Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, June 18, 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


Notes: Amazon Bookstore in Minneapolis to Stay Open

Amazon Bookstore Cooperative, Minneapolis, Minn., which had announced plans to close at the end of this month (Shelf Awareness, June 6, 2008), has a new owner and will stay in business, according to the Star Tribune.

Ruta Skujins, a St. Paul native "who had always dreamed of owning a bookstore," will become the first sole owner of the bookshop that was started 38 years ago as a workers' cooperative.

"That's how much I believe the store can be turned around and returned to its glory days," said Skujins, adding, "I hope the scare reminds people how important independent feminist bookstores are."


De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) by Nicolaus Copernicus "went for the out-of-this-world price of $2.2 million on Tuesday at a sale of about 300 books of scientific significance" at Christie's auction house, MSNBC reported.

Estimates that the books would fetch $6 million proved to be modest, as the total sales exceeded $11 million. Also included in the sale was a copy of the first phone book, issued in 1878, which went for $170,500. 


Is Midtown Manhattan a dry fishing hole for booklovers? The New York Times blog Paper Cuts claimed the area "was once a book-lover's paradise. Not anymore. In recent months, several leading library branches and bookstores have closed, leaving the heart of the island a veritable literary desert."

Finding the trend "disheartening," the Paper Cuts blogger wished "some generous-minded landlord would offer subsidized rent to a high-quality independent bookstore--if only to show that Midtown isn't just a playground for real estate speculators and European shoppers, but is still a place where ordinary people might want to read an actual book."


Hold the blockbuster novels and the BBQ! According to the Washington Post, beach reads used to mean fun fiction, but "now, perhaps as a reflection of our nation's growing girth, summer bestseller lists include diet books that promise to make you lighter--while presumably entertaining you--on the beach."


Far out.

Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate, among other titles, has been appointed chair of the usage panel for the American Heritage dictionaries, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The usage panel consists of more than 200 writers, scholars and others and comments on trends in English-language usage. Panel members include Sherman Alexie, Jonathan Franzen, Joan Didion, Liane Hansen, Tracy Kidder, Cynthia Ozick, Robert Pinsky and David Sedaris.

Geoffrey Nunberg, who has served as chair of the usage panel for more than 25 years, will continue his association with the program as chair emeritus.


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

Jim Crace, The Determined Author

On Wednesday, June 4, British author Jim Crace was scheduled to read at the Downer Avenue branch of Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, Milwaukee, Wis. In a piece in the current Schwartz newsletter, bookseller Bayard Godsave recounts why the event almost didn't take place and how one determined author went beyond the call of duty to get to his reading.

The dense mist that had settled on Milwaukee was like something out of one of Jim Crace's books, where lost worlds tend to materialize slowly from the pages with the poetic quiet of grey summer afternoons. The store had just gotten a call from Jim's publicist at Vintage Books: There was trouble with his plane, and he'd be taking a later flight. But not to worry, she promised us; he'd make it there on time.

Well, I thought, this is all very dramatic.  But the real drama was unfolding elsewhere.

Above our heads the British author sat in his seat, patiently waiting as once again the voice of the captain came over the 727's PA system. This time, there were no more assurances that they would be landing "just as soon as this fog lifts." This time he told them that he had bad news, that the plane could no longer circle the skies above Milwaukee, awaiting a break in the weather. They would have to turn around and return to Minneapolis. There was grumbling from the other passengers, but Jim, though disappointed, sat quietly. "I'm British," he would say later, "and we'll sit through anything politely."

Milwaukee was the last stop on what had been a three-week tour promoting the trade-paper release of his latest novel The Pesthouse, and his appearance at Schwartz was to be, in all likelihood, the last place he would read from that book. Ever. A pity it would be if he missed that.

As he thought about this, the captain's voice came over the PA once more. The plane was running low on fuel, and would have to land in Madison. "But," the captain said, "this is only a refueling stop. We're not letting anyone off the plane."

Once on the ground, there was a genuine revolt. Angry passengers--men and women who lived in Madison, and only wanted to be allowed home--got up from their seats and insisted they be let off the plane. The crew resisted for a while, but finally they had to relent, and Jim Crace slipped in with the stream of Americans making their exodus from the plane.

"But how am I to get to Milwaukee?" he would later say. "There was a bus, something called a Badger Bus? But it wouldn't get me into Milwaukee until seven-thirty, and that wouldn't do. So I decided to do as I would have done when I was a young man. I decided to hitch a ride."

He stood on the side of the road, just outside the airport, put out his thumb, and waited. And it wasn't long before a car stopped, one of his fellow passengers, stranded, like Jim, in Madison. He already had two sailors riding with him. "Where you going?" the man asked.

"Milwaukee," Jim said, in his British accent.

"Get in."

Jim's reading that night (which was on time and as scheduled) was amazing. As he spoke about the genesis of his latest novel, he spoke of the importance of letting the story take its own directions. "Narrative has been around for as long as human beings have, it's learned a few things," he said. "Narrative is wise." And I thought of all he'd been through to get here. It was as if the story he'd told, the story of his trip, had always been waiting to happen, and it was by trusting in that story, and letting unfold as it would, that Jim was able to get here safely, and on time.


Running Press: Thank You! Now on Instagram!

BEA in L.A.: 'Thought Leadership' in Children's Bookstores

At the BEA panel Give It Away to Get It Back: Using 'Thought Leadership' to Build Your Children's Business, Kristin McLean, executive director of the Association of Booksellers for Children, defined "thought leaders" as people "widely recognized for innovative ideas that they share broadly with their organization or community."

McLean contrasted "old marketing"--in magazines and on TV--and "new marketing"--seeking "opportunities in the community to get consumers to know who you are and seek you out." Once upon a time, "if you had books, you'd find customers." Now one must be a "niche market[er]," hosting local authors and artists, reaching out to local organizations, she said. Examples include partnerships with local schools, writing a review column for the local paper, establishing an information center in the store, as well as raising awareness of "buy local" programs.

McLean urged audience members to make "programming an essential component rather than an add-on" and to "strategically go after these relationships," which will result in increased sales at the schools, increased traffic in the store and an increase in viral marketing. McLean suggested that this is "not about advertising" but rather about establishing the idea that "I'm an expert, and I care about you and your kids" and ultimately establishing trust--"a trust built on your reputation." Bookstores must emphasize benefits rather than features, she added.

Valerie Lewis of Hicklebee's Bookstore gave examples of the relationships she has forged between Hicklebee's and the San Jose, Calif., community since she opened the store with her sister, Monica Holmes, in 1979. For one, after September 11, Hicklebee's sent out an extensive list of books "about grief, firemen and the countries involved."

Another example: When Lewis heard about the opening of a new library in the area, she said, "I got myself on the library board" and had a storyteller event at Hicklebee's for a "donation party" with proceeds going to the library. Lewis admitted that she was not, however, a quiet partner with the new library--or with any other organizations: "Every book that goes out has a sticker for Hicklebee's--and sometimes a map on how to get there," she added with a laugh. Anyone who wanted to help support the new library could say so at checkout, and Hicklebee's donated 5% of the proceeds.

She also encourages customers to "adopt a school" and gives 5% of proceeds to the school specified. In a partnership with the local youth theater, Hicklebee's promotes the productions in the store newsletter, and the theater sends people back to Hicklebee's; the store has also partnered with the Santa Clara County Reading Association.

If you want to get to know future teachers, "invite college instructors to come to your store and host a class," Lewis advised. After the teachers' book orders arrive, she invites them into the store to get training. This gives teachers the ammunition they need to argue to their administrators that the discount may not be as deep, but Hicklebee's is selecting the books, lending its expertise and training teachers.

Sue Corbett, author, parent and journalist/reviewer for the Miami Herald, People magazine and others, who receives "thousands of books a year," said that after she began donating books to schools, she received invitations to do book talks. She calls her book talk "Fresh Produce" and keeps it cutting-edge by adding cover images of new books she likes to her PowerPoint presentation.

For her book talks, she has three categories--picture books, 'tweens and teens--and often gives teachers personal anecdotes. Her second-grader, Bridget, is a social butterfly, so Corbett made reading a "social activity." Together they started a mother-daughter book club. "I must have reproduced our booklist 30 times," says Corbett. "People want this but don't know how to go about choosing 10-12 age-appropriate books."

For her fifth-grader, Liam, graphic novels were "the gateway drug" to reading, according to Corbett. "He even read Baby Mouse and that's a pink book!" she cried. "We lose a lot of boys between second and fourth grade. Liam looks at his parents, and his mom is in a book club and his dad is not. His teacher and his librarian are women." The challenge is to keep boys engaged "beyond Captain Underpants," said Corbett. She also recommends books that she personally may not love but that her children did, citing Truancy, a first novel by then 15-year-old Isamu Fukui about a totalitarian mayor who heaps ever-stricter rules on his city's students, as an example. "My 13-year-old loved this, but the author, in different circumstances, might be turned over to the FBI," she said with a wink.

Corbett stays plugged into what kids are reading as coach of the Battle of the Books team and suggests that bookstores get copies of their state reading lists and become acquainted with the Accelerated Reader program, a Renaissance Learning program that she says roughly 70% of the schools use.

Emily D'Amour Pardo, events coordinator for the main Books & Books store, Coral Gables, Fla., said that it's a store joke that they want to have "a Ferris wheel at every event." Like Lewis, Pardo looks to people in the community to help. "Everyone who walks in has his or her networks," Pardo said. "I like to tap into the kids." She has what she calls a "posse" of 30 'tweens and teens: "They get their friends to come. We publicize their recommendations in our newsletter, and they blog about us."

Pardo said teens want music, food and a place to hang out. So, for an event to launch the YA novel Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, Pardo invited local bands to come (they agreed to play free for the publicity), and the folks at Books & Books carded everyone to make sure they were "18 and under," then partnered with a local pizzeria to serve free pizza. "Twenty-three pizzas were gone in ten minutes," she said. She has hosted "curated selections" from students' artwork as well as poetry and play readings at the store. "All parents come to see their kids perform. We sell books and donate some of the proceeds to the schools." Given the store's Miami location, Pardo has also made the most of El día de los niños (April 30) by inviting a dual-language school to the store to perform the most famous poem by the late Cuban poet José Martí, "Los Zapaticos de Rosa." This group was then invited back for a workshop for parents featuring Raising a Bilingual Child by Barbara Zurer Pearson.

Pardo, like Corbett, acts as a judge for the Battle of the Books. She pointed out, "The 'engaged and connected' second-grade teacher gets you to the 'engaged and connected' fifth-grade teacher," and she adds each of those "engaged and connected" teachers to her electronic Rolodex, with separate mailing lists for teachers, for principals, for librarians, for parents and for teens.--Jennifer M. Brown


BINC: Double Your Donation with PRH

Media and Movies

Movies: Brick Lane

The debut novel by Monica Ali that was shortlisted for the 2003 Man Booker Prize, Brick Lane tells the story of a poor Bangladeshi woman who moves to London as part of an arranged marriage. The movie, directed by Sarah Gavron, will have a limited opening this Friday, June 20. The tie-in edition is out from Scribner ($15, 9781416584070/1416584072).


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

Media Heat: What to Do?

This morning on the Today Show: Dr. Dawn Huebner, author of the What-to-Do Guides for Kids series whose most recent book is What to Do When You Dread Your Bed: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Problems With Sleep (Magination Press, $15.95, 9781433803185/1433803186).


Tomorrow on Talk of the Nation: Richard Florida, author of Who's Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life (Basic Books, $26.95, 9780465003525/0465003524).


Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: David Guterson, author of The Other (Knopf, $24.95, 9780307263155/0307263150).


Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Zachary Lazar, author of Sway (Little, Brown, $23.99, 9780316113090/0316113093). As the show put it: "Zachary Lazar's novel is about the Rolling Stones, Charles Manson, Kenneth Anger and the dark side of the Sixties. In this conversation, we try to gauge how much 'sympathy for the devil' the era generated--from sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll to satanic ritual murders."


Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: N. T. Wright, author of Surprised by Hope (HarperOne, $24.95, 9780061551826/0061551821).



Book Review

Book Review: Beyond Sleep

Beyond Sleep by Willem Frederik Hermans (Overlook Press, $27.95 Hardcover, 9781585675838, May 2007)

Those Dutch! Is there a more unlikely subject for comedy than geology? Rocks and mosquitoes just aren't funny--at least they weren't until now, as Alfred Issendorf, brave young Dutch geology grad student, sets off with three Norwegian geologists into the eternal sun of the Finnmark to prove his professor's theory that the dead-ice holes there are really meteor impact craters.

Alfred's father was also a scientist, a botanist who fell to his death on an expedition when Alfred was seven, and now his son longs to make up for his father's broken career. To do that, Alfred is trying to keep up with three experienced Norwegians, being eaten alive by clouds of mosquitoes, leaping from rock to rock across rivers, slowly going sleepless between nights of blazing sunshine and his tentmate's snoring. It isn't long until our poor narrator thinks he's listening to conversations between mosquitoes.

Enduring wet socks and a wet sleeping bag, trudging through days of rain, stunned by shocking academic betrayals, repeatedly misunderstanding his traveling mates, Alfred has an appointment with self-knowledge out beyond where Laplanders go, and author Hermans seems to know exactly the route to get him there.

Beyond Sleep is a dry Northern comedy structured on the simple framework of four men on a geology expedition, yet it manages to have a witty deadpan narrative style, a surprisingly clever plot and an atmosphere that conjures up all your worst fears of going on a hike with people who are much better hikers.

Originally written in 1966, later revised, and only last year translated into English, Beyond Sleep is an unusual Kafkaesque comedy that teeters on the edge of tragedy, a young man's education in life's harsher realities that isn't all that funny, except that you can't stop smiling as you read and occasionally you burst out laughing.

The plot is utterly organic and lifelike. You never know where it's going, but each turn and twist feels right. The reader is as much in the dark as the narrator, because being in the dark is the author's vision of how we live our lives. His brave geology student, who would rather be a flautist, is a hero in the dark, trying in vain to get help from the blind director of aerial photography, trying to survive in a land without night where the greatest gift is sleep.--Nick DiMartino


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