Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Simon Pulse: Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett

Workman Publishing: We Are Called to Be a Movement by William Barber

IDW Publishing: The Mueller Report: Graphic Novel by Shannon Wheeler and Steve Duin

Getty Publications: Finding Dora Maar: An Artist, an Address Book, a Life by Brigitte Benkemoun, translated by Jody Gladding

Random House: How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

Mira Books: The Lost Orphan by Stacey Halls

Custom House: Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

Poisoned Pen Press: Before She Was Helen by Caroline Cooney


Ann Arbor Squeeze: Borders Cuts 274 Corporate Jobs

The rumors were true: Borders Group is making major corporate staff cutbacks. Altogether the bookseller is cutting 274 jobs, 156 of them at headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., the rest at distribution centers, in the field marketing organization and in the corporate sales division. The cuts follow the firing of eight people in headquarters last month (Shelf Awareness, May 15, 2008).

The move is part of a previously announced plan to reduce annual expenses by $120 million. The cuts in Ann Arbor were spread "across virtually all departments," the company indicated. The Wall Street Journal said that merchandising buyers and planners were not affected.

Borders said that the firings represent about 20% of its corporate jobs but less than 1% of its total workforce, which consists of 30,000 people. The Journal pointed out that the cuts, which do not involve store employees, represent 1.9% of Borders's full-time work force of 14,100.


Berkley Books: Eliza Starts a Rumor by Jane L. Rosen

Notes: Store Stories; Poetic Justice for Frost Vandals

"The first thing I did (when considering opening a store), as a somewhat practical person, was to shut myself up. At first, I didn't even allow myself to see the practicalities of it," said Hap Houlihan, co-owner with Wyn Morris of A Time for Tomes, Lexington, Ky., in a Southsider magazine piece about their plans to open a new bookshop. (For more about the store, see our February 14 story.)


The Hard to Find Book Store, Humble, Tex., was easy enough to locate for the Tribune, which profiled owners Fran and John Morris.


Aptly describing the court diversion program as "poetic justice," the Associated Press (via CNN) reported that a group of young people who "broke into Robert Frost's former home for a beer party and trashed the place are being required to take classes in his poetry as part of their punishment."

Frost biographer and Middlebury College professor Jay Parini is teaching the vandals about roads taken and not taken. In discussing the classic poem that begins, "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood," Parini told his captive audience, "Believe me, if you're a teenager, you're always in the damned woods. Literally, you're in the woods--probably too much you're in the woods. And metaphorically you're in the woods, in your life. Look at you here, in court diversion! If that isn't 'in the woods,' what the hell is 'in the woods'? You're in the woods!"


In other poetry news, the Washington Post reported that a poet and Iraq war veteran posed a literary question to presidential hopeful John McCain at a recent town hall meeting: "Who is the poet laureate of the state of Arizona, or the U.S. poet laureate, which is a position appointed by the president?" Apparently, the correct answers eluded everyone involved in the exchange.


Alan Cheuse of NPR's All Things Considered recommended "Summer Books to Feed Your Literary Addiction."


Yesterday on All Things Considered, Barbara Theroux, owner of Fact and Fiction, Missoula, Mont., was interviewed about the primary election held yesterday in Montana. She described an unusual "level of energy and excitement and involvement. This is the first time in anybody's memory that our primary that's always last means something." She added that "the buzz of the town" was an appearance by Bill Clinton in Missoula over the weekend.


Third Man Books: Nine Bar Blues by Sheree Renée Thomas

Image of the Day: Epilogue's Chapter 2

Erica Fogue, owner of Epilogue Book Company, Steamboat Springs, Colo., was interviewed for the magazine Locals, part of the Steamboat Pilot & Today and wound up on the cover. The magazine included this about her and the five-year-old store: "Starting with a business plan for an old-timey, used bookstore, Epilogue has evolved to include mostly new inventory, a children's nook, a small coffee bar and a number of touring authors series."




Catapult: Magnetized: Conversations with a Serial Killer by Carlos Busqued, translated by Samuel Rutter

BEA in L.A.: More Notes from the Floor

Congratulations again to Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, Calif., which won Publishers Weekly's Bookseller of the Year Award. At the Celebration of Bookselling, owner Joel Sheldon was quite modest, saying, "I'm not the best bookseller." Thanking his staff, he did at least suggest that he might be "the best bookstore owner."

Vroman's president and CEO Alison Hill praised the staff: "120 of the most extraordinary individuals work so hard every single day to make Vroman's the best it can be and make the world a little better."


Saying that his "colleagues have been putting up with this ego for a month," PW Rep of the Year Roy Schonfeld of Abraham Associates told the crowd to "remember the cultural impact booksellers have in the community, an important theme in American society now and one we should pay a lot of attention to."


Both Elizabeth Bluemle and Josie Leavitt, owners of the Flying Pig Bookstore, Shelburne, Vt., winners in the children's store category of the Lucile Micheels Pannell Award, sponsored by the Women's National Book Association, accepted the award. Leavitt said that the pair were in the "business of creating thoughtful, imaginative readers. We ignite young minds."

Clark Kepler, owner of Kepler's Books & Magazines, Menlo Park, Calif., winner of the Pannell award in the general bookstore category, thanked his children's booksellers.


Best moment in a videotaped acceptance award at BEA: Speaking from his studio, Mo Willems, winner of the Book Sense Book of the Year in the children's illustrated category for Knuffle Bunny Too, thanked the crowd and then said that the best part of winning was that he beat Jon Scieszka--as Scieszka slowly rose up behind him.


Brian Selznick, who won the Book Sense Book of the Year Award in children's literature for The Invention of Hugo Cabret, said he thinks of himself "as a bookseller at heart," adding that "all I know about books can be traced back to Eeyore's," the late children's bookstore in New York City where he worked. On tour and at events like the Celebration of Bookselling, "I always feel I'm coming home," he continued.


Khaled Hosseini, who won the Book Sense Book of the Year in adult fiction for A Thousand Splendid Suns, remembered the bookstore he spent much time at while growing up in Afghanistan in the 1970s. "There was no more favorite place for me in Kabul," he said. The bookstore owner introduced Hosseini to a range of authors from around the world, which was important in his development as a writer. "You can't become a writer of books until you have a love affair with books," he explained.

Thanking the crowd of booksellers for "handselling the hell out of my books," he stated, "Many, many authors owe their success to you. Without your word of mouth, our careers would never have taken off."


Congratulations to Skylight Books, Los Angeles, Calif., which won a drawing for all the books at the Ten Speed Press booth; the publisher did not want to ship them back to Berkeley. After learning that Skylight Books  had won, co-owner and general manager Kerry Slattery grabbed helpers and begged for boxes. In the end, the store took home nearly 500 books.


Best description of librarians, by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! at the ABA Day of Education lunch: "They are a group of people you do not want to meet in a dark alley if you want to trample on free expression."

Goodman also called bookstores "oases of safe places where we all can talk."


Incidentally overall attendance at BEA was 28,494, which was up compared to the last BEA in Los Angeles, in 2003, when attendance was 27,143. By contrast, attendance last year in New York, traditionally the most popular site for BEA, was 36,112.

There were 5,539 book buyers at the show. Bookseller attendance was about level with last year, but librarian attendance dropped by almost 2,000, mainly because ALA will take place in Los Angeles later this month and because most of BEA's outreach to librarians has been on the East Coast. Total attendance of booksellers, librarians and other non-exhibitors, including the press, was 9,250.


The best tip of the show was made by BEA show director Lance Fensterman at the ABA Town Meeting, when he mentioned the shortcut between the south and west halls: the outdoor courtyard that has plenty of tables, food stands, including a great taco joint, and, of course, sun and fresh air. We hate to count how many times at L.A. shows we've grudgingly trudged the long, roundabout indoor passageway between the two halls.


Congratulations to the BEA and ABA staffs, who pitched in and served the Book Sense lunch on Saturday, when the wait staff walked out for two hours as part of a long-running contractual dispute with management. Perhaps future subsidiaries could include Reed Exhibitions & Catering or IndieFoodService.


It was great to run into Rich Freese, who has recovered from his fall and is working as a consultant, mainly on sales and distribution issues, and told us he is busy and enjoys his new gig. "I figure out solutions and present them and the company enacts them," he said. The president of Rich Freese and Associates, he was head of PGW when parent company AMS declared bankruptcy at the end of 2006. He may be reached at or 510-336-9501.--John Mutter


Rick Riordan Presents: Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe (a Sal and Gabi Novel, Book 2) by Carlos Hernandez

BEA in L.A.: 'Spaceman' Bezos on the Kindle, Himself, Travel CEO Jeff Bezos began his BEA appearance by reading an excerpt from Scott McClellan's What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception and then using the former White House press secretary's tell-all to extol the virtues of the Kindle. What Happened is out of stock on Amazon, he said, but it can be downloaded instantly by those who own the wireless reading device--like the customer who has purchased 1,076 Kindle titles (not Bezos or his mother, it was pointed out).

Bezos argued that the Kindle has not cannibalized sales of physical books, saying that Kindle consumers bought just as many print editions of titles as they previously had--with a 2.6% increase in overall sales.

After highlighting the Kindle's "whopper of features," Bezos shared comments from consumers, one of whom called the Kindle "up there with Haagen-Dazs and sex." In a video clip featuring Neil Gaiman, the scribe said he has gone from "skeptic to absolute believer in the device," in part because his 12-year-old daughter was entertained on a flight with electronic versions of Meg Cabot's novels downloaded on the Kindle. Gaiman concluded by declaring the device "worth its weight in gold" (which, as Bezos noted earlier in his speech, is 10.3 ounces).

Currently 125,000 Kindle titles are available, up from 90,000 when the product was launched six months ago. Bezos said that his vision is to have "any book ever printed in any language--in print and out of print--all available in less than 60 seconds."

During a conversation with Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and Wired editor-in-chief, Bezos briefly touched on the controversy surrounding the decision to require that all POD titles directly sold on be produced at the company's on-demand printing facilities, saying that combining items in one package reduces expenditures. He added, "You have to be willing to be misunderstood if you're going to be a pioneer." That sentiment might well apply to one of Bezos' other ventures--"helping humanity into space" via a sub-orbital space vehicle.--Shannon McKenna Schmidt


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Voter File by David Pepper

Media and Movies

Media Heat: The View Digs into Omaha Steaks

Guests appearing on TitlePage's sixth and last episode of the season, which has the theme National Obsessions:

  • Carl Hiaasen, author of The Downhill Lie (Knopf)
  • Benjamin Nugent, author of The American Nerd (Scribner)
  • Dana Jennings, author of Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death and Country Music (Faber & Faber)
  • Ellen Hawley, author of Open Line (Coffee House Press).


This morning's Book Report, the weekly AM radio book-related show organized by Windows a bookshop, Monroe, La., features two interviews:

  • Steve Kluger, author of My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park (Dial Books, $16.99, 9780803732278/0803732279)
  • Catherine Gilbert Murdock, author of Princess Ben (Houghton Mifflin, $16, 9780618959716/0618959718)

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 Talk of the Nation: Scott McClellan, author of What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception (PublicAffairs, $27.95, 9781586485566/1586485563).


Tomorrow morning on NPR's Morning Edition: Ted Sorensen, author of Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History (Harper, $27.95, 9780060798710/0060798718).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Bill Eppridge, photographer for A Time It Was: Bobby Kennedy in the Sixties, essay by Pete Hamill (Abrams, $29.95, 9780810971226/0810971224).


Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Isabel Allende, author of The Sum of Our Days (Harper, $26.95, 9780061551833/006155183X). As the show put it: "Isabel Allende's second memoir is written to Paula, her daughter who died, telling the history of their family since her death. Allende tells stories naturally, and here we discuss storytelling as a form of memory, a way of preserving the present."


Tomorrow on Fresh Air: Pete Hamill, who wrote the essay for A Time It Was: Bobby Kennedy in the Sixties, photographs by Bill Eppridge (Abrams, $29.95, 9780810971226/0810971224).


Tomorrow on Diane Rehm Show: Marshall Goldman, author of Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia (Oxford University Press, $27.95, 9780195340730/0195340736).


Tomorrow the View will discuss Omaha Steaks the Great American Grilling Book: From the Best Burgers to Terrific T-Bone (Time Inc. Home Entertainment, $24.95, 9781603200202/1603200207).


Tomorrow night on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Gordon Ramsay, author of Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food (Key Porter Books, $35, 9781554700646/1554700647).


Red Wheel: The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have (20th Anniversary Edition) by Mark Nepo, foreword by Jamie Lee Curtis

Books & Authors

Book Reviews: Soldiers of Reason; Hollywood Babylon

Soldiers of Reason: The RAND Corporation and the Rise of the American Empire by Alex Abella (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 9780151010813/0151010811, May 2008)

Hollywood Babylon--It's Back!: An Overview of Exhibitionism, Sexuality, and Sin as Filtered through 85 Years of Hollywood Scandal by Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince (Blood Moon Productions, $24.95, 9780974811888/0974811882, June 2008)

The RAND Corporation, originally housed 60 years ago in a nondescript building near the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., has worked hard not to call attention to itself. Alex Abella, who persuaded RAND to give him unprecedented access to most of its archives, discreetly slides the curtain back to reveal the fascinating history of one of our first think tanks.

That access allowed Abella to provide vivid descriptions of many of RAND's seminal projects: development of the first comprehensive satellite feasibility assessment, design of the hydrogen bomb and refinement of a systems analysis process for evaluation of nuclear policy. You can also credit RAND for the 1960s catch-phrases failsafe, counterforce and thinking the unthinkable.

The military emphasis of RAND's research program is not surprising since its major early client was the U.S. Defense Department, but few researchers were military men. Only the most academically distinguished were recruited, and Abella's biographical profiles of key players like Albert Wohlstetter, Bernard Brodie and Herman Kahn illustrate how high the bar for admission was set. RAND celebrates its numerous Nobel-laureates and public policy pundits like Henry Kissinger and Thomas Schelling, but would prefer to forget fellow alumnus Daniel Ellsberg who brought RAND so much attention when he outed one of its studies, known afterwards as The Pentagon Papers. Impressively connecting RAND's work to major issues in American life today, Abella shows RAND's vast influence on all of us.

A few miles inland from RAND lies the home of the American movie industry, always eager for the spotlight if the close-up is flattering and good for business. Hollywood may get more than it bargained for with Hollywood Babylon's compendium of stories, rumors and myths. Virtually every page features one kind of train wreck or another, usually accompanied by spectacularly lurid photographs. Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince provide a hair-raising list of compromises and strategically granted sexual favors as proof that some stars will do anything for a part. Not even Grace Kelly and Lucille Ball escaped having to get down and dirty on the proverbial casting couch, according to Porter and Prince. Read these pages to learn what Robert Mitchum is said to have taught Marilyn Monroe on the set of The River of No Return that would prove useful during her rumored affair with J.F.K. Try as you might, you won't be able to stop turning the pages.

For me, the most shocking tale involved George Murphy (later a U.S. Senator): he allegedly advised Ronald Reagan, after his divorce from Jane Wyman, to shop around for a second wife suitable to be First Lady. Here we learn that while Doris Day and Nancy Davis were the two leading candidates, Reagan also had clandestine assignations with Marilyn Monroe.

In revealing so many facts previously under wraps, these two books, in fact, raise the question of how much more remains hidden. We may never find out. RAND's brand of secrecy with its claim of "national security" carries a legitimacy that keeps snoops at bay, and Hollywood insiders are souls of discretion in protecting careers; the distinctive code of silence observed in each of these successful organizations clearly is designed to serve respective images, brands and illusions smartly.

Considering that RAND and Hollywood seem worlds apart except geographically, it comes as a surprise when Kennedy and Reagan cross over between these two startlingly different books: they may each have delighted in the companionship of Monroe, but they definitely seem to have benefited from RAND's research projects. Abella claims that Kennedy won the 1960 Presidential election courtesy of a RAND strategy; he also reminds us that the theoretical basis of the Reagan Revolution originated at RAND. Could Marilyn Monroe be anything but proud of everyone involved?--John McFarland


Storey Publishing: The Illustrated Crystallary: Guidance and Rituals from 36 Magical Gems and Minerals (Wild Wisdom) by Maia Toll

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