Shelf Awareness for Thursday, November 1, 2012

Little Brown and Company: A Line in the Sand by Kevin Powers

Berkley Books: Business or Pleasure by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Berkley Books: The First Ladies by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

Texas Bookman Presents Texas Remainder Expo

Minotaur Books: Deadlock: A Thriller (Dez Limerick Novel #2) by James Byrne

Ballantine Books: The Second Ending by Michelle Hoffman

Tor Books: One for My Enemy by Olivie Blake

Henry Holt & Company: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

Quotation of the Day

Bookstores 'Are Human Places'

"[B]ookstores are human places--they are extensions of the personalities of the men and women who operate them.... We have probably passed the point where there can be any credible objections to the existence and use of electronic readers. (I like the feel and smell of books as much as anybody, but come now: you can keep all of Montaigne and Tolstoy on a phone in your pocket. That's amazing.) And booksellers have wholeheartedly embraced the online selling that keeps them in business. Yet bookstores provide something irreplaceable that we shouldn't easily relinquish. Their knowing charms and surprises (even, admittedly, their parochialism and occasional cluelessness) spring from the people who run them and who decide what they will carry. Bookstores are, in essence, personal libraries. In this way, they are macrocosms of the books they contain--there is life inside them."

--Sam Sacks in his New Yorker Page-Turner blog post headlined "The Bookstore Brain"


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Killing Me by Michelle Gagnon


Hurricane Sandy Update: Booksellers Storm Back

Kirsten Hess, marketing and events manager for R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Conn., shared one of the best post-Sandy stories we've heard yet, featuring a four-year-old boy dressed up like a Power Ranger. Hess "was running impromptu kids' programming today as we decided to open, WITHOUT power, and he was chatting up a storm. I was explaining to him that just because the power went out, and none of the parents could communicate through e-mail or computers, didn't mean the bookstore couldn't be open for some fun. He then put his hands on his hips and proudly exclaimed  'You don't need electricity to read a book!'--absolute music to my ears."

Hess added that because Madison is a shoreline community, R.J. Julia's customers were hit very hard by the storm. "We thought it was imperative to try and open for a few hours once it was safe for people to travel outside of their homes." Since it was Halloween, the bookstore extended a Facebook invitation "to stop by for stories and projects for the kids," she noted. "What a treat for us to not only have our customers come and enjoy their hometown bookstore, but also to see children so excited and engaged in reading books. What a treat."

There were bad reports as well. "Like much of Chelsea and the rest of the city, Printed Matter was hit hard by the Hurricane," the New York City shop specializing in artists' publications posted on its Facebook page yesterday. "We're still without power and will be closed to the public for the time being." After assessing the damage and discovering the basement "was severely flooded," Printed Matter put out a call for volunteers to help "start clearing out all of the soggy goods from the basement" today. A photo of damaged books stacked on the curb out front was, as one commenter wrote, the "booklover's nightmare."

Good news, however, came from Books & Books, Westhampton Beach, N.Y., which was featured earlier this week in Shelf Awareness preparing for the hurricane. Yesterday, co-owner Denise Berthiaume tweeted that the "literary hurricane panels" were coming down and "we're ok after the storm. No power, but thankful all the books are intact!" Later, she added: "Good news from Main Street! We'll be re-opening tomorrow at 10 a.m. We're still w/o power, but if you are too, you'll need a good book!"
Sparta Books, Ogdensburg, N.J., checked in with this Facebook post: "We are happy to report that power has been restored to Theatre Center! Sparta Books will be opening tomorrow 11/1 for regular business hours!!"

And the prize for best pre-storm Twitter announcement goes to Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C., which tweeted Monday shortly after 4 p.m.: "WE ARE NOW CLOSED FOR THE REST OF THE DAY. Go home and be with your family and your books so we can go home and be with ours. #Sandy."


Bowker noted on Twitter yesterday that power was still out at its office in New Providence, N.J.: "We are using generators so that ISBNs can be secured!"

Texas Bookman Presents Texas Remainder Expo

B&N Closing Union Station Store in D.C.

Barnes & Noble plans to close its Union Station bookstore in Washington, D.C., on December 31, the Washington Post reported, adding that the store, located "on the main floor near the station's entrance above the Metro entrance, enjoys a visible spot for passengers and shoppers coming through the station."

"The current store location is being redeveloped and we were offered another location within Union Station," said B&N spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating. "However the alternate location did not make sense."

Sourcebooks Young Readers: Global: One Fragile World. an Epic Fight for Survival. by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano

Digital Publishing Report: Books in Browsers

For two days last week, San Francisco's Internet Archive played host to the Books in Browsers conference, described by one participant as "the toughest room in digital publishing." The goal, as articulated by IA founder Brewster Kahle, was to imagine the digital future of the book and "try to build a system where there are many winners," and the assorted speakers took to the project with gusto. The innovative presentations included samples of MobNotate's tools for creating links between e-books (as Ricky Wong asked: "Wouldn't it be cool to link to [Steve Wozniak's] iWoz from within [Walter Isaacson's] Steve Jobs?"); Valobox's model for "pay-as-you-go" modular e-book purchasing; Poetica's software for adding copyediting markups to digital files; and Popcorn, a Javascript tool that facilitates the annotation of video.

In one of the earliest presentations, designer and publisher Craig Mod invoked the metaphor of "subcompact publishing"--the format that would upend the publishing world the way that subcompact cars transformed the automotive industry. The products that would drive this change, Mod predicted, would likely be small batches of digital content, kept down to small file sizes, delivered on a consistent timetable at reasonable subscription prices. One contender: a new app from Instapaper creator Marco Arment called the Magazine, which publishes four articles for a tech-minded readership every two weeks, for just $1.99 a month.

The conference afforded participants an opportunity to speak frankly about their digital publishing experiences, and Peter Collingridge obliged in a recap of his experience with an app development company called Enhanced Editions, best known for a multimedia edition of Nick Cave's The Death of Bunny Munro. "So it turns out working with publishers is really soul-crushingly hard," Collingridge confided, reflecting that publishers were "terrible at marketing digital products." As if to underscore that point, Vook's Matt Cavnar would later boast that his enhanced e-book company was set to announce "a lot of big deals with a lot of big media companies," but they were just about all "people who previously weren't book publishers."

On the bookselling end of the spectrum, Michael Tamblyn talked about using Kobo's capabilities to track customers' actual use of e-books to create new metrics to measure a book's success. Instead of relying solely on unit sales, he suggested, what would it mean to evaluate books based on how many people actually read them all the way through? What would publishers give to know which book people were staying up late to finish in one sitting? Tamblyn shared an interesting preliminary data point: readers were 15% more likely to finish books from smaller, independent publishers than books from the "big six" publishers.

As the conference drew to a close, Enthrill's Kevin Franco summarized a recent experiment selling gift cards for e-books in Canadian bookstores and grocery stores. He was able to drill down into significant detail on which genres sold best in which outlets, and also revealed that 5% of all the cards were redeemed on the day of purchase--which suggested that "gifts" weren't the only motivation for buying the cards.

Amid all the innovative bells and whistles, though, the conference attendees maintained a focus on creating products that, in the words of Readmill founder Henrik Bergrren, "make you want to read more and to connect more." He compared his own app, which enables readers to share their notes and recommendations with each other, to the Nike+ program, which "was never about gamification or statistics or rewards," he said. "It was about getting people who wanted to run out on the streets running." Likewise, Books in Browsers strove to find the models that would put books in the hands of people who want to read and get them reading. --Ron Hogan (also a Books in Browsers presenter)


Tor Books: One for My Enemy by Olivie Blake

Young Bookseller Focus: April Dawn Gosling

April Dawn Gosling is the manager of the Tattered Cover Bookstore on Colfax in Denver, Colo. Since 2000, she has worked in three bookstores, one library and a comic shop. She hosts events, schedules book clubs and birthday parties, runs the monthly poetry open mike and handsells like she was born to do it. She sings a lot before the store opens. Here George Carroll, a publishers representative based in Seattle, Wash., puts several questions to her:

Tattered Cover is a destination site as well as a neighborhood bookstore. Does that fit together or do you feel yourself torn in different directions?

I've no issue being the neighborhood bookstore as well as a check on the bookstore bucket list. I enjoy getting to know my regulars as much as I love seeing the excitement in a traveler as they enter the doors. Tourist or neighbor, everyone who walks in is a reader wanting to be connected to a book.

Connection and handselling is one of your favorite aspects of bookselling.

I live to talk about books--it's thrown a wrench into my dating life. So many of the customers I interact with know exactly what they are looking for and getting a word in edgewise about another title is difficult. I've learned some quick associations: for example, if a customer wants Unbroken, but in paperback, I recommend Lost in Shangri-la.

What book are you excited about most right now?

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. Here are my instructions: Find the book. Open to page 144. Start reading the second paragraph that begins with "Or I should have said..." and continue until the sentence ends.  

I understand you have an interesting theory about the relationship between cassava and poetry.

Everyone looked at tapioca in the elementary school cafeteria line, but hardly anyone tried it. If you did, you were mocked--intimidating stuff for an elementary school kid. But if you liked it, you're a die-hard fan.

Poetry falls in the same boat for me. Everyone has been introduced to it, and beyond any 100-level literature course, most eye it warily and believe it is best left alone. But if you like it, you live and breathe it.

You host authorless events at Tattered Cover. How do they work?

One is Family Friday Night. I was lucky to have a local music teacher volunteer to do it. Janet Casson sings, reads and really just rocks the pre-bedtime hour the last Friday of the month. The second is a poetry open mic night that’s been happening for a little over a year now. Last month, I had 40 people in the audience; only 12 of those were my poets. I like to see people get excited over their local artists.

The Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association just held its annual trade show. Do regional associations address the interests of young booksellers?

Regional show seminars address the concerns of booksellers across the age gap. We're all in this together, and we're all in bookselling for a reason. I might be slightly more techno-savvy than other folks, but in the end, we're all looking for the secret to keep us viable as bookselling continues to change.

If you could moderate a panel of your choosing at a trade show, what would it be called?

Handselling in a 21st Century Large (or Not-So-Large) Bookstore.

Do you think being a bookseller is a viable career track?

Spiritually, and if one has a passion for it, yes. It might not be as impressive as my original dream of being Indiana Jones. I'll never be financially rich doing this, but if I wake up every day and love my job, I'm good with it.

The final question is from Stacie Williams, the last interviewee in the series: A visiting author said he likes to ask musicians what they're reading, and authors what they're listening to--I love that crossover. David Gutkowski at Large Hearted Boy picked up on that books/music connection some time ago with fantastic results. So, if you could pick five songs to be the soundtrack to bookselling and/or your current reading, what would they be?

1) Mars by Gustav Holst. Not just because of the plethora of war books (fiction and non) on my reading pile, but it's a good warm-up for the holiday season.

2) Barton Hollow by the Civil Wars. The intro to this song gets me going every time I hear it come over our speakers. The entire album re-energizes me.

3) Bad Romance by Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga has become the beacon of our off-key dance parties on Thursday mornings before the store opens. She is a great way to start the bookselling day.

4) My Favorite Things by Julie Andrews. Books are many of my favorite things.

5) Part of Your World by Ariel. It's just the first couple lines that I think apply specifically, but like anyone with an obsession, I think Ariel might've been a book lover if she wasn't a mermaid. "Look at this stuff. Isn't it neat? Wouldn't you think my collection's complete?" And no, my collection isn't complete.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams

Rainy Day Books in Ore. to Close

Rainy Day Books, Tillamook , Ore., will close December 30 after 26 years in business, the Coast River Business Journal reported, adding that the "iconic bookstore... is a calling card for tourists and visitors, some of whom stop there annually on their pilgrimages to the beach."

Despite having many devoted customers, owner Karen Spicer cited familiar reasons for the decision, including changes in the industry like the rise of Amazon and e-books, a gradual but steady sales decline and troubled economy.

"It's time to do something else," she said. "It's sad. I never imagined books would go out of fashion. Independent bookstores are like the canary in the coal mine. When we're gone it will mean something drastic has happened, something is lost, and it will be too late to bring it back."


Image of the Day: Seven Stories Launches Triangle Square

On Sunday, as Hurricane Sandy approached, Seven Stories Press celebrated the launch of Triangle Square, its new imprint for young readers, at Bank Street Books, New York City, with its inaugural YA authors. From l.: James Lecesne, author of Trevor: A Novella; Laurie Rubin, author of Do You Dream in Color: Insights from a Girl Without Sight; Andri Magnason, author of The Story of the Blue Planet; Seven Stories publisher Dan Simon; and Rebecca Stefoff, adapter of A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki.


Consortium Adds Five Publishers

Effective January 1, Consortium Book Sales & Distribution is representing the following five companies:

Text Publishing Company, Melbourne, Australia, one of the country's most highly regarded publishers whose authors include M. J. Hyland, Kate Grenville, Anna Funder, Tim Flannery, Peter Temple, Nick Cave, Lloyd Jones, J. M. Coetzee, Patrick White and John Ajvide Lindqvist. Founded in 1990 by Diana Gribble, Text publishers a range of fiction and nonfiction, international and local, books for adults and young adults.

Text's recently launched Text Classics series offers Australian classics, many out of print, and includes titles by Kate Grenville, Peter Temple, Peter Corris, Helen Garner and Henry Handel Richardson. Each book features an introduction by a prominent Australian figure, including Germaine Greer, Sonya Hartnett, Joan London and Bruce Beresford.

Prospect Park Books, Pasadena, Calif., was founded in 2006 by Colleen Dunn Bates, and originally focused on regional titles, including Hometown Pasadena and EAT: Los Angeles. Now headed by publisher Bates and associate publisher Patty O'Sullivan, Prospect Park publishes books with broad appeal, focused on four areas: fiction, humor, cooking/food, and children's. Its authors include Lian Dolan, Jennifer Worick, Sue Campoy, Diane Lang, Joseph Shuldiner, and Christine Moore.

Prospect Park's first title with Consortium, coming in January, is The Break-Up Activity Book by Lynn Chang, a humorous craft book to help mend broken hearts. Other forthcoming titles include Elizabeth the First Wife by Lian Dolan, a lively, smart, and very funny tale of a woman reinventing her life in unexpected ways by a former Satellite Sister; Strawberry Yellow by Naomi Hirahara, the fifth book in the author's Edgar Award-winning series; and The Texas Twist by John Vorhaus, featuring charming con man Radar Hoverlander in his third book.

Founded last year, Engine Books, Indianapolis, Ind., is a boutique fiction press specializing in literary novels and story collections. Forthcoming titles include Nan Cuba's Body and Bread, a novel that examines the power of family legacies and the indelible imprint of loss on all life, and Gregory Spatz's collection of eight short stories, Half as Happy, each with the depth of novel, painting insightful portraits of the darkness and light within us all.

Gilgamesh Publishing, London, focuses on titles related to the Middle East and Africa, including insiders' accounts of life during the recent revolutions in Libya (Tripoli Witness: The Remarkable First-hand Account of Life During the Insurgency) and Egypt (Tahrir--The Last 18 Days of Mubarak: An Insider's Account of the Uprising in Egypt). Gilgamesh also publishes visual works, ranging from contemporary photographic coverage of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca (The Fifth Pillar), to references such as The Plant Encyclopaedia of the Arabian Peninsula.

Karadi Tales, Chennai, India, is a children's publishing house that was begun in 1996 by a group of writers, educators and musicians. It primarily publishes picture books for children, including handmade tactile books with text in Braille and English. Another specialty: pedagogy for language learning, especially catering to rural and underprivileged schools in India. Upcoming titles include The Bookworm, the story about a young boy and the magic of reading; When the Earth Lost Its Shapes, a tale of a little dot who must restore shape to the world through teamwork and conviction; Whose Lovely Child Can You Be?, a tender story in rhyme about the wonderful experience of having an adopted child; and Revenge of the Puppets, an exuberant account of four puppets that come to life.

Personnel: Pamela Turner Promoted at MaryRuth Books

Pamela Turner has been promoted to director of sales and marketing of children's book publisher MaryRuth Books. She has been director of promotional and global distribution initiatives since August.

Earlier Turner was a marketer at Your Expert Nation and has worked at OverDrive, Ingram Digital Group and Hearst's Skiff e-reading store. She started her career as a co-founder (with other members of her family) of Undercover Books, the independent bookstore chain in Cleveland, Ohio.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Nate Silver Polled by Wall Street Journal Report

Tomorrow on MSNBC's the Cycle: Eben Alexander III, author of Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife (Simon & Schuster, $15.99, 9781451695199).


Tomorrow on BookTalk on Martha Stewart Living Radio:

Christine Schutt, author of Prosperous Friends (Grove Press, $24, 9780802120380)
Katie Kitamura, author of Gone to the Forest (Free Press, $15, 13: 9781451656640)
Joe Mozingo, author of The Fiddler of Pantico Run (Free Press, $25.99, 9781451627480)


Tomorrow on CNBC's Wall Street Journal Report: Nate Silver, author of The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don't (Penguin Press, $27.95, 9781594204111).


This Weekend on Book TV: Kenneth Davis

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this week from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Tuesday 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, November 3
11 a.m. Rachel Cox discusses her book Into Dust and Fire: Five Young Americans Who Went First to Fight the Nazi Army (NAL, $26.95, 9780451234759). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

12 p.m. Book TV visits Montpelier, Vt., to tour the capital city's literary sites and interview several authors. (Re-airs Sunday at 9 a.m.)

4 p.m. David Quammen talks about his book Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic (Norton, $28.95, 9780393066807). (Re-airs Sunday at 7 p.m.)

5 p.m. Chris Anderson presents his book Makers: The New Industrial Revolution (Crown Business, $26, 9780307720955). (Re-airs Sunday at 11 p.m.)  

7:45 p.m. Henry Wiencek discusses his book Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves (FSG, $28, 9780374299569).
8 p.m. Greg Palast presents his book Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps (Seven Stories Press, $14.95, 9781609804787).

10 p.m. After Words. Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, interviews Salman Khan, author of The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined (Twelve, $26.99, 9781455508389). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m., Monday at 3 a.m., and November 11 at 12 p.m.)

Sunday, November 4
1 a.m. Jeff Biggers discusses his book State Out of the Union: Arizona and the Final Showdown Over the American Dream (Nation Books, $25.99, 9781568587028).

12 p.m. In Depth. Kenneth Davis, author most recently of Don't Know Much About the American Presidents (Hyperion, $27.99, 9781401324087), joins Book TV for a live interview. Viewers can participate in the discussion by calling in during the program or submitting questions to or via Twitter (@BookTV). (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m. and November 10 at 9 a.m.)   

Books & Authors

Awards: Waterstones Book of the Year & FutureBook Innovation

Finalists for the inaugural Waterstones Book of the Year award have been named. The winning title will be chosen by a Waterstones panel headed by James Daunt, the company's managing director, and will be announced at the Waterstones King's Road bookshop in Chelsea November 29. The shortlisted titles for Waterstones Book of the Year are:

HHhH by Laurent Binet
Patrick Leigh Fermor by Artemis Cooper
On the Map by Simon Garfield
The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook (of Sorts) by Russell Norman


Shortlists for the FutureBook Innovation awards, established two years ago to "celebrate innovation and recognize teams, companies and individuals involved in the transformation of the book trade," have been released. The winners will be announced at the Bookseller's FutureBook conference December 3.

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

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


Accelerated: A Novel by Bronwen Hruska (Pegasus, $25, 9781605983790). "What starts off as a send-up of overscheduled, gifted children and the Rambo parents and elite schools that create them quickly turns into a tale of a huge pharmaceutical conspiracy. When Sean reluctantly caves in to the pressure that New York City's most prestigious school exerts on him to start medicating his son, Toby, for seemingly nonexistent issues, there are disastrous consequences. Sean must gather his allies close and his enemies closer if he wants to take on this bedrock of prestige and wealth, whose arms of power extend eerily into every aspect of his life. A fast-paced read covering a topic about which every reader should be concerned." --Emily Crowe, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, Mass.

The News From Spain: Seven Variations on a Love Story by Joan Wickersham (Knopf, $24.95, 9780307958884). "The messengers delivering The News From Spain vary among the stories in Wickersham's collection, but each serves to remind the reader how a short story can rank with the thickest novel as a vehicle for rich character development and breathtaking plot. The stories take us from an assisted living home to a boys' prep school, from a New York apartment where a paralyzed dancer is confined to a first-person story by Mozart's librettist set within a contemporary tale. Anyone who doubts that the short story form offers a satisfying literary experience should read this extraordinary collection." --Cheryl McKeon, Rakestraw Books, Danville, Calif.


The Odds: A Love Story by Stewart O'Nan (Penguin, $14, 9780143122272). "This is a small novel that packs an emotional wallop. Art and Marion Fowler are at the end of their rope, with their marriage, careers, and finances unraveling at an alarming rate. A last hurrah, a Valentine's Day weekend at a posh gambling resort on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls--which they can ill afford--will determine their future. Anyone in a long relationship will both nod and cringe as O'Nan subtly and brilliantly lays out Art and Marion's frailties, strengths, foibles, and deep affection. Both suspenseful and sweet, I loved this gem of a novel." --Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, Colo.

For Ages 9 to 12

Gods and Warriors by Michelle Paver (Dial, $16.99, 9780803738775). "Gods, animals, and humans collide in this rollicking adventure. Set in the Mediterranean during the Bronze Age, this story will treat readers to a tale filled with fascinating historical detail juxtaposed with a breathlessly paced plot. For lovers of Percy Jackson, a new hero has arrived. And he's wearing a tunic!" --Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Books Inc., San Francisco, Calif.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster

The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster by Tim Crothers (Scribner, $26 hardcover, 9781451657814, November 6, 2012)

In 2011, Tim Crothers wrote in ESPN the Magazine about Phiona Mutesi, a teenage girl from the largest slum in Kampala, Uganda's capital, who was ranked second among the nation's women chess players. She is, he said, "the ultimate underdog. To be African is to be an underdog in the world. To be Ugandan is to be an underdog in Africa. To be from Katwe is to be an underdog in Uganda. To be a girl is to be an underdog in Katwe."

The Queen of Katwe expands that article to book length, enabling Crothers to probe deeply into Phiona's background. He doesn't just dig into her childhood, but examines the life of her mother, Harriet, who was brought to Katwe from her native village at the age of 12 and likely had her first child four years later. He also tells us all about Phiona's mentor, Robert Katende, an evangelical missionary who started a youth outreach in Katwe around soccer but eventually turned to chess as a way to reach the less athletically inclined children.

Phiona followed her brother to the chess club and became fascinated by the game. Once she started playing in earnest, she emerged as one of the group's fiercest players. "Phiona has a very aggressive plan," says another mentor of her playing style. "She surrounds you until you have nowhere to go and then she will squeeze you like a python until you are dead." She was originally sent to the women's national tournament simply to gain experience competing against highly skilled players; she swiftly qualified for international competition and could have been the Ugandan champion if she hadn't given away a victory to help a teammate.

Crothers tells Phiona's story in a straightforward manner, never losing sight of its emotional resonances. Chess has shown Phiona a world beyond Katwe--where one person can have an entire mattress to herself--but it hasn't provided her with a full escape. Returning home after winning her first tournament in another country, the young champion's main concern was whether her family would have enough food for breakfast the next morning. Such brutal conditions, Crothers reminds us, make it that much harder for Phiona to rise to the level of Grandmaster, and her optimism is not unlimited. "We all know how good Phiona is," confides one of her teammates. "Sometimes I think we know it more than she does." By the end of The Queen of Katwe, though, you'll join the ranks of those rooting for her success. --Ron Hogan, founder of

Shelf Talker: Crothers expands upon his National Magazine Award-nominated feature story, an inspirational profile of an amazing chess player from one of the world's worst slums.


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