Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Post-Potter Pick #1

The Secret Country
(Book One in the Eidolon Chronicles)
Jane Johnson

I know you're all wondering what to read next. And everyone is giving suggestions left and right. But, my friends, this is the one you want! I loved this when it came out in hardcover last year and now that it's in paperback there is no excuse for you not to pick it up for your favorite middle-grade reader (or, quite frankly, yourself).

The Secret Country begins when our hero Ben encounters a talking cat in a pet shop. Soon he is finding magical creatures everywhere – unicorns, wood-sprites, and dragons, all kidnapped from the magical world of Eidolon. Will he be able to help them return home?

Parents beware: This is the kind of story that will have your kids staying up late, reading with a flashlight under the covers.

Monday, July 30, 2007


I've been so derelict! American Band is now waiting for you behind the register. I hope you enjoy!


I just wanted to say thank you to all the wonderful folks who decided to join us for Potterpalooza last week. I know that you have so many choices for where to buy your books (especially that one in particular!), and I truly feel honored by those who choose to buy their books from us.

As for me, I finished last night--very bittersweet.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Galley Grab!

Some galleys up for grabs...leave a comment with the title of the book you want and I'll put it on hold for you behind the register. First come, first served!

Grub: A Novel by Elise Blackwell
I know a few folks from Grub Street have visited my blog here so I thought the title might intrigue. Here's the copy from the back:

"A long overdue retelling of New Grub Street--George Gissing's classic satire of the Victorian literary marketplace--Grub chronicles the triumphs and humiliations of a group of young novelists living in and around New York City.

Eddie Renfros, on the brink of failure after his critically acclaimed first book, wants only to publish another novel and hang on to his beautiful wife, Amanda, who has her own literary ambitions and a bit of a roving eye. Among their circle are writers of every stripe--from the Machiavellian Jackson Miller to the 'experimental writer' Henry, who lives in squalor while seeking the perfect sentence. Amid an assortment of scheming agents, editors, and hangers-on, each writer must negotiate the often competing demands of success and integrity, all while grappling with inner demons and the stabs of professional and personal jealousy. The question that nags at them is this: What is it to write a novel in the twenty-first century?

Pointedly funny and compassionate, Grub reveals what the publishing industry does to writers--and what writers do to themselves for the sake of art and to each other in the pursuit of celebrity."

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
Joe Hill's Heart Shaped Box has been a big hit here. It got a starred review from Publisher's Weekly and a great review from Chuck Leddy at the Boston Globe (though not so much from Geoff Nicholson at the New York Times). 20th Century Ghosts is a collection of short stories Mr. Hill has written over the past few years. It was originally released by a niche publisher in England in 2005 but never here in the States until now (I assume that now that he's proved himself with the novel HarperCollins is hoping to ride the wave with this collection).

American Band: Music, Dreams, and Coming of Age in the Heartland
by Kristen Laine
Something for all those band geeks out there, this is the story of a year in the life of a high school band in the Midwest. Read more here.

Speaking of bands, I'm a total fan of parades. When I lived in Delaware I actually went to Atlantic City with friends to watch the Miss America "Show Us Your Shoes" Parade. That was a trip. So I'm very excited for Brookline Booksmith's Shortest Parade in History for the winner of the Jasper Fforde raffle. Didn't know Jasper Fforde was coming? Read about it here! We're really hoping to have a baton twirler. If you know a baton twirler, please, could you pass her (or his!) name along? We gotta have a baton twirler.

Friday, July 13, 2007

What Rhymes With Cucumber?

Today was the due date for our nominations for the fall children's list for Booksense. Yipes! Dear lord, I've barely started reading fall titles.

As a result, most of my suggestions were for picture books I saw when my reps visited. I nominated The Apple Pie that Papa Baked, The Magic Rabbit, and Book of 1,000 Days (the non-picture book exception).

I also nominated a book that has just been released but I think actually has more of a fall vibe to it. Since it's already available, though, let me recommend it to you now--

Mucumber McGee and the Half-Eaten Hot Dog
Written and Illustrated by Patrick Loehr

Mucumber McGee has, in his desperate hunger, eaten a hot dog straight from the back of the fridge. His sister has warned him of eminent death. This is much worse than swallowing a watermelon seed! "Cheerful Gothic" may be a curious sounding description, but it perfectly fits this story-in-rhyme and its illustrations.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On the Frustrations of University Presses Part II

Thanks to the Chronicle of Higher Education, I think more people have viewed my blog in the last 24 hours than the previous three months combined. Thanks to those who have commented here and there! I'm not an expert at anything, least of all business models of publishing houses, so if my little rant annoyed, offended, or caused groans of frustration I do apologize. I'm sure university press folks reading that felt the same way I do every time a customer points out that they can get Book XYZ for 30% off at the Barnes and Noble down the block.

I do understand that the smaller printing and distribution of university press books necessitates higher prices. This leads me to two questions (again, questions that I'm sure won't be new to anybody already out in the trenches) and one title to recommend:

1. Could there be a broader market for some of the books published by university presses, allowing for more books at lower cost? I think of On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt as an example of so many things done right by Princeton University Press--a great package and a great price for a great writer with a great book.

2. And...a very touchy one...how extensively are the university press resources taken up by publications that just aren't worth it? If you're involved in academic publishing, or ivory walls in general, you're probably aware of Lindsay Waters' Enemies of Promise: Publishing, Perishing, and the Eclipse of Scholarship. If not, take a look as he has some very provocative things to say on the subject, many of which ring very true to me. By the way, Prickly Paradigm Press--the publisher of Enemies of Promise--distributed by the University of Chicago? Another one that, in my opinion, does a lot of things right.

I don't have answers, and I'm sure I'm not the only one asking the questions. But as a trade bookseller to a highly engaged, highly educated, highly literate community, and one who is motivated to develop relationships with university presses, this is what's on my mind. Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

On the Frustrations of University Presses

And now it's back to the basement. I actually had one of my last few buying appointments today, which means I'll get to be up on the sales floor more often--at least until October, when next buying season rolls around. As much as I love buying, I've been itching to get back to working with customers again and being around actual books, not just the promise of those to come.

Today I was buying from a number of university presses, which is to me incredibly frustrating. I don't have the free reign to buy from these publishers as I do others, and even if I did, the expense of university press books makes it difficult for me to be enthusiastic about the prospect of selling them. I just have a hard time asking people to pay more than $20 for a paperback. I understand the economics behind the high prices of university press books (well, some of the economics--some seem a bit sketchy to me), and that I, the trade bookstore buyer, am not their target customer, but it is frustrating. This may be impolitic, but I'll give a couple examples.

The University Press of Florida is publishing Matecumbe, a manuscript by James Michener that Random House shelved long ago. Sounds interesting, but not $21 for an unpublished novel interesting (and a paperback at that!). Why not make the book $10 and market it to all the fans out there who loved reading his historical sagas and are just curious for something new and different? It makes me think the publishers don't really think Matecumbe is worth reading at all. In that case, why are they publishing it?

A book with photos, lyrics and stories of Kate and Anna McGarrigle written by Dane Lanken, Anna McGarrigle's husband, sounds lovely, doesn't it? Not when it's a 160-page paperback for $45. Thanks for nothing, Michigan State University Press.

I could keep going, but I'm depressing myself. I remember how excited I was when I saw that a friend of mine since grade school and current professor of political science at University of Nebraska had his first book published. I'm afraid I won't be ordering any for the store, but Routledge has it, and it can be yours for $120.

Monday, July 2, 2007


It could not come at a better time. Even people who love their job need some time away, and I've been feeling the need to be out of this basement for a bit. I'll be headed to the Pacific Northwest, spending a few days in Victoria then Seattle and I'm thinking there will be some good time for just reading and relaxing.

I'm an over-packer by nature, which extends to books, so I know I won't get to everything, but I'm bringing myself a nice selection to chose from depending on my mood. When travelling one always needs a good mystery, so I'm bringing two: Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell (she wrote The Speckled Monster, an Essential Read of Evelyn's) and The Night Climbers by Ivo Stourton. I'm bringing the kids' book The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch, and for non-fiction, Daniel Brook's The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat In Winner-Take-All America.

I'll have to take something as a security blanket, too, something I know will be good, so I'll probably take along something by Shannon Hale. I've just finished Book of a Thousand Days, (STUPENDOUS!), so it's put me in a mood for more.

OK, I'm off!