Shelf Awareness for Friday, November 7, 2008


Bloomsbury YA: Dreamland (YA Edition): The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

Balzer & Bray: The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy

Rick Riordan Presents: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1) by Kwame Mbalia

Magination Press: Trans+: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You by Kathryn Gonzales and Karen Rayne

Sourcebooks Explore: Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children by Kath Shackleton, illustrated by Zane Wittingham

Central Avenue Publishing: Into Captivity They Will Go by Noah Milligan

Carolrhoda Books: A Time Traveler's Theory of Relativity by Nicole Valentine

Quotation of the Day

Customers 'Want a Warm Retreat in a Dark, Cold World'

"Being a retailer is challenging when the psychology of the market is making people think twice about opening their purses. How can we send our customers a message of encouragement? How can we get them to sit a spell, and spend their precious dollars in our stores? In large part it has to do with making sure that the psychology of fear isn't reflected in the way your business feels to your customers. . . . In fact, what your customers want--what they crave, actually--is a little relief from the bleak saturation of the 24-hour news cycle. They want comfort. They want nurturing. They want advice they can trust. They want ideas to make it better. They want a warm retreat in a dark, cold world. They want, in fact, exactly what you have to offer."--Kristen McLean, executive director of the Association of Booksellers for Children, from her article, "Bookselling in an Uncertain World" in Toolbox, ABC's e-newsletter for frontline children's booksellers (via Bookselling this Week).

 


Mango: The Restaurant Diet: How to Eat Out Every Night and Still Lose Weight by Fred Bollaci


News

Notes: Novel Adventure's New Chapter; IndieBound's 'Wish List'

A Novel Adventure, Boise, Idaho, "has opened a new chapter at an old bookstore," according to the Idaho Statesman, which reported that "the location is in the former home of the Book Shop, one of Idaho's oldest bookstores, and has since been occupied by Book & Game and Boise Book & Gift Co." A grand opening celebration is being held this week.

"Our families had been looking at getting a small, local business for quite some time," said Mike Rainey, who owns the bookshop with his wife, Becky, and her sister and brother-in-law, Monica and Josh White. "When an independent bookstore right in the heart of downtown Boise became available, everyone knew that it would be the right choice. . . . There has been a bookstore in this general location since 1869."

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Appalachian State University's student newspaper, the Appalachian, gave high marks to indie bookstore Black Bear Books, Boone, N.C. "The atmosphere is more academic and intellectual," sophomore Carley R. Nobles said. "It's a nice change from being on campus, and has different things available."

Assistant manager Erin M. Thompson praised the bookshop's selection and staff: "We have very different tastes . . . When a customer walks in looking for a mystery, or a romance, or literary fiction, the staff will give a great recommendation. . . . Books are a great escape. You can spend ten dollars, and get a week of relaxation and value from it."

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The Bookworm bookstore, Frisco, Tex., is closing imminently, the Dallas Morning News reported. "The biggest contributing factor is the impact of the economy on people's shopping habits," owner David Norwood said of the shop that opened in 2006. He added, "For what it's worth, I'm trying to encourage as many people as we can to visit Legacy Books [Plano, Tex.]."

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For members of the Indie Community, IndieBound.org has introduced a new Wish List feature that "allows anyone to build a list of books and e-mail it to friends and family, along with a list of their favorite bookstores," Bookselling This Week reported.

"It's the viral potential of these lists that's most exciting to me," said Matt Supko, ABA's web content coordinator. "They empower 'true believers' to share IndieBound with friends and family at a time when those audiences will be most receptive to it."

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BTW also profiled Claudia Colodro and Liz Garo, who "have pooled their collective experience to open STORIES, a new and used general bookstore with an outdoor patio and cafe in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The store will hold its opening kickoff party on Saturday, November 15."

"We hope that STORIES will contribute to the Echo Park neighborhood and that it will cater to both the long-standing Latino community and the new hipster demographic," said Garo. "I think the used books will be a big bonus for everyone."

STORIES is located at 1716 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, Calif. 90026; 213-413-3733; storiesla.com.

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The ABA has named 27 booksellers as recipients of publisher-sponsored scholarships to the American Booksellers Association's Fourth Annual Winter Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah, January 29-February 1. You will find the complete list here.

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The results are in from the Guardian's contest--inspired by the litblog Bookninja--to "redesign classic books for a dumbed-down era" (Shelf Awareness, October 30, 2008). And the winner is A Tale of Two Cities, though it must have been hard to resist Homer Simpson's Iliad.

 


Charlesbridge Publishing: Baby Loves the Five Senses by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan


October General Retail Sales: 'A Collapse'

With the exception of Wal-Mart, general retailers had a miserable October. The New York Times called it "a sales collapse." Department stores, clothing stores and luxury stores had the most difficult time.

"The remarkable slowdown hit luxury chains that sell $5,000 designer dresses as badly as stores that offer $18 packs of underwear, suggesting that consumers at all income levels are snapping their wallets shut," the Times reported.

Sales at stores open at least a year fell 16.6% at Saks, 15.7% at Nordstrom, 16% at the Gap, 13% at Penney, 9% at Kohl's and 1% at Costco. By contrast, sales at stores open at least a year were up 2.4% at Wal-Mart.

According to a Thomson Reuters index of 34 retailers quoted by the Wall Street Journal, comp-store sales fell 0.7% for October, its lowest level since the company began tracking figures in 2000. Without Wal-Mart, the index fell more than 4%.

Stores had trimmed inventories during the summer, but the double-digit drops at many retailers in September and October were much higher than expected, resulting in excess fall merchandise just as holiday shipments are arriving. Thus many retailers, including Wal-Mart, are not waiting until Black Friday to discount heavily and they are predicting the worst holiday sales in decades.

 


imon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Max & Ruby and Twin Trouble (Max and Ruby Adventure) BY Rosemary Wells


Obituary Note: John Leonard

John Leonard, the literary and cultural critic described by the New York Times as "an early champion of Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and many other authors," died  Wednesday. He was 69.

''He really put a lot of us on the map,'' said Mary Gordon. ''He was generous, warm, funny, and he didn't make the mistakes that other men make with women writers. There was no discomfort or condescension with him, no feeling that he was the great man from on high. He was like a very tender big brother.''

Kurt Vonnegut once observed, ''When I start to read John Leonard, it is as though I, while simply looking for the men's room, blundered into a lecture by the smartest man who ever lived.''

 


Charlesbridge Publishing: Sumokitty by David Biedrzycki


Media and Movies

Movies: Jack Black Among the Lilliputians

Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels may be in for an adaptation like none seen before. Variety reported that Twentieth Century Fox is "moving forward" with a "contemporary reimagining" of the oft-filmed classic, starring Jack Black and directed by Rob Letterman.

Variety added that "Fox has kept development of the project under wraps--a common practice with public domain-based material--even though Letterman has been attached to helm for some time. But the studio quickly greenlit the film once Black committed. Shooting will start in March; locations are still being set."

 


Atheneum Books: Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Alexander Nabaum



Books & Authors

Book Review: Eat, Memory

Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table: A Collection of Essays from the New York Times edited by Amanda Hesser (Norton, $24.95, 9780393067637/0393067637, November 3, 2008)

As Proust so famously demonstrated, the connection between food and memory is a powerful one. We all have our own versions of his madeleines flavoring our unconsciousness. Yet, according to food writer Amanda Hesser, "not enough gets written about this emotional component of the way we eat," a situation she seeks to rectify with Eat, Memory, a collection of more than two dozen sweet, salty and occasionally bitter essays drawn from the New York Times Magazine column she edits.

Few of the fine writers who share their stories here are known for food writing, though all are recognizable names. Nor, despite the addition of recipes at the end of each essay, do many of them even dwell on the specific tastes or ingredients of the meals that are central to their tales. Rather each piece explores the association of food, memory and feeling as they relate to specific places and events in the lives of the authors. Ann Patchett, for example, recalls in detail how her relationship with her future husband almost dissolved in an expensive Parisian restaurant, but cannot remember what the two of them ate while it happened. Patricia Marx describes the three months it took for her to prepare for a perfect dinner party where she ate none of the elaborate dishes she cooked. George Saunders writes hilariously of how he gained 70 pounds on a diet consisting solely of air and Colson Whitehead explains that his hatred for all things dessert stems from two summers scooping--and gorging on--ice cream. Likewise Tucker Carlson relates in grisly detail how his childhood love for B&M baked beans was destroyed after working at the factory that made them.

The link between family and food is perhaps one of the deepest in our unconscious minds, which many of these writers ably demonstrate. Kirin Desai, for example, describes her Indian childhood and how the loving tyranny of her family's cook affected her writing as an adult, and Jon Robin Baitz recalls being a 10-year-old exiled in apartheid South Africa, longing for the chili dogs and tacos of his Los Angeles home. David Mas Masumoto creates a moving portrait of his father and their shared experience of organic farming, and Chang-Rae Lee remembers cooking furiously for his gravely ill mother.

There are so many more excellent pieces here (including some not-to-be-missed delights; Pico Iyer's meditation on a Japanese convenience store and Dawn Drzal's account of lunch with M.F.K. Fisher to name just two) that the temptation is great to gobble this collection whole. Savor it if you can.--Debra Ginsberg

Shelf Talker: A rich and flavorful collection of essays about food and memory from an outstanding group of authors.

 


Book Brahmin: Reginald Hill

"I was born on the third of April 1936 in Hartlepool, U.K. I cried a bit, then fell asleep, and awoke to find myself completing this questionnaire." But Reginald Hill must have had a few other waking moments, since he's written umpty-some very popular books, particularly his Dalziel and Pascoe mysteries, the latest of which, The Price of Butcher's Meat, was published this past Tuesday by Harper.

On your nightstand now:

Upstairs, Making Money by Terry Pratchett (one of the great comic writers); downstairs, The Aeneid translated by Robert Fagles (who sadly died earlier this year but will not be forgotten. I thought his translation of Homer was a masterwork and he hasn't disappointed with his treatment of Virgil), Shakespeare by Bill Bryson (nothing new here, except of course the Bryson humour and readability that has made him such a favourite on this side of the pond at least).

Favorite book when you were a child:

Just William (and all its successors) by Richmal Crompton.

Your top five authors:

Dickens, Austen, George Eliot, Terry Pratchett, P.G.Wodehouse.

Book you've faked reading:

In my younger days I did a bit of faking with stuff like Finnegans Wake, but once I grew up and began to realize no one really gives a damn what I think about a book (or a play or a movie or a pork pie for that matter), faking seemed pointless. Now if I don't like a book after 50 pages, I hurl it aside with great force, but, unless provoked, I try not to elevate my personal taste into a critical position.

Book you're an evangelist for:

In a dimly remembered previous existence when I was a teacher, I recall the shock of discovering that for every student who responded to my enthusiasm for any book, poem or play, there'd be at least two who made it clear they thought it was crap. Maybe a better teacher would have done better, but while I will say boldly that I loved, for instance, Cloud Atlas or The Book Thief or The Lord of the Rings, I will not evangelize. (Though anyone who is indifferent to Dickens is immediately expunged from my Christmas card list.)

Book you've bought for the cover:

The first Harry Potter paperback, but only because there was also on offer a version with a dull anonymous cover so that sensitive adults didn't have to reveal they were reading a kids' book on the train! That struck me as really sad, so I bought the original and flourished it for all to marvel at my childishness on the way home. Didn't enjoy it all that much though, but who am I to disagree with x million readers across the whole age range?

Book that changed your life:

Tess of the D'Urbervilles, not because it turned me into a crusader for the rights of fallen women or anything like that but because when I first read it, at age 15 or so, for the first time I really got it that these great classics also happened to be marvelous reads, giving me the same kind of pleasure plus maybe a bit more as my contemporary reading.

Favorite line from a book:

"It was the best of times: it was the worst of times."

Another of those books which made me realize that great thrillers didn't start with Dashiell Hammett. I still get a kick out of that opening.

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

None really. The books I love re-reading are those that give me something new every time I return to them. Dickens of course, Austen, Eliot, but I see I'm repeating my list of favourites!

 


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'Fun Books'--Anthropomorphic & Otherwise

This week we'll be getting a little anthropomorphic on you, which seems appropriate in a year when Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain--narrated by Enzo the lab/terrier mix--showed up on so many indie bookseller staff recommend lists (and was a Shelf Awareness favorite several times over, too).

My own honor role of witty novels includes the brilliant tale of a rat evolving from gastronomic to intellectual consumer of books--Sam Savage's Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife. Here's a . . . taste: "My friend, given the chasm that separates all your experiences from all of mine, I can bring you no closer to that singular savor than by saying that books, in an average sort of way, taste the way coffee smells."

Richard Goldman and Mary Alice Gorman of Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Oakmont, Pa., confess that their choice "has to be Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story by Leonie Swann. Here's our review: A sparkling and original debut in which a flock of sheep investigate the murder of their beloved shepherd George. Yep, you're going to have to buy into talking sheep but after all, George did read to them every night. Unfortunately, he read them mostly romance novels so the sheep have a somewhat unbalanced view of human life in which women mostly named Pamela are constantly fighting off the advances of mustachioed men named Rodney. Once you make that leap you're in for a treat as each, led by Miss Maple--the wisest of them--makes their own contribution to solving the puzzle. Swann's cleverness in translating the nature of sheep into their behavior as sleuths is a marvel and I was truly sorry to come to the end of this totally captivating book."

My Shelf Awareness colleague Marilyn Dahl recommends Lucky Dog by Mark Barrowcliffe: "I know, talking dogs, enough already. But take it from a cat-lover, this one works. It's the kind of book you read and then give as a gift, saying, 'Trust me.'"

Fiction can also meet fauna for bookstore sidelines buyers.

"That's some catch, that Catch-22," says Yossarian in Joseph Heller's classic novel (and another book on my list). But if you think that's some catch, consider Rubberbone Press, which makes "Literachew for the Pupulation." Owner Tracey Ciciora responded to my call for fun titles by asking, "How about fun fiction for you and your pup? Catch-22 and the new 'fun' little sideline--Fetch-22! Curl up with your dog and toss a good book!"

A couple of years ago, Tracey "was attempting to write a children's book--well, long story short, I had this new puppy by my side, and the Tale turned on its Tail: rubber squeaky toy books for dogs! Even though it unfolded into a product line rather than a book, my intentions have always been about literacy, children's self-esteem building through learning, and being in support of the entrepreneurial dream. My hope is that the product serves as a means to not only offer an exclusive product to independents with a nice return, but to be involved and support the different communities as well."

Gliding away from the anthropomorphic, while giving due notice to our feathered friends, Laura Hansen of Bookin' It bookstore, Little Falls, Minn., wonders, "Did no one recommend Nicholas Drayson's A Guide to the Birds of East Africa? A men's club version of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series filled with miscalculations, mishaps, misnomers, missteps, misgivings, birds, betting men, and--sigh!--a happy ending."
 
Finally, in the spirit of an election year, equal time should be given to animating inanimate objects. Gavin Grant of Small Beer Press suggests one from the home team: "Couch by Benjamin Parzybok, which we are publishing in November. The tag line is 'Three guys carry a couch, save the world' (or as someone said at the Brooklyn Book Fest, 'Tolkein with a couch')." Or, as notes on the back cover warn, "The couch--huge and orange--won't let them put it down."

Since we'll be separating fun fiction from nonfiction in the final installment--and revealing the complete list--perhaps we should preview all that with some thoughts from our bibliophilic rodent, Firmin, who observed, "I had read a great many of the books under FICTION before I halfway understood what the sign meant and why certain books had been placed under it. I had thought I was reading the history of the world. Even today I must constantly remind myself, sometimes by means of a rap on the head, that Eisenhower is real while Oliver Twist is not."--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

 


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