Shelf Awareness for Friday, August 30, 2013

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

Henry Holt & Company: Mihi Ever After (Mihi Ever After #1) by Tae Keller, illustrated by Geraldine Rodríguez

Berkley Books: River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer

Oxford University Press, USA: The World According to Proust by Joshua Landy

Chronicle Chroma: Bob Willoughby: A Cinematic Life by Bob Willoughby

Charlesbridge Publishing: Forever Cousins by Laurel Goodluck, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson

Tor Teen: The Luminaries by Susan Dennard

Editors' Note


Behind Bars: Former MSU Bookstore Director Sentenced

Mark Brixey, the former director of Missouri State University's bookstore who pleaded guilty in March to embezzling $1.16 million over a 10-year period, was sentenced yesterday to five years and three months in prison for the theft. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Brixey was also ordered to make restitution, which will be split among the university, the school's insurance company and the Internal Revenue Service. He was ordered to report to prison by October 15.

Flyaway Books: The Coat by Séverine Vidal, illustrated by Louis Thomas

Grand Opening for Edgewater Books Tomorrow

Edgewater Books, Edgewater, Md., will host a grand opening tomorrow at its 951 Central Avenue location. Owner Ken Kennedy told the Edgewater-Davidson Patch that even though he never saw himself running a children's bookstore, now he couldn't be happier: "When you go into a kids' bookstore, you can't help but smile."

Kennedy hopes the bookstore will be come a destination for people in the community and calls the opening celebration "just an introduction to the community. Take a look at what we've built for you."

The Patch noted that Edgewater Books features a "lively story corner," an art room in the back of the store and a book selection that "caters to ages toddler through young adult."

"We'll carry books that are good reads, but we will introduce things that they are not familiar with," Kennedy said.

PNBA Holiday Catalog 2022

Amazon Launches Mexico Kindle Store

Yesterday, Amazon launched the Mexico Kindle Store, offering Mexican customers two million titles, with more than 70,000 of them in Spanish. In addition, the Kindle and Kindle Paperwhite are now on sale locally in Mexico at Gandhi stores.

Amazon also announced that Mexican independent authors and publishers can now utilize the Spanish-language Kindle Direct Publishing website to make their books available to customers in Mexico and more than 175 other countries.

Sourcebooks Acquires Simple Truths

Sourcebooks has acquired Simple Truths, a company with extensive e-commerce and online marketing operations, including 1.2 million customers and newsletter subscribers. Simple Truths founder and executive editorial director Mac Anderson, director Dan Green and the staff will continue in their roles at the new imprint, which offers approximately 100 backlist and forthcoming inspirational/motivational titles currently being sold direct-to-consumer.

Dominique Raccah, CEO and publisher of Sourcebooks, said Anderson "is an extraordinary entrepreneur, and I'm excited by the growth potential in Simple Truths and Sourcebooks banding together. This purchase adds almost $10 million to our top-line sales and extends opportunities for Sourcebooks authors. It also creates new channel growth opportunities for initiatives like Put Me in the Story."

"Dominique's passion is contagious," Anderson observed. "She has built a great company of which we're proud to be a part. Leveraging our content through their distribution channels will generate excellent growth opportunities."

Raccah added, "We believe now is the time to expand our existing initiatives to create deeper relationships with readers."

Obituary Notes: Matthew Shear; Seamus Heaney

Matthew Shear, publisher of St. Martin's Press, died Wednesday. He was 57. Macmillan CEO John Sargent offered "A Final Salute to Matthew Shear from His Friends in the Flatiron" at, where he wrote: "Yesterday we lost a great publisher, but more importantly we lost a remarkable man.

"Matthew worked with us for 18 years, and was always, in every way, a larger than life character. He had that big outgoing personality, that loud cheerful laugh and that huge gap-toothed grin that arrived when he saw you coming. And if that grin wasn't there, you knew it would be there soon enough. As a publisher, he knew a good book whenever he read one and he knew who would like it. He knew how to sell it and he almost always figured out how to make a few bucks along the way. His secret was that he didn't think it was a good book, he believed it was a good book. He didn't think we could sell it, he knew we could sell it. And once he believed in a book and in the person who wrote it, he poured his whole self into convincing everyone that they simply had to have it....

"When a great publisher passes, it is customary to offer a list of authors he worked with. For Matthew it was about all the authors large and small, and about all the people. It was about the small things he did every day for everyone."


Irish poet Seamus Heaney, who won the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature and was praised by Robert Lowell as "the most important Irish poet since Yeats," died earlier today, the Telegraph reported. He was 74.

"I have always thought of poems as stepping stones in one's own sense of oneself," Heaney told NPR in 2008. "Every now and again, you write a poem that gives you self-respect and steadies your going a little bit farther out in the stream. At the same time, you have to conjure the next stepping stone because the stream, we hope, keeps flowing."


Cool Book Promo of the Day: 'Mud Season Hotline'

Ellen Stimson's upcoming memoir, Mud Season: How One Woman's Dream of Moving to Vermont, Raising Children, Chickens and Sheep, and Running the Old Country Store Pretty Much Led to One Calamity After Another (Countryman Press, October), will be shipped with bookmarks listing a "Mud Season Hotline," a phone number (855-MUD-BOOK, 855-683-2665) that give booksellers an opportunity to allow would-be book buyers to chat with the author for a minute or two each. The hotline will be operational between September 15 and November 15. Book groups will also be able to call and arrange longer discussions.

"Bookselling is a partnership between authors, publishers and frontline booksellers,"
Stimson said. "I have a great book tour scheduled that includes bookstores in 15 major cities, but that still leaves an awful lot of people out of this conversation. This is going to be a real hoot."

Bill Rusin, Norton v-p of sales and marketing, noted that booksellers "need every possible edge and we think this novel approach that lets the author partner with the bookseller at the actual moment of the sale will be a boon to this great little book and bookselling as a whole. Stimson is a former book wholesaler owner with a very funny warm presence so she is the perfect pioneer for this kind of bookselling initiative."

Indies Rethinking Traditional Customer Loyalty Programs

Bookselling This Week profiled several booksellers who are evaluating their customer loyalty programs or designing new ones "that they believe better reflect and promote the unique values their stores offer customers and the reasons that keep readers shopping indie."

"We're constantly asked about discounts," said Carole Horne, general manager of the Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass. "The program lets us have conversations with customers about shopping locally and all the other issues we want to discuss with them."

The "Friends of Greenlight" program at Brooklyn's Greenlight Bookstore has approximately 32,000 customers enrolled. "We deliberately word our customer loyalty program as a gift program because who doesn't like to receive gifts and presents?" said co-owner Rebecca Fitting.

Four-Eyed Frog Books, Gualala, Calif., has a Community Supported Bookstore program, through which "customers deposit $100 to $500 in their store account, from which future purchases are drawn" and other benefits earned, BTW wrote. Owner Joel Crockett said customers "tell us they love the program--not only the ability to come in and say, 'charge it to my account,' but also to give their visitors permission to charge a book at the Frog to their account."

Gemma Buckley, co-owner of Ninth Street Book Shop, Wilmington, Del., said "people are looking for some sign that you're giving. We can't compete with Costco's prices, but we can give you a small credit towards your next purchase, and we can make sure we have the books you need."

"We don't necessarily want a program where a discount is the major benefit," said Bradley Graham, co-owner of Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C. "We think that people want to feel a sense of belonging, and [benefits] can be less monetary."

At Brazos Bookstore, Houston, Tex., general manager Jeremy Ellis is rethinking a long-running frequent buyer program: "We need a loyalty program that values other attributes that real loyalty is built around. I don't know what that is yet, but I think that's what will ultimately be successful.... An incentive isn't going to create new customers. If they're loyal to the discount they're probably not your best customer anyway."

Coming Soon: PubWest Conference

The PubWest Conference 2013 will be held November 7-9 at the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe, N.Mex., with the theme "the innovative publisher." The program features keynotes by Steven Piersanti, president of Berrett-Koehler Publishers; Jen Bilik, owner and founder of Knock Knock Stuff; Nadine Vassallo, project manager, research and information, for the Book Industry Study Group; and Gus Gostyla, v-p of business development at Inkling.

Sessions will focus on such subjects as branding, outsourcing publisher services, streamlining editorial and design work flow and more.

For more information and to register, go to

Book Trailer of the Day: Forever Friday

Forever Friday: A Novel by Timothy Lewis (WaterBrook Press); the video features music composed by the author for his wife more than 30 years ago, and it's now the theme song for the novel's main characters.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: John U. Bacon on NPR's Here and Now

Today on NPR's Here and Now: John U. Bacon, author of Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football (Simon & Schuster, $26.99, 9781476706436).


Tomorrow on CNN's Sanjay Gupta M.D.: Dan Savage, author of American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics (Dutton, $26.95, 9780525954101).

Movies: Child of God; Fading Gigolo featured a teaser trailer for James Franco's adaptation of Child of God by Cormac McCarthy and reported that the film premieres at the Venice Film Festival "before screening as a special presentation at Toronto." Child of God stars Scott Haze (As I Lay Dying), Franco, Jim Parrack and Tim Blake Nelson.


A trailer has been released for Fading Gigolo, which is headed to the Toronto International Film Festival. In the movie, Woody Allen "plays as bookseller-turned-pimp to John Turturro's middle-aged neophyte hustler, in actor-writer-director Turturro's inspired left-field comedy. The premise is as inspired as it is absurd, and Turturro carries it off with his own affecting and surprisingly romantic vision of New York City."

Books & Authors

Awards: New Zealand Post Book Winners

The Big Music by Kirsty Gunn took Book of the Year honors at the New Zealand Post Book Awards ceremony, where category winners were also announced. This year's winners include:

Book of the Year & fiction: The Big Music by Kirsty Gunn
Poetry: The Darling North by Anne Kennedy
Illustrated nonfiction: Pat Hanly by Gregory O'Brien & Gil Hanly
General nonfiction: Civilisation: Twenty Places on the Edge of the World by Steve Braunias
Nielsen Booksellers' Choice: Shelter from the Storm: The Story of New Zealand's Backcountry Huts by Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown and Geoff Spearpoint
People's Choice: Patched: The History of Gangs in New Zealand by Jarrod Gilbert

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:

Paris Was the Place: A Novel by Susan Conley (Knopf, $26.95, 9780307594075). "Conley, author of the acclaimed memoir The Foremost Good Fortune, has written an exquisite debut novel. American Willow Pears lives and teaches in Paris at a center for immigrant girls who have requested asylum in France. The culture, flavor, keen detail and observation, and literature of Paris, India, and the U.S. are lyrically interwoven in a story about hope, love, family, forgiveness, expectation, risk, loss, and letting go. Breathtaking and a must-read!" --Susan K. McCann, Essex Books, Centerbrook, Conn.

Massacre Pond: A Novel by Paul Doiron (Minotaur, $24.99, 9781250033932). "Doiron just keeps getting better. Open Massacre Pond and you can smell the sweetness of the Maine woods, feel the dry leaves underfoot, and hear the birds singing at dawn. But the story offers far more than that: real Maine characters who might have just walked out of a local diner, issues that are as fresh as the latest headlines, and the kind of suspense that will keep your lights on far into the night!" --Rita Moran, Apple Valley Books, Winthrop, Maine

The Butterfly Sister: A Novel by Amy Gail Hansen (Morrow, $14.99, 9780062234629). "Ruby Rosseau believes that she has gone mad. Her suicide attempt at Tarble, a women's college, leads to her dropping out and failing to graduate. Ten months later, a suitcase with her name on it arrives at her home via courier, but the suitcase belongs to a former classmate at Tarble who has gone missing. Ruby's search for her friend leads her back to Tarble to face her past and the ghosts that threaten to destroy her life. It will take a 'butterfly sister,' someone who inspires metamorphosis, to save Ruby and her friend. Hansen's debut tale of madness, mystery, revenge, betrayal, love, and literature will keep you guessing until the surprise ending." --Karen Briggs, Great Northern Books & Hobbies, Oscoda, Mich.

For Ages 4 to 8
The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf by Mark Teague (Orchard Books, $16.99, 9780439915014). "Teague brings a new and fresh, yet traditional slant to the story of the Three Little Pigs. The details of what the little pigs are like are delightful, and Teague, as always, brings his animals to life. Readers will identify many of the characters as people in their own lives, and Teague's inclusion of the reasons for the wolf's behavior is just right." --Vicki Erwin, Main Street Books, St. Charles, Mo.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Brahmin: Jynne Dilling Martin

Jynne Dilling Martin, publicity director at Riverhead Books, specializes in publicity for literary fiction and has worked with such luminaries as Norman Mailer, E.L. Doctorow, Junot Díaz, Khaled Hosseini, Meg Wolitzer and Gary Shteyngart. Her poetry has appeared in Granta, the Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, the Boston Review and the New England Review, and has been featured on PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. She is a Yaddo fellow, winner of the 2009 Boston Review/92nd Street Y Discovery Prize and a 2013 Antarctica Artist in Residence.

On your nightstand now:

Preparation for my upcoming time in Antarctica: Water, Ice, & Stone by Bill Green and The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard. You know, just some uplifting stories of snowblindness, frozen corpses and brutal cold to get me inspired for my trip!

Favorite book when you were a child:

Madeleine L'Engle's A Wind in the Door. I've been best friends with my own younger brother since we were little, so I reveled in the sibling intimacy and unspoken understanding between Meg and Charles, as well as the ferocious, feral, space-time-warping protective powers of an older sister.

Your top five authors:

Virgil, Samuel Beckett, Marianne Moore, Saint-John Perse and Edith Wharton. From which you can probably tell that the book club I'm in is not for the faint of heart.

Book you've faked reading:

Oh, shamefully countless times at publishing parties through the years, particularly when I was young and wide-eyed and scared, eating cheese cubes, drinking cheap pinot noir and desperately trying to not seem like a public school girl from inner-city Cleveland. But this fall Leah Hager Cohen is publishing a terrific short book, I Don't Know, about the power of admitting ignorance, and, true to Cohen's thesis, through the years I've learned about amazing and obscure writers when I've had the courage to say I haven't read something.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Being with Dying by the Buddhist nun Joan Halifax, which really could be titled Being with Any Kind of Enormous Life Loss. In a vein similar to Pema Chödrön and Tara Brach, Halifax invites readers to be open and tender in the face of fear and terrible loss. I have an entire stack of Being with Dying to give to friends who are going through a difficult time.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I love buying poetry based on the jacket and title: one great find was The Hour Between Dog and Wolf by Laure-Anne Bosselaar on a table at Grolier Books.

Book that changed your life:

There are probably no less than thousands of books that have changed my life, so this is an absolutely miserable question to answer. One is Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov. Another is Pam Johnson-Bennett's Starting from Scratch: How to Correct Behavior Problems in Your Adult Cat. I recommend them both wholeheartedly.

Favorite line from a book:

"What will die with me the day I die? The voice of Macedonio Fernandez, the image of a bay horse in a vacant lot on the corner of Sarrano and Charcas, a bar of sulfur in the drawer of a mahogany desk?" --Jorge Luis Borges, "The Witness."

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

The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez. I'm on my third time reading it and feel completely obsessed and haunted by this story. I wish I could forget what Ricardo Laverde is listening to on his headphones as he sits and weeps, so that I could re-experience the terrible and magical moment when you first learn what he's hearing.

Book Review

Review: The Lowland

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf, $27.95 hardcover, 9780307265746 , September 2013)

Jhumpa Lahiri, whose Interpreter of Maladies is one of the few debut story collections to win the Pulitzer Prize, builds on her previous themes of the Indian-American immigrant experience with her trademark clear, gorgeous language and singular storytelling mastery in her second novel, The Lowland.

The story spans 70 years, opening with two inseparable brothers in Calcutta. Subhash, the older boy, is cautious and reserved; the younger, Udayan, is the charming risk-taker. Subhash later goes to the U.S. for university, while Udayan makes a love match to marry Gauri and becomes a political revolutionary. Later, when Udayan sacrifices everything for his beliefs, Subhash returns to India, stepping into Udayan's life try to heal the wounds he left behind. He eventually brings a pregnant Gauri back to the U.S. with him, hoping to remain connected to his brother and drawn by Gauri's grief. Subhash creates a career and something approaching a home for himself, Gauri and Gauri's daughter, Bela. Lahiri is at her best here, giving each character room to tell his or her own story and reveal what they left behind, what they hope to find, what comes instead and the secrets they take with them. Gauri tries to find peace; Subhash wrestles with the secret he keeps from Bela; Bela grows into adulthood and struggles to understand her mother's choices. Lahiri is particularly adept at exploring the questions of independence and loyalty; what mothers and daughters owe each other; what defines fatherhood and family; and the long shadow of absence.

With a story spanning generations and continents, The Lowland is epic in scope. But Lahiri also, through sheer technical wizardry, creates a story shimmering with the interplay of time and memory and how her characters understand the arc of their lives: the narrative pushes forward chronologically through the decades, with shifting points of view, each of the main characters dipping into memory to understand their present. The structure is not the more familiar one of an older character looking back to tell a story; rather, it is intricate and increasingly textured and mirrors the way we experience life. The intimate, close-up look at the characters in India, where small gestures reveal everything, gradually gives way to a wide-angled and panoramic view, as though the narrative camera zooms back to encompass the vast American backdrop while moving through time. In the final two chapters, the characters are shown at such a remove they are not identified, but we know them so well the names are unnecessary.

If this sleight of hand is sometimes at the expense of an immediate emotional connection to Lahiri's characters, as she does so well in her stories where compression amplifies the impact of every word and gesture, The Lowland is nevertheless a gorgeous novel, unexpected and ambitious, full of hope and longing--a novel to savor. --Jeanette Zwart

Shelf Talker: A beautiful, ambitious, complex novel, already shortlisted for the Man Booker, about an Indian-American family finding its way to acceptance and love despite their history and secrets.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Building a 'Full Service Indie Bookshop'

"We try to listen and watch for what there is a need for in our town, staying away from competing with the few other retail shops that are open," wrote Annie Leonard, manager of the Next Chapter Gift and Book Boutique, Knoxville, Iowa, in response to last week's column about adding sideline inventory and retail space to indie bookshops.

Knoxville is a small town of about 7,000 people that has "gone through its share of downtown demise, but we have turned the corner and are working hard to revitalize our downtown with lots of thriving restaurants, a great micro-brewery and more--but we're still light on the retail options, which is where the Next Chapter comes in," she observed.

Describing the store as "a full-service indie bookshop with new books for all ages, as well as a basement with thousands of used titles," Leonard noted that the Next Chapter also has a large women's accessories section (scarves, jewelry, bags, gloves, etc.); a children's section with toys and kids' accessories; a stationery section and four rooms of home and garden décor.  

Staffers (l.-r.) Diane Gordon, Annie Leonard and owner Tresa Mott.

The shop opened more than five years ago in the storefront of a building owned by Tresa and Steve Mott. At the time, Tresa was working as the office manager for her husband's dental practice and running a dance studio in the building, but she had always dreamed of owning a bookstore. She and Leonard knew one another, "so we got together in late July over coffee to talk about the idea of a bookshop," Leonard recalled. "It was magical fun, and by the end of the conversation, we both knew we were on a freight train that wasn't stopping any time soon."

Just as the economy was crashing, the Next Chapter launched in a 1,000-square-foot retail space evenly split between books and gifts. Fortunately, "Our community showed up and Tresa resigned her position at the dental office to be at the bookstore full time," Leonard noted. "In spite of the economic downturn, or maybe in part because of that and the rising gasoline prices, we found that people wanted to shop locally, they liked not having to drive an hour to find gifts and books, and they were willing to give us the business instead of Amazon."

Listening to their customers and monitoring sales numbers closely, the shop has adapted over the years, refining its book selection and expanding women's accessories. After the local Hallmark store closed in 2010, the Next Chapter brought in greeting cards; and a year later, when the local home and garden décor shop closed, the bookstore took over an adjacent empty suite of offices and expanded its inventory to fill another retail void in the town.

Asked about the decision to call the store a "Gift & Book Boutique," Leonard explained: "Several years ago, a lovely out of town shopper stopped in, shopped the whole place thoroughly, and as she walked out said, 'This isn't just a book shop, it's a book boutique!' We loved the expression, and have adopted it as our tag line. Then, as we expanded and shifted our focus a bit, we commissioned a new logo that more accurately reflected what we are, and since we liked the sound of 'book boutique' we added the word 'gift' first to keep the last two words together. I suppose you could say it was a marketing strategy. We think it sounds good in our many radio ads."

The Next Chapter also carries a selection of food products. "We are really proud of our local artisanal food producers, so when Lois Reichert [Reichert's Dairy Air] approached us and asked if we would sell her cheeses, we were thrilled," Leonard said. "We also have three lines of food items like dips, gourmet chips, sauces, etc., so it was a good fit."

Although books are still the primary focus, narrow profit margins mean they "cannot stand alone," Leonard said. "We have learned to be really smart and selective about what books we carry, and how many of them we can keep in stock. That's been a hard lesson at times, but in the end, I still get to find great books for my customers, and that is tremendously rewarding. Further, I've also learned that picking out beautiful scarves, luxe journals and fun wall hangings is lots of fun, too, and helping our customers find just the right gift or home accent is also very rewarding. In the end, it's about staying in business, being fulfilled and meeting the needs of our community, not necessarily about how many shelf-feet of books we stock."

Indie booksellers understand more than ever what responding to a community's specific retail needs requires. As Leonard observed, it's all about listening and watching: "I believe that many of our customers view us as a great local option that they are committed to helping stay in business. We very nearly lost every retail business on our square, and that was not a good situation, and lots of locals realized that they would have to participate in changing that situation. We are leading the charge in that local business renaissance, and we hope to be here in the years to come to enjoy the fruits of this labor." --Robert Gray, contributing editor

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