Shelf Awareness for Monday, August 17, 2015

Grove Press: Brother Alive by Zain Khalid

Bantam: All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers

Union Square & Co.: A Broken Blade (The Halfling Saga) by Melissa Blair

Sourcebooks Landmark: The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris

Simon & Schuster: Recording for the Simon & Schuster and Simon Kids Fall Preview 2022

Soho Crime: Lady Joker, Volume 2 by Kaoru Takamura, translated by Allison Markin Powell and Marie Iida

Berkley Books: Once Upon a December by Amy E. Reichert; Lucy on the Wild Side by Kerry Rea; Where We End & Begin by Jane Igharo


Bookstore Sales Jump 3.9% in June

June bookstore sales rose 3.9%, to $698 million, compared to June 2014, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. This was the fourth month in a row this year that bookstore sales increased over the comparable month last year. For the year to date, bookstore sales are now up over last year: during the first half of 2014, sales rose 0.2%, to $4.889 billion.

Total retail sales in June rose 3.3%, to $447.7 billion. For the year to date, total retail sales have risen 2.1%, to $2,571.8 billion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing a general line of new books. These establishments may also sell stationery and related items, second-hand books, and magazines."

Harper: We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman

In Moby Dickens Space, op.cit. Taos Opens

On Saturday, op.cit. Taos opened at the former location of Moby Dickens Bookshop in Taos, N.Mex., which closed last month. Pasatiempo reported that Noemi de Bodisco, owner of op.cit. books in Santa Fe and Tome on the Range in Las Vegas, is operating the new bookshop, but "due to outstanding legal issues related to the previous owners, she cannot use the name Moby Dickens at this time, but hopes to be able to in the future." Former Moby Dickens employees are being rehired.

Noting that De Bodisco had wanted to open a bookstore in Taos for many years, Pasatiempo wrote that when she heard the store had closed, she quickly responded. Although op.cit. Taos will have the same business model as her other stores, De Bodisco said "every store is different. Every store depends on the community. The first thing we'll do is get feedback from the Taos community about what's needed. We expect things to be very hectic for the first month, and on the first weekend we might be calculating sales by hand, but we really want to get the place open quickly so that people don't think it's been abandoned."

Tundra Books: The Further Adventures of Miss Petitfour (The Adventures of Miss Petitfour) by Anne Michaels, illustrated by Emma Block

Waterstones to Open Flagship Store in London in October

photo: The Independent

Waterstones plans to open a flagship, 7,000-square-foot store in London on Tottenham Court Road in October, the Independent reported. The three-story store will be near the new Foyles flagship store, which opened last year next to its longtime location, on Charing Cross Road. Waterstones added that it plans to open other stores in London.

"The bookshop is absolutely not dead," Waterstones managing director James Daunt told the Independent. "The pleasure of owning an attractive object and being able to show it off still carries weight. How can you boast that you're reading the new Harper Lee with a Kindle?' "

Tim Godfray, CEO of the Booksellers Association, called Waterstones' news an "encouraging signal out to the book community," particularly after a nine-year period in U.K. book retailing marked by the growth of online printed books and e-books and "the power and dominance of Amazon."

KidsBuzz for the Week of 05.16.22

New York Times on Amazon Corporate Culture: 'Bruising'

In a long piece titled "Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace" and based on interviews with more than 100 former and current Amazon employees, the New York Times yesterday outlined the company's corporate culture in grim detail. Among striking sections of the article:

"At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another's ideas in meetings, toil long and late (e-mails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are 'unreasonably high.' The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another's bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: 'I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.')"

"The company's winners dream up innovations that they roll out to a quarter-billion customers and accrue small fortunes in soaring stock. Losers leave or are fired in annual cullings of the staff--'purposeful Darwinism,' one former Amazon human resources director said. Some workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal crises said they had been evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover."

"Bo Olson... lasted less than two years in a book marketing role and said that his enduring image was watching people weep in the office, a sight other workers described as well. 'You walk out of a conference room and you'll see a grown man covering his face,' he said. 'Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.' "

The Times quoted many unhappy Amazon veterans and former employees, but obviously some people thrive in this work environment, with its unrelenting emphasis on the customer experience and data, as well as the call to perform beyond levels employees thought were manageable. Many also cited the challenges of solving huge technical problems on a global scale and, chillingly, the opportunity "to reinvent the world." Strikingly, many of those who sounded most satisfied were ex-Amazon employees who felt that some of the lessons they learned at Amazon made them better employees in their new jobs.

The Times story jibes with accounts in memoirs by former Amazon employees and most notably in The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone.

Still, several Amazonians, including founder and CEO Jeff Bezos himself, criticized the story. In a company-wide memo posted by GeekWire, Bezos wrote, in part, "The article doesn't describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day. But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at Even if it's rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero."

The article, Bezos continued, "claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard. Again, I don't recognize this Amazon and I very much hope you don't, either. More broadly, I don't think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive, much less thrive, in today's highly competitive tech hiring market. The people we hire here are the best of the best. You are recruited every day by other world-class companies, and you can work anywhere you want.

"I strongly believe that anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay. I know I would leave such a company."

Bezos, known for his honking, odd-timed laughs, concluded: "But hopefully, you don't recognize the company described. Hopefully, you're having fun working with a bunch of brilliant teammates, helping invent the future, and laughing along the way."

And in a widely shared LinkedIn post, Amazon executive Nick Ciubotariu wrote in part about the Times story:

"I've read many articles that describe us. Some are more accurate than others. Sadly, this isn't one of them. This particular article, has so many inaccuracies (some clearly deliberate), that, as an Amazonian, and a proud one at that, I feel compelled to respond."

Concerning "the headline itself, and subsequent 'experiment' references," he wrote, "There is no 'little-known experiment.' That's just silly. No one at Amazon has time for this, least of all Jeff Bezos. We've got our hands full with reinventing the world."

"During my 18 months at Amazon, I've never worked a single weekend when I didn't want to. No one tells me to work nights. No one makes me answer e-mails at night. No one texts me to ask me why e-mails aren't answered. I don't have these expectations of the managers that work for me, and if they were to do this to their Engineers, I would rectify that myself, immediately. And if these expectations were in place, and enforced upon me, I would leave."

Perhaps John Rossman, an ex-Amazonian who wrote The Amazon Way, described Amazon corporate culture the best, when he said to the Times, "A lot of people who work there feel this tension: It's the greatest place I hate to work.'"

GLOW: Park Row: The Two Lives of Sara by Catherine Adel West

NAIBA and NEIBA Call for IndieCommerce Upgrades

Saying that the IndieCommerce "customer experience feels as if it's at least a decade behind other online sites, highlighted by a completely inadequate search engine," the board of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association has written the American Booksellers Association board, calling for immediate, "significant upgrades." At the same time, the board of the New England Independent Booksellers Association also wrote to the ABA board, stating its strong support for NAIBA's letter.

NAIBA noted that the IndieCommerce site is "an essential part of our stores' operations" and said that it relies on the ABA "to maintain and steadily improve this service in order to keep it a viable option for online shopping.... We do not expect ABA to offer a site equal to that of Amazon or other online giants," but the site must be improved.

NEIBA added that it appears that "despite the valiant efforts of the ABA staff, the organization is under-investing in its digital initiatives, despite the growing importance of such initiatives to the membership. What is particularly striking is that, almost one year after a major IndieCommerce infrastructure upgrade, we still lack a number of important features that were available prior to the upgrade and we would be hard pressed to identify any significant features that have been made possible by the upgrade."

In a letter to the NAIBA and NEIBA board, ABA president Betsy Burton, co-owner of the King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah, said the groups "brought up issues that the board has been grappling with at just about every meeting." She added, "Although the new platform is now up and running, we understand that there are still kinks to be worked out. We have high hopes that we can not only accomplish this pretty quickly but also begin to make greater headway in other areas-and we completely agree that issues surrounding the search function are of the highest priority."

Vintage: Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin


Image of the Day: Crayons Come Home to the Book Stall

In preparation for a visit next month by Drew Daywalt, author of The Day the Crayons Quit and the new The Day the Crayons Came Home (Philomel), the Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, Ill., has its front windows decorated and ready.

Beaming Books: Sarah Rising by Ty Chapman, illustrated by Deann Wiley

Petunia's Place: 'Bringing Children & Books Together'

Former teachers Debbie Manning and Jean Fennacy, co-owners of Petunia's Place, Fresno, Calif., "have a passion for bringing children and books together.... And the love isn't one-sided, as many in the community appreciate the shop for what it provides: The chance to find the perfect children's book," the Fresno Bee reported, noting that despite challenges, the indie "continues to survive and even thrive. Formerly devoted solely to children's books, the independent bookseller at 6027 N. Palm Ave. last year expanded to offer a broader selection of books for adults after Fig Garden Bookstore closed its doors."

To succeed, the owners continually ask themselves what else they can do so people know they are there. "We still have people that will come in and say 'I didn't know you were here, and I've lived in Fresno for 50 years,' " Fennacy said.

Manning added: "We've been blessed with dear friends. Our employees have been a godsend. They've all been a part of our lives in some kind of entwined way: student-teachers, students and children of teachers.... The community is who we are. We are Fresno."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Alison Bechdel on Fresh Air

Today on Fresh Air: Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (Mariner, $14.95, 9780618871711).


Today on Diane Rehm: Jeffrey Selingo, author of College (Un)bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students (Amazon, $14.95, 9781477800744).


Today on a repeat of the Wendy Williams Show: Fredrik Eklund, co-author of The Sell: The Secrets of Selling Anything to Anyone (Avery, $26.95, 9781592409310).


Tomorrow on a repeat of the View: Judy Blume, author of In the Unlikely Event (Knopf, $27.95, 9781101875049).

Movies: Trumbo

The first trailer is out for Trumbo, based on Bruce Cook's 1977 book Trumbo: A Biography of the Oscar-Winning Screenwriter Who Broke the Hollywood Blacklist. reported that the trailer offers the "first extended look at Bryan Cranston as a fighting-mad blacklisted 1940s screenwriter" in a film directed by Jay Roach, and co-starring Helen Mirren, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Louis C.K., David James Elliott, Elle Fanning, John Goodman, Diane Lane, Alan Tudyk and Michael Stuhlbarg. The film hits theaters November 6.

Books & Authors

Awards: Guardian First Book Longlist

A longlist has been released for the £10,000 (about $15,640) Guardian First Book Award, and "six out of the 10 books selected for the prize, awarded to the year's best debut in any genre, are published by independent presses, with a further two titles published by major houses in the U.K. after smaller imprints first picked them up elsewhere." This year's winner will be announced in late November. The 2015 longlisted titles are:

The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink
Grief Is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
The Shore by Sara Taylor
Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrea
Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume
Man V. Nature by Diane Cook
Physical by Andrew McMillan
The Fish Ladder by Katharine Norbury
Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev

Book Review

Review: Application for Release from the Dream: Poems

Application for Release from the Dream: Poems by Tony Hoagland (Graywolf Press, $16 trade paper, 9781555977184, September 1, 2015)

Tony Hoagland is one of those poets you want to accompany in his F150 pickup on a road trip across Texas, from his teaching gig at the University of Houston to his home in Santa Fe, N.Mex., with a 12-pack of Tecate between you, and his funny, colloquial poems providing the mixtape. He is from what the New York Times book critic Dwight Garner calls the "Amiable School of American Poets, a group for which Billy Collins serves as both prom king and starting point guard." Like Hoagland's previous four collections (including National Book Critics Circle Award finalist What Narcissism Means to Me), Application for Release from the Dream is full of poems like a rush of fresh air. We laugh alongside his narrators grappling with old age, like in "Summer," where "A forty-year-old man stares at a wetsuit on the rack:/ Is it too late in life to dress up like a seal and surf?" Or in "Crazy Motherf**ker Weather," as he wonders, "Am I entering the season of tantrums and denunciations?/ My crazy motherf**ker weather?/ ...yelling at strangers on the plane/ ...hammering the video rental machine/ ...wondering whether a third choice exists/ between resignation and/ going around the bend."

While Hoagland does more than merely dip his toe in the darkness, he never lets it swallow him whole. He looks for and finds slivers of salvation. When his wife of six years reveals in "Don't Tell Anyone" that "she screams underwater when she swims," the narrator shrugs and suggests, "For all I know, maybe everyone is screaming silently/ as they go through life." One well-traveled narrator looks from the motel minibar to the Gideon Bible for some kind of understanding, only to conclude: "Hard to believe that death is just around the corner./ What kind of idiot would think he even had a destiny?" Another narrator looks back in the poem "Misunderstandings" to reflect: "All those years I kept trying and failing and trying/ to find my one special talent in this life--/ Why did it take me so long to figure out/ that my special talent was trying?"

After rambling along from one amusing, troubling experience to another, Hoagland suggests one sure path to succor from the perils of life and diminishment of aging. In "There Is No Word," he finds redemption in language:

"how, over the years, it has given me
back all the hours and days, all the
plodding love and faith, all the
misunderstandings and secrets and mistakes
I have willing poured into it."

So put your boots up on the dash, pop a cold one and enjoy Hoagland's well-crafted evocative thoughts and humor. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: In Hoagland's fine fifth collection of poems, aging narrators attempt to come to grips with their lives of misunderstandings and mistakes.

KidsBuzz: Katherine Tegen Books: Case Closed #4: Danger on the Dig by Lauren Magaziner
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