Archive for March, 2008

Need More Lush Life?

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Of the titles I’ve been checking on library catalogs this week, the one that has the most holds per copy (an average of 14) is Richard Price’s Lush Life.


Richard Price, Lush Life

  • Hardcover: $26.00
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (March 4, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0374299250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374299255
  • Audio CD, Unabridged: $44.95
  • Reader: Bobby Cannavale
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio (March 4, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1427203202
  • ISBN-13: 978-1427203205

Libraries had reason to be cautious in buying this title:

It’s too New York centric.

That doesn’t seem to be a problem, it’s #1 on both the San Francisco Chronicle and the Northern California Independent Booksellers lists and West coast libraries show long reserve lists.

Price’s last book came out ten years ago, so there might be concern about whether there’s a waiting fan base.

The fan base was waiting. It went to #6 on Amazon on the day of release and is now at #18. It’s one of the few fiction titles to break into the top twenty on Amazon’s list recently — and from a guy who hasn’t even been on Oprah.

The secret to it’s success may be that it’s being reviewed as crime fiction, not as “littrachure.” The reviews make the book sound accessible and they’re some of the best-written reviews I’ve read in a while (perhaps Price inspired the critics).

Besides the usual suspects (the NY Times, Sunday and Daily, the Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and eleven other newspaper review sections), it’s been reviewed in places that cater to more popular interest:

USA Today review

Newsweek profile

Entertainment Weekly review

Time listed it as number 1 in the “5 Things You Should Know About,” calling it the “best crime novel of the year, guaranteed.”

Many libraries don’t have the book on the shelves yet, even though it’s been out for nearly two weeks. So, get the book out there and consider ordering more copies (the wholesalers have inventory).

Trying to Love TitlePage

Monday, March 17th, 2008

There’s a number of people who desperately want to like, the online “21st century version of the Algonquin Round Table.” Based on the comments on the show’s Web site and various blogs, some actually do. But others find it too stiff and the format limiting; four writers in one hour results in four one-on-one interviews, while the other three writers sit by idly. Sarah Weinman (Confessions of an Idosyncratic Mind) wants the show to work so badly, she even wrote Ten Ways to Improve

I’d like to see it work, too, but have to admit I wasn’t fully engaged by the first two episodes. Perhaps it’s a problem of format. Watching an hour video on the computer screen is akward (the episodes are now also available for downloading as audio or video from iTunes. That might make the experience better). According to the producers, there were 40,000 viewers of Episode One. Is that a success? 40,000 would result in terrible television ratings, but, who knows, it may be a runaway success for a book video.

What matters to us, of course, is whether the show brings demand. Two of the titles from the second show (I Was Told There’d Be Cake and Blood Kin) have more holds than copies at the libraries I checked. The only title that is currently available is Blood Kin, published 2/28. It’s still listed as on order in the libraries I checked.

The second episode went up on the site yesterday, featuring:


Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There’d Be Cake

  • Paperback Original: $14.00
  • Publisher: Riverhead/Penguin (April 1, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 159448306X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594483066


Please Excuse My Daughter, Julie Klam

  • Hardcover:$22.95
  • Publisher: Riverhead/Penguin (March 27, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1594489807
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594489808


Blood Kin, Ceridwen Dovey

  • Hardcover: $23.95
  • Publisher: Viking/Penguin (Feb 28, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0670018562
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670018567


All the Sad Young Literary Men, Keith Gessen

  • Hardcover: $24.95
  • Publisher: Viking/Penguin (April 10, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0670018554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670018550

“Pictures” of the Way We Were

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

I’m currently reading Mark Harris’s Pictures at a Revolution, which explores how the five Academy Award nominees for 1967 reflected that pivotal time, how a couple of them changed movie making, while also giving great insider anecdotes along the way. I like it so much, I keep wanting to read passages aloud to someone (which makes strangers on the F train a bit nervous). So, I was happy to see the audio version get an enthusiastic review (“the kind of satisfying audio that makes listeners positively joyful to find themselves snarled in traffic”) in USA Today’s audio column.

Unfortunately, I can’t get it from my library. Like most libraries I checked, they have the book (with holds building), but not the audio.


  • Audio CD: Unabridged, $79.99 (Tantor’s Web site shows a discounted price of $63.99 for buying direct from them. The price listed by USA Today is the retail price. The library edition is packaged in a library binder and provies lifetime free replacements. Tantor was recently covered in an LJ article).
  • Publisher: Tantor Media; Library ed. edition (March 10, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1400136253
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400136254

The reviewer also liked the audios of An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear (Macmillan Audio; unabridged, $39.95) which is owned widely, and Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me, which is not (perhaps because it’s abridged, but come on, this is not a sacred classic. And, aren’t you dying to hear Stephen Colbert read his entry?)


  • Audio CD: $24.98, Abridged edition
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio; (February 4, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1594838828
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594838828

The reviewer is not a fan of The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead, David Shields, read by Don Leslie (Random House Audio; unabridged, 6 hours, 41 minutes; $29.95).

Two “Deathly Hollows”

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

The final Harry Potter book will be two movies, the L.A. Times reports today, confirming an earlier story. Fulfilling the producer’s fears, the move is being regarded as a cynical effort to reap more money from the franchise. Defending the decision, HP star Daniel Radcliffe says, “I think it’s the only way you can do it, without cutting out a huge portion of the book…There have been compartmentalized subplots in the other books that have made them easier to cut… but the seventh book doesn’t really have any subplots. It’s one driving, pounding story from the word go.”

The next HP movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is being filmed now. Radcliff says it is “…the funniest of the films so far.” It releases this November. Part I of Deathly Hollows is scheduled for Nov. 2010 and Part II for May, 2011.

Earlier rumors that Steven Spielberg will direct the movies were incorrect. The director will be David Yates, of HP 4&5, and currently directing HP6.

Green Publishing

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

A climate impact survey put together by the Book Industry Study Group and the Green Press Initiative, reveals that 60% of publishers have, or are working on, an environmental policy, as reported by the AP. Publishers are taking a range of approaches, from “Hyperion switching to soy-based ink, to Penguin Group (USA) using wind power, to Scholastic, Inc. printing the deluxe edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on 100 percent post-consumer waste fiber. Simon & Schuster and the Hachette Book Group USA are among those using e-book readers instead of paper manuscripts. The Random House Publishing Group is experimenting with sending books online to media outlets.”

“No. 1 Ladies” to Be HBO Series

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Alexander McCall Smith’s popular mystery series is coming to HBO early next year, according to The Hollywood Reporter. A two-hour pilot directed by Anthony Minghella (Cold Mountain, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The English Patient) was recently filmed in Botswana and will serve as the series opener.

HBO West Coast programming chief Michael Lombardo said Agency “is the first piece of any sort of filmmaking set in Africa where the storytelling is not through the eyes of a white person.” Clearly, he’s referring to the movie’s main character, not the book’s author (how Hollywood of him).

The latest novel in the series pubs in April:


The Miracle at Speedy Motors:

The New Novel in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series

  • Hardcover: $22.95
  • Publisher: Pantheon (April 15, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0375424482
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375424489

Miss Pettigrew Charms

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Three movies based on books opened on Friday (see Pages — Books to Movies — March/April), all in limited release. The one drawing the most attention (and best box office) is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. The NY Times concurred with the Washington Post‘s evaluation; “After a particularly dour Oscar season, the jolly romantic romp “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” sparkles like a rhinestone in the muck.” Entertainment Weekly, gave it just a C+, while still managing to make it sound enjoyable.

The movie is based on a 1939 book that had been forgotten until London publisher Persephone, which specializes in “reprinting forgotten classics by twentieth-century (mostly women) writers” turned it into a surprise success in the UK (the web site Film in Focus presents an interesting history of the book).


Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Winifred Watson

  • Paperback:$15.00
  • Publisher: Persephone Books; Rev Ed edition (March 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 190646202X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906462024

Good Goin’, Nancy!

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Our favorite living action figure, Nancy Pearl, leads today’s NY Times story on Seattle’s impact on national reading tastes. They also mention three lesser lights — Amazon, Starbucks and Costco.

Those attending PLA in a couple of weeks will be able to see Nancy in action:

Wednesday, March 26, 10:30 a.m. to noon

Nancy Pearl presents “Book Buzz”

Friday, March 28, noon to 1:45

Young Adult Author Luncheon, featuring Nancy Pearl (tickets required)

John Adams on HBO

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Tom Hanks was at the Boston Public Library on Friday to host a sneak peek of his HBO seven-part series John Adams, based on the book by John McCullough. The series begins this Sunday, March 16.

Reviews are beginning to herald it:

New Yorker, 3/17, “The Divider

Typical of New Yorker, the reviewer uses the series as a pretext to write about Adams and Revolutionary history, with a few references to the actual show (which are positive).

Newsweeek, 3/8,”Battle Hems of the Republic

Somewhat bizarrely, this review begins by focusing on the costumes, while acknowledging that this was not a glamorous era (“Let’s admit it: democracy was not stylish.”) It then goes on to more substance, saying that the series offers “…the delicious sensation of eavesdropping on the birth of a nation.”

A tie-in edition is available from S&S. This is also a great opportunity to pull out and display the many books on the Founding Fathers & Mothers that have been published in the last few years.


  • Paperback: $20.00
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reissue edition (January 29, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 141657588X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416575887

R.A. Clipping File — Mysteries

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

Several recent sources of mystery recommendations.

The top five “Killer Books” (as selected by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Assoc.) for the month of March are (full biblio. only for titles not widely owned by libraries):

Noble Lies, Charles Benoit (Poisoned Pen Press, $24.95)
“Part of the charm of the book is the Thai culture of the noble lie–better to tell a small lie and save face then to admit that one does not know the answer and lose face–which makes a P.I.’s job a tad difficult.”


Pushing Up Daisies, Rosemary Harris (St. Martin’s Minotaur, $23.95)

“Like gardening? This is the book for you. Rich with detail that never overwhelms the plot, this is the rare treat that gives the reader some useful information while still supplying an entertaining story to go with it”



Rogue Male, Geoffrey Household, ( New York Review of Books $14.00)

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; Reprint edition (November 6, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 1590172434
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590172438

“…first published in 1939 (filmed in 1941 as Man Hunt)…Rogue Male is timeless and appears on every ‘Best List’ as a peerless example of the escape and pursuit story.” Now available in a new edition.







Calumet City, Charlie Newton, (Touchstone, $14.00)



“A terrific debut, and, while it is early to make such a judgment, quite likely the debut of the year.”









Silent in the Sanctuary, Deanna Raybourn (Mira, Jan, $13.95)



“Fans of English historical suspense with a touch of romance couldn’t do better than this.”

And, Sarah Weinman features the following in her mystery column in the Baltimore Sun:


, Benjamin Black (Holt, March 08)

“Black, the pseudonym for Booker Prize winner John Banville, proved he could walk the crime fiction walk with the Edgar-nominated Christine Falls, and now his luminous prose gets an even better infrastructure with the sequel, a faster-paced, further melancholic slice of the noir life of Dublin pathologist Quirke.”


, Charlie Newton (Touchstone, Trade Paperback original, 3/08)

Also on the Independent Mystery Booksellers Assoc. list of the top five titles for March (above).

“At times Newton…overstuffs the narrative with too many events and shocks, but… [main character] Patti Black is a potent mix of pain and toughness, vulnerability and adrenalin that anchors the book any time it threatens to careen out of control.”


, Jacqueline Winspear (Holt, 2/08)

“Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs (Soho Press, 2003) was one of the most auspicious mystery series debuts of the last few years, and subsequent installments only confirmed this sentiment for her growing fan base.”


, C.J. Lyons

  • Original Paperback: $7.99
  • Publisher: Berkley (March 4, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0425220826
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425220825

This is the only one not owned in most libraries (probably because it is a mass market original and wasn’t reviewed in the prepub sources). Weinman says, “Readers who prefer their medical thrillers to have characters with beating hearts and three dimensions are well advised to pick up this series debut.”

Last week, USA Today rounded up four current mysteries:

Anatomy of Deception, Lawrence Goldstone (Delacorte)

Recently picked by the as one of the top 5 mysteries for February by Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, USA Today echoes the enthusiasm, “Fans of historical fiction also will love this tale that evokes the evolving medical profession and the art world in late-19th-century America.”


Ice Trap, Kitty Sewell (Touchstone)

Ice Trap is packed with issues and revelations such as medical malpractice, drug addiction, greed and one man’s astonishing discovery that he may have fathered twins 12 years before.”


Go With Me, Castle Freeman Jr. (Steerforth)

“Castle Freeman Jr. packs more story into 160 pages than more famous authors could fit into twice as many. ”


The Accident Man, Tom Cain (Viking)

“Cain gets high marks for a creative yet easily believable story line that only adds fuel to the fire about what really happened to [Princess] Diana”

The “Times” Closes the Barn Door

Friday, March 7th, 2008

Publishers Lunch today quotes a memo from the NYT Standards Editor, Criag Whitney, with new guidelines on “single-source profiles” (e.g., autobiographies ala the one of fake memoirist Margaret B. Jones [aka Seltzer], who wrote the recently discredited Love and Consequences):

Single-source profiles of people who are not already well known quantities are traps we have fallen into twice in the past year or two, and that’s too often. Until publishers start fact-checking their own nonfiction books, and that’ll be the day, we should remember that profiles of unknown authors should always include reporting from other sources — not just surrogates of the profilee like agents, publishers, lawyers, etc. — to verify the most important facts. But even when there’s no book involved, the same rule applies. If we can’t find ways to check key facts, names, graduation claims, etc., we should hold the story until we can verify them, and if we can’t, we should be suspicious. Live and learn….”

As if it weren’t difficult enough to get book coverage in newspapers.

April Booksense Picks

Friday, March 7th, 2008

Girls in Trucks tops the April Book Sense Picks Preview, which has just been posted. The #1 selection is a debut novel from Little, Brown, which the company is enthusiastically backing (tw0-page spread in the catalog, advertising in the NY Times, LA Times, New Yorker and People, among others, 7-city author tour, ARC’s, simultaneous audio).


Girls in Trucks, Katie Crouch

  • Hardcover: $21.99
  • Publisher: Little, Brown (April 7, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0316002119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316002110
  • Audio CD: $29.98
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio (April 7, 2008)
  • Reader: Author
  • ISBN-10: 1600242723
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600242724
  • Large Type Paperback: $21.99
  • Publisher: Little, Brown (April 7, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0316027618
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316027618

San Francisco bookseller, Kevin Hunsanger, describes the book this way:

This first novel by Katie Crouch turns the high-fallutin’ notions of Southern debutante culture on its ear with a dark and frankly sexual tale of awakening. A page-turner by every account, Girls in Trucks blends steamy scenes and heartbreak with an infectious, dreamlike prose, to deliver a graceful work of literature — not to be read while wearing white lace gloves!

An author video is also available:

Crouch is from Charleston and now lives in San Francisco.

Most libraries have ordered modest quantities. This is one to watch.

For those unfamiliar with Book Sense, it’s a program created by the American Booksellers Association to promote independent bookstores. One aspect of the program is the monthly Picks, twenty favorite titles pubbed in that month, selected by ABA members. Each pick is accompanied by a recommendation by a bookseller. The recommendations are not reviews, but models of quick handsells. Stores use the picks in various ways — some display all the titles, some use shelf talkers with the bookseller recommendations, and many promote them on their Web sites. The #1 Picks often become bestsellers.

The full list of the Picks is a great resource for Readers Advisory information. This month’s list includes a “worthy addition to the Scandinavian sleuths created by Henning Mankell and Arnaldur Indridason” (The Fourth Man, by K.O. Dahl), “one of the best short story collections…in years, and possibly, forever (Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock) and “the story of the three most important women in the history of pop music…[that] captures the ’60’s better than any novel” (Girls Like Us by Sheila Weller).

More Than You Wanted to Know About Fake Memoirs

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

O.K., this is getting silly. The NYT today publishes its third story in as many days on the fake memoir, Love and Consequences (and there’s even a fourth story — on the Times book blog, “Paper Cuts”). Perhaps the Times is a bit bothered that they, too, were taken in by the book — they featured the author in the magazine and gave the book a stellar review. But the Times isn’t the only one covering the deception — Google shows 360 news stories to date. The L.A. Times even explores the history of fake memoirs, back to the 1700’s.

The media seems to love stories that are about them, even tangentially. And, the question of trusting sources is one that newspaper and magazines also grapple with. In this case, they seem to enjoy playing themselves as holier than book publishers. The Times blog post, by NYT BR staff member, Rachel Donadio, puts it this way:

The fact is, publishers edit most books and lawyer some — but they rarely ever fact-check. It’s seen as too time- and cost-consuming. The average magazine article is fact-checked far more rigorously than the average book. At the Book Review, we check our facts against the books being reviewed. But books, as we’re once again reminded, can be unreliable.

It would be costly to completely fact-check a book, but that is not the point. Publishers regard authors as the authorities and their job is to help authors tell their stories in the best way they can and get readers’ attention for them. This more hands-off approach may be the reason books beat newspapers to the story that deceptions led us to the Iraq war.

The one source to add something interesting to the story is Library Journal. They talked to libraries how they are handling the recall. Laura S. Clover, manager of Collection Development and Cataloging at the Free Library of Philadelphia, said they will simply reclassify the book as “Fiction.”

Upcoming NYTBR Cover

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

Tony Earley’s Blue Star will be the featured cover review of the NYT Book Review this Sunday. Blue Star is the sequel to the author’s 2000 bestseller, Jim the Boy.


  • Hardcover: $23.99
  • Publisher: Little, Brown/Hachette (March 10, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0316199079
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316199070

The book was “Enthusiastically recommended” by Library Journal‘s reviewer (Jan. 15), who feels it lives up to Jim the Boy. The only newsstand review so far (pub date is next week) is from the Kansas City Star. The reviewer manages to elegantly explain why the author’s simple prose style is so satisfying. The Times will have a long way to go to top it.

“Gossip Girl” in The New Yorker, no less

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

ggone.jpg cover_newyorker_190.jpg

Here’s two entities you might not have expected to see together — Gossip Girl and The New Yorker. In this week’s issue of the magazine, Janet Malcolm says of the uber-popular Y.A. series:

Von Ziegesar pulls off the tour de force of wickedly satirizing the young while amusing them. Her designated reader is an adolescent girl, but the reader she seems to have firmly in mind as she writes is a literate, even literary, adult.

Note to Naomi Wolf, “Get a sense of humor.”

Pam Spencer Holley, you are so vindicated.