Also published on this date: Monday, July 18, 2016: Maximum Shelf: When in French: Love in a Second Language

Shelf Awareness for Monday, July 18, 2016

Hachette: Public Affairs 25th Anniversary

St. Martin's Griffin: The Lost Witch by Paige Crutcher

Tordotcom: Leech by Hiron Ennes

Harper: The Mosquito Bowl: A Game of Life and Death in World War II by Buzz Bissinger

St. Martin's Press: Newsroom Confidential: Lessons (and Worries) from an Ink-Stained Life by Margaret Sullivan

St. Martin's Press: Althea: The Life of Tennis Champion Althea Gibson by Sally H. Jacobs

Del Rey Books: Luda by Grant Morrison

Berkley Books: Better Than Fiction by Alexa Martin


Bookstore Sales Rise Again in May, Up 3.1%

May bookstore sales rose 3.1%, to $826 million, compared to May 2015, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau.

This marked the ninth month in a row that bookstore have risen, following a gain of 9.7% in April, 10.7% in March, 7.2% in February, 3.8% in January, 9.6% in December, and rises of nearly 7% in September and October and 7.5% in November.

For the year to date, bookstore sales have risen 6.1%, to $4.66 billion.

Total retail sales in May rose 1.5%, to $469.5 billion. For the year to date, total retail sales have risen 3.1%, to $2,129 billion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing a general line of new books. These establishments may also sell stationery and related items, second-hand books, and magazines."

University of Notre Dame Press: An Inconvenient Apocalypse: Environmental Collapse, Climate Crisis, and the Fate of Humanity by Wes Jackson and Robert Jensen

Quail Ridge Books Opening Today in New Location

Congratulations to Quail Ridge Books, which is opening today in its new location, in the North Hills area in Raleigh, N.C., according to the News & Observer. The first event in the new space takes place this evening and features Elizabeth George. A grand opening celebration is planned for the weekend of July 23-24.

The store had been operating from a temporary location across the street since March as its new site was being renovated and a second floor added. The new space features "reading nooks, cozy chairs and whimsical feathered light fixtures," the newspaper wrote. Owner Lisa Poole said, "I wanted sort of an eclectic look, a sort of old bookstore look with a funky look."

The 9,000-square-foot store also has "cherished items" from the old store, including signed photographs of visiting authors. Its second story includes staff offices and a balcony.

Store manager Sarah Goddin told the News & Observer that late Quail Ridge founder Nancy Olson would love the new Quail Ridge location. "She'd be amazed."

University of Minnesota Press: The Ski Jumpers by Peter Geye

Cultivator Bookstore to Open in Murfreesboro, N.C.

Cultivator's future location

With the help of an IndieGoGo campaign that aims to raise $7,500 for rent and startup costs, Caroline Stephenson plans to open a bookstore in Murfreesboro, N.C., bringing the first general independent to "a small, rural town that has never had one before." With a month left, the campaign has already raised more than $3,100.

The store will be called the Cultivator, but as Stephenson wrote: "Cultivator is more than just a bookstore. It's a gathering place for the community to forge unity and progress.... It will be a place where local artists will have their work on display and for sale. Community members will be able to place their books on consignment. Artists will hold art workshops and art talks. Authors will hold book signings and discussions. Book clubs will gather... our plan is to start small and local, featuring a variety of new and used books, textbooks, and art by local authors and artists, and grow from there."

On IndieGoGo, Stephenson calls herself a "Mom, educator, filmmaker, book lover, and Northeastern NC native." She's also a freelance film director who works on TURN: Washington's Spies, the AMC series about colonial espionage. As noted by the News & Observer, which says the store is opening in August, Stephenson moved back from Los Angeles in 2010, "bringing her German-born film editor husband Jochen Kunstler and their three children to live on the 160-acre family farm in nearby Como."

And her father is Frank Stephenson, Jr., who's written extensively about the area.

GLOW: Union Square & Co.: The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond by Amanda Glaze

San Francisco's Booksmith Celebrates Turning 40

Praveen Madan, Christin Evans, Gary and Debbie Frank.

On Saturday evening, friends and fans filled the Booksmith to celebrate the 40th anniversary of this beloved institution in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. The store was founded in 1976 by Gary and Debbie Frank--who met as undergrads at UC Berkeley's bookstore--and in 2007 the Franks carefully selected their successors: Christin Evans and Praveen Madan, who at the time had no significant bookstore experience. (They were always book people, of course.) Since then, Evans and Madan founded the Berkeley Arts and Lecture Series and bought Kepler's in Menlo Park and expanded its Arts and Lecture Series on the Peninsula.

Saturday's party was all about Booksmith's success in the Haight. Evans said it took the "whole village" of their staff to create the festive event. In particular she cited three staffers--Amy Stephenson, Camden Avery and Lauren O'Neil--who stepped up to managerial roles after Madan and Evans took over Kepler's. "They really keep this place running," Evans said.

A packed store with Evans's parents in the foreground talking with a customer.

Beneath a screen displaying streaming images of customers and of the many famous faces who have held events at the store (Neil Gaiman, Patti Smith, Grace Slick...) over the years, people shared their favorite moments at Booksmith. Gary Frank recalled the time when Robin Williams--a regular customer--challenged his friend Harlan Ellison to write a short story with the premise "Computer Vampyre" while sitting in the window of the store, which he did; the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story about it with the headline "How Much Is that Writer in the Window?"

But as much fun as it is host big-name authors, Evans said, an equal pleasure of owning Booksmith is the relationships she and the staff enjoy with all their customers. One such customer and neighbor, author Kevin Smokler, offered this summation: "Booksmith is the Golden Gate Bridge of Haight-Ashbury. It's beautiful, anchoring and vitally necessary." --Bridget Kinsella

Del Rey Books: Luda by Grant Morrison

Amazon's Bezos Has Alien Cameo in Star Trek Beyond

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has been able "to live out every Trekkie's fantasy by playing an alien in the new Star Trek movie," according to the Associated Press. Producer J.J. Abrams and director Justin Lin confirmed his appearance in Star Trek Beyond, which opens Friday.

Lin told the AP that Bezos "was awesome. It was like a president was visiting, you know? He had a big entourage! But it didn't matter because he was so into it. He had to wait around all day because it was one day we were shooting like three different scenes and, it was also credit to Jeff because... he just nailed it every time."

Chris Pine, who stars as Capt. James T. Kirk, said, "I was there for the bit with his like nine bodyguards and three limos. It was really intense. I had no idea who he was. Not a clue. But he was obviously very important."

What kind of alien Bezos plays was not disclosed. We're betting he's a Ferengi.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Old Place by Bobby Finger

Obituary Note: Péter Esterházy

Hungarian author Péter Esterházy died last Tuesday. He was 66 and had suffered from cancer.

Die Zeit called Esterházy, next to Imre Kertész and Péter Nádas, "the most important contemporary Hungarian author," highly popular in Central Europe, with a "witty and post modern style." Reuters wrote: "Employing a stop-and-go rhythm, his writing concentrated on twists and surprises rather than straight narrative lines, combining personal experiences with references, quotes and all shades of jokes from sarcasm to toilet humor, sometimes including texts of other authors."

Much of his work concerned his family--which was one of the wealthiest in Austria-Hungary--and the experience of living in both a Communist and post-Communist state.

Esterházy's major works include Celestial Harmonies, A Little Hungarian Pornography and The Glance of the Countess Hahn-Hahn (Down the Danube). In 2004, he won the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.


Image of the Day: Alexie at Inklings

Inklings Bookshop in Yakima, Wash., hosted Sherman Alexie for a reading and signing last week that filled all 420 seats in the off-site venue, the Seasons Performance Hall. It was Alexie's first event in the area in a decade, and judging by the joy and enthusiasm of the attendees, he's been missed. Despite a long signing line and a flood that shut down all of the building's bathrooms (which prompted Alexie to quip "Indian translation: Sunday night at the powwow"), a great time was had by all. Pictured: Inklings staff and volunteers from the local library posing with Alexie at the end of a long evening.

Pop Quiz: Working for the Strand in NYC

"For nearly a century, the Strand bookstore has symbolized not only inexpensive books, but something just as valuable: full-time work for those whose arcane knowledge outweighs their practical skills," the New York Times noted in an article focusing on the Strand's hiring practices, including the legendary book quiz that is part of its application.

For NYC newbies of the bookish persuasion, a job at the Strand offers "something like instant New Yorker status. The Strand employees are known for being 'curmudgeonly' but also clever, even cool: Former employees include Patti Smith and Luc Sante," the Times wrote, adding that "for about four decades, however, applicants have confronted a final hurdle to enter its ranks: the literary matching quiz.... About 60 people apply for a job at the Strand every week; typically only a couple are hired."

Strand co-owner Fred Bass called the quiz "a very good way to find good employees.... Without good people, you don't have anything going.”

Women & Children First Bookstore: 'Prime Day' Response

From the Facebook page of Women & Children First Bookstore, Chicago, Ill.:

"We heard that Amazon Prime Day occurred earlier this week. These pics of some events that happened in our store over the past several days offer a beautiful reminder of what Amazon does not deliver that your local feminist bookstore offers weekly. This week alone, we hosted our Sappho's Salon with Ada Cheng, Kai Love, and Goddess Warrior, and our co-hosts Eileen Tull and Liz Baudler. We held powerful, hugely entertaining readings by Lili Wright, Martin Pousson, and Yi Shun Lai. In our space, there were approximately a million laughs, hugs, moments of delight, and moments of discovery. Thank you so much to every one of you who walked through our door. We ❤ and appreciate you."

U.K. Indie Bookshops Are 'Fighting Back'

Independent booksellers in the U.K. are "fighting back, boosted by a surge in printed book sales--particularly children's books--and innovative approaches to getting people through the door," the Guardian reported, adding that "figures to be released this month from Nielsen Book Research show that, in the first half of this year, Britons bought more than 78 million books. That's almost 4 million more than in the same period in 2015."

"You can't just exist as a bookshop nowadays; you have to make it a place where people want to hang out," said Vanessa Lewis, co-owner of the Book Nook in Hove, a "small independent store beat national rivals such as Waterstones and Foyles to win children's bookseller of the year," the Guardian noted.

Betsy Tobin and Tessa Shaw opened their north London bookshop Ink@84 at the end of last year in Highbury, north London. "We took over what used to be an estate agent, and people in the community practically fell on their knees with gratitude. They couldn't believe something like this was opening on their doorstep," said Tobin.

Edinburgh Bookshop's owner, Marie Moser, will brew you a cup of tea if you look like you need one: "We're always putting the kettle on for people." she said, noting that the indie resurgence does not surprise her: "I never believed the book was dead. These things take a hundred years to shake out.... If you say the A-word in my shop, you get a honk with our car hooter."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Delia Ephron on Diane Rehm

Tonight Show: Joanna Lumley, author of Absolutely: A Memoir (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, $22.99, 9780297867609).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Ron Suskind, author of Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism (Kingswell, $14.99, 9781484741238).

Today Show: David Boudia, co-author of Greater Than Gold: From Olympic Heartbreak to Ultimate Redemption (Thomas Nelson, $24.99, 9780718077419).

Diane Rehm: Delia Ephron, author of Siracusa (Blue Rider, $26, 9780399165214).

Wendy Williams: Pat Cleveland, author of Walking with the Muses: A Memoir (Atria/37 INK, $26.99, 9781501108228).

Comedy Central's At Midnight: Dave Holmes, author of Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs (Crown Archetype, $26, 9780804187985).

TV: The Mist

Spike TV is "building out the cast for its straight-to-series drama The Mist," based on the Stephen King novella, by adding eight actors ahead of start-of-production later this summer, Deadline reported. Joining the cast are Okezie Morro, Darren Pettie, Russell Posner, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Gus Birney, Dan Butler, Luke Cosgrove and Danica Curcic.

Books & Authors

Awards: Singapore Literature; William Mills Winners

English-language winners of the 2016 Singapore Literature Prize are:

English Fiction winner: The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew

English Poetry co-winners:
I Didn't Know Mani Was a Conceptualist by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingde
The Lover's Inventory by Cyril Wong

English Non-Fiction co-winners:
The Sound of Sch: A Mental Breakdown, A Life Journey by Danielle Lim
When the Party Ends by Peh Shing Huei


The winner of the 2016 William Mills Prize for Non-Fiction Polar Books, awarded every two years by the Polar Libraries Colloquy for "the best Arctic or Antarctic non-fiction books published throughout the world," is White Eskimo: Knud Rasmussen's Fearless Journey into the Heart of the Arctic by Stephen Bown (Merloyd Lawrence Books/Da Capo Press).

At its biennial conference, held last week in Fairbanks, Alaska, the Polar Libraries Colloquy cited White Eskimo as "the first full-scale biography of the explorer and ethnographer who opened up the culture, the language, and the life of the Arctic."

Two other books were awarded Honourary Mentions:

Mammals of Ungava and Labrador: the 1882-1884 Fieldnotes of Lucien M. Turner together with Inuit and Innu Knowledge, edited by Scott A. Heyes and Kristofer M. Helgen (Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press). This title is the first publication, after more than 125 years, of the natural history research of Smithsonian Institution Arctic scientist Lucien McShan Turner, who travelled to Ungava District (Northern Quebec and Labrador) in 1882 for the International Polar Year.

Antarctica: Music, Sounds and Cultural Connections by Bernadette Hince, Rupert Summerson and Arnan Wiesel (ANU Press). The judges said this book "demonstrates the intellectual and creative engagement of artists, musicians, scientists and writers."

Book Review

Review: The Cauliflower

The Cauliflower by Nicola Barker (Holt, $28 hardcover, 304p., 9781627797191, August 9, 2016)

In a fictionalized biography of 19th-century Indian mystic and yogi Sri Ramakrishna, Nicola Barker (The Yips) drops chronology in the blender, rearranging a life's moments into a revelation regarding the nature of faith.

Born in 1836 to a Brahmin family, the young Ramakrishna sought God in many forms and exhibited a particular affinity for Kali, the dark-skinned warrior goddess of destruction, until his death of throat cancer at the age of 50. Barker flings out shards of the mystic's life for the reader's examination, swinging from his birth in 1836 to his last days in 1886 to his earliest period of service at the Dakshineswar Kali Temple in 1857. Along the way, she introduces his supporters, including his nephew and attendant Hridayram, who adores Uncle even if he sometimes wants to throttle him; young wife and spiritual protégée, Sarada Devi; faithful but occasionally childish patron Mathur Nath Biswas; and most especially his benefactor and the founder of his temple, the wealthy widow Rani Rashmoni. A shrewd and calculating champion of religion and her people, "the Rani always plays by the rules. The Rani invents her own rules," exemplifying the contradictory nature of life as a powerful woman in her society. When she appears, the Rani assumes the role of main character in someone else's biography, then fades into the background only to reassert her power later. Wise, capricious, purposely illiterate yet committed to advancing his study of the different methodologies of worship, Ramakrishna acts as both focus and backdrop in the lives of his entourage; their triumphs, toil and frustrations center on the guru, who in turn forswears attachment to any of them in favor of the spiritual realm.

While matters of religion generally carry an impression of weightiness, Barker deftly juggles reverence and humor. Her zigzagging narrative poses serious questions about religious traditions one moment, then turns around and asks the reader to consider the airspeed velocity of a swift--Indian, not European, and laden with a camera. Haikus dance across the page at random intervals to comment on events or encapsulate bits of wisdom: "Live like the mudfish--/ Even though it dwells in filth/ Its skin stays spotless." Script scenes, letters, lists and even a frankly phrased FAQ about Kali round out the unconventional mix of formats. An experiment in reordering time, with which Kali is traditionally associated, Barker's The Cauliflower is as multi-lobed and densely clustered as the vegetable from which it takes its name. A nutritious treat for the intellect and the funny bone. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: Barker offers a witty, asynchronous reimagining of the life of Hindu mystic Sri Ramakrishna.

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