Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 5, 2014

S&S / Marysue Rucci Books: The Night We Lost Him by Laura Dave

Wednesday Books: When Haru Was Here by Dustin Thao

Tommy Nelson: Up Toward the Light by Granger Smith, Illustrated by Laura Watkins

Tor Nightfire: Devils Kill Devils by Johnny Compton

Shadow Mountain: Highcliffe House (Proper Romance Regency) by Megan Walker

Quotation of the Day

Amazon's Power Is a 'Position of Responsibility'

"The sheer amount of power you have gained in the literary marketplace negates any disingenuous argument that it's just 'business as usual.' With the amount of wealth and power Amazon has accumulated, you've also put yourself into a position of responsibility--wanted or unwanted--for the intellectual life of the country. You have seated yourself at that table. I urge you to consciously accept that responsibility, and respond to it by treating the small amount of your business which is represented by literature with fairness and even--understanding how important to the life of our society books are--preferential treatment.

"The difference between a symbiotic and a parasitic relationship is that in symbiosis, the host is not harmed in any way. The two organisms work together for mutual benefit. In a parasitic relationship, the growth of the secondary organism outstrips the ability of the host to sustain itself. Unlike symbiosis, a parasite kills its host, and eventually, itself."

--Author Janet Fitch, from a letter she wrote to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos July 5 "in the hopes of reaching him directly. As I never heard from him, I've decided to make it an open letter."

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!


General Retail Sales in August: Promotions Spark Gain

Back-to-school promotions sparked a retail sales increase in August, the Wall Street Journal reported. For the month, sales at stores open at least a year were up 5% at the eight retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters, compared with projections of 3.9% and the 3.3% jump last year.

"Competition for back-to-school dollars has been fierce," said Ken Perkins of Retail Metrics.

Retailer promotions "will likely continue driving results in September as Johnson Redbook Research noted earlier this week that students are increasingly shopping for fall clothes after school starts," the Journal wrote.

GLOW: Workman Publishing: Atlas Obscura: Wild Life: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Living Wonders by Cara Giaimo, Joshua Foer, and Atlas Obscura

Short Stories Community Book Hub Opening in Madison, N.J.

Later this month, Barb Short will open Short Stories Community Book Hub, a 1,400-square-foot general-interest bookstore with dedicated community, arts and learning spaces, in Madison, N.J. Short, who has worked at Duke University Press and is currently in charge of social responsibility and global inclusion at a major health care company, has also launched a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of raising $15,000 for the store.

"The plan is to open in about two weeks," Short said. "We have about half of our bookshelves put together, and we'll have the rest by Sunday. At this point we've got all the renovations done, and we're getting ready to be a bookshop."

Short's decision to enter the bookselling world came somewhat suddenly. "When the previous local bookstore, Sages Pages, was damaged by a flood, my reaction, and all of my friends' reactions, was how can we help," she explained. Sages Pages had been a fixture in downtown Madison for 10 years--it opened when Short's children were two and four, respectively, and had helped her raise her children. "No one wanted to lose the local bookshop."

Lillian Trujillo, the owner of Sages Pages, then decided to move on from bookselling rather than try to reopen the store, and Short, as part of a group of many longtime customers concerned about the loss of a community bookshop presence in Madison, was determined to help find a successor. But after a few months passed and no likely candidates emerged, Short decided to start a new store herself. "I was just sitting at home one weekend thinking, wow, my cultural passions, business experience, career track, have all really converged here," she said. "I'm really fascinated and excited about the social arms of a community bookshop, and what the future of a community bookstore looks like."

Short Stories Community Book Hub will be divided into three sections: one part will be a community arts space for readings, workshops, book clubs and signings, with a wall set aside as a local arts gallery. Another part will be the "heart of the bookstore" and contain all of the store's bookshelves and inventory; Short expects to stock a highly selective but well-rounded inventory of fiction and nonfiction, from early readers to books for adults. And the other part will be an open learning space for children and teens, in which Short hopes to host tutoring sessions and ESL classes.

"As a bookshop we'll certainly have a focus on author readings, but we are really interested in developing the author and the artist in all of us," Short said. "I really want to foster not just a love for books but a love for the craft of writing--appreciating it and understanding it and developing it."

Short described Madison as an artistic, intellectual community. Given the presence of three nearby universities (Fairleigh Dickinson, Drew and the College of St. Elizabeth) and a highly regarded regional theater (the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey), Short expects no shortage of events with student and local artists. She hopes to host her first events on September 27, to coincide with the 23rd annual Madison Car Show and the Bottle Hill Day street festival, with a grand opening celebration to follow in October.

Short is still in the process of hiring a store manager to oversee things day-to-day. In addition to a manager and team of booksellers, Short envisions a group of student staff members or interns who will work at the store part-time and learn some broader entrepreneurial skills as well.

"We've also got a strong belief that we want to build not just a liberal arts-oriented culture and community, but we really want to people to understand the business side of this," said Short. "And to have the store be an opportunity for young people to develop as entrepreneurs."

So far, the Short Stories Community Book Hub kickstarter has raised $4,265 out of the $15,000 goal and received the support of 45 backers. Community members have volunteered their time to help set up bookshelves and remodel the store, and Short has witnessed a general outpouring of encouragement from the community.

"It's been so inspiring to have the kind of feedback that we've had," she said. "That's what was so touching, to have the local community come together around this. They really want this." --Alex Mutter

Weldon Owen: The Gay Icon's Guide to Life by Michael Joosten, Illustrated by Peter Emerich

Abet Books and Games Coming to Freeport, Ill.

Brian and Alexa Nissen plan to open Abet Books and Games at 15 W. Stephenson St. in Freeport, Ill., in November. The Journal Standard reported that the store "will carry new and used books from children's tales to novels, as well as board games and comic books. The board games won't just be classic family titles, but 'niche European board games' that Nissen hopes to introduce customers to."

The decision to open a bookstore occurred when "opportunities lined up well," he said. "I had a business plan written up for years and here we are now.... In a lot of these small towns, we don't go places every day and do things so we stay in the home and do things and you hang out with friends. So things like board games and stuff like that, there's really a culture for that here."

Brian Borger, Freeport Downtown Development Foundation executive director, called the new bookshop "a great addition. [Nissen] is full of enthusiasm, and he's really putting a lot of work into that building to get it into operation mode and it's just a great thing."

Graphic Universe (Tm): Hotelitor: Luxury-Class Defense and Hospitality Unit by Josh Hicks

Amazon Launches KDP Kids

Amazon has launched KDP Kids, designed to help children's book authors prepare, publish and promote both illustrated and chapter books in Kindle Stores. Writers can use Amazon's new Kindle Kids' Book Creator tool to create illustrated children's books that take advantage of Kindle features like text pop-ups, the company said. When a book is ready, the writer can upload it to KDP.

Obituary Notes: Joseph Persico; Charles Bowden

Author and historian Joseph Persico, who also served as a speechwriter for then-New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, died last Saturday, the Associated Press reported. He was 84. Persico published 12 books, including biographies of Rockefeller, Colin Powell, Edward R. Murrow, CIA director William Casey and President Franklin Roosevelt. The Albany Times-Union noted that Persico "was selected to write the words etched into an 18-foot-long granite slab at the entrance to the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. He chose a simple declarative sentence: 'Here we mark the price of freedom.' He called it one of the highest honors and toughest assignments of his career."


Charles Bowden, an author and journalist who was "acclaimed for his vivid, unsparing and often lyrical portrayals of life in the Southwest, particularly the brutality on the border between the United States and Mexico," died last Saturday, the New York Times reported. He was 69. His books included Down by the River: Drugs, Money, Murder and Family; Murder City: Ciudad Juárez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields; and Dreamland: The Way Out of Juarez.


Image of the Day: Jan Karon Visits Joseph Beth

Jan Karon's second stop on her 10-city tour for Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good--the 10th book in her Mitford series, just published by Penguin--was Joseph Beth Bookseller, in Lexington, Ky. From left: Kelly Morton, events manager Michael Link, Karon, Joseph Beth CEO Mark Wilson, Patricia Murphy, Brittany Jackson.

Michael Fortney Wins Drabyak Handseller of the Year Award

Michael Fortney, manager of Chester County Book Company, Chester, Pa., is the winner of the 2014 Joe Drabyak Handseller of the Year Award, sponsored by the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association and recognizing "booksellers who put their passion for books into practice with marketing, promotions, and one-on-one handselling."

"I consider myself among the fortunate that love what they do as a career," Fortnay said. "Bookselling has fed my spirit in countless ways. Just this evening, after hearing about this award, I heard myself say again, "This is my dream job.' "

It's especially appropriate that Fortney has won this award: he and Joe Drabyak, the longtime bookseller extraordinaire at Chester County who died in 2010, worked together and were friends.

Fortney will receive the award at the NAIBA Awards Banquet on Saturday, September 20, in Arlington, Va.

Ann Arbor and Detroit: Indies Growing

Ann Arbor, Mich., "seems a hospitable location for independent bookstores," the Detroit News reported. It cited Robin Agnew, president of Kerrytown BookFest, which takes place this Sunday, and co-owner of MWA Raven Award-winning Aunt Agatha's Mystery Book Shop, as well as Michael and Hilary Gustafson of Literati Bookstore as examples of local booksellers who "believe in a concept many have given up on--ink on paper. Many in this college town seem to as well, and the millennial passion for authenticity, via handmade, analog, quality goods, has helped."

"People are tired of looking at screens all day," Michael Gustafson said. "The last thing they want to do is look at another screen when they read a book.... The days of the 50,000-square-foot bookstore is over. But a 2,000- or 7,000- or 10,000-square-foot bookstore is sustainable, with a robust event schedule."

The News also profiled indie bookstores in Metro Detroit, including the Pannell Award-winning Book Beat, in Oak Park, whose co-owners Cary Loren and Colleen Kammer were praised for their "depth of knowledge of Detroit's arts scene and children's books."

Pages on Livernois bookstore's permanent location will be 1,400 square feet in a building at 19344 Livernois, where owner Susan Connelly Murphy will also serve coffee drinks and food. "Extensive renovations are under way on the building though, and her opening could be bumped to early 2015," the News wrote.

Murphy plans to sell books Wednesdays through Saturdays during September and October at the Livernois Community Storefront. "Detroit is very under-served," she said. "I just saw the power of community here. The 'Avenue of Fashion' and the neighborhoods around there are very strong."

IPG Adds Reading Rainbow (and LeVar Burton Book)

Reading Rainbow is beginning a publishing program that will be distributed by Independent Publishers Group. The first title is The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, a children's book by LeVar Burton and Susan Schaefer Bernardo, illustrated by Courtenay Fletcher, which will be published October 7.

Burton is an actor, director and producer known for his roles as Kunta Kinte in Roots and Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation. For 26 years, he was also the host and executive producer of the TV series Reading Rainbow.

RRKidz, which Burton owns with his business partner Mark Wolfe, holds global rights to the Reading Rainbow brand through a partnership with series creator WNED/Buffalo. The company has a popular educational app and recently completed a Kickstarter campaign to launch a web-based platform that will deliver thousands of books and video field trips into homes, schools and libraries throughout the country.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Joan Rivers on Fresh Air

Today Fresh Air remembers Joan Rivers, who died yesterday, with excerpts of interviews from 1991, 2010 and 2012. Her latest book, Diary of a Mad Diva, appeared July 1. Her most recent titles included Still Talking, I Hate Everyone... Starting With Me and Men Are Stupid... And They Like Big Boobs: A Woman's Guide to Beauty Through Plastic Surgery.


Tomorrow on NPR's Weekend Edition: Henry Kissinger, author of World Order (Penguin Press, $36, 9781594206146).


Tomorrow on NPR's Bullseye: Todd Glass, co-author of The Todd Glass Situation: A Bunch of Lies About My Personal Life and a Bunch of True Stories About My 30-Year Career in Stand-Up Comedy (Simon & Schuster, $25, 9781476714417).

Doherty Is V-P, Literary Development at Sony Pictures

Ryan Doherty, former Ballantine Bantam Dell senior editor, has joined Sony Pictures Entertainment in the newly created position of v-p, literary development. reported "the hire underscores the importance of manuscripts as source material at Sony, which has scored with plenty of book-first titles," including Captain Phillips, Moneyball and the Dan Brown books, as well as TV's Outlander, Masters of Sex and Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone series.

As an editor, Doherty "focused on narrative nonfiction," editing titles like 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin, Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones and graphic novel Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley. "He was also in charge of the film tie-in efforts for Random House," wrote.

TV Documentary: 13 Hours to Air on Fox

A documentary based on 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff with the Annex Security Team (Twelve, $28, 9781455582273), whose pub date is this Tuesday, September 9, makes its debut on Fox News tonight at 6 p.m. Repeats air at 10 p.m. tonight, tomorrow at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., and Sunday at 12 a.m., 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Books & Authors

Awards: Washington State Book; International Dylan Thomas

A shortlist has been announced for the £30,000 (about US$48,970) International Dylan Thomas Prize, sponsored by Swansea University and "awarded to the best published or produced literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under." The winner will be named in November. This year's shortlisted titles are:

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton,
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris
A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride
Snow in May by Kseniya Melnik
The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion by Kei Miller
Mametz by Owen Sheers
Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood


Finalists have been named for the Washington State Book Awards, sponsored by the Washington Center for the Book at the Seattle Public Library. The prize recognizes "eight outstanding books published by Washington authors in 2013." Winners will be announced October 10. You can see a complete list of finalists here.

Book Brahmin: Jack Hart

photo: Wes Pope

As a University of Washington pre-med student, Jack Hart took a journalism class on a lark. After his first story ran on the front page of the University of Washington Daily, he changed his major to journalism and never looked back. Hart worked at newspapers large and small, ending up as a managing editor at the Oregonian, the Pacific Northwest's largest daily. He went on to earn a doctorate in mass communication, opening the way to a teaching career that included service on six university journalism faculties. He conveyed his writing advice to a wide audience in A Writer's Coach and Storycraft. This year he published his first work of fiction, Skookum Summer: A Novel of the Pacific Northwest (University of Washington Press, April 2014). But he hasn't shaken off journalism: his protagonist is a reporter who returns to the small newspaper at which he started his career to discover a mystery rife with meth, mayhem and murder.

On your nightstand now:

I'm a narrative nonfiction guy. I read book-length narrative nonfiction religiously, and there's almost always something from the genre on my nightstand. The latest, Daniel James Brown's The Boys in the Boat, is a doozy that I'd recommend to anyone.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I've always been an independent cuss who prides himself on self-sufficiency. I'm a fair-to-middlin' carpenter, mechanic and all-around do-it-your-selfer who's happiest out in the woods hunting and fishing. So it's probably not surprising that, as a kid, I loved the ultimate tale of self-sufficiency, Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

Your top five authors:

Naturally, I love authors such as John McPhee, Richard Preston, Gay Talese and Tom Wolfe. But, for obvious reasons, I also follow former journalists who've turned their hands to fiction. I'm a huge Michael Connelly fan.

Book you've faked reading:

I can't say that I've ever faked reading anything. But I have given up on books I thought I should read. I've started Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina at least three times without ever finishing it.

skookum summer cover Book you're an evangelist for:

I always recommend Jon Franklin's Writing for Story, which was the first significant book-length guide to the form. In the same field, I'm also a big fan of Bill Blundell's The Art and Craft of Feature Writing.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I almost always remember the make and model of a car I've seen, but hardly ever the color. Likewise, book covers don't matter a whole lot to me. I might reject a book if the cover reveals that it's of a genre that doesn't interest me. But the title and subject always matter more to me than the cover.

Book that changed your life:

Franklin's Writing for Story. It was the first attempt to explain the techniques used to produce the kind of writing I most admired, narrative-nonfiction breakthroughs such as Hunter S. Thompson's Hell's Angels and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.

Favorite line from a book:

The opening line to A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean: "In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing." That about says it all. For me, fly fishing is a religion.

Which character you most relate to:

As an outdoorsman who's never happier than when he's in a duck blind or on the banks of a trout stream, I'm partial to Hemingway's Nick Adams, especially in Big Two-Hearted River.

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

Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It.

Preferred category: fiction or nonfiction:

I prefer story, and the principles of great storytelling are the same for both fiction and nonfiction. If you're a journalist like I am, you follow strict ethical guidelines when it comes to getting the facts right for a work of nonfiction. But the story theory you apply to make those facts interesting and meaningful is exactly the same as the story theory you use to produce a novel.

Book Review

Review: Epilogue

Epilogue: A Memoir by Will Boast (Liveright, $25.95 hardcover, 9780871403810, September 15, 2014)

In his memoir, Epilogue, Will Boast builds on the promise of his Iowa Short Fiction Award-winning debut story collection, Power Ballads, a paean to working musicians stripped of romantic mystique to reveal their workaday lives. Epilogue is Boast's attempt to understand a coming of age marked by family lost and found, a father whose death revealed a profound secret, and a future that might, after all, be happy. It succeeds as a lovely literary memoir and moving account of the complexity and necessity of family love.

Boast was seven when his family moved from England to small-town Wisconsin. He grew up with one foot in both worlds in a comfortable--if not happy--family, the straight-arrow older brother to popular, party-loving Rory. Then, during his first year at college, his mother died, six months after her cancer diagnosis. Rory, lost in grief, was killed in a car accident on his way to a party the following year. Boast's father died of alcoholism a few years later. Preparing to review his father's will with his lawyer, Boast found divorce papers for a first marriage he never knew his father had, and thus learned of his two half-brothers in England.

Was his father the devoted but difficult man who worked 12-hour days and came home to cook elaborate family dinners or the hard-partying playboy who cared so little for his first children that he abandoned them? That question anchors the story and makes it much more than an account of family secrets. Epilogue is structured in chapters, each a flawless personal essay, starting with his father's death, and cuts back and forth through time as Will revisits childhood memories in search of the answer and, numbed by pain, forges tentative connections with his newfound brothers, who have a very different response. In an effort to make his losses less painful, he even tries writing alternative drafts of past events, like Rory's last day, imagining romantic adventures for him in place of a senseless accident.

Boast has a novelist's gift for restraint and character. His scenes are vivid and deeply felt, unsentimental but full of not only his own pain but the pain his parents and brothers felt. In his raw, lyrical memoir, Boast is less concerned with shaping loss and new beginnings into a neatly resolved story than he is with finding the space to hold the contradictions in his life, allowing him to love his father despite all the unanswered questions and begin to see his own way forward. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Shelf Talker: This memoir of profound loss and discovery comes from a gifted young writer whose work has appeared in Best New American Voices, Glimmer Train and the New York Times.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: When Bookshelves Make a House a Home

We are currently in the planning stages of an ambitious bookcase-building project in the house we had rented since 2010 and purchased last year. That means four years have passed during which our substantial book collection, while readily accessible on temporary shelving in the finished basement, has lived in relative exile. This will change soon and our home will at last be fluent in the language of books.  

Sadly, not my library

Whenever I think of the power of bookshelves, I recall a passage from Frederick Buechner's The Eyes of the Heart: A Memoir of the Lost and Found: "The Magic Kingdom is my haven and sanctuary, the place where I do my work, the place of my dreams and of my dreaming.... It consists of the small room you enter through, where the family archives are, the office, where my desk and writing paraphernalia are, and the library, which is by far the largest room of the three. Its walls are lined with ceiling-high shelves except where the windows are, and it is divided roughly in half by shoulder-high shelves that jut out at right angles from the others but with an eight-foot space between them so that it is still one long room despite the dividers. There are such wonderful books in it that I expect people to tremble with excitement, as I would, on entering it for the first time, but few of them do so because they don't know or care enough about books to have any idea what they are seeing."

It was not until early adolescence that I began to understand the influence bookshelves could have upon living space. Although my family did not collect books, my father built me a small bookcase. This modest addition altered my room, and life, forever. I've been surrounded by books since then.

"Any home, especially one that has been lived in for quite a while, is a three-dimensional text," Alison Lurie writes in The Language of Houses, adding: "For many people, the home is a kind of sacred site, one that is chosen carefully and honored in memory; sometimes it may be revisited long after they have moved away."

I think about the amazing book conversations Kathy Murphy--founder of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club (now with more than 550 chapters)--must have had in the Jefferson, Tex., house she is currently selling. Murphy recently told me that in 2000, she opened Beauty and the Book "on the bottom level of my house, out in the woods. Pulpwood Queens Book Club meetings were held in my home as we outgrew my tiny shop downstairs. I ran my shop and my book club there for years until I moved into an old house in town, which sold, then moved into the restored gas station." She has since relocated her business and book club to nearby Hawkins and will host the 15th annual Girlfriend Weekend in Nacogdoches this January.

Ralph Waldo Emerson's study in Concord

Or consider legendary authors' homes. When we visit these "sacred sites," I suspect that even those of us who profess not to believe in ghosts may make an exception for the houses, and perhaps more so the personal libraries, of writers who matter to us. I know a discernible chill ran up my spine when I first visited Ralph Waldo Emerson's study, even though it is housed at the Concord Museum.

Real estate probably complicates matters a bit. In recent months, the former residences of John Cheever and J.D. Salinger have hit the market, along with Judy Blume's Martha's Vineyard waterfront retreat and even the "house that inspired The Adventures of Pinocchio's author." But I'm much more intrigued by the volumes that were shelved along the walls of these sacred sites than the people who lived there. It is the books that haunt.

"A building is an inanimate object, but it is not an inarticulate one," Lurie observes.

Maybe that is why I also love bookshops located in old houses, where the current inventory forms a kind of biblio-palimpsest over decades of bookshelves owned by former residents. Wendy and Jack Welch founded Tales of the Lonesome Pine Bookshop, Big Stone Gap, Va., a few years ago in a century-old house. In The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, her book chronicling their adventures and misadventures, Welch coined the term "B-space" to describe bookstores where "book-lined walls buffer against the world's bustling while browsing calms the soul and satisfies the mind."

I think that will soon describe our house, too, now that the books are coming home once again. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

Powered by: Xtenit