Shelf Awareness for Friday, August 25, 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


Buy-Your-Own Bestseller

A confusing and confounding story about an unknown YA title, Lani Sarem's Handbook for Mortals, that appeared on a New York Times bestseller list---and was quickly removed--unfolded yesterday. The near-constant developments (Books! Scandal! Movie deal! Ex-celebrities and their relatives!) and ongoing commentary kept Book Twitter riveted throughout the afternoon. Rather than attempt to unravel it all for you, we'll refer you to the investigative tweets of Phil Stamper and Jeremy West and to Kayleigh Donaldson's report at (and yes, read the comments).

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

Cover to Cover Books in Columbus Relocating

Cover to Cover's current store

Cover to Cover Books for Young Readers, Columbus, Ohio, "will write its next chapter in Upper Arlington," Columbus Business First reported, noting that the business is relocating from the Clintonville neighborhood to 2116 Arlington Ave. on the Mallway in Upper Arlington. A January opening is expected.

Melia and Ed Wolf acquired the bookstore this year from original owners Sally Oddi and Carl King, who retired. They had "opened Cover to Cover in 1980 and moved among multiple storefronts along North High Street before landing at 3560 N. High in the 1990s," Columbia Business First wrote.

"It will be a space for community, discovery and inspiration," said Melia Wolf. "Books are connective and stories strengthen our understanding of ourselves and the beautifully diverse world we live in."

"The city is very excited to have such a destination bookstore with a huge following come to (Upper Arlington)," economic development director Joseph Henderson. "We hope they are very successful here in U.A."

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

Openings: East Bay Booksellers, Interabang Books, Amazon

In Oakland, Calif., September 1 will mark the official opening of East Bay Booksellers under the ownership of Brad Johnson, former manager of DIESEL Oakland at the same location. "There is this wonderful moment in bookselling right now, where you have these stalwart stores like DIESEL that have been guiding lights for a long time, figuring out ways of not just extending their own life, but also growing beyond themselves," Johnson told Bookselling This Week. "The fact that I was able to raise this money and that others have been able to raise money for similar ventures really speaks to the general health of the industry. It makes me feel really optimistic."


Interabang Books, Dallas, Tex., will celebrate its grand opening September 11 by hosting a party "with food, drinks, and so many books." Guest of honor Ann Patchett, author and co-owner of Parnassas Books in Nashville, Tenn., "will raise a glass and toast Dallas' newest independent bookstore." The 5,000-square-foot store stocks more than 12,000 titles, with a special focus on fiction, children's books, and creative nonfiction. Interabang's owners are Nancy Perot, general manager Jeremy Ellis and book buyer Lori Feathers.


Amazon Books added two more stores this week to its bricks-and-mortar lineup, which now numbers 10 locations. The newest additions are in San Jose, Calif., and Bellevue, Wash. Cooper Smith, director of research at brand consultancy L2, told the Seattle Times that Amazon isn't opening bookstores to thumb its nose at competitors in the book business, but rather is using the bookstores to develop technology and savvy that it can apply to other aspects of the physical retail world, from grocery stores to electronics. "Brick and mortar is an extremely complex operation, and Amazon is new to it," he said. 

Bookmark It in Orlando to Close

Bookmark It, Orlando, Fla., which opened in 2013, then last year moved its home location and added presences in other businesses, will close in early September, the Sentinel reported. "My heart mission was to bring readers and writers together," said owner Kim Britt. "The book business is challenging. You are up against challenges on both sides."

On the bookstore's Facebook page Tuesday, Britt wrote: "In December 2013 Bookmark It started our story with the simple goal of shining a spotlight on Central Florida's literary community. Over the past 3 1/2 years we've proudly done just that... As with any well-spun tale we had our share of drama and adventures, unexpected plot twists, and harrowing escapes... even a love story or two! But despite all our hard work and heartfelt intentions, running this little book business proved no match to the required fiscal and time constraints so (after much soul-searching and number-crunching) we've made the difficult decision to close.... In short, I guess the Bookmark It novel has turned out to be a short story."

Obituary Note: Gordon Williams

Scottish writer Gordon Williams, who was shortlisted for the first Booker Prize, wrote biographies, "collaborated on books and scripts with Terry Venables, turned down Bill Forsyth's approach to script Gregory's Girl, and fell out dramatically with film director Sam Peckinpah," died August 20, the Herald reported. He was 83. Williams "was, almost incidentally and irrefutably, one of the great Scottish novelists, producing at least three works of the highest rank": From Scenes Like These; Walk Don't Walk; and The Upper Pleasure Garden.

His most famous work is The Siege of Trencher's Farm, which was adapted by Peckinpah as the film Straw Dogs, the Herald noted, adding that Williams described the movie as "crap," while Peckinpah said the book was "so bad it makes me want to drown in my own vomit."

In the Guardian, D.J. Taylor wrote: "Any estimate of Williams's work is always likely to be complicated by the variety of styles and genres in which he wrote, but most of his admirers would probably settle on From Scenes Like These (1969) as the book which most perfectly showcased his gifts. Set on a bleak mid-1950s Ayrshire farm, and featuring a teenage boy who yearns to be a professional footballer before settling for the traditional male pursuits of drink and women, it was included on the first Booker shortlist, alongside Iris Murdoch and Muriel Spark (the prize was eventually won by PH Newby's Something to Answer For) and has strong claims to be regarded as one of the great lost classics of postwar British fiction."


Image of the Day: ¡Murales Rebeldes!

Angel City Press launched ¡Murales Rebeldes! L.A. Chicana/Chicano Murals Under Siege by Erin M. Curtis, Jessica Hough and Guisela Latorre with a standing-room-only event at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif. Gustavo Arellano--who wrote the foreword and afterword for the book--moderated a panel that included Curtis, Hough and featured muralist David Botello. Pictured: (l.-r.) Arellano, Hough, Botello and Curtis. ¡Murales Rebeldes! is a co-publication of LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes and the California Historical Society and is a companion publication to an upcoming exhibit of the same name at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, part of the Getty Museum's "Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA" initiative.

National Dog Day: 'Our Favorite Bookish Pets'

Desi at Read Booksellers in Danville, Calif.

Tomorrow is National Dog Day, and to celebrate Off the Shelf featured "Our Favorite Bookish Pets Read, Recommend, and Repeat." Noting that "we know that sometimes the greatest recommendations come from the cats and dogs (and chickens!) napping on the shelves," Off The Shelf "consulted some of the most knowledgeable furry booksellers and bookworms across the country to learn which books we should paw through next. We applaud their excellent and varied reading habits. Check out their recommendations and then visit some of these booksellers at the independent bookstores they call home."

Personnel Changes at Time Inc. Books

Laura Gianino has joined Time Inc. Books as senior publicity manager. She was previously publicity manager at Harper360.

Voters Pick Mysterious Galaxy as 'Best Bookstore'

San Diego A-List voters chose Mysterious Galaxy as the Best Bookstore in the area for 2017. "To determine the winner, voters had more than 20 nominees to choose from. Congratulations to Mysterious Galaxy Books!"

Media and Movies

TV: H Is for Hawk: A New Chapter

H Is for Hawk: A New Chapter, which will premiere nationwide November 1 on PBS stations as part of the network's popular Nature series, features Helen Macdonald, author of the 2014 international bestselling memoir H Is for Hawk.

A decade after she trained a goshawk named Mabel in the wake of her father's unexpected death, Macdonald "is ready to take on the challenge again, prompted by watching how a pair of wild goshawks reared their chicks in an English forest," WNET noted. "This Nature film accompanies her on visits to the pair’s nest to observe the latest developments and follows Macdonald’s emotional and intimate journey as she adopts a young goshawk and attempts to raise it as her own: feeding, nurturing, and training her new charge in the hopes the months of preparation will culminate in a successful first free flight." In addition to the training sequences, the program features Macdonald reflecting on her childhood obsession with birds, illustrated with old home video and photographs.

For Nature, Fred Kaufman is executive producer. H Is for Hawk: A New Chapter is a Mike Birkhead Associates production for THIRTEEN Productions LLC and BBC Studios in association with WNET.

Books & Authors

Awards: Carla Cohen Free Speech Winner


I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy (S&S Books for Young Readers) won the Carla Cohen Free Speech Award, bestowed in honor of the late founder and co-owner of Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C. The winner shared her reaction to the honor in this week's New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association NAIBAhood News:

"One of my favorite RBG quotes is displayed boldly on the back jacket of I Dissent: 'Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.' This came to mind when I received the happy news that the NAIBA has awarded my book the Carla Cohen Free Speech Award. Why? Because fighting for things we care about through speech, advocacy, dissent, and the expression of ideas is so central to what booksellers are about-and booksellers know that effectively exercising these rights isn't just about sounding off, but rather is about reaching people. That's the meaning of this favorite RBG quote. How fulfilling, then, to have this book honored by a group that shares these values, with an award that honors a great independent bookseller in my own home town of Washington, D.C. Independent bookstores have been so kind to I Dissent; to receive this additional recognition from NAIBA is awesome! Book people: see you on October 7!"

Reading with... Matt Goldman

photo: Peter Konerko

Matt Goldman is an Emmy Award-winning television writer/producer. He was nominated for a Writers Guild Award for his work on Seinfeld. His credits also include Ellen, Coach and The New Adventures of Old Christine. He is in production on Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. Goldman splits his time between Minneapolis and Los Angeles. He has two children and a giant poodle that does not have a poodle haircut because those are embarrassing for everyone. Gone to Dust (Forge, August 15, 2017) is his first novel.

On your nightstand now:

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. It's unusual and beautiful and hilarious. I'm a big Saunders fan. The Neon Rain by James Lee Burke. Good writing (vs. plot) matters to me, regardless of whether it's literary fiction or genre; good writing can make them the same. I just finished the book, my first of Burke's, and he's so good from word to word he makes plot a bonus. Little White Lies by Ace Atkins. In addition to his wholly original work, Ace writes Robert B. Parker's character Spenser. I've read Spenser novels, but never written by Ace. I love Ace's writing. The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty. I watched HBO's Big Little Lies, loved it, then heard the book was so much better. Really looking forward to this one.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle. I loved the adventure and humor and pushback against authority. Big wish fulfillment for a kid.

Your top five authors:

Gabriel García Márquez, Philip Roth, Raymond Chandler, Mark Twain and--sorry to sound like a jerk--Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The latter could convey volumes of insight in one sentence.

Book you've faked reading:

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. And I don't know if faked is the right word--maybe failed. I sure carried it around for a long time. I will try again.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Given Day by Dennis Lehane. Dennis is mostly known for his mysteries like Gone Baby Gone, for Shutter Island and Mystic River and for his television work on The Wire. The Given Day is about the Boston police strike in 1919 and a whole lot more. It's beautiful, human historical fiction and, I think, one of the greatest American novels ever written.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbø. I'd never heard of the Norwegian crime writer. I loved the title and simplicity of the cover, so I picked it up, read the back cover and bought it. The book turned out to be book 3 in the Harry Hole series. I've since read every one.

Book you hid from your parents:

I hate to disappoint, but I don't believe I hid books from my parents. I hid other things. Sometimes inside books.

Book that changed your life:

Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut. I'd already graduated from college. It was the first Vonnegut book I read, and it made me want to be a writer. I aspire to achieve his simple use of language.

Favorite line from a book:

In Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye, he describes a Beverly Hills office building and its tenants: "They had half the second floor of one of these candy-pink four-storied buildings where the elevator doors open all by themselves with an electric eye, where the corridors are cool and quiet, and the parking lot has a name on every stall, and the druggist off the front lobby has a sprained wrist from filling bottles of sleeping pills." Accurate description, social commentary, great joke.

Five books you'll never part with:

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. The Given Day by Dennis Lehane. The High Window by Raymond Chandler. The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.

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

The Essays of E.B. White. Most of all an essay entitled "The Death of a Pig." I love White's prose, humor, and mining of big truths in small details.

Book Review

Review: Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime

Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime by Ben Blum (Doubleday, $28.95 hardcover, 432p., 9780385538435, September 12, 2017)

Alex Blum grew up in the Denver suburbs dreaming of being a soldier--a special operations Army Ranger. Among his large extended family, he was always the God-and-country, high-and-tight straight arrow of his generation. His cousin Ben Blum was a precocious math nerd. When playing together, Ben observes, "In the fields where Alex saw darting commie guerillas, I saw fractally branching ferns, Fiboncacci-spiraling pinecones, self-intersecting manifolds of swallows." They went their separate ways. Alex signed his Airborne Rangers contract before he graduated from high school. Ben went off to Stanford at age 17 "with a suitcase full of Nine Inch Nails T-shirts and combat boots." He graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in computer science and began cranking algorithms for government research grants before walking away and enrolling in the MFA writing program at New York University.

Just before Alex was scheduled to ship out for his first deployment in Iraq, however, he drove four other Rangers to a Tacoma Bank of America branch outside Fort Lewis. Brandishing AK-47s, they robbed the place. Alex was the wheelman. Within a few short days, the five were captured and locked up for trial. The Blum family was shocked. Ben decided to investigate how his cousin went off the rails. Ranger Games is memoir, biography, military history, heist caper, courtroom drama, whodunit and family saga rolled together.

As family, Ben had access to everyone connected with Alex's military training, legal defense and psychological evaluations. He talked extensively with Alex's father, Norm, whom he knew only from annual Fourth of July family barbecues where he watched "my father and uncles hurl, pound, swing, bat, and kick Norm's vast array of athletic gear around the yard like hairy-chested mammals in some kind of toy-rich zoo enclosure." He corresponded with the robbery crew's charismatic Canadian-born and Iraq War veteran ringleader, Luke Elliott Sommer. Sitting in defense team meetings, Ben was privy to the court documents and strategy of Alex's father, lawyer Jeff Robinson and investigator Amanda Lee, a "genius researcher and former honest-to-god rocket scientist."

The meat of Ranger Games is in the conversations and correspondence between Ben and Alex. Was Alex a "hapless criminal accomplice" as he claimed--duped by the higher-ranking Sommer--or was he in on the whole thing for the thrill of pulling off a "mission?" Did Norm manipulate Robinson and Lee to get Alex off with a time-served sentence? Was the army trying to cover up embarrassing publicity about their most elite unit? Ben keeps probing and pulling loose threads until the mystery of Alex's crime unfolds into a fitting denouement. Ranger Games is a hell of a story. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: With diligent research and persistence, Ben Blum investigates how his straight-arrow Army Ranger cousin wound up driving the getaway car in an armed bank robbery.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day

Gregory Kan with "This Paper Boat" poetry poster

Here's New Zealand poet Gregory Kan, standing on Symonds Street, Tāmaki Makaurau, with a Max poster of his poem "This Paper Boat," which includes the lines:

You are watching the brown-paper covers of books grow/ out around your father, as he dreams there/ against the wall, thinking perhaps/ how rocks are not quite lands.

"Let us now praise Phantom Billstickers for sticking up really f**king big posters of New Zealand poetry." That was the Spinoff Review of Books' apt headline for a piece this week about street poster company Phantom Billstickers, which has been putting poems on posters since 2005. For the past two years, the company has also sponsored National Poetry Day, which is/was (depending on your time zone) being celebrated Friday across New Zealand.

Governed by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust, Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day is an annual "poetry event extravaganza" that is marking its 20th anniversary this year. The more than 100 events (a record) being held nationwide are organized by "poetry-loving volunteers" and involve thousands of people in more than 30 towns and cities all over the country. There are also numerous competitions both nationally and regionally.

In addition, the Trust is highlighting the current range and diversity of the country's poetry and poets with a 20/20 Collection. Twenty acclaimed poets were invited to select a poem they felt particularly spoke to New Zealanders, and to highlight an emerging poet or writer they considered to be essential reading. Trust member Paula Morris told Stuff: "This list speaks to a 'new' New Zealand literature, and reflects how much our culture is changing and growing."

These are a few of my favorite PBNPD 2017 things:

Auckland's Time Out Bookstore is featuring "All Tomorrow's Poets," showcasing cutting-edge New Zealand poetry and "situating it in the context of Aotearoa New Zealand's literary history."

The Nelson Poetry Map, created by Volume bookstore, "records and shares connections between poetry and places. Contribute poems to our open-access map, tagged to the locations you associate with those poems.... Visit the locations and read the poems on your mobile device (or to take a virtual tour without leaving home).... It is anticipated that wandering poetry readers on National Poetry Day... will encounter fellow poetry readers at various locations."

National rugby team poet: The N.Z. Herald reported that "two of the driving forces behind PBNPD, award-winning novelist Paula Morris and Phantom Billstickers' Jamey Holloway, have laid down a challenge" to the country's legendary All Blacks rugby team to "take a poet on tour with you." They contend that "an official All Blacks poet could continue poetry's momentum and promote another side of our culture at home and away."

Celia Muto of Grolier Poetry Book Shop

Poetry and donuts. Bam!

At the National Library in Wellington, a "giant paper origami boat--waiting to be filled with words from the public--will anchor in the library's foyer as part of National Poetry Day."

Just so we don't have to feel left out, Phantom Billstickers co-owners Jim and Kelly Wilson are "currently chugging around the U.S.," working their magic: "Here's Celia Muto posing with Geoff Cochrane's poem poster, 'For Lenny' at the Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts today. The Grolier is a small bookshop dedicated entirely to poetry and it is directly opposite Harvard University. It is a Little Beauty of a shop. Celia put in the front window two Phantom Billstickers poem posters by Kiwis: 'For Lenny' and also David Merritt's 'Sad rocks...' She loved both. The Grolier also stocks the Phantom Billstickers Cafe Reader."

Meanwhile, across the street from the Northshire Bookstore, scene of my bookseller days gone by: "Phantom Billstickers poem poster, 'Ground Zero' by Geoff Cochrane on a pole just made for it on the main street of Manchester in beautiful Vermont, USA today."

And: "We've sometimes noted that the Phantom Billstickers Cafe Reader gets into some far flung and interesting places. Here's James Conrad of The Golden Notebook (a fine bookstore) in Woodstock, New York State, USA, devouring a copy today. The store has extra copies. Step on in and get your dose of New Zealand Arts & Culture if you are in this neck of the woods."

Poet and children's author Paula Green, who was this year's recipient of the Prime Minister's Literary Award for Poetry, summed up the spirit of National Poetry Day nicely in sharing a great story about her cab ride in Wellington on the day she was to receive her award:

"The taxi driver asked me what I did. I am a poet, I said. Well you must tell me a poem, he said. I loved hearing poems when I was a little boy, and I haven't heard one since then. I can't, I can't, I kept insisting. You must, you must, he said, and it must be a lovely poem. I want to hear lovely poetry. So I pulled out my brand new children's poems and my copy of New York Pocket Book, and read to him until we got to the hotel. He parked the car, lifted both hands from the steering wheel and clapped. It was my once-in-a-lifetime private poetry reading in a taxi. I didn't tell him I was getting an award that night, and I didn't have time to ask him his story, to take me back to the little boy listening with such devotion to poetry somewhere else in the world. I felt sad about that. I feel like ringing Combined Taxis, so on my next ride in Wellington, it is his turn to talk."

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

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