Shelf Awareness for Friday, October 11, 2019


Atria Books: The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

Minotaur Books: The Safe Place by Anna Downes

Margaret K. McElderry Books:  The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay

Doubleday Books: The Anthill by Julianne Pachico

The Overlook Press: Read the work of Charles Portis

Workman Publishing: We Are Called to Be a Movement by William Barber

IDW Publishing: The Mueller Report: Graphic Novel by Shannon Wheeler and Steve Duin

Getty Publications: Finding Dora Maar: An Artist, an Address Book, a Life by Brigitte Benkemoun, translated by Jody Gladding

Random House: How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

Editors' Note

Happy Columbus Day!

Because of the Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples Day holiday, this is the last issue of Shelf Awareness until Tuesday, October 15. See you then!


Amulet Books: Fox & Rabbit by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Gergely Dudás


Quotation of the Day

'Booksellers Are Among the Bravest People I Know'

"You know, I never really thought of myself as a particularly brave person. I stand behind a counter all day, surrounded by paper and words and my mostly introverted staff, chatting with customers and selling books. A relatively safe occupation, all things considered.... But upon further reflection, you know booksellers are some of the bravest people I know. We open our doors every day, amidst constant doubt that our industry will survive. We stand strong against bigotry, hatred and censorship in a world and political environment where these things are gaining rapid traction. We band together to promote and celebrate stories of equality, inclusion and diversity, and to make sure those stories make it into the hands and hearts of the readers who need them most. And we stare into the face of one of the most powerful corporations in the world and demand what is ours--a level playing field and an equal space in our world, this world of books."

--Emily Hall, Main Street Books, St. Charles, Mo., in her opening remarks at the Heartland Fall Forum's Children's Author Breakfast (more HFF19 coverage in Robert Gray's column below)

Berkley Books: I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abi Waxman


News

PEN America, Authors Criticize Choice of Handke for Nobel Prize

Peter Handke

In a highly unusual move, PEN America has issued a statement by its president, author Jennifer Egan, criticizing the Swedish Academy's award of the 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature yesterday to Austrian author, playwright and translator Peter Handke.

Egan wrote: "PEN America does not generally comment on other institutions' literary awards. We recognize that these decisions are subjective and that the criteria are not uniform. However, today's announcement of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature to Peter Handke must be an exception. We are dumbfounded by the selection of a writer who has used his public voice to undercut historical truth and offer public succor to perpetrators of genocide, like former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. PEN America has been committed since the passage our 1948 PEN Charter to fighting against mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood, and distortion of facts. Our Charter further commits us to work to 'dispel all hatreds and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace and equality.' We reject the decision that a writer who has persistently called into question thoroughly documented war crimes deserves to be celebrated for his 'linguistic ingenuity.' At a moment of rising nationalism, autocratic leadership, and widespread disinformation around the world, the literary community deserves better than this. We deeply regret the Nobel Committee on Literature's choice."

At the same time, as the Guardian notes, other writers, including Salman Rushdie, Hari Kunzru and Slavoj Žižek, have objected to the selection of Handke for the award. Kunzru commented, for example, that Handke "is a fine writer, who combines great insight with shocking ethical blindness." And in 1999, Rushdie called Handke "international moron of the year," and said yesterday he stood by that characterization.


AuthorBuzz for the Week of 02.24.20


Many NorCal Booksellers Caught in Mandated Power Outages

"No Power? No Problem!" at the Book Seller in Grass Valley

Booksellers throughout Northern California were some of the many businesses caught up in widespread, mandated power outages Wednesday and Thursday as Pacific Gas and Electric Co. shut off power to wide swaths of Northern California due to strong Santa Ana winds and high wildfire risk. 

PG&E, which filed for bankruptcy in January due to liability from wildfires that its own aged and faulty equipment started, began shutting off power late Wednesday. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, at the outage's peak 726,000 customers, accounting for some 2 million people, were left without power, and 34 counties were affected.

As of roughly 4 p.m. PDT yesterday afternoon, PG&E completed the shutdown and began the process of restoring electricity, but many customers were expected to still be without power at least overnight, as the utility service had to inspect its network for signs of damage before powering it back on.

The Northern California Independent Booksellers Association offices in Sonoma were without electricity, as were many booksellers throughout the Bay Area and Northern California. And many of those without power reported attempting to stay open for as long as there was daylight.

Bel & Bunna's Books in Lafayette, about 13 miles of east of Oakland, was without power but had a good day and a well-attended storytime. Ink Spell Books in Half Moon Bay, about 30 miles south of San Francisco, was completely without power, as was The Book Seller in Grass Valley, more than 50 miles northeast of Sacramento.

Some booksellers were lucky: Green Apple Books in San Francisco had electricity, as did the three Pegasus Bookstores in Berkeley and Oakland. The Cook's Bookcase in Santa Cruz, meanwhile, never lost power, and neither did Spellbinder Books in Bishop, in the Eastern Sierra near the Nevada border.


Berkley Books: Eliza Starts a Rumor by Jane L. Rosen


2 Dandelions Bookshop Opens in Brighton, Mich.

2 Dandelions Bookshop, an independent bookstore in Brighton, Mich., is celebrating its grand opening this weekend, the Livingston Daily reported.

The 1,200-square-foot store carries books for all ages, with a particular emphasis on children's books, educational materials and books about nature. There are also sections featuring books about Michigan and by Michigan authors and a section called "happy living," which contains positive books about travel, personal growth and other topics.

The "2 Dandelions" in the store's name refers to co-owners and long-time friends Jeanne Blazo and Jeri Kay Thomas, who are both kindergarten teachers.

"Being teachers, it's in our bones," Blazo told the Daily. "It's what we do. Since babyhood, we've been readers."

Thomas and Blazo want their store to be an active community hub, and have plans to host storytime sessions, events with authors and illustrators, local artisan workshops, book clubs and even yoga classes.

"We want to be bigger than books," said Thomas. "It's an opportunity to build relationships and reach out."


Third Man Books: Nine Bar Blues by Sheree Renée Thomas


Seminary Co-op Bookstores Transition to Not-for-Profit Model

The Seminary Co-op Bookstores in Chicago has become a non-profit corporation, which they describe as a "historic new chapter as the first not-for-profit bookstores in the country whose mission is bookselling." In doing so, the Co-op said it will "more accurately place their work in the realm of the cultural institution, which they hope will allow for more collaborative conversations with business partners, other cultural institutions and their community."

This shift from a consumer-owned cooperative to a not-for-profit corporation owned, ultimately, by the public, was voted on and unanimously approved by shareholders at a special meeting last May. It reflects a "continued investment in staff and inventory, and its unwavering commitment to stocking and selling books of cultural, literary and intellectual value, both bucking the trend and championing the resurgence of independent bookstores nationwide," the Co-op noted.

"The average independent bookstore sells 81.7% books," wrote Co-op director Jeff Deutsch in his most recent annual letter to membership. "Our stores sell 98% books."

Founded in 1961, the Co-op's flagship location houses a large collection of academic books, while its sister store, 57th Street Books, is a neighborhood bookshop offering a curated assortment of general-interest titles since 1983.

The new not-for-profit structure "codifies the stores' mission to create an unparalleled browsing experience of books published by university and small presses, typically associated with higher costs, steeper margins, and slower rates of turnover than books from major presses, rather than concern itself primarily with the vagaries of the market," the Co-op said.

In a letter to the Co-op community about the move, Deutsch called on them to join in the work of helping shape a new era for the Seminary Co-op Bookstores that will demand "investment, cooperation and participation." Deutsch cited novelist and Co-op member Aleksandar Hemon, who observed: "What makes the Co-op so great is that it is so unabashedly invested in the necessity of books."


Catapult: Magnetized: Conversations with a Serial Killer by Carlos Busqued, translated by Samuel Rutter


Penguin Random House Expands in Brazil

Grupo Companhia das Letras, which is 70% owned by Penguin Random House, has bought Zahar, the publishing house founded in 1956 by editor Jorge Zahar that has specialized in books devoted to the human and social sciences, with a strong backlist of world classics, university textbooks and children's books.

Luiz Schwarcz, publisher of Grupo Companhia das Letras, called Jorge Zaha "a master when it came to publishing books that would stay the course, and that mastery has been emulated by the two generations of the family that followed him at the helm. I have had no greater honor in my life than being chosen to carry forth a legacy that changed the history of book publishing in Brazil. I truly hope I can do it justice."

Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle said: "Like all of our acquisitions, we embrace this responsibility with our commitment to preserve the editorial independence of the house and its editors, building upon Zahar's rich history toward the best future for the company. My congratulations to Luiz Schwarcz and the warmest welcome to the whole Zahar team. All of us at Penguin Random House are looking forward to working with our new colleagues on this exciting chapter."

Grupo Companhia das Letras now has 17 imprints: Companhia das Letras, Objetiva, Zahar, Alfaguara, Suma, Paralela, Penguin-Companhia, Companhia de Bolso, Portfolio-Penguin, Fontanar, Companhia de Mesa, Quadrinhos na Companhia, Seguinte, Companhia das Letrinhas, Pequena Zahar, Claro Enigma and Boa Companhia.


Obituary Notes: Ciaran Carson

Poet Ciaran Carson, who "grew up in the Catholic Falls Road area of Belfast" and "went on to transfigure his native city, and transfix his readers, with a rich accumulation of poems, metafictions and other unclassifiable prose works, the most recent of which, Exchange Place (2012), was lauded for its elegance and precision," died October 6, the Guardian reported. He was 70.

His poetry books include Belfast Confetti (1989), Last Night's Fun (1996), The New Estate (1976), First Language (1993); Opera Et Cetera (1996) and The Twelfth of Never (1998). Nonfiction works include Fishing for Amber (1999), Shamrock Tea (2001), The Pen Friend (2009), and The Star Factory (1997). Still Life, a new collection of poems, will be published this month.

Carson "had Belfast lore and topography at his fingertips, but he superimposed a psychic overlay on the city's mundane streets and terraces, its feuds and factions, the aggravations and atrocities of the bloody 30-year Troubles," the Guardian wrote.

Asked by the Irish Times earlier this year to nominate his current favorite book, poet Paul Muldoon chose Carson's From There to Here: Selected Poems and Translations (2018), praising his "ability to find connections in so many aspects of the world."

Among his many honors were the T.S. Eliot prize, the Irish Times Irish literature prize, the Cholmondeley award, the Forward prize and the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation prize. 

His publisher, Peter Fallon of the Gallery Press, said Carson's work was "heroic" and that it was "not an exaggeration to compare his mapping of Belfast with Joyce's of Dublin.... We plan to publish Still Life on October 16--and we will, with pride and the heaviest heart. But, oh, what fun we had!"

The Guardian noted that Carson's first action on receiving his cancer diagnosis was to embark on a series of poems, "ostensibly about paintings (by Poussin, Canaletto and Thomas Jones, among others), but also celebrating his life with [his wife] Deirdre in a particular part of north Belfast, and of the area itself."

In Still Life, the upcoming collection, when Carson's poem "Letters from the Alphabet" reaches "Z," it culminates in a two-line stanza: "In the morning you will open up the envelope. You will get whatever/ Message is inside. It is for all time. Its postmark is The Twelfth of Never."



Notes

Image of the Day: Drue Heinz Winner at City of Asylum

City of Asylum Books in Pittsburgh, Pa., hosted the annual Drue Heinz Reading Monday evening. Pictured: Kate Wisel (r.), winner of the 2019 Drue Heinz Prize for Literature for her story collection Driving in Cars with Homeless Men (Univ. of Pittsburgh Press), with City of Asylum's Lesley Rains.

Sean Doolittle: Still Pitching for Indie Bookstores

Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle, two-time All-Star relief pitcher for the Washington Nationals and the closer in the team's dramatic victory over the Dodgers Wednesday night, embarked on a project earlier this year to seek out an independent bookshop on every road trip and share the adventures with his nearly 100,000 Twitter followers (@whatwouldDOOdo).

How's he doing?

CBS This Morning: Saturday caught up with Doolittle for a feature that aired late last month. He said that a trip to a bookstore is a sensory experience: "There's something about holding [a book], it just smells cool." His own reading has "kind of evolved over time. I've had other hobbies, I have other things I tried: Video games, watching movies, you know? I love my job, but it can be a little stressful at times. And reading has become a really healthy escape."

Regarding his personal indie bookstore mission, Doolittle said, "To me, it's just so cool the way that these bookstores create this inviting, inclusive space."

"It's a community center, really?" Jacobson asked.

"Yeah, it really is. It's a lot more than a bookstore. And early on, I didn't think of it in my head as a way to save local bookstores. This was just, like, an adventure I was gonna go on."

The adventure has been a hit on social media. "His passion and platform combined to raise the profile of not just the shops where he snapped pictures, but others like them across the country," CBS This Morning: Saturday noted.

Christine Onorati, owner of WORD bookstores in Jersey City, N.J., and Brooklyn, N.Y., said the "exposure is priceless.... Online shopping has really sort of affected our entire world. I think that we serve a purpose in our communities that makes us a little different than a lot of other retail stores. That's why somebody like Sean, who's shining a spotlight on books and how important they are, will always be a great thing."

Mark Pearson, co-founder and CEO of Libro.fm, agreed, noting that "when Sean Doolittle sent his tweet out, you know, we had a record day. When he says that it's cool to buy audiobooks and books from your local bookstore, it sends the message that books and bookstores matter, and where you buy them makes a difference. By giving your money to them, you keep that going. You keep reading alive in the community."

Doolittle observed that there are "a lot of really kind of alarming statistics when it comes to literacy rates in kids in the United States. Over half of kids who are in fourth grade read below basic level--that's a really crucial time for them because there's so many indicators about where they're at in fourth grade can determine where they go in their education level down the road."

He described his bookstore mission as "a little surreal. This started out as something that I was doing just 'cause it was a hobby that I enjoy. But it's been a really rewarding experience. If you can get kids excited about reading, maybe that can open up a whole other world for them."

How excited are indie booksellers? One More Page Books & More, Arlington, Va., posted on Facebook: "Lelia has had us prepared for months in case Washington Nationals reliever (and big time reader) Sean Doolittle stops by OMP. The attention he brings to indie bookstores and childhood literacy is priceless."


Video: Rebecca Makkai Loves Indie Booksellers

Although she couldn’t attend last week's Heartland Fall Forum in Cleveland to accept her Midwest Booksellers Choice Award for fiction for The Great Believers, Rebecca Makkai sent a wonderful, indie bookseller-themed video to express her gratitude for the honor. She recently posted it on Twitter.


Pennie Picks: A Well-Behaved Woman

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has chosen A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler (St. Martin's Griffin, $16.95, 9781250095480) as her pick of the month for October. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she wrote:

"One of my favorite quotes says, 'Well-behaved women seldom make history.' This month's book buyer's pick, A Well-Behaved Woman, by Therese Anne Fowler, tells the story of socialite and activist Alva Belmont.

"Alva was married to two millionaires: William Vanderbilt and Oliver Belmont. Known for rubbing some people the wrong way, she's also said to have been full of energy and ready to challenge convention. While she's not the most famous Vanderbilt, I hope this novel brings Alva the attention she deserves."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Tim O'Brien on Weekend Edition Saturday

Today:
NPR's Science Friday: Naomi Oreskes, author of Why Trust Science? (Princeton University Press, $24.95, 9780691179001).

Tomorrow:

NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday: Tim O'Brien, author of Dad's Maybe Book (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9780618039708).

CNN's New Day Weekend: Alan Hirsch, author of Impeaching the President: Past, Present and Future (City Lights Publishers, $14.95, 9780872867628).

Monday:
Today Show: Dr. Damon Korb, author of Raising an Organized Child: 5 Steps to Boost Independence, Ease Frustration, and Promote Confidence (American Academy of Pediatrics, $16.95, 9781610022828).


TV: Inland; This Life

"In a competitive situation with multiple bidders," ABC Signature, a division of Disney TV Studios, acquired the rights to develop Téa Obreht's new novel, Inland for TV, Deadline reported. The project will be executive produced by Drew Goddard and Sarah Esberg under Goddard's Goddard Textiles banner. Obreht's debut novel, The Tiger's Wife, was a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction.

---

Amy Jenkins, creator and showrunner of the BBC series This Life and writer on Netflix's The Crown, will adapt Allison Pataki's Sisi novels, which are based on the life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Variety reported that the "female-driven period TV series" will be an adaptation of The Accidental Empress and Sisi: Empress on Her Own.

"Sisi was an extraordinary young empress," Jenkins said. "Charismatic and free-thinking, she was a royal rebel who set the Habsburg court on fire in a surprisingly modern way." Jenkins added that she was "looking forward to bringing a very feminine perspective to her fascinating struggle for self-determination."

Jenkins recently adapted Lionel Shriver's The Post Birthday World for the producer Michael Jackson at Two Cities (Patrick Melrose).


Books & Authors

Reading Group Choices' Most Popular September Books

The two most popular books in September at Reading Group Choices were The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and Motherhood So White: A Memoir of Race, Gender, and Parenting in America by Nefertiti Austin (Sourcebooks).


Reading with... Flynn Coleman

Photo: Jorge Estuardo de Leon

Flynn Coleman is a writer, international human rights attorney, public speaker, professor and social innovator. She has worked with the United Nations, the United States federal government and international corporations and human rights organizations around the world. Coleman has written extensively on issues of global citizenship, the future of work and purpose, political reconciliation, war crimes, genocide, human and civil rights, humanitarian issues, innovation and design for social impact, and improving access to justice and education. She is the author of A Human Algorithm (Counterpoint Press, October 1, 2019), a narrative on the urgency of ethically designed AI and a guidebook to reimagining life in the era of intelligent technology.

On your nightstand now:

Refuge by Dina Nayeri and These Truths by Jill Lepore. The idea of "home" is a powerful and complex one, and these books discuss the meaning of home; where we've been, who we are and who we're becoming, as individuals, communities and societies, in profound ways.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I have always loved and will always love children's books and stories. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Matilda by Roald Dahl are all adventures and wanderings that have sparked my imagination. Whether it's seeing the humanity in all the wild things or the moon, or reminding us that we can be brave, that we can find our inner child, curiosity and wonder throughout our lives, these stories live in my heart.

Your top six authors:

It's impossible to choose, but to start: Toni Morrison, Susan Orlean, William Faulkner, Jorge Luis Borges, Leo Tolstoy and Ursula K. Le Guin. These writers have given us so much of themselves, poured such care and art into their words and the universes they create, bringing us into new worlds and helping us to see our own in new ways.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I often tell my students that everyone should read Brené Brown's books (all of them, but especially Daring Greatly) for her research on the power of vulnerability, and Rebecca Solnit's work (all of her books and essays, but especially Hope in the Dark) for her perspective on how we can be better humans, how to keep hope in the darkness. And When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is a moving and important meditation on death, and life.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James and Underland by Robert Macfarlane (and I also love these writers' work). Their covers are bold and bright and full of mystery, nature and life. They draw you in.

Books that changed your life:

So many books have been transformative for me. Some that find their way into my consciousness all the time are: Exit West by Mohsin Hamidfor its surreal and majestic foray into the life of a refugee; Lincoln in the Bardo for its atmospheric, experimental tale of one of the most famous Americans and his family and sorrow (pair with George Saunders's incredible 2013 Syracuse commencement speech on kindness); The Radium Girls by Kate Moore for its detailed and exhaustive investigation into the sacrifices, courage and voices of the Radium Girls; One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez for its vivid mythology of family and history; It's What I Do by Lynsey Addario, an intimate memoir about a woman who found her life's work and will do whatever it takes to bear witness to humanity; and Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela for the first-person story of one of the most inspiring human rights advocates of all time.

Favorite line from a book:

There are so many profoundly beautiful lines that resonate with me. One that immediately comes to mind, from Cheryl Strayed's Wild, about her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail in the wake of losing her mother, is when she realizes:

"How wild it was, to let it be."

Books you'll never part with:

I have carted books around the world and I don't have any plans to stop. Some of the ones, tattered and true, that stay with me always, are:

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo: I have been carrying this one around since I started studying French history and philosophy (and this was the first book in French I ever bought). 2666 by Roberto Bolaño: I read this with my best friend and book club partner, as a corollary to James Joyce's Ulysses, and having lived in Chile, I came to learn about and love Bolaño's work. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is such an important piece of art that every American should read. Blindness by José Saramago: Saramago's work has always been awe-inspiring for me, so much so that I use a quote of his as the epigraph for A Human Algorithm. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, because it's my mom's favorite book. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou for her endless well of wisdom and treatise on resilience and the power of literature to combat hate. And finally, Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich, for its haunting and heart wrenching commentary on family, place, identity and love.

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

Re-reading a book, like re-visiting a favorite place, reminds me that we could never read every book or see every place, but we can savor every moment we do have. I also enjoy re-examining books with a focus on studying the writer's craft, and I always catch new details, nuances and meanings I had missed in my prior reading. These are a few I would want to discover again for the first time (and have already re-read more than once):

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, so I can once again run through the streets of the old city of Barcelona, chasing mysteries in mid-20th-century Spain.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, to catch the train to Hogwarts for the first time again.

Bossypants by Tina Fey and Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling, because we need humor to survive.

Books that always reminds you of the power of stories to reveal who we are:

I believe that storytelling is at the root of who we are and is our most essential human technology. It awakens us, lifts us and fills our well. Two of the books that remind me of our core humanity include: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, which speaks to me not only as a science fiction classic but also as a mesmerizing portrait of what it means to be human. And Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward for its lyrical command of language and ability to transport us, in the vein of other authors whose work I cherish, like Morrison, Faulkner and Saunders.


Book Review

Review: Little Weirds

Little Weirds by Jenny Slate (Little, Brown, $27 hardcover, 240p., 9780316485340, November 5, 2019)

Judging from the content of Jenny Slate's Little Weirds, the inside of her mind is a fascinating, if unusual, place. In this collage of essays, stories, dreams (both night and day), and pieces that defy easy categorization, the actor and comedian invites readers to pay an extended visit, one that will leave them enlightened, moved and sometimes pleasantly puzzled.

In an assortment this diverse, it's perilous to try to isolate recurring themes. But among the more prominent ones is Slate's often vexed relationships with men. In "Daydreams/Tides," for example, she bemoans a fantasy that's nothing more than an "amalgamation of my different recent loves, who have all been terribly disappointing and irredeemable," what she calls a "flock of flimsy fools."

That's the fierceness she brings to her skewering of male dominance in "The Code of Hammurabi," in which she explains how that ancient code's "violent and demented ideals" represented "one of the first examples of legalized patriarchy." It's a heritage she proposes to banish in a most vivid and ingenious fashion.

Slate has a fascination for the otherworldly, whether she's writing about a long-dead sea captain's cache of letters discovered in her Massachusetts childhood home, or musing about the people who preceded her in her more-than-a-century-old Los Angeles house. She explores the subject of death explicitly in half a dozen essays, culminating in one--"I Died: Bronze Tree"--that's the survivor's moving description of a couple's long relationship: "I became a house with only the porch light on."

But it would be unfair to give the impression that the dominant tone of Little Weirds is morose. Slate flashes her comedic gift often, in pieces like "Letter: Dreams," where she imagines correspondence from the "Committee for Evening Experiences," chiding the author for the pedestrian quality of her dreams, notably one in which "you were waiting in line for a sandwich, and that this was the whole dream." In "Letter: Super-Ego," the "Office of Internal Affairs" provides her with a "list of approved chat items" to prevent her from "talking about things that you only know about in form but not in function." Slate also offers some colorful bios in "Color-Spirit" that aren't likely to help her venture into online dating, a world that makes her "want to walk away so forcefully that I don't even pause to open the door, I just go through the wall."

Slate describes herself as a "free, wild creature," whose book is "me putting myself back together so that I can dwell happily in our shared outer world." Whether one chooses to accompany her throughout her "peppy procession of all of my little weirds," or drop in at any point along the way, this collection promises a refreshing, original journey. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Life, death, love and ghosts are but a few of the subjects visited in Jenny Slate's free-spirited nonfiction collection.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: HFF--'This Community of Booksellers Is Incredible'

Earlier this week, I wrote about the energy on display at this year's Heartland Fall Forum in Cleveland, hosted by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association and Midwest Independent Booksellers Association. In addition to author events, education sessions and a crowded exhibit floor, HFF19 featured a Cleveland bookstore tour; opening-night offsite party at Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights; Belt Publishing-sponsored cocktail hour; Handselling Rep Around Lunch; Moveable Feast and much more.

"From the trade show floor, with publishers and vendors from across the spectrum, to panels and workshops offered over a three-day period in the heart of Cleveland, Heartland Fall Forum 2019 was well worth the drive from Chicago," said Javier Ramirez of Madison Street Books. "Kudos to Larry Law, Carrie Obry, Kate Scott and the rest of the wonderful folks at GLIBA and MIBA for putting on such a great show."

Susan Thomas of CoffeeTree Books, Moorehead, Ken., added: "We were encouraged by the energy, diversity and youth at this year's show."

The exhibit hall was buzzing from its opening moments. Betsy Von Kerens of the Bookworm, Omaha, Neb., noted she had "received many positive remarks from exhibitors regarding venue, scheduling and the attendance of new faces. One commented on how positive our show energy feels especially after having just spent time on both coasts."

Bruce Miller, owner of Miller Trade Book Marketing, observed: "The Fall Forum in Cleveland was a homecoming of sorts for Great Lakes booksellers, and captured the spontaneity and energy of the most successful trade shows of the recent past. A jovial spirit of camaraderie and openness to new authors pervaded the rooms."

Mona Bismuth of Other Press agreed: "From a very successful rep picks session to finishing the show with almost no galleys left, I must say that Heartland 2019 was a fantastic show for us. Needless to say, this community of booksellers is incredible, and meeting up with old and new friends was the cherry on the top of a great fall trade show."

Heartland's bookseller education program experimented with a format change, which was explained by GLIBA executive director Larry Law in his opening remarks at the author awards celebration: "For 2019, we're trying to keep things exciting and change things up. This year we put a big focus on interactivity, so all of the panels will have at least one interactive component, or the entire panel will be interactive, from playing games to round tables to workshops."

Cynthia Compton of 4 Kids Books & Toys leads a "Game On!" session

That sense of interactivity was pervasive in education sessions ranging from the one on board games in bookstores called "Game On!" to "How to Write Bookseller Blurbs with Peter Geye" and "Dealing with Difficult Customers."

One of my favorite parts of any trade show occurs when authors pay tribute to independent booksellers. At HFF, Ruta Sepetys (The Fountains of Silence, Philomel) expressed her appreciation for the key role indies play in handselling books like hers: "I don't think that teens run into a bookstore and say, 'Quick, give me a book on totalitarianism,' so we are in this partnership and I cannot do this without you."

Kristen Sandstrom of Apostle Islands Booksellers; Pamela Klinger-Horn of Excelsior Bay Books; author Peter Geye; and Javier Ramirez of Madison Street Books at the writing book blurbs session.

"I'd like to begin by saying how happy I am to be here among so many friends," said Peter Geye, a familiar face at Heartland and author of Northernmost (Knopf, April 2020). "To Carrie Obry and Larry Law: look at this, you continue to outdo yourselves and your advocacy is an inspiration.... Most importantly, I want to thank the booksellers. You walk our work the last mile. You get our books into the hands of readers. And what would any of us do without you?"

"It's always a joy to be with booksellers," said Pam Muñoz Ryan, author of Mañanaland, which will be published by Scholastic next March, the same month that her classic work, Esperanza Rising, celebrates its 20th anniversary in print. "This is due in part to all of you and your relationships with schools, teachers and customers to whom you personally handed the book and have given your recommendation. My career stands on the shoulders of independent booksellers, and for that I'm deeply, deeply grateful."

Isaac Fitzgerald and Emma Straub

Emma Straub, owner of Brooklyn's Books Are Magic bookstore and author of All Adults Here (Riverhead, May 2020), wrapped up HFF with an entertaining event called "How to open a bookstore and write a novel at the same time," which included a conversation with Isaac Fitzgerald (How to Be a Pirate, Bloomsbury Children's Books, March 2020).

During her presentation, Straub showed a slide that nicely summed up her strategy: "In short, the answer is to hire more people, have a partner, have childcare, never once exercise, and to love books more than anything else."

In today's issue of Shelf Awareness, we share bookseller Emily Hall's remarks at the Children's Authors Breakfast as our Quotation of the Day. I think I'll give her the last word on HFF19 as well: "Heartland was such a high-energy show this year. With the move to Cleveland, we saw so many new faces, and their enthusiasm was palpable. The education sessions were well received, and the trade show floor felt more full than ever. I think it bodes well for our St. Louis show next year."

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

AuthorBuzz: Blackstone Publishing: Willa's Grove by Laura Munson
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