Shelf Awareness for Thursday, November 13, 2008

Grove Atlantic: The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom

Feiwel & Friends: A Delayed Life: The True Story of the Librarian of Auschwitz by Dita Kraus

New Directions: Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming by László Krasznahorkai, translated by Ottilie Mulzet

Workman Publishing: Real Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A 28-Day Program to Realize the Power of Meditation (Second Edition, Revised) by Sharon Salzberg

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Jim Rugg

Clarion Books: The Thief Knot: A Greenglass House Story by Kate Milford

Quotation of the Day

'The Most Exciting Thing in the World . . . Just a Book'

"It is a book, which to me is the most exciting thing in the world. But that's really all it is. It's just a book. It's the way that we got it to you that's a lot more efficient."--Mark Lefebvre, book operations manager at Hamilton University's McMaster's bookstore, Hamilton, Ont., talking about the store's Espresso Book Machine, as quoted by the Hamilton Spectator.


Ingram: Congratulations 2019 National Book Award Winners - Learn More>


Notes: Latino Book Boom in New York; Miami Book Fair

"The last 12 months have seen a period of extraordinary enthusiasm and growth for Latino literature" in New York City, the Daily News reported. Among the institutions holding events: in East Harlem, the bookstore Cemí Underground, the bar Camaradas El Barrio and El Museo del Barrio, the last of which has a book club run by Aurora Anaya-Cerda, who recently started the online La Casa Azul Bookstore.

In addition, McNally Jackson bookstore in SoHo has a weekly book club that discusses Spanish-language work and Borders at Columbus Circle hosts Las Comadres book club, which began in early 2007 and now has 18 chapters nationwide.


This morning Miami Book Fair International co-founder Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books, told Morning Edition that "he helped start the fair [in 1982] to combat the idea that Miami wasn't a literary town" and to develop "some community pride."


Comics and graphic novels are now an important part of the Miami Book Fair International and are expected to be a big draw, the Miami Herald reported.

''The thing that was important to me was that I didn't want it to be just a few people on the weekend,'' Lissette Mendez, program director for Florida Center for the Literary Arts and "a passionate comics fan," told the paper. ''I wanted a whole program that showed the breadth and depth of comics. I wanted it to be multidimensional and educational. So we have superhero stuff, indie people, literary people, people who write on the history of comics, the stuff at the street fair.''

The fair features a daylong series of workshops for teachers, parents and librarians. John Shableski of Diamond Book Distributors praised librarians' role in promoting comics, saying, "'For some 20 years, there has been a core group of librarians who understood the important role the graphic novel format holds. It draws new readers who are normally turned off of reading in general or discover a new love of reading through the graphic novel. In many cases across the country, the graphic novel collection of a young-adult section of the library can and will generate over 50 percent of the circulation for that collection.''


Many commuters reading yesterday's New York Times were greeted by headlines loaded with unbelievable and unexpected news, including the end of the Iraq War, the passage of a national health insurance package and a "maximum wage law" and nationalization of the oil industry.

Unbelievable, indeed. The Associated Press reported, "On behalf of a collective of liberal activists, 1,000 volunteers across the country handed out 1.2 million copies" of the spoof edition, dated July 4, 2009, that even parodied the Times's motto with 'All the News We Hope to Print.'"

The ambitious hoax, which was perpetrated by the legendary Yes Men, "was accompanied by a Web site that mimics the look of The Times's real Web site. A page of the spoof site contained links to dozens of progressive organizations, which were also listed in the print edition," according to the, well, New York Times.


Congratulations to Laguna Beach Books, Laguna Beach, Calif., which has celebrated its second anniverary. Danielle Bauter reports, "We love being in Laguna Beach. We cater to tourists and locals alike, but have especially enjoyed creating a supportive environment with many repeat and loyal customers. We look forward to being in the community for many years to come." 


Soho Press: The Seep by Chana Porter

Books as the Best Gifts: Two More Campaigns

Besides Random House and quite a few bloggers mentioned here yesterday, two other important organizations are promoting books as an excellent holiday gift.

"Holiday IndieBound" is offering a range of materials for booksellers to create posters, bookmarks, ads for websites and newsletters and more that emphasize "the value of the book."

Among the messages:

"A Book. Longer-lasting than a fruitcake, cheaper than a flat screen, more fun than a partridge in a pear tree."
"Shop Indie: nuture your community this season."
"Books: return dividends for life."
"Why a book?: Because a new tie never changed anyone's life."
"Affordable. Portable. Memorable. Books are a gift beyond measure."
"Give love. Give time. Give joy. Give books."
"A Book: The perfect gift for someone who has everything. The perfect gift for someone who has nothing."


As it has in previous years, the Book Report Network is promoting books for holiday gift giving. Co-founder and president Carol Fitzgerald commented: "This year with people more conscious of how they're spending their money, we believe that books, which are meaningful, long-lasting and can be matched to recipients' interests, are going to be very popular gift items."

The promotions include a feature that runs daily through December 25 on,,, and that offers "a reason a day on why a book makes the ideal gift"--45 of them altogether.

The annual holiday basket of cheer contest spotlighting a different title or collection of titles weekly through December 12. Readers enter to win a basket that includes two copies of the book (one to keep and one to give), wrapping paper and a bow and holiday-themed items such as Ghirardelli hot chocolate mix, gourmet vanilla marshmallows, Chewy Peps candy, an Illuminations cinnamon spice-scented candle and more.

More than 25 authors, including Mary Higgins Clark, Carol Higgins Clark, Kristin Hannah, Garth Stein, M.J. Rose, Adriana Trigiani and Mary Kay Andrews, will share favorite memories of giving or receiving a book at the holidays.

And a guide on gift giving makes title suggestions in categories like "eat, drink & be merry" (cookbooks and culinary tales), "faces & places" (history, biography and memoir) and "healthy, wealthy & wise" (advice and how-to).


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Providence by Max Barry

A Good Sign for the Season?: Busy Children's Book Fair

Suzy Staubach of the UConn Co-op, Storrs, Conn., reports that "despite the lagging economy and multiple layoffs in eastern Connecticut, families turned out in droves for the 17th annual Connecticut Children's Book Fair [held last weekend in Storrs]. Lines for Tomie dePaola formed an hour before he was scheduled to sign. Children and their parents waited eagerly for Steven Kellogg and Susan Jeffers. Guest Alan Katz, who autographed for long lines on Saturday, stood in line himself on Sunday with his three sons to meet Lane Smith. Senator Chris Dodd (D.- Conn.) spent several hours Saturday afternoon with his two daughters shopping, playing with the storybook characters and listening to stories, the first time the family had visited." A onetime presidential candidate, Dodd is pictured with his daughter Christina. The book fair is a project of the UConn Co-op and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center to benefit the Northeast Children's Literature Collection.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Travel Editor on What to Miss

Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: John Madden, author of NBC Sunday Night Football Cookbook (Time Home Entertainment, $27.95, 9781603207973/160320797X).


Tomorrow on the View: Today Show travel editor Peter Greenberg, author of Don't Go There!: The Travel Detective's Essential Guide to the Must-Miss Places of the World (Rodale Books, $17.95, 9781605299945/1605299944).


Tomorrow night on 20/20: Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of I'm Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted (Broadway, $14.95, 9780767921756/0767921755).


Tomorrow night on Late Night with Conan O'Brien: Alan Zweibel, author of Clothing Optional: And Other Ways to Read These Stories (Villard, $22, 9780345500861/0345500865).


This Weekend on Book TV: Miami Book Fair International Live

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, November 15

10 a.m. Book TV will air live coverage of the Miami Book Fair International, including events, talks with authors at the fair and phone calls from viewers. (Re-airs Saturday at 11 p.m.)

6 p.m. Encore Booknotes. For a segment that first aired in 2002, Arnold Ludwig, author of King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership (University Press of Kentucky, $24.95, 9780813190686/0813190681), discussed his 18-year investigation into why people want to rule.

7 p.m. Charles Taylor receives the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's 2008 Henry Paolucci/Walter Bagehot Book Award and speaks about his book, A Secular Age (Belknap Press, $39.95, 9780674026766/0674026764), which examines the history of secularism and its relationship with the force of religion. (Re-airs Sunday at 8:30 a.m.)

8:30 p.m. David Smick, author of The World Is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the World Economy (Portfolio, $26.95, 9781591842187/1591842182), argues that the international financial collapse was predictable and that it's far from over. (Re-airs Sunday at 7 a.m.)
10 p.m. After Words. Frank Gaffney interviews Bill Gertz, author of The Failure Factory: How Unelected Bureaucrats, Liberal Democrats, and Big Government Republicans Are Undermining America's Security and Leading Us to War (Crown Forum, $26.95, 978-0307338075/030733807X). Gertz contends that unelected officials have pursued their own agendas and weakened U.S. security. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 a.m., 7 p.m. and 11 p.m., and Sunday, November 23, at 12 p.m.).
Sunday, November 16

11 a.m. Book TV's live coverage of the Miami Book Fair International continues. (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m.)
10 p.m. For an event hosted by Book Culture bookstore, New York, N.Y., Jan Van Meter, author of Tippecanoe and Tyler Too: Famous Slogans and Catchphrases in American History (University of Chicago Press, $22.50, 9780226849683/0226849686), discusses his book with communications strategist Alan Ampolsk. (Re-airs Saturday, November 29, at 2 p.m., and Sunday, November 30, at 4 a.m. and 3 p.m.)


Books & Authors

Awards: Ravens; National Outdoor Book Awards

The Edgar Allan Poe Society and the Poe House in Baltimore, Md., have won the Raven Awards, sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America, which will be presented at the Edgar Awards banquet on April 30 in New York City.

In a statement, MWA president Harlan Coben called the choices appropriate because "not only does 2009 mark the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's 200th birthday, but Mystery Writers of America has long-considered Poe a patron saint." The Raven Award is named after his famous poem and the Edgar Awards are the highlights of the banquet.


The winners of the 2008 National Outdoor Book Awards, honoring the best in outdoor writing and publishing, have been announced and can be found out on the Internet--with judges' comments and some honorable mentions.


Book Review

Children's Review: Headlong

Headlong by Kathe Koja (Farrar Straus Giroux, $16.95 Hardcover, 9780374329129, October 2008)

Lily Noble has attended the Vaughn School as a day student since she was in pre-K. Her mother attended Vaughn, too, making Lily a "double-lifer." This year, as a sophomore, the teen is boarding there--a compromise with her parents because Lily had wanted to leave Vaughn altogether. Then Lily meets Hazel Tobias, an African-American student who's transferred from Bertram High where, as Hazel puts it, there were "a lot more brown people, and a much, much lower population of BBGs" (Burberry Bitch Girls). Because of Hazel, Lily begins to see things differently, "as if her being at Vaughn was a kind of window, or camera, showing me parts of it I'd never seen before; she opened my eyes."
The novel unfolds through Lily's first-person narrative, in chapters that alternate between "June," the end of Lily's and Hazel's sophomore year, and chapters that progress from the beginning of their sophomore year through to the end of the school year. Each return to the month of "June" reveals more about Lily's internal questioning about whether or not to remain at Vaughn. Lily's mother expresses concern about her daughter's friendship with Hazel, and Hazel's "completely different background," as do the girls that Lily once considered her friends. To her parents' chagrin, Lily goes home with Hazel for Christmas, to spend the holiday with Hazel's brother, Duncan, who raised her after their parents died when she was three years old. Now 29, Duncan, a gifted artist and photographer, guards his privacy as closely as Hazel does, but Lily immediately takes to Duncan's partner, Magnus. And both Magnus and Duncan, at different times during Lily's visit, make observations that stay with her. While attending a Christmas Eve party, when one of Duncan's friends says of the Vaughn School, "a friend of mine used to teach history there, it's great, isn't it?" and Lily answers with faint praise for her alma mater, Duncan says, "Maybe it's too small for you now." The ideas that Hazel and her family introduce work on Lily like a quiet catalyst. On Valentine's Day, Lily breaks up with her longtime boyfriend and popular jock, James "Kells" Keller. The backlash would be stinging if she cared about her so-called friends, the leader of whom says, "Apparently you don't want anything to do with anyone anymore. Except your ghetto friend." As Lily considers whether or not to stay at Vaughn for her years as an upper classman, she realizes that, like Hazel, she too keeps some things just for herself, such as sneaking out for her forbidden "nightswimming" in the river. Gradually, Lily comes to understand that she can change on the inside without changing everything on the outside.--Jennifer M. Brown


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: One Reader's Key to the Imperial City

To be liberated into New York, where anything that exists can somehow be got at, is just as exhilarating as to be liberated into literature, to be handed a key to all those boxes of trapped words.

John Leonard wrote this sentence in one of his weekly "Private Lives" columns for the New York Times during the 1970s. As a young reader, isolated in the literary wilderness of a small Vermont town--and with no real experience of "the city"--I discovered in his Times essays one of my first windows with a view of what a life of reading and writing in the Imperial City might be like.

By that I do not mean I thought New York was some ethereal blend of Leonard's bittersweet musings and Woody Allen's Manhattan cinematography (via Gordon Willis, of course). After all, I'd seen Death Wish and Mean Streets, too. But reality is often beside the point when a reader searches for a new home; when a young man struggles to escape the web of what Sherwood Anderson called "the sadness of sophistication."

I simply mean that, once upon a time, Leonard's Imperial City had seemed familiar and irresistible to me, so the news of his death last week inevitaby triggered memories. I found myself immediately setting out on a book safari through the biblio-jungle of my personal library, aware that camouflaged somewhere among the shelves and stacks was a copy of Private Lives in the Imperial City, a collection of those Times columns published by Knopf in 1979.

As would be expected, reaction to the loss of this esteemed critic has been wide-ranging and profound. You can find literary eulogies at the New York Times or Salon or the Los Angeles Times or dozens of other publications for which he wrote or where writers who were influenced by him work now. They all have their own recollections.

And I have mine. After some detours and distractions, my book hunt was successful, and I reread Private Lives in the Imperial City because, ceremonially perhaps, I felt the pull of the past. News of the dead can do that to you sometimes. I never met John Leonard, but his was not a stranger's demise because I am his reader and his was never a stranger's voice.

Maybe the pull is something else as well. We seem to have written too many authors' obituary notes at Shelf Awareness this year--Studs Terkel, Michael Crichton, Tony Hillerman, Arthur C. Clarke, William F. Buckley, Hayden Carruth and more. As Leonard himself wrote, "We are also getting to be of an age when our friends are doing a lot of the dying; each one gone is a surprise, but the surprises now are more likely to arrive one a year than every six years or two decades. To deflect this bad news requires the sort of permanent stupidity even I am not clever enough to sustain."

Nor am I. Bad news turns out to be fuel for my imagination this time and I can't help thinking about the Imperial City again. I still live in Vermont, but I spend enough time in Manhattan now to wipe some, if not all, of the shine from that fantasy Big Apple of my youth. In fact, I suspect that John Leonard's priceless gift to me as a reader was to show how the Imperial City could be both tangible and imaginary. And now, as I flip through the pages of his book, my eyes fall upon a column, "Civility," that seems in itself a near perfect meeting of our minds:

When the news came last week that the English novelist Paul Scott had died, I was sorting books. I should have begun sorting my books--categorizing, alphabetizing, in some cases burning--twenty years ago, but I've pretended instead to subscribe to a principle of serendipity. That is, if I didn't know where to find the particular book I wanted, when I went to look I would find a different, better book, a book I hadn't thought of.

After considering, in classic Leonard style, literary mortality by recalling his serendipitous discovery of Scott and James M. Cain, he concludes, "I will arrange my books according to their civility. Nobody can touch them--these strangers, my friends."

So, thank you, John Leonard, for being one of the writers who, without ever knowing it, helped me "to be liberated into literature, to be handed a key to all those boxes of trapped words." The key, in fact, to the Imperial City.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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