Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 16, 2017


HarperCollins: On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna

Johns Hopkins University Ptess: Playboys and Mayfair Men by Angus McLaren / A Year of Writing Dangerously by Keith Gandal

Atlantic Monthly Press: The Prague Sonata by Bradford Morrow

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

News

Neighborhood Reads Opens in Washington, Mo.

Neighborhood Reads, a new, general-interest independent bookstore, opened yesterday in downtown Washington, Mo., the Missourian reported. Owner Dawn Kitchell kicked off the store's grand opening weekend on Thursday night by taking part in a Downtown Washington "Thirsty Thursday" promotion. The festivities will continue through the weekend with the store's inaugural storytime on Saturday morning, followed by a Father's Day bookfolding class.

"My dream has always been to promote reading," Kitchell told the Missourian. Though she has no prior experience in bookselling, Kitchell has been in charge of the Missourian's Newspaper in Education program since 2000 and founded the newspaper's Book Buzz youth literacy project in 2003. "That's my dream, and I felt like this piece, a bookstore, was missing from our community. I've waited for years for somebody to open one here, and finally I just decided, if nobody is going to do it, then I'm going to do it."

The store is located across the street from the Washington Public Library in a nearly 1,800-square-foot home originally built in 1898. Kitchell and her husband, Eric, purchased the building, which is locally known as the "Little Yellow House," in January. Renovations included restoring much of the house's original flooring and building a 300-square foot addition to be used as the store's meeting room for book clubs and community groups. All of Neighborhood Reads' bookcases were purchased second hand, with some coming from the Washington library and others from Left Bank Books.

Kitchell put together the store's initial inventory with the help of her colleague Chris Stuckenschneider, book editor at the Missourian, and feedback from local librarians. Kitchell deliberately left space on the shelves in order to fill out the inventory based on what community members want. She also plans to grow the inventory through a program called Adopt-a-Bookshelf, which allows community members to sponsor a particular shelf and select books to be displayed. So far, the first book sponsor is the owner of a local spa who has chosen books about yoga and wellness. The store's nonbook items include cards, journals, tote bags, puzzles and games, along with knee-socks and stuffed animals.

"My goal from the beginning was to have the community involved in planning it and implementing it," Kitchell explained. "I just see myself as the facilitator of this bookstore. I made a personal investment in it, but that's because I believe this strongly in literacy."


AuthorBuzz: Indie Bookstore Readers


AAP Sales: Down 6.6% in 2016

In 2016, total net book sales in the U.S. fell 6.6%, to $14.253 billion, compared to 2015. Figures represent sales of 1,207 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers.

Overall results were a mix, with most trade print book categories and audiobooks increasing in sales, while other segments fell, including e-books, university press titles and especially higher ed, k-12 and professional.


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


Cleveland's Guide to Kulchur Reopening in New Space

Guide to Kulchur, which closed last fall, is reopening "the bookstore and an adjacent black box space later this month" in a new location at Lorain Avenue and W. 52nd Street, Cleveland Scene reported. Founder R.A. Washington said that with the assistance of some local foundations sympathetic to his mission, plus the addition of a board, he hopes to secure official nonprofit status, which he views as key to long-term sustainability.

"I finally had to realize there were some things I couldn't do," he said. "But a space like this should have every opportunity to exist as an institution, and shouldn't be limited to the lifespan of one person or one vision."

Washington believes a curated bookstore "is a crucial component of the larger enterprise--and he says he'll be manning the store personally a lot--but it's only the most visible element of the nonprofit's three central program areas: providing books to prisoners; operating GTK Press, a small press for insurgent literature and marginalized voices; and curating speakers and performers in the black box space," Cleveland Scene wrote.

"People need space to collaborate and discuss, and they need to invest in their training and learning as activists so they understand intersectionality and how to bring diverse voices to the table," said Washington. "We represent a place to do that." 


Accident Injures Stirling Books & Brew Co-Owner

Staci Stuart

Jim and Staci Stuart will reopen the former Books & More of Albion, Mich., as Stirling Books & Brew next month, despite an accident during renovations that left Staci paralyzed from the waist down. Bookselling This Week reported that "two days before the store's planned reopening, the couple was moving a bookshelf when it fell on top of Staci, compressing her spine and knocking her vertebrae out of line. Unfortunately, insurance won't cover the largest portion of Staci's $177,000 in hospital costs as the Stuarts had a two-day lapse in health insurance coverage due to Jim's recent job change."

Friends and family have launched Support Staci, and Stuart said he has also been in contact with the Book Industry Charitable Foundation. He added that they have been overwhelmed by the amount of community support they have received, including volunteers who've helped continue the renovations, as well as Albion City Manager Sheryl Mitchell and city council member Sonya Brown, who have helped organize volunteer and fundraising efforts.

The response "has been a crazy, surreal, and, in a lot of ways, wonderful experience. Seeing such an outpouring of support and love has been just an amazing, amazing thing," he added. "After we bought the store, we closed in April to remodel and we had a couple dozen friends come in to help at different times. But after the accident in May, pretty much everybody wanted to help. I must have had 35 people come in on the two days I was putting the flooring down."

They decided to wait to open the bookstore until Staci is out of rehab. "She is working hard and we're pretty much ready to come home," Suart said, noting that her official date to return home is June 21. "Then we're opening the bookstore maybe right after the Fourth of July, to give her a chance to get acclimated."


Fort Worth's Last Word Bookstore to Close

The Last Word Bookstore, which opened last May in Fort Worth, Tex., will close Sunday. On Facebook earlier this week, owner Paul Combs wrote: "It has been widely reported that 2017 has been a hard year for brick-and-mortar retail stores, and this has been particularly true for us over the past several months. Sales have steadily declined to the point that it is no longer viable for us to continue the business; therefore, the store will be closing on Sunday, June 18. We have explored every possible avenue to avoid this, to no avail.... I know this is news none of us welcome, but I want to thank all of you for your support over the past year. It has been a life-changing time for me, and the best part has been getting to know so many of you."


Paz & Associates Running 'Bookstore Boot-Camp' This Summer

Mark and Donna Paz

The Bookstore Training Group of Paz & Associates will host a Bookstore Boot-Camp for new and prospective owners in Nashville, Tenn., August 27-30. The workshop retreat will teach attendees important information about the start-up phase of owning a bookstore, including store design and layout, buying books and sidelines, managing inventory, developing staff, employing low-cost marketing strategies and more. Attendees are required to complete an online training program before the start of the course that will focus on basics like bookstore finances and evaluating potential locations for a bookstore.

Nashville's Parnassus Books will be the workshop's bookstore host, and attendees will also have the chance to visit Ingram's headquarters. The American Booksellers Association is co-sponsoring the event, and ABA members are eligible for discounted tuition. Space for the workshop is limited. More information can be found here.


Obituary Note: Desmond Clarke

Desmond Clarke, a veteran British library campaigner and former publisher who was awarded an MBE "for services to British public libraries and to literature" in January, died June 9, the Bookseller reported. He was 72. A sales and marketing director at Faber & Faber in the 1980s, Clarke "is remembered especially for his promotion of the Faber poetry list, including devising a much talked-of 'helicopter reading tour' for poets Seamus Heaney and Craig Raine, and persuading poets to read their work aloud to commuters at Waterloo railway station."

In 1983, as director of the Book Marketing Council, he conceived the original Best of Young British Novelists campaign. Clarke later worked for the Thomson Corporation (now Thomson Reuters), across two periods, for a total of 17 years, retiring as president and CEO of its publishing services businesses in North America and Europe. He was subsequently a non-executive director of three book trade businesses and an active campaigner for public libraries.

"I'm very sad to hear this news, coming as it does so soon after the passing of Ed Victor, another great publishing buccaneer from the 1980s," said Robert McCrum, who was editor-in-chief at Faber between 1980-1996. "At Faber, Desmond was one of Matthew Evans's most inspired appointments, a brilliantly unconventional salesman who aimed to reinvent the wheel on a weekly basis.  Our authors loved his infectious energy, and he put rocket fuel into our efforts to reshape the Faber list. After Desmond, nothing was ever quite the same again."


Notes

Bookstore Chalkboard of the Day: Potts Point Bookshop

Spotted by our editor-in-chief, John Mutter, at Potts Point Bookshop in Sydney, which was co-winner this year of the Independent Book Retailer of the Year Award at the Australian Book Industry Awards:

"Ask not what your bookshop can do for you, but what hot drinks you can bring to your bookshop staff."


Lerner to Distribute Full Tilt Press

Effect in August, Lerner Publisher Services will be the exclusive distributor for Full Tilt Press.

Full Tilt Press publishes nonfiction for reluctant readers, targeting grade 5-8 students with books written at a grade 3 level. Lerner Publisher Services will distribute 12 new Full Tilt Press titles in library-bound editions this fall, books that are part of three new series.



Media and Movies

Movies: Every Day; Goodbye Christopher Robin

MGM has acquired the rights to produce Every Day, based on David Levithan's bestselling YA novel, Deadline reported. Directed by Michael Suscy (The Vow, Grey Gardens) from the adaptation by Jesse Andrews (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), the project stars Angourie Rice (The Nice Guys, The Beguiled) and "has been fast tracked to begin production next month in Toronto." The film is a co-production between Likely Story and Filmwave.

---

Fox Searchlight has released the first trailer for Goodbye Christopher Robin, the Winnie the Pooh origin story directed by Simon Curtis and starring Domhnall Gleeson and Margot Robbie. IndieWire reported the project is "taking a page from the playbook of Finding Neverland, itself an Oscar darling with seven nominations and one win for Best Score." Goodbye Christopher Robin tells the true story of A.A. Milne and his relationship with his son. The film opens November 10.


Books & Authors

Awards: Peace Prize of the German Book Trade

The Börsenverein, the German book trade association, has named Margaret Atwood this year's recipient of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, Quillblog reported. The annual €25,000 (about $27,880) award recognizes an influential member of the literary or arts community who conveys superb "international understanding." Atwood will receive her prize at a ceremony in Frankfurt during the 2017 Berlin Book Days and Frankfurt Book Fair in October.

The board of trustees commented: "In her wide range of novels, essays and volumes of poetry, Atwood has demonstrated a keen political intuition and a deeply perceptive ability to detect dangerous and underlying developments and tendencies. As one of the most important storytellers of our era, she fearlessly probes shifting patterns of thought and behavior in both her utopian and dystopian works.... Through her, we experience who we are, where we stand, and what responsibilities we carry with regard to ourselves and our peaceful coexistence with others."


Reading with... Choo Waihong

photo: Joyce le Mesurier

Choo Waihong was a corporate lawyer in Singapore and California before she took early retirement 11 years ago to travel and write. In touring China, she stumbled upon one of the last matrilineal and matriarchal tribes in the world, known as the Mosuo or the Kingdom of Women, where power lies in the hands of women, including decisions related to money, property and the children born to them, and the women live independently of husbands, fathers and brothers, with the grandmother holding court. The Mosuo practice a form of "walking marriage," where women choose their own lovers from men within the tribe but are beholden to none. The tribe's stories are lovingly recounted in Choo Waihong's first book, The Kingdom of Women: Life, Love and Death in China's Hidden Mountains (I.B. Tauris).

On your nightstand now:

As I continue to pursue my deep interest in Asian history, I am in the middle of Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang, about the powerful woman behind the throne who presided over the turbulent times in the dying years of Imperial China. I also started From the Ruins of Empire by Pankaj Mishra, a history of the Asian thinkers and leaders who rose up against two centuries of Western colonialism in China, India and the Middle East.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Enid Blyton's Famous Five series, which were a fun way to learn English while avidly following the many adventures of five imaginative teenagers chasing clues to mysteries real or imagined.

Your top five authors:

For sheer pleasure in reading the beautiful language in their books, my all-time favorite writers are John Steinbeck (Of Mice and Men and Travels with Charlie); the prolific Jan Morris, English travel writer extraordinaire, with her portraits of cities around the world; and Isabelle Allende, especially her novel The House of the Spirits.

In the genre of travel and historical fiction books, Laurens van der Post, who was born in Africa and lived in England, is my top choice. He brought to life many stories on Africa and the Bushmen of the Kalahari. Next up is Conn Iggulden, for his remarkable historical fiction series on Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire.

Book you've faked reading:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Thank goodness I can still recall scenes from the movie when the dinner topic revolves around the book.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Wolf Totem by a Chinese author, Jiang Rong (pseudonym), about life among the traditional Mongolian nomads on the steppe in China during the Cultural Revolution. The book vividly juxtaposes Mongolian tribal beliefs against mainstream Han Chinese agrarian customs, and brilliantly mixes politics and the clash of civilizations.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Forgive me for being partial, but both the front cover and the back cover of my book The Kingdom of Women are beautiful. The front cover depicts a Mosuo woman striding confidently in her matriarchal world on the shore of picturesque Lugu Lake in China, and the back cover is my picture of the Mountain Goddess worshipped by her Mosuo tribe.

Book you hid from your parents:

The Story of O by Pauline Réage (pseudonym) but really Anne Desclos, a soft porn tale of sadism and masochism.

Book that changed your life:

I read The Women's Room by Marilyn French on becoming 21, and it opened my mind to a later literary diet of books written by female writers on what it means to be a woman in the world.

Favorite line from a book:

It's difficult to pinpoint any particular favorite line from a single book, but every first sentence of each book fascinates me and ignites my imagination on how each author tries to capture the attention of the reader instantly with the promise of the reading treasure to come. Never buy a book if you are not excited by the first sentence, is my advice.

Five books you'll never part with:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, one of the greatest American books ever written.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, a strong indictment against man's suppression of women in the name of religion.

Eldest Son: Zhou Enlai and the Making of Modern China, 1898-1976 by Han Suyin, a favorite author of mine, about the great Chinese statesman.

The Return of the Dancing Master in the Inspector Kurt Wallander series by Swedish novelist Henning Mankell, which introduced me to a whole new word of Scandi detective stories.

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by the great Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima.

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

Love in the Time of Cholera, a mesmerizing story of love beautifully written by Gabriel García Márquez.


Book Review

Review: The Goddesses

The Goddesses by Swan Huntley (Doubleday, $26.95 hardcover, 320p., 9780385542210, July 25, 2017)

"We came here to escape." From the outside, it might look like a dream: moving the family to Hawaii, career advancement, surf and sand for the kids. Nancy and Chuck and their teenaged twin sons, Cam and Jed, set up house in Kona. The boys are "stoked" at the opportunity, but Nancy isn't. She is furious that Chuck cheated on her back in San Diego, and exasperated with her boring, predictable self. She hopes that Hawaii will be a new beginning. She starts eating healthier, sits in a different bleacher row at the boys' water polo games, switches the towels around, puts the mugs in the cabinet facing up instead of down. She starts going to morning yoga classes on the beach, and that's where she meets Ana.

In The Goddesses, Swan Huntley (We Could Be Beautiful) builds a complete inner world for Nancy. She narrates the story, sharing her feelings and reactions with the reader: her fascination with the beautiful, confident, charismatic Ana; her frustration with bumbling Chuck; her pride in her developing shoulder muscles and newfound strength. Yoga and Kona, the farmer's market and the freedom of knowing no one, and especially her growing friendship with Ana, make Nancy optimistic about the future and her ability to reinvent herself. Even her marriage with Chuck sees some healthy rejuvenation. But the Nancy relating this story has the wisdom of hindsight, and can't help but sneak in the odd, sinister comment about what that future holds.

Ana helps Nancy trade in her minivan for a BMW convertible. They spend their days lolling in Ana's Jacuzzi, at her little pink house on the beach. Nancy--or Nan, as Ana calls her, the same three letters forming both names--starts to stay out some evenings, leaving her husband and sons to prepare their own dinners, because her new friend needs her. The reader, prodded by the warning tone in Nancy's narrative voice, can't tell what's coming, only that "Nan" is a bit too easily taken in, Ana a bit too needy.

The Goddesses is a novel of lush green foliage, brightly colored hibiscus, new beginnings and old mistakes: hope and betrayal twined together. Huntley's prose is clipped, declarative: "Our cars arrived. We'd had them shipped." Her characters are adequately developed, her setting evocative, but it is the stealthily twisting plot that makes this novel sparkle. She offers an earnest, likable protagonist in Nancy, then plunges her into psychological challenges she never saw coming. Even in paradise, beautiful exteriors are not necessarily to be trusted. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: This psychological thriller takes a pleasantly average woman to lovely Hawaii, where she is charmed, then devastated.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'Editors Tell Stories Behind the Books'

"I want editors when they come in wanting to buy a book to be so excited that their hair is on fire." --Morgan Entrekin, Grove Atlantic president & publisher

During q&a at nearly every bookstore author event, someone in the audience will ask the question: "Where do you get your ideas?" Although publishers and editors are generally less exposed to such public interrogations, if they were the equivalent question might be: "How do you decide which books to publish?" (Second only to: "Will you publish my book?")

l.-r.: Corinna Barsan, Peter Blackstock, Katie Raissian and Morgan Entrekin

That decision-making process was explored at BookExpo during an Uptown Stage event called "Grove Atlantic: Hear the Editors Tell Stories Behind the Books," featuring Morgan Entrekin along with editors Katie Raissian, Peter Blackstock and Corinna Barsan.

Entrekin recounted the tale of how he acquired Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down 20 years ago. When an agent called and asked if he'd read the nonfiction proposal she had sent, "I said no, what's it about? She said well, if I tell you what it's about you'll turn it down over the phone. And that intrigued me enough that I went and found the proposal. It was for something called Helicopter 64 Down and the cover letter said it was about the battle of Mogadishu. And I'm going oh my goodness, I can't sell a book about the battle of Mogadishu, but I started reading the pages... and went, wow, this is incredible. So, I picked up the phone and made a deal for the book within about a half-hour."

Black Hawk Down went on to sell four million copies and was adapted into a hit film. "For a book like this, you've just got to make the leap of faith," said Entrekin, who later approached Bowden with the idea for a book that eventually became the newly released Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam.

Raissian, who works very closely with Grove v-p and editorial director Elizabeth Schmitz, spoke about the acquisition of Megan Hunter's The End We Start From (November). "This came in and we read it at one sitting," she said. "It's a very short book.... We fell in instant love with it. And quickly preempted it overnight before the London Book Fair last year. We both said this is the female version of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. We moved quickly and were lucky enough to land it."

Although Schmitz couldn't make the panel, Entrekin recalled how they acquired Helen Macdonald's H Is for Hawk: "The way she tells the story is that she brought me a proposal. She said here's this really beautiful proposal from an unknown poet academic at Cambridge, England, writing about how she got over the death of her father by training a goshawk. My response apparently was, 'My, that sounds like a big seller.' But I said how much is it going to cost and she said a number and we bought it. We were the only ones to make an offer on that book. It's funny, after the success of it, another editor at another house said how did you ever get that P&L through your editorial board, and Elizabeth said we don't have an editorial board."

Entrekin noted that "one of the things about being an owner of a company is it's sort of like playing with my own money. It focuses the mind wonderfully, as some of you who are independent booksellers know."

Blackstock discussed Viet Thanh Nguyen's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer, describing the acquisition process as "a real education for me about how we build a book at Grove, and also how we have the opportunity to publish a book like The Sympathizer. This was a book that was sent out by a very reputable great agent... I thought it was a fantastic book. I got Morgan to read it, Elizabeth to read some, and we were very passionate about it, and we were very lucky because as it turned out we were the only bidder. Sometimes you get lucky in this way.... We wouldn't have had the chance if I'd been stopped by an editorial board and if they'd said this book is really great but it's going to be difficult to sell."

He also highlighted the challenges presented by Matthew McIntosh's upcoming novel theMystery.doc (October), which is 1,700 pages long "but probably shorter than The Sympathizer" because of its creative use of text and pages as well as myriad images. When the huge manuscript arrived, "We started reading it, with some trepidation, as you can imagine. It's just unlike anything you've ever read.... I really think this is a book that is born out of the Internet age. When I talk about it, I say it's about birth, death and the Internet."

"This is definitely one that we didn't do a P&L on," Entrekin joked.  

Sarah Schmidt's novel See What I Have Done (August), a reimagining of the 19th-century case involving the murder of Lizzy Borden's parents, was a challenge of a different sort, since so many people think they know the legendary story. "It was amazing in-house to see everybody's reaction to the book," Barsan said, "to see them running to Wikipedia and looking up the Borden case and getting more and more information about what actually happened, which is a testament to how Sarah has made it feel so real on the page."

While acknowledging the good work done by many big publishers, Entrekin observed: "I think that more than ever there's a place for independent publishers and for people to be able to take a chance like we do. I see the work of Akashic and Melville House and Counterpoint and Catapult and Graywolf, incredible over the last couple of years, so I think that there's room for everybody and hope that there continues to be. I'm going to always insist that we buy books from passion."

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

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