Shelf Awareness for Friday, January 15, 2016

Algonquin Young Readers: the Beautiful Game by Yamile Saied Méndez

Berkley Books: Books that will sweep you off your feet! Enter Giveaway!

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Pumpkin Princess and the Forever Night by Steven Banbury

St. Martin's Griffin: Murdle: The School of Mystery: 50 Seriously Sinister Logic Puzzles by GT Karber

Editors' Note

The King Holiday

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we will not publish on Monday. We'll see you all again on Tuesday morning, January 19.

Blackstone Publishing: Rogue Community College: A Liberty House Novel by David R Slayton


AAP, UNCF Partner on Internship Program

The Association of American Publishers is partnering with United Negro College Fund for a 2016 summer internship program designed to "to increase the talent, skill set, expertise, views and ideas that define a healthy and vibrant publishing industry." Under the program, paid summer internships for high-achieving African American students will be offered at several leading companies, including Cengage Learning, Elsevier, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, McGraw-Hill Education, Penguin Random House, Scholastic and W.W. Norton. The internships will cross functions--including editorial, marketing, publicity, sales and digital engineering. For the inaugural year, students will be in New York, Washington, Boston and St. Louis.

AAP v-p Tina Jordan said, "In an industry where our ideas are our commodity, recruiting diverse talent is a top priority for publishers. Attracting African American student interns to the publishing industry is an important step our member organizations are taking to expand workforce diversity and inclusion efforts."

A maximum of 10 juniors or seniors from any of the nation's historically Black colleges and universities with an interest in pursuing a career in the publishing industry are eligible for an internship. Students with a minimum GPA of 3.0, a record of leadership and community service, and strong writing skills can apply online by February 22 at the UNCF website or

"Investment in emerging leaders is a critical factor to the ongoing success of minority students. UNCF supports this investment by establishing strategic partnerships to create Student Professional Development Programs like our new AAP-UNCF Internship Program," said Taliah Givens, executive director, student professional development programs at UNCF. "Like our partners, we understand the essential role internships play in providing college students exposure, experience, and career entry points beyond graduation. We commend AAP and the publishing industry for their initiative in recognizing the need for ongoing diversity and providing opportunities for students to learn that a career in publishing can be a realistic option."

Carolyn Kellogg Named Books Editor at Los Angeles Times

Carolyn Kellogg

Carolyn Kellogg has been named books editor of the Los Angeles Times. She has covered books for the Times since 2008 and launched Jacket Copy, the paper's book blog.

Before joining the Times, Kellogg was editor of, web editor for American Public Media's Marketplace and web producer at the California Community Foundation.

She is a v-p of the National Book Critics Circle and deeply involved with the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

Apostrophe Books in Long Beach to Close

Apostrophe Books, Long Beach, Calif., will close in early February after 23 years in business. In a letter to customers, co-owners Valerie Kingsland and Lisa Somerville wrote: "Business has been slow for many of us merchants on 2nd St. for over a year now. We did everything possible to stay open but the lack of foot traffic has taken its toll."

The bookstore originally opened in Port Townsend, Wash., but moved to Long Beach in 2010 before relocating to a new space in 2014. "Please know we did our best to stay open as long as we could," the booksellers noted. "We sure don't want to close... bookselling is in our DNA, but must. We won't ever forget you, our loyal customers. And we will miss each and every one of you."

Apostrophe Books ended the letter by asking customers to "please support indie businesses on 2nd Street and wherever your travels take you. God knows your support makes a huge difference. Please spread the word."

First Executive Director for Nantucket Book Foundation

The Nantucket Book Foundation, which puts on the annual Nantucket Book Festival, has appointed its first executive director, Maddie Hjulstrom.

Hjulstrom has almost 30 years of executive planning, administration, communications and business development experience in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors. Before working for the Nantucket Book Foundation, she worked for Barnes & Noble, starting in 1999 as a community relations manager in North Wales, Pa., then the last 10 years as a regional and then national business development manager specializing in sales training. Before that, she was interim director and chairman of the board of the Ulster County (N.Y.) Pregnancy Support Center and the Pregnancy Resource Clinic of North Pennsylvania (Pa.).

"Maddie brings so many talents and extensive organizational experience to this new post,” Annye Camara, Foundation board president said. "She has amply demonstrated her commitment to our mission these past two years, serving as liaison with our writers, directing the volunteers, aiding with development, and being an active, enthusiastic part of each of our committees. Maddie and her husband live part-time on the island, and her delight with Nantucket, as well as her great set of professional and personal skills make her the perfect person for this new post. The festival team is excited to welcome her full-time to our number."

The Festival is held every June. This year's, scheduled for June 17-19, will the fifth.

Binc Foundation Launches Annual Scholarship Program

The Book Industry Charitable Foundation has opened its annual scholarship program, which will award up to $109,000 in scholarships to eligible current bookstore employees/owners, independent bookseller association employees, as well as former Borders Group employees and their dependents. Applications are being accepted until February 29. Binc will distribute 24 awards of $3,500 and two of $10,000, as well as one $5,000 Karl Pohrt Tribute Scholarship to an independent bookstore candidate who has overcome learning adversity or is a non-traditional student.

Since 2001, the Binc Foundation has supported the educational goals of more than 600 recipients with more than $1.7 million in awards. To apply for a Binc scholarship, go to the website of Scholarship America, which is again conducting the program. Criteria include financial need, prior academic achievement and leadership capabilities (including participation in school and community activities) as well as work experience, a statement of career and educational goals and objectives, and unusual personal or family circumstances.

"Helping booksellers achieve their dreams and explore possibilities is one of the ways Binc supports booksellers who make an impact in their own communities every day," said Binc executive director Pam French. "I encourage all students to apply for this competitive scholarship. Not every applicant will receive an award, however, the ratio of recipients to applications is historically high at close to 25%."

#WI11 Buzz Books: Nonfiction

With just over a week to go until Winter Institute 11 begins in Denver, Colo., Shelf Awareness is taking a multi-part look at hotly anticipated titles for 2016. Each list has been compiled with the help of booksellers, who have told us the upcoming books they're most looking forward to selling. Yesterday we looked at fiction, while today we focus on nonfiction. Installments on YA and middle grade titles, as well as children's and early readers, will run next week.

First up on today's list is Laura Tillman's nonfiction debut The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City (Scribner). On March 11, 2003, John Allen Rubio and Angela Camacho murdered their own three small children in Brownsville, Tex. The parents both had histories of drug abuse and mental illness and claimed they thought the children were possessed. The dilapidated home in which the family lived was sealed off and abandoned but remained in the neighborhood, and Tillman first encountered the building and the story of the crime while on journalistic assignment in 2008. Tillman found herself transfixed by the questions raised by both the crime and the building itself; The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts is the result of her own investigations. Less of a true-crime book and more an exploration of the emotional fallout left in a community after a horrifying crime, The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts will be in stores on April 5. Sarah Bagby, owner of Watermark Books in Wichita, Kan., called it a "powerful, gripping" book.

Adam Hochschild, the bestselling author of King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa, returns on March 29 with Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). In the years shortly before World War II, people from around the world traveled to Spain to take part in and report on the battles raging between Francisco Franco's fascist forces and Spain's democratic government. Among those travelers were figures like Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell and people who were all but forgotten, like the 19-year-old woman from Kentucky who entered Spain on her honeymoon, the student from Swarthmore who was the first American to die in the battle for Madrid, and the Texas oilman who supported Franco's war effort at a deep discount. Mark Laframboise, buyer at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., likened Spain in Our Hearts to Hochschild's "interesting and intelligent" past work.

Also on March 29, Augusten Burroughs will return with Lust & Wonder (St. Martin's Press), his first full-length memoir since 2008's A Wolf at the Table. In Lust & Wonder, Burroughs writes about his relationships during his time living in New York. Along the way he looks at what it means to be in love or lust and writes with the kind of uncompromising intimacy found Running with Scissors and A Wolf at the Table. Suzanna Hermans, co-owner of Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck and Millerton, N.Y., chose Lust & Wonder as her most anticipated nonfiction read of 2016. Said Hermans: "I've loved his books over the years, and reading Lust & Wonder was like meeting an old friend."

In Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond, science writer and journalist Sonia Shah examines past pandemics and the possibility of deadly disease outbreaks in the future. She begins with cholera's devastating spread from South Asia in the 19th century and continues with MRSA bacterium, hemorrhagic fevers and more. And to gain a better understanding of what form the next global pandemic might take, Shah assesses new diseases emerging throughout the world, from southeast Asia to the eastern coast of North America. Her past work includes The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years and Crude: The Story of Oil. Pandemic will be available from Sarah Crichton Books on February 23.

Terry Tempest Williams's next book is The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks. Due out from Sarah Crichton Books on June 7, The Hour of Land is a literary celebration of the country's national parks that coincides with the centennial of the National Park Service. Combining memoir, natural history and sociology, Williams lyrically examines 12 iconic national parks. The book also features black-and-white photographs by a host of famous photographers. Linda Marie Barrett, general manager of Malaprop's Bookstore and Cafe in Asheville, N.C., praised The Hour of Land, adding: "We love Terry Tempest Williams and the blend of the personal and poetic in her writing. Our customers love her, and this theme is a perfect one for our region."

On February 2, Crown will release author and CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen's United States of Jihad: Investigating America's Homegrown Terrorists. Bergen, whose past books include Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad and The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda, now examines the 300-plus American citizens who have been indicted or convicted of terrorism charges since 9/11. Among the cases that Bergen dives into are those of radicals like Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan and Omar Hammami, who have been tied to the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the Tsarnaev brothers and al Shabaab, respectively. Also addressed are the tactics used by police and military organizations and their own associated dangers. Sarah Bagby of Watermark Books recalled turning to United States of Jihad after the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif. She wanted a more in-depth understanding of domestic terrorism, she said, and Bergen's book "gave me what I was looking for."

Coming from Atlantic Monthly Press on June 7 is Eccentric Orbits: The Iridium Story by John Bloom. In Eccentric Orbits, Bloom recounts the development of Motorola's Iridium satellite system, an unprecedented technological achievement launched in the early 1990s. Iridium was a system of more than 60 satellites in orbit over the earth that provided coverage to the entire planet. In theory, one should have been able to call someone on the other side of the planet via satellite with no delay, but things did not go so well in practice. Despite the incredible technology, the system was a financial disaster, and Motorola was on the verge of "de-orbiting" the system when a retired businessman named Dan Colussy decided to step in and try to save Iridium.

Far and Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change is Andrew Solomon's first book since 2012's Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity. It is a collection of essays written over 25 years about places undergoing radical social and political change. Among his topics are the attempted coup in Moscow in the summer of 1991 that sought to reverse Gorbachev's reforms and restore the dissolving Soviet Union, Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in 2002, and Myanmar's troubled progress toward a freer civil society. "We and our customers love Andrew Solomon's works and his voice," said Linda Marie Barrett. "He speaks with compassion, intelligence and gentle authority." Scribner will publish Far and Away on April 19.

The penultimate title on today's list Sweet Dreams Are Made of This: A Life in Music by Dave Stewart. In it, Stewart recounts his childhood in an industrial part of northern England, his move to London in the 1970s, and his early collaborations and meeting with a young musician named Annie Lennox. The two would go on to form the duo Eurythmics, and Sweet Dreams Are Made of This is the tell-all story of the group's performances, the songwriting and the drug-fueled escapades. Dan Graham, assistant promotional director at Book Soup in West Hollywood, Calif., highlighted Stewart's memoir as one of his most-anticipated nonfiction books for 2016. It will be available from NAL on February 9.

Rounding out today's list is A History of Violence: Living and Dying in Central America by Óscar Martínez. Martínez has spent years writing articles about gang and drug violence in Latin America for El Faro, the region's first online newspaper, and his last book, The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail, was released in English in 2013. A History of Violence (translated by John B. Washington and Daniela Maria Ugaz) is a collection of Martínez's reporting on the drug trade, gang violence and refugee crisis in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Among his subjects are Israel Ticas, El Salvador's only working forensic investigator, and his nearly Sisyphean struggles; a police informant who is practically doomed to be killed, and everyone knows it; and prosecutors and investigators who are powerless in the face of corruption. This haunting portrait of a tragic, complicated part of the world will be available from Verso on March 8. --Alex Mutter

Obituary Note: Sylvan Barnet

Literary scholar Sylvan Barnet, "who introduced generations of college students to Shakespeare through the Signet Classic Shakespeare series, for which he was the general editor," died December 11, the New York Times reported. He was 89. In the early 1960s, Professor Barnet presented the idea for "an edition of Shakespeare with each play in a separate volume, outfitted with an introduction and study aids" to editors at the New American Library, the Times noted. This ultimately led to the Signet Classic Shakespeare series.

"Sylvan was a formidable scholar of Renaissance literature, and the Signet Shakespeare was a standard reference for everyone of my generation," said Helen Vendler.

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
A Forty Year Kiss
by Nickolas Butler
GLOW: A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler

A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler is a passionate, emotionally complex love story that probes tender places within the heart and soul. When 60-somethings Charlie and Vivian--married then divorced in their 20s--reunite after four decades, they are swept up by the very best of what their romantic relationship once offered. "Anyone who has ever thought about what might have been will find this book fascinating," says Shana Drehs, senior editorial director at Sourcebooks Landmark. "The story is a brilliant exploration of a second chance at love, always realistic but never saccharine." As Charlie and Vivian build a bridge from past to present, their enduring love paving over potholes, Butler (Shotgun Lovesongs) raises questions about how life changes people--or does it?--and delivers another heartening, unforgettable novel. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

(Sourcebooks Landmark, $27.99 Hardcover, 9781464221248, 
February 4, 2025)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Cool Idea of the Day: 'Send a Book to a Prisoner'

United Booksellers of San Francisco, a recently formed alliance of independent bookstores on Calle 24/ 24th Street, has organized a "Send a Book to a Prisoner" event to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On Monday, customers can buy a book and postage from Alley Cat Books, Modern Times Bookstore or Adobe Books "and we will mail it to a prisoner! Penitentiaries only accept books for prisoners when they are sent directly from a bookstore; this is a possibility to help someone who likely has a lot of time to read and would really appreciate it!"

Bookstore Cats at Work: 'Silently Judging'

"Remember that New Year's resolution to read more books and watch TV less? How's that working out for you?" Buzzfeed asked in warning that "bookstore cats are silently judging your lack of reading in 2016.... Your decision to neglect another book club meeting has not gone unnoticed by these fuzzy-bellied, hyper-judgmental bookworms."

The solution? "Pick up a book from your local independent store. Or bring them a peace offering of catnip, both are acceptable."

Personnel Changes at PRH, Dark Horse, Open Road, Chronicle

Claire von Schilling has been promoted to executive v-p, corporate communications at Penguin Random House, and has been appointed to the North American board. She was previously senior v-p, corporate communications. She took on global oversight of corporate communications in July 2014.


Sarah Robertson has been promoted to director of sales at Dark Horse Comics. She began her career at the company in 2008 as an account executive and was promoted to manager of sales in 2013.


Renata Sweeney has been promoted to marketing associate at Open Road Media.


At Chronicle Books:

Jaime Wong is promoted to associate marketing manager, children's.
Sarah Lin Go is promoted to publicity coordinator.
Julia Patrick is promoted to associate manager, trade shows and events.
Katie Lindsey is promoted to sales materials coordinator.

Book Trailer of the Day: Burn Baby Burn

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (Candlewick), a YA novel featuring a young Latina woman growing up in 1970s New York City.

Media and Movies

Oscar Nominations: Books Get the Red Carpet Treatment

Five of the eight best picture nominations for this year's Academy Awards, which will be presented February 28, are based on books or are book-related. The impressive reading list of nominees in Oscar's marquee categories includes:

The Revenant, based in part on the novel by Michael Punke: best picture, actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), supporting actor (Tom Hardy), cinematography, director (Alejandro González Iñárritu) and seven other categories

The Martian, adapted from Andy Weir's novel: best picture, actor (Matt Damon), adapted screenplay (Drew Goddard) and four other categories

Carol, based on Patricia Highsmith's novel The Price of Salt: actress (Cate Blanchett), supporting actress (Rooney Mara), cinematography, adapted screenplay (Phyllis Nagy) and two other categories

The Big Short, based on the book by Michael Lewis: best picture, supporting actor (Christian Bale), director (Adam McKay), adapted screenplay (Charles Randolph and Adam McKay) and one other category

Room, based on Emma Donoghue's novel: best picture; actress (Brie Larson), director (Lenny Abrahamson) and adapted screenplay (Emma Donoghue)

Brooklyn, adapted from the novel by Colm Toibin: best picture, actress (Saoirse Ronan) and adapted screenplay (Nick Hornby)

The Danish Girl, based on David Ebershoff's novel: actor (Eddie Redmayne ), supporting actress (Alicia Vikander) and two other categories

Steve Jobs, based on the book by Walter Isaacson: actor (Michael Fassbender) and supporting actress (Kate Winslet)

45 Years, adapted from the short story "In Another Country" by David Constantine: actress (Charlotte Rampling)

Trumbo, based on Bruce Cook's book Trumbo: A Biography of the Oscar-Winning Screenwriter Who Broke the Hollywood Blacklist: actor (Bryan Cranston)

Media Heat: Jane Mayer Talks About Dark Money

Fresh Air: Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (Doubleday, $29.95, 9780385535595).

ABC's This Week: E.J. Dionne Jr., author of Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781476763798). He's also on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Monday.

Good Morning America and ABC's Nightline: John Donvan and Caren Zucker, authors of In a Different Key: The Story of Autism (Crown, $30, 9780307985675).

Diane Rehm repeat: Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, authors of March: Book One (Top Shelf, $14.95, 9781603093002) and March: Book Two (Top Shelf, $19.95, 9781603094009).

Also on Diane Rehm: Joseph Stiglitz, author of The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them (Norton, $28.95, 9780393248579).

Movies: Keep Calm; Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Filmmaker Mike Binder (Black or White) will write and direct an adaptation of his forthcoming novel Keep Calm, Deadline Hollywood reported, adding that New Line Cinema acquired rights to the book, which will be published next month by Holt. Atlas Entertainment's Charles Roven and Alex Gartner will produce, with Richard Brener overseeing for New Line. Binder also wrote and directed Reign Over Me, created the HBO series The Mind of the Married Man, and is a co-exec producer and writer on the Showtime series Ray Donovan.


Guillermo del Toro "will develop to potentially direct" Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, based on the bestselling books by Alvin Schwartz, for CBS Films. Deadline Hollywood reported that he "is such a big fan of the books that he owns 10 of the original illustrations by [Stephen] Gammell." Del Toro will also produce the film alongside Sean Daniel, Jason Brown and Elizabeth Grave.

Books & Authors

Awards: 800-CEO-READ Best Business Book

Kevin Ashton won the 800-CEO-READ Best Business Book of 2015 award for How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention and Discovery (Doubleday). General manager Sally Haldorson commented: "We believe it is a book that will leave a positive, lasting impact on the life of a lone creative striver, on the thinking of the most traditional business practitioner, and on everyone in-between. Because of that, we believe it has to have a great impact on the lives of organizations large and small."

Adrian Zackheim received the second annual Jack Covert Award for Contribution to the Business Book Industry, named in honor of 800-CEO-READ's now-retired founder and president. Zackheim joined Penguin Group in September 2001 as publisher of Portfolio. He started Sentinel in April 2003 and Current in March 2010. Previously, he was the associate publisher and editor-in-chief of HarperInformation. His editorial career included positions at Morrow, Doubleday and St. Martin's; and his first job was as Phyllis Grann's editorial assistant at Putnam.

Book Brahmin: Lina Wolff

Swedish author Lina Wolff has lived and worked in Italy and Spain. During her years in Valencia and Madrid, she began to write her story collection Många människor dör som du (Many People Die Like You), published by Albert Bonniers Förlag in 2009. Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs, translated by Frank Perry and published in trade paperback by And Other Stories on January 12, 2016, is her first novel to appear in English. It's received Sweden's Vi Magazine Literature Prize and was shortlisted for the 2013 Swedish Radio Award for Best Novel of the Year.

On your nightstand now:

I am re-reading Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. First time was 20 years ago, and then I loved it. I thought it was the perfect book. Perhaps that is why I started to re-read it--I wanted to go back to that feeling. And, well, I am not disappointed, but something has changed between the book and me during these years. I have to make an effort to accept that everything is polished and symmetrical in his prose, and that there is very little space for the readers' own interpretations.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Bluebeard by Charles Perrault. The book was a gift from my grandmother, who used to say that it was good for children to be frightened by sagas, because then they wouldn't have the energy to be frightened by reality which, according to her, was much worse when it came to fear. I don't know if she was right: the serial killer and his bleeding key surely scared me, but the reading spellbound me more.

Your top five authors:

I have a general crush on South American writers, whom I admire a lot. Roberto Bolaño, Rodrigo Rey Rosa, Laura Restrepo, Cortázar, Borges, just to mention some. Many of them explore the possibilities of fiction in a very liberating way. I newly read a book by Argentinian writer Samanta Schweblin, and I love the way she so effortlessly creates the universe of her novel, and how she sticks to it all throughout the book, which is just one long marvelous and scary chapter. Mexican writer Juan Rulfo opened my eyes to the Spanish language when I lived in Spain. I think his short novel Pedro Páramo is the kind of book you need to read from time to time as a writer, in order to sweep your brain free from unnecessary words. There is something like a silence around every word in his books. That is perhaps why you hear each one more clearly. It sounds odd, but that is exactly how I feel when I read him, as if my ears were cleaned and the world easier to perceive.

Book you've faked reading:

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. I feel really unhappy about this, since many people I appreciate and admire love this book. I am incapable of getting through it, even though I have tried several times. Perhaps I expect something like Orlando from her, which is one of my favorite books. I think the idea of a protagonist living for 400 years and changing sex is wonderful, and the language is wonderful too. The whole book is like a dance.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Haha! I become an evangelist for everything I read and like!

Book you've bought for the cover:

I haven't bought any book for the cover, but I have bought books for being thin. And sometimes I have been lucky--like with Catalan writer Elia Barceló's hilarious El secreto del orfebre [The Goldsmith's Secret], a 90-page novel about love, or rather its impossibility.

Book you hid from your parents:

I must have hid Bluebeard from them. I think my grandmother told me to do so....

Book that changed your life:

I think every book that I like a lot has changed my life in some way or another. I believe that when we read books that touch us deeply, we change direction with them. It's like a new light is thrown over our lives and we can perceive things in a different way. I think that the books one spends real time with, like the Russian big novels or the books one re-reads over and over again, change our own inner monologues, the general flow of our thoughts. When I read Djuna Barnes's Nightwood, for example, I began to think in a much more metaphorical way, and I really liked it.

Favorite line from a book:

Talking about Djuna Barnes, I like this line from Nightwood: "I tell you, Madame, if one gave birth to a heart on a plate, it would say 'Love' and twitch like the lopped leg of a frog."

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

Rather than reading them again for the first time, I would like to have my "reader's innocence" back occasionally. Just for a while. When you write and read a lot, you learn to scan a book quite quickly and you also learn what it takes for a book to seduce you. And the more good stuff you read, the more exigent you become. But you also lose a kind of naiveté, and I can miss that. Sometimes I wish I could just grab an exciting book and love it without thinking, but I know that is impossible, especially if the language is not good. There has to be a concern for the expression, and apart from that, also something deeper, something that makes me reflect and see things differently.

Book Review

Review: Unspeakable Things

Unspeakable Things by Kathleen Spivack (Knopf, $25.95 hardcover, 9780385353960, January 2016)

In her first novel, poet Kathleen Spivack (With Robert Lowell and His Circle) strongly seasons a realistic story of World War II refugees, longing to escape their past and establish themselves in America, with surrealistic elements to create a convincing portrait of the pain of displacement and dislocation.

Unspeakable Things's plot centers on Herbert Hofrat, a former Austrian government official who has escaped the Nazis with the members of his immediate family, save one son, settling them in a tiny apartment in New York City. Hofrat has been "chosen to live the hardest life of all: that of the survivor, the savior," spending wearying days alternating between a dim corner of the New York Public Library and an automat on 42nd Street. There, he calls upon the tools he honed as a bureaucrat to aid, with scant resources, fellow refugees engaged in a "strange dance in a strange city, too fast for them all" and those desperate to flee destruction in Europe.

The novel's surrealism emerges in the story of Anna, Herbert's second cousin, a physically deformed ex-White Russian countess nicknamed "the Rat," and in the bizarre experiments of a sinister German pediatrician named Felix living in New York. Herbert helps engineer Anna's flight to America, but even after she's reached this safe haven, she's haunted by memories of an erotic encounter with the monk Rasputin that leaves mysterious burn marks on her thighs, explicitly described in Spivack's lush, if occasionally overcooked, prose. Felix's research into the "study and propagation of genius" brings him into contact with the Tolstoi Quartet, emigrant musicians from Vienna who become involuntary participants in scientific investigations that conjure up the terrifying activities of real-life Nazi physicians. The novel climaxes in a highly charged encounter between Felix and Anna that knits these strands together.

Weariness and heartbreak are the dominant moods of this novel. While Spivack maintains a close focus on the hardships of the Hofrat family--including the mental breakdown of Herbert's wife, Adeline, and the persistent dread that haunts their young granddaughter, Maria--she doesn't lose sight of the fact that this drama is playing out on a wider stage. The family's relief at having been spared annihilation is submerged by their regret over the fate of loved ones left behind, especially Herbert and Adeline's son Michael, whose spectral presence hovers on the edge of physical reality. Despite its strongly contrasting literary styles, Unspeakable Things feels like a tightly coiled spring, one that Kathleen Spivack manages to keep firmly under control. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Combining realistic and surreal elements, poet Kathleen Spivack's first novel explores the lives of a family of Jewish refugees in early 1940s New York.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: When an ARC Makes a Statement

"I'm Reading as Fast as I Can!" That was the title of a blog post I wrote during the winter of 2005 as I considered the deluge of advance reader's copies that arrived daily at the bookstore where I worked at the time. I am in the book trade because I love it. I read books because, well, I have to, in every sense of the word. The question is: Why do I choose to read this ARC and not that one?

The answer is complicated, but I can tell you precisely why I knew I would read Martin Seay's debut novel The Mirror Thief (Melville House, May) when an ARC showed up at my door in the fall. The book's jacket--front cover, back cover, even spine--was drenched in smart blurbs from independent booksellers. I've been opening ARC packages for decades, but that presentation stopped me in my tracks. "You've got to read this!" a dozen booksellers I know and respect were all saying.

And so I did. The novel is as extraordinary as they promised, but that's another conversation. What I really wanted to know was how Melville House came up with the cover idea. So I asked.

"I was trying to make a statement about the business, as well as trying to find the best way to market a really great book," said Dennis Johnson, Melville House co-publisher with Valerie Merians. "The urge to make a statement was prompted, in part, from the frustration that Valerie and I feel about the way the marketplace has become increasingly dominated by historically giant players. It's always been thus, of course, but it's at an historic extreme nowadays, and it's very hard for smaller indie players to participate in that kind of marketplace. The bitter irony, of course, is that the system needs us both--indie booksellers for showrooms and handselling leadership, and indie publishers because, well, culture does not live by generic bestsellers alone."

Last winter, Johnson was exploring possibilities for a campaign to highlight that dilemma, as well as "do something that would remind indie publishers and retailers that we are the most natural partners in the literary ecosystem. As more than half our staff--myself included--have worked in bookstores, Melville House has always published books that resonate most profoundly with the business of indie booksellers, so I guess I was trying to imagine a roots campaign of some sort."

Dennis Johnson

During ABA's 2015 Winter Institute in Asheville, he had what he described as a "eureka moment" while reading the manuscript of a debut novel "that was making my publisher's antenna vibrate like crazy--a big, fat, page-turner that was part literary thriller and part historical suspense novel, the kind of sweeping saga you stay up all night to finish. It was called The Mirror Thief, and it reminded me of when I discovered another big, fat saga (and the biggest selling book in Melville House's history): Hans Fallada's Every Man Dies Alone."

The Mirror Thief turned out to be the perfect book for the campaign he'd been envisioning "because this was the kind of book that indie booksellers could sell like no one else could," Johnson said, describing his right-place-right-time moment of clarity: "And then of course I just looked around me and the eureka moment turned into a Homer Simpson moment, whereby you slap your forehead and say, 'D'oh!' All these booksellers were walking around the hotel with book bags of ARCs and with manuscripts jammed under their arms and it came to me. If the book represented both what indie booksellers do better than anyone else, and what we do as indie publishers, why not really brand it as such, and build the campaign for it based on what indie booksellers had to say about it?"

The cover Melville House subsequently created for The Mirror Thief's ARC features blurbs from Mary Wolf of Collected Works Bookstore & Coffeehouse, Stan Hynds of the Northshire Bookstore, Sheryl Cotleur of Copperfield's Books, Jeremy Ellis of Brazos Bookstore, Kevin Elliott of 57th Street Books, Steve Salardino of Skylight Books, Anmiryam Budner of Main Point Books, Ed Conklin of Chaucer's Bookstore, Chris Phipps of DIESEL, a Bookstore, Geoffrey Jennings of Rainy Day Books, Peter Matyskiela of the Doylestown Bookshop and Greg Berry of the Elliott Bay Book Co.

"At Winter Institute 10, watching booksellers walk around with the thousand-page manuscript for [Garth Risk Hallberg's] City On Fire and more, I realized again how open indie bookstore buyers are to things other buyers aren't--debuts, long books, literary novels, writers from outside the echo chamber," Johnson recalled. "I knew I could get many of them to hear me out and give it a read. And I knew the book was so good that they'd love it, and that would be the start of a buzz campaign. And I wanted to print the buzz--it came to me that I should make a galley that had nothing on the cover--not even the title--except what indie booksellers said about it.

"So that's what we did. Statement made." --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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