Shelf Awareness for Thursday, December 4, 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


'Black Wednesday' at New York Publishing Houses

It was a grim day at several publishing houses yesterday. Following the resignation earlier this week of Becky Saletan, who became publisher of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's adult trade division in January, executive editor Ann Patty and others have been fired, according to Media Bistro. Only last week, the company had confirmed that, as the New York Times said, it is "not allocating as much capital to the consumer book business."


Yesterday Random House announced a major realignment of the adult publishing division, which will result in a consolidation: where once there were five adult publishing groups, there will now be three.

The Bantam Dell Publishing Group, including Bantam Dell, the Dial Press and Spiegel & Grau, is becoming part of the Random House Publishing Group, which is headed by Gina Centrello.

Much of the Doubleday Publishing Group--the Doubleday and Nan A. Talese imprints--is becoming part of the Knopf Publishing Group. Headed by Sonny Mehta, the entity is being renamed the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Last month, Doubleday cut 16 positions.

The rest of the Doubleday Publishing Group--Broadway Books, Doubleday Business, Doubleday Religion and WaterBrook Multnomah--are becoming part of the Crown Publishing Group, which is headed by Jenny Frost.

Irwyn Applebaum, head of the Bantam Dell Publishing Group, and Steve Rubin, head of the Doubleday Publishing Group, are leaving their positions, although Random is reportedly looking for another role for Rubin in the company.

In a memo to Random House staff, chairman and CEO Markus Dohle said that the reorganization "aligns existing strengths and publishing affinities and fosters teamwork throughout the company. It will maximize our growth potential in these challenging economic times and beyond."


In other grim news, yesterday Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy issued a memo stating that Rick Richter, president of the company's children's book division, was leaving the company, effective Friday. Richter started at S&S as publisher of the children's division in 1996. Dennis Eulau, executive v-p of operations, will be leading the division until a successor is found.

Later in the day, Reidy followed up with a memo announcing that 35 positions had been eliminated from areas including "publishing divisions and international, operations and sales. . . . today's action is an unavoidable acknowledgment of the current bookselling marketplace and what may very well be a prolonged period of economic instability. In light of this uncertainty, we must responsibly position ourselves for challenges both near term and long."

Shelf Awareness learned that among those affected were Rubin Pfeffer, senior v-p and publisher of the children's group, who joined the company in 2005, as well as one of the sales reps to Hastings plus three field sales reps in the Washington D.C., Chicago and New York/New Jersey areas.


The New York Times reported, too, that pay raises have been frozen at Penguin and pay increases have been delayed at HarperCollins while there may yet be some layoffs at Random House and Macmillan.--Jennifer M. Brown and John Mutter


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

Notes: Books, a 'Crazy' Gift Idea; Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Grand Junction, Colo., Free Press suggested "a crazy idea for a Christmas gift: Buy a book." Among the reasons cited for this "radical holiday gift idea" were: "Books are the easiest thing in the world to wrap . . . They're portable, inexpensive and guaranteed to entertain, inform and maybe even directly engage the reader in philosophical debate."

The Free Press had another recommendation: "Try to buy it from a real bookstore, not a big-box retailer that sells tires, aspirin and cat food alongside the latest self-help tome from Dr. Phil. We have at least four dedicated bookshops right here in Grand Junction."


"I just wanted something fun to do, and I love books," Margaret Sorensen, owner of the Book Arbor, Hurricane, Utah, told the Spectrum regarding her decision to open a used bookstore three years ago. "I'm just having a really good time. I have never been in retail before, so it is a learning experience."

The Spectrum also noted that in spite of the difficult times for other area retailers, "Sorensen said her shop has attracted many new consumers as they hunt for bargains."

"Any time there is a slowdown in the economy, used book stores will stay steady," she added.


In the San Francisco Chronicle, Nancy Davis Kho recalled her summer visit to western Massachusetts, where she was impressed by the buy local movement. Back home, she has sought to adapt a "buying local for the holidays" credo this year that includes bookstores: "Sure, every book I could ever want is available on The site's 'Recommended for You' technology is great and, for out-of-prints and rare books, I am appreciative of its scope and efficiency. But I've never logged on to Amazon in order to sit 3 feet away from a favorite author during a reading, nor does Amazon offer my kids cookies and a couch to sit on while they browse. Those things only happen at my neighborhood bookstore and, because I have a choice, that's where I'd like my book-buying dollars to go."


Welcome back, Harry. The Tales of Beedle the Bard hits the shelves today as an early gift for booksellers and readers alike. The Guardian reported that "Harry Potter fans are flying into London from as far afield as New Zealand in order to get their hands on J.K. Rowling's new book . . . as early as possible."

The Guardian dubbed Rowling's slender volume "the most eagerly anticipated title of the year, with a worldwide print run of almost eight million copies."


"Which books would you like to see under the Christmas tree?" asked USA Today as it presented its annual Holiday Books Gift Guide.


The Houston Chronicle featured "5 books for pet lovers on your gift list."


Cool idea of the day: Angel City Press, Santa Monica, Calif., which specializes in books about Southern California cultural and social history, is having many of its authors appear and sign books at the Library Store of the Los Angeles Central Library for two hours each day December 9-12. They include Julie Jaskol, author of City of Angels: In and Around Los Angeles; Tom Zimmerman, author of Paradise Promoted: The Booster Campaign that Created Los Angeles 1870 to 1930; Paddy Calistro, author of Edith Head's Hollywood: Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition; and Lori Goldman Berthelsen, author of Now Playing: Hand-painted Poster Art from the 1910s through the 1950s. For more information about the event, call 213-228-7550 or visit


Two pertinent lists from Jessica James, author of Shades of Gray, posted on Amazon:

Top Five Reasons Why Guys Should Give Books as Gifts

5: She can't connect with a new sweater like she can with a book.
4: Hey guys, they're easy to wrap!
3: They come in all sizes, shapes and colors--what could be easier?
2: It's cheaper than a romantic getaway but can produce the same result.
1: Books are gifts of love and joy--and can create everlasting memories.

Top Five Reasons Why Girls Should Give Books as Gifts:

5: They're easy to store--on coffeetables, bookshelves, nightstands or countertops.
4: They never go bad no matter how long they're stored--and they can be used quickly or savored over time.
3: Books can teach, educate, entertain--and distract him from football.
2: It's a small investment that can return dividends for life.
1: Books are the perfect gift of enjoyment that don't require him to leave his chair.

[Thanks to Traci A. Lower.]


Soho Press: The Seep by Chana Porter

'Next': Digital Books Come Home

In an e-eerie, personal note:

On a day when I came upon my 20-year-old son reading a novel on Microsoft Reader on his computer, the first full-length book he's read digitally, the Wall Street Journal writes in a story that the inventory status of the Kindle--currently sold out until February because of a major Oprah plug a month ago--"supports a realization that is slowly creeping through the industry: E-book readers are for real."

Later in the day, the "real" in-house reader reported that he liked the experience: "It's book-sized pages." The main difference from reading a regular book: "I clicked 'next' 400 times or so." He added that he plans to read other books onscreen but won't buy--or ask for--an e-reader yet because he's waiting for the flexible-page version.--John Mutter

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

Media and Movies

Media Heat: George Hamilton Doesn't Mind If He Does

Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: George Hamilton, author of Don't Mind If I Do (Touchstone, $26, 9781416545026/1416545026).

Also on Today: Rebecca Booth, author of The Venus Week: Discover the Powerful Secret of Your Cycle . . . at Any Age (Da Capo Press, $24, 9780738211640/0738211648).


This Weekend on Book TV: American Lion

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, December 6

10 a.m. Ira Stoll, author of Samuel Adams: A Life (Free Press, $28, 9780743299114/0743299116), recalls the life of a man who, the author argues, deserves greater recognition as one of America's founding fathers. (Re-airs Sunday at 12 a.m. and 11:00 p.m., and Monday at 5 a.m.)

1:30 p.m. Thomas Slaughter, author of The Beautiful Soul of John Woolman, Apostle of Abolition (Hill and Wang, $30, 9780809095148/0809095149), recounts the life of a Quaker whose writings on the destructiveness of slavery were integral to the beginning of the Abolition movement. (Re-airs Sunday at 1 a.m. and 9 a.m.)
4 p.m. Jon Meacham, author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House (Random House, $30, 9781400063253/1400063256), discusses the founder of the Democratic party and the country's seventh president. (Re-airs Saturday at 8:45 p.m. and Monday at 6 a.m.)
10 p.m. After Words. Mona Charen interviews Michael Medved, author of The 10 Big Lies About America (Crown Forum, $26.95, 9780307394064/0307394069). Medved argues that many commonly held beliefs about the U.S. are myths. (Re-airs Sunday at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., Monday at 3 a.m. and Sunday, December 14, at 11 a.m.)

Sunday, December 7

12 p.m. In Depth. Historian and former political strategist Kevin Phillips, author most recently of Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism (Viking, $25.95, 9780670019076/0670019070), joins Book TV for a live interview. Viewers can participate in the discussion by calling in during the program or e-mailing questions to (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m. and Saturday, December 13, at 9 a.m.)

3 p.m. Peter Mansoor, author of Baghdad Sunrise: A Brigade Commander's War in Iraq (Yale University Press, $28, 9780300140699/030014069X), talks about the impact of the "surge" in Iraq and what remains to be done. (Re-airs Saturday, December 20, at 8:30 p.m. and Monday, December 22, at 5 a.m.)


Books & Authors

Children's Book Review: One Beetle Too Many

One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Matthew Trueman (Candlewick, 17.99, 9780763614362/076361436X, 48 pp., ages 9-12, January 2009)

The Origin of the Species will celebrate its 150th anniversary of publication on November 24, 2009. Would Charles Darwin be surprised to discover that there may well be as much debate now as there was during his lifetime concerning his theory of evolution versus creationism? Lasky (Sugaring Time) suggests that Darwin himself was anxious about how his theory would be received: "Very often when he thought or began to write about how species changed over time, his stomach problems would become worse." If not for a rival naturalist, Darwin may have kept his most probing ideas to himself. Lasky begins, however, with a depiction of young Charles (whose 200th birthday is next February 12, as is Abraham Lincoln's), instinctively curious, who loves to collect things, especially beetles. Trueman (Chickens on Strike) captures the moment when Charles, with a beetle in each hand, two of a sort that he'd never seen before, discovers a "third strange beetle . . . and . . . lacking a free hand, quickly popped one beetle into his mouth and scooped up the third one." The illustration strikes a commendable balance between the comical situation and the boy's passion for science (his various collections in evidence). Throughout, the author and artist leaven Darwin's serious work with such humorous touches. Young Charles earned the nickname "Gas," for instance, because of his activities with his brother in the laboratory ("Explosions were their favorite things"). Trueman depicts Charles holding at arm's length a test tube erupting into flames as his brother shields himself with his arms.
Lasky and Trueman devote much of the book to Darwin's pivotal voyage on the Beagle, but they break up the discoveries into manageable sections of one to three spreads. The artwork offers breathtaking views of foreign landscapes and close-ups of exotic creatures; and Darwin's sketches of various finches he discovered on his travels through the Galápagos Islands demonstrates the birds' subtle differences from island to island--observations that figured prominently in the foundation of Darwin's ideas on natural selection. Readers may also be intrigued to discover that Charles's father had sent him off at one point to become a clergyman, and that Charles did not believe his scientific theory was at odds with his belief in God: Charles "felt that his notions did not disprove God in the least but in fact made God more powerful." Lasky and Trueman arrive at quite an achievement here: They take Darwin's sophisticated ideas and make them accessible to readers young and old--through humor and simplicity of language; and, by suggesting that Darwin felt there was room for God in his theory, they set a foundation for a lively discussion of evolution and creationism--does one rule out the other? Or can they co-exist? Most of all, this intelligently and elegantly designed volume makes clear how much Darwin's ideas continue to create an impact on science, society and culture, a century and a half later.--Jennifer M. Brown


Deeper Understanding

YALSA Institute: Listening Is Reading--An Odyssey in Audiobooks

At the Young Adult Librarians' Association Institute in Nashville, Tenn., November 7-9 (for a report on part of YASLA, see below), members of the inaugural 2008 Odyssey Award Committee not only presented a compelling argument for audiobooks as a reading experience, they also posed for a photo op with actress Katherine Kellgren, narrator of Bloody Jack, an Odyssey honor winner (who discussed on the panel her impressive process of preparing for work on an audiobook). From l. to r.: Jerene Battisti, Kings County Library, Washington State; Teri Lesesne, professor of library science, Sam Houston University, Texas; Kellgren; Sharon Grover, Hedberg Public Library, Wis.; Mary Burkey (Olentangy Liberty Middle School, Ohio).


YALSA Institute: Gene Luen Yang on How America Reads Graphic Novels

Gene Luen Yang set the tone for the inaugural YALSA Institute, held in Nashville, Tenn., last month, with the probing questions he raised in his keynote speech on Friday, November 7. From his perch in the center of the comics/graphic novel world (his book American Born Chinese was a National Book Award finalist and won the 2007 Printz Award) and also as one who still teaches (computer science) in the classroom, Yang offered a perspective that caught fire, with themes that surfaced in other programs throughout the weekend.
In a series of images (naturally) along with his commentary, Yang suggested that two invasions involving comics are occurring: "Invasion #1: Comics as a MEDIUM is invading America!" He showed a broad variety of images, both two-dimensional (e.g., Spiderman superhero comics and Sendak's In the Night Kitchen) and three-dimensional (such as a relief of the Stations of the Cross and the FDR memorial in Washington, D.C.), and cited several "definitions" of comics by the likes of Will Eisner, Scott McCloud and David Kunzle. Yang then offered his own "Statement About Comics . . . 'Comics is a convergence of pictures and words,'" and demonstrated how "Pictures are Invading Words!" with M.T. Anderson's series that launched with Whales on Stilts!, Brian Selznick's Caldecott-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, plus a quotidian example, USA Today. To show how "Words are Invading Pictures," he again pointed to Selznick's Hugo Cabret, but also to CNN. with its breaking news running across the bottom of the screen like a tickertape, and the Colbert Report's "The Word" feature (in this case, highlighting "truthiness").
Yang thus set up the ways in which words and pictures today poach territories that were once exclusive to one or the other. "Words are 'sequential access,'" he posited, showing a page from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, while "Pictures are 'Random Access,'" highlighting George Seurat's painting Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte as an example. But, he continues, in "Gene's Other Statement About Comics . . . Comics is a convergence of 'sequential access' and 'random access.'" Comics join these two ideas. "In comics, we have . . . Sequential Access Pictures!" in the form of books such as Shaun Tan's The Arrival, and "Random Access Words!" with examples such as Phoenix by Osamu Tezuka (featuring an urban scene of several parallel overcrowded escalators with people speaking in unrelated thought balloons). Yang cited everyday instances of the "Convergence of Sequential and Random Access" in Wikipedia and CNN.
"So what's the fall-out of this invasion?" Yang asked. "America is ready for and expects sophisticated interplay between visual and text-based media." He also observed "Invasion #2: Comics as a CULTURE is invading America!" He touched on fan input in comics and in other media, citing American Idol and Dancing with the Stars, how attendees at Comic Con dress like the characters they read about and come to see at the convention (adults dressing as superheroes, yes, but also teens dressed as Harry Potter characters). "So what's the fall-out of this invasion?" he asks. "America expects audience participation." He then takes it a step further and says, "America expects audience ownership!"
"What to Do?! OR: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Comics" appeared next on a slide showing the famous shot of the smiling cowboy doffing his 10-gallon hat as he rides the missile in Dr. Strangelove. Yang's answer was a series of suggestions on how to embrace graphic novels and use comics to inspire reading: The Iron Man comics for those who've seen the movie; the graphic novel of Prince of Persia for those who've played the video game; pairing his own American Born Chinese with Monkey: A Journey to the West, retold by David Kherdian. He also suggested encouraging students to create their own comics (with Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics and Making Comics; Will Eisner's Comics and Sequential Art, Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative and Expressive Anatomy for Comics and Narrative; as well as Drawing Words and Writing Pictures by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden).
Yang offered a strong model set out by the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library's "Get Graphic" program with these suggestions and notes (their Web site, listed below, also contains tips for making them a reality in bookstores, libraries, and classrooms):

  • Promote graphic novel of the month
  • Offer cartooning classes
  • Publish an anthology of comics created by students
  • Host author visits
  • Create graphic novel classroom kits

Learn more at M. Brown


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