Also published on this date: Wednesday, December 2, 2015: Kids' Maximum Shelf: Anna and the Swallow Man

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, December 2, 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

Michael Pietsch on Publishing: 'Here We Are Still'

"I've been hearing about the demise of book publishing since the first day I stepped through the doors of a publisher back in 1978. But here we are still, publishers like Little, Brown, with histories going back 100 and 200 years. What other American industry has companies still in existence after two centuries, evolving and modernizing but still doing much the same work?... And 50 years from now, a young woman starting work at a publishing company, inspired by Anna Karenina (both the comic version she read on her watch and the paperback she read in college), will read an article predicting that the business is not long for the world...."

--Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch in a Wall Street Journal piece on the future of publishing

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


Conundrum Books Opening in St. Francisville, La.

"While we waited for all the inventory to be delivered, we started scheduling events," said Missy Couhig, co-owner of Conundrum Books, a 1,000-square-foot new bookstore that specializes in books and puzzles in St. Francisville, La. Couhig and her husband, Rob, decided to do a soft opening almost two weeks ago, even though they'd only begun putting together the store's inventory. They've already hosted a few book signings and started both a story time series and book club.

"It's been amazing," continued Missy Couhig. "We've had a crowd at everything we've done. The community has been so incredibly supportive and anxious to have us here."

To build starting inventory, Couhig and her husband have been asking customers and community members about their favorite books and authors and using those answers as a starting point. The idea, explained Couhig, is to build a bookstore around the people of St. Francisville rather than be a one-size-fits-all sort of store. Added Couhig: "We're moving slowly, but that doesn't bother me at all."

The emphasis on puzzles, meanwhile, comes from the Couhigs's own personal interest: The couple collects puzzles on their travels. Conundrum's selection is not just limited to jigsaw puzzles. "We have jigsaws, mindbender puzzles, wooden puzzles. Any definition of puzzles that we like," Couhig said.

Though Couhig and her husband have no previous experience in bookselling--Rob Couhig is an attorney and Missy Couhig has spent her career in sales--they've talked about opening a bookstore in St. Francesville together for a long time. St. Francesville is a small, historic town of some 1,700 people on a bluff along the Mississippi River. Dating back to the early 1800s, the town is about 30 miles from Baton Rouge, the state capital, and around 100 miles from New Orleans. Couhig and her husband split their time between New Orleans and St. Francisville, though they've been spending more time in the latter since signing a lease on their storefront. And that lease, according to Couhig, came rather unexpectedly, when her husband announced that he signed a lease after returning home one day.

Storytime with author Steve Spires.

"I didn't expect to do it quite so soon," recalled Couhig. "That moved forward the agenda quite a bit."

The Couhigs' larger goal with Conundrum Books is to become a hub for the St. Francisville community, and they plan to do that by being an event-driven store. The store has ample space for signings along with reading areas and sofas for shoppers to hang out in, and Couhig will bring in local artists to exhibit their work in store on a rotating basis. "We want people to feel comfortable," said Couhig. "We want it to be a place where they can hang out and bring their kids."

Initially, Couhig and her husband planned to sell only new books, but demand for used books lead them to include a small used book section. As for sidelines, Couhig plans to carry note cards and note pads, in addition to puzzles. And further down the road, Couhig would like to offer T-shirts and bookbags.

Couhig expects to be more or less fully stocked by December 4 and have the store's grand opening coincide with the town's annual "Christmas in the Country" celebration, scheduled for the same weekend. The festivities include a Christmas parade, caroling, arts and crafts, food, and sales at downtown shops.

In the new year and beyond, Couhig plans to continue to let the store grow incrementally, guided by community feedback. She added: "We're going to let the place grow up around us." --Alex Mutter

NYC's La Casa Azul Bookstore to Close, Restructure

La Casa Azul Bookstore in New York City will close December 19. On Facebook yesterday, owner Aurora Anaya-Cerda wrote: "The (very difficult) decision was made because the bookstore has SO much more to offer, and that requires restructuring our business model. The bookstore will evolve to encompass a larger social mission of community engagement, the performing arts and literacy. The outpouring of support and understanding from everyone has been overwhelming (in the best way!). Thank you for sharing how much the bookstore has meant to you."

In an announcement released earlier in the day, Anaya-Cerda noted that La Casa Azul Bookstore, which opened in 2012, "became a reality when hundreds of supporters contributed to a successful crowdfunding campaign--my dream of a bookstore in El Barrio became the dream of many. Our space has served as a resource center, classroom and performing arts venue. We have hosted 600 programs and events, have sold books that reflect the voices of writers of color, and have transformed into a literary hub, a safe space and platform for multiple audiences." She added that she is "looking forward to our next chapter."

Last January, La Casa Azul Bookstore won a $150,000 grant "for its promising growth potential, management strength and positive community influence" from JPMorgan Chase's Mission Main Street Grant program.

Cover Books Is New Indie in Atlanta

Creative Loafing invited readers to "meet the woman behind Cover Books," which Katie Barringer opened two months ago at 1031 Marietta St. in Atlanta, Ga., with a mission to "bring a new bookstore to her hometown. The bookstore would fuse all of her interests--art, design, food, wine, photography--and give light to texts that may be more difficult to come across in big chains. Visitors are slowly catching on to what the exposed-brick space in Westside has to offer."

"In terms of getting more avant-garde or edgy art books in particular, people have been very excited about it," Barringer said, adding that the response from the arts, food and literature communities has been positive and promising.

Calling the space "an architectural wonder, a mix of industrial grit and art-house sleekness," Creative Loafing wrote that "the current offerings are more a way for her to gauge interests than a set-in-stone inventory. And though she's noticed patrons tend to stray toward 'liking the weirder stuff,' it's the overall experience of having a new addition to the city's dearth of local book shops that seems to stick."

"You may initially come into the store not knowing what you want but after spending some time looking through the shelves, you see what speaks to you and that's what you end up taking home," Barringer said. "It's a more spontaneous and sometimes slower approach to buying books, but one that I think is much more meaningful."

St. Mark's Bookshop Launches Fundraising Campaign

St. Mark's Bookshop, which last year was forced to move from Third Avenue to its present location at 136 E. Third Street., has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $150,000 to restock the store, offering contributors lifetime discounts on in-person purchases or orders at the location.

"Unfortunately, we were quite undercapitalized for the move and the bookshop has not recovered," co-owner Bob Contant wrote in a letter to customers. "Cost overruns left us with little money to stock the store with books and to hold the free literary events we want to present. For St. Mark's to have a future beyond 2015, we need the immediate help of friends like you who value the bookshop as it once was and can definitely be again.... We want to continue to serve this legendary community and the world of thought and literature. To be that special bookstore for you once again."

Obituary Note: Shigeru Mizuki

Shigeru Mizuki, one of Japan's leading manga artists who was "known for his Gegege no Kitaro series and autobiographical works depicting World War II," died Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported. He was 93. In addition to numerous international awards, Mizuki, whose real name was Shigeru Mura, was honored with the Medal with Purple Ribbon by Japan in 1991 for his contribution to academics and arts, and in 2010 he was recognized as a Person of Cultural Merit. BBC News noted that "tributes poured in from grieving fans on Twitter, with many using Mr. Mizuki's characters and stories to pay tribute to him."


Image of the Day: #GiveaBook on Giving Tuesday

For Giving Tuesday, the global day dedicated to giving back, Penguin Random House’s #GiveaBook team and employees handed out 1,500 free books in New York City, as well as at Carroll Community College, located near the publisher's Westminster, Md., distribution center, and Sommer Elementary School, near its Crawfordsville, Ind., distribution center. PRH gave away copies of four of its bestselling titles: Red Rising by Pierce Brown (Del Rey); The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (Penguin); All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey, illus. by Colleen Madden (Doubleday Books for Young Readers); and Llama Llama Gram & Grandpa by Anna Dewdney (Viking Books for Young Readers).

#GiveaBook is PRH's social-media-based campaign to promote books as gifts and to give back to children in need during the holiday season. For every use of the hashtag #GiveaBook on Twitter and in posts to the GiveaBook, Penguin Random House and Givington pages on Facebook through Thursday, December 24, Penguin Random House will donate one book to the literacy nonprofit First Book, up to 35,000 times.

AMEX Video Spotlight: San Francisco

In a two-minute promotional video for Small Business Saturday, American Express focused on independent stores in San Francisco, "sharing the inspirational stories of small business owners who form the fiber of the local community." Two of those business owners are booksellers. Pete Mulvihill, co-owner of Green Apple Books, emphasized the "the sense of community" and how the store and its staff support other small businesses and vice versa. Elaine Petrocelli, president of Book Passage, noted that during the store's 39 years in business, "we have had our challenges, but a few years ago, small businesses all over the country began to come together to tell the public what it meant to shop in a small business. We wouldn't have a store anymore if people didn't appreciate shopping small."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Mindy Kaling on Tonight

Dr. Oz: Ray Lewis, co-author of I Feel Like Going On: Life, Game, and Glory (Touchstone, $26.99, 9781501112355).

Diane Rehm: Simon Mawer, author of Tightrope (Other Press, $15.95, 9781590517239).

The Tonight Show: Mindy Kaling, author of Why Not Me? (Crown Archetype, $25, 9780804138147).

Late Night with Seth Meyers repeat: Rainn Wilson, author of The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy (Dutton, $26.95, 9780525954538).

Movies: Papa in Cuba

Papa, the Ernest Hemingway biopic, "has been set for an international premiere on December 5 as part of Havana, Cuba's 37th International Festival of New Latin Cinema," Variety reported. Cast members Adrian Sparks, Joely Richardson and Hemingway's granddaughter Mariel Hemingway are expected to attend. Directed by Bob Yari, Papa is the first Hollywood film to shoot on location in Cuba since the 1959 revolution. Variety wrote that it "was shot in Hemingway's home Finca Vigia and locations throughout Cuba including La Floridita and Ambos Mundos Hotel."

Books & Authors

Awards: Waterstones Book of the Year

Booksellers at Waterstones chose Coralie Bickford-Smith's The Fox and the Star, "a sumptuously designed debut picture book about loss," as this year's winner of the Waterstones Book of the Year award, the Guardian reported. Managing director James Daunt called it "a book of great physical beauty and timeless quality, one that will surely join that very special group of classic tales that appeal equally to children and adults."

Bickford-Smith is a designer at Penguin Books, but has "wanted to tell a story" herself since she was "very, very young," the Guardian wrote, adding that when she was offered a book deal by Penguin's Particular Books, "she took a six-month sabbatical from a company where she has worked for 14 years to write and illustrate The Fox and the Star."

Book Brahmin: Benjamin Markovits

photo: Caroline Maclean

Benjamin Markovits left an unpromising career as a professional basketball player to study the Romantics--an experience he wrote about in Playing Days (HarperPerennial, November 3, 2015). He has published seven novels, including You Don't Have to Live Like This (HarperCollins, July 7, 2015), about an experimental community in Detroit. In 2009 he was a fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard and won a Pushcart Prize for his short story "Another Sad, Bizarre Chapter in Human History." Granta selected him as one of the Best of Young British Novelists in 2013. Markovits lives in London and is married, with a daughter and a son. He teaches Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.

On your nightstand now:

The Rabbit novels by John Updike. I started them because I was writing a piece about the way white writers write black characters--Rabbit Redux is particularly weird on that front. But then I got hooked and kept going.

I've also just bought a secondhand collection of Hawthorne's stories. Every year I teach The Scarlet Letter, and every year I look forward to rereading it. Maybe the reason is I never read it in high school, so it didn't get spoiled. It turns out this is an age-old problem. Even Byron talks about it--he hated Horace because he had to read him at Harrow.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. I loved all the D'Artagnan novels. I remember something Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote, that D'Artagnan in Twenty Years After was his type of the perfect man.

Your top five authors:

Jane Austen, Saul Bellow, Richard Ford, Henry James, Philip Roth. But it keeps changing, or rather, there are books I like, and writers who mean something to me, but I don't put them on lists or keep track. When I was a kid, I used to annoy my sister (who became an English academic) by arguing that Austen was second-rate. Obviously, she was right and I was wrong, though I still get bugged a little by the happy-ending tendency. Which is why my favorite is probably Mansfield Park. That's a great novel. Anyway, it seems to me that most of what matters to a writer you can learn from her.

Book you've faked reading:

I can't really remember doing this, but it's probably happened. Just because it's sometimes easier to nod when people talk about something they've read. But I showed up at college with a copy of Festus by P.J. Bailey. A classy old edition, with one of those 19th-century covers that makes your elbow shiver when you run your finger across it. It seemed to me the sort of thing you should show up to college with, that's the kind of jerk I was. But I never made it through the whole book.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov. I teach it every year. It's one of the rare great books that is basically happy, optimistic and kindhearted--even though there are some very dark things in it. It's one of those books I would have loved to have written. Much better than Lolita, I think.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Crow by Ted Hughes. The Faber edition. That's a great cover.

Book you hid from your parents:

The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike.

Book that changed your life:

When I was 17, my family moved to Berlin for the year. I was very lonely and responded to that loneliness by doing two things: playing a lot of ping-pong with my dad--on a tiny portable table, which was so small the only way you could win a point was by hitting the ball off the metal rim--and reading and rereading Good-Bye to All That by Robert Graves.

Favorite line from a book:

"A person doesn't change because you find out more." --from The Third Man by Graham Greene. Another favorite book. The movie isn't bad, either.

Five books you'll never part with:

Palgrave's Golden Treasury, Philip Larkin's Required Writing, Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth, Pnin by Nabokov, The Aspern Papers by Henry James. The Larkin book has an interview from the Paris Review, along with his reviews and other short pieces--all of them have interesting things to say, and the general tone is that wonderfully casual, sane, reasonable but at the same time occasionally crazy English tone, which can make outrageous claims in a totally calm voice.

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

My daughter is eight and she reads in a way that I can't any more--she swallows books whole. You apply very different tests to a book when you're young--you don't keep comparing them against the world you know, or other books you have read, because you don't know the world and you haven't read much. It's not that I'd like to read anything particular again for the first time, but it would be great to recapture that kind of total absorption.

B&N's Discover Great New Writers: The Spring 2016 List

Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers program has announced the 20 titles on its spring 2016 list. The selection committee is comprised of B&N booksellers whom the company described as "voracious readers who meet weekly throughout the year to look for compelling voices, extraordinary writing, and indelible stories from literary talents at the start of their careers."

Each of the titles will receive at least 12 weeks of promotion in stores, online and on Nook devices, beginning with the book's pub date. The 60 or so books chosen for the program during the year are eligible for the annual Discover Awards, which give $105,000 to six winners whose books will receive an additional year of promotion in stores, online and on Nook devices.

The spring 2016 list:


City of Thorns by Ben Rawlence (Picador). "Like Katherine Boo, Philip Gourevitch and Peter Godwin, Ben Rawlence balances personal stories with big-picture socio-political investigative journalism."

The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni (Counterpoint). "Abby Geni's sense of place will remind readers of Eowyn Ivey's Alaska in The Snow Child; Geni's prose of last year's Discover Award winner (fiction) All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld."

The Longest Night by Andria Williams (Random House). "Appearances are everything for the young couple at the heart of Andria Williams's debut, but there's so much more at stake (as there was for The Wives of Los Alamos.)"

Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart (St. Martin's). "Hart's toddler daughter died unexpectedly in 2011, and his powerfully written and illustrated graphic memoir of life before-and-after grief belongs on the shelf next to Sonali Deraniyangala's Wave."

Shame & Wonder by David Searcy (Random House). "Searcy languidly unspools riffs on everything and nothing and we couldn't get enough of his sharp and often very funny prose. (John Jeremiah Sullivan, Leslie Jamison and Ben Fountain are fans, too.)"

Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of Your Fist by Sunil Yapa (Lee Boudreaux Books/Little, Brown). "We couldn't put down this ambitious novel about fathers and sons, politics and power that reminded us of Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin."


Dead Presidents by Brady Carlson (Norton). "We had a ton of fun reading this engaging mix of history, biography and travelogue that reminded us of books by Sarah Vowell or Tony Horwitz."

In the Land of Armadillos by Helen Maryles Shankman (Scribner). "A debut collection of linked short stories that blends mythology and history into a single, unforgettable voice."

Liar by Rob Roberge (Crown). "Roberge is losing his mind, but he's been taking notes, and our readers were astonished by the raw honesty and power of his memoir."

Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey (Little, Brown). "A slim page count belies the scale and scope of this story about the collision of family, art and human folly."


Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond (Crown). "Desmond's deft reportage allows his subjects tell their own stories while placing them in a wider cultural context, and the result is an utterly compelling narrative like Jill Leovy's Ghettoside or Sheri Fink's Five Days at Memorial."

High Dive by Jonathan Lee (Knopf). "'Poor Moose,' we said, shaking our heads while reading this tragicomic--though often laugh-out-loud funny--novel set at a seaside hotel in Britain that is about to be transformed."

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney (Ecco). "Family mythologies are stripped bare in this often witty and always sharp-eyed debut that reminded us of Maggie Shipstead's Seating Arrangements."

Shelter by Jung Yun (Picador). "A must-read about family secrets for anyone who devoured Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng or We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver."

Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). "This exquisitely poignant debut had readers in tears and desperate to talk to each other about what they'd just read."


All Tomorrow's Parties by Rob Spillman (Grove). "A gorgeous, intimate, and heartfelt memoir of unsettled youth and search for home."

Consequence by Eric Fair (Holt). "A young Everyman (loves his family, believes in God) attempts to reconcile his faith and morality with the choices he's made in this harrowing, provocative memoir."

Dodgers by Bill Beverly (Crown). "Our newest favorite One A.M. Read: a noir that reminded us of Richard Price and George Pelecanos and kept us turning pages well into the night."

The First Book of Calamity Leek by Paula Lichtarowicz (Flatiron Books). "This slender debut builds a world so vividly that we didn't want to leave--much like we felt when we read Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore."

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (Knopf). "This memoir from a female scientist at the top of her game made us want to drop everything and re-enroll in school."

Book Review

Children's Review: When Mischief Came to Town

When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99 hardcover, 208p., ages 9-12, 9780544534322, January 5, 2016)

When Mischief Came to Town, originally published in author Katrina Nannestad's home country of Australia, is a funny, warmhearted story about the search for family and the power of belonging. 

From the moment 10-year-old Inge Maria Jensen steps off a boat and onto the Baltic Sea island of Bornholm in 1911, life in the quiet Danish town of Svaneke is forever changed. With her lopsided, spiky tufts of hair (one of her long blonde plaits was chewed off by a goat on the boat while she was asleep), Inge Maria presents quite a contrast to the somber, black-clad grandmother who waits for her at the harbor. Inge Maria wonders if her unsmiling grandmother might even be wearing black bloomers, because "[g]loomy underwear would be enough to wipe the joy from anyone's face." As Grandmother rolls her eyes and drags her granddaughter home by the arm, Inge Maria vows to be brave and "make Mama proud of me." 

Fortunately, Grandmother's house on the farm is comfortingly pretty, and it has a roof made of straw thatching. Inge is heartened: "This cheers me up a little. At least she doesn't live in a cave, or a hole in a tree. It happens, you know. I've read about it in fairy tales." Winning Grandmother's heart is hard going at first, especially when Inge Maria's kicking contest with the donkey results in a dozen broken eggs and a concussed turkey named Henry. Nor does it help when "a blast of squashed-giggle air shoots out her nose," sullying Grandmother’s freshly laundered bloomers, which, astonishingly, have "white lace on the edges and a giant pink rose embroidered on each side." Still, it doesn't take long before Grandmother, more softhearted than she looks, is shaking with laughter at Inge Maria's mishaps and goodhearted mischief. 

Of course, there is also the rest of the town to win over, including the judgmental Angelina Nordstrup with her "piercing stare," the mostly silent Pedersen twins, and Her Nielsen, the tall, serious teacher who joylessly runs the Svaneke Folk School, with art lessons where all drawings look the same, music lessons with no dancing, and even a "No Girls Allowed" area of the playground, because girls must sit quietly while the boys play. Spirited Inge Maria can't help but challenge the system.

Inge Maria adores the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, and they figure prominently in the story as both a relic from her previous, happy life in Copenhagen with her late mother, and as the inspiration for much of her inventive storytelling and fanciful behavior. In the end, Andersen's fairy tales become a bridge between Inge Maria and her jelly-soft Grandmother, as cozy bedtimes spent reading together allow the girl to feel safe and loved again. --Lynn Becker, host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators

Shelf Talker: Fans of Pippi Longstocking will devour this hilarious debut novel, featuring an energetic 10-year-old who invigorates an isolated Danish town. 

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