Shelf Awareness for Thursday, January 26, 2017


Thomas Dunne Books: Admissions: Life as a Brain Surgeon by Henry Marsh

Random House: An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice by Khizr Khan

Chicago Review Press: The Sunken Gold: A Story of World War I Espionage and the Greatest Treasure Salvage in History by Joseph A. Williams

Park Row Books: Hanna Who Fell from the Sky by Christopher Meades

Sourcebooks Fire: Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

Dundurn Group: Deer Life by Ron Sexsmith

Other Press: Infinite Summer by Edoardo Nesi

Quotation of the Day

'Reading Gives You an Opportunity to Understand'

"I see things on Twitter and the news that are just so fundamentally different from what I think and believe. And I don't want to not understand my fellow Americans--I want to understand. Reading gives you an opportunity to understand someone else's perspective, no matter how much you disagree with it. I wish that everyone had the opportunity to try to inhabit someone else's experiences for a few hours, and literature is a great way to do that. Books are especially useful because the depth of engagement that someone has with a book allows them to really stay with it and to spend some time with that different perspective. I wish I could give all of my friends and family members I have arguments with a book and say 'read this and tell me what you think!' They may not end up agreeing with me, but they might understand a bit better where I'm coming from."

--Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation, in an interview with the Chicago Review of Books

Geek & Sundry: The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein


News

AAP Sales: August Sales Off 2.8%; Trade Jumps 6.8%

In August, total net book sales fell 2.8%, to $2.141 billion, compared to August 2015, and represented sales of 1,208 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers. For the first eight months of the year, total net book sales fell 6.7%, to $9.656 billion. 

The AAP attributed the overall August decline mainly to "lower sales of educational books and learning resources." E-book sales also declined and dragged down results.

On the bright side, trade book sales in August grew 6.9%, to $4.25 billion, compared to August 2015, the fifth straight month trade sales grew. Among strong performers were the main adult trade categories: adult hardcovers, up 35.4%, mass market, up 22.5%, and adult paperbacks, up 12.5%. Both downloadable and physical audio had solid gains, too.

 


Counterpoint: Gangster Nation by Tod Goldberg


Roxane Gay Pulls Book from S&S to Protest Yiannopoulos Deal

Roxane Gay has pulled her next book, How to Be Heard (TED Books, 2018), from Simon & Schuster in protest over Milo Yiannopoulous's controversial $250,000 book deal with the publisher. "I can't in good conscience let them publish it while they also publish Milo. So I told my agent over the weekend to pull the project," she told Buzzfeed News.

Gay will present the opening keynote this Saturday at Winter Institute 12 in Minneapolis. Her talk will focus on how people can proactively address the need for more diversity of both representation and thought in the book industry and beyond.

In a letter to authors, S&S president and CEO Carolyn Reidy addressed the controversy, noting that "we do not support or condone, nor will we publish, hate speech. Not from our authors. Not in our books. Not at our imprints. Not from our employees and not in our workplace." Gay, however, tweeted that her decision stands.


Portable Press: Enter to win a copy of Strange Science


Wi12: Busman's Holiday Possibilities

Birchbark Books & Native Crafts
Located just a few miles from downtown Minneapolis and minutes from Lake of the Isles is Birchbark Books & Native Arts, an 800-square-foot bookstore and Native American education center owned by author Louise Erdrich. Erdrich, whose ancestry is Ojibwe and German, opened Birchbark in 2001. The day-to-day operations are overseen by manager Carolyn Anderson, though according to Anderson Erdrich oversees staff meetings and curates the store's large selection of Native American arts and craft. In addition to general interest fiction, nonfiction and poetry, there is a large selection of books written by Native Americans, as well resources for learning Native American languages and history.

A handmade wooden canoe hangs in the center of the store above the current and favorite titles table, and next to that table is a real, wooden confessional booth. The confessional was saved from becoming a bar fixture and is now referred to as a Forgiveness Booth by Erdrich, Anderson and their staff. "She has a great sense of humor," said Anderson of Erdrich, adding that the installation of the Forgiveness Booth was a "wry commentary" on the Native American experience with the Catholic Church and an "exploration of spirituality." The store's children's area features both a birchbark children's loft and a hobbit hole reading nook complete with cozy chairs.

The address is 2115 West 21st Street.

DreamHaven Books & Comics
Since opening on April 1, 1977, DreamHaven Books & Comics has moved 10 times and even had multiple locations open at once. Today it's located in an approximately 3,300-square-foot storefront at 2301 East 38th street, the store's home for the last eight and a half years, in a neighborhood around five miles southeast of downtown Minneapolis. According to owner Greg Ketter, despite various changes over the years, DreamHaven's specialization in science fiction, fantasy, horror and comic books has remained constant. The book inventory is a mix of used and new, with a higher proportion of used, rare and collectible books than in years past; Ketter also carries a great deal of movie and comic memorabilia. One of the store's centerpieces is a towering model of Robby the Robot from the film Forbidden Planet. Throughout the store other models and statues abound.

DreamHaven is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a party on April 1. Ketter has author appearances and a sale planned for the day, and is working in concert with Once Upon a Crime, a mystery bookstore in Minneapolis celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Since 2010, DreamHaven has hosted and co-produced the monthly sci-fi reading series Speculations, which brings a different author to the store once a month. DreamHaven's partner in the series is SF Minnesota, a multicultural speculative fiction organization that also hosts a summer convention called Diversicon. This month's Speculations reading was the annual Round Robin Readings, an open-mic night during which writers are encouraged to read from their own work.

Ketter said that a signing with Neil Gaiman and Japanese artist Yoshitaka Amano for Sandman: The Dream Hunters was certainly "one of the biggest and best" events the store had ever done. Around 600 or 700 people showed up, and Amano drew sketches in over 1,000 books throughout the evening.

"It's always a fun place to come to, you never know what you'll find," said Ketter.

Moon Palace Books
In October 2012 Angela and Jamie Schwesnedl opened Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis's Longfellow neighborhood. Last summer, Moon Palace moved from its original storefront to a larger, 1,500-square-foot space in the same building, and today resides at 3260 Minnehaha Avenue, sandwiched between a coffee shop and a nonprofit movie theater specializing in independent and classic films. The store's inventory is general interest and covers all ages, with a mix of new and used titles.

Angela Schwesnedl said that the day Moon Palace moved last July "was pretty incredible." Angela and Jamie put out a call for volunteers on social media and reached out to a number of the independent publishers in Minneapolis, and "people rallied." The move was done in a single day, with between 50 and 70 people passing books by hand, fire-brigade style, around the building. Angela added: "It was great seeing everybody show up and pass all those books hand-to-hand for three hours." A few months later, Moon Palace Books hosted a launch party for Sun Yung Shin's poetry collection Unbearable Splendor, perhaps the first time in the new space that the crowd for an event filled the place "wall-to-wall." Next summer, Moon Palace Books will move again, to a space almost twice as big a few blocks away. The new space will allow Angela and Jamie to open a cafe of their own, and the store's new next-door neighbor will be a brewery.

Schwesnedl said she is looking forward to the start of Winter Institute and seeing booksellers from around the country. "We're excited. We don't mind the cold."

Common Good Books
Owned by author and actor Garrison Keillor and managed by Martin Schmutterer, Common Good Books is a 3,000-square-foot bookstore in St. Paul, Minn. The store celebrated its 10th anniversary last year on November 1 and this coming April will celebrate its fifth anniversary in its current location at 38 Snelling Avenue. The inventory is all new books of general interest, though Schmutterer noted that "for a store of our size, we offer an unusually large selection of poetry, small presses, scholarly titles and books by Bohumil Hrabal."

According to Schmutterer, Common Good Books' original location was a "dank and hidden though charming and architecturally significant" basement in a neighborhood that was once F. Scott Fitzgerald's stomping ground. The 2012 move that brought the store above ground to an "easily located, mostly trouble-free spot" was slightly controversial because it was to a different St. Paul neighborhood. Amazingly, on opening day in both 2006 and in 2012, Schmutterer said, the same person was the very first customer.

"The very first months we were open in 2006 were crazy fun, and it seemed like the sky was the limit," he recalled. "Things leveled out, of course, but the kooky optimism was memorable."

Among other particularly memorable stretches at the store, Schmutterer pointed to the "surreal" days of the 2008 Republican National Convention (which he wrote about for ShelfAwareness later that summer), as well as the "camaraderie and singularity of purpose" during the 2012 move, despite a former bookseller being "nearly beheaded." And the biggest event in store history, he added, was a visit from Hillary Clinton in July 2014.

"We don't have a formal mission," said Schmutterer. "We offer good books for sale and try to be responsible members of our community."

Magers & Quinn Booksellers
Denny Magers opened Magers & Quinn Booksellers in August 1994, during Minneapolis's annual Uptown Art Fair. For a little over half of its existence, the store sold only used books and remainders, with a selection of rare and collectible books. About a decade ago, Magers & Quinn added new books to its inventory, which assistant manager Annie Metcalf described as a "huge shift." The store's inventory is general-interest, with books for all ages; Metcalf noted that many customers are particularly passionate about Magers & Quinn's used and new cookbooks. The store has about 7,000 square feet at 3038 Hennepin Avenue, and the interior seems to go on forever, with aisles opening up into much larger spaces and unexpected nooks and crannies.

Around the same time that the store added new books, it began an events schedule. Today Magers & Quinn hosts more than 200 in-store and offsite events per year. Metcalf reported that the store does not have any huge plans for the future, but everyone on staff is looking forward to hearing new ideas and being inspired at Winter Institute. The store's 23rd anniversary is coming up this August, and Metcalf added that if anyone feels like sending a cake after reading this, the staff would not be mad. One of Metcalf's favorite, relatively recent moments at the store was when author Roxane Gay--a keynote speaker at the Winter Institute--dropped in and later tweeted that Magers & Quinn had a great poetry section.

"We strive to be a place where all customers feel welcome, and to carry a wide variety of reading material," said Metcalf. "We're always looking to the future and thinking of ways to get more books in the hands of more readers." --Alex Mutter


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: The Lake House by Kate Morton


Wi12: Two New Zealand Booksellers Attending

New Zealand booksellers Courtney Smith of Unity Books in Wellington and Rochelle Handley of Paige's Book Gallery in Whanganui are attending the Winter Institute. Booksellers NZ, which partners with Kobo on the scholarships, has been managing the sponsorship of two career booksellers to attend the conference for four years.

"As the buyer for Unity, I'd like to learn more about buying resources, techniques, methods, systems; anything that will develop my existing buying knowledge," said Smith, adding: "I'm definitely going to the discussion about 'Partnering to Create a Dynamic City' by Minneapolis arts and business leaders. It seems like Minneapolis has an incredible literary and arts culture, so ideas on how to emulate that would be great."

After WI12, the two booksellers will have week-long placements in bookstores in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Smith will be at Skylight Books, while Handley will be at Green Apple Books.

"Courtney and Rochelle are both in for a fantastic experience. We are so grateful to Kobo for continuing their sponsorship of this important opportunity for our booksellers," said Booksellers NZ CEO Lincoln Gould. "Booksellers who have attended Winter Institute in the past have come back and opened new stores, taken up new leadership positions and implemented great new ideas. Jenna Todd from Time Out Bookshop was one of the inaugural recipients of the scholarship, and led her shop to win Bookshop of the Year 2016. We look forward to seeing Courtney and Rochelle's future achievements."


Obituary Note: Anthony Cronin; Vicki Lansky

Irish poet, novelist and critic Anthony Cronin, whom Colm Tóibín described in the Guardian as "for more than half a century, Ireland's most prominent man of letters," died December 27. He was 93. In the 1950s, he was editor of the influential journal the Bell in Dublin, and later the literary editor of Time and Tide in London. Cronin wrote regularly for the Times Literary Supplement and was one of the first to recognize the importance of Samuel Beckett as a writer of prose, Tóibín noted. In 1954, he was part of the group who initially celebrated Bloomsday in Dublin.

In addition to 16 volumes of poetry, Cronin wrote two novels (including The Life of Riley), a play, many essay collections, the memoir Dead as Doornails, and two biographies--No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O'Brien and Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist.

"His work and his engaging, brilliant, combative personality arose from a mixture of lyric feeling, a sort of awe at the complexity of the world, and a hard-edged rationalism," Tóibín noted

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Vicki Lansky, "a bestselling author who dispensed recipes and practical advice that helped a generation of parents cope with child-rearing challenges and housekeeping, from cradle cap to divorce," died on January 15, the New York Times reported. She was 75.

Lansky published more than 30 books, beginning with Feed Me I'm Yours, an anthology of recipes that "was intended to raise money for the Minneapolis chapter of the Childbirth Education Association, which advocates family-centered maternity care," the Times noted. She and her first husband established Meadowbrook Press in 1975 to publish and distribute the work that was later published widely and sold millions of copies.

Her other books include Vicki Lansky's Divorce Book for Parents: Helping Your Children Cope with Divorce and Its Aftermath; Practical Parenting Tips; It's Not Your Fault, Koko Bear: A Read-Together Book for Parents and Young Children During Divorce; and Kid's Book to Welcome a New Baby: Fun Things to Do and Learn for a Big Brother or Sister.

"My books work for the same reasons that support groups do," she once said.



Notes

Image of the Day: I See You at Rainy Day

On Monday, Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kan., hosted Clare Mackintosh (pictured in the front row) to discuss the paperback edition of I Let You Go (Berkley Trade Paperback) and her forthcoming thriller I See You (Berkley Hardcover; February 21, 2017). Fans who attended the event and purchased the paperback received an ARC of I See You, which they're proudly displaying in the photo.


Martha Stewart Living Highlights Indies

The January/February 2017 issue of Martha Stewart Living highlights independent bookstores and great reading choices in a six-page feature, "Hit the Books! Our Reading List for 2017," Bookselling This Week reported.

A two-page, illustrated map highlights select independent bookstores from across the U.S., including Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Mont.; Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, Colo.; Powell's Books in Portland, Ore.; Brilliant Books in Traverse City, Mich.; Bookworks in Albuquerque, N.Mex.; Talking Leaves Books in Buffalo, N.Y.; Mrs. Dalloway's in Berkeley, Calif.; Blue Bicycle Books in Charleston, S.C.; and Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt.

"When you shop at your neighborhood bookstore, you support your local economy and also join a community that cares deeply about the written word. Behold our list; for a shop near you, go to IndieBound.com," Martha Stewart Living recommends.


Solange Gives Away 250 Books at D.C.'s Sankofa Bookstore

A day after her performance at the Peace Ball in Washington, D.C. last week, Solange Knowles "stopped by Sankofa Video Books & Cafe, a bookstore on Georgia Avenue, to meet with her local fans and buy them 250 books," the Washingtonian reported. She announced the book giveaway on her Instagram just a few hours before it started and hundreds of people, primarily from nearby Howard University, flocked to the store.

"I think that now more than ever we have to invest in community and fellowship," she said as she greeted the crowd.

Shirikiana Gerima, a co-owner of the bookstore, said, "For Solange to feel like [Sankofa] is a touchstone for when times get challenging is rewarding for us. We hope to be the kind of place for anybody who needs to remember that what we're facing is not new, and that there are people who have stood up to harder things. They've left messages and symbols and signs about how to go about this kind of thing. They made it, and we can make it.... For her to do this in a bookstore--an intellectual space, a place where you've got to come and think and read and discuss--it was quite significant."


Personnel Changes at Random House, Penguin Press, St. Martin's, the Experiment

At Random House:

Barbara Fillon has been promoted to v-p, deputy director of media coaching and publicity.

Emily Isayeff has been promoted to publicist.

Danielle Siess has been promoted to social media publicist.

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At Penguin Press:

Caitlin O’Shaughnessy has been promoted to assistant marketing director.

Grace Fisher has been promoted to marketing coordinator.

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At St. Martin's Press:

Jessica Lawrence has been named senior publicity manager. She started her career in the publicity department as an assist, then held publicity positions at Hachette and Simon & Schuster before returning to St. Martin's as publicity manager in 2014.

Sarah Melnyk has been named senior publicity manager. She joined the Minotaur imprint in 2008 and was most recently a publicity manager.

Staci Burt has been promoted to publicist. After having worked at Wunderkind PR, she joined St. Martin's as an assistant in 2014 and was most recently an associate publicist.

Brittani Hilles has been promoted to publicist. She joined St. Martin's as a publicity assistant in 2014, after working as a publicity intern at Tor.

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Chloe Texier-Rose has joined the Experiment as publicity and marketing assistant. Most recently she was interim marketing manager at Harper Wave and Harper Business.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: John Avlon on Real Time with Bill Maher

Today:
Fresh Air: Luke Harding, author of A Very Expensive Poison: The Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and Putin's War with the West (Vintage, $16, 9781101973998).

Tomorrow:
HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: John Avlon, author of Washington's Farewell: The Founding Father's Warning to Future Generations (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781476746463).


This Weekend on Book TV: Emrys Westacott on The Wisdom of Frugality

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, January 28
6:30 p.m. Brad Ricca, author of Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City's Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case That Captivated a Nation (St. Martin's Press, $27.99, 9781250072245). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

7:30 p.m. Veronica Chambers, author of The Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own (St. Martin's Press, $24.99, 9781250114969). (Re-airs Sunday at 2:30 p.m.)

8:30 p.m. Peter Hayes, author of Why?: Explaining the Holocaust (Norton, $27.95, 9780393254365). (Re-airs Sunday at 1 p.m.)

10 p.m. Emrys Westacott, author of The Wisdom of Frugality: Why Less Is More--More or Less (Princeton University Press, $27.95, 9780691155081). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

Sunday, January 29
7 a.m. Max Krochmal, author of Blue Texas: The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era (University of North Carolina Press, $39.95, 9781469626758), at BookPeople in Austin, Tex. (Re-airs Sunday at 11 p.m.)

3:30 p.m. Thomas Army, author of Engineering Victory: How Technology Won the Civil War (Johns Hopkins University Press, $49.95, 9781421419374), at Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago, Ill. (Re-airs Monday at 7 a.m.)


Books & Authors

Awards: Frost Medal; Friedrich Ulfers Prize

Susan Howe has been named the 2017 recipient of the Poetry Society of America's Frost Medal, presented annually for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry. Previous winners include Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, Adrienne Rich, Barbara Guest, Lucille Clifton, Charles Simic, Michael S. Harper, and Marilyn Nelson.

Howe is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, including That This, which received the 2011 Bollingen Prize; The Midnight; Pierce-Arrow; Frame Structures: Early Poems 1974-1979; The Nonconformist's Memorial; and Singularities. Her essay collection The Quarry was a finalist for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. A new poetry collection, Debths, will be published this spring by New Directions.

The PSA's annual awards ceremony, which will honor Susan Howe and celebrate the winners of 10 other annual awards, will take place March 29 in New York City.

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Barbara Epler, president and publisher of New Directions Publishing, has won the Friedrich Ulfers Prize, which will be presented to her at the opening ceremony of the Festival Neue Literatur on March 2 in New York City. Susan Bernofsky, author, translator and director of the Literary Translation Program in the MFA Writing Program at Columbia University School of Arts, will give a laudation in Epler's honor.

The $5,000 prize is awarded annually by Deutsches Haus at NYU and honors "a publisher, writer, critic, translator or scholar who has championed the advancement of German-language literature in the United States."

The prize organizers said New Directions focuses on "introducing contemporary international authors to a U.S. audience" and noted that Epler "has long been a leading advocate for literature in translation, and has published international luminaries, such as W.G. Sebald, Roberto Bolaño, László Krasznahorkai, Robert Walser, Yoko Tawada, and Jenny Erpenbeck."

Professor Friedrich Ulfers commented: "Ms. Epler is part of a group of publishers who is at the forefront of reclaiming a space for German letters in this country after the catastrophes inflicted by Germany on the world during the years 1933-1945. For accomplishing this with a genuinely global passion, I am honored to recognize her as the recipient of the Friedrich Ulfers Prize."

"For me, it's a blessing to work on such marvelous books," Epler said. "What I would like to say most of all is that I haven't seen a better time for translation than over the last few years, what with the explosion of fantastic small publishers bringing out translated literature and big houses, too, publishing more books from all around the world. Right now we really need the news from all over the globe--and we need all the great books we can get. Art and truth trump hate and lies."


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, February 1:

4 3 2 1: A Novel by Paul Auster (Holt, $32.50, 9781627794466) tracks four possible paths in the life of a single man.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber (Flatiron, $18.99, 9781250095251) is a teen novel about two sisters who escape their ruthless father only to lose themselves in a dangerous game of love and magic.

The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World by Brad Stone (Little, Brown, $30, 9780316388399) is a business book by the author of The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.

Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin (Spiegel & Grau, $26, 9780812997231) looks at the legacy of Trayvon Martin.

The Girl in the Garden by Melanie Wallace (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, 9780544784666) follows a young woman and her infant son stranded in a New England motel.

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough (Flatiron, $25.99, 9781250111173) is a psychological thriller about an odd love triangle.

Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner (Dutton, $27, 9780525954583) is a thriller about the adopted child of a retired FBI profiler.

Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan (Dial, $16.99, 9780399186219) is a middle-grade novel by the author of Counting by 7s about a girl who plays a Munchkin in a production of The Wizard of Oz.

I Don't Belong to You: Quiet the Noise and Find Your Voice by Keke Palmer (North Star Way, $24.99, 9781501145391) is an actress's memoir and motivational guide.

F*ck Love: One Shrink's Sensible Advice for Finding a Lasting Relationship by Dr. Michael Bennett and Sarah Bennett (Touchstone, $19.99, 9781501140563) provides practical partnership proposals.

Paperbacks:
Wives, Fiancées, and Side-Chicks of Hotlanta by Sheree Whitfield (Dafina, $15, 9781496709875).

A Short Time to Die by Susan Bickford (Kensington, $15, 9781496705945).

BFF'S 2: Best Frenemies Forever Series by Brenda Hampton (Urban Renaissance, $6.99, 9781622867912).


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
The Midnight Cool: A Novel by Lydia Peelle (Harper, $26.99, 9780062475466). "The journey of middle-aged swindler Billy and his young, idealistic partner Charles is a journey into the history and heart of the oft-maligned American dream. As the nation considers whether it will join World War I, Billy and Charles must weigh the merits of freedom against patriotic obligation, their life on the road against the temptation of putting down roots, and their diverging desires against the love and loyalty they bear for each other. As Billy says, 'I reckon that's the beauty and the shame of it, all at once.' Peelle's exploration of this beauty and shame is exquisitely wrought, richly populated, and ultimately devastating. I finished the novel in tears." --Mairead Small Staid, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Burning Bright: A Novel by Nick Petrie (Putnam, $26, 9780399174575). "Burning Bright solidifies Petrie's place among the best thriller writers working today. His hero, Peter Ash, wanders from town to town, living outdoors because his PTSD will not allow him to remain inside walls for very long. When he discovers a woman on the run from shadowy killers, Ash knows he must help her in spite of his near-crippling claustrophobia. Petrie gives us characters we love, warts and all, and there is a true sense of forward propulsion to his action-packed tale. Peter Ash is a hero for today and Burning Bright puts Petrie in the company of Lee Child and Robert Ludlum." --William Carl, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, Mass.

Paperback
Fallen Land: A Novel by Taylor Brown (St. Martin's Griffin, $15.99, 9781250116840). "Fallen Land by debut novelist Brown is like a blend of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain and Cormac McCarthy's The Road. In the setting of the southern Appalachians and crossing Georgia during Sherman's March to the Sea, Brown shares the beautifully written story of Callum, a young Irish immigrant, and Ava, the orphan daughter of a Carolina doctor who perished in the war. Together they stay one step ahead of a loosely formed band of vicious bounty hunters at the trailing end of Sherman's scorching destruction of the South. Determination, survival, and love all combine to form a thrilling and romantic story set during the final days of the Civil War." --Doug Robinson, Eagle Eye Book Shop, Decatur, Ga.

For Ages 4 to 8
Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Christian Robinson (Schwartz & Wade, $17.99, 9780553507706). "Little Penguins is the literary equivalent of a cup of steaming hot cocoa and a warm blanket on an early winter evening. Newbery medalist Rylant's sparse text and Caldecott honor-winning Robinson's stunning cut paper snowflake illustrations make this simple tale of five little penguins excitedly preparing for an excursion in the deep, chilly snow a perfect bedtime read-aloud!" --Niki Marion, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, Mass.

For Ages 9 to 12
The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Jen Hill (Amulet Books, $14.95, 9781419721366). "Sisters Kale and Jaundice Bland like living their boring life, darning socks and eating the same thing every day. But their lives are turned upside down when they are kidnapped by a band of female pirates. Will the Bland sisters survive their thrilling new life? Well, maybe with the help of their trusty dictionary, selections of which appear at the beginning of each chapter. A laugh-out-loud funny start to a new series!" --Marika McCoola, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass.

For Teen Readers
A List of Cages by Robin Roe (Disney-Hyperion, $17.99, 9781484763803). "Adam and Julian were foster brothers, but they haven't seen each other in years. Adam is a senior just trying to finish high school, while Julian is the quiet freshman who likes to keep his secrets to himself, write stories, and stay out of trouble. Serving as an aide to the school counselor, Adam is reunited with Julian when the counselor asks him to track down the reticent student. When the truth of Julian's living situation is revealed, both of their lives are put on the line. This raw, heartbreaking story is one that beautifully speaks to the true meaning of friendship, brotherhood, and family." --Shannon Alden, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Mich.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Homo Deus

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari (Harper, $35 hardcover, 464p., 9780062464316, February 21, 2017)

No less a personage than Barack Obama has described Hebrew University of Jerusalem history professor Yuval Noah Harari's 2015 Sapiens as "interesting and provocative." That's likely to prove an understatement compared to the reception that will greet Harari's unsettling companion work, Homo Deus, one that identifies the "new human agenda as consisting really of only one project (with many branches): attaining divinity."

Harari's thesis is that an emerging religion he calls Dataism--which "collapses the barrier between animals and machines" as it "expects electronic algorithms to eventually decipher and outperform biochemical algorithms"--will gradually overtake, and perhaps supplant, humankind. This new faith, fed by the ceaseless flow of information from our smartphones, computers and devices yet unimagined, will supersede the worldview of liberal humanism--with its emphasis on the exercise of individual free will--that emerged in the late 18th century and eventually triumphed in the 20th over the ideologies of Nazism and Communism.

Homo Deus shares DNA with the work of writers like Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs, and Steel) in its proclivity for synthesizing large swaths of history, while drawing freely from other disciplines in both the humanities and sciences. It's emphatically a work for the general reader eager to grapple with big ideas, but who is equally hungry for context for today's headlines. Harari possesses a well-stocked mind and is an engaging stylist skilled at neatly summarizing arguments--like his contention that overeating is more of a threat to humankind than violence--with memorable, epigrammatic sentences: "Sugar is now more dangerous than gunpowder."

On occasion Harari dwells overlong on arcane subjects like whether animals possess consciousness, or in contending that the idea of an eternal human soul is nothing more than a "monotheist myth." While these excursions are intriguing, and may be fascinating to fans of The Matrix or HBO's Westworld, it's possible to pass lightly over them without losing the gist of his argument.

For someone whose portrait of the human (and potentially post-human) future is as bold as the one sketched out in Homo Deus, Harari's conclusion is restrained. "We cannot really predict the future," he writes. "All the scenarios outlined in this book should be understood as possibilities rather than prophecies." He's neither advocate nor alarmist, but anyone who engages seriously with this challenging work should come away from it with ample motivation to think more deeply about what's around the next bend in the river of human history. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Historian Yuval Noah Harari envisions a data-driven future in which immortal beings may seek to attain the status of divinity.


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