Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 2, 2016

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

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon

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

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

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

Allida: Safiyyah's War by Hiba Noor Khan

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

Editors' Note

Happy Labor Day!

Because of the Labor Day holiday, this is our last issue until Tuesday, September 6. Enjoy the long weekend!

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


Ralph Nader, Prospective Bookseller

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader is a partner in a group that is testing the viability of a bookstore in Winsted, Conn., the Waterbury Republican-American reported. After Labor Day, the nonprofit store--located in a space where Nader's parents operated a restaurant from the 1920s to the 1970s--will open four days a week for the next six months. Nader has already opened the American Museum of Tort Law in Winsted.

"This is not an entertainment bookstore," Nader said. "It's a bookstore for serious citizens, concerned citizens, curious citizens." He added that the store would sell some novels and children's books, "but it's not going to be a full-service bookstore like a Barnes & Noble."

The bookstore aims to host book signings, lectures and forums for people "interested in civic engagement [and] how we solve problems at the national, state and local levels."

With his partners the Law Works and the Office of the Community Lawyer, Nader is hosting a meeting tomorrow at 11 a.m. in Winsted with area residents to gauge support for the store and to discuss the store's "prospects for community events."

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Intermezzo by Sally Rooney

Curbside Splendor Publishing Launches Chicago Bookstore

Independent press Curbside Splendor recently launched Curbside Books & Records in Revival Food Hall, Chicago Reader reported, adding that for the publisher, "opening a physical location was an opportunity to expand its readership and engage with the broader demographics of downtown foot traffic."

"This new space is important because independent literature is going through a major development right now, where there are a ton of very successful presses," said Curbside's editor-in-chief, Naomi Huffman. "As a group, we're collectively producing some of the nation's most important literature.... Like the restaurants here, we are a sampling of what Chicago has to offer. It makes sense that we are here."

Though the north side of Curbside Books & Records "is exclusively Curbside-issued material, the south end is filled with items from other smaller presses such as Drag City and Rescue Press," Chicago Reader noted. "The outlet also offers independently produced records from Chicago-based labels like Grand Jury, a testament to Curbside's 'deep roots in music.' "

TimeOut Chicago had called the new store one of "5 things to check out at the Revival Food Hall opening today."

Anderson's Bookshops Opening Toy Store

Anderson's Bookshops, which has bookstores in Naperville, Downers Grove and La Grange, Ill., is opening a toy store in Naperville. Anderson's Toyshop will celebrate its grand opening on Saturday, September 10, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Anderson's has sold toys for years, but the new 2,000-square foot-store, separate from the Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, will offer many more toys. The site had been Two Doors East, an Anderson gift shop.

"We're trying to fill a void for a general toy store and offering a great selection of high quality toys, games, crafts and puzzles," Katie Anderson, assistant toy buyer and daughter of co-owner Tres Anderson, told the paper. "We want this to be a place where kids can come and be themselves and get excited because we're excited to share this with our customers."

Anderson indicated that Anderson's Toyshop will add "more dress-up toys and baby-focused playthings. We are pleased to bring in new lines and have room to try some items we haven't had space to carry."

The grand opening celebration for Anderson's Toyshop will include storytime, refreshments, craftmaking and demonstrations, costumed characters and raffle drawings.

B&N Adding Fifth Books & Booze Location

Legacy West in Plano, Tex., will add a new Barnes & Noble concept store to its shopping center, the fifth such B&N location, featuring a restaurant with an expanded menu, along with beer and wine. The 9,000-square-foot store is scheduled to open in March 2017.

"It's a tremendous opportunity to join the list of 'best in class' restaurants and merchants opening at Legacy West," said David Deason, v-p of development at B&N. "We are excited to be opening a smaller format store, as part of a number of different concept stores that we're testing nationwide." The company is also rolling out the concept stores in Eastchester, N.Y.; at the Edina Galleria in Edina, Minn.; at the Palladio in Folsom, Calif.; and at One Loudoun in Ashburn, Va.

Legacy West developer Fehmi Karahan commented: "Having a new Barnes & Noble concept store join Legacy West is a huge win; it provides the community a unique experience where people can relax, discover great new books, or meet a friend to listen to an author speak and have a glass of wine. We're proud to deliver that experience at Legacy West."

Print Remains Most Popular Format, Pew Study Shows

Some 65% of adult Americans have read a print book in the last year while just 28% had read an e-book, according to a new Pew Research Center study of reading conducted in March and April. (See an AP story here, and the full report here.) Altogether 73% of respondents had read a book, whether printed or digital, in the past year.

Among other findings: about 40% of respondents read only print books, while 6% read e-books exclusively. 14% had listened to an audiobook. Some 15% of e-book aficionados prefer a tablet, 13% like cell phones and only 8% use dedicated e-readers. Tablet and phone reading has grown substantially in the past five years while e-reader usage has remained flat. Smartphones are "playing an especially prominent role in the e-reading habits of certain demographic groups, such as non-whites and those who have not attended college." More women have read a book (77%) than men (68%). Americans read an average of 12 books last year.

Obituary Note: Annie Randall

Bookseller Annie Randall, owner of used bookstore the Village Booksmith in Baraboo, Wis., died August 26. She was 69. "Baraboo lost its local 'booksmith' this week, a gracious woman whose endearing personality touched the lives of many," the News Republic noted, adding: "As word spread, people who knew Randall flocked to the bookstore to pay their respects." She worked at various bookstores in Madison before opening the Village Booksmith.

Keri Olson, a friend, said Randall connected with everyone she met: "Annie was a bright spirit. She was extremely intellectual, well read and had the ability to reach out to people and make them feel welcome.... The store is in the center of the heart of this community. I hope whoever runs it will have the same kind of passion that Annie had."


Happy 10th Birthday, Rediscovered Books!

Congratulations to Rediscovered Books, Boise, Idaho, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary all day tomorrow with games, special discounts, poetry contests, cookies, poetry writing, and book bingo, a kind of scavenger hunt. In addition, in the evening, the store will host the Boise State University Graduate String Quartet.

The Idaho Statesman called the store "a cultural touchstone for Boise's literary community." Laura Delaney, who founded the store with her husband, Bruce, told the paper: "We've made it for 10 years. It's a hugely good feeling to be so well cared for by our customers who make the decision to buy local."

Indie Booksellers 'Who Turn the Page into Politics'

Mayor Karin Wilson explored "the small and intriguing club of independent booksellers who turn the page into politics," including newly elected Fairhope, Ala., Mayor Karin Wilson of Page & Palette in Fairhope, Ala.; Richard Howorth of Square Books in Oxford, Miss.; David Gronbach of Bank Street Book Nook in New Milford, Conn.; Neal Coonerty of Bookshop Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, Calif.; Tim Lowry of Lowry's Books in Three Rivers, Mich.; and Eric Papenfuse of Midtown Scholar bookstore in Harrisburg, Pa.

"Karin is following, if not a well-worn path, certainly a path others have pioneered," said Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association. "Successful booksellers are intimately involved in their communities because that is how they succeed.... It's a logical extension.... Most booksellers take an enormous pride of their knowledge about books. But I think people have things to contribute to their community because of their experience as business people. Part of what comes as second nature is being exposed to every conceivable idea on the planet because of the books you put on your shelves."

Page & Palette is a model for others to emulate, according to Teicher: "You have a perfect example of a store that is innovative, creative and keeps reinventing themselves. And they remain heavily engaged into the life of the community they are in."

'The Furry Faces of Bookselling'

Indie booksellers around the country "foster a sense of warmth and community in their stores while also setting themselves apart. Bookstore pets--like the collection of chickens, ferrets, chinchillas, and more at Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis or the litters of kittens looking for 'furrever' homes at Horton's Books & Gifts in Carrollton, Ga.--inspire an extra smile from customers browsing the stacks for their next great read," Bookselling This Week reported in a feature on bookshop pets, the "furry faces of bookselling."

Otis Squee Petunia

"I just love cats. And they are just fabulous marketing tools," said Jessica Osborne, owner of E. Shaver, Bookseller in Savannah, Ga., citing one-year-olds Mr. Eliot and Bartleby. "We really lucked out because they are the nicest cats ever; they're super friendly. You can pick them up and carry them around. They give the store a warmth.... They've really been a joy."

Customers at Clues Unlimited in Tucson, Ariz., "are greeted by Bosco the greyhound, a sweetheart of a dog who remembers every customer who has ever given him a treat," BTW wrote. 

"Even if I weren't a pet fanatic, I would probably [have a bookstore pet] because it brings in so many people; it makes me stand out from other stores in Tucson," said owner Christine Burke. "I think that the more you have relationships with people, the better things go. They'd rather go out of their way to come here than click on Amazon."

Otis the cat of Loganberry Books, Shaker Heights, Ohio, has his own Twitter account, where he goes by the name Otis Squee Petunia. "We have negotiated a firm contract that includes Sundays and holidays off, construction or special events days off, as well as the occasional open-door day at Loganberry or days where Otis plays chase at home and wins, thereby assuring himself a hooky day," said owner Harriett Logan. "But he is here most days and has an avid fan club. His chief jobs include greetings, promotion, and cheer."

Longtime Field Sales Rep Doug Rogers Retires Today

Doug Rogers

Congratulations to Doug Rogers, longtime field sales rep who is retiring today after 18 years at Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, S.C. Before that, he worked at Waldenbooks for nearly 20 years. He went on sales trips 45 weeks of the year, selling to bookstores in just about every state. In the past few years, he's worked closer to home as a sales rep on the independent sales team in the Southeast region. Rogers has lived for most of his life in the small town of Camden, S.C., and, in his retirement, he said, "I know I want to give back to the town that has supported me so nicely during my time on the road."

Arcadia said that Rogers's "warm and genuine approach has endeared him to thousands of customers, authors and coworkers."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Dave Barry on Weekend Edition

NPR's Weekend Edition: Dave Barry, author of Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland (Putnam, $27, 9781101982600).

Diane Rehm repeat: Charles B. Dew, author of The Making of a Racist: A Southerner Reflects on Family, History, and the Slave Trade (University of Virginia Press, $23.95, 9780813938875).

Movies: In Dubious Battle

The first trailer has been released for In Dubious Battle, adapted from the novel by John Steinbeck. Deadline reported that "James Franco directs and stars alongside Nat Wolff and an impressive ensemble cast," which includes Vincent D'Onofrio, Bryan Cranston, Ed Harris, Sam Shepard, Selena Gomez, Josh Hutcherson, Ashley Greene, John Savage and Zach Braff. Matt Rager (The Sound and the Fury) wrote the script.

Books & Authors

Reading with... Alex Marwood

photo: Geraint Lewis

Alex Marwood is the author of The Darkest Secret (Penguin, August 30, 2016), a psychological suspense novel about a missing child, a funeral and the destructive power of narcissism. A former journalist, she worked in the U.K. press for a decade. Her first novel, The Wicked Girls, won the Paperback Original Edgar in 2014, and her second, The Killer Next Door, was Macavity Best Mystery Novel for 2015.

On your nightstand now:

I replaced my nightstand with a bedside bookcase because I'm a book gannet and the old unit collapsed under the weight in the small hours one morning. It's one of those shelving units that's divided into sections. On the right I keep research books. There are 13, including Raven by Tim Reiterman--a biography of Jim Jones--Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard, Going Clear by Lawrence Wright, the DSM-5, a cold-reading handbook and a book on poisonous fungi. These are all related to the novel I'm working on now, though the DSM lives there permanently. The central compartment is my Crime TBR pile, which is always heaving with psychological suspense. I have hit so lucky lately; read Laura Lippman's Wilde Lake, Alison Gaylin's What Remains of Me, Megan Abbott's You Will Know Me and Sabine Durrant's Lie with Me in a row and they were all breathtaking. On the right are a selection of books I've picked up randomly, around 20 at the moment, including Alaa Al Aswany's The Yacoubian Building, What's Left, a polemic by the magnificent British political writer Nick Cohen and Patrick Dennis's Auntie Mame, which a friend gave me yonks ago and is still on my "I really must read this" list.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis. The Narnia books got darker and darker (and increasingly mischievous) as they went along, and, though this is ostensibly the first in the series, it was actually the second-last in publication order. I must have reread the descriptions of Charn, the dying city under a dying sun, a thousand times. And the poem beneath the bell that Digory strikes, setting off the whole chain of events, is one of the maxims which still frequently passes through my head today.

Your top five authors:

Stephen King, George Eliot, Kurt Vonnegut, Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell and Kitty Kelley.

Book you've faked reading:

I don't bother to fake having read a book, but I've faked having finished quite a few. I definitely remember pretending to have finished Gabriel García Márquez's A Hundred Years of Boredom, though I think I gave up a hundred pages shy of the end.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I've sold a zillion copies of Future Babble, Dan Gardner's 2010 study of why expert predictions are almost guaranteed to fail and are often even less reliable than those of your average bod in the street, to friends. Everyone should read this book; it will render you forever less vulnerable to propaganda of all sorts.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. Fortunately, I also really liked the book; it's acute and funny and sad. The cover, with its colorfully retro image of 1940s teenagers playing leapfrog, made me snatch it off the shelves at a motorway service station.

Book you hid from your parents:

I didn't have to. My parents didn't really notice what I was reading. Besides, I learned young to keep my bedroom so untidy that no one ever went in there.

Book that changed your life:

If This Is a Man, Primo Levi's shockingly poetical memoir of his years in Auschwitz. I must have read this when I was 22, 23. Of course I knew the facts of the Holocaust, but the raw immediacy of it, Levi's depiction of the mental destruction that goes alongside the torture and the starvation, his clear and yet surprisingly merciful view of the people who passed beyond the fence and walked on--it changed something quite fundamental in me.

Favorite line from a book:

"Make your choice, adventurous Stranger,
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had."
That poem from C.S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew.

Five books you'll never part with:

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, Misery by Stephen King, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, The Kappillan of Malta by Nicholas Monsarrat and Adam Bede by George Eliot.

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

The Magus by John Fowles. The first time, before you know where it's going, is beyond mesmerizing. I literally didn't sleep until I'd finished it, and it's a fat book. I just wish I hadn't spoiled it for myself by reading it a second time and discovering all the plot holes and pretension.

Book Review

Review: The Angel of History

The Angel of History by Rabih Alameddine (Atlantic Monthly Press, $26 hardcover, 304p., 9780802125767, October 4, 2016)

Death, to a degree unlike any other life event, spurs a person to recall the past, even when he desperately wishes to forget. Jacob, the aging Arab American poet in The Angel of History, has kept company with death for years, watching every close friend he has known wither away in the AIDS epidemic. Now Death is holding court with Satan and a host of saints in Jacob's apartment, the poet's fiendish cat Behemoth their only audience, as Jacob flees in search of his sanity. In the spirit of Mikhail Bulgakov's satirical masterpiece The Master and Margarita, Rabih Alameddine conjures an elegiac comedy with aplomb, his incantations rich with sincerity and irreverence.

The National Book Award finalist for An Unnecessary Woman warmly introduces a charming devil, who proceeds to interview the many guiding spirits of Jacob's life in the poor man's living room, asking Death, the foremost, "Why do you remember him?" To which Death responds, "He is an Arab, so I would have to attend to his loved ones sooner rather than later." Their conversations crowd into the stream of Jacob's consciousness as he sits in the waiting room at a mental health clinic, hoping desperately to escape the memories of loss that have haunted him since childhood.

Born Ya'qub to the young Yemeni maid of a wealthy Lebanese family, the illegitimate child of the couple's son, the poet knows strife from the beginning: seeing his mother degraded in a brothel, being stripped of his dignity by nuns at his Catholic school, his heritage stirring hatred in the hearts of Americans. He moves to San Francisco, a haven for homosexuals like him, to discover new forms of shame and fresh iterations of cruelty, with naught but a small island of friends to buoy him before it, too, dissolves, in a torrent of fevers and Kaposi sarcomas. These memories, prompted by Satan, flash through Jacob's mind against his will as he waits to see a psychiatrist. Eager to be locked away for several days for observation, Jacob finds momentary solace in objectifying his beefy clinic attendant, a dead-ringer for Lou Ferrigno. "Would I be able to take him home with me after I was done here?"

Alameddine is an entrancing storyteller, imbuing the quotidian with magnificence and undermining solemnity with sauciness. As endearing as he is ribald, Jacob is the remnant of a generation lost to illness, shouting at oblivious young gay men, "How can you not know your history... how can you allow the world to forget us... the grand elision of queer history?"--even as he would like nothing more than to unlearn his own painful past. Adrift and slightly unhinged, Jacob is a beautiful soul shredded by an unholy host of invisible forces. The Angel of History is outstanding, a novel that leaves a lasting mark. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Shelf Talker: National Book Award finalist Rabih Alameddine magnificently conjures Satan and Death as armchair commentators on the tragedies that one gay Arab American poet has faced in his life.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: After The Unquiet Daughter Found Me

I am the sequel he never wrote. --Danielle Flood, The Unquiet Daughter

When I find the right book, or when the right book finds me, it's cause for celebration. There should be a ceremony. Maybe that's what this column is.

The Unquiet Daughter: A Memoir of Betrayal and Love by Danielle Flood was released yesterday by Piscataqua Press, which is run by Tom Holbrook, owner of RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, N.H.

Flood was a staff writer for the Associated Press and five newspapers, has freelanced for many publications and is currently working on three novels. She managed to earn a U.S. Coast Guard fishing boat captain's license along the way, and is a self-described "proud Mom" who lives with her husband, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, in Ogunquit, Maine. But (and herein lies an amazing tale), she was also the daughter of a complex (woefully inadequate word in this case) French/Vietnamese woman who was part of a wartime love triangle that inspired the one in Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American.

That was the initial hook I stumbled upon earlier this summer, and how the book found me. I'd read Greene's novel many times over the years, and was intrigued to know more about the story behind The Unquiet Daughter. While the Greene connection may have lured me in, it was Flood's compelling "sequel" that kept me riveted as she chronicled her often harrowing childhood, an intensive search for her real father, and finally the unraveling of impossibly fine threads woven between her parents' lives and Greene's fiction. Journalist and storyteller are in perfect sync in these pages.

Danielle Flood

I was also fascinated by the story of how The Unquiet Daughter had found its way to Piscataqua Press. So I asked both Flood and Holbrook to share that tale.

"For the last three years, Piscataqua Press has been doing what I tend to call 'assisted self-publishing,' and it's safe to say that our publishing endeavor has been instrumental in keeping the bookstore going," Holbrook said. "As we've been doing this, we've been keeping our eye out for books that we could produce as a regular publisher; books that we thought had the merit to be published by the big publishers but just never made it there. As a longtime bookseller, I've always secretly wanted to publish a book that was a commercial success. Danielle Flood has had a long career as a professional journalist, and I believe spent some time shopping the book through an agent before coming to us. I recognized right away that not only was the quality of the book a cut above, but that Dani had the ambition and drive to make sure that the book found readers."

Flood told me that she'd had an offer six years ago from one of the then Big Six publishers, "but 'something happened' and I don't talk about it because it wasn't the fault of the executive editor involved and I don't want her publicly embarrassed. As far as I'm concerned her strong actions in support The Unquiet Daughter were something that kept me fueled emotionally until publication." Two other big publishers had the manuscript for a month each, but Flood said her "disappointment when all fell apart caused me to be unable to try and sell the book again and unable to work on it for about four years." She left her agent when he declined to seek out independent and university presses. 

Tom Holbrook

Eventually, however, the story took an unexpected turn: "RiverRun and I decided upon each other after I discovered it while looking in its bookstore window. I saw a charming little sign that said: 'We Publish Books.' Tom Holbrook does help some authors get self-published, but this is not a self-published book; I don't need to self-publish a book, though I thought about it. Tom is publishing me and I find it kind of lovely that his little publishing house and my book support his independent bookstore. There's some kind of symphony there, it seems. And, what a breath of crisp, new air: I am treated nicely with respect, politeness; after the struggle, it's a delight."

The Graham Greene connection was not the primary reason for Holbrook being drawn to The Unquiet Daughter. "I was more interested in the mommy dearest type childhood, and the way Dani was able to portray that story through the eyes of her younger self," he recalled. "There are things going on that the reader understands but that young Dani doesn't understand--and this is a tough trick to pull off. There was a point in the book where somebody she was counting on actually came through for her, and I heard myself exhale because I had been so tense waiting for the next terrible thing to happen."

Flood said she is "excited about release day because I know in my heart that my book will help a lot of people and they will finally get to experience it. I wrote The Unquiet Daughter so that the fatherless feel less alone and in hopes that some young men and women would see how much it mattered to someone to have a father and that they might hang in there and stay together for a child, or at least stay in touch with their child. Just because plenty of people don't have fathers in their lives doesn't mean it's okay. It's not okay."

And now, a gifted author and a dedicated indie bookseller/publisher are just looking for some readers.

"I love, love stories and I love David and Goliath stories," Flood observed. "I am in favor of the thriving of all bookstores, but especially the smaller independent bookstores that in their spunk to stay alive sing of their identities and struggle to prevail. I say: bravo and bravissima. The independent bookstore is and can forever be a strong community force and book reading the best form of entertainment I can imagine."

Holbrook added: "We've found a side business that takes a lot of work, but is very rewarding and deeply tied to our mission, so much more fun than selling socks or coffee mugs or other sidelines. And who knows? We might find the next big thing--stranger things have happened."

Booksellers with questions about wholesale pricing or author events for The Unquiet Daughter can contact Holbrook directly at

I'm glad The Unquiet Daughter found me this summer. That in itself is a story with a happy ending.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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