After being shut out of the IMPAC shortlist, women sweep the Pulitzer fiction finalists and end The Tournament of Books Pulitzer streak. Taking home the prize is Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, a book we noticed climbing the ranks of our Top Ten, even though we haven’t written much about it. Here are this year’s Pulitzer winners and finalists with excerpts where available:FictionWinner: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – (a Year in Reading pick, excerpt)Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (excerpt)All Souls by Christine Schutt (Christine Schutt participates in our Year in Reading)General Nonfiction:Winner: Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon (excerpt)Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age by Arthur Herman (excerpt)The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europe by William I. Hitchcock (excerpt)History:Winner: The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed (National Book Award winner, excerpt)This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust – (National Book Award Finalist, excerpt)The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s by G. Calvin Mackenzie and Robert WeisbrotBiography:Winner: American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham (Kevin’s review, excerpt)Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by H.W. Brands (excerpt)The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century by Steve Coll – excerptWinners and finalists in other categories are available at the Pulitzer Web site.
Millions contributor Kevin has an incisive review of Jon Meacham’s popular new biography American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House in the New York Observer:It’s during the White House years that Mr. Meacham’s story takes hold. We see Andrew Jackson making the hard trip east from Tennessee to Washington where the political permanent class waits in judgment, wary of Jackson’s frontier background and fearful of the source of his power. Jackson’s landslide victory in 1828 marked the first time that a president was elevated entirely on the strength of popular support, and the Founders’ low regard for the common intelligence still percolated through Washington.
As we have every quarter for the last several, we’re looking at Barnes & Noble’s recent quarterly report to gauge the trends that are impacting the book industry – which books were big over the last few months and what’s expected for the months ahead.To a large extent, things have gone from bad to worse for the big booksellers. Sales for the 3rd quarter ended November 1st were down -4.4% from the same quarter a year ago. Store traffic at Barnes & Noble has been declining all year, and in the 3rd quarter, average ticket (i.e., the average amount spent per visit) started falling as well. Having said that, Barnes & Noble is in better shape than rival Borders which has been at risk of running out of cash this year. Barnes & Noble is now focusing on controlling costs, keeping inventory low, and increasing supply change efficiency.What follows are insights gleaned from Barnes and Noble CEO Steve Riggio’s comments on the conference call discussing Q3 results. (Transcript provided by Seeking Alpha.)Riggio noted that this has been a busy year for news, leaving less room for books. Sales have “been affected by lack of coverage of books both in the mainstream media and on cable, news and talk radio, which were all fully devoted to coverage of the Presidential election and then the economic crisis which hit in September.”Riggio claims that inventory reductions are not hurting the shopping experience (though I’d imagine they are hurting publishers): “While inventory levels have decreased, we have maintained outstanding breadth of selection in our stores and online. In fact our in stock standards for what we call core titles have never been higher. We have the books the people need and that they ask for everyday.”Elaborating further on the effect of media coverage on the book industry recently, Riggio said, “Well we’ve obviously seen it in books by President-Elect Barack Obama, which has been fantastic. Publishers actually lightened up their September and October publishing lists because they knew that the election would dominate the media. Obviously no one forecasted the economy as well to dominate the media, but we’re hoping that things get back on track as we enter the holidays and into the January season so that we can continue to get media interest in books.”Continuing last quarter’s trend of not mentioning specific titles (one wonders if the economic challenges are sapping the enthusiasm Riggio had typically shared regarding specific titles in past quarters), Riggio only mentioned a pair of books, the new book from megachurch preacher Rick Warren and Jon Meacham’s presidential biography, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House.Riggio and Barnes & Noble see a silver lining in the tough times facing shoppers heading into the holidays, however. “Books are fairly affordable and we hope that as consumers get into the holiday season they recognize that a purchase of $15 or $20 or $25 can give someone a fairly memorable gift.”