Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 10, 2015

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

Henry Holt & Company: Mihi Ever After (Mihi Ever After #1) by Tae Keller, illustrated by Geraldine Rodríguez

Berkley Books: River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer

Oxford University Press, USA: The World According to Proust by Joshua Landy

Chronicle Chroma: Bob Willoughby: A Cinematic Life by Bob Willoughby

Charlesbridge Publishing: Forever Cousins by Laurel Goodluck, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson

Tor Teen: The Luminaries by Susan Dennard


Former Bookseller Launches Query Books

Ken White

Ken White, former manager of San Francisco's Books Inc. in the Castro, has launched Query Books, a publishing company that "focuses on republishing significant LGBT novels, biographies, and histories," Bookselling This Week reported.

"Query Books is a challenge unlike any I've taken on before, and it's a bit scary for that. Don't be surprised if I ask for help." said White. "But the response so far has been overwhelmingly positive; it seems to be tapping into a need that's really out there, and to be wanted."

Before managing Books Inc., White first worked at A Different Light Bookstore in the Castro, followed by San Francisco State University Bookstore. He has served on the boards of the American Booksellers Association and the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, and is currently a member of the board of directors of the Book Industry Charitable Foundation.

Scribe Us: Our Members Be Unlimited: A Comic about Workers and Their Unions by Sam Wallman

Bookstore Celebrating Algorithm Alternative Day

In response to Amazon Prime Day, which features a range of deals to Prime customers next Wednesday, July 15, Once Upon a Time Bookstore, Montrose, Calif., has come up with contrasting event: Algorithm Alternative Day.

During extended hours from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. on July 15, the store will offer many storytimes, including a nature storytime in nearby Montrose Park and a pajama storytime; treats, including doggy biscuits; and more--all from, as the store put it, "a real, live person." There will also be an area where customers can work on crosswords, activity and jigsaw puzzles, and a photo booth for readers to have a picture taken with their favorite book. Frequent Buyer Customers will receive a free flower from a "live" bookseller, and the store will host surprise guests throughout the day. Once Upon a Time is also offering discounts ranging from 10% to 25% for early bird shoppers.

"I don't need an algorithm to recommend these books," said Pete Simpson, a Once Upon a Time bookseller. "I actually read and love them."

Founded in 1966, Once Upon a Time won the 2015 Pannell Award in the children's specialty bookstore category for "enhancing their community by fostering a love of reading with exceptional creativity."

Flyaway Books: The Coat by Séverine Vidal, illustrated by Louis Thomas

General Retail Sales in June: Below Expectations

Retailers had a poor June, posting disappointing results as the expected boost to consumer purchasing power from lower gas prices failed to materialize. For the month, sales at stores open at least a year decreased 0.4% at the eight retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters, compared with analysts' projection of a 0.3% gain and a 4% jump a year earlier.

"Typically, June acts as a lull between Mother's Day shopping in May and when back-to-school sales ramp up in late July and early August," Investor's Business Daily noted.

"June is sort of a transitionary month," said Ken Perkins of Retail Metrics, describing the retail sales numbers as "lackluster.... The long-term impact that the Great Recession has had has definitely tempered spending. Wage increases have been very small during the recovery. The retailers are still waiting for the consumer to show up."

PNBA Holiday Catalog 2022

The Quarto Group Introduces

The Quarto Group has launched, a consumer-oriented website, bookshop and blog to showcase and promote the company's global publishing program, including Quarto Publishing in the U.S. Direct-to-consumer sales begin August 31 in the U.S. and September 30 in the U.K.

Marcus Leaver, CEO of the Quarto Group, said the company is "excited at the opportunity this gives us to engage consumers and develop deeper and lasting relationships and provide more meaning to the Quarto brand."

Obituary Notes: James Tate; Michael Zifcak

James Tate, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winning poet, as well as a professor at the University of Massachusetts since 1971, died yesterday, the Amherst Republican reported. He was 71. Tate's many books included Worshipful Company of Fletchers, Selected Poems and The Ghost Soldiers. A new collection, Dome of the Hidden Pavilion, will be published by Ecco next month. Poet Matthew Zapruder called Tate's death "a huge loss for American poetry."

Mark Wootton, a longtime friend and co-owner of Amherst Books, said Tate "was ill for quite a number of years," but read as usual last month during the University of Massachusetts Juniper Summer Writing Institute. "He gave good reading. People enjoyed it. He was full of life."

"It's a shock, it's a such a loss for the Valley," said Joan Grenier, owner of the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley. "He has been such a presence through his poetry and through the MFA program. He mentored so many younger poets."

Poet Jorie Graham told the Boston Globe: "Jim Tate was undoubtedly a genius, and certainly the surrealist branch of American poetry would not exist in its current form without him. He mixed Beckett-like black humor with his own flat Midwestern brand of the Kafkaesque absurd.... quite a few generations of poets in the United States simply could not have found their voices without his guiding, mischievous, brilliant, darkly-lit spirit."


Michael Zifcak, longtime head of Collins Booksellers, died on June 30. He was 96. Australian Booksellers Association CEO Joel Becker called him "one of the most significant figures in bookselling in Australia over the second half of the 20th century."

In 1951, after immigrating to Australia from Czechoslovakia, Zifcak began work as an accountant at Collins Booksellers, which then consisted of three stores. Eventually under his auspices, Collins grew to more than 50 stores. He also founded Collins's publishing division, Hill of Content. He was longtime chairman of Collins.

He was also president of the Australian Booksellers Association and president of the International Booksellers Federation and founded the National Book Council. He was awarded an OBE for services to literature and was a cultural ambassador for UNESCO.


Image of the Day: Minotaur Authors at Moonstone

Minotaur authors and former Newark Star Ledger newspaper staffers Brad Parks, author of The Fraud, and Wallace Stroby, author of The Devil's Share, had a joint book launch Wednesday at Moonstone Mystery Bookstore in Flemington, N.J.

Clockwise from top: Brad Parks, Moonstone bookseller Dani Looney, Wallace Stroby and Marilyn Thiele, owner of Moonstone Mystery Bookstore.

Comedians in Cars Visiting Watchung Booksellers

In the season finale of Jerry Seinfeld's hit Web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, he and guest Stephen Colbert dine at Bluestone Coffee Company in Montclair, N.J., then briefly stop by Watchung Booksellers (around the 14:50 mark), where this quintessential Seinfeldian exchange occurs:

Colbert: "When I was younger, living in Chicago, the one thing I would never deny myself was books."

Seinfeld: "That's really pretentious."

Personnel Changes at Crown, Morrow

In the Crown Publishing Group:

Annsley Rosner has been named v-p, associate publisher of Crown, Hogarth, Archetype, Tim Duggan Books, Broadway Books and Three Rivers Press, effective August 17. She has been v-p, director of publicity for Crown, Hogarth, Tim Duggan Books and Broadway Books and joined Crown's publicity department in 2006.

Jacob Lewis, v-p and publishing director, is leaving the company on August 14 to launch a business.

Rachel Rokicki is being promoted to director of publicity, Crown, Hogarth, Tim Duggan Books and Broadway Books, effective August 17.

Dyana Messina is promoted to associate director of publicity, Crown, Hogarth, Tim Duggan Books and Broadway Books, effective August 17.

Rebecca Welbourn is promoted to associate publicist on the Crown trade publicity team, effective immediately,

Lauren Cook is promoted to senior publicist on the Harmony publicity team, effective immediately.

Natasha Martin is promoted to publicist at Clarkson Potter, effective immediately.


Kaitlin Harri has been promoted to marketing director at William Morrow. She joined the company in 2013.

Media and Movies

Shelf Awareness on KUCI's Writers on Writing

Shelf Awareness's own John Mutter spoke last week on KUCI's Writers on Writing show about Shelf Awareness, its mission and origins, its 10th birthday, the book he's reading now and more. The show is available on podcast here.

Media Heat: Jimmy Carter on ABC's This Week

Tomorrow on ABC's This Week: Jimmy Carter, author of A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781501115639).

Bookseller Na'amen Tilahun on NPR on Go Set a Watchman

On Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition, Na'amen Tilahun, a bookseller at the Booksmith, San Francisco, Calif., is talking about the release of Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee next Tuesday. In the interview, recorded yesterday, he focused, he said, on "the impact of Harper Lee on the literary world, why her book is still important in terms of literary merit and the history of race relations in the country. We also talked about the perspective on the book as differentiated by race, the ways in which the message to children is different depending on their heritage."

As his boss, Christin Evans, pointed it, it's been a big month for Tilahun: he just signed a three-book deal with Skyhorse's sci-fi imprint Nightshade (the first book is The Root, which will appear in spring 2016). He has had poetry, fiction and essays published by a number of publications, including: Faggot Dinosaur, StoneTelling, Full of Crow, The Big Click,, Fantasy Magazine and Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It. He's also co-creator of the geek podcast The Adventures of Yellow Peril + Magical Negro.

Movies: Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2; Brooklyn

Cast and crew from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 were on a panel at Comic-Con yesterday to promote the final film in the franchise and debut a new teaser, io9 reported, adding that producer Nina Jacobson said they want to deliver for the fans who delivered for them and make an emotional film that's "satisfying to the core."

When she was asked how she said goodbye to Katniss Everdeen, Jennifer Lawrence replied: "I don't really fell like [the end] has happened yet. It's such a huge part of my life. These movies changed my life. I don't think I'll ever say goodbye. Katniss is a part of me."


The first trailer has been released for Brooklyn, adapted from the novel by Colm Toibin. Indiewire noted there "were a lot of movies that made noise this year at the Sundance Film Festival, but none emerged so clearly as an Oscar contender than John Crowley's Brooklyn." Directed by John Crowley, the movie stars Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson and Emory Cohen. It opens this fall.

Books & Authors

Awards: Branford Boase

Rosie Rowell won the £1,000 (about $1,715) Branford Boase Award, which is given annually to the author and editor of an outstanding debut novel for children, for Leopold Blue, the Guardian reported. Flood and her editor, Emily Thomas, were also presented with handcrafted silver-inlaid boxes.

C.J. Flood, last year's winner and one of this year's judges, said Leopold Blue "spoke to each of us so deeply it made it feel as though it were written for us especially. It is a book so understated and vivid and unique that we each felt that perhaps we were the only one who truly got it, when in fact, we had all fallen in love with the place, the characters and the writing. The mark of a truly exceptional book."

Book Brahmin: Andi Teran

photo: Hamish Robertson

Andi Teran is a native of El Paso, Tex. Her nonfiction has been published by Vanity Fair, Monocle and the Paris Review Daily. She resides in Los Angeles. Ana of California (Penguin, June 30, 2015) is her first novel.

On your nightstand now:

I just finished Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon, which was an insightful rock-and-roll memoir. My nightstand stack is getting higher and includes The First Bad Man by Miranda July, the latest issue of the Paris Review, Funny Girl by Nick Hornby and the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy because I'm about to pop at any moment.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I had several that were always changing, but I'd have to say it's probably a four-way tie that includes L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach and Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, which I've read more than once. My favorites were typically stories that centered on orphans or young women in the throes of major life changes.

Your top five authors:

Haruki Murakami, for his surrealism and quiet complexity; Donna Tartt, for her engrossing storytelling; Francesca Lia Block, for her ability to capture the magic contained within a young person's heart and mind; Douglas Coupland, for his pop culture symphonies; and Joan Didion, for her spare truth.

Book you've faked reading:

I've never faked reading anything but--please don't gasp--I never finished Pride and Prejudice. I know, I know. I will someday.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Vapor by Amanda Filipacchi. I recommend this book more than any other because it's so weird and wonderful. Aside from the main character being a frustrated actress in New York City, which I was too at one point, the love story Filipacchi weaves is completely unexpected and unlike any other I've ever read. It's sadistic and tender, warped and hilarious. Did I mention it's all set in a house full of clouds? It's an unforgettable read.

Book you've bought for the cover:

So many! I'm a sucker for U.K. editions. My most recent purchase is the U.K. paperback edition of John Wyndham's Trouble with Lichen, which features a fantastic illustration by Brian Cronin. I also love anything designed by Peter Mendelsund, especially his cover for Simone de Beauvoir's The Woman Destroyed.

Book that changed your life:

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. I remember finishing it and holding it to my chest unable to let it go. It's the book that made me want to be a writer and to tackle subjects that affect young people.

Favorite line from a book:

It's difficult to pick a single line, but I've chosen one that has had significant resonance to me in the past few years:

"I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me, but I cannot lay my finger upon the moment it ended, can never cut through the ambiguities and second starts and broken resolves to the exact place on the page where the heroine is no longer as optimistic as she once was." --Joan Didion, "Goodbye to All That" from Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Which character you most relate to:

Jane in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I'm an only child and grew up with an extreme fear of being orphaned. I found Jane's story haunting and familiar, like it might one day be my fate. I loved living in her thoughts and shared both her desire for independence and stance on men and women being equals. It sometimes felt as though I was reading the inside of my own head. Interestingly enough, I did end up sharing a somewhat similar fate only in that I married someone who grew up in Brontë country. I recently visited the Brontë house in Yorkshire, too. Not to put too much meaning into it, but when I walked out of the house into the adjacent meadow, a black cat rubbed up against my leg.

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

Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series. I found so much joy escaping into the madcap San Francisco world of 28 Barbary Lane. Maupin writes with an ease and humor that transports you right into the story along with characters who end up feeling more like friends. Every book in the series is endearing and such a delight to read.

Recent favorite book:

Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is easily one of my new favorites. Not to give too much away, but its subject matter creeps up when you're least expecting it to, takes you somewhere else entirely, then leaves you heaving with your heart in your hands wondering why you never saw it coming. To do all this and insert laughter in between the breaking places is a masterful feat.

Book Review

Review: Palimpsest: A History of the Written Word

Palimpsest: A History of the Written Word by Matthew Battles (W.W. Norton , $26.95 hardcover, 9780393058857, July 27, 2015)

Matthew Battles (Library: An Unquiet History) undertakes a mammoth topic with Palimpsest: A History of the Written Word. Rather than an exhaustive chronicle, however, he has composed an extended meditation, a roaming through the centuries. The result is a collection of narrative examinations of writing as a technology, as a means of wielding power, as artistry and as communication. As Battles quotes it, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a palimpsest as a "writing surface on which the original text has been effaced or partially erased, and then overwritten by another." His imagination is captured by this concept in fact and as metaphor, and Palimpsest is in part a drawn-out consideration of "mind as page" and "page as mind" (the titles of its opening and closing chapters).

Battles's survey ranges from Mesopotamian cuneiform in the fourth century BCE to early printing, word processing and social media. He explores Thoreau's views on Confucianism, the clay tablets of The Epic of Gilgamesh, the topology of Chinese hanzi and the fascination with writing in Great Expectations. He is intrigued by the politics of the printing press and various typefaces. Historians, writers, philosophers and anthropologists including Socrates, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emily Dickinson, Ezra Pound and Ralph Waldo Emerson provide context for the philosophical significance of writing. Battles points out that modern computer code is a type of writing as well, "a kind of text that can't exist on its own. But what other kind of text has ever existed?"

Among other revelations, Palimpsest elucidates the original meaning of "pirated" literature: "not... the unauthorized reproduction of someone else's work but the use of a printing press without proper license," and Allen Ginsberg's modern redefinition of "graffiti," which originally referred in the Italian to words or ornaments carved in clay forms. How we learn to write changes as our cultural expectations of writing change; thus what Battles calls a "feedback loop" of change in writing technologies perpetuates. In other words, in an increasingly digital age, Battles argues that writing is in flux--as it has been since its beginnings.

Palimpsest returns more than once to an emphasis on writing as art, and Battles's own writing style is often decorative. The meandering structure of this expansive essay on writing in history, as well as its formal and academic tone, may pose challenges for some readers. However, the reader and writing fan absorbed by writing's miscellany will find much to love and sink into in Palimpsest. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Bibliophiles and historians will be thrilled by this enthusiastic, detailed account of writing throughout history.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: BookManager Academy 'an Amazing Event'

Mosaic Books hosted an evening of great food, drinks and music.

In May, I asked Michael Neill, president/head programmer of BookManager and owner of Mosaic Books in Kelowna, B.C., what he hoped to accomplish with the inaugural BookManager Academy, which he was hosting the following month. "Too many of us no longer communicate face-to-face with our peers," he replied, adding that while the conference's education programming would be valuable, BMA "will also be a catalyst for discussion during the social events where ideas for change really happen."

How did it all work out? BMA drew nearly 100 booksellers from about 60 stores in Canada and the U.S., according to Neill. I contacted several of the booksellers recently, and all were enthusiastic ("an amazing event," "extremely positive," "a breath of fresh air"). 

L.-r.: Sandy Cooper of Raincoast Books, Michael Neill, Jim Schmidt of Galiano Island Books & Anna Beddie of Misty River Books.

"I think BMA was a brilliant event for the whole Canadian book industry," said Barbara Pope, co-owner/manager of the Mulberry Bush Book Store, Parksville, B.C., and immediate past president of the British Columbia Booksellers Association. "Michael and his BookManager team worked extremely hard to put on a sterling event and I know all indie booksellers who attended were most grateful to them for the opportunity to come together and connect with one another.... All the professional development sessions were valuable.... Hearing from publishers and fellow booksellers at the Town Hall meeting was especially informative. And the social events were the icing on the cake."

"This was our first time organizing something of this scale," Neill said. "Promotion, fund-raising, hotels, materials, swag, badges, structured education, buses, food, drinks, social events, cleanup, store tour--a massive list for a small crew of first-timers. The BookManager and Mosaic Books team pulled out all the stops. And I think they hit it out of the park based on the many, many compliments we received. The common thread was the intangible benefit of everyone being together to talk about the book business."

L-r: Heather Parsons of Heritage Group Distribution, Andrea Davies of Hager Books & Nancy Wise of Sandhill Book Marketing.

Melissa Bourdon-King, general manager of Mabel's Fables Bookstore in Toronto, agreed: "My general reaction was extremely positive. I felt that the event really invigorated and energized the booksellers who attended. Personally, I found the event to be really stimulating. It was amazing to talk to so many other booksellers, to get to know them and their stores, and to hear positive feedback from other booksellers about the things that my store is doing. It was quite inspiring.

"Everyone who works in independent bookselling works so hard, and we are all so passionate about what we are doing and why. It was pretty infectious to be in a room of like-minded people, all being exposed to knowledge that can really help us make our stores an even stronger part of the Canadian Bookselling economy."

"Kudos to Michael and his gang," said Jim Schmidt, co-owner of Galiano Island Books, Galiano Island, B.C., adding that BMA "was easily the best regional event that I've attended for booksellers in the 18 years we've been in business. It combined a lot of solid, useful information with many opportunities to exchange gossip and ideas with fellow booksellers, book reps, folks from the publisher's headquarters and even a few authors."

For Tiffany Harlan, floor manager and book buyer at Grass Roots Books & Music, Corvallis, Ore., BMA "was a fabulous experience, and I feel so fortunate to have been able to attend. Two intensive days packed full of education allowed attendees to learn the ins and outs of the BookManager inventory program in much greater depth, as well as share general bookselling information.... The Town Hall, featuring guest panelists, was definitely a highlight with its question-and-answer format affording the chance for a lively exchange of bookselling ideas and opinions. The consensus in the room was that we learned so much, but still didn't have enough time to cover everything, and easily could have filled a third day of education to cover some topics in greater detail."

Dinner & beach bonfire at Neill's lake home.

Describing BMA as "a lot of work, a whole lot of fun and absolutely memorable and heartwarming," Diana O'Neill, who handles sales and technical/data support for BookManager, recalled the pleasure of seeing booksellers "from across the country gathered and sharing ideas, wine and laughs. It's pretty obvious that we are all thirsty for events like this in Canada; we need an excuse to get together and vocalize our woes, but more than that--we need an excuse to get together and come up with new ideas to stay afloat as indies and to bond over our experiences and how we plan on moving forward, always forward."

Neill observed that the challenge now becomes: "What is possible for an encore? We proved that the Canadian industry sorely needs to gather in person from time to time. Financial support from the publishing side was essential, and we are grateful to those who put faith in the idea. Thankfully, the digital world can only go so far."

The booksellers I contacted after BMA had much to say about not only this event, but small conferences and Canadian indies in general. I'll share more of their thoughts here next week. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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