guest post: sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin picks 3 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Fall 2009 list

I'm so pleased to welcome back my fellow independent sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin (@trkravtin on Twitter) for another round of my3books picks!  Among the many publishers that Teresa represents are the legendary imprints at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and she's picked out three of her favorite books from their fall list.

Two books of the American West and a special pop-up book for the holiday season.


The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America
by Timothy Egan
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780618968411 | $26 | Oct 2009

The incident at the heart of The Big Burn was the largest forest fire in the history of America. “The bare facts were that the blowup covered 2.6 million acres of national forest land, and another 521,184 acres of private or state timber, for a total of just under 3.2 million acres . . . . " (page 221).

The power in the telling of this story resonates in the personal face that author Timothy Egan puts on the lives of the men and women involved. Every aspect of this story is completely absorbing:

  • Teddy Roosevelt and Progressivism
  • the fledgling concepts of conservation and the need for a forestry service
  • Guildford Pinchot, Roosevelt’s devoted friend and believer in conservation
  • big business and its influence on government
  • power-hungry politicians
  • ordinary homesteaders

They all play a role in this natural disaster. Areas of Montana, Idaho and Washington were burned. I have hiked through some of these areas in Montana and Idaho, which made this book a particularly meaningful read for me.

Oftentimes while reading, I found myself closing the book in astonishment at the ways in which politics played out in history. I often mistakenly think that only in the times we live have politicians been as driven to wrest power away from the people in achieving their policy goals. It takes a book like this, and many other fine historical reports to show that it is not so.

The Big Burn tells of a time when the people had very little influence in government at all, and there was hardly any place for the people as a concept in politics. We are an ever-evolving nation, and the consequences from this episode in our history shaped forestry policy for years to come.  Imperfect though these new perceptions were, it was a corrective step along the path toward a greater understanding of the demands placed upon our natural resources, the people charged with protecting them, and the role government plays in all of it.

In this meticulously researched book, National Book Award-winning author Timothy Egan, “brings a touching humanity to this story of valor and cowardice in the face of a nation catastrophe, playing respectful attention to Roosevelt’s great dream of conservation and of an America ‘for the little man’” (from the PW starred review).


Twisted Tree
by Kent Meyers
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780151013890 | $24 | Sept 2009

A young teenager has been stalked and murdered, and in the vastness of the contemporary rural community of Twisted Tree, South Dakota, Kent Meyers deftly weaves an interconnected web of stories of the people whose lives have intersected with young Haley Jo Zimmerman.

I have long been drawn to the literature of a place or of the landscape, and these portraits of the people of Twisted Tree are, in some cases, stark, lonely, searching, mad, and poignant, all the while evoking the character of the desolate nature of the west. Each chapter could stand alone; and in discovering how these lives connected together, Meyers tells a greater tale of how one person’s life resonates in so many others. I was mesmerized.

“This novel is brimming with arresting descriptions, and the western setting is employed with surprising effect . . . . Meyers’s small masterpiece deserves comparison to the work of Raymond Carver, Joy Williams and Peter Matthiessen (from the PW starred review).


The Little Prince Deluxe Pop-Up Book
by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780547260693 | $35 | Oct 2009

“What appears to be a fairy tale for children opens like the petals of the Little Prince’s flower into a fantasy that has lessons for all of us.” – School Library Journal

I love this special edition of The Little Prince. All throughout the selling season, I have carried my sample, a French language edition, mind you, into select accounts to share the unique experience of this pop-up book. Unique, in that it contains the complete text of the original story, while the mechanics of the pop-up elements honor the original illustrations by magically bringing them to three-dimensional life.

My buyers slowly turn the pages of the entire book. Each time I was entranced at the experience of standing aside, while the buyer deliberately enjoyed each spread. This pop-up edition of a children’s classic, is in itself, a new and complete experience of the story. There is text, the pop-up, and lots of white space, which allows for an absorbing, relaxing read.

How often are we dazzled by wondrous paper engineering, each spread building up to a magnificent conclusion? In this case, though, I am impressed by the experience of the book. I have found that to be immensely satisfying.

There are legions of faithful fans for The Little Prince. This would be a marvelous addition to their library.

The video for the Little Prince Pop-Up Deluxe edition has been posted to YouTube and can be seen here.

A link to an article where Brooke Shields quotes from 'Little Prince' in the tribute to Michael Jackson can be found here.


> For more information about Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and their fall catalog, you can find them here:
Web site ~ catalog downloads ~ @hmhbooks on Twitter ~ Facebook 

guest post: sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin picks 3 from Candlewick Press

Is it simplest to just say that Teresa Rolfe Kravtin is a kindred spirit? She's a fellow independent sales rep - Southern Territory Associates, the rep group of which she is a member, covers the South. We are both interested in the social networking aspects of publishing - you can find her here on Twitter. And most fun for me is that we frequently agree about our favorite books from the publishers that we both represent.

We seem to spend a lot of time talking about Candlewick Press's books, probably because their list is such a goldmine of discovery. One of the very first posts that I put up on my3books was about my picks from Candlewick's fall list, and what I found most interesting is that Teresa's picks and mine only overlap by one book.

The Princess' Blankets
by Carol Ann Duffy; illustrated by Catherine Hyde
Candlewick Press | 9780763645472 | $18.99 | Nov 2009

There are many interesting aspects to this lovely picture book from the Templar imprint of Candlewick Press, which is why I love talking about this book to my booksellers. A few words about Templar. Templar is a UK publisher that is most known for their highly successful ‘Ology series publishing with Candlewick in the US. Candlewick has formalized this co-publishing arrangement and this fall season has the second selection of general picture books from Templar that are either highly interactive or creatively imaginative.

The Princess’ Blankets is an over-sized, gorgeously illustrated fairy tale. Carol Ann Duffy, the new poet laureate of Britain, and described by The Guardian as “the most popular living poet in Britain” weaves a traditional fairy with contemporary elements. With paintings by first-time picture book illustrator Catherine Hyde, the illustrations are laced with reflective elements on certain spreads, uses of color and texture that fill each page with elements of the natural world that bring this tale to life. A king’s daughter is stricken with cold, so severe that the king issues an edict. Anyone who can heal the princess of her coldness will receive up to half of his kingdom. Many try and fail, and in the process a subtle warning about robbing the earth of its natural resources is in embedded in the story.

Most meaningful to me is that a musician saves the princess. Being a musician for a great portion of my life, with a Music Degree to boot, I am and will always be a flute player deep inside. Music is an innate aspect to all of my life, and to my delight and surprise it is a flute player who saves the princess in this fairy tale! When has THAT ever happened?

“The musician had a kind and good heart, and he made up his mind to go to the palace himself to see if he could help." He plays his flute and the princess begins to warm and stir. The flute player tenderly reaches out to the princess and relieves her of her terrible affliction. I LOVE this! A story I can get behind!! I must say that, oftentimes, fairy tales do not have the magical quality necessary to suspend disbelief and capture the reader’s imagination successfully. The Princess’s Blankets is a wonderful exception and I urge you to treat yourself to an exceptional reading experience.


Fairie-ality Style: A Sourcebook of Inspirations from Nature
by David Ellwand
Candlewick Press | 9780763620950 | $19.99 | Nov 2009

A follow-up to Fairie-ality: The Fashion Collection from the House of Ellwand, comes Fairie-Ality Style: A Sourcebook of Inspirations from Nature from photographer David Ellwand. This is a fantasy style sourcebook of natural designs that takes my breath away. Big beautiful photographs of dandelions, frogs, fairie chairs, birds nests, insects and flowers, that show the intricate colors and palettes of colors that occur in nature.

It is a fantasy sourcebook for sure, because is any of the practical? Is it meant to be? Matters not one whit to me - it is an immersion in the beauty and magic of the natural world, with a dose of fairie dust to boot. The back cover of the sales blad says it all, “this is an eco-designer’s dream—the ultimate exploration of truly organic materials”.


Eli the Good
by Silas House
Candlewick Press | 9780763643416 | $16.99 | Sept 2009

Eli the Good is a young adult novel from Kentucky author Silas House whose previous adult novels have been published by Algonquin Books. (Follow the link to download a PDF of a letter from Silas.) A favorite among many of my booksellers, this book was my introduction to Silas House’s writing. The novel is set during the bicentennial summer of 1976, the year I happened to graduate from high school. I loved the references to the time interspersed though out the story, which he uses to set the stage of a family breaking apart and coming back together during this pivotal moment in their lives.

Ten-year-old Eli is trying to make sense of all of the members of his family, but most notably, his father, who is struggling with episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Vietnam. Did we even call it post-traumatic stress disorder then?

The writing is lyrical, real, tender and particularly enchanting. Never before have I found someone to detail the sensibilities of a child in a family that so closely reminded me of many scenes from my own childhood. I kept having flashbacks to times in my past where I tried to grapple with myself and my family in the quiet moments of life. Whether it was from the momentous summer of 1976, when of course I wasn’t ten, or the times I allowed myself to remember sitting under the huge trees of the childhood of my younger years, starring up into the branches and thinking about my family and the world we lived in and how I fit in it.

In Eli the Good, themes of nature and war, family and love, loneliness and longing, fill the pages with a quiet wonder. Treat yourself to this book. It will appeal to adults as well as to younger readers. In other words, to anybody and everybody


More Candlewick Press links:

» Want a downloadable PDF of the Fall 2009 Candlewick Press catalog? You got it.
» Want to be blown away by the sheer wonder of Candlewick’s backlist? The catalog elves at Candlewick put together their first epic, comprehensive backlist catalog in years.


Fall 2009 catalog picks: Quirk Books

I've been out on the road selling my publishers' fall lists all summer, and I'm feeling like I've got a pretty good handle on what's been going into the midwestern bookstores that I cover. I thought I'd spend a couple weeks looking at the highlights of these catalogs, three by three. (As always, I invite other sales reps to send in their picks from the publishers they represent.)

I'm starting this tour with Quirk Books. Born out of the success of the Worst-Case Scenario series they packaged for Chronicle Books, Quirk has always been known for a combination of cheeky humor, semi-useful reference books, foodie tomes, and a sharp eye on the cross-currents of pop culture. It's no accident that the Quirk web site is to be found at

Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters
by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters
Quirk Books | 9781594744426 | $12.95 | Sept 2009

Riding high on this spring's little sensation, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Quirk Books follows it up with the recently announced Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, another Jane Austen mashup. It's such an obvious highlight of the Fall 2009 Quirk catalog that I almost feel like I'm cheating talking about it. But hey, I've been selling the Quirk list all summer, and guess what? It's a highlight. Deal.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was such a great idea that I would have happily paid full price for a blank book with that title and cover. The same goes for what we must now abbreviate SSSM. In some ways, it just doesn't matter what the story is. Nevertheless, a story there is. In Quirk's mashup, the beautiful Dashwood sisters are banished from their longtime home. Instead of finding refuge at a Devonshire cottage, they are almost literally cast ashore on a mysterious island surrounded by murky waters. Will the Dashwood sisters survive the strange happenings and find true love?

The Quirk Classics blend of authentic Austen and supernatural mayhem remains in place, if in a slightly different proportion than was found in PPZ. Early interviews have pegged the balance of Austen to Winters at about 60% to 40%.


Wine Secrets: Advice from Winemakers, Sommeliers & Connoisseurs
by Marnie Old
Quirk Books | 9781594742613 | $12.95 | Aug 2009

Combining the practical advice and wide-ranging wisdom from forty expert wine-lovers, Wine Secrets is a handsome gift book filled with tips and tricks. Chefs such as Jacques Pepin offer their advice for cooking with wine. Restaurateurs and sommeliers talk about the do's and don't's of ordering wine when you're out and about. Winemakers discuss the constantly expanding world of different varieties.

Our host and author, Marnie Old, is an experienced sommelier, wine educator and author. She maintains a blog on wine. Her previous book, He Said Beer, She Said Wine, co-authored with craft brewer Sam Calagione, is just out in paperback from DK.


The Sherlock Holmes Handbook: The Methods and Mysteries of the World's Greatest Detective
by Ransom Riggs
Quirk Books | 9781594744297 | $16.95 | Sept 2009

It's looking like a Sherlock Holmes kind of winter - the startlingly different film take on Holmes directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law opens on Christmas Day.  Before that, you'll have the opportunity to learn the methods and insights that made up the ingenius consulting detective of 221B Baker Street.

Inside this beautifully bound book - designed to look like the sort of manual a detective might have in a desk drawer next to their opium and their whiskey - you'll learn how to use deductive reasoning, analyse fingerprints, become a master of disguises, and (since we're talking about Holmes) survive a plunge off a waterfall.

Author Ransom Riggs is a blogger, author and filmmaker. (He's also the auteur behind the camera on the book trailer for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.)  He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

> The entire Quirk Books' Fall 2009 catalog can be found here on Scribd.

my3books: Taking a peek at Tattooed Ladies, Yarn Bombing and, yes, Lebowski Studies

What's the connection? I initially envisioned this post as a kind of highbrow-to-lowbrow pop culture arc, but the lizard brain obviously took over as I was scanning the catalogs for today's picks.

This spring, I've been talking with other bookselling folks about how we know when a book is just going to work. When we talk about this part of the business - the book spotting game - it feels less like a science and more like the idea behind IndieBound's predecessor, "Book Sense", which from the beginning was meant to echo Spider-Man's Spidey Sense.

From my perspective, a perfect example was the gut reaction I had at the Chronicle Books sales conference last winter when we got to the Quirk Books catalog page for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The title, the cover, and the sample page from the book had me at hello, and I knew it was going to be a fun, fun book to sell. My Spidey Sense was tingling. (BTW, was that the first tweet on PPZ? It's hard to say for sure, because deep Twitter Search really sucks.)

And my point would be ... that the books featured for your consideration in today's post all got my bookish Spidey Sense tingling at various points during our sales conference meetings this spring.


The Tattooed Lady: A History
by Amelia Klem Osterud
Speck Press / Fulcrum Publishing (Consortium) | 9781933108261 | $27 | Nov 2009

Amelia Klem Osterud is an academic librarian in Wisconsin who is not entirely tattoo-free. She's been researching this topic since 2002 and in that time has accumulated a wealth of documentary evidence into the history of Tattooed Ladies - women who lived at a time in our history when it was NOT the usual practice to parade their nearly naked bodies on carnival stages, spinning tales about savages and lives of captivity and forced tattooing. Yet, this was exactly what they did.

The Tattooed Lady unearths the true stories of these fascinating and courageous women, the trailblazers that opened the door for today's unfortunate college girl ritual scarification (that link could be NSFW).

Combining thorough research with more than a hundred historical photos, this social history explores tattoo origins, women's history, and circus lore. What's not to like?


Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti
by Mandy Moore & Leanne Prain
Arsenal Pulp Press (Consortium) | 9781551522555 | $19.95 | Sept 2009

Maybe you've seen a bus stop bench, telephone pole, or a stop sign in your neighborhood inexplicably covered in lovely knitted yarn? Or you've seen the YouTube video of artist Robyn Love putting the final touches on her 2008 NYC project Water Tower Cozy? You've been Yarnbombed.

The book Yarn Bombing (coming from funky Canadian publisher Arsenal Pulp) has been put together by the two authors of the Yarnbombing blog, a compilation of their work documenting the global spread of knit (and crochet) graffiti. The full-color book will be both guidebook to "covert textile street art" and a DIY guide to putting on your own stealth installations - 20 patterns to work from, information on how to organize large scale textile projects, and guidance on designing your own knitted graffiti tags.


The Year's Work in Lebowski Studies (IndieBound link not live yet, but here's IU Press' page)
By Edward P. Comentale & Aaron Jaffe
Indiana University Press | 9780253221360 | $24.95 | Nov 2009

I've sold a lot of scholarly and semi-scholarly books over the years that attempt to attach themselves to some aspect of the pop culture zeitgeist and explain it all for you.

Open Court's was the original: the Pop Culture And Philosophy series has 41 books and counting since 2000 - way to go! But wait! There was an editorial schism and now there's a competing Philosophy And Pop Culture series at Wiley Blackwell, too, with 16 titles! Oh, and now, the University Press of Kentucky is also running a series of the Philosophy of Popular Culture, and they've got 11 titles already. To my mind this proves just one thing: there are a LOT of underutilized philsophy professors out there who are willing to write short pieces for cheap.

So there's all this competition out there, and now along comes a new book, an outlier, with the conceit that this is the first in a series of journals compiling the best work over the past year in Lebowski Studies. You know - the Dude. The Big Lebowski.

That's funny to me - it's not a big stretch to believe that an entire subset of academia has sprung up studying the minutiae of this epic film from the Coen Brothers.

After all, Lebowski Fest started humble and is now active in 15 cities each year. They typically meet in a bowling alley, of course. And if religion is your thing, you can get ordained as a Dudeist Preist in the Church of the Latter-day Dude (their motto: "Just take it easy, man.")

And we've already seen that there is literally an army of philosophy profs waiting in the wings to exegete, dissect, explicate, and defuse the controversial elements of any pop culture moment.

So how does this one stack up? It's looking pretty good, frankly. As evidence, I present a selection of the entries from the Table of Contents:

  • A Once and Future Dude: The Big Lebowski as Medieval Grail-Quest by Andrew Rabin
  • "F*** It, Let's Go Bowling": The Cultural Connotations of Bowling in The Big Lebowski by Bradley D. Clissold
  • LebowskIcons: The Rug, The Irong Lung, The Tiki Bar, and Busby Berkeley by Dennis Hall and Susan Grove Hall
  • Professor Dude: An Inquiry into the Appeal of His Dudeness for Contemporary College Students by Richard Gaughran

Clearly, these guys are fans of the movie as well as academics! If you want a sneak peek at the process behind the making of the book, check out this episode of the Lebowski Podcast that featured the editors.


>> Consortium Book Sales & Distribution distributes the books that Speck Press/Fulcrum Publishing and Arsenal Pulp Press publish to bookstores around the US. You can download their Fall 2009 catalogs here. Follow them on Twitter and befriend them on Facebook.

>> Speck Press is an imprint of Fulcrum Publishing. You can follow them on Twitter. Just don't talk about them behind their backs!

>> Arsenal Pulp Press is to be found here, twitters here, and blogs as well.

>> Indiana University Press is all over the web: blog - catalog downloads - facebook - twitter.

DISCLAIMER: This particular entry features books that are brought into the world by publisher(s) that I represent. But you knew that, right? The whole point of this blog IS to talk about books you should be buying or reading, so just take it as a given that in the back of my mind, it has been my secret plan all along to make you want to buy these books. Preferably from an independent bookseller.