Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 13, 2014

Little Brown and Company: Wolf at the Table by Adam Rapp

Tor Nightfire: Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes

Severn River Publishing: Covert Action (Command and Control #5) by J.R. Olson and David Bruns

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Quotation of the Day

David Sedaris: 'I'd Rather Go to an Actual Shop'

"Maybe I'm out of touch, but I'd rather go to an actual shop--preferably a small one--than to a harshly lit superstore, or, worse still, a website. I don't want to buy my books and my toilet paper and my clothing all under the same roof. I want beauty in my life. I want charm. I want contact with actual people. It is, for me, a large part of what makes life worth living."

--David Sedaris in an interview with Mary Laura Philpott, editor of the Musing blog at Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn.

University of California Press: The Accidental Ecosystem: People and Wildlife in American Cities by Peter S. Alagona


Bookstore Sales Slip 1.3% in April

April bookstore sales fell 1.3%, to $684 million, compared to April 2013, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. For the year to date, bookstore sales have fallen 8%, to $3.6 billion. Total retail sales in April rose 5.5%, to $437.1 billion, compared to the same period a year ago. For the year to date, total retail sales have risen 3.1%, to $1,649 billion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing a general line of new books. These establishments may also sell stationery and related items, second-hand books, and magazines."

In Update, Colbert Aims to Put California on Times List

Last night, Stephen Colbert opened his show with an update on what he called "my ongoing war with Amazon." Colbert said that following his "preorder" that Colbert Nation fans preorder the forthcoming novel California by Edan Lepucki on, "You heroes have bought over 6,400 copies of California. In fact, you have made California the No. 1 book on Powell's for a week."

Then he called on viewers to "really show Amazon" by putting California on the New York Times bestseller list. He recommended they preorder the first novel through "or preorder it from other places like Parnassus Books, Politics & Prose, Rainy Day Books. Or go to your local bookstore, walk up to the counter, and just click on the clerk."

In recounting the battle, Colbert said, "Because of Amazon's scorched earth tactics, more people are getting screwed than in 50 Shades of Grey." He also called Jeff Bezos "Lex Loser" as a photo of the very bald Amazon CEO flashed behind him.

New Owner for Juneau's Hearthside Books

Hearthside Books, Juneau, Alaska, has a new owner after more than a year on the market. Brenda Weaver purchased the business from Susan Hickey and Debbie Reisenstein. The Juneau Empire reported that both the downtown and Nugget Mall locations will remain open, but the name will be changed slightly to Hearthside Books, Etc., reflecting the wide range of sidelines offered. The original store opened in 1975.

"I'm very excited about the purchase of the bookstore," Weaver said. "I still absolutely have the passion for teaching but in Juneau the opportunity doesn't come around very often." A longtime Hearthside customer, she expressed her passion for local bookshops: "There's an opportunity to come in and browse and get (books) in your hands--check out what's new, what's old, some things you might pass up on otherwise."

Hickey told the Empire she and Reisenstein are relieved to have sold the stores and think Weaver will do a great job. She added that the former owners are "headed toward retirement but not headed out of town" and are "very happy that we're going to have two independent bookstores to shop at in Juneau. The reason we've been able to keep the stores here for 39 years are our longtime customers who continue to shop locally."

Toby Mundy to Leave Atlantic Books

Toby Mundy, founder and CEO of Atlantic Books Limited, the British publishing company, has resigned effective June 30, after 14 years with the company. The board will announce plans for his replacement "in due course." Chairman Peter Roche said Mundy "has led the company throughout with great energy and total commitment. I thank him for his outstanding contribution and wish him every success in the future."

Noting that he started Atlantic Books "with the investment and encouragement of Morgan Entrekin of Grove/Atlantic, in my spare bedroom at home," Munday said he was "enormously proud of the firm's achievements in that time.... I am grateful to those colleagues and, of course, to our wonderful authors, for their friendship, trust and support."

He also noted that Allen & Unwin, Atlantic Books' new proprietor, have "been very supportive, as has Peter Roche, ABL's chairman, and I am grateful to them. But everything must come to an end and I feel sure that the time is right to pursue new adventures in this exciting, unpredictable industry. Our authors could not be in better hands and I look forward to toasting their future triumphs."

U.K. Experiencing 'Bookshop Boom'

"A mini U.K. bookshop boom appears to be under way as a fifth new store opening is announced in a week," the Bookseller observed in reporting that Winstone's plans to open a second location. This follows the recent, highly publicized launch of a new flagship Foyles branch on London's Charing Cross Road; announcements of new branches for Waterstones in Lewes and Hatchards in St. Pancras Station; as well as news that "former Borders boss Philip Downer has also revealed he is to open a second branch of Calliope Gifts in Alton, Hampshire."

"If the location is right, the demographic suits your offer, and your customer base is affluent and values its high street, then there is an opportunity to open a bookshop in this climate," said Wayne Winstone.

Booksellers Association CEO Tim Godfray said, "No one can doubt that booksellers, through their creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial skills are absolutely adding value to the bookshop experience for consumers. It is very heartening too to see increased support for bookshops from publishers and authors. There seems to be an increased recognition of the importance of booksellers in bringing books to life and, indeed, authors to the market."


Image of the Day: Gabaldon's Phoenix Fans

Earlier this week, nearly 800 fans turned out for Diana Galbaldon's launch event at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, hosted by the Poisoned Pen, her home bookstore. The Poisoned Pen has already sold 4,000 copies of her new book, Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Delacorte), the eighth volume in Gabaldon's popular Outlander series (soon to be a STARZ TV series).

On the Radio: North Texas Booksellers 'Part of This Rising Tide'

Wild Detectives

"With Amazon dominating the books market online and Barnes & Noble the brick-and-mortar leader, how do local bookstores build a loyal customer base? We'll find out this hour as we talk to representatives from independent bookstores in North Texas," KERA-FM's Think program noted in featuring an interview with Dallas-area booksellers Carlos Guajardo of the Wild Detectives bookstore, John Tilton of Lucky Dog Books and Donya Craddock of the Dock Bookshop in Fort Worth.

From the Facebook page of the Wild Detectives: "Well, what can we say, it is not all about tablets; books and booksellers are definitely trending up and we in WD cannot hide that it is really cool to be a part of this rising tide. Listen to this recent NPR/KERA panel with local booksellers including our own Carlos Guajardo representing the Wild Detectives. Let's drink to that!"

Craddock observed that the "book industry is so exciting because it's a sea of information and that's why we call [our bookstore] the Dock. One day you can be sitting at the Dock reading some great fiction. Next day you can find yourself reading about being the first astronaut.... You just have to be able to make those books speak and to sell them."

Personnel Changes at Scholastic

At Scholastic:

Stacy Lellos has been named senior v-p and general manager for the Klutz imprint of Scholastic. Lellos has been v-p of marketing at Toys R Us since 2013, and before that worked several stints at Scholastic. She originally joined Scholastic in 2000 as senior brand manager and soon became director, brand management and retail marketing. In 2008, after briefly leaving the company, she returned to Scholastic as director, multiplatform publishing, overseeing the 39 Clues, and went on to become v-p, marketing and multiplatform publishing for the trade division.

Lizette Serrano has been promoted to director of education/library marketing and conventions, Scholastic trade publishing, succeeding John Mason who is retiring on July 3, after 28 years at Scholastic and more than 43 years in publishing. Serrano, who has been at Scholastic for 15 years, was previously director of conventions/author programs.

Samantha Schutz has been promoted to associate publisher, licensing & nonfiction at Scholastic trade publishing. She was previously editorial director, licensing.

Sheila Marie Everett has been promoted to associate director of publicity. She was previously publicity manager.

Becky Amsel has been promoted to publicity manager. She was previously senior publicist.

Sara Ortiz is joining Scholastic as marketing manager, education/library marketing. She was most recently assistant manager, school & library, at Penguin.

Alexandra Wladich has been promoted to senior publicist, corporate communications.  She was previously publicist, corporate communications.

Book Trailer of the Day: Flying Shoes

The trailer for Flying Shoes by Lisa Howorth (Bloomsbury) includes shots of Square Books, Oxford, Miss., which she co-founded with her husband, Richard Howorth.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: David Boies on Marriage Equality

Sunday on CBS Sunday Morning: Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, authors of All the President's Men (Simon & Schuster, $17, 9781476770512).

Also on CBS Sunday Morning: Hillary Rodham Clinton, author of Hard Choices (Simon & Schuster, $35, 9781476751443).


Sunday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos: Ben Carson, co-author of One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America's Future (Sentinel, $25.95, 9781595231123).


Sunday on Face the Nation: David Boies, co-author of Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality (Viking, $28.95, 9780670015962).


Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition:

Michael Hastings, author of The Last Magazine: A Novel (Blue Rider, $26.95, 9780399169946)
Douglas Kearney, author of Patter (Red Hen Press, $17.95, 978159705808)
Rick Rinehart, editorial director of Taylor Trade, who will talk about his grandmother, the mystery author Mary Roberts Rinehart.

Movie Trailers: Paddington; Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

A new trailer for Paddington, the film version of Michael Bond's legendary creation featured in his popular children's books, is "the best look at the character so far," Indiewire reported. The project, directed by Paul King (The Mighty Boosh), is a live-action CGI mix starring Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent and Peter Capaldi. The movie hits theaters Christmas day.


A full trailer has been released for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, the sequel based on Frank Miller's graphic novels starring Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Eva Green. Indiewire reported that the trailer "displays the same black-and-white stunning visuals.... Fans of the original will undoubtedly be delighted by what's on display." The movie debuts August 22.

Books & Authors

Awards: Impac Dublin Literary; Arthur Ellis

Juan Gabriel Vásquez won the €100,000 (about US$135,280) International Impac Dublin Literary Award for The Sound of Things Falling, translated by Anne McLean. According to the judging panel, the winning book "is a consummate literary thriller that resonates long after the final page. Through a masterly command of layered time periods, spiraling mysteries and a noir palette, it reveals how intimate lives are overshadowed by history; how the past preys on the present; and how the fate of individuals as well as countries is moulded by distant, or covert, events."


Crime Writers of Canada announced winners of this year's Arthur Ellis Awards, with Seán Haldane taking the best novel prize for The Devil's Making. Quillblog featured a complete list of Arthur Ellis category winners.

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:

Euphoria: A Novel by Lily King (Atlantic Monthly Press, $25, 9780802122551). "Loosely based on Margaret Mead's time in Papua New Guinea, this engaging, insightful novel features three young anthropologists in the 1930s who studied the remote, primitive Sepik River tribes. Euphoria is about cutting-edge research and revolutionary ideas, but inevitably it is also about the complications within the scholars' relationships when societal norms are stripped away, and love, greed, jealousy, and control are left unfettered. Artfully narrated, alternating between first person and third person as well as journal entries, King's novel offers a unique view into these rich and complicated characters." --Katie McDougall, Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn.

Next Life Might Be Kinder: A Novel by Howard Norman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26, 9780547712123). "Norman's new novel has the elements that make all of his previous novels so superb: the elegant writing, an omnipresent sense of place, an exploration of love, and the tension of a quiet center punctuated by bursts of violence. The story of Sam Lattimore in the aftermath of his beloved wife's murder is erotically charged, mysterious, and haunting. You shouldn't miss it." --Carole Horne, Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass.

On Sal Mal Lane: A Novel by Ru Freeman (Graywolf Press, $16, 9781555976767). "In 1983, the Sri Lankan tensions between the Tamils and the Sinhalese broke into civil war. On quiet, secluded Sal Mal Lane, the Horvaths and their neighbors are not sheltered from the turmoil, and the prejudices of the greater world find their way onto their secluded street. The coming of age of the children on Sal Mal Lane and the loss of one innocent in particular shatters their world. On Sal Mal Lane is a beautifully written, heartbreaking story of a foreign yet somehow familiar time and place." --Ellen Richmond, Children's Book Cellar, Waterville, Maine

For Ages 4 to 8
Following Papa's Song by Gianna Marino (Viking, $16.99, 9780670013159). "From the mystery of the sea comes this delightful tale of Little Blue, a curious young whale who ventures out a little too far alone, only to remember the wise words of his father. The vivid illustrations help us to visualize Little Blue's journey both with his father and when he goes out on his own. Children will love the serenity of this story." --Kathy Taber, Kids Ink, Indianapolis, Ind.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Brahmin: Rory Flynn

photo: Sandy Poirier

Rory Flynn is the pen name of novelist Stona Fitch. Fitch was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and his family moved often throughout the South and Midwest. At Princeton, he edited the student daily and studied fiction with Joyce Carol Oates and Russell Banks. After brief stints as a reporter in Anchorage, Ala., and Miami, Fla., Fitch joined the country-punk band Scruffy the Cat and spent years touring the U.S. in a smelly van and washing dishes in a dive bar. His disturbing second novel, Senseless, is now an equally disturbing feature film. In 2008, he co-founded the Concord Free Press, the world's first generosity-based publisher, publishing novels by Scott Phillips, Lucius Shepard, Gregory Maguire and others. Fitch's debut novel as Rory Flynn, Third Rail (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 10, 2014), begins a series featuring Eddy Harkness, a Boston narcotics detective with a knack for finding drugs, clues and trouble. NBC/Universal recently optioned Third Rail for television.

On your nightstand now:

My nightstand is usually a jumble of new books and $2 paperbacks from way back. I've always read without worrying about whether a book fits within a certain category, or whether it's what I'm "supposed" to read or like. So here's what's there now: The Fever by Megan Abbott; Harlequin's Millions by Bohumil Hrabal; Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker; Fallen Land by Patrick Flanery; The Ballad of a Small Player by Lawrence Osborne; The Impossible Exile, an excellent biography of Stefan Zweig by George Prochnik; and A Man Called Destruction by Holly George-Warren, a very different biography of the equally problematic Alex Chilton.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Other by Thomas Tryon completely freaked me out when I read it as an impressionable young reader back in Cincinnati. Weird twins, a deadly fire, a severed finger--The Other has it all.

Your top five authors:

I'd read anything by these five authors: Elmore Leonard, J.M. Coetzee, Shirley Jackson, John Fante and Bohumil Hrabal. But it's difficult not to mention Walter Mosley, Kate Atkinson, Robert B. Parker, Tom McCarthy, Anthony Burgess, Harry Crews, B. Traven and Bruno Schulz.

Book you've faked reading:

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, American Gods by Neil Gaiman and any other long book someone recommends. So I also faked reading David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. I like my jests finite.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I used to push Under the Skin by Michel Faber all the time. Then it morphed into a Scarlett Johansson film and now everyone knows it, though the book is still a must-read. I also evangelize for Go with Me by Castle Freeman, Jr., which is one of the finest, darkest short novels ever.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Any of the "lurid" '50s paperback covers of repackaged literary novels, like Faulkner novels with sexxxy covers. Talk about bait and switch. I kept looking for the juicy parts and never really found them, but the covers got me to read more Faulkner, so they worked.

Book that changed your life:

George V. Higgins's The Friends of Eddie Coyle, because both the book and its film adaptation with Robert Mitchum make Boston seem so bad, but in a good way. That book was definitely one of the reasons I ended up living in Boston.

Favorite line from a book:

"It seemed like a nice neighborhood to have bad habits in." --Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

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

I began reading Georges Simenon way back, before I moved on to Ed McBain, Charles Willeford and Ian Rankin--and way before I burrowed into books by dead Czechs. So I'd love to be able and go back and read anything by Simenon for the first time, since it's an eye-opener--no matter what book it is.

Your inspiration for Third Rail:

Originally, I wanted to write a novel about a Boston cop who loses his gun and has to fight to get it back. But it definitely moved on from there. The Eddy Harkness series uses Boston as a resonant locale for exploring broader human frailties--with characters who act against their own interests, get involved with drugs and schemes they shouldn't, miss opportunities and make deadly mistakes.

Book Review

Review: God Is an Astronaut

God Is an Astronaut by Alyson Foster (Bloomsbury, $26 hardcover, 9781620403563, July 1, 2014)

Contemporary novelists like Gary Shteyngart, Jennifer Egan, Dave Eggers and even Richard Powers have successfully integrated the ubiquitous clipped communication of Twitter, texting and e-mail into their fiction. In her first novel, Alyson Foster takes this a step further. God Is an Astronaut is told entirely in the juicy, funny, self-deprecating e-mails from Michigan botany professor Jessica Frobisher to her colleague Arthur Danielson, a former lover and confidant who is on a field sabbatical in Canada. We don't see Arthur's responses, yet Foster skillfully presents a full picture of him and a dozen other well-developed characters strictly through Jess's observations and distinctive voice. Jess is born to write e-mail, tapping out missives during airport layovers as if they were uninhibited postcoital pillow talk--frank, loving, smart, vulnerable. Even her subject lines express something of her ironic state of mind: "facing it," "bygones and caveats" or "black hawk server down" (when Arthur loses Internet access).

Surprisingly, Jess's one-way e-mail narration builds a solid plot filled with digressions, drama and anticipation. Jess, her aerospace engineer/entrepreneur husband, Liam, and their two preschool children are caught in the wash of intrusive media attention after the tragic explosion of a shuttle launched by Liam's private space-travel company, Spaceco, dooming its four "one-percenter" passengers. The New York Times sends a pushy investigative reporter to Ann Arbor, and a famous French documentary-film couple shows up to negotiate exclusive coverage. As Jess becomes further estranged from Liam and goes into protective mode for her kids, she sporadically labors over an elaborate greenhouse addition to their house. To add to the chaos, she reluctantly agrees to support Liam's company by riding the next Spaceco shuttle, despite having to share the flight with the documentarians and their nosy cameras. Only her candid e-mails to Arthur provide her with a platform to sort things out and share her ambivalence.

God Is an Astronaut covers a lot of ground--science, family, love, media, horticulture, rocketry--with something for everyone. Foster also gets in plenty of shots at modern pretension, like the angst of privileged academics ("God, do I miss our hell-in-a-handbasketing... what our undergrads sneer at as 'first world problems' "), selfish Evangelicals like Jess's occasional babysitting neighbor ("Perhaps she was praying for guidance, checking in with God to find out the blowback that might come with offering aid to the wicked"), global-warming fanatics ("It'll be like Florida up here, only with more unions and less shuffleboard") and overzealous lawn-care professionals ("They took such drastic measures that it was like the foliage equivalent of a police academy haircut"). However, when Jess is finally circling Earth from 200 kilometers with a God's-eye view of its geography and weather, her troubles, like bad storm days, are given perspective: "It's always lightning on Earth somewhere." Foster's fine debut takes old-school letter-writing and the epistolary novel to the next level. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: Narrated entirely in the e-mail correspondence of a Michigan botanist, Foster's first novel is an ingenious story of family, science and the search for stability in an unsettled world.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Books, Writers and the Beautiful Game

"I have come to think that soccer lends itself to great writing because it thrives in the imagination, like so much of life. Great writers put themselves into the possibilities of the sport--pondering." --George Vecsey, Eight World Cups: My Journey Through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer

The World Cup began yesterday and I must write about it. I don't mean I've been assigned to; I feel compelled. My connection to the beautiful game dates back nearly half a century to when I played in high school and college, as well as in summer leagues on teams that included Italian and Polish marble mill workers. In 1966, our high school coach took a few of us to Yankee Stadium, where we joined nearly 42,000 fans to watch the incomparable Brazilian legend Pelé and his Santos team beat Inter Milan of Italy 4-1 in an exhibition game.

American fans have taken some heat recently for their dubious "soccer snobbery" and "elaborate affectation," but I think my soccer street cred is still intact. I've loyally rooted for England (my team of choice and of ancestral heritage) since they won in 1966, though I never worry about using the terms soccer, game, field or uniform instead of football, match, pitch or kit; and I don't wear a team scarf.

Thus, from my little corner of the world's most popular sport, I offer a decidedly bookish, American take on the beautiful game. Here's what I've noticed lately:

There's a World Cup window display at the Book Nook, Ludlow, Vt.; and Powell's Books, Portland Ore., is having a 30% off sale on soccer titles.

Three Percent's World Cup of Literature is underway, pitting "representative books from all 32 World Cup qualifying countries against one another in a single-elimination tournament."

You can also back your favorite country's writers in the Penguin Cup. On being named to England's team, Fever Pitch author Nick Hornby commented: "My proudest moment in football and literature. I worry about this team, though. I know for a fact that Zadie has no left foot, and I'm worried that Austen won't give me the protection I need if their left winger has pace. Christie is prolific, though."

"For whom did Arthur Conan Doyle play football in the late 1880s?" This was one of the questions in the Guardian's football in fiction quiz.

"What if writing was like World Cup soccer?" asked Merritt Tierce in an Electric Literature piece headlined "Writers' World Cup."

"The run-up to every World Cup in recent memory has brought a deluge of books," the New York Times noted. "What began as a trickle after the new year has grown to the point where bookcases are groaning under the weight."

BBC offered a "book lover's guide to Brazil," featuring some of the host country's "eloquent and original literary voices."

In writing about Alex Bellos's revised and updated edition of Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life, Jon Michaud in the New Yorker noted that an entire chapter is devoted to Aldyr Garcia Schlee, the designer of Brazil's signature uniform who "went on to become a journalist, university professor and novelist."

Ah, England. British player Frank Lampard, who has written several Frankie's Magic Football children's books, was asked whether he would write another one if England wins. "I have already written Frankie and the World Cup Carnival, but I would be happy to write another one IF we actually won it!"

Reality check: The Seminary Co-op Bookstores in Chicago linked to an Economist article recommending three new books about the host country and pointing out that "holding the World Cup in Brazil, football's spiritual home, sparked many fantasies of samba-infused spectacle. Those illusions were shattered last June when protests swept across the country during a warm-up tournament; a year on the discontent still simmers."  

Writing for ESPN FC, Nick Hornby observed that the "smell of money around this World Cup is more unpleasant and more distracting than it has ever been.... Perhaps we are foolish, naive and self-deluding, those of us for whom the World Cup is an event that results in the glorious suspension of ordinary life for the best part of a month... But in an odd sort of way, everything that is so despicable about the contemporary game is a tribute to its power and continuing appeal."

Why did I feel compelled to add my thoughts to the World Cup frenzy? Maybe it's as simple as the recollection of a precise moment during the Summer of Love in 1967, and the sound of the ball when I caught it just right with my instep on a corner kick and sent it arcing toward the crowded goal area, as if tossing chum into a pool of sharks. One of my teammates executed a perfectly timed leap above the roiling surface to meet the ball, and just a flick of his head sent it to the upper right corner of the goal, beyond the outstretched arms of a desperate keeper. Then the celebration erupted with almost unbridled joy and (for just an instant, in Hornby's "odd sort of way") with love... for the beautiful game. --Robert Gray, contributing editor

Editor's note: Stay tuned for more World Cup book coverage from soccer editor George Carroll in today's edition of Shelf Awareness for Readers.

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