Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Flatiron Books: The Courting of Bristol Keats: [Limited Stenciled Edge Edition] by Mary E Pearson

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker

Doubleday Books: Death at the Sign of the Rook: A Jackson Brodie Book by Kate Atkinson

Groundwood Books: Who We Are in Real Life by Victoria Koops

Agate Bolden: 54 Miles by Leonard Pitts Jr.


Changes at London's Big Green Bookshop

The Big Green Bookshop in London is closing its bricks-and-mortar shop January 31 after 10 years in business. In his announcement, Simon Key, who founded the bookstore with Tim West and is a leading proponent of the Independent Booksellers Alliance, said that the shop has "been doing okay, but rent and rates are an absolute monster."

Key is moving from London and will make the Big Green Bookshop an online-only operation, while West hopes to open a new, co-operative bookshop locally.

"I've absolutely loved it here in Wood Green," said Key. "We have the very best customers, who have supported the bookshop every day, from the very moment we opened over 10 years ago. These have been the most rewarding years of my working life, but sometimes things have to change. So it's time for an exciting new adventure for us. My family and I are moving out of London and starting a new version of the Big Green Bookshop.... I have loads of new ideas and plans that I'm bursting to tell you about, but it's going to take a few weeks to get these all sorted (moving house is quite time consuming!), so please do stick around. Yes, this is quite a big change, but I want it to be a positive thing for everyone and with your continued support, I really think it can be."

He told the Bookseller that the "time was right" to shift online: "The shop is doing great, it's doing fantastic but we can't afford to live in London anymore really. We haven't had a pay rise since we opened the shop. As a family we need more space and I need to think of my family.... More and more of our sales are coming from online. We've had the website since we first opened but rather than bookselling it was more for events and publicity, but it got to a point where I would get messages every day from people saying they couldn't find the book they wanted on our site. It's bittersweet to close the shop but it's really exciting and is a new challenge at a perfect time."

For his part, West is considering the formation of a co-operative for a new Wood Green shop, the Bookseller wrote. "Some of the customers were upset to see the shop go and now I'm meeting with a retired publisher about forming a co-operative and finding a space within the area," he said. "I won't name him as this is in its very early stages but he is very positive. I'm looking at reducing the size of the shop in terms of stock but expanding the program of events, clubs and societies that we do. We don't do daytime events as they take up the space we need to sell books. We are looking for a place with a smaller shop and separate space where we can do daytime events such as book groups, writing groups, comedy events, poetry workshops."

He maintains shares in the Big Green Bookshop and said he has no plans to sell them off completely after working with Key since March 2008. "The rates have doubled in 10 years. Closing wasn't something we discussed, but when Simon said he was moving away and didn't want a physical bookshop anymore, I went 'ok.' He's going to keep The Big Green Bookshop name because he built the online side and it would be churlish of me to take that away. It's perfectly reasonable."

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Feature: Booksellers Navigate Rising Rents, Part 2

Over the past few months, Shelf Awareness has reached out to booksellers across the country to hear their stories about rising rents, lease negotiations and landlords, and to ask what advice they'd share with other indies in similar situations. The series, which began yesterday with a look at the Bay Area's Books Inc., will continue throughout the week.

During a public meeting held around Labor Day 2017, Nina Barrett, owner of Bookends & Beginnings in Evanston, Ill., learned of a proposed plan to build a 37-story tower on the same block where her store is located. Her landlord--the trust that owns her building--had nothing to do with the proposal; one of the things she learned from the meeting was that the land underneath her building is on a 99-year lease, due to run out in just a few years.

"We had no idea that our lease wasn't secure," said Barrett. "And I can't speak for our landlord but I didn't get the feeling they liked this idea."

She explained that although the developers behind the proposal did not seem to have the support of either her landlord or the landowner at that time, they did have the backing of the city government. City officials told Barrett that if she needed to move, they could try to help finance that, but there wasn't a specific plan, and the developer never said anything about buying her out or assisting with any possible move. Further complicating matters was the fact that Barrett's space, which had once been the building's garage and opened onto an alley, had a significantly below-market rent. The store's location in the alley was also a major part of its identity, branding and charm.

"Who we were in opposition to at this point was this developer and basically the city," recalled Barrett. "We and our customers fought this proposal from the very beginning, but we also looked at other spaces."

Despite her and her customers' efforts to stop the proposal, Barrett did start looking for a new location in Evanston in case it became necessary. She reported that the rents she saw on her search were roughly three times what she was currently paying, for less than half the space. Barrett acknowledged that a new space could have some benefits, including increased foot traffic, visibility and the potential for adding a cafe or food service component; nevertheless the search was "terrifying."

In the meantime, Barrett and her customers continued to fight the proposal. Barrett circulated a petition that garnered some 3,000 signatures, and during an economic development committee meeting around 25 customers showed up and "got up one after another and talked about how much they loved these businesses." Not long after that, the city ended the proposal. Remarked Barrett: "It was definitely our customers and citizens who saved us."

Even though the proposal was defeated, there is still a degree of uncertainty facing Barrett's store. The land-lease will be up in about two years, with Barrett reporting that the landlord is "working on it" and she is "hoping for good news." When asked if she was developing a contingency plan should her landlord prove unable to renew the land lease, Barrett said she hasn't yet, but if things don't look promising about a year out, she'll start then.

"The single most scary issue for me is if my rent increases substantially," Barrett said. She recalled that although there were times when the move seemed survivable, it never seemed like it would help the store thrive. "My immediate thought was that it seems like there's something wrong, if we're suddenly working 10 times as hard to make this much more money, and it's all going into a landlord's pockets." --Alex Mutter

January Indie Next List E-Newsletter Delivered

Last Thursday, the American Booksellers Association's e-newsletter edition of the Indie Next List for January was delivered to more than half a million of the country's best book readers. The newsletter was sent to customers of 136 independent bookstores, with a combined total of 521,679 subscribers.

The e-newsletter, powered by Shelf Awareness, features all of the month's Indie Next List titles, with bookseller quotes and "buy now" buttons that lead directly to the purchase page for the title on the sending store's website. The newsletter, which is branded with each store's logo, also includes an interview (from Bookselling This Week) with the author whose book was chosen by booksellers as the number-one Indie Next List pick for the month, in this case Watching You by Lisa Jewell (Atria).

For a sample of the January newsletter, see this one from the Novel Neighbor, Webster Groves, Mo.

Obituary Note: Judy Turner

British author Judy Turner, who wrote historical and romantic fiction under the pseudonyms Katie Flynn and Judith Saxton, died January 1, the Bookseller reported. She was 82. Turner published more than 90 books and was best known for her Liverpool sagas. Her most recent novels, writing (with her daughter, Holly) as Katie Flynn, were Christmas at Tuppenny Corner and A Mother's Love. A Christmas Gift will be released later this year. 

"Writing was her life and through her talent to tell stories she forged a remarkable career spanning nearly 50 years and selling over eight million books to her many fans," said literary agent Caroline Sheldon, who represented Turner for over 30 years. "She will be much missed by all who knew her."

Susan Sandon, managing director of Cornerstone at Penguin Random House, observed: "All at Century and Arrow feel immensely proud to have been Judy's publisher over so many years. Her story telling has provided pleasure for literally generations of readers; I feel privileged to have worked so closely with her."

Ulverscroft U.K. tweeted: "We're very sorry to hear that Judy Turner, who wrote as Katie Flynn and Judith Saxton, has died aged 82. We began publishing her books in 1983 and we're proud to say she's been a much loved author ever since. She will be missed."


Bookseller Jo Antonioli 'Still Going Strong' at 87

"After nearly 40 years selling books Uptown, Jo Antonioli is still going strong," the Montana Standard said in its profile of the owner and operator of Books & Books in Butte. Antonioli, "a voracious reader since childhood, has never let up on her reading habits. That habit is part of the charm of her 70-year marriage to Dr. William 'Bill' Antonioli, who is 97.... Another possible source of her longevity is her passion for her work. That passion has kept Antonioli going all these years, she says."

Although she concedes to having slowed down a bit, "I don't want to think about retiring," she noted. "I love this place so much, it's like my ninth child."

With no experience as a bookseller, Antonioli opened Books & Books because she saw a need for it. There was no bookstore in the city at the time, and her eight children had all left home.

"It's a service to the community. It's a lot more complicated than I thought it would be," she said.

Like most booksellers she has had to adapt to the rise of the Internet ("It dealt us quite a blow. It was hard to get used to."), but she said shopping local has gained greater popularity over the last few years.

Ultimately, however, books and their readers are what she cares about most. "For such a small store, the children's section occupies a large portion of it," the Standard wrote. "She also devotes shelves to local writers and hosts book readings at the Main Stope Gallery around the corner."

Antonioli noted: "We try to keep a fair representation of great authors, whether they sell or not, just because you wouldn't want to go to a bookstore that didn't have Sartre."

Pennie Picks: Tangerine

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has chosen Tangerine by Christine Mangan (Ecco, $16.99, 9780062686695) as her pick of the month for January. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she wrote:

"While I can travel to Morocco, I cannot travel, specifically, to 1950s Tangier. Luckily, this month's book buyer's pick, Tangerine, by Christine Mangan, is available to make that 'travel' possible.

"In this novel, former roommates Alice and Lucy haven't spoken since they attended college together. Something in their past is keeping them at odds. So Alice and her husband, John, find it peculiar when Lucy shows up in Tangier, determined to help Alice manage her new and foreign home.

"I didn't so much read Tangerine as live in the world of Mangan's creation."

Personnel Changes at Crown; Grand Central

At the Crown marketing department:

Christina Foxley has been promoted to director, marketing, for Harmony Books and Rodale Books.

Stephanie Davis has been promoted to assistant director, marketing, for Clarkson Potter.

Rachel Aldrich has been promoted to assistant marketing manager, for Crown and Crown Archetype.


Alexis Gilbert has joined Grand Central Publishing's marketing team as assistant director of advertising.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Gwyneth Paltrow on GMA, Tonight, Live with Kelly and Ryan

Good Morning America: Gwyneth Paltrow, author of The Clean Plate: Eat, Reset, Heal (Grand Central, $21, 9781538730461). She will also appear on Live with Kelly and Ryan and the Tonight Show.

CBS This Morning: Edward Bullmore, author of The Inflamed Mind: A Radical New Approach to Depression (Picador, $28, 9781250318145).

Fox & Friends: Brad Meltzer, co-author of The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington (Flatiron, $29.99, 9781250130334).

The View: Jamie Oliver, author of 5 Ingredients: Quick & Easy Food (Flatiron, $35, 9781250303882).

Jimmy Kimmel Live: Jeff Tweedy, author of Let's Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc. (Dutton, $28, 9781101985267).

TV: Game of Thrones, Season 8

During Sunday's Golden Globes broadcast on NBC, HBO aired a spot featuring "a (very) quick glimpse of the highly anticipated eighth and final season" of Game of Thrones, based on the novels of George R.R. Martin, along with a sneak peek at Watchmen, adapted from the comic book limited series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

The GOT clip "teases Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen's arrival in Winterfell, and Dany's first face-to-face encounter with Sansa Stark."

Books & Authors

Audiobooks: Great Prospects for the New Year

Our friends at AudioFile Magazine highlight some upcoming audiobooks that are parts of long-running series or feature established narrators who are reliable sources for great listening. Enjoy!

Akata Warrior: Akata Witch, Book 2 by Nnedi Okorafor (Tantor Audio)
The sequel to Akata Witch arrives on audio, narrated by Yetide Badaki (American Gods), who made Nigeria and the world of the Leopard People come to life with a dynamic performance of the first in the series.

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden, read by Kathleen Gati (Penguin Random House Audio)
Magical Vasya returns for the final installment in the Winternight Trilogy. Winner of Earphones for The Girl in the Tower, Kathleen Gati gives an immersive performance that weaves together a listening experience worthy of note.

Freefall by Jessica Barry, read by Hillary Huber, Karissa Vacker, and McLeod Andrews (Harper Audio)
In this thriller, a mother and daughter desperately try to reunite after the daughter survives a plane crash. Karissa Vacker commands the listener's attention for her first words. All three narrators keep us spellbound.

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye, read by January LaVoy (Penguin Random House Audio)
In this historical thriller, "Nobody" Alice James travels from Harlem to Portland, Ore., where the Ku Klux Klan is stirring up fear. LaVoy excels with the revealing and entertaining asides, varied accents, and 1920s vocabulary and speech patterns.

The New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke, read by Will Patton (Simon & Schuster Audio)
A murder has detective Dave Robicheaux reconnecting with a Hollywood director whom he first met as a boy in New Orleans. Captivating longtime series narrator Will Patton returns and snares the listener in the rich descriptions and philosophizing woven through the action.

An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma, read by Chukwudi Iwuji (Hachette Audio)
From the author of The Fishermen--an Earphones Winner and Audie Award Finalist--this novel follows the Odyssey-like journey of a young Nigerian farmer. Iwuji captures Nigerian speech in slightly accented English and gives the narrative an authentic sound.

The First Conspiracy by Josh Mensch, Brad Meltzer, read by Scott Brick (Macmillan Audio)
Brad Meltzer uses his skills as a thriller writer to great effect in this true story of a plot to kidnap or even kill George Washington in the early years of the American Revolution. Scott Brick adds to the enjoyment with a superb can't-stop-listening reading. Great example of the perfect author/narrator pair.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, read by Louise Brealey, Jack Hawkins (Macmillan Audio)
Strong performances by two British narrators lift this psychological thriller. Louise Brealey is outstanding as Alicia Berenson, celebrity artist, husband-killer and silent patient in a mental facility. Jack Hawkins is just as good as Theo Faber, a criminal psychotherapist with his own emotional baggage.

Audiobooks: Bestsellers in December

The bestselling audiobooks at independent bookstore locations during December:


1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Penguin Random House Audio)
2. The Witch Elm by Tana French (Penguin Random House Audio)
3. Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny (Macmillan Audio)
4. Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver (HarperCollins)
5. Less by Andrew Sean Greer (Hachette Audio)
6. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty (Macmillan Audio)
7. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield and Juliet Stevenson (Simon & Schuser Audio)
8. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Hachette Audio)
9. Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (Penguin Random House Audio)
10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (HarperCollins)


1. Becoming by Michelle Obama (Penguin Random House Audio)
2. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (Penguin Random House Audio)
3. Calypso by David Sedaris (Hachette Audio)
4. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris (Hachette Audio)
5. The Library Book by Susan Orlean (Simon & Schuster Audio)
6. How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan (Penguin Random House Audio)
7. Heavy by Kiese Laymon (Simon & Schuster Audio)
8. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (HarperCollins)
9. Code Girls by Liza Mundy (Hachette Audio)
10. Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister (Simon & Schuster Audio)

Awards: Costa Book Winners; Arabic Fiction Longlist

Winners have been named in the five Costa Book Awards categories. Each author receives £5,000 (about $6,385) and is now eligible for the £30,000 (about $38,300) Costa Book of the Year prize, which will be announced January 29 in London. This year's Costa category winners are:

Novel: Normal People by Sally Rooney
First novel: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Biography: The Cut Out Girl by Bart van Es
Poetry: Assurances by J.O. Morgan
Children's: The Skylarks' War by Hilary McKay


The longlist for the 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction can be seen here. On February 5, five shortlisted titles will be announced, and the winner will be presented on April 23 on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

Book Review

Review: American Spy

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson (Random House, $27 hardcover, 304p., 9780812998955, February 12, 2019)

American Spy is a busy thriller. Lauren Wilkinson's debut novel doubles as a family drama and offers potent critiques of the United States' cold war policies in Africa. Wilkinson's narrative skips around in time, adding to the suspense while giving the reader complementary perspectives on her protagonist, Marie Mitchell. Marie grows up in the shadow of her sister, has a fraught relationship with her mother and family tension pushes them all apart. The espionage plot that eventually drives the action is only one component in this ambitious, multifaceted novel.

In 1986, Marie, a young black woman, is irritated by the limits imposed on her at the FBI. Her career has hit a ceiling thanks to an unsympathetic boss and a work environment created and maintained by white men:

"A sense of self-importance permeated the culture. So did machismo and knee-jerk conservatism. To get by, I told my colleagues that I didn't care about politics, which felt like a ridiculous thing to claim. They bought it though. Very few of those men understood having no choice about whether they were political or not: Unlike me, they weren't people who'd had their existence politicized on their behalf."

Marie's status as a reluctant cold warrior chafes against her desire to rise in the ranks. She's finally given an opportunity to prove herself with an assignment concerning Thomas Sankara, the revolutionary president of the West African nation Burkina Faso. Sankara was a real-life figure, a charismatic pan-Africanist whose reform agenda had many admirers. However, his communist ideology puts him in conflict with the United States, and Marie is given a vague assignment to insinuate herself into his life and possibly undermine him. Marie's ambivalence grows when she finds Sankara compelling and sincere, even as she is wary of his political philosophy and growing authoritarianism.

American Spy is crammed with ideas worth unpacking, but one that it returns to is a metaphor comparing being a black American with espionage. Marie's mother was a kind of spy when she was sent to New York as a young girl and "strong-armed... into passing for white." Her mother "moved in and out of the New York places where Negroes were interdits, gathering her intelligence on the world that white people inhabited, always feeling like she was about to be made." When Marie finds her feet as a spy, eventually entering Burkina Faso, her success seems to come in part from her own experience as an interdit in spaces that were not designed for her.

While Marie puts up a stony front, Wilkinson is adept at getting the reader to see her vulnerabilities. Marie's narration is directed to her children, and her tenderness toward them is a sharp contrast to her bitterness about the events that overtake her life. That is just one of many dualities and contradictions that make American Spy such a complex and powerful work. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Shelf Talker: A young black FBI agent aims to undermine the communist president of Burkina Faso in a compelling debut set during the Cold War.

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