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PEN America and PEN Center USA to Merge

In early 2018, the two PEN Centers affiliated with the global PEN network — PEN America in New York and PEN Center USA in Los Angeles — will combine forces under the name PEN America, the leaders of PEN announced in a statement on Monday.

The decision has been approved by each organization’s respective boards of directors, but will be subject to a vote of the membership of PEN Center USA under California law.

“The combination of our New York and Los Angeles offices and membership strongholds will provide tent poles on each coast, enabling us to accelerate efforts to build a truly national organization,” the free speech organization’s statement read. “The timing of this union is no coincidence as we face potent challenges to free speech, press freedom, the right to dissent, and the open flow of information here in the United States. Never have the voices of writers and their allies been so essential.”

All programs, membership bases, and physical offices will be maintained, and PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel will continue to lead PEN America nationally alongside an expanded board of trustees including representatives from Los Angeles.

Celebratory Memorial Planned for Fred Bass, The Strand’s Late Owner

Fred Bass, the son of Strand Book Store founder Benjamin Bass, died on January 3 at age 89. To celebrate Bass’ life, the iconic New York City store known for its “18 miles of books” will host a celebratory memorial at store on January 26 from 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The event, be called “Celebrating Fred Bass: A Life Well-Read,” will be open to the community because, according to an online invitation from the store, “[Bass] saw the Strand community as family and wanted those part of it to celebrate his life with a party.”

Bass began working at the Strand when he was 13 years old, the New York Times reported. In 1957, he moved the store to its current location at the corner of Broadway and 12th Street, where it grew from half a floor to four, the Times reported.

After taking over management of the store, Bass introduced satellite Strand pop-up stores in kiosks around the city and introduced a literary quiz for prospective Strand employees. In 2005, he also presided over a major renovation and expansion of the store. Under Bass, Strand also began selling Strand T-shirts and tote bags and offering new books at a discount.

Bass retired in November 2017, and his daughter Nancy Bass Wyden now owns the business.

Changes at New York Times Books Desk Announced

Greg Cowles, an editor at the New York Times for 13 years, will be taking on the role of senior editor for the Books Desk, New York Times Book Review editor Pamela Paul announced in the New York TimesPressRun media blog on January 4. 

Paul, who will appear in conversation with Sarah Jessica Parker at this year’s Winter Institute in Memphis, also reported that longtime Entertainment Weekly books editor Tina Jordan will join the Times this month as a fiction preview editor and the Times’ newest “Inside the List” bestseller columnist.

In addition, former Times culture reporter Emily Eakin will take on the role of preview editor, covering fiction and nonfiction reviews and editing essays for the New York Times Book Review.

Hearst to Sell Rodale Book Division to Penguin Random House

The New York Post’s “Media Ink” column reported on Tuesday that Hearst will sell its recently acquired Rodale book division to Penguin Random House.

Hearst’s purchase of Rodale’s global content business, first announced in October 2017, was finalized on January 2, at a price that came in under the original $225 million estimate, according to the Post’s sources.  

The book division’s purchase by Penguin Random House will include current Rodale bestsellers, such as Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth and Thug Kitchen; about 100 frontlist titles; and 2,000 backlist titles, including Jessica Alba’s The Honest Life and The South Beach Diet.

Sources told the Post that they do not expect that any of the remaining 20 staff on the book publishing side will be moving to Penguin. The Post could not reach Editorial Director Jennifer Levesque and Publisher Gail Gonzales, who currently head Rodale’s new Rodale Kids imprint, for comment.

For its magazine business, Hearst has acquired popular health and fitness magazines including Rodale’s Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Prevention, and Bicycling. In addition, several former Rodale executives will be joining Hearst as part of the deal, but the Rodale name will not be used going forward.

Penguin Random House Announces Promotions

Penguin Random House announced a number of recent promotions in the sales department.

Julie Black was promoted to senior vice president of sales strategic planning, while Tom Cox was promoted to senior vice president of mass merchandise and distributor sales.

In addition, Kim Shannon was promoted to senior vice president of retail sales, and Jeff Weber was promoted to senior vice president of online and digital sales.

2018 PNBA Book Award Winners Announced

The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA) has announced the winners of its 2018 Pacific Northwest Book Awards.

A volunteer committee of independent booksellers chose six books from more than 400 nominated titles published in 2017. The committee also recognized late author Brian Doyle, who died this year, with an Indie Spirit Honor. Doyle, who lived in Lake Oswego, Oregon, won a PNBA Award in 2016 for his collection Children & Other Wild Animals (Oregon State University Press).

This year’s book award winners are:

  • American War: A Novel by Omar El Akkad (Portland, Oregon) (Knopf, hardcover; Vintage, paperback)
  • The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken (Olympia, Washington) (Dial Books for Young Readers)
  • Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color by Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring (Tacoma, Washington) (Sasquatch Books)
  • Idaho: A Novel by Emily Ruskovich (Idaho City, Idaho) (Random House)
  • Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean by Jonathan White (Orcas Island, Washington) (Trinity University Press)
  • You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir by Sherman Alexie (Seattle, Washington) (Little, Brown and Company)

Printable shelf-talkers with blurbs as well as a promotional web banner will be available for bookstores to download and original essays from individual winners will be featured on the NWBookLovers blog beginning this Friday, January 12.

2018 Story Prize Finalists Announced

The three finalists for the 2018 Story Prize, now in its 14th year, were announced Monday.

This year, three outstanding short story collections were chosen from 120 submissions, all published in 2017, representing 93 different publishers or imprints. The finalists for this year’s Story Prize are:

  • The King Is Always Above the People by Daniel Alarcon (Riverhead Books)
  • Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press)
  • Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (Random House)

The winner will be announced at The Story Prize’s annual award event at the New School’s Auditorium in New York City on February 28. After each author reads from their work, the founder of the prize, Julie Lindsey, will present the winner with $20,000 and an engraved silver bowl. The two runners-up will each receive $5,000.