Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 3, 2017


Crown Publishing Group: American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee

Balzer & Bray/Harperteen: I Love You Like a Pig by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

Grove Press: Afterglow (a Dog Memoir) by Eileen Myles

Flatiron Books: The Kings of Big Spring: God, Oil, and One Family's Search for the American Dream by Bryan Mealer

Andrews McMeel Publishing: Zen Pencils: Inspirational Quotes for Kids by Gavin Aung Than

Little Brown and Company: The Store by James Patterson

News

Amazon Fourth Quarter: Sales Up 22%, Stock Drops

In the fourth quarter ended December 31, Amazon's net sales rose 22%, to $43.7 billion, and net income rose 55%, to $749 million. For the full year, net sales rose 27%, to $136 billion, and net income rose 302%, to $2.4 billion.

Because Amazon's sales in the quarter were about $1 billion lower than expected by Wall Street analysts, the company's stock fell 5% in after-hours trading yesterday, to slightly over $800 a share. The company also suffered because it predicted that net sales in the first quarter, which ends March 31, will grow 14%-23% compared to the first quarter of 2016, a range also below analysts' estimates of about 23.5%.

Analysts say that Amazon's higher profits "likely reflect more discipline in spending and fewer promotions at the expense of profit, as well as a larger percentage of sales stemming from its third-party sellers," the Wall Street Journal wrote. "Those sales are nearly pure profit margin because Amazon doesn't have to buy and hold the product itself. It also gets paid for items that sellers ship in for Amazon to fulfill."


Zondervan: To Wager Her Heart (Belle Meade Plantation) by Tamera Alexander


Two Bookstores Closing, but May Relocate

Iconoclast Books & Café in Ketchum is closing, the Idaho Mountain Express reported, noting that owner Sarah Hedrick was going to court this week "for an eviction hearing to determine when she will have to leave the property, but expects it will be soon."

She hopes eventually to reopen the bookstore in Ketchum or another location in the Wood River Valley, in a smaller space. Hedrick, who has operated Iconoclast independently since her husband, Gary Hunt, died eight years ago, added that she will need a financial partner to make that happen. In 2014, the store launched a successful Indigogo campaign to stay in business.

"There are people out there who definitely want to see the bookstore stay in the area," she said. "I want to stay. I want to be a part of this community, but it's definitely going to take some help.... Financially, I've had my neck in a noose for a very long time."

Describing the development as "sad," Hedrick said, "I don't think I've fully wrapped my mind around the fact that I might not be able to reopen right away, if at all..... If I have to sell books out of my truck for a while, that's what I'll do. We're not selling off or getting rid of every single thing."

---

The Book Shop, Hayward, Calif., "may have to find a new home after receiving word that the building's developer plans to set aside their space for another business and relocate them to another part of the building," the East Bay Times reported. Co-owners Carl and Marilyn Baker-Madsen, and Alison and Sherman Lewis have decided to retire instead, and will move out of their longtime location in the Green Shutter Hotel later this month.

Renee Rettig, who has worked at the Book Shop since 1995, said she intends to purchase leftover inventory and secure a new name, permit and space for an independent bookstore: "As it stands, downtown Hayward is happening on B Street, and we find there's lots of potential there, and the current building owners on B Street have been very forthcoming and generous with their support."

Noting that she has been offered space across the street from the current location, Rettig said, "It's exactly what I want to do with my life, and this has been the most immediate response of pure love and appreciation for something that I value, and it's reflected in every moment; every moment is like the last scene of It's a Wonderful Life here. I remember having people come in when they just had baby bumps, and now, they're going off to college, and I get to be a part of that experience."


AuthorBuzz for the Week of 08.15.17


Fox Chapel Buys Lumina Media Books, Creates CompanionHouse Press

Fox Chapel Publishing, which specializes in illustrated nonfiction for craft and hobby enthusiasts, has acquired the book division of Lumina Media, which includes 330 print books and 440 e-books in categories such as dog, horse, reptile, pet care, home gardening, transportation, farm and rural life. Fox Chapel will launch a new imprint, CompanionHouse Press, to market the new line of books and products. In addition, Christopher Reggio, managing director, books, at Lumina Media, has joined Fox Chapel as director of product development and editorial operations.

"This acquisition supports our continuing strategy of becoming a leader in special interest publishing," Fox Chapel president Alan Giagnocavo said. "Chris's hands-on experience and proven ability to deliver results in sales, margin, and expense control will help make CompanionHouse Press the leader in our target markets."


Trinity University Press: Self-Portrait with Dogwood by Christopher Merrill


Pottermore CEO Susan Jurevics Steps Down

Pottermore CEO Susan Jurevics will leave her position at the end of February. The Bookseller reported that J.K. Rowling's company will not appoint a new CEO and overall control of the business will remain with her agent and chairman Neil Blair. "Increased responsibility will be given to the remaining management team," including e-commerce director Verity Batchelder, publishing director Gillian Laskier and digital director Henriette Stuart-Reckling.

Blair commented: "After three years as chief executive, Susan leaves the business in incredible shape. Under her leadership, we're proud of what Pottermore has achieved in recent years. Her commitment, creativity and dedication to the business have been fantastic and we are all immensely grateful for everything that she has done and achieved. We wish her well for the future."

Jurevics said that because she "accomplished what I set out to do when I joined Pottermore in 2013, now is a great time for me to explore the next chapter in my career."


Melville House Publishing: Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook by Mark Bray


Wi12: Basic Sales Techniques to Engage the Customer

A bookseller is a retail salesperson, but that's not always an easy sell... to booksellers. The Wi12 session "Basic Sales Techniques to Engage the Customer" explored this issue and more. Moderated by Valerie Koehler of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Tex., the panel featured Gillian Kohli of Wellesley Books in Wellesley, Mass.; Daniel Goldin of Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee, Wis.; and Linda-Marie Barrett of Malaprop's Bookstore/Café in Asheville, N.C.

"A lot of booksellers are sort of conflicted by the fact that they're actually in sales," Kohli said. "I think there's a feeling that one's natural enthusiasm for a book is enough, but actually there are a lot of other techniques that can be layered on to help make a sale more likely or make a sale bigger."

Barrett, Goldin, Kohli and Koehler

Upselling is high on the list for Kohli, who noted that a customer engaged with your bookstore "wants to buy something. They may know what they want to buy. They may need your guidance toward something in particular, but there are a lot of opportunities to layer something on to that." When handselling more than one title, she uses the phrase "good companion book" so the customer sees it as an add-on rather than a substitution.

Goldin distributed a "handy-dandy tip sheet," offering tools and resources to improve sales. "I go to a ton of bookstores, and I know there are things that people don't do that they might enjoy doing," he said. "In order to sell more books, you really need the tools."

He was particularly excited about cooperative handselling goals. "I do something that some people don't really like. I measure our numbers on Treeline obsessively," Goldin said. "It's amazing how sharing what we're doing with a book that we're excited about can really spur my booksellers on to sell more books. And it is interesting that I have booksellers who will get other booksellers to read books.... There's nothing better than having a lot of people read the same book because then you have a story to tell both your customers and publishers."

Barrett said the training program at Malaprop's emphasizes "Authentic Customer Engagement," using the 10-4 rule (eye contact at 10 feet, verbal contact at four feet), active listening and going the extra mile. "After the initial engagement, we get out on the sales floor," she noted. "The counter can be a barrier in more ways than one.... Our desire is to be the best thing that happens to a customer that day." 

She also said that "from the beginning when we hire, we look for positive people who are outgoing and like people. It's important they love books, but it's also very important that they enjoy interacting with people because that aspect is really hard to train."

Koehler summed up her interview process nicely: "Hire the smile."

Barrett's overall advice: "Think about what you enjoy in your customer service experience and then try to model that for your customers." --Robert Gray


Notes

Bookstore Display of the Day: 57th Street Books

"Words of Refugees" is the heading for a window display at 57th Street Books in Chicago that the bookstore shared on Twitter with a photo and the hashtags #openbooks and #refugeeliterature. The message on the sign begins: "All of the books in this window were written by individuals who once fled their countries to escape war or persecution."


'Bookmanager Academy 2017' Set for June 8-11

Bookmanager Academy 2017 will be held June 8-11 in Kelowna, B.C., and feature three days of Bookmanager software and general bookselling education; round table discussion and brainstorming; social events and networking opportunities. A full itinerary of education sessions and parties will be released March 1. Deadline for registration is April 15.

The inaugural Bookmanager Academy was held in 2015 and drew nearly 100 booksellers from about 60 stores in Canada and the U.S. Organizers noted that this year they "are concentrating on giving more time to fewer education sessions, and allowing ample opportunity to enjoy the downtown and connect with your fellow book slingers. Who knows, we may even throw in a houseboat party for good measure!"


IPG to Distribute Albert Whitman & Company

Effective April 1, Independent Publishers Group is providing North American sales and distribution for Albert Whitman & Company for all print titles. Effective immediately, IPG is providing North American sales and distribution for all Albert Whitman frontlist digital titles. The companies will also partner for Albert Whitman's initiatives in film and interactive media, forming a coordinated sales and marketing alliance.

Best known for its children's series the Boxcar Children Mysteries, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, Albert Whitman has handled its own distribution since its founding in 1919.

Albert Whitman president John Quattrocchi, commented: "We are proud to partner with a well-respected company with similar values and culture. This will allow us to better focus on our core strengths in developing the highest quality children's books and will enable us to explore other content media opportunities. Both Albert Whitman and IPG will positively engage and proactively challenge our respective business models for mutual strategic success."

IPG CEO Joe Matthews said, "Partnering with Albert Whitman is a tremendous growth opportunity for IPG, adding high quality, must-have titles to our list. Likewise, IPG's network of more than 10,000 active customers will open new doors to continue Albert Whitman's phenomenal success and growth."



Media and Movies

Movies: The Lost City of Z

A new trailer has been released for The Lost City of Z, based on David Grann's book The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon and directed by James Gray (The Immigrant), Entertainment Weekly reported. The film, which stars Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller and Tom Holland, will be released April 14 in Los Angeles and New York before hitting theaters nationwide April 21.

Gray, who filmed in remote areas of Colombia for five months, said, "If somebody tells you you're not going to be able to do it and how hard it is and why would you want to do it, that's the thing that always drives me toward something."


Books & Authors

Awards: Lionel Gelber Shortlist

Finalists have been announced for the $15,000 (about US$11,515) Lionel Gelber Prize, which is administered by the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs and honors "the world’s best nonfiction book in English on foreign affairs that seeks to deepen public debate on significant international issues." The winner will be named February 28. This year's finalists are:

How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon by Rosa Brooks
Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping the World by Shadi Hamid
The Invention of Russia: From Gorbachev's Freedom to Putin's War by Arkady Ostrovsky
Children of Paradise: The Struggle for the Soul of Iran by Laura Secor
A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, from Tahrir Square to ISIS by Robert F. Worth


Reading with... Marilyn Dahl

Marilyn Dahl has been an editor at Shelf Awareness Pro and Shelf Awareness for Readers since 2005. She retired at the end of January.

Books have been my passion ever since my great aunt taught me to read and took me to the library. Books have been my calling ever since my college boyfriend's faculty-wife mother finagled me a job at University Book Store in Seattle, where I grew up in so many ways under the tutelage of the late, great Lee Soper, Pat Soden and some very savvy women. After 20 or so years, and one retail Christmas too many, I moved to Pacific Pipeline, a regional book distributor. Nine years later, I went to work at Amazon, in a sketchy office across from a needle exchange and a wig store. Then I retired. In 2005, I was shanghaied by publisher Jenn Risko for what turned out to be an 11-year gig at Shelf Awareness. Last week, as I figured out where to stash my latest indie bookstore purchases (Indies First!), my husband said, "This place is becoming a monument to books." And the problem with that is...?

Filling out the Reading With questionnaire has been an incredibly difficult task. I have new appreciation for all who have done this for the Shelf. Really, I could drill down to "Favorite Female British Mystery Authors 1940-1960" but that way lies (a sweet) madness.

On your nightstand now:

Bipolar Faith by Monica A. Coleman, The Last Samurai by Helen deWitt, Upstream by Mary Oliver, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon, Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar, My Darling Detective by Howard Norman, Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer, Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson. My nightstand has its own ZIP code.

Favorite book when I was a child:

Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Enid Blyton's books and the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series. I still re-read Mara; it has never palled.

Books I'm an evangelist for:

My two criteria: Have I given copies away? Would I never part with my own copy?

Brand new: The Girl in Green by Derek B. Miller and This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel.

Recently: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley. Boy, Erased by Garrard Conley. Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Underground Airlines by Ben Winters.

From the (recent) past: Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles Blow, Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar in the World, Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Love Wins by Rob Bell, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes, Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

Authors I'm an evangelist for:

Frederick Buechner, Ron Carlson, Edmund Crispin, Michel Faber, Robert Goddard, Ross Macdonald, Brian McLaren, Robert B. Parker, Marilynne Robinson, Robert van Gulik, Patricia Wentworth, Mary Wesley, Colson Whitehead, Connie Willis.

Please write another book: Leonie Swann, Rachel Howzell Hall, Karl Marlantes, Charles Blow, Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Book I hid from my parents:

None, but I read under the covers a lot. My parents were more concerned about a proper bedtime. My mom was slightly concerned about Gone with the Wind, but I got three book report credits for it, and an A+, so....

Favorite lines from three books:

"I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down." --Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

"If you show someone something you've written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin, and say, 'When you're ready.' " --David Mitchell, Black Swan Green

"Sometimes you can hear the wire, hear it reaching out across the miles; whining with its own weight, crying from the cold, panting at the distance, humming with the phantom sounds of someone else's conversation." --David Bradley, The Chaneysville Incident

Favorite book of poetry:

Any Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Christian Wiman, Lucille Clifton. O Holy Cow by Phil Rizzuto, Baseball Haiku by Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura.

Books that make me laugh:

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (and its time travel homage, To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis); and in the spit-out-your-coffee category, Big Trouble by Dave Barry. The Rook by Daniel O'Malley.

Best classic discovered late in life:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Book I bought for the cover:

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie. Luminous.

Books that changed my life:

Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey, Love Wins by Rob Bell. Yancey pulled me out of a guilt-ridden fundamentalist childhood, and Bell gave me a profound hope. The Blue Hammer by Ross Macdonald. When I was a young bookseller, I was a literary (but not especially literate) snob. One day, I made a disparaging remark about the New York Times reviewing Macdonald, who was "merely" a mystery writer. Marcie Kembel, my adored mentor, took me to task and dared me to read The Blue Hammer. I discovered the joy of mysteries. Religion and mysteries--a natural combo. Numinous.

Favorite titles (as titles):

A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane.

Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams by Nick Tosches.

Favorite opening lines:

"Down in Mobile they're all crazy, because the Gulf Coast is the kingdom of monkeys, the land of clowns, ghosts and musicians, and Mobile is sweet lunacy's seat." --Eugene Walter, The Untidy Pilgrim.

"Dr Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature." --Anita Brookner, A Start in Life.


Book Review

Review: The Hearts of Men

The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler (Ecco, $26.99 hardcover, 400p., 9780062469687, March 7, 2017)

Nickolas Butler struck gold by mining small-town Wisconsin life in his much-lauded first novel, Shotgun Lovesongs. Wisely panning the same motherlode, The Hearts of Men takes place largely at Boy Scout Camp Chippewa in the state's heavily forested rural northwest--a setting that molds three generations of boys trying to become men. Rich in lore and adolescent anxiety, it reads like a story from the 100-year-old scouting magazine Boys' Life--except written by Chuck Palahniuk. This is a world of white Christian men who frequent supper clubs, knock back brandy shots and party in stripper bars. Butler shines in exploring the complex male relationships of fathers and sons, military comrades and drinking buddies--no sentimentality, just the way it is. As he describes one of these rural Wisconsin characters: "an impossibly good and decent man, flawed only in ways all grown men are--susceptible to the wiles of women, ever lonely, always sacrificing, forever vigilant of their child's future."

Told in four parts set in 1962, 1996, 2019 and 2022, The Hearts of Men tracks the evolution of the camp as the ways of men are transformed by war, technology and sexual mores. In 1962, the camp bugler Nelson is a nerdy, glasses-wearing reader who tents alone and steams his uniform before blowing morning reveille. "A lame impala on the Serengeti Plain," he is an easy target for bullying by his callous fellow scouts. It takes an in-country stint as a tunnel rat in the Vietnam War to turn him into the Eagle Scout he longs to be. In 1996, one of Nelson's only scout "friends" brings his 16-year-old son, Trevor, to camp despite the boy's disdain for the hokey scouting code: "Being an Eagle Scout is more on a par with having served as drum major of your high school marching band, secretary of the student council." In 2019, after Trevor's death, his fragile widow, Rachel, insists their son Thomas go to camp, as his father did, to earn merit badges like orienteering, although she knows all the global orientation he needs is readily available on his cellphone. The only woman chaperone in camp, she endures the bigoted harassment of scout fathers, leading to abrupt violence, bravely subdued by Nelson, who is now camp director.

Like those who came before, Thomas grows from his camp experience--and Rachel emerges renewed as a single mom strong as any boy's dad. They leave camp shaken, and in 2022, Rachel buys an isolated cabin on her own, but adopts a pair of protective German shepherds, just in case. If there is an overriding lesson in The Hearts of Men, it might be found in the Boy Scout admonition, "Be prepared." There's no telling what life will throw your way. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: Nickolas Butler's unsentimental second novel tackles complex male relationships as generations of boys find their paths to maturity at a Boy Scout camp.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Howard Frank Mosher--No Stranger in the Kingdom

Howard Frank Mosher

This is how I learned about Howard Frank Mosher's death: On Sunday, I was walking down a long hallway in the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis during ABA's Winter Institute when a familiar voice called my name. I turned to see Jenny Lyons of the Vermont Bookshop in Middlebury. During the 1990s, we had worked together at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center. Jenny told me that Howard had died that morning.

Then Northshire's co-owner Chris Morrow suddenly appeared from around a corner and there we were, three Vermonters at a conference in Minnesota, talking quietly about a man we had all admired (and even better, genuinely liked) while some of the nearly 700 booksellers in attendance at Wi12 passed by us unaware of this brief, impromptu ceremony.

His death was not a shock. We knew Howard had been in hospice care. On both his personal and official Facebook pages recently, he had shared the sad news with friends and readers through a post that began, in classic understated Mosher style: "Well, the best laid plans, as they say."

I first met Howard in 1994, when he came to the Northshire for an event to launch Northern Borders. After that introduction, I knew I had some catching up to do and read Disappearances, Where the Rivers Flow North, Marie Blythe and A Stranger in the Kingdom. I've been one of his readers ever since. But more than that, I admired the guy. He was good people. As a native Vermonter, I was drawn to his stories about a part of "my" state he knew better than I did. Being a Vermont native also made me, by definition, a tougher audience, since Howard, who was originally from upstate New York, had to overcome my resistance to outsiders. He did.

Mosher reading at Norwich Bookstore, Norwich, Vt.

The outpouring of remembrances has been compelling. Vermont Public Radio featured "a celebration" of his life. Author Chris Bohjalian described him as "one of the most generous novelists I know." Don Bredes cited his willingness to "advocate energetically for an unpublished hopeful and promote the efforts of independent booksellers everywhere." Joshua Bodwell, executive director of the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, wrote: "New England is a little duller this week without Howard Frank Mosher’s brightness."

"Howard was a dear friend of the New England bookselling community," the New England Independent Booksellers Association's NEIBA News observed in a tribute that featured many other voices, including Claire Benedict of Bear Pond Books in Montpelier ("We will miss his smile, his charm, his unwavering love of the NEK and of course, his books."), Dick Hermans of Oblong Books & Music in Millerton, N.Y. (Howard was "a nearly perfect gentleman who wrote with fine style about what good writers must--the things that they know and experience in life."), and Richard Russo ("If we can somehow make it in the world without him, it'll be because he taught us how.").

In its e-newsletter yesterday, the Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick wrote that Howard "was a customer of ours, usually calling in orders that we would mail to him at his home in Irasburg. When he called, he would be full of excitement to share a recommendation of a new author or book he'd discovered. The next time he called, he would ask, 'Did you have a chance to read (insert title here)?' Or he would have a funny story to share, maybe an interaction with a big-city publicist or a chain bookstore where he stopped for a reading. That story would be punctuated by a guffaw of laughter he just couldn't hold in, and you had to laugh when Howard laughed--the pleasure he took in telling these stories was infectious."

In 2015, when I interviewed Howard for a column highlighting his support of independent bookstores, he told me: "I don't think I've ever had an unpleasant experience at an indie bookstore." He spoke at length about the generosity, importance and dedication of indies; their crucial role in community building and how they "keep the culture going." He said he believed it would not have been possible to have his career as an author without the longtime support of indies.

I last saw Howard at NEIBA's fall trade show in September. His novel God's Kingdom had been a finalist for the New England Book Award, and in brief remarks at the awards dinner he offered his thanks to the booksellers "for all you've done for clueless scribblers like me and for millions of readers throughout New England. Thank you so much for everything you've done for constitutional rights."

Obituaries for children's authors often deploy the adjective "beloved," though you rarely see it for authors of adult books. But Northshire Bookstore co-founder Barbara Morrow used it in her piece for the store's e-newsletter yesterday, noting: "One of Vermont's most beloved and prolific authors was Howard Mosher, who--shockingly and sadly--died this past Sunday of cancer, surrounded by his family in his beloved Northeast Kingdom. He visited us just last fall, when he drove 3 1/2 hours each way to join the Northshire family to celebrate our 40th anniversary.... Howard Mosher was a Vermont treasure, and there is no better tribute to him than to get lost in one of his books depicting the world as he saw it. His new book, Points North, will be published in the coming months. Howard, we love you."

It's a good word, beloved, though Howard might have considered it a little over the top when applied to him. I'll use it anyway. Beloved Vermont author Howard Frank Mosher was a fine writer... and a good guy.

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

Wednesday Books: The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach
Powered by: Xtenit