National Poetry Month!

I suppose it is more than mere coincidence that April is both “the cruelest month” and National Poetry Month. In a world of blingy information inviting you to jump from apps to texts to Facebook, Snapchat, cat videos and yes, blog posts, the pleasure of letting your mind rest on a page contemplating a poem can’t be underestimated.

Not sure you know how to approach poem? There are lots of good ways in. Start with some popular poets. There’s a reason why Billy Collins and Mary Oliver actually sell: Their combination of craft, accessibility, emotion and intelligence make for enduring and rewarding reading.

Another way is to just jump in and immerse yourself in some of the greatest voices of our times. The Caedmon Poetry Collection is both a stunning historical artifact and an introduction to the greatest poems of the 20th century—read by the poets themselves. I grant that I’m a dork but it’s kind of thrilling to hear Auden, Yeats, Dylan Thomas, Anne Sexton, Neruda, Pound, Wallace Stevens, Margaret Atwood and T.S. Eliot (you’ll hear all about that cruelest month) reading in their own voices.

Or you could start with a guide. David Orr’s 2011 Beautiful & Pointless remains one of my favorite introductions. Simple and intimate, marked by wonderful examples, it shows as much as tells the reader the wonders to be found in poetry.

Add to that list of useful guides a new book from Robert Hass, a former U.S. Poet Laureate and winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. A Little Book on Form gives readers a vocabulary for understanding how the formal constraints and compression of poetry also create the possibility for expression our deepest and most intense feelings. Booklist notes that Hass, who is also a much-lauded essayist, “writes prose every bit as zestful, penetrating, and sure-footed as his poetry.”

Happy Poetry Month!

With specificity, clarity, and inspired insight…Hass’s reading is extensive, as shown by references to and quotations of dozens of poets, ranging in period from Caesar’s Rome to the Renaissance and 21st-century America. He includes the greats—Bashõ, Dickinson, Rudaki, Shakespeare—and a wealth of lesser-known talents. Hass discusses how poetic form synthesizes many subjects, including math, music, religion, and sexuality. Throughout, he justifies and asserts the place of order in poetic form, which is often accused of being chaotic and abstruse…. [An] emotionally and intellectually nurturing work of analysis, suited for academia and ambitious leisure readers.”
Publishers Weekly

A Little Book on Form: An Exploration into the Formal Imagination of Poetry (9780062332424) by Robert Hass. $29.99 hardcover. 4/4/17 on sale.

 Caedmon Poetry Collection: A Century of Poets Reading Their Work (9780062206404) $14.99 audio CD. Available now.

 Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry (9780061673467) by David Orr. $14.99 trade paper original. Available now.

New Nonfiction: Sunshine State – Sarah Gerard

Many booksellers have told me that the general essay is seeing a renaissance. Books like The Empathy Exams, The Faraway Nearby and Bad Feminist are finding healthy audiences in Indie bookstores among customers looking for thoughtful, intelligent meditations on modern life.

Add to this burgeoning genre Gerard’s Sunshine State. Like these other collections Gerard uses the lens of personal experience—her life on the Gulf Coast of Florida–to try to make sense of the human condition. Personal stories expand into meditations on larger social concerns—financial misappropriation, date rape, class tensions.

 There’s been a lot of anticipation for this collection. Online it has already been mentioned in Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, The Week and The Millions. Roxane Gay mentioned in EW that it’s what she’s currently reading and PW gave it a starred review. The NYT is already set to review at on sale and it’s an Indie Next Pick.

Brave, keenly observational, and humanitarian, Gerard’s collection of essays illuminates the stark realities of Florida’s Gulf Coast. With a mixture of investigative journalism and firsthand experience, she brings to life outspoken zealots, hopeless romantics, and escapist youth. She describes the hunger of Christian Scientists for earthly and spiritual wellness, Amway members for self-determined success, adolescents for reckless euphoria, testosterone-flooded males for dominance, and the underprivileged for nothing more than adequate housing and shelter. Gerard is a virtuoso of language, which in her hands is precise, unlabored, and quietly wrought with emotion…. Gerard’s collection leaves an indelible impression. Fans of literary nonfiction and dark reverie will welcome it.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Sarah Gerard’s Sunshine State gloriously gutted me—and by that I mean changed me forever as a reader. Using Florida as a lens and the body as a ticket to travel, Gerard weaves her astonishing prose through land and corporeal truth. Sunshine State reminds us of who we really are underneath the skin we live in and the ground we stand on—and mercifully, there is still beauty, in spite of everything.”
— Lidia Yuknavitch

“Combining journalism and memoir, Gerard… brings a sharp eye to recollections of growing up on Florida’s Gulf Coast…. An intimate journey reveals a Florida few visitors would ever discover.”

“Focusing on a single state, Gerard’s scope is nonetheless quite large, and her sensitive, sympathetic writer’s sensitivity for her subjects and interviewees is apparent.”

Sunshine State: Essays (9780062434876) by Sarah Gerard. $15.99 trade paper original. 4/11/17 on sale.

Nonfiction Short Take: Welcome to Your World – Sarah Williams Goldhagen

Goldhagen is a contributing editor at Architectural Record, was the architecture critic at the New Republic and is a contributor to the NYT. In this lavishly illustrated book for the general reader she combines architecture and current neuroscience to show how the spaces we inhabit shape our minds. She shows decisively how design decisions affect our sense of emotional well-being, influence our social interactions and impact our physical health.

Right now over 80% of the planet lives in cities–and that is predicted to increase. Goldhagen argues that now is time the time to mindfully reconsider the built environments we are creating and how our choices might contribute to shaping our future, for better or worse. This is smart, general social science reading for fans of Jane Jacobs and Richard Florida.

Architecture critic Goldhagen makes a passionate, persuasive plea for better design—a built environment that places humans before the ‘short-term or parochial interests’ that typically drive construction and renovation of human habitats. This generously illustrated volume takes readers on a tour of the built environments in which most of us live, work, and play, using concrete examples in each chapter to anchor the author’s arguments…. [She] discusses the human need for nature and the ways that social environments shape and are shaped by spatial design, and concludes with suggestions for design that supports, rather than works against, human thriving.”
Publishers Weekly

 “Goldhagen’s] analysis is practical and accessible …. [A] valuable compendium to design analysis and the benefits of progress in contemporary design. An eye-opening look at the ways in which carefully planned and executed design and architecture can expand cognitive faculties and improve daily life.”
Kirkus Reviews

Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives (9780061957802) by Sarah Williams Goldhagen. $40.00 hardcover. 4/11/17 on sale.

Just Added: The Case for Impeachment – Allan J. Lichtman

Lichtman is a Distinguished Professor of History at American University in Washington, DC and has correctly predicted 30 years of presidential outcomes–including the 2016 election of Donald Trump, which he famously wrote about in the Washington Post.

 Mere weeks after the election he appeared on CBS News predicting that Trump would be impeached in her first term. That video piece has been viewed over 1.6 million times.

While Lichtman will lay out his argument in this new book, it will also include a survey of situations that have led to the impeachment of previous presidents.  “Impeach Trump” has continued to be one the is one of the most searched phrases on Google for the last four months. I think there’s a built-in audience of people wanting to know more.

Lichtman has written eight books and is a frequent commentator on TV and major news outlets. We expect this to have major media hits in all outlets.

The Case for Impeachment (9780062696823) by Allan J. Lichtman. $24.99 hardcover. 4/18/17 one day laydown.

New YA Fiction: The Upside of Unrequited – Becky Albertali

Few books I’ve worked on in the last few years were met with more grassroots, floor bookseller support than Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. That charming romantic comedy about a gay teen was an Indie Next pick, a Carnegie Medal nominee, and on many “best of the year” lists.

So, anticipation has been high for Albertalli’s next book. Paste, Bustle and Entertainment Weekly all put The Upside of Unrequited on their lists of most anticipated YA novels in 2017. Fans will not be disappointed. Albertalli gives us another funny, realistic story about a loving family and teens negotiating the tricky path to embracing their true selves.

While Simon plays a cameo in this book, the star is 17-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso, the straight daughter of lesbian mothers. Jill Zimmerman, the children’s book buyer at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor get the plot summary just right:

Molly Peskin-Suso has two moms and a twin sister/best friend Cassie who are all out and proud. Molly is straight, a chubby homebody with anxiety who has never had a boyfriend, but instead 26 unrequited crushes. She would rather stay at home crafting or making cookie dough, or hang out with her nerdy co-worker Reid, than go to parties. But when Cassie gets a serious girlfriend, Molly finally agrees to be matched up with a cute boy named Will who seems to like her. Problem is: does Molly like him? A really funny book about finding the confidence to ‘come out’ and be yourself, whatever that might mean to you.”

Indie fans have again put this in their Top Ten on the Spring Indie Next list and the advance reviews are great.

“Albertalli’s follow-up to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda features a diverse family (Molly’s mothers are different races and religions) living in Beltway Washington the year gay marriage is legalized. It’s as full of heart as Simon (Simon himself makes a cameo appearance) and is replete with humor and honestly drawn characters like Grandma Betty, who comments inappropriately about Molly’s weight and thinks all lesbians have short hair. The cheerful resolution has Molly finding her own path, concluding that, no matter how well-intentioned one’s wingman might be, you have to be your heart’s own goalie.”
— Publishers Weekly

Readers will fall in love with this fresh, honest, inclusive look at dating, families, and friendship. A top purchase for all YA collections.”
— School Library Journal (starred review)

“In her second, relationship-rich novel, Albertalli’s take on the agonies and ecstasies of adolescent love are spot-on.”
— ALA Booklist

“I loved Albertalli’s first book, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and The Upside of Unrequited is even better! She’s great at introducing thought-provoking social issues – sexuality, racism, size-ism and bullying – not in a heavy-handed or preachy way, but as an organic part of her story, and her characters make you want to cheer for them. 17-year-old twins Molly and Cassie are best friends in spite of their differences, but when Cassie gets a serious girlfriend, Molly – who has never dated, unwilling to face possible rejection because of her weight – can’t help feeling left out. If you love Rainbow Rowell, check out Becky Albertalli!”
— Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books & Music, Okemos, MI

The Upside of Unrequited is the book I’ve always wanted but never thought I could have. Endlessly smart, earnest, and embarrassing, Molly’s story is one we can all relate to, one we definitely need more of. Hands down the most meaningful, witty, and satisfying book I’ve read in the last year—a true new favorite. Do yourself a favor: buy it, clear your schedule, read, and rejoice, for Becky Albertalli’s new book is even better than the last!”
— Gaby Salpeter, Books of Wonder, New York, NY

The Upside of Unrequited (9780062348708) by Becky Albertalli. $17.99 hardcover. 4/11/17 on sale.

Publicity: Nevertheless – Alec Baldwin

Just a head’s up that the publicity line-up is pretty impressive for this and is already in motion. The first serial will be in Vanity Fair; Baldwin will be on Fresh Air on April 4th, CBS Good Morning on April 2nd, GMA on April 3rd, and he’ll be profiled in the upcoming issue The Atlantic. We just heard that Baldwin will do The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on April 18th. (Can’t wait for that!) and he’s already been on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon explaining the origin of the title (see below).

Nevertheless: A Memoir (9780062409706) by Alec Baldwin. $28.99 hardcover. 4/4/17 one day laydown.

Books in the News: Homo Deus and The Hate You Give

I read a couple interesting pieces last week that might help fuel your conversations with customers:

Last Monday’s NYT had a front-page story on how YA fiction is giving voice to the anxieties, confusion and anger of minority teens. It prominently features debut author Angie Thomas’ breakout bestseller The Hate U Give and notes that “educators see fiction as a particularly potent tool for engaging with volatile topics and instilling empathy in young readers.”

The Hate U Give (9780062498533) by Angie Thomas. $17.99 hardcover. Available now.


Lord, I love The Guardian—it does such great book coverage. Last Sunday it ran a profile of Harari, calling him a “visionary historian [and] author of two dazzling bestsellers on the state of mankind.” The article then shifts to a fascinating Q&A that The Guardian frames it this way:

“Harari is a naturally gifted explainer, invariably ready with the telling anecdote or memorable analogy. As a result, it’s tempting to see him less as a historian than as some kind of all-purpose sage. We asked public figures and readers to pose questions for Harari, and many of these…were of a moral or ethical nature, seeking answers about what should be done, rather than about what has happened. But the Israeli seems used to the role, and perfectly happy to give his best shot at replying. A historian of the distant past and the near future, he has carved out a whole new discipline of his own. It’s a singular achievement by an impressively multiple-minded man.”

It’s the best hour of reading I spent all week.

Homo Deus (9780062464316) by Yuval Noah Harari. $35.00 hardcover. Available now.