Also published on this date: Wednesday, December 12, 2018: Maximum Shelf: Chamber Music

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Chronicle Books: Stella & Marigold by Annie Barrows, Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Poisoned Pen Press: The Boyfriend by Frieda McFadden

St. Martin's Press: Disney High: The Untold Story of the Rise and Fall of Disney Channel's Tween Empire

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Graphix: 39 Clues: One False Note (39 Clues Graphic Novel #2) by Gordon Korman, Illustrated by Hannah Templer

Quotation of the Day

Indie Bookstores 'Anchoring Many Small Downtowns'

"The New England Mobile Book Fair of my childhood wasn't exactly mobile; it was a cavernous cinderblock warehouse of a store in Newton. Yet visiting the store was like going on a voyage, something like a trip to the Dead Sea caves where you might stumble upon ancient scrolls....

"I have noticed that many of our region’s little downtowns--and not just those in the most affluent communities--boast independent bookstores, even in this age of online shopping. Shopping malls were supposed to do in our downtowns, and retail behemoths were supposed to crush our independent bookstores. I am happy to find that, for the moment, independent bookstores are anchoring our charming, antique village centers and other places, too....

"I actually have been inside the caves by the Dead Sea. I know that world travel is a fabulous privilege and thrill. But so is local travel--to cozy, delightful villages and their glowing bookstore storylands."

--Amy Dain in a CommonWealth magazine piece headlined "Guess what’s anchoring many small downtowns?"

Peachtree: The Littlest Yak: Home Is Where the Herd Is by Lu Fraser, Illustrated by Kate Hindley


N.C.'s Sassafras on Sutton Closed Due to Snow Damage

Sassafras on Sutton bookstore, Black Mountain, N.C., which opened last winter in a downtown building dating back to 1876, is closed for the time being after suffering substantial damage in the wake of this week's snowstorm, which dumped historic amounts of snow across the state.

"Unfortunately the roof has failed in our beautiful historic building," Sassafras on Sutton posted yesterday on Facebook. "We are closed indefinitely and hope to know more later. This is obviously devastating during our first holiday season. A big thank you to the fire department and the town for keeping everyone safe. The roof tore open a gas line and this could have had terrible consequences. Thank you to everyone who has supported us this year! This is not the way I planned to spend Christmas at Sassafras!"

Co-owner Cole Blumer told WLOS the community is already reaching out: "We've had people with the store say whatever it takes, we're here for you. I don't know what it will take but we certainly appreciate that. I think it's just very telling of the way people are very caring about the community and the stores and the people that live here."

New Name for Nation Books: Bold Type Books

Effective January 1, Nation Books is changing its name to Bold Type Books, reflecting the Nation Institute's new moniker, which is Type Media Center.

The first title that will appear using the new imprint name is the paperback edition of Darnell Moore's No Ashes in the Fire, which goes on sale February 19. The first original title under Bold Type Books will be How We Fight White Supremacy by Akiba Solomon and Kenrya Rankin, which will be published March 26. Backlist and e-books will be rebranded throughout 2019.

Nation Books was founded as the imprint of Nation Institute and is a joint project of the Institute and Hachette Book Group. The Nation Institute was founded 50 years ago in conjunction with the Nation magazine to provide internships and has since expanded to include a half-dozen programs and a community of more than 100 independent journalists, authors, and writing fellows, supporting an investigative newsroom and a book publisher, all with the goal, the Institute said, "of empowering readers and inspiring action.... Bold Type Books communicates our commitment to amplify cultural and political discourse, to engender positive social change, and to challenge conventional narratives."

For 18 years, Nation Books has published "award-winning thought leaders, such as Ibram X. Kendi (author of the National Book Award-winner Stamped from the Beginning), bestselling journalists, such as Jeremy Scahill (Blackwater and Dirty Wars), and whistleblowers and truthtellers, such as Nomi Prins (Collusion and All the Presidents' Bankers). We are also committed to publishing underreported stories and underrepresented perspectives," which include Mychal Denzel Smith's Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching and Abby Norman's Ask Me About My Uterus.

Brazilian Book Trade Facing 'Dark Days for Books'

An ongoing crisis in the Brazilian publishing market "that combined steady declines in the price of books with rising inflation" is raising concerns about the future of the book trade in the country, the Guardian reported. Book chain Saraiva, which had announced the closure of 20 stores in October, said late last month that it was filing for bankruptcy protection. Rival chain Cultura has also filed a reorganization plan to avoid bankruptcy. Brazil is in the midst of its worst recession in decades, and the recent election of far-right populist Jair Bolsonaro as the country's next president is "sending ripples of fear through the country's cultural community."

"These are dark days for the book in Brazil," Luiz Schwarcz, co-founder of Companhia das Letras (which was recently acquired by Penguin Random House), wrote in a "love letter to books," calling on other publishers, booksellers and authors to join him in "the search for creative and idealistic solutions.... For those of you who, like me, nurture a love of books as your very reason for being, I ask you to spread this call, urge others to buy books this holiday season; books by your favorite authors and by new authors you've been meaning to explore. Buy them at those bookstores that are heroically riding this crisis out, honoring their commitments, but also at those that have fallen on hard times, and who need our help to muddle through. Most of all, promote books by the smaller publishing houses that need to sell today to continue to exist tomorrow."

Noting that the crisis had had an enormous impact on writers' lives, Brazilian author Paolo Scott told the Guardian: "Their book releases are being postponed, their book sales are not being passed on to them, publishers have been much more cautious about what they are going to publish.... Small publishers and small bookstores continue to emerge. Captained by young idealists, they renew the close bond between those who offer great readings and those who are always passionate about reading. The future of the book in Brazil will depend very much on those who have never ceased to regard reading as a passion. The crisis is there to teach, some have already learned, others, at a very high price, will still learn."

And Other Stories publisher Stefan Tobler, who is part Brazilian, commented: "I follow what's going on in Brazil with a lot of sadness these days. It's been all the harder, as five years ago there was a sense that Brazil had turned a corner. Millions of people were leaving poverty behind. Brazilian writers had suddenly found there was a future in a full-time writing career. But though times are terribly hard right now in Brazil there's such creativity... that I'm hopeful. The way Brazilians have embraced Luiz Schwarcz's love letter to books shows a collective will to turn a corner, again."

Obituary Note: James Price

James Price, a "publisher of rare imagination and conviction," has died, the Bookseller reported. He was 89. At Secker & Warburg, Allen Lane, the Penguin Press and Scolar Press "he was responsible for such groundbreaking titles as John Lahr's sensational biography of the playwright Joe Orton Prick Up Your Ears, and Montaillou, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's 'total history' account of heretics in a medieval Pyrenean village. In addition, Price published a steady flow of cutting-edge volumes reflecting his lifelong passion for film."

Scolar had been founded in the 1960s to publish scholarly facsimile editions, but Bemrose Corporation turned to Price in the 1970s to expand into trade publishing. "With his wealth of experience at Secker and at Penguin, Price was the ideal hand on the tiller," the Bookseller noted. When Bemrose divested itself of its publishing interests in the early 1980s, Price "founded his own imprint to carry on the Scolar list. He was blessed with a highly optimistic demeanor and sailed on valiantly through swirling commercial storms, adding to the Scolar mix the bookseller University Press Books, modeled on the original UPB store in Berkeley, Calif."

He eventually sold the imprint to Gower in 1986, but "once a publisher, always a publisher, and Price then started, in collaboration with critic Jonathan Wordsworth, Woodstock Books, which published facsimiles, a cottage industry run from the Price family home in Oxfordshire," the Bookseller wrote.


Indies Illustrated: 'Great Things Real Bookstores Have'

Brooke Barker, author and illustrator of Sad Animal Facts and Sad Animal Babies, shared "six great things real bookstores have" at A Cup of Jo, which noted that Barker's books "are available at many independent bookstores, including our neighborhood favorite, Books Are Magic," in Brooklyn, N.Y.

'Six Ways to be Kind to Your Bookseller this Christmas'

Australian bookseller and author Elias Greig suggested "six ways to be kind to your bookseller this Christmas" for the Guardian, noting: "Even at the best of times, bookshops are weird and wonderful places to work in. As one of the few remaining places where you can spend hours without being expected to buy anything, they're the natural resort of the idle, the elderly, the lonely and the romantic. Our curious position as ersatz community center means customers feel no qualms asking for help that undermines or has nothing to do with our store--from bespoke internet research services ('Can you see if it's cheaper on Amazon?') to free childcare ('Just for five minutes!'). Come Christmastime, though, things escalate. Wildly." Greig's bookshop customer tips:

  1. Know what you're after
  2. Don't leave it all to your partner
  3. Accompany your children
  4. Be patient
  5. Be reasonable
  6. Be kind

"Like the blank, panopticon gaze of the Elf on the Shelf, Christmas is inescapable. Let's join hands across the counter and stare it down together," Grieg counsels.His new book, I Can't Remember the Title But the Cover is Blue: Sketches from the other side of the bookshop counter, has just been released in Australia and New Zealand by Allen & Unwin.

'Portrait of a Bookseller': Powell's Books' Holiday Mascot

"Portrait of a Bookseller," a regular series on the blog at Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., showcased Brenda Y., the store's resident yeti and holiday mascot. Among our favorite exchanges from the q&a:

Why do you think bookstores remain so popular in the digital age?
If I've learned anything from the hordes of thrill-seekers in the Himalayas, it's that humans crave a connection with the elemental. An e-book or a digital marketplace just can't replicate the tickly brush of paper against dry fingertips, or the sweet, musty smell of an old book, or the deep comfort of talking books with a person who can't swipe left and pretend you never happened.

Share your favorite customer quote.
"Look Mommy, a cat!" Seriously, has that kid ever seen a cat?

Do you have any odd reading habits or book rituals?
I don't know why this is, but I have a compulsion to bury my books after reading them.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Julian Castro on Colbert's Late Show

The Talk: Maddie Ziegler, author of The Callback (Aladdin, $17.99, 9781481486392).

Daily Show: Bob Woodward, author of Fear (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9789526532998).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Julian Castro, author of An Unlikely Journey: Waking Up from My American Dream (Little, Brown, $28, 9780316252164).

Movies: Where the Crawdads Sing

Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine will produce a film adaptation of Delia Owens's bestselling novel, Where the Crawdads Sing, for Fox 2000, which acquired the rights. Variety reported that "Witherspoon's involvement is not a great surprise. The Oscar winner has been a champion of the book, selecting it for inclusion in her Reese's Book Club.... Fox 2000 is also a natural home. Under the leadership of Elizabeth Gabler, the label has developed a knack for turning literary properties into movies, developing the likes of The Fault in Our Stars and The Devil Wears Prada into hit movies."

"With a jaw-dropping mystery, stunning Southern setting, and endlessly fascinating female heroine at its center, I loved this book the moment I read it and am so excited to join forces with Elizabeth and her team to bring Delia's truly moving page-turner to the screen," Witherspoon said.

Gabler commented: "I knew and loved Delia's writing so when I saw that Reese's Book Club was recommending her new book, I started reading it right away. It is absolutely exquisite, so I immediately reached out to Reese and Lauren and said I wanted to bring it to life on film alongside them. We at Fox 2000 have an incredible synergy with Reese, Lauren and their team at Hello Sunshine, and I am elated that we can once again be partners in the creation of yet another extraordinary film from an outstanding literary property." Gabler and Erin Siminoff will oversee production for Fox 2000.

Books & Authors

Awards: PEN America Literary; Wingate Literary

PEN America has released longlists for its 2019 Literary Awards, which will confer nearly $350,000 to writers and translators whose exceptional literary works were published in 2018. Finalists will be announced in January, and winners will be revealed at the Literary Awards Ceremony on February 26 in New York. See the longlists here.


The longlist has been unveiled for the £4,000 (about $5,065) JQ Wingate Literary Prize, which honors "the best book, fiction or nonfiction, to translate the idea of Jewishness to the general reader." A shortlist will be announced mid-January and the winner named February 25. The longlisted titles are:

1947: When Now Begins by Elisabeth Asbrink, translated by Fiona Graham
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
No Place to Lay One's Head by Françoise Frenkel, translated by Stephanie Smee
Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday
Eternal Life by Dara Horn
Evacuation by Raphael Jerusalmy, translated by Penny Hueston
Letters to My Palestinian Neighbour by Yossi Klein Halevi
If All the Seas Were Ink by Ilana Kurshan
The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy
A Weekend in New York by Benjamin Markovits
Memento Park by Mark Sarvas
We Are Gathered by Jamie Weisman
Deposition 1940-1944 by Leon Werth, edited and translated by David Ball

Reading with... Matthew Binder

photo: Josh Goldy

Matthew Binder is the author of The Absolved (Black Spot, December 5, 2018) and is the primary member of the recording project Bang Bang Jet Away. He lives in New York City.

On your nightstand now:

A friend of mine who works at the book review desk at the Times just gave me a galley of Nico Walker's Cherry. The book is getting tremendous press coverage because of Nico's backstory, which is that he's a guy from a privileged background who dropped out of college, went to war, came back with a terrible case of PTSD, and then became a prolific bank robber.

He wrote the book in jail, and he's still in jail to this day. Anyway, I like Nico's work because, while he has so clearly screwed up his life, he doesn't view himself as a victim or tell his story with any self-pity.

Favorite book when you were a child:

My elementary school library had an annual contest to see who could read the most Newbery Medal-winning books. For some reason I felt compelled to win the contest, and for my efforts my name was engraved on a plaque that hung in the library. I must've read 300 books my fourth-grade year, but for the life of me I can't remember a single one.

Your top five authors:

Henry Miller
Jean Dutourd
Simone de Beauvoir
Jerzy Kosinski
Michel Houellebecq

Book you've faked reading:

I think the most "fake read" book in the past 25 years must be Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Years ago, I read 200 pages of it, but then gave up because I found it to be so boring and pretentious. Perhaps DFW is the most overrated writer of a generation?

Book you're an evangelist for:

The book I've most recommended is Michel Houellebecq's The Elementary Particles. I'd say 50% of the people I've recommended it to loved it, and the other half either quit reading after 50 pages or admittedly hated the book.

Book you've bought for the cover:

A few years ago, I was wandering the streets of Kansas City and stumbled across a table labeled "$1-books!" Most of its volumes were romance or cookbooks, but a book titled Pluche from an obscure French writer looked interesting enough. I had a flight to catch a few hours later and needed something to read, so I paid the dollar and was on my way. Turns out, it was the best dollar I ever spent. The book's author, Jean Dutourd, made my top five list!

Book you hid from your parents:

I probably hid my school books so that I wouldn't be forced to do homework.

Book that changed your life:

The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy by Henry Miller: Sexus, Nexus and Plexus. It's 1,500 pages documenting Henry's relationship with his wife before he moved to Paris. Sexus is about their courtship. Nexus is about their briefly shared marital bliss and Plexus is about trying to figure out how to put the Atlantic Ocean between them.

Favorite line from a book:

"If you aren't rich you should always look useful." --Céline

Five books you'll never part with:

Hunger by Knut Hamsun  
An American Dream by Norman Mailer
The Horrors of Love by Jean Dutourd
A Certain Smile by Françoise Sagan
Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

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

The Plague by Albert Camus. For a brief second, it almost inspired me to pursue medicine.

How you began in the novel-writing business:

Years ago, I drove my friend Skip across the desert, from Albuquerque to San Diego. He was deathly ill and required absolute silence so that he could sleep. Somehow, I failed to charge my phone, so I couldn't even listen to music on headphones. To entertain myself, I plotted out a novel. By the end of the 13-hour trek, I was convinced that I had the makings of a masterpiece. I spent the next two years writing the book. Unfortunately, it turned out to be lousy and has been lost to the dustbin of history.

Book Review

Review: Cicada

Cicada by Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $19.99 hardcover, 32p., ages 12-up, 9781338298390, January 29, 2019)

In 2011, author/artist/filmmaker Shaun Tan won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and received an Oscar for the animated adaptation of his book The Lost Thing. What initially brought him to international acclaim was the publication of The Arrival in 2006 (2007 in the U.S.). A wordless, heart-pulling, graphically extraordinary chronicle of an immigration experience--loss, estrangement, tenacity, hope--that could happen anywhere in the world, The Arrival continues to resonate as borders shift, governments collapse and scattered populations seek sanctuary.

More than a decade later, Tan returns to the immigrant experience with Cicada, a darker, sobering story that highlights the all-too-familiar treatment of seemingly expendable, undervalued foreign workers. His antihero is a short, squat green cicada for whom English is clearly not a first language. His gray suit can't disguise his differences in a gray office filled with similarly gray-suited men (and perhaps one woman). He's been a data entry clerk without a single sick day, making no mistakes, staying late to finish his co-workers' incomplete work, and yet 17 years have passed without a promotion. He's been labeled "not human" by the human resources department, which means he's banned from using the company bathroom ("Human resources say cicada not human. Need no resources. Tok Tok Tok!"). He doesn't make enough to afford rent and lives in a sliver of "office wall space." He's bullied, harassed, even kicked to the ground by colleagues who attack without reason.

And then Cicada finally retires: "No party. No handshake. Boss say clean desk. Tok Tok Tok!" He abandons his cubicle with nothing to show for his loyal efforts: "No work. No home. No money." Alone, he climbs the building's stairs: "Cicada go to top of tall building. Time to say goodbye. Tok Tok Tok!" But even as all hope appears to be lost, Tan delivers an unexpected zinger of a high-flying ending.

In this modern parable for the plight of necessary-yet-unwelcomed foreign workers worldwide, Tan explicitly exposes their diminished status. That he chooses to present his protagonist as a language-challenged, alien-eyed insect with a hard outer shell and multiple, multi-tasking arms speaks volumes. His human characters don't fare well, as he effectively erases their humanity: he reveals no faces, just torsos that walk by, backs turned to avoid eye contact, arms crossed in looming impatience, pant-legs that end in heavy black shoes used to hold down someone else. Shadows and darkness loom across every visually remarkable page. Each text section ends with "Tok Tok Tok!"--as the proverbial clock never stops ticking, but perhaps also serving as a homonymic reference that "Talk Talk Talk!" is not nearly enough. Unsettling and haunting, Cicada is a cautionary tale that unmasks a society that's carelessly complicit, easily arrogant and, alas, disturbingly real. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: Meaningfully multi-layered for readers of any age, Shaun Tan's graphically wondrous Cicada proves to be a warning companion to bestselling The Arrival about the plight of expendable foreign workers.

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