Shelf Awareness for Thursday, March 2, 2017


Penguin Press: Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

Graphix: Dog Man and Cat Kid (Dog Man #4) by Dav Pilkey

Ecco Press: Varina by Charles Frazier

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick and Marc Rosenthal

News

B&N 3rd-Quarter Sales Drop 8%

At Barnes & Noble, total sales in the third quarter ended January 28 fell 8%, to $1.3 billion, and net earnings fell 12.5%, to $70.3 million. Revenues were $10 million higher than analysts' estimates, but earnings were lower than expected.

Retail sales, including B&N stores and BN.com, fell 7.5%, to $1.3 billion. Sales at stores open at least a year fell 8.3%, mainly, the company said, because of "lower traffic as well as the decline in coloring books, artists supplies and last year's bestselling album by Adele, which collectively accounts for nearly one third of the sales decline."

Online sales rose 2.2%. Nook sales, which include digital content, devices and accessories, fell 25.7%, to $38.4 million.

B&N added that "despite sales improvements post-holiday, trends softened in late January and into the fourth quarter." As a result, the company predicts that sales at stores open at least a year will fall about 7% for the full fiscal year 2017. In January, B&N had predicted comp-store sales would decline 6%.


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: The Land Beyond by Leon McCarron


New Amazon Books Stores Add Coffee to the Mix

Without fanfare, Amazon has added coffee bars to the mix of books and electronics of at least two Amazon Books stores. WBUR reported that the Amazon Books that opened in Dedham, Mass., on Tuesday has "a coffee shop. On opening day, a steady stream of customers wandered in to browse the shelves or grab coffee." (Boston magazine added that the brew served is Peet's Coffee.)

And conceptual renderings submitted to the city for the Amazon Books store that will open in Walnut Creek, Calif., include a café with "prime window seating for customers near the front corner of the glass-fronted, brick-lined store," the East Bay Times wrote.

WBUR spoke with Peter H. Reynolds, owner of Blue Bunny Books, the children's bookstore about a mile from the new Amazon, who acknowledged that he was initially nervous. "The minute that the news came out, I got hundreds of emails from friends and fans across the country and the world saying, 'Hey we just heard Amazon is moving up the street,' " Reynolds said. "And at first my heart sort of sunk a bit, but I realized quickly the response from our friends was what you have in your independent bookstore is very, very different than what Amazon is providing and I think that we're going to be O.K."


Trinity University Press: Arte Kids - Bilingual Board Books


Obituary Note: Nicholas Mosley

Author Nicholas Mosley, "who confronted his father's notoriety in his two-volume study of Sir Oswald Mosley [The Rules of the Game & Beyond the Pale], founder of the British Union of Fascists," died February 28, the Guardian reported. He was 93. Despite having to live down his father's notorious reputation, he "managed to carve out a career for himself as a much discussed novelist and biographer."

Mosley's novel Impossible Object (1968), "which one critic likened to a crossword puzzle," was filmed by John Frankenheimer as Story of a Love Story (1973) and shortlisted for the first Booker prize in 1969, the Guardian wrote. A later novel, Hopeful Monsters, the fifth part of the Catastrophe Practice series, became the Whitbread book of the year in 1990. As a biographer, his subjects ranged from World War One poet Julian Grenfell to Leon Trotsky.


Thomas Nelson: Perennials by Julie Cantrell


Accomplishments and Challenges: ABA's Oren Teicher on Indie Bookselling

Through last fall, it seemed independent bookselling couldn't be more inspiring and exciting. Among the measures of growth over the past seven years: more and more indies have opened; the sales at most indies have increased; stores on the market find buyers; numerous established stores have opened branches; and, perhaps most heartening, more younger people are becoming booksellers and even founding bookstores, and they usually bring an impressive level of business, retail and technical sophistication and experience.

But since the November election, many indie bookstores have made a renewed commitment to values that they hadn't considered in such depth in a while, and are working to find ways to be even more valuable to the culture, to the exchange of ideas and to the concept of free speech--and to provide a gathering place and be a refuge.

Oren Teicher

The topic came to the fore at Winter Institute 2017 in January, and as Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, said in a recent interview, those discussions at Wi12 are reflected in the ABA's programming for the upcoming Spring Forums at the spring regional booksellers association meetings, beginning with the SIBA meeting next week in Atlanta, Ga.

As reported in Bookselling This Week, the interactive programming, called Bookstores--An Inclusive Place for Dialogue and Discovery, will focus on "strategies for strengthening the unique role that bookstores play in their communities" and will be be led by an ABA board member. In large and small groups, participants will "share ideas and brainstorm about how they can foster communication and create opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds to express and respond to differing views in the welcoming setting of a bookstore."

Teicher commented: "I'm confident as ever--no matter how challenging the times may be--that indie bookstores can continue to be a welcoming space for all and that we have a critically important role to play in bringing people together. Obviously, what works in one store may--or may not--work in another. But we are determined to do whatever we can to share best practices."

Yesterday, in a letter to ABA members, he emphasized that the meetings will be inclusive and welcoming to all: "ABA member stores come from urban, suburban, small town, and rural areas, and they serve a very wide range of customers. And I know that all of us want every bookseller--no matter what kind of store they come from--to feel comfortable participating in these Spring Forum sessions, and in ABA as a whole.

"Though it's hardly surprising, as we saw at Wi12, while many members share a similar political outlook, ABA recognizes, too, that those views are not held by everyone. Just as the shelves of our bookstores hold a wide variety of thoughts and opinions, our association is stronger if we respect the full spectrum of views among member bookstores and work to encourage an environment where all feel they can speak up and voice their points of view."

That was especially evident at the Winter Institute's Town Hall meeting, where several young booksellers called for more diversity in bookselling in general, and the ABA in particular. The ABA responded quickly, establishing and appointing members to a diversity task force; expanding the Booksellers Advisory Council to increase diversity; and continuing to be transparent about board elections, explaining all procedures repeatedly and in great detail.

Noting that "younger and newer booksellers are energizing our business, raising all sorts of issues that need to be raised," Teicher welcomed the inflow of younger people into bookselling. "Ten years ago, if you looked out at people at an ABA meeting, 90% were of the same age, of an age," he said. "That's flipped 180 degrees, and it's so heartening." Those younger booksellers "are populating the community with new energy that works across the board."

Another heartening change: a decade ago, when store owners wanted to retire, many had to close their stores, and "it was almost irrelevant how profitable or unprofitable a business it was. That's also changed 180 degrees."

Old and New Models
One example of a dynamic independent bookstore is Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn., where this past December--as he does every holiday season at a different member store--Teicher worked temporarily. "They're doing everything right and cooking on all cylinders," Teicher said. Beyond owner Ann Patchett's place in the community, the store benefits from a "really smart group of booksellers," both new and veteran, as well as from its "really warm, engaging feel." Thanks to its addition of more space last year, Parnassus was able "to create the kind of inventory that works at Christmas because they had room for it." Parnassus, he continued, was representative of many ABA stores: "Some just hit it out of the park."

By contrast, the news from Barnes & Noble continues to be "concerning," he said. (See third quarter results, above.) "It would be awful for the retail book business if B&N went away or gets further diminished." He emphasized that so much of the infrastructure that publishers have put together for bookselling is "a function of the number of outlets." In addition, consumers discover books "on the shelves of B&N as much as they discover them at our member stores." If that exposure to browsing goes away, "that's not good."

Teicher called "the model of the 30,000-square-foot bookstore," which is the size of many B&Ns, "antiquated." For one thing, "when you can replenish inventory overnight, you don't need that space." (He called today's fast standards of replenishment "probably the single most important contributor to bookseller profitability over the last five years.") And using books as wallpaper isn't necessary or advisable anymore, particularly considering the rent and operating costs for a large store. "I would argue that a display of five copies of a book will sell more compared to even a display of 100," he emphasized. A "perfect size" for a bookstore is maybe 6,500 square feet, he said. "It's got to be big enough so that the consumer will have the perception that there's a shot the store has that book they want."

B&N continues to lose market share, "obviously to Amazon," whose continuing growth is "just massive." (One indication of the e-tailer's power: "Amazon has become generic for online shopping.") He compared B&N's problems with those of department store chains like Macy's and Sears over last few years, perhaps in part because they're not offering an experience that brings customers into stores or perhaps because they have a model that worked for many years but is "old and tired."

In contrast, he said, indies are "working really hard at being creative, innovative and figuring out how to adapt. We keep reinventing ourselves, doing something different and special and unique."

In fact, indies did well this past holiday season, gaining a little, even though it was a presidential election year, which tends to dampen fall and holiday sales, and, of course--and one that was more nerve-wracking than most.

The crowd at the opening reception at Wi12.

Winter Institutes
Reflecting on the dozen Winter Institutes that have been held since 2006--which have become the preeminent booksellers event in the U.S.--he said, "Twelve years have gone by since the first one, and on one hand, it seems like yesterday. On the other hand, it seems like 300 years ago. So much is different and changed during the years, in the shape of our market and our reality." In January in Minneapolis attendees included 650 booksellers, a record, and more authors and publishers than ever. "The event has touched a nerve with our members and our publisher friends," he added. "It works."

Despite the Winter Institute's growth in size, it has retained its special cozy feel, thanks to the ABA's emphasis on "organizing it in a way that the bookseller experience is pretty comparable and we don't lose the sense of community we try to create," Teicher said. At the same time, the ABA tries to tweak things "so it's not exactly the same each time."

This year's Winter Institute benefited from the many first-timers--booksellers from new stores as well as many from stores that are usually represented but which have made efforts to send staffers who've never attended.

There remain a range of challenges for indie booksellers, Teicher noted. Beyond B&N's weak position and the growth of Amazon, there are "issues with increased rents and increased payrolls," related to the $15-an-hour minimum wage movement. "We have to be realistic," he commented. "Bookselling is not easy and has never been easy. There are some significant landmines about managing the future."

Still, Teicher said, "This is the most entrepreneurial, passionate group of people with the ability to reinvent themselves and make midcourse corrections. The willingness of stores to adapt and change, more than any other thing, has been the ingredient that has allowed them to grow and thrive."


Quirk Books: My Lady's Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris


Notes

Image of the Day: 'Fantastic Teen' Authors at Books of Wonder

Books of Wonder in New York City hosted a group of Tor authors on Tuesday for "Fantastic Teen Reads," celebrating their books and YA literature. From left to right: Susan Dennard (Windwitch), Kim Liggett (The Last Harvest), Erika Lewis (Game of Shadows) and V.E. Schwab (A Conjuring of Light).


The Quotable 'Rookie' Booksellers of New Zealand

Booksellers NZ spoke with "some fledgling (and not so fledgling) booksellers," including Lincoln Gould (who is also Booksellers NZ CEO) of Messines Bookshop in Featherston, Marco Loos of Paper Plus South City, Thomas Koed of Volume in Nelson, Barry Weinand of Paper Plus Whangarei, and Suzanne Kelsall of Paper Plus Greymouth. Here's a sampling of their early thoughts on life in the book trade:

Gould: "As Chair of the Featherston Booktown Trust, I wanted to put my money where my mouth is and open a bookshop. There's a lot going on in Featherston bookselling, by April we'll have four bookshops in the town plus three shops that also sell books.... My shop's only been open for four weekends so far but already I've found selling books to be really great fun.... It's also interesting having been at Booksellers NZ for nearly eight years, to now experience actual bookselling for the first time. I have a huge amount to learn, and I'm grateful that experienced booksellers are being very generous with their assistance."

Koed: "The old 'book-supermarket' model is tired and has trouble competing with Internet retailers--we are more of a 'book-delicatessen', concentrating on personal selection and friendly and expert service, and offering a lovely light-filled modern space for spending time browsing and discussing books.... There is nothing more satisfying than the customers who tell us that they saw only books that they would like to have."

Loos: "We took over the store because it was an opportunity for us to own our own business and take charge of our future. We did a lot of research before buying and concluded that this would be a good investment. The best part so far is that we have managed to keep all the staff, as they are a great team..."

Weinand: "I find retail quite daunting being an introvert, coming in every day and putting on a smile, facing the general public. I have no book trade experience at all. Luckily I have five great staff who were running the store for two years prior for head office. I have a lot to learn, but I love the lifestyle in this country."

Kelsall: "Our family was looking for a business to buy and my mother Edith Sara had worked in Paper Plus Greymouth for 11 years. I am the owner/manager. I've always had an interest in books and stationery and was looking for a new challenge. We have only had the shop for three weeks so everything is new and exciting."


Personnel Changes at Cave Henricks Communications

At Cave Henricks Communications, the PR firm for books and authors:

Margaret Kingsbury has been appointed publicity director. She joined the firm as a senior publicist in 2012, after a three-year stint at Simon & Schuster. She began her career as an assistant producer at Milwaukee Public Radio, where she managed bookings.

Kimberly Petty has been named head of marketing and social media, a newly created position. She was formerly a senior publicist and joined the firm in 2011.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Mary Jennings Hegar on Fresh Air

Today:
Fresh Air: Mary Jennings Hegar, author of Shoot Like a Girl: One Woman's Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front (Berkley, $26, 9781101988435).

Tomorrow:
Sirus XM's Conversations with Maria Menounos: Tony Robbins, author of Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781501164583).


Movies: Native Son

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog) is writing a screen adaptation of Richard Wright's Native Son, and visual artist Rashid Johnson will make his debut as director of a feature length film version of the seminal novel, artnet News reported. Bow and Arrow Entertainment partners Matthew Perniciaro and Michael Sherman are producing. Malcolm and Julia Wright, who handle Wright's estate, will serve as consultants.

Johnson recalled that he first read Native Son "in my late teens. It was a real eye opener. It was such a complicated book and story that it just really changed the way I was seeing the world. I came back to it in my early 30s and was thinking about the times that we were living in and how significant a book like this continues to be. It just stayed on my mind, the idea of an incredibly complicated black character and investigating his incredibly difficult, complicated circumstances in a world that was also kind of pitted against him. All of those things against him came to me while trying to bring it to the screen."


This Weekend on Book TV: In-Depth with Dave Barry

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, March 4
6 p.m. A live panel discussion on books and reading with Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books, in Florida and the Cayman Islands; Ana Menendez, author of The Last War: A Novel (Harper Perennial, $14.99, 9780061724770); and Les Standiford, author of Water to the Angels: William Mulholland, His Monumental Aqueduct, and the Rise of Los Angeles (Ecco, $16.99, 9780062251459). (Re-airs Sunday at 7:30 a.m.)

9 p.m. Dr. Danielle Ofri, author of What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear (Beacon Press, $24.95, 9780807062630), at the Strand Bookstore in New York City. (Re-airs Sunday at 4:15 p.m.)

11 p.m. Richard Carwardine, author of Lincoln's Sense of Humor (Southern Illinois University Press, $24.95, 9780809336142). (Re-airs Sunday at 3 p.m.)

Sunday, March 5
12:15 a.m. A conversation with Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation. (Re-airs Sunday at 7:30 p.m.)

1:45 a.m. Chris Miller, author of The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the USSR (University of North Carolina Press, $29.95, 9781469630175). (Re-airs Sunday at 6:30 p.m.)

2:45 a.m. Barry Friedman, author of Unwarranted: Policing Without Permission (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28, 9780374280451). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

12 p.m. Live In-Depth q&a with Dave Barry, author of Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland (Putnam, $27, 9781101982600). (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m.)



Books & Authors

Awards: B&N Discover, Lionel Gelber

The winners of Barnes & Noble's 2016 Discover Awards are:

Fiction: The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni (Counterpoint Press)
Fiction second place: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf)
Fiction third place: Shelter by Jung Yun (Picador USA)

Nonfiction: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond (Crown)
Nonfiction second place: Labgirl by Hope Jahren (Knopf)
Nonfiction third place: Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America by Patrick Phillips (Norton)

The winners receive $30,000 and a year of marketing and merchandising support. The second place finishers each receive $15,000 Third-place winners receive $7,500.

---

Robert F. Worth won the C$15,000 (about US$11,255) Lionel Gelber Prize, which recognizes a "nonfiction book in English on foreign affairs that seeks to deepen public debate on significant international issues," for A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, from Tahrir Square to ISIS (FSG).

Jury chair William Thorsell commented: "The Arab Spring's ebb and flow was so sudden that its consequence can be mistaken as fleeting. Robert F. Worth's Rage for Order makes the case otherwise, revealing how the events of 2010 had been years, perhaps decades, in the making, and their aftershocks may be just as lasting.... Through courageous reporting and empathetic writing, Worth makes clear that the popular will behind the Arab Spring has not receded, nor has the power behind its suppression abated."


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, March 7:

Dangerous Games: A Novel by Danielle Steel (Delacorte, $28.99, 9781101883884) follows a TV news correspondent investigating a dangerous political scandal.

How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $29, 9780544133310) explores a new theory about how the brain creates emotions.

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel (Knopf, $25.95, 9781101875681) tells the story of a man who lived in the Maine woods for 27 years.

Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich by Norman Ohler, translated by Shaun Whiteside (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9781328663795) looks at the importance of drug use in Nazi Germany.

Unplug: A Simple Guide to Meditation for Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Seekers by Suze Yalof Schwartz and Debra Goldstein (Harmony, $22.99, 9781101905364) explores meditation methods.

In the Name of the Family: A Novel by Sarah Dunant (Random House, $28, 9780812996975) is historical fiction about the Borgia family in Renaissance Italy.

The Roanoke Girls: A Novel by Amy Engel (Crown, $25, 9781101906668) follows a Los Angeles woman's return to her wealthy but ominous Kansas family.

Celine: A Novel by Peter Heller (Knopf, $25.95, 9780451493897) finds an aristocratic private eye taking a missing persons case someone is determined to keep closed.

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, 9780544824249) follows a 39-year-old single woman in New York.

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner (Crown, $17.99, 9780553524062) is a YA novel about death, guilt and redemption by the author of The Serpent King.

Priscilla Gorilla by Barbara Bottner, illus. by Michael Emberley (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, $17.99, 9781481458979) is a picture book about a girl whose love for gorillas gets her into--and out of--trouble.

Paperbacks:
You Are Here: An Owner's Manual for Dangerous Minds by Jenny Lawson (Flatiron, $15.99, 9781250119889).

Bright Air Black: A Novel by David Vann (Grove Press/Black Cat, $16, 9780802125804).

Why We March: Signs of Protest and Hope--Voices from the Women's March (Artisan, $14.95, 9781579658281).

Movie:
The Sense of an Ending, based on the novel by Julian Barnes, opens March 10. Jim Broadbent stars as a middle-aged man confronted with a legacy from his younger years. A movie tie-in edition (Vintage, $15, 9780525434665) is available March 7.


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover
The Chilbury Ladies' Choir: A Novel by Jennifer Ryan (Crown, $26, 9781101906750). "This gorgeous novel grabbed me from the very first page with laughter and kept me hooked with characters that are vivid and lovable. As each woman shares her place in the intrigue, romance, sorrow, and friendship of Chilbury and World War II through letters and diaries, their lives become increasingly real, until you can hardly believe this is fiction. At the center of the story is the indomitable Chilbury Ladies' Choir, and when their individual triumphs and sorrows wind together during their performances, Ryan's writing reaches a soulful crescendo that will continue to echo in readers' hearts. Fans of Helen Simonson should not miss this beautiful debut." --Grace Wright, Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn.

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller (Tin House, $25.95, 9781941040515) "With Swimming Lessons, Claire Fuller confirms her place as a writer of exceptional insight and warmth. This tale of a marriage, of a family, and especially of children bearing the brunt of the fallout of betrayals and abandonment, pulls you in and refuses to let you emerge from the lives of its characters until the tale is finished. Even then, it takes time to shake the spell the book creates. A wonderful follow-up to Our Endless Numbered Days that explores similar themes through an entirely different story, Swimming Lessons will be a great book for fans of Fuller's first novel and will bring her new fans as well." --Anmiryam Budner, Main Point Books, Wayne, Pa.

Paperback
Sudden Death: A Novel by Álvaro Enrigue (Riverhead, $16, 9780735213449). "Sudden Death is one of the most audacious, smart, and original books you will read this year. It is a literary triptych--part history lesson, part tennis match, and part hypermodern adventure. Daring and visceral with a cast that includes Thomas Cromwell, Mary Magdalene, Aztec emperors and more, the limits of the novel in Enrigue's hands seem boundless. No other author is taking chances like this with such gratifying results." --Mark Haber, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, Tex.

For Ages 4 to 8
I Will Love You Anyway by Mick Inkpen, illustrated by Chloë Inkpen (Aladdin, $17.99, 9781481470995). "The author of the beloved Kipper series is joined by his illustrator daughter to tell the delightful tale of a pug who just can't seem to do anything right. Dog is very naughty and won't stop running away, but when he finds himself lost and alone he learns that there is one person he can always count on. A heartwarming story of family and unconditional love." --Jennifer Schreiber, Reader's Guide, Salem, Ore.

For Ages 9 to 12: An Indies Introduce Title
The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish (HarperCollins, $16.99, 9780062433381). "The Ethan I Was Before is quietly engaging, heartfelt, and authentic. Sometimes the most meaningful books are not the ones that hit you over the head with issues and drama, but the ones that slowly unfold to tell you a personal story. Standish does just that, through a unique setting and well-drawn cast of supporting characters. --Johanna Albrecht, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

For Teen Readers
The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles (Bloomsbury, $18.99, 9781619637535). "The Edge of Everything has everything I look for in a great Young Adult book: a fully presented alternate world that is perfectly meshed with our own, romance, tragedy, and enough humor to keep it all balanced. Zoe's family has been through a year of tragedy that is only compounded when Zoe and her younger brother are caught in a blizzard and have a run-in with the person who murdered their neighbors. They are saved by a man called X, a bounty hunter from the Lowlands--a form of hell. X and Zoe's family become irretrievably intertwined, and their adventures offer a fantastic tale that will leave readers hoping this is just the first book in a series." --Carrie Deming, The Dog Eared Book, Palmyra, N.Y.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: The Adventures of John Carson in Several Quarters of the World

The Adventures of John Carson in Several Quarters of the World: A Novel of Robert Louis Stevenson by Brian Doyle (Thomas Dunne, $25.99 hardcover, 240p., 9781250100528, March 28, 2017)

In a novel with layers of authors, Brian Doyle (The Mighty Currawongs; Martin Marten) honors the art of storytelling. The Adventures of John Carson in Several Quarters of the World is firmly based in fact: Robert Louis Stevenson boarded for some months at the home of Mrs. Carson in San Francisco while waiting to marry his love, Fanny. He conceived of a novel based on the tales of his landlady's husband, but never wrote it. Doyle imagines what stories Mr. Carson might have told, and the style in which Stevenson might have written them. Doyle calls upon other published accounts of Carson's and Stevenson's acquaintances, including Mark Twain and scientist Alfred Russel Wallace.

In Doyle's imagination, Stevenson sits by the fire with Mr. Carson as the latter recounts his voyages around the world as a seaman and his experience as a Union solider in the Civil War. This talented storyteller takes Stevenson (and Doyle's reader) through the jungles of Borneo, over the rocky hills of Irish islands, from coast to coast of Canada in winter, to Australia's Sydney Harbor and to the battlefield at Gettysburg. Mrs. Carson turns out to be as fine a narrator as her husband, and both have a knack for ending on a cliffhanger just as dinner is ready. As he recounts the Carsons' feats, Stevenson also explores the sights, smells and steep hills of 1880 San Francisco, and touches on his romance with Fanny Osbourne, herself a worthy, headstrong character.

Doyle's characteristic prose style is effusive, wry, highly descriptive and always passionate about his subjects. Throughout this story of stories runs a thread of commentary on the value and nuances of the storytelling art. Stevenson constantly refers to his ambition and makes notes for future works: "Hyde would be a lovely name for a character," he muses, and imagines a novel in which a "sudden shocking kidnapping would set the prose to sprinting." In several passages, Doyle-as-Stevenson extols the power of storytelling, the universal need for tales of adventure, the urgency of getting them out--he even worries what the "disconsolate reviewers" might say. Readers hungry for more stories-upon-stories will delight in Doyle's "Afterword" and "Thanks & Notes," which are filled with recommendations for further reading (what he calls "homework").

Stevenson's rollicking zest for adventure blends happily and seamlessly with Doyle's unrestrained love of words and life. Adventures offers daring exploits, romance and emotional highs and lows, but perhaps most of all, a celebration of stories. Doyle's signature style expresses this joyousness perfectly. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: With enthusiasm and verve, in the style his fans love, Brian Doyle re-creates a novel Robert Louis Stevenson intended to write.

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