Shelf Awareness for Friday, December 4, 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


B&N Second Quarter: Sales Slip; Net Loss

In the second quarter ended October 31, sales at Barnes & Noble fell 4.5%, to $894.7 million, and the net loss was $39.2 million, compared to a net gain of $12.3 million in the same period a year earlier.

Before the announcement late yesterday afternoon, shares of B&N closed at $12.05, down 4.4%. Because B&N sales were below analysts' estimates and the loss per share was higher than expected, in after-market trading, B&N stock fell another 14%.

Retail sales fell 3.1%, to $861 million, because of lower online sales, store closures and a 1% drop in sales at B&N stores open at least a year. Excluding Nook products, sales at stores open at least a year fell 0.5%. In a bit of good news, comp-store sales through Black Friday weekend, excluding Nook products, rose 1.1%

During the quarter, Nook sales fell 31.9%, to $43.5 million, "due primarily to lower content sales." B&N predicted that comp-store sales will be flat during fiscal year 2016 and, excluding Nook products, should be up about 1%.

B&N CEO Ron Boire was bullish about the holiday season, saying that B&N is holding "large-scale, nationwide events [such as the Mini Maker Faire, Vinyl Day, All-American Art Unwind and the Signed Editions program] to create excitement and drive traffic to our stores. Barnes & Noble's buyers and merchants have curated an outstanding selection of books, toys and games and gifts, and our booksellers are prepared to help customers find the perfect gift for everyone on their holiday shopping list."

Ron Boire

In a conference call with analysts (via, Boire said that in books, "we continue to experience the growing trend in adult coloring books and artist supplies, which helped offset the comparison to a strong young adult title lineup last year including Heroes of Olympus, If I Stay and Maze Runner."

Boire said that the events "align well with our customers' desire for personal development and entertainment." At the same time, "Our merchants continue to work hard to further improve store navigation and the discovery of titles which will lead to improved customer experience and stronger sales."

Speaking with the New York Times, Boire elaborated on this subject, saying he wants to make B&N into a "lifestyle brand. Everything we do around learning, personal growth and development fits our brand. There's a lot of opportunity."

He called gifts, toys and games (toys and games grew 14.9% in the quarter) "smaller pieces of our overall business," but noted that "it's clear we are a destination for these products and we see prospects for further growth."

During the conference call, Boire said that "improving bookstore trends" led B&N to close fewer bookstores than planned. "Last year, we closed fewer stores than initially planned and we see the same trend developing this year. We now expect to close only 10 stores." B&N is also "looking at new store prototypes."

The Times noted that in stores, B&N has "made a push to make its thousands of books more enticing and searchable. Categories like parenting and Christian publishing that were once haphazardly organized alphabetically by author are now broken out into logical subcategories, so that parenting books are stocked according to the age of the child, and Christian books are arranged into categories like relationships or health and wellness. 'The sales results were instantaneous,' said Mary Amicucci, who oversees the adult consumer and children’s book business."

In the conference call, CFO Allen Lindstrom noted that store payroll costs increased 0.3% "as lower comps and competitive wage pressures outpaced productivity gains during the quarter. The company is investing in its booksellers to remain competitive in the marketplace and attract and retain quality talent."

The relaunched website has had problems that Boire characterized as "expected certain challenges that generally accompany any new site launch. However, the challenges were greater than anticipated and reduced traffic as well as conversion. During the second quarter, we implemented a significant number of website fixes to increase traffic, improve the overall user experience and stabilize the site." Those website problems also delayed "our efforts to migrate Nook within systems."

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Parnassus Books to Expand in 2016

Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn., announced that it will be expanding into an adjacent storefront in the first quarter of 2016. According to Mary Laura Philpott, the store's social media manager, the new space is 1,850 square feet and will bring the store's grand total to around 5,000 square feet.

"With a bit more breathing room, we'll have space for more titles in all sections: children's, nonfiction, all of it," said Philpott. "Plus, with more floor area, we'll be able to hold more people at our in-store events."

Ann Patchett and Karen Hayes founded Parnassus in 2011.

Ellen Archer Named President of HMH Trade Publishing

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has appointed Ellen Archer president of HMH Trade Publishing, where she will succeed Gary Gentel, who is retiring in 2016. Archer assumes her new role effective December 7. She spent 15 years at the Disney ABC Television Group, and for five years was president and publisher of Hyperion Books, then a division of the Walt Disney Company. Most recently, she consulted for start-ups and non-profits, providing strategic advice in content development, marketing and business planning.

Ellen Archer

"HMH is home to an incredibly rich collection of iconic assets and award-winning content," Archer said. "I'm proud to join this team, to continue to grow and expand our offering for lifelong learners, and to help leverage these properties in new and exciting ways, driving inspiration and curiosity in the home, in the classroom and beyond.”

HMH president and CEO Linda Zecher commented: "I'm thrilled that Ellen has agreed to join us as we continue to leverage the connection between our core education business and our consumer publishing business, expanding into new genres, further developing our brands and properties and delivering content in new ways and to new audiences."

Zecher added that for almost a decade, Gentel "has led HMH Trade Publishing, spearheading our transition into new media and channels, while building our legacy of award-winning content and authors. His leadership has resulted in revenue growth of over 60% for HMH Trade, earning him the respect of his team, the entire HMH business, and his peers across the industry. He will be missed by all."

Hachette Extends Rapid Replenishment Program

Hachette Book Group is extending the Rapid Replenishment Program, which it announced in October as a holiday program, "through 2016," the company said yesterday.

Under the program, all orders, subject to stock availability, received from independent retailers on Mondays by 3 p.m. ET will be entered, picked, packed and guaranteed to arrive no later than Friday of the same week. Orders placed Tuesday through Friday will be entered, picked and packed within 24 hours and shipped standard method. This includes orders received into the Hachette system via electronic ordering platforms like Edelweiss.

The program is for independent retailers in good standing within the continental 48 States and applies to most of its distribution clients.

Obituary Note: Christopher Middleton

British poet, translator and essayist Christopher Middleton died November 29. He was 89. The Independent noted that his poetry "was rooted in a scholarship very lightly worn, drew its sources from whatever happened to be preoccupying him at the moment of its creation, be it Roman numismatics, a Cretan deity or the proud grace of a passing feline.... In addition to his own poetry, he translated a good deal from other tongues--French, Swedish, Spanish, Arabic, Turkish--but most often from German, including works by Gottfried Benn, von Hofmannsthal, Goethe, Holderlin and others and works by the supremely odd Swiss prose writer Robert Walser, whose cause he championed for more than half a century."

From "The Paradox of Jerome's Lion":

Local his discourse, not yet exemplary,
Nowadays he is old, the translator,
So old he is practically transparent.

Good things and otherwise, evils done
Come home to him, too close to the bone
And so little transformed,
Him so transparent,
They float in and out of his window. 


Booksellers Honored as Parade Grand Marshals

photo: Walter Hinick/the Montana Standard

The grand marshals for today's 25th annual Uptown Christmas Stroll parade in Butte, Mont., are local booksellers Bill and Jo Antonioli of Books & Books, as well as Ann-Finch Johnston and Kathleen Finch of Second Edition Books, the Montana Standard reported. Mainstreet Uptown Butte director George Everett said that in celebrating independent bookstores, the honor "represents the staying power of the printed word in our community in longtime businesses." 

Simon & Schuster to Distribute Insight Editions

Effective July 1, 2016, Simon & Schuster will handle sales and distribution in North America and the open market for Insight Editions.

Founded in 2001, Insight Editions is known for its illustrated books and collectible books for popular franchises, such as Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, DC Comics, The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and more. In 2016, Insight Editions will launch its new Incredibuilds line of books.

"As the company continues to grow in both size and formats, we see our partnership with Simon & Schuster as an exciting new phase in reaching our readers in more channels of distribution across the globe," said Raoul Goff, Insight Editions publisher and CEO.

Michael Perlman, S&S v-p, director client sales & marketing, said that Insight Editions' "premier illustrated books on photography, arts, celebrities, television shows, films, and video games are widely admired for their artistry and craft. We are thrilled by the opportunity to help them grow and reach an ever greater audience."

Personnel Changes at Albert Whitman & Co.

Laurel Symonds has joined Albert Whitman & Company as associate marketing manager. Previously she was an assistant editor at Katherine Tegen Books.

Book Trailer of the Day: Dare to Disappoint

Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), a graphic novel by Northwestern professor Özge Samanci that focuses on her troubled childhood, fraught with religious and cultural conflict, leading her to emigrate to the U.S. in the early 2000s.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jeanine Pirro on Fox & Friends

Fox & Friends: Jeanine Pirro, author of He Killed Them All: Robert Durst and My Quest for Justice (Gallery, $27, 9781501125003).

TV: Outlander; The People Vs. O.J.; Game of Thrones

A teaser for the second season of Starz's Outlander series, based on Diana Gabaldon's bestselling novels, "shows that time-traveling Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and her new husband, Jamie (Sam Heughan), have a lot riding with them as they set sail for France--specifically, the safety of the entire country of Scotland," Variety reported. Outlander will return next spring and the teaser "is the first item to be released for Starz' 25 days of #OutlanderOfferings, during which season two photos, cast interviews, holiday recipes and the chance to win special Outlander store items will be promoted across the show's Twitter and Facebook pages."


FX released the first full trailer for its miniseries American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson, based on Jeffrey Toobin's book The Run of His Life, reported. Premiering February 2, the project's cast includes Cuba Gooding Jr. as Simpson, Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden, Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran, John Travolta as Robert Shapiro, David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian and Connie Britton as Faye Resnick.


"Have you forgotten the terrible, terrible things that have happened to people on Game of Thrones over the course of the last five seasons?" asked Indiewire in featuring HBO's teaser trailer for the upcoming season six that is a "montage of classic if bloody moments from the series" with "the sort of ominous voiceover we've come to anticipate." GOT returns in April.

Books & Authors

Awards: Blue Peter Book

Finalists have been announced for the Blue Peter Book Awards, which "celebrate the best authors, most creative illustrators and the greatest reads for children." More than 200 children from 10 schools across the U.K. will read the shortlisted books and vote for their favorites in each category. The two winners will be announced March 3, 2016. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Best book with facts
FactFeed by Penny Arlon's
The Epic Book of Epicness by Adam Frost
The Silly Book of Weird & Wacky Words by Andy Seed, illustrated by Scott Garrett

Best story
The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell-Boyce, illustrated by Steven Lenton
The Boy Who Sailed the Ocean in an Armchair by Lara Williamson
The Nowhere Emporium by Ross MacKenzie

Book Brahmin: Mary-Louise Parker

photo: Tina Turnbow

Mary-Louise Parker is a Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actress. Her writing has appeared in Esquire, Slate, Bust, the Cut, the Riveter and the Bullet. Dear Mr. You (Scribner, November 10, 2015) is her first book.

On your nightstand now:

My nightstand is actually a nightstand, two piles and an ottoman. (I have a commitment issue, yes.) In any case, in the area by my bed: Book of Hours by Kevin Young, God's Silence by Franz Wright, Purity by Jonathan Franzen, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, The Winter Without Milk by Jane Avrich. First pile: Refusing Heaven by Jack Gilbert, The Seven Ages by Louise Glück, H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, El Deafo by Cece Bell (my daughter's book). Second pile: Collected Poems by Stanley Kunitz, The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. Ottoman: The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, My Noiseless Entourage by Charles Simic, The Collected Poems by Mark Strand, The Love Object by Edna O'Brien.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Probably I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I may not have been technically a child anymore, maybe 12 or so, but had mostly read Little House on the Prairie books and Anne of Green Gables, which I loved, but neither of those delivered any understanding of that wrench of feeling abandoned by God himself. They had an optimism I aspired to but could not locate within myself. It was an unshackling to stumble upon an actual hero with such a well of confusion; her courage felt like the first real bravery I'd been witness to on the page. A couple of years later I began reading Anne Sexton's Complete Poems and it changed the way I looked at words entirely. I walked around with that book until it was tattered and flimsy, held onto it like a blankie I needed to get through the night.

Your top five authors:

I am not so good with having to do a Sophie's Choice when it comes to books, so here are a bunch of my favorite authors at the moment. I love Mary Karr, Edna O'Brien, Marcel Proust, Mark Strand, Carson McCullers, Wallace Stevens, George Saunders, Sharon Olds, W.B. Yeats, Philip Levine, Stanley Kunitz, Kevin Young and Lynda Barry, who I think is an underrated genius.

Book you've faked reading:

The driver's ed textbook they gave us in 10th grade. I was afraid they would list the gory details of some horrible car accident to encourage us to wear seatbelts and not drive drunk. I never really learned to drive anyway, so it wasn't a tragedy. If I'm honest, I probably read very few of my required textbooks in high school. I was an extremely mediocre student so I didn't get an awful lot out of my public school education.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I'm quite thrilled when I introduce someone to poetry who was disinterested in it altogether, or thought it was something they had to suffer through. I read Wallace Stevens aloud to someone recently after they told me they didn't understand the point of poetry. I read just one poem, and this person was completely converted, was hearing music for the first time. I felt like I'd caught a 20-pound trout with my hands and gutted and roasted it, or that I saved a baby snow leopard from a poacher.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I didn't buy it for the cover, but there was a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover that was pretty steamy, and I may have only cracked it because of the whole glistening-haunches-gripped-by-the-meaty-hands-of-a-barbarian kind of thing. The man in a peasant-y shirt ravaging a woman with her many petticoats tossed over her head while she pokes out, looking shocked and ecstatic and regretful and slightly stupid. Anyway, I didn't enjoy the book and didn't finish it. The relationship was too punitive and the sex wasn't punitive enough. (I would never admit that if the author were alive.)

Book you hid from your parents:

I re-hid their own copy of The Joy of Sex, which I found where they had hidden it.

Book that changed your life:

Complete Poems by Anne Sexton.

Favorite line from a book:

"It is true, as someone has said, that in
A world without heaven all is farewell."
--Mark Strand, Dark Harbor

Five books you'll never part with:

The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, Collected Poems by Mark Strand, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust, The Greatest of Marlys by Lynda Barry.

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

Mr. Ives' Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos, Under the 82nd Airborne by Deborah Eisenberg, The Liars' Club by Mary Karr, An Ocean in Iowa by Peter Hedges, A Fanatic Heart by Edna O'Brien, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris, This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz, Dancer by Colum McCann.

Living author you would most like to meet and bow to her genius:

Lynda Barry.

Book Review

Review: The Kindness of Enemies

The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela (Grove Press, $25 hardcover, 9780802124487, January 5, 2016)

Leila Aboulela (Lyrics Alley) reaches into historic conflicts for her marvelous and nuanced fourth novel, The Kindness of Enemies, to illustrate Islamophobia's pernicious legacy and its ominous reverberations in the present day. Natasha Wilson is a scholar teaching in Scotland in 2010. Estranged from her Sudanese father, who still lives in Khartoum, and with her Russian mother recently deceased, Natasha conceals her Muslim heritage behind a Western name in a post-9/11, post-7/7 London bombings world that is quick to scrutinize the actions of those tied to Islam. But the truth is that Natasha Hussein harbors serious doubts about religious faith, despite her work focusing on the Sufi jihadist Imam Shamil, who spearheaded the resistance against Russians invading the Caucasus in the 19th century.

Natasha's most promising student--nicknamed Oz to avoid assumptions born of his given name, Osama--happens to have descended from Shamil, and Oz's mother, Malak, actually owns the imam's sword. When he invites Natasha to come see it, their bond of friendship and the significance of Shamil's stand against the Russians become irrevocably entwined.

Aboulela braids 2010 Scotland together with parallel dramas playing out in the disputed Eurasian highlands of the 1850s. Georgia has already submitted to Russia's sprawling Christian imperialism, in an effort to avoid extensive bloodshed, while Dagestan continues to fight for independence, led by Imam Shamil. Captured as a boy by Russian forces, Shamil's son Jamaleldin is raised in the opulent courts of St. Petersburg as the godson of the Tsar. Desperate for his son's return, Shamil orders the capture of Princess Anna of Georgia to prompt an exchange of hostages, against the counsel of his teacher, Sheikh Jamal el-Din. Proud though they are, Anna and Jamaleldin will not walk away from captivity unchanged.

With an impeccable balance of internal and external conflicts, The Kindness of Enemies ruminates over clashing political allegiances, rival religious devotions, alienation within families, and competing identities on a personal level. Shamil's hospitality and the respect he pays the princess in captivity defy the rumors depicting him and his people as savages, evil and uncivilized. Aboulela's prose is graceful as well as provocative: "I did not know how to answer her," Natasha observes when asked if she can feel a powerful spiritual presence. "If I said 'No' it would seem ingracious. If I said 'Yes' I might be lying. So I said, 'Centuries ago, people... believed like you believe.' And centuries ago... they also waged wars, resisted and rebelled around issues of faith." Urgency and meditation, suspense and reverence, tangle together to form a novel of such elegance that Aboulela deserves resounding applause. With stunning narrative powers and exquisite attention to detail, she delivers a riveting story of epic proportions. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Shelf Talker: Modern Muslims in Scotland grapple with faith and identity while facing Islamophobia, paralleling Imam Shamil's resistance to Russian forces in the 19th-century Caucasian War.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: How a Great Book Found Me at #NEIBA2015

"The American landscape is palimpsest. Layers upon layers of names and meanings lie beneath the official surface.... Yes, I am palimpsest, too, a place made over but trying to trace back." --Lauret Savoy, Trace: Memory, History, Race and the American Landscape

Sometimes a book finds me. I know you have your own tales to tell, but occasionally I like to share the path by which a particularly fine work made its way into my hands and, subsequently, my life.

Joan Grenier

This story begins in October during the author reception at the New England Independent Booksellers Association's Fall Conference. Since I've spent a substantial part of my life passionately handselling books, I was prepared for the moment when Joan Grenier, owner of the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Mass., stopped me and said, "I want you to meet someone." That was how I was introduced to Lauret Savoy, author of Trace (Counterpoint), which has become one of my favorite reads of the year.

As we booksellers like to say: You've got to read this book! Grenier recently, and eloquently, summed up why: "The writing is poetic and thoughtful. Lauret interweaves her family history, American history and landscape in a manner I don't think I have ever seen done before. She is a mixed race woman and professor of geology and environmental studies. Her search for her ancestors leads her to many landscapes, including the borderlands of the southwest, the Grand Canyon, Washington D.C., and her birthplace in California. Inevitably the role of race in American history is part of her family's history. She details the inaccuracies, silences and omissions throughout American history, including the Black Codes in Washington D.C. and South Carolina, land grabs from Mexico and Native peoples, and the disappearance of African American towns. This is an important book as we struggle to understand and overcome the wrongs of history and the impact on our current lives."

She also called Trace "a perfect indie book. It was an Indie Next selection and booksellers from Rhode Island to California and Washington have sung its praises. I have certainly been engaging with our customers about this book. We included Trace in our holiday newsletter and have it displayed in several locations throughout our store."

Savoy, who teaches at Mount Holyoke College, told me she wanted her book "to cross boundaries" by exploring "how human experience and the history of the land itself have, in fragmented tellings, artificially pulled apart what cannot be disentangled: nature and 'race.' Above all, my hope is that Trace trespasses and re-members, making connections often unrecognized, such as the siting of the nation's capital and the economic motives of slavery. None of these links is coincidental. Few appear in public history. All touch us."

A bookstore aficionado from an early age, Savoy recalled: "As soon as books replaced toys as my main interests, when I was about nine years old, bookstores became havens. We had moved from California to Washington, D.C., before then and the western lands I considered home needed to be replaced in some way (even though they could never be replaced). What seemed available were eastern lands and their history. Family visits to bookstores like Brentano's felt like treasure hunts. And most times I did find treasure, whether in books on the Civil War, regional natural history or American literature. I remember hoping that the worlds of ideas held on the shelves could somehow offset disturbing media images and troubling school lessons."

She visited the Odyssey Bookshop during her first week at Mount Holyoke College: "It became another type of refuge, and Joan became a friend and supporter. Not only were books a source of ideas and inspiration, but so too were the writers themselves who came to do readings. Terry Tempest Williams, for example, spoke with me long into the night after a reading on her tour for An Unspoken Hunger. That was 1994.  

photo: Emily Crowe

"I felt that, at the Odyssey, I had joined a community of readers and writers, out-of-the box thinkers. And I began to feel a necessary push. I struggled for many years to write Trace, throwing away first, second, third, fourth attempts because I didn't trust my voice or the value of what I was trying to do. Visits to the bookshop began have a painful sharpness. I feared that, unlike every author whose work filled the shelves, I would never 'be a writer.' Yes, my name is on other books, but one is more academic and two others are edited collections. What mattered was that I stop silencing and sabotaging myself. So I finally promised to stop throwing away my words. Joan was a sounding board all along the way."

She added: "And you know firsthand how supportive she was at the recent NEIBA gathering in Providence, a one-woman dynamo!" That I do.

Last month, Savoy's reading at Odyssey "was standing room only with colleagues, students and customers excited to be present," said Grenier. "Lauret gave a powerful reading and during the q&a we learned that Lauret's journey to explore this land and her family will continue with several other possible books. People are still talking about the reading and how wonderful the evening was."

I wish I'd been there, but I'm thankful that Trace found me. Sometimes great reads do that. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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