Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 8, 2018


Sourcebooks Fire: The Similars by Rebecca Hanover

Forge: Redemption Point (Crimson Lake #2) by Candice Fox

Simon Pulse: Slayer by Kiersten White

HarperCollins: Turbo Racers: Trailblazer by Austin Aslan

Harper Paperbacks: Don't Wake Up by Liz Lawler

DK Publishing: Writers: Their Lives and Works by DK

News

Kiddos to Open in Cumberland, R.I.

Kiddos, a children's book and toy store, will open this weekend at 3383 Mendon Road in Cumberland, R.I. Owner Lisa Gomes told the Valley Breeze that she made the decision to leave her 20-year career as a preschool teacher and open a small business in the town where she was raised because she is hoping to fulfill a need in the community.

"But it's so much more than that," she said. "This to me is an experience... a place where kids can read, get creative and have fun.... I've really missed being in the classroom. My favorite activities to do were literacy-related, sounding out letters to reading and acting-out stories."

The location has two studio spaces, where Gomes plans to offer activities ranging from yoga and Zumba to music programs and art-themed birthday parties, as well as a designated story-time area.

"I was so, so careful in the products and brands I chose to carry. I wanted them to encourage a child's development," Gomes said, adding that she made a philosophical choice not to carry any digital or tablet-related products. "Play has gotten lost over the years. I want kids to revert back and just play, and provide experiences and toys that will help them regain social skills."

The books she is stocking "include multicultural and ethnically diverse characters and books that empower young girls," the Valley Breeze wrote, adding that she would not be offering toys featuring licensed characters.

"I want to carry things that are not found in typical stores--if you're looking for something unique, I wanted to be that store," she said. "The only way a toy store can compete with Amazon is by providing an experience they can't."

A grand opening celebration is planned for July 14.


Harper: Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley


NEA Report: Poetry Reading on the Rise

Poetry reading in the U.S. has increased, according to new data from the National Endowment for the Arts' 2017 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. Nearly 12% (28 million) adults read poetry in the last year, the highest on record as a share of the total U.S. adult population over a 15-year period of conducting the SPPA. The rate is five percentage points up from the 2012 survey period (6.7%) and three points up from 2008 (8.3%).

The growth in reading poetry is seen across most demographic sub-groups, including:

  • Among 18-24-year-olds, the poetry-reading rate was highest at 17.5%, up from 8.2% in 2012. Among all age groups, 25-34-year-olds had the next highest rate at 12.3%, up from 6.7% in 2012.
  • Women showed notable gains (14.5%, up from 8% in 2012) and, as in prior years, accounted for more than 60% of all poetry readers. Men's rate grew from 5.2% in 2012 to 8.7% in 2017.
  • Among racial/ethnic subgroups, African Americans (15.3%, up from 6.9% in 2012), Asian Americans (12.6%, up from 4.8%), and other non-white, non-Hispanic groups (13.5%, up from 4.7%) now read poetry at the highest rates. Poetry reading also increased among Hispanics (9.7%, up from 4.9%) and non-Hispanic whites (11.4%, up from 7.2%).
  • Of those who attended but did not graduate from college, 13% read poetry in 2017, up from 6.6% in 2012. College graduates (15.2%, up from 8.7%) and adults with graduate or professional degrees (19.7%, up from 12.5%) also showed sizeable increases.
  • Urban and rural residents read poetry at a comparable rate (11.8% and 11.2% respectively).

"These increases definitely reflect what we've been witnessing over in our corner of the office," said Amy Stolls, NEA Director of Literature. "I suspect social media has had an influence, as well as other robust outreach activities and efforts, many of which we support through our grants to publishers and presenters, fellowships to individual poets, Poetry Out Loud, and the NEA Big Read."


GLOW: Dial Press: Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss by Rajeev Balasubramanyam


Binc: Bank on Booksellers Piggy Bank Auction Returns

The Book Industry Charitable Foundation is uniting with authors and illustrators to help booksellers during the return of the Bank on Booksellers Piggy Bank Auction, which will take place online, with nationwide bidding beginning September 9 and closing September 15. The goal is to raise $25,000. A list of participating authors and illustrators is available here.

In 2016, Parnassus Books staff launched the inaugural campaign to support one of their colleagues who had been diagnosed with a serious illness. A host of celebrity piggy bank decorators were recruited and the proceeds used to help booksellers across the country. This year, Binc is hoping to follow up on the 2016 auction.

"The response to the first Bank on Booksellers was stunning," said Binc executive director Pam French. "We were overwhelmed at the support the auction received from the book industry, celebrities and everyone who bid. We hope the 2018 Bank on Booksellers will be just as great an opportunity for the people who care about booksellers to show their love."

Parnassus co-owner and Binc Ambassador Ann Patchett added: "Not every bookseller facing a serious medical situation can get a whole bunch of pigs together to help them out, but every bookseller has the Binc Foundation."

Binc is still looking for celebrities to participate. Those interested in signing up to decorate a pig for the auction, or who would like to connect the organization with an illustrator or celebrity, should contact Kathy Bartson at kathy@bincfoundation.org or Deb Leonard at DebLeo10@gmail.com.

"We've had a number of generous authors and illustrators volunteer their time to decorate piggy banks, but there are plenty of mini-masterpieces left to be painted," French said. "We're hoping our friends at bookstores across the country will help us reach more pig-decorators."


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Editor by Steven Rowley


Down & Out Books Adds New Wave Crime

Down & Out Books has added a new division, New Wave Crime, that will focus on offering books with a "diversity of plot, culture, and character, and champion new voices in the crime genre."

New Wave Crime was founded and is edited by Chantelle Aimée Osman, former editor-in-chief of RT Book Reviews and a freelance editor for more than 10 years. She is also the co-host of the Crime Friction podcast as well an instructor at the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, Authors at Large and LitReactor. She is the author of the nonfiction series on writing The Quick and Dirty Guide To… and has published works of short fiction and served as editor for several anthologies. She is currently editing an episodic thriller, Serial Killer, featuring such authors as Jeffery Deaver, Eoin Colfer and Jason Starr. She was named a Left Coast Crime Guest of Honor in 2016 and will be keynote speaker at CCWC 2018.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman


Obituary Note: Anthony Bourdain

photo: CNN

Very sad news this morning: chef, author, TV host, publisher and raconteur Anthony Bourdain has died, apparently by suicide, according to CNN, which hosted his food travelogue show Parts Unknown. He was in France working on an episode for the show. He was 61.

In 2000, Bourdain became an instant celebrity when his darkly funny memoir Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly was published by Bloomsbury. With scalding wit and frankness, he related his road to becoming a chef and his hectic, often drug-fueled work in high-end New York City kitchens during the 1980s as well as shared inside restaurateur tips, like not to order fish on Monday (it's left over from the weekend) and never order steak well done (overcooking masks low-quality cuts).

He followed Kitchen Confidential with A Cook's Tour (2001), The Nasty Bits (2006), No Reservations (2007), Medium Raw (2010) and Appetites: A Cookbook (2016). He also wrote several works of fiction in the 1990s prior to Kitchen Confidential and returned to that genre in 2012 as co-author of the graphic novel Get Jiro! for DC Comics/Vertigo. Another co-authored comic, Anthony Bourdain's Hungry Ghosts, comes out this October. Ecco published an updated version of Kitchen Confidential in 2007.

In 2011, Bourdain started his own imprint at Ecco, which has published books by chefs, musicians, athletes and others.

Parts Unknown began its 11th season last month. It was his fourth such series, after the Travel Channel's No Reservations (2005-2012) and The Layover (2011-2013), and the Food Network's A Cook's Tour (2002-2003).


BookExpo 2018: Reaching the Romance Reader

"Indies have this fantastic opportunity if they a build a space for these younger romance readers," said Jessie Edwards, marketing and pr manager for the Romance Writers of America, during a panel discussion at BookExpo last week on how independent booksellers can better reach romance readers. "Readers will come to them."

The panel, comprised of publishers, booksellers and two romance authors, provided a breakdown of the demographics and buying habits of romance readers before offering practical tips on how booksellers can start curating a romance section.

In addition to Edwards, the panel included Maryelizabeth Yturralde, co-owner of Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego, Calif.; Kevin Elliott, manager of 57th Street Books in Chicago, Ill.; Pamela Jaffee, senior director of publicity and brand development at Avon/HarperCollins; Sarah MacLean, author of A Rogue by Any Other Name; Susanna Kearsley, author of The Rose Garden; Heidi Weiland, director of trade sales at Sourcebooks; and Farah Mullick, senior director of global series marketing at Harlequin. Amanda Diehl, blogger at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, moderated the discussion.

Mullick reported that according to market research done by Harlequin, the average romance reader "reads more than any other book buying segment" (76% of romance readers read daily or multiple times per week) and not only goes to book retailers more often but also buys books more frequently and spends more money during the average trip to a retailer. Mullick added that Harlequin has started to see a "real resurgence" of romance buyers looking for bricks-and-mortar bookstores, and suggested that leveraging a bookstore's knowledgeable staff and handselling ability could be a major "competitive advantage." She explained: "One of the first things that the romance readers we've shopped with have said to us is, 'I love to go into a bookstore and have someone help me with the category.' "

MacLean, who has a list of more than 100 recommended romance novels on her website, noted that reading a "book a day" is not uncommon for a romance reader. She hosts a Facebook group for romance readers that has some 6,000 members and reported that she frequently hears from readers that they wish they had a bookstore close to them that would talk to them about romance. She said that while romance readers would love to shop at bookstores, there is still a lot of shame associated with the romance genre.

"I hear over and over from indie booksellers, 'well, my readers would never read romance'," said MacLean. "Which isn't true. Your readers are reading romance, they're reading it a ton, and they're getting it from places other than you. And we can fix that."

"If you are going to carry romance in your stores, please make a corner for category romance as well," suggested Kearsley, "because that is a very important part for people." She said she "can't tell you the number" of indies that she's signed in that did not have romance sections and added that she no longer wants to sign in a store that "doesn't make space for me" and doesn't "value what I want to read." She reported that when she put a call out on social media asking romance readers what they would want independent booksellers to know, one of the first responses was: "If you bring in the books and support local authors, local readers will support you." She also pointed to librarians and local RWA chapters as great resources for booksellers looking to start a romance section.

Jaffee, meanwhile, recommended booksellers start with a shelf and "grow from there," and stressed that they should treat romance as they would any other type of book. Monthly recommendations, shelf-talkers and displays can drive sales, and she stressed that because of how knowledgeable and voracious romance readers can be, the section should be updated frequently. She said: "Don't let it be a vacuum... you've got to support it."

Elliott recalled that during much of his career as an indie bookseller, romance was "like a curse word," and booksellers would sometimes act like stocking it would be the "death knell" of a bookstore. Elliott said that 57th Street Books began with a small, two-and-a-half-shelf romance section featuring racially- and LGBTQ-inclusive romance books. He added that his customers were "invaluable" when it came to setting up the section and that an event with author Beverly Jenkins drew one of the biggest crowds they've ever had for an in-store event.

"You need someone who is genuinely passionate about this," said Yturralde, whether that be a staff member, a customer or even local author. Romance readers will gladly support a store that welcomes them, she advised, but it has to be sincere. "Nobody wants to be pandered to. Nobody wants to be the section set up because you read it could increase sales." --Alex Mutter


Notes

Image of the Day: Wishing Day Winner

Last September Macmillan Children's Group partnered with independent bookstores for Nationwide Wishing Day, inspired by Katherine Applegate's wishtree.

Macmillan chose an event at Gathering Volumes, Perrysburg, Ohio, as the most creative: the store organized a kids' cooking contest. Guests paid $5 to taste and judge each of four categories. The winner in each category received a $10 gift certificate to Gathering Volumes, and proceeds from the event were donated to the Promise House Project, which helps housing-insecure and homeless youth in northwest Ohio.

As the winning bookstore, Changing Hands hosted Applegate on June 2, and the students who participated in the event were invited to have ice cream with her prior to the public discussion and signing.


BTW Shares One Second Survey Results

Bookselling This Week has shared some results from its weekly One Second Surveys, collected over the past few months. Some highlights include:

  • 37% of BTW respondents have either a bookstore dog or a bookstore cat, while 63% said they have no bookstore pet.

  • Out of jazz, rock and classical music, classical is most popular with booksellers: 42% of respondents said they played it in their stores more often than the other two options.

  • For 8% of BTW readers, Groundhog Day is apparently the busiest holiday of the year. Most (61%) said Mother's Day.

  • 36% admitted to occasionally sneaking off to read while on the job, with 8% saying they did it frequently. 56% said they never read while on the clock.

  • Pride and Prejudice (58%) is the most popular literary love story, with Love in the Time of Cholera (28%) and The Fault in Our Stars (14%) rounding out the top three.

  • When asked how often booksellers dust their stores, 28% answered: "What's dusting?" 50% of respondents said they give their stores a weekly dusting.

  • A disturbing 1% of respondents said they "love" movie tie-in covers.

  • The crowd has spoken: the ABA's Joy Dallanegra-Sanger will be dyeing her hair pink for Winter Institute 14 in Albuquerque, N.Mex., next January.

A new One Second Survey is asked each week in BTW.


Chevalier's Books Co-Manager on Screen in L.A.

Erica Luttrell

Erica Luttrell, a working actor as well as co-manager of Chevalier's Books in Los Angeles, appears in the second season of the HBO TV series Westworld, with roles in two episodes--"Phase Space," which aired May 27, and "The Passenger," airing June 24, Bookselling This Week reported. Luttrell, who tweeted about May's episode, is "currently the voice of Sapphire on the Cartoon Network show Steven Universe and recently appeared as Claire Rayburn in 11 episodes of CBS' apocalypse drama Salvation."


Personnel Changes at Chronicle Books; S&S Children's Publishing

Cynthia Shannon has joined Chronicle Books as food and lifestyle marketing manager. Previously she was a marketing specialist at Goodreads.

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At Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing:

Milena Giunco has joined the company as publicist. She was most recently publicity coordinator at Scholastic.

Lis Kingren-Hawkins has joined the company as sales assistant.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Fresh Air Remembers Jill Ker Conway

Today:
Today Show: Ramani Durvasula, author of Should I Stay or Should I Go?: Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist (Post Hill Press, $16, 9781682613337).

Fresh Air remembers Jill Ker Conway, the author and first female president of Smith College, who died last Friday.


Movies: Mortal Engines

A new trailer has been released for Mortal Engines, based on Philip Reeve's sci-fi fantasy novels. IndieWire reported that after working under Peter Jackson for decades, Christian Rivers is making his directorial debut with this film, for which Jackson co-wrote the screenplay. Robert Sheehan, Hera Hilmar, Hugo Weaving and Jihae star.

In a taped introduction to the footage that played during Universal's CinemaCon presentation in April, Jackson said the film is "set on a future earth, and visually, it'll be like nothing you've ever seen before. Mortal Engines is a wild ride with a very human story at its heart." Universal will release the movie on December 14.



Books & Authors

Awards: Bread & Roses; Little Rebels; Wainwright

The Alliance of Radical Booksellers announced joint winners of this year's £500 (about $380) Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing, which "seeks to recognize and celebrate excellence in the field of radical political nonfiction." The winning titles are Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands by Stuart Hall and Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge.

"The decision to share the award was predicated on the notion that these two exceptional books compliment one another so well, offering two different approaches and levels of insight into the inter-relational dynamics of racism," said Bread & Roses Award trustee Nik Gorecki, adding: "The two books together provide readers with a rich inter-generational and inter-sectional narrative of black British experience and analysis."

Guest judge Katharine Quarmby said Familiar Stranger "is an outstanding memoir which, with considerable subtlety, marries together memoir with politics, providing readers with a brilliant analysis of the many discontents of colonialism. This posthumous account, written with Bill Schwarz, gave a beautiful sense of point and counterpoint throughout the book."

Guest judge Joan Anim-Addo described Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race as "a wonderful and timely book that dares to speak honestly to the contemporary moment in Britain, one that is increasingly characterized by young people, black and white, wanting to understand as fully as they can the society in which they live. While that society is of course multi-racial, the quality of life for too many people continues to be affected by the reality of race, or more accurately, racialized thinking in its varied guises."

This year's winner of the Little Rebels Children's Book Award, which recognizes children's fiction that "promotes social justice or social equality, challenges stereotypes or is informed by anti-discriminatory concerns," was The Muslims by Zanib Mian. Judge Patrice Lawrence said, "This is a very funny and very effective challenge to the widespread misrepresentation of Muslims in the news. More children need to get to read this book."

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A 13-book longlist, rather than the usual 12, has been released for the £5,000 (about $3,810) Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize, which recognizes a book that "most successfully reflects the ethos of renowned nature writer Alfred Wainwright's work, to inspire readers to explore the outdoors and to nurture a respect for the natural world." A shortlist will be announced July 5 and the winner named August 2. Check out the longlisted titles here.


Reading with... Joanna Cantor

photo: Sylvie Rosokoff
Joanna Cantor holds an MFA from Brooklyn College and a BA from Colorado College. She was the 2014 recipient of a Vermont Studio Center Fellowship. Alternative Remedies for Loss (Bloomsbury, May 8, 2018) is her debut novel. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her husband and dog.
 
On your nightstand now:
 
I just finished Tayari Jones's An American Marriage, so that's moved over to my husband's side of the bed. It's rare that a book can have me so engaged at a plot-and-character level (I actually peeked ahead a few times because I couldn't wait to find out what happened!) while also causing me to reflect deeply on larger issues. I can't recommend this one highly enough--it's really outstanding.
 
I'm reading and savoring Sigrid Nunez's The Friend. This novel is barely 200 pages yet it manages to be so many things--a story of loss, an ode to a friendship, a sharp and sometimes hilarious commentary on the literary world and a beautiful, moving portrait of friendship between a woman and a dog.
 
Joan Didion's South and West lives next to the bed--I've read some but I'm not feeling any rush and I like having her nearby. Ditto with Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds and The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs. I definitely keep too many things on the nightstand!
 
Next up are Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing, and Lisa Halliday's Asymmetry.
 
Favorite book when you were a child:
 
Charlotte's Web--I think I made my mom read it to me more than 10 times! I've been an animal nut from day one. I also loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I was fascinated with how things worked in "olden times," as I called anything not contemporary as a child.
 
Your top five authors:
 
Jennifer Egan, James Salter, Edith Wharton, Joan Didion, Jane Austen.
 
Book you've faked reading:
 
This is a strange one, because I can't really say why I haven't read it, but at a party not long ago someone referenced Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. They knew I was a writer and I couldn't bring myself to admit the truth, so I just agreed with whatever they were saying.
 
Also, Harry Potter. This is going to be devastating to a few friends of mine, but I'll come clean: nope, I've never read anything by J.K. Rowling. And--gulp--I haven't even seen the movies. Yes, I just nod and smile at your Harry Potter references.
 
Book you're an evangelist for:
 
I'm an evangelist for a lot of books, depending on when and to whom I'm evangelizing--but one would be Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. It's a collection of advice columns she wrote as "Dear Sugar" for The Rumpus. There's a tremendous amount of heart in this book, and the contents are inherently varied, so whatever the source of your secret heartache, you'll find something wise and cathartic in there.
 
Book you've bought for the cover:
 
The cover of Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong was just so good--lively, vibrant colors, whimsical, offbeat, memorable. I would have read it anyway, but I'd say maybe I bought it sooner because of the cover.
 
Book you hid from your parents:
 
The Baby-Sitters Club series. My mom thought they were junk, but I was addicted. I think it's because they combined the familiarity of a series (comforting to tweens) with a big dose of plot. A lot happened in those books.
 
Also, I would sneak peaks at any parenting book I found on my mom's shelf. I wanted to get inside the mind of the opposition!
 
Book that changed your life:
 
I read Rosie by Anne Lamott when I was 14, on a family vacation. I fell in love with Lamott's warm prose and with the limitless compassion she bestowed on her characters even as they screwed up. It was the first time I remember thinking This is what I want to do--to create a world, and to make readers feel invited into that world, the way Lamott did. Twenty years later, my copy is totally battered; I've flipped through it so many times when I felt in need of courage or inspiration.
 
Favorite line from a book:
 
"I would stay in New York, I told him, just six months, and I could see the Brooklyn Bridge from my window. As it turned out the bridge was the Triborough, and I stayed eight years."
 
This is from Joan Didion's essay "Goodbye to All That" in Slouching Towards Bethlehem--certainly my favorite essay and possibly my favorite piece of writing, full stop. I can't read that line without getting chills. It cuts to the quick of everything we don't know about ourselves when we're young, how it feels to be new to New York and the passage of time. I love the juxtaposition: the relatively small matter of calling a bridge by the wrong name, and the much larger matters of six months becoming eight years (and of the engagement Didion called off in the process, which we learn about in the surrounding lines).
 
Five books you'll never part with:
 
I would have said The Wellspring by Sharon Olds, but I gave it to a friend who was pregnant and moving abroad. It felt important that she have my beloved copy. I keep meaning to buy another one.
 
Emperor's Children by Claire Messud. This came out the year I moved to New York and was one of my bibles when I began writing fiction. When my husband moved in, we somehow had three copies between the two of us, and he was like, clearly we'll get rid of two of these, but I made us hang onto all three! You can't be too careful.
 
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler--actually set the year I moved to NYC, and another New York story that felt like it was written for me. I found Danler's prose inviting and inspiring; I kept my copy by my side as I was revising my novel and still love to flip through when I'm at loose ends.
 
My signed, personalized copy of Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad--she thanks me for introducing her at a reading. Goon Squad is such a brilliant book--definitely never parting with that one.
 
So I don't exclude men entirely, I'll end with 100 Love Sonnets by Pablo Neruda. Family friends gave this to my husband and me when we got engaged, and we ended up including one of the sonnets in our wedding ceremony. You can't beat poetry that finds a way to say something fresh about love.
 
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
 
Elena Ferrante's Neopolitan novels--all four of them! The level of addiction I felt while reading those books (oops I forgot to brush my teeth/check my phone/eat, how is it getting dark out?) is something I associate with reading as a kid--it's harder to find as an adult. It's an almost queasy pleasure, like binging on sweets.
 
Five books that are resources for your own writing:
 
I've touched on this a bit already--Rosie by Anne Lamott was the earliest one. Stephanie Danler's Sweetbitter and several of Jennifer Egan's novels have been others. But two more that I've found myself rereading when I feel stuck in my own writing are The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman and The Privileges by Jonathan Dee. I think Waldman and Dee both really excel at pacing, at knowing when to dive into a moment and when to skim the surface or jump ahead. They move the stories forward with such great energy. I love to dip into these novels when my work is feeling sluggish, to try to hitch a ride on that momentum.

Book Review

Review: The Shades

The Shades by Evgenia Citkowitz (W.W. Norton, $25.95 hardcover, 208p., 9780393254129, June 19, 2018)

Evgenia Citkowitz's first novel (following a short story debut, Ether) is a captivating, mysterious story of family, love and grief. The Shades centers on Catherine and Michael, a year after their teenaged daughter, Rachel, died in a car wreck. Their son, Rowan, insisted on going away to boarding school immediately after losing his sister.
 
Catherine has withdrawn to the country, to the apartment in a subdivided manor where she and Michael had hoped to retire. She lets the mail pile up, doesn't answer the phone and neglects her previously successful London art gallery. Meanwhile, Michael continues to work and live in the city, where he fails to find comfort in architecture--his passion--and tries to reconcile himself to his troubled marriage: "their lives ran parallel but never together or intersecting."
 
The estate where Catherine has retreated is a focal point--this historic house whose design elements enchant her husband, but whose empty rooms, with both children gone, haunt her. When a young woman shows up at the door saying she used to live there, Catherine grasps at her like a drowning woman. In this potential for new friendship, she clearly sees a lifeline. But this visitor, whom Catherine calls simply "the girl," may not be what she seems.
 
Catherine's career as a tastemaker in the fine arts, and Michael's in architecture and real estate, provide just a few of the many threads that combine for this story's rich tapestry. The history of Catherine's family (her father's art, her mother's instability); Rachel's burgeoning romance, revealed only after her death; Michael's courtship of the ever-aloof Catherine; Rowan's attempts to carve out an identity for himself apart from his family: these are significant supports to Citkowitz's plot. Strangely, that plot, involving the mystery girl and a flash-forward opening to the book that is not resolved until the final pages, is less sharply executed, less beguiling than the details that render this family so realistically. The meticulous portrayal of characters, the flaws and struggles in their relationships and a gloomy, atmospheric tone are the greatest accomplishments of The Shades.
 
A subtle plot element involves the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, in which Orpheus tries to bring his beloved wife back across the River Styx following her death, but fails because he does not follow Hades' instructions. Foreshadowed briefly by an opera at which Michael and Catherine's romance began to bloom, this myth offers a lens for interpreting their grief, and the damage it will wreak on their family. Readers with a careful eye or a familiarity with mythology will recognize this thread; the rest will be none the poorer for having missed it in a novel rich with pathos and agony, but also simple humanity: love, loss, grief, hope and deceit. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia
 
Shelf Talker: In this atmospheric story, a grieving family splits, each suffering more or less alone, until a stranger comes to visit their mysterious old house and throws them off-balance even more.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Audiobooks as 'Empathy Delivery Devices'

"I often say that books are these really handy, wonderful empathy delivery devices.... And at a time like now, when I feel we could use empathy more than ever, the fact that you can just stick these wonderful empathy delivery devices in your ear and go makes me profoundly grateful." --Gayle Forman

June is Audiobook Month, a season launched annually with the Audie Awards gala in New York City, followed the next day at BookExpo by the Audio Publishers Association's Author Tea, where this year's featured speakers were authors Laini Taylor, Jason Fry and Gayle Forman, along with actress/writer Kathryn Hahn.

Laini Taylor, Kathryn Hahn, Gayle Forman and Jason Fry

"The main thing I love about audiobooks is that I'm an author who reads aloud as I write," said Taylor (Strange the Dreamer, Hachette Audio). "The music of the language is so important to me that I read it out loud to myself. And I'm a perfectionist, so by the time I've finished a book I'll have read it something like 8,000 times.... For me the great gift of an audiobook narrator is that I can hear it anew and it can come alive for me again. It's a selfish thing. They can bring my book back to me. But as a civilian listener of books, they are ways of squeezing more stories into my life. I listen to them with my daughter. They're such a gift."

Noting that she is "somebody who truly loves audiobooks," Forman (I Have Lost My Way, Listening Library) agreed that it is "amazing to hear your work translated in this different way." As a listener, she gravitates toward "the kind of big, chunky nonfiction that, since having children, I have been unable to concentrate through. It's fantastic."

It is as a parent that audiobooks have changed her life. Although one of her daughters is a voracious reader, the other "has a harder time with reading," Forman said. Last summer, however, in preparation for a family trip abroad, "I took a leap of faith and I bought about 10 different audiobooks. I bought the entire Jason Reynolds collection, Wonder, some Jackie Woodson, Sharon Draper, loaded them on, crossed my fingers. And over that summer she listened to these books over and over.... The surprising thing was that when we came home in the fall, suddenly she wanted to listen to chapter books read out loud.... And so now, three nights a week, I'm upstairs reading to her."

Describing himself as "probably the biggest newbie in the room, but also as a really enthusiastic convert," Fry (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Random House Audio) confessed that his first experience with an audiobook occurred just two days before the event on a drive to Boston with "my new pal Sylvain Neuvel's book Sleeping Giants as my inaugural audiobook. I had such a good time. It was wonderful. And it got me thinking as I passed these hours in really good company with Sylvain's book--What took me so long?"

As he considered the different reading experiences, Fry came to believe "the secret is that the eye can take in so much. The eye can fill in the blanks and jump and assess things all at once. The ear is really dependent on each word one at a time, carrying its own weight. The ear is the really musical editor.... I'm the newbie in the room, but I can't tell you how much fun that all was and I'm just so excited that there is a giant world is now open to me and I'm very glad to be a part of it."

Although not a regular audiobook listener, Hahn (My Wish for You, Scholastic/Orchard) said she'd been thinking about a scene in the film Lady Bird where the mother and daughter "are listening to The Grapes of Wrath and they have that big plastic thing with all the cassettes. That brought back such memories of being in the station wagon with my mom and hearing her swear trying to organize the tapes back in the box, with some tapes having their labels rubbed off because they'd been checked out of the library so many times. And there was a lot of Anne Tyler we were listening to.... But there was that sound of the written word, that sound of language, of having a weight to it, that I'm sure somehow informed me wanting to be an actor"

"The Eternal Question" inevitably came up near the end of the program: Is listening to an audiobook reading?

Forman readily took up the gauntlet: "I got into an argument with somebody recently who said you can't call it reading. That it's not right. And I understood what they were kind of saying you're being a stickler about words, but is it not reading if you're reading a book with Braille? Do you have to read a book with your eyes? And the issue I had with this person was not that they were saying what is reading, but they were suggesting that audio was less. I'm so used to defending audio like I'm used to defending YA as equal to. So, I'm happy to say, you do read books on audio."

"I feel like it's that same autonomy," Hahn agreed. "It's yours, what's in your head, what you're seeing in your mind. It's that autonomy of story."

And Taylor added: "I think you're still having to do all the work of translating those words into images in your brain.... To quibble with that does seem petty."

I agree, but look forward to next year's cogent answers to that question. Maybe we should create an anthology of responses. Could be an audiobook, too. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives at Fresh Eyes Now)


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