Shelf Awareness for Friday, May 31, 2019

Simon & Schuster: The Lightning Bottles by Marissa Stapley

Minotaur Books: The Dark Wives: A Vera Stanhope Novel (Vera Stanhope #11) by Ann Cleeves

Soho Crime: Exposure (A Rita Todacheene Novel) by Ramona Emerson

Wednesday Books: When Haru Was Here by Dustin Thao

Tommy Nelson: Up Toward the Light by Granger Smith, Illustrated by Laura Watkins

Tor Nightfire: Devils Kill Devils by Johnny Compton

Quotation of the Day

'It Is a Precious Thing that You Do'

"The point of the story is that a lot of you have probably encountered that situation, whether you're a journalist covering books, a bookseller or a publisher and you're deciding whether to champion something controversial.... In the end I didn't stop and that was partly because I had grown up with powerful stories of journalism in adversity; and because I was inspired by those sources; and because I had lived as a kid in books about this sort of thing. So as I embark on this next phase, maybe the hardest phase, of any of the investigative reporting I've done. As I relive that and much, much worse.... As I weather threats right now over this, I'm just grateful to you guys in this room. Honestly. Because it is a precious thing that you do. And getting the books out, and defending them, and telling the story in the media is really, really important. I think it matters to us as a country with a free press. I'm going to tell you right now it really matters to me. So, thank you, all of you. I really appreciate it."

--Ronan Farrow, a surprise additional guest speaker during yesterday's Little, Brown Literary Luncheon at BookExpo, discussing his forthcoming book, Catch and Kill

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BookExpo 2019: ABA Annual Meeting

Reflecting yesterday at the American Booksellers Association annual meeting on his time on the ABA board, outgoing ABA president Robert Sindelar remarked on the ever-increasing pace of change that has affected not only the publishing industry but also the entire retail landscape in the United States, and pointed to several areas in which booksellers and the ABA have made progress. Though more work still needs to be done, there have been great strides in relationships with publishers, consumer awareness and ABA education. Regarding ABA education in particular, Sindelar said it was at an "all-time high," and has resulted from the ABA listening to its members, hearing what isn't working, and developing the next wave of "essential education."

He encouraged booksellers to stay more engaged than ever with the ABA and with other member stores, and said that his only regret about getting involved was having waited for someone else to nominate him. He added that in the years ahead, he looks forward to new leaders emerging as the ABA becomes the "inclusive institution it has always envisioned itself to be."

"I am so inspired by the new voices I hear coming into our business every year," said Sindelar. "I value my time with this microphone but I'm eager to step aside, rejoin the audience and listen to more voices."


Oren Teicher and Robert Sindelar

In his final report as CEO of the ABA, Oren Teicher, who will retire at the end of the year, reported that for the 10th year in a row, there has been growth in ABA member stores. There are now 1,887 bookstore companies, with a total of 2,524 locations. Last year, 99 new bookstores opened across the country--a 32% increase over 2017--and 28 established member stores were purchased by new owners.

He noted, too, that for the second year in a row, the ABACUS numbers show indie bookstores experiencing growth in positive net income. Though the numbers are marginal and modest, "the trend is in the right direction." And while growth has slowed in 2019, indies seem to be holding on to the gains made during a healthy 2018, which Teicher said reflects strong performance in a very challenging environment. At the same time, he and the ABA know that not all bookstores or all regions are seeing this growth, and promised that their experiences and perspective are "not forgotten or overlooked."

Looking ahead, Teicher said the ABA has made progress on several important issues, including health care. While he said it was too early to tell if the ABA would be able to offer health insurance, the organization had made progress and he is hopeful that ultimately "there will be good news to report." Teicher added that a U.S. version of Batch is slated for release in 2019, and said that the "highest priority at the moment" for the ABA is finding ways to fill the void left in the wake of Baker & Taylor shutting down its bookstore business.

On the subject of his retirement, Teicher said he plans to work on many things until his successor is named: "I have lots of miles to go and lots to do," said Teicher. "My 30 years at the ABA has seen dramatic change, and I'm still hoping to ferment a little more of that change over the coming months. Working on your behalf has been the highlight of my professional life, and I'm extremely appreciative for your support and your friendship." --Alex Mutter

Graphic Universe (Tm): Hotelitor: Luxury-Class Defense and Hospitality Unit by Josh Hicks

BookExpo 2019: ABA Town Hall

Major topics brought up by members at the American Booksellers Association's town hall yesterday included the status of Batch; the importance of communicating with publishers about both positive and negative subjects, from improving how they work together to unhappiness about publishers' increased direct-to-consumer marketing; the importance of stores submitting data to ABACUS; and helping new booksellers and helping booksellers open in "book deserts," or areas underserved by bookstores.

Matt Norcross of McLean and Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, Mich., expressed concern about increased publisher direct-to-consumer marketing efforts, saying, "It's undermining us, confusing the customer, and not doing a darn thing to hurt Amazon." He added that "every time I complain to a publisher, I'm told I'm the only one complaining... and I'm told they're not hearing it from the ABA." (Board members said that that latter comment was not true, and other booksellers showed their support of Norcross's comments.)

The ABA board at yesterday's annual meeting.

The consensus was that booksellers need to continue to bring up the sometimes uncomfortable subject with publishers--and not just with reps. Kenny Brechner of Devaney Doak and Garrett Booksellers, Farmington, Maine, noted that "essentially, publishers are reacting to a common threat that we're all facing, but when we start reacting defensively, communication breaks down. We need to make strong points about common cause here and turn the conversation in a constructive, productive way. It's an opportunity."

Steve Iwanski of Turnrow Books, Greenwood, Miss., urged booksellers and publishers to help create new bookstores and support recently opened bookstores in "red states, flyover country, parts of the world where we don't get the kind attention from New York City that I'd like to see." These places "need bookstores more and more," he continued. He thanked the ABA and publishers for helping new stores, but said, "We still have a ways to go."

Bradley Graham of Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C., agreed that "more work needs to be done," adding that "there needs to be some nourishing of fledgling stores" and "it takes time for new stores to take root." Publishers can help by extending new store programs.

Pam French of the Binc Foundation noted that the organization has created a task force that is considering how Binc "can expand our mission." An important area the task force is looking into is "underserved markets or book deserts and how we might be able to partner throughout the industry" to create programs to address the problem.

When the subject of Batch--the free electronic payment and invoice system that allows bookstores to view publisher invoices and to schedule payments, and manage credits and returns, all in one place--was raised, Fraser Tanner, managing director of Batch, which is owned by the Booksellers Association of the U.K. and Ireland, told the group that the Batch is continuing to work with the ABA and publishers to introduce the program to the U.S. (A pilot program began last year.) "We're probably looking at easing ourselves into this," he said, "and eventually everybody will have the opportunity to join the system as it goes live."

Several booksellers praised ABACUS for helping booksellers to audit their own financial operations and compare them with other stores' results as well as for educating landlords, banks, publishers and others about the financial challenges of running a bookstore. The ABA's Dan Cullen called filling in the ABACUS information "the most profitable hour of your business life" a bookseller can have. Booksellers were urge to participate in this year's ABACUS survey. --John Mutter

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BookExpo 2019: Pictures from an Exhibition, Day 2

Thursday, the only full day of BookExpo, featured a full schedule, lots of events, crowds lining up for author signings, and much more.  

Hollow Kingdom (Grand Central) author Kira Jane Buxton (seated) with some fans: Ann Seaton and Calvin Crosby of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, and Annie Philbrick, Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn., and Savoy Bookshop & Café, Westerly, R.I.

Christmas in May: the Crayons caroled in the Javits Center lobby, promoting The Crayons' Christmas by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, coming from Penguin Workshop in October.

The fabulous Mary Wilson showed off her Supreme Glamour, a fashion history of the Supremes and a chronicle of the group's evolution, written with Mark Bego. The coffee-table book is  coming from Thames & Hudson in September. She's pictured with publicist Harry Burton.

Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries) and Michael Northrop (TombQuest) discussing their upcoming graphic novels from DC Zoom, DC Entertainment's new middle-grade imprint. Northrop and artist Gustavo Duarte collaborated to create Dear Justice League (August 6), about the Justice League answering questions from inquisitive young fans, while Cabot worked with artist Cara McGee on Black Canary: Ignite (October 29), a coming-of-age story about Dinah Lance discovering her powers.

In front of a huge crowd yesterday evening at the Main Stage, Rafael Lopez interviewed Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor about Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You (Philomel Books), which she wrote and he illustrated. It was their first meeting in person, and included a long stretch in which she walked among the tables, shaking people's hands, as he followed and continued to ask questions. Sotomayor wrote Just Ask!, she said, because many people "look at children who are different and assume the worst about them... I wanted to write a book that teaches tolerance."

Binc celebrated with industry supporters at a reception at the River Pavilion at the Javits Center: Pictured: Ingram's Phil Ollila; Binc's Kathy Bartson and Pam French; and Ingram's Shawn Morin.

BookExpo 2019: Adult Book & Author Breakfast

To open Thursday's Adult Book & Author Breakfast, Lance Fensterman, global head of ReedPOP, shared a story about a key moment early in his book trade career when American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher, who is retiring this year, helped steer him along the path he has followed ever since.

"The point isn't about my story specifically," Fensterman said. "It's that over Oren's 30 years there are literally thousands of people that have similar stories, each one different but the impact is shared. I just wanted to take a brief moment to not say goodbye, but say thank you on behalf of myself personally and the thousands of people whose lives were affected by his desire to engage and really champion bookselling in this country."  

The role of story in our lives was cited often during the breakfast, which was hosted by Rachel Maddow, political commentator, host of MSNBC's Emmy Award-winning The Rachel Maddow Show and author of Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth (Crown, October). Joining Maddow onstage were Malcolm Gladwell, Karin Slaughter, Marjorie Liu and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Breakfast with Maddow, Gladwell, Slaughter, Liu and Coates (photo: BookExpo)

"It's exciting and intimidating to be here. I'm more than a little excited to hear from each of these authors about their new work," Maddow said, adding: "I'm having a little imposter syndrome to be up here with them." Conceding that the cover of her new book is "a little apocalyptic," she noted that her mother "has already told me that based on the cover she's afraid to read it. And I will admit that it is sort of about the end of the world, but it's also kind of a funny story."

Gladwell's upcoming work is Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know (Little, Brown, September). Noting that as humans we "have of breakdown in communication in exchanges over and over again," he observed: "Many of the most signature crises of our day are versions of this same problem.... trying to understand what it is about the particular dynamic between strangers that is so problematic. What are the mistakes that we're making that cause these seemingly routine encounters to go awry?... Once we realize that fact, we realize where the blame for these encounters lies. It's not with these individuals. It's rather with all of us."

Karin Slaughter, whose upcoming thriller is The Last Widow (Morrow, August), entertained the crowd with what she called her "origin story," hilarious tales from her Georgia childhood. "For those of you who don't know me, I write kind of grisly, violent, shocking kind of thrillers. Slaughter is my real name. I come by it honestly.... My dad was a storyteller, and I got that love of storytelling from him. Most of his stuff was a cautionary tale, like the little girl who left the refrigerator door open and died; or the little girl who touched the thermostat... and died."

Liu also shared an origin story of sorts regarding her Monstress series (Image Comics), created with artist Sana Takeda. "Nothing ever ruffled my grandparents," she recalled. "They were upstanding Chinese immigrants, always working.... And if you met my grandparents, you would have thought they were the kindest, most peaceful, most serene people ever. But that's a lie. Behind those gentle, helpful faces there was a war--World War II.... If you were raised Chinese-American like me, you grew up with those stories; the kind of stories that would give you nightmares forever. I wrote Monstress as an act of communion with my grandparents; as a way to try to show that I heard what they said."

The Water Dancer (One World, September) is the next book, and first novel, by Coates, who described it as "a conscious attempt at constructing myth" inspired by his research into Civil War myths. "If your myth has dictated I'm not a human being, facts don't matter," he observed. "What I quickly realized as a nonfiction writer was that I could not convince anybody on a basic rational level until myths were attacked.... I can argue with you up one side and down the other. I can give you fact after fact after fact. If you don't believe I'm a human being, if your myths have dictated that I'm not a human being, my facts don't really have any meaning. And once I realized that, I got how political, how radical, how empowering the act of myth construction can be." --Robert Gray


Happy 10th Birthday, Green Arcade!

Congratulations to the Green Arcade, San Francisco, Calif., which is celebrating its 10th anniversary as a location where "books at the vanguard of thought on creating a more sustainable future and a greener world are a particular specialty," the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

"People don't always notice it, but there's an exclamation point in our logo, which has to do with a certain urgency," said owner Patrick Marks. The design was conceived by his husband, Gent Sturgeon, an artist and retired bookman who also creates the book covers for the store's publishing arm. "The leaf is an olive leaf. We're both kind of peaceniks from the old days. It's sort of an arcadian image," as is the store's tagline, "good books don't lie," and its mascot, a Pinocchio-like figure. "The puppet is turning back into a tree instead of turning into a human, so it's kind of a reversal of things, going back into nature."

Marks said he decided to open the bookshop after working 20 years as a buyer and bookseller at Cody's Books in Berkeley, which closed in 2008: "I saw enthusiasm for a curated selection at the first Green Festival," where he organized the bookselling component.

"This was going to be a Subway before we moved in and the neighborhood fought it, but the water heater and the electric and the floor had already been done--look! It's pink marble," he said. "The windows were still boarded up.... I didn't know they were green underneath until we moved in."

Rediscovered Books Best Boise Bookstore

Rediscovered Books, Boise, Idaho, has won the best bookstore category in Boise Weekly's Best of Boise 2019 series. The Weekly wrote: "Readers adore Rediscovered because Rediscovered adores books. That's reason enough for voters to choose it as Boise's best for 10-plus years. A downtown Boise landmark, Rediscovered is a go-to spot to find the perfect gift, and it's so much more than the countless books lining its shelves. The shop has also branched out to take Rainbow Books, another landmark, under its wing, renaming it Once and Future Books. Rediscovered even has its own publishing business. Its first title, A Kid's Guide to Boise, ended up under a lot of Christmas trees last December."

The second place bookstore was Barnes & Noble. In third place was Tree City Books.

Bookbar Highlighted in Guide to Denver Patios

BookBar was one of the destinations highlighted in 303 Magazine's "Master Guide to 100+ Denver Patios," which noted: "Vibe: A bookstore/wine bar offering small bites, coffee and tea. Huge back patio. Dogs can sit on the patio side, on the other side of the fence."

Media and Movies

TV: Boy Swallows Universe

"Following a heated auction," Anonymous Content, Chapter One, Hopscotch Features and Joel Edgerton (Boy Erased) are teaming to produce an international TV drama adaptation of Australian bestseller Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton, Deadline reported.

Dalton's debut novel has sold more than 160,000 copies in Australia since publication in July 2018 and was awarded Book of the Year at the Indie Book Awards and the Australian Book Awards. It was recently long-listed for the Miles Franklin Award. The book will be published soon in the U.S. and U.K. and many other countries.

Edgerton, star of Loving and writer-director-producer of Boy Erased and The Gift, will produce the project alongside Anonymous Content's Kerry Kohansky-Roberts (Boy Erased), Sophie Gardiner (Howards End) for Chapter One and Troy Lum (The Water Diviner) for Hopscotch Films. Dalton will also executive produce.

Books & Authors

Awards: RSL Christopher Bland

Raynor Winn won the inaugural £10,000 (about $12,610) RSL Christopher Bland Prize, which recognizes a debut novelist or nonfiction writer aged 50 or over, for The Salt Path. Chair of judges Gillian Slovo commented: "The loss of a home and the threat of a mortal illness send Raynor Winn and her husband Moth onto the salt path. What follows is a quest vividly described of how to survive being outcast. The Salt Path is a book about a love that holds strong despite privations, and about the way we judge others. It uses a shifting landscape of feeling that says much about the power of nature, the stigma of homelessness, and the unexpected choices that can change lives."

Judge Sanjeev Bhaskar called the winning work "a beautiful memoir whose sedate pace draws you into a journey that reveals that when one reaches the end of a path, another presents itself." Judge Anne Chisholm said that Winn's "account of their journey is unsentimental, painful, funny and inspirational, a tribute to the resilience of the human body and spirit, the power of wild nature and the strength of married love."

Reading with... Vanessa Martini

photo: Jon Rendell

Vanessa Martini was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She began working at City Lights in 2013 and is currently associate buyer, working on frontlist, backlist and anything in between. She can most often be found reading in a dive bar.

On your nightstand now:

As any bookseller knows, after a certain point your nightstand basically IS a pile of books. I am usually reading something like two to four books at a time. The main one is Binstead's Safari by Rachel Ingalls, which is strange and sexy, a great springtime book. At the same time, I'm slowly working my way through Toni Morrison's The Source of Self-Regard, so that's in the stack, too. The ones at the front of the queue are The Word Pretty by Elisa Gabbert and Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino. And a book I keep by my bedside always is Life Is Meals by James & Kay Salter. It is structured like a book of days, with every entry somehow related to food; it is a continual source of both delight and solace for me.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The book that started me on this path is, I think, D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, because it showed how dazzling and capacious reading could be. Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet and the Immortals quartet were also both key, I must have read and re-read them dozens of times.

Your top five authors:

Virginia Woolf, James Salter, Ursula K. Le Guin, Toni Morrison, Carole Maso.

Book you've faked reading:

The semi-joke answer would be something like Infinite Jest, which it seems anyone who went to a small liberal arts college somehow had to have read before freshman year. Generally, I try not to do this anymore, it doesn't end up making book talk any easier, and most people are usually happy to explain a book they've read and want you to read as well...

Book you're an evangelist for:

...which leads into this answer: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. These books are astonishing. They read just as well for a kid as for an adult; they grapple with intense and profound ideas about religion, physics, morality and power; they deliver an emotionally satisfying story; they make me cry. They are simply amazing.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I have a weakness for old pocket-size paperback editions of classic novels, especially if the illustration is tonally incorrect and makes the book look like a pulp.

Book you hid from your parents:

I'm not sure I ever did this. My parents took me to the library every Sunday and I could basically get whatever I wanted. Among the many ways they are amazing parents, this is probably one of the top.

Book that changed your life:

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. This book shattered what I thought sentences were supposed to do and let in the light of what was possible.

Favorite line from a book:

"Just when I most needed important conversation, a sniff of the man-wide world, that is, at least one brainy companion who could translate my friendly language into his tongue of undying carnal love, I was forced to lounge in our neighborhood park." Grace Paley accurately describes dating in your 20s.

Five books you'll never part with:

For food and cooking reference, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat and Dining In by Alison Roman. To the Lighthouse, as mentioned before. Light Years by James Salter, a stunner. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin, especially the very '80s used copy I have. Finally, probably the copy of Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin I marked up in college.

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

Re-reading certain books, certain very good books, feels like the first time every time. You bring new things to it and take new things away, it's never the same book twice. To me it's one of the great pleasures of reading.

Book Review

Review: The Gone Dead

The Gone Dead by Chanelle Benz (Ecco, $26.99 hardcover, 304p., 9780062490698, June 25, 2019)

Billie James was just a toddler when her father died. Cliff James, a black poet who made a name for himself in Harlem during the civil rights era, had returned to his family home in Mississippi, where he died of an apparent accident. Billie was visiting him the night he died, but has no recollection of the events. Her mother, divorced from Cliff, flew to Mississippi and took Billie away before Cliff's family could arrange a funeral for him. Now, 30 years later, her mother has died, and Billie is returning to Mississippi, where she's inherited her father's house, and all the ghosts that come with it.

In her debut novel, The Gone Dead, Chanelle Benz constructs a rich sense of place that contributes to the sinister atmosphere. The history of Mississippi and the South provide ample context, and Benz takes her readers on an emotional exploration of the darkness that continues to haunt the nation as her protagonist tries to reconstruct the missing memories from her childhood. In one scene, Billie visits an old juke joint Cliff frequented, the subject of one of his poems. Shuttered long ago, the Avalon speaks volumes through its dilapidated condition and eerie silence as Billie "walks up to a broken bottle tree guarding the scarred patchwork of wood and tin. Bottle trees are meant to trap bad spirits, but it looks like these ones got out."

Benz gives the setting further importance by handing the narration over to the ramshackle building in the following chapter, "This house was once a house. Seen a girl made a mother, a boy become a father who come and go, come and go.... Heard the knock of white men looking for a boy hiding at his uncle's house, heard shots in the night, far off but always too close, and heard weeping, too much weeping too damn much of the time." Setting literally becomes character.

While Billie searches for a connection to her father, she discovers that her grandmother reported her missing immediately after his death. Having no recollection of this, Billie starts asking questions and poking around in things the locals would prefer to keep firmly in the past. She engages the help of a scholar working on a biography of her father, and together they go in search of the facts surrounding the end of Cliff James's life, which could very well result in the end of theirs.

With a cast of supporting characters as beaten down by life as the town they live in, The Gone Dead explores the complicated relationships between races in the Deep South. Benz lifts the curtain of social acceptability to reveal the harsh truths of racism as Billie struggles to find justice for the father she barely knew. Haunting and atmospheric, The Gone Dead is a gripping mystery and a rich family drama--irresistible Southern fiction. --Jen Forbus

Shelf Talker: When a young woman returns to her father's Mississippi home 30 years after his death, she finds more than a crumbling old cabin--and her discoveries could be deadly.

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