Shelf Awareness for Monday, October 20, 2014


Penguin Books: The Dying Game by Asa Avdic

Sourcebooks Fire: Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Tarcherperigee: Men & Dogs by Alice Chaygneaud-Dupuy and Marie-Eva Chopin / Rescued by Peter Zheutlin

Random House: An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice by Khizr Khan

Chicago Review Press: The Sunken Gold: A Story of World War I Espionage and the Greatest Treasure Salvage in History by Joseph A. Williams

Park Row Books: Hanna Who Fell from the Sky by Christopher Meades

News

Paul Krugman: 'Amazon's Monopsony Is Not O.K.'

Krugman

Our favorite Nobel economist, Paul Krugman, is the latest member of the New York Times to address the Amazon-Hachette dispute, marking his position clearly with this opening sentence: "Amazon.com, the giant online retailer, has too much power, and it uses that power in ways that hurt America."

While the columnist said that detractors' claims that Amazon is "a monster about to take over the whole economy [are] over the top" and admitted that he uses Amazon Prime, he compared Amazon with John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil: "Does Amazon really have robber-baron-type market power? When it comes to books, definitely. Amazon overwhelmingly dominates online book sales, with a market share comparable to Standard Oil's share of the refined oil market when it was broken up in 1911. Even if you look at total book sales, Amazon is by far the largest player."

Krugman stated that so far Amazon "has not tried to exploit consumers" but is acting "as a monopsonist, a dominant buyer with the power to push prices down." He called that power immense and noted that it has given Amazons "the power to kill the buzz" about a book by not carrying the title, and "if Amazon doesn't carry that book, you're much less likely to hear about it in the first place. So can we trust Amazon not to abuse that power? The Hachette dispute has settled that question: no, we can't."

He highlighted, too, what he called "a curious selectivity" in how Amazon has punished Hachette books, outlining the different approaches, earlier explored by David Streitfeld in the Times, of two Hachette books: right-wing Representative Paul Ryan's The Way Forward has been treated normally, while Sons of Wichita by Daniel Schulman, critical of the right-wing Koch brothers, has received the treatment given almost all Hachette books--no discount, shipping time of two to three weeks, etc.

Krugman's conclusion: "Don't tell me that Amazon is giving consumers what they want, or that it has earned its position. What matters is whether it has too much power, and is abusing that power. Well, it does, and it is."

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Tamblyn

Kobo president and chief content officer Michael Tamblyn also commented publicly on Amazon. In a series of tweets last week collected by Digital Book World, Tamblyn argued that Amazon will eventually use the tactics it uses against Hachette and other publishers against self-published authors, many of whom are very supportive of Amazon.

For example, he tweeted: "From Amazon's perspective, how is an independent author any different than a publisher? Still a supplier, to be made more profitable." This was followed by: "The indie author's situation is most tenuous of all. If >80% of sales come from AMZN, *no leverage when it's your turn to be 'optimized.' "


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones


In Hollywood, SCIBA Spotlight on Indies and Storytelling

SCIBA president Maureen Palacios, from Once Upon a Time Bookstore in Montrose, Calif., kicked off the annual Southern California Independent Booksellers Association conference last Friday evening in Hollywood, at the Beverly Garland Hotel, by focusing on the many positive things happening for independent booksellers. "People are looking at the independent channel in a good way," she said. Last year's hugely successful California Bookstore Day, she noted, "exploded," and sparked the nationwide Independent Bookstore Day in the works for 2015. Representatives from the American Booksellers Association were on hand to provide resources and links for booksellers to make the most of the Indies First push on November 29, Small Business Saturday (which accounted for $5.7 billion in sales for small businesses last year). "It's really important for us to keep this momentum going," Palacios said.

SCIBA Children's Breakfast speakers (l.-r.): Deborah Underwood, Meg Wolitzer and Jacqueline Woodson, with emcee Matt Ward.

One of the key ways independent booksellers distinguish themselves, Palacios pointed out at the children's author breakfast on Saturday, is by "discovering and promoting locally prepared literary offerings." Such offerings included books by the SCIBA children's award winners honored at the breakfast: picture book winner Salina Yoon, Found (Bloomsbury); middle grade winner Holly Goldberg Sloan, Counting by 7s (Puffin); and YA winner Catherine Linka, A Girl Called Fearless (St. Martin's).

Acting as emcee of the children's awards and breakfast, Matt Ward (War of the World Records, Penguin) noted that the morning brought together two of his favorite things: kid's books and breakfast meats. Then Deborah Underwood, author of Here Comes Santa Cat (Dial), shared, "just for the record," that when she was a street musician on San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf, where local booksellers brought the performers warm drinks on cold nights, "no online bookseller ever came out to us with a coffeepot." Underwood told the booksellers that she's working on a Tooth Fairy Cat book and a Valentine Cat book.

Just days after her National Book Award nomination for Brown Girl Dreaming (Penguin), Jacqueline Woodson told the breakfast attendees that she knew she wanted to be a writer since she was seven years old and a bad liar. "My teacher said that if you like lying, then write it down," explained Woodson, "because then it's fiction." The author said she started writing Brown Girl Dreaming shortly after her mother died, as she wanted to find out who she was before she became her mother. But in working on the memoir, Woodson added, she also discovered that her "hot mess" of a father had a Civil War fighter on his branch of the family tree.

The final breakfast speaker, Meg Wolitzer, whose YA novel Belzhar (Dutton) is set in a boarding school for "emotionally fragile teenagers," said she saw her family as "the Jewish, bookish Kennedys" who happened to live off exit 43 of the Long Island Expressway. Wolitzer said every writer writes for some reader--whether literally or figuratively. In her early days, Wolitzer imagined dictating stories to a teacher, but also credits her mother (whose first Saturday Evening Post story was called "Today a Woman Went Mad at the Supermarket") with planting the writing seed.

The SCIBA adult book awards were the focus of the luncheon. William Bradley won the Glenn Goldman Award for art/architecture/photography for Los Angeles Station: Tracks to the Future (Angel City Press); Naomi Hirahara won the T. Jefferson Parker mystery award for Murder on Bamboo Lane (Berkley); Roy Choi won in nonfiction for L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food (Anthony Bourdain/Ecco); and Gabrielle Zevin took the fiction prize for The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (Algonquin). Zevin charmed everyone by admitting she might have had an unfair advantage since her character is a bookseller.

Adult Lunch speakers (l.-r.): Garth Stein, Rebecca Scherm, Dennis Lehane.

At the luncheon, Dennis Lehane (World Gone By, coming from Morrow in May) said he had 20 reasons for becoming a writer, the first 10 of which involved librarians and booksellers. Born into an Boston Irish immigrant family that had a "complete lack of respect for the truth," Lehane said he learned the "bloodsport" of storytelling while going to the neighborhood bar with his father. Lehane's two basic writing rules: hit the ground running and be funny. Humor is important, he said, because "the essential working-class story is a tragic story." Despite being surrounded by storytellers, Lehane said, reading fiction was not for his father, who slept through all three of the author's movies (Mystic River, Gone, Baby, Gone and Shutter Island). In his father's defense, Lehane added, he never examined his plumber brother's work, either.

When debut novelist Rebecca Scherm (Unbecoming, Viking, Jan.) took the podium, she admitted that this was her first talk as an author. Yet, she fit right in on the program with a presentation that showed her evolution from a Kentucky girl enamored with actress Grace Kelly to a novelist whos book upturns the Hitchcockian heroine v. femme fatale paradigm.

SCIBA did not hold its signature "Authors Feast" dinner, opting for a evening reception on the patio to give booksellers more face-to-face time with the more than 20 featured authors. John Rocco, Blizzard (Disney), shows his book face.

Indie bookstore favorite Garth Stein wrapped up the luncheon program by discussing A Sudden Light (Simon & Schuster), his multi-generational "spiritual ghost story" set in a fictional affluent community built at the turn of the 19th century on clear-cut lands outside Seattle--across the creek from the suburbs where Stein grew up. Stein originally wrote the story as a play, and revised it into a novel shortly his father died--which only deepened the tale's father-son elements. A central theme for the adolescent protagonist in A Sudden Light, Stein said, is the conflict between truth and loyalty, a theme on which he extrapolated as he pointed out that if the rule of law treats corporations as people, then we should hold them accountable to act as "ethical people" in all of their business negotiations. "What some corporations do not understand is that books are not widgets," he said. A book's raw materials of time and imagination, he said, "can't be replaced by anything else."

Stein's comments mirrored the weekend's overall theme of supporting irreplaceable independent bookstores. Happily, SCIBA executive director Andrea Vuleta said that the number of association member stores increased from 44 last year to 61. The 127 bookseller attendees at the show represented a 22% increase from last year, while the 20 librarians/teachers category showed an increase of 18%. --Bridget Kinsella


KidsBuzz for the Week of 06.26.17


Upstream Starts with the Booksmith

Handler

Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, is practicing what he preaches. After last week announcing a new Indies First initiative called Upstream--which encourages authors, including members of Authors United, to partner with independent bookstores to sign copies of their books for the stores to sell and promote--he is teaming up with the Booksmith, San Francisco, Calif. The store will stock a range of his titles and is taking orders "for signed books, by either Daniel Handler or Lemony Snicket."

Booksmith co-owner Christin Evans said, "Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, and Lisa Brown have had a strong relationship with Booksmith, their local bookstore for many years." In 2007, shortly after Evans and Praveen Madan bought the Booksmith, the store hosted the launch party for The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming by Snicket, illustrated by Brown.

Earlier this year, the Booksmith turned into the Swinster Pharmacy (with windows decorated to match the book cover, and serving Ice Cream Bar's sour phosphates) for 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy, also by Snicket and Brown.

And on November 6, the store will become the Shameless Shipwreck, and is challenging Snicket to "come out of hiding to read aloud the submissions in this month's competitive erotic fan fiction event."


Geek & Sundry: The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein


Remembering the Loma Prieta Earthquake in Santa Cruz

"The wooden rocking horse inside of Bookshop Santa Cruz is a relic from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, rescued from the debris of the old store," the Sentinel noted in reporting that city residents and officials gathered for a 25th anniversary commemoration ceremony last week.

"The old wooden rocking horse that was in our children's section; I thought if I'm going to start over with nothing, I'm going to get this rocking horse out of the store," recalled Neal Coonerty, who ran the bookstore at the time.

Although the shop's facade was undamaged, walls within had collapsed and the building was declared unsafe, the Sentinel wrote, adding that "Coonerty recounted the response of the community when he asked for help, with hundreds of people lining up to sign a safety waiver and risking their lives to help salvage the shop's inventory."

"When we saw the line, well, it still gives me goose bumps today thinking about it," he said. "How many people came and were willing to take that risk to help save the bookshop. That they wanted downtown back and wanted Bookshop Santa Cruz to be a part of it."

In 2009, to mark the 20th anniversary of the earthquake, Coonerty had chronicled the "small town miracle" on the store's website, noting: "For 42 years Bookshop Santa Cruz has been part of our vibrant downtown. We only survived because people in Santa Cruz cared. On the 20th anniversary of the earthquake, we understand the debt we owe this community and we remain grateful to everyone in Santa Cruz who helped their friends and neighbors during a tough time."


Counterpoint: Gangster Nation by Tod Goldberg


Obituary Note: Park Honan

Park Honan, an American academic living in Britain who was "best known for his biographies of classic English writers including William Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Robert Browning," died September 27, the Guardian reported. He was 86.


Notes

Q&A: Rebecca Romney, Bauman Rare Books Manager

Rare book expert Rebecca Romney, manager of the Bauman Rare Books branch in Las Vegas, Nev., and an expert on the History Channel's show Pawn Stars, answered seven questions from Vegas Seven, including:

Got any book recommendations?
Books are incredibly personal. People will ask for recommendations, and my first question is, what kind of books do you like? I could have a favorite book, and it wouldn't speak to you at all. Don't be afraid to come in and talk to us or look at the books. Some of the books we have here, you're not going to see outside a museum. There's no admission. You don't have to be a collector. For me, it's all about talking with people who love books. That's why my job is great.


Personnel Changes at Lonely Planet

Peg O'Donnell is joining Lonely Planet as senior sales manager & children's specialist of Lonely Planet Americas. She was formerly national account manager at Publishers Group West, where she managed Baker & Taylor, and had been at the company since 1992.



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jim Dwyer on Marketplace

This morning on the Today Show: Kris Jenner, author of In the Kitchen with Kris: A Kollection of Kardashian-Jenner Family Favorites (Karen Hunter/Gallery Books, $25.99, 9781476728889). She will also appear on Entertainment Tonight.

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This morning on Marketplace Morning Report: Jim Dwyer, author of More Awesome Than Money: Four Boys and Their Heroic Quest to Save Your Privacy from Facebook (Viking, $27.95, 9780670025602).

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Today on Fresh Air: Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Spiegel & Grau, $28, 9780812994520). He will also appear tomorrow night on a repeat of the Daily Show.

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Today on the Diane Rehm Show: Rebecca Frankel, author of War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love (Palgrave Macmillan, $26, 9781137279682).

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Today on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports: Walter Isaacson, author of The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (Simon & Schuster, $35, 9781476708690).

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Today on the Ellen Degeneres Show: Lena Dunham, author of Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned" (Random House, $28, 9780812994995).

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Today on the Talk: Billy Idol, author of Dancing with Myself (Touchstone, $28, 9781451628500).

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Tonight on Conan: Alan Cumming, author of Not My Father's Son: A Memoir (Dey Street Books, $26.99, 9780062225061).

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Tonight on a repeat of the Daily Show: Bill O'Reilly, co-author of Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II's Most Audacious General (Holt, $30, 9780805096682).

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Tonight on a repeat of the Colbert Report: Neil Young, author of Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life & Cars (Blue Rider, $32, 9780399172083).

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Tomorrow on PBS Newshour: Richard Norton Smith, author of On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller (Random House, $38, 9780375505805).

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Tomorrow on Diane Rehm: David Greene, author of Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia (Norton, $26.95, 9780393239959).

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Tomorrow on the Queen Latifah Show: B.J. Novak, author of The Book with No Pictures (Dial, $17.99, 9780803741713).

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Tomorrow on the Meredith Vieira Show: Nicholas Sparks, author of The Best of Me (Grand Central, $8, 9780446547635).

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Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Gary Segura, author of Latino America: How America's Most Dynamic Population is Poised to Transform the Politics of the Nation (PublicAffairs, $26.99, 9781610395014).


Movies: In the Heart of the Sea; Unbroken

Chris Hemsworth "battles the original Moby Dick" in the new trailer for Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea, based on the bestselling book by Nathaniel Philbrick, Indiewire reported. The cast also includes Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw, Tom Holland, Brendan Gleeson, Michelle Fairley, Charlotte Riley and Jordi Mollà. In the Heart of the Sea opens March 15.

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A new trailer is out for Unbroken, adapted from Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Indiewire noted that director/producer Angelina Jolie (Maleficent) "is tending to her blossoming directorial career. Unbroken is her sophomore feature-length effort and it's already being positioned as this year's big awards contender for Universal." The movie stars Jack O'Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Finn Wittrock, Garrett Hedlund, John Magaro, Alex Russell and Miyavi. Unbroken hits theaters on Christmas Day.


Books & Authors

Awards: Planeta; Toronto Book

Mexican writer Jorge Zepeda Patterson won Spain's extremely lucrative €601,000 (US$766,925) Planeta Prize for his novel Milena, o el fémur más bello del mundo. Catalan News Agency reported that the annual literary award is "for unpublished works in Spanish that are written under false titles and pseudonyms. This is in theory to avoid judges being swayed by the reputation of the author, or prior knowledge of the text. In the case of the winner, he submitted the work under the fake titles Los crímenes  del cromosoma XY (XY Chromosome Crimes­) with the nickname Eduardo Nevado."

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Charlotte Gray won the $10,000 (US$8,860) Toronto Book Award, which honors "authors of books of literary or artistic merit that are evocative of Toronto," for The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial that Shocked a Country. The judges said Gray's "masterful depiction of the prevailing attitudes in Toronto during this tumultuous period is beautifully crafted and full of insight about the social landscape. Enlivened with rich historical detail, The Massey Murder is an absorbing exploration of the plight of an unfortunate young woman caught in a new and alien world, and of a city still in the painful process of self-discovery."


Book Review

Review: Dear Thief

Dear Thief by Samantha Harvey (Atavist Books, $20 paperback, 9781937894467, October 28, 2014)

In Dear Thief, Samantha Harvey (The Wilderness) examines the human need for relationships despite the potential for loss. The narrator, who never mentions or signs her name, sits down at her desk in December 2001 to begin a letter she will write, in fits and starts, for half a year. In that six-month span, she pours the pain and poison of her deepest thoughts out onto the page, simultaneously trying to summon and exorcise her treacherous, long-lost best friend Nina, nicknamed Butterfly.

Glamorous, charismatic and selfish, Nina moved in with the narrator, enchanted her infant son, and began a love affair with her husband that ended the marriage. Then she disappeared, silently. It has been 18 years, and the narrator has no idea where Nina is, so she can't mail the letter and can't expect a response; can we call a story epistolary if the letter is never sent?

Conversational details of her work with the elderly, a young neighbor's crisis of faith and visits with her now-grown son give the expected conversational shape to her sprawling message, but she also punctuates her epistle with memories of their shared past, her love story with husband, Nick, and the emotional tug-of-war Nina inflicted on their marriage. Knowing the intended recipient will never read it, the narrator also imagines a life for her, scenes in which Nina does read the letter and defends her actions, or waves off the narrator's accusations with an amoral hand.

While the love triangle premise seems the perfect setup for a melodrama, Harvey never veers into the realm of histrionics. She carefully restricts the narrator's voice to a wry, witty clip that occasionally hints at the fury and grief still smoldering beneath the surface. One may even begin to think the narrator bears Nina surprisingly little ill will, only to then stumble across a sentence such as, "Sometimes I imagine, out of sheer playfulness, that I am writing this as a kind of defence for having murdered and buried you under the patio." Without outlining a single tantrum, Harvey still manages to convey the narrator's full range of emotions: the sting of betrayal, the philosophical musings of middle age and a continuing loneliness. Despite the years and pain separating them, this woman still expects Nina will show up when least expected, as was her habit, which seems both dreadful and desirable.

Harvey's engrossing missive may leave readers longing to put pen to paper and resurrect the lost art of handwritten letters--though one hopes to have fewer grievances than Nina's betrayed friend. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: A long, old-fashioned letter from a middle-aged woman to the treacherous friend who wrecked her marriage years ago explores the many intricate facets of human relationships.


Disney-Hyperion: Serafina and the Splintered Heart (Serafina # 3) by Robert Beatty
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