In Library Land, we sometimes talk about this thing called "collection development" that pretty much covers how we librarians select which books to add and which to withdraw from our shelves. Public librarians are careful with those hard-earned tax dollars, and they really do try to evaluate books before purchasing them.
I am equally careful with my cash when buying books for the collection here at the Quinella Castle. No advance ordering here! I wait and see what the ratings are before I hand over my hard-won dollars to an online bookseller. So in the few weeks since Barbaro, A Nation's Love Story by Pamela Brodowsky and Tom Philbin was published, I've been waiting for reviews to come out.
It's like Waiting for Godot. Though I've scoured the web, as well as Library Journal and a couple of book review databases, the only published review I've found is at the Pahrump Valley Times. (Yes, Pahrump.) It's a positive review, true, but I remain cautious, because, well -- why haven't I heard of these folks before?
A peek at Browdowsky's previous titles reveals that she is the author of Staying Sane When You're Dieting, Staying Sane When Your Family Comes to Visit, Staying Sane Going Through Menopause, Staying Sane When You're Quitting Smoking, and even Staying Sane When Buying or Selling Your Home. So, I suppose she's pretty much an expert on ... staying sane.
As for co-author Philbin, he's been involved with a number of books, ranging from The Funniest Cop Stories Ever to The Everything Home Improvement Book to The Psychic in You: Understand and Harness Your Natural Psychic Power.
The biographies of the two on the publisher's site, HarperCollins are brief:
Pamela K. Brodowsky grew up on a horse ranch and has more than 30 years of experience with race horses, often showing thoroughbreds in competitions. She is also the founder of International Literary Arts
Tom Philbin is a writer of numerous books, including coauthoring Two Minutes to Glory: The Official History of the Kentucky Derby. He has also written many articles for Parade, Woman's Day, and Reader's Digest.(Two Minutes to Glory by Brodowsky and Philbin is slated to come out later this month.)
So, left with little to go on, I actually ventured into Amazon.com's customer discussions for the book -- where disappointment seems to reign, stemming from the apparent copying of DRF articles, mislabeled photos, and extensive grammatical errors. Some of the comments were apparently so hurtful that Philbin's daughter made a post in defense of her dad's writing. Eventually, a heartfelt post from Mr. Philbin himself led to apologies all around. The entire discussion may be accessed at the Barbaro: A Nation's Love Story forum. One thing never challenged is a reader's claim that 30 pages of the book are transcripts of the messages left at Tim Woolley Racing's Barbaro Updates. (That comes to about 14% of the book.) Mr. Philbin does assure the readers that the errors will be gone from the next edition of the book.
A small excerpt from the book is available at Fictionwise for those wishing to sample Barbaro: A Nation's Love Story before purchasing.
Quinella Castle collection development decision: Pass.
Meanwhile, a children's book about Barbaro is now available. Barbaro: America's Horse by regular NPR commentator Shelley Mickle is aimed at readers age 9 through 12; an excerpt from the first chapter is included on the book's page at Amazon. It's authorized by the Jacksons, and I didn't see the need to search for a review after I read this at Tim Woolley's site :
Gretchen Jackson on Barbaro America's Horse: "It is beautifully stated, beautifully written. The book is so exciting, its so good ... because its all about Barbaro ... she (Shelley) had a gift to capture what we all thought of him. Its just a great book. I wanted to express my enthusiasm and love for the book, I am just so pleased with the job she has done."Perhaps not surprisingly, Mickle's book is ranked at 510 on the Amazon sales list; the Brodowsky/Philbin title is currently 5,308.
Quinella Castle collection development decision: Purchase.
Still to come is Sean Clancy's Babaro: The Horse Who Captured America's Heart. Since Barbaro's death, it's been excerpted on The Blood-Horse website; in fact, chapter 8, "Day of Despair" and a section entitled King of the Derby section are still available online.
The author of Saratoga Days, Clancy is a former jockey who, with his brother Joe, began publishing the popular Saratoga Special after retiring from racing. The Best of Saratoga Special , a collection of articles from the Special was published last year. (You can see my comments on the book at Racing Saratoga last summer.)
Clancy's book on Barbaro is due out April 5; he describes writing the book in an article at Blood-horse.com. I find his writing to be personal and engaging while offering up an insider's view of racing. Kind of like a really, really, really good blog.
Apparently, I'm not the only one to think that; he's now blogging the Triple Crown for Blood-horse. You can read his latest musings at The Inside Rail.
Quinella Castle collection development decision: Pre-order ... and subscribe to the blog.