Shelf Awareness for Friday, January 11, 2019

Henry Holt & Company: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

Henry Holt & Company: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

Little, Brown Ink: The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich (a Graphic Novel) by Deya Muniz

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

Dundurn Press: Chasing the Black Eagle by Bruce Geddes

Amulet Books: Batcat: Volume 1 by Meggie Ramm

Berkley Books: The Comeback Summer by Ali Brady


Holiday Sales: B&N Comps Rise 4%; Stock Slumps

First the good news at Barnes & Noble: in the holiday period beginning on Black Friday and ending on New Year's Day, sales at stores open at least a year rose 4%, "the best comparable sales performance for the company in several years," B&N said. And for the nine-week period ending December 29, comp-store sales rose 1.3%.

B&N said that "our new advertising campaign and improved website contributed to the solid results, as did our buy online and pick up in store initiative. The company also increased promotional offers, which increased markdowns as well as sales."

B&N chairman Len Riggio commented: "Although we got off to a slow start, sales picked up momentum as we moved deeper into the season, and we finished strongly in accordance with our expectations. The entire organization deserves credit for our great results, especially our 23,000 local booksellers."

Now the bad news: B&N said that "due to the increased advertising expenditure and increased promotional activity, earnings guidance may be reduced by as much as 10%." Wall Street took an uncheerful view of this: yesterday, a day most averages rose, B&N stock fell 15.8%, to $6.36 a share, on more than double the usual volume.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams

Surprise Bookstore Chain Merger in Germany

The German book market was "shaken up by a surprise merger between two major bookselling companies" yesterday, the Bookseller reported. Thalia and Mayersche will join forces in a deal that needs to be approved by the competition authorities. The new partnership consists of approximately 300 Thalia and 55 Mayersche branches.

In 2016, U.S. private equity investor Advent International sold Thalia to a consortium of consisting of the Herder and Kreke families as well as Leif Göritz and CEO Michael Busch. The current group of partners will be joined by the Falter family, which has owned Mayersche since 1950. In addition, CEO Hartmut Falter will join Busch as second managing partner and also become a member of Thalia's executive board. He will also retain responsibility for the Mayersche-owned Best of Books, a leading provider of books for ancillary retailers.

In a joint statement, Busch and Falter said the changing environment in book retailing requires "future-oriented concepts and alliances." Thalia and Mayersche will be merging "into an innovative and strong bookseller that will not only be the major player in the German market, but the most successful multichannel bookseller by international comparison."

Michael Busch commented: "We are banking on stable alliances and partnerships because as booksellers we are more successful when working together."

The new corporate structure "stipulates that both companies will continue operating under their established names with the aim of bringing the consumer 'a new level of quality,' " the Bookseller wrote, adding: "Apart from further strengthening its brick-and-mortar presence, a core project will be online expansion to make the company even more competitive internationally."

Blink: Come Home Safe by Brian G. Buckmire

Timothy Paulson New Publisher of Nelson Books

Timothy Paulson

Timothy Paulson is joining HarperCollins Christian Publishing as v-p and publisher of Nelson Books, a Thomas Nelson imprint, effective February 4.

Paulson has more than 18 years of experience in publishing, most recently with Kalmbach Media and earlier, for most of his career, at 1517 Media. At 1517 Media, he created imprints, developed digital platform strategies and built an animation studio, among other accomplishments.

He replaces Brian Hampton, who was promoted last year to senior v-p and group publisher for HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Hampton commented: "Tim's rich experience as a publisher, coaching leader, innovator, brand creator, and marketer make him a great fit as the leader of this team. Taking over responsibility for an imprint that is having a big run in the marketplace is a unique challenge requiring confidence and humility, and Tim brings both to our company."

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Welcome to the World by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Obituary Note: Robert S. Friedman

New Age publisher Robert S. Friedman died on January 7. He was 76 and had a long struggle with spontaneous Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD Prion's Disease), a rare neurodegenerative brain disorder.

In 1974, he founded the Donning Company, a specialty book publisher, where he was president and publisher. In 1989, he founded Hampton Roads Publishing Company with Frank DeMarco, and over two decades published more than 1,000 titles, mostly metaphysical and self-help books, including the first of Neale Donald Walsch's Conversations with God titles. Friedman also co-wrote Milton's Secret (2008) with Eckhart Tolle.

In 2009, Friedman stepped down as publisher of Hampton Roads and the next year began another New Age book publishing company, Rainbow Ridge Books. There he published, among other titles, Inner Vegas: Creating Miracles, Abundance, and Health by Dr. Joseph Gallenberger; The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences and A Manual for Developing Humans by P.M.H. Atwater; and Coming Full Circle: Ancient Teachings for a Modern World by Lynn Andrews. He also published a  revised version of Richard Bach's Messiah's Handbook as well as Neale Donald Walsch's God's Message to the World: You've Got Me All Wrong and the final title in the Conversations with God series, Awaken the Species.

Walsch paid tribute to Friedman, saying, "My heart opens to this very day, when I think of Bob Friedman's courage in publishing Conversations with God nearly 25 years ago, when it was such cutting-edge material that five other publishers wouldn't go near it. [Bob's] insatiable intellectual curiosity and sheer business bravery marked him forever as a pioneer in his industry, throwing open the door to a whole new level of spiritual exploration books."

Rudy Shur, president of Square One Publishers, distributor of Rainbow Ridge, said, "I always respected Bob's accomplishments, and also appreciated him as a friend. It was nice how, over the years, he and I both learned from each others' own experiences in publishing. He was even-tempered, enjoyed a good laugh, and was always willing to listen. I will miss him."

Friedman's son Jonathan will run Rainbow Ridge Books. "I plan to honor my father's legacy and to maintain as best I can the potential and promise of his plans and vision for Rainbow Ridge as he had intended," he said.

Feature: Booksellers Navigate Rising Rents, Part 5

This is the latest installment of our series examining how independent bookstores around the country have navigated rising rents, lease negotiations and relationships with landlords; see previous articles here.

In the fall of 2012, Queen Anne Books in Seattle, Wash., closed abruptly after being in business since 1988. The store reopened just four months later under the name Queen Anne Book Company, with the trio of Janis Segress, Judy de Jonge and Krijn de Jonge as owners.

Krijn de Jonge reported that it was actually the store's landlord who brought them together. And while Segress was a veteran bookseller who had spent seven years as head buyer at Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge Island, the de Jonges had no prior experience owning or operating an indie bookstore. They had, however, lived in the Queen Anne neighborhood since 1984 and were heavily involved in the community.

"He brought us together and we clicked," de Jonge recalled. "We wanted to keep the neighborhood bookstore in business."

When it came to negotiating the store's lease, de Jonge operated off of the previous bookstore's figures, with the reasoning essentially being "if we're in line [with these numbers], we should be okay." He explained that even that proved to be "a bit difficult," as they never quite got the "right set of numbers" from the previous owner, but nevertheless the negotiations resulted in a five-year lease very similar to the one Queen Anne Books had had. It also called for a 3% increase per year for five years, but the landlord sold the property about 10 months later and the new landlords never charged the 3% increase.

Looking back on it, de Jonge acknowledged that he and his co-owners "could have pressed harder" on certain aspects of the original lease negotiations. Given another shot at it, he said he would have done some market analysis on lease rates, as well as made use of the American Booksellers Association's ABACUS data. When asked what advice he'd give to others in a similar situation, he answered, "Really do your homework," and also suggested possibly getting a broker involved.

According to ABACUS data relayed by de Jonge, Queen Anne Book Company pays higher-than-average rent compared to stores of a similar size, in terms of square footage, sales volume and number of employees. He added that the store is in an area of Seattle where, over the past few years, "quite a few buildings" have been torn down and replaced with high-end apartment buildings. These buildings typically have retail spaces on the ground floor, and de Jonge said that in some cases landlords are asking for as much as $42 per square foot.

More concerning than the increasing rent pressure, though, are things like the rising minimum wage. About three years ago, de Jonge said, the minimum wage was $9.50 per hour--this year, they'll have to go to $15. Other costs have added up as well, such as state-mandated health insurance premiums that must be paid per employee, and de Jonge noted that however well-intentioned these measures are, they are often "not friendly to small businesses" and generate "a lot of complaints.

"All of the attention here is on Amazon, because they make billions," de Jonge continued. "They make up these rules only looking at Amazon."

To help offset these rising costs, Queen Anne Book Company has been looking into things like driving more web sales and making sure to maximize discounts when ordering from publishers. He called the situation a "big puzzle," adding that there's no "easy answer" or single solution. He said: "You just have to be more efficient." --Alex Mutter


Guardian Readers Pick 'Favorite Independent Bookshops'

"Whether you like friendly staff or Bernard Black-types, beautiful shops or tiny treasure troves, here is a selection of your most loved bookshops around the world," the Guardian wrote in sharing responses to its recent request that readers share their picks for favorite indie bookstores.


The only U.S. bookshop featured was Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C., which was described as "the beating heart of liberal America--as metaphorically as far from Trump as you can get. It has a great range of subjects chosen by excellent subject experts (including their music section), it has a great speaker program and the cafe serves a delicious lemon drizzle cake."

Another respondent called Booka Bookshop, Oswestry, "my happy place. The shop is light, bright and airy and the books are always beautifully displayed. I can browse for hours in there and I always find something unusual--the shop runs a lot of different book clubs and events so there's always an eclectic selection of titles and genres, as opposed to just the usual big hitters. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and their author events are fantastic--I've been to see Jodi Picoult, Matt Haig, Imogen Hermes Gower, and Eowyn Ivey and they've all been fabulous, insightful evenings. Plus there's a lovely cafe with locally made cakes, and the shop sells some really unusual gifts and cards too--so it's perfect for choosing presents!"

A London resident said Daunt Books is a "fabulous, heaven of a place, as beautiful as it is well-stocked. It's full of well chosen, well displayed books of every description. Ostensibly a travel bookshop, they have two whole rooms devoted to guides, books about and books by authors from, every country in the world. The rest of the two buildings have fiction, crime, gardening, cookery, fashion, poetry, history, current events and a superb children's section. I'm probably missing out something but the knowledgeable and helpful staff could order anything for you. It's the bookshop booklovers dream about. When I die, I want my ashes scattered in their fiction section."

Bookstore Chalkboard of the Day: Otto Bookstore

The sidewalk chalkboard in front of Otto Bookstore in Williamsport, Pa., shared some wisdom from the 18th-century German poet Novalis: "Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Kristen Roupenian on Weekend Edition

NPR's Weekend Edition: Kristen Roupenian, author of You Know You Want This: 'Cat Person' and Other Stories (Gallery/Scout Press, $24.99, 9781982101633).

TV: Shadow and Bone

Netflix has greenlighted Shadow and Bone, an eight-episode series based on Leigh Bardugo's bestselling Grishaverse novels Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows, Deadline reported. The project is from Eric Heisserer, writer of Netflix's recent hit Bird Box, and Shawn Levy, executive producer of Stranger Things.

Created, written and executive produced by Heisserer, who will also serve as showrunner, Shadow and Bone brings together the stories and characters of both novels. Deadline noted that more than 2.5 million copies have been sold in English and that Bardugo's Grishaverse books have been translated into 38 languages. A new installment, King of Scars, will be released later this month.

Books & Authors

Awards: Crook's Corner; RBC Taylor for Literary Nonfiction

A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (Counterpoint Press) has won the sixth annual $5,000 Crook's Corner Book Prize for best debut novel set in the South. Judge Tayari Jones called the book "an eye-opener, page-turner, and heart-breaker."

The organizers described A Kind of Freedom as following "the downward spiral of an African-American family in New Orleans, from the 1940s through Hurricane Katrina. The family, anchored by a respected physician and his Creole wife, had occupied the upper echelons of black society in the city. But as each generation journeys through the 1980s to the post-Katrina world, family members--despite never-extinguished hope--succumb to drugs and seemingly implacable futility."

The Crook's Corner Book Prize is a collaboration between Crook's Corner Bar & Café in Chapel Hill, N.C., and the Crook's Corner Book Prize Foundation.


The shortlist has been unveiled for the CA$25,000 (about US$18,900) RBC Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction, which recognizes an author "whose book best combines a superb command of the English language, an elegance of style and a subtlety of thought and perception." The winning author will be announced March 4 at an awards ceremony in Toronto. The winner also names his or her choice for the CA$10,000 (about US$7,560) RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writer's Award. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Just Let Me Look at You: On Fatherhood by Bill Gaston
Jan in 35 Pieces: A Memoir in Music by Ian Hampton
Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road by Kate Harris
All Things Consoled: A Daughter's Memoir by Elizabeth Hay
Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age by Darrel J. McLeod

Reading with... Tressie McMillan Cottom

Tressie McMillan Cottom is a sociologist by training, writer by commitment and Southerner by the grace of God. Her latest book, Thick (The New Press, January 8, 2019), draws on 10 years of writing about many of society's most pressing fault lines. It joins her other books, including Lower Ed, in a academic career that spans public policy to cultural critique. She lives in Richmond, Va., where she is a professor.

On your nightstand now:

I always wonder how honest people are about this. I am being very honest. I rolled over and my nightstand at this very moment has Alexander Chee's How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, Rebecca Solnit's The Mother of All Questions and Caitlin Rosenthal's Accounting for Slavery. I am relieved to see that I am on a serious reading tear of late. Every glance at my nightstand cannot be said to be as serious.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I had so many! I loved all of the big series that were made for girls, even though they were not made for girls like me: The Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High. I read Judy Blume's Tiger Eyes and Forever when I was far too young, maybe age nine, and I lost my mind for them. I read my mother's three-part anthology of Negro literature repeatedly. I adored Langston Hughes's stories of Simple and Gwendolyn Brooks. However, no book stands out in my youth's memories more than Alex Haley's Autobiography of Malcolm X. I clearly recall feeling the weight of importance when I first read it even though I could not articulate how or why it was important.

Your top five authors:

I will read and re-read Nikki Giovanni for the rest of my life. Hers was the first work assigned by a living black woman in all of my school years. It was the seventh grade. A black woman writer could be alive. It changed my whole life. I read Nikki-Rosa and submitted my first essay to a competition a month later. I won. I have been submitting ever since.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie does not care about your feelings or mine when she writes. I aspire to that.

Gloria Naylor captured the complexity of black political economy in the early to mid 20th century in a truly magical way. How has striving replicated our oppressions? I wonder what writers will capture that for black life in the 21st century. When I miss the kind of black folks who made me, I read Gloria.

I also love James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry because who doesn't. This was hard. I demand to see my methodology.

Book you've faked reading:

I was convinced that smart people had to have an opinion on Atlas Shrugged. What a god-awful book. I carried it in my car for ages before giving up and just borrowing an opinion about it from others.

Book you're an evangelist for:

It's not a book but a kind of book. Every year I buy about two dozen of Oxford University Press's Very Short Introductions on subjects chosen randomly. I hand them out to everyone for any occasion. Only the hand-rolled cigarette is a more elegantly designed delivery system, but VSIs are far healthier.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I do this all of the time. Su'ad Abdul Khabeer's cover for Muslim Cool: Race, Religion, and Hip Hop in the United States is so visually arresting that I bought it twice. One is for display.

Book you hid from your parents:

I stole all of the dangerous and nasty books from my mother and grandmother. I never had to hide them much. I did have an unfortunate momentary interest in mainstream erotic romance novels in the early 2000s that I hid from everyone.

Book that changed your life:

Anne Moody's Coming of Age in Mississippi.

Favorite line from a book:

"You your best thing." --from Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye.

Five books you'll never part with:

Bury me with The Iliad (in case my journey is long); Shakespeare's tragedies (not the comedies); Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain; Gloria Naylor's trilogy--Mama Day, Bailey's Cafe, Linden Hills.

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

I wish I could read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor for the first time again. I think I was enchanted. It is hard to be enchanted anymore.

Book Review

Review: Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future

Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future by Pete Buttigieg (Liveright, $27.95 hardcover, 352p., 9781631494369, February 12, 2019)

Growing up in South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg never expected to become the mayor of his hometown. But at 37, after a winding journey that took him to Harvard, Oxford and Afghanistan, Buttigieg not only lives in his childhood neighborhood, he works for the place that has shaped him. His memoir, Shortest Way Home, chronicles his own story alongside that of South Bend's post-industrial struggle and its gradual revitalization.

Buttigieg grew up in an intellectually curious household, graduating at the top of his class. At Harvard, his wide-eyed wonder quickly morphed into a hunger to learn as much as possible, through long hours in the library and campus events where he met world leaders and politicians. He touches briefly on his first job as a consultant for McKinsey and his time at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, but the heart of the book is his on-the-ground political education in the Midwest. First driving through cornfields to knock on doors for Senator Barack Obama, then running for state treasurer of Indiana (and getting trounced), Buttigieg traces his growing interest in holding public office and using any power he might gain to do some good. He recounts his campaign for mayor and the optimism of taking office. But he is also candid about the job's frustrations (no politician can please everyone) and heartbreaks (his grief for local victims of gun violence and recently tightened immigration laws). 

A self-confessed data geek, Buttigieg nevertheless knows that "good policy, like good literature, takes personal lived experience as its starting point." Now into his second term as mayor, he tries to keep the real experiences of his fellow citizens in mind, whether he and his team are working on snow removal, attracting new businesses to South Bend's downtown or celebrating the city's 150th anniversary. His warm, thoughtful narrative voice reflects his approach to local politics: seeing people as individuals who are also part of their community and figuring out how to make their lives better.

During a turbulent moment in national politics, it's refreshing to read an account of hope, compassion and plain hard work at the local level. Buttigieg's story is particular to South Bend, but it offers insights for those working to lead cities around the country. His personal journey--as a local boy returning home, a Navy Reserve officer juggling his day job and commitment to his country, and a gay man coming out and finding love while in the public eye--is equally compelling. Shortest Way Home is a meditation on how to govern and live well, and how one man came home "to find belonging by making myself useful there." --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: The young, dynamic mayor of South Bend, Ind., chronicles his own story alongside that of his city's gradual revitalization.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Sparking Joy During the KonMari Book Brouhaha

Books like waterbirds
flying over bookshelf pond.
Splash! Some land, most gone.

I like Marie Kondo, but I'm keeping my books. Well, not all my books. Actually, my wall of books sparks joy. Then again, I dispose of books all the time. "Tidying up" can be a confusing goal for the professional reader. Help, Marie! No, on second thought, don't look.

Just when you thought it was safe to stop worrying about all the books you haven't read because... tsundoku ("All those books you've bought but haven't read? There's a word for that"; "The value of owning more books than you can read"), last week that bully Marie Kondo returned to the neighborhood with her new Netflix series and inspired a critical cascade of antonyms for "joy."

The series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, is of course inspired by her bestselling books The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing; and Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.

The Kondo social media uprising was sparked by a tweet from author Anakana Schofield: "Do NOT listen to Marie Kondo or Konmari in relation to books. Fill your apartment & world with them. I don't give a shite if you throw out your knickers and Tupperware but the woman is very misguided about BOOKS. Every human needs a v extensive library not clean, boring shelves."

Marie Kondo "awakening" the books.

There are numerous threads of anger out there now, as a cursory Googling of "Marie Kondo" and "books" will quickly show.

Among the writers who addressed the KonMari book brouhaha via Twitter were Sam Sykes ("I can't believe Marie Kondo said to destroy all books and then broke into peoples' houses individually and made them eat all their books and then when they tried to protest she said 'don't talk with your mouth full of books, bookmouth' and all the cool kids laughed at them"); Kevin Nguyen, who described the backlash as "both a misunderstanding of Marie Kondo and books"; and Ronan Farrow: "A child scrambles back, wild-eyed and weeping, clutching a stack of dog-eared books. A shadow looms over him. 'Time to declutter,' says a high, prim voice. Marie Kondo pulls a lighter from a spotless cardigan. 'Now burn the books... kudasai.' (How I assume that Netflix show goes.)"

In the Guardian, Schofield observed: "The metric of objects only 'sparking joy' is deeply problematic when applied to books. The definition of joy (for the many people yelling at me on Twitter, who appear to have Konmari'd their dictionaries) is: 'A feeling of great pleasure and happiness, a thing that causes joy, success or satisfaction.' This is a ludicrous suggestion for books. Literature does not exist only to provoke feelings of happiness or to placate us with its pleasure; art should also challenge and perturb us."

By coincidence, I was fully engaged with the Kondo book conflict when I happened upon Sven Birkerts's new Agni column, "Culling: A New Year's Reflection," in which he observed: "It's coming on New Year's and now it's time. I've let it go so long, the cull, but enough is enough. Though even as I type that word I recognize that much will depend on what is deemed 'enough.' I'm talking about books, about winnowing the shelves, getting rid of things no longer wanted or needed.

"It's so easy to describe it this way, as if one were putting away the Summer clothes. But as any book-person knows, there is nothing easy about the actual doing: pulling out a book, looking at it, quickly assessing your life--your memories and ideals--in terms of it. I've been making hundreds of such decisions here in the attic today. Each private confrontation--yes/no--has marked a further refinement of my sense of who I've become. Each has been a confrontation with time."

Much of my life has been spent considering whether a particular book is worth reading and/or keeping. It's even a part of my job description. For me, "sparking joy" is at once more and less complicated than a laying on of hands to give books "a little shake and wake them up," as Kondo advises.

Also, as a fully-vested member of the tribe, I can proudly say that book people are just weird in their own special way. When I watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, I was less shocked by how books were being treated than by the fact that "Books" was a major KonMari method category, since they seemed to claim at best a minor--and often non-existent--role in most of her clients' homes. Clothes were by far the alpha possession.

But Kondo insists in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up that books "are one of three things that people find hardest to let go," adding: "Imagine what it would be like to have a bookshelf filled only with books that you really love. Isn't that image spellbinding? For someone who loves books, what greater happiness could there be?"

Robert Gray's KonMari-free zone

Well, we have a lot of books in our house, many of which could be said to "spark joy" individually. What really sparks joy, however, is the wall of books in our library, where some titles have a lifetime membership while others stay briefly, then move on to new homes. Our shelves are like a spring-fed pond, which seems calm and unchanging on the surface.

I took a photo of our bookshelves this morning, just to frame my thoughts. I suspect Marie Kondo would have a field day here, despite the fact that within the past three years we have actually handled and dusted every volume. Were we also "waking them up?" I hope so.

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

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