Shelf Life

The cover of “Slammer’’ was a design winner this year, as was the cover of Brigid Pasulka’s novel. The cover of “Slammer’’ was a design winner this year, as was the cover of Brigid Pasulka’s novel.
By Jan Gardner
June 27, 2010

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Judging covers
For 53 years, the annual New England Book Show has been celebrating design that grabs a reader’s attention, the kind that makes opening a book not a choice but a command.

Take, for instance, two of this year’s winners. The judges called the cover of the crime novel “Slammer,’’ by Allan Guthrie (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), “effectively creepy” and hailed “Fairie-ality Style: A Sourcebook of Inspirations from Nature,” by David Ellwand (Candlewick), for its photography and eye-catching spreads.

Sometimes it’s the exercise of restraint that makes a cover, as the judges noted in their praise of the team at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that designed the cover of Brigid Pasulka’s novel “A Long Long Time Ago and Essentially True,” winner of the 2010 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for a distinguished first book of fiction. The type and illustrations convey the fable-like nature of the novel without going overboard.

A highlight of the show was the winner in the book arts category. Marianne Perlak, formerly a designer at Harvard University Press, created a sculpture by folding the pages of an old Bible. Bookbuilders of Boston, the association of publishing professionals that sponsors the show, added the category this year to expand the show’s range and appeal. It worked.

According to Michele Brennan, chairwoman of the show, 400 books were entered in this year’s design contest, up 25 percent from last year, and tickets to the show sold out two weeks ahead of time.

Brennan, who works at Acme Bookbinding in Charlestown, a company that traces its origins to 1821, is already thinking about next year’s show. Not surprisingly, adding a category for e-books is one of the ideas under discussion.

Imagine this
Readercon, the 21st annual conference on imaginative literature, touches down in Burlington July 8-11. Authors Nalo Hopkinson and Charles Stross will be the guests of honor. In addition to dozens of panel discussions, the conference sponsors the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award recognizing a neglected author, the Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition, and the Shirley Jackson Awards for works of dark fantasy and psychological suspense. Details at

A new book store
The new Borders store in Dedham is hosting grand opening festivities today. The two-level 250,000-square-foot store in the Legacy Place mall is the only store the Borders Group chain plans to open in the United States this year, according to company spokeswoman Mary Davis.

The new Borders is the last anchor store to open at Legacy Place, located off Route 128. In addition to the usual Borders amenities such as a café with free Wi-Fi, the Dedham store has an expanded selection of Spanish language books and books by and about African-Americans.

Coming out
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” by David Mitchell (Random House)

“In the Name of Honor” by Richard North Patterson (Holt)

“Freedom Summer: The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy” by Bruce Watson (Viking)

Pick of the week

Anita Silvey, author of “500 Great Books for Teens,” recommends “The Celestial Globe” by Marie Rutkoski (Farrar, Straus and Giroux): “This second book in the Kronos Chronicles series for ages 10 to 14 stands on its own. Petra Kronos is imprisoned in London in the 16th century, a time that wavers between science and magic. Her gypsy friends are hunting for her and the celestial globe, which could lead to world domination. Fantasy, steam punk, folklore, and history all meld into a seamless blend.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at