Shelf Awareness for Thursday, November 13, 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

Content Bookstore Opening in Northfield, Minn.

Content Bookstore, formerly Monkey See, Monkey Read, will open this Saturday in Northfield, Minn., at a new location and under new ownership. Northfield News reported that Jerry Bilek, who put the store up for sale earlier this summer, found interested buyers in Nate White and Jessica Peterson White, who have "worked with Bilek for the past several months to come to an agreement and signed the papers on Monday." Content Bookstore has also relocated to 425 Division Street, where it will have more space for books and events.

"When Nate and I first heard that Jerry wanted to sell the bookstore, we thought, 'Northfield has to have a bookstore!' " Jessica Peterson White said. "People still want a place to browse and learn about new things, where they can be surprised and delighted by literature, and learn new things in their community. [Buying it] seemed like a really important way to contribute to the Division Street economy and continue the community space and a very successful business.... We're not going to make a dramatic expansion of product lines, but we'll have more room to grow and adjust things."

Bilek said he "felt pretty lucky that the people of Northfield really stuck with me. A bookstore like this really works because it's in Northfield--a town that reads and buys books."

White added: "There's been such an outpouring of support from customers and friends who've helped us move things and given us ideas. It's pretty thrilling to see what we're doing in the community is so important to people."


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


Amazon: Hachette Resolution?; Oz Protests; Dutch e-Store

Amazon and Hachette are close to settling their dispute, we've heard from reliable sources. Don't expect an announcement; instead, watch for Amazon quietly to change its listings of Hachette titles, making them available immediately, discounting them at normal Amazon amounts and allowing orders of forthcoming titles.

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In Australia, the Australian Booksellers Association and Council of Small Business Australia (CSBA) are protesting reports, via Books & Publishing, that Amazon subsidiary Book Depository--the British online retailer that doesn't charge for shipping--is speaking with Australian publishers and distributors about setting up "a direct supply of locally published books."

The groups believe that under the scheme--whereby Australian suppliers might send their books to an Australia Post location, which would send the books to Book Depository customers--Book Depository and Amazon would continue not collecting GST (Australia's Goods and Service Tax, a value-added tax).

The ABA and CSBA wrote that in addition to not collecting GST, "It has been suggested that [Book Depository] will claim a tax credit for purchases from Australian Publishers for the GST they should have paid. This represents a double whammy for the Australian taxpayer. This is why these companies love operating in Australia, from outside Australia."

Joel Becker, chief executive of the ABA, commented: "We accept that Amazon and Book Depository have a right to set up shop in Australia. What we want to ensure is that they pay their fair share of tax at the same rate as Australian bookshops, online and physical, large and small, chain and independent. That means collecting GST on any purchase supplied within Australia. We also expect them to do the right thing, as offshore suppliers like major overseas distributor Baker & Taylor does, pay GST on any purchase by an Australian consumer, wherever they are located. To do otherwise is tax avoidance, pure and simple."

Jon Page, a past president of the ABA and managing director of Pages & Pages Booksellers, Mosman, N.S.W., and online seller Boomerang, said, "I would welcome Amazon or the Book Depository setting up a warehouse in Australia because it would be a fair fight. This is not a fair fight. This is an example of pure greed, cowardice and business without responsibility. In light of not only their blatant tax evasion but also the terrible conditions Amazon workers have around the world and the conditions Amazon already dictate to publishers over terms of trade, I find it truly unfathomable that any publisher would wish to get into bed with them."

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Amazon launched a website to sell e-books and Kindles in the Netherlands yesterday, NL Times reported, adding that Amazon officials said "the product range primarily consists of more than 20,000 Dutch e-books, in addition to a catalogue of over 3 million books in other languages. The apps and e-readers from Amazon will also be available in the Dutch language."

Noting that it "is still unclear whether the other parts of Amazon, such as the sale of physical goods and digital films, will eventually be available in the Netherlands," NL Times said that when Jorrit Van der Meulen, head of the Amazon hardware department, was asked if the launch of the Dutch Kindle Store must be seen as the first step on the Dutch market, he replied that "it is a big step."


KidsBuzz for the Week of 06.26.17


House Urged to Pass Marketplace Fairness Act

After Speaker of the House John Boehner said Monday he would block any attempt to pass e-fairness legislation in the lame-duck session of Congress, the Marketplace Fairness Coalition sent a letter signed by more than 320 organizations urging him to reconsider, Bookselling This Week reported. In addition, Advocates for Independent Business, which includes the American Booksellers Association, has relaunched the #efairnessnow grassroots social media campaign in support of e-fairness.

The Marketplace Fairness Act was passed 69-27 by the Senate in May 2013, requiring "remote" retailers with out-of-state sales of at least $1 million to collect applicable state and local sales tax on all purchases. President Obama has said he would sign the bill into law; many House Republicans and most online retailers, but not Amazon, have fought the bill.

It's unlikely that such a bill would pass either chamber when the new Congress, with its Republican majorities, convenes in the new year. Presumed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voted against the Marketplace Fairness Act.

The letter said, in part: "Locally based retailers and wholesaler-distributors and their employees across the country expect Congress to make 2014 the last year in which Main Street businesses are burdened with a government-sanctioned price disadvantage, compared to their online competitors. The time to level the playing field has come… There have been more than 30 Congressional hearings on this issue since 1994, including three hearings in the House Judiciary Committee in the past three years alone.... [R]ecent national polling results show that 7 in 10 consumers support legislation requiring online sellers to collect sales tax at the time of purchase just as local brick-and-mortar businesses do."

Among the signatories to the letter are the ABA and the nine regional booksellers associations. ABA executive director Oren Teicher commented: "We appreciate that getting it done with the Speaker's opposition will not be easy, but we are continuing to press our case. It remains outrageous that--in late 2014--we still need to argue for a level playing field with regard to the collection of sales taxes. For one group of retailers to continue to get a tax beak that is unavailable to others is as unfair today as it was a decade ago. The time for Congress to act is NOW!!!!"


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


B&N Bundling 'Select' Paperbacks During Holiday Season

B&N's Nook Media has launched B&N Sync Up!, an in-store program that bundles printed books and e-books: during the holiday season, customers at B&N stores can buy paperbacks from "a specially curated selection" and buy the digital version of the same book for $4.99. The e-book version can be read on any Nook device and on many smartphones and tablets via the free Nook reading app.

Customers can have the offer activated at checkout in the store, where they receive an access code on their receipt. They also have the option of having the code printed on a gift receipt or e-mailed to them. To redeem the offer, customers or gift recipients can visit BN.com/redeem, enter their code and download the digital edition.

Among titles included in the program: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, Outlander (Outlander Series #1) by Diana Gabaldon, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Life of Pi by Yann Martel and more.


Counterpoint: Gangster Nation by Tod Goldberg


Holiday Hum: Indies Prepare for Big Holiday Season, Part 1

With just two weeks to go until Thanksgiving and the beginning of the holiday shopping season, independent booksellers around the country are planning for the annual rush and what is usually the biggest, busiest time of year. [This is part one of a two-part story; the second part will run tomorrow.]

Margot Sage-EL

Margot Sage-EL, owner of Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, N.J., has already seen some regular customers begin their holiday shopping. She and her staff are busy getting their best-of picks ready for later in the season, when shopping begins in earnest.

"The early, regular customers come in and very specifically know what they want," Sage-EL explained. "It's the people who come after that, who don't know what they want, that we need to be ready for. We need to have kind of spectacular, off-the-beaten path books that you couldn't hear about just anywhere."

Over the past year, Sage-EL said she's noticed a seeming greater appreciation for the printed book, which she hopes carries over well into the holiday season. "I've heard from individuals coming in and saying that they're tired of reading on a screen," she continued. "People seem to be recognizing the value of the printed book, for its physical beauty and as a thoughtful gift. You have to think about who you're giving a book to and why; you really have to have a connection with that person."

With only three full weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Sage-EL expects early December to be a very, very busy time. "It's really tight," she said. "We're going to be hustling."

Sweet Pea Flaherty

For Sweet Pea Flaherty, the owner of King's Books in Tacoma, Wash., the holiday season kicks off this year the weekend before Thanksgiving, with a two-day craft fair held at the store. The three Saturdays leading up to Small Business Saturday and Indies First, in fact, will all have events; Flaherty hopes these will help ramp up the store into the holiday season.

Among the titles that Flaherty expects to do very well for his store this holiday season are Mary Oliver's Dog Songs (Penguin Press), Patrick Rothfuss's new novella The Slow Regard of Silent Things (DAW), The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore (Knopf) and The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft, edited by Leslie S. Klinger (Liveright).

"We've already sold a bunch of copies of that," Flaherty remarked. "It's kind of a weird Christmas present I guess, but it's doing well."

white birch booksSo far this year, Laura Lucy, owner of White Birch Books in North Conway, N.H., has not seen a "frontrunner bestseller" in fiction emerge the way Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch (Little, Brown) took wing last year. Lucy and her staff, nonetheless, are very excited about All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Scribner), as well as Jodi Picoult's Leaving Time (Ballantine). Another popular title stems from an arrangement the store has with local writer Tom Ryan, the author of Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship (Morrow), to be the only source for signed copies of his book. Although the book has been out since 2011, Lucy said, the store is selling it in droves for yet another holiday season.

"Other than that, nothing's really leapt out as the book of the season," she said. "People are buying across the board; I kind of prefer it this way."

Since last year's holiday season, Lucy said, she's seen a greater emphasis on and awareness of shopping local from customers and community members. "North Conway village is almost entirely indie stores," she explained. "We all promote Shop the Village--park your car once, meander, have lunch. As far as trends go, more people are saying to us when they come in, I wanted to come here because I wanted to buy locally. Out of towners say, I want to support bookstores like you."

John Evans, DIESEL Books
John Evans

John Evans, the owner of DIESEL, a Bookstore, with three locations in Oakland, Larkspur and Brentwood, Calif., agreed that there has been no breakaway book this season, at least in fiction. He does, however, believe that Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl (Random House) and Amy Poehler's Yes Please (Dey Street Books) will continue to perform really well through the holidays. As for children's books, he has high hopes for Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (Candlewick), B.J. Novak's The Book with No Pictures (Dial) and Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar by Keith Richards and Theodora Richards (Little, Brown).

DIESEL will host its annual Thank You Pie Party for customers on the Sunday before Thanksgiving in the Oakland and Larkspur stores. During the event, there's a 20% discount across the store and ample pie for customers. Although the party traditionally kicks off the holiday season, Evans said he's already seen holiday shopping begin.

"This year it seems that people are starting a little earlier," he said. "People are already starting to come out to buy gifts; it's picked up over the last couple weeks. Right now our job is to make sure we don't run out of anything." --Alex Mutter


Notes

Image of the Day: A Night in the Lonesome October

Chicago Review Press marked the re-release of late SF/fantasy/humor author Roger Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October ($15.95, 9781556525605) with A Night in the Lonesome October Read-Along. Following the tradition of Zelazny's fans reading one chapter a night during October, 35 staff members, plus some from sister company IPG, organized three meetings at Chicago's Open Books (including one on Halloween) and more frequent virtual discussions (non-employees participated via Twitter). A Night in the Lonesome October is a blend of horror and humor, considered by some (like George R.R. Martin) to be Zelazny's best novel. He died in 1995. Here at Open Book (from l.): Denae Dietlein, Michelle Green, Elaina Komala, Jynelle Greenfield and Courtney Buras.


Road Trip: 'USA's 10 Most Beautiful Bookshops'

Showcasing its choices for the "USA's 10 most beautiful bookshops," Culture Trip noted these "stalwarts demonstrate that a bookstore is not only a place to find books--new, used, rare or otherwise--but also an important community gathering where you can hear great author lectures, get recommendations from a knowledgeable employee or simply talk literature with friends over a good cup of coffee."


Cool Idea of the Day: Train Car Library

The Larry Paikin Literacy Express, a train car converted into a library, opened recently at the Eva Rothwell Resource Centre in Hamilton, Ontario. The Toronto Star reported that Ontario's lieutenant governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell "officially opened the retrofitted 1954 CN passenger car after being welcomed with a pipe band and red carpet."

"The choice of a railway car is really quite inspired because it represents the start of a journey," Dowdeswell said. "A place that can nourish the spirit and expand their horizons."

The Centre raised $100,000 (about US$87,770) for the project, which has a goal of improving low literacy rates in the north end Keith neighborhood. The Star noted that one end features a plush lounge, while "the larger section has one wall completely lined with books, many of which were donated by publisher Random House."


Personnel Changes at Harper, Penguin Random House

Amy Baker has been promoted to v-p, associate publisher of Harper Perennial and Harper Paperbacks. She was formerly associate publisher.

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Katherine Tiernan McCahill is joining Penguin Random House as senior director, digital development. She formerly worked at Wiley in global education and was the product manager for WileyPLUS.



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Sophia Loren on Nightline

This morning on the Today Show: Ryan Ferguson, author of Stronger, Faster, Smarter: A Guide to Your Most Powerful Body (Tarcher, $16.95, 9780399173066).

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Tomorrow on NPR's Science Friday: Gus Speth, author of Angels by the River: A Memoir (Chelsea Green, $25, 9781603585859).

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Tomorrow night on Nightline: Sophia Loren, author of Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life (Atria, $28, 9781476797427).


TV: Zoo

James Wolk (The Crazy Ones) will star in Zoo, a "high profile new straight-to-series drama" based on James Patterson's novel and set to debut next summer on CBS, Deadline.com reported. Jeff Pinkner, Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Scott Rosenberg wrote the adaptation, which will be directed by Brad Anderson.


This Weekend on Book TV: George W. Bush

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, November 15
12 p.m. Book TV interviews authors and visits literary sites in Madison, Wis. (Re-airs Sunday at 10:30 a.m.)

1:30 p.m. Jordan Ellenberg, author of How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking (Penguin Press, $27.95, 9781594205224), at the 2014 Wisconsin Book Festival.

3:45 p.m. Barrett Tillman, author of Forgotten Fifteenth: The Daring Airmen Who Crippled Hitler's War Machine (Regnery History, $29.99, 9781621572084), at Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Ariz.

5 p.m. James Scott, author of The War Below: The Story of Three Submarines That Battled Japan (Simon & Schuster, $15.95, 9781439176849), and Jack McCall, Jr., editor of Pacific Time on Target: Memoirs of a Marine Artillery Officer, 1943-1945 (Kent State University Press, $29.95, 9781606351208), at the 2014 Southern Festival of Books.

6 p.m. Boris Johnson, author of The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History (Riverhead, $27.95, 9781594633027), at Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C.

7 p.m. Former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, author of My Story (Knopf Australia, 9780857983909, unavailable in the U.S.). (Re-airs Sunday at 8:45 a.m.)

8:30 p.m. Aaron David Miller, author of The End of Greatness: Why America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President (Palgrave Macmillan, $28, 9781137279002).

10 p.m. Karen Armstrong, author of Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence (Knopf, $30, 9780307957047). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. George W. Bush, author of 41: A Portrait of My Father (Crown, $28, 9780553447781). (Re-airs Sunday at 2 p.m.)


Sunday, November 16
12 a.m. Ted Rall, author of After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back as Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan (Hill and Wang, $26, 9780809023400), at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe in Washington, D.C.

1 p.m. Linda Gordon, author of Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits (Norton, $24.95, 9780393339055). (Re-airs Monday at 1 a.m.)

1:30 p.m. Andrew Ross, author of Creditocracy: And the Case for Debt Refusal (OR Books, e-book). (Re-airs Monday at 1:30 a.m.)

8 p.m. John McCain, co-author of Thirteen Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781476759654).
 
10 p.m. Jonathan Last, author of The Seven Deadly Virtues: 18 Conservative Writers on Why the Virtuous Life is Funny as Hell (Templeton Press, $24.95, 9781599474601).

11 p.m. John Nagl, author of Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory and Practice (Penguin Press, $27.95, 9781594204982).


Books & Authors

Awards: Bad Sex in Fiction; National Outdoor Books

This year's shortlist has been announced for the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award, "Britain's most dreaded literary prize" that seeks out "the most egregious passage of sexual description in a work of fiction," the Guardian reported. A "winner" will be named December 3. The shortlisted titles are:

The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
The Hormone Factory by Saskia Goldschmidt
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
The Age of Magic by Ben Okri
The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Loyd
Desert God by Wilbur Smith
Things to Make and Break by May-Lan Tan
The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh
The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark

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The winners of the 2014 National Outdoor Book Awards, sponsored by the National Outdoor Book Awards Foundation, Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, and Idaho State University, have been announced and include, for the first time a book that won in two categories--Life on the Rocks. Winners and honorable mentions are:

Outdoor literature: Small Feet, Big Land: Adventure, Home and Family on the Edge of Alaska by Erin McKittrick (Mountaineers Books)
Natural history literature: The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World by Julian Hoffman (University of Georgia Press)
History/biography: Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery (Chicago Review Press)
Classic: Not Without Peril: 150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire by Nicholas Howe (Appalachian Mountain Club Books)
Nature and the environment: Life on the Rocks: A Portrait of the American Mountain Goat, written and photographed by Bruce L. Smith (University Press of Colorado)
Design and artistic merit (tie):
Salt: Coastal and Flats Fishing, photographs by Andy Anderson, essays by Tom Rosenbauer (Rizzoli International Publications)
Life on the Rocks: A Portrait of the American Mountain Goat, written and photographed by Bruce L. Smith (University Press of Colorado)
Children's: Good Morning Loon by Elizabeth S. Varnai, illustrated by Kate Hartley (Vista Court Books)
Outdoor adventure guidebooks: Chattahoochee River User's Guide by Joe Cook (University of Georgia Press)
Nature guidebooks: The Warbler Guide by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle (Princeton University Press)
Instructional: Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete by Steve House and Scott Johnston (Patagonia Books)
Work of significance: Fieldbook: Scouting's Manual of Basic and Advanced Skills for Outdoor Adventure by Robert Birkby (Boy Scouts of America)

Honorable mentions:
Nature and the environment: Feathers: A Beautiful Look at a Bird's Most Unique Feature by Stan Tekiela (Adventure Publications)
Instructional: Simple Fly Fishing: Techniques for Tenkara and Rod & Reel by Yvon Chouinard, Craig Mathews and Mauro Mazzo, paintings by James Prosek (Patagonia Books)


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, November 18:

The Cinderella Murder: An Under Suspicion Novel by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke (Simon & Schuster, $26.99, 9781476763125) follows a TV producer who launches a cold case reality crime show.

The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans (Simon & Schuster, $19.99, 9781476728209) follows a pretend holiday relationship--from the author of The Christmas Box.

You Can't Make This Up: Miracles, Memories, and the Perfect Marriage of Sports and Television by Al Michaels and L. Jon Wertheim (Morrow, $28.99, 9780062314963) is the sportscaster's memoir.

Ed Sheeran: A Visual Journey by Ed Sheeran and Phillip Butah (Running Press, $25, 9780762456963) is about the British singer-songwriter.

Stolen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston (Putnam, $17.99, 9780399257551) continues the Heart of Dread YA series.

The Murder of Harriet Krohn by Karin Fossum (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24, 9780544273399) is the seventh Inspector Sejer mystery.

The Paris Winter: A Novel by Imogen Robertson (St. Martin's Press, $25.99, 9781250051837) follows an aspiring artist in early 20th-century Paris.

Soul Mind Body Science System: Grand Unification Theory and Practice for Healing, Rejuvenation, Longevity, and Immortality by Zhi Gang Sha (BenBella Books, $24.95, 9781940363998) is about spiritual healing.


Now in paperback

Captivated by You: Crossfire Series, Book 4 by Sylvia Day (Berkley, $16, 9780425273869).


Movies

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay--Part 1, based on the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, opens November 21. The cast includes Jennifer Lawrence, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson and Donald Sutherland.


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
Fire Shut Up in My Bones: A Memoir by Charles M. Blow (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 9780544228047). "Mirroring so many of the memories, feelings, and imaginings from my own childhood in small-town Arkansas, Blow's moving memoir tells the pitiless Southern experience of a black man coming of age in Louisiana in a world and time when the legacy of slavery's grip is slipping away ever so slowly but still leaves its searing sting. An important book." --Chris Crawley, That Bookstore in Blytheville, Blytheville, Ark.

By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life From the New York Times Book Review, edited by Pamela Paul (Holt, $28, 9781627791458). "I love talking about books, and reading this collection of wonderful By the Book columns from the New York Times Book Review was like getting to have dozens of such conversations with my favorite authors. I learned what David Sedaris would give the president to read, what Ira Glass thinks of guilty pleasures, and who Donna Tartt admires. There's a wide selection of interviewees, including some non-authors, and it's fascinating to see how many of their answers overlap. Whether read in short bursts or in one decadent gulp, this is the perfect gift for bibliophiles!" --Lauren Peugh, Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, Ariz.

Paperback
The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking by Olivia Laing (Picador, $16, 9781250063731). "The Trip to Echo Spring is the ideal blend of memoir, literary criticism, and travelogue. Fans of Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, and Geoff Dyer will soon list Olivia Laing as one of their favorite writers. Laing never glamorizes alcoholism; instead, she lifts the romantic veil off the stories we know about some of the most famous drunken scribes and shows just how devastating--but alluring--alcohol can be." --Michele Filgate, Community Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y.

For Ages 4 to 8
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts (Putnam, $16.99, 9780399257438). "Sometimes the smallest voice makes the loudest sound. And when we make a sound, that's when change can happen. This is a simple and truthful story, beautifully told." --Beth Page, Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, Wash.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: Gil Scott-Heron: Pieces of a Man

Gil Scott-Heron: Pieces of a Man by Marcus Baram (St. Martin's Press, $26.99 hardcover, 9781250012784, November 11, 2014)

Marcus Baram's biography of the troubled Gil Scott-Heron could have taken its subtitle from the promotion tagline of Robert Mugge's 1983 documentary Black Wax, featuring Scott-Heron's 1982 show at Washington, D.C.'s Wax Museum club: "The Most Dangerous Musician Alive." Or Baram might have chosen his own descriptive summary: "Gil the ghetto griot." Both capture in a few words the reputation of this iconic black hero who transcended society's mixed-race prejudice and his broken-family youth in segregated Jackson, Tenn., to inspire and challenge black artists from the 1960s until his death in 2011. Politically active, musically eclectic, poetically in the tradition of Langston Hughes, and ultimately brought down by a Richard Pryor-like addiction to crack cocaine, Scott-Heron was a social force throughout the last half of the 20th century who never achieved the big-money fame earned by several of his African-American contemporaries, many of whom appropriated his rap and percussion style.

Baram, managing editor of International Business Times who boasts numerous bylines from the Huffington Post, the New York Times, Vibe and New York magazine, knew Scott-Heron and had access to the recollections of the musician's family, friends and bandmates as well as those of the man himself. From this rich material, Scott-Heron's life becomes clear, starting with his tough childhood under the care of his grandmother Lillie (who took him in after his Jamaican soccer-playing father left the family and his mother set off on her own career in South Carolina and New York City).

With his intellect (evident despite his poor grades) and easy way with people, the tall, skinny Scott-Heron worked the diversity angle to breach the admission walls at a tony New York prep school, then enrolled in Langston Hughes's alma mater, Lincoln University, and finally earned an MFA at Johns Hopkins, despite dropping out of Lincoln before graduation in order to write novels and songs. Along the way, he participated in campus protests against the Vietnam War and racial injustice and joined Washington's politically active Lost Poets writer colony.

It was his music that most engaged him and touched the widest audience. His enduring songs "The Bottle" and "Johannesburg" cracked the Billboard charts and led to financially rewarding recording contracts. His poem "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" found its lyrics and title co-opted by nearly everyone with a revolutionary agenda, including a Mexican rock band, recent Greek student protesters and even Nike's advertising department. In addition to his documentary of Scott-Heron's concert, Mugge also featured him in his underground classic reggae film Cool Runnings.

For a while, Scott-Heron was riding a rising tide, upgrading his mother's Bronx apartment and finding easy access to the coke and drugs that fueled the music industry. It was the latter that did him in. Missed gigs, drug busts, jail time, rehab... it's a well-trod path. Baram tells it all, including the support Scott-Heron received from musical movers like Run-DMC, Grandmaster Flash and Stevie Wonder. In the words of a 1976 Playboy profile, he could make "proud Afro-scats bugaloo the midnight streets." When Scott-Heron was on, he was indeed the "ghetto griot." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: With access to Scott-Heron and his family and friends, journalist Marcus Baram has crafted the first full-length biography of this seminal figure in black music and late 20th-century politics.


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