Also published on this date: Tuesday, October 20, 2015: Dedicated Issue: Picador Books

Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny


Amazon vs. New York Times

In August, when the New York Times published its long piece on Amazon's difficult corporate culture titled "Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace," Amazon's response consisted mainly of several blog posts by employees and a company-wide memo from founder Jeff Bezos, who 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.... Even if it's rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero."

Yesterday, two months later, Amazon finally offered an official response, posted on by Jay Carney, senior v-p for global corporate affairs and former Obama White House press secretary. Entitled "What the New York Times Didn't Tell You," the piece starts by attacking Bo Olson, a former Amazon employee who provided some of the most strikingly phrased comments about life at the online retailer. As the Times put it in August: "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.' "

Jay Carney

Carney wrote: "Here's what the story didn't tell you about Mr. Olson: his brief tenure at Amazon ended after an investigation revealed he had attempted to defraud vendors and conceal it by falsifying business records. When confronted with the evidence, he admitted it and resigned immediately."

He lambasted Times reporters for not asking if Olson had "an axe to grind." Carney then discussed the quotations attributed to other Amazon employees, quoting performance reviews and other material apparently from the employees' personnel files to try to question their comments.

He also offered a long passage from an e-mail by Jodi Kantor, one of the Times reporters who wrote the story, aimed to show that Kantor misrepresented the angle of the article.

"Despite our months-long participation, we were given no opportunity to see, respond to, or help fact-check the 'stack of negative anecdotes' that they ultimately used," Carney wrote. "When the story came out, we knew it misrepresented Amazon. Once we could look into the most sensational anecdotes, we realized why. We presented the Times with our findings several weeks ago, hoping they might take action to correct the record. They haven't, which is why we decided to write about it ourselves."

He concluded: "The Times got attention for their story, but in the process they did a disservice to readers, who deserve better. The next time you see a sensationalistic quote in the Times like 'nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk,' you might wonder whether there's a crucial piece of context or backstory missing--like admission of fraud--and whether the Times somehow decided it just wasn't important to check."

Dean Baquet

New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet quickly responded, also on, person by person. Concerning Bo Olson, he wrote in part: "He said he was never confronted with allegations of personally fraudulent conduct or falsifying records, nor did he admit to that. If there were criminal charges against him, or some formal accusation of wrongdoing, we would certainly consider that. If we had known his status was contested, we would have said so."

He added that Olson's "one quote in the story was consistent with those of other current and former employees. Several other people in other divisions also described people crying publicly in very similar terms." He also emphasized that for the story, Times reporters talked with more than a hundred current and former Amazon employees who substantially had the same general views of the challenging corporate environment at Amazon. And he pointed out that blog posts and comments after the story appeared generally concurred with the Times depiction.

Baquet concluded: "I should point out that you said to me that you always assumed this was going to be a tough story, so it is hard to accept that Amazon was expecting otherwise."

Later yesterday, Jay Carney responded to Baquet's comments, saying, "The bottom line is the New York Times chose not to fact-check or vet its most important on-the-record sources, despite working on the story for six months."

Of course, the dueling posts have received a lot of coverage. Among comments, some have wondered if Carney broke the law by revealing information from employees' personnel records and noted that Carney didn't say that Amazon is a good place to work.


In other Amazon news, the company said it is hiring 100,000 seasonal workers at its more than 70 warehouses in the U.S. and has already hired more than 25,000 fulltimers since August. Amazon noted that after last year's holiday season, "tens of thousands" of seasonal employees "found regular, fulltime roles" with the company.

Amazon has also sued more than 1,100 people, all identified only as "John Doe," who through offer to write reviews for $5 or more. "Amazon's steps follow an earlier action taken in April, when Amazon sued several websites that sold fake customer reviews," Bloomberg reported.

In the complaint, Amazon wrote, "While small in number, these reviews can significantly undermine the trust that consumers and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers place in Amazon, which in turn tarnishes Amazon's brand."

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny

Grand Re-Opening for the Books Connection in Livonia, Mich.

Mayor Jack Kirksey with owner Kathleen Mahinske.

The Books Connection, Livonia, Mich., recently celebrated a grand re-opening at its new space in a northeast corner shopping center at 31208 Five Mile Road and Merriman, reported. The shop, which had been located at the corner of Middlebelt and Seven Mile Road for 35 years, was selected in 2014 by viewers of Detroit's WDIV TV station as their favorite area bookstore.  

"We're excited about our new location," said owner Kathleen Mahinske. "We are looking forward to meeting new people and satisfying their reading tastes, as we have been for 35 years.... Livonia has been a great place to provide desirable books and meet thousands of wonderful people. We are looking forward to continuing that tradition in our new location for many years to come."

Minotaur Books: The Grey Wolf by Louise Penny

Toronto Star Expands Book Coverage

The Toronto Star has expanded its coverage of Canadian authors and book publishing, with more reviews, bestseller lists and news. The newspaper also moved its books pages from the Sunday edition to the Entertainment section of the Saturday Star, which has the largest readership of any newspaper in Canada.

The changes include four pages of book coverage; enhanced bestseller lists (original fiction, original nonfiction, Canadian fiction and nonfiction, juvenile as well as rotating category-specific lists); more book reviews and excerpts; and increased listings of book-related events.

Emily Pullen Leaving WORD for NYPL

Emily Pullen

Emily Pullen, who has been manager of WORD, Brooklyn, N.Y., since 2012, is joining the New York Public Library as the receiving administrator for the New York Public Library Shop, effective November 9. Before joining WORD, she had been an assistant manager at Skylight Books, Los Angeles, Calif., for almost six years.

Interestingly, at WORD she replaced Stephanie Anderson, who moved to the Darien Public Library in Darien, Conn., where she is assistant director for public services.

Obituary Note: Vera B. Williams

Vera B. Williams, children's author and illustrator, died on Friday. She was 88.

She was best known for A Chair for My Mother, which in 1983 was a Caldecott Honor book and won the Boston Globe-Horn Book award in the picture book category. "More More More" Said the Baby: Three Love Stories was a Caldecott Honor book in 1991. Scooter won the Boston Globe-Horn Book award in fiction in 1994. has a long, thoughtful obituary.

Notes from Frankfurt, Part 2

Pillars of the Earth
: The Game
At the Frankfurt Book Fair, bestselling author Ken Follett discussed the upcoming videogame adaptation of his novel The Pillars of the Earth. Due out sometime in 2017, the game will retell the novel's story in the style of a point-and-click adventure game. Players will be able to assume the role of Jack, Aliena or Prior Philip as they explore Kingsbridge, interact with characters and solve puzzles. Daedalic Entertainment, a software company in Hamburg, Germany, is handling development of the game.

Ken Follett with Carsten Fichtelmann, founder and CEO of Daedalic Entertainment

Follett said he hoped that "the name Pillars of the Earth will become familiar to a new generation, and maybe some of them will think, maybe the book's good, too."

Asked if he felt any embarrassment over his book being adapted into a videogame, Follett said he was "very cool with this sort of thing." He continued: "No doubt that some of my writing colleagues would take the attitude that you have just suggested and would say, I'm a serious literary figure and have nothing to do with things like games. That's not me at all. I think of that kind of thing as snobbery."

The challenge for Follett as a writer, he said, is to draw the reader into his imaginary world. There are thousands of ways to do that, and a videogame is just another way of drawing a person into his world. He emphasized: "I'm not in the least embarrassed."

Monocle: A Look at Print Success
In a Friday morning panel entitled "Why Print is Not Dead," Tyler Brûlé, editor-in-chief of Monocle, and Andrew Tuck, Monocle's founding editor, discussed the philosophy behind the magazine. Launched in 2007, Monocle--a large, expensive, print-only magazine--bucked many of the prevailing trends at the time.

Tyler Brûlé, editor-in-chief of Monocle

Brûlé recalled that in 2005-2006, while he was trying to raise money for Monocle's launch, many people asked him, "Why a magazine? Shouldn't it be just a website?" At time, there was a "general downgrading of print" in the marketplace, but Brûlé and Tuck knew they wanted to do "something very bookish."

Tuck said that Monocle was deliberately always a slow read: "We want to be slow media."

One thing they witnessed in the early years of the magazine, Tuck said, was the "early over investment" in the iPad by many magazine and newspaper companies. "There was a belief that you'd read a whole magazine on your iPad," Tuck recalled. "You just don't see it."

Brûlé and Tuck both also acknowledged the emergence of the "hybrid" reader--a person who prefers the digital format for some types of content and print for others. These consumers, Tuck explained want a "tactile experience" for longer reads and a digital experience for the immediate.

Transmedia Blunders
In a Thursday afternoon panel, journalist Andreas Garbe shared examples of transmedia adaptations that have gone horribly wrong. Adaptations from film to videogames, and vice versa, have particularly checkered pasts; perhaps the most spectacular failure in the history of adaptations was the video game adaptation of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600. Atari paid between $20 million and $25 million for the movie license, gave its developers only five and a half weeks to finish the game ahead of the 1982 holiday season, and printed some four million cartridges--more than the number of Atari 2600 consoles actually owned by consumers. Atari ended up burying hundreds of thousands of unsold cartridges in a landfill in the New Mexico desert. --Alex Mutter


Image of the Day: Newbery Winners in the House

Three beloved children's book authors "touched by the Newbery" gathered at the Seattle Central Library yesterday evening to discuss, in part, how winning a Newbery or Newbery Honor changed their lives. Rebecca Stead (When You Reach Me) is grateful for the friends she's made; Gennifer Choldenko (Al Capone Does My Shirts) said it messed with her head (not in a bad way); and Jennifer L. Holm (Our Only May Amelia; Penny from Heaven; Turtle in Paradise) said, "We will always be book reports!"

Pictured, the authors holding their new books: (l.-r.) Jennifer L. Holm (The Fourteenth Goldfish); Christy McDanold of Seattle's Secret Garden Books; Gennifer Choldenko (Chasing Secrets); and Rebecca Stead (Goodbye Stranger).

In Grenoble, Short Story Vending Machines

In the French city of Grenoble, publishing start-up Short Édition is introducing free short story dispensers to "help passersby kill time... to take advantage of these moments and to bring back a bit of the culture we've lost in the technological revolution," Konbini reported. The initiative resulted from a collaboration between the publishing company and the city's Green Party mayor, Eric Piolle. Eight machines will be placed throughout the city.

"The idea came to us in front of a vending machine containing chocolate bars and drinks," co-founder Christophe Sibieude told Agence-France Presse. "We said to ourselves that we could do the same thing with good quality popular literature to occupy these little unproductive moments."

Bookstore Video of the Day: Shakespeare & Co. Paris

In a clip from his BBC series Bright Lights, Brilliant Minds: A Tale of Three Cities, Dr. James Fox "reveals why Paris in 1928 was so exciting for artists, writers and musicians," asking Sylvia Whitman, owner of Shakespeare and Company, to describe a magical time when "they hung out at a remarkable English-language bookshop founded by a young American named Sylvia Beach."

Personnel Changes at Viking/Penguin

At Viking/Penguin:

Carolyn Coleburn, director of publicity at Viking for the last 16 years, is becoming v-p, executive publicist for Viking and Penguin Books, effective December 1. In this role, she will orchestrate and implement the campaigns for her longtime authors and for many of the imprints' high-profile titles.

Coleburn began in Penguin Books publicity in 1992, joined Viking publicity in 1996, and was appointed publicity director in 1999.


In a related move, Lindsay Prevette is being promoted to director of publicity at Viking, effective December 1. She is associate director of publicity, Viking/Penguin Books, and began her career in the Viking and Penguin Books publicity department in 2006.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: The Living Bird on Fresh Air

Today on Fresh Air: Gerrit Vyn, photographer and birdsong recorder, and Scott Weidensaul, essayist of The Living Bird: 100 Years of Listening to Nature (Mountaineers Books, $29.95, 9781594859656), a Cornell Lab of Ornithology project.


Tomorrow on Diane Rehm: Kevin Costner and Jon Baird, co-authors of The Explorers Guild: Volume One: A Passage to Shambhala (Atria, $29.99, 9781476727394). They will also appear on Fox & Friends and Sirius XM's Entertainment Weekly.


Tomorrow on the View: Aija Mayrock, author of The Survival Guide to Bullying: Written by a Teen (Scholastic, $9.99, 9780545860536).

Also on the View: Ree Drummond, author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks (Morrow, $29.99, 9780062225245).


Tomorrow on Sirius XM's Frank DeCaro Show: Michael Riedel, author of Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781451672169).


Tomorrow on CNN's the Lead with Jake Tapper: Bob Woodward, author of The Last of the President's Men (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781501116445). He will also appear on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews.


Tomorrow on ESPN's Car Wash: Ray Lewis, co-author of I Feel Like Going On: Life, Game, and Glory (Touchstone, $26.99, 9781501112355).


Tomorrow night on Conan: Elvis Costello, author of Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink (Blue Rider Press, $30, 9780399167256).


Tomorrow night on a repeat of the Tonight Show: Salman Rushdie, author of Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights: A Novel (Random House, $28, 9780812998917).

TV: Good Behavior

Lusia Strus (50 First Dates) and Terry Kinney (Show Me a Hero) have joined a cast that includes Michelle Dockery and Juan Diego Botto in the TNT drama pilot Good Behavior, reported. The project, based on the Letty Dobesh books by Blake Crouch (Wayward Pines), is written by Crouch and Chad Hodge.

Books & Authors

Awards: CILIP Carnegie/Kate Greenaway Nominations

Nominations have been released for the 2016 Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals Carnegie (for an outstanding book for children and young people) and Kate Greenaway (illustration for children and young people) medals. The longlist will be announced February 16, the shortlist March 15 and the winners June 17 or 20.

Book Review

Review: Along the Infinite Sea

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams (Putnam, $26.95 hardcover, 9780399171314, November 3, 2015)

Beatriz Williams (The Secret Life of Violet Grant) continues the saga of the Schuyler sisters and their knack for uncovering secret histories as Pepper Schuyler meets a French widow whose past hides an epic love.

In 1966, being single and pregnant is bad enough, but Pepper's also on the run from the baby's famous father, who's anxious to hush up the potential scandal. After restoring and auctioning off a vintage Mercedes, Pepper plans to use the money to have her baby in safety and ensure their future. However, when glamorous Annabelle Dommerich buys the car, she confides to Pepper that she and her husband used it to escape Germany on the eve of World War II. Instantly sympathetic to Pepper's situation, Annabelle insists on taking in the younger woman, and slowly she unspools her secrets. At the age of 19, Annabelle saved the life of a charismatic Jewish man in France and quickly fell in love with him. When he seemingly abandoned her, she hastily married steadfast widower, baron and German army officer Johann von Kleist. However, even as marriages, misunderstandings and global politics worked to keep them apart, Stefan and Annabelle found their way back to each other time after time, and middle-aged Annabelle bets cynical Pepper that she can convince her to believe in true love.

Though touching on the politics and tragedy of the World War II era, Williams lets smaller personal dramas and romance take center stage over troop movements and concentration camp details, trusting the reader to fill in the background. She also has the knack for reminding readers that wars are fought by people, not heroes and villains. Although Annabelle's heart belongs to Stefan, readers may be surprised to find their sympathies wavering in Johann's direction from time to time because of his ironclad devotion to Annabelle, in spite of his blind faith in the Fatherland. Williams also knows how to pour on the glamour--both Stefan and Johann are wealthy and cultured, Parisian landmarks and luxury yachts feature prominently, and Annabelle's debauched aristocratic family lives in decidedly genteel poverty. Headstrong, flirty Pepper also knows her way around high society despite her dire straits. Although Annabelle's grand adventures sometimes overshadow Pepper's segments of the story, the two heroines eventually stand together to resolve the unfinished business in their lives. Passionate and starry-eyed, Williams's latest romance is a beautiful escape from everyday life. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: In 1966, a middle-aged Frenchwoman recounts to a single pregnant woman the story of her love triangle with the Jewish man she loved and the German officer she married in 1935.

Deeper Understanding

Stand Up Comics: Strange Tales

Stand Up Comics is a regular column by Adan Jimenez. These titles need no introduction: just read the column, then read some good comics!

The Auteur Vol. 1: Presidents Day by Rick Spears and James Callahan (Oni Press, $19.99, 9781620101353)
I've loved Rick Spears since he and Rob G totally wowed me with Teenagers From Mars, and have read his stuff ever since. However, it took me a bit to get into The Auteur because it was so different from what he had done before. Instead of the slow-paced character studies I was used to from Spears, I got a gore and shock-filled story that got crazier and crazier with every page.

Nathan T. Rex is a Hollywood producer whose latest film is tanking. The horror film he's currently producing isn't doing very well. And the head of the studio, who loved and protected Rex, just got replaced by his son, who hates Rex. So Rex does the only thing he can think of: take lots and lots of drugs. Then a serial killer gets captured, and Rex decides he needs this man as a murder consultant on his new movie. And it just gets weirder and weirder from there.

On first glance, The Auteur seems like shock for the sake of shock, but under all the madcap zaniness of this story is Spears' slow-paced character study, as well as a pretty damning indictment of Hollywood movie culture. Rex is the kind of man who thinks he knows himself and his mission in life but actually has no clue. He is capable of horror and depravity one minute, and almost innocent, puppy dog-like love the next, while being hilariously incompetent at both. It'll be interesting to see what sorts of depravity Nathan T. Rex and his band of misfits get into next.

Handselling Opportunities: Fans of Hollywood insider tales, only with slightly fewer drugs and a lot more murder.

The Bus by Paul Kirchner (Tanibis Editions, $25, 9782848410227)
Like many of us, the human star of this collection needs to wait for the bus to get to where he's going. Sometimes the bus is on time, sometimes not, and sometimes it shows up as a giant centipede creature.

The Bus is a collection of 74 surrealistic comic strips, all starring a city bus. Kirchner has created an absurdist comic strip in which the city bus is used to explain many big concepts, including evolution, juvenile delinquency, the afterlife, philosophy and pornography. Most of the strips are pretty funny, but I'll admit a few made me scratch my head and move on.

Kirchner's lines are clean and sure, so that the bus, the commuter and the driver remain consistent from one strip to the next, regardless of what concept he's exploring. The lack of color helps to keep distractions to a minimum, making the art simple and helping readers focus on what's important in each strip.

Handselling opportunities: Fans of surreal comic strips of a similar vein to Far Side, Krazy Kat, Bizarro, and Little Nemo in Slumberland.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (HarperTeen, $17.99, 9780062278234)
Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin is the Kingdom's champion and tasked with defending it from every threat, alongside the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. Lord Ballister Blackheart is the constant thorn in Goldenloin and the Institution's sides, a rivalry borne from a jousting accident many years ago. There is a détente: Blackheart's grand plans against the Institution are always stopped by Goldenloin, but Blackheart always  escapes. This impasse is broken when a strange girl with extraordinary powers shows up at Blackheart's base. She doesn't quite fit in, and she knows he doesn't either. Together, they make an unstoppable team and nothing can stand in their way.

Stevenson is a creator who consistently imbues her characters with qualities that elicit empathy. We see this in Lumberjanes and Runaways, and this almost always includes the "villains" of her stories. Goldenloin is the antagonist of the story, even though Blackheart and Nimona are cast in the traditional villain role, but all three have pasts filled with pain, loss and betrayal that they're attempting to overcome. All three are seeking love and redemption in their own ways. We are all monsters in somebody's story; the trick is find the people who know we're not monsters.

Handselling opportunities: YA enthusiasts of all stripes, especially those just looking to fit in.

Weirdworld: Warriors of the Shadow Realm by Doug Moench, illustrated by Mike Ploog, Pat Broderick and John Buscema (Marvel, $34.99, 9780785162889)
Tyndall is the only elf anyone's ever seen, and most other inhabitants of Weirdworld think he's the reason for all the evil in their world. He goes on a quest to find his homeland of Klarn, and finds a female elf coming out of an egg. Then their adventures begin.

Weirdworld was a fantasy series from the imagination of Doug Moench. There are five stories featuring the adventures of the elves Tyndall and Velanna, and the dwarf with the most unfortunate name ever, Mud-Butt, fighting against sorcerers, giant serpents, goblins and other fantastical creatures. Even though there were a small number of stories, it took 10 years for everything to get published, and this caused a few issues with art and continuity (the most egregious being Mud-Butt's physical transformation that was never explained). These issues do not cause any less enjoyment, however, and all the high fantasy sword and sorcery remains intact, including a few unfortunate products of the time, like Velanna's skimpy "armor."

The collection also includes a lot of interesting backmatter detailing the creation of these stories and the problems faced due to the long periods between issues. They offer an engaging glimpse into the creation of these comics and can be an excellent resource for process junkies.

Handselling opportunities: Fans of old-school fantasy and process junkies who love to know how the sausage is made.

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