Archive for October, 2010

Sondheim Leads NYT BR

Friday, October 29th, 2010

“After reading Finishing the Hat, I felt as if I had taken a master class in how to write a musical. A class given by the theater’s finest living songwriter,” says Paul Simon (yes, THAT Paul Simon) in the 10/30 NYT BR cover review of Stephen Sondheim’s collection of lyrics and commentary. The book is already riding high on Amazon sales rankings (now at #19 and rising) after Terry Gross’s interview with Sondheim on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday (listen here).

Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes
Stephen Sondheim
Retail Price: $39.95
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Knopf – (2010-10-26)
ISBN / EAN: 0679439072 / 9780679439073

Ian Frazier’s Travels in Siberia has received several admiring reviews (San Francisco Chronicle,  Minneapolis Star Tribune. Boston Globe, among others). Here it gets the full treatment; a review as well as an inteview with Frazier by NYT Book Review editor Sam Tannenhaus (listen to the Book Review Podcast on the site).

Libraries are showing holds;  ratios are high where ordering is light.

Travels in Siberia
Ian Frazier
Retail Price: $30.00
Hardcover: 544 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux – (2010-10-12)
ISBN / EAN: 0374278725 / 9780374278724

Macmillan Audio; UNABR CD; 9781427210531

An EarlyWord favorite, Bruce Machart’s debut The Wake of Forgiveness, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Oct. 21) is hailed by Philip Caputo, who describes it this way,

Spanning some 30 years from the twilight of the frontier to the 1920s, The Wake of Forgiveness is a mesmerizing, mythic saga of four motherless brothers at war with one another and with their stern father, driven to establish himself as the biggest landowner in Lavaca County, Tex. Above all, as its title promises, it’s a story about forgiveness and a hard-won redemption.

Best Sellers

No surprise, Lee Child’s Worth Dying For (Delacorte Press, Oct, 19), lands at #1 on the 11/7 Hardcover Fiction Best Seller list, followed by Jan Karon’s In the Company of Others,(Viking, Oct. 19) at #2. Child was profiled by CBS Sunday Morning last week.

The Autobiography of Mark Twain (U. of California Press and on audio from Blackstone), which has been high on Amazon (currently at #12, it’s been in the Top 100 for 23 days), arrives at #2 on Hardcover Nonfiction. The bio. of Mickey Mantle, The Last Boy (Harper, Oct. 1) continues  at #4 after 2 weeks.

Joint ALA/BEA Talks Over

Friday, October 29th, 2010

And, the decision is to not “co-locate.” Below is the official joint statement:

Many are aware that ALA has been talking with Reed Exhibitions (BookExpo America) about the possibility of co-locating the ALA Annual Conference and BookExpo America.  The American Library Association and BookExpo America are today jointly announcing that discussions regarding any co-location of the two events have been concluded.  Communication from exhibitors, attendees and association members indicated that each show is serving its constituency, and after extensive discussion, the ALA Executive Board determined that current arrangements work best at this time. Both ALA and BEA noted that the exploration had been a positive experience and that doors have been opened for other possible collaborative activities between ALA and the American Booksellers Association, the American Association of Publishers and Reed Exhibitions.


Friday, October 29th, 2010

It takes guts to release a 1000-page-plus first novel in the thick of the fall season and expect the world to notice, but where would McSweeney’s Books – the literary home of Dave Eggers – be without guts, and good media connections?

Adam Levin‘s literary novel, The Instructions, takes place over four days in the life of a 10-year-old named Gurion Maccabee, born with a birthmark that spells out the Hebrew word for “Lord.” That’s enough to make him a troubled kid with a messiah complex, sent to a school for difficult children, where he plants seeds of rebellion.

The book has been getting early buzz in Chicago, where much of the action is set – with its ambition and girth drawing comparisons to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Time Out Chicago declared it one of the Fall’s must-reads. The Chicago Tribune wasn’t convinced it needed to be so long, but declared that “for all its eye-rolling cleverness and sprawling unkempt invention, it’s to be savored.” And Chicagoist has a Q&A with the author.

And now, the New York Observer is chiming in, rather breathlessly: “This is a life-consuming novel, one that demands to be read feverishly. When it is over, other fiction feels insufficient, the newspaper seems irrelevant.”

Libraries we checked had modest holds on modest orders – but may want to keep an eye on this one, as the buzz develops.

The Instructions
Adam Levin
Retail Price: $29.00
Hardcover: 1030 pages
Publisher: McSweeney’s – (2010-11-01)
ISBN / EAN: 1934781827 / 9781934781821

Portrait of a Marriage

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Antonia Fraser’s memoir of her 30-year marriage to Nobel Laureate and playwright Harold Pinter, Must You Go?, coming next week, is beginning to draw attention on this side of the pond.

Best known as the biographer of Marie Antoinette and The Wives of Henry VIII, Fraser began her relationship with Pinter when he asked her book’s eponymous question while they were both married to other people.

The New York Times says

Must You Go? is not a proper biography of Pinter, nor a remotely full account of Ms. Fraser’s own life. Instead it’s a book of glowing fragments, moments culled from Ms. Fraser’s diaries. The prose is not overly winsome. “My Diary: it’s not about great writing,” she admits. “It’s my friend, my record, and sometimes my consolation.” But there’s hardly a dull page.

But Entertainment Weekly is more impressed, giving it an “A”:

Fraser’s bold, intimate, madly entertaining memoir of the years with her late husband Harold Pinter. . . . [is] a tender portrait of an exciting marriage, and a deliciously detailed account of living in the thick of creativity and fame.

Must You Go?: My Life with Harold Pinter
Antonia Fraser
Retail Price: $28.95
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Nan A. Talese – (2010-11-02)
ISBN / EAN: 0385532504 / 9780385532501

More Notable Nonfiction

Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People by Amy Sedaris (Grand Central) is a farcical guide to crafting hobbies. Booklist says: “The true joy of this book lies in its hilarious and amazingly well-styled photo spreads, many featuring Sedaris in one of her uncanny disguises, including a teenager, an elderly shut-in, and Jesus. She devotes equal time to instruction on making homemade sausage, gift-giving, crafting safety, and lovemaking (aka “fornicrafting”).”

Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories by Simon Winchester (Harper) chronicles the geological and sociopolitical history of the Atlantic Ocean. PW is less than impressed: “Although he does not neglect the chief tragedies of the Atlantic, like the slave trade and the maritime battles, Winchester occasionally flits beelike from scene to scene, and the facts become lost in a blur.”  But the Economist finds it more satisfying balanced.

Me by Ricky Martin (Celebra) is the memoir of a pop music superstar.

Frank: The Voice by James Kaplan (Doubleday) was previewed in USA Today this week, after very positive prepub reviews, including stars from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist.

They Call Me Baba Booey by Gary Dell’Abate and Chad Millman (Spiegel & Grau) recounts the early life and career of the Howard Stern Show producer.

Cake Boss: The Stories and Recipes from Mia Famiglia by Buddy Valastro (Free Press) is a memoir by the star of the TLC show. PW says “despite great technical descriptions, including his bakery’s cannoli recipe and photos of his spectacular cakes, Buddy’s tale of immigrant success proves too familiar.” Thousands of show fans may beg to differ.

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy (Nan A. Talese) is an examination of the books and book people that have had an effect on the novelist’s life.  The new issue of Entertainment Weekly gives it a just a B-; “Like a coal worker dutifully marching back down the mine shaft, Pat Conroy returns to the seemingly non-depletable source of most of his output: his own life…It’s hardly new terrain, but some of the chapters are still sweetly moving.”

Hipster Superman Arrives

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Superman is back, with a hoodie and a cellphone, flashing a fresh smile for the Twilight generation, and the media is eating it up. The graphic novel relaunch by DC Comics, Superman : Earth One by J. Straczynski and Shane Davis (Illustrator) first gained traction at the New York Post, leading to news coverage and an excerpt in USA Today, an AP wire story, and blog mentions from CBS News anchor Katie Couric and NPR’s Monkey See pop culture blog, among others.

At libraries we checked, reserves are in line with modest orders – but more media is likely to be on the way when the book goes on sale next week.

Superman: Earth One
J. Michael Straczynski
Retail Price: $19.99
Hardcover: 136 pages
Publisher: DC Comics – (2010-11-02)
ISBN / EAN: 1401224687 / 9781401224684

Usual Suspects on Sale Next Week

Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane (Morrow) forces Boston PI Patrick Kenzie to face the mistakes he made in a 1998’s Gone, Baby, Gone. New York Times critic Janet Maslin gives the book an early review, saying it gives “Mr. Lehane many occasions to write acid-etched dialogue and show off his fine powers of description.”

Happy Ever After, (Bride Quartet #4) by Nora Roberts (Berkley) is the final title in the paperback series. Says PW, “Roberts’s delicious ode to weddings and happy endings, the charming conclusion of the Bride Quartet.”

Indulgence in Death by J.D. Robb (Putnam) is the 32nd future cop thriller with NYPD Lt. Eve Dallas.

Edge by Jeffery Deaver (Simon & Schuster) pits an interrogator against a government agent trying to protect his target. PW says, “Deaver unveils some nifty new tricks in this edge-of-your-seat thriller . . . Deaver’s first first-person narrator, Corte, is an exciting new weapon in the author’s arsenal of memorable characters.”

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor) is the second novel based on work left unfinished by Jordan before his death in 2007.

Mary Ann in Autumn: A Tales of the City Novel by Armistead Maupin (HarperCollins) stars Mary Ann Singleton, who returns to San Francisco at the ripe age of 57, twenty years after leaving the city. Kirkus calls it “agreeable entertainment until the ridiculous denouement.”

Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick (Houghton Mifflin) re-imagines Henry James’s The Ambassadors. Kirkus raves, “This is superb, dazzling fiction. Ozick richly observes and lovingly crafts each character, and every sentence is a tribute to her masterful command of language.”

As Others See Us

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Libraries are the public places where we bring our most private selves; Cammie McGovern -- Photo by Ellen Augarten

Author Cammie McGovern gets what librarians are about. In her keynote speech at the annual AAP Librarians Sneak Peek Book Preview 2011, last week, she spoke about libraries being “the public places where we bring our most private selves” and thanked librarians for managing to be helpful without being judgmental during times of personal crises.

Librarians continually work to develop this skill and to help develop it in others. McGovern gives witness to the importance of that effort.

We’re grateful to McGovern (author of Neighborhood Watch, Viking, June, 2010) for allowing us to post a version of her speech on EarlyWord. Use it with beginning staff; it’s more effective than a hundred lectures.

The Real Abu Dhabi

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

What is the richest city in the world really like? British writer Jo Tatchell moved to Abu Dhabi with her family in the early ’70’s, when it was just a “disheveled, dusty place.” In her new book, A Diamond in the Desert, she writes about her return to the now very different place, as she describes on NPR’s Morning Edition today.

In reviewing the book, Publishers Weekly called it a “glittering travelogue” and said, “Tatchell’s keen powers of observation and personal connections enable her to convey the hidden reality of this mirage-like city.” Kirkus agreed on that point, but wished she had been more forthcoming about her own family truths.

A Diamond in the Desert: Behind the Scenes in Abu Dhabi, the World’s Richest City
Jo Tatchell
Retail Price: $14.95
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat – (2010-10-05)
ISBN / EAN: 080217079X / 9780802170798

Ad Man Rising

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Grove Atlantic announced yesterday that they are publishing Roger Sterling’s memoir, cleverly titled, Sterling’s Gold. It is already rising on Amazon’s sales rankings (currently at #72).

Who’s Roger Sterling? The first person to answer correctly and the most completely in the comments section wins an ARC of The Hammersteins by Oscar Andrew Hammerstein (Black Dog & Leventhal, Oct).

Sterling’s Gold: Wit and Wisdom of an Ad Man
Roger Sterling
Retail Price: $16.95
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Grove Press – (2010-11-16)
ISBN / EAN: 0802119891 / 9780802119896

Living with Ghosts

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Antonya Nelson, author of Bound, is living out her midlife fantasy of buying a ghost town, one property at a time. She writes about it in today’s NYT “Home and Garden” section, noting that she and her husband,

… could be sitting in front of a HD screen watching a great movie. But instead we’re out here, filthy with splinters in our hands and bats flying out of our attic, eating hot dogs and drinking wine from aluminum cups. It’s not for everybody, but it appears to be for us.

Bound is Nelson’s fourth novel; it’s received a many positive reviews, including,

Los Angeles Times, by Carolyn Kellogg (October 17, 2010);

Nelson’s skills have been on display in her many short stories published by the New Yorker; Bound is her first novel in nine years. It is a work that resists the novelistic convention of having a climax, instead it eddies and returns. A year passes, and nothing much happens, other than the lines of these women’s lives drawing together. But maybe sometimes a quiet understanding is enough.

New York Times, by Liesl Schillinger (October 3, 2010)

It’s a liberation to read Nelson here in the long form. There’s no question of her superlative gifts for the short story….  In Bound, Nelson makes her story as big as it should be, and gives her characters room to run.

And, one negative,

Minneapolis Star Tribune, by Susan Comninos (September 26, 2010)

Bound is an ironic name for a novel that wants to intertwine the fates of its characters — including two from a town stalked by the serial killer known as BTK (bind, torture, kill) — but without tying up loose threads.

Antonya Nelson
Retail Price: $25.00
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA – (2010-09-28)
ISBN / EAN: 1596915757 / 9781596915756

Audio; Tantor; 9781400118649

Reading Obama

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Much is made of what Obama reads. Harvard historian James T. Kloppenberg took another approach and read everything that Obama has written, in an effort to understand his guiding philosophy.

The New York Times reviews the resulting book, Reading Obama, in tomorrow’s issue. The book was not reviewed prepub, and, according to WorldCat, is owned by very few libraries.

Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition
James T. Kloppenberg
Retail Price: $24.95
Hardcover: 296 pages
Publisher: Princeton University Press – (2010-10-31)
ISBN / EAN: 0691147469 / 9780691147468


Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

It’s not coming out for another year, but The Help leads the People magazine “Movies” section in the 11/8 issue (on most newsstands this Friday, but we have a secret source). Photos from the movie feature Emma Stone as Skeeter, Viola Davis as Aibileen, Octavia Spencer as Minny and author Kathryn Stockett, who has a cameo role. The movie is scheduled for release August 12, 2011.

The Walking Dead, the new AMC series based on the graphic novels by Robert Kirkman (see Robin Brenner’s earlier story) gets 4 of a possible 4 stars in the “TV” section.

For the second week in a row, the “Books” section reviews just one title (we’re hoping this doesn’t indicate a trend) and its NOT John Grisham’s The Confession, but Keith Richards’ memoir Life, which gets 3.5 stars.

THE HOBBIT Back on Track

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

The standoff between director Peter Jackson and the New Zealand actors guilds over the filming of The Hobbit has finally reached a resolution. As reported in the NYT and elsewhere, the New Zealand government has agreed to change their labor laws to accommodate the filming of the two movies, expected to begin in February. The films are scheduled for release in Dec. 2012 and 2013.

Meanwhile, casting has been moving forward. Martin Freeman (from the UK TV series, The Office) is set to play Bilbo Baggins.

Memoir RA

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

For the legions who like memoirs and are still intrigued by the sixties, you can suggest Catherine Gildiner’s new book, After the Falls, coming out tomorrow.

Today’s Wall Street Journal review calls it a worthy follow up to the author’s 1999 best seller, Too Close to the Falls, which was,

…about an exuberant only child raised by eccentric parents in the 1950s, a decade that was anything but sterile or conformist for those in Cathy’s orbit. It was a wise and funny book, populated with memorable characters…Mrs. Gildiner, it was clear, had the rare skill of being able to present a child’s worldview in an adult’s voice, overlaid with an adult’s knowledge and judgment.

The new memoir picks up where the previous one left off, when the author was twelve years old, and continues through her college years during the ’60’s. Gildiner’s “gifts shine again” says the reviewer.

Independent booksellers also select it as a favorite title for November; it’s #6 on the Indie Next list.

After the Falls: Coming of Age in the Sixties
Catherine Gildiner
Retail Price: $25.95
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult – (2010-10-28)
ISBN / EAN: 0670022055 / 9780670022052

Throwing Books at Obama

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Is more vitriol being thrown at the current president than ever before? Yes, says John Avlon, author of Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America (Beast Books, 2/23/10).

To date, there have been at least 46 anti-Obama books published.  I’m not talking about thoughtful criticisms of his policies, but detailed demonizations of the president…evidence that the proliferation of Obama Derangement Syndrome has out-paced Bush Derangement Syndrome—big time.

These books could have an impact on the mid-term election says Avlon in an article headlined “The Obama Haters Book Club” in the Daily Beast today.


Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

It’s working; a group of “web comic geeks” (according to the SF and science blog, io9, part of the Gawker network) wanted to make their self-pubbed title, Machine of Death: A collection of stories about people who know how they will die, a top best seller on Amazon’s sale rankings; it is now all the way to #2 (from a lowly #6,588). UPDATE: The book hit #1 and is at #4, but moving down, after 3 days.

More on the book here.

How many orders does it take to move a title into the Amazon top five? Based on this experience, say the authors, just a few hundred a day.

Given that, how much attention should you pay to titles moving up Amazon’s sales rankings? Obviously, there are flashes in the pan (we sometimes see an odd title, like a biology text book, suddenly rise, which tells us that class assignments have been handed out). EarlyWord uses Amazon sales rankings to identify rising demand, but we only report on titles that look like they will continue to rise, or to show the direct impact of recent media attention.

Machine of Death: A collection of stories about people who know how they will die
Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, David Malki !
Retail Price: $17.95
Paperback: 468 pages
Publisher: Bearstache Books – (2010-10-13)
ISBN / EAN: 0982167121 / 9780982167120