Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 6, 2019

Storey Publishing: The Universe in Verse: 15 Portals to Wonder Through Science & Poetry by Maria Popova

Tommy Nelson: You'll Always Have a Friend: What to Do When the Lonelies Come by Emily Ley, Illustrated by Romina Galotta

Jimmy Patterson: Amir and the Jinn Princess by M T Khan

Peachtree Publishers: Erno Rubik and His Magic Cube by Kerry Aradhya, Illustrated by Kara Kramer

Beacon Press: Kindred by Octavia Butler

Inkshares: Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel

Tundra Books: On a Mushroom Day by Chris Baker, Illustrated by Alexandria Finkeldey

Blue Box Press: A Soul of Ash and Blood: A Blood and Ash Novel by Jennifer L Armentrout


The Testaments: Amazon Apologizes for 'Technical Error'

Yesterday Amazon issued an apology for breaking the embargo on the selling of Margaret Atwood's new novel, The Testaments.

"Due to a technical error a small number of customers were inadvertently sent copies of Margaret Atwood's The Testaments," the statement said. "We apologize for this error; we value our relationship with authors, agents, and publishers, and regret the difficulties this has caused them and our fellow booksellers."

Amazon's comment seems liable to irritate independent booksellers further. It doesn't indicate how many copies were sent or the nature of the "technical error." It makes a reference to "fellow booksellers," claiming a camaraderie that most non-Amazon booksellers don't feel. It also makes no reference to the embargo, perhaps because it's possible, based on the experience of some publishers, that the company refused to sign an affidavit like the ones usually required of indies.

The embargo ends on Tuesday, when Atwood will conduct a variety of publicity appearances in London that includes an event at the National Theatre--"In Conversation with Margaret Atwood"--that will be broadcast worldwide to more than 1,300 cinema locations.

Weldon Owen: The Gay Icon's Guide to Life by Michael Joosten, Illustrated by Peter Emerich

Charm City Books Coming to Baltimore This Fall


Charm City Books will open this fall at 782 Washington Blvd. in Southwest Baltimore's Pigtown neighborhood. Baltimore Fishbowl reported that after years working as actors, musicians and educators around the region, Daven Ralston and her husband, Joseph Carlson, "have cast themselves for a new role as small business owners."

"We'd always talked about opening a business where we could share all of the crafts and skills that we've learned, and also create a space for people to join in artistic and other community-engaging activities," said Ralston, adding that their store will carry general-interest titles to start--"something for everyone" while they learn more about their neighbors' tastes.

The street level will house books for sale as well as a rotating pop-up space for local artisans, and the second floor will be used for events and activities. "The space still needs some work, including the removal of old carpeting on the first floor, but they're targeting October 5 for opening," Baltimore Fishbowl wrote, noting that Ralston and Carlson plan to be out in the community earlier, aiming to have their own tent at the upcoming Pigtown Main Street Festival on September 21.

"Daven and Joe's vision will create not only a wonderful place to buy books, but also a community gathering and entertainment spot," said Kim Lane, executive director of Pigtown Main Street, adding that respondents in a recent informal community survey listed a bookstore as one of their top five desired businesses for the neighborhood.

Ralston said she connected with Lane early in their search for a location and Pigtown immediately felt like a contender: "I just really love that it's got such a vibrant history and tradition to it. The community there does really feel like they are neighbors and they are supportive of each other."

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

Sidekick Coffee & Books to Open in Iowa City

Sidekick Coffee & Books, "a community coffee shop and bookstore that seeks to be a hub for residents in our walkable community, as well as a destination in the corridor and beyond for those looking for exceptional coffee, food, books, and conversation," will open in mid-September at 1310 Melrose Ave. in Iowa City, Iowa. The bookshop is focusing on children's and YA titles while also offering a selection of bestsellers for adults.

"It is very inviting and has lots of features that are kid friendly," owner Katy Herbold, the mother of three children, told the Daily Iowan. "I think I offer something unique to families, especially downtown on Melrose. We have parking right out our back door for families, and I think the place just offers a different element."

"Filled with hexagon reading books built into the walls, a stage for open-mic night, and green velvet couches for older children, the vibe is very kid- and family-friendly, a trait which Herbold said she is most excited for," the Daily Iowan wrote. The store will also feature Heyn's local ice cream, along with pastries from TipTop Cakes and coffee from Intelligentsia.

"I think that will be a new combination of food and drinks for the area," she said.

Noting that this has been a dream of hers for a long time, she felt location was the most important aspect in making that dream work: "It's very convenient for me to get to work as a parent of young children and constantly running them around. The space right next door will be my husband's law firm as well, so we are very excited to have that closeness for our family.”

Nialle Sylvan, owner of the Haunted Bookshop, welcomed the idea of another bookseller in the area. "I'm thrilled," she said. "Having another place where people can gather, especially if it's targeted at younger people, I think it is fantastic." Regarding the potential for competition between the two businesses, Sylvan observed: "That's not how we do things here. I'll share their information with my patrons, and hopefully they'll check it out. Iowa City needs more bookstores, and I'm excited to see what happens."

Harpervia: Only Big Bumbum Matters Tomorrow by Damilare Kuku

Conn.'s Breakwater Books for Sale

Breakwater Books, Guildford, Conn., is for sale.

Liza Fixx, who bought the store three years ago, said she is "ready to spend more time traveling and with her family, and is looking for the person who can purchase the bookstore and lead Breakwater Books into the next several decades."

She added: "When I purchased the business a few years ago, I did so with the belief that it was essential to maintain a sustainable reading environment for years to come. In this age of electronic this and digital that, Breakwater Books remains well positioned to ensure that books and reading will remain at the forefront of our business. We have made many improvements to the bookstore over recent years, and the store is primed to continue as an anchor in this community for many more years. The key ingredients that will contribute to the success of a new owner are all in place: a loyal customer base, a dedicated, hard-working staff, the newest technology tools to remain current and relevant, and a highly visible location in our beautiful and historic town. All it takes is someone who is passionate about books and all that they represent, who genuinely loves people and wants to be of service, and who has good judgment and is willing to learn what it takes to operate a retail business.

"The store needs someone who is ready to meet the challenges and opportunities of the evolving book industry while preserving the heart and soul of this community treasure. The staff has years of experience, and the community couldn't be more supportive. It is the most entertaining, enlightening and sociable retail atmosphere for which you could hope. A new owner with an appreciation for community and the entrepreneurial spirit needed to run a small business could inherit a bookstore with a long and rich history in Guilford that is prestigious, independent and beloved."

Interested parties can contact Fixx via e-mail.

Fixx purchased the store from Maureen Corcoran, who had owned it for 10 years. Corcoran bought the store from Marion Young, who founded Breakwater in 1972. Fixx had been a bookseller at Breakwater for two years before the purchase and earlier worked at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, Ky., and R.J. Booksellers in Madison, Conn.

Crowdfunding Campaign for Novel Books in Clarksburg, Md.

A crowdfunding initiative is underway for Novel Books in Clarksburg, Md., which opened in 2011. The GoFundMe campaign was launched earlier this summer, but in a recent update, owner Patrick Darby wrote: "My van, daily commuter and cargo hauler for local events, suffered a ruptured radiator, which destroyed the engine. Funds were used to get it back on the road.

Patrick Darby

"I was able, with the help of a customer, to see a specialist. The diagnosis for my condition is Parkinson's disease. I sat in my loaner car for hours behind the store, contemplating what to do next. I've decided to fight to keep the store. It's been my lifelong passion, and keeps me going. It's also my source of income, retirement (if I ever get to that), and medical treatment. The problem is I need a lot of funds in a very short period of time. I'd prefer to earn my way out of this crisis, but it's too great to accomplish with additional sales. I need your help. If you can't donate, please spread the word."

In June, the MOCO Show reported that "Novel Books is in trouble and is asking for your support. When I walked in, I was greeted by owner, Patrick Darby. He told me about the facial recognition software the bookstore uses--you walk in... and he recognizes you.... We wish Patrick and Novel Books the best of luck and hope things can turn around for the local bookstore."

Washington's University Book Store Closing Mill Creek Location

Citing "a significant rental increase," University Book Store will not renew the lease on its Mill Creek, Wash., store and close it on October 19. The store has been in business for 15 years.

University Book Store, Inc.--the for-profit corporate trust that benefits University of Washington students, faculty and staff--emphasized that it "remains a healthy business and will focus on its five Puget Sound area locations and a growing e-commerce business at"

CEO Louise Little added: "We are sincerely grateful for the many friendships made and partnerships formed over the last 15 years, but retail and the way people shop is rapidly evolving and we believe our Trust, which governs our operations, will be better served by primarily concentrating on our University of Washington campus stores and our website"

Obituary Note: Ada Alicia Giron

Ada Alicia Giron, who co-founded and ran several Spanish-language bookstores in Chicago, died August 29 at age 83, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

In 1957, she and her husband, Julio Giron, bought a toy store where he fixed the vacuum-tube TVs and radios. Ada Alicia Giron, who had been a grade-school teacher in her native Guatemala, loved to read and sent away for Spanish-language books. After reading them, she placed them in the stores, "and to her surprise, she started selling the books," her son Juan said.

Giron expanded the book selection, then added greeting cards, records, magazines, comics, romance novels, books on herbal remedies and Mexican newspapers. They opened a range of stores, which at one point numbered 10, buying the buildings in which they were located to avoid paying rent.

After Julio Giron died in a car accident in 1979, Ada Alicia Giron kept the business going. Currently there are several stores, Libreria Giron and Giron BooksGiron Books, as well as Giron Spanish Book Distributors.


Image of the Day: Mr. Nogginbody at Blue Willow Bookshop

David Shannon kicked off a two-week tour for his new picture book, Mr. Nogginbody Gets a Hammer (Norton Young Readers), Wednesday evening at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Tex.

Wild Rumpus Bookseller Ellen Ourada to Retire

(via Fox 9)

"The woman who has created countless wonderful displays around a Minneapolis bookstore is set to retire after 17 years," FOX 9 reported in its profile of Ellen Ourada of Wild Rumpus bookstore.

"It's my love, it's books and kids and... don't make me cry!" she said. "It's been so enjoyable that the time has flown by and I got to a point where I thought there's got to be some end to this. And I better make it sooner than later.... I just feel like everyone's replaceable and it's my turn to be replaced."

FOX 9 noted that "anyone that's wandered through and been tickled by the decor, taken in by the displays, or transported by the front window--all of that has been Ellen."

Colleague Katie McGinley observed: "But, really, what she brings is the visual style of the store is her. Like all the little knick-knacks around, she will find stuff, and she'll go out on her weekends and come back and say I found this and I'm going to keep it in my store closet downstairs for when it's the perfect thing. Just making our store special really."

Chalkboard of the Day: The Town Book Store

"Stores come and stores go but not us!" the Town Book Store, Westfield, N.J., posted on Facebook along with a photo of a table display and chalkboard. "Thanks to all of you, we have been going strong in Westfield for 85 years! Stop in and see our original ledgers from 1934 and see why we have stood the test of time!"

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Samantha Power on CBS This Morning

CBS This Morning: Samantha Power, author of The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir (Dey Street Books, $29.99, 9780062820693).

Also on CBS This Morning: Antoinette M. Clarke and Tricia Clarke-Stone, authors of Double Down: Bet on Yourself and Succeed on Your Terms (Currency, $26, 9780525574934).

[Yesterday we mistakenly listed these appearances as taking place on the Today Show. Our apologies for the error!]

TV: The Testaments

MGM and Hulu plan to develop Margaret Atwood's The Testaments, "further extending the legacy of the series which, in 2017 for its first season, became the first streaming show to win a best series Primetime Emmy Award," IndieWire reported. Hulu recently announced it had picked up The Handmaid's Tale for a fourth season.

"Margaret Atwood is a literary icon who continues to delight and challenge readers through her provocative and compelling prose," said Steve Stark, president of television production at MGM. "She has been an incredible creative partner and resource to MGM throughout the production of Handmaid's and we look forward to working with her on the story's exciting next chapter."

Craig Erwich, senior v-p of originals, Hulu, called Atwood "one of the visionary storytellers of her generation. From her award-winning poetry, short-stories and novels, Margaret has continually pushed boundaries and broken barriers to bring innovative stories to life."

Books & Authors

Awards: ALTA National Translation Longlists; Ottaway

The American Literary Translators Association has unveiled longlists for the National Translation Awards in poetry and prose. Featuring authors writing in 13 different languages, this year's longlists "expand the prize's dedication to literary diversity in English. The selection criteria include the quality of the finished English language book, and the quality of the translation," according to ALTA.

Shortlists will be revealed at the end of September. The winning translators receive $2,500 each and will be announced at ALTA's annual conference in Rochester, N.Y., November 7-10. Check out the complete NTA longlists here.


Translator Edith Grossman has won the 2019 Ottaway Award for the Promotion of International Literature, sponsored by Words Without Borders and recognizing "an individual whose work and activism have supported WWB's mission of promoting cultural understanding through the publication and promotion of international literature." She will be honored at the WWB Gala on October 29 in New York City.

WWB board chair Samantha Schnee said, "In a career that spans over half a century--translating, teaching the art of translation, and advocating for the value of translators--Edie has truly shown us all why translation matters."

Grossman has translated many Spanish-language authors, including Miguel de Cervantes, Gabriel García Márquez, and Mario Vargas Llosa. She has won the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Arts and Letters Award in Literature, and the Officer's Cross of the Order of Civil Merit, awarded by the King of Spain Felipe VI. She is also the author of Why Translation Matters (2010).

Reading with... Lucy Ellmann

photo: Todd McEwen

Lucy Ellmann's first novel, Sweet Desserts, won the Guardian Fiction Prize. Her seventh is Ducks, Newburyport (Biblioasis), shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and called "a wildly ambitious and righteously angry portrait of contemporary America" by the Observer.

On your nightstand now:

I have not read enough Céline or Woolf, and intend to read more toot sweet: Louis-Ferdinand Céline's Journey to the End of the Night and Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse.

I'm also looking forward to Caradoc Evans's Fury Never Leaves Us, recommended to me by my husband [the writer Todd McEwen]. He also thinks I'd like Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North (timely title) and Quesadillas by Juan Pablo Villalobos. Todd's tips are a great help.

Then there's Don Quixote (the J.M. Cohen translation). This is not even near my nightstand. I had to leave my copy behind in Spain. But I'm returning to Spain this year, and to the promised weirdness of Quixote part two.

Favorite books when you were a child:

Jean de Brunhoff's Babar books, particularly The Story of Babar, about his brief and violently truncated childhood (pun intentional); Babar and Father Christmas, for the amiable mice in the attic; and Babar at Home, when Babar and Celeste start procreating.

The Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelmans. Especially Madeline and the Gypsies, in which she and Pepito have to dress up as a lion and perform in the circus. You feel for them, but also for the lion, who always looks miserable. Once she knows what's going on, Miss Clavel rushes fast and faster to the scene of the disaster.

Maurice Sendak's The Nutshell Library is essential reading with a flashlight under the covers when you're young. Owning this many tiny precious books makes you feel like a king!

And Edward Ardizzone's Tim books are kindliness personified. He's so humane and very good at drawing plump women.

A Candle in Her Room by Ruth M. Arthur. This was my first taste of a multiple-voice narrative, and I thought it incredibly sophisticated. Moving, too.

Your top six authors:

1. Jane Austen. In vain have I struggled to find anything better than this genius.

2. Thomas Bernhard. To be read seated in a wing chair.

3. Molly Keane. Particularly Good Behaviour, about a sad-sack, malcontented, ne'er-do-well daughter, with whom it's all too easy to identify.

4. Elfriede Jelinek, for her savage play with words and exhilarating contempt for Austria.

5. Charles Dickens. "Chapter 1: I AM BORN". Damn him, he took all the best lines.

6. The fiercely defiant Thomas Hardy.

Book you've faked reading:

I. Kant. I can't. Fortunately, it's impossible for anybody to tell if you've read him or not.

Books you're an evangelist for:

The Language of the Goddess by Marija Gimbutas. Through careful archeological research, Gimbutas documented the presence throughout the world of matriarchal societies respectful of women and attuned to nature.

The Wise Wound by Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove. An artistically exploratory book on that unmentionable subject, menstruation. Not a curse, it turns out, but a privilege.

The Story of V by Catherine Blackledge. Vaginas rule the world.

S.C.U.M. Manifesto by Valerie Solanas. The philosophy and writing style may be questionable, the vivacity is not.

The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett. An odd little impressionistic account of rural life in Maine, with references to witchcraft, or at least herbalism, and hints of matriarchy.

These books are my arsenal in the crusade for female supremacy, or the "Odalisque Revolution," as outlined in my last novel, Mimi.

Book you bought for the cover:

Sushi for Parties by Ken Kawasumi. My sushi skills barely stretch to figuring out how to make the vinegar rice, but I can look at the pictures: little white glossy rabbits made out of squid; a roundel displaying the 2-D form of a floating chrysanthemum; an egg and seaweed roll that looks just like a diploma.

Book you hid from your parents:

My parents were highly literary, so no books were banned. I may have read Moll Flanders secretly, but it was their copy! I think my father handed me Frank Harris's My Life and Loves himself, so there was no hiding that one, either.

Books that changed your life:

King Lear by William Shakespeare. The writing's better and better, the madder Lear gets.

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne. The playfulness. The squiggles, the black page, the opening chapter with its risqué conception scene. Adulthood's not so bad, once you know about Sterne.  

And The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola, magic realism at its zaniest.

Favorite line from a book:

"My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three..." from Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita.

Five books you'll never part with:

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

2. Thinking About Women by my mother, Mary Ellmann.

3. James Joyce by my father, Richard Ellmann.

4. Who Sleeps with Katz by my husband, Todd McEwen.

5. Birds' Eggs, compiled by G. Evans (Observer Book series, 1960). You can never see too many birds' eggs.

Books you most want to read again for the first time:

I first encountered Cutting Timber/Woodcutters by Thomas Bernhard by chance, when I was asked to review it. Bernhard changed the direction of the novel. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye was a great find, too.

Books I wish I hadn't read:

My parents owned a book on childhood diseases, with pictures. It scared the shit out of me.

I had to read White Fang by Jack London as a kid, for school. Maybe I was too young. It seemed sadistic to me and, unforgivably, the animal dies at the end. This was the only book I ever burnt. I don't think you should burn books.

I read some drugstore paperback about the Boston Strangler once, and that's the only book I ever threw in the trash. I don't think you should throw books in the trash.

The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas (père) began so well, I'd already recommended it to someone else before the thing went rapidly downhill. Too much prison; not enough tulips.

I did not like The Breast at all, at the age of 16, and wrote to Philip Roth to complain. No reply.

I regret reading all the detective books I ever tried except Raymond Chandler; and all sci-fi except Stanislaw Lem's The Star Diaries. His creation myth in the 20th voyage beats all. Most sci-fi writers are just too stuck on humanoids. There must be something better out there.

Book Review

Review: Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA

Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA by Amaryllis Fox (Knopf, $26.95 hardcover, 240p., 9780525654971, October 15, 2019)

Amaryllis Fox served in the Central Intelligence Agency for eight years when she was in her 20s, and that experience is the impetus for her memoir, Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA. But its contents are both broader and deeper, beginning with uncertainties encountered in childhood: when a grade school friend is killed by a terrorist's bomb, Fox's father offers her an education in current events, to understand what took her friend away. An insightful, curious child, the young Fox makes early observations about her parents' hidden or inner lives.

These trends persist from high school to college: before starting at Oxford, Fox poses as an acquaintance's wife, slipping into Burma to record and sneak out a historic interview with an imprisoned democratic leader. Early in her Georgetown master's program in conflict and terrorism, this high-achieving, daring young woman with international interests attracts the interest of the CIA (not the first intelligence agency to approach her, but the first to appeal). Fox continues to impress in her training within the agency, often winning coveted, extra-dangerous spots ahead of standard career trajectories. She recounts the challenges, from her analyst work through her field work in 16 countries, with absorbing anecdotes.

Although she's always had an interest in people, motivations and relationships--it's what makes her so good, a "velvet hammer," as one senior case officer calls her--Fox shows an increasing concern for the acts she puts on, the roles she must play. A CIA agent pretending to be an arms dealer pretending to be an art dealer, she wonders "which part of me is she and which part of me is me. Would I be able to make the same impact if I lived life in my true skin?" It is in part this worry about identity that finally leads her out of the agency--that, and the birth of her daughter, in her second marriage since entering her dangerous line of work.

One expects a CIA memoir to be thrilling; this one is positively riveting. But in addition, Fox's writing is surprisingly lovely, lines often ringing like poetry. "It's a strange place to find a man who aspires to deal in death, what with the music drifting from the park as the day goes to gloaming and the laughter issuing from pretty, wine-stained mouths along the riverbank." "My waking self passes me one more note that night.... One of those memories so deeply packed away that I have to unfold its sepia edges gently, in case they turn to dust in my hands."

Life Undercover is an astonishing book. Readers interested in the high adventure of tradecraft will certainly be satisfied, but Fox offers as well nuanced and sensitive perspectives on international politics, and humanizing views of nuclear arms dealers and terrorists. Her subtle, lyric prose elevates this memoir beyond its action-packed subject matter, highlighting instead its true focus: the breadth and beauty of humanity. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: This memoir of a talented young woman's CIA career is that rare combination: enthralling and gorgeously written.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Book Title Grawlixes Equal a 'Sh*t Ton of Sales'

Whatever happened to the Clean Reader app ("Read books, not profanity")? It launched in 2015 as the "only e-reader that blocks profanity in books from being displayed on your screen. You decide how clean your books will be." Authors were understandably displeased by its mission. Clean Reader's Facebook and Twitter accounts haven't been updated since 2016.

I thought about Clean Reader when I saw BookNet Canada's recent study of the large number of bestselling Self-Help books that have a swear word in the title, including four of the top 10 books in that category during one week in August.

"Is this a new thing?" BookNet Canada wondered, and then did what it does best--"use SalesData to dig deeper and investigate the history of Self-Help print books with swear words in the title to see whether there has actually been an increase over the past couple of years."

Of course, we know this is not a new thing. Justin Halpern's Sh*t My Dad Says was a bestseller almost a decade ago. This week I received an e-mail from Akashic Books promoting F**K, Now There Are Two of You, the third installment in Adam Mansbach's series that includes You Have to F**king Eat and the one that started it all in 2014, Go the F**k to Sleep.

So, how many Self-Help books have a swear word in the title? Many. They are often semi-redacted by keyboard symbols, the asterisk being a particular favorite. I don't really care either way. Swear or redact, it's up to you, though admittedly there are equally profane terms I would consider redacting, such as P#*pkin Sp*ce or R*@lity TV.

In any case, let's see what BookNet Canada found: "Looking at print unit sales in the Canadian English-language trade book market, we pulled the 100 top-selling ISBNs with the BISAC subject code Self-Help for each year from 2016 to the end of June 2019. We looked at those four lists and, for each year, counted how many titles had some sort of swear word, or swear-adjacent word like 'sh*t,' 'badass,' 'bleep,' or grawlixes (e.g., #@%!)."

Confession: I did not know the word "grawlix" existed before reading this. Now it's my favorite word.

BookNet Canada discovered that of the 400 top-selling ISBNs, only 42 had swear words in the title (11%), with a significant jump from 2016 to 2017, a slight increase from 2017 to 2018, and another large increase from 2018 to the first six months of 2019.

Analyzing the bestselling titles, BookNet Canada "realized that many of them were reappearing on the lists from year to year. When we removed duplicate ISBNs from the list of 400 bestsellers, we found that there were 21 unique ISBNs accounting for all instances of books with swear words in their titles."

Two thirds (71%) were among the 100 bestselling Self-Help books the same year they were published. During the period studied, the 21 top-selling Self-Help ISBNs with a swear word in the title included four each for Mark (The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck) Manson and Jen (You Are a Badass) Sincero; three for Gary (Unfu*k Yourself) John Bishop; and two for Sarah (Calm the F*ck Down) Knight. Among the rest were foul-mouthed classics like Where's My F**king Unicorn? by Michelle Gordon, The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t by Fabrice Midal and I Used to Be a Miserable F*ck by John Kim.

And that's just the Self-Help category! Even a cursory (see what I did there?) browse through other bookstore sections will reveal titles like What the F*@# Should I Make for Dinner?; Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck; The F*ck It Diet: Eating Should Be Easy; The Big-Ass Swear Word Coloring Book: A F*cking Ton of Uplifting Sh*t to Color and Display; The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind; and Tidy the F*ck Up: The American Art of Organizing Your Sh*t.

Exploring whether Self-Help books with a title obscenity or two sell better, BookNet Canada pulled a new list of the 100 bestselling ISBNs from 2016 to the end of June 2019 and found that "sales for the bestselling Self-Help books with a swear word in the title made up a large percentage of sales, especially given their small numbers. Though books with a swear word in the title made up only 14% of the top 100 ISBNs, they accounted for 48% of sales at their peak."

BookNet Canada concluded that "having a swear word, or swear-adjacent word, in the title of a Self-Help book is trending up. The 21 swear-word bestsellers... represent a sh*t ton of sales in the Self-Help category."

Since this is the 21st century--the f**king future, people!--I'm amazed that we still use grawlixes instead of emojis. I have no doubt that somewhere out there in a secret publishing industry R&D lab, word scientists are feverishly experimenting with that particular digital transition. For the moment, however, we'll just keep muddling along with * and # and @ and all their archaic friends. As Merriam-Webster says, "The grawlix: it's some good $#*!."

--Robert Gray, contributing editor 

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