Shelf Awareness for Friday, April 5, 2019


Sharjah Publishers Conference: October 27th-29th - Register Now!

Minotaur Books: The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James

Tor Books: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

DK: Free Pack of The Wonders of Nature Wrapping Paper - Click to Sign Up!

Bloomsbury Publishing: All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

Other Press: Nvk by Temple Drake

News

For Sale: The Chatham Bookstore in N.Y.

The Chatham Bookstore in Chatham, N.Y., which was founded in 1977, has been put on the market by owners Nicole Furnée and Thomas Chulak. They announced the decision in the shop's e-mail newsletter, noting: "How lucky we are to have come together more than seven years ago to carry the store forward and be an integral part of the community. Now it seems it is the right time to pass it along. And so, we will begin searching for new owners who are committed to keeping the store a vibrant part of Main Street. As we search, we will continue to serve you with joy and commitment.... Yes, we are looking for someone to love this place as we love this place."

For more information, contact nicolefurnee@gmail.com; 518-392-0114.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Firewatching by Russ Thomas


Relocation, Name Change for S.C. Indie Bookseller

The Booksmith in Seneca, S.C., has closed after five years in business due to the ending of a lease, but owner VaLinda Miller is already planning to open Turning Page Bookshop later this year at 216 Saint James Ave. #F in Goose Creek, a suburb of Charleston. The bookstore will offer new books and sidelines, as well as book signings and a children's room. A grand opening celebration is scheduled for June 1.

A "major plus" of the new venture is that Miller is a Goose Creek resident and can now add more to her community while continuing to work at her full-time job. "A new adventure with a new beginning," she said. "It's too, too exciting!

Miller is a past board member of the Friends of the Charleston County Library, current board member of the Friends of South Carolina Libraries and a member of the Black Ink Book Festival, held each year to promote African American authors.

On the Booksmith's Facebook page last month, Miller posted: "We are sad, but we are also happy for the new adventure.... You will never know how much we will miss you and Seneca with all of the parks, waterfalls, the lake and especially YOU. You are and still are the BEST CUSTOMERS in the world and we truly appreciate everything you have done for us. You have been kind, god loving, passionate, graciously thoughtful, beautiful, generous, compassionate, and so much more. We will update you on our move and you can watch the adventure with us. It will be exhilarating!!"


Arcadia Publishing: Stock Your Shelves!


Arthur A. Levine Launches Levine Querido

Arthur A. Levine

Arthur A. Levine, the publisher and editor responsible for introducing Harry Potter to the U.S. and who left Scholastic last month, has launched a new publishing company called Levine Querido. The company, which Levine has created in partnership with the Dutch publisher Querido, will publish two lists.

The first, called the Arthur A. Levine List, will "continue the legacy of Levine's imprint at Scholastic," with a focus on publishing the writing and artwork of authors and creators from underrepresented backgrounds, including people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, indigenous artists and writers, creators with disabilities and more. Levine plans to publish around 20 books per year on this list.

The second list, called Em Querido, will focus on translating a selection of Querido titles into English. The company plans to publish five books in this list during its first year and eventually grow to 10 titles per year.

"I'm starting this company with enormous optimism about the importance and potential for making outstanding books in an independent environment," said Levine. "We can give something of enormous value to children. And to have an ally in Querido, for whom I have such profound admiration, is a great blessing."

Querido Publishers is named for Emanuel Querido, a Dutch Jew of Portuguese descent who owned a bookstore and publishing house in the Netherlands before World War II. In 1933, after the Nazis barred Jewish writers and other dissidents from publishing in Germany, Querido published their work in the Netherlands. But after the Netherlands fell to the Nazis, he was captured and later died in the Sobibor concentration camp. In 1945, publishing colleagues revived Querido's publishing house. Today it is owned by Singel Publishers.

Paulien Loerts, director of Singel Publishers, commented: "For many reasons we are extremely thrilled by this cooperation: because many more of the children's books by our authors will appear in English, because we look forward to working together with Arthur whom we know as one of the best American publishers for children's books and of course for the sake of our history."


Grove Press, Black Cat: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo


IBD 2019: An Early Look at Passports and Bookstore Crawls

Independent Bookstore Day 2019 is a little over three weeks away and, according to program director Samantha Schoech, the annual celebration of indie bookstores is set to be bigger than ever.

There are 580 stores are participating this year, up 14% from 507 stores in 2018. Indie Bookstore Day has printed 6,000 IBD bags designed by Jane Mount of Ideal Bookshelf, which is up from 1,300 bags last year. There are 20 exclusive items for IBD and four free items, and Ingram will be shipping out around 102,350 total items to bookstores in 49 states. And Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage, Leaving Atlanta and more, is this year's author ambassador.

All around the country, bookstores are teaming up for bookstore crawl and bookstore passport events:

Indie bookstores in Seattle, Wash., introduced the original IBD passport event back in 2015, and this year they're once again issuing the Seattle Independent Bookstore Day Passport Challenge. Readers who get their passports stamped at every participating store will be crowned as Grand Champions, and receive a 25% off discount at all participating stores for the next year. In the program's first year, they crowned 42 Grand Champions. By 2018, the number of Grand Champions rose to nearly 500.

In Northern California, book lovers have from April 1 until Indie Bookstore Day to visit as many participating bookstores as possible and get their passports signed. When customers turn in their passports on April 27, they will be entered to win a variety of prizes depending on how many stores they were able to visit.

More than two dozen indie bookstores in the greater Chicago, Ill., area will be participating in the third annual #ChiLoveBooks Challenge, a bookstore crawl encouraging readers to visit 10 or more stores on a single day. Readers can pick up their passport and first stamp with a purchase of $25 or more at any one of the 28 participating store. Those who visit 10 stores will receive 10% off at all participating bookstores for an entire year, while those who visit 15 in one day will get 15% off. The passport challenge is being sponsored by the Chicagoland Independent Bookstore Alliance and the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association.

In San Diego, Calif., indies are partnering for the third annual San Diego Bookstore Crawl. Local author and illustrator Susie Ghahremani is this year's Book Crawl ambassador and designed this year's exclusive Book Crawl tote, as well as a limited-edition enamel pin. Nine bookstores are participating: UC San Diego Bookstore, Warwick's, Mysterious Galaxy, La Playa Books, Bluestocking Books, Verbatim Books, The Book Catapult, Run for Cover and the Library Shop.

Fifteen independent bookstores in Rhode Island are also getting in on the IBD passport action. Readers can pick up a Rhode Island Independent Bookstore Day passport at any one of the participating stores with no purchase required, and anyone who visits 14 out of the 15 stores will receive a coupon from each of the participating stores and be entered into a drawing for the grand prize, a $25 gift certificate to each of the 15 stores.

In Boston, Mass., Metro Boston Bookstore Day is chartering two trolley-style buses for tours of seven local indie bookstores. Tours will begin at 10 a.m and end at 2 p.m., and book buyers can choose between two routes. Route A will begin at Porter Square Books and visit BookEnds Winchester, Belmont Books, Harvard Book Store, Trident Booksellers & Cafe, I AM Books and MIT Press Bookstore. Route B will begin at Brookline Booksmith and visit The Children's Book Shop, Newtonville Books, New England Mobile Book Fair, Wellesley Books, Blue Bunny Books & Toys and Papercuts JP.

Nineteen Minnesota bookstores are teaming up once more with the literary nonprofit Rain Taxi for the Twin Cities Independent Bookstore Day Passport. The passports are full of coupons and illustrated by local artist Kevin Cannon. Shoppers can pick up their passports for free and get them stamped at participating stores. Getting five or more stamps activates the passport coupons, which are good until October, and getting even more stamps allows shoppers to be entered into prize drawings.


Berkley Books: Happy and You Know It by Laura Hankin


Bologna Children's Book Fair: Notes from the Floor

On April 2, a panel of 10 accomplished women--authors, illustrators, editors--from countries including Italy, Spain, France and the United States gave presentations on their experiences with and successes in the publishing industry. Maria Russo, children's books editor for the New York Times Book Review, moderated the trilingual panel, organized by the Program for the Internationalization of Spanish Culture.

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Bart Moeyaert

The 2019 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world's largest children's award (five million Swedish kronor; about $500,000), was announced on April 2. Flemish author Bart Moeyaert was named the winner in a live announcement, broadcast simultaneously from Sweden and the Bologna Children's Book Fair. Moeyaert is the author of more than 50 titles whose work has been translated into more than 20 languages.

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The traveling illustration exhibit "Our Voice: Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award" was displayed throughout the fair in a new space in the Bologna Fiere convention center. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the prize, the exhibit showcased the work of more than 30 major picture book authors, featuring prints from several CSK Award-winning books, such as George Ford's Ray Lewis and Floyd Cooper's Brown Honey in Broom Wheat Tea.

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The Silent Book Contest, dedicated to creator Gianni De Conno, awards "an original illustrated and unpublished book project that has been created and produced exclusively through narration by illustrated images." The winner receives a monetary prize of 4,500 euros (about $5,000) and a publishing contract with Carthusia Edizioni. The 2019 winner and finalists were on display for the length of the fair.

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The biannual International Laureates Summit was held on Wednesday, April 3. Sponsored by the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the Summit invites Laureates from eight regions: Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Sweden, and the United States. In attendance this year were the outgoing and incoming Laureates from the Netherlands, Hans and Monique Hagen and Manon Sikkel; Morris Gleitzman of Australia; Sarah Crossan of Ireland; and Lauren Child from the U.K. In a panel moderated by British journalist and writer Julia Eccleshare, the authors discussed poetry ("People are terrified of poetry," said Crossan) and their dedication to the creation of children's literature (childhood should be "full of a rich diet of stories," Glietsman). 

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On April 4, the BCBF featured 13 booksellers (including Melissa Posten from The Novel Neighbor in Webster Groves, Mo.) from nine countries in two back-to-back, multilingual panels. Journalist and author Julia Eccleshare moderated both panels, focusing on the "vital role" booksellers have played in keeping "books alive."

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On April 4, the last day of the fair, many attendees visited Bologna's Libreria Giannino Stoppani, a children's bookstore located in the Piazza Maggiore. Anyone in the store who may have previously been unaware of the BCBF was quickly updated and immediately engaged in conversation with children's book professionals and enthusiasts.

--Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Nimbus Publishing: Making a Life: Twenty-Five Years of Hooking Rugs by Deanne Fitzpatrick


Run for Cover Bookstore Asks for Customer Aid

Roughly six months after opening, Run for Cover Bookstore and Cafe in San Diego, Calif., is facing financial difficulties, and owner Marianne Reiner has asked her customers for support.

In a message to customers posted on the bookstore's website, Reiner wrote that "if success was measured by the friendships in the making, by the endless conversations about books we love, by the kids running to our little book nook, by the smiles on our customers' faces upon discovering our store... then we can say our first six months are beyond any of our highest expectations. But for a small, independent bookstore... the boundless love we are receiving does not quite translate into the numbers we need to achieve to be deemed a successful bookstore."

She reported that in the last week, she had to make the "hardest financial decision yet" and let go her three employees. She said: "Carter, Ferril and Trevor have all been an integral part of our bookstore. Their talent and marks will forever be imprinted in the Run for Cover Bookstore brand."

At the same time, Reiner suggested a variety of ways in which customers can help the store, in both the immediate future and long term. She encouraged customers who already follow the store on social media to comment on the store's posts and share them, as well as tag the store and take photos when they visit. Over the next weeks, customers can be "true champion[s]" of the localism movement by visiting the store and buying books as well as encouraging friends and family to do the same.

And in the months ahead, she asked customers who teach or work at a local school to tell their PTAs or PTOs about Run for Cover and parents to consider having their child's birthday at the bookstore. She plugged the store's Page Turner rewards program, where customers get $10 off for every $100 they spend, and said she plans to keep all of the store's events programs going strong while adding poetry nights and trivia nights in the future.

"With your continued active love and support we will be able to stay where we are as a brick and mortar indie bookstore," Reiner wrote. "We want to celebrate our bookstore milestones and anniversaries with all of you. Thank you for giving us a chance to do so."


Flame Tree Publishing: Detective Mysteries Short Stories by Various Authors


Notes

Image of the Day: Ulfers Prize Winner Susan Bernofsky

Translator Susan Bernofsky is awarded the Ulfers Prize by Friedrich Ulfers at the Opening Ceremony of the 10th Annual Festival Neue Literature. Bernofsky said, in part, "Sometimes I feel like the luckiest person in the world. I've loved writing and stories since I was a little girl, and I loved the German language from the first day of German 101 in 9th grade at Benjamin Franklin Senior High School in New Orleans, Louisiana, and I'll be forever grateful to my first German teacher Julia Schueler who taught me her love of this language that she herself had learned in exile in Berlin--her parents were Mensheviks who fled the Soviet Union with their infant daughter in 1923. The rich body of literature written in the German-speaking countries has been dear to my heart right from the beginning, ever since Franz Kafka and the Brothers Grimm first rocked my adolescent world. And getting to translate some of these gorgeous stories I love and write them in English has been just the biggest thrill (even though, yes, it's a lot of work and sometimes a struggle). I am so grateful for the loving community I've found that shares these loves of mine, and am grateful to have been helped and encouraged by so many to make a career as a translator: teachers, mentors, editors, colleagues, friends." (photo: Stefan Falke)


Pennie Picks: The Spring Girls

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has chosen The Spring Girls by Anna Todd (Gallery, $16.99, 9781501130717) as her pick of the month for April. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she wrote:

"I'm always intrigued by a fresh take on a familiar story. And Anna Todd gives readers that very thing in this month's book buyer's pick, The Spring Girls.

"This novel is a modern reimagining of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Fans of the original will be pleased to know that all of the sisters are there: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. However, this time they've got the surname Spring and live on a military base in New Orleans with their mother, while their father is overseas.

"This book is full of charm, drama and plenty of modern-world situations."


Muddy Water Bookstore 'Promotes Reading, Fun'

"Fair-warning, don't expect a tidy, cookie-cutter chain store appearance at the Muddy Water Bookstore" in Navasota, Tex., which opened last summer, the Examiner reported. While "Texas bluebonnets, rolling hills and life at a slower pace have lured many a weekend traveler" to the city, owner Suzie Linnenbank "determined not only would she live in the area, Navasota is where her dream of owning an independent book store would come true."

"This is exactly what a bookstore should be--homey and welcoming," she said. "I love my little nooks and so do my customers. It's a maze, and each turn is different and unique to look at. This is my personality. If you look at the side items I have, it screams Suzie. All of this screams Suzie."

Linnenbank said her biggest surprise after opening was the support: "I never expected as much support as I got from the community, from other shop owners, from the Chamber of Commerce, the mayor, the city council. I just get a lot of support." She also cited the encouragement and advice she has received from fellow bookseller Stephani Kelley, owner of the Book Nook in Brenham.

While success will take time, Linnenbank said, "Failure is not an option. I will succeed.... I love my customers. I'm learning every day and I'm having so much fun."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Christie Aschwanden on Science Friday

Today:
NPR's Science Friday: Christie Aschwanden, author of Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery (Norton, $27.95, 9780393254334).


On Stage: Phenomenal Woman

Maya Angelou's life and writings are being adapted for "a one-woman stage performance with hopes for Broadway and the support of her son Guy Johnson," Deadline reported, adding that the production will also draw from private musings that have never before been made public. The producers "have secured exclusive theatrical rights for key works from Angelou's estate and signed Johnson to help develop the project."

Phenomenal Woman: An Evening with Maya Angelou is being developed and produced by Corstoria's David Michael Rich, who was Angelou's representative for more than 11 years, and by Branded Pictures Entertainment's J. Todd Harris.

"My mother lived an extraordinary life," Johnson said. "She brought a sense of passion to living and invested herself wholly in it. What she wanted most was justice for all human beings, and the freedom to experience joy and laughter. We hope to capture her joie de vivre. We're going to include some private anecdotes that will be a revelation to audiences."

The producers hope to get Phenomenal Woman: An Evening With Maya Angelou developed for a 2021 Broadway staging.



Books & Authors

Awards: Indies Choice/E.B. White; International Dublin Literary

Members of the American Booksellers Association have begun voting to determine winners in nine categories of the 2019 Indies Choice Book Awards and the E.B. White Read-Aloud Awards. (Finalists can be seen here.) Voting concludes April 24. Category winners will be announced May 1 in Bookselling This Week, and fêted May 30 along with the honor book recipients at the new Indies Choice and E.B. White Awards ceremony during BookExpo in New York City.

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Finalists have been unveiled for the €100,000 (about $112,235) International Dublin Literary Award, which "aims to promote excellence in world literature" by honoring a novel written in English or translated into English. The prize is sponsored by Dublin City Council and managed by Dublin City Libraries. The winner will be named June 12. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Compass by Mathias Énard (France), translated by Charlotte Mandell
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (U.S.)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan)
Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty (Northern Ireland)
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (U.K.)
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (Ireland)
Idaho by Emily Ruskovich (U.S.)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (U.S.)
A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert (U.K.)
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (Pakistan/U.K.)


Reading with... Namwali Serpell

photo: Peg Skorpinski

Namwali Serpell is a Zambian writer who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. She won the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing, received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award for women writers in 2011 and was selected for the Africa 39, a 2014 Hay Festival project to identify the best African writers under 40. The Old Drift (Hogarth, March 26, 2019) is her first novel.

On your nightstand now:

Lydia Kiesling's The Golden State--Lydia and I recently met and decided to read each other's debuts. It turns out this is a wonderful way to get to know someone. I finished it a few nights ago and burst into tears on the final page--both because it was so moving and because it was over!

N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season--for a while now, I've had five novels I want to write--my beasts, I call them. But when I turned in the final proofs of The Old Drift last fall, a brand-new novel ambushed me. This sixth beast appears to be set in a land called Zim Zam Zom, where geology, geography, and time are warped in fantastical ways. I wanted to see how a master of the genre manages this sort of entanglement of reality and unreality.

Paul Bloom's Against Empathy--I read this smart, lucid book because I'm writing an essay that argues against the idea that literature promotes empathy. I propose instead that we think of art in terms of political representation.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Quentin Blake's Mr Magnolia was my first favorite book. Between the ages of two and four, I lived with my family in Hull, England, while my mother did her master's in economics and my father took a sabbatical from the University of Zambia. I think I loved this book in part because every day on our way to his office, Papa would push my stroller under a row of magnolia trees in a local park. I've learned since that Mr. Magnolia's name is entirely incidental, but I remember picturing him as a man made of blushing cupped blossoms.

Your top five authors:

The word "top" doesn't make sense to me in this context. When I won a prize for African fiction in 2015, I split the reward with the other four shortlisted writers because, as I said then, "writing is not a competitive sport." I'm a literature professor and a writer, which is to say, I'm a reader at heart: that is my vocation. I love too many different authors for too many different reasons to decide which are more important than others (moved me to tears vs. to laughter, for instance) and then to choose only five!

Book you've faked reading:

The Brothers Karamazov. I took a college course on the Russian novel, where we had to read it, along with Crime and Punishment, Anna Karenina and War and Peace! Most of us managed only three out of four, and that was the one I dropped because I'd only enjoyed about two scenes in Crime and Punishment. I did eventually read The Brothers Karenina, as I jokingly call it, when I was a teaching assistant in grad school. I'm glad I went back to it--my admiration for Dostoevsky expanded exponentially.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Georgina Kleege's Blind Rage--a brilliant book, a set of letters to Helen Keller through which Kleege, my colleague at Berkeley, works through her anger at being constantly compared to one of the most famous blind people in history. Kleege reimagines Keller's startlingly strange life, from being put on trial for plagiarism at age 12 to her campy performances on the vaudeville stage to her brief and scandalous attempt to elope.

Victor LaValle's The Changeling--I picked this novel up on an impulse one evening and finished it eight hours later, tear-streaked and beaming. It's an incredible modern-day fairy tale, written in LaValle's sly, loping voice. It follows a couple through the horrors of caring for a newborn--and I mean horrors literally--while taking on contemporary questions of race, gender, technology, family and more.

Book you've bought for the cover:

An old edition of one of my favorite novels, Sula.

Book you hid from your parents:

I was obsessed with science fiction in middle school, the works of Michael Crichton in particular. Having made my way through Jurassic Park, Sphere and Congo, I stumbled upon Rising Sun. This was, let's say, a rather different genre. I snuck into my parents' study for a week to read it, always replacing it on the bottom shelf where I'd found it so I wouldn't be discovered.

Book that changed your life:

Milton's Paradise Lost--it made me switch majors from biology to English in college. I still call it my "gateway drug."

Favorite line from a book:

"Blind mouths!" From another work by Milton, "Lycidas." I quote it in my book of literary criticism, Seven Modes of Uncertainty, and in The Old Drift. Years after I latched onto this bizarre, sublime phrase (the spondee! The exclamation point! The synesthesia!) I learned that my British grandfather had written an essay about it. He had speculated that Milton took the phrase from a sermon that referenced Strabo's spurious account of a tribe called the Astomi: "They live near the sources of the Ganges, and are supported by the smell of dressed meat and the fragrance of fruits and flowers; having instead of mouths orifices through which they breathe." Grampa's essay was published posthumously when I was six years old, but I only learned about it when I was in grad school, so this coincidence felt especially eerie.

Five books you'll never part with:

Again, I'm not quite sure about applying this numerical logic to literature. That said, these are some of the books that I doubt I'll ever part with or turn against in my mind:

Jane Eyre--I read a Xeroxed copy of this disturbing, troubling, fierce book one sleepless night when I was back in Lusaka for high school. I finished it in a space much like the one with which it opens: reading beside a curtain, November rain outside the window, immersed in the otherworld of books.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde--it's a wonder to think you know everything about a story from popular culture, only to encounter its unaccountable weirdness and richness when you finally read it for yourself.

Their Eyes Were Watching God--I have reread this book more times than perhaps any other. It is a virtuosic and profoundly true novel. And yes, I'm still in love with Teacake, and yes, I know that he's probably bad for me.

Lolita--I've written about my love for Uncle Vlad's opus elsewhere. It is, as one of my professors once put it, a perfect novel. Or perhaps Lolita is a compressed accordion of perfect novels, since every reading makes it new.

Beloved--A lot has been said about this book so I'll just point out one less noticed sign of Morrison's genius: after the grand climax--involving an exorcism, a PTSD-induced hallucination, the residents of 124 Bluestone road and 30 women--Stamp Paid and Paul D run into each other and joke about it. Their laughter is sweetness and bitterness and salt all at once.

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

The Days of Abandonment. I was in a very low place when I first read Elena Ferrante's novel. It had been a long time since I even felt like reading--which is a way of saying it had been a long time since I felt like myself. This novel jolted me back to life, to me. I'll never forget the fugue-like creep of suspense and wonder as I lay on my side in bed, turning the lamplit pages.

Book you love-hate:

American Psycho. I'm writing a scholarly nonfiction book called A Thin Line, about how much I love to hate (and hate to love) Bret Easton Ellis's 1991 novel. I've decided that the best way to capture my ambivalence is through the practices we call "shade," "dragging" and (yes) "reading."


Book Review

Review: Courting Mr. Lincoln

Courting Mr. Lincoln by Louis Bayard (Algonquin, $27.95 hardcover, 352p., 9781616208479, April 23, 2019)

With wit and charm that only Louis Bayard can deliver, Courting Mr. Lincoln transports readers to 19th-century Springfield, Ill., to view both the romance of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd and the intimate friendship of the future president and a dry-goods merchant named Joshua Speed. As he did with Edgar Allan Poe in The Pale Blue Eye and Theodore Roosevelt in Roosevelt's Beast, Bayard animates his famous protagonist and offers a fictional peek behind the curtain of the hero into the life of the man.

Elizabeth Todd Edwards is determined to find her sister Mary Todd a husband, so she summons Mary to Illinois from their childhood home in Lexington, Ky. Daughters of a wealthy banker, both women are educated and accustomed to refinement. In Elizabeth's eyes, the poor, unpolished country lawyer with political aspirations is far from a suitable match for Mary. And at first Mary takes little notice of Lincoln until, in the course of a month in 1840, "Mary Todd was invited to six suppers. At each of those occasions, Lincoln was present.... Again and again, the same question rose up in Mary's mind: What was this wind blowing them together?" As she gets to know the mind and heart inside the gangly, mannerless man, their relationship blossoms.

When Lincoln first arrives in Springfield, he's saddled with debt and has all his worldly possessions in two small bags. He asks the proprietor of a small store to recommend inexpensive lodging and finds the offer of a room right there above that very store. One caveat: he must share the room with the storeowner, Joshua Speed. Speed is the son of a wealthy farmer who is searching for his life's purpose. He finds it in his relationship with Lincoln. In addition to providing him a place to hang his hat, Speed educates Lincoln on the ways of gentlemen: "Show me. That might have been the refrain of their apprenticeship. Show me how to keep soup off my sleeves. How to sip wine.... When to leave. When to come back. If to come back. Show me, Speed!" Day by day their friendship grows stronger and closer.

With Mary and Speed both vying for Lincoln's affection, it doesn't take long for conflict to arise. Courting Mr. Lincoln oscillates between the voices of Mary and Speed, brilliantly connecting the audience with these two individuals--each pulling in opposite directions on the future U.S. president. This is a love triangle capable of stealing the hearts of readers.

Those familiar with Bayard's work will appreciate his sterling dialogue and ingenious humor. Bayard's masterful command of language enchants and thrills; his meticulous, almost otherworldly, understanding of his historical subject awes and inspires. When that all comes together, Courting Mr. Lincoln is Bayard at his absolute best. He offers more reasons to love one of the most admired presidents in U.S. history and proves yet again why he himself is one of the nation's greatest literary gems. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Shelf Talker: The making of the 16th U.S. president as seen through the eyes of his future wife and his best friend, who view each other as adversaries in a fight for the young lawyer's heart.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Relax... But Always Be Busy

I've been thinking about the word "relax" in conjunction with:

Aimee Johnston

...something "Barefoot Bookseller" Aimée Johnston shared regarding a typical day during her current three-month gig as the second person to run "possibly the world's most remote bookshop" at the luxury eco resort of Soneva Fushi in the Maldives:

When the bookshop has a breath, I can snatch some deliciously sedentary moments. I'd like to think I use these moments wisely, that I do what any bookseller in any corner of the world would forgive me for. I avoid the mountain of boxes that need to be broken down in the store cupboard, and I read a book, as many pages as time will allow. I find myself inexhaustibly delighted with our titles.

...Alec Baldwin's classic ABC (Always Be Closing) speech from the film Glengarry Glen Ross.

Cindy Dach

...a keen observation by Cindy Dach, co-owner of Changing Hands Bookstores in Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz., as well as the First Draft book bar, in her Wi14 session "How to be a Highly Effective Bookseller, Manager or Buyer":

I started deep diving and doing a lot of research, reading a lot of articles and books, and going to a lot of time management sessions. And the thing that kept nagging at me was I feel that so much of that information out there is so helpful... but so much doesn't address retail. It doesn't address when you're working on a project and you get that call, which our store does a lot; you get that page that says help to the register and you have to go. And then how do you get back to what you're doing? I really felt that's what was missing in so many sessions I'd gone to and books I read. What I try to do is to develop tools that have made me more successful and have made me more effective.

Relax... but always be busy.

Being a bookseller is hard work, though if you're really adept at it your customers don't know how hard it is. In addition to all of the daily tasks associated with your job (and you know that long list all too well), you must create a venue that is at once ordered yet cozy; professional yet casual; efficient yet--and this is key--relaxing.

Variations on the word "relax" permeate the bookshop environment. Even a cursory sampling of bookstore news items shows how often the magic word is tossed about: "customers are able to relax in the airy upstairs reading areas"; "fans of the bookshop point to its relaxed, inviting atmosphere"; "they relax in one of the comfortable chairs"; and "visitors can relax, unwind, and enjoy reading the vast array of books."

Like all good things, the trend is co-opted occasionally. Have you seen commercials for Capital One Cafés, designed to create "a welcome place where you can relax while you bank and connect with people and new tools"? Forbes magazine cited Capital One while reporting that in a "recent study, when customer service is exceptional, 81% of consumers are likely to 'shop at that store again.' Remember that customer service encompasses everything from the greeter at the front of the store to the ease with which customers can return a purchase. Creating a human connection is key."

But you knew that already; you're a bookseller.

A bookstore lives or dies on the ability to provide a welcoming space for its community in which to engage with books and relax. And over the past three decades, I've witnessed how much better indie bookstores have become at fulfilling that mission.

In an interview last week with the Irish Examiner, Maeve Ryan, managing director of the Book Centre, Waterford city, was asked about the rewards of being in the books business. "When I worked in fashion retail, it was very fast-paced," she said. "Here, you get a lot more time to spend with customers, which is what we are all about. It is all about the atmosphere and a relaxing environment, and you can't be relaxed as a customer if the staff aren't relaxed."

A relaxed bookseller, however, is a complex creature. In conversations with customers, you are present and engaged, casually talking books while also maybe turning up the ABH (Always Be Handselling) dial a notch or two. But like a restaurant server who doesn't reveal to diners how chaotic the kitchen might be, gifted booksellers create a relaxed atmosphere for their patrons while holding their own ABB demons in check.

Some are naturals, but for most it's an acquired talent, often requiring bookselling blinders to  keep distractions at bay. There will always be book carts to empty, orders to file, returns to pull, shelves to dust, bathrooms to clean and more. I know Alec Baldwin will just keep yelling "Always Be Busy" in your ear, but I've also heard Cindy Dach explain her profoundly logical tools for exorcising workplace demons through strategic planning.

As a last resort (no pun intended), you might conjure up an image of the Barefoot Bookseller reading away the sun-drenched afternoon on a tropical island. That should work until a distant voice, carried along by the gentle breeze, calls out to you: "Excuse me, do you work here?"

Relax... 

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

The Bestsellers

Libro.fm Bestsellers in March

The bestselling Libro.fm audiobooks at independent bookstore locations during March:

Fiction
1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Penguin Random House Audio)
2. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Penguin Random House Audio)
3. Circe by Madeline Miller (Hachette Audio)
4. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (Macmillan Audio)
5. Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James (Penguin Random House Audio)
6. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (HighBridge)
7. There There by Tommy Orange (Penguin Random House Audio)
8. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (HarperCollins)
9. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Penguin Random House Audio)
10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (HarperCollins)
    
Nonfiction        
1. Becoming by Michelle Obama (Penguin Random House Audio)
2. Educated by Tara Westover (Penguin Random House Audio)
3. The Library Book by Susan Orlean (Simon & Schuster Audio)
4. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou (Penguin Random House Audio)
5. Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe (Penguin Random House Audio)
6. Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis (HarperCollins)
7. Doing Justice by Preet Bharara (Penguin Random House Audio)
8. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer (Penguin Random House Audio)
9. Heavy by Kiese Laymon (Simon & Schuster Audio)
10. Calypso by David Sedaris (Hachette Audio)


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