Shelf Awareness for Monday, November 24, 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: Borders Edges Lower; Shift in Political Titles

Shares of Borders Group fell below $1 for a time on Friday and closed at $1.11, down 19%, as investors anticipate that Borders's quarterly results tomorrow will resemble the major sales drops reported by Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million (see below) last week.

Publishers contacted by the Wall Street Journal said they're continuing to ship books to Borders and that the company is paying its bills. HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray told the Journal that HarperCollins is being "prudent" about volume in general. "We are very aware that consumers aren't spending as they once did," he said. "We've reduced the quantities of our printings and are relying more on just-in-time resupply."


Several news organizations surveyed the changing landscape for political and presidential books.

During the Bush Administration, "current events and political titles," including anti-Bush books and titles about September 11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Muslim world, have been popular, the Guardian said. Now "Obama has signalled--in his appointments and policy platforms--that passing an economic stimulus package, kick-starting recovery, bipartisanship, health care, and resurrecting America's relationship with countries around the world will be at the forefront of his agenda"--and popular titles will reflect these themes.

For its part, AFP wrote that "the literati are back in charge of Washington as sales of books by, related to or merely mentioned by Barack Obama rocket ahead of the author-politician's entry into the White House."

Mark Laframboise of Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C., said, "John McCain books are dead now. And we can't sell an Iraq war book now to save our souls."


Warm idea of the day: Osondu Booksellers, Waynesville, N.C., will donate the proceeds of a Black Friday appearance by Wayne Caldwell, author of Cataloochee (Random House), to the Share the Warmth fund, which helps financially strapped people in Haywood County pay for heat.  


The historic inn in Boonsboro, Md., that burned to the ground earlier this year while being renovated by author Nora Roberts and her husband, Bruce Wilder (Shelf Awareness, February 23, 2008), is being rebuilt and should open early next February, according to the newsletter of Turn the Page Bookstore Cafe, which the couple own and Wilder runs.

Inn BoonsBoro has a literary theme. Already Gifts Inn BoonsBoro, the inn's gift store, has opened nearby and features regional arts and crafts as well as scents that match the different scents that will be used in each room in the inn.


Calling this year's holiday retail season a time for "survival of the fittest," the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer polled small businesses to find out how they are preparing for next month, since "businesses with only one location make up 96% of U.S. retail companies, and this year could be a make-or-break holiday season for many of them."

John Valentine, co-owner of the Regulator Bookshop, Durham, told the News & Observer that clearance books, used books and remaindered books are selling well, adding, "Everybody wants a bargain, and it's even more true now. A book is a book in a lot of people's eyes. They know they want to give their mother-in-law a book, and they can peel the $5.99 sticker off, and there's a $12.95 list price in there."


As part of a movement to restore downtown Pekin, Ill., "to former glory," a group called Pekin Main Street is looking "to lure back local business," according to the Peoria Journal Star, which added that "some entrepreneurs are taking a chance on downtown despite its problems, hoping their gamble will pay off for themselves and the ailing district."

One of these is Stewart Hamm, owner of Illinois Prairie Book Sellers, who said, "The reason we came down here was to hopefully start a renaissance downtown. . . . It's a daily struggle. Nobody's looking to get rich. We're just looking to survive. . . . Knowing my customers by name and knowing what they like. That's our big advantage."


The CU Independent featured a guide to indie bookstores in the Boulder area. University of Colorado student Melissa Herzog praised the Boulder Bookstore, saying, "They have a lot of popular, mainstream titles, and also a lot of random things you wouldn't find elsewhere."

Added manager Erica Terpening: "We are as big as a chain but we still operate as an independent bookstore." Other bookshops showcased were Red Letter Books and Trident Booksellers and Café.


Great moments in literary do-it-yourself annals? The Guardian featured Mark Crick performing "Hanging Wallpaper with Ernest Hemingway" and "Boarding an Attic with Edgar Allan Poe," from his book, Sartre's Sink: The Great Writers' Book of DIY.


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

Books-A-Million's Third Quarter: Comp-Store Sales Drop 9.9%

Like Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million reported sagging sales in the third quarter. Net sales for the period ended November 1 fell 5.7% to $111 million, and the net loss was $2.2 million compared to a net loss of $555,000 in the third quarter of 2007. Sales at stores open at least a year dropped 9.9%.

In a statement, president and CEO Sandra B. Cochran commented: "We faced dramatic macroeconomic headwinds, and as a result we experienced our weakest comparable store sales in many years. The negative trends were broadly felt across most categories although bargain books, gifts and teen provided positive results. Our entire team remains focused on adjusting to this difficult environment by controlling costs, managing inventory and preparing for the holiday season."


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

Media and Movies

Movie: Milk

Milk, which stars Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be voted into major public office in the U.S., makes its screen debut in select cities this Wednesday, November 26, and will roll out nationally during December. Newmarket Press publishes the two official tie-in books:

Milk: The Shooting Script ($19.95, 9781557048271/1557048274), which is available now, features the screenplay, an introduction by director Gus Van Sant, scene notes by screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and a conversation with Black, Van Sant and activist Cleve Jones, whose mentor was Milk.

Milk: A Pictorial History of Harvey Milk ($19.95, 9781557048288/1557048282), with a foreword by Armistead Maupin, 90 historical photos, recollections from Milk's friends and activist colleagues as well a behind-the-scenes details on the making of the film. This book ships in late December.

In addition, The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk by Randy Shilts (St. Martin's Griffin, $16.95, 9780312560850/0312560850), originally published in 1988, was reissued last month.


AuthorBuzz for the Week of 06.01.20

Media Heat: A Toast to Veuve Clicquot Herself

This morning on the Today Show: James Patterson, author of Cross Country (Little, Brown, $27.99, 9780316018722/0316018724).


This morning on NPR's Morning Edition: Eric Maddox, author of Mission: Black List #1: The Inside Story of the Search for Saddam Hussein--As Told by the Soldier Who Masterminded His Capture (Harper, $25.99, 9780061714474/006171447X).


Today on the Diane Rehm Show: Ariel Sabar, author of My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq (Algonquin, $25.95, 9781565124905/1565124901).


Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: John Stauffer, author of Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln (Twelve, $30, 9780446580090/0446580090).


Tomorrow on Oprah: Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest (National Geographic, $26, 9781426202742/1426202741).


Tomorrow on NPR's Chef's Table: Tilar J. Mazzeo, author of The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It (Collins Business, $25.95, 9780061288562/006128856X).


Tomorrow night on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Chelsea Handler, author of Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea (Simon Spotlight, $24.95, 9781416954125/1416954120).


Tomorrow night on the Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson: Tony Curtis, author with Peter Golenbock of American Prince: A Memoir (Harmony, $25.95, 9780307408495/0307408493).


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

Books & Authors

Nameberry: Balancing Internet Baby with Books

For Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz, who have written nine baby name books and just launched a baby name website christened, last Friday was another banner day: Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz had announced they are calling their new baby boy Bronx Mowgli Wentz. (Bronx after the New York City borough and Mowgli from The Jungle Book.) "The crazier the celebrity name, the better for us," Satran told Shelf Awareness later in the day. "Right away People and Us Weekly called, and at 6:30 in the morning I wrote a blog item about it."

Nameberry's home page featured the post, and Us quoted Rosenkrantz in its online story. (She said in part, "This is the biggest double whammy since Moxie CrimeFighter (daughter of magician Penn Jillette) and Pilot Inspektor (son of actor Jason Lee).")

This was only the most recent bit of publicity nameberry and the baby naming team have received since launching the site in October--the franchise got some e-ink in BuzzFeed, Slate, the Daily Beast (Satran had an article, "10 Ways to Avoid Hipster Baby Names," which helped provide "style and quality credibility") and Huffington Post, where Satran wrote about the 10 best celebrity names. So far, nameberry has had a million page views and close to 100,000 visitors.

The site includes the blog ("We resisted blogging early on, but now we're into it," Satran commented) as well as a name of the day, a list of the day, information about Satran and Rosenkrantz's books and some "very active" message boards. The site will take advertising, but that part is just taking its first steps.

Has all the nameberry buzz led to increased book sales? For now, that's not directly measurable--and perhaps not the main point. The site has links to Amazon, the chains, Powell's and IndieBound for purchasing books. "I like to think that in a year we could sell books from the site," Satran added. At the moment though, it's enough that "we have a site and great content, and maybe we're selling more books, too."

For book sales and the franchise in general it was important to have a presence online, where many parents-to-be research baby names. "If we're not on the Web, we're nowhere," Satran said. Instantly Nameberry distinguished itself from the competition: "There are a million baby naming sites, but we're the only one based on nine books."

St. Martin's, Satran and Rosenkrantz's publisher, has been supportive, and Satran emphasized that "we're not giving away all the information here. There's a lot on the site that's not in the books, and there's a lot in the books that's not on the site."

Satran and Rosenkrantz began building their baby-naming empire 20 years ago with Beyond Jennifer & Jason. In 1988, the Internet was in its infancy, and as Satran said, "Nobody cared about electronic rights, so we kept them." The pair continued writing baby-naming books, which have included The Baby Name Bible, Cool Names for Babies and the updated version of their first born, now called Beyond Jennifer & Jason, Madison & Montana. (They're also working on another updated version called Beyond Ava and Aiden that will appear next spring.)

Satran and Rosenkrantz had licensing agreements with organizations such as AOL but didn't think of launching their own website until a little more than a year ago, when they were approached by a diaper company that wanted to set up a very commercial licensing deal. Satran ran the idea by a lawyer friend who suggested they have their own presence on the web. Ergo nameberry, which was brought to term with a small investment. "If we spent $1,000 on it, that's a lot," Satran said.

We'd call nameberry Money Well Spent.--John Mutter


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 Long Knives Are Crying
by Joseph M. Marshall III (Fulcrum, $24.95, 9781555916725/1555916724). "This is a wonderful historical novel--the second in a series--about the Lakota. Beginning in the few months before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, this a story of compassion, friendship, courage, and hope told by an aging warrior. One of Marshall's best works."--Richard Daley, Pass Christian Books, Pass Christian, Miss.

Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason
by Russell Shorto (Doubleday, $26, 9780385517539/038551753X). "Descartes' Bones is wonderful--a balanced presentation of Science, God, and everything in between."--Kelly Curran, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Pittsburgh, Pa.


The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks (Orbit, $7.99, 9780316033671/0316033677). "In a world of poverty, cruelty, and (literally) cut-throat intrigue, young Azoth must turn his back on everything, even his only friends, to become apprentice to the realm's most deadly assassin. A fantastic page-turner from an astonishing new author."--Greg Baldino, Schuler Books & Music, Lansing, Mich.

For Ages 9 to 12

The Bone Magician by F.E. Higgins (Feiwel & Friends, $14.95, 9780312368456/0312368453). "Keen characters and insightful writing kept me reading late into the night. Benedict Patagus, master of the art of corpse raising; Beag Hickory, poet, scholar, and professional potato-thrower; and our hero, Pin Carpue, are alone in the Dark City. Pin seeks his destiny and befriends the apprentice Bone Magician. I loved this cast of misfits and their adventures."--Scott Fultz, Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop, Mequon, Wis.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Shelf Sample: Between the Covers

When I first saw this book, I thought, the last thing I need is another reading list--they are usually predictable, and they induce guilt feelings about having not read the "right" books. But I was entranced by Between the Covers: The Book Babes' Guide to a Woman's Reading Pleasures (Da Capo, $16.95 paperback original, 9780738212296/0738212296, November 2008). Margo Hammond and Ellen Heltzel, the Book Babes, recommend more than 600 books based on their (highly scientific) system of following the rhythms of a woman's life. The 55 lists include as many of their unsung heroes as possible (Julie Otsuka, Floyd Skloot, Rachel Cusk) and cite well-known authors in new ways--highlighting so-called "lesser" works (Sara Gruen's Riding Lessons) or works outside the authors' usual genres. Given the authors' witty and intelligent criteria, it's gratifying to find your personal favorites, like Soldier's Heart by Elizabeth D. Samet. Part of the fun in Between the Covers is their exuberance; part is in discovering the unexpected:

I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company
by Brian Hall. In this fictional retelling of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Indian guide speaks to the reader in broken English. But don't let that fool you. Sacagawea is a kingpin--hey, why not queenpin?--who holds the trek together at a crucial moment. Kidnapped by another tribe as a girl, the nation's most famous woman trailblazer knew the language and terrain to get "big knife" and "red hair" through a scary patch. When she describes her reunion with a Shoshone brother, her words will melt your heart.

Murder of a Medici Princess
by Caroline P. Murphy. Daddy's girl has a problem when Daddy dies, at least if she's a Medici. Isabella, member of the Florentine family whose taste for art fueled the Italian Renaissance, was a high-spirited 16th-century woman with a powerful and "instinctively paternal" papa. (One should hope: His wife gave him 11 children.) Her estranged hubby and resentful brother weren't so indulgent. Her father inadvertently laid the trap: Having grown up with immense privilege, Isabella didn't know how to play defense.--Marilyn Dahl


Book Review

Book Review: The Urban Hermit

Urban Hermit: A Memoir by Sam MacDonald (St. Martin's Press, $24.95 Hardcover, 9780312376994, November 2008)

A self-described "redneck who went to Yale," Sam MacDonald found himself rudely awakened in April 2000 by the slap of overdue bills hitting the dirty floor of his Baltimore apartment. But the credit card debt, back taxes and student loans weren't his only problems. Five years after his graduation, MacDonald weighed in at 340 pounds and had a prodigious drinking habit he cultivated nightly at his favorite neighborhood bar. Driven by a sudden need for change that was every bit as compulsive as the behavior that had created his lifestyle, MacDonald embarked on what he called the "urban hermit" plan to get himself out of debt. He decided to strip his life down to essentials: $8 per week and 800 calories per day. This ultra-Spartan regime cut out drinking, entertainment and all foods except lentils and tuna. MacDonald figured that after a month of this self-imposed torture, he'd save enough money to get an upper hand with his debt. Despite the deprivation and his hatred for lentils, he stuck to his plan for more than a year.
In this quirky and vigorously unsentimental memoir, MacDonald describes his often-humorous adventures during this pivotal year. Staying away from the bar left him with plenty of time on his hands (it took only so long to cook and eat lentils), so he began writing more and pitching stories to national magazines as well as the small community newspaper he worked for. These ideas turned into assignments, first to Bosnia and then to a Rainbow Gathering festival in Montana (one of the book's hilarious highlights). MacDonald's social circle also widened to include a lovely--and understanding--woman whom he would later marry. Ultimately his urban hermit plan led him completely out of debt, into a different career and reshaped his body. By the end of it, he had lost 160 pounds.
This is by no means a diet or self-help book, which MacDonald takes great pains to emphasize (as he should; less hardy souls would quickly perish on this plan). Nor is it even positioned as a journey of self-discovery. MacDonald steers clear of self-realized aphorisms or feel-good homilies (in fact, one gets the distinct sense that, despite his success, he feels he still has a way to go on his own evolutionary path) in favor of straight storytelling, which he does extremely well. Fun, intriguing and sometimes a little scary, The Urban Hermit is a fresh--and welcome--addition to the memoir genre.--Debra Ginsberg
Shelf Talker: An entertaining and unusual memoir about a man's quest to get himself out of debt on $8 per week and 800 calories per day.

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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