Also published on this date: Monday, June 20, 2016: Kids Maximum Shelf: A Child of Books

Shelf Awareness for Monday, June 20, 2016

Holiday House: Ros Demir Is Not the One by Leyla Brittan

HarperAlley: I Shall Never Fall In Love by Hari Conner

W. W. Norton & Company to Sell and Distribute Yale University Press and Harvard University Press

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

Quotation of the Day

Kobo's Tamblyn: 'Industry Has Adapted & Evolved'

"Kobo was born to disrupt. More than that, it was an exercise in intentional self-disruption.... When we first started to get some traction, there was a fairly strong narrative that e-books, apps, e-readers, and self-publishing were part of a digital wave that was going to wash away bookstores and publishers. And it's not the first time that warning has been given. Ten years before that, e-commerce was supposed to do the same thing. And before that, big box retail.

"Except that, miraculously enough, it turns out that in each case what looks like a disruptor may be something else--a spark or a catalyst. We always believed that this was a revolution that could happen with authors and publishers and retailers, rather than a revolution that happened to them. And we were right. This industry has adapted and evolved, and unlike music or movies has done so without catastrophe. Bookstores doubled down on community and service and attractive physical spaces. Publishers made paper books more beautiful and collectible while developing digital skills of their own. Indigo took the dividends from the sale of Kobo to reshape itself as a cultural department store with books surrounded by lifestyle merchandise for adults and children (and a few shelves for Kobo as well!). And we keep innovating..."

--Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn, speaking recently at the Economist's Canada Summit

 Treasure Books, Inc.: There's Treasure Inside by Jon Collins-Black


Praise for Hong Kong Bookseller Detained by Chinese

The American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers and the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom issued a statement over the weekend praising Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee for "revealing details of his illegal imprisonment by Chinese authorities and for refusing to identify customers in China who purchased books that are critical of Chinese officials."

Lam and four other staff members of publisher Mighty Current and its Causeway Bay Bookstore disappeared in separate incidents last year and wound up in custody in mainland China. Mighty Current and Causeway Bay Bookstore were known for publishing and selling books critical of the current leaders of the China government and the Communist Party. The books are particularly popular among mainland Chinese; the official Chinese view has been that such critical books are based on fabrications. Three of the other "disappeared" publishers and booksellers have reappeared at least for a brief time in Hong Kong, but all denied that there were any problems.

Lam Wing-kee

By contrast, at a press conference on Thursday, Lam, as the statement wrote, "confirmed that he had been detained in October when he arrived in China on a trip. He was blindfolded and put on a train that took him to a distant province, where he was interrogated about the sale of Mighty Current books to residents of the mainland. For five months, he was held in a small room under 24-hour guard. He said that a string was attached to his toothbrush to ensure that he couldn't use it to commit suicide.

"During the course of his imprisonment, Lam was shown records of the customers of the Causeway Bay Bookstore and asked to identify those who had purchased books published by Mighty Current. 'I didn't dare tell them about the readers because I was worried that those readers would be implicated, and then they would think that Hongkongers--or I--had betrayed them. But I didn't do so,' Lam said at the press conference. He added: 'I also want to tell the whole world. This isn't about me, this isn't about a bookstore, this is about everyone. This is the bottom line of the Hong Kong people. This is Hongkongers' bottom line--Hongkongers will not bow down before brute force.' "

The ABA, AAP and ALA statement concluded: "America's booksellers, publishers and librarians wish to express their deep admiration for Lam and his courageous defense of the right of the Chinese people to read the books they want. We join him in condemning the Chinese government for its illegal arrest and detention of people engaged in the publication and sale of books. In addition, we demand the speedy release of Gui Minhai, the last Mighty Current employee in custody, and call on Hong Kong authorities to protect the Hong Kong booksellers from further retribution by the Chinese government."


In related news, the Chinese government is apparently organizing a campaign of "character assassination" against Lam Wing-kee, the South China Morning Post reported. In an interview conducted by Sing Tao Daily, a woman in mainland China claiming to be Lam's girlfriend disputed his story. Lam's three other colleagues who disappeared but later resurfaced in Hong Kong also disputed his story.

But the daughter of the fifth missing man, who has not been released, issued a statement calling Lam "brave" and saying, "It is sad that the only person [who] has spoken out has done so because he has not got family on the mainland that could be threatened and punished for his choice to tell the truth." Angela Gui, who is studying in the U.K., said it was "beyond doubt" that her father, Gui Minhai, had undergone travails similar to those experienced by Lam.

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

Blue Frog Books, Howell, Mich., Closes

Unable to find a buyer, Blue Frog Books, Howell, Mich., closed yesterday.

Last month, owners Penny Coleman and Robert Vedro put the store up for sale, calling the move "both a family decision and a monetary one. With the addition of a baby in our family, it has really stretched us thin." They had, they said, "vastly over-estimated our first year sales estimates, as newbies tend to do, and with adjustment and a new plan for year two, it still was not enough to pay all the debts down and provide the level of inventory turnover needed to make this work for us, and for you."

Still, Coleman and Vedro said that Blue Frog Books had "great potential and, if allowed to grow, it will be a pillar of our community for generations to come." They founded the store in 2014.

Meanwhile, Mike Brennan, a former English teacher and politician who describes himself as a book lover, novelist, filmmaker and missionary, is trying to re-create Blue Frog Books or found an entirely different bookstore in Howell. His GoFundMe campaign aims to raise $35,000. In seven days, it's raised only $585 of that amount, but Brennan wrote, "I have found three major investors in one week; they are looking over the numbers and have hope of opening up a bookstore after some solid planning and fundraising."

BAM in West Lebanon, N.H., Moving

The Books-A-Million store in West Lebanon, N.H, has lost its lease in the Valley Square Shopping Center but has found a new space less than a mile away in the Kmart Shopping Plaza, Valley News reported.

"We've been in the (Upper Valley) community for five years and very much wanted to stay," Steven Bowman, a regional vice president at BAM, told the paper. "It's a great area to be part of."

BAM's application to the planning and zoning department renovation of the new space has been approved. The plans do not include a Joe Muggs café.

BAM's new space is slightly smaller than the old one, which is being converted into a Michael's craft store and was a Borders location before BAM moved into it in 2011. The West Lebanon store is one of three BAM sites in New Hampshire.

Obituary Note: Michelle Cliff

Michelle Cliff, a Jamaican-American writer "whose novels, stories and nonfiction essays drew on her multicultural identity to probe the psychic disruptions and historical distortions wrought by colonialism and racism," died June 12, the New York Times wrote. She was 69. Cliff and the late poet Adrienne Rich were longtime partners.

Her books include No Telephone to Heaven, Abeng, If I Could Write This in Fire, Free Enterprise: A Novel of Mary Ellen Pleasant, Everything Is Now: New & Collected Stories, Into the Interior, Claiming an Identity They Taught Me to Despise and The Land of Look Behind: Prose & Poetry

Noting that Cliff worked briefly as a researcher at Time-Life Books and at W.W. Norton, the Times wrote that after attending the University of London, she "returned to Norton, where she was a production editor for books on history, women's studies and politics. In 1975, she met Ms. Rich, who was published by Norton."


Image of the Day: All in the Family

Roger Hochschild, Stephanie Hochschild and Adam Hochschild

Stephanie Hochschild, owner of the Book Stall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka, Ill., hosted author Adam Hochschild for his new book, Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). The names are no coincidence; the author and the owner's husband are cousins.

Cape Fear Indie Booksellers: 'Find Your Nook'

Saying that "despite the convenience of electronic reading devices and instantly downloadable books, independent bookstores in North Carolina are nevertheless thriving," the Fayetteville Observer showcased several indies worth a day trip in a piece headlined "Find your nook: Some of the coolest, quaintest bookstores in the Cape Fear region."

"People trust us," said Pete Mock of McIntyre's Books in Fearrington Village, Pittsboro.

Keebe Fitch, owner and founder of McIntyre's, added: "We're doing what we've always done, but people are more educated on how important it is to support local businesses."

Kimberly Taws of the Country Bookshop in Southern Pines noted: "Big readers who would buy seven books at a time are starting to come back."

The Observer wrote that "those looking for a good summer read can find so much more at these independent bookstores. Take a tranquil walk along Broad Street in Southern Pines, Fearrington Village in Pittsboro and North Hills in Raleigh, where the latest best-sellers are surrounded by cute shops, a variety of unique restaurants, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and even herds of Belted Galloway cows and Tennessee Fainting goats. These are bookstores where shoppers can pop in to browse titles or ask about the best place for an afternoon snack. It's worth the drive just to find the book you didn't know you were dying to read. But make an entire trip out of it, and summer just got a whole lot better."

'Best Independent Bookstores in NYC'

Gothamist's Rebecca Fishbein explored her picks for the "best independent bookstores in NYC," noting that bookshops "are my happy places, and whenever I get 'the mean reds' I make my way to one, if just to stand in the aisles for a few minutes and run my hands along the spines. In some respects, bookstores--both independent and chain--have been disappearing, murdered first by Amazon and second by the death of print. But there are still some vibrant independent shops in town full of colorful, curated shelves and knowledgeable employees. Here are our favorites; as always, leave yours in the comments."

Personnel Changes at University of Nevada Press

Effective July 1, Eric Lincoln Miller is joining the University of Nevada Press as marketing & sales manager. He has been head of Wicker Park Press and 3ibooks and earlier was v-p of Miller Trade Book Marketing and marketing manager at Academy Chicago. He was also president of the National Association of Independent Publisher's Representatives (NAIPR) for 10 years.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Yaa Gyasi on Tavis Smiley

CBS This Morning: Elin Hilderbrand, author of Here's to Us (Little, Brown, $28, 9780316375146).

Fresh Air: Jonathan Balcombe, author of What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins (Scientific American/Farrar, Straus & Giroux).

Diane Rehm: Arun Sundararajan, author of The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism (MIT Press, $26.95, 9780262034579).

Tavis Smiley: D.L. Hughley, author of Black Man, White House: An Oral History of the Obama Years (Morrow, $27.99, 9780062399793).

Comedy Central's At Midnight: Dave Hill, author of Dave Hill Doesn't Live Here Anymore (Blue Rider, $27, 9780399166754).

CBS This Morning: Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (Scribner, $28, 9781501111105).

Tavis Smiley: Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing: A Novel (Knopf, $26.95, 9781101947135).

Wendy Williams: Melissa Rivers, author of The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation (Three Rivers, $16, 9781101903841).

Daily Show: Tavis Smiley, co-author of Before You Judge Me: The Triumph and Tragedy of Michael Jackson's Last Days (Little, Brown, $27, 9780316259095).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Giada De Laurentiis, co-author of Philadelphia! #8 (Recipe for Adventure) (Grosset & Dunlap, $6.99, 9780448483955).

Late Late Show with James Corden: David Duchovny, author of Bucky F*cking Dent: A Novel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, 9780374110420).

Books & Authors

Awards: Pritzker, Wolfson History Winners

Hew Strachan has won the Pritzker Military Museum & Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing, which carries a $100,000 prize. Museum & Library founder and chair Jennifer N. Pritzker will present Strachan with the award at the organization's annual Liberty Gala on November 5 in Chicago.

Strachan is the author of 14 major publications, including To Arms, the first installment of his three-volume work on the Great War, The First World War. The Pritzker Museum & Library said that "his research interests center on the military history and strategic studies, with particular interest in the First World War and the history of the British Army. He has been significantly involved in the preparations for the centenary of the First World War, serving on the U.K. and Scotland national advisory committees and on the Comité Scientifique of the Mission du Centenaire in France. Strachan served as chair of Imperial War Museum's academic advisory committee for its new First World War galleries and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's 2014-18 committee."

Strachan is also an advisor on contemporary military affairs in the U.K. He's a member of the Chief of Defense Staff's Strategic Advisory Panel, the Defense Academy Advisory Board, and was a specialist advisor to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the National Security Strategy. His services to the Ministry of Defense earned him a knighthood in 2013.


The winners of the Wolfson History Prizes are:

Robin Lane Fox for Augustine: Conversions and Confessions, published in the U.S. by Basic Books as Augustine: Conversions to Confessions. Prize judge professor Julia Smith said in part that the book is "grounded in [St. Augustine's] direct experience of the world around him--the people he knew, those he loved, his emotions and intense physical experiences, whether of pain, lust, pleasure or anger... Beautifully written in a crystalline prose where not a word is out of place, it's a book to read in a garden, or the shady courtyard of a Mediterranean villa, as well as in the study or library."

Nikolaus Wachsmann for KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps (published in the U.S. by Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Judge Smith said in part, "Wachsmann consistently brings shrewd historical judgement paired with great moral integrity to wrestling with some of the hardest questions a historian can face... Commencing in 1933, he charts the evolution and politics of the [Nazis'] entire institutional apparatus of repression and extermination of criminals, communists, the disabled, gypsies, homosexuals and others, as well as Jews. Importantly, he blends this with detailed attention to the experiences of both the sufferers and their tormenters, making this history in the round--from below as well as above."

Each winner receives £30,000 (about $43,075).

How to Be Miserable in the Book Biz

Randy Paterson

We asked psychologist Randy J. Paterson, author of How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use (New Harbinger), if his strategies could be applied to booksellers. "Of course," he said, "running a bookstore these days is stressful. It can be difficult to sustain a rosy outlook, even though e-reader usage seems to have leveled off and the long-rumored extinction of the printed word seems to have been overstated.

"The struggle to keep that smile pasted on can be just too much. So in keeping with the book's principles, let's turn it around. If unhappiness is easier, then let's embrace it. Here's how:

  • Contrast the sales figures for your "Literature" section with those for diet guides. Consider phasing it out altogether in favor of adult coloring books.
  • Read every happiness book in the store. Nothing can make you miserable faster than contemplating all those cheerful stories.
  • Count the middle-aged adults buying "young adult" fiction--but clearly not for their kids.
  • Attempt to sustain eye contact with purchasers of "Fifty Shades" imitators. (Actually, this can be amusing.)
  • Try to explain to the self-published poet why you don't need more than four seats for a reading.
  • Neglect to give the re-varnished cash register stool sufficient time before you sit on it all day.
  • Ask if your landlord will accept overstock in lieu of rent.
  • Get take-out for lunch from the nearest fast food outlet and eat behind your own counter.
  • Hide in the storeroom the next time someone asks, "Do you have anything about teen vampires?"

"Or, alternatively:

"Go for a walk at lunch. Bring something healthy to eat into work. Read something you like, even if you don't stock it. Remind yourself that you inspire literacy by your very existence. You are on the side of culture, creativity, education, and imagination. And rest easy: no one will ever attack you for being one of the 1%."

Book Review

Review: The Invoice

The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson (Hogarth, $24 hardcover, 9781101905142, July 12, 2016)

The absurdities of life coupled with the strangely surreal are hallmarks of Swedish actor and playwright Jonas Karlsson's work. In his first novel, The Room, Karlsson set up a Kafkaesque scenario in which his protagonist Bjorn, an overly conscientious government bureaucrat discovers--on his way to the office toilet--a secret room. The presence of that room, and Bjorn's regular visits to it, a room only he can see and enter, changes his perception of himself and his coworkers--and vice versa. The story probes the nature of truth and how one defines life and work.

Karlsson's second novel, The Invoice, again begins with an unlikely premise: a nameless, 39-year-old part-time video store clerk and film aficionado--a loner with only a handful of friends, whose most notable indulgence in life is having a pizza and taking in a movie in his one-room Stockholm apartment--receives a bill for 5.7 million kronor (roughly $875,000) in the mail. Thinking the bill--imprinted with a nondescript logo--is a mistake or a scam, the narrator disregards it. The next month, he receives another bill in the same amount, but with a surcharge of 150 kronor tacked on as a late payment. When the narrator calls to inquire, he makes matters worse as it is soon discovered that he owes even more than originally calculated. "What am I supposed to be paying for?" the narrator asks. "Everything," says the representative, Maud, a woman who, over time, becomes more empathetic toward the store clerk. "Being alive costs," she tells him. To which the narrator replies, "I had no idea it was so expensive."

Through a cryptic, engrossing storyline that snowballs with staggering, thought-provoking complications, Karlsson reveals more about his underachieving hero. The man becomes embroiled in red tape, psychological tests and meetings that pit him against an interrogative bureaucracy out to scrutinize and bill him, along with all of Swedish citizenry, for the "personal quantity of Experienced Happiness" in life. The narrator, who owns little of material value, admits, "I was undeservedly happy with my tranquil existence.... I couldn't really think of any injustice that had left any deep scars." He is ultimately forced to defend himself: "I haven't done anything at all with my life. Not a thing. I haven't traveled or studied or applied myself to anything." Therefore, it seems contradictory that the heftiest "happiness tax" in the whole country should be imposed upon someone living such a simple life. Fair or not, this leaves the narrator to scramble for deductions in the form of disclosures about free-floating anxiety, missing his parents and the loss of a secret love. The satirical, philosophical nature of this story--composed primarily as a monologue, interrupted by passages of dialogue--delves into the meaning and purpose of life, how we measure joy and what truly constitutes a sense of accomplishment. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Shelf Talker: A thought-provoking existential comedy about a lowly, Swedish video store clerk who receives an astronomical bill for simply living his life.

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