Shelf Awareness for Monday, December 9, 2019

Little Brown and Company: The Sense of Wonder by Matthew Salesses

Dell: Solomon's Crown by Natasha Siegel

St. Martin's Press: The Collected Regrets of Clover by Mikki Brammer

Flatiron Books: The God of Endings by Jacqueline Holland


Ga.'s Avid Bookshop Closing Prince Ave. Store

Avid is closing its Prince Avenue store.

Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga., plans to close its original Prince Avenue location on December 31 to focus on its other bookstore, at Five Points, which opened in September 2016.

"Avid Bookshop is safe, but I need to tell you something," owner Janet Geddis wrote in a detailed letter to customers explaining the decision to shift back to a one-store model again. "The burdens of business ownership are high, but so are the rewards. I would not trade this life for anything, and that's why I have made the decision to downsize while we're in good shape. I didn't come to this decision lightly." She added that while both locations have seen a decrease in sales over the last 18 to 24 months, "we're hanging on. Due to the heavily predicted 2020 recession (which some think has already hit certain communities), we want to be extra cautious with our budgets."

Geddis recalled that when the second location opened three years ago, "we were experiencing year-by-year growth that was becoming difficult to handle (I know, cry me a river--but sometimes rapid sales growth can be hard to keep up with!). The ideal situation would have been to expand our Prince location so that we had much more retail selling space as well as storage, back rooms, offices, and more--but expanding was not an option for us. So we opened a second store. Despite our best efforts (and trust me: we worked very hard to make this particular two-store model work), our costs were outpacing our sales numbers at an unsustainable rate. Meaning we had very little, if any, money to invest back into the business once our bills were paid. We could technically go on another couple of years like this, but the stress would be enormous and the risk of losing everything we've built would be too high for my comfort."

The decision to close the Prince St. store came down to a familiar dilemma for booksellers nationwide: "For the last several months, we've been in lease renewal negotiations with our landlord of Avid on Prince. Since October 2019, we've been operating on month-to-month terms. I won't get into detail here, but I will tell you that several of my bookstore-owning mentors, some financial pros, and trusted commercial real estate advisors wholeheartedly support this plan and think it's the smart thing to do (even though it's true that we are all bumming). Not being able to reach lease terms I was satisfied with was perhaps a blessing in disguise--it gives us a natural time to close up shop and regroup."

In addition to the lease problem, Avid on Prince is in a 790-square-foot space, with about 750 square feet of selling area and no room for storage or a back office, while Avid at Five Points is more than 300 square feet larger and has an office/receiving area as well as significant storage.

Noting that she hopes "to retain everyone that plans to stay on board," Geddis said Avid will be refocusing some of its programming and outside-of-the-shop sales opportunities "in a way that will allow us to generate more sales per square foot than we're currently getting, allowing us to retain as many of the booksellers as humanly possible. If you know me, you know my fellow managers and I exert a lot of effort taking care of our staff. No one is going to be tossed out on their ear, promise."

Near the end of the letter, Geddis again noted: "Seriously. Avid is okay. Not as stellar as we'll be when we regroup and reorganize a bit in 2020 and reevaluate some things, but we're okay. I actually think it's good to be making this decision before things do get more financially difficult with the upcoming recession. Being smart and thinking ahead is one thing we can do pretty well (don't forget it took me four years between announcing the shop and actually opening)."

Kingfisher: Macmillan Collector's Library Anthologies

Adam Kane New Naval Institute Press Director

Adam Kane is joining Naval Institute Press as director, effective in January. He has been editor-in-chief at University of Oklahoma Press and an adjunct professor of American military history and the history of the Vietnam War at the University of Oklahoma.

The move marks a return to the Naval Institute Press for Kane. From 2008 to 2014, he worked at the press, first as acquisitions editor, then as senior editor and electronic publications manager. He helped introduce the press's e-book program and move backlist titles to POD as well as helped establish the History of Military Aviation and Military Transformations series.

He left the Naval Institute Press in 2014 to move to the University of Oklahoma Press as acquisitions editor.

University of Notre Dame Press: Touch the Wounds: On Suffering, Trust, and Transformation by Tomás Halík, translated by Gerald Turner

Developer Buys Chicago B&N Building

A real estate developer in Chicago, Ill., has bought a property on the city's Near North Side that houses one of Chicago's last Barnes & Noble stores, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Newcastle Ltd. purchased the property for $61 million even though the developer's plans to build a 39-story apartment tower on the site were rejected by a Chicago alderman just a few months ago. 

And while the developer has not made any formal comment about its plans, the Tribune added, the sale's high price indicates that Newcastle will likely continue trying to develop an apartment tower on the property, which would more than likely force the B&N to move or close.

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Celebrating #SmallBusinessSaturdayUK

Small Business Saturday was celebrated this past weekend in the U.K. and Ireland, a week after the annual campaign to promote shopping locally was held in the U.S.

"We want to encourage people to use the town center for Small Business Saturday," Caroline Johnson of the Bookshop in Mold told the Leader. "Even if it's just part of their Christmas shopping--do it here in Mold. The season has started well this year. We've been quite hectic. As an independent business we offer service, community spirit, a selection and something different and more personal."

Several indie booksellers checked in on social media under the hashtag #SmallBusinessSaturdayUK, including:

Mr. B's Emporium, Bath: "Love this," the bookseller tweeted in sharing a heartwarming video made by a small hardware store in Wales that has gone viral and epitomizes the independent business spirit.

At The Gutter Bookshop

The Gutter Bookshop, Dublin, Ireland: "Both of our indie bookshops are open this #SmallBusinessSaturday--and were packed full of great books, stationery, cards and gifts so do pop in for a browse! Or check out our Xmas book selection...."

The Snug Bookshop, Bridgwater: "Please support local today... we sell so much more than books!"

Drake the Bookshop, Stockton-on-Tees: "This man speaks sense. And if memory serves you should always do what the doctor says." The bookseller was referencing writer and comedian Adam Kay's tweet: "It's #SmallBusinessSaturday so why not visit your local bookshop? You've barely made a start on your Christmas shopping, they sell something for basically everyone, and they'll give you excellent advice about what to buy."

Round Table Books, Brixton Village: "Bestselling author @redbreastedbird is our BOOKSELLER FOR A DAY! Robin is in-store recommending books and meeting fans!!!"

Imagined Things Bookshop, Harrogate: "Night night bookshop! What a heart-warming day! HUGE thank you to all who bought with us today! We've had a really busy day! And a special thanks to the gentleman after 5pm who bought two whole bags full of books to give away to children via the Salvation Army--such kindness!"

Obituary Note: Linda Cannon

Linda Cannon (center, standing) after receiving NAIBA's Kristin Keith Sales Rep of the Year award, with some of the people she loved: the team from Parson Weems and her sisters, Judy and Kim.

Very sad news: Linda Cannon, co-owner of Parson Weems Publisher Services, died December 5 after a brief illness. She was 68.

Cannon began her publishing career working in college and independent bookstores in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Kent, Ohio. She was then a commission rep in the Midwest and Texas, and a house rep in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1989, she left publishing to work as a marketing manager for a software company in California and then became operations manager of an Internet startup. In 2003, she moved back East for family reasons, and joyfully returned to publishing, joining Parson Weems. She became a partner at Parson Weems in 2005, and in 2014, she and Eileen Bertelli bought the company.

In 2017, Cannon received the inaugural Kristin Keith Sales Rep of the Year Award from the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association. In his presentation of the award, Mark Laframboise of Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C., who was NAIBA president at the time, captured what so many of us liked about the recipient: "Linda's dedication and generosity to her accounts is immense. Her optimism and sense of humor can brighten an ordinary day. I'm proud to give this award to Linda Cannon, not just because she's my friend but because she exemplifies everything great that sales reps contribute to our stores."

In accepting the award, Cannon said in part: "Working with the amazing and passionate booksellers in the mid-Atlantic has been as fun and rewarding as anything I have done in my decades as a bookseller. Through the good times and bad, we persist. Thank you to one and all for your hard work and support and, for this fabulous award. I'm feeling fine on cloud nine."

Parson Weems co-founder Chris Kerr remembered: "Linda was a voracious reader. She particularly enjoyed biography, history and mysteries. She was widely admired for her direct, forceful manner, her integrity, and her commitment to her customers, her client publishers, and the industry.

"I met Linda in 1979 where she was a Cleveland bookseller and I was a brand-new rep working out of New York City. She had just competed in a winter sailing race on Lake Erie and was covered in ice. She had come straight from her boat to the party. She was then, as always, a high-energy, say-anything gal, and huge fun to party with."

We at Shelf Awareness remember Linda the same way: she was always so friendly, serious about the business but also entertainingly informative.

A memorial service will take place this Wednesday, December 11, at 6 p.m., at Tatalovich Funeral Home, Aliquippa, Pa. Friends will be received starting at 3 p.m.


Image of the Day: Foner at [Words]

[Words] Bookstore in Maplewood, N.J., hosted historian Eric Foner (seated) for a discussion of his book The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Made the Constitution (Norton) with NPR Marketplace's David Brancaccio. More than 120 people attended, and the store sold 60 books. Above: store owner Jonah Zimiles and Foner greet customers.

Bookseller Moment: Bright Side Bookshop

Lisa Lamberson, co-owner of Bright Side Bookshop, Flagstaff, Ariz., shared a post-storm photo of the store, noting: "Snow in Arizona.... Our sweet little Bright Side Bookshop all snowed in last week. Up and shoveling by 7 a.m. to clear the walls for our holiday weekend."

Personnel Changes at Penguin Young Readers

Robyn Bender has been promoted to senior v-p, business operations and strategy, at Penguin Young Readers. She was formerly v-p & director, business management.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Tom Brokaw on Colbert's Late Show

Tamron Hall Show: Mitch Albom, author of Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family (Harper, $24.99, 9780062952394).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Tom Brokaw, author of The Fall of Richard Nixon: A Reporter Remembers Watergate (Random House, $27, 9781400069705).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Michael Lewis, author of The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy (Norton, $16.95, 9780393357455).

Late Late Show with James Corden: Ali Wong, author of Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life (Random House, $27, 9780525508830).

On Stage: Alice by Heart Musical Adapted into YA Novel

Razorbill, the Penguin Random House YA imprint, will publish a novel adaptation of the musical Alice by Heart, which premiered Off-Broadway earlier this year. Playbill reported that the book, to be released February 4, was written by Steven Sater, who penned the Lewis Carroll-inspired musical alongside his Spring Awakening co-writer Duncan Sheik and Jessie Nelson.

Alice by Heart opened at Off-Broadway's MCC Theater in February with a cast led by Molly Gordon, Colton Ryan, Noah Galvin, Grace McLean and Wesley Taylor. Playbill noted that "two other stage-to-page takes on teen-driven titles have recently hit bookshelves: The Prom and Dear Evan Hansen."

Books & Authors

Awards: NBCC John Leonard First Book Shortlist

The National Book Critics Circle has announced finalists for the 2019 John Leonard Prize for Best First Book. A panel of NBCC member-volunteers will read the finalists and select a winner, which will be revealed January 11. The winning author will be honored March 12 at the NBCC Awards Ceremony in New York City. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner (Random House)
The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom (Grove)
The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin (FSG)
Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir by T Kira Madden (Bloomsbury)
Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips (Knopf)
Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino (Random House)
Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington (Riverhead)

Book Review

Review: Cleanness

Cleanness by Garth Greenwell (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 hardcover, 240p., 9780374124588, January 14, 2020)

In Cleanness, Garth Greenwell returns to the country of Bulgaria and to some of the same emotional territory he explored in his highly praised debut novel, What Belongs to You. The nine perceptive, sometimes disturbing, stories in this collection delve into the complexities of romance and desire, reflected through the prism of an alienated foreigner.

These stories span the seven years their unnamed narrator spends as a teacher at the American College in Sofia. Though it's no longer under the domination of the former Soviet Union, Greenwell's Bulgaria is a grim place, a country "where so few come and fewer still stay long enough to learn the language," where Communist repression has been replaced by rampant corruption, and where, in the narrator's cynical view, the attention devoted to events like the Arab Spring "ran out before it could reach Bulgaria."

At the heart of the collectionis the narrator's relationship with R. (identified only by an initial, like all the other characters), a younger man from Portugal who's studying in Sofia. Over the course of three wistful stories, Greenwell traces the arc of their relationship, in a country where their homosexuality constantly places them under the "pressure of secrecy, where it was too dangerous to hold hands in the streets, to kiss in public, however chastely, where everywhere we had to keep a casual distance." From the beginning of that relationship--when R. struggles to embrace his sexual identity, resistant to revealing the circumstances that contribute to that reluctance--to its inconclusive end, Greenwell is a reflective and, above all, honest reporter.

Two of the stories in this volume--"Gospodar" and "Little Saint"--are anything but romantic, describing the narrator's dangerous sadomasochistic sexual encounters with men he connects with online. In the former, whose title means "master" or "lord," he submits to the brutality of his partner, admittedly looking for "something to draw me out of the grief I still felt for R," while at the same time recognizing he had missed "the exhilaration of being made an object that had been lacking in sex with R."

The latter story features the narrator in the dominant role, ending on an emotionally ambiguous note that's characteristic of Greenwell's style. These stories are not easy to read. Despite that, it's clear Greenwell is not offering lengthy graphic depictions of sometimes violent encounters to shock or titillate, but rather to reveal the complexity of the narrator's sexual life, one he admits had been "fraught with shame and anxiety and fear," at least until he encountered R.

Midway through Cleanness, the narrator observes that "we can never be sure of what we want, I mean of the authenticity of it, of its purity in relation to ourselves." This truth about love and life is one of the many beautifully illustrated in these quietly passionate stories. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: In nine mature stories, Garth Greenwell examines the complex emotional life of an American expatriate in Bulgaria.

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