barbara hoffert

IN U.S. PUBLIC libraries nationwide, the materials budget rose 2% on average in 2013. While print book spending has fallen 7% in a decade, last year it steadied at 59% of the materials budget—the same figure reported in 2012. Book budgets actually rose 1.5% overall after a three-year lag, and circulation grew 2% on average. Finally, ebook integration into the library world is just about complete, with nine in ten libraries now loaning ebooks and a range of systems in place for measuring their circulation.


Given the kind of winter we have enjoyed in the Northeast, it’s hard to believe that spring will ever arrive. But LJ’s book review editors are an optimistic bunch, and we present to you our favorite titles of the upcoming publishing season . Happy reading!

Small surprises

When I attended New York Comic Con last year, I learned that S. & S. was launching sf and fantasy imprint SAGA Press. One of its first releases is Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings (Apr.), the debut in a series called “The Dandelion Dynasty.” This tale of rebels-turned-friends-turned-rivals has already earned comparisons to George R. R. Martin’s best-selling “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. In Liu’s story, bandit Kuni Garu and son-of-a-duke Mata Zyndu unite to depose an emperor and subsequently clash as they rule rival factions. Fantasy lovers will relish the diversity of characters, while Liu’s writing (he has already won a Nebula, two Hugos, and a World Fantasy Award) is a bonus.

Fans of hit YouTube comedy series The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl will appreciate creator Issa Rae’s breezy and refreshing manifesto slash memoir, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl (37INK: Atria, Feb.). Rae channels Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist and Baratunde Thurston’s How To Be Black as she delivers wit on Precious (2009) and the “tragic black woman,” the number of black families on television in the 1990s (e.g., The Cosby Show, The French Prince of Bel-Air, Living Single, A Different World) versus today, (not) fitting in with her Senegalese family and private school frenemies, and much more. A self-described unicorn, Rae offers tips on answering strangers’ questions about black hair that make this a must-read for all of us awkward black girls.

I can’t believe it’s been ten years since Hurricane Katrina. In We’re Still Here Ya Bastards: How the People of New Orleans Rebuilt Their City (Public Affairs, Jun.), longtime resident ­Roberta Brandes Gratz (The Battle for Gotham) uses anecdotes and memoir to describe contemporary New Orleans in an era in which tragedies bring national interest for a short period of time before being summarily forgotten. Here, she reveals the current pulse of the city via interviews with dwellers of the Lower Ninth Ward and the French Quarter, among other neighborhoods. These stories might also interest those who attended the American Library Association annual conference in New Orleans in 2006 and 2011.

Recently, my colleague Barbara Hoffert told me about How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy (Viking, Jun.) by Steve Witt. We’re intrigued by this narrative, especially as “traditional” music sales have been declining and streaming services have been growing in popularity. (You may have heard that Taylor Swift’s recent album 1989 had the largest opening sales week for any album in the United States since 2002.) Witt’s story is told through the commentary of factory worker Dell Glover, who leaked thousands of compact discs from his manufacturing plant for almost a decade. We learn about the numerous participants in Glover’s scheme, some of whom came from the unlikeliest of places.

Lastly, I was surprised to find myself engrossed by Kevin Kruse’s One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (Basic, Feb.; LJ 2/15/15; see starred review on p. 112), which describes the relationship between Christianity and capitalism (“In God We Trust”) and later piety and patriotism (“One Nation Under God”). Kruse addresses how corporations used clergymen in their PR war against Roosevelt’s New Deal and how evangelist Billy Graham helped Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon use religion as the “lowest-common denominator” to unite the public. I’ve yet to finish it, but I can already tell this will be an informative, insightful read.—­Stephanie Sendaula