Shelf Awareness for Friday, August 7, 2015

Little Brown and Company: Wolf at the Table by Adam Rapp

Tor Nightfire: Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes

Severn River Publishing: Covert Action (Command and Control #5) by J.R. Olson and David Bruns

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers


Little Oddfellows Opens in Elliott Bay Book Co.


"Nestled in the back corner of Elliott Bay Book Company," Little Oddfellows has opened to take the place of the Elliott Bay Café, which closed in June, Seattle Refined reported, adding that "Linda Dershang has done it again. The Capitol Hill food ruler behind Linda's, Smith, Bait Shop, King's, Tallulah's and Oddfellows opened her seventh shop… and it is just as sweet as one would imagine."

Describing the "vibe of the café" as "very light and bright, while maintaining a comfortable feel often lost in a more modern design," Seattle Refined called the new café "equal parts family friendly and hipster friendly, perfect for the neighborhood."

University of California Press: The Accidental Ecosystem: People and Wildlife in American Cities by Peter S. Alagona

AAP Sales: Down 3.3% in April

In April, total net book sales fell 3.3%, to $776.4 million, compared to April 2014, representing sales of 1,210 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers. For the year to date, total net sales are down 5.6%, to $3.002 billion.

Among highlights in April: the major categories with substantial sales gains included downloaded audio, up 36.3%, to $19.1 million; children's board books, up 36.2%, to $5.2 million; adult hardcovers, up 15.8%, to $128.6 million; and K-12 instructional materials, up 15.1%, to $158.4 million. The biggest drags on sales were higher ed course materials, down 46.5%, to $41.5 million; religious presses, down 19.9%, to $37.2 million; and children's/YA, down 12.6%, to $104.9 million.


Indie Booksellers Laud 'Find Waldo Local' Campaign

The fourth annual Find Waldo Local campaign, co-sponsored by the American Booksellers Association and Candlewick Press, was a success, wrapping up last week "after a month-long celebration of the shop local movement in downtown business districts across the country," Bookselling This Week reported.

Waldo and friends at Let's Play Books, Emmaus, Pa.

"This year was definitely the biggest and the most enthusiastic I've ever seen. It is very nice to see how excited the kids are," said Ellen Burns, co-owner of Books on the Common, Ridgefield, Conn. "It's really been great for the month of July. Ridgefield is not a vacation destination, but our sales this month are up more than 5% over last year. July is usually a slow month. Sales are holding up, so we're very happy with our results."

Melissa Maurer, a bookseller at Book 'N' Brush, Chehalis, Wash., said, "Partnering with our literacy council of Lewis County, we created a Live-Action Where's Waldo Hunt to coincide with local community event Chehalis Fest on July 25. Our sales doubled for a typical Saturday, and the event was a resounding success, with families already asking about next year and other local businesses requesting to be included."

At the Briar Patch, Bangor, Maine, marketing manager Gibran Graham told BTW: "When July 1 came around, we had some people who came to the store first thing in the morning. In fact, we had one person go through all 25 stores in just a few hours."

Laura Hill, owner of Reading Rock Books in Dickson, Tenn., noted that "many
of the other store owners said they saw so many people who had never been in their stores before. [Find Waldo Local] is just such a community-building thing. It's great when a bunch of small businesses can come together and share customers like that. It's so helpful."  

In Idaho, BookPeople of Moscow's book buyer Jesica DeHart observed: "I think one of the really tremendous things about [Waldo] is that it has just really endeared us into the hearts of the Moscow community, but also the Pullman community. The absolute support of the local businesses has been huge. I think the gratitude and appreciation we got for putting something like this on in July was just amazing."

U.K. Booksellers, Librarians 'Set to Change' Relationship

A new partnership in the U.K. between the Booksellers Association and the Society of Chief Librarians is "set to change" their relationship on a national scale, the Bookseller reported.

BA CEO Tim Godfray said the organization "is passionately in favor of libraries, and we are delighted to be partnering with the Society of Chief Librarians. We are looking particularly at how bookshops and libraries can work together to grow audiences in 2016 for World Book Day and Shakespeare Week. There are so many good things happening between individual booksellers and libraries. We want to build on this, to mutual benefit."

In a blog post for the Bookseller, SCL executive Ayub Khan wrote: "Bookshops and libraries may seem, to some, unlikely allies. One is in the business of selling books while the other lends them out for free. But we know they can and do work together successfully, but by local arrangement rather than national policy. That is set to change....

"At local level, co-operation can work really well and, in many places, has done for years. Put simply, libraries have large public spaces and bookshops have access to authors and their publishers. Joining forces means they can host bigger and better events that attract more customers.... It's early days but there's a lot more potential.... Perhaps not all of the ideas will come to fruition but others will emerge. At this stage, it's not so much the to-do list that matters as the willingness to work together. Long may it continue."

Obituary Note: Jenny Bell Simpson

Sad news from the U.K.: Jenny Simpson, who, as Jenny Bell, was a longtime editor of the Bookseller magazine, died on Tuesday, the Bookseller reported. She had been ill with cancer.

She joined the Bookseller in 1981 as bookselling editor, then became features editor and was deputy editor from 1996 until 2004.

Praising her "wisdom and friendship," Nicholas Clee, former editor of the Bookseller, commented: "Jenny had the ability, to a higher degree than anyone I have ever known, of analysing any plan, working out its strengths and weaknesses, and seeing it through to a conclusion. You wanted her on your side."

Jenny and I had a strikingly parallel career at our country's respective book trade journals, both starting in 1981 and ending a year apart. We first met at the Las Vegas ABA show in 1990 and hit it off immediately.

Over the years, we had occasional dinners in London or New York, and we relied on each other to understand bookselling and the major changes in bookselling in our respective countries. She asked me to write regular features on the bookselling scene in the U.S., and I happily obliged.

For a time, we had the same job title--bookselling editor--and figured that we were probably the only two people in the world with that title. We also had a running joke: Jenny called herself "the John Mutter of the U.K." and I called myself "the Jenny Bell of the U.S."

She was always thoughtful, considerate, entertaining, full of curiosity and a great reporter and editor. We'll miss the Jenny Bell of the U.K. --John Mutter


Image of the Day: Stormy Weather

Sue Boucher of Cottage Book Shop in Glen Arbor, Mich., reports: "Our little town in northern Michigan was hit by a huge storm on Sunday afternoon, straight line winds of 100 mph came off the lake and slammed into the town and surrounding Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.... I have shared pictures on the store's Facebook page. We closed on Monday but opened the store on Tuesday morning with the use of a Square Reader. There's still much to do but our little town has pulled together which is beautiful to see amongst the destruction." Here, bookseller Brooke Wharton shows off the technology that kept the store running.

Indie Bookstores Share 'Best of Vermont' Award

Two booksellers are among this year's "Best of Vermont" Daysie winners, Seven Days reported, noting that "nearly 9,000 Vermonters weighed in on the state's 2015 'best of Vermont' awards, with a whopping 590,000-plus individual votes in 171 categories." Winners in the "best bookstore" category:  

Phoenix Books: "With their shops in Essex and Burlington, owners Mike DeSanto and Renee Reiner defy the rumor that bookstores are passé. Of course, hardcovers and paperbacks are just part of the biz; they offer thousands of titles for your e-reader, too."

Bear Pond Books: "One of several independently owned bookstores in tiny Montpelier, Bear Pond keeps on turning pages. With book clubs, author events and educator resources, the store has been 'matching readers with books since 1973.' "

Bookmasters to Distribute Paragon House

Bookmasters will provide sales, distribution and fulfillment services for Paragon House in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. The publisher has been distributed by Bloomsbury Publishing and fulfilled by Macmillan.

Paragon House, St. Paul, Minn., publishes trade books, scholarly research, textbooks and reference works in the areas of general philosophy, ethics, contemporary values, world religion, spirituality, social thought, women's studies, social sciences, political philosophy, economics, integral studies, world peace and globalization.

Personnel Changes at Penguin Random House

At Penguin Random House:

Randi Rosenkranz is appointed to the newly created position of v-p, sales development.  She most recently was team manager, worldwide developer relations, at Apple, and before that, Penguin Random House's v-p, digital development.

At Penguin Random House's fulfillment group:

Joyce Slaughter is appointed v-p, director, customers services.
Jane Brown-Wise is named v-p, director, data management.
Tracey Presley is appointed v-p, transportation.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Walter Kirn on Fresh Air

Today on Fresh Air: Walter Kirn, author of Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade (Liveright, $15.95, 9781631490224).


Sunday on NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!: Alice Hoffman, author of The Marriage of Opposites (Simon & Schuster, $27.99, 9781451693591).


Sunday on Meet the Press: Claire McCaskill, co-author of Plenty Ladylike: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781476756752).

TV: Horrorstör

Fox has given a put pilot commitment to an adaptation of Grady Hendrix's novel Horrorstör, reported. The hour-long dramedy is being executive produced by Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Josh Schwartz (Gossip Girl), Gail Berman (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Quirk Books' CEO David Borgenicht. Michael Vukadinovich will co-executive produce and Hendrix will act as a consultant on the project. The pilot is being written by Schwartz and Vukadinovich.

Movies: The Martian

In a new clip from The Martian, based on Andy Weir's novel, the crew of the ARES 3 "prepare for their mission to Mars by spending 10 days in isolation," Entertainment Weekly noted. "After their 10 days are up, a NASA psychologist interviews them to judge their psychological state, and we learn more about the astronauts who are making the journey to the Red Planet, as Jessica Chastain shuts down sexism, Michael Peña recaps Goodfellas, and Matt Damon ponders the scientific accuracy of Aquaman." Ridley Scott's film hits theaters on October 2. 

Books & Authors

Book Brahmin: Val Brelinski

photo: Tim Brelinsky and Max Boyd

Val Brelinski was born and raised in Nampa, Idaho, the daughter of devout evangelical Christians. She was a recent Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, where she was also a Jones Lecturer in fiction writing. She received an MFA from the University of Virginia, and her writing has been published in VQR and the Rumpus. She lives in Northern California. Her debut novel is The Girl Who Slept with God (Viking, August 4, 2015).

On your nightstand now:

I am engrossed in two short story collections: Black Glass by Karen Joy Fowler and You Will Never See Any God by Ervin D. Krause. I am a sap for strangely dark, subversive short stories--the darker and more dreadful, the better. I'm sure this says quite a bit about my own personal leanings and temperament.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The 13 Clocks by James Thurber, a very dark (of course!) take on the classic fairy tale form that utilizes the most inventive word play ever. I have read this book so many times I have memorized most of it. I was also obsessed with Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I stole this rather radical book out of my grade school library, and I've never felt sorry. I carried it with me like a talisman all through fifth and sixth grade.

Your top five authors:

This is an impossible task, but since I am forced to choose only five, here are the writers whose entire oeuvre I've read and re-read and will read yet again: Deborah Eisenberg, Tessa Hadley, Katherine Mansfield, Bruno Schulz and George Saunders. (Alice Munro goes without saying.)

Book you've faked reading:

I will probably continue to pretend that I've read The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Charity by Mark Richard and Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, two absolutely inventive and gorgeously rendered flights of fancy.

Book you've bought for the cover:

As much as I love art, I've never bought a book for its cover. Am I missing something?

Book that changed your life:

Falling in Place by Ann Beattie was the first piece of contemporary adult fiction I ever read. Because I was raised evangelical, I wasn't allowed to read anything other than the "classics," so this book was revelatory in its use of modern, idiomatic language, casual sex scenes and hilarious, drug-induced conversations. I felt amazed and immensely cheered that this was considered to be good, literary fiction, and realized that maybe I, too, could write something similar.

Favorite line from a book:

I love the use of the litotes in this passage from Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses:

"Lastly he looked at the face so caved and drawn among the folds of funeral cloth, the yellowed mustache, the eyelids paper thin. That was not sleeping. That was not sleeping."

Which character you most relate to:

Chip Lambert from Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections is a troubled and trouble-making middle child who refuses to grow up even while immersed in the world of academia. I identify strongly.

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

I would be thrilled to be able to re-experience Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell (the obvious precursor to The Corrections). Its marvelous use of understatement and bittersweet look at American culture pains me in just the way I long to be pained.

Book Review

Review: The Incarnations

The Incarnations by Susan Barker (Touchstone, $26 hardcover, 9781501106781, August 18, 2015)

Fantasy and thriller collide in this novel from Susan Barker (The Orientalist and the Ghost), a thousand-year epic of reincarnation wrapped in a paranoid game of cat and mouse.

Wang Jun thinks he has an ordinary life. When he finds the first letter in his taxicab, he assumes he received it by mistake or as a prank. A driver in Beijing, he shares an unremarkable existence with his wife, Yida, and their school-age daughter, Echo, yet the letter's writer insists Wang is a reincarnated soul destined to walk the path of life with him (or her) throughout the ages. They have already shared many lives as family members, lovers, enemies. Bound by fate, Wang and the writer will reunite again in this life, their shared history of love and betrayal more powerful than the ties of marriage or parenthood.

At first merely bemused, Wang soon becomes deeply unsettled as more letters follow. The writer claims they were a late-made eunuch and his rejected daughter during the Tang Dynasty; two peasant boys enslaved by the Mongols; a pair of concubines caught up in a plot to assassinate the sadistic Emperor Jiajing. While the stories captivate him, the letters also describe the writer following Wang and his family, sometimes railing against Yida. Wang becomes concerned for their safety, and when fragments of his troubled youth begin to resurface, he wonders if he has unwittingly invited a madman into his life.

The bustle of Beijing during preparations for the 2008 Olympics adds to the increasing sense of claustrophobia as Wang's watcher circles closer and Wang's mind begins to fray. Barker seamlessly integrates the letters and chapters about Wang's more immediate past, including his difficult childhood, a stay in a mental hospital and a love affair he had before meeting Yida, which still haunts him. She writes on an enormous scope, rolling ancient Chinese history and legends in with the Communist Revolution and then juxtaposing them with a narrative set in the modern-day country they created. Despite the multiple jumps through time, Barker never loses her grip on the pacing, ratcheting up the tension. As the letters grow more unsettling, the reader becomes as desperate as Wang to know the writer's identity. Although Wang is certain he has a crazed stalker, the reader must wonder until the end whether the fantasy is the reality, if Wang might not truly carry a reincarnated soul destined to reunite with its mate. Brutal yet seductive, this journey through the darkest parts of the human spirit will leave readers with chills running down their spines. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: A taxi driver in Beijing receives anonymous letters about his alleged past lives from someone claiming to be his soulmate, but suspects the writer has a dark purpose.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'Beach Reads' & Booksellers #2

I hardly feel anything at all sometimes. I do what's next. And that's the way the poor get their work done. That's the secret. --Yslea, the narrator of Raymond Barfield's debut novel, The Book of Colors

During BookExpo America, I had a long conversation with Fred Ramey, co-publisher of Unbridled Books. We talked, as we do occasionally, about everything in our bookish universe, but eventually the conversation turned to a project he was particularly excited about--The Book of Colors. Not long after the show, I found out why and it became one of my "summer books." which technically means certain special titles I read and love between June and Labor Day... and recommend ever after.

Our guide and narrator is Yslea, a mixed-race woman who had a tough childhood and has an old soul. At 19, she "strolled out" of "a shelter for ladies in Memphis," eventually stumbling upon what would ultimately become her community: four disparate people sitting on the porch sofas of three dilapidated row houses near railroad tracks. Yslea's simple request for a glass of water is a life-altering moment.

We are made up of pieces, but somehow we feel whole.

There is a blurb for the novel on Unbridled's website from Cathy Langer, lead buyer at the Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, Colo.: "I just finished The Book of Colors. I cried at the end, which I almost never do, not because it was sad but because it was so sweet and clear and beautifully written… different in a really wonderful way."

And there is a story behind the blurb. Langer told me that Barfield's agent, Sandra Bond, had "asked me to read the manuscript, which I did and which I found mesmerizing and deeply moving…. I can't remember what I did, if anything, when I first was helping Sandra. I believe she and/or Fred took what I wrote back then and used it themselves, which is great."

She is being modest. Ramey recalled that "when Bond sent the manuscript to me, it came with a beautiful endorsement from Cathy, and so, of course, I had to read it. And I fell for the stubborn innocence of Yslea--a solitary innocent in a real world.

"In April Gayle Shanks contacted us for an ARC because Cathy had recommended the book to her. And when she'd finished reading it, Gayle so loved the novel that she made it a staff pick at Changing Hands Bookstore. And then she reached out to other booksellers. The exciting moment came at BEA when booksellers started coming by the Unbridled stand to tell us either that they loved The Book of Colors already or had heard about it or the ARC was at the top of their TBR stacks."

I'm the kind that when it rains hard I feel sorry for the roof and if an old bike sits in someone's yard and rusts I feel sorry for the bike, too.

"Everyone seems to be moved by Yslea's voice," said Ramey. "I love not only her voice but the clarity in her struggle to understand what the world presents as good and what it seems to think is wrong."

Raymond Barfield

By the way, the author has a day job. Dr. Raymond Barfield is a pediatric oncologist at Duke University School of Medicine and an associate professor of philosophy at Duke Divinity School. He directs the Pediatric Quality of Life/Palliative Care program, and has worked with low-income children at Duke, as well as in the ERs of Atlanta and Memphis inner-city hospitals.

In an essay about this singular manuscript he was publishing, Ramey wrote that at a certain point he "understood that the empathy in the novel I had before me more likely came, not from a poet/philosopher's abstract reflection, but from the intensity of a particular kind of day-to-day experience: the still questioning emotional life of a physician."

He also noted that knowing Barfield's profession "in the context of this supremely personal novel--told in the voice of someone so different from himself--is what set me on these thoughts…. Writing is a kind of reflective feeling, like touching a hand to the murmuring chest of a child. It's personal."

Yslea's favorite book is Robinson Crusoe.

I especially liked the beginning because when he found himself on an island by himself he didn't do what I would have done back then, which is to get all worried about this and that, but instead he made a list of what he had.

"Learning to be a real doctor made it possible for me to write the book," Barfield has observed. "Writing the book has helped me become a real doctor. Point and counterpoint. Balance. Beauty, everywhere, and in everyone." --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

The Bestsellers

Top Book Club Picks in July

The following were the most popular book club books during July based on votes from more than 120,000 book club readers from more than 39,000 book clubs registered at

1. The Girl on the Train: A Novel by Paula Hawkins
2. All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel by Anthony Doerr
3. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
4. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
5. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin
6. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
7. Orphan Train: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline
8. The Rosie Project: A Novel by Graeme Simison
9. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
10. The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

Rising Stars:

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

[Many thanks to!]

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