Shelf Awareness for Thursday, June 11, 2015


Penguin Press: Winter by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Ecco Press: Varina by Charles Frazier

House of Anansi Press: The Break by Katherena Vermette

Algonquin Books: Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick and Marc Rosenthal

News

European Commission Investigating Amazon E-Book Policies

The European Commission has begun "a formal antitrust investigation into certain business practices by Amazon in the distribution of electronic books," the Commission announced today.

The Commission is focusing on the "most favored nation" clauses of Amazon's contracts with publishers that require publishers to notify Amazon about any better terms given Amazon competitors and offer those terms or similar alternatives. The investigation will focus initially on English- and German-language e-book markets.

"The Commission has concerns that such clauses may make it more difficult for other e-book distributors to compete with Amazon by developing new and innovative products and services," the Commission said. "The Commission will investigate whether such clauses may limit competition between different e-book distributors and may reduce choice for consumers. If confirmed, such behaviour could violate EU antitrust rules that prohibit abuses of a dominant market position and restrictive business practices."

In response, Amazon said, according to the Bookseller, "Amazon is confident that our agreements with publishers are legal and in the best interests of readers. We look forward to demonstrating this to the Commission as we cooperate fully during this process."

A year ago this month, the Börsenverein--the German book trade association--filed a complaint about several of Amazon's business practices with the German antitrust office. The Bookseller said that the complaint "attracted the attention of the EU Commission last July."


Quirk Books: My Lady's Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris


AAP: Total Book and Journal Sales Up 4.6% in 2014

Total 2014 net revenue for books and journals in the U.S. rose 4.6%, to $27.9 billion, while trade book revenue in 2014 rose 4.2%, to $15.4 billion, according to StatShot Annual, a yearly statistical survey of publishing's estimated size and scope by the Association of American Publishers. Total net unit sales in 2014 rose 3.8%, to 2.7 billion, and net unit sales for trade titles rose 4.2%, to 2.4 billion.

The survey relies on a combination of sales reported by many publishers and estimates of sales not reported by other publishers.

Tina Jordan, v-p of the AAP, commented: "The industry's health is driven by the depth and range of titles and formats produced by publishers. By that measure, 2014 was a good year for publishers with more than 2.7 billion books in all formats sold and continuous innovation in developing new ways for readers to enjoy and learn from books."

Among findings:

Online retail was the top sales channel for customers in the trade category, with sales of $5.9 billion and 832 million units. After years of decline, sales at physical retail stores rose 3.2%, to $3.80 billion, and units sold rose 4.1%, to 577 million.

E-books grew 3.8%, to $3.37 billion while unit sales rose 0.2%, to 510 million. (Neither figure includes e-books sold through subscription services.) E-books accounted for 21% of trade units sold.


Trinity University Press: Arte Kids - Bilingual Board Books


Village Books Turns 35; Chuck Robinson to Bike 2,400 Miles

It's a summer of celebration for Chuck and Dee Robinson, owners of Village Books, Bellingham, Wash. To begin, this weekend the store marks its 35th anniversary, Friday, June 12-Monday, June 15, with a two-day, 20% off sale; a penguin-naming contest; the presentation by Chuck of a new, updated edition of his memoir, It Takes a Village Books: 35 Years of Building Community, One Book at a Time; and an appearance by David Suzuki, author of Letters to My Grandchildren (Greystone Books), at the Mount Baker Theatre, part of the store's Booked at the Baker Series. (For a great interview with the Robinsons and general manager Paul Hanson and an overview of the store's history, see this piece in whatcomtalk.com.)

Chuck and Dee Robinson
photo: whatcomtalk.com

The grand finale of the celebration: on Monday, Chuck, an avid biker, begins a 2,400-mile bike ride from Bellingham to Galva, Ill., where he will attend his 50th high school reunion in August. He'll take a few breaks on the trip--one is to attend Dee's high school reunion in Hastings, Neb.--but will then pick up where he left off. Dee will offer support along the way in their Rialta motorhome. To see his planned route and each stage, see his "big ride" blog, which he'll be updating from the road. He plans to visit bookstores on the way and encourages people to ride with him on stages.

The bike trip is also a fundraiser: Chuck is pledge $1 per mile to three groups--the Book Industry Foundation (Binc), the Whatcom Community Foundation and the Galva Foundation for Educational Enrichment. Pledges can be made here, and as Chuck points out, "A 1¢ pledge would be less than $25, 10¢ would be less than $250, and... well, you can do the math."

A sustaining contributor to Binc, Chuck said, "Binc has been instrumental in helping booksellers who have suffered hardships or emergencies, and in providing scholarships for higher education. It's a great foundation--and a way for booksellers and friends to help booksellers."

Binc executive director Pamela French commented: "The Binc Foundation was thrilled when Chuck told us about his ride--not only because of his generosity to us, but because he embodies the best qualities of booksellers in our industry--the vision and determination to spread great ideas and create strong community bonds. We truly appreciate Chuck’s dedicated support in spreading the word about our programs."

Binc board president Lori Tucker-Sullivan will join Chuck on August 11 and bike the last 50 miles of his ride with him.

As if the bike ride isn't enough to keep the Robinsons busy, Village Books is working on opening its second store, in Lynden, Wash.--a short bike ride from Bellingham--which should open in November.


Thomas Nelson: Perennials by Julie Cantrell


Librarian of Congress to Retire at End of Year

James Billington, the Librarian of Congress since 1987, is retiring, effective January 1.

James Billington

In a statement, Billington said, "Over the years I have been asked if I have been thinking about retiring; and the answer has always been 'not really,' because this Library has always been not just my job, but my life. However, I have never had more faith in the leadership and staff of the Library of Congress. The Library's new, top management team is as deeply experienced, and creatively collegial, as any I have ever known, and I am confident that they will continue to innovate, adapt and improve on the work we have undertaken during my time as Librarian of Congress."

The New York Times said that the announcement "comes after Dr. Billington, who turned 86 on June 1, presided over a series of management and technology failures at the library that were documented in more than a dozen reports by government watchdog agencies."

Among the problems: millions of items are "piled in overflowing buildings and warehouses, virtually lost to the world. In addition, just a small fraction of its 24 million books are available to read online," according to a 2013 audit.

Another report, released earlier this year, said the Library has "widespread weaknesses" in managing technology and cited complaints about Billington's leadership.


Inaugural Poet Launches 'Bridges to/from Cuba'

Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco, who recited his poem "One Today" at President Barack Obama's second inauguration, has launched Bridges to/from Cuba, a writing project to lift what he calls Cuba's "emotional embargo." The Associated Press reported that Blanco and writer Ruth Behar, both Cuban-Americans, created the site "as a forum for Cubans on and off the island to share their hopes for the future as the U.S. and Cuba move closer to normalizing relations." They were prompted by what they feel is a distorted image of Cuba that has emerged in the wake of the historic detente announced by presidents Obama and Raul Castro in December.

"I think what we want to do is broaden people's minds, both Cuban-Americans and Cubans on the island," Blanco said. "Giving them things to think about: How emotionally we move forward, and each other's responsibility to each other's stories and how we can merge those stories."

Bridges to/from Cuba's advisory board includes several noted authors, including Sandra Cisneros, who said: "How necessary is it to have peacemakers, bridge builders, who are those amphibians between communities that don't understand each other. There's an intimacy, respect in a way that perhaps no other diplomat could come to the subject matter."


Obituary Notes: Paul Bacon; Marguerite Patten

Paul Bacon, designer of many striking book covers, died on Monday. He was 91.

Bacon designed more than 6,500 book covers. Among them were some of the most important and bestselling books of the last half of the 20th century: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth, The Power Broker by Robert Caro, Shogun by James Clavell, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey, Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow, Jaws by Peter Benchley and The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton.

The New York Times wrote: "He is widely credited with pioneering what is known in the industry as the 'Big Book Look'--typically a bold, minimalist design featuring prominent lettering and a small conceptual image. He did all of his designs, including the lettering, by hand."

In an interview with Print magazine in 2002, the Times wrote, Bacon said he had learned to subordinate his own aesthetic impulses to convey the main concept of a book. "I always tell myself: 'You're not the star of the show. The author took three and a half years to write the goddamn thing and the publisher is spending a fortune on it, so just back off.' "

---

British food writer and broadcaster Marguerite Patten, "author of more than 165 cookery books, which sold over 17 million copies worldwide," died last Thursday, the Telegraph reported. She was 99. Patten was awarded an OBE in 1991 for services to the Art of Cookery and a CBE in the Queen's 2010 Birthday Honours.

Waterstones cookery buyer Bea Carvalho told the Bookseller: "We are all saddened by the death of one of Britain's best loved cookery writers. Her books have provided a huge contribution to cookery publishing over the course of her distinguished career, and she has been an inspiration to many. We're sure the upcoming reissue of her classic Century of British Cooking will inspire many more."


Notes

Image of the Day: Happy Birthday, BookBar!

BookBar in Denver, Colo., celebrated its second  birthday on Friday. Owner Nicole Sullivan (pictured) reports, "At the end of year 2, we've seen a sales increase of 21.25% over year 1, are completing our expansion and looking into year 3, where we will celebrate the opening of our expanded space and begin work on our author bed and breakfast upstairs, as well as growing BookClubHub.org. We so appreciate the support we've enjoyed from our community and from the book industry.... Most of all--we love all the books we are selling to people who are reading them! "


Hobart, N.Y.: 'America's Burgeoning Book Village'

"With six [used] bookstores for less than 500 residents, the Catskills town of Hobart hopes to turn itself into the U.S. analog of Hay-on-Wye in Wales," the Guardian noted in a feature on the upstate New York town where Book Village, an art gallery, a coffee shop and "the recent purchase of a building that's to be renovated into a proper English pub by the new owners" have all contributed to the town's "unlikely transformation into something akin to an English village."


Media and Movies

This Weekend on Book TV: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, June 13
2:30 p.m. Freeman Dyson, author of Dreams of Earth and Sky (New York Review Books, $27.95, 9781590178546). (Re-airs Sunday at 5:40 a.m.)

3:30 p.m. Sally Kitch, author of Contested Terrain: Reflections with Afghan Women Leaders (University of Illinois Press, $30, 9780252080272). (Re-airs Monday at 5 a.m.)

5:30 p.m. Andrew Koppelman, author of The Tough Luck Constitution and the Assault on Health Care Reform (Oxford University Press, $21.95, 9780199970025).

7 p.m. Amy Kittelstrom, author of The Religion of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition (Penguin Press, $32.95, 9781594204852), at Book Passage Bookstore in Corte Madera, Calif. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 a.m.)

7:45 p.m. John Ferling, author of Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War That Won It (Bloomsbury, $30, 9781620401729).

9 p.m. Joseph Ellis, author of The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 (Knopf, $27.95, 9780385353403).

10 p.m. Kirsten Powers, author of The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech (Regnery, $27.99, 9781621573708). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Janice Nimura, author of Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back (Norton, $26.95, 9780393077995), at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif.


Sunday, June 14
12 a.m. Lewis Gordon, author of What Fanon Said: A Philosophical Introduction to His Life and Thought (Fordham University Press, $22, 9780823266098), at Book Culture Bookstore in New York City. (Re-airs Sunday at 3:30 p.m.)

1:45 a.m. Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Jared Meyer, authors of Disinherited: How Washington Is Betraying America's Young (Encounter Books, $23.99, 9781594038099). (Re-airs Sunday at 6 p.m.)

8 a.m. Kate Andersen Brower, author of The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House (Harper, $27.99, 9780062305190). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

10:45 a.m. Michael Morell, author of The Great War of Our Time: The CIA's Fight Against Terrorism--From al Qa'ida to ISIS (Twelve, $28, 9781455585663). (Re-airs Sunday at 11 p.m.)

1 p.m. Dan Simon, author of In Doubt: The Psychology of the Criminal Justice Process (Harvard University Press, $45, 9780674046153). (Re-airs Monday at 1 a.m.)

1:25 p.m. Jody Agius Vallejo, author of Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican American Middle Class (Stanford University Press, $40, 9780804781398). (Re-airs Monday at 1:25 a.m.)

7 p.m. Eric Burns, author of 1920: The Year that Made the Decade Roar (Pegasus, $27.95, 9781605987729), at Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C.

7:45 p.m. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gives the 2015 PEN World Voices Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture.



Books & Authors

Awards: Orion Book Winners

The winners for the Orion Book Award, honoring "books that deepen the reader's connection to the natural world through fresh ideas and excellence in writing" and sponsored by Orion magazine, are:

Fiction
The Bees by Laline Paull (Ecco). The editors commented: "Surprising, imaginative, and riveting, Laline Paull's The Bees will leave you in awe of bees and their intricate society. Written from the perspective of a lowly worker bee, Paull's ambitious novel takes us deep into the hive. With suspense and a dystopic twist, this gripping story shows you bees and their struggles in a way you've never seen before. The Bees will leave you as obsessed with these miraculous (and threatened) creatures as the author, trailing after them in your yard, daydreaming about their buzzing lives carrying on outside our doors."

Nonfiction
Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea and Human Life by George Monbiot (University of Chicago Press). The editors said: "George Monbiot's well-researched book of narrative storytelling, speculation, and bold imagination is a vote in favor of rewilding not just nature but the human spirit. Feral invites readers to envision a wilder, less stifled and more primal world--one in which we humans can come to recognize our animal selves once again."


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, June 16:

The Rumor: A Novel by Elin Hilderbrand (Little, Brown, $28, 9780316334525) follows two best friends on Nantucket.

The President's Shadow by Brad Meltzer (Grand Central, $28, 9780446553933) continues the Culper Ring series.

The Santangelos: A Novel by Jackie Collins (St. Martin's Press, $27.99, 9781250048233) continues the Lucky Santangelo series.

Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian by E.L. James (Vintage, $15.95, 9781101946343) is new angle on the blockbuster trilogy.


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover
Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Rey, $25, 9780804179034). "In this incredible fantasy, a young woman is taken from her village to serve a magician and finds out that she too possesses unknown gifts. Fans of Robin McKinley, Shannon Hale, and Novik's own Temeraire series will find themselves pulled into Agnieszka's world to face the dangers of the malevolent Wood, the follies of a kingdom, and the pulsing thread of magic woven into every living thing. Both exotic and familiar, Uprooted reads like a long-lost Grimms' fairy tale written in rich, delicious detail. I absolutely devoured this book!" --Jennifer Oleinik, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

The Travels of Daniel Ascher by Déborah Lévy-Bertherat (Other Press, $22.95, 9781590517079). "Hélène, a young French girl, comes to Paris to study and is curious about her great-uncle, Daniel, who travels the world and writes adventure stories. As she seeks to discover who Daniel is, Hélène is drawn into a mystery involving his childhood years in war-torn Paris. This mesmerizing narrative gives a unique insight into what one man will do to live with the pain of the past. What is the true story of Daniel Ascher? Beautifully written and a riveting read." --Stephanie Crowe, Page & Palette, Fairhope, Ala.

Paperback
The Bees: A Novel by Laline Paull (Ecco, $15.99, 9780062331175). "This book is completely amazing. Paull uses real bee behavior as the basis for a tale of complex hive society, complete with a religion, a caste system, and threats from the outside world. The heroine, Flora 717, is an abnormally large and intelligent bee. Her size and strength give her opportunities to work at a variety of jobs, and as she begins to uncover the dark secrets of the hive, Flora makes a decision that could change the future of her entire hive. Well-crafted and filled with intrigue and action, this is a brilliant, thought-provoking, and completely original debut that does for bees what Richard Adams did for rabbits in Watership Down." --Flannery Fitch, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif.

For Teen Readers
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh (Putnam, $17.99, 9780399171611). "In this reimagining of The Arabian Nights, Shahrzad's best friend has been killed by the vicious boy-king who takes wives and orders their death the following dawn. When Shahrzad volunteers to be next so that she can avenge her friend's murder and end the king's treachery once and for all, she stays her own execution by telling him a story and convincing him to keep her alive until it ends. In the meantime, she begins to discover that the king is not what he seems--he is burdened by a dark secret. Mesmerizing and perfect for fans of Cruel Beauty, The Winner's Curse, or Shadow & Bone, this tale will knock readers off their feet with its romance, magic, and beautiful use of language." --Paige Mushaw, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt.

Children's Illustrated
Miss Hazeltine's Home for Shy and Fearful Cats by Alicia Potter, illustrated by Birgitta Sif (Knopf, $16.99, 9780385753340). "There are lots of cats who are too scared to be proper cats--cats scared of mice, of birds, of pouncing and climbing. So, Miss Hazeltine opens her home to them and gives them lessons in how to be brave. One night, when Miss Hazeltine leaves to get milk and doesn't return, it's up to Crumb, the most shy and fearful cat of all, to lead the others on a quest to rescue their rescuer. This is a story for anyone who needs help conquering their own fears." --Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, S.C.

For Ages 9 to 12
Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (Holt, $16.99, 9781627791151). "Garrison Griswold is Emily's idol. The developer of 'Book Scavenger,' a wildly popular online game for book lovers, Griswold is a rock star in the book world. But when Emily's family moves to Griswold's hometown on the very day he has an unfortunate accident, Emily finds herself in possession of a valuable book that might be the first clue in a new game, or may well be the first clue in discovering who is behind Griswold's accident. With elements of travel, adventure, mystery, famous authors, codes, online games, books, and two book-loving 12-year-old friends, Book Scavenger has just the right ingredients for the perfect middle-grade novel." --Angie Tally, the Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, N.C.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: The Sunlit Night

The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein (Bloomsbury , $26 hardcover, 9781632861122, June 3, 2015)

Set on a Norwegian island 95 miles above the Arctic Circle, Rebecca Dinerstein's debut novel, The Sunlit Night, is the wistful story of two young people--one American, the other a Russian immigrant to the United States--thrust by misfortune into a romantic encounter in this most unlikely of places.

The novel pairs recent college graduate Frances, fleeing a failed relationship and her parents' crumbling marriage in New York to intern with an artist who paints only in the color yellow, and 17-year-old Yasha Gregoriov, whose first return visit to Moscow from his home in Brighton Beach in Brooklyn is shattered by the sudden death of his father. Determined to carry out his father's wish to be buried at the "top of the world," Yasha accompanies the body to the Viking Museum, a decidedly modest attraction where tourists come to celebrate events like the whale meat festival and to practice archery while picnicking on a boulder-strewn beach, where the elder Gregoriov is buried. "Yasha and I had both come a rather far and strange way, toward either an end or a height," Frances observes.

With the arrival of Yasha's mother and her lover, and the web of attractions that blossom among the characters as the one between Frances and Yasha simmers, Dinerstein subtly complicates the plot while allowing the tension between her protagonists to build. A skilled portraitist, Dinerstein layers precise brushstrokes of detail on a foundation of keen emotional insight to raise her supporting characters above the level of caricature, whether it's Haldor, the lovelorn chief of the Viking Museum, the unaffected blacksmith Sigbjørn, Frances's feuding parents or Yasha's self-absorbed mother.

Dinerstein's appreciation for her Norwegian setting, shaped by the year she spent there on a remote northern island (a visit that inspired her bilingual English-Norwegian poetry collection, Lofoten), shines in her descriptions of the stark but beautiful natural environment. That's especially true when Frances describes the eerie phenomenon of constant daylight in July, "the sun in perpetual motion, the sky turning orange and cranberry until at three it returned to blue, and I felt ready for bed."

In her first novel, Rebecca Dinerstein has demonstrated a level of mastery that would be impressive even in a much more seasoned writer. The Sunlit Night is a funny, wise and tender story, a near perfect blend of disparate elements that's reflected in the ambiguous, yet vaguely hopeful, ending that provides the fitting conclusion to this unusual love story. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Rebecca Dinerstein's first novel is a tender love story set on a remote Norwegian island.


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