Shelf Awareness for Monday, January 27, 2020

William Morrow & Company: Polostan: Volume One of Bomb Light by Neal Stephenson

Shadow Mountain: The Legend of the Last Library by Frank L Cole

Atlantic Monthly Press: The Elements of Marie Curie: How the Glow of Radium Lit a Path for Women in Science by Dava Sobel

Ace Books: Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Millicent Quibb School of Etiquette for Young Ladies of Mad Science by Kate McKinnon

Annick Press: Bog Myrtle by Sid Sharp

Minotaur Books: Betrayal at Blackthorn Park: A Mystery (Evelyne Redfern #2) by Julia Kelly


Wi15: Another Sterling Winter Institute

Like its predecessors, the 15th Winter Institute, held last week in Baltimore, Md., was energetic, inspiring, educational, useful, smoothly run--there aren't enough positive words for an event has become the most important bookselling meeting in North America, and maybe the world.

Wi15 was the largest Winter Institute ever. More than 750 booksellers, including some 290 first-timers, from 450 stores attended. In addition, there were some 70 international guests--mostly booksellers--from around the world, as well as 140 authors and 135 publisher partners. The ABA printed out more than 1,000 badges.

Jamie Fiocco (third from right) and the ABA board

It was a busy, rewarding Winter Institute for most attendees. "I always return from Winter Institute exhausted yet exhilarated, and this year was no different," said ABA president Jamie Fiocco, owner and general manager of Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C. "The opportunity to talk about issues big and small with fellow booksellers from across the country is invaluable and helps ABA board and staff figure out what direction to take. This year, with the transition in ABA's leadership, we're taking the opportunity that a change provides to fully and creatively review how we can make bookselling a more viable career option. There was great dialogue throughout the institute, and I think the board has good direction from membership to do our work. My thanks to the many publisher and partner sponsors for making this all possible, and, of course, to the ABA staff for pulling this off in the midst of a CEO change."

The popular galley room
(photo: Two Cats Communications)

Wi15 featured an array of events, including some unusual gatherings. On Tuesday, before the official opening on Winter Institute, many booksellers attended an Antitrust Symposium on Capitol Hill in nearby Washington, D.C., where they heard from experts about U.S. antitrust law and how it might affect Amazon. After the morning session, some attendees met with representatives of their senators and members of the House. Also on Tuesday, some booksellers went on tours of the huge Penguin Random House warehouse in Westminster, Md. And on Tuesday evening, the Winter Institute's opening reception celebrated a trifecta of birthdays: the ABA's 120th, and the 15th of both Winter Institute and Shelf Awareness.

Oren Teicher

For the ABA, Winter Institute was the first public event at which the association marked a major changing of the guard: CEO for 10 years, Oren Teicher retired on November 1, and on Tuesday night the ABA held a sad but humorous and warm tribute to him in a packed ballroom that attested to Teicher's popularity and deep roots in the book business in the U.S. and around the world. (For our coverage of the appreciation of Oren Teicher, click here.)

Allison Hill

The ABA's new CEO, Allison Hill, who officially begins March 1, was on hand, and said at the first breakfast, "A change in leadership is a tremendous opportunity to reframe the conversation in our industry. I believe that this moment in time is a critical one in the industry. The measure of our success going forward isn't necessarily the number of stores but a more sustainable model, more profitable bookstores, and better wages for booksellers."

At the Town Hall (see our coverage here), major topics, some of which were addressed at panels and elsewhere, included the need for a new business model for bookstores; diversity in the industry; and more attention paid to Spanish-language titles, children's books, and genre fiction; and making the business green. (Look for more coverage by Shelf Awareness of these topics and more this week and next.)

Breakfast keynoters were Ryan Raffaelli, the Harvard University professor who discussed his years of research about the indie resurgence (our keynote coverage here), and author Jennifer Finney Boylan, who talked about books as "acts of defiance, resistance and love" (more coverage here).

And, of course, there were multiple formal and informal events for booksellers to meet with authors and publishers; educational sessions on everything from nuts-and-bolts bookselling topics to such current issues as "Reimagining the Backlist Canon for Our Time"; writers on writing in a time of crisis; and a conversation between Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds on racism and antiracism. Panels also brought booksellers up to date with the progress of Batch and Bookshop. Booksellers talked shop during breaks, at receptions, meals and hotel bars late into the night.

During Winter Institute, the ABA's first Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards were presented to Billie Bloebaum of Third Street Books, McMinnville, Ore., and Nicole Magistro, the Bookworm of Edwards, Edwards, Colo.

Also during Winter Institute, PW announced its finalists for the 2020 Bookstore of the Year and Rep of the Year awards, who were, respectively:

Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Tex., Copperfield's Books, Sebastopol, Calif., Full Circle Bookstore, Oklahoma City, Okla., Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass., and [words] Bookstore, Maplewood, N.J.

Robert Barnett of the University of Texas, Susan Flynn of Scholastic, Timothy Hepp of Simon & Schuster, Maureen Karb of Como Sales, and Liz Sullivan of PRH.

And as always, many thanks to Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books in south Florida and the Cayman Islands, for coming up with the idea of the Winter Institute while ABA president!

The next Winter Institute will take place in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sunday-Wednesday, February 7-10, 2021. Already, planning has started. "Immediately following the close of the institute, on Saturday morning, ABA staff, board officers, and the Booksellers Advisory Council met to debrief and begin the discussion about Wi16 in Cincinnati," ABA COO Joy Dallanegra-Sanger said. "We've come so far and yet have miles to go. This time of change provides a unique opportunity for new leadership to address challenges with new perspectives."

Running Press Kids: Your Magical Life: A Young Witch's Guide to Becoming Happy, Confident, and Powerful by Amanda Lovelace

Now Pitching for Indie Bookstore Day: Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle

Sean Doolittle, star relief pitcher for the World Champion Washington Nationals, has pitched regularly for independent bookstores. Now he's also going to take on a related assignment: he is the ambassador for Independent Bookstore Day, which will take place Saturday, April 25.

On Twitter, Doolittle wrote: "I'm thrilled to team up with @ABAbook as the 2020 Indie #BookstoreDay Ambassador! I'm really looking forward to promoting these incredible local businesses that promote reading and literacy programs and authors and do so much to support their communities!"

As Independent Bookstore Day wrote about Doolittle: "He 100% gets it. He's like this angel who is.. completely on our side."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: William by Mason Coile

Grammy Spoken Word Winner: Becoming by Michelle Obama

The winner in the Best Spoken Word Album category at the Grammy Awards last night was Becoming by Michelle Obama (Penguin Random House Audio). This was the former First Lady's second Grammy nomination: her book about the White House garden, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America, was a Best Spoken Word album nominee in 2013.

Obama, who narrated the winning audiobook, commented: "I had plenty of doubts about sharing so much of myself in Becoming, but this moment is another reminder that when we own the truth of who we are, we give ourselves the chance to connect with others in real, meaningful ways."

Former ABA CEO Joel Becker Honored with OAM

Joel Becker

Congratulations to Joel Becker, former CEO of the Australian Booksellers Association, who was honored this week with the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) "for service to literary organizations," as part of the 2020 Australia Day Honors List. The Order of Australia recognizes Australians who have demonstrated outstanding service or exceptional achievement.

Becker retired as ABA CEO in 2018 after eight years in the position, and was director of Writers Victoria (then called Victorian Writers Centre) from 2002 to 2010. He is a Life Member of both organizations. Originally from Michigan, he worked at Borders when it was an Ann Arbor indie. In Australia, among other positions, he owned Becker's Books in Cairns.

In addition, he served as deputy chair of the literary journal Going Down Swinging (2012-2018); chair, fiction and poetry, on judging  panels for the Prime  Minister's Literary Awards (2012-2013); and chair, New South Wales Premier's Literacy Award judging panel for the 2019 Douglas Stewart Prize for nonfiction.

"It is both humbling and an extraordinary honor being recognized in the Australian Day Honors List with a Medal of the Order of Australia," Becker said. "Imagine spending 48 years, 40 in Australia hanging out and working with booksellers, writers, publishers and others in the literary community, and making a career out of it. I'm a very lucky person."

He also noted that although the OAM acknowledgement focuses specifically on work with literary organizations, "my career has been inextricably linked with advocacy on behalf of booksellers, writers and the wider literary community, in Australia and in a wider context, with the global literary community. Hopefully I managed to do a few useful things during that time. To have that identified and supported by my peers is a wonderful feeling."

This just in: an update from the self-described "knight errant" himself: "Becker, who 'retired' as CEO of the ABA at the end of 2018, was recently spotted in the Readings van delivering stock over the summer holidays."

Kerrytown BookFest Returning to Ann Arbor

The Kerrytown BookFest, which was held annually from 2013 until 2018 in Ann Arbor, Mich., will return this year, on Sunday, August 30. 

While a full schedule has not yet been announced, the one-day festival will feature some new activities like arts and crafts sessions, and its programming will be focused on celebrating Ann Arbor's book scene and literary history.

Following the 2018 festival, the BookFest board took a hiatus to reogranize in response to financial and volunteer pressures. Board president Mary McDonald said she was heartened by the community's support for the book festival, adding that community members "went out of their way to tell me that they cared about the Kerrytown BookFest and they wanted it back."

Obituary Note: Ron Shoop

Ron Shoop
(courtesy Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore)

Ron Shoop, longtime sales rep in the Bay Area, died January 16. He was 74. He was a sales rep for Penguin Random House for more than 21 years, first with Bantam Doubleday Dell, and then Random House, until his retirement in 2016.

In a memo to staff, Jaci Updike, president, sales PRH U.S., gave a warm, detailed appreciation of Shoop, saying, in part, "Ron loved selling all our books. Literary first novels. Bestselling authors. Genre titles. Backlist. He made you care about each of them. While doing so, he pioneered the role of rep as a leader in community outreach, building strong relationships not only with his colleagues in the field and in New York, but also with authors, local media, bloggers, social-media influencers, and librarians. He was one of the very first reps to understand that it takes an army to launch a new-writer voice, and to take an inclusive approach in creating local excitement around many of our major titles, in one of the most important book markets in America.

"Ron was also a tremendous advocate for new independents, helping to train a generation of booksellers in the Bay area. To quote the booksellers at Mrs. Dalloway's in Berkeley, the bookstore in which Ron chose to work after his retirement, 'Ron was one of the foundational bricks in all aspects of book life in the Bay area.'

"As a colleague, Ron was a true and constant gentleman, ever generous with his time and advice, especially for new reps who were just learning our ropes. There was an ever-present twinkle in his eye, and in difficult circumstances he always knew just what needed saying. His optimism, dry wit, and kindness were a source of comfort and inspiration for many of us, in sales, as well as on the publishing side.

"On a personal note, I counted Ron as a dear friend as well as a wonderful colleague. He had this knack for offering up advice in such a way that you would leave thinking you had been struck by inspiration, only to recollect later that Ron had given you a dose of his own humorously offered wisdom. His warm bear hugs will be missed most."


Image of the Day: Local Authors

Eagle Harbor Book Company, Bainbridge Island, Wash., celebrated the release of the YA novel What I Carry by local author Jennifer Longo (center). Joining in were regional authors (from l.) Sara Nickerson (Seattle), Megan Chance (Kitsap Peninsula), Suzanne Selfors (Bainbridge author, and soon to be owner of Liberty Bay Books in nearby Poulsbo) and Jennifer Mann (Bainbridge). Longo's book, about a teen in foster care, is set on Bainbridge Island.

Personnel Changes at Scribner

Brianna Yamashita is joining Scribner as senior marketing director, effective February 19. She has been a marketing director at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, overseeing the lifestyle marketing division. Before that, she directed the marketing and publicity campaigns at Penguin Random House's TarcherPerigee imprint and held various publicity and marketing positions at Workman and Dorchester.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Charles Yu on the Daily Show

NPR's 1A: Ezra Klein, author of Why We're Polarized (Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781476700328). He will also appear tomorrow on MSNBC's All in with Chris Hayes.

Tamron Hall: Ada Calhoun, author of Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis (Grove Press, $26, 9780802147851)

Daily Show: Charles Yu, author of Interior Chinatown: A Novel (Pantheon, $25.95, 9780307907196).

Today Show: Joseph "Rev Run" Simmons and Justine Simmons, authors of Old School Love: And Why It Works (Dey Street, $26.99, 9780062939722). They will also appear on the View.

Movies: The Man in My Basement

Walter Mosley will write the film adaptation of his novel The Man in My Basement, which is being directed by Nadia Latif in her feature debut. Deadline reported that Latif recently completed a run as associate director at the Young Vic Theatre in London, "closing out her tenure with strong reviews for her direction of Jackie Sibblies Drury's Pulitzer Prize winning play Fairview. Latif is taking part in this year's Sundance Screenwriter's Lab."

Diane Houslin, Mosley's partner at production banner B.O.B Filmhouse, is producing the movie alongside Len Rowles for Protagonist Pictures. Executive producers are Dave Bishop for Protagonist and Nick Batzias for Good Thing Entertainment.

"The Man in My Basement is a radical and terrifying takedown of race and power. I first read Walter's book nearly 20 years ago, and it has haunted me ever since," Latif said.

Houslin commented: "We have found a most formidable director in Nadia and we're thrilled to have her at the helm. Protagonist has proven to be unwavering in their support of this project. Walter and I are looking forward to this growing partnership."

Rowles added, "Nadia is a visionary director and Mr. Mosley an inimitable voice. Their creative partnership is truly exciting and has led to a riveting genre take on this timeless classic. We are looking forward to bringing their striking work to the screen."

Books & Authors

Awards: AJL Jewish Fiction; Costa Short Story

Goldie Goldbloom won the Association of Jewish Libraries Jewish Fiction Award for her novel On Division (FSG). The prize includes a $1,000 and support to attend the 56th Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries in Evanston, Ill., in June.

Rachel Kamin, a member of the award committee, said that Goldbloom, "a member of the Chasidic community, writes with accuracy, authenticity, and respect--celebrating the positive aspects of the community with beauty, warmth, and love while also exposing negative, harmful, and shameful practices. The result is a multi-layered story of how secrets can shake even the most secure and close-knit families that is accessible to readers both familiar and unfamiliar with the insular world of ultra-Orthodox Jews."

One honor book, The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer (Knopf), was also recognized. Award committee member Merrily Hart praised Orringer's "gorgeous writing and well-researched historical background."


Finalists have been named for the Costa Short Story Award, which is run in association with the Costa Book Awards but judged independently of the main five-category system, the Bookseller reported. It is also judged anonymously, without the name of the author being known throughout the process. The winner, who will be decided by public vote and announced at the Costa Book Awards ceremony January 28, receives £3,500 (about $4,570), while second and third place finishers get £1,000 (about $1,305) and £500 (about $650) respectively.

This year's nominees are Anna Dempsey for "The Dedicated Dancers of the Greater Oaks Retirement Community"; Kerry Hood for "The Dog Friend of Dastardly"; and Iain Rowan for "Birds of the Mountain."

Book Review

Review: The Second Chance Club: Hardship and Hope After Prison

The Second Chance Club: Hardship and Hope After Prison by Jason Hardy (Simon & Schuster, $27 hardcover, 288p., 9781982128593, February 18, 2020)

Frustrated by a series of dead-end jobs, Jason Hardy became a parole officer in New Orleans in an attempt to do some good in the world. A white, well-educated man from a middle-class family, he soon realized his upbringing and advantages had given him almost no context for the people and problems he would encounter in his new job. The Second Chance Club, Hardy's first book, gives a thoughtful, timely account of the largely hidden probation-and-parole arm of the U.S. criminal justice system.

Hardy takes readers inside the nitty-gritty routine of a parole officer's days and weeks: checking up on offenders who have served jail or prison time and trying to help them find employment, stay off drugs or get the physical or mental health care they need. A parole officer must also weigh the risks the offender is facing against the risks they present to their communities: many offenders end up hurting themselves or other people out of sheer desperation, and officers must try to step in before that happens. The book's narrative follows Hardy, a few of his coworkers and several of the offenders (all composites, but vividly drawn) who fall under their responsibility.

Mass incarceration in the U.S. is increasingly well documented, but probation and parole (P&P) receives much less attention and funding, especially at the state level. Hardy and his colleagues bump up constantly against the limits of the resources they can offer to offenders, even though studies have shown that access to stable housing, health care and other basic needs helps to reduce recidivism at overwhelming rates. They also encounter tangles of issues that would stymie a team of trained mental health professionals: addiction, abandonment, depression and anxiety, often paired with physical ailments. Many offenders' family members and friends walk the fine line between support and enabling. During his four years in P&P, it's a line Hardy comes to know well.

While Hardy is unstinting in his call for more resources and greater care to help offenders find their footing and build stable lives, his tone is also pragmatic. To his own chagrin, he recognizes that the system simply cannot help every offender, and that some--like Damien, a young, charismatic drug dealer he meets--would rather work the system than use it to walk toward change. But, Hardy argues, it's worth investing in offenders because they are people: human beings who have made mistakes, struggled against overwhelming odds and deserve a chance at lasting happiness.

Well-researched, compelling and deeply humane, The Second Chance Club is an important addition to the voices calling for criminal justice reform in the U.S. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Former parole officer Jason Hardy gives a compelling account of his time supervising offenders in New Orleans.

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