Shelf Awareness for Friday, October 16, 2015

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury

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

Doubleday Books: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio

Quotation of the Day

Booksellers' 'Magical Power of Infinite Recommendations'

"Bookstores are definitely magical places, and independent bookstores in particular. (One of my favorite independent bookstores in Ireland--Charlie Byrne's in Galway city--actually gets a shout-out in The Accident Season.) Indie bookstores always seem to be staffed by passionate and absurdly knowledgeable booksellers with the magical power of infinite recommendations. Something I've noticed as a reader and as a writer is the incredible support indie bookstores have for debut authors. There is so much thought put into finding new stories to share with customers and new worlds to introduce to new readers. As a writer, it's incredibly exciting. As a reader, it's invaluable."

--Moïra Fowley-Doyle, author of The Accident Season, which is a Summer/Fall 2015 Indies Introduce debut YA title and an Autumn 2015 Kids' Indie Next List pick.

Holiday House: The Five Impossible Tasks of Eden Smith by Tom Llewellyn; The Selkie's Daughter by Linda Crotta Brennan


Bookstore Sales Off 4% in August

August bookstore sales fell 4%, to $1.55 billion, compared to July 2014, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. After five months in a row of gains, this was the first month that sales fell compared to the comparable month last year. For the year to date, bookstore sales have slipped 0.2%, to $7.157 billion.

Total retail sales in August rose 1.4%, to $456.5 billion. For the year to date, total retail sales have risen 2.1%, to $3,413.5 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."

Amistad Press: The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade by Hannah Durkin

Rowman & Littlefield Acquires USCJ Book Program

Rowman & Littlefield has purchased the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism book program. The acquisition includes approximately 100 active book titles, which are bought primarily by congregations, schools and more than 6,000 individual purchasers. As part of the partnership, USCJ will work with the publisher to increase the number of new books published by Rowman & Littlefield for USCJ and promoted through a dedicated USCJ catalogue and other marketing initiatives.

"Following the adoption of our strategic plan in 2011, we have re-focused on core priorities that create the most impact for our sacred communities," said USCJ CEO Rabbi Steven Wernick. "Partnering with Rowman & Littlefield enables us to continue to develop high-quality content, while allowing our books and materials to be marketed and sold in a much larger universe."

Rowman & Littlefield CEO Jed Lyons commented: "We are thrilled to enter into a publishing partnership with one of the country's oldest and most distinguished Jewish organizations."

Sally Kim Named Putnam V-P, Editorial Director

Sally Kim

Sally Kim has been appointed v-p, editorial director of G.P. Putnam's Sons, overseeing the entire acquisition process and editorial team for the Penguin Random House imprint. Prior to joining the company, she was editorial director of Simon & Schuster's Touchstone imprint.

"Sally is the perfect person to both help carry on Putnam's bestselling tradition and to lead our editorial team in the evolving marketplace," said Ivan Held, president of Putnam and Dutton. "She has vision, market acumen, an eye for talent on the page, terrific agent relationships and the right sensibility to help each editor bring in top books in each of Putnam's areas of strength."

The Beginning of the Neverending Bookshop, Bothell, Wash.

Annie Carl, who until last month worked at the Third Place Books location in Lake Forest Park, Wash., is fulfilling her lifelong dream of owning her own bookstore. On Saturday, October 24, her Neverending Bookshop, a 560-square-foot, general-interest used bookstore will open its doors in downtown Bothell, Wash. To help raise extra funds for the opening, Carl has launched a GoFundMe campaign and opened an Etsy store featuring her own knitting. In addition to fiction, nonfiction, sci-fi, fantasy and the like, the store will have a children's section--or children's corner, as Carl calls it--with a mural featuring classic characters and locations from children's stories, including a pirate ship from Peter Pan and Rapunzel's tower. And at least initially, the only non-book inventory will be Carl's own handmade scarves, cowls and other items.

A bookseller with 16 years of experience, Annie Carl got her first bookselling job, at age 15, at Mr. B's Bookery (now the Kingston Bookery) in her hometown of Kingston, Wash. The store opened when Carl was just 14, and she began asking the owner for a part-time job less than a week after it opened.

"After a year of pestering them, and after they expanded the store, they decided to hire me part time," recalled Carl. "They couldn't pay me because I was 15, so they let me take home books. Which is what I would have spent my money on anyway."

Carl's love for books began very early in life. Born with a rare spinal birth defect, she had frequent surgeries as a child and young adult. She spent a lot of time in bed recovering from various medical procedures, she recalled, and her main source of comfort, aside from her parents and siblings, was reading. "It's a huge part of why I love books so much," she n.

She worked at Mr. B's Bookery for the rest of her teenage years, and returned while on break from college and even worked there on weekends after she got a job as a journalist with the North Kitsap Herald. In 2008, at the age of 24, Carl was diagnosed with Stage IV non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The cancer, unrelated to her spinal birth defect, kept her out of work for a year of chemotherapy, radiation and recovery. Books, along with her family and friends, helped her get through it.

"I think read Sabriel [by Garth Nix] seven or eight times while I was going through chemotherapy," Carl said. "Same with The Neverending Story, Harry Potter and Young Wizards by Diane Duane."

She was given remission status in 2009, and when she looked started looking for work again, she turned to bookselling. Carl eventually started at the Lake Forest Park location of Third Place Books and worked there for five years (and was the head of the science fiction and fantasy department for about 18 month). She began seriously considering opening her own bookstore in March of 2014, after her oncologist told her that she was not only in remission, but that her cancer was in fact cured.

"I started sobbing hysterically," said Carl. "And then I thought, well, what should I do? I started thinking about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life."

Carl left her job at Third Place Books in September. The choice to leave a "wonderful and stable job" to start her own "possibly not-so-stable store" was difficult, she said, but she wanted to try. "I've never done anything risky on my own, it's all been pushed on me in the way of surgeries and cancer treatments." And though it's been at times a stressful process, she added, it's "also been exhilarating and incredibly fun. I'm testing myself and my resolve in new ways."

In addition to trying to raise as much money for the store by herself as possible, Carl has put some 90% of her own book collection into the store's inventory. She and her mother have been hunting for books at garage sales since the beginning of the summer. Carl has also been going to library sales and purchased backstock from the Kingston Bookery. And many of her friends, she said, are eager to sell their own books in exchange for store credit.

"The store might start with some empty patches, but I don't think it's going to stay that way for very long," Carl said.

Carl is eager to do events, but the small size of her store presents a challenge. She doubts  conventional author events would be possible, as they'd be standing room only, but she's very excited to host book groups and knitting groups. Carl's mother will also do a regular storytime for children. And for November's National Novel Writing Month, which Carl has done for the past seven years, she'll host write-ins for participants.

"It's a small store. I'll be utilizing the space as best I can, to support the literary, writerly, crafty community in Bothell," she commented. --Alex Mutter


Image of the Day: Harper's BAZAAR: Models

photo by Rachel Murray/WireImage

Author Derek Blasberg signs a copy of his new book for actress Jessica Alba at Saks Fifth Avenue's event for Harper's BAZAAR: Models (Abrams) in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Village Voice: Greenlight Bookstore 'Best of NYC'

Brooklyn's Greenlight Bookstore was named "Best Bookstore" in the Village Voice's Best of NYC edition. Noting that Greenlight is "on its way to becoming a New York institution," the Voice wrote: "Rebecca Fitting and Jessica Stockton Bagnulo opened the Fort Greene favorite in 2009 and celebrated a crucial milestone this past summer when the store settled the tab on the remainder of its community lender loans, making Greenlight totally debt-free. Beyond its top-of-the-line stock of everything from classics to under-the-radar gems, devotees love Greenlight for its intense focus on fostering community in its neighborhood. Partnerships with the Brooklyn Academy of Music, St. Joseph's College, and Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration bring local writers and world-famous authors alike to Greenlight's much-celebrated reading series, and the shop runs plenty of community-oriented reading groups and cultural discussions week to week. That kind of dedication to playing an active role in a community, rather than that of just another ephemeral rental in a block of retail chains, makes Greenlight a truly special place, worthy of love in Brooklyn and way beyond."

Picture This: MPIBA Fall Discovery Show

Check out this 17-minute slideshow, featuring highlights from this year's Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Fall Discovery Show as seen through the lens of Victoria (Tori) Henson, MPIBA "volunteer extraordinaire and official show photographer."

Personnel Changes at Scholastic Education

Elissa Tomasetti has been named senior v-p, marketing for Scholastic Education She was formerly v-p, B2C communities at Pearson Education and has more than 25 years of marketing and communications experience.

Book Trailer of the Day: Preschooled

Preschooled by Anna Lefler (Full Fathom Five) presents "Juicebox Jungle." A portion of the author's proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Bob Woodward Faces the Nation

This morning on CBS This Morning: Rachel Renee Russell, author of Dork Diaries 10: Tales of a Not-So-Perfect Pet Sitter (Aladdin, $13.99, 9781481457040), which goes on sale November 20.


Today on Fresh Air: John Cleese, author of So, Anyway (Three Rivers Press, $16, 9780385348263).


Sunday on CBS Sunday Morning: Elvis Costello, author of Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink (Blue Rider Press, $30, 9780399167256). He will also appear on NPR's Bullseye with Jesse Thorne and NPR's World Cafe.


Sunday on ABC's Here and Now: Michael Strahan, co-author of Wake Up Happy: The Dream Big, Win Big Guide to Transforming Your Life (Atria/37 INK, $26.99, 9781476775685).


Sunday on Face the Nation: Bob Woodward, author of The Last of the President's Men (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781501116445).

TV: Shadowhunters

ABC Family, which will be rebranded in January as the Freeform channel, has released a sneak peek at its straight-to-series drama Shadowhunters, based on Cassandra Clare's bestselling Mortal Instruments YA book series, reported. The show premieres January 12, and the network will also air Beyond the Shadows: The Making of Shadowhunters on December 6. The series stars Katherine McNamara, Dominic Sherwood, Harry Shum Jr., Alberto Rosende, Matthew Daddario, Emeraude Toubia and Isaiah Mustafa.

Movies: Beasts of No Nation; Brooklyn

The final trailer is out for writer/director Cary Joji Fukunaga's Beasts of No Nation, the film adaptation of Uzodinma Iweala's book that "looks nothing short of intense and harrowing, and it's definitely one of the must-see movies this fall," IndieWire reported. Starring Idris Elba and Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation debuts on Netflix and in theaters October 16.


A new trailer has been released for Brooklyn, "a gorgeous movie about love and the idea that you can't go home again," Indiewire reported, noting that the film, based Colm Toibin's novel, "premiered at Sundance earlier this year, and was met equivalent swooning approval from critics at Telluride, TIFF and the New York Film Festival." Directed by John Crowley, Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters. Fox Searchlight will release the film November 4 on a limited basis before expanding in the following weeks.

Books & Authors

Awards: Kirkus; Gordon Burn

Winners of the second annual Kirkus Prize, sponsored by Kirkus Reviews and worth $50,000 each, are:

Fiction: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Doubleday)
Nonfiction: Between the World and Me: Notes on the First 150 Years in America by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel & Grau)
Young Readers' Literature: Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova (Scholastic)

The winners were announced yesterday at a ceremony in Austin, Tex.


Dan Davies won the £5,000 (about $7,740) Gordon Burn Prize for In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile. The award is run in partnership by New Writing North, Faber & Faber and the Gordon Burn Trust. In addition to a cash prize, the winning writer may go on a writing retreat of up to three months at Gordon Burn's cottage in the Borders.

Book Brahmin: Jeff Guinn

photo: Ralph Lauer

Jeff Guinn, investigative journalist and former books editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is the author of several works of nonfiction, including Manson, The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral and Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde. He is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and the Texas Literary Hall of Fame. Guinn ventured into fiction last year with Glorious, the first installment in a sweeping trilogy of the American West. The second novel in the series is Buffalo Trail (Putnam, October 6, 2015). He lives in Fort Worth, Tex.

On your nightstand now:

Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson. It's a great book. To me, this is how history should be presented--providing fascinating context, explaining why things happened the way that they did, not just what happened.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Once and Future King by T.H. White. It's still my favorite book.

Your top five authors:

Robert Olen Butler, Suzan-Lori Parks, A.J. Liebling, Paul Auster and James Lee Burke.

Book you've faked reading:

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, both in high school and college. Much later I tried again, and realized what I'd missed the first two times.

Book you're an evangelist for:

A Texas Jubilee by James Ward Lee, a masterful collection of short fiction published by TCU Press--kill if you have to, but get a copy.

Book you've bought for the cover:

None. I'm too cheap.

Book you hid from your parents:

None. They encouraged me to read whatever I wanted.

Book that changed your life:

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. I was 15 when I read it and thought, "Hey, I want to do something like this."

Favorite line from a book:

"People are people, and if you put some of them down [write about them] the way they are, they likely wouldn't be happy. I don't blame them." --Goodbye to a River by John Graves.

Five books you'll never part with:

The Once and Future King by T.H. White, The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe, The Gates of the Alamo by Stephen Harrigan, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole and The Sweet Science by A.J. Liebling.

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

The Once and Future King by T.H. White.

Of all the authors you personally admire and have met, who gave you the most memorable advice:

John Irving, who told me, "So many writers say that they want to make readers think. I want to make readers feel. That's when a book really matters to them."

Book Review

Review: Playing Days

Playing Days by Benjamin Markovits (HarperPerennial, $15.99 trade paper, 9780062376633, November 3, 2015)

Shortly after graduating from Yale in 1995, novelist Benjamin Markovits (You Don't Have to Live Like This) departed for Germany. There he spent a year playing basketball for a minor league team while searching for his identity as a writer. He's transformed that experience into the frank, disarming autobiographical novel Playing Days, originally published in England in 2011, now in print in the United States for the first time.

Though he never played college basketball, on the strength of a homemade video showcasing his shooting skills, the Texas-born Benjamin Markovits of the novel improbably lands a contract with a second division team called the Yoghurts in the small medieval town of Landshut, about an hour's train ride from Munich. He joins a ragtag band of teammates that include American Bo Hadnot, at age 30 aching for one last shot at the NBA, and Karl (modeled on the superstar Dirk Nowitzki, with whom the author played), an undisciplined German teenager whose preternatural talent already has him marked for greatness. His assimilation, such as it is, is helped by the fact that his ancestors are German--Jewish on his father's side, Christian on his mother's--and that he's fluent in the language.

The protagonist's life is complicated when he falls in love with Anke, Bo Hadnot's estranged wife and the mother of his three-year-old daughter. In scenes that are striking both for their insight and for the chasteness of their characters' behavior, Markovits effectively portrays Benjamin's stumbling entry into the adult world. Transported to his ancestral home, the young man also finds himself wrestling, for the first time, with the question of his mixed religious heritage.

Markovits nails the mind-numbing repetition of the team's twice-a-day workouts and the tedium of traveling for hours by bus through the German countryside to play a game before a few hundred fans. Readers who aren't basketball enthusiasts may find themselves skimming the novel's intermittent game scenes, but those who love the sport will grasp quickly Markovits's talent for describing the rugged ballet that is its essence.

Contemplating his writing career, the narrator confesses to Anke that he wants to write stories about "people who don't have any major flaws, who don't do anything stupid or wrong, and who don't suffer from any unusual bad luck." Modest as that ambition may seem, it's precisely what Benjamin Markovits has done here. That he's done it so artfully makes Playing Days such a pleasing novel. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Benjamin Markovits's autobiographical novel Playing Days is the affecting story of a young man starting to find his way in the world through basketball.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: #NEIBA15--'There Don't Seem to Be Trade Secrets."

As this year's New England Independent Booksellers Association Fall Conference was winding down last week, I asked NEIBA executive director Steve Fischer for his first impressions: "I'm very pleased with the show," he replied. "I think we accomplished what we set out to do, which is deliver great education, amazing authors and that energy that's created when a bunch of booksellers and publishers get together in the same space."

Fischer also mentioned something I think resonates throughout the world of indie bookselling: "We are all so free and open to share what we do and how we do it. There don't seem to be trade secrets."

It's true. There are, of course, any number of trade secrets in the industry as a whole (Amazon's book sales numbers being Exhibit A). But when you spend a few days in the company of indie booksellers, you can't help but be impressed by the range and level of sharing that occur in formal discussions as well as casual conversations, all of which contribute to making everyone better at their chosen profession.

Take the education programming at NEIBA as a prime example. A two-day Human Resources Workshop, featuring John Sherlock and presented by the American Booksellers Association, was held for bookstore owners & managers at the Providence Biltmore Hotel. Meanwhile, at the convention center, sessions ranged from a "Publisher Reps and Book Buyers Panel" to "Everyday Diversity: NECBA Handselling Contest"; from "Frontline Booksellers Meet & Greet" to "One Good Idea!"

Samantha Schoech of IBD with NEIBA's Steve Fischer

At a panel focused upon the second annual Independent Bookstore Day, several booksellers shared ideas that had worked for them (and a few that didn't) this year. IBD director Samantha Schoech noted that 80% of the participating stores reported a sales increase compared to the first Saturday in May 2014, with an average gain of 70%. In terms of successful events, she said, "What seems to work best is a little off-kilter approach." Words to live by for any indie bookseller.

At NEIBA's keynote luncheon, Kristen McLean, director of new business development at Nielsen Book, presented detailed information on shifts in book buying habits, content and format, ranging from current statistical challenges ("Coloring books are really hard for us to track right now because they fall into so many categories.") to developing trends ("I'm starting to see kids' reading habits being inspired by their parents' TV habits," she said, citing HGTV, food, sports and DIY channels as examples.). She also offered good news for indie booksellers: "You represent an important part of the market, especially where discoverability is an issue."

Another well-received presentation was "The Economics of Publishing & How They Impact Booksellers," featuring Bloomsbury USA publishing director George Gibson, who used the Profit and Loss statement for an upcoming trade title to show booksellers the myriad factors that ultimately affect both the bookstore channel and consumers. "We really don't understand each other's business," he suggested, adding: "You can tell the story of publishing through one P&L statement."

Gibson also offered a prediction: "I have absolutely no doubt that 50 years from now print books will still be the dominant form." Citing the number of publishers clamoring to attend ABA's Winter Institute, he stressed that the independent bookstore channel "has become so much more important in the past five years."

All of that education was counterbalanced by bookish celebrations at an author reception, as well as a pair of author breakfasts that featured Jack Gantos, Marie Lu, Sara Pennypacker, Roberta Kaplan, Sonia Manzano, Elizabeth Strout, Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner.

During the annual New England Book Awards dinner, host and Captain Underpants creator Dav Pilkey offered his thanks to "all of you whom I consider my friends and family, really."

Phoenix Books co-owner Mike Desanto, Burlington store manager Tod Gross and co-owner Renee Reiner

This year's BPRNE Independent Spirit Award went to Mike DeSanto and Renee Reiner, co-owners of Phoenix Books, which has employed a "community support" business model to open locations in Essex, Burlingon and, most recently, Rutland, Vt. Accepting the award, Reiner said, "It's really been a terrific experience. Folks crave indie bookstores, and that's why the model works."

Nonfiction book of the year winner Atul Gawande (Being Mortal) expressed his gratitude for "the honor of being introduced by the guy whose books I read to my kids over and over and over again." He also called indie booksellers a "fundamental" part of his book's success, which he described as a "consequence of people like you pressing it into people's hands.... Having your praise and support means a lot. I was very glad to be able to come and tell you that in person."

The conference also saw changes to NEIBA's board of directors. Gillian Kohli of Wellesley Books succeeded Suzanna Hermans of Oblong Books & Music as president, with Hermans becoming treasurer. Courtney Flynn of Trident Booksellers & Café remains v-p. New to the board are Laura Cummings of White Birch Books and Mike Katz of PGW/Perseus Books Group. They join directors Nancy Scheemaker of the Northshire Bookstore and Vicky Titcomb of Titcomb's Bookshop.

While the 700 people in attendance at NEIBA's Fall Conference 2015 was on par with last year's numbers, Fischer said there "certainly was higher energy.... The feedback from everyone has been really positive and actually rather glowing." With this kind of atmosphere, who needs trade secrets? --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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