Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 26, 2014

Atria Books: The Silence in Her Eyes by Armando Lucas Correa

Labyrinth Road: Plan A by Deb Caletti

Harper Muse: Unsinkable by Jenni L. Walsh

Mariner Books: Everyone on This Train Is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson

S&s/ Marysue Rucci Books: The Storm We Made by Vanessa Chan

W by Wattpad Books: Night Shift by Annie Crown

Shadow Mountain: Under the Java Moon: A Novel of World War II by Heather B. Moore

Quotation of the Day

Amazon's Bezos 'Rebooting America Itself'

"Amazon and Bezos scream for more scrutiny because Amazon, more than any other single entity, has had the infinite hubris to envision a brave new computer-driven order for our society. Bezos isn't merely remaking commerce with his algorithms, metrics and vast network, he's rebooting America itself, including our concept of a job, the definition of community and even basic values of fairness and justice. It amounts to a breathtaking aspiration to transform our culture's democratic paradigm into a corporate imperium led by Amazon....

"More people need to know what's going on between that jazzy website and 'the FedEx guy,' for Amazon is insidious, far more dangerous and destructive to our culture's essential values than Wal-Mart ever dreamed of being. Remember: Price is not value. Exchanging value--and our society's values--for Amazon's low prices is a raw deal."

--Author and radio commentator Jim Hightower, from a two-part Hightower Lowdown newsletter article examining Amazon's impact.

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez


Indies First: A Letter from Gaiman & Palmer

In an open letter to "you lot: writers of books," Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer called on their fellow authors to actively support Indies First by linking to indies for book sales and signing up to be booksellers at their favorite independent bookshops on November 29, Small Business Saturday, Bookselling This Week reported. Among the letter's highlights:

"Neil wanted to be an author when he grew up. But if he wasn't an author, he thought, the best possible profession would be working in a bookshop, pointing people at books they might like, ordering books for them, divining with some kind of superhuman ability that the book with the blue cover that their granny needed was actually Forever Amber, and otherwise making people's lives better while being in bookshops....

"The Internet cannot make this magic happen. It cannot suggest books you have no idea you want. There's nothing like the human, organic serendipity of an independent bookshop, where people who read and love books share their love with others....

"So: choose your independent bookshop, talk to the owner or manager, and agree on what you are going to do that day.... You will be supporting independent bookshops. They need your help. They in their turn will be supporting you. Everybody wins."

Britannica Books: Britannica's Encyclopedia Infographica: 1,000s of Facts & Figures--About Earth, Space, Animals, the Body, Technology & More--Revealed in Pictures by Valentina D'Efilippo, Andrew Pettie, and Conrad Quilty-Harper

Patterson Awards First Round of Grants to 73 U.K. Indies

James Patterson has allocated more than £130,000 (US$212,413) to 73 independent bookshops in the U.K. and Ireland in the first round of donations he had pledged earlier this year to encourage children to read, the Bookseller reported.

"I have been completely overwhelmed by just how many people have applied for the grants and impressed and enthused by the caliber of the applications," Patterson said. "It's been a very difficult decision process and I have worked to identify independent bookshops for whom this money may make a difference. I'm excited to follow their progress and see the proposed ideas in action."

Tim Walker, president of the Booksellers Association, commented: "We are very much looking forward to seeing the grant funding being implemented by the successful bookshops. We are thrilled that so many U.K. and Irish indies have shown such creativity and passion in their applications. For the lucky 73 shops, the James Patterson money will make a real difference to how they reach children and encourage them to read. There are some really exciting projects that this money will help get off the ground, from converting a van into a mobile school bookshop to running a model train around the shop to get kids engaged."

GLOW: Carolrhoda Books: Pangu's Shadow by Karen Bao

Amazon to Collect Sales Tax in Maryland

Maryland residents who buy products through Amazon will have to add a 6% percent sales tax to all online orders beginning in October, InTheCapital reported, noting that the change is part of Amazon's deal with the state to open a million-square-foot fulfillment center in Baltimore. According to the Board of Revenue Estimates, the state could bring in around $50 million a year in new revenue.

Soho Crime: My Favorite Scar by Nicolás Ferraro, translated by Mallory Craig-Kuhn

Initial #AmtrakResidency Writers Named

Amtrak has announced the 24 writers who will be the first to participate in the #AmtrakResidency program that was launched earlier this year. During the next year, they will work on writing projects of their choice in the workspace of a long-distance train. More than 16,000 applications were received, and Amtrak said the "writers selected for the program offer a diverse representation of the writing community and hail from across the country."

"I love writing on trains," Deanne Stillman told the Los Angeles Times. "I've reserved a spot on the California Zephyr, which goes through the Great Plains, where my next book takes place. The book is Blood Brothers, about the unlikely friendship between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill, and I'm writing it for Simon & Schuster. I'll be seeing the plains from the point of view of the Iron Road, which I haven't done before."

Fall Shows: SCIBA and NCIBA

The Southern California Independent Booksellers Association's 2014 Trade Show takes place Fri.-Sat., October 17-18, at the Beverly Garland Hotel in North Hollywood, Calif. The show opens with a panel on bookstore finances run by ABA board members from 4 to 4:50 p.m., followed by an SCIBA membership meeting from 5 to 5:50. The Welcome Cocktail, from 6 to 8, gives booksellers, publishers and wholesalers a chance to mingle.

Saturday opens with the Children's Breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m., featuring speakers B.J. Novak (whose latest book is The Book with No Pictures), Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming) and Meg Wolitzer (Belzhar); the SCIBA Book Awards in the children's categories will be announced. Rep pick sessions for children and adult titles take up the rest of the morning. The Adult Author Luncheon, with speakers Garth Stein (A Sudden Light), Rebecca Scherm (Unbecoming) and Dennis Lehane (World Gone By), runs from 12:15 to 2 p.m. Also at lunch: the SCIBA Book Awards in adult categories will be announced. Four education sessions for adult and children's booksellers run until the trade show floor opens at 4 (topics include the Common Core, bookstore merchandising and Indies First Small Business Saturday). The Celebrate Booksellers! Author Reception/Closing Cocktails at 6 p.m., with 19 attending authors, closes the show.


The Northern California Independent Booksellers Association's 2014 Discovery Show takes place Thu.-Fri., October 23-24, at the South San Francisco Conference Center in South San Francisco, Calif. The show opens with a keynote speech from Daniel Handler (whose latest book is We Are Pirates) at 10 a.m. A panel on hiring practices for bookstore owners and managers runs concurrently with a sales rep session for small and academic presses from 11 to 12. The Author Buzz Lunch, featuring seven authors with titles appearing in early 2015, runs from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. There will be more education sessions in the afternoon, covering topics like the impact of online reviews and the world of graphic novels. A rep pick session for children's titles at 3 p.m. precedes the Children's Author Tea from 4 to 5:30, featuring speakers Kazu Kibuishi (whose latest book is Amulet #6: Escape from Lucien), Raina Telgemeier (Sisters), Jandy Nelson (I'll Give You the Sun), Frank Portman (King Dork) and Scott Westerfeld (Afterworlds). A cocktail reception runs from 4:30 to 6:30 while the discovery show floor opens from 5 to 7.

Friday begins with a sales rep picks session for large publishers from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m., followed by an Adult Author Brunch with T. Jefferson Parker (Full Measure), Rebecca Solnit (The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness), Garth Stein (A Sudden Light) and Sarah Thornton (33 Artists in 3 Acts) at 11. The show floor opens from noon to 5 p.m. Two authors will make half-hour presentations that afternoon (at times as yet unannounced): Zenaida Sengo (Air Plants: The Curious World of Tillandsias) and Mandy Aftel (Fragrance: The Secret Life of Scent). NCIBA holds its annual meeting at 5. The show ends with the NCIBA Author Reception at 6 p.m., featuring 30 authors, desserts from Alice Medrich (Flavor Flours), wines from Wines of California: A Comprehensive Guide (Sterling Press) and a cocktail from Workman's 12 Bottle Bar.

Obituary Note: Karl Miller

Karl Miller, founding editor of the London Review of Books and, "behind the scenes, a formative influence on the literature of his age," died Wednesday, the Guardian reported, noting that his enduring reputation "will be as the greatest literary editor of his time, and one of the greatest ever." He was 83.

Author Andrew O'Hagan described Miller as "the leading literary figure of his generation and the funniest man I've ever known. He changed the picture for nearly five decades of writers and readers, editing and founding the best magazines, promoting voices that people were unlikely to have heard before. He championed V.S. Naipaul and Seamus Heaney, Frank Kermode and Angela Carter. Not only did he give writers places in which to write, but he gave them subjects, he sharpened their style, and he pushed them to be braver than they were before. If Karl liked you, you felt you had passed the ultimate exam."

Jon Riley, editor-in-chief at Quercus, which published Miller's essay collection Tretower to Clyro, commented: "I don't think I ever left Karl's presence without feeling that he had, even when old, ill and tired, made the day better through his wit, kindness and incomparable intelligence about writing and writers. His books are a testament to all that, and much more."


Image of the Day: Live from the Ecuadoran Embassy

On Wednesday night, OR Books had a book launch party at Babycastles in New York City for When Google Met Wikileaks, featuring a videolink appearance by author Julian Assange, who remains in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. Photo: OR Books/Courtney Dudley

Personnel Changes at Dey Street Books

Julia Cheiffetz, who during the summer resigned as editorial director of Amazon Publishing, is joining Dey Street Books as executive editor. For Cheiffetz, this marks a return to HarperCollins, where she was a senior editor at Harper and HarperStudio and earlier was an editor at Random House. She joined Amazon in 2011 as one of Larry Kirshbaum's first hires.

Avid Bookshop: 'Fighting Amazon with Kindness'

A sign posted in Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga., warning customers about the "community-unfriendly website named after a South American River" is "typical of owner Janet Geddis's approach to competing against Amazon's existential threat--educate consumers, but don't be shrill about it," Flagpole reported in an article headlined "Avid Bookshop Is Fighting Amazon with Kindness."

"When customers mention Amazon, it's usually students who may not have the experience of shopping in a local bookstore before," Geddis said. "We don't want them to feel guilty. You're free to shop where you want to shop."

She acknowledged, however, that while "it's hard to talk to [students] about that without being preachy," the momentum is starting to change as young interns at the bookshop clue their classmates in to Avid's offerings. Geddis added that she and her staff "are happy to discuss the pros and cons of shopping online versus shopping at a locally owned business (better service, giving back to the community) and why Avid's prices are by necessity higher than Amazon's (overhead, lack of clout with publishers)," Flagpole noted.

"Sometimes, those customers transfer the majority of their business to us, which is kind of rad," she said.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: John Bradshaw Talks About Cat Sense

Today on Fresh Air: John Bradshaw, author of Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet (Basic Books, $16.99, 9780465064960).


Today on Tavis Smiley: Jeff Hobbs, author of The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League (Scribner, $27, 9781476731902).


Tomorrow on NPR's All Things Considered: David Cronenburg, author of Consumed: A Novel (Scribner, $26, 9781416596134).


Tomorrow on NPR's Living on Earth: Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781451697384).

TV: Red Mars

Spike TV "is venturing into sci-fi" with Red Mars, a series project based on Kim Stanley Robinson's bestselling trilogy. reported that series adaptation will be produced by HBO's Game of Thrones co-executive producer Vince Gerardis, with Robinson serving as consultant.

"The heart of this series tackles the question of what it means to be human--and can we sustain our humanity under incredible duress," said Sharon Levy, Spike TV's executive v-p, original series.

Books & Authors

Awards: Kathleen Mitchell

Majok Tulba's novel Beneath the Darkening Sky won the $20,000 (US$17,560) Kathleen Mitchell Award for young novelists, which was established to support young authors and encourage the "advancement, improvement and standing of Australian literature."

Book Brahmin: Eula Biss

Eula BissEula Biss's On Immunity: An Inoculation (Graywolf Press, September 30, 2014) explores the myths and metaphors surrounding vaccination, ranging over topics as varied as Dracula, Dr. Bob and Silent Spring. Biss is also the author of Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays, which won a National Book Critic's Circle Award, and The Balloonists. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and teaches nonfiction writing at Northwestern University. Eula Biss and John Bresland are the Chicago band STET Everything.

On your nightstand now:

A galley of Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine and a chapbook by Chelsea Hodson called Pity the Animal.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams is the first book I can remember loving, though I'm sure there were others. My childhood copy survived the fire that burned down my mother's house years ago and I have framed one slightly charred illustration from the book: the rabbit rejoicing after he has been made real, captioned "At last! At last!"

Your top five authors:

Joan Didion, Anne Carson, Marilynne Robinson, Toni Morrison and Susan Sontag are five that I keep returning to, but there are many others.

Book you've faked reading:

I once engaged in a passionate argument with my grandmother about Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I owned it, but I hadn't read it yet. I was [later] emboldened by the fact that I still agreed with myself after having read it. I am just now coming into a moment in my life when I am unlikely to fake having read anything I haven't read, which seems to be most everything.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Oh, Amy Leach's beautiful Things That Are. And Robyn Schiff's incredible Revolver. And also David Trinidad's extraordinary Peyton Place.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I bought The Beauty of the Husband by Anne Carson for its cover; I was not disappointed.

Book that changed your life:

There have been many! Most recently, an early draft of The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (Graywolf Press, May 2015). The books I love don't always make me happier, but that one did.

Favorite line from a book:

"Those who claim to write about something larger and more significant than the self sometimes fail to comprehend the dimensions of a self." That's from The Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso.

Which character you most relate to:

I've always felt a kinship with James Baldwin, particularly the Baldwin of Notes of a Native Son--penitent but proud, reflective but forceful, full of carefully controlled rage.

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

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

Book Review

Review: Lila

Lila by Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26 hardcover, 9780374187613, October 7, 2014)

Marilynne Robinson, LilaPulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson (Gilead; Home) alights for the third time on Gilead, Iowa, fictional home of venerable country preacher John Ames. In Lila, she throws open the shutters on Lila Ames, John's much younger wife, giving readers a view of the hardscrabble life that led Lila to Gilead and unexpected love.

Lila's origins are a mystery, even to her. She barely recalls the shadowy time she spent starving with her family before a drifter named Doll took her in a mercy kidnapping. After she nursed Lila back to health, the two roamed the country with migrant workers in the days before the stock market crashed. Only through very occasional school attendance did Lila learn even the name of the United States; she and Doll wandered without knowledge of geography, without any names for the seasons save those connected to growing and harvesting, with no clock but the sun. Doll protected Lila as best she could, and years later, a toughened, mistrustful Lila came under the protection of John Ames, as gentle and learned as Doll was unschooled and coarse. In the in-between years lie a knife, a house filled with broken lives and the loss of any innocence Lila had remaining.

The path through Lila's memory is far from straight, but if linear plotting is the victim of its meandering, the final effect is worth the loss: a life taken down to scrambled pieces, which Robinson clicks back together in an order that emphasizes meaning over chronology. This twisted time line clearly conveys that Lila has run a maze rather than lived a life, hitting dead end after dead end before emerging so suddenly into daylight that she cannot trust her own blind, brilliant luck.

Her relationship with John Ames is sparked by her own theological questions. Since he seems to be a man of answers, she approaches him to ask why things happen as they do, which ignites a continuing conversation that leads to the altar. John becomes her husband and scriptural tutor, but Lila continues to challenge his beliefs and assumptions in a way that humbles him and makes them true partners.

Lila's past has made it second nature to leave before she's chased away, but her impulse to run from Gilead seems to slip through her fingers. With this heartbreaking and glorious addition to her series, Robinson gives Lila the attention she deserves and continues to teach readers what it means to come home. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: Marilynne Robinson returns to the town of Gilead to unveil the life of Lila Ames, an uneducated woman who survived a poor and rough history before becoming the wife of a gentle country preacher.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The Quotable Banned Books Week

Which banned book am I? How many banned books have I read? How well do I know my banned books? How scandalous is my reading history? Banned Books Week raises a lot of questions (and eyebrows) annually. In the midst of all the events, media coverage, infographics, lists and quizzes, I found myself collecting some words of Banned Books Week wisdom during the past few days.

But let's begin with this year's epically bad timing prize, which goes to Highland Park High School in Texas, where seven titles assigned as required class reads were suspended on the ironic eve of Banned Books Week after parents complained about content. In addition to Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain (which students were reading at the time of the ban), the list includes The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, who is scheduled to be keynote speaker at the district's annual literary festival in February. Ouch.

"My book has ugly elements to it, but it's about hope and resilience, and I don't know why that wouldn't be an important message," Walls said. "Sometimes you have to walk through the muck to get to the message.... What I worry is that in order to protect them, we may be taking away the tools they need to protect themselves later on."

In keeping with the spirit of autumn, here are a few more Banned Books Week quotes I harvested:

Benjamin Rybeck, event coordinator at Brazos Bookstore, Houston, Tex.: "I wrote about The Giver. It seems to me that the exact kind of young-adult novel that gets banned for being 'dangerous' ends up being the exact kind of novel that would wind up making a teenager read more books, and read more deeply. I don't know if it's my favorite banned book, but I remember reading it as a teenager and being kind of blown away, not knowing books could ask darker or stranger questions."

Tony Diaz of Librotraficante: "Every week is banned books week for Chicanos.... The Arizona book banners aren't afraid that the next Julius Caesar will simply go by the name 'Julio.' They're scared that their next governor might."

Carolyn Chipley-Foster, media specialist at Muriel Williams Battle High School, Columbia, Mo., which is rewarding students who check out one of its top 10 banned books: "We support everyone's right to read and believe in the power of change that books can bring. We like to bring in new ideas and share ideas so that students can have the opportunity to grow their brains."

Dav Pilkey, author of the Captain Underpants series (#1 on the ALA's most banned and challenged book list): "So what's the big deal? Well, most of it boils down to the fact that not every book is right for every person. There are some adults out there who are not amused by the things that make most children laugh, and so they try to stomp these things out. We've all met people like that, haven't we?"

Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith, author of the graphic album series BONE (#10 on the 2013 list): "Reading lets our imagination grow, and helps us find the paths that will inspire us for the rest of our lives. That kind of inspiration should never be taken away. But when a book is banned, that's exactly what happens."

David L. Ulin in Jacket Copy: "First, I think, we must acknowledge that books can be dangerous.... When a parent group goes after Dav Pilkey, for instance--or John Green, or Toni Morrison--it's not necessarily because they're ignorant, that if they knew more, or understood more, they would see things through a more accepting lens. They understand the power of books and are reacting to it, if not in the manner we might prefer."

Laila Lalami at the PEN America website: "I wonder if the deeper reason for the ban is that The Bluest Eye makes some people uncomfortable. It says plainly what many among us refuse to admit: that our aesthetics are not entirely our own, but are at least in part a function of the racist culture in which we live.... Rather than 'protecting' high school students from The Bluest Eye, educators can use the novel to start discussions about body image, self-esteem and the power of cultural narrative."

I'll end with a little historical perspective from a September 1936 New York Times article on the removal of novels by Victor Hugo and Alexander Dumas from the required reading list at three high schools in Bridgeport, Conn.

"I feel it is rather ridiculous to deprive children of very fine pieces of literature because one particular sect has some objections to a few passages," said Mrs. William Cohn, president of the Parent-Teacher Association. "I looked at the books last night after I learned they had been removed from the list. There are a few things which if you are very fussy, might be objected to, but the good features of the books, the beauty of the literature, far over-balance the objectionable." Or, to be more succinct, FREADOM. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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