Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too – by Jomny Sun

This beguiling little book defies easy pigeonholing. Based in Sun’s popular Twitter account, simple line drawings illustrate the adventures of a little alien exploring life on Earth. It’s both more subversive and more touching than you’d think. The Twitter account is hugely popular and fans include Lin-Manuel Miranda, Patton Oswald and Joss Whedon.

There is big profile of Sun this weekend in the New York Times Magazine and he will be interviewed on The PBS NewsHour in coming weeks.

“This is one of those rare treats of a book for me that reminds me how you can be fooled by a book, and in a beautiful way. Remarkably told thru the sparsest of illustrations and text, everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too has an emotional impact I was not expecting…. a guide to the ups and downs of all human emotion, and it is surprisingly powerful.”
— David Edmonds, customer and fan of Schuler Books & Music, in his blog From My Bookshelf

Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too (9780062569028) by Jomny Sun. $14.99 paper over board.  6/27/17 on sale.

Hot Backlist: Dereliction of Duty – H.R. McMaster

First published in 1997 to strong and continuing sales, this twenty year old account of the political missteps that created the military disaster in Viet Nam seems headed back to the bestseller lists now that McMaster is the White House’s National Security Advisor. No doubt people will be reading this book with an eye towards McMaster’s potential approach to security–and reading lines like these from the conclusion like tea leaves: “The war in Vietnam was not lost in the field, nor was it lost on the front pages of the New York Times or the college campuses. It was lost in Washington, D.C.”

Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam (9780060929084) by H.R. McMaster. $17.99 trade paper.

Fiction Short Take: Only the Dead Know Burbank – Tatum Bradford

This trade paper original novel is a tour through early horror cinema in Europe and Hollywood in the company of a young woman who happens to be one of the undead. She ends up as the muse of early cinema greats like Tod Browning and Boris Karloff. As Kirkus notes, “There’s a great idea at the heart of this: that an emissary from the undead is best suited to call forth the eternal poetry of movies, the stories and images that will outlast those who made them.”

“In actor Tatum’s unusual, captivating debut, set in Germany and the U.S. in the early 20th century, a woman cursed with immortality eventually finds comfort in filmmaking….Film proves to be her outlet, and horror her specialty. When one of her silent films is picked up by Universal Pictures, she heads from Bavaria to Hollywood and is soon working on some of the most famous movies of the age…Spanning the course of about 20 years leading up to the rise of Hitler, this bitingly witty and darkly vibrant concoction features an irresistible heroine, and the gorgeous, lush writing easily conjures the grit and glamour of golden age Hollywood. Maddy’s story is crass, lyrical, and even tragic. Cameos by Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff will undoubtedly delight film buffs, as will the meticulously researched depiction of the dawn of filmmaking.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Only the Dead Know Burbank (9780062428752) by . $15.99 trade paper original. 10/18/16 on sale.

Publicity: Sarah and The Heart is Deceitful – JT Leroy

Booksellers and avid readers who remember back to 2006 will recall the literary
scandal around the much lionized young author “JT Leroy.” Leroy was supposedly a young street hustler whose gritty personal stories were huge hits for almost a decade—until the media revealed that Leroy was a complete fabrication—the invention of 40-year year old Laura Alpert.

The story is a now told in a documentary by the director of The Devil and Daniel Johnston. Author: The JT LeRoy Story. If you’re unfamiliar with what a huge flap this was, Vanity Fair contextualizes it nicely in “Whatever Happened to JT LeRoy?

Harper Perennial is reissuing two of “Leroy’s” books not as memoir but as the fiction they are. If you want to see why this bizarre story was so compelling, here’s the source material!

Sarah: A Novel (9780062641250) by J. T. Leroy. $14.99 trade paper. 8/23/16 on sale.

 The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (9780062641274) by J. T. Leroy. $14.99 trade paper. 8/23/16 on sale.

New in Paperback: Crooked Heart – Lissa Eveans

This charmer of a novel has been out for several weeks in paperback and we’re seeing nice sales right out of the gate. If you don’t have it on your new paperback table, you might want to get it out where customers can see it.

I covered this story of a ten-year-old-boy on the road with a 60-year-old con artist during the London Blitz when it came out in hardcover last year. You can read the original review here. It’s perfect a perfect summer read for fans of historical novels– plucky, poignant and quirky. (And if your customers love Evans, we’ll have a new book by her on the Winter 2017 list.)

Last year the NYTBR raved:

In Crooked Heart, Lissa Evans’s absorbing and atmospheric comic novel, another quietly heroic orphan joins the canon….This is a wonderfully old-fashioned Dickensian novel, with satisfying plot twists….Both darkly funny and deeply touching….It’s a crooked journey, straight to the heart.”
New York Times Book Review

 And NPR’s Scott Simon said “I try not to say, ‘If there’s one novel you should read this summer…’ but Crooked Heart tempts me to say it.”

Basically, it’s an easy, crowd-pleasing book to put into readers’ hands.

“The most purely charming read of the summer…. The novel’s heart may be crooked, but it is completely in the right place. And if wanting a happy ending for this offbeat pair is wrong, I can’t imagine a reader on earth who would want to be right.”
— Christian Science Monitor

Crooked Heart (9780062364845) by Lissa Evans. $15.99 trade paper. 7/5/16 on sale.


Book of the Week: The Abundance – Annie Dillard

Poet, novelist and nonfiction writer Dillard burst on to the literary scene at age 29 with the now classic Pilgrim at Tinker Creek—winner of the Pulitzer Prize and still a hallmark of modern nature writing. Forty years later she was honored with a 2014 National Humanities Medal “for her profound reflections on human life and nature. In poetry and prose, Ms. Dillard has invited us to stand humbly before the stark beauty of creation.” This collection of essays is a lovely reflection on her remarkable canon.

 Marilynne Robinson writes that “Annie Dillard’s books are like comets, like celestial events that remind us that the reality we inhabit is itself a celestial event.” Lucky us to now have this collection of essays selected by Dillard herself–a personal survey of a lifetime of work gathered from previous works and selected “to put them in conversation with each other in ways that will entrance and surprise even devoted readers.” And of course it offers a welcome introduction to this literary light who Kirkus calls “a writer blessed with an all-consuming consciousness steeped in both faith and science.”

Several major publications are running essays by Dillard at publication: The New York Times Magazine, The Nation and The Atlantic. NPR’s “Weekend Edition” will do a segment; Poets & Writers will run a feature; and reviews are scheduled in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Over the four decades since the publication of Pilgrim, the author’s vision has only sharpened….She’s at her best when seeing the world in a grain of sand, or billions of them; the essay “Sand” is also about prehistoric life and the Jesuit priest and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who devoted his life to uncovering it. A similar juxtaposition of micro and macro is at work in “An Expedition to the Pole,” in which Dillard compares dual approaches to the infinite: Arctic exploration and Catholic Mass. The author gives insight into her own craft in her advice to younger writers: don’t bank your fire. “Don’t hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or another book; give it, give it all, give it now,” she writes. From the vantage point of her 70th year, this collection is a testament to a lifetime of doing just that.”
Kirkus Reviews

“After witnessing a total eclipse early one morning, Dillard meditates on the human awe at, and wariness of, natural spectacle: ‘From the depths of mystery, and even from the heights of splendor, we bounce back and hurry for the latitudes of home.’ Without being awake and attentive, Dillard warns, we’ll miss the wondrous details of the world around us and the nuances of our own lives: ‘I would like to live as I should, as the weasel lives as he should: open to time and death painlessly, noticing everything, remembering nothing, choosing the given with a fierce and pointed will.’…[T]his collection serves as a bracing introduction for readers unfamiliar with her work.”

“Such wonderful snippets of insight they read like meditations.  Forget the daily devotional.  Here is all the contemplation you need for the year ahead.  Find yourself comfortably a fish out of water and let the feeling migrate to the back of your mind and hang there until you pick more Abundance to read again.”
— Charity McMaster, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI

The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New (9780062432971) by Annie Dillard. $25.99 hardcover. 3/15/16 on sale.

Short Take: Tales of Accidental Genius – Simon Van Booy

Van Booy has long been championed by the Indies, who helped his last novel, The Illusion of Separateness, hit the bestseller lists. The San Francisco Chronicle aptly caught Van Booy’s appeal in its review of that book:

“The uncanny beauty of Van Booy’s prose, and his ability to knife straight to the depths of a character’s heart, fill a reader with wonder….There are so many wonderful sentences in this book, a reviewer groans for want of room to list them.”

In 2015 and 2016 we’ll be treated to two new books from Simon. The first is this collection of stories and the second will be a new novel in April 2016. Publicity for Tales of Accidental Genius kicks off The Diane Rehm Show on 11/12/15.

“A tenderhearted clutch of stories and fables that highlights interconnectedness between everyone from fashionistas to peasantry, ranging from Brooklyn to London to Beijing…. [In the novella that closes the book] a boy in Beijing named Weng watches his father labor over a mechanical device he’s invented to add speed to the tricycle he uses to make vegetable deliveries; when it proves to be a kind of perpetual motion machine that makes Weng fabulously rich, he’s forced to consider how he can use his newfound wealth to help others and deal with his heartache over the married woman he’s fallen for. The story is formatted like a poem, though it generally reads like prose, and the careful, softened language (“his heart like a kite on currents of breath”) and elemental plot support its billing as a satisfying fable. Van Booy clearly believes there are surprising new ways to write about love. Here, he proves he’s right, occasionally.”
Kirkus Reviews

Tales of Accidental Genius (9780062408976) by Simon Van Booy. $14.99 trade paper original. 11/10/15 on sale.

New Fiction: Playing Days – Benjamin Markovits

Markovits is an American writer living in London, where his work is highly regarded. This summer we published his “Detroit novel”, a beautifully written thought experiment about race, class and Rust Belt culture. USA Today had this to say about it:

Though the book’s events are set in 2011, the race and class conflicts chronicled here feel as up-to-the-minute as a cable network’s ‘Breaking News’ bulletin, though far more thoughtful and better examined than the latter… So few fiction writers deal directly with street-level economic and cultural conflict in the present day that you’re grateful that You Don’t Have to Live Like This exists at all.”

Playing Days is an earlier novel which is being published in the U.S. for the first time. It’s an autobiographical coming of age story based on the time Markovits spent on the European professional basketball circuit playing for a minor league German team. That scenario is the launching point for a lovely novel about first love and how one starts to imagine an adult life and career for oneself.

“[A] frank, disarming autobiographical novel… .Contemplating his writing career, the narrator confesses to Anke that he wants to write stories about “people who don’t have any major flaws, who don’t do anything stupid or wrong, and who don’t suffer from any unusual bad luck.” Modest as that ambition may seem, it’s precisely what Benjamin Markovits has done here. That he’s done it so artfully makes Playing Days such a pleasing novel.”
   — Shelf Awareness

Precision, clarity and seriousness give his style an admirable restraint, instilled with compassion for each character’s struggle…a personal story [lifts] into a more intriguing one about losing and winning, an evocative sporting memoir into a tale of growing and becoming, and how ambition measures up with experience. It takes great skill to write this well about things that don’t happen.”
   — The Daily Telegraph

 “Markovits draws himself with exceptional delicacy…This is the territory of the rites-of-passage novel, but it is territory that the author navigates with subtlety and poignancy.”
   — The Guardian

“[A] sharply honest account of the mostly selfish impulses of a young man…astutely rendering the restlessness of that ill-fitting period between schooling and manhood, in which mettle needs to be found before it can be tested.”
— The Independent

Playing Days (9780062376633) by Benjamin Markovits. $15.99 trade paper original. 11/3/15 on sale.

Short Take: Oh the Moon – Charlyne Yi

Yi is a poet, comedian, musician, painter, and writer. You may remember her for her role in Knocked Up or from her hilarious and hilariously odd appearances on late night TV. She’s been compared to Andy Kaufman. And readers of this collection of stories and drawings may well have the same kind of what-to-make-of-it of reaction to Yi’s work that Kaufman’s work could evoke. But Yi is by no means derivative; she’s a similar one-of-a-kind performer and writer whose work sneaks up on you.

Oh the Moon is an Indie Next Pick and you can catch Yi talking with Conan O’Brien on 11/9/15.

“Charlyne Yi’s debut book of illustrated stories snagged my heart from the start and left it shaken, squeezed and full. Her deceptively simple narratives and sketchy illustrations reminiscent of Shel Silverstein shift smoothly the mood smoothly from surreal to touching to utterly charming, and drifted happily around in my head for hours. Highly recommended for daydreamers, artists, and lovers of life!”
— Whitney Spotts, Schuler Books & Music, Lansing, MI

“Wow. Not what I expected. It was incredibly sad and I almost cried a few times. It said a lot with few words. The illustrations were beautiful and sometimes perfect in their simplicity. A few small dots on a page told me more than a full page of text would have been able to. Most of it was weird, but in a very good way. Every story made me think.”
— Kate Schreffler, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lexington, KY


Oh the Moon: Stories from the Tortured Mind of Charlyne Yi (9780062363299) by Charlyne Yi. $16.99 trade paper original. 11/3/15 on sale.

Short Take: The Essential Ginsberg – Allen Ginsberg

It’s kind of hard to believe this hasn’t been done before. But this is the first one-volume survey of Ginsberg’s work. Kirkus calls it “a well-chosen selection of his writings” and Library Journal gives it a starred review.

“The work, and not just the poetry, of Ginsberg (1926–97), one of 20th-century America’s most important and notorious literary figures, has finally been given the career-arching overview it deserves. Schumacher has compiled the poet’s greatest hits into this volume….What distinguishes this book from other posthumous Ginsberg collections is that it also presents small samples of his songwriting, essays, interviews, letters, journal excerpts, and understated photography. Ginsberg’s position at the center of the Beat Movement is made clear….By making this volume similar to the ones in Viking’s ‘Portable Library’ series, Harper Perennial has all but ensured this book’s place in university classrooms for years to come.
Library Journal (starred review)

The Essential Ginsberg (9780062362285) by Allen Ginsberg. $17.99 trade paper original. 5/26/15 on sale.