations, was reprinted in England 19 times. A slightly more civilized guidebook than Sir Francis' volume, it nevertheless has its cutthroat moments. In the chapter on games, "Russian Sledges" is explained: "We all write down the same list of a dozen of the dearest friends we have in common. Each of us then imagines himself crossing the steppes of Russia with all of them in a sledge pursued by hungry wolves, and one has to throw them out one by one." One imagines that merriment may not ensue, especially if the variant "Human Sacrifices" is played instead, a game "impossible amongst normally sensitive persons."
Written as both advice for guests and travelers, and as a collection to entertain same, Meynell included information on star-gazing, architecture, a complex formula for finding the date of Easter Sunday in any year, periods of animal gestation and incubation, campsite equipment, a birding guide, songs and poems, and a chapter titled "The Law and How You Break It." In the Etiquette section, a piece on saying grace from Leigh Hunt exemplifies the book's eclecticism: "It is not creditable to a 'thinking people' that the two things they most thank God for should be eating and fighting . . . This is odd. Strange that we should keep our most pious transports for the lowest of our appetites and the most melancholy of our necessities!"
Birding Babylon: A Soldier's Journal from Iraq by Jonathan Trouern-Trend (Sierra Club Books, $9.95, 1578051312, May 2006)
Francis Meynell says, in his introduction to bird songs, "Bird-watching, advised a famous Field-Marshal, is the ideal hobby for all young officers." Jonathan Trouern-Trend would no doubt agree, although "birding in Iraq" and "hobby" don't seem to belong in the same universe. Deployed in 2004, the author started an online birding journal (archived at from which this book is drawn, and in his everyday accounts, "fulfilled a need to know that something worthwhile or even magical was happening, even in the midst of suicide bombings and rocket attacks." After missing a whiskered tern sighting in Delaware in 1993, 11 years and 6,300 miles later he finally saw one to add to his life list, and added 122 more species while in Iraq. On convoy from Kuwait, as he waited in defensive position for a flat tire change, wondering if a guy in a pickup would be taking a shot at them, he saw a pair of crested larks not 10 feet away, the male displaying and dancing.
"Today I had to drive some people over to get a helicopter ride, so I took my binos and bird book. On the way I saw a nice lesser kestrel fly right in front of my humvee. Birding on base doesn't usually elicit any undue attention from the MPs. I think everyone thinks I'm doing security work when I'm looking into the distance with binoculars. I'm not sure what they think when I'm looking up in a tree."
Whether describing the ruins of an ancient amphitheater near Babylon or checking out the base laundry pond, Trouern-Trend found "continuity and reassurance" in birding. His journal, with its quiet celebration of life and its ordinary but precious delights, is a slender joy of a book.--Marilyn Dahl

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