Shelf Awareness for Friday, November 18, 2016

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

'I Want You to Feel Safe Here'

"I want you to feel safe here. I don't care how you voted. I only hope you did. I don't care where you came from. Or what color you are. I've certainly never cared about who you're sleeping with or which bathroom you want to use. It boggles my mind that people do. But that's just the way it is. 

What I do care about is this: you.

I love what we share together: a community over the written word. 

I believe that reading and being together over the written word is a great way to reach out to each other. It's what gets me up every day. Especially on the days when I don't want to get up....

Whatever we decide to talk about, act on, or broadcast going forward, let's make a promise to each other to do so with grace.   

I am giving thanks for your presence in my life today."

--Kelly Justice, owner of Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va., in an e-mail newsletter


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


Patterson, Scholastic Award School Library Campaign Grants

James Patterson has delivered on his pledge earlier this year of $1.75 million to help save school libraries with the second installment of the School Library Campaign. Yesterday, he announced the distribution of funds to 452 schools across the country, in grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.

In partnership with Scholastic Reading Club, the Patterson Pledge program is part of an ongoing effort to keep books and reading a priority for children in the U.S. Since last year's launch, Patterson and Scholastic Reading Club have received more than 32,000 entries to the library grant programs and awarded funds to more than 900 recipients. The most prevalent request on behalf of schools is for general funding, a dire need. Patterson's total contribution to date is $3.5 million.

"We've just come out of the most divisive presidential election in history--and among all the issues that captivated voters, education wasn't one of them. It was hardly discussed," said Patterson. "Nearly half of the American population reads at or below a basic level, and we need to address that problem to foster an informed future electorate. I've made it my mission to underscore the vital role reading plays in children's lives, and the need to sustain school libraries is at the heart of that mission."

Judy Newman, president of Scholastic Reading Club, said last year's Patterson Pledge "showed communities nationwide how important school libraries are but also how gravely desperate they are for books to fill their shelves in the midst of steep budget cuts. The amazing outpouring from schools combined with the continued generosity of James Patterson helped us solidify a second year of grants to help more children have access to high-quality books and, ultimately, revive school libraries. We are proud to announce this year's new grant recipients and thank James Patterson for his continued personal commitment to save school libraries."

Patterson hopes that teachers and students will share experiences in their communities using #pattersonpledge. You can listen to Patterson's exclusive interview about the critical need for school libraries on the "Scholastic Reads" podcast. 

Soho Press: The Seep by Chana Porter

Dylan Won't Accept Nobel Prize in Person

Bob Dylan (via)

Nobel Literature Laureate Bob Dylan will not attend the official prize ceremony December 10. A message on the Swedish Academy's website Wednesday announced that it had "received a personal letter from Bob Dylan, in which he explained that due to pre-existing commitments, he is unable to travel to Stockholm in December and therefore will not attend the Nobel Prize Ceremony. He underscored, once again, that he feels very honored indeed, wishing that he could receive the prize in person."

Noting that the decision is neither unprecedented nor unusual, the Academy added: "We look forward to Bob Dylan's Nobel Lecture, which he must give--it is the only requirement--within six months counting from December 10, 2016."

In an update released today, the academy said it "has decided not to organize an alternative plan for the Nobel Lecture traditionally held on December 7. There is a chance that Bob Dylan will be performing in Stockholm next year, possibly in the spring, in which case he will have a perfect opportunity to deliver his lecture. We will post more information as soon as we have it."

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

Bodhi Tree Reappears Online

The Bodhi Tree bookstore, the iconic New Age store in West Hollywood, Calif., that closed in 2012 and announced last year that it was returning, has taken a first major step in its reincarnation: its new website has gone live.

The site offers "thousands of book titles," that include new books, bestsellers, classics and rare and limited editions. The Bodhi Journal offers original articles on a range of subjects. Mercantile focuses on "sacred home and ceremonial offerings" and includes apothecary, ceremony & spiritual tools, apparel & adornment, home & sanctuary and stationery categories.

Last year, the Bodhi Tree said that new owner Stephen Powers and the Bodhi Tree team--which includes former customers of the store--were receiving assistance from Bodhi Tree founders Stan Madson and Phil Thompson, and hope eventually to open a bricks-and-mortar store.

Lansing's Coyote Wisdom Bookstore Relocates, Expands

Coyote Wisdom Book Store & More, Lansing, Mich., recently moved to the house next door at 2442 N. Grand River Ave., doubling the shop's square footage, City Pulse reported. Owner Connie Ranshaw founded the store 13 years ago after retiring from a career in state government.

"I was always interested in natural healing, but that was a part of my life I couldn't show on the job," she said, adding that at the new location, "the interior has lots of wood with pocket doors and parlors. I want to keep its integrity. It's a privilege to be in it."

Observing that the store is "tidy and quiet, exuding a feeling of calm and balance," City Pulse wrote that Ranshaw "attributes much of the store's success to word of mouth from her loyal customers and her dedicated staff, many of whom are practitioners of the various disciplines represented in the store's book selection."

"I like to have a variety of different opinions," she said.

Besser to Lead Putnam Young Readers

Jen Besser

Jen Besser has been named president and publisher of G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, effective immediately. She had been v-p and publisher at the imprint. Prior to joining Penguin Young Readers in 2010, Besser launched her publishing career at Miramax Books in 2001 before moving to Disney-Hyperion in 2004.

Besser will report to Penguin Young Readers president Jen Loja, who noted: "Jen's way of mindfully publishing authors, carefully working with illustrators, and deliberately shaping careers is exemplified by each and every book on the Putnam list. She operates by an internal assuredness of just what is the right thing to do, and is mindful of the market, but never driven by it. She is a champion of her authors and illustrators, encouraging them as they work through draft after draft to reach their perfect book.

"Jen is a crucial and key member of the Penguin Young Readers team for the books, authors and illustrators that she brings us--but also for the person that she is. Her perfect balance of believing in what she does deeply but also being able to see the fun and the humor in what we all do, not only makes her a valuable leader, but also a delight to have in the senior management of the group. We know that the future is bright for Jen, and brighter for us for having her here as a part of the team. I couldn't be happier, as her future is fulfilled even more completely at Penguin Young Readers."

Perseus Imprints Moving to Hachette Offices

As of December 6, the Perseus imprints now owned by Hachette Book Group will move from West 57th Street to Hachette's headquarters at 1290 Avenue of the Americas in New York City.

Obituary Note: Ruth Gruber

American journalist and photographer Ruth Gruber, who "stumbled into one of the great rescue stories of the Holocaust when the U.S. government appointed her to escort nearly 1,000 Jews across U-boat infested waters to the shores of the United States," died November 17, the Washington Post reported. She was 105. Calling it the defining act of her life, she chronicled the journey in her 1983 book Haven, which became a CBS miniseries starring Natasha Richardson.

"Standing alone on the blacked-out deck," she wrote in her memoir Inside of Time, "I was trembling with the discovery that from this moment on my life would be forever bound with rescue and survival."

Her other books include Raquela: A Woman of Israel; Witness: One of the Great Correspondents of the Twentieth Century Tells Her Story; Rescue: The Exodus of the Ethiopian Jews; Exodus 1947: The Ship That Launched a Nation; and Ahead of Time: My Early Years as a Foreign Correspondent.


Image of the Day: Talking T Bone

Bookends & Beginnings, Evanston, Ill., hosted author and music critic Lloyd Sachs (r.) in conversation with Henry Carrigan, contributor to the American roots music magazine No Depression, about Sachs's new book, T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit (University of Texas Press). 

Big Blue Marble Offers a 'Space to Meet & Plan'

From an e-mail newsletter sent out by Big Blue Marble Bookstore, Philadelphia, Pa.: "Like all of you, the staff here at Big Blue Marble has been struggling with grief, shock, and fear--fear for Obamacare, which provides health insurance for most of us, fear for our family and friends and community members who are part of targeted groups, fear for all the work to move our country forward that we see unraveling in front of us.

"But we also know we have important resources here--books, writers, activists, and space. Workshops and conversations and organizing events are on their way--check your email box for forthcoming announcements.

"If your group wants a space to meet and plan, please contact us! We have the third floor community room, which is open all day, and the performance space on the second floor available after hours."

Personnel Changes at S&S Children's

Audrey Gibbons has been promoted to senior publicist at Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. She was formerly a publicist.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Colson Whitehead on Fresh Air

Good Morning America: Erin Stanton, author of Susie's Senior Dogs (Gallery Books, $24.99, 9781501122477).

Fresh Air repeat: National Book Award-winner Colson Whitehead, author of The Underground Railroad (Doubleday, $26.95, 9780385542364).

Events: Game of Thrones: Season 6--Behind the Scenes

To celebrate this week's release of Game of Thrones: The Complete Sixth Season on Blu-ray and DVD, HBO "is bringing the box set's exclusive bonus features to life" in three events with interactive experiences.

The first Game of Thrones: Season 6--Behind the Scenes event takes place today at Astor Place in New York City, and will be followed by stops at Grant Park in Chicago November 26-27; and at Hollywood & Highland in Los Angeles December 9-10.

Using interactive audio visual displays along with tech-based experiences, fans "will both learn what it takes to put the epic production together and get to step inside scenes themselves" through a setup that features five different experiences, including Vaes Dothrak, North of the Wall, Winterfell, Castle Black and "The Workshop," which features "all three Game of Thrones shooting units as they converge for the first time at Titanic Studios, better known as the Paint Hall, the series' Belfast-based production hub. Housed in an aluminum structure modeled after the actual Paint Hall, this workshop will house props and costumes from the show, plus give fans the chance to sit on the Iron Throne and begin their reign as the true ruler of the Seven Kingdoms."

Books & Authors

Awards: Irish Book Winners; Bad Sex in Fiction Shortlist

Winners were named for the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards. More than 45,000 readers and book lovers voted, and the public is now invited to help select the overall Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book of the Year. Voting is open until midnight on December 9. A complete list of category winners is available here.


Six books made the shortlist for this year's Bad Sex in Fiction Award, presented annually by the Literary Review to "an author who has produced an outstandingly bad scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel." The "winner" will be announced on November 30. The Guardian helpfully featured "the contenders in quotes." This year's finalists are:

The Butcher's Hook by Janet Ellis
A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin
The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler
Leave Me by Gayle Forman
The Day Before Happiness by Erri de Luca
Men Like Air by Tom Connolly

Reading with... Tommy Wieringa

photo: Keke Keukelaar

Tommy Wieringa is a Dutch author whose novels include Little Caesar and Joe Speedboat, which was shortlisted for the 2013 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His novel These Are the Names won the 2013 Dutch Libris Prize and is being published in the United States in a translation by Sam Garrett by Melville House (November 8, 2016). Wieringa lives in Amsterdam.

On your nightstand now:

Henry David Thoreau's Walden, a classic I haven't read yet.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. What a dazzling adventure. I remember the physical effect it had on me, the joy and excitement.

Your top five authors:

Isaac Babel
Joseph Roth
James Salter
Michel Houellebecq
W.G. Sebald

Book you've faked reading:

Moby-Dick. It's not so much that I faked reading it, but I somehow never got further than page 300.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson. I bought about a hundred copies at a time from my publisher in the Netherlands, and gave it to friends and visiting writers. Not one of them resisted the magic Johnson works in this little book.

Book you've bought for the cover:


Book you hid from your parents:


Book that changed your life:

Both The World According to Garp by John Irving, and Four Meals by Meir Shalev. I read these novels in my late teens, when I fantasized about being a writer, but didn't know how. These stories gave me a feel for the endless possibilities of fiction, as well as for the pleasures of storytelling, of which they are both testaments. Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude also made a deep impression on me back then.

Favorite line from a book:

"That which is wanting cannot be numbered." --Ecclesiastes 1:15

Four books you'll never part with:

John Fante and H.L. Mencken: A Personal Correspondence, 1930-1952. Fante is such an aggressive and humorous writer. I admire that in him.

J.D. Salinger's Nine Stories, because of the dialogue and the love for his characters.

Denis Johnson's Train Dreams. The story of an ordinary man in extraordinary times.

W.G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn. It is a time machine; Sebald invented his own genre. The Rings of Saturn has such an intricate texture of time and places, names and events--a soft-spoken history of uncountable worlds in 300 pages.

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

Hotel Savoy by Joseph Roth, together with his Radetzky March. Also Isaac Babel's Red Cavalry and Primo Levi's The Truce. All of them have in some way or another to do with war, which brings out the worst in men and the best in writers.

Book Review

Review: Idaho

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich (Random House, $27 hardcover, 320p., 9780812994049, January 3, 2017)

Idaho, the first novel by O. Henry Award winner Emily Ruskovich, is a gorgeously designed immersion into the best and worst of life. In rural Idaho, a jumbled family rearranges itself painfully, trying to live on after a great loss. In 2004, Ann Mitchell surveys the Idaho farmstead she shares with Wade, her husband of eight years. Her recollections introduce the reader to their marriage--troubled by the diminishing strength of Wade's memory and a terrible tragedy at the beginning of their relationship. She plays the piano; he makes finely crafted knives by hand. They tiptoe around the past.

In 2008, a woman studies her new cellmate at the Sage Hill Women's Correctional Center. Jenny Mitchell doesn't talk much. Neither of them has much future, with one distant chance at parole between them. Tentatively, they explore friendship, but Jenny doesn't talk about her marriage to Wade, or her daughters. Then, Idaho flashes back to the 1980s and '90s, when Wade was still married to Jenny and both of their daughters were still alive.

As decades are revealed, Wade's family lives through happy, tragic and minute experiences. In layers of disjointed chronology and varied perspectives, the reader slowly picks apart the story: Wade's love for one woman and then another; his luckless family history; the moment in time, the loss of control, that redirected these lives and more.

Ruskovich's prose is exquisite. Music halts "like an animal at a gate, a child at a word it doesn't know." Her expressions of love, in its clean and messy incarnations, are singular, and she handles Wade's mental decline and a child's piano lesson with equal care and clarity. "On a sunny fall day, she lay next to him on the ground, and as he dozed she felt his old life, his memories, radiate off his skin. She felt everything leave him but her. She shed her own life, too, to match him. They lay there together like a point in time." That point in time is what Ruskovich does best: sharp, clear moments alongside emotional enormities so great they can only be felt, not explained. This care, detail and realism applies to the novel's background as well as to its stars. For example, a side plot involving an artist who paints meticulous age-progressions of missing children offers poignancy and attention to detail, and is worthy of its own novel.

With lovely language and piercing pathos, Idaho focuses on the power of love and the possibilities of forgiveness and memory. This debut novel deals blows as large as life. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: This tremendous novel about what can be torn apart in an instant, and rebuilt over lifetimes, displays writing as scintillating as its plot.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: #NaNoWriMo--Are a Gazillion Books Too Many?

November is National Novel Writing Month, but that isn't what this column is about. Let it be noted for the record, however, that cool things are happening: Appletree Books, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, has local authors sitting in the front windows "furiously scribbling or pecking out their masterpieces as cars and pedestrians pass by on Cedar Road." And Volumes Bookcafe in Chicago is "putting together its own novella, written by a community of employees and patrons." Owner Rebecca George said "the exquisite corpse method--different writers writing one chapter at a time until the project is finished--has helped ease the pressure of reaching such a high word count while also serving as a community builder."

More than 250 NaNoWriMo novels have been traditionally published, according to the organization's website. These include Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus and Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl. Last week, bestselling author Brandon Sanderson tweeted: "Stormlight 3 is going well. Hope to finish it this month, for #NaNoWriMo. This is still my playlist for the writing."

Novelist in the window, at Appletree Books

I like the concept of NaNoWriMo, though I've never been tempted to participate. This year, however, media coverage of novelquest has prompted me think not so much about how many books are being written right this second (Can you hear the symphonic keyboards?), but how many are already "out there." I'm like some kind of biblioastronomer, gazing in awe at the mysterious bookish heavens and wondering: In our infinitely wordy, Big Book Bang Theory universe, can there simultaneously be too many, too few and just the right number of books?

A decade ago in a blog post, I wrote: "If a gazillion books published every year seems like too many, maybe a gazillion books stored in digital memory and printed as needed is not too many. Here's the deal: We just don't know. Yet." And I'm still curious.

One logical theory was posted Tuesday on the Facebook page of Full Circle Bookstore, Oklahoma City, Okla.: "Too many books? I think what you mean is 'not enough bookshelves.' " 

We know books defy time, even when they come up against the limits of shelf space. Borges's "Library of Babel" is an infinite universe, while the New York Public Library's collection is a finite and yet, apparently, unstable planet:

In just the past decade, vexingly different figures have been reported--1.8 million in the New York Times in 2009, four million by the Associated Press in 2013. The library and its current president, Anthony W. Marx, seemed content until two years ago to put the number at about three million, although the figure of 3.5 million had long been used, and appears in the lead paragraph of a Times article from Oct. 1, 1905. (Puzzlingly, the headline says 4.5 million.)

I have some questions.

Was it really better when we had fewer books? Well, Atlas Obscura featured a piece headlined "Protect Your Library the Medieval Way, with Horrifying Book Curses." During the Middle Ages, "creating a book could take years.... Given the extreme effort that went into creating books, scribes and book owners had a real incentive to protect their work. They used the only power they had: words. At the beginning or the end of books, scribes and book owners would write dramatic curses threatening thieves with pain and suffering if they were to steal or damage these treasures." To wit:

If anyone take away this book, let him die the death; let him be fried in a pan; let the falling sickness and fever seize him; let him be broken on the wheel, and hanged. Amen.

How many books are there? Mental Floss took a shot at answering that devilish question recently, noting that when Gutenberg "invented the printing press in 1440, he couldn't have foreseen how his humble creation would eventually lead to a global industry churning out millions of books each year.... After some basic arithmetic, it seems that a low threshold for the number of unique books in existence as of halfway through 2016 is (another drumroll, please) 134,021,533 total. And that's all she wrote--for now, anyway."

Is overproduction a blessing or a curse or neither? Does it really matter? In the New York Review of Books last year, Tim Parks wrote: "How to respond, then, to this now permanent condition of overproduction? With cheerful skepticism. With gratitude for those rare occasions when we come across a book that speaks to us personally. With forgiveness for those critics and publishers who induce us to waste our time with some literary flavor of the day. Absolutely without indignation, since none of this is anyone's particular 'fault.' Above all with a sense of wonder and curiosity at the general and implacable human determination (mine included) to fill endless space with dubious mental material when life is short and there are so many other things to be done."


Where do we go from here? Book people can be a patient species--turtles with no delusions of hare. Last year, more than 400,000 folks participated in NaNoWriMo, and 1,012 libraries, bookstores and community centers took part in the Come Write In program. But this column isn't about that.

Are a gazillion books too many? Nah. Though as Arby's so eloquently put it last week: "We're going to need a lot more sauce... #NaNoWriMo."

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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