Shelf Awareness for Friday, August 22, 2008

Balzer & Bray/Harperteen: The Night Is for Darkness by Jonathon Stutzman, illustrated by Joseph Kuefler and Greenwillow Books: Lone Wolf by Sarah Kurpiel

Forge: Lionhearts (Nottingham, 2) by Nathan Makaryk

Zonderkidz: Pugtato Finds a Thing by Sophie Corrigan

Kensington Publishing Corporation: The Suicide House (A Rory Moore/Lane Phillips Novel #2) by Charlie Donlea

Del Rey Books: Malorie: A Bird Box Novel by Josh Malerman

Quotation of the Day

'Book Business Stubbornly Holding Up'

"Even in this soft retail environment across America, the book business is stubbornly holding up."--Barnes & Noble CEO Steve Riggio in a conference call with stock analysts yesterday as quoted by Reuters.

"People have been painting apocalyptic scenarios for the last 10 years, but in the midst of a horrible environment, we sold more books than last year."--Riggio in the same call, quoted by the Wall Street Journal.


Atheneum Books: Saucy by Cynthia Kadohata, illustrated by Marianna Raskin


Quarterly Results: BAM, Hastings

In the quarter ended August 2, net sales at Books-A-Million fell 7.5% to $122.8 million and net income fell to $645,000 compared to $3.1 million in the same period in 2007. Sales at stores open at least a year dropped 10.4%.

In a statement, president and CEO Sandra B. Cochran said, "Very challenging macro economic trends and tough comparisons to last year due to the record-breaking sales of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows led to disappointing comparable store sales for the quarter. In this difficult environment we remain focused on controlling costs, managing our inventory and offering the best possible value to our customers."

The company also approved a quarterly dividend of nine cents a share, payable to shareholders of record at the end of the day September 4.


In the quarter ended July 31, sales at Hastings Entertainment, which sells new and used books as part of the mix in its 152 multimedia stores, fell 0.2% to $125.7 million, and net income fell to $700,000 compared to $1.9 million in the same period a year ago.

Sales of books at stores open at least a year fell 1.1% because of strong sales a year ago of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Excluding Harry Potter, comp-store book sales would have risen 5.4%. Book results were "driven by strong sales of new hardback and trade paperback books," particularly "by several hit titles, such as the Twilight Saga series by Stephenie Meyer, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and The Shack by William P. Young."

Among other comments, CEO John Marmaduke said, "We are excited to see the results of our improved value and used book initiatives taken during the first half of fiscal 2008. I feel confident these initiatives will enhance sales and profits for the second half of this fiscal year."


University of Minnesota Press: Listening: Interviews, 1970-1989 by Jonathon Cott

Skylight Highlights Some Business Basics

In a story that outlines guidelines for establishing a bookstore, offers a "small business profile" of Skylight Books, Los Angeles, Calif., the 12-year-old bookstore that recently expanded to 3,100 square feet of space from 2,000 and has gross sales of $1.6 million.

First tip: get help. General manager and co-owner Kerry Slattery said, "I consider one of my biggest strengths is not being afraid to ask others for help." When she was learning about the business of bookselling, she relied on two bookseller mentors--Richard LaBonte, who was general manager of A Different Light, in San Francisco, and Margie Ghiz, who owned the Midnight Special Bookstore in Santa Monica, Calif., for many years. Slattery spent three days with LaBonte, who commented: "I talked about my philosophy of books and my philosophy of staff management. I had her stock shelves, do inventories, order stock electronically, and host a reading, all the bits and pieces."

Grow gradually. Slattery said, "We set aside funds for store improvements, but only to grow incrementally, until we needed to absolutely go to the next step." Without much money in the beginning, "we were very economical about the money that we spent, the amount of staff we hired; we tried to keep it all very simple."

Early on, her goal, theStreet continued, was to have "the best and smartest staff--even though it was small, and to have the smartest selection of books--even if they didn't have many."

Keep in touch with suppliers. TheStreet wrote: "When she needed to order books on credit at the early stages, she says: 'I learned to keep in touch with all the publishers before they called me.' She created a system using faxes and filled in the blanks." Slattery added: "We got everybody current, and everybody stuck with us and was fine. The biggest thing is being in communication with them before they contact you."


By the way, Slattery commented to TheStreet on the "growing number of women who are over 60 who are major booksellers in this country. 'At so many of the major bookstores in the country you have smart females who are over 60 who are vital, lively business women who are not thinking of retiring anytime soon, and that's very exciting, because in the business world, that's not so usual.' "


AuthorBuzz for the Week of 06.01.20

Notes: Twit for Twat; Berkeley Still a Bookstore Town

Banned Word Week? The Guardian reported that after fielding three complaints about inappropriate language in Jacqueline Wilson's latest novel, My Sister Jodie, Random House Children's Books U.K. "will replace the offending word" when the book is reprinted.

My Sister Jodie has sold 150,000 copies in the U.K. since its publication last March, including 28,000 through Asda, the supermarket chain that "is now in the process of withdrawing it from stores."

"The word 'twat' was used in context," said a spokesperson for Random House. "It was meant to be a nasty word on purpose, because this is a nasty character. However, Jacqueline doesn't want to offend her readers or her readers' parents, so when the book comes to be reprinted the word will be replaced with twit."


"Berkeley Is Still a Great Bookstore Town," crowed the Daily Planet, noting that despite recent bookshop closures and ongoing retail challenges, "the East Bay still has much to offer those of us who prefer to buy from brick-and-mortar retailers: a whole constellation of bookstores, generalist and specialist, used and new, with something for just about everyone."

After an impressive list of area bookshops, the article concluded: "The temptation to buy books online can be hard to resist. But for some of us, those transactions will never replace the thrill of the book hunt: the experience of browsing the physical shelves full of physical books and discovering something we hadn't known we needed."


In an open letter in Bookselling This Week, American Booksellers Association president Gayle Shanks of Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, Ariz., addressed issues raised by Chelsea Green's publication of Obama's Challenge on an exclusive basis through Amazon for two weeks, issues that touch on "fair play, the free flow of information, and a vibrant marketplace of ideas," she wrote.

One conclusion: "Using existing technology and an extensive network of booksellers--again both indie and corporate--I am convinced that Chelsea Green could have achieved its sales goals, reaching readers and selling many copies of their timely book."


Some independent bookstores have moved their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender titles "from off- to center-stage," BTW wrote.

Tattered Cover buyer Margaret Noteman summed up the age-old problem involving general and special-interest sections: "There is always that balance between finding the widest audience for the book, which may mean shelving a title in General Fiction or Biography, yet having titles available in the GLBT section," she said. "That may mean cross sectioning or moving a book to find the audience."


BTW followed up on the Great Books Seminar Program, a monthly program held at R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Conn., and taught by Yale professors who focus on one book for each session. The series began in March--when it was announced, 100 people tried to sign up. The program is doing so well that the store will hold a four-part series this fall focusing on the work of Virginia Woolf.


David Rhodes, who co-founded Tsunami Books, Eugene, Ore., 14 years ago, plans to leave the business later this fall. The Register-Guard reported that "Rhodes and business partner Scott Landfield stressed that Tsunami Books--which they said is on solid footing after nearly going out of business three years ago--will not significantly change its operations with Rhodes' departure."

"We are leaving for (the island of) Kauai, to work and apprentice at an organic farm there," said Rhodes of his and his wife's immediate future. "Our plan is eventually to return to Oregon and set up our own organic farm. But we've deliberately not given ourselves a timeline, so we can take it as it comes."

The Register-Guard also noted that a co-owner/operator is being sought to buy Rhodes’ 20% share in the bookstore.

"We're looking for someone who could fit (Rhodes' role), or a couple people," said Landfield, who holds a 40% share. "Until that happens, we're really busy. It was really built for a couple worker-owners. But at the moment, I'm just planning on working a lot of hours."


John Blake Publishing, which had delayed publication of On Her Majesty's Service by Ron Evans with Douglas Thompson earlier this month after Salman Rushdie threatened legal action (Shelf Awareness, August 6, 2008), has agreed to publish a "revised version" of the book. According to the Guardian, Rushdie's lawyer said the authors "have admitted there were falsehoods in the manuscript and have made amendments accordingly."


Disney-Hyperion: The Mirror Broken Wish (Mirror #1) by Julie C. Dao

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Nixonland

Today on Fresh Air: Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (Scribner, $37.50, 9780743243025/0743243021). 


Tomorrow on CNN Newsroom: Edward Fiske, editor of the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2009 (Sourcebooks, $22.95, 9781402209598/9781402209592).


For the next week, on WETA's Author, Author!: an interview with Willy Vlautin, author of Northline (Harper Perennial, $14.95, 9780061456527/0061456527).


Books & Authors

Midwest Connections: Undiscovered Country, Abbeville

From the Midwest Booksellers Association: two recent Midwest Connections picks. Under this marketing program, the association and member stores promote booksellers' handselling favorites that have a strong Midwest regional appeal:

Undiscovered Country by Lin Enger (Little, Brown, $23.99, 9780316006941/0316006947)

MBA wrote: "Unaware that his life is about to change in ways he can't imagine, 17-year-old Jesse Matson ventures into the northern Minnesota woods with his father on a cold November afternoon. Perched on individual hunting stands a quarter-mile apart, they wait with their rifles for white-tailed deer. When the muffled crack of a gunshot rings out, Jesse unaccountably knows something is wrong--and he races through the trees to find his dad dead of a rifle wound, apparently self-inflicted.

But would easygoing Harold Matson really kill himself? If so, why?

Leslie Hakala of Best of Times Bookstore, Red Wing, Minn., said she "enjoyed Undiscovered Country tremendously. I had goosebumps reading Lin Enger's excellent depiction of winter in northern Minnesota, but most of them were from the eerie characters--and plot development. This is a modern, Midwestern take on Hamlet, complete with a creepy uncle, mentally unstable mother, and highly confused teenagers. This was a very real depiction of situations going from bad to worse that was a great read!"


Abbeville: A Novel by Jack Fuller (Unbridled Books, $24.95, 9781932961478)

According to MBA: "Abbeville sweeps through the history of late-19th through early-21st century America--among loggers stripping the North Woods bare, at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, with French soldiers at the Battle of Verdun, into the abyss of the Depression, and finally toward the new millennium's own nightmares. At the same time it examines life at its most intimate. How can one hold onto meaning amidst the brutally indifferent cycles of war and peace, flood and drought, boom and bust, life and death?

Keri Holmes of the Kaleidoscope: Our Focus Is You, Hampton, Ind., commented: "George Bailey's security vanished with the crash. His grandfather lived through the 1929 market crash and subsequent run on his bank and seemed to thrive in the years that followed. Not knowing what else to do, George returns to his grandfather's house and his grandfather's town, hoping to find, in his memories, a way forward. This is a wonderful story of America's heartland. It reminds us that even though we fence it and cultivate it, we never really tame it; and that counting chickens before they hatch is still a fool's game."


Awards: Library of Congress Lifetime Achievement

The Library of Congress is bestowing its first Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Writing of Fiction to Herman Wouk, for his "extraordinary contributions to American letters and his dedication to, as he has said, 'the enduring power of the novel.' "

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington will present the award to Wouk on September 10 in Washington, D.C. The program will include readings by Wouk and others.

Wouk has appeared before at the Library and was among the first group of recipients of the Library's Living Legend Award. He also is donating his literary diaries, remaining manuscripts and correspondence to the Library, which already holds the manuscripts of five Wouk novels, including The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. In 1999, the Center for the Book sponsored publication of The Historical Novel: A Celebration of the Achievements of Herman Wouk.


Book Brahmins: Tom Piazza

Tom Piazza is the author of nine books, including the novel City of Refuge, which Harper published this week, and the book-length post-Katrina essay Why New Orleans Matters. He has been awarded the James Michener Award for Fiction and the Faulkner Society Award for the Novel, among many other honors. A well-known writer on American music, too, he won a 2004 Grammy Award for his album notes to Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey. He lives in New Orleans. Visit to read an excerpt from City of Refuge.

On your nightstand now:

Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union and Nostromo by Joseph Conrad.

Favorite book when you were a child:

You Will Go to the Moon by Mae and Ira Freeman. Also Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories--whacked-out, hallucinatory nonsense parables; I can't believe they let kids read it--and The Indians Knew by Tillie S. Pine, whom I actually met years later in a movie theater, with her husband, who used to own a great used bookstore in Greenwich Village.

Your top five authors:

Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, W. B. Yeats, Charles Dickens, Herman Melville. That was six. Sorry.

How about something more contemporary?:

Don DeLillo, Jonathan Franzen, Joan Didion, Alice Munro, Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, Saul Bellow.

Even more contemporary?:

What do you mean by contemporary? Franzen isn't contemporary enough? Okay: George Saunders, Judy Budnitz, Michael Chabon, ZZ Packer, Mary Gaitskill.

Authors who should be better known:

Chris Adrian, Marly Swick, Holiday Reinhorn, Cate Marvin, Joanna Scott, Norman Rush.

Book you've faked reading:

The Faerie Queen by Edmund Spenser.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann. It was his first novel, published when he was something like 24, and probably the culmination of the 19th Century novel tradition, with a number of surreptitious proto-modernist structural elements that you don't notice on first reading. Also The King and the Corpse by Heinrich Zimmer. Zimmer was a follower of C.G. Jung and an expert in the art of India. In The King and the Corpse, he retells folk tales from the 1,001 Nights, the Arthurian cycle and other sources, and breaks down what they are really telling us about human consciousness. It's amazing. Any writer would profit from reading it. Also the very neglected Bloods by Wallace Terry, an oral history of black Vietnam veterans.

Books you've bought for the cover:

All of the old Anchor paperbacks from the 1950s with the Edward Gorey covers.

Book that changed your life:

Vibrations, the autobiography of the composer David Amram. It made me want to be an artist when I was in junior high school. Also An American Dream by Norman Mailer. In some ways it is a pretty cheesy novel, but the writing is electricity itself, and it made me want to be a writer.

Favorite line from a book:  

"The hour has come to cook their lordships' mutton."-–Odysseus to Telemachus in The Odyssey (Robert Fitzgerald's translation).

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

You Will Go to the Moon.


Book Review

Mandahla: A Guide to the Birds of East Africa

Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $22.00 Hardcover, 9780547152585, September 2008)

There have been some spectacular and enchanting books published in the last few months: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Gargoyle, The Little Book. Nicholas Drayson's novel deserves to be added to the list of summer and fall delights; it is just as superb, but in a quieter way. Set in Nairobi, Kenya, it's about a widower, Mr. Malik, and his unspoken but passionate love for Rose Mbikwa.

Mr. Malik spends his Tuesdays going on bird walks led by Mrs. Mbikwa, the Scottish widow of a Kenyan politician. He wants to take her to the annual Nairobi Hunt Club Ball and has sent for tickets, hoping he will have the courage to ask her. However, Mr. Malik's school days nemesis, playboy Harry Khan, has shown up in the city after years away and is also taken with Rose and declares he will take her to the ball. Enter the members of Mr. Malik's social club, who propose a bet between the two men: whoever compiles the most bird species sightings in a week will be the one to invite her.

Harry has the money to go far afield in his hunt and the lack of morals to enlist the help of two Aussies who actually know something about birds. Mr. Malik, meanwhile, starts slowly with his backyard birds and in the ensuing days is thwarted by a host of problems, the worst being the theft of his car and his bird notebook. The notebook also contains one of Mr. Malik's several secrets, a secret that endangers him and a friend.

Drayson spins the story in a leisurely way, revealing facets and facts about the characters, but still with urgency as Mr. Malik and Harry ("Distinguishing characteristics: Highly ornamented. Noted for flamboyant mating display.") move closer to the end of the contest. Along the way we meet Mr. Malik's friends Mr. Gopez, Mr. Patel and Tiger Singh, the Asadi Club authority on all things sporting, and his shamba boy Benjamin ("Habitat: Almost entirely restricted to suburban gardens [and] anywhere that sells Coca-Cola."). Kenyan history and politics as well as birds are woven into the novel, with wry but pointed commentary ("People passing the Treasury building after dark had reported muffled screams and remained unconvinced that these were cries of joy from members of staff working late to correct accounting errors.").

While he may seem to be an old-fashioned man with a bad comb-over, brown, short and round, "It is a little appreciated truth that a bad hairstyle neither reflects nor affects the heart within. Passions burn as fiercely in Mr. Malik's breast as in those of other men." A Guide to the Birds of East Africa is an appealing, witty book about a sweet, honorable and stubborn man in love.--Marilyn Dahl

Shelf Talker: A Guide to the Birds of East Africa will appeal to Alexander McCall Smith fans, but definitely stands on its own and will beguile any reader who appreciates sharp wit and gentle charm.



Seeing Clearly Now . . .

An item in Time Out Chicago that we quoted yesterday (about a new bar with literary themes on Damen Avenue) said that the neighborhood "badly needs" a bookstore. Their view was near-sighted: Myopic Books, the 17-year-old used bookstore that among other things hosts poetry readings, an SF book club, a weekly chess group and has weekly music events, is four blocks away. Our apologies!


AuthorBuzz: Revell: An Appalachian Summer by Ann H. Gabhart
AuthorBuzz: Radius Book Group: The 24-Hour Soup Kitchen: Soul-Stirring Lessons in Gastrophilanthropy by Stephen Henderson
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