Shelf Awareness for Friday, August 21, 2015


Thomas Dunne Books: Admissions: Life as a Brain Surgeon by Henry Marsh

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

Sourcebooks Fire: Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

Dundurn Group: Deer Life by Ron Sexsmith

Other Press: Infinite Summer by Edoardo Nesi

News

Australia Set to Have Overseas Sellers Collect Tax

Australia will require large overseas companies to collect the country's 10% goods and services tax on all sales to Australians, effective July 1, 2017, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The move came yesterday at a meeting of state treasurers, who agreed, as the paper put it, that "goods bought from overseas should face exactly the same GST as goods bought in Australia."

As in Australia, companies with sales of less than A$75,000 (about US$55,000) per year are exempt from collecting the tax.

"We are going to have taxation officials travel around the world visiting these companies asking them to register for GST purposes," federal Treasurer Joe Hockey said. "There could be hundreds of them. However, what we are able to do is to narrow down the number of high-volume goods vendors." The Morning Herald noted that Apple already voluntarily collects Australian GST on sales through its iTunes store.

In a statement, the Australian Booksellers Association lauded the decision, saying it is "proud of the role that it has served in advocating a zero threshold on GST purchases from the inception of this debate, and congratulate the Federal and State Governments on agreeing to this landmark decision, bringing tax fairness to Australia and the State and Federal financial bottom line."


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


Authors United Formally Requests DOJ Investigation

Yesterday, Authors United submitted a formal request to the U.S. Department of Justice's top antitrust official, asking that an investigation be launched into Amazon as a monopoly with "unprecedented power" over the book publishing market, the Wall Street Journal reported. A Justice Department spokesman said the agency will review the group's materials.

"We respectfully request that the Antitrust Division investigate Amazon's power over the book market, and the ways in which that corporation exercises its power," Authors United said in the letter, which had 575 signatures and was addressed to Assistant Attorney William Baer, who oversees the Justice Department's antitrust division. The Journal noted that Authors United "had been working on its formal appeal to the agency since at least September."


Counterpoint: Gangster Nation by Tod Goldberg


Amazon to Open Fifth Texas Warehouse

San Marcos will be the site of Amazon's fifth Texas fulfillment center, joining warehouses in Schertz, Coppell and Haslet, as well as one under construction in Dallas. The 855,000-square-foot facility will handle smaller items like books, electronics and toys. The project is being developed by USAA and Seefried Industrial Properties.

"We have found a dedicated and enthusiastic workforce in Texas that has supported our growth throughout the state," said Mike Roth, Amazon's v-p of North American operations.

San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero said the "new facility, and the new jobs it will add, fits well into the city's goal of embracing economic opportunities that develop a stronger middle class and grow our local economy, a major focus of our comprehensive plan."


Portable Press: Enter to win a copy of Strange Science


National Book Festival Gets Expanded Media Coverage

This year's Library of Congress National Book Festival at the Washington Convention Center on September 5 will have additional media attention. The Washington Post reported that in addition to C-SPAN's Book TV, a live-stream broadcast by PBS's Book View Now will be available. Produced by Detroit Public Television and hosted by Jeffrey Brown, senior correspondent and chief arts correspondent of PBS NewsHour, and Rich Fahle of the Detroit station's Book View Now, the coverage will follow events from noon until 6 p.m. Viewers can watch live at PBS.org, at many PBS station websites and at WorldChannel.org.

The expanded coverage "is the brainchild of executive producer Fahle, who was a manager at Kramerbooks in Washington during the late 1980s and early '90s and later worked at C-SPAN, where he helped launch BookTV," the Post wrote. Now living in the Ann Arbor area, he has teamed up with Detroit Public TV to cover the Miami Book Fair, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, BookExpo America and BookCon.


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: The Lake House by Kate Morton


Clarkson Honored with BISG Lifetime Service Award

Tom Clarkson

Tom Clarkson, a distribution standards consultant and long-time director of supply chain technology at Barnes & Noble until his retirement in 2007, will receive the 2015 Book Industry Study Group Lifetime Service Award, which recognizes an individual's outstanding work on behalf of BISG over the course of a career. He will be honored September 18 during the association's annual meeting of members

A member of BISG since the 1970s, Clarkson has been "advocating for the standards and best practices that make the industry more efficient for everyone," BISG noted. For many years, he was chair of the Manufacturing and Distribution Committee's Machine Readable Coding Working Group, and continues to be an active member of the Manufacturing and Distribution Committee and the Identification Committee.

"If you've been involved with BISG for any length of time, Tom has mentored you," said John Bohman, a member of the awards jury and v-p of sales & customer operations at Penguin Random House.


Obituary Note: William Jay Smith

William Jay Smith, a former U.S. poet laureate "whose work was known both for its acuteness of observation and acuteness of craftsmanship," died Tuesday, the New York Times reported. He was 97. Author of several volumes of poetry, as well as criticism, memoirs and translations, Smith served from 1968 to 1970 as the consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, as the poet laureate's post was then known.

From his poem "The World Below the Window":

The geraniums I left last night on the windowsill,
To the best of my knowledge now, are out there still,
And will be there as long as I think they will.


Notes

Airbnb: 'A New Bookseller Every Fortnight'

"Nestled into the pristine lowlands, the Open Book is a charming bookshop with apartment above in the heart of Wigtown, Scotland's National Book Town. Live your dream of having your very own bookshop by the sea in Scotland... for a week or two."

This is the Airbnb pitch for the "first ever bookshop holiday/residency experience," sponsored by the Wigtown Festival, during which guests can "play-bookshop for a week or two. We'll give you your very own bookshop, and apartment above, supported by a team of friendly volunteers and bookshop sellers to make your trip as lovely as possible....

"Residents will be expected to carry out all the normal duties of a bookseller including:

  • Opening/closing the shop during normal working hours.
  • Welcoming visitors
  • Selling books (stating the obvious)
  • Staffing, stocking, creating awesome window displays and basically putting your own stamp on the shop."

Recently, Lee Miller spent two weeks as proprietor of Wigtown's Open Book; read about his experience here.


NYC: Specialty Bookstores; Book Nerd's Guide

Noting that the Big Apple "is still home to some of the greatest bookstores around," City Guide highlighted a few of "New York's best specialty bookstores," and advised readers not to dismiss "the experience of taking time on a Sunday afternoon to visit one of New York City's cherished bookshops, smell the aged, perfumed (or newly printed) pages in your hand, and let your mind drift to thoughts of another time and place."

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Epic Reads offered a "Book Nerd's Guide to New York City" infographic, detailing "the best bookstores to visit, best places to read, authors that live in the Big Apple and the quintessential YA books set NYC!"


Jarek Steele Earns 'Diverse Business Leader Award'

Jarek Steele

Jarek Steele, co-owner of Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo., was one of 18 honorees receiving the St. Louis Business Journal's 2015 Diverse Business Leader awards, which go to people who have "showcased their dedication to advancing their community" and were introduced more than a decade ago to "promote diversity around race, sexual orientation and disability."


Personnel Changes at Johns Hopkins, Scribner

Effective September 1, Gene Taft is joining Johns Hopkins University Press as publicity manager for the books division. He succeeds Kathy Alexander, who is retiring October 2.

Taft has more than 20 years of book publicity experience, including positions at PublicAffairs (v-p and assistant publisher), Viking/Penguin, the Free Press, Overlook Press, Columbia University Press and Northeastern University. For the last nine years, he has run GTPR.

He commented: "I began my career in the University press community, and I'm excited to be returning to that community and helping JHUP publish and promote an incredible list of books."

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Kyle Radler has been promoted to publicist at Scribner. He was previously an associate publicist.



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Bryan Stevenson on Fresh Air

Today on Fresh Air: Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Spiegel & Grau, $16, 9780812984965).

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Today on the Sean Hannity Show: Glenn Beck, author of It Is About Islam: Exposing the Truth About ISIS, Al Qaeda, Iran, and the Caliphate (the Control Series) (Threshold, $14.99, 9781501126123).


Movies: The Martian

Two new trailers are out for Ridley Scott's The Martian, based on Andy Weir's novel, Indiewire reported. Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Donald Glover, Mackenzie Davis and Chiwetel Ejiofor co-star in the movie that opens October 2.


Books & Authors

Awards: Lane Anderson Finalists

Finalists have been announced for the Lane Anderson Award for best Canadian science book published in 2014, as judged "by relevance to science in the modern world and the author's ability to make scientific topics appealing to the general trade reader," Quillblog reported. The winner in each category will receive C$10,000 (about US$7,640). This year's shortlisted titles are:

Adult
Canadian Spacewalkers: Hadfield, MacLean and Williams Remember the Ultimate High Adventure by Bob McDonald
Planet Heart: How an Unhealthy Environment Leads to Heart Disease by François Reeves
Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products by Stephen Leahy

Book for young readers
Fuzzy Forensics: DNA Fingerprinting Gets Wild by L.E. Carmichael
Plesiosaur Peril (Tales of Prehistoric Life) by Daniel Loxton
Tastes Like Music: 17 Quirks of the Brain and Body by Maria Birmingham


Book Brahmin: Andrew Malan Milward

photo: Gwen Walstrand

A native of Lawrence, Kan., and a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Andrew Malan Milward is the author of the story collection The Agriculture Hall of Fame, which was awarded the Juniper Prize for Fiction by the University of Massachusetts. He has served as the McCreight Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, a Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University and has received fellowships and awards from the Lannan Foundation, Jentel and the Corporation of Yaddo. He lives in Hattiesburg, Miss., where he teaches at the University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Writers and is editor-in-chief of Mississippi Review. His story collection, I Was a Revolutionary, was published by HarperCollins on August 18, 2015.

On your nightstand now:

I'm rereading two of my all-time favorite novels: Underworld by Don DeLillo and E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime. I also have a book called Narratology by Mieke Bal on the nightstand, as well as Narrative Discourse by Gerard Genette. I always have a volume of poetry going, which right now happens to be Tyehimba Jess's amazing leadbelly. And tucked under that are the latest issues of Jacobin magazine and n+1.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was sort of the weirdo in a family of ardent readers. As I child, I was more concerned with playing basketball, so my favorite book was probably Larry Bird's autobiography, Drive, but I guarantee you I only read half of it so I could fake my way through the book report.

Your top five authors:

Well, as I see it, every great basketball team can't just rely on the starters--it needs at least a seven- or eight-player rotation to succeed, so here's what my team would look like:

Starting Five:

  1. James Baldwin
  2. George Orwell
  3. E.L. Doctorow
  4. Don DeLillo
  5. Marilynne Robinson

Key Reserves:

  1. W.G. Sebald
  2. David Foster Wallace
  3. David Means

Head Coach:

William Faulkner

Book you've faked reading:

Basically every book from age 6 to 16. More recently, however, I was having a conversation at a party, and my interlocutor was very smart and charming, and she asked if I'd read Roberto Bolaño's 2666. Actually, she didn't ask--she just assumed (which in retrospect feels like a test that I was born to fail), asserting something to the effect of, "Well, you've read 2666, so you know exactly what I'm talking about." I had no idea what she was talking about, but I'd become sort of entranced by her and was equally shamed that I hadn't read the book but flattered she thought I had, so found myself nodding with 100% conviction and solemnity, as though we were the only two readers on earth who truly understood Bolaño's masterpiece.

Book you're an evangelist for:

There are so many! My favorite short story writer is David Means. His stories are beautiful, violent and weird in the most wonderful ways. Many fellow writers rightly revere him, but he's not nearly as well known and appreciated as he should be. So I often find myself grabbing people by the shoulders and making them promise to buy Assorted Fire Events, since that was the first book of his I read. Check it out. It'll knock you on your ass.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Collected Poems of Zbigniew Herbert. It has a beautiful, almost entirely black front cover that shows a silver-haired Herbert, from the shoulders up, lighting a cigarette. It seemed to augur good things, and sure enough it did.

Book that changed your life:

I wasn't much of a student in high school, and I went to college to play basketball. In the spring semester of my freshman year there was a mix-up at registration and I ended up in a senior-only seminar on post-Vietnam fiction. The professor took pity on me and let me stay in the class, and I'm so thankful he did because it was my first exposure to contemporary literature. Somehow I'd gotten through high school without reading anything post-Cuckoo's Nest, so I had no idea who Louise Erdrich, Andre Dubus, Tobias Wolff and Bobbie Ann Mason were, to say nothing of the many other wonderful Vietnamese and American writers we read. This was 1999, and Tim O'Brien's Tomcat in Love had recently come out and it was on the syllabus. I loved it and proceeded to read everything of his I could get my hands on. While I loved some of his other books more, Tomcat was the gateway drug, not only to Tim's work but to all of contemporary literature. It changed my life. I quit playing basketball and decided that I wanted to be a writer, a decision that was universally considered batshit by everyone in my life, but hey, it's worked out okay.

Favorite line from a book:

"I want to be an honest man and a good writer."

This is the last line of James Baldwin's essay "Autobiographical Notes," which opens his classic Notes of a Native Son. While there are approximately 176 other Baldwin quotes that I could use to answer this question, this line killed me. My marginalia next to it reads: I love this man.

Which character you most relate to:

Woody Guthrie is one of my personal heroes, and his autobiography Bound for Glory is, to my mind, one of the great works of 20th-century American literature. While the book is nonfiction, the version of himself that Woody presents to the reader is indeed a character, and it's one I found myself relating to for a few reasons. Like him, I grew up in the heart of the country. His Oklahoma and my Kansas both have honorable and radically progressive pasts, histories that have sadly been obscured by the reactionary conservatism of the last 50 years. Like Woody, I love my home state, but it's something I react against as well, and so I think our homes have served as muses for us and our respective arts.

And on a personal note, my mother, like Woody, was a wonderful folksinger. She was in a band called The Tavernier Trio that was regionally popular and even opened for Peter, Paul and Mary. I grew up around her fellow folkies and their songs and storytelling, so I related to Woody's desire to write folksongs about real people and real struggles, or as he put it so beautifully in the title of another book he collaborated on with Alan Lomax: Hard Hitting Songs for Hard-Hit People.

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

I'd love to be able to read E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime again for the first time. The book blew me away, and still does, but the first time reading it I was struck by how much capital-F fun it was to read, and not in a turn-off-your-brain beach-read kind of way. It's an absolute pleasure to read--the pages fly by--and it does so without sacrificing complexity, intelligence and craft. I have no idea how he pulled it off.


Book Review

Review: The Lost Landscape: A Writer's Coming of Age

The Lost Landscape: A Writer's Coming of Age by Joyce Carol Oates (Ecco Press, $27.99 hardcover, 9780062408679, September 8, 2015)

Prolific author Joyce Carol Oates (Lovely, Dark, Deep: Stories; A Widow's Story) chronicles her formative years in The Lost Landscape, a book that Oates states is "not meant to be a complete memoir of my life--not even my life as a writer," but rather "something more precious... an accounting of the ways in which my life (as a writer, but not solely as a writer) was shaped in early childhood, adolescence, and a little beyond." Oates, insightful and reflective, examines influential people, places and events that took root in her psyche beginning with her childhood in western New York State, a rural landscape north of Buffalo.

The book offers 28 essays previously published in literary journals over the course of decades. Oates, the quintessential observer, stitches together memories through a prism of age and experience. She is most enthralled by the mystery of the familiar, her place in it and how that "familiar" is often taken for granted until it is "finally taken from us."

With that in mind, Oates yearns to understand her "young, attractive and mysterious parents," who were physically close to her yet stoic in their approach to life, and therefore "inaccessible and unknowable." Oates believes that in order to understand better her parents, relatives and other "strangers" who once populated her world, she must write their stories. Thus, she begins by mining the lives of her mother and father--their upbringings and personalities, sacrifices and losses, passions and devotions. She digs into the nature of family secrets, namely how two rarely spoken of violent acts in the respective histories of each parent significantly fertilized Oates's natural curiosity and imagination.

In these accounts and others, Oates reimagines the past and offers well-wrought remembrances of pivotal, defining moments, including a cleverly rendered piece narrated by Oates's beloved pet hen from childhood. Other stories expound on Oates's early experiences with death; how Alice in Wonderland changed her life; her autistic sister; a friend's suicide and another who was sexually abused; and a serial murder case that inspired one of her most notable stories, "Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?" Each essay reveals more about Oates's character and her vulnerabilities, including bouts of childhood shyness, anxiety and insomnia, as she winds her way through college and graduate school, where she, disillusioned, felt like an outsider. The book poignantly closes with tributes to both of her parents and how, even in absentia, they continue to resonate in the author's life--creatively and otherwise.

Oates believes that a "writer is the decipherer of clues," and in this sensitive, illuminating exploration of her early years, she offers fascinating glimpses of the ways in which reality has often served to inspire the fictitious worlds and characters she has created in her wealth of novels and stories. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Shelf Talker: Joyce Carol Oates intimately examines the ways in which her formative years--and the people therein--influenced her life.


Ooops

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The Bookseller from U.N.C.L.E.

Now it can be told; the last documents have been declassified. A few years ago, I wrote a column about my life in the spy game, but I didn't reveal the whole story. Last week's release of the new Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie has prompted me to finish the tale with a pair of bookish memories:

One day in the late 1990s, a fellow bookseller asked whether I'd noticed a woman who'd been staking out the reference section window seat for most of the morning, taking copious notes from a number of books. While this kind of behavior wasn't strictly forbidden, it was a misdemeanor on a par with copying recipes out of cookbooks (as compared to asking a bookseller to photocopy a page, which must be a borderline felony). The strategy in these situations was to engage the customer in pleasant, professional conversation; just to let them know you were on the case.

I casually strolled over and asked if there was anything I could do to help, but our conversation took an unexpected turn. She was a crossword puzzle maker. We talked about the primal human need to accumulate trivia. At some point, I mentioned a gold nugget of my own: While many people still remembered that the "good" organization's acronym in the 1960s TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. stood for United Network Command for Law & Enforcement, I seemed to be the only one who recalled that their arch-enemy, T.H.R.U.S.H., was short for Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables & Subjugation of Humanity. She laughed and admitted she didn't know that one either, but then she reached into her purse and trumped me by handing over a worn, three-decade old identification card for the Man from U.N.C.L.E. fan club.

The other spy memory involves my first bookshelf. In addition to watching every episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I read and re-read a tie-in novel series with subtitles like The Doomsday Affair, The Copenhagen Affair and The Dagger Affair. I bought new editions as soon as they were available and carefully shelved the numbered paperbacks (1-23) on top of my dresser, between wooden bookends my father had built. This was my first personal library. In more ways than I can count, those books were a bridge to the world I chose to live in as an adult--a world of books, where readers can be anyone they choose. First I was a spy, then I became a reader, a writer, a bookseller and an editor.

In an interview this week with Susan King of the Los Angeles Times, David McCallum, the 82-year-old actor (Illya Kuryakin in the original TV series; now Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard on NCIS) and upcoming debut novelist (Once a Crooked Man will be published in January by Minotaur), recalled his own mid-'60s life in the spy game.

"Chatting for an hour, McCallum embodied an old-school gentleman who seemed pleased and bemused that the person sitting across from him had been devoted to The Man From U.N.CL.E. all those years ago," King wrote. "In the series, Kuryakin remained a man of mystery. McCallum said the only thing he remembered from the pilot script was that Kuryakin was Russian and had a collection of jazz records under his bed."

"If you go through the entire series, there is nothing anywhere about Illya," he observed. "Everybody had their own idea of who he was and where he came from, which gave them these wonderful images." I can appreciate the notion that TV viewers had to "read" Illya.    

Like any good spy, I search for clues and connections. Here's another: Although legendary author Harlan Ellison was only credited as a writer on two episodes of the TV series, he actually rewrote many others. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Book: The Behind-the-Scenes Story of a Television Classic, Ellison recalls that he often employed a literary device called "Tuckerisms," named after Wilson "Bob" Tucker, who would use the names of friends as characters in his books.

"When I did 'The Pieces of Fate Affair,' since it was a literary background, I thought I'll have a little fun with it and drop a bunch of my friends in here," Ellison said, citing as examples Jack Vance's Bookstore, in honor of a fellow sci-fi author; and Judith Merle, a T.H.R.U.S.H. agent and book reviewer who was "named after a book reviewer and critic of my acquaintance named Judith Merril."

As they used to say, you've got to keep your eyes peeled. I haven't seen the new Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie yet. Maybe I'll go this week, under cover of darkness. My life in the bookish spy game continues. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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