Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, February 13, 2024

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

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

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

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

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

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

Agate Bolden: 54 Miles by Leonard Pitts Jr.


Wi2024: Building a Bright Future; Creating Goodwill

During her opening remarks on the first morning of Winter Institute 2024 in Cincinnati, Ohio, American Booksellers Association CEO Allison Hill mentioned that prior to leaving for Ohio, someone asked her how long it takes to get there.

"It takes three years to get to Cincinnati, it turns out," Hill said, to widespread laughter. After having Cincinnati booked for 2021, and then 2022, "we're finally here."

This year's Institute is the largest ever, with 951 booksellers attending--and more than 400 of them attending for the first time. Hill added that this year will also include the oldest bookseller ever to attend a Winter Institute, at age 85, as well as the youngest bookstore owner ever to attend, at age 14.

Allison Hill

Last year at Winter Institute in Seattle, Wash., Hill continued, it felt that booksellers were coming out of the pandemic like "groundhogs," trying tell whether "spring would ever come." This year, "there are signs of spring everywhere," including the re-energizing of the buy local movement; consumers' desire for authentic experiences and knowing "who they're buying from"; and the FTC lawsuit against Amazon.

"Independent bookstores are ready for this moment," Hill said, "and the value proposition that you offer, combined with the hard-earned insights and resilience you built during the pandemic, indicate a bright forecast for the future."

And in an election year, she added, it seems like a "good time to remember that the future doesn't just happen. We build it. I hope this week is all about building a bright future for independent bookstores, together."


James Rhee

James Rhee, investor, teacher, CEO, and author of the upcoming book Red Helicopter: A Parable for Our Times (HarperCollins, April 9), took the stage to discuss jeong, the intangible value of businesses, the importance of kindness, and how he helped save clothing store chain Ashley Stewart from going out of business by relying on those principles.

Jeong, Rhee explained, is a Korean word that has no exact equivalent in English but is closest to goodwill. It describes a "connected-ness" between people, an interdependence and mutual coexistence, that "becomes tangible" and "travels for generations."

"You are in the business of goodwill and jeong," Rhee told booksellers. "It's a beautiful service that you all do for our society. The question is how to make it more tangible."

At a time in his life when he was struggling to reconcile his desire to do good with his success in the financial industry, Rhee joined Ashley Stewart, a national retailer specializing in clothes for plus-sized Black women that was in dire straits.

Despite the company's struggles, Rhee knew there had to be something more that had kept the stores in business for so long, that it couldn't be as simple as just being about the clothes. "There has to be a reason why you're here after 22 years."

Rhee described his approach to learning the business as one of "childlike simplicity." He essentially worked in the stores, hanging jewelry and learning about clothes, and after six months, he realized that "this business has nothing to do about clothes."

The product, the "capital-p Product," as Rhee put it, was intangible--it was relationships, it was comfort, it was confidence, it was "being yourself."

Rhee's subsequent attempts to get funding failed, but rather than give up, Rhee and his colleagues decided to "exercise agency." They couldn't listen to what everyone was saying, because they were all "saying the same thing," so they set out to "build our own future." And in doing so, they set out to be both kind and mathematically right.

Said Rhee: "Kindness, in my reading of it, is giving someone else agency."

By "balancing kindness and math," Rhee and his team were able to "fly free." Math allowed the team to quantify the parts of the business that could be quantified, and the rest came down to jeong, to goodwill.

"If you are kind and mathematically true, I think you create goodwill," Rhee said. "I think the economists would say you create positive externalities." And in a country that doesn't penalize negative externalities, "I want to be involved with things that create and reward positive externalities."

Looking ahead, Rhee said that as an investor, he expects to see the "convergence of interesting ideas and alliances" that have never been seen before, and while there will be hardship, "the future of independent booksellers looks rosy to me: truth, community, small business." --Alex Mutter

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Wi2024: Day One

The American Booksellers Association's Winter Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio, got into full swing yesterday with a range of panels, meetings, keynote addresses, an open house, and more. The evening featured a full menu of dinners and parties. The program today includes a breakfast keynote, more rep picks, panels, and the evening author reception.

Jeff Deutsch, director of Chicago's Seminary Co-op Bookstores (and author of In Praise of Good Bookstores), caught up with Ben Rybeck, general manager of House of Books in Kent, Conn.

DJ Johnson, owner of Baldwin & Co. in New Orleans, La., with Hannah Oliver Depp, co-owner of Loyalty Bookstores in in Washington, D.C., and Silver Spring, Md.

A University Press of Kentucky party featured many of the press's bourbon titles as well as bourbon tastings conducted by Heather Wibbels, author of the press's Bourbon Is My Comfort Food. Wibbels is also a mixologist, chair of the Bourbon Women board of directors, a photographer, and may be best known to some whiskey lovers as the Cocktail Contessa.

Sherry Krieghauser and Riley Glissendorf, both from Stonecrest Book and Toy in Osage Beach, Mo., at a party hosted by the Book Industry Charitable Foundation and AdventureKeen. Glissendorf was the winner of the 2023 Carla Gray Memorial Scholarship for Emerging Bookseller-Activists, sponsored by the Friends of Carla Gray Committee and BINC. The award included travel and hotel to attend Winter Institute.

Brian Jeunemann, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, with Heather Duncan, executive director of the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association.

The Vintage Storyteller Opens in Maple Plain, Minn.

The Vintage Storyteller has opened in Maple Plain, Minn., the Laker Pioneer reported.

Located at 5260 Hwy. 12, the bookstore carries an array of titles pertaining to subjects like creativity, nature, and personal development, alongside gifts, prints, cards, stationery, tarot cards, and plenty of other nonbook items.

The store has a cozy, inviting atmosphere, with couches for customers to relax on, and there is a working jukebox from the 1960s. Owner Kari Ramstrom also hosts craft nights, workshops, and a book club.

Ramstrom, who has degrees in environmental science and library science, told the Pioneer that after her children went to college, she "saw the window of opportunity. I am using all of my skills gleaned from decades in public and school libraries and most recently as an educational coordinator and currently a farmers market coordinator, to start my own business and open a bricks-and-mortar shop."

The shop is open six days per week, and Ramstrom noted that, "when people walk in and say 'this is everything I love all in one place,' I know that I have succeeded with that vision."

B&N Opening Five Stores in Chicago Area, Indiana

Barnes & Noble plans to open five new bookstores in the Chicago area, beginning this spring and continuing through the fall. 

In Chicago, a new B&N store will be located at 651 West Diversey Parkway, not far from the former Clark & Diversey bookstore. The new Wicker Park Barnes & Noble will occupy the historic Noel State Bank building at 1601 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Other planned stores include a new B&N in the Prairie Market Shopping Center at 2590 US Hwy 34 in Oswego, as well as one in the Village Square of Northbrook at 45 Skokie Blvd, Northbrook, which has been without a B&N since the company's Deerfield Square location closed in December 2022.  

In nearby Schererville, Ind., a new B&N bookstore is due to open next fall in the Town Square Shopping Center at 124 US Hwy 41. It will be the first bookstore to open in Schererville since the Cat's Tale, a used bookstore, closed in 2020.

"The Chicago area has suffered more bookstore closures than almost anywhere in recent years, and we are very pleased to reverse this trend so emphatically," B&N said. "We restore Barnes & Noble bookstores to four neighborhoods and, in the beautiful Noel State Bank building in Wicker Park, add a new one for us. This follows the great success of the return of Barnes & Noble to Old Orchard in November 2022, and before this with our new bookstores in Algonquin and Schaumburg." 

Obituary Note: Ellen Gilchrist

Ellen Gilchrist

Ellen Gilchrist, "a Southern writer with a sharp, sometimes indulgent eye for her region's foibles and eccentricities," died January 30, the New York Times reported. She was 88. Gilchrist "had spent part of her childhood on a family plantation in the Mississippi Delta... and her fiction was populated by the gentry that came from that land, in both its urban and rural incarnations."

A disciple of Eudora Welty, with whom she studied at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., in the 1960s, Gilchrist published more than 25 books, including novels, short story collections, poetry and memoirs.

She won the National Book Award in 1984 for her collection Victory Over Japan, but it was her first collection, In the Land of Dreamy Dreams (1981), "which depicted in large part the fissures and pathologies of the New Orleans upper class, that was in some ways most characteristic. She considered it her best work," the Times noted. 

First published by the University of Arkansas Press, In the Land of Dreamy Dreams was an unexpected hit for a university press. "It was this huge success and sold all the copies in about a week, and then he kept printin' 'em," Gilchrist said in her interview at the university, where she taught English and creative writing for 25 years. The book sold more than 10,000 copies in its first 10 months; was republished by what became her principal publisher, Little, Brown; and earned critical acclaim. 

In the Land of Dreamy Dreams also launched Gilchrist as a writer when she was 46 and had endured a complicated personal life that included, as she wrote in the essay collection, The Writing Life (2005), "four marriages, three caesarean sections, an abortion, 24 years of psychotherapy and lots of lovely men," as well as a struggle with alcoholism.

Gilchrist's other books include Drunk With Love (1986), Light Can Be Both Wave and Particle (1989), I Cannot Get You Close Enough: Three Novellas (1990), Collected Stories (2000), Nora Jane: A Life in Stories (2005), Acts of God (2014), Falling Through Space: The Journals of Ellen Gilchrist (1987), The Writing Life (2005), and Things Like the Truth: Out of My Later Years (2016).

Gilchrist fell into the writing life almost by accident, though she had always written, mostly poetry. In The Writing Life, she wrote: "I was busy falling in love and getting married to three different men (I married the father of my children twice) and having babies and buying clothes and getting my hair fixed and running in the park and playing tennis." 


Image of the Day: Vegas Bookseller Meet-up

Owner Sarah Bagby and bookseller Melissa Fox from Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan., and owner Maureen Palacios and manager Jessica Palacios from Once Upon a Time Bookstore, Montrose, Calif., met up at the gift show at the World Market Center in Las Vegas recently. Bagby said, "It's always easy to spot fellow bookstore people."

Winter Storm Display: Island Books

Posted on Facebook yesterday by Island Books, Middletown, R.I.: "I guess we're getting our wish! We will be closed tomorrow Tuesday, February 13th in honor of the snow storm. We will reopen Wednesday, February 14th. Stop by for great Valentine books and cards!!!"

Personnel Changes at LEO PR

Molly Mitchell has been promoted to associate publicist at LEO PR. She joined the company in late 2021.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Ray Isle on CBS Mornings

CBS Mornings: Ray Isle, author of The World in a Wineglass: The Insider's Guide to Artisanal, Sustainable, Extraordinary Wines to Drink Now (Scribner, $50, 9781982182786).

Today Show: Niro Feliciano, author of This Book Won't Make You Happy: Eight Keys to Finding True Contentment (Broadleaf, $27.99, 9781506480411).

Jennifer Hudson Show: Jennifer Freed, author of A Map to Your Soul: Using the Astrology of Fire, Earth, Air, and Water to Live Deeply and Fully (Rodale, $26, 9780593236154).

TV: A Short History of Nearly Everything

Bill Bryson's bestselling book A Short History of Nearly Everything "is being reimagined" as an animated TV series by former The Simpsons showrunner Josh Weinstein and Paddington screenwriter Jason Hazeley, with Richard Ayoade narrating. Deadline reported that Altitude and Brouhaha Entertainment "are developing the series version of a book that has sold 15 million copies worldwide and been translated into 50 languages, with a view to turning it into a long-running entertainment franchise."

"I feel very lucky to have such a gifted and distinguished group of creative talents turning my words into screen magic," said Bryson.

Altitude co-CEO Will Clarke commented: "Bill's brilliant mind expands beyond the hugely impressive number of books he's sold and is arguably a global brand in its own right. We know from broadcasters and streamers that audiences are hungry to explore and learn more about our universe whilst being entertained and our series--which we envisage as a long-running entertainment franchise--is the perfect way to deliver that."

Books & Authors

Awards: Ockham NZ Book Longlist

A longlist has been released for the 2024 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, the Spinoff reported, noting that Te Herenga Waka University Press has 11 books on the longlist of 44 in four categories. Overall, 20 publishers are represented. Check out the complete list of NZ Book Awards longlist here.

The prizes include the NZ$12,000 (about US$7,835) Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Nonfiction. The Ockham NZ Book Awards shortlist of 16 titles (four books in each category) will be unveiled March 6. The winners, including the four Mātātuhi Foundation Best First Book Awards recipients, will be named May 15 during the Auckland Writers Festival.

Book Review

Review: The Limits

The Limits by Nell Freudenberger (Knopf, $29 hardcover, 368p., 9780593448885, April 9, 2024)

Nell Freudenberger's fourth novel, The Limits, is a clear-eyed exploration of loss, love, and the difficulty (and hope) inherent in human connection, set during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. Freudenberg (Lost and Wanted) centers her narrative on former spouses Nathalie and Stephen, still bound by their teenage daughter and their history together. Marine biologist Nathalie, a Frenchwoman, is stationed on Mo'orea, an island near Tahiti, studying the delicate ecosystems of coral reefs. Her cardiologist ex-husband, Stephen, in locked-down Manhattan, must balance his increasingly demanding work with his worry for his newly pregnant wife, Kate. Meanwhile, Pia, Stephen and Nathalie's daughter, has returned, under duress, from Mo'orea to New York to live with her father. Both Pia's parents hope that interaction with other young people will help her cope, and Nathalie wants to distance her daughter from a crush on an older man. Freudenberger tells her story from all three of their perspectives, plus those of Kate, a teacher struggling with remote education and the realities of a pandemic pregnancy, and Athyna, one of Kate's brightest students, whose anxiety and familial challenges threaten to derail her hopes for college.

As the days of lockdown spool into weeks, Freudenberger follows her characters' daily lives, highlighting the contrast between tropical Mo'orea, even quieter without the usual tourists, and the crowded but eerie emptiness of New York City. Freudenberger captures the anxiety and ennui of people like Kate, trying to do their jobs from home while feeling totally useless; students like Pia and Athyna, struggling to care about grades and college applications while the world crumbles around them; and doctors like Stephen, forced to make impossible choices regarding the patients in their care. Nathalie's research continues more or less as normal, but she worries for Pia, and is also concerned about exploratory mining of the ocean floor that might kill her beloved coral reefs. In short, Freudenberger shows, life goes on: her characters love and fight and despair and act out, dealing with daily frustrations while trying to weather a circumstance none of them ever imagined. She touches on case numbers, racial protests, and political furor, but the novel's heart lies in its characters' sharply drawn inner lives and their relationships with one another, as fragile and finely attuned to their environment as the corals Nathalie studies. 

Sensitive, luminous, and sometimes wryly funny, The Limits is a nuanced portrait of the difficult, worthwhile work of connecting with others--even during a global disaster. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Nell Freudenberger's fourth novel explores the delicate, fraught relationships among a group of characters during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Hopeless by Elsie Silver
2. Twisted Love by Ana Huang
3. When the Moon Hatched by Sarah A. Parker
4. King of Wrath by Ana Huang
5. Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door by Rick Steves
6. The Worst Best Man by Lucy Score
7. Twisted Games by Ana Huang
8. Hunting Adeline by H.D. Carlton
9. The Teacher by Freida McFadden
10. The Reason I Married Him by Meghan Quinn

[Many thanks to!]

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