Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 15, 2018

 Kokila: Everything We Never Had by Randy Ribay

Nancy Paulsen Books: Sync by Ellen Hopkins

Running Press Adult: Cat People by Hannah Hillam

Beaming Books: Must-Have Autumn Reads for Your Shelf!

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

Severn House: A Messy Murder (Main) (The Decluttering Mysteries #4) by Simon Brett

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron


Politics & Prose Opening Union Market Store Next Week

Politics & Prose's newest location, in Washington, D.C.'s historic Union Market district, will open on Tuesday, June 19. Located in a newly renovated warehouse adjacent to the Union Market indoor food market, the new store will carry books and gifts for kids and adults and have a dedicated events space in the back of the store. Plans for events include author talks and readings along with workshops, classes and children's activities. And while the store won't have a cafe of its own, a coffee shop will open soon next door.

The opening of the Union Market store continues a busy year for P&P: last October, the bookstore opened a new branch at The Wharf in D.C., and over the winter expanded the flagship store on Connecticut Avenue.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Restaurant of Lost Recipes (A Kamogawa Food Detectives Novel) by Hisashi Kashiwai, Translated by Jesse Kirkwood

Bookstore Sales Down 2.9% in April

April bookstore sales fell 2.9%, to $669 million, compared to April 2017, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. This marked the first decline after two positive months.

For the year to date, bookstore sales were $3.26 billion, down 2.7% compared to the first four months of 2017. The cumulative loss for 2018 so far is largely attributable to January results, when bookstore sales fell 8.6%.

Total retail sales in April rose 3.7%, to $484.5 billion. For the year to date, total retail sales have risen 4.8%, to $1,878.4 billion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books."

Harpervia: Only Here, Only Now by Tom Newlands

Tornado Damages B&N in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Barnes & Noble Wilkes-Barre, before the tornado.

Barnes & Noble will reopen one of its bookstores damaged by a tornado that touched down Wednesday night at the Arena Hub Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., causing widespread destruction, the Times-Tribune reported.

In a pair of tweets, BN Arena Hub posted: "Hey folks. Firstly we want to let you know that all staff that was in the building during the storm has been accounted for and nobody was injured. Thank you to all who have reached out for your thoughts and prayers...." This was followed by: "We will work hard to assess the damage and begin repairs as soon as possible. We love our Wilkes-Barre community and look forward to serving you again soon."

The National Weather Service confirmed yesterday that a tornado had touched down at the major shopping hub. The Times-Tribune wrote that "only six people were injured in the storm, but a number of businesses at the Wilkes-Barre Township Commons and Arena Hub Plaza had collapsed roofs, broken windows and damaged signs. Power lines were downed in the streets and parking lots, along with overturned cars."

A front window of the B&N store "just came flying in as if something hit it," said staff member Patrick Abdalla. "When that happened, I was like I have to get closer to the inside of the store. I turned to run, and that was when I saw the back wall was just gone. The whole back wall. You're looking out and where you should see a wall there's thunder and lightning and stuff floating around."

Ga.'s Book & Table to Offer Short-Term Stays

Book & Table, Valdosta, Ga., "will soon be more than just a bookstore," WCTV reported. "It will now also be somewhere to spend the night," thanks to a vote last week by the city council approving Book & Table's plan to offer short-term stays.

"Tourism staff say it could also encourage more people to spend time downtown, and restaurants and stores to stay open later, bringing more money to the city," WCTV added.

The council approved an ordinance request from owner Mike Orenduff to operate a three-room "motel" behind the business. According to the Daily Times, the property is located at 102 North Patterson Street and Bennie's Alley, where Orenduff and his wife converted a section of the bottom floor into temporary lodging. The ordinance notes that guests will not be allowed to stay longer than seven days and requires the motel not add any additional rooms.

Orenduff said he originally wanted to use the space for rooms on Airbnb, but the council had asked him what he would name his motel. "I haven't really thought about it," he added. "I guess we'll call it the Book & Table Inn."

Ollie's Other Place in Middlebury, Vt., to Close

Ollie's Other Place, the book, toy, game and educational gift store for babies and children that was opened in 2015 by Vermont Book Shop owner Becky Dayton, will close June 30, the Addison County Independent reported.

Dayton said that community support for the venture had been great, but sales were not strong enough to keep the store open: "Having Ollie's has been fun, but because of weak sales, the strategy of securing a backup location for the Vermont Book Shop has not proved to be workable. I will focus my efforts now on creating a Vermont Book Shop that can survive the bridge and rail project."

While much of the inventory at Ollie's Other Place will be sold during a clearance sale, a number of the quality toy brands, including Janod, Folkmanis, Blue Orange Games and HABA, as well as the gift and classic books and select games and activity books, will be integrated into Vermont Book Shop, where enhancement of the children's section is planned.

Wi14 Bookseller Scholarship Application Form Now Open

The American Booksellers Association's online form for booksellers to apply for a scholarship to the 2019 Winter Institute is now open, Bookselling This Week reported. Wi14 will be held January 22–25 in Albuquerque, N.Mex. Scholarships cover the conference fee; up to four nights plus tax at a hotel in the ABA block; and transportation costs up to $400.

The application form has opened earlier than in previous years in order for ABA to notify winning booksellers of their scholarship before Winter Institute registration begins in September. Booksellers attending the fall regional trade shows will also have a chance to win a scholarship by submitting a business card at the ABA booth.

Scholarships are open to booksellers from ABA member stores that did not have a Winter Institute scholarship winner in 2017 or 2018. Deadline to apply is June 30 at 5 p.m. EST. Winners will be announced in August.


Cool Idea of the Day: Rebecca Makkai Gives Back

Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers and a fervent supporter of independent booksellers, is working with local bookstores to give back to Vital Bridges, a food pantry benefiting those living with HIV/AIDS.

Makkai's book is centered on a group of men and women living through the AIDS epidemic in 1980s Chicago, and she credits the people of Vital Bridges for being a great help during her research. Their generosity has inspired her to team up with local booksellers to benefit the organization.

For every photo taken with a copy of The Great Believers and posted on social media, Makkai will donate $1 (up to $5,000). Chicago bookstores Roscoe Books and Seminary Co-op/57th Street Books have agreed to match her donation, for a total of up to $15,000. 

"Hey, are you a bookseller? Cool! I love you!" Makkai noted on her web page, which offers further details on the initiative. "You could help us out even more by pledging matching donations either to Vital Bridges or to an HIV/AIDS related charity in your own community."

"I'd really love to go broke doing this," she added. "Please help by spreading the word, and by using the hashtag. One of the two epigraphs on the novel is from a poem by Rebecca Hazelton: 'The world is a wonder, but the portions are small.' I appreciate your help in making the portions a little larger for some people I care about a lot."

Happy 50th Birthday, Mitchell's Book Corner!

Congratulations to Mitchell's Book Corner, Nantucket, Mass., which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, beginning with birthday kick-off events on June 28, a day filled with author signings, giveaways, refreshments and "Mitchell's memories."

"Through 50 years, independent bookselling on the island has seen the rise and decline of chain and big-box bookstores, the rise and flattening of e-books, and the rise and rise of Amazon, yet still here we are," said owner/caretaker Wendy Hudson "This is due to the efforts of many people over the years who have one powerful thing in common: an abiding love for the special place bookstores have in our community. Above all, credit goes to ReMain Nantucket for implementing the model that sustains the store's viability."

When Mitchell's Book Corner and Nantucket Bookworks joined forces in 2012, the move strengthened their ability to compete, and to differentiate more fully, offering a greater selection of titles for sale, expanding the famous Nantucket Room, adding events and outreach, increasing staff, and partnering more with local organizations. That expansion included the founding of the Nantucket Book Festival.

Looking to the future, Mitchell's Book Corner hopes to expand its selections of books in other languages and is exploring models for Community Supported Bookstores to strengthen its base to innovate and evolve while upholding our traditions for the next 50 years and beyond.

The bookstore's website features a brief, personal history of Mitchell's Book Corner written by longtime owner Mimi Beman, who died 2010. She concluded her piece with these words: "Why didn't we change the 1960s look of the fixtures and move forward with the times? Why didn't we modernize and become cutting-edge? Well, we did in our way. Yes, the fixtures and design stayed the same but the inventory, the books, have been constantly in flux, frequently cleared of deadwood, always up-to-date, current, relevant. That's what has always mattered."

Meet the Aussie Young Booksellers of the Year: Dani Solomon

In the week leading up to the Australian Booksellers Association 2018 conference, June 17-18, Books+Publishing is interviewing each of the five shortlisted nominees for Young Bookseller of the Year. In the third installment, Dani Solomon, assistant manager at Readings Kids in Melbourne, answered the question:

Where would you like to be in five (or 10, or 20) years’ time? And what do you hope the industry will look like then?

I would like to still be where I am right now and doing what I do now, but be even better at it!

As for the industry, I hope it continues to publish more diverse books, particularly in children’s publishing. We need to get as much diversity of cultures, bodies, families (and more) out there as possible. For instance, there is a laughably small amount of children’s books with divorced parents available for kids right now--it’s 2018, someone address this!

Other than that I very much hope the industry keeps growing and remains flexible and open, and that GST is abolished on books.

Media and Movies

Movies: Little Women

A trailer has been released for Little Women, a modern retelling of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel directed by Clare Niederpruem, adapted by Niederpruem and Kristi Shimek, and featuring cinematography by Anka Malatynska. The film hits theaters nationwide September 28.

The cast includes Lea Thompson (Back to the Future) as Marmee; Sarah Davenport (Jo), Melanie (Meg), Taylor Murphy (Amy), Allie Jennings (Beth), Ian Bohen (Freddy), Lucas Grabeel (Laurie) and Bart Johnson (Papa March).

On the 150th anniversary of the novel's publication, the filmmakers imagine Jo "as an aspiring writer who leaves for New York determined to publish a novel, but her editor challenges her to write about something more interesting--her family. When tragedy brings the sisters back home, sticking together takes on new meaning. As Jo comforts her sick sister, Beth asks for one thing: a story. Jo knows the perfect one... by heart."

On Stage: Ted Hughes's The Iron Woman

Later this year, the Other Palace, a London theater owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Theatres Group, will stage an adaptation of Ted Hughes's children's book The Iron Woman, which first published 25 years ago as a sequel to The Iron Man, the Bookseller reported.

Carol Hughes, Ted Hughes' widow, said she approached Andrew Lloyd Webber about doing a play to mark the 20th anniversary of the poet's death "in a positive way by highlighting his writing for children and also his lifelong passion for the environment. This story of Lucy and the Iron Woman is a gripping, magical fable of what we can achieve once we, and the generations of children who follow us, realise we do have within us the power to fight back against the seemingly-relentless pollution that is blighting our lands, rivers and seas."

The play will be written by Mike Kenny (The Railway Children), with music by songwriter Pippa Cleary. It will open at the Other Palace theater October 9.

Books & Authors

Awards: Molson Winners

The Canada Council for the Arts has awarded author Diane Schoemperlen and historian Lynne Viola this year's C$50,000 (about US$38,160) Molson Prizes, which are given annually to two recipients, one in the arts and the other in the social sciences and humanities, who have "distinguished themselves by their outstanding achievements."

Schoemperlen is the author of 14 books of fiction and nonfiction, including This Is Not My Life: A Memoir of Love, Prison, and Other Complications, which was shortlisted for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize.

"I have learned so many things over the years, not the least of which is that the writing life is not for the faint of heart," she said. "Difficult though it may sometimes be, the most important thing is to keep moving forward."

Viola is a professor in history at the University of Toronto and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Her work is on the social and political history of the Stalin era in the Soviet Union, focusing on the mass repression of the 1930s.

Reading with... Julia Dixon Evans

photo: Nelwyn Del Frate

Julia Dixon Evans is the author of the novel How to Set Yourself on Fire (Dzanc Books, May 8, 2018). Her work can be found or is forthcoming in McSweeney's, Literary Hub, Pithead Chapel and elsewhere. She works, edits and teaches for the literary nonprofit and small press So Say We All, is nonfiction editor for Noble / Gas Qtrly and hosts the Foundry reading series in San Diego.

On your nightstand now:

My nightstand is a weirdly methodical mess--the on-deck, the references-too-often-to-put-away and the oh-my-god-why-can't-I-finish-this-one? In order: Elle Nash's new Animals Eat Each Other, Hanif Adburraquib's They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Jeffrey Eugenides's The Virgin Suicides and the second goddamn book in Stephen King's Dark Tower series that I have been trying to read for three goddamn years.

Favorite book when you were a child:

It's hard to not say Matilda by Roald Dahl here. I remember secretly wishing my parents were more evil and dastardly so I could be more like Matilda. Unfortunately, my parents were all right.

Your top five authors:

Jeffrey Eugenides (I even loved The Marriage Plot), Shirley Jackson (I came to Jackson as an adult, as a mother, and I subsequently ate her writing up with a spoon), Laura van den Berg (she was probably the first writer I fell for since trying to be a writer myself), Roald Dahl (because he made a reader out of me), J.D. Salinger (because when I read Franny and Zooey in high school he made an obsessed reader out of me).

Book you've faked reading:

I faked reading a lot in school because I was always overworked. I loved lectures and discussions, and could bullsh*t a top-notch essay based on that. The only time I was ever proud of this was when I read maybe five pages of Edmund Spenser's 1,000+-page ye olde English The Faerie Queene for an entire class that was just about that book. The class was an 8 a.m. lecture by a 90-year-old professor, and I got a B.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. See? I've mentioned it in three answers now.

Book you've bought for the cover:

All of them.

Book you hid from your parents:

The first book I hid from my parents was Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret because periods and boobs and boys, and omg, it felt so good to have a secret. I still love that feeling, like when I'm reading something pervy or violent in public and wonder if anyone can tell. And weirdly, I can't wait for when my own daughter reads Are You There God....

Book that changed your life:

Isle of Youth by Laura van den Berg. I read this when I was trying to stitch together a new-ish life: small children getting less small, me trying to write and grasp at this emerging identity, me being old and thinking I was too old to have my life changed. LVDB's writing is stunning and quietly transformative for sure, but I wonder if maybe this is more a function of my life changing around me while I happened to be reading this book.

Favorite line from a book:

" 'Have a carrot,' said the mother bunny." This is the very last line of The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. I love last lines, and this one is delightful. I say this to people a lot, and I never really mean what the book means (which I think is: despite every ridiculous thing you have done to me, I am here for you and I will not make a big deal out of the ridiculous things you have done to me, let's eat). I usually just mean, Can you eat this piece of vegetable please? But it always makes me smile. Because how many volumes have been written about motherhood? That (kinda disturbing) book catches it in three words. That's what parenting means, that's what unconditional love means, that's what friendship means.

Five books you'll never part with:

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger, The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (strike 4), In the Heart of the Valley of Love by Cynthia Kadohata (because 18-year-old me, transformed by this book, wrote long tomes in the margins with pink glitter gel pen, and no used bookstore will ever take it and my book margins are the closest thing I have to a journal), Bookmarked: Stephen King's The Body by Aaron Burch (same, except not with a pink glitter gel pen. I will never part with the things I wrote in those margins) and Horror Business by Ryan Bradford, which is out of print and that's a crying shame.

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

Well, for the fifth time I'm gonna have to say The Virgin Suicides by Eugenides. The magic is how the plural narrator gets under your skin. I love recommending this book to people, but I also feel a weirdly forceful envy of them. It's not fair that they get to read it for the first time.

Are you sponsored by The Virgin Suicides?


Book Review

Review: The Last Cruise

The Last Cruise by Kate Christensen (Doubleday, $26.95 hardcover, 304p., 9780385536288, July 10, 2018)

It may come as no surprise that Kate Christensen, food blogger and author of the gastronomy memoir Blue Plate Special, sets her seventh novel, The Last Cruise, in a galley aboard the 1950s cruise ship Queen Isabella. Her story, however, is more about the personal aspirations and doubts of the cultured characters thrown together for a two-week cruise than it is about cuisine. This fits in line with her Pen/Faulkner Award-winner The Great Man, as well as The Astral and The Epicure's Lament, which feature poets and artists searching for connection.
The pampered guests on the Isabella's one-off round-trip voyage to Hawaii gather for embarkation in Long Beach, Calif. Among them is a geriatric Israeli string quartet of Six-Day War veterans, including violinist Miriam. In her 70s, Miriam is still feisty enough to have a crush on the group's recent widower cellist--and prepared to act on it during their carefree cruise.
On a work/play junket, 34-year-old Maine farmer Christine agrees to accompany her New York City friend Valerie, a webzine editor doing a story on the world's working class--not Barbara Ehrenreich, she tells Christine, "the Studs Terkel thing instead." Valerie plans to drink and schmooze her way through the rank and file while Christine enjoys a break from farm drudgery to dress for dinner and read from the shipboard library's collection of classic Waugh, Wharton and Wodehouse.
The ship's Hungarian sous-chef, Mick, oversees the fresh produce and luxury meat cuts stowed to satisfy a vintage menu heralding '50s decadence ("fancy food and drink, back before farm-to-table became an elitist idea claimed by the rich instead of what peasants ate"). He and the largely immigrant coterie of workers berthed on the lower decks are charged with providing the upper deck hoity-toity a retro experience, including (in addition to the tartares and squabs) straight-up cocktails, live jazz and classical music, black-tie socials and unprohibited smoking. After the cruise, however, the crew are all being sacked as the global corporate owner of the Isabella plans to send it to the scrapyard.
Like many novels of isolated microcosmic societies, The Last Cruise slips from a romantic storybook idyll to a struggle between haves and have nots. The Isabella's disgruntled crew walks off the job and occupies a tent city on one of the guest decks. A fire breaks out in the engine room, setting the disabled ship adrift. Without power, toilets stop functioning just as a norovirus begins its deadly spread. Lobster Thermidor gives way to canned kidney beans and chopped Spam until helicopters drop rudimentary supplies of peanut butter, power bars and dried fruit. Crew and passengers alike "hover between anxious waiting, festering outrage, and a collective paralysis of will." Then, in a stunning denouement, a savage storm rocks the crippled ship. Christensen delivers another engrossing tale rich in character and social mores that reveals the fragile veneer of civilization. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.
Shelf Talker: Gathered for a carefree vintage voyage to Hawaii, the cultured mix of guests and polyglot crew in The Last Cruise find that sailing into the past doesn't leave the troubled present behind.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: On Stage at BookExpo 2018

Something different. That's what I look for every year at BookExpo (or, before that, the American Booksellers Association Convention, and then BEA). Although I search, that "thing," that bit of magic, almost always finds me instead. To be more accurate, what I actually do is wait for it to find me. The star-struck new bookseller who went to his first ABA Show in Miami in 1993 still, decades later, wants a little taste of the magic as a complement (Or is it an antidote?) to all of the business as usual.

This year, the "thing" I couldn’t resist was the theatrical nature of BookExpo, with its nucleus located near the Theatre Communications Group booth, nestled among the other publishers in the Consortium Book Sales & Distribution aisle.

Suzan-Lori Parks at BookExpo

On Thursday and Friday, I kept being drawn back to the booth, first for signings by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (100 Plays for the First Hundred Days) and then Tony Kushner (The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, October), whose landmark play Angels in America is currently in revival.

I returned once again to meet the creators of The Band's Visit, which I saw last December, not long after it had opened on Broadway. I was deeply moved and entertained by this gem, adapted from the compelling, funny/heartbreaking 2007 film about an Egyptian band stranded overnight in a small desert town in Israel. (I could not, however, have predicted it would go on to sweep the Tony Awards last Sunday.)

David Yazbek and Itamar Moses

"You saw it when it was fresh," joked David Yazbek as he signed my copy of The Band's Visit: A New Musical at TCG's booth. Yazbek composed the music and lyrics for the production and was appearing at BookExpo with David Moses, who wrote the book.

It was only a moment, but it was a moment. 

A few years ago, I considered the idea that BookExpo fit under a definition of theatre proposed by legendary British producer/director Peter Brook in his book, The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate: "I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged."

Tony Kushner

From my early days as a bookseller, I understood that handselling is performance--sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, always passionate--and the bookstore sales floor is a stage set. BookExpo is Broadway-scale handselling. Setting it in New York City enhances the production values, as does staying at a hotel within walking distance of the theater district.

I mean, really... the Javits Center's exhibition hall during BookExpo literally had an Uptown Stage, Midtown Stage and Downtown Stage. The connection was further enhanced when the creators of Tony-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen took to the Downtown Stage to discuss  Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel (Poppy/Hachette).

The Downtown Stage was also the setting for the theatrics of BookExpo's high moment of drama (or comedy or tragedy, depending on your political leanings), when former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer appeared after bomb-sniffing dogs had "secured the premises" while stern-looking folks with earpieces and, in at a least one case, dark sunglasses, surveyed the audience. If anyone can convince me that scheduling former Secretary of State John Kerry at the same venue as the next event wasn't a conscious "act of theatre," I'd love to hear their definition of the word coincidence.

When the curtain finally came down on BookExpo, my next move was to see a play, as I often do for a post-show encore. This year it was the incredible revival of Edward Albee's Three Tall Women, starring Glenda Jackson, Laurie Metcalf (who both won Tony Awards) and Alison Pill.

I thought again about Peter Brook's "act of theatre" concept, as well as something Glenda Jackson told author Mary Gordon in a March New York Times interview. During the '60s, Jackson had been directed by Brook in Marat/Sade. She recalled that working with him "was like coming across an oasis in the desert. Like all great directors, he creates the kind of world in which everyone's responsible for the whole play. That sense of the total being greater than the sum of the parts is very, very strong in Lear."

I said earlier that BookExpo is Broadway-scale bookselling. I'll amend that statement. The real magic of the show--those "moments" like mine at the TCG booth this year, and yours elsewhere--happen when individual players, whatever our role/job description may be, find ways to become "responsible for the whole play."

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

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