Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 31, 2017

S&S / Marysue Rucci Books: The Night We Lost Him by Laura Dave

Wednesday Books: When Haru Was Here by Dustin Thao

Tommy Nelson: Up Toward the Light by Granger Smith, Illustrated by Laura Watkins

Tor Nightfire: Devils Kill Devils by Johnny Compton

Shadow Mountain: Highcliffe House (Proper Romance Regency) by Megan Walker


New Bookstore Planned for Booksellers at Laurelwood Site in Memphis

A group of investors in Memphis, Tenn., "is completing plans to open a new bookstore where Booksellers at Laurelwood closed in February," the Commercial Appeal reported. If all goes according to schedule, it will open by mid-August, said John Vergos, one of five organizing investors who are leading a group of about 20 investors in all. The bookstore started as Davis-Kidd Booksellers, retained its name after being acquired by Joseph-Beth Booksellers in 1997, then changed to Booksellers at Laurelwood in 2010 when Joseph-Beth went bankrupt and Neil Van Uum bought the location.

Under a different name, the new shop would occupy 10,000 square feet instead of 25,000, and move its front door to face Perkins Extended, the street that runs past the mall. It "will employ the same core group of experienced staffers, have a restaurant that uses another 3,000 square feet, continue the authors' book-signing events and children's programming, and provide a comfortable reading area complete with racks of curated magazines," the Commercial-Appeal wrote.

"Our goal was to reopen the bookstore, of course, in the same location with reduced square footage and with a favorable lease, keeping the staff intact and finding a good restaurant operator to take over the restaurant piece, and of course, raise the money,'' said Vergos. The other organizing investors are Matthew Crow, president of Mercer Capital; Christy Yabro, a former schoolteacher; Wilson Robbins, who worked at Booksellers as coordinator of the children's books & children's area; and Frank Jones, an investor and regional manager for Cumberland Trust.

Robbins said: "I love books; I've been around books my whole life.... And I don't want to live somewhere where there's not a bookstore. I want to live in a city with an independent bookstore.''

Jones added: "It's a great Memphis bookstore that's been there over 30 years. And it's a community bookstore that so many people have enjoyed so many years. and we'd just like to see it continued.''

Cory Prewitt, Laurelwood Shopping Center's COO, said, "We have a really good group of just fantastic Memphians who are doing the right thing and we're trying to do our best to help facilitate that. And it seems like we're really, really close'' to completing the deal.

"There is a sweet spot for independent bookstores,'' Vergos said. "Amazon is not running everybody out of business.''

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

Amazon to Open Warehouses in Virginia, Texas

Amazon plans to open a new warehouse in Clear Brook, Va., northwest of Washington, D.C., that will be larger than a million square feet and ship larger customer items such as big-screen TVs, kayaks and patio furniture. The company already has three warehouses in Virginia.

Governor Terry McAuliffe commented: "We are proud that Amazon will grow its presence in Virginia with this major investment and new operation that will bring more than 1,000 job opportunities to Frederick County and the northern Shenandoah Valley. Virginia was selected for its business climate, infrastructure, strong workforce, and global competitiveness, and Amazon's expansion is a powerful illustration of our ongoing efforts to build a new Virginia economy. We thank the company for its partnership and commitment to the Commonwealth."

The company has also announced it plans to open its 10th warehouse in Texas, in Katy, near Houston. The million square feet facility will also specialize in larger items.

Katy Mayor Fabol Hughes said, "We know the City of Katy will benefit from this relationship through increased job opportunities for our residents and their support of local Katy businesses. We look forward to working with Amazon and the local team for years to come."

GLOW: Workman Publishing: Atlas Obscura: Wild Life: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Living Wonders by Cara Giaimo, Joshua Foer, and Atlas Obscura

Microsoft Launching Digital Bookstore with April 11 Update

A digital bookstore will be part of the April 11 Microsoft Windows 10 Creators Update. Gizmodo noted: "If, for some very strange reason, you have not already settled on a store from which to purchase all your e-books, and you have not, for some very strange reason, selected an e-reader to read those books with already, then rejoice fair Windows 10 Creators Update user. Because Microsoft now has a bookstore, efficiently called Books in the Windows Store, and you can read those books, which Microsoft promises Gizmodo will be a mix of old public domain classics and new bestsellers, on Windows' built-in browser, Edge."

TechCrunch wrote that Microsoft "is doing something interesting in that it is bringing e-books to the Windows Store, which will be displayed in Edge. At first, this seems like an odd move. We have all been accustomed to using specialized apps and even devices for reading e-books. [Windows general manager Aaron] Woodman, however, argues that while this holds true on mobile, on the PC, the browser is the default place for people to consume text."

Weldon Owen: The Gay Icon's Guide to Life by Michael Joosten, Illustrated by Peter Emerich

Sourcebooks Offers the 'Bookstore Blackout Challenge'

Sourcebooks has launched the Bookstore Blackout Challenge, which will award $2,000 to two independent bookstores and grant $1,000 in reader prizes, in conjunction with the June 6 release of the U.S. edition of Blackout by Marc Elsberg. In the novel, terrorists take out electrical grids across Europe and then the crisis moves to the U.S. and beyond, with the lives of millions of people threatened.

The challenge Sourcebooks is posing to bookstores is to show how they would "Survive the Blackout." Anyone can nominate their independent bookstore at Sourcebooks Bookstore Blackout Challenge. The store with the most votes wins $2,000. The store with the most creative #BlackoutChallenge campaign on social media will also win $2,000. Booksellers can watch the Blackout video for further details

The contest begins May 1 and runs until May 31. Winning bookstores will be announced in June. In addition to bookstores receiving prizes, every customer who votes for their local bookstore will be entered to win a $250 gift card to their local indie bookstore, as well as a blackout survival kit, including tent, sleeping bag, books, flashlight and food. A dozen second-place winners will receive a $50 gift card to their local independent bookstore. 

Graphic Universe (Tm): Hotelitor: Luxury-Class Defense and Hospitality Unit by Josh Hicks

Obituary Notes: Christina Vella; William Powell

Christina Vella, author of "several colorful works of narrative history, notably Intimate Enemies: The Two Worlds of the Baroness de Pontalba, a tale of wealth and scandal in 19th-century France and New Orleans," died on March 22, the New York Times reported. She was 75. Intimate Enemies established Vella "as a meticulous historian with a flair for description and an eye for the telling detail."

Her other books include The Hitler Kiss: A Memoir of the Czech Resistance (co-authored with Radomir Luza); Indecent Secrets: The Infamous Murri Murder Affair; and George Washington Carver: A Life. She had recently completed a biography of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey.

"History is above all a human drama, and peering into it can be as exciting as opening a diary you find in an attic," Vella told Contemporary Authors in 2006, adding: "Any analysis of great movements in history is far more fascinating and trustworthy if we can distinguish individual faces among the masses and hear their voices within the din of abstract ideas."


William Powell, who wrote the infamous The Anarchist Cookbook, "a diagram- and recipe-filled manifesto that is believed to have been used as a source in heinous acts of violence since its publication in 1971," died July 11, 2016, the New York Times reported. He was 66. Powell's family reported his death on Facebook last year, "but few if any obituaries followed. His son Sean said that the people who needed to know had been told, and that the family had not thought of reaching out to newspapers," the Times wrote.

With the recent theatrical release of American Anarchist, a documentary about Powell, his death was noted in the closing credits and drew attention. Director Charlie Siskel, who interviewed Powell for the film in 2015, told the Times: "What interested me was: How do you go through 40 years of your life with his dark chapter in the background? How does one sleep at night or get through the day?"


Image of the Day: Hometown Author

Michael Finkel finished up his whirlwind, 23-event tour for The Stranger in the Woods (Knopf) with an SRO event at his hometown bookstore, Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Mont. Pictured: Finkel (second from left) with (l.-r.) booksellers Wendy Blake Tim Turnquist, Harry Jahnke and Ariana Paliobagis.

Happy 15th Birthday, RiverRun Bookstore!

Congratulations to RiverRun Bookstore, Portsmouth, N.H., which is celebrating its 15th anniversary during the month of April by offering a $150 anniversary gift card that entitles the purchaser to a bonus $30 gift card (which the store suggests buyers spend on themselves). Purchasers of the $150 gift card will also be entered into a drawing to win an additional $500 gift card. If the store sells 150 of the $150 gift cards, it will have a drawing for a $1,000 gift card.

In an e-mail to customers, owner Tom Holbrook said: "Personally, I don't think we can sell 150 of these anniversary gift cards. People just don't buy as many books as they used to. You can prove me wrong, though. I'd like to see it. About 1,000 people will open this e-mail, so only 15% of you have to participate to make it work. If you regularly buy books for birthdays and Christmas, grab two of these special gift cards. Thinking of publishing a book with Piscataqua Press? These gift cards work for that too!

"Obviously, I'd love to just give away a $1,000 gift card, because it's what I would want to win, but we can't afford to do that without a high level of participation from our customers.

"Our customers, who have been so good to us through the years, I thank you. It has been our privilege to serve this town for so long, and we have every intention of doing it for another fifteen. As long as you continue to show up, we will be here.

"This anniversary special, however, won't be seen again until our 20th, so do it, now!"

Cool Idea of the Day: West Feliciana Children’s Book Festival

During this year's ABA Winter Institute in January, Missy Couhig, co-owner of the Conundrum Books & Puzzles in St. Francisville, La., attended the "Starting a Children's Book Festival" education session. From that experience, she was inspired to partner with the West Feliciana Parish Library to host the first annual West Feliciana Children’s Book Festival, which will take place on May 6, during Children's Book Week. Here's the festival's Facebook page.

"We are getting terrific response from authors; we will have author presentations, story times, school presentations, face painting, a sidewalk chalk art competition and of course book sales," Couhig said. "We are very excited about the event and want to spread the word!" 

Personnel Changes at Viking/Penguin; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Sourcebooks

Olivia Taussig has been promoted to senior publicist in the Viking/Penguin publicity department. She joined Viking and Penguin as a publicist a year ago and had previously worked at Other Press, Quercus U.S. and McSweeney's.


Ed Spade has joined Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as director of digital sales and strategy. Previously he was senior account manager for content acquisition for the Ingram Content Group, where he managed the Lighting Source key account sales team and provided account management for the Ingram CoreSource digital distribution program. Prior to Ingram, he was director of digital video and global ebooks for Nickelodeon, and held a variety of roles at the Penguin Young Readers Group.


Katy Lynch is being promoted to senior publicist for children's & young adult at Sourcebooks.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Mark Harris on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Mark Harris, author of Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War (Penguin Books, $18, 9780143126836).

CBS Sunday Morning: Mary Higgins Clark, author of All by Myself, Alone: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, $26.99, 9781501131110).

TV: My Brilliant Friend; Game of Thrones

HBO and Italian state broadcaster Rai are teaming up on My Brilliant Friend, a drama series based on the first of Elena Ferrante's four "Neapolitan Novels" (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave & Those Who Stay and The Story of the Lost Child), Variety reported. Italian director Saverio Costanzo (Private, Hungry Hearts) will helm and help write the 32-part television series with Francesco Piccolo and Laura Paolucci. HBO is on board for the first eight episodes.

Costanzo told Variety that Ferrante's books are "very literary but also very cinematographic" and said he planned to stick as closely as possible to the storyline of the book. "The characters really leap out of the book and come alive. That makes it easier for us to transpose this cinematographically."

"Through her characters, Elena and Lila, we will witness a lifelong friendship set against the seductive social web of Naples, Italy," said HBO programming president Casey Bloys. "An exploration of the complicated intensity of female friendship, these ambitious stories will no doubt resonate with the HBO audience."

"They are characters that each one of us can inhabit no matter what country you are from," Costanzo said. "They are so well told, in such detail, that we can all identify with them and their desire to emancipate themselves.... Elena Ferrante has managed to tell in the first person things that are very intimate, risky, that we all feel but that you need plenty of courage to admit."


HBO unveiled a new teaser trailer for Game of Thrones season 7 that "shows rivals for the Iron Throne taking their seats as they prepare for war in Westeros," Entertainment Weekly reported, noting that  "laid underneath the action is an anachronistic music choice: James' track 'Sit Down,' which includes the lyrics, 'In love, in fear, in hate, in tears.' "

"Having read the books, and watched the series twice, I was very excited when Game Of Thrones asked to use 'Sit Down' for their preview," said James lead singer and lyricist Tim Booth. "I think the last two songs used were 'Heroes' and 'Wicked Game'--so we are in great company.... Now if only they would invite us to perform at Daenery's coronation..."

Books & Authors

Awards: Bobbitt Poetry Winners; Lindquist & Vennum Finalists

The Library of Congress will present the biennial $10,000 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry to Claudia Rankine for her book Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press) and to Nathaniel Mackey for lifetime achievement. Mackey is the author of six poetry collections, most recently Blue Fasa (New Directions). The winners will receive their awards and read selections from their work on April 20 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.


Finalists have been named for the 2017 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry, which "seeks to support outstanding poets residing in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota and bring their work to a national stage." It is presented in partnership by Milkweed Editions and the Lindquist & Vennum Foundation.

The winner receives $10,000 and a contract for publication of the winning manuscript. The finalists will be featured at Milkweed's second annual National Poetry Month Party on April 13. The winner, chosen by poet and judge Srikanth Reddy, will be announced April 19. This year's finalists are:

The Account of Worms by Angela Voras-Hills
Homeboys with Slipped Halos by Michael Torres
Wait by Paige Riehl
To Afar from Afar by Soham Patel
Solve for Desire by Caitlin Bailey
Gatekeeper by Patrick Johnson 

Book Review

Review: No One Can Pronounce My Name

No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal (Picador, $26 hardcover, 400p., 9781250112118, May 2, 2017)

No One Can Pronounce My Name, the second novel by Rakesh Satyal (Blue Boy), pays a humorous, loving visit to the Indian immigrant community of Cleveland, Ohio, where a handful of oddballs and outsiders come together to form a circle of support that changes their lives.

Middle-aged Harit doesn't know how to talk to his mother after his sister, Swati, the glue that held them together, dies in a freak accident. To reach her, he dresses in his sister's sari and pretends he is Swati, giving his grief-stricken and mostly blind parent her favorite child back. Shy and socially maladroit, Harit works sales in a department store, where he becomes friends with flamboyant coworker Teddy, who introduces Harit to alcohol at their local T.G.I. Fridays.

Newly minted empty nester Ranjana thinks her husband, Mohan, has a girlfriend. Not wanting to become the subject of gossip, she keeps her suspicions from her friends and throws herself into writing a vampire novel. The writing group she attends, however, is more contentious than constructive. Her day job as a receptionist at the aptly named Dr. Butt's proctology clinic means putting up with annoying coworker Cheryl. Moreover, her budding friendship with Achyut, a young gay patient and bartender, leads her outside her comfort zone and brings Harit into her orbit.

Ranjana's son, Prashant, a first-year chemistry major at Princeton University, demands space from his parents while he tries on his independence. His powerful crush on Kavita, a fellow ABCD (American-Born Confused Desi) who embraces Hinduism and belongs to the South Asian Student Association, drags Prashant into conflict over whether he wants to escape or embrace his roots.

No One Can Pronounce My Name meditates on immigrants' lifelong struggle for acceptance in the U.S., but also demonstrates that the support of self-made communities of friends can make all the difference. Though the main players' specific circumstances are different, all face loneliness and struggles with identity--concerning which course of study to choose or the difficulties of coming out. Each finds social connection fraught with unbearable awkwardness. While some internal conflicts--such as Ranjana's initial hesitance to socialize with a gay man--stem from cultural values, universal issues of self-acceptance and insecurity more often form the driving force. Satyal delves deeply into each character's past and psyche, mining fragility and heartache like rare jewels. While the introspection at times slows the action, the natural outgrowth of situational comedy balances the pace. Satyal never plays his characters for fools, though, and book clubs will find rich fodder for discussion in this sparkling, deeply felt story of emotional growth. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: In Cleveland's Indian American community, two discontented middle-agers break out of their ruts with help from their friends.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Çedilla & Co.--'Translators Are a Living Bridge'

We believe translators are a living bridge, connecting countries and cultures around the world. We are a versatile group with a unique combination of linguistic, cultural, and market expertise. --Çedilla & Co.

Çedilla & Co., a new collective of literary translators, is hosting a launch event this Sunday at KGB Bar in Manhattan's East Village. Co-sponsored by the PEN America Translation Committee, the evening will feature readings from around the world, showcasing works in translation from the collective's portfolio. The Çedilla team is composed of nine members, working across 10 languages: Allison Markin Powell (Japanese), Alta L. Price (Italian & German), Elisabeth Jaquette (Arabic), Heather Cleary (Spanish), Jeffrey Zuckerman (French), Jeremy Tiang (Chinese), Julia Sanches (Portuguese, Spanish, French & Catalan), Marshall Yarbrough (German) and Sean Gasper Bye (Polish).

I first met Powell, founder of the website Japanese Literature in English, in 2014 when BookExpo's Global Forum showcased "Books in Translation." In a conversation with program coordinator Ruediger Wischenbart, Powell had said that translating is "an immersion into another culture and a reading of signifiers. I do try to gear toward a general reader.... I work within trade publishing. I'm looking for work an American audience might want to read."

We spoke briefly after that session, and recently picked up our conversation again to discuss the new initiative. I had a few questions. Speaking on behalf of the Çedilla team after consulting with her colleagues, Powell had some excellent answers:  

Allison Markin Powell

What was the genesis of Çedilla & Co.?
The idea for Çedilla & Co. sprang from a conversation between two of our founding members [Sanches and Bye] on a chilly Sunday afternoon when both were working to finish their respective translation projects and wishing they didn't have to juggle the freelance work they were passionate about with the occasionally less exciting responsibilities of a full-time job. They discussed the reasons why it wasn't worth it, financially, for a translator to have an agent--nor for an agent to represent a translator. The prospect of a "collective" agency, which some actors have in the U.K., came to mind as a possible model for a literary translators' agency. Instead of one person having to do everything to pitch their own project, the plan would be to represent each other--to pool our resources and efforts, at the same time giving translators some professional remove for the submission process. They wrote up a general business plan, discussed what shape it might take and whether they thought it might actually work, then started approaching other translators to join, and taking the practical steps towards becoming an entity that exists on the Internet. That was about a year and a half ago.

Why now?
Obviously right now there is an urgent need to hear from voices beyond our borders, but the collective had been in the works for some time already, and all of us have been working as translators for years. Looking at the market, there does seem to be increased attention on literature in translation, from Stieg Larsson to Elena Ferrante, and a variety of publishers--mostly independent--that are focusing on it. Many of us have also had positive feedback from booksellers about reader interest in books in translation. So we are hoping all of these indicators point to the opportunity for us to serve the industry to publish more of what they and their readers are looking for, at the same time improving our stake in the process.

Why this particular group of translators? 
We came together based on the range of our language skills, our experience, and what each of us could bring to the collective. Some of us work as full-time translators, others have jobs in publishing; while we're all literary translators, we've worked with a variety of genres--fiction, nonfiction, art and architecture, theater, reportage, essays, biography, graphic and illustrated books. And then some of us know more about contracts and the submission process, others have expertise in web design and social media, and we even have a former bookseller on board. Although we like the idea of representing even more languages, there is a benefit to keeping the number of our members where it is for now (nine translators), mostly in administrative terms.

What are your specific goals, short-term as well as long-term?
We hope to fundamentally change how literature in translation is published in the United States, benefiting not only the publishers and readers, but also advocating for ourselves as translators. Each of us is quite knowledgeable and well positioned within our own language specialty, and that "market intelligence"--as we refer to it--is worth a great deal to publishers as well as to booksellers. We understand how the margins within publishing can be quite narrow, and we know that bringing a book into English can ostensibly be less costly than signing up a new native literary darling. And, as you yourself have written, we want to enable people to seek out literature in translation for the breadth and depth it offers, rather than because of a sense of obligation.

Powell also observed that because translation "is often such solitary work, one of our essential goals is to offer mutual support, encouraging best practices for us as professionals. We've each worked with such range of publishers and literary agencies, and the standards can vary widely, so it's immensely helpful to draw from our collective experience."

Independent booksellers are a key component in the process: "Just like your readers, we are--first and foremost--avid readers," she said. "We frequent indie bookstores nationwide and internationally, and when choosing projects we consider both the original text itself as well as its potential readership here in the English-speaking world. Booksellers are a key part of the publishing ecosystem; we're immensely grateful for your dedication to literature in translation, and look forward to hearing about what you and your readers and customers would like to see more of."

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


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