Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 12, 2016


Penguin Press: Daredevils by Shawn Vestal

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill: A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

Running Press: Gone With the Gin by Tim Federle

Harper Teen: Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan

Simon Pulse: The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder

Other Press: The Other Woman by Therese Bohman

Workman: The Vegetable Butcher by Cara Mangini

Editors' Note

News

ABA Names Board Candidates

The American Booksellers Association's board of directors has approved the ABA nominating committee's recommendation of four candidates to stand for election to three-year terms (2016-2019) on the board, Bookselling This Week reported. Nominees for the upcoming elections are Kris Kleindienst of Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo.; Chris Morrow of Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt., and Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; Annie Philbrick of Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn., and Savoy Bookshop, Westerly, R.I.; and Robert Sindelar of Third Place Books, with two locations in the Seattle, Wash., area and a third scheduled to open in spring 2016.

Philbrick and Sindelar are coming to the end of their first three-year term on the board and are eligible for a second three-year term. Sindelar is also in the first year of a two-year term as ABA v-p, serving alongside ABA president Betsy Burton of the King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah. Kleindienst and Morrow have not previously stood for election to the board.

Sarah Bagby of Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, Kans., will leave the board in May at the end of her second three-year term on the board.

BTW noted that four candidates, rather than three, are up for election to the board "as a result of the membership's approval of an ABA Bylaws amendment in October 2015 that increased the number of members serving on the board from 10 to 11."


St. Martin's: Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz


New Coffee Shop Opening at Vroman's

photo: Jones Coffee Roasters

Appropriately called the Next Chapter, the new coffee shop at Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, Calif., should open within a week, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune wrote.

The Next Chapter will be in a 1,000-square-foot space in the front of Vroman's, where the Zeli Coffee Bar was located for 20 years until last December.

"We were looking for a new tenant in our building and we completely fell in love with everything they do," said Allison Hill, president and CEO of Vroman's and Book Soup. "This will create a great synergy."

The Next Chapter is owned by Chuck Jones, who also run Jones Coffee Roasters, a coffee shop that has been in business 22 years.

"We've had a lot of opportunities to expand, but Vroman's seemed like the natural choice because they are as much of an institution in the community as we are," Jones told the paper. "The hardest store is always the second one because a second store requires you to set standards for yourself that you never had going into your first store."


Soho Crime: Gold of Our Fathers by Kwei Quartey


The Bookshelf in Truckee, Calif., Delays Closure

Debbie Lane, who put the Bookshelf in Truckee, Calif., on the market last fall after 23 years in business, "has decided to keep the bookstore open a little longer than originally planned in hopes someone will come forward to buy and continue running the business," the Sierra Sun reported.

"I really wanted to see Truckee keep the Bookshelf," Lane said, adding: "I would like to know a bookstore will continue, hopefully sooner rather than later. After all, it has been my life's work."

The bookstore's lease was set to expire at the end of January, but the business is now operating on a month-to-month lease. The Sun noted that although the listing "has garnered interest from potential investors, none are interested in managing the bookstore."

"I love what I do and have for the past 23 years," she said. "If we don't find a buyer, I guess I will have to let go--but not quite yet.... I am optimistic we will find a buyer.... I hear all the time: 'We love your bookstore. I wish I could buy the Bookshelf. Please don't close.' They are our people, we don't want to let them down."


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: Three titles by Augusten Burroughs


Amazon Books Roundup

In the week since Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of General Growth Properties, a real estate investment trust that owns and manages 120 shopping malls, blurted out in a conference call with analysts that Amazon planned to open 300-400 bricks-and-mortar bookstores, many have accepted that, in reality, the company probably plans to open only a half dozen in the next year or two. Still, the frenzy about Amazon Books has led in the past few days to a lot of fascinating observations and speculation about Amazon and bricks-and-mortar stores-- bookstores as well as stores selling other merchandise.

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In his Shatzkin Files, Idea Logical Company's Mike Shatzkin stated on Wednesday that "when you think it through, it not only doesn't seem crazy that Amazon would open stores, it seems like an obviously compelling move." He noted that other online retailers have opened bricks-and-mortar locations and said, " 'Omni-channel,' which is really a new-fangled fancy term for selling both online and through a brick store, is the buzzword du jour of retailing. Actually, the online piece of that is the harder part and Amazon already had that licked."

B&N survived while Borders did not in part because it had a better distribution system, he continued. Now, Amazon has a better distribution system, with "many times the number of storage points as B&N and Ingram and Baker & Taylor combined!"

In addition, "Amazon has tons of information that nobody else does that would inform their stocking decisions if they harnessed it. They know where searches are coming from for particular book titles or for generic needs, both geographically and psychographically. And they probably can detect early lifts for particular books faster than anybody else, simply because they have more data."

He also argued that the decision by Amazon's book retailing competitors not to sell the titles Amazon publishes may have helped push the giant toward opening stores. "If the stores had stocked their titles, Amazon might have chosen to use their distribution center advantage to start wholesaling, rather than to support their own retail locations (as they appear to be doing)." As a result, having stores "gives them access to at least some brick-and-mortar retail locations for their publishing output, which otherwise they can only sell online. And the other is that it capitalizes on their distribution centers, delivering additional sales and margin for investments already made."

Shatzkin also suggested another way Amazon could be disruptive to booksellers: "They are a tech company that likes to have computers make decisions that in other companies and in other times have been made by humans. I suspect they'll figure out pretty fast that they will want to have some sort of vendor-managed inventory system to streamline and optimize the stocking decisions for what will almost certainly be a growing network of retail locations."

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Valuewalk quoted Wharton management professor Daniel Raff, who noted two key elements about the Amazon Books store in Seattle: "One, it doesn't seem to be [about] just books, but also participation in the Amazon ecosystem. The other is, they are in a position to stock and promote these stores quite inexpensively. That is a competitive edge relative to new brick-and-mortar stores."

In addition, Raff said, Amazon has filed patent applications involving "recognizing who their customers are and their payment information while they are at the shelves and contemplating products, and allowing a cashier-less checkout." Amanda Nicholson, professor of retail practice at Syracuse University's Whitman School of Management, said such a program would cut overhead and make the store more competitive with bricks-and-mortar competition.

With bricks-and-mortar "depots," Amazon could send shipments to locations where customers could pick up their orders, and be "ahead of the game in terms of shipping costs," Raff continued. And customers might then buy other merchandise.

Still, he compared rolling out many more stories in a short period of time with "a D-Day invasion."

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In a blog post for the Robin Report, Robin Lewis, CEO and founder of the Robin Report and a professor at the Graduate School of Professional Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology, noted that he had predicted "as far back as 2010" that Amazon would open physical stores, but had thought they would feature apparel, "for all the obvious reasons, including touching, feeling and trying on for look and fit--all of which results in an astronomically high return rate of around 40% when purchased online."

He predicted that rather than targeting indies or Barnes & Noble retail stores, "Amazon's first attack will strike a blow to the heart" of Barnes & Noble Education, which was spun off from B&N last year, by expanding on the distribution locations Amazon already has at at least three campuses.

"Going after college markets first is a strategic no-brainer," he wrote. "Having been born with digital brain cells, this student generation is Amazon's sweet spot. A survey from SheerID found that 77% of college students purchased something online in the past 30 days, and many reports have noted the struggle all colleges are having with managing the tsunami of Amazon packages that are delivered on a daily basis. Note that Amazon has a college Prime rate of $49."

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On the other hand, a Wall Street analyst suggested that Amazon buying B&N "may make sense." In a Barron's soapbox column, Gabelli & Co.'s John Tinker wrote that such a move would "accelerate" Amazon's move into stores--and the moves would be easy because "the Nook counter at the front of stores could be immediately switched for the Kindle."

Tinker noted that "stagnant e-book sales, more independent book stores, U.K.-based Waterstones revival by focusing on local managers selecting books and dropping the Kindle, suggest renewed consumer interest in physical books."

Tinker also thinks an Amazon purchase of B&N "might" avoid antitrust problems because B&N has only about a "17% share of physical-book sales." Also, "the idea that bankrupt book stores could be 'saved' by Amazon might sell well in Washington--a town in which Jeff Bezos's personal ownership of the Washington Post guarantees superior access. Amazon helped the Justice Department successfully indict Apple for agency price collusion with publishers."

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In an e-mail with the prescient subject line "Amazon and the Boiling Frog Syndrome," Jack McKeown, co-owner of Books & Books Westhampton Beach, Westhampton Beach, N.Y., sent a striking quote from a BloombergBusiness story this week called "Amazon Building Global Delivery Business to Take on Alibaba," about what appears to be a stealth Amazon project involving buying planes, trucks and ships to create a shipping business that would supplant UPS, FedEx and many other freight companies:

"This is classic Amazon fashion," said Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co., who says a global logistics operation could become a $400 billion business for Amazon. "They take baby steps along a long path, which allows some companies that could be disrupted to remain in a sense of denial. Amazon rarely takes one big step forward that shocks the market."

McKeown then wondered: "Now what possible relevance could this have for book publishing and bricks-and-mortar bookstores given Amazon's plans to open a 'modest' number of physical locations?"


Executive Changes for Disney Book Group, Rodale

Mary Ann Naples
Gail Gonzalez

Effective March 14, Mary Ann Naples is becoming v-p & publisher at Disney Book Group, part of Disney Publishing Worldwide. A 20-year publishing industry veteran, she most recently served as senior v-p, publisher at Rodale Books and Rodale Wellness. Succeeding her is Gail Gonzales, who was named v-p, publisher at Rodale Books, effective immediately.

Prior to her tenure at Rodale, Naples held executive positions at Zola Books and the social retail platform OpenSky, and co-founded the Creative Culture, Inc., a boutique literary agency. She has also held positions at Simon & Schuster, Hyperion and Doubleday.

Jeanne Mosure, DPW senior v-p & group publisher, said Naples "brings the right leadership capabilities to support the amazing team and talent we have, while implementing new strategic initiatives in the future."

Gonzales joined Rodale in 2015 as v-p, associate publisher, trade books. Prior to that, she had been director of integrated marketing at Simon & Schuster and marketing & publicity director at Hay House.

"I am so grateful to Mary Ann for leading Rodale Books the past three years with integrity, creativity and a passion for our mission," said Rodale CEO Maria Rodale. "Gail is perfectly poised to lead our talented team and continue to drive our business forward with her outstanding business acumen, bold approach and enthusiasm for our brands."


Obituary Note: Hillel Black

Hillel Black

Hillel Black, whose long career in publishing included working at William Morrow, Macmillan and Sourcebooks, died February 8. He was 86. Black was also the author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction and had an editing agency. As his obituary stated, "He fought for every moment, savoring life until the end. A man of words and expression, he will be remembered for his contributions and guidance to writers around the globe."

Among titles he edited were M*A*S*H by Richard Hooker, The Curious Case of Sidd Finch by George Plimpton, The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon, Harry Truman by Margaret Truman, The Story of My Life by Moshe Dayan, The Camera Never Blinks by Dan Rather and Pathfinders by Gail Sheehy.

In a tribute, Todd Stocke, v-p, editorial director at Sourcebooks, wrote: "It was Hill's deep love for authors that helped form a cornerstone for the sort of publishing company we sought to create. As the former publisher of Macmillan and editor-in-chief at William Morrow, he joined what was then a small publishing house trafficking entirely in nonfiction. Simply put, Hillel Black put us on the map," helping the company launch the Sourcebooks Landmark fiction imprint.

"Hillel's care for books and authors was unparalleled, and his drive to find the next big book was never-ending," Stocke observed. "He was a mentor to me and to many others here. Several of us have been commiserating today about his phrases of wisdom that have become vocabulary around here--a 'publishing prophet' is just one way of explaining his impact. Go for it, ask a long-timer, they'll have a Hillel story to tell you. Most importantly, though, Hillel was a dear, dear friend. His was a kind and genuine soul. He will be missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends."

Donations may be made in Hillel Black's memory to the Southern Poverty Law Center.



Notes

Personnel Changes at Random House

Diana Blough has been appointed director, category marketing, Random House Children's Books. She formerly was an imprint sales director with Penguin Random House Publisher Services.

In the publicity department:
Barbara Fillon has been named v-p, deputy director of publicity. She joined the company 10 years ago.

London King has also been named v-p, deputy director of publicity and has worked at Random House for 10 years.

Maria Braeckel has been appointed associate director of publicity. She joined the company in 2007.

Jennifer Garza has also been appointed associate director of publicity. She started as a publicity assistant for Random House before moving to the Savannah College of Art & Design for several years. She rejoined the company in July 2013.

Greg Kubie has been named assistant director of publicity.

Christine Mykityshyn has been named senior publicist.

Dhara Parikh has been named associate publicist.

Catherine Mikula has also been named associate publicist.

Danielle Siess has been promoted to associate publicist, social media and special events.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Richard Engel on Hardball with Chris Matthews

Monday:
MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews: Richard Engel, author of And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781451635119).


TV: Game of Thrones; Outlander

HBO's Game of Thrones, based on George R.R. Martin's bestselling novels, released "20 photos to get your blood boiling" for season 6 of the hit series, which returns April 22. Indiewire reported that "while there's no sign of Jon Snow, nearly all of your other living favorites can be seen wearing various degrees of dirt and hinting at key changes to their characters--like Cersei's haircut and Arya's eye issues."

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Starz announced that the second season of Outlander, based on Diana Gabaldon's bestselling book series, will return April 9. Entertainment Weekly reported that the "action in the series from Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) will move to France, where Claire Randall Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) will attempt to infiltrate the French aristocracy in an effort to stop the Battle of Culloden." EW also featured a trailer for the new season.


Books & Authors

Awards: Waterstones Children's Book

An 18-title shortlist has been announced for this year's Waterstones Children's Book Prize, which "is the chance for our booksellers to champion new and emerging talent within three categories: illustrated books, younger fiction and older fiction." Category winners receive £2,000 (about $2,890), and then vie for the title of £3,000 (about $4,620) Waterstones Children's Book of the Year. Winners will be announced March 17 in London at Waterstones Piccadilly.

"It has been a brilliant year for children's books, and these lists show that great new talent continues to be found and nurtured, not least by our expert booksellers," said Florentyna Martin, Waterstones children's buyer. "As proved by our shortlists, today's children do not just enjoy books for the escapism they offer, but for how they can illuminate life in all its shades of light and dark. This is a wonderfully diverse selection of books to be justly celebrated."

James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, said: "These exceptional shortlists confirm... that the world of children's books is every bit as exciting and varied as any other area of publishing. We revel in this creativity and the hallmark of our bookshops is the ability of our booksellers to spot such extraordinarily good books."


Book Brahmin: Idra Novey

photo: Donata Zanotti

Idra Novey's poetry collection Exit, Civilian was selected for the 2011 National Poetry Series. Born in western Pennsylvania, she has since lived in Chile, Brazil and New York. Her fiction and poetry have been featured on NPR's All Things Considered and in Slate, the Paris Review, StoryQuarterly and Guernica. She's also translated four books from Spanish and Portuguese, most recently Clarice Lispector's novel The Passion According to G.H. Novey teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University. Her debut novel, Ways to Disappear, was just published by Little, Brown.

On your nightstand now:

For night reading: Garth Greenwell's What Belongs to You, Etgar Keret's The Seven Good Years, Silvina Ocampo's Thus Were Their Faces, and Lidia Yuknavitch's The Small Backs of Children.

For the morning: the Spanish edition of Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad All Year, Sapo y Sepo, un año entero, the current favorite among the tiny people who pile into my bed at 7 a.m.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I couldn't get enough of Jon Stone's Sesame Street Classic The Monster at the End of this Book. It spoke to my disobedient nature. I loved disregarding Grover's pleas not to turn the page, knowing the monster he feared at the end of the book was none other than his fuzzy blue self. I'd like to think my affection for unreliable narrators began with Grover.

Your top five authors:

That's a hard question to answer without adding some parameters. I'll stick to favorites filed under the letter C:

Anne Carson
Julio Cortázar
Clarice Lispector
Albert Camus
Colette
César Vallejo
Carson McCullers

Even with just C's, that's a little more than five.

Book you've faked reading:

The Bible, though I still got a decent grade in my Bible as Literature class in college.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Marie NDiaye's Self-Portrait in Green. I've given it as a birthday present five times now. I can't stop. It's just such an exquisite book. NDiaye is as frank as Elena Ferrante in her portrayal of the ways women shift between protecting and resenting each other, but NDiaye is more mischievous. I'm eager to read her new novel, Ladivine, coming out from Knopf this spring.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Chocolates & Confections by Peter Greweling. The bonbons on the cover are like edible poems. Although the purchase of this giant book did not lead, as I had hoped, to actually making my own ganache, I've certainly eaten quite a bit of chocolate while flipping through it.

Book you hid from your parents:

Like many preteen girls in the '80s, I caught the V.C. Andrews fever. My sister gave it to me after catching it from a neighbor down the street. I don't know who first bought all the Flowers in the Attic books we shared between us, but they made for fascinating conversations at the bus stop. I have many fond memories of standing on the corner, speaking in dramatic whispers about Cathy getting it on in the attic with her brother.

Book that changed your life:

Clarice Lispector's novel The Passion According to G.H. It transformed my thinking about what a novel could be. My desire to learn Portuguese and move to Brazil grew out of my fascination with G.H. Five years ago, Barbara Epler answered my dreams when she asked me to translate it for New Directions.

Favorite line from a book:

"If a friendly road should lead you into a complicated city with nets of crooked streets and five hundred other roads leaving it for unknown destinations, your own road will always be discernible for its own self and will lead you safely out of the tangled town." --from Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman, one of the most ridiculous and endearing books I've ever read.

Five books you'll never part with:

This, too, requires additional parameters. I can't even narrow down my reading for a week of vacation to five books. If narrowed to fiction and the letter J, the list would be:

Denis Johnson, Jesus' Son
Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
John Williams, Stoner
James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room
Jose Saramago's Blindness

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

It's got to be the Monster at the End of this Book, to experience that spectacular last page again--the sheepish look on Grover's face when he discovers that he's it.


Book Review

Review: Bottomland

Bottomland by Michelle Hoover (Black Cat/Grove Press, $16 paperback, 9780802124715, March 1, 2016)

In Bottomland, Michelle Hoover (The Quickening) tells the story of an immigrant family's experience in the Midwestern plains with empathy, understanding and an eye for detail.

Julius and Margrit Hess arrived in Iowa in the 1890s, determined to make their bottomland there support a family. Four daughters, two sons and years later, the story opens with Nan, the eldest child, straining to hold her household together following Margrit's death. The two youngest girls, Esther and Myrle, have disappeared in the night, from behind locked doors, leaving no note or sign of struggle. In the anti-German frenzy of World War I, the neighbors and townspeople began to harass the Hesses, and good relations have never been established since. Nan and her siblings fear that this local animosity has finally culminated in the fate of the two girls. How does a family negotiate such a loss? "Deaths are commonplace. But a disappearance--it has the scent of murder in it." The Hesses are now only Nan; her bitter and gnarled brother Ray and his wife, Patricia; brother Lee, well-meaning but easily confused; quietly supportive sister Agnes; and near-silent Father, who ceased his full participation in life when Mother died. They search for Esther and Myrle across the countryside and even as far as Chicago, the city that "sounded like spitting."

Bottomland is told in alternating first-person perspectives. Nan has sacrificed to keep the Hess family fed and in one piece. Julius brought his wife to a dusty claim, with a dugout to sleep in, to start a family. Lee, the younger and larger of the two boys, was always a little slow, but his injury in the war did him further harm. And finally there are the perspectives of Esther, the unruly child, and then the baby, Myrle. These are the personalities most revealed in the novel, and each of the Hesses is developed expertly, each dealing differently with the rock-hard and dirt-poor life they lead, with the prejudices of their neighbors, and of course with the missing girls, empty seats at the table and the question of food for the winter: "Hope, it was a terrible expense. We couldn't let anything go to waste. And we couldn't risk the extra we might set side only to spoil" if the girls did not return.

Hoover offers a lovely feat of exposition, bringing to life the immigrant experience, the hard work of homesteading, the deprivations and bigotries of the war years, and the workings of family, how its members cope and hold onto one another. Bottomland covers a large terrain, with characters who feel warm and close. Readers will be drawn in, and moved. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Following World War I, a German American family in the Iowa plains faces the usual deprivations of farm life compounded by wartime prejudice and the mysterious disappearance of two children.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'Read This' for Valentine's Day

He did not read much poetry until she started working at the bookshop, but he soon caught the fever from her. She was evangelical, and somehow presumed he might be a convert. He wasn't certain how or why their ceremony started, but occasionally she would approach him with a slender volume, her finger marking a page. Read this, she would say, then disappear.

"Random thoughts for Valentine's Day... Today is a holiday invented by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap," Joel (Jim Carrey) observes early in the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Then he meets Clementine (Kate Winslet) and the day turns... complicated yet amazing. Oh, and Clementine is a bookseller at Barnes & Noble.

Valentine's Day is complicated, but here's a little bouquet of bookseller love for the long weekend:

Astoria Bookshop in Queens, N.Y.: Co-owners Lexi Beach and Connie Rourke were highlighted in a QNS feature headlined "Fall in love with these Queens power couples." Their Valentine's Day plans: "We're planning to have a romantic dinner at home and to make bananas Foster. Any dessert we can set on fire with a kitchen torch is OK by us."

Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif.: "In honor of Valentine's Day--and Bookshop's 50th year--we are celebrating our role playing Cupid! Romance has blossomed for a number of co-workers over the decades. Here are some of the folks who found love working in the aisles of Bookshop Santa Cruz."

Broadway Books, Portland, Ore.: "It's February, and Cupid's aim is true--directly to our hearts. Yes, it's true, we're in love. And every day we fall in love again, with yet another newly published bright and shiny book: novels, nonfiction, poetry, kids' books--a little bit of everything. You may think us tarts for our wide-ranging amorous attachments, but we hope you'll fall in love with a few of these new goodies too!"

The Twig Bookshop, San Antonio, Tex. (from e-newsletter): "Dear Reader: Do you feel the love? Once again, it is the Month of Love and we have just the book for you! Books for children, books for teens, books for adults in all seasons! Books about friendship, platonic love, teen love, mature love, illicit love and books on how to preserve and leave love!"

Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn.: "Color Your Own Shop Dog Valentines!"

Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif. (from e-newsletter): "Who doesn't love a book swap?  Books and love have long gone hand in hand, from the world of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, to the contemporary prose of Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. Join Book Passage for a Valentine's book swap... Bring a favorite book that features a love story to swap and be ready to mingle and meet other book lovers."

Malaprop's Bookstore, Asheville, N.C.: "Climb between the sheets with a Valentine's Day Blind Date Book." And: "Feb. 14th... over it yet? We have your Schmalentine's Day alternatives right here. You're welcome :)"

Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington, Conn.: "Why yes, that is a Valentine's Day gingerbread house!"

Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y.: "Valentine's Day is Sunday, February 14--and nothing says 'I love you' like a book! Books are a great way to show love to the children in your life, or to romance that special someone. (And as all book lovers know: reading makes you look attractive.)"

The Book Bin, Northbrook, Ill.: "You are special to us. As February arrives, along with it come displays of chocolates and flowers, everything adorned with sappy red hearts. Don't misread us--we do love these Valentine gifts--but sometimes we wish for more. We wish for someone to know us better, to think about us more deeply. Buying a book for someone implies this extra thought. It takes time (and brain cells) to choose a book for your mate, friend or family member. It implies more learning about a subject they like; more quiet time together without the television blaring; more conversation about what made you gasp aloud on page 158. Anything can happen in a book, just like anything can happen on Valentine's day. You may be surprised by a bouquet of flowers or you may indulge in that box of chocolates; but shop at a bookstore this year and you may find a book that could change your life or someone else's."

Since he didn't want to be part of a one-sided conversation, he began opening poetry collections at random while shelving books. Occasionally he would find something special and share it with her. Read this, he'd say. One day, she asked about his favorite poem. They were good friends by then. He found the book. Read this. It's beautiful, she said, and read it again. He left, afraid she would be tempted to read it aloud.

Happy Bookish Valentine's Day. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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