Shelf Awareness for Monday, June 26, 2017

William Morrow & Company: Death of the Author by Nnedi Okorafor

St. Martin's Press: Disney High: The Untold Story of the Rise and Fall of Disney Channel's Tween Empire

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Graphix: 39 Clues: One False Note (39 Clues Graphic Novel #2) by Gordon Korman, Illustrated by Hannah Templer

Running Press: Enter For a Chance to Win a Moonlit Explorer Pack!

Quill Tree Books: The Firelight Apprentice by Bree Paulsen

Quotation of the Day

'A Bookshop Is a Radiant Chapel'

"If books constitute a magical religion that doesn't persecute anyone, then obviously a bookshop is a radiant chapel of that religion. In this strange new world the importance of books and bookshops has taken a quantum leap. I am thrilled, strengthened and frankly improved by receiving this award from this Atlas-like sector of society--may independent bookshops thrive, and indeed be nurtured, till the end of time."

--Author Sebastian Barry, in his remarks after winning this year's U.K. Independent Bookshop Week award in the adult category for Days Without End


Zest Books: The Gender Binary Is a Big Lie: Infinite Identities around the World by Lee Wind


Coretta Scott King Awards: 'Everybody Good? Everybody Crying?'

The crowd at the Coretta Scott King awards.

At the  48th annual Coretta Scott King Book Awards breakfast, held yesterday morning in the grand ballroom of the Hilton Chicago, chair Dr. Pauletta Bracy made a brief introduction, then everyone in attendance stood and sang "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," often referred to as the African American national anthem. Pastor Kimberly L. Ray of Angie Ray Ministries delivered a powerful invocation, followed by brief, forceful comments from ALA president Dr. Julie Todaro: "We are at war. We remain at war," she said, "It's in every corner of our country.... Use this conference for calmness."

Calmness was found in a very quick breakfast, followed immediately by a presentation of the awards and speeches from the winners and honorees. Nicola Yoon, winner of the John Steptoe Award for New Talent (The Sun Is Also a Star,Delacorte), spoke to how books for young readers can (and need to) be mirrors. "When I was growing up, I didn't see a lot of characters that looked like me," she said. "I didn't know that my interior life mattered...." It's important to recognize that "we are more than a stereotype. We are more than the struggle. We get to have joy."

Illustration Honoree R. Gregory Christie (Freedom in Congo Square, author Carole Boston Weatherford; Little Bee Books) spoke softly, remarking upon the special place Louisiana (where Congo Square is located) has in his heart: it is a place with immense cultural and linguistic history and "they have liquor stores you can drive through and get a drink." He said Freedom in Congo Square was one of the most difficult books he's done "career-wise" as he hopes it gives people of color a sense of dignity and a voice. Christie's fellow Illustration Honoree, Jerry Pinkney (In Plain Sight, author Richard Jackson; Neal Porter/Roaring Brook), is a multiple-award-winning illustrator who has spent decades making works for children. Having delivered many an award speech in his time, he spoke briefly, commenting that people have begun asking him how they could possibly do children's books in this political climate. "This is the time we get to work," he said.

Ashley Bryan at the podium

Ashley Bryan received honors in two categories: Illustration and Author (both for Freedom over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life, Atheneum). Although the 93-year-old made his entrance and exit in a wheelchair, he walked to the podium and stood, speaking loudly and passionately, thanking all the dreamers for being here and receiving a standing ovation both at the beginning and the end of his speech. Author Honeree Jason Reynolds (As Brave as You, Atheneum) followed Bryan, opening with, "Everybody good? Everybody crying?" He told a story about his mother, using a conversation about picking and saving potatoes to create a grand metaphor about the need to change the way we teach in primary and secondary schools; people of color and their stories need to be visible in classrooms.

Illustration Winner Javaka Steptoe (Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, Little, Brown), son of late fellow Coretta Scott King Award winner John Steptoe, took the podium next, saying that he "set out to create works that would change the landscape of the multicultural market." Preferring to give speeches spur of the moment, he joked about how they had made him write this one down, but then found himself choked up, unable to continue for many moments. Yells of "you got this!" and "take your time!" came from the crowd until he was ready to continue. "I want this award to help me build better bridges," and to highlight that "the kids and the families are not broken--the system is." He finished with a note to "those who say multicultural titles don't sell. I say this: I still receive checks."

Illustrator Nat Powell and Congressman John Lewis with Shelf Awareness's Siân Gaetano

And then it was time for the Coretta Scott King Author winners: Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin for the third and final volume of March (Top Shelf), chronicling Lewis's activism during the Civil Rights Movement. Due to a family emergency, Aydin was unable to make it, but the book's illustrator, Nate Powell, stepped in for him, taking an emotional moment to read a short message from the absent author: "My mother is dying. She's so proud of this book and she would be mad at me for missing this." Representative Lewis followed: "If someone had told me I would be standing here 52 years ago, I would have told them 'you don't know what you're talking about.' " And yet, there he was, telling the crowd how he and his fellow Civil Rights activists had been prepared to die that day on the bridge. Books build bridges, not walls, he said, and it was books that inspired him to get into trouble--good trouble. It is imperative to "continue to make the truth available."

After the event, Powell remarked on his incredible (though bittersweet) ALA weekend as March: Book Three is honored with a total of four awards: the Coretta Scott King, the Michael L. Printz Award for literary excellence in young adult literature, the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal and the YALSA Nonfiction Award. He said that it has been "intense and fantastic and grounding and so important. With the turbulence and the dread and anxiety of our political climate, present and future, any time you have the chance to come into a space of like-minded individuals--people who believe in ideas--there's a certain kind of peace that comes with that. Comic culture, book culture, nerd culture--it's like a homecoming every single time." Representative Lewis also remarked, "It's been a very moving weekend to have people recognize our book. I think it speaks to what young people did and what young people still do in changing society. It was the young people that led the way. And it will be the young people that lead us in the 21st century."

The last award, the Coretta Scott King Award for Lifetime Achievement, was presented to Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, Professor Emerita at Ohio State University and member of the 2017 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury. She was joined on the jury by Kacie V. Armstrong, Sam Bloom, Erica T. Marks, April Roy, Martha V. Parravano and Ida W. Thompson. --Siân Gaetano

GLOW: Flatiron Books: Private Rites by Julia Armfield

Waterstones' James Daunt on Bookselling in the Age of Amazon

James Daunt

"At the end of the day, bookshops needn't fear Amazon," James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, said during a keynote speech last week at the Australian Booksellers Association's annual conference in Melbourne. (More on the conference in tomorrow's issue.) "If the bookshops are good enough, if the relationship with your customers is truly there, if your booksellers are enjoying themselves and you've trained them and you've respected them and you've allowed them to develop their skills... then our customers truly will remain loyal to us."

In his wide-ranging discussion, Daunt outlined the challenges he faced in 2011, when he, the owner of Daunt Books, a handful of independent bookshops in London, took on the job of heading the U.K.'s last remaining bookstore chain; how he has transformed Waterstones and saved it from bankruptcy; Amazon's effect on bookselling in the U.K.; and general guidelines for how to operate a thriving bookshop and compete with Amazon.

Starting when Amazon opened operations in the U.K. in 2000, the behemoth "slowly ate away at the High Street [downtown] market," he said, and now has about 60% of the market, including 95% of the e-book market. The casualties have been extensive: most chains, including Borders, Ottakar's, Dillons, Hammicks and James Thin, have disappeared. Indie bookstores declined from about 1,550 in 2005 to about 600 last year. Indies now account for about 5% of the market, and Waterstones about 16%. "Amazon virtually destroyed us," Daunt said.

But "all is not doom and gloom," he said. Amazon is known for doing a few things very well, particularly offering customers low prices on books and shipping quickly. As Daunt put it, Amazon is "alluring for one reason only: they're cheaper."

As a result, there is much that bricks-and-mortar stores do that Amazon can't, from putting on events even "in the smallest of shops" to more generally "giving people a sense of excitement about books," making books relevant, and keeping books "in the forefront." He added, "We as booksellers have a duty to create excitement about books. If we do so, we'll continue to have customers come through the doors."

Waterstones had to be reinvented, Daunt said, and the key changes included making the shops "more inviting and more interesting"; cutting costs "a lot"; and emphasizing how important it was for booksellers to be enthusiastic about books and to sell to customers.

In one of the most striking changes at Waterstones, the company reduced its return rate to 3% from 20%. In part this came about from better buying but also from forgoing substantial promotion co-op from publishers, to the tune of £27 million (around $35 million at current exchange rates). The "wholly destructive cycle" involved publishers "paying us to take particular books." Besides abrogating buying decisions to publishers, the program also made Waterstones stores less distinctive from one another as well as from their competitors. The change, he added, was painful, like "coming off heroin," but it had "massive benefits." Besides improving returns, it "stopped us filling up our shops with books customers didn't want to buy" and improved working capital by tying up less money. Eventually stock came down 20% and title count rose 20%. The company has also gone from two to five stock turns. He noted that with stock turns below five, "a lot of books are sitting there getting dusty, getting unattractive."

Cost cutting included reducing head office costs by 60%, cutting costs in the centralized warehouse by 16%, and cutting store payroll by 16%.

In revamping the staff, Waterstones put an emphasis on selling and tried to do away with as many of the duties that prevented selling, such as dealing with returns and stickering. "We had to make booksellers "self-reliant and self-motivated," he said. But even with staff down by a third, productivity--measured by the value of books sold by full-time staff--is up "roughly a third."

The emphasis on selling and being on the sales floor, also "brought energy into the shop. If you're literally running around and don't stop, customers feel that energy."

Even though Waterstones staff has been cut, Daunt said he's increased pay for the remaining employees. At Daunt Books, booksellers are paid a salary rather than by the hour. Waterstones pays by the hour but is starting to pay salaries. "We need to pay booksellers more and make it so people see this as a career," he commented.

"It's absolutely all about the booksellers," he continued. Having the right stock and "making the place look right" doesn't matter as much as "the energy and skill of booksellers."

Waterstones has formalized at least some of its bookselling promotions in company-wide efforts. When it named The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry its Book of the Year for 2016, the title, which before then had sold under 1,000 copies, became a bestseller. Waterstones' "books of the month" promotions have also increased sales "dramatically" for each title.

He noted that Amazon doesn't have any impact on these titles, and called it an "urban myth" that people come into stores saying they can get titles at 50% off on Amazon. To the contrary, there is a sense, he said, that "a book bought from a bookshop is a better book.... When a book comes through a letter box or when a book is bought in a supermarket, it's not vested with the authority and the excitement that comes from buying it in a bookshop."

The company has tried to "brighten up" its shops, aiming to make "each and every shop individual" and to make them "fun." This is particularly important in the children's sections, which Daunt said should be "palaces where parents want to bring children and children want to be." Ideally, he continued, on Saturdays, when Waterstones opens, "I want to see kids break away from their parents and run to the fun children's sections."

Waterstones does some "significant discounting" of the top 200 titles, while Daunt Books does no discounting. "Price is irrelevant if the customer likes the shop," he commented. "The book is never an expensive item," particularly for the many customers who "we know are quite happy to go into a café and spend dramatically more on a cup of coffee."

Waterstones has turned around and profits are "pretty much at historic levels." At Daunt Books, sales are up every single year, and "a lot in some years."

The Waterstones website "doesn't produce any sales for us," accounting for less than 3% of the company's revenue, Daunt said. But targeted e-mails lead to increased sales in shops, and social media is "an opportunity" for local bookshops to communicate with customers.

Waterstones loyalty program offers customers 3% back "on everything." Daunt Books, by contrast, "has never given a penny back to customers."

Waterstones sells "a lot more things that aren't books," with children's the most successful area, and has done so in "careful and measured ways," so as not to "compromise ourselves as a bookshop." He stated that bookshops shouldn't go beyond having 20% non-book items if they want to remain "unequivocally a bookshop." Still, he touted non-book times as having the ability to make the bookshop more attractive as well as for making money and having excellent margins.

Concerning government subsidies and allowing Amazon to game the tax system, Daunt said, "All I want is a level playing field." He called on governments to "stop favoring Amazon, stop tolerating the way they abuse the tax system, and stop giving them subsidies to open warehouses." He called on booksellers and other to "continue to lobby our politicians" about Amazon.

One benefit of Amazon's push into the book world in the U.K. is that relations between publishers and traditional booksellers have improved, Daunt said. While respect has had to be earned, publishers have provided "fantastic support in the last few years."

Daunt has also been active in trying to save British public libraries, which has been closing and threatened for several years. "I want them saved because they produce readers," he explained. --John Mutter

Alex Baker: Exceptional Design And Creative Services For The Publishing Industry

Pew Report: Millennials More Likely to Use Public Libraries

Millennials in the U.S. are more likely to have visited a public library in the past year than any other adult generation, according to a Pew Research Center survey from fall 2016 that found 53% of Millennials (those ages 18 to 35 at the time) said they had used a library or bookmobile in the previous 12 months, compared to 45% of Gen Xers, 43% of Baby Boomers and 36% of those in the Silent Generation.

Millennials are also more likely than their elders to have used a library website in the past 12 months (41%), compared to 24% of Boomers. Across all generations, use of public library mobile apps is less common. Just 8% of Millennials, 9% of Gen Xers and 9% of Boomers used a library app in the past 12 months.

Women are more likely than men to say they visited a public library or bookmobile (54% vs. 39%) or use library websites (37% vs. 24%). College graduates (56%) are more likely than those whose education ended with a high school diploma (40%) to use libraries or bookmobiles. Parents of minor children are more likely than non-parents to have used a library (54% vs. 43%).

Obituary Note: Dr. John E. Sarno

Dr. John E. Sarno, "whose controversial books on the psychological origins of chronic pain sold over a million copies, even while he was largely ignored or maligned by many of his medical peers," died June 22, the New York Times reported. He was 93. His books, including the bestselling Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection, "became popular largely through word of mouth. Thousands of people have claimed to have been cured by reading them," the Times noted.

"His views are definitely considered on the fringe," said Dr. Christopher Gharibo, a pain management specialist at the Langone Medical Center at New York University. "His position was that almost all chronic pain is purely psychological and 'all in the head,' which I certainly disagree with."

Eric Sherman, a psychotherapist who worked with Dr. Sarno for many years, recalled: "It was him against the world, yet he was never afraid of not fitting in. He had a 'damn the torpedoes' perspective on his work, and was notoriously indifferent to others' opinions of him."

Dr. Sarno's other books include The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain; The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders; and Mind Over Back Pain: A Radically New Approach to the Diagnosis and Treatment of Back Pain.


Image of the Day: Singing (& Signing) Despite the Rain

Despite a torrential rainstorm, debut novelist Val Emmich read from his novel The Reminders (Little, Brown) and performed songs inspired by the book to a standing-room-only crowd last Friday at Short Stories Bookshop & Community Hub in Madison, N.J.

'Top 10 Reasons to Come to Belmont Books on June 28'

On her blog, Randy Susan Meyers, author most recently of The Widow of Wall Street, paid tribute to the newly opened bookshop in Belmont, Mass., with her "top 10 Reasons to Come to Belmont Books on June 28 (Wed!)."

Reason #1, according to Meyers: "Belmont Books is a dream come alive for my wonderful friends, Kathy Crowley & Chris Abouzeid--writers, dreamers, community-minded people, big-hearted, ridiculously funny (Chris) & ridiculously motherly (Kathy). Celebrate with us as we toast them."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Chris Colfer on the Tonight Show

Morning Joe: Thomas Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie, authors of The Road to Camelot: Inside JFK's Five-Year Campaign (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781501105562). They will also appear on Today.

Ellen repeat: Alec Baldwin, author of Nevertheless: A Memoir (Harper, $28.99, 9780062409706).

The Real repeat: Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, authors of Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin (Spiegel & Grau, $26, 9780812997231).

Hannity: Mark R. Levin, author of Rediscovering Americanism: And the Tyranny of Progressivism (Threshold Editions, $27, 9781476773087). He will also appear tomorrow on Fox & Friends.

Tonight Show: Chris Colfer, author of The Land of Stories: Worlds Collide (Little, Brown, $19.99, 9780316355896).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Tom Shillue, author of Mean Dads for a Better America: The Generous Rewards of an Old-Fashioned Childhood (Dey Street, $26.99, 9780062656179).

Daily Show repeat: Senator Al Franken, author of Al Franken, Giant of the Senate (Twelve, $28, 9781455540419).

Last Call with Carson Daly repeat: Charlamagne Tha God, author of Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It (Touchstone, $25.99, 9781501145308).

CBS This Morning: John McEnroe, author of But Seriously (Little, Brown, $29, 9780316324892). He will also appear on WBUR's Here & Now and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Also on CBS This Morning: Brett Velicovich, co-author of Drone Warrior: An Elite Soldier's Inside Account of the Hunt for America's Most Dangerous Enemies (Dey Street, $27.99, 9780062693914).

Fox & Friends: Brad Thor, author of Use of Force: A Thriller (Atria/Emily Bestler, $27.99, 9781476789385).

The View: Neil deGrasse Tyson, author of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (Norton, $18.95, 9780393609394).

Tonight Show: Lily Collins, author of Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me (HarperCollins, $18.99, 9780062473011).

Movies: In the Skin of a Lion; Blade Runner

British screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) is set to adapt a film based on Michael Ondaatje's Giller Prize-winning novel In the Skin of a Lion for Serendipity Point Films, Potboiler Productions and Film4, Deadline reported. Beaufoy's other writing credits include 127 Hours, The Full Monty, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and Everest.

Films produced by Serendipity include Eastern Promises, Being Julia and Remember. Potboiler has produced titles such as The Constant Gardener, A Most Wanted Man, The Last King of Scotland and Our Kind of Traitor.

Signature noted that In the Skin of a Lion "introduced the characters of David Caravaggio and Hana, both of whom reappear in The English Patient. Juliette Binoche won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as Hana in the The English Patient."


A new featurette is out for Blade Runner 2049 that "includes never-before-seen footage from Denis Villeneuve's sequel, plus cast and crew interviews," Indiewire reported. Starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, the film, inspired by Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, "is the latest major gig for Villeneuve, whose profile has been rising significantly over the last several years thanks to projects like Prisoners, Sicario and Arrival," Deadline wrote, adding: "Blade Runner 2049 will reunite him with cinematographer Roger Deakins, and the duo have cooked up what looks to go down as the most visually stunning movie of 2017." It opens in theaters nationwide October 6.

Books & Authors

Awards: Desmond Elliott Winner

Francis Spufford won the £10,000 (about $12,705) Desmond Elliott Prize for debut novelists for Golden Hill. Chair of judges Sam Leith described the novel as "miraculously constructed... at once so fabulously entertaining, so exquisitely wrought and so moving that it stands among not just the best first novels of the year, but the best novels of this or any year."

Book Review

Review: Brave Deeds

Brave Deeds by David Abrams (Black Cat/Grove Press, $16 trade paper, 256p., 9780802126863, August 1, 2017)

In his first novel, Fobbit, David Abrams had his satirical way with Iraq War soldiers who lived inside Houston Barricades, lounging at Burger Kings and Dairy Queens on the army's FOBs (Forward Operating Bases). Abrams had been one of them, serving 20 years as a military journalist. But on the streets of Baghdad or Fallujah, the grunts got their chow in MREs salted with blowing sand. Their only protection from unseen hostile insurgents was a "hillybilly armored" Humvee, their "battle rattle" gear and a squad of alert buddies.

Brave Deeds is the story of six such soldiers at Camp Taji, who steal a Humvee to drive across Baghdad to attend the officers-only funeral of their sergeant, killed by an IED. Told by an unnamed member of this motley crew, it is a story as old as The Odyssey--soldiers far from home on a less-than-rational and dangerous journey. When the Humvee's drive shaft freezes an hour into their mission, they abandon the disabled vehicle, radio and maps to avoid a potential sitting-duck attack, and begin to hoof it to the funeral through unfamiliar streets amid Iraqi citizens. As the narrator puts it: "The situation had gone from bad to totally f**ked... there we were, a cluster of dumb in the middle of Baghdad."

In short chapters, Abrams fleshes out each of these unlikely comrades. As the favorite of the dead sergeant, Dmitri "Arrow" Arogapoulos steps up to take charge, but is as clueless as the others when it comes to navigating the city's dicey alleys and open-air markets. Abrams's sarcastic narrator doesn't miss the metaphor: "We're all blind men feeling our way across Baghdad; Arrow just happens to be the one in front with the cane." Cheever is an overweight whiner. Fish has a history of crime and violence back home. O hasn't gotten over losing his ex-wife. Park is a silent Korean American with overbearing parents. Drew is obsessed with the high school sweetheart who got away. Some are gung-ho for the war and "worship at the First Church of Bush." Others joined up for the money. Whatever their reasons, they share the ordeal: "We walk. Through the dust, through the thirst, through the sunbake, and now, through the Iraqis filtering into the marketplace with their goats, their dishdashas, their wind-flipped magazines, their snapping teeth, their cooking smoke."

The men in Brave Deeds (and they're all men) crack funny, gripe at their buddies, and, with reason, fear the unseen. A car full of armed Sunnis opens fire in a public square, killing children, beggars and mothers. A feral dog is run over. A wedding groom is blown apart in a mortar attack. The squad is lured into a wild firefight where a family held hostage by a bomb-making operation is slaughtered. With compact precision and the amusing patter of a sardonic narrator, Abrams captures the unusual histories of these ordinary men shuffling through Baghdad as they encounter the horrors of war. They may be AWOL on a personal mission outside command protocol, but they are heroes in their own ways and perform small brave deeds in the midst of half-baked chaos. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: About six AWOL soldiers in the treacherous streets of Baghdad, Brave Deeds is the story of a modern war filled with savagery, fear, humor and bravery.

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