Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 20, 2015

Blackstone Publishing: An Honorable Assassin (Nick Mason Novels #3) by Steve Hamilton

Clarion Books: The Man Who Didn't Like Animals by Deborah Underwood, Illlustrated by LeUyen Pham

Holiday House: Bye Forever, I Guess by Jodi Meadows and Team Canteen 1: Rocky Road by Amalie Jahn

Wednesday Books: Dust by Alison Stine

Running Press Kids: The Junior Witch's Handbook, The Junior Astrologer's Handbook, and The Junior Tarot Reader's Handbook by Nikki Van De Car

Scholastic Press: Ruin Road by Lamar Giles

Quotation of the Day

The Bookstore: the City's 'Imagination, Conscience and Spirit'

"The bookshop has always been at the heart of the modern city; it is its imagination, its conscience and spirit. From their first incarnation as printers of pamphlets, they were always where people would go to explore ideas, find stories and share opinions."

--Dan Lewis, a bookseller at Stanfords, an independent travel bookstore in London, quoted in a Guardian article about the pressures on indie bookstores.

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Rakuten, Owner of Kobo, Buys OverDrive

Japanese Internet services giant Rakuten is buying OverDrive, Inc. for $410 million in cash. Overdrive facilitates e-book and audiobook lending for more than 30,000 libraries in 40 countries. In 2012, Rakuten bought Kobo, the global retailer of e-reading devices and e-books that, in the U.S., sells through many independent bookstores. The acquisition of OverDrive is scheduled to close in April.

"Rakuten's vision of empowerment is perfectly aligned with OverDrive," said Steve Potash, founder and CEO of OverDrive. "Since 1986, our vision has been to advance digital publishing and content to connect readers with books and information. We're passionate about working with publishers, libraries, schools and retailers to make that happen, and we are very excited to join an innovative company that shares and supports our vision."

"OverDrive is a widely respected pioneer in digital content and the sharing economy," said Takahito Aiki, the head of Rakuten's global e-book business. "Long before even Kobo emerged onto the global stage, OverDrive had already seen the future and was working with publishers to digitize their content to share with the world, building one of the most comprehensive online digital marketplaces in the process. OverDrive's deep content library and relationships with publishers, libraries, schools, and retailers will allow Rakuten to extend our mission of empowerment to new market segments and accelerate the growth of our digital contents businesses."

Hyde Park Books, Boise, Idaho, Closing

Hyde Park Books, Boise, Idaho, is closing. The store posted on Facebook yesterday:

"My heart is breaking today. It is with a heavy heart, my family and I have decided to close the book store. It's been a difficult, emotional decision, but necessary. I'd like to personally thank those community members who have supported the shop. It's been a blessing to have you in our lives for these short few years."

The store will be open Wednesday-Sunday for the rest of the month.

Book Shelf in Winona, Minn., Seeks to Raise Capital

The Book Shelf, Winona, Minn., has launched a crowdfunding campaign called "Save an Independent Bookstore" that aims to raise $15,000 by April 2.

On Indiegogo, Book Shelf owner Chris Livingston wrote that monies raised will be used to "reduce operating debt, refresh inventories, and expand our beloved children's department, which already boasts a castle the kids can climb inside and relax with a book."

On its website, the store said "our 2015 Capital Campaign [is] similar to the one we conducted six years ago.... Although our sales have increased steadily each year [in the 13 years of ownership], we took on a lot of structured higher interest debt to keep our doors open. In 2009, at the beginning of the recession, we conducted a capital campaign to pay down this debt, and keep the store open. Although we didn't get close to our goal, we did receive enough support to remain in business, and we were blown away by the support our community provided.

"In the five years since that campaign concluded, economic forces continue to weigh on the store, and we have fallen behind in our financial commitments as well as allowing the store's inventory to suffer."

Livingston said that the store launched the current campaign in a limited way a few weeks ago and that 14 donors have contributed 17% of what the store needs.

Livingston recounted several positive steps the store has taken, including adding more used books and selling them online, "a new income stream for the store"; a fledgling publishing program that will feature two imprints, one with a literary focus and the other contract publishing; and events whose attendance has improved because of a regular schedule. The store plans to offer more events and reinvest in children's book inventory while cutting back on toys and games.

He also said the store hopes to raise $50,000 "by having customers open House Accounts, which are essentially prepaid accounts. When using the funds in these accounts, customers will receive 15% off their purchases." Under the program, half the funds would be available immediately, and the other half would be available on January 1, 2016.

More Than 350 Indies Prepare for Independent Bookstore Day

With about a month and a half to go until May 2, 355 independent bookstores around the country have signed on to participate in the inaugural Independent Bookstore Day. All orders for the special merchandise have been placed, said Samantha Schoech, program director for Independent Bookstore Day, and collectively stores have ordered more than 20,000 pieces. Stores are also going the extra mile to organize additional author visits and activities. Here's a sampling of the creative things planned for Independent Bookstore Day.

In New York City, more than 20 indies have banded together to organize Independent Bookstore Day NYC. The participating stores will collectively publicize their own and each other's events and activities, and are working on at least one joint event. More information, and a complete list of all participating indies, will be made available here.

Astoria Bookshop in Queens, N.Y., will have afternoon events for children, including a team game of Pictionary led by local graphic novelists Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman, and evening events for adults, including a book-based trivia game and cocktails. Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y., will offer morning portrait drawings for kids, an afternoon literary photo booth with authors, and an evening Bookstore Day Party. And powerHouse Arena will have an in-store photo project and portrait sessions.

In Hoboken, N.J., Little City Books will have its grand opening celebration and ribbon-cutting ceremony with Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Ga., turns 10 years old this summer and will throw a 10th anniversary "It Takes a Village to Raise a Bookstore" party on Independent Bookstore Day. The festivities will take place both in the village square and at the store and will include readings, crafts, a pop-up shop and much more.

At the King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, there will be a full roster of visiting authors, games, a Seuss-a-thon for children and a local food truck.

In San Francisco, Calif., there will be a day's worth of author events at Green Apple Books (epicenter of last year's California Bookstore Day, which was the impetus for Independent Bookstore Day), including a joint reading with Mary Roach (Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal), Michelle Richmond (Golden State) and Novella Carpenter (Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer). The three authors will be reading from Days Like This: Good Writers on Bad Luck, Bum Deals, and Other Torments, an anthology available only on Independent Bookstore Day. At the Booksmith, there will be a Mad Hatter Tea Party, with local writers, fans and shoppers invited to participate, and a psychic who specializes in reading tea leaves will make an appearance. Also on Independent Bookstore Day, the San Francisco Bike Coalition has organized a bike tour of the city's indies.

And at Inklings Bookshop in Yakima, Wash., there will be hourly drawing sessions, live music, a literary costume contest and steamed pork buns provided by a local caterer. --Alex Mutter

Amazon Wins Limited Testing Approval for Drones

After several months of lobbying, Amazon has gained a partial victory in its fight to test drones for eventual package deliveries. The Federal Aviation Administration has given the company an "experimental airworthiness certificate," which are "normally granted to aerospace companies like Boeing and others that are conducting research and development on new drone technologies," the New York Times said.

The certificate allows limited drone testing outdoors: the drones must fly below 400 feet, only in the daytime, be operated by pilot certified to fly private manned aircraft and only within the pilot's sight. The company, which has been testing drones indoors, said it will conduct outdoor tests in rural Washington State.

Amazon had argued that FAA limitations on drone testing would force companies to do so abroad. The agency is concerned about the safety of drones.

The Wall Street Journal noted that last month, the FAA proposed rules that "would restrict companies from allowing drones to operate out of their sight, putting on ice for the foreseeable future any commercial applications such as those proposed by Amazon and others, including Google."

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the company's idea for fleets of drones delivering packages on a highly publicized 60 Minutes segment in early December 2013, at the beginning of the holiday season.

Obituary Note: Samuel Charters

Samuel Charters, "whose books and field research helped detonate the blues and folk music revival of the 1960s and 1970s," died Wednesday, the New York Times reported. He was 85. Music historian Ted Gioia once described Charters's 1959 book, The Country Blues, as a "signal event in the history of the music."


Image of the Day: The Healing Light of Angels

In celebration of her new book, The Healing Light of Angels (Llewellyn)--about making connections with angels through meditations and exercises--author Raven Keyes appeared at the Bag Lady, a New Age bookstore in Charlotte, N.C. Pictured: (l.-r.) store manager Louise Gammons; Raven Keyes; store owner Erin Coffin.

Jed Lyons Honored with Jean Srnecz Lifetime Achievement Award

Jed Lyons

Jed Lyons, president and CEO of Rowman & Littlefield and National Book Network, has won the Jean Srnecz Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was created in honor of longtime Baker & Taylor senior v-p Jean Srnecz, who was killed in the crash of Flight 3407 near Buffalo, N.Y., in 2009.

B&T president of retail David Cully, who presented the award at a Monday dinner in Charleston, S.C., during B&T's Vendor Summit, said, "Rowman & Littlefield began as a humanities and social sciences publisher and has become one of the fastest growing independent publishers in North America. Jed has been there providing insight and guidance to his employees and colleagues throughout those 40 years.

"Jed is also the friend of the little man, or at least the little publisher. National Book Network has provided distribution, sales, and marketing to independent publishers for nearly 30 years, giving them global exposure and allowing them to reach their target audience in ways they could not do alone. NBN's ground-breaking strategy of distribution brought a change to the book industry that is being replicated by others. Jed has humbly attributed its success to 'seasoned professionals with in-depth publishing and bookselling experience.'"

Lyons commented: "I am honored to receive this award named after my dear friend Jean Srnecz. Jean was a champion of independent publishing and a lover of books and people. Calling on Jean in the 1970s was an education in itself. Our company is deeply grateful for this recognition of our 40-year journey from start-up to a house that now employs 600 professionals in the U.S. and the U.K."

Book Trailer of the Day: Paddle Against the Flow

Paddle Against the Flow: Lessons on Life from Doers, Creators, and Cultural Rebels from Huck Magazine (Chronicle Books), a book that features contributions from Douglas Coupland, Dave Eggers, Spike Jonze, Miranda July, Mark Gonzales, MIA, Nas, Beck, Kim Gordon, Pharrell Williams, Mos Def, Sofia Coppola, Judd Apatow, Ai Weiwei, Beastie Boys and more

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Gerald Posner on Real Time with Bill Maher

Tonight on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Gerald Posner, author of God's Bankers: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican (Simon & Schuster, $32, 9781439109861).

Movies: Paper Towns; In Dubious Battle

The first trailer has been released for Paper Towns, based on John Green's novel, Indiewire reported. The film was written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (The Spectacular Now, (500) Days of Summer, The Fault In Our Stars) and directed by Jake Schreier. The cast includes Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Justice Smith, Austin Abrams, Halston Sage, Jaz Sinclair and Cara Buono.

"Paper Towns is very different from Fault in Our Stars, in every possible way," Green told USA Today. "Hollywood is so used to franchises. But this is not a series. It's an unrelated story that's beautiful and funny, and has a big heart."


John Savage (The Deer Hunter, Inside Moves) has joined the cast of James Franco's In Dubious Battle, based on John Steinbeck's novel, reported. Nat Wolff had recently been announced to play the lead. The cast also includes Selena Gomez, Vincent D'Onofrio, Robert Duvall, Ed Harris, Bryan Cranston, Sam Shepard and Danny McBride. The project is shooting in Atlanta.

Books & Authors

Awards: RoNA; YA; Ben Franklin; Christian Book

Joss Stirling won the Romantic Novelists' Association's £5,000 (about $7,390) Romantic Novel of the Year award for Struck, which became the first YA title to be honored with RNA's overall prize. This year's category winners are:

Contemporary romantic: A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon
Epic: Pieces of You by Ella Harper
Historical: The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor
Romantic comedy: Just a Girl, Standing in Front of a Boy by Lucy-Anne Holmes
Young adult: Struck (formerly Storm & Stone) by Joss Stirling
RoNA Rose: Scandal's Virgin by Louise Allen


Louise O'Neill won the inaugural YA Book Prize for her debut novel, Only Ever Yours. Launched by the Bookseller and supported by World Book Day and the Reading Agency, the prize has a £2,000 ($3,000) award. O'Neill received the award in a ceremony on the flagship Foyles store in London.


Nearly 160 finalists in the 55 categories of the Benjamin Franklin Awards, sponsored by the Independent Book Publishers Association, have been selected and can be seen here. The winners will be honored at an awards ceremony during IBPA's Publishing University in Austin, Tex., April 10.


The 37 finalists for the 2015 Christian Book Awards, honoring Christian publishing's best book and Bible releases of the year and sponsored by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, have been released. A winner in each category and the Christian Book of the Year will be announced on May 5 during the ECPA Awards Banquet in Nashville, Tenn.

Book Brahmin: Harlan Coben

More than 60 million copies of Harlan Coben's books are in print worldwide, and his last seven adult novels all made their debuts at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. He's won an Edgar Award, a Shamus Award and an Anthony Award--the first author to win all three. Along with his adult thrillers, he is also the author of the Mickey Bolitar YA series. His newest novel is The Stranger (Dutton, March 24, 2015). Coben lives in New Jersey with his wife, Anne Armstrong-Coben, a pediatrician, and their four children.

On your nightstand now: 

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. The book is a bunch of brief essays/bio describing an artist's process. It's always nice to be reminded that you're not the only crazy one out there.

Favorite book when you were a child:

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. Not a very original one, but there you go.

Your top five authors:

No, no, not going there. It is a constant evolution and reassessment. I'll list Philip Roth as my favorite and leave it at that.

Book you've faked reading:

I'm not sure I faked it, but I've never read J.R.R. Tolkien. I've tried but it simply isn't my thing. I've learned that's not an insult or even a criticism. Too many people I like and respect love his stuff, so I've realized that my personal tastes don't reflect any sort of reality.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Fiction: Blueprints for a Better Girls by Elissa Schappel.

Nonfiction: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. 

I won't give you reasons. Just try them.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Sheesh, I don't think I've done that since I was teenager rumbling through used books. Might have been a V.C. Andrews. Remember those lurid covers? They were awesome.

Book that changed your life:

All do, don't they? I'd have to answer Marathon Man by William Goldman. The suspense was so great, the narrative so compelling, that I think subconsciously I realized that I wanted to grow up and make people feel what I was feeling at that moment.

Favorite line from a book: 

"He had learned the worst lesson that life can teach--that it makes no sense." --Philip Roth, American Pastoral

Which character you most relate to:

Myron Bolitar, perhaps because he is of my own creation. That's probably not a fair answer, but too bad.

Book Review

Review: Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God

Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God by Lauren F. Winner (HarperOne, $24.99 hardcover, 9780061768125, March 31, 2015)

Although the Bible employs a staggering array of metaphors for God, Jews and Christians tend to use a handful of them over and over: shepherd, king, omniscient creator, sacrificial lamb. With her trademark acerbic wit and wry honesty, in Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God, theologian and memoirist Lauren F. Winner delves into a few seldom used--in some cases completely overlooked--biblical images.

Winner (Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis) begins with a confession: even as a professor at Duke Divinity School and a longtime person of faith, she sometimes finds it difficult to think about God. "Sometimes, a hymn gets caught in my hair," she writes, "and I sing it all week long, off and on, without ever thinking hard about what it says about God." Realizing that her images of God were both predictable and somewhat outdated, Winner began mining the Bible for its more unusual or startling depictions of God. She examines half a dozen of them--clothing, laughter, smell, flame, laboring woman and the intertwined images of bread and vine--in this book, pondering the implications of each one.

While Winner--a former Orthodox Jew who later converted to Christianity--approaches God through the lens of faith, she has plenty of doubts, and she's not afraid to air them. She freely admits that God is difficult to grasp, frustrating, even unreachable. But her analysis of each metaphor gives her "an image that beckons me to go somewhere toward and with God." Even while exploring the dark side of several images (e.g., the ways that fire can be both life-giving and dangerous), Winner finds God there, too.

Each chapter, with a short note at the end, includes insights from the class Winner co-teaches at her local women's prison to a group of students whose experiences (religious and otherwise) contrast sharply with her own. Winner's trips to the prison keep the book from feeling overly academic, as she is forced to ask how God might appear differently to people whose circumstances are limited, even desperate.

Throughout Wearing God, Winner draws on the imaginings of other theologians, both Jewish and Christian; she excerpts several sermons and peppers the book with quotes from mystics and other scholars. Despite its depth, Wearing God never feels dry. It is, at heart, simply the newest chapter in Winner's continuing quest for a deeper relationship with God.

"An ordinary Tuesday--what you wear, what you eat and how you experience the weather--has something to offer you about God," Winner asserts in her introduction. With her mixture of anecdotes and thought-provoking analysis, Winner proves a wise and appealing companion on the journey. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Memoirist and theologian Lauren F. Winner returns with a wry, often surprising exploration of several overlooked metaphors for God.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: My First Indie Bookstore

Do you remember your first independent bookstore? Maybe your parents started taking you there even before memories stuck because it was their indie. Did the shop have a huge children's section, where you could sit on the floor and read quietly? Was there a bookseller you loved seeing every time you stopped by, someone who called you by name? Do you treasure memories of cool story hours, book-themed parties or eventually, depending upon your age, a Harry Potter midnight launch or two?

photo: Tim Pierce

As a bookseller and then editor, I've been closely attached to the indie bookselling life for almost 25 years, and I am always entranced by the never-ending ceremony of parents introducing their children to bookshops and spending genuine, no-rush time there. And yes, before you say it, I'm also aware of the many exceptions to this idealized image--like the toddler left on his own to reorganize the board books section with the deft touch of baby Godzilla. But early introduction to an independent bookstore that a child can claim as his or her very own is both magical and fundamental.

I was not one of those kids. I didn't find my first indie bookstore--the Hartford Bookshop in Rutland, Vt.--until I was 18 or 19 years old.

I was born a reader, apparently, but for much of my childhood, books came to me as gifts or hand-me-downs or from school. I don't have any memories of going to a magic place to obtain The Wizard of Oz or the many Big Little Books that reached me. Later, I devoured the Hardy Boys series, but I don't associate the appearance of those books with a retail wellspring either.

Only when I reached adolescence did commerce enter the picture. I was a working man by then--mowing lawns or shoveling snow, mostly--and my investment portfolio was heavily weighted toward comic book stocks.

I inherited my first stack of comics when I was about 11 from a kid in the neighborhood who was a few years older. Soon I'd expanded that collection with issues featuring then-new superheroes like Spider-Man, Thor and Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos. The key aspect of those formative comic book years was that I finally made my first genuine connection between what I read and the retail store it came from. In the small town where I lived, there was a newsstand that sold the usual array of print goodies--newspapers, magazines, comics, paperback books, etc. I knew the exact release day every month for new issues of my favorite comics and I was always there with cash in hand.

It was at this newsstand that I first began purchasing paperbacks, the highlight of my nascent library being all 24 editions of The Man from UNCLE novel series based on the TV spy show, as well as several of Ian Fleming's James Bond books.

I still had not found my first indie bookstore.

But all that that changed in the late 1960s, once I had my driver's license a little mobility. I finally discovered the Hartford Bookshop, which was located in an old building in downtown Rutland. Although my memory is hazy about specific details, I do recall that upon entering, the service counter was on the left, books lined the walls and freestanding bookcases stretched deep within the high-ceilinged space.

The owner, whose name I've long forgotten, was the first genuine bookseller I ever met. In time, he would recognize me when I stopped by and our conversations about the books I bought, as well as his suggestions for future titles, were a new and welcome experience for me. During that period, I also had many conversations with a close friend of mine about eventually opening a bookstore together, a golden if never-realized idea inspired by our pilgrimages to the Hartford Bookshop.

There must still be several books in my personal library that I purchased there long ago, but the only two I'm certain of are Modern Library editions: Walden & Other Writings of Henry David Thoreau and The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Well-worn from multiple readings and teeming with marginalia, they served me well this week as Proustian madeleines to evoke memories of my first indie bookstore, which itself exists only in memory. I don't think the Hartford Bookshop survived the 1970s.

What was your first indie bookstore? I'd love to hear that story. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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