Shelf Awareness for Thursday, March 14, 2019


Dutton Books: The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

Amulet Books: Village of Scoundrels by Margi Preus

Flatiron Books: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Canongate Books: The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry and The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry

Scribner Book Company: Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford

Sfi Readerlink Dist: Sesame Street: The Monster at the End of This Book: An Interactive Adventure by Jon Stone, adapted by Autumn B Heath

News

Notes from London, Part 1

The international Bookstore of the Year Award, sponsored by Gardners, was won by Fang Suo Commune in Guangzhou, China, a store the judges called "breathtaking in scale and conception. A vast range and constant activities and events... that gives you a glimpse of what bookstores of the future will be." The Yemen Book Shop in war-torn Yemen received a special mention for "importing and promoting books and multi-cultural understanding in extraordinarily difficult circumstances, where the mere fact it is there and functioning is remarkable."

The bookstores were among the winners of the London Book Fair International Excellence Awards, which were announced on Tuesday. The Espoo City Library in Finland won the Library of the Year Award, and judges called it "a fine example to the world of an open and innovative service for everyone, with an enormously successful reading challenge open to all ages. Its locations and its community programs ensure it reaches the hearts and minds of everyone in the city, embracing new technology and reaching out to the elderly, special needs groups and refugees."

Booklava in the United Arab Emirates won Audiobook Publisher of the Year for "creating and driving a new market, using successful audiobook models as their starting point, then twisting and reshaping them to create a new model for their own market."

Porter Anderson, editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives, won the inaugural International Book Trade Journalist Award. Judges praised "the international nature of his coverage, moving from Greece to Brazil, by the mix of news and analysis he provides, and by his energy and dedication in championing the books industry."

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Kirsty Melville

At the session Poetry in the Age of Social Media, Kirsty Melville, president and publisher of Andrews McMeel, outlined how the popularity of poetry has grown phenomenally around the world and at her house. Since publishing Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur, the Andrews McMeel poetry program has expanded, and the company now accounts for 40% of the U.S. poetry market, Melville said. She was interviewed by Bidisha, a writer, critic, broadcaster and filmmaker whose most recent book is Asylum and Exile: Hidden Voices of London.

The steady growth of poetry since 2013 has been aided by social media. Melville noted that many younger people first become exposed to poetry online. After falling in love with a poet's work, they want printed copies of that poetry. Just one measure of the phenomenon: Milk and Honey has sold more than seven million copies in 40 languages and been on the New York Times bestseller list for three years.

The desire of poetry fans to have collections of poetry in book form has led many of them to go to bookstores for the first time and browse, another major benefit of the growth of poetry.

Melville emphasized that the popularity of poetry is a global phenomenon and includes poets around the world who "tell universal stories about their lives" and "young readers see themselves reflected in works of poets."

Social media broadens the experience of poetry "in all its forms," including live events, poetry slams and audiobooks, Melville said. The disparaging term "Instapoetry" is inaccurate, she continued. "Instagram is a distribution platform, not an end in itself."

She suggested that Andrews McMeel has done so well with poetry because unlike some U.S. publishers, "we're not hidebound by older traditions," and because the publisher has a longstanding history of "looking for cutting edge material," one example of which has been publishing Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury work.

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Sales trends in the U.K. in 2018 generally paralleled sales trends in the U.S., according to statistics about the U.K. market presented by Nielsen Book at the London Book Fair's Quantum Conference.

Audiobooks had another strong year in sales in the U.K., with volume up 13% in 2018 and up 87% since 2014. In the U.K., audiobooks are the fastest-growing publishing segment--as in the U.S.--and now account for 5% of all book purchases. They have doubled their share of fiction sales, and in a striking change, young men are the biggest audio consumers.

Adult nonfiction sales grew again last year and now account for 40% of all book sales. Nonfiction's fastest-growing category is politics & government (up 170%) while biographies and autobiographies jumped 15%, led by Michele Obama's Becoming and continuing sales for Adam Kay's This Is Going to Hurt. Many other memoirs have sold well, too.

Children's general nonfiction grew 30% in 2018. There were particularly strong sales of feminist and inspiring stories for children, books aimed at helping children boost confidence such as You Are Awesome by Matthew Syed, poetry and narrative information books.

Hazel Kenyon, director of book research UK, Nielsen Book, commented: "The strength and depth of nonfiction in particular has been really encouraging to see, especially since this segment holds the largest share of the U.K. market. There have been success stories in many categories indicating the consumer appetite for understanding the world and for a good, inspiring story across both adults and children’s ranges."

Jacks Thomas, director of the London Book Fair, added: "Audio has been one of the major success stories in publishing over the past five years, and its incredible growth clearly shows no sign of abating. Meanwhile, the growth in popularity of non-fiction in both the adults' and children's markets highlights the vital role books play as a destination for deeper understanding of the world today." --John Mutter


Amulet Books: Blood Countess (a Lady Slayers Novel) by Lana Popovic


Dickens Children's Books Opening in Vancouver, Wash.

Dickens Children's Books and Publishing Lab will open tomorrow at 1911 Main Street in Vancouver, Wash. The Columbian reported that owner Kari Ferguson "thinks she has a strategy to succeed: make the store a destination." In addition to classic and contemporary children's books, "visitors will also find a publishing lab where kids can create and assemble their own projects and a stage area for puppet shows, musical performances and, of course, regular book readings."

Drawing upon her lifelong enthusiasm for children's literature, Ferguson was inspired to open a bookstore after realizing the downtown area did not have a kid-friendly place like Powell's Books in Portland, Ore. She and her husband Jamund, who have two elementary school-aged kids, noticed the vacant storefront last fall and contacted the landlord to ask about renting it.

Dickens Children's Books in progress

"I think it'll be a good little walkable space. It's kind of at the corner of three different family neighborhoods," she said, adding that the 1,600-square-foot interior was recently remodeled with hardwood floors and a fresh coat of paint, so the biggest challenge was setting up the shelves and equipment, along with the books.

"It's like Christmas, unpacking the books," she noted. "They're like old friends to me, a lot of them." Nearly all of the books are displayed face out so the cover art can be seen. "Part of what makes children's books so lasting is they're also artwork. I wanted a space that kids could feel was really inspiring."

Two tables "form the publishing lab--a creative space with typewriters, art supplies and a booklet stapler and comb binding machine for kids to put together their own literary creations. The wall above has been turned into a mural featuring classic characters," the Columbian wrote.

Ferguson intends to run the store full time, with some volunteer help: "For now it's going to be me. We're waiting to see how successful we are to see if we can hire people."


Scribner Book Company: Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford


Arthur A. Levine to Launch Indie Publishing Company

Arthur A. Levine

Arthur A. Levine, head of his own imprint at Scholastic and responsible for introducing Harry Potter to the U.S., is leaving Scholastic to form an independent publishing company.

Levine joined Scholastic and founded his imprint in 1996, after a stint as editor in chief at Knopf Books for Young Readers. Besides the work of J.K. Rowling, he has introduced the work of Markus Zusak, Nahoko Uehashi, Daniella Carmi, Luis Sepúlveda, and Jaclyn Moriarty to U.S. readers. The imprint has also published titles by Emma Donoghue, Daniel José Older, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Mike Jung, Martha Brockenbrough, Sarah Moon, Eric Gansworth and more. Almost a third of the work is illustrated.

Scholastic will continue to be the U.S. publishing home of the Harry Potter titles as well as the Levine imprint's backlist, which includes more than 300 works of literary fiction, picture books, and nonfiction for children and teenagers, "reflecting a diverse array of voices and winning countless awards along the way," the company noted.

Ellie Berger, executive v-p & president, Scholastic Trade Books, said, "Reflecting upon the many contributions Arthur and his editorial teams have made to Scholastic's publishing program these last 23 years, I am very proud of the many award-winning, bestselling, and beloved books created. We wish Arthur continued success as he builds his own independent publishing company."


Berkley Books: Master Class by Christina Dalcher


Obituary Note: John Richardson

Sir John Richardson, "the British-born art historian and curator who devoted more than a quarter century to writing a monumental four-volume biography of Pablo Picasso," died March 12 while still at work on the final installment, the New York Times reported. He was 95. Richardson "wore about as many hats in the art world as anyone could. Along with being a historian and curator, he was at various times an artist himself, a dealer, an industrial designer, an auction-house executive and a collector." He was knighted for services to art in 2012.

Lucian Freud once said that Richardson's "Proust-like instincts about the foibles and intricacies of the people around him made him ideally equipped as a human portraitist, a biographer."

Richardson "used his friendship with Picasso, his family and friends--along with exhaustive research--to chronicle the artist's life and work in granular detail, employing colorful stories and previously unpublished material," the Times wrote.

The first volume of A Life of Picasso, covering the artist's earliest years, 1881-1906, was published in 1991 and won the Whitbread Award. The next two volumes came out in 1996 and 2007 and covered the artist's life through age 50. Shelley Wanger, his editor at Knopf, said the fourth volume is close to completion, though no publication date has been set.

His other works include The Sorcerer's Apprentice: Picasso, Provence, and Douglas Cooper (1999) and Sacred Monsters, Sacred Masters (2001). John Richardson: At Home, which will be published by Rizzoli this month, was described by Architectural Digest as "a candid 224-page memoir of one man's life and where he lived it, with tart, funny, self-deprecating, and erudite essays about eight places he called home."

The Art Newspaper's Brook Mason, who visited Richardson shortly before he died, wrote that his converted loft home in Manhattan was "as rich and complex and surprising as Richardson himself, an aerie comprising some 5,000 sq. feet, or roughly the size of five one-bedroom Park Avenue apartments. One would hesitate to call it cluttered but it is packed to the brim with his 'collection of presents, mostly drawings from artists I have been lucky enough to know,' Richardson says."


G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers: The Best of Iggy by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sam Ricks


Notes

Image of the Day: Urban Forager at Vroman's

About 150 people packed Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif., on Tuesday night for the launch of Elisa Callow's cookbook, The Urban Forager. Five of the six chefs profiled in the book joined the author and event host Val Zavala of PBS station KCET. Left to right: Val Zavala, chefs Rumi Mahmood, Jack Aghoian and Masako Thomsen, author Elisa Callow, and chefs Minh Phan and Mario Rodriguez. All the chefs brought samples of their food, publisher Prospect Park Books brought wine, and it turned into a party.


Norton's Deirdre Dolan Retiring

Deirdre Dolan with Norton chairman W. Drake McFeely at her retirement party Tuesday.

Deirdre Dolan is retiring at the end of this month from W.W. Norton, after almost 37 years with the company. She began her career as a sales assistant in the New York office and a few years later moved with her husband to Boulder, Colo., and headed up special sales. She has worn many hats in the sales force, from field sales manager, to Amazon and Ingram account manager, and now retires as associate sales director. Norton trade sales director Steven Pace said, "Deirdre has been the soul of the sales department for longer than any of us have been here. We're so happy for her next adventure in life. She is irreplaceable."


Larkspur Press Featured on CBS Sunday Morning

"In our world of speed, step back into the world of slow... the world of Gray Zeitz, who started Larkspur printing press more than 40 years ago down a rural Kentucky road," said Barry Petersen to open a CBS Sunday Morning segment exploring the craft of producing exquisite books by hand at Larkspur Press in Monterey, Ky.

CBS Sunday Morning also visited Frankfort to speak with Ellen Glasgow of Capital Gallery about Larkspur's books, and to film a floor display dedicated to the printer at Poor Richard's Books.

The Larkspur Press website features contact information for several indie bookstores in the region.

Not long after the segment aired, Capital Gallery posted on Facebook: "Folks! We are overwhelmed with the response to the CBS Sunday Morning story! At this time we do not have an online shop... BUT if you call (502) 223-2649 and leave a message, Ellen will get you taken care of!! Also she will be open tomorrow (Monday)!"

Kelly Estep of Carmichael's Bookstores in Louisville said: "After this piece ran yesterday on CBS Sunday Morning, Carmichael's has received over 200 orders for Larkspur Press books.... Just thought it was a nice story about these beautiful books. He produces books for many Kentucky authors and poets (Silas House, Wendell Berry, Bobbie Ann Mason, etc.)."


Ingram Publisher Services Adds Two Publishers

Effective this spring, Ingram Publisher Services is handling sales and distribution in the U.S. and Canada for two more publishers:

Perilous Worlds, a sci-fi and fantasy book publishing house and division of Cabinet Entertainment. Perilous Worlds publishes original fiction with a special focus on sci-fi, heroic fantasy, sword and sorcery, weird fiction, and horror. Cabinet Entertainment's properties include Conan the Barbarian, Mutant Year Zero, Solomon Kane, Mutant Chronicles, and Kult, among others.

Chiltern Publishing, a U.K. publisher of highly designed classics paired with companion journals. Classic novels include The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Persuasion, The Art of War, Sense and Sensibility, and Great Expectations.


Personnel Changes at Tom Doherty and Associates

At Tom Doherty and Associates:

Megan Barnard is being promoted to AdPromo assistant creative director. She joined the company in 2004 as a junior designer in the AdPromo department.

Julia Bergen is being promoted to AdPromo associate marketing manager. She joined the department in 2014 as marketing assistant.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Andrew G. McCabe on Real Time with Bill Maher

Tomorrow:
Wendy Williams: Clodagh McKenna, author of Clodagh's Suppers: Suppers to Celebrate the Seasons (Kyle Books, $24.99, 9781909487994).

HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Andrew G. McCabe, author of The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump (St. Martin's Press, $29.99, 9781250207579).


This Weekend on Book TV: The 2019 Audie Awards

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, March 16
4 p.m. Lynne Olson, author of Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler (Random House, $30, 9780812994766), at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C. (Re-airs Monday at 1 a.m.)

4:45 p.m. David Horowitz, author of Dark Agenda: The War to Destroy Christian America (Humanix Books, $26.99, 9781630061142). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

6 p.m. Bernard-Henri Levy, author of The Empire and the Five Kings: America's Abdication and the Fate of the World (Holt, $28, 9781250203014).

7:20 p.m. An interview with Jennifer Egan, president of PEN America. (Re-airs Sunday at 1 p.m.)

7:55 p.m. Coverage of the 2019 PEN America Literary Awards at New York University. (Re-airs Sunday at 1:35 p.m.)

10 p.m. Angela Stent, author of Putin's World: Russia Against the West and with the Rest (Twelve, $30, 9781455533022). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Bob Langert, author of The Battle to Do Good: Inside McDonald's Sustainability Journey (Emerald Publishing, $26, 9781787568167), at Story and Song Bookstore in Fernandina Beach, Fla. (Re-airs Sunday at 5:50 p.m.)

Sunday, March 17
12 a.m. Raghuram Rajan, author of The Third Pillar: How Markets and the State Leave the Community Behind (Penguin Press, $30, 9780525558316).

9 a.m. Caitriona Perry, author of In America: Tales from Trump Country (Gill Books, $36, 9780717179534).

6:30 p.m. Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (Doubleday, $28.95, 9780385521314), at Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, Mass.

7:30 p.m. An interview with Michelle Cobb, executive director of the Audio Publishers Association.

7:55 p.m. Coverage of the 2019 Audie Awards, presented by the Audio Publishers Association.

11 p.m. Philip Howard, author of Try Common Sense: Replacing the Failed Ideologies of Right and Left (Norton, $25.95, 9781324001768).



Books & Authors

Awards: Windham-Campbell; Man Booker International

Winners were named for the 2019 Windham-Campbell Prizes, "global English-language awards that call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns." Eight authors will each receive $165,000 to support their writing. This year's winners are:

Fiction: Danielle McLaughlin (Ireland) & David Chariandy (Canada)
Nonfiction: Raghu Karnad (India) & Rebecca Solnit (U.S.)
Poetry: Ishion Hutchinson (Jamaica) & Kwame Dawes (Ghana/Jamaica/U.S.)
Drama: Young Jean Lee (U.S.) and Patricia Cornelius (Australia)

For the first time, recipients were announced live from London at an event co-presented with Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Regarding the decision to announce during the London Book Fair, prize director Michael Kelleher said, "Even though we are based at Yale, this is an international prize, and we want to celebrate this in the heart of one of the great multicultural cities of the world."

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A 13-book longlist has been released for the £50,000 (about $65,990) Man Booker International Prize, which celebrates a novel or short story collection that is translated into English and published in the U.K. and Ireland. The prize money is divided equally between author and translator. In addition, each shortlisted author and translator receives £1,000 (about $1,320). The shortlist will be announced April 9 and a winner named May 21 in London. The 2019 longlisted titles are:

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi (Omani), translated by Marilyn Booth
Love in the New Millennium by Can Xue (Chinese), translated by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen
The Years by Annie Ernaux (French), translated by Alison L. Strayer
At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong (Korean), translated by Sora Kim-Russell
Jokes for the Gunmen by Mazen Maarouf (Icelandic & Palestinian), translated by Jonathan Wright
Four Soldiers by Hubert Mingarelli (French), translated by Sam Taylor
The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann (German), translated by Jen Calleja
Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin (Argentine & Italian), translated by Megan McDowell
The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg (Swedish), translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (Polish), translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Colombian), translated by Anne McLean
The Death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa (Dutch), translated by Sam Garrett
The Remainder (And Other Stories) by Alia Trabucco Zeran (Chilean), translated by Sophie Hughes


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, March 19:

Celtic Empire by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler (Putnam, $29, 9780735218994) is the 25th Dirk Pitt adventure.

The Parade by Dave Eggers (Knopf, $25.95, 9780525655305) follows two foreigners working in a recently war-torn country.

Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law by Preet Bharara (Knopf, $27.95, 9780525521129) is a memoir by the former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York.

The Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Sparked an Atheist Revolution (Random House, $23, 9780525511953) is a transcript of a 2007 conversation between Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett.

What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance by Carolyn Forché (Penguin Press, $28, 9780525560371) is a poet's memoir about her experiences in the Salvadoran Civil War.

Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington (Riverhead, $25, 9780525533672) is a collection of short stories set in Houston, Texas.

Rising Water: The Story of the Thai Cave Rescue by Marc Aronson (Atheneum, $17.99, 9781534444133) is middle-grade nonfiction about the 12 boys and their coach who got stuck--and then rescued--from a flooded cave in Thailand.

The Universal Laws of Marco by Carmen Rodrigues (Simon Pulse, $18.99, 9781442485099) features a teen who is in love with the cosmos--and possibly two girls.


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover
The Hunting Party: A Novel by Lucy Foley (William Morrow, $26.99, 9780062868909). "Lucy Foley's The Hunting Party is a slick, streamlined murder mystery set on a remote Scottish luxury estate. A group of old friends get together for their yearly New Year's trip, but after over a decade of closeness, some of them may be near the breaking point. Foley uses the multiple-narrator approach to distort the reader's perspective and challenge their assumptions, but it doesn't feel excessive. With multiple puzzles that come together to create the bigger picture and a short timeline that adds to the claustrophobic urgency, this novel is a devilishly thrilling winter read." --Annie Metcalf, Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Minneapolis, Minn.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls: A Novel by Anissa Gray (Berkley, $26, 9781984802439) "For lovers of An American Marriage comes a thoughtful debut about family, secrets, and the damage one's choices can cause to those you love. Told from many perspectives within one complex family, this novel tugged at me from all angles. I found myself understanding and empathizing with all the characters at different times, even though their choices and the consequences of those choices were vastly in contrast to one another. A very strong debut." --Jamie Southern, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Paperback
Eat the Apple: A Memoir by Matt Young (Bloomsbury, $16, 9781632869517). "To take the memories of a combat veteran and transform them into something funny, tender, and even whimsical at times is a delicate dance. Matt Young's Eat the Apple does this in frank flashes, exposing the senseless acts of cruelty inherent in military training and its psychological effects on soldiers. His unrelenting refusal to be pitied and the humor in his self-awareness are what make this memoir especially readable. Although you'll cringe with him during vulnerable and humiliating moments, his ownership of these experiences translates into a sort of wisdom you can take away, making Eat the Apple both a playful and cautionary war tale." --Aubrey Winkler, Powell's Books, Portland, Ore.

For Ages 4 to 8
The New Neighbors by Sarah McIntyre (Penguin Workshop, $17.99, 9781524789961). "The bunny family is very excited to meet their new neighbors, the rats. The other animal neighbors aren't so thrilled when they hear the news--they have unkind and embellished ideas of what their rat neighbors might be like. As all the tenants go downstairs to meet them, they're in for a surprise! This is a busy, colorful book with detailed interior illustrations of each animal's house, plus a lesson on not judging somebody before you meet them yourself." --Andrew King, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

For Ages 9 to 12
Lety Out Loud by Angela Cervantes (Scholastic Press, $16.99, 9781338159349). "One of the most difficult things a kid faces is feeling confident enough to do something new and challenging. It's made that much harder when English isn't your first language and you, like our main character, Lety, are challenged to write fantastic descriptions for shelter animals. Lety Out Loud is a book about succeeding when things are tough and making a space for yourself when you're in a new place. And it's a book about loving dogs, which means it's practically a perfect book!" --Melissa Fox, Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, Kan.

For Teen Readers
The Art of Losing by Lizzy Mason (Soho Teen, $18.99, 9781616959876). "Sibling relationships don't come much more fraught and complex than they do in Lizzy Mason's stellar debut. The aftermath of an alcohol-centric high school party leaves Audrey in a coma and Harley reeling, forced to face head-on some awful truths about her closest relationships. A surprise reconnection with a childhood friend brings her demons to the forefront and allows her to finally stare them--and everything she's been ignoring--in the face. The stark honesty of this story will crack open your heart and then heal it." --Melissa Posten, The Novel Neighbor, Webster Groves, Mo.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: Stay Up with Hugo Best

Stay Up with Hugo Best by Erin Somers (Scribner, $26 hardcover, 272p., 9781982102357, April 2, 2019)

The late-night talk show host at the center of Erin Somer's Stay Up with Hugo Best isn't a direct take on any particular celebrity, but an ingenious mish-mash of white male comedians past their prime in Hollywood. With Hugo Best, Somers deftly teases out the muddled and sometimes inappropriate relationship men like him have with fame, aging and the women who get caught in their wake.

June Bloom is one such woman, a writers' assistant on Hugo's show and a fan of his early work. Living in New York with very little money and even fewer prospects for success, June's world starts to fall apart when it is announced that Hugo is retiring from his decades-long show, Stay Up. After a chance encounter at a dingy comedy club, Hugo invites her to stay with him at his house over Memorial Day weekend. Out of desperation, curiosity or some combination of the two, June agrees, and for a short while gets a firsthand look at the strange, sad world of Hugo Best.

It's important that Stay Up with Hugo Best is told from June's perspective. She is neither an ingénue nor vixen, but instead a broke, self-aware woman who realizes that a tryst with Hugo could open some doors for her, or at least give her a pretty good story to tell her friends. Somers does a great job balancing June's competing feelings. She is at once amazed to be in the house of a man she grew up adoring, while still reminding herself that he is clearly interested in treating her the way he has countless women in his past. Hugo is never overly predatory (the book would be trite if that were the case), but it's clear his behavior is, at best, not great.

Over the course of the three-day weekend, June and Hugo become close, but never truly enough to break through the barriers of identity they've established for themselves. Somers shines when depicting the little moments between the two, which are funny and poignant. Readers end the book much like June: reflective and not quite sure what to make of her experience of staying up with the storied, deeply problematic Hugo Best. But Stay Up with Hugo Best itself never feels unsure: Somers knows exactly when both the laugh lines and the cringes should hit. --Noah Cruickshank, director of communications, Forefront, Chicago, Ill.

Shelf Talker: Stay Up with Hugo Best hilariously skewers and celebrates the world of late-night shows and comedy.


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