Shelf Awareness for Friday, April 12, 2019

Graphix: Unico: Awakening (Volume 1): An Original Manga Created by Osamu Tezuka, Written by Samuel Sattin, Illustrated by Gurihiru

Shadow Mountain: A Kingdom to Claim by Sian Ann Bessey

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Immortal Dark (Deluxe Limited Edition) by Tigest Girma

Bramble: Swordcrossed by Freya Marske

Soho Teen: Only for the Holidays by Abiola Bello

Berkley Books: Hair-raising horror to sink your teeth into!


Reads and Company Coming to Phoenixville, Pa., in Early May

Robb Cadigan and Jason Hafer, founders of a new independent bookstore called Reads and Company Bookshop, are shooting to open in Phoenixville, Pa., in early May, reported.

Cadigan and Hafer are busy building out a roughly 2,400-square-foot space that features brick walls, an ornate ceiling and two large skylights. They plan to carry a carefully curated selection of books for all ages, with emphasis on staff recommendations and community picks. Their plans for events include author readings, storytime sessions, book and film discussions and more.

"The biggest opportunity is being able to provide a community with something of true and lasting value," Hafer told Patch. "Books are gifts from authors to their readers, and to help the two find each other is also a gift."

Cadigan, who is himself an author, said: "Jason and I love Phoenixville. We're raising our families here, and you'll always find us out and about in town. Phoenixville is who we are. It's not just a marketing slogan for us--we sincerely want Reads and Company to earn its place as the community's bookshop."

The co-owners haven't set an official opening date yet, but they are eyeing the second weekend in May, according to Patch.

Henry Holt & Company: A Banh Mi for Two by Trinity Nguyen

Denver's Second Star to the Right Expanding

Second Star to the Right children's bookstore in Denver, Colo., is planning a major renovation to its building that will more than double the space. BusinessDen reported that the century-old structure is currently 2,000 square feet, and the planned addition, which is expected to be completed in early 2020, will extend the building to about 5,200 square feet.

Marketing manager Britt Hopkins said the main floor of the new space will contain 2,600 square feet of retail space as well as a small coffee and snack bar. The addition also expands the upstairs office space and basement storage. Renovations will leave a 500-square-foot outdoor reading area for events during the summer months. In colder weather, events can be held upstairs.

Second Star to the Right is waiting for permits to be approved before construction can begin, but the plan is to start within the next few weeks. Hopkins said renovations likely will continue through the start of 2020, but the store will close only for about a month.

Owners Marc and Dea Lavoie had purchased a site at 1545 S. Broadway last year, intending to move the business there. But permitting problems prevented the relocation and they sold the property. Last summer, the Lavoies acquired the Pearl Street location, which opened late last year.

"We were mostly just trying to move into a larger location, and South Pearl offered room to expand," Hopkins said. "The building was chosen with the understanding that there would be space for renovations, but that we'd be able to operate in it prior to that. There were discussions with previous buyers who just wanted the lot, but we wanted the building as well--we want to maintain the integrity of what we think will eventually become a historic building."

GLOW: Sourcebooks Landmark: Remember You Will Die by Eden Robins

The Writer's Block to Reopen this Weekend

The Writer's Block in downtown Las Vegas, Nev., is set to reopen this weekend in a brand-new, much larger space, reported Las Vegas Weekly. The expanded bookstore will serve as the centerpiece of a new "creative live/work space funded by local benefactor Beverly Rogers," who also invested in the store.

Store owners Drew Cohen and Scott Seeley told LVW that the store's inventory has increased by some five or six times, and they expect to open on Saturday with around 18,000-20,000 titles. The store now has separate sections dedicated to social sciences, politics/economics and travel, while the owners have broken the history section down into categories such as American history and world history. The fiction section has grown considerably as well, including genre fiction. And with the addition of remaindered books to the inventory, there is a much wider range of price points available.

"I tried to clarify all the sections so they're better for browsing," remarked Cohen.

Along with expanding the inventory, Cohen and Seeley have added coffee and pastries with the help of a local barista named Michelle Watts, created a new events space featuring a baby grand piano, and hired more staff members.

"Our new partnership allows us to expand on everything we've been doing," Seeley told LVW. "Who wouldn't love that opportunity?"

Update: Petition Launched to Save Penn Book Center

Penn Book Center in Philadelphia announced earlier this week it would be closing at the end of the school year, but yesterday owners Ashley Montague and Michael Row said in a letter to customers that "our friends among Penn's faculty have launched a petition on, urging the University of Pennsylvania to save the store.... Many thanks to all of you who have e-mailed, contacted us via social media and in person to share our sadness over the store's closing.  Here's hoping we can find a way to keep PBC alive."

According to the petition, "Now is the time for the university to stand behind its commitments to sustainability and social innovation. We ask that Penn meet with Penn Book Center to work out a strategy to keep the bookstore in business. Penn Book Center, like other thriving independent bookstores, is more than a retail bookseller. It is, as the director of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Chicago puts it, 'a cultural institution disguised as a retailer.' "

P.J. Boox in Fort Myers, Fla., Closing

P.J. Boox Bookstore, Fort Myers, Fla., which has focused on local and independently published authors, will close after four years in business. Owner Patti Jefferson posted on Facebook: "I am deeply saddened to announce that P.J. Boox will be closing at the end of April. The past four years have been amazing and I have loved all of the connections I have made with indie authors and readers alike. Starting something that had never been done before was a challenge from the start. I wore that challenge like a badge of honor and miraculously, you guys all joined me in the effort. I will always be humbled by that support.

"I'd like to think we made a difference in the four years we shared indie books with our reader community and it saddens me to have to bring that to an end. I hope that you all will continue to read those indie authors you found here at P.J. Boox and seek out the next fantastic indie who pours their soul into a book you will love."

British Bookshops Defy Negative High Street Trends

Although a record number of small retailers closed in Britain last year--an average of 16 stores a day--bookshops "are bucking the trend," the Bookseller reported. A record net 2,481 stores disappeared from Great Britain's top 500 high streets in 2018. In total, 3,372 shops opened, compared to 5,833 closures. (2017 net loss: -1,772 stores), according to PwC research compiled by the Local Data Company.

Despite the widespread decline, "bookshops took second spot of the biggest growth categories after gyms with ice cream parlors. Bookshops reported a net change of 18 units with 42 openings and 24 closures," the Bookseller wrote.

While welcoming the news, Booksellers Association managing director Meryl Halls said, "We are delighted that the PwC report confirms the strong showing for bookshops on our high streets that the BA highlighted earlier in the year, and we continue to be immensely proud of the hard work and creativity by booksellers that has led to this situation...

"Booksellers are creative and deft, but they can't save high streets by themselves. We need to work in collaborations and civic partnerships with others to ensure our high streets survive and flourish, and we need government to recognize the enormous part high street retail plays in the culture and economy of the U.K. and act to support it, partly through business rates reform, which currently clearly unfairly favors online and out of town retail."


Image of the Day: Great American Desert in Evanston, Ill.

Bookends & Beginnings, Evanston, Ill., recently hosted an event featuring Terese Svoboda, "acclaimed poet, novelist, memoirist, short story writer, librettist, translator, biographer, critic, videomaker, and oh did we mention, Guggenheim fellow." Svoboda discussed her new collection of short stories, Great American Desert, as well as Anything that Burns You, her recent biography of Lola Ridge, with writer and musician Jessi Phillips. Pictured: (l.-r.) Phillips, bookshop owner Nina Barrett and Svoboda.

Indie Bookstores 'Thriving and Growing'

Indies in neighborhoods across the U.S. "are places to discover new books and make new friendships," Voice of America noted in a piece headlined "U.S. Independent Bookstores Thriving and Growing." Despite two decades of big box and online competition, "about 10 years ago something remarkable happened as indie bookstores came back to life, many thriving and growing every year."

"I do think it's a special place for people to come," said Lelia Nebeker, the book buyer at One More Page Books, Arlington, Va. "When people come in and share their experiences about a book or an author, it can foster a sense of community where people can meet other people who share their interests."

At Hooray for Books in Alexandria, Va., owner Ellen Klein attributed part of her success to providing a wide variety of books for the diverse neighborhood: "In this community we have a lot of mixed race families, and so we're trying to serve them as well, and it's wonderful seeing more books with mixed race characters....

"We are a place where you can come for events, you can meet authors, get books signed, and buy books you might not necessarily stumble upon on your own.... We're going to keep doing what we do well, and hope that our community loves having us around enough to support us."

Cool Idea of the Day: Discounts for 'Bookworm Truckies'

Australian bookseller Di Zelcestor-Colistor, owner of Di's Emporium & Book Exchange in Laidley, "is offering a 50% discount to all bookworm truckies who stop in at her Queensland shop," Big Rigs reported.

"I knew a few truckies who read books and thought, you know what, what a good way to give back," she said. "They work through the holidays without seeing their kids, work a lot of hours and put up with an awful lot of crap on the roads.... People assume you are a truckie and that you're not intelligent, but I know truckies who are lawyers. It's sad that it's only the small groups that people think of. A lot of them are very intellectual people.

"They read and buy all sorts of books--it ranges from textbooks, through to novels. Some are sci-fi, some like textbooks about psychology, others read crime and true stories. It's totally across the board--some even like westerns."

S&S Distributing Tra Publishing Worldwide

Simon & Schuster has begun handling sales and distribution to markets and territories worldwide for Tra Publishing.

Founded in 2016, Tra Publishing, Miami, Fla., produces hand crafted books about art and design that aim to inspire social, cultural, and environmental awareness and promotes its titles at events and venues such as Art Basel Miami Beach, Miami International Book Fair, Pérez Art Museum Miami, and Soho Beach House. Featured titles include Heroes by Doug Meyer, Intuitive Alphabet by Michele Ola Doner, Spirit of Place by Oppenheim Architects and Act Natural by Cristina Lei Rodriguez.

Tra publisher and creative director Ilona Oppenheim said, "As a young publishing company, the support of Simon & Schuster's deeply experienced team means our books will reach larger and broader audiences, from art and design enthusiasts to retailers to libraries and educational and arts institutions worldwide."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Pete Buttigieg on Morning Edition

Morning Edition: Pete Buttigieg, author of Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future (Liveright, $27.95, 9781631494369).

TV: Lake Success

HBO has put in development Lake Success, a limited series based on Gary Shteyngart's novel, Deadline reported. Jake Gyllenhaal will star and executive produce the project, which comes from Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker's Nine Stories and Endeavor Content. Shteyngart and Tom Spezialy (Watchmen) are co-writers and co-showrunners for the series.

"Gary's novel is a beautifully executed character study highlighting the depth of human contradiction and complication, set against the timely backdrop of America today," said Gyllenhaal and Marker. "We are thrilled to partner with HBO, who has consistently been home to some of the most exciting and acclaimed premium content over the past two decades."

Books & Authors

Awards: Aspen Winner; Anisfield-Wolf Winners; Best Translated Book Longlists

Tayari Jones has won the $35,000 Aspen Words Literary Prize for her novel An American Marriage (Algonquin). The prize is given by the Aspen Institute to honor a work of fiction that "illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture."

The jury called An American Marriage "a gripping novel about the dissolution of a marriage. But beneath the surface of this deeply moving love story is a powerful statement about unjust incarceration and a corrupt criminal justice system that has ravaged generations of African-American families. Writing with poignancy and humor, Jones offers a much-needed meditation on issues of race, class, identity--and shows us how to move forward after a great loss."

The winner was announced at a ceremony at the Morgan Library in New York City last night that featured a conversation with the finalist authors moderated by National Public Radio's Renee Montagne. A livestream recording of the ceremony, finalists' panel and acceptance speech is available


The winners of the 84th annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation and honoring "books that have made important contributions to our understanding of racism and human diversity," are:

Fiction: There There by Tommy Orange
Nonfiction: The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America's Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War by Andrew Delbanco
Poetry: Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith
Lifetime achievement: Sonia Sanchez

"The new Anisfield-Wolf winners bring us fresh insights on race and diversity," said Henry Louis Gates Jr., who chaired the jury. "This year, we honor a breakout novel that jars awake our notions of contemporary Native Americans, a book of exceptional poetry from the U.S. Poet Laureate and a brilliant history right on time to depict the moral stakes testing every American generation. All is capped by the lifetime achievement of Sonia Sanchez, poet and an architect of the Black Arts Movement."

Karen R. Long, manager of the book awards at the Cleveland Foundation, praised the prescience of philanthropist Edith Anisfield Wolf in founding the prize in 1935: "She intuited that a commitment to civic justice through literature would be as important now as it was during the Great Depression. We are proud to add the 2019 winners to this important canon. These marvelous books scrutinize racism and explore human diversity from many perspectives even as reading them knits us closer together."


Longlists in both the fiction and poetry categories have been selected for the 2019 Best Translated Book Awards, sponsored by Three Percent. The Millions reported this year's lists "feature authors writing in 16 different languages, from 24 different countries. The books were published by 26 different presses, the majority either independent or university presses." Finalists will be announced May 15.

Reading with... Mary Laura Philpott

photo: Heidi Ross

Mary Laura Philpott's essays have appeared often in the New York Times and in the Washington Post, the Paris Review Daily and O, the Oprah Magazine. Her new collection, I Miss You When I Blink (Atria, April 2, 2019), is a memoir-in-essays--a funny yet poignant story of reinvention. She is also well known in the business as a bookseller at Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn., where she is founding editor of the store's magazine, Musing.

On your nightstand now:

My nightstand is an avalanche waiting to happen. On the top of the stack are three advance copies of books that come out in the next month or two: Mary Beth Keane's mesmerizing novel Ask Again, Yes, Helen Ellis's hilarious Southern Lady Code and John Glynn's charming memoir, Out East.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I had a love/hate relationship with Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. I was appalled by the mermaid's grim fate and re-read the story again and again--as if I could just read closely enough to catch some detail that would magically make it all end differently.

Your top five authors:

This is utterly impossible to answer! I'm going to narrow down the category to favorite essayists, of which I still have too many to list. So here are just a random five of my top 20:

David Sedaris is simply one-of-a-kind.

Maggie O'Farrell knocked my socks off with her collection I Am, I Am, I Am, and I'll read anything else she ever writes.

Alexander Chee writes lovely fiction but also gorgeous personal essays, and his book How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is a master class in the form.

David Rakoff balanced humor and pathos better than just about anybody.

My friend Margaret Renkl holds my attention with essays about plants and caterpillars in a way no other nature writer can.

Book you've faked reading:

In second grade I lied and said I'd read our homework assignment, which was two chapters of Black Beauty. I had not read them, but I had read the previous chapters, which were painfully boring. I couldn't take any more.

Book you're an evangelist for:

This is going to sound dorky, but it's a business book: Decisive by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. I recommend it to anyone trying to make a choice and stuck in what they think is an either/or situation.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid is my favorite color blue AND it sparkles, which isn't exactly the reason I bought it (I bought it because I loved the galley so much I wanted to own the hardcover), but it is the reason it faces out on my bookshelf.

Book you hid from your parents:

I used to sneak off and read my grandfather's copies of Stephen King novels. Nine years old is the wrong age to read Firestarter, but I couldn't put it down.

Book that changed your life:

I wrote my thesis on Sylvia Plath's Ariel. To me it represents all the eye-opening reading I did in college, which is where I really learned to slow down as a reader and consider the intention behind every word in a piece of writing.

Favorite line from a book:

Ooh--that's a tough one. I have two recent favorites. From Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo: "The reasons why we do the things we do will not always be the ones that others will remember." Ain't that the truth? And the very first line of Marlena by Julie Buntin: "Tell me what you can't forget and I'll tell you who you are." What an opener.

Five books you'll never part with:

One of the only novels I ever re-read is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. It is utterly heartbreaking and perfect.

I don't let anyone borrow my copy of Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. I will buy you your own, but this one is mine, because it has all my favorite pages folded down.

I'd like to say I'd never part with my high school copy of All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren, but I lost it years ago.

Contrary to what the title implies, Nora Ephron seemed so relaxed and comfortable in her skin in I Feel Bad About My Neck, and I study that book for its ease and confidence.

I still have my mother's tattered copy of Tea-Time at the Masters, the cookbook published by the Junior League of Augusta, Ga., in the 1970s. I don't really cook from it, but the cover reminds me of childhood and I love my mom's judgmental notes scribbled in the margins. ("Too much sugar." Take that, pumpkin muffins!)

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

See book #1 in the question above. If I could brainwash myself to forget Never Let Me Go so that I could experience it anew, I would.

Book you've recently given to someone else:

The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale is a quiet novel from last year that felt very true to my life, and when I get the sense it might feel true for someone else, I make sure they have it.

Book Review

Review: The Conviction of Cora Burns

The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby (Dzanc Books, $16.95 paperback, 296p., 9781945814846, March 19, 2019)

Are we born bad, or do our circumstances shape us?

That's the question burning at the heart of Carolyn Kirby's debut novel, The Conviction of Cora Burns. This same question also burns in the heart of its eponymous protagonist--whose name "sounds like the middle of you is on fire," as another character puts it--as she struggles for survival in industrial Victorian England.

Cora Burns was born in the Birmingham Gaol (jail) to a mother she never knew. Twenty years later--after a harsh childhood in a workhouse, and several years as a laundress at an asylum--she returns to the gaol as a prisoner, having committed a yet-to-be-revealed crime. On the day of her release, she's sent onto the streets with nothing but her wits, her temper and a tarnished, broken medal bearing a cryptic engraving. Cora is certain that the medal's missing half will lead her to her long-lost friend, Alice Salt--a girl with whom she shared a profound bond, a twin-like resemblance and an unspeakable childhood transgression.

Instead, the medal leads her into the dark machinations at the home of Thomas Jerwood, a "gentleman scientist" who is determined to prove that criminality is hereditary. Cora, employed as a maid, is soon unsettled by the household's many disturbing mysteries: Where did Jerwood's young ward, Violet Poole, come from, and why do there appear to be two of her? Why does Jerwood's tragically unstable wife keep calling Cora "Annie"? And is Jerwood, who may know more about Cora's past than she does, performing living experiments on them all?

With its complex anti-heroine and its dark, twisting plot, The Conviction of Cora Burns is haunted by transgenerational trauma, twins and doubles and the painful legacies of maternal sacrifice. All at once, it's a historical thriller, a kind of ghost story and a sneakily political treatise on the need for a more equitable society. Kirby seems to be challenging readers to understand the social and economic contexts that often determine people's fates, and to view what Jerwood cruelly calls "the lower orders" with empathy and nuance.

It works: despite her criminal past and violent impulses, readers will root for scrappy, complicated Cora, whose grit and fierce resilience are more inherent than her supposed "badness." Through her, Kirby argues for the recognition of how injustice and inequality can warp a person's morality, and for the inherent potential, within us all, for change and redemption. --Hannah Calkins, writer and editor in Washington, D.C.

Shelf Talker: A fictional exploration of the age-old "nature vs. nurture" conundrum, this historical thriller stars a young woman in 1880s Birmingham struggling to solve the painful mysteries of her past.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Reading, and Not Reading, at the Masters

Golf is not a subject that comes up much in my column, but this weekend's Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga., marks the golden anniversary of a notable winner whose complicated life had a deep, heartbreaking and ultimately inspiring connection to a world I take for granted--the land of books and reading.

George Archer in 1972

George Archer captured professional golf's holy grail by winning the Masters in 1969, when he was 29 years old. But at the pinnacle of his career, Archer "made less of a mark on the popular mind than he might have," Curt Sampson wrote in the April issue of Golf Digest, adding that "from shyness and disdain for agents, few endorsement deals came his way."

Archer's "shyness" was much more complicated than it seemed. As his wife, Donna, recalled, "the undercurrent was that if he spread his tentacles too far, he'd get busted. He never came out. None of our friends knew. Only our daughters and a few others knew about his illiteracy."

Despite a lifetime of trying, Archer had never been able to learn to read or write. It was only in 2005, when he was dying from lymphatic cancer at the age of 65, that he gave Donna permission to reveal his secret.

After his death, she founded the George Archer Memorial Foundation for Literacy, which "raises funds to support tutoring programs for people afflicted with learning disabilities that interfere with their ability to process written communications."

Long before that, however Archer's "failure to master this most basic means of communication caused him immeasurable pain and humiliation, and, when he was a kid, thoughts of suicide. There was no help from his parents, no praise, never any reading aloud. 'This is my son George,' his father would say. 'He's so dumb he can't even write his own name,' " Sampson wrote.

Donna recalled: "Everything was against him: his size, his upbringing, fragile health, the illiteracy. He was constantly overcoming, always bouncing back, like one of those toy punching bags."

When he first discovered golf as a young caddie, Archer "developed an unshakeable resolve to succeed in this new game, and prodigious compensating skills. First among these was an amazing ability to putt. Archer couldn't read a book, but he could read a green as if he were listening to a song no one else could hear," Sampson observed.

Donna returned to Augusta National this week, "grateful for the kindness shown to her by the club, but also inevitably drawn towards reflection," Ewan Murray noted in the Guardian.

"I didn't want any child to experience the pain that George experienced," she said of the foundation's mission. "George had to overcome more than was imaginable. You think of someone carrying a cement block on his back and on his head. He just kept moving. He won 46 tournaments in his career, he won over five decades. It's extraordinary. You see people overcome things; you don't see them overcome them for the length of time that George struggled."

Daughter Elizabeth Klein Archer, who became the first woman caddie at the Masters in 1983 when she carried her father's bag, told the Telegraph: "I was about four when I realized he could not read stories to me. We never said anything to anyone because it was a huge shame for him and we wanted to protect him. Even my parents' close friends didn't know. That is how it was those days.

"He was never diagnosed correctly and therefore was not taught properly. We are now almost certain he had severe dyslexia with some other complications and it was particularly mitigated by anxiety, because the nuns would use shame and physical punishment when the kids couldn't succeed. He had some horrific experiences."

She added that modern research of the dyslexic brain has shown there is "this huge ability side. Dad had spatial intelligence unlike anyone I've ever met... but it was his special ability and his tenacity that made him succeed. And frankly my mother's drive really made them a phenomenal team. Theirs is such an uplifting story, marrying when mom was 18. Think about all that they overcame and how golf was this amazing vehicle for them to change their lives in their little part of the world."

Golf is stupid, I've heard non-golfers predictably say whenever the topic comes up. But if you play the game, as I have for more than half a century, you find out quickly that golf is actually an odd sort of meritocracy. No matter how much money you might pay for the best equipment, lessons and courses, you either can hit a ball well or you can't.

Like Archer, I learned the game as a caddie, though the courses I went on to play were decidedly less posh. What he accomplished is almost beyond my imagination. That's why I described his story, which I only learned about recently, as both heartbreaking and inspiring. This weekend I'll be thinking about George's struggles and triumphs, and how damn lucky I am to be a reader. 

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

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