Shelf Awareness for Friday, December 19, 2008

Simon & Schuster: Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens the Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era by Jerry Mitchell

Sfi Readerlink Dist: Sesame Street: The Monster at the End of This Book: An Interactive Adventure by Jon Stone, adapted by Autumn B Heath

Minotaur Books: The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James

Tor Books: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

DK: Free Pack of The Wonders of Nature Wrapping Paper - Click to Sign Up!


Notes: Inauguration Poet; Vroman's Happy Holidays Video

Poet Elizabeth Alexander has been selected to compose and read a poem at Barack Obama's Inauguration next month. As the Washington Post observed, "It is the first time that 'poetry's old-fashioned praise,' as Robert Frost called it, will be featured at the ceremony since Bill Clinton's second swearing in back in 1997."

Alexander, a professor at Yale University, has written several books, including four poetry collections. Her most recent, American Sublime (Graywolf Press, $14, 9781555974329/1555974325), was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer prize.

"I'm just so honored to have been asked to present and to compose a poem for this momentous occasion," Alexander told the Guardian. "What we have seen is a man who understands that words bring power, who understands the power of language, the integrity of language, that it's not just idle. To be asked to turn my own words to this occasion and for this person is all but overwhelming."

In a conversation with Melissa Block on NPR's All Things Considered, Alexander said she is not daunted by the honor, noting, "the pressure--the challenge--is to write a poem that can serve . . . all of those expectant, gathered millions and to let the poem be what calms my nerves when I am up there. To let myself remember that I am there to deliver these words and these words have been commissioned to deliver a very, very amazing moment."


"Happy Holidays from Vroman's Bookstore" is the title of a cheerful video--featuring staff gift recommendations--that was embedded in the Pasadena, Calif., bookshop's e-mail newsletter this week.


Bookselling This Week showcased a holiday season cross-marketing initiative between Women & Children First bookstore, Chicago, Ill., and a local toy store, toys et cetera: According to BTW, "the bookstore and the toy store each created 8-1/2" x 11" fliers advertising the promotion, and they're displaying them at the front door and at the cash/wrap. . . . The flier that Women & Children First displays has the IndieBound logo and states: 'A holiday offer from one independent to another. . . . Toys are gifts of comfort and joy. . . . This locally owned, indie bookstore invites you to visit a locally owned, indie toy store.'"

"It's going pretty well so far," said Ann Christophersen, the bookshop's co-owner. "We've done a fair number of exchanges. There is no question we're getting people into our store that otherwise would not have shopped here."


Even when the weather outside looks frightful, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Conn., anticipates potential sales. In an e-mail newsletter sent out yesterday, owner Roxanne Coady wrote, "Rumor has it there's going to be a snowstorm. Let's hope not. But just in case we don't want you to miss a single opportunity to get your holiday shopping done. So if you can't get out, we're here and we can help you choose the books, ring them up, gift wrap, and have them ready for you to pick up Saturday or Sunday or Monday. Call or email--we will all be here all day."


Speaking of bad weather, the ice storm that ripped through the Northeast last week left the Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough, N.H., without electricity for several days, but Bookselling This Week reported that "owner Willard Williams and staff kept the store humming all weekend long despite the lack of electricity. Power was back on Tuesday, and Toadstool's phones and Internet connections returned by that afternoon."

"We never actually closed the store, even though we didn't have any power or phones," said Williams, though he acknowledged that the storm cut into the bottom line of what would normally have been a busy pre-holiday shopping weekend.


Naperville, Ill., independent businesses have rallied to the call of IndieBound, "working together to raise awareness about how smaller independent shops can make a difference in the community," according to the Naperville Sun.

"We got involved with this program in July, but it wasn't in response to the economy," said Candy Purdom of Anderson's Bookshop. "There are other groups in the country, but just like any community, each Indie group is unique. Our group started out small, but we've been steadily adding members."


"Rather than hanging a bold 'SALE' sign in store windows, some retailers are going all out to attract customers and get them to shop," according to the Seattle Times, which noted that "more than 300 people turned out for a party Friday night at Parkplace Books in Kirkland, where they were treated to complimentary food catered by several local restaurants and live music by blues singer Mark DuFresne and pianist Annieville Blues."

"We consider ourselves Kirkland's community book store," said co-owner Mary Harris. "This is a way to invite our customers to celebrate the holidays with us and thank them for their support through the year."

The Times reported that Parkplace shopping center "offered to pick up the tab this year after finding money left over in its advertising budget."

"We would have held the party," said Harris, who estimated the party cost about $4,800. "It just wouldn't have been as fancy an affair as it turned out to be."


The book race has begun just a week after Bernard Madoff was arrested for alleged securities fraud on an epic scale. According to the Wall Street Journal, "HarperCollins Publishers said it has acquired world rights to a book about Mr. Madoff to be written by journalist Andrew Kirtzman. . . . Separately, Bertelsmann AG's Random House imprint said late Thursday that it, too, is acquiring the rights to a Madoff book." Investigative reporter Richard Behar is writing the Random House book. Both will be published in 2010.

"This is a story that isn't going away," said Claire Wachtel, an executive editor at Harper who acquired Kirtzman's book. "It's the human element that makes it so interesting."


J.K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard is now the fastest-selling title of 2008. Reuters reported that "more than 2.6 million copies sold worldwide in less than two weeks."


Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Malaki officially reopened Baghdad's Mutanabi Street Thursday. The New York Times observed that the area, which was destroyed by a car bomb in March 2007, "has long been the intellectual center of the Iraqi capital" and that "resurrecting this area and breathing life back into the cafes and book stores here has long been a pet project for the Iraqi leadership."


A collection of E.H. Shepard's original drawings for the Winnie the Pooh children's books sold for £1.26 million (US$1.89 million) at Sotheby's auction house in London, according to BBC News.


Offering perhaps the best gift list pun of the season, the New York Times penalized readers "Two Minutes for Booking" with its Hockey Holiday Gift Books guide.


ABC's Good Morning America anchors picked their favorite coffee table books of the year. Just in case you wondered, Diane Sawyer loves Birdscapes: A Pop-Up Celebration of Bird Songs in Stereo Sound.


G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers: The Best of Iggy by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sam Ricks

Holiday Hum: Exploring Wide World Books & Maps

Two distinctly different window displays beckon shoppers at Wide World Books & Maps in Seattle, Wash.: one showcases books promoting cold-weather destinations like Switzerland and the other warm-weather locales like Mexico and Costa Rica.

Another in-store display was created especially for the holiday season, highlights novels and has a sign declaring "Let Literature Be Your Guide"--inspired by an article in the November issue of Condé Nast Traveler titled "The 69 Greatest Fiction Travel Books of All Time." (The magazine defines a fiction travel book as one "in which a place is as important a character as the protagonist.") Wide World Books & Maps owner Simone Andrus and her staff selected a dozen of the titles to feature in the display, ranging from recent reads like Gary Shteyngart's Absurdistan to classics like Jack Kerouac's On the Road and Rudyard Kipling's Kim.

Those who prefer nonfiction will find plenty of suggestions, such as How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, The Places in Between by Rory Stewart, who recalls his trek across Afghanistan, and The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Finn about her days at a Parisian cooking school. Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea is a consistent bestseller, and customers often buy multiple copies. Over the last eight years, the store's armchair travel section has increased by 200%.

Trade paperback sales at Wide World Books & Maps have grown in recent years, particularly national bestsellers when they become available in the less expensive format. "That has been a trend for our customers for a long time," said Andrus. "We've never been the place where the rich shop. We're the place where travelers shop, and a lot of travelers were cost-conscious even before the current economic crisis."

While customers aren't necessarily curtailing traveling, Andrus has noticed a shift toward more frugal budgets. Travelers are opting for two-star rather than three-star hotels and forgoing popular destinations like France and Italy for less expensive countries in Eastern Europe and Latin and South America. For travelers who "want a European feel, cities like Buenos Aires are great for that," said Andrus. In addition, guidebook sales have changed as publishers strive to match travelers' specific interests--creating guides for lesser-known cities, "top 10" highlights for those short on time and ones focused solely on restaurants. "Overall country guides are down, but regional guides and city guides are up," said Andrus.

Atlases are also selling well this holiday season--and for special occasions like weddings, graduations and birthdays, Andrus noted.

Books account for about 45% of the store's revenue, with the rest coming from maps and sidelines. Shoppers are purchasing wall maps of the world and the U.S. to give as gifts (for those who plan ahead, the store will have them mounted) as well as photographic destination-themed calendars and page-per-day language calendars. Books are often paired with travel accessories like a mini wind-up flashlight or a luggage tag. And all bookstore owners would be "well-advised" to carry Moleskine journals, said Andrus. "They make a fabulous gift."

This month Andrus is keeping a closer watch on stock. She generally orders from Partners/West Book Distributors in the Seattle suburb of Renton twice a week but is currently doing so on a daily basis. Books ordered in the morning are delivered in the afternoon, which "really allows us to keep track of our inventory so we know we're not over-ordering," Andrus said. A few sales have been lost when a book is not in the store, "but we've gained a lot of sales by being able to tell someone that we can get a book for them the next day."

Overall sales at Wide World Books & Maps are down compared with this time last year. "I myself am watching every penny, and I can't imagine my customers are that much different," said Andrus. The store has an eclectic customer base, ranging from high school students studying abroad to business travelers and retirement-age adventurers. Whether they're heading for the beach or the slopes, indulging in armchair travel or encouraging recipients on their holiday gift lists to do the same, Wide World Books & Maps has ample suggestions for satisfying wanderlust.--Shannon McKenna Schmidt


KidsBuzz for the Week of 10.14.19

Media and Movies

Media Heat: American Rifle

WETA's Author Author! has an interview with Louis Bayard about his book The Black Tower (Morrow, $24.95, 9780061173509/0061173509).


Tomorrow on NPR's All Things Considered: Alexander Rose, author of American Rifle: A Biography (Delacorte Press, $30, 9780553805178/0553805177).


GLOW: St. Martin's Press: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

Books & Authors

Awards: 2009 Man Booker Prize Judges Named

The judging panel for the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction will include Lucasta Miller, biographer and critic; Michael Prodger, literary editor of the Sunday Telegraph; John Mullan, academic, journalist and broadcaster; and Sue Perkins, comedian and broadcaster. BBC's James Naughtie, host of Radio 4's monthly Book Club program, will serve as chair of the judges.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Firewatching by Russ Thomas

Shelf Sample: Script and Scribble

Kitty Burns Florey, author of Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting (Melville House, $22.95, 9781933633671/1933633670, January 23, 2009), is a novelist, grammarian (Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog) and self-proclaimed penmanship nut. "Since I first picked up a pen, I have been under the spell of handwriting." Decrying the demise of the Palmer method in favor of "keyboarding," she has written an ode to penmanship. She covers handwriting history, calligraphy, Spencer and Palmer, ink, pens and pencil factories. She tells us penmanship is important: "The aesthetic appeal of good handwriting is something we should not cease to value . . . even seeing attractive writing on a dental-appointment reminder card . . . is a nice moment in the day." And what would be lost if we didn't have writer's manuscripts to study:

"Even more than a personal possession, a writer's script, with its smears, crossings out, second thoughts, and marginal notes, seems to take the viewer directly into his or her mind. The poet Philip Larkin once said, 'All literary manuscripts have two kinds of value: what might be called the magical value and the meaningful value. The magical value is the older and more universal: this is the paper he wrote on, these are the words as he wrote them, emerging for the first time in this particular miraculous combination. The meaningful value is of much more recent origin, and is the degree to which a manuscript helps to enlarge our knowledge and understanding of a writer's life and work.' In the words of the poet and former NEA chairman Dana Gioia, 'Reading is never more intimate than with script. The hand of the poet reaches out to greet the reader.' When you see the manuscript of a work that's important to you, it's difficult not to be very aware of that hand holding the pen and forming the letters--and to feel a bit closer to the mind behind it all.

"Now that most writers no longer labor over holograph manuscripts, there will come a time when this kind of magic will be gone. Little that's new will be added to the vast store of manuscripts that have come down to us over the centuries. The shape of the letterforms, the cross-outs, the substitutions, the puzzling illegibilities, the changes of mind and slips of the pen, the color of the ink and the type of paper, the egotistical capital I's and the randy loops on the g's--gone, all of it. Someday the job applications and charge-card receipts of the famous may be all that's preserved in manuscript collections.

"And then there's the rather stunning idea that if you can't write cursive, you have a lot of trouble reading it, too. Will my mother's diaries look like Sanskrit to her great-grand-children? Will it be only a small group of specialists who can make sense of the original handwritten manuscripts of Jim Harrison and Wendell Berry, the heartbreaking letters home from soldiers in the American Civil War, or artifacts like this Christmas note Walt Whitman sent to his publisher in 1879?

"Shakespeare reportedly wrote a sequel to Love's Labors Lost, entitled Love's Labors Won--what if, in 2108, it turns up in a dustbin somewhere in Warwickshire? Will there be any¬one around who can decipher it? Who will be the last person to send a handwritten postcard? Who will read it?

"In an eloquent lament in the Oregonian (January 13, 2008) for the decline of the handwritten letter, Jim Carmin suggests: 'Perhaps our many creative writing programs should emphasize that one of the important facets of being a writer is to express one's thoughts in the writing of letters, and to remind authors that for history to have a more complete and accurate understanding of their work, the millennia-old tradition of letter writing is a good way to do it . . . Just as there is a "slow food" movement, to counteract fast food and fast life, perhaps we should begin a slow writing movement, to regain the appreciation of writing letters as an important meditative and historically significant activity, especially to literary studies.' "

"My own advice is: if you get a letter in the mail, save it! Posterity will thank you."--Marilyn Dahl


Arcadia Publishing: Stock Your Shelves!

Book Brahmin: Kristy Bell

Kristy Bell is a recovering naval officer who fulfilled a lifelong dream by opening Minerva Books in Petersburg, Va., in May 2008. She lives in Petersburg with two neurotic cats and a dog named Harper Lee and is working on the book that will spark her worldwide tour and Oprah appearance.

On your nightstand now:

Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen with Ron Rapoport: Tim & Tom, and Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Favorite book when you were a child:

All the Little House books and the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1964 edition. The books may have been 20 years out of date, but most of the information was new to rural Alabama!  

Your top five authors:

In no particular order: Toni Morrison, Wallace Stegner, Isabel Allende, Philip Roth, John Irving.

Book you've faked reading:

Hopefully my bookselling license won't be revoked for saying this, but Crime and Punishment flat wore me out, and I may have done just the teeniest little bit of Cliffs Notes-aided skimming for the school assignments.
Book you are an evangelist for:

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini should be mandatory reading for anyone who wants or needs to understand the complexities of Afghan society. In fact, the current occupant of the White House might have done well to read it.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Not so much for the cover as the title: An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke. I was disappointed when the book didn't live up to what I thought was a very original premise. I lost patience with the hapless loser narrator about 40 pages in and never re-engaged.

Book that changed your life:

To Kill a Mockingbird. I read it for the first time when I was 20 and could think only, "Wow." It's a deceptively simple story, but what a fundamental grasp of human nature Harper Lee showed in it!

Favorite line from a book:

". . . so I figure if I'm bound to be a loony, then I'm bound to be a stompdown dadgum good one."--R. P. McMurphy in Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Toni Morrison's Jazz.


Grove Press, Black Cat: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Deeper Understanding

YALSA Institute, Part II: Reaching Teens Where They Live

During the Young Adult Library Services Association Institute last month (Shelf Awareness, December 4, 2008), three panels discussed how to reach teens by communicating with them in the places they already go (their phones and computers), with covers that look like them and with books that reflect their experiences.

In her presentation, "Reading: It's Not Just About Books Anymore," New York educational technology consultant Linda Braun began with the thesis that teens are reading more than ever--just not exclusively books. In a hands-on demonstration that encouraged audience participation, Braun asked for examples of how we read today. Kindles, cell phones and podcasts came up as other ways to "read."

Aside from extolling the virtues of technology for her personally, Braun also suggested its potential in trying to reach students. One example was a project called "Many Voices," begun on Twitter in an eighth grade class at a school in Maryland. Because Twitter allows only 140 characters per entry, the students were challenged to further the story line while remaining succinct and leaving their entries at a point where the next student could pick up with his or her contribution. More than 100 elementary and middle school students in six different countries contributed to the project using (Go to to download "Many Voices" for free or to order the paperback for $5.42.)

Braun called this a perfect example of Gene Luen Yang's point earlier at YALSA that students today "expect to participate" in what they read. Why not capitalize on this and use Twitter for book discussions, she suggested, or to ask reference questions at the library? Having to pare down the question to 140 characters forces students to get to "the meat" of it, Braun said. She mentioned other means of communication and social networking on the rise:, a microblog or what she called "a gateway blog to blogging"; and and, whose virtue is the technology to post podcasts and video footage in a microblog format. Braun suggested that communicating with teens in a way that feels comfortable to them helps them feel "less marginalized."
Speaking of marginalizing students, author Mitali Perkins in her presentation "Books Between Cultures," warned audience members about the importance of examining books' covers and content for overt and insidious stereotyping. One tool she offered for this analysis is her "Six Questions to Ask About a Story." For writers, she offered "Ten Tips on Writing Race." The most dramatic response from the audience came when Perkins showed the 7-minute-and-15-second film called "A Girl Like Me," made by 16-year-old Kiri Davis, in which the teen conducted the same "doll test" that Kenneth Clark conducted as part of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. (Clark asked a group of black children to choose between a white doll and a black doll, and the majority chose a white doll.) Davis's repetition of the test, conducted 54 years later, yielded the same results. Perkins has posted the "Six Questions," the "Ten Tips" (under the heading "Straight Talk about Race"), and the film on her website,

"In Cleveland, Ohio, 65% of the population is African-American, and there are no chain bookstores in the Cleveland city limits," said Rollie Welch, collection manager at Cleveland Public Library at the start of his presentation, "Just Keepin' It Real: Teens Reading Out of the Mainstream." Welch has the challenge of fighting for the books that he knows kids in his 28 branches will read, even if the books use rough language and tackle tough subjects; he also took books into the juvenile detention center. He's learned a lot about what circulates and what doesn't. Now in his second year as chair of the Best Books for Young Adults (BBYA) committee of YALSA, he said, "Out of 1,000 books submitted for BBYA, less than 20 feature an African-American protagonist. Teens want books with kids who look like them and have experiences like them."
Welch devised a Jeopardy game with street lit titles to test the audience's knowledge, and quite a few of the librarians knew many of the books (editor's note: we took a lot of notes and learned a lot!). He said that plot always trumps character development, so books by Walter Dean Myers, Jacqueline Woodson and Sharon Draper do not circulate as widely as books such as Acceleration by Graham McNamee, Naruto and Hellsing (Welch said that anime and manga in general go over better because they are "racially neutral and adults don't get it"), Chameleon by Charles R. Smith Jr., Black and White by Paul Valpone, The Skin I'm In by Sharon Flake, Midnight (a companion to The Coldest Winter Ever) by Sister Souljah, Tyrell by Coe Booth, No Choirboy by Susan Kuklin, Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter and any  book about Tupac or Lebron James. Rather than a list of all the books Welch discussed, here instead is an ongoing resource: Welch writes a column called "The Word on Street Lit" for Library Journal's BookSmack e-newsletter, and you will find an archive of his columns here.
The common thread in Braun, Perkins and Welch's talks was to ask their listeners to step back from whatever preconceived notions they might have about reading and books, to put themselves in teen readers' shoes and to place uppermost in their thinking how best to keep teens reading and feeling confident as readers.--Jennifer M. Brown


Berkley Books: Happy and You Know It by Laura Hankin

KidsBuzz: Bloomsbury Children's Books:  Spies, Lies, and Disguise: The Daring Tricks and Deeds That Won World War II by Jennifer Swanson, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley
KidsBuzz: Bloomsbury Children's Books: More Than a Princess by E.D. Baker
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