Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dutton Books: A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor (The Carls #2) by Hank Green

HP Piazza: Regain Control of Your Publishing Content - Register Now

Post Hill Press: Personality Wins: Who Will Take the White House and How We Know by Merrick Rosenberg and Richard Ellis

Walrus Publishing: I Will Be Okay by Bill Elenbark

Parson Weems Publisher Services - Click Here!


Notes: Bookseller's Christmas Tale; Food & Books in Seattle

A bookseller's Christmas story. In the Raleigh News & Observer, Diane Neer recalled that last December, when she had to spend 13 days, including Christmas, in the hospital at UNC-Chapel Hill, she "found myself bookless, a state that causes me great anxiety. I asked some of the nurses whether there was a good bookstore in the area and they recommended Market Street Books. From the community phone in the hall, I called and spoke to the owner, Kathryn [Henderson], and explained my plight. I figured that if I told her what books I wanted and gave her my (memorized, of course) credit card number, maybe she could have the books sent to me at the hospital overnight.

"Instead, Kathryn gathered my books and personally delivered them to the hospital where they filled the remainder of my stay with one of my most reliable medications: something good to read. Kathryn may be personally responsible for the demise of my 'bah, humbug' attitude and the rise of the importance of family, which for me includes blood relatives, an amazing abundance of friends and, thanks to Kathryn, the community of people who care about people they don't even know and give without judgment to those who might not be having such a great holiday."


"When word got out that Tamara Murphy was revamping the subterranean Elliott Bay Cafe at the Elliott Bay Book Company, I managed to miss the memo," confessed Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson, who made amends last week "when a friend insisted that the James Beard Award-winning chef/owner of Belltown's Brasa was crafting sandwiches in Pioneer Square. I said, 'Sure she is!'--then I hightailed it down there to see whether truth really was stranger than fiction."

In chapter two of her bookstore café report, Leson wrote, "Thomas Soukakos, owner/chef of Vios Cafe & Marketplace--the warm, embracing, family-friendly Greek joint on Capitol Hill--has opened a second Vios in Ravenna. . . .  I caught up with him on Day Two at Vios No. 2, which made its bookstore debut at Third Place Books last week."


The Burlington Free Press offered "a peek inside" Brown Dog Books & Gifts, which opened recently in Hinesburg, Vt. "It's always been my dream to own my own bookstore," said Natacha Liuzzi. "I was an unemployed bookseller and got a call from the Esteys that a spot in their building was coming available. I knew if I didn't jump at the chance I would regret it."


Port in a Storm bookstore, Somesville, Maine, will close January 18, the Bangor Daily News reported. "Everybody is selling books," owner Jan Coates said. "You have to constantly adapt and be creative. There are only so many things you can control. . . . It's been a wonderful journey. One goes into the book industry because you love books. It's been a struggle of the head and the heart."

Coates told the Daily News "she is not sure whether to continue running Portside, a smaller, seasonal sister bookshop in Bernard."


We won't say what kind of unfortunate "accident" befell CEO Jeff Bezos at the Billionaire's Retreat camp in last week's episode of the Simpsons, but we can share his scary story around the campfire excuse--"I did not. That was apple juice from before."


The New England Independent Booksellers Association has launched a new website, taking the management of the site in-house. Nan Sorensen, NEIBA's assistant executive director, notes that future possibilities include developing the ability to join NEIBA or sign up for the trade show online, as well as member-only pages, including forums. Calling the new site a work in progress, she invites ideas and suggestions at


The Atlantic magazine featured its best books of 2008.


If you're not a regular ESPN viewer, you may have missed Stephen King's appearance as a ghostwriter in a Sportscenter promotional segment, where he's scolded for, among other miscues, writing about baseball players with telekinetic powers.


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

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Don't Go There!

Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Alexa L. Fishback, author of The Daily Fix: Your Guide to Healthy Habits for Good Nutrition (Rodale Books, $17.95, 9781594868474/1594868476).

Also on Today: 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 on KCRW's Bookworm: An American Bookworm in Paris, Part V: Jerk, a play, from a story by Dennis Cooper, directed by Gisèle Vienne. As the show put it: "Our series closes with American writer Dennis Cooper, who lives and writes in Paris. His work is believed to continue the French lineage of poète maudits (outlaw poets) a tradition that includes Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Sade. Choreographer-director Gisèle Vienne has been collaborating with Cooper to create beautiful and appalling theatrical pieces (including one based on his story, "Jerk") that are alarming tout Paris."


Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Michael Phelps, author of No Limits: The Will to Succeed (Free Press, $26, 9781439130728/1439130728).


GLOW: Inkyard Press: Come On In: 15 Stories about Immigration and Finding Home edited by Adi Alsaid

Movies: Doubt and The Argentine

Doubt, based on the play by John Patrick Shanley, opens this Friday, December 12. Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman star in this story of a nun who accuses a priest of abusing a student. The movie tie-in edition is from Theatre Communications Group, which is distributed by Consortium ($12.95, 9781559363471/1559363479).



The Argentine, the first part of Steven Soderbergh's two-part movie on the life of Che Guevara (followed by Guerrilla), opens December 12. Benicio Del Toro stars in this biopic based on Che's diaries. The tie-in edition for both films is from Ocean Press, distributed by Consortium ($14.95, 9781920888930/1920888934) is available on January 1.



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

Film Rights: How to Talk to Girls

Twentieth Century Fox has optioned the rights to 9-year-old Alec Greven's How to Talk to Girls, the first of a four-book series from HarperCollins, which is a sister company to Fox. According to Variety, "The film deal encompasses all four volumes. The studio hasn't set a writer yet or assigned a producer . . . Fox bought the book preemptively, before Greven began logging airtime on TV shows including The Today Show and Ellen."


Book Review

Book Review: Don't Stop Believin'

Don't Stop Believin': How Karaoke Conquered the World and Changed My Life by Brian Raftery (Da Capo Press, $16.00 Paperback, 9780306815836, December 2008)

Full disclosure: karaoke has provoked several family arguments in my house. In fact, certain family members (my sister) have even accused other family members (me) of being "a joy-sucking fun-killer" for their lack of karaoke love. So it was with some trepidation that I began Brian Raftery's breezy paean to the "empty orchestra" (the literal translation of "karaoke"). However, I held out hope that Raftery could make me understand the appeal of an activity that seems to celebrate--even elevate--those post-ironic displays of cheesiness. I wasn't disappointed.

Raftery writes of his endless microphone-clutching hours in "k-boxes" with brisk humor and is self-deprecating enough about his karaoke obsession that one senses he's taken substantial ribbing for it. He admits that he's always been a terrible singer and acknowledges that karaoke is a "ludicrous pursuit." Despite all of this, though, there is an unabashed earnestness running through his account. For Raftery, karaoke provides both joyful release and a means of social connection, no matter how many times he belts out Night Ranger's "Sister Christian" in public.

To illustrate (or perhaps justify) his love for karaoke, Raftery takes readers on a tour of the karaoke bars he's visited in New York and Japan, offering details of group bonding over songs like Prince's "Raspberry Beret" and explaining why Foreigner's "Cold As Ice" is not a good duet to perform with a girlfriend. He deconstructs unspoken karaoke etiquette (never select "Stairway to Heaven," for example) and describes what makes for a "good" karaoke song: mystery, diversity and absurdity. However, he spends less time on his own story than on karaoke's history and architects, and these sections are the book's liveliest. For example, he tracks down and interviews Daisake Inoue, the Japanese inventor of the first karaoke machine (unpatented, sadly), who is now marketing a contraption that kills cockroaches. Raftery also visits studio musicians who provide the backing tracks for all those dubious tunes and filmmakers who got their start making two-minute videos to accompany the march of lyrics across the screen. Finally he flies to Bangkok to attend the Karaoke World Championship competition, an event that is every bit as delightfully absurd as it should be.

While unlikely to imbue karaoke with any gravitas, Raftery's enthusiasm for it is endearing--and ultimately infectious. His readers may not be moved enough to pick up a microphone and belt out "I Will Survive" while waiting on line at the local Trader Joe's (yes, Trader Joe's is now offering karaoke), but they will have a much better understanding (perhaps even appreciation) of those who do.--Debra Ginsberg
Shelf Talker: A light, informative and highly entertaining history of karaoke from a writer who can't stop himself from singing along.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: What Do You Do?

That's always the question, isn't it? For better or worse, what you do is your primary way of connecting with people. If home is refuge, work is prospect and you need both to thrive.

From 1992 until 2005, this was an easy question for me to answer. I said I was a bookseller. Now it's a bit more complicated, since I work as a writer, editor, bookseller or teacher, depending upon the day and the hour and my mood. Other answers I've given over the years include student, marble mill worker, grocery store clerk, prep cook and route sales rep.

Always and everywhere, however, I've been a member, born and bred, of the working class. And Jenny Brown's great article (Shelf Awareness, December 9, 2008) on the recent tribute to Studs Terkel in the Great Hall of Cooper Union got me thinking.

Did anybody understand work better than Studs? That question--"What do you do?"--when asked by him was a measure of his fascination rather than a statement of competitiveness or elitism.

Ah, that word again--elitism.

I've been reading Studs Terkel since the late 1960s, which means throughout my working life. No matter what kind of good or lousy job I had, his writing, along with the brilliant growl I heard on radio and TV, always spoke to me, had my back, nudged me in the ribs sometimes, reminding me to take the world very seriously but myself less so.

He was a master at connecting the barely visible threads that hold us together.

In 2004, while I was attending BookExpo America in Chicago, I finally met Studs . . . at Bill Ayers' house.

Maybe I should explain.

A reader's life, like a worker's life, is irresistibly complicated on the good days. That year I was invited to one of those publisher-sponsored dinners that are the social staple of book shows. This one happened to be at the Hyde Park home of Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, names that have been mentioned, you may recall, once or twice during this year's presidential campaign.

Oh, and how about another plot twist here for readers who love it when incontrovertible evidence seems like deus ex machina? I first met Bill in 2001 while we were at Bennington College--in our energetic dotage--working toward MFA in Writing degrees and "palling around." As recently as last winter, we had dinner together in Bennington and talked about . . . stuff. For two people who couldn’t have lived more disparate lives when we were young, our friendship has evolved quite naturally, an outgrowth, perhaps, of something Bill suggested in a recent New York Times Op-ed piece, when he wrote that "talking and listening to the widest range of people is not a sin, but a virtue."

But let's get back to our story. On that night in 2004, in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, in Bill's living room, Studs Terkel held court on a sofa, looking at once frail and indomitable. This simple gem of a moment is my cherished memory of the man at work and play.

As a bookseller, I love it when I'm handselling novels, but also take a certain pleasure in the awareness of my fingers dancing instinctively across a keyboard, ringing up purchases during a rush. After all, if I add up the number of years I've spent in retail as a grocer and bookseller, calling myself a cashier might be the more honest response to the seminal question.

When I was 17 and working for the A&P, customers lined up at my register because I was fast and proud of it. One of my favorite stories from Working is of Babe Secoli, the supermarket checker who says, "It's hard work, but I like it. This is my life. . . . I'm just movin'--the hips, the hand, and the register, the hips, the hand, and the register . . . You just keep goin', one, two, one, two. If you've got that rhythm, you're a fast checker. Your feet are flat on the floor and you're turning your head back and forth. . . . If somebody interrupts to ask me the price, I'll answer while I'm movin'. Like playin' a piano."

So, what do I do?

I work.

And I agree with Studs about doing something you love. Of his own vocation, he wrote, "Though my weekends go by soon enough, I look toward Monday without a sigh."--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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