Shelf Awareness for Monday, November 30, 2015

Grove Atlantic: The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom

Feiwel & Friends: A Delayed Life: The True Story of the Librarian of Auschwitz by Dita Kraus

New Directions: Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming by László Krasznahorkai, translated by Ottilie Mulzet

Workman Publishing: Real Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A 28-Day Program to Realize the Power of Meditation (Second Edition, Revised) by Sharon Salzberg

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Jim Rugg

Clarion Books: The Thief Knot: A Greenglass House Story by Kate Milford

Quotation of the Day

Merci Beaucoup from the Albertine

"In the wake of the tragic Paris attacks, we feel that Albertine's mission is more relevant than ever. We hope that the discussions on culture that we host will ultimately bring France and the United States even closer together in friendly intellectual discourse. The longstanding bond between our two countries fills us with hope in the toughest times. We are extremely grateful for your gestures of sympathy, kindness, and support.... We wish you all a happy thanksgiving!

--an e-mail last week from the Albertine bookstore in New York City

Ingram: Congratulations 2019 National Book Award Winners - Learn More>


Obamas Shop at Upshur Street Books

Again celebrating Small Business Saturday by shopping at a bookstore, President Obama and his daughters, Sasha and Malia, visited Upshur Street Books, which opened just over a year ago in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The 800-square-foot store emphasizes children's books, art books, literature and poetry, and local authors. (See our profile of the store here.)

The Obamas spent some time with manager Anna Thorn and bought nine books, a mix of adult and YA titles, the Washington Post noted. Afterward, the Obamas continued the Small Business Saturday celebration with a visit to Pleasant Pops Farmhouse Market and Cafe in Adams Morgan. For the last three years, the president and family members have visited Politics & Prose on Small Business Saturday.

photo: Reuters/Mike Theiler

Here, according to the White House, are the books the Obamas bought at Upshur Street Books:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck, Book 8 by Jeff Kinney
Dork Diaries 1: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renée Russell
Elske: A Novel of the Kingdom by Cynthia Voigt
Jackaroo: A Novel of the Kingdom by Cynthia Voigt
On Fortune's Wheel by Cynthia Voigt
Purity: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloy
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights: A Novel by Salman Rushdie

Soho Press: The Seep by Chana Porter

Small Business Saturday-Indies First

At Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge Island, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and his wife, Trudi, show their support.

Booksellers across the country reported enthusiastic crowds and healthy sales on Saturday, which marked both the sixth annual Small Business Saturday, sponsored by American Express, and the third annual Indies First--founded by Sherman Alexie and this year spearheaded by Cheryl Strayed--sponsored by the American Booksellers Association.

University Book Store, Seattle, Wash., had what Pam Cady, manager, general books, called "a great day" with authors Terry Brooks, Greg Bear and Isaac Marion and others. "We had people waiting out in the cold to get in when we opened at 10 a.m." She added that "many customers told us that they were here supporting us instead of the Amazon store down the street. We couldn't be more grateful to our customers for shopping with us to kick off the holiday season."

At Star Line Books, Chattanooga, Tenn., author Cherie Priest handles the cash wrap.

On Small Business Saturday-Indies First at Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Mich., six authors became "volunteer Literati Book Ninjas," as co-owner Mike Gustafson put it. The six--Claire Vaye Watkins, Nancy Shaw, Robert James Russell, Keith Taylor, Raymond McDaniel and Julie Timmer--wore Literati T-shirts and talked to customers about their favorite 2015 reads.

Gustafson added the connections between authors and the community was "such a wonderful and organic experience for both customers and the authors," who have been "fierce supporters of us and independent bookstores." Nancy Shaw, author of Sheep in a Jeep, agreed, saying, "We make very personal connections to the page as we read. I want a book person, not just an algorithm, finding those connections when I'm looking for a book. I love shopping at indie bookstores."

At Unabridged Bookstore, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel peruses his bookish wishlist with store owner Ed Devereux.

As it has done for years, on the day after Thanksgiving, Encore Books in Yakima, Wash., promoted itself as "as a peaceful oasis for shoppers looking for an alternative to the frenzy and stress, whether they are simply taking a break or looking to avoid the masses altogether," according to assistant manager Brett Lamb. "It's become one of our favorite annual events." The new and used bookstore opened early and offered free coffee and pastries--and it did something similar on Small Business Saturday, adding free balloons for kids and free canvas tote bags for everyone who spent $20 or more.

At Scout & Morgan Books in Cambridge, Minn., dogs Elsa and Luka sport Small Business Saturday scarves

At Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, N.J., the store was packed much of the day, and happy owner Margot Sage-EL reported that business was excellent. This year the store didn't schedule authors for formal appearances, although several stopped by.

Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, Kan., promoted Small Business Saturday with a 30% discount in-store coupon, free tote bags on purchases over $75 and a buy-one-latte-get-one-free coupon in the café.

The Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, Mass., offered Small Business Saturday-Indies First customers a choice between a 20% in-store discount and a 20% donation of the purchase amount to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. The schedule included appearances by authors/guest booksellers Aaron Becker, Ali Benjamin, Holly Black and Kelly Link, as well as hot apple cider and local food vendors.

WORD Bookstores in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jersey City, N.J., had "a steady day, but it rained in the late afternoon, which made the day end a little early," reported Katelyn Phillips, events coordinator, Jersey City. "But everyone who came to shop specifically mentioned that they were there to 'shop small,' which was really neat." She added, "I got to learn so much about customers I see regularly through helping them choose gifts for their family. Reminded me why I love working for an indie bookstore in the first place."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Providence by Max Barry

#CivilisedSaturday: 'Busy, Busy, Busy'

"Booklovers are celebrating Civilised Saturday and it's lovely," MetroUK reported as booksellers in the U.K. offered shoppers a day, "supported by the Booksellers Association, [that] is intended to be a 'restorative to Black Friday.' This translates to cocktails and cakes, crustless sandwiches and cups of tea, and of course, books." Among the highlights:

"Needed a reason to get involved in #civilisedsaturday? We've got 8 for you--& they're all spot on!" publisher Quercus noted in featuring a poster for the occasion.

"Busy busy busy. #civilisedsaturday. Not a fight anywhere in sight!" tweeted London's Drake--The Bookshop, which featured the 12 Teas of Christmas and blind date books, among other promotions. The bookseller later noted that "140 characters not usually enough to express my feelings. Certainly not today. Blown away by the support of our lovely customers! THANK U ALL."

Mr. B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath invited customers to "come and hear the beautiful music," as author Emma Hooper played violin and signed her new book. "Pop in to hear her beautiful music and browse in a very civilized fashion!"

Blackwell's in Oxford hosted David Mitchell for a Civilised Saturday event to end a day that also included "no fighting over HD televisions" and "bibliotherapy."

Actor Pierce Brosnan popped by Dulwich Books in London.

There was a Pierce Brosnan sighting at Dulwich Books: "Look who popped in.... Can you tell that Sheila was excited?"

"Our idea of #CivilisedSaturday was cucumber sandwiches & biccies, so quite in awe of superclassy customer @shazknit who brought us sloe gin," noted West End Lane Books in London.

Not everyone was thrilled about the concept, however. In the Bookseller, Nick Coveney of Kings Road Publishing wrote that the term "Civilised Saturday" itself prompted the question: "[A]re we in 2015 or extras in a Downton Abbey Christmas special?"

But Wenlock Books in Much Wenlock offered an alternative response: "What an INCREDIBLE Civilised Saturday! Thank you to all of our lovely customers for spending their Saturday shopping independently--we hope you enjoyed today as much as we did!"

Tamblyn Named CEO of Rakuten Kobo

Michael Tamblyn

Effective January 1, Michael Tamblyn will become CEO of Rakuten Kobo Inc., succeeding Takahito "Taka" Aiki, who will remain with the company as chairman. Tamblyn has been a member of the executive team since Kobo's founding in 2009 and was named president in April 2014. He will continue to work closely with Aiki in a new role as vice executive manager of the companies in Rakuten's global e-book business, which include Kobo, Kobo Japan, OverDrive and Aquafadas.

"At Rakuten Kobo, we stand for readers, for the people who put books and reading at the very center of their lives. There could truly be no better job than to spend every day figuring out how to make a reader's life better," said Tamblyn. "I am also looking forward to my role in ensuring our parent company, Rakuten, achieves its vision of enriching every stage of a reader's life."

In addition to his role as chairman of Rakuten Kobo, Aiki will continue as managing executive officer of Rakuten's global e-book business. Aiki,who replaced Michael Serbinis as CEO in 2014, said he has "full confidence in the current executive to lead this company into the future. I very much look forward to working closely with Michael as CEO and as a partner guiding all of Rakuten's digital reading properties, to extend Rakuten's vision of global leadership in offering digital and internet services that connect people and empower society."

Whoa: Dangdang to Open 1,000 Bookstores in China

Chinese e-commerce company plans to open 1,000 bookstores over the next three yeas, in "shopping malls, supermarkets and towns," according to China Retail News.

The first store opens in December in Changsha, Hunan, and will be have almost 13,000 square feet of space. The stores will offer the same prices as the company offers online.

China Retail News said that according to OpenBook, a Chinese book retail market research firm, bricks-and-mortar bookstores in China had sales gains of less than 5% from 2008 to 2010, then a gain of 6% in 2011, and then decreases in 2012 and 2013.

In other Chinese bookselling news, Taiwanese bookseller Eslite opened its first store in the People's Republic yesterday, Cihan reported. The four-story flagship store in Suzhou City is open 24 hours a day and stocks 500,000 books, handicrafts, jewelry and kitchenware. It also has a cooking studio, visual lab, tea house and a lecture room.

Eslite has 43 branches in Taiwan and one in Hong Kong.

Obituary Notes: Stephen Hayward; David Cohen

Stephen Hayward, who "founded the independent publisher Serif in 1992 and ran it from his east London home with great creative care," died October 22, the Guardian reported. He was 61. The Bookseller wrote that he "did practically everything himself, from commissioning and editing to tramping around the country persuading booksellers to stock his beautifully produced wares with their elegant, witty covers designed by Pentagram Berlin."


David Cohen, whose wife, the late Carla Cohen, founded Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C., died yesterday at age 79 of a heart attack. P&P owners Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine wrote to the staff:

"It is with great sadness that we share news of the passing of David Cohen, who died early Sunday morning.

David Cohen

"The husband of Carla, who founded P&P, David was a familiar, trusted, and beloved figure to everyone who worked in the store during the last 31 years. David shared Carla's passion for books, authors, and lively literary and political discussions, and was also a model of humility, civility, and integrity. He devoted his career to promoting the common good as a leading advocate and strategist on many of the major social justice and political reform issues of his time, including civil rights, the Vietnam War, anti-poverty programs, nuclear arms control, trade unionism, political campaign reforms, and government accountability. A former president of the citizens' lobby Common Cause and co-founder of the Advocacy Institute, David continued well into his 70s advising various social action groups in the United States and around the world on policy, good governance, programming, and civic leadership.
"His contributions are recognized in biographies and histories of the period. One reference book on U.S. political parties and elections described David as being 'widely regarded as his generation's leading public interest congressional lobbyist and mentor of lobbyists,' with 'an established reputation for balanced judgment, scrupulous dealing, unrelenting patience and a gift for forming legislative coalitions.'

"Asked in an interview a couple of years ago if he had any regrets about his life, David said no. 'I think I've been lucky because my whole life I've been able to work on things I believe in,' he went on. 'I'm proud that I helped make some constructive changes happen and helped block harmful ones from happening. Obviously, you compromise all the time, but I don't think I've ever had to do anything I was ashamed of. And I've enjoyed it all--immensely. It's what John Adams called 'the public happiness.'

"To the staff members at P&P who knew him, David was a 'total mensch,' or in the words of our chief book buyer, Mark Laframboise, a 'wise village elder.' Mark recalled that any conversation with David, no matter how short, was a teaching moment. 'He presided over more than one staff seder,' Mark added. 'It was most evident, though, when he guided all of us through Carla's death in October 2010, reminding us along the way that it was a process of saying goodbye. Now we have to say goodbye to David, remembering the lessons in grace and humanity he leaves us. He was a cool guy and a great friend.'

"Barbara Meade, who created and ran P&P along with Carla, said David 'was completely supportive of Carla in every way in her work at the store, always available to help but careful never to interfere. He was always alert as our tireless lookout for community and dialogue. Since Carla died, he became a devoted single parent and grandparent with the same caring and love and, as always, abundant offerings of books.'
"The two of us got to know David during the sale of the store more than four years ago. He was wonderful to deal with, an endless source of kindness, moral support, and humor. In the years since the sale, he remained a helpful and reassuring presence in the store, often introducing authors and always available to offer his counsel to us. Along with his many friends, fans, and admirers at P&P and throughout the Washington community, we will miss him greatly."
The Cohen family is planning a memorial service for David tomorrow, Tuesday, at 1 p.m., at Tifereth Israel Congregation at 7701 16th Street N.W. in Washington, D.C.


Cool Idea of the Day: (Hard) Cider Monday

Changing Hands, with stores in Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz., is celebrating Cider Monday today with a 50% sale on hard ciders in its First Draft Book Bar in the Phoenix store.

Willard Williams, owner of the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough, N.H., came up with the idea two years ago as an indie alternative to Cyber Monday. In its usual iterations, participating stores have offered customers cups of non-alcoholic cider--and thanks for supporting independent bookstores.

Amex SBS Star: Mitchell Kaplan

One of the stars of American Express's television ad for Small Business Saturday was Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books, with stores in South Florida, New York and the Cayman Islands. He made a quick appearance in the ad, which ran for several days last week, including during NFL games that aired nationally on Thanksgiving Day. See the ad here.

Kaplan said that the clip came from an interview AMEX did a year or two ago for Small Business Saturday when it was focusing on Coral Gables, Fla. "I was used briefly for that year, but then they decided to use footage for this year's ad from that shoot." He said he was surprised at the latest ad as many other viewers in the industry. "I have to tell you, I've heard from friends and acquaintances from all over the country. Advertising works, and AMEX's commitment to Small Business Saturday is impressive."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Mary Beard on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Mary Beard, author of SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (Liveright, $35, 9780871404237).

Conan: David Spade, author of Almost Interesting: The Memoir (Dey Street, $27.99, 9780062376978).

Ellen: Kunal Nayyar, author of Yes, My Accent Is Real: And Some Other Things I Haven't Told You (Atria, $26, 9781476761824).

The Talk: Mindy Kaling, author of Why Not Me? (Crown Archetype, $25, 9780804138147).

Conan: Tom Jones, author of Over the Top and Back: The Autobiography (Blue Rider, $26.95, 9781592409617).

Books & Authors

Awards: Guardian First Book; DSC for South Asian Lit

Andrew McMillan's poetry collection Physical won the £10,000 ($15,035) Guardian First Book Award. Noting that it was "only the second time a poet has even made the shortlist," Claire Armitstead, the Guardian's books editor, called the first win for poetry in the prize's 17-year history "a thrilling development for us as poetry so rarely breaks through in generalist prizes.... Andrew McMillan's breathtaking collection shows that good poetry can and does still enlarge, replenish and delight. It is wonderful that a collection so tightly focused on masculinity and gay love could have such a wide appeal, across age and gender. It surprised us all with the best sort of ambush, emerging from an extremely strong and vibrant shortlist as the unanimously agreed winner."


A shortlist has been announced for the $50,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, which honors "the best work in fiction to one author from any ethnicity or nationality provided they write about South Asia and its people." The winner will be named January 16 at the Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Family Life by Akhil Sharma
Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy
Hang Woman by K.R. Meera
The Book of Gold Leaves by Mirza Waheed
The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
She Will Build Him a City by Raj Kamal Jha

Book Review

Review: Paradise City

Paradise City by Elizabeth Day (Bloomsbury USA, $27 hardcover, 9781620408360, December 8, 2015)

In Paradise City, British novelist Elizabeth Day (Home Fires) traces the unexpected ways four characters' lives intersect in the bustle of contemporary London.

Beatrice Kizza is a refugee from Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal, haunted by her rape and the threat of jail when she was discovered with her lover by a family friend. Now a chambermaid in a high-end London hotel, she grieves for the lover she left behind. Self-made millionaire Howard Pink, whose teenage daughter disappeared 15 years earlier, tries to escape the pain of loss in the benign anonymity of his solitary hotel stays. Esme Reade, a young reporter at a London tabloid, angles for a career-making interview with Pink. Carol Hetherington, elderly and recently widowed, lives next door to a man who keeps devastating secrets. London is more than the backdrop to these four individuals' lives. This crowded and teeming city holds vastly different characters and is the beacon for their hopes and dreams. In this regard, Beatrice is not so different from Howard Pink, who, as the son of a seamstress who escaped Nazi Europe just in time, has built a retail fashion empire.

Day is both sensitive and cuttingly astute in her depiction of her characters' struggles. The four are believable and vividly limned, Beatrice most of all. She may be on the margins of society, but she is consistently surprising in her reactions and observations. When she is sexually assaulted while cleaning a customer's room, she responds not by seeking revenge or with legal action, but by threatening to go public if her attacker does not give her a job. Esme, too, is complex and sensitively drawn. Day, a former journalist with the Evening Standard and Sunday Telegraph, captures the daily grind of Esme's newspaper world with skewering accuracy. Esme has just set up the requisite Twitter account, though "reducing the entire day's news to a series of 140-character bullet points seems to her to be an exercise in pointlessness." Nevertheless, she tweets with a breathless enthusiasm she does not feel. Day also perfectly captures the mother-daughter dynamics between Esme and her mother, and Carol and her daughter. The larger-than-life Howard Pink, with his equally outsized contradictions, carries the moral burden of the story; Day pulls off the improbable by rendering his flaws and transgressions both plausible and forgivable.

Paradise City is beautifully written and closely observed, but its strength lies in Day's compassion for her characters and her understanding that, beneath the surface, the strivers and the invisible, the glittering and the lonely, are people united by the universal need for acceptance and love. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Shelf Talker: A lovely and compassionate novel about four characters from very different corners of London finding the possibility of hope and forgiveness when their lives converge.

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