Shelf Awareness for Monday, October 6, 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

Quotation of the Day

Reading's Future: 'Give Teenagers the Benefit of the Doubt'

"Books, inherently, require faith. Faith in an author that he or she will reward the many hours you'll spend in those pages, faith that a good story will be told, a lesson will be learned, a light will be shone upon a dim corner of the world. If you're reading this magazine, with its vast and rich history of literary achievement, you're alive to the pleasures of reading--for school or for no good reason at all. Now you have to give teenagers the benefit of the doubt, that they know what you know, that they do read and will read, that they will keep books alive, as alive as ever--that they will continue to pull the books from the shelves and add to those shelves books of their own."--Dave Eggers in Esquire magazine.

 


Amulet Books: Minor Prophets by Jimmy Cajoleas


Letters

Letter from Galveston: The Effect of Ike

The following is from Sharan Zwick, owner of the Galveston Bookshop, Galveston, Tex., (713-725-9933), which bills itself as the city's "oldest and largest used bookstore." The store was heavily damaged in Hurricane Ike and could use old shelving (see last paragraph).

We got hit with seven feet of salt water (and backed-up city sewers), which wiped out our first floor. We lost 50,000 books and 120 bookshelves and the rest of the things we take for granted each day--desks, office supplies and such.

Luckily our balcony area with 15,000-20,000 books was high and dry, and we have moved these books to an air-conditioned, humidity-controlled storage area until our restoration is completed. We are rebuilding and hope to re-open in a month or so. I own the building as well as the bookstore, so I have to get both back in running order.

The restoration has involved interviewing water and fire damage restoration companies from the park bench across the street (my new office!). After interviewing six of them and getting wildly different amounts, I chose one and they began within hours. The first phase (demolition with sledge hammers and large shovels) was done within three days. The debris sat for a week before FEMA got around to picking it up, and as you can imagine, there was a lot of it!

The second stage was decontamination and consisted of powerwashing the entire empty space and the sidewalk in front of the store, cleaning air conditioning ducts and spraying a mold retardant several times. After this, fans and dehumidifiers were left on 24/7 for five days.

Now we are at the rebuild stage. We have an appointment with an electrician to see whether the salt water damaged the circuit box and the wiring. When he is satisfied and gets a permit from the city, then electricity can be restored by Centerpoint Energy.

Then we get bids from A/C guys, plumbers and carpenters. We also have to install a new floor--we are going with ceramic tile as it is strong enough for the next storm.

We did have a lot of flood insurance, and once we get reimbursed from the flood insurance company, we can get shelving, books, computers, desks and the trillion other things we need just to run a small business. That is, if there is any money left over from rebuilding the physical space!

We are looking for bookshelves that someone may be able to donate (we'd pay freight).

 


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


News

Notes: Gaming Books?; New Stores, Morphing Stores

The New York Times asks whether links between books and video games are a good and effective thing, but comes to no strong conclusion. Among the exhibits: author P.J. Haarsma, who said, "You can't just make a book anymore. [Pairing a video game with a YA title] brings the book into their world, as opposed to going the other way around."

Rick Riordan, whose first book in the 39 Clues series has just appeared, commented: "I think gamers and readers are looking for the same thing. They are looking to be dropped into an intriguing story and to become a character in the story."

And Jay Parini said, "I wouldn't be surprised if, in 10 or 20 years, video games are creating fictional universes which are every bit as complex as the world of fiction of Dickens or Dostoevsky."

Tellingly an accompanying photo shows a group in a library during a video game tournament: boys are at screens, a girl is reading a book.

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The Wall Street Journal's tasting menu of cookbooks being published tomorrow consists of Paula Deen's My First Cookbook by Paula Deen, Chef Jeff Cooks by Jeff Henderson and More Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pépin--"the opening salvo of what promises to be an intensely competitive holiday season."

For at least one publisher, the financial crisis may be a recipe for cookbook success. "Maybe everyone will stay a little closer to the hearth," Beth Wareham, director of cookbook publishing at Scribner, told the Journal.

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Chapters at the Cottage, a general bookstore, has opened in Columbus, Neb., the Columbus Telegram reported. The store is a branch of Chapters Books & Gifts in Seward and is also owned by Carla Ketner.

Chapters at the Cottage is located at 3215 14th St., Columbus, Neb. 68601; 402-563-3369.

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The Book Blues bookstore, Marine City, Mich., is closing its bricks-and-mortar location November 15 but will continue to sell online, according to the store's website. Owners Todd and Jackie Wilson cited "economic market forces [that] have not been kind to independent businesses."

Opened in June 2006--see our one-year anniversary story (Shelf Awareness, June 3, 2007)--the store will continue publishing its e-newsletter and may host author and book-related events at various locations. Book Blues sells gently used and new books and offered events and signings focusing on local authors, Great Lakes shipping, Michigan and area history.

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To raise awareness and rally community support, La Casa Azul Bookstore is hosting an event at Camaradas El Barrio on Wednesday, October 15, from 7-9 p.m., at 2241 First Avenue (at 115th St.) in East Harlem in New York City.
 
Owner Aurora Anaya-Cerda has begun operating the store online and next plans to open a bricks-and-mortar location in East Harlem (Shelf Awareness, April 22, 2008). La Casa Azul offers "a wide range of books and music from the United States, México, Latin America and the Caribbean," reflecting "the international Latino communities shaping the United States and many parts of the world." Titles are in Spanish and English.

RSVP for the party to lacasaazulbookstore@gmail.com.

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Congratulations to the BookMark, Atlantic Beach, Fla., which is celebrating an August remodeling and its 18th birthday this coming Saturday, October 11, with appearances by Florida authors, prizes, giveaways, and a sidewalk sale. Among the attendees: children's author and illustrator Frances and Hugh Keiser, who have done a series of books about Pelican Pete (Sagaponack Books); journalist Mark Lane, author of Sandspurs: Notes from a Coastal Columnist (University Press of Florida); and novelist Ad Hudler, author of Man of the House (Ballantine). Some publishers have donated books, tote bags and other items that BookMark will give to customers on Saturday, and several restaurants and customers are helping with refreshments. 

Owners Rona and Buford Brinlee, who purchased the BookMark in 1995, said the store needed a makeover after 13 years. "We tore down the interior walls (replacing a series of separate rooms with an open space), painted, added ceiling fans and installed new carpet," they continued. "We worked hard and accomplished all of this in just five days. The newly configured space allows customers to see all the wonderful books and enables the staff to help them better. We host author events on a regular basis and will now be able to fit more people in the store. Customers love it and keep asking if we got bigger."

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In an interview with the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, Manny Cunard, director of the Brown University bookstore, was asked, "Your bookstore is independent, and many area college bookstores are not. What's the difference?"

"We have a certain connection with the local community that you can't get with a big-box store," he said. "Our decisions aren't made at the corporate level; they are driven by the community."

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"Some do's and don'ts at the bookstore" were offered by the Midwest Book Examiner for readers on holiday gift-buying trips.

Do:

  • Know the preferences of your giftee.
  • Look around for a minute on your own.
  • Consider introducing your giftee to something you like.
  • Think of things that go with books.
  • Ask--NICELY--for help if you're completely stymied.
  • Remember to ask for a gift receipt.
Do Not:
  • Be rude.
  • Head directly to the bargain section.
  • Expect the booksellers to mind-read.
  • Don't, for heaven's sake, say, "There was a book on the shelf over here last year and it had a blue cover and it was by some guy from Minneapolis . . . do you have that book?"
  • Use the bookstore as a babysitter.
  • Be a Grinch.
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Write big books, earn big bucks. Forbes magazine featured its annual "The World's Best Paid Authors" list of 10 bestselling writers who "pulled in a combined $563 million between June 1, 2007, and June 1, 2008, thanks to hefty advances, impressive sales and silver screen adaptations."

This year's Forbes list includes:
  1. J.K. Rowling ($300 million)
  2. James Patterson ($50 million)
  3. Stephen King ($45 million)
  4. Tom Clancy ($35 million)
  5. Danielle Steel ($30 million)
  6. John Grisham (tied at $25 million)
  7. Dean Koontz (tied at $25 million)
  8. Ken Follett ($20 million)
  9. Janet Evanovich ($17 million)
  10. Nicholas Sparks ($16 million)
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Speaking of money, Variety noted, "Life's handed many Americans a pile of lemons lately. But the book biz is looking to make lemonade." Exhibit A for this contention is the recent popularity of business and financial titles like Alice Schroeder's The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life.

Variety quoted a Bantam rep, who said the publisher has "already logged reorders for Snowball, which had an initial print run of 1 million copies on Sept. 29. The rep admits that Bantam never could have anticipated such timing--which could be seen as exquisite, or painful, depending on the point of view."

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Effective today, Kathy Anderson has joined Black Oak Books, Berkeley, Calif., as manager. She was formerly trade books manager at the Stanford Bookstore and earlier worked at Ingram and several other college bookstores.

Black Oak was bought in June by Gary Cornell, a former math professor, founder of Apress and author of many computer books.

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Sally Lindsay has joined Chesapeake & Hudson as director of telemarketing and special sales and is working at its home office in Brunswick, Md. A 35-year veteran of the publishing industry, Lindsay was v-p of merchandising for Koen Book Distributors from 1981 until it closed in 2005. She then formed Sallynoggin Consulting and Creative Projects, doing media and market development projects for several independent trade wholesalers and publishers as well as publishers in the higher education market. 

 


Ecco Press: Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha


Image of the Day: Caution, Banned Books

Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, Calif., highlighted Banned Books Week at its stores with window displays (such as this one at its Hastings Ranch branch), shelf talkers and the sale of banned book and related T-shirts, bags, bracelets, buttons and stickers. Heather Marquez-Baecker, the Hastings Ranch store manager, said that the efforts have "elicited a good response from our customers, some of who immediately want to know why we've decided to ban certain books. Can you imagine?" She also thanked "wonderful Random House rep Wade Lucas" for providing "banned" sleeves for some Random titles.

 


NCIBA & SCIBA: Holiday Catalog


Greasy Rider Driver Revs Up for Bookstore Tour

There was at least one resident in Asheville, N.C., who wasn't slowed down by the recent gas crisis affecting the Southeast. As some drivers waited for hours on line at the pump, "I was zipping by. They were getting a whiff of my French fry oil as they were sitting there," said Greg Melville, the author of Greasy Rider: Two Dudes, One Fry-Oil-Powered Car, and a Cross-Country Search for a Greener Future (Algonquin, $15.95, 9781565125957/1565125959). This week he hits the road again courtesy of fry oil to visit a string of booksellers.

Two years ago Melville converted a 1985 Mercedes diesel station wagon to run on vegetable oil, something he did as much to save on fuel costs as for environmental reasons. "The car was definitely the joke of the neighborhood," said Melville, who lived in South Burlington, Vt., at the time. Gas then cost around $2.20 a gallon, compared to the current national average of $3.52. "All of a sudden, the idea doesn't sound so silly anymore," he added. Most of the used grease that powers the car (which gets about 20 miles to the gallon) comes from local restaurants' deep fry refuse.

Part travelogue and part environmental investigation, Greasy Rider is Melville's account of a cross-country trip he undertook in his revamped vehicle. With Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" playing in the background, Melville and his college buddy, Iggy, set out on what he described as "the ultimate driving adventure" with a twist--not stopping at a gas pump.

Along the way, the duo's journey developed into something more than simply the challenge of logging miles on vegetable-oil power. "I realized I should be taking more from this trip than just two buddies driving across the country and mooching oil off restaurants along the way," said Melville, a journalist and travel writer. "The trip made me think more about sustainability." He and Iggy devised a list of environmental issues that Melville later followed up on. Researching things like wind power and ethanol led Melville on various "errands"--including visits to Al Gore's not-so-eco-friendly Nashville mansion and Google's California headquarters--which he also describes in the book.

Melville will be behind the wheel this week as he sets out on a 15-city tour to promote Greasy Rider, driving to the nine events at bookstores from Georgia to Vermont. He plans to blog about his adventures, including highlighting how the stores he's visiting are going green. During the tour, Melville and Algonquin Books are making a concerted effort to reach out to students in college towns. "That's really where this groundswell of support for environmentalism is coming from," said Melville.

Melville would like all readers, whether active in the environmental movement or not, to be entertained and educated by Greasy Rider. His aim, he said, was to create "a fun read for people, and hopefully as they read it the message gets across. I tried hard to make the book extremely readable, accessible and upbeat." One thing Melville would like readers to take away from Greasy Rider is that being environmentally friendly is entirely feasible. "There's this misconception that going green will hurt you in the wallet," he said. "But there are many, many instances where being green does nothing but help you financially." Like replacing fuel with veggie oil, which Melville will need in abundance to motor his way up and down the East Coast.

Melville is stockpiling grease for the tour, and some booksellers are getting in on the act as well. At Wordsmiths Books in Decatur, Ga., where Melville begins his tour tomorrow, marketing and publicity director Russ Marshalek has received an enthusiastic response from local restaurants willing to let the author "tap their fry oil." The store has also partnered with the organizations Georgia Interfaith Power and Light and Refuel Biodiesel to spread the word. "Greg may have more oil than he can carry," said Marshalek, who expects Melville and Greasy Rider--which he called "hilarious and inspiring"--to be well-received in this environmentally-conscious town outside Atlanta.

If bookstore customers would like to offload their used cooking oil, too, Melville is happy to be on the receiving end. "The more the merrier," he remarked. "I'll take it." And if he shows up at events with a few grease stains on his clothes, no one is likely to hold it against him. Said Melville, "I might be more authentic that way."--Shannon McKenna Schmidt

 


Starscape Books: Freeing Finch by Ginny Rorby


NEIBA: Flood of Books and Authors

If Noah had had Nan, things might have been different.

Luckily the New England Independent Booksellers Association had Nan. When a Hynes Center flood threatened to swamp the opening of the exhibits at the association's trade show, Nan Sorenson, NEIBA's assistant executive director, had every Convention Center employee standing under the broken pipe with mops, buckets, plastic sheeting and carnival ride-like trash haulers. But thank to Nan, her army of the righteous and a shockingly effective water vacuum cleaner, the exhibits were largely spared and there was only a 30-minute rain delay.

There were a few stampedes on the show floor. Harper's Dennis Lehane mound of galleys evaporated. Ron Koltnow, Random World, was reduced to telling people that he had extra galleys of the instant classic Dexter Filkins' The Forever War in his basement. We spent the weekend with our favorite archaeologist-turned-author Andrew Beahrs, whose Strange Saint was a holiday catalogue a few years ago and who has returned with Sin Eaters.

There were also a lot more graphic novels on display than in the past. Wellesley Booksmith blog-queen Alison Morris keeps a lot of us current. Kirsten Cappy, Curious City, Portland, Me., joined her distributor Diamond Comics to promote what may be the only graphic novel published by a brewery.

Just about every publishing conversation took a fast detour to politics. The hall was Obama-mad. Tom Hallock, Beacon Press, who pumped for Kerry for a month in Ohio in the 2004 debacle, offered theories of how the Republicans might steal this one. His favorite site is 270towin.com. Ted Wedel, Chesapeake & Hudson principal, touted FiveThirtyEight.com, popular among those who find the link between baseball and politics seamless. I stick with Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball.com, which comes out of the University of Virginia. I couldn't find any players in Iowa Electronic Markets Presidential Futures, but I know that they are out there.

And God bless, Essex, Vt., book maven Elaine Sopchak for wearing her "Attention Sarah Palin: Jesus was a community organizer" T-shirt on opening day.

Among "favorite people" I ran into Bina Williams, bookseller-turned-librarian (and past Caldecott judge). We go back to the Dunphy's Inn, Hyannis shows, circa 1979. Carol Chittenden, wearing both of her outsized hats, of Eight Cousins, Falmouth, Mass., and Bookstream, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., was joined by Bookstream colleagues Jack Herr and Caroline Bennett.

Also in attendance: Eric Wilska, owner of the Bookloft, Great Barrington, Mass., whose on-demand printing service venture with Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y., Troy Book Makers, just relocated to new digs near Market Block Books, as a result of early success. (Their motto is "Let your inner book out.") I always pop into the shop when I pass through Troy, as much to see the world's-most-ubiquitous blurber Susan Taylor. I remain astonished at the variety of formats that the press can execute.

I was most happy to see Carole Horne, Harvard Bookstore, Cambridge, Mass., with Jeffrey Mayersohn, who last week became the store's president and co-owner. I said as many ingratiatingly obsequious things as I could muster, while muttering everyone's silent prayer "please don't screw it up." Later I googled him and his wife, Linda Seamonson, who among other things, holds patent #5274818 on a system and method for compiling a fine-grained array-based source program onto a course-grained hardware which provides a parallel vector machine model for building a compiler that exploits three different levels of parallelism found in a variety of parallel processing machines, and in particular, the Connection Machine Computer CM-2 system--which eerily models the lower brain stem processes of book buyers. Can new buying systems be far in the bookstore's future?

Under the heading of "thank-goodness-they-are-still-here," Bunch of Grapes buyer Dailis Merrill said that the Martha's Vineyard store is soldiering on in temporary digs; they had had to shovel out mounds of ruined books and re-building plans are afoot. Also, a new owner appears to be in the wings. Stay tuned.

The Rep Pick sessions were better organized promoted and vastly better attended, and the meal functions were a success. Steve Fisher, NEIBA executive director, said that remarkably it was the first time he could recollect that someone did NOT complain about the food.

I hit Durgin Park for my annual devotions and once again was reminded that the steak does not have to flop over the edges of your plate in order to be filling. But it helps.

Even though overall registration and attendance was flat, booksellers voted with their feet and sold out the kid's banquet as well as all lunches and breakfasts. Let's face it: the New England booksellers always turn out the best show.

In other news, Tony Giordano, New England Book Sales, was the Gilman Award winner for sales rep of the year. David Macaulay who won a President's Award for "lifetime achievement." Alice Hoffman, Nathanial Philbrick and Tommie dePaolo won New England Book Awards. Down East Books was Publisher of the Year.

Distinguished-persons-who-walk-among-us included Bob Miller, touting his new publishing model at HarperStudio. I worked with Bob when he launched Hyperion, and he delivers. Connie Sayre, publishing guru and principal in Market Partners whose monthly Publishing Trends is required bedside reading, also popped up.

Steve Fisher said that the panels were well attended; I heard a lot of positive feedback on the blogging workshop led by Random House superstars Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman, who launched blog and podcast Books on the Nightstand on their own time.

For many of us, NEIBA was but the first stop on a five-day weekend schlep that ended in Cherry Hill, N.J., Monday evening with the NAIBA show. Even the ever-affable Ms. Independent, Ruth Liebmann, could barely manage a smile by the end of it.

Mark your calendars: next year NEIBA meets in Hartford, Conn., October 1-3. Register now at steve@neba.org or most essential nan@neba.org. See ya!--Chris Kerr, Parson Weems' Publisher Services

 



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Forgiveness on Oprah

This morning on the Today Show: Clinton Kelly, author of Freakin' Fabulous (Simon Spotlight, $24.95, 9781416961499/1416961496).

Also on Today: Jim Stickley, author of The Truth About Identity Theft (FT Press, $18.99, 9780789737939/0789737930).

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This morning on Good Morning America: Dr. Ted Klontz, co-author of The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge: 5 Principles to Transform Your Relationship with Money (HCI Books, $14.95, 9780757307669/0757307663).

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Today on PBS' Tavis Smiley: Alonzo Mourning, author of Resilience: Faith, Focus, Triumph (Ballantine, $26, 9780345507013/0345507010).
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Today on All Things Considered: John le Carre, author of A Most Wanted Man (Scribner, $28, 9781416594888/1416594884).

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Today on Oprah: Kent Whitaker, author of Murder by Family: The Incredible True Story of a Son's Treachery and a Father's Forgiveness (Howard Books, $22.99, 9781416578130/1416578137). This segment includes an interview with Whitaker's son Brent, who is on death row.

Also on Oprah: Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, author of Dare to Forgive (HCI Books, $19.95, 9780757300103/0757300103).

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Tonight on Late Night with David Letterman: Sarah Vowell, author of The Wordy Shipmates (Riverhead, $25.95, 9781594489990/1594489998). She appears tomorrow on Talk of the Nation and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

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Tomorrow morning on the Today Show:

  • Cesar Millan, author of A Member of the Family: Cesar Millan's Guide to a Lifetime of Fulfillment with Your Dog (Harmony, $25.95, 9780307408914/0307408914).
  • Amy Wechsler, author of The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Reverse Stress Aging and Reveal More Youthful, Beautiful Skin (Free Press, $26, 9781416562573/1416562575).
  • Marcella Hazan, author of Amarcord: Marcella Remembers (Gotham, $27.50, 9781592403882/1592403883). She will also be on NPR's Chef's Table.
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Tomorrow morning on Imus in the Morning: Jack Jacobs, author of If Not Now, When?: Duty and Sacrifice in America's Time of Need (Berkley, $25.95, 9780425223598/0425223590).

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Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Charles Faddis, author of Operation Hotel California: The Clandestine War Inside Iraq (Lyons Press, $24.95, 9781599213668/1599213664).

 


Books & Authors

Awards: Translators Honored in London

Translators of works from French, Spanish, Italian, German, Greek and Arabic into English were honored recently with prizes worth a total of £10,000 (US$17,717), the Guardian reported.

The winners include:

  • Scott Moncrieff Prize: Holiday in a Coma and Love Lasts Three Years by Frederic Beigbeder, translated by Frank Wynne
  • Premio Valle Inclán: The Past by Alan Pauls, translated by Nick Caistor; and Selected Poems by Luis de Góngora, translated by John Dent-Young
  • Schlegel-Tieck Prize: Snow Part by Paul Celan, translated by Ian Fairley
  • John Florio Prize: The Greener Meadow by Luciano Erba, translated by Peter Robinson
  • Hellenic Foundation for Culture Translation Award: A Levant Journal by Giorgos Seferis, translated by Roderick Beaton
  • Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize: The Butterfly's Burden by Mahmoud Darwish, translated by Fady Joudah

 

 


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next picks:

Hardcover

Angel's Tip by Alafair Burke (Harper, $23.95, 9780061561023/0061561029). "This story of a rookie detective trying to solve the case of a murdered college student blew me away by twists, turns, and guessing that kept me riveted until the last page was turned. NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher is such a great character, and this is a great title for suspense fans."--Patricia Worth, River Reader, Lexington, Mo.

America Eats! by Pat Willard (Bloomsbury, $25.99, 9781596913622/1596913622). "Pat Willard is a terrific food writer, and this book, which traces the WPA's 1935 documentation of American food traditions throughout the country, will have you itching to go on the road yourself to try to find the out-of-the-way diners, restaurants, and communities where food and its celebration take you to new gastronomic heights. If you love food, food writers, food junkies, food festivals, and food history, you must read America Eats!"--Gayle Shanks, Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, Ariz.

Paperback

The Age of Conglomerates
by Thomas Nevins (Ballantine, $14, 9780375503917/0375503919). "In a country dominated by corporations, genetic engineering has become the norm. The aged, known as 'the Coots,' are sent off to camps to wither away. Anyone breaking from the accepted societal norms (particularly children) can become a Dyscard: yanked from their family and dumped into the underground to fend for themselves or die. The story begins with respected doctor Christine Salter, whose hidden passion for a colleague inadvertently launches a revolution."--Geoffrey B. Jennings, Rainy Day Books, Fairway, Kan.

For Ages 9 to12

Horse by Malachy Doyle, illustrated by Angelo Rinaldi (Margaret K. McElderry, $16.99, 9781416924678/1416924671). "I'm not interested in horses, but I love this book. The story is simple, following one little foal as he grows into a horse as the seasons pass. The spare, eloquent language is perfect, and Rinaldi's double-page oil paintings are amazing. I've been handing this book to anyone who tells me they're having a bad day. A few minutes later, they thank me and say they're feeling better."--Heather Lyon, Lyon Books and Learning Center, Chico, Calif.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Book Review: Tycoon's War

Tycoon's War: How Cornelius Vanderbilt Invaded a Country to Overthrow America's Most Famous Military Adventurer by Stephen Dando-Collins (Da Capo Press, $26.00 Hardcover, 9780306816079, September 2008)



Tycoon's War is a richly detailed recounting of the careers of William Walker and Cornelius Vanderbilt before 1855 and the epic battle of wills that raged between them during 1856 and 1857. The two men never met.

Walker was a doctor, a lawyer, a newspaperman and a soldier of fortune whose imagination and sense of adventure drew him to Nicaragua in 1855. As if by magic, he managed to end the devastating 17-month-long civil war and was soon elected President. Stephen Dando-Collins quotes Walker as telling the U.S. members of his troops that "they were there to introduce American values and democracy, to replace a worn-out Old World social and political order." His political ambition was huge: he harbored dreams of taking over all Central America.

In 1849, Vanderbilt had obtained rights to build a canal across Nicaragua. With additional rights to transport passengers and goods overland across Nicaragua from the Atlantic to the Pacific, he also held a monopoly on the shortest, fastest shipping route between New York and San Francisco. Vanderbilt began transporting people (and gold from California) along the route in 1851, and by 1853, he had made millions on his Nicaraguan operation. When his partners later tried to cut him out of the deal, he famously replied: "Gentlemen, you have undertaken to cheat me. I won't sue you, for the law is too slow. I'll ruin you. Yours truly, Cornelius Vanderbilt." Vanderbilt had a history of defending his commercial interests with ferocity.

Dando-Collins revels in unearthing stories of Walker's political opponents in Nicaragua, treacherous undisciplined troops and armed incursions from neighboring Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador. By comparison, his tales of Vanderbilt's schemes to best conniving competitors attempting to co-opt his transit route in Nicaragua appear almost genteel.

In 1856, Walker invalidated Vanderbilt's transit route agreement with Nicaragua. From the moment the interests of Walker and Vanderbilt clashed, there was nothing but trouble. Vanderbilt raged at the U.S. Secretary of State William Marcy, "One William Walker has interfered with American property, Marcy!" He, of course, meant his personal property.

Vanderbilt launched into furious action, with wave after wave of strategies, agents and arms deals to cripple Walker. For his part, Walker unrelentingly countered every assault on his Nicaragua power base.

Because nobody backed down, Walker and Vanderbilt began to resemble the Irresistible Force and the Immovable Object of the beloved Johnny Mercer lyric; as we know, the song predicts, "Something's Gotta Give," and it does with ferocious brutality and destruction.--John McFarland

Shelf Talker: A rip-roaring adventure that is also an object lesson in political and commercial exploitation of Central America at the hands of William Walker and Cornelius Vanderbilt, two larger-than-life 19th century American originals.

 


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