Shelf Awareness for Friday, December 13, 2019

Holiday House: Ros Demir Is Not the One by Leyla Brittan

HarperAlley: I Shall Never Fall In Love by Hari Conner

W. W. Norton & Company to Sell and Distribute Yale University Press and Harvard University Press

Clarion Books: The Man Who Didn't Like Animals by Deborah Underwood, Illlustrated by LeUyen Pham

Holiday House: Bye Forever, I Guess by Jodi Meadows and Team Canteen 1: Rocky Road by Amalie Jahn

Wednesday Books: Dust by Alison Stine

Quotation of the Day

'You've Got to Have Soul'


"Can we make that a successful independent book shop? You've got to have soul. You've got to be a part of your community and keep your space alive and thrumming by hosting book events, knowing your customers and having an interesting selection. You've got to curate your selection carefully and give your shop a personality via the books you sell. And you have to have engaging staff who know books and can make suggestions. Love Books is lucky to have our resident book sage, Anna Joubert, in that (and many other) respects. Our knowledge is undoubtedly one reason why we won 2019 National Trade Bookseller (Independent) at the Sefika SA Book Awards this year. Stop by for a visit--and a book or two!"

--Kate Rogan, owner of Love Books in Johannesburg, South Africa, answering the Daily Maverick's question: "What do you think makes a successful bookshop?"

 Treasure Books, Inc.: There's Treasure Inside by Jon Collins-Black


McNally Jackson/Goods for the Study Employees Vote to Join Union

Approximately 90 employees across three McNally Jackson Books locations and two Goods for the Study stationery stores in New York City voted yesterday to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

New members of the RWDSU who work for McNally Jackson and Goods for the Study.

The employees in the bargaining unit, who mainly handle "sales, events, stocking and information services" across the five stores, say that they face a variety of issues at work including verbal abuse and harassment, unfair compensation, an informal corporate structure and widespread favoritism.

"I'm proud to say I'm now part of the RWDSU," said Kathryn Harper, a bookseller at the McNally Jackson store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. "By coming together, we are stronger, and I am confident we can shape our workplace into a place we all want to come to work each day."

RWDSU is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and represents 100,000 members across the U.S. and around 45,000 in New York State.

Help a Bookseller, Change a Life: Give today to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation!

Charlie's Corner in San Francisco to Stay Open Thanks to Community Support

Charlie's Corner, a children's bookstore in San Francisco, Calif., that was on the brink of closure just over a month ago, will stay open following an outpouring of community support and a fundraiser that has brought in nearly $35,000, Datebook reported.

"I still can't believe it," owner Charlotte Nagy said. "Every year I watch 'It's a Wonderful Life' during the holidays, and this year, I feel like George Bailey."

In the four years since Nagy first opened the store, Charlie's Corner became known in its neighborhood for its diverse inventory and especially its storytime sessions, which often feature music, puppets and a variety of unusual props like a bubble machine. Despite the loyal following, a series of financial setbacks began earlier this year that nearly forced Nagy to close the store.

Due to mandatory seismic upgrades on its building, the store had to move to a temporary location for three months, where Nagy and her team saw less traffic than usual and lower sales. When they moved back in July, it was late summer and business was slow, and just a short while later the rent increased to almost $10,000 per month. In October, Nagy told her staff that she would have to close in November, and shortly thereafter announced the news to her customers.

"Almost immediately people started e-mailing asking what they could do to help," Nagy told Datebook.

Although she was initially reluctant to try crowdfunding, Nagy nevertheless launched the GoFundMe campaign on November 5. In the weeks since, it has raised just a few hundred dollars short of $35,000.

Thanks to the fundraiser, Charlie's Corner will be able to stay open through the holidays, and in 2020 Nagy plans to roll out a few new business initiatives that will help the store cover the increased rent and make it more financially stable.

The biggest of those additions will be a membership program, where customers pay $100 per month to attend as many events as they like--which normally cost $10 per session--and receive a discount on books. Twenty people have signed up for the membership program so far, and Nagy hopes eventually to reach 50. Nagy also plans to start hosting more events like art and music classes and rent out the store for birthday parties.

B&N, Austin Peay State U. to Open Downtown Bookstore

Renovation work has begun at the corner of College and Fourth streets in Clarksville, Tenn., to convert a former Ford car dealership into Austin Peay State University's new campus bookstore, Main Street Clarksville reported. Construction should be completed in May, with the 13,000-square-foot bookstore scheduled to open before the fall semester begins.

"It's a 180-day construction contract time, and they've already gutted the building," said Philip Zoch, Austin Peay project manager. "It will be a Barnes & Noble bookstore with a coffee shop. Upstairs, the second floor will be renovated for future APSU use. That project is currently being studied."

B&N currently partners with Austin Peay to operates the campus bookstore in the Harvill Building across from the Morgan University Center.

New Canadian Indie Bookshop Wins Free Rent for a Year

Elysia French and Graham Thompson, owners of new Canadian indie Someday Books, "won free rent for a year on a downtown storefront in their hometown of St. Catharines," Quill & Quire reported. The St. Catharines Downtown Association's Win This Space contest covers rent at their 21 King St. location for a year, after which the couple intends to continue leasing.

French said the contest "allowed us to sink more of our own capital into the inventory. I'm not sure what we could have afforded if we had to pay rent and stock the store."

Since opening Someday Books November 9, the co-owners "have gotten to know their community's literary tastes," Quill & Quire noted, adding that the "early response has validated the instinct French and Thompson had that the St. Catharines literary community has been underserved."

"There is a lot of local talent and people who are really excited about having an independent bookstore in the city," Thompson said.

The Standard reported that "the store owners were overwhelmed by the grand opening's turnout. Book lovers of all ages crammed into the King Street store to scour the shelves or get a head start on Christmas shopping." Thompson observed: "We just thought it was something St. Catharines really needs."

Fulton Street Books & Coffee Debuts as Pop-Up Shop

Fulton Street Books & Coffee, a forthcoming independent bookstore with a focus on literacy, diversity and community, has made its debut in Tulsa, Okla., as a pop-up shop at Mother Road Market, the Black Wall Street Times reported.

With the permanent storefront not expected to open until early 2020, owner Onikah Asamoa-Caesar and her team have opened the pop-up shop to provide books, shirts, mugs, candles and more during the holiday season.

Asamoa-Caesar's store will reside in a 1,600-square-foot space, and books by or about people of color will make up around 70% of the store's book inventory.

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
Private Rites
by Julia Armfield
GLOW: Flatiron Books: Private Rites by Julia Armfield

In Private Rites, Julia Armfield (Our Wives Under the Sea; salt slow) offers an atmospheric meditation on sisterhood and loss at the end of the world. Living in a bleak, water-inundated city where the rain rarely stops, Isla, Irene, and Agnes are shocked at the abrupt death of their father, who has left his house to only one of them. As they grapple with his last manipulation, they must grapple, too, with what it means to have relationships with each other beyond his reach. As Flatiron Books executive editor Caroline Bleeke notes, Armfield's novel may be about "difficult things," yet it "manages to be so funny, so loving, so brilliant, and so beautifully, singularly written." Private Rites is a testament to the light that can be found in each other, even in the darkest of times. --Alice Martin

(Flatiron, $27.99 Hardcover, 9781250344311, December 3, 2024)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Image of the Day: PRH Authors at Midtown Scholar

Midtown Scholar Bookstore, Harrisburg, Pa., hosted an event Monday evening featuring Salman Rushdie (Quichotte) in conversation with Casey Cep (Furious Hours), with more than 300 attendees. Afterward (from left) Cep, Rushdie and fellow PRH author Christopher McDougall posed for a photo.

Happy 70th Birthday, Vermont Book Shop!

Congratulations to the Vermont Book Shop, Middlebury, Vt., which is celebrating 70 years in business this month. The Addison Independent reported that Dike Blair launched the bookstore on December 17, 1949, creating "a strong foundation for the venerable institution. The bookstore was passed to Becky Dayton in 2005.... In 2007, Dayton completely redid the interior, while continuing to curate a community-centric yet worldly selection of books, in an intimate space lit by tall windows that overlook the Otter Creek. Most recently, Dayton launched a Vermont Book Shop stall at the new Public Market at Stone Mill, a Community Barns venture."

To commemorate the anniversary, the Vermont Book Shop collaborated with John Vincent of A Revolutionary Press to create a broadside of a Robert Frost poem, "A Time to Talk." The Addison Independent noted that the poem "speaks to the mission of the Vermont Book Shop as a place for the community to gather and interact with their friends and neighbors." The letterpress prints of the Frost poem are available for purchase, with proceeds benefitting the H.O.P.E. food shelf as well as other organizations selected by A Revolutionary Press, which is also a non-profit organization.

In response to Indiebound's tweet wishing the store a happy 70th anniversary, Vermont Book Shop responded: "We don't look a day over 30!"

S&S to Distribute Manning Publications

Simon & Schuster will handle sales and distribution for Manning Publications to the United States and Canada beginning January 1.

Founded in 1993, Manning Publications, whose headquarters are on Shelter Island, N.Y., is an independent publisher of computer books and video courses for software developers, engineers, architects, system administrators, managers and all who are professionally involved with the computer business. It also publishes for students and young programmers, including occasionally for children.

Media and Movies

Movies: On the Come Up

Kay Oyegun, producer and writer on NBC’s hit series This Is Us, will write the screenplay for a film adaptation of On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. Deadline reported that the project, "originally set at Fox 2000 who released 2018’s The Hate U Give film starring Amandla Stenberg, moved to Paramount Players earlier this year after the Fox division was shuttered when Disney took over."

George Tillman Jr. will direct On the Come Up, which is a co-production between Temple Hill and State Street Pictures. Thomas is producing alongside Marty Bowen, Isaac Klausner and John Fischer of Temple Hill as well as Robert Teitel, Tillman and Jay Marcus from State Street.

Books & Authors

Awards: André Simon Food & Drink Book Shortlists

Shortlists has been unveiled for the 2019 André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards. Winners in each category receive £2,000 (about $2,630) and will be presented January 20 in London. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Burma: Food, Family & Conflict by Bridget Anderson & Stephen Anderson
Leaf: Lettuce, Greens, Herbs, Weeds--Over 120 Recipes that Celebrate Varied, Versatile Leaves by Catherine Phipps
A Cheesemonger's History of The British Isles by Ned Palmer
The Forager's Calendar: A Seasonal Guide to Nature's Wild Harvests by John Wright
The Turkish Cookbook by Musa Dağdeviren
The Vinegar Cupboard: Recipes and History of an Everyday Ingredient by Angela Clutton
The Way We Eat Now by Bee Wilson
The Whole Fish Cookbook: New Ways to Cook, Eat and Think by Josh Niland
Tokyo Stories: A Japanese Cookbook by Tim Anderson

A Brief History of Lager: 500 Years of the World's Favorite Beer by Mark Dredge
Christie's Encyclopedia of Champagne and Sparkling Wine (4th edition) by Tom Stevenson & Essi Avellan MW
Drinkology: The Science of What We Drink and What It Does to Us, from Milks to Martinis by Alexis Willett
Tales of the Tea Trade: The Secret to Sourcing and Enjoying the World's Favorite Drink by Michelle and Rob Comins
Wines of the French Alps: Savoie, Bugey and Beyond with Local Food and Travel Tips by Wink Lorch     
The World Atlas of Wine (8th Edition) by Hugh Johnson & Jancis Robinson
Wine Simple: A Totally Approachable Guide from a World-Class Sommelier by Aldo Sohm with Christine Muhike

Reading with... Clifford Thompson

photo: Kate Slininger

Clifford Thompson is an essayist and the winner of the 2013 Whiting Award for nonfiction. His work has appeared in The Best American Essays 2018 and elsewhere. His new book is What It Is: Race, Family, and One Thinking Black Man's Blues (Other Press, November 2019).

On your nightstand now:

Benjamin Moser's new biography of Susan Sontag, who had one of the most ridiculously brilliant literary minds of modern times; Toni Morrison's book of essays, The Source of Self-Regard; and M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A, a book of poems by A. Van Jordan.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Origins of Marvel Comics by Stan Lee. The book details the stories behind the creation of the costumed heroes I loved, who had superpowers but human fears and insecurities. Also, various collections of Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts comic strips.

Your top five authors:

James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Tobias Wolff, Albert Murray--and a three-way tie: Ralph Ellison, Raymond Carver, Toni Morrison.

Book you've faked reading:

George Eliot's Middlemarch--I never did make it all the way through that thing. But reportedly I've got that in common with the critic Edmund Wilson, so I don't feel quite so bad.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Omni-Americans (1970) by Albert Murray. This was the book that helped me understand the central role that blacks have played in defining America and the cultural interrelatedness of all Americans.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Still Life with Woodpecker, a novel by Tom Robbins. I ran across it in a bookstore when I was in high school; its cover was made to look like a pack of Camel cigarettes, my mother's brand. I was intrigued, and I became a devotee of Robbins's wild tales for a time.

Book you hid from your parents:

I honestly can't remember one. My parents were cool. Or I was boring.

Book that changed your life:

I'll limit it to three. The aforementioned The Omni-Americans; that old standby The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, whose narrator seemed to me an older version of Charlie Brown from Peanuts; and James Baldwin's woefully underrated novel Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone--I had never before read a story that showed such intimacy between blacks and whites.

Favorite line from a book:

"When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun." -- opening sentence of Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Five books you'll never part with:

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin; We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live--Collected Nonfiction by Joan Didion; Raymond Carver's Collected Stories; The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison (whole lotta collectin' goin' on); and The Omni-Americans.

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

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.

A writer you consider to be underrated:

Thomas Rayfiel, the author of nine quirky, innovative novels. I think his book In Pinelight is one of the great novels of the last few years.

Book Review

Review: Homie

Homie: Poems by Danez Smith (Graywolf, $16 paperback, 96p., 9781644450109, January 21, 2020)

Celebrated poet Danez Smith (Don't Call Us Dead) delivers a rapturous cry for all their friends and lovers in the profoundly moving collection Homie.

Smith writes with both power and precision, and their poetic forms are as diverse as their topics. Homie teems with stream-of-conscious prose poetry and in equal measure gleams with lapidary stanzas of more formalized verse. Even part of the book's acknowledgements section is set in poetic fashion. Smith is also a master of shape poetry, pushing words around the page in ways that are novel yet somehow essential to the flow of language. Their personal style mixes modern slang with gorgeous imagery, resulting in verse as colorful and fanciful as Pablo Neruda but also savvy, down-to-earth, close to the heart.

Thematically, Homie focuses on friendship, as the poet celebrates the beloved people in and out of their life. The poet's blackness and queerness frame struggles and larger questions of kinship. They invoke friends, lovers, family members, other minority groups and even strangers. These people are exalted by the searching love that drives these poems. In "my president," the poet shouts out to the "trans girl making songs in her closet, spinning the dark/ into a booming dress." In "what was said at the bus stop," the poet reaches out to a Pakistani girl: "i have stood by you in the soft shawl of morning/ waiting & breathing & waiting." And there's boundless love for fellow dark-skinned people, "we caramelized children/ of dark stars."

As much as the collection is grounded in love, there's a hard-won ferocity in belonging, even moments of violence. "To make/ his mouth a sparkling smashed tomato," Smith writes of beating a man to defend family in "jumped!" And as the target of violence, the poet remembers "the bottoms of their shoes the sweet of a well-chewed eraser." These are relationships forged by suffering, by the act of surviving. Homie doesn't gloss over the oppression black people have suffered at the hands of white people. But neither does the poet slam the door on the possibility of love and reconciliation: "if you/ come to my door thirsty, i'll turn the faucet & fill/ the glass. if I come to your stoop, don't shoot." The poet's queerness likewise marginalizes them but only in the eyes of oppressors. In these poems, queerness becomes something of strangeness and beauty that makes human connection even richer.

Homie is a rousing paean to the people who matter most, including those lost but still fondly remembered. The collection is filled with passion and humanity and demonstrates why Smith has been called one of the best poets of their generation. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Shelf Talker: Danez Smith celebrates friendship in this immensely readable and glorious poetry collection.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Handselling Books to John Adams

With independent booksellers immersed in their holiday handselling season, I'd like to pause for just a moment and consider an extraordinary reading list I spent some time with last weekend inside the stone walls of Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York.

Henry Knox
(portrait by Glibert Stuart)

Imagine you're a Colonial-era bookseller who receives a letter, dated November 11 1775, from John Adams requesting book recommendations--staff picks, 18th-century style. And yes, it's that John Adams, who specifically asks for advice regarding "books upon the Military art in all its Branches."

If you're an excellent bookseller like Henry Knox, owner of the London Book-Store in Boston, you would normally put on your handseller's tricorn hat and get to work. Due to extenuating circumstances, however, Knox's answer was delayed for several months because he had already left Boston on an epic business trip.

Just before Independent Bookstore Day last April, I wrote about Knox, an iconic bookseller who played an instrumental role in the War of Independence when he conceived and executed the daring relocation, during the winter of 1775-76, of more than 50 captured British cannons overland from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston--an arduous journey of nearly 300 miles--to help end the British siege of the city.

Knox eventually rose to the rank of Major General, and later served in President George Washington's cabinet. But during the spring of 1776, in a spare moment between completing that nearly impossible mission and moving on to what would prove to be a long campaign under General Washington's command, Knox did finally compile a list of books for Adams.

Last Saturday, I took advantage of an opportunity to spend some time with those titles. Fort Ticonderoga was featuring a one-day exhibit, drawn from the fort's rare book collection, that reconstructed the Adams reading list. Unlike Knox, I made a not-so-harsh December journey north to the fort along a paved highway on the western shore of Lake George, to pay my respects to a bookseller and his recommendations.

After a short walk uphill from the snow-covered parking lot, I entered the fort, walked past a huddle of Revolutionary War reenactors gathered around a campfire, and headed for the building where the books were displayed in spartan surroundings.

As anyone who has spent their life under the spell of books knows, ghosts haunt old volumes in the best possible way, even when they are protected by security glass. Inside the fort, in the presence of those centuries-old titles, with the scent of wood smoke thick in the air, time became irrelevant.

Knox's list included French and British authors and covered topics such as artillery, fortifications and engineering that he felt were "necessary for a people struggling for Liberty and Empire."

Among these titles were John Muller's A Treatise of Artillery, first printed in 1757 and later published in Philadelphia (1779) in an edition dedicated to George Washington, Henry Knox and the officers of the Continental Army; and Mes Rêveries: Ouvrage Posthume De Maurice Comte De Saxe (1758), of which Knox told Adams: "There are a variety of Books translated into English which would be of great Service but none more so than the great Marechal Saxe 'who stalks a God in war' "

Also on exhibit were The New Method of Fortification as Practiced by Monsieur de Vauban, Engineer General of France (1702); Nouvelle Manière de Fortifier les Places (1699); A Treatise Containing the Elementary Part of Fortification, Regular & Irregular (1756); Les Fortifications (1745); L'Ingénieur de Campagne, ou Traité de la Fortification Passagère (1749); and La Science des Ingenieurs (1729).

While none of these titles is likely show up on holiday gift lists this year, my little pilgrimage to Fort Ticonderoga was a compelling reminder that books and booksellers make a difference in the world.

In a 2005 speech, author David McCullough said that when Washington took command of the Continental Army during the summer of 1775, he selected two men as the best he had: Nathanael Greene and a 25-year-old bookseller named Henry Knox, "a big, fat, garrulous, keenly intelligent man who... had only about the equivalent of a fifth-grade education but had never stopped reading. He, too, knew of the military only what he had read in books. But keep in mind that this was occurring in the 18th century, their present. It was the Age of Enlightenment, an era when it was widely understood that if you wanted to know something, a good way to learn was to read books...."

Perhaps Henry Knox is my ghost of Christmas past, present and future this year.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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