Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 12, 2019


Houghton Mifflin: The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg

St. Martin's Press: Cilka's Journey: A Novel by Heather Morris

Park Row: The Ventriloquists (Original) by E.R. Ramzipoor

Henry Holt & Company: Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of "the Children's Ship" by Deborah Heiligman

Other Press: Metropolitan Stories by Christine Coulson

Rick Riordan Presents: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1) by Kwame Mbalia

imon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Becoming Rbg: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Journey to Justice by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Whitney Gardner

Workman Publishing: Atlas Obscura, 2nd Edition: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders (Second Edition, Revised) by Joshua Foer, Ella Morton, Dylan Thuras

Sourcebooks Explore: Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children by Kath Shackleton, illustrated by Zane Wittingham

Quotation of the Day

'Stronger, Better Equipped to Succeed & Feistier Than Ever'

Meryl Halls

The building of bookshop communities, the importance of new audiences and the intelligent curation of brilliant books are topics which resonate across the world.... New CEO Robbie Egan has taken over the ABA [Australian Booksellers Association] at a crucial time. A long-time bookseller with an MBA (he ran operations for 15 years at Readings in Melbourne before taking the job at the ABA), he combines a forensic awareness of trade infrastructure, finances and politics with a deep commitment to making the world better for Australian booksellers. He’s unafraid to shake the tree, already challenging some of the long-held shibboleths of the trade there, and is undoubtedly going to strengthen the ABA, where he runs a small, tight team, already producing impressive campaigning, lobbying and marketing work. In a year where the American BA, in a quirky coincidence, is also going to welcome a new CEO, we are looking forward enormously to working with the Australian BA team, and our U.S. colleagues, to make English-language bookselling stronger, better equipped to succeed and feistier than ever."

--Meryl Halls, managing director of the Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland, in a piece written for the Bookseller after delivering a keynote address at the recent Australian BA Conference in Melbourne

Ecco Press: Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha


News

AAP Sales: April Slips 1.6%; Trade Off 0.5%

Total net book sales in April 2019 in the U.S. fell 1.6%, to $793.5 million, compared to April 2018, representing sales of 1,360 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers. For the year to date, total net book sales have risen 4.5%, to $3.36 billion.

In April, total trade sales were down 0.5%, to $585.1 million. Adult hardcovers were down 16%, but in most other trade categories, excluding e-books, sales rose.

Sales by category in April 2019 compared to April 2018:

 


NCIBA & SCIBA: Holiday Catalog


B&N Sale: History of a Deal

B&N has formally sent shareholders information about Elliott Advisors' offer to buy their shares of the company for $6.50 each, a deal that expires on August 6. When completed, B&N will then become part of Elliott, which also owns Waterstones, the largest U.K. bookselling chain, and will be headed by Waterstones managing director James Daunt.

In filings about the deal with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company noted that excluding various restricted and performance options, as of July 5, B&N officers and shareholders held some 14.85 million shares of the company that are worth $96,515,522 at Elliott's purchase price of $6.50 per share. The vast majority of the shares are owned or controlled by B&N executive chairman Len Riggio; those 14 million shares are worth $91,339,508. The company noted, too, that including severance agreements, which are "not currently anticipated" to be put into effect, B&N officers will receive almost $18 million in other payments when the deal is completed.

The company gave a detailed accounting of the history of the sale. Highlights in the chronology include:

Between July 2017 and September 2018, B&N received "multiple expressions of interest from parties considering a possible strategic transaction."

"Company X," presumably WH Smith, the U.K. retailer whose withdrawn bid to buy the company in June 2018 led to the abrupt firing of B&N's last CEO, Demos Parneros, initially offered to buy B&N for $7.10 a share, and then increased its bid to $7.40 a share.

Elliott Advisors' first formal interest in B&N came almost a year ago, on August 15, 2018. Initially Elliott was considering combining B&N and Waterstones and taking a minority interest in a merged company.

Len Riggio was among the interested buyers who in February entered into confidentiality agreements with B&N about potential purchase. Besides him and Elliott, potential buyers included "a privately held independent retail company," "a privately held large chain retail company," "a privately held industry participant" and two private equity firms. WH Smith apparently showed renewed interest but dropped out at this point.

In March, B&N received several cash offers of between $6 and $8.50 per share. In addition to a cash offer, Elliott made a bid of $5.50 per share, with 19% equity for current B&N shareholders in a combined Waterstones-B&N. In April, Elliott dropped the combination offer to focus on a cash-only offer, first at $6 a share, then at $6.50 a share, which was accepted in early June by B&N.

In May, Riggio dropped his own offer to take the company private, but indicated he might join with either of two other bidders via an equity rollover. Around the same time, one of the private equity firms dropped out of the running but indicated it would be willing to team up with several of the other bidders.

Also in May, a company officially described as "Company C," the privately held industry participant (identified as Readerlink by the Wall Street Journal), was working with Riggio on a deal. In late May, Company C raised its offer to $6.75 from $6 a share and said that Riggio would roll over shares and make an additional cash investment.

Eventually, however, Riggio withdrew his support for Readerlink, which then made an offer of $7.25 per share. B&N and its advisers ultimately worried that there would be regulatory, technical and financial hurdles involved with Readerlink's offer and stayed with Elliott's full cash offer.


Starscape Books: Freeing Finch by Ginny Rorby


Patterson, BA Name U.K.'s Young Bookseller Award Winners

James Patterson

Twenty winners were named for James Patterson's Young Bookseller Special Achievement Award, an initiative announced in March by the Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland to give out £500 (about $625) prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution of young booksellers. Check out the complete list of winners here.

The award commends booksellers 25 years old and under who have worked in a bookshop for a minimum of 12 months. Candidates were nominated by their managers or colleagues from bookshops across Britain and Ireland.

Tom McKnight

"This award means a massive amount to me as it offers a hopeful future for bookshops all over the U.K. and Ireland," said recipient Tom McKnight of the Haslemere Bookshop, Haslemere, England. "I know reading will continue to inspire young minds as it always has thanks to awards like this."

Patterson commented: "I am delighted for the 20 winners who were chosen for their talent and extraordinary contribution to the bookselling industry. The passion and energy of all the young booksellers that were nominated has been overwhelming."

BA president Nic Bottomley said the association "is in the business of celebrating and improving bookselling, and I can think of no better way to do both those things than to award outstanding young booksellers in this way. James Patterson's generosity and vision in deciding to reward our rising young stars in the bookselling landscape is a wonderful way for us to celebrate our emerging leaders and watch their careers develop."


Blue Rider Press:  One Day: The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America by Gene Weingarten


BookNet Canada: Backlist Titles Dominate in 2019

For the first six months of 2019, titles from 2018 have dominated Canada's bestseller list, BookNet Canada has reported. Michelle Obama's Becoming, which was 2018's bestselling print book, has retained the number one spot in the Canadian English-language trade market from January to June.

Other top-performing titles include Tara Westover's memoir Educated, Dav Pilkey's middle grade novel Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild, and Heather Morris's historical novel The Tattooist of Auschwitz, all of which were released last year, and a 2016 title--Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck--remains on the list as well.

The trend also holds true for books written by Canadian authors, with this year's strongest selling titles being holdovers from 2018, among them Greta Podleski's cookbook Yum and Yummer and Jordan B. Peterson's self-help book 12 Rules of Life. Several novels from 2018, such as Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and The Quaintland Sisters by Shelley Wood, are also on the list.

In terms of category, juvenile/YA has dominated the first half of 2019, accounting for 38.8% of all print sales in Canada's English-language trade market. Nonfiction is the number two category, with 34.5% of sales, and adult fiction trails with 25.2% of sales.

BookNet Canada will have more 2019 sales data available in early 2020. Its 2018 report on the Canadian book market can be found here.


imon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Max & Ruby and Twin Trouble (Max and Ruby Adventure) BY Rosemary Wells


Obituary Note: Sam Hyde

photo: Journal Gazette

Sam Hyde, the owner of used bookshop Hyde Brothers Booksellers in Fort Wayne, Ind., who was "known for his wit, humility and love of learning," died June 9, the Journal Gazette reported. He was 71. The bookstore celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2012. Long-term plans for the location haven't been announced.

Marilyn Hyde, his wife of almost 39 years, said her late husband was always reading: "Several hours a day. He always had a book in his hand--in the car, at the beach."

Laurie Walls, who has worked at the shop for three years, said, "He was an amazing storyteller... and everybody was a friend. Nobody was a stranger here."

On Facebook Wednesday, the bookstore posted: "Last night, we lost our beloved friend and fearless leader, Sam Hyde. He was surrounded by his family. He truly was the fantastic person you thought he was. Our thoughts and love are with his family. We know everyone's next question will be 'What about the store?' Sam didn't want us going anywhere. We will be open normal business hours. If you feel the need to stop by, do not hesitate. Sam understood the comfort of being surrounded by books."


Notes

Image of the Day: Teen Titans in N.Y.C.

Creative team Kami Garcia and Instagram artist Gabriel Picolo recently kicked off their book tour for their first YA graphic novel, Teen Titans: Raven (DC Comics), in New York City at the Barnes & Noble on Union Square. They were joined by fellow DC authors Meg Cabot and Danielle Paige to talk about their books, writing graphic novels for the first time and reimagining classic characters as empowering female heroes. Pictured: Picolo and Garcia with Teen Titans cosplayers.


Yankee Bookshop's Owners 'Are Open Books'

 

In a q&a on the town's blog, Kari Meutsch and Kristian Preylowski, co-owners of the Yankee Bookshop, Woodstock, Vt., shared "everything from how they met to how they found and fell in love with Woodstock, their most-anticipated-authors of Bookstock 2019, and even shed some light on Things to Do When You're Goth in the Country. Read on!" Among our favorite exchanges:

As Vermont's oldest continuously operated independent bookstore, how does the Yankee Bookshop stand apart from its peers?
Kristian: A lot of it is this town. Woodstock itself is such a unique and historical spot, and we want to reflect that as well as the interests of our community members.
Kari: The best bookstores are always a beautiful mash-up of their town and their owners' specific interests. That's what we're working toward with Yankee, and I think we're definitely getting there.

What do you hope customers come away with--other than a book they'll love--as they leave your shop?
Kari: The feeling that the independent bookstore is alive and well.
Kristian: We want them to feel some kind of connection--to an idea, or a feeling, or an emotion. When you give someone the right book, that's exactly what it is.

How do you see the bookshop changing by its 100th anniversary in 2035?
Kristian: Bookstores have existed for hundreds of years without much change--as long as there are books at the core, our physical bookshop probably won't change very much.
Kari: My hope is that no matter what happens, the Yankee Bookshop can do whatever it needs to do to stay current and relevant. Who knows what that will be? We've still got 16 years to go!


Casemate Group Distributing Mercier Press

Casemate Group is now handling sales, marketing and distribution of print books from Mercier Press in North America.

Founded 75 years ago, Mercier Press, Cork, Ireland, publishes some 30 titles annually that include fiction, food, history, sports, true crime, folklore, myths, legends, and humor. Its backlist of 600 titles includes books by John B. Keane, Nuala Fennell, Bill Cullen, and Chris Moore.

Dierdre Roberts, general manager at Mercier Press, commented: "We believe in the importance of Irish heritage. We are proud of the contribution our business has made to Irish cultural life, and strive to offer an alternative voice to authors, readers and scholars. We're excited to be reintroduced to North America."


Personnel Changes at Holt

Caitlin O'Shaughnessy has joined Holt as director of brand strategy for the adult trade division.



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Keith Hernandez on Fresh Air

Today:
Fresh Air: Keith Hernandez, author of I'm Keith Hernandez: A Memoir (Back Bay Books, $17.99, 9780316395755).


TV: My Brilliant Friend

HBO has released the first official image, featuring Margherita Mazzucco (Elena) and Gaia Girace (Lila), from season two of My Brilliant Friend, which is based on The Story of a New Name, Elena Ferrante’s second title in her four-part book series. Season one director Saverio Costanzo will return to direct six episodes and Alice Rohrwacher will direct two episodes, Deadline reported.


Books & Authors

Awards: Little Rebels Winner

The Alliance of Radical Booksellers announced that Catherine Johnson's historical novel Freedom has won this year's Little Rebels Award for Radical Children's Fiction, which recognizes "the rich tradition of radical publishing for children in the U.K."

"Freedom is radical in a number of ways," said judge Darren Chetty. "It tells a story of a young enslaved man in Britain. It explores the humanity of those whose humanity was denied through chattel slavery. It subtly examines the similarities and the differences between class oppression and a system of slavery rooted in racism. It tells a story of Britain that continues to be neglected. Johnson's writing is a masterclass in the maxim 'show don't tell'--through the point of view of her protagonist we are brought into his world and yet we are afforded space to emotionally engage with the story she offers us."


Reading with... Erica Witsell

photo: Stefan Carpenter

Erica Witsell lived in Florida, California, Italy and Ecuador before settling in the mountains of western North Carolina 16 years ago. A high school teacher for more than 10 years, she now teaches English as a new language at a community college in Asheville. Witsell's debut novel, Give (BQB Publishing, June 1, 2019), is a family saga that explores themes of motherhood, queer identity, polyamory and modern fertility. Her reflections on life and motherhood can be found on her blog, On the Home Front.

On your nightstand now:

I recently finished The Behavior of Love by Virginia Reeves, but it's still on my nightstand because I can't wait to lend it out and talk about it with someone. Reeves deals deftly with so many complicated issues--marriage, health and the shifting nature of love and desire--that I hardly noticed when my airplane was stuck on the tarmac for two hours. There's also A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, because I loved Life After Life so much, and Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins, a gem of a book which my eight-year-old daughter reads to me at bedtime.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I think the books that resonated with me the most deeply when I was young were the ones about children who long for a home of their own: Goodnight, Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and Mandy by Julie Andrews. I am not at all surprised that the book I wrote three decades later is about many of those same themes of home and belonging.

Your top five authors:

Jane Austen was my salvation in junior high, when all I really wanted to be reading was romance but wouldn't have been caught dead with a Harlequin. Sarah Waters rocked my world with Tipping the Velvet in the late '90s, and I haven't missed a book of hers since. I've loved Ann Patchett's fiction for years, but her collection of essays, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, definitely sealed her place in my top five. Cheryl Strayed got my attention with Wild, but won my heart with Tiny, Beautiful Things; she was my inspiration when I was working on Give. The fifth slot is a toss-up between Wallace Stegner and my 10-year-old son, Clayton, who made me a very proud mama when he self-published Poseidon: The Defeat of Cronus last year.

Book you've faked reading:

When I was a first-semester freshman in college, I intentionally picked classes with the longest reading lists. Until then, reading had never once felt like a chore, so it never even occurred to me that I should pace myself. By the time we got to Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford in "Literature of the Great War," I was absolutely drowning. I never even opened it.

 

Book you're an evangelist for:

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I think if everyone in the U.S. read this book, we might have a chance with criminal justice reform. Also, How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. This brilliant book is hilarious and heart-wrenching all at once.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Pax by Sara Pennypacker. Just looking at the cover of this lovely book makes me nostalgic. I only wish it had been published 30 years earlier, so I could have discovered it as a child.

Book you hid from your parents:

The Valley of Horses by Jean Auel. What can I say? I was horse crazy and checked out any book at the library with "horse" in the title. Let's just say that Auel's title is a bit of a misnomer. I'm a little surprised that the librarian let me check it out, but maybe she was fooled, too.

Book that changed your life:

My mother gave me The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hallfor Christmas when I was 19, soon after I told my parents that I was in love with another woman. I don't remember much of the plot, but I remember feeling, when I read it, that I was connected to something much larger than myself. It was also very clear from that gift that my mom was going to support me no matter what, which is a pretty life-changing thing to know.

Five books you'll never part with:

My beloved childhood copy of Little Bear's Friend by Else Holmelund Minarik has survived not only my three children but many years in my classroom library, so I think it's destined for the next generation, duct-taped cover and all.

Every time I've moved, The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings has made the cut and come with me. When I read it as a child, I cried my eyes out when the boy has to kill his deer; now, it's the sacrifices the father makes for his son that choke me up.

I'm never parting with Affinity, because I learned from loaning out Tipping the Velvet that I'm unlikely to get a Sarah Waters book back.

Random Passage by Bernice Morgan and A Sudden Country by Karen Fisher have permanent places on my bookshelf, so I suppose I really like novels about women with complex emotional lives who are thrown into harsh and inhospitable circumstances (colonial Newfoundland and the Oregon Trail, respectively).

Book you'd most like to have on a deserted island:

There's no contest: Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, in the original translation. I couldn't put this trilogy down when I read it for the first time as a teenager, and I binge-read it again when I was nursing my infant twin daughters. An epic story about a woman's life in medieval Norway, Kristin Lavransdatter is historical fiction at its best, with timeless themes that resonated with me as much at 36 as at 16. I can't wait to read it again, although preferably not on a deserted island.

Favorite line from a book:

" 'The purpose of Art,' his mother said--instructed even--'is to convey the truth of a thing, not to be the truth itself.' " Kate Atkinson, A God in Ruins.

Amen.

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

Circe by Madeline Miller. I couldn't put this book down, and then regretted how quickly I was finished with it. Never has Greek mythology felt so fresh or so relevant.


Book Review

Review: I Heart Oklahoma!

I Heart Oklahoma! by Roy Scranton (Soho Press, $25 hardcover, 288p., 9781616959388, August 13, 2019)

 

Roy Scranton (Learning to Die in the Anthropocene) flings an exceptionally odd, of-the-moment novel at Trump's America with I Heart Oklahoma!, a fever-dream road trip featuring three shapeshifting central characters. Jim is a nonconformist bad-boy filmmaker out to record contemporary Americana with the help of his regular cameraperson, Remy. He hires Suzie to write his script, two pages a day as they drive the country in a lime-green 1971 Plymouth: "You could cram a Girl Scout troop in that trunk," Jim brags, and only a few pages into his story, the reader believes he just might. Suzie is skeptical of the whole thing, and pretty repelled by Jim personally, but she needs the money, and wasn't doing much else with her New York City apartment but feeding Steve the Cat. "She doesn't take reality as it comes, but pumps it through a machine in her head that spits it out as stories she can control." She sublets, and the eccentric threesome hits the road.

Early on, the novel reads as a coherent story: tensions hover at barely manageable levels between the prickly, offensive Jim, impatient Suzie and Remy, who aims to please and therefore displeases Suzie, who wants an ally against their shared boss, and maybe wants to sleep with Remy. Sex and violence are constant undercurrents in the Plymouth as in the country and culture they navigate, making fun and satirizing, for example in a memorable scene starring Suzie in a wedding dress moving in slow motion through the Oklahoma City bombing memorial. After one member of the team abandons the others, the narrative turns decidedly hallucinatory. The main characters morph into simulacra named Jack, Jane and Jesse (and eventually Jesse II), with Remy/Jesse's pronouns turning gender-neutral. They are joined by Taylor Swift, Kanye West, Caitlyn Jenner, Mark Zuckerberg, Donald Trump and others. Among the book's recurring cultural reference points are Caril Ann Fugate and Charlie Starkweather (who inspired Natural Born Killers).

Under the influence of Jean-Luc Godard, Tom Waits, Walt Whitman and others (according to his acknowledgements), Scranton loops and wheels through states of varying lucidity, sometimes employing a stream-of-consciousness prose style and sometimes more straightforward storytelling. "Bleach sun shuddering humid over endless yellow-sprouting cornfields, low green rows of soy, off-white box architecture, strip malls and highways, highways and parking lots, parking lots brilliant with the shine of two hundred sixty million gas-powered combustion-engine personal-transit devices...." This novel of sex, violence, apathy, despair and art offers a bizarre, lightning-paced excursion through the present. For those readers on board with its wild, winding style, I Heart Oklahoma! incisively parodies a weird time to be alive. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Legendary teenaged serial killers, the era of Trump and three dysfunctional artists combine in a phantasmagoric road trip across the United States in this strange, lively novel.


Ooops

Clarification: Book Not Banned

In our Reading With interview with Katia Raina (July 10), Raina referred to All the Rivers by Dorit Rabinyan as having been banned by the Israeli Minister of Education. The book was removed from the curriculum, and can be taught in advanced literature classes.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Jim Bouton's Legacy

I can still remember Pete Rose, on the top step of the dugout screaming, "F**k you, Shakespeare." --Jim Bouton

Some weeks feel more like time machines than others, and this has been one of those weeks. On Monday, I learned that the Library of Congress had acquired the papers of former Major League Baseball pitcher Jim Bouton. This sparked a wave of memories. I was 19 when his book Ball Four tore the cover off a bunch of myths associated with the game of baseball and its heroes, including a few of mine.

Bouton with the Seattle Pilots in 1969.

"Fifty summers ago, in that year of Woodstock, Apollo 11, and the Mets' improbable World Series championship, a pitcher named Jim Bouton threw a knuckleball and wrote a diary that became a classic of American literature," John Thorn wrote. "He called it Ball Four, and it was a stunning success. Funny, profane and smart, it revealed the sex, drugs, and horseplay of baseball in the era. It sold millions of copies and changed the landscape of sports and journalism in ways that are still relevant. It was also a political work, a milestone in the generational divide that characterized the 1960s."

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I found myself deep-diving into news archives, searching for articles from the period.

And then, yesterday, I woke to the news that Bouton had died at the age of 80, and I recalled finally meeting him about 15 years ago at the Vermont bookstore where I worked. Decades after rocking the sports world, he still displayed a generous dose of the thoughtful, smartass attitude I'd imagined he would.

 

A decent pitcher in his prime, Bouton achieved relative immortality as a writer with the 1970 publication of Ball Four, which chronicled his 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros and, more to the point, shared scandalous and controversial tales from his earlier years as a New York Yankee. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of Ball Four's publication, but the summer of 1969, and all that it entails, was the period during which Bouton was scribbling those game-changing notes

I was a late '60s college kid when I read Ball Four. The age of the anti-hero was in full swing. Although I wasn't really shocked by Mickey Mantle's juvenile antics or revelations of amphetamine ("greenies") abuse among players, the book did alter my perspective. A final nail in the coffin of childhood baseball innocence, I suppose, but it was still a great read.

Critical reception was mixed, though controversy, as it tends to, propelled the book to instant bestseller status.

"Jim Bouton has always been a marked outsider in the closed little world of major league baseball players," Newsweek reported. "He reads books in addition to sports pages, plays chess instead of rummy on team buses, and worst of all, speaks out publicly about political and racial issues that ballplayers are traditionally expected to shun."

In the New Yorker, Roger Angell described Ball Four as "a rare view of a highly complex public profession seen from the innermost inside, along with an even more rewarding inside view of an ironic and courageous mind. And, very likely, the funniest book of the year."

Recommending it as a Christmas gift later that year, Robert Lipsyte noted in the New York Times that the "major raps against Ball Four continue to be these: Bouton had no right to betray the confidence of the clubhouse and he had no right to dim the image of some of baseball's stars. Many people who feel this way have never read the book, which is a rather affectionate diary of a season in the life by a man of wit and perception who is losing his grip on the ball."

George Plimpton, who was less impressed, sniffed: "I guess it's a matter of one's own conscience. For me to receive the type of confidences I do and then turn around and besmirch the character of the athletes or their activities, that would be the last book I'd write. Critics talk about an obligation to readers. I don't believe that. My only obligation is to myself and my friends. Violating confidences is the worst sin you can commit."

Mickey Mantle told the Miami Herald that if Bouton "really is selling a lot of books, the only thing I'm disappointed in is that the American public is buying it. I thought the American public was smarter than that."

Ultimately, Bouton got the last laugh: "I wanted to share the fun of baseball, to try and show people as they really are," he once said. "The biggest complaint I heard is that I told everything about everyone and that 500 guys went home and confessed."

Ball Four made the lineup in 1996 for the New York Public Library's Books of the Century list and was named one of Time magazine's 100 greatest nonfiction books of all time. In 1983, Bouton told the New York Times: "I think it did take a new look, an honest look, at some of our heroes. And I guess it questions if heroes are such terrific things. Someone once said, 'don't pity the nation that has no heroes, pity the nation that needs them.' People who don't feel good enough about themselves need to feel good about someone else."

Ball Four altered my perspective on sports and, to some degree, on life. What more can you ask of a book? RIP Jim... and thanks.

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

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