Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 29, 2017

Overlook Press: Bad Men by Julie Mae Cohen

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

Simon & Schuster: Register for the Simon & Schuster Fall Preview!

Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster: The Ministry of Time Kaliane Bradley

Akaschic Books, Ltd: Go the Fuck to Sleep Series by Adam Mansbach, Illustrated by Ricardo Cortés

Tommy Nelson: You'll Always Have a Friend: What to Do When the Lonelies Come by Emily Ley, Illustrated by Romina Galotta


AAP Sales: Up 4.6% in May

In May, total net book sales in the U.S. rose 4.6%, to $1.15 billion, compared to the same period in 2016, representing sales of 1,204 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers.

For the year to date, total net sales have risen 4.3%, to $4.2 billion, led by higher ed, up 22.6%, religious presses, up 4.1%, and professional books, up 2.7%. K-12 was up 1.8%, adult books rose 1.6%, and children's/YA was flat.

Among May highlights, e-book sales for trade publishers rose 2.4% over May 2016, the first gain for e-books in more than two years, mainly because adult e-book sales were up 3.4%. Downloaded audio rose 32.2%, continuing its blistering pace this year.

The following are sales by category in May compared to sales in May 2016:

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

Book Group Rallies to Help Puerto Rico

In response to the devastation on Puerto Rico caused early last week by Hurricane Maria, a group of authors, editors and literary agents has created Publishers for Puerto Rico, which is supporting two groups: Unidos por Puerto Rico (United for Puerto Rico), created by Puerto Rico's first lady, Beatriz Rosselló, to help hurricane victims, and ConPRmetidos, a Puerto Rican organization dedicated to helping and developing Puerto Rican communities around the world that has created a relief fund to help Puerto Rico in the wake of the hurricane. #PubforPR emphasizes that donations should be made directly to the two organizations.

#PubforPR is raising money by holding an auction, which opens this coming Monday, October 2, at 9 a.m. Eastern, and closes on Thursday, October 5, at 10 p.m. Eastern. Items for auction (some of which are available only to U.S. residents) include manuscript consultations, illustration artwork, books and ARCs, signed books, a year's membership in the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, a group writing retreat in Maine, evenings and visits to literary agents, the promise to have a character named after the highest bidder in Rainbow Rowell's next novel, and more.

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

Frankfurt 2017 Preview: Markus Dohle, Carolyn Reidy, EIBF & More

Penguin Random House chief executive Markus Dohle will kick off the Frankfurt Book Fair with the keynote speech at the opening press conference on Tuesday, October 10. Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurt Book Fair, and Heinrich Riethmueller, president of the German Publishers & Booksellers Association, will also speak. Last year, artist David Hockney gave the opening press conference.


Carolyn Reidy and Guillaume Dervieux, heads of Simon & Schuster and Albin Michel, respectively, will be the featured speakers at this year's annual CEO Talk. Reidy has led S&S worldwide since 2008, while Dervieux has been head of Albin Michel, a French publishing house more than 100 years old, since 2012. The talk will highlight "strategic developments in international publishing" and take place on Wednesday, October 11, at 2 p.m.


Fred Kobrak, the former president of Collier Macmillan International and longtime international sales executive who died last December at the age of 88, will be honored with a memorial reception on October 11. Kobrak attended the Frankfurt Book Fair for 56 years in a row, and to carry on Kobrak's legacy, his family will sponsor the Fred Kobrak Frankfurt Fellow Grant for the next 10 years, which will cover the cost for one publishing professional to take part in the annual Frankfurt Fellowship.


The European and International Booksellers Association is hosting its second annual daylong conference at the Frankfurt Book Fair for booksellers and booksellers association heads. The conference, which is entitled "Creative and Innovative Solutions by Bookshops and Booksellers Associations," will take place on October 12 and feature two main sessions called "The best things I have done in my bookshop" and "The best things my booksellers association has done," along with a special roundtable discussion with Francophone Congolese writer Alain Mabanckou (Memoirs of a Porcupine) and Susanne König, executive director of Powerhouse Arena and Powerhouse on 8th, in Brooklyn, N.Y. (König is the first recipient of the Frankfurt Buchmesse U.S. Booksellers Prize, which included a trip to the book fair.)

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

Phoenix Books, VCFA Launch Howard Frank Mosher Scholarship

Phoenix Books, which operates four indie bookstores in Vermont, and the Vermont College of Fine Arts have created a new VCFA scholarship honoring the late author Howard Frank Mosher. The $10,000 Phoenix Books Howard Frank Mosher Scholarship will be given annually to an emerging fiction writer from the state in his or her first year of VCFA's MFA in Writing & Publishing residential program. The inaugural scholarship will be awarded in the 2018-2019 school year. Phoenix Books provided the gift and funding for the initiative.

"Phoenix Books embodies the spirit of independent booksellers in the state and we at VCFA couldn't be more grateful for their generosity and to partner with them on this project," said college president Thomas Christopher Greene. "This scholarship is a wonderful tribute to Howard Frank Mosher, who was a giant in Vermont. Howard was the first significant writer to support my own work many years ago and we became personal friends. No writer was better known in this state and among his peers for his generosity. Phoenix Books has stepped up in a big way in a manner that Howard would appreciate, nurturing a new generation by providing opportunity that otherwise might not be available."

Renee Reiner, co-owner with Michael DeSanto of Phoenix Books, said they "are honored to create this scholarship at VCFA. Howard was a great supporter of this institution and I believe he understood its intrinsic value to writing, to writers, and to the arts. Our hope is that this scholarship will support the works of new emerging Vermont writers, which Howard and VCFA have both done so well."

Mosher, who lived in Irasburg, Vt., was the award-winning author of 13 books that primarily took place in and around Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. He died earlier this year. His last book, Points North, will be released this January.

"This scholarship is the perfect way to honor Howard's memory," added Phillis Mosher, the author's widow. "He always tried to help new and upcoming writers by offering them advice, and oftentimes encouraged them to pursue an MFA. He was also a champion of local bookstores. He used to say that independent booksellers were the ones that made him a success." 

Lexington Books, Fortress Press Form Publishing Partnership

Lexington Books, a division of Rowman & Littlefield, and Fortress Press, a division of 1517 Media, have begun a publishing partnership under which the Fortress Press monograph program in biblical studies, theology and Christian history will be published jointly under the Lexington Books/Fortress Academic imprint. The agreement does not cover textbooks, reference projects or other Fortress Press books. The program publishes some 70 titles a year.

"By partnering with Lexington Books to publish academic monographs, Fortress Press can continue a nearly 55-year legacy in scholarly publishing in spite of the challenging economics of monograph sales," Will Bergkamp, v-p and publisher of Fortress Press, said. "The agreement allows a critical voice to remain in the scholarly conversation."

Julie Kirsch, v-p and publisher for Lexington Books, said, "Lexington Books has shown an unwavering commitment to publishing high-quality peer-reviewed monographs since Rowman & Littlefield purchased the imprint almost 20 years ago, and we look forward to ensuring that the unique voice of Fortress Press continues to be heard."

#BannedBooksWeek Update: Fahrenheit 451 Theme; Read-In

Banned Books Week is currently underway, and we're highlighting a selection of your creative events, displays, social media posts and more. Let us know some of the unusual ways your bookstore or library is celebrating.

Burke's Books: Fahrenheit 451

Burke's Book Store, Memphis, Tenn.: "Our theme is Fahrenheit 451, the dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury that presents a future American society where books are outlawed and "firemen" burn any that are found. If you haven't read it, read it now! (Fun fact: that's author Larry Brown's fireman's suit in the display.)"

Maria's Bookshop, Durango, Colo.: "Come and check out Suzy's great window displays for Banned Books Week 2017." Also hosting several events, including "Special Banned Books Week Storytime--No-No’s Your Kids Should Read"  

Books & Mortar, Grand Rapids, Mich.: "Buy one banned or challenged book during #bannedbooksweek and receive 15% off any second book! Celebrate your right to read during #bannedbooksweek."

DIESEL Brentwood: "Only problem is people keep asking if our wall is falling down."

DIESEL Brentwood, Santa Monica, Calif.: "Caution: Dangerous ideas! Celebrating #FreedomOfExpression during @BannedBooksWeek!"

Village Books, Bellingham, Wash.: "Banned Books Week continues: Today's staff picks are from booksellers Lauren, Danna and co-owner Kelly E.! We hope you'll join us on the main floor of our Fairhaven store for an open-mic style read-in! Bring your favorite banned or challenged book or choose from those we have on hand...."

Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Tex.: "You do it. We do it. The cat does it. Stop in to celebrate #BannedBooksWeek with us through the end of the week."

Excelsior Bay Books, ‏Excelsior, Minn.: "We like banned books and we cannot lie! Come in and read."


Image of the Day: Tallent, Caldwell & Perseverance

Gabriel Tallent (l.), author of My Absolute Darling (and climbing enthusiast!)--and Tommy Caldwell, acclaimed climber and author of Push: A Climber's Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits--were in conversation Monday night at Boulder Book Store, Boulder Colo. They discussed perseverance under extreme duress and the boldness that both writing and climbing require, among many other topics.

Happy 100th Birthday, Drama Book Shop!

Congratulations to the Drama Book Shop in New York City, which is commemorating its 100th anniversary October 2 with an all-day celebration that will include seminars with actors, directors and playwrights, plus a one-on-one interview by Bill Moyers with playwright Robert Schenkkan, Broadway World reported. Also participating are actors Kathleen Chalfant, Cass Morgan, André De Shields and Patti Mariano; directors Trip Cullman and Liesl Tommy; and playwrights Charles Busch, Colman Domingo, Stephen Karam, Max Posner and Sarah Ruhl.

In 2011, in recognition of its place in the theater community, the Drama Book Shop received a Tony Award for Excellence in the Theatre, the first such award given to a bookshop.

Personnel Changes at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

At Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

Hannah Harlow has been promoted to executive director of marketing. She was previously marketing director.

Michael Dudding has joined the company as senior marketing manager. He was previously digital publishing and marketing manager at Grove.

Media and Movies

Movies: Annihilation; The Last Thing He Wanted

The first teaser trailer is out for Annihilation, based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer, IndieWire reported. The project, written and directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina), stars Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tessa Thompson. Garland "first made a name for himself in Hollywood as the screenwriter of 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go and Dredd, but it wasn't until he decided to step into the director's chair with Ex Machina that he became a household name for cinephiles," IndieWire noted. Annihilation opens in theaters February 23, 2018.

Garland told Entertainment Weekly that his plan for adapting VanderMeer's novel was to make something very weird and very beautiful: "That's what we were shooting for. The beauty part of it was quite important. Even when it's grim, and something dark is happening, there's quite an overt beauty, and we took pains to make sure that happened."


Dee Rees (Mudbound) will direct a film adaptation of Joan Didion's The Last Thing He Wanted. Indiewire reported that Elevated's Cassian Elwes (Dallas Buyers Club) "optioned the novel from Didion last year for Rees to direct following their successful collaboration on Mudbound." Marco Villalobos is writing the screenplay.

"This work is one of my favorite Joan Didion novels and is a brilliant and layered piece of fiction," said Rees. "I am forever attracted to interesting, unexpected characters and Didion is one of the greatest masters of the form. I'm so excited to be able to interpret this literary masterpiece."

Elwes added: "As longtime admirer of Joan Didion, we couldn't be more excited to bring one of her most compelling works of fiction to life. [Rees's] take on this piece has a unique tension and depth. The combination of the two powerhouse creatives will make for an incredible film."

Books & Authors

Awards: Edna Staebler Creative Nonfiction

The shortlist has been announced for the C$10,000 (about US$8,020) Edna Staebler Award for Creative Nonfiction, which is administered by Wilfrid Laurier University and acknowledges writers of a first or second book with a Canadian setting or significance, CBC reported. The winner will be named in October. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Red Star Tattoo by Sonja Larsen
The Shoe Boy by Duncan McCue
The Elephants in My Backyard by Rajiv Surendra

Reading Group Choices' Most Popular August Books

The two most popular books in August at Reading Group Choices were Dirt Road: A Novel by James Kelman (Catapult) and The Little French Bistro: A Novel by Nina George (Crown).

Reading with... Kenny Fries

photo: Michael R. Dekker

Kenny Fries is the author of Body, Remember: A Memoir and The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory, which received the Outstanding Book Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights. He edited Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out and was commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera to write the libretto for The Memory Stone. His books of poems include Anesthesia, Desert Walking and In the Gardens of Japan. In the Province of the Gods (University of Wisconsin Press, September 19, 2017) is the recipient of the Creative Capital innovative literature grant.

On your nightstand now:

There's no room on my nightstand for books. But on the floor by my bed is The Rest Is Noise by Alex Ross because that's what I'm reading. There are other books there, but that doesn't necessarily mean these will be the next books I read. When I'm between books, it is an anxious time of choosing because once I start a book I need to finish it no matter what I think of it. It's a commitment I don't take lightly.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Are You My Mother? I sometimes still dream about this book and when I wake up I wonder if the book actually exists.

Your top five authors:

Difficult because it changes. Adrienne Rich. Yasunari Kawabata. Tennessee Williams. Henry James. W.G. Sebald (a more recent addition).

Book you've faked reading:

This took me a while because I don't fake much. But I never finished reading James Joyce's Ulysses, and it was difficult to understand what everyone was talking about in the Modernism class I took when studying in London.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. This book turns everything about disability upside down, and then some. It is funny, poignant and says things about the disability experience that is shocking to some. What shocks me is that it was written by a nondisabled writer.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Hmmm. Did I ever buy a book for the cover? I'm sure there was a book cover with a picture of a guy I was attracted to on its cover, but I can't remember buying such a book.

Book you hid from your parents:

I know I hid things from my parents but I can't remember hiding a book from them. I'm not one to hide things, as you can tell if you read my books.

Book that changed your life:

Adrienne Rich's Diving into the Wreck. When I first read these poems as an undergraduate, I somehow felt what she was after in her poems was what I was after in my life. Decades later, I still feel this way. I was fortunate to correspond with her and to meet her, which I wrote about in an article for for the Progressive after she died.

Favorite line from a book:

Another difficult one. For some reason I keep thinking of first lines as my favorites. So, I'll go with both "The sun and the moon are eternal travelers," from Bashō's Narrow Road to the Interior, and "I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills," from Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa. These beginnings hold within them so much in so few words.

Five books you'll never part with:

My signed copy of Adrienne Rich's Diving into the Wreck (though I couldn't find it for a long time, but finally did when I was moving); the illustrated edition of Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes; a first edition of Alfred Russel Wallace's The Malay Archipelago (given to me at the graduation of one of my students by her grandmother who knew I was writing a book about Darwin and Wallace); my extremely beat-up paperback of Chekhov's plays (though I now have another copy of the same edition); my signed copy of Hilda Morley's What Are Winds and What Are Waters (meeting Hilda was definitely a life highlight).

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

Kawabata's Thousand Cranes. This was my introduction to Kawabata, after which I read everything of his that has been translated into English. My understanding of things Japanese owes a lot to reading Kawabata.

Writers you would invite to a dinner party:

Here, I'm going to keep to writers no longer alive: Isak Dinesen, Susan Sontag, Franz Kafka, James Baldwin and Sei Shōnagon. Though each was privileged in some way, each also was an outsider who looked at the world with an appraising, critical eye. That would be quite an interesting evening!

Book Review

Review: Chasing Phil: The Adventures of Two Undercover Agents with the World's Most Charming Con Man

Chasing Phil: The Adventures of Two Undercover Agents with the World's Most Charming Con Man by David Howard (Crown, $28 hardcover, 384p., 9781101907429, October 10, 2017)

In 1977, two ambitious young agents in the Gary, Ind., FBI office stumbled on a potential career-making lead to bring down the swashbuckling financial swindler Phil Kitzer. Jim "J.J." Wedick and Jack Brennan had little in common except a drive to climb the Bureau ladder. Chunky ex-juco football lineman Brennan was third-generation FBI with a wife, two kids and several high-profile busts already. Tall, skinny Wedick was a single, Irish Catholic kid who liked to work meticulously with the approval of those above him. Brennan, however, had a more cowboy style. At the time, the FBI was into old-school crimes like kidnapping, extortion and interstate stick-ups. White-collar crime and undercover agents with wiretaps didn't get the big federal bucks. Chasing Phil is the story of how Wedick and Brennan broke out of the FBI administrative handcuffs to weasel into Kitzer's global circle of financial con men called "The Fraternity"--and got convictions on 50 of them.

Fast-talking Phil Kitzer convinced financially desperate small business marks that his various shell banks would provide the funds they needed--for a fee. Schooled in his father's Chicago bail bonds business, he knew all the palaver behind letters of credit, certificates of deposit, securities and bonds. By the time the shady paper he arranged was exposed as worthless, he had moved on to a new sham bank and new victims. In his opinion, "if you took a black light to most people's souls, you'd find cheating on a tax return or a spouse, the insurance check that came from imaginary hail damage to aluminum siding, the shoplifting episode." As the young agents became enamored with the vibrant Kitzer, they too began to wonder, "Maybe everyone was in the game, and Phil just knew better than anyone else how to play."

An editor with Rodale magazines and author of Lost Rights (another book about fraud and greed), Howard has combed trial archives and newspaper stories, and interviewed many of the key players. He sketches the late nights of booze, broads and high-end dinners where Kitzer worked out his scams and schemes--one of which takes almost $400,000 from Elvis Presley when his father tries to peddle the King's worn-out Lockheed Jet Star airplane. As Wedick and Brennan become more deeply enmeshed in Kitzer's world, the crimes escalate from two-bit cons to million-dollar fraudulent international bonds. The FBI takes notice and bumps the investigation to Major Case Number One. But the two agents are also more at risk: "spending time with Kitzer was like skiing a few miles per hour faster than your abilities dictated, constantly hovering on the edge of a stupendous wipeout." When the FBI finally pulls the trigger on Kitzer after eight months undercover, Wedick and Brennan are relieved--but sad to see their adventure close. A colorful bad guy is always more interesting than an office full of suits. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: The story of how two ambitious FBI agents from Gary, Ind., took down the biggest white-collar con man of the 1970s is exhilarating and cinematic.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'Our Shared Language' at NEIBA's Fall Conference

"It's really wonderful to look out and see many familiar faces, but even better, new faces, the next generation coming up," said Steve Fischer, executive director of the New England Independent Booksellers Association, in his opening remarks at this year's Fall Conference. Some 42 booksellers attended the show for the first time this year.

Words are our business, so it’s not surprising that a couple of words struck me during the conference--conversation and neighborliness. Both came up early, in the opening keynote, which featured "bookseller emeritus" Linda Ramsdell, former owner of the Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick, Vt., in conversation with Bill McKibben about his upcoming book, Radio Free Vermont (Blue Rider Press, November 7).

"It's very good to be here, and very good to see lots of old friends," McKibben said. "I wrote a book 10 or 11 years ago called Deep Economy about localism and smallness..... A Pollyanna I'm not, but two things that consistently cheer me up are 1) you can now get delicious bottled beer from almost every town in New England; and 2) somehow a lot of independent booksellers survived, in spite of everything that came at them."

McKibben noted that he and his wife, author Sue Halpern, "go to the Vermont Bookshop in Middlebury, and we know what a center of life it is.... It's abundantly clear that independent booksellers don't really do it for the money. So thank you guys, for providing extraordinary help for all the communities that I know of."

He also talked about "neighborliness," a word that initially sounded a little old-fashioned and then, quite unexpectedly, appropriate and timely. (I'll write more about that next week.) "Conversation," however, is ubiquitous at an event like NEIBA's Fall Conference, as you know. Booksellers, reps, writers and publishers gather in small groups for events like the Publisher's Pick-Nic Lunch and the Author Cocktail Reception; share meals at author breakfasts or the awards dinner; and congregate "after hours" for post-show gatherings. Not to mention the buzz of animated conversations about books that echoed throughout the exhibit hall on Tuesday. 

"Secrets and Best Practices of Events" panelists: Lara Phan of Penguin Random House; Pamela Jaffee of Avon/Harper Voyager;  Deb Seager of Grove Atlantic; and Annie Philbrick of Bank Square Books and Savoy Bookshop & Café (moderator)

We are in the conversation trade, and the importance of communicating was a recurring theme. For example, at an education session called "Unlocking the Grid: Secrets and Best Practices of Events," Pamela Jaffee, senior director of publicity for Avon/Harper Voyager, said she continues to learn from booksellers every day: "The conversation is evolving.... The communication should be going both ways, and I think that's something we'd like to strive to improve upon.... That's why my name is on the galleys. E-mail me and we'll have a conversation.... You have to create the connection. I chase the media; you chase me."

"Reps Who Were Buyers" panelists: Mike Katz of PGW/Perseus/ Ingram Content Group; Megan Sullivan of Penguin Random House; Liza Bernard of the Norwich Bookstore (moderator); Stacie Williams of Ingram Content Group; and Jill Cadogan of Chesapeake & Hudson

During the panel "View from the Other Side: Reps Who Were Buyers," Stacie Williams of Ingram Content Group noted: "Being a bookseller informs almost everything I do as a rep.... I do leverage my bookseller experience a lot in order to earn a little bit of trust as far as what I would sell, [which] allows us to talk about books and find our shared language so that we know how to interpret needs and sales."

And Jill Cadogan, who reps for Chesapeake & Hudson, considered what she would have done differently as a buyer now that she has seen the process from a sales rep's perspective. Opening additional avenues of conversation was a central theme: "When I was a buyer, I really would have benefited from more interaction with other buyers.... I've learned so much from other people.... I definitely would have involved my other booksellers in the store more in the buying process because I've seen stores that do that and it seems to be really effective."

During the Author Awards banquet, New England Book Awards fiction category winner Jessica Shattuck (The Women in the Castle) said: "This was a fantastic experience, to have so much support from independent booksellers.... It's been an amazing thing to be out there with this book and having the conversations that it's inspired.... I met so many independent booksellers... and felt that you were doing this really important work fostering these conversations and fueling the life of the mind."

I particular loved something Michael Finkel, who won in the nonfiction category for his book The Stranger in the Woods, recalled from his youth. "Even in elementary school, I took my mom's money and often went to a bookstore," he said, noting that the owners were "the first people to treat me like an adult. I remember them saying, 'well, what book did you read that you liked; and what didn't you like?' They respected me and they introduced me to new books, with which of course I traveled around the world. I was enlightened. I was informed. I was entertained. And because of this I've been a reader all my life and I wanted to become a writer."

The conversation, in our "shared language," continues.

Shortly after the NEIBA Fall Conference, Fischer told me: "From my point of view, it was everything we had hoped for in our planning: great education, lively rep picks, a very busy show floor from opening to closing and wonderful authors." Noting that all of the meal events sold out, he observed: "The New England Book Awards banquet really stood out, and having John Irving there in person to accept his President's Award was really the icing on the cake!"

Accepting the honor, Irving said, "I am extremely grateful for this award because you guys are more important than you ever were, and you always were." Now there's a conversation starter.

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

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