Shelf Awareness for Thursday, June 12, 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


Notes: Ackerman's Amazon Dream; Loonie Craziness

William Ackerman, whose hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management is the single-largest shareholder in Borders Group, owning about 30% of the company, suggested yesterday that should buy Borders, according to the Associated Press.

"Amazon could buy the company for about $400 million to get those locations that would take more than $1 billion to build," he said. "You have to think of it like how Apple has retail stores across the country." He added that Amazon is likely to lose the advantage it had of not collecting sales taxes in many states--making retail locations more attractive.

Borders put itself up for sale earlier this year. Ackerman said he had no knowledge of whether or not Amazon had approached Borders.


Although the U.S. and Canadian dollars have had about the same value for a year, Canadian consumers are still paying up to 18% more than Americans for the same products, a Bank of Montreal study, as reported by the Hamilton Spectator, found. Consumer groups have blamed retailers.

Books were again cited as an example of an "overpriced" product. In response, Indigo Books & Music issued a statement yesterday saying that it has "aggressively challenged our publishing partners to reduce prices to reflect the strong Canadian dollar. Over 50,000 books have gone through a price reduction of up to 30 per cent. . . . We're continuing to work with Canadian publishers on a long-term solution that delivers the best possible price to our customers without undermining the viability of the Canadian publishing business, which is critical in supporting Canadian authors and content."


J.K. Rowling's "storycard" prequel to the Harry Potter series, which sold for £25,000 (US$48,910) at a charity auction this week, is now available for viewing online at Waterstone's website, along with contributions by 12 other authors.  

Hira Digpal, president of Tokyo investment-banking consulting company Red-33, was the high bidder for Rowling's story. Bloomberg News reported that "Digpal, who originally had a closed bid of 50,000 pounds before halving his offer, said he faxed a letter to Rowling's publisher asking for the author's cooperation to use the story in a way that would raise more money for charity. He declined to give details of the proposal."

The Guardian reported that a total of £47,150 (US$92,120) was raised from the 13 storycards. Margaret Atwood, appearing at the ceremony through a video link with Paris, handwrote her storycard "live" using her LongPen device. The card ultimately sold for £1,600.

Nick Hornby's funny contribution, "Notes on a graphic novel called Nightburner"--which imagines Queen Elizabeth as a superhero--went for £1,400. Hornby ponders an age-old dilemma: "Was life all about sex? Or memory? Sex? No. Memory? Maybe. There was so much missing. The middle you might call it."


The Salt Lake Tribune featured "great Father's Day books for dads who like to cook."


Tonight at 6:30, the next program in the New York Center for Independent Publishing's Emerging Voices Series focuses on Europa Editions. The panel includes Kent Carroll, former editor-in-chief at Grove Press and founder and publisher of Carroll & Graf; Michele Zackheim, author of Violette's Embrace and Einstein's Daughter, who will read from her newest novel, Broken Colors (Europa Editions); and Ann Goldstein, an editor at the New Yorker and winner of the PEN Renato Poggioli Translation Award who has translated several novels by Elena Ferrante, including The Days of Abandonment (Europa Editions), which spent almost a year on Italian bestseller lists.

The Center is located at 20 W. 44th Street in New York City. For more information and to reserve space, go to or call 212-764-7021.


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

Cool Idea of the Day: Bookstore/Wedding Chapel

Noting that several county clerks in the area have stopped performing marriages--apparently for financial reasons rather than because of the California Supreme Court's ruling last month that legalized gay marriage--Heather Lyon, owner, manager and buyer of Lyon Books and Learning Center, Chico, Calif., said in her store's newsletter that she, a recently "ordained minister of the Universal Life Church and, for good measure, the Church of Spiritual Humanism," will happily perform non-religious marriages in the store.

"While for some, a church is the best choice of a wedding site; I hope others will appreciate that special book store ambience," she wrote. "For me, being surrounded by the wisdom of the ages, new ideas, and the smell of books fills me with optimism and hope for the future. And a wedding is an act of optimism, a leap of faith, a commitment to a partner and the future."

Lyon wrote that the newsletter evoked more responses than any other newsletter she's written. There were 17 messages in the first few hours, "all positive, no negative."

She asked if Shelf Awareness thought other booksellers might want to learn about her offer and "share the faith." The answer: "I do."


Soho Press: The Seep by Chana Porter

AAP Book Sales: A Downturn for March

Book sales in March declined 11% to $462.1 million, based on data from 79 publishers as reported to the Association of American Publishers. Sales for the year to date rose 1.3% to $1.71 billion.

Stronger categories:
  • E-books rose 58.9% (with sales of $4.4 million).
  • Children's/YA paperbacks were up 9.1% ($51.3 million).
  • Adult paperbacks sales rose 6.2% ($138.5 million).
  • El-Hi basal and supplemental K-12 gained 3.9% ($153.3 million).
  • Children's/YA hardcovers increased 2.4% ($48.1 million).
Weaker categories:
  • Audiobooks fell 44% ($11 million).
  • Adult hardcovers were down 25.9% ($103.1 million).
  • Religious books decreased 25.5% ($47.6 million).
  • University press paperbacks dropped 14% ($3.7 million).
  • Adult mass market declined 10.9% ($67.4 million).
  • University press hardcovers fell 5.7% ($5.9 million).
  • Professional and Scholarly books were down 4.6% ($46.8 million).

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

BEA at L.A.: Evolution of In-Store Events

"You will be enveloped by [technology] if you don't embrace it," said Book Passage's Karen West during the BEA panel "Evolution of In-Store Events: From in-Store to Online." She likened the Corte Madera, Calif., store's transition to using web resources to the struggle that typically ensues when a cat is placed in a carrier. The store has come a long way, though, West told the audience, and is revamping its website.

West was joined by fellow booksellers Dave Weich of Powell's Books in Portland. Ore., Tyson Cornell of Book Soup in Los Angeles, Calif., and Charles Stillwagon of the Tattered Cover in Denver, Colo., who discussed how their stores are using online initiatives to enhance in-store events and other areas of business. Among these are resources like blogs (Book Passage has authors contribute leading up to their store appearances), as well as outreach on general sites such as and and book- and author-focused ones like and

Stillwagon and Weich both noted that the biggest challenge is not getting visitors to their stores' websites to view content but garnering sales from them. offers more than 100 podcasts of author events held at the store. has different guest bloggers Monday through Friday, and sales on typically go up for featured authors. The goal is to move beyond simply being "another source of book information," said Weich.

Author appearances, book clubs and other events--a key component of each of these retailers' bottom line--are prominently promoted on the stores' websites. "What we're doing virtually is hoping to drive sales and draw people into the store," said Stillwagon.

"Bookstores are about community, and the current social climate is making more events possible," West added. After experiencing a "lack of intimacy in the 1980s and '90s, people are now looking to connect," she said. "Offer them a reason to come."

One way that Powell's is attracting customers is through its Out of the Book film series, which to date has featured two productions--Ian McEwan: On Chesil Beach and David Halberstam: The Coldest Winter Ever. The third documentary-style film, scheduled for the fall, will be centered on the Ecco title State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America (September), a collection of essays about each state written by well-known authors and artists like Sarah Vowell (Montana) and Jonathan Franzen (New York).

"The idea is to create an engaging film independent of the book but hope it leads to sales," said Weich. State by State is intended to be "a catalyst for conversation and to get people talking about America in a more meaningful way than blue and red states" before the presidential election.

As it did with the previous two movies, Powell's will make the film available to any booksellers who would like it, free of charge, along with event planning tips. The goal is to have 100 bookstores host screenings, said Weich, up from 60 for David Halberstam: The Coldest Winter Ever and 54 for Ian McEwan: On Chesil Beach.

Authorless events are another way to draw customers into the store, noted Cornell, who also made the point that booksellers might be "underselling" themselves. Along with being "a great aspect of our culture," he said, bookstore events are a more economic alternative than many other forms of recreation. And above all? "Don't underestimate the power of pure entertainment."--Shannon McKenna Schmidt


Obituary Note: Eliot Asinof

Eliot Asinof, best known as the author of Eight Men Out, about the 1919 Chicago "Black Sox" cheating scandal, died on Tuesday. He was 88. He also wrote four other novels, eight works of nonfiction, many TV and film screenplays and appeared in two John Sayles films, Eight Men Out and Sunshine State. Yesterday's New York Times had a long obituary.

Asinof's last novel, Final Judgment, is the lead fall title for Bunim & Bannigan, distributed by IPS, and its climactic scene takes place at the 2006 BookExpo America in Washington, D.C. There protagonist Kenneth Flear, author and creative writing professor, appears at the Saturday Book & Author breakfast being televised live by Good Morning America and tells the truth about Ann Miner, the subject of his book, A Condor's Quill. (The book is published by Bertelsbrinck!) Encouraged by an old book by Flear on nonviolent resistance, Miner, the granddaughter of a Senator Edward Kennedy figure, had tried to organize a protest against President Bush and his commencement speech at the college she was graduating from and where Flear taught. But no one, not even Flear, joined her, and she wound up setting herself on fire and diving from the college library during the graduation ceremony as a way to protest Bush and many of his policies.

The publisher writes about the ending of this simultaneously satirical and serious book: "The reader is invited, as are all Americans, to make their final judgment on the question: was Anne Miner and what she did insane, or is it we, all of us, who are insane, sleepwalking past the most heinous assaults on our constitution and our way of life, doing nothing, as if nothing were wrong?"


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Rena Fruchter, Not Chevy Chase

Now on Writer's Roundtable, hosted by Antoinette Kuritz: an interview with Margaret Weis, whose latest book is Amber and Blood (Wizards of the Coast, $25.95, 9780786950010/0786950013), the third in the Dragonlance: The Dark Disciple series. The program is available on and


Tomorrow on the View: Rena Fruchter, author of I'm Chevy Chase . . . and You're Not (Virgin Books, $12.95, 9780753513231/0753513234).


Tomorrow on Live with Regis & Kelly: Trisha Yearwood, author of Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen: Recipes from My Family to Yours (Clarkson Potter, $29.95, 9780307381378/0307381374).


Tomorrow on NPR's Science Friday: Kenneth R. Miller, author of Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul (Viking, $25.95, 9780670018833/067001883X).


This Weekend on Book TV: A Life at the Edge of History

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, June 14

12 p.m. At an event hosted by Tattered Cover bookstore, Denver, Colo., Laton McCartney, author of The Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country (Random House, $27, 9781400063161/1400063167), explores the legendary scandal. (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m. and Saturday, June 21, at 8 a.m.)
6 p.m. Encore Book Notes. For a segment first aired in 1997, Pavel Palazchenko, author of My Years with Gorbachev and Shevardnadze: The Memoir of a Soviet Interpreter (Pennsylvania State University Press, $54.95, 9780271016030/0271016035), discussed his experiences from 1985-1991, when he participated in talks leading to the end of the Cold War.

10 p.m. After Words. Robert Schlesinger interviews Ted Sorensen, author of Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History (Harper, $27.95, 9780060798710/0060798718), who recalls his work as speechwriter and special counsel to President John F. Kennedy. (Re-airs Sunday at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m., and Sunday, June 22, at 12 p.m.)
Sunday, June 15

7:15 a.m. Photographer Kenneth Garrett and historian David McCullough discuss the 175 miles of land from Gettysburg to Monticello that is featured in Journey Through Hallowed Ground: Birthplace of the American Ideal by Andrew Cockburn, with photographs by Garrett (National Geographic, $35, 9781426203039/1426203039). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

9 a.m. Marine Captain Eric Navarro, author of God Willing: My Wild Ride with the New Iraqi Army (Potomac Books, $27.50, 9781597971690/1597971693), details his experiences training members of the Iraqi Army and the challenges facing the army today. (Re-airs Sunday at 7 p.m. and Monday at 4 a.m.)

11 a.m. Peter Schweizer, author of Makers and Takers: Why Conservatives Work Harder, Feel Happier, Have Closer Families, Take Fewer Drugs, Give More Generously, Value Honesty More, Are Less Materialistic and Envious, Whine Less . . . And Even Hug Their Children More Than Liberals (Doubleday, $24.95, 9780385513500/038551350X), expatiates.


Book Review

Children's Review: The Cabinet of Wonders

The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski (Farrar Straus Giroux, $16.95 Hardcover, 9780374310264, August 2008)

What would you do if the Prince of Bohemia plucked out your father's eyes? Would you try to retrieve them? That is what 12-year-old Petra Kronos decides to do in this riveting tale of intrigue. The prince, after commissioning Mikal Kronos to create an astonishing astronomical clock in the center of Prague, takes out the craftsman's eyes, so that he can never create anything like it again. And that's just the first chapter. Debut author Rutkoski makes the fortress-like city of Prague itself into an imposing character, as Petra plots to penetrate the city and then the castle itself, to steal back her father's eyes from the prince. She starts her journey with Astrophil, the erudite, talking metal spider her father created, as her sole companion, and her only protection is her friend Tomik's ingenious glass balls (containing lightning, wasps, and water--"The idea is that when you break the glass, whatever is inside the ball will multiply a hundred times"). But while on her quest, she discovers that she has some talents of her own and attracts some unusual accomplices. A Roma named Neel at first tries to steal from Petra and winds up being indispensable to her. The prince's dyemaker, Iris (to whom Petra is apprenticed)--who is literally so acidic that she must surround herself with adamantine ("the strongest metal on earth") lest she melt a doorknob or chair--strives to create a new primary color in time to dress the prince in it for his 19th birthday and takes a shine to Petra. But what of Master John Dee, the ambassador from England who seems to have some strange hold over Petra? Or Jarek, who can talk to the animals? Are they friends or foes? While wearing her father's eyes, Prince Rudolfo finds Petra in a giant crowd of spectators: "Whenever he wore them, his judgment of what was fine and beautiful was as accurate as a perfectly shot arrow." Does beauty lie in the eyes of the beholder? Or must one possess a soul to see rightly? Rutkoski poses searching questions about perception and judgment, and plants plenty of seeds for future installments, but this first novel of adventure, loyalty and familial love (not to mention magic) wraps up quite satisfyingly.--Jennifer M. Brown


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