Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 29, 2008

Thank You Booksellers For Making Our Award-Winning Books a Success!

St. Martin's Press: Remain in Love: Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Tina by Chris Franz

Walker Books: The Good Hawk (Shadow Skye, Book One) by Joseph Elliott

Tor Books: Deal with the Devil: A Mercenary Librarians Novel by Kit Rocha

Quotation of the Day

Dirda On Books: 'Once It Was Exciting to Go Out Booking'

"Once I could have sold my books to any number of local used bookshops for a reasonable sum--now nobody much wants anything, aside from rarities--because everything is available online. I myself understand the attractiveness of being able to buy everything you want, but I don't like the whole outlook. It's like a billionaire buying a beautiful woman any time he wants one to sleep with--where's the romance, where's the excitement, the heartache, the attendant glories and sorrows of romance? Once it was exciting to go out 'booking'--and there were scores of places to go. But now, now. To make everything freely available makes everything seem that much less interesting and desirable. But I begin to rant."--Michael Dirda in a live, online discussion at


G.P. Putnam's Sons: You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle


Notes: Indie Booksellers on TV; Rowling in Court

Thursday's Today Show on NBC featured three independent booksellers, who offered reading recommendations for the program's "Cover to Cover" segment. Bookselling This Week noted that the trio--Marva Allen, Hue-Man Bookstore & Café, New York, N.Y.; Jamil Zaidi, Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash.; and Roberta Rubin, The Book Stall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka, Ill., had also appeared on the show last December, along with Roxanne Coady, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Conn.

This time, the booksellers focused "on books for readers on the go, titles to share with friends, and great bedtime reading." You can find their picks, as well as a video of their appearance, at the Today Show website. 


In a declaration filed in U.S. District Court this week, J.K. Rowling contends that the publication of Steve Vander Ark's The Harry Potter Lexicon "constitutes a Harry Potter 'rip off' of the type I have spent years trying to prevent, and that both I, as the creator of this world, and fans of Harry Potter, would be exploited by its publication," according to Reuters.

The lawsuit was filed last October by Rowling and Warner Bros. against RDR Books, an independent publisher based in Michigan that had originally planned to release the book in November 2007.


The ABA has called on New York State member bookstores "to voice their support for the Internet Sales Tax provision in Gov. Eliot Spitzer's proposed budget by writing to both their state senator and assemblyperson," Bookselling This Week reported.

"With debate over the budget in full swing over the next few weeks, the time for New York booksellers to act is now," said ABA COO Oren Teicher. "We have a great opportunity to effect change and level the playing field for New York State businesses--we must not let it slip away. We strongly urge all of our New York members to adapt and send the letters we have provided."

Teicher added that "the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, which has played an important role in the campaign for e-fairness, is once again providing vital assistance in this current letter-writing initiative." 


Even by the Oprah Winfrey's lofty bookselling standards, her latest pick, Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth, is heading for a very high orbit. Earlier in the week, USA Today observed that of the top five bestsellers on its list, 10 copies of the Tolle book were selling for every two copies of second ranked Strangers in Death by J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts).

According to the Associated Press (via USA Today), approximately 3.5 million copies of A New Earth have been shipped since the selection was announced a month ago. The book "is the fastest-selling pick ever at Barnes & Noble, Inc., according to a statement issued Thursday by Winfrey. It's also a record shipment in a four-week span for any book by Penguin Group (USA)."

The AP reported that Brian Tart, president and publisher of the Penguin imprint Dutton, suggested "a key factor was the upcoming Web seminars featuring Winfrey and Tolle, to be held for 10 consecutive Mondays starting March 3."

Said Tart: "Oprah herself has committed 10 weeks to talking to the author, and people from all over the world will be able to participate." He also noted that "more than 500,000 people, from more than 100 countries, have registered for the seminar."


Heartstone Books, Putney, Vt., "is likely closing next month," the Brattleboro Reformer reported, adding that owner Caryl Richards "is still holding out hope that one of the potential buyers she has been talking with is going to step forward and keep the book store alive."

"It's always been a little bit of a miracle that we've been around at all," she said. "I'm ready, and I'm not sad for myself, but I'm sad that Putney is losing its bookstore."

In an already difficult business environment, Richards noted that one recent incident in particular "made her wonder how longer she would be able to keep it all afloat."

According to the article, "on a slippery winter's day recently, a regular customer asked if her [UPS] package could be dropped at the store. It was a hardcover book ordered from"

"That was so insulting, and when she came to pick it up, she was pretty embarrassed," Richards said. "She came back and bought a $1.50 sticker book with her granddaughter, but I would rather have had the hardcover sale."


Another Vermont bookshop, North Country Books, Burlington, will soon close its bricks-and-mortar operation after 14 years in business. Owner Mark Ciufo told Free Press that he will continue to run his used bookstore online.


Could Robert Frost's poem, "Mending Wall," be read as "an inquiry into whether property rights make for a civilised society"? Is it possible that "the most unexpected people--oversexed teenagers, Las Vegas slot addicts, juvenile delinquents and even your boss--are rational, unconsciously weighing up risks and rewards and complying with economic logic"?

That's what Tim Harford, author of The Logic of Life: Uncovering the New Economics of Everything, suggests, and in the Guardian he recommends his "top 10 undercover economics books." The surprise pick has to be The Poetry of Robert Frost, Complete and Unabridged.


In the Czech Republic, "perhaps the only people the Harry Potter saga is enchanting these days are lawyers," according to the Prague Post, which reported that "publishing house Albatros, owner of the rights to J.K. Rowling’s bestselling fantasy series in the Czech Republic, is threatening to sue the large online retailer Vltava Stores for supplying copies of the series’ last book to the supermarket chain Tesco far ahead of the publisher’s schedule."

The official release date for the Czech edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was Jan. 31, but Albatros "mandated that the much-anticipated release be sold only in bookstores until March. Despite this embargo, the book hit select Tesco stores as early as Feb. 5." Allegedly, Vltava Stores sold Tesco the copies by routing them through a third company.


The San Diego Union-Tribune profiled Friends Bookstore, Lemon Grove, Calif., whose mission is "to spread the love of reading along with recycling books while raising money to support the Lemon Grove branch library."


Running Press: Thank You! Now on Instagram!

BEA Update: Author Breakfast, Luncheon & Tea Lineups

Alec Baldwin, Neil Gaiman, Magic Johnson and Ted Turner will be among the featured speakers at author breakfasts and other special events during BookExpo America.

At the children's book and author breakfast on Friday, Jon Scieszka will offer introductory remarks and the speakers will be Sherman Alexie, Judy Blume, Eoin Colfer and Neil Gaiman.

Saturday's author breakfast will feature Magic Johnson, Philippa Gregory and Andre Dubus III, with Alec Baldwin serving as master of ceremonies. The author luncheon will focus on political and social issues with speakers Richard Engel, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, Jon Krakauer and Michael Moore. Christopher Buckley will be the MC. Featured guests for BEA's audiobook and author tea will include Robert Crais, T. Jefferson Parker and Michael Connelly.

On Sunday, John Hodgman will serve as author breakfast MC, introducing Ted Turner, Azar Nafisi and Dennis Lehane.

"As always, I am in awe of the exceptional array of talent and personalities we are fortunate enough to feature on our stage at BEA," said Lance Fensterman, BEA vice-president and show manager. "We're very lucky to be able to showcase these writers at our convention and to provide a forum where they may speak their minds."
Bookselling This Week has more information about BEA's special events.


BINC: Double Your Donation with PRH

Cool Idea of the Day: The Northshire Roundtable

Often the best resource frontline booksellers have is one another. At the Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt., Cheryl Cornwall decided to expand that handselling potential by developing the Northshire Roundtable "as a way of getting people to read more books that booksellers are passionate about."

According Cheryl, frequently on the sales floor customers ask about a particular title "and there is only one person who has read it or knows anything about it. So, I thought that it would be fun (especially during the quieter winter months) to share our favorite fiction titles with our fellow booksellers."

After sending out an e-mail to the staff requesting their favorite work of fiction, she placed all the suggestions in a hat and chose pairs of titles "at random (I have witnesses!)." Then the booksellers whose picks were chosen together swapped books.

"We included people from every department (children's, receiving, upstairs offices, etc.)," Cheryl continues. "As an added incentive, the store offered to buy the book for the person that read it if they put a review on the web and made a shelf talker for the title they read. We are going to start sharing our reviews on these titles next week. In addition to e-mailing out a quick review of the book, I hope to do some reviews during morning meeting.

"If nothing else, we have learned a bit more about our co-workers and were challenged to read books that we wouldn't necessarily have picked up on our own. I know that a lot of people really liked the titles that we read, which is great. I got a fantasy title, which I am attempting to read--a bit of a challenge, but exciting nonetheless. In the future I was thinking of doing this for different sections in the store such as history, poetry, cookbooks, etc. I have seen some web reviews already, so I think that this has been a successful experiment!"


G.P. Putnam's Sons: A Tender Thing by Emily Neuberger

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Changing Your Thoughts and Your Life

This morning on the Today Show: Lorri and Taryn Benson, co-authors of Distorted: How a Mother and Daughter Unraveled the Truth, the Lies, and the Realities of an Eating Disorder (HCI, $14.95, 9780757305948/0757305946).


Today on the Oprah Winfrey Show: super chef Jamie Oliver, author of Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook (Hyperion, $37.50, 9781401322335/1401322336).


Today on the Ellen Degeneres Show: Dr. Wayne Dyer, author of Change Your Thoughts--Change Your Life: Living The Wisdom of the Tao (Hay House, $26.95, 9781401911843/1401911846).


Media Time Travel: Buckley vs. Vidal, 1968

While the death of William F. Buckley this week inspired today's New York Times to offer a testimonial headlined "On TV, Buckley Led Urbane Debating Club," it also prompted the New Yorker's "Goings On" blog to feature a decidedly unusual tribute, calling the post "in some small way a television story if only because of Buckley’s decades hosting Firing Line and appearing on countless other talk shows. His most notorious appearance, of course, came in 1968, when he tangled with Gore Vidal over America’s policy in Vietnam."

If you think media confrontations get ugly now, you can take some consolation in noting that it was ever thus, as this clip of Buckley and Vidal reduced to schoolyard name-calling aptly demonstrates.  


Books & Authors

Awards: Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominees

Maxine Hong Kingston has won the 28th annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes' Robert Kirsch Award, which honors "a living author with a substantial connection to the American West whose contribution to American letters deserves special recognition."

Also the 45 finalists for the 2007 Book Prizes are now available at The winners will be announced April 25 at UCLA's Royce Hall during the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.


Book Brahmins: Manil Suri

Manil Suri was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India. His first novel, The Death of Vishnu, an excerpt of which originally appeared in the New Yorker, won the 2001 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. His second novel, The Age of Shiva, was published this month by Norton. He lives in Maryland, where he is a mathematics professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Here he takes a break from class to answer questions we like to ask of authors:

On your nightstand now:

What Is the What by Dave Eggers, In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar, The Art of Political Murder by Francisco Goldman, The Math Instinct by Keith Devlin, The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple (I'm only listing the ones I've read or intend to read--there are guiltier items as well.)
Favorite book when you were a child:

Anything by Enid Blyton, the British children's writer, who kids loved, but schoolteachers loathed ("She'll turn your brain to mush"). I especially liked her Famous Five series. In higher grades, I switched to the British crime noir writer James Hadley Chase--that really got the teachers' hackles up.

Your top five authors:

Oooh. The mathematician in me recoils at that question. "Top" is so ill-defined. My criteria: (1) limit choices to authors with at least two books I've enjoyed. (2) Then base my answer on the single best book I've read by the author, with (3) no weight given to the disappointments: Paul Bowles for The Sheltering Sky, V.S. Naipaul for A House for Mr. Biswas, Kazuo Ishiguro for Never Let Me Go, J.M. Coetzee for Disgrace, Salman Rushdie for Shame.

Book you've faked reading:

The faculty handbook at my university, when I was on a committee to overhaul it.
Book you are an evangelist for:

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. I still haven't met anyone who hasn't been completely mesmerized by it.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Just about every cookbook I've acquired recently. I've collected so many over the years that I only buy cookbooks now if they have nice pictures.
Book that changed your life:

The Bhagavad Gita, translated by Barbara Stoler Miller. I read it while researching The Death of Vishnu and was amazed that its beauty, its spirituality, spoke so eloquently to a hardened agnostic like me. Its 11th chapter became the crucial revelatory point on which my whole novel hinged.

Favorite line from a book:

"….the sky hides the night behind it, shelters the person beneath from the horror that lies above." From The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Forgetting Elena by Edmund White. For about six months in the early '90s, I simply read this book again and again every night. It has a mixture of intrigue and possibility and droll charm that never seems to dry out. In fact, I think I'll pick it up again tonight.


Book Review

Book Review: Welcome to Your Brain

Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys But Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life by Sandra Aamodt (Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, $24.95 Hardcover, 9781596912830, March 2008)

Graduates of You: The Owner's Manual who are looking for an informative but accessible introduction to neuroscience will find much food for thought in this lively guide to the mysteries of the brain. The authors, both neuroscientists, begin their book with an irresistible quiz, which proves immediately how little we know about what goes on inside our own heads, and then go on to explain the answers at length in subsequent chapters. Of particular interest to the authors is busting the many myths about the brain that have been universally accepted as truth. For example, we use almost 100% of our brains, not the 10% that worried parents of slacker teens have believed for decades; and alcohol does not kill brain cells (although heavy, prolonged drinking does appear to shrink the brain itself). Most intriguing, the brain does not work like a computer, but "like a busy Chinese restaurant . . . crowded and chaotic . . . but somehow everything gets done in the end."
Some sections of the book travel what has now become familiar ground, such as chapters devoted to the senses, providing easy to understand insights into complicated brain functions like vision and hearing or the relation between smell and memory. Other parts are more provocative, such as the question of whether men and women have different brains (the answer is guaranteed to stimulate discussion) and if our intelligence is determined more by environment or genes. The authors also give an overview of certain issues in neuroscience that are currently receiving quite a bit of attention. They offer a general idea of how autism affects the brain, for example, although they admit that science has not yet been able to identify its causes; and present a fascinating chapter on neurotransmitters and how the brain develops and responds to addiction.
Perhaps most useful, however, is the copious practical advice that the authors provide. A few simple steps can minimize the negative effects of jet lag--and who would have thought that covering the mouthpiece of a cell phone in a noisy room makes it easier to hear the person on the other end? More seriously, the authors suggest tips on how to fool your brain into losing weight and how to protect it as you age. If there is one complaint to be made about the book, it is the puzzling lack of an index or glossary, but all in all, this is a terrific user-friendly manual for the body's most complex piece of equipment.--Debra Ginsberg


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