Indies Choice and E.B. White Award Winners Honored at Celebration of Bookselling

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On Tuesday, booksellers and the authors and publishers of more than 35 of the past year’s Indie Next List titles gathered for the 11th annual Celebration of Bookselling & Author Awards Luncheon. The event, which was emceed by ABA’s newly elected vice president, Steve Bercu of BookPeople in Austin, Texas, featured the presentation of the 2011 Indies Choice Book Awards and the E.B. White Read-Aloud Awards.

ABA Vice President Steve Bercu

“Our enthusiasm and conviction as booksellers remain undiminished — even in challenging times — and we are confident that as a bookselling community we as independents will continue to prosper and grow,” Bercu told the audience. During his introductory remarks, he also recognized all the authors who were seated at tables with some of the booksellers who had nominated their titles to the Indie Next Lists, and he thanked Levenger, Tools for Serious Readers, for once again providing gifts for the award winners.

In his acceptance speech, E.B. White Read-Aloud Picture Book Award winner Peter Brown explained that Children Make Terrible Pets (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) was semi-autobiographical. When he was a kid and brought home frogs and turtles, his mom would say, “Peter, don’t you think that turtle has a family to go back to?” Brown reversed the roles and imagined a bear that went out into the woods and found a boy. He told booksellers that he showed his appreciation for their support by linking directly to IndieBound on his website, and added, “I hope people walk into your store to buy my book, talk you and buy more books, and leave you piles of money.”

E.B. White Picture Book winner Peter Brown (l.) helps Tom Angleberger, winner of the Middle Reader award, create Origami Yoda

Tom Angleberger, winner of the E.B. White Read-Aloud Middle Reader Award, had fun leading everyone at the luncheon through a tutorial on how to make their own version of the title character of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Amulet) with small pieces of green paper. “I love all of you, and I’m so grateful for your handselling and puppet making,” he said.

“You sell my books, which means I could keep writing, and writing is all I ever wanted to do,” said Jennifer Donnelly, winner of the 2011 Indies Choice Young Adult Book Award for Revolution (Delacorte Books for Young Readers). Donnelly gave props to her local bookstores in upstate New York — Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck (where Suzanna Hermans is her “personal YA oracle”) and Merritt Bookstore in Millbrook (where Scott Meyer supplies her with her British tabloid fix). “I need physical books,” she said. “And I still like to buy them from humans.” She lauded booksellers for their “seriously independent point of view and for fighting the good fight every day.” 

Accepting on behalf of Laura Hillenbrand, who won Indies Choice Book Award for Adult Nonfiction for Unbroken (Random House), was her editor, Jennifer Hershey. Hershey passed along Hillenbrand’s thanks to independent bookstores, the veterans, airmen, former POWs, and her subject Louis Zamperini.

Karl Marlantes, Adult Debut Indies Choice winner

Karl Marlantes spoke of booksellers’ outpouring of support for Matterhorn (Atlantic Monthly Press and El León Literary Arts), winner of the Indies Choice Adult Debut Award. “I truly think that Matterhorn’s success is a completely near-perfect illustration of how independent bookstores broke a novel out so that it got an enormous number of readers.” Marlantes praised independent bookstores’ donations to veterans’ organizations and their hosting of readings that prompted discussion. Providing a community gathering place for conversation is an “independent bookstore function,” he said.

Los Angeles Times Book Prize- and the Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Egan was an Indies Choice Honor Award recipient for Adult Fiction for A Visit From the Goon Squad (Knopf). She raved about her local indie, Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn (“the heart of our community”), and the “wily and crafty” indies everywhere. “Independent bookstores are livelier than ever,” she said, describing the local independent as a “physical place where physical books and physical people all meet. It’s sort of radical in this era.”

Emma Donoghue, winner of the 2011 Indies Choice Book Award for Adult Fiction for Room (Little Brown), also paid tribute to her early champions. “In retrospect it might have seemed that one way to have a surefire hit was to write about a boy who was conceived by rape in a shed,” she joked. But, despite a potentially off-putting premise, indie booksellers nationwide convinced readers “to go on a journey they didn’t know they wanted to go on.”

Nicola Rooney of Nicola's Books with Most Engaging Author winner Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson, voted the Most Engaging Author, talked about the celebratory mood of the event. “Last year this luncheon was a little gloomy. I feel a better energy in the room this year.”

Anderson thanked ABA and the unsung heroes of the publishing industry — publicists. She went on to say that she was a pathologically shy child and adult. How then did she become so “engaging”? She told booksellers it was because when she is in their stores, she is home. “We’re all book people,” she said. “Thank you for running businesses that are the heart and soul of the communities of America.”