Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, November 22, 2022


Yearling Books: When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

Pantheon Books: Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Scholastic Press: The Guardian Test (Legends of Lotus Island #1) by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Kevin Hong

Tor Books: The First Bright Thing by J.R. Dawson

News

Deal Derailed: PRH Won't Buy S&S

Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and S&S parent Paramount Global all confirmed yesterday that the deal under which PRH would buy S&S for about $2.2 billion has ended.

In an 8-K filing with the SEC, Paramount Global said that it had "terminated the purchase agreement in accordance with its terms," which includes a $200 million termination fee that PRH will pay Paramount Global.

The filing noted that S&S "remains a non-core asset to Paramount, as was determined in early 2020 when Paramount conducted a strategic review of its assets. Simon & Schuster is a highly valuable business with a recent record of strong performance, however it is not video-based and therefore does not fit strategically within Paramount's broader portfolio." This was widely interpreted as a way of saying that S&S is on the block again.

Citing "people familiar with the decision," the Financial Times said "Paramount decided to halt the process because of the protracted uncertainty hanging over Simon & Schuster and the limited prospects for securing merger approval through an appeal."

The Financial Times also predicted that selling S&S will be more difficult because of "more challenging market conditions. Simon & Schuster fetched a price far in excess of initial estimates two years ago, in part because Bertelsmann saw clear financial advantages from cementing its position as the world's biggest book publisher."

In a statement, PRH said that it "remains convinced that it is the best home for Simon & Schuster's employees and authors, and together with Bertelsmann, we did everything possible to complete the acquisition. We believe the judge's ruling is wrong and planned to appeal the decision, confident we could make a compelling and persuasive argument to reverse the lower court ruling on appeal. However, we have to accept Paramount's decision not to move forward. We want to thank our Penguin Random House employees and the teams at Simon & Schuster for their support. We wish them the very best in the future, and look forward to continuing to make a positive impact on society through the books we are honored to publish for readers everywhere."

Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe said yesterday that expanding PRH remains "a strategic priority," and that the company is aiming for 5%-10% growth in the book business, both organically and through acquisitions.

In a letter to staff, S&S president and CEO Jonathan Karp said he had no information about what might happen in the near future, adding, "I am grateful for your patience and dedication to our mission during all that has transpired over these many months since the sale began. Ultimately, what matters the most is the work we do together, on behalf of our authors and our books. Over the past three years, we have reached new heights of accomplishment. Simon & Schuster has never been more profitable and valuable than it is today. And that is because of the effort, ingenuity, and perseverance that you bring to our endeavors."

Calling 2022 "one of the single greatest years in our history," Karp continued, "I see numerous reasons to be optimistic about our future. We'll be starting the new year with some tremendously exciting, sure-to-be-bestselling titles, which will be buttressed by the sales of what is currently the bestselling backlist in the publishing industry."

The deal for PRH to buy S&S was announced on November 25, 2020, but the Justice Department filed suit against it in federal district court on November 2, 2021, focusing in particular on the purchase's effect on advances for bestselling authors. After a trial this past summer, on October 31, the court ruled for the Justice Department.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Only Game in Town by Lacie Waldon


Binc Launches Mental Health Wellness Program

The Book Industry Charitable Foundation is now offering two months of free therapy to booksellers and comic retailers through its Mental Health Wellness Program, which began as a limited pilot program earlier this year. 

Through the program, booksellers and comic retailers can receive two months of free therapy (up to four live sessions per month as well as unlimited texting) through a partnership with the online mental health platform BetterHelp. BetterHelp offers individual, couples and teen therapy services, and the therapists on BetterHelp are licensed, accredited and have a Master's or Doctorate degree in their field.

Since the start of the pilot program, reported Binc executive director Pam French, 300 members of the book and comics communities have received access to therapy without any charge or obligation.

Binc launched the pilot program based on the results of its biannual survey, which found that 54% of participants felt that mental health therapy assistance would have the greatest value to the bookselling and comics communities. The American Psychological Association has found that demand for anxiety, depression and stress-related treatment is at a three-year high, with 60% of psychologists at capacity and unable to accept new patients.

Those in need can fill out a short application on Binc's website. Binc will not know who is receiving therapy and will not have access to any associated data.


GLOW: Putnam: The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams


One Idea Books & Gifts Hosts Soft Opening

One Idea Books & Gifts hosted a soft opening this weekend in Leechburg, Pa., Trib Live reported. The store focuses on books by women authors and offers a selection of candles, stationery and other nonbook items.

Co-owner Lindsey Smith told Trib Live that the bookstore will have pop-up hours through the holiday season before opening three days per week in the new year. Later this week, an artist will create a "whimsical mural" on one of the walls, and the shop will eventually feature book benches throughout the space.

"I really want this to be a destination," Smith said. "I want people to be so excited about coming to visit."

Smith has written eight books, including Junk Foods & Junk Moods: Stop Craving and Start Living, and is the co-owner of One Idea Press, an independent publisher she co-founded with Alexandra Franzen, also an author. Smith grew up in Leechburg, and One Idea Books & Gifts is located right next door to the small business founded 36 years ago by her mother and late father.

"It's always great to see another business open up in Leechburg, but this one is special to me," Lindsey's mother Debbie Smith said. "It's great to see her carry on the entrepreneurial spirit, but in her own way."


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Love & Other Scams by Philip Ellis


Obituary Note: Greg Bear

Greg Bear

Science fiction author Greg Bear, who wrote more than 50 books and "played a leading role in defining how global audiences saw future final frontiers," died November 19, GeekWire reported. He was 71. Bear had his first short story published in 1967 and began writing full time in 1975. His works include multiple award-winning series, a Star Trek novel and a Star Wars novel, as well as a trilogy set in the Halo video-game universe. 

Bear won Nebulas for novels Moving Mars and Darwin's Radio, as well as three works of short fiction, two of which--"Blood Music" and "Tangents"--also won Hugos. In 2006, he received the Robert A. Heinlein Award. His final novel, The Unfinished Land, was published last year.

Bear's influence on the science-fiction community "extended far beyond the written page," GeekWire noted. He was one of the founders of San Diego's Comic-Con International and served for two years as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America (now the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association). 

Current SFWA president Jeffe Kennedy said, "When I took over as a newbie president of SFWA, past-president Greg Bear was unfailingly gracious to and supportive of me. I loved his work and admired him as an author, so to discover what a truly kind person he was meant so much. He will be greatly missed by SFWA and the larger community."

After moving to the Seattle, Wash., area in 1987, he became a member of the team that created and organized the Washington State Centennial Time Capsule. GeekWire contributor Frank Catalano recalled introducing Bear to the late software billionaire Paul Allen--a contact that helped lead to the creation of the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, now part of Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture.

Author Harry Turtledove tweeted: "Greg the man was a friend. Greg the writer was quite remarkable."

Bear was best known "as a writer of 'hard' science fiction--stories that are grounded in the improbable plausibilities of science and technology," Geekwire noted. "For example, in Strength of Stones, a novel first published in 1982, Bear laid out a world in which cities that are governed by artificial intelligence rise up against their human creators. And in his War Dogs Trilogy, Bear gave leading roles to private space ventures like Elon Musk's SpaceX."

In a tribute, author John Scalzi wrote: "What I will add here is the personal observation that in my experience of him, he was kind and decent, and treated me as a peer from a very early stage in my career, which is something I noted and appreciated, and tried to emulate in turn. I have condolences and care for Astrid and their children, and all who knew him, either personally or through his work. He will be missed. He is missed, already."


Notes

Image of the Day: From Downton to D.C.

Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C., hosted actor/author Hugh Bonneville in conversation with Louis Bayard about his memoir Playing Under the Piano: From Downton to Darkest Peru (Other Press). More than 300 people attended. Pictured: co-owner Bradley Graham (l.) with Bonneville.

Personnel Changes at Greenlight Bookstore

At Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y.:

K. Kerimian has been promoted to events coordinator. They have been a shift leader and event host for the last year a half. Before joining Greenlight, Kerimian was the bookmobile manager for House of SpeakEasy, inventory manager at Book Revue, and a bookseller at Busboys & Poets Books and at Borders. They also head the queer mutual aid initiative the Nonbinarian Book Bike.

Claire Fallon has been promoted to marketing coordinator. For more than a year, she has been a bookseller, shift leader, and event host. Before joining Greenlight, Fallon was publicity and operations associate at Coffee House Press. She is also an MFA candidate in creative nonfiction at Sarah Lawrence College and a freelance book reviewer.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Steve Lopez on Fresh Air

Today:
Fresh Air: Steve Lopez, author of Independence Day: What I Learned About Retirement from Some Who've Done It and Some Who Never Will (Harper Horizon, $27.99, 9780785288725).

Tomorrow:
CBS Mornings: Lauren Graham, author of Have I Told You This Already?: Stories I Don't Want to Forget to Remember (Ballantine, $28, 9780593355428).

Tonight Show: Jacques Pépin, author of Art of the Chicken: A Master Chef's Paintings, Stories, and Recipes of the Humble Bird (Harvest, $30, 9780358654513).


TV: The Falling Girls

Bruna Papandrea's Made Up Stories and Fifth Season have optioned the rights to Hayley Krischer's YA novel The Falling Girls for television, Deadline reported. Chloe Stearns and John Wynn are set to write the series. Made Up Stories' Jodi Matterson, Steve Hutensky and Papandrea will exec produce in partnership with Fifth Season. 

"When I was writing The Falling Girls, I wanted to explore the explosive, vulnerable and complicated dynamics between teenage girls and their best friends," said Krischer. "Friendship problems don't stop once you become an adult, but in high school, breaking up with a friend can seem like the end of the world. Not only were Chloe and John crystal clear about their vision for my story, but they genuinely cared about my characters. Bruna Papandrea has dedicated her career to telling women's stories--she's basically a writer's dream come true. I can't wait to see The Falling Girls come to life on the screen with such intelligent and creative people behind it."

"We knew The Falling Girls was special from the very first page," Stearns and Wynn noted. "Hayley captures the nuances of teenage female friendship with a level of authenticity we have yet to see and we're thrilled to be on this journey with her." 



Books & Authors

Awards: Carnegie Shortlists; Bobbitt Poetry Winners; BIO's Editorial Excellence

Shortlists have been announced for the American Library Association's Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. Winners will be announced on January 29 during LibLearnX. The shortlisted titles:

Fiction:
Greenland by David Santos Donaldson (Amistad)
Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty (Tin House)
The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka (Knopf)

Nonfiction:
Constructing a Nervous System by Margo Jefferson (Pantheon Books)
An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden World around Us by Ed Yong (Random House)
Vagina Obscura: An Anatomical Voyage by Rachel E. Gross (Norton)

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The Library of Congress is awarding the $10,000 2022 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry to former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove for lifetime achievement and to Heid E. Erdrich for her poetry collection Little Big Bully (Penguin Books). The poets will receive their honors and read selections from their work on Thursday, December 8, at 7 p.m. at the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building.

The Bobbitt jury called Dove's latest poetry collection, Playlist from the Apocalypse: Poems, "quintessential Rita Dove: ethical and lyrical, moving in and out of the whirlwind that is history, playful in her use of form--sonnets, odes, addresses, invocations, aubades--and generous in her gathering of different voices and tribes to her pages."

The Bobbitt jury said that Heid E. Erdrich "writes across the breadth of the U.S.'s collective history with Indigenous peoples using historical terminology that reaches into the heart of tribal sovereign existence. Yet there is the underlying awareness that Indigenous nations maintain a unique history and have tribal narratives that shape their lives. Her poems are lyrical, visual and, at times, achingly personal."

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Biography International Organization awarded its 2022 Editorial Excellence Award to Gerald Howard, the editor who retired in 2020 as executive editor and v-p of Doubleday Books after almost 50 years in publishing.

Howard began his career in 1972 as a copywriter for Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, and while moving from Viking Penguin to Norton to Doubleday, he acquired and published biographies on a range of subjects, from Susan Sontag, Gore Vidal, Mary McCarthy, Frank Sinatra, Maurice Sendak, Luciano Pavarotti and Joan of Arc, to lesser-known figures such as Iceberg Slim, Lester Bangs, Harold Hayes, and homicide detective Dave Carbone. Howard has also been a major editor of fiction, having received the 2009 Maxwell Perkins Award, and he has worked with authors such as Paul Auster, Don DeLillo, A.M. Homes, David Foster Wallace, and Hanya Yanagihara. His essays and reviews have appeared in Bookforum, Tin House, American Scholar, London Review of Books, n+1, Salon, and other publications. BIO added that he is currently writing a biography of legendary editor Malcolm Cowley for Penguin Press that, to the amusement of some colleagues, is overdue.


Book Review

Review: The 12th Commandment

The 12th Commandment by Daniel Torday (St. Martin's Press, $27.99 hardcover, 304p., 9781250191816, January 17, 2023)

In his third novel, The 12th Commandment, Daniel Torday (Boomer1; The Last Flight of Poxl West) marries an intriguing murder mystery to an exploration of the power of charismatic religious leaders and an inquiry into aspects of Kabbalistic thought. It's an ambitious project, but he's clearly done his homework and has the self-assurance to execute the task he's set for himself with both substance and style.

The novel's protagonist, Ezekiel (Zeke) Leger, a New York writer and editor with a national magazine, returns to the small Central Ohio town of Mt. Izmir, where he attended college, for the funeral of one of his classmates who's taken his own life. But that sudden death is not the only puzzle that will consume him. Almost simultaneously with his arrival, he hears about the murder of Osman Fritzman, the 16-year-old son of the leader of a sect that blends Jewish and Muslim practices in a nearby rural enclave. The leader, who goes by the name Natan of Flatbush and claims prophetic powers, has been convicted of the crime, in a prosecution led by Zeke's ex-lover, Johanna Franklin. Natan awaits the outcome of his appeal in prison.

Once Zeke persuades a skeptical editor to greenlight an investigation into the sect and the murder, he must overcome the initial resistance of the religious community--known as the Caves--to allow access to an outsider. The looming presence of men in Hasidic garb toting semiautomatic rifles adds tension to these encounters, as does the ominous figure of the local sheriff who's both suitably threatening and capable of quoting William James. As he pursues his journalistic effort, Zeke, whose own connection to Judaism ended with his bar mitzvah, finds himself drawn ever more deeply into the sect's alien, but somehow enticing, beliefs and practices.

Torday, a two-time winner of the National Jewish Book Award for fiction who teaches creative writing at Bryn Mawr College, links his fictional cult to the Dönme, a real-life group of 17th-century Jews in the Ottoman Empire who followed a false messiah known as Shabbetai Tzvi, and who practiced their faith in secret while living outwardly as Muslims. He succeeds in making the heterodox religious life of the Caves community seem plausible, seasoning Zeke's observations of their rituals--ones that include liberal use of mind-altering substances--with excerpts from the prison notebooks of Natan, abstruse discourses on the history of his sect and its Kabbalah-infused beliefs, which include "redemption through sin."

Though Torday brings the mystery of Osman's death to an appropriate conclusion, it's clearly subordinate in importance to the story of Natan and his followers. As long as there are fervent believers, some will strive to transcend the boundaries of conventional faith. Only time and circumstance determine how their quest will end. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: In this ambitious and successful novel, Daniel Torday deeply explores life in a heterodox religious sect in rural Ohio set against the backdrop of a mysterious murder of one of its number.


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by IndieReader.com:

1. Happenstance by Tessa Bailey
2. Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score
3. Defending His Hope by Patricia D. Eddy
4. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter
5. Twisted Love by Ana Huang
6. Cain's Jawbone by Edward Powys Mathers
7. All In by Various
8. Hebrews to Negroes by Ronald Dalton Jr.
9. Once Upon a Holiday by Claudia Burgoa
10. Untying the Knot by Meghan Quinn

[Many thanks to IndieReader.com!]


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