Shelf Awareness for Monday, September 10, 2018

Viking: The Bookshop: A History of the American Bookstore by Evan Friss

Pixel+ink: Missy and Mason 1: Missy Wants a Mammoth

Bramble: The Stars Are Dying: Special Edition (Nytefall Trilogy #1) by Chloe C Peñaranda

Blue Box Press: A Soul of Ash and Blood: A Blood and Ash Novel by Jennifer L Armentrout

Charlesbridge Publishing: The Perilous Performance at Milkweed Meadow by Elaine Dimopoulos, Illustrated by Doug Salati

Minotaur Books: The Dark Wives: A Vera Stanhope Novel (Vera Stanhope #11) by Ann Cleeves


Takeover Rumors Push B&N Stock Up 16.5%

The Barnes & Noble roller-coaster ride continued on Friday, when the company's stock, which had dropped 8% the day before after another disappointing quarterly report, jumped 16.5%, to $5.30, on more than triple the usual volume. The cause: several pieces of news that suggested the company could be the subject of a takeover offer.

For one, an SEC filing disclosed that Richard Schottenfeld, head of investment firm Schottenfeld Management Corp., which has recently and six years ago advocated for major changes at B&N, had increased his stake in the company to 6.9%, from 5.7%, as reported in July. In the filing, Schottenfeld said he has met with B&N chairman Len Riggio and other B&N executives and will continue to do so to discuss "changes in company leadership at the executive and board level, implementation of operational improvements, and the desirability of selling the company." Those discussions include recommending "experienced and qualified individuals" who Schottenfeld believes "would significantly contribute to the development and execution of the company's strategic and operating plans."

In the filing, Schottenfeld called B&N "an attractive acquisition target" and, in an apparent reference to the revelation by fired CEO Demos Parneros that "a book retailer" had made an offer for the company (which was withdrawn after due diligence), Schottenfeld said his company is "encouraged by recent third-party disclosure that the company engaged in sale transaction discussions with a potential strategic acquirer as recently as June 2018, and believe that there will be additional and broadening interest from potential acquirers. [We] encourage the company to continue in its efforts to explore and seriously consider all available sale transaction opportunities."

A B&N spokesperson told several media sources that the company currently is "not engaged in a process to sell itself."

In addition, citing the increase in Schottenfeld's stake, Gabelli Funds upgraded its rating on B&N to "buy" from "hold" and suggested a purchase price of $10 a share, almost double its closing price on Friday.

The rumors about B&N were given additional fuel with Friday's news that Waterstones, the U.K. bookselling chain, is buying Foyles, the iconic London bookseller with seven stores. The reason for the interest in relation to B&N: hedge fund Elliott Advisors bought a majority interest in Waterstones in April and is itself the U.K. branch of Elliott Management Corp., the U.S. investment firm headed by Paul Singer. Could it be that Elliott is looking for other bookstore acquisitions--and may have been the mystery suitor in the spring?

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

U.K. Indie Booksellers React to Waterstones/Foyles Deal

In the wake of Friday's news that Waterstones has acquired Foyles, the Bookseller sought reactions from people in many corners of the book business, including independent booksellers in the U.K.

"It's quite something," said Ros de la Hey of the Mainstreet Trading Company, St. Boswells, Scottish Borders. "My gut instinct is, clever them. In some specific indie cases there might be a question mark, worrying about an even bigger player. But it's good for the high street, it shows positive strength."

Jason Burley of Burley Fisher and Camden Lock Books in London cautioned that the "vast majority of the large bookshops in this country are now under the control of James Daunt, which is slightly worrying. It's concerning and it's not a good thing for choice. Indies bring a different choice of stock and a variety in the way they choose their staff--they are eccentric and quirky. I would include Foyles in that but I wouldn't include Waterstones."

David Headley of London's Goldsboro Books commented: "I am completely shocked. Foyles is an iconic, dynamic bookseller. My immediate fear is that it will lose its identity if it is being swallowed up and being run like Waterstones."

GLOW: Milkweed Editions: Becoming Little Shell: Returning Home to the Landless Indians of Montana by Chris La Tray

AAP Sales: Sales Slip First Half of 2018; Adult Books Up 4.2%

Total net book sales in the first half of 2018 in the U.S. fell 1.4%, to $5.742 billion, compared to the same period in 2017, representing sales of 1,076 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers. 

During the first six months, among the AAP's major categories, adult books had the best results, with sales rising 4.2%, to $2.23 billion. Children's and YA rose 0.3%, to $858.9 million. Religious presses were the top performer, up 11.5%, to $214.6 million. K-12 instructional materials had the worst results, falling 13.6%, to $1.02 billion.

The first six months of the year ended on a sour note: in June, total net book sales in the U.S. fell 12.3%, to $1.307 billion, compared to June 2017. The major drags on the average were professional books, down 20.8%, to $71.8 million; university presses, down 19.5%, to $3.5 million; K-12 instructional materials, down 17.5%, to $396.5 million; and higher ed, down 12.7%, to $257.7 million.

Sales by category in the first half of 2018 compared to the first half of 2017:

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Four Weekends and a Funeral by Ellie Palmer

Mark Wilson Loses Job as Joseph-Beth President and CEO

Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson, who has worked at Joseph-Beth Booksellers for 12 years, first as chief operating officer, then as president and CEO since 2011, has lost his job, the Herald-Leader reported, adding that on Friday, he confirmed the news and said, "Until I sort through a few things I would prefer not to make any comment."

Joseph-Beth has been owned the past seven years by Robert Langley, whose company Langley Properties, owns the flagship store's building in Lexington, Ky. Langley purchased that Joseph-Beth store and two others after the company went bankrupt in 2010.

Joseph-Beth was founded in 1986 by Neil Van Uum and Mary Beth Van Uum and expanded to nine stores, including the Davis-Kidd Booksellers chain, before breaking up in the wake of the financial crisis. Neil Van Uum was able to keep control of the company's Memphis store, which became the Booksellers at Laurelwood. That store closed last year, and a local group opened a new store, Novel, in the same shopping center. Van Uum owns the Booksellers on Fountain Square in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Joseph-Beth current has three superstores--in Lexington, Ky., Cincinnati, Ohio, and Crestview Hills, Ky.--and three hospital shops, at the Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, the Jewish Hospital and the Christ Hospital, both in Cincinnati.

Obituary Note: Priscila Uppal

Poet, novelist and playwright Priscila Uppal, who "received the colorful moniker of 'Canada's coolest poet' by Time Out London magazine when she was appointed poet-in-residence for Canadian Athletes Now at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London," died September 5, the Star reported. She was 43. The position "reflected the sense of fun and generosity--and incredible work ethic--with which she approached her career."

"In all the years I've known her, Priscila Uppal approached every project with enthusiasm and every person with generosity," said the poet, editor and teacher Paul Vermeersch. "She seemed utterly immune to cynicism, which is so rare, and I think that's what made her such a great teacher and friend and mentor to so many."

Uppal was the author of 10 books of poetry, two novels and a short story collection. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2007 for her collection Ontological Necessities. Her works include Sabotage; To Whom It May Concern; The Divine Economy of Salvation; How to Draw Blood from a Stone; Live Coverage; Pretending to Die; and Projection: Encounters with My Runaway Mother.

On Facebook, poet Molly Peacock posted: "How terrible it was to hear the news that Priscila Uppal passed away this morning. She was an icon of literary energy--poetry, memoir, plays--who seemed to know that she had to pack 80 years of living into 45. One of the most beloved editors of The Best Canadian Poetry, and a valiant life force for many. I am still feeling that strange vibration of energy-shock that seems to surround a person who has just departed the world."


Image of the Day: 'Wait, Wait... Pasadena!'

More than 150 people attended the game-show event called "Wait, Wait... Pasadena!" at Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, Calif., last week to celebrate the publication of Hometown Pasadena (Prospect Park Books). Hosted by novelist Lian Dolan (standing), who was a contributor to the book, the raucous event saw many Hometown Pasadena contributors playing for audience members. Seated (r.-l.) are: Rafi Simon, aka children's book author Pseudonymous Bosch; Los Angeles Times columnist and Daditude author Chris Erskine; Instagram influencer Mr. Pasadena; and Hometown Pasadena contributor Mary Jane Horton. The book has been the #1 bestseller at Vroman's since its release a few weeks ago.

Goddard Riverside to Honor Ingram's Phil Ollila

Phil Ollila

Goddard Riverside's annual Book Fair Gala, to be held this year on October 30, will honor Phil Ollila, chief content officer of Ingram Content Group. In addition, the second annual Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice will be awarded to "a groundbreaking book on social justice."

The publishing industry has partnered with the Goddard Riverside Community Center in New York City for more than 30 years to fight homelessness and poverty in New York City and has raised millions of dollars through its annual book fair and other efforts.

Dr. Roderick L. Jones, executive director of Goddard Riverside, said that the collaboration of Goddard Riverside and the publishing industry "makes a real difference in the lives of people in need. It speaks beyond just Goddard and publishing, but to the national wave of advocacy, service and strengthening community. Phil Ollila epitomizes this on behalf of the book industry and to anyone who believes and acts upon furthering social good."

Shawn Morin, president and CEO of Ingram, added that Ollila's "commitment to service comes in so many forms, both within and beyond our book community, from insuring the expression of ideas reaches all citizens nationwide to his own personal service. We are grateful Goddard Riverside, the industry's legacy community partner, has recognized this. We look forward to celebrating Phil's achievements and Goddard's ongoing service to the community."

Events Team Changes at Third Place Books

Sam Kaas, Niki Marion, Kalani Kapahua at Third Place Books

Third Place Books, which has three stores in the Seattle, Wash., area has reorganized its events team.

Sam Kaas, who was previously offsite events manager, has become author events manager, overseeing all author events and serving as the primary point of contact for author event-related inquiries.

Kalani Kapahua has become offsite events manager. He will coordinate the logistics for the store's many offsite events.

Niki Marion has become children's books outreach manager, a newly created position. She will coordinate programming and events for young readers, both in schools and in-store.

Events and marketing manager Zak Nelson is leaving Third Place Books, effective September 13.

Third Place managing partner Robert Sindelar commented: "I am thrilled that in making these changes to our events programming personnel, we had such rich talent already on staff, and that we could create opportunities for advancement for not just one, but three of our amazing employees. Sam Kaas has done a remarkable job growing out off-site events program this past year, and Kalani Kapahua and Niki Marion have been invaluable assets to their respective departments."

Personnel Changes at Algonquin

At Algonquin Books and Algonquin Young Readers:

Brittani Hilles has joined the company as senior publicist. She was formerly a publicist at St. Martin's Press.

Carla Bruce-Eddings has joined the company as senior publicist. She formerly worked in publicity at Riverhead Books and earlier was a special education and world languages teacher. She is also books editor of the Well Read Black Girl book club.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Bob Woodward on Colbert's Late Show, Today

NPR's Morning Edition: Raymond Arsenault, author of Arthur Ashe: A Life (Simon & Schuster, $37.50, 9781439189047).

Today Show: Lisa McCubbin, author of Betty Ford: First Lady, Women's Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer (Gallery, $28, 9781501164682).

CBS This Morning: Ken Starr, author of Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation (Sentinel, $28, 9780525536130).

Fresh Air: José Andrés, author of We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time (Anthony Bourdain/Ecco, $27.99, 9780062864482).

MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports: John Kerry, author of Every Day Is Extra (Simon & Schuster, $35, 9781501178955). He will also appear today on PBS Newshour and tomorrow on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews.

The View: Omarosa Manigault Newman, author of Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House (Gallery, $28, 9781982109707).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Bob Woodward, author of Fear: Trump in the White House (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781501175510). He is also on the Today Show today.

Daily Show: Amy Klobuchar, author of Nevertheless, We Persisted: 48 Voices of Defiance, Strength, and Courage (Knopf, $18.99, 9781524771966).

The Talk: Jamie Lee Curtis, author of Me, Myselfie & I: A Cautionary Tale (Feiwel & Friends, $17.99, 9781250138279).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Neil deGrasse Tyson, author of Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military (Norton, $30, 9780393064445). He is also on CBS This Morning tomorrow.

Also on the Late Show: Michael Rapaport, author of This Book Has Balls: Sports Rants from the MVP of Talking Trash (Touchstone, $16, 9781501160325).

TV: Nancy Drew Mysteries

The CW has put into development a drama series inspired by the classic Nancy Drew mysteries, Deadline reported. From Fake Empire and CBS TV Studios, the untitled project, written by Noga Landau (The Magicians), is "centered on 18-year-old Nancy Drew in the summer after her high school graduation. Nancy thought she'd be leaving her hometown for college, but when a family tragedy holds her back another year, she finds herself embroiled in a ghostly murder investigation--and along the way, she uncovers secrets that run deeper than she ever imagined."

Launching a Nancy Drew TV series "has been a priority for CBS TV Studios, which has the rights to the the classic YA mystery books originally published by Stratemeyer Syndicate and later Simon & Schuster," Deadline wrote, adding that the studio developed two Nancy Drew series over the past three years, but the CW version "stays closer to the source material, with Nancy just out of high school."

The Nancy Drew novels were written by a collection of writers, primarily Mildred Wirt Benson, but all appeared under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene.

Books & Authors

Awards: May Sarton N.H. Poetry; Crook's Corner

Marilee Richards won the $1,000 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize, which is awarded for a previously unpublished book-length collection of poetry, for her collection The Double Zero. The winning work will be published by Bauhan Publishing in the spring of 2019.

Judge David Blair praised Richards as "a poet with range--sympathies, anger, tragedy, other people, love, humor. When I read The Double Zero by Marilee Richards, I know that a lot of our daily life feels like a Robert Altman movie. With her ability to inhabit a moment with a living sense of presence, Richards writes unsentimental poems that road trip through the times..."


The shortlist for the 2018 Crook's Corner Book Prize, given to the best debut novel set in the American South, is:

The Talented Ribkins by Ladee Hubbard (Melville House)
A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (Counterpoint Press)
How to Survive a Summer by Nick White (Blue Rider Press)

The winner of the $5,000 prize, sponsored by Crook's Corner Café and Bar in Chapel Hill, N.C., will be announced January 7, 2019.

Book Review

Review: Zero Sum Game

Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang (Tor, $25.99 hardcover, 336p., 9781250180254, October 2, 2018)

In Zero Sum Game, S.L. Huang introduces readers to Cas Russell--an expert in the purposefully vague field of "retrieval"--who finds her skills tested after a rescue mission brings her to the attention of a vast and dangerous conspiracy. Russell is no easy target, capable of seemingly impossible physical feats and unerring marksmanship that enables her to kill packs of goons with ease. Rather than super-strength or heightened reflexes, she relies on her uncanny facility for math: "The dark-suited men became points in motion, my brain extrapolating from the little I could see and hear, assigning probabilities and translating to expected values." Russell is so good at math that she can take out perimeter guards with a handful of rocks:
"I scooped up a few, my hands instantly reading their masses. Projectile motion: my height, their heights, the acceleration of gravity, and a quick correction for air resistance--and then pick the right initial velocity so that the deceleration of such a mass against a human skull would provide the correct force to drop a grown man.
One, two, three. The guards tumbled into well-armed heaps on the ground."
Zero Sum Game is a thriller with light science fiction elements, reminiscent of Max Barry's Lexicon. Huang's protagonist is hard-nosed to an extreme: the closest thing she has to a friend is another murderously talented killer with a penchant for sadism and few recognizable emotions. The novel pushes a relentless pace, with countless well-executed action scenes and an impressive body count. The only force that can stand in Russell's way for long is an elusive organization named Pithica. Russell must question her own mind as she finds evidence of Pithica's eerie ability to manipulate thoughts.
In the process of hunting down the organization, Russell is forced to create a few new human attachments, including one to a relatively moral PI named Arthur, who compels her to examine the frightening ease with which she takes life. At one point, she muses: "I could have killed him in less than half a second, but that didn't help at all. In fact, a niggling voice in the back of my head reminded me that such an attitude was what he was taking issue with in the first place." Meanwhile, Russell's shark-like need to maintain constant forward motion--without a case to focus on, her math-obsessed brain is overwhelmed by numbers in a "teeming, boiling mass"--plunges her into constant conflict with Pithica and its agents.
Zero Sum Game's pleasures lie in the protagonist's repeated ability to extricate herself from seemingly impossible predicaments, whipping up math-based solutions to gunfights on the fly. In one memorable scene, Russell makes a number of small adjustments, one involving an umbrella, that allow her to eavesdrop on a distant conversation. How? It involves sound waves and, of course, math. In Cas Russell, Huang has created a protagonist with a distinctive hook. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Shelf Talker: Zero Sum Game is a thriller with light SF elements that introduces us to Cas Russell, an expert in retrieval and seemingly impossible gunplay thanks to her preternatural grasp of math.

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