Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 7, 2008


Forge: Empire of Lies by Raymond Khoury

imon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Becoming Rbg: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Journey to Justice by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Whitney Gardner

St. Martin's Press: Cilka's Journey: A Novel by Heather Morris

Park Row: The Ventriloquists (Original) by E.R. Ramzipoor

Henry Holt & Company: Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of "the Children's Ship" by Deborah Heiligman

Other Press: Metropolitan Stories by Christine Coulson

Rick Riordan Presents: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1) by Kwame Mbalia

News

Notes: Brazilian Merger; L.A. Author-Store Lovefest

Saraiva Group, owner of Livraria Saraiva, which has 36 stores in Brazil, has bought Siciliano, the Brazilian bookstore chain founded in 1928 that has 52 stores and 11 franchise operations.

Saraiva described the two companies' operations as "complementary." Most of the stores do not overlap geographically, and Siciliano stores are located in "important commercial areas where Saraiva does not have a significant penetration." Siciliano also publishes under the Arx, Futura, Caramelo and Arxjovem imprints.

Besides books, Livraria Saraiva sells CDs, DVDs, magazines, stationery and some electronics and information technology. It boasts opening the first superstore in Brazil, in 1996, and has online retailing operations that account for a third of company gross revenue.

Founded by Pedro Siciliano, Siciliano originally sold only newspapers and magazines. In 1942, it opened its first bookstore, in Sao Paulo.

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The Book Shelf, Winona, Minn., is considering moving in with and helping resurrect the Blue Heron Coffeehouse, which closed last month, according to the Winona Daily News.

"It's like a marriage made in heaven," Blue Heron co-owner Colleen Wolner told the paper. "We're excited for the opportunity to keep cooking in this community."

If the merger, which is dependent on obtaining financing, occurs, Book Shelf will make changes in inventory. It will drop textbooks and slim down business, computer and art books. Most other sections will stay the same, while poetry and local authors will be expanded.

The paper noted that Book Shelf owner Chris Livingston "plans to offer writing classes and seminars through a venture called Hawk's Well Literary Center. He also hopes to establish a publishing company, with the first offering hitting bookshelves in 2009."

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Bookselling This Week profiles the Book and Cranny, which opened in Statesboro, Ga., last April. The 1,425-sq.-ft. store stocks 10,000 titles and features large children's and fiction sections.

Owner Deborah Campbell, a former Lucent Technology engineer, said that residents are happy to have a general bookstore in the town, adding, "People also appreciate being able to get their books without having to drive. . . . Although we have a lot of repeat customers, we get new ones everyday. When they find out I can get them any book they want, I don't charge them anything to order it, and I can get it faster than they can get it from Amazon, they become regulars."

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Congratulations to Arlene Lynes, owner of Read Between the Lynes, Woodstock, Ill., opened two years ago, who has won the Chamber of Commerce 2007 Retailer of the Year Award. 

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Authors lavish praise on L.A. bookstores in the Los Angeles Times. For one, Susan Straight remembers, "When my first book was published, in 1990 by Milkweed Editions, I didn't actually feel like a writer until I read at Dutton's Bookstore in Brentwood."

Although she also mentions Skylight Books, Vroman's Bookstore, Eso Won Books, Libros Revolución and Imagine That!, Straight says that "Dutton's was the first independent bookstore I'd ever been in, and on that night when I read, I felt very L.A., even though I had to drive back to Riverside. I can't believe we won't be able to mingle in that courtyard and reach up to the top of those shelves and visit."

Janet Fitch says she has "been going to Skylight Books since before it was Skylight, since it was Chatterton's and I lived around the corner. It's a real neighborhood bookstore in that it's a mirror of the neighborhood."

Marisa Silver, who recommends Portrait of a Bookstore, asks, "What is it we love about a good bookstore? The selection? The intelligence of the sales people? The ambience? It's those things, but I think it's something else: I think a great bookstore is a place where you feel you can go to find your tribe, to be around people who make them feel, well, less alone. They're looking for their kin. The same is true with book lovers. We want to find our corner bar equivalent, a place where, if everyone doesn't exactly know our name, at least they recognize and accept our particular obsession."

Eso Won Books is one of Chris Abani's favorites: "Like Dutton's, there are books everywhere--shelves, piles on the floor, on tables, and like any independent store, it stocks famous and more obscure writers side by side and can tell you in an instant who they think you will like. It feels like home, like my childhood. It's a book lover's paradise."

T. Jefferson Parker loves Book Carnival. "I've been signing there for 20 years. It's a small, humble specialty store run by Ed and Pat Thomas, great readers and great folks. It's a long, narrow store filled with posters, rare and collectible books, thousands of mysteries. It isn't coiffed, but it's got charm, and you can find what you're looking for. . . . It's a terrific place--good will, good books, good people."

Eric Lax likes "the feel of Book Soup--I like walking in and having this stop-frame avalanche of books. Somehow they manage to get 30,000 titles or whatever they have. It's not endless aisles: It's a manageable labyrinth. You can stop, pull a book down, read it, and hope someone doesn't step on you. It lends itself to reading and browsing."

And Yxta Maya Murray notes that she "received an informal PhD in literature at the IliadBookshop in the late 1990s. I remember the first day I walked off of Vineland Avenue into the shop in winter 1997: As soon as I saw the rugs, stuffed bookshelves, a shaggy dog, cats, dilapidated sofas, and the community of book freaks presided over by Bob and Dan, the last known book-druids living in Los Angeles, I knew I was at home. "

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"Memoir fabulists getting caught means the system is working" argued Ben Yagoda in Slate, which featured an extensive and at times hilarious overview of the most recent examples of nonfiction committed to paper with intent to deceive.

"But is it such a terrible thing that so many lying memoirists have been exposed?" asked Yagoda. "On the contrary: It's evidence that the system works. . . . The perpetrators have eventually been found out. Or, to be more precise, the more brazen or audacious the lie, the greater the likelihood of exposure."

Slate also featured Christopher Beam's "The Fake Memoirist's Survival Guide," with these helpful tips:

  • Specificity is your enemy.
  • Write what you know--but no one else does.
  • Be a victim.
  • Check your paper trail.
  • Don't leave witnesses.
  • Don't leave clues!
  • Don't tell anyone.
  • Beware of blurbs.

And, finally, Slate offered a sneak video peek at volume two of Margaret B. Jones' memoirs.

 


Amulet Books: Minor Prophets by Jimmy Cajoleas


Books & Authors

Awards: NBCC Winners

The winners of the National Book Critics Circle awards, presented last night in New York City, are:

  • Fiction: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (Riverhead)
  • Nonfiction: Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet Washington (Doubleday)
  • Autobiography: Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat (Knopf)
  • Biography: Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer by Tim Jeal (Yale University Press)
  • Poetry: Elegy by Mary Jo Bang (Graywolf)
  • Criticism: The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross (FSG)

In addition, at last night's ceremony, member Sam Anderson of New York Magazine won the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, and Emilie Buchwald, editor, writer, and founder of Milkweed Editions, won the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.

 


One ELM Books: Trevor Lee and the Big Uh Oh! by Wiley Blevins, illustrated by Marta Kissi


ABFFE Book of the Month: The Ten-Cent Plague

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression has chosen David Hajdu's The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (FSG, $26, 9780374187675/0374187673) as the ABFFE Book of the Month for March.

The book is about how exaggerated fears about the impact of comic books on children crushed the comic book as a creative force in the 1950s. ABFFE president Chris Finan called The Ten-Cent Plague "a sobering reminder of what happens to artistic freedom when society turns to censorship to protect its children. His new book is an important contribution to the current debate over efforts to censor the Internet, video games and other media that appeal to the young."

An interview with Hajdu is available at abffe.com.

 


Ecco Press: Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha


Book Brahmins: Rosina Lippi

Rosina Lippi (who also writes under the penname Sara Donati) was born and raised in Chicago but has lived many places, from small villages in the Austrian Alps to rural New Jersey. Since 1998, she has made her home on Puget Sound north of Seattle, with her husband (known to her weblog readers as the Mathematician), her daughter (the Girlchild) and two dogs. Rosina has a doctorate in linguistics, which she used to good effect as a college professor for 12 years, at which point she escaped academia before it was too late. She now writes fiction full time. Or at least, she tries to. Her newest novel is The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square (Putnam), which arrived in bookstores on Valentine's Day. Stop by Rosina's weblog for news about the Pajama Girls and the January Pajama Jamboree.

On your nightstand now:

The Letters of Abigaill Levy Franks, 1733-1748 edited by Edith B. Gelles, Evermore by Lynn Viehl, Angel and Apostle by Deborah Noyes, A Little Ray of Sunshine by Lani Diane Rich.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Up a Road Slowly
by Irene Hunt.

Your top five authors:

(Oi, the pain of only five.) Dorothy Dunnett, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Jennifer Crusie, Annie Proulx.

Book you've faked reading:

The Odyssey.

Books you are an evangelist for:

Dance
by Judy Cuevas and The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carlton (both out of print).

Book you've bought for the cover:  

The True Account: A Novel of the Lewis and Clark and Kinneson Expeditions (Lewis & Clark Expedition) by Howard Frank Mosher.

Book that changed your life:

A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin.

Book you have re-read:

I re-read many, many books, but here's one: Possession by A.S. Byatt.

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

Niccolo Rising
by Dorothy Dunnett.

 


NCIBA & SCIBA: Holiday Catalog


Book Review

Mandahla: The Storks' Nest

The Storks' Nest: Life and Love in the Russian Countryside by Laura Williams (Fulcrum Group, $16.95 Paperback, 9781555916299, February 2008)



Laura Lynne Williams lives in Chukhrai, a small Russian village, surrounded on three sides by a nature preserve and virtually inaccessible. Its population has dwindled to 21; the only people left are the ones who aren't smart or lucky enough to leave. "And then there are Igor and me, two naturalists who find solace in the village's remoteness, in its total immersion in the wilderness of the Bryansk Forest, and in each other." She met her husband, Igor Shpilenok, while working in Moscow for the World Wildlife Fund, when he wrote a proposal requesting a grant for the Bryansk Forest zapovednik, a federally protected nature sanctuary. He had started the sanctuary in 1984 to protect the endangered black stork, which nests only in isolated areas and needs old growth forest for its massive nests.

Williams' life in the village is chronicled seasonally, starting in spring, when the rutted, ice-encrusted road to the outside becomes passable, although "passable" is a stretch, since navigating the road requires a jeep outfitted with axe, chain saw, winch and crowbar. Much of her life seems idyllic--hours spent picking bilberries and mushrooms, riding her stallion, Orlik, feeding a baby moose. Even sitting in the outhouse sounds lovely: "By June the days began to warm. From my perch in the outhouse, I saw that the leaves on the alder trees rimming the lake had turned dark green, hardened by the sun and wind. A breeze blew low over the water, forming small waves that rippled across the surface and lapped at the shore. Tall reeds now lined the entire perimeter of the lake . . . the grasses in the meadow grew green, and the first flowers blossomed." However, life is not all serene lake views and forest wanderings. Aggressive poachers, for instance. One took an axe to Igor's horse Aza (who recovered). Igor and Laura's house is situated back-to-back with another wooden house belonging to the Lepen family, notorious poachers. The placement is insurance: if the family tried to burn Igor's house down, they'd burn their own as well.

The Storks' Nest is written in a delightfully meandering way and includes photos of village life; Igor is a renowned nature photographer--visit his website shpilenok.com to see his stunning pictures. Digressions into Russia's history add depth to the narrative, particularly with the story of Olga Ivanovna, the villager who teaches Laura chants against wolves and snakes and who survived the famine of 1933 (created by Stalin to force peasants onto collective farms) and World War II. But always, nature is the main attraction, and Williams easily pulls us into her world: "Thinking of the foxes' homes, I realized that Igor's village had become mine in just a year's time. I loved that here I could observe baby foxes grow, walk out my front door to the sound of cranes greeting the dawn, or watch as a startled boar across the lake ran for the safety of the trees. I felt fully immersed in nature, something I had always dreamed of."--Marilyn Dahl

Starscape Books: Freeing Finch by Ginny Rorby



Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: To POD or Not to POD--Three Answers

1. The initial book published by Northshire Bookstore's new Espresso Book Machine will be a long out-of-print local title--Manchester, Vermont: A Pleasant Land Among the Mountains, 1761-1961 by Edwin Bigelow and Nancy Otis.

You won't see it show up as a BookSense Pick, but there's something about this title I can tell you before the first copy pops out of the magic machine. My prognosis is based upon my experience as a lifelong Vermont tourist observer. I could write an Audubon guide chronicling the habits of that transient, acquisitive species.

The book will sell. This prediction is a stone cold lock, as my gambling friends used to say. To POD or not to POD may be a question worth pondering in many cases, but for books like this one it is an irresistible option, a mathematical equation:

Tourist + Vermont on the cover = Sale.  

Sometimes it's that easy.

2. Not always, of course. In response to last week's column, Jim Huang took exception to my use of the phrase "economy of scale" and Ken Arnold's mention of "deep discounts" for booksellers.

"I'm both a bookseller (The Mystery Company) and a publisher (Crum Creek Press) myself," Jim wrote, "and I've recently been part of a Sisters in Crime board committee that determined the eligibility of titles (POD and conventional) for SinC projects. I'm perhaps more sensitive than most to these issues.

"When reporting on POD (and maybe any other publisher too), I'd really like to see terms defined. The main problem with POD isn't the printing technology, it's the way it's changed how folks look at the terms at which books are sold. So, for example, POD is touted for economy of scale, without regard to the very high per-book production cost. Rex Stout's backlist at Bantam Books is priced at either $6.50 for a conventional mass market or $15 for a POD. Is this economy? If someone is telling us the POD titles are economical, let's see the retail prices. If you're telling us that books are sold at 'deep discounts,' let see the percentage. Otherwise, you're allowing us to draw our own conclusions--and based on the track record of POD-produced books, these conclusions are unlikely to be favorable."

While Ken Arnold's "deep discounts" are between him and his bookstore partners, my use of "economy of scale" referred to print runs rather than pricing. Still, Jim's point is worth considering. I asked if $15 for a POD trade paperback was out of line?

"It's true that $15 is 'reasonable' given the competition in trade pb," he responded. "But it's a strange world when books that until very recently were priced at $6 are now priced at $15 and no one blinks. Is the medium (trade vs. mass market) the message, or is text what matters here? I think that the industry pretty clearly believes the former, but I'm not convinced that readers are there yet. Mostly what I see and hear among my customers is confusion, and that's not good. Confused customers aren't necessarily the most receptive to the message that I really want them to hear: why I'm recommending what I'm putting in front of them."

Please, as always, feel free to draw your own conclusions.

3. Finally, Sheila Ruth of Imaginator Press agreed "niche is where POD really shows its worth, in allowing publishers to fill a need when the audience isn’t large enough to make offset printing economical. One such audience is people with disabilities, and a new company, ReadHowYouWant, is using POD combined with proprietary technology to make books available for people who have visual or reading impairments.

"ReadHowYouWant has already published hundreds of classic, out-of-copyright books in a variety of large print formats, and is currently working with publishers to make available newer books as well. One of our titles, award-winning middle-grade fantasy The Dark Dreamweaver, will be one of their first offerings, and we hope to work with them on other titles as well."

ReadHowYouWant's Tricia Roth, director of global marketing for the Australian company, addressed the pricing question: "While POD does drive up the cost of printing titles, our production process is extremely efficient because of our proprietary technology. This allows us to price titles relatively close to regular print editions. In our super large formats the page expansion often requires that we create multiple volumes of one title, which will require that we price titles higher to cover the increased print costs."

To POD or not to POD? Shakespeare, I believe, is public domain.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

 


The Bestsellers

AbeBooks.com's February Faves

The following were the top 10 sellers on AbeBooks.com during February, including several titles that have been given Oprah boosts and Flat Belly Diet, given a Rachael Ray boost:

1. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
2. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
3. Flat Belly Diet by Liz Vaccariello
4. The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren
5. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
6. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
8. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
9. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
10. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

[Many thanks to AbeBooks.com!]

 


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