Archive for the ‘2009 – Fall’ Category

PW’s “Afro Picks” Controversy

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

PW‘s provocative cover image and title for its annual African American feature stirred up plenty of controversy on Twitter and blogs yesterday – and now the book blogs at the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune are asking their readers to weigh in.


African American novelists Carleen Brice and Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant were among the first to criticize the cover for presenting the work of black authors in the context of a negative stereotype. PW editor Calvin Reid explained that he’d chosen the cover image from the book Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present, edited by Deborah Willis. “While it never occurred to me that anyone would be offended by these images, I was very wrong and I have to acknowledge that,” he wrote. For a full summary of the debate, check out blogger and writer Nordette Adams’s post about it.

Many are arguing that the cover controversy distracts from the PW feature itself, which reviews the impact of the recession on the African American book market. It includes the disturbing news that there appears to be less serious fiction by black authors entering the marketplace, according to Jabari Asim, editor-in-chief of the Crisis and a former editor at the Washington Post Book World. In the article, book editors confirm that they are increasingly cautious about acquiring books by black authors at a time when chain bookstores are cutting back their orders, black bookstores have difficulty competing on price, consumers are extremely price-sensitive, and the popularity of street lit category is slowing.

Also included in the feature is a list of notable African-American titles slated for Fall 2009 and Winter 2010. Here are a few of the key fiction picks on the list:

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow is a “much-touted debut novel” about the biracial daughter of a black G.I and a Danish mother. In some libraries, there are already holds on this book, which is coming in February 2010.

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky
Heidi W. Durrow
Retail Price: $22.95
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Algonquin Books – (2010-02-16)
ISBN / EAN: 1565126807 / 9781565126800

Audio also available from Highbridge on February 1, 2010

  • CD: $26.95; ISBN 9781598879230


Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is set before the Civil War at a free-territory resort in Ohio that attracts four white female friends, as well as slaveholding men and their enslaved mistresses. Most libraries we checked had 10 or fewer copies on order, and a few holds.

Dolen Perkins-valdez
Retail Price: $24.99
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Amistad – (2010-01-01)
ISBN / EAN: 006170654X / 9780061706547

Audio also available from Books on Tape in January 2010

  • Unabridged CD (7 discs): $70; ISBN 9780307713704


Best African American Fiction 2010, edited by Gerald Early is the second volume in an annual short fiction series. Libraries we checked have 10 or fewer copies.

Best African American Fiction 2010
Gerald Early
Retail Price: $25.00
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: One World/Ballantine – (2009-12-29)
ISBN / EAN: 0553806904 / 9780553806908


Gloryland by Shelton Johnson is the story of a black man born on emancipation day in 1863 who joins the U.S. Cavalry and is posted to the newly created Yosemite National Park in 1903 – and it’s written by a modern day Yosemite Park ranger. World Cat says 179 libraries have it. Those we checked had modest holds on modest numbers of copies.

Shelton Johnson
Retail Price: $25.00
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Sierra Club/Counterpoint – (2009-09-08)
ISBN / EAN: 1578051444 / 9781578051441


And here is the book that is the source of the controversial cover image:

Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present
Deborah Willis
Retail Price: $49.95
Hardcover: 244 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company – (2009-10-05)
ISBN / EAN: 0393066967 / 9780393066968


Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

After the author appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation yesterday, What on Earth Evolved? rose to #134 on Amazon; few libraries show it on their catalogs.

The book celebrates the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by ranking the top 100 species, in terms of their impact on evolution, human history and the environment. Species also get marks for how long they’ve survived and how far they have expanded across the globe.

The most influential species? Earthworms. Humans don’t even make the top five.

The book was not reviewed prepub, but it is described on the the National Geographic blog.

Be sure to check out the What on Earth Evolved? game on the book’s web site; it’s challenging and £1 is donated to charity for each person who plays.


What on Earth Evolved?: 100 Species That Changed the World
Christopher Lloyd
Retail Price: $45.00
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA – (2009-11-10)
ISBN / EAN: 1596916540 / 9781596916548

If you’re wondering about the price — the publisher says it’s “lavishly illustrated.”

Big Books; Week of 12/14

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Hoping that stores will be overwhelmed with shoppers this week before Christmas, publishers are giving them and their back room staffs a break, by releasing fewer big-name titles.


Patterson, James Witch & Wizard

Patterson begins a new YA series with co-author Gabrielle Charbonnet. Unsurprisingly, it is drawing the most holds of books being pubbed this week, averaging 5 to 1 at several large libraries.


Emma McLaughlin, Nicola Kraus Nanny Returns

Nanny is welcomed back with a B+ from Entertainment Weekly and  3.5 of 4 stars from People, which say it’s “as bitingly funny as its predecessor.” Holds are rather light (readers may have put off by that dreadful movie of the first title).



Dominick Dunne, Too Much Money

Entertainment Weekly gives Dunne’s posthumous book a middling C, saying, “like a high-society dinner party — it promises glitz and excitement, but devolves into something of a bore.”



Timothy Ferris, The Four-Hour Work Week

The work week may still have only four hours, but the new edition of the book has expanded from 320 pages to 416. An updated audio is also available.


Thursday, December 10th, 2009

In today’s New York Times, Janet Maslin says Greg Mortenson’s second book after Three Cups of Tea is “very different” from his first,  still hugely popular title; its  first-person narrative [is] much more vigorous than the third person of Three Cups of Tea”.

In the LA Times’ review, Bernadette Murphy offers more insight into the differences between the two books;

The new book is less focused on the plot drive found in Three Cups of Tea — will he succeed or fail to build the school? — and more concerned with educating readers about the region, the religions represented, the tribal customs and countless other details that animate the area…

Stones Into Schools has more characters, more regions to consider, more obstacles to overcome, more history to digest. At times, these “mores” can require a slow and careful read.

But be not discouraged: Like the trouble it takes to build these important and life-enriching schools, endeavoring to better understand this region through Stones Into Schools is worth the effort.

The book goes on to the NYT Nonfiction bestseller list for the first this week, at #2. It’s had a surprisingly slow start, given the popularity of the first title. Prior to publication, libraries were showing low holds on cautious ordering. In the last two weeks, however, holds have doubled and even tripled in several large libraries.

Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Greg Mortenson
Retail Price: $26.95
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult – (2009-12-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0670021156 / 9780670021154

Penguin Audio; UNABR; CD; 9780143144960; $26.95
Blackstone Audio; UNABR; CD; 9781433298271; $105
Blackstone Audio; UNABR; Cassette; 9781433298264; $72.95
Blackstone Audio; UNABR; MP3 CD; 9781433277184; $59.99
Thorndike Large Print; Hdbk; 9781410420350; $34.95

Critics Rattle Lovely Bones Movie

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

The Lovely Bones movie opens this weekend, and the reviews are…rough. Peter Jackson, the director of Heavenly Creatures and Lord of the Rings, gets flack for being too faithful to the novel, and for going astray with special effects in his depiction of heaven, where the teenage protagonist ends up after she is murdered.

But remember – newly-jacketed tie-in editions displayed front-of-store in bookstores can remind readers of books they always meant to read. It’s worked in this case; the tie-in rose to #18 on last week’s USA Today bestseller list.

Newsweek calls The Lovely Bones an awkward mix of thriller, police procedural, family melodrama and mystical fantasy that lacks Sebold’s skill in holding its disparate elements.

By remaining faithful to Sebold’s myriad flights of fancy… [Jackson] has inadvertently highlighted the book’s vulnerabilities. When The Lovely Bones loses its grip on you, its momentousness turns into silliness.

People magazine gives the movie a dismal 1.5 of possible 4 stars in the 12/21 issue. The review is even more scathing (not available online): Jackson has made “a gallon-size, candy-colored margarita, but it contains only a thimble-full of actual tequila,” it says. “How much you like Bones may depend on how strongly you believe in a neon-bright afterlife.”

The Associated Press review is only slightly more tempered, praising Jackson’s striking imagery, but calling the resulting spectacle “showmanship, not storytelling, [that distracts] from the mortal drama of regret and heartache he’s trying to tell.”

The Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold
Retail Price: $14.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Back Bay Books – (2009-09-30)
ISBN / EAN: 0316044938 / 9780316044936


The Lovely Bones: Deluxe Edition
Alice Sebold
Retail Price: $16.99
Paperback: 328 pages
Publisher: Back Bay Books – (2007-09-17)
ISBN / EAN: 0316001821 / 9780316001823

Librarians Spotted It First

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is a “surprise success,” according to Publishers Weekly. It began life as a “small title,” and now has 40,000 copies in print.

What PW doesn’t note is that librarians spotted it early, highlighting it at the Librarian’s “Shout ‘n’ Share” program at BEA in May.

Author Rhoda Janzen is publishing another memoir, Backslide, currently scheduled for March, 2012.

HighBridge released an audio version in October. Libraries are showing heavy holds on both versions.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home
Rhoda Janzen
Retail Price: $22.00
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. – (2009-10-13)
ISBN / EAN: 080508925X / 9780805089257

Also in audio from HighBridge:

  • CD: 9781598879070; $29/95; 10/13

Downloadable audio from OverDrive

Heavy Holds Alert: TOO BIG TO FAIL

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Andy Sorkin’s book about Lehman Brothers has been on the NYT Nonfiction Best Seller list for six weeks. Some libraries are showing holds ratios as high as 20:1. Holds are also heavy on the audio, where it is owned.

Expect them to rise even higher after Sorkin appears on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Wednesday.

Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System—and Themselves
Andrew Ross Sorkin
Retail Price: $32.95
Hardcover: 624 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult – (2009-10-20)
ISBN / EAN: 0670021253 / 9780670021253

Penguin Audio; Unabridged; 9780143144991; #39.95

Blackstone Audio; Unabridged:

  • Cassette; 9781433297762; $72.95
  • MP3CD; 9781433297809; $29.95
  • CD; 9781433297779; $105

Book and audio downloadable from OverDrive


Big Titles: Week of Dec. 7

Monday, December 7th, 2009

The most heavily-anticipated title coming out this week, based on library holds, is Laurell Hamilton’s Divine Misdemeanors. Trailing behind it is Alexander McCall Smith’s La’s Orchestra Saves the World, with about half as many holds.



Coonts, Stephen; The Disciple, St. Martin’s

Hamilton, Laurell; Divine Misdemeanors, Ballantine

Karpyshyn, Drew, Star Wars Darth Bane Dynasty of Evil, Lucas Books


La’s Orchestra Saves the World
Alexander McCall Smith
Retail Price: $23.95
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Pantheon – (2009-12-08)
ISBN / EAN: 0307378381 / 9780307378385

Smith departs from his four popular series (he’s most well-known, of course, for the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency; the sixth in his Isabel Dalhousie series, The Lost Art of Gratitude, came out in Sept), with this stand-alone novel set in English countryside during WW II. Amazon’s editors’ blog, Omnivoracious, declared it their Omni Daily Crush and the author is interviewed in USA Today on the eve of publication. Prepub reviews were mixed, from a starred Booklist, which recommended it for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, to LJ, which said exactly the opposite — “..readers hoping for another Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will be left wanting.”



Lillien, Lisa Hungry Girl Chew the Right Thing
This, the newest title in the popular series is a set of recipe cards, which obviously doesn’t work for libraries.


Golf: An Unofficial and Unauthorized History of the World’s Most Preposterous Sport
Henry Beard
Retail Price: $16.00
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster – (2009-12-08)
ISBN / EAN: 1439169934 / 9781439169933

Libraries we checked have not ordered this, although they own other golf titles by the author. S&S announced a 100,000 copy first printing.

Literary Life: A Second Memoir by Larry McMurtry, Simon & Schuster

Young Adult


Lauren, Kate
Retail Price: $17.99
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers – (2009-12-08)
ISBN / EAN: 0385738935 / 9780385738934

The first in a planned series about fallen angels (the Booklist review says these creatures seem “poised to become the new vampires.”) Prepub reviews are lukewarm (Booklist was the strongest, saying, “Although there’s not enough story to justify the length of this series opener, readers who stick with it get rewarded with a climactic payoff that far exceeds the buildup.”), but the Web site and trailer are getting buzz on blogs. Libraries are averaging 2:1 holds per copy. Warning; the book features an evil school librarian,

Brangelina, the Book

Friday, December 4th, 2009

If you’re curious about Ian Halperin’s book about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Brangelina, USA Today gives specifics, saying that this tell-all fails to tell much and what it does tell is badly sourced.

The book rose to #105 on Amazon Tuesday, the day of its release. It is now at #284. Llibraries we checked have it on order, with 1 to 1 holds.

Brangelina: The Untold Story of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
Ian Halperin
Retail Price: $25.00
Hardcover: 285 pages
Publisher: Transit Publishing – (2009-12-25)
ISBN / EAN: 0981239668 / 9780981239668

Life Before eMail

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

On NPR’s Fresh Air last night, the author of one of the NYT BR‘s Notable Books, Thomas Mallon, talked to Maureen Corrigan about the now antiquated art of letter writing. The book was also reviewed in the NYT BR on Sunday.

Libraries are showing modest holds.

Yours Ever: People and Their Letters
Thomas Mallon
Retail Price: $26.95
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Pantheon – (2009-11-10)
ISBN / EAN: 0679444262 / 9780679444268

Rebel Comedy

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Featured on NPR’s Fresh Air last night, a book about the Smother’s Brothers that is not owned by most of the libraries we checked, despite strong pre-pub reviews.

The book rose from #4,970 on Amazon to #134.

Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour”
David Bianculli
Retail Price: $24.99
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Touchstone – (2009-12-01)
ISBN / EAN: 1439101167 / 9781439101162

Coming to the Daily Show

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Jon Stewart returns from the break with new author interviews:

Wednesday, Dec. 2

Comeback 2.0: Up Close and Personal
Lance Armstrong
Retail Price: $27.99
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Touchstone – (2009-12-01)
ISBN / EAN: 1439173141 / 9781439173145

Read an Excerpt

Thursday, Dec. 3

Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives
Michael Specter
Retail Price: $27.95
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The – (2009-10-29)
ISBN / EAN: 1594202303 / 9781594202308

Spector recently appeared on a CBS Sunday Morning feature about the safety of flu vaccine. He’s also been interviewed on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday and the book was reviewed in the New York Times as well as in the NYT Book Review. Holds continue to be heavy in many libraries.

TR in a Different Light

Monday, November 30th, 2009

On NYT reviewer Janet Maslin’s list of the top ten books of 2009 is The Imperial Cruise, a title about Theodore Roosevelt that PW called “stridently disapproving.” In her review, Maslin calls it an “incendiary new book” that “may at times be overly eager to connect historical dots, but … also produces graphic, shocking evidence of the attitudes that [it] describes.”

The incendiary part is borne out by USA Today‘s review which takes issue with most of the book’s assertions.

Bradley, author of the bestselling Flags of Our Fathers, looked into what led  the US to the war in the Pacific. His research brought him to Roosevelt and a secret treaty with Japan. The book, titled The Imperial Cruise is about a secret diplomatic mission that resulted in that agreement.

The book is rising on Amazon, now at #102. Libraries, however, are showing modest holds.

The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War
James Bradley
Retail Price: $29.99
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company – (2009-11-24)
ISBN / EAN: 0316008958 / 9780316008952

Hachette Audio; 9781600243950; $39.98
Large Print; Little, Brown; 9780316024617; Hdbk; $31.99

What’s a Picture Worth?

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

Thanks to a feature on CBS Sunday Morning, The National Geographic Image Collection, a book of highlights from the National Geographic’s enormous archive, made a precipitous leap from #2,652 on Amazon to #12.

The video is not currently available on the CBS site, but this gives an idea of the book’s appeal:


National Geographic Image Collection
National Geographic, Michelle Anne Delaney, Maura Mulvihill
Retail Price: $50.00
Hardcover: 512 pages
Publisher: Focal Point – (2009-10-06)
ISBN / EAN: 1426205031 / 9781426205033

Big Titles; Week of 11/30

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Sue Grafton’s U is for Undertow is the clear leader in the number of hold per copy for titles arriving next week, with nearly 4 times the number than the next-highest title, J. A. Jance’s Trial by Fire. People gives it 4 of 4 stars, saying, “expect to be spellbound.”

We’re surprised that Greg Mortenson’s Stones into Schools, the follow-up to his continuing bestseller, Three Cups of Tea (at #3 on the NYT Paperback Nonfiction list after 147 weeks) is showing less than 2 holds per copy on modest ordering. The Amazon rankings show more interest, where Stones into Schools is at #50.

Nonfiction, 12/1

Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession
Julie Powell
Retail Price: $24.99
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company – (2009-12-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0316003360 / 9780316003360

Hachette Audio; 9781600245695; $29.98
Large Print; 9780316053822; pbk; $24.99
Audio and eBook downloadable from OverDrive

You’d think the success of the movie based partly on Julie Powell’s previous title, Julie & Julia would be the perfect setup for her second memoir, Cleaving, but library holds are fewer than two per copy on cautious ordering.

Originally timed to coincide with the release of the movie, the publisher suddenly decided to hold off until December, a move The New York Observer regarded with deep suspicion. Their take was that the filmmakers feared the story of Julie’s “insane, irresistible love affair with one of her close friends,” would turn off potential audiences (right! We only wish that books had such power over movies). The more likely story is that the publisher didn’t want it to compete with their two Julie & Julia tie-in editions.

Will fans of the Julie in Julie & Julia, the book or the movie, be willing to accept a darker Julie who is hurtful to her “sainted” husband Eric? How interested will they be with her turning from an obsession with Mastering the Art of French Cooking to an obsession with mastering the art of blood-and-guts butchery?

In an interview in USA Today, Powell herself predicts that people are “going to totally react very negatively. They’ll find me reprehensible. But to counterbalance the negativism, I hope there will be people who empathize with my experience, who maybe feel the book addresses things they wish they could talk about more.”

Entertainment Weekly gives Cleaving a B -, with kudos for the “gutsy, profane, energetic writer we first met mastering a stew from a recipe,” but put off by the fact that “…here, she’s in a stew of her own making, with ingredients that leave a strange taste.”

Elle magazine is less grudging,

Julie Powell’s follow-up to Julie & Julia paints a visceral, compulsively readable picture of what it looks like when you fully indulge with a fantasy object who isn’t your spouse…. She’s one of those narcissists who can’t be truly alone with herself, and while this fear drives her manic activities and her highly engaging accounts of them, it’s also what keeps a very good memoir from being great…Still, Powell has honed her writing chops along with her culinary skills, and her extended metaphor is dead on: how we can systematically hack each other apart without ever getting to the heart of our desires.”

We’ve included a link to a sizable portion of excerpts provided by the publisher; they prove that Powell has indeed honed her writing skills. Vegetarians be forewarned; there are many scenes of butchery.

Nonfiction, 12/1; continued

Mortenson, Greg,  Stones Into Schools, Viking

Michael F. Roizen, YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner’s Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy, Free Press/S&S

Armstrong, Lance, Comeback 2.0, S&S — Armstrong will appear on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on 12/2.

Fiction, 12/1

Dunne, Dominick Too Much Money, Crown/Random House

Berry, Steve The Paris Vendetta, Ballantine/Random House

Jance, J.A. Trial by Fire, S&S

Zane, Total Eclipse of the Heart, Atria

Grafton, Sue U is for Undertow, Putnam