Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, June 17, 2015

DC Comics: Dark Nights: Metal: Deluxe Edition by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Greg Capullo

Minotaur Books: The Middleman by Olen Steinhauer

Houghton Mifflin: The Mandela Plot by Kenneth Bonert

Park Row: The Crossing by Jason Mott

St. Martin's Press: Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

Katherine Tegen Books: Denis Ever After by Tony Abbott

Atlantic Monthly Press: The Temptation of Forgiveness: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery by Donna Leon


Amy Brand Named MIT Press Director

Amy Brand

After an extensive search, Amy Brand has been named director of the MIT Press and will begin July 20, succeeding Ellen W. Faran. Brand, who earned her Ph.D. in cognitive science at MIT, has worked in publishing and scholarly communications at several universities, including a period as an editor at the MIT Press. Most recently, she was a v-p at Digital Science, and has also held leadership roles with independent firms that facilitate scholarly publishing and research.

"I am thrilled to be returning to MIT as director of the MIT Press," Brand said. "My years as a graduate student and at the press were among the most gratifying in my career, and it is especially exciting to make this homecoming and assume leadership of the press at a time when academic publishers are being challenged to reinvent themselves. Like the Institute itself, the MIT Press has a stellar reputation and a history of taking risks, and I'm looking forward to breaking new ground."

Chris Bourg, director of the MIT Libraries, who chaired the search committee for the position, said, "Amy's breadth of experience across many sectors of the scholarly communication system make her the ideal leader for the MIT Press at this time of tremendous change and opportunity in scholarly publishing."

Grand Central Publishing: The Anomaly by Michael Rutger

Harold Augenbraum Leaving National Book Foundation

Harold Augenbraum

Harold Augenbraum, executive director of the National Book Foundation since 2004, will step down from his position at the end of March 2016. The foundation's board has formed a search committee to find a successor.

"I have very much enjoyed my time here at the foundation, but it's time for me to seek new challenges in my professional life and for new leadership at the foundation as it looks toward the future," Augenbraum noted.

"We owe a great debt to Harold for his exceptional service and countless contributions to the foundation and its mission," said David Steinberger, NBF chairman and CEO of Perseus Books Group. "We respect his decision, and look forward to working closely with him on a carefully crafted transition process that will position the foundation for the future."

AdventureKEEN: Shop Local, Live Local All Year Long

Hachette U.K. Acquires Nicholas Brealey Publishing

Hachette U.K. has acquired Nicholas Brealey Publishing, with offices in London and Boston, Mass., which publishes books on global business, personal & professional development, and travel writing. The company will become an imprint within John Murray Press, with Nick Brealey continuing to manage the lists. He reports to Nick Davies, managing director of John Murray Press. Hachette U.K. will handle sales and distribution for the imprint.

"Nick Brealey is a brilliant publisher," said Hachette U.K. CEO Jamie Hodder Williams. "His areas of specialism... are also areas of specialism for Nick Davies's team at John Murray Press. I am absolutely delighted that Nick has chosen to come to Hachette so that  together we can further develop the wonderful business he has created."

Davies commented: "This is a really important and happy step in the development of John Murray Press. Nick and his colleagues have built a business that publishes the best books and attracts the best authors in their fields."

Brealey called the acquisition "splendid news for everybody," and offered "an example of how good the fit is--John Murray famously published Patrick Leigh Fermor's classic backlist while one of our recent travel titles is Nick Hunt's acclaimed Walking the Woods and the Water: In Patrick Leigh Fermor's Footsteps from the Hook of Holland to the Golden Horn--a perfect piece of publishing serendipity. We're now in our 24th year, and I look forward enormously to working with Jamie and Nick and to celebrating our 25th."

Disney-Hyperion: Little Do We Know by Tamara Ireland Stone

Amazon Completes London Office Move's staff consolidation move to London is now complete, with more than 2,000 employees, most of them previously based in Slough, having relocated to one of the online retailer's three current London locations, the Bookseller reported. As previously announced, the company will also open a new building in Shoreditch in 2017, which will have the capacity to house 5,000 employees.

Christopher North, managing director of Amazon U.K., said: "London is now officially our new home. The move to the capital was vitally important to our continued growth in the UK and to finding the very best talent who will join our existing team that works day in, day out to provide an exceptional service for our customers all over the country, Europe and the world."

Soho Crime: Fall of Angels (Inspector Redfyre Mystery #1) by Barbara Cleverly

Gardner Stepping Down at Piccadilly Press

Brenda Gardner is stepping down from her role as publisher at Piccadilly Press, a division of Bonnier Publishing, after 43 years in the industry. The Bookseller reported that Gardner, who will leave the company in July, set up Piccadilly in 1983 and "has published many well-known children's authors, including Anne Fine, Helen Cresswell, Malorie Blackman and Louise Rennison." Bonnier is "currently reviewing" how to replace her.

Richard Johnson, CEO of Bonnier, which acquired Piccadilly in 2013, said Gardner's "contribution to children's publishing has provided thousands of children with great stories that are still being read today.... We wish Brenda well for the future and look forward to joining her in celebrating what has been a magnificent career."

Crooked Lane Books: Sister of Mine by Laurie Petrou

Bookstore Field Trip: Part 3

In what's become an annual tradition, last month Shelf Awareness's John Mutter traveled to New England to spend a few days visiting bookstores with Steve Fischer, executive director of the New England Independent Booksellers Association, this time in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.

Sue Little at Jabberwocky

The last stop on our bookstore tour was Jabberwocky Bookshop, in Newburyport, Mass., a picturesque seaport on the North Shore, about 35 miles northeast of Boston. Jabberwocky was founded in 1972 in a tiny space by Sue Little, who was 22 at the time. ("I had $2,000 and borrowed another $2,000 to start it," she said.) Now, 43 years later, with 7,000 square feet of space and more than 30,000 titles, Jabberwocky is warm, cozy and impressive, jammed with interesting titles and with nooks and spaces made for lingering. "My tagline is 'dedicated to the fine art of browsing,' " Little said.

Jabberwocky draws from an area beyond Newburyport: it has many regular customers who come on average once a month from as far as the middle of the state and Maine and spend $150-$300 a visit. "When they come to the counter, they have a big stack of books and a grin on their face," Little said.

In part, Jabberwocky has the digital revolution to thank for this popularity. When e-books suddenly became the next big thing five or six years ago, Jabberwocky lost 40% of its fiction readers--all of whom were local--so the store made up for that by emphasizing "literary, intelligent and bookish" selections, particularly literature and poetry, art and nature. (Poetry sells even though this is a small town and there's no university here, Little said.) "We wanted people to come in and say, 'This is a real bookstore!' "

Despite digital and online competition, this store devoted to the printed book has been "super busy" the past three years, Little said, with just one exception. During this year's terrible winter, when there was "no place to park" because of the mountains of snow, sales were down for the first time in three years, but have been climbing back. April was good, and May was great, she continued. "People don't come here because they want us to survive," Little said. "People come because they get bargains and find things they want."

Besides the deep selection, draws include the twice-annual yellow-dot sales, when slow-moving titles are marked down in steps from 20% to 50% off. "Maybe I sell a title for less than I bought it for, but there's no shipping and handling," Little commented. "Also it makes Jabberwocky the customers' store--they can's wait for the next yellow-dot sale. For me, it's the building of customer loyalty."

Little also mixes in remainders with new books. ("I don't put them in a ghetto.") They're well marked, and they're "one reason we often have $200 sales," she said.

Other signs of the store's consumer-friendly approach are its discounts and loyalty programs and hours of 9-9 every day except for Sunday, when it's open 9-6.

In 1986, Jabberwocky moved into its current space in the Tannery Marketplace, a major retail center in Newburyport that was originally a tannery and has the feel of a remodeled old mill. Jabberwocky was the first retail operation in the newly opened shopping complex, which Little called "a brilliant marketing concept, kind of the heart of Newburyport," since downtown is more tourist-oriented. There are more than 50 stores and restaurants in Tannery Marketplace.

Little built the bookcases for the store and has kept them, saying, "They're odd, but they work." She added that she preferred to spend money that might have gone to new fixtures for books.

In the early years, the store had a café because there wasn't one nearby. Now that space has become a used book room and offers event space for up to 80 people.

In 1995, Sue Little's sister opened Eureka!, an educational toy store, next door to Jabberwocky. Little said this "makes us a destination. Every family that comes comes to both. It's great synergy." (Jabberwocky has a children's section upstairs.)

Jabberwocky had "a great events program" until the economy collapsed, Little said, and that has been growing again, in part because Newburyport "suddenly has lots of authors now," and local authors usually draw 80-100 people to events.

Little keeps strict tabs on inventory, which "has to turn three times a year unless it has cachet, like Shakespeare." Twice a year, staff goes "through every book in the store, checking its sales history" and weeds out slower-moving titles.

For Little, having the right titles in stock and being able to reorder fast are key. The staff tells customers that any books not in stock can be ordered, with about half available the next day and half in two days. "My customers love this and expect it now," Little said. "I have to do that to beat online competition."

She praised publishers who are "beginning to support bookstores more" now that they realize "the most important thing is to have the books on the shelves." She pointed to Penguin Random House ("God bless them") for "bumping due dates on invoices 30 days. That's huge."

In her ideal publishing world, stores that place frequent orders would be rewarded. "It would keep publisher backlist on the shelves," she said. "They would sell more and make up for the special discount."

Happily having as many of the right books on the shelves is working for Jabberwocky, which is the kind of store we could spend days in.

From there, we headed to South Station Boston for my train back home. Once again Steve was a great guide and host. Many thanks!


Image of the Day: Brazos's Summer of Shakespeare

Get thee to a... bookstore: Brazos Books in Houston, Tex., is sponsoring the Summer of Shakespeare. Brazos marketing director Ben Rybeck said, "We have Shakespeare art on our windows, Shakespeare book groups and a partnership with the Houston Shakespeare Festival for in-store performances. This is the most exciting part of something like Summer of Shakespeare--getting to partner with other organizations to forge community across disciplines." Last week, actors from the theater company performed sonnets and songs at the bookstore; upcoming events will feature the Bard's soliloquies and a kid-friendly performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Pictured: director Jim Johnson and his wife, actress Carolyn Johnson, posing with Brazos's Shakespeare window portrait, done by Sara Hinkle.

Battenkill Books: The Importance of Keeping Main Street Alive

Exploring Cambridge, N.Y., the Berkshire Eagle noted that Main Street "covers about a half-mile of commerce--in a densely active area" that includes indie bookseller Battenkill Books, where owner Connie Brooks "inherited this 31-year-old business six years ago. With the word 'Proprietrix' (female proprietor) on her business card, Brooks fills her [store] with exclusively new titles."

"It's a special town where you can support a bookstore like this," she said. "This community understood early on the importance of keeping their Main Street alive, that you have to support the businesses here to have that."

Globe Pequot to Pub NWF's 'Ranger Rick' Books

Globe Pequot is partnering with the National Wildlife Federation to publish a new series of Ranger Rick books, beginning next spring. The books will be based on the activities, stories and science information in Ranger Rick magazine, and may also include mass merchandise, activity book derivatives, curriculum guides, bilingual editions and parental guides on outdoor activities.

"We're thrilled to partner with National Wildlife Federation to bring Ranger Rick back onto kids' bookshelves, where this terrific brand can help encourage outdoor education, appreciation and activity," said Rick Rinehart, director of editorial acquisitions for Taylor Trade Publishing. "As Ranger Rick approaches his 50th birthday in 2018, his message is more timely than ever."

Deana Duffek, head of brand licensing for the National Wildlife Federation and Ranger Rick, said the iconic NWF character "has found its match in a publishing partner. Globe Pequot has the platform and passion to deliver exceptional Ranger Rick children's books that will help further our mission of inspiring kids to protect wildlife."

Media and Movies

TV: American Gods

Starz has greenlighted a series adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, Variety reported. Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, who are writing the screenplay, will serve as showrunners and executive producers. Gaiman will also executive produce for FremantleMedia North America.

"I am thrilled, ‎scared, delighted, nervous and a ball of glorious anticipation," said Gaiman. "The team that is going to bring the world of American Gods to the screen has been assembled like the master criminals in a caper movie: I'm relieved and confident that my baby is in good hands. Now we finally move to the exciting business that fans have been doing for the last dozen years: casting our Shadow, our Wednesday, our Laura."

Variety also noted that Starz "is looking to build buzz for the project by promoting the search for the right actor to limn the lead character with the social-media effort #CastingShadow, inviting fans to weigh on who should get the gig."

"We hope to create a series that honors the book and does right by the fans, who have been casting it in their minds for years," said Starz CEO Chris Albrecht.

Movies: Fantastic Beasts; Double Play

Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice) will play the role of Tina, or Porpentina, opposite Eddie Redmayne's Newt Scamander in the film adaptation of J.K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the Hollywood Reporter wrote. David Yates, who directed the last four Harry Potter films, is directing from Rowling's screenplay.


Ernest Dickerson (Juice, The Wire) will direct Double Play, adapted from Curacaoan author Frank Martinus Arion's 1973 Dutch-language novel, reported, adding that Dickerson will "work from a script by Evan Jones and Alaric Alexander Smeets, with Lisa Cortes (Precious) and music and film festival organizer Gregory Elias producing.... Set to be filmed on location in Curacao, the production plans to make heavy use of local geography, people, and musical traditions, and several involved parties have ties to the island nation."

Books & Authors

Book Brahmin: Matt Burriesci

Matt Burriesci is the author of Nonprofit (New Issues Press, January 2015) and Dead White Guys: A Father, his Daughter, and the Great Books of the Western World (Viva Editions, paperback, June 2015). He began his career at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, and later served as executive director for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) and for the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. While at AWP, he helped build the largest literary conference in North America and served as a national advocate for literature and the humanities. He lives in Alexandria, Va., with his wife, Erin, and their children, Violet and Henry.

On your nightstand now:

The three there now:
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 by Hunter S. Thompson. It's unfortunate that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is better known, because this is the best book he ever wrote. By a mile. It's more than 40 years old, but remains contemporary and relevant, and when it begins to get tedious (as all presidential campaigns do), Thompson manages to fly off the handle on guns, grass, Nixon and America. When he was good, nobody could touch Thompson. White-hot prose and unique. I wish he had lived to see Sarah Palin.
The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War (Thucydides/Robert Strassler). A beautiful book that's difficult to get through because you get lost in the footnotes, maps and commentary. An invaluable, almost unbelievable act of scholarship.
Daredevil Omnibus vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis. I'm a big comic book fan, and I think Bendis's run on Daredevil is one of the best comic stretches of all time. Netflix better get it right!

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. My parents thought it was just a goofy comic book, but it was a violent, subversive, X-rated critique of the entire 1980s. I was 12 when I read it, and I couldn't believe anyone could put that sort of thing in print--it was sex, violence, heresy and treason--and yet it captured an essential truth about that weird period. It's strange to me that we don't really worry about nuclear Armageddon anymore. That threat lurked beneath everything when I was a kid. When I remember what it felt like to grow up in the 1980s, I think of The Dark Knight Returns.

Your top five authors:

Plato. No other author changed my mind so much as Plato. It's also terrific writing--accessible, challenging, funny, and always profound. The Seventh Letter is particularly hilarious to me, having once entertained grand ideas about changing a big organization.
Plutarch. I think there should be a new law: every presidential candidate should have to read Plutarch's Lives. If you don't read it, you can't be president.
Shakespeare. People forget: Shakespeare made his living entertaining people. When I was 21, I was lucky enough to watch a world-class production of Hamlet about 40 times. (I was the guy in the back of the theater shushing school kids on field trips.) I consider it one of the greatest gifts of my life. There has not been a writer like Shakespeare since Shakespeare. And he didn't even bother to write all of this down! After he died, the actors in his troupe decided, "Okay, someone should really preserve this. We should get together and recite our parts, and somebody should write it down. It seems important."
Ernest Hemingway. Shocking, no-nonsense diction. It's harder than it looks. "The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber" is one of the best stories I have ever read about the condition of simply being a man on the planet Earth.
Joyce Carol Oates. Just for versatility, volume and sheer brilliance. Does this woman sleep? Has she secretly cloned herself? Black Water--holy moley! Talk about managing time in a narrative--the whole book takes place while a woman is drowning. Are you kidding me?

Book you've faked reading:

The Sun Also Rises. I think his short stories are absolutely amazing. But I just can't ever seem to make it through The Sun Also Rises.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Republic, Plato. No book has ever affected me this much--and I grew up Roman Catholic.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates. The cover was so simple. It was just the title. The book's about a serial killer who's trying to "make a zombie."

Book that changed your life:

Republic, Plato. I was living one way, thinking one way, and then I read Republic. I was at the height of my cynicism when I first read this book--a gear turning in a great machine. This book liberated me, opened the world again, and restored my faith and optimism.

Which character you most relate to:

Major Barbara from Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw. Like this character, I was once an idealist with strict notions of right and wrong. I believed that uncompromising zeal could conquer huge social problems. As I got older, everything got so murky. I began to understand that there were larger agendas at work, and that my idealism might be driven by a kind of naïve narcissism. Are there really moral absolutes, or do we live in a world of situational ethics? Big question. Great play.

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

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I read this book in two days, and it only took me that long because I had to work. I like to read in the tub. (Yeah, I said it!) I remember sitting in a bubble bath, getting to the end of this book and just sobbing. My wife heard me and came in the bathroom, and there I was, in the bathtub, holding this book and crying. I looked like a crazy person. "Oh my god, what happened? What's wrong?" She asked. "The dad!" I blubbered. "The dad!"

Book Review

Children's Review: George

George by Alex Gino (Scholastic, $16.99 hardcover, 240p., ages 8-12, 9780545812542, August 25, 2015)

Alex Gino, in a timely and deeply thoughtful debut novel, explores what life is like for 10-year-old George. The gender George was assigned at birth doesn't reflect what she knows herself to be: "Melissa was the name she called herself in the mirror when no one was watching."

For George, it feels like there's an impenetrable divide between how she sees herself and how the world views her. Gino makes this distinction easy for young readers to follow: when George is perceived by others, they refer to George as "he." When referring to herself, George always uses "she."

At several points, George comes to the brink of revealing her true identity to her mother and to her best friend, Kelly. George sees the perfect opportunity to bring Melissa out into the world when Ms. Udell announces auditions for a class play based on Charlotte's Web. George and Kelly rehearse their lines together, and George confides to Kelly her plans to try out for Charlotte. Ever the supportive friend, Kelly points out that in Shakespeare's times, men often played the women's roles. Kelly even admits that George reads Charlotte's lines better than Kelly can. But Ms. Udell will allow only girls to audition for the role of Charlotte.

Through George's eyes, Gino allows readers to see how often others make assumptions based on outward appearances. George's former best friend Rick has buddied up with Jeff, the class bully, and they mock George for crying at the end of reading Charlotte's Web ("Some girl is crying over a dead spider," one of them sneers).

Gino chronicles George's journey to become Melissa beautifully, especially her breakthroughs and moments of honesty, such as when she finally reveals her secret to Kelly, and when George's brother discovers what's going on inside George. Gino is also realistic about George's struggle, with examples of how far most people need to evolve in order to be ready for her. Even Ms. Udell, who's "always going on about how we're not supposed to let people's expectations limit our choices," as Kelly puts it, can't seem to broaden her perspective enough to allow George to play Charlotte.

The ending leaves readers on a high note, as Gino suggests that all it takes is one or two people who see you as you really are to help you through the challenges on life's journey. For children who have felt like outsiders, Gino has given them a brave companion to share their path. And for children who identify with George, they may be recognizing themselves for the first time in children's literature. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Shelf Talker: In an extraordinarily honest and moving debut novel, Alex Gino introduces 10-year-old George, who was born into the wrong body.


Longer Wait Until Longmire Days

We were so excited about Longmire Days--the fourth annual celebration of the Craig Johnson books and TV show starring fictional Absaroka County Sheriff Walt Longmire--that we inadvertently moved it up by a month. Longmire Days takes place in Buffalo, Wyo., July 17-19, not June 17-19. Our apologies!

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