Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 28, 2020

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


Copperfield's Returning to Downtown Napa

Copperfield's in Napa will be moving downtown.

The Copperfield's Books location in Napa, Calif., is moving back to the city's downtown later this summer, the Napa Valley Register reported.

The new, 3,665-square-foot storefront is part of the First Street Napa development and is located almost right across the street from where the Napa Copperfield's resided back in the 1980s. When complete, First Street Napa will span three blocks and include 45 restaurants and retailers.

"Being so community oriented, we're delighted to be back in the vibrant downtown environment we once occupied," Copperfield's president Paul Jaffe told NVR. "With the renewal of the city center, we are ready to move back to the street where we opened the very first Napa Copperfield's Books thirty years ago."

The new location will be a full-service, general-interest bookstore featuring titles for all ages. The store will offer a wide selection of gifts, greeting cards and magazines, and will host frequent events.

Currently, Copperfield's Napa store is in Bel Aire Plaza, a little over two miles north of downtown, and is not the only indie bookstore that will soon be moving in the area--Napa Bookmine, which has two stores in Napa, will be moving its downtown store to a new site just a few blocks away from First Street Napa.

Jaffe told NVR that he thought there was ample room for two bookstores, noting that "Napa has always had multiple bookstores. There were three bookstores in downtown Napa twenty years ago." On the subject of the Bookmine, he added: "They are really good people. We can help support the bookselling community in Napa."

Headquartered in Sebastopol, Copperfield's has nine locations across Northern California.

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

Children's Institute Scholarship Winners Named

Scholarships have been announced for 59 ABA member booksellers to attend the 2020 Children's Institute (Ci8) in Tucson, Ariz., Bookselling This Week reported. The awards cover the conference fee, a four-night stay at the host hotel, and up to $400 in travel expenses to the June 22-24 event at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa.

Oliver & Friends Opening in Belgrade, Maine

Oliver & Friends Bookshop & Reading Room, a 750-square-foot independent bookstore, will open in Belgrade, Maine, in May, Bookselling This Week reported.

Owner Renee Cunningham plans for Oliver & Friends to be a general-interest store with books for all ages, and while she has no events officially scheduled just yet, she hopes to host book club meetings, storytime sessions and traditional author signings. The bookstore, she told BTW, is named after her cat Oliver, who was in turn named after Oliver Twist.

"The store's mission is to be not just a bookstore, but a community gathering place where people can come and bump into their neighbor and talk about books in a really safe and inclusive environment," said Cunningham.

While Cunningham is new to the world of indie bookselling, she has been dreaming about opening a store of her own for at least the past two decades. But after moving to Belgrade in 2018 and learning that there was no independent bookstore in town, she "couldn't let it go."

So far, Cunningham's bookstore plans have met with an enthusiastic response, and she's currently soliciting feedback about what sorts of books her community wants to see in store.

"I'm looking forward to having people in the store, to talking about books and expanding my own realm of what I tend to read," she said. "I picture the space as a place for so many wonderful conversations, whether they're about books or anything else. I'm just excited to get here and to open up to the community."

Epidemic Prevention Measures at Chinese Bookshops

A bookseller disinfects a customer's hands at Lezhi bookshop in Changsha. (photo: Chen Sihan/Xinhua)

"Some bookshops in Changsha reopened after sufficient epidemic prevention measures were taken," Xinhua reported, featuring a gallery of photos taken at bookshops in Changsha, the capital city of central China’s Hunan Province.

Captions tell some of the story, including: "A woman gets her hands disinfected as she enters Lezhi bookshop in Tianxin District of Changsha"; "People wearing face masks read at Lezhi bookshop"; "A staff member checks a customer's temperature as she enters Sisyphe bookshop"; "A staff member disinfects a bookshelf at Sisyphe bookshop"; "A woman wearing face mask purchases books at Lezhi bookshop"; and "A man wearing face mask reads at Lezhi bookshop."

Obituary Note: John Hyams

Former Booksellers Association president John Hyams, a "leading bookseller of his era and modernizer of the book trade," died February 10, the Bookseller reported. He was 94. In addition to serving as BA president from 1986 to 1987, he was also the author of Careers in Bookselling, publishing in the Better Bookselling series by Hutchinson in the 1960s.

Hyams entered the book trade in 1949 as an apprentice at Parry's Bookshop in Liverpool. He spent 39 years as a bookseller, managing the book department at Beale's of Bournemouth and concluding his career as deputy book merchandise manager for all WH Smith branches. The Bookseller noted that he "and other senior ‎book industry figures campaigned for the Net Book Agreement, for freedom of speech and to keep VAT off books and print."

Describing Hyams as "a leading bookseller of his era," BA managing director Meryl Halls said:  "His involvement with the BA pre-dated mine, but I know that former BA CEO Tim Godfray had a strong and mutually respectful relationship with John, whose opinion he valued and whose commitment to the BA we all benefited from. He had a long career as a bookseller, and served the BA with dedication and duty throughout his tenure as an officer, and then as president. We are very sorry to hear of his passing, and send condolences to his family."

Godfray observed that the organization "was extremely fortunate to have had John Hyams as its president. John felt extremely fortunate in working in an industry in which he loved, and he felt honor-bound--working in a large company--to give something back to the book trade. He was generous in the time he gave to help other booksellers and believed strongly that independent booksellers had an extremely important part to play.

"He could see things from the perspective of both a large and a small bookseller and he also understood the publishing industry--very valuable qualities to have as a BA president. But way above all these qualities and attributes was the fact that John was an extremely nice man. Courteous, kind and thoughtful."


Image of the Day: Story Prize Finalists

On Wednesday night, at the New School in New York City, all three finalists for the $20,000 Story Prize read from and discussed their work with Story Prize director Larry Dark. At the end, founder Julie Lindsey announced the winner: Edwidge Danticat, for her story collection Everything Inside (Knopf). For Danticat, it was her second Story Prize win, after receiving the first-ever Story Prize in 2004 for The Dew Breaker. The runners-up were Kali Fajardo-Anstine for Sabrina & Corina (One World) and Zadie Smith for Grand Union (Penguin Press); each won $5,000. At the event: (l.-r.) Smith, Fajardo-Anstine and Danticat.

Kate DiCamillo Loves Parnassus Books' Shop Dogs

Posted on Facebook by bestselling author Kate DiCamillo: "I stopped by Parnassus Books in Nashville last week and signed some books. Here is a picture of me with Sparky, Mary Todd Lincoln, Lewis and the books. To be surrounded by books and dogs and people who love books and dogs was good for my soul. Thank you, Parnassus. Thank you, booksellers. Thank you, dogs. Thank you people who love books and dogs."

Bookstore Video: Midtown Reader

No Place Like Home, a new video from Midtown Reader, Tallahassee, Fla., is "about the experience of happening upon the perfect book when you need it most. You can watch it here on YouTube."

"We strive to cultivate a space where you can stumble upon the perfect book," Midtown Reader noted. "Our booksellers can recommend titles in any genre or reacquaint you with an old favorite. We believe that a book can be a place to come back to yourself--a safe place to rest and make sense of things. Just like home."

Chelsea Green to Distribute Propriometrics Press

Effective in March, Chelsea Green Publishing will provide North America sales, distribution, and more for Propriometrics Press print books.

Propriometrics Press, Carlsborg, Wash., published its first title, Alignment Matters by Katy Bowman in 2013 and has brought, it says, "radical concepts like furniture-free living and the difference between exercise and movement to the mainstream." Other key titles include Move Your DNA and Movement Matters, both of which are also by Katy Bowman, who is the founder of Nutritious Movement and a biomechanist; Dawn Again by Doniga Markegard; and Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well by Galina and Roland Denzel.

Personnel Changes at Tin House; Black Dog & Leventhal

Nanci McCloskey has been promoted to associate publisher, director of marketing and sales at Tin House and will broaden her role to develop new opportunities in the market and initiatives to further advance Tin House's publishing program.


Isabella Nugent has been promoted to marketing & publicity coordinator for Running Press and Black Dog & Leventhal.

Media and Movies

Mo Willems Inks Exclusive Deal with HBO Max

Mo Willems

"In a competitive situation," Mo Willems has signed an exclusive, multi-year deal with HBO Max, "establishing the beloved children's author as HBO Max's first artist in residence," Deadline reported.

As part of the deal, HBO Max acquired streaming rights to Willems's first live-action special, Don't Let the Pigeon Do Storytime! from Greg Silverman's Stampede Ventures, who will produce all additional content under the pact. HBO Max has committed to additional live-action Storytime specials, as well as multiple animated specials based on Willems' popular children's books. The first animated special will be based on Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed.

"Mo is a special talent with a profound ability to connect with children and families alike. We are so happy Mo and Stampede Ventures chose to partner with us at HBO Max," said Kevin Reilly, chief content officer, HBO Max, and president, TNT, TBS and truTV.

Willems commented: "HBO Max is the perfect home for me to work on fun and experimental ways to bring my book characters and theater work to the screen because we share the goal of creating exciting shows and series that bring families together. My focus is making stuff that amuses, entertains and sparks creative play after the screen is powered down. Having the creative teams of HBO Max and Stampede Ventures with me means that we'll get to create meaningful work and have fun doing it. We're so excited we even created a new logo for the occasion. Banana!"

Movies: Last and First Men

A trailer has been released for Last and First Men, the directorial feature debut of the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, based in part on Olaf Stapledon's 1930 sci-fi novel. IndieWire reported that the musician died in 2018 at 48 "amid an acclaimed career" that included Oscar nominations for original score in 2015 and 2016 for his work on The Theory of Everything and Sicario.

The film, which is adapted from Jóhannsson's touring multimedia project, includes the composer's original score (with Yair Elazar Glotman) and narration from Tilda Swinton. The project is based on Stapledon's novel and Dutch photographer Jan Kempenaers' 2010 art book Spomeniks.

"Last and First Men is a film that straddles the border of fiction and documentary," Jóhannson wrote in a director's statement before his death. "It is a meditation on memory and failed utopia, contextualized through the literary mode of science fiction." The movie's world premiere was this week at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Books & Authors

Awards: International Booker Longlist

A longlist has been announced for the 2020 International Booker Prize, which recognizes a book that is translated into English and published in the U.K. or Ireland, and "aims to encourage more publishing and reading of quality fiction from all over the world and to promote the work of translators."

The shortlist will be announced April 2 and the winner named May 19 in London. The £50,000 (about $64,790) award is divided equally between author and translator of the winning entry. Each shortlisted author and translator receives £1,000 (about $1,295). The longlisted titles are:

Red Dog by Willem Anker (South Africa), translated by Michiel Heyns from Afrikaans
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar (Iran), translated by Anonymous from Farsi
The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara (Argentina), translated by Iona Macintyre & Fiona Mackintosh from Spanish
The Other Name: Septology I-II by Jon Fosse (Norway), translated by Damion Searls from Norwegian
The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili (Georgia), translated by Charlotte Collins & Ruth Martin from German
Serotonin by Michel Houellebecq (France), translated by Shaun Whiteside from French
Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann (Germany), translated by Ross Benjamin from German
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor (Mexico), translated by Sophie Hughes from Spanish
The Memory Police by Yōko Ogowa (Japan), translated by Stephen Snyder from Japanese
Faces on the Tip of My Tongue by Emmanuelle Pagano (France), translated by Sophie Lewis & Jennifer Higgins from French
Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin (Argentina), translated by Megan McDowell from Spanish
The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (Netherlands), translated by Michele Hutchison from Dutch
Mac and His Problem by Enrique Vila-Matas (Spain), translated by Margaret Jull Costa & Sophie Hughes from Spanish

Reading with... Natasha Pulley

photo: Jamie Drew

Natasha Pulley is the author of the historical fantasy novels The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, The Bedlam Stacks and The Lost Future of Pepperharrow (Bloomsbury, February 18, 2020). She lives in the U.K. and works as a lecturer in creative writing.

On your nightstand now: 

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood. I love post-apocalypse stuff anyway, but Atwood is just excellent at it; even though the subject matter is dark, the writing is always hugely funny.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Redwall by Brian Jacques. It's about talking mice who live in an abbey in the woods. Kids' books are usually short, but the Redwall books are big and sprawling and immersive, and they plunge you into the natural world in a way that's stuck with me ever since. I still love mice.

Your top five authors:

Robin Hobb, Neil Gaiman, Robert Harris, Daphne du Maurier, Shirley Jackson. 

Book you've faked reading:

I honestly never have! I'm not clever enough to fake it. I have actually read Ulysses. I hated it and I wish I had a time machine so I could hit James Joyce with a wet fish, but I did finish it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. It's the best book I've ever read. It's so immensely clever; you think it's a silly book about a silly girl who enters into a silly marriage, but really it's a devilishly good investigation into toxic masculinity, toxic femininity, the nature of jealousy, culpability and victimhood; du Maurier was decades ahead of her time. She's one of the most misconstrued writers I've ever come across. She's often written off as a writer of light romance; but today, she'd win the Booker.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Binding by Bridget Collins. It's incredibly beautiful.

Book you hid from your parents:

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx. I read it when I was really young and I felt crazy guilty about owning a book that involved any sex whatsoever.

Book that changed your life:

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. I'd seen the film by the time I read the book, and was totally underwhelmed; watching it now, it's not very scary, just gross. But the book is something else. As well as being extremely creepy, it's a beautiful insight into the seminary and priesthood, and the way his vows affect all the relationships that Father Karras has. That contrast between the horror of Regan's possession, and the love and compassion that characterise Father Karras, is something I've been trying to imitate ever since I finished the book. 

Favorite line from a book:

'And she, whom once the semblance of a scar
Appall'd, an owlet's larum chill'd with dread,
Now views the column-scattering bay'net jar,
The falchion flash, and o'er the yet warm dead
Stalks with Minerva's step where Mars might quake to tread.'

I don't usually much like Byron, but this is from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and it's had a seismic influence on the way I write. It's about Spanish women during the Napoleonic Wars; they start out like you might expect women to in the early 1800s, meek and easily shaken, but by the end, they don't give a damn about walking the battlefields while explosions are still going off. I quite want to stamp this onto the forehead of anyone who says historical women are all fainting fragile idiots.

Five books you'll never part with:

The Tale of Genji by Shikibu Murasaki--this is huge, and I can only read it in translation, but it's gorgeous; compelling, romantic, creepy and all from over a thousand years ago in Japan. I think it proves that humans are always humans wherever and whenever they are.

Conclave by Robert Harris--I can't think of another writer who could make an extremely complicated papal election into thriller, but Harris does it, and it's fantastic.

The Fool's Errand by Robin Hobb--forget Game of Thrones. This is fantasy at its absolute best.

The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier--everyone thinks Alfred Hitchcock came up with The Birds; he did not! It was Her Majesty Queen Daphne.

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver--the best ghost story I've ever read. An Arctic expedition of five men sets out, and before too long, only one remains. The main character is a telegraphist, which I stole for Watchmaker and Pepperharrow. Thaniel Steepleton is based on him.

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

Jane Eyre. I read it too young, when I was just starting at university; I didn't understand just how brilliant it is. I cruised along for years not realizing that Mr Rochester is hysterically funny. That moment when he tries to fool Jane into thinking he's sending her to Ireland just to see if he can get her to tell him her feelings before he ventures his own--it's a fantastic piece of writing, full of cowardice and love and a kind of wonderful brittleness that laces the whole book.

Book Review

Review: Broken Glass: Mies van der Rohe, Edith Farnsworth, and the Fight over a Modernist Masterpiece

Broken Glass: Mies Van Der Rohe, Edith Farnsworth, and the Fight Over a Modernist Masterpiece by Alex Beam (Random House, $28 hardcover, 352p., 9780399592713, March 17, 2020)

In 1947, Edith Farnsworth, a Chicago physician and art collector, wrote of German-born architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: "Those of us who know him intimately know him to be a great man, a great teacher, and a great architect." A few years later, Farnsworth was eating her words. Alex Beam has titled his scintillating look at Mies and Farnsworth's public feud Broken Glass: Mies van der Rohe, Edith Farnsworth, and the Fight over a Modernist Masterpiece, although the name of his earlier book A Great Idea at the Time would have worked for this one as well.

Mies and Farnsworth, who was something of a trailblazer as a woman in medicine, met at a dinner party in Chicago in 1945. Farnsworth asked Mies if he knew of an architect who would build her a weekend retreat along the Fox River. They struck up a friendship--it briefly turned romantic--and Mies accepted the challenge of creating his first American house. Begun in 1949 and completed in 1951, the Farnsworth House was Mies's minimalist masterwork. The space had an open plan--not even the bedroom had walls--and the four exterior walls were made of glass. Some of Broken Glass's three-dozen-plus black-and-white photos show why architects and aesthetes loved the place. But they didn't have to live in it.

Farnsworth would discover when she moved in that the glass walls made the house unbearably hot in summer and excruciatingly cold in winter. At one point the steel roof let a good inch of rainwater cover her floor--probably not what Mies had in mind with his design motto "Let the outside in." There were other structural problems with the house, but the biggest affront was Mies's bill, which ran well beyond the original estimate of around $40,000; he expected Farnsworth to pay her $79,000 tab in full. Farnsworth had already ponied up more than $73,000 (north of $500,000 in 2003 dollars, Beam reports) and agreed to only $1,500 more. Mies sued her. Farnsworth countersued. For six weeks in 1952, they duked it out in court.

Beam goes after his subject like an archeologist, digging deep for the names of the companies that supplied the Farnsworth House's building materials and exhuming interview subjects who knew the story's principals. He sees the comedy within the high drama, the cleverness behind the jabs. Some of Broken Glass's best are provided by Frank Lloyd Wright, who called the Mies-influenced architecture firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill "the Three Blind Mies."

Broken Glass spotlights a timeless concern: whether the artist owes anything beyond the work itself. But it's also about something entirely mundane: how even a creative genius and an esteemed doctor are no better than the rest of us at mastering basic communications skills. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: Beam digs deep into the contretemps--legal and personal--that destroyed the friendship between a doctor and the revered architect who agreed to build her a house.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Bookstore as Sitcom, or #JimLooksAtTheCamera

"Sometimes I pretend I am in a sitcom," a colleague tells me when I mention a frustrating encounter. "That way all the annoying people are just quirky characters keeping things interesting."

I'm quoting the lines above because they ring true, but must give full credit to the Australian Booksellers Association's recent e-newsletter for tipping me off about bookseller/writer Freya Howarth's 2019 "Retail therapist" piece in Overland magazine.

Howarth cited one of my favorite novels in recent years, Sayaka Murata's Convenience Store Woman (Grove Press, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori) and protagonist Keiko Furukura, "alert to the subtle sounds of the shop in which she works.... She modulates her behavior, from her smile and cheery tone of her voice to the exact words she speaks, to align with the company manual. She is the perfect worker."

Noting she recognized part of herself in Keiko because of "the habits I have developed over nine years of working in bookshops," Howarth wrote that she had "perfected the choreography of customer service: the greeting of the customer, the song and dance of payment ('Cash or card?'), the Pavlovian response to the metallic ping of the till drawer, the knack for pushing it closed with a hip while pulling a paper bag from under the counter, parting rustling paper and sliding in the neatly stacked books. I am good at this. Sometimes I am even great at this. But what does it mean to be good at what is seen and paid as unskilled work?"

One thing it means, speaking as someone who spent more than three decades in retail--split evenly between the grocery business and bookselling--is that our definition of "unskilled work" is often bullsh*t. When I worked for supermarkets, customers lined up at my register because I was fast and proud of it. The aisles I stocked were faced off and dusted. I was polite. I was a modified, if decidely more cynical version of Keiko.

One of my favorite stories from Studs Terkel's classic book Working is of Babe Secoli, the supermarket checker who says, "It's hard work, but I like it. This is my life.... I'm just movin'--the hips, the hand, and the register, the hips, the hand, and the register.... You just keep goin', one, two, one, two. If you've got that rhythm, you're a fast checker. Your feet are flat on the floor and you're turning your head back and forth.... If somebody interrupts to ask me the price, I'll answer while I'm movin'. Like playin' a piano."

Howarth observed that there "is a satisfaction, a jolt of pleasure, that comes from doing something well, from disappearing into a role. A feeling of moving fluidly through a space, confident and uninterrupted, never being snagged or lost. But there is also an emotional toll that comes from playing this part.... This emotional labor is an often overlooked aspect of retail work. Each customer requires a subtly different approach."

While exploring the many practical challenges of bookselling as a longterm profession, she wrote: "As a teenager, I imagined bookselling to be the ultimate part-time job. I never imagined I would be doing it in my late twenties, still unsure what I want from my working life. Being faced with this reality has provoked feelings of uncertainty and despair, emotions that have only intensified with the realization that my situation is a symptom of a much bigger problem. I dread the time when my bookshop job will switch from being viewed as desirable, intellectual, even romantic, to being a sign that I am squandering my potential and failing to grow up. Maybe this is already happening. Sometimes I talk my job down before anyone else can.... For all the artifice and the emotional labor, I have come to define myself by my work as a bookseller."

I became a bookseller at 42, so I'd already conceded somewhat (though a shadow definitely lingered) the whole "squandering my potential and failing to grow up" downside of frontline bookselling. At the time, the new job was actually a step up from the work I'd been doing shortly before being hired by the bookstore.

But here's the thing. When I started bookselling in the early '90s, the "retail sales floor as theater space" was a popular model for business gurus to flog, so I was well trained to make the transition to sitcom work. This realization grew substantially when I first saw the BBC version of The Office and later the NBC spinoff. Was there a documentary crew filming us at the bookstore every day? I think maybe there was.

Sometimes I pretend I am in a sitcom.

"Excuse me, I'm looking for a book with a blue cover by that guy who was on the Today Show." #JimLooksAtTheCamera

"Where's your nonfiction section?" #JimLooksAtTheCamera

"Are you a cash register?" #JimLooksAtTheCamera

"I know you've been stuck at the info desk all day, but we really need to get these books shelved before you leave." #JimLooksAtTheCamera

Earlier this week, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers announced that next October it will publish The Office: A Day at Dunder Mifflin Elementary by Robb Pearlman, illustrated by Melanie Demmer, to celebrate the series' 15th anniversary.

#JimLooksAtTheCamera... and then pre-orders the book for his kids.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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