Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 4, 2022


Little Brown and Company: This Bird Has Flown by Susanna Hoffs

St. Martin's Press: Hello Stranger by Katherine Center

Dundurn Press: Chasing the Black Eagle by Bruce Geddes

W by Wattpad Books: Hazel Fine Sings Along by Katie Wicks

St. Martin's Press: The Girls of Summer by Katie Bishop

Soho Crime: The Rope Artist by Fuminori Nakamura, transl. by Sam Bett

Flatiron Books: Once Upon a Prime: The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature by Sarah Hart

Grand Central Publishing: Goodbye Earl: A Revenge Novel by Leesa Cross-Smith

News

Amazon Fourth Quarter: Sales Rise 9%, Profits Double

In the fourth quarter ended December 31, net sales at Amazon rose 9%, to $137.4 billion, compared to the same period in 2020, and net income nearly doubled, to $14.3 billion.

While the best-known part of the business--online retail--struggled, Amazon's results were bolstered by continuing expansion of its cloud computing business, Amazon Web Services, whose sales rose 40%; advertising, up 32%; and an investment in Rivian Automotive, the electric vehicle company whose November IPO led to an $11.8 billion gain for Amazon. Additionally, the company announced that it is raising the cost of Prime membership to $139 a year from $119. Wall Street liked this news, and as a result, in after-hours trading, Amazon stock rose 14%.

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said, "As expected over the holidays, we saw higher costs driven by labor supply shortages and inflationary pressures, and these issues persisted into the first quarter due to Omicron. Despite these short-term challenges, we continue to feel optimistic and excited about the business as we emerge from the pandemic."

The company said that during the first quarter of this year, it expects net sales to grow 3%-8%, to between $112 billion and $117 billion.

During the fourth quarter, Amazon's online business in the U.S. had operating losses of some $206 million on revenue of $82.4 billion, up 9%, while internationally it had operating losses of $1.6 billion on revenue of $37.3 billion, a 1% drop.


Parallax Press: Radical Love: From Separation to Connection with the Earth, Each Other, and Ourselves by Satish Kumar


Semicolon Bookstore, Chicago, Ill., Opens February Pop-up

Danielle Mullen at Semicolon Bookstore

From February 3 to February 27, Semicolon Bookstore in Chicago, Ill., will be running a pop-up shop at Time Out Market Chicago in Fulton Market. 

Per TimeOut Chicago, the pop-up's inventory will rotate each week, from "anti-racism basics" during the first week of February to the final week featuring "in-depth histories of the Black Panthers, Assata Shakur and other Black revolutionaries." In addition to those rotating selections, there will be fiction and nonfiction from BIPOC and LGBTQ+ authors. Three storytime sessions for children are also planned at the pop-up.

"Every day we get to change the narrative of what Black literature looks like," store owner Danielle Mullen told TimeOut. "There has long been an idea that Black people don't read when, statistically, Black women buy more books than everyone else. We're just showing that new narrative and putting it on display for the world or anybody who ambles into my store to be able to see."  

Mullen founded Semicolon in summer 2019 in Chicago's River West neighborhood. Since then she's moved the bookstore and gallery space to a larger location in Wicker Park and launched a literacy nonprofit. An author and entrepreneur, Mullen was inspired to open her bookstore after a cancer diagnosis in early 2019. While she was told to take it easy, she wanted instead to find a way to combine her interests in art and literature.

"A semicolon represents where an author could choose to stop a sentence but move forward," she said. "Semicolon was me deciding to move forward after that diagnosis."


William Morrow & Company: The God of Good Looks by Breanne Mc Ivor


Cottonwood Books, Baton Rouge, La., Closing Permanently

Starting this weekend, Cottonwood Books in Baton Rouge, La., will be open only two days per week as owners Danny and Nancy Plaisance prepare to close the store permanently. Nancy Plaisance told the Advocate she is unsure exactly when the store's last day of business will be, but they are trying to liquidate the store's inventory.

The couple put the store up for sale in 2021 after Danny Plaisance was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Though they found a potential buyer for the store, the deal fell through due to issues related to securing financing. She noted that there has been a lot of interest, but many prospective buyers want to purchase the whole building, which is a nonstarter.

"Our hope was to keep it as a bookstore," Nancy Plaisance said. "That's what we wanted for the community, and that's what the landlord wanted as well."

Founded in 1978 as Taliesen's, the business changed hands and was renamed Cottonwood Books in 1982. Danny Plaisance left a dissatisfying career as a paper salesman to take over the business in September 1986. Under his ownership the store's inventory grew from around 5,000 books to 45,000.

The couple told the Advocate that they are still open to offers from potential buyers.


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Left Bank Books Foundation Launches Literacy & Justice Project

The Left Bank Books Foundation, the 501(c)(3) arm of Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Mo., has launched the Literacy & Justice Project, aimed at providing banned and challenged books to people who lack access to them.

For a donation of $20, Left Bank Books will send a copy of The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Maus by Art Spiegelman, All Boys Aren't Blue by George Matthew Johnson, Heavy by Kiese Laymon or Fun Home by Alison Bechdel to someone who has registered for a free copy.

In a message to customers announcing the project, store owner Kris Kleindienst and her staff noted that The Bluest Eye, All Boys Aren't Blue, Heavy and Fun Home were removed from Wentzville, Mo., School District libraries in January, while Maus was banned last month in Tennessee.

"Race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, and apparently even history are taboo subjects in the eyes of an extreme minority," the bookstore wrote. "While the efforts to resist the rightward turn away from the democratic principle of free expression is multi-faceted and ongoing, we thought we would try to make a difference in real time for folks who lack access to the material being challenged."

Anyone can make donations or register for free copies of banned books on the foundation's website.


International Update: Chapters Bookshop in Dublin Closes, Netherlands 2021 Book Sales Up

Chapters bookstore in Dublin, the largest independent bookshop in Ireland, closed its doors Monday after 40 years in business. Noting that it had "gone in the same week that the world celebrates 100 years of Dublin's most famous book, Ulysses," the Irish Times called the store "another commercial casualty of the pandemic."

Chapters launched in 1983 on Wicklow Street. Owners William and Ger Kinsella moved to the current location in Parnell Street in 2006. Although the "problems faced by independent bookshops long pre-dated the pandemic," the Irish Times wrote that Covid-19 "decimated city centre businesses like Chapters that are heavily dependent on the footfall of customers." 

Foot traffic was not an issue on Monday, however. "We have been pleasantly overwhelmed and run off our feet," said store manager Sara Whelan. "Chapters stayed open during the pandemic doing phone and online sales. We knew it was an incredible shop and offered so much to the people of Dublin. It has made reading accessible for so many people with second-hand bargains and new releases. Generations of families have visited here."

Longtime customer Leo O'Connor agreed: "It's more than a bookshop, it's really a bit of Dublin." 

In an Instagram post yesterday, Chapters wrote: "One final thank you for your support and custom over the past 39 years. It has been great to see so many of you over the past number of months. The whole team is humbled by the response to our closure, and so proud of the legacy that we leave behind."
 
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More than 43 million books were sold on the general book market in the Netherlands last year, which was 5% more than in 2020. The European & International Booksellers Federation's NewsFlash reported that gross turnover increased by 8% in 2021 to €647 million [about $740 million]. However, not everyone shares in this success. Sales in the e-commerce channel have grown by 20%, while the physical channel has contracted by 7%. For physical stores, this is another sharp drop in book sales. 

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EIBF has unveiled its new logo and branding, highlighting the organization's commitment to its members and the sector. EIBF represents national booksellers associations in the European Union and worldwide, speaking on behalf of more than 25,000 individual booksellers of all kinds, including independents, chains, specialized, online, and bricks-and-mortar bookshops. 

"We believe bookshops are an integral part of local communities, providing access to literature and culture, contributing to financial sustainability in their areas, and helping to improve reading outcomes for all," EIBF noted. "Since the launch of the current EIBF logo, we have experienced many technological changes. To ensure EIBF's continuous visibility in this digital age, we developed a new EIBF look tailored to display and be used on digital screens, as well as working well in printed form." 

EIBF co-presidents Fabian Paagman and Jean-Luc Treutenaere commented: "Through our numerous member and partner organisations, EIBF represents the voice of many booksellers around the world. It's important our visual identity reflects this position. With this new change, we are confident EIBF will go from strength to strength." 

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The Australian Booksellers Association's newsletter shared an Examiner article reporting that Clive Tilsley, former owner of Fullers Bookshop in Hobart, was among the Tasmanians honored on Australia Day with a Medal of the Order of Australia

After buying the iconic Hobart bookshop in 1982, Tilsley "expanded the brand to Launceston around the turn of the 21st century," the Examiner wrote. In 2014, he "handed the keys to the Launceston store over to new owners Michael French and Ash Campbell, who subsequently transformed the store into the Volume 2 Bookshop."

Tilsley remained closely connected to the Fullers Bookshop in Hobart until last year, when he and his wife moved to the Barossa Valley in South Australia. In addition to his work as a bookseller, Tilsley also helmed the Fullers Publishing arm, through which he helped publish more than 25 books. Fullers congratulated Tilsley on Facebook --Robert Gray


Penguin Young Readers Launches Rocky Pond Books Imprint

Penguin Young Readers is launching an imprint called Rocky Pond Books, which will be headed by Lauri Hornik, longtime publisher of Dial Books for Young Readers. The imprint will publish books for ages two through teen, both fiction and nonfiction, with a focus on mental health and social-emotional learning and feature debut authors and illustrators. The inaugural list will publish in spring 2023. Jen Klonsky, president and publisher, Putnam and Razorbill, has assumed leadership of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Lauri Hornik

Hornik joined Penguin in 1999 as the editorial director of Dial and was named publisher of Dial Books for Young Readers in 2005. She is the editor of a range of titles, including Counting by Sevens by Holly Goldberg Sloan, The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak, Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder, and the Ordinary People Change the World series, written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos.

Hornik said, "It has become more and more important to me to provide books that offer comfort and support. That comfort might be through a belly laugh or a gorgeous, genuine expression of what it means to be human, or seeing yourself and your culture depicted on the page. That support might be through a picture book that sparks empathy, or an inspiring nonfiction read about a hero or important moment in history. And above all, I am committed to publishing mental health content--books that start conversations, that provide a step toward healing, and that show readers they aren't alone. I'm so excited to now be dedicating myself full-time to editing, and thus bringing more of these much-needed books to kids and teens."

Jen Klonsky

Jen Klonsky joined Penguin Young Readers in 2018 as the publisher of Putnam, and assumed leadership of Razorbill later that year. She has published books by authors such as Sabaa Tahir, Renee Ahdieh, Ayana Gray, Jessica Goodman, Melissa de la Cruz, Krystal Sutherland, Stacey Lee, Katherine Arden, Matt de la Pena, Christian Robinson, Yuko Shimizu, Jan Brett, and others. Before joining Penguin, Klonsky was editorial director at HarperCollins Children's Books.

Klonsky said, "I have had a front row seat in the admiration section watching Lauri Hornik and the Dial team for the last four years. I know them to be a passionate group with a list that is intentional, innovative, and fun, and I can't wait to join them. Following Lauri will not be easy, but working alongside Nancy Mercado and Lily Malcom--experts in all they do and in the Dial business--will make it possible."

Jen Loja, president, Penguin Young Readers, said that Hornik having her own imprint is "the perfect next step in her already long and lauded career. She has brought so many of our favorite voices to the world in her time at Dial Books for Young Readers, and I can't wait to see her add more wonderful creators to her existing list of trusted authors and illustrators. And I am delighted that the team at Dial will continue to thrive under the new leadership of Jen Klonsky. Jen has made such an impact here at Penguin as publisher of Putnam and Razorbill. Her vision for both list building and career growth (for her team and for our creators) is key to our continued growth. Under her guidance, Dial's incredible team of editors and designers will continue to publish acclaimed, award-winning and bestselling books that support Dial's mission and continue its legacy of excellence in the young readers space."


G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
The Wisdom of Morrie:
Living and Aging Creatively and Joyfully
by Morrie Schwartz, edited by Rob Schwartz
GLOW: Blackstone Publishing: The Wisdom of Morrie: Living and Aging Creatively and Joyfully by Morrie Schwartz, edited by Rob Schwartz

Twenty-five years ago, Mitch Albom immortalized his former college professor in Tuesdays with Morrie, the blockbuster memoir that shared Morrie Schwartz's profound insights about life as he was dying of ALS. In The Wisdom of Morrie, Rob Schwartz, Morrie's son, resurrects his father's voice, sharing Morrie's philosophical wisdom and humor about the aging process--what can be an emboldening period filled with meaning and purpose. "This book is invaluable to anyone interested in improving their quality of life," says Rick Bleiweiss, head of new business development at Blackstone Publishing. "Readers who enjoy[ed] The Last Lecture and When Breath Becomes Air will expand their awareness and find new ideas and insights into living more fully." Schwartz's musings are timeless, and inspirational for readers of all ages. --Kathleen Gerard

(Blackstone Publishing, $25.99 hardcover, 9798200813452,
April 18, 2023)

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Notes

High School Book Vending Machine: 'How Cool Is This?!'

Posted on Facebook by Dog Ear Books, Russellville, Ark.: "Oh, this? This is a BOOK VENDING MACHINE that the high school has. No big deal. When we were asked to help them fill it up we admit we got a little (a lot) excited at the thought. How cool is this?! Thanks for supporting your local bookstore, RHS!"


Cool Idea of the Day: Bookshop Patrons' 'Thoughts for the Year'

"For the month of January, we had a place for people to write their thoughts for the year," Second Star to the Right Books, Denver, Colo., posted on Facebook. "We want to focus not on changing ourselves, but growing through the embrace of ourselves. Thank you to all who participated!"


Simon & Schuster to Distribute Fabled Films Press

Simon & Schuster is now handling sales and distribution worldwide for Fabled Films Press.

Fabled Films Press, New York City, publishes for young readers and middle-grade students, focusing on strong literary properties that are supported by websites, educator guides and activities for bookstores, educators and librarians, as well as videos, social media content and supplemental entertainment for additional platforms.


Personnel Changes at Hachette; The Experiment; TvS Media Group

In another move that follows Hachette Book Group's purchase of Workman, Kate Travers, who has been executive director of digital operations at Workman, is joining Hachette's marketing strategy team as executive director of e-commerce and D2C business, a new position at Hachette.

In addition, the other members of the Workman digital operations team will move to the HBG information technology team:

Rina Mody is senior product analyst.

Mike Moglia is associate business analyst.

SarahMay Harel is web and D2C product manager.

Julia Rittenberg is D2C operations analyst.

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Besse Lynch, formerly publicity manager at Timber Press, has joined The Experiment as senior publicist.

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Hannah Boardman has joined TvS Media Group as publicity assistant. Boardman graduated from DePaul University's College of Communications last December with a bachelor's degree in public relations and advertising. She interned at TvS Media Group during her final year of college.


Media and Movies

TV: Washington Black

Tom Ellis (Lucifer) will be a series regular in Washington Black, the Sterling K. Brown-fronted adaptation of Esi Edugyan's novel, which received a straight-to-series order at Hulu, Deadline reported. Selwyn Seyfu Hinds (Twilight Zone) is adapting the limited series for 20th Television. Ellis, who will play Christopher "Titch" Wilde, joins Ernest Kingsley Jr., who stars in the title role, along with Iola Evans, Edward Bluemel, Sharon Duncan-Brewster and Brown. 

Washington Black is executive produced by Hinds, who also serves as showrunner, along with Brown under his Indian Meadows Productions banner, series writer Jennifer Johnson, and The Gotham Group's Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Jeremy Bell, Lindsay Williams and DJ Goldberg. Series directors Wanuri Kahiu and Mo Marable also serve as executive producers, along with Anthony Hemingway. Esi Edugyan is co-producer.



Books & Authors

Awards: Audie Finalists; International Dublin Literary Longlist

Finalists in the 25 categories of the 2022 Audie Awards, including the Audiobook of the Year and the Audie Award for Young Adult, have been announced by the Audio Publishers Association and can be seen here. Winners will be named March 4 at the Audie Awards Gala, hosted by actor, author and producer Kal Penn.

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A longlist has been released for the €100,000 (about $144,155) International Dublin Literary Award, which is sponsored by Dublin City Council to honor a single work of fiction published in English. Nominations include 30 novels in translation, spanning 19 languages, with works nominated by 94 libraries from 40 countries around the world.

The shortlist will be announced March 22 and the winner named May 19, as part of the opening day program of International Literature Festival Dublin. Check out the complete International Dublin Literary Award longlist here.


Reading with... Kim Fu

(photo: L. D'Alessandro)

Kim Fu's first novel, For Today I Am a Boy, won the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction, was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and was a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice. Her second novel, The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, was a finalist for the Washington State Book Awards. Fu's writing has appeared in Granta, the Atlantic, the New York Times, Hazlitt and the TLS. Her newest work of fiction is Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century (Tin House, February 1, 2022), a collection of poignant, erotic and darkly comic stories. She lives in Seattle, Wash.  

On your nightstand now:

I'm the middle of Walk the Vanished Earth by Erin Swan, which comes out later this year--a gorgeous, gripping, innovative family epic that leaps between the Kansas plains in 1873 and Mars in 2073, and a world-ending flood in between. I have a TBR shelf in my living room, but it's become so overstuffed that my nightstand has become my "no, really, I mean it" TBR shelf, itself still a towering stack. It contains a lot of recent poetry (All the Flowers Kneeling by Paul Tran, The Shadow List by Jen Sookfong Lee, What Hurts Going Down by Nancy Lee), Best American Essays 2020, Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller (lent by a friend who swears by its loveliness) and a couple books by friends I'm eager to read: Misfire by Tim Mak, an investigation into the corruption and ongoing downfall of the NRA, and Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka, a novel that deconstructs the psyche of a man on death row, told primarily through three women whose lives intersected with his.

Favorite book when you were a child:

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. James's world was strange, cruel and baffling, as I often felt the world to be--a rhinoceros eats his parents--but I still remember the description of the peach juices dripping from the tunnel walls onto his tongue, the thrill of the peach breaking free from its branch and rolling into the sea.

Your top five authors:

My answer to this question is constantly changing! As of this moment, Karen Russell, Elizabeth McCracken, Ted Chiang, Louise Erdrich and Kevin Brockmeier.

Book you've faked reading:

I can't recall ever doing this explicitly, but a copy of The Complete Stories of Franz Kafka drifted around my house for a few years, and anyone who came over would have reasonably assumed I was reading it, and not just moving it between reading locations. (I still haven't read it.)

Books you're an evangelist for:

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, The Vegetarian by Han Kang, In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell and Red Clocks by Leni Zumas. All powerfully strange books, books that resist simple explanation, books you read with your gut, books that upended my sense of how fiction is supposed to work.

Books you've bought for the cover:

Before the franchise became a global phenomenon, I picked up Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan because it was a massive tome jacketed end to end in gold sparkles, with neon pink lettering, and the title was genuinely shocking to me in 2013.

And Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett. Who can resist a flamingo?

Book you hid from your parents:

My parents were too busy to notice what I was reading, but I remember thinking they probably shouldn't see the Christopher Pike teen horror novels I took out from the library. Their pulpy covers featured axes buried in heads and legs splayed out of miniskirts.

Book that changed your life:

When I was 11, I came across Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon by Marjorie Kellogg in a bookstore, a short, brutal novel from the 1960s about three strangers who are discharged from a hospital at the same time and decide to live together. I still have the copy I bought that day; the pages are torn, stained and wavy with water damage. Kellogg's prose is spare, the plot brisk, but every character, no matter how minor or brief their role--the nurses, their racist neighbor, even a dog by the roadside--is explored deeply and empathetically. Tell Me showed me, unconsciously, the kind of writer I wanted to be.

Favorite line from a book:

"How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,/ and frightening that it does not quite." --Jack Gilbert, "The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart," The Great Fires

Books you'll never part with:

David Rakoff's essay collections Fraud, Don't Get Too Comfortable and Half-Empty. Rakoff wrote perfect sentences, dense with meaning, wit, musicality and revelation. I reread one of his essays every time I feel like I've forgotten how to write, how words fit together.

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

I read Alice Munro's Best, a compendium of selected stories from 1977-2004, before I read the individual story collections she published in those years, and I've always regretted it, because it meant that I never got to experience those collections in their original groupings with completely fresh eyes. I feel Munro's stories have an effect on your perception of aging and time, on the narrative you make of your own life, and I wonder what it would be like if her hundreds of stories could be new to me again.


Book Review

Review: The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, a Philosophy, a Warning

The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, a Philosophy, a Warning by Justin E.H. Smith (Princeton University Press, $24.95 hardcover, 208p., 9780691212326, March 22, 2022)

For most people, the Internet has become an indispensable element of daily life. Yet it's doubtful many of them have spent any significant amount of time pondering either the moral, economic or sociological dimensions of this ubiquitous medium or its historical roots. For more inquisitive minds, Justin E.H. Smith's erudite The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, a Philosophy, a Warning affords an opportunity to reflect deeply on what he calls the "addictive power of the internet," and to consider its implications for our individual and collective lives.

Smith (Irrationality: A History of the Dark Side of Reason) opens his brief book on an alarming note, arguing that the Internet--a term synonymous, in his view, with "the more familiar sites of daily use by billions of people: Facebook, Google, and so on"--is "plainly, tearing the social fabric to threads, and pulling people apart," reflected in social media operating as "engines of perpetual disagreement." To support his thesis, he points to several novel phenomena that have made Internet users "the targets of a global resource-extraction effort on a scale the world has never before seen," one that is "compromising our ability to use our faculty of attention in ways conducive to thriving."

There's no shortage of journalistic jeremiads raising concerns of this nature, bemoaning the Internet's impact on modern life. What distinguishes Smith's exploration is that he writes from the vantage point of a professor of history and philosophy of science, the subjects he teaches at the University of Paris, and his insights are deeply informed by these disciplines. In the second half of his book, he takes readers on some fascinating historical excursions to a time as distant as the 13th century and a device purportedly capable of answering yes-or-no questions, "a medieval Siri, if you will," or the work of the 17th-century German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz to develop a calculating machine. These examples are part of Smith's broader consideration of subjects that include artificial intelligence and some of the precursors of modern computers.

Unlike similar works, Smith stops short of offering any broad individual or societal prescriptions for solving the problems he identifies. But in simply raising readers' awareness of the rising threat from the ways in which they are being manipulated in the service of "attention-extractive profit-seeking," by forces that are "making us less free and less capable of achieving human thriving," he may sound enough of an alarm to move some of them to action. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Justin E.H. Smith examines the alarming problems of the Internet in its contemporary incarnation and insightfully explores some of the historical antecedents of this technology.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'Okay Campers, Rise & Shine!' The Infinite Reading Loop

When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn't imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter. --Phil Connors (Bill Murray), Groundhog Day

My alarm went off at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning, but Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe" didn't come blaring through the phone's speaker ("Okay campers, rise and shine! And don't forget your booties 'cause it's cold out there."). It was just time to go to work, which meant walking through the house to my office and firing up the laptop, preparing to send the morning's edition of Shelf Awareness Pro

I also, for the first time, watched the traditional Punxsutawney Phil Groundhog Day extravaganza, which was livestreaming from Pennsylvania. It was all I would have expected it to be, but I like the movie better. 

Wiarton Willie

As it happens, I'd been preparing for G-Day this year much more than I usually do (which, I confess, is not at all) with a little research. I learned some dark things: New Jersey's Milltown Mel died just before G-Day and this year's event was canceled; in Canada, Wiarton Willie, "a celebrity so beloved that he has statues built in his honor, died last year--and his demise was covered up by town officials." I learned fun things too: The boy in the tree who is saved by Phil is now a reporter (not a weatherman, alas): Shaun Chaiyabhat works for WCVB in Boston.  

But I was mostly drawn to Chaiyabhat's hometown, Woodstock, Ill., where Groundhog Day was filmed and which has become its own G-Day destination spot over the years. There's a Groundhog Days festival, with walking tours, several showings of the movie at the Harold Ramis Auditorium, Classic Cinemas Woodstock Theatre on Main Street, and much more. 

And there is an indie bookstore in Woodstock, Read Between the Lynes, that has great fun with the celebrations. On G-Day morning, while still at my computer, I opened an e-mail from Danielle Cybulski-Herbert, communications manager at the bookshop, who noted that  G-Day "is a very big thing in our city" because the movie "was filmed here 30 years ago in our historic square and around town. So just after 7 a.m. this morning, we gathered in the square to hear the prognostication of our very own groundhog pal Woodstock Willie. Willie saw no shadow after emerging and declared an early spring. Hurrah!"

Woodstock Willie at Read Between the Lynes

During the week's festivities, Read Between the Lynes showcased its groundhog gear ("help commemorate our favorite furry weather predictor"), welcomed Woodstock Willie as a bookseller ("Guess who stopped by? That's right! Our pal, Woodstock Willie visited us to say hello and see what we have in store for Groundhog Days.... Yes, we'll be here for your morning coffee/tea/muffin run! Bing!") and reported that Willie had predicted an early spring (unlike his Punxsutawney cousin).

Groundhog Day has a strong bookish foundation. Phil cites Chekhov and reads from Poems for Every Mood to Rita (Andie MacDowell), who studied 19th-century French poetry in college and at one point conjures up lines from Sir Walter Scott's "Lay of the Last Minstrel." Among Phil's books on the coffee shop's counter are Treasury of the Theatre: From Agamemnon to A Month in the Country by John Gassner and Johann Strauss: Father and Son, a Century of Light Music by H.E. Jacob.

In fact, an imaginary library could have been a key moment in Groundhog Day. Danny Rubin, who wrote the original screenplay, cited Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat and H.G. Wells's The Time Machine as sparks for his movie idea. In an interview a few years ago, he recalled that his initial concept called for a "library scene" at the b&b that would have emphasized just how long Phil had been trapped in his time loop.

"I decided if he read a page of a book every day, he could remember where he was," Rubin said. "So there's this big bookcase in the bed and breakfast, and every morning he goes down and he reads one page of one book. So you know that by the time he's gotten to the last page of the book, it's probably been about a year. And then he gets to the end of the row; and then he gets to the bottom of of the shelf. And then there's a very momentous day where he reads the last page of the last book of the last shelf, and you see him put it down and then, in a very depressed way, walk all the way back down to the beginning and start over again."

In the spirit of G-Day as a book holiday celebrating an infinite reading loop, I'll end with this bit of real-life trivia, courtesy of IMDB: "The idea of Phil Connors reading to Rita Hanson while she sleeps came from Bill Murray. His wife drank too much champagne on their wedding night and fell asleep early, so Murray read aloud to her until he too fell asleep."

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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