Shelf Awareness for Friday, January 29, 2016


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

Amazon Fourth Quarter: Gains in Sales, Income Disappoint

In the fourth quarter ended December 31, net sales at Amazon rose 21.8%, to $35.7 billion, and net income rose 125.2%, to $482 million. For the full year, net sales rose 20.2%, to $107 billion, and net income was $596 million, compared to a net loss of $241 million in 2014.

Despite the big jump in net income in the fourth quarter, Amazon's results were below Wall Street expectations, leading to a slide in its stock price after markets closed yesterday, dropping as much as 15%, then settling down by 10%, to below $570, as of this morning. During the day, before the earnings announcement, Amazon shares had risen 8.9%, to $635.35.

According to the Wall Street Journal, reasons the results "sent investors running" yesterday included numbers that were below analysts' expectations, including net profits of $482 million in the fourth quarter, which work out to about $1 a share, "far below" the $1.56 analysts had predicted; sales of $35.7 billion that were "slightly below" expectations; and cloud computing sales (mainly responsible for the company's jump in stock price in the past year) that rose 69.4%, which was below expectations and less than growth in recent quarters. In addition, sales costs for the company as a whole were up 20.5%, to $34.6 billion.

But some downplayed the down stock price. Mark Mahaney, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, told the New York Times: "This was more of an expectations correction than a fundamentals correction. There's nothing in the numbers that would mark a dramatic change in Amazon's growth or profit profile."

Incidentally, Amazon's novella-length press release about results and its accomplishments during the quarter and year didn't mention books at all. And CEO Jeff Bezos's sole comment was: "Twenty years ago, I was driving the packages to the post office myself and hoping we might one day afford a forklift. This year, we pass $100 billion in annual sales and serve 300 million customers. And still, measured by the dynamism we see everywhere in the marketplace and by the ever-expanding opportunities we see to invent on behalf of customers, it feels every bit like Day 1."


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


AAP Sales: September Slips 0.7%

In September, total net book sales fell 0.7%, to $1.5 billion, representing sales of 1,205 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers. For the first nine months of 2015, total net book sales were down 2%, to $11.9 billion.

For the first nine months of the year, adult books were up 2.9% and children's/YA were down 7.4%. Hardcover book sales were down 3.2%; trade paperback was up 16%. E-books overall were down 11.1%, mainly because children's/YA e-books were down 44.8% for the year; trade e-book sales were off 4.8%.


KidsBuzz for the Week of 06.26.17


#WI11: Tricks of Similar Trades

Paul Epstein, owner of the iconic Twist & Shout Records in Denver, Colo., urged booksellers during Winter Institute 11 to "revel in the arcane nature of what you do." Epstein spoke on a panel entitled "Building Resilient Communities" along with Larry Domnitz, owner of Breadworks Bakery & Cafe in Boulder, Colo. Betsy Burton, co-owner of the King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, moderated the discussion.

Epstein told booksellers not to be embarrassed by their trade despite the inclination of some to view them as obsolete as "buggy whip salesmen." Said Epstein: "Revel in your arcane knowledge."

During the same panel, Epstein extolled the virtues of used products, telling booksellers that if they're not selling used books already, they should probably look into it. Given the low margins on new products in the music business, Epstein explained, selling used recordings essentially kept him afloat over the years.

The conversation eventually turned to finding a successor for small businesses with an iconic owner or owners. Domnitz said that he didn't have a plan for succession, partly because it was difficult to find people who wanted such a demanding, time-consuming job. Said Domnitz, "Most people at the asylum are not looking for jobs."

Epstein also had no plans for a successor. "My plan is this thing is going down with me."

Towards the end of the panel, an audience member asked what advice would they give to new business owners. Domnitz likened opening a small business to "some great act of endurance" such as running a marathon. "Before you start," said Domnitz, "make up your mind you're going to finish." --Alex Mutter


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


#WI11: The 'Kiwi Connection'

"The kiwi connection was almost immediate when I arrived in Denver, Colo., for the 11th annual American Booksellers Association Winter Institute," wrote Booksellers New Zealand CEO Lincoln Gould, adding that he saw signs of "a new norm in American bookselling which became very evident as the days of WI11 unfolded: the resurgence of book sales in the U.S., which began about four years ago, is now being joined by a resurgence of independent bookshop start-ups. Sale and purchase of indie book shops is growing and there is general upsurge in confidence that bricks and mortar bookstores are being seen as an essential foundation for the health of local communities."

Helen Wadsworth (l.) and Kiran Dass

For the third year in a row, Kobo sponsored the attendance of two New Zealand booksellers at the Winter Institute. This year's participants were Helen Wadsworth, the relatively new owner of the Dorothy Butler Children's Shop in Auckland, and Kiran Dass from Unity Books, also in Auckland. Speaking with Shelf Awareness, the pair both said they found the strong focus on localism as well as the high number of young bookstore owners and managers to be very heartening. They were also struck by the sheer number of author events that American indies hold every year--by comparison, visits from major authors are much, much harder to come by in New Zealand. They also mentioned being particularly impressed with the ABFE training session and the emphasis placed on protecting free expression, which is problem in New Zealand, too.

Following WI11, Wadsworth and Dass are working for a week in U.S. stores, Wadsworth in Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif., and Dass in Book Soup in West Hollywood. Dass, who is visiting the U.S. for the first time, will then travel to the Bay Area in California and New York City, where she's looking forward to visiting a lot of bookstores.

In his post, Gould noted "one final bit of fun": at the Monday breakfast, the kiwis were "surprised and delighted" when keynote speaker Amy Cuddy used "a full-length video of the All Blacks 2011 Rugby World Cup final haka to illustrate the value of using body language to empower. So many came up to us afterwards saying, 'Oh I just want to come to your beautiful country.' " [Editor's note: in the 2011 final, New Zealand beat France and won the World Cup!]


Counterpoint: Gangster Nation by Tod Goldberg


Josh Cook Launches 'Better Book Tour' Coaching Service

Josh Cook, author and bookseller at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass., has launched a new author coaching service called Better Book Tour. Aimed at helping authors perform better at bookstore events, the service offers one-on-one, in-person workshops with Cook (whose An Exaggerated Murder was published by Melville House), video workshops and a 37-page PDF guide to handling events. The in-person workshop is $75, and the video workshop is $50. The guide, meanwhile, can be downloaded separately for $8, and can be licensed for distribution to others.

"This coaching service has been in my head for years," recalled Cook, who has seen hundreds of author events at Porter Square Books since starting to work there in 2004. Some of the most frustrating events, he added, were those in which a "brilliant author read from their brilliant book in a boring, monotonous voice," and it occurred to him that with some coaching, best practices and encouragement, many authors could greatly improve their performances. He was on the verge of starting the service a few years ago but had to put the project on the back-burner after his novel was picked up for publication.

Said Cook: "There is an element of talent in performance, but I truly believe that a small investment in time and education will help make any author an engaging performer who makes the most of their bookstore events." --Alex Mutter


PRH's 'Signature' Debuts

Penguin Random House has launched Signature, an online destination that provides readers with reportage, commentary, essays and more by authors, journalists and experts "regarding current events and cultural moments drawn from relevant Penguin Random House books as well as those from other publishers." Signature combines and expands the former PRH websites Biographile and Word & Film.


Notes

Image of the Day: Night In at Beagle and Wolf Books

What do book lovers in northern Minnesota do when the wind chill temperature dips to -43 degrees? In Park Rapids, they recently turned out at Beagle and Wolf Books's annual Night In. "We recommend 20 books for book groups," said store owner Sally Wizik Wills. "We serve wine and cheese, and our publishers generously provide prizes. It's a fun night out with book lovers after the grim reality of another Minnesota winter has set in." The event has outgrown the bookstore and this year was held in Armory Square, the old National Guard Armory currently under renovation.
 
Pictured: store manager Jen Geraedts (right) presents the prize for the person who has come the farthest to the event. This year's winner was a former resident of the area who now lives in Portland, Ore., and who timed a visit so that she could attend Night In.


National Poetry Month to Celebrate 20th Anniversary

National Poetry Month is celebrating its 20th anniversary in April, and the Academy of American Poets, which founded the concept, has announced several activities and initiatives for this year's celebration of poets and poetry.

In addition to its hashtag and logo, the academy is encouraging the use of the official National Poetry Month poster designed by Debbie Millman. Each year, in partnership with American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, and the National Council of Teachers of English, the organization distributes more than 120,000 free National Poetry Month posters to classrooms, libraries and bookstores throughout the U.S. Other initiatives include:

  • Dear Poet, a multimedia education project that invites students in grades 5-12 to write letters in response to poems shared by award-winning poets serving on the academy's board of chancellors who will recite their poems in a series of exclusive videos presented on Poets.org.
  • Poetry & the Creative Mind: On April 27, the Academy of American Poets will hold its annual celebration, hosted by Meryl Streep, in New York City, featuring actors, dancers, artists, musicians and public figures on one stage sharing their favorite poems.
  • National Poem in Your Pocket Day: April 21 will be National Poem in Your Pocket Day, during which people throughout the U.S. select a poem, carry it with them and share it with others.

 


'Blank Books' Project to Help Restock Baghdad Library

Wafaa Bilal, an Iraqi-American artist living in New York, "is using online crowdfunding and performance art to help return books to the shelves of the University of Baghdad's library, which burnt down during the Iraq war," the Guardian reported. The library building, which housed more than 70,000 titles until looters set fire to the collection in 2003, has been reconstructed, but very few books were returned.

"This used to be one of best fine art institutions in the Middle East, if not the world," said Bilal, whose exhibition at Ontario's Gallery of Windsor features a 72-foot bookshelf holding 1,000 blank white books. For a $25 donation or more on Kickstarter, Bilal "will replace one of the blank books for a real copy, sending the blank book to the donor. At the end, all the real books will be shipped to Baghdad," the Guardian wrote. Nearly $50,000 has been pledged toward what had originally been a $9,000 goal.

"I'm hoping that by stepping in, it will be a reminder that this community [of artists, students and academics] still exists," he said. "I want this project to usher a new era in Iraq, even if just in a symbolic way."


ISBS Distributing 5m Publishing

International Specialized Book Services, Portland, Ore., has begun distributing titles in North America from 5m Publishing, a British publisher that specializes in pet care, veterinary medicine and farm-related books. Its titles range from popular trade titles like Are Guinea Pigs the Right Pet for You? to the practical guide for owners and trainers Horse Behaviour: Interpreting Body Language and Communication.



Media and Movies

Media Heat: E.J. Dionne Jr. on PBS's Newshour

Today:
PBS's Newshour: E.J. Dionne Jr., author of Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781476763798).

Fox TV's Studio 11: Kevin Hazzard, author of A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic's Wild Ride to the Edge and Back (Scribner, $25, 9781501110832).

Sunday:
CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS: Dr. David B. Agus, author of The Lucky Years: How to Thrive in the Brave New World of Health (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781476712109).

---

NPR's Weekend Edition: Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9780618663026).


TV: American Gods; Model Woman

English actor Ricky Whittle (The 100) will play Shadow Moon in the Starz TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, io9 reported. Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Heroes) and Michael Green (Heroes) are the showrunners and writers, with David Slade (Hannibal, 30 Days of Night, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), directing the pilot. American Gods is expected to air in 2017, with filming slated to begin in April.

"I'm thrilled that Ricky has been cast as Shadow," Gaiman said. "His auditions were remarkable. The process of taking a world out of the pages of a book, and putting it onto the screen has begun. American Gods is, at its heart, a book about immigrants, and it seems perfectly appropriate that Shadow will, like so much else, be Coming to America. I'm delighted Ricky will get to embody Shadow. Now the fun starts."

---

ABC has given a pilot order to Model Woman, "a fictionalized family soap" inspired by Robert Lacey's book Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty, Deadline reported. The project is written by Helen Childress (Reality Bites), with Anonymous Content's Rosalie Swedlin serving as executive producer alongside Childress and Lacey's daughter Scarlett.


Books & Authors

Awards: James Beard Lifetime Achievement, Humanitarian

Leah Chase, renowned New Orleans chef, author and TV personality, has been named the recipient of the 2016 James Beard Lifetime Achievement award, which recognizes "a person in the industry whose lifetime body of work has had a positive and long-lasting impact on the way we eat, cook and think about food in America." 

Chase wrote And Still I Cook and The Dooky Chase Cookbook and was the subject of Carol Allen's Leah Chase: Listen, I Say Like This. Known as the "Queen of Creole Cuisine," she is the proprietor of Dooky Chase's Restaurant, which "was the meeting ground for black voter registration campaign organizers, the NAACP, political activists and countless others, and Leah Chase cooked for them all. Chase's original dishes would help pioneer the Creole food movement, and her recipes for dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and fried chicken have gone on to become kitchen staples."

Father Greg Boyle, S.J., founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang-intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world, will receive the James Beard Humanitarian of the Year award, which is given to "an individual or organization whose work in the realm of food has improved the lives of others and benefited society at large." In 1992, he launched Homeboy Bakery, which laid the groundwork for additional social enterprises, including Homegirl Café & Catering, Homeboy Diner in Los Angeles City Hall, and a retail presence at Los Angeles–area farmers' markets.

Father Boyle wrote Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. Celeste Fremon's book G-Dog and the Homeboys: Father Greg Boyle and the Gangs of East Los Angeles chronicled his unconventional ministry and its extraordinary success.


Book Brahmin: Julie Strauss Bettinger

photo: Stephen Camp

Julie Strauss Bettinger is the author of a collection of essays and coauthor of four books, including Blasted by Adversity: The Making of a Wounded Warrior. Bettinger holds a master of fine arts in creative nonfiction from Goucher College in Baltimore and bachelor's and master's degrees from Florida State University. Her latest book is Encounters with Rikki: From Hurricane Katrina Rescue to Exceptional Therapy Dog (Inkshares, January 26, 2016).

On your nightstand now:

Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy: Advice and Confessions on Writing, Love, and Cannibals by Dinty W. Moore. He's the editor of Brevity, the journal of concise literary nonfiction, and supplier of much of the humor in my life.

Favorite book when you were a child:

When I was very small, I was enamored with Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, a gift from my godparents. As a preteen, I read and re-read Richard Adams's Watership Down. Then there was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I was so taken with his characters that when a friend dared me to try out for a beauty pageant, I crafted a monologue of Bilbo Baggins when he meets the swamp creature, Gollum. Strangely, it won me a spot in the contest. Which was a real eye opener for this tomboy, who preferred boot-cut jeans and bareback horse races to stuffed bras and swimsuit competitions.

Your top five authors:

I write creative nonfiction, so I read that genre almost exclusively. My number-one, all-time-favorite author is John McPhee. I have half a bookshelf devoted to his work. Of like kind is Tracy Kidder, a slightly smaller collection, but just as weighty in the craft. Through my Goucher College MFA program, I studied under Pulitzer Prize-winner Tom French. He was best known for his St. Petersburg Times newspaper serials about murder and later, his book, Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives. More recently, I have a girl crush on Mary Karr. Lit was pure poetry to me and led me to her collection Sinners Welcome. I crave to one day be able to break rules and bend words like Karr. My fifth? Probably Diane Ackerman. I can lose myself in her words.

Book you've faked reading:

Faked reading to me is in the same category as "tried my best, but it just wasn't working." Don't tell my writing mentors, but I'd have to say In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I have tried and tried, and I secretly feel vindicated when discussion groups share stories about him fictionalizing parts of this "true account." My creative nonfiction motto: Don't make (stuff) up!

Book you're an evangelist for:

Oh, no. Just one? Really? This is torture. Well, I tend to be an evangelist to encourage other writers on their projects. And they are usually seeking to write "true stories, well told." So that takes me back to the best book on the craft, authored by the "godfather" of my genre, Lee Gutkind: The Art of Creative Nonfiction. Sure, it was first published in 1997, but I've been in Gutkind's audience as recent as last year, and he's still preaching the same message with great effect: "Scenes are the building blocks of good creative nonfiction."

Book you've bought for the cover:

Parting the Curtains: Interviews with Southern Writers by Dannye Romine Powell. It has a literary-ish black-and-white of Eudora Welty from 1972 on the cover. Just lovely.

Book you hid from your parents:

That would be Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. I might have exposed my secret when I named my pet calf after the protagonist's lover, Ruark.

Book that changed your life:

The Writer on Her Work: Contemporary Women Writers Reflect on their Art and Situation. I read it in college and it planted the seed for the life I'm living today.

Favorite line from a book:

"If you are to survive, you must go back. You must find this place again, and let it brim your eyes." --So Many Africas: Six Years in a Zambian Village by Jill Kandel. Jill toyed with point of view and tenses throughout this book, which is difficult to do effectively. She never lost me as a reader, though. Masterful.

Five books you'll never part with:

Call me eclectic, but I would say: The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo; Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy; The Heart Is an Instrument by Madeleine Blais; Just Kids by Patti Smith; The Tiger by John Vaillant. They occupy the top shelf in my writing studio.

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

Watership Down by Richard Adams, to re-capture that early sense of adventure and story.


Book Review

Review: This Is an Uprising

This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century by Paul Engler, Mark Engler (Nation Books, $26.99 hardcover, 9781568587332, February 9, 2016)

Journalist and author Mark Engler (How to Rule the World) and organizer Paul Engler (founding director of the Center for the Working Poor in Los Angeles) argue that mass protests are not spontaneous eruptions, but "forces that can be guided with the exercise of conscious and careful effort." Drawing on vivid worldwide historical examples and interviews with scholars and organizers in the "tradition of strategic nonviolence," This Is an Uprising is a well-structured and engaging guide to "the art of unarmed uprising."

The authors refute the idea that there is anything weak about nonviolent civil resistance, and provide strong evidence that nonviolent movements have been "twice as likely to succeed as violent ones" in both democracies and dictatorships. However, without substantial structure and funding, revolutionary movements often struggle to maintain and build on their achievements. Through the opposing ideas of Saul Alinsky and Frances Fox Piven, the authors examine the tensions between disruptive underfunded fringe groups and established organizations, such as unions and large nonprofits, which hesitate to take radical action for fear of risking their hard-won investments and political alliances. They then tell the story of the Serbian resistance group Otpor, which created "a hybrid between structure and mass protest," that with great creativity, humor and discipline achieved the democratic removal of Slobodan Milošević. Gandhi, King and same-sex marriage activists in the U.S. also attempted to create hybrid models, with varying success.

The authors reflect on what triggers uprisings, and how organizers may take advantage of such moments of "whirlwind." Organizer Judi Bari's work with Earth First! illustrates the effectiveness of nonviolent strategies compared with violent ones in the same context, and other examples show the self-destructive effects of violent revolutionary action. They consider the value of both material gains and symbolic success, and how success may be evaluated and celebrated (or not).

"Strategic nonviolence does not offer a secret formula for success, and its development is hardly the work of a single mastermind. Rather, the growth of civil resistance has been the result of practitioners experimenting in diverse and difficult conditions, adding their own refinements to an art that has been developing for a century." Engler and Engler have distilled decades of complex and often discordant theories into an accessible guide to effective lasting civil resistance and organization building. This is a book that is likely to be read and reread for years to come. --Sara Catterall

Shelf Talker: The history and key ideas of nonviolent revolt are distilled into an essential guide to the most effective strategies for creating lasting social change.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'Fun at Work' Days

In case you missed it, yesterday was National Fun at Work Day. But don't worry. For some reason, today is International Fun at Work Day, so let's get this party started. Actually, those of you who attended ABA's Winter Institute should probably sit this one out for your own health and well-being... and recovery time. You've probably had enough fun for one week, and we have the photos to prove it.

National Fun at Work Day "couldn't arrive at a more ironic time, what with the grumblings over our national minimum wage and the sluggish progress of workplace equality despite growing protest," Signature noted in showcasing quotes from "8 authors who don't have time for National Fun at Work Day.... You know what sounds like 'Fun' to us? Reading commiserative quotes on the Internet when we're supposed to be working."

"Fun" can be a testy little word when it is asked to dance with a partner like "work." Of all the jobs I've had in my life, bookselling was the one that put the highest premium on having fun at work, or at least seeming to. It was also, quite often, fun. Just not always.

It begins with the hiring process. I've discussed this with many booksellers over the years, and know my experience wasn't unique. When I first applied for a bookselling job in 1992, I was interviewed initially by an extraordinary woman named Josie Rahe, who was near retirement age and had been a gifted handseller (I had no idea what that meant then) for many years. Her job description was a cross between HR and EG (Everybody's Grandmother). She was superb at both. Although the interview process was thorough, the message from Josie was clear: being a bookseller was fun. She radiated that pitch herself.

For the first two weeks of my life as a frontline bookseller, Josie was there every step of the way, introducing me to other staff members and customers, showing me the basics of my job as well as every other job in the store, and generally making me feel like this was anything but a normal retail job. It was a calling.

As you know, she was right. It is a calling. Still, when prospective booksellers are interviewed in many, if not most (if not all) bookstores, owners/managers tend to have a--let's call it, for the sake of argument, slight--tendency to oversell the fun part of bookselling, as in so many books, such bright colleagues and curious (in every sense of the term) customers.

The relatively low wages, long hours on your feet, occasionally demanding (perhaps once curious, then not so much) patrons and more are, for good reason, less emphasized. And prospective frontline booksellers are equally complicit because they (we) want to believe that working in a bookstore is everything we've always imagined it to be.

Great bookselling is theater and performance and even stagecraft, so it makes sense that the entertainment value of the job is stressed. But bookselling is also hard work (see "Bookselling Is Harder than It Looks" and "How Pleasant... to Just Work in a Bookstore"). The days can be fun, enlightening and uplifting, but also frustrating, boring and infuriating. Sometimes all of these and more in a single afternoon.   

How does a bookseller have fun at work every day, and not just on a randomly selected national or international Fun at Work Day? Here's the thing. We're word people. My dictionary says fun is "enjoyment, amusement or lighthearted pleasure." And this is fun's origin story: "late 17th century (denoting a trick or hoax): from the obsolete fun 'to cheat or hoax,' dialect variation of late Middle English fon 'make a fool of, be a fool,' related to fon 'a fool,' of unknown origin."

Is bookselling fun? Or are we fools? Consider Touchstone's counsel in As You Like It: "The more pity that fools may not speak wisely what wise men do foolishly.... I do now remember a saying: 'The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.' "

At some point early in my frontline bookselling career, I did find the answer to my question--"How then does a bookseller have fun at work every day?" You don't. It's okay. Really. You'd be a fool if you had fun every day... and not a wise, Shakespearean kind of fool either. Know what sounds like a Fun at Work Day to me? Handselling good books, whenever you can find the time. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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