Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 16, 2018

William Morrow & Company: The Midnight Feast by Lucy Foley

Shadow Mountain: The Witch in the Woods: Volume 1 (Grimmworld) by Michaelbrent Collings

Hell's Hundred: Blood Like Mine by Stuart Neville

Delacorte Press: Last One to Die by Cynthia Murphy

Margaret Ferguson Books: Not a Smiley Guy by Polly Horvath, Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Indiana University Press: The Grim Reader: A Pharmacist's Guide to Putting Your Characters in Peril by Miffie Seideman

St. Martin's Press: Lenny Marks Gets Away with Murder by Kerryn Mayne


PNBA Creates Event Code of Conduct

Inspired by the #MeToo movement and aiming to provide "a harassment-free experience" for all attendees at its events, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association has created an Event Code of Conduct that will be displayed prominently at official PNBA gatherings, in the footer on every page of and among the category headers on the trade show webpage.

PNBA is among the first bookseller organizations in the country to issue such a code. The Southern California Independent Booksellers Association and BookExpo have codes of conduct, and the American Booksellers Association is creating a code of conduct for its meetings.

PNBA gave special thanks to Elly Blue, Microcosm Publishing, "for inspiration and resources, and to education committee member James Crossley, Island Books, for additional research and the document's initial, spot-on, draft."

PNBA's Code of Conduct, in its entirety:

The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association is an organization inclusive of all peoples, regardless of age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity. As such, we take safety and anti-harassment policies very seriously. All participants at PNBA events are required to adhere to PNBA's code of conduct, as described below. This includes booksellers, librarians, exhibitors, guests, sponsors, volunteers, and all affiliated attendees.

PNBA is dedicated to providing a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, ethnicity, or religion (or lack thereof). We do not tolerate harassing behavior. Event participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled at the discretion of PNBA organizers.

PNBA expects all participants to follow established rules throughout official event offerings and related social events.

Prohibitive behavior includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, ethnicity, and religion; deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, sustained disruption of talks or other events; unwelcome photography or recording, physical contact, or sexual attention.

Vendors, presenters, sponsors, and related guests are all subject to the anti-harassment policy. While PNBA is committed to freedom of speech and expression, including open discussion of sexuality, prurient sexual imagery or language should not be a primary emphasis during presentations or when promoting products for distribution or sale. Similarly, the use of discriminatory language may be permissible, but only in the context of respectful discussion about associated topics.

Participants asked to cease any of the above described harassing behaviors are expected to comply immediately and may be expelled from a PNBA event, without refund, at the discretion of the organizers. Offenders also risk having PNBA membership and future participation privileges revoked.

If you are being harassed, observe someone else being harassed, or have concerns, please notify PNBA event organizers immediately. We will be happy to assist with immediate intervention or escort and, when necessary, by contacting venue security or local law enforcement. We value your attendance and your well-being.

Be Excellent to Each Other.

Harper: Our Kind of Game by Johanna Copeland

B&N Stock Jumps as It Predicts Growth, Maintains Dividend

After the stock market closed Wednesday, Barnes & Noble announced it is maintaining its 15-cent dividend this quarter and expects consolidated EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) for the next fiscal year to be in a range of $175 million-$200 million, substantially above consensus estimates of about $145 million. It said the gain would come "through improved sales trends and expense reductions."

Wall Street liked the news: yesterday shares of B&N rose 7.5%, to $5.15 a share, its highest level in two months.

At its recent share price of about $4.80, the 60-cent-a-year dividend represents a yield of more than 12%, a very high level and usually a sign that investors don't believe the dividend can be maintained for long. The 15-cent dividend will be paid on April 27 to stockholders of record on April 6.

Chronicle Books: Life Wants You Dead: A Calm, Rational, and Totally Legit Guide to Scaring Yourself Safe by Evan Waite, Illustrated by Paula Searing

Amazon Books to Open in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

Los Angeles will get its second Amazon Books location, on Swarthmore Avenue in Pacific Palisades, where a new village center is in the works. The Los Angeles Times reported that shopping center mogul Rick Caruso "envisions the $200-million redevelopment known as Palisades Village as more of a walkable Main Street." The company also operates a store in the Westfield Century City shopping center.

The bookstore is set to open with the rest of Palisades Village on September 22, according to Cameron Janes, v-p of Amazon Books. "We created Amazon Books to be a place where customers discover books and devices they'll love," he said, adding that company data shows Pacific Palisades is "in an area that we know is full of readers."

Developer Caruso said his goal is to create a range of dining and shopping options for people in a quaint commercial district with the flavor of an old resort town. He began choosing tenants after holding public meetings to see what the neighbors wanted. "Localism is a huge trend in retail right now," he said. "People want something close to home that serves them."

GLOW: Tundra Books: We Are Definitely Human by X. Fang

Southland Books Facing Cleanup After Nearby Fire

Southland Books & Café, Maryville, Tenn., faced a challenging cleanup effort after a fire yesterday at another business in its building "left a mess behind to clean up," WBIR reported.

In a call for help on its Facebook page, Southland posted: "As you may know by now, we've had a rough day at Southland Books & Cafe. There was a fire in the woodworking shop on the rear lower level of the building this morning. EVERYONE is OK, and there is no fire damage to the bookstore and cafe. If you're available on Friday, March 16th, we'd like to invite you to a 'cleaning party' at the bookstore--1505 E. Broadway Ave. in Little Five Points--Maryville! The store smells like smoke, and there's a layer of soot covering everything. Please bring friends, cleaning products, towels, paper towels, cleaning supplies, Endust, Pledge, etc.! We'll supply pizza and water."

Harper: Sandwich by Catherine Newman

China's First 24-Hour, Employee-Less Bookstore Opens in Beijing

Chinese bookstore chain Xinhua has opened the country's first employee-less, 24-hour bookstore, in Tongzhou, a district in southeast Beijing, and plans to open another 19 such stores in the city before the end of 2018, the Beijinger reported. The stores, part of the "Xinhua Lifestyle Store" brand, will be located near universities, government offices and shopping malls.

The fully automated bookshops require customers not only to register with their real names through WeChat, a messaging and social media app developed by Chinese software company Tencent, but also have their faces scanned before entering the store. And instead of having staff members on hand to recommend books, the stores will offer "precise and humanized" book suggestions based on customers' purchasing history.

The Tongzhou store is 30 square meters, or a little over 320 square feet, and located within the gigantic, 80,000-square-meter (approximately 860,000-square-foot) Beijing International Book Mall, which maintains normal business hours. The Beijinger noted that while the automated store is convenient, it has a small selection limited to bestsellers and is not frequently updated. It does, however, have a robot, with which customers can interact.

According to the Beijinger, Xinhua's new stores are part of a trend of both bookstores and staffless stores opening in Beijing: there are now at least five 24-hour bookstores in the Chinese capital, and automated convenience stores and supermarkets have proliferated, with many of those open 24 hours a day as well.

Thompson New Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society Press

Kate Thompson

has been named director of the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. She has been editor-in-chief and been with the press for 18 years as its acquisitions and senior editor. A native of Wisconsin, she worked for several presses in Minnesota, Maine and Massachusetts before returning to her home state in 1999. She also served for eight years on the board of the Wisconsin Center for the Book and is a board member of the Friends of the Middleton Public Library in Middleton, Wis.

The Press said she will "direct the ways that Press books bring the past, and unique Wisconsin stories, to general, academic, and educational audiences of all ages throughout Wisconsin, the Midwest, and the nation. Thompson will continue the Press's reputation for producing an award-winning list of publications with enduring historical and cultural value as part of the Wisconsin Historical Society's mission to collect, preserve, and share our history."


Bookshop Chalkboard of the Day: Square Books

In tribute to the late Dr. Stephen Hawking, who died Wednesday, Square Books, Oxford, Miss., shared a quotation from the legendary physicist on its sidewalk chalkboard:

"We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special."

'The 10 Most Famous Bookstores in the World'

To celebrate the 131st birthday of Sylvia Beach, "probably the most notorious bookstore owner in modern history" and founder of Shakespeare and Company in Paris, Lit Hub featured the "10 most famous bookstores in the world."

PRHPS to Distribute Nobrow/Flying Eye Books

Effective April 1, Nobrow/Flying Eye Books will be fully distributed for all North American sales by Penguin Random House Publisher Services.

Focusing on illustrated books with compelling stories, Nobrow and its children's book imprint, Flying Eye Books, have about 100 titles in print and publish 30-40 new titles a year. Its bestsellers include Shackleton's Journey, The Journey, the Professor Astro Cat series and the Hilda series.

CEO and founder Sam Arthur commented: "We are so excited to be working with our new colleagues at PRHPS and we hope this new partnership will make our growing list more widely available to our North American customers."

Personnel Changes at the University of Georgia Press

Steven Wallace has joined the University of Georgia Press as director of marketing and sales. He was formerly business development manager at New Leaf Distributing and earlier held senior sales and marketing roles in the Southeast at Random House and Unbridled Books.

Book Trailer of the Day: I Am Famous

I Am Famous by sisters Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff (Albert Whitman & Co.).

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Kory Stamper on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Kory Stamper, author of Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries (Vintage, $16.95, 9781101970263).

Food Network's the Kitchen: Elizabeth Heiskell, author of What Can I Bring? Southern Food for Any Occasion Life Serves Up (Oxmoor House, $30, 9780848754389).

TV: My Brilliant Friend

HBO has released the first images from My Brilliant Friend, the upcoming eight-episode series based on Elena Ferrante’s bestselling book. Deadline reported that "casting for the show took place over a period of eight months, with almost 9,000 children and 500 adults from all over Campania auditioning. Newcomers Elisa Del Genio and Ludovica Nasti were chosen for the lead roles of Elena and Lila as children, with Margherita Mazzucco and Gaia Girace in the teenage years."

Production is underway in Caserta, Italy, with Saverio Costanzo directing. Story and screenplays are by Elena Ferrante, Francesco Piccolo, Laura Paolucci and Saverio Costanzo.

Books & Authors

Awards: NBCC Winners; CILIP Carnegie, Kate Greenaway

Winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards, which were announced last night in New York City, are:

Fiction: Improvement by Joan Silber (Counterpoint)
Nonfiction: The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances FitzGerald (S&S)
Poetry: Whereas by Layli Long Soldier (Graywolf)
Biography: Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (Metropolitan Books)
Autobiography: Nine Continents: A Memoir In and Out of China by Xiaolu Guo (Grove)
Criticism: You Play The Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Trainwrecks, & Other Mixed Messages by Carina Chocano (Mariner)

The John Leonard Prize was presented to Carmen Maria Machado for Her Body and Other Parties (Graywolf); the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing to Charles Finch; and the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award to John McPhee.


The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals released shortlists for the Carnegie Medal (author of a book for children & young people) and Kate Greenaway Medal (illustrator). Winners will each receive £500 (about $700) worth of books to donate to their local library, a specially commissioned golden medal and a £5,000 (about $6,970) Colin Mears Award cash prize. The winners will be named June 18. This year's shortlisted titles are:

CILIP Carnegie
Wed Wabbit by Lissa
After the Fire by Will Hill
Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean
Rook by Anthony McGowan
Release by Patrick Ness
Saint Death by Marcus
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

CILIP Kate Greenaway
King of the Sky, illustrated by Laura Carlin and written by Nicola Davies
Night Shift, illustrated and written by Debi Gliori
A First Book of Animals, illustrated by Petr Horáček and written by Nicola Davies
The Song from Somewhere Else, illustrated by Levi Pinfold and written by A.F. Harrold
Town Is by the Sea, illustrated by Sydney Smith and written by Joanne Schwartz (Walker Books)
Thornhill, illustrated and written by Pam Smy
Under the Same Sky, illustrated and written by Britta Teckentrup (Little Tiger)

At the ceremony in June, one title from each shortlist will also be named the recipient of the Amnesty CILIP Honor, which is awarded "to the books that most distinctively illuminate, uphold or celebrate human rights." The honor aims to increase awareness of how great children's books encourage empathy and broaden horizons. 

Reading with... Anthony Grooms

photo: JD Scott

Tender storytelling has been a prevailing characteristic of Anthony Grooms's fiction as he focuses on the African American social struggles of Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement. He is the author of Trouble No More and Bombingham. Ron Rash said that Grooms's new novel, The Vain Conversation (Story River Books/Univ. of South Carolina, March 1, 2018), "achieves what only the best literature can give us. When we finish the last page, the book is not finished with us. It will haunt us."

On your nightstand now:

I don't read in bed so there are no books on my nightstand. But in my basement, beside my old leather chair on a stool my wife bought in Ghana, is a tall stack. As for fiction, I finished Gray Stewart's Haylow, a poignant satire about a white professor at a black college, and Elnathan John's Born on a Tuesday, about a young Muslim man's coming-of-age in Nigeria. I also loved John Holman's Triangle Ray, a witty character study set in Raleigh, and Andrew Plattner's Offerings from a Rust Belt Jockey, about a down-and-out jockey.

As for nonfiction, there is Walter Biggins and Daniel Couch's Bob Mould's Workbook about the Hüsker Dü guitarist, and Journeys Within: The Contemporary Spiritual Autobiography by Kerstin W. Shands. I am enjoying the chapter on near death experiences. I just added Ruth C. Yow's Students of the Dream. I am interested to learn more about re-segregation in schools near my home. And I'm looking forward to adding Tayari Jones's novel An American Marriage to the stack.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was a science nerd. I carried Dorothy Bennett's Golden Encyclopedia everywhere. I would have it today, if it hadn't burned in a house fire.

Your top five authors:

Oh, this seems too much like asking for trouble. Whenever you have a favorite author, he or she somehow disappoints you. Rather, I have favorite pieces, like Carl Sandburg's "Chicago." It was my first literary a-ha. There're also James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time for its articulation of race in America; Ernest Hemingway's "Soldier's Home" and Audre Lorde's "Power," both influential on my own writing. And though it does not exhaust the list, let's throw in H. Rider Haggard's She and Allan. It's largely imperialistic adventure, but has moments of surprising spiritual depth. But ask me this question again tomorrow.

Book you've faked reading:

Like so many others, the Bible.

Book you're an evangelist for:

As of late, Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow. As a black American, most of what she says is familiar to me. But she builds an articulate and alarming case for the drug war as a race control system.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Like the way I buy wine? Probably the sci-fi books I read as a kid. I am still attracted to a cover with a rocket ship or alien planet on the cover.

Book you hid from your parents:

My parents encouraged reading. My mother even left the medical encyclopedia for me to find. Easier than explaining the birds and the bees! I was out of the house by the time I was reading Playboy--so there was no suppression of literature where I grew up.

Book that changed your life:

Every good book does in some way. I recall, when I was about 10, being astonished by Carl Sandburg's "Chicago." I couldn't make out that it was a poem since it wasn't the doggerel I was used to. In it, I discovered a dynamism in language that was fascinating and beautiful. I had composed poems before that moment, but then, a door opened to the complex wonder of language. Another impactful read was Huston Diehl's Dream Not of Other Worlds. It is about school segregation in the county I grew up in. It explained to me a lot about my parents.

Favorite line from a book:

"Welcome again, my children, to the communion of your race" is what the Devil says to Young Goodman Brown in the Hawthorne story. It is the way I greet my writing students. They don't always get the meaning.

Five books you'll never part with:

I have tried this kind of experiment when trying to downsize the bookshelf. It's an impossible thing to decide. One day I'll just get rid of them all and start over again. At this moment, I am thinking: Whitman's Leaves of Grass--it's great for reading out loud, sonorously. Burnham's Celestial Handbook--it's terribly out of date, but filled with interesting star facts. The Daybooks of Edward Weston--I read it like a psalter (though I keep it in the toilet). A book of Mark Rothko's paintings. And a tattered copy of the Colonial Williamsburg Official Guidebook--to remind me of my college days.

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

I think John Christopher's The White Mountains, the first in the Tripods trilogy. It was the first book I read in one sitting.

Topics are you most passionate about:

I take an interest in many things, but certain themes almost always bring tears to my eyes. One is social struggle. It's likely because I grew up in de facto segregation and witnessed its degradation on my family that any story, regardless of when or where, of social struggle gets my blood boiling. But I am also moved by stories of alienation. Especially stories about people who witness something extraordinary--an epiphany, a UFO, a ghost--that sets them apart from their communities. Such stories remind me that the universe is a mysterious place and each of us is on a personal adventure in it.

Book Review

Review: The Overstory

The Overstory by Richard Powers (W.W. Norton, $27.95 hardcover, 512p., 9780393635522, April 3, 2018)

You'll never look at a tree in the same way again after reading Richard Powers's novel The Overstory. National Book Award-winner Powers skillfully interrogates a vital issue--the wanton destruction of our natural environment--without losing sight of the intimate human dimension of the story that's always the true subject matter of any great novelist.

In novels like The Echo Maker and Orfeo, Powers eagerly tackles complex topics in an innovative style, and he displays the same talent here. Before expertly intertwining the lives of his principal characters, he devotes a short story-like chapter to each one, explaining how all, in some way, have an unusual relationship to trees. Nicholas Hoel, for example, is a descendant of a man who launched a 100-year time-lapse photography project of a single Iowa chestnut tree, the "redwood of the East," now nearly extinct. Adam Appich is a member of a family that plants a different species of tree with the birth of each child. Neelay Mehta--the designer of a computer game that evolves over two decades into an online role-playing colossus--draws inspiration from the trees on the Stanford campus. By the end of the novel's first third, it's clear the lives of these characters must come together, but not at all apparent how that will occur.

That intersection involves protests around clear-cutting of public lands, first in California and then at a site in the Pacific Northwest a group of protestors have named "The Free Bioregion of Cascadia." Nicholas and Olivia Vandergriff, a college dropout, rename themselves "Watchman" and "Maidenhair," and take up residence high in a 200-foot-tall redwood. Their fellow demonstrators engage in other acts of civil disobedience. But when those steps, buttressed by litigation, prove fruitless, Nicholas, Olivia, Adam and others initiate more dramatic action, with disastrous consequences. At the heart of all this lies a provocative question: What causes some otherwise law-abiding people, possessed of the most benevolent intentions, to cross the line that separates passionate activism from terrorism?

Powers's writing about "noisy aspens and remnant birches, forests of cottonwoods and poplars" is as luxuriant as the hundreds of species he celebrates--from the forests of Washington State to the Amazon jungle--that feel as much characters in this novel as any human. Through Patricia Westerford, a research scientist, he even introduces the lovely notion that trees create their version of society, communicating with each other through underground networks of fungi.

Powers makes no secret that his sympathies lie with those trying to halt the destruction of old growth timber, a process one character likens to "burning down the library, art museum, pharmacy, and hall of records, all at once." But he does so with deep sensitivity, not dogmatism, and with a clear-eyed recognition that sometimes advocacy and zealotry tragically become one. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: In a novel about the fight to save ancient forests, Richard Powers ponders the limits of environmental activism.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Bullet Points & Robot Booksellers--A Collage

  • "Late night shoppers looking with a need to buy books will have their very specific conditions met in Beijing as 20 new staffless bookstores that will operate 24 hours a day are expected to open throughout the city this year.... Like other staffless stores, the 'Xinhua Lifestyle Store' requires all customers to register their real names using their WeChat accounts and have their faces scanned before entering. And because the store has access to all their users' purchasing information, it can offer 'precise and humanized' book suggestions to all of its customers."
  • "The 10,000 square foot store on M Street Northwest, which opened March 13, is a bookstore the way Walgreens is a pharmacy: Sure, you can get drugs there, but the real draw is everything else. At Amazon Books, that everything else could be a juicer, an espresso machine, a Vitamix or one of a slew of voice-controlled Echo gadgets. Retail consultants might call the merchandise mix unfocused. Mariana Garavaglia, Amazon's head of store management and operations, calls it 'holistic.' "
  • "[W]e shouldn't only be asking ourselves, 'Can we build it?' But we should also be asking ourselves, 'What idea of the human do we want to have reflected back to us?' "
  • "Boston will win Amazon's second headquarters, according to an artificial intelligence system developed by Wells Fargo Securities. The bank's stock-picking robot, called Aiera, thinks the city is the likely choice to host HQ2."
  • "Amazon plans to open its first Missouri fulfillment center, in St. Peters, near St. Louis; the center will employ more than 1,500 people who will have 'opportunities to engage with Amazon Robotics in a highly technological workplace,' the company said."
  • "Imagine robots working for a few years as bookstore clerks until they finish their novels and become robot authors."
  • "Fabio, the Pepper robot, who was deployed as a retail assistant at the upmarket store Margiotta in Edinburgh, Scotland, was let go after only a week at the job after it was found that the robot was confusing the patrons, who preferred assistance from its human colleagues."
  • "The key to integrating these technologies successfully is to break down each role's workflow and look for automation opportunities. Jobs that have elements of retrieving information, scheduling, and calculating numbers lend themselves to being enhanced by automation. By taking those tasks out of the workday, employees can spend more time on activities that are harder to automate, such as interacting with people..."
  • "In retail and, specifically, the supply chain, we're seeing a lot of automation, and I can envisage some of the job titles will have 'hologram' in them. Head of hologram services, or anything to do with robotics."
  • "The bookshop of the future, therefore, needs to be an experiential hub for all things literary. It needs to be a place where writers can talk with and meet their readers. It needs to be a physically engaging place in which readers can drink tea or eat while browsing.... Curation is key.... Trust, an increasingly scarce resource in today's world, is essential. Trust trumps price. It's the essential commodity for the book retailer of the future."
  • "[T]he problem of automation isn't automation, but as ever, it's us."
--Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives at Fresh Eyes Now)

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