Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 27, 2019

Flatiron Books: The Last One at the Wedding by Jason Rekulak

Ace Books: Servant of Earth (The Shards of Magic) by Sarah Hawley

Ace Books: Toto by AJ Hackwith and The Village Library Demon-Hunting Society by CM Waggoner

Webtoon Unscrolled: Age Matters Volume Two by Enjelicious

St. Martin's Press:  How to Think Like Socrates: Ancient Philosophy as a Way of Life in the Modern World  by Donald J Robertson

Hanover Square Press: The Dallergut Dream Department Store (Original) by Miye Lee, Translated by Sandy Joosun Lee

Nosy Crow: Dungeon Runners: Hero Trial by Joe Todd-Stanton and Kieran Larwood

Andrews McMeel Publishing: A Haunted Road Atlas: Next Stop: More Chilling and Gruesome Tales from and That's Why We Drink by Christine Schiefer and Em Schulz


Towne Center Books in Calif. Adds Second Location


Judy Wheeler, longtime owner of Towne Center Books in Pleasanton, Calif., will host a soft opening this weekend for a second store (Vol. 2, as she calls it) at 2375 Railroad Ave in Livermore. The Pleasanton Weekly reported that the new shop has "a fantastic location right across from Livermore's two-story parking garage, within an easy walk from the Bankhead and Livermore 13 Cinema on First Street and next door to Livermore's popular Cream, known for its specialty ice cream sandwiches." A grand opening and ribbon-cutting will be held later in October.

Judy Wheeler

Wheeler joked that "just as her Pleasanton store customers often settle in with drinks from nearby coffee shops, she looks for her new book shoppers to be carrying Cream's ice cream delights," the Weekly noted.

"I'm opening a second bookstore in Livermore for the same reason I bought Towne Center Books in Pleasanton 21 years ago," Wheeler said. "Many of my customers come from Livermore and have asked for a bookstore there." She will be splitting her time between the two stores. Bob Ditter, her husband and a retired publisher's representative, also works at the bookshop.

Noting that independent bookstores are in a revival mode, she also said people enjoy the sense of community they find in bookstores like hers. "Customers love our events and they like to come in and just chat books with us.... There is growing awareness among shoppers that if you don't use it, you'll lose it. Your favorite places won't be there for you to browse. People are starting to get that as they see places going out of business. That's true in downtown Pleasanton, even in our mall. It's true everywhere."

Wheeler is excited about the prospect of operating both stores: "I get to see my friends when I'm working and I don't have to commute. I meet important people and famous people and read good books. We have wonderful customers and it's fun to go to work. It's a good life."

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Intermezzo by Sally Rooney

New Owner, Name Change for Mrs. Figs' Bookworm

Julie Moore has purchased Mrs. Figs' Bookworm in Camarillo, Calif., from previous owner Connie Halpern and has changed the store's name to The Bookworm, which was the store's original name when it opened in 1973.

"It is with heartfelt joy, elation, and confidence that I introduce to you Julie Moore, the next shopkeeper for Camarillo's Bookworm," Halpern wrote in an announcement to her customers. She added that "now that the time has come for a new chapter in my life, it is with great honor and reverence that I pass [the keys] along to Julie, the next shopkeeper of your beloved bookstore."

Halpern purchased the store in 2009 from Mary Littell, who had in turn bought the store from original owner Wyn Nelson in 1988. She put the store up for sale last year.

"I believe The Bookworm is a pillar in our community," said Moore in a video message to customers. Moore, who has worked as a teacher for nearly 30 years, was born and raised in Camarillo and fondly recalled visiting the Bookworm as a child.

Aside from the name change, Moore has not announced any major changes for the Bookworm. Both Halpern and Littell will stay on as volunteers to help her through the transition.

PM Press: P Is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book by Golbarg Bashi, Illustrated by Golrokh Nafisi

Bluestocking Bookshop Opens in Holland, Mich.

The Bluestocking Bookshop has opened in Holland, Mich., the Holland Sentinel reported. Owner R. Aimee Chipman plans to sell used books across all genres, while also having new titles available for order.

"I like the idea of a bookstore being for the community," Chipman told the Sentinel. "A bookstore isn't just 'come in and look for books.' It's somewhere you can meet, sit and talk about anything--not just books."

Aside from books, Bluestocking carries some sidelines made by local artists and artisans. The store features tables and chairs throughout, and customers can help themselves to coffee and a stack of board games. She also explained that she decided to focus on used books in order to reduce the store's environmental footprint and give books "new life."

Chipman's event plans, meanwhile, include hosting things like board game nights and other social events. She said: "Having a connection with a real person I think in an age of digital can really be missing in our daily interactions."

Memorial Service for Grove Atlantic's Charles Rue Woods

A memorial to celebrate the life of Grove Atlantic art director Charles Rue Woods will be held on Sunday, October 6, 4-6 p.m., at the Center for Fiction, 15 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. All who wish to attend are welcome. Please RSVP to Savannah Johnston via e-mail.

Hearst Magazines Launches Two Book Imprints

Hearst Magazines has launched two book imprints: Hearst Home, which will publish illustrated lifestyle books inspired by the company's large range of products, and Hearst Home Kids, which will publish children's books. Beginning in March, both imprints will be sold and distributed by Penguin Random House Publisher Services across all sales channels worldwide.

The imprints, led by Hearst Books v-p and publisher Jacqueline Deval, will include cookbooks, diet, nutrition, health & wellness, decorating, pop culture and self-help books. The first three titles from Hearst Home, which will release 12 books in 2020, are Healthy Keto: Prevention Healing Kitchen, 75+ Plant-Based, Low-Carb, High-Fat Recipes (March); Food Network Magazine: The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook: 150+ Recipes for Young Chefs (April); and Sugar Shock: The Hidden Sugar in Your Food, Its Dramatic Impact on Your Health, 100+ Smart Swaps to Cut Back (May).

Hearst Books, a division of Hearst Magazines, has released many books through licensed partnerships with outside publishers. Such titles include Delish Eat Like Every Day's the Weekend (Houghton Mifflin H), Food Can Fix It by Dr. Mehmet Oz (Scribner) and What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey (Flatiron). The division also publishes Hearst Specials bookazines and offers custom-publishing services for key clients. At one time, Hearst Books owned William Morrow and Avon Books, which it sold to HarperCollins in 1999.

Hearst Magazines include Elle, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Seventeen, Woman's Day, Esquire, Town & Country, O, The Oprah Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Harper's Bazaar, Redbook, HGTV Magazine, House Beautiful, Country Living, Prevention, Car and Driver, Road and Track and Popular Mechanics.

"Our brands are beloved by millions of people who consume content across all our platforms on any given day," Hearst Magazines senior v-p, consumer revenue and development, Brian Madden said. "Our content-creation expertise and unmatched data capabilities will enable us to inspire and entertain book readers, while deepening their connection with our brands. Having Penguin Random House Publisher Services, a leader in the industry, as our partner will help us amplify our reach in a strategic and dynamic way."

"Our ability to leverage Hearst's first-party data to identify reader engagement with trending topics allows us to create the highest-quality books to meet those consumer needs and interests," Deval said. "Another key differentiator for these new lifestyle imprints is our ability to reach large target audiences with built-in advertising and editorial support across our brands."

Penguin Random House Publisher Services president Jeff Abraham added, "These are significant brands and properties that are internationally recognized, and we see substantial opportunity in the marketplace to break out wonderfully fun and influential new book imprints."

#BannedBooksWeek: More Indie Bookseller Highlights


Independent booksellers are marking Banned Books Week with a variety of displays, events and promotions celebrating the freedom to read. Earlier this week we highlighted some creative indie bookstore efforts. Here's another sampling from social media posts:

Fireside Books, Palmer, Alaska: "It's Banned Books Week! Have you read any banned books?"

At Page 1, Albuquerque

Page 1 Bookstore, Albuquerque, N.M.: "This week we celebrate books that have been banned, burned, or challenged. Each of these books has a unique story to tell, both from the stories and ideas within its pages to the peoples' reactions to those stories and ideas that led them to declare that these books were better left unread. Celebrate freedom of expression and the free flow of ideas--read a banned book today!"

Booktowne, Manasquan, N.J.: "Banned Book Week is going on! We've SHREDDED a most popular 'banned book' (no books were really harmed in the making of this contest!)... stop by BookTowne and try to guess which book it is... winner will receive an Ideal Bookshelf enamel pin!!"

Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, Kan.: "Which #BannedBook would you memorize to save it from being lost to the sands of time?"

Righton Books, Saint Simons Island, Ga.: "It took us five minutes to collect a dozen previously (and currently!) banned books in our store, many from our Staff Favorites shelf. (Anne says that it would be hard for her to imagine what her life would be like if she had never read As I Lay Dying.)"

Snowbound Books, Marquette, Mich.: "We can't say we're 'celebrating' banned books week, but we certainly are buzzing about it. Check out our display representing just some of the books challenged in 2018! Yep. 2018."

At Paper Boat Booksellers, Seattle

Paper Boat Booksellers, Seattle, Wash.: "We are also celebrating Banned Books Week! I was going to write a long post describing why in the world it's ok to ban books and not other things that we really should ban--but I decided to take a deep breath and keep it positive--let's just celebrate books, reading and the conversations that come from both!"

That Book Store, Wethersfield, Conn.: "All this week we are celebrating Banned Books Week! We have something to offend everyone here."

Valley Bookseller, Stillwater, Minn.: "It's Banned Books Week! Be sure to stop in, check out our display and enter our contest. Celebrate your fREADom to read whatever you choose."


Image of the Day: Rushdie at Book Passage

Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif., hosted a discussion with Salman Rushdie to celebrate his latest novel, Quichotte (Random House). Pictured: (l.-r.) Book Passage staffers Cathy Rath (event host) and Karen West (events director); Rushdie; and Cheryl Bronstein (event host).

PRH Releases Free The Whistle-Blower Complaint Audiobook

Penguin Random House Audio has released a free, 30-minute audio reading of The Whistle-Blower Complaint. It was recorded by Saskia Maarleveld, a professional audiobook narrator. Rachel Maddow plugged the audiobook on her MSNBC program last night.

Happy 30th Birthday, Poisoned Pen Bookstore!

Congratulations to The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Ariz., which will turn 30 years old on October 3.

To celebrate, owner Barbara Peters and her staff will host a cake and champagne party featuring author Joe Hill (NOS4A2) in conversation with attorney and editor Leslie Klinger. The pair will discuss the Haunted Library of Horror Classics, an upcoming collaboration between the Horror Writers Association and Poisoned Pen Press that will return classic horror novels to print.

In addition to the party, Poisoned Pen will host events through that entire week. Other guests include John Sandford, author of the Prey series; James Rollins, author of the Sigma Force series; and Anne Perry, author of the Thomas Pitt and William Monk series.

"I've had a great relationship with the Pen for the last 30 years," said Diana Gabaldon, author of Outlander. "Primarily, them supplying me with a huge selection of books I want to read--and then, them supplying me with logistic and emotional support ever since my first book was published. Kind of nice to be able to give back to them a little in sales!"

Bookseller Moment: BookBar

"This! Makes me so happy," said Nicole Sullivan, owner of BookBar, Denver, Colo., sharing a photo of strollers parked in front of the store during children's storytime. 

Personnel Changes at WORD; Sounds True

At WORD bookstores, which has locations in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jersey City, N.J.:

Davi Marra has returned as retail director. Marra was one of WORD's first employees before spending the last 11 years as a full-time bookseller at the Corner Bookstore in Manhattan.

Mike Webb, inventory director, will now handle the majority of the frontlist buying.

Deidre Dumpson, operations director, came to WORD in February from Dolphin Bookshop in Port Washington, N.Y.

Nicole Swift has joined the team as children's event manager. She has handled children's and graphic novel programming for the Miami Book Fair for the past eight years.

Co-owner Vincent Onorati has joined the staff in a full-time capacity running day-to-day operations as well as overseeing events. Co-owner Christine Onorati will continue to buy children's frontlist and non-book merchandise and continues to serve as a board member of the ABA.


Nick Small has joined Sounds True as a publicity manager. He was formerly an associate director of publicity at Grand Central Life & Style.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Joel Sartore on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Joel Sartore, author of The Photo Ark: Vanishing: The World's Most Vulnerable Animals (National Geographic, $40, 9781426220593).

HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Salman Rushdie, author of Quichotte: A Novel (Random House, $28, 9780593132982).

CBS Saturday Morning's The Dish: Evan Funke, co-author of American Sfoglino: A Master Class in Handmade Pasta (Chronicle Books, $35, 9781452173313).

PBS NewsHour Weekend: Indre Viskontas, author of How Music Can Make You Better (Chronicle Books, $12.95, 9781452171920).

OWN's Super Soul Sunday: Chanel Miller, author of Know My Name: A Memoir (Viking, $28, 9780735223707).

On Stage: Between the Lines

Between the Lines, a musical adaptation of the YA novel by mother/daughter duo Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer, will make its Off-Broadway debut in 2020, with performances beginning April 21 at the Tony Kiser Theater and an official opening in May, Playbill reported. Tony nominee Jeff Calhoun (Newsies) will direct, with Lorin Latarro (Waitress) choreographing and Daryl Roth producing.

Featuring a score by Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson (Olaf's Frozen Adventure) and a book by Timothy Allen McDonald (James and the Giant Peach), the production had its world premiere at Kansas City Repertory Theatre in 2017, with subsequent readings taking place in New York.

"I am always drawn to material that sheds light on women's stories, and encourages my daughter's and granddaughters' generations to find their own strength, truth, and confidence," Daryl Roth said. "Between the Lines does just that."

Books & Authors

Awards: Center for Fiction First Novel

The shortlist for the $10,000 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, given to the best debut novel of the year, has been chosen. The winner will be announced at the Center's Benefit and Awards Dinner on December 10 in New York City. The shortlist:

The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin (FSG)
Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips (Knopf)
Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad (Riverhead)
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Penguin)
Fall Back Down When I Die by Joe Wilkins (Little, Brown)
American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson (Random House)
In West Mills by De'shawn Charles Winslow (Bloomsbury)

Reading with... James W. Loewen

James W. Loewen is the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus, Sundown Towns and Lies My Teacher Told Me: Young Readers' Edition (all from the New Press). He also wrote Teaching What Really Happened and The Mississippi Chinese: Between Black and White, and edited The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader. He has won the American Book Award, the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship, the Spirit of America Award from the National Council for the Social Studies and the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award. Loewen is professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Vermont and lives in Washington, D.C. His revised and updated edition of Lies Across America was just released by The New Press.

On your nightstand now:

I've been reading a fine dystopian fictional "history of the future," the well-known Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. It's been on my nightstand for years! My problem is, when I read in bed, I fall asleep immediately. That's not Mitchell's fault.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I must admit, it was the Dr. Dolittle series. Although I have not looked at them since attaining adulthood, I'm sure they were racist, even colonialist, since a white doctor knew just what to do with and for the animals and people in Africa. That I didn't think about such things probably made their impact all the more insidious, but still, I devoured the books.

Your top five authors:

Mark Twain. He's the only humorist from so many generations ago who is still consistently funny when reread today. And he can be deep, too.

William Faulkner. Yes, I went through my Faulkner period, and though I haven't reread him in years, I'm still happy to remember many passages, both for his values and his prose style.

Walt Whitman. As Stephen Vincent Benét put it, in "Ode to Walt Whitman," "You're still the giant lode we quarry/ For gold, fools' gold, and all the earthy metals,/ The matchless mine."

Vine Deloria. Being Native American, his worldview is different, but he makes it accessible to all.

Edna St. Vincent Millay. Perhaps my mom's favorite poet, she became one of mine too, especially her sonnets that sing of love and lament its loss.

Book you've faked reading:

György Lukács, History and Class Consciousness. In grad school at Harvard in 1966, I took Barrington Moore's famously difficult course in social theory. Moore taught by the Socratic method, and when he queried you, you'd best be prepared. The time came to study Lukács, but his book was translated into English only in 1971. We were to read chapter 1 of Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein in German. Supposedly I knew German, having taken two years in high school and two in college and then having scored 720 on the SAT German test. Actually, I knew better. I spent the next afternoon trying to read Lukács. After five hours, I had translated a page and a half. Doing the math, I realized that the whole chapter would take me another 70 hours! I had four other courses! So, when the seminar reassembled a week later, I hunkered down behind the guy in front of me, avoided eye contact with Moore, and thus avoided making a fool of myself about a book I'd not read.

Even after the translation came out, I never read the book. Ironically, reading about it while preparing this answer, I now realize I probably would have enjoyed it and learned from it. Sigh.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The only historical novel I recommend without reservation: Okla Hannali by R.A. Lafferty. Even though by a white author, I credit it as a Choctaw history of the 19th century, in the form of a biography of a fictional Choctaw leader who was born in Mississippi around 1801 and died in Oklahoma in 1900. I realize such a statement creates all sorts of problems for me--expropriation of Native knowledge, white arrogance, etc. My only defense is the work itself. I have no idea how Lafferty, otherwise known for science fiction, learned so much about Choctaws (and white folks), but every time I have checked out any fact in Okla Hannali, no matter how small, Lafferty got it right. And what a read! Only a little over 200 pages long, but an epic, nevertheless.

Book you should have hidden from your children:

Thomas Berger's Regiment of Women. I read it when it came out (1973) and enjoyed it. It seemed to me to be a pioneering feminist book and funny as hell. Then my son read it, followed by my daughter. Conversation with them reminded me that the book also contained seriously awry sex scenes that perhaps should not be read by kids age 13 and 11, especially when their mother sought to use any excuse to deny me contact with them. Luckily no complications ensued, either legal or psychological, so far as I know.

Book that changed your life:

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee, photos by Walker Evans. Agee's nakedly emotional prose helped me feel what sociologists helped me understand: most poor people are not to be blamed for their poverty. As Agee put it, in the voice of his white sharecropper subjects: "How were we trapped?"

Favorite line from a book:

As I confront the end of my own life: "Come, lovely and soothing death, Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving..." in "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.

Five books you'll never part with:

Leaves of Grass
Millay, Collected Poems
Okla Hannali
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Louis Untermeyer, ed., Modern American Poetry; Mid-Century Edition. This collection contains many poems that have meant a lot to me, from Whitman and Dickinson down to Langston Hughes and Kenneth Patchen.

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

T-Model Tommy and other books from my childhood. Not Dolittle, though.

Book that played a crucial role in resolving a family disagreement:

Thorstein Veblen's classic The Theory of the Leisure Class. The occasion was a serious conversation my Dad initiated during my sophomore year of college. He was upset that I had changed my major from chemistry to sociology. He confronted me with a challenge: "Just name me one person who ever graduated from Carleton College and made a name for himself in sociology." I was about to reply, "Just name me one person who graduated from Carleton and made a name in anything," but I knew he would come up with some Mayo Clinic doctor who was arguably well-known. Suddenly it came to me: in its 99 years, Carleton College had produced just one truly well-known person, famous for his book, The Theory of the Leisure Class. "Thorstein Veblen," I crowed triumphantly. He was silent.

Let me add, The Theory of the Leisure Class deserves its fame. It is as relevant today as when it came out in 1899. It explains how we model our behavior and our standards of success--even of morality--on the class next above us in social structure, all the way up to "the wealthy leisure class," his name for what we call the 1%. One chapter, "Devout Observances," also contains a new and even hilarious sociology of religion. If you aren't motivated to go read Lies Across America to understand how Americans misconceive the social world (a grievous mistake!), then can I persuade you to read Veblen?

Book Review

Review: Nothing to See Here

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson (Ecco, $26.99 hardcover, 272p., 9780062913463, October 29, 2019)

Families of the particularly dysfunctional variety seem to be Kevin Wilson's forte, whether artistically constructed as in The Family Fang or experimentally psychological as in Perfect Little World. Despite a sense of head-shaking impossibility, Wilson somehow manages to make his make-believe believable--in between the inappropriate laughing and bittersweet empathizing.

Privilege, power, inequity whorl through Wilson's Nothing to See Here. Back in their "fancy girls' school hidden on a mountain in the middle of nowhere," Lillian and Madison begin their relationship as assigned roommates. Lillian is a valley townie, the daughter of a single mother and missing father who's "either dead or just checked out." She's poor but smart, and gains entrance on scholarship: "I showed a f**king lot of promise," she insists. Regretfully, that promise gets waylaid by blonde, effortlessly chic, Atlanta "big money" heiress Madison. Alas, the girls' friendship is merely temporary, canceled by a lucrative deal Madison's father strikes with Lillian's mother that insulates Madison and propels Lillian back to her "awful public high school."

Life goes on. Remarkably, the girls stay in touch, with Madison sending "updates on her life that were as foreign to [Lillian] as reports from the moon, her existence the kind you only read about in magazines." And then, in the spring of 1995, Madison summons Lillian (via a letter with a tucked-in $50 bill to cover bus fare) to Franklin, Tenn., with "an interesting job opportunity." In the decade-plus since they last met, Madison has become a senator's wife, stepmother to his two children by an earlier marriage, mother to "a little boy whom she dressed in nautical suits and who looked like an expensive teddy bear." Happy to leave behind her two cashier jobs and her mother's attic, Lillian disembarks at the Nashville station and is met by Carl, the family's "jack-of-all-trades." Carl is about to become Lillian's go-to co-conspirator and crucial companion.

Settling into Madison's seemingly idyllic, sprawling compound, Lillian is placed in charge of the senator's 10-year-old twins, Roland and Bessie. "There's something I have to tell you about them," Madison warns. Their "affliction," as she describes it, is that they burst into flames. Yes, flames. While their own bodies remain unharmed, everything and anything around them combusts. To keep the twins (and Madison and her senator's carefully curated lives--he's about to run for U.S. president, after all) safe will be Lillian's 24/7 responsibility. But first, she'll need to gain the children's trust.

When it comes to unconventional families, Wilson again proves himself a master of heartstring-tugging, drop-jaw shocking, guffaw-inducing, (can't resist) highly combustible entertainment. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: Kevin Wilson's rollicking novel Nothing to See Here is a fiery ode to unexpected, unconventional family love.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Time & Words in the Heartland


Next Tuesday, I'll fly to Cleveland for the Heartland Fall Forum, hosted by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association and Midwest Independent Booksellers Association. While preparing, I came across a question I had asked in a 2010 Shelf Awareness column: "What do the Midwest Booksellers Association trade show, marathon runners and the Dead Sea Scrolls have in common? If you answered St. Paul, Minn., you receive partial credit, but the correct response is a bit more complicated."

The indie bookstore world was quite different in 2010, struggling in the wake of the financial crisis, among other factors. A year earlier, at the fall regional bookseller shows, I'd heard more than a few owners express doubt about their future viability. It would have been hard to find a prognosticator willing to imagine that, by the end of the decade, there would be education sessions on how to open multiple locations.

And yet, even in 2010 there was a sense of hope: "Certain themes inevitably emerge when you talk with booksellers and publishers over the course of a weekend," I wrote then. "By the time the MBA show ended, two words seemed preeminent for me. While one--community--is familiar, the other is a concept we haven't talked about as much during recent, often perilous, times for our industry--longevity. I kept hearing about plans for the future, not just plans for survival, and this is a significant change."

That same week, St. Paul was hosting the Twin Cities Marathon. Streets and hotel lobbies were filled with a community of runners preparing for Sunday's race. Meanwhile, just across the street from the RiverCentre at the Science Museum of Minnesota, there was a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. How could I not contemplate levels of endurance and timelessness? Like the marathon runners who kept leaving me in the dust as I walked from my hotel to the RiverCentre, indie booksellers were, and continue to be, all in, taking a long view of time.

That is not the easy route. A Cass Business School study recently found people's lives and perception of time are being altered by the "ever-draining nature" of their cell phone batteries, Fast Company reported. Awareness of your phone battery's charge is "enough to determine where you go, how you define time and distances, and even how you judge yourself and others. In an age when so much of our world revolves around our apps, our batteries define us, and with stakes that feel quite high."

"If your phone drains, you symbolically die--to yourself and to others," said Thomas Derek Robinson, lecturer in marketing at Cass. Describing the smartphone's battery icon as basically an omnipresent countdown clock, he explained: "It sets a deadline in your future, and it's counting time. It shapes your perception of time. Instead of hours or minutes, you think, 'I have another half of battery's worth.' Your personal perception of time and space becomes relegated to the power in your battery."

I suspect most of us at the Heartland Fall Forum will have a smartphone. We'll be on battery-life time occasionally, but it is heartening to realize that our book tribe also still marks the passage of time through words--books we've read and are reading, as well as more than a few upcoming titles we'll discover at HFF19

When the 2010 MBA show concluded, I found time to pay my respects to the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Science Museum, basking in the presence of the fragmentary, 2,300-year-old words, some of the most well-preserved ancient written materials ever found.

How did those words survive time? A new study by researchers at MIT and elsewhere "found that the parchment was processed in an unusual way, using a mixture of salts found in evaporites--the material left from the evaporation of brines--but one that was different from the typical composition found on other parchments."

Admir Masic said his team used a variety of specialized tools developed by researchers to map, in high resolution, the detailed chemical composition of relatively large objects under a microscope. The Dead Sea Scrolls fragment they examined had escaped any treatment since its discovery that might have altered its properties, which "allowed us to look deeply into its original composition, revealing the presence of some elements at completely unexpectedly high concentrations."

The elements they discovered included sulfur, sodium and calcium in different proportions, spread across the surface of the parchment. This coating, on which the text was written, helped to give the parchment its unusually bright white surface, and perhaps contributed to its state of preservation. "This work exemplifies exactly what my lab is trying to do--to use modern analytical tools to uncover secrets of the ancient world," Masic said.

"This discovery offers new insight into the history of book and print making," Fast Company reported, "as the success of this salt shellac indicates an advanced understanding of printing techniques and texts as archives. This early parchment making in the Middle East shows a forward-thinking interest in the power of communication and the preservation of language. The study's insights provide other historians and conservators with context, like when the parchment was developed and/or whether it's a forgery, but they could also help historians preserve other delicate written artifacts, designed so many centuries ago."

Time and words.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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