Shelf Awareness for Friday, August 2, 2019

William Morrow & Company: The Midnight Feast by Lucy Foley

Shadow Mountain: The Witch in the Woods: Volume 1 (Grimmworld) by Michaelbrent Collings

Hell's Hundred: Blood Like Mine by Stuart Neville

Delacorte Press: Last One to Die by Cynthia Murphy

Margaret Ferguson Books: Not a Smiley Guy by Polly Horvath, Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Indiana University Press: The Grim Reader: A Pharmacist's Guide to Putting Your Characters in Peril by Miffie Seideman

St. Martin's Press: Lenny Marks Gets Away with Murder by Kerryn Mayne


New Round of Tariffs May Include Books

In a move that could have highly negative effects on the book industry in several ways, President Trump yesterday said starting in September, the U.S. will add a 10% tariff--and possibly more in the near future--to $300 billion in goods imported from China. The new tariff is in addition to a 25% tariff on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports, which means that the U.S. soon will tax "nearly everything China sends to the United States, from iPhones to New Balance sneakers to children's books," the New York Times wrote. The original tariffs have already caused the wholesale prices of some bookstore sidelines products to rise.

Besides causing prices of specific products to rise, the action may lead to an economic slowdown that would affect the book business and bookselling. "Unlike his previous tariffs, this round would hit a broad swath of consumer products and could dampen consumer spending at time when economic growth has already begun to cool," the Times added. "New tariffs would increase the likelihood that the world's two largest economies will be locked in a protracted trade dispute for months, if not years."

David French, senior v-p for government relations at the National Retail Federation, commented: "The tariffs imposed over the past year haven't worked, and there's no evidence another tax increase on American businesses and consumers will yield new results. We are disappointed the administration is doubling down on a flawed tariff strategy that is already slowing U.S. economic growth, creating uncertainty and discouraging investment."

In June, many companies and organizations expressed concerns about more tariffs on Chinese goods in hearings before the U.S. International Trade Commission. Among the speakers was Jamie Fiocco, president of the American Booksellers Association and owner of Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C., who said, in part, that an estimated 25% of all U.S. books are printed in China, including a majority of children's books and Bibles.

She called the imposition of tariffs on books "a clear reversal of decades of U.S. policy that exempts books and other written material from trade restrictions, and to make this change would undercut important American policy interests. In addition, imposing tariffs on books would seriously and disproportionately damage U.S. small and medium sized businesses, like my bookstore, and consumers.

"It is crucial to understand that even the most successful of independent bookstores operate on the thinnest of margins. And despite growth and success in recent years, bookselling is a highly volatile business. If prices increase due to an increase in tariffs, the negative impact on the fiscal health of the bookselling world--and on readers young and old--would be significant...

"There is a free expression issue at stake here as well. Any increase in the price of books would limit their sale, thereby limiting the exchange of ideas. The importance of providing affordable books by a diverse range of authors to the residents of communities throughout this country cannot be overstated."

Harper: Our Kind of Game by Johanna Copeland

N.Y.'s Ye Olde Warwick Book Shoppe Closing

Ye Olde Warwick Book Shoppe, Warwick, N.Y., is closing this month, the Warwick Advertiser reported. Founded in 2012, the store stocks new, used and rare books.

"After a disastrous year and a half of plummeting sales, we can no longer keep the doors open," said owner Thomas Roberts. "Everyone on Main Street is struggling so please don't forget to shop local. Put down that mouse, pick your favorite store and patronize them. With warmest wishes, I thank you."

Mayor Michael Newhard called the store's closing "sad, frustrating and an indicator of the fragile state of retail. Tom and his shop have been a wonderful presence on Main Street. He has also been a great community partner, neighbor and friend. He has been the face of our Pride events and has been an advocate in our ongoing understanding of social issues. He has truly been part of what makes our downtown experience richer and meaningful. A business district is certainly a stage and the actors and performance touch a wide audience. Tom has truly touched our lives and our hearts--he is loved by many and his thoughtful presence will be missed."

Chronicle Books: Life Wants You Dead: A Calm, Rational, and Totally Legit Guide to Scaring Yourself Safe by Evan Waite, Illustrated by Paula Searing

Jarrod Annis Is Drabyak Handseller of the Year

Storytime with Jarrod Annis at Greenlight

Jarrod Annis, manager of the Fort Greene location of Greenlight Bookstores, Brooklyn, N.Y., has won the 2019 Joe Drabyak Handseller of the Year. Sponsored by the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association and named in honor of the late NAIBA president and handseller extraordinaire, the award recognizes booksellers who find "the right books for their community as well as the right book for each person who walks in the door."

"Handselling goes far beyond the now standard 'if, then' algorithm a lot of readers have become accustomed to," Annis said. "Handselling offers room for an actual discovery based on a completely analogue person-to-person interaction. It's a sort of improvisation, the key to which is listening. Ask the person what books they've read recently. Ask why they have or haven't liked things, if there's anything they absolutely won't read. Ask them what their favorites are. Listen. Riff off what they're telling you. Recognize and understand when people have opposite tastes than you. All is not lost. It is not the reader's job to make a bookseller's life easier, it's the bookseller's job to make the readers' life better helping them find their next favorite thing."

During his time at Greenlight, which he joined in 2011 as a bookseller, Annis has also has served as an associate editor at Ugly Duckling Presse and as a poetry judge for the Best Translated Book Award. He currently is on the board of the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses. Working with Small Press Distribution and CLMP, he helped establish the Indie Bookseller Council, which works to build community among indie booksellers across the country focused on selling small press poetry, literary fiction and works in translation. At Greenlight, Annis was able to parlay his interest in small press literature into the curation of a dedicated display space, which has become a destination for many of Greenlight's customers.

Annis will receive the award at the Awards Banquet at NAIBA's fall conference on Wednesday, October 16, in Cherry Hill, N.J.

GLOW: Tundra Books: We Are Definitely Human by X. Fang

Sidelines Snapshot: Puzzles, Stationery, Candles and Ukuleles

Beth Boyink, gift buyer for Schuler Books in Grand Rapids and Okemos, Mich., reported that puzzles and games always do well at the stores, with Ravensburger, Pomegranate and White Mountain Puzzles being standouts. For games, she's had a lot of success with Cards Against Humanity and Catan, as well as classic games like Monopoly and Scrabble. Candles are big sellers as well, and for those Boyink goes to Kalamazoo Candle Company, which is local, and she recently did very well with Unemployed Philosophers Guild's secular saints candles. She noted that for a long time the stores had been struggling with candles, but within the last year or so they've been "blowing through the roof." 

She pointed to kitchenware and accessories as another previously struggling category and mentioned that now Corkcicle and Rifle Paper Co.'s kitchenware are doing extremely well. As for perennial favorites, Boyink said journals and stationery remain very strong, with Moleskine, Shinola and Decomposition as standouts for journals. For cards, she mentioned Rifle Paper Co. and Earth Sky and Water. Strikingly, Boyink also said that ukuleles have been huge for the store, and she typically carries the basic model from Amati's Fine Instruments in a variety of colors and designs. Other notable sellers lately include pretty much anything with the image of a sloth on it, as well as items from The Found featuring artists and pop-culture icons such as Prince, David Bowie, Frida Kahlo or the characters from The Golden Girls.

At Chevalier's Books in Los Angeles, Calif., gift buyer Theresa Le Phung has begun carrying the Catstrology Button Box from Badge Bomb, which has been a hit with customers, old or young, who have an interest in cats or astrology. And while Chevalier's has carried various items from Out of Print in the past, the store recently started bringing in their tote bags, which have sold very well. Le Phung noted that unlike T-shirts or other apparel, there are no sizing issues with tote bags.

Le Phung reported that the store's single biggest sidelines category is cards, and some of Chevalier's best-performing cards are local lines such as Fugu Fugu Press and Carolyn Suzuki. When asked about perennial favorites, Le Phung pointed to journals, especially those made by companies like Moleskine, Shinola and Decomposition. Le Phung noted these journals are "a must for any bookstore," and she has customers who return every few months to replace their last journal. Another one of the store's best-performing sidelines, she added, are the store's own tote bags.

Until last Christmas, White Whale Bookstore in Pittsburgh, Pa., carried hardly any sidelines or gift items aside from store-branded tote bags and the like. Since then, co-owner Adlai Yeomans has slowly been expanding the store's nonbook offerings. So far, the focus remains on items with a strong literary or writing theme, with stationery being a major category. Top sellers include letterpress cards from Sapling Press, which is nationally distributed but located "right down the street," and journals such as Moleskine and Shinola. 

Yeomans and his co-owner have made an effort to highlight Pittsburgh's vibrant maker and artisan community. The store carries Pittsburgh-centric mugs and tote bags made by local artists, and some of its more popular products include literary-themed candles made by North Ave Candles, which is based in the city. In particular, Yeomans noted, North Ave Candles makes a Moby Dick-themed candle especially for the store. Looking ahead, Yeomans said that he plans to continue expanding the selection of store-branded merchandise, such as T-shirts, mugs and pins, and hopes to have those designed by local artisans. --Alex Mutter

If you are interested in having your store appear in a future Sidelines Snapshot article, please e-mail

Harper: Sandwich by Catherine Newman


Image of the Day: Hank Green at Blue Willow

Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Tex., hosted Hank Green for the paperback release of his novel An Absolutely Remarkable Thing (Dutton). Green was joined by author Cory Doctorow for a conversation about books, the Internet, social media, fame and how it all intersects with personal life. Pictured: (front row) Rachel Dietert and Julia Barth; (back row) Lisa Stultz, Dani Green, Lynn Foglesong, Hank Green, Cathy Berner, Valerie Koehler.

Reese Witherspoon Book Club's August Pick: The Last House Guest

The August pick for Reese Witherspoon's book club is The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda (Simon & Schuster), which was published in June.

On her book club website, Witherspoon wrote: "Picture this: It's the last night of summer in Littleport, Maine, and Avery Greer discovers her best friend is missing. Was she murdered? Was it a suicide? This story will have you guessing until the very end. I can't wait for y'all to read it so we can discuss all the twists and turns."

Miranda is also the author of All the Missing Girls, The Perfect Stranger and several YA titles, including Fracture, The Safest Lies and Fragments of the Lost.

Personnel Changes at Penguin Publishing Group

Lauren Monaco is promoted to senior v-p, group sales director, Penguin Publishing Group, for Penguin Random House Sales.

Carrie Swetonic is promoted to the newly created position of senior executive director, nonfiction backlist, Penguin Publishing Group. She previously was executive marketing director, Dutton and Plume.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Ruth Kassinger on Science Friday

NPR's Science Friday: Ruth Kassinger, author of Slime: How Algae Created Us, Plague Us, and Just Might Save Us (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26, 9780544432932).

Movies: The Irishman

Netflix has released the first trailer for Martin Scorcese's new movie The Irishman, based on the life of mafia hitman Frank "the Irishman" Sheeran and adapted from Charles Brandt's 2003 book I Heard You Paint Houses (Steerforth). The film stars Robert De Niro as Sheeran, with Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel also playing major parts. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film took 12 years to make. It will be released on Netflix and in select theaters this fall and make its world premiere on September 27 as the opening night film at the New York Film Festival.

In 2016, Steerforth released an updated version of I Heard You Paint Houses, featuring a new 57-page conclusion that includes new information regarding Sheeran's claims about the murders of Jimmy Hoffa, Joey Gallo, JFK and more. A movie tie-in edition that will be published in October will be titled The Irishman: Frank Sheeran and Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa.

Books & Authors

Awards: Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Winner

Jessica Martinez has won the 2019 Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award, sponsored by Sisters in Crime and given annually to an emerging writer of color who has not yet published a full-length work. Named in honor of pioneering African-American crime fiction author Eleanor Taylor Bland, the award carries a $2,000 grant and was established in 2014.

Judges Cheryl Head, Mia P. Manansala and Tonya Spratt-Williams said in a joint statement: "Ms. Martinez has great potential as a fresh new voice within the crime fiction community and capably displays a proficiency with humor. Her submission introduced the committee to a fun and witty protagonist and left the committee looking forward to her completed novel."

Reading with... Miciah Bay Gault

photo: Daryl Burtnett

Miciah Bay Gault's debut novel, Goodnight Stranger (just out from Park Row), was described by Cosmopolitan as "one of the best literary thrillers you'll read this year." Her fiction and essays have been published in Tin House, the Southern Review and Agni. Gault was the editor of Hunger Mountain for nine years, and now teaches in the MFA in Writing & Publishing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts and coordinates the Vermont Book Award.

On your nightstand now:

The stack of books on my nightstand literally towers over me while I sleep. And I add books faster than I read them, for sure. My mom was visiting recently, and she told me she was worried about me. "There's just no way you're going to get through all these books," she said. "It must make you feel so stressed out." But she's wrong about that. It makes me feel rich.

I'm flying through Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett, and I love how dark and funny it is. I've also started Berlin by Jason Lutes, a graphic novel so stunning I literally exclaim out loud as I'm reading it. Other books on my nightstand that I can't wait to read are Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips, The Changeling by Victor LaValle, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Leading Men by Chris Castellani, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia by Christina Thompson and Boomer1 by Dan Torday (which I'm reading for the third time).

Favorite book when you were a child:

Emily of New Moon by Lucy Maud Montgomery was hands down the favorite, most beloved book of my childhood. Everyone was reading Anne of Green Gables, but no one knew about Emily. There are actually three books in the Emily series, and I've reread them almost every year since I was 11. These books shaped the way I think about love, friendship, beauty and ambition.

Your top five authors:

I'm a Shirley Jackson devotee--her novels, short stories and memoir. The Haunting of Hill House is devastating and beautiful and hilarious, with sentences so precise and gleaming they hurt. I love Wilkie Collins, who also is funny, strange and just a great storyteller. George Saunders's stories changed the way I thought about fiction, flung open all the doors to make more room for humor, empathy, generosity. I love Kelly Link, especially Get in Trouble. And Kathryn Davis's writing shocks me over and over again, its beauty and strangeness, every line a challenge, a revelation.

Book you've faked reading:

I kind of made it through Moby-Dick. I know it's everyone's favorite, but I definitely skipped a few (hundred) pages there in the middle.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt. Surprising, deeply strange with gorgeous sentences. It's both a love story and a ghost story, and I'm pretty sure it's the most romantic book I've ever read.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I just saw the cover for Clare Beams's new book The Illness Lesson, which is out in February 2020, and it's SO beautiful. I'll buy that one for the writing, but I'll swoon over the cover, too. I loved the lush, sensual cover of If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim. I have to mention, too, that I always, always love Two Dollar Radio book covers, like Melanie Finn's The Underneath.

Book you hid from your parents:

Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin. I didn't exactly hide it--I grew up in a pretty sex-positive family--I mean I found the book on my mom's bookshelf. But I certainly didn't read it on family vacation! When I was 11, I read Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and although there was no reason to hide it, I remember thinking: this book is too much for me, too old for me. The intensity of longing and heartache felt like it would crush me.

Book that changed your life:

Years ago, a handsome fisherman gave me a copy of his favorite book, The River Why by David James Duncan. I thought it would be all about fishing, but it was also about love. The book turned out to be delightful, and so did the fisherman. Reader, I married him.

Favorite line from a book:

The line that's running through my head is from a poem in Jody Gladding's the spiders my arms: "questions to ask the river before you dive." It's funny because the poem is arranged on the page so that it can be read in multiple ways--vertically, horizontally, etc. So the line itself is only one of many lines you might see. The poem is engraved on a mirror at the Vermont Studio Center, and it's been echoing in my mind ever since I saw it there.

I've also always loved the ending of Tobias Wolff's short story "Bullet in the Brain." "They is, they is, they is." And a line from John Cheever's "The Country Husband" replays in my mind all the time: "She's my blue sky. After sixteen years, I still bite her shoulders."

Five books you'll never part with:

First, Carmen Maria Machado's Her Body and Other Parties, which is such a joy and a fierce pleasure to read, every sentence. Second, The Stories of John Cheever. Cheever has fallen out of fashion, and I get why, but when I first read his short stories in college, I fell in love with them: the wild obsessions, the bizarre treatment of time, the veering away from sanity. Third, Jane Austen's Emma. Actually, all of Jane Austen. Fourth, The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang, our favorite children's books, and a work of true genius: dark and strange and beautiful. Fifth, Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, Benjamin Dreyer's book, which is a delightful celebration of the beauty and order of the sentence.

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

Chris Adrian's novel The Great Night. I love to be surprised by fiction, and this otherworldly retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream delighted me.

Recent reads you recommend:

A few books I've read recently have left me stunned and grateful because of their mastery or innovation or exquisite storytelling: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee; What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah; In the House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell; This House Is Not for Sale by E.C. Osondu; the YA horror novel Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal; and a series of chapter books called Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon, which is brilliantly funny for kids and parents.

Book Review

Review: Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl

Things We Didn't Talk about When I Was a Girl: A Memoir by Jeannie Vanasco (Tin House, $25.95 hardcover, 360p., 9781947793453, October 1, 2019)

Mark was one of Jeannie's best friends in high school and early college--until the night when she got drunk for the first time and he sexually assaulted her. By the definition of the times, that's what it was called: sexual assault. Under the FBI's legal definition as of 2013, it is called rape.

Words matter. And so Jeannie Vanasco (The Glass Eye) delivers Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl, a thoughtful, conflicted, harrowing examination of what Mark did--with his words alongside her own.

From the outset, she worries about the fallout from her choice to include Mark: she feels she should hate him, and she doesn't want to be a bad feminist. As a writing teacher, "I'd never tell a student that her personal essay about sexual assault would be more interesting with the perpetrator's perspective." But Mark was such a good friend; many of her memories of him remain positive ones. "I doubt I'm the only woman sexually assaulted by a friend and confused about her feelings." Like her first book, Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl is aware of itself, frequently commenting on process and prospective readership. This kind of self-regard is difficult to pull off, but it is clearly Vanasco's natural style, and she wields it expertly.

The memoir alternates between transcriptions of recorded conversations between Jeannie and Mark, and Vanasco's reactions to those recordings. She discusses everything with her partner, her therapist and her female friends, nearly all writers or academics. Their discussions involve craft ("As a reader, Nina says, I would want to know...") and sociology (repeated "performance[s] of gender") as well as emotional support. Vanasco is very alert to the times, feeling prompted by #MeToo, Trump's presidency and her creative writing students' disclosures of sexual assaults. She is very alert, in general--it seems a personality trait--and one of the most intriguing artistic qualities of this book is its vigilant self-awareness.

Clearly this is an important and timely book. Even in a world that can seem brimming with stories similar to Vanasco's, hers stands out. She feels the need to write "because so many perpetrators of sexual assault are regular guys, and I want to show that." That mission is well accomplished: Mark is nothing if not alarmingly regular. Perhaps the creepiest element of the whole story is the seemingly easy slide from good friend to rapist and back again. "He smiles, and I see where a friend once was."

Some of Vanasco's brave and difficult work here is to consider the line between good and bad people, and good and bad actions. Is it possible for a good person to do a very bad thing? What are our responsibilities to one another, especially after such bad things happen? This narrator is tough, vulnerable and meticulous; the resulting memoir is heartfelt, painful and essential. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Jeannie Vanasco's reckoning with her rapist of 14 years earlier--once a close friend--is distressing, brave and crucial.

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