Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 14, 2008

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

Quotation of the Day

Connecticut Indie Booksellers Stress Community

"If people could be more conscious and spend more money in their communities it just helps maintain the local character of their community. It's local businesses in general, it's restaurants and food markets. . . . [B]eing responsible members of the community is key to our mission."--Fran Keilty, owner of the Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depot, Conn., in a Litchfield County Times article headlined "Hometown Bookshops Hang In." Also interviewed were Charlie Bell of More Good Books, Woodbury; James Blackketter of House of Books, Kent; and Janet Olsen Ryan of Bank Street Book Nook, New Milford.


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


Notes: Schwartz Store Closing; Pratchett Donates $1 Million

The Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop in the Bay View section of Milwaukee, Wis., will close April 1, according to the the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The store opened in 2005 (Shelf Awareness, July 11, 2005); there are four other Schwartz stores.

"It was a difficult decision," said Carol Grossmeyer, company president and owner. "It is sad. We're all sad. But it's the right decision at the same time. Sales were on a downward trend." 

Daniel Goldin, general manager for the Schwartz stores, added, "We went into the Bay View location with a commitment to the Bay View community and high hopes for a future as a small, neighborhood bookshop. But our modest expectations were unrealized from the beginning. Sales started out slightly below our expectations and remained flat, and lately we began to see a bit of a downward trend. The energy we would need to put into the Bay View store would be at the expense of our other stores, and we could not continue. . . . This was a very prolonged decision. We really talked about it."


Despite the uncertainty surrounding New York governor Eliot Spitzer's resignation, this past Wednesday "the New York State Assembly passed its budget for 2008-09, including the Internet Sales Tax provision, which would require remote, online retailers using New York residents to solicit sales in the state to collect sales and use taxes," Bookselling This Week reported. "The state Senate also passed its budget resolution for 2008-09, though the Senate budget did not contain the Internet Sales Tax provision."

"Obviously, the week's past events have been a shock to most everyone, including the state's legislators and business owners alike," said Oren Teicher, ABA COO. "Yet, despite what has transpired these past few days, it is crucial that we not let it interfere with our determination to achieve e-fairness in New York. While the government may be in a state of flux, what has not changed is the tremendous opportunity that stands before us. With the Internet Sales Tax provision now in both the Executive and Assembly budgets, we inch ever closer to success."

Because of the "current uncertainty in Albany," ABA will postpone its planned series of lobbying events--originally scheduled for March 19. In the interim, the association recommends that booksellers meet with their legislators or legislators' staff at local district offices.


Three speakers have been lined up for the Book Industry Study Group's fifth annual Making Information Pay conference, to be held May 9 in New York City:

  • Michael Raynor, a consultant and author of The Strategy Paradox, who will speak "on ways to manage experimentation when commercial success depends on strategic commitments."
  • Michael Cader, chef of Publishers Lunch, who will talk about "thinking next to the box"--solving information problems and creating information opportunities.
  • Todd Anderson, director of the University of Alberta Bookstore, Edmonton, Alta., Canada, who will discuss the store's Espresso Book Machine and "the impact of truly local print on demand," subjects he addressed at CAMEX last week (Shelf Awareness, March 9, 2008).

To register and to get more information about the conference, visit


The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), the Great Lakes Booksellers Association, 14 independent Indiana booksellers, and Borders Books and Music "are urging Indiana governor Mitch Daniels to veto a bill that would require bookstores to register with the state if they intend to sell 'sexually explicit materials,'" according to BTW.

ABFFE President Chris Finan commented: "It is not surprising that Indiana booksellers are strongly protesting this bill. They consider it anathema to have to register with the government in order to sell books. If Gov. Daniels signs this bill, it will be challenged as a clear violation of the First Amendment."


Novelist Terry Pratchett will donate $1 million to the Alzheimer's Research Trust, a British charity, to help fund research into the disease, according to the Associated Press (via USA Today). Pratchett, 59, learned last December that he has early-onset Alzheimer's.

"There's nearly as many of us as there are cancer sufferers, and it looks as if the number of people with the disease will double within a generation," he said.


Michael Shmuely, owner of wholesale bookseller Books for Less, Brooklyn, N.Y., reached a settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that will require him to "pay 21 former workers a total of $180,000 and donate 1,000 books about civil rights and African-American culture to a charitable organization," the New York Daily News reported. The settlement stems from a federal lawsuit "brought by former employees who accused him of frequently using the N-word and referring to the warehouse as a 'plantation.'"


Bookselling This Week profiled Chapters Books & Gifts, Seward, Neb., and highlighted owner Carla Ketner's consistently successful sense of timing.

The idea for starting her bookstore came from a friend's offhand comment: "We were in the Book Clinic [Nebraska City] and my friend said, 'You should open a bookstore in Seward.' I said, 'Yeah, right. I don't want to work that hard.'"

She changed her mind and "after a while, I had so much time and energy invested in the idea, I had to go ahead and at least try it. . . . I was frustrated by the fact there was no place to buy books here in town. Birthday party gifts, too--the choices are going to Wal-Mart and getting junk, or driving to Lincoln to get something. That's how I decided what to sell: I figured if I needed these things, other people might, too."

When Ketner decided to go forward with her idea, "the owner of a store that had been here for 30 years retired . . . and it was the perfect location on the busiest corner in town."


Brian and Carolyn Jorgensen, owners of Mountain West Books and Harmony Home, Cedar City, Utah, have moved both stores "from their location on downtown Main Street to a much larger space just a block and a half south," according to the Cedar City Review.

"The new book store is exciting," Jorgensen said. "We have been able to expand all the general book sections including more bestsellers."


A photographic tour of some "bookstore finds" in Istanbul was featured on the "Jacket Copy" blog of the Los Angeles Times.


Soho Press: The Seep by Chana Porter

Penguin Enhanced e-Book Classics to Debut

The May release of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice marks the debut of Penguin Group's new line of "portable, green, and multi-faceted" Penguin Enhanced e-Book Classics. The initial title includes a filmography, contemporary book reviews, a chronology of Austen's life and times; recipes, instructions on period dancing, social etiquette and how to prepare a tea; a literary tour of famous Austen sites; black-and-white illustrations of fashion, home décor and architecture; and more.  

"I'm very pleased that we are taking our Penguin Classics into a new world of e-Books," John Makinson, chairman and CEO of Penguin Group, said in a statement.

Penguin Classics executive editor Elda Rotor added that the company "would love to have feedback from readers telling us what they like about them, what works or doesn't work, and what else they would like to see featured."
Nine more Penguin E Book Classics are scheduled for release this autumn:

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglass
  • The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

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

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Tori Spelling's sTORI Telling

This morning on Fox & Friends: Jeff Foxworthy, author of Dirt on My Shirt (HarperCollins, $16.99, 9780061208461/0061208469).


Today on the Martha Stewart Show: Patsi Pittman Light talks about her book, Capturing Nature: The Cement Sculpture of Dionicio Rodriquez (Texas A&M University Press, $30, 9781585446100/1585446106 ).


Tonight on Larry King Live: Tori Spelling, author of sTORI Telling (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, $24.95, 9781416950738/1416950737).


Also featured during Black Magic, the four-hour documentary about basketball at black colleges and universities before integration that airs this Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 9 p.m. on ESPN: another legendary coach, Winston-Salem State University's Clarence "Big House" Gaines, who retired as the winningest active coach in the NCAA, coached Black Magic producer and Knicks hall-of-famer Earl Monroe and author of They Call Me Big House (John F. Blair, Publisher, $21.95, 9780895873033/0895873036).


Books & Authors

Book Brahmins: Felicia Sullivan

Felicia C. Sullivan is a graduate of the Columbia University MFA program and a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. A regular contributor to the Huffington Post, her work has appeared in Swink, Post Road, Mississippi Review, Pindeldyboz and in the anthologies Homewrecker: An Atlas of Illicit Loves and Money Changes Everything, among others. She was the recipient of the 2005 Tin House memoir fellowship and a Best American Essays 2006 notable. In 2001, she founded the literary journal Small Spiral Notebook. Algonquin has just published her memoir, The Sky Isn't Visible from Here. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she keeps her Kitchen Aid busy whipping up delectable muffins. You can visit her online at Here she takes time out from writing and baking to answer a few questions:

On your nightstand now:

Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir From an Atomic Town
by Kelly McMasters
Favorite book when you were a child:

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Growing up in Brooklyn where overdoses and beatings were commonplace, I was desperate for a hole in which I could fall, joyously, rapturously, through. I would've risked not knowing what was on the other side.

Your top five authors:

Vladimir Nabokov, Virginia Woolf, Marguerite Duras, John Cheever, Tim O'Brien.

Book you've faked reading:

Swann's Way by Marcel Proust. But in my defense, I've tried to read Swann's Way (including various translations) at least a dozen times over the past decade. I've finally come to terms with the fact that I might never embrace Proust.

Books you are an evangelist for:

Desperate Characters by Paula Fox and An Iliad by Alessandro Baricco.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Serious Girls by Maxine Swann. The image of two schoolgirls clutching hands, their legs submerged in a pond, their backs flat on anemic grass, their eyes gazing up at a bleached sky, a smattering of red on a uniform (blood?), haunted me. I remember browsing the New Releases section in my local bookstore, and I kept walking by Serious Girls, disturbed, curious. I didn't know anything about the book or the author, but on that particular day, I knew that I wanted to learn more about those two girls.  

Book that changed your life:

Drinking, a Love Story by Caroline Knapp.

Favorite line from a book:

"But this, one's death, the whole reach of death, even before one's life is under way, to hold it gently and not feel anger: is indescribable." From The Fourth Elegy of Rilke's Duino Elegies.
Scene in a book that made you terrified of marriage:

The opening scene in Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road. We always want our humiliations to be private, yet they are always tragically public, especially in the case of April's theatrical failure, and the fact that we, as the reader, suspect that her husband Frank is privately reveling in it.

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

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: One Bookseller's St. Patrick's Day Pilgrimage

You want to be like everybody else, but you can't. You're a bookseller. You have a biblio-variation of the King Midas disease: everything you touch--or see or hear--turns to books.

On Wednesday, for example, you see the revival of Harold Pinter's play, The Homecoming, with Ian McShane and a flawless cast. McShane's name has been invoked here before, but that was in his guise as saloon owner/killer/philosopher Al Swearengen on HBO-TV's western series, Deadwood. One of his classic declarations has become your mission statement in the publishing industry: "Ain't the state of things cloudy enough? Don't we face enough (expletive) imponderables?"

Willfully pondering the imponderables, you find yourself accumulating oddly connected experiences and observations. As a list of ingredients, stirred vigorously, they sum up nicely how a column, this column at least, comes to be written:  

First, read an article about Shaun Clancy--owner of Foley's Pub and Restaurant in New York--who has banned the singing of a perennial St. Patty's Day staple, "Danny Boy," for the entire month of March. "It's overplayed," he says, "it's been ranked among the 25 most depressing songs of all time, and it's more appropriate for a funeral than for a St. Patrick's Day celebration."

Mischievously inspired, consider writing a column about St. Patrick's Day, exploring bookstore websites and e-mail newsletters to see what sort of Irish-themed events and promotions are happening next week. Check several websites. Find nothing. Reconsider idea, but don't abandon it.

Recall making shamrocks out of green construction paper in elementary school.

Take the train to New York, check in to your hotel and hustle over to the Cort Theatre. Sit, as you always seem to, in a row just ahead of three women discussing their book club selections. Listen as they talk about a novel involving Frank Lloyd Wright's personal life and his illicit love affair. They can't recall the title. It's fiction, one says, but it's fact, too.

You're a bookseller. At the shop, you would interrupt politely, say Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, find a copy and tell her you liked it, too. This is the theater, however; please turn off all cell phones and handselling.

Then Ian McShane pounds the back of a chair with his cane, and you're in a different book altogether.

After the play, walking back to your hotel, pass the Librairie de France at Rockefeller Center. Window shop a bit, notice a "Message to Our Customers":

After 74 years at this same location as the oldest tenant of Rockefeller Center from 1935, our lease ends in 2009. Because of overwhelming New York retail rents, especially on Fifth Avenue, it will be financially impossible for us to continue our retail business. We plan to close some time on or before September 30, 2009.  

You're almost numb to bookstore closings now, but this one does give you a pang of regret. Sometimes being an indie bookseller is like living in a literature-themed hospice.

Booksellers are, well, independent, and their occasional resemblance to penniless but proud European royalty is germane. Cries for help often come late. We've all heard customers say how good business must be when they see a bookstore filled with people on Saturday afternoons. They generally miss the painful echo of empty Tuesday mornings. Perception is everything.

At Librairie de France, the message also says:

Although many of our customers assume that we are a subsidized French government entity, ours has always been an independently-operated, third-generation family-owned bookstore with no outside financial support.

Although many of our customers assume . . .

Stop by St. Patrick's cathedral because maybe you'll still be able to salvage a St. Patty's Day theme. Say a prayer for indie booksellers everywhere.

As you return to the street, think about what it is that keeps booksellers going; about the good booksellers you've worked with over the years who left for greener (the Irish theme sneaking in again) pastures; about the adjustments you've had to make in your own professional life to spend any time on bookstore sales floors.

Ultimately, of course, you'll think about books; maybe Colum McCann's title story from his great collection, Fishing the Sloe-Black River. You'll recall his description of Irish women along a river bank "casting with ferocious hope."

Your thoughts will turn to all those booksellers who are still casting with ferocious hope. For no logical reason, you'll decide to wish them a Happy St. Patrick's Day.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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