Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 26, 2016


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

Quotation of the Day

'Books as Experiences, Not Things'

Marcus Greville

"Experience is a diverse desire that can be found in the hunt, in the reading, then the sharing; what bookshops and booksellers provide is not just the physical material for that, but the experiential context for it; we can be the process of experience.... Booksellers have reserves of knowledge and a sense of identity that is hard to replicate--we have built an experiential world, an environment of anticipation and reflection that is truly impressive.

"Bookshops make people happy, if we do it right. But to say books are happiness is wrong, because while happiness is the goal it is not the point, happiness comes through meaning, and meaning is found through shared and individual experience. The pathway to meaning (in our case) is the bookshop, the shelves packed with the beautifully expressed ideas and experiences of others, waiting to be shared, waiting to be found. We, as book places, as third spaces, act as an amanuensis to that end; if we don't, we're failing."

--New Zealand bookseller Marcus Greville in a piece headlined "Books as Experiences, not Things" for the Booksellers NZ blog

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


News

Seattle's Wide World Books & Maps Aims to Stay Open

Wide World Books & Maps, Seattle, Wash., wants to stay on the map: the travel and map store, which announced 10 days ago that it was closing at the end of the month, is staying open at least through the end of April and has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $50,000 to pay off back bills, expand inventory, increase advertising to attract additional customers and upgrade computers and the store's website.

In an e-mail, owner Julie Hunt said that after the closing announcement, "hundreds of customers and travel professionals came forward to share their love for the store and many asked if there was anything they could do to help keep it open." She noted that several people mentioned Seattle Mystery Bookshop's successful effort to save the store through a crowdfunding campaign. "While it's uncomfortable asking people for money, if Wide World customers see a value in keeping the store open, I'd love to give this a try!"

The GoFundMe campaign will run through April 15 and includes some striking offers: when contributions reach $30,000, Rick Steves' Europe, a major supporter of the store, is offering 10 seven-day tours to Istanbul, London, Paris or Rome, which will cost donors $2,000--for a total of $20,000 for the store.

Among other offers: 20% off all in-store purchases for life with a $2,000 donation; 20% off a variety of tours offered by Caravan-Serai Tours for a $750 donation; a $250 discount on any tour from Ponte Travels for a $500 donation. More offers will be added in the coming weeks. The store will return all donations if it doesn't reach its goals.

Hunt added, "We hope you will join us in this effort to save Wide World Books! Together we can keep the oldest travel bookstore in the country--and important community resource for travel advice, presentations, and support groups--open."


Counterpoint: Gangster Nation by Tod Goldberg


Opening Soon: Savoy Bookshop & Café, Copperfield's Books

In its e-mail newsletter yesterday, Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn., shared this update on the development of the new Savoy Bookshop and Café in Westerly, R.I.: "We are making great progress in our new store, and we are on track for a soft opening in early March and a grand opening party on Saturday, April 16, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome, so mark your calendars! Stay tuned for more details on our soft opening.

"We're so excited--books have already begun to arrive at the store! We are all set to begin shelving them soon, and will plan to open as soon as possible after that."

---

Copperfield's Books, which has seven locations in Napa, Marin and Sonoma Counties in Northern California, will open its new store in downtown Novato in April with a ribbon-cutting party set for April 13. "Now you can follow our countdown to the ribbon-cutting ceremony on our @copperfieldsnovato Instagram account! That's where you will find updates on construction, books, authors, events, and the April month-long book party to come!" the bookseller noted.


Portable Press: Enter to win a copy of Strange Science


After 20 Years, Microcosm Publishing Reaches Out to Indies

Joe Biel

"We're 20 years old, but every time we go to industry events people say 'why aren't we familiar with you?' " recalled Joe Biel, founder and publisher of Microcosm Publishing. "This time we thought, it makes much more sense to bring our books to more people."

Biel founded Microcosm in Portland, Ore., in 1996 after working for several years in the music industry, and since then Microcosm has amassed a customer list of some 600 clients and even opened its own 900-square-foot bookstore. Most of Microcosm's customers, however, are not bookstores and, now, in the company's 20th year, Biel is making a concerted effort to reach out to indies. To that end, Microcosm is running a special promotion through its distributor Legato: buy 20 or more backlist titles, get an extra 5% discount.

Microcosm publishes around 20 titles per year and, according to Biel, its editorial mission is to publish books that "help the reader feel good about themselves and create positive change in the world around them." The list is an eclectic one--although most of the titles are nonfiction books with a do-it-yourself or activist bend, there are also coloring books, graphic novels, cookbooks and the occasional fiction anthology. Microcosm's two most commercially successful books are a D.I.Y. guide by Raleigh Briggs called Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nest Skills, and Tom Neely's Henry & Glenn Forever, a satirical graphic novel about the domestic lives of musicians Glenn Danzig and Henry Rollins.

"I realized that books and publishing would have a much longer life in my enthusiasm and passion," said Biel, who had founded a record label before creating Microcosm. He started that label, he continued, because he wanted to give back, but he realized eventually that publishing books would be a "better way to give back."

Biel's early ideas of how to build an audience and create relationships in the business came from his time as owner of a record label. Microcosm's clients include bike shops, clothing stores, thrift stores and grocery co-ops. The company's single biggest customer, in fact, is a taco stand in Tokyo, Japan, and for 15 years Microcosm sold books to a newsstand in a subway station in Melbourne, Australia.

Said Biel, laughing: "It's proven to be an effective strategy, but it was borne of mistakes." --Alex Mutter


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


Obituary Note: Elizabeth L. Eisenstein

Historian Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, "best known for her work on the seismic effect of printing on Western civilization--a novel contention when she began her research more than 40 years ago," died January 31, the New York Times reported. She was 92. Her two-volume work The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early Modern Europe, which was published in 1979, has been translated into many languages and remains in print. Her other books include The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe and Divine Art, Infernal Machine.

"Whether you agree with her conclusions or not, we wouldn't think about print in the ways that we think today had it not been for her work," said Sabrina Alcorn Baron, an editor of Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies After Elizabeth L. Eisenstein.



Notes

Image of the Day: 'Reinventing Fantasy' at Geek Week

WORD Bookstores, in Brooklyn and Jersey City, teamed up with Tor for an event at Housing Works Bookstore Café in New York City, part of the latter's "Geek Week." Authors Victor LaValle (The Ballad of Black Tom), Daniel Polansky (The Builders), Maria Dahvana Headley (Magonia), Ryan Britt (Luke Skywalker Can't Read) and Emily Asher-Perrin, who writes for the Tor.com blog, discussed "reinventing fantasy," from the ways they're rewriting the rules of the genre to the their favorite groundbreaking fantastical works. Pictured: (l.-r.) Victor LaValle, Daniel Polansky and Maria Dahvana Headley.


Post-Storm, Flyleaf Proves 'Books Don’t Need Electricity'

In the wake of a storm that covered much of the Southeast, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C., operated for a few hours yesterday without power.

" 'Books Don't Need Electricity' became our mantra for the day," noted Travis Smith. "If there's one thing I learned about our coworkers and customers during the power outage, it's that a surprising number of them have a headlamp.

"We took transactions using an iPad with Square and a wi-fi hotspot. We bought a handful of flashlights and distributed them to the kids who came for story-time, and they ran around chasing each other in the dark before the story-time started, clearly having a ball. We moved story-time closer to the windows where there was plenty of light. Even though it was a dark and our systems weren't fully functional, it didn't stop us from having fun before the power came back on a few hours later."


GBO Picks The Last Weynfeldt

The German Book Office in New York City has chosen The Last Weynfeldt by Martin Suter, translated by Steph Morris (New Vessel Press, $14.95, 9781939931276), as its February Pick of the Month.

The GBO said: "Adrian Weynfeldt is an art expert in an international auction house, a bachelor in his mid-fifties living in a grand Zurich apartment filled with costly paintings and antiques. Always correct and well-mannered, he's given up on love until one night--entirely out of character for him--Weynfeldt decides to take home a ravishing but unaccountable young woman. The next morning, he finds her outside on his balcony threatening to jump. Weynfeldt talks her down, then soon finds himself falling for this damaged but alluring beauty and his buttoned-up existence swiftly comes unraveled. As their two lives become entangled, Weynfeldt gets embroiled in an art forgery scheme that threatens to destroy everything he and his prominent family have stood for. This refined page-turner moves behind elegant bourgeois facades into darker recesses of the heart."

Martin Suter is a screenwriter, newspaper columnist and the author of a dozen novels, which have been translated into 32 languages. He lives in Zurich.

Steph Morris is a translator in residence at the Europäisches Übersetzer-Kollegium in Straelen, Germany. He has translated the diaries of East German writer Brigitte Reimann and nonfiction books about Joseph Beuys and Pina Bausch.


Book Trailer of the Day: Mystery of the Map

Mystery of the Map by Jack Chabert, illustrated by Kory Merritt (Amulet) is the first title in Poptropica, a new graphic novel series based on a concept by Jeff Kinney. See three "animated book excerpts" here, here and here.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Ben Bailey Smith on Weekend Edition

Today:
Alan Colmes Show: Michael Waldman, author of The Fight to Vote (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781501116483).

Tomorrow:
NPR's Weekend Edition: Ben Bailey Smith, author of I Am Bear (Candlewick Entertainment, $15.99, 9780763677435).

Fox & Friends Weekend: Ptolemy Tompkins and Tyler Beddoes, authors of Proof of Angels (Howard, $15.99, 9781501129223).


Movies: Ready Player One

Tye Sheridan (Tree of Life, Mud) will star in Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One, based on the novel by Ernest Cline. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the "casting comes after numerous waves of searches dating back to fall 2015. Spielberg read and tested across several continents but was never quite happy. In an unusual situation, the romantic interest and the villain were picked even as the lead role remained vacant." Sheridan joins a cast that includes Olivia Cooke and Ben Mendelsohn.


Books & Authors

Awards: Oddest Book Title

Seven finalists have been named for this year's Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year, administered by the Bookseller and decided through public vote. Prize coordinator Tom Tivnan said: "Though now in its 38th outing, the Diagram is bang on trend in our age of the shortening attention span. We don’t judge books on the contents within or even by their covers, but by their purest, quickest and shallowest way possible: from the title." This year's shortlisted books are:
      
Reading the Liver: Papyrological Texts on Ancient Greek Extispicy by William Furley & Victor Gysembergh
Too Naked for the Nazis by Alan Stafford
Paper Folding with Children by Alice Hornecke, translated by Anna Cardwell
Transvestite Vampire Biker Nuns from Outer Space: A Consideration of Cult Film by Mark Kirwan-Hayhoe
Behind the Binoculars: Interviews with Acclaimed Birdwatchers by Mark Avery & Keith Betton
Soviet Bus Stops by Christopher Herwig
Reading from Behind: A Cultural History of the Anus by Jonathan Allan

Book Brahmin: Fiona Barton

Fiona Barton trains and works with journalists all over the world. Previously, she was a senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph and chief reporter at the Mail on Sunday, where she won Reporter of the Year at the National Press Awards. Her first novel, The Widow (New American Library, February 16, 2016), is a psychological thriller told by the wife of a man accused of a terrible crime.

On your nightstand now:

What Ho, Jeeves! by P.G. Wodehouse: comfort reading book for the end of a long day. I know whole passages by heart, but it still can make me laugh out loud (to the annoyance of husband). The American Lover by Rose Tremain: the short story of the title is possibly the best I have ever read, but all are jewels. And The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson: What can I tell you? It is surprising, shocking, funny and written by a journalist. Ticks all my boxes.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome.

Your top five authors:

Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall; Bring Up The Bodies); Kate Atkinson (Life After Life; A God in Ruins; When Will There Be Good News?); Kazuo Ishiguro (A Pale View of Hills; Remains of the Day); Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch); Rose Tremain (Music and Silence; The American Lover).

Book you've faked reading:

Dante's Inferno: an assigned book for Italian A Level that I never quite got to grips with. To my shame, I read it in English.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Close Range by Annie Proulx. This is a collection of wonderfully strange short stories set in Wyoming. People usually mention that "Brokeback Mountain"--the story that became an Oscar-winning film--comes from this book, but I would urge you to read on, to discover the other gems. Have a look at "55 Miles to the Gas Pump." It is only 266 words, but there is a world packed into every sentence, and Annie Proulx's writing is so spare and clean that it makes the twist genuinely shocking and moving. A master class.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Earth from the Air by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. It is a book of stunning photographs of places and people, bought to remind me how beautiful our world is.

Book you hid from your parents:

The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins, very naughty at the time and passed round at school.

Book that changed your life:

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome was the first proper book I read for myself (on a long car journey across Europe when I was about seven). It pulled me into another world, where I could not be reached by my parents, who were anxious to point out the sights we were passing. Perhaps that was the start of everything.

Favorite line from a book:

"Mother died today. Or maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure." --from L'Etranger by Albert Camus. I love the detachment and strangeness of these first lines. And the fact that it opens up so many possible stories in 10 words.

Five books you'll never part with:

My well-thumbed copy of The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, read and re-read as a child; my children's copy of Dogger by Shirley Hughes, a heart-rending tale of a lost toy; Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, a book that completely blew me away with its distinctive narrative style; A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, because I loved this brilliant, weird book so much I cried when I finished it; and Life After Life by Kate Atkinson because it gives me something to aspire to.

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

Wolf Hall. I can remember sitting for hours, mesmerized by the way Mantel told this story. She had a brilliant cast of characters from Henry VIII's court, but it was the telling that stopped me in my tracks, the sheer vividness of her language.

Advice for would-be writers:

Stop making excuses and start today.


Book Review

Review: The Travelers

The Travelers by Chris Pavone (Crown, $27 hardcover, 9780385348485, March 8, 2016)

After setting his last thriller against the unlikely backdrop of the publishing industry, Chris Pavone (The Accident) moves on to another unexplored setting for espionage--the magazine business.

Will Rhodes has hit a brick wall in his great-on-paper life. He married Chloe, his ideal woman, only to find out that marriage is tough. Both spouses work for Travelers magazine, Will as a writer and Chloe as a contributing editor, yet they earn little besides fabulous trips and conflicting schedules. They nabbed a perfect late-1880s home with dreams of renovation, but insolvency has stalled the remodel at the charming boarded-up windows phase. Even their sex life is rocky after a luckless year of trying for a pregnancy.

In France, Will meets fellow journalist Elle--blonde, lithe, impossibly sexy--and narrowly avoids temptation. However, when he runs into Elle in Argentina a few weeks later, he succumbs. Moments after his transgression, Will learns he was duped. Their encounter was recorded. Elle says she works for the CIA, and they want to hire Will to identify persons of interest in foreign countries under the cover of Travelers. If Will agrees, he will earn $10,000 a month. If not, Chloe will see the sex tape. Bewildered and trapped, Will soon finds himself enmeshed in a life of hand-to-hand combat training, spy cameras and deception. His actions have implications abroad, where shadow agency and CIA operatives lurk, and at home, where his editor and friend Malcolm is already secretly using Travelers to work for an enemy of Will's recruiters. As he begins to glimpse more threads in the web, Will begins to wonder if he signed on with the wrong side and if his answers may lie within Travelers itself.

Making subtle commentary in the midst of a beautifully executed thriller and without sacrificing pace has become something of trademark for Pavone, and here he opens the door on the shrinking print journalism industry. In fact, Travelers becomes exposed as more than it seems by remaining solvent, and the exact source of its funding drives the mystery for readers as well as Will. Pavone constantly misdirects readers' suspicions until the bloody, adrenaline-soaked conclusion, and his smart maneuvering makes having the rug pulled from under a missed guess almost as fun as getting one right. Will's mistakes and confusion make him believable, but he also proves quite the capable hero overall, and his travels from Parisian chateaus to British castles to an opulent yacht in the Mediterranean inspire wanderlust even when they involve crime lords. The hard-earned resolution leaves plenty of openings for the sequel fans will surely demand. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: In this sharp, fun thriller, a travel writer learns his magazine isn't what he thought when he's pressed into espionage service.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Readers, Meet Lola Ridge... You're Welcome

There are too many writers I haven't read or even heard of, despite more than six decades of chronic book addiction. It's embarrassing. Sometimes, however, I do manage to stumble upon an author whose work and life absolutely stun me. This occurred last fall as I read an ARC of Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet by Terese Svoboda (Schaffner Press), but the tale actually began in late 2014 when I first learned the bio was in the works, became intrigued and ordered a copy of Ridge's Sun-Up and Other Poems. From "Train Window":

Small towns
Crawling out of their green shirts...
Tubercular towns
Coughing a little in the dawn...
And the church...
There is always a church
With its natty spire
And the vestibule--
That's where they whisper:
Tzz-tzz... tzz-tzz... tzz-tzz...

Questions occurred to me then, the primary one being: Who the hell is Lola Ridge and how could she have never hit my radar before? I know. It's a question we ask ourselves all too often, but in this case it is eloquently answered in Svoboda's biography of Ridge, a human rights activist and acclaimed poet who lived what the author describes as "a very formative 24 years" in the New Zealand gold mining town of Hokitika before eventually ending up in 1920s New York City. Her friends included Marianne Moore and William Carlos Williams, while Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger were mentors. Hers was an extraordinary international life distilled into striking poems.

Chronicling Ridge's world is daunting enough, but I wondered how Svoboda is now approaching the challenge at author events of introducing contemporary readers--like me--to an author whose work should have been an intrinsic part of our lives already.

"I touch on the highlights of her life in the opening few pages: starting with her immobile under rearing police horses at the demonstration against execution of Sacco and Vanzetti," Svoboda told me. "I talk about her trek from New Zealand, dropping her son off at an orphanage, working for Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger, and turning into the doyenne of poetry as a friend of Williams, Moore, Jean Toomer and Hart Crane--but then I have to go off book and summarize about her struggle with the wealthy Harold Loeb to keep the modernist movement going, her drug use, wandering penniless through Baghdad and taking a lover in Mexico, and the various shenanigans of the poetry world. While daunting, that's what I use to tease them into the q&a. Unlike the biographies of many other writers, hers is so full of incident it seems to have been lived by at least two people."

Svoboda, whose own collection When the Next Big War Blows Down the Valley: Selected and New Poems, was also published recently, had a launch event this month for both books at Astoria Bookshop in Queens, where owners Lexi Beach and Connie Rourke "were very welcoming. The rain stopped for just the right amount of time and the place filled up nicely," she said. "We served champagne and chocolate to a good mix of old friends like novelist Dawn Raffel and poet Stephanie Strickland, and people dropped in from the neighborhood."
 
At Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse in Baltimore, Md., she "felt a great sense of awe after the reading. Two young female rebels came up for autographs afterwards, saying things like 'I had no idea!' The staff was particularly welcoming and well-prepared and had their own questions about the book. Paired earlier in the day with Morowa Yejide at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, I met a number of women very excited to discover a modernist who had figured out how to write on issues of race and homelessness and sex."

On Sunday, there will be a free Modernist Ball/Hangover Tea at Bob Holman's Bowery Poetry Club "in honor of all the parties Lola gave to keep the modernist flame going," Svoboda said. "Redecorated a couple of years ago into a more '50s nightclub look, the place is serving cake and Prohibition 'tea.' Anyone who comes looking like any of the modernists--Williams, Moore, Toomer, Crane, the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhaven, and of course Lola--may read a poem."
 
For booksellers, handselling titles they love means honing the irresistibility factor so potential readers feel they need a particular book. I asked Svoboda how she would approach the handselling challenge with Anything That Burns You. "I'd say the book turns on its head the idea that poets are extraneous to the cultural conversation," she replied. "Lola lived her wild life dedicated to freedom, and that's what America was founded on, and that's what modernism in America was all about, and that's what poetry encourages." From Ridge's poem "The Ghetto":

Nights, she reads
Those books that have most unset thought,
New-poured and malleable,
To which her thought
Leaps fusing at white heat,
Or spits her fire out in some dim manger of a hall,
Or at a protest meeting on the Square,
Her lit eyes kindling the mob...
Or dances madly at a festival.
Each dawn finds her a little whiter,
Though up and keyed to the long day,
Alert, yet weary... like a bird
That all night long has beat about a light.

Readers, meet Lola Ridge.... You're welcome.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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