Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 8, 2019

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

'To the Readers of Denver: #ChooseIndie'

"Algorithms are great, but staff that has gone on your reading adventures with you and your kid over the years is better. Four-star reviews are helpful, but a colorful spine catching your eye is joyful. Amazon Books is conveniently located, but Tattered Cover has been around for almost 50 years. Amazon Books is cool, but BookBar has wine. Amazon Books has perfectly designed shelves, but Kilgore Books is as fantastically nerdy as you are. Amazon Books has great advertising, but The Bookies has experts in education. Amazon Books can ship within a day, but Hermitage Books just around the corner can help you find that rare title you've been wanting.

"Denver--you've got at least 10 bookstores helping shape your communities, and being shaped by community. You've got a choice here, and we ask that if you're able, you make the choice that will strengthen that connection. Choose Indie Bookstores."

--From a letter to the readers of Denver shared by children's bookstore Second Star on the Right, following the opening of Amazon Books in Denver on Wednesday.



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


B&N: Mixed News; Wall Street Not Happy

Sales at Barnes & Noble stores open at least a year rose 4% during the holiday season, but a drop-off in sales "in the low single digits" after the holidays, in part because of bad weather, kept the company's overall comp-store sales gain in the third quarter, ended January 26, at 1.1%, the company said in a conference call yesterday with analysts (transcript courtesy of Still, the comp-sales gain was the best in three years.

But Wall Street was unhappy that overall sales dipped slightly, to $1.2 billion, and that net earnings of $66.9 million were less than expected. Yesterday, B&N stock fell 12.6%, closing at $5.11 a share, on more than twice the usual trading volume. Its low for the day--$4.83--neared its 52-week week low of $4.45.

In other B&N news from the conference call:

In the quarter, non-book sales increased 4.9%, led by gifts and toys and games, while book sales fell 1.2%. CFO Allen Lindstrom said that trade paper, kids and young adult book sales were "short of our expectations." But hardcover sales "remained strong." Online sales fell 2%.

Chief merchandising officer Tim Mantel noted that book sales have "improved sequentially each quarter [in the past year] as we continue to enhance the in-store customers' experience by opening up the sales floor, signing promotions and in-section displays with more clarity and by assisting and browsing with expanded shelf talkers and tools to improve bookseller recommendations." The company continues to emphasize books "throughout all aspects of our marketing, including a significant increase in funding for holiday broadcast and digital marketing, which celebrated our booksellers as they were seen helping customers find that perfect last-minute gift."

Michelle Obama's Becoming was B&N's bestselling book this year, Mantel continued. Categories with strong sales included cookbooks, personal growth, science fiction and fantasy and current affairs. "For young readers and adult fiction, results were best when aligning store events with promotions to drive traffic."

At the same time, "cyclical negative trends in movies, music and newsstand continued," and the company keeps looking at "financially sound ways of repurposing this space." In some 91 stores, the company condensed and relocated movies and music inventory "out of the sales floor," Mantel said. In its place, B&N put a collectible shop and educational toys and games, which "performed well throughout the season and across categories with particular strength from products anchored in literary properties like Harry Potter."

Mantel attributed much of the positive news to such factors as better strategy and marketing; greater alignment between stores and the website; focused and targeted promotions; and better partnerships with publishers, which included "aligning with publishers on product rolls" and doing some exclusive editions of books.

B&N opened four stores during the year and is opening "a couple more" in the current fourth quarter.

Cleveland's Guide to Kulchur Is Dissolving

Guide to Kulchur in Cleveland, Ohio, closed this week. A statement posted on the store's website said that for the past three years, the business "has been transitioning from a sole proprietorship independent bookstore to a board-led nonprofit. In the past year, Guide to Kulchur, Inc., has applied for 501c3 status, grant funding, fiscal sponsorship, and taken other steps to establish itself as a nonprofit. In early 2019 the Board of Directors discovered the loss of thousands of dollars, both privately fundraised and granted."

The board announced that the following steps were being taken: R.A. Washington has been dismissed as executive director as of March 5; Guide to Kulchur, Inc. has provided an accounting of its finances to impacted partners as a gesture of accountability; and Guide to Kulchur, Inc. has initiated the process of legally dissolving as a nonprofit and is no longer in operation as of March 5.

The board also said it "feels strongly about accountability and acknowledges that transparency is a core element of any accountability process. In light of the above mentioned activities the board of directors is consulting with legal counsel about releasing additional details, which may be released at a later time."

Cleveland Scene reported that Washington published a Facebook post in response: "While not discussing the recent alleged missing funds, he said that he and two others had personally taken out loans to finance the purchase of printing equipment when the store moved from W. 65th Street to Detroit and W. 59th (before its move, in 2017, to Lorain.) He said that his name continues to be slandered, but admitted to making mistakes."

Samuel French L.A. Bookshop Vandalized

Samuel French Theatre & Film Bookshop in Hollywood, Calif., which recently announced it would be closing March 31, was forced to close earlier this week after being broken into and vandalized. The store will not reopen.

In a statement posted on Facebook, the store wrote: "The plan had been for the bookshop to shutter at the end of this month, however on the night of Monday, March 5, it was broken into and seriously vandalized. And earlier that day, several men deliberately intimidated a beloved member of our staff on the premises. The police require us to close the store pending their investigation and with our staff's safety in mind, we are unable to reopen it."

BookExpo's Editors' Buzz Panels Set

Titles have been selected for the three buzz panels to be held during BookExpo May 29-May 31 at the Javits Center in New York City. The selections were made by three committees comprised of publishing industry professionals from titles submitted by exhibiting publishers. From these titles, the committees looked for books that will "grab the attention of--and engage--a wide variety of readers." The Buzz Panel presentations, which feature book editors discussing the selections, will be supplemented with Meet the Author Buzz panels where the selected authors will discuss their work.

The adult editors' buzz panel presentation takes place Wednesday, May 29, at 1:45 p.m. and the meet the adult authors buzz presentation takes place Thursday, May 30, at 11 a.m.

The young adult editors' buzz panel presentation takes place Thursday, May 30, at 10 a.m. and the meet the young adult authors buzz presentation takes place Friday, May 31, at 9:30 a.m.

The middle grade editors' buzz panel presentation takes place Friday, May 31, at 11 a.m. and the meet the middle grade authors buzz presentation takes place Friday, May 31, at 1:35 p.m.

Jenny Martin, event director for BookExpo and Book Con, commented: "BookExpo's Editors' Buzz program has consistently selected titles and authors that will soon become household names. We are excited to reveal this year's outstanding group of authors and look forward to giving attendees the chance to learn more at the Editors' and Meet the Authors Buzz panels."

The featured titles are:

Adult book editors' buzz selections:
How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones (Simon & Schuster)
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (Morrow)
The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott (Knopf)
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (Putnam)
Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener (MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The Warehouse: A Novel by Rob Hart (Crown)

YA book editors' buzz selections:
Frankly in Love by David Yoon (Penguin Young Readers)
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett (Wednesday Books)
The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (Hyperion)
The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart (Delacorte Press)

Middle grade book editors' buzz selections:
Free Lunch by Rex Ogle (Norton Young Readers)
Jinxed by Amy McCulloch (Sourcebooks Young Readers)
My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi (Penguin Young Readers)
Pavi Sharma's Guide to Going Home by Bridget Farr (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Weird Little Robots by Carolyn Crimi (Candlewick Press)

San Diego Writers Festival to Debut April 13

The first-ever San Diego Writers Festival will take place on Saturday, April 13, at the Downtown Central Library in San Diego, Calif. The event will run from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and will be free to the public.

Piper Kerman, author of the memoir Orange Is the New Black, will headline the festival. Kerman will give a keynote speech, answer audience questions and appear in conversation with Marni Freedman, one of the festivals co-founders. Other events include craft and industry-based workshops, live performances, educational panels about writing, author meet-and-greets, book signings, readings and a variety of children- and teen-focused programming.

Freedman and Jeniffer Thompson co-founded the festival, and it is being put on in conjunction with the San Diego Central Library and the San Diego Memoir Writers Association. More information about the festival can be found here.

Obituary Note: Moris Farhi

Writer Moris Farhi, a PEN International v-p who was a "tireless advocate of freedom of expression," died March 5, the Bookseller reported. He was 84. A playwright and screenwriter, he also published many novels, including Children of the Rainbow (1999) and Journey Through the Wilderness (2002). Saqi, which published his works for more than 20 years, will release his latest novel, My End Is My Beginning, later this year.

Announcing Farhi's death "with great sadness," Saqi publisher Lynn Gaspard said: "We are extremely proud to publish him. Musa, as he was known to his friends and family, was an exceptionally gifted writer. His ideals and passionate humanism imbued all of his works. Musa was a tireless advocate of freedom of expression, a dreamer and a poet--he was our comrade and friend, and he will be greatly missed."

A strong advocate for freedom of speech and learning, Farhi served between 1994 and 1997 as chair of the English PEN Writers in Prison Committee; and between 1997 and 2000 as chair of PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee. In November 2001, he was elected a v-p of PEN International, the same year that he was awarded an MBE for services to literature.

His agent, Jessica Woollard, said, "Musa was a man with a heart big enough for all the world. As a prize-winning writer, he could turn his hand to anything, and produced exquisite poetry, erotic short stories, thrillers, epic novels that were translated all over the world, television scripts. His writing was robust, rich, sensual, entertaining and culturally expansive and his relationship with his publisher Saqi Books was incredibly close.... He will be missed by many, many people."

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
Seriously HAPPY:
10 life-changing philosophy lessons from Stoicism to Zen to supercharge your mindset
by Ben Aldridge
illus. by Michelle Brackenborough
GLOW: Holler: Seriously HAPPY: 10 Life-Changing Philosophy Lessons from Stoicism to Zen to Supercharge Your Mindset by Ben Aldridge

Mental health matters are unpacked through philosophy and quirky challenges in Ben Aldridge's uplifting first YA title, Seriously HAPPY, which mixes personal stories and synopses of teachings from OG philosophers. Alongside Aristotle and Socrates, Aldridge includes insights from lesser-known great minds like Bao Gu, a female Chinese Taoist physician, and Nigerian philosopher Orunmila, to show readers how to be confident, decisive, and resilient. Aldridge personally "employed Stoicism and other philosophies as key strategies in overcoming severe and debilitating anxiety and panic attacks as a young man," says Holler publisher Debbie Foy, adding that Aldridge's conversational tone makes the subject matter accessible and inviting to a young adult audience. "He is clear that everyone deserves happiness in their lives but what constitutes 'happiness' is different for all of us." --Rachel Werner

(Holler, $12.99 Hardcover, ages 12-up, 9780711297807, 
September 3, 2024)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Image of the Day: Hot Books on a Cold Chicago Night

Forty booksellers turned out for a cold Chicago Spring Rep Night at Volumes Bookcafe. Four reps presented: David Mallmann (W.W. Norton); Gerald Brennan (Tortoise Books); John Mesjak (Abraham Associates) and Brian Wilson (Penguin Random House). The event was hosted by Javier Ramirez and Tom Flynn.

Pennie Picks: I Was Anastasia

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has chosen I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon (Doubleday, $26.95, 9780385541695) as her pick of the month for March. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she wrote:

"I have long been fascinated by Czar Nicholas II and his family--in particular the youngest daughter, Anastasia. I know that DNA evidence has put the question of her survival to rest, but it's still interesting to think about Anna Anderson, the woman who claimed to be Anastasia. That's why Ariel Lawhon's I Was Anastasia is this month's buyer's pick.

"Rich with detail and authenticity, this work of historical fiction examines Anna Anderson's life, including her supporters and detractors, and the very nature of identity."

Bookshop Window of the Day: Brazos Bookstore

Brazos Bookstore, Houston, Tex., tweeted a photo of its front display window, which dramatically announces the reason for a pair of upcoming events--a pre-order party this Saturday and an author event later this month--celebrating a new short story collection: "When we say we're excited about Bryan Washington's book Lot, we mean it! Join us on Saturday at 1 to celebrate this stunning debut with a raffle, tacos, drinks & music!"

Ingram Expanding Services for Cambridge University Press

Under a new agreement, Ingram Academic Services, part of Ingram Publisher Services, will handle sales and distribution for Cambridge University Press to independent retailers, independent university bookstores, Christian bookstores, gift and museum retailers in the U.S. and Canadian national chains.

Ingram will continue to handle pick, pack, and ship and POD services for Cambridge for all U.S. and Canadian markets.

Tom Willshire, head of retail sales for Cambridge in the Americas, said: "The strength of independent retailers and our growing academic trade program offers a unique opportunity to more closely partner with Ingram. In tandem with our dedicated, CUP sales representatives, this new venture with Ingram will immediately expand our presence in the retail marketplace."

Kurt Hettler, director of Ingram Academic, said, "CUP has been a longstanding Distribution Solutions client with Ingram providing pick, pack ship and print on demand services. Now, our wide reaching, knowledgeable and respected sales force will be working closely with them to help expand their sales reach in these channels."

Personnel Changes at Abrams; PublicAffairs; Chronicle

Kim Lauber has joined Abrams as senior director, marketing, children's books. She was most recently director of marketing at Random House Children's Books and has held children's book marketing positions at Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, Penguin Young Readers Group and Chronicle Books.


At PublicAffairs:

Josie Urwin has been promoted to publicity manager.

Miguel Cervantes has been promoted to assistant marketing manager.


Sarah Lin Go has been promoted to marketing manager, art, at Chronicle Books. Previously she was associate marketing and publicity manager, art.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Fresh Air Celebrates The Godfather

Fresh Air celebrates the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Godfather by re-airing interviews with author Mario Puzo and director Francis Ford Coppola, who together adapted the book for the movie.


TV: One Hundred Years of Solitude

Netflix has acquired the rights to develop Gabriel García Márquez's literary classic One Hundred Years of Solitude into a Spanish-language series. Deadline reported that García Márquez's sons Rodrigo Garcia and Gonzalo García Barcha will serve as executive producers on the series, which will be filmed mainly in Colombia. The project "marks the first time that García Márquez's book will be adapted for screen as the author, who died in 2014, refused to sell the film rights." 

"For decades, our father was reluctant to sell the film rights to Cien Años de Soledad because he believed that it could not be made under the time constraints of a feature film, or that producing it in a language other than Spanish would not do it justice," said Garcia. "But in the current golden age of series, with the level of talented writing and directing, the cinematic quality of content, and the acceptance by worldwide audiences of programs in foreign languages, the time could not be better to bring an adaptation to the extraordinary global viewership that Netflix provides."

Francisco Ramos, v-p, Spanish language originals for Netflix, commented: "We are incredibly honored to be entrusted with the first filmed adaptation of One Hundred Years of Solitude, a timeless and iconic story from Latin America that we are thrilled to share with the world. We know our members around the world love watching Spanish-language films and series and we feel this will be a perfect match of project and our platform."

Books & Authors

Awards: B&N Discover New Writers; Lambda Literary

Paul Howarth's Only Killers and Thieves (Harper) and Kiese Laymon's Heavy: An American Memoir (Scribner) won this year's Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Awards for fiction and nonfiction respectively. Each writer receives $30,000 and a full year of marketing and merchandising support from the bookseller.

Finishing in second place ($15,000 each) were Tommy Orange's There There (Knopf) for fiction and Shane Bauer's American Prison (Penguin) for nonfiction. Third-place awards of $7,500 went to Fatima Farheen Mirza for A Place for Us (SJP for Hogarth/Crown) for fiction and Tara Westover's Educated (Random House) for nonfiction.


Finalists for the Lambda Literary Awards, which identify and honor the best lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender books of the year, have been chosen in 24 categories. Winners will be announced June 3 at the Lambda Literary Awards ceremony in New York City.

Reading with... Jacob Tobia

photo: Oriana Koren

Selected by both the Forbes "30 Under 30" and the "OUT 100," Jacob Tobia is a gender-nonconforming writer, producer and performer based in Los Angeles. Tobia's writing and advocacy have been featured by MSNBC, the New York Times, TIME, the Guardian and Teen Vogue, among others. A Point Foundation Scholar, Truman Scholar and member of the Biden Foundation's Advisory Council for Advancing LGBTQ Equality, Tobia has worn high heels in the White House. Twice. Their memoir, Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story, was just published by Putnam.

On your nightstand now:

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I've been meaning to read this book for years and the other day a small miracle happened: I was on my way to therapy, walking by one of those "Free Library" birdhouses in my neighborhood, when a pristine copy of A Little Life jumped out at me from across the sidewalk. There was something cosmic about it. I've been told that I need to buy an extra-large box of tissues to get through all 800 pages.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. There's a fish. He's rainbow. He has gorgeous glittery scales. He runs around giving his friends makeovers until he has only one glittery scale left. What else could a queer socialist child want?

Your top five authors:

Roxane Gay: I went to an event in L.A. recently where I had the chance to meet Roxane Gay and Hannah Gadsby at the same time and my world has never been the same. After it happened, I thought to myself "this must be what it's like to truly arrive."

David Sedaris: Everyone loves David Sedaris, but I pretend he and I share a special connection given we're both queens who grew up in Raleigh. Because I am also gay and because I know the specific shopping centers in Raleigh that he references in his books, I choose to entertain the delusion that I am more connected to David Sedaris's writing than anyone else.

Tina Fey: Bossypants played a pivotal role in my decision to finally pursue a career in the entertainment industry. That book taught me that a career in TV and film wouldn't be glamorous at all; that it would simply involve hard work, hard work and, if you're successful, even harder work. I'm grateful to Tina for that guidance.

James Baldwin: You can fight me on this, but James Baldwin is arguably the greatest writer of the 20th century.

Truman Capote: Every time I think about Truman Capote, I immediately think about Audrey Hepburn. Which is enough for me to put him on this list. In Cold Blood leaves me breathless every time.

Book you've faked reading:

Gender Trouble by Judith Butler: I was assigned this book in a college queer theory course and, mechanically speaking, I read every word of it (as in, my eyeballs visually looked at every word). But if "reading" is to be understood as comprehension, then I'll admit I faked it. Like most college students, I probably understood only about 30% of the book. At a certain point I was just like, "Okay Judith we get it! Fine! You're smarter than everyone! Sheesh!" and that's when I knew I would never make a proper academic.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay: This book is earth-shattering in its vulnerability, its frankness and its candor. Roxane shares her experience as a bisexual woman of size in the most human of ways, but with a boldness that's tough to put your finger on. What I love most about this book is that Roxane gives herself permission to ache on the page without providing remedy or hopeful conclusion. Too often, memoirists are pressured to "wrap things up," to "keep things light," to do the emotional labor of soothing their audience after divulging their pain. It strikes me as radical and profound that in Hunger, Roxane refuses to do those things. I want to write a book like Hunger one day.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder: I'd been told that this book was a great introduction to screenwriting (a craft I am dedicated to mastering), but what sealed the deal for me was that a cat was on the cover. I will buy pretty much any book with a cute cat on the cover.

Book you hid from your parents:

Does trashy Smallville and Harry Potter slash fanfiction count? Because I 1,000% hid that from my parents (and honestly from everyone else in my life, excluding my best friend Paige, up until this moment).

Book that changed your life:

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock: I read this book in the summer of 2014 right after I'd graduated college, when I was just coming to terms with the fact that maybe I was part of the transgender community, too. Sharing in Janet's experience, relishing in her words, I felt at home in the trans community for the first time. Redefining Realness was the book that ultimately inspired me to write Sissy; after reading it, I decided I needed to write a book, too.

Favorite line from a book:

"Has there ever been a gay Socrates? Has there ever been a gay Shakespeare? Has there ever been a gay Proust? Does the Pope wear a dress? If these questions startle, it is not least as tautologies." --Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet

Five books you'll never part with:

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
Making Gay History by Eric Marcus
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

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

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. One of the side effects of memoir-ing your childhood is the melancholic desire to repeat it, but differently. I wish I could go back and create a world for my younger self that was less hostile to my budding femininity--a world where my gender could simply be: ebullient and free. And in that world, I want to read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for the first time, connect with the women characters without shame, and acknowledge once and for all, for better or for worse, that the White Witch is my fashion icon.

Guidance you may have for how readers can best enjoy your book, Sissy?

Yes. The best way to enjoy Sissy is to read it for yourself, drink in every word and, when you're finished, leave it in a men's restroom for some unwitting cisgender man to find. Because most men don't know how to talk about their gender-based trauma; they don't know that they need a book like Sissy. We need to trick more men into reading this book, and I believe the most effective way to do so is simply by leaving it in men's bathroom stalls across the country. That way, men of all backgrounds, ages and cultures can casually read about trans liberation while taking a dump. Please help me with this campaign. We can make a game of it if you'd like. You get one point for every copy you leave in a men's bathroom stall and two bonus points for every copy you leave at a sports arena, sporting goods store, auto parts vendor or gas station.

Book Review

Review: The Gulf

The Gulf by Belle Boggs (Graywolf Press, $16 paperback, 320p., 9781555978341, April 2, 2019)

The Gulf by Belle Boggs (The Art of Waiting) is a hilarious, pitiable, thoughtful first novel not to be missed. A rare combination of silliness and poignancy, with momentum and compassion, this is a story for every reader, but especially for struggling writers.

Marianne is desperately underemployed and about to lose her apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y., and her poetry manuscript has been long stalled. Eric, her best friend and ex-fiancé, has an annoyingly good job teaching overseas, as he works to complete the second novel in his two-book contract. When he calls from the United Arab Emirates with a business offer, Marianne wants to say no, but she has no other option.

Eric has inherited an aging motel on Florida's Gulf Coast, and wants to realize an old college joke of Marianne's: a low-residency writing school for Christian writers. Marianne, a liberal atheist, soon finds herself in business with Eric, his venture capitalist brother, Mark, and their silent partner, great-aunt Frances. Ensconced in the crumbling motel with occasional hurricanes passing through, Marianne doesn't precisely want to fleece the applicants sending in embarrassing manuscripts, but she certainly could use the money.

What follows is part hilarity: Marianne and Eric flub their Bible references and flirt with hooking back up; the earnest students have no idea how a writing workshop is supposed to work; and the down-and-out instructors (all the Genesis Inspirational Writing Ranch can attract, or afford) prove eccentrically dysfunctional in various ways. It's part pathos: as real as Marianne's struggle to complete her own manuscript is the troubled calling of Janine, poet, home economics teacher, mother of two, who writes about Terri Schiavo. Mark lands a big investor that specializes in for-profit education for the Christian market, but their intervention quickly upsets everyone involved. Marianne finds herself, against all odds, rooting for her students--those right-wing nuts she once laughed at. As the biggest storm of the year approaches the ramshackle Ranch, she'll have to make a stand.

Boggs's gifts are many. The Gulf's plot is inspired, even accounting for the arguable overabundance of novels about MFA program shenanigans. Perhaps the greatest genius is in her characters: Marianne, Eric, the writing instructor who can't remember anyone's name, the hotelier next door, Janine and the former R&B superstar now banking on an autobiographical novel to make his comeback. Each of these is perfectly developed and flawed just enough to be lovable, if hapless. The book hums along with fitting momentum, so that when the storm hits, the reader is entirely invested in this well-meaning but ill-fated crew. Redemption is a risky ambition, especially with inspirational writing, but Boggs pulls it off with The Gulf's denouement. This is a novel of keen comedy, insight and empathy. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Where a failing writer, ill-conceived for-profit education and the American political divide come together, the result is both funny and feeling.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The Next Book as an 'Embarrassment of Riches'

I recently started a "retirement" shelf in my house where I put books that I really wanted to read that passed me by or classics I never got to read. I can't go back because I always need to read ahead. This shelf wouldn't be funny if I was nearing retirement but I'm only 42! In 25 years, I'll have a great collection to dig into!" --Casey Coonerty Protti of Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif.

The quest continues. We are now deep into the hunt for strategies great booksellers employ to choose their "next book" to read (see here & here & here), a challenge that two of this week's featured booksellers aptly describe as "an embarrassment of riches."

Connie Brooks

Connie Brooks of Battenkill Books, Cambridge, N.Y., said her process is "definitely more instinctual than planned, though certainly not without thought. I just read Miriam Toews's forthcoming U.S. publication of Women Talking not because it sounded like 'pleasure' reading, but because I thought that it is going to be an important book to read, and one that people will want to know about. Then the ARC for Katherine Howe's The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs hit my desk, and I just shrieked for joy and rushed home to read it. Then there are books that I read for the store's fiction book club. That gives me a chance to read either a title new to paperback or a backlist title. This month we'll be reading Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale, which I did not read when it was new."

Brooks added that finding time to reread works has been more challenging: "It hasn't happened yet to a book in 10 years of owning a bookstore. I keep telling myself I'm going to reread A Gentleman from Moscow, but somehow the time hasn't come yet. There are books I used to reread every year, like Lord of the Rings and Age of Innocence, but, again, since owning the shop I haven't gone back to those old faves in a long time."

Cheryl McKeon

For Cheryl McKeon of the Book Passage, San Francisco Calif., "every day of the past 19 years I have been grateful that reading books is in my job description. The embarrassment of riches that flows into the bookstore and home mailboxes, however, means decisions must be made. The stack of ARCs must be pruned. With few exceptions, I read to fulfill commitments, which doesn't mean I'm not completely enjoying the titles."

As a Shelf Awareness reviewer, she reads and reviews titles monthly. "Often these would have been on my 'for pleasure' list anyhow," McKeon noted. "But also I've covered books that might not have otherwise come on my radar. As a former teacher, I love introducing customers to books they might not otherwise discover. I read Shelf, newspapers and IndieNext reviews, as well as publishers' promos to identify intriguing titles. But I often laugh that I miss some bestsellers, because these books don't need me. I try to read books by authors I'll be hosting or meeting, but authors understand if a bookseller hasn't kept up."

McKeon also scans book jacket blurbs because she believes "good authors aren't promiscuous with their endorsements, and if I see favorite authors are enthused about a title, I'll add it to my to-read stack. Books that I am attracted to or I feel deserve attention but I know I won't get to, I try to find homes for. The USPS Media Rate is a wonderful service. My neighbors love that I am their supplier. I never read classics anymore, which has come to include anything more than a year old. My stacks are constantly threatening to topple."

Hans Weyandt

Although he doesn't have a formal process for choosing what he is going to read next, Hans Weyandt of Milkweed Books, Minneapolis, Minn., said he tries to limit himself to one ARC, one current release and one older book at a time. "Like almost all other booksellers, if I have a problem with choosing books, it is an embarrassment of riches situation and from time to time I get stuck. Usually a day or two goes by and something shows up to change that. I've never been much of a re-reader of books--essays or stories, sure--and for me it's important to allow myself to read older stuff so I don't get caught in the game of only reading forthcoming books."

I was intrigued when Weyandt mentioned he belongs to a book club outside the store. "That has been quite a gift to let others choose books for me to read," he said. "I ended up joining this club several years ago after I had given a reporter one of their names. She was doing a story on book clubs in general and was looking for more anecdotes from men."

Noting that he has always been someone who listened to reading tips and advice from reps and other booksellers, Weyandt observed that "joining the club was the first time I'd really had someone else tell me what to read since college. Our general rules are fiction only and less than 400 pages and it has to be a book that no one in the club has read--though we've recently amended that to include books that someone might have read more than 10 years ago. It makes the person choosing have to make several selections at times and generally leads us to quite new or much older or off the beaten path titles. The discussions are always showing me what I miss as a reader and make me appreciate the books more even when I don't necessarily love them."

Our bookish "embarrassment of riches" wraps up next week. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives at Fresh Eyes Now)

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