Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 21, 2018


Sourcebooks Fire: The Similars by Rebecca Hanover

HarperCollins: Turbo Racers: Trailblazer by Austin Aslan

Harper Paperbacks: Don't Wake Up by Liz Lawler

Bookselling Without Borders: Connecting U.S. Booksellers to the World of Books - Click to Support!

DK Publishing: Writers: Their Lives and Works by DK

Page Street Kids: Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Touchstone Books: I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott

Shadow Mountain: A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore

News

Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore for Sale

Terry Gilman and Maryelizabeth Yturralde, longtime owners of Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego, Calif., have put the 25-year-old store up for sale. In an e-mail to customers announcing their decision, they emphasized that "there is no threat of store closure. Indeed, we anticipate just the opposite: new growth, new business, and new opportunities within our industry."

Gilman, who is managing partner, and Yturralde, who is bookseller/publicity manager/event coordinator, said that they are ready to "pass the torch to a new owner, someone who can write the next chapter of Mysterious Galaxy's story." They noted that the "key ingredients that will contribute to the success of a new owner are all in place," including loyal customers, a knowledgeable and well-trained staff, and a "beautiful environment that appeals to customers of all ages." The pair also said they would stay on-hand to help the new owner or owners through the transition.

Both Gilman and Yturralde plan to focus on their other main venture, Creating Conversations, an events business and bookstore in Redondo Beach that brings books and authors to community and corporate venues.

Gilman and Yturralde have been very involved in the industry and served various organizations, including the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association: Gilman is a past president; Yturralde is the current president.

The two are looking for "someone who is passionate about Mysterious Galaxy, who genuinely loves our community, and who understands what it takes to operate a retail business." Inquiries can be sent to Terry Gilman at terry@mystgalaxy.com.


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


Eamon Dolan Named V-P, Executive Editor at S&S

Eamon Dolan

Eamon Dolan will join the Simon & Schuster Publishing Group as a v-p, executive editor, effective October 1. Dolan began his publishing career in 1986 at HarperCollins, rose to the position of editor-in-chief at HMH before moving to Penguin Press in 2007. He returned to HMH in 2011 as v-p and editorial director of a new imprint, Eamon Dolan Books, which was closed in July of this year.

"Over the past three decades, Eamon has distinguished himself as one of the outstanding editors of nonfiction at work today," said S&S president and publisher Jonathan Karp. "At Simon & Schuster, Eamon will continue to do what he has done so brilliantly for years: Identify, edit, and publish some of the best writers and thinkers in the culture--authors whose works are relevant to understanding our times and how they are changing, and capable of being just as meaningful in the future as they are today. His interests range from current affairs to science to narrative history to psychology and popular culture, but all his books are united by their intention to palpably change readers' minds."


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


National Book Foundation Honoring Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende

The National Book Foundation will award the 2018 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Isabel Allende "for her expansive body of work--made up of nearly two dozen works of fiction, memoir and essay--and her role as a critical figure of Latin-American literature, as well as a wildly successful writer of titles in translation in the U.S., her adopted country."

Allende, who is the first Spanish-language author to be awarded the DCAL medal and only the second DCAL-recipient to be born outside the U.S., will receive $10,000 and a solid brass medal. Mexican-American writer and Pulitzer Prize finalist Luís Alberto Urrea (The Devil's Highway) will present the award to Allende on November 14 at the 69th National Book Awards ceremony and benefit dinner in New York City.

Born in Chile in 1942, Allende fled to Venezuela with her family after the 1973 coup that deposed President Salvador Allende, her father's cousin. She published her debut novel, The House of the Spirits, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1982.

"Able to forge profoundly emotional connections with readers around the world, Isabel Allende has offered generations of fans multilayered and deeply felt narratives that illuminate the rich lives and histories of her characters," said National Book Foundation board chairman David Steinberger. "Allende pulls from her own experiences to offer a global audience access to geographically and culturally specific stories that might otherwise never reach them."

Lisa Lucas, executive director of the NBF, said: "Through expertly crafted and propulsive narratives, Allende elevates the stories and lives of women, never condescending to her readers or cheapening the experiences of her characters. Allende's work is proof that artistic excellence and commercial viability are not exclusive concepts, and that stories about women written with women in mind are not only good business, but also represent crucial contributions to the literary landscape."

In addition to The House of the Spirits, Allende has written nearly two dozen books, including Of Love and Shadows, Eva Luna, City of the Beasts, Paula, and her most recent novel, In the Midst of Winter.

Allende is also the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which was presented to her by Barack Obama in 2014. Other honors and awards include the Lifetime Achievement Award from PEN America, Chile's National Literature Prize, and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Lifetime Achievement.


Touchstone Books: I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott

Buruma Out as NYRB Editor

Ian Buruma, editor of the New York Review of Books, left his position Wednesday "amid an uproar over the magazine's publication of an essay by a disgraced Canadian radio broadcaster who had been accused of sexually assaulting women," the New York Times reported, adding that Jian Ghomeshi's essay "caused immediate furor, with some criticizing what they saw as a self-pitying tone, and soft pedaling of the accusations, which included slapping and choking, and had come from more than 20 women, rather than 'several,' as Mr. Ghomeshi wrote." Buruma drew further censure by giving an interview to Slate's that many interpreted as showing a lack of interest in the accusations."

While NYRB did not say whether he resigned or was fired, Buruma told Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland he had "felt compelled to resign because of the criticism and because university-affiliated book publishers, The Review's core advertisers, had been threatening a boycott," the Times noted.

Jennifer Crewe, director of the Columbia University Press, told the Times that the "university press community was greatly concerned about the Ghomeshi article and they expressed that concern," but "to my knowledge no one threatened to pull ads."


G.P. Putnam's Sons: More Than Words by Jill Santopolo


Binc's Bank on Booksellers Auction Raises $23,000

The Book Industry Charitable Foundation's Bank on Booksellers Piggy Bank auction, which was held September 9 through September 15, raised $23,000. Participants placed nearly 4,000 bids throughout the week, with the final winning bids ranging from $25 to $1,505.

Authors, illustrators and celebrities volunteered to transform humble ceramic piggy banks into works of art to raise funds to support the Binc Foundation, which noted that "every single painted, signed, bejeweled, Velcroed, and kintsugied ceramic pig earned vital dollars for booksellers in need. One pig even flew around the world on a trip from Ann Arbor to Australia and back again on his mission to provide a financial safety net for the people working in the book industry."

Kathy Bartson, Binc development director, commented: "We will miss these wonderful little piggy banks not only because they are all so creative, but also because each one represents a community coming together to help one another. They are a beautiful physical manifestation of goodness and kindness."

Binc executive director added: "From authors to illustrators to booksellers to publicists the industry wide support for the auction was astounding and appreciated. I extend my warmest gratitude to everyone for coming together to help booksellers facing a crisis. Book people are the very best people."


Shelf Awareness Giveaway: Andrews McMeel Publishing: How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men's Feelings: Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women by Sarah Cooper


Kim Anderson Rejoining Chronicle Books as Head of Sales & Marketing

Kim Anderson

Kim Anderson is rejoining Chronicle Books as v-p of sales & marketing. She had worked in the Chronicle Books sales department from 2003 to 2013, and in the past five years has been a sales and marketing consultant for such companies as Insight Editions, Mrs. Grossman's, becker&mayer and Galison. In her new role, she will oversee the marketing, domestic sales, international sales, and subsidiary rights teams.

The previous v-p of sales & marketing was Tyrrell Mahoney, who was promoted to president in January 2017. Mahoney said, "I look forward to having Kim Anderson apply her exceptionally strong leadership skills, passion for publishing, and tireless drive for growing sales and brand awareness to our already high-performing team."

Anderson added, "I am thrilled to be back at Chronicle Books leading one of the very best Sales and Marketing teams in the business. I am eager to drive new growth for this innovative and beloved brand in a dynamic global retail environment. In addition, the opportunity to help develop new channels in which to engage and connect with Chronicle Books' loyal consumers is extremely exciting."


Friends and Authors Rally for Elisabeth Wilkins Lombardo's Posthumous Debut

On October 2, friends and loved ones of writer Elisabeth Wilkins Lombardo will gather at Print: A Bookstore in Portland, Maine, to celebrate the publication of her first novel, The Afterlife of Kenzaburo Tsuruda (She Writes Press).

Lombardo, who held an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast program and won the PEN/New England Discovery Award for an early draft of Kenzaburo Tsuruda, died in 2015. She was unable to find a home for her novel before being diagnosed with cancer in 2014, and the launch party at Print will mark the end of a long effort on the part of Lombardo's husband and several of her closest friends to bring her work out into the world.

The Afterlife of Kenzaburo Tsuruda blends history and mysticism as it follows a single Japanese family from the waning years of World War II until the death of Emperor Hirohito in 1989. The story begins during the Buddhist holiday of Obon, when the dead return to the living world to visit their loved ones. Kenzaburo Tsuruda, a scientist and atheist who never believed in any sort of afterlife, is one such departed spirit. As he returns to his home to visit his wife and daughter, unable to interact with them in any way, he knows that he has one year to save his ancestors from becoming Hungry Ghosts--lost souls eternally punished for their transgressions. In order to protect them, he must unravel his family's dark, shameful history stretching back over the past half century.

Elisabeth Wilkins Lombardo

"It's wonderful and at the same time, very bittersweet," said Giuseppe Lombardo, Elisabeth's husband. The two met in the early 1990s in Kobe, Japan, while Elisabeth was attending university there and shortly after Giuseppe had graduated from college. They got married in 1993 and stayed in Japan until the early 2000s. Elisabeth, who was born and raised in Illinois, went on to become a radio host, television personality and spokesmodel in Japan.

By Giuseppe's recollection, Elisabeth first told him of the idea that would eventually grow to become The Afterlife of Kenzaburo Tsuruda in the spring of 1994 or '95, while they were wandering around the Todai-ji temple in Nara, Japan. He added that she likely began working on the project more seriously while earning her MFA. Said Lombardo: "I guess it's like having a baby that grew up, all of a sudden."

Author Shonna Milliken Humphrey, who taught in the Stonecoast MFA program when Elisabeth Lombardo was a student, was integral in the efforts to get the book published. She and Lombardo were part of a four-person writing group, recalled Humphrey, that morphed into a kind of "cancer care group" after Lombardo's diagnosis in 2014.

During the next year and a half, as Lombardo underwent treatment, that group grew in size, with friends rallying to support her. When it became clear that Elisabeth wouldn't survive, Humphrey said, those closest to Lombardo made promises to her and to each other. One friend, for example, promised to look out for Lombardo's son. Humphrey promised to find a home for Lombardo's manuscript.

Giuseppe and Elisabeth Lombardo with their son, Alessandro.

"When you make a promise to someone on their deathbed, you do your best to keep it," said Humphrey.

In their efforts to get The Afterlife of Kenzaburo Tsuruda published, Humphrey and Giuseppe Lombardo teamed up with a band of Elisabeth's writing friends. Together they "mined their contacts" in the industry, and although they were able to get the manuscript into the hands of prominent editors at major publishing houses, they found the "universal message" seemed to be that there was not a lot of sales potential in a first-time novelist who was deceased. Faced with that response, they began looking into cooperative publishing models. They still wanted a curated editorial process, and eventually found their way to She Writes Press.

Author Suzanne Strempek Shea, a longtime friend of Elisabeth and another one of her teachers at the Stonecoast MFA program, took part in the search for a publisher and consulted with Humphrey throughout. She said it was an "honor" to help find a home for Kenzaburo Tsuruda, but also called the process surreal.

"All along the way, I just kept thinking, and keep thinking, how if things were otherwise, Beth would be doing it all--should be doing it all," said Shea. She added that she did not decide to help simply because it was a "nice" thing to do, saying: "It's first and foremost fine writing, and I believe with all my heart that Beth and her work would have gone on to great recognition."

At the launch event on October 2 and subsequent events later in the fall, Elisabeth's friends and family will gather to celebrate her life and her work, with several of her friends slated to read from The Afterlife of Kenzaburo Tsuruda.

"It was really hard to relive everything," said Giuseppe Lombardo, of the search for a publisher. "But it's been wonderful to see this book flourish." --Alex Mutter


Notes

Bookshop Wedding Engagement: Scuppernong Books

Posted on Facebook Wednesday by Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, N.C.: "Congratulations to @erinbmixon and @jaysics who got engaged in store last week! Here's to writing your story together. Thanks to @kaylajeanphoto for capturing this shot! Did you know we also host weddings and bridal/engagement/baby showers?"


Bookstore Chalkboard of the Day: Curious Iguana

"No one needs that kind of negativity in their life," Curious Iguana, Frederick, Md., advised in sharing a photo of its recent sidewalk chalkboard illustration, which deftly employs a cat-versus-glass-at-edge-of-table example to illustrate the vast gap between "you" and "people who tell you that you have too many books."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Michael Ovitz on CBS Sunday Morning

Today:
Fresh Air: Jonathan Eig, author of Ali: A Life (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9780544435247).

Sunday:
CBS Sunday Morning: Michael Ovitz, author of Who Is Michael Ovitz? (Portfolio, $30, 9781591845546).

Face the Nation: Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Leadership: In Turbulent Times (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781476795928).


TV: A Higher Loyalty

CBS Television Studios "has won an auction and is in final negotiations for the rights to former FBI director James Comey's memoir A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, Deadline reported. The bestselling book will be adapted into a miniseries written by Billy Ray (Captain Phillips, Shattered Glass, Breach).

The project "has a series commitment, though it has not been determined on which CBS platform it would air," Deadline wrote: "Word is Comey flew in to Los Angeles for a series of pitch meetings with both film and TV (premium cable and streaming) buyers, which was held at CAA earlier this month."



Books & Authors

Awards: Forward Poetry; Hilary Weston Nonfiction

Danez Smith won the £10,000 (about $13,145) Forward Prize for the Best Poetry Collection for Don't Call Us Dead. Chair of the judges Bidisha said: "The tight lyrical poems in Don't Call Us Dead feel utterly contemporary, and exciting. Showing an astonishing formal and emotional range and a mastery of metrical, musical language, Smith's finely crafted poetry makes us look anew at the intertwined natures of politics and sexuality and stands as a powerful warning: this is what's happening, be alert, pay attention."

The £5,000 (about $6,570) Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection was awarded to Phoebe Power for Shrines of Upper Austria. And the winner of the £1,000 ($1,315) prize for Best Single Poem was Liz Berry for "The Republic of Motherhood."

---

The Writers' Trust of Canada has announced finalists for the C$60,000 (about US$46,230) Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction, which honors works published in Canada that " demonstrates a distinctive voice, as well as a persuasive and compelling command of tone, narrative, style, and technique." The winner will be named November 7. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Antigone Undone: Juliette Binoche, Anne Carson, Ivo Van Hove, and the Art of Resistance by Will Aitken
All Things Consoled: A Daughter's Memoir by Elizabeth Hay
Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot
In Praise of Blood: The Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front by Judi Rever
The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family by Lindsay Wong


Reading with... Enrico Pellegrini

photo: Margherita Pellegrini
While pursuing a career as an international lawyer, Enrico Pellegrini made his literary debut at the age of 19 with the novel Cuor di Panna; his second novel, La Negligenza, won the prestigious Premio Selezione Campiello. His third novel, Something Great and Beautiful (Other Press) is Pellegrini's English-language debut. The book was published in Italy to wide critical acclaim under the title Ai nostri desideria. Pellegrini lives in New York City with his wife and three children.
 
On your nightstand now:
 
The Ruined House by Ruby Namdar.
 
I happened to steal this book from my publisher who'd inadvertently left it at my home. The protagonist, Andrew, reminds me of the protagonist of another great novel I loved having on my nightstand: Chip, protagonist of The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.
 
Favorite book when you were a child:
 
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
 
This book, as a child, and when I reread it as an adult, conveyed to me an extraordinary sense of freedom, even more than many other books, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. And not just because it's a story about running away from slavery. Freedom, sometimes as a child or as an adult, in books as in life, can be associated with fear (of what is known, or even more of the unknown). Interestingly, in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I was not scared, although legitimately many passages could make you feel that way.
 
My conclusion: it's the friendship between Huck and Jim that made me feel safe. I think it's difficult, in life and even in literature, to experience freedom without friendship or some type of love.
 
Your top five authors:
 
I consider most books I read, and their authors, like family (parents, cousins, children, etc.). As with my own children, I find it almost impossible to pick favorites, as for different reasons, or no reasons, I love them all. Here are some:

Dante Alighieri
Ernest Hemingway
Marcel Proust
Franz Kafka
James Joyce

Book you've faked reading:
 
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
 
I think there are good and bad teachers in life, literature and art. I would consider Joyce's Finnegans Wake and Picasso's cubism bad teachers. Involuntarily they may lead a writer or an artist to think that there is no need for technique. I'd say most of Hemingway is good teaching.
 
Book you're an evangelist for:
 
The Pimpanzee, the unpublished novel by Tod Harrison Williams.
 
Book you've bought for the cover:
 
Mine.
 
My father, Max Pellegrini, is an Italian artist, and for the cover of my books in Italy, I always chose a painting, or a detail of a painting, of my father's. I love those covers.
 
Book you hid from your parents:
 
And from my friends...
 
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
 
I was so into it I had to pretend I was sick for a few days in order to finish it. I was in the Italian Alps: didn't go skiing or clubbing at night, just hid in my bed with my book.
 
Book that changed your life:
 
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.
 
I was 23. I had been re-writing my novel (La Negligenza) again and again for the past five years but I couldn't get it to work. I was about to give up writing all together. Then I was with a friend, in the middle of the Spanish desert in April, and the orange blossoms were inebriating, and I was reading The Sun Also Rises. I felt a shiver deep inside--"That's it!" I had found the way to write my book. I never, ever felt a baby kicking inside my stomach as I did in that moment.  
 
Favorite line from a book:
 
"Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this sun of York." --from Richard III by William Shakespeare.
 
Five books you'll never part with:

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
The Castle by Franz Kafka
Ulysses by James Joyce

Book you most want to read again for the first time:
 
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
 
Book you would recommend others read:
 
The Quran

Book Review

Review: A Mind Unraveled

A Mind Unraveled: A Memoir by Kurt Eichenwald (Ballantine Books, $28 hardcover, 416p., 9780399593628, October 16, 2018)

In a career that's included hundreds of articles in publications like the New York Times and Newsweek and books about the collapse of Enron (Conspiracy of Fools) and other corporate scandals, investigative journalist Kurt Eichenwald has established himself as a dogged and fearless reporter. But no story he's unearthed is as compelling as the one he tells in his traumatic memoir, A Mind Unraveled. In it he focuses on his battle with epilepsy and the equally fierce fight he waged against the discrimination he suffered as a victim of that disease.
 
First diagnosed in 1979, his freshman year at Swarthmore College, in suburban Philadelphia, Eichenwald underwent care initially guided by his father, a world-renowned expert in pediatric infectious disease, that was nothing short of disastrous. In the course of that treatment, he was misdiagnosed with everything from a brain tumor to mental illness to pancreatic cancer. From informing him that he should keep his diagnosis a secret to allowing the levels of anticonvulsants in his blood to reach near toxic levels, three unfeeling doctors pushed Eichenwald to the brink of suicide. It was only when he entered the care of a neurologist in his home town of Dallas who was compassionate and, above all, capable of listening, that his condition began to stabilize.
 
But Eichenwald's medical story, painstakingly reconstructed with the aid of contemporaneous diaries and tape recordings of himself, family members and friends, isn't merely an account of treatment that was ill-informed and heedless of his emotional state at best and negligent at worst. Equally disturbing is the story of his battle against the efforts of Swarthmore's administration to force him out of school in 1981, treating him as a "frightening oddity impeding other students' education." Through what Eichenwald characterizes as an "amalgam of ill will, incompetence, arrogance, and error," a novice dean who later expressed her profound regret for her actions allowed herself to be manipulated by unscrupulous colleagues into dismissing him during the first semester of his junior year. It was only when the college administration became convinced that Eichenwald would follow through with his threat to launch a federal investigation for violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that the school capitulated and reinstated him.
 
Eichenwald's professional success and personal satisfaction (he's been married since 1990 and is the father of three sons) decades after the events described in his book attest to his triumph over the worst effects of the disease. But his path into elite journalism was anything but smooth, and his description of the crises he faced when prospective employment didn't include health insurance hasn't lost any of its timeliness. Candid, meticulously reported and at times terrifying, A Mind Unraveled is an inspiring story of a man whose fierce will helped ensure he would not be defined or defeated by a chronic disease. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer
 
Shelf Talker: An esteemed journalist brings his considerable skills to the story of his battle with epilepsy.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The Question--What Business Are You Really In?

"Good marketing makes a company look smart, but great marketing makes a customer look smart," Terry O'Reilly writes in his book This I Know: Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence (Chicago Review Press), where he poses what I'll call The Question: "What business are you really in?"

For bookstores, the pat answer is, well, selling books, yet every bookseller I know would make that part of a catalogue of resources along with providing a community center, a safe space for the exchange ideas, title curation and much more. You know the list; it's probably in your mission statement.

But that's not what he's asking. O'Reilly contends that the actual answer is at once more simple and more complex than a list of objectives, services or even ideals. "Don't answer that question too quickly," he advises. "Most people get it wrong. Yet it's the most important marketing question you can ask yourself."

He offers some intriguing examples: Molson isn't in the beer business; it's in the party business. Michelin isn't in the tire business; it's in the safety business. Häagen-Dazs isn't in the ice cream business; it's in the sensual pleasure business. Whitewater rafting companies aren't in the personal transportation business; they're in the personal transformation business. Apple isn't in the computer business; it's in the personal empowerment business. And Nike isn't in the shoe business; it's in the motivation business.

Of course, Nike stands out at the moment because it has dominated sports and news media headlines in recent weeks, thanks to an ad campaign that motivated both sneaker-torching boycotts and ardent support.

Just yesterday, Reuters reported that Nike "has sold out 61% more merchandise since the controversial ad campaign featuring former NFL player Colin Kaepernick appeared earlier this month." According to research by Thomson Reuters, Nike sold out far more items between September 3 and September 13 than in the 10-day period before the ad came out, "discounted fewer products in the 10-day period after the ad and saw its Colin Kaepernick women's jersey sell out on September 17.... Shares in Nike have rebounded from an initial drop when the first versions of the ad were released, hitting a record high a little over a week later."

It ain't about the shoes. "Nike makes us care because it encourages us to make an important decision," O'Reilly contends, having noted earlier in the book that a "truism of business is that what you sell and what people buy are almost always two different things. Companies look to sell products, and customers look to buy solutions."

International corporate leviathans and indie booksellers may not have a lot in common, but The Question demands a unique response from every business.

"Customers are drawn to a brand--be it a product or a service--for many reasons," according to O'Reilly. "But the most important, overriding reason is how it makes them feel. Price, location, color and so on all rank well below this single criterion.... People make decisions based on emotions, then rationalize that decision with details."

"Successful retailers today do more than sell a great product. They embody values people respect and tell a story customers want to be a part of," the National Retail Foundation reported in showcasing two discussions from its recent Shop.org event in Las Vegas.

A pair of ABA Winter Institute moments came to mind as I thought about The Question.

Daniel Pink at Wi

At the end of his keynote during Wi13 in Memphis last January, Daniel Pink said: "The good news is [pointing to various parts of the audience] you, and you, and you, and you, and you, and you, and you, and you and all the people in the back. The good news is people like you. Booksellers. People who care about the life of ideas; people who care about the integrity of the community; people who care about science; people who care about truth. And so, when I am feeling despairing about what's going on in the country, I think about people like you, the booksellers who are out there making a difference in the world, who are bringing ideas to people, who are bringing great stories to people and who are a bulwark against all the bad things that are going on. So, thank you for selling books, and thank you for being the source of good news."

And at Wi12 in Minneapolis, DIESEL: A Bookstore owner John Evans said that "historically bookstores, especially some of the older stores, have a little bit of a conflicted idea about the very idea of branding," yet when he walks "into Three Lives in New York or Watermark Books in Wichita, Kans., or City Lights in San Francisco I have three different experiences. They're particular, specific and expressive of the personalities of the people who work there and their philosophies, policies, procedures, labor practices, visions and display & design choices. This is in addition to what we tend to focus on--selection of books, curation.... This session is taking a more conscious look at the ways in which we, consciously or unconsciously, body forth our values, ideas, visions and personalities in our stores as an entity called the bookstore, as a culture of booksellers, and as a business. This can also be called how we brand ourselves."

The Question is an intriguing exercise. In a word or two, what business are you really in?

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

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