Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 20, 2015

Random House Studio: Remember by Joy Harjo, illustrated by Michaela Goade

Oxford University Press, USA: Spring Reads

Chronicle Books: Tap! Tap! Tap!: Dance! Dance! Dance! by Hervé Tullet

Minotaur Books: The Golden Gate by Amy Chua

Charlesbridge Publishing: Glitter Everywhere by Chris Barton, illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat

Quotation of the Day

'Bookstores Are Like Brothels of Imagination'

"I always ask the booksellers to look at me and recommend a book; 9 out of 10, they get it right; it's usually a book about someone dysfunctional. To me, bookstores are like brothels of imagination, each book is luring me over going, 'Read me, read me.' "

--Actress, comedian and writer Ruby Wax promoting the U.K.'s Books Are My Bag campaign

Candlewick Press (MA): Have You Seen My Invisible Dinosaur? by Helen Yoon


SF's Borderlands Books Could Remain Open

In response to ideas put forward at a community meeting held last week and e-mails from customers, Borderlands Books, San Francisco, Calif., has come up with a plan that might allow it to remain open. Owner Allan Beatts had previously announced the bookstore would close by the end of next month due to the city's minimum wage proposition, which passed last fall.

In a new statement posted on the Borderlands website, Beatts wrote that effective immediately, "we will be offering paid sponsorships of the store. Each sponsorship will cost $100 for the year and will need to be renewed every year. If we get 300 sponsors before March 31st, we will stay open for the remainder of 2015." He also offered preliminary details on sponsor benefits, and said the goal is to "gather enough paid sponsors to cover the projected short-fall in income that will be the result of the minimum wage increase in San Francisco." Plans call for soliciting sponsors again at the beginning of 2016.

"If it is to succeed, we will need your support--not just right now, but every year moving forwards. So, if you want Borderlands to continue, it is in your hands," Beatts noted, adding: "Prior to the events of the last two weeks, I would never have imagined that something like what follows would ever be possible. The outpouring of affection and emotion that started the moment we announced that we were closing has changed forever the way the I and the rest of the staff see Borderlands. This place has always meant the world to us--that's why we work here--but we never imagined that it meant so much to so many people. Win or lose, open or close, we are all more grateful that we can express for your kind words, sincere compliments and the belief that what we do matters."

Zibby Books: Super Bloom by Megan Tady

ABA Names Board Candidates


The American Booksellers Association's board of directors has approved the ABA nominating committee's recommendation of three candidates to stand for election to three-year terms (2015-2018) on the board, Bookselling This Week reported. Nominees for the upcoming elections are Valerie Koehler of Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Tex.; Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books, San Francisco, Calif.; and Jonathon Welch of Talking Leaves...Books, Buffalo, N.Y.

Koehler and Welch are coming to the end of their first three-year term on the board and are eligible for a second three-year term. Mulvihill has not previously served on the ABA board.

The Board selected ABA's current v-p Betsy Burton of the King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah, for a two-year term as ABA president. Current board member Robert Sindelar of Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, Wash., will serve as v-p/secretary. Their selection by the Board must be ratified by ABA membership.

Steve Bercu of BookPeople, Austin, Tex., will leave the board in May at the end of his two-year term as president, following six years on the board.

GLOW: Avid Reader Press: My Name Is Iris by Brando Skyhorse

TriAltea USA Launches American Book Group

TriAltea USA, a subsidiary of Grupo Adi, Barcelona, Spain, that sells English, Spanish and Portuguese educational material, including the bestselling ESL series Inglés en 100 Días and Spanish in 100 Days, is launching American Book Group.

American Book Group will offer international content in Spanish and English to book buyers throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Central America. Its goal is to become a leading source for educational and general interest publications for school and public libraries, online and bricks-and-mortar bookstores, wholesalers and other consumers on a corporate-sales basis. Already American Book Group has incorporated titles from Grupo Planeta's series Booket, from EdActiva and from other U.S. and Latin American imprints to its catalogue.

American Book Group has hired as sales director Ernesto Martinez, a former buyer at Borders Group and former national sales manager at Giron Books. Martinez has experience and knowledge of the publishing industry in the U.S. and Latin America.

TriAltea business development director Susan Cunningham commented: "This is a pivotal moment for us. We will be able to combine an unparalleled offering with great vision for the acquisition of Spanish bestsellers, and an emphasis on service. More than ever, booksellers are extremely efficient when it comes to how they invest their money on their book orders. Our team combines more than two decades of experience selecting hot titles, and we want to share this expertise and service with our clients in order to boost their sales."

Amazon: Prime Now 1-Hour Deliveries 'Throughout Manhattan'

Amazon's Prime Now one-hour delivery service--which launched in December focusing on the 10001 zip code "near Penn Station and an office on 7 W. 34th St. that Amazon recently leased"--became available throughout Manhattan last week, Mashable reported. A company representative said Amazon plans to offer Prime Now in other cities in the near future, but "declined to identify which New York City boroughs might receive Prime Now service next." Amazon also offers Prime Now two-hour delivery in parts of Brooklyn.

WI10: Strategic Buying for Non Book Inventory

"Be like Sherlock Holmes," advised Kelly Evert, the head gift buyer for Village Books and Paper Dreams in Bellingham, Wash., during a panel discussion at Winter Institute 10 last week in Asheville, N.C. The panel, entitled Strategic Buying for Non Book Inventory, also featured Steve Bercu, the owner of BookPeople in Austin, Tex., and Danny Givens, toy buyer at Givens Books in Lynchburg, Va., and was moderated by Sarah Goddin of Quail Ridge Books and Music in Raleigh, N.C.

Gift buyers, Evert continued, need to be "constantly buying," and when considering whether to buy a gift item, they need to think of everything, including where it'll go, who's going to buy it, how much it'll cost, and what to do if it doesn't sell. Typically, she marks up the price of a gift item by 2.4, which in most cases covers shipping, she explained. When things don't sell, she said, she usually marks an item down slightly and re-displays it in a different part of the store. In most cases, she reported, that works. But when it doesn't, she'll mark the item down to half off. And if it really doesn't even then, she'll "have a box for Goodwill."

Display of Dr. Seuss items at Givens Books.

Echoing Evert's advice, Givens said that a non-book buyer needs to be a "real bloodhound" to find the "stellar items." Toy fairs, he continued, are a "crucial" place for finding those items. He aims to buy toys that would get both himself and a child excited and that fit his store's mission statement to "fuel a passion for learning and discovery." Finding even a few things at a toy fair that "turn really well" is considered a success, he said. And every few years he adds what he likes to call a new "conversation piece" to his store, which is a large, eye-catching toy that is prominently displayed for a long time. And although Givens keeps some items in stock that routinely sell, it's a must to "have a lot of fresh stuff. You have to make sure customers come in and see fresh displays."

According to Steve Bercu, approximately 20% of BookPeople's sales are of non-book items, and he has an eventual goal of 25%-30% of sales being non-book items. "If you're going to sell gifts, you've got to shop for gifts all the time," said Bercu. "All of my staff are under instructions that if you see something cool and you're not in Austin, buy it, I'll reimburse you, and bring it back to the store so we can see if it's right for us."

Non-book items, Bercu continued, are to him a "completely different business model" from books--the single biggest difference being that gifts cannot be returned if they don't sell. Like Evert, Bercu typically marks up gifts by 2.4 or more. "I'm for maxing out the margins because gifts, unlike books, are not returnable, and they get broken and damaged. Whatever your margin is, it's not on 10 of them. It's on six of them or eight of them, because two or three of [those gift items] are going to get damaged or disappear."

And though gift stock needs to be rotated even more frequently than books, Bercu does keep some gift items all the time. Among those perennials are soap, incense and socks, of which he sells between "6,000 to 8,000 pair per year." In preparation for the holidays, he and his staff begin "stockpiling" gifts in September and October. "You don't want to be there in November and December where vendors are getting buried in orders and can't meet orders," he said.

During the session's question and answer period, an audience member asked how the panelists dealt with theft.

"I just don't like little stuff," Givens answered. Anything that is small and easily stolen, he elaborated, goes up to the front of the store where "we have eyes looking."

"That's the locked-case stuff for us," said Bercu. "If we're going to worry about it at all, it goes in a locked case. Otherwise, if it's small, it's free stuff."

Evert said she's had to deal with a lot of theft. "We've had people take entire jewelry cases out of the store," she recalled. Anything small and of value is kept in a locked case, and the store's staff get extensive training. "They are trained to greet every solitary shopper," she emphasized. --Alex Mutter

Obituary Note: Anne Moody

Anne Moody, whose searing 1968 memoir, Coming of Age in Mississippi, "told what it was like to grow up black in the era of Jim Crow," died February 5, the New York Times reported. She was 74.


'Virtual Story Time' at Bookworm of Edwards

The Bookworm of Edwards, Edwards, Colo., has launched the Wiggle Worms story time channel on YouTube, featuring children's director Franny Gustafson reading picture books aloud. Bookselling This Week noted that "young viewers are encouraged to sing, clap and read along with Gustafson, bringing into homes at any time of day the excitement of the weekly story time that the Bookworm hosts in-store each Monday."

"A few story time attendees mentioned to me that it would be great if we put story time on television or online," said Gustafson. "The idea stuck with me. How cool would it be to have a book-related program that was short, educational, and fun for families to watch? Sort of like a modern Reading Rainbow!"

Cool Idea of the Day: Streaming Author Events In-Store

From the Facebook page of McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey Mich.:

"Well, here it is! McLean & Eakin has stepped into the 21st century! We can now stream author event signings and book trailers to the television! Zach & Alex are pretty proud of themselves, and we must admit, we are impressed with their handiwork, too!"

Video: Kate DiCamillo on 'Reading Aloud to Children'

In a new video, author Kate DiCamillo, National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and two-time Newbery winner, "discusses the importance of reading aloud to children and celebrates teachers and parents that take time to read aloud to the young people in their life, to share stories and connect with great books together."

Personnel Change at Inkshares

Matt Kaye, former senior publicist at Farrar, Straus & Giroux and Wiley, has left his position as a senior product manager on Amazon's books team to join Inkshares as v-p of marketing.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Elliot Ackerman on Weekend Edition

Today Fresh Air plays an old interview with late Poet Laureate Philip Levine.


Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition: Elliot Ackerman, author of Green on Blue: A Novel (Scribner, $25, 9781476778556).

Movies: American Pastoral; ESPN Film

Actor Ewan McGregor will make his directorial feature film debut with American Pastoral, based on Philip Roth's novel and starring McGregor, Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning. reported that he is replacing Phillip Noyce, who had been with the project "for more than a decade, when he was first set to helm for Connelly, Paul Bettany and Evan Rachel Wood. Fisher Stevens also had been attached as director at one point." American Pastoral begins shooting in September in Pittsburgh.


Another "long-gestating" film about the early days of ESPN has added James Andrew Miller, co-author of Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, as screenwriter. reported that in an interview on the Dan Patrick Show this week, Miller said "the film effectively will be a corporate biopic of ESPN, similar in mindset and approach" to The Social Network and Moneyball. The director is Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond the Pines).

Books & Authors

Awards: George Washington Finalists

The finalists for the 2015 George Washington Book Prize, recognizing the best new books on early American history, are:

An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America by Nick Bunker (Knopf)
The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding by Eric Nelson (Belknap Press)
A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia by Richard Dunn (Harvard University Press)
When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation by François Furstenberg (Penguin Press)

The winner of the $50,000 prize will be announced at a gala on May 20 at Mount Vernon. The prize is sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Mount Vernon and Washington College.

GBO Picks One Red Shoe

The German Book Office in New York has selected One Red Shoe (Wilkins Farago, $19.99, 9780987109965) by Karin Gruss and Tobias Krejtschi, translated by Hannah Johnson, as its February Book of the Month.

The GBO described the book this way: "In a dark, smoke-filled office in the Gaza Strip, an unnamed photojournalist answers his vibrating cell phone. A grenade has hit a school bus carrying children to a sports field, and he is sent to the clinic to document the aftermath. For the journalist, this is just another day on the job‹but this assignment will forever change his jaded perspective on the violence in the region.

"The journalist follows the paramedics to the clinic as he passes children so unfazed by the violence that they continue their hopscotch game in the nearby rubble. He begins to photograph a critically injured 9-year-old boy when he notices one red sneaker through the lens. The detail strikes a nerve, suddenly reminding him of his basketball-playing nephew back home. Once the boy is stabilized and given an IV, the shaken photojournalist returns to his office to call his nephew and assure him that he will be home in time for his basketball championship....

"Inspired by real events in the Middle East, One Red Shoe... is a groundbreaking picture book that encourages older students to think about places and situations far beyond their safe and comfortable world."

Karin Gruss is a former teacher and bookseller and oversaw the picture book program at publishing house Peter Hammer Verlag. She currently works as a consultant and instructor on children's literature. One Red Shoe is her first picture book.

Tobias Krejtschi is the illustrator of Crafty Mama Sambona.
Hannah Johnson is the deputy publisher of Publishing Perspectives. This is her first translation.

Book Brahmin: M.O. Walsh

photo: Sam Gregory Photography

M.O. Walsh is from Baton Rouge, La. His fiction and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Oxford American, the Southern Review, American Short Fiction and Best New American Voices. A graduate of the MFA program at the University of Mississippi, he is currently the director of the Creative Writing Workshop at the University of New Orleans. My Sunshine Away (Putnam, February 10, 2015) is his debut novel.

On your nightstand now:

The Poser by Jacob Rubin, Chase Us by Sean Ennis, The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard, We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas, So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell and My People's Waltz by Dale Ray Phillips. Some of these are first reads, most are rereads.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Choose Your Own Adventure books, hands down. I remember them stacked up on the headboard of my bed. I could make my way through Mayan temples, be a knight with King Arthur or take a rocket ship to outer space. It was heaven for a kid sitting alone in his room. Every once in a while I would be eaten by an alligator, get lost in a maze or be zapped by a ray gun, sure, but it was pleasure.

Your top five authors:

Lewis Nordan, Barry Hannah, Italo Calvino, Toni Morrison and Leo Tolstoy. The number of worthy writers not on this list is, obviously, horrifying.

Book you've faked reading:

I really don't fake reading books. I happily own the fact that I know far less than I could. Don't get me wrong, I love to read, but if I read every book I was supposed to, then I likely wouldn't have any friends, and I like my friends a great deal. I won't apologize for that.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Music of the Swamp by Lewis Nordan. Nordan is one of the best writers that too few people know about. I've read a lot of the classic Southern fiction, and Music of the Swamp is one of the first books I ever saw myself in, having grown up in the South. In a literature full of rough and gritty men in pickup trucks, Lewis Nordan is the sensitive boy standing out in the yard. It's perhaps the most big-hearted book that I know of. I push it on anyone with the hands to take it.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link. Who knew the cover was only the first magic of that incredible collection?

Book that changed your life:

The Collected Stories of Edgar Allan Poe. When I was in eighth grade, someone gave me a leather-bound edition of this with gold lettering. I suppose I thought it was actual gold because I cherished the book like it was a first edition from the 19th century. When I think about it now, though, I wonder who gave that to me, all those tales of the dark and deranged. Did they sense something about me that I didn't understand? Regardless, I spent nights reading "The Tell-Tale Heart" until I basically had it memorized. Even now, I admire any story that can use exclamation points without irony.

Favorite line from a book:

"There is great pain in all love, but we don't care, it's worth it." --Lewis Nordan, Music of the Swamp

Which character you most relate to:

Sugar Mecklin in Music of the Swamp.

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

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. The imagination behind this book left a huge mark on me. I've read it several times since, and always enjoy it, but I've never gotten that same mischievous glee I had the first time, which felt almost like I was inventing a world that no one else knew about.

Favorite setting in fiction:

Willa Cather's Nebraska prairie in My Ántonia. I can recall her descriptions of winter there, of the herds of buffalo Jim fancies roaming beneath the grasses, as if they are from my own youth, and I have never once been to Nebraska. That, to me, is the definition of great fiction.

Book Review

Review: The Buried Giant

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf, $26.95 hardcover, 9780307271037, March 3, 2015)

The decade-long wait for a new novel from Kazuo Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go) ends with a dark and elegant allegory that shows the author at the top of his game.

In an England that still remembers King Arthur and whose fields and forests yet shelter pixies, ogres and dragons, an elderly married couple decide to make the journey to their son's village. Axl and Beatrice are not completely sure they remember the correct route, and they cannot recall why they have not visited sooner, or even exactly what their son looks like. Axl vaguely remembers villagers who disappeared mysteriously and were quickly forgotten by the entire community. However, they are certain that their failing memories are not symptoms of age and senility. Beatrice thinks that the constant mist hanging over their land may somehow affect the minds of those who inhabit it. They travel on foot in a time of few roads, when the lack of medical knowledge can turn a broken bone or even a simple cut into a death sentence. Their journey becomes more dangerous than anticipated when they visit a village from which ogres stole a young boy. Although a fearsome Saxon warrior named Wistan rescues the boy, his people believe the child is tainted by the ogres' evil and will not accept him. Axl and Beatrice agree to travel with the warrior and child for a time, but Wistan's hidden agenda and Beatrice's determination to regain their memories will pull them into a dangerous adventure they never imagined.

Shades of Tolkien and T.H. White enliven Ishiguro's exploration of the role memory plays in human lives and relationships and whether or not freedom lies in forgetting. Even as Beatrice and Axl yearn to remember their son and their pasts together, they realize that remembering may dredge up the bad with the good. Deeply in love and dependent upon each other, they can't imagine the past holds any unhappy surprises, but each of them still quietly worries. As simple villagers, they don't intend to involve themselves in the affairs of wizards and knights--not even one who served Arthur--but both Wistan and a knight of the Round Table they meet in their travels find Axl strangely familiar, hinting at a grander past. Ishiguro's use of fantasy elements plays perfectly with his usual subtlety and bittersweet musings on human nature, and this quest for the truth will spur readers to think deeply about the impressions our pasts leave on our futures. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: This Arthurian fable, complete with knights, fantastic beasts and a heroic quest, is Ishiguro's first novel in 10 years.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Good Job, Philip Levine

Philip Levine

This week I've been thinking about winter and work. It's five below zero and the wind chill is Arctic (soon to be Siberian). The weather does its work as I do mine.

Maybe I didn't need to write about Philip Levine's death and his poems. So many people already have. But "need" is a funny old word. I have been his reader for years and admire his work, in every sense of that complex little term. So I did need to say something after all.

I often write about work. I was born into the working class (Remember the working class?). I've worked a lot of different jobs over the years at various places--golf course, marble mill, supermarkets, restaurant, magazine, bookstore and now a book trade newsletter. Some jobs I loved and some I hated. I've worked indoors and outdoors, for good bosses and... not-so-good. Like many people, work has defined me more often than I care to admit. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be considered a "good worker," no matter what the work entailed.

In 1988, Levine told the Paris Review: "I worked for Cadillac, in their transmission factory, and for Chevrolet. You could recite poems aloud in there. The noise was so stupendous. Some people singing, some people talking to themselves, a lot of communication going on with nothing, no one to hear."

Although I never worked in a car factory, I know what hard work and hard words are, and how well they mesh when the gears align. I also know how hard not having work is. Levine's words traveled these tough roads--the complicated pain/pleasure of aching bones and brain, the odd combination of power and powerlessness. Words often saved me, as did work. I think Levine felt that way, too.

In The Bread of Time, he wrote: "My life in the working class was intolerable only when I considered the future and what would become of me if nothing were to come of my writing. In one sense I was never working-class, for I owned the means of production, since what I hoped to produce were poems and fictions. "

Winter and Levine's work

His friend Edward Hirsch told the L.A. Daily News that Levine captured the ways "ordinary people are extraordinary."

Part of the genius of Levine's poetry is his understanding of working class kids like me, who were born to be laborers, no matter what work we do. Can't outgrow or outrun that genetic code. I've seen photos of my ancestors, all those sorry-assed ghosts in the grainy old marble mill photos with their weary-eyed expressions and mute accusations--"What are you looking at us for? We've got work to do."

Fortunately, I found Levine and his good words a long time ago:

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is--if you're
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.

For a few years, I taught an English Comp. course at a community college. Many of the students had lousy jobs or were unemployed, just looking for a break, another chance, a fresh start, whether they were 23 or 43. Work was one of the things I asked them to write about. We read "What Work Is" together. They already knew what work was, but they worked their way through Levine's words with me. If a poem can be "gotten," some of them got it. And if they never read another poem, they really read this one.

So here is what I know. This week I'm mourning the death of Philip Levine, even as I celebrate his life the best way I know how--by reading him again. He'd done his work. On February 14, he punched out one last time on a cold winter's day. 

From "Naming":

it's winter in Michigan with snow falling
in the twilight and hiding the stalled cars
on Grand River. Head whitened with snow,
Eugene lets the receiver slip from his hand.
I can see his eyelashes weighted with ice,
his brown eyes slowly closing on the image
of who I was, who I will always be.

From "Zaydee":

The maples blazed golden and red
a moment and then were still,
the long streets were still and the snow
swirled where I lay down to rest.

Good job, Phil. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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