Shelf Awareness for Friday, May 29, 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


BEA15: ABA Honors Former CEO Avin Domnitz

At the Celebration of Bookselling yesterday, seven ABA presidents and ABA CEO Oren Teicher paid tribute to former ABA president and ABA CEO Avin Domnitz, who was also owner of Dickens Books and co-owner of Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops in Milwaukee.

Paying tribute to Avin Domnitz

Noting that 20 years ago many had written off independent bookstores "along with buggy whip vendors and candlestick makers," Teicher said that Domnitz was "a very special bookseller, an extraordinarily talented and committed man who would hear nothing of this." As a bookseller, volunteer, board member, v-p, president and CEO, he "gave many, many years" to the ABA and led the association "through some pretty tumultuous times" and was "always an articulate and passionate advocate for indies." Domnitz was an "inspiration to a whole generation of booksellers," particularly in teaching about financial matters, and, Teicher added, "whatever success we're having is directly attributable to his contributions."

Because of poor health, Domnitz was unable to attend, so his wife, Rita, accepted the ABA's gift of a framed Eat, Sleep, Read poster and said her husband had told her that morning to "send so much love to everybody."

Mitchell Kaplan of Books & Books, an ABA president during Domnitz's time as CEO, relayed a message to booksellers from Domnitz based on notes he took on his phone during a visit last week. He read, quoting Domnitz: "I would say you won the war. The reason you won the war is because you were right. You were gracious, tough and adamant... What's right wins out sometimes, and this time it did.... Everyone denigrated the book, and you didn't. It's about the book. All I did was motivated by the belief that you and the book would prevail."

Help a Bookseller, Change a Life: Give today to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation!

BEA15: Scenes from an Exhibition, Day 2

Blue Rider Press hosted a group of booksellers at 54 Below for a special appearance by Elvis Costello in conversation with Bill Flanagan, to promote his upcoming memoir, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink (October). Pictured: Costello with Blue Rider publisher David Rosenthal. (photo: Patrick McMullan) Author John Scalzi led a group of debut Tor authors in a rousing--and revealing--game of "Would You Rather: The SFF Edition," on the Uptown Stage. L.-r.:  Seth Dickinson (The Traitor Baru Cormorant), Lawrence M. Schoen (Barsk: The Elephant's Graveyard), Fran Wilde (Updraft), Scalzi and Ilana C. Myer (Last Song Before Night).

Dave Barry (l.), Alan Zweibel (center) and Adam Mansbach (r.) entertained their audience at the Uptown Stage with a funny, mischievous and wide-ranging conversation (Mansbach: "Writer is the least impressive job to a child."). Barry's latest book is The Worst Class Trip Ever (Disney-Hyperion), while Mansbach has two new titles: Seriously, You Have to Eat (Akashic) and Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in My... (Disney-Hyperion), which he co-authored with Zweibel.

The Washington Post's Ron Charles in conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks, whose next book is the highly anticipated novel The Secret Chord (Viking; September 22), in which she explores the multi-faceted character of King David. Comparing his tale to King Henry VIII and even Game of Thrones, Brooks said, "This is the fundamental story that underlies all those stories."

BEA15: ABA Annual Meeting and Resurgent Indies

The American Booksellers Association's annual meeting yesterday consisted mainly of reports by ABA leaders that held much good news about the continued resurgence in independent bookselling--although everyone was sad that outgoing president Steve Bercu of Bookpeople, Austin, Tex., was marking the end of his tenure on the board. Bercu earned at least three rounds of applause from members in appreciation of what CEO Oren Teicher called his "leadership, humor and keen insight."

In one of many indications of indie health, for the sixth year in a row, ABA's membership has grown, reported incoming president Betsy Burton of the King's English, Salt Lake City, Utah. The association now has 1,712 individual bookstore companies as members, up 2.9% from last year, and bookstore locations represented by those companies grew 6.4%, to 2,227. "We're in a renaissance," she commented. "Last year people questioned this. Not this year. Business is up and people are thrilled."

Bercu and Burton

In his final report as president, Bercu offered what he called "a review" of his eight years on the board, a period that included dealing with the the economic collapse of 2008 and 2009. "All seemed insurmountable," he said. "But in fact, it was surmountable."

He focused on the improvements that have been made in publisher relations and terms, much of it attributable to regular meetings the ABA has with publishers as well as board meetings with publishers, which began when Teicher became CEO. (The board meetings have worked as a complement to the meetings Teicher and other ABA staff have with publishers and are important because they "bring booksellers in direct contact with publishers and we can talk with them in ways Oren cannot.")

"Some changes are obvious, some not," he said. Rapid replenishment began as a Random House initiative that the ABA has supported and has now spread to other publishers. The approach, he said, is "the one thing that seemed to have more impact economically on most of us," even more than changed discounts and other approaches.

Similarly, simplified co-op is spreading across the industry, adding "margin that wasn't there before," and saving time and labor because bookstore owners or staff members no longer have to cut out ads and do the laborious paperwork coop traditionally entailed.

Bercu noted that consignment programs "didn't work out well for a lot of publishers," but extended dating, which is expanding, "is much like consignment. If you get 120-150 days [to pay] in October, that's like consignment for the holidays." He said extended dating is "something everyone wants" and something that the board and members have worked on a long time--and it's "come to fruition in the last three or four years."

In his report, his sixth as ABA CEO, Oren Teicher reviewed the state of the association, noting that "the ABA's strong financial footing" has allowed the association to pursue its goals "through continued investment in new initiatives and programming." These efforts have included "a significant investment in technology, especially for IndieCommerce"; an expansion of educational work, particularly at the Winter Institute and the Children's Institute; financial and technical support for the first Independent Bookstore Day earlier this month; and "our ongoing advocacy of indie bookselling" in the business, with elected officials and with the media.

Teicher noted the same positive membership trends that Burton reported on and emphasized another sign of indie health: last year, in 47 out of 52 weeks, unit sales of books at indies were up over the previous year, based on store reports used to compile the Indie bestseller lists. And already this year, sales in 17 out of 19 weeks are up over the previous year--despite some terrible weather this winter in the Northeast.

He attributed indies' successes to a variety of things, including booksellers' "hard work and commitment to education"; the "effective use of technology"; and buy local movements, which booksellers have been especially active in organizing and developing. He also discussed the importance of publisher help--alluding to the programs Bercu had discussed--and noted that four years ago at the ABA's annual meeting, he had challenged publishers "to take out a clean sheet of paper and begin to design trade terms that were 21st-century solutions to the significant challenges facing all of us in the book industry in the 21st century." A lot of progress has been made, he said, but more needs to be done.

In another positive development, Teicher mentioned "the continued emergence of a new generation of booksellers," something that "we at the ABA are absolutely thrilled about."

Among challenges faced by booksellers are publishers so "focused on the short-term gains of direct sales to consumers that they lose sight of the much greater potential that comes from directing those sales to indie bookstores." Also, booksellers are "coming to grips with the challenges of meeting our commitment to equitable compensation while facing the demands of significantly higher minimum wages" in parts of the country. And as the economy grows and real estate costs escalate in many areas, rent jumps "make it difficult for some members to grow and do business."

Teicher concluded that while there are many challenges before booksellers, "by working together, I really do believe that the best days of independent bookselling are in front of us." --John Mutter

BEA15: ABA Town Hall on Education, Bags, Minimum Wage

At the ABA's Town Hall meeting at the Javits Center Thursday afternoon, the open discussion covered the lack of educational programming for booksellers at BEA, coping with increases in minimum wage, negotiations with publishers and other topics.

Suzanne DeGaetano, the owner of Mac's Backs-Books on Coventry in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, brought up the lack of educational programming at BEA compared to years past and especially events like Winter Institute. Oren Teicher, ABA CEO, fielded the complaint, saying that at the urging of the association's advisory council and education task force, the ABA has made the conscious decision to focus on BEA as a time for facilitating relationships between booksellers and publishers.

ABA members brought up a range of concerns at the Town Hall meeting.

That opportunity to have such close contact with publishers, Teicher continued, is particular to BEA, but the ABA can try to address some complaints through auxiliary programming.

Touching on a topic that was a major point of discussion at the town hall meeting held at Winter Institute 10 in February, Christin Evans, the co-owner of Booksmith in San Francisco, Calif., argued in favor of independent booksellers supporting minimum wage increases across the country. Acknowledging that it is a complex issue and that every store's circumstances are different, Smith made the case that bookstores should be able to keep pace with these wage increases if they're made incrementally and that over time, it will give independent bookstores and other small businesses more leverage when it comes to negotiating rent. She said she was a "big believer" that bookstores would see benefits from more members of their communities having more disposable income. "I think that in the long run, it's going to really shift, in my community, money away from property owners to workers," said Evans. "I think that is a really positive thing, and a good long term thing for us."

The issue of plastic bags, and particularly how booksellers in "damper parts of the country" cope with bans on plastic bags, was also brought up. Tom Lowenburg, the co-owner of Octavia Books in New Orleans, La., said there was no local ordnance to stop him from using plastic bags, but his store had made the decision to move away from them anyway. Rather than give out plastic bags or regular paper bags, Lowenburg had a designer create good-looking, high-quality paper bags for which Octavia Books charges customers, if they choose to take one. He also reported that he's had no problems with using paper bags in "one of the damper parts of the country." Chuck Robinson, the owner of Village Books in Bellingham, Wash., said that his store hasn't used plastic bags in some 10 years, long before a city ordinance required stores to charge customers for bags over a certain size. Like Lowenburg, Robinson said he sees no problems with not using plastic bags in a very wet part of the country. He also suggested that asking customers if they need a bag, rather than if they want a bag, is effective at curbing plastic bag use.

The lack of diversity on the ABA board--another big point of discussion at the town hall meeting at the last Winter Institute--came up again as well. Steve Bercu, the outgoing ABA president and owner of Bookpeople in Austin, Tex., said that it was still an ongoing, constant conversation, and encouraged ABA members to nominate any members that they think would make a good addition to the board. Betsy Burton, the co-owner of the King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the incoming president, said that the board's nominating committee is out "beating the bushes" looking for nominations at regional shows and other venues. --Alex Mutter

BEA15: Adult Book & Author Breakfast

Humor, inspiration and the power of human connection were all part of yesterday's Adult Book & Author Breakfast, featuring Kunal Nayyar introducing speakers Lee Child, Diana Nyad and Brandon Stanton.

Nayyar's upcoming book is Yes, My Accent Is Real: Essays (Atria, September), in which he recounts his life's journey thus far: from his birth in London to being raised in India and eventually moving to the U.S. where, after a series of adventures and misadventures, he landed "on a little television show called The Big Bang Theory."

Child's 20th Jack Reacher novel, Make Me (Delacorte Press), will be released in September, and as he prepares for yet another promotional tour, Child recalled some memorable event q&a sessions. "If you are asked a question over and over, you will eventually figure out the answer," he said. Example: "Why are you so thin?" He now credits it to his two chosen food groups: caffeine and nicotine.

Brandon Stanton, Kunal Nayyar, Diana Nyad and Lee Child

Child also paid tribute to booksellers: "I'm acutely aware that nobody walked out of the store with one of my books without the help of booksellers.... They created my career.... Please keep doing what you're doing."

Nyad, author of Find a Way: The Story of One Wild and Precious Life (Knopf, October), paced the stage and delivered an inspiring, powerful talk about her lifelong quest (which she traced back to when she was five years old) that ultimately resulted in the record-breaking swim from Cuba to Florida when she was 64.

"I got to live out a passionate textured, imaginative story over a period of 35 years," said Nyad, adding that she "was grabbing Mary Oliver's line: 'Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?' What's deep down is a person who simply refuses to give up."

After Nyad's presentation, Nayyar returned to the podium, waited a beat, then cracked sheepishly: "I don't even know how to swim."

Brandon Stanton, whose second book is Humans of New York: Stories (St. Martin's, October), opened by saying, "Diana is so cool. She's awesome." He noted that Nyad had coached him backstage about being nervous. "She told me, 'It's good to be nervous; that means you respect the audience.' I really respect you guys."

Stanton spoke passionately about storytelling, which he does on his blog by photographing strangers and asking them questions. "They're telling things to 15 million people that they haven't told their families," he said, adding: "We all are so desperate for our stories to be told.... Some people, all they have to offer is their story.... All these stories are out there and they're equally important, if we give them the same level of importance." --Robert Gray

Ernster Opening English-Language Bookshop in Luxembourg

Tomorrow Luxembourg bookstore chain Ernster is opening an English-language bookstore, Luxemburger Wort reported. Located in front of the Grand Ducal Palace, the store will provide "the newest titles in a wide range of genres, a book order service and the accustomed friendly smile," a spokesperson said.

Family-owned Ernster has seven bookstores, cafes and stationery shops in Luxembourg and celebrated its 125th anniversary last year. This is its first all-English language store; the other stores carry titles in French, German and Luxembourgish.


Fun at the Library: 'Telelift Book Transport System'

"Who says libraries can't be fun... for the books?" asked Bustle in showcasing "the Telelift book transport system (aka awesome book roller coaster) at the National Széchényi Library in Budapest.... With 3.7 miles of tracks and 40 different stops or stations, the system boasts a 10 to 15 minute ride for books to arrive where they're needed. And that's pretty darn good for a library with more than 2.5 million books, and that's not even counting periodicals, audio, etc."

Book Trailer of the Day: Nowhere but Here

Nowhere but Here by Katie McGarry (Harlequin Teen), the first in the Thunder Road series, from the author of Pushing the Limits.

Media and Movies

TV: Ripley

A team has formed to bring Patricia Highsmith's five-book Ripley series to television, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Television 360's Guymon Casady (Game of Thrones) and Ben Forkner (Good People) will executive produce. Philipp Keel of Diogenes, the late Highsmith's Zurich publisher and agency, is also on board as an EP. Endemol Shine Studios exec v-p Jeremy Gold will oversee the project. Producers "hope to put the property together with a writer--or major filmmaker--as well as an actor before shopping it to premium cable networks or streaming services," THR wrote.

Books & Authors

Awards: Independent Foreign Fiction, Compton Crook; Audies

German writer and director Jenny Erpenbeck won the £10,000 (about $15,320) Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for The End of Days, translated by Susan Bernofsky. Author and translator will share the prize money. The Bookseller reported that Erpenbeck "is the only living German author to have won the prize in its 25-year history; W.G. Sebald and Gert Hofmann were both awarded the prize posthumously."

Judge Boyd Tonkin described The End of Days as "a novel to enjoy, to cherish and to revisit many times. It is both written and translated with an almost uncanny beauty, which grows not out of historical abstractions but from the shocks and hopes of everyday life, and from our common quest for peace, home and love. Re-reading this jewel of a book, I came to feel as if both W.G. Sebald and Virginia Woolf would recognize a kindred spirit here."


Salvage by Alexandra Duncan (Greenwillow Books) has won the 2015 Compton Crook Award, which is given by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society for the best first novel in the genre published in the previous year.

The Audio Publishers Association announced this year's Audie Award winners last night. Mandela: An Audio History (Highbridge) was named audiobook of the year. The judges called it "one of the most powerful, well produced,and affecting programs we've ever heard." The distinguished achievement in production award went to The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperAudio). A special achievement award was presented posthumously to renowned actor and much-lauded audiobook narrator Edward Herrmann. Check out the complete list of Audie winners and finalists here.

Book Brahmin: Karl Taro Greenfeld

photo: Sports Illustrated

Karl Taro Greenfeld is the author of eight books that have been translated into a dozen languages. A long-time writer and editor for the Nation, Time and Sports Illustrated, he has also written for Harper's, the Atlantic, the Paris Review and for Best American Short Stories and O. Henry Prize Stories. As a journalist, he has traveled widely and turned to fiction only in his early 40s. He lives in Pacific Palisades, Calif., with his wife and daughters. The Palisades is the setting for his new novel, The Subprimes (Harper, May 12, 2015), about a near future in which extreme wealth inequality has destroyed the fabric of American society. It's a comedy.

On your nightstand now:

Billy Idol's Dancing with Myself, Edith Pearlman's Binocular Vision and Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese-American Internment in World War II by Richard Reeves.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The book I kept on rereading was Catch-22, though that was in eighth grade. As a true child, I loved I Am Third, Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayer's autobiography. It has the chapter about his relationship with Brian Piccolo, that would become the movie Brian's Song. I really loved one chapter about when Gale Sayers was in high school and didn't have very much money, but there was a local hamburger restaurant, Pookies, that gave a coupon for a free hamburger every time a football player scored a touchdown. Sayers scored like seven touchdowns a game, so he got to eat seven hamburgers. I really enjoyed the simplicity of that arrangement and how if he was hungry, he just had to score more touchdowns.

It's funny, but yesterday I was thinking about this book I really loved in third grade called American During Four Wars. It was an illustrated children's book about the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I and World War II. I just Googled it and it has one Goodreads rating, five stars, but I may have given it that, and it's ranked 4,287,053 on Amazon, which is probably higher than some of my books.

Book you've faked reading:

I was supposed to read The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu my senior year of college, and the book seemed like it was several thousand pages long. I may not have read it, but I wrote a long term paper about it. And I carried it around campus for about four months.

Book you're an evangelist for:

A Hollywood Education by David Freeman and Opium Fiend by Steven Martin.

Lately I've been talking up Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish. It is a beautiful and powerful book that reminds me that people are still writing books that are wonderful, and how far short of that mark I fall.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I can't think of one. I can remember a book cover from my childhood of an illustration of a beautiful woman in a flowing gown standing on a precipice. There is vertical rock cliff face above her, below her and all around her. It seemed impossible for her to get into that position, yet there she was. It must have been a romance novel of some kind, and I studied it intensely, because the inescapability of her predicament terrified me. Despite my fascination with the cover, it never occurred to me to read the book.

Book that changed your life:

I think Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche. He concocted a theory of the history of religion and morality based on nothing but pure speculation, and wrote it as if it was the most obvious, observable phenomenon. There's a reason Nietzsche is the favorite philosopher of high school stoners, and that's because he goes on these mind blowing riffs and you are working so hard just to understand what he is saying, that it never occurs to you that he is pulling this material out of his a**. But it inspired me by convincing me that there is no higher virtue in life than defining oneself through art. I don't believe that any more, but for a few important years, college primarily, it formed the basis of my desire to become a writer. Now, I don't attach any imperative to any value system one might have. You can live for money, love, power, art, sex, drugs, collectible vinyl, whatever. I feel like you just make your choice, and you can change it. But when I was younger, it was important that there was one true way and that I knew what it was.

Favorite line from a book:

"The young man walks by himself, fast but not fast enough, far but not far enough (faces slide out of sight, talk trails into tattered scraps, footsteps tap fainter in alleys); he must catch the last subway, the streetcar, the bus, run up the gangplanks of all the steamboats, register at all the hotels, work in the cities, answer the want ads, learn the trades, take up the jobs, live in all the boardinghouses, sleep in all the beds. One bed is not enough, one job is not enough, one life is not enough. At night, head swimming with wants, he walks by himself alone." --John Dos Passos, The 42nd Parallel

Which character you most relate to:

Botchan from Natsume Soseki's book of that name.

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

The Lord of the Rings.

Book that most influenced your new book:

I was consciously trying to update The Grapes of Wrath, knowing full well I couldn't write a book as beautiful, but I wanted to explore those same themes of fairness, justice and inequality, issues that pose as great a challenge now as they did in Steinbeck's day. Also, I loved how he wrote a political novel that was entertaining, that didn't slow down the reader to lay in the ideas. That was my goal as well. 

Book Review

Review: The Sunken Cathedral

Sunken Cathedral by Kate Walbert (Scribner, $25 hardcover, 9781476799322, June 2, 2015)

Against a background of ominous "sudden weather" and warnings to "shelter in place," the characters of Kate Walbert's The Sunken Cathedral play out their complicated lives in New York City's ever more expensive Chelsea neighborhood. At the center of Walbert's (A Short History of Women; Our Kind) story are lifelong friends and octogenarians Marie and Simone, haunted by nightmares of their escapes during the Nazi invasion of France. They manage on their own as best they can: their bodies are failing ("Dry skin. Terrible. You turn to dust before you turn to dust."), their children are scattered about the world, their husbands are vivid memories, and their storekeeper neighbors are replaced by pampered movie stars, their big brownstones now broken up for rental income. On a whim they sign up for a figurative art class taught by curmudgeonly Sid Morris, whose studio windows are painted shut--trapping radiator heat and his ubiquitous cigarette smoke--while upstairs a yoga center holds a meditation retreat. "Imagine sitting all day saying nothing," Marie says. To which Sid responds, "Death would be more interesting." The three become friendly. A little romance ensues. Then, in a New York sort of way, Simone is abruptly killed by a taxi at a dangerous pedestrian crossing at 9th Avenue and 23rd Street.

In counterpoint to these old-school New Yorkers, Marie's tenants Elizabeth and Pete--and teen son Ben, who has a "constellation of learning challenges formerly known as learning differences formerly known as learning disabilities"--struggle to live up to youthful dreams: "[Elizabeth] had a plan... get her master's... marry Pete... work in marketing or public relations, writing poetry on the side... compositions of what it all meant." Instead she joins other moms from Ben's progressive K-8 private school in a neighborhood "parental patrol" and labors with him over a "Who We Are" story-and-photo "dialoguing" assignment.

Walbert shapes the lives of these neighbors and friends in jewel-like vignettes, with more information in narrative footnotes. Her characters cross paths on the streets, in Marie's small backyard, at Ben's school, in Sid's studio and even in a shared therapist's office. The Sunken Cathedral (a reference to a Breton legend and the Debussy prelude of the same name) is as much the story of a vanishing New York City as it as of its evolving population. Set in the shadows of the hip High Line with "delivery boys and muscle boys and pretty women who work at magazines weaving in and out of the stalled traffic on CitiBikes" and square in the perilous Flood Zone 1, Walbert's taut novel touches on all that is now at risk in the city--whether by a cascade of water or cascade of money. As one of the school's long-time administrators says over a martini in a soon-to-be-closed, smoke-free Chelsea tavern, "Maybe that's the problem now: everyone needs a cigarette." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: Kate Walbert's Sunken Cathedral paints an elegant picture of a Lower Manhattan neighborhood and its citizens, at risk from both "sudden weather" and relentless gentrification.

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