Shelf Awareness for Monday, January 5, 2015

Shambhala: Wait: A Love Letter to Those in Despair by Cuong Lu

Other Press: Nuestra América: My Family in the Vertigo of Translation by Claudio Lomnitz

Scholastic Press: Muted by Tami Charles

Berkley Books: The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton


Remembering The Satanic Verses

Andy Weiner, who handles national account and western indie sales at Abrams, also remembered the period in 1989 when the industry dealt with the fatwa against Salman Rushdie over The Satanic Verses. (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.) At the time, Weiner worked for Penguin and lived in San Francisco.

One of our regional managers had listed himself in the phone book (what's a phone book?) under Viking Penguin, and he received a death threat. He moved from his home because of it, and moved back a few years later.

My experience was a bit more comic yet frightening as well. I came home from an appointment, listened to my messages, and heard this: "We know you have been selling The Satanic Verses, and we will hunt you down until you are dead. Allahu Akbar!" It seemed pretty legitimate, so I called New York and spoke with my boss, Michael Jacobs (ironically now my boss at Abrams 25 years later). He had me play it a couple of times, and then suggested I call the police. I did, and they suggested I call the FBI. I spoke with an agent who said I shouldn't worry about it, but then again I might walk out on the street and have my head blown off and then I'd be thinking, "Wow, why did he tell me not to worry about it?" So he said to be careful and call if anything further happened. I happened to go to a meeting of the Northern California Children's Booksellers Association that evening and told everyone what happened. When I went to bed that evening, I put my baseball bat next to the bed--my wife thought it was a good idea. The next day I went to an appointment, but checked under my car just in case there was a bomb attached to the undercarriage--as if I would be able to tell. My wife told me later that she'd done the same. When I came back from my appointment, there was a message on my phone from a fellow local sales rep. "Um, Andy, this is --- and I left you a message yesterday that at the time I thought was pretty fun but now realize wasn't. I'm really sorry." He sent us the world's largest flower arrangement. My wife never forgave him. Compared to what happened to Cody's, this is nothing, but it makes for a good story.

Aftershock Comics: Kill a Man by Steve Orlando and Phillip Kennedy Johnson, illustrated by Alec Morgan


Holiday Hum: Booksellers Take Stock, Part 1

With New Year's Day and the torrid holiday shopping season behind them, booksellers around the country are able to look back on the past several weeks and assess in full. Initial reports were very positive; we'll have reports from more booksellers in the next few days.

Village Books/Paper Dreams in Bellingham, Wash., was up 9% over last year's holiday season--with net sales for books up 2% and sidelines up 18%, reported co-owner Chuck Robinson.

"With as much business as we do in non-book products--about 49% of the month of December--we ceased calling them sidelines a long time ago," Robinson commented. Village Books' wearables category, which includes scarves, jewelry, socks and even bras, did so well this holiday season that if it was separated from the rest of the operation, it would constitute a "sizable women's accessory store" on its own.

Robinson also reported that Village sold a "boatload" of The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown and Daniel Brown, which was the store's Whatcom Literacy Council pick of the year. "We expected to see The Boys in the Boat do well," said Robinson, "but we didn't expect to sell as many as we have."

Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See was also a huge seller, and two local titles--Murder in the Fourth Corner: True Stories of Whatcom County's Earliest Homicides by T.A. Warger (published by Village Books' own imprint, Chuckanut Editions) and Drive-Ins, Drive-Ups and Drive-Thrus: The History of Drive-In Movie Theaters and Drive-In Food Places in Whatcom County by Wes Gannaway and Kent Holsather--have performed well. For a brief period Robinson had trouble restocking What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe and Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, but otherwise had no trouble keeping titles in stock.


Over the past few holiday seasons, Robinson said, the non-book side of his business has continued to grow rapidly. Robinson also reported a calmer, happier atmosphere in the store this season, with fewer staff members mentioning encounters with grumpy shoppers.

"Nearly every staff member commented on how pleasant customers were," he said. "In spite of seeming less rushed, we did notice folks shopping later on Christmas Eve."

For Christine Onorati, the owner of WORD Bookstores, 2014 was the Brooklyn store's best year yet. For the Jersey City store--which opened on December 14, 2013--there was no full holiday season to compare 2014 to, but, Onorati said, this year surpassed her "fingers-crossed sales goal" and "everyone is feeling great about how the holiday season went."

The two stores had many big sellers in common, including Haruki Murakami's Strange Library, Amy Poehler's Yes Please, Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist, The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak and Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters by Oliver Jeffers. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's annual Best American Series, particularly The Best American Comics and The Best American Infographics, also performed well at both stores. At times, Onorati reported, she had trouble keeping both What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions and All the Light We Cannot See in stock, and toward the end of the holiday season also briefly ran out of Yes Please.

In the Jersey City store, Onorati said, she and her staff "upped [their] sidelines game" for the holiday season. Onorati brought in prints from the company Litographs, as well as prints made by Oregon artist Nikki McClure. Several games, including a high-end line of wooden games called Wood Expressions, a line of magnetic block toys called Tegu and the board game Settlers of Catan, also sold briskly.


Beyond the stores' usual schedule of book clubs and a holiday open house at each store, Onorati did not hold any events after Small Business Saturday and Indies First. The open house events both featured, in addition to an assortment of food and drink, "bookseller menus" created by the staff to help customers shop for gifts.

Year after year, Onorati said, customers seem ever more eager to use things like holiday gift guides and bookseller menus, and even to rely more on booksellers.

"I do think that customers want more and more to engage with our staff and ask them for help," Onorati said. "It's great that the majority of customers rely on our holiday gift guide and our staff picks." --Alex Mutter

GLOW: Beacon Press: Boyz n the Void: a mixtape to my brother by G'Ra Asim

Like: Facebook CEO Zuckerberg Creates Book Club

Giving new emphasis to the second syllable of the name of his company, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has created a kind of book club based on his intention to read a book every other week during 2015. Called A Year of Books, the group's emphasis is "on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies."

"I've found reading books very intellectually fulfilling," Zuckerberg wrote in a January 2 post. "Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today. I'm looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books."

The first selection for A Year of Books is The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn't What It Used to Be by Moisés Naím (Basic Books). Zuckerberg called it "a book that explores how the world is shifting to give individual people more power that was traditionally only held by large governments, militaries and other organizations. The trend towards giving people more power is one I believe in deeply, and I'm looking forward to reading this book and exploring this in more detail."

Zuckerberg asked that people participate in the discussions only "if you've actually read the books and have relevant points to add. The group will be moderated to keep it focused." As of early this morning, the A Year of Books page was liked by nearly 130,000 people.

Berkley Books: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto

Firestorm, Asheville, N.C., Finds New Space

Firestorm Café and Books, the Asheville, N.C., cooperative that closed in March, saying that it wanted to reopen later last year in West Asheville, has signed a lease for new space, the Citizen-Times reported.

Firestorm's Indiegogo campaign site describes the location as "a lovely storefront… next door to Sunny Point Cafe. This 2,500 square foot location will more than double our retail floorspace without compromising our ability to run a great vegan coffee shop and host free community meetings, film screenings, workshops and forums."

Firestorm's previous location

Firestorm will add some 1,500 new titles, expand existing sections and create new sections. "Our inventory will still have the offbeat flavor you love, there's just going to be a whole lot more of it! Additionally, we want the new Firestorm to be a place that is exciting and welcoming for folks of all ages, which means space that is kid and parent friendly."

The new Firestorm will also include a 300-square-foot community room and a 240-square-foot shared office, a space that will serve as a base for the Center for Participatory Change. With the move, Firestorm, which for six years has been "a labor of love" with nominal pay, wants to introduce pay rates that allow "participation by folks with school debt, children, medical care or other expenses that would previously have sent them elsewhere."

The Indiegogo site has raised more than $4,000 toward its goal of $13,000 (with 57 days left). Firestorm has already raised "the majority of our $53,000 budget" from others, particularly the Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund. The budget will go to expanding inventory, adding new equipment, preparing the storefront and hiring more collective members.

Mystery Lovers Bookshop Would Love New Owners

Laurie Stephens, owner of Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Oakmont, Pa., near Pittsburgh, for the past two and a half years, is putting the store up for sale. "Now in 2015, it is time for me to begin a new chapter in my life," she wrote in an e-mail to store customers.

"The key ingredients that will contribute to the success of a new owner are all in place: a loyal customer base, a dedicated, hard-working staff, the technology tools to remain current and relevant, and an environment that appeals to customers of all ages," she continued. "All it will take is someone who is passionate about books, who genuinely loves people, and who has enough good judgment and business sense to lead a team of top-notch booksellers. I know how much you care about Mystery Lovers Bookshop, and hope you can help find the right person who would enjoy being the store's new owner."

Founders Richard Goldman and Mary Alice Gorman, who owned the store for 22 years, sold it to Stephens in April 2012. At that point, in her 35-year career, Stephens had been a bookseller, librarian and director of a lecture series and had long wanted to own a bookstore. In 2013, Stephens remodeled the store, dismantling the café, moving the kids' section and cash register, and creating more event space.

For more information, contact or 412-828-4877.

Goodbyes to and from Carol Chittenden

On New Year's Day, Eight Cousins, Falmouth, Mass., celebrated the retirement of Carol Chittenden and her "28 years of dedication to books, reading, and literacy in Falmouth." The gathering drew a large crowd that included other local booksellers and even her very first staff member.

Carol Chittenden

In a letter to customers and friends, Carol wrote, in part, about her career: "I've loved every single week of it, loved watching children, parents, and grandparents move through each other's lives, enjoyed the opportunity to read great literature and meet amazing authors and illustrators, valued the chance to participate in the community, and had the honor of working with smart, caring people.

"But the world is not always a clean and friendly place. It's more exciting than that, even as it can be cold, confusing, stressful, even violent. It can wear love away, crush efforts, and betray hopes. It can drown us in data, but deny understanding. And in the end, each of us dies. That is where stories come from, and why there are books. Even in desperate times, good books take us beyond our own lives and cast light upon the bigger picture. They lend vicarious excitement to the dull moments. They reveal sources of courage and humor and unexpected love. They offer us art, language, and the wisdom of the world. It has been a privilege to bring them to you.

"My motto is, I have discovered, 'Use what you have and do what you can.' Nobody has everything; no one can do it all. I had the opportunity to make a bookstore, and I have done what I could, with all my heart. With your help, the business has grown bigger and busier as I have grown older and slower. Luckily, three intelligent, industrious women have stepped forward, eager to use what they have and do what they can to keep Eight Cousins healthy and growing. Mary Fran Buckley, Sara Hines, and Eileen Miskell are all longtime participants in the life of the store, and they will be listening carefully to your requests and responses. I hope you will take a chance on them just as you took a chance on that tiny enterprise that Eight Cousins was in 1986. And now, I believe my hot air balloon is ready for me to step aboard and rise into the starry future. Thank you for everything."

Obituary Note: Miller Williams

Poet Miller Williams, "who championed the power of everyday language and who delivered a poem at the Capitol for President Bill Clinton's second inauguration," died January 1, the New York Times reported. He was 84. Williams wrote, translated or edited more than 30 books, including a dozen poetry collections. He was also the founding director of the University of Arkansas Press.

In a 2013 interview with the Oxford American, Williams said: " I've enjoyed all the years I've lived in Arkansas, and was pleased--once I started writing--at how well my poems are received here. A reviewer said, a few years ago, that 'Miller Williams is the Hank Williams of American poetry because, though his poems are discussed in classrooms at Princeton and Harvard, they're read, understood, and appreciated by squirrel hunters and taxi drivers.' "


Road Trip: The Book Nook in Ludlow, Vt.

"It's always fun to dash away to a quintessential New England hamlet," the Boston Herald wrote in its profile of Ludlow, Vt., home to the Okemo Mountain Resort as well as a Main Street that "is a quick strip of old-school shops and stores that, as one drives by quickly, may seem inconsequential. But when you park your car, get out and walk, you find a whole lot of really cool things."

Among the "cool things" highlighted was the Book Nook, "an old-school, independently owned book store that boasts it has 'Vermontitude.' The Book Nook offers bestsellers right beside unexpected choices, and a wonderful kids section alongside a long table with some cool 'literary gifts.' But my favorite two things about the store are the owners--they know their stuff and are always willing to chat--and the Vermont section where you'll find both books about Vermont and by people from Vermont. Every town needs a Book Nook!"

Cool Idea of the Day: Secret Password Week

"Is there a special book still sitting on your wish list?" asked Broadway Books, Portland, Ore., in announcing its Secret Password Week sale: "Come to the store between Sunday (January 4) and Tuesday (January 6) and say the special password and we'll give you 20% off of any one book in the store (no special orders). You may only use the password once, on one book (cannot be used with gift certificates or pink cards).

"The special password is... GRATITUDE."

Aloha: Publishing in Paradise

Surveying a far outpost of U.S. publishing, Hawaii Business magazine wrote that "local publishers say they are thriving. Books about Hawaii still sell--and no one tells those stories better than local authors, photographers, artists and publishing houses."

The magazine focused on eight of the 20 publishers that belong to the Hawaii Book Publishers Association: University of Hawaii Press, Bess Press, Bamboo Ridge Press, Watermark Publishing, Koa Books, Petroglyph Press, Banana Batch Press and Mutual Publishing.

Pennie Picks The Boston Girl

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has chosen The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant (Scribner, $26, 9781439199350) as her pick of the month for January. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she wrote:

"I like to mark my favorite lines and passages from books so I'm able to revisit those words time and time again. After finishing this month's book buyer's pick, Anita Diamant's The Boston Girl, my copy looked more like an exploded pack of sticky notes than it did a novel.

"The story begins with Addie Baum's granddaughter asking how her grandmother became the woman she is today. Addie begins in 1915, just as she finds her voice, and recounts her life story--from her first broken heart to a lifetime of adventures. It's the story of a woman who learns to change amid a world that refuses to remain stagnant around her.

"In true Diamant style, the novel is written with an eye for historical accuracy and language that is engaging and fluid."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Steven Brill on Fresh Air, Daily Show

This morning on Good Morning America: Mara Schiavocampo, author of Thinspired: How I Lost 90 Pounds--My Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Self-Acceptance (Karen Hunter/Gallery, $24, 9781476784052). She will also appear tomorrow on the Chew.


Today on the Diane Rehm Show: William Frey, author of Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America (Brookings Institution Press, $29.95, 9780815723981).


Today on a repeat of Tavis Smiley: Anjelica Huston, author of Watch Me: A Memoir (Scribner, $27.99, 9781476760346).


Today on Fresh Air: Steven Brill, author of America's Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Back-Room Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System (Random House, $28, 9780812996951). He will also appear tonight on the Daily Show.


Tomorrow on the Today Show and Dateline: Carla A. Harris, author of Strategize to Win: The New Way to Start Out, Step Up, or Start Over in Your Career (Hudson Street Press, $25.95, 9781594633058).


Tomorrow on a repeat of Tavis Smiley: Joni Mitchell, author of Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words (ECW Press, $29.95, 9781770411326).


Tomorrow on MSNBC's Hardball: Steve Israel, author of The Global War on Morris: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781476772233).


Tomorrow on Hannity: Al and Lisa Robertson, authors of A New Season: A Robertson Family Love Story of Brokenness and Redemption (Howard, $24.99, 9781476773209).


Tomorrow night on the Tonight Show: Patton Oswalt, author of Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film (Scribner, $25, 9781451673210).


Tomorrow night on the Daily Show: Cass Sunstein, author of Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter (Harvard Business Review Press, $27, 9781422122990).

Previews: '2015's Most Anticipated Movie Adaptations'

In "The Year Ahead: 2015's Most Anticipated Movie Adaptations," Word & Film created a list "for the literary-minded moviegoer," noting that this year "looks to be a typical smorgasbord of rich, print-based material in the world of movie adaptations. Week by week, theaters will be stuffed with epics based on award-winning books, comic book-inspired blockbusters, comedies and dramas based on real events, translations of genre works, animated films drawn from comics and children's books, continuing installments of bestselling series, and new takes on perennial classics."

Books & Authors

Warm Stove, Great Southern Reads: SIBA's Winter Okra Picks

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance has announced its winter Okra Picks, a selection of fresh titles chosen by Southern indie booksellers each season as the upcoming Southern titles they are most looking forward to handselling:

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Chris Scotton (Grand Central)
Hall of Small Mammals: Stories by Thomas Pierce (Riverhead)
Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm (Viking)
Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama by Hester Bass (Candlewick)
Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell (Lane Press)
My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh (Putnam)
Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson (Morrow)
Sisters of Shiloh by Becky and Kathy Hepinstall (Houghton Mifflin)
Mosquitoland by David Arnold (Viking Children's Books)
A Season of Fear by Brian Freeman (Quercus)
Soil by Jamie Kornegay (S&S)
Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly (Greenwillow Books)

Book Review

Review: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Riverhead Books, $26.95 hardcover, 9781594633669, January 13, 2015)

Rachel is a "barren, divorced, soon-to-be-homeless alcoholic" 30-something who exists on the periphery of life since the breakup of her marriage to Tom. For two years, she's been cut off from the world. Suffering from a complete lack of self-worth, she pines for and stalks her ex, who lives with his new family in the same house Rachel and Tom occupied in Witney, a suburb of London. Every day, Rachel steps from her rented flat and boards the suburban commuter train; riding the rails offers Rachel comfort and purpose, especially when the train rolls past her old neighborhood twice a day and she's offered a momentary glimpse into other lives. From the train, she begins to fixate on a couple she often sees who reside four houses away from Tom's house. She names the pair Jess and Jason and idealizes them: "They're what I used to be.... They're what I lost, they're everything I want to be."

One day, as the train passes the house, Rachel spies Jess kissing a strange man in her backyard. This discovery shatters Rachel's illusions about the "happy" couple, driving her to binge drink to the point of blacking out. The next day, when the news reports Jess--whose real name is Megan--is missing, Rachel vaguely recalls having exited the train in her old neighborhood on the night of the disappearance, and she subsequently convinces herself that she may be involved. Unfortunately, Rachel can't remember much else--including where and how she received cuts on her hand. These questions, along with others, suddenly propel Rachel out of her quiet, vicarious existence. She is determined to reconstruct the night in question and solve the mystery, and soon becomes entangled in the police investigation.

Paula Hawkins fashions The Girl on the Train, her intricate, multilayered psychological suspense debut, from a staggered timeline and three distinct female narrators. Rachel, who is unabashed in her darker instincts, anchors the narrative. Readers will fear, pity, sympathize and root for her, though she's not always understandable or trustworthy. Hawkins fills in the missing pieces of Rachel's unreliable memory via flashbacks and passages narrated by the missing woman, whose life isn't nearly as perfect as Rachel had conceived, and Anna, Tom's new wife, who feels insecure and threatened by Rachel's harassing presence. En route to a terrorizing and twisted conclusion, all three women--and the men with whom they share their lives--are forced to dismantle their delusions about others and themselves, their choices and their respective relationships. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Shelf Talker: A jilted, single, alcoholic woman becomes entangled in a missing persons case while trying to get her life back on track.

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