Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 18, 2014


Harper: Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth

Mira Books: Rosie Colored Glasses by Brianna Wolfson

Little Brown and Company: The Which Way Tree by Elizabeth Crook

Bloomsbury: Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen

Soho Crime: The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Shadow Mountain: Christmas Jars Collector's Edition by Jason F. Wright

News

Creekside Books & Coffee Re-Opens

Creekside Books and CoffeeAdam and Ksenia Tontarski, the new owners of Creekside Books & Coffee, Skaneateles, N.Y., have reopened the store after more than a month of revamping, according to the Citizen. They called owning the store "a dream come true."

Besides making major changes in the coffee shop--including adding new equipment, food choices and brews of all kinds, once a liquor license application is approved--the couple have "a brand-new book inventory with expanded selections." The expanded sections include the children's department, with "books for every age and grade level from babies and toddlers on up to young adults," the newspaper said. Adam Tontarski commented: "With the books, we've definitely tried to cater to as many people as possible and add something for everyone."


Sourcebooks Jabberwocky: The Very Very Very Long Dog by Julia Patton


AAP Sales: First Quarter Up 6.5%, Children's/YA Booms

In the first quarter of the year, total net book sales rose 6.5%, to $1.550 billion, compared to the first quarter of 2013, representing sales of 1,218 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers.
 
Among highlights: children's/YA grew 31.5%, with strong sales in all formats that surpassed all other categories. In the trade, hardcover and paperback formats, with sales increases of 9.8% and 5.5%, respectively, both grew faster than e-books, up 5.1%.

Note: Trade includes all formats in adult fiction/nonfiction, children's/YA and religious presses. Excludes downloadable audio and children's board books.
 

 CATEGORY

 SALES

 % Change

 Trade Format

 

 

 Hardcover   

 $492 million   

  9.8%

 Paperback    

 $435 million   

  5.5%

 E-book   

 $404.8 million   

  5.1%

 

 

 

 General Category

 

 

 Children's/YA   

 $411 million    

 31.5%

 University presses   

 $25.6 million    

  3.6%

 Religious presses   

 $136.7 million   

  1.8%

 Professional books    

 $122.1 million   

  0.4%

 Adult fiction/nonfiction   

 $1.003 billion   

 -0.7%

 

 

 

 Children's/YA e-books    

 $64 million   

 39.6%

 Children's board books  

 $20.1 million   

 37.2%

 Children's/YA hardcovers   

 $177.3 million   

 30.8%

 Children's/YA paperbacks    

 $134.4 million    

 28.5%

 Religious e-books    

 $16.8 million   

 25.9%

 Downloaded audio   

 $34.3 million   

 24.3%

 University press e-books    

 $3.4 million   

 21%

 Religious paperbacks    

 $22.7 million   

  6.3%

 University hardcovers    

 $10 million   

  4.5%

 Adult hardcovers    

 $237.1 million   

  3%

 University paperbacks   

 $12 million   

 -0.6%

 Adult e-books   

 $323.9 million   

 -0.6%

 Adult paperbacks   

 $301.6 million   

 -2.8% 

 Religious hardcovers   

 $77.6 million  

 -5.8%

 Mass market    

 $77.1 million 

 -12.9%

 Physical audiobooks   

 $11.6 million   

 -11.3%

 


Siglio Press: The Stampographer by Vincent Sardon


Amazon Launches Kindle Unlimited

This morning Amazon officially launched its Kindle Unlimited program, which gives users access to more than 600,000 e-books and more than 2,000 audiobooks for $9.99 a month. The program had been in a test mode and was written about extensively this week.

Under the program, eligible titles have a "read for free" link on them. The audiobooks are from Amazon's Audible subsidiary. Many of the books are published by Amazon, but they also include the Hunger Games, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the Lord of the Rings series, among other titles.

Amazon is offering a free, 30-day trial of Kindle Unlimited and giving new subscribers a free three-month Audible membership.


PuddleDancer Press: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, 3rd Edition: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships by Marshall B. Rosenberg


At Women & Children First: Plus Ça Change…

"I think anyone who has worked in a bookstore for any length of time kind of dreams of owning a bookstore," said Sarah Hollenbeck, a bookseller and publicist at Women & Children First in Chicago, Ill. Earlier this week, Ann Christophersen and Linda Bubon, the co-founders and longtime owners of the 35-year-old feminist bookstore, announced that they would be selling their store to Hollenbeck and store manager Lynn Mooney. "Of all the jobs I've had, it's the one I've loved the most," Hollenbeck continued. "But I didn't see how I could make it into a career. Then this possibility arose."

http://media.shelf-awareness.com/theshelf/2014EditContent/Sarah_Hollenbeck_and_Lynn_Mooney._Photo_by_Ross_Forman/Windy_City_Times
Sarah Hollenbeck and Lynn Mooney, new owners of Chicago's Women & Children First. (photo by Ross Forman/Windy City Times)

Christophersen and Bubon had announced their intention to sell the store and move on last October, only a month or so after Hollenbeck began working there. In December, she approached Mooney about buying the store together; Mooney has worked at Women & Children First for six years and been store manager for a year and a half.

Around two years ago, Christophersen and Bubon had talked with Mooney about their intentions to sell the store, Mooney said. "It was still very early on in their thinking about retiring. They'd worked so hard for so many years. It made perfect sense that they'd want to retire and it makes perfect sense that they'd want to see the store live on."

The owners had suggested Mooney and another employee buy the store together. The other employee didn't want to--she's since moved on from the store--and Mooney didn't want to go it alone. So last October, when the original owners made their announcement, Mooney said, "I was excited but also kind of sad, because I knew I wasn't in the running. Then in December Sarah approached me and said she'd been thinking about being part of the future of this store. And I'm just so thrilled that she did."

Hollenbeck's skills, including publicity, marketing and planning and coordinating events, Mooney explained, complement her own. "I just think Sarah and I make a really great partnership, with the different strengths we bring," she said. "We both like each other and have a lot of respect for each other. We each have something to offer in terms of running this business."

Christophersen and Bubon received 11 serious offers to buy the store. They were meticulous about selecting new owners; after narrowing the list down to three top choices, they began rounds of interviews with the prospective buyers. In May, Mooney and Hollenbeck received the news that they were the top candidates. Between May and this week's announcement, they were ironing out the details of the purchase.

"They really didn't want to rush it," said Mooney. "They wanted the new owners to keep the store going, and to keep it going in a feminist vein. When we talked, they wanted to hear about our plans, our ideas for the store."

Chief among the pair's plans for the store is an interior renovation slated for late winter/early spring 2015.

Women and Children First, ChicagoWomen & Children First currently has three storefronts; the renovation will turn one of those storefronts into a dedicated space for events and community gatherings, and Mooney and Hollenbeck will be able to host events at any time of the day without making the majority of the store inaccessible. "Right now almost all of our shelves are on wheels," explained Hollenbeck. "When we do an event, we have to move everything out of the way. It's not the most comfortable situation for us or the audience."

They also plan to provide meeting spaces for local organizations such as support groups, and significantly to expand the store's children's programming.

Although the space will feel much different after the renovation, Mooney and Hollenbeck both stressed that the store's inventory will not be getting any smaller. "For some of our long term loyal customers, our message has been that a lot of things are actually going to stay the same," said Mooney. "We have no plans to stock fewer books; none of our sections or collections will go away. We've always had a broad, diverse stock, and we'll absolutely keep that going."

Among the additions that they will make to their store's inventory is a greater focus on local, Chicago authors and small presses. Part of their plan is to help up-and-coming authors, particularly but not exclusively women, find an audience for their work. Hollenbeck is also personally interested in expanding the store's disabilities studies section.

"A lot of additions that we're going to make are more aimed at expanding the idea of inclusivity," said Hollenbeck. They also intend to start a more "open and welcoming dialogue" about how feminism has evolved and where it needs to go in the future. "That's our main goal. The renovation will have a cosmetic and logistical benefit, but it's mostly about inclusivity." --Alex Mutter


Freeform: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton


Obituary Note: Jamil Ahmad

Pakistani author Jamil Ahmad, "who published his debut novel, The Wandering Falcon, when he was 79," has died, NPR reported. He was 83. Ahmad "spent decades as a civil servant in the country's tribal northwest, experiences he drew upon for the book, which was shortlisted for the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize," NPR wrote.


Notes

Image of the Day: Golf Outing, Manhattan Style

Henry Holt minigolfHenry Holt staffers enjoyed an afternoon at the Pier 25 mini-golf course in Manhattan to celebrate the release of June Melby's My Family and Other Hazards, a debut memoir about growing up working her family's mini-golf course (photo below) in Waupaca, Wis. Pictured at right (l.-r.): Ebony LaDelle, marketing and promotions manager; Leslie Brandon, publicity manager; Caroline Zancan, associate editor.

In an instructive moment about the sense of timing, the Waupaca branch of Book World closed this week, just days after My Family and Other Hazards was published. "Sure, it's bad news--any time a bookstore closes it's bad news--but it's also, you know, weird," author Melby wrote.

author June Melby, My Family and Other Hazards, minigolf

"I don't know if mine is the first book written about this town, but there are only 4,000 people, so it's not like Chicago, a city that gets written about every couple of hours. And here comes a book that takes place in this small town, and the bookstore, which has been open for about a dozen years, closes up before it can sell any. Is this irony? Tragedy?

"My mom visited the store to order extra copies of my book to give to her friends. They couldn't even take an order. Too late. And, of course, I won't get to do any events with them.

"One of my chapters is about timing, because the mini-golf had hazards that opened and closed with little motors, and timing seemed an appropriate topic to cover. And now... six years spent writing a book, and the bookstore closes right after its release."


What Garden & Gun's Favorite Indie Booksellers Are Reading

Garden & Gun magazine "canvassed some of our favorite bookstores around the South to see what summer books have their customers staying up all night. Whether it's a mystery or a memoir, written by a debut author or a Southern great, set in the Texas oilfields or the streets of Zambia, there's enough here to satisfy readers of all stripes--and get you through the dog days of summer."


Road Trip: Emma Chapman's 'Indie Book Crawl' in U.K.

During the recent Independent Booksellers Week in the U.K., Emma Chapman launched her "Indie Book Crawl," a month-long trip she described as "a journey to thank indies for all the work they do on behalf of authors," to sign copies of her novel How to Be a Good Wife and to meet readers," the Bookseller reported. 

Author Emma Chapman (r.) at Edge of the World Bookshop in Penzance.

"Four counties and 550 miles, from London to Land's End. 18 bookshops, mostly in rural towns and surrounded by other indies: butchers, newsagents, florists and gift shops. Some playing classical music, some rocking the Rolling Stones," Chapman wrote. "I'm not sure quite what I expected when I flew into Heathrow from Jakarta, but I couldn't have predicted the marvelous reception that bookshops have offered. There have been banners, posters, signing tables, cupcakes, piles of books, and overwhelming friendliness. It's been so lovely to chat to booksellers, to see the end point of the publication process: the places where books directly connect with readers.

"As an author, it's easy to become distanced from your book when it's out in the world: this tour has offered me a reconnection, and for that I will always be grateful. I've met booksellers who have been championing my novel for over a year--one told me she'd hand-sold 19 hardbacks!--and it's been wonderful to say thank you in person."

Chapman's indie pilgrimage can be followed on Facebook and Twitter (@EmmaJChapman), with the hashtag #IndieBookCrawl.


PRINTtEXT: A 'Magazine Lover's Dream'

PRINTtEXT, Indianapolis, Ind., is "a magazine lover's dream, featuring 300-plus print publications from the worlds of design, fashion, art, literature, architecture, food and politics," NUVO magazine reported. Launched by Benjamin and Janneane Blevins, the store is modeled on 0fr., "a bookstore and art gallery they frequently visited while living in Paris."

"That is an inspiring place," said Benjamin. "They carried all these back issues of different magazines. It was a small space, and it had gallery openings and a salon atmosphere.... We're positioning ourselves in the international landscape of publishers and [book] shops. There's something about being based in Indianapolis. It's a fantastic place to test ideas and not go bankrupt and it is small enough you can effect change in it. You can't afford to do something like this in New York City. But in Indianapolis, you can."


Media and Movies

TV: Lindbergh; The Killing Pool

Writer Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for Milk, will adapt Paramount TV's event series Lindbergh, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography by A. Scott Berg.  Deadline.com reported that the project, which will be produced by Berg, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Killoran and Kevin McCormick, "once captured the attention of director Steven Spielberg (he bought it preemptively before it published) but he apparently decided against it once he learned more and more about the aviator."

Berg commented: "The life of Charles Lindbergh is one of the most cinematic stories of the last century--one in which he was cast as a legendary hero, victim, and villain. I'm thrilled that Lance Black--with his passion for history on top of his great talent--will be transposing the story to the screen, giving full scope to the unexpected personal drama as well as the dazzling public spectacle of this unique life."

---

Red Union Films, Pinewood Pictures and international distributor/financier IM Global announced plans to co-produce The Killing Pool, an eight-part crime thriller based on the novel by Kevin Sampson, Deadline.com reported. Production is set to start in early 2015.


Komixx to Develop Simon Mayo's Itch Series

Komixx Entertainment has acquired worldwide film and TV rights to BBC radio personality and author Simon Mayo's bestselling Itch teen book franchise (published in the U.S. by Sterling's Splinter imprint) and "will develop the series for multiple platforms through Random House Children's Screen Entertainment, Komixx's joint venture with publishing giant Random House," the Hollywood Reporter wrote.

"Simon's main character, Itchingham, is terrific," said Andrew Cole-Bulgin, joint president and head of film and TV at Komixx. "The strength of the characters and their appeal meant that we could envisage a digital transmedia property, giving us a very real chance to extend the story experience."



Books & Authors

Awards: New England Nominees; SCBWI Late Bloomer

Nominees for the 2014 New England Book Awards, sponsored by the New England Independent Booksellers Association, have been announced. NEIBA members are now voting (balloting closes today!), and winners will be presented on Wednesday, October 1, at a banquet at the association's Fall Conference in Providence, R.I.

Fiction

Cambridge by Susanna Kaysen
Dog Songs by Mary Oliver
Euphoria by Lily King
The Kept by James Scott
Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston

Nonfiction

A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren
Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
Love & Fury by Richard Hoffman
Mud Season by Ellen Stimson
Pigs Can't Swim by Helen Peppe

Children's

Elephant's Story by Tracey Campbell Pearson
Firefly July by Paul Janeczko and Melissa Sweet
Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy
Snowflakes Fall by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Steven Kellogg
Swim That Rock by John Rocco and Jay Primiano

---

Jennifer Sommer won the Karen and Philip Cushman Late Bloomer Award, established by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators to honor "authors over the age of fifty who have not been traditionally published in the children's literature field," for her book for Octopus Capers, "a fun and interesting twist on nonfiction in which octopuses are the culprit in aquarium mysteries around the world."


Book Brahmin: Sean Wilsey

Sean Willsey, Book Brahmin, Shelf Awareness
photo: Susan Simmons

Sean Wilsey was born in San Francisco in 1970 and lives in Marfa, Tex. He is the author of a memoir, Oh the Glory of It All, and co-editor with Matt Weiland of two collections of essays: State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America and The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup. For many years Wilsey was editor-at-large for McSweeney's Quarterly Concern and on the staff of the New Yorker. He recounts his travels across the U.S. in More Curious (McSweeney's Books, July 15, 2014).

On your nightstand now:

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley and History of My Life, Vols. 7 & 8 by Giacomo Casanova. The former because I have a seven-year-old and a nine-year-old. The latter because I have been reading the complete edition for a memoir I'm working on.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Your top five authors:

Joseph Mitchell, Thomas Pynchon, Jennifer Egan, Haruki Murakami and Pat Barker.

Book you've faked reading:

I sat staring at the New Directions paperback of Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre in a café for much of a school year. The introduction [by Hayden Carruth] was more engaging than the book itself. It tantalizingly described denizens of Left Bank Paris as "disreputable young men in paint-smeared jeans, and their companions, those black-stockinged, makeupless girls who smoked too many cigarettes and engaged in who knows what follies besides." Yo!

Book you're an evangelist for:

I will press any book I'm enjoying on complete strangers. Recently I was traveling from rural Texas to California. When I got on my Southwest flight, after hours in the car, I was so tired that I immediately slid down the window shades and shut my eyes. At which point a woman on my row's aisle said, "Excuse me, but are you planning to sleep?" I said I was. "Oh. But would you please open one of those windows? It just makes me really uncomfortable taking off without seeing what's outside. I'd make a terrible astronaut."

We got to talking. She was reading a book set in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. I said I lived near there, in Presidio County, Tex. She asked what I was reading, and I told her Casanova, Vol. 7. She said she used to live in Rome. Then she apologized for waking me up. I said it was fine and that I was now going to read Casanova. She went to the bathroom. Then I started reading this scene, set in the "rooms" of an earl in Rome:

"His Lordship took up his watch and offered it to the first person who could give either Poinsinet [a French poet] or himself an erection. The hope of winning the watch put all the girls, the abati [priests], and the castrati on their mettle.... I laughed, chiefly at the distress exhibited by Poinsinet, who was reduced to being afraid of having an erection, since the drunken Earl swore that if he made him lose his watch he would have him pitilessly [humiliated] in the presence of all the actors. The scene, and the drama, ended when there was no one left with any hope of winning the watch. However, the secret of the Lesbians was employed only by the abati and the castrati; the girls would not use it; they wanted to preserve their right to look down on those who had employed it. It was pride rather than shame which stood them in good stead. They were afraid of employing it to no purpose."

My neighbor returned and said, "I see you're still awake."

I said, "Yeah, I just read this really vivid scene in Rome."

She was curious, so I handed her the book. As she read her cheeks got more and more flushed and she exclaimed, "Oh, wow!"

"How about that part with the watch?" I said.

"I loved that."

We agreed that "the secret of the Lesbians" would have been a great place for an explanatory footnote.

Book you've bought for the cover:

See entry two slots above [book you've faked reading].

Book that changed your life:

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami!

Favorite line from a book:

"I am writing my life to laugh at myself, and I am succeeding." Casanova said this in a letter.

Character you most relate to:

Having worked in some terrifying restaurants, I relate to much of what happened to George Orwell in his memoir/novel Down and Out in Paris and London.

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

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle!


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcovers
The Quick: A Novel by Lauren Owen (Random House, $27, 9780812993271). "In her debut novel, Owen captures the pacing and cadence of Victorian fiction without the sometimes florid language of that era. She manages to deftly balance a large cast of characters and several seemingly diverse story threads while keeping the reader guessing through all of the twists and turns in this tale. With its formal language, diverse cast of characters, explorations of prejudice and oppression, and a bloody secret at its center, The Quick is very much a Victorian gothic novel written for a 21st century reader." --Billie Bloebaum, Powell's Books, Portland, Ore.

War of the Whales: A True Story by Joshua Horwitz (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781451645019). "The whale stranding happened on March 15, 2000, in the Bahamas, but as Horwitz writes in his fascinating book, every animal must adapt to survive: humans have been at it for over 100,000 years, but whales have been the dominant force in the oceans for 50 million years! This true story painstakingly details years of underwater experiments and other global incidents involving marine mammals and reads like a mystery that cannot be put down. Essential for any reader concerned about the ocean environment and our role as human caretakers of the mammals that inhabit the seas, this is a terrific read!" --Kathleen Dixon, Islandtime Books & More, Washington Island, Wis.

Paperback
Amy Falls Down: A Novel by Jincy Willett (Picador, $16, 9781250050250). "A once-famed writer, considered the voice of her generation thirty years ago, Amy now teaches creative writing online and lives a hermit's life. However, one day before an interview, she falls down in her yard and gets a concussion, afterward giving a most peculiar and stirring interview--none of which she remembers. While seemingly benign, the interview quietly restarts her career--and within a year Amy is once again the voice of writers everywhere. Amy Falls Down is a wonderful story that explores the business of writing in our modern era. Just wonderful!" --Meaghan Beasley, Island Bookstore, Duck, N.C.

For Ages 9 to 12
Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague (HarperCollins, $16.99, 9780062274625). "H.G. Wells did not know the first thing about time travel, according to Aunt Bridey, who understands time inside out. However, she refuses to help Margaret time-travel in order to stop the events that have led to Margaret's father being sentenced to death. Even her father, after being found guilty of arson and murder, has made Margaret swear to repeat the words handed down from previous generations: 'There is one Now: the spot where I stand, And one way the road goes: onward, onward.' Husband-and-wife team Teague and de los Santos offer a heart-warming, action-filled novel with a moral message about today's hydrofracking and yesterday's corrupt mining practices. History can repeat itself unless we dare to listen and learn from it." --Karen Briggs, Great Northern Books & Hobbies, Oscoda, Mich.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides (Doubleday, $28.95 hardcover, 9780385535373, August 5, 2014)

Two key words in the subtitle set the stage for this enthralling and mesmerizing tale--grand and terrible. Hampton Sides has a knack for bringing history to life, as he did in Ghost Soldiers and Blood and Thunder; In the Kingdom of Ice is another winner.

Sides adds to our ongoing fascination with heroic tales of voyages to the polar caps. To the list that includes Roald Amundsen, Robert Peary, Ernest Shackleton, we can now add U.S. Navy Commander George W. DeLong, of the USS Jeannette. New York Herald newspaper tycoon James Gordon Bennett Jr., fresh from bankrolling Henry Morton Stanley's successful expedition to find Dr. David Livingstone, was ready for another grand investment. After personally securing the best maps available from the great Arctic expert August Petermann, Bennett was ready to hire his commander. DeLong was already famous for a rescue operation off the coast of Greenland in 1873, and when Bennett offered, DeLong "leapt at the opportunity."

The "Polar Problem," as it was called then, loomed large and mysterious. Scientists believed that the Arctic Pole was warm, the open water tepid and easy to sail, teeming with strange new species of sea life. Petermann believed the best route to the Arctic was the Bering Sea; Bennett and DeLong agreed. On July 8, 1879, the USS Jeannette--outfitted with a steam engine, desalination apparatus, three years of provisions and cases of Budweiser--set sail from San Francisco with a crew of 30 chosen by DeLong (a newspaperman from the Herald accompanied them). Sides notes that an 11-gun salute roared from the ramparts of the Presidio. DeLong's journal, later recovered, provided Sides with many of the details that give his book depth and credibility.

In August, the ship stopped in Alaska to take on more coal, as well as dogs and two Inuits to handle them, then sailed on. In early September, an American whaling fleet spotted the Jeannette several miles to the north near Herald Island, trailing a shifting plume of black smoke. It was the last sighting of the ship. That month, ice 15 feet thick and massive floes battered the ship, eventually trapping it. On November 13, the sun set and the crew was "plunged in nearly complete darkness." The year turned. In January 1881, the ship began to leak. The grand part was over; the terrible part had begun.

Even though the outcome is known, adventure-loving readers will find much to enjoy in Sides's suspenseful telling of this tragic and heroic tale. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Shelf Talker: A powerful tale of a little-known 19th-century Arctic expedition that was both grand and terrible.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: A Brief History of Beach Reads

First, sincere congratulations to CNN as the 2014 award winner (in a very competitive field) for most egregious use of a summer reading pun: "Whatever your definition of 'beach book'--romance, mystery, gripping true-life-tale--you'll find a shore thing here."

As I dutifully pored over all the summer reads recommendation lists released during the past couple of months, I began having sun-addled visions of beach reads from the distant past (sometimes called "hammock reads," I soon learned). After some seasonally appropriate leisurely research in the archives of the New York Times, I now offer for your summer reading pleasure an ever-so-brief history of the American beach read:

1890s: "During the Summer days a table was placed in the doorway and here were displayed a selection of the paper-covered books for 'Summer reading.' For some reason lighter books were considered more suitable to the hot weather."

1897: "The reader of to-day whose knowledge of books goes back twenty years must often have been surprised with the change that has come over books intended for Summer reading.... Society and civilization may take hope from the improved quality of the Summer books.... It truly seems as if all the world were writing novels. With bad ones plentiful enough, how good the best ones are!"

1900: "But if there is one season in which the printed book might be regarded as a questionable intruder it is when the pageant of Summer has attained its full splendor and the most attractive pages of the great book of nature lie open before us.... When he would for a brief period escape the spell of the printed page, break its chain, and rise to a rarer atmosphere, lo, the whole world seems leagued against him, and from a hundred throats he hears the cry, 'Books for Summer Reading!' "

1907: "What I'm trying to discover is whether any one reads in Summer, or whether the bulk of vacation literature is really an unopened contingent.... It isn't necessary to read a book in order to be happy with it. On a steamer or in a hammock you simply have to have the book in your lap or close at hand, with the paper-cutter and pencil."

Cincinnati Public Library bookmobile, 1927
Cincinnati Public Library bookmobile, 1927

1920: "It made us wonder just how Summer Reading has progressed in a world where excitement has been the rule and where nothing has remained as it was.... Gone are the days when the unambitious reader would lie in the grass in a semi-coma and meander blankly through a volume of trashy lovemaking and trashier thrillers."

1928: "What do people read in the summer?... They read, in other words, whatever the tastes and piety of earlier generations of Summer residents have stored for them on the hotel shelves."

1950: "There is, however, one error which is disastrously popular--namely, the assumption that only 'light' books, by which is meant trivial or foolish or badly written books--are suitable for summer. Nothing is actually harder to read than that which is not worth reading, and there is nothing more likely to produce boredom than a too desperate attempt to escape it."

1953: "When an unwished beach picnic is suggested, for example, the necessity of reading a light romantic novel will not stand up as an excuse for not attending. On the other hand, the casual display of the somewhat weightier book will prove at once that even on vacation the thirst for knowledge rises superior to such casual pleasures as picnics."

1968: "There is nothing like the library of a summer house to reverse the tides of literary improvement.... It is wonderful junk--never weeded out, like other junk, because summer people just can't throw any book away, however transient its subject or purple its prose." (William Zinsser)

1971: "The reviewers must have reasoned that as we, book lovers all, packed to head off for vacation, we agonized about how to pack our limited baggage space with the most rewarding material available. Hence 'suggestions for summer reading.' " (Russell Baker)

1985: "A feeling seems to have arisen that summer is the time for light reading. I don't know where anyone got that idea. The truth about summer is this. There are an enormous number of hours in it--slow hours--and yet, before you know it, somehow it is over.... Summer is the time for heavy reading, reading that works up a sweat. I wouldn't be surprised if there were scientific studies showing that the sun's heat melts eye-glaze." (Roy Blount, Jr.)

2014: "For me, being a reader, in summer or at any other time, isn't a 'lifestyle choice.' Rather, I made the choice--if that's what it was--so long ago, it has taken on an inescapable character in my mind.... The beach is one of the few places pathological readers can pass undetected among their civilian cousins." (Zadie Smith in O, The Oprah Magazine)

And, finally, these history-transcending words of summer reading perspective from George R.R. Martin: "Winter is coming." --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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