Shelf Awareness for Monday, May 20, 2019

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


Concord, Calif., Half Price Finds New Location

Half Price Books in Concord, Calif., which is closing in Todos Santos Plaza this month because it lost its lease, will reopen "in late November to early December" in the Willows Shopping Center, according to the Pioneer.

Customers and the city had rallied behind Half Price. Since 2011, a Borders and a Barnes & Noble had closed, and rent increases have lead to the closure of other retailers and restaurants.

Concord Mayor Carlyn Obringer had worked with Half Price Books to find a new location and commented, "I personally spend my time and dollars there, because it's one of the few retailers in our downtown."

Half Price Books started in Texas in 1972 and now has some 120 stores. The Concord location opened in 2001, and there are several other stores in the Bay Area.

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

Schaumburg, Ill., B&N to Relocate, Downsize

The Barnes & Noble in Schaumburg, Ill., is downsizing from a roughly 23,000-square-foot space to a 14,000-square-foot location in a nearby shopping center, the Daily Herald reported.

B&N has not yet said when it will close the Woodfield Plaza store, or when it expects to open the new, smaller location in the Woodfield Village Green Shopping Center. The same shopping center housed a Borders prior to the company's closure in 2011.

According to the Herald, B&N has received approval from the city administration to construct a brick facade for the new store, and a special-use permit has revealed that the cafe will take up around 1,700 square feet.

The smaller B&N reflects the company's approach to new and remodeled stores, which aim to average about 14,000 square feet instead of the old superstore standard of about 25,000 square feet.

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

Richard Ford Wins Library of Congress American Fiction Prize

Richard Ford
(photo: Greta Rybus)

Richard Ford has won the 2019 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, which honors an American literary writer "whose body of work is distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but also for its originality of thought and imagination. The award seeks to commend strong, unique, enduring voices that--throughout long, consistently accomplished careers--have told us something new about the American experience."

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden selected Ford as this year's winner based on nominations from more than 60 distinguished literary figures, including former winners of the prize, acclaimed authors and literary critics from around the world. The prize ceremony will take place August 31, during the National Book Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

"He has been called our Babe Ruth of novelists, and there is good reason why,” said Hayden. "He is quintessentially American, profoundly humane, meticulous in his craft, daring on the field, and he hits it consistently out of the park. We are proud to confer the Library's lifetime award for fiction on this luminous storyteller--one of the most eloquent writers of his generation--Richard Ford."

Ford commented: "The good fortune of being given this prize--even apart from its private encouragement--is to be allowed to participate in what I've always taken to be the Library's great achievement: to encourage literacy, to advocate for the primacy of the literary arts and to draw closer to the needs of readers. The Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction makes me feel--accurately or not--what most novelists would like to feel, which is useful to our country's conversation with the world."

Ford has published seven novels, including The Sportswriter, Independence Day (winner in 1995 of the PEN/Faulkner Award and Pulitzer Prize for Fiction), Wildlife and Canada; three short story collections as well as a bestselling novella collection (Let Me Be Frank with You); and a memoir, Between Them: Remembering My Parents. Among his many honors are the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction, the Siegfried Lenz Prize, the Premio la Lettura, the Princess of Asturias Award for Literature, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for fiction and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story.

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

Obituary Note: Herman Wouk

(photo: Stephanie Diani)

Herman Wouk, "whose taut shipboard drama The Caine Mutiny lifted him to the top of the bestseller lists, where he remained for most of a career that extended past his 100th year," died May 17, the New York Times reported. He was 103. Amy Rennert, his literary agent, said he had been "working on another book when he died, although, as was his custom, he had declined to discuss its subject until it was finished."

Describing him as a "whipping boy for reviewers who at best grudgingly acknowledged his narrative skill," the Times noted that Wouk "enthralled millions of readers in search of a good story, snappy dialogue and stirring events, rendered with a documentarian's sense of authenticity and detail."

Wouk's first novel, Aurora Dawn, was published in 1947 and his memoir, Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-old Author, was released in 2016, the year he turned 100.

The Caine Mutiny, which sold more than three million copies in the U.S., won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1952 and was adapted into a movie in 1954 with Humphrey Bogart as Queeg. Wouk also adapted the courtroom sections of the novel into a hit Broadway play, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, which opened the same year as the film and starred Lloyd Nolan.

Marjorie Morningstar was published in 1955 "with a fanfare that included Wouk on the cover of Time magazine" and went on to become "one of the first popular novels about Jewish life," the Los Angeles Times wrote, noting that the book was on bestseller lists "for so long that it became somewhat of a publishing phenomenon,"

His sweeping and epic novels The Winds of War (1971) and War and Remembrance (1978) were adapted into successful television mini-series in the 1980s. The L.A. Times reported that the first series "was watched by more viewers than any other program in television history at that time. Viewership of War and Remembrance was not as high, but still tens of millions of viewers watched all or parts of it."

In 1995, the Library of Congress "marked his 80th birthday with a symposium on his career; historians David McCullough, Robert Caro, Daniel Boorstin and others were present," according to the Associated Press. Wouk received the first ever Library of Congress Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Writing of Fiction in 2008. His longevity inspired Stephen King to title one story "Herman Wouk Is Still Alive."

Author Jon Meacham tweeted: " 'The beginning of the end of War lies in Remembrance.'--Herman Wouk. Hugely important novelist for me; he should be read forever."

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

Seattle Indies Deal with the Rising Minimum Wage, Part 3

Over the past few months, Shelf Awareness has reached out to booksellers in Seattle, Wash., to find out how they've dealt with the city's rising minimum wage and what advice they would give other independent booksellers facing similar increases. The series began last Thursday with a look at Elliott Bay Book Company and continued with Secret Garden Books.

University Book Store, the largest and oldest independent bookstore in Seattle, employs some 250 people across six locations. And while three of those locations are technically outside the city of Seattle, UBS chief executive officer Louise Little explained, all of University Book Store's employees are paid commensurate with the flagship store, which has more employees than the other locations and is within Seattle proper.

"I think with minimum wage or any kind of business requirement or government mandate, it makes you smarter and wiser," said Little. "You look for efficiencies. It hasn't been this slash and burn."

Since 2014, Little and her colleagues have done a number of things not only to prepare for the minimum wage increases but also to make the business stronger. One of the store's biggest undertakings was replacing its 35-year-old POS system. UBS elected to "rip the bandaid off" and replace the whole thing at once, installing a new enterprise system that handles everything from accounting to web sales. Little pointed out that a major benefit of the system is that it allows the store to track data in ways that simply weren't possible for them before.

Armed with that data, Little and her team have made a variety of changes to many aspects of the business. In its flagship store, University Book Store has actually decreased the square footage of its book department. Little explained that it was done to make the section more shoppable, and the inventory has been more tightly curated based on customer preference. She noted too that while the department's size has been reduced, it's still a substantially sized bookstore in its own right. "It's not like we chopped off 2,000 square feet," Little remarked.

Pam Cady, head of the trade book department at UBS, did point out an area in which they were directly affected by the minimum wage. While the store used to have a "huge" book fair business, the increased minimum wage has led UBS to running fewer fairs. "Fifteen dollars an hour really did factor in," said Cady. "That is one area where an ROI is not profitable."

University Book Store, Tacoma

Little said that they have not radically adjusted their payroll or staffing procedures, though they have "put payroll where we've needed it, taken it from where we didn't need it." With the new POS system, she continued, some functions are no longer needed, so if someone leaves they may decide to not replace that position or to give those responsibilities to another position.

On the subject of payroll, and having new hires join the company at wages that may be nearly as high as those of longer-tenured employees, Little said that "wage compression" is never too far from their minds. She said the leadership team works very hard to make sure that as the minimum wage has gone up, the "whole wage scale" has changed accordingly.

"We try to do that very thoughtfully," Little said. "We are very aware of it and we work hard to work around it."

Acknowledging that it was hard to pin on just the minimum wage, Little reported that in fits and starts over recent years, the store has had some trouble hiring. During campus transitions, the store has to hire a "huge number of people," and she noted that when their starting wage was lower than say, a McDonald's, filling all of those positions could be a challenge. At the same time, she said, the store still gets "great applicants," and being so closely tied with a university seems to help draw people who are passionate about books and bookstores. She said: "It might take us a bit longer, but we do find them."

When asked whether the city of Seattle had made any adjustments in favor of small businesses since the law was originally passed, Little said that there haven't been any, and that the city did not adequately take small businesses into account when drafting the law. Recently, businesses in Seattle fought a proposed "head tax" that Little said would have lumped University Book Store into the same category as Amazon or Boeing. Though this particular tax was defeated, the topic hasn't gone away, and Little recalled feeling that her view, and the view of many small businesses, was not heard.

"Not that we didn't write letters or step up to the plate," Little said, "but we were overshadowed by louder voices." --Alex Mutter


Image of the Day: SCIBA Goes Drinking with J. Ryan Stradal

Southern California indie booksellers and librarians caroused at a new brewery with author J. Ryan Stradal to celebrate his newest novel, The Lager Queen of Minnesota (Pamela Dorman Books/Viking). They enjoyed Grandma Edith's Rhubarb Pie Ale (made in the book by the characters) specially brewed and bottled for the evening by Over Town Brewing Co. in Monrovia, Calif. Included in the photo: PRH reps Amy Comito and Tom Benton; Robert Turner, Café Con Libros; Linda Sherman-Nurick, Cellar Door Bookstore; Jenny Wannier, Flintridge Books; Katie Orphan, The Last Bookstore; Linda McLoughlin Figel and Liliana Lettieri, {pages} a bookstore; SCIBA executive director Andrea Vuleta; Steve Salardino, Skylight Books; Sherri Gallentine, Nancy Hamel and Jennifer Ramos, Vroman's; Liz Camfiord; Penguin Random House Library; Tina Lerno, Los Angeles Public Library; Andrienne Cruz and Melody Tehrani, Azuza Public Library; Stefanie Ulate, Monrovia Public Library; Mark Nelson, Mrs. Nelson's Book Fair Company.

Chalkboard of the Day: Avid Bookshop

"In a TV rut? We'd be happy to recommend books with truly satisfying endings," Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga., posted on Facebook yesterday along with a photo of its dragon-themed sidewalk sandwich board, which read: "Burned out on disappointing TV? We've got reads with satisfying endings."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Ann Beattie on Late Night with Seth Meyers

Today Show: Alice Marie Johnson, author of After Life: My Journey from Incarceration to Freedom (Harper, $26.99, 9780062936103).

Fresh Air: John Waters, author of Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27, 9780374214968).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: William H. McRaven, author of Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations (Grand Central, $30, 9781538729748). He is also on CBS This Morning.

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Ann Beattie, author of A Wonderful Stroke of Luck: A Novel (Viking, $25, 9780525557340).

Good Morning America: Dan Abrams, co-author of Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense: The Courtroom Battle to Save His Legacy (Hanover Square Press, $27.99, 9781335016447).

CBS This Morning: Belinda Luscombe, author of Marriageology: The Art and Science of Staying Together (Oneworld, $14.99, 9781786073198).

Conan: Jake Tapper, author of The Hellfire Club (Back Bay, $16.99, 9780316472302).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Howard Stern, author of Howard Stern Comes Again (Simon & Schuster, $35, 9781501194290).

TV: His Dark Materials Trailer

The first trailer has been released for His Dark Materials, "the big-budget TV adaptation from the BBC and HBO of the bestselling fantasy books by Philip Pullman," Variety reported.

The cast includes Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Dafne Keen, Anne-Marie Duff, Clarke Peters, Ariyon Bakare, Will Keen, Ian Gelder, Georgina Campbell, Lewin Lloyd, Lucian Msamati, James Cosmo, Daniel Frogson, Tyler Howitt, Ruta Gedmintas and Mat Fraser.

The eight-part TV series will air later this year. Variety noted that the BBC "has already committed to an eight-episode second season. HBO is co-producing both seasons and has worldwide distribution rights outside Britain." The project is also produced by Bad Wolf with New Line Cinema for the BBC, in association with BBC Studios Distribution and Anton Capital Entertainment.

Books & Authors

Awards: Dylan Thomas; Strand Critics; Nicholas Schaffner

In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne has won the the £30,000 (about $38,160) International Dylan Thomas Prize, which is sponsored by Swansea University and recognizes the "best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under."

Organizers said that the novel "burst into our consciousness in 2018 providing an urgent, timely and compelling fictional account of 48 hours in an East London housing estate after the murder of a British soldier, as told through three narrators. Risky and inventive, Gunaratne has been lauded for providing an authentic voice to marginalised sectors of society and for shining a spotlight on the very real experiences of youths from minority ethnic backgrounds."


The Strand Magazine has unveiled nominees for the 2019 Strand Critics Awards, which recognize excellence in the field of mystery fiction and publishing. In addition Heather Graham and Donna Leon are receiving Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Sourcebooks CEO and publisher Dominique Raccah is being honored with the Publisher of the Year Award. Strand managing editor Andrew Gulli commented: "One of the things we're looking for is a publisher that is innovative and at the same sticks with the some of the tried and true formulas of success. For the past few years, when it's come to the category of mysteries and thrillers, Dominique and the team at Sourcebooks have made a huge impact on the industry and in an ever-competitive and ever-changing world of publishing, from my personal experience I can say that every author published by Sourcebooks is a happy author."

This year's Strand Critics Awards nominated titles are:

Mystery Novel
Lullaby Road by James Anderson (Crown)
Transcription by Kate Atkinson (Little, Brown)
November Road by Lou Berney (Morrow)
Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
The Witch Elm by Tana French (Viking)
Sun Burn by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins)

Debut Novel
Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver (Pegasus)
Star of the North by D.B. John (Crown)
The Other Side of Everything by Lauren Doyle Owens (Touchstone)
The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (Sourcebooks Landmark)
Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward (Park Row Books)


James Gallant, author of the story collection La Leona and Other Guitar Stories, has won the sixth annual Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature. As a result, the book will be published by Schaffner Press in 2020. The award is presented annually to a work of fiction, nonfiction or poetry that deals in some way with the subject of music and its influence, and it celebrates the life of publisher Tim Schaffner's brother Nicholas, who was a poet, musician, biographer and music critic.

Schaffner commented: "James Gallant's highly imaginative story collection provides a kaleidoscopic journey through the evolution of the classical guitar and guitar music as backdrop to the hurly-burly of western cultural history that includes whimsical cameos of such historical characters as Shakespeare, Walt Whitman and Jean-Paul Marat. Along the way, readers discover the origins of the troubadours, the guitar's evolution, and the secrets of the luthier's craft. In a style that is reminiscent of Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino and Peter Cameron, these fictions make twists and turns as surprising and delightful as the music Mr. Gallant celebrates."

Gallant plays classical guitar and is the author of Verisimilitudes: essays and approximations, The Big Bust at Tyrone's Rooming House: A Novel of Atlanta, and Whatever Happened to Ohio?

Book Review

Review: The Stationery Shop

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali (Gallery Books, $27 hardcover, 320p., 9781982107482, June 18, 2019)

In Tehran in 1953, political unrest swirls in the streets, but Roya finds comfort in the poetry and novels at Mr. Fakhri's stationery shop. There, she meets Bahman: handsome, intelligent, an ardent supporter of Prime Minister Mossadegh. After months of encounters at the shop, they begin dating and plan to get married. But on the day they are to meet in a city square, violence erupts and Bahman never comes. Decades later, their paths cross again in Massachusetts, and both of them must unravel the truth of that long-ago missed meeting.

Marjan Kamali (Together Tea) weaves a powerful, heartbreaking story of star-crossed lovers and Iran's political upheavals in her second novel, The Stationery Shop. She begins her narrative in 2013, as Roya's husband drives her to meet Bahman at his assisted-living facility. She then takes readers back to Roya's teenage years, when her father is urging Roya and her sister, Zari, to go to university (and become "the next Madame Curie") and her mother worries for their safety. Kamali's depictions of the close-knit family are heightened by her mouth-watering descriptions of the Persian food Roya loves to cook with her mother. Bahman, by contrast, is the only child of a gentle, reserved father and a volatile mother prone to dark moods. Much later in the story, Kamali gives readers a glimpse into Bahman's mother's past, and her surprising connection to Mr. Fakhri, who owns the stationery shop and watches over the young lovers.

Tehran's contradictions come to life in Kamali's narrative: Roya goes to cafes and learns to tango at a party with Bahman's sophisticated friends, but the specter of hard-line Islam is always present, whether through dress codes for women or the more frightening violent acts of the police. Roya's family life is a safe haven, but as Mossadegh and his government lose control (ultimately overthrown in a couple led by the CIA), she sees her dreams of life with Bahman crumble. When Roya goes (with Zari) to the U.S. to attend university, she wonders if she will ever see her homeland again.

Kamali draws her characters with compassion and dignity: they are at once buffeted by outside events and doing their best to act with grace and wisdom. Mr. Fakhri's stationery shop and its owner are a tribute to the importance of ideas and poetry, and Roya's eventual encounter with Bahman is a powerful study in seeking truth and forgiveness. The Stationery Shop is at once a layered historical saga of a country struggling toward democracy and an intimate meditation on "a love from which we never recover." --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Marjan Kamali's second novel follows two young star-crossed lovers during the tumultuous 1950s in Iran.

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