Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 24, 2017


Random House: Shadow Man by Alan Drew

Workman: Summer Brain Quest - Get a Free Event Kit

W. W. Norton & Company: T2 Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

Mira Books: The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

Little Brown and Company: The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner

Algonquin Young Readers: The Wingsnatchers (Carmer and Grit #1) by Sarah Jean Horwitz

Quotation of the Day

Porter Square Books: 'Be the Change'

"Regardless of your political opinions, we are now living in a different and more tumultuous world. As we watched our community, both in the greater Cambridge/Somerville area and in the book world, grapple with the state of the world (we are on Twitter, after all) it became clear we needed to reexamine those responsibilities and question those assumptions. In conversations among ourselves, both formal and informal, two principles rose to the top: refuge and resources....

"Going forward, we are committed to not only continue to be that refuge but to find creative, fun, and perhaps even silly ways to celebrate the solace and joy that come from books and to ensure that, no matter who you are, you both see yourself represented on our shelves and have the opportunity to connect with other people, other places, and other cultures.

"It is also clear that in this tumultuous time our community wants to do... something. Bookstores have always had a responsibility to provide the resources their communities need and to meet this new need, we are launching Be the Change, a civic engagement program to provide the resources to those who want to make change at all levels of government and in society in general."

--Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo


News

BookExpo: Al Franken, Marc Maron in Conversation

This year's BookExpo will host a conversation about politics and books between U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), author of the upcoming memoir Al Franken: Giant of the Senate (Twelve); and comedian, author and WTF podcast host Marc Maron, whose next book is Waiting for the Punch: Words to Live by from the WTF Podcast (Flatiron Books).

The event, titled "WTF Is Happening, Senator Franken," is scheduled for Thursday, June 1, at the Javits Center in New York City.


Soho Press: The Boy in the Earth by Fuminori Nakamura


Family Christian Bookstore Chain to Close

Family Christian, a nonprofit retailer based in Grand Rapids, Mich., operating 240 stores in 36 states, will close after 85 years in business. The Detroit Free Press reported that the company, which bills itself as the "world's largest retailer of Christian-themed merchandise" and employs more than 3,000 people, said "it had been facing declining sales since filing for bankruptcy protection in 2015, and it now has no choice but to shut down." It sells a variety of items, including Bibles, Christian-themed books, stationery, clothes, jewelry and church supplies. 

"Despite improvements in product assortment and the store experience, sales continued to decline," said Chuck Bengochea, Family Christian's president. "In addition, we were not able to get the pricing and terms we needed from our vendors to successfully compete in the market. We have prayerfully looked at all possible options, trusting God's plan for our organization, and the difficult decision to liquidate is our only recourse."


Henry Holt & Company: Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong


Hummingbird's E-Book & Audio "Must-Read Bargains"

Hummingbird, the company that aims to "democratize" e-book and audiobook retailing, has introduced "Must-Read Bargains," a program under which certain e-books and audiobooks are discounted to consumers for a full calendar month.

"We found publishers discounted e-book and audiobook titles for a confusing array of dates and durations, sometimes for no more than one day," explained Stephen Blake Mettee, Hummingbird's president and chief visionary officer. "This made it hard for our booksellers to develop and deliver effective promotions."

February's selection includes 471 titles discounted by 15 publishers, including titles from HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Workman and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, as well as smaller presses. Hummingbird has produced cut-and-paste jpeg images of some of the titles for booksellers' use. February's include the audiobook of Alex Haley's Roots for Black History Month and the e-book version of the Indies Next Pick Fallen Land by Taylor Brown.

Noting that consumers see Amazon and its subsidiary Audible as the main companies involved in providing e-books and audiobooks, respectively, Mettee said, "With programs like Must-Read Bargains, we are helping to turn that around. We want people to think 'my independent bookstore' when they think of e-books and audiobooks. We think of this as a team effort, us and our bookstore partners, but it won't happen overnight."


HarperOne: Driving Miss Norma by Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle


Obituary Notes: Frank Delaney; Sally Marmion

Irish-born author and broadcaster Frank Delaney, "who, like most novices, initially dismissed James Joyce's Ulysses as unreadable but later spent his career making that elusive novel about ordinary people accessible to ordinary readers," died February 21, the New York Times reported. He was 74. In addition to originating Re: Joyce, a weekly five-minute podcast to deconstruct the novel, and writing James Joyce's Odyssey: A Guide to the Dublin of Ulysses, "he was also a literary impresario and interpreter who interviewed hundreds of fellow authors and was often solicited to judge book awards, including the Man Booker Prize."

Delaney's bestselling books include the novels Ireland, Shannon, Tipperary, The Last Storyteller, The Matchmaker of Kenmare, and Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show, and the nonfiction Simple Courage: The True Story of Peril on the Sea.

Author Colum McCann told the Irish Times: "Frank Delaney was a man of great humor, grace and style. He celebrated, in T.S. Eliot's terms, the auditory imagination. He was, in many ways, an international literary lighthouse. He stood on the cliffs and shone out in every direction. We will miss his voice, but we should be glad that we had it at all."

John Banville said Delaney "had a delightful and infectious love of books, and of the novel in particular. He was not a 'highbrow', nor did he pretend to be, but certainly he was one of the media voices which from the 1970s onwards helped to lift fiction up again to its high place in the public's notion of what literature is and should be. Today's young novelists owe more to him than perhaps they realize.

---

Sally Marmion, "who for nearly 20 years abridged books for readings on BBC Radio 4's prized slot Book at Bedtime," has died, the Bookseller reported. She was 53.

"For me she will always be the best abridger I have ever worked with--she had the most amazing ability to see to the heart of a book and to bring out the spirit and the lyricism as well as the plot," said Radio 4 producer Di Speirs. "She had both a phenomenal intelligence but also a hugely sympathetic understanding about where the emotional heft lay.... She passionately loved books, and I'm terribly proud of all the work we did."

Actor Juliet Stevenson, who often read Marmion's abridgements, said, "Sally was such a lovely modest person and yet a supreme mistress of perhaps the least appreciated art there is. But like a great film editor she could delve right into the heart of the available material and draw out everything that mattered, that made the human story sing out, in all its complexity, its contradictions, its humanity."

Author Deborah Levy said: "I always felt I was in safe hands with Sally. She somehow managed to chase the story without losing its complexity and humor. This is not an easy call. She always made the most astute decisions about where to end a scene and begin another--and she had a knack for bringing characters to life for radio. Sally's adaptations for my novels, Swimming Home and Hot Milk, were incredibly skilled. I am so grateful to her."


Hawthorne Books: Narrow River, Wide Sky by Jenny Forrester



Notes

Image of the Day: Pachinko in Pasadena

Wednesday night, Vroman's, Pasadena, Calif., hosted Min Jin Lee in conversation with novelist Mark Sarvas in celebration of her new novel, Pachinko (Grand Central); the event was standing-room-only. She brought along a spread that included delicious fried chicken. 


Happy 20th Birthday, Main Street Books!

Congratulations to Main Street Books in Mansfield, Ohio, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next month. The Richland Source wrote that in 1997, John Fernyack purchased the building at 104 North Main Street, which had originally been a Little Professor book chain location.

"John bought it because he thinks a downtown needs to have a bookstore. And I totally agree. Together we're keeping it going strong," said store manager Llalan Fowler, adding that she uses a two-part strategy to keep the business successful: being an irreplaceable part of the community and offering things not offered at larger book chains. "They can beat us on prices, and I think most people know that," she said. "But I think all of these local readings and signings and Ohio history books are things you can't get there. We also help organize a lot of things downtown that do not necessarily have to do with books."

The birthday festivities will take place March 3. "We have a dedicated, loyal customer base," Fowler said, "a group of people I will see every week. At this party we will be revealing something that is giving back to them for supporting us for so long.... Together we’ll celebrate the year that represents, as it does for many Americans, an amazing, liberating, terrifying sort of freedom."


Posman Books 'Brings Some Excitement' to Atlanta

Ponce City Market's Posman Books "brings some excitement to Atlanta's bookstore scene," Style Blueprint noted to introduce its conversation with the bookseller's v-p, Robert Fader, "about what makes the store one with staying power. We're certain you'll find Posman Books to be a destination that defies the stereotypes just as we did."

"I'm constantly looking for new and interesting items from all over the world," said Fader. "I attend gift shows, pore over catalogs and scout out cool stores wherever I go. I'm always on the lookout.... I think people can tell on entering the store that they are not in for a cookie-cutter experience. I guess that means our specialty is being special."

Style Blueprint observed: "We're lucky to have Posman Books join our Atlanta ranks. The shop is the retailer's first location outside of New York City, but because of Ponce City Market's Jamestown Properties developers, Atlanta was a natural fit."

"They have a knack for honoring a historic space while at the same time creating an exciting new atmosphere," Fader said. "Ponce City Market is not just a place to go shopping: it's a place to live, to work, to gather with friends, to celebrate special occasions and to connect with Atlanta's wonderful community."


Media and Movies

NYC's Logos Bookstore Ready for Its Film Closeup

Logos Bookstore in New York City recently served as a filming location for the movie Can You Ever Forgive Me?, starring Melissa McCarthy. Bookselling This Week reported that the bookshop's interior was "rearranged and redecorated by the location crew to look like an entirely different bookstore. While Logos did have to close down during the filming earlier this month, the production company paid to use the store's space. Logos is just one of the bookstores that will be featured in the film." Based on Lee Israel's book Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger, the movie hits theaters in 2018.

"The location scouts liked the interior and they signed me up," said Harris Healy, who has owned the bookstore since 1991. "It was a great experience. It was really fun seeing my bookstore change into something else for the movie."


Movie Deal for Boston Public Library 'Writer in Residence'

Natalie C. Anderson has "parlayed an improbable stint in the Boston Public Library's Writer-in-Residence program into a movie deal," the Boston Globe reported, noting that in 2015, "despite having never published anything, or even taken a college writing course, Anderson was accepted into the BPL's writer-in-residence program and what she wrote has now been optioned by Universal Pictures and actress Kerry Washington." Her YA novel, City of Saints & Thieves, was published by Putnam in January.


Books & Authors

Awards: Ezra Jack Keats

The Ezra Jack Keats Book Awards, which recognize a writer and an illustrator early in their careers for their outstanding work, have gone to:

New Writer: Jeri Watts for A Piece of Home (Candlewick Press)
New Illustrator: Micha Archer for Daniel Finds a Poem (Nancy Paulsen Books/PRH)

The winners receive a gold medallion and an honorarium of $1,000. The awards are presented by the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, in partnership with the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. The 2017 award ceremony will be held on April 6 during the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival at the university. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor will present this year's Ezra Jack Keats Book Awards and Andrea Davis Pinkney will deliver the Keats Lecture.


Reading with... Alex George

photo: Shane Epping

Alex George is an Englishman who lives, works and writes in Missouri. He is the author of A Good American and the founder and director of the Unbound Book Festival. His new novel, Setting Free the Kites, is published by Putnam (February 21, 2017).

On your nightstand now:

Too many books to mention. As director of the Unbound Book Festival, which takes place in Columbia, Mo., every April, my reading at this time of year consists almost exclusively of books by authors who are coming. So, a lot of Salman Rushdie, Marie Howe, Ishmael Beah, Julie Barton, Peter Geye....

I also have a stack of first chapters to read, or rather re-read. My wife and I teach a literature and creative writing course at the University of Missouri called "Chapter One." Each year we choose 10 of our favorite opening chapters to teach and workshop the students' own first chapters to their (as yet unwritten) novels. One of the best bits of the job is picking which chapters to teach. This year they include Nabokov, George V. Higgins and Toni Morrison.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Big Weekend Book. This was a tattered green hardcover that I think must have belonged to my father when he was young. It was a glorious miscellany of instructional childhood stuff--rope tricks, flower collecting, building a tree house, Morse code and most things in between. I knew the whole thing back to front. By the time I was done with it, it was falling apart. And it was all terribly English.

Your top five authors:

Grace Paley, James Salter, Julian Barnes, Salman Rushdie and Zadie Smith.

Book you've faked reading:

Dickinson Unbound by Alexandra Socarides. This is a brilliant, groundbreaking study that changed the way we think about how Emily Dickinson wrote and kept her poems. I bought a copy a week before I had a date with the author. It took about two pages for me to realize that I was hopelessly out of my depth, and that I would look ridiculous if I tried to discuss it. Instead, I told her that I'd bought the book, nodded wisely and left it at that. In retrospect it looks like a sound tactic, since we're now married.

Book you're an evangelist for:

American Copper, the first novel by American Book Award winner Shann Ray. It's stunning. Set in the wilds of Montana and spanning 60 years in the early 20th century, it tells a story both breathtakingly intimate and vast in scope. Addressing the infinite complexities of race, class, gender and cultural imperialism, it brings the American West vividly to life. It's beautiful, lyrical, tough and heartbreaking.

Book you've bought for the cover:

More cookbooks than I care to admit. I should never go into a bookshop when I'm hungry.

Book you hid from your parents:

Can't think of a single one. I suppose that means that either my parents were very permissive or very myopic.

Book that changed your life:

The Magus by John Fowles. This was my companion on a cold, rainy day in England in the fall of 1992, when my coach broke down on the road between London to Oxford. We were stranded there for two hours, but I didn't care, because I was on an island in the middle of the Aegean. It made me understand, profoundly and directly, the extraordinary power a good story has to transport the reader. That was when it occurred to me that I ought to try and write one myself.

Favorite line from a book:

"Reserving judgment is a matter of infinite hope." --The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Five books you'll never part with:

Collected Stories, Richard Yates
Dog Years, Mark Doty
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
Birds of America, Lorrie Moore
Two Cures for Love: Selected Poems 1979-2006, Wendy Cope

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

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. Because, I mean, really.


Book Review

Review: City of Light, City of Poison

City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris by Holly Tucker (W.W. Norton, $26.95 hardcover, 336p., 9780393239782, March 21, 2017)

In City of Light, City of Poison, Holly Tucker (Blood Work) emphasizes that in the late 17th century, Paris was not an elegant and refined place to live. Violence and danger were found in its overcrowded streets and alleyways, where brass knuckles, knives and pistols were frequently used during brawls that broke out in public areas. Thieves and pickpockets made victims of many. The narrow streets, which had no sidewalks, teemed with carriages that threatened to overrun the multitude of pedestrians, and kicked up mud, excrement and blood from the numerous slaughterhouses located in the city center. Nighttime brought yet more dangers to the good citizens of the city. So when one official lieutenant was murdered and another civil magistrate found dead under suspicious circumstances, King Louis XIV went into action, appointing Nicolas de la Reynie as the first police chief and giving him the task of bringing order to the chaos.

Between April 1679 and July 1682, more than 400 people were questioned, 200 imprisoned and 30 executed by beheading, hanging or incineration for events known as the Affair of the Poisons. Tucker shares her four years of meticulous research through hundreds of handwritten documents to expose the truth about one of the more gruesome episodes in French history. Filled with the stories of the men and women involved in murder, attempted murder, Satanic rites and many infidelities among Paris nobility--including the king and his multiple mistresses--Tucker's exposition is a true detective story of the finest kind. She introduces readers to the numerous players in this web of deception, especially la Reynie, who was determined to uncover the truth behind the rumors and gossip of witches, poisoners and heretical priests that floated through the Parisian streets. The police chief had no idea he was opening the lid to a veritable cesspool of intrigue and mayhem.

Interrogation scenes feature grisly details of arsenic poisoning and torture, like the rack, water boarding and gruesome brodequins (wooden braces that were used to apply extreme pressure and excruciating pain to the legs). Their intensity, however, is offset by titillating details of Louis XIV's repeated romps with many a younger woman, and of la Reynie's relentless pursuit of the truth. For anyone interested in the darker side of the Sun King's reign, City of Light, City of Poison will not disappoint. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Shelf Talker: The vivid true story of numerous murders by poison in Paris is set against the backdrop of Louis XIV's lush and sexually active reign.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Cabin Fever? The Summer Down Under Cure

"It was a baking February day. The ocean was a mirror." --from Tim Winton's novel Breath

Is there anything more bittersweet than the end of summer? For reasons known only to my subconscious (though partially explained by a self-diagnosis of Northeastern U.S. Deep-Freeze Winter Brain Syndrome), I've been keeping a bookish eye on the hazy days of summer in Australia and New Zealand for the past couple of months.

This exercise can be a little disorienting when their season includes Christmas, New Year's and Valentine's Day instead of Fourth of July and Labor Day, but it has also generated some welcome psychic heat. As snow piled up and wind whipped around my house, I kept bookmarking warm weather social media posts, wrapping them around myself like a digital patchwork quilt. You can even see the pattern:

In mid-January, a sidewalk sandwich board at the Mary Who Bookshop in Townsville, QLD, offered a "Books vs. reality update" by inviting readers inside to cool down.

"Come into our beautiful cool shop and enjoy picking up some undoubtedly cool books tomorrow. And you can always have your coffee 'iced', in the café," Riverbend Books in Bulimba, QLD, posted on Facebook. And before that: "Escape into Riverbend... we have air conditioning and lots of lovely books!"

On Instagram, Unity Books in Wellington, N.Z., noted: "The perfect summer read! Beach Life by Douglas Lloyd Jenkins--a compelling, illustrated account of our connection with beach life in NZ #beachlife #newzealand #summerreading #welovebooks".

Beachside Bookshop, Avalon, NSW: "Get your #loveozya Surf on. Characters who Surf #YAwriterswhosurf and a fab read about witches. And we sell cool @moelocoflipflop so you too can leave your very best mark on the sand".

It isn't all sun and sand, however. Last week, Time Out Bookstore in Auckland, N.Z., tweeted: "It's rained every day since we installed our summer window. On the bright side, it's perfect reading weather."

Way back in November, Booksellers N.Z. launched its Summer Reading Guide for 2016/17, which Kim Pittar, manager of Muirs Bookshop in Gisborne, described as "an excellent selling tool, arriving in the local newspaper just as people are about to start shopping for Christmas It remains in the store for another 6-7 months as the books are still current and usually selling well."

Meanwhile, in Western Australia, Boffins Books, Perth, exclaimed: "Happy Summer Reading Guide day! If you've been a Boffin for over a year, then you may recognize this momentous occasion. The release of the Summer Reading Guide heralds the start of the festive season, summer and the competition of the year (a chance to win one of two book hampers valued at over $3,500 each)...."

And what would summer be without beach read recs? The myriad lists included: The 23 books that eight Canberrans will (collectively) be reading this summer holidays; 11 books you should be reading this summer; and Kids summer reading guide: Keep your children hooked on books these holidays."

Australian authors spoke with the Weekly Review about the books they were reading as well as their all-time favorite summer read. Even politicians got into the act: "Stalin, Churchill, Cicero, Harry Potter, Tintin and Awesome Man are on the reading lists of our federal politicians this summer," the Age reported.

For a Stuff feature on "experts' picks," New Zealand author Jenny Pattrick​ wrote: "Summer reads gives the impression of reading while lying on a beach, or reclining in a deck chair with birdsong all around. Do we like to read lighter fiction while on holiday or during the warm months? From my point of view, no. A good book can be a summer read or winter one." Patrick teamed up with other authors and the New Zealand Book Council to help promote the Aotearoa Summer Reads initiative.

Elsewhere, "Power Up with Books," the Scholastic summer reading challenge, has logged almost 2 million reading minutes for Australia.

Dunedin's University Book Shop created a bookshop-based annual residency for emerging writers. "We often have writers who say light-heartedly 'I could live here!', and now with the help of the Robert Lord Writers' Cottage Trust they almost can," said UBS Otago manager Phillippa Duffy.

Readings, which operates seven bookshops in Melbourne, traced summer's arc eloquently with three blog posts:

Nov. 30: "The official first day of summer is tomorrow!"
Jan. 17: "This summer, we've been busy reading in parks, on beaches, and in the frozen food aisle of our local supermarket."
Feb. 8: "School is back, summer is in its final month, and there are plenty of new books to read."

In his novel Cloudstreet, Tim Winton wrote: "Summer came whirling out of the night and stuck fast. One morning late in November everybody got up at Cloudstreet and saw the white heat washing in through the windows."

And now, it's the end of summer Down Under, while over here the week has brought a hint of spring (or at least Mud Season). Who says reading doesn't take you places?

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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