Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Doubleday Books: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio


Vallejo Bookstore Becoming Alibi Bookshop

Karen Finlay, a national account manager at Chronicle Books and veteran of the publishing industry for more than 15 years, has purchased Vallejo Bookstore in Vallejo, Calif., and on June 1 will reopen the store under the new name Alibi Bookshop. To help with a variety of start-up costs, including business licenses, a POS upgrade, new fixtures, floor repair and more, Finlay has created a Indiegogo campaign asking for $30,000.

With just under 20 days to go until the campaign closes, Finlay has raised more than $15,400, or roughly 51% of her goal. Some 136 backers have supported the campaign, and backer rewards include things like an Alibi Bookshop postcard featuring personalized book recommendations, membership in the Alibi Bookshop club, and even an entire shelf in the store dedicated to a particular backer and their favorite books.

"I feel so thankful for what people have donated so far," said Finlay. "Right now we're sharing the word and getting other people excited."

Karen Finlay and her husband, Jon Burchard, with their dogs Dino and Dorothy Parker.

Finlay plans to keep the 1,000-square-foot store as a mostly used bookstore, but she will bring in a selection of new bestsellers and personal favorites to complement the inventory. She explained that she had initially thought of turning the store into a primarily new store, but eventually decided against it because people in Vallejo "really want a used bookstore."

Alibi will carry books for all ages, and mysteries and thrillers as well as children's books are particularly popular. Finlay acknowledged that the used inventory will be a little more difficult to curate, but she plans to gradually bring in her favorite titles in many categories. She also plans to stock a variety of sidelines and nonbook items like greeting cards and book-related gifts, with the goal to have "something fun for everyone."

Community and author events are also big parts of Finlay's plans. She wants to get the community involved with the store and bring as many people as possible into Vallejo's downtown, and to do that she'll host author events and readings, along with creative writing groups, poetry slams and children's storytime sessions. She added that the store is half a block from a "terrific" farmer's market, which should help drive business on the weekends.

Finlay bought the store from Shannon Hartlep, who owned the store for a little over a year before deciding that she wanted to pursue other avenues. For Finlay, owning a bookstore of her own was something she's thought of for years, ever since working at bookstores during her high school and college years. And after entering the publishing industry in 2004 through a job at Lonely Planet, that desire only grew stronger as she spent years working with independent booksellers. At the same time, she thought it would be terrible if the town lost a bookstore.

Once Finlay decided to purchase the store, she and Hartlep agreed that a fresh start and name change would be best. After spending some time brainstorming new names for the store, Finlay wrote about it on Facebook. All of a sudden, she recalled, she had over 300 comments of people suggesting names, and not long after, a friend sent her an Atlas Obscura link about Vallejo's "alibi clock," which is located around the corner from the store and in 1916 was used to help exonerate a radical labor activist of a murder charge.

"I like the little bit of alliteration, it's got history, it's kind of intriguing and kind of weird," said Finlay. "I'm thrilled with it."

Between now and June, Finlay is focused on the crowdfunding campaign as well as redoing the store's floors, buying new fixtures, changing signage, updating windows and rearranging the sections. A local artist is painting a Vallejo mural, and Finlay reported that in general, the community is thrilled that the bookstore will stay. Said Finlay: "There's been so much support from the community. It makes me really glad we're doing this."

After working with indies for so long at Lonely Planet and even attending events like Winter Institute as a publisher, Finlay recently went to her first Norther California Independent Booksellers Association event as a bookseller. "It's been a huge honor to join those ranks after working with them and seeing how terrific they are for all these years," said Finlay. "It feels really great to be an indie bookseller." --Alex Mutter

Holiday House: The Five Impossible Tasks of Eden Smith by Tom Llewellyn; The Selkie's Daughter by Linda Crotta Brennan

Midtown Scholar Acquires Book Collection, New Store

Midtown Scholar Bookstore, Harrisburg, Pa., has acquired the contents of the Philadelphia bookstore W.H. Allen as well as a new storefront in Harrisburg to house the collection. W.H. Allen was founded in 1918 by William and his wife Anna--and carried on by their son George.

With specialties in scholarly and academic books, "it was an inspirational model for us," said Catherine Lawrence, co-owner of Midtown Scholar. "We enjoyed shopping at their Walnut Street location many times over the years. We made sure to visit whenever we were in town!"

To house the nearly 40,000 secondhand books and 200 bookcases that comprise the Allen collection, Midtown Scholar has purchased a mid-20th century store nearby at 1324 North Third Street in Harrisburg.

"We're delighted to be carrying on the long-standing tradition of family-owned retail shops at this location," Lawrence said. "We hope to open a new sales annex there--just one block from the Midtown Scholar--as early as this fall."

Allen's Books is the fourth used bookstore the Midtown Scholar has acquired in the past decade. Other notable collections include the Cambridge booksellers McIntyre & Moore, Larry McMurtry's Booked Up, and Powells Chicago's Uptown Branch. These are now incorporated into the store's stock.

Midtown's manager Alex Brubaker said, "We're thrilled to continue expanding our literary offerings and programming to the community."

Amistad Press: The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade by Hannah Durkin

Penn Book Center Closing

Founded in 1962, Penn Book Center in Philadelphia is closing at the end of the school year, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian, the daily newspaper of the University of Pennsylvania.

Owners Ashley Montague and Michael Row told the newspaper that in 2017 the store had stopped selling course textbooks, in large part because of the opening of an Amazon campus store, and decided to emphasize trade books and events. Unfortunately, the change in approach did "not generate enough profit."

"We figured we would die if we stayed with course books," Row said. "So we said 'okay let's try the shift to the trade [books], community center type of approach.' "

Mary Ann Naples New Hachette Books Head

Mary Ann Naples
(photo: Todd Plitt)

Effective April 22, Mary Ann Naples is joining Hachette Book Group as v-p and publisher of Hachette Books, an imprint of Perseus Books. Among her responsibilities, she will oversee the ongoing integration of the Hachette Books imprint with Da Capo Press and Lifelong, which were combined in a strategic reorganization announced at the end of last year, when longtime Da Capo head John Radziewicz retired.

Naples was most recently v-p and publisher at the Disney Book Group and was earlier senior v-p and publisher of Rodale Books and Rodale Wellness. She has also worked in digital start-ups and as a literary agent.

Perseus Books senior v-p and publisher Susan Weinberg commented: "We have been looking for an innovative leader with strengths in several key areas. Mary Ann Naples has the experience, inspiration and vision to take the newly conceived Hachette Books imprint to new levels of performance and success."

Naples said she is "truly excited to have the opportunity to lead Hachette Books as a powerhouse nonfiction imprint. I can't wait to get started."

ALA's 'Most Challenged Books' List

The American Library Association released its annual Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books, included in the ALA's State of America's Libraries Report 2019, an annual summary of library trends "that outlines statistics and issues affecting all types of libraries. Never have our nation's libraries played such a pivotal role in strengthening communities through education and lifelong learning."

According to the report, libraries continue to face challenges--including the potential for censorship--to a variety of books, programs and materials. In 2018, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 347 challenges to library, school and university materials and services. Overall, 483 books were challenged or banned.

Traditionally the ALA releases a Top Ten List, but this year 11 books were selected, since two titles were tied for the final position, and both books were burned by a religious activist to protest a Pride event. The list also includes the satirical book Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo. The most frequently challenged titles last year were:

  1. George by Alex Gino
  2. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by E. G. Keller
  3. Captain Underpants series, written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey
  4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  5. Drama, written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
  6. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  7. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
  8. Skippyjon Jones series, written and illustrated by Judy Schachner
  9. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  10. This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten
  11. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Obituary Note: Jonathan Baumbach

Jonathan Baumbach, "who upended traditional ideas of narration, linear progression and more in his novels and short stories and helped found a collective that gave experimental writers the ability to publish their own works," died March 28, the New York Times reported. He was 85. Baumbach had published two of his 12 novels "when he and Peter Spielberg created the Fiction Collective, a publishing house run by authors, in an effort to give avant-garde works a clearer path to publication."

In a 2003 interview, he said, "What F.C. offered us all was the possibility of following our deepest impulses as artists while having a publisher, unconcerned with the world of commerce, open to value what we did on its own merit."

Baumbach's books include Reruns (1974), Dreams of Molly (2011), Babble (1976), Chez Charlotte and Emily (1980), Separate Hours (1990), A Man to Conjure With (1965), What Comes Next (1968), Seven Wives: A Romance (1994), and The Life and Times of Major Fiction (2007).

His son, filmmaker Noah Baumbach, wrote and directed The Squid and the Whale, which was based in part on his own life, with his father as the inspiration for the character played by Jeff Daniels.

Baumbach was also a critic, writing about film for Partisan Review and reviewing books for several publications, including the Times, which noted that in a 2015 interview with the Berkshire Edge, he "talked about having never quite achieved the fame of either his father the painter or his son the filmmaker. 'I haven’t tried to avoid it,' he said simply, 'but it hasn't come to my door.' "


Image of the Day: [words] Opens Branch in Livingston, N.J.

To celebrate the opening of [words] Bookstore's new branch at the LifeTown Center in Livingston, N.J., the store hosted an appearance by Harlan Coben, whose new book is Run Away (Grand Central). Here Coben (l.) is with [words] owner Jonah Zimiles, who said the store will have very limited hours for the next several months as the center gets up and running.

Cool Idea of the Day: Free Train Rides for Book Lovers

During the Netherlands' recent book week celebrations (Boekenweek), Dutch book lovers received free rail travel across their country's network for a day. The Independent reported that every year since 1932, the country "has encouraged reading with Boekenweek--a celebration of literature marked with literary festivals and book signings across the country."

Traditionally, a Dutch author writes a special novel as a "book week gift," distributed free to people who buy books during the festivities or sign up to a library. On Sunday of book week this year, Jan Siebelink's Jas Van Belofte could be presented instead of a rail ticket on every train in the country .

"It is good to see all those happily surprised faces of travelers," said Siebelink after boarding a train for the city of Utrecht to meet passengers and read his book. "We are talking about everything, including their journey. A traveler just said he was on his way to Velp, my birthplace. Often there are also children and I naturally hope that they start reading. That's what we do it for."

Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the Dutch state railway company that has been offering the free travel promotion for 18 years, said it "has a warm heart for reading, because reading is one of the favorite ways to spend time on the train."

'Visit America's Best Indie Bookstores'

In a feature headlined "Forget One-Click Purchasing and Visit America's Best Indie Bookstores," Allison Sanchez wrote in Uproxx that "the magic of a brick and mortar bookstore can never be replaced by convenience.... Indie bookstores are important to our society. So if we want to keep them around for subsequent little girls who wander with a book in front of their faces, we need to visit them and help them thrive. Start with one of these book paradises around the country."

Personnel Changes at Scholastic; Simon & Schuster Children's

At Scholastic trade publishing:

Dan Moser has been promoted to director of field sales & special markets. He was previously director, special markets.

Jarad Waxman has been promoted to director of library sales, direct & wholesale. He was previously director of sales & marketing, Scholastic library publishing.


Savannah Breckenridge has joined Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing as marketing assistant. She was previously a children's bookseller at BookPeople in Austin, Tex.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Oprah on the Daily Show

Fresh Air: Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer, authors of The Hill to Die On: The Battle for Congress and the Future of Trump's America (Crown, $28, 9780525574743).

Daily Show: Oprah Winfrey, author of The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life's Direction and Purpose (Flatiron, $27.99, 9781250307507). She is also on CBS This Morning.

TV: Looking for Alaska; CW's Nancy Drew

Timothy Simons (Veep) and Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us) will be series regulars opposite Charlie Plummer and Kristine Froseth in Looking for Alaska, Hulu's eight-episode limited series based on John Green's novel, Deadline reported. The project, which has begun production, comes from Paramount Television and Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage's Fake Empire.


Pamela Sue Martin, who starred in The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, the first TV series adaptation of the Nancy Drew books that ran from 1977-79 on ABC, has been cast as a guest star in the pilot episode of the CW network's new series, "giving a nod to the TV history of the iconic character," Deadline reported. Martin "will appear alongside newcomer Kennedy McMann, who is taking the mantle of playing the amateur detective."

Written by Noga Landau, Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage and directed by Larry Teng, the untitled project "centers on 18-year-old Nancy Drew (McMann) and is set in the summer after her high school graduation. She thought she'd be leaving her hometown for college, but when a family tragedy holds her back another year, she finds herself embroiled in a ghostly murder investigation--and along the way, uncovers secrets that run deeper than she ever imagined."

Martin will play Harriet Grosset, a psychic who offers her talents to help Nancy investigate a murder. Deadline noted that the name of the character "appears to be paying homage to Nancy Drew's origins: author Harriet Adams is credited with shaping up the literary character and early storylines, while Grosset & Dunlap was the publisher of the first books in the series."

Books & Authors

Awards: Rathbones Folio Finalists; Jhalak Shortlist

Finalists have been named for the £30,000 (about $39,170) Rathbones Folio Prize, which celebrates "the best literature of our time, regardless of form." The winner will be announced May 20 in London. This year's shortlisted titles, which four novels, a novella, a poetry collection and two works of nonfiction from the U.K., Ireland, New Zealand and North America, are:

Mary Anne Sate, Imbecile by Alice Jolly
There, There by Tommy Orange
Milkman by Anna Burns
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
West by Carys Davies
The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus
The Crossway by Guy Stagg
Can You Tolerate This? by Ashleigh Young


A shortlist has been released for the £1,000 (about $1,305) Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Color. This year's judges are are playwright and poet Sabrina Mahfouz, journalist and editor Sarah Shaffi, poet and producer Siana Bangura, and children's and YA author Anna Perera. The winner will be named May 1. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Built: The Hidden Stories Behind Our Structures by Roma Agrawal
Happiness by Aminatta Forna
Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of the Empire by Akala
The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus
In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne
The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Rauf

Audiobooks: The List

Our friends at AudioFile Magazine offer insights into the March audiobook bestseller lists from

The nonfiction list is led by Michelle Obama's Becoming (Random House Audio), which is destined to stay in the prime audiobook spot for a long time. It's the perfect confluence of the author's writing style and her delivery.

Educated by Tara Westover and narrated by Julia Whelan (Random House Audio) received renewed attention when Whelan won two 2019 Audie Awards for her performance--Best Female Narrator and Best Autobiography/Memoir. AudioFile has an interview with her on its Behind the Mic podcast. (More on this and some of the other bestsellers, many of which have won AudioFile Earphones Awards, below.)

Among's March fiction bestsellers, Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James (Penguin Audio) is perfectly suited to audio. Narrator Dion Graham picked up a new Earphones Award for his immersive performance of this African-inspired fantasy. And Delia Owens's Where the Crawdads Sing (Penguin Audio) has been pegged at the top of the listening chart for months. (AudioFile has a short video with narrator Cassandra Campbell.) Tayari Jones's An American Marriage (HighBridge Audio) and David Sedaris's Calypso (Hachette Audio) were both finalists for Audiobook of the Year at the 2019 Audies, but the winner was Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone (Macmillan Audio). The narrator is Bahni Turpin, who also narrates Angie Thomas's audiobooks The Hate U Give and On the Come Up (Harper Audio), the latter of which is a Libro bestseller this month.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, read by Bahni Turpin (Macmillan Audio)
Bahni Turpin's breathtaking narration of this exhilarating novel will keep listeners listening intently. The story is told through the shifting perspectives of three teenagers in a West-African-inspired world that had magic until it was stolen away by a fearful and destructive king. Turpin's performance with incantations sung in Yoruba, intense battles, and lively, devastating dialogue makes this an audiobook deserving of multiple awards. AudioFile Earphones Award, 2019 Audies Audiobook of the Year

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James, read by Dion Graham (Penguin Audio)
This African-inspired epic fantasy becomes an immersive experience as told by Dion Graham, whose deep-voiced narration makes listeners feel that they are walking in the shoes of the protagonist. Graham's rich character voices and accents, as well as his singing ability, will leave listeners itching for the next volume. AudioFile Earphones Award

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, read by Sean Crisden, Eisa Davis (HighBridge Audio)
Prepare for better--and for worse. Narrators Eisa Davis and Sean Crisden skillfully portray Celestial and Roy, whose new marriage is interrupted by Roy's incarceration for a crime he didn't commit. Crisden delivers the interactions between the male characters at a dizzying pace. Davis's reading is solid yet soft, evoking sympathy and frustration with Celestial's longing for a different life. The narrators breathe intensity into Jones's riveting prose.

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, read by Bahni Turpin (Harper Audio)
Narrator Bahni Turpin becomes The Neighborhood through the eyes of Bri, a 16-year-old hip-hop artist who raps to express how she feels. Thomas's story and Turpin's narration are raw, funny, and filled with the vulnerable moments that adolescents experience as they develop into who they want to be in this world.

Calypso by David Sedaris, read by David Sedaris (Hachette Audio)
The latest essay collection by Sedaris is a meditation on aging. It's a sardonic one at that, and he narrates himself in his quintessential tongue-in-cheek fashion. It's a good thing he does, because the listener gets the sense that only Sedaris could balance the witty observations alongside the heartrending sadness of life.

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro, read by Dani Shapiro (Random House Audio)
Dani Shapiro has written a memoir of the journey she began in 2016, at the age of 54, when DNA test results revealed her paternity was not what she had been raised to believe. There is an understandable underlying strain of anger in her voice as she travels back in memory, but for the most part, Shapiro delivers her story in a detached voice that belies the toll of this life-altering news.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean, read by Susan Orlean (Simon & Schuster Audio)
Susan Orlean is a wonderful narrator for her part memoir, part paean to libraries and librarians. Her Midwestern voice is flatish, but it’s well modulated and distinct, and the narration is well paced. The audiobook is addicting--full of intriguing, sometimes bizarre factoids, with a beautiful story arc, and lots of humor. AudioFile Earphones Award

Educated by Tara Westover, read by Julia Whelan (Random House Audio)
This riveting memoir recounts the author's childhood in a fundamentalist and isolationist family and how she broke out of those narrow confines to go to college and graduate school. Narrator Julia Whelan's performance is outstanding. Whelan conducts a master class in the fear, dread, and self-doubt wrought by domestic violence. AudioFile Earphones Award, 2019 Audie Winner

Note: In honor of Women's History Month, AudioFile has compiled a playlist of "Outspoken Women" that includes samples from the audiobooks by Michelle Obama, Cecile Richards, Malala Yousafzai, Brené Brown, and more.

Book Review

Review: How to Build a Boat: A Father, His Daughter, and the Unsailed Sea

How to Build a Boat: A Father, His Daughter, and the Unsailed Sea by Jonathan Gornall (Scribner, $26 hardcover, 336p., 9781501199394, May 7, 2019)

Jonathan Gornall has been boat- and water-obsessed for many decades, but he is the first to admit that, as a longtime chair-bound freelance journalist, his DIY skills are nil. The idea of him building anything from scratch is unlikely. But Gornall is also giddy with joy at becoming a father again at age 58. As he seeks a project sufficient to show his new daughter his love and hope for her life, the idea feels natural, even obvious: he will build her a boat.

How to Build a Boat: A Father, His Daughter, and the Unsailed Sea is a love letter to that small child, Phoebe. It is a memoir of a life on and off of water and a study of the history, art and science of boatbuilding. Gornall is determined not only to build a seaworthy craft by hand and from scratch, he also feels that it must be clinker-built, the traditional type of planked wooden boat favored by the Vikings and early Anglo-Saxons, dating to the second century. Of course, he acknowledges, there is "no boatbuilding technique so respectably ancient, so historically resonant, so seductively beautiful, and so bloody difficult." With his wife's cautious support, Gornall sets himself a deadline: he will build Phoebe a boat within a year.

The pages of this book span slightly more than that year, following Gornall's inspiration for his project through its conclusion, as well as revisiting the life that has led to this point. He considers his first sea voyage (in utero, with an unwed mother who consistently claims he's ruined her life), his first experiences with boats (at boarding school) and his significant time on the ocean. Gornall has twice attempted to row across the Atlantic, with enormous press and personal pressure, and twice failed: these disappointments weigh heavily on the older man's mind and contribute to the urgency to get this boating effort right. Along the way, he consults local boatbuilding experts in the historic tradition, as well as books in the canon: four authors he calls his League of Dead Experts.

Gornall's tone is drily funny and always self-deprecating when it comes to the project at hand. His research, however, is as serious as his journalistic background would suggest. The writer's love for style is evident: each chapter is headed by an epigraph, equally likely to come from one of the Dead Experts or from The Wind in the Willows or Winnie-the-Pooh. The result is a deeply moving intersection of the personal--Gornall's absolute devotion to his daughter--with the practical. This is not quite a how-to manual, but readers with aspirations to fashion their own clinker-built boat would have a headstart upon reading. By the end, this self-described "soft-handed, deskbound modern man with few tools, limited practical abilities, and an ignominious record of DIY disaster" has achieved something truly remarkable, and possibly moved his reader to tears. If the boat is a gift to Phoebe, this book is another. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: A father ill-suited to DIY projects builds a boat for his daughter, and in the process writes a charming, heartfelt love letter to both boat and child.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins
2. Kitty Confidential by Molly Fitz
3. Rocky Ground (Crimson Point Series Book 4) by Kaylea Cross
4. Hustle by Chelle Bliss
5. The Wrong Kind of Love by Lexi Ryan
6. Sweet Fate by Laurelin Paige
7. The Roommate Agreement by Emma Hart
8. Moonshine & Malice by Kathleen Brooks
9. Thick by Alexa Riley
10. Rock Bottom Girl by Lucy Score

[Many thanks to!]

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