Shelf Awareness for Friday, January 26, 2018

 Kokila: Everything We Never Had by Randy Ribay

Nancy Paulsen Books: Sync by Ellen Hopkins

Running Press Adult: Cat People by Hannah Hillam

Beaming Books: Must-Have Autumn Reads for Your Shelf!

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


#Wi13: It's a Wrap

Officially ended last night at the closing reception, Winter Institute 2018 was yet another wildly successful gathering of what is now the premier bookselling event in the U.S. Some 685 booksellers, 58 international guests and several hundred publishers, distributors, wholesalers and others mixed, talked shop and learned from each other. Major topics included how to make the book business, bookstores and the ABA more diverse and inclusive and how to make the bookstore business more viable--addressed at the Town Hall meeting and at various sessions and panels over the three days. At the same time, while acknowledging the many challenges that exist, attendees celebrated the general health of independent bookselling.

Among other highlights of the conference: the challenging talk by Junot Díaz; the very funny and very touching talk by Gary Shteyngart (see below); ABA CEO Oren Teicher's discussion of the state of indie bookselling (see below); Daniel Pink's third appearance at a Winter Institute, where he gave a timely presentation about aspects of time and mood.

Host city Memphis, Tenn., provided a lot of opportunity for eating amazing BBQ, engaging in striking sightseeing (particularly the National Civil Rights Museum), and visiting great bookstores (notably Burke's Book Store and Novel nearby, as well as Square Books in Oxford, Miss., and Turnrow Book Co., Greenwood, Miss.).

Also during busy Wi13:

For the first time, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) held a fundraiser at the Winter Institute (and was Wi13's official charity). It sold out its 400 blinking guitar and musical note pins, and a very happy executive director Pamela French said Binc raised $7,000, more than it had expected.

Wi13 attendees welcomed Independent Bookstore Day, preparing for its fourth iteration on April 28 (not counting its one year as California Bookstore Day). A panel on IBD was "full of good ideas," executive director Samantha Schoech reported, and Calvin Crosby, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, described the traffic at IBD's consultation station as "frisky."

At Tuesday's breakfast, ABA CEO Oren Teicher noted that the association is working with BookExpo to improve BookExpo for independent booksellers. Toward that end, BookExpo is sending a representative to the spring regional booksellers association meetings to speak with booksellers and discuss changes in BookExpo's format and programming to benefit indie booksellers.

Congratulations to Three Lives & Co., New York City, which received shoutouts from two keynote speakers: Sarah Jessica Parker and Junot Díaz. And congratulations to BooksActually in Singapore, which is perhaps the most distant bookstore ever to receive a shoutout by a Winter Institute keynoter: Junot Díaz.

At yesterday's lunch, the shortlist for PW's Bookstore of the Year Award were announced:
Astoria Bookshop, Queens, N.Y.
Boulder Book Store, Boulder, Colo.
Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, N.H.
Source Booksellers, Detroit, Mich.
University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

The shortlist for the Rep of the Year Award:
Eileen Bertelli of Parson Weems' Publisher Services
Judy DeBerry of Hachette Book Group
Frazer Dobson of Como Sales
John Mesjak of Abraham Associates
Bailey Walsh of the University of Chicago Press

Congratulations to all the nominees!

As always, we want to thank Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books in south Florida and the Cayman Islands, for having the inspiration for Winter Institute more than a dozen years ago when he was ABA president. And many, many thanks to the ABA board and staff for all the hard work that goes into putting on Winter Institute!

Look for more Shelf Awareness reporting on Wi13 next week and beyond.

Mark your calendars for Wi14, to be held next January 22-25 in Albuquerque!

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Restaurant of Lost Recipes (A Kamogawa Food Detectives Novel) by Hisashi Kashiwai, Translated by Jesse Kirkwood

#Wi13: Around the Show

Retirement agrees with them: Barbara Theroux, founder of Fact and Fiction Bookstore in Missoula, Mont., who retired in June, and Mary Gay Shipley, founder of That Bookstore in Blytheville, Ark., who retired in 2012, strolled the show and caught up with old friends.

(l.-r.) Kenny Brechner (Doak & Garrett Booksellers, Farmington, Maine), Nadine Strossen (Professor of Law at New York Law School and former president of the ACLU) and Dhonielle Clayton (COO, We Need Diverse Books) debated sensitivity readers, free expression and censorship on a panel moderated by Christopher Finan (executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship).

Bill Reilly and Mindy Ostrow, who own the river's end bookstore, in Oswego, N.Y.

(l.-r.) Hannah Oliver Depp (WORD Bookstore, Jersey City, N.J.), Melanie Knight (Books Inc., Berkeley, Calif.) and Lane Jacobson (Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.) discussed the best practices for buying, marketing and handselling diverse books; the panel was moderated by Aaron Curtis (Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla.).

The Wi13 program was brought to a rousing close yesterday with a live production of the Thacker Mountain Radio Hour, Memphis style. The live weekly radio show, featuring author readings and musical performances from the square in Oxford, Miss., was co-founded by Richard Howorth, owner of Square Books. For the Wi13 special edition, host Jim Dees and the Yalobushwhackers band welcomed the Bo-Keys, who added their own signature Memphis sound. Two authors talked about their upcoming titles: Elizabeth Acevedo for The Poet X (HarperCollins) and Charles Frazier for Varina (HarperCollins). In addition, singer/songwriter Dar Williams performed a song in an appearance that also showcased her upcoming book, What I Found in a Thousand Towns: A Traveling Musician's Guide to Rebuilding America's Communities--One Coffee Shop, Dog Run, and Open-Mike Night at a Time (Basic Books). (Watch the livestream here)

Harpervia: Only Here, Only Now by Tom Newlands

#Wi13: Gary Shteyngart's Keynote

Gary Shteyngart: "I love you guys."

Gary Shteyngart, whose upcoming novel is Lake Success (Random House, September), entertained and inspired booksellers yesterday during his Wi13 afternoon keynote.

He opened by describing his bookselling audience with a Shteyngartian blend of images: "This is great. Seeing so many booksellers in one place is like taking a bath with a warm glass of milk in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other. I think at this point you're performing a kind of civilizational duty, like the monks during the Middle Ages. You're all that stands between us and complete darkness."

After recommending five Memphis barbecue joints, Shteyngart said, "I've always loved bookstores, almost as much as barbecue. I spend a lot of my time in the country surrounded by sheep in upstate New York, where I write my books. It's frozen more than half the year. And my favorite part of the year is just wallowing through the snow to duck into Spotty Dog Books & Ale in Hudson or Oblong Books in Rhinebeck and just seeing all the new releases and remembering that we still live in a world of thoughts and feelings."

Noting that some people believe literature has had its day and technology is now ascendant, Shteyngart offered an alternative view: "To me writing is this insane Vulcan mind meld technology that lets you live inside the mind of another human being in a way that nothing else can. Not TV, not film, no other medium, not even the Intertube.... Reading stretches the empathy muscle, and my god we all need that muscle stretched these days more than ever."

He also shared the two secrets to being a writer, beginning with the requirement that one be asthmatic. He cited his own childhood, in a Leningrad without inhalers, as character building and now oddly part of the Shteyngart brand--people show up at his events with inhalers to be signed. "I've noticed a lot of asthmatics in Seattle," he added. "Elliott Bay and Third Place should have like a curated inhaler section."

The second secret is having a grandmother who writes. His was a journalist in Russia who used to give him a piece of cheese for every page he wrote. His first childhood novel, Lenin and His Magical Goose, netted him 100 pieces of cheese.

Shteyngart loves book tours: "I like my readers so much. They're so anxious and scared. I'd be shocked if I wasn't somehow related to half of them." His favorite compliment came at an event in Chicago, where a woman called him the Russian Judy Blume. "That's going on my tombstone," he said.

The primary story in Lake Success, a journey by Greyhound bus across the U.S., was inspired by the 50 stores he visited during his book tours. This also prompted him to take a Greyhound trip across the country himself, with one of the lessons he learned being: "Wherever there was a sense of community, there was joy. Whenever there was literacy, there was hope."

Citing Philip Roth's classic observation about life in Eastern Europe during the Cold War ("There nothing goes and everything matters. Here everything goes and nothing matters."), Shteyngart said, "When I hear that more independent bookstores are opening up around the country, I think people are saying no to that sentence. People are saying that they still matter.

"The very act of putting down your phone, turning off your Twitter, going to a bookstore, talking to a bookseller, and then being treated to a quiet, private space.... that becomes a political statement. Not one as fraught as when my parents passed around samizdat books in Leningrad, but just as important, just as sacred and just as capable of changing the world around us.... I love you guys. Keep those bookstores open. Open more bookstores. If you ever need me to read, I'll come to you." --Robert Gray

#Wi13: Oren Teicher on Indie Bookselling

Oren Teicher

At Tuesday's breakfast, ABA CEO Oren Teicher reiterated the positive sales news for indies last year, including a rise in sales of books at indies of 2.6% and a compound annual growth rate of 5.4% over the past five years. In addition, he noted "a significant increase in sales" of titles featured on the Indie Next Lists after the introduction of electronic versions, powered by Shelf Awareness. This shows, he stated, that booksellers' recommendations "continue to drive sales."

Other good news included that new indies continue to open and established stores continue to open branches. Some 40 new stores opened last year.

The ABA recognizes that not all communities are seeing such growth, and Teicher said the association is committed "to doing all that we can" to help prospective booksellers, especially in underserved communities. Another priority is ongoing advocacy for a level playing field as more and more consumer spending shifts online.

Teicher also highlighted the five-year study that Ryan Raffaelli, an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School, has done on the resurgence of indie bookstores. (Preliminary findings were released last November; the full report will be released later this year.)

Key factors are what Raffaelli calls the "3 Cs": community, curation and convening. As Teicher put it, they are "your unique ties to your community; your unparalleled ability to connect readers and authors; and all the innovative work that you're doing to create the myriad events that bring customers to your stores, where they can strengthen that connection not only with authors and fellow readers, but, most importantly these days, with neighbors and friends."

Teicher also underscored the value that booksellers bring to books. A sobering fact is, he said, "when a customer purchases a book from you, not one word in that book is different from the same title purchased elsewhere." But, "we would argue that in a very fundamental way, it is not the same book." Jorge Luis Borges put the concept well, Teicher said: "A book is not an isolated being: It is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships." In other words, "A book only becomes fully alive when it is shared. And that's what you guys do and do nationwide every day."

And despite a range of technological and other changes, "you are continuing to find new, fun, and innovative ways that you can help your customers."

Raffaelli has found that that ABA has been able to strengthen "the collective identity of the indie bookstore community," especially through education and professional development, exemplified by the Winter Institute. Education continues to be "a critical goal" of the association, Teicher stressed.

Teicher enumerated a variety of challenges for indie bookselling, including the ongoing fight for e-fairness, "21st-century solutions to antitrust enforcement," working with publishers to develop sustainable business models for indie bookselling, improving bookseller education, and "doing everything we can to make this industry more diverse." These are all major continuing objectives of the ABA.

He added: "Your being here today and your ongoing involvement is a clear sign that together we're going to meet these challenges. As I've said before, I don't believe anybody could spend a few days here at the Winter Institute and not go home convinced that the best days of independent bookselling are ahead of us."


In a poignant personal note, Teicher, whose wife, Alison Greene, died in October, expressed his "thanks and gratitude to my extended ABA family for all of the extraordinary support and love that you've shown me these past months. It's been a difficult time for me, but I can tell you that the love I've felt certainly in these few days here in Memphis and over the last few months has really been indispensable to sustaining me during this difficult time."

Indie Bookshop Alliance Update: 90+ U.K. Booksellers Interested

The Indie Bookshop Alliance, an idea proposed last week by Simon Key, co-owner of the Big Green Bookshop in London, encouraging independent bookstores to work together to negotiate better discounts and exclusive offers with publishers, has received a "fantastic" response thus far, with more than 90 bookstores expressing interest, the Bookseller reported.

"I'm really pleased with the reaction, we've had such a fantastic response," said Key. "The problem when this has been tried before is I think it's very difficult to get enough people interested to make it effective, that's why it's so encouraging it's had such a big response in such a short space of time. I hope those who are thinking of joining see this and actually join."

Keeping the conversation going is the immediate goal: "I don't want it to go quiet, or there to be nothing seen to be happening," he said. "The more the idea is out there, the more other bookshops will think of joining.... The important thing is that we make some money from this. The idea is that the voice of 100 bookshops is louder than one; we would be a strong force."


Media and Movies

On Stage: My Name Is Lucy Barton

Laura Linney will make her London theater debut next June in My Name Is Lucy Barton, adapted from Elizabeth Strout's novel, Variety reported, adding that Theater veteran Richard Eyre will direct. He previously worked with Linney on a Broadway adaptation of The Crucible and in the 2008 movie The Other Man. Rona Munro is adapting the novel as a dramatic monologue. The production will have a limited three-week run at the new 900-seat Bridge Theater.

Movies: I'm Thinking of Ending Things

Oscar-winner Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation) will write and direct Netflix's film based on the debut novel I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid, Deadline reported. Kaufman is also producing the project with Likely Story's Anthony Bregman and Stefanie Azpiazu. Reid will serve as co-producer. His novel is currently published in 17 territories and was named an NPR Best Book of the Year in 2016.

Books & Authors

Awards: Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Shortlist

A shortlist has been unveiled for the £2,500 (about $3,545) Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize, presented by Slightly Foxed and the Biographers' Club. The winner will be announced March 6 in London. The shortlisted titles are:

David Jones: Engraver, Soldier, Painter, Poet by Thomas Dilworth
The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography by Edmund Gordon
This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay
Young & Damned & Fair: The Life & Tragedy of Catherine Howard by Gareth Russell
The Uncommon Reader: A Life of Edward Garnett by Helen Smith
Kenneth Clark: Life, Art and Civilization by James Stourton

Reading with... Patrisse Cullors

photo: Curtis Moore

Patrisse Cullors is an artist, organizer and freedom fighter from Los Angeles, Calif. Her memoir, When They Call You a Terrorist (St. Martin's Press, January 16, 2018), is co-authored with asha bandele, with a foreword from Angela Davis. It delves into Cullors's life growing up in working-class black Los Angeles, the prison and police system's impact on her family and community, and her fight back as founder of Dignity and Power Now and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter global network.

On your nightstand now:

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985, which documents an art exhibit at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles showcasing more than 100 women from 15 countries across Latin America. The exhibit is part of a series bridging together Los Angeles with Latin America, and as an artist, I have enjoyed learning more about artists and particularly women in the Americas.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Gold Cadillac by Mildred D. Taylor was the first time I read about the civil rights movement in a children's book. It spoke to me because it put into perspective what it meant for a black family in the South to exist and what it meant for this family to drive a fancy car but still be subject to policing and discrimination. Taylor made the relationship between police and the black community clear and it was important to my development.

Your top five authors:

I love Octavia Butler because her characters are dynamic, Afro-futurist, and she invites us in her literature to engage with new narratives on what it means to be human. She was a pioneer for black women artists and organizers who, like myself, imagine other worlds.

I first read Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye as a student at Cleveland High School in the Humanities Magnet. The way she captures the condition of black girlhood and violence spoke to me. Her writing paints pictures in way that expose the harm, pain yet are powerfully redeeming.

Brittney Cooper, co-founder of the Crunk Feminist Collective, is someone that I've adored even before I met her on the ground in Ferguson, Miss. Her writing is so incredibly raw and deeply analytical. How she conveys feminism really drew me in, she doesn't hold back and speaks about black women, our realities and more poignantly.

Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time talks about the mental health system and especially hones in on women's experience. Once I found her, I read all her books, and she is brilliant. She sets light on this demagogue system and allows for a new conversation about mental health and women, juxtaposing our harsh realities with an utopian society.

asha bandele is one of the greatest writers of our time because she is able to capture emotion and complex political content. She is a powerhouse and changing how we understand the written word, policing and over incarceration and their impacts on the black community.

Book you're fake reading:

Lol! I've never faked reading a book!!!

Book you're an evangelist for:

Anything written by Octavia Butler, but specifically Parable of the Sower because of how she is able to project our present day into the future and examine possibilities where we have challenges seeing them today. She's helped me reflect on the very essence of the work I do and what I do it for.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The original cover of Fledgling by Octavia Butler featuring a little black girl with a white dress with burnt hems. First, I love when black people are on book cover and, two, it's mysterious. I wasn't sure what I was stepping into.

Book you hid from your parents:

Anything related to magic. I grew up Jehovah's Witness and we weren't encouraged to read anything that wasn't the Bible or written by the Jehovah's Witness leadership. Magic was forbidden, but I was obsessed with the supernatural and would often hide those books from my mother.

Book that changed your life:

Woman on the Edge of Time transformed how I understand and organize around issues of state sanctioned violence, the prison industrial complex and deepened my understanding of feminisms rooted in black and brown experiences.

Favorite line from a book:

"When your rage is choking you, it is best to say nothing," wrote Octavia Butler in Fledgling, and this is something that I have carried with me ever since I read these lines. I can imagine moments when our collective rage feels at capacity and sometimes we are without words and sometimes it is better to say nothing; however, we must always act and Butler's literature feels like a call to action for what we can imagine and against our greatest fears.

Five books you'll never part with:

Fledgling and Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, A Taste of Power by Elaine Brown, Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy and Autobiography of Malcolm X are for me some of the most critical literature in this political moment. Some are contemporary and others are less so; however, these books are powerful, they tell stories about humanity in creative ways, they're page-turning and make you want to read more and inspire us to do better.

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

Kindred by Octavia Butler is another classic, and somewhat different than the rest of her literature since it's also a very historical text placed in the antebellum South, but with a time travel twist. The protagonist's journey and her struggle between past and present has always stayed with me and I wish I could go back to the first time I flipped through each page.

Book Review

Review: The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World by Bart D. Ehrman (Simon & Schuster, $28 hardcover, 352p., 9781501136702, February 13, 2018)

Bart D. Ehrman has made a cottage industry out of writing relatively brief, accessible books about early Christian history such as How Jesus Became God and Misquoting Jesus. The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World is trademark Ehrman: clear prose and digestible chapters in support of Ehrman's opinionated interpretations of Christian history. The Triumph of Christianity examines Christianity's remarkable success in converting the better part of the Roman world in only a few centuries.

Ehrman takes pains to point out that, title notwithstanding, his book is not meant to be a triumphalist narrative. He never claims that Christianity succeeded because of its inherent superiority to pagan religions, nor suggests that Western culture is better off due to Christian success. Instead, he attempts to explain how a small Jewish sect under intermittent persecution by Roman authorities managed to overthrow centuries of pagan tradition. In doing so, he reminds us of the incredible variety of pagan religions, encompassing a diverse set of cultic practices honoring a multitude of gods.

One reason for Christianity's success was its exclusivity. Pagan religions did not demand that worshippers of certain gods turn away from others. Ehrman does point to pagan practitioners of henotheism, which lets worshippers focus on a single god without denying the existence of other deities. He suggests that henotheism may have prepared the ground for some Christian converts to recognize one all-powerful God, including, possibly, Emperor Constantine. More importantly, when pagans converted to Christianity, they renounced all other gods. A convert necessarily became an apostate to all of paganism, so that more Christians meant fewer pagans.

Ehrman also writes at length about Christianity as a missionary religion. While pagans had a precedent for monotheism in their Jewish neighbors, "we don't know of any missionary religions in the pagan world." The evangelizing mission of the Christian church was thus "unparalleled and unprecedented." Ehrman does not underplay the importance of such a development, but he does counter the narrative provided by the Book of Acts in the New Testament, which references mass conversions of pagans. He instead argues that conversion was more likely to take place on an individual level, with newly converted Christians telling their pagan friends the Good News. They would also convert the rest of their household, but Ehrman provides reasons to be wary of the official Christian account.

These are only a few of the explanations for Christianity's success that Ehrman examines. He offers a survey of many centuries of scholarship on the subject, writing about the merits of certain explanations while rejecting others. What emerges in his account is a measured, grounded, but no less astounding tale of a persecuted religion that swept the ancient world with shocking rapidity. And as it spread, "it destroyed the other religions in its wake, religions that had been practiced for millennia and that were simply assumed, everywhere and by everyone, to be good and true." Readers are left to judge the benefits and drawbacks of Christianity's triumph for themselves. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Shelf Talker: The Triumph of Christianity examines the religion's rapid expansion and eventual dominance of both the Roman Empire and Western culture as a whole.

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