Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 18, 2008

Simon & Schuster: Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens the Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era by Jerry Mitchell

Sfi Readerlink Dist: Sesame Street: The Monster at the End of This Book: An Interactive Adventure by Jon Stone, adapted by Autumn B Heath

Minotaur Books: The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James

Tor Books: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

DK: Free Pack of The Wonders of Nature Wrapping Paper - Click to Sign Up!

Quotation of the Day

Amazon Like Sidewalk Food Vendor?

"If you are going to have a tax system, one of the essences of it should be that it is fair. And it just inherently makes no sense whatsoever to tax you if you want to buy a book from Amazon differently than if you want to buy a book from a bookstore. I'd feel the same way about the food vendor with the cart outside or the coffee vendors. They should be paying the same kind of sales taxes as somebody who rents a store and sells coffee from that store."--New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on New York State's new law that effectively mandates and some other online retailers collect sales tax on sales to people in New York, as quoted by the New York Sun.


G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers: The Best of Iggy by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sam Ricks


Notes: ABA Member Stores to Co-Publish POD with Applewood

Facilitated by Ingram's Lightning Source, the American Booksellers Association and publisher Applewood Books are forming a partnership that will enable ABA member stores to publish on demand books that are out-of-print, in the public domain and local-interest titles whose authors hold the copyright for them, Bookselling This Week reported. The organizations estimate margins of 50%-70%.

In a statement, Len Vlahos, chief program officer for the ABA, said, "This program represents a tremendous opportunity for independent booksellers to sell high-margin merchandise that will further tie their stores to local communities." He added that by working with Applewood, which has more than 30 years of experience in the field, booksellers can avoid dealing with "the complicated maze of out-of-print licensing and public domain publishing."

Phil Zuckerman of Applewood Books said the agreement makes sense in large part because "booksellers know better about what sells. They understand what books would sell if consumers were able to get their hands on them, from both a national and local perspective."

Under the agreement, booksellers pay an advance fee of $250 for each title they co-publish. Applewood digitizes the work, creates a cover design, assigns an ISBN, etc. Lightning Source prints the titles. Booksellers can distribute titles through Applewood.


BTW also profiles Linden Tree Children's Recordings and Books, Los Altos, Calif., which was founded by Linda and Dennis Ronberg in 1981 in their home in Tacoma, Wash. (The first storefront version opened in Los Altos in 1984.) The 2,700-sq.-ft. store emphasizes the importance of reading and music in children's education and stocks 30,000 titles. Some 60% of the inventory is books, 15% recordings and the rest sidelines.


Bunch of Grapes staff have done a complete inventory of books in the fire-damaged store on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, and unfortunately none of them can be salvaged or sold, owner Jon Nelson told the Vineyard Gazette. They will be removed by a salvage company.

Nelson predicted that the store cleanup will be finished sometime next week, after which he and others will determine what repairs are needed.

Incidentally fire department officials have determined that the fire started in a gas water heater in the basement of the cafe next door to Bunch of Grapes.


Confucius remains popular in China: Bloomberg reported that Sentiments on the Analects of Confucius by Yu Dan has topped the non-fiction bestseller list in China for three straight months.

China's top 10 list:

  1. Sentiments on the Analects of Confucius by Yu Dan
  2. Asking Doctors Isn't as Good as Asking Yourself by Zhongli Baren
  3. Currency Wars by Song Hongbing
  4. Asking Doctors Isn't as Good as Asking Yourself II by Zhongli Baren
  5. Thoughts on the Analects of Confucius by Yu Dan
  6. The Wisdom to Not Fall Ill by Ma Yueling
  7. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  8. 50 Ways to Escape Danger in a Disaster by the Anhui Association of Science and Technology
  9. Who Are You Working For by Chen Kaiyuan
  10. Facts About the Ming Dynasty by Dang Nian Ming Yue


Boing Boing featured a number of book-related links, including a chair made from discarded paperbacks; the inclusion of Douglas Adams' vintage Hermes Standard 8 typewriter with the sale of a first-edition copy of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for $25,257.94; and the imminent destruction of the Oregon State Hospital, where the adaptation of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was filmed.


Great Expectations: A Reading Marathon, which we mentioned yesterday, has a website that offers more information. To meet expectations, click here.

KidsBuzz for the Week of 10.14.19

Kay Ryan/ Poet Laureate/ Read the Book/ See the DVD

Kay Ryan, "known for her sly, compact poems that revel in wordplay and internal rhymes," has been named the 16th poet laureate of the U.S., according to the New York Times.

"I so didn't want to be a poet," said Ryan, who has published six poetry collections. "I came from sort of a self-contained people who didn't believe in public exposure, and public investigation of the heart was rather repugnant to me. I couldn't resist. It was in a strange way taking over my mind. My mind was on its own finding things and rhyming things. I was getting diseased."

She told the Times that she has no definite plans for her new position, but might like to "celebrate the Library of Congress . . . maybe I'll issue library cards to everyone."


On the day Ryan's appointment was made public, Grove Press, which has published three of her collections--Elephant Rocks, Say Uncle and The Niagara River--said that it will publish New and Selected Poems by the new poet laureate.

Also yesterday the Academy of American Poets released the Poet's View, a film series profiling five major American poets, one of whom is Ryan. The series is directed by Mel Stuart and focuses as well on John Ashbery, Louise Glück, Anthony Hecht and W. S. Merwin. The films are distributed by the Academy of American Poets and are available at


GLOW: St. Martin's Press: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Medium Appears on Today

This morning on the Today Show: Concetta Bertoldi, author of Do Dead People Watch You Shower?: And Other Questions You've Been All but Dying to Ask a Medium (Harper, $13.95, 9780061351228/0061351229).


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Firewatching by Russ Thomas

Books & Authors

GBO July Pick: Eros by Helmut Krausser

For its July book pick, the German Book Office has chosen Eros by Helmut Krausser, translated by Mike Mitchell, which will be published by Europa Editions on August 20 ($16.95, 9781933372587/1933372583). Krausser has worked as a broadcaster and freelance journalist and writes novels, poetry, radio broadcasts, plays and screenplays.

The publisher wrote about Eros: "Alexander von Brücken, an ageing millionaire, invites an unknown author into his mansion to record his life story. From there the novel plunges back into Germany's past when Hitler's Third Reich is on the brink of failure. In an air raid shelter, Alexander falls desperately in love with a girl named Sofie. She flees with her family, but she is never able to completely escape from Alexander's grasp. Odd coincidences and fortuitous circumstances find their way into Sofie's life, and Alexander with his wealth and power lurks in the background. Krausser examines the limits of wealth and the limitless power of unrequited love in this novel. Despite the vast geographical and chronological spaces that the story sweeps through, Alexander's obsession with Sofie shines more vividly than all the surrounding elements. With the unknown author narrating this seductive and darkly fascinating story, the reader also wonders if Alexander's perspective and telling of his past have been skewed by years of longing and frustration."


Arcadia Publishing: Stock Your Shelves!

Book Brahmin: Paul Beatty

Paul Beatty is the author of two novels, Tuff and The White Boy Shuffle, and two books of poetry, Big Bank Take Little Bank and Joker, Joker, Deuce. He is the editor of Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor, and his lastest novel, Slumberland, was published in June by Bloomsbury USA. He lives in New York City.
On your nightstand now:

Well, I've never had a nightstand. In fact, I always thought nightstands were movie props that allowed for phones and alarm clocks to be placed at a scientifically determined proximity that prevents the protagonist from ignoring any late night phone call or sleeping through an early morning buzzer.

So, if by nightstand you mean windowsill or toilet tank shelf: Hitchcock-Truffaut: The Definitive Study of Alfred Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut, Stepin Fetchit: The Life and Times of Lincoln Perry, The Idiot and Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead.

Favorite books when you were a child:

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh and The Book of Lists.

Your top five authors:

Richard Pryor, George Clinton, Kurt Vonnegut, Yasunari Kawabata and former White House spokesperson Scott McClellan.

Book you've faked reading:

The California Driver Handbook

Book you are an evangelist for:

Oreo by Fran Ross

Books you've bought for the cover:

Self-Portraits by Osamu Dazai, Red Azalea by Anchee Min and any Donald Goines book, sitting on any black sidewalk bookseller's table, outside any subway station where Negroes are likely to enter and exit.

Book that changed your life:

Social Experiments: Methods for Design and Evaluation by Leonard Saxe and Michelle Fine. It's the textbook that made me quit grad school and move to New York.

Favorite line from a book:

"I s'pect I growed. Don't think nobody never made me."--Topsy in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.


"Before he could mount a response I blasted him thrice in the chest, started the car, and drove home to watch 'Benny Hill'."--Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member by Sanyika Shakur


"I think of Dean Moriarty."--On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Book you most want to read again for the first time:
The Old Man and the Sea, so that I can throw it in the trash after the reading the first paragraph and get back the 25 minutes of my life I wasted reading that sentimental crap.


Grove Press, Black Cat: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Book Review

Book Review: The Would-Be Commoner

The Would-Be Commoner: A Tale of Deception, Murder, and Justice in Seventeenth-Century France by Jeffrey Ravel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $25.00 Hardcover, 9780618197316, July 2008)

Jeffrey Ravel's engrossing study of French jurisprudence in the reign of Louis XIV starts with a bedraggled man approaching the main house of the small estate of Narbonne in central France. His temporary disarray may have made him look unfamiliar on August 15, 1697, but he was no stranger. He was Louis de la Pivardière, back from the Nine Years War and ready to assume his rightful place as master of the estate.

To onlookers, his wife Marguerite Chauvelin seemed less than overjoyed to see him. His old friend Prior Charost (rumored to be Marguerite's lover) was not all smiles. That evening servants and family heard heated arguments and odd noises. In the morning, there was no Louis to be found. There were, however, rumors galore.

The most popular rumor, that Marguerite and the Prior murdered Louis in his sleep and disposed of the body, was the seed from which grew a convoluted criminal case that seized the attention of French society for two years. The Age of Louis XIV may be widely celebrated as Golden (think, La Gloire and Versailles), but Ravel shows that the legal system was made of baser metal.

Murder charges were brought against Marguerite and the Prior by magistrate judges at Châtillon. From the beginning, the case was suspect: one of the magistrates held a long-standing grudge against Prior Charost's family; the evidence gathered was clearly tainted; and, the case depended on two of Marguerite's young maids, whose testimony was probably coerced. Then, in January 1698, Louis de la Pivardière reappeared at Narbonne.

In the rigidly hierarchical and corrupt system that Ravel describes so vividly, Louis's reappearance did not resolve the mystery but only made the handling of the case more complex. Questions of imposture arose (the memory of Martin Guerre and his impostor was still on France's mind); charges of bigamy raised the stakes; the specter of broken vows of celibacy inflamed gossip. Ravel is excellent at showing how the case affected every level of French society all the way up to the Sun King himself. When Henri-Francois D'Aguesseau, attorney general at the Parlement de Paris, was called to retry the increasingly controversial and contradictory case, there was finally hope that the madness would stop. As Ravel says of D'Aguesseau, his "integrity, learning and intelligence offered the court a way to restore confidence in its function." Anyone interested in how contemporary legal justice systems emerged from the primeval ooze will be richly rewarded by this tale.--John McFarland


Berkley Books: Happy and You Know It by Laura Hankin

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: All Politics Is Local at the Bookstore

In the heat of an election year, you just can't get out of the kitchen. Campaign controversy is ubiquitous, and not just nationally on CNN and its cohorts 24/7, but locally as well, on the sales floors of independent bookstores. Buying, merchandising and handselling decisions often involve taking--or choosing not to take--public political stances.

Earlier this week (Shelf Awareness, July 14, 2008), we ran a piece about Bookshop Santa Cruz's new Countdown to President Obama Hope Clock, which prompted Diane Van Tassel, owner of Bay Books, San Ramon and Concord, Calif., to express her concern: "I would never ever show support for one candidate because what does that say to my customers who do not agree with me?"

Our initial discussion sparked my curiosity. As a bookseller, I've seen dozens of books and sidelines that variously amused, enlightened, bored or disgusted me. Most were creations of the moment and quickly forgotten. The day after the 2004 election, I wrote a piece, "The Case of the Silenced Rant Lit," in which I marveled at the sudden quiet in the bookstore:

"For the past seven or eight months, so many of the books up here had been screaming at one another, shouting each other down, making public nuisances of themselves, ranting across a wide chasm that had opened between two opposing sides. Books weren't being published; they were being hurled ferociously across this divide in a high stakes game of book dodgeball, in which nobody ever seemed to hit anything, despite casualties everywhere you looked. And so it went, again and again. Customers complained about the noise. Sometimes they complained more about the noise coming from one side of the chasm than the other. Sometimes they joined the screaming, singling out the booksellers for not allowing an equal number of screams from both sides."

The silence didn't last long, of course, since the 2008 presidential election seemed to begin immediately after last vote was cast.

This week I found myself wondering how booksellers across the U.S. handle the delicate mix of politics and retail in their communities. So I asked the two catalysts for this idea, Diane Van Tassel and Casey Coonerty Protti, owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz, if they would answer three questions to get a conversation started:

  1. What role do your political views play in ordering and merchandising decisions? Do you take sides? Should you?
  2. Is a community bookstore a neutral corner or an advocacy center? Can there be a, well, "third place" between the two when it comes to politics?
  3. What do you think your customers expect from you? Do you worry that some will feel excluded?

We'll begin this week with their responses to my first question:

Diane: "Political views--mine or my staff's--have no business in the bookstore. When we hire people, we tell them to leave their politics at home. Our customers are probably evenly divided between people who would buy Michael Moore and Al Franken books and those who buy Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly books. It would be unreasonable for me to decide that only liberals or only conservative books would be stocked in my store. A one-sided store would quickly lose customers to a store that had a balanced section with a wide range of titles from both the right and the left. Which would you rather frequent--a bookstore with a limited and biased point-of-view or a bookstore that has an unlimited supply of books from multiple angles?
"So it seems that taking sides on any issue would mean that some of your customers would be unhappy with your choices and that would not be good for business--or freedom of speech. We are in the business of selling books; our stock and our displays reflect opposing points of view. Customers are free to follow their own leanings and desires--not ones that we are pushing onto them."
Casey: "The main goal at Bookshop Santa Cruz is to reflect our community and since Santa Cruz is an active political town we definitely take politics into consideration when ordering. That doesn't mean that we don't stock all points of view (as we have carried books by Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly as well as conservative magazines), but we feature and order more titles that are progressive than conservative. Progressive titles and items reflect our community and sell better as well. This strategy has been important to us for many reasons: 1) we've created a strong brand around reflecting our community (which has ultimately served us well), 2) it is something that our staff believes in and 3) it has bolstered our publicity and our sales. I respect stores that don't want to take a position, but taking positions has played a huge role in keeping us alive and well so I think it should be a store-by-store decision."
What do you think?--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


KidsBuzz: Bloomsbury Children's Books:  Spies, Lies, and Disguise: The Daring Tricks and Deeds That Won World War II by Jennifer Swanson, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley
KidsBuzz: Bloomsbury Children's Books: More Than a Princess by E.D. Baker
Powered by: Xtenit