Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 19, 2016

Little Brown and Company: Wolf at the Table by Adam Rapp

Tor Nightfire: Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes

Severn River Publishing: Covert Action (Command and Control #5) by J.R. Olson and David Bruns

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


Amazon: ABA Offers Resources; Project Goldcrest

In the wake of the focus on Amazon's disastrous effect on downtowns, jobs and municipal and state governments at Winter Institute 11, the American Booksellers Association has created a "Spotlight on Amazon" page on the Advocacy section of its website, where it has collected a range of studies, news reports and more about the e-tailer. Headings include "Amazon's Business Practices," "Amazon and Job Creation," "Amazon and the Book Industry," "Tax Avoidance and Government Studies" and "Jeff Bezos/Amazon and the Washington Post."

Among the items: the ABA/Civic Economics study "Amazon and Empty Storefronts," which was unveiled at WI11; a Paul Krugman column in the New York Times called "Amazon's Monopsony Is Not O.K."; and infographics from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance that stores can use to create visuals of Amazon's effects on local businesses, jobs, taxes and communities at large.


A website called Former and Current Employees of Amazon (FACE) contains more than 100 posts about the working environment at the company, most of which are scathing, as well as an open letter to CEO Jeff Bezos. Read some of the amazing posts here.

--- apparently aims to add to traffic congestion and streams of packaging materials as well as expand the gig economy: according to Reuters, the company is inviting drivers to join "its new 'on-demand' delivery service to handle its standard packages."

In e-mails to contract drivers who, under an Uber-like arrangement, deliver parcels for Amazon Flex, the quick delivery service for Prime Now customers, Amazon said it wants them to help deliver regular orders, separate from Prime Now deliveries. Eventually they should be able to mix orders.

To qualify for the new service, Reuters said Amazon specified that drivers must have a four-door car that is a "mid-sized sedan or larger." The "introductory" pay rate is $18 per hour, and drivers can schedule shifts between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m every day. Drivers, who are treated as independent contractors by Amazon, must pay for their own insurance and fuel and will pick up packages at large fulfillment centers.

Reuters noted that "the 'last mile' portion of delivery--the final and usually most expensive stretch of a package's journey from a retailer's warehouse to a customer's front door--has become increasingly important as shoppers expect cheaper and faster delivery."


Using documents from an IRS battle with Amazon, the Guardian, in a detailed report, has outlined Amazon's Project Goldcrest, "a complex 28-step scheme, which took more than two years to complete, and fundamentally reordered its global business in Europe using a maze of offshore entities and intercompany agreements," with the sole purpose of paying as little tax as possible in both the U.S. and Europe.

The Guardian noted that "over the past 20 years, Amazon has largely avoided U.S. federal taxation by managing its books to avoid reporting any meaningful profits. Project Goldcrest has played a significant role in Amazon's aggressive tax strategy, depriving governments on both sides of the Atlantic of large sums of tax since the project's completion in 2006. Critics argue that Amazon's aggressive tax planning has also bolstered its ability to undercut rivals on price."

In an IRS memorandum filed in the case, tax inspectors say that when Amazon considered the plan, its finance staff "did not quantify any benefits other than avoided U.S. corporate income taxes."

More than a decade ago, Amazon secured favorable terms from Luxembourg, which offers significantly lower corporate tax rates than most other entities in Europe. The company set up subsidiaries that license each other's intellectual property rights and pay royalties--in Luxembourg, which doesn't tax them. As a result, beginning in 2003, Amazon paid little tax for its European operations and paid less tax to the U.S. on foreign operations. The issue has become prominent in the U.K., where, for example, in 2014, Amazon had sales of £5.3 billion but paid taxes of just £11.9 million, about 0.2%.

The IRS documents offer much more detail about Project Goldcrest, named after Luxembourg's national bird, and show "the complexity the company resorted to in order to make the scheme work and the involvement of executives at the highest levels of the company," the Guardian wrote. They also show a closer connection between Amazon executives and the highest levels of the government in Luxembourg than has ever been acknowledged.

Jean-Claude Juncker, currently president of the European Commission, was simultaneously prime minister and head of the finance ministry of Luxembourg when what many call the "sweetheart deal" was made. He has claimed that the ministry was not involved in the deals, but the IRS records "show that Amazon's then top tax official, Robert Comfort, was in direct contact with Juncker's finance ministry at crucial stages in 2003."

Antoine Deltour, the former PricewaterhouseCoopers auditor who in 2014 leaked information about Luxembourg's tax deals with multinational companies, told the Guardian, "These findings reveal that not only the multinationals like Amazon abuse the legal insufficiency of the international tax system, but that some states actively help them to do so."

The IRS contends that Amazon used "unrealistically low values" to transfer its assets from the U.S. to Luxembourg, and its valuation of these assets was the "product of counterfactual and legally baseless assumptions." The memorandum called Amazon's justification of its methods "arbitrary" and "plainly an exercise in futility." The IRS is seeking $1.5 billion in back taxes and interest from Amazon.

University of California Press: The Accidental Ecosystem: People and Wildlife in American Cities by Peter S. Alagona

Wasserman Named Publisher of Heyday Books

Steve Wasserman

Steve Wasserman has been named publisher and executive director of Heyday Books. He succeeds Malcolm Margolin, the company's founder, who is retiring after 41 years at the helm. Wasserman, currently executive editor-at-large for trade books at Yale University Press, assumes his new post July 1. Until then, editorial director Gayle Wattawa is acting as interim publisher, while Lindsie M. Bear, director of nature and environmental publishing, serves as interim executive director.

Wasserman noted that he "met Malcolm twenty years ago when I was editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review. I greatly admired his vision for Heyday and his knack for inviting nearly everyone he encountered to join him on his journey of celebration and joy and beauty. Malcolm's passion for good books, his instinct for finding fresh voices, and his ability to inspire others in this quest have been exemplary. His shoes will be hard to fill. I'm honored to have the chance to try. I look forward to becoming Heyday's chief cartographer as it maps the still-to-be-discovered riches of California in the years ahead."

Prior to joining Yale University Press in 2012, Wasserman was a partner at the Kneerim & Williams Literary Agency; LATBR editor for nine years and a principal architect of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books; editorial director of Times Books at Random House; and publisher & editorial director of Hill & Wang and the Noonday Press at Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

John Donatich, the director of Yale University Press, said Wasserman "brought luster and allure to the Yale list, acquiring important books by such figures as Greil Marcus, Michael Roth, Martha Hodes, David Thomson, and David Rieff, publishing them with flair and gusto. He will continue to consult with YUP, particularly editing several key authors still to be published."

Margolin said he is "genuinely thrilled and honored that Steve Wasserman has agreed to take over as executive director and publisher of Heyday. I can't imagine anyone with better professional skills, more depth and variety of experience, and a more impressive record of accomplishment and public service. He knows California and its many cultures with intimacy, associates easily with the best writers and deepest thinkers everywhere, and his ample playfulness and wit have always been at the service of a humane social vision. More than that, he's great fun to be around; the world always seems so lively and full of possibility with Steve in the room. I expect that while continuing and perhaps even expanding the publishing programs Heyday has created, he will also lead us into areas more in line with his unique interests. I couldn't be more pleased."

Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Ga., to Expand


Little Shop of Stories children's bookstore in downtown Decatur, Ga., is planning to expand into the space next door that was vacated by the relocation of Vivid Boutique, Decaturish reported, adding that co-owners Dave Shallenberger and Diane Capriola "will tear down the wall to add more retail space."

"Nothing is set in stone yet," said Lindsay Pingel, event coordinator for Little Shop of Stories. "There are going to be some walls torn down. We're going to have to create an opening from our current space into the new space. It's going to take a little bit of time.'

Inventory manager Justin Colussy-Estes added: "It's all a big cloud of mystery at the moment. It's a big empty space, and we're excited to move in. We're throwing ideas at the owners, Dave and Diane."

Capriola said that while the timeline depends on the scope of work and getting permits in place, "Our hope is sometime this spring we'll be in that space as well.... I suspect that if we have to close it will just be for a couple of days. I think the work we have to do won't impact the existing side that much."

Kansas City's Reading Reptile 'Transitioning'

Pete Cowdin and Deb Pettid, co-owners of the Reading Reptile children's bookstore, Kansas City, Mo., "are transitioning out of that business and turning their energies toward what they say will ultimately be something resembling a museum dedicated to children's literature," KCUR reported.

"We're inventing something that doesn't exist," Cowdin said. "We're creating a building filled with narrative." He described the Rabbit Hole as "the world's first explora-storium," modeled after the City Museum in St. Louis and the Exploratorium in San Francisco. A prototype exists in a storefront at 110 Southwest Boulevard, where "the space provides a glimpse of the couple's larger vision: a building between 50,000 and 100,000 square feet, home to changing galleries where visitors will 'walk through a story cover to cover.' "

The Rabbit Hole is a nonprofit. Cowdin said the organization had been in a "quiet fundraising" period support and will launch a public capital campaign later this year. Its national advisory board includes Lisa Campbell Ernst, Shane Evans, Kate DiCamillo, Linda Sue Park, Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket), Brian Selznick and Jon Scieskza.

"Authors will be coming all the time," Cowdin said. "It will be a complex, a hive of children, young people and adults. We're appealing to parents and kids--this will not be a place where you drop your kid off."

Cowdin and Pettid "are leaving their more (if not entirely) traditional retail business at a time of significant disruption in the bookstore business, but they've had this idea for more than 20 years," KCUR noted. "We just want to go with the part of it that's the art we love," Cowdin said. "We will expand the conversation around literacy."

Obituary Note: Mohamed Heikal

Mohamed Heikal, "an Egyptian journalist and historian who was an alter ego to President Gamal Abdel Nasser and for a time became an informal adviser to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi," died February 17, the New York Times reported. He was 92. Heikal "wrote 40 books--often as a firsthand witness to history--on the Iranian revolution, the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and other matters. And, partly protected by his singular place in Egyptian history and letters, he became a thorn in the side of subsequent Egyptian presidents who sought to repudiate Nasser's legacy," the Times noted.


Image of the Day: Dream Decor on Broadway

Yesterday, design author Will Taylor appeared on Good Morning America's "Hot Mess Express" segment, where he helped host Lara Spencer give a viewer's bedroom a design makeover. Taylor runs the popular design blog Bright.Bazaar. His upcoming book Dream Decor (Quarto, May 17, 2016), was shown on the big screen in Times Square at the end of the segment.

'South Florida Food 50' Honors Books & Books Chef

Allen Susser, consulting chef at The Café at Books & Books, was named one of the Miami Herald's 2016 South Florida Food 50 winners, honoring people "who are raising our culinary prominence and making South Florida a better place to eat and drink."

Noting that "the trailblazing Miami chef continues to be a top advocate for local farmers and charities," the Herald wrote that Susser's "current role as consulting chef at the year-old Books & Books café on the Arsht Center campus downtown is a perfect fit. He hosts weekly farm-to-table dinners on Monday nights, showcasing the best of what's available from local growers. And he curates the café daily menu with a similar plant-based ethos that speaks to Susser's ability to continue to have his finger on the pulse of what's important in the food world."

Personnel Changes at American Academy of Pediatrics

Sara Hoerdeman has joined the American Academy of Pediatrics as marketing manager, consumer products. She formerly worked at Independent Publishers Group, Northwestern University Press and Northern Illinois University Press.

Perseus to Distribute SelectBooks

Effective May 1, Perseus Distribution will handle print and e-book sales and distribution worldwide for SelectBooks.

Founded in 2001, SelectBooks, New York City, publishes books on politics and current events, business books for entrepreneurs and leaders, self-help books, memoirs and works on spirituality, psychology, philosophy, music, health and alternative medicine. The company recently launched a line of commercial and literary fiction.

Media and Movies

TV: Dietland; Time After Time

Producer Marti Noxon (Lifetime's UnREAL and Bravo's Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce) has signed a multiyear overall deal with Skydance Productions to create and develop new projects for the studio. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the "first under the pact is drama Dietland, based on the novel of the same name by Sarai Walker. Described as part coming-of-age story and part revenge fantasy, the potential series is set against the backdrop of the beauty industry and explores society's obsession with weight loss in a bold and funny fashion."


Freddie Stroma (UnReal) has been cast as the lead in Kevin Williamson's ABC pilot Time After Time, "using the 1979 novel by Karl Alexander and movie as a starting point" to "chronicle the epic adventures of young H.G. Wells," Deadline reported. Williamson is writing and executive producing the project, with Marcos Siega directing. Warner Bros. TV is the studio.

Movies: Hidden Figures; On Chesil Beach

Octavia Spencer will co-star with Taraji P. Henson in Fox 2000's Hidden Figures, adapted from Margot Lee Shetterly's book Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race, Variety reported. Ted Melfi (St. Vincent) will direct and produce the film with Chernin Entertainment and Donna Gigliotti of Levantine Films. The book is scheduled for publication in September from HarperCollins.


Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) will star in On Chesil Beach, adapted from Ian McEwan's 2007 novel  and produced by Number 9 Films' Elizabeth Karlsen & Stephen Woolley (Carol, Youth), Variety reported. Dominic Cooke (The Hollow Crown) is directing the project, which "marks the second time Ronan has been cast in a pic based on a McEwan tome: The thesp played alongside James McAvoy and Keira Knightley in 2007's Atonement."

Books & Authors

PEN Pinter Prize 'Extends Reach Beyond U.K.'

Beginning this year, the PEN Pinter Prize, which was established in 2009 by English PEN in memory of Nobel Laureate playwright and poet Harold Pinter, will extend its eleigibility requirements beyond British writers to include those from the Republic of Ireland and the Commonwealth, the Bookseller reported.

The prize is awarded annually to a writer of "outstanding literary merit" who casts an "unflinching, unswerving" gaze upon the world and shows a "fierce intellectual determination to define the real truth of our lives and our societies." The PEN Pinter winner also chooses an International Writer of Courage to share the award. Last year's winner, James Fenton, chose Raif Badawi to receive the honor.

B&N's Discover Great New Writers: The Summer 2016 List

Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers program has announced the 13 titles on its summer 2016 list. The selection committee is comprised of B&N booksellers whom the company described as "voracious readers who meet weekly throughout the year to look for compelling voices, extraordinary writing, and indelible stories from literary talents at the start of their careers."

Each of the titles will receive at least 12 weeks of promotion in stores, online and on Nook devices, beginning with the book's pub date. The 60 or so books chosen for the program during the year are eligible for the annual Discover Awards, which give a total of $105,000 to six winners whose books will receive an additional year of promotion in stores, online and on Nook devices.

Four novels on the summer 2016 list described as standouts:

Smoke by Dan Vyleta (Doubleday). "The story never stops moving in this page-turning, fantastical tale set in a familiar-yet-not England at the dawn of the industrial age. Good vs. Evil. Rich vs. Poor. The Powerful vs. The Powerless. Classic themes drive this galloping narrative to a cliffhanger of an ending, and Dan Vyleta's incredible, imaginative story invaded our dreams, like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell and Station Eleven."

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf). "This debut novel from a 26-year-old Ghanian-American author follows two branches--one African and one American--of a family over 300 years. We were reminded of both Toni Morrison's exquisite novels and one of our favorite recent Discover picks, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis, as we read this heartbreaking, beautiful book that we couldn't bear to put down."

The Girls by Emma Cline (Random House). "A lonely teenage girl, her last summer at home before boarding school, an intriguing gang of older, louche girls in a local park. It's Northern California at the end of the 1960s, and these girls are coming of age at the edge of unspeakable violence. Written in seductive, luminous prose, this debut novel captures the thin crossing between adolescence and adulthood, questioning what we're willing to do to belong, to be seen."

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (Crown). "We dare you to put this one down. An atomic physicist is kidnapped, torn from his life in Chicago and the family he adores. The action never stops and the plot twists and turns keep coming in this page-turning psychological thriller with sci-fi elements--but the heart of this novel is a man's desperate search for his wife and son."

The other selections:

The Death of Rex Nhongo by C. B. George (Little, Brown)
The Fire Line by Fernanda Santos (Flatiron)
Goodnight, Beautiful Women by Anna Noyes (Grove Press)
Half Wild: Stories by Robin MacArthur (Ecco)
Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching by Mychal Denzel Smith (Nation)
My Father Before Me: A Memoir by Chris Forhan (Scribner)
Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam (Ecco)
South Haven by Hirsh Sawhney (Akashic)
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Book Brahmin: Menna van Praag

photo: Jeffrey Santos

Menna van Praag is the author of the magical realism novels The House at the End of Hope Street, The Dress Shop of Dreams and The Witches of Cambridge (paperback original, Ballantine Books, February 9, 2016). She has also written screenplays and the memoir-novella Men, Money & Chocolate, translated into 26 languages. She's working on her new novel, The Lost Art of Letter Writing.

On your nightstand now:

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. I'm reading it for the third time as it's providing inspiration to a new screenplay I'm writing. I also loved the film, with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, for its understated emotion and sublime subtle subtext. As a story of unconsummated love, it has me in tears every time.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I loved the Just William books by Richmal Crompton. They are stories about a very naughty (but rather lovable) boy called William, who's always getting into frightful scrapes and delightful adventures. My own childhood was never so exciting (probably because I was significantly more timid and better behaved than William), so I loved living vicariously through him. I'm re-reading them all now and only just discovered that the author is a woman. Also, I must mention Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, I was more than a little in love with Anne.

Your top five authors:

Gosh, this is a tricky one. I've long been a great admirer of Ann Patchett; The Magician's Assistant was my first and my favorite, though I adore all her books. I also read everything by Tracy Chevalier. I love David Sedaris because, whatever he's writing about, it invariably induces in me great spurts of glorious laughter. In that vein, P.G. Wodehouse is also a firm favorite, I find myself reading Jeeves and Wooster again and again. E.M. Forster was also one of my first loves. I read A Room with a View as a teenager and it had such an impact that it played a very starring role in my first novel, The House at the End of Hope Street.

Book you've faked reading:

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I know it was brilliant, I know everyone adored it, but I just couldn't get through it. I've since (years later) "read" it via audiobook and it was beautifully written, but I clearly just needed to have it read to me.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I must have bought 20+ copies of this book for friends, family and complete strangers. I shoehorn this book into any conversation about books and have been known to take people's addresses and send them a copy, along with a letter urging them to read it or I'll turn up uninvited on their doorstep. If you like magical realism, you will adore this book.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. I'd just missed my train at King's Cross and so, of course, I headed straight for the nearest bookshop to while away the next hour waiting for the train. Her cover was so enchanting that I couldn't resist it. I didn't regret it, either; the story within was even more beautiful than its cover.

Book you hid from your parents:

I honestly don't remember. I don't think I hid anything from them. They both greatly encouraged reading. The only thing I might have hid from them was anything considered a little too unsophisticated.

Book that changed your life:

Working on Yourself Doesn't Work by Ariel & Shya Kane. It's nonfiction but beautifully written and absolutely life changing. I was 26 when I read it, full of self-doubt and self-loathing and unable to finish a single piece of writing because I never believed anything was good enough. This book, along with all their subsequent books, absolutely transformed my writing and my life along with it.

Favorite line from a book:

"Only connect," from Howards End by E.M. Forster. I'm naturally quite shy and scared of rejection when making new friends, but I get so much joy from connecting with others and this line reminds me to be brave.

Five books you'll never part with:

A signed edition of Stardust by Neil Gaiman. A copy of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, a gift from my father. My first copy of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (both book and author also play a starring role in The House at the End of Hope Street). A signed copy of My Lover's Lover by Maggie O'Farrell, another favorite author. And my only copy of Men, Money & Chocolate (from the very first self-published print run of only 100 copies) for sentimental reasons.

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

It has to be The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I first discovered it when my son was nine months old. At the time he'd only sleep while being pushed in the pram, so I'd go on long walks, pushing the pram while reading the book--I bumped into a fair few lampposts!

Book Review

Review: Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life

Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life by Edward O. Wilson (Liveright, $25.95 hardcover, 9781631490828, March 7, 2016)

Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight For Life by Edward O. Wilson (Liveright, $25.95 hardcover, 9781631490828, March 7, 2016)

Edward O. Wilson (Letters to a Young Scientist) is a famous and sometimes controversial naturalist, a Harvard professor and the Pulitzer-winning author of more than 20 books. Half-Earth is the last book in his trilogy on "how our species became the architects and rulers of the Anthropocene epoch, bringing consequences that will affect all of life... far into the geological future."

His recommendation is a radical one. "I am convinced that only by setting aside half the planet in reserve... can we save the living part of the environment and achieve the stabilization required for our own survival." This reserve would be a web of large protected areas connected by wild corridors that span continents. Wilson estimates that it would protect about 85% of the earth's biodiversity. In comparison, existing reserves cover about "15 percent of Earth's land area and 2.8 percent of Earth's ocean area." Though their creation has saved many species, "the current rate of extinction overall is between one hundred and one thousand times higher than it was originally, and all due to human activity."

It's not that Wilson thinks we can achieve this ideal in the near future. He wants us to think big, to set a noble goal, rather than piddling around with conservation measures that he regards as valuable but ultimately akin to mopping the brow of a dying patient.

In brief chapters, Wilson considers past and ongoing extinctions, their causes, the biodiversity that exists today and how to calculate what existed before. A list of worldwide wilderness hot spots sketches out a starter map for this vast project. He uses two visionary and successful restoration projects in Florida and Mozambique to show how they can be accomplished, and how they can benefit local people as well as wildlife. Some of this material has been covered in his earlier books, but in addition, Wilson aggressively confronts what he calls "Anthropocene enthusiasts," scientists who argue that our world is irreparably changed and we should "recognize that Earth's destiny is to be humanized." This perspective, he says, "is largely a product of well-intentioned ignorance," and he repeatedly emphasizes how millions of species and their interactions remain unnamed and mysterious.

Wilson finds hope in declining human birth rates and technological advances that aid scientific understanding and make us more efficient users of natural resources. And he returns to his conviction that altruism is part of human evolution and can be extended to the natural world. "I believe we've learned enough to adopt a transcendent moral precept concerning the rest of life. It is simple and easy to say: Do no further harm to the biosphere." --Sara Catterall

Shelf Talker: Naturalist Edward O. Wilson makes the case for an ambitious plan to preserve and restore the Earth's biological wealth.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Let Me Check My Paper Calendar

Is there anything sadder than a bookstore's 2016 calendar display in mid-February? Well, yes, there is--those last cardboard boxes of $1 wall and engagement calendars that end up on sidewalk sale tables during the summer. And we mustn't forget the customers who come into bookstores just before Labor Day Weekend to ask if there are any calendars left. Booksellers nationwide will dutifully plow through miscellaneous cartons in the basement or storeroom to retrieve the last three, the ones they couldn't even give away. Then the customers will say, in chorus: "Thanks, but I thought you'd have something more... interesting."  

Amazing, yes, but isn't it more amazing that paper calendars still sell? How can it be that we haven't gone all-digital-all-the-time at this point? "Despite the increasing popularity of personal and portable electronic devices, consumers are still seeking out traditional paper-based diaries and calendars," Stationery News recently observed.

This is the time of year when bookstores really have to push calendar sales with discounts and promotions. I like this Facebook deal Afterwords Books, Edwardsville, Ill., offered last month: "Happy Wednesday! It's the end of January and still no calendar? No worries, we're giving away THREE today!... For your chance to win one of these great calendars, just like this status *and* be sure to let your Facebook friends and family know about our weekly giveaway!"

Paper still has its place in my little calendar world. Although I use an iCalendar linked from laptop to iPhone to iPad for some things, every December I engage in a curious, personal holiday ritual by making a special trip to New York City to purchase a new engagement calendar. For 2016, it's the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "New York in Art" Last year, it was MoMA's "Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs."

Way back at the turn of the century, I used to ritually buy my annual calendar from Ivy's Books & Curiosities on the Upper West Side. For 2004, it was "Cinema Italiano," featuring 12 months of movie posters from the likes of Riso Amaro, La Strada, Carosello Napoletano, Divorzio all'Italiana, Stromboli, and Ladri di Biciclette. That was a very good year. Bello.

I do have a confession, though. From 2012 to 2014 I had a brief fling with the digital-only calendar life. First, it was Google Calendar, but that only lasted a year. It didn't mean anything. Then my iCalendar and I went everywhere together, making big plans. Sure, we had our issues with crashes and vanishing entries, but we managed to work all that out. At some point, however, I knew it wasn't meant to last. And when I saw the Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition at MoMA, I decided it was time to move on--or move back--to paper.

Why? One reason is certainly tactile, and will be familiar to anyone who has followed the physical vs. e-book debate over the past two decades. In a piece headlined "Why Paper Planners Are Relevant in the Age of Smartphone Calendar Apps," Bertel King Jr. noted: "The act of picking up a pen can get your mind thinking differently from the way it does when you place your fingers on a keyboard. X-ing out previous days may help you better keep track of the date. Physically turning pages may force you to think about how time's always moving and motivate you to make better plans in the first place. Sometimes just holding something in your hands can make all the difference."

For booksellers, it's also Orwellian... literally. "At Christmas time we spent a feverish ten days struggling with Christmas cards and calendars, which are tiresome things to sell but good business while the season lasts," George Orwell wrote in his 1936 essay, "Bookshop Memories."

There are certainly doubters. In Talk Business magazine, Adrian Lewis observed that "those novelty calendars given as gifts every Christmas get hung on the wall and people enjoy the pictures, but few people use them for serious planning past the end of January. One has to wonder what we will be using 10 years from now to plan our lives. No doubt someone will be writing a similar piece to this saying how out of date 'old online calendars' are!"

Well, as it happens I was pondering the future of paper calendars almost a decade ago, and my conclusion seems to be holding its ground: "Neither cynicism nor nostalgia is really the point, however. Paper calendars are still in the game. Will they ever be rendered obsolete by the digitized alternatives that are within such easy reach in our quiver of personal electronic devices? Shouldn't they be obsolete already? Perhaps, but for now calendar season just lasts and lasts." --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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