Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 24, 2015

IDW Publishing: Arca by Van Jensen, illustrated by Jesse Lonergan

First Second: Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam by Thien Pham

Harvest Publications: The Dinner Party Project: A No-Stress Guide to Food with Friends by Natasha Feldman

Wednesday Books: Guardians of Dawn: Zhara (Guardians of Dawn #1) by S. Jae-Jones

Soho Crime: A Disappearance in Fiji by Nilima Rao

Shadow Mountain: Graysen Foxx and the Treasure of Principal Redbeard (Graysen Foxx, School Treasure Hunter) by J. Scott Savage

Quotation of the Day

'The Power Books Still Hold'

"I finished Go Set a Watchman this weekend and... I loved it. It's not a perfect book, not by a long shot, but I do think it's an important one, particularly for the South. Atticus isn't perfect; instead, he's nuanced and complicated, like a lot of Southerners (and humans!) I know. My full review is up on our store's blog, but I also wanted to share how wonderful it has been to have so many fantastic literary conversations in the shop, at the register, as people are buying this book. Books make hot button issues a little safer to discuss, and I have had some of the best conversations with my customers over the past week, all thanks to Harper Lee and Go Set a Watchman. As a young, new bookstore owner, I have been pleasantly surprised and comforted at the power books still hold."

--Annie B. Jones, co-owner and managing partner, the Bookshelf, Thomasville, Ga.

Blackstone Publishing: The Trap by Catherine Ryan Howard


Amazon Second Quarter: Frenzy Continues

In the second quarter ended June 30, net sales at Amazon rose 20%, to $23.2 billion, and net income was $92 million, compared to a net loss of $126 million in the same period last year. The company emphasized that the strong dollar skewed results: without unfavorable currency exchange rates, net sales would have increased 27%. Still, revenue was higher than expected, and although the profit was "practically a rounding error for Google or Apple," as the New York Times put it, Wall Street analysts were agog, and in after-market trading yesterday, Amazon shares rose nearly 20%, to almost $570 a share, an all-time high.

The major contributor to Amazon's profit was the company's cloud service division, Amazon Web Services, where revenue rose 81%, to $1.82 billion. Net sales of media, which includes books, rose 6% in North America, to $2.6 billion, and fell 12% internationally, to $2.1 billion (but rose 3% internationally excluding the strong dollar).

In the company's laundry list of highlights, it barely mentioned books, noting the introduction of the new Kindle Paperwhite "with twice the pixels of the previous Paperwhite, the exclusive Bookerly font, and a new typesetting engine for more beautiful pages"; and expansion of the Fire HD Kids Edition tablet to the U.K. and Germany.

Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst with Forrester Research, emphasized investors' longtime, unusual take on Amazon--forgiving a lack of profit in the belief that the company will have a large payoff in the future--telling the Times, "This market is just nuts. Amazon's profit is effectively 0% of revenue and everyone cheers. Apple grows faster and has a profit that is 20% of revenue, and the stock tanks. Amazon's stock price doesn't seem to be correlated to its actual experience in any way."

GLOW: Avid Reader Press: Little Monsters by Adrienne Brodeur

APA Survey: Audiobook Unit Sales Increase 20%

Audiobook sales in 2014 totaled more than $1.47 billion, up 13.5% over the previous year, according to the Audio Publishers Association's annual sales survey, conducted by independent research firm Management Practice. Based on information from responding publishers, the APA estimated that unit sales were also up 19.5%, and 1,032 more titles were published on audio than in the previous year, bringing the total in 2014 up to 25,787.

The APA cited the increasing popularity of digital downloads as well as increasing awareness and profile for the audiobook format for the growth of the industry. Sales of digital downloads continue to rise--showing an increase of 7.3% in dollars and 10% in units sold from the previous year.
While adult titles accounted for 87% of sales, children and YA titles showed a 3.7% increase from 2013 to 2014, with 36% of respondents reporting listening to children's or YA audiobooks. Fiction still represents the majority of audiobooks sold, with roughly 77.4% of sales compared to 22.6% for nonfiction. The unabridged format accounts for 91% of audios sold.


Waterstones Wimbledon to Close

Waterstones Wimbledon in London will close August 15 "after the premises was repossessed by its landlord for redevelopment," the Bookseller reported, adding that "WH Smith in Wimbledon is in negotiation with the landlord over its future tenancy." A spokesperson for Waterstones said the company "much regrets" the closure, but thus far "has been unable to secure a suitable alternative site in Wimbledon."

Obituary Note: Patricia Crone

Patricia Crone, "a scholar who explored untapped archaeological records and contemporary Greek and Aramaic sources to challenge conventional views of the roots and evolution of Islam," died July 11, the New York Times reported. She was 70. Crone's books include Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World; The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran: Rural Revolt and Local Zoroastrianism; God's Rule: Government and Islam: Six Centuries of Medieval Islamic Political Thought; and Pre-Industrial Societies: Anatomy of the Pre-Modern World.


Delayed Book Tour for Friday Night Lights

On August 25, Perseus will publish a 25th-anniversary edition of H.G. Bissinger's nonfiction book Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team and a Dream, featuring a new afterword by the author. Originally published in 1990, the book chronicles the 1988 season of the Permian Panthers, a powerhouse high school football team in the small Texas town of Odessa. The new afterword will provide a where-are-they-now look at several of the players on that '88 team, including quarterback Mike Winchell and running back James "Boobie" Miles.

"I knew it was a great story at the time," Bissinger told the New York Post's Media Ink section. "As a journalist, you know. But I never anticipated what it would become. I think it resonated with people everywhere because they all went to high school and they said it reminded them of their own high school. I still get three or four inquiries or e-mails a week about it."

Bissinger's book served as the basis for a feature film of the same name starring Billy Bob Thornton and an NBC television series starring Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, also of the same name. The book has reportedly sold more than two million copies and has been referred to by Sports Illustrated as the best football book ever written. For the release of the new edition, Bissinger will spend three days in Odessa in September, where he lived for several years while writing and researching the book.

He'll also do a book tour, something he had planned in 1990, but the book initially so incensed townspeople that the tour was cancelled. Perseus Books CEO David Steinberger commented: "The book is now recognized as a classic, and we think he will be welcomed in Odessa."

Retired Busman's Holiday: Bookselling in Scotland

Lee Miller tried to retire last year after 35 years in the book business, the first half on the retail side, including a period as owner of Evergreen Books bookstore in Sudbury, Mass., as well as v-p of sales at Globe Pequot Press and v-p of sales, publishing, at Courier Corp. Suddenly in June, he found himself back working in a bookstore. Here he offers an overview of the experience:

We just spent two weeks running a used bookstore in Scotland. How did that happen?

Wigtown is the official book town of Scotland, a town of not quite 1,000 residents located in Galloway in the southwest of the country. There are a dozen used bookshops in a variety of sizes and specialties. Three of them are also cafes/restaurants. The Wigtown Book Festival takes place every fall, attracting national and local authors along with more than 10,000 people. It would be great fun to experience this book-focused place in its full glory, however, we got to do that for only two weeks in early July.

One of the bookstores was up for sale last year and, after not finding a buyer, the Wigtown Book Festival organization took it over. They established a bookseller residency program as a test for six months, inviting people to run the store for a two-week period and blog about it. Shelf Awareness picked up the story and, in my recently retired status, I applied for me and my wife, Janet.

As you might expect from a town with so many bookshops and so few residents, the businesses are entirely dependent on tourists. Our time there was right on the cusp of the summer season, just as schools were letting out in Scotland and England. We lived in the apartment above the bookshop with a view straight down Main Street. We kept the bookshop open six days a week from 10 to 4, standard hours. By the end of two weeks, we felt like we knew more people in Wigtown than we do in our hometown in Massachusetts.

The many bookshops and book events anchor a community that is otherwise quite remote and quiet (and beautiful!), and in the process draws creativity. It not only draws creative people, but encourages writing and other creativity among its residents. As one resident said, "Look under any rock and you find something going on." As is so often the case with bookstores, this is a lifestyle choice, and one that the booksellers work hard to maintain. The challenge they face is to keep the small town appeal while drawing more people to it. Like all of the other visitors we talked to, we felt that we had indeed discovered a very special place, the most generous of places.

The residency program is continuing. Anyone interested in experiencing this uniquely bookish and friendly town can apply at Come for two weeks; maybe you'll decide to move here and set up shop!

The blog kept by the residents--including yours truly--is available at There is also a Facebook page at --Lee Miller

RIF, Macy's Partner on Be Book Smart Campaign

Macy's and Reading Is Fundamental teamed up recently for the annual Be Book Smart campaign to help distribute books to children in underserved communities across the U.S. During the campaign, which was held in Macy's stores nationwide from June 21 through July 12, customers donated $3 to give books to children in need in local communities, and Macy's contributed 100% of the funds raised to RIF. This year's efforts will result in the donation of nearly 580,000 books.

Vending Machine Distributes Free Books

As part of its Soar with Reading program, JetBlue is placing three vending machines at different locations in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Upworthy reported that the "machines are stocked with books, and the kids can take as many as they want, free of charge." Since 2011, through Soar With Reading, JetBlue has provided over $1.25 million in books to children.

Personnel Changes at Lerner Publishing Group

At Lerner Publishing Group:

Jill Braithwaite is joining the company as group marketing director, effective July 30. She was most recently served as director of product development at sparkhouse, a division of Augsburg Fortress Publishers and has more than 20 years of publishing experience with Red Line Editorial, Capstone Press, Sagebrush Corporation--and Lerner Publishing Group, where she began her career as an editor.

Lois Wallentine has been promoted to school & library marketing director. She was formerly director of market research. Before joining Lerner 10 years ago, she worked with Chelsea House Publishers, Capstone Press and Exhibitor Publications.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Charles Johnson on Middle Passage

Today Fresh Air remembers E.L. Doctorow, who died on Tuesday, by rebroadcasting interviews with him.


Tomorrow on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered: Charles Johnson, author of Middle Passage (Scribner, $25, 9781501110528), which is now out in a 25th-anniversary edition.


Sunday on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered: Filip Bondy, author of The Pine Tar Game: The Kansas City Royals, the New York Yankees, and Baseball's Most Absurd and Entertaining Controversy (Scribner, $25, 9781476777177).

On Stage: Citizen; I Want My Hat Back

Previews begin this weekend at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles for the stage adaptation of Claudia Rankine's award-winning poetry collection Citizen: An American Lyric. The play opens August 1 and will run through October 14. On its blog, Graywolf Press, which published Citizen, featured an interview with Stephen Sachs, playwright and Fountain co-artistic director, about the process of adapting a book for the stage.

"What makes the book--and the theatre piece--unique is that they expose and illuminate the small, sometimes unintended, and unconscious acts of everyday racism," Sachs said. "Subtle, insidious, soul-crushing. Acts that blur by so fast, we don't notice them. The little murders we commit every day, sometimes without even knowing it. Micro-aggressions between friends and co-workers, at the market, in the office, on the subway. What we say, how we think, what we do. White privilege has been so deeply systemic in this country for so long that many stop seeing it and don't even think about it. The book and the play make you see it, feel it, and think about it. And isn't that what art is supposed to do?"

Sachs observed that his stage adaptation of Citizen "is not a play. So, what is it? Like Claudia Rankine's book, it's a collage of colliding events, fragments, vignettes, and streams of consciousness that blend poetry, prose, movement, sound, music, and video images. An ensemble of six actors. Each is both a single citizen, and all citizens, interweaving. No conventional linear story, yet a powerful emotional arc. Fast-moving. Stylized. Theatre at the speed of thought."


Jon Klassen's 2011 picture book, I Want My Hat Back, is being adapted for the stage by London's National Theatre. Quillblog reported that the project "has some big names associated with it. Award-winning playwright Joel Horwood, a rising star in British theatre over the past decade, is penning the book and lyrics, while actor and musician Arthur Darvill, best known for television roles in Broadchurch and Doctor Who, and his Broadway and West End turns as the lead in the musical Once, is creating the music." Matinees will run November 12 to January 2.

"I purposely didn't weigh in too much in terms of the adaptation, because you have different ideas, and, also, they're pros at it," said Klassen. "The concept of the book was that it was like a really badly done play. It's a really awkwardly paced, badly acted thing. And not to say that [they] are going to put on a bad play, but that was the tone of it was like, these guys don't really know how to act and everything is overly pronounced, and I think that [Horwood and Darvill] are getting that."

Books & Authors

Awards: British Fantasy; Kelpies

Shortlists have been announced for the 2015 British Fantasy Awards. Winners will be honored October 25 at FantasyCon in Nottingham. You can see the complete shortlists here.


Independent Edinburgh publisher Floris Books announced the shortlist for this year's £2,000 (about $3,110) Kelpies Prize, which "recognizes the finest new Scottish children's writing for readers aged 6–14." The winner, who receives a publishing deal with Floris Books' Kelpies imprint in addition to the cash prize, will be named at the Edinburgh International Book Festival August 27. The shortlisted titles are:

Drowning in the Mirror by Julie MacPherson
Monsters M.I.A. by Justin Nevil
Slug Boy Saves the World by Mark Smith

Book Brahmin: Brian Panowich

photo: David Kernaghan

A military brat, Brian Panowich grew up constantly on the move, living in Germany, Rome, East Berlin (before the wall came down) and the Swiss Alps. He was a touring musician for 12 years before settling in East Georgia with his family. He now works full time as a firefighter. Bull Mountain (Putnam, July 7, 2015) is his debut novel.

On your nightstand now:

It's crowded, but there are two on top: first, The Stolen Ones by Owen Laukkanen. His Stevens and Windermere books are some of the most underrated and top-notch thrillers on the market. The guy writes like a steam train. The other one on deck is The Friendship of Criminals by Robert Glinski. It involves the Polish mafia and was written by a Polish defense attorney. Picking that up was a no-brainer for a guy with the last name Panowich.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was raised on comic books, and I'm proud of that. My father loved them, and as a kid I devoured them. I was obsessed. Frank Miller's Daredevil comics made me want to become a writer. I didn't make the jump to actual books until middle school when a friend gave me a ratty paperback copy of Stephen King's The Stand. I remember taking it with me on a family vacation to Disneyland, and I mostly stayed back at the hotel because I needed to know what happened next with Randall Flagg more than I needed to see Space Mountain.

Your top five authors:

Elmore Leonard, Cormac McCarthy, John Connolly, Tom Franklin, Wiley Cash.

Book you've faked reading:

Everything by Hemingway. Oh, and Moby-Dick. I've owned it since high school, but I've never read more than a few pages. It's over there eyeballing me right now. Maybe I'll try again today.

Book you're an evangelist for:

It might sound a little outside my wheelhouse, but World War Z by Max Brooks is one of the most outstanding books I've ever read. The way that book is structured, documented and delivered is brilliant. I liked that book so much, I gave copies of it out as groomsmen gifts at my wedding. I even bought it on CD for the best man, because I knew he wouldn't read it.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive by Steve Earle. Tony Fitzpatrick did the art on most of Steve's records, and they are gorgeous, so when I found out he was doing the jacket of Steve's first novel, that was my main motivation to be there waiting on launch day. I'd have bought that cover even if it had been wrapped around the phone book.

Book that changed your life:

Give Us a Kiss by Daniel Woodrell. I was still trying to find my voice when I read this book, and I remember finishing it, setting it down and walking outside into my yard and realizing everything I wanted to write about was right there staring me in the face. That moment was so profound for me, I still get goose bumps talking about it.

Favorite line from a book:

The last line from Daniel Woodrell's Tomato Red: "Hang the blame where blame belongs. Now you've heard it."

Which character you most relate to:

Mother Hubbard, maybe. My wife and I have four kids, it really does feel sometimes like we live in a shoe.

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

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. It got to where turning each page of that book was a gut-wrenching experience. I'm jealous of folks finding that one for the first time. Pour yourself a bourbon first.

Book Review

Review: All That Followed

All That Followed by Gabriel Urza (Holt, $25 hardcover, 9781627792431, August 4, 2015)

In Gabriel Urza's first novel, three narrators tell a nuanced story that meanders over three events in Spanish Basque political history. It centers on the fictional north coast town of Muriga, rocked by the violence of the 1930s Spanish Civil War, when Francisco Franco's Falangists assassinated local Republican supporters. In the late '90s, a local Muriga councilman was kidnapped and killed by young students affiliated with the separatist Euskadi Ta Askatasuna organization. In 2004, when All That Followed begins, 190 commuters have just been killed and 1,800 wounded in the Madrid Atocha train station bombing, initially rumored to be the work of the ETA but then attributed to al-Qaeda. Muriga, where road signs are written in both Basque and Spanish and close-knit citizens keep their politics to themselves, is a town with secrets--both political and personal. Against this rich historical background, Urza's novel focuses on the personal effects that political violence has on those caught in its turmoil. It's the story of the world as it seems now--fragmented, politically unstable, violent--and the ways people find to cope.

The three narrators of All That Followed cross generations, languages and politics. Joni is the éminence grise of the story. Now in his 60s, he left the United States "because I was young and wanted to get away from my parents, and because I read too much Hemingway as a teenager." Under the spell of inertia and his love for a local woman, he has spent 40 years teaching English in his fluent Spanish but never learned the local Basque language. While an outsider, he has become too entrenched in Muriga to leave.

Iker is a teenaged student of Joni who joins a few radical classmates in occasional graffiti-painting, fireworks-throwing rebellion. In their street-fighting camouflage ("we tied bandannas behind our heads, put on sunglasses, and pulled up our hoods") they relive the history of their fathers and grandfathers, but Iker knows they are just "bored kids.... I don't think we ever knew exactly what was worth fighting for." In their youthful bravado, the kidnapping of the councilman gets out of hand; when he tries to run, they kill him. But they are soon captured and sentenced to decades in prison. Mariana is the beautiful widow of the assassinated councilman. The recipient of a kidney transplant from a young separatist killed in a demonstration, she is haunted by fears that his political soul has entered hers.

Urza--Nevada public defender, Ohio State MFA graduate and descendent of a Spanish Basque family--writes clean prose, scattering Spanish and Basque words as he goes. Perhaps he also read a lot of Hemingway, but it is the early Hemingway--the writer who illuminated his Lost Generation with both a flashlight and a floodlight. All That Followed positions today's young generation in a place where the future can't outrun the past, and the present--with all its tangled loyalties, politics, attachments and detachments--is all there is. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: Gabriel Urza's first novel, about the politically charged history of a Basque town in northern Spain, is a nuanced portrait of those caught in its past while dealing with its difficult present.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Testing the 'Indie Mood' in Canada

Call it a highly unscientific poll, but I took advantage of my recent conversations with several booksellers who attended June's BookManager Academy in Kelowna, B.C., to ask a question somewhat unrelated to the conference: Having had the opportunity to spend a few days at BMA among so many other independent booksellers, what was your sense of the "indie mood" (for lack of a better phrase) overall?

"I think in general most of us booksellers live a passion running a bookstore, but the mood was generally upbeat and positive," said Joy McLean of Cafe Books, Canmore, Alberta. "I felt most of us were getting on and just selling books rather than moaning about things we can't control. I had a fantastic time and came away energized and excited for the future of small indie stores."

Melissa Bourdon-King of Mabel's Fables Bookstore in Toronto described the indie mood as "very positive. We were all so fired up after the conference, ready to get back to our stores and implement some of the new skills we had learned, to try new techniques we had discussed, and to brainstorm new ideas that had come out at the conference. We all came back with knowledge about new titles that had been selling well at other stores, eager to order them and try them out at our own locations.

"The conference was also a great opportunity for us to talk about the unique struggles we face as independent booksellers, and different coping mechanisms that stores are trying, and to discuss ideas for how we can change things," she continued. "With the loss of three main Canadian warehouses in the past six months, Canadian independent booksellers can find themselves at a real disadvantage in trying to get books into their stores quickly. I think being able to talk about some of these challenges with peers who understood and face the same challenges was a real asset. It can be really isolating focusing solely on your business (or the business you work for) and it was important, especially for me personally, to be reminded that there are so many others out there doing incredible things, and working just as hard as we are here at Mabel's Fables."

Cathy Jesson of Black Bond Books, Surrey, British Columbia, said her team "came away positive from BMA. Our 10 locations are ticking along, challenges with rent and suppliers continue, but overall I am feeling pretty good. Our biggest challenge will be the falling Canadian dollar, and the predator that is Amazon. In our business, it seems there is always something."

"I would say the indie mood is at this point very positive," said Jim Schmidt of Galiano Island Books, Galiano Island, B.C.: "Over the last few years we have seen our numbers shrink in B.C., Canada and the U.S., but now more bookstores are opening and those of us who have survived are a lot more savvy about what we need to do to survive. The big e-book revolution seems to have fizzled a bit, or at least plateaued well below the early projections of what their market share would be and more and more people are turning back to the traditional paper book. The whole idea of 'shop local' has also captured lots of people's attention and customer loyalty is growing, driven in large part by the way that independent bookstores and other independent retailers give back to their communities in so many ways from creating jobs to paying property taxes to sponsoring community programs to just giving folks a pleasant place to spend a few hours browsing.  To paraphrase Mark Twain, 'the news of our demise was greatly exaggerated.' "

While agreeing that "the mood was upbeat in general," Garry MacGregor of Volume One Bookstore, Duncan, B.C., added that "the only concern may have been the aging nature of the population. There are not enough young people entering the profession in Canada--perhaps a function of the unending false tale of woe issuing from the popular media even if it is not true or generally shared by people in the trade."
Offering an American perspective, Tiffany Harlan of Grass Roots Books & Music, Corvallis, Ore., said, "Our North American neighbors share the same challenges we do; but just like U.S. booksellers, those that remain (and the new stores opening) are reinventing the bookstore as a physical space for book lovers and communities to gather. The 'indie mood' is one of open-eyed (not blind) optimism for the future, so long as booksellers and bookstores continue to evolve to meet the challenges."

Barbara Pope of the Mulberry Bush Book Store, Parksville, B.C., struck a chord that will sound familiar to many of us: "When the 100 or so indie booksellers from across the country were introduced on the first morning, I felt like throwing my arms out wide and calling for a group hug! It's been so long since we were all together, and it was so good to be connected in person once again! I think all of us felt that." --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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