Shelf Awareness for Friday, November 6, 2015

Atlantic Monthly Press: Those Opulent Days: A Mystery by Jacquie Pham

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Pumpkin Princess and the Forever Night by Steven Banbury

St. Martin's Griffin: Murdle: The School of Mystery: 50 Seriously Sinister Logic Puzzles by GT Karber

Carolrhoda Lab (R): Here Goes Nothing by Emma K Ohland

Allida: Safiyyah's War by Hiba Noor Khan

Ace Books: Servant of Earth (The Shards of Magic) by Sarah Hawley

Quotation of the Day

'Dear Bookshop: I Love You...'

"I love you because you are full of words and people who love words. I love you because I always feel at home in you. I love you for the company you offer. I love you because you contain multitudes. I love you because you've got room for everybody. I love you because you are a time capsule, a storehouse and a treasure chest. I love you because you are a mirror and a window. I love you because you are a magnifying glass, a microscope and a telescope.

"I love you because you contain maps and guidebooks and sign-posts. I love you because you contain prayer and poetry. I love you because you contain much that is strange and fabulous and yet you remain so familiar. I love you because you are full of questions. I love you because you are full of answers.

"I love you because you are full of voices. I love you because you are full of listeners.  I love you because you harbor surprises, and jokes, and silliness and general foolishness.  I love you because bookshops have survived book burnings and censorship, war and economic upheaval, and might survive digital technologies too. I hope so."

--Ro Cambridge's "Love letter to bookshops," published in the Nelson Mail shortly after NZ Bookshop Day

PM Press: P Is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book by Golbarg Bashi, Illustrated by Golrokh Nafisi


PRH CEO Changes in Asia Pacific Region

Gabrielle Coyne

In an abrupt change, Gabrielle Coyne has resigned, effective immediately, from her position as CEO of Penguin Random House Asia Pacific, and Julie Burland has been appointed CEO of Penguin Random House Australia and New Zealand, PRH announced this morning.

Former children's director for Random House Australia & New Zealand, Burland will report to Ian Hudson, CEO of PRH International (English Language), who said she "is one of Australian publishing's brightest stars, and has the publishing, sales and managerial skills, as well as the vision and collaborative style to lead our talented teams."

Hudson said Coyne "has made a unique contribution to our business especially after taking over the Penguin leadership mantle from Peter Field in 2003. She has been an outstanding advocate of Penguin in Australia before expanding her influence to Penguin Random House APAC."

The Age noted that "only a few months ago, Coyne conceded that there were cultural differences between [Penguin and Random House in Australia]: 'We're still working on them together, but I wouldn't describe them as material. There are different ways of doing things, thinking about things but generally speaking publishing cultures have a similarity about them. We are here for the same reasons--to find a great book, connect a great book with readers.' "

The Age described Coyne as "a strong advocate for Australian publishing, campaigning against the legalisation of parallel importation of books and urging the federal government to make Amazon collect GST on sales. She has also played a significant role in Melbourne cultural life, sitting on the board of the Melbourne Writers Festival for several years and on the board of the Wheeler Centre [for Books, Writing and Ideas] since its inception."

Burland began her publishing career at Penguin as a sales rep in 1993. She left to join Carter Holt Harvey in 1995 before joining Random House Australia in 2000 as national account manager. She launched the business development department in 2007, and in 2010 was appointed director, children's division.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Intermezzo by Sally Rooney

Bookseller Elected Mayor of New Milford, Conn.

David Gronbach

Congratulations to David Gronbach, who was elected mayor of New Milford, Conn., on Tuesday, according to the News Times.

A lawyer and co-owner of Bank Street Book Nook, Gronbach beat Pat Murphy, who was running for a seventh term.

The paper said Gronbach "pledged to seize opportunities he said were missed by the Murphy administration: installing sidewalks along Route 7, addressing the sprawl along the southern section of that road, developing the riverfront for recreation and economic opportunities, and improving the town’s faltering school system."

At the Polls: Minimum Wage Decisions in Maine, Wash.

On Tuesday, residents of two U.S. cities voted on minimum wage increase proposals. Bookselling This Week reported that a "proposed referendum that would have increased the minimum wage in Portland, Maine, to $15 per hour by 2017 for companies and franchises employing 500 or more people" was defeated. The city is scheduled to hike its minimum wage to $10.10 per hour in January 2016.  

In Washington, Tacoma residents "were asked to vote on increasing the minimum wage to either $15 immediately or to $12 by 2018. And, by a large margin, voters chose the lesser increase of $12," BTW noted. It is currently $9.47, and will jump to $10.35 February 2016.

Woodson to Receive Langston Hughes Medal

Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson, the award-winning author of more than 30 books for children and young adults, is this year's recipient of the City College of New York's Langston Hughes Medal, which recognizes "highly distinguished writers from throughout the African American diaspora for their impressive works of poetry, fiction, drama, autobiography and critical essays that help to celebrate the memory and tradition of Langston Hughes."

Woodson is the 2014 National Book Award winner for Brown Girl Dreaming, which also received the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor Award, the NAACP Image Award and the Sibert Honor Award. She was recently named the Young People's Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation and is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a three-time National Book Award finalist, and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner.

"Like Langston Hughes, Woodson is a prolific writer in many genres including fiction, poetry, plays and opera," said Retha Powers, director of the Langston Hughes Festival. "She also shares with Hughes a wide readership among young readers and is taught in schools all over the country." Woodson will receive the award November 20 during the festival.

Mystery Lovers Bookshop Founders Launch Review Site

Mary Alice Gorman and Richard Goldman

Mary Alice Gorman and Richard Goldman, founders of Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, Pa., have launched a review website called Revuzeit, reported literary magazine Littsburgh. Though the main focus of the website is book reviews, it also functions as a travel and photo blog for the couple, who retired in 2012 after running the bookstore for 22 years. Gorman and Goldman announced Revuzeit at the 25th anniversary party for Mystery Lovers Bookshop, which took place on Halloween. The store is currently owned by Nathalie Sacco and Trevor Thomas.

On Revuzeit, Gorman and Goldman said the website is "a record of what we are reading, seeing, sharing, eating and much of our opinion too. In short, it is a new career without any outside deadlines."


Image of the Day: Ta-Nehisi Coates Sells Out Seattle

photo: Libby Lewis/Seattle Arts & lectures

On October 29, Seattle Arts & Lectures welcomed Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me, Spiegel & Grau), to its Literary/Arts series, and what a welcome it was! The original venue sold out, his talk was moved, the second venue sold out in record time, and 2,900 people got to experience a remarkable evening. Coates was in conversation with Vivian Phillips, chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. SAL's executive director, Ruth Dickey (who later said her feet wouldn't touch the ground for a week), concluded her introduction by citing Coates's advice to his son: "I never wanted you to be twice as good as them, so much as I have always wanted you to attack every day of your brief bright life in struggle. The people who must believe they are white can never be your measuring stick. I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world." She saluted Ta-Nehisi Coates as "the brilliant writer, the tireless seeker, the courageous struggler, the man who invites us all to awake from the dream and into the struggle." --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

R.J. Julia: 'Best Independent Bookstore'

Readers of Shoreline Times picked their "Best of the Shoreline" for 2015, and R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Conn., which "continues to distinguish itself as the essential book-tour stop between New York and Boston," was chosen best independent bookstore.

"For all the literati and glitterati that it draws, there's nothing impersonal about R.J. Julia, from its dark, wood bookcases and soft lighting--'a modest variation of Scribners' former Fifth Avenue bookstore,' owner Roxanne Coady has said--to the tasty salads, sandwiches and sweets in the R.J. Cafe, to the little signs known as 'shelf talkers' offering up book suggestions, to its well-read, friendly staff who are happy to recommend books that they've loved or leave you alone to browse," Shoreline Times wrote.

Store manager Lori Fazio said the bookshop "is a great place for readers to meet a great new book, to meet a favorite author, or just to meet a friend for coffee and a cupcake. We hope to keep putting the right book in the right hands for years to come."

Cool idea of the Day: Local First Bag Day

Today and tomorrow, the Toadstool Bookshop is joining more than 20 other downtown Keene, N.H., merchants for Local First Bag Day: "Pick up a Local First Bag, then on November 6 & 7 bring your bag to these merchants to enjoy 20% off select items. At The Toadstool Bookshop at the Colony Mill Marketplace you will receive 20% off any one book in stock. Bags are available now from participating merchants!"

Flo Langley Retiring from PRH Customer Service

Flo Langley, v-p of customer service at Penguin Random House, is retiring in April after nearly 45 years of service to the company and its predecessors, Random House, Bantam Doubleday Dell and Dell Magazines.

In a memo to the company, Annette Danek, senior v-p, director of fulfillment, wrote: "Flo is embedded into the fabric of our business, our culture, and indeed into the DNA of our company, past and present. With her equal devotion to both big-scale planning, as well as to the everyday details of our business, she has been a bellwether and beacon for our sales and operations teams. With her bottomless knowledge, account-centric peripheral vision, and business foresight, she always sees how everything we do must connect back to our core mission of unwaveringly providing the best fulfillment service, unmatched in our industry....

"Flo has expertly led [customer service,] this vital part of our business, serving as the bridge and the glue between sales and operations, unifying our work together on behalf of our publishers, authors and booksellers, in her own unique and extraordinary way. Early on, she set our customer services standard for prompt, thorough, and sensitive responsiveness and follow-up to our accounts, encouraging them to reach out to us directly with their concerns, thereby enhancing our good will and positive relationships within the bookselling community....

"Past her April retirement I can anticipate that while shopping in bookstores all over her home 'territory' Flo regularly will be calling into customer service to report on how we are doing. She will undoubtedly say we are 'fabulous,' and just before she hangs up, we'll hear, 'Love ya... mean it.' "

Book Trailer of the Day: Made to Kill

Made to Kill by Adam Christopher (Tor), the first book in the L.A. Trilogy, is set in Hollywood in 1965 and features Raymond Electromatic, the last robot on earth, and his Gal Friday, Ada, a supercomputer that keeps the office running and Ray on track.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: John Leguizamo on Wendy Williams Show

The Wendy Williams Show: John Leguizamo, author of Ghetto Klown (Abrams, $24.95, 9781419715181).

Fresh Air: Lena Dunham, author of Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's 'Learned' (Random House, $16, 9780812985177), and Ron Perlman, author of Easy Street (the Hard Way): A Memoir (Da Capo Press, $16.99, 9780306824180).

NPR's Weekend Edition: Mary-Louise Parker, author of Dear Mr. You (Scribner, $25, 9781501107832), and Amber Rose, author of How to Be a Bad Bitch (Gallery Books, $28, 9781501110115).

Movies: Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

"Eight magical first photos" are part of Entertainment Weekly's coverage of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the film adaptation of J.K. Rowling's book, which is being directed by David Yates, reported. The cast includes Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrel, Katherine Waterston, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Samantha Morton and Alison Sudol. It opens November 18.

Books & Authors

Awards: Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction

André Alexis won the C$25,000 (about US$18,985) Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, which "recognizes Canadian writers of exceptional talent for the year's best novel or short-story collection," for Fifteen Dogs. The jury commented: "Here is a beautifully written allegory for our times: one in which man's best friend shows us the benefits of higher consciousness--the favored bone of fact buried where we might all find it. Fifteen Dogs is an original and vital work written by a master craftsman: philosophy given a perfect form."

Book Brahmin: Sigal Samuel

photo: Crystal Sikma

Sigal Samuel is a fiction writer, journalist, essayist, and playwright. She is a writer and editor for the Forward, and has written for the Daily Beast, the Rumpus and BuzzFeed, among others. Her six plays have been produced in theaters from Vancouver to New York. Samuel's debut novel is The Mystics of Mile End (HarperCollins, October 13, 2015). Originally from Montreal, Samuel now lives and writes in Brooklyn, N.Y.

On your nightstand now:

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob. I recently heard Mira read aloud from this novel, and she performed the Indian accents of her characters with such hilarious precision that it took me back to the streets of Mumbai, where my grandmother is from. I can't wait to rip into this book--I'm sure I'll recognize a lot of my family members in it.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. With King Azaz the Unabridged and the Mathemagician, Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, Princess Rhyme and Princess Reason, this story combines a love for languages with a love for math. I'm a nerd for both, so it was the perfect book for me.

Your top five authors:

I'm going to limit myself to my top five contemporary authors, because otherwise I'll be here all day. Nicole Krauss, for teaching me that it's okay to write about Jewish stuff. Zoe Whittall, for teaching me that it's okay to write about LGBT stuff. Myla Goldberg, for teaching me that you can write about abstract mystical stuff and still come out with a gripping, marketable story. Miranda July, for being a brave voice stylist. Etgar Keret, for showing me how to make surrealism work in contemporary fiction.

Book you've faked reading:

Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. What can I say? I'm mad about Dostoyevsky, but I've never read Tolstoy. This might have something to do with the fact that my dad once told me, "You're either a Dostoyevsky person or a Tolstoy person," and seeing as how I was already the former, I figured my fate was set.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This novel not only addresses Very Important Issues, like race politics in America, with piercing insight--it's also incredibly fun to read. The narrator's critiques are witty and biting, her language young and hip.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I recently bought Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles because the cover bears this great illustration of, well, two serious ladies. They looked badass, and well traveled, and slightly off-kilter, and fashionable in a 1920s sort of way. I wanted to be their friend.

Book you hid from your parents:

The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin. The author, Nin, and her lover Henry Miller and her other lover, Henry's wife, June, get up to some famously NSFW stuff in this diary. But I was reading it for the beauty of the prose, I swear!

Book that changed your life:

Chaim Potok's The Chosen, about two Jewish boys growing up in Brooklyn, not only changed my life--it's the reason my life exists in the first place. When my dad read it as a secular teenager, it ignited his interest in Orthodox Judaism. He went to study at a religious seminary in Jerusalem, where he met my mom via a matchmaker and got married. The marriage didn't last, but my inherited passion for this book did.

Favorite line from a book:

"If you want to get a child to love you, then you should just go hide in the closet for three or for hours. They get down on their knees and pray for you to return. That child will turn you into God. Lonely children probably wrote the Bible." This spot-on psychological observation, from Heather O'Neill's Lullabies for Little Criminals, reminds me of myself as a kid.

Five books you'll never part with:

Whenever I move to a new city, I inevitably shed a lot of books, but there are a few that always come with me: J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey, Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita and, of course, Chaim Potok's The Chosen.

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

Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. Patty's voice was so strong that I couldn't put the book down. When I finished it, I felt energized, like I could write 100 pages of fiction in a single week. And that's exactly what I did.

What you hope to express in your new book:

I think that some of us are so hungry for meaning that we get obsessed with certain ideas--often these are seductive religious ideas--and we forget that pursuing this obsession comes at a cost to the people around us. In The Mystics of Mile End, I wanted to pose the question: What's the value of devoting yourself to some notion of holiness if it means leaving behind those who love you most?

Book Review

Review: White Eskimo

White Eskimo: Knud Rasmussen's Fearless Journey into the Heart of the Arctic by Stephen R. Bown (Da Capo Press, $27.99 hardcover, 9780306822827, November 10, 2015)

During the early 1900s, polar exploration was "the height of fashion and public interest--the era when... dangerous journeys to the remote regions of the planet were part sporting event and part scientific expedition, draped in a cloak of nationalism." One of those voyagers was Knud Rasmussen, a part-Inuit, part-Danish explorer who was as curious about the people he encountered in his travels as he was about the surrounding landscape. In White Eskimo, historian Stephen R. Bown (The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen) takes readers into the frozen landscape of Greenland, where Rasmussen was born, and examines the life and trips he made in Greenland and across the Arctic.

Because he was part Inuit, the native people of Greenland embraced Rasmussen as one of their own. They were willing to teach him their songs and dances, myth-filled stories and aspects of daily life that other explorers were not privy to, giving Rasmussen insight into the culture of these Arctic people upon which today's knowledge was founded. Bown's descriptions of the many dogsled trips Rasmussen took leave no doubt in the reader's mind as to the arduousness of his adventures: "The downhill slope increased, and soon they were sliding out of control through the soft snow. A dog stumbled, the sledge ran over it and crushed it, yet the sledge couldn't slow down.... Fortunately, the careening sledges and howling dogs slid to a stop on the ice at the edge of a cliff with a fifty-foot drop to the rocks below." The men in his teams also faced starvation time and again. They were forced to eat the dying sled dogs and even the frozen walrus hide they'd used as runners on their sledges in order to have enough strength to push onward on their quest to discover new areas of Greenland.

Personal injuries, snow blindness and storms took their toll, as did the terrain--the sun burned their skin and the icy ground shredded the dogs' feet and tore holes in the men's boots. Rasmussen is perhaps most famously known for his 20,000-mile, three years-plus circumpolar trip from Greenland to Nome, Alaska, which Bown studies in detail.

The author also deftly ponders Rasmussen's personal life. Although the explorer had a wife and family in Denmark, he was willing to leave them for years at a time to further his passion of Arctic exploration. An assortment of maps and photographs help round out this informative and entertaining biography. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Shelf Talker: This vivid and detailed biography of Knud Rasmussen covers his multiple Arctic sled-dog trips, providing readers with a well-rounded portrait of the explorer and his life.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'We Are the Reading Species'

"Please support your local independent bookstores. They are the heart and soul of every community where they are located, and they are keeping good readers, good writers and good books alive and well." That sage advice is on author Howard Frank Mosher's website, next to each of his 13 books.

Howard Frank Mosher

His latest novel, God's Kingdom, was an October Indie Next Pick. "If the past is a foreign country, we certainly have an expert native guide in Mosher who recreates perfectly, right down to the smoky fire smoldering in the town dump, the small town of Kingdom Common, Vermont, in the 1950s," wrote Darwin Ellis of Books on the Common, Ridgefield, Conn., calling him a "master storyteller."

That he is, but Mosher has also established himself over the years as a master independent bookstore supporter. This was well documented in his 2012 book, The Great Northern Express: A Writer's Journey Home, which chronicled, among many things, a barnstorming 100-city book tour in his 1989 Chevy with a healthy 280,000 miles on the odometer.

"I don't think I've ever had an unpleasant experience at an indie bookstore," Mosher told me recently. He spoke at length about the generosity, importance and dedication of independent booksellers; their crucial role in community building; the way they "keep the culture going." He believes it would not have been possible to have the career he's had without the longtime support of indies.

"I know so many indie booksellers who are now my friends," he said. This is more than apparent in his recent Facebook posts as he tours for God's Kingdom. Here's just a sampling:

Oct. 14: "Last night at my event in Hardwick, with the Galaxy Bookshop, I felt like the Red Sox playing at Fenway Park. Talk about a home-field advantage. The Galaxy is my personal bookshop. The audience, of about 70 people, was friendly and enthusiastic. What can I say but thanks, folks. To me, it felt like a homecoming."

Oct. 26: "Bookstores are the hearts and souls of their communities. Last Thursday evening Pat Fowler, of Village Square Booksellers in Bellows Falls, Vt., provided round trip transportation to and from my event for an older patron who no longer drives. On Friday evening, our long-time friend Carlene Riccelli brought maple sugar pie, molasses cartwheel cookies, Vermont cheddar cheese and apple cider for my event at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Mass.... Then there's Susan Little, who's kept her marvelous Jabberwocky Books in Newburyport, Mass., going through thick and thin by continuing to affirm her primary commitment to literary fiction and nonfiction.... Want to see hope, faith, and love in action? Susan and her bookselling colleagues nationwide have hope for the business, faith in readers and writers and an abiding love of good books."

Mosher at Concord Bookshop

Oct. 30: "Last night my long-time bibliophile friend, Dawn Rennert, drummed up a great SRO audience for me at the Concord Bookshop. It was a lovely evening. I kept wondering what Thoreau would have thought about the proceedings, much less the not-so-quiet desperation of all of us Patriot fans in the bar up the street when Tom Brady & Co. got off to a slow start against the Dolphins."

Nov. 3: "An excellent turnout last night in Bennington. Congratulations to Linda Foulsham and Phil Lewis for buying the renowned Bennington Bookshop, the oldest book store in Vermont, and keeping it alive and well. Also to Karson Kiesinger, at the Bennington Free Library, for bringing authors to the community.... Thanks to all bookstores and libraries, in Vermont and beyond, for helping us to do that. We are the reading species. Subtract books and stories from our culture, and we'd be left something less than fully human."

I first met Mosher in 1994, when I worked at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vt., and Northern Borders had just been published. As a native Vermonter, I've always been drawn to his stories about a part of "my" state he knows better than I do, and the way he captures the essence of complicated people living hard lives, confronted by hard decisions, and just doing the best they can.

Yet the word that came to me as I began considering Mosher's Facebook posts and the author I have encountered off and on over the years is also a word I would use to describe the man himself: courteous. As might be expected, when I mentioned this to him, he deflected the compliment. When he's on tour, Mosher dictates those Facebook entries by phone to his wife, Phillis, who then posts them: "She also helps with the courteous tone," he joked.

Of course, it's not that simple. Our brief phone interview this week quickly evolved from q&a into two guys telling each other stories--about Vermont, the book trade, favorite writers and more. Mosher loves a good story, and I think his deep-rooted connection to independent bookstores is a tale worth sharing. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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