Shelf Awareness for Friday, January 2, 2015


Harper Perennial: The Paris Model by Alexandra Joel

Algonquin Young Readers: Skunk and Badger (Skunk and Badger 1) by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Andrews McMeel Publishing: How to Draw a Reindeer and Other Christmas Creatures with Simple Shapes in 5 Steps by Lulu Mayo

Houghton Mifflin: No Place for Monsters by Kory Merritt

Letters

Remembering the Salman Rushdie Fatwa

Several people who were in the industry in 1989, when the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie because of The Satanic Verses, recalled that scary time, when bookstores that continued to carry the book were threatened--and Cody's Books, Berkeley, Calif., and a nearby Waldenbooks were targets of firebombs. (The matter came up recently in connection with the threats by North Korea against Sony Pictures' The Interview and Rachel Maddow's erroneous reporting that indies had stopped selling The Satanic Verses in 1989.)

Fern Jaffe, who owned Paperbacks Plus, Bronx, N.Y., wrote: "In February, 1989, my local newspaper wrote an editorial about the wonderful community independent bookstore Paperbacks Plus that continued to sell The Satanic Verses before and after the big guys took it off the shelf. The editorial came out on a Wednesday, maybe on February 25, and on the next day (3:00 a.m.-ish) the newspaper office was firebombed. Life changed for me that day. I had to change my phone number--too many crazy scary phone calls. I had my car watched by the FBI. I had packages checked for bombs. I was warned about acid in my face. Years later when Random House hosted Rushdie's first public appearance, I was invited to meet him. When told that I was the bookseller from Paperbacks Plus, he stood up from his desk seat and embraced me. I was a bookseller then and even today in my retirement heart I am still that bookseller."

Mary McCarthy of Cokesbury, who was then a commission rep with Abraham-Welch, remembered the atmosphere at the ABA Show (now BEA) in 1989: "Random House had all the Penguin reps register at the hotel as Random House reps (early détente?). Peter Mayer from Penguin was under serious threat and was very brave. One of the translators [Hitoshi Igarashi in Japan] was murdered--so some of the craziness was very real.

"A security officer came up to me and asked why all these nutty people were running up to him and wanted to pet his security dog and why did they keep calling the dog Carl? I took him over to the Green Tiger booth and explained about Good Dog Carl.
 
"Several booksellers and publishers had to intercede for the actors dressed up in crazy costumes as we all went through the security scanning process. The security guards did not understand that the Bridge Publications/Scientology guys always had folks dress up as soldiers with grenades, Native Americans with knives, cowboys with guns (all fake)--and that they weren't some kind of terrorists.

"I remember mostly laughing about the threats--but I also remember being nervous standing in the Penguin booth for too long."


University of California Press: Smoke But No Fire: Convicting the Innocent of Crimes That Never Happened by Jessica S. Henry


News

Tidings of Joy: General Holiday Sales Estimated Up 5%

Last year ended on a strong note, as rising employment, lower fuel costs, a stronger economy and improving consumer confidence contributed to holiday sales at general retailers that were estimated to have increased about 5%. (MasterCard Advisors said sales rose 5.5% from Black Friday through Christmas Eve, while Redbook Research said national chain-store sales rose 5.4% during Christmas week.)

Online sales increased, as did sales via mobile devices. There were fewer last-minute shipping fiascos than last year as retailers and shipping companies improved capacity, and again the season extended through Christmas and into the new year.

We've heard much positive news from independent bookstores, and we'll have detailed reports from selected stores next week.


GLOW: Houghton Mifflin: How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World's Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs by Guy Raz


New Offer for Explore Booksellers in Aspen, Colo.

The man who was under contract to buy Explore Booksellers, Aspen, Colo., for $4.6 million withdrew his offer last week after someone else made an offer of $5 million, the Aspen Times reported. The sale includes the store's historic--and valuable--Main Street house.

Andrew Lessman, founder and owner of ProCaps Laboratories, a vitamin supplement manufacturer and distributor, and a 20-year summer resident who liked the bookstore, told the paper that he wouldn't get into a bidding war and that he had intended to continue the bookstore operation. "There was, I thought, huge potential," he said. "It certainly didn't have to make money. I had to stop the hemorrhaging."

Listing broker Karen Setterfield confirmed that there is a new deal but couldn't comment further about it. She did say, however, that the people who've approached her about the property have expressed interest in continuing the business. "Every person that I've talked to wanted a bookstore."

Current owner Samuel Wyly filed for bankruptcy protection in October, and his lawyers hope to close on a sale of the store and property by January 21.


Atheneum Books for Young Readers: Tune It Out by Jamie Summer


Two New England Stores Closing

Bestsellers Café, Medford, Mass., is closing at the end of the month. Owners Rob and Marianne Dilman said they decided not to renew the store's lease because of "unfavorable terms."

The store opened in 1997, but had to close "temporarily" in 2007 when the landlord renovated the entire building to accommodate condos in the upper floors. Because of unforeseen structural damage and other problems, the store didn't reopen until 2012.

The Dilmans said that they "put our hard work and financial resources in continuing Bestsellers Café through this past holiday season in an effort to pay off store debt. We thank each and every customer that has shopped and supported us instead of our competition!!

"We have made countless friendships along the way and we hope to have added culture and another reason to shop in Medford Square. We look forward to continuing our friendships and remaining aware of developments in Medford, such as parking meters, bridge reconstruction, new businesses, etc."

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The Reading Corner, Rockland, Maine, is closing at the end of January, according to the Bangor Daily News, which added that owner Warren Bodine "has not actively marketed either the building or the business, but would be willing for the Reading Corner to reopen under new ownership and he is not anxious but would consider selling the building comprised of 404 and 408 Main Street under the right circumstances."

Founded in 1975, the Reading Corner was purchased by Bodine in 1978. The following year he moved the store across the street, where, the Daily News said, "The business flourished, and soon became well known for its creative windows, its frequent author signings and other events and its personal service to a wide spectrum of customers. Bodine attributes much of the success of those years to his capable staff and to the loyalty of his patrons."

Among longtime employees are business manager Brian Harden, who started at the store in 1978, and bookseller Doris Huber, who has worked at the Reading Corner for more than 25 years.

The store is closing tomorrow, then reopening on Monday, January 12, for a going-out-of-business sale that will run through January 31.


University Press of Kentucky: The Redshirt (University Press of Kentucky New Poetry & Prose) by Corey Sobel


B&N Buys Back Microsoft's Nook Media Stake

For almost $28 million, Barnes & Noble has bought back the portion of Nook Media that Pearson had bought two years earlier for $89.5 million, the New York Times wrote. At the time, the Pearson investment represented 5% of Nook Media. The buyback deal consists of $13.75 million in cash and nearly 603,000 shares of B&N common stock, which is currently trading at $23.22 a share.

The move comes just a few weeks after B&N bought back Microsoft's interest in Nook Media for about $125 million. Microsoft had bought its 16.8% stake for $300 million in 2012.

B&N intends to split into two companies, one of which will consist of its digital Nook operations and the college store business. Having full ownership of Nook Media will give it more flexibility in deciding how and when to divide in two, the company has said.


Adele Herman Retires from Como After 40 Years

Adele Herman

Adele Herman, who has worked for the Como Sales Company for more than 40 years and is the Mid-Atlantic sales rep, has retired.

Maureen Karb, head of Como, remembered in part: "Adele's sharp wit, energy and boundless enthusiasm together with her determination to succeed led to her career break-through as one of the first female publisher sales reps in the industry to have her own travel territory and bag. True success is always difficult to measure but the health and vitality of her business relationships, for over forty years, is a pretty good yardstick… She deeply cared for all of us while also finding time to raise her own beautiful family… We are thrilled for her as she'll have more time to spend with her children and grandchildren. She already has plans to travel with friends, read, eat dessert and take time to smell the roses."

Kathy Simoneaux Fortney, co-owner of Chester County Book Company, West Chester, Pa., remembered Herman's early days: "We saw notes written on lined paper, taped or glued to her catalogue pages. And there were a lot of notes! And we thought first: Is she really going to talk that much about the books? We quickly learned that she was very determined to be the best at her job."

Michael Fox, owner of Joseph Fox Bookshop in Philadelphia, Pa., commented: "The pleasure Adele had in talking about her books was only matched by the pleasure I felt in seeing her cheery smiling face come through the door as a prelude to a big hug!"

In 2006, Herman and her late husband, Sam Herman, won the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association's William Helmuth Sales Rep of the Year award.

She may be reached at samdelcomo@comcast.net.


Obituary Notes: Janet Parkinson Owens; Robert D. San Souci

Longtime bookseller Janet Parkinson Owens died December 25. She was 88. She owned Millrace Bookstore, Farmington, Conn., for 40 years until she closed it and retired in 2012. The Hartford Courant said that "her passion was to bring joy through the written word. She sponsored countless author parties, poetry readings, children's workshops and book fairs."

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Robert D. San Souci, who wrote more than 100 children's books and the story for the film Mulan, died on December 19, the Contra Costa Times reported. He was 68 and had been injured in a fall the week before.

San Souci wrote 12 books that were illustrated by his younger brother, Daniel San Souci, who said, "When we were young, my parents always said Bob would be the writer and I'd be the artist. When we graduated from college, we decided kids books would be the perfect medium. Our first book in 1978 [Legend of Scarface] won awards and opened the door for us. Anytime we worked together it was special."


Notes

Best Customer Complaint Ever: Reading in the Checkout Line

From the Facebook page of Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif.:

"Disappointed customer at Bookshop Santa Cruz--'I was hoping to read some of my book in line but your line moved so fast I didn't have a chance.' Reading books in line--another reason to #‎giveabook."


'Six Great Indie Bookstores'

In the Wall Street Journal, author Emily Raabe wrote of six independent bookstores she visited--and loved--during a 5,000-mile author tour/vacation last summer. The trip's itinerary was "dictated not by the locations of national parks or can't-miss restaurants but great indie bookstores. To our delight, that meant stops in some very appealing towns. Places with flourishing bookshops, we found, have vibrant arts scenes, innovative restaurants and prospering local businesses."

The stores: Square Books, Oxford, Miss.; Moby Dickens Bookshop, Taos, N.Mex.; Between the Covers Rare Books, Telluride, Colo.; Nightbird Books, Fayetteville, Ark.; the Flying Pig Bookstore, Shelburne, Vt.; and Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, Asheville, N.C.


Chicagoans of the Year in Literature: Local Booksellers

Noting that "the literary Chicagoan of 2014 could have been a happy author," the Chicago Tribune instead chose local indie booksellers, the "defenders of the book," for this year's honor, asking the pertinent question: "[W]ould there even be a book community in Chicago to talk about without, you know, local booksellers?"
 
Despite the uncertainties associated with the trade, "a number of local women have stepped up recently and either started new bookstores in the Chicago area or became the next-gen owners of beloved neighborhood institutions," the Tribune wrote. "They have not only shown faith in the printed word, but they backed it up, financially, socially and spiritually."

"If you bought a bookstore lately, you probably feel at least a little like you're fighting the good fight," said Stephanie Hochschild, owner of the Book Stall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka.

Nina Barrett, who launched Bookends and Beginnings, Evanston, last summer, observed: "And you know what I hear all the time? I hear I am 'so brave.' I get the kind of compliments that suggest, in a very backhanded way, (that) what I am doing is a completely doomed undertaking. But I have my reasons for thinking this is not a stupid idea."

Eleanor Thorn, who took over Lake Forest Book Store in 2013, said that she wouldn't have taken a financial risk on a bookstore if "I didn't think I would be around 10 years from now. But even my family thought I was insane. They see the big-box guys, they see Amazon, but when I showed them the actual support in this community for this store, then it didn't look like a risk anymore."

Lynn Mooney, co-owner (with Sarah Hollenbeck) of Women & Children First, echoed this philosophy: "It's so funny. The number of people who told us we were crazy to buy an old bookstore in 2014 is about the same number who've thanked us for stepping in and making sure it doesn't end."

Teresa Kirschbraun, owner of City Lit, said, "I am not feeling the weight of digital culture, because I am at the heart of real community. Which is exactly what I, and a lot of other people who have bought bookstores lately, had planned on all along."

Erika VanDam, who opened the new RoscoeBooks in Roscoe Village last month, observed that Amazon "isn't going anywhere and we all have to recognize that. They will remain the market leader, and the way we deal with that is by becoming more than just a place where people come in and buy books. Amazon is beyond my control, but I can control how I program the events that we hold in here and I can keep a great inventory."



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Megan Mayhew Bergman on Weekend Edition

Today on a repeat of the Diane Rehm Show: George Monbiot, author of Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life (University of Chicago Press, $25, 9780226205557).

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Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition: Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Almost Famous Women: Stories (Scribner, $25, 9781476786568).


TV: Wolf Hall Trailer

A trailer has been released for the six-part series adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Man Booker Prize-winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, which will air on BBC Two this month and PBS in April, Entertainment Weekly reported. Wolf Hall stars Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell and Damian Lewis as Henry VIII. Versions of the novels are also heading to New York City soon, with the Royal Shakespeare Company's stage adaptations hitting Broadway in March.


Books & Authors

Awards: U.K.'s New Year Honors

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, author Ali Smith and historian/novelist Marina Warner were among those named in the U.K.'s New Year Honors 2015, the Bookseller reported. Duffy was made a Dame for services to poetry; Warner received a Damehood for services to higher education and literary scholarship; and Smith was given a CBE for services to literature. Other honorees included novelist and screenwriter William Nicholson, who received an OBE for services to drama and literature.


Book Brahmin: Phil Rickman

Phil Rickman was born in the northwest of England but has spent most of his life on the Welsh border trying to write realistic crime novels that also reflect mystery in the original sense--that is, the kind of mystery that isn't easily solved. He is best known for his continuing series about Merrily Watkins, diocesan exorcist. Night After Night (Atlantic Books, January 1, 2015), a mystery involving reality TV and the paranormal, is a standalone novel but includes some characters readers may have met before.

On your nightstand now:

One lamp. Does a plumber go to bed with a wrench?

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was a child for quite a while, and my favorite book changed every week or so, but I always remember The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters by Enid Blyton--my first crime novel, passed on by an aunt, had lost its dust-cover years before. The following week it was Blyton's The Rubadub Mystery--a touch spookier. At the age of eight, my future was being shaped.

Your top five authors:

When writers name their top five living writers, they're usually lying, so here are my top five dead writers: John Fowles, Margery Allingham, P.G. Wodehouse, M.R. James and Raymond Chandler. That's this week, anyway, and it doesn't mean I've enjoyed everything they've done.

Book you've faked reading:

Never have. Has anybody? There are some books I wish I'd faked reading.

Book you're an evangelist for:

This is not going very well, is it? I really hate it when somebody thrusts a book at me and says, You've got to read this. I'm sure some people have been put off reading for life that way.

Book you've bought for the cover:

It was probably some old James Bond hardback, with one of those pale, washed-out, almost bland Richard Chopping covers. I can see now just how revolutionary those were and would be--even more so--today. Today's publishers are far too timid about covers. If I see just one more featuring a lone silhouette on the end of a landing stage....

Book that changed your life:

The View over Atlantis by John Michell, a very seductive, speculative book involving prehistoric remains, which awakened me to the layered mysticism of the British countryside and suggested a new direction in fiction. I'll stop there as I don't want to get evangelical.

Favorite line from a book:

"She was twenty or so, small and delicately put together, but she looked durable." --Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep.

Which character you most relate to:

I keep trying to think of a novel about a paranoid, struggling novelist who isn't a complete pain in the ass. I'm going to have to get back to you on this one.

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

Rivals by Jilly Cooper. It's a big, sexy page-turner about people trying to win a franchise for a TV company in rural England. I started off disliking most of the characters but, 600 pages later, was so desperate for them to succeed I couldn't sleep. The greatest pop blockbuster of all time.

Genre you generally avoid:

Fantasy and magic realism: I don't have much patience with imaginary worlds or allegory. The real world is so much more mysterious around the edges.


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

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

Hardcovers
Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Ortberg (Holt, $23, 9781627791830). "If this book were liquor, I'd buy shots for the whole bar. If it were a YouTube video, I'd be walking around showing it to strangers on my phone. But it's a book, so I'm going to buy multiple copies and hand them out to everyone I know who loves to read. The combination of irreverent, modern text-speak and classic literary characters makes for one hilarious imaginary conversation after another. The exchange between the husband and wife from Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper had me snort-laughing! Every English major, every bookseller, every reader of any sort needs this book!" --Mary Laura Philpott, Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn.

Irene: The Commandant Camille Verhoeven Trilogy by Pierre Lemaitre, translated by Frank Wynne (MacLehose Press, $26.99, 9781623658007). "This extremely suspenseful, fast-paced crime novel is not for the fainthearted. Its graphic violence may turn some readers away, but those who stick through the opening scenes will be richly rewarded by following Commander Verhoeven's pursuit of a monstrous serial killer who models his gruesome crimes on scenes from classic crime novels. The intense action is enriched by scenes from Verhoeven's domestic life, as well as the interactions among the distinct personalities of his Paris detective squad." --Joe Strebel, Anderson's Bookshops, Naperville, Ill.

Paperback
Runner by Patrick Lee (Minotaur Books, $9.99, 9781250030740). "All I can say about this thriller is wow! When Sam Dryden decides to solve his insomnia by going for a run near the beach, he almost runs over a young girl who is also running, but definitely not for fun. She is being chased by what seems to be an army, and Sam--ex-military himself--can't help but come to her rescue. What follows is an exciting story of brainwashing and psychic manipulations all done for the wrong reasons. Sam and his young friend must always stay one step ahead of the folks who want to get her, but then Lee throws in an interesting twist to make readers question the identity of the real bad guys. An amazing book that will keep you up until you finish!" --Barbara Kelly, Portland Bookstore, University of Southern Maine, Portland, Maine

For Ages 8 to 12
Absolutely Truly: A Pumpkin Falls Mystery by Heather Vogel Frederick (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 9781442429727). "Truly Lovejoy must deal with being six feet tall at 12 years old, having a father who is adjusting to civilian life after a military tour and losing an arm, and working with her family to save her grandparents' bookstore--not to mention also trying to solve a 10-year-old mystery! Truly is an immediately endearing character, and the many moving parts in this story do not disrupt the seamlessness of the writing. Absolutely Truly is the wonderful debut of a new mystery series that will send readers scurrying to their favorite chair after visiting their local bookstore. I can't wait for Truly's next mystery!" --Rebecca Waesch, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, Ohio

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: One Thousand Things Worth Knowing

One Thousand Things Worth Knowing: Poems by Paul Muldoon (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24 hardcover, 9780374227128, January 13, 2015)

In 2003, Irish poet Paul Muldoon won the Pulitzer Prize for his collection Moy Sand and Gravel. Moy? It means gentle or mild. Muldoon's poetry is replete with words many readers will not know. It's part of his style. The 35 poems in his 12th collection, One Thousand Things Worth Knowing, add to the growing list: lapstrake, groop, refulgent, plenilunar, comal, byre.

Arcane words aside, his poems have panache, a touch of wit and playfulness. They're often allusive and opaque (some might call this artifice). In "Cuba (2)," a poem about a visit Muldoon and his daughter made to Havana, he writes: "The best poems, meanwhile, give the answers/ to questions only they have raised." Enigmatic indeed. Muldoon asks for some effort, and readers are richly rewarded.

The long opening poem, "Cuthbert and the Otters," is dedicated to the Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney, Muldoon's close friend. Like many Muldoon poems, it seems to be about one thing, but as a reader delves deeper, it's about so much more than, in this case, "the hope of staving off our pangs of grief": Muldoon "cannot thole [bear, endure] the thought of Seamus Heaney dead," so he wraps his grief within a tale of Cuthbert, a seventh-century Celtic monk.

Some of these poems are about artwork. Rita Duffy's painting Watchtower 2 is used on the book's cover and also inspires a poem within. Another longish work, "Charles Émile Jacque: Poultry Among Trees," provides the title to this book: as Muldoon tries to build a coop at his New Jersey home with the aid of Poultry Keeping for Dummies, he reflects upon his father's reliance on the practical handbook One Thousand Things Worth Knowing for his own dealings with chickens. One poem "Recalculating," is completely built upon analogies: "Tea is to leaf as journalist is to source./ Source is to leak as Ireland is to debt."

Other works explore dodgems, catamarans and the Civil War. One poem about avoiding pitfalls leads to Lewis and Clark, "quicksilver-scoots" and "mercury/ in our scats." The last piece--another long one, "Dirty Data"--morphs Lew Wallace's Ben-Hur with Irish history and Bloody Sunday. Given the breadth of topics and the remarkable vocabulary, readers who exit One Thousand Things Worth Knowing will be much smarter and wiser than they were when they entered. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Shelf Talker: Irish poet Paul Muldoon's new collection offers more poems that exhibit his patented humor, sharp wit and verbal virtuosity.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Working It Out, 2008-2015

Maybe the book trade's sky wasn't falling in 2008, but the cloud ceiling was low and visibility limited. "With some exceptions, news about general holiday sales was grim, all for obvious reasons: the economy, bad weather, the economy, heavy discounting, the economy," we noted in our first issue of 2009.  

And yet, for reasons I still don't quite understand, I wrote the following in my last column of the year:

As 2008 comes to an end, I mourn neither the hazardous present nor an illusory past. For 2009, I'll simply begin a new conversation by imagining possibilities:

  • What if the shop local movement continues to gain momentum nationwide?
  • What if we work even harder to nurture the readers we have instead of bemoaning those we've lost?
  • What if we begin paying more attention to all the fine books, including translated works, being published by independent and university houses?
  • What if some of those bright minds and good people who are unfortunately no longer working for major publishers decide to create more smart, dynamic and lean indie presses?
  • What if, with common sense, fierce adaptability and, yes, imagination, it all works out?

Here's to an imaginative New Year.

Acknowledging that objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear, let's revisit 2008 and the economic meltdown that at the time seemed quite possibly the death knell for any number of businesses, large and small. In October of that year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had its biggest one-day decline, responding to a report that retail sales had reached a three-year low as well as a prediction by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that economic recovery would be slow.

Earlier that month, I'd attended some of the fall regional bookseller shows. My notes from 2008 indicate a disconcerting pattern, with far too many bookstore owners telling me they were seriously considering the possibility of closing. It seemed, at the time, like a trend. The conversations and education sessions were often about survival. A panel at MPIBA's fall show was appropriately titled "Bookselling in Challenging Times."

That was then.

Bidding farewell to 2014, we have to like much of what we saw.... all things considered. New indie bookstores opened and longtime indies expanded; James Patterson doled out a million bucks and e-book sales leveled off. During the fall bookseller trade shows, conversations and panel discussion topics focused on getting better rather than just getting by. And, once again, the sky did not fall.

The industry's mood, which we try to gauge daily with our Shelf Awareness Booksellerometer (patent pending), has generally been positive as well as hearteningly realistic. Those two words seem well matched to me. It's too early to talk about phoenixes rising from ashes, but we didn’t become a flock of Icaruses either.

As Dan Cullen, American Booksellers Association senior strategy officer, observed during the Heartland Fall Forum general meeting, booksellers at all of the regionals he'd attended in 2014 "have been incredibly upbeat, incredibly energized.... There is a real resurgence of indie bookstores in America.... We are finally seeing the media decouple the word 'beleaguered' from indie bookstore."

This is not to say that bad news took a holiday in 2014. Wonderful book people passed away and they will be missed. Some bookstores had to close, while many others sought help locally and through crowdfunding. Amazon's retail floodgates remained open, even as Mr. Bezos absorbed staggering personal and corporate losses. Well, you know the headlines.

What's next? My 2008 year-end column was titled "What if It All Works Out?" I'm still not sure why I took the optimistic route. Anyone who's known me for 10 minutes can attest to the fact that I'm a devoted fatalist. In so many ways, 2008 made perfect sense for my Eeyore-ish worldview, but this is what I wrote:

Since this is my final column during a year that has seemed fully in tune with that old curse, "May you live in interesting times," I decided to end on a positive note by considering the role imagination plays in our lives as professional book people.

Look it up. In the Oxford American Dictionary, imagination is "the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses." It is also "the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful."

We are in the imagination business by either definition, and because of this we, more than most people, should be aware of the dangers and possibilities inherent in that magic word.

Happy New Year! Here's to a creative and resourceful 2015. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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