Shelf Awareness for Thursday, April 19, 2018


Scholastic Press: The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad

Scholastic Press: The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad

DC Comics: Aquaman Vol. 1: Unspoken Water by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Robson Rocha

Sourcebooks Fire: I'm Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

DC Comics: The Green Lantern Vol. 1: Intergalactic Lawman by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Liam Sharp

Forge Books: Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

Quotation of the Day

'There's No Serendipity Online'

"Machines remain really bad at giving us a good discovery experience. The most sophisticated engines of personalization in the world are bad at finding us products that we don't know we want. They're good at helping us find things we absolutely know we want, and we know how to describe, but they're terrible at finding us those serendipitous discoveries, and human beings remain much better at that. It's why browsing a bookshop is so much a nicer experience if you don't know what you want, than browsing an online store. There's no serendipity online."

--Tom Cheesewright, an applied futurist, replying to the Bookseller's question: "If we're all reading e-books, is there still a place for bookshops?"

MPIBA: Publishers, promote your books to hundreds of thousands of consumers - Reserve space in the 2019 holiday gift guide (print & digital catalogs)


News

Bay Books Opening in May in Michigan

Bay Books, a general-interest bookstore, will open late in May in Suttons Bay, Mich., Bookselling This Week reported.

Owner Tina Greene-Bevington aims to make the 650-square-foot store a cultural gathering for the town, which is on Lake Michigan and has 5,000 year-round residents and many more summer tourists.

"It will be a small indie bookstore where people can come and browse or read or maybe have a cup of tea or coffee and just feel comfortable," she told BTW. "We want to provide a warm, inviting environment where people can read and also gather as a community. In the nicer months we'll have outdoor seating and set out water for dogs walking by. I like to garden, so we'll also have flowers and flower beds that catch your eye and bring people in."

Bay Books will offer general titles, children's literature, regional titles and books on food and wine (there are many vineyards in the area), plus some used books and sidelines like gifts and cards.

Greene-Bevington retired after a career working in education administration and teaching graduate classes in math and science as well as working in public relations at Proctor & Gamble. She also has a culinary arts degree, works occasionally as a personal chef, and had a business teaching cooking courses and hosting wine-tasting dinners.

Bay Books is located at 419 N. Saint Joseph St., Suttons Bay, Mich. 49682; 231-944-6809.


Abbeville Kids: Women's World Cup 2019 and Stars of Women's Soccer by Illugi Jokulsson


Indie Publisher Opens Bookstore in Ohio

KiCam Projects, a publisher in Georgetown, Ohio, has opened a bookstore in nearby Mount Orab, Ohio, that will feature KiCam's inspirational books, gift books by other publishers as well as many gifts. KiCam Books & Gifts aims to serve "suburban and rural readers on the outskirts of the Cincinnati area."

The 1,100-square-foot store will celebrate its grand opening on May 12 with a signing by Kilee Brookbank, author of Digger the Hero Dog.

"We're thrilled to have the opportunity to connect with local readers and to create a gathering place for book lovers," said KiCam Projects publisher Lori Highlander. "We're opening in an area that's rapidly changing and growing, and we envision our store as a hub for the community."

Founded in 2015, KiCam Projects publishes "true stories of survival and recovery--from illness, addiction, tragedy, or other challenges--that will inspire and empower audiences." It has published 16 titles.


Soho Crime: The Second Biggest Nothing (Dr. Siri Paiboun Mystery #14) by Colin Cotterill


Sidelines Snapshot: Pop Rocks, Stationery, Cards and Slime

At Maria's Bookshop in Durango, Colo., children's and sidelines buyer Julie Shimada reported that sidelines account for about 25% of the store's sales, and between 2013 and 2017 that number increased by 5%. For the past couple of years, the store's number-one sidelines seller has been Pop Rocks candy, which Maria's Bookshop keeps on the front counter along with a variety of other impulse items, including Break Your Own Geodes kits, buttons and smudge kits from a company called Ark Made in Sante Fe, N.Mex. Like many indies around the country, Maria's Bookshop does a brisk business in socks, with oven mitts from Blue Q and dish towels from Kei & Molly Textiles, based in Albuquerque, also popular. For plush toys, Shimada said that Maria's bestselling line comes from Douglas Co.

Shimada has been pleasantly surprised by the continued growth in journals, box stationery as well as engagement calendars and date books. She added that anything slime-related, including Unicorn Poop Slime and glow-in-the-dark Mars Mud from Toysmith, have been unexpectedly persistent. In terms of new sideline offerings, Shimada said she was "feeling good" about the game Mobi, which she described as like Bananagrams but with math and equations. Other promising games and toys are STEM toys from Professor Puzzle, Plus Plus Blocks and jigsaw puzzles from Pomegranate and White Mountain Puzzle.

Jessilynn Norcross, co-owner of McLean and Eakin in Petoskey, Mich., said that since a Hallmark store closed in downtown Petoskey, her store has become an increasingly important destination for people looking for cards. Among some of her favorite companies for greeting and note cards are E. Frances--which feature beautiful watercolor images and heavy-duty card stock at a "really nice" price--Roger la Borde and Rifle Paper Co. In addition to cards, Roger la Borde makes "super cool" journals that have full-color illustrations and colored pages throughout at a reasonable price of $12.95. Rifle, meanwhile, makes not only high-quality paper products but has also worked with publishers to design "beautiful book covers" for a variety of classic books like The Secret Garden and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Seven Year Pens made by Seltzer Goods are among McLean and Eakin's most consistent sellers. Norcross explained that its tag line is that each pen contains enough ink to write 1.7 meters per day for seven years. They cost $8 and come in a variety of designs; she reported that some customers collect the different versions. After a hiatus of about three years, McLean and Eakin is once again selling globes. Norcross carries globes only from Replogle, which come in a variety of sizes, from those meant to fit on a desk to floor models that cost as much $300. Norcross noted that magnetic bookmarks, especially i-Clips from Peter Pauper Press and Mr. Fox and Friends from Galison, have also become popular again.

In Cohasset, Mass., Buttonwood Books & Toys has seen a "ton of growth" over the past five years in the gift category. Co-owner and toy and gift buyer Kathy Detwiler said that among the store's most popular nonbook items during that time are thermal drink holders made by Swig--from insulated water bottles and hot drink holders to stemless wine glasses and champagne flutes--and cooler, diaper and picnic bags from Scout. In the past few years, Buttonwood has also begun carrying more lines of jewelry. Detwiler said rings and bracelets from Pura Vida sell well with all ages, and she displays them at the cash wrap. Other popular apparel includes scarves and bags made by Joy Susan.

As for toys, puzzles and games, Detwiler said she can't believe how well Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty continues to sell--every other month she orders from them in big quantities, with no sign of the craze slowing. Buttonwood has had success with a variety of games, including brain games and logic puzzles made by Thinkfun and the games Itzi and Slapzi by Carma Games. And while jigsaw puzzles are perennial favorites, Detwiler said they've done especially well this year with the many nor'easters that have hit New England. Popular lines include Ravensburger, Springbok, Pomegranate and Mudpuppy, which are designed for kids and small enough to fit on airplane trays. Detwiler added that classic board games like Monopoly and Clue always prove popular. --Alex Mutter


Obituary Note: Gerald Nachman

Gerald Nachman, author, former San Francisco Chronicle columnist and theater critic, and occasional lyricist who "elevated his subject matter, especially the arts, by humbling himself before it," died April 14. He was 80. Nachman's "exhaustively researched books, Raised on Radio and Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s, remain oft-cited sources," the Chronicle reported.

His other books include Right Here on Our Stage Tonight!: Ed Sullivan's America; The Fragile Bachelor: Perilous Adventures in the Single Life; and Out on a Whim: Some Very Close Brushes with Life.

"When Nachman loved something, it left a mark on him--an imprint he endeavored to stamp, in turn, on his readers," the Chronicle wrote. "Or as he put it, in the introduction to his Showstoppers! The Surprising Backstage Stories of Broadway’s Most Remarkable Songs, after some particularly 'indelible' numbers, 'musicals were not the same, and neither were we.' "


Notes

Image of the Day: Lots of Love and Ruin

Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun, visited the Penguin Random House warehouse in Westminster, Md., to sign copies of her new novel, Love and Ruin, about the stormy relationship between Ernest Hemingway and his third wife, renowned war correspondent Martha Gellhorn, due out May 1.


Conversation with Literati Bookstore's John Ganiard

John Ganiard, events manager at Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Mich., spoke with All About Ann Arbor to share "exactly how he manages to do all he does for the store." Among our favorite exchanges:

What led to you getting the job as events manager at Literati? Had you had prior professional experience in either events or in the book publishing world? Both?
When Literati opened in 2013, Mike and Hilary, Literati's owners, had a hand not only in all the day-to-day operations of the store but in all the things they wanted Literati to feature, hosting and personally running author events included. That was a lot for two people, in the first year of running a business. But from our initial bookselling staff, many of whom had actual bookstore experience (I did not), a lot of core roles developed naturally. (Where would the store have been in those early days without its Borders veterans? Way more stressed out!)

I was working as a part-time bookseller, finishing up my MFA at the Helen Zell Writers' Program up the road, and deciding whether or not to move out of state. I offered to help out with events, and it grew from there. I had experience speaking in front of groups of people, that was maybe the start and finish of my pitch at the time. Publishing is another big, wonderful world and I'm still learning about it five years in.

I watched The Literati Story and absolutely loved it. Mike mentions that you write the best author introductions at these events. Can you talk about your process in drafting those? Do you have a writing process that you'd care to share? For instance, are you re-writing right up until the moment of the event, or does it all flow naturally?
That was very kind of Mike. It is maybe a given that people generally read to feel a personal relationship with a book, and that that, over many other forms of reading, is just the standard reception of a book in the world--people's emotional or personal bond to it. We try to write introductions (I say "we" because other booksellers, and former booksellers, I want to point out, have routinely introduced authors, as well, and have written just amazing, lovely introductions) that explore that bond. As a store, we want to be always mindful of the power of that connection, which the book itself is forming between an author and a reader. So that's maybe kind of a highfalutin explanation. I personally just want them to be a little more than procedural, to be a useful and considerate bridge to the book and the author that you can walk over and then sort of forget about! The author is going to be a lot more exciting; they're who you came to hear. I'll usually print out the introduction and then proceed to cross out about 30% of it, thinking, "this is embarrassing, what am I doing, who do I think I am?" I don't know if that's more or less effective than any other of the standard revision methods.


Personnel Changes at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

In the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt sales department:
 
Colleen Murphy has been promoted to v-p, special markets, mass market sales, and product development. She was previously executive director, mass market/specialty retail channels.

Ed Spade has been appointed director, digital sales, strategy and business development. He was previously director, digital sales and strategy.

James Phirman has been promoted to national accounts director, mass market. He was previously national accounts manager.

Jaclyn Sassa has been promoted to associate sales representative. She was previously lead sales coordinator.



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Siri Daly on Today

Tomorrow:
Today Show: Siri Daly, author of Siriously Delicious: 100 Nutritious (and Not so Nutritious) Simple Recipes for the Real Home Cook (Oxmoor House, $26.99, 9780848755805).


This Weekend on Book TV: The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, April 21
1 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Live coverage from the 23rd annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Highlights include:

  • 1 p.m. Open phones with Jorge Ramos, author of Stranger: The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era (Vintage, $15, 9780525563792).
  • 1:30 p.m. A discussion on American culture with Caroline Fraser, author of Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Metropolitan Books, $35, 9781627792769), Dan Kois and Isaac Butler, authors of The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America (Bloomsbury, $30, 9781635571769), and Vanda Krefft, author of The Man Who Made the Movies: The Meteoric Rise and Tragic Fall of William Fox (Harper, $40, 9780061136061).
  • 2:30 p.m. Open phones with Tim O'Reilly, author of WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us (HarperBusiness, $32.99, 9780062565716).
  • 3 p.m. A discussion on biography with Jonathan Eig, author of Ali: A Life (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 978054443524), John A. Farrell, author of Richard Nixon: The Life (Vintage, $19, 9780345804969), Andrea Barnet, author of Visionary Women: How Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall, and Alice Waters Changed Our World (Ecco, $29.99, 9780062310729), and Adam Federman, author of Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray (Chelsea Green, $25, 9781603586085).
  • 4 p.m. Open phones with Adam Winkler, author of We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights (Liveright, $28.95, 9780871407122).
  • 4:30 p.m. A discussion on the Trump administration with Steve Almond, author of Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country (Red Hen Press, $16.95, 9781597092265), David Cay Johnston, author of It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781501174162), and Sarah Kendzior, author of The View from Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America (Flatiron, $12.99, 9781250189998).
  • 5:30 p.m. Open phones with the panel above.
  • 6 p.m. A discussion on labor with Susan Marquis, author of I Am Not a Tractor!: How Florida Farmworkers Took On the Fast Food Giants and Won (ILR Press, $29.95, 9781501713088), Rick Wartzman, author of The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America (PublicAffairs, $30, 9781586489144), David Webber, author of The Rise of the Working-Class Shareholder: Labor's Last Best Weapon (Harvard University Press, $35, 9780674972131), and Bernice Yeung, author of In a Day’s Work: The Fight to End Sexual Violence Against America's Most Vulnerable Workers (The New Press, $25.99, 9781620973158).
  • 7 p.m. Open phones with Sarah Kendzior, author of The View from Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America (Flatiron, $12.99, 9781250189998).
  • 7:30 p.m. A discussion on civic engagement with Susan Burton, co-author of Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women (The New Press, $25.95, 9781620972120), Scott Martelle, author of Detroit: A Biography (Chicago Review Press, $16.95, 9781613748848), Ashley Farmer, author of Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era (University of North Carolina Press, $29.95, 9781469634371), and Nadine Strossen, author of Hate: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship (Oxford University Press, $24.95, 9780190859121).

Sunday, April 22
1:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Continuing live coverage of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Highlights include:

  • 1:30 p.m. A discussion on the legacy of slavery in the U.S. with Ethan Kytle and Blain Roberts, authors of Denmark Vesey's Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy (The New Press, $28.99, 9781620973653), and Kendra Field, author of Growing Up with the Country: Family, Race, and Nation after the Civil War (Yale University Press, $38, 9780300180527).
  • 2:30 p.m. Open phones with Khaled A. Beydoun, author of American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear (University of California Press, $26.95, 9780520297791).
  • 3 p.m. A discussion on immigrants with Alberto Ledesma, author of Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer: Undocumented Vignettes from a Pre-American Life (Mad Creek Books, $17.95, 9780814254400), Lauren Markham, author of The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life (Crown, $27, 9781101906187), and Sasha Polakow-Suransky, author of Go Back to Where You Came From: The Backlash Against Immigration and the Fate of Western Democracy (Nation Books, $30, 9781568585925).
  • 4 p.m. Open phones with Patrisse Khan-Cullors, co-author of When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir (St. Martin's Press, $24.99, 9781250171085).
  • 4:30 p.m. A discussion on U.S. history with Howard Blum, author of In the Enemy's House: The Secret Saga of the FBI Agent and the Code Breaker Who Caught the Russian Spies (Harper, $29.99, 9780062458247), Yunte Huang, author of Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History (Liveright, $28.95, 9780871404473), Steven Ross, author of Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America (Bloomsbury, $30, 9781620405628), and Deanne Stillman, author of Blood Brothers: The Story of the Strange Friendship between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781476773520).
  • 5:30 p.m. Open phones with David Corn, co-author of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump (Twelve, $30, 9781538728758).
  • 6 p.m. Reza Aslan, author of God: A Human History (Random House, $28, 9780553394726).
  • 7 p.m. Open phones with Roger L. Simon, author of I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn't Already (Encounter Books, $25.99, 9781594038051).

8 p.m. A roundtable discussion on the impact of James Comey's book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership (Flatiron, $29.99, 9781250192455).


Books & Authors

Awards: Walter Scott Historical Fiction; Ondaatje

The shortlist for this year's £25,000 (about $35,490) Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction is:

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Sugar Money by Jane Harris
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 shortlist for the £10,000 (about $14,200) Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, for a work that evokes "the spirit of a place" and written by someone who is a citizen of or has been a resident in the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland, is:

The Epic City by Kushanava Choudhury
Once Upon a Time in the East by Xiaolu Guo
Peculiar Ground by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Border by Kapka Kassabova
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
Mama Amazonica by Pascale Petit


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, April 24:

The Hellfire Club by Jake Tapper (Little, Brown, $27, 9780316472319) is a political thriller by CNN's chief Washington correspondent.

Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling by Amy Chozick (Harper, $27.99, 9780062413598) is a journalist's experiences covering Clinton's campaigns.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil (Crown, $26, 9780451495327) is the memoir of a refugee who fled the Rwandan genocide at age six.

Waste of Space by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster, $16.99, 9781481477796) concludes the Moon Base Alpha series.

Inferno by Julie Kagawa (Harlequin Teen, $18.99, 9781335017260) is the fifth and final Talon Saga book.

The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity by Byron Reese (Atria, $27, 9781501158568) explores the future impacts of AI and robotics.

Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering by Joanna Gaines and Marah Stets (Morrow, $29.99, 9780062820150) is a cookbook by a co-host of HGTV's Fixer Upper.

Movies:
Disobedience, based on the novel by Naomi Alderman, opens April 27. Rachel McAdams stars as an Orthodox Jewish woman who returns to a community that once shunned her.

Backstabbing for Beginners, based on the memoir by Michael Soussan, opens April 27. Theo James stars as a UN programming coordinator who uncovers a conspiracy surrounding Iraq's oil reserves. A movie tie-in edition (Nation Books, $16.99, 9781568588629) is available.


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover
Wade in the Water: Poems by Tracy K. Smith (Graywolf Press, $24, 9781555978136). "In Wade in the Water, Smith masterfully makes herself into a medium through which the voices of other (forgotten) people can become poetry. 'I Will Tell You the Truth About This…' is a haunting and beautiful poem written using the letters and statements of African-Americans who enlisted as soldiers in the Civil War. Here, Smith is simultaneously the declarer and the creator of a space wherein others may be given room to declare. It is this balancing act that brings out the heart and beauty of Wade in the Water. The impersonal is made intimate, the world is made individual, and through it all, Smith guides us with true poetic sense. Wade in the Water is a necessary, beautiful book!" --Eli Sorich, Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Minneapolis, Minn.

The Italian Party: A Novel by Christina Lynch (St. Martin's Press, $25.99, 9781250147837). "Chris Pavone's The Expats meets Amor Towles' A Gentleman in Moscow in this delightful novel. Scottie and Michael Messina are newlyweds when they arrive in Italy in April of 1956, where Michael is supposed to head up a new division of Ford. There is so much unknown between any typical pair of newlyweds, but Michael and Scottie harbor deeper secrets from each other, among them Michael's true occupation as a spy for the American government. Lynch evokes the period of the 1950s--Betty Crocker, Wonder Bread, and an entrenched distrust of Communism--in a story that froths with gossip and is sweetened by intrigue, stirred with the complex history of Italian and American relations. Delicious and positively drinkable." --Becky Petterson, Bloomsbury Books, Ashland, Ore.

Paperback
Blue Self-Portrait by Noémi Lefebvre, translated by Sophie Lewis (Transit Books, $15.95, 9781945492105). "I'm not sure I can prepare you for this book. I thought I knew what I was getting into, and a mere 140 pages later I landed on a different continent altogether. Noémi Lefebvre has produced a riveting story in Blue Self-Portrait, one that investigates the many variations of a thought, of a memory. Our narrator looks at her exchange with a pianist from every possible vantage point, arriving at both confusion and conclusion within the same second. Lefebvre is a master of the sentence, and some of these passages unfurl with all the introspection and music of Marcel Proust. Sophie Lewis' translation is a most welcome import into our canon that will be appreciated for its poetry and its audacity." --John Gibbs, Green Apple Books on the Park, San Francisco, Calif.

For Ages 4 to 8
Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles by Patricia Valdez, illustrated by Felicita Sala (Knopf, $17.99, 9780399557255). "I'm not sure if I love the illustrations or the text more, but together they're utterly engrossing. I love this book! Such a wonderful story and so well done. Inspiring!" --Justus Joseph, Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash.

For Ages 9 to 12
Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake (Little, Brown, $16.99, 9780316515467). "Ivy Aberdeen has just suffered two huge losses: Her family's home has been destroyed by a tornado, and her secret notebook where she draws pictures of girls holding hands has vanished--only to reappear as pages left in her locker by a mysterious reader. It's not the best moment to get a crush on her new friend June, but Ivy perseveres through changing emotions and fears to figure out where she belongs in her world. Beautiful prose, characterization, and themes. Highly recommended!" --Cecilia Cackley, East City Bookshop, Washington, D.C.

For Teen Readers
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform, $17.99, 9781484728499). "In a world where people are born gray and sallow, only a Belle and her powers can bring forth beauty. But being a Belle may prove dangerous for Camellia Beauregard, as she discovers in the royal court of Orleans, where secrets and danger lurk behind every sparkling facade. The Belles is a rich, opulent, intoxicating book--reading it feels like eating the most decadent cupcake you've ever tasted in your life. The atmosphere Clayton creates is sumptuous, and her characters are compelling, ambitious, and beautiful, though some only on the outside. I was blown away by this novel and can't wait for the author's next gorgeous book." --Emily Hall, Main Street Books, St. Charles, Mo.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: The Destiny Thief: Essays on Writing, Writers and Life

The Destiny Thief: Essays on Writing, Writers and Life by Richard Russo (Knopf, $25.95 hardcover, 224p., 9781524733513, May 8, 2018)

Richard Russo's first collection of essays--in a career of more than three decades that includes a Pulitzer Prize for his 2001 novel, Empire Falls--is an insightful blend of excellent writing advice, revealing memoir and cogent literary criticism.

One of Russo's recurring themes here is the writer's search for identity and a true voice. It surfaces in the title essay, as he describes how he wrestled with the choice between an academic career and life as a novelist; he initially resisted grounding his fiction in the small towns of upstate New York, like Gloversville, where he grew up. In the book's concluding essay, "The Boss in Bulgaria," he considers his resolution to concentrate his literary career on "a patch of dirt about the size of Faulkner's"--something at that time that "felt like nothing so much as defeat." This he links to his struggle to provide meaningful counsel as the featured guest at a writing conference for young Bulgarian writers, seeking their own voices in a country only recently freed from Communist control.

"Imagining Jenny" is the most deeply personal in the collection, and a tour de force. In it, Russo describes the emotional winds that buffeted him as his dear friend and Colby College teaching colleague Jim Boylan underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2003 to become Jennifer Finney Boylan. It's not only a moving account of a deep relationship, but also an exploration of the demands the process placed on someone who imagines things for a living, and even upon Russo's picture of his own marriage.

Russo departs from the dominant personal tone of most of the pieces to appraise the work of what appear to be two writers for whom he has a particular fondness--Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. In describing The Pickwick Papers, Dickens's first novel, written when he was 24, Russo is impressed by "how sure-handed and confident a writer the young Dickens already was." While he concedes it might not be Dickens's greatest novel, "its pleasures and delights are myriad, and none more thrilling," he concludes, "than the spectacle of genius recognizing itself." He's not quite as effusive in his praise for the nonfiction of Twain, who viewed truth as "not just elastic but indeed designed to be stretched," but he's an unabashed admirer of the "witty, playful exuberance" of the writer's storytelling.

Richard Russo's wise, hard-earned counsel to aspiring writers on other subjects that include humor, point of view and the demands of a writing career only enhances the value of The Destiny Thief. The fact that it's enriched by glimpses into the humane, generous heart of this talented author is an added treat. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Prize-winning author Richard Russo's collection of nine essays offers some sage advice on the writing life and life itself.


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