Shelf Awareness for Friday, October 20, 2017

Hampton Roads Publishing Company: Becoming Baba Yaga: Trickster, Feminist, and Witch of the Woods by Kris Spisak, Foreword by Gennarose Nethercott

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

Severn House: A Messy Murder (Main) (The Decluttering Mysteries #4) by Simon Brett

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker

Quotation of the Day

'Passionately Engaged' Younger Booksellers at Fall Shows

"Since I last wrote to you, I’ve had the good fortune of attending two fall regional trade shows--my own region (PNBA) last week and the SIBA show last month.... At both shows I was extremely impressed with the number of younger booksellers (well, at least younger than me) who were passionately engaged in the topics of the conference and in finding collaborative ways to make their businesses better.... What I saw in all these interactions were people who grew up in a completely different bookselling and retail landscape than I did, and, yet, who are just as enthused and motivated as any booksellers I’ve known about what our stores can represent and achieve in each of our communities."

--Robert Sindelar, ABA board president and owner of Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park and Seattle, Wash., in a letter to members

BINC: We want your feedback. Take the survey!


Ithaca, N.Y.'s Buffalo Street Books to Stay Open

Buffalo Street Books, a community-owned cooperative bookstore in Ithaca, N.Y., is going to stay open after nearing the brink of closure, general manager Woody Chichester announced in a blog post on the store's website.

At an emergency meeting of the store's owners and board of directors last Thursday, board president Rob Vanderlan reported that the store had outstanding bills approaching $100,000 and needed to raise at least $75,000 in the near future to stay open. Since that meeting, Buffalo Street Books has received commitments amounting to more than $50,000, and while it does not cover all of what's needed, Chichester wrote that between the money raised and the "enthusiasm of so many owners, we believe it is a mandate to continue."

The store will remain open as it seeks to "raise more money, fast." In order to avoid a model of "struggle followed by bailout," Chichester and the board of directors have outlined a plan to make the store financially sustainable that involves closing the yearly deficit of around $50,000 by cutting costs as well as making good on a "promise to be cooperatively owned and cooperatively operated," with store owners having greater involvement in efforts to increase sales and fundraising. To that end, the store is forming several volunteer committees pertaining to everything from fundraising to membership growth and online sales. Looking further ahead, Buffalo Street Books will investigate becoming a nonprofit entirely or forming a separate nonprofit organization.

Chichester added that the store will regularly update owners on progress made, with the first formal evaluation scheduled for July 2018. Wrote Chichester: "This is an experiment, and a risky one at that.... We are excited to take the next step forward with all of you as we make Buffalo Street Books an ever more vibrant and important part of our community."

GLOW: Sourcebooks Landmark: A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler

Space Cat Books Opens in Savannah, Ga.

Space Cat Books, offering new and used titles, opened earlier this month next door to its sister store, Starlandia Creative Supply, in the Starland district of Savannah, Ga. District reported that Clinton Edminster, owner of both businesses, "can be found hopping from one store to the next." A grand opening is tentatively planned for November 3.

"We had a surprisingly good day the first day we opened our doors," he said, adding: "It's interesting to me, because we have a lot of energy in Starlandia, it's a very energetic store, so you need to have an equal amount of energy to go in there. But a bookstore, and what I'm trying to do here, is much more calm. So, I feel people are more inclined to just walk in."

Space Cat Books "was only a concept in the works for about two months before it was fully realized," District noted. Edminster had been renting out the space next door for various events, but said he "really felt like it needed A Thing That It Was. We've got the stage still, but we needed to know what it was first and foremost. A bookstore."

Although Starlandia had been offering some titles, Edminster acknowledged that "we were doing a terrible job of selling books, because it is an art store. So that was the thing: I've got an interest in books, I've got a place to sell books, and we have books. All of a sudden it just seemed very obvious to do it."

Borderlands Seeks $1.9 Million to Buy Building

Borderlands, the San Francisco, Calif., science fiction, mystery and horror bookstore that nearly closed two and a half years ago, has made an offer to buy a building and has launched a campaign to raise $1.9 million in loans from customers, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. After eight days, Borderlands has raised $500,000 and another $300,000 "is pending."

In 2015, owner Alan Beatts had planned to close the store, but after customers rallied in support, Borderlands created a sponsorship program; the $100 annual membership includes a range of benefits. The store has a minimum of 300 sponsors.

There is no rush to move: Borderlands still has three years left on its current bookstore lease and eight years on its café lease.

In a blog post last week, Beatts wrote in part, "The sponsorship program that we started in 2015 caused a major shift in how I viewed the business. Previously I had considered it my personal project; one that I would stop either when I could no longer do it or when I died. But, after so many people were willing to contribute to allow it to continue to operate, I began to see it more as a public trust than something that was solely my possession.

"With that attitude change, I began to look for a way to ensure that Borderlands could continue to operate after I was unwilling or unable to run it. The conclusion that I came to was that the first and biggest obstacle to that sort of longevity was the perilous nature of commercial rentals in San Francisco. Having realized that, a year and a half ago I began working with a realtor to find a building that could house the store and that we could afford. The first part was easy, the second not so much so."

He said the possible future building is "a three-story Victorian built in 1902. There are two flats upstairs and a retail space on the ground floor. There is also a backyard and a full basement. It's located just a bit east of Masonic Ave. [at 1373 Haight]. It's a little bit smaller that our current spot but, by putting the office and storage in the basement and being smarter with the layout, I think we can fit all our current stock and more. Sadly, there is no room to accommodate the cafe. (Please note--that does not mean I'm planning on closing the cafe.)...

"Currently it's the location of Recycled Records but, when we move we're not going to displace them. The owner of the record shop owns the building and he's planning on retiring. He'll be closing up shop and moving out shortly after the sale closes."

Australian Booksellers Wary of Amazon's Arrival

In a strikingly in-depth article, the New York Times looks at what effect Amazon, which soon will open warehouses in Australia, will have on local bookselling and publishing. Many worry that publishers will give Amazon deals on price and delivery that make a mockery of any kind of level playing field. They also fear renewed threats to Australia's parallel importation laws, which blocks importation of foreign editions of new books if an Australian copyright holder publishes it within 30 days of release abroad or makes it available within 90 days. And they worry that Amazon will try to circumvent the country's tax and wage laws. (Average Australian wages are much higher than in the U.S.)

Altogether the worst-case picture would be Amazon selling books at deep discounts with quick delivery and importing from abroad, which could wreck both Australian publishing and bookselling.

But, as the Times emphasizes, Australian bookselling survived another American invasion: the arrival of Borders almost 20 years ago. And because it's so easy for Australians to buy books from Amazon in the U.S., the Australian book world has some experience competing with the behemoth.

The Times interviews a range of Australian indie booksellers, including Mark Rubbo, who has seven Readings bookstores in and around Melbourne. "I want to beat them," he said. "I don't like the idea of this monolith devouring everything."

David Gaunt, co-owner of Gleebooks in Sydney, commented: "Amazon controls the negotiating process. If they choose to sell the new Richard Flanagan book at $9.99, we'll sell none."

And author Tim Winton noted, "People who work in the book industry are agents of culture rather than just instruments of commerce. When you take away their role as agents of culture and reduce them to instruments of capitalism, it changes the dynamic." He added, "What makes me anxious is this sort of return to a centralizing of cultural power. It's a retrograde move."

Obituary Note: Rich Fisher

Long-time West Coast remainder book rep Rich Fisher, who retired in 2008, died on October 7 after open heart surgery.

Fisher started working in the book business after high school as a bookseller in New Jersey, and then moved into the bargain book business, working for Mel Shapiro in New York City in the 1970s. He moved to California in the early 1980s to work for Western Book Distributors and in 1984 started Redwood Book Sales, a commission rep group selling for several remainder book companies. He was also an independent rep for Daedalus Books and Texas Bookman. He sold to independent bookstores throughout the West and British Columbia, and was a mentor to many booksellers and reps.


Image of the Day: Patti Smith's Devotion

The Book Stall, Winnetka, Ill., hosted Patti Smith at a sold-out event on Wednesday at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago for her new book, Devotion (Yale University Press), which explores creative invention. Pictured: Smith with Book Stall staffers and volunteers.

Bookshop Window Display of the Day: Reader's Books

Barbara Hall of Readers' Books, Sonoma, Calif., sent us a photo of the shop's window display, created to thank firefighters, first responders and volunteers. The bookstore reopened Monday after being closed for a few days due to fire-related evacuations and power outages. "We're happy and relieved to return to being a community hub for customers during this time," she noted.

'Keeping Up with the Librarians'

Posted on Facebook recently by Invercargill City Libraries and Archives in New Zealand: "It has been 10 years since the Kardashians first graced our screens. To celebrate, our social media team decided to have a totally impromptu, definitely not planned, photo-shoot...."

"We picked that photo to spoof because it's iconic and also we thought how funny would that look with ordinary people in it," Bonnie Mager, the library's digital and communications manager, told BuzzFeed. "We decided the boys needed to be in the most sexualized positions, for both humor and to show how silly it would be to pose males like that. The girls just went with who had the most accurate clothing to match those people."

Personnel Changes at Putnam

Katie McKee has been promoted to executive publicity manager at Putnam. She was previously senior publicity manager.

Media and Movies

TV: I Know This Much Is True; The Forgotten Girls

HBO is developing I Know This Much Is True, an eight-episode limited drama series based on Wally Lamb's 1998 novel (an Oprah's Book Club Pick) that will star Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers), Deadline reported. Written and directed by filmmaker Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine), the project is described as "an epic family saga that explores the American identity following the parallel lives of twin brothers Dominick and Thomas Birdsey throughout the latter half of the 20th century." Ruffalo will play both brothers.

Lamb and Ruffalo, who have been collaborating on a TV adaptation of the book for the past two years, will executive produce with Cianfrance as well as Ben Browning & Glen Basner of indie film company FilmNation (The Big Sick).


Bron Studios' TV group has acquired rights to Danish author Sara Blaedel's crime fiction book series featuring police detective Louise Rick. Deadline reported that "the plan is to adapt the novels as a TV series, with the first published Rick book The Forgotten Girls to serve as the backdrop for Season 1." Bron's Aaron L. Gilbert and Danielle Reardon will serve as executive producers.

"It has been a longtime dream to see Louise Rick on the screen, and I couldn't imagine working with a more dynamic and creative team than Bron to realize this," Blaedel said. "Louise is a tenacious and relentless investigator, but also deeply human and imperfect. Simultaneously tough and charming, watching her stories come alive on the screen will be enthralling."

Reardon commented: "The Forgotten Girls is a spellbinding beginning to the suspenseful and addictive Louise Rick book series. We are thrilled to be working with Sara Blaedel to bring the character Louise Rick and her brilliantly brutal murder mysteries to television."

Books & Authors

Awards: T.S. Eliot Shortlist

The T.S. Eliot Foundation has unveiled a shortlist for the £25,000 (about $33,050) T.S. Eliot Prize, which recognizes "the best new poetry collection published in the U.K. or Ireland." The winner will be announced January 15. This year's shortlisted titles are:

The Tragic Death of Eleanor Marx by Tara Bergin
In these Days of Prohibition by Caroline Bird
The Noise of a Fly by Douglas Dunn
The Radio by Leontia Flynn 
So Glad I'm Me by Roddy Lumsden
Mancunia by Michael Symmons Roberts
Diary of the Last Man by Robert Minhinnick
The Abandoned Settlements by James Sheard
All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra
Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong 

Reading with... Martha Batalha

photo: Jorge Luna

Martha Batalha was a reporter and publisher for many years in her home country of Brazil. She moved to New York in 2008, where she worked in the publishing industry. The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao (Oneworld, October 10, 2017) is her first novel. It's been translated into English from the Portuguese by Eric M.B. Becker, as well as into nine other languages, and will soon become a major motion picture. Batalha lives in Santa Monica, Calif., with her husband and two children.

On your nightstand now:

Words Without Borders: The World Through the Eyes of Writers--short stories and excerpts that have never been published in English, recommended by writers like Francine Prose and Edwidge Danticat. We are so used to reading literature coming from the U.S. or England that sometimes we forget about all those incredible and lesser-known writers out there.

Ghosts in the Forest by Corinne Purtill. An impressive and well-written account of a group of people who spent decades in the Cambodia forests, trying to protect themselves from a civil war that had ended years before.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Barren Lives by Graciliano Ramos. It is a book about a family of peasants trying to survive in one of the most miserable areas in Brazil, moving from place to place while running away--without succeeding--from the drought, poverty and famine. The style is as dry as the scenario; the warmest character is the family pet, a dog called "Baleia." I still have that edition with me. It is a concise and perfectly written novel.

Your top five authors:

In Portuguese, Chico Buarque and José Saramago. Chico (both his songs and books), for his deep understanding of our language, and a way of making each sentence feel musical. His English translator, Alison Entrekin, did a great job with his books. And Saramago, also for rhythm and poetry. His writing is as harmonic as a melody from Bach.

In Spanish, Gabriel García Márquez, for the colors, characters, language and the boldness of writing a masterpiece without a plot (One Hundred Years of Solitude).

Tolstoy for his empathy, and Balzac for his characters.

Book you've faked reading:

I have the feeling that I spent six months reading War and Peace. I remember reading it in bank lines and doctor's offices, during the break of my classes, in the bus, at the beach, everywhere. I finally managed to finish it--at that point it was a matter of pride--but I did skip all those nonfiction parts about the war.

Book you're an evangelist for:

One Hundred Years of Solitude. For me, it is a history book about Latin America. It is all there: the naiveté of the first days, the gringo exploitation, the nonsense and carnage of civil wars, the flavors and unusual characters, the ruin that follows the capitalism boom and also the incidents cut from History by those who write it, as if they had never existed.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Self-Meditation: 3,299 Mantras, Tips, Quotes and Koans for Peace and Serenity by Barbara Ann Kipfer. The book cover is just the title over colorful stripes. I saw it and thought, that's all I need! When I'm reading it my breathing starts to slow down.

Book you hid from your parents:

I never hid books from my parents, but I did hide a few from my husband. We were living in this tiny basement apartment in Hoboken, and I would come home with a couple of books every other week. He hated clutter and had to get used to a new girlfriend who came with piles of books, New Yorkers and other reading material. I also had my pile of the New York Times--I was still learning English, and it took me two days just to finish the Sunday edition. I did end up hiding many books in my closet.

Book that changed your life:

I was raised in an extreme Catholic environment. I went to church often, had nuns as teachers and daily religion classes. I wanted to be a nun until I was nine or 10 years old. However, I just had to grow up a bit and to develop some sense of justice to get disappointed with the hypocrisy and greed of the church. The Gospel According Jesus Christ by José Saramago, and particularly its last sentence, helped me break completely with Catholicism. I still believe and try to follow Jesus Christ's rules, but his rules, not the church's.

Favorite line from a book:

"Besides, they didn't have to fear the tremendous judgment of the future. History wouldn't go there."

It is from Os Sertões by Euclides da Cunha. The book depicts how the Brazilian army executed 20,000 miserable and innocent people in the Northeast of the country. They were following a prophet called Antônio Conselheiro, and built a city where everything was shared. The government didn't like it, of course, and sent the army to exterminate them all.

Five books you'll never part with:

My signed copy of The Masters and the Slaves: A Study in the Development of Brazilian Civilization by Gilberto Freyre

Poems by Vinícius de Moraes--the 1967 edition that my mom gave to my father when they were dating

Stories by Doris Lessing

The American Tradition in Literature--an anthology published by Random House

The Geography of Hunger by Josué de Castro, about the political and geographical issue of hunger in Brazil. It was published in 1951 and some of its concepts are outdated, but reminds me about the subjects that are crucial for the human being, and about so few pay attention to.

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

Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason by Michel Foucault. It shows how madness was perceived in Europe throughout the centuries.

Book Review

Review: Wonder Valley

Wonder Valley by Ivy Pochoda (Ecco, $26.99 hardcover, 336p., 9780062656353, November 7, 2017)

Everybody's on the run from something in Ivy Pochoda's third novel, Wonder Valley, which features a broad cast of Southern California criminals, deadbeats, dreamers and frustrated never-quite-making-it professionals. Most make their entrance in a prologue that presents a quintessential Los Angeles chopper-style overview of a 2010 freeway snarl exacerbated by a naked man running between the idling cars. Stepping back to 2006, Pochoda unfolds their backstories one by one. There's the Beverlywood two-bit studio lawyer Tony, who left his white-shoe Chicago firm to escape a scandal. A young gangbanger wannabe from Brooklyn, Ren is searching L.A. for the mother who abandoned him during his five years in juvie. Britt is a USC full-scholarship tennis jock who took off after a drunken Laurel Canyon car crash. A couple of hard-time criminals, Sam and Blake, are trying to duck the cops after an armed robbery in Vegas. And twin teens Owen and James are adrift in the city following their escape from their parents' Howling Tree Ranch, a chicken farm/commune in the desert outside Twentynine Palms.

A former professional squash player from Brooklyn's Cobble Hill now living in Los Angeles, Pochoda (Visitation Street) smoothly and deliberately moves the story of her gritty troupe between events in 2006 and 2010. Chapters weave among the various scenes of Southern California. There's the desert desolation of Wonder Valley, which Sam and Blake banter about after first seeing it: " 'It's not exactly a wonder, is it?' 'What were you expecting, a gated subdivision? No, this is it. This is f**king it.' " One hundred fifty miles due west is the busy mixed bag of L.A.--Skid Row (where "a woman braided hair... a preacher shouted gospel through a bullhorn in Spanish") and Santa Monica (with "its palm-tree-lined streets and houses covered in bougainvillea"). Pochoda's eye for the details of these disparate settings rarely misses a thing. Across the four years of the novel, her troubled characters try to shake off the mistakes and misfortune of their pasts and make something new of their lives.

Wonder Valley is not exactly a crime novel, although there are plenty of criminals and crimes. There is no mystery to solve, no clever plot to untangle. However, as Pochoda gradually ties up her not-so-loose ends, it becomes a novel of the quest for connection, redemption and ultimately release. Near the end, it returns to Blake watching the naked runner on the freeway "hoping he'd keep going, that he'd snarl and snag these drivers, tangle their commute... they didn't understand what it was to need to escape." In short, it's about escaping demons and reshaping lives. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: In Ivy Pochoda's accomplished third novel, a broad cast of drifters and criminals look for something like salvation in each other and the promise of Southern California.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: A Signature Moment at MPIBA Fall Discovery Show

The Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Fall Discovery Show, held last week in Denver, Colo., featured an invigorating blend of youth and experience, energy and inspiration, hard work and great fun (just ask Valerie Koehler of Houston's Blue Willow Bookshop about the Texas team's nail-biting triumph in the Literary Trivia Game).

The show was a hit by any measure. Total attendance was 601, up dramatically from 535 in 2016. MPIBA executive director Laura Ayrey Burnett said, "The board and our staff, myself included, are all still reeling from the success and camaraderie felt at this year's show. We are almost always pleased after each show but this year's attendance just made a huge difference in expanding our MPIBA 'family.' All of our meal events were completely sold out and the exhibit hall was almost always bustling with more orders being placed than years prior. Simply put, it was wonderful on all fronts."

I'll write about some of the author events and education sessions next week, but I wanted to focus on a signature moment at this year's MPIBA show that beautifully encapsulated the "family" aspect of our profession.

Cathy Langer, Matt Miller & Joyce Meskis

On Thursday, a special ceremony was held just before the exhibit hall opened to honor Cathy Langer. After 40 years with Denver's Tattered Cover Book Store, she will retire from her position as director of buying at the end of December (just one more crazy holiday season!).

As a crowd of booksellers, sales reps, authors and publishers gathered around the small stage near the hall entrance, Joyce Meskis, Tattered Cover's owner from 1974 until this year, stepped to the podium and offered a heartfelt tribute, recounting her initial job interview with Langer in 1977: "Cathy came through with flying colors. It was just really wonderful. And I couldn't wait to offer her the job. In the course of our conversation with each other, I said something like, 'Well, can you commit to a year at least?' The rest is history.

"She is first a terrific bookseller.... She's smart, really sharp, intelligent, intuitive, with an unfailing memory; exceptionally hardworking, responsible, professional, all the valuable attributes that go along with being a well-rounded bookseller. But she's also a great humanitarian, a great woman, who cares deeply about a lot of things in our world and in our community, and in the life of her family.... She's done practically everything that an individual can do at a bookstore, and she has done it so beautifully, so well, so graciously, so, so, so, so beautifully. Thank you for everything."

Then Tattered Cover COO Matt Miller joined Meskis on the stage, noting: "If Cathy was up here, I'm sure there'd be about 130 years of bookselling between Cathy, Joyce and me." Miller said Langer is "considered one of the most highly respected buyers in the industry. In that capacity, she has served as a bellwether for publishers and sales reps for many, many years. She has done all these things with incredible energy, passion, efficiency and dedication. So, Cathy, from all of your Tattered Cover co-workers, bookselling colleagues around the country, the publishing community, authors and thousands and thousands of customers whose lives you have enhanced and enriched, thank you, congratulations, and best wishes."

Now it was Langer's turn. She addressed the crowd--her book family--with characteristic humor and modesty: "This is awkward and weird because I'm used to being at a podium or out talking to the public about fun people and saying wonderful things about them and getting ready for them to come up and say their great things.... It's also weird for me to be up here with all of you saying great things because I just every day got up and was able to do something I loved to do. I mean, every morning I'd say, 'I get to go to work, be happy about it and be excited about the reps I'd be seeing, customers I'd be working with, my co-workers. Every day I learned something new."

Noting her career has been filled with both challenges and "so much fun," Langer said that "it's really the community that has meant so much to me all these years.... The Mountains & Plains community is just amazing. I have so many great memories.... Over the years, there's been ups and downs, but it's always interesting, as we like to say. A roller coaster, a lot of fun, a lot of worry, but we've always had each other and that's really what's kept us going I think. It's the community. It's the authors, it's the books, of course. But the continuity of what we all do together is really what makes it so special."

She expressed gratitude to Meskis "for making me commit to a year. Really, I will often say that that commitment horrified me. I'd never worked anywhere more than 3-6 months, and that was only a couple of places. So, thanks, Joyce. It's been great."

Langer concluded by calling this "a really good time for me to be going on a new route, a new chapter. We've got great energy at the store.... Everyone's amazing, and so it's a really good time for me to say okay, have fun with it. I'm going to have a different kind of fun now."

A signature MPIBA moment. Happy retirement, Cathy, from your extended book family. More on the show next week. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives at Fresh Eyes Now)

Powered by: Xtenit