Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Blackstone Publishing: An Honorable Assassin (Nick Mason Novels #3) by Steve Hamilton

Clarion Books: The Man Who Didn't Like Animals by Deborah Underwood, Illlustrated by LeUyen Pham

Holiday House: Bye Forever, I Guess by Jodi Meadows and Team Canteen 1: Rocky Road by Amalie Jahn

Wednesday Books: Dust by Alison Stine

Running Press Kids: The Junior Witch's Handbook, The Junior Astrologer's Handbook, and The Junior Tarot Reader's Handbook by Nikki Van De Car

Scholastic Press: Ruin Road by Lamar Giles

Quotation of the Day

'People Connect with Books Through a Bookstore'

"I still think the way people connect with books is through a bookstore. Not only do we have books, but we bring in lots of authors. Kids learn to read here; this is where my kids learned to read. Lots of people come in here asking our booksellers for recommendations and that is something you can't duplicate online."

--Stephanie Hochschild, owner of the Book Stall, Winnetka, Ill., in a q&a in the Chicago Tribune

Help a Bookseller, Change a Life: Give today to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation!


Brier Books to Open in Lexington, Ky.

Brier Books will have its soft opening this Friday at 319 S. Ashland Avenue in Lexington, Ky., just down the road from the former Morris Book Shop, which closed earlier this year, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Co-owners Savannah Sipple and Jay McCoy considered buying the business, but when that didn't work out they "conceived the idea for Brier and went ahead with it," said McCoy, who had been an employee of Morris Book Shop.

The partners have hosted pop-up shops at a variety of locations, and the new permanent space will sell general-interest titles, children's books, cards, calendars, handmade boxes by Zannah Reed, handmade soaps and wooden toys.

"We'll have a big focus on local, Kentucky, and Appalachian writers," said McCoy.

Amazon HQ2: New Heights for Handouts

New York City turned the lights Amazon orange in support of its bid for HQ2.

Over the years, it's been sad and infuriating to see state and local governments hurl themselves (and taxpayers' money) at Amazon. That dynamic reached a new high--or low--in the past weeks, as Amazon solicited bids from municipalities to be the site of another headquarters for the company, which apparently is outgrowing Seattle. The frenzy included one town in Georgia that offered to rename itself Amazon, while the mayor of Kansas City, Mo., bought a thousand products on Amazon that were made in his city and gave them all--and Kansas City--great reviews. The more typical approach was that of Newark, N.J.: the state and city are offering Amazon up to $7 billion in tax incentives.

Some 238 cities and regions from across North America made bids for HQ2, which Amazon said will include 50,000 jobs, with an average pay of more than $100,000 a year. The company says it expects "to invest over $5 billion in construction" and that its "direct hiring and investment, construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community."

But, as is its tradition, Amazon seeks a range of breaks and gifts before it will deign to build its second headquarters in the host location. In its RFP, the company asked bidders to "identify incentive programs available for the project at the state/province and local levels. Outline the type of incentive (i.e., land, site preparation, tax credits/exemptions, relocation grants, workforce grants, utility incentives/grants, permitting, and fee reductions) and the amount."

The HQ2 bidding prompted the Hill to look back at Amazon's track record in receiving "incentives." It noted a Washington Business Journal report that Amazon "has secured more than $1.2 billion in incentives and breaks from state and local governments over the years." Among examples:

  • Texas forgave a $269 million sales tax bill the company owed after it pledged to spend $200 million on new facilities in the state, which brought 2,500 new jobs.
  • Illinois officials gave the company $82 million in tax credits.
  • The Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved a package of $81 million over the course of 15 years.
  • Kentucky officials offered $75 million for Amazon to expand operations at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in exchange for 600 new jobs that average $26 an hour.

The Hill quoted Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, who said, "This is a textbook auction. This thing is going to be taught in business schools. The risk is that somebody's going to overspend to pay Amazon to do what they were already going to do anyway."

For detailed studies on Amazon's effect on cities and towns, we recommend the Institute for Self-Reliance's Amazon's Stranglehold: How the Company's Tightening Grip is Stifling Competition, Eroding Jobs, and Threatening Communities and the American Booksellers Association-Civic Economics' study Amazon and Empty Storefronts.

Hong Kong Bookseller 'Released' by China, Still Missing

Gui Minhai, a co-owner of Mighty Current Media and its bookshop in Hong Kong "who has been held in China for two years has not been heard from, despite assertions by the Chinese authorities that he was released last week," the New York Times reported. A Chinese-born Swedish citizen, Gui disappeared from his home in Thailand on October 17, 2015. Four other men associated with the publishing house were also detained and were later released.

Swedish diplomats, who said they had been told by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Gui would be released on October 17, went that day to the place where he was being held, but were informed he had been released at midnight.

His daughter, Angela Gui, said, "This week I have slept with my phone on my pillow waiting for my father to call. I will continue to do so until he does."

Sideline Snapshot: Fall Trends and Prepping for the Holidays

"I am absolutely astonished at how well cards are doing for us," said Nina Barrett, owner of Bookends & Beginnings in Evanston, Ill., which she opened in 2014 with her husband, Jeff Garrett. Around the time the store opened, Barrett recalled, she read an article proclaiming that the traditional greeting card was dead, but it's not unusual for Bookends & Beginnings to sell "hundreds of dollars' worth" of cards on a given day.

Bower Studio plantable card

Barrett has carried cards by Sacredbee and Fresh Frances for years, and after attending the Stationery Show in New York City this year, she added two more lines of cards: UWP Luxe, which she described as "gorgeous sculptural pop-cards," and Bower Studio plantable seed cards, which have wildflower seeds embedded in the paper and will grow if planted.

Bookends & Beginnings also does well with products by Unemployed Philosophers Guild, which Barrett described as a "perfect sideline match" for her store. She recently brought in its Ruth Bader Ginsburg finger puppets and Impeachmints, which sold so fast that Barrett "barely saw them" in store. Some other perennial favorites include Folkmanis puppets, jigsaw puzzles, handmade jewelry that the store imports from Germany, soaps and a variety of journals. Looking ahead to the holidays, Barrett she doesn't typically bring in anything exclusively for that season, but she does definitely increase the volume of orders. Added Barrett: "I am a huge believer in sidelines. I think they really make the store much more interesting to browse in."

At Givens Books & Little Dickens in Lynchburg, Va., the store's nonbook items are generally split into two categories: gifts, which include cards, journals and more traditional bookstore sidelines; and toys, which make up around 30% of the 16,000-square-foot store's total inventory. Toy buyer Danny Givens reported that in the gifts category, Blue Q socks, potholders and hand towels do very well, as do cards made by the company Graphique. For toys, Givens reported that games are far and away the store's hottest category and just keep "growing and growing." Perhaps the store's bestselling game is Codenames, published by Czech Games, which Givens described as "very literary" and perfect for a book and toy store. He added that Braintopia, published by Asmodee, is another game that performs consistently well, and puzzles made by the company Ravensburger are extremely popular.

When asked about noteworthy trends, Givens said he continued to be surprised by how many unicorn horn headbands, made by the company Brooklyn Owl, the store has sold. He recalled that when he first brought in the unicorn horns, he thought, "Who is going to buy these?" Since then, the store has reordered them several times. On the subject of ordering for the holidays, Givens said that he orders "much deeper," and given that store traffic triples and sometimes quadruples, he uses the holidays to try out new games and toys, particularly syndicated or licensed products that he otherwise does not usually stock. If something hits, Givens can then respond to customer demand and order more rapidly than a big box store can. Said Givens: "The beauty of being a small business is we're nimble and flexible."

In Phoenix, Ariz., Kim Saltzstein, sidelines buyer at Changing Hands Bookstore, reported that the store is seeing great sales of state and local merchandise. Anything that has to do with Arizona is selling, which has surprised Saltzstein as the store is not a tourist destination. Merchandise featuring cacti and succulents, especially prints, water bottles, journals, cards and home decor, have been strong sellers all year, while other notable trends include fidget toys--though they have slowed down a bit since the summer--tea towels and wooden box signs, anything to do with mermaids and unicorns, Trump-related merchandise such as the "Dump Trump" countdown clock, and "socks, socks and more socks." Saltzstein added that she does not expect the sock craze to slow down any time soon; Blue Q is the store's best sock line, while Sock it to me, Freaker, Hot Sox and Noelle socks also do well.

Saltzstein explained that because sidelines can account for more than 50% of the store's December sales, she begins buying for the holidays as early as January and "likes to stay organized." There are some items that she carries only during the holidays, including Frasier Fir candles by Thymes, and each year Changing Hands sets up a stocking-stuffer table featuring gift items all under $20, perfect for teacher, office and white elephant gifts. Saltzstein said that last holiday season, one of the items that the store couldn't keep in stock was 3D holiday specs by American Optical. She said she expects to sell around 600 this season.

For Robert Moore, owner of Oregon Books & Games in Grants Pass, Ore., some of his bestselling sidelines are bookmarks, Melissa & Doug educational toys and book lights, of which he stocks a variety, ranging from $10-$30. He added that cards do well, and he's experimenting with carrying a wider array of greeting cards. In terms of holiday sidelines, Moore said that Elf on the Shelf toys are always strong sellers, though they are usually gone by Thanksgiving, as the Elf on the Shelf program begins right around that time. They sell so well, in fact, that on the first day they go on sale Moore typically moves around $500 or $600 worth.

During the holidays, Moore increases his inventory of Melissa & Doug items from about 3,000 to nearly 7,000, while sales of book lights "increase out of all proportion." He explained that during the end of the year shopping season, one typically expects an item's sales to be around 2.5 times its normal sales. Sales of book lights, however, increase by around six or seven times. Said Moore: "They make a really super-nice gift item when you don't know what that person wants to read." --Alex Mutter

Obituary Note: Michael Murphy


Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy, who worked in the publishing industry as an executive for several companies and, as an author, focused on his beloved adopted city of New Orleans, died October 19. He was 63. Murphy worked as a v-p at Random House and Putnam and as publisher at William Morrow. In 2003, he moved with his family to Cincinnati, Ohio, to become sales director at F&W Publications. He also founded Max and Co. Literary Agency.

As an author, Murphy channeled his love for New Orleans, where he moved in 2009, into acclaimed tour books (Eat Dat, Fear Dat, Hear Dat, 111 Places in New Orleans That You Must Not Miss and the upcoming All Dat) and was an enthusiastic guide for visitors and residents looking to expand their knowledge of the city. Another title, Cleveland's Catalog of Cool: An Irreverent Guide to the Land, will be released next summer

In a tribute, his son, Austin Murphy-Park, wrote: "Michael wrote that New Orleans was 'as far as you can get from America while you're still in it,' but Michael was as American as the Hubig's apple pies he no doubt sneaked while he should have been on a diet. Michael was a doctor's son, and might have had a nice, stable career in the suburban Cleveland strip-mall-land where he grew up. Instead, he moved to New York without a dime, sleeping in LaGuardia Airport when he had nowhere to go, and living on chipped ice covered with sugar for days at a time. He was never afraid to chase what he wanted, and in the end he got most of it. He lived only 63 years, but he made the most of every one.

"And when he lay beneath his roof the night of October 18th, 2017, it wasn't strange, and he didn't have to dream of home. He was already there. Another favorite quote of his, my high school yearbook quote, was from Yogi Berra: 'We're lost, but we're making good time.' We've lost him, but he sure made a good time."


Image of the Day: Literature Lovers' Night Out

The October 23 Literature Lovers' Night Out program at Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, Minn., attracted the largest crowd to date. Some 150 guests came to see the all-star author line-up: (seated, l.-r.) Amy Thielen (Give a Girl a Knife); Brit Bennett (The Mothers); Marie Benedict (The Other Einstein); Alison McGhee (Never Coming Back); Edward Kelsey Moore (The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues). Excelsior Bay Books staff: (back row, l.-r.) Lori Free, Debra Larsson, store owner Ellie Temple, Pamela Klinger-Horn, Ann Woodbeck.

Bookstore Video of the Day: Blue Ridge Books

Blue Ridge Books posted a video highlighting the shop's relocation this month from its longtime downtown space in Waynesville, N.C., to a storefront "a short three minutes away [in] Hazelwood Village. Beginning early November 2017, visit Allison, Jo and the rest of the crew at their new location."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Alexis Okeowo on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Alexis Okeowo, author of A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa (Hachette Books, $26, 9780316382939).

Fox & Friends: Mehmet Oz, author of Food Can Fix It: The Superfood Switch to Fight Fat, Defy Aging, and Eat Your Way Healthy (Scribner, $29.99, 9781501158155).

Rachael Ray: Oprah Winfrey, author of The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations (Flatiron, $27.99, 9781250138064).

Comedy Central's the Opposition with Jordan Klepper: Bruce Bartlett, author of The Truth Matters: A Citizen's Guide to Separating Facts from Lies and Stopping Fake News in Its Tracks (Ten Speed Press, $8.99, 9780399581168).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Scott Kelly, author of Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery (Knopf, $29.95, 9781524731595).

Movies: Nevermoor

Oscar-nominated screenwriter Drew Goddard (The Martian, Cabin in the Woods and Netflix's Daredevil series), will write and produce an adaptation of Jessica Townsend's Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, which is being released October 31 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Deadline reported. Twentieth Century Fox picked up the rights last year. Translation rights have already sold in 27 countries.

Books & Authors

Awards: Brittle Paper Literary

Winners have been announced in five categories for the 2017 Brittle Paper Literary Awards, which recognize "the finest, original pieces of literature by Africans available online for free." The winning authors, each of whom receives $200, are:

Essays/think pieces: Sisonke Msimang's for "All Your Faves Are Problematic: A Brief History of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Stanning and #BlackGirlMagic"
Fiction: Megan Ross for "Farang"
Poetry: J.K. Anowe for "Credo to Leave"
Creative nonfiction: Hawa Jande Golakai for "Fugee"
Anniversary Award: Chibuihe Obi for "We're Queer, We're Here"

Reading with... Francesca Hornak

photo: Billie Scheepers

Francesca Hornak is a British author, journalist and former columnist for the Sunday Times. She has written two nonfiction books, History of the World in 100 Modern Objects and Worry with Mother. Her debut novel, Seven Days of Us, was published by Berkley on October 17, 2017.

On your nightstand now:

The Wild Other, a memoir by Clover Stroud, whose mother was brain damaged in a riding accident in the '90s, when Clover was 16. It's a beautifully written, moving account of living with trauma and coming to terms with loss. I rarely read memoirs, but I was drawn to this because I've enjoyed Clover Stroud's journalism. She's intrepid, and as a borderline-hermit myself, that was fun to read.

Favorite book when you were a child:

All the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I really liked the mundane domestic details. I'm still quite taken with the idea of log cabins and pioneer wagons, and making maple syrup in tree trunks.

Your top five authors:

Jennifer Egan for her acute observation, Nick Hornby for his humour and humanity, Candace Bushnell for gritty glamour, Nora Ephron because reading her feels like chatting to a friend and Tom Rachman--I've just finished and loved The Imperfectionists.

Book you've faked reading:

Beowulf. I had to study Old English as part of my English degree at Oxford (really annoyingly I was the last year to have to do this). I've never found accounts of battles very interesting, and trying to decipher a garbled Welsh-German hybrid didn't help.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton should be better known than it is. It's brilliantly sordid, all about failed actors and day drinking in 1940s London. Any recent graduate should also read The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe-- the original Girls/Mad Men.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Lubetkin Legacy by Marina Lewycka, which lived up to its excellent cover.

Book you hid from your parents:

Swan by Naomi Campbell. I raced through it on holiday aged 14, but I can't remember anything apart from a description of a model brushing her teeth very fastidiously, and a sex scene in a taxi.

Book that changed your life:

I'm not sure any book has changed my life, but many narrators have stayed with me. Humbert Humbert's voice in Lolita was hard to shake off, and showed me that a protagonist needn't be likable to be readable. Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller and The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith are compelling for the same reason.

Favorite line from a book:

"All perfectly true, no doubt, but not the sort of thing to spring on a lad with a morning head," from Jeeves Takes Charge by P.G. Wodehouse. My uncle, the actor Jonathan Cecil, recorded loads of Wodehouse audiobooks and they're my ultimate comfort listening. There was a stage when my whole family (all insomniacs) used to play them on a loop all night. If someone had broken in at 3 a.m., they'd have been surprised to find a house echoing with Bertie Wooster.

Five books you'll never part with:

Theresa's Choice by my grandmother Rachel MacCarthy. This was the only novel she wrote, about a girl choosing between three men. It's very funny and fast paced, but the reason it's special to me is that she died when I was a baby, so reading her novel is the closest I can get to meeting her. I'd also be sad to part with The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith, Fifteen by Beverly Cleary, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou.

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

The Catcher in the Rye. When I first read it, I had that electric "This could be by me!" feeling. But when I re-read it in my 20s, I didn't identify with Holden Caulfield in the same way, and it felt a bit sad. I'd love to be a contrary 16-year-old reading Salinger for the first time again.

Book you wish you'd written:

Lord of the Flies by William Golding. It would be thrilling to write a book and see its title become shorthand, the way Golding's has.

Book Review

Children's Review: Before She Was Harriet

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illus. by James E. Ransome (Holiday House, $17.95 hardcover, 32p., ages 6-12, 9780823420476, November 7, 2017)

Husband-and-wife team Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrator James E. Ransome partner up again--as they did for Freedom's School and My Story, My Dance--to share scenes from the life of one of America's bravest and toughest heroes, Harriet Tubman.

Cline-Ransome's text is a poem that begins with an elderly Tubman and takes the reader backward, step by step, through her life: as a suffragist, a spy, a nurse, "Moses" of the Underground Railroad, "a wisp of a woman/ with the courage/ of a lion." In this ringing free verse, Tubman's bold spirit is evoked in narrow columns of text skimming the edges of Ransome's richly hued watercolor paintings. Each segment of the poem's accompanying painting showcases a moment of Tubman's life. In them, she moves in sureness in a starlit forest, her sharp, watchful eyes and intelligent face lit as though by an unseen flame. She nurses wounded soldiers, her competent yet gentle hands bandaging an injured man. Seated in the prow of a rowboat, "General Tubman" presides with fierce pride over the flight of escaping slaves "on the Combahee River/ turned River Jordan" like George Washington leading the crossing of the Delaware River. Perhaps the most moving portrait, though, depicts Tubman as a wide-eyed young girl called Araminta, with her father standing protectively at her back as she gazes into the darkness, her profile framed by a low-hanging full moon like a china plate. In this painting especially, Ransome infuses Tubman's face with such gravity and emotion that she seems both immediate and ethereal at the same time, a future hero captured for a moment as a child not unlike any child reading her story.

Appropriately, the Ransomes bookend Tubman's life journey with a literal railroad journey. It begins with Tubman waiting at the station and ends with her riding at sunset past a view of empty fields reminiscent of the plantation fields she hoes in an earlier spread, the weight of her years and wisdom plain in her weathered face.

Before She Was Harriet works as both an introduction to Tubman's life and a jumping-off point for conversations about her many roles. Early to upper elementary schoolers will easily fall in love with the brave, adventurous Harriet who risked so much and take to heart the lesson that the path to heroism lies in service to others. No classroom or home library is complete without this inspirational and gorgeous paean to a great woman. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager, main branch, Dayton Metro Library

Shelf Talker: This gorgeously illustrated, gracefully written poem takes readers through the life of Harriet Tubman in reverse chronological order.

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