Shelf Awareness for Thursday, January 23, 2020

Holiday House: Ros Demir Is Not the One by Leyla Brittan

HarperAlley: I Shall Never Fall In Love by Hari Conner

W. W. Norton & Company to Sell and Distribute Yale University Press and Harvard University Press

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

Quotation of the Day

Wi15: 'Carrying Out the Quiet Revolutionary Act'

"I flew out from Los Angeles on Friday, and there were two legs to my trip. On the first leg, when my seatmate sat down next to me and struck up a conversation and asked me what I did for work, I said I'm the incoming CEO of the American Booksellers Association. The conversation that ensued is one that I'm sure most, if not all, of you have had over and over again. He said it's so sad there are no more bookstores. And he talked a lot about it. So on the second leg of my trip, when my new seatmate sat down next to me and we struck up a conversation and he asked me what I did for work, I said I'm a leader in a medium that changes the world every day. This time the conversation was very different.... I talked about the work we all do.... I told him that's my new job, to help ensure that the people, all of you carrying out the quiet revolutionary act to make the world better every day through books, bookselling and bookstores, continue to survive and thrive."

--ABA's next CEO Allison Hill, in her introductory remarks at yesterday's Breakfast Keynote

 Treasure Books, Inc.: There's Treasure Inside by Jon Collins-Black


Wi15: Ryan Raffaelli on Indies' Resurgence

"History is littered with winners and losers of reinvention," Ryan Raffaelli, associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and self-described "anthropologist for business," told a packed room at yesterday's Wi15 breakfast keynote, "Reinventing the Store: Achieving Growth in the Face of New Business Risks."

Ryan Raffaelli
(photo: ABA/Two Cats Communications)

"For the past 15 years, I have been working with companies that have been faced with technological shock," Raffaelli observed, "but they've had to step back and say, how are we going to reinvent when the world tells us that we either have to hold on or let go."

For businesses at this threshold, two options are in play: to continue to exploit the core product or technology, or to exploit some capabilities while exploring new capabilities, skills and products. "Exploration is about learning," Raffaelli said. "For many organizations it's difficult to do both because the folks who live on the exploitation curve start to resent the people who are thinking about the new curve."

The centerpiece of Raffaelli's presentation was a preview of his forthcoming academic paper on the renewed strength of the independent bookstore channel. "I go deep into an industry," he said. "In your case, for eight years I've been trying to understand why are these independent bookstores beating the odds.... If we think about resilience, this room represents it.... In my mind, nobody's been through more than you."

Using several tools, including archival analysis, field interviews, focus groups, geographical data, field observations and participant observations, he was able to highlight certain core factors in the indie resurgence:

Community: "It's not to say that it wasn't important from the very beginning because it was," he noted. "But here it's about redefining the value for the consumer and what you've been able to do is redefine and reaffirm the importance of community.... One of the things you're most adept at is allowing community to happen through social media, where it goes beyond the store, the idea of community through multiple platforms and channels." He also cited the emphasis on localism, noting that for booksellers, the shop local movement was a proactive, rather than reactive, stance, "communicating the value of why we exist."

Curation: Raffaelli said booksellers use curation better than any other retailer he has studied: "In fact, it's a term you were using well before it became ubiquitous in retail. The idea that you would carefully select for a customer a perfect book, the one they can't find on the New York Times bestseller list.... This is actually one of the things that helps you compete with the algorithm, that missed human connection."

Convening: "You have been able to exchange ideas and create places for conversation that become the cornerstone of the community," he observed.

Engagement with other booksellers: "Very rarely do I go to industries where people come together and share all their best practices," he noted. "The fact that this happens is a credit to both the ABA and the regional associations that allow you to come together and share these ideas, but it also allows you to double down on core values.... It's my belief that these processes have been core to the regeneration process that's happened over the past 10 years."

Thin margins, living wages for employees and rising rents were mentioned as prime challenges for the future. Raffaelli also stressed the importance of sharing leading practices and data, noting: "You have to complete your ABACUS surveys.... It's only as a community that you start understanding where the trends are coming from.... ABACUS is one of your core competitive tools."

"In all the industries that I have studied, I have never met more committed employees with a passion for the work that they do because they see it as a calling," Raffaelli concluded, adding that indie bookstores "bring people closer together out of a common set of values that allow them to connect in ways that their couches at home aren't allowing them to, or the computer screens at work are keeping them from. I think now more than ever what the business world can learn from you is the value in community." --Robert Gray

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

Wi15: The Story of American Dirt

Javier Ramirez and Jeanine Cummins

Yesterday morning, in front of a standing-room-only crowd, Javier Ramirez, co-owner of Madison Street Books (opening next month in Chicago), interviewed author Jeanine Cummins about her recently named B&N and Oprah pick American Dirt(Flatiron Books). The book follows Lydia Quixano Perez, jolted from her comfortable middle-class existence in Acapulco when she becomes the target of a drug cartel boss's wrath, and Mexico is no longer safe for her. Lydia flees with her eight-year-old son, Luca, for the United States. Cummins said the book took seven years to write; her older daughter was Luca's age when she began the book, and her younger daughter was Luca's age when she finished it. Cummins said, "I did everything I could think of to put myself in places where I could interview migrants, and the people who work to protect them."

For the most part, the audience of predominantly booksellers was supportive and welcoming, applauding the author and her empathy for migrants everywhere--be it Mexico or Syria. The book has come under fire by some advocates of the #ownvoices movement because Cummins herself is not Mexican and did not experience the events that Lydia experienced in the book. When a question from the audience echoed these concerns about what gave the author the right to tell this story, Cummins responded, "That's a question I asked myself for five years. I resisted this book and threw out two drafts. In the end, the migrants I spoke to, the people who protect them, showed me what courage looks like." She added, "Who gets to tell what stories is an important question, and one we need to examine. I'm happy to have a book that's opening up these conversations."

Several questions touched on immigration policy, and Cummins said she wanted to be careful about answering such questions because she is not an expert on immigration. "What's changed most is not the policy but the tenor of the policy. Policy predated this administration, but we weren't so gleefully cruel about it."

Cummins said that the unexpected death of her father in October 2016 and the election came so close together that they were inextricably linked in her mind. "Grief was the springboard" to her third and final attempt to write the book, which came together in 10 months.

Cummins said that Oprah Winfrey would be highlighting many of the organizations that the author interviewed for her research on the book during their interview. The author described a defining moment while interviewing a nun who runs a shelter on the Mexico side of the border for women and children; many of the women were separated from their children, who remained on the U.S. side after the mothers were sent back. Some of the women were turned in by jealous boyfriends, or beaten and then deported. "How do you not despair?" Cummins asked the nun. "My tears will not help them," the nun responded.

Cummins said, "I wrote a work of fiction that I hoped could be a bridge instead of screaming into an echo chamber."

She explained, "The beating heart of this book was that question: If you were in danger, what would you do to save your child?" --Jennifer M. Brown

Wi15: Rebecca Solnit on Nonexistence

Rebecca Solnit
(photo: ABA/Two Cats Communications)

"I am more than cognizant that the reason why I make a living writing books is because my books have been taken care of," said author Rebecca Solnit during an afternoon keynote session yesterday at Winter Institute 2020.

Throughout her talk Solnit discussed not only her upcoming memoir Recollections of My Nonexistence (Viking) but also her relationship to bookstores and libraries, the role of reading as a transformative, liberating act and the ways in which women are often robbed of their voices.

"The first thing I'm here to say is thank you," continued Solnit. "But I also want to celebrate what we're all trying to do and what you do specifically. Not just taking care of me and my books but taking care of something grander than any of us."

Choosing which books to take up and champion is both an aesthetic and ethical act, Solnit said, especially in a culture and time troubled by "demagoguery and propaganda" as well as slackness and distractedness. And in an age of "glib false certainties" bookstores and libraries are "temples of resistance," fighting in defense of "language itself" and the simple fact that words have meanings.

Someone choosing to read, she said, is seeking to become quiet enough to allow another's thoughts to enter their head, which in an age of distractedness is a spiritual as well as political act. Even purely escapist reading, she added, has become a kind of resistance.

On the subject of what she meant by nonexistence, Solnit explained that she was referring both to her time spent living in daydreams, reveries, libraries and bookstores, as well as the much "grimmer" sense of the ways in which society attempts to silence women, ranging from being talked over or ignored to being threatened with violence or killed.

Solnit said that in her earlier feminist work, she'd never gone into great detail about how "deeply and profoundly" society's "ambient" violence against women affected her, but in Recollections of My Nonexistence, she wanted to go into the subjective consequences of that violence as deeply as she could.

She emphasized that what she wants for society is not a world where men aren’t heard but a world where women are heard just as loudly and just as frequently, with as much consequence. To her, feminism has always been a "project to liberate everybody," for which books are instrumental in that they invite readers to be other kinds of things.

"I think anybody who is involved in books is involved in that transformation for the better," Solnit said. "My own life has been a drop in that ocean."

Recalling how delighted she was to see books by writers like R.O. Kwon and Tommy Orange on a prominent display table at a bookstore in the Denver Airport recently, Solnit argued that we are in the midst of a "golden age of writing," and she thanked all of the booksellers and publishers present for helping make space for a "democracy of stories" to flourish.

"At its best it's a liberation project," said Solnit of writing and bookselling. --Alex Mutter

Wi15: Around the Parties

After a full day of presentations, panels, meetings, education sessions and more, Winter Institute attendees enjoyed the evening festivities.
At the Ingram reception at the Hilton on Tuesday: booksellers Tom Lowenburg, Octavia Books, New Orleans, La.; Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, N.C.; Carl Kranz, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va.; Dave Lucey, Page 158.

On Wednesday evening, booksellers attended an author dinner hosted by HarperCollins Children's. Pictured: (l.-r.) first-timer Rae Ann Parker, Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn.; Melissa Taylor, E. Shaver, Bookseller, Savannah, Ga.; Jill Yeomans, White Whale Bookstore, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Gibran Graham, The Briar Patch, Bangor, Maine; Kate Reynolds, Colgate Bookstore, Hamilton, N.Y.

Binc's dinner Wednesday evening included a tribute to outgoing SIBA executive director Wanda Jewell, who was an original member of the Binc board of directors and coined the phrase "Think Binc!" Binc presented her with a sash embroidered with the title "Blinkie Queen," decorated with all the flashing pins Binc has created as fundraisers over the years. Pictured: Jewell with Binc executive director Pam French.


Image of the Day: Finally, Call Me American

In his 2019 memoir Call Me American (Vintage), Abdi Nor Iftin described his harrowing journey from Mogadishu to Kenya as a refugee, then eventually to the U.S. through the annual visa lottery. On January 17, years after fleeing his home, Iftin became a U.S. citizen.

Personnel Changes at Tom Doherty Associates

Saraciea Fennell has been promoted to publicity manager from senior publicist at Tom Doherty Associates.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Ingrid Newkirk on Real Time with Bill Maher

HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Ingrid Newkirk, co-author of Animalkind: Remarkable Discoveries About Animals and Revolutionary New Ways to Show Them Compassion (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781501198540).

This Weekend on Book TV: Andrea Bernstein on American Oligarchs

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, January 25
4:30 p.m. César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, author of Migrating to Prison: America's Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants (The New Press, $24.99, 9781620974209), at BookBar in Denver, Colo.

7:45 p.m. Douglas R. Egerton, author of Heirs of an Honored Name: The Decline of the Adams Family and the Rise of Modern America (Basic Books, $35, 9780465093885).

8:50 p.m. Mark Kenyon, author of That Wild Country: An Epic Journey through the Past, Present, and Future of America's Public Lands (Little A, $14.95, 9781542043069), at Schuler Books and Music in Grand Rapids, Mich.

10 p.m. Andrea Bernstein, author of American Oligarchs: The Kushners, the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power (Norton, $30, 9781324001874). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Michael Lind, author of The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite (Portfolio, $25, 9780593083697).

Sunday, January 26
12:10 a.m. Nathan J. Robinson, author of Why You Should Be a Socialist (All Points Books, $27.99, 9781250200860), at Solid State Books in Washington, D.C.

1:35 a.m. Joshua Yaffa, author of Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition, and Compromise in Putin's Russia (Tim Duggan Books, $28, 9781524760595), at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C. (Re-airs Sunday at 4:45 p.m.)

6:45 p.m. Rick Wilson, author of Running Against the Devil: A Plot to Save America from Trump--and Democrats from Themselves (Crown Forum, $28, 9780593137581), at the Strand in New York City.

10 p.m. William Rosenau, author of Tonight We Bombed the U.S. Capitol: The Explosive Story of M19, America's First Female Terrorist Group (Atria, $28, 9781501170126).

10:50 p.m. Marvin Olasky, author of Reforming Journalism (P&R Publishing, $19.99, 9781629956671).

Books & Authors

Awards: Walter​ ​Dean​ ​Myers Winners; Edgar Nominees

The winners and honorees for the fifth annual​ ​Walter​ ​Dean​ ​Myers​ ​Awards​ ​and​ ​Honor​ ​Books for​ ​Outstanding ​Children's​ Literature​, sponsored by We Need Diverse Books, are:

Walter teen category winner:
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell

Walter teen category honors:
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Walter young readers category winner:
The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

Walter young readers category honors:
A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

The​ ​Walter​ ​Awards ​Ceremony​ and Symposium ​will​ ​be​ ​held​ ​March​ ​13 ​in​ ​the​ ​Thomas Jefferson Building​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Library​ ​of​ ​Congress, with award-winning author Grace Lin serving as emcee and Christopher Myers, son of the late Walter Dean Myers, speaking. The Walter Awards will also celebrate special guest Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop.

The​ ​ceremony​ ​will​ ​be​ ​preceded​ ​by​ ​a​ symposium​ ​on​ ​diversity​ ​in​ ​children's​ ​literature,​ ​co-hosted by​ ​the​ ​Library​ ​of​ ​Congress.​ Titled​ ​"There is work to be done! Recognize. Validate. Acknowledge. The Walter Dean Myers Awards Turn Five," the symposium​ ​will be​ ​moderated​ ​by​ ​WNDB COO and novelist Dhonielle Clayton.


The Mystery Writers of America announced the nominees for the 2020 Edgar Allan Poe Awards as well as the nominees for the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award and the G.P. Putnam's Sons Sue Grafton Memorial Award. Winners will be celebrated at the MWA gala April 30 in New York City. Check out the complete list of nominated titles here.

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, January 28:

Arguing with Zombies: Economics, Politics, and the Fight for a Better Future by Paul Krugman (Norton, $29.95, 9781324005018) is the latest from the Nobel prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist.

A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Ingenious Young Women Whose Secret Board Game Helped Win World War II by Simon Parkin (Little, Brown, $29, 9780316492096) explores a World War II British strategy exercise that helped counter U-Boat tactics.

When You See Me: A Novel by Lisa Gardner (Dutton, $27, 9781524745004) is the 11th thriller with Detective D.D. Warren.

Hi Five by Joe Ide (Mulholland, $27, 9780316509534) is the fourth mystery with Isaiah "I.Q." Quintabe.

Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz (Minotaur, $27.99, 9781250120458) continues the Orphan X thriller series.

The Other People by C.J. Tudor (Ballantine, $27, 9781984824998) is a thriller about a man's quest for his daughter who no one else believes is still alive.

Futureface by Alex Wagner (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 9781984896629) is a young readers' adaptation of the acclaimed memoir.

Diamond City by Francesca Flores (Wednesday Books, $18.99, 9781250220448) is the first in a YA fantasy duology featuring blood magic and assassins.

New Paperbacks:
Her Scandalous Pursuit by Candace Camp (HQN, $7.99, 9781335041449).

Seduce Me with Sapphires by Jane Feather (Zebra, $7.99, 9781420143621).

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Creatures: A Novel by Crissy Van Meter (Algonquin, $25.95, 9781616208592). "Creatures is a novel that invokes the senses most often left to the wayside in fiction: touch, taste, and smell. This imagery is unique to how Evie, our narrator, perceives her surroundings of Winter Island and the people who float in and out of her life. As readers experience Evie's past, present, and future concurrently, they are left with a stark and stunning tale of abandonment, betrayal, love, and healing. With a narrative style reminiscent of Ted Chiang's The Story of Your Life, this is a book I couldn't put down!" --Julia Long, Epilogue: Books Chocolate Brews, Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Magical Language of Others: A Memoir by E.J. Koh (Tin House, $22.95, 9781947793385). "A beautifully written memoir of history, culture, past, and present--this might be one of the best books I've read all year and a close second to Pachinko, one of my all-time favorites. The letters from a mother read from her daughter's perspective really give you a sense of the complexity of family relationships, and how certain events mold the consequences of what's to come. Just beautiful!" --Desirae Wilkerson, Paper Boat Booksellers, Seattle, Wash.

Mouthful of Birds: Stories by Samanta Schweblin (Riverhead, $16, 9780399184635). "Samanta Schweblin set a high standard with her translated debut novel Fever Dream, a standard she has now miraculously surpassed with this unnerving new collection of short stories, a must-read for anyone who doubts the written word's ability to touch reality. Mouthful of Birds will rattle your bones, infiltrate your mind, and engulf you in a surreal dream-state of bewilderment and ferocity that will leave you fearing to turn the page, even as you beg for more." --Tianna Moxley, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

For Ages 4 to 8
The Old Truck by Jerome and Jarrett Pumphrey (Norton, $17.95, 9781324005193). "Full of nostalgia and wonder, this is a sweet and simple tale of determination and growth. I am absolutely in love with the stamp illustrations in The Old Truck and the young girl who lives, works, and dreams at the farm. A great addition to a home library, this is for fans of things that go and the work of illustrator Christian Robinson!" --Eugenia Vela, BookPeople, Austin, Tex.

For Ages 9 to 12
Martin McLean, Middle School Queen by Alyssa Zaczek (Sterling, $16.95, 9781454935704). "Middle school seems daunting to shy and insecure Martin. To complicate his life, he's starting to wonder if he like likes girls or boys, and the class bully keeps makings digs about him being gay. Is he? He doesn't know and can't talk to anyone about his feelings. The one place he shines is Mathletes… until he discovers drag. Cue the Celia Cruz tunes and Martin's feeling confident and happy. But becoming a middle-school drag queen will not be without some crazy drama. A wonderful, laugh-out-loud debut." --Ellen Richmond, Children's Book Cellar, Waterville, Me.

For Teen Readers
The Map From Here to There by Emery Lord (Bloomsbury, 9781681199382, $17.99). "I absolutely adored this book. Emery Lord really understands what it is to be a teenager, especially one with anxiety. All of the overthinking, the nervous energy, the panic that goes on inside Paige's head over the drama surrounding college and boys and friendship is so relatable. I desperately wanted her to succeed despite her flaws, because Paige Hancock is an authentic teenager. This book is cute and funny, and it sometimes made me want to rip my hair out from sheer relatability. The romance between Max and Paige was my favorite part of the book, because Lord didn't shy away from the stumbles that come with first loves. I wish I'd had this one a few years ago!" --Ava Tusek, Second Star to the Right Children's Books, Denver, Colo.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Real Life

Real Life by Brandon Taylor (Riverhead Books, $26 hardcover, 336p., 9780525538882, February 18, 2020)

Real Life, the debut novel by Electric Literature's Recommended Reading senior editor Brandon Taylor, has all the notes of a classic "campus novel." It's got academic in-fighting. It's got complex hierarchies--and an associated web of alliances and betrayals--that link friends, lovers and rivals. And, most importantly to qualify for the genre, it's got a vaguely threatening undercurrent roiling beneath a placid collegiate surface. But Real Life tells a story that the others don't, and thus is starkly more "real" than its peers.

Wallace is black, gay and Southern at a large (and largely white) Midwestern university. He is in the trenches of a graduate program in biochemistry--far enough into the program that he's become brutally disillusioned by academia, but not far enough for graduation to be in sight. Reserved and self-protective, he is both completely consumed by the insular universe of his graduate program and apart from it, which only intensifies his sense of seclusion.

Some of this isolation is self-imposed, as Wallace has learned that his survival is dependent on maintaining impenetrable emotional defenses. His friends, absorbed in their own personal and professional dramas, don't understand how racist and homophobic forces have corroded his life. And they don't know that he is quietly buckling under the secret weight of grief and trauma.

On the last weekend of summer, minor disaster strikes in his lab, he is chastised and shamed by his colleagues, and he begins a precipitous, tense affair with an ostensibly straight friend. These events, and their implications, threaten to annihilate Wallace's careful defenses, another wound from which he may never recover.

"That has been the lesson this weekend, hasn't it?" Wallace reflects near the end of the book. "The misery of other people, the persistence of unhappiness, is all that connects them. Only the prospect of greater unhappiness keeps them within the circumscribed world of graduate school."

But if there is joy in Real Life, it is in Taylor's elegant, thoughtful prose. Without assuming too much overlap between art and author, it's worth noting that Taylor is black, gay, from Alabama and an alumnus of the biochemistry program at the University of Wisconsin, signaling his deep familiarity with the disjunction between Wallace's internal and external experiences.

Real Life ends on a note of hope in reverse. With shattering elegance, Taylor suggests that the tolls of abuse and institutional subjugation are malignant and inescapable. --Hannah Calkins, writer and editor

Shelf Talker: In this powerful and heartbreaking novel, a black, gay graduate student reckons with the trauma, racism and homophobia that have shaped his life.

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