Shelf Awareness for Monday, January 12, 2015


St. Martin's Press: In the Blink of an Eye by Jesse Blackadder

Shadow Mountain: Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

Nosy Crow: Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon, selected by Fiona Waters

Quirk Books: The Princess and the Fangirl (Once Upon a Con #2) by Ashley Poston

Greystone Books: The Hidden Life of Trees: The Illustrated Edition by Peter Wohlleben, translated by Jane Billinghurst

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Pearl by Molly Idle

Editors' Note

Up Is the Renewed Up

No Grinch reports for this holiday season (though he did make an appearance at Vroman's).

With just about all reports in, it's clear that 2014 ended strongly for bricks-and-mortar bookstores. For the first time in several years, book sales at Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million during the holiday season stabilized. At independents, the news was significantly better: sales at average indies in December rose 9%, according to the American Booksellers Association, and sales for the year were up 6%. These results jibe with our reports over the past month and a half on indie holiday sales and mark a striking contrast to four or five years ago, when many booksellers were saying "flat is the new up" or "down slightly is the new up."

Commenting on ABA statistics, CEO Oren Teicher said, "It's clear that the resurgence in independent bookstores is both continuing and strengthening." The reasons for that resurgence are myriad: buy local campaigns; the power of such promotions as Indies First and Small Business Saturday; the "return" of printed books, whose popularity appears to be increasing again; a range of sidelines that appeal to book buyers; bricks-and-mortar booksellers' emphasis on what distinguishes them from other book retailers, such as events, community ties and creating a "third place"; a renewed acknowledgement among consumers that bricks-and-mortar stores are one of the best places for discovering new books; more support from publishers, who are daily reminded of the value of their traditional bookstore partners; bad publicity for a certain online retailing behemoth; and last but not least the enthusiasm, knowledge and skill of booksellers. As B&N CEO Michael P. Huseby said last week in brief comments about the company's improved bookstore sales: "Our retail booksellers performed at an outstanding level for our customers this holiday season, which is reflected in our results."

So congratulations booksellers everywhere! It was a wonderful holiday season at most stores--and you're directly responsible for that. --John Mutter, editor-in-chief


Enlighten Up: Divine Dog Wisdom Cards: A 62 Card Deck and Guidebook by Barb Horn and Randy Crutcher, illustrated by Teresa Shishim


News

Dymocks Leaving Hong Kong; Highest Bookstore in the World?

Australian bookseller Dymocks is shutting its main Hong Kong store this month and will close its local office, the South China Morning Post reported. Calling Dymocks Hong Kong's largest English-language bookseller, the paper said that the landlord would not renew the lease on the company's store in the IFC Mall.

The five remaining Dymocks stores in Hong Kong will operate independently using the Dymocks name before being rebranded individually. The Post's parent company, SCMP Group, is a minority shareholder in Dymocks's China operations.

Dymocks opened in Hong Kong 15 years ago. The paper noted that local booksellers have been "battered by high rents and shifting reading habits."

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Taiwan's Eslite Group, whose flagship store in Taipei is open 24 hours a day, will open its first stores in China, including in the Shanghai Tower, a 121-story building that will be China's tallest and the third-tallest in the world, according to China Times.

At the Shanghai Tower, which is under construction, Eslite will have what may be the highest bookstore in the world--the main bookstore will be on the 52nd and 53rd floors. (It will also sell lifestyle merchandise and highlight artistic works in a space on the basement floor.)

The company plans to open six to eight stores in China--launching one or two more annually--preferably in shopping malls or business districts.


University of Minnesota Press: Laurentian Divide by Sarah Stonich


Bankruptcy Court Approves Sale of Explore Booksellers

The federal court in the bankruptcy case involving former billionaire Samuel Wyly has approved the sale of Explore Booksellers, Aspen, Colo., and its valuable building for $5 million, Bloomberg reported. The transaction should take place by January 16.

Last week, the Aspen Times said that the group making the $5 million offer is the Public Interest Network, "a consortium of national nonprofit organizations that fight for environmental, social justice and consumer protection causes," which apparently wants to keep Explore Booksellers open.

Bloomberg noted that the store is held in the name of Samuel Wyly's wife, Cheryl, and that he is spending "about" $29,000 a month on the bookstore's mortgage. The judge also approved the sale of a GMC Sierra truck "affiliated with the bookstore" for about $27,000.


GLOW: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra


S&S Launching Online Courses

Simon & Schuster is launching a website, SimonSays, that features courses to be taught by several of its authors, the New York Times reported. The courses, which will be standalone products rather than book supplements, cost $25-$85 each and include workbooks and access to live q&a sessions with the authors. The courses will also be available on the authors' websites; the authors are expected to promote the products. S&S and the authors will split revenue from the courses.

Initial participating authors are Dr. David B. Agus, author of The End of Illness; Zhena Muzyka, author of Life by the Cup: Ingredients for a Purpose-Filled Life of Bottomless Happiness and Limitless Success; and Tosha Silver, author of Outrageous Openness: Letting the Divine Take the Lead.

S&S president and CEO Carolyn Reidy said, "Today's consumers have made it plain that they want and expect more from authors than just books. This initiative is another way for us to expand what Simon & Schuster can provide to our authors, building audiences for their books and creating new revenue streams."

S&S plans to offer 12 to 15 courses a year, focused on writers who "have established, dedicated fan bases and a well-defined philosophy or message to deliver," the Times wrote.

The courses may eventually include videos by experts and entertainers who have not published books. "The videos might lead the way to a book," said Liz Perl, executive v-p and chief marketing officer.


Greystone Books: The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate--Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben, translated by Jane Billinghurst


Amazon Shuts Down Associates Program in Vermont

Amazon has shut down its Associates program in Vermont in response to the state's "click-through advertising" law, which hasn't even gone into effect and was passed in 2011 to pressure Congress to enact the Marketplace Fairness Act, Vermont Public Radio reported.

Using a familiar tactic, the online retailer sent an e-mail to members saying the action is "a direct result of Vermont's state tax collection legislation.... Amazon strongly supports federal legislation creating a simplified framework to uniformly resolve interstate sales tax issues. We are working with states, retailers, and bipartisan supporters in Congress to get legislation passed that would allow us to reopen our Associates program in Vermont."

State Senator Tim Ashe, chairman of the Senate Finance committee, told VPR that the law "does not go into effect until 15 other states adopt a similar provision, which would be triggered by a determination by the [Attorney General]. I do not believe that has happened, and Amazon appears to be just trying to bully their way forward. Which is typical for a company like them."

In a statement, state tax commissioner Mary Peterson said, "We regret Amazon's precipitous action, and rest assured, we will work to protect our Vermont-based bricks and mortar and online merchants. Given Congress' continued inaction, and Amazon's tactics, the governor will be asking the legislature to amend our click through law to take effect one year after twenty-five states adopt click through laws. We will continue to work in collaboration with other states for enactment of Marketplace Fairness that will protect our Main Street businesses."


Dutton Books: The Woman Inside by E.G. Scott


E-Fairness: Michigan Legislature Approves Bill

Late last month, the Michigan state legislature voted to pass e-fairness legislation. Bookselling This Week reported that the Main Street Fairness bill, which awaits Governor Rick Snyder's signature, "would require remote retailers with nexus in the state via either online affiliates or warehouse/storage space to collect and remit sales tax to the state." The bill, which passed the House by a vote of 83-27 and the Senate 25-13, is set to take effect in October.


Binc Foundation Scholarship Application Period Opens

The Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation is opening its annual scholarship program, which will award up to $200,000 in scholarships to eligible current bookstore employees/owners and their dependents as well as former Borders Group employees and their dependents. Applications are being accepted until Friday, February 27; the awards consist of 50 for $3,500 each, two awards of $10,000, and one Karl Pohrt Tribute Scholarship award of $5,000 for someone who has overcome learning adversity or is a non-traditional student.

Since 2001, the Binc Foundation has given more than $1.5 million in awards to more than 550 people.

To apply for a Binc scholarship, go to the website of Scholarship America, which is again conducting the program. Criteria include financial need, prior academic achievement and leadership capabilities (including participation in school and community activities), as well as work experience, a statement of career and educational goals and objectives, and unusual personal or family circumstances.

"The scholarship program has long been one of the cornerstones of how the Foundation helps booksellers," said Binc executive director Pam French. "This year we are especially honored to launch the Karl Pohrt Tribute Scholarship in memory of one of the country's finest booksellers."

Pohrt, who died in 2013, was founder and the longtime owner of the Shaman Drum Bookshop, Ann Arbor, Mich.


Obituary Note: Robert Stone

Robert Stone, who won the National Book Award for Dog Soldiers in 1975, died on Saturday of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the New York Times wrote. He was 77.

Besides Dog Soldiers, which was made into the movie Who'll Stop the Rain, his works include A Hall of Mirrors, A Flag for Sunrise, Outerbridge Reach, Damascus Gate, Fun with Problems and Death of the Black-Haired Girl. He also wrote a memoir, Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties about his time with Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters. He was a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Noting that Stone lived for a time in an orphanage and was a "rebellious teenager" who was kicked out of high school before joining the Navy, the Times wrote that Stone "drew on his hardscrabble upbringing in his work, where war served as a principal metaphor for human life. A two-month stint in Vietnam for a British journal in 1971 served as the inspiration for Dog Soldiers, and A Flag for Sunrise focused on characters whose lives collided in a Central American republic modeled on Nicaragua."

Robert Stone won a special place in our hearts at an event in the mid-1970s when, after reading from Dog Soldiers, he deftly and amusingly handled some needling questions from a member of the audience. At one point, the questioner suggested that in his work, Stone hadn't quite grasped "the bull by the horns." Stone gazed at him and, after a lovely pause, said, "It's your bull."


Notes

Image of the Day: SRO in NOLA

It was standing room only at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, La., when local environmental lawyer Stuart H. Smith launched his new book, Crude Justice: How I Fought Big Oil and Won, and What You Should Know About the New Environmental Attack on America (BenBella Books). 


Oblong's Suzanna Hermans: 'I Grew Up in the Bookstore'

Suzanna Hermans, co-owner of Oblong Books & Music, with stores in Rhinebeck and Millerton, N.Y., was interviewed by Hudson Valley Almanac Weekly. Among our favorite exchanges:

Your Dad, Dick Hermans, started Oblong Books in 1975--ten years before you were born--in Millerton. What made you want to join the business?

I was raised in a thriving established business. I grew up in the bookstore and was always a big reader. I spent my childhood and teen years adoring the theater, and got a degree in Theater. Though I love performing and see tons of shows, I realized I didn't want to make a living doing that. After college, when I wondered what I should do with my life, I realized I really like books--and we have these bookstores. In 2007, I joined the business and started managing the Rhinebeck store. I have not looked back, and have taken part-ownership of the business.

Do you still view Barnes & Noble as your prime competitor?

They're no longer our enemy, because now they're struggling--maybe more than the independent bookstores. Having a 30,000-square-foot store is extremely expensive to rent and fill with merchandise. They've been struggling trying to figure out the digital market, and their Nook business is not doing well. Borders closed. I no longer think of them as a competitor; in fact, they are providing books to a lot of communities that don't have an independent bookstore.

How well are you doing?

We're modestly profitable. We're pretty smart businesspeople who've been in business long enough to know what we are doing, and we can be agile. 2008 was a really hard year, and coming back was challenging. But this year at the Rhinebeck store has been the best year ever. Part of that is related to the village becoming bigger every year.

Given the enormous amounts of time people are spending on their computer, are you concerned about the future of reading?

As far as the future of reading goes, we're in a cool position. Not only are books still here after hundreds of years, now there are so many new ways to read and publish content. You can read essayists who have both print books and write on Tumblr. I'm not worried about books and appreciate the many ways we are consuming the written word. Social media and all its different platforms make this a really good time to be a writer and reader.


Personnel Changes at Quercus U.S., Europa Editions

Nathaniel Marunas has been appointed publisher of Quercus U.S., which includes MacLehose Press and Jo Fletcher Books. He was involved in setting up Quercus and then worked with Hachette to move the business there following Hodder & Stoughton's purchase of the company last year. As publisher, he will expand the Quercus list, drawing from Hachette U.K. lists and the Teach Yourself list, which had been handled by McGraw-Hill. He will come under the publishing supervision of Reagan Arthur, publisher of Little, Brown.

Quercus U.S. reports to Jason Bartholomew, who becomes director of Quercus U.S. and continues as rights director of Hodder Headline, John Murray Press and Quercus.

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At Europa Editions:

Kent Carroll, co-publisher since 2005, has been named publisher-at-large and will focus on editing and bringing new authors in English to the Europa list.

Each with the title of publisher, Europa owners and founders Sandro Ferri and Sandra Ozzola Ferri will continue as editorial directors and assume more direct roles in the company's operations.

Editor-in-chief Michael Reynolds will be responsible for daily operations at Europa's New York offices and will continue to acquire fiction both in English and in translation.



Media and Movies

And This Year's Golden Globe Winner: Books

Book-to-screen adaptations picked up a nice collection of hardware at last night's Golden Globe Awards. Winning films and TV series that started as books or have book connections were:

Motion picture, comedy or musical: The Grand Budapest Hotel, inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig
Actress in a motion picture, drama: Julianne Moore for Still Alice, based on the novel by Lisa Genova
Actor in a motion picture, drama: Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything, based on Jane Hawking's memoir, Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen (also won for original film score)
Actor in a motion picture, comedy or musical: Michael Keaton for Birdman, which centered on a Broadway stage adaptation of Raymond Carver's story "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" (also won for best screenplay)
Animated feature: How to Train Your Dragon 2, based on the books by Cressida Cowell
Supporting actor, series, miniseries or TV movie: Matt Bomer for The Normal Heart, based on Larry Kramer's play
Supporting actress, series, miniseries or TV movie: Joanne Froggatt for Downton Abbey, which has inspired many companion books


Media Heat: David Adam on Fresh Air

Today on Fresh Air: David Adam, author of The Man Who Couldn't Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought (Sarah Crichton/FSG, $26, 9780374223953).

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Today on the Diane Rehm Show: Jessica Neuwirth, author of Equal Means Equal: Why the Time for an Equal Rights Amendment Is Now (New Press, $14.95, 9781620970393).

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Tomorrow on the Steve Harvey Show: Tony Robbins, author of Money Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781476757803).

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Tomorrow on NPR's On Point: Steve Israel, author of The Global War on Morris: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781476772233).

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Tomorrow night on the Daily Show: Senator Marco Rubio, author of American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone (Sentinel, $27.95, 9781595231130).


Books & Authors

Awards: Story Prize Finalists; Arabic Fiction Longlist

The three finalists for the Story Prize, underwritten by the Chisholm Foundation, are:

The Other Language by Francesca Marciano (Pantheon)
Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken (Dial Press)
Bark by Lorrie Moore (Knopf)

In addition, the Story Prize Spotlight Award, which provides $1,000 to an additional collection deserving of further attention, goes to Praying Drunk by Kyle Minor (Sarabande Books).

Story Prize founder Julie Lindsey and director Larry Dark chose the finalists for the Story Prize. The winner will be chosen by a jury of three: Arsen Kashkashian, the book buyer and general manager of the Boulder Book Store in Boulder, Colo.; Noreen Tomassi, director of the Center for Fiction; and author Laura van den Berg.

At the award event, to be held at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 4, at the New School in New York City, the three finalists will read from their work with Larry Dark. At the end of the event, Julie Lindsey will announce the winner and present that author with $20,000 and an engraved silver bowl. The two runners-up each receive $5,000.

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The longlist for the 2015 International Prize for Arabic Fiction consists of 16 novels from nine countries. The shortlist will be announced on February 13 at the Casablanca International Book Fair in Morocco, and the winner will be named May 6 at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The six shortlisted finalists each receive $10,000, and the winner receives an additional $50,000.


Book Review

Review: Frog

Frog by Mo Yan, trans. by Howard Goldblatt (Viking, $27.95 hardcover, 9780525427988, January 22, 2015)

Mo Yan's Frog is as alien and upsetting as good science fiction. His first novel since winning the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature opens in 1960 in a village where all newborn children are named after body parts. A classroom of 35 starving students discover that they can eat coal to survive. The novel becomes truly surreal when it gets to China's disturbing, viciously enforced one-child policy.

Narrator Wan Zu ("Foot"), nicknamed Tadpole, whose voluminous letters to his Japanese sensei comprise the body of the novel, is gathering material about his indomitable aunt, Gugu, who was the first professional midwife in Northeast Gaomi Township, the locale of many Mo Yan novels (such as Live and Death Are Wearing Me Out and POW!). Employing new Western medicine, Gugu is the best there is. She becomes director of the health center's obstetrics department, and delivers more than 10,000 babies. She's also the aggressive enforcer of the Party's one-child policy and is responsible for more than 2,000 involuntary abortions. She stands at the center of the novel, and carries it largely unsympathetically. Her victims are the most likable women in the story. When Tadpole's lovely wife refuses to abort her second pregnancy, Gugu swears to uphold the Party policy. That Mo Yan manages to make her ultimately self-aware and forgivable is a measure of his constant compassion toward mistake-makers.

The plot of Frog is more like a slow-motion narrative explosion than a single story, moving an entire district of characters through decades of change and reversal--the attractive grow ugly, the tricksters succeed, the proud are humbled, the rich and poor trade places and lovers marry other partners. It's gleefully crammed full of reversals, surprises and unexpected developments, family betrayals and escape tunnels, intercepted love letters, frog attacks and stolen sperm. Mo Yan stages a magnificent madcap chase sequence in a river clogged with rafts full of peaches being rushed to market, with a pregnant woman attempting to escape speedboat pursuit by abortion doctors. The disparate threads all converge at a bullfrog farm that dominates the second half of the novel, where surrogate mothers provide another way to beat the one-child rule.

Frog is a big, challenging novel with a dizzying number of characters with similar names, but the narrative thrills far outweigh the confusion. The final section of the book is the script of the play that Tadpole has been trying to write throughout the story, in which Gugu finally confronts her own guilt for following Party directives, a theatrical conclusion to Mo Yan's portrait of a brilliant doctor who makes some horrible politics-driven choices while dedicating her life to her community. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Shelf Talker: Nobel Prize–winner Mo Yan takes on China's one-child policy in a big explosion of a novel tracking an entire district through the upheavals caused by the controversial policy.


The Bestsellers

Top Library Recommended Titles for February

LibraryReads, the nationwide library staff-picks list, offers the top 10 titles public library staff across the country love:

A Spool of Blue Thread: A Novel by Anne Tyler (Knopf, $25.95, 9781101874271). "In this book, we come to know three generations of Whitshanks--a family with secrets and memories that are sometimes different than what others observe. The book's timeline moves back and forth with overlapping stories, just like thread on a spool. Most readers will find themselves in the story. Once again, Tyler has written an enchanting tale." --Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, Mass.

A Touch of Stardust: A Novel by Kate Alcott (Doubleday, $25, 9780385539043). "With the background of the making of Gone with the Wind, this is a delightful read that combines historical events with the fictional career of an aspiring screenwriter. Julie is a wide-eyed Indiana girl who, through a series of lucky breaks, advances from studio go-fer and assistant to Carole Lombard to contract writer at MGM. A fun, engaging page-turner!" --Lois Gross, Hoboken Public Library, Hoboken, N.J.

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh (Putnam, $26.95, 9780399169526). "A crime against a 15-year-old girl is examined through the eyes of one of her friends--a friend who admits to being a possible suspect in the crime. This is a wonderful debut novel full of suspense, angst, loyalty, deceit, and most of all, love." --Alison Nadvornik, Worthington Libraries, Columbus, Ohio

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy by Julia Quinn (Avon, $7.99, 9780062072948). "At a dreaded music recital, a cellist catches Sir Richard Kenworthy's eye, and he determines to marry her. Iris Smythe-Smith is a smart cookie and rightly suspicious of Sir Richard's motives when he comes courting, but finds herself falling for his charm. Things seem to be working out well until Iris finds out what a big secret Richard is keeping." --Sharon Redfern, Rockville Public Library, Vernon, Conn.

Half the World by Joe Abercrombie (Del Rey, $26, 9780804178426). "Fifteen-year-old Thorn, determined to become a king's soldier, is fighting not just physical opponents, but her world's social mores. Girls are supposed to desire nothing more than a wealthy husband. Period. Thorn's struggles to achieve her dream make for a riveting read. Second in a series, this book reads very well as a standalone." --Cynthia Hunt, Amarillo Public Library, Amarillo, Tex.

Finding Jake: A Novel by Bryan Reardon (Morrow, $26.99, 9780062339485). "Stay-at-home dad Simon Connelly receives the call every parent dreads: there's been a shooting at his children's school. Through flashbacks and present-day narratives, he mines his memory for clues to what may have happened. This is a refreshing take on the well-trodden 'bad kid' novels, and an excellent thriller to recommend to all who liked Defending Jacob or We Need to Talk About Kevin." --Alissa Williams, Pekin Public Library, Pekin, Ill.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab (Tor, $25.99, 9780765376459). "Fantasy fans should enjoy this atmospheric novel, where London is the link between parallel universes, and magician Kell is one of two Travelers who can move between them. Now something sinister is disturbing their equilibrium, and Kell must try to unravel the plot with only feisty street thief Delilah Bard as an ally." --Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, N.Y.

A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders (Minotaur, $14.99, 9781250056450). "Loved this mystery! The acerbic narrator is 40-year-old British book publishing editor Samantha, whose best author goes missing after writing a tell-all book about a famous French fashion designer who died under suspicious circumstances. Very funny, and great secondary characters as well." --Ann-Marie Anderson, Tigard Public Library, Tigard, Ore.

The Siege Winter: A Novel by Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman (Morrow, $25.99, 9780062282569). "I couldn't have been more excited when I learned Franklin wrote a new book. This wonderfully written novel takes place during King Stephen and Empress Matilda's tumultuous civil conflict to claim England, no matter what cost to themselves or their subjects. The story conveys the brutality of the period without sacrificing the complex nature of the time and the people." --Elizabeth Carroll, Madison Public Library, Madison, Wis.

Dreaming Spies: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes by Laurie R. King (Bantam, $26, 9780345531797). "Considering that King is one of the finest mystery authors writing today, it's no surprise that the latest in the Russell/Holmes series is an engaging read. Intrigue follows the duo as they board a liner bound for Japan and meet up with a known blackmailer and a young Japanese woman who is not all that she seems. Great historical research and rich atmosphere!" --Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, Wis.


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