Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, August 7, 2019

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


800-CEO-READ Changing Name to Porchlight Book Company


On August 19, 800-CEO-READ will officially change its name to Porchlight Book Company, the bulk bookseller announced this week. Coinciding with the name change, the company will also launch a new website, publish two monthly bestseller lists and expand its editorial coverage.

Porchlight Book Company/800-CEO-READ was founded in 1984 in Milwaukee, Wis., by Jack Covert and the late David Schwartz and was originally called Schwartz Business Books. It grew out of the business books section of the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops and, over the years, was also known as Business Literacy Services and Dickens Books. Once the name change is official, all previous names will be retired.

"I am delighted to be a part of this new chapter in my family's bookselling story," said Rebecca Schwartz, the company's owner, president and CEO. "I am certain that my grandfather, Harry W. Schwartz, and my dad, A. David Schwartz, would be so very pleased by the work we continued to do, work that in a very real way grew out of their legacies." Carol Grossmeyer, who was married to A. David Schwartz, is also an owner.

While the company initially focused on just business books, its scope has expanded over the years. To reflect that, one of its new monthly bestseller lists will focus on general non-fiction (with the other focused on business books), and its editorial coverage will look at books from all genres. The company's annual Business Book Awards will continue under Porchlight Book Company. 

"For many years now, we have sold more than just business books, and this brand expansion and comprehensive website will give us the chance to introduce more people to the array of high-touch bookselling services we have developed over the years," said general manager Sally Haldorson. "As a group of voracious readers, there's nothing we enjoy more than putting books into the hands of every type or genre of reader."

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

Lexington's Wild Fig Books May Relocate

Wild Fig Books & Coffee, Lexington, Ky., which reopened last December in "a new incarnation" as a worker cooperative headed by April Taylor, "is currently searching for a space in which to remain open," Lex18 reported, adding: "They are being forced to move from their historic space. Last year, a group of locals came together to raise money to purchase the business and keep it open."

"It's super important anywhere any space where there are black people," Taylor said. "Even if the percentage of black people in Kentucky isn't high as in some other places. It's still really important, also the black history bookstores, makes it really important to be protected and for the legacy to go on."

Wild Fig is currently hosting a variety of events that Taylor hopes will "increase traffic and generate enough profit for the co-op to enter a more advantageous financial agreement in the near future," the Herald-Leader noted.

"Whether you're someone who likes to interact socially or not, there are things you can be involved in (at Wild Fig)," Taylor said. "We're definitely a hub for community organizing and community activity. We're a way to plug into what's going on in the pulse of the community."

Her goal "is to relocate to a larger space where programming and inventory may be expanded. First, though, a deal involving delayed loan payments must be brokered--and fast, if the Wild Fig is to remain open," the Herald-Leader wrote, adding that many of the store's members have worked unpaid for months to keep the Fig's doors open.

"I would encourage (people to visit) sooner rather than later," she said. "We're at a critical juncture where, if people don't go ahead and come in, if they're more in love with the idea of our existence than actually supporting us, we may not be able to go on and still be here."

In a Facebook post Sunday, the bookstore noted: "The Fig is being pushed out of the building they currently rent and most likely will only remain in its current location long enough for the gentrifiers who own the building to qualify for a tax write off, which is potentially three months from now but could be much sooner. The financial incentive they had to make sure we remain in our current location will soon be gone, and we know they only put people over profit long enough to maximize future profits. Anyone who has leads on a new space, please comment here or contact us directly. The Fig would not have survived this long without the vast, resilient, diverse community that supports it, and we have full faith that the community will continue to protect this safe, sacred, healing, and affirming space from those who put profits over people."

Yesterday, the bookstore posted an update: "The way Y'all are supporting the Fig and taking a stand against gentrification is mind blowing...we've had nearly $400 in donations just this morning. From everyone here at the store putting in work to Fig Family all over the country, thank you! Let's show these gentrifiers what people power looks like!"

Waterstones Opening Two New Stores


Waterstones will open new bookstores in London and Glasgow in August and September, the Bookseller reported.

The 3,000-square-foot London bookstore will open officially on August 15 in the Brent Cross shopping center in North West London. The Glasgow store will open in September in the Silverburn shopping center in the city's Pollok neighborhood.

Changes are also coming to other Waterstones stores in August and September. On August 8 Waterstones will reopen its Hatchards store in London's St. Pancras Station, which originally opened in 2014 and is moving to a larger space in the same station. The store will increase in size by about a third and another six booksellers will join the staff.

And in September, the company will reopen its store at the Bentall Centre in Kingston Upon Thames after "an extensive refurbishment and the addition of a new cafe bar."

"We are very pleased to bring bookshops to Brent Cross and Silverburn, two of the busiest shopping centres in England and Scotland," said Waterstones chief operating officer Kate Skipper. "We have been inundated over the years with requests to open in these locations and are thrilled finally to be able to do so."

The new store openings will bring the total number of Waterstones stores--including Foyles, Hatchards and Hodges Figgis outlets as well as its international stores--up to 291. Waterstones is owned by Elliott Advisors, the U.K. branch of Elliott Management, which is in the process of buying Barnes & Noble.

HarperCollins Focus Launches Harper Horizon Imprint

HarperCollins Focus has launched a new nonfiction imprint called Harper Horizon, which will publish memoirs, biographies, self-help and more that embrace values such as "integrity, optimism, patriotism, family-values, community, respect, sacrifice, creativity, hard work, wisdom and inspiration."

Andrea Fleck-Nisbet, formerly director of content acquisition at Ingram Content Group, is the new v-p and publisher of Harper Horizon. She will oversee acquisition of author projects as well as begin building the imprint's editorial and marketing teams. Harper Horizon's first titles are slated to be released next spring, and the imprint will publish between 15 and 20 titles every year.

"I am eager to put books into the hands of readers that will inspire, entertain and encourage them to fully realize their potential," said Fleck-Nisbet, who worked at Workman Publishing for more than 15 years prior to her time at Ingram. "Harper Horizon is well-positioned from a cultural and geographic perspective to do just that."

HarperCollins Focus was founded in Nashville, Tenn., in 2018, with a mission to publish titles that "inform, educate, motivate and inspire readers to lead lives of significance and purpose." Also in its portfolio are HarperCollins Leadership, AMACOM and Blink young adult books.

"We see opportunity in the general market to provide content that helps our readers better understand the world around them," said Mark Schoenwald, president and CEO of HarperCollins Christian Publishing and HarperCollins Focus. "I'm impressed with Andrea's career and experience and know her leadership will help drive the growth of Harper Horizon and our relationships with authors and agents."

Obituary Note: Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison
(photo: Christopher Drexel)

Celebrated author Toni Morrison, who became the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, died August 5. She was 88. In a statement announcing her death "with profound sadness," the Morrison family said "our adored mother and grandmother... reveled in being with her family and friends. The consummate writer who treasured the written word, whether her own, her students or others, she read voraciously and was most at home when writing. Although her passing represents a tremendous loss, we are grateful she had a long, well lived life."

Morrison was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for Beloved. Her many other honors include the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, with the Swedish Academy recognizing her as an author "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality"; the National Book Foundation's Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 1996; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented to her in 2012 by President Barack Obama.

Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was released by Holt, Rinehart & Winston in 1970, and Knopf published her other novels, including Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977), Tar Baby (1981), Jazz (1992), A Mercy (2008) and God Help the Child (2015).

Morrison's nonfiction works include Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1992) and What Moves at the Margin: Selected Nonfiction (2008, edited by Carolyn C. Denard). In October, the University of Virginia Press will release Morrison's Goodness and the Literary Imagination, featuring her celebrated 2012 Ingersoll Lecture at Harvard University. Morrison also wrote several children's books with her son Slade, including Please, Louise (2014), Peeny Butter Fudge (2009) and The Book of Mean People (2002).

Chalkboard posted yesterday by Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Mich.

"Morrison's novels were celebrated and embraced by booksellers, critics, educators, readers and librarians," Knopf said in a statement. "Her work also ignited controversy, notably in school districts that tried to ban her books. Few American writers won more awards for their books and writing."

From 1967 to 1983, Morrison worked as an editor at Random House--the first female African-American editor in company history. Among the authors she published were Gayl Jones, Toni Cade Bambara, Henry Dumas, Huey P. Newton, Muhammad Ali and Angela Davis.

"She was a great woman and a great writer, and I don't know which I will miss more," said Robert Gottlieb, her longtime editor.

Knopf chairman Sonny Mehta observed that Morrison's "working life was spent in the service of literature: writing books, reading books, editing books, teaching books. I can think of few writers in American letters who wrote with more humanity or with more love for language than Toni. Her narratives and mesmerizing prose have made an indelible mark on our culture. Her novels command and demand our attention. They are canonical works, and more importantly, they are books that remain beloved by readers."

Author Alice Walker told the Guardian: "We have lost a great writer whose extraordinary novels leave an indelible imprint on the consciousness of all who read them. What a force her thoughts have been and how grateful we must be that they were offered to us in this extremely challenging age."

The New York Times noted that Morrison "was one of the rare American authors whose books were both critical and commercial successes. Her novels appeared regularly on the New York Times bestseller list, were featured multiple times on Oprah Winfrey's television book club and were the subject of myriad critical studies. A longtime faculty member at Princeton, Ms. Morrison lectured widely and was seen often on television."

In her 1993 Nobel lecture, Morrison said: "Be it grand or slender, burrowing, blasting, or refusing to sanctify; whether it laughs out loud or is a cry without an alphabet, the choice word, the chosen silence, unmolested language surges toward knowledge, not its destruction. But who does not know of literature banned because it is interrogative; discredited because it is critical; erased because alternate? And how many are outraged by the thought of a self-ravaged tongue?

"Word-work is sublime, she thinks, because it is generative; it makes meaning that secures our difference, our human difference--the way in which we are like no other life.

"We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives."


Image of the Day: Robert Crais Launch at Diesel

Last night, an SRO crowd at Diesel, A Bookstore in Brentwood, Calif., celebrated the launch of Robert Crais's 22nd novel, A Dangerous Man (Putnam), an Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novel. From l.: Crais with Diesel booksellers Diane Leslie and Mo Figuls.

Bookstore Video: The Ripped Bodice

The Ripped Bodice in Los Angeles recently tweeted: "The @washingtonpost made a really nice video about the store for their Where Locals Go series. Thanks to everyone who worked on it! Check it out."

The Washington Post noted: "At this shop dedicated entirely to the historically derided romance genre, community is key--from its crowd-funded start, its popular comedy night and the validation it offers its diverse customers: 'Romance is the literature of hope.' "

Personnel Changes at Seminary Co-op Bookstores

Effective in October, Jenny Clines is joining the Seminary Co-op Bookstores, which includes the Seminary Co-op and 57th Street Books, as operations director, a newly created position. For the last eight years, she has held multiple leadership roles at Politics and Prose, most recently as director of operations.

Media and Movies

TV: Our Kind of People

Fox has teamed with Karin Gist (mixed-ish) and Lee Daniels Entertainment to develop Our Kind of People, a drama inspired by Lawrence Otis Graham's book Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class, with 20th Century Fox TV as the studio, Deadline reported.

Fox and 20th TV "first took a stab at adapting the book as a TV series two seasons ago with a different writer. That version was executive produced by Ben Silverman and Montrel McKay who are back as executive producers," Deadline noted. Gist executive produces via TheGistOfIt, along with Daniels, Pam Williams, Marc Velez for Lee Daniels Entertainment, Propagate's Silverman, Howard T Owens, Jay Weisleder and Rodney Ferrell as well as McKay.

Books & Authors

Awards: Working-Class Writers Winner

Lucy Kissick won the inaugural Writers & Artists Working-Class Writers' Prize for her debut novel Plutoshine. The Bookseller reported that W&A, part of Bloomsbury, "launched the prize in March calling for writers who consider themselves to be from a working class background and without current publishing contract or agent." The winner receives editorial feedback on their writing from author Natasha Carthew as well as a complimentary place at one of W&A's How to Get Published events held at Bloomsbury Publishing.

Author and judge Carthew said Plutoshine "draws you into the story with precise tension from the start. The planet as seen through Nou's eyes and her understanding of Pluto and the planets around them is brilliantly executed. I love the balance between the old villager's stories of earth and what the youngest have been told and Nou's determination to find life beyond what she knows sets the story up perfectly. Although the story is set on Pluto, the writing and descriptions make you feel like you've been here before. That's testament to the clarity of the writing."

Noting that winning the prize "means so many things to me," Kissick observed: "The pride I now feel for my work means I can hold myself taller--call myself a writer and feel like one. Moreover it means my writing is no longer just a pastime: last week I signed with a literary agent, Julie Crisp, and now I could be one step closer to my dearest hope of becoming a published author.... Sitting down to write requires time and headspace--it requires the sacrifice of more reliable sources of income--and for those of slim financial means this is an all-too discouraging risk. Holding a competition to recognise writers from this oft-overlooked demographic is one of many ways we can work to create equality of opportunity for U.K. writers."

Reading with... Peter Kaldheim

photo: Hannah Knowles

Peter Kaldheim, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., studied English and Classics at Dartmouth College. He worked as an editor and freelance writer in Manhattan until an addiction to drugs landed him in jail. His first book, the memoir Idiot Wind, was just published by Canongate, and will be issued in Spanish, French, Italian and Dutch in 2020. Kaldheim now lives in Lindenhurst, N.Y.

On your nightstand now:

Sam Lipsyte's comic masterpiece, Hark!, the funniest American novel I've read since Stanley Elkin's The Dick Gibson Show (1971). Vacuum in the Dark by Jen Beagin, which continues the story of Mona, the quirky cleaning lady I fell in love with when she first appeared in Pretend I'm Dead (how can you not love a character who skewers her alcoholic father with remarks like, "His mouth was a coffin she'd spent years wanting to nail shut"?). Memories of the Future, the latest novel from Siri Hustvedt, who continues to challenge her readers with brain-teasing observations (e.g., "I have always believed that memory and imagination are a single faculty"). And, finally, two brief gems which prove that stream-of-consciousness is still a vibrant fictional strategy: Solar Bones by the Irish novelist Mike McCormack and Little Boy by the recent centenarian Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Ah, that brings back fond memories! By far, my favorite book would have to be And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss.

Your top five authors:

Now there's a migraine-inducing question if I ever saw one! The only way I can answer it is by narrowing my focus to American novelists of the postwar generations (with apologies to James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, et al.). That said, my "starting five" would include Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Robert Stone, Denis Johnson and Dana Spiotta--all of them masterful stylists whose novels go deep in their exploration of the various manias and self-delusions that lurk beneath the surface of the American experiment.

Book you've faked reading:

I can't recall ever faking when it comes to books--if only I could say the same about other areas of my life! However, occasionally I've encountered a book I just couldn't bring myself to finish, and Finnegans Wake is probably the prime example. Much as I admire James Joyce, his final novel has stumped me for decades, and I fully expect to go to my grave without ever getting past page 67.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Ever since I first came across Karolina Waclawiak's debut novel, I have been urging others to read How to Get into the Twin Palms, the story of a lonely young Polish woman who longs to "pass" as a Russian immigrant so she can gain admittance to the Twin Palms, a private club run by Russian mafiosi located across the street from her Los Angeles apartment. It's an ambition she knows would scandalize her Polish mother, who believes that Russians "are crooks and beneath us." Of course, the Russians feel the same way about the Poles, and as Waclawiak trenchantly observes, "It had always been a question of who was under whom." Waclawiak's slim novel is rich in such home truths and marks her as a writer America can be justly proud to claim as one of our own.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I can still vividly recall the afternoon in 1972 when I stumbled upon Gilbert Sorrentino's second novel, Steelwork, in the back room of the venerable Gotham Book Mart in Manhattan's Diamond District. The dust jacket featured a photograph of a street sign from the corner of Fourth Avenue and 68th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the working-class neighborhood where my parents grew up (as Sorrentino's contemporaries) and where I was born. So, of course, I had to buy the book, and it proved to be a revelation--a homegrown work of startling genius, full of neighborhood characters that are as memorably rendered as the Irish locals in James Joyce's Dubliners.

Book you hid from your parents:

The only book I ever felt the need to keep hidden from my parents was a City Lights collection of Charles Bukowski stories called, Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions, and General Tales of Ordinary Madness.

Book that changed your life:

In a very real sense, Jack Kerouac's On the Road didn't just change my life, it saved my life. When I first read On the Road in the summer of 1965, I was a 16-year-old wannabe writer with an unhelpful crush on the clipped prose style of Ernest Hemingway, but Kerouac's style, with its jazz-inspired rhythms and mad, onrushing energy, opened my eyes to a whole new way of writing and immediately put "Papa" Hemingway in my rearview mirror. Twenty-two years later, after a decade-long slide into alcohol and cocaine addiction had left me homeless on the streets of Manhattan, I would flee New York and hit the road like Jack Kerouac, hitchhiking and panhandling my way across the country in a last-ditch bid to find a place out west where I could begin to rebuild my life. It was a humbling journey, with no lack of hardships, but I kept my spirits up by jotting down daily notes about the people and places I encountered as I drifted toward the Pacific, hoping that one day those notes would provide the raw material for my own version of Kerouac's road book--a pipe dream, perhaps, but it allowed me to get through each day with a scrap of dignity intact, and in the end those road notes would become the basis for Idiot Wind. So, thank you, Jack!

Favorite line from a book:

Like every fan of Thomas Pynchon, I remain in awe of the opening line of Gravity's Rainbow ("A screaming comes across the sky."), but there's a line in Henning Mankell's novel Italian Shoes that I'm even more fond of: "It's just as easy to lose your way inside yourself as it is to get lost in the woods or in a city."

Five books you'll never part with:

On the Road by Jack Kerouac, The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon, Libra by Don DeLillo, A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley, Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone. All five are books that continue to offer up fresh pleasures each time I reread them.

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

My vote would go to A Fan's Notes, Frederick Exley's "fictionalized memoir," which my friend Gerald Howard, an editor at Doubleday, refers to as "the foundational text in Male Failure Studies." When I first read A Fan's Notes in 1970, I was blown away by its harrowing but hysterically funny portrait of an alcoholic writer facing up to the fact that he'd been fated to watch from the sidelines while others--like his college classmate (and star football player) Frank Gifford--cashed in on the American Dream. Exley's gift for turning the disasters of his life into stories that are simultaneously sad and side-splittingly funny is unrivaled. Reading A Fan's Notes for the first time, I felt like I was making the Stations of the Cross high on laughing gas, and I'd happily jump into Mr. Peabody's "Wayback Machine" for the chance to revisit that week of my life again.

Three down-and-out memoirs that most resemble Idiot Wind:

George Orwell's classic Down and Out in Paris and London, which set the standard for all future examinations of poverty and homelessness, would have to top the list, with John Healy's The Grass Arena and Nick Flynn's Another Bullshit Night in Suck City coming in a close second and third.

Book Review

Children's Review: Lalani of the Distant Sea

Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly, illus. by Lian Cho (Greenwillow, $16.99 hardcover, 400p., ages 8-12, 9780062747273, September 3, 2019)

Newbery Medal winner Erin Entrada Kelly (Hello, Universe) makes her fantasy debut with Lalani of the Distant Sea, about a young girl who makes the assuredly deadly decision to try to rescue her community.

The Sanlagitans live under Mount Kahna's "shadow of vengeance, impatience, and fear." The island villagers believe the mountain punishes those who disturb it, so, every night, they offer Kahna benedictions, hoping to hold off its wrath. Across the Veiled Sea, "bathed in light" and offering "all of life's good fortunes," is Mount Isa. No human has ever actually "laid eyes on her. Nevertheless, the Sanlagitans are certain the mountain calls to them. They die trying to answer. They attempt journey after journey. They are pushed by their faith, not knowing that they believe in the wrong things." The strongest men are chosen to sail to Mount Isa; few have ever returned, none have lived. Lalani's father was among the many who never came back.

Now, as Lalani and her mother struggle to survive, Lalani entertains herself with folktales. Her favorite is that of the mountain beast that lives in Kahna's woods, of "his mangled face, his house of stolen treasures, and his penchant for evil trickery." Her best friend Veyda, however, thinks the myths are "silly": "Why are we asking a mountain to remain quiet? Mountains are mountains." But it does seem that the Sanlagitans are being punished: there is a drought and everything is dying. Lalani has no intentions of setting off on a journey to save her home, but when she accidentally releases some grazing animals into Kahna's woods, consequences, danger and magic find her.

Inspired by Filipino folktales, Lalani of the Distant Sea is brimming with injustice, beauty, pain and wonder. Interspersed throughout are chapters with imaginative, elegant line drawings by Lian Cho introducing creatures that inhabit Lalani's world. Some taken directly from Filipino myth, some created entirely by Kelly, these creatures range from the average to the fantastical, almost all ambivalent to the outcome of Lalani's journey. Kelly's novel has many heroes and battles, with Lalani's story also a setting for the big and the small struggles that happen outside of individual understanding and consciousness. While the creatures that inhabit her world may see no importance in the lives of humans, all of their paths intertwine--for good, for bad or for nothing. What may be most striking about Lalani of the Distant Sea is that it feels both fated and as if Lalani's story could easily have been different--Kelly's plotting and character building are so deliberate, so refined, that the reader is prepared in equal measure for Lalani to be lost or to triumph. This fluid, intentional novel is grounded strongly in emotional reality and overflows with the fantastic, creating an absolutely bewitching tale. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Shelf Talker: Erin Entrada Kelly's debut fantasy is an enchanting, nuanced middle-grade adventure.

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