In honor of the Presidents Day holiday, this is our last issue until Tuesday, February 17. See you then!
In honor of the Presidents Day holiday, this is our last issue until Tuesday, February 17. See you then!
December bookstore sales rose 0.1%, to $1.355 billion, compared to December 2013, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. The gain was only the second month this year--August was the other--with a sales gain over the same month the previous year. For the full year, bookstore sales fell 4.3%, to $11.4 billion.
Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing a general line of new books. These establishments may also sell stationery and related items, second-hand books, and magazines."
Family Christian Stores, which sells Bibles, books, music, church supplies and other faith-related merchandise in 266 stores across 36 states, has "filed for bankruptcy protection with a plan to sell all its assets," Crain's Detroit Business reported. Documents filed Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Grand Rapids, where the company is based, listed assets and debt of less than $100 million each. Family Christian had gross sales of about $216 million in 2014.
Crain's noted that the company "entered into an agreement with a newly formed unit of Family Christian Ministries to serve as lead bidder for a court-supervised auction.... The company said it expects to complete the process in about 60 days."
In a statement, Family Christian said it does not expect to close any stores or lay off any employees. CEO Chuck Bengochea added: "Our customers will not see any change in operations during this process. After the court approves the sale, we can begin to reinvest in our stores and bring our customers products and services that will help us better fulfill our mission."
Amazon's Kindle Unlimited has launched in Canada and Mexico, bringing to nine the number of countries (including the U.S., U.K., Germany, Italy, Spain, France and Brazil) where the e-book subscription service is now available.
"It's worth noting that you won't be able to access all the latest bestsellers--many of them are self-published titles created through Kindle Direct Publishing," VentureBeat reported, adding that "there's no mention of audiobooks being included in the new markets--subscribers in the U.K. and U.S., for example, also get a selection of audiobooks via Amazon subsidiary Audible."
Susan Lamb has stepped down from her position as managing director of Orion Fiction, an imprint of Hachette-owned Orion Publishing Group. The Bookseller reported that Lamb "became head of Orion Fiction in 2012 following a restructure of the company into two publishing divisions." Jon Wood, managing doctor of Gollancz and deputy group publisher, assumes Lamb's publishing responsibilities.
In a letter sent to authors and agents yesterday, Orion CEO David Young said, "After 23 years with the company that she helped to found, Susan has decided it is time to move on.... She has made a phenomenal contribution to Orion and we will miss her enormously.”
Young noted that Lamb "first suggested that she might leave last October and we have been in discussion with her ever since so although this news may seem sudden it has, in fact, been a long time in the planning."
David Carr, "a writer who wriggled away from the demon of drug addiction to become an unlikely name-brand media columnist at the New York Times," died yesterday. He was 58. Carr chronicled his battle with addiction in the 2008 memoir, The Night of the Gun, in which he wrote: "I now inhabit a life I don't deserve, but we all walk this earth feeling we are frauds. The trick is to be grateful and hope the caper doesn't end any time soon."
Calling him "one of the most gifted journalists who has ever worked at the New York Times," publisher and chairman Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. said Carr "combined formidable talent as a reporter with acute judgment to become an indispensable guide to modern media. But his friends at the Times and beyond will remember him as a unique human being--full of life and energy, funny, loyal and lovable."
Artist Rex Ray, "a versatile graphic designer who created book covers, tour posters and album art in San Francisco for 35 years," died Monday, SFGate reported. He was 58. Chronicle Books, which published a monograph of his work, Rex Ray: Art + Design, in 2007, paid tribute to the artist on its blog, noting that he "designed books for City Lights Booksellers, posters for a staggering array of musical acts from Radiohead to the Rolling Stones, showed his work at museums all over the world, and collaborated frequently with David Bowie.... Rex was a member of the Chronicle Books family and we will miss him, as will so many others."
On Wednesday, East West Literary tweeted: "LOVE this notice posted at @panerabread where #Newbery author @kwamealexander goes to write.#LargeLemonadeNoIce. Yes!"
Alexander, who won for his book The Crossover, replied: "The Power of the Newbery! and librarians and teachers and girls and BOYS!"
The Denver Post interviewed Ben Gillies, owner of City Stacks Book & Coffee. Our favorite exchange:
Q: How did you get involved in this business?
A: I'm a bookstore tourist. Whenever I travel to a new city, the first thing I do is visit the bookstores. I don't care to see all the tourist sites, just show me the stacks. My dad had a successful career supporting international companies in Paris and Copenhagen where he visited the cities' amazing bookstores. I knew that if we combined our passion for books--along with his business savvy--we could support future generations of readers and our store could be a part of their own bookstore memories. We wanted City Stacks to offer people a different and personal approach to their daily life. Our store gives our customers an easy way to see, visit, touch and support local businesses. We chose to settle in the LoDo and RiNo areas because of the rapid growth we're seeing there. We are excited to be a part of that and want to build a store with a community focus.
From the Facebook page of Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Mich.: "This morning, we had a special guest stop by--Emily St. John Mandel! Her latest novel, the wonderful Station Eleven, was selected as the next Great Michigan Read by the Michigan Humanities Council! As part of the announcement, Emily was filmed in our bookstore, and we were so thrilled to spend time with her. She also signed lots of books for us, including her other novels!"
"Hey kids (or adults, we don't discriminate), do you LOVE BOOKS? Do you love books so much that you want to surround yourself with them? Sleep with them? Swim in them??" asked Reading Rainbow in a blog post headlined "Book-Related Jobs and Hobbies: How to Surround Yourself with Books."
Noting that "sometimes when you love books as much as I've described above, you want to make it official," Reading Rainbow wrote: "Believe it or not, there are jobs out there that allow book-lovers such as ourselves to live, breathe, and talk about books all day long.... These jobs may be book-related, but they aren't all fun and games. These jobs still require diligence, hard-work, and creativity. But the rewards are worth it--you get to surround yourself all day long with books, and just as important, surround yourself with other PEOPLE who love books as much as you do!"
Jennifer Abbots is joining Scholastic Trade as publicity manager, effective February 23. She was most recently at Harlequin.
Kim Ryan has joined Klutz as specialty sales manager. She formerly worked at Splash, a rep group for gifts, stationery and toys.
Julia Romero has joined Klutz as key account manager. She worked most recently at Kid O, a modern design, early education toy company.
This morning on Fox & Friends: Allison Pataki, author of The Accidental Empress: A Novel (Howard Books, $26, 9781476790220).
Tomorrow on the Today Show: Jodi Norgaard, publisher at Dream Big Toy Company, will discuss her Go! Go! Sports Girls line of children's books.
Sunday on Fareed Zakaria GPS: Peter Zeihan, author of The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder (Twelve, $28, 9781455583669).
Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition: Maz Jobrani, author of I'm Not a Terrorist, But I've Played One on TV: Memoirs of a Middle Eastern Funny Man (Simon & Schuster, $24, 9781476749983).
Ben Stiller will executive produce and direct multiple episodes of Super Sad True Love Story, a series based Gary Shteyngart's novel that is in the works at Media Rights Capital (House of Cards). Deadline.com reported the project, which "is currently casting and has not been set up at a network yet," is co-written/executive produced by Shteyngart and Last Resort co-creator Karl Gajdusek.
Amazon's 10-episode series Bosch, based on the fictional LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch featured in Michael Connelly's novel series, is available for streaming on Amazon Prime today.
The shortlist has been released for the second annual Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize in Military History, honoring "the best book in the field of military history published in English during the previous calendar year," are:
The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams, and the Making of Modern China by Julia Lovell (Overlook)
The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century by David Reynolds (Norton)
Ring of Steel : Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I by Alexander Watson (Basic Books)
The winner of the $50,000 prize will be announced at a ceremony March 23 at the New-York Historical Society in New York City. Funding for the award is provided by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and by author Lewis E. Lehrman, co-founder of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History.
An 18-title shortlist has been announced for this year's Waterstones Children's Book Prize, which "champions new and emerging talent within three categories: illustrated books; fiction for ages 5-12; and teen books." Category winners receive £2,000 ($3,080), and then vie for the title of £3,000 ($4,620) Waterstones Children's Book of the Year. Winners will be announced March 26 in London at Waterstones Piccadilly.
James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, said: "Children are our most valued customers here at Waterstones as we strive to nurture the next generation of readers. Central to this is the passion with which our booksellers introduce them to wonderful reading, and in particular to the special thrill that comes with the discovery of new and extraordinary talent. The Waterstones Children's Book Prize celebrates this mission and does so with a stunning shortlist of exciting, imaginative and beautiful children's books."
The six titles shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction with their countries of origin are:
A Suspended Life by Atef Abu Saif (Palestine)
Floor 99 by Jana Elhassan (Lebanon)
Diamonds and Women by Lina Huyan Elhassan (Syria)
The Italian by Shukri al-Mabkhout (Tunisia)
Willow Alley by Ahmed al-Madeeni (Morocco)
The Longing of the Dervish by Hammour Ziada (Sudan)
Each finalist receives $10,000, and the winner receives an extra $50,000. The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony on May 6, on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
The author of picture books and middle grade novels, Diane Muldrow is editorial director of Golden Books, an imprint of Random House, where she edits the Little Golden Books--and has gleaned enough wisdom on romance to author Everything I Need to Know About Love I Learned from a Little Golden Book (Random House, December 2014). Muldrow also edited Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon Along the Way by Leonard S. Marcus (Random House, 2007); together they co-curated "Golden Legacy: Original Art from 65 Years of Golden Books," an exhibition of original Golden Books illustrations that is currently touring the country. Muldrow lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.
On your nightstand now:
I'm enjoying Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography by Meryle Secrest. (I read a lot of books about fashion, and recently finished The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish by Linda Przybyszewski). I also pick up Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems from time to time--the 50th anniversary edition that I picked up at City Lights this past June. On my iPad is Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop and Anjelica Huston's A Story Lately Told.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins--I thought Rose Campbell had the most wonderful adventures! And I felt her emotions so deeply. I read and re-read all of Alcott's books. Our parents constantly dragged us to antique stores, so I sought out and collected old editions of Alcott's books, including out-of-print ones like Silver Pitchers. I loved old children's books--the art was always so much more detailed. Even as a kid, I appreciated the quality of those antique volumes with the embossing and beautiful endpapers and bindings. I loved the musty smell of my old books!
Your top five authors:
Mark Twain, E.B. White, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jane Austen, Flannery O'Connor.
Book you've faked reading:
I'm pretty sure I never finished Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in high school... do a lot of people have that same answer?
Book you are an evangelist for:
Erik Larson's fascinating The Devil in the White City, for one, along with Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief. Also Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle, which I really wish I'd discovered as a young person.
Book you've bought for the cover:
I buy lots of books with pretty cakes on the cover! But a book that comes right to mind is a cookbook called Pot Pies: Comfort Food Under Cover by Diane Phillips. The appealing cover photo of a pot pie just out of the oven, in a white ceramic baking dish resting on a striped dish towel, its juices bubbling over the golden crust, was irresistible. I've made lots of the pot pies in that book, I'm happy to say, and they are always delicious.
Book that changed your life:
Let's just say--my own!
Favorite line from a book:
As a kid I devoured poetry. I remember being intoxicated by the romance in Tennyson's "Come into the Garden, Maud." Here's the first stanza, which I've always remembered:
Come into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the rose is blown.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Charlotte's Web. I want to inhabit that world again.
Suitcase City by Sterling Watson (Akashic Books, $15.95 trade paper, 9781617753190, March 3, 2015)
Suitcase City by Sterling Watson (Weep No More My Brother) opens with an extended flashback to protagonist Jimmy Teach's time in small-town Florida. At the time, Teach has just finished a brief career in professional football and is back in the game of smuggling drugs, or in his words, operating as a "maritime consultant." When a business deal with Guatemalans goes sour, Teach competently cleans up the mess, and moves on.
The bulk of Teach's story then takes place nearly 20 years later, in late 1990s Tampa, Fla., where a rundown neighborhood called Suitcase City gives the novel its name. Teach is reformed, more or less: he's vice-president of sales at a pharmaceutical company and has rebuilt a relationship with his teenaged daughter after his wife's (her mother's) death. But a little incident inside a bar one Friday afternoon--a tiny mistake, a single piece of rotten luck--and suddenly Teach finds himself worried about losing his house, his job, the relationship he's built with his daughter, and maybe his own life.
Suitcase City is nearly halfway over before the reader finds out who Teach's enemies are and what the present beef is about, but this lengthy plot development is never boring or slow--quite the opposite! Every moment is riveting, making this a difficult book to look up from at all; the reader is every bit as concerned as Teach over the maddening mystery of who or what in his past is pursuing him, and why. To get answers and solutions, Teach has to look into his past as well as consider his future. Along the way, he gets his hands dirty with blood, gore, prostitutes and drug dealers more sophisticated than anyone involved in his "maritime consulting" two decades ago.
Watson's magic is in pacing and taut prose, in the details that make his Florida setting so compelling--boats and bilge, lobsters and golf--and in a father's love for his daughter. Diverse characters enliven Teach's world, including his charming daughter, a pushy reporter and a colorful pair of police detectives who represent a range of competence and demeanor. In the end, Teach is flawed but likable, and Suitcase City is an absorbing thriller, a vivid adventure in a bright, humid, perilous underworld. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia
Shelf Talker: A reformed drug dealer gets pulled back into the game in this tense, bloody thriller with a strong sense of place and a soft heart.
Le Tour de Valentine's Day is not simply a language mashup I just invented. It's a genuine, virtual trip (I just invented) around the U.S. to see how some of us in the book trade are celebrating this year. While we may or may not live in one of Open Table's or WalletHub's or Amazon's "most romantic cities," we do seem to be particularly susceptible to, and inspired by, the charms of this holiday in myriad ways, retail and otherwise.
|From Main Street Books, Mansfield, Ohio|
Somehow, Valentine's Day manages to elicit from even the most skeptical of bookish hearts the distinctive pleasures of romantic marketing campaigns, creative store displays (Eight Cousins Books, Falmouth, Mass.; Granada Books, Santa Barbara, Calif.), chocolate fever (R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Conn.: "Feel the love! Stop by and SAVE 20% off lovely and unique Valentine's Day cards and beautifully packaged Lake Champlain chocolates for your loved ones"; Rainy Day Books, Fairway, Kan.: "André's Confiserie Suisse Valentine's Chocolates & great Books go together like Hugs & Kisses!") and more.
Here's just a small sampling of what I discovered on my tour:
The Regulator Bookshop, Durham, N.C.: "As we once more approach that red-letter day, February 14, our thoughts turn to matters both silly and serious. Matters of the heart. As booksellers, we feel that most books worth reading engage the heart as well as the mind, so we have hundreds, if not thousands of suitable Valentine's Day presents lining our shelves."
The Strand Book Store, New York City: "Inspired by the many Craigslist Missed Connections that happen in our store each year, we've re-enacted some of our favorite missed connections here!"
Soho Press associate managing editor Rachel Kowal (in the Huffington Post): "Here's a selection of Strand Tumblr posts that celebrate a variety of loves (platonic, romantic, familial, fraternal) to help get you in the mood for Valentine's Day or at very least, to provide a bit of warmth to your cold, cold heart."
Wisconsin Historical Society Press: Our Books Are for Lovers video.
Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, Vt.: "Poet Julia Shipley will be here and writing personalized love poems for customers. You can ask her to hand-write or type a personal love poem for your sweetie, your child, your best friend, your horse, anyone!"
The Spiral Bookcase, Philadelphia, Pa.: "Why not give two gifts in one! Dana Bate and the Spiral Bookcase have teamed up for this sweet deal. With every purchase of this delightful foodie rom-com [A Second Bite at the Apple], we will be donating a gently used book to Inter-Faith Housing Alliance in Ambler."
The New York Public Library: "14 literary conversation hearts that should exist."
Village Books, Bellingham Wash.: "Saturday is Feb. 14 and the world's best holiday ever: International Book Giving Day! Oh, and it's also Valentine's Day, for which a book would also make an excellent gift."
Main Street Books, Mansfield, Ohio: Check out this sidewalk board, which has V-Day promises that can never disappoint.
Powell's, Portland Ore.: Sweethearts & Cynics Sale--"Whether you're a romantic or a skeptic, these books will help you and that special someone get the most out of Valentine's Day."
Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga.: "To provide relief from the stress of being single on Valentine's Day, Avid Bookshop will host a Valentine's Soiree that invites singles (or those without their significant others on V-Day) to join us in the shop for an evening of mingling and fun on Saturday, February 14.... Take dating off a Web page and surround it with book pages instead!"
Broadway Books, Portland, Ore.: "And speaking of love and hearts, we would like to send out a big ol' bunch of Valentine love to all of you. We believe strongly in the importance of local, independent businesses, and we try to demonstrate that through our own shopping. We appreciate so much that you do too."
Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Mass., deserves this year's overall Bookish Valentine's Day Award for responding to a poignant discovery in a used book that prompted this compelling tweet: "Did you sell a Walker Evans book to our UBC recently? Are you missing a heartfelt letter from Lili to Emily?"
The Boston Globe picked up on the story, noting that "a recent transaction turned up a letter so deeply personal that the Coolidge Corner shop is making an extra effort to find the writer--or the recipient.... 'Lili,' the writer, references a trip to Venice. The text of the undated letter to 'Emily,' found in a black-and-white photography book by Walker Evans, quotes the poem 'Ode on Melancholy' by John Keats."
Now that's a worthy conclusion to this year's Le Tour de Valentine's Day. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)