Hut's Place
 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

January 14, 2018

More Paperback Fiction Arrivals to Kick Off the New Year
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck. The #1 Indie Next pick last April  
seems an excellent fit for book groups and fans of historical fiction now that it is in softco ver. Author Shattuck drew on her research about widows of German resisters during the War and her grandparents' experiences to create this story of endurance and survival. Set at the end of World War II in a crumbling Bavarian  castle that once played host to all of German high society, the plot focuses three widows of Nazi resisters whose lives and fates become intertwined. It begins after the defeat of Nazi Germany's, when the widowed Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband's  ancestors to uphold the promise she made to her husband's conspirators - find and protect their wives and children. She assembles a makeshift family of sorts whose shared pain and circumstances should hold them together. But the war and its accompanying guilt and shame have taken its toll on the trio of very different women, and secrets abound.   
Setting Free the Kites by Alex George. This evocative and nostalgic novel offers a moving portrait of friendship between two boys living in a coastal Maine town, circa 1976. On his first day of eighth grade, Robert's predictable life is changed forever when he meets Nathan, who is confident, fearless, impetuous - and fascinated by kites and flying. Robert and Nathan's budding friendship is soon tested and actually made stronger by two family tragedies . But when they take summer jobs at the local rundown amusement park, they discover harsh truths about family, desire, and revenge that will test them again. Writing for the Indie Next list last March, bookseller Amanda Zirn from Bethany Beach Books in Bethany Beach, Delaware, said, "...George has developed beautiful, layered characters and you will quickly fall in love with Nathan, Robert, and Liam in blustery seaside Maine in the 1970s. You will hear the excitement each hot, blistering summer of children and families visiting the amusement park owned by Robert's family. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will grieve, but you will not be disappointed." 
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller. Her debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, was an independent bookseller favorite back in 2015, and Fuller's new novel features an intriguing story line that has garnered similar attention. A disench anted wife, Ingrid, writes letters about her unhappiness to her husband Gil and hides them in select volumes among the the thousands of books he has collected over the years. Then she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her house by the sea, her husband, and her two young daughters, Flora and Nan. Did she drown? The victim of foul play? Or did she just walk away from her family? Twelve years later, the sisters return home to care for their dying father and investigate their mother's disappearance. What they all discover is that answers and family secrets are hidden in Gil's book collection. Fuller moves back and forth between Ingrid's writings about an increasingly turbulent marriage and the present-day family dynamics as the past is revealed.  
Reprints of Two Huge Books Should Replenish Some Bookstores' Stock 
Two of the hottest - and currently most unattainable - books share a common theme. They both offer revealing looks at presidents, one focusing on Barack Obama and the other dishing on Donald Trump. Obama: An Intimate Portrait, written and photographed by Obama's White House photographer Pete Souza, was one of the holiday season's most popular sellers - until the publisher ran out of copies a couple of weeks before Christmas. As an oversized coffee table book with more than 300 full color images, the reprint has taken a while, but word is that copies will be arriving in bookstores beginning this week.  
And then there is Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, which went from what seemed like a gossipy insider political tell-all to publishing phenomenon in less than 72 hours. Here is a bit of my own insider history about the book's journey. 
Most bookstores place orders for books 3-6 months before their actual publication, meeting with sales reps and perusing publisher-produced catalogs to decide what titles and in what quantity to order. So when bookstore buyers first heard about the book, Fire and Fury looked to many to be another Trump-bashing polemic written by a journalist that no one knew much about. Nothing that would suggest the book should be ordered in out-of-the-ordinary quantities. 
New titles from major publishers are released on Tuesday, meaning that most bookstores receive shipments a few days prior. With Fire and Fury, at least one media outlet bought a copy (from a store that sold the book early) and released some of the juicier revelations. That brought the book some major attention and put it on the radar of bookstores - many of which hadn't yet received their order (which was by then already looking woefully inadequate). Then President Trump went ballistic, both about the book and about Steve Bannon's comments contained therein, and everything went crazy. Fire and Fury sold out nationwide in three days - the store where I work sold our 30 copies in four hours - and bookstores were left with huge demand they were unable to meet.  
According to the publisher, more books are expected this week, which should be good news. But it's also a tricky juggling act, because books like this usually have what we call a short shelf life. Everyone wants to read it when it's in the news and being talked about, but when the buzz is gone, so are sales. With a huge reprint on the way, both booksellers and the publisher are hoping Fire and Fury has more staying power.
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Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I work as a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, California.

My goal with this newsletter is to keep readers up to date about new books hitting the shelves, share what indie booksellers are recommending in their stores, and pass on occasional news about the book world.

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