Shelf Awareness for Monday, December 10, 2018

Random House Worlds: Damsel by Evelyn Skye

St. Martin's Press: The Girls of Summer by Katie Bishop

Soho Crime: The Rope Artist by Fuminori Nakamura, transl. by Sam Bett

Flatiron Books: Once Upon a Prime: The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature by Sarah Hart

Grand Central Publishing: Goodbye Earl: A Revenge Novel by Leesa Cross-Smith

Texas Bookman Presents Texas Remainder Expo

Steve Madden Ltd: The Cobbler: How I Disrupted an Industry, Fell from Grace, and Came Back Stronger Than Ever by Steve Madden and Jodi Lipper

St. Martin's Griffin: The Bookshop by the Bay by Pamela M. Kelley


Cincinnati's blue manatee for Sale, May Close

Owned for the last 17 years by Dr. John Hutton and Sandra Gross, blue manatee children's bookstore, Cincinnati, Ohio, is up for sale and will close January 14 if no buyer can be found.

In an announcement, Hutton said that he was recently appointed director of the new Reading and Literacy Discovery Center at Children's Hospital, "and the Center is growing rapidly. Meanwhile, Sandy manages the many facets of Brazee Street Studios, just down the street, and together we oversee Sleepy Bee café. For the past few years, I have tried to balance these things, to the detriment of my health and well-being, but I must finally accept that there simply aren't enough hours in the day, or neurotransmitters in my brain to do this in an effective or sustainable way."

He added that the "beloved, world-class children's bookstore deserves a full-time steward--or a group of stewards--to focus their energies as we once did. blue manatee needs new life, new ideas, new energy."

Hutton continued: "Sandy and I (with our team) will consider all proposals, but our primary criteria are that this someone--or team of someones--will carry on the tradition of providing the best in children's books and related activities/gift items, quality programming and author events, and championing values of tolerance, community, imagination, and a smackerel of insurgency. The store in Oakley has been recently renovated, complete with shelves, signs, custom decoration, a beloved reputation, and all that is needed to get started quickly."

Interested parties should contact the store via e-mail.

Blackstone Publishing: What Remains by Wendy Walker

Lexington's Wild Fig Relaunches as Worker Cooperative

Wild Fig Books & Coffee, Lexington, Ky., reopened last month in "a new incarnation" as a worker cooperative headed by April Taylor, the Herald-Leader reported. In August, co-owners Ron Davis and Crystal Wilkinson had announced that the business would close if a buyer was not found, which subsequently inspired Taylor to organize a successful community fund drive in hope of finding an alternative solution.

Speaking as the new store's co-founder and worker-owner, she said the business now "gives everyone a stake in the decision-making process" and that the Wild Fig is "expanding on the legacy of what the Fig has meant to people in the community."

Taylor said that during its first month in business, the store has "already surpassed what our three-month projections were in terms of sales, so that's really good. We are looking to raise more money and access some of these non-traditional financing options."

Providing a variety of offerings--including co-working space and food specials as well as pop-up booths for small local businesses and artists--in the rapidly changing North Limestone corridor helps the Fig "be a space for those who come from the population segment that's being pushed out and those that are coming in," she added.

GLOW: Flatiron Books: Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenblum

Amazon Books Drops Plans to Open in Idaho

Amazon has apparently reversed plans to open an Amazon Books book and electronics store in Meridian, Idaho, near Boise, according to the Idaho Statesman.

In March, Amazon applied for a building permit for a store at the Village at Meridian. As of April, the only missing part of the application was a cost estimate for the work, but that was not submitted by the company's architect. The city notified Amazon of the situation but it didn't respond. Amazon also didn't respond to the paper's request for comment. The application has since expired.

The general manager for the Village at Meridian told the Statesman, "The Amazon bookstore at the Village is not happening right now."

William Morrow & Company: The God of Good Looks by Breanne Mc Ivor

Holiday Hum: Becoming a Hit; Sales Ramping Up

With Hanukkah ending and Christmas just over two weeks away, the holiday shopping season is in full swing. Shelf Awareness has asked booksellers around the country how things are going so far.

At Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Ravenna and Seward Park, Wash., the start of the holiday selling season kicked off right after Thanksgiving, said managing partner Robert Sindelar. For both Thanksgiving weekend and the following weekend, all three stores were up, Sindelar reported, and Michelle Obama's Becoming is "obviously" already the "go-to book of the season." Aside from Becoming, however, there hasn't been anything too huge, but lots of titles that were already doing well--such as Tara Westover's Educated, Andrew Sean Greer's Less and Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism, among others--have begun to "accelerate" as the end of the year approaches. Sindelar also pointed to some books released earlier in the year, like Tommy Orange's There There and Madeline Miller's Circe, that have started to pick up steam.

As far as sidelines and non-book items go, Sindelar said holiday-themed items are selling more swiftly this year, and crystals are particularly hot at the moment. Socks and chocolates continue to do well, and vinyl records, which Third Place Books only recently began to carry, are starting to move. Sindelar also noted that thanks to pushing for pre-orders throughout the summer and fall, the store's overall online orders have picked up quite a bit.

In New Orleans, La., Tubby & Coo's Mid-City Bookshop saw a huge Small Business Saturday and busy Thanksgiving weekend, though the week immediately afterward was not particularly busy. Owner Candice Huber reported that in the past week, however, things have begun to build. Becoming has been huge for her store and is starting to become "very difficult" to get back in stock. She added that some independent titles published through her store's own publishing program have also done very well.

Roughly half of Huber's store is devoted to board games, and she reported that themed versions of classic board games, such as the Golden Girls-themed version of Clue, have been great, along with anything Harry Potter related, including Harry Potter Clue and the new Fantastic Beasts Perilous Pursuit game. Despite how busy things are getting, Huber will continue to do events, with annual holiday pop-up weekends being a store tradition. For those, she invites authors, local artists and other retailers to create small pop-ups inside of Tubby & Coo's. She's also planning an educator night, and the store's book clubs will continue regularly.

Kenny Brechner, owner of Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers in Farmington, Maine, reported a "fabulous" Small Business Saturday, with his store up 40% over last year and a great Cider Monday. Brechner pointed to Becoming, along with Louise Penny's Kingdom of the Blind and the children's book The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith and Katz Cowley as early top-sellers. Other bestselling children's books include Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang and Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian by Jacob Sager Weinstein, and Brechner added that Santa Bruce by Ryan Higgins and Snowy Nap by Jan Brett are the top two holiday-themed books. On the subject of Grumpy Monkey, Brechner added that the book's "flat-out appeal" is "something to marvel at. Its cover is literally a magnet." And when asked about surprises, Brechner brought up Hiro Arikawa's The Traveling Cat Chronicles.

Brechner has had trouble bringing Hilma Af Klint: Notes and Methods, which he called his favorite art book of the year, back in stock and bemoaned the fact that there won't be any more until February. In terms of sidelines, Brechner said The Squishable "Comfort Food" plushes have been huge, and other stellar sidelines include The Finger Elf spinner, the Maze Racers board game and Bookjigs Bookmarks.

At McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Mich., co-owners Matt and Jessilynn Norcross reported that customers seemed to have started their holiday shopping earlier this year, and over Thanksgiving weekend the store saw sales figures nearly identical to last year's, with Jessilynn Norcross adding that they were "literally within $50." Becoming has been a hit, and difficult to get back in stock. Norcross noted that there seems to be an increase in big, beautiful picture books such as Paul Nicklen's Born to Ice. She added that along with Becoming, The Happy Cookbook by Steve and Kathy Doocy has been difficult to restock.

When asked about sidelines, Norcross said they love the Activity Pack to Go series from Chronicle Books for Kids, although they, too, have been out of stock. The store has only one event left before the end of the year, which is part of Petoskey's downtown Holiday Open House. On the subject of other interesting trends, Jessilynn Norcross said that "customer satisfaction seems to be at an all-time high," helped by the fact that there are plenty of great new releases across a variety of genres. Matt Norcross, meanwhile, said that the store's online sales were up 76% in November and gift card purchasing continues to grow year over year.

And in Los Angeles, Calif., Skylight Books had a strong Small Business Saturday and Thanksgiving weekend. General manager Mary Williams added that, generally speaking, weekends have been pretty big since about mid-November, and weekdays are starting to ramp up but aren't "insane" quite yet. The store's bestselling title at the moment is Becoming, and Less is the store's second-highest seller since Thanksgiving. Skylight is also doing very well with A Final Companion to Books from the Simpsons by graphic designer Olivier Lebrun, which documents all of the books that have appeared on The Simpsons. Williams noted that it makes a great impulse buy at the register. Books by Joan Didion, she added, continue to "sell like gangbusters," with Slouching Towards Bethlehem once again on Skylight's bestseller list.

Williams said that the store sold out of the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan Novels box set pretty quickly and only just got them back in stock, while Leonard Cohen's The Flame has "been on backorder for weeks." For nonbook items, Williams said that a poster called "Dogs of the World," which features a map with drawings of dog breeds near their places of origin, is really popular. The store also sells hand-painted bookmarks made in Oaxaca, Mexico, that are always big sellers. --Alex Mutter

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

Obituary Note: Andrei Bitov

Russian writer Andrei Bitov, "whose work, whether elaborate travelogue or intricate novel, was full of insights into his country's history and literature," died December 3, the New York Times reported. He was 81. His death was announced by the Russian chapter of PEN International, which he helped found.

"Bitov is justly considered a founder of Russian postmodernism, a vast and still influential movement, especially in his masterpiece novel Pushkin House, which explores the complex relationship between the author and his hero," said Mikhail Epstein, a friend and the Samuel Candler Dobbs professor of cultural theory and Russian literature at Emory University. "Bitov introduced into Russian literature the most subtle nuances of self-reflective existence, and the multiplicity of narrative frames and points of view. In this respect he can be compared only with Vladimir Nabokov."

Bitov published a short story collection in 1963, and Lessons of Armenia, "a book about his travels to that region, appeared in 1969. (It was one of two travel memoirs published in English in 1992 under the title A Captive of the Caucasus.)," the Times wrote, adding that he "incurred official wrath in 1979 by helping to edit and contributing to the Metropol Literary Almanac, a collection of uncensored poems, stories and other writings, many by well-known authors. It was offered for publication in the West at the same time that it was offered for publication in the Soviet Union, a move that was considered a challenge to authority. (It went unpublished in the Soviet Union.)" Bitov's works also include The Symmetry Teacher and The Monkey Link: A Pilgrimage Novel.

While other writers in this period were being told to leave the country or were doing so on their own, Bitov remained. "For me there was never really any question of leaving, maybe because of my connection with my family, which is strong and complicated," he said. "It surely was not some great patriotic idea. But such things as leaving were dreams, never thoughts."


Alien Bezos Stars on 'South Park'

Last week, "Jeff Bezos" made a cameo appearance on South Park, which portrayed the Amazon founder and CEO as "a supervillain with an enormous head who communicates telepathically, resembling the Talosian alien race from Star Trek. He intimidates the mayor, threatening repercussions after the town's Amazon workers go on strike," as Business Insider put it.

In the episode, called "Unfulfilled," Butters's father works in an Amazon warehouse and works to "Sixteen Tons," a song about working in a coal mine made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford in the 1950s.

Pennie Picks: The Paris Seamstress

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has chosen The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester (Forever, $14.99, 9781538714775) as her pick of the month for December. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she wrote:

"Combine family secrets, World War II, tragedy and heartbreak and you have the compelling ingredients of this month's book buyer's pick, The Paris Seamstress, by Natasha Lester.

"After Fabienne Bissette attends the Met's annual gala for an exhibit featuring the work of her ailing grandmother--a legend of women's fashion design--Fabienne begins to learn about her grandmother's past. What she learns will change her own life in ways she can't imagine."

Casemate to Distribute Eurospan Group

Effective January 1, Casemate Group will handle sales, marketing and distribution of print and digital books in North America for Eurospan Group and some of its publishing clients.

Ken Rhodes, managing director of Eurospan, said, "With our headquarters offices in London's Clerkenwell and a network of regional agents and sales representatives throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, Eurospan offers a tried, tested and cost-effective marketing, sales and distribution solution for publishers. And now, through this arrangement with Casemate for North America, we are able to provide our comprehensive service for clients in all markets worldwide."

David Farnsworth, president, Casemate Group, added, "Eurospan is a long established and well respected company in academic publishing circles both here in the United States and abroad. I am excited to be able to bring our North American market reach to them and to their distribution clients. In this age of increasing consolidation and massive cookie-cutter distribution operations, it's good to have an alternative where companies with solid reputations and successful track records can use their respective skills and strengths to collaborate and grow together."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Samuel Schwartz on Fresh Air

Today Show: Joanna Gaines, author of Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave (Harper Design, $40, 9780062801975).

Fresh Air: Samuel Schwartz, author of No One at the Wheel: Driverless Cars and the Road of the Future (PublicAffairs, $28, 9781610398657).

The View: Michael Bloomberg, author of Bloomberg by Bloomberg, Revised and Updated (Wiley, $27.95, 9781119554264).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Leadership: In Turbulent Times (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781476795928).

Late Late Show with James Corden: Sean Hayes, co-author of Plum (Simon & Schuster, $17.99, 9781534404045).

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Martina McBride, author of Martina's Kitchen Mix: My Recipe Playlist for Real Life (Oxmoor House, $30, 9780848757632).

Wendy Williams: Martha Stewart, author of The Martha Manual: How to Do (Almost) Everything (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35, 9781328927323).

TV: Game of Thrones Teaser

Fire and ice, indeed. HBO has released "Dragonstone," a teaser trailer for season 8 of Game of Thrones, based on the book series by George R.R. Martin. IndieWire noted that the trailer "visualizes the war to come between the Army of the Dead and the human characters fans have grown to love over the last eight seasons. George R.R. Martin's franchise is referred to as A Song of Ice and Fire, and that's the best way to describe the Season 8 teaser below, which presents a chess board of colliding natural forces." The hit series returns in April.

Books & Authors

Awards: Thurber Prize; Grammy Nominations

Patricia Lockwood has won the 2018 Thurber Prize for American Humor for Priestdaddy: A Memoir (Riverhead Books). The judges wrote that "Father Greg Lockwood is unlike any Catholic priest you have ever met--a man who lounges in boxer shorts, loves action movies, and whose constant  jamming on the guitar reverberates 'like a whole band dying in a plane crash in 1972.' His daughter Patricia's childhood involved such memories as an ill-fated family hunting trip, an abortion clinic sit-in where her father was arrested, and her involvement in a cultlike Catholic youth group. As an adult, she's an irreverent poet who long ago left the church's country. When an unexpected crisis leads her and her husband to move back into her parents' rectory, her past and present collide. Lockwood pivots from the comic to the deeply serious, exploring the balance of a hard-won identity with the weight of family and tradition."


Among the nominations for the Grammy Awards, which will be held Sunday, February 10, are some book-related ones. In the Best Spoken Word Album (which includes poetry, audiobooks & storytelling) category:

Accessory to War by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Avis Lang, narrated by Courtney B. Vance (Penguin Random House)
Calypso by David Sedaris (Hachette Audio)
Creative Quest by Questlove (Harper Audio)
Faith: A Journey for All by Jimmy Carter (Simon & Schuster Audio)
The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (Simon & Schuster Audio)

Book Review

Review: How to Date Men When You Hate Men

How to Date Men When You Hate Men by Blythe Roberson (Flatiron Books, $19.99 hardcover, 288p., 9781250193421, January 8, 2019)

Dating in the 21st century is complicated. So is patriarchy. Humorist Blythe Roberson considers both in How to Date Men When You Hate Men--so titled because "it just didn't sound as catchy to name the book How to Date Men When They Are Born into and Brainwashed by an Evil System That Mightily Oppresses Women." Don't be fooled, though, Roberson likes men. A lot. And lots of them. As she puts it, "I have ended up with a number of crushes greater than the population of Iceland."

In this collection of musings, quips and reflections, Roberson invites readers into an inner monologue, much of which could pull double duty as a stand-up routine. The book is a primer on love and all of its trappings: infatuation, flirting, dating, psychic wounds and break-ups.

And it's hilarious.

A researcher at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Roberson has comedy bona fides that run deep. She contributes regularly to the New Yorker and has written for the Onion, ClickHole and Vice. So, it's not surprising that How to Date Men When You Hate Men is both funny and smart. Harvard educated, Roberson makes delightful use of her English major, referencing Roland Barthes ("daddy") even more than she references her crush on Timothée Chalamet--which is often. The result is, in her words, "[Barthes's] A Lover's Discourse but considering patriarchy and technology and how changing gender roles and economies and urbanization have morphed how two humans decide to love each other and structure that love, and also with jokes."

Roberson offers more of her original takes on love and her own forays into it than actual instructions for a successful dating life--but the instructions that she does sprinkle throughout make for great fun. Killing time waiting for a text? "Call your senators." Advice for how not to flirt? "Correct someone's grammar."

Of course, after flirting comes dating, and Roberson interrogates what people even mean by the term "dating" nowadays. For anyone unsure if they are actually on a date or not, Roberson again offers specific advice. A few of the choicest: "Fifteen minutes in, say, 'What a fun date we are already having!' " Or, "Refer to your socks as your 'date socks.' "

Really, this is more of a philosophy book than a dating book, and Roberson admits early on that she has never had an official boyfriend. It's about how crushes are fun, and how women's crushes get policed differently than men's (Roberson excoriates the common accusation that Taylor Swift is "boy crazy"). It's about considering how so many benchmarks in women's lives seem to be based on women's ability to attract, and keep, a man rather than succeed in their own endeavors. Roberson's answer to that? "Prose before bros." Hence, this book. Ultimately, it might not make readers more equipped for dating, but Roberson will certainly make them laugh--and think. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Shelf Talker: Humorist Blythe Roberson wrestles with how not to lose out on love when patriarchy threatens to ruin it, in a sharp, entertaining meditation on modern romance.

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