Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Grove Atlantic: The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom

Feiwel & Friends: A Delayed Life: The True Story of the Librarian of Auschwitz by Dita Kraus

New Directions: Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming by László Krasznahorkai, translated by Ottilie Mulzet

Workman Publishing: Real Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A 28-Day Program to Realize the Power of Meditation (Second Edition, Revised) by Sharon Salzberg

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Jim Rugg

Clarion Books: The Thief Knot: A Greenglass House Story by Kate Milford

News

New Owner for New Bo Books

Next month, Deb Witte will become the owner of New Bo Books, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. On the bookstore's website, Mary Ann Peters, who opened the shop in 2012 as a division of Iowa City's Prairie Lights, wrote: "Wonderful news! Expect good things to continue at New Bo Books! Beginning March 1, Deb Witte is taking the bookstore into her capable hands, and we are excited for her to lead New Bo Books into the future! A seamless transition is planned so you can continue to enjoy your experience at New Bo Books."

Describing the transition as "somewhat bittersweet," Peters thanked "our loyal customers, business neighbors, Legion Arts, current and past NBB staff, and Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District. Prairie Lights made New Bo Books' start-up possible and has been extremely supportive over the last few years."

Witte noted that she is "excited to become the new owner of an independent bookstore of this caliber, and to immerse myself into the world of books. Chuck and Mary Ann created a wonderful addition to the New Bo District and the city of Cedar Rapids, and I sincerely want to thank them for the incredible opportunity to carry on their vision.... I look forward to sharing my passion for the written word--and everything it encompasses--with you and your family in the coming years."


Ingram: Congratulations 2019 National Book Award Winners - Learn More>


WI10: All About Independent Bookstore Day

Last year's California Bookstore Day was such a rousing success that the idea is going national this year, on May 2. At "All About Independent Bookstore Day" yesterday at the Winter Institute in Asheville, N.C., Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books in San Francisco--the store that hatched the idea of California Bookstore Day--asked panelists to talk about what worked last year and what didn't. Samantha Schoech, who is producing both Independent Bookstore Day and California Bookstore Day (the events are the same, but bookstores in California will retain the original name this year), emphasized that the final deadline for booksellers to order the exclusive IBD merchandise is tomorrow, February 11, at noon. The deadline, she explained, is because they produce only enough items to fill orders.

The mission, Schoech said, is not just to sell the 16 exclusive books and gift items--ranging from chapbooks, broadsides and prints to literary-themed tea towels and onesies--it's "to celebrate our collective success, to remind people that bookstores are vibrant and vital, and part of the community, and most of all, to have fun." The items are "carefully curated, items we hope will work across the country."

L.-r.: Hut Landon, Pete Mulvihill, Ann Seaton, Christine Day and Samantha Schoech.

Christine Olson Day, from Gallery Bookshop and Bookwinkle's Children's Books in Mendocino, Calif., said,  "Our community isn't particularly Internet-driven, so we really ran with the party theme to draw customers. Our tagline was: 'What if you and all your bookloving friends went shopping on the same day?' We planned a food/drink giveaway for each hour of the day, and 10 parties throughout the day. People came in, got the concept and joined in--and they stayed for a long time. This year, though, we'll go with three parties."

Ann Seaton, Hicklebee's Children's Books, San Jose, Calif., recalled, "We had authors, but we wanted to do more. We handmade scratch-off lottery tickets and gave away galleys and remainders for adults and kids." Early promotion is key, she stressed. "We featured the items in advance on our website and in our newsletters." On the day, the store limited customers to one each of each item to avoid sellouts immediately.

Mulvihill's goal in promoting California Bookstore Day was to have a line outside the door--and he succeeded: "We had 25-20 people waiting for the store to open--so we bought them doughnuts." Green Apple had events throughout the day, including a taco truck, a keg donated by a local brewery, author Dave Eggers giving relationship advice, a scavenger hunt and live music. Green Apple, too, initially limited the quantities customers could purchase.

Hut Landon, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, noted that the stores that were most successful did what they do well. "It can be whatever you want to do, it's for your customers," he said. "Think of it as a party, not an event."

Independent Bookstore Day is being produced out of NCIBA, with financial assistance from ABA. They've hired a marketing firm to get the word out to the media, but are counting on bookstores to get the word to their customers and communities. To facilitate that, IBD is providing press release templates, high-resolution images of the items and plenty of promotional material at indiebookstoreday.com. Regional booksellers associations will also be sending material to stores. All of the panelists emphasized the importance of using social media to reach out to customers and authors. Independent Bookseller Day is on Twitter and Facebook.

Day suggested sending invitations to customers, asking them to come to the party and bring two friends. This year, she said, "We'll promote the items more heavily and further in advance. We want a line outside our store, too." --Robin Lenz


Soho Press: The Seep by Chana Porter


WI10: John Green Salutes Indie Bookstores

"Thank you for supporting not only me but for supporting so many authors, and for being responsible, I believe, for the breadth and quality of American literature, not just today but for generations," said John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars, during his keynote address on the first day of the Winter Institute. In a lively presentation he discussed how his career has changed since the publication of Looking for Alaska 10 years ago, his relationships with independent bookstores throughout his career, and where he thinks the book business will be in 10 more years.

The author was serenaded by booksellers from Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Ga., who sang "John Green" (to the tune of "Wild Thing"): "John Green, you make cash registers ring..."

On a bookseller tour for Looking for Alaska in 2005, Green learned from indie booksellers that "there was great power in having a sustained and authentic and long term relationship with readers and customers." At a time when indies were threatened primarily by Barnes & Noble and Borders--e-books were still a ways on the horizon--the booksellers who were doing well were those who truly understood their communities and had longstanding relationships with them.

"I realized that if I were going to be successful I had to kind of do that too," he said. That drive to create long-lasting, authentic and honest relationships with customers was part of what led him to create the Vlogbrothers project with his brother, Hank Green; since its creation in 2007, the Vlogbrothers channel has reached nearly two and a half million subscribers and fostered a worldwide community dubbed "Nerdfighteria."

"Because the community that had formed around our videos was strong and because Hank and I tried very hard to be authentic to them, it kept growing and that allowed us to do a lot of interesting things," he said. And it's never grown in such a way, he continued, to prevent him from encouraging members of that community to buy his new book. "That works in authentic communities."

Although the success of his books is sometimes attributed to his large online following and his perceived Internet savvy, he believes, he said, that it's "really about old-fashioned word of mouth." The Nerdfighter community, and independent bookstores before that, have shared his stories, and those people have gone on to share them with others. "It began in 2005 with those bookseller dinners and it's rippled out and grown tremendously," he said. "It's like magic. I think the most important people in that conversation are booksellers and librarians."

John Green (photos by Kevin Mann)

Green admitted that he had no idea what the future of bookselling held. "None of us know what the world is going to look like in 10 years," he said. "But here's what I do know and what I really, really believe: when you are passionate, people can tell. People can tell the difference between a mattress salesman and a bookseller."

Those in the widget business, he continued, are most likely out of luck when it came to competing with retailers like Amazon and Wal-Mart. "But we're not in the widget business, we're in the story business... when you sell books, you're not selling just anything. Part of what you're selling is your passion and your expertise, which they can't buy and God knows they can't re-create."

Green was ultimately optimistic about the future of independent bookstores, but did share his biggest fear about the book business and American literature. That fear is a book industry without indies, in which the only places to buy books are either Amazon--a completely flat marketplace where it is exceedingly difficult to discover things and for new voices to emerge--or stores like Wal-Mart, Target and Sam's Club, which each carry no more than a few hundred titles per year. He wondered how a book like Toni Morrison's Beloved could find an audience, or even exist, in that sort of narrow world.

"We need you to exist. We will suck without you," he told the enthralled crowd of booksellers. "It's worse than not existing. It's easy for me to say because I certainly wouldn't have a career without independent bookstores. But most of the authors that I like wouldn't have careers without independent bookstores."

He closed by sharing his biggest hope for the industry: "I hope in 2025 we're all back here, and we're all worrying about the future of independent bookstores as we always have been.... Long live our pessimism, and long live our refusal to give in to it, and long live the great American bookstore." --Alex Mutter


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Providence by Max Barry


WI10: Steven Johnson on How We Got to Now--and Beyond

Drawing on examples of changes in technology that led to positive changes in society, Steven Johnson, author of How We Got to Now (Riverhead), encouraged independent booksellers to embrace new technologies, particularly all that the Internet offers. "They are not our enemy," he said. "They truly are our friends."

Speaking at the opening breakfast of the Winter Institute, Johnson first discussed the importance of his local bookstore when he was in high school. At the age of 15 and growing up in Washington, D.C., in the 1980s, he decided, he said, that he wanted to be a writer. "I wrote plays and poetry and imagined I'd be a novelist." ("My parents are still appalled I turned into science writer: they saw my high school biology grades.") He knew, he continued, that there was more to being a writer than "sitting at a typewriter" and that there were places writers went to sit and talk and debate each other's work. With his friends, in D.C., "we found our slice of the Left Bank in Dupont Circle at Kramerbooks & Afterwords. We'd hold court in the café for hours, pretending to be writers." (He was underage, he said, so "I was drinking Coke floats instead of absinthe, but it looked like absinthe.")

Steven Johnston
Photo: Kevin Mann

Thanking the store, he said, "I'm here in part because Kramerbooks gave me the space for someone like me to figure out how to become me."

Johnson discussed a range of inventions and approaches that unintentionally changed the course of history and might inspire booksellers to think in different ways and embrace change:

The concentration of glassmakers on the island of Murano near Venice in the 13th century led to "new ideas and new innovations" that spread through the community at ever fast rates, he said. The key result of this was the development of clear glass, which in an unforeseen way led to the invention of telescopes (Galileo quickly overturned "thousands of years of astronomical mistakes" with one) and microscopes (which led to the discovery of cells and the foundation of modern medicine and science) and widespread use of spectacles, which became necessary as reading spread following the invention of the printing press.

The 18th-century coffee houses in London, Paris, Vienna and, to a lesser extent, Boston and Philadelphia--where newly available coffee and tea supplanted the widespread use of alcohol as the main daily beverage for the population--was "where history was made," Johnson said. Those coffee houses are credited with leading to everything from the Age of Enlightenment to modern maritime insurance.

This happened because, Johnson said, the 18th-century coffee house was a "multiple disciplinary space defined by the collision of many different interests and ideas and passions." Such "diversity" leads to "smarter and more original thinking." It was a kind of "liquid network" that has properties similar to "what makes indie bookstores magical," he continued, places where people find thing they weren't looking for and meet people who both share interests and have other interests.

The invention of the first flash for photography (really an explosion) allowed Jacob Riis to photograph the horrid conditions in Manhattan tenements in the late 19th century (which led to his powerful book How the Other Half Lives and the progressive movement). Before he found out about the flash, Riis had been frustrated because his prose descriptions and line drawings didn't convey "the atrocity of the conditions." By embracing a new technology, however, Riis was able to make his mark. Johnson commented: "Sometimes we feel technology drives us, that we're being steered inexorably by machines or Mark Zuckerberg or Silicon Valley, as though we have no choice. Riis's story is a corrective to that idea."

Clarence Birdseye invented flash freezing technology because of his intense curiosity. When ice fishing with Inuits in Labrador in the winter of 1913, he noticed that the fish he caught froze immediately--and tasted much better than the kind of frozen food available at the time. But, Johnson stressed, instead of saying something like, "That tasted good. I'm going to bed," Birdseye experimented and figured out that quickly freezing food at low temperatures did the least amount of cellular damage (which made it taste better). He eventually figured out how to flash freeze on an industrial scale, and his company became the core of General Foods.

Johnson added that he hoped booksellers "approach the revolution of our moment" with the same kind of curiosity, enthusiasm and lack of fear as Birdseye did.

The development of Apple stores took as their inspiration not other consumer electronic stores (a normal company would have wanted to use them as a model and make their own stores "a little bit better") but from the Ritz-Carlton's emphasis on concierge services. That emphasis led to the creation of the Genius Bar, and by taking "a convention" from another industry and adapting it to a different one, Apple created "the most profitable retail store on the planet."

Finally Johnson talked about the effect of the Internet, noting that 20 years ago, when the Internet became widespread, futurists predicted that it would have a negative effect on cities and downtowns since everyone "could live on a ranch and order all books and CDs online." Declining inner cities would decline further. But "what happened was the opposite." The Internet made denser communities--and particularly restaurants and coffee shops and indie stores--more interesting. "The Internet helps you find and connect with people and meet up." And "nothing represents downtown values better than indie bookstores," Johnson continued. "They are spaces where ideas collide, surprises happen. You are all engines of curiosity." The Internet, he emphasized, is "an extraordinary opportunity for you." --John Mutter


Obituary Note: Assia Djebar

Algerian novelist Assia Djebar, "who explored the lives of Muslim women in her fiction for more than 50 years," died February 7, the Guardian reported. She was 78. Djebar was born Fatima-Zohra Imalayan, but adopted the pen-name Assia Djebar after publication of her first novel, La Soif, in 1957.

In a statement, Seven Stories Press, which published English translations of Djebar's Algerian White, So Vast the Prison and The Tongue's Blood Does Not Run Dry, said: "It is with extreme sadness that we mourn the great Assia Djebar, who passed away this week. Her novels and poems boldly face the challenges and struggles she knew as a feminist living under patriarchy and an intellectual living under colonialism and its aftermath. Djebar's writing, marked by a regal unwillingness to compromise in the face of ethical, linguistic, and narrative complexities, has attracted devoted followers around the world."


Notes

At Watermark, Handler to Tweet for a Day

Fasten your seatbelts.

On Thursday, February 12, Daniel Handler will be at Watermark Books and Café, Wichita, Kan., for a 6 p.m. signing and reading featuring his new book, We Are Pirates (Bloomsbury USA). In addition, for the day, Handler is taking over the store's Twitter feed, the first time the store has given up the social media reins to an outsider. As owner Sarah Bagby put it, Handler will write "about his travels through Wichita just before he visits the store." Join the trip here.


Brilliant Books: Fast Growth for Book of the Month Club

Brilliant Books' manager Jack Hannert using the new book selection system.

The Book of the Month Club at Brilliant Books, Traverse City, Mich., experienced phenomenal growth during the holiday season, and owner Peter Makin believes that store's personalized book selection service, which now has subscribers in every U.S. state, will grow from its current base of around 1,200 to more than 10,000 by year's end. Brilliant Books also launched a Kids' Book of the Month Club in October.

"We went from subscriber numbers in the low hundreds to over 1,000 in the space of four weeks in December," said Makin, who noted that the success created its own challenges. "Subscribers fill out a preferences card, which we then use to pick out books specifically for them. But with over a thousand folks to choose books for, we clearly needed something more efficient and scaleable."

To solve the problem, Makin's wife, Colleen, a software developer, proposed a solution that allowed the store to keep the personal connection afforded by the contents of the card system, but enhance the speed of selection and ordering. To accomplish this, they scanned in every card and created a database of all subscribers. Using an iPad and Bluetooth scanner, booksellers can see who they have to select for, check out their individual preferences and what books they already own, as well as see feedback on those selections.

"I can select books as swiftly and accurately now for a customer as if they were standing in front of me," said store manager Jack Hannert, a 15-year veteran bookseller.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Karina Smirnoff on We're Just Not That Into You

Today on Fresh Air: David Axelrod, author of Believer: My Forty Years in Politics (Penguin Press, $35, 9781594205873).

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This morning on Good Morning America: Karina Smirnoff, author of We're Just Not That Into You: Dating Disasters from the Trenches (Post Hill Press, $24, 9781618688828).

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Tomorrow on MSNBC's the Cycle and Newsmax TV's Steve Malzberg Show: Peter Zeihan, author of The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder (Twelve, $28, 9781455583669).


Movies: Miss Peregrine's; Mr. Holmes

Samuel L. Jackson "is in negotiations" to join the cast of Tim Burton's Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, the film adaptation of Ransom Riggs's novel, "which Fox and Chernin Entertainment are quickly mobilizing," Deadline.com reported. Eva Green and Asa Butterfield are the leads in the movie, scheduled for a March 4, 2016 release.

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A first clip has been released for Mr. Holmes, in which Ian McKellen plays "a very elderly Sherlock Holmes, living in post-war England, who tries to occupy himself with life's little pleasures, but can't shake the oddities surrounding certain cases from his past," Indiewire reported. Directed by Bill Condon (Gods And Monsters, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn), the movie was "freely adapted" from Mitch Cullin's novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind.



Books & Authors

Awards: Folio Prize Shortlist; Rilke Poetry Winner

The Folio Society has unveiled the shortlist for this year's £40,000 (about $60,970) Folio Prize, which recognizes "the best English-language fiction from around the world, regardless of form, genre or the author's country of origin." A winner will be named March 23. The shortlisted titles are:

10:04 by Ben Lerner
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
Family Life by Akhil Sharma
How to Be Both by Ali Smith
Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín
Outline by Rachel Cusk

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Mark Wunderlich won the $10,000 University of North Texas Rilke Prize for The Earth Avails (Graywolf). The prize "recognizes a book written by a mid-career poet and published in the preceding year that demonstrates exceptional artistry and vision."


Midwest Connections Picks

From the Midwest Booksellers Association: three recent Midwest Connections picks. Under this marketing program, the association and member stores promote booksellers' handselling favorites that have a strong Midwest regional appeal:


The Swan Gondola: A Novel by Timothy Schaffert (Riverhead, $16, 9781594633430). "The newly released paperback edition of a lush and thrilling romantic fable about two lovers, set against the scandalous burlesques, midnight séances, and aerial ballets of the 1898 Omaha World's Fair."

The Catalain Book of Secrets by Jessica Lourey (Toadhouse Books, $14.99, 9780990834212). "Faith Falls is a snug Minnesota town constructed over a mystery, a place where the most impressive building is a gorgeous Queen Anne with turrets, cantilevered gables, and a wraparound porch. When Katrine Catalain is called home to the Queen Anne, she must claim her true Catalain power to save her mother and sister from the dark family curse."

There's Something I Want You to Do: Stories by Charles Baxter (Pantheon, $24, 9781101870013). "From one of the great masters of the contemporary short story, here is an astonishing collection that showcases Charles Baxter's unique ability to unveil the remarkable in the seemingly inconsequential moments of an eerie yet familiar life."


Book Review

Review: Dreaming Spies

Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King (Bantam, $26 hardcover, 9780345531797, February 17, 2015)

Since 1994, when Laurie R. King introduced Mary Russell in The Beekeeper's Apprentice, readers have enjoyed Russell's unusual partnership with Sherlock Holmes. Brilliant and idiosyncratic, Russell has proved a worthy match for Holmes both personally and professionally, as the couple has tackled cases on three continents. In Dreaming Spies, her 13th novel featuring the duo, King delves into an episode in their lives long shrouded in mystery: a three-week sojourn in Japan in 1924.

On board a ship heading home to England from India (fresh off the adventures chronicled in The Game), Holmes and Russell meet a young Japanese woman. Haruki Sato comes from a family of acrobats, but her skills go far beyond athleticism. Educated in the U.S., she is a quietly lethal combination of ninja and diplomat. Sato asks Holmes and Russell for their help with a small but dangerous task involving blackmail and forgery--a task that will take them from the villages of Japan to a private meeting with the Prince Regent (and future Emperor) Hirohito.

King begins her story in March 1925, when Holmes and Russell find a mysterious carved stone from Japan standing in the garden of their Sussex home. Trying to ignore her suspicions of danger, Russell returns to Oxford, where she finds Sato waiting her house, bleeding, with one request: "Mary-san. Help me." From there, the story unfolds in two long flashbacks, as Russell narrates her experiences on the ship and then her time in Japan. King uses Holmes and Russell's journey to give readers a crash course in Japanese culture, but since every experience provides information vital to the case, it never feels like overkill. Longtime King fans will appreciate frequent references to previous cases, though the book stands on its own as a compelling adventure. Russell's intimate knowledge of Oxford also proves helpful, as the case--which seemingly came to a tragic end in Tokyo--takes a new and surprising turn.

Although series like this one are best enjoyed in order, Dreaming Spies will give new readers a brief but thorough introduction to Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell. Their unusual partnership is, as always, a delight to observe, and King expertly combines rich historical detail, deftly drawn characters and taut suspense. For Holmes fans, mystery lovers and those interested in either Japan or Oxford, this novel is a multilayered and entirely enjoyable journey. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Rich with historical detail, Laurie R. King's 13th mystery featuring Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell chronicles the duo's journey through Japan.


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by IndieReader.com:

1. The 20/20 Diet by Phil McGraw
2. Beautiful Redemption (Maddox Brothers Book 2) by Jamie McGuire
3. One Night Stand by J.S. and Helen Cooper
4. Fireworks (A MacKenzie Family Novella) by Liliana Hart
5. Billionaire Untamed (The Billionaire's Obsession Book 7) by J. S. Scott
6. Three, Two, One by JA Huss
7. Barbara Marr Mysteries Boxed Set by Karen Cantwell
8. Fall by Cora Brent
9. Dare (Brothers of Ink and Steel Book 1) by Allie Juliette Mousseau
10. Throb by Vi Keeland

[Many thanks to IndieReader.com!]


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