Saturday, May 30, 2009

How Fast Can You Read?

Publishers, booksellers and readers may all be a bit short on funds at the moment, but writers evidently aren't short on inspiration. Earlier this month Bowker, the company that issues ISBN's in this country and publishes Books in Print, reported that, by its count, 560,626 new titles were published in the United States during 2008. That averages out to more than 1500 new books published every day.

More than the overall total, the most striking item in their report was that, for the first time ever, the number of books published using on-demand and short run technologies exceeded the number of titles published by the more "traditional" methods used before digital printing and the internet came along. In fact, the number of traditionally printed titles actually decreased, while number of titles produced with the newer technology increased by 132%. These new technologies are primarily used by self-published writers, though major publishers occasionally use them too for books with only marginal sales figures.

Meanwhile, at Accent on Books, we have the physical capacity to keep maybe 20,000 different titles on hand. Thus, by necessity, we do quite a bit of special ordering. So, if we don't have the specific title you're looking for, don't feel alone. There are millions of other books out there we don't carry, either. But we'll do everything we can to get it for you.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

BEA on Book TV

Do booksellers go junketeering? Of course we do -- when our schedules and funds allow for it. And for many US booksellers the Big Junket of the Year starts today in New York City: BookExpo America. Formerly known as the ABA (American Booksellers Association) Convention, this annual gathering is a time for booksellers from throughout the nation to network, exchange ideas, attend seminars, meet with publishers, attend parties and file into huge ballrooms to attend the Book & Author Breakfasts where eloquent and witty Famous Authors try to keep convention goers awake until the servers manage to get coffee to their tables.

Actually BEA is quite an event that everyone in this business should probably attend at least once. Personally speaking, although there's lots of glitz and excitement, I found it hard to get any actual work done; but maybe that's what defines it as a junket.

For those of us who are either glad or disappointed not to be there -- and for booklovers in general -- C-Span's Book TV channel is coming to the rescue this weekend. Book TV will be present for many of the events including the above mentioned breakfasts, where the speakers will include Pat Conroy, Tracy Kidder, Richard Russo and Pete Dexter. The schedule can be found at Book TV's website, although, as always with C-Span, it's subject to change.

So I can attend the Book and Author Breakfasts, and have my own coffee available before it even begins. Neat!

UPDATE: It now appears that Pat Conroy will not be attending BEA. His doctor has recommended that Conroy not travel, following "unexpected surgery."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A New Book Group!

Accent on Books has always had a large number of customers who were members of various book groups, and we've always offered a 15% discount on book group purchases. Now, we're starting a group of our own. If you are interested in being a part of it, here's the information on our first meeting:

Accent on Books Book Group (maybe we can come up with a better name)
Organizational Meeting
Wednesday, June 3, 3:00 PM
At Accent on Books

If you can't make it to that meeting but would like to participate, or if you want further information, let us know at 828-252-6255, or


Monday, May 25, 2009

Technical Problems

Late last week, the operating system on my laptop went to that Great Recycling Bin In The Sky From Whence There Is No Return. The reason for its sudden departure is unknown, but a nice if expensive technical support person at Dell helped me reinstall Windows Vista on this contraption, so hopefully it will stay around for awhile.

At any rate, that curtailed my abilities to add further offerings of edification, illumination and wit to Page 854, but soon we should be up and running again.

In the meantime, Happy Memorial Day, and my thanks and best wishes to all members of the Armed Forces, past and present.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Congratulations, Vicki!

We've just received word -- from the author herself! -- that In a Dark Season, the latest novel by Vicki Lane, has been nominated for an Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original mystery. As many of you know, Vicki is an author here in Western North Carolina (and a great friend of Accent on Books) whose mystery series featuring Elizabeth Goodweather includes local settings and lots of mountain history and lore. In a Dark Season is the fourth and most recent novel in the series.

Along with the Edgar Awards, the Anthony Awards are probably the most prestigious in the American mystery book community. They are named after Anthony Boucheron, one of the founders of the Mystery Writers of America, and the winners are announced each year at the gathering of mystery writers and fans known as Bouchercon. This year's Bouchercon will be held in October in Indianapolis, and we'll keep our fingers crossed that Vicki will be the deserving winner in her category.

More about Bouchercon and the Anthony Awards can be found here. And you may want to click on over to Vicki's website to congratulate her.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Friday, 5/22, at Accent on Books: Jerry Stubblefield

Asheville writer Jerry Stubblefield is perhaps best known as a playwright. For almost two decades he lived and worked in New York and had plays produced off-Broadway, off-off-Broadway and in regional theatres.

Now Jerry has a new novel out from Black Heron Press, and, judging from early reviews, he's proving to be every bit as talented a novelist as a playwright. The novel is called Homunculus, and it's a science fiction/psychological novel about a writer who literally produces his own double -- the title character, who represents and acts on the writer's deepest desires, but good and not-so-good. On one level an sf/horror tale, on another it's a meditation on those parts of our psyche we'd rather not acknowledge, and what happens when they finally insist we take ownership of them.

Accent on Books will hold a reception honoring Jerry Stubblefield this coming Friday, beginning at 6:00 PM. Join us as Jerry reads from and signs copies of his book. You and your own homunculus should thoroughly enjoy it.

Jerry Stubblefield's website is here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

New Arrivals: Catholic Thinkers, Protest Singers and a 12-Year-Old Genius

A few of the new titles recently received at Accent on Books:

Practicing Catholic, by James Carroll. Both a spiritual memoir and an examination of his church by one of Catholicism's most prominent and outspoken observers. Novelist, historian and former priest, Carroll has a unique and important perspective on the religious tradition that he still admires and of which he is still very much a part, despite its many difficulties.

The Winner Stands Alone, by Paulo Coelho. Something a bit different from the author of The Alchemist, whose new novel takes place over a period of twenty-four hours during the Cannes Film Festival. Coelho's usual themes of true wealth and the search for what really matters are set against the human desire for power and glamour.

The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet, by Reif Larsen. This unusual and audacious novel received a lot of pre-publication buzz, and it's easy to see why. The title character is a precocious twelve-year-old cartographer who travels from his home in Montana to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, to accept an award. The resulting book is his first-person chronicle of his journey, along with his illustrations, charts, maps, doodles, you name it. There's a rich imagination at work here.

The Protest Singer, by Alec Wilkinson. Pete Seeger turned ninety earlier this month, and "New Yorker" writer Wilkinson has produced a brief, impressionistic and moving celebration of this American icon. There are lots of great photographs, including one on the back cover of Seeger with his banjo, around the edge of which are the following words: "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender."

Sunnyside, by Glen David Gold. Eight years ago, Glen David Gold had a big hit with his debut novel, Carter Beats the Devil, and his new work should only enhance his reputation. Sunnyside is a rich, multi-faceted, absorbing novel about life in early twentieth-century America. Charlie Chaplin is the central figure, but a large cast of characters, both real and imaginary, intersect in a complex tableau that gives an all-encompassing view of this fascinating time in American history.

A Book, by Mordecai Gerstein. Once there was a family who lived in a book, and they all had a story except for the daughter, who sets out with a goose to find hers. And what develops from that point is one of the most delightful and imaginative picture books of the year so far. It's hard to explain -- you've just got to see it. Suitable for preschoolers on up.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Friday, 5/15 at Accent on Books: Charles Gershon

Charles Gershon's first novel, The Hydrangea People, was published in 2002, and won praise from such prominent Southern writers as Ferrol Sams and Terry Kay. Now, he has a second novel out, called Slow Funeral, and he will be at Accent on Books this coming Friday beginning at 6:00 PM to talk about the book and sign copies.

Charles Gershon was born and brought up in Atlanta, and practiced medicine there for a number of years. He now lives in Asheville. He brings his medical expertise into play in this latest novel where the lead character, Jack Cain, is a doctor who gets caught up in a net of mystery and intrigue that stretches back to his father's experiences in World War II.

Slow Funeral is a page-turning novel that is just the thing to kick off the summer reading season. We hope you'll join us this Friday to meet Charles Gershon and support an Asheville author who is developing a strong literary career.

Charles' website can be found here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Accent On Books Loses A Friend

Although Accent on Books has customers from a wide geographical area, we also enjoy being part of the North Asheville/Weaverville neighborhood, and are very appreciative when customers say they consider us their "neighborhood bookstore."

One of our favorite neighbors was Jack Bennett, who lived over on Beaverdam Road, almost within walking distance of the store. For years Jack would drop by the store about once a week, sometimes as a customer but often just as a friend and neighbor, and we'd chat about the things neighbors chat about: the weather, politics, the state of things in Asheville and, more specifically North Asheville. And, oh yes, the postal system -- Jack was a retired postal inspector.

He was also a Buncombe County native, and, as a transplant myself, I especially enjoyed listening to him talk about growing up here, and his knowledge of the various networks of friends and cronies who are often the real powers in a city like Asheville. Jack was no cynic, but he had a healthy skepticism of those in power, and that, combined with a wonderful sense of humor and genuine concern for the less fortunate made him a delight to talk with.

Jack Bennett died earlier this week, after a period of declining health. There will be a funeral Monday at St. Eugene's Catholic Church here in North Asheville, where the Bennett family have been longtime members. We send our condolences and best wishes to his wife Pat, their daughters and all his other friends and family. The Accent on Books neighborhood won't be the same without him.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Friday, 5/8, at Accent on Books: Danny Bernstein

Has the weather finally turned warm for good? Hopefully so, though it's never a good idea to tempt the fates by assuming that's the case. If it has, however, here in Western North Carolina that means it's time to break out the backpack, the hiking boots, the water bottle -- and the guidebooks by Danny Bernstein.

Two years ago Danny's book Hiking the Carolina Mountains appeared, and it seemed to me, relative tenderfoot that I am, to be a model of what a hiking guidebook should be: clear, accurate, easy to use and well-written. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Danny does not write her books from an armchair: she herself has hiked all these trails and knows all their details. (She's also hiked the Appalachian Trail end-to-end.) Now she has a second volume out: Hiking North Carolina's Blue Ridge Heritage. As the title suggests, this book is more strictly geared towards the North Carolina mountains, and, in addition to detailed descriptions of the hikes, also includes background information about the history of the trails and their place in the legend and lore of the mountains.

So don your best hiking hat, pull out your walking stick, and trudge on over to Accent on Books this coming Friday beginning at 6:00 PM to hear Danny talk about her adventures hiking and writing and get a personally autographed copy of her latest book. The mountains are calling.

Danny's website can be found here.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

After 341 years....

Ten years ago, when Britain's Prince Edward married Sophie Rhys-Jones, the British poet Carol Ann Duffy said, "I will not write a poem for Edward and Sophie. No self-respecting poet should have to."

That would traditionally be the job of the British Poet Laureate, who at that time was Andrew Motion. Motion's ten-year term has just ended, and it was announced Friday that the new Poet Laureate is...Carol Ann Duffy. Last year I reported on the movement developing in Britain to have the next Poet Laureate be a woman -- something that had never been the case in the post's 341-year history. Those efforts obviously paid off with the selection of Duffy who, in addition to being the first woman, is also the first Scot and the first openly gay person to ever hold the post. Duffy's selection could hardly be seen as a surprise however -- she is highly popular and renowned, and was thought to have probably been the close second choice after Motion ten years ago. Andy Burnham, Britain's culture secretary, referred to Duffy as "a towering figure in English literature today and a superb poet."

A biography of Carol Ann Duffy and a selection of her poems can be found here.