Shelf Awareness for Friday, May 29, 2020


Harper Perennial: The Paris Model by Alexandra Joel

Algonquin Young Readers: Skunk and Badger (Skunk and Badger 1) by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Andrews McMeel Publishing: How to Draw a Reindeer and Other Christmas Creatures with Simple Shapes in 5 Steps by Lulu Mayo

Houghton Mifflin: No Place for Monsters by Kory Merritt

Quotation of the Day

Connelly on Indies: 'This Really Important Part of Our Culture'

"Oh man, that would be hard to pick [a favorite indie]. I've been crossing the country for almost 30 years, being in bookstores. There are so many of them: RJ Julia up in Connecticut, down through Mysterious Bookshop in New York. Out in L.A. there's Book Soup, Vroman's, just tons of stores all over the place. I couldn't pick one. I did a virtual event last night with Poisoned Pen. That was my first virtual event and I think I did my very first book signing back in 1992 there as well. They're still there, still surviving. And as you say it's tough, so it's great to do something like this... that may raise awareness and some money for this really important part of our culture."

--Author Michael Connelly (Fair Warning), in a conversation last night with CNN's Jake Tapper (The Hellfire Club) to support indie bookstores and the BINC Foundation

University of California Press: Smoke But No Fire: Convicting the Innocent of Crimes That Never Happened by Jessica S. Henry


News

Jonathan Karp New President & CEO of Simon & Schuster

Jonathan Karp

Jonathan Karp has been named president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, succeeding Carolyn Reidy, who died suddenly on May 12.

Karp, who has been president and publisher of S&S Adult Publishing, said in a letter to staff yesterday that he is honored by the appointment and that despite the challenges of the past four months--"a pandemic, a prospective sale, and the loss of our extraordinary leader, Carolyn Reidy"--he can't imagine "a more exciting opportunity than to lead Simon & Schuster, known equally as a home to beloved authors and for its long history of innovation and excellence in publishing. I am grateful to Bob Bakish [CEO of ViacomCBS, which owns S&S] for his faith in me, and to all of you for your spirit of cooperation and support through the years.

"Our mission remains the same: to publish the most satisfying books we can find, with passion and purpose and profitability. What has changed are the times into which we will be discovering and publishing these books. As we search for meaning in the chaos and joy amid the sadness, the books we champion will serve as a beacon and a balm."

Karp called this is "an especially crucial time to be publishing books, when so many readers are looking for direction and inspiration. Our authors and their books are an essential part of this cultural conversation. We will continue to do all we can to make sure their voices are heard.... Our slate of books for the rest of 2020 is one of our strongest in years, and I can't wait to hear the conversations these books generate."

Karp paid tribute to the late Carolyn Reidy, saying, "Over the past 10 years, Carolyn Reidy has shown me how an executive communicates and leads--candidly, firmly, warmly, attentively, and generously. I owe Carolyn a debt I will never be able to repay to her, but I will do everything I can to pay it forward by sustaining her standards and humanity through my work with you. We will maintain our culture of straightforward and creative collaboration, in which anyone from every corner of our organization can suggest any idea. Together, we will honor and uphold our nearly hundred-year tradition of innovation and excellence, with laughter and learning along the way."

Karp joined S&S as publisher of Simon & Schuster in 2010. Earlier he founded the Twelve imprint at Hachette Book Group and before that worked for 16 years at Random House, where he began as an editorial assistant and eventually became editor-in-chief.


GLOW: Houghton Mifflin: How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World's Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs by Guy Raz


Heartland Fall Forum Becoming the Virtual Heartland Summer

Like other regional booksellers associations, the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association and the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association have decided not to hold their joint fall conference, Heartland Fall Forum, in person and plan to host it next year in the site chosen for 2020, St. Louis, Mo.

In the meantime, instead of the Fall Forum, MIBA and GLIBA will hold a virtual event, Heartland Summer, lasting from June through September, that will feature "an ongoing array of events--education, rep picks and author events--all virtual and easy to attend and enjoy," the associations said. "It will be sustained by an exhibits page on our website that hosts our summer content while also allowing publishers and industry members to bring you the show specials, creative assets, ARC request forms, and the necessary forms of connection we usually provide." In October, the associations will host a bigger virtual celebration, including a Heartland Booksellers Award celebration and the Heartland Book Club. All events will be recorded and made available to members.

Anyone with suggestions for education topics or presenters for Heartland Summer should e-mail GLIBA executive director Larry Law. Publishers or reps interested in participating in the monthly Rep Picks sessions should be sure they're added to the database of reps also by e-mailing Larry Law. To alert the associations about authors, especially for keynote spots, please e-mail MIBA executive director Carrie Obry.


Atheneum Books for Young Readers: Tune It Out by Jamie Summer


Pannell Winners: BookPeople, Little Shop of Stories

Winners have been announced for the 2020 Pannell Awards, given by the Women's National Book Association and co-sponsored by the Penguin Young Readers Group to recognize bookstores that "enhance their communities by bringing exceptional creativity to foster a love of reading and books in children and young adults." One Pannell Award is given to a general bookstore and one to a children's specialty bookstore.

The winner in the general bookstore category is BookPeople, Austin, Texas.

The children's specialty bookstore winner is Little Shop of Stories, Decatur, Ga.

BookPeople was cited for the store's "astonishing contribution to Austin, their outreach, their non-stop energy [that] makes them one of the great stores in this country," for being "exemplary in all categories" and for "community outreach [that] goes the extra mile."

Little Shop of Stories was cited for "a mix of creativity and knowledge, knowing just the right thing for the customer and helping them to make readers out of their little ones as they keep returning" and for "terrific outreach to the community. Clever décor in store, specific spaces like a Harry Potter area, Goodnight Moon room, lots of comfy seats around, and illustrators' works on walls."


University Press of Kentucky: The Redshirt (University Press of Kentucky New Poetry & Prose) by Corey Sobel


BookExpo Online: Children's Book & Author Dinner

Judy Blume, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret (Atheneum/S&S) started off BookExpo's virtual Children's Book & Author Dinner last night by noting that she had been at the very first Children's Book & Author Breakfast (as was customary in the past) in 1978 with none other than Maurice Sendak and Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), and held up a photo to prove it.

Judy Blume

Now a bookseller at the Key West location of Books & Books (she calls Mitchell Kaplan's Coral Gables store "the mother ship"), Blume told a story about going with her then young children to a bookstore to see if they had stocked Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. Why, yes, said the bookseller, "It's over here with the Bible." When Blume asked why it was by the Bible, the bookseller replied, because the flap copy says "she often talks to God." The film version of Blume's beloved book was set to begin this summer, but "it was postponed, like everything else."

Natalie Portman

As an only child who started making films at age 11, Natalie Portman said "books were my constant companion." Growing up, she was so obsessed with the Baby-Sitters Club that she and a friend dialed dozens of Ann Martins in the New York City phone book before giving up. Instead, Portman waited four hours in an autographing line at a bookstore to tell Martin that she'd like her to introduce a Jewish character, like her, into the Baby-Sitters Club. In Natalie Portman's Fables, illustrated by Janna Mattia (Feiwel & Friends, October 20), she believes that with animal characters, all readers "have the same entry point." Portman is especially excited to have worked on this book with Jean Feiwel, who was Martin's editor for the Baby-Sitters Club.

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland, as the fourth of six children raised by a single parent, did not have a lot of books. The opportunity to write Firebird with Christopher Myers (Putnam, 2014) "was a chance to dive into something I was comfortable with." As a dancer in her hometown of San Pedro, Calif., Copeland was "surrounded by dancers of different backgrounds and body types." She said, "It was not about the package you came in, but the art you produced and how you made people feel." Bunheads, illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey (Putnam, September 29), is her homage to those early days, before she joined the American Ballet Theatre as the only black woman. In Bunheads, readers meet Cindy, named for Copeland's first ballet teacher, Cynthia Bradley, and Catalina, who, like Misty (the hero of the book) auditions for the lead in Coppelia. Like Firebird, this book ends with an image of the heroine doing a jeté across the stage.

Raj Halder

Better known as the rapper Lushlife, Raj Haldar is quickly making his mark as a children's book writer--first with P Is for Pterodactyl, written with Chris Carpenter (Sourcebooks, 2018) and now reunited with Carpenter for No Reading Allowed, illustrated by Bryce Gladfelter (Sourcebooks, November 10). Haldar believes "there's a word nerd inside every one of us." While Pterodactyl dealt with silent letters, his new book explores homophones and homonyms, phonetically identical phrases with completely different meanings. For instance, he pairs "The hair came forth," with an illustration depicting a girl served a meal in a fancy restaurant with a hair in her food, with "The hare came fourth," in which a turtle crosses the finish line of a race, followed by a worm and snail and then, fourth, the hare.

Marie Lu

Chinese-born Marie Lu was inspired to write Skyhunter (Roaring Brook/Macmillan, September 29) after watching Khizr Khan speak at the 2016 National Democratic Convention. "I couldn't get over that speech. I kept thinking about people of color, nonbinary people, people who go to fight for a country that doesn't have their back, but they go anyway," Lu said. It became the basis for a book set far in the future, in which a mighty Federation has taken over; young warriors called Strikers fight against a power they can't defeat. "I thought about what it means to love your country and how complicated that is," Lu said. "It's about finding your footing and finding your crew." She noted that young people are fighting for gun control and fighting for climate change "and it's not their job; their job is to grow up. Nothing is as inspirational as what young people are doing."

Kwame Mbalia

Kwame Mbalia spoke to viewers from a restroom on a maternity ward at the hospital where his wife had just given birth last night to their fourth child. He talked about how names are the first story you tell anyone, and that his is a West African Ghanaian name: "I came from a storytelling family." He then embodied all of his characters as he read aloud first from Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Rick Riordan Presents/Disney, 2019) and then from his forthcoming Tristan Strong Destroys the World (Rick Riordan Presents/Disney, October 6). He incorporates history into his fantasy, to create a world where mythology comes alive, along with the geography and iconography of Africa. Mbalia said, "When you drop those nuggets in there, you give children jumping off points to discover more." --Jennifer M. Brown


2020 SLJ Day of Dialogue: Working Toward Anti-Racism

The School Library Journal Day of Dialogue, held virtually for the first time, and archived until August 27, set the stage and presented a litany of resources for the soul-searching work of moving toward anti-racism.

Ibram X. Kendi, author of National Book Award winner Stamped from the Beginning, set the tone in an opening conversation with bestselling author Jason Reynolds, who "remixed" the book as Stamped (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) for young people. Reynolds calls Kendi's book "Stamped Sr.," and the two clearly showed their respect for one another throughout the discussion, moderated by Library Journal and School Library Journal reviews editor Kiera Parrott.

(top) Moderator Kiera Parrott, LJ/SLJ Reviews director, with Ibram X. Kendi (l.) and Jason Reynolds.

"If you are not being anti-racist, by definition, you're being racist," said Reynolds. "There is no middle ground." In Stamped, Reynolds refers to racists as "the haters"; in "Stamped Sr." Kendi refers to the "segregationists." Reynolds uses "the likers" in place of Kendi's "assimilationists"; and "the lovers" in place of Kendi's anti-racists.

Both Kendi and Reynolds emphasized that movement among these can be fluid. "In any given moment, one can assume assimilationism," said Reynolds, "and then assume a moment of anti-racism. Throughout this book, you see people going back and forth--Thomas Jefferson, W.E.B. Dubois, Frederick Douglass--who straddled this line." The assimilationists can do great harm; they're the ones who can take both sides, and they can choose silence. "It's a journey and a process, and [anti-racism is] something all of us need to be striving toward, but there will be assimilationist moments. You need the language to call it what it is, and then self-correct."

Reynolds likened racism to a virus, and anti-racism as its vaccine. "We breathe in billions of germs every second. Our bodies are full of it, but some enter our bodies, attach themselves to our cells, and unbeknownst to us, slowly take over who we are, and we don't even know it's happening. That's what racism is."

"The beautiful thing about antibodies is, when a doctor gives you a vaccine, they're injecting information from the virus into your body, and then your body recognizes it and attacks [it]. If racism is a virus, then books like Stamped or these conversations or pushing toward antiracism is a version of a vaccine."

Kendi talked about the pain of having this virus, a particularly resonant analogy, given both the worldwide pandemic, and the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and George Floyd in Minnesota, whose unspoken names echoed through the day's program. "A lot of Americans are denying the pain that they're experiencing and they're even denying the pain that other Americans are experiencing, as we've seen in the last few days," Kendi said. "It's critically important for us to realize that there are only two routes, and both routes are routes of pain. But the route of anti-racism has the chance to one day heal ourselves and certainly this country." Kendi will be testifying before Congress on behalf of his Antiracist Research & Policy Center, which has been collaborating with the COVID Tracking Project to provide data on how the virus affects people of color.

On a nonfiction panel immediately afterward, Kelly Starling Lyons spoke about her book Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon (Lee & Low), and the African American boy's struggle to read before finding his calling as what Lyons called a "starchitect." Christina Soontornvat explained that in All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team (Candlewick), she wanted to highlight the Thai people's role in the rescue, and the boys themselves, since much of the Western media had focused on the Europeans' rescue efforts.

Katie Yamasaki with picture book panelists Kimberly Olson Fakih (moderator), Matthew Cordell, DJ Corhin, Tanu Shree Singh, Grace Lin, Jessie Sima.

Katie Yamasaki, a graffiti artist, speaking on a picture book panel about the fleeting nature of her work, often rendered on condemned buildings, spoke of how it informed her process on Everything Naomi Loved (Norton) and the importance of community coming together in times of hardship. On that same panel, Grace Lin addressed the challenge of finding books that featured characters of color like her own daughter, and the impetus for her "Storytelling Math" series for Charlesbridge.

Jason Reynolds, in his afternoon keynote conversation with Jeff Hobbs, this time in his role as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, talked about the importance of urging kids to tell their own stories. (His motto is "Grab the Mic: Tell Your Story.") Hobbs asked Reynolds about his Instagram slogan, "Write. Right. Rite," and the meaning of the last one, "Rite." Reynolds uses "rite" in the sense of "ritual" or habit: "This is about expression. Any dancer will tell you, just move your body. The music is telling you how to move. Put it on the page however you want. If you do it habitually, if someone tells you you can't, it doesn't even register." Reynolds does a lot of work with incarcerated young people. "Juvies are packed with black and brown kids, not because they commit more crimes, but because they're policed differently. They don't need to be saved, they need to be seen."

Author Derrick Barnes and illustrator Gordon C. James (who were much decorated for their book Crown) talked in their session about their very different life experiences: James is the son of a police officer and grew up in a two-parent family in the suburbs of D.C.; Barnes grew up in the Midwest with a single mother. Their collaboration I Am Every Good Thing (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin) was inspired by the deaths of Trevon Martin, Michael Brown and so many others, and Barnes getting tired of having to sit down after each murder to talk to his four sons. "The book is not focused on injustice but instead on the worth and agency of the children," James said. Barnes continued, "It's about affirmation and feeling good about who you are. We want you to win in life, no matter what you see." James emphasized that he painted his own son on the cover of the book: "They're not to be feared, they're here to be loved."

Clockwise from top: Meg Medina, Shannon Hale and Erin Entrada Kelly.

Newbery Medal winner Meg Medina, in a closing conversation with Erin Entrada Kelly and Shannon Hale, talked about how she's "writing one little piece of the Latino story. I like to think about making room for new voices at the table. That's risky, right? Sometimes you have to move over a little and get uncomfortable and make a space, and pass the mic." --Jennifer M. Brown


International Update: BA to Acquire Bertrams' Bertline

The Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland is purchasing Bertrams' bookshop stock control, ordering and EPOS system, Bertline, to support independent retailers. The Bookseller reported that the BA's technology arm, Batch, will take over the running of the system by the end of June. Bertrams is currently up for sale. If the company remains in business as a wholesaler, the BA said it will continue to place orders with them, as with other suppliers.

The acquisition is in line with the BA's goal of putting in place mechanisms to maintain maximum stability for booksellers in challenging times, according to managing director Meryl Halls, who said that buying Bertline will "secure a crucial supply chain tool for over 250 independent booksellers, and to minimize disruption to the supply chain, and to the effectiveness of high street bookshops reliant on the Bertline system. We intend to continue business as usual for our bookseller members, and we are delighted at the swift and responsive reaction of Bertrams' CEO Raj Patel, to our approach to step in to secure the system for the future. We look forward very much to working on the smooth transition with the Bertrams' team and hope that our indie members who are Bertline users see a clearer future, and one less anxiety as they enter the re-opening phase of the crisis."

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The Canadian bookstore chain Indigo has reopened many of its stores across Canada, with Narcity reporting that more than 130 stores had reopened as of Wednesday. The reopenings have happened in phases based on local governments easing their restrictions.

Indigo has adopted several new safety measures to protect staff members and shoppers, including requiring all employees to wear masks and asking customers to do the same; limiting store capacity; accepting only contactless payment methods; and offering hand sanitizer in-store, among others.

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Eslite, the Taiwan bookstore chain that also has stores in China and Japan, will close more of its outlets in Taiwan later this year as part of a restructuring plan, the Taipei Times reported.

By the end of this month, Eslite will close around four stores by the end of next month, and will likely close one or two more by the end of the year. Two of the stores slated for closure are located on university campuses, while the other two are in Taipei. Following these closures, there will be a total of 38 Eslite stores in the country.

In response to the decline in sales brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Eslite is also looking to negotiate with its landlords to reduce its rental payments and is applying for government subsidies. Despite the pandemic, the company is still looking to open a new store in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, next year, which would be its first in Southeast Asia, and is also considering opening  stores in Hong Kong's New Territories.


Notes

Chicago Distribution Center to Offer Free Freight for Indies

Beginning July 1, the Chicago Distribution Center (CDC) is offering free freight for independent bookstores in the contiguous United States. Under the policy, a single or combined order across all CDC publishers of 15 or more shippable units to one address is eligible for free freight.

Although the CDC, a division of the University of Chicago Press, has been developing the policy for the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it especially welcome. CDC director Joseph D'Onofrio commented: "Given the difficulties that stores are facing now because of the pandemic, it is even more important that we find ways to better support our partners at independent booksellers. We are committed to making it easier and more profitable for independents to order direct from the CDC so that they can best provide for the needs of their customers."

For more information, contact the CDC via e-mail.


The Creative Company to Distribute Amicus Publishing, Black Rabbit Books

Effective June 1, the Creative Company will expand distribution of children's book publishers Amicus Publishing and Black Rabbit Books. The Creative Company currently provides fulfillment services for all three publishers, but will now add sales, marketing, customer service, and accounts receivables services. All products may now be combined on one purchase order and purchased directly from The Creative Company.

The Creative Company was founded in 1932 and has more than 1,500 titles in its library catalog. The Creative Company also publishes picture books and board books for the retail market as part of its Creative Editions program, which is distributed by Chronicle Books.

Amicus Publishing was founded in 2010 and offers more than 650 titles in its library catalog. Amicus also publishes picture books and board books in its Amicus Ink imprint. Earlier this year, Amicus acquired Bookstaves, which is best known for its 12-Story Library imprint, and paperback publisher RiverStream.

Founded in 2006, Black Rabbit Books publishes more than 400 titles in its proprietary imprints and distributes more than 400 titles for Brown Bear Books and Book House.



Media and Movies

TV: The Forbidden Game

Warner Bros. Television has acquired the rights, "in a competitive situation," to L.J. Smith's the Forbidden Game trilogy of horror YA novels for Berlanti Productions, which will adapt the books as TV series, Deadline reported. (Smith is the author of the Vampire Diaries novels, which WBTV developed into a hit series that aired for eight seasons on the CW.) The project will be executive produced by Berlanti Productions' Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter and David Madden. A search is underway for a writer.


Books & Authors

Awards: Jhalak Winner

Johny Pitts won the £1,000 (about $1,245) Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Color for his debut book Afropean: Notes from Black Europe, the Bookseller reported. The prize was established in 2016 and seeks to celebrate books by British/British resident BAME writers. In addition to the cash award, Pitts will receive a trophy sculpted by artist Neda Koochakian Fard.

Prize co-founder and judging panel member Nikesh Shukla commended the "open-armed book" for collecting untold stories that might otherwise have been lost, adding that "it embodies exactly the reasons we set up the prize in the first place." Judge Anita Sethi said Afropean "speaks to the shifting moment of Europe," while Kerry Young praised the work as "an honest and open-hearted book of enormous scope and intellectual integrity" and Roy McFarlane described the winner as "one of those books that grab you from the moment you start reading it."


Reading with... Amy Meyerson

photo: Amanda Treyz

Amy Meyerson is the author of the bestseller The Bookshop of Yesterdays, which has been translated into nine languages. She has been published in numerous literary magazines and teaches in the writing department at the University of Southern California, where she completed her graduate work in creative writing. Originally from Philadelphia, she lives in Los Angeles. The Imperfects (Park Row, May 5, 2020) is her second novel.

On your nightstand now:

My nightstand is a precarious pile of books I plan to read next. At the top are The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, which I'm reading, and The Library Book by Susan Orlean, which I'm listening to. I like to read fiction, so I can see it unfold on the page, and listen to nonfiction, particularly when it's read by the author, as is the case with The Library Book.

Favorite book when you were a child:

If I'm being honest, the first books I read voraciously were the Babysitters Club series, although I remember very little beyond the characters' names despite having owned the board game and several VHS tapes of the television show. As an adult, the childhood book I most often return to is The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. It's so well written and the clues throughout are really fun. I can't wait to read it with my son when he's a little older.

Your top five authors:

I always have a difficult time answering this question because I am very loose with favorites. Everything I like at a particular moment is my favorite. I probably have one hundred favorite writers. That said, five authors whose new books I will always buy without having to know anything about them are Jennifer Egan, Ann Patchett, Jeffrey Eugenides, Tana French and Aimee Bender.

Book you've faked reading:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. It's terrible because I know I will love it when I read it--which is why I've faked it!--and have zero excuse for not having read it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Away by Amy Bloom. The way Bloom moves across space, the characters, the shifting points of view, the prose--I love absolutely everything about this novel.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple. At the time, I didn't know anything about the novel, but the drawing of Bernadette on the cover was so revealing of its tone. The words inside are just as fun. 

Book you hid from your parents:

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins, not that my parents knew what the novel was. It was the first dirty book I read with curse words. Like a lot of teenagers, I was drawn to its counterculture qualities. It was one of those books that made me reevaluate what a book could be. I don't know if my parents would have cared, but I felt a little naughty reading it.

Book that changed your life:

Probably the book that most tangibly affected my life was Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. I was reading it when I started working on my first novel, The Bookshop of Yesterdays. At the time, I knew I wanted to write a book about books with a scavenger hunt at the heart of it, but I didn't decide to set it in a bookstore until I read Norwegian Wood. One of the love interests in the novel works in her family's bookshop. It isn't a novel that's normally categorized as a bookshop book, but it was the first book I read that was set in a bookstore.

Favorite line from a book:

I'm a sucker for a good first line, the kind of beginning that makes you stand still in a bookstore and read the first chapter. My favorite first line to teach is the opening of Flannery O'Connor's story "A Good Man Is Hard to Find": "The grandmother didn't want to go to Florida." Sure, it's a simple sentence, but it immediately creates conflict and has the reader asking questions. Plus, O'Connor's initial version of that line was, "Granny didn't want to go to Florida." The small shift from "Granny" to "the grandmother" creates a huge tonal change. It's a good reminder that even the smallest of choices can impact a story.

Five books you'll never part with:

I think the easiest way to answer this question is to list some of the novels on my bookshelf that have made the moves with me from college to Brooklyn, to Colorado, back to Brooklyn and to four different homes in Los Angeles. I'm pretty settled now, but if I do move again, I'm certain these will come with me.

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston (which has nibble marks along the spine from a pet rabbit I had in college.)

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (my mom's mass market paperback copy from 1986.)

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (which I've probably read more times than any other novel.)

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (which has some of the best domestic arguments I've ever read.)

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon (one of the few "free reading" books I read in college and still one of my favorites.)

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

Atonement by Ian McEwan. It's one of the few books I stayed up all night to finish. I love that breathless feeling when you simply can't do anything but read. You get glimpses of it on rereads, but the intensity of needing to know what happens diminishes.

Favorite book about writing:

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose is my favorite book on writing because it's a book on reading. I think learning to be an engaged reader is the best way to become a more conscious writer. Prose's book made me aware of all the subtle choices writers make that shape a story. I'm constantly recommending it to students.


Book Review

Review: The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir

The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir by Michele Harper (Riverhead, $27 hardcover, 304p., 9780525537380, July 7, 2020)

Medical dramas tend to earn the skepticism of real medical professionals like Michele Harper, an emergency room doctor and the author of The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir: "No, the ER staffs are not Hollywood beautiful--you won't find us in the pages of Vogue or GQ, and we're not all sleeping with one another (I've worked in only one hospital like that)." But readers of The Beauty in Breaking can be forgiven for registering some of the pleasures derived from watching Grey's Anatomy and its kin: good storytelling, memorable characters, shocking outcomes, unexpected uplift and satisfying blasts of righteous indignation.

The Beauty in Breaking's case-study-like chapters are devoted to patients whose stories spur Harper to draw connections between her work and the larger world. In "Dominic: Body of Evidence," the police haul in a black man for allegedly swallowing bags of drugs and expect Harper, who is African American, to give him a physical exam without his consent, which she knows is against the law absent a court order; for Harper, this disregard for the man's rights recalls the despicable historical practice of performing medical experiments on nonconsenting black men. In "Jeremiah: Cradle and All," Harper treats a 13-year-old who has come in with a head trauma--the upshot of a classmate's bullying. After the boy confesses that he owns a gun and intends to use it on his assailant, Harper is required to contact social services. As she awaits the social worker, she wonders "why, in all my growing-up years, no physician had ever spoken to me alone, to ask if I was safe."

It's a reference to her fraught childhood. Harper grew up middle class in Washington, D.C., with a physician father who beat her mother. "The job of my youth had been to get out of that house and out of that life," Harper writes. She succeeded, although the celebratory mood of her graduation from an emergency medicine residency was dulled by the coinciding collapse of her marriage.

Harper alone followed through on what had been the couple's plan to move to Philadelphia. By the end of The Beauty in Breaking, fortified by yoga and meditation and the conviction that healing works both ways, Harper has found a restless peace working at a Philly VA hospital, where the beguiled reader hopes that she will continue to gather insights and commit them to the page. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: In this illuminating memoir, an African American emergency room doctor finds that her patients' stories lead her to make connections between her work and the larger world.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: There's No Hotel ABA in Zoomlandia

The Javits Center in bygone days

Imagine thousands of book people convening annually for a few days in Manhattan. Imagine a city hotel full of booksellers. Now imagine the book world we're living in this spring. Imagine bright lights, big city, no BookExpo. Imagine people who would be talking books all day--and well into the night, face to face--suddenly becoming Zoom watchers. Imagine that being the best-case scenario under tough, even life-threatening circumstances.

Covid-19 hit hard, Javits became a hospital, BookExpo went virtual and we don't know what the book world will become in six months, one year or even five years.

On Wednesday night in Manhattan, 100 million LED pixels were darkened on Times Square billboards for one minute to show support for businesses struggling to survive the Covid-19 pandemic. Then a video was displayed, featuring messages from business leaders and celebrities.

Earlier that afternoon, enduring 90-degree temps and humidity in Saratoga Springs, I couldn't help but think that under normal circumstances I'd be walking back to my hotel room from Javits Center after BookExpo's education day sessions. The memory was visceral; the sidewalks of New York emit a particular kind of sticky stinky on days like that. Strangely, I missed it a little.

"We will travel again," Marriott Bonvoy recently assured me in an e-mail, though I keep thinking about an empty Wyndham New Yorker hotel on Eighth Avenue this week. As recently as February 19 (February 19!), Bookselling This Week reported booksellers "can register now for BookExpo 2020" and that "thanks to a significant financial commitment from Reed Exhibitions, ABA member booksellers can reserve rooms at the 2020 Hotel ABA." Remember those ancient times?

In the midst of the 2009 financial crisis, I wrote a pre-BEA column headlined "The Book Circus Is Coming to Town!" Reminiscing about my first ABA trade show (Miami in 1993), I noted that 16 years later, I would "resist the temptation to imagine Bookocalypse Now. The economy stinks. The publishing industry may not be underwater, but it's definitely paddling real hard on the surface. Booksellers have to measure every penny spent and their decisions about attending or not attending BEA are more challenging than ever. And how can one not speculate about a virtual BEA for e-books in the 'distant' future, held exclusively on Twitter and Facebook? Okay, we can resist that last one for a while."

And we did... for 11 years, though I never envisioned Pandemic BookExpo or Zoomlandia BookExpo or a vacant 2020 Hotel ABA.

The 1919 American Booksellers Association Convention was held at Boston's Hotel Copley Plaza. In the wake of World War I, and still dealing with a years-long influenza pandemic, ABA secretary Frederic G. Melcher published an article in The Bookman headlined "The Bookseller: The Reader's Best Friend."

"Today brings in the greatest opportunity the bookseller has ever had, the opportunity to observe an eager and widened reading public at an epoch in the world's history," he wrote. "The preparation for adequate service is not complete; there are too few outlets, too few trained salesmen; but the booksellers see the way toward better things, and they ask and deserve the support and interest of the book-loving public of this country."

A century has elapsed from Hotel Copley Plaza to Wyndham New Yorker, though time is, of course, malleable at conventions and in hotels. Maybe it's the suspension of "normal" hours (until checkout, at least) or the brief gatherings of strangers under the same roof. Possibilities, fictional and otherwise, seem limitless.

Stories certainly are. The best hotel novels leave us with haunting impressions: the drained Hotel Trianon swimming pool in Graham Greene's The Comedians; the desolate beauty of an isolated geisha house in Yasunari Kawabata's Snow Country; the lethal ambiance of the empty Overlook Hotel in Stephen King's The Shining. So many more.

Future for hotels: More masks, no pens

In the real-ish world, Hilton has announced a partnership with Lysol's parent company and the Mayo Clinic regarding disinfection and cleanliness standards for its hotels, NPR reported. Phil Cordell, Hilton's global head of brand development, said guests "will see that some of the items in the room that could likely be fingerprinted by previous guests--magazines, notepads, pens--those items have been removed from the room."

No pens? Novelists will have to adapt to the post-Covid "new normal" as well.

"As hotels spray, disinfect and purge their rooms of pens, magazines and notepads, they may eliminate germs," NPR noted. "But will they eliminate anxiety? Hotels are about to find out."

Indie booksellers know that feeling well, as they navigate a minefield of state and federal guidelines in their cautious moves toward reopening. I think of Ali Smith's first lines in her novel Hotel World:

Woooooooo-hooooooo what a fall what a soar what a plummet what a dash into dark into light what a plunge what a glide thud crash what a drop what a rush what a swoop what a fright what a mad hushed skirl what a smash mush mash-up broke and gashed what a heart in my mouth what an end.

For the past three months, the book trade has often felt like that. Are we plummeting like Icarus, or skydiving, with faith that the parachutes will deploy in time? Thus far, I'm trusting the chutes.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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