Archive for February, 2010


Monday, February 22nd, 2010

In today’s New York Times, Janet Maslin gives this ringing endorsement to first novel Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand,

…read just [the first] page, and you may find you’ve fallen head over heels for Ms. Simonson’s funny, barbed, delightfully winsome storytelling. Don’t say you weren’t warned … As with the polished work of Alexander McCall Smith, there is never a dull moment but never a discordant note either. Still, this book feels fresh despite its conventional blueprint. Its main characters are especially well drawn, and Ms. Simonson makes them as admirable as they are entertaining.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
Helen Simonson
Retail Price: $25.00
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Random House – (2010-03-02)
ISBN / EAN: 1400068932 / 9781400068937

Random House Audio; UNABR; 9780307712844; $40
Audio downloadable from OverDrive

Monday, February 22nd, 2010


Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Amy Greene’s debut novel, Bloodroot, was published in January to strong reviews.

An interview on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday is bringing it sales; it rose to #146 on Amazon. Libraries are showing heavy holds where ordering is light (one library has 152 holds on 9 copies).

As interviewer Jacki Lyden describes the book, it “tells the story of a family in Appalachia that’s been living under a curse for generations … Through [Greene’s] pages, the culture that comes to life is as haunted and as mesmerizing as a fairy tale or a dream; as evil and as vile as a curse and as beautiful as that ephemeral blood root flower.” The plant of the title has blood-red sap that can either cure or poison.

Listen to the interview here.

Amy Greene
Retail Price: $24.95
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Knopf – (2010-01-12)
ISBN / EAN: 0307269868 / 9780307269867

UNABR Simultaneous Audio: Random Audio; 9780307713230; $40
eBook and audio available from OverDrive

What’s with the Blood Sucking?

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Why are vampires so popular right now and what does that say about our culture?

NPR’s Margot Adler set off to answer these questions. As research, she read 75 currently-popular vampire titles (full list, with annotations, on the NPR site, where you can also listen to the full story, which was on All Things Considered on Thursday, 2/18).

The Graphic Novel Connection

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

From the wild success of films like Avatar to the nation’s obsession with stealth science fiction TV shows like Lost, stories that are just sideways from reality are becoming more and more mainstream.

Titles on the NYT Graphic Books best seller list reflect the fact that speculative tales are strong in this format as well, giving readers advisors a wealth of titles to recommend, and an opportunity to introduce readers to the format.

Willingham’s Fables, volume #13 arrives at #1 on the Paperback Graphic Books list this week. A rich and complex fantasy series, it started off as a police procedural with fairy-tale characters hiding out in New York but has grown into an examination of the impact of a long war on a beleaguered people. You can recommend Fables to fans of Neil Gaiman, Patricia Briggs or Kelley Armstrong, but the procedural and war aspects make this series even farther reaching.

Fables Vol. 13: The Great Fables Crossover
Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges
Retail Price: $17.99
Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: Vertigo – (2010-02-09)
ISBN / EAN: 1401225721 / 9781401225728

Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead (volume 11 is on the new list at #2 after 6 weeks; volumes 1 and 2 also continue) remains a favorite because Kirkman doesn’t just revel in jokey zombie mayhem but uses the long form to ask the questions about where survivors could go, and how (and if) civilization could be preserved.  This series will hook in to buzz-worthy titles like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Carrie Ryan’s teen novel The Forest of Hands and Teeth or Justin Cronin’s much-anticipated literary vampire apocalypse tome The Passage.

The Walking Dead Volume 11: Fear The Hunters
Robert Kirkman
Retail Price: $14.99
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: 801 Media, Inc. – (2010-01-06)
ISBN / EAN: 1607061813 / 9781607061816

On the manga list, Fullmetal Alchemist reappears every time a new volume is released. Author Arakawa uses the trappings of alchemy and steampunk style to spin a story intensely focused on the morality and dangers of going against the natural order of the physical and magical worlds.

Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 22 )
Hiromu Arakawa
Retail Price: $9.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC – (2010-01-19)
ISBN / EAN: 1421534134 / 9781421534138

The most intelligent and politically resonant science fiction titles this past year are Naoki’s Urasawa’s series Pluto and 20th Century Boys. They are constantly checked out of my library, even though they’ve yet to crack the NYT list.

20th Century Boys, with it’s strong sense of destiny, conspiracy, misdirection, and a storyline that jumps around in time, is a strong recommendation for fans of Lost. Volume 7 in the series has just been released.

Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Vol. 7
Naoki Urasawa
Retail Price: $12.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC – (2010-02-16)
ISBN / EAN: 1421523426 / 9781421523422

Volume 7 of Pluto came out last month, and with only one more volume until the finish, it is a standout blend of old-school science fiction, where robots and humans blur until they’re indistinguishable, and modern wars, honing in on the psychology behind entrenched conflicts.  This series should connect to fans of classic sci-fi such as Isaac Asimov’s tales, but will also lure in fans of Battlestar Galactica and its new spin-off, Caprica.

Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka, Vol. 7
Naoki Urasawa
Retail Price: $12.99
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC – (2010-01-19)
ISBN / EAN: 1421532670 / 9781421532677

In addition to recommending these titles to readers interested in speculative fiction, also consider slotting some of these titles into displays.  You will help readers make the connection and discover a whole new world of stories.


Friday, February 19th, 2010

Like his book needed more attention — Andrew Young, author of The Politican, at #2 on the 2/28 NYT best seller list after three weeks, is scheduled for a full hour on Oprah on Wednesday.

Oprah’s sympathetic interview with Elizabeth Edwards last summer helped make her book Resilience a best seller. It will be interesting to see how Oprah treats Young.

The Politician: An Insider’s Account of John Edwards’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down
Andrew Young
Retail Price: $24.99
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books – (2010-30-01)
ISBN / EAN: 031264065X / 9780312640651

Unabridged audio now available from Tantor:

Trade: 9781400116508; 10 CD’s; $34.99
Library: 9781400146505; 10 CD’s; $69.99
MP3: 9781400166503; 1 MP3-CD; $24.99

Lisa & Laura Ling on Oprah

Friday, February 19th, 2010

One of the books highlighted in the HarperCollins MidWinter Buzz Session, was a title that had just been added to the list, Somewhere Inside by Lisa and Laura Ling.

You probably remember the news stories about Laura Ling being arrested last year in North Korea, along with fellow journalist Euna Lee. The women were dramatically rescued after Bill Clinton interceded by negotiating on their behalf with North Korean President Kim Jong-Il. Laura’s sister Lisa is also a journalist and the two tell their stories, in alternating chapters, from Laura’s perspective inside the North Korean prison and Lisa’s in the U.S., as she desperately tries to help her sister.

Lisa is a special correspondent for the Oprah show; it’s just been confirmed that the book will be featured on the show in mid-May.

Somewhere Inside
Laura Ling, Lisa Ling
Retail Price: $26.99
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: William Morrow – (2010-06-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0062000675 / 9780062000675


Friday, February 19th, 2010

The essential question when deciding whether to buy more copies of a suddenly-successful book is, “How long will the interest last?”

In the case of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, all signs indicate that interest is not going to fade soon.

The book tells the sad and fascinating story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951. Without her knowledge, some of her cancer cells were removed and are still living in medical laboratories where they have played a part in major medical breakthroughs, including the discovery of the polio vaccine. The fact that her descendents are unable to afford medical care is just one of the many moral issues that the book raises.

The book’s story as well as the story of the author who became obsessed with it, have generated a great deal of media coverage, as we noted earlier, but beyond that, the reviews indicate the book is as strong as the story it tells.

Entertainment Weekly‘s review editor, Tina Jordan, who has read a LOT of books, calls it  “The best book I’ve read in quite a while,” on the magazine’s blog Shelf Life. She even included this personal information in the review that appears in the magazine’s current issue,

Honestly, I shouldn’t even have been reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I had the flu and was so feverish that sweat was dripping off my nose and spattering the pages. But I could not put the book down — or even stop for a glass of ice water. Lacks’ story was that compelling.

The many consumer reviews to date have been strong, with several attesting to the book’s readability.

San Francisco Chronicle, “[Lack’s descendent], Deborah at times seems as if she walked out of a novel’s pages. She is so vivid, so unforgettable, that it seems as if Skloot must have invented her. On the other hand, maybe no novelist, however skilled, could have imagined a character quite like Deborah.”

The New York Times, “…floods over you like a narrative dam break, as if someone had managed to distill and purify the more addictive qualities of Erin Brockovich, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and The Andromeda Strain.

Boston Globe, “…a fascinating read and a ringing success. It is a well-written, carefully-researched, complex saga of medical research, bioethics, and race in America. Above all it is a human story of redemption for a family, torn by loss, and for a writer with a vision that would not let go.”

It’s on the 2/28  NYT Nonfiction list for the second week, and is rising on the USA Today list; libraries are showing heavy holds.

We recommend buying more now; word of mouth could carry this into the summer.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Skloot
Retail Price: $26.00
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Crown – (2010-02-02)
ISBN / EAN: 1400052173 / 9781400052172

Random House Audio; UNABR; 9780307712509; $35
Audio and e-book available from OverDrive.

BLACK HILLS; Custer’s Ghost

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Libraries are showing demand for Dan Simmons’ historical novel with a supernatural twist, Black Hills, which is also picking up positive early reviews. Holds are averaging 4:1 on this tale of about a Sioux man who communes with the spirit of George Armstrong Custer for 50 years after his death in the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Booklist praises Hugo award-winner Simmons as “equally adept at horror, science fiction, fantasy, and mystery.”

Publishers Weekly also lauds “his ability to create complex characters and pair them with suspenseful situations, [which] stands almost unmatched among his contemporaries.”

Entertainment Weekly gives the book a B+, finding that “some passages of Black Hills sink into tourist-pamphlet minutiae, [but] Simmons (Drood) keeps the tale buoyant with his evocative prose and storytelling muscle.”

Black Hills
Dan Simmons
Retail Price: $25.99
Hardcover: 512 pages
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books – (2010-02-24)
ISBN / EAN: 031600698X / 9780316006989

Audio: Hachette Audio; UNABR; 9781600247866; $39.98
BBC Audio; UNABR; 9781607883463; $129.99
Large Print: Little, Brown; pbk; 9780316073998; $25.99
Audio and ebook available from OverDrive

Other Fiction Titles Going on Sale Next Week

Danielle Steel‘s Big Girl (Delacorte), about an unconventional beauty, has holds of up to 7:1 in libraries we checked.

Kim Harrison‘s Black Magic Sanction (Eos) is the eighth title in her urban fantasy series, Robin Morgan/ Hollows. Holds are in the 4:1 range at many libraries we checked.

J.D. Robb‘s Fantasy in Death (Penguin), the 30th book in the bestelling Death series featuring NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas, has predictably high holds.

Robert Parker‘s Split Image (Putnam) is the latest title in the Spenser series, following the author’s death last month.  Holds are high in the libraries we checked. [According to The Age (Australia), there are several more Spenser novels coming.]

Keep an Eye on Jennifer Mascia

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Coming next week, Jennifer Mascia’s debut memoir Never Tell Our Business to Strangers promises to be, like Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle, the kind of memoir that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. It begins with her father’s arrest by the FBI when she was five – and her odyssey to reconcile her love for her parents with the discovery in her twenties that her father had been a mafia hitman, her mother had covered up for him for years, and she’d unwittingly spent her childhood on the lam.  But the story ends well: Mascia now works at the New York Times, writing for the City Room blog.

Only one library we checked has copies on order, with modest holds – probably because there have not been any advance reviews. But if the knock-out essay she wrote for the New York Times “Modern Love” column is any indication, the book should be a winner.

Never Tell Our Business to Strangers: A Memoir
Jennifer Mascia
Retail Price: $26.00
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Villard – (2010-02-23)
ISBN / EAN: 0345505352 / 9780345505354

Other Nonfiction Titles on Sale Next Week

My Footprint: Carrying the Weight of the World by Jeff Garlin (Simon Spotlight) is a memoir by a star of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm about his efforts to reduce his waistline and carbon footprint. ABC News will interview him on Friday night, February 19, and in the meantime has posted an excerpt. Three out of four libraries we checked had the book, with modest holds.

Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast by Martha Stewart Living Magazine (Crown) is the latest cookbook based on the popular magazine – but three of the four libraries we checked don’t have it.

Graphic Novels’ Biggest Fans? Adults

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Editors Note: I’m pleased to announce that Robin Brenner is a new EarlyWord contributor covering Graphic Novels. Her first post is below.

I first met Robin when I was trying to understand a manga series that appeared on the NYT’s Graphic Books Bestseller list. I was so impressed with her obvious love for the format and ability to explain its appeal that I asked her to begin sharing her knowledge via EarlyWord.

Robin is a Reference/Teen Librarian at the Brookline (MA) Public Library and was the Chair of the ALA/YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List Committee in 2008. Her guide Understanding Manga and Anime was nominated for a 2008 Eisner Award. She is also the editor-in-chief of No Flying No Tights, a graphic novel review site (for more about Robin, click here).

Robin wanted to become a Disney animator when she grew up, but found her true home in libraries. She continues to draw, however, and created her own manga image, in the style of CLAMP,  for her “badge,” which will appear on her weekly posts.


The latest volume of the dark fantasy series Dark Tower, inspired by Stephen King’s epic novels, debuted at the number one spot on this week’s New York Times Graphic Books Hardcover Best Seller list, joining two earlier volumes of the series already in the top ten.

Some people feel that graphic novels are only for teens, but as the NYT list proves, the books that rise to the top are aimed at adults. Watchmen, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, V for Vendetta, and Sandman consistently appear on the list.  While each holds some appeal for older teens, they were crafted with adults squarely in mind.  The Walking Dead, FablesUmbrella Academy, and Y the Last Man achieve high ranking and consistently reappear when new volumes are published: adult territory all the way.  Over the course of the lists’s fifty weeks, only seven titles aimed at younger readers have made the hardcover or paperback lists. (The manga list, on the other hand, is steadily teen-oriented, which is a post for another day.)

How many public libraries provide graphic novel sections for adults in their collections?  A majority of librarians I’ve consulted put graphic novels for adults in their teen sections (crossing their fingers that no one objects).  Those that do maintain adult collections focus on award winners or literary titles including the deservedly acclaimed Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home or David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp, but not popular series.  Many also interfile graphic novels with fiction or nonfiction, unintentionally obscuring their support for the format.  Far too many libraries don’t collect them at all. Some librarians struggle to convince their administrators that graphic novels are not just for teens.

A glance through the past lists makes it clear that libraries are doing their patrons a disservice when they sidestep popular graphic novel series for adults. Library holdings as reflected in  Worldcat, indicate there is more awareness of teen favorites than of those aimed at adults.  Over 700 libraries own the first volume of Naruto, a mainstay on the manga bestseller list. In comparison, 420 libraries own the first Dark Tower graphic novel, A Gunslinger Born, and at this point just thirteen own the third volume in the series, Treachery, and only four own this week’s number one title, The Fall of Gilead.

In the past, bestseller lists served as justification for adding popular titles to collections; the graphic novels lists can serve that same function today.

Dark Tower: The Fall of Gilead
Robin Furth, Peter David, Richard Isanove
Retail Price: $24.99
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Marvel Comics – (2010-02-16)
ISBN / EAN: 0785129510 / 9780785129516

Librarians Get Their Due on NPR This Weekend

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Tune in to NPR’s On the Media this weekend as Marilyn Johnson, author of This Book is Overdue, talks about why librarians are the heroes of the digital age (check for local listings here).

And, more publicity is in the works:

NYT BR, 3/7 (plus, a possible review in the daily NYT)
USA Today interview

This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All
Marilyn Johnson
Retail Price: $24.99
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Harper – (2010-02-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0061431605 / 9780061431609

Audio: Tantor; 2/22/10
Trade: 9781400116348; 7 CD’s; $34.99
Library: 9781400146345; 7 CD’s; $69.99
MP3: 9781400166343; 1 MP3-CD; $24.99


Thursday, February 18th, 2010

World War II era debut novel The Postmistress has been racking up some strong reviews and comparisons to other blockbuster debuts, like The Help and Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

The new issue of People (3/1/10) gives it 3 of 5 stars, saying “…it’s a slam-dunk for book groups and readers who savor shifting through what-ifs.” Why not four stars, then? The reviewer feels there are flaws; “Blake works hard to set up situations involving moral questions and the effort shows.”

What about our prediction that it will appear in the top five on the 2/28 NYT Hardcover Fiction list?

We were wrong, but not by much. Advance word says it lands at #8.

By comparison, The Help first landed on the 3/1/09 NYT list at #29. It was 20 weeks before it rose into the top ten, hitting #9 on the 7/19/10 list. It gradually climbed into the top five, hitting #1 last month.

The Postmistress
Sarah Blake
Retail Price: $25.95
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam – (2010-02-09)
ISBN / EAN: 0399156194 / 9780399156199

Audio from Blackstone Audiobooks

  • CD: $100; ISBN 9781441725714
  • MP3 CD: $29.95; ISBN 9781441725745
  • Cassette: $65.95; ISBN 9781441725707

Audio and e-book available from OverDrive


Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

One of the ten nominees for Best Picture in the Oscar race is An Education. Carey Mulligan, who plays the 16-year-old lead, has also been nominated for Best Actress and Nick Hornby up for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Hornby wrote the screenplay based on the first chapter of a memoir by British journalist Lynn Barber, a fascinating and well-known figure in the UK, where she is called “The Demon Barber” for her no-holds-barred interviews. The screenplay is the official tie-in to the movie, but the full memoir was not available in the U.S.

That was rectified last month when Atlas & Co. published it in the U.S. for the first time. Editor James Atlas describes it on the publisher’s web site,

…when I got my hands on the book, which was published in England last year to great critical acclaim, I was surprised to discover how much more there was to it than the story of a bookish adolescent seduced—and “educated”—by an older man. The memoir, by the fearsome journalist Lynn Barber, whose acerbic profiles have made the teeth of the chattering classes chatter, tells her story from beginning to . . . well, not end, but what is now tactfully called late middle age. Along the way are stints at Penthouse and (ill-fatedly) Vanity Fair; cameo appearances on a TV show called Grumpy Old Women; and a complex marriage that endures. It’s a classic British memoir, and we’re proud to bring it to an American audience.

As a further inducement, the publisher has also made a sample chapter available:

Download a sample chapter [pdf]

An Education
Lynn Barber
Retail Price: $13.00
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Atlas – (2010-01-29)
ISBN / EAN: 1934633852 / 9781934633854


An Education
Nick Hornby
Retail Price: $14.00
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Trade – (2009-10-06)
ISBN / EAN: 1594484538 / 9781594484537

Budget Crunch

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

No surprise, Library Journal‘s annual analysis of library materials budgets shows they are down; “This year, think Edvard Much’s The Scream” the article says.

One third of the libraries surveyed report budget cuts, and another half say their budgets are flat. The overall 5% reduction may not seem that bad, but it’s the largest since the survey began and the story is likely to be worse next year.

The “bright side” is that library circulation is up, with its highest increase ever.

LJ goes on to look at how libraries are dealing with cuts in the face of increased circulation.

ALA’s survey, A Perfect Storm Brewing also attests to the fact that libraries are having to do more with less. On the bright side, newspaper reporters like Bob Hoover at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette are using the study results to point out what local citizens are losing as libraries are forced to cut services (Nation’s libraries get more use, less funding, 2/15).