Shelf Awareness for Friday, August 26, 2016


Harper: Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth

Mira Books: Rosie Colored Glasses by Brianna Wolfson

Little Brown and Company: The Which Way Tree by Elizabeth Crook

Bloomsbury: Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen

Soho Crime: The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Shadow Mountain: Christmas Jars Collector's Edition by Jason F. Wright

News

Amazon Opening Bookstore in Chicago

Amazon's bookstore in Seattle

Amazon is planning to open a bricks-and-mortar bookstore in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, the Tribune reported, adding that "the store, targeted to open next year, will be at 3443 N. Southport Ave., the former location of the now-closed Mystic Celt bar and restaurant."

"We are excited to be bringing Amazon Books to Southport in Chicago," company spokeswoman Deborah Bass said. The online retailer currently operates an Amazon Books store in Seattle, Wash., and has previously announced plans for locations in San Diego , Calif., and Portland, Ore.

Reaction to the news is not all positive: "Replacing a locally owned restaurant with an outpost of the most valuable retailer in the world--worth an estimated $250 billion--could disappoint neighbors who want to keep the Southport Corridor diverse," DNAinfo Chicago commented.


Sourcebooks Jabberwocky: The Very Very Very Long Dog by Julia Patton


Four-Eyed Frog Books Now Community-Owned

Four-Eyed Frog Books, Gualala, Calif., is now owned by 23 community members, Bookselling This Week reported, adding that "the Frog, as it's referred to by locals, was opened in 2003 by Joel Crockett, who decided earlier this year to put the store up for sale and relocate to Southern California." The deal was closed last month.

Last spring, Crockett hosted a community meeting to share "honest information about what owning and operating an independent bookshop entails, as well as details about the Frog's sales and financial history," BTW noted.

Karen Dotson, one of the shareholders and the secretary for the new community-owned corporation, said, "The idea of a community-owned bookstore was born from that meeting." The new business is "truly a community-owned bookstore, with passionate new owners, a strong leadership team assisting the general manager, and an active board of directors," she added.

Though the store has officially changed ownership, Crockett has invested as a shareholder and will serve as a consultant. "As the founder of the bookstore, I couldn't be more pleased that Four-Eyed Frog Books is in a strong position to continue growing with a devoted and talented team in one of the finest communities one could ever be a part of," he said.


Siglio Press: The Stampographer by Vincent Sardon


For Sale: Montreal's Argo Bookshop

Argo Bookshop, Montreal's oldest English-language book retailer, is for sale. On the store's website, owner Meaghan Acosta wrote: "After five wonderful years of living a childhood dream, it is time for me to move on to different pastures. I'm looking for someone(s) to take over, and keep this little place alive. The Argo is undeniably a historical landmark in the city and I believe independent bookstores are vital to nourishing the spirit of a city. Anyone who wishes to take up the post in Montreal's oldest English bookstore, please get in touch via email at argobookshop@gmail.com. Thank you Montreal, for letting me sit here on Saint Catherine's and talk about the books I love for this long." Argo Bookshop was established in 1966.


PuddleDancer Press: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, 3rd Edition: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships by Marshall B. Rosenberg


Xinhua Bookstore Makes Changes Before 80th Birthday

Xinhua Bookstore, China's largest state-owned bookstore chain, will turn 80 years old in 2017, and as that milestone approaches the retailer is undergoing significant changes to keep pace with shifts in Chinese reading habits and lifestyle, reported the Global Times.

Some key takeaways about China's book industry:
  • China saw its own wave of bookstore closures some five or six years ago, during which both privately owned and state-owned bookstores shut their doors. According to the Global Times, these closures were a result of more and more Chinese readers choosing e-books over physical books.
  • Since then, China has also seen a bookstore resurgence. In Shanghai and other major cities, new, privately owned bookstores have been opening within the past few years, and these bookstore have an emphasis on programs and events, cafe and beverage service, and striking displays and interior design.
  • Last week, China held its third annual China Physical Bookstore Innovation & Development Conference. Directors from more than 50 bookstores and managers from more than 30 publishing groups attended. Most of the bookstore attendees, said the Global Times, came from state-owned bookstores.
  • This June, the Publicity Department of the Communist Party's Central Committee announced a stimulus plan to support physical bookstores, which would give them "preferential taxation and policies."
  • To help stay competitive with the competition, Xinhua Bookstore is opening new-style bookstores of its own in various cities, and existing locations have begun to expand their cultural events programs. Some of those locations have reportedly doubled or tripled their revenue.
  • To help expand Xinhua's reach to smaller cities and towns, some stores in Zhejiang Province have set up a system of middlemen who buy books in the large cities and then deliver them to rural customers. By the end of 2015, "Zhejian had 405 such stations, which garnered 105 million yuan [about $15.8 million] in total for one year."

Freeform: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton


Obituary Note: Michel Butor

French writer Michel Butor, "one of the leading figures of the experimental 1950s 'Nouveau Roman' literary movement," died on Wednesday, AFP reported (via France24). He was 89. Butor was best known for his 1957 book La Modification (Second Thoughts), which won the Renaudot Prize. He built "a multi-faceted, unclassifiable body of work that included books as well as essays and poems, often drawing inspiration from his overseas travels," AFP noted. His books include Mobile, Degrees, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ape: A Caprice, and Frontiers.

"To write is to destroy barriers," he said at a retrospective of his work at Paris' French National Library in 2006.


Notes

Image of the Day: Ridley Pearson and White Bone

On Tuesday, Ridley Pearson spoke and signed copies of White Bone (Putnam), his latest Risk Agent novel, for a large crowd at the St. Louis County Library, where Left Bank Books was the event bookseller. Photo courtesy of Carrie Robb.


Happy 40th Birthday, Small World Books!

Congratulations to Small World Books, Venice, Calif., which will celebrate its 40th anniversary tomorrow. The Argonaut reported that when "she moved her independent bookstore from Marina del Rey to the Venice Boardwalk in 1976, Mary Goodfader had no idea how long it would last," but the shop "found its niche on Ocean Front Walk at a time when the boardwalk was 'exploding' with a new kind of tourist scene and a new zeitgeist.... The literary community in Venice was thriving and Goodfader soon had a steady, dedicated clientele."

"It was great timing. Everyone was coming to Venice Beach to see all the skaters and the jugglers. It was a fun time and the mood was always upbeat," she said. "Because we're a small independent bookstore, I ask my customers to pay retail. But they support us because I'm part of a community that loves books. I think there has been a resurgence with independent bookstores, but it's hard to compete with sites like Amazon--which has only one goal in mind, and that's to close all independent bookstores.... I have a quality bookstore with high-quality employees and high-quality customers. My passion is books, and I'll do this as long as I'm able."


Seven Questions for Once Upon a Time Owner Maureen Palacios

On its blog, Prospect Park Books asks seven questions of Maureen Palacios, owner of Once Upon a Time, Montrose, Calif. One of our favorite exchanges:

You own a children's bookstore, so why carry books for grownups?

We have had an adult reading group for forty years, long before Oprah made book groups hip. We stock a very choice, very curated selection of adult titles due to adults asking for them many moons ago when the store's founder, Jane Humphrey, ran the shop.


GBO Picks Angel of Oblivion

The German Book Office in New York City has chosen Angel of Oblivion by Maja Haderlap, translated by Tess Lewis (Archipelago, $18, 9780914671466), as its August Pick of the Month.

The GBO described the book this way: "Angel of Oblivion tells the story of past and present life among the Slovenian-speaking minority population in southern Austria. Influenced by the author's own life, the book follows the experiences of a first-person narrator from childhood to maturity, focusing on her quest for identity as she is caught between the Slovenian and German languages, cultures and histories. Growing up, the protagonist is dragged further into memories of the past, particularly of how her family was affected by the Nazi regime: her grandfather joined the partisans, her grandmother was interned in the concentration camp in Ravensbrück, and her father was tortured as a child."

Maja Haderlap is Carinthian-Slovene Austrian writer and translator with a Ph.D. in Theater Studies from the University of Vienna. She won the Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis and the Rauriser Literaturpreis for Angel of Oblivion, which is her debut novel.

Tess Lewis is an advisory editor for the Hudson Review and a translator of French and German literature. She has received many grants for her translation work and writes essays on European literature for multiple literary journals.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Phil Knight, Shoe Dog

Today:
Fox & Friends: Rajiv Parti, author of Dying to Wake Up: A Doctor's Voyage into the Afterlife and the Wisdom He Brought Back (Atria, $23.99, 9781476797311).

CNBC's Squawk Box: Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, authors of Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power (Scribner, $28, 9781501155772). The authors will also be on MSNBC's Morning Show tomorrow.

Fox Business TV: Phil Knight, author of Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike (Scribner, $29, 9781501135910).


TV: Gomorrah; Anne

The Italian organized crime series Gomorrah premiered this week on SundanceTV to enthusiastic reviews. It was adapted from the international bestselling book Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples' Organized Crime System by Roberto Saviano, who was awarded the PEN Pinter International Writer of Courage Award in 2011. The series stars Marco D'Amore, Fortunato Cerlino and Salvatore Esposito.

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Netflix has joined with Canada's CBC and Miranda de Pencier's Northwood Entertainment on the upcoming series Anne, based on Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic novel Anne of Green Gables, Deadline reported. Niki Caro (Whale Rider) is directing the two-hour premiere episode, while showrunner Moira Walley-Beckett is writing the entire first eight-episode season. CBC will air Anne next year, with Netflix distributing globally outside Canada. Deadline noted that the "series will honor the foundation of the book, but will incorporate new adventures reflecting themes of identity, sexism, bullying, prejudice and trusting one's self."



Books & Authors

Awards: Thurber Finalists; PEN Center USA Winners

The finalists for the 2016 Thurber Prize for American Humor, sponsored by Thurber House, are:

Jason Gay, author of Little Victories: A Sportswriter's Notes on Winning at Life (Anchor)
Harrison Scott Key, author of The World's Largest Man: A Memoir (Harper)
Mary Norris, author of Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen (Norton)

The award will be presented at a ceremony in New York City on September 26.

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Winners were announced for this year's PEN Center USA Awards, which recognize the best writing in the western U.S. The winning writers in each category receive $1,000 and will be honored September 28 at the Literary Awards Festival in Beverly Hills, Calif. The 2015 PEN Center USA Award winners are:

Fiction: See How Small by Scott Blackwood (Little, Brown)
Creative nonfiction: A House of My Own by Sandra Cisneros (Knopf)
YA/children's: The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic)
Poetry: Reconnaissance by Carl Phillips (FSG)
Graphic literature innovator: Gene Luen Yang
Research nonfiction: Ghettoside by Jill Leovy (Spiegel & Grau)
Translation: Stephen Kessler for Forbidden Pleasures: New Selected Poems by Luis Cernuda (Black Widow Press)
Drama: Landless by Larissa FastHorse
Journalism: T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong for "An Unbelievable Story of Rape" (ProPublica and The Marshall Project)
Teleplay: John Logan for Penny Dreadful, "A Blade of Grass"

For the first time in the 26-year history of the awards, PEN Center USA unveiled the screenplay finalists. The nominees are Oliver Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald for Snowden; Tom Ford for Nocturnal Animals; Damien Chazelle for La La Land; and Jeff Nichols for Loving.

As was announced earlier, Isabel Allende will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award and Jason Rezaian will be honored with the Freedom to Write Award. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan will be at the ceremony as well to present Willow Bay and the USC Annenberg School of Journalism with PEN's Award of Honor.


Reading with... Imbolo Mbue

photo: Kiriko Sano

Imbolo Mbue is a native of Limbe, Cameroon, and holds a B.S. from Rutgers University and an M.A. from Columbia University. A resident of the United States for more than a decade, she lives in New York City. Behold the Dreamers (Random House, August 23, 2016) is her first novel.

On your nightstand now:

I'm reading Matthew Desmond's Evicted, which is destroying me in its heartbreaking depiction of poverty in the United States and the challenges of moving out of it. Also reading Jonathan Franzen's essay collection How to Be Alone, which I read bits of years ago. And I can't wait to get back to Paul Beatty's The Sellout, James Joyce's Dubliners and Svetlana Alexievich's Voices from Chernobyl.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I didn't read a lot of children's books as a child because when I discovered the thrill of reading, there were mostly adult books around. It's hard for me to choose one, so I'll choose the three I read around the age of nine or 10, and stayed up all night thinking about: The Merchant of Venice, A Tale of Two Cities and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Your top five authors:

I have dozens of favorite authors since any writer who writes a book I love automatically becomes one of my favorite authors. That ever-expanding list includes Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Junot Díaz and Jhumpa Lahiri.

Book you've faked reading:

I'm very bad at faking, though sometimes someone close to me talks about a book so much that I feel as if I've read it, which is what happened when I recently bought a copy of Between the World and Me as a gift for my friend. By the time the friend was done reading it, he'd told me everything Ta-Nehisi Coates had to say, and now I almost feel as if I've read it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Andrew Solomon's Far from the Tree. That book is required reading. It saddens me when I tell people about it and they say, "Oh, it sounds so depressing." I want to shout, "So what? It doesn't matter how depressing it is, it will teach you so much about life and love and acceptance." It certainly taught me a lot about empathy.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Roberto Bolaño's 2666. Brilliant cover befitting a novel from an author who got me thinking, while reading his work, "Here is a writer who writes what he likes."

Book you hid from your parents:

None. My mother encouraged me to read anything and everything, and in fact reluctantly bought me magazines that were not very appropriate for children whenever I badly wanted something to read and there were no books around.

Book that changed your life:

Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon. I finished reading that book and I immediately started writing, and I've never stopped writing since then.

Book that recently had you upset long after you finished it:

Both Jeff Hobbs's The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace and Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowland kept me up at night worrying. Weeks after I finished reading these books, I still thought of all the ways the people's lives would have been different if only something had or hadn't happened, wondering what if. I read the books back-to-back and ended up losing a lot of sleep that month--one of the downsides of being a highly emotional reader.

Favorite line from a book:

"Her grief grieved her. His devastated her." --from one of my all-time favorite novels, Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things.

Five books you'll never part with:

Anne Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, David Ebershoff's The 19th Wife, Gabriel García Márquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold and David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, because I keep promising myself that someday I'm going to read it.

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

Wuthering Heights, because I remember sitting open-mouthed in awe for several minutes after I was done reading it, when I was about 13. I've since had that same feeling with many other books, but I'd like to have it again with that particular book.

Books you're glad you only recently read:

I didn't read a lot of books by Americans growing up (Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is perhaps the only one I read before immigrating here), and in my first years in the States, I mostly read books by African writers, probably because I was homesick. Only recently did I read classics by Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Steinbeck and Salinger, and I'm so glad I got to read them for the first time as an adult, because I was able to relate to the characters in a more profound way than my American friends told me they did when they read them in middle school.

Book you wish you'd read sooner:

Edwidge Danticat's Brother, I'm Dying. The issues explored in this book are as relevant today as they were nine years ago when it was first published, but I wish I'd read it sooner, so my younger self could take a closer look at the underbelly of the American immigration system, presented so elegantly and devastatingly in this memoir.


Book Review

Review: El Paso

El Paso by Winston Groom (Liveright, $27.95 hardcover, 496p., 9781631492242, October 4, 2016)

Alabama novelist and historian Winston Groom hit the jackpot when his 1986 novel Forrest Gump was turned into an Academy Award-winning movie. After that, he shifted his focus to nonfiction, exploring subjects such as the Civil War (Shiloh, 1862), military history (A Storm in Flanders), and even a history of his alma mater (The Crimson Tide). With El Paso, Groom combines his love of history with a mature talent for well-paced storytelling. Blending historical figures and events with fully formed fictional characters, it takes the early unconventional style of Forrest Gump to a richer, more rewarding level. Set along the United States/Mexican border in the early 20th century, El Paso is the saga of a Boston railroad baron's financial slide as he tries to save his family's business and its vast cattle ranch in the state of Chihuahua in the face of the nascent uprising of Mexico's populist revolution.

El Paso is a rough-and-tumble saga of big egos, violence and duplicity. Pitting the fictional protagonists John "Colonel" Shaughnessy and his adopted orphan son, Arthur, against the popular Mexican bandit Pancho Villa, it has the drama, coincidence and class intrigue of Dickens's Great Expectations in a setting reminiscent of Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. Groom's novel also features the mysterious cynical curmudgeon Ambrose Bierce ("War and cruelty apart, it's no longer a laughing matter to be a member of the human race"); idealistic newsman John Reed, who observes, "These were amazing people... perfect peasants... peaceful men in real life, salt of the earth, roused to revolutionary fury"; cowboy movie star Tom Mix; ex-Buffalo Soldier Henry Flipper; and a host of cameos from the likes of Mabel Dodge, Woodrow Wilson, William Randolph Hearst ("Now, that man knows how to start a war"), George Patton and John "Black Jack" Pershing. Reflecting the historical zeitgeist, Groom scatters archival tidbits throughout his story--the engineering of single-wing airplanes, railroad technology and economics, Aztec mysticism and the Colonel's political nemeses: "the infernal federal income tax, Mexico, socialism, unionism, anarchism, trustbustingism, notions of alcohol prohibition and women's suffrage."

In Groom's capable hands, this history mixes easily into what is at its core a story of family, class warfare, loyalty and the violence of revolution. El Paso's plot rolls along through gun-battles, lynchings, kidnappings, a makeshift bullfight and a cattle drive--in the context of Mexican food, culture, religion and politics. But it is also the story of the United States on the cusp of world dominance, with themes of immigration, wealth, self-determination and entitlement balanced against a strong sense of compassion and fairness. The nexus of these worlds is the border city of El Paso. In Groom's imagined history, both sides of the Rio Grande have their dangers and rewards. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: An epic saga set along the Mexican/United States border, El Paso mixes history with a Dickensian story of family wealth, class conflict and the Mexican revolution.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Recent Studies Show Reading Is (Fill in the Blank)

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the release of a study that specifically links reading books to a longer life span. Reading is good for you. Who knew? It can, however, become a little complicated once academic researchers get involved. What did you think? That it was just about picking up a book and turning the pages? Silly reader.

This week, the Guardian reported on a paper just published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts that found "literary fiction by the likes of Salman Rushdie, Harper Lee and Toni Morrison helps improve readers' understanding of other people's emotions... but genre writing, from authors including Danielle Steel and Clive Cussler, does not."

"This is not to say that reading popular genre fiction cannot be enjoyable or beneficial for other reasons--we suspect it is," said David Kidd, one of the researchers. "Nor does the present evidence point towards a clear and consistent distinction between literary and popular genre fiction. Instead, it suggests that the broad distinction between relatively complex literary and relatively formulaic genre fiction can help us better understand how engaging with fiction affects how we think."

Author Val McDermid had some sharp and justifiable reservations about these findings: "So it seems that this research demonstrates fairly conclusively that people who pay attention to what they read and hear are also pretty savvy when it comes to doing quizzes. Hold the front page.... Good books make us care. It really doesn't matter whether they include murderers, aliens, philosophers or kings."

On another front, I was heartened by a New York Times column earlier this month headlined "The Merits of Reading Real Books to Your Children," in which pediatrician Dr. Perri Klass, national medical director of the program Reach Out and Read, used the release of the new Harry Potter book to examine the impact of "book-books" in kids' lives.

She noted that developmental behavioral pediatrician Dr. Jenny Radesky is one of the authors of an upcoming American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on media use for children from birth to age 5. "Preschool children learn better when there's an adult involved," Radesky said. "They learn better when there are not distracting digital elements, especially when those elements are not relevant to the story line or the learning purpose."

Dr. Klass wrote: "Part of what makes paper a brilliant technology may be, in fact, that it offers us so much and no more. A small child cannot tap the duck and elicit a quack; for that, the child needs to turn to a parent. And when you cannot tap the picture of the horse and watch it gallop across the page, you learn that your brain can make the horse move as fast as you want it to, just as later on it will show you the young wizards on their broomsticks, and perhaps even sneak you in among them."

Reading book-books as good medicine. I like that.

By the way, using readers as research guinea pigs has a long, and occasionally odd, history. Here's a sampling from the archives of the New York Times:

1883. "The boys of the Polytechnic showed a decided taste for the better class. For example, Dickens is the prime favorite of 43 Polytechnic boys and with only 14 of the public school boys. Horatio Alger, Jr., has 2 admirers in the Polytechnic Institute where he has 18 at the public school."

1929. "Dr. William S. Gray made a survey of the reading habits of Americans for the American Library Association. He found that stenographers as a class are interested in inspirational, and prefer the classics to sentimental novels."

1945: A "scientific and exhaustive nationwide survey of the taste of the American reading public revealed [that]... 95% of the people read the Bible, compared with the 84% who read Forever Amber and the 57% who perused A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.... 70% of all books published are read by 21% of the people; 94% of those on the market by 50% of the people."

Impromptu survey: Are you reading for longevity? Are you reading the right sort of books? And what about the kids?!!

In the Telegraph, Oliver Pritchett, tongue planted firmly in cheek, added some digital age perspective: "I have been interested in the recent correspondence about the menace of people reading books while walking along the street, becoming so engrossed that they bump into each other--or into us innocent passers-by. In my experience, it is the fiction addicts who are the worst."

Perhaps we need a research grant to study that curious phenomenon. Reading is complicated... and it's simple. But we already knew that.

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

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