Shelf Awareness for Monday, June 8, 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


Hut Landon Retiring as NCIBA Executive Director

Hut Landon, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association for the past 15 years, is retiring by the end of the year. In a message to NCIBA members, he wrote that this was "my decision, fueled by nothing more than a desire to have a bit more time to enjoy life outside of work. I don't have an incurable disease, I have not embezzled funds, and I am definitely not tired of the book business. What I am is a newly minted 65-year-old with a yen to spend more time at home and traveling with my wife, Joy."

Hut Landon

He added that he's exploring options and that "the idea of working part-time in a bookstore appeals to me a lot. And if someone approached me with an interesting project, especially one that was book-related, I'd be happy to listen. I'm not off to a retirement home, and I still want to work, but I'd also like the freedom to take a trip, spend more time with friends and family, exercise every day, and, every once in a while, just do nothing."

NCIBA has formed a search committee to find a new executive director. It will accept applications through July 6 and conduct interviews during the summer. The association hopes to have a new executive director in place before the Fall Discovery Show, which will be held October 23-24 in South San Francisco. (Landon will stay on as long as needed to help with the transition.) For more information on the job and how to apply, click here.

Before becoming executive director, Landon was on the board of NCIBA for 10 years, when he owned Landon Books in Mill Valley. He has headed NCIBA during a turbulent period, starting when Northern California indies were continuing to be threatened by chains and Amazon, then by the rise of e-books. During his involvement with NCIBA, among other achievements, the association developed Book Sense, which was eventually taken on by the ABA and became IndieBound; was instrumental in getting California to force Amazon to collect sales tax; and helped launch California Bookstore Day, which has become Independent Bookstore Day. He leaves NCIBA on a high note: most NCIBA stores are doing well and in one indication of how things have changed, there are no chain booksellers in San Francisco.

Tony Winners: Books on Broadway

Books were a big winner at the Tony Awards last night:

  • Best Play, Best Actor in a Play (Alex Sharp), Best Direction in a Play, Best Scenic Design in a Play, Best Lighting Design in a Play: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, based on the novel by Mark Haddon.
  • Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (Michael Cerveris), Best Direction in a Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score: Fun Home, based on Alison Bechtel's graphic memoir.
  • Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical, Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical, Best Costume Design in a Musical: The King and I, based on the novel by Margaret Landon, which in turn was based on the memoir by Anna Leonowens.
  • Best Costume Design in a Play: Wolf Hall, Parts One and Two, based on the novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel.

Seattle's Cinema Books to Close

Seattle's Cinema Books, which "has been a landmark for UW students, faculty, and U-District residents," is closing after 38 years in business, due to construction projects across the street, the Daily reported. Owner Stephanie Ogle said the construction has hindered patrons from parking locally and visiting the store: "I'm too small to last them out."

Cinema Books "has attracted filmmakers, cinematographers and film majors and aficionados alike with its wide array of books and topics. While some books are specialty out-of-prints, most were published recently," the Daily noted.

"I love meeting people, whether they're filmmakers, or making their first documentary, or a fan who's crazy about Godzilla movies," Ogle said. "All of those things are really a joy because you have people who are passionate.... I'm just trying to live through this in the moment. After that, I'll make plans. But for right now, I'm doing it. I feel sad about it, but at the same time, I gotta be honest and say it's time to move on."

AAP Sales: Children's/YA Stumbles in February

In February, total net book sales fell 10.7%, to $611.4 million, compared to February 2014, representing sales of 1,210 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers.

Among highlights: the main drags on sales were children's and YA books, down 32.1%, to $86.8 million, and higher ed course materials, down 27.7%, to $54.6 million. The strongest categories were audiobooks (physical up 70.7%, to $4.6 million, and downloaded up 50.1%, to $16.3 million); professional books, up 19.6%, to $39.9 million; K-12 instructional materials, up 11.2%, to $71 million.

For the year to date, trade book sales have fallen 4.3%, to $1.01 billion, and e-book sales have dropped 11.7%.

By category in February:

First Bay Area Book Festival Triumphs in Berkeley

At the opening night party, festival director Cherilyn Parsons flanked by City Lights' Paul Yamazaki (r.) and Yale University Press' Steve Wasserman (l.), talking to Berkeley pal Steve Silberstein.

Books took over downtown Berkeley, Calif., this weekend as the first Bay Area Book Festival commandeered a 10-block area to welcome 300 authors for 145 events that included keynotes, interviews, panel discussions and performances. At the elegant kick-off party held Friday night in the club atop the University of California's Stadium, Cherilyn Parsons, the festival's founder and executive director, thanked the sponsors, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the University, the City of Berkeley, Ingram Spark, Perseus, HarperOne, Scribd, Chronicle Books and Goodreads. All book sales were handled by Bay Area independent booksellers.

The events were free, but tickets were issued for crowd control; the sessions, ranging in topic from the "Roots of Violence" to "A Showcase of Latin American Stories with Daniel Alarcón," were packed. Speaker headliners included Judy Blume, Google's Laszlo Bock, Daniel Handler, Pico Iyer, Peter Coyote and Rebecca Solnit.

On Sunday morning, attendees were still talking about the previous day's publishing panel at which David Streitfeld from the New York Times was booed when he said there were only two bookstores left in San Francisco. Attendees made sure the record was set straight: the Bay Area has one of the most thriving bookselling communities in the country.

Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman and Kelly Corrigan.

Author Kelly Corrigan interviewed Berkeley's literary power couple, Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, on the main stage. "He always makes us sit in the same place as our side of the bed," Waldman commented as she sat to her husband's right. As for critiquing each other, Waldman said, they serve up something very different than the "praise sandwich" they give outsiders--criticism served between the bread of praise. If there's a deadline at stake, said Chabon, they forgo the fight they might otherwise have had before realizing that the other person was right and get back to work. Asked for life advice, the couple offered it in four words. Chabon said he learned the advice he was offering just this past year, when he turned 52, and said it applied to most people and instances: "Don't take the bait." Waldman's words were directed at one of their four children: "No more tattoos, please."

Book Passage co-owner Bill Petrocelli got to wear his writer's hat when he moderated a panel on debut authors. "When you write fiction," said the veteran bookseller and author of The Circle of Thirteen, who's working on his second novel, "you put it all out on the line."

Luisa Smith and Sam Barry working for Book Passage.

With just a few minor glitches, booksellers seemed very pleased with the first Bay Area Book Festival. "It's all good," said George Kiskaddon from Builder's Booksource in Berkeley.

"There was tremendous demand and interest," said Parsons, pointing out that even the 10 a.m. sessions were filled to capacity, as were just about every event at the festival. "We're definitely doing it again next year and we expect it will be the first weekend in June," she said. "The authors were really happy--and we had quite a few international authors--and we wanted to make sure they were treated well."

While selling books was a priority, the Bay Area Book Festival also collaborated with the East Bay Book Project, a grantee of Half Price Books, which provided a free book for every child at the event. And at the center of the festival was an interactive art installation, "Lacuna," constructed from 50,000 books donated by the Internet Archive; attendees could take the books from the installation for free. --Bridget Kinsella


Image of the Day: The Happiness Industry

For the launch of The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold us Well-Being (Verso Books), author Will Davies (l.) was joined in conversation by Melissa Aronczyk (c.) and Greg Lindsay (r.) at Bluestockings Bookstore in New York City. Photo: Dawn Kriss.

Aspen's Explore Booksellers Shares Plans

Explore Booksellers, Aspen, Colo., hosted a celebration Friday, offering "devotees and supporters" of the store a chance to meet new owner Doug Phelps and his team, the Aspen Times reported.

Included among the bookstore's recently announced goals under its new ownership is "to dramatically increase the number of authors and other speakers it hosts this summer, the first under new ownership," the Times noted. In a recent presentation to the Save Explore Committee, Phelps, the principal in the limited-liability corporation that bought the bookstore for $5 million in January, said programming is the prime focus for the summer, with a goal of three events per week: "That'll be the main change that people see."

The Times noted that the nonprofit owner "has done what Phelps outlined in January: It allowed manager John Edwards and his staff to run the operations without major changes. Sometime in the fall, they will assess what changes they want to make to boost revenue and cut expenses.... From the beginning, he said the goal of the purchase was to preserve the bookstore."

Lit 50 2015: 'Who Really Books in Chicago'

Chicago's Newcity Lit released its Lit 50 2015 list, noting that it "was overwhelming to receive such an outpouring of appreciation for countless behind-the-scenes folks who make the lit scene in this town such an exceedingly vibrant one."

Mark Suchomel

The list includes indie bookstore owners, booksellers, publishers, editors, chairs and directors of creative writing programs, literacy advocates, library leaders, executives at major literary foundations, organizers of festivals, conferences, live lit productions and salons.

"All of the individuals on this list contribute significantly--whether they help to get books in readers' hands, excite the next generation in literary arts, afford writers opportunities to publish, provide storytellers a stage to share their tales, or create environments where writers can make the right connections or just talk shop," Newcity Lit wrote.

Bookmasters Expands International Distribution

Bookmasters has added new international sales partners in Canada and Europe. Effective with the fall 2015 sales season, in the U.K. and Europe, the Roundhouse Group and its affiliates will sell Bookmasters' publishers' titles and ORCA Book Services will provide the warehousing and fulfillment support.

In addition, Magenta Entertainment will sell Bookmasters' publishers' titles into the Canadian market. Bookmasters will be sold through the Jaguar Book Group with Fraser Direct providing fulfillment and back office services.

Bookmasters said that these additions are "part of ongoing efforts to strengthen Bookmasters' international sales strategy in collaboration with its strategic partnership with Baker & Taylor and its standing relationships with key industry trading partners."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Nick Offerman on the Late Late Show, Daily Show

Today on Fresh Air: Joel Bourne, author of The End of Plenty: The Race to Feed a Crowded World (Norton, $27.95, 9780393079531).

Also on Fresh Air: Nisid Hajari, author of Midnight's Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India's Partition (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9780547669212).


Today on Diane Rehm: Annie Barrows, author of The Truth According to Us: A Novel (Dial Press, $28, 9780385342940).


Today on Tavis Smiley: Chris Hedges, author of Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt (Nation Books, $26.99, 9781568589664).


Today on on CNBC's Squawk Box: Ben Mezrich, author of Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs (Atria, $28, 9781476771892).


Tonight on the Late Late Show with James Corden: Nick Offerman, author of Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America's Gutsiest Troublemakers (Dutton, $26.95, 9780525954675). He will also appear tomorrow night on the Daily Show.


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Cindy Williams, co-author of Shirley, I Jest!: A Storied Life (Taylor Trade Publishing, $22.95, 9781630760120).

Also on Today tomorrow: Bill Phillips, author of The Better Man Project (Rodale, $26.99, 9781623365554).


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Ian Halperin, author of Whitney and Bobbi Kristina (Gallery, $26, 9781501120749).


Tomorrow on Diane Rehm: Mark Ribowsky, author of Dreams to Remember: Otis Redding, Stax Records, and the Transformation of Southern Soul (Liveright, $27.95, 9780871408730).


Tomorrow on the View: Colin Quinn, author of The Coloring Book: A Comedian Solves Race Relations in America (Grand Central, $26, 9781455507597).

TV: The Stand

Writer-director Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars), Warner Bros. and CBS Films "are in talks with Showtime to mount an 8-part TV series that will culminate in a big-budget feature film" based on Stephen King's novel The Stand, the Wrap reported, adding that Boone will write and direct the miniseries, which "is expected to start shooting early next year as one cohesive production."

Movies: Highest Duty; Z for Zachariah

Clint Eastwood will direct Warner Bros' as-yet-untitled drama about the life of heroic airline pilot Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. Todd Komarnicki wrote the screenplay, which is based on the book Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters by Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow. "It's not clear who would play Sullenberger," noted. "Will Eastwood step into that role himself? Only time will tell, however, he apparently has no plans to at the moment."

Warner Bros. said the film "will go beyond Sullenberger's almost impossible and much-heralded achievement of safely landing a jumbo jet on the water, which was captured on video and viewed around the world. But behind the scenes, a drama was unfolding that could have cost him his reputation and his wings."


The first trailer is out for Z for Zachariah, adapted by Nissar Modi from Robert C. O'Brien's novel. Directed by Craig Zobel, the movie stars Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine. Film & Stage noted that "the film's reach does not exceed its grasp, remaining an entertaining microcosm of that universal extinct to keep going no matter what."

Books & Authors

Awards: Plutarch; Griffin Poetry; SFWA Nebulas

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione Lee (Knopf) won the Plutarch Award for best biography of 2014, as selected by members of Biographers International Organization. The three finalists were:

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandria by Helen Rappaport (St. Martin's)
The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941-1942 by Nigel Hamilton (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh by John Lahr (Norton)

To see the full list of nominees, click here.


The Stairwell by Michael Longley and Blue Sonoma by Jane Munro were the international and Canadian category winners respectively for this year's Griffin Poetry Prize, which honors "first edition books of poetry written in, or translated into, English and submitted from anywhere in the world." They each receive $65,000 (about US$52,230).


Winners of the Nebula Awards, sponsored by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, are:

Novel: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals)
Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy Book: Love Is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)
Novella: Yesterday's Kin by Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
Novellete: "A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i" by Alaya Dawn Johnson (F&SF 7-8/14)
Short Story: "Jackalope Wives" by Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14)
Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation: Guardians of the Galaxy
Damon Knight Grand Master Award: Larry Niven
Kevin O'Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award: Jeffry Dwight
Solstice Award: Joanna Russ (posthumous), Stanley Schmidt

Book Review

Review: Behind the Mask: A Life of Vita Sackville-West

Behind the Mask: The Life of Vita Sackville-West by Matthew Dennison (St. Martin's Press, $29.99 hardcover, 9781250033949, June 9, 2015)

In Behind the Mask: A Life of Vita Sackville-West, British journalist and biographer Mark Dennison (The Last Princess) focuses on the complex individual behind the early-20th-century icon. This balanced life history reveals a famous writer, horticulturalist and gardener, baron's daughter, respectable Edwardian wife and mother, and passionate lover of men and women--most famously Virginia Woolf.

Vita Sackville-West was born in 1892, into aristocratic privilege. She grew up at Knole, her father's ancestral home. One of the great English estates, with six acres of roof and hundreds of rooms, it was once a royal palace as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury's former residence. The Sackville-West lineage, despite its wealth and prestige, was colorful. Vita's mother, the illegitimate daughter of a small-town Spanish dancer and her English nobleman lover, grew up to marry her first cousin, the Honorable Lionel Sackville-West (the nobleman was Lionel's uncle) though the marriage did not last. At age 21, Vita married the diplomat Harold Nicolson; though they both vigorously pursued other--mostly same-sex--lovers, they remained a devoted couple until Vita's death in 1962.

Dennison recounts the details of Vita's affairs with her childhood friend Rosamund Grosvenor, the novelist Violet Trefusis (née Keppel) and Virginia Woolf with objective restraint and a multitude of details. The affair with Keppel in particular was intensely erotic and romantic. It seemed to free her from the limitations of her life of Edwardian respectability as the two engaged in role-playing, constant travel and bohemian experimentation in a relationship that lasted, in various forms, for a lifetime. Vita's affair with Woolf seems to have been less emotionally intense but was important as a friendship with another writer, a point crucial to Dennison's argument that Sackville-West's literary legacy transcends her taboo-breaking sexual behavior. Seen fully, her creative achievements were significant for their range and their degree of accomplishment: she twice won the Hawthornden Prize for poetry, published many widely praised novels and biographies, and later wrote an influential weekly garden column in the Observer, which, along with her care of her famous gardens at Sissinghurst, helped secure her place in history as a garden designer.

Dennison finds in all of Vita's writing ample autobiographical clues to her emotional life, despite the masks she adopted for her varied roles. And most importantly, they reveal her ambivalent sense of herself as caught between dual natures: the reserved English aristocrat on the one hand and the passionate, unpredictable, Spanish lover and artist on the other.

Dennison is a meticulous and respectful chronicler of Vita's life. Thoroughly researched, with liberal quoting from her diary, letters and books, his narrative retains an urgency colored by details worthy of the best British costume dramas, to reveal a complex, gifted, charismatic but conflicted woman whose many and wide-ranging accomplishments, long obscured by her sensational life, deserve recognition. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer

Shelf Discovery: A revealing biography of the writer and horticulturalist Vita Sackville-West, chosen by the London Times, the Independent and the Observer as a Book of the Year.

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