Shelf Awareness for Monday, October 27, 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


Notes: Preparing for a Lean Christmas; New Bookstore

Marketing leaders at some 100 general retailers expect sales at their stores open at least a year to fall on average 2.7% in November and December compared to the same period last year, according to a BDO Seidman survey quoted by the Wall Street Journal. Some 88% of those executives say their companies plan to offer more discounts and promotions than last year.


The American Booksellers Association continues to aim to help member stores prepare for a challenging season. Bookselling This Week's Bookselling in Tough Times series focuses this week on merchandising.

And the ABA has "fast-tracked" an IndieBound holiday marketing program that includes new designs for material--posters, bookmarks, postcards and more--that promote "the lasting value of the book as a great gift," which the board calls "the best approach for independent bookstores this holiday season."


How does a bookstore thrive for two decades? "A love for books, along with careful planning and also spur-of-the-moment decisions," according to the Kalamazoo, Mich., Gazette, which interviewed Kazoo Books' owner Gloria Tiller, who believed in 1988 "her bookstore would be a haven for women, so she stocked it primarily with romance novels."

"I thought I would have this quaint shop where women would come and talk about and buy romance novels," she said. "My first customer to come in was a man looking for a mystery novel. That's when I knew I had to adapt if I wanted to stay alive." That ongoing adaptation process by Gloria and her husband, Jim, eventually included expansion and the addition of a second store, Kazoo Books II.

"We're just like the big-box stores but with a heck of a lot more knowledge and customer service," Gloria said. "Our employees are amazing. Just the other day, a customer came in looking for a book and didn't know the name. He described it in a few words, and sure enough one of our employees knew exactly what book it was and took him to it. You can't get that online or at a big chain store."


The new site is up. Read all about it and see it here.


The Greensboro, N.C., News-Record celebrated the opening of the Glenwood Community Book Shop with the news that "Alan Brilliant, a veteran of the publishing business who trained under the legendary owner of New York City's Gotham Book Mart and Gallery, had everything ready the other day at his small Grove Street storefront south of the coliseum."

The paper also offered an elegy to the region's glory days of bookselling: "They were just shops, after all. Nothing indispensable in what they sold, nothing a body can't survive without. Printed pages sewn together, glued to a spine, cloaked in a jacket, arranged a certain way on a shelf. But in the city that gave the world O. Henry--and more than its share of major poets and novelists ever since--Greensboro's independent bookstores are like departed friends."


We reported earlier this month on the occasionally discomforting mix of bookstores and politics (Shelf Awareness, October 16, 2008) as the presidential campaign heats up. Now the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has added to the discussion with its report on an election year that "tests local residents' civility."

According to the article, Linda Burg, owner of the Little Read Book, Wauwatosa, Wis., "can't recall, in all her years as a bookseller, a more contentious political climate" in her bookstore. "In the weeks building up to the November election, Burg has witnessed perfectly reasonable people losing their cool in defense of their candidates. Voices are elevated. Tensions are high."

"Conversations have gotten very steamed," she said, adding that she has encouraged her staff to refrain from talking politics with patrons. "I don't think there's a middle ground in this election at all. I've been here for 23 years, and I don't remember an election like this one."


"Independent book stores put a special focus on children" was the Daily Herald's headline for a piece showcasing Chicago-area indie bookstores that "make children a big focus, hosting reading events and impressive collections for every interest. They also include places where you can spend some time reading with the kids on a cold day."


"Yet more Bastards with Bookshops" were featured by Bookride (via Boing Boing), including "the Birmingham [England] dealer, who on being asked for a discount for books would tear them in half in front of the customer. What particularly irked him was the phrase 'What can you do on this?' A red mist would descend and he would reply 'I'll show you what I can do on this . . .' and tore up the book."


A new Indigo store in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is one of the Canadian bookstore chain's new stores that emphasizes home decor, gourmet and gift items and has a children's "store within the store," the Saskatoon Star Phoenix reported. The store is called Indigo Books. Gifts. Life.

CEO Heather Reisman said that the overall layout is, as the paper put it, "based on what consumers have asked for over time. Part of that involves organizing book category sections with relevant gift selections."

In the children's store, Reisman said, "In addition to books, this has quality toys, very carefully selected, but a rich selection--the kind parents are looking for. Developmental, but fun." In addition, "There are things children can do while they are there. They can play, they can dress up . . . there's crafts, story-telling. It's a whole world for kids. This is something we've been working on for a number of years."


On Friday's show, Oprah, who besides books likes to recommend various products, chose as her "favorite new gadget" the Amazon Kindle. She received one this summer as a gift and said it changed her life.

As part of the show on Friday, everyone in the audience received a free Kindle and Amazon offered viewers a $50 discount on the Kindle as well as 10% off the price of Oprah's latest book pick, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos appeared on the show and said he is reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy and a book on the history of cryogenic engineering, according to Wired.

At one point, Oprah said, "I have no stake in the Kindle."


Kevin Callahan has been promoted to associate director of marketing for Harper. He joined the department in April 2007.


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

Bunch of Grapes Re-Opening: Part Two of Chapter Two

More on the purchase and re-opening of Bunch of Grapes bookstore on Martha's Vineyard, Mass. (Shelf Awareness, October 24, 2008).

Dawn Braasch, who has been event coordinator, has bought the store, which is re-opening in temporary quarters in a carriage store on Church Street before Thanksgiving. The store's original space on Main Street should be ready for its return in the spring.

Ann Nelson, the longtime owner of Bunch of Grapes until two years ago and owner of the store's building, which was severely damaged in a fire on July 4, is consulting for the store. Also "four key people" involved in running the store before the fire continue:

As Braasch put it, "Dailis Merrill, a 20-year veteran of the bookstore, is the book buyer, regarded as somewhat of a genius by most in the industry for his literary knowledge and ability to predict what will sell in this community.  Katherine Fergason will continue in her dual role as store manager and children's book buyer. Katherine's strength is her absolute love of and enthusiasm for well-written children's books. We have kids who come for vacation every year and search her out because she can always be counted on to give the best recommendations. Karen Harris is not only our floor manager, but a bookseller extraordinaire. She is not only a bibliophile herself, but remembers what customers' preferences are, and can always be counted on to give the perfect recommendation. Gardner Baldwin, a nine-year veteran of the bookstore whose knowledge of literature enhances his position, will remain the shipping and receiving manager.


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

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Flat Belly Diet

This morning on the Today Show: Patrick Henry Hughes and his father, Patrick John Hughes, authors of I Am Potential: Eight Lessons for Living, Loving, and Reaching Your Dreams (Da Capo Lifelong, $24, 9780738212982/0738212989).


Today on the Diane Rehm Show: Brenda Wineapple, author of White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Knopf, $27.95, 9781400044016/1400044014).


Today on the Tavis Smiley Show: Jeff Henderson, author of Chef Jeff Cooks: In the Kitchen with America's Inspirational New Culinary Star (Scribner, $30, 9781416577102/1416577106).


Tonight on the Late Show with David Letterman: Bill O'Reilly, author of A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity (Broadway, $26, 9780767928823/0767928822).


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America:

  • James Patterson, author of Against Medical Advice: One Family's Struggle with an Agonizing Medical Mystery (Little, Brown, $26.99, 9780316024754/0316024759).
  • Irene Pepperberg, author of Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process (Collins, $23.95, 9780061672477/0061672475).
  • Mary-Kate Olsen, author of Influence (Razorbill, $35, 9781595142108/159514210X).


Tomorrow morning on the Early Show: Maureen McCormick, author of Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice (Morrow, $25.95, 9780061490149/0061490148).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Liz Vaccariello, author of Flat Belly Diet (Rodale, $25.95, 9781594868511/1594868514).


Tomorrow on Dr. Phil: Jay McGraw, author of Jay McGraw's Life Strategies for Dealing with Bullies (Aladdin, $17.99, 9781416974734/1416974733). He will also appear tomorrow morning on the Today Show.


Tomorrow night on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Steve Martin, author of Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life (Scribner, $15, 9781416553656/1416553657).


Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 9780316013680/0316013684).


AuthorBuzz for the Week of 06.01.20

Books & Authors

Unfortunate but Good Timing: New Books On the New Deal's WPA

On its 75th anniversary, there are at least four new marvelous books on the Works Progress Administration, FDR's New Deal program that put millions of unemployed Americans back on the job during the Great Depression. The titles unintentionally foreshadow the current economic meltdown. (Be warned: you might find yourself wondering if a "new" WPA could be in our future.)

Nick Taylor's exhaustive study, American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA (Bantam), tackles the program's many achievements and challenges with enough insight and enthusiasm to please history buffs and dabblers alike. You'll be shocked to learn how much of the WPA's handiwork still exists coast to coast, from airports and dams to community parks and post office murals.

Kathryn Flynn and Richard Polese's handsomely illustrated The New Deal (Gibbs Smith) delves into the eclectic deeds of the WPA as well as Social Security, the short-lived Civilian Conservation Corps and Civil Works Administration--the latter two of which together preserved wilderness areas and created countless roads, bridges and public buildings.

One of the WPA's most controversial ventures, the Federal Theatre Project, gets a fresh look in Susan Quinn's Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art out of Desperate Times (Walker). The FTP, along with the Federal Arts, Music and Writers' Projects (known collectively as "Federal One"), made up 1% of the WPA's enormous budget but, according to Quinn's lively and entertaining account, received the most Congressional scrutiny--and scorn--due to allegations of Communist infiltration (a subject of Tim Robbins's film The Cradle Will Rock).

State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America compiled by Paris Review deputy editor Matt Weiland and McSweeney's editor-at-large Sean Wilsey (Ecco) recreates the spirit of the WPA's famous "American Guide" series. While the Federal Writers' Project assigned thousands of out-of-work scribes to create a written portrait of the U.S., State by State employs some of today's best authors--including Dave Eggers (Illinois), Barry Hannah (Mississippi), Jhumpa Lahiri (Rhode Island) and Rick Moody (Connecticut)--to create a more quirky armchair road trip. (Don't miss the Out of the Book movie based on this from Powell's Books.)

More books on the WPA are on their way. Arriving later this month is Posters for the People: The Art of the WPA by Ennis Carter and Christopher DeNoon (Quirk Books), which documents the colorful achievements and far-reaching influence of the Federal Art Project's Poster Division. Historians consider the WPA's posters among the most noteworthy examples of public art in the U.S. They advertised exhibits and performances by the other arts programs, encouraged travel, warned against disease and helped to promote the nation's economic recovery.

And this February, David A. Taylor's Soul of a People: The WPA Writers' Project Uncovers Depression America (Wiley) will chronicle the work of future literary stars like John Cheever, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Studs Terkel and Richard Wright as they toiled to create the WPA's popular state and regional guidebooks.--Larry Portzline is a writer and college instructor in Pennsylvania and founded Bookstore Tourism.


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

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

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


The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews (Counterpoint, $24, 9781582434391/1582434395). "Is it O.K. to laugh out loud at the misadventures of an earnest but clueless aunt steaming ahead on a road trip with her niece and nephew in a quest to rescue them from their mentally unstable mother and to track down their long-absent father? These are characters with a great sense of humor, and, so, I decided the answer was 'yes.' Miriam Toews mines the darkly comic while exposing the poignant truths in family relationships."--Cheryl McKeon, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, Wash.

The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam (Spiegel & Grau, $22.95, 9780385526210/0385526210). "A gripping memoir that chronicles the plight of a woman in Cambodia who went from child sex slave to accomplished activist on behalf of Asian woman and children in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos."--Janet Bollum, the Muse Book Shop, DeLand, Fla.


The Archangel Project by C.S. Graham (HarperCollins, $7.99, 9780061351204/0061351202). "This novel of a gifted Navy vet of the Iraq war and a CIA operative on the run and fighting to stop a deadly conspiracy is a frightening story of how people can use the government to try to control others, and of the courage of some as they fight back. Riveting and well-written."--Barbara Rodean, A Likely Story, Sykesville, Md.

For Ages 9 to 12

Highway Cats by Janet Taylor Lisle (Philomel, $14.99, 9780399250705/0399250700). "Strange things start to happen after three kittens are found by the road. How did they make it safely across the highway? The kittens themselves do not seem special in any way . . . except, of course, that they glow. What is the mystery of these kittens?"--Diane Betz, Butterfly Books, De Pere, Wis.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review: The Customer Is Always Wrong

The Customer Is Always Wrong: The Retail Chronicles edited and compiled by Jeff Martin (Soft Skull Press, $12.95 trade paperback, 9781933368900/193336890X, October 2008)

Here 21 contributors draw highly distinctive beads on their experiences working in retail establishments that range from one-person operations all the way to big-box stores, from an upscale children's clothing boutique to a Swedish pancake emporium. The focus can be on the customers, co-workers, supervisors, management, employees-discount and the (usually pathetic) paycheck, but the results are uniformly sardonic, touching, hilarious, uplifting and bizarre; in short: terrific!

Though there are many tales of suffering the tedium and humiliation of standing behind a counter, which demands that you be nice to even the most loathsome individuals, the essays teem with lessons learned about growing up and distinguishing all the types of people who walk the Earth (and lurch through your door). What we as readers learn from the behind-the-scenes 411: size labels are sometimes ripped out of clothes so that a size 20 happily purchases what she insists is a size 12; some clerks at Sears suffer intense bouts of mall-envy of all the cool kids who work at Benetton; salespeople working on commission have a tendency to direct you to an item that will benefit them, not you; never buy a service contract.

In addition to offering valuable tips on shopping for home supplies, James Wagner also pulls the curtain back to confide, "Abuse by customers and desired violence toward them by colleagues often go hand in hand, and one of the principal activities of my colleagues at the hardware store is to think of ways of killing customers." The macabre uses to which an inventory of elaborate and sharp devices can be put are, to say the least, highly imaginative.

Surprises abound throughout the collection. The tantalizing first line, "There were a million reasons to take the job at Sexworld," begins Clay Allen's piece, but where he takes us is so idiosyncratic and unexpected that I finished the tale with my jaw dropped open.

As I read one really original take on retailing after another, I feared that the next one had to be flat. Then I turned the page to C.A. Conrad's "Deviant You, Deviant Me," three delirious pages of attitude, hilarity and righteous anger. Consider all my fears banished, although I had no idea what could come next. I began Gary Mex Glazner's "Tulip Thief." "I worked as a florist for eighteen years, but always wanted to do something more masculine, so I became a poet," he writes as his funny and sweet story takes off into the stratosphere. Kudos to Jeff Martin for compiling essays that so consistently fly readers to the moon.--John McFarland

Shelf Talker: The Customer Is Always Wrong parades such wit, variety and sassy personality that you'll want to host a reading in your home in order to meet the authors and maybe flirt with them.


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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