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.”
Kirkus

“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.”
Booklist

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.

Book of the Week: The Women in the Castle – Jessica Shattuck

In a season of very good books, I’d argue this is the most important novel we’ll publish this spring. It’s the story of three German women in the impoverished aftermath of WWII, coming to terms with their lives, their country, and what has been done in their names. Haunting, cautionary…a terrific read.

From the day the manuscript started circulating in-house, people were talking about it. And that has continued through the early reads. I’ve rarely gotten so much feedback and so many bookseller nominations for Indie Next. (It’s next month’s #1 pick.)

Part of what makes the novel so compelling is that it’s hard to read The Women in the Castle in 2017 America and not feel a little shiver of familiarity in this story of everyday people being seduced by an authoritarian government that promises greatness again while delivering a great evil in which all are eventually complicit.

Author Jessica Shattuck’s grandparents were Nazis during WWII and she wrote recently about how that experience informed this novel:

My grandmother heard what she wanted from a strong leader who promised simple answers to complicated questions. She chose not to hear and see the monstrous sum those answers added up to. And she lived the rest of her life with the knowledge of her indefensible complicity. But in her willingness to talk about a subject few members of her generation would, she taught me the vital importance of knowing better.”

The book is not a simple polemic, though. Its deep literary satisfaction lies in the personal stories of three women rebuilding their lives after the war. Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, author of last year’s blockbuster, The Nest, comments that:

Shattuck’s arresting novel focuses on three very different women who are forced to rely on one another as they attempt to survive the past and reclaim hope. The writing is magnificent, as is Shattuck’s ability to render unimaginable circumstances with tremendous clarity and compassion. A joy to read, this is a beautiful and important book.”

The Women in the Castle is set to be covered everywhere, starting with NPR’s Weekend Edition, NYTBR, Washington Post, USA Today, NY Post, Parade, Boston Globe, Marie Claire and O, The Oprah Magazine. Along with being the #1 Indie Next Pick for April, it is a LibraryReads Pick and Book Page has selected it as its top pick for April.

Don’t miss this one. It’s a beautiful and important book.

“Shattuck explores the lives of three widows at the tail end of World War II in this redemptive tale…. As new chapters in their lives are written, the women come to rely on each other as a makeshift family—much as the entire country, reeling after the horrors of the war, must imagine a new future and forge a new identity. Shattuck’s latest has an intricately woven narrative with frequent plot twists that will shock and please. The quotidian focus of the story, falling on the period just after the war, provides a unique glimpse into what the average German was and was not aware of during World War II’s darkest months. Shattuck’s own German heritage and knack for historical details adds to the realism of the tale. A beautiful story of survival, love, and forgiveness.”
 Publishers Weekly

In this primer about how evil invades then corrupts normal existence, Shattuck delivers simple, stark lessons on personal responsibility and morality… Neither romantic nor heroic, Shattuck’s new novel seems atypical of current World War II fiction but makes sincere, evocative use of family history to explore complicity and the long arc of individual responses to a mass crime.”
Kirkus Reviews

 “The reader is fully immersed in the experiences of these women, the choices they make, and the burdens they carry.  Shattuck has crafted a rich, potent, fluently written tale of endurance and survival.”
 Booklist (starred review)

 “Men wreak the havoc of war and women are left to manage the postwar mayhem…. Jessica Shattuck brilliantly takes on the struggles of three women in postwar Germany, wives of resistors who are brought together to live in a crumbling castle by the well-meaning but imperious Marianne von Lingenfels.   The women Marianne brings to her castle carry dark secrets and dreams for better lives for themselves and their children while struggling to come to terms with what it took to survive the war.
–  Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO

This is a beautifully written and moving book about three very different, strong, flawed women set in Germany before, during, and after World War II. The combined perspectives of Marianne, Benita, and Ania offer a fascinating glimpse into a time and place in history where people’s morals seemed broken, and where forgiveness was desperately needed but hard to come by. I loved every moment of this heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful book!”
–  Stephanie Schindhelm, Boulder Book Store, Boulder, CO

 “[This] will be at the top of my 2017 list of great books.  This is a WWII novel, but it is not about Nazis or concentration camps, rather Germans who couldn’t believe what they were seeing, who endured hardships and watched their families disappear.  Shattuck shows us this unique point of view through three German women of differing backgrounds.  Her prose is wonderful and the variance in voice is outstanding.  I found this moving, engaging and recent parallels chilling and thought provoking.”
 Karin Barker, The Bookworm of Edwards, Edwards, CO

“A gripping, sweeping story about the devastation of war and the resilience of human dignity, Women in the Castle is not to be missed. Jessica Shattuck has created three daring, empathetic, and deeply flawed women who witnessed the rise of the Nazi Party and, in some cases, fell sway to its perverse propaganda. Under the rule of a barbaric regime, and in the painful aftermath after its collapse, Marianne, Benita, and Ania must determine where their loyalties lie, and whether to accept the horrifying truths of Germany’s crimes or hide behind willful ignorance. Full of vivid detail about women’s lives in WWII Germany, I could not stop reading this book.”
  Maggie Kane, Between the Covers, Harbor Springs, MI

“[A] powerful story of how three widows of German war resisters coped in the aftermath of their husbands’ deaths. With a completely unique perspective the author has created an immersive and thought provoking story. I hesitate to say a novel about this difficult time is a really good read…but this one definitely is…. There is a sensitivity and grace to Shattuck’s writing which I found powerful and deeply moving. Ultimately this is a tale of struggle, complicated relationships, loyalty and reconciliation.”
– Sharon Gambin, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

The Women in the Castle (9780062563668) by Jessica Shattuck. $26.99 hardcover. 3/28/17 one day laydown.

Fiction Short Take: No One is Coming to Save Us – Stephanie Powell Watts

Absolutely terrific advance praise for this reinterpretation of The Great Gatsby set in an African American community in North Carolina.

 Along with the great advance reviews, on sale coverage is coming in NYTBR, USA, Today, the AP and Washington Post, O, The Oprah Magazine, Marie Claire and Essence. It’s also the cover story of the April issue of BookPage.

“In her patient yet rich first novel, a Great Gatsby reboot, Watts digs deep into the wounds of a down-and-out African-American family in the contemporary South…. [I]t hits home—and hard. Watts powerfully depicts the struggles many Americans face trying to overcome life’s inevitable disappointments. But it’s the compassion she feels for her characters’ vulnerability and desires— J.J.’s belief that he and Ava can work, Ava’s ache for a family, Sylvia’s wish to be seen and loved—that make the story so relevant and memorable.”
Publishers Weekly

The Great Gatsby is revived in an accomplished debut novel. Winner of a Pushcart Prize and other awards for her short fiction, Watts spins a compelling tale of obsessive love and dashed dreams set in a struggling North Carolina town. … Watts creates tender, sympathetic portraits of her two main characters, women enveloped in grief… Watts’ gently told story, like Fitzgerald’s, is only superficially about money but more acutely about the urgent, inexplicable needs that shape a life.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“[Stephanie Powell Watts] explores The Great Gatsby’s themes of yearning, loss, hope, and disillusion in her powerhouse debut novel…. Watts’ lyrical writing and seamless floating between characters’ viewpoints make for a harmonious narrative chorus. This feels like an important, largely missing part of our ongoing American story. Ultimately, Watts offers a human tale of resilience and the universally understood drive to hang on and do whatever it takes to save oneself.”
Booklist

“Watts’ retelling is smart, unsettling, at times hilarious, and a wonderful update to this classic American novel.”
Nylon

No One Is Coming to Save Us (9780062472984) by Stephanie Powell Watts. $26.99 hardcover. 4/4/17 on sale.