Wednesday, July 29, 2009

To the Moon

One of the benefits for us of our Great July Sale is that it clears out some stock in time for both our annual inventory in August and for the arrival of new titles in the fall. I listed some of the new titles which will be part of the fall season in an earlier post.

Of course, we can't carry everything, and one title which I'll admit we probably won't bring in is called Moonfire. It's a coffee table book about the Apollo 11 moon mission, and the text is that of Norman Mailer's out-of-print book on the subject, Of a Fire on the Moon. The price? A mere $1000.00. But wait, there's more, as the TV pitchmen say. As reported in this article from the London Times, twelve copies of Moonfire will come with a slice from an actual moon meteorite. The price for these select copies has not yet been determined but, as a spokesman for the publisher, Taschen America, said, "It will be thousands, hundreds of thousands, of dollars. Kind of like a diamond."

Nothing like having a coffee table book that is not only worth more than your coffee table, but may be worth more than your entire house.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


July seems like such a long month at the beginning -- after all it's one of those months with 31 days. Then it all goes by so quickly.

Why am I mentioning this? Because there are only 3 days left in our big July sale. You know, the one where you can get 30% off virtually everything on our shelves. And we'd much rather our books find good homes with our wonderful customers than have to count them during our annual August inventory.

Late summer reading; back to school items; early holiday gift buying; come on by before Saturday and get great deals on books for these or any other purpose. Great reading for you, nice homes for our books, less for us to count -- everybody wins!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Every Book In Its Place

Here at Accent on Books we try to keep the shelves arranged as orderly as possible so that we -- and our customers -- can find what we're looking for. It's more difficult than you might imagine -- alphabetical by author is the "default" arrangement, but sometimes that's just not practical.

But what about at home? In a recent article in The Guardian, Sarah Crown and John Crace tackled this question, with Crown declaring, "Alphebetisation is the most banal approach to bookshelving going; who wants their living room to look like a lending library?" She also makes the legitimate point that every time you add a new book you may have to do massive rearrangements in order to preserve the alphabetical order. (If you've just bought a book by Dickens, what if there's no room on the "D" shelf?)

So, what are the other options? Most of the ones that Crown and Crace suggest seem to be based on impressing visitors, which seems to me as banal as the alphabet. I do like the method used by one of Crace's colleagues who "orders her books according to which authors would be friends in real life." Last fall here at the store, the tyranny of the alphabet for a while produced the opposite result in our Current Events section: we had books by Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly shelved next to each other, with Barack Obama looking nervously on a few more books down the shelf.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Update on Wanda

Wanda Jewell, the Executive Director of SIBA, whom I talked about in an earlier post, had her surgery and is now back home recovering. The best news: she now appears to be cancer free! The recovery process will take awhile, and, I'm sure will have its moments of frustration, but all of us in the Southern independent bookselling world are exhaling a little bit.

Thanks to all of you for your thoughts, energies and prayers.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Planning a "staycation" with your "sock puppet" "frenemy"?

Well, at least a staycation might reduce your carbon footprint. Maybe the two of you could spend some quality time looking through the 2009 update of the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, which includes a number of new words, including the ones in quotes or italics above. Or, if you get tired of that, maybe you could catch up on that fan fiction you've been meaning to read or go online and watch webisodes of your favorite series.

If you want to find more information on Merriam-Webster's new words you can do so here. Meanwhile I'm off to join the flash mob and listen to some reggaeton.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Saturday With Walter

Although this isn't exactly book-related, the passing of Walter Cronkite brought back an indelible memory from my childhood.

When I was growing up in Charlotte, my dad was an executive with the company that owned WBT and WBTV, the CBS radio and television affiliates in town. CBS therefore helped put food on our table, and that great postwar generation of CBS reporters -- Murrow, Shirer, Collingwood, Sevareid, Cronkite -- were household gods.

One project that Dad created and administered for the company was the Jefferson Convocations, which brought in nationally known figures to speak to a select group of high school students. Walter Cronkite was the scheduled speaker on one occasion, and, on the day he was supposed to speak, the phone rang while we were eating breakfast. My brother got up and answered it. He put the receiver down, came back to the table to tell Dad the phone was for him, and then stage whispered to Mom and me, "I think it's Walter Cronkite!" All three of us immediately shot glances over to the phone, and heard my father -- for whom the term "laid back" could have been invented -- saying, "Yes, Walter...I understand, Walter...well, we'll see what we can do." Dad then ambled back to the breakfast table and said that it was indeed Walter Cronkite, calling to say that he was stranded in New York due to inclement weather (it was wintertime). The convocation went on as planned later that day, with CBS setting up a remote feed so that Cronkite could speak to the students from New York. I later thought that we should have disconnected that phone, put it under glass, and made it the centerpiece of an altar to the CBS gods.

And that's the way it was.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

National Book Awards -- Best of the Best

The National Book Awards are celebrating their 60th year and, perhaps taking a cue from the folks who run the Booker Awards in Britain, they are offering the public an opportunity to vote on the best National Book Award fiction winner of the past sixty years. They started a new blog a week ago that will continue till September 21, featuring a different fiction winner each day. (I've posted a link to the blog in the "links" area on this page.) Then, beginning on September 21, you can vote for your favorite, and be entered in a drawing for a trip to this year's National Book Awards ceremony later on in the fall. Whether or not you choose to participate in the voting you might want to check out the blog. I think it's pretty cool. More information -- and thumbnails of the dust jackets of all the different books -- can be found here.

Oh, and they all suggest you might want to buy some of the books at your favorite bookstore. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


To borrow from the Car Talk guys, I've found a new way to waste a perfectly good hour -- or more: I've joined Twitter; and, for whatever reason, I've found it maddeningly addictive. For those not familiar with it, Twitter is kind of a combination social network/blogging site that is very streamlined and user-friendly, with an ethos that encourages its millions of members to communicate with each other in a variety of different ways. Of course, it's been much in the news lately since it's been used as an outlet for protestors in Iran to convey their experiences to the outside world. (As a matter of fact one commentator has gone so far as to suggest that Twitter be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize; I'd say that's reaching a bit.)

One drawback with Twitter is the nomenclature: it's hard to talk about it without sounding a bit like a dork. Regardless, if any of you are already on Twitter and wish to "follow" me, I promise I won't be paranoid. And if any non-members wish to see my -- ahem -- "tweets," you can do so at my homepage, which you can access whether you are a Twitter member or not. Since it's a personal page and not a store page (though that may come later) I post about not only books and bookselling but other interests as well: politics, religion, human rights, sports, the arts, or whatever else is on my sometimes overcrowded mind. So check it out, if you wish -- and if you end up tweeting away yourself, don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

SIBA Loves Asheville

Meanwhile, on a somewhat lighter note from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (Wanda is recovering from her surgery, by the way), the winners of the annual SIBA Book Awards were announced last week. For the second year in a row, the winner in the Fiction category is someone with strong Asheville connections. Last year, Asheville native and resident Sarah Addison Allen won for Garden Spells. This year the winner is Ron Rash, for his extraordinary novel Serena, which is set in Western North Carolina during the 1930's. Ron has family in Asheville and currently teaches at Western Carolina. By the way, Ron's brother Tom is working on a documentary about Look Homeward Angel, and its effect on a number of contemporary Southern writers.

Here is a complete list of SIBA Book Award Winners:

Fiction: Serena, by Ron Rash
Non-Fiction: The Prince of Frogtown, by Rick Bragg
Poetry: Dear Darkness, by Kevin Young
Cooking: Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, by Martha Hall Foose
Children: Two Bobbies, by Kirby Larson & Mary Nethery
Young Adult: Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

Monday, July 6, 2009

We're With You, Wanda

Wanda Jewell, the longtime Executive Director of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA), has been diagnosed with cancer and is due to have surgery this week. Wanda is known not only throughout the South but throughout the nation as a creative, tough and passionate advocate for independent bookselling -- you may remember her Free Book Stimulus Plan that we told you about awhile back -- and those of us who are SIBA members are very fortunate to have her leading our team. If there is anyone who can make it through this kind of challenge it's Wanda, but of course we would appreciate all of you keeping her in your thoughts and prayers.

Author Karen Spears Zacharias wrote an eloquent and accurate tribute to Wanda in her blog last week, and you can find it here.