Also published on this date: Dedicated Shelf for Friday, July 31, 2015

Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 31, 2015


Penguin Press: Strangers Drowning by Larissa Macfarquhar

Thomas Dunne Books: A Gift From Bob by James Bowen

Tarcher: Catify to Satisfy by Jackson Galaxy

Baen: The Sword of the South by David Weber

Disney: The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems

Workman: Dinner Solved by Katie Workman

Editors' Note

Quotation of the Day

Amazon 'Exerts a Dangerous Amount of Control'

Mary Rasenberger

"The fact is Amazon now virtually controls an important marketplace of information. That is not good for bookstores or for authors, and it is not good for democracy. We now have a single, corporate entity that exerts a dangerous amount of control over the channels of free expression that sustain our democracy. A corporation has never before in American history been allowed to monopolize an information or communications channel. The courts and the government never let that happen before, precisely because democracy relies on the free flow of expression and that requires a broad, diverse array of information sources. When the Associated Press, Turner Broadcasting, or Barnes & Noble threatened to dominate a single marketplace of information, the courts or a government agency intervened. It's important to see the big picture here, because this situation can easily be trivialized. We're not just talking about the price of an e-book. We're talking about interference with the marketplace of information and ideas, which is the engine of any democracy."

--Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild, in a q&a with Bookselling This Week about the organization's support for the Authors United letter.

Atria Books: The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie


Job Board would be here!


News

Digital Sales Decline at Hachette Book Group

E-book sales at Hachette Book Group continued to decline in the first half of 2015, according to comments made by Lagardère, parent company of Hachette, in announcing six-month results yesterday.

In the U.S., sales of digital books represented 24% of trade sales January-June this year, compared to 29% in the same period in 2014. The company, which noted that e-book sales had begun a slowdown in January 2014, attributed the decline to "a less successful slate of new releases and the implementation of the agreement with Amazon [which was reached after contentious negotiations last year]." In other comments, Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch said that the slowdown in e-book sales came "in part due to e-retailers no longer discounting many e-books at a loss."

Lagardère noted that the digital book slowdown "remains limited to English-speaking countries [where digital books boomed first] and to the general literature segment."

Overall, Hachette Book Group sales fell 7.8%, partly because of the decline in e-book sales as well as a strong period in the first half of 2014, when The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, Grain Brain by David Perlmutter and Kristin Loberg, I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt had high sales.

This year's successes so far, Pietsch said, have included "a Caldecott Medal for Dan Santat's Beekle and an Emmy Award for the audio of I Am Malala, shipping more than 2 million Minions books tying into the blockbuster movie, and hits like David Baldacci's Memory Man, James Patterson's The 14th Deadly Sin, Chris Colfer's The Land of Stories, Dana Perino's And the Good News Is… and Sandra Brown's Mean Streak.


Vellum: The Mind of the African Strongman by Herman Cohen


Patterson Grants Awarded to Indies in Australia, N.Z.

James Patterson

This week, James Patterson "made good on his promise" to donate $100,000 (about $72,730) to independent Australian and New Zealand booksellers to help them encourage children to read, the Sydney Morning Herald reported

"I have been delighted by how many people have applied for the grants and the caliber of the applications," said Patterson. "We have worked to identify bookshops for whom this money may make a real difference and for whom getting children reading is a real passion."

Lindfield Bookshop & Children's Bookshop was granted $2,000 (about $1,455) to print and distribute brochures of its favorite 20 children's picture books, fiction and YA titles; to donate some of these selected titles to local schools and offer discounts to parents to purchase. Owner Scott Whitmont, one of the booksellers who met with Patterson on his Australian tour in May, told the Morning Herald: "He is rolling in it because of the number of titles he puts out and, instead of sitting on his wealth, he is supporting independent booksellers because children who read are the future adults who read."

"We're really excited about seeing the grants being used through fantastic projects in local bookshops throughout Australia," said Joel Becker, CEO of the Australian Booksellers Association. "The applications showed tremendous creativity, passion and vision. For the very lucky--and worthy--grant recipients, James Patterson's generous donation will make a real difference to how they reach children and encourage them to read."

Lincoln Gould, CEO of Booksellers New Zealand, commented: "It is fantastic to see how New Zealand bookstores have reacted to this wonderfully generous offer by James Patterson with creative plans that can only encourage children to read. It is inspiring to see one of the oldest bookselling families in the country, Hedleys in Masterton, and one of the newest, the Wards from Wardini Books in Havelock North, among the winners. This alone demonstrates that bookshops in New Zealand are not only well entrenched in this country but are sustainable into the future, playing a vital role in reading development."


Harperelixer: Persephone Rising by Carol Pearson


Dog-Eared Books Opening in Campbellsville, Ky.

Dog-Eared Books, Campbellsville, Ky., will open in mid-August, with a grand opening slated for August 28. Owner T.J. Rayhill, a 19-year-old student at Campbellsville University, "is broadly supported by family, friends and members of his private Christian college community," Bookselling This Week reported.

In advance of the opening, Rayhill had "already begun operating the other two parts of his three-pronged business: direct sales of new books to customers within the local community and beyond through his website, which uses Ingram's services to deliver books on-demand, and a college textbook rental service, which also operates through his website and employs the online distributor Bookrenter.com to ship books anywhere in the country," BTW noted. The store will sell used books in its physical space, "in order to keep costs down and prices low, since the business is located in a relatively low-income area."


ABA: Staff Promotions, Tech Dept. Restructuring

The American Booksellers Association has promoted two staff members and is restructuring its technology department, Bookselling This Week reported.

"Given our growing reliance on technology, responsibilities for ABA's tech needs will be divided into two separate teams--one responsible for all of the association's general technology needs, the other for IndieCommerce," said CEO Oren Teicher.

Greg Galloway, currently marketing and content technology manager, is being promoted to technology director and will become a member of ABA's senior staff. He is responsible for managing all of the technological components of BookWeb.org, IndieBound.org, the Indie Bestseller Lists, the Book Buyers' Handbook, the registration sites for all ABA events, and the organization's member and consumer-facing campaigns, in addition to handling other general technology needs.  

Geetha Nathan, currently lead developer for IndieCommerce, is being promoted to manager of IndieCommerce. She joined ABA's staff in 2004 as a part-time junior developer for BookSense.com. In her new role, Nathan's responsibilities have expanded to include the business side, as well as the technological side, of IndieCommerce operations.


NEH Offers $1.7 Million for Nonfiction Books

The National Endowment for the Humanities has announced $1.7 million in grants to enable the publication of 36 nonfiction books "that will bring important humanities scholarship into book clubs and onto bestseller lists." These are the first awards made under NEH's new Public Scholar grant program, which was created as part of the Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square initiative.

"NEH Public Scholar books will make important and exciting discoveries in fields such as history, literature, linguistics, and archaeology accessible to readers everywhere, and serve as an example of how humanities scholarship can benefit the common good," said NEH chairman William Adams.

The Public Scholar awards support books "that use deep research to open up important or appealing subjects for wider audiences by presenting significant humanities topics in a way that is accessible to general readers." The grant program offers a stipend of $4,200 per month for a period of six to 12 months (with a maximum of $50,400 for a 12-month period) to researchers, independent scholars and individuals associated with scholarly institutions. For this first round of the competition, applicants were required to have previously published a book with a university or commercial press, or articles and essays that reached a wide readership. Check here for the full list of projects.


Memorial Service for Scott Meyer Set for Sunday

A memorial service for Scott Meyer, owner of Merritt Bookstore, Millbrook, N.Y., who died July 19, will be held at the Millbrook School Chapel, 1 p.m., this Sunday, August 2, followed by a reception at Charlotte's Restaurant, to which everyone is welcome. As a long-standing member of Grace Episcopal Church in Millbrook, Scott had asked in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Grace Church, P.O. Box 366, Millbrook, N.Y. 12545. Donations will be used toward programs in youth ministries.


Notes

Image of the Day: Happy Birthday, Penguin!

Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, N.C., posted this image on Twitter yesterday, with this message: 

"Happy Anniversary, Penguin! The outside and inside of our window are all yours."

Shelf Awareness joins in congratulating our friends at Penguin; watch for our special issue dedicated to the celebration later this morning.


Cool Idea of the Day: Tattered Cover Helps Girl Scout

Cassidy Klein with Tattered Cover manager Katelin Ross. (photo: Anya Semenoff, YourHub)

Since June 1, Cassidy Klein, 17, a Girl Scout from Highlands Ranch, Colo., has been "lobbying family, friends, fellow Girl Scouts and others to drop off donated children's books at the Tattered Cover Book Store location in Littleton's Aspen Grove Lifestyle Center," the Denver Post reported.

Thus far, she has collected more than 1,000 books for what she describes as a "fruitful and up-to-date" library for the kids who live at Joshua Station transformational housing facility.

"I have always loved books. I have always had a passion for reading and writing and that is something I wanted to share with kids who don't have access to places like the Highlands Ranch Library, which is amazing and has all these great books," Klein said. "It's been mind-blowing so far. I never expected people to be this generous."

Tattered Cover is donating one new book for every 10 new or used children's books that donors leave at the store. "We love that someone is advocating for these young people," said manager Katelin Ross. "We are in full support of Cassidy. She has done a lot of work."


Personnel Changes at Running Press

Kathleen Schmidt

Effective August 10, Kathleen Schmidt is joining Running Press as v-p, director of marketing and publicity. She has been publicity director for Weinstein Books, a joint venture of Perseus Books Group and the Weinstein Company, and handles corporate communication for Perseus, which owns Running Press. She will continue to handle Perseus corporate communications. Before joining Weinstein Books in 2013, she ran KMS Public Relations, an independent freelance publicity firm, and earlier was v-p and director of publicity at Atria Books, director of publicity at Dutton and Gotham Books and a publicist at Pocket Books.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Bernadette Peters on Today

This morning on Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda: Bernadette Peters, author of Stella and Charlie, Friends Forever (Blue Apple Books, $17.99, 9781609055356).

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Tomorrow on NPR's Weekend Edition: Nick Tosches, author of Under Tiberius (Little, Brown, $26, 9780316405669).

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Tomorrow on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered: Charles Johnson, author of Middle Passage (Scribner, $25, 9781501110528).

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Tomorrow on NPR's Splendid Table: Jimmy Carter, author of A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781501115639).


On Stage: Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet

Benedict Cumberbatch will play the lead role in Shakespeare's Hamlet during a 12-week run from August 5 to October 31 at the Barbican theater in London. The New York Times reported that the production, directed by Lyndsey Turner, "is easily the most anticipated event of the London theatrical season."

Lead producer Sonia Friedman said she believed it was the fastest-selling play in British history, with advance seats going within hours. "I hope that, for those that have never seen Shakespeare, it will be really rock-and-roll, and really exciting, and that they’ll understand that Shakespeare is as easy to understand as a television show or a blockbuster movie."

Though internationally famous for his TV and film roles (Sherlock, The Imitation Game), Cumberbatch "is no stranger to the stage--his most recent roles were in After the Dance and Frankenstein at the National Theater," the Times noted.


Movie Trailers: Room; The 33

An official teaser trailer has been released for the film adaptation of Emma Donoghue's bestselling novel Room. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson, the movie stars Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen and William H. Macy. Room will hit theaters this fall.

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A new U.S. Trailer is out for The 33, based on Héctor Tobar's book Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free. Directed by Patricia Riggen, the film stars Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, Lou Diamond Phillips, Rodrigo Santoro, Gabriel Byrne, Juan Pablo Raba and Kate del Castillo, Indiewire reported. It opens November 13.


Books & Authors

Awards: Edna Staebler for Creative Nonfiction Shortlist

The shortlist has been announced for the $10,000 (about $7,680) Edna Staebler Award for Creative Nonfiction, which "honors fantastic works of the genre that include a particularly Canadian significance or setting," Quillblog reported. The winner will be named in early September. The shortlisted titles are:

Writing with Grace: A Journey Beyond Down Syndrome by Judy McFarlane
Forgiveness: A Gift From My Grandparents by Mark Sakamoto
Birding With Yeats by Lynn Thomson


Book Brahmin: Matthew Battles

Matthew Battles is associate director of metaLAB at Harvard and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. He has written about the cultural dimensions of art, literature, science and technology for the American Scholar, the Atlantic, the Boston GlobeHarper's magazine and the New York Times. Battles has published extensively on the history and changing roles of libraries in culture. His book Library: An Unquiet History (Norton 2003) is appearing in a new edition this month, along with Palimpsest: A History of the Written Word (Norton, July 27, 2015), a cultural history of writing.

On your nightstand now:

This makes for an embarrassing start: I have a pair of 18-inch-tall piles of books on my nightstand, bracketing the lamp. They're so tall they hide the lamp, so that it's nearly too dark to read. Active titles include Don DeLillo's Underworld, Open Sky by Paul Virilio, A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History by Manuel De Landa, The Mara Crossing by poet Ruth Padel and Hugh Raffles's remarkable Insectopedia, a surprising, sensitive exploration of intersections between human and insect realms.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The World Book Encyclopedia. It was the 1959 edition, already 10 years old when I was born, and it was Internet enough for 11-year-old me.

Your top five authors:

Jorge Luis Borges, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson and Tove Jansson.

Book you've faked reading:

Swann's Way--if the fake-read-novel is a genre, then Marcel Proust's work is its locus classicus.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I'll mention three: The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford, with mesmerizing descriptions of natural scenes and a story that tenderly, savagely turns on the broken love of a brother and sister; Tove Jansson's The True Deceiver, a short novel for adults by the creator of the Moomintroll series of children's books; and J.A. Baker's The Peregrine, an account of natural-history observation which elides distinctions between narrator and nature. All three are published by New York Review Books, which makes me an NYRB evangelist as well.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I recently picked up in the library a 1937 Penguin edition of The Worst Journey in the World, Apsley Cherry-Garrard's account of the ill-fated Scott expedition to Antarctica in 1912. I love the nonchalance of the little dancing penguin on the cover--the Antarctic creature at home in a place of such debilitating difficulty for human beings. I didn't buy it--I'm happy to take it out of the library. But I would buy it for the cover alone; the penguin abides....

Book that changed your life:

Jorge Luis Borges's Ficciones showed me how to do what I do as a writer (though I could never do it half as well).

Favorite line from a book:

"A Letter is a Joy of Earth/ It is denied the Gods." That's Emily Dickinson, a line she included in several letters, which ended up published as a poem. She reminds us how literature unfolds in time, the stream in which we're all swept up. Mortality and temporality that limit us, but also make things like letters and books delicious.

Which character you most relate to:

Melville's Ishmael--I sense the sort of "loomings" the narrator of Moby Dick feels, and like Ishmael I seem to find myself at once in the midst of things yet looking in as if from outside or down from above, to watch, wonder and comment.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

I'd like to read Gawain and the Green Knight, not as a scholarly project in decoding Middle English, but as a reader for whom it's a living text--to read it as its first reader, I suppose!


Book Review

Review: Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books

Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books by Michael Dirda (Pegasus Books, $24.95 hardcover, 9781605988443, August 15, 2015)

In February 2012, longtime Washington Post book critic Michael Dirda (Classics for Pleasure) replaced the legendary William Zinsser as weekly columnist for the American Scholar website. The 52 pieces collected in Browsings, which are the product of that assignment, shine with Dirda's passion for books, both as a reader and a collector, and are certain to delight any bibliophile.

In the self-deprecating tone that is his default style, Dirda characterizes these brief essays as the "meandering reflections of a literary sybarite." More accurately, they reveal the mind of a critic with an astonishing breadth of literary knowledge and a talent for sharing that learning in accessible, often humorous, prose. There are pieces on the differences between anthologies ("dating") and collections ("serial monogamy"), the lifelong allure of the books we read in childhood, writing implements and writer's block. He describes the books by his bedside, one of many lists that in total run into the hundreds of titles. On occasion, Dirda strays from purely bookish topics to relate an unfortunate Rocky Mountain hiking experience or offer his opinions on gun control in the wake of the Aurora movie theater massacre.

Several of the essays describe Dirda's frequent forays into the world of book buying. One of the most entertaining recounts a Saturday excursion from his home in Silver Spring to Frederick, Md., to escape the ordeal of a weeklong midsummer power outage. After tallying his impressive catalogue of purchases, his admission that "my wallet was certainly lighter than when I arrived, but then so was my heart," is a sentiment that will be familiar to any book lover. "Of course, I always feel happy in libraries in bookstores. They restoreth my soul," he confesses. Given Dirda's reverence for books, the religious tone of that comment is no coincidence.

Dirda owns a Ph.D. in comparative literature, but his literary preferences have a decidedly non-academic flavor. His current enthusiasms run to "science fiction, fantasy, mysteries and adventure stories written between roughly 1865 and 1935." The authors and titles he discusses from that period won't be well known to most readers, and while there probably is more on those subjects than some may prefer, Dirda's sheer delight in the products of this literary era is infectious.

"We read for aesthetic, emotional and intellectual excitement," Dirda writes, and he insists, more than anything, that "reading should be a pleasure." Anyone with even a modest affinity for books is sure to close this one with a renewed enthusiasm for finding the next absorbing title. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Book critic Michael Dirda offers a diverse collection of essays on the myriad pleasures books bring to his life and ours.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Boss Life & the Bookseller

I have never lived the "boss life," so reading Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business (Blue Rider Press, August 4) was revelatory. The memoir offers an intriguing behind-the-scenes look at one challenging year (2012) in the professional and personal life of Paul Downs, an independent furniture designer and manufacturer who opened his business in 1987. There is fierce honesty here, as he chronicles the day-to-day challenges faced by a gifted craftsman who has had to learn how to be boss, small businessman, salesman, accountant and much more, with varying degrees of success.

Rebecca Fitting, co-owner (with Jessica Stockton Bagnulo) of Brooklyn's Greenlight Bookstore, offered early praise for Boss Life and Downs, whom she began reading years ago when he wrote for the New York Times' You're the Boss blog.

Recalling those columns, Fitting said, "I was heading into my first time being an employer (not just a manager), and they informed my overall philosophical thoughts about what kind of employer I wanted to be. He is a good employer. I would read his blog, and it would help me frame the conversations Jessica and I would have about Greenlight's infrastructure. The way that Downs writes about his employees is incredibly profound to me. He is also so self-effacing about not knowing some things, and about how that's totally okay. I'm very much a self-taught person, and his openness about ongoing learning in his business life, whether it was about HR, cost of goods or equipment purchase decisions was very comforting and reassuring."

Fitting has enjoyed "reading his book as we navigate our internal reorganization and growing pains. I read him back then as he was just starting to blog and as I was just starting to become a small business owner. Now I'm reading him again, as he's graduated to being an author and I've become a more seasoned entrepreneur. I find his ways of thinking through business challenges just as interesting and just as accessible as I did back then, but I read him now from a different perspective. I think this speaks well for the reception his book should have."

Downs told me he "wanted to tell a story that hasn't been shared before. Business journalism is almost entirely advice, not acknowledgment that the experience of business is, for both boss and worker, often difficult and confusing."

Being a boss, he observed, is "like night driving, but the car is moving at high speed and the headlights are pointing backward, while animals of various size jump into the road. The most difficult task in small business is figuring out what's going to happen next. All of your data is being collected on things that have already happened. You can expect similar results from repeated actions, but the situation at any given moment is subject to so many complex, interacting factors, with a few new ones thrown in, that there is no way to be certain what the future holds."

One of many revelations in Boss Life is his unsparing, sometimes humbling and often suspenseful account of the roller-coaster ride inherent in the "numbers game," as Downs pores over spreadsheets trying to make the figures work for another week, another month. He also shares those numbers with his staff. "I think it's incredibly important," he said. "I've found that, in the absence of accurate information from the boss, employees make up their own 'facts' about any given situation. When it comes to money, most employees think that the boss is taking home a lot more than they probably are. Giving my people a better idea of where the money is going has helped them to understand how the company is actually performing, and how their own actions affect that."

For Fitting, the "boss life" experience has come "a bit full circle now. Greenlight turns six this fall and we're in a place where we need to reinvent our infrastructure again to adjust to the change in our marketplace, and (thankfully) to adjust for growth. We're creating new positions, we're (yet again) considering how health insurance may or may not fit into the mix, and as there's all this national talk about the minimum wage and the fast food minimum wage, Jessica and I are having a lot of conversations about what kind of employer we want to be in terms of how we pay our staff. It's such a difficult balance--to be an employer that pays at a living wage but to also be a retailer in a set cost industry, and these are not light decisions."

Change, as the saying goes, is the only constant. Downs said there are two narrative arcs in Boss Life: "The first is the unbelievable transformation of the economy from the 1980s to now. When I opened my doors, the phone answering machine was cutting-edge technology. Now look at the world we live in. The second is my own maturation from tyro to adult, both in business and in my personal life, including a surprising opportunity to add a second line to my résumé: writer. That's been entirely unexpected, but a terrific experience (so far!)."

Fitting agreed: "I'm so, so proud that Greenlight is hosting Paul Downs for his book. Personally this is one of the events I'm most excited about on our calendar. Downs has no idea how much he informed Greenlight at the outset, and to host him in our store next week... it's a bit of a moment for me." --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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