Stitches : In the top ten for 2009

9780393068573stitchesIf you follow this blog you will already know how much I love Stitches: A Memoir by David Small. I was most interested to see this week that the US Publishers Weekly magazine, which is busily compiling its top 100 list for 2009, has chosen it as one of the 10 books that really stands out from the rest. That is some accolade, considering that the starting list was 50,000 new titles.

I have waxed lyrical about Stitches before, and featured it in the November edition of Booktopia Buzz.

Here is what PW wrote when the book first came past its desk:

In this profound and moving memoir, Small, an award-winning children’s book illustrator, uses his drawings to depict the consciousness of a young boy. The story starts when the narrator is six years old and follows him into adulthood, with most of the story spent during his early adolescence. The youngest member of a silent and unhappy family, David is subjected to repeated x-rays to monitor sinus problems. When he develops cancer as a result of this procedure, he is operated on without being told what is wrong with him. The operation results in the loss of his voice, cutting him off even further from the world around him. Small’s black and white pen and ink drawings are endlessly perceptive as they portray the layering of dream and imagination onto the real-life experiences of the young boy. Small’s intuitive morphing of images, as with the terrible postsurgery scar on the main character’s throat that becomes a dark staircase climbed by his mother, provide deep emotional echoes. Some understanding is gained as family secrets are unearthed, but for the most part David fends for himself in a family that is uncommunicative to a truly ghastly degree. Small tells his story with haunting subtlety and power.
Stitches has been nominated for numerous prizes in the US. It is an exceptional book. I reckon it would make a fantastic book club choice, that is, if the club can wean itself off its dependence on the written word as the only acceptable “text type”. I would be fascinated in other people’s experience of this visual memoir.

Qantas – the death of an iconic brand?

9781741668919qantasFinally, we are allowed to talk about this book, and you can bet your life that QANTAS won’t be happy.

The Men Who Killed QANTAS by investigative journalist Matthew Benns was billed as an expose into sabotages, hoaxes and ransom payments. At least, that was when we were allowed to refer to the book. Having been listed for November and sold in  a few months earlier, we were all told to remove any reference to the book from our sites and shops, we weren’t allowed to promote it any way (goodbye Christmas catalogues), it was all so hush hush that it seemed we couldn’t even mention the Q-word.

Well, apparently the lawyers have given it the thumbs up so here it is, the much contested inside drum on the flying kangaroo, now re-packaged (and maybe re-written), now billed as Greed, Lies and Crashes and How They Destroyed The Reputation of the World’s Safest Airline.

Obviously I haven’t read it yet (not actually living inside the filing cabinet of the defamation lawyers). But from what I hear, one of the most controversial aspects concerns safety lapses that have dogged the airline in recent years, particularly one of the aircraft that continued in operation for nine months, despite oil leaks that lead to toxic fumes being pumped inside the cabin.

As for those sabotages, hoaxes and ransom payments, hopefully the lawyers have left the copy alone.

Fast movers from November’s Booktopia Buzz

The November Booktopia Buzz is up on the site and I always like to have a look at it about 6 hours after we’ve sent it to our customers, just to see what is really moving.  After all, there is so much about bookselling that is speculative, trying to anticipate the fickle and diverse taste of readers. You can imagine then how I pour over the figures the day the newsletter goes out. Those first few hours gives me a really good  indication of what is going to be hot and what is not.

Of course, the best surprise is when I have to do a top up order even before the book is published. From time to time we actually have pre-sell all of our stock, and then have to scramble to supply customers who actually wait pub date to put in their orders.

So, any guesses for the top five for November from the latest Buzz?

Go to Booktopia Buzz and check it out. See how much you are in accord with the wider book buying public.

And the winners are….(or at least, these are the titles which I have had to re-order today)



9781741666694-pittwater 9780007241552songdaylight




And what about the one that I didn’t put in Booktopia Buzz but I should have?

Everyone is going crazy for John Ilhan: A Crazy Life.


Stitches: Graphic novel nominated for major literary award

9780393068573stitchesI am the first to admit that I am a newcomer to the graphic novel format. In fact, I read my first graphic novel only a couple of months ago – Will Eisner’s The Name of the Game – and it completely blew me away. I was still unprepared for the emotional battering of David Small’s graphic memoir, Stitches: A Memoir.
David Small started his illustration career on The New Yorker, Esquire and Playboy magazines. He is best known as a children’s book author and illustrator and has won the Caldecott Medal more than once. Small started drawing when he was two years old, and spent much of his childhood, which was plagued by illness, disappearing into his own world of illustration and imagination.
Stitches starts in Detroit in the early 50s with Small the passive observer of an increasingly dysfunctional family. What follows is a descent into illness and a kind of madness, as his trust in all who should have protected him is increasingly betrayed.

This is definitely Augusten Burroughs Running with Scissors territory.

Yes, it is a shocking story of parental abuse, and yes, there is redemption at the end. But I was absolutely drawn in from the very first page of this stunning memoir, and I can’t imagine how a book that purely relied on words could do it justice. From the scarlet imprint of lipstick on Mrs Dillon’s filter-tipped cigarettes to the vulnerability of David upside down on the monkey bars wearing his favourite Alice in Wonderland head scarf, this is a haunting, visual memoir whose visceral impact goes much further than words. I can’t recommend this highly enough.

Now I know my comments about the power of the graphic novel will be greeted with howls of derision by long term aficionados (tell them something they don’t know) but be that as it may, I can but fess up to my embarrassingly late discovery of the genre. I’ve been sitting on this review for several months, waiting for the book to be easily available in Australia. How serendipitous then that it has just been  nominated as one of the five finalists for young people’s  literature in the American 2009 National Book Awards.

Meanwhile, look and learn here.

Business Biographies

9781741759747billionaireWhat a feast right now in terms of Australian business biographies!.

I waxed lyrical a week or two ago about the James Packer story, Who Wants to be a Billionaire?, written by Paul Barry who has made somewhat of a living following the Packers over the decades. We still have a few signed editions left in stock. If you want to get a taste of it all, have a listen to the Booktopia interview with him on our site.

9781742169606prattMeanwhile, I’ve just read Richard Pratt, One Out of the Box. While James Kirby and Rod Myer don’t quite have the pulling power of Barry, they do a fine job of reminding us just what a complex, influential and interesting man Richard Pratt was. Worth $5.48 billion last year, Richard Pratt was a stalwart of the Melbourne arts, business and sporting field, and while his enormous  expansion of his father’s packaging business Visy was perhaps his greatest achievement, he will unfortunately be remembered as much for the humiliating price fixing scandal that earned his company the largest corporate fine in Australia’s history. Combine that with stewardship of Carlton Football Club, his less than conventional personal life, and his generous and varied philanthropic projects, it all makes for a fascinating read.

9781740311021illhanNext up, the John Ilhan story, A Crazy Life. Crazy John – another rags to riches migrant story, another story of taking on the big guys and forcing a place at the table. I haven’t quite got to that one yet but there was an interesting backgrounder on TV last week, (you need to search the site under his name) focusing on both his legacy and the wife and four children he left behind after his premature death from a heart attack at the age of 41 two years ago.

Signed copies of Paul Barry’s James Packer story

9781741759747billionaireHow about those excerpts from the James Packer story that were all over the press over the weekend? They made for fascinating reading.

The embargo is lifted this morning on Paul Barry’s Who Wants to be a Billionaire? and our stock, signed by the author, will be whisked over to the warehouse this afternoon. We’ve got it at a great price too – 20% off at $39.95.

Paul is also doing a piece to camera for us in the next day or so which we will put on the site.

I can’t wait to read the whole story – family dramas, power and passion, fortunes made and lost. Paul Barry is among our top investigative journalists as anyone familiar with his books and Four Corners work will know. He has written extensively on Shane Warne, Alan Bond and Kerry Packer in the past. And if you did read those excerpts on the weekend, you will realise his special talent is to make real the situations that are only just hinted at in the headlines.

By the way, I am not sure if we will get a second bite of the cherry, so if you want a copy signed by the author, you better order quickly. A great Christmas present for anyone interested in the giants of the contemporary Australian business and social scene – and no doubt a text book example of the sins of the father being visited on the son. I know what I will be reading this week.

Great price for Man Booker winner Wolf Hall

9780007292417wolfhallWell, nothing like the Man Booker Prize to get everyone excited.

We were up in the pre-dawn hours yesterday following the news and put in our three figured order of the winning book by the time doors opened at the publisher. We also thought that you should have some fun, so we have heavily discounted it. People are responding in droves. I reckon we will be re-ordering in another couple of days. Meanwhile, the publisher has pressed the re-print button and they stock should be in the warehouse by about Monday.

Wolf Hall is by Hilary Mantel and is an historical fiction set in England. It is all Wolsey, Cromwell and Henry VIII, and for once, the judges seem to have received univeral praise for their decision.

We have Wolf Hall down from $32.99 to $24.95, a fantastic saving on a new release. For a precis, go to the site. I haven’t had a chance to read it myself yet but at that price, even I have put up my hand for a copy.

Click here for the hardback edition – also discounted from $49.99 to $39.95.

Click here to see all Man Booker winners.


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