Shelf Awareness for Friday, August 9, 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


Book + Bottle to Open in St. Petersburg

Terra Dunham "recently embarked on an adventure to bring St. Pete a new concept featuring two of her favorite activities--reading books and drinking wine," St. Pete Rising reported. Dunham has signed a lease to open Book + Bottle at 17 6th Street North in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla., where "buildout of the interior will begin soon to add bookshelves, a bar, comfy seating, and restore some super cool historical architectural features." She is hoping to open by December.

Terra Dunham with Apollo and Stella

Book + Bottle's title selection "will be highly curated by Dunham," who "is a self-proclaimed oenophile... and bibliophile," St. Pete Rising noted. "After recently working for a startup, she mustered up the courage to quit her job and become her own boss. Book + Bottle is the result of 10+ years of experience in publishing, book sales, customer service and intensive wine study."

According to Dunham, Book + Bottle's mission "is to curate a thought-provoking and enjoyable reading, shopping, and drinking experience in a comfortable, local-first retail environment. Our approachable, knowledgeable, and passionate team will inspire community and discovery while bringing joy to all our patrons through attentive, engaged service. Books open our minds, boost our empathy, and increase our intelligence. Good wine challenges our expectations, comforts our souls, and transports us to other places. We invite you on this journey of exploration and discovery with us!"

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

Grand Re-opening for Fla.'s Sweetwood Books


Sweetwood Books, Fleming Island, Fla., "is in a transitional period like thousands of independent bookstores across the country," Clay Today noted in reporting that the bookshop cut its square footage in half with its recent move to the other side of the same shopping center. A grand re-opening party was held July 13.

Owner Heather Leigh said the downsizing has made things more manageable and her philosophy to embrace the community hasn't wavered. She has been a Clay County resident since 2002, and after waiting for one of the larger bookstores to land in Fleming, decided to take the leap herself: "It was like, 'Where's a bookstore?' Nothing ever came out here. I wanted to bring something cool and funky to the area. Something that I thought people would gravitate to. The other space was just too large to manage."

She told Clay Today that since there's a book for everyone, the bookstore should be a place for everybody: "I don't think books are going to be obsolete. They've been around for too long and I don't see computers taking over the world. People still love books, they want to touch them and smell them."

Melissa Grecco of Chronicle Books is NAIBA's Rep of the Year

Melissa Grecco

Melissa Grecco of Chronicle Books has been named Kristin Keith Sales Rep of the Year by the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association

"I love what I do and feel incredibly lucky to work with many of the best bookstores in the world," said Grecco, who has been with Chronicle since 2013. "I truly believe in what booksellers do each day; it's an honor to play a small role in that work."

Grecco has always worked in the book industry: prior to joining Chronicle, Grecco was Metro NY field rep at John Wiley & Sons, where she started her career as an in-house sales coordinator. And in college Grecco worked at several Barnes & Noble locations throughout Long Island.

Her favorite part of the job, Grecco said, is the sales call. She explained: "I consider myself super lucky; I get to travel to different places every day, meeting interesting people, talk about products I genuinely love."

Booksellers Rebecca Fitting, co-owner of Greenlight Bookstores in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Suzanna Hermans, co-owner of Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, N.Y., praised Grecco for her reliability, enthusiasm and dedication to the job. Grecco will receive her award at the annual Awards Banquet October 16 during NAIBA's fall conference in Cherry Hill, N.J.

Obituary Note: David Berman

David Berman, "the reluctant songwriter and poet whose dry baritone and wry, wordy compositions anchored Silver Jews, a critically lauded staple of the 1990s indie-rock scene," died August 7, the New York Times reported. He was 52. As the sole constant member of Silver Jews, Berman released six albums using the band name, including "Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea" in 2008, before disbanding the group the following year.

This summer Berman "re-emerged with a new album under a new band name, Purple Mountains, and Drag City has re-issued his first and only book of poems, Actual Air [1999], in hardcover," the Poetry Foundation wrote last month in an interview where he spoke of influential teacher/mentors like James Tate and Charles Wright.

Actual Air had earned back-cover blurbs from Tate and former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins, the Los Angeles Times noted, adding: "Berman's most admired poem, 'Self Portrait at 28,' opens with the line, 'I know it's a bad title/ but I'm giving it to myself as a gift,' before cascading into a free-wheeling work on 'the uselessness of a teenager's promise' and technology that 'will eventually give us new feelings.' "

In the introduction to a recent City Pages interview, Jay Boller wrote: "In both his songs and his poems, Berman snugly fit dazzling imagery, razor-sharp wordplay, effortless humor, and world-weary melancholy into deft couplets, all delivered through his drawling, unmistakable deadpan growl. The musical arrangements that showcased his lyricism ranged from cowboy shuffles to mournful twang to herky-jerky psychedelia."

Poet and writer Hanif Abdurraqib tweeted: "David Berman was so unafraid of publicly wrestling with his own sadness, and so unafraid of being honest about what it is to sometimes lose that wrestling match. There are so many ways to feel small while tumbling through the world. Berman made a few seem comforting."


Image of the Day: Dreamcatcher at Saturn

Maureen Joyce Connoll discussed her debut novel, Little Lovely Things (Sourcebooks Landmark), at Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord, Mich., last week. Next to her is a dreamcatcher featuring the colors of the book's cover, created for the event by one of the store's booksellers.

'What If...': Mabel Murple's Book Shoppe & Dreamery

What If…
Mabel Murple had a Book Shoppe ~ tucked away in River John.
Could I really go and visit ~ and play upon her lawn?

"What a wonderful creative review by a writer who is celebrating our Maritimes in a unique and vibrant showcase," Mabel Murple's Book Shoppe & Dreamery, River John, N.S., posted on Facebook. "Every article she does is brimming with joy and information. I sit down with a cuppa tea every time. Thank you Coreen Hildebrand... a pleasure to meet and see Mabel here among your North Shore stops."

'8 Great Independent Book Stores in Tampa Bay'

The Tampa Bay Times showcased "8 great independent bookstores" in the area, noting that "we have both long-established independent bookstores and new ones to explore. Whatever kind of book you’re looking for--or maybe one you didn’t know you needed--a local bookseller can put it in your hands, and maybe serve you a latte and introduce you to the author into the bargain. One of the best things about indie bookstores is that each one is different, with its own vibe and character."

Among the bookshops highlighted were the Oxford Exchange ("a stunning remake of a former stable built in 1891"), Tombolo Books ("thoughtfully curated shop as a popup bookstore") and Haslam’s Book Store ("this St. Petersburg landmark has been in the Haslam family for four generations").

Personnel Changes at ReaderLink; Equinox Books

John Norris has been promoted to v-p of product management, marketing, at ReaderLink Distribution Services. He was most recently senior director of product management, marketing, and has been with the company for more than 24 years.


Dayna Anderson has joined Equinox Books as associate publisher. Equinox Books is a new imprint of CamCat Publishing that will focus on genre fiction. Anderson is past publisher of Amberjack Publishing and is a member of the board of the Independent Book Publishers Association.

Book Trailer of the Day: Voyagers

Voyagers edited by Melissa Catanese (The Ice Plant, distributed by D.A.P.), which features photographers of people reading.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Fresh Air Remembers Toni Morrison

Fresh Air remembers the late Toni Morrison and airs NPR interviews with her, including one focused on Beloved.

TV: The Baby-Sitters Club

Alicia Silverstone (American Woman) and Mark Feuerstein (9JKL) will have lead roles in The Baby-Sitters Club, Netflix's live-action series adaptation of Ann M. Martin's bestselling book series. Deadline reported that production has begun on the 10-episode series in Vancouver, B.C. Silverstone will play Elizabeth Thomas-Brewer, mother of Kristy Thomas and love interest of Watson Brewer (Feuerstein). Rachel Shukert (Glow) is the showrunner, with Lucia Aniello (Broad City) directing and exec producing.

Movies: Children of Blood and Bone

Disney "is giving a full embrace" to Children of Blood and Bone, the film based on Tomi Adeyemi's bestselling novel that originated as a Fox 2000 property, Deadline reported. Kay Oyegun (This Is Us) is making a deal to write a new script adaptation with Rick Famuyiwa, who will direct.

The project "caught the fancy of Lucasfilm and ... its chief Kathy Kennedy is in the process of making this the first feature property to be produced by Lucasfilm since the Disney acquisition that isn't Star Wars or Indiana Jones," Deadline wrote.

Books & Authors

Awards: N.Z. Books for Children and YA

Sacha Cotter's The Bomb, illustrated by Josh Morgan, was named Margaret Mahy Book of the Year at the 2019 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. The title also won the Picture Book category.

"Joy and humor permeate the story and illustrations of The Bomb, and the reader is rewarded with each encounter--they see a new layer, another detail is revealed, fresh energy bubbles up," said convenor of judges Crissi Blair. The judges also commended the language, which incorporates Māori, and the illustrations that celebrate the multicultural community. Other award winners:

Junior fiction: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble
YA fiction: Legacy by Whiti Hereaka
Nonfiction: Art-tastic by Sarah Pepperle
Best First Book: Art-tastic by Sarah Pepperle
Illustration: Puffin the Architect by Kimberly Andrews
Te Kura Pounamu Award for te reo Māori: Te Haka a Tānerore by Reina Kahukiwa, illustrated by Robyn Kahukiwa, translated by Kiwa Hammond.

Reading with... Lisa Congdon

photo: Christopher Dibble

Fine artist, illustrator and author Lisa Congdon is known for her colorful drawings and hand lettering. Her clients include Comme des Garçons, Crate and Barrel, MoMA, REI and Harvard University, among many others. She is the author and sometimes illustrator of eight books, including the starving-artist-myth-smashing Art Inc: The Essential Guide to Building Your Career as an Artist and her latest book, Find Your Artistic Voice: The Essential Guide to Working Your Creative Magic (Chronicle, August 6, 2019). She is featured in the 2017 book 200 Women Who Will Change the Way You See the World. Congdon lives and works in Portland, Ore.

On your nightstand now:

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe. This past spring I traveled to Amsterdam, Prague and Berlin--three places that hold so much history and have seen so much suffering as a result of the Holocaust. So, I felt drawn to read more, and this was the first book I found at the Amsterdam airport on my way home.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban and Lillian Hoban. I was obsessed with the whole series. Badgers are spooky cool.

Your top five authors:

Donna Tartt
Zadie Smith
Alison Bechdel
Ursula Hegi
Anne Lamott

Though this is the hardest question, ever.

Book you've faked reading:

The Iliad in college.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, one of many books that changed my life and how I think about my own creativity.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Trial by Franz Kafka. The entire "eye series" of book jacket designs for Kafka's books by designer Peter Mendelsund are wonderful.

Book you hid from your parents:

Endless Love by Scott Spencer. I bought it on the end cap of a grocery store aisle one summer day when I was 13, in around 1981. It was extremely graphic. It was the book where I first learned what actually happens when two people have sex.

Book that changed your life:

Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke. I went through a Rilke phase in my early 20s after graduating from college. I have the same copy of this book, along with a copy of On Love and Other Difficulties, that I bought in a used book store in 1991. They sit on the shelf in my office.

Favorite line from a book:

"I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer." --Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Five books you'll never part with:

First edition 1928 copy of The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall (gifted to me by my first long-term girlfriend in the early 1990s)

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver (Mary Oliver is God)

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (I read this book four times.)

Patti Smith, Collected Lyrics (In addition to Mary Oliver and Oprah, Patti Smith is also God.)

Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke

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

The Claudine Series by Colette. I first read this book 30 years ago during my early 20s after I came out as a lesbian. I became obsessed with 1920s Paris at the time, including Kiki, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Janet Flanner, etc. 

Book Review

Review: Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don't Know

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown, $30 hardcover, 400p., 9780316478526, September 10, 2019)

"Prejudice and incompetence go a long way toward explaining social dysfunction in America. But what do you do with either of those diagnoses aside from vowing, in full earnestness, to try harder next time?"

This is the question that bestselling author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell strives to answer in Talking to Strangers. It's a slightly anticipatory title, given that Gladwell's focus isn't on the act of conversation with someone perceived as different, but on the common psychological stumbling blocks that could lead to--and indeed, have resulted in--misunderstandings and misperceptions on a grand scale. Gladwell demonstrates that having this awareness is imperative to dealing with a world that is increasingly full of encounters with people who may not share one's perspectives, beliefs or values.

As shown in his previous works The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers, Gladwell effectively uses anecdotes to illustrate complicated concepts. This book is no exception. Most of the stories in Talking to Strangers involve familiar, high-profile cases--the death of Sandra Bland, the deception perpetrated by financier Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, the accusations against former Penn State University football coach Jerry Sandusky--that have made national headlines. Gladwell also delves into double agents within the CIA's ranks, the machinations of Fidel Castro, the suicide of poet Sylvia Plath and Neville Chamberlain's interactions with Adolf Hitler. Even the characters from the hit television show Friends make an appearance.

Gladwell ties all of these seemingly disparate personalities and incidents together to demonstrate that the human brain tends to "default to truth"--an instinctual, intrinsic belief that our interactions with people are genuine and honest. It's counter-intuitive to the mistaken perception that people are automatically distrusting and cynical, and the assumptions we make about each other.

"We do not behave, in other words, like sober-minded scientists, slowly gathering evidence of the truth or falsity of something before reaching a conclusion. We do the opposite. We start by believing. And we stop believing only when our doubts and misgivings rise to the point where we can no longer explain them away."

Gladwell also discusses the myth of transparency: "When we don't know someone, or can't communicate with them, or don't have the time to understand them properly, we believe we can make sense of them through their behavior and demeanor." This inevitably leads to problems, including confusing "the innocent with the guilty and the guilty with the innocent." Again, Gladwell offers fascinating real-life examples that portray how this concept has repeatedly played out in notable cases. 

Like much of Gladwell's work, Talking to Strangers carries relevance for the contemporary moment. American discourse is full of anger, distrust and hostility. While people's preferred interactions are with those perceived as sharing similar viewpoints, that is an unrealistic expectation today. By enlightening readers about the inner workings of the mind when encountering someone who appears different, Gladwell offers a roadmap for more positive conversations, engagement and interaction. --Melissa Firman, writer at  

Shelf Talker: Malcolm Gladwell examines the dynamics behind several memorable news stories and personalities to shed light on thought patterns when communicating with strangers.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: New ILSR Survey Finds Resiliency, Threats

As we have documented in previous surveys, independent businesses have proven nimble during a period of dramatic shifts in technology and consumer habits. Much of their resilience can be traced to the distinct benefits they provide to their customers, industries, and communities. --Institute for Local Self-Reliance's 2019 Independent Business Survey

More than 1,000 indie businesses nationwide participated in ILSR's survey, which was released this week. While noting the strength and resiliency of small, independent businesses, the study also cited the forces independents see as significant threats and roadblocks. Data was gathered from independent businesses across a range of industries, with about half of the responses coming from retailers, including booksellers, fabric and sewing supply stores, toy stores, clothing stores, sporting and outdoor retailers, hardware dealers, grocers and many others. Among the key findings:

  • Independent retailers overwhelmingly ranked Amazon's market power as the top threat to their businesses, and only 11% of those selling on Amazon's Marketplace described their experience as successful.
  • 70% of small businesses said Amazon's market power should be investigated by antitrust regulators.
  • 40% of retailers and 30% of manufacturers said there has been a significant merger in their industry in the last five years.
  • Independent businesses said they are paying higher prices and receiving less favorable terms as a result of growing concentration among suppliers.
  • 52% of independent retailers in cities reported that commercial rents have been rising faster than their sales. Only 6% said rents have been growing slower than sales.
  • In a market dominated by Visa and Mastercard, independent retailers are spending an average of 3% of their total revenue on swipe fees.
  • 41% of those that sought a loan in the past two years did not receive the funding they needed. This figure was higher for businesses that are new, smaller, minority-owned, or women-owned.

As the ILSR's survey suggests, the challenges can't be simply reduced to technology or fickle consumer habits. "Many public policy decisions in recent years have fueled market concentration and favored their big competitors," ILSR wrote. "This survey's findings shed light on these challenges and policy issues. In their comments, business owners also offer insight and guidance to elected officials looking to build a more equitable, entrepreneurial, competitive, and dynamic economy."

When asked which public policy issues are most important to their businesses, the independent retailers surveyed cited credit card swipe fees, Internet sales taxes, corporate subsidies and tax incentives, and antitrust policy in the top six issues for retailers, alongside healthcare policy and labor requirements.

In addition to Amazon's position as the dominant platform for e-commerce, another issue often mentioned was the company's practice of selling items below cost. "They have deliberately devalued the products I sell (books) just to seize power in the market," said a bookseller in upstate New York.

Regarding the increased concentration among suppliers, which has led to higher prices and made negotiating reasonable terms more difficult, respondents observed other negative impacts from these deals, including less flexibility, less choice, less product diversity, and lower product quality. "I am concerned about the consolidation of independent vendors, not least because of the pressures I know that is putting on some of the smaller publishers--as well as the amplified voice it is giving a smaller range of titles," said a California bookseller.

Securing loans to start or expand a business was another area of concern. The ILSR survey found that roughly one in four indie businesses applied for a loan within the past two years. Of these, 41% were either unable to obtain one or received a loan for less than the full amount they needed. "Businesses that are either new, smaller, minority-owned, or women-owned had a tougher time securing financing than the average independent business in our survey. Among new businesses, fewer than half of those that sought a loan in the last two years were able to secure the financing they needed," ILSR noted.

"We were trying to get a loan to start a new business, but were repeatedly told we could not get a loan... without being established for a certain amount of time," said the owner of a new bookstore in California.

When the big banks failed to come through, respondents who turned to local banks often found success. "I had a horrible experience with Citizens Bank, when I got funding to start a second business," noted a Delaware bookstore owner. "[I] got my loan but then fell through a major crack in their system at a critical point in the loan's maturity. They left me hanging for months, so I approached a local bank and got all of the funding I needed. It's not Trump-level funding, but it keeps my tiny boat afloat."

ILSR concluded that the "results of our survey should be instructive for policymakers from city councilors to Senators. They show clearly that independent businesses see concentrated economic power and public policy that protects that power as a direct threat to their revenues and livelihoods."

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

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