Shelf Awareness for Friday, October 4, 2019


Running Press Adult: Ignite Your Light: A Sunrise-To-Moonlight Guide to Feeling Joyful, Resilient, and Lit from Within by Jolene Hart

St. Martin's Press: The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal about Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power by Deirdre Mask

Basic Books: America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States by Erika Lee

Random House: This Is Chance!: The Shaking of an All-American City, a Voice That Held It Together by Jon Mooallem

Beach Lane Books: Pluto Gets the Call by Adam Rex, illustrated by Laurie Keller

Workman Publishing: Click to see full Holiday Quick Pick catalog!

News

Newest Tariffs, on the E.U., to Include Books

The newest tariffs to be imposed by the Trump administration, against the European Union and amounting to $7.5 billion on a range of goods, will include books, the Bookseller reported.

In reaction, Stephen Lotinga, chief executive of the Publishers Association, said, "We are deeply concerned about this development and raised it immediately with the Department for International Trade and the Intellectual Property Office. It is completely unacceptable that book exports are collateral damage in an unconnected trade matter. We will continue to argue in the strongest possible terms against tariffs that could be damaging to the trade and are in nobody's interest."

Last year, the Bookseller wrote, U.K. publishers exported printed books worth £128 million ($158 million) in invoiced value to North America.

The new tariffs follow the World Trade Organization's decision on Wednesday that the U.S. could tax $7.5 billion of E.U. goods to recoup damages after the WTO had determined in May that the E.U. illegally subsidized Airbus. The tariffs cover all kinds of goods, which the New York Times described as, in part, "a gourmet shopping list, with the administration planning to place a 25% tax on imports of Parmesan cheese, mussels, coffee, single malt whiskeys and other agricultural goods from Europe." Oddly the tariff on airplanes will be only 10%.

The Times noted that the WTO is considering a parallel case brought by the E.U. against the U.S. for subsidizing Boeing, for which the E.U. has a list of $20 billion of U.S. products it might impose tariffs on. That case should be decided early next year.

The U.S. has imposed several rounds of tariffs on imports from China, which as of last month include many types of books.
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Note: The information in this article has been updated: https://www.shelf-awareness.com/theshelf/2019-10-07


Berkley Books: The Return by Rachel Harrison


Lion Forge and Binc Launch Fund to Help Comics Shops, Employees

 

Comics publisher Lion Forge and the Book Industry Charitable Foundation have partnered to create the Forge Fund, a program that will support comics retailers and their employees in times of hardship. 

To start the fund, Lion Forge has donated $100,000 of seed money, and going forward, the company will donate 5% of proceeds from select comics featuring the Forge Fund logo. The first such title is Gail Simone's Catalyst Prime series Seven Days, which hit comics shops this week.

"The Forge Fund expands a vital financial safety net and enables the Binc Foundation to help more comic book retailers across the country," said Binc executive director Pam French. "Our most recent survey results let us know that one in five store employees have experienced a personal financial crisis within the past 12 months. This new fund gives the Foundation the ability to assist those working in the comic book industry who are facing financial emergencies today and in the future."

"Comic shops and their employees are the reason we are all here, and the assurance that we can continue to evolve our customer base and grow the readership of this medium we all love so dearly," said David Steward II, CEO of Lion Forge. "As the industry finds itself in a time of transition, and in the wake of recent natural disasters, we knew that we had to do something meaningful to help."

Steward also encouraged other comics publishers to join in the effort, saying, "This is an investment in the future of our industry."


Nimbus Publishing: Anne of Green Gables: The Original Manuscript by Lucy Maud Montgomery, edited by Carolyn Strom Collins


'Read. Think. Act.' Is University Press Week Theme

The Association of University Presses (AUPresses) has chosen "Read. Think. Act." as the theme for this year's University Press Week, scheduled to run from Sunday, November 3, through Saturday, November 9. The theme was chosen to emphasize "the role that scholarly publishers can play in moving national and international conversations forward on critical and complex issues."

The university press community will host online celebrations of this year's theme via blog tours and a featured publication gallery, and AUPresses has put together a "Read. Think. Act." reading list. There will be a variety of "real life" celebrations as well, including "Read. Think. Act." panels at the Texas Book Festival and Book Culture in New York City, and UP Week scavenger hunts at the Brooklyn Book Festival, Boston Book Festival and other fall festivals.

This year, many university presses will also take part in an Indies First campaign organized by the American Booksellers Association, which will start the week of November 3 and continue through Small Business Saturday on November 30.

Kathryn Conrad, president of AUPresses and director of the University of Arizona Press, said, "In the last few years many people have found it difficult to have effective conversations about the most serious and important issues facing our communities, nations, and world. We hope that by encouraging readers to explore university press works on topics that affect everyone—and to reflect on their reading—our publications might help stimulate positive conversations and actions."

More information about UP Week and events can be found here.


Quirk Books: Spark and the League of Ursus by Robert Repino


B&N College to Manage Oregon Tech Bookstore

Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls has selected Barnes & Noble College to manage its bookstore operations. The partnership began July 22, with B&N College commencing operations prior to the beginning of the Fall 2019 term.

"We're excited about the new access tools that Barnes & Noble College offers our students and faculty," said Dr. Erin Foley, v-p of student affairs and dean of students. "Oregon Tech is constantly looking at more affordable teaching and learning materials for our students that improve their overall university experience. We look forward to working with Barnes & Noble College to continue to serve the evolving needs of our students across all of our academic disciplines and locations."

Barry Brover, executive v-p, B&N College, commented: "We look forward to delivering a dynamic retail experience and seamless access to affordable learning materials for all Oregon Tech students." B&N College currently operates more than 770 campus stores nationwide.


Obituary Note: Joseph Wilson

Joseph Wilson, the former ambassador who challenged the Bush administration's claims that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons and wrote the memoir The Politics of Truth, died last week at his home in Santa Fe, N.Mex., the New York Times reported. He was 69.

In July of 2003, Wilson wrote an op-ed in the Times challenging George W. Bush's assertion that the British government had evidence of Iraq seeking uranium from Africa, which was made in his State of the Union address earlier that year and used as justification for the invasion. Drawing from a 2002 trip to Niger to help the CIA verify whether the country had sold uranium to Iraq, Wilson argued that the facts were being ignored or twisted to create a cause for war.

A week after Wilson's op-ed was published, conservative columnist Robert Novak wrote a column outing Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA agent. Subsequent investigations led to a long trial and conviction for Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff.

In 2004 Wilson published The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies That Put the White House on Trial and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity (Carroll & Graf), in which he wrote: "The path to writing the op-ed piece had been straightforward in my own mind. My government had refused to address the fundamental question of how the lie regarding Saddam's supposed attempt to purchase African uranium had found its way into the State of the Union address."

Plame, whose marriage to Wilson ended earlier this year in divorce, told the Times: "He did it because he felt it was his responsibility as a citizen. It was not done out of partisan motivation, despite how it was spun."

In a tribute to Wilson, editor and agent Philip Turner, who worked with Wilson on The Politics of Truth, wrote that the former ambassador "really enjoyed giving public talks, especially to students and faculty on college campuses.... Notwithstanding the war we were entangled in, he espoused an uplifting message, a proud progressive patriotism that was a counterweight to the jingoism of his critics. Audiences found his talks very inspiring."

Turner added: "It is especially poignant that Joe died today, when the emergence of another whistleblower is having a seismic impact in the politics of the day."


Notes

Image of the Day: Fithian Visits Chelsea Green

Lisa Fithian, activist, organizer and author of Shut It Down: Stories from a Fierce, Loving Resistance (pictured above, wearing "A Radical Imagination Sets Us Free" T-shirt), stopped by the offices of Chelsea Green Publishing in White River Junction, Vt. She was the inaugural speaker in the house's "Lunch and Learn" program, sponsored by Chelsea Green's Employee-Ownership Committee. Fithian is in the midst of an extensive tour that includes talks and protest training sessions, in partnership with local organizations and independent book stores around the country.


Bookseller Moment: 'Dear Readers, Y'all Are the Best'

Usually our "Bookseller Moment" posts are photographs, but a recent letter to customers, titled "You Lovely, Generous People," from Adah Fitzgerald, co-owner of Main Street Books, Davidson, N.C., seemed to meet all of the qualifications for sharing:

"Dear Readers, Y'all are the best.

"Last week, we took author Celia Pérez to J.V. Washam Elementary School and N.B. Mills Elementary School. Because N.B. Mills serves a low income population, I asked our customers to share their book buying power with these young readers in advance of the author's visit and WOW did you deliver.

"I had hoped to place a copy of one of Celia Perez's books in every fifth grade classroom. Instead, because of you, every single fifth grade student (65 in total) received their own copy of a Celia Peréz book, personally inscribed by the author.

"I can't speak for the students, but I, for one, am floored by your generosity. Thank you for sharing your love of reading, your belief in the power of a good book, and your income so readily with complete strangers. I am grateful to live, work, and read among so many kind souls...."


Coffee with Friends at Ada's Discovery Café

Ada's Technical Books & Café, Seattle, Wash., shared a photo on Facebook highlighting "a little transformation recently" at Ada's Discovery Café. In collaboration with the Lounge, "we'll be taking on the guise of the iconic Central Perk cafe for the next few months in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Friends! So what's changed? Our decor and furniture (lots more comfy couches and some cool easter eggs for the real Friends aficionados)! What hasn't? Our passion for coffee and our love for our community! We're serving the same experimental drinks made by the same awesome baristas (like Felix here) and we're still being led by the fearless and friendly Cole McBride! So whether you're a total Friends fiend or just looking to pick up your regular coffee fix, come on by and see us! We promise we'll be there for you."


Personnel Changes at Ingram; Aperture Foundation; Sourcebooks

At Ingram:
Jason Rice has joined the company as a sales representative for Ingram Content Group. He will cover the New England and Mid-Atlantic area as part of the retail services field team.

Jayme Heffler has joined the New York office as senior manager, marketing services for VitalSource Technologies.

Angela Maclean has been promoted to client relations manager in the Berkeley, Calif., office and will work alongside the Publishers Group West client relations team.

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Paul Colarusso, formerly marketing director at Abrams, has joined Aperture Foundation as communications director.

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Tim Golden, formerly regional account manager at Baker & Taylor, has joined Sourcebooks as national sales account manager.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Claire Tomalin on Fresh Air

Today:
Fresh Air: Claire Tomalin, author of A Life of My Own: A Memoir (Penguin Books, $16.99, 9780399562938).


TV: War of the Worlds

The BBC has released the first trailer for its reboot of War of the Worlds, based on the classic novel by H.G. Wells, Deadline reported. Filmed in Liverpool, the series was adapted by Peter Harness (Wallander) and directed by Craig Viveiros (And Then There Were None).

The cast includes Rafe Spall (The Big Short), Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark), Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting) and Rupert Graves (Sherlock). Deadline noted that this is "the first adaptation set in Edwardian England, rather than America, and follows George, played by Spall, and his partner Amy, played by Tomlinson as they attempt to defy society and start a life together against the escalating terror of an alien invasion. Graves plays George's older brother Frederick, while Carlyle stars as Ogilvy, an astronomer and scientist."



Books & Authors

Awards: ALTA National Translation; Governor General's Literary

The American Literary Translators Association has unveiled shortlists for the National Translation Awards in poetry and prose. Featuring authors writing in six different languages, this year's shortlists "expand the prize's dedication to literary diversity in English. The selection criteria include the quality of the finished English language book, and the quality of the translation," according to ALTA. The winning translators, who receive $2,500 each, will be announced at ALTA's annual conference in Rochester, N.Y., November 7-10. This year's shortlisted titles are

Prose
Anniversaries: From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl by Uwe Johnson, translated from the German by Damion Searls (New York Review Books)
Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz, translated from the Polish by Madeline G. Levine (Northwestern University Press)
In Black and White by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki, translated from the Japanese by Phyllis I. Lyons (Columbia University Press)
The Naked Woman by Armonía Somers, translated from the Spanish by Kit Maude (The Feminist Press)
What's Left of the Night by Ersi Sotiropoulos, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich (New Vessel Press)

Poetry
Architecture of Dispersed Life: Selected Poems by Pablo de Rokha, translated from the Spanish by Urayoán Noel (Shearsman Books)
Decals by Oliverio Girondo translated from the Spanish by Rachel Galvin and Harris Feinsod (Open Letter Books)
The Future Has an Appointment with the Dawn by Tanella Boni, translated from the French by Todd Fredson (University of Nebraska Press)
Pan Tadeusz: The Last Foray in Lithuania by Adam Mickiewicz, translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston (Archipelago Books)
Robert the Devil by Anonymous, translated from the French by Samuel N. Rosenberg (Penn State University Press)

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The Canada Council for the Arts has announced finalists in 14 English- and French-language categories for this year's Governor General's Literary Awards. Category winners, who will be named October 29, are awarded C$25,000 (about US$18,760). The publisher of each winning book receives C$3,000 (about US$2,250) to support promotional activities, and finalists each receive C$1,000 (about US$750). A complete list of finalists is available here.


Reading with... Shaun Hamill

A Texas native, Shaun Hamill holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and his fiction has appeared in Carve and Split Infinitive. The genre-bending A Cosmology of Monsters (Pantheon, September 17, 2019) is his first novel.

On your nightstand now:

The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson: This was sent to me by someone with incredible taste. It's a terrific, spooky coming-of-age novel.

Locke & Key Vol. 2: Head Games by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez: I've read all of Joe Hill's prose novels, but I'm just now getting around to Locke & Key. This series melds terrific, haunting visuals, taut suspense and great character work. The pages just fly.

Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub: I've been re-reading my way through King's oeuvre chronologically for the past two years, starting with 1974's Carrie and now edging into the 2000s with this sequel to The Talisman. This is a rare case where I prefer the sequel, with its omniscient narration, its panoramic view of a community in crisis, its sinister villain and its ties to the Dark Tower series.

The Sandman by Lars Kepler: This Nordic thriller is another book sent to me by someone whose taste I trust. I haven't read many crime novels, but I'm enjoying the fast pacing, the wintry atmosphere and the deep creepiness of the title villain.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters: Another I've just started. Waters does a terrific job sketching out the particulars of the eerie, dilapidated Hundreds Hall, hinting at the possibility that there may be more at work there than the ravages of time.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series by Alvin Schwartz. The stories are told in a simple, direct language, leaving plenty of room for Stephen Gammell's twisted illustrations. I still can't believe that any publisher let those illustrations into a book for children, but I'm grateful for it.

Your top five authors:

There are a wide range of writers whose work I'm enjoying (N.K. Jemisin, Kelly Link, John Langan, Carmen Maria Machado, Victor LaValle, S.P. Miskowski, etc.), and many of them would make a list of favorites, but I think the fairer thing to do here is list the five authors whose work molded me as a writer (even if that list is woefully white):

Stephen King mixes incredible character work with page-turning suspense. I've never read another writer with his ability to draw in and hold even a sophisticated reader through scenes, moments and situations that ought to be ridiculous. See Dreamcatcher for a perfect example of his ability to sell the bizarre.

Anne Rice did a lot to shape me as an adolescent thinker and philosopher. She has an incredible gift for narrating from a villain's point of view, making reprehensible behavior sympathetic. I credit her Vampire Chronicles, particularly Memnoch the Devil, with shaking me free of the narrow-minded version of Christianity I was born into, and starting me down a path of sympathy for the devil.

John Irving builds entire worlds in miniature, and populates them with flawed but lovable people. I love his intimate, tragicomic epics, charting his characters across a lifetime. His work taught me how to paint on a canvas at once large and small.

Lorrie Moore's short stories were my bridge from commercial to literary fiction. Her funny, heartbreaking, low-key narratives showed me that there's as much emotional drama in a dinner at an ex-boyfriend's house as there is in, say, immortal bloodsuckers and interdimensional monsters.  

Michael Chabon's novels are technically literary fiction, but they're also undeniably fun. He always seems intent on providing his reader with entertainment in addition to all the pretty words. I wanted to go to an MFA program because I hoped it would be a manic adventure like Wonder Boys, and I still love the fictional history of Empire Comics in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Although my linguistic abilities fall far, far short of Chabon's, it's his sense of literary play that I chase whenever I sit down to write.

Book you've faked reading:

In college I took a Hemingway/Faulkner course and found The Sound and the Fury impenetrable. I've read and enjoyed other Faulkner novels, so I'm going to try it again. Someday. Maybe.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Study of Animal Languages by Lindsay Stern. I read and loved an early draft of this novel, and the finished version, which came out earlier this year, is even better. It's a small novel about big ideas, and also traces the course of a struggling marriage in a tight 200 pages. I tore through it in two or three sittings, and I can't recommend it enough.

Book you've bought for the cover:

American Gods by Neil Gaiman. That original dust jacket--a lonesome highway beneath a stormy sky, a bolt of lightning on the horizon and that simple, declarative title--struck a deep chord in me. I enjoyed the story behind the cover, too, but the purchase would have been worthwhile for its aesthetic value alone.

Book you hid from your parents:

My parents never specifically forbade me any book, but I once stole a copy of Judy Blume's Then Again, Maybe I Won't from my sixth-grade classroom so I could finish it over the weekend. I probably hid it from my parents so I wouldn't have to answer any uncomfortable questions about its origin. I put the book back in my teacher's collection the following Monday, and am currently retired from a life of crime.

Book that changed your life:

Songs of a Dead Dreamer & Grimscribe by Thomas Ligotti. A couple of years ago, Penguin put together an omnibus of Ligotti's first two short story collections, and reading it in the summer of 2016 helped me find my way to the end of my own novel. Ligotti gave me what I wanted (and never quite got) from Lovecraft--the feeling of peering into forbidden texts and dark dimensions, finding the true world beyond the veil. It's creepy, weird fiction at its finest.

Favorite line from a book:

"...the only value of this world lies in its power--at certain times--to suggest another." --Thomas Ligotti, "Vastarien," Songs of a Dead Dreamer

Five books you'll never part with:

Songs of a Dead Dreamer & Grimscribe by Thomas Ligotti. In addition to the praise heaped above, I'd also like to mention that the book feels fresh every time I read it. It's like slipping into a dream and emerging with only a hazy idea of what it was about (in a good way!).

It by Stephen King: This novel was my transition from Star Wars novels to the wider world of genre fiction. It was passed to me by a friend in eighth grade, and for three weeks I lived inside its world, desperate for a group of friends like the Loser's Club, and an eerie adventure to call my own. I found the friends eventually, but we survived adolescence without the obstacle of murderous sewer clowns.

The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving: This is the book Irving wrote after The World According to Garp and before The Cider House Rules. Its placement makes it something of a neglected middle child in his body of work, but if Irving books were pizzas, this one would be a supreme, topped with violence, slapstick, untidy yearning, love, intricate plotting and of course, bears. Like, multiple bears. Anyone familiar with this novel will see its fingerprints all over A Cosmology of Monsters.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke: I think if Clarke had published more than one novel and one collection, she'd have cracked my list of top five authors. Jonathan Strange is a book into which you can disappear completely. Its world-building is incredible, and its system of magic--dark, wild, simultaneously well-chronicled and mysterious--is seductive and terrifying. I'm praying that we'll get another book set in this world, and soon.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt: Like It, The Secret History also deals with an exclusive club of outsiders harboring a dark secret, but this one is set in the world of academia and features no external supernatural scapegoat for the evil acts that take place. Like Chabon, Tartt's the rare writer who can craft a sentence as well as she can plot a story. She takes a long time to write her novels, but they're always worth the wait.

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

That's tough to answer, because so many books I've loved are rooted to a specific moment in my life--sitting on the hot sidewalk outside the laundromat with a hardcover of It propped open in my lap; trying to hold my copy of The World According to Garp steady on the shuddering bus ride home from school; pacing around my parents' house, alone on a Friday night, mind reeling after finishing Birds of America in one sitting. I guess I wouldn't mind "losing" my experience with The Secret History, which kept me company through a series unpleasant dentist trips. It would be nice to read that book for the first time without hearing "you'll feel a little pinch" and the whine of a drill between pages.


Book Review

Review: The Starless Sea

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday, $28.95 hardcover, 512p., 9780385541213, November 5, 2019)

In her first novel in eight years, Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus) weaves a sprawling, ambitious spell of a story in which a young man becomes caught up in a centuries-old secret world of hidden archives, thwarted love and forces beyond human comprehension.

As a grad student in emerging media studies, Zachary Ezra Rawlins feels guilty about spending his winter break on pleasure reading rather than playing video games. When he takes out an uncatalogued book, Sweet Sorrows, from the university library, he reads about lovelorn pirates, the star-crossed romance of Time and Fate, and the rites of ancient orders dedicated to guarding a vast underground library on the shores of a mysterious sea. He also finds a short chapter about his own childhood, detailing a time when he unwittingly walked away from a chance to enter this secret world, and it perplexes and scares him. Determined to understand how a book written before his birth could chronicle his life, Zachary goes on a quest to track down its origins. His search leads him to a costumed ball where he meets elegant, pink-haired Mirabel and compelling, roguish Dorian. He's swept into a world where a door painted onto a wall can open, the Moon can take human form, and owls serve a shadowy monarch. Zachary searches for a way to protect a Harbor on the Starless Sea, a labyrinthine story repository filled with puzzles, secret rooms and the best room service in any world. 

Thoughtful, slightly awkward Zachary makes a perfect every-reader, with his desire to take part in stories and his sympathetic nostalgia for the Choose Your Own Adventure novels. Morgenstern delivers more of the lush, lavish prose passages that made readers fall in love with The Night Circus, creating elaborate scenes that include a sprawling dollhouse landscape, a perpetual party set in a pocket universe outside time and an ocean made of honey. In a narrative of enormous scope and scale, Morgenstern takes slow, painstaking care in assembling the story's components behind fairy tale sleight-of-hand. Readers should enter her world prepared to spend a large portion of the experience combing for clues in short, metafictive fables written in a romantic, whimsical style reminiscent of the Flax-Golden Tales on the author's website. While the plot takes its time coming together, the journey is nothing short of magical, like a fantastical, delirious dream that makes awakening back to reality a disappointment. Set aside a few quiet hours to devour this opulent feast. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: In Morgenstern's first novel since 2011's The Night Circus, an ordinary grad student stumbles into a fight over the fate of a magical underground world of stories.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'Non-Book Reading' in the U.S.

More than a quarter of U.S. adults (27%) said they had not read a book--in whole or in part; in print, electronic or audio form--during the previous year, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted from January 8 to February 7.

That Pew study was released in late September, just after the autumnal equinox, so I couldn't resist associating the results with a 1991 Boston Globe column I found recently. Almost three decades ago, Ellen Goodman had offered a tongue-in-cheek, seasonal solution to declining book readership.

"As a bona fide member of the reading public, or what might be called the prepostliterate generation, the news from the book world is not encouraging," Goodman wrote. "Libraries are getting the budget ax. The paperback best-seller list is replete with novels written from movie scripts. And the publisher's talk at the recent bookseller's association wasn't about censorship but about survival.

"In response to this dire forecast for reading, I have come up with a proposal. What we need is more summer. My entirely unscientific survey shows that more people read lying in hammocks, sitting on lounge chairs, rocking on porches, and spacing out on beaches than throughout the rest of the year. Books are our summer furniture, sort of like wicker, and our summer nourishment like bluefish and raspberries. They taste better in season."

Meanwhile, back to that 27% number. Who are the non-book readers? Pew Research Center asked the question because asking questions like that is, essentially, what they do. PRC found that several demographic traits correlate with non-book reading. Education and income, not surprisingly, were high on the list.

For example, "adults with a high school diploma or less are far more likely than those with a bachelor's or advanced degree to report not reading books in any format in the 12 months before the survey (44% vs. 8%)," PRC reported. "Adults with lower levels of educational attainment are also among the least likely to own smartphones, a device that saw a substantial increase in usage for reading e-books from 2011 to 2016. (College-educated adults are more likely to own these devices and use them to read e-books.)"

The survey also found that adults whose annual household income is $30,000 or less are more likely than those earning $75,000 or more a year to be non-book readers (36% vs. 14%). While book reading among other demographic groups increased since 2018, PRC found that men are less likely now to report as book readers: 67% of men in the current survey said they have read a book in the past 12 months, compared with 73% in 2018.

For some added historical perspective, the share of Americans who reported not reading any books in the 12 months studied was up from 19% in 2011, but identical to the share who said this in 2015.

PRC also recently updated its reading format numbers with a survey conducted from January 8 to February 7, and found that while print still rules, Americans are listening to books more than ever. Shares of print and e-book readers were similar to those from a survey conducted in 2016, but there was an uptick in the number of Americans who reported listening to audiobooks, from 14% to 20%.

Overall, Americans read an average (mean) of 12 books per year, while the typical (median) American read four books. Each of these figures is largely unchanged since 2011, when PRC first began conducting the surveys of Americans' book reading habits.

Relatively few Americans (7%) read only digital books (audiobooks and e-books) to the exclusion of print, while 37% read only print books and 28% read in these digital formats as well as print books.

The share of college graduates who have listened to an audiobook in the past 12 months increased from 27% to 34% and the number of adults with an annual household income of $75,000 or more who have listened to an audiobook increased 7% (30% vs. 23%).

Maybe it's a numbers game, maybe it isn't. "Non-book reading" much more than a statistical category; it's real people for whom books are not an essential part of their lives. There are many, many reasons for this, of course, and they are complex.

On the other hand... 73% of PRC's survey respondents did "read a book in whole or in part during the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form." Even Ellen Goodman might have to concede that's not so bad for an allegedly "prepostliterate" age.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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