Judy Blume: 'Miss Bossypants, Bookseller'
"At 78, I have a new occupation, 'Miss Bossypants, bookseller.' "
"At 78, I have a new occupation, 'Miss Bossypants, bookseller.' "
March bookstore sales jumped 10.7%, to $766 million, compared to March 2015, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. This marked the seventh month in a row that bookstore sales have risen, following a gain of 7.2% in February, a 3.8% gain in January, a jump of 9.6% in December, rises of nearly 7% in September and October and a gain of 7.5% in November.
For the year to date, bookstore sales have risen 6.2%, to $2.9 billion.
Total retail sales in March rose 3.5%, to $460 billion. For the year to date, total retail sales have risen 3.8%, to $1,228 billion.
Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing a general line of new books. These establishments may also sell stationery and related items, second-hand books, and magazines."
After a slow start on Wednesday afternoon, BookExpo America kicked into gear on Thursday and concluded on Friday with much praise from many attendees. The somewhat smaller attendance--probably around 18,000--allowed for a more pleasant trade floor experience for many booksellers and librarians. Quite a few said that at this BEA, they could circulate more freely in exhibitors' booths and not feel like--or be treated like--interlopers.
Particularly on the last two days, with the full schedule of book & author breakfasts, signings, events, luncheons and parties, the show had the kind of energy people expect from BEA.
Among the many authors in attendance--some of whom caused at least some attendees to swoon--were Kenny Loggins, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Sherman Alexie, Louise Penny, Richard Russo, Jodi Picoult, Mo Willems, Michael Connelly, Erin Hilderbrand, George Saunders, John Scalzi, Terry McMillan, Jay McInerney and Mary Kubica. Big books included The Nix by Nathan Hill (Knopf), The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday), Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf) and The Girls by Emma Cline (Random House).
|Thursday's Author Breakfast with Faith Salie, Colson Whitehead, Louise Penny and Sebastian Junger.|
A standout among the parties was the annual PGW blowout bash on Thursday nght, which this year featured the fantastic Mavis Staples, celebrated PGW's 40th anniversary and benefited the Binc Foundation.
Poland was BEA's guest of honor. Groups with extensive programs included the Audio Publishers Association, which held its annual gala Wednesday; the bloggers conference; and IDPF DigiCon. General programming had tracks covering independent bookselling, libraries, marketing, tech and more. Once again, BookExpo segued into the popular consumer show BookCon (see story below), which was held on Saturday and attracted thousands of excited readers, a nice reminder of why we're all here.
Attendees lauded the setting in McCormick Place's West Building, which was built in 2007 and compares favorably in many ways to the Javits Center in New York City. The building was clean, fresh, bright and airy, with decent meeting places and food options. We heard no complaints about logistics or the facility.
Highlights of the show for booksellers included the ABA's Celebration of Bookselling and the association's town and annual meetings. Two-thirds of bookseller attendees hadn't gone to the last two BEAs, making for a lot of fresh faces at the show. ABA CEO Oren Teicher said that the association had "a very productive and successful BookExpo," in part because of this dynamic. "For us to be able to interact with so many first-time bookseller attendees was an excellent opportunity to hear from--and, learn about--stores we don't usually see. We hope our publisher friends won't be too dismissive about the value of moving the show around every once in a while." He said he understood that publishers like having the show in New York, but noted that "the high cost of New York makes it difficult for many of our members to be able to attend. The fact that two-thirds of ABA member attendees in Chicago these past few days had not come for the past two years should, I hope, signal something! We look forward to working with our colleagues at Reed to do whatever we can to insure that BEA is as useful as possible for booksellers and publishers alike."
For booksellers, Teicher continued, "the best news emanating out of BEA, of course, was all the good news we heard from so many stores about the continued strength of their business. The new stats from the Census Bureau [see above] reaffirm that. It is clear that more and more consumers recognize the enormous value indie bookstores bring to their communities. While we've got some daunting challenges before us--as I said at our annual meeting--we've never been better positioned to successfully address what lies ahead. This is the indie bookstore moment; and, all of us at at ABA are going to do everything we can to help every member store to take maximum advantage of the current environment. I can't wait to get back to work!"
Booksellers, too, were positive about the show. "I expected to be totally overwhelmed," said Sean Fitzgerald, associate manager at Village Lights Bookstore in Madison, Ind., who attended BookExpo for the first time this year on a BEA scholarship. "I expected to meet and talk to as many people as I could. I expected to learn some things. That has all come true."
|Friday Children's Author Breakfast speakers: Gene Yuen Yang, Sabaa Tahir, Dav Pilkey and Jamie Lee Curtis|
Fitzgerald added that he was impressed by how "responsive and open" the bookselling community proved to be, and said that he would like to attend next year's BookExpo in New York if he can afford it. One disappointment, he added, was how quiet the show became on Friday, especially in the afternoon.
Michael Barnard, owner of Rakestraw Books, Danville, Calif., wrote to customers that BEA consisted of "full days of education, opportunities to meet authors and learn about new books, and some great time with old friends. Independent bookstores are enjoying a renaissance at the moment, so many folks are in great spirits. It's great to see a decade of innovation, advocacy, and old-fashioned love of books having such good results....
"After the nuttiness of O'Hare Airport and the cramped fatigue of even a not so long flight, it was tremendously invigorating (and a little reassuring!) to walk into the bookshop this morning to see the books on the shelves and lots of fresh new titles on the tables. In that spirit, I am sending out this quick little message to you all. Come see us soon and, until then, happy reading!"
At street level, just before 10 a.m. on Saturday, Chicago's McCormick Place seemed rather quiet. But the minute the door opened, the noise of the crowd was low and rumbling and urgent, like a distant avalanche. BookCon ("the event where storytelling and pop culture collide"), scheduled for the day after BookExpo America, is open to the public... and the book-loving public heeded its siren call in droves: officials estimated 7,000 attendees. Knowing this eager crowd was here for books, and only books, was downright moving.
The Quarto booth bus was positioned right by the front entrance, so at 10 a.m. it was swarmed. Kids and teens alike were excitedly picking up free copies of everything, even Life by the Glass, "a handy reference guide and personal notebook that will help you to fine-tune your wine senses...." By 10:15, the shelves of YA galleys at the Sourcebooks booth were stripped, like a crop post-locust. (Fortunately staffers kept extras under wraps for later arrivals.)
After a program on "The Power and Importance of Historical Fiction for Teens," a fan professed her admiration for Ruta Sepetys, author of Salt to the Sea (Philomel). Monica Hesse, author of Girl in the Blue Coat (Little, Brown), was the other excellent panelist.
Indeed, BookCon was more than prepared for the throngs of teenagers, mostly girls, with plenty of panels and popular book signings, even "Truth or Dare" games involving improvised limericks by superstar YA authors Leigh Bardugo, whose sequel to Six of Crows is Crooked Kingdom (Holt, September) and Marissa Meyer of the Lunar Chronicles with her upcoming novel Heartless (Feiwel & Friends, November).
Stories power our world, and BookCon is proof.
John Bradshaw, "whose ideas about family dysfunction and the damaged 'inner child' concealed within most adults made him one of the most popular and influential self-help evangelists of the 1990s," died May 8, the New York Times reported. He was 82. In his PBS TV shows, lectures and books, "he argued that millions of adults fail to achieve healthy relationships because they have never come to terms with the shame, self-blame and 'toxic guilt' caused by parental abuse, physical or emotional."
Bradshaw's books, which have sold more than 12 million copies, include Healing the Shame that Binds You; Post-Romantic Stress Disorder: What to Do When the Honeymoon Is Over; The Family: A New Way of Creating Solid Self-Esteem; Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child; and Creating Love: The Next Great Stage of Growth.
On May 19, the Estes Park, Colo., Museum Friends & Foundation will present its 2016 Pioneer Award to Paula Steige, owner of the Macdonald Book Shop, which has "deep historic roots in downtown Estes Park. Paula has also been a longtime supporter of many civic activities and local nonprofits, and has formerly served terms on both the Town of Estes Park and EPURA board of directors." The ceremony will include a reading of the mayoral proclamation that has been written to honor Paula "for her tremendous dedication to the Estes Park community."
The Independent showcased "12 bookstores every reader should visit in their lifetime," noting that in addition to the many U.S. indies that recently celebrated Independent Bookstore Day, "there are plenty of picturesque print-hoarding spots around the world that are also worthy of a visit in spirit of the day year-round, even if this holiday doesn't formally broaden its reach beyond the U.S."
(photo: Daniel I. Dorfman/Pioneer Press)
Aimee Anderson, who works for the Book Stall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka, Ill., was featured in a "Shout Out" q&a by the Pioneer Press. Among our favorite exchanges:
How did you get interested in working at the bookstore?
I've been a voracious reader my whole life. I just love to read, so when my kids were old enough, I decided it was time to go and do something. It is like being a kid in a candy store. Every day I come in and there are new books, and what am I going to read today?
What is your favorite part of working at the bookstore?
Three things. Being able to keep up with the current books and meeting the authors, as a lot of times, we have author events. And I like working in the village because I see so many people. It is a very social job, so every day I see friends and family and people I haven't seen in a couple of years.
Fries!: An Illustrated Guide to the World's Favorite Food by Blake Lingle (Princeton Architectural Press).
Morning Joe: Texas Governor Greg Abbott, author of Broken But Unbowed (Threshold Editions, $28, 9781501144899). He will also appear today on Fox & Friends and CNBC's Squawk Alley and tomorrow on CNN's New Day, Fox Radio's Hannity Show and Fox Radio's Laura Ingraham Show.
Fresh Air: Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Gene: An Intimate History (Scribner, $32, 9781476733500). He will also appear tomorrow on CBS This Morning.
Diane Rehm: Marilu Henner and Michael Brown, author of Changing Normal: How I Helped My Husband Beat Cancer (Gallery Books, $26, 9781476793948).
Tavis: Jon Shields, co-author of Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University (Oxford University Press, $29.95, 9780199863051).
ABC Radio's John Batchelor Show: Sydney Blumenthal, author of A Self-Made Man: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln Vol. I, 1809-1849 (Simon & Schuster, $35, 9781476777252).
Last Call with Carson Daly: Moby, author of Porcelain: A Memoir (Penguin Press, $28, 9781594206429).
Diane Rehm: Dr. Norman Rosenthal, author of Super Mind: How to Boost Performance and Live a Richer and Happier Life Through Transcendental Meditation (TarcherPerigee, $27, 9780399174742).
Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy and Patricia Clarkson will star in Spanish director Isabelle Croixet's English-language drama The Bookshop, based on the novel by Penelope Fitzgerald. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Mortimer will play Florence Green, "a free-spirited widow who puts grief behind her and risks everything to open up a bookshop--the first such shop in the sleepy seaside town of Hardborough."
The winner of the £30,000 (about $43,090) 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize, for "the best published literary work of fiction in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under," is Grief Is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter, to be published in the U.S. by Graywolf on June 7.
Chair of judges Dai Smith, a professor at prize sponsor Swansea University, said that the author, a senior editor at Granta and Portobello Books, "takes the common place of grief, the pall of death, the loss of loved ones, the things that we will all experience and transforms the ordinary through an extraordinary feat of imaginative prose, but prose that slips in to poetry and out again. The way it plays with the archetypal figure of Ted Hughes' Crow is both astonishing and beguiling. It is funny, it is deeply moving."
Finalists have been named for the £10,000 (about $14,360) Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, honoring "a book of the highest literary merit--fiction, nonfiction or poetry--which best evokes the spirit of a place." The winner will be announced on May 23. This year's shortlisted titles are:
The River by Jane Clarke
The Great Explosion by Brian Dillon
Weatherland by Alexandra Harris
Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev
The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks
This Divided Island by Samanth Subramanian
Stanford University Libraries has announced the fiction and nonfiction shortlists for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, which recognizes newly published works and is "intended to encourage new or emerging writers and honor the Saroyan literary legacy of originality, vitality and stylistic innovation." Winners, who receive $5,000 in each category, and finalists will be announced this summer.
Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay (Putnam, $26 hardcover, 9781101982471, June 7, 2016)
In poet and small press editor Liz Kay's first novel, Monsters: A Love Story, Omaha, Neb., is much more than mail-order steaks and Warren "The Sage of Omaha" Buffett. It is the home of recently widowed Stacey Lane, mother of two grade-school boys and author of the feminist novel-in-verse Monsters in the Afterlife--a retelling of the Frankenstein story featuring a woman monster, about, as she describes it, "gender ideals and sexual power dynamics." Despite its slight first printing and obvious political agenda, it implausibly catches the eye of sexy, boffo Hollywood top dog actor Tommy DeMarco, who has his go-to assistant contact Stacey and fly her to the Turks and Caicos to negotiate buying the film rights, retaining her as a screenwriter. And just like that, Stacey drops her boys at her homemaker sister's house and flies to Hollywood to hammer out a filmable script. Still shaken by the car wreck death of her husband and doing her best as a single mom, Stacey leaves the world of "organic juice boxes and baby-carrot snack packs," bumper bowling birthday parties and pee-wee football ("The parents in this league are insane. Like they tailgate. Who tailgates at pee-wee football?"), and falls into the sunshine fantasyland of limos and swimming pools--and, with considerable help from Tommy's top drawer booze, into the seductive, womanizing star's bed.
But who's seducing whom? Kay's protagonist is no star-smitten bimbo just off the bus. Stacey may live in Omaha, but she was raised by intellectuals in Northern California, schooled on the East Coast, and knows how to use her brains and good looks to get what she thinks she wants. Dressing for a meeting with the film's artsy director and the production team, she chooses her attire carefully: "I pick a pair of gray jeans. They're skintight, any tighter they'd bruise my hips.... I pull on a tailored navy cotton tee. It looks simple, but it cost a fortune. It's cut a little lower than I remember, and while it's not see-through, it hints that maybe it could be." She has to fight the director to keep the movie true to her poetic vision while he reminds her that "people go to poetry to expand their minds and sh*t. They go to the movies to be entertained... the ending to this thing isn't even dark, it's f*cking bleak. It makes me want to blow my brains out."
Stacey is a complicated woman trying to sort out the conflicting tugs of motherhood, grief, professional success and personal satisfaction. Monsters: A Love Story is a smart, satirical feminist novel, but as the subtitle suggests, it's also a romance. If it doesn't change your life, it is nonetheless a diverting fantasy about how that just might happen. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.
Shelf Talker: Liz Kay cleverly takes a frazzled, recently widowed Omaha poet and mother and drops her into the boozy, razzle-dazzle of Hollywood moviemaking.