Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 20, 2008


Forge: Empire of Lies by Raymond Khoury

imon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Becoming Rbg: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Journey to Justice by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Whitney Gardner

St. Martin's Press: Cilka's Journey: A Novel by Heather Morris

Park Row: The Ventriloquists (Original) by E.R. Ramzipoor

Henry Holt & Company: Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of "the Children's Ship" by Deborah Heiligman

Other Press: Metropolitan Stories by Christine Coulson

Rick Riordan Presents: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1) by Kwame Mbalia

News

Notes: Tasha Tudor Dies; Indie Bookstores Succeed

Legendary author and illustrator Tasha Tudor died June 18 at her Vermont home. She was 92. A family statement on her website said, "We thank you for supporting Tasha Tudor's lifestyle and artwork during her long career. We hope that Tasha's message of 'taking joy' in all that one does will be remembered as we pass through this difficult time together."

The Brattleboro Reformer reported that after her first story, Pumpkin Moonshine, was published in 1938, "she illustrated nearly 100 books, the most recent being The Corgiville Christmas, in 2003. She had received many awards and honors, including Caldecott Honors for Mother Goose and 1 is One. Many of her books are printed in foreign languages and distributed around the world." In today's New York Times, her obituary quotes a Times piece from 1941 that said her pictures "have the same fragile beauty of early spring evenings."

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Contending that "there are throngs of traditional mom and pop shops making a fine living in the real world (as opposed to the virtual one)," Forbes magazine interviewed a few bricks-and-mortar retailers who exhibit the "courage, creativity and attention to detail" necessary to succeed.

Sarah Galvin, owner of the Bookstore Plus, Lake Placid, N.Y., "just celebrated 35 years in business and is still going strong." Asked how she survives against online and chain competitors, Galvin cited customer education, customer service and focusing extra hard on choosing the right inventory. "With only 2,400 square feet of floor space we have to make sure that every book that we stock deserves the space it takes up," she said. "Our staff regularly reviews every single book in the store."

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Andi Allen, owner of Piece of Mind Books, Edwardsville, Ill., was profiled in the Collinsville Herald as an example of an independent bookseller battling "to keep afloat" in an increasingly competitive market.

"One of the things that we've recently added is a recycled books section," Allen said. "I was strictly new books until October. When the chain [bookstore] came in, I thought, 'Well what can we do that they won't do?' And I thought that's something that they won't do."

Allen praised her knowledgeable staff as a key to success: "What makes us strong is that we're very personalized," Allen said. "When you come in, you're talking to people that read books. The books that are on the shelf are books that I've selected. They're not just something that a computer has decided we should have."

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Bookselling this Week reported on several booksellers "who are reaching out to other local independent businesses in their communities" by using the materials available in the IndieBound Literary Liberation Box.

"I hadn't expect it to be accepted by non-bookstores so easily," said Morley Horder of Eagle Harbor Book Company, Bainbridge Island, Wash., adding, "One thing I really want to do is get all the other trade associations, hardware associations for example, in on this so indies across the country are united by IndieBound. I think it's big enough and well thought out enough to make that happen."

Sarah Loftus of the Bookworm's Attic, Huntington, W. Va., said the IndieBound program "seems targeted toward a younger, hipper market, which fits with what I'm trying to do. It suggests that if you're looking for something more interesting, come to an indie store. And that's how I'm differentiating between the chains and us."

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The University of Michigan Press will cease distributing independent publisher Pluto Press as of December 31. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the decision was prompted in part by controversy last year regarding one of Pluto's books, Overcoming Zionism by Joel Kovel, which "led the university to take the unusual step of drafting guidelines to govern its press's distribution and marketing agreements." Inside Higher Ed also offered perspective on the announcement.

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Today's Wall Street Journal tracks the birth and nurturing of what just might be the next big fiction bestseller. 

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If the "thought of a dog-eared, mucus-smeared paperback is too much to bear," you may agree with the Guardian's fastidious book blogger Chas Newkey-Burden, who confessed to being "digestively squeamish about used books."

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Owners and staff of independent bookstores in the five boroughs of New York City are invited to attend a second meeting about the formation of a citywide booksellers alliance. The agenda will focus on finalizing a name and forming committees to work on tasks that have been identified as priorities. The group encourages bookstores to send a representative to the meeting, which will take place next Thursday, June 26, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at Random House (1745 Broadway, 14th Floor, Dr. Seuss Room). To be admitted to the building, anyone planning to attend must R.S.V.P. to shoplocal@bookculture.com.

Some 30 booksellers representing 20 independent bookstores in New York participated in the last meeting, which took place in May. The group estimates that there are more than 70 independently owned bookshops in the city.

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In celebration of the 100th anniversary of L.M. Montgomery's classic Anne of Green Gables, the Association of American University Presses's Books for Understanding program offers a brief list of scholarly editions of the novel, biographies and papers, and critical appreciations of the role Montgomery's characters and places have played in literature, Canadian culture and world-wide popular memory.

 


Amulet Books: Minor Prophets by Jimmy Cajoleas


Cool Idea of the Day: Saturn's Otherworldly Movie Ad

Every year Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, Mich., does "crazy stuff" to promote a few new titles. "Once we had a bachelor auction for a book about personal ads," owner Jill Miner told Shelf Awareness. "Another time we had a cake walk for a cake book. Every year the pressure is on to outdo ourselves."

This year Saturn has come up with an event and a way of spreading the word about it that may outdo previous years' efforts. To promote an appearance by Marisa de los Santos on June 26 for her new novel, Belong to Me (Morrow), which has "an old movie theme," as Miner put it, Saturn is running an ad in four area movie theaters that began early last week and will continue until the event. The ad highlights the event and mentions that the first 50 people who get an event ticket will receive a free movie pass, too. At the event, one person will win a movie premiere party for 25 of their friends in Gaylord Cinema West, the town's movie theater.

At the four theaters, the trailer is running on a total of about 20 screens before every movie during the three-week period. Miner wrote the script and was helped with links by HarperCollins. The people who handle the theaters' ads created the final product. See it here: bigscreenadv.com/customers (user name is marisa, password is santos).

Although the store, like other local retailers and services, regularly runs generic ads at the movies, "It's the first time we've done anything like this," Miner said. "The response has been phenomenal. It took only three days to give away the first 50 event tickets." Beyond that, she said, "even if it doesn't drive people to the event, it creates awareness," especially in the three theaters that are outside Gaylord. "A lot of people have said they've seen the ad."

Miner emphasized that the event flowed from the staff's love of the book, as have other events in past years. "It's one of the reasons we can't plan far ahead," she said. "We're always driven by what the book is about."--John Mutter

 


One ELM Books: Trevor Lee and the Big Uh Oh! by Wiley Blevins, illustrated by Marta Kissi


Books & Authors

Awards: Boston Globe-Horn Book

The 2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards honor, as the sponsors put it, "tales of restless spirits--a fledgling artist behind the Iron Curtain, a teen on a Spokane Indian reservation, a little girl on a big-city night, and a stranger in the strangest land."

Established in 1967, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards are customarily given in three categories: fiction and poetry, picture book and nonfiction. This year the judges also awarded a special citation.
 
The 2008 winners:

  • Nonfiction: The Wall by Peter Sís (FSG/Foster)
  • Fiction and Poetry: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney (Little, Brown)
  • Picture Book: At Night by Jonathan Bean (FSG)
  • Special Citation: The Arrival by Shaun Tan (Scholastic/Levine)

 The judges selected two honor books in each category:

  • Nonfiction: Frogs by Nic Bishop (Scholastic) and What to Do About Alice? by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham (Scholastic)
  • Fiction and Poetry: Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell (S&S/Atheneum) and Savvy by Ingrid Law (Walden/Dial)
  • Picture Book: Fred Stays with Me! by Nancy Coffelt, illustrated by Tricia Tusa (Little, Brown) and A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee (Harcourt)

 


Ecco Press: Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha


Book Brahmins: Jennie Shortridge

Jennie Shortridge's third novel, Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe (NAL, May 6), is the poignant and often funny story of a middle-aged woman's journey from "perfect" to better. Her second book, Eating Heaven (NAL 2005), was recently released in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan and remains on many book club bestseller and "favorites" lists. Shortridge lives with her husband in Seattle, where she is currently putting the finishing touches on her fourth novel. We interrupted her with a few questions:

On your nightstand now:

A pile of books 23 and a half inches high! I'm serious; my husband is concerned for my safety. The stack includes The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett, Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee, Confessions of a Falling Woman by Debra Dean and a guidebook on Naples, where I'd like to spend my next "big" birthday that ends in zero.
 
Favorite book when you were a child:

The Five Chinese Brothers written by Claire Huchet Bishop and illustrated by Kurt Wiese.

Your top five authors:

Mark Twain, Alice Walker, Anne Tyler, John Irving, Isabel Allende.

Book you've faked reading:

I'm pretty good at fessing up when I haven't read something. Except sometimes when it's a friend's book.
 
Book you are an evangelist for:

Not that I need to be, but The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, which I have read.
 
Book you've bought for the cover:

The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon by Tom Spanbauer.

Book that changed your life:

Berries Goodman by Emily Cheney Neville, a birthday gift when I was nine or so years old. It's the story of a Jewish city kid who has to move to the white bread suburbs. Even though I was a white-bread suburbanite, I identified more with the Jewish city kid and his feelings of alienation.
 
Favorite line from a book:

"I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself, 'All right, then, I'll GO to hell.'"--From The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
 
Book you most want to read again for the first time:

On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

 


NCIBA & SCIBA: Holiday Catalog


Book Review

Book Review: The Last Campaign

The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America by Thurston Clarke (Henry Holt & Company, $25.00 Hardcover, 9780805077926, May 2008)



In this all too brief hiatus between the end of the grueling Democratic primary campaign and the beginning of what promises to be a nasty general election fight, it's a good time to look back at the remarkable 1968 presidential campaign of Robert Kennedy that Thurston Clarke has brought to life in this vivid and energetic work of popular history.

Forty years ago this month, Robert Kennedy was gunned down in the kitchen of a Los Angeles hotel, bringing to an end one of the briefest and most extraordinary presidential campaigns in American history. "No credible candidate since has run so passionately or recklessly," Clarke writes, "or without the customary and ever-expanding carapace of consultants, pollsters, spinners, and question-screeners." Kennedy's campaign, animated by his profound commitment to social justice, was perhaps the last one whose subtext was the notion that the simple act of electing a new leader could effect fundamental change.

Entering the race on March 16, 1968, Kennedy understood he'd have to run a campaign that was unconventional by any measure. By that date Eugene McCarthy had a strong grip on the antiwar vote and Lyndon Johnson was expected to run for reelection to defend his Vietnam policy. With only seven primaries remaining before the Democratic convention, Kennedy took his campaign to the streets, appearing before huge and sometimes frightening throngs of supporters, hoping their enthusiasm would convince party leaders (among them Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, whose tacit support for Kennedy is a fascinating theme of Clarke's account) to choose him over McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey, Johnson's Vice President and replacement after his withdrawal. Clarke chronicles this desperate, headlong race with striking immediacy, benefiting from the written recollections of key participants and the fact that many are still here to share their memories.

Of all the moments brought to life in Clarke's book, by far the most dramatic is Kennedy's appearance before a largely African-American audience in Indianapolis on the night of Martin Luther King's assassination. Brushing aside warnings that the police could not guarantee his safety, Kennedy's brief, extemporaneous remarks calmed the crowd and  someday will be studied as masterpiece of political oratory.

What would have happened if Kennedy had survived the assassination attempt, had secured the Democratic nomination and had defeated Nixon in November 1968: an earlier end to the Vietnam War; real progress toward racial and economic equality in this country; a generation without the corrosive politics that have divided us into red and blue states?
 
The questions linger in the air, unanswered. Forty years later, we pause for a moment. And we wonder.--Harvey Freedenberg

 


Starscape Books: Freeing Finch by Ginny Rorby



Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Wild & Crazy Book Groups

How wild? How crazy? Maybe not so much, but some readers did share great alternatives to the common "talking circle" model of book discussions. And so, to my third test question:

What is the most innovative or unusual book group you've seen?

"The most unusual book group I know about is the e-mail 'cousinette' book group one of our customers belongs to," says Mary Gleysteen of Eagle Harbor Books, Bainbridge Island, Wash. "They select their books like other groups, read one a month, and have someone responsible for coordinating the round robin discussion. They have been discussing books this way for three or four years and, according to my source, it's a way for cousins of various ages and political persuasions around the country to keep in touch despite vast distances and differences."

Author Patricia Wood, whose novel Lottery was shortlisted for the Orange prize this year, checked in with an "aloha" from her sailboat in Honolulu: "I do about two book clubs a week all over the country by speaker phone, SKYPE, iChat and in person. Living in Hawaii and being so isolated has made my participation in these groups critical to my outreach as an author in the development of my career."

Wood has "met with a California group who did not disband when a member moved away, but who flew out here and met in Hawaii and chose Lottery as their selection. I was on layover in Seattle on my way to Calgary and met with the Northwest Airlines Book Club at a hotel in Renton. There's a network that is created. Author friends recommend my book to a club they have talked with and I recommend their book to my groups. My favorite group was one that met on a 50-foot motorboat moored across the harbor. Some had never been on a boat. It was a great evening."

She calls the Writerly Pause her "beta book club" because they were her first experience with the concept. Check out their video at the end of the post. Kanani Fong, one of nine writers and readers who comprise the group, says that from the beginning they "decided to see if writers would talk to us about not only their book but about writing. Some said no, others said yes. We read everything they'd written, including their most recent book. We went to great lengths to get things arranged, then we huddled around a speaker phone, usually filched from someone's work. As much as we wanted not to impose on the writer's time, we found the conversations often went on for an hour. So I think we're pretty lucky. I can't imagine a writer not wanting to talk to a book group, especially today when so much of the buzz doesn't come from either magazines, journals or newspapers, but from blogs."

Folio Literary Management's Ami Greko confessed that she is "always quite envious of the groups that meet to discuss a great work of literature in-depth over a long period of time. Pacific Standard in Brooklyn has a fabulous one that is currently reading Finnegans Wake."

Mary Alice Gorman of Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Oakmont, Pa., is "not surprised to find these groups anywhere--courthouse, hospital, school, neighbors, affinity (sorority, club, occupation, etc) and more. One that we supply is parents in a school district."
 
Like any human endeavor, sometimes things can get a little too wild and crazy. Marie Leahy of the Northshire Bookstore, Manchester, Vt., notes that "one of the members of my book group belongs to another group that developed something appalling: bylaws! The guidelines require that everyone come with a typed list of questions to present; if you don't attend four meetings in a row, you may be kicked out; and there has to be a birthday celebration for each member. One person developed these guidelines and others went along with it, until my friend put a stop to it. People barely have time to read the book; how is everyone going have time to type up questions for each meeting?"

Variety spices book groups. Josh Henkin, author of Matrimony, has found "the whole enterprise eye-opening in the best sense. I went into the process with my fair share of prejudices about book groups--that it was a kind of ladies-who-lunch enterprise and that I would be dealing with some pretty unsophisticated readers. But what I've found is that I've met some incredibly smart and sophisticated readers in places that I wouldn't necessarily have predicted."--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

 


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