Shelf Awareness for Friday, November 15, 2019


Harper: To Be a Man: Stories by Nicole Krauss

Scholastic Press:  The Captive Kingdom (the Ascendance Series, Book 4) by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Big Picture Press: Maps: Deluxe Edition by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinska

Candlewick Press: Evelyn del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez

Scholastic Press: Illegal: A Disappeared Novel, Volume 2 by Francisco X. Stork

Disney-Hyperion: The Mirror Broken Wish (Mirror #1) by Julie C. Dao

News

San Diego's Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore For Sale, May Close

Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, San Diego, Calif., has received notice that it is losing the lease for its Balboa Avenue storefront and must relocate in 60 days. In an e-mail yesterday, the bookstore said, "It is with heavy hearts that we share that unless a new buyer and new location are found immediately," the shop will be forced to close.

For nearly 27 years, Mysterious Galaxy "has been a vibrant part of the book community in San Diego, and a safe and welcoming place for those with a passion for books," the bookstore continued. "The past several years have seen 5%-10% growth in sales and increasing profits. The store's participation in regional and industry conventions, and its stellar in-store events, have earned it a special place in the hearts of authors and readers alike, and created a well-respected brand in science fiction, fantasy, horror and mystery praised throughout the publishing and bookselling industry."

The bookstore's purchase is expected to be a turnkey sale, retaining the staff and mission of Mysterious Galaxy to grow and expand the already established brand. "We eagerly hope to find the right buyer, who will focus on the future success and growth of Mysterious Galaxy, and consider the best interests of its expert staff," the bookstore noted. "This is a growing and vibrant bookstore with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff, who hope Mysterious Galaxy will thrive for many years to come. They are seeking a passionate new owner who can act swiftly to save this community treasure, and destination for readers, authors, and publishers.... You can help us by getting the word out and sharing #savemysteriousgalaxy. We'd love for you to be our 11th hour miracle!"

For serious inquiries about purchasing the store, contact Mysterious Galaxy store owner Terry Gilman (Terry@mystgalaxy.com) by November 20. For general questions and information about the sale of Mysterious Galaxy, contact store manager Kelly Orazi at 858-268-4747 or Kelly@mystgalaxy.com.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Little Threats by Emily Schultz


Binc Foundation: 2019 Survey Results

The Book Industry Charitable Foundation has released findings from its third industry-wide survey, which was conducted last spring. A record total of 696 respondents, representing a wide cross-section of the bookselling industry, participated. This snapshot of the industry and Binc supporters is designed to provide the board and staff with concrete data to rate its performance and relevance, as well as to collect suggestions for addressing booksellers' current needs and desires for their foundation.

"Binc is here to serve booksellers, and with the feedback we received from booksellers and industry professionals through this survey, we are better equipped to act on our mission--which is providing a financial safety net for bookstore employees," said executive director Pam French. "We cannot overstate how much we value the feedback we receive, and we have been heartened to learn that awareness of our financial assistance programs continues to grow and that the foundation is more valued than ever before. But the survey also shows there is still work for us to do. There are currently booksellers in crisis who are not coming to Binc when they need help, and our mission is to reach every qualifying bookseller in the country with assistance. We are also hard at work putting together new pilot programs to address grief counseling and financial literacy. These new programs are based directly on survey responses and what booksellers tell us they want and need."

Key findings from the 2019 survey include:

Awareness

  • Only 16% of survey respondents were "not at all familiar with Binc" this year, compared with 28% of respondents in 2016, and 38% in 2014.
  • Binc is more valued today than in previous years when the survey was conducted.
  • Fellow booksellers and colleagues, Shelf Awareness and the regional trade associations are the leading ways booksellers find out about Binc's financial assistance services and scholarship opportunities.

Emergency Assistance

  • Self-reported need for financial assistance is 1 in 5 respondents, with 22% of respondents stating they had an emergency financial need in the last two years.
  • Despite growth, less than half of booksellers who identified as needing assistance are applying to Binc.
  • Booksellers who don't apply are incorrectly assuming that their need is not great enough or their situation would not qualify.
  • 100% of respondents who received assistance from Binc had a positive experience.

Audience

  • 67% of survey respondents were frontline booksellers, managers, and bookstore owners.
  • Shelf Awareness, Publishers Weekly and Bookselling This Week were the top resources respondents relied on for general news about the bookselling industry.

Donations & Donors

  • The biggest barrier to donating was that respondents didn't have extra money after their bills are paid.
  • 1 out of 3 respondents had supported the foundation at some time.
  • 91% of those who donated reported that financial assistance was the most important program to them (compared with scholarships and professional development).

Binc continues to help booksellers affected by the California wildfires, power outages and many other personal financial emergencies. Thus far this year the foundation has seen a 38% increase in year-over-year approved grants as the need among booksellers and awareness of the foundation's services continue to grow.


Peachtree Publishing Company: The Candy Mafia by Lavie Tidhar, illustrated by Daniel Duncan


Richmond, Calif.'s Multicultural Children's Bookstore Moves

The Multicultural Children's Bookstore in Richmond, Calif., has moved within the Shops at Hilltop shopping center and is now located on the first floor, the Richmond Standard reported.

The store celebrated its grand re-opening Wednesday night with "a wine and cheese affair" highlighting its selection of multicultural children's books, Christmas gift ideas, including Keepsake ornaments, jewelry and more.

The store's books run from titles for babies to young adults, including board, picture and chapter books. It emphasizes books relating to African American, Latino, Native American Asian/South Asian, Middle Eastern and Filipino cultures and features LGBTQ, disability and biracial families sections.


AuthorBuzz for the Week of 08.10.20


Kinokuniya Bookstore Opens in Katy, Tex.

Kinokuniya's new bookstore in Katy, Tex., is open for business, Community Impact reported. The 4,000-square-foot store held its  soft opening on October 14 and sells books, magazines and Japanese stationery, as well as manga, graphic novels and anime. It is the first Kinokuniya location in the Houston area and the fourth in Texas overall.

The store is located in the Katy Grand development, a new outdoor mall that includes a 46-acre campus of the University of Houston. When the company announced its opening plans back in June, Kinokuniya's Shigekazu Watanabe said the new store would have a ratio of English-language to Japanese-language titles of about two to one, and the inventory would have a particular focus on "literature, children's books and manga."


University of California Press: A People's Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area, Volume 3 by Rachel Brahinsky, Alexander Tarr, Bruce Rinehart


Obituary Note: Sabrina Chin

Sabrina Chin

Sabrina Chin, "a universally beloved figure in the speculative fiction community," died October 25. She was 38. Chin will be remembered for her role in Sirens, an annual conference on the women of fantasy literature. As co-chair of the conference, she dedicated the last 11 years of her life to building and presenting the event as an inspiring, dynamic, and welcoming space that celebrates female and non-binary speculative fiction readers, authors, scholars, librarians, educators and others.

Chin, who worked for AT&T, was already volunteering her technical services to academic and literary conferences before the inception of Sirens. Her obituary noted that she "was known for and will be remembered for her incredible generosity, warmth, and soft-spoken kindness. Her incredible organizational skills and attention to detail were what made her both a genius programmer and also an ideal conference organizer. A voracious reader, a consummate professional, and a gentle, selfless humanitarian, Chin was famous for her fondness of Winnie the Pooh and for her hand-written greeting cards--she always took that extra step to add that personal touch."

In a tribute, Sirens co-chair Amy Tenbrink wrote: "Sirens is a conference that prides itself on warmth and welcome, whether you're a 10-year veteran or a nervous first-time attendee--and at Sirens, that warmth and welcome was Sabs.... Everyone in the Sirens community will miss her. Some of you were her friends, for a decade or more. Some of you never spoke to her, but felt her presence in every caring thing that the Sirens community does. If you've ever felt welcomed at Sirens--and I very much hope that you have--that welcome was Sabs. If you ever felt included or comforted or seen at Sirens, that was Sabs. Her hard work, her organization, her details, her care, her love, so much of it behind the scenes, but all of it so readily apparent in the Sirens community."


Milkweed Editions: The Shame by Makenna Goodman


Notes

Image of the Day: Love at Lahaska

Lahaska Bookshop, Lahaska, Pa., hosted Laura Sassi for her book Love Is Kind (Zonderkidz). Sassi, pictured above with bookseller Zoe (l.) and store manager Pamela (r.), said, "It was a lovely afternoon, full of conversations with customers and a wonderful example of what authors and bookstores can do when they work together."


University of California Press: The Koreas: The Birth of Two Nations Divided by Theodore Jun Yoo


Canadian Bookstore Sets Book Stacking Guinness World Record

Last night Canadian bookseller Russell Books in Victoria, B.C., set the Guinness World Record for book stacking by creating a 19-feet-plus tower out of, appropriately enough, copies of Guinness World Records (See the big moment at the 9:39 mark of CHEK's coverage.).

The record attempt was part of a celebration of the bookstore's relocation, during which it has transported "hundreds, if not thousands, of books from its previous, 12,000 sq. ft. store across the street to its new multi-level, 18,000 sq. ft. facility at 747 Fort Street," Victoria News wrote.

Guinness World Records adjudicator Phillip Robertson said the book stacking record is a new category and the tower had to be higher than six meters, or 19 feet 8 inches. "They've got approximately a thousand books they are building into a stack now, once it reaches that six meters, it needs to stand for 10 seconds," he explained as the construction was in progress. "If it collapses during that time, the records will not stand."

Robertson noted that one unforeseen challenge was that the Guinness books--which were donated by community members--were stored in varying conditions: "Every architect will tell you they don't like the word variance, and there's a lot of variance in books. I would encourage them to go as slow as they can."

Russell Books co-owner Andrea Minter said the bookstore's relocation is still "a work in progress. It's a huge move but we're so lucky that its just across the street. It is a bit bittersweet because it was a great location and I love it....We had such a great experience there, I have so many strong memories.... But this is amazing. We're moving into a space that's bigger, better, [has] more air, more light, better accessibility throughout the building [and] the ability to hold more books."

Victoria News reported that "by 6:30 p.m. Russell Books had made history, sealing the deal with the tallest stack of Guinness World Records books in well, the Guinness Book of World Records."


'Waterproof' Venice Bookshop Flooded

via

This week's deluge in Venice, Italy, was too much even for Libreria Acqua Alta (High Water Bookshop), "which had resigned itself to constant flooding," keeping its books inside bathtubs, waterproof bins, and even a full-sized gondola inside bathtubs and boats. The Local reported that "to the immense dismay of book lovers around the world, this measure wasn't enough to save the countless books, magazines and other items crammed inside the famous bookstore when the worst floods in half a century hit Venice this week."

"We expect high water, but not this high," said co-owner Diana Zanda, adding that hundreds of books were destroyed in the flood on Tuesday night. "There is water everywhere. We were not ready for a storm like this."


Baker & Taylor Publisher Services to Distribute Tachyon Publications

Baker & Taylor Publisher Services will provide full-service worldwide sales and fulfillment services for Tachyon Publications, effective January 1, 2020.

Founded in 1995, Tachyon Publications, San Francisco, Calif., publishes speculative fiction, including science fiction, fantasy, horror, mysteries, and literary fiction. Its bestselling authors include Peter S. Beagle, Jane Yolen, Brandon Sanderson, and Jeff VanderMeer. Three of its 2020 releases are The Four Profound Weaves, a debut novella set in R.B. Lemberg's Birdverse; The Immortal Conquistador, a companion to Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series; and Sea Change, a new novel by six-time Nebula and two-time Hugo Award winner Nancy Kress.

"Tachyon is an incredible presence in the science fiction and fantasy world, and we are elated to be partnering with them," said Mark Suchomel, senior v-p of Baker & Taylor Publisher Services.


Personnel Changes at Microcosm; Chronicle

At Microcosm Publishing & Distribution:

Lydia Rogue is promoted to publicity manager from marketing associate.

Tomy Huynh is promoted to marketing manager from marketing associate.

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Maddy Boles has been joined Chronicle Books as sales assistant. Previously she was managing editorial assistant at Abrams.


Media and Movies

From Stage-to-Book: The Lehman Trilogy

HarperCollins imprint HarperVia will publish Stefano Massini's novel The Lehman Trilogy in June 2020, Entertainment Weekly reported, adding that Massini first wrote Trilogy as a stage play, "then wrote a wholly original novel in 2016."

Following an Olivier Award-winning London staging, director Sam Mendes' production of The Lehman Trilogy had a sold-out Off Broadway run earlier this year at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. It will be arriving on Broadway next March at the Nederlander Theatre.

"This is powerful, genre-defying storytelling about the rise and fall of a family of immigrants in America, full of energy, humor and pathos, an exceptional reading experience," said HarperVia executive editor Juan Mila.



Books & Authors

Awards: Cundill Winner; Blackwell's, Foyles Book of the Year Finalists; National Outdoor Book Winners

Maoism: A Global History by Julia Lovell (Knopf) has won the $75,000 2019 Cundill History Prize, sponsored by McGill University and the Peter Cundill Foundation and honoring "the best history writing in English." Chair of the jury Alan Taylor called the book "a revelation. Julia Lovell thoroughly explores the origins of Maoism in China, and then goes on to show us the many ways in which Maoist thought has influenced societies as different as Peru and Indonesia, Europe and the United States. Her book will dazzle readers with lucid and vivid insights into the power of a protean, and often deadly, ideology--and its enduring impact on our world today. Julia Lovell has written an exceptional work of history."

Runners up, both of which won $10,000, were:

Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice by Mary Fulbrook (Oxford University Press)
These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore (Norton)

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Four finalists have been named for Blackwell's Book of the Year, the Bookseller reported. The chain's booksellers across the U.K., who voted for titles across four categories, now choose the overall Blackwell's Book of the Year. The winner will be announced December 6. This year's finalists are:

Fiction: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak
Nonfiction: Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
Debut: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Children's & YA: Top Marks for Murder by Robin Stevens

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Shortlists have been released in three categories--fiction, nonfiction and children's/YA--for the Foyles Books of the Year awards. The shortlists "come together through a definitely-not-scientific combination of Foyles bestsellers, staff vote, reader response and lots and lots of arguing discussion," Foyles said. The category winners will be announced at the end of November. Check out the complete list of finalists here.

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Among the winners of the 2019 National Outdoor Book Awards, sponsored by the National Outdoor Book Awards Foundation, Idaho State University and the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, are:

Outdoor Literature (tie):
The Pacific Alone: The Untold Story of Kayaking's Boldest Voyage by Dave Shively (Falcon)
Inner Ranges: An Anthology of Mountain Thoughts by Geoff Powter (Rocky Mountain Books)
History/Biography (tie):
Grinnell: America's Environmental Pioneer and his Restless Drive to Save the West by John Taliaferro (Liveright Publishing)
Drawn to the Deep: The Remarkable Underwater Explorations of Wes Skiles by Julie Hauserman (University Press of Florida)
Natural History Literature: Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane (Norton)
Children's (tie):
101 Outdoor Adventures to Have Before You Grow Up by Stacy and Jack Tornio (FalconGuides)
Wildheart: The Daring Adventures of John Muir by Julie Bertagna, illustrated by William Goldsmith (Yosemite Conservancy)

For the full list of winners and honorable mentions in all categories, click here.


Reading with... Jaquira Díaz

photo: Maria Esquinca

Jaquira Díaz is the author of Ordinary Girls (Algonquin Books) a Summer/Fall 2019 Indies Introduce selection. Her work has been published in Rolling Stone, the Guardian, Longreads, the Fader and T: The New York Times Style Magazine, and included in The Best American Essays 2016. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, an Elizabeth George Foundation grant and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Kenyon Review and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. She lives in Miami Beach with her partner, the writer Lars Horn.

On your nightstand now:

I just started Everywhere You Don't Belong, Gabriel Bump's debut novel, which is funny and heartbreaking and poignant, about a young black man from the South Side of Chicago who is learning to navigate what it means to be a black man in the world. Also, Maaza Mengiste's second novel, The Shadow King, an intricate and devastating book. I loved her first book, Beneath the Lion's Gaze, and I went back and re-read that one before picking this one up.

Favorite book when you were a child:

My favorite books (when I was about nine or 10) were Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, and L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I read these again and again, obsessively. Later, when I fell in love with horror, it was Stephen King's It. I was fascinated with this idea of kids running around fighting a demon clown who lived in the sewers. And then I discovered Shirley Jackson--The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. She was an evil genius and I adored her.

Your top five authors:

Octavia Butler. Toni Morrison. Sandra Cisneros. Julia Alvarez. Shirley Jackson.

Book you've faked reading:

Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. I had to take a Hemingway class in grad school, and halfway through the course, I gave up. After reading about 20 of his short stories and A Farewell to Arms, I decided I couldn't read another word. I got an A- in the course. Still don't regret it.  

Book you're an evangelist for:

Keith S. Wilson's Fieldnotes on Ordinary Love, which is brilliant. This book is a marvel. Keith is one of my favorite poets. He examines love and race and power and the universe and masculinity and pigeons. Yes. Pigeons. Get this book!

T Kira Madden's Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls. This book is heartbreaking and funny and honest. T Kira Madden writes about family and friendship, about grief, about how girls are vulnerable, and manages to do it with grace and generosity.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I first read Hanif Abdurraqib's They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us on my iPad and loved it. But the book still called out to me whenever I passed it on a shelf. Eventually I picked up a copy at Books & Books and read the whole thing from cover to cover in one sitting. It's even better when you can cradle it in your arms.

Book you hid from your parents:

My diaries.

Book that changed your life:

Hugo Margenat's Obras Completas. This was my father's book. He used to read it to me when I was little. It was the first time I encountered poetry, my first time reading something that felt expansive, important. It made me want to write. Eventually it became mine--I snatched it from him as a kid and never gave it back. I used to stay up late reading it, imagining myself a writer. I still have it on a shelf.

Favorite line from a book:

"When we were twelve we taught ourselves to fly," from John Murrillo's Up Jump the Boogie.

Five books you'll never part with:

Hugo Margenat's Obras Completas, obviously.

Toni Morrison's Beloved, which changed the way I thought about reading and writing and stories and what fiction can do.

John Murillo's Up Jump the Boogie. I'm not a poet, but this book also changed me. In these poems, I found my neighborhood, my friends, our music, our culture, our experiences. These poems changed everything I thought I knew about writing. They made me listen. They made me sing.

Keith S. Wilson's Fieldnotes on Ordinary Love. I already mentioned how much I love this book. Also, pigeons!

In the Shadow of the American Dream: The Diaries of David Wojnarowicz. This book is so beautiful you often forget you're reading Wojnarowicz's diaries. But also, the book was a gift from my partner, Lars, who gave it to me with my engagement ring the morning they proposed.

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

Toni Morrison's Beloved.

Books you're most excited to read:

Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah's forthcoming essay collection
Kristen Arnett's Mostly Dead Things
Carina del Valle Schorske's upcoming essay collection on Puerto Rico
Sarah M. Broom's The Yellow House
The World Doesn't Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott
Dominicana by Angie Cruz.


Book Review

Review: An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin's Master Agent

An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin's Master Agent by Owen Matthews (Bloomsbury, $30 hardcover, 448p., 9781408857786, December 10, 2019)

An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin's Master Agent is both admiring and sharply critical of its subject. Owen Matthews, author of Stalin's Children, begins the introduction by writing that Sorge "was a bad man who became a great spy--indeed one of the greatest spies who ever lived." As a famous spy, Sorge presents distinct challenges for the author, not only to say something new but also to penetrate the web of deceptions and self-deceptions that spies inhabit. Matthews's vast research and some highly educated guesswork allow readers glimpses of Sorge's beliefs and character. It is not always a flattering portrait, but Matthews convincingly argues for the importance of Sorge's espionage to the Soviet Union at a time when the course of World War II, and of history, was far from certain.

Sorge was born in Baku, in what was then a part of the Russian Empire, near the turn of the 20th century to a German mother and a Russian father. Matthews does not go into great detail on Sorge's childhood, positioning World War I as the first pivotal experience of Sorge's life. By then, his family had moved to Berlin, and Sorge was part of an entire generation that had their ideals upended by the Great War. His experiences put him on a path to Communism, and he became a part of the great ideological conflicts roiling Germany after the World War I. Moving from an agitator to party cadre, Sorge was eventually summoned to Moscow at the behest of the Comintern, or Third International, through which Moscow promoted world revolution. Over time, Sorge's talents were recognized, and he was recruited by Soviet military intelligence to work as a spy.

Sorge's career trajectory makes An Impeccable Spy a solid introduction to the political turmoil gripping much of the world at the time. The bulk of the book, however, is spent on Sorge's most significant posting, in Japan, where power seemed constantly to shift between different factions. Here, Sorge developed one of the most effective spy rings in history. His information was enormously valuable to the Soviet Union, eventually helping to convince Stalin that a Japanese invasion was not forthcoming in time to move troops to counter the German threat.

Matthews credits much of Sorge's success as a spy to his exceptional social skills. He seemed to be able to make friends of anyone after a night of drunken carousing, even an infamous Nazi. Contrary to the title, however, Sorge's tradecraft was not always impeccable. Sorge had a daredevil streak that led him to take unnecessary risks, including seducing the wives of key assets and riding his motorcycle at dangerous speeds and crashing on more than one occasion. He was also a master manipulator, using people callously to get what he wanted. More than anything, though, Sorge was an enigma. Matthews does an admirable job trying to peel back his mask, but Sorge's many contradictions remain. A devout Communist living an impressively dissolute lifestyle, Sorge was a complicated man but an undeniably excellent spy. --Hank Stephenson, manuscript reader, the Sun magazine

Shelf Talker: An Impeccable Spy is a biography of Richard Sorge, a raconteur, womanizer and a spy for the Soviet Union who provided intelligence that helped change the course of World War II.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: '10 Days to Treasure' at Wigtown Book Festival

How lucky to be an American bookseller and get to be a part of Scotland's book town twice in two years!

That is how Fred Powell, owner of Main Street Books, Frostburg, Md., summed up his recent experience at the legendary Wigtown Book Festival. In 2017, he and his wife, Kathy, had spent two weeks staffing the Open Book, a unique Airbnb location that features an apartment above the bookshop and the opportunity to "live your dream of having your very own bookshop by the sea in Scotland."

Although they had no plans then to return so soon, Fred credits Kathy's recent retirement from Frostburg State University and the support of his "well-seasoned staff" at Main Street Books for allowing the couple to come back as festival volunteers last month.

"The Wigtown Book Festival is a huge undertaking," he said. "It started as a weekend event and has now become the second largest book festival in the country after Edinburgh. Many people are repeat customers. What we like about Wigtown's events is how close they are to each other. The village green is the center of the set-up with five other locations used that are a few steps away. This creates such an intimacy for all who attend as well as the town since the authors, staff and festival goers are all together and run into each other all the time."

With only about 900 residents, Wigtown is not large, but for 10 days each year book-lovers make the pilgrimage to this rural village in southwest Scotland. In 2019, more than 29,000 people attended 200-plus events, ranging from author talks and children's/YA programming to forums on current events (Brexit) and music. There were breakfasts, hosted by the Bookshop Band (whom many of us saw perform at last January's ABA Winter Institute in Albuquerque, N.Mex.); and Wigtown Feasts, dinner forums held in the homes of local residents.

Fred & Kathy Powell in Wigtown

"The streets are full of book lovers as the town is also the home to 16 second-hand book shops. For that reason it is easy to make friends and hold conversations with strangers since you all have books as a common love," Fred said. "We were lucky enough to rent the snug (extra room) above The Old Bank Bookshop and spend time with the owners Ian and Joyce Cochrane and their daughter Helena. When not staffing an event at the festival, we were helping out in downstairs bookshop."

With 30 years bookselling experience, Fred had no problem recommending titles he spotted on the shelves to readers. He said that for Wigtown booksellers, festival week is like the Christmas season for U.S. booksellers: "Kathy and I were often support for the Old Bank staff and made many cups of tea to keep them going. Lots of books are being put in customer's hands and talk of books can be heard in every bookshop, tea shop and cafe."

(l.-r.) Fred, Joyce Cochrane, Kathy, Ian Cochrane (photo: Colin Tennant)

The Powells arrived in Scotland a few days before the start of the festival and worked in a variety of roles--as a set-up team, stewarding author events and staffing an interactive map exhibit set up in an old bank. Fred noted that the festival would not happen without all the volunteers involved: "This year there were over 150 folks doing everything from parking cars, picking up authors at airports and train stations, selling tickets and so much more. Across the year, the festival office estimates that there were 4,300 volunteer hours to support the Festival Company."

Kathy observed that although southwest Scotland "is very remote, the residents are rather cosmopolitan. The festival has found a way to choose topics--such as farming or bird watching--that tie the locals' interest with the book world.... It's not just a place that loves books but a town that loves ideas. This may be the real draw. Wigtown may be a bit off the map, but you are not really remote if you have a great festival. I loved talking with all the U.K. and international visitors as I volunteered at events during the festival. In a divided world, books can be the great unifier."

A handseller at heart, Fred noted: "Lastly, I couldn't call myself a bookseller without recommending three titles from authors that presented at the festival: The Way Home: Tales from a Life without Technology by Mark Boyle (OneWorld), Our Man in New York: The British Plot to Bring America into the Second World War by Henry Hemming (Quercus); and Dark Skies: A Journey into the Wild Night by Tiffany Francis (Bloomsbury Wildlife)."

When I asked him what his "elevator pitch" might be to handsell a Wigtown Book Festival trip to other American booksellers (or book-lovers, for that matter), he replied: "There is no better place to immerse yourself in the world of books than Wigtown Scotland and their annual book festival. The air is full of 'book talk' from festival goers of all ages, authors and friendly town folks. New books, secondhand books and amazing cakes make it 10 days to treasure. Don't just read about bookshops, go to Wigtown and live it!"

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

AuthorBuzz: Berrett-Koehler Publishers: Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Mind, Body, and Spirit by Mary-Frances Winters
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