Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, August 26, 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

Letters

Good News from the Oregon Coast

Responding to various stories yesterday about bookstores both thriving and suffering in a difficult economy, Karen Emmerling of Beach Books, Seaside, Ore., writes:

I want to report that we are in the midst of our best month ever--even topping our Harry Potter month. Being in a small resort community on the Oregon coast, our concern was that people wouldn't be travelling. Well, we've seen more folks from across the country, Canada and Europe than ever before. And those people are definitely buying books. I know it's not happening everywhere, but at least there are bright spots.

 


Amulet Books: Minor Prophets by Jimmy Cajoleas


News

Notes: Amazon Buying Shelfari?; E-Textbook Jousting

Amazon.com is buying Shelfari, the social networking site for book lovers, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. Amazon was an early investor in the site.

Only three weeks ago (Shelf Awareness, August 3, 2008), Amazon announced it is buying AbeBooks.com, which owns a 40% stake in Shelfari's main competition, LibraryThing.com. There is no word yet on how Amazon will deal with owning most of this very specific market.

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A student public interest research group report charges that publishers' policies are making e-textbooks unattractive to students, the Los Angeles Times reported. In particular, at current prices, e-texts are just as expensive as printed books when the value of selling used traditional texts is taken into account and restrictions on printing and expiration dates on e-texts further add to expense and inconvenience. The report also found that 75% of surveyed students would prefer a traditional textbook over e-textbook if they are priced similarly.

The report was apparently issued yesterday by Make Textbooks Affordable, which is supported by the student public interest research groups that have studied textbook prices and policies for the past few years. The report was based on a survey of 504 students at Portland State University and the City Colleges of Chicago and a review of 50 popular introductory textbooks. (Note: this morning Shelf Awareness was unable to find any other online reference to this study.)

In a rebuttal to the report, Frank Lyman, executive v-p of CourseSmart, the consortium of publishers that sells e-books, pointed out that the report assumes a high buyback price on traditional textbooks and overlooks advantages of e-books such as cutting-and-pasting and search functions. In addition, he said, many students want only parts of textbooks, making e-books more attractive.

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Pages New and Rare Books, Cave Creek, Ariz., was the first business to open this year in the town's largest commercial project, StageCoach Village, a Western-themed shopping center that is still "almost tenantless as shops, restaurants and offices gear up to open for the busy fall tourist season," according to the Arizona Republic.

"This whole place opened with great expectations," said Will Pearson, the bookshop's owner. "We anticipated it would be difficult at first. We're looking forward to (more stores)."

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On Thursday night, before Senator Barack Obama accepts his party's presidential nomination, Nathaniel Fick, a former Marine Corps captain who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and is now a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, Washington, D.C., will speak to the Democratic convention. Fick, who went to Dartmouth, has an MBA from Harvard and a master's from the Kennedy School, is also author of One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer (Mariner, $14.95, 9780618773435/0618773436), a well-regarded memoir. 

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Salt Lake Tribune columnist Rebecca Walsh offered perspective on the dual critical backlash to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series from both feminists and Mormons. She concluded that "at least readers recognize Breaking Dawn is simply entertaining fiction. It's time for everybody else to lighten up."

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In anticipation of Neal Stephenson's much-anticipated new novel, Anathem, Boing Boing featured a sneak peak at "a copy of an abridged glossary of neologisms and language-bending goodies from the book. My favorite Stephensonism here is 'bulshytt,' which doesn't mean exactly what you think it might."

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Also from Boing Boing: Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, "reads his hate-mail aloud."

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The Louisiana Book Festival, usually held in November in Baton Rouge, will take place Saturday, October 4, this year. For more information, click here. (And don't forget Shelf Awareness's website listing of trade and consumer shows.)

 

 


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


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Guyland

Tomorrow on the Today Show: Michael Kimmel, author of Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men (Harper, $25.95, 9780060831349/0060831340).

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Tomorrow night on Larry King Live: Ralph Reed, author of Dark Horse (Howard Books, $19.99, 9781416576495/1416576495).

 


Ecco Press: Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha


Birder Sighting: Peterson's Son and New Field Guide

To celebrate the author's 100th birthday this Thursday, Houghton Mifflin is publishing a new edition of Roger Tory Peterson's classic, Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America ($26, 9780618966141/0618966145), that for the first time combines the Eastern Birds and Western Birds guides in one volume, has new maps, 40 new paintings, new range maps and new text. The book also has flown across the digital divide: it includes access to three hours of video podcasts to make bird watching and identification easier.

To help promote the title, Lee Allen Peterson, Roger's son, will appear on the Diane Rehm Show tomorrow and on the Early Show on Thursday.

A Field Guide to Birds has sold more than 8 million copies in five editions and spawned a Peterson franchise that includes guides to trees, plants, wildflowers, edible plants, insects, medicinal plants and herbs, butterflies and moths, rocks and minerals--you can identify the picture.

 


NCIBA & SCIBA: Holiday Catalog



Books & Authors

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing on Tuesday, September 2:

American Wife: A Novel
by Curtis Sittenfeld (Random House, $26, 9781400064755/1400064759) examines the life of a First Lady with an unpopular husband.

The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood by Helene Cooper (S&S, $25, 9780743266246/0743266242) is the memoir of a woman from a powerful Liberian family sent into exile.

The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer (Grand Central, $25.99, 9780446577885/044657788X) gives a supernatural twist to the real unsolved 1932 murder of the father of Jerry Siegel, the creator of Superman.

1,000 Dollars & an Idea: Entrepreneur to Billionaire by Sam Wyly (Newmarket, $24.95, 9781557048035/1557048037) is the autobiography of the endearing, self-made man who owns, with his wife, Explore Booksellers and Bistro in Aspen, Colo.

Dark Curse by Christine Feehan (Berkley, $24.95, 9780425223437/0425223434) is the 16th entry in the Carpathians fantasy series.

The Book of Animal Ignorance: Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong
by John Mitchinson and John Lloyd (Harmony, $19.95, 9780307394934/030739493X) examines myths and interesting facts from the animal kingdom.

Sinner: The Books of History Chronicles by Ted Dekker (Thomas Nelson, $24.99, 9781595540089/1595540083) chronicles a conflict between the right to free speech and stopping widespread violence.

Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why it Matters by Bill Tancer (Hyperion, $25.95, 9781401323042/1401323049) is by the general manager of global research at Hitline, whose samples include more than 10 million Internet users in the U.S. and 25 million internationally. Among facts from the data: the top "how to" search in the U.S. is about tying ties and Oprah is the most-searched personality of the last three years.

Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain (St. Martin's Minotaur, $24.95, 9780312368470/031236847X) follows detective Archie Sheridan as he investigates a series of murders.

Now in paperback:

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Díaz (Riverhead, $14, 9781594483295/1594483299).

 


Starscape Books: Freeing Finch by Ginny Rorby


Book Review

Book Review: The Thing Itself

The Thing Itself: On the Search for Authenticity by Richard Todd (Riverhead Books, $24.95 Hardcover, 9781594488511, August 2008)



Whether it's lip-synching at the Olympics' opening ceremonies or the revelation of the infidelity of a former presidential candidate who held himself up as an exemplar of family values, we don't lack for recent examples of inauthentic behavior in modern life. That fact makes it an opportune time to spend a few hours in the company of Richard Todd, whose graceful essays offer a useful lens through which to view these and other aspects of contemporary "reality."

A former magazine and book editor and now a creative writing teacher at Goucher College, Todd loosely groups his essays into four broad categories: objects, places, society and the self. "The quest for authenticity," he writes, "is the essential subject of these pages." Throughout, his tone is gentle, not harsh or accusatory, making him a pleasantly thoughtful intellectual companion.

Touching on sources as disparate as The Matrix and Walker Percy's The Moviegoer he uses each of these forays to pose consistently engaging questions: Why does he feel more comfortable amidst the mendacious glitz of Las Vegas than in the cozy environment of Disney World? Why do we care whether a famous piece of art is real or a masterful reproduction? What's the basis for the irresistible lure of our celebrity culture and how does it impair our ability to experience real feelings? In each instance, Todd offers responses that seem tentative at times, but in a way that makes them consistent with his theme that our own search for authenticity must compel us to seek out personally meaningful answers. In his words, "We seek a real world to find a real self."

Having begun this review with a passing reference to current events, it's perhaps appropriate to close it on the same note. As we approach the November date when Americans elect a new president, Todd muses on the absurdity of the notion that someone with the talent and surpassing ambition to seek to lead a nation of 300 million people should be expected to craft a synthetic identity that will make him seem as approachable as our next-door neighbor. "We want their souls," he concludes, "when we might better seek their minds." That's a useful prism, one of many in this engaging collection, through which to filter a good bit of the skillfully packaged fakery that will be passed off as reality in the months ahead.--Harvey Freedenberg

Shelf Talker: A thoughtful collection of essays that challenges us to examine our perceptions of what's real in our lives, from the objects that surround us to our relationships with fellow human beings.

 


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Bookstores & Religion--The Buyers' Perspective

At the conclusion of last week's column, I asked booksellers to take a look at their religion/spirituality sections and tell me what they saw. I also included several questions about bookstore buying habits in this category, posed by Sharon Roth, sales representative for Loyola Press.

Before joining Loyola, Sharon "spent many years as a book buyer for a large book operation here in Chicago. I felt it was my responsibility to know my customers and their reading habits. I bought for their interests not my own--at times this was difficult. But I also felt it was my responsibility to have a selection of books that would broaden people's knowledge of the world. Ignorance is dangerous and knowledge is not. For this reason it was my responsibility to stock religious books from all traditions."

Moving from a general to a specific focus meant changing her approach: "Now I am on the other side as a sales rep for a publishing company that publishes books on spirituality and religion. We are a Catholic publisher but many of our books are appropriate for all Christians. For this reason, I have noticed the religious category in many bookstores. I see some stores with very good sections and others with almost no representation."

It is from this new perspective that Sharon first wrote to me, wondering "if there is a religious bias by bookstore buyers in ordering religious books--especially Catholic books."

That might be an easy question to dismiss and a tough one to engage, but I've found that booksellers love the call and response of such engagement. So we'll begin this week with a wide-angle perspective, then get down to specifics next time.

Patrick Covington, co-owner of Accent on Books, Asheville, N.C., describes his business as a general indie bookstore with "a specialty in religion/spirituality books. We tend to avoid carrying stock that you could find in a CBA store (of which there are several in our town), and instead concentrate on 'mainstream' or 'liberal' books dealing with Christianity, as well as books on other religions. In terms of our personal religious beliefs, we're a bit of a motley crew. Our buying choices are a result of both what we have decided to focus on and our own principles--that is, books that deal with faith in an intelligent, challenging, and non-discriminatory way."

At the Moravian Book Shop, Bethlehem, Pa., Stephanie Anderson said she and head buyer Susan Fisher select titles for the religion category "based on what will sell, especially books that are geared toward the layperson. We keep in some academic titles for clergy (there is a seminary nearby), but primarily for the layperson. Must be sure to carry controversial books, books about atheism, books about comparitive religions, etc."

Katie Glasgow, book buyer for Mitchell Books, Fort Wayne, Ind., seeks a middle ground: "We carry both sides of the argument but try not to promote the extremes if we can help it. I just think that, depending on the history of the store and the climate of the area, a bookstore is going to be a place of ideas and the majority of those ideas are not going to agree on any level. But isn't that the point?"

At Spotty Dog Books & Ale, Hudson, N.Y., co-owner Kelley Drahushuk observes that religious belief "really only comes into play because I tend to order things that I would be interested in knowing more about: i.e., I'm Episcopalian, and know very little about any other religions except those of the Christian persuasion. Hence I order books that might help me learn about the other religions in the world and where they are coming from. Not that I eschew Christian titles, I guess I just order the more exotic Christian titles that appeal to my sensibilities."

Carrying "as open and wide a religious section as possible" is the goal for Sheryl Cotleur, buying director at Book Passage, Corte Madera (and San Francisco), Calif.: "We devote several large shelves each to every religious belief system we know of. In our region, Christianity, Judaica and Buddhism do very well, as does some non-traditional spirituality. We do carry books on Islamic beliefs and interest and Sufism, too, and, yes, even books considered against religion. As the buyer, I look for small press and offbeat books in these areas as well as mainstream publisher books. Our philosophy section is next to religion and that does well, too."

Next time we'll wander deeper into the stacks. Feel free to join the biblio-pilgrimage. And don't forget to answer Sharon's question about Catholic titles specifically.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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