Shelf Awareness for Thursday, May 29, 2014

Gotham: Beijing Bastard by Val Wang

St. Martin's: Undeniable by Bill Nye

Ballantine: The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

Tantor Audio: Fog Island Mountains by Michelle Bailat-Jones

St. Martin's: The Art of Not Having It All by Melissa Kite

Bloomsbury: Unbored Games by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen

Berkley: Captivated By You by Sylvia Day

Algonquin: Descent by Tim Johnston

 

News

Hachette Responds to Amazon's Statement

Yesterday, Hachette Book Group issued a public response to Amazon's post on Kindle Forum on Tuesday night about the dispute between the two companies centering on Amazon's desire for better terms and Amazon's actions to limit the sale of Hachette titles:

"It is good to see Amazon acknowledge that its business decisions significantly affect authors' lives. For reasons of their own, Amazon has limited its customers' ability to buy more than 5,000 Hachette titles.

"Authors, with whom we at Hachette have been partners for nearly two centuries, engage in a complex and difficult mission to communicate with readers. In addition to royalties, they are concerned with audience, career, culture, education, art, entertainment, and connection. By preventing its customers from connecting with these authors' books, Amazon indicates that it considers books to be like any other consumer good. They are not.

"We will spare no effort to resume normal business relations with Amazon--which has been a great partner for years--but under terms that value appropriately for the years ahead the author's unique role in creating books, and the publisher's role in editing, marketing, and distributing them, at the same time that it recognizes Amazon's importance as a retailer and innovator. Once we have reached such an agreement, we will be happy to discuss with Amazon its ideas about compensating authors for the damage its demand for improved terms may have done them, and to pass along any payments it considers appropriate.  
 
"In the meantime, we are extremely grateful for the spontaneous outpouring of support we have received both privately and publicly from authors and agents. We will continue to communicate with them promptly as this situation develops."

Grove Atlantic: H Is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald

#BEA14: Pictures from an Exhibition

On Wednesday, there was plenty going on at the Javits Center. Along with a full day of educational programming (which we'll report on in the coming days), the IDPF Digital Book conference, the Audio Publishers Association conference and the BEA Bloggers conference also took place. And publishers were hard at work assembling their booths for the opening of the show floor tomorrow morning.

Yesterday, at McGraw-Hill's offices, a sellout crowd of librarians gathered for the SLJ Day of Dialog (#sljdod14). Middle Grade Fiction Diversity panelists (l. to r.) Kat Yeh (The Truth About Twinkie Pie); Coe Booth (Kinda Like Brothers); Brenda Woods (The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond); Raul Gonzalez (illustrator of Lowriders in Space); moderator Allie Bruce, children's librarian at Bank Street College of Education; and Kwame Alexander (The Crossover).

 

The 20th annual Children's Book Art Auction and reception, held last night at the Javits Center, featured not only the artwork--whose proceeds benefit ABFFE (the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression)--but also the inaugural Slushpile Family Circus. Here Michael Buckley (The Sisters Grimm; N.E.R.D.S.) covers Lionel Richie's "Hello" while (l. to r.) Tom Angleberger (Origami Yoda), Phil Bildner (The Soccer Fence) and Gareth Hinds (Romeo and Juliet; The Odyssey) juggle to the beat. [photo: Shannon Hale]

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's: Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

#BEA14: James Patterson Distributes Another $268K

Demonstrating how simple it is to do something to raise awareness about independent bookstores, author James Patterson began and ended yesterday's panel "Helping Bookstores, Saving Lives: James Patterson's 1M Indie Store Campaign" by addressing the cameras filming the event for Book TV and saying, "If you're watching on C-Span, when show is over, I want you to go out to an independent bookstore and buy some books."

Mitchell Kaplan, James Patterson, Karen West, David Shallenberger

During the session, moderated by Mitchell Kaplan of Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla., Patterson announced the second round of winners--he prefers to call them "doers"--of the total of $1 million that he is giving to independent bookstores this year. (Recipients were able to pick up checks at the end of the session.) He also said when the full $1 million is fully disbursed, "if there's more need," he'll give away another $1 million.

Patterson emphasized that at the root of his various literacy and reading campaigns is his desire to promote reading to children, especially at-risk kids, because "if a child doesn't read competently by eighth grade, how will they make through high school?"

In a similar vein, he is promoting independent bookstores because "it's so important we have bookstores in this country where people can go and talk about books and find out about books," he said. "We're in period where that's being threatened. We're not thinking about it as much as we should and doing what we should."

Altogether this year, some 98 stores have received grants and $535,000 has been disbursed. Patterson urged booksellers to apply for grants, saying that the process "couldn't be simpler. All you have to do is write a page or half a page about what you want to do." Stores need to be established bookstores and have a children's section.

Kim Ward Storch (r.) of Ugly Dog Books receives a Patterson check from Hachette's Sabrina Benun.

During the panel, grateful booksellers described how they used their grants. With its money, Book Passage, with stores in Corte Madera and San Francisco, Calif., bought a van to use for doing book fairs and other events, said Karen West, director of events and conferences. This meant the store no longer had to rent expensive, "big, ugly, scraped-up" vans. Book Passage also bought a new sound system--"like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey"--to replace its "dilapidated old sound system from a '70s Bay Area band." The new system has "made a huge difference in how we present in the store," West said. "We can fit in more kids and safely."

Little Shop of Stories, Decatur, Ga., also bought a mode of transportation: a used school bus that it is thoroughly renovating, including adding an awning for "shaded story times," said co-owner David Shallenberger. The store will use the bus primarily for bringing authors to stores and story times.

Books & Books, which makes a big effort to take authors to schools, is using its Patterson money to buy books for students who can't afford to buy the book of authors appearing at their schools and in some cases, has left books for the libraries in those schools. "It's made a world of difference," said Mitchell Kaplan. "We get letters from kids and schools thanking us and Mr. Patterson. It makes kids feel empowered."

Appreciative grant recipients in the audience also spoke about effective the grants had been, not only at the specific use they were intended for but also in garnering publicity for the store and independent bookstores in general. Two non-bookstore recipients also offered their thanks: Hut Landon, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, spoke for California Bookstore Day, which used its large grant to publicize the May 3 event; and ABA CEO Oren Teicher, who said that some of the grant money went to help with the Children's Winter Institute in March. --John Mutter

Here are the stores that have received money in the second round of Patterson grants:

Annie Bloom's Books, Portland, Ore.

Astoria Bookshop,
Queens, N.Y.

Bank Square Books,
Mystic, Conn.

bbgb, Richmond, Va.

Bookends,
Ridgewood, N.J.

Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y.

Book Seller,
Grass Valley, Calif.

Bookworm of Edwards, Edwards, Colo.

Carmichael's,
Louisville, Ky.

Changing Hands Bookstore,
Tempe, Ariz.

Chaucer's Bookstore,
Santa Barbara, Calif.

Children's Book Cellar, Waterville, Maine

Community Bookstore, Brooklyn , N.Y.

Country Bookshelf,
Bozeman, Mont.

The Country Bookseller,
Wolfeboro, N.H.

Diesel Books,
Santa Monica, Calif.

Dog Ears Bookstore,
Buffalo, N.Y.

Forest Books,
Locust Valley, N.Y.

Fundamentals Children's Books, Delaware, Ohio

G.J. Ford Bookshop,
St. Simons Island, Ga.

Green Apple Books,
San Francisco, Calif.

King's English,
Salt Lake City, Utah

Lemuria Book Store,
Jackson, Miss.

Magers & Quinn Booksellers,
Minneapolis, Minn.

Magic Tree Bookstore,
Oak Park, Ill.

Moe's Books,
Berkeley, Calif.

Murder by the Book,
Houston, Tex.

Mystery to Me,
Madison, Wis.

Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt.

Off the Beaten Path Bookstore,
Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Off the Beaten Path Bookstore,
Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Petunia's Place, a Children's Bookshop,
Fresno, Calif.

Prince Books,
Norfolk, Va.

Quail Ridge Books & Music, Raleigh, N.C.

R.J. Julia Booksellers,
Madison, Conn.

Seattle Mystery Bookshop,
Seattle, Wash

Sundance Bookstore,
Reno, Nev.

Talking Leaves Books,
Buffalo, N.Y.

Storybook Garden,
Weslaco, Tex

Ugly Dog Books,
Attleboro, Mass.

Vero Beach Book Center,
Vero Beach, Fla.

Village Books,
Bellingham, Wash.

Vroman's Bookstore,
Pasadena, Calif.

Watchung Booksellers,
Montclair, N.J.

Cambridge University Press: The Letters of Samuel Beckett Vol 3

#BEA14: Editor's Buzz Panel

Moderator Robert Sindelar, managing partner of Third Place Books, Ravenna and Lake Forest Park, Wash., began Wednesday's buzz panel with two admissions: one of the things he likes best about BEA is this chance to hear from industry insiders about books that could "turn into something meaningful in my life,"and he really isn't a fan of the word "buzz." But as he prepped for this panel and started to think about how bees work together toward a single goal, and the intoxicating experience when he reads a book he just cannot stop talking about, he changed his mind. "I came to BEA intoxicated," he said, "and that's what we're here to do--to get you buzzed."

Jenny Jackson, senor editor at Knopf, started off the session by observing that the typical book discovery chain--editor excites sales reps who then excite booksellers--happened in reverse when it came to Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Sept.). Indie booksellers loved Mandel's previous work, published by Unbridled Books, and it was a Knopf rep in Milwaukee who first told Jackson that she had to read Mandel.

In writing Station Eleven, which opens with the collapse of an actor during a performance of King Lear and an illness that devastates civilization, and then jumps back and forth in time to a future where the importance of art is just one of the many facets of society called into question, Jackson said, the author offers a requiem for the world as we know it. "I felt utterly changed by this," Jackson said. "What more can we ask from fiction?'

Marysue Rucci, editor-in-chief at Simon & Schuster, began her presentation of Matthew Thomas's debut, We Are Not Ourselves  (Sept.), by reading bookseller comments that compared it to A Map of the World, One Hundred Years of Solitude and The Story of Edward Sawtelle. She shared how Thomas put two other novels in a drawer to concentrate 10 years on We Are Not Ourselves, while living in a one-bedroom apartment with his wife and twins. The book spans six decades of Eileen Leary's life--squirreling away money from her nurse's salary and dreaming of something bigger for herself and her family; it's a story "about the unwinding of the American middle class," said the editor. As a colleague noted, Rucci said, how a reader connects with this book will tell you something about their home. "I hope you will find your home in it and let me know where it is," she said.

Ecco's Lee Boudreaux told attendees that The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (Aug.) was bought in a "feverish preempt" in which all three imprints at HarperCollins competed, and has sold in 30 countries. It opens with one of her favorite scenes in literature: a young wife knocks on the door of the Amsterdam home of the older merchant she is to wed and is greeted by her severe soon-to-be sister-in-law. The husband buys the wife a cabinet house--a model of her home--and a mysterious miniaturist supplies her with furnishings for it--but do they depict her past or foretell her future? Boudreaux compared this debut to Elizabeth Gilbert's sprawling historical novel The Signature of All Things. "I think you are going to read the book in one sitting," said the editor.

Having the name Shotts was perfect for working on the book he presented, quipped Graywolf's Jeff Shotts: On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss (coming in late September--just in time for flu season). Booksellers know Biss from her 2009 NBCC award-winner, Notes from No Man's Land. On Immunity, Shotts said, is rightfully earning the author comparisons to Joan Didion and Susan Sontag. With polio, measles, mumps and other once-thought-eradicated diseases reemerging, Shotts said, "the ramifications reach much further than the apparent subject at hand." Shotts said that Biss, who was expecting her first child as she embarked on this heavily researched work, with On Immunity emerges as "one of our true public intellectuals." And while it might sound off track, he claimed it is also Graywolf's "first vampire book" because the history of Bram Stoker's Dracula and the bizarre development of inoculation run through it. "The idea that pus from a sick cow can be scraped on a person to make them immune from disease is almost as unbelievable now as it was in 1796," he said.

Amy Einhorn had no cover image to show yet for the January 2015 debut My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh. Einhorn said this very Southern novel had the self-described Jewish girl from New Jersey feeling right at home with the details of the story, set in Baton Rouge. On the opening page the reader learns "there are four suspects in the rape of Lindy Simpson" and the narrator is one of them. This literary page-turner is not about rape, Einhorn said, but about a loss of innocence for the victim, the 14-year-old boy who loves her and a man looking for absolution, among many other things. "M.O. Walsh shows us that the moments that affect us most as adults are not the moments we would predict," said Einhorn. "He examines memory--what we choose to remember and what we choose not to see."

While so much of BEA buzz is about new voices, Joshua Kendall, editorial director at Mulholland Books, said his task in talking about Neverhome by Laird Hunt (who has won awards for some of his six previous novels) was to "make the case for the not-so-new guy." And as much as he liked Hunt's work before, Kendall said, nothing prepared him for reading the manuscript of Neverhome, which he recognized immediately as a "break-out book."

"I was strong and he was not," Neverhome opens, "so it was me went to war to defend the Republic." Calling herself Ash and disguised as a man, a farmwife goes to war; Kendall said the reader wonders why she takes her husband's place, if she will return, and why she is telling this story. Comparison to novels like Cold Mountain are inevitable, he said, but when you read Hunt's book, Ash's is the only voice the reader will hear. "Nevermore is her confession," said Kendall. "It begins with a lie and it ends with a revelation of truth."

Wrapping up the buzz panel, Scribner's Colin Harrison talked about The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs (Sept.), written by the Yale roommate of a black man who grew up in Newark with a single mom and a dad serving time for a double murder. Peace returned home to teach in a public school but got sucked into marijuana dealing and was brutally murdered. Harrison said readers will come to feel they know Robert Peace, and will question of how much of his path was of his own making. "The effect is devastating," said Harrison, "and impossible to forget." Hobbs told his editor that he wrote the book after hearing about his friend being gunned down because he did not want it to become a simplistic story about race and socioeconomic factors, and he did not want it to be forgotten.

Every season, Harrison pointed out, brings books that, with a little effort and luck, become something readers will never forget. And that is an idea that is intoxicating to both editors and booksellers. --Bridget Kinsella

Tor: Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp

#BEA14: The Future of Bricks-and-Mortar Retailers

"The first thing and most important thing I can say about independent retail and the book business is that not only are we still here, there are more of us here, and the resurgence of independent bookselling is real," said Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, at the keynote panel discussion yesterday at BEA.

Moderator Dominique Raccah, with panelists
Michael Tamblyn, John Ingram, Oren Teicher, Joyce Meskis and Mike Hasselbach.

The panel, entitled "The Future of Bricks and Mortar Retailers," was moderated by Dominique Raccah, publisher and CEO of Sourcebooks, and featured, besides Teicher, Michael Tamblyn, president and chief content officer of Kobo; John R. Ingram, chairman and CEO of Ingram Content Group; Joyce Meskis, owner of Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, Colo.; and Mike Hesselbach, executive v-p and chief marketing officer at Readerlink Distribution Services.

Raccah began by asking the panelists what retailers are doing to enhance the in-store shopping experience. Teicher answered that indie bookstores are seeing a resurgence because they're cultivating compelling experiences that customers cannot find elsewhere. He went on to report that for the first year since 2005, ABA members are operating in more than 2,000 locations across the country and bemoaned the popular narrative that "often attaches the word 'beleaguered' to independent stores" when independent bookstores are in fact "alive and well."

Meskis agreed that there "certainly is a resurgence of spirit in the independent community." And the e-book phenomenon, she asserted, has leveled out--customers are back in stores to have experiences they know and love that cannot be replicated digitally. Tamblyn, whose company partners with the ABA and other bricks-and-mortar retailers around the world, said that despite the myriad improvements made to e-readers and e-books over the past years, browsing--"the lateral and random walk through a store that so many of us do"--remains almost entirely a physical retail experience. Hesselbach said that his company, which distributes books for retailers such as grocery stores, department stores and big-box stores, is "a little bit jealous" of bookstores because customers who come into those stores are there specifically to buy and to look at books. Readerlink's challenge, by contrast, is to sell books to consumers who, in most cases, "are not coming in to buy books." To that end, it has experimented with a variety of ways to draw customers' attention to book departments as quickly as possible. Ingram, meanwhile, said the core problem facing physical retailers has to do with innovation. Booksellers, he said, can't keep doing what they've always been doing and remain successful--they have to work constantly to engage their communities and stay relevant.

Concerning community, Meskis discussed the importance of events and local outreach. Among the countless programs run by indies across the country, she recounted, are summer camps, writing workshops, story times, author events, podcasts, book clubs, happy hours, book festivals and library and school partnerships. Tattered Cover alone runs between 500 and 600 events each year. Meskis also advised booksellers to form relationships with local media. Whether in a small town or much larger community, media outlets are looking for stories all the time. "You can be part of that story that they need," Meskis urged.

Teicher stated that the localism movement in the U.S. has "changed everything," and not just for bookstores: the interconnection of local businesses builds communities, and millions of customers every day make the decision to spend their dollars in local businesses. "The data always shows," Teicher declared, "if you shop in one independent business, you're more likely to shop in another independent business."

Asked about integrating digital books into physical bookstores, Tamblyn said that it was important to look at what areas e-books excel in and in what areas they falter. By choosing to leave the bulk of certain genres (such as romance, science fiction, fantasy or mystery, which all see very brisk electronic sales) in digital, retailers could free up some extremely valuable shelf space. Instead of trying to keep "every [romance] series ever written" in stock, he said, booksellers could be much more curatorial and selective with the space and the books that they do have. It would, however, require very clear and deliberate messaging to be effective.

The panelists agreed that bundling physical and digital books could be a valuable asset to retailers, but so far the ideal model has not been found. Teicher acknowledged the difficulties that booksellers have had in getting customers to think of their stores as places to buy digital content. Ingram said physical retailers need to address the issue of bundling effectively.

"Somewhere in there are economics that work for everybody," Ingram said, imploring publishers and booksellers to experiment with bundles. "I would hate it if only one player figured that out."

As for merchandising, Hesselbach noted his departments' unusual challenge. Book departments in drug stores and warehouse stores, for instance, are competing with thousands of items and with other departments in those very same stores. Since the proliferation of e-books, Hesselbach has seen declines in the total amount of space given to book departments, increases in the amounts of hardcover and paperback bestsellers, along with movie tie-ins, that are kept in stock, and huge cut backs in selections of mass market titles. The latter change, he confessed, he didn't see coming: given the low price point of mass market books, Hesselbach had thought they were relatively safe. A major bright spot in the last few years, though, has been the growth in children's book sales. 
The obvious winner for us, in our market, is kid's," Hesselbach said, and children's books is where he sees the real room for growth. "We do 66% more business [in children's books] today than we did five years ago."

Raccah's last question was about innovation. She asked the panelists for examples of retailers doing new and exciting things in their stores, and where panelists think booksellers can go in the future.

"When I think about independent bookstores and what's possible, one of the great untapped things for me is that each one of you could be a publisher," said Ingram. "Each one of you is really strong in a local market or in some area of a local market.... Just seems to me that that's a great untapped opportunity."

John Ingram, by the way, won this year's Ambassador Award. BEA show director Steve Rosato praised Ingram for his "ability for taking the long view without compromising the details" in making the Ingram Content Group a true full service industry force. "BEA is not merely an event; it's part of the family fabric," said Ingram, who observed that BEA is a meeting place for so much innovation and creativity "to keeps our industry moving forward and to keep our independent bookseller segment vibrant."

Teicher and Meskis both touched on booksellers' continually evolving relationships with publishers. Meskis pointed in particular to the possibility of experimenting with guaranteed margins, and said that more work has to be done in order to "keep us all in business and healthy."

And lastly, to a round of applause, Teicher declared that what booksellers want to do is "make books from all publishers equally available all the time." --Alex Mutter

Willow Books & Cafe, Acton, Mass., for Sale

Willow Books and Café, Acton, Mass., which was founded by David Didriksen 18 years ago, is for sale.

"It has taken me quite a while to reach this point and to know it is the right time," Didriksen said. "But my music career has become quite busy and fulfilling in the last few years and, as I reach retirement age, I find I can't do everything. I'm not even the key to the store anymore--my staff is. So now is the perfect time to transition to a new owner who will bring the same passion for bookselling which has always been the hallmark of the store."

Named "Retailer of the Year" by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts in 2004, Willow Books and Café is "a healthy and vibrant business," Didriksen said. "The staff, including store management, a buyer and booksellers, is experienced and in tune with the industry. The 10,000 square foot store is in excellent shape and sizable enough to offer a range of merchandise and host larger events."

Willow Books and Café is represented by Walter Huskins of Ridge Hill Partners, a boutique merger and acquisition intermediary firm in Needham, Mass., that has represented other Boston-area independent book stores that were sold in recent years, including Harvard Book Store, Porter Square Books, Wellesley Booksmith and New England Mobile Book Fair.

Binc Foundation Awards $198,500 in Scholarships

The Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation has selected the winners of its 2014 Higher Education Scholarship Program, awarding a total of $198,500 in scholarships to eligible current bookstore employees/owners and their dependents, as well as former Borders Group employees and their dependents. The program awarded two scholarships for $10,000 and 51 scholarships for $3,500. For a list of winners and other information, click here.

The awards may be used for tuition, fees, books, supplies and room and board. Funds may also be used over consecutive years if the student is not able to use the entire award for the 2014-2015 academic year.

"We are thrilled to continue to provide scholarships to bookstore employees and their dependents, especially given the challenges of funding a college education," said Binc executive director Pam French. "Once again the candidates, from across the country, were impressive. We are proud and fortunate to help 53 of them achieve their educational dreams."

Information about how booksellers can apply for the 2015 Scholarship Program will be released in spring 2015. 

Kirkus Reviews Founds $150,000 Kirkus Prizes

Kirkus Reviews has founded the Kirkus Prize, which consists of three awards--each with a prize of $50,000--honoring "outstanding writing by authors whose books have earned the Kirkus Star in the categories of fiction, nonfiction and young readers' literature."

For the first round, all books with publication dates between October 1, 2013, and September 30, 2014, that received a Kirkus Star are automatically nominated for the prize. Panels of three judges--a writer, a bookseller or librarian and a Kirkus critic--will select finalists and winners. Six finalists in each category will be announced on September 30, and the three winners will be announced at a ceremony in Austin, Tex., on October 23. Some 800-1,000 books annually receive Kirkus Stars, including self-published titles in Kirkus Reviews' indie section.

Marc Winkelman, president and publisher of Kirkus Media, commented: "Since relaunching Kirkus Reviews in 2010, the company has enjoyed tremendous growth. Everyone at Kirkus feels a deep responsibility to our readers and the publishing industry; this prize is a symbol of that commitment."

Claiborne Smith, editor-in-chief of Kirkus Reviews, said: "At a moment when the publishing industry is rebounding from the recession and adapting to the many changes thrust upon it, we wanted to create the Kirkus Prize to put a spotlight on writers who remind all of us why we got into publishing in the first place."

Indigo Fiscal Year: Revenues Down 1.3% and a Net Loss

For the fiscal year ended March 29, revenue at Indigo Books & Music fell 1.3%, to C$868 million (about US$799 million), and the company had a net loss of $31 million ($28.5 million), compared to earnings of $4.3 million ($4 million) in the previous year.

The company said revenue was "extraordinarily impacted by the Fifty Shades and Hunger Game trilogies," which sold well in the previous year. In addition, sales of e-readers were lower and the company had five fewer stores. Excluding the impact of the Fifty Shades and Hunger Game trilogies, revenue increased 1.3%.

At Indigo and Chapters superstores open at least a year revenue fell 0.9%, while Coles and Indigospirit small format store revenue decreased 5.0%. Excluding the blockbuster titles, comparable store sales increased 1.3% in superstores and 0.4% in small format stores.

CEO Heather Reisman commented: "In an industry which is world-wide experiencing meaningful sales declines, we are pleased with the customer response to all our transformation efforts, with the sales performance, and with the potential for further growth and profitability moving forward."

Obituary Notes: Maya Angelou, Oscar Dystel

Memoirist and poet Maya Angelou, "whose landmark book of 1969, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings--a lyrical, unsparing account of her childhood in the Jim Crow South--was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century black woman to reach a wide general readership," died yesterday, the New York Times reported. She was 86.

In a statement, President Obama said, "Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time--a brilliant writer, a fierce friend and a truly phenomenal woman.... She inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya."

The Los Angeles Times noted that before she wrote her first book, Angelou "had already pulled off several stunning acts of personal reinvention. The St. Louis-born daughter of an Arkansas sharecropper family, Angelou had been a streetcar conductor, teen mom, a fry cook, a professional dancer, an actress, a journalist and a playwright (more or less in that order)--all before she turned 40." By the time I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published, she "had transformed herself into the consummate cultural networker, bridging the worlds of art and political activism."

Nathan Hatch, president of Wake Forest University, where she had been the Reynolds Professor of American Studies since 1982, said, "Maya Angelou has been a towering figure--at Wake Forest and in American culture. She had a profound influence in civil rights and racial reconciliation. We will miss profoundly her lyrical voice and always keen insights."

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Oscar Dystel, longtime CEO of Bantam Books, died yesterday. He was 101.

Under Dystel's leadership in the 1950s through the 1970s, Bantam became a mass market powerhouse and published, among many other titles, Exodus by Leon Uris, Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution, Jaws by Peter Benchley, The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty and the many bestsellers of Louis L'Amour.

The New York Times noted that one of Dystel's "boldest initiatives was writing, packaging, printing and delivering books in what was then an incredibly short time. In 1964, Bantam turned out the complete text of the Warren Commission's report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy--with several original articles by the New York Times--just 80 hours after the report was released. It sold 1.6 million copies at $1 each (about $7.65 in today’s money)."

Dystel was, as Penguin Random House noted, "one of the great architects of modern trade publishing… a mentor and muse for innumerable authors and past and present colleagues of ours throughout publishing. He was a giant, who shaped our potential and our legacy."

He is survived by his daughter Jane, a prominent literary agent.

Notes

Name that Bookstore!

"Will it be 'Sages Downtown Books?' " asked the Madison, N.J., Eagle in reference to Barbara Short's call to the community for help naming her new bookstore, which is being developed downtown at 32 Main St.

Short had been a longtime customer of Sages Pages, the bookshop located at 300 Main St. that was forced to close in January after a devastating flood due to a water main break. Owner Lillian Trujillo subsequently announced she would not reopen, but would like to pass the indie bookseller baton to someone else in Madison.

"After a month or so of trying to envision a new iteration in a new time and industry," Short said she phoned Trujillo and scheduled a meeting, during which they "serendipitously encountered the perfect home for a new bookstore." Short struck an agreement to "rent and retrofit half of Alfred's Sporting Goods" as the site of "a cozy community bookshop."

"We all miss Sages Pages," she said. "The opportunity is to continue to have a local bookshop serving our community, and the challenge will be living up to the remarkable standards that Lillian and Sages Pages have set." She also noted that "community support and interest have been overwhelming."

Now all the store needs is "a great name," Short added, noting that local readers of all ages have been encouraged to send their ideas for a name to 32MainBooks@gmail.com by June 6. "You just never know what having a happy place for reading can inspire. We'll see."

Personnel Changes at Dey Street Books

Kendra Newton has joined the marketing department of Dey Street Books (the former It Books) as senior marketing manager. She previously had her own freelance consulting business, managing publicity and marketing campaigns for various companies and publishers. Earlier she was an account manager at Full Picture PR and was a senior publicist at HarperCollins, overseeing publicity campaigns on titles in the Avon, Harper Paperbacks and It Books lists.

Book Trailer of the Day: Cold Antler Farm

Cold Antler Farm: A Memoir of Growing Food and Celebrating Life on a Scrappy Six-Acre Homestead by Jenna Woginrich (Roost Books/Shambhala Publications).

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Michael Waldman and The Second Amendment

Tomorrow on MSNBC's the Cycle: Michael Waldman, author of The Second Amendment: A Biography (Simon & Schuster, $25, 9781476747446).

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Tomorrow on CNN's the Lead with Jake Tapper: James Webb, author of I Heard My Country Calling: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781476741123).

This Weekend on Book TV: In Depth with Amity Shlaes

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, May 31
4:45 p.m. Philip K. Howard, author of The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government (Norton, $23.95, 9780393082821).

7 p.m. Sheryll Cashin, author of Place, Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America (Beacon Press, $25.95, 9780807086148).

8:45 p.m. Mike Earp and David Fisher, authors of U.S. Marshals: Inside America's Most Storied Law Enforcement Agency (Morrow, $26.99, 9780062227232), at [words] Bookstore in Maplewood, N.J.

10 p.m. Susan Stranahan, co-author of Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster (New Press, $27.95, 9781595589088). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Doug Fine, author of Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution (Chelsea Green, $14.95, 9781603585439), at Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, Colo.


Sunday, June 1
12 a.m. Angelo Codevilla, author of To Make and Keep Peace Among Ourselves and with All Nations (Hoover Institution Press, $24.95, 9780817917142). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m.)

12 p.m. Live In Depth q&a with author Amity Shlaes. E-mail questions from this page. (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m.)

5:30 p.m. Richard Ravitch, author of So Much to Do: A Full Life of Business, Politics, and Confronting Fiscal Crises (PublicAffairs, $26.99, 9781610390910).

7 p.m. Elizabeth Drew, author of Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon's Downfall (Overlook, $29.95, 9781468309188), at Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C.

10:30 p.m. Danny Glover, contributor to The Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 (Haymarket, $21.95, 9781608462964).

TV: The Alienist

The first project to be developed under a recently signed first-look deal between Paramount Television and Anonymous Content's Steve Golin and Michael Sugar (executive producers of HBO's True Detective) will be a drama series inspired by Caleb Carr's bestselling novel, The Alienist, Deadline.com reported.

Books & Authors

Awards: Desmond Elliott Shortlist

The shortlist has been announced for the £10,000 (US$16,700) Desmond Elliott prize for a debut novel, the Bookseller reported. The finalists are A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride, The Letter Bearer by Robert Allison and Ballistics by D.W. Wilson. The winner will be named July 3.

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, June 3:

Mr. Mercedes: A Novel by Stephen King (Scribner, $30, 9781476754451) is crime fiction about a Mercedes-driving killer and the cop hunting him.

Midnight in Europe: A Novel by Alan Furst (Random House, $27, 9781400069491) follows a Spanish lawyer on the eve of World War II.

China Dolls: A Novel by Lisa See (Random House, $27, 9780812992892) takes place in 1938 San Francisco, where three women meet at a nightclub.

Vertigo 42 by Martha Grimes (Scribner, $26, 9781476724027) continues the Richard Jury mystery series.

Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America by John Waters (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, 9780374298630) follows the adventurous film director.

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg (Penguin Press, $27.95, 9781594205224) analyzes the world through a mathematical lens.

The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War by A.J. Baime (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 9780547719283) explores the Ford Motor Company's role in World War II.


Now in paperback:

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead, $16, 9781594632389).

Wreck This Journal Everywhere by Keri Smith (Perigee, $10, 9780399171918).

Book Review

Review: The Lemon Grove

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh (Doubleday, $24.95 hardcover, 9780385538534, June 3, 2014)

British author Helen Walsh's The Lemon Grove is a steamy (the adjective cannot be avoided) novel about age-inappropriate vacation lust that inverts the usual sexes. Instead of a dapper roué chasing a filly in a bikini, Walsh presents Jenn, a stacked, 40ish nursing-home manager, driven to infraction by a 17-year-old man-boy in blue swim trunks. Although current cultural mores tend to be more lenient toward Mrs. Robinson-type lechery, The Lemon Grove must still (ahem) surmount Jenn's flimsy scruples about adultery and finesse a far more verboten impediment to her holiday hots: Nathan-of-the-blue-trunks is the first love of 15-year-old Emma, Jenn's stepdaughter, inherited 14 years earlier when she married the devoted but preoccupied Greg, a minor-league professor of Romantic poetry.

The entire novel is set in picturesque Deià, Mallorca, where the Hardings have been renting a villa in the titular lemon grove for years. Jenn, who had previously seen her daughter's beau only fully clothed and slumped in the backseat of a car, arranged for Nathan's accompaniment without any lascivious forethought. Walsh establishes Jenn and Greg's status quo before unleashing Nathan's discombobulating swim-trunked presence, serving up an expat's view of Deià's local color: liquera manzana-capped meals, the lecherous and extortionate landlord, the goats that trot along the cliffs above the coastline. Sticking close to Jenn's present-tense point of view, The Lemon Grove luxuriates in atmosphere, which, if occasionally overwritten ("The melody of aromas wafts through window, mingling with the nutty scent of fig leaves that spices the breeze"), effectively conveys Jenn's appetite for stimulation. The novel's reliably frequent sex scenes--explicit, adventurous and a tad breathless--achieve their aim without provoking an excess of squirms.

The suspense of The Lemon Grove is derived not so much "will she or won't she" (the back jacket plays that hand), but from the spectacle of watching Walsh insinuate enough happenstances, pheromones, misunderstandings, yearnings, resentments and physical collisions into the narrative to sell the reader on the inevitability of a holiday attraction between a woman and her teenage stepdaughter's first major crush. --Holloway McCandless

Shelf Talker: A hot-and-bothered novel of inverted May-December romance set in Mallorca, Spain, from the Somerset Maugham Award-winning author of Once Upon a Time in England.

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