Shelf Awareness for Monday, June 12, 2017

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury

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

Doubleday Books: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio


WordsWorth in Little Rock Gets New Owners, New Name

Lia Lent and Tom McGowan have purchased the 35-year-old independent bookstore Wordsworth Books & Co. in Little Rock, Ark., from retiring owner Jean Cazort and will now operate the store as WordsWorth Bookstore, Bookselling This Week reported.

Lent and McGowan, longtime customers of WordsWorth, learned in February that Cazort intended to retire and was considering selling the store. Lent, who will take over as the store's manager, had retired from her previous career and had considered opening a bookstore in the past. Though neither she nor McGowan have previous bookselling experience, McGowan is an attorney and has owned a bakery in Little Rock for the past 30 years, while Lent has a background in social work and has managed nonprofit organizations. They officially acquired ownership of the store on June 1.

"Jean has built a very loyal customer base, so we want to build on her legacy at the bookstore," Lent told Bookselling This Week. "I think the foundations of the store are strong, so we're kind of, as my partner has said, floorwalking for a few months as we learn the business."

Lent and McGowan plan to preserve Cazort's legacy while also expanding the store's engagement with its community. Some of the ideas on the table include hosting more events, hosting classes, allowing book clubs to meet in store, partnering with community organizations and possibly even adding a cafe. Lent and McGowan will also survey their customers both in store and online to learn what changes they'd most like to see.

Said Lent: "Of course, we have a lot of ideas but it's what, in fact, the community is looking for that is the question."

Holiday House: The Five Impossible Tasks of Eden Smith by Tom Llewellyn; The Selkie's Daughter by Linda Crotta Brennan

Bucknell U.P. Books to Be 'Integrated' into Rutgers Publishing Program

In a new partnership beginning in spring 2018, Bucknell University Press books will be fully integrated into the Rutgers University Press publishing program.

Founded in 1968, Bucknell University Press signs more than 30 titles a year in the arts and humanities, with series in 18th-century studies, Latin American studies and Iberian studies, among others. Rutgers aims provide Bucknell with the opportunity to deliver its books to the broadest possible audience.

Micah Kleit, director of Rutgers University Press, called the partnership "a win-win for both presses: in Rutgers, Bucknell gains a partner that is a kindred university press, one that understands the intrinsic value of such a place and its role in university life and whose prestige and reach has been established now for over 80 years. In Bucknell, Rutgers gains a partner whose list adds depth and breadth to its own. Together, both presses will enjoy the opportunity to expand their visibility in their respective fields and take advantage of the economies of scale that we attain by working together."

Amistad Press: The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade by Hannah Durkin

Obituary Note: Peter Mauceri

Peter Mauceri, who had a 35-year career in book publishing sales and retired as Hachette Book Group's v-p, national accounts, in 2008, died on May 25.

He joined Warner Books, an HBG predecessor, in 1986, and was a much beloved and admired member of the HBG sales team, the company said. "We remember fondly Peter's booming laugh and fabulous stories--but he was also a great salesperson who had superb longstanding account relationships and terrific instincts about what would really move a buyer and what would draw in a consumer. Peter was the life of every party, so much fun to spend time with. In addition to great books, Peter loved music and writing. He retired to travel and write and learn Spanish, and in the nine years since he left HBG he did all of these things with great joy."

Donations can be made in his memory to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, MSKCC Office of Development, P.O. Box 27106, New York, N.Y. 10087. Please indicate his name in the memo line of the check. Donations can also be made online at

Carla Gray's Funeral Set for July 1

A funeral for Carla Gray, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's executive director of marketing who died suddenly on May 30, will be held on Saturday, July 1, at 11 a.m. at St. John's Episcopal Church, 78 Green Hill Road, Washington, Conn. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to St. John's Memorial Garden or to the land trust Steep Rock Association (2 Tunnel Road, Washington, Conn.) in Carla's memory.

BookExpo 2017: A Fortunate Stage Talk: Neil Patrick Harris and Lemony Snicket

Harris, Harris & Snicket

Daniel Handler (more widely known by his pen name, Lemony Snicket) and actor Neil Patrick Harris of How I Met Your Mother fame discussed their new books (coming from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), working together on Netflix's A Series of Unfortunate Events and the magic of children's literature at the Javits Center on Friday afternoon. Their conversation was moderated by Chris Harris, writer and executive producer for How I Met Your Mother. Chris--whose first children's book, I'm Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups, illustrated by Lane Smith, will be published by Little, Brown in September--introduced the two guests by saying, "Of the three people on this stage, I am the fifth most famous."

Chris Harris started the conversation off by having Neil Patrick Harris and Lemony Snicket discuss the wildly popular Netflix show, in which Neil plays the evil (and often disguised) Count Olaf and works closely with Snicket (Goldfish Ghost), who writes for the show. "My hat is off to him," Snicket said of Neil's work playing a character who regularly fails at hiding in plain sight, "it's very exhausting." What's difficult, Neil said, is that "it's Olaf playing the characters and he's a really bad actor." But it was buoying to Neil to hear Snicket convey approval: "It's nice that you're positive about it. I'm always thinking that you're thinking that every choice is a disaster."

Currently filming season two of the series, Neil expressed his great appreciation for Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, saying that he loves the books because they take place in another world without being fantastical. Neil's forthcoming middle grade book, The Magic Misfits (illustrated by Lissy Marlin; November 2017), is about kids who "like a certain aspect of magic and they feel like they're misfits because of it." It was important to him, Neil said, that the magic be practical so that readers could accomplish the same feats as the characters; story-related magic tricks will be interspersed throughout the text in every book of what will be a four-part series.

Snicket's new book for children, The Bad Mood and the Stick (illustrated by Matthew Forsythe), will be published October 2017. "It's about a bad mood and a stick," Snicket said. When asked to elaborate, he said he had wondered "where does a bad mood go when it's not on you?" The book explores what happens to that mood (and that stick) and how "pushing it on to someone else can be delightful."

The three talked about collaboration, with both Chris and Neil declaring that writing a book is much, much harder than writing a show: "With television," Chris said, "if it doesn't work, I can point the finger in any direction," but when writing a book all on your own, the only person to blame is yourself. Snicket declared that the beauty of Chris's new book of poems for children lies in the unexpected--none of the poems rhyme or follow a pattern exactly as a reader might expect. "I'm the master of disappointing," Chris said of this compliment. They also discussed the magic of children's books--coming back to this topic several times over the course of the hour--both in content and as books as figurative escapes. "Literature is both a trick and magical," said Handler. "I know I'm on the subway and yet, because I'm reading, I'm in Tokyo."

When finally it came time to wrap up the discussion, Chris asked the crowd, "Does anyone have any questions, comments, criticisms? We'll take anything."

"No we won't!" exclaimed Handler, "We'll take questions." --Siân Gaetano


Image of the Day: Skylight Wins Calif. Small Business Award

Mary Williams (r.), general manager of Skylight Books in Los Angeles, Calif., was in Sacramento last Monday to receive a California Small Business of the Year award from Assemblymember Laura Friedman. Held on California Small Business Day, the award ceremony honored 85 small businesses from across the state. Williams said she and her staff were thrilled to receive the award and were "particularly flattered to be chosen from the thousands of small businesses in the 43rd assembly district."

NYPL, MTA Partner for 'Subway Library'

The New York Public Library and the Metropolitan Transit Authority have teamed up to launch Subway Library, "a free platform where you can browse and download books, short stories, chapters and excerpts that can be read quickly and easily during your commute." Gothamist reported that the NYPL created the system, which works off Transit Wireless and is powered by the same tech as their SimplyE e-reader.

To celebrate the launch, a subway train has been "wrapped" to look like a library. The train is running alternately on both the E and F lines.

Banned Book Parthenon Rises in Kassel, Germany

photo: DPA

In a stunning effort, Minujin, a pop artist from South America, has created "the Parthenon of Books"--a "Greek-style temple made out of banned books" that is on the site of Nazi book burnings in 1933 in Kassel, Germany, the local reported.

The temple is the main showpiece of Documenta, an art show held once every five years. Some 100,000 copies of 170 titles cover the columns, and each is wrapped in plastic to protect it from the weather.

Personnel Changes at JKS Communications

At JKS Communications:

Sara Wigal has joined the firm as senior book publicist.

Ellen Whitfield has joined the firm as book publicist.

Casemate Group to Distribute Fernhurst Books

Effective July 1, Casemate Group will distribute Fernhurst Books in North America and become the company's global e-book distributor.

Founded in 1979, Fernhurst Books, Leamington Spa, England, publishes sailing and nautical books and related subjects such as swimming, diving, fishing, surfing, rigging, weather and canoeing. Fernhurst has a backlist of more than 140 titles and publishes 10-12 new titles a year.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Roxane Gay on the Daily Show

CBS This Morning: Souad Mekhennet, author of I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad (Holt, $30, 9781627798976).

Morning Joe: Naomi Klein, author of No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need (Haymarket, $16.95, 9781608468904). She will also appear today on NPR's On Point and tomorrow on Democracy Now!.

Fresh Air: Mark Bowden, author of Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam (Atlantic Monthly Press, $30, 9780802127006).

PRI's the World: Manal al-Sharif, author of Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781476793023). She will also appear tomorrow on CNN's Amanpour.

Daily Show: Roxane Gay, author of Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (Harper, $25.99, 9780062362599).

Good Morning America: Bethany Mota, author of Make Your Mind Up: My Guide to Finding Your Own Style, Life, and Motavation! (Gallery, $24.99, 9781501154492). She will also appear on Nightline.

The View: Newt Gingrich, author of Understanding Trump (Center Street, $27, 9781478923084). He will also appear on CBS This Morning.

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Janet Mock, author of Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me (Atria, $24.99, 9781501145797).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Eddie Izzard, author of Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens (Blue Rider, $28, 9780399175831). He will also appear on CBS This Morning.

Movies: Murder on the Orient Express Trailer

A trailer has been released for 20th Century Fox's film adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. Kenneth Branagh is directing, and stars as Hercule Poirot. He is joined by a cast that includes Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Manuel Garcia Rulfo, Marwan Kenzari, Derek Jacobi, Sergei Polunin, Lucy Boynton, Tom Bateman and Olivia Colman. The movie opens November 10. 

Books & Authors

Awards: Griffin Poetry Winners

Falling Awake by Alice Oswald and Injun by Jordan Abel were the international and Canadian category winners respectively of the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize, which honors "first edition books of poetry written in, or translated into, English and submitted from anywhere in the world." They each receive C$65,000 (about US$48,260). Frank Bidart was this year's Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry's Lifetime Recognition Award recipient.

Book Review

Review: Caesar's Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us

Caesar's Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us by Sam Kean (Little, Brown, $28 hardcover, 384p., 9780316381642, July 18, 2017)

Journalist and frequent NPR guest Sam Kean has made a living out of deciphering science and making clever and entertaining what is often dry drudgery. In The Disappearing Spoon, for example, he unravels the Periodic Table of Elements by traveling through the often outrageous, sometimes courageous lives of the scientists and adventurers who discovered, isolated and named them. The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons is an anecdotal history of neuroscience and brain research. In Caesar's Last Breath, he takes on the science of gases in his trademark effervescent, loopy style--kicking it off with the emergence of Earth from a fiery, uninhabitable atmosphere, a "dragon's breath of volcanoes."

From the planet's hellish beginnings, Kean works his way through the evolution of the atmospheric building blocks of life: oxygen and nitrogen. Biology, chemistry and geology turn quickly into comedic stories, wordplay and metaphors. The search to molecularly combine nitrogen with hydrogen to make ammonia ("the gateway to fertilizer") leads him to the eccentric 20th-century German scientist Fritz Haber and his engineer countryman Carl Bosch. The two succeeded at producing commercial quantities of ammonia and supplied the world with its agricultural bounty, but they also became the fathers of German chemical warfare in World War I and developed synthetic gasoline to fuel Hitler's war engine.

Oxygen, too, has a rich story. Its discovery has been credited to "a preacher and rabble-rouser named Joseph Priestley," but equal kudos arguably should go to the French aristocrat chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier. Scientific rivals to corral oxygen, both contributed to the science of gases, and both came to unpleasant ends: Priestley escaped England for the United States when his radical theology led to the burning of his church and home in the 1791 Birmingham Priestley Riot, and Lavoisier was beheaded on the Jacobin's guillotine during the French Revolution.

In a similar vein, Kean highlights the other key elements of Earth's atmosphere and the unusual and downright freaky stories behind their discovery. In the process, he wanders through a delightful series of asides and interludes that include the Mount St. Helens eruption, World War I gas warfare, refrigeration, vacuum technology, greenhouse gases, even the significance in the big planetary atmospheric picture of humans and animals "passing gas." If he occasionally gets a bit corny in his search for colloquial humor (e.g. "Mount Saint Helens was actually small beer as far as eruptions go"), Kean can also put a metaphor right on the money--such as his description of the birth of the Earth's volatile moon as "glowing like a blackened, bloodshot eye. There still might have been poetry in this moon, but it was more Dante than Frost." Irreverent, lightly scientific, Caesar's Last Breath is nonetheless a lively, rewarding journey through the evolution of Earth's gaseous atmosphere. As Kean concludes noting the eternal ubiquity of Caesar's last breath: "Dust to dust, gases to gases." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: Sam Kean takes on the science and evolution of Earth's atmosphere and the history of the scientists who unraveled its mysteries.

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