Archive for December, 2009

Big Nonfiction Titles – Week of 1/4

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

The first big memoirs of the year arrive – with bestseller Elizabeth Gilbert at the forefront.

Gilbert‘s much anticipated Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage arrives after some delay. PW found her voice “clear and winning,” but declared that her hybrid of her own travelogue and the history of marriage “doesn’t work.” It’s a big year for Gilbert: in August, the film version of her international bestseller Eat, Pray, Love arrives, directed by Glee creator and producer Ryan Murphy, and starring Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, James Franco and Billy Crudup.

NOTE: Gilbert is the MidWinter Sunrise Speaker on Sat., Jan. 17, 8–9 a.m.

Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage
Elizabeth Gilbert
Retail Price: $26.95
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult – (2010-01-05)
ISBN / EAN: 0670021652 / 9780670021659

Audio from Penguin Audiobooks

  • CD: $29.95; ISBN 9780143145752

Audio also available from OverDrive

  • OverDrive WMA Audiobook

Large Print from Thorndike Press

  • $34.95; ISBN: 9781410422767


Baby, Let’s Play House: Elvis Presley and the Women Who Loved Him by Alanna Nash was reviewed recently by Janet Maslin in the New York Times – who called it “long, repetitive and dirt-digging” and also “embarrassingly tempting.”

Baby, Let’s Play House: Elvis Presley and the Women Who Loved Him
Alanna Nash
Retail Price: $27.99
Hardcover: 704 pages
Publisher: It Books – (2010-01-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0061699845 / 9780061699849


Two memoirs by media-genic authors are also starting to pick up some online buzz. Mika Brzezinski‘s All Things at Once is an account by the co-host on CNBC’s “Morning Joe” about the difficulty of balancing her career and being the mother of two young daughters.

All Things at Once
Mika Brzezinski
Retail Price: $24.95
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Weinstein Books – (2010-01-05)
ISBN / EAN: 1602861110 / 9781602861114


Andrea Lyon‘s Angel of Death Row: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer is a lawyer’s story of how she helped 19 clients found guilty of capital murder avoid the death penalty, and also an Indie Next pick for January.

Angel of Death Row: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer
Andrea Lyon
Retail Price: $24.95
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Kaplan Publishing – (2010-01-05)
ISBN / EAN: 1607144344 / 9781607144342


Also to be released next week:

  • Suze Orman’s Women & Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny (Spiegel & Grau)

Big Fiction Titles – Week of 1/4

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

In the new year, new fiction awaits.

Tracy Chevalier returns with Remarkable Creatures, based on the lives of two Victorian women who become fossil hunters. Booklist called it a “perfect choice for book clubs and for Austen fans.”  This new title by the author of The Girl with the Pearl Earring is also an Indie Next pick for January, and received a rousing review in the Guardian (UK), though the PW review was much less sanguine.

NOTE: Chevalier will be speaking at MidWinter, as part of the ALA/ERT Author Forum, “From Book to Big Screen” (Fri., Jan. 15, 4–5:15 p.m.)

Remarkable Creatures
Tracy Chevalier
Retail Price: $26.95
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Dutton Adult – (2010-01-05)
ISBN / EAN: 0525951458 / 9780525951452

Audio from Penguin Audiobooks  (01/01/2010)

  • Compact Disc: $ 39.95; ISBN 9780143145301

Large Print from Thorndike Press (01/01/2010)

  • $33.95; ISBN 9781410422880


Jonathan Dee‘s The Privileges, about the gradual dissolution of a hedge fund manager’s family, wins admiration from Salon‘s Laura Miller, who observes that Dee succeeds in maintaining sympathy for the Morey family, whose invulnerability “in time, becomes a flaw.”

The Privileges
Jonathan Dee
Retail Price: $25.00
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Random House – (2010-01-05)
ISBN / EAN: 1400068673 / 9781400068678


Leila Meacham‘s debut novel, Roses, is a multi-generational saga about two Texan families with fortunes tied to cotton and timber.  PW calls it an “enthralling stunner, a good old-fashioned read” and compares it to the work of Barbara Taylor Bradford and Colleen McCullough. After a big push at Book Expo last year, it’s getting some buzz on the reader community at Goodreads.

Leila Meacham
Retail Price: $24.99
Hardcover: 624 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing – (2010-01-06)
ISBN / EAN: 0446550000 / 9780446550000


Other fiction coming next week:

  • Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler (Knopf): People gave it 3 out of 4 stars, saying that it “isn’t first-rate Tyler…the first chapters sag…[but once the book] comes alive, it’s worth the wait.”
  • Impact by Douglas Preston (Forge)
  • Iron River by T. Jefferson Parker (Dutton)
  • Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn (Atria): The second in a new mystery series, featuring a charming canine detective and written under a pseudonym by Peter Abrahams. The debut was a bestseller last year. Fans can look forward to even more; the author is under contract for two more titles in the series.

Kindle Sales

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

In the past week, Amazon has managed to capture headlines for the Kindle, with announcements such as,

Most media have taken these claims at face value and have gone on to opine about the future of book publishing, reading, and even writing.

There’s one problem — Amazon’s claims are long on comparisons, but very short on actual numbers.

This was pointed out by Bobbie Johnson, the Guardian‘s technology correspondent on Monday. Johnson doesn’t accuse Amazon of lying, exactly, but of using “carefully chosen language.”

The blog “The eBook Test,” is not so polite. In an article headlined, Is The Amazon Kindle An Outright Fraud?, blogger Mike Cane challenged publishers to put Amazon to the test by revealing actual numbers for their bestselling eBook titles.

Figures from the Association of American Publishers show a different picture from Amazon’s. According to their latest stats (unfortunately, only through Oct. of this year), trade market eBooks account for only 3% of sales.

It is difficult to get real figures in book publishing. Sarah Weinman demonstrates this as she gamely tries to make sense of Amazon’s claims at the Daily Finance. As she points out, to understand how important Kindle downloads are to the entire business, we first need to know how many physical books Amazon sells and we don’t even know that.

An anonymous commenter on the eBook Test site gives an insider’s view (assuming, of course, that this person is who he or she claims to be),

I work for a trade house, and while I am not going to reveal my identity or that of my employer, I can tell you that our top Kindle sales of any one title are in the range of about 1000 downloads life to date. I am someone who receives the sales numbers for our titles directly from Amazon and I look at them every week; and, I agree that the actual sales numbers are much LOWER than anyone is pretending to have achieved.

There’s the added question of what do “sales” really mean when applied to eBook downloads. On the Kindle books “bestseller” list, 9 of the top 10 are free. For the entire list at this point (it’s updated hourly), 66 of 100 are free.

The tipping point for eBooks may be further off than Amazon’s announcements would make you think.

On the other hand, all the publicity that Amazon is generating may bring it closer.


Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

A collection of scholarly essays zoomed from #19,238 on Amazon sales rankings all the way up to #359 today.

Of course, the subject is not what you might expect for a scholarly work; the 29 essays are about the Coen brothers’ cult film, The Big Lebowski. And, unlike most academic collection of essays, it’s reviewed in the New York Times.

The Year’s Work in Lebowski Studies
Retail Price: $24.95
Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: Indiana University Press – (2009-10-27)
ISBN / EAN: 0253221366 / 9780253221360

According to WorldCat, the book is only owned by university libraries.

NPR’s Focus on American Lives

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

In the final week of the year, NPR’s Morning Edition is featuring the stories of various American lives.

Today, T. J. Stiles, author of the National Book Award winner for The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, talked about the man who controlled 5% of the U.S. economy in his time, despite his lack of education.


The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
T.J. Stiles
Retail Price: $37.50
Hardcover: 736 pages
Publisher: Knopf – (2009-04-21)
ISBN / EAN: 0375415424 / 9780375415425

Books on Tape; UnAbr; 9781415965917; $100
Audiobook and eBook downloadable from OverDrive

Tomorrow, the show will feature boxer Sugar Ray Robinson.

Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson
Wil Haygood
Retail Price: $27.95
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Knopf – (2009-10-13)
ISBN / EAN: 1400044979 / 9781400044979

eBook downloadable from OverDrive.

Best Crime Fiction

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Despite the reduction in book review staffs and pages in the consumer media over the past few years, there is no dearth of best books lists, as you can see from the links at the right.

We’ve rounded up the major general lists, but there are dozens of other specialty lists, especially for mysteries. Fortunately, Janet Rudolph has rounded up the lists on her blog Mystery Fanfare.

NPR Features Debut Mystery Series Set in Africa

Monday, December 28th, 2009

With the press of thousand of new books released each week, the consumer media rarely reaches back to cover titles that came out months earlier. But on NPR’s Weekend Edition yesterday, Liane Hansen featured the debut title in a new detective series that came out back in July.

Since it is set in Africa, you might be tempted to think of a certain Scottish writer, but Kirkus said of it,

Quartey’s approach to detective work is less charming and more sociological than McCall Smith’s, his setting more rural and susceptible to the ways of magicians. There’s plenty of room for them both, and the newcomer is most welcome.

The title refers to girls who are “given over to a type of priest to atone for the crimes of their families.” Says Quartey, “They do a lot of hard work for him and once they’ve reached puberty, he has sex with them.”


Wife of the Gods
Kwei Quartey
Retail Price: $24.00
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Random House – (2009-07-14)
ISBN / EAN: 1400067596 / 9781400067596

Audio: Tantor

  • Trade CD; 9781400113415;$34.99
  • Library CD; 9781400143412; $69.99
  • MP3 CD; 9781400163410;  $24.99

Audio and eBook downloadable from OverDrive

Big Fiction Titles; Week of 12/28

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Plenty of new fiction by big-name authors is hitting bookstore shelves, ready for those cashing in their gifts cards or returning unwanted gifts).

12/29 Fiction

Fired Up: Book One of the Dreamlight Trilogy (Arcane Society Dreamlight Trilogy)
Jayne Ann Krentz
Retail Price: $25.95
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Putnam Adult – (2009-12-29)
ISBN / EAN: 0399155961 / 9780399155963

Brilliance Audio
UNAB. CD; Lib Ed; 978-1-4233-2644-1 $92.97
UNAB. MP3-CD; Lib Ed; 978-1-4233-2646-5 $39.97

Brilliance Audio

  • UNAB. CD; Lib Ed; 978-1-4233-2644-1 $92.97
  • UNAB. MP3-CD; Lib Ed; 978-1-4233-2646-5 $39.97

Audiobook and eBook downloadable from OverDrive.

Starred review from Booklist for this “…first in a trilogy connected to her brilliantly original Arcane Society series [which] displays all the signature Krentz elements her readers prize, from witty prose to a fast-paced plot rich in danger and intrigue to superheated chemistry between two perfectly matched protagonists”

The 13th Hour: A Thriller
Richard Doetsch
Retail Price: $25.99
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Atria – (2009-12-29)
ISBN / EAN: 1439147914 / 9781439147917

This thriller, told in reverse, is getting some extra attention because it is also being released as a Vook (today, the Washington Post took a look at it and other efforts to combine text and video).

Of the prepub reviewers,  Booklist was the most enthusiastic, giving it a star. LJ‘s verdict was that  “Suspending disbelief is worth every moment of Doetsch’s (The Thieves of Heaven; The Thieves of Faith) thrill ride through time, which tantalizingly reveals the true nature of all the characters involved.”

The book does have an intriguing premise, as outlined by the author:

Other big-name titles releasing on 12/29:

  • Stephen Hunter I, Sniper, Simon & Schuster
  • Jude Deveraux Days of Gold, Atria
  • Julie Garwood Sizzle, Ballantine
  • Mary Balogh, A Matter of Class, Vanguard

Big Nonfiction Titles; Week of 12/28

Monday, December 28th, 2009

In preparation for all those New Year’s resolutions, the annual flood of self-help titles begins this week.

Several franchises are releasing new titles. The Eat this! Not That! guys have already tackled restaurants and supermarkets and now they take on the scariest place of all for dieters — Cook This! Not That!: The Kitchen Survival Guide. Unmarried, self-supporting “real” New York “housewife,” Bethenny Frankel has a new book in her Skinnygirl line, The Skinnygirl Dish and You: on a Diet is coming out in a new edition.

Our money is on The High School Reunion Diet: Lose 20 Years in 30 Days, for title alone.

The High School Reunion Diet: Lose 20 Years in 30 Days
David A., M.D. Colbert
Retail Price: $23.00
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster – (2009-12-29)
ISBN / EAN: 1439182558 / 9781439182550

Some wimps make once-a-year resolutions, but for her “Happiness Project,” Gretchen Rubin lived a resolution a month and blogged about it (

The site is a model for making use of every possible form of social networking; there’s even a Happiness Project Toolbox, for people who want to create their own Happiness Project Groups. Now comes the old media version; a book. Rubin’s a library lover and includes Kansas City P.L. in her upcoming tour.

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
Gretchen Rubin
Retail Price: $25.99
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Harper – (2010-01-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0061583251 / 9780061583254

HarperAudio: 9780061996924; 12/29/2009; $24.99

eBook downloadable from OverDrive.

Alcott on PBS

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Premiering tonight on PBS’s American Masters is Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women. It was featured on NPR’s Morning Edition today.

Clips from the film:

The movie is based on a biography by Harriet Reisen, who is the writer/producer of the film.

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women )
Harriet Reisen
Retail Price: $26.00
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. – (2009-10-27)
ISBN / EAN: 0805082999 / 9780805082999


One of the commentators featured in the film is Geraldine Brooks, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for her novel, March, which imagines the Civil War experiences of the fictional Mr. March, the father of the “little women” of the book.

Geraldine Brooks
Retail Price: $15.00
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) – (2006-01-31)
ISBN / EAN: 0143036661 / 9780143036661

Most Literate Cities

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

New York, with the highest concentration of large book publishing houses, ranks way down at #29 on the just-released list of the most literate U.S. cities, below Lexington-Fayette, KY (#15) and New Orleans (#17).

This is the fifth year of the study. Seattle has been #1 for three of those years. It lost out to Minneapolis in 2007 and tied with that city last year.

The rankings are based on the following per capita factors:

  • Number of booksellers
  • Education level
  • Number of internet book orders and visitors to the city’s newspaper Web site
  • Number of libraries, volumes held, circs and library professional staff
  • Newspaper circulation
  • Number of magazine publishers

The top five cities in terms of libraries are:

  1. Cleveland, OH
  2. St. Louis, MO
  3. Pittsburgh, PA
  4. Seattle, Wa
  5. Cincinnati, OH

THE HELP is THE Book of the Year

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Just yesterday, we noted that The Help had appeared on only two best books lists — People’s and Entertainment Weekly‘s.

Forget about that — today, USA Today names it THE  Book of the Year.

The book’s author, Kathryn Stockett was also interviewed by Michelle Norris on NPR‘s All Things Considered last night. Norris introduces the interview by saying that The Help is a book she “can’t seem to escape.” Women call her about it, email her and even approach her in the frozen food aisle to talk about it. The Help seems to compell “…white women to seek out conversation with black women about race and privilege.”

The Help rose from #2 on Amazon sales rankings to #1.


The Help
Kathryn Stockett
Retail Price: $24.95
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Putnam Adult – (2009-02-10)
ISBN / EAN: 0399155341 / 9780399155345

Penguin Audio; ISBN: 9780143144182 $39.95
Downloadable from OverDrive in both eBook and audio


Also available on the NPR Web site is a poignant essay by Norris about the 1974 edition of The Black Book, recently released in a 35th anniversary edition, and what it meant to her and her family when she was growing up.

The Black Book: 35th Anniversary Edition
Retail Price: $35.00
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Random House – (2009-11-10)
ISBN / EAN: 1400068487 / 9781400068487

THE HELP Gets Its Due

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

[UPDATE: We wrote this before USA Today named The Help THE book of the year]

Amazingly, given the enormous number of best books lists, one title hasn’t appeared on any of them, despite strong reviews and word of mouth; The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

Both People and Entertainment Weekly have remedied the oversight. People lists The Help at #2 on its Top Ten Books list (after Open by Andre Agassi) and Entertainment Weekly lists it at #2 on their Best Fiction list (after NBA nominee, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders).

[The lists are not available online, link here for the titles on a downloable spreadsheet.]

Our friends over at The Book Reporter named The Help THE Book of the Year (if you want your voice heard, they invite you to nominate your favorite titles of the year).

Entertainment Weely selected ten fiction titles, but they managed to include two more that haven’t appeared on other lists:

#8 Fiction

Sing Them Home
Stephanie Kallos
Retail Price: $14.95
Paperback: 560 pages
Publisher: Grove Press – (2009-08-25)
ISBN / EAN: 0802144136 / 9780802144133

Blackstone Audio:

  • Cassette; 1433203350; $65.95
  • CD; 1433203367; $90.00

Audio downloadale from OverDrive

Entertainment Weekly‘s annotation doesn’t explain why they consider this one of the ten best fiction of the year —  “This fantastical story of three grieving siblings in windblown Nebraska might fly off into the heavens were it not for Kallos’ muscular prose.”

Kallos’ hometown newspaper, the Seattle Times makes a far better case for the book in their review.

PW gave it a starred review and called it an “enthralling second novel” (after the author’s debut Broken for You, which became a bestseller after it was selected for the Today Show Book Club).


#9 Fiction

A Monster’s Notes
Laurie Sheck
Retail Price: $30.00
Hardcover: 544 pages
Publisher: Knopf – (2009-06-23)
ISBN / EAN: 0307271056 / 9780307271051

Entertainment Weekly says, “Sheck’s novel, burrowing into the mind of the creature from Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, is no monstrous mash of brainy bits and hot air, but an electrifying literary triumph.”

That’s not so convincing, either. When you look for other reviews, it doesn’t get much better. Ron Charles at the Washington Post began his with this observation,

The rallying cry against big publishers is that new artists can’t be nourished by an industry obsessed with bestsellers. But before grabbing our pitchforks and torching the House of Bertelsmann, consider the inexplicable appearance of A Monster’s Notes by a poet named Laurie Sheck. Gorgeously printed by New York’s premier publishing house, here is a baffling 500-page book about Frankenstein’s creation that defies description and shreds any expectations you might have for a novel.

Then he delivers the coup de grâce,

I’m sure somewhere there’s a reader smart enough (or dishonest enough) to enjoy this novel in all its rich allusiveness, but I spent the entire ordeal lurching along about 50 IQ points behind.

If Ron Charles had trouble with the book, there’s not much hope for the rest of us.

We should note that prepub reviews were generally better; Booklist starred it and the “famously grumpy” Kirkus called it “Utterly astonishing and not to be missed.”

Well, you can’t say the People list is totally focused on popular titles.

Today Does a DOUBLE TAKE

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

An appearance on the Today Show this morning propelled Kevin Michael Connolly’s Double Take from #67,933 on Amazon sales rankings to #197.

Connolly was born without legs, but became a competitive skier and photographer. The title of the book refers to the fact that, wherever he goes, he’s stared at.

Kirkus called it “a courageous, immensely rewarding chronicle expressed in arresting words and pictures.”

(Thanks to Marin Younker at Sno-Isle P.L. for pointing this out on the library’s Collection Developments @ Sno-Isle blog. Check it out, if only for the falling snow! How DO they do that?)

UPDATE, Ed. Note —  I guess the above comment was too much for the EarlyWord Web guys (that’s adcStudio, in case you’re curious). A few minutes after this post, it began snowing on EarlyWord! Thanks for the laugh you guys — you’re the best!

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Double Take: A Memoir
Kevin Michael Connolly
Retail Price: $19.99
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: HarperStudio – (2009-10-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0061791539 / 9780061791536

HarperAudio; UNAB CD; 9780061981562; $16.99

Book and Audio downloadable from OverDrive

New Approach to Autism

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

A new program for teachers and parents of toddlers with autism is producing encouraging results.

The NYTWell” blog points to a report in the Journal of  the American Academy of Pediatrics that shows the Early Start Denver Model (E.S.D.M.) resulted in increased I.Q.’s.

The “Well” blog also interviews one of the co-authors of a new book describing the program. Libraries we checked have not ordered it.

Early Start Denver Model for Young Children with Autism: Promoting Language, Learning, and Engagement
Sally J. Rogers PhD, Geraldine Dawson PhD
Retail Price: $48.00
Paperback: 297 pages
Publisher: The Guilford Press – (2009-12-09)
ISBN / EAN: 1606236318 / 9781606236314