Shelf Awareness for Friday, April 27, 2018

Simon & Schuster: Fall Cooking With Simon Element

Tor Nightfire: Devils Kill Devils by Johnny Compton

Shadow Mountain: Highcliffe House (Proper Romance Regency) by Megan Walker

Simon & Schuster: Register for the Simon & Schuster Fall Preview!

Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster: The Ministry of Time Kaliane Bradley

Quotation of the Day

Indie Bookstores' Secret: 'It's the People, Really'

"Indie bookstores have been important to me everywhere I've lived. In Brooklyn, Greenlight Bookstore was my home away from home; I would always be in there browsing or buying books, adding to my stack of books to be read. When I left New York for Iowa City, Prairie Lights became my home away from home, and from there I moved to Madison, where A Room of One's Own became that place, and now in L.A., there are stores like Skylight Books and Eso Won Books that are really important to me.

"I think indie bookstores are so important because, well, it's the people, really. It's the booksellers, who are, to my mind, really committed and enthusiastic readers first. It's always a great experience to go into a bookstore and hear the folks working there talking happily about books and what they just read and to see their recommendations on the shelves and have them recommend books to you. That kind of person-to-person contact from an enthusiastic reader is really energizing."

--Jamel Brinkley, author of May's #1 Indie Next List Pick, A Lucky Man: Stories (Graywolf Press), in a q&a with Bookselling This Week

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!


Amazon 1st Quarter: Sales, Revenues Rise; Stock at All-Time High

Net sales at Amazon in the first quarter, ended March 31, rose 42.9%, to $51 billion, and net income rose 121%, to $1.6 billion. Both figures were better than analysts' consensus. As a result, in after-hours trading, shares rose more than 7%, to about $1,630 a share--an all-time high.

Among highlights of Amazon's first quarter:

Sales at the AWS cloud service rose 48.6%, to $5.442 billion, and operating income rose 57.3%, to $1.4 billion.

For the first time in four years, Amazon is raising the price of Prime membership, to $119 from $99, effective June 16. Founder Jeff Bezos recently revealed that the company has more than 100 million Prime members.

Sales and earnings figures included results for Whole Foods, which Amazon bought last year, adding $4.2 billion in revenue.

Books, which were the first product Amazon sold, weren't mentioned in the lengthy press release about first-quarter earnings.

Graphic Universe (Tm): Hotelitor: Luxury-Class Defense and Hospitality Unit by Josh Hicks

Lemony Snicket 'Noble Librarians' Prize Recipients Named

Yvonne Cech
Diana Haneski

Diana Haneski, library media specialist at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and Yvonne Cech, library director of the Brookfield Library in Brookfield, Conn., have been selected as recipients of the 2018 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity. Haneski and Cech will each be given $10,000, a certificate and "an odd, symbolic object" from Daniel Handler's private collection during the American Library Association annual conference & exhibition in New Orleans, La., this June.

On December 14, 2012, "18 fourth grade children and three staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., were herded into a storage closet by Cech, then a library media specialist at the school," the ALA said. "She locked the door and barricaded it with book trucks and other available objects until the SWAT team arrived. She would not open the door until she verified the officers' identity. Five years later, during the siege at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Haneski remembered her friend Cech's quick thinking and advice, and she acted accordingly. She shielded 50 high school students and five adults from harm in a large, barricaded equipment room. As Cech had done, she refused to open the door until she was certain the rescuers were who they claimed to be."

Lemony Snicket Prize jury chair Laurel Bliss commented: "Reading about the bravery and compassion of these two amazing women was a moving experience for everyone on the jury. We were inspired by how they are transforming tragedy into action, by speaking out against gun violence and advocating for laws to change."

GLOW: Workman Publishing: Atlas Obscura: Wild Life: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Living Wonders by Cara Giaimo, Joshua Foer, and Atlas Obscura

Treutenaere Returning as Co-President of the EIBF

Jean-Luc Treutenaere

Jean-Luc Treutenaere, who in January had stepped down as co-president of the European and International Booksellers Federation after four years, is returning as co-president, effective in mid-May.

Treutenaere was recently re-elected as president of the French Syndicat des distributeurs de loisirs culturels (SDLC). His EIBF co-president is Fabian Paagman of Paagman Boekhandels in The Hague, Netherlands.

Treutenaere commented: "It's a real pleasure and a great privilege to have been appointed as EIBF co-president for a second mandate. Taking on the job of representing booksellers and their interests before the different actors on the political stage is not only thrilling it is also fascinating."

Paagman said: "I am delighted to be able to work in partnership with Jean-Luc again. His expertise and long career in bookselling can only be beneficial for EIBF. It is a great asset for our leadership to have someone who will represent booksellers and their interests with such commitment. I am very much looking forward to this renewed collaboration which is a real added value to our Federation."

Harpervia: Only Big Bumbum Matters Tomorrow by Damilare Kuku

Antonia Byatt Appointed English PEN Director

Antonia Byatt

Antonia Byatt has been appointed permanent director of English PEN. The Bookseller reported that she "secured the role following her stint as interim director since August last year when Jo Glanville stepped down after serving for four years." Prior to joining English PEN, Byatt served as director of the Cheltenham Literature Festival 2016 and director of Literature at Arts Council England.

Maureen Freely, chair of English PEN, said: "Over the past few months Antonia has provided us with expert and inspiring leadership, steering us through a series of flagship literary events, campaigns for writers at risk, and essential funding applications. As we look forward to a series of major events and consultations in the second half of 2018, I know the organization is in good hands."

Byatt commented: "Not only is PEN an extraordinary membership organization for writers helping other writers at risk, it champions new and significant voices from across the world, particularly through translation. I am looking forward to being part of the committed international network of PEN centers who work for writers and readers alike."

Noting that English PEN's advocacy for freedom of expression had "never been more essential" in what he called "an increasingly polarized world," the organization's president Philippe Sands, said, "Working in the U.K. and beyond, English PEN has an important role to play for the future, and I look forward to working closely with Antonia as we move toward 2021 and a true celebration of PEN's centenary."

In the U.K., Dealing with 'Book Block'

A phenomenon called "book block"--readers giving up on books after "struggling through a difficult title"--was uncovered by research done for World Book Night, which was celebrated in the U.K. this past Monday.

According to the Bookseller, the Reading Agency found that "more than half of Brits (54%) are stuck reading the same book for up to three months, preventing them from reading any more." As a result, in connection with World Book Night, the Reading Agency has been encouraging British readers to "ditch the burdensome books you're not enjoying and try something new instead."

In what may be a related difficult finding, some 22% of the 2,000 respondents to the survey said "you should never give up--once you start a book you should always finish it." And 51% said the biggest barrier to finishing a book is simple nonenjoyment of the book.

Another "book block": some 55% of respondents said they would avoid reading a book "if they thought it would make them sad," the Bookseller wrote. The reasoning is that 28% feel "sad enough at the state of the world."

On the positive side, some 65% of respondents call books "an escape from the uncertainty of world events," and 49% agree with the idea that fiction increases readers' ability to "empathize and understand the world." Fully 91% said reading has a positive effect on mental health and well-being.


Image of the Day: Ezra Jack Keats Winners

The 2018 Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and New Illustrator winners were honored at a ceremony on April 12 during the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. Pictured: (from l.) Gordon C. James (New Illustrator Honor for Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut), E.B. Goodale (New Illustrator Honor for Windows), Bianca Díaz (New Illustrator Honor for The One Day House), Evan Turk (Book Award, New Illustrator, for Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters), Derrick Barnes (Book Award, New Writer, for Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut), Elaine Magliaro (New Writer Honor for Things to Do), Jessixa Bagley (New Writer Honor for Laundry Day). The complete list of winners and honorees is here.

Common Language Bookstore Update: Building Community

Common Language Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Mich., posted an update on Facebook regarding the amazing online order deluge it has experienced since a former customer's Tumblr post went viral recently and sparked a sustained virtual flashmob effort to support the bookshop.

"We have received over 1,000 online orders. This is stunning," Common Language reported. "We also have a lot of people coming through the doors of the bricks and mortar store. Both of these things are gratifying.... It is a lot of work, but extremely gratifying work. We just can't thank all of you enough for this amazing show of support."

In addition to fulfilling the orders, the bookshop noted that it also faces the challenge "to turn this into a sustainable business. This shot in the arm is incredible. Bills can be paid. New books ordered. Mortgages paid. But if it is just a one-time shot in the arm, we will be in the same place at some point in the future... While I certainly wouldn't complain if 300-order-days became a regular occurrence (we'd have to hire more people and get at least one more dog), it is not what I expect to happen. If we had 50-order weeks we would be able to exist into the foreseeable future.

"First and foremost, we are about a community. I don't want to become the 'gay amazon.' That means we would lose community in the name of an algorithm. I want people to come to our site, order from us, and feel every bit a part of this community as those who walk through the doors. If we can do that, we've achieved something special."

Book Lovers Dream Wedding at Owl & Company Bookshop

photo: Zoe Larkin

Owl & Company Bookshop in Oakland, Calif., was the setting recently for a lovely bookish wedding. "It happens every day in bookstores around the world. People meet, fall in love, begin stories that create ideas, and dreams and marriages," co-owner Jerry Thompson noted. "The bookshop has always been that secret place, the one place love can find a home. The Owl & Company Bookshop has taken the dream and made it a reality for two customers, Lauren and Scott. New to Oakland, discovering the joint love of books so much they decided to exchange their wedding vows at the location."

Describing the Piedmont District as "a community rich with diversity, arts, great food, and most of all a community of book lovers," Thompson said: "With three bookstores on the same block, there is never a shortage of dreamers. Lauren's love of the shop played a major role in the ceremony: antiquarian book as chariot for the wedding rings, and being surrounded by the spirit of old and new titles was comforting."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Mary H.K. Choi on Weekend All Things Considered

MSNBC's Kasie DC: Steve Israel, author of Big Guns: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781788544283).

Weekend All Things Considered: Mary H.K. Choi, author of Emergency Contact (Simon & Schuster, $17.99, 9781534408968).

Movies: The Hate U Give

The first official photo has been released from The Hate U Give, based on the bestselling YA novel by Angie Thomas and directed by George Tillman Jr. Entertainment Weekly reported that in the photo, "you can see Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) starring as the film's principal character, Starr Carter, and Algee Smith (Detroit) as her childhood best friend, Khalil. Here they're in a car together, appearing carefree--but to anyone who's read the book or is familiar with its story, the image has ominous undertones."

Tillman Jr. (Notorious) directs from a script by Audrey Wells (Under the Tuscan Sun, A Dog's Purpose). The cast also includes Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Common, Issa Rae, Anthony Mackie, and KJ Apa. The Hate U Give will be released later this year.

Books & Authors

Awards: Edgars; Publishing Triangle

Here are the winners of the 2018 Edgar Awards, who were honored last night at the Mystery Writers of America banquet in New York City:

Best novel: Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (Mulholland Books)
Best first novel: She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper (Ecco)
Best paperback original: The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola (Sourcebooks Landmark)
Best fact crime: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (Doubleday)
Best critical/biographical: Chester B. Himes: A Biography by Lawrence P. Jackson (Norton)
Best short story: "Spring Break"--New Haven Noir by John Crowley (Akashic Books)
Best juvenile: Vanished! By James Ponti (S&S/Aladdin)
Best young adult: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
Best TV episode teleplay: "Somebody to Love"--Fargo, teleplay by Noah Hawley (FX Networks/MGM)
Robert L. Fish Memorial Award: "The Queen of Secrets"--New Haven Noir by Lisa D. Gray (Akashic Books)
S&S/Mary Higgins Clark Award: The Widow's House by Carol Goodman (Morrow Paperbacks)

Grand Masters Peter Lovesey and William Link

Grand Master: Jane Langton, William Link, Peter Lovesey
Raven Award: Kristopher Zgorski, BOLO Books; the Raven Bookstore, Lawrence Kans.
Ellery Queen Award: Robert Pépin


Winners of the 30th annual Publishing Triangle Awards, honoring the best LGBTQ fiction, nonfiction, poetry and trans literature published in 2017, were presented last night in New York City. The winners are:

The Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction: The Disintegrations by Alistair McCartney (University of Wisconsin Press)
The Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction: Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu (Soho Press)
The Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry: When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen (BOA Editions)
The Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry: Rocket Fantastic by Gabrielle Calvocoressi (Persea Books)
Trans & Gender-Variant Literature Award: Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility, edited by Reina Gossett, Eric A. Stanley & Johanna Burton (The MIT Press)
The Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction: Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray by Rosalind Rosenberg (Oxford University Press)
The Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction: Brilliant Imperfection by Eli Clare (Duke University Press)
Betty Berzon Emerging Writer Award: Sarah Perry
The Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement: Sarah Schulman, a novelist, nonfiction writer, playwright, screenwriter and AIDS historian whose novels are The Cosmopolitans, The Child, and Rat Bohemia (winner of the 1996 Ferro-Grumley Award for Lesbian Fiction). Her works of nonfiction include Conflict Is Not Abuse (winner of last year's Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction), The Gentrification of the Mind, and Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences. Schulman's novel Maggie Terry will be published in September by the Feminist Press.
Leadership Award: Malaga Baldi, who founded the Baldi Agency in 1986 and has established its reputation as an eclectic agency specializing in literary fiction, memoir, and cultural history, "for her long-standing commitment to present the best in LGBTQ literature."

Reading with... Cutter Wood

photo: Erin Shaw

Cutter Wood was born in Central Pennsylvania and completed an MFA in creative nonfiction at the University of Iowa in 2010, during which time he was awarded numerous fellowships and had essays published in Harper's and other magazines. After serving as a Provost Fellow at UI and a visiting scholar at the University of Louisville, Wood moved to New York. For his new book, Love and Death in the Sunshine State (Algonquin, April 17, 2018), he was awarded a 2018 Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with his wife and daughter.

On your nightstand now:

My nightstand is the messiest and happiest part of my life. Right now, I've got Cesar Aira's Ema, la cautiva, Lisa Ko's The Leavers, Will Alexander's Compression and Purity, Magda Szabo's The Door and Terrence Hayes's Lighthead. Also The Poems of Marianne Moore, The Essential Haiku, edited by Robert Haas, Hey Jack by Barry Hannah, The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder and My Private Property by Mary Ruefle. And a few others. Also, I can't read without a pen, so there are a bunch of pens.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I had a book about various natural and manmade catastrophes (Hindenburg, Krakatoa, etc.) that I carried with me everywhere the summer after fifth grade. Also, The Odyssey. I particularly liked the scene where Odysseus throws off his disguise, strings his bow and begins shooting arrows into Penelope's suitors (at the time, I pronounced her name pee-nuh-lope). I also had a nearly complete set of the World Book Encyclopedia, which I dug in a hardcore-dork connector-set sort of way. I could take the letter S with me to bed and coast off to sleep thinking of sequoias, steam power, St. Bernards and Sweden.

Your top five authors:

In the order my brain emitted them: Sir Thomas Browne, Joan Didion, James Baldwin, Sylvia Townsend Warner, George Orwell, Sei Shōnagon. An extra one squeaked in there, and there are a thousand others ready to do the same, so let's not say that's my top five, let's say those are my first six.

Book you've faked reading:

All of them at first.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Often it's whatever book I read most recently. I've been talking up the work of Antoine Volodine ever since I lost my mind reading Minor Angels. It's fantastical and weird, and yet strangely heartfelt and heartbreaking. Also, there's this book called The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay. It's about a koala and a penguin and a sailor and a feisty magic pudding and two pudding thieves, and everyone should be required to read it.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Death in Persia by Annemarie Schwarzenbach. I'm such a sucker for scenes of desolation, and her book has this lovely black-and-white photograph of two ancient columns on an empty plain. And then when you open up the book and the first line says: "This book will bring little joy to the reader." How could you not buy that book? And how strange once you do to discover that Schwarzenbach and Carson McCullers were once almost-pals in Brooklyn.

Book you hid from your parents:

My own.

Book that changed your life:

This is going to sound ridiculous, because it is, but the book that marked my transition into adulthood was absolutely Plato's Apology. I know it's dry, there's not a lot of action, nobody reads Plato unless they have to, but about halfway through the Apology, I was riveted. You grow up in this country, you ride your bike down alleys, you play hide-and-go-seek, you put in your time at school and it never crosses your mind that this way of approaching life, this thoughtful, meditative, intellectual style of existence had to be invented, someone had to say the world and the self are worth examining. I felt like I was part of a movement I never knew existed, and I was reading the founding document.

Favorite line from a book:

"This is the bravest thing I have ever done." I've probably paraphrased this incorrectly--I gave away my copy--but this is Stuart Little about to shoot a cat in the ear. In the first place, it just rings so true. We all want to be heroes, to do brave things and be loved and admired for having done them. But then I also love the strangeness of having a character think this. Stuart is essentially telling himself a story about himself, which is so brilliant in so many ways. I also just love E.B. White. Once, while he was ice skating, someone stole his shoes, and he had to walk home in his ice skates, fuming, looking at the shoes of all the people he passed by. I love that image. 

Five books you'll never part with:

Montaigne's Essays. He's just such a funny, inquisitive, modern dude. He's writing about is there such a thing as parallel lines, and why do smells get stuck in my mustache, you can almost see him typing these questions into Google. But where he takes the questions always surprises me, and I feel when I read him the way I feel with all the people I love most, like I'll never stop discovering new things to love about him. Proust's In Search of Lost Time. Beautiful, yes, and very, very long, which seems useful if you can't part with it (I guess I'm thinking here more in terms of five books for a desert island). On that note, I'd take Treasure Island, because it's a perfect beach read, and I've never tired of reading it. Also, one of those long Russian books, maybe Crime and Punishment. There would probably be a cookbook, too. And this might be a good time to finally finish Moby-Dick.

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

When I think of this question, it's not the story so much as the voice that I think about. A new voice is so exciting because it makes possible a thousand things that before were inconceivable. New kinds of transitions, turns of phrase, unpondered combinations of words, sudden shifts in tense, new ways to describe light illuminating a mote of dust: when you read certain books for the first time, this stuff just comes flooding down on you. I think of a Barry Hannah story ("Rangoon Green"), I think of Toni Morrison's Sula, Tarjei Vesaas's Ice Palace, Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier, McCullers's Ballad of the Sad Cafe, everything by Julio Cortázar. And there's a single paragraph from Mark Twain's Autobiography that, if I could go on reading it for the first time forever and ever, I just might.

Book do you most wish you had written:

Excellent question. I wish I'd written Treasure Island. With due esteem being given to the many depictions of evil in literature, I don't think anyone has ever quite equaled Long John Silver. I believe I still see him cropping up here and there in other books, the way you sometimes see Bartleby or Kurtz crop up. I just feel like Stevenson had so much fun with this book. It starts with a treasure map. Some day I want to write a book that starts with a map.

Book you wrote quotes from on your adolescent bedroom walls:

Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis. I visited my sister at college when I was 14. They were discussing this book in one of her classes, and the college kids were so cool and so blasé and wrote with pens instead of pencils. I bought a copy of Zorba, read it, re-read it, and I wrote in blue oil pastel on the wall of my bedroom, just below the light switch, editorializing slightly: "The gods must come down here in simple human form, walk barefoot across the spring grass, and converse quietly with men." This is still the way I think of literature.

Book Review

Review: A Shout in the Ruins

A Shout in the Ruins by Kevin Powers (Little, Brown, $26 hardcover, 272p., 9780316556477, May 15, 2018)

A Shout in the Ruins is Kevin Powers's follow-up to his acclaimed debut, The Yellow Birds. It's an ambitious sophomore effort that draws from more than a century of American history, centering on the legacy of slavery and the Civil War. Beginning in the antebellum South, Powers introduces us to the Reid family: Emily; her father, Bob; and their slaves, Aurelia and her son Rawls. Emily and Rawls grow up in close proximity but separated by a wide gulf. Even as a young boy, Rawls notes that Emily's pain differs from his "in source and scope. While hers came from a rare remonstration by her father, his was inscrutable and vast." As they grow older, they grow only farther apart, before being reunited by the cruel plantation owner Levallois and the changes brought on by the Civil War.

The narrative also adopts the point of view of George Seldom, who, as a very old man in 1956 North Carolina, searches for evidence of his childhood. Seldom's parentage and true age are a mystery to him as an orphan coming out of the chaos from the Civil War, and he frequently ventures into the past through recollections of a hard life now approaching its end. Powers's cast of characters is large for a relatively short book, and one of the pleasures of A Shout in the Ruins is the way it serves as a jumping-off point for a dozen or more separate but interwoven stories from a variety of perspectives. Seldom is a major character, but just as much attention is paid to a waitress he meets in a diner, whose long and extraordinary life stretches well into the 1980s.

Powers has given himself great freedom to explore and meditate on a wide swath of American history. He seems to align with one of his characters when she reflects that "very often the world is cruel... and decorating the world does not disguise its cruelty; it simply digs its foundations deeper." A Shout in the Ruins is suitably unvarnished, but not without moments of beauty or deep emotion. Even the cruelest character, Levallois, is far from a caricature. Instead, he is a man who "often mistook inevitabilities for evidence that the world still bent to his will."

As Emily's and Rawl's stories progress into the early days of Reconstruction, Seldom's memories eventually stretch back to the same era. The characters that swirl around them--Emily's Confederate veteran father, a boy who survives by picking the pockets of dead soldiers, the leader of a band of mutinous soldiers--sometimes interact in surprising ways. According to Powers, Rawls hated one notion more than anything: "that if white folks just believed they would be good in a different world, a world that did not exist, then that made them good in the one that did." A Shout in the Ruins brushes aside myth and romanticism for a clear-eyed look at American heritage. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Shelf Talker: A Shout in the Ruins is a short but sprawling novel that follows slaves, plantation owners, orphans, veterans and many more from the antebellum South to the 1980s.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: IBD & Measuring Success by Relationships

"You can find many ways to feel depressed about being an author when you measure your success by bestseller lists and money. But if you measure it by these relationships, by time spent wandering through the unique stores, their regional sections, their staff picks, there is nothing better than being an author on book tour." --Susan Henderson

Tomorrow is Independent Bookstore Day, and if I were still a frontline bookseller I would be handselling the hell out of Susan Henderson's new novel, The Flicker of Old Dreams (Harper Perennial). The narrator is Mary Crampton, a mortician in a once prosperous Montana prairie town where the population has dwindled to less than 200 due to economic changes and one particularly devastating tragedy.

She has dreams ("Secretly I think of myself as an artist.... A mortician is an illusionist.") that are tempered by circumstance ("I'd developed an expertise in my work, and staying in Petroleum allowed me to keep an eye on my father.") and habit ("You think a life is built of dreams when, really, a life is made up of daily to-do lists."). The arrival of a stranger--who isn't really a stranger--shifts her small world out of orbit.

Since The Flicker of Old Dreams is one of my favorite books this year, and I know Henderson is a passionate supporter of indies, I thought asking her a few questions would be a good way to start my own IBD celebration. So that's what I did.

"The first thing I do when I go to a person's house is stand in front of a bookshelf. Right away, I get a sense of them," Henderson told me, adding: "This is the great pleasure of walking into an indie bookstore. From the name the owners chose for the store, to how they selected and organized the books, you have an intimate look at a personality and a community's values. Sometimes it's in a dark cave, books all around you and having to walk slowly so as not to knock over piles. Sometimes deep inside that cave, you'll find an old beat-up chair and a standing lamp. I've spent whole afternoons in these colorful caves, in well-lit stores, in musty stores full of used books, stores with cats, stores with dogs, stores full of mismatched furniture and threadbare carpets. Sometimes the owner is shy and it takes several visits to have that first conversation."

Susan Henderson with Carol Hoenig at Turn of the Corkscrew.

Henderson's book tour for The Flicker of Old Dreams began with a March launch event at her home bookshop, Turn of the Corkscrew Books & Wine in Rockville Centre, N.Y. "How can you not love a bookstore that plays off of a Henry James classic and a love of wine?," she asked. "Turn of the Corkscrew is a gorgeous series of connected nooks that lead you to the bar and café in the back. The co-owner, Carol Hoenig, is hands on, sometimes chopping vegetables, sometimes at the cash register, and always cultivating a community. She hosts book clubs and writer workshops and events with local libraries. When she falls in love with a book, she presses it into your hands and tells you why you might love it too.... Whenever I need books, I try to order them through Carol's store because authors and bookstore owners both survive and thrive on word of mouth."

Reflecting on how The Flicker of Old Dreams has found its readers, Henderson said: "Everything about the life of my current book has come through indie booksellers, one reader and bookseller at a time." For example, she is "becoming familiar with a number of indie bookstores throughout Montana as booksellers and members of the community discover my book and bring it to the others' attention."

Susan Henderson during her event at Book Show in Los Angeles

At Book Show in Los Angeles "I was warmly greeted by Jen Hitchcock, who was enthusiastic about my book, especially the inside look at embalming dead bodies," she noted. "Walking into her store was like walking into the freak show tent at a carnival. It was quirky and comically morbid, and filled with books for misfits. Like most bookstore owners, she was a great resource for recommending a place to grab dinner."

Seth Marko, co-owner of the Book Catapult in San Diego, "hosted our discussion about the dead and dying with an audience that included people who had worked in or grown up in funeral homes and a woman who operates a local death café," Henderson said. "They are still uncovering their community as each new author event brings out another selection of locals. You see the relationships happening--I was here last week. This is my friend. These are the books we love. It was so great to see that happening in real time."

Recalling her event at Main Street Books in St. Charles, Mo., she said, "I'm so glad I've learned the habit of meeting the owners because they always have interesting back stories. Take Emily Hall, who had a good number of birds about the store (Megan Mayhew Bergman's Birds of a Lesser Paradise, a finger puppet of Edgar Allan Poe's raven, and excitement about Alex London's soon to be published YA fantasy, Black Wings Beating). It turns out Emily was a trainer and a naturalist at World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park, Mo."

"This is the great gift of visiting real life stores that were born of passion, each store as individual as the person who dreamed it into reality," Henderson observed. "No matter the city, I know where to find my tribe. And I don't just ask them for book recommendations. I also let them lead me to the coffee shops, the restaurants, the music venues, and the art and recreation of their town. Because booksellers are the creative and intellectual heart of that community. And just as word of mouth keeps books alive, word of mouth keeps these small, vibrant bookstores and their communities alive."

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives at Fresh Eyes Now)

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