Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 13, 2019

Flatiron Books: The Courting of Bristol Keats: [Limited Stenciled Edge Edition] by Mary E Pearson

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker

Doubleday Books: Death at the Sign of the Rook: A Jackson Brodie Book by Kate Atkinson

Groundwood Books: Who We Are in Real Life by Victoria Koops

Agate Bolden: 54 Miles by Leonard Pitts Jr.


New Owners for Linden Tree Books

After a year-long search for buyers, Dianne Edmonds and Jill Curcio have sold Linden Tree Books in Los Altos, Calif., to new owners Flo Grosskurth and Chris Saccheri.

At present, none of the store's programs, events or hours will change, and a major celebration will take place sometime this fall. Throughout the month of September, customers who come by to say hi to Grosskurth and Saccheri will get a one-time 10% off of their next purchase. And if a lucky customer happens to run into Grosskurth, Saccheri, Edmonds and Curcio all at the same time, they'll receive 20% off.

The Los Altos Town Crier reported that Grosskurth and Saccheri both have backgrounds in technology and worked together at LinkedIn several years ago. When Edmonds and Curcio first announced that they were putting the store up for sale in August 2018, Saccheri said he saw the notice and hoped someone would step in to buy the store. But earlier this year, when Edmonds and Curcio still hadn't found a buyer and said they would have to close the store if no one came forward, Saccheri reached out to Grosskurth about partnering to buy the store and received an answer within five minutes.

Looking ahead, Saccheri and Grosskurth said they plan to expand the store's workshop and class offerings, as well as the store's teen advisory board program. Grosskurth added that they are looking to the nonprofit 826 Valencia as something of a model.

The store was founded in 1981 by Dennis and Linda Ronberg. In 2010 Edmonds and Curcio purchased the store and, in the years since, moved the store to a new location, modernized its retail and inventory management systems and launched online sales.

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Binc Foundation Wins Voice of the Heartland Award

Congratulations to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, which won the 2019 Voice of the Heartland Award. Given by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association and the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, the award recognizes "outstanding individuals or organizations who uphold the value of independent bookselling and who have made a significant contribution to bookselling in the Midwest." Binc will receive the award October 2, during the Book Awards Dinner at the Heartland Fall Forum in Cleveland, Ohio.

Established in 1996 and expanded in 2012 to serve bricks-and-mortar booksellers nationwide, the Binc Foundation provides emergency assistance to booksellers facing hardship and difficult financial circumstances. Since 2012, Binc has granted $722,676 to more than 330 booksellers, helping to alleviate painful emergency circumstances and giving booksellers relief during difficult times. Binc is currently assisting nearly twice the number of booksellers as this time last year and is experiencing its busiest year of assisting booksellers since 2011.

In his nominating letter, GLIBA Board member Tim Smith, operations manager for Schuler Books in Grand Rapids and Lansing, Mich., wrote: "Binc has been there when booksellers need them most. They serve us booksellers when the unexpected happens in a way that is comforting, compassionate, and impactful. I am always impressed how they navigate situations in a way that is most beneficial to the bookseller. On top of that, they help many attain scholarships for higher education, as well as equip those choosing to make bookselling a career. The staff at Binc actively supports our bookselling community every day, and we are so lucky to have them based right here in our region."

Johanna Hynes, field sales manager at Ingram Publisher Services, commented: "Binc puts into practice daily the words of Midwesterner Senator Paul Wellstone, 'We all do better when we all do better.' As an organization, they both nurture and tend to those who have chosen to pursue Bookselling as a profession. Binc not only provide a place to turn when we are challenged, but resources to help booksellers move forward and grow in our careers. What a gift they are to our community. They make this profession better."

Jeff Deutsch, director, Seminary Co-op Bookstore and 57th Street Books, Chicago Ill., added: "Binc has been at the forefront of elevating the profession of bookselling while providing life-changing financial support for individual booksellers. As advocates on behalf of the human beings whose passion leads them to commit to bookselling, Binc is peerless in its determination to bring their commitment to our community in times of need."

Accepting on behalf of Binc, executive director Pam French said, "We are honored to receive this award and my heartfelt thanks goes to all the members and the boards of GLIBA and MIBA for choosing Binc to receive this honor. We cannot do this important work without a supportive industry, and we are beyond grateful to be recognized as an essential part of the bookselling ecosystem, and to be able to provide the safety net that allows our shared community of book-loving people to thrive."

SIBA Conroy Legacy Award Goes to Wiley Cash

Wiley Cash

Bestselling author Wiley Cash has received the 2020 Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Conroy Legacy Award, which recognizes writers "who have achieved a lasting impact on their literary community, demonstrated support for independent bookstores both in their own communities and in general, created written work that focuses significantly on their home place, and supported other writers, especially new and emerging writers." SIBA will make a donation to the Pat Conroy Literary Center and to the UNC Asheville Foundation in Cash's name.

"We are so delighted to see that booksellers have chosen Wiley Cash as their Conroy Legacy Award Recipient,' said Wanda Jewell, SIBA's executive director. "Wiley is a generous southern friend to bookstores and writers."

Cash is the author of A Land More Kind than Home, This Dark Road to Mercy, and The Last Ballad. In addition to his novels, he is the creator of the Open Canon Book Club and a founder of the Land More Kind Appalachian Artists Residency.

"Pat [Conroy] was one of those successful writers who was also pushing others ahead of him," Cash observed. "I've heard story after story from writers whose work he shouldered and shared with the world. He did that for me. We all need to do that for the writers who are coming behind us. He didn't pull the ladder up. He reached a hand down."

He also said: "It's only because the independent bookstores and booksellers embraced my debut that my books have had the success they've had. Indie bookstores put me on the literary map, and they've kept me there. Independent bookstores are the literary, social, cultural, intellectual, and ethical lifeblood of our communities. We go to indie stores to meet authors, discover books, discuss ideas, find community, exchange new ideas and challenge old ones."

Suzanne Lucey, co-owner of Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, N.C., noted that the regard goes both ways: "We had Wiley to our store and for each book sold he donated a dollar from his own pocket to send to the ACLU. Who does that? He also has asked to do a writing class at our store, and applauded a Clay County, N.C. high school teacher for introducing Appalachian writers like Ron Rash and David Joy. He really is trying from the bottom up to make our state and country better."

Highlights of the Winter Institute Program

Among highlights of the schedule for the 15th annual Winter Institute, to be held in Baltimore, Md., January 21-24, are:

An all-day Antitrust Symposium on Tuesday, the 21st, in nearby Washington, D.C., on "growing monopoly power in the retailing and tech sector, with a focus on the extraordinary market dominance of Amazon." Panelists include Matt Stoller, author of Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy (Simon & Schuster); Barry Lynn, executive director of Open Market Institutes and author of Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction (Wiley); and Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Tours on Tuesday of the Penguin Random House warehouse in Westminster, Md.

A "program and toast" on Tuesday evening at 10 p.m. for American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher who is retiring at the end of the year after a decade in his current position and some 30 years with the association. All are invited!

The ABA Town Hall on Thursday, at which booksellers are invited to talk about industry and association issues; the ABA board will be on hand.

Seminars and panels will focus on such topics as how booksellers can manage events in today's "politically challenging environment"; how to make bookstores more inclusive; the expansion of artificial intelligence into all aspects of our lives--and bookstores; the "politics of curation" and more.

And, of course, the program will include the many things that have made the Winter Institute the remarkable and rewarding event that it is, including keynote speeches and conversations (keynoters have yet to be announced), panels on the nuts and bolts of bookselling, author signings, rep presentations, the galley room, consultation stations, focus groups and more.

Registration for Wi15 will open next Wednesday, September 18.

Busboys and Poets Adding Columbia, Md., Location

Busboys and Poets, the restaurant, bookstore and events space with seven locations in the Washington, D.C., area, "is making the leap" to Columbia, Md. Washington Business Journal reported that, at 10,771 square feet, the new space will be the company's "largest and its farthest from D.C. proper."

Located at Mango Tree Road and Valencia Lane, across from Merriweather Post Pavilion, the new Busboys and Poets will have a restaurant with more than 400 seats, a second-floor terrace with outdoor seating, a bookstore and room for private events, readings, open mic nights and other programming. The building is being designed by JP2 Architects.

Owner Andy Shallal said the move to Columbia is an extension of his ongoing strategy to follow his customers to where they are: "I think we have a lot of people that live in the suburbs, who may work in the city, but want to kick back a bit before they go out. It's not practical to go home and come back. So we want to give them options where they are."

The combination of a significant social media following from the Greater Baltimore area and the community in Columbia he's seen since spending more time there was also instrumental in the decision. "It's definitely a very tight community from what I've seen, and being part of that would be a really great opportunity," he said. "When you have a tight community, it's easier to reach them, and easier to create events and programs that the community really wants."

The new Busboys and Poets "will be part of the 35-acre Merriweather District from Howard Hughes Corp., within Downtown Columbia, a massive 14 million-square-foot project set on 391 acres near the music venue," the Business Journal wrote.

"I found Howard Hughes to be very motivated and very supportive, and they really wanted us there," Shallal said. "And that development has a lot of energy behind it."

He told Baltimore Fishbowl: "I wanted to make sure it's a place where racial and cultural connections are constantly uplifted, where people feel a real sense of community, where hate doesn't play out in the day-to-day civic life. All of those things were considerations when deciding to come into a place like Columbia."

National Book Foundation Honoring Edmund White

The National Book Foundation will award the 2019 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Edmund White. Describing him as a "master of narrative and craft across fiction, journalism, memoir and more," NBF board chairman David Steinberger said White "has built a career defined by its indelible impact on many literary forms. Whether it's evocative depiction of gay life during the tumultuous 1980s, painstakingly researched biography, or elegant memoir, White's work stands out across decades as singular in its resonance and significance for a multitude of devoted readers." The DCAL medal will be presented to White November 20 during the awards ceremony and benefit dinner by writer and filmmaker John Waters.

In addition to more than a dozen works of fiction, White is the author of 15 other titles, "including works of nonfiction and memoir that laid the groundwork for generations of LGBTQ artists and writers. White's candid approach to writing about the lives of gay men--including his own experiences--today serve as valuable and moving documentation of the joy, devastation, and victories that defined queer life through the decades," NBF wrote.

White's books include a biography of French writer Jean Genet, for which he won the National Book Critics Circle Award; a trilogy of autobiographical novels (A Boy's Own Story, The Beautiful Room Is Empty, and The Farewell Symphony); pioneering works of nonfiction like The Joy of Gay Sex, the travel memoir States of Desire; the National Book Critics Circle Award–nominated City Boy and many other titles.

His work also includes crucial cultural criticism and activism, particularly around the American AIDS crisis. In 1982, he co-founded (along with Nathan Fain, Larry Kramer, Larry Mass, Paul Popham, and Paul Rapoport) the Gay Men's Health Crisis, the world's first provider of HIV/AIDS care and advocacy.

"Most writers don't set out to break barriers or trailblaze, but rather to share their unique perspectives and stories on the page," said Lisa Lucas, NBF executive director. "It's only when you're able to look back at a body of work that one is able to see a career like Edmund White's for what it is: revolutionary and vital, making legible for scores of readers the people, moments, and history that would come to define not only queer lives, but also the broader trajectory of American culture."

Obituary Note: Anne Rivers Siddons

Anne Rivers Siddons, "part of an important generation of post-civil-rights-era Southern writers and author of many bestselling novels," died September 11, the Charleston Post and Courier reported. She was 83. Siddons made an auspicious debut on the literary scene with her 1976 novel Heartbreak Hotel, which was "loosely based on her own experience as a student at Auburn University from 1954 to 1958, where she published an editorial in the school newspaper in support of integration that gained national traction and angered school administrators. When she did it a second time, she was dismissed from her position at the paper."

Her 19 novels and an essay collection (John Chancellor Makes Me Cry) established Siddons's "reputation as an influential writer whose gentility was belied by critical observations of the South," the Post and Courier noted, adding that she was part of a generation of writers who helped define what become known as  the "New South,” a region steeped in tradition and history but capable of progressive transformation. Her other novels include Hill Towns, Peachtree Road, Up Island, Islands, The House Next Door, Colony, The Girls of August, Outer Banks, Low Country and Off Season.

"She played a very important role," said friend and fellow author Cynthia Graubart, whose future husband Cliff Graubart, owner of Atlanta's Old New York Book Shop, introduced her to Siddons in 1987. "I think that Anne is the picture of what a Southern woman had to overcome in her life to break from the barriers of old expectations. Even when she landed on the New York Times bestseller list, her mother at the end of a phone conversation still said, 'Have you ever done anything about your teaching certificate?' " Graubart added that Siddons "fought that in a certain sense. She was brought up to be a proper Southern lady, which she carried out beautifully, but she also fought against that stereotype. She wanted to be different, she wanted to break free."

Cassandra King, who, with her late husband Pat Conroy, also forged a close friendship with Siddons, said, "I read her earlier books. They really opened up my eyes to another way of looking at the South.... The thing that I loved about Anne was that she never talked about her own work.... She was very supportive of other writers. She wanted to know what I was working on, what Pat was working on."

In a tribute, author Patti Callahan Henry wrote: "There are books you discover at the moment in your life when you need them the most, for nourishment or encouragement, or when it's time to weep or heal. For me, Anne Rivers Siddons books are those exactly. Her novels shaped and influenced my imagination, cracked me open to understand the power of story."


Image of the Day: Reba Birmingham at Gatsby Books

Gatsby Books, Long Beach, Calif., hosted an SRO crowd for fantasy author Reba Birmingham for her new book, Words on a Plate (Launch Point Press).

Happy 35th Birthday, Quail Ridge Books!

Congratulations to Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, N.C., which is celebrating its 35th anniversary on Friday, October 4. 

On October 5, the store will host an anniversary reception welcoming staff members, local authors, sales reps and customers to share their memories about the store and any of its various iterations, including Quail Corners Books, Quail Ridge Books & Music and Quail Ridge Books at North Hills. And to that end, Quail Ridge's staff is asking customers and friends of the bookstore to send their fondest store memories before the anniversary reception.

Quail Ridge was founded by the late Nancy Olson in 1984. In 2013, Lisa Poole purchased the store, and in 2016 it moved to its current location in Raleigh's North Hills area.

Personnel Changes at HarperCollins; University of Pittsburgh Press

Gabriel Aviles has joined HarperCollins Christian Publishing as senior director of marketing for the Spanish Language Division. He has more than 25 years of experience in marketing, brand development, content, and strategic consulting in music, television, film, and subscription video-on-demand. He was most recently CEO and founder of the Fullblast Group, a marketing and business development consulting company.


At the University of Pittsburgh Press:

Chloe Wertz has been promoted to publicist. She was formerly marketing coordinator.

Kelly Lynn Thomas is joining the press as marketing coordinator.

Sheena Carroll has joined the press as marketing assistant.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Melissa Isaacson on Today

Today Show: Melissa Isaacson, author of State: A Team, a Triumph, a Transformation (Agate Midway, $27, 9781572842663).

This Weekend on Book TV: Ben Westhoff on Fentanyl, Inc.

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, September 14
5:50 p.m. Ronald Rosbottom, author of Sudden Courage: Youth in France Confront the Germans, 1940-1945 (Custom House, $27.99, 9780062470027), at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass.

7:40 p.m. Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, authors of Be Strong and of Good Courage: How Israel's Most Important Leaders Shaped Its Destiny (PublicAffairs, $30, 9781541767652).

9:15 p.m. Caitlin Moscatello, author of See Jane Win: The Inspiring Story of the Women Changing American Politics (Dutton, $28, 9781524742928), at the Strand in New York City. (Re-airs Sunday at 6 p.m.)

10 p.m. Ben Westhoff, author of Fentanyl, Inc.: How Rogue Chemists Are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic (Atlantic Monthly Press, $27, 9780802127433). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Neil Gorsuch, author of A Republic, If You Can Keep It (Crown Forum, $30, 9780525576785). (Re-airs Sunday at 7:45 p.m.)

Sunday, September 15
12:10 a.m. Tope Folarin, author of A Particular Kind of Black Man: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781501171819), at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y.

10 p.m. Senator Jeff Merkley, author of America Is Better Than This: Trump's War Against Migrant Families (Twelve, $27, 9781538734193).

11 p.m. Kelli Harding, author of The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness (Atria, $27, 9781501184260), at the Strand in New York City.

Books & Authors

Awards: Academy of American Poets Winners

The Academy of American Poets announced the 2019 winners of its annual poetry prizes. This year's recipients are:

Rita Dove won the $100,000 Wallace Stevens Award, which recognizes "outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry." AAP chancellor Terrance Hayes said: "The depth of Rita Dove's insight is astonishing. She sees into our most complex relationships and renders those truths with startling precision. She delivers us to ourselves. With technical virtuosity and luscious music, her poems torch us with beauty and brutality, innocence and ruin. Fiercely political and exactly intimate, this is brilliant poetry at its height."

Ilya Kaminsky received the $25,000 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, which honors "distinguished poetic achievement."

Kyle Dargan's Anagnorisis (TriQuarterly/Northwestern University Press) won the $25,000 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for "the most outstanding book of poetry published in the U.S. in the previous year."

Aditi Machado's Emporium (Nightboat Books) won the $5,000 James Laughlin Award, which is given "to recognize and support a second book of poetry forthcoming in the next calendar year."

Gloria Muñoz's Danzsirley/Dawn's Early won the Ambroggio Prize, a $1,000 publication award given for a book-length poetry manuscript originally written in Spanish and with an English translation. The winning manuscript is published by Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe.

Clare Cavanagh's translation of Asymmetry by Adam Zagajewski (FSG) was cited for the $1,000 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award, which "recognizes a published translation of poetry from any language into English that demonstrates literary excellence."

Will Schutt's translation of the work of Italian poet Fabio Pusterla won the $25,000 Raiziss/de Palchi Book Prize, which is given for "the translation into English of a significant work of modern Italian poetry."

Jonathan Teklit won the $1,000 Aliki Perroti & Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award, which recognizes a student poet.

Reading with... Dina Nayeri

photo: Anna Leader

Iranian American writer Dina Nayeri is a 2019 Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination Fellow, and winner of  the 2018 UNESCO City of Literature Paul Engle Prize and a National Endowment for the Arts grant (2015). Her work has been published in The O. Henry Prize Stories (2015) and in Best American Short Stories (2018). She lives in London. Her book of narrative nonfiction, The Ungrateful Refugee, was just published by Catapult Books.

On your nightstand now: 

I'm reading Nervous States by William Davies because I want to understand what's happening to truth in our world. I'm reading Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous because I crave my own familiar immigrant details suffused with beauty and poetry. I'm reading Lewis Hyde's A Primer for Forgetting because I'm obsessed with the past, and Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley because she's one of the best living prose stylists and storytellers and is concerned with all the same shattering (but inevitable) life events that haunt me.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Little Black Fish by Samad Behrangi is an Iranian storybook about a fish that goes looking for life and adventure outside its little pond. It was very subversive in post-revolutionary Iran. It passed as a children's book, but it was really about rebellion and change and courage. 

Your top five authors:

Kazuo Ishiguro because he can inhabit any voice and finds undoings in the mundane. Marilynne Robinson because her language is rapturous and her observations heartbreaking. Tessa Hadley because she sees what her characters don't want seen with both kindness and brutality. Robert MacFarlane because he brings the physical world into sparkling light, forcing me to see things I would otherwise ignore. And he finds beauty in the darkest places. George Orwell because he dared to write ugly timeless truths about human nature.

Book you've faked reading:

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust because.... hasn't everybody lied about this one? I'm working on it, though.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss because it is funny and moving and free of cynicism. It's a story of two lonely people who come together, and it has a huge insatiable heart. It gives me hope about the power of storytelling. Also, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion because it is a healing book, and it helps me make sense of the long fog of grief.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I don't buy books for their covers, but I admit that if it hadn't been for the cover, I may have bought Underland by Robert Macfarlane on an e-reader. The hardback is such a thing of beauty. It's a work of art in itself. I have it upright on my shelf. 

Book you hid from your parents:

I had a very thorough photographic sex book in college that I hid every time my mother came to visit. Luckily, I went to college across the country, so this wasn't a frequent problem. Plus, she was usually so horrified at the state of my dorm room that she spent the entire time cleaning and stocking my mini fridge. Man, I was a bad kid. 

Book that changed your life:

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. I read this book in business school just as I was realizing that I should be a writer. Ishiguro's work showed me what great stories can accomplish (and that it can be just as interesting to watch a moral dilemma forming in someone's heart as it is to debate the underlying questions). Ishiguro also taught me that the defining moments in our lives happen quietly, and that an honest voice is so much more powerful than impressive prose.

Favorite line from a book:

"To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing--the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one's hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again." --Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson

Five books you'll never part with:

If I could only have five books (for how long? forever? on an island?), I'd take the books that inspire me to keep writing. So, it would be craft books and other people's true stories, the books that subtly demonstrate how, as a writer and observer, you can bring a story to life using its most singular details, while honoring the truth of that story.

Art of Subtext by Charles Baxter
Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
Orwell's essay collection Facing Unpleasant Facts
Svetlana Alexeivich The Unwomanly Face of War
Lost in Translation by Eva Hoffman
Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach

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

Jhumpa Lahiri's Namesake, because I related so much with that particular life story--the Eastern immigrant who has become Americanized and lost the connection with his/her parents. Every page of that novel was a revelation. It was written so beautifully, paying so much attention to the small beauties of a life like my own, that it helped me shed a layer of my foreign-kid shame.

Book you were weirdly and inexplicably obsessed with as a teen:

Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I was so obsessed with how those boys went from civilized to barbaric to evil, and how each threshold was crossed. I had pages of notes and a copy full of annotations and I did so much biblical research, trying to figure out subtle references. It was a yearlong obsession. The key to understanding Dina is that I'm a weirdo with a dark side. I'm finally okay with that.

Book Review

Review: The Queens of Animation

The Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History by Nathalia Holt (Little, Brown, $29 hardcover, 400p., 9780316439152, October 22, 2019)

Sports, science, finance, entertainment--if followers of current events didn't know better, they would be sorely tempted to conclude that there is no field in which female workers haven't been shortchanged. Nathalia Holt's Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars did yeoman's work in the area of score settling, and now she delivers another reckoning: The Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History.

In the 1930s, a woman seeking employment at Walt Disney Studios beyond its pink-collar-ghetto Ink and Paint department was apt to receive the company's stock rejection letter: "Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that task is performed entirely by young men." Change had to start somewhere, and Holt devotes The Queens of Animation to the iconoclastic women who got in early at the House of Mouse. Among her five principal subjects are English-born Sylvia Moberly-Holland, who through her work on Fantasia's "Waltz of the Flowers" became Disney's first female story director; plucky Retta Scott, who through her work on Bambi became the studio's first credited female animator; and the legendary Mary Blair, a painter who brought a refreshingly modern look to Disney animation and was a bona fide art director by the time she worked on Peter Pan.

The Queens of Animation covers the women's particular, personal challenges (Blair suffered miscarriages and an abusive husband) and their shared trials, especially their male co-workers' resentment and predatory ways. Among the sketches reproduced in Holt's exhaustively researched book is a shattering one by scriptwriting and storyboarding ace Grace Huntington: it shows an outsize Mickey Mouse-like figure preying on a female worker.

The Queens of Animation does double duty as the story of Disney's animation studio, which was in debt for years and continually seeking financial relief through new technologies. Holt, foremost a science writer, is awfully good at describing how innovations like Technicolor, the optical printer and xerography work. Her book takes readers through the studio's early 21st-century switch to CGI, which finally obliterated the need for cripplingly costly hand-drawn animation. Of course, the irony is that in the studio's financially unstable golden era, when its male employees thought it beneath them to draw fairies, it was movies about women--a princess here, a Poppins there--that reliably saved Piglet's bacon. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: This incisive look at the first women to work at Walt Disney Studios also tells the story of the animation department's years of struggle to make ends meet.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'The Reading Public' Is Unputdownable

We say "the reading public" so often in our business that you might be tempted to think we know what it means.

Sir Walter Scott

Perhaps this not-so-distant cousin of every politician's go-to phrase--"the American people"--is ubiquitous because it has transcended mere definition ("I am more than happy to give the reading public exactly what they want"; "there is a big appetite among the reading public for books about the lives of so-called 'ordinary people' "; "created a lively appetite for Ulysses among the reading public"; "But Methuen had underestimated the reading public"; "the reading public has long been fascinated with anything having to do with Charlotte Brontë").

Apparently we can place the blame for its existence squarely on the shoulders of Sir Walter Scott, who coined the term in an 1812 letter to Lord Byron, writing that "besides this debt, which I owe your Lordship in common with the rest of the reading public, I have to acknowledge my particular thanks for your having distinguished by praise, in the work which your Lordship rather dedicated in general to satire, some of my own literary attempts."

Since then, we've kept the reading public at our side, like a cross between favored pet and lab rat, hoping it will someday, somehow, develop the ability to communicate and share its bookish secrets with us:

1853 (Hartford Daily Courant): "There has probably never been, in the history of our country, a period when so many books are issued to the reading public as the present."

1880 (Cincinnati Enquirer): "The credulity of the reading public has been severely taxed in the past year by the claims of the 'Literary Revolution.' "

1887 (The Independent) Thomas Wentworth Higginson: "No reading public likes an excess of any kind of treatment. Whether idealism chokes it in gas, or propriety stiffens it with starch, or realism suffocates it with common dust, there is equally a struggle of resistance."

1893 (San Francisco Chronicle): "We do not sell books. We sell titles and covers. The public demand something on the verge of indelicacy at least. In the reading public there is a strong wave for the meretricious."

1898 (The Bookman): "Whether trade can be called good or not, one thing is certain--an enormous quantity of literature is being purchased by the reading public. In years gone by such a state of things would have meant fortunes for the publishers, but competition among them and among booksellers reduces the producing and selling of books to a bare living."

1926 (Fiction and the Reading Public by Q.D. Leavis): "The book-borrowing public has acquired the reading habit while somehow failing to exercise any critical intelligence about its reading.... And by accustoming the reading habit to certain limited appeals and a certain restricted outlook, it has spoilt the public for fiction in book form of a more serious nature."

1983 (Philadelphia Inquirer) Art Buchwald on the ABA convention in Dallas, Tex.: "All in all it was a very successful book convention, and the reading public has a lot to look forward to this winter. Requited and unrequited passion, friendly and unfriendly computers, reincarnation with a British M.P., and hundreds of books on how to stick it to the IRS are just a few of the subjects that will be available on your booksellers' shelves in the fall."

1984 (New York Times): "One of the most important if unnerving trends is that there is no longer a 'mass market' for any but a handful of books. 'Today it's a lot of mini-markets,' said Carole Baron, publisher of Dell Publishing Company. 'Every once in a while a book appeals to almost all segments of the reading public, a Danielle Steel or Stephen King, but not too many others do. Gone are the days when we would sell six million copies in six months.' "

1988 (Los Angeles Times): "Al Ralston, a former journalism instructor and now owner of Fullerton's Book Harbor, isn't worried about the intrusion of TV on the reading public. 'The best thing that ever happened to books is TV. It's so rotten that people are reading more than ever before. Why is it that VCRs and CDs are booming as never before? People are turned off on TV. It's so godawful.' "

1989 (Newsday) George Will on the closing of NYC's Scribner's Bookstore after 75 years: "It is of course splendid when one of the large chains orders your book in the thousands, but there is a special pleasure in the personal judgments of these intense individualists who bring their interests to the attention of small portions of the reading public.... Bookselling, like the country it reflects, is still a bouillabaisse, not a bland puree."

1992 (Allentown Morning Call) Waldenbooks CEO Charlie Cumello: "In some marketplaces, we missed the reading levels of the people. We as an industry were not giving the reading public the selection they wanted, and I think that's been proven."

"The reading public" continues to evade strict definition as yet another century unfolds, but like any good pageturner, it is also sublimely unputdownable.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor 

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