Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rep Night #1: HarperCollins Kids, Macmillan, Harvard/Yale/MIT, and Fujii Associates

It's that time of year again, when we get together for a presentation of books to look out for for fall and the coming holiday season. Our first session was held at Boswell, along with booksellers from Next Chapter and Books and Company.

Jennifer from HarperCollins inaugurated our fall 2011 season. Their list is filled with Fancy Nancys and Big Nates and previously collected Shel Silversteins, but must of us knew about those.  There's Wildwood, the novel by Decembrists frontman Colin Meloy, that has already been mentioned sometimes in the blog.  That said, even though Jason and Amie are fans, it was nice to get a few extra readers copies so that more booksellers could try the the series out, a Narnia-like tale set in Portland's Forest Park.

Stacie told me she was immediately drawn to Variant, the tale of a foster kid who thinks he's found a path out of poverty in Maxfield Academy, only when he gets there, he's locked in, there are no adults (as Jenny noted, the adults disappear in many a kids book) and he's forced to join a gang. It turns out that breaking the rules equals death, but playing by the rules could be event worse.  I'll have to get Stacie to explain it to me.  It's out October 4.

Just out is a beatiful illustrated book (not a picture book, it's for older kids) from Kadir Nelson called Heart and Soul, documenting the history of African Americans. It's an inspiring story illustrating pivotal events and small victories of American history, and is very inspiring.  Not an easy sell, mind you, but a worthy one. Very ambitious, likely to win awards, and quite beautiful.

Shatter Me, by Tahira Mafi, is a first novel, a dystopian thriller. Juliette has a murderous touch and the Reestablishment is not happy about it--they've locked her in a cell (for murder, she touched someone) while they battle disease, food scarcity, and clouds that are the wrong color. So then she gets a cellmate, he's quite attractive, and more than that, he's immune to her touch. Oh, and of course there is a conspiracy.

Anne had a little tougher, as she was covering both adult and kids books from Macmillan. She touched on her favorite book from last year, Skippy Dies (which got Sharon to read and love it) and noted books that Carl loved (Crimes in Southern Indiana) and one he was disappointed with (unnamed).

Her favorite book of this fall is Hector Tobar's The Barbarian Nurseries. I've already written this up in our email newsletter, but in short, it's about a couple who leave their kids behind with their maid, only to accuse her of kidnapping them.  It's like a Los Angeles based Bonfire of the Vanities (it has that look, similar title, and same publisher) and I promised Anne I'd read it.  Still working on that!

Roz Chast has a new book coming 10/11, What I Hate: From A to Z.  Like her collaboration with Steve Martin, it's packaged like a book for kids, but most would say is not.  From rabies to abduction to Jello 1-2-3, a Chastian would not need to hear more, and an anti-Chastian would not be convinced with more.

Groundbreaking Nobel-prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman's new Thinking Fast and Slow comes out October 25, and it's an exploration about the the two ways that humans think and how it affects our behavior.  This is a worthy addition to the "big ideas" section that I've always dreamed about, but alas, it is likely to be shelved in psychology. Yes, the jacket is quite Gladwell-esque, is it not?

And finally, already on our counter is It's a Little Book, sweetened for today's board book readers.

John from Harvard, Yale, and MIT was next. As a university press sales representative, sometimes its hard to find books that would work in all three stores. I thought Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock had the most potential. David Margolick follows the one of the African American teenagers who integrated Little Rock High School, and one of the women who was on jeering on the sidelines, both captured in a famous photo. It's the story of their reconciliation and later split, a personal narrative that reflects an important point in American history.

E.H. Gombrich's A Little History of the World is now available in an illustrated edition, partly due to its success in the holiday sales season.  They've also got Nigel Warburton's A Little History of Philosophy. It's not 75 or so years old like the Gombrichm but its similarly structured, in brief chapters that highlight the major ideas and players, from Socrates to Peter Singer. Both can be preordered on our website.

There was a lot of oohing and ahhing over the new annotated edition of Persuasion, but it was another literary luminary that caught my eye, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst's Becoming Dickens.  Published for the Dickens bicentennial, there's a lot of focus on his adolescent years, and how his ambition overcame major roadblocks.

MIT.'s 101 Things to Learn in Art School follows up their great success with 101 Things I learned in Architecture School. That author/packager went on to release a number of books with Hachette, but Kit White's book has a totally different feel to it, a combination of technical advice and sage concepts (paraphrased) wrapped in a striking little package.

All this plus the Loeb Classical Library too. What do you think? Should Boswell have a case filled with Loebs?

Batting cleanup was Andy from Fujii Associates, a commission group. We've been already abuzz over When She Woke, the new novel from Hillary Jordan, with raves from Stacie and Sharon. It's Handmaid's Tale meets The Scarlet Letter. I'm sure you'll be hearing that a lot.

Andy has a few show-stoppers in his bag, and one has to be The Louvre: All the Paintings.  It's a book/CD rom package with close to 3000 reproductions. It's a great looking package and only $75.

Another book that's already had some buzz is Sophie Blackall's Missed Connections, where she illustrates the personal ads that leave most folks scratching their heads, but of course have the potential to create everlasting happiness. Who knows? Blackall has illustrated many books for kids but nothing like this.  Entries include "We Shared a Bear Suit," "If Not for Your Noisy Tambourine," and "Hairy Bearded Swimmer." This is not the first time this has been done (at least one book came out from Crown) but...what's new anyway?

There are a lot of art and photography books from Abrams, as always, but since Milwaukee is so sports crazy this fall (because we are winning stuff), what could be more appropriate than The Big Show: Charles M. Conlon's Golden Age Baseball Photographs, edited by Neal McCabe. From an archive of some 30,000 photographs, this book contains iconic images of DiMaggio, Ruth et al.

Another round this Sunday at Next Chapter.  I'll let you know how things go.

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