Shelf Awareness for Thursday, May 1, 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


Another Idea for a 16-Hour, Bookless Plane Trip

Jane O'Connor, editor at Penguin Books for Young Readers, offers yet another literary time killer:

Write the alphabet down one column. Pick a phrase from newspaper, book, airplane mag, whatever. Then pair the first 26 letters of the phrase with the alphabet letter. For example, if the phrase was "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy . . ." your letter pairs would be: AT, BH, CE, DQ, EU, and so on. Then try to come with a famous name for each pair: Arthur Treacher (of Fish and Chips), Bob Herbert (of the New York Times) and so on. Fun to play competitively. Set a time limit. You get one point for a name that another contestant has, two points if you're the only one with the name.


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


Amazon Finds New Statute Taxing, Sues New York has sued the state of New York, charging that its new statute requiring Amazon and other online retailers to collect sales tax on sales made to state residents is unconstitutional. The company is requesting a declaratory judgment against the new statute as applied to Amazon.

The suit was filed last Friday in state court against the state Department of Taxation and Finance, Department Commissioner Robert L. Megna, new Governor David Paterson and the state as a whole. The measure was included in the state's new budget, which the Governor signed last month (Shelf Awareness, April 9, 2008).

The e-tailer argues that it has no physical presence in New York and has no in-state representatives soliciting sales--and therefore does not have the required nexus to collect sales tax. As for the many companies and organizations that are part of Amazon's Associates Program who steer business to Amazon for a percentage of sales, the company calls them "advertisers" and says they "post advertisements with links to Amazon and are compensated for these advertisements."

(The key part of the New York statute says that a person or company making sales--such as Amazon--"shall be presumed to be soliciting business through an independent contractor or other representatives if the seller enters into an agreement with a resident of this state under which the resident, for a commission or other consideration, directly or indirectly refers potential customers, whether by a link on an internet website or otherwise, to the seller.")

Amazon argues that the statute violates the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause and the due process clauses of the U.S. and New York Constitutions. Moreover Amazon says the statute violates the equal protection clauses of the U.S. and New York Constitutions because "it intentionally targets Amazon."

Among other points in the suit:

Amazon complains that the law "on its face would also impose tax-collection obligations on non-Internet out-of-state retailers who pay New York print media, television or radio outlets to advertise their products and thereby refer New York customers to buy them."

Amazon says "thousands" of Associates program members have addresses in New York, but it does not know how many of them are residents of the state. It argues, too, that the statute does not differentiate between the Associates who might be residents of New York and those that aren't and then unfairly "requires Amazon to collect and remit sales and use taxes on all its sales to New York residents." It also argues that some of the burdens of proof that are imposed on it are "impossible to meet," as, for example, proving that any Associate who is a New York resident "did not engage in any solicitation in the state on behalf" of Amazon.


Running Press: Thank You! Now on Instagram!

Notes: Shack Ascends Bestseller List; Writer's Table

William P. Young's The Shack, a self-published novel released last year, continues to hold a lofty position on USA Today's bestseller list, thanks to the initial "snowballing attention on Christian radio, websites and blogs" that has since led to placement "in mainstream bookstores and Wal-Marts nationwide."

While Young's original goal when he wrote the book in 2005 "was to get it copied and bound at Kinko's in time for Christmas as a gift to my kids," he eventually received an unexpected boost. Under the name Windblown Media, Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings published the book themselves. Then the three men "embarked on a word-of-mouth, church-to-church, blog-to-blog campaign to get copies out," according to the article.

The happy ending? Young said that currently "there are 880,000 copies in print, 750,000 in distribution, and we're talking to New York publishers."


Having been named by Waterstone's as the bookstore chain's "first curator of its the Writer's Table," Sebastian Faulks chose 40 titles by some of his favorite authors, the Telegraph reported. The table display will be showcased at stores "throughout the month, with Faulks's hand-written thoughts on each chosen title." His wide-ranging picks include books by Ian Fleming, Yasunari Kawabata, Milan Kundera, Philip Larkin, Lorrie Moore and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.


Chelsea Bookshop, Pasa Robles, Calif., is closing May 10, according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Sharon Clark, who has owned the store for two years, cited "the downturn in the economy" and increased rent. In January, she closed Cafe Novella in the back of the store after a chain sandwich shop opened nearby late last year. Holiday season sales were flat, and sales this year have declined, she added.

Diane Carpenter opened Chelsea Bookshop 10 years ago.


Berlin bookseller Michael Waeser is making dreams--and nightmares--come true for his customers by allowing them to "select from a collection of especially prepared stories . . . and--abracadabra!--their names appear throughout the book in place of the main character," according to Deutsche Welle.


The next meeting of the Boston area Emerging Leaders will take place Wednesday, May 7, at 8 p.m. at the Cambridge Brewing Company, One Kendall Square, Cambridge, Mass. According to the New England Independent Booksellers Association and host Megan Sullivan, participants will chat informally, "but with an intent to discuss the current economic troubles with regards to our stores." RSVP to Sullivan at


The University of Arkansas Press is now distributing books published by the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Little Rock, Ark., whose list focuses on regional history, including the Civil War. A major fall title from the Center is A Pryor Commitment, the autobiography of David Pryor, the former Governor who served in the Senate for nearly 20 years.



BINC: Double Your Donation with PRH

Library Roundup for Louis L'Amour Memoir

To celebrate the centennial of Louis L'Amour's birth, Bantam Books, his publisher for more than 50 years, is offering a copy of Education of a Wandering Man to all "the more than 100,000 free lending libraries in the U.S." Originally published in 1989, a year after L'Amour's death, the memoir is being reissued on May 6.

Bantam calls Education of a Wandering Man L'Amour's "reflection on his lifelong love affair with learning and his most personal work ever." In the book, L'Amour wrote about growing up in Jamestown, N.D., with parents "who instilled in him love of the printed and spoken word," leaving school at age 15 and about his travels around the U.S. and the world, which inspired his fiction.

The offer is for all libraries in the country that lend books free to members, including public libraries, public school libraries, private lending and institutional lending libraries. Bantam is promoting the L'Amour Centennial National Library Celebration at library meetings, through mailings and ads, on the L'Amour website and on a special website.

In March, the Library of Congress's Center for the Book named L'Amour its inaugural "Champion of the Book."


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

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Sistine Secrets

Today on Writer's Roundtable, hosted by Antoinette Kuritz: John Sandford, whose new book starring investigator Lucas Davenport is Phantom Prey (Putnam, $26.95, 9780399155000/0399155007), discusses the art, craft and business of writing, particularly writing a series, and PMA executive director Terry Nathan talks about the PMA Publishing University. Tune in via or


Starting today on WETA's Author, Author!: an interview with Alexander McCall Smith, whose new book, The Miracle at Speedy Motors (Pantheon, $22.95, 9780375424489/0375424482), is the latest installment in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Benjamin Blech, author of The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo's Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican (HarperOne, $26.95, 9780061469046/0061469041). There will also be a prime time special based on the book tomorrow night on ABC.


Tomorrow night on Larry King Live: Sidney Poitier, author of Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter (HarperOne, $25.95, 9780061496189/0061496189).


Tomorrow night on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Jesse Ventura, former wrestler and Governor of Minnesota whose new book with Dick Russell is Don't Start the Revolution Without Me! (Skyhorse Publishing, $24.95, 9781602392731/1602392730).


This Weekend on Book TV: Three Kings and Alice Walker

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 website.

Saturday, May 3

6 p.m. Encore Book Notes. For a segment first aired in 2003, Mona Charen talked about her book, Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First (Harper, $13.95, 9780060579418/0060579412).
7 p.m. At an event at Hattie's Books, Brunswick, Ga., Bob Dart, author of Down Home: Dispatches from Dixie (Southern Lion Books, $30, 9780979420337/0979420334), discussed his collection of stories about Southern culture, society and politics. (Re-airs Sunday at 2:30 a.m. and Saturday, May 17, at 11 a.m.)
10 p.m. After Words. Chicago Tribune syndicated columnist Clarence Page interviews Bruce Bartlett, author of Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party's Buried Past (Palgrave Macmillan, $26.95, 9780230600621/023060062X). (Re-airs Sunday 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., Monday at 3 a.m. and Sunday, May 11, at 12 p.m.)

Sunday, May 4

8:30 a.m. Lincoln Chafee, author of Against the Tide: How a Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President (Thomas Dunne, $24.95, 9780312383046/0312383045), draws upon his experience as the Republican senator from Rhode Island from 1999 to 2007. (Re-airs Sunday at 5 p.m. and Monday at 6 a.m.)
9:30 a.m. David Horowitz, author of Party of Defeat: How Democrats and Radicals Undermined America's War on Terror Before and After 9-11 (Spence Publishing, $22.95, 9781890626747/1890626740), criticizes Democrats he believes are undermining U.S. efforts in Iraq. (Re-airs Sunday at 7 p.m.)

12 p.m. In Depth. Alice Walker, author of more than 25 books, joins BookTV for a live interview from her home in Berkeley, Calif. Viewers can participate in the discussion by calling in during the program or e-mailing questions to (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m. and Saturday, May 10, at 9 a.m.)

10 p.m. A discussion about writing with authors Stephen, Tabitha and Owen King, who read from their latest works and take questions from students during an event sponsored by PEN/Faulkner's "Writers in Schools" program and the Center for the Book. (Re-airs Saturday, May 17, at 8 a.m.)


Books & Authors

Awards: Ondaatje Prize

The Discovery of France by Graham Robb won the £10,000 (US$19,838) Ondaatje Prize, which honors books that "evoke the spirit of a place." According to the Guardian, Robb, a literary and cultural historian, "cycled through 14,000 miles of French countryside as part of the research for his latest book."

"I'm thrilled by the award because it refers to an aspect of the book that has more to do with the writing than with brute research," said Robb. "It's also an honour for a non-fiction writer to be on a shortlist with poets and novelists."

The shortlist included Darkmans by Nicola Barker, The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia by Orlando Figes, On Brick Lane by Rachel Lichtenstein, Paradise with Serpents by Robert Carver and Sea Holly by Robert Minhinnick .


Book Review

Children's Review: Savvy

Savvy by Ingrid Law (Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99 Hardcover, 9780803733060, May 2008)

This first novel is pure fun--yet not without its bittersweet moments. Mibs (short for "Mississippi") Beaumont opens her first-person narrative two days before her 13th birthday with an anecdote about the chaos that ensued on her brother Fish's 13th birthday the year before. The Beaumont children all inherited a "savvy" from their mother--a savvy that manifests itself when they turn 13. Fish's savvy activates around water; on his milestone birthday, he unwittingly unleashed a hurricane. Older brother Rocket's talent is tied to electricity. What would it be for Mibs?

This burning question takes a back seat after Mibs learns that her father has been in an accident and is lying in a coma, and her mother goes off to be with him at a hospital in Salina, Kan. To make matters worse, Preacher Meeks's wife decides that what the Beaumonts strive to keep a most private affair will be open practically to the public: The woman invites Mibs's entire class to a birthday party at the church! There, a rash of mishaps leads to a long series of adventures. Mibs spies a pink Bible delivery truck for a company based in Salina and hops aboard, followed closely by brother Fish, seven-year-old brother Samson, plus 16-year-old Bobbi Meeks and 13-year-old Will Meeks. The trouble is, the truck has a few stops to make before Salina--and they encounter a few personalities and complications along the way. The book deals with cliques but isn't mean (the popular girls call the heroine "Missy-pissy"); it addresses rites of passage without over-angst ("Suddenly, as I looked at those teenaged girls in their teenaged clothes, I felt younger than twelve-turning-thirteen and my special-occasion dress felt not-so-special"). In short, debut author Law aims her tale at tweens, with plenty of action, humor and an uplifting message. Certain indicators suggest that Mibs possesses a savvy that she believes can help to bring her father out of his coma. But when her hunch turns out to be false, she must find another way to get through to him. Although the author deals with supernatural powers, she keeps the emotions and main events real. She demonstrates to readers that there are no quick fixes; the solutions come from perseverance and the most instinctive and heartfelt impulses.--Jennifer M. Brown


Deeper Understanding

The Ambassador Passes His Three-Month Probationary Period

Jon Scieszka became the first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature in January 2008 (Shelf Awareness, January 3, 2008). Because Children's Book Week is fast approaching (May 12-17), Shelf Awareness felt a responsibility to make sure our nation's ambassador for young people was fit for the job.
What do you think are your strengths, and what would you like to improve about your job performance?

Well, my strengths are obviously my snappy dressing. I'm very strong on Ambassador gear and privileges. But what should I improve? That's kind of like asking George Bush what he should improve, and he says, "Next question?"
Maybe I could read faster. That would be good. Maybe I could bring on the ghost of Evelyn Wood. What was Nixon's secretary's name? Rosemary? She could be my Rosemary: "Scan this picture book." Maybe I could get better at page-turning, too. I'm sure there are exercises for that.
Can you weigh the pros and cons of the title "Laureate" versus "Ambassador?"

That's a hot-button issue. That was decided at the highest level, at the Library of Congress.
I was a fan of "Laureate" because it's easier to remember. No one can remember "National Ambassador for Young People's Literature." It doesn't even have a good acronym: naypul? I call myself "the Ambassador" because it works better. I've been claiming all Ambassador privileges, ranging from parking wherever I want to full diplomatic immunity. I'm still hoping for the attack helicopter with my seal on the side.
Last week, at Viking's 75th Anniversary party, you were hooting and whistling when Regina Hayes was being introduced at the microphone. Do you think that is appropriate behavior for an Ambassador?

I think that was someone else, actually, my Aide-de-Camp. You probably confused that noise coming from me. It was probably my Aide-de-Camp and my Sergeant at Arms, both of whom go with me wherever I go. One takes the fall; the other takes any bullets that come my way. That third person hooting and hollering was my pastor, from whom I've since distanced myself.
What is this business about "salaam?" Do you and David Shannon need to be separated?

The salaam is a wonderful historical discovery, made by Mr. Shannon. It's a great experience for kids who might not otherwise know how to say hello and goodbye to an Ambassador. Adults need it even more. They rarely greet me appropriately, especially if they're holding a cocktail. I'm not naming names.
Tell me the truth, does Martha Stewart have a sense of humor?

Maybe. I'm not sure, to tell you the truth. She laughed, but I don't know if someone just told her to. She is a bulldozer of an interviewer. But no one holds up and shows off a cover like Martha does. She seemed genuinely thrilled to be doing something educational, giving reading tips to her audience, and that may come from her parents being teachers.
She was adamant about correct spelling. I'm a fan of spellcheck myself. There are those words that never look right, like "silhouette." You're trying to spell it right now, aren't you? And you can't, it's not possible. There's an h in there and it's awfully close to the l. And maybe a couple of t's. Maybe.
Your name is pretty hard to spell, too.

I was Jon S. for quite a long time, like until about last year.
Now what's this I hear about you recommending only The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, The Stinky Cheese Man and Trucktown to children who want to read?

Is that wrong? I didn't get any rules. All right I'll expand it: the Time Warp Trio is good, too. Until they give me the helicopter, I'll stick with them.
No, it's been a riot recommending other people's stuff. It started with Guys Read. That's really what people want to know, parents and teachers. They understand the broad strokes and the theory about wanting kids to read, but they want to know a title. What do I give my kid who wants to read about horses? I also tell them it's fine to read Captain Underpants and Junie B. Jones. Or all the graphic novels that First Second is doing, or to send people to that website, and the books I loved as a kid, that are still out there. Flying Point Press is reissuing the old Landmark Books; they have stuff like [biographies on] General George Patton and Geronimo and Daniel Boone. And they're still great books.
It fits into my plan for getting people to expand their idea of what's good, in addition to better known titles like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Hugo Cabret. I've got some weird weight to say, "Comic books are fine" and "Audio books are fine." People think, "The guy's an Ambassador, he must know."
Do you understand the burden placed on your shoulders and do you feel prepared to lead the activities during Children's Book Week?

Yes, because those activities will start with a salaam and may include the hokey-pokey, and they're sure to end with a salaam. I've dusted off my tails, and I'll be kicking it off on Saturday [May 10] in Bryant Park and then Breakfast on Monday, awards on Tuesday, maybe the hokey-pokey on Wednesday, and then a Grand Central scavenger hunt on Saturday [May 17], with one of the big winners.
I might award myself a medal for each day. I've been lusting after some medals for my tails. Medals and bars. Because once I get to the National Book Festival in D.C., I want to wow them, and they come with a lot of medals. They have all-white outfits, and you can end up looking like Mr. Clean, so lots of epaulets and gold cords.
Well, Jon, I'd say you're on track for a 3% increase when we do your annual review in January 2009. Congratulations.

What's three times nothing? Maybe I'll just take it all in more swag. Can I get the little flags that go on my car? Or just a seal I could attach to anything, so even when I'm in a taxi I could slap it on the side? The Pope probably isn't using his Pope-mobile--where'd that go? Did he leave it in Yankee Stadium?

--Jennifer M. Brown


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