Also published on this date: Monday, March 5, 2018: Dedicated Issue: Candlewick Relaunches Judy Moody

Shelf Awareness for Monday, March 5, 2018

Blackstone Publishing: An Honorable Assassin (Nick Mason Novels #3) by Steve Hamilton

Clarion Books: The Man Who Didn't Like Animals by Deborah Underwood, Illlustrated by LeUyen Pham

Holiday House: Bye Forever, I Guess by Jodi Meadows and Team Canteen 1: Rocky Road by Amalie Jahn

Wednesday Books: Dust by Alison Stine

Running Press Kids: The Junior Witch's Handbook, The Junior Astrologer's Handbook, and The Junior Tarot Reader's Handbook by Nikki Van De Car

Scholastic Press: Ruin Road by Lamar Giles


B&N to Open New New Concept Stores

Later this year, Barnes & Noble will open five stores featuring a new, smaller-format design in which "front and center will be our new books," according to CEO Demos Parneros. The stores, which will ideally be 14,000 square feet--much smaller than the company's traditional 25,000-square-foot superstores--will have a "fresher, cleaner, newer, very up-to-date" feel, Parneros added.

B&N will not open any more of the new concept stores first introduced in 2016 that featured full kitchens. Parneros called the five "kitchen concept" stores "a great learning experience" that helped in the design of the newer prototype.

Parneros and other B&N executives discussed this and other subjects during a conference call (transcript courtesy of last week following the company's release of its third-quarter results. (In the quarter ended January 27, sales fell 5.3%, to $1.2 billion, and the company had a consolidated net loss of $63.5 million.) Again and again, they stressed that they are engaging in a strategic turnaround plan, whose elements consist of, as Parneros put it, "One, strengthening the core. Two, improving profitability. Three, accelerating execution. And finally, number four, innovating for the future."

In other news from the conference call:

While books had the lowest drop in sales in the third quarter--down 4.1%--the gift, music and DVD categories had the worst results, all down by double digits, only partially offset by "growth in toys and games and café business." In January, at stores open at least a year, books, especially the frontlist, continued to have relatively strong sales.

Parneros reiterated his declaration last year that books are the most important part of B&N, saying, "Books are a heritage and centerpiece of everything we do.... We are reasserting our book leadership by placing a greater emphasis on books while taking a much more pointed view of our non-book products."

Still, he emphasized that B&N is "very committed to the stationery, gift, toys and games businesses" because "they are an important part of our assortment and our value proposition to the customer."

Parneros didn't mention the layoffs of three weeks ago--as many as several thousand booksellers lost their jobs--but several times cited the company's "new labor model," which he said ensures that "booksellers are focused on helping customers first and performing tasks second."

Among company-wide expense cutting efforts, he noted something that might be related: "whether it's how we unload a truck or how we do simple tasks in the store, we are really looking to update and modernize and speed up the way we do things so that we can take expense away and just become more efficient." Severance costs in the quarter were $10.7 million; the cuts will result in "annual cost savings of approximately $40 million."

At the same time, Parneros said that B&N is "focused on attracting, retaining and developing top talent throughout the organization.... In my first year on the job, I am thrilled to say that we have added eight new executives to our team. This has allowed us to have an incredible balance between people with deep company history and bookselling experience, combined with the talented retail executives we have added. I feel like we have a fantastic team to lead our transformation."

Parneros proudly noted that the company has increased its "omnichannel capabilities." For example, six months ago B&N launched its ship-from-store program, under which stores fulfill orders. Later this year, B&N will allow customers to order and pay for a book online, then pick it up in a store within the hour, whereas before they could only reserve a book online for in-store pickup.

In the last six months, the company has added 500,000 people to its membership program, bringing the total to 6.5 million.

The company also said it had a tax benefit of $26.4 million, "following the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act legislation." In addition, with its continued dividend of 60 cents a year, during the last year, B&N "returned $44 million in cash to its shareholders." (As the company's share price has plummeted to an all-time low in the $4-$5 range, its dividend yield is now almost 13%, very high by Wall Street standards.)

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Bookish Oscars: Darkest Hour, Call Me by Your Name Win

At last night's Academy Awards ceremony, book-related movies did not take home much golden hardware despite plenty of nominations. There were, however some highlights to celebrate for film-loving readers, as well as the book trade. Among this year's bookish Oscar winners:

Darkest Hour, based on the book Darkest Hour: How Churchill Brought England Back from the Brink by Anthony McCarten: Best actor (Gary Oldman), makeup & hairstyling

Call Me by Your Name, adapted from André Aciman's novel: adapted screenplay (James Ivory).

Blade Runner 2049, based on characters from the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick: Cinematography (Roger A. Deakins), visual effects

Many book-related movies earned Oscar nominations, but left empty-handed. These included Mudbound, adapted from the novel by Hillary Jordan; All the Money in the World, based on Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty by John Pearson; The Disaster Artist, adapted from the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell; Molly's Game, adapted from the book Molly's Game: The True Story of the 26-Year-Old Woman Behind the Most Exclusive, High-Stakes Underground Poker Game in the World by Molly Bloom; The Breadwinner, adapted from the children's novel by Deborah Ellis; Ferdinand, based on the children's book The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson; and The Boss Baby, based on Marla Frazee's picture book.

Amid Harassment Allegations, Handler Cancels Commencement Speech

Daniel Handler

Wesleyan University, Middletown, Conn., said that children's author Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) has canceled plans to give the school's commencement speech and receive an honorary degree in May. As the AP wrote (via the Washington Post), the cancellation came "amid allegations of sexual harassment... In February, several women said online that he had made sexual comments at professional conferences and public events in recent years." Wesleyan students had recently protested Handler's plans.

Handler, author of the A Series of Unfortunate Events books and a 1992 Wesleyan graduate, "apologized in an online post, saying he never meant to insult his colleagues," the AP wrote. "He added that 'as a survivor of sexual violence, I also know very well how words or behaviors that are harmless or even liberating to some people can be upsetting to others.' "

Wesleyan has instead asked Brandeis University professor Anita Hill, who at Clarence Thomas's Senate Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 1991, accused him of sexual harassment, to give the commencement speech. She had been scheduled to receive an honorary degree.

This marks another major children's/YA author who has been accused of sexual harassment or abuse in the wake of the #metoo movement. Last week, Sherman Alexie issued a statement in response to charges of abusive behavior, apologizing in part.

Handler has proven awkward and insensitive in other situations: in 2014, when hosting the National Book Awards and presenting the young people's literature award to Jacqueline Woodson for Brown Girl Dreaming, he made a bizarre reference about having been at a meal with Woodson and observing her eating watermelon. As the AP noted, Handler "later apologized and called it an 'ill-conceived joke.' Woodson responded that Handler 'showed that he believed we were at a point where we could laugh about it all. His historical context, unlike my own, came from a place of ignorance.' "

Development Threatening Bookends & Beginnings Is Called Off

Congratulations, Bookends & Beginnings! A proposed 37-story residential tower and theater development in Evanston, Ill., that threatened a host of beloved independent businesses, including the bookstore, has been canceled, the Chicago Tribune reported. The two development companies behind the proposal, along with theater group Northlight Theatre, decided to drop the plan after sustained, organized opposition from residents, who wanted to preserve the 1700 block of Sherman Avenue in downtown Evanston. In addition to the small businesses that would have been forced out, the development would also have eliminated the Varsity Theatre, which dates back to 1926.

Bookends & Beginnings owner Nina Barrett said there was a "very spirited" city Economic Development Committee meeting a few weeks ago at which many of her customers "gave moving testimonials about the role of the bookstore and our neighboring Alley Gallery in their lives," and that, along with a petition signed by more than 3,000 residents, many of them Bookends & Beginnings customers, is "what finally killed it."

HarperCollins Buys AMACOM's Trade Book Assets

HarperCollins has bought the trade book assets of AMACOM from the American Management Association International and is taking over all of the more than 600 frontlist and backlist books in AMACOM's catalogue. AMACOM, which specializes in personal and professional growth and business leadership, will become part of the recently launched HarperCollins Leadership imprint, whose headquarters are in HarperCollins's Nashville, Tenn., offices.

"Business, management and leadership are key growth areas for HarperCollins internationally," HarperCollins president and CEO Brian Murray said. "The purchase of AMACOM's trade publishing will allow us to broaden our catalogue of books with potential in emerging markets, from Asia to South America. It is a natural fit for our expanding publishing programs."

Manny Avramidis, president and CEO of AMA, said, "I am confident that HarperCollins is well-positioned to take AMACOM's world-class authors and title list to the next level. AMA will continue to focus on a strategic expansion of its core business, best-in-class professional training and development."

Jeff James, v-p and publisher of HarperCollins Leadership, will head AMACOM's business development, marketing and editorial. He commented: "Acquiring AMACOM books extends our connectivity with the business professional audience and gives us a deeper product offering in this highly sought-after segment. We are excited to represent the highly-accessible content found in titles like The First-Time Manager, Just Listen, and Paul Falcone's well-known 2600 Phrases series."

Obituary Note: Cynthia Heimel

Cynthia Heimel, whose first book, Sex Tips for Girls, "established her in the early 1980s as a fearlessly funny writer about men, feminism, female friendships, flirting, birth control and lingerie," died February 25, the New York Times reported. She was 70. Heimel later adapted Sex Tips and But Enough About You, a 1986 collection, into the play A Girl's Guide to Chaos, which opened later that year off Broadway at the American Place Theater.

"I used to say about Cynthia's writing, and her being, that she had the soul of Janis Joplin in the voice of Hedda Hopper," said novelist and comedy writer Emily Prager. "She was a voice for liberation with manners, freedom without regret and the blues with a grain of salt."

Heimel published several more collections, including If You Can't Live Without Me, Why Aren't You Dead Yet? (1991), Get Your Tongue Out of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Goodbye! (1993) and If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too? (1995).


Image of the Day: Girls' Day

On Saturday, author Debbi Michiko Florence was at Newtonville Books in Newton Center, Mass., to  celebrate the Japanese holiday Girls' Day and read from her book Jasmine Toguchi Super Sleuth (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017). The event also featured mochi and origami crafts. Pictured: Toguchi (l.) with Newtonville Books owner Mary Cotton.

Bookseller, Librarian on 'How to Create New Book Habits'

"Breaking out of one's literary comfort zone can be intimidating," the Wall Street Journal observed in a piece headlined "Stuck in a Reading Rut? How to Create New Book Habits."

Among those offering "tips on the best ways to explore new genres" was Consuelo Wilder, a book buyer at BookPeople in Austin, Tex., who said: "A person who likes coming-of-age stories can try one in the science-fiction realm instead of just general fiction."

"For people who read romance, it's not that they only like love stories, it's how it makes them feel," advised Gwen Glazer, a librarian at New York Public Library and co-host of the podcast The Librarian Is In. "There are lots of books outside that genre that will make you feel that way." Glazer comes to understand a reader by using the "librarian party trick" of listening to whether a person focuses on language, story, character or setting when describing a favorite book, the  Journal wrote.

Personnel Changes at Tom Doherty Associates

At Tom Doherty Associates, Tom Doherty is becoming chairman, and Fritz Foy, Macmillan's senior v-p of strategic technology and publisher of, is becoming president and publisher. Tom Doherty Associates includes Tor Books, and Forge Books, among other imprints. Fritz has been at Macmillan for 21 years and earlier had worked at Simon & Schuster.

At the same time, Devi Pillai has been promoted to v-p and publisher of Tor Books. She was previously associate publisher and has been at the company a year and a half.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, associate publisher, is now also v-p and editor-in-chief of Tor Books. He has been with the company for 29 years.

Kathleen Doherty, publisher of Tor Teen/Starscape, has been promoted to v-p.

Irene Gallo will continue as creative director of Tom Doherty Associates and become publisher of

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Chelsea Clinton, Martha Stewart on Colbert's Late Show

Today Show: Chessy Prout, co-author of I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope (Margaret K. McElderry, $18.99, 9781534414433).

Megyn Kelly: Ann Dunwoody, author of A Higher Standard: Leadership Strategies from America's First Female Four-Star General (Da Capo, $27, 9780738217796).

Also on Megyn Kelly: Shayna Ferm Tracey Tee, authors of Parentally Incorrect: True Tales by Real Moms About the F**ked-Up Things Their Kids Have Done (HCI, $14.95, 9780757320484).

Fresh Air: Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels (Little, Brown, $27, 9780316154888).

All Things Considered: Jason Matthews, author of The Kremlin's Candidate: A Novel (Scribner, $26.99, 9781501140082).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Chelsea Clinton, author of She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History (Philomel, $17.99, 9780525516996). She will also appear tomorrow on the View.

Also on the Late Show: Martha Stewart, co-author of Martha's Flowers: A Practical Guide to Growing, Gathering, and Enjoying (Clarkson Potter, $45, 9780307954770).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Brad Meltzer, author of The Escape Artist (Grand Central, $28, 9781455559527).

Today Show: Roma Downey, author of Box of Butterflies: Discovering the Unexpected Blessings All Around Us (Howard, $24.99, 9781501150937).

The Talk: Dianna De La Garza, co-author of Falling with Wings: A Mother's Story (Feiwel & Friends, $26.99, 9781250143334).

The Opposition with Jordan Klepper: Cass Sunstein, editor of Can It Happen Here?: Authoritarianism in America (Dey Street, $17.99, 9780062696199).

Books & Authors

Awards: Walter Scott Historical Fiction Longlist

A longlist has been unveiled for this year's £25,000 (about $34,480) Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, which "celebrates quality, innovation and longevity of writing in the English language, and is open to books first published in the previous year in the U.K., Ireland or the Commonwealth." A shortlist will be announced in April, and the winner named in June during the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland. This year's longlisted titles are:

The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks
Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
The Last Man in Europe by Dennis Glover
Sugar Money by Jane Harris
Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr
The Draughtsman by Robert Lautner
Grace by Paul Lynch
The Wardrobe Mistress by Patrick McGrath
Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik
The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers
The Horseman by Tim Pears
The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

Book Review

Review: Ask a North Korean: Defectors Talk About Their Lives Inside the World's Most Secretive Nation

Ask a North Korean: Defectors Talk about Their Lives Inside the World's Most Secretive Nation by Daniel Tudor (Tuttle, $19.99 hardcover, 288p., 9780804849333, March 20, 2018)

Originating with the NK News weekly column "Ask a North Korean," Daniel Tudor's book by the same name offers readers an insider's perspective of the country "labelled as the last genuine Communist/Stalinist place on earth." Tudor, a correspondent in South Korea for the Economist, takes questions from people around the world and poses them to North Korean defectors. The questions cover topics not typically discussed elsewhere, issues that focus on ordinary life such as dress, propaganda, farming, love and plastic surgery.

Tudor adds a caveat in his introduction noting that the essay contributors, as defectors, were unhappy or disadvantaged enough to risk their lives to leave North Korea. Therefore, he points out, "their views may not always be representative of the general North Korean population." Still, the essay writers are diverse, offering glimpses of life in major cities, including Pyongyang, as well as more rural farming regions, and providing perspectives both male and female and of varying ages and statuses. 

Even with the variety of contributors, the overall impressions of North Korea don't differ wildly. Common themes run through many of the stories, like limited travel, the emergence of a market economy and the prevalence of informers. Ji-min Kang expounds on the lack of trust in others while explaining life in Pyongyang: "I have a lot of friends around me now, something I could never really have in North Korea. There, it's very difficult to form proper relationships with other people--when I lived there we were prohibited from privately meeting with more than five people and were under a surveillance system that made us monitor even our closest friends."

Mina Yoon's response is similar when focusing on the question, "Do North Koreans really believe the government's propaganda?" She explains, "In North Korea it is very hard to know what others are really thinking. Because of the strict regulations on speech, people cannot openly exchange their opinions with others." These underlying commonalities influence what North Koreans wear, how they consume media, even their adherence to funeral customs.

The range of subjects covered in Ask a North Korean is fascinating, allowing the reader to understand citizens of this shielded country. Simultaneously, the essays are unnerving, given conflicted views of the press and freedom of speech around the world, not just in North Korea. It's a stark reminder of how valuable these rights are and how easy it is to take them for granted.

The book's color photos complement the essays and help ground the more abstract ideas. Ask a North Korean is an informative and intriguing collection, offering a light into what is for most a dark tunnel. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Shelf Talker: North Korean defectors respond to questions about living in the secretive half of the Korean Peninsula.

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