Shelf Awareness for Monday, March 30, 2020

Algonquin Young Readers: the Beautiful Game by Yamile Saied Méndez

Berkley Books: Books that will sweep you off your feet! Enter Giveaway!

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Pumpkin Princess and the Forever Night by Steven Banbury

St. Martin's Griffin: Murdle: The School of Mystery: 50 Seriously Sinister Logic Puzzles by GT Karber

Quotation of the Day

'Bookstores Can Be Saved'

"We will lose a lot in these next months. We've already lost too much. One thing we don't need to lose is our independent bookstores. You have watched all the episodes of Norsemen. I've watched them twice. Now we need books.... If there were ever a time to take a few extra moments to order through your local bookstore, it's now. Admittedly, all retail is and will be under unimaginable strain in the coming months, but bookstores are one category where, with owner ingenuity and community spirit, survival might be possible."

--Author Dave Eggers, in a post on McSweeney's Internet Tendency headlined "Bookstores Can Be Saved'

Blackstone Publishing: Rogue Community College: A Liberty House Novel by David R Slayton


International: Gardners Stops Taking New Orders; Canadian Indies Adapt

Gardners, the major U.K. book wholesaler, has temporarily suspended taking new orders for physical product because "providing our usual high quality service to the Book and Entertainment trades around the world... is becoming increasingly more difficult as this crisis develops," the company stated. "The safety and well-being of our amazing workforce is the primary reason for making this decision." Digital services are unaffected.

The company said it is "working hard to clear all outstanding orders over the coming days, so any existing orders should be processed" and thanked "all of our customers and suppliers for their ongoing support and business and we hope to be back up and running as soon as possible."


Window shopping at Munro's

Noting that in Canada "it is from independent bookshops across the country that all kinds of feel-good stories are emerging," the Globe and Mail reported that "customers are going out of their way to support them, telling local indies they would rather order books from them than Amazon and posting enthusiastic social media updates."

Joanne Saul, co-owner of Type Books in Toronto, is out delivering books in her mother's Hyundai Elantra. "I leave things on porches, I leave things in strollers, on the sidewalk, outside the door. I'm kind of like the Easter Bunny of books."

Chris Hall, owner of McNally Robinson, which has locations in Winnipeg and Saskatoon, said, "We have a great following and they want to make sure to see us on the other side of this thing."

The stories "come with uncertain endings," however, the Globe and Mail noted. "People who work in publishing and book selling fear the landscape will look a lot different post-pandemic.... Ben McNally Books, which saw a huge decrease in foot traffic as people began working from home, initially began focusing on phone orders, but has now shut down altogether, citing health concerns."

McNally said: "It was a sort of gradual and then more incremental decrease in business. And in fact towards the end it was mostly just people who have concern for our ongoing business who said look what can I do to keep you going?... I'm concerned about the long-term health of my business, of course, because who knows where this is going. I think the fact that people are not taking it seriously may be extending the length that these restrictions go on."

Jessica Walker, co-owner of Munro's Books in Victoria, B.C., has already made “major, major cuts," laying off about half of the staff. "I don't want there to be any illusions that we're just doing fine.... Right now I feel like our store will survive. But it will be a much smaller business and it will take a long time to recover."

Type's Saul wasn't predicting the future, either: "Long-term viability? Oh God, I don't know. We are just hoping that we can see this through by being as creative as we possibly can.... I'm hopeful that people will still want to read and continue to want to escape and also connect in a good book. People recognize how incredibly vulnerable small businesses are and how people need to dig in and support local now more than ever. We always appreciate that people choose us rather than clicking a button, but now it's even more gratifying."


Kenny Leck, owner of BooksActually in Singapore, unveiled "our new not-so-secret project," the Book Clinic on Instagram TV, with co-host Xin Ya and special appearances by bookstore cats Cake and Lemon. "Please give it a watch and let us know what you think!"


Rome's English-language bookshops "are battling the difficult days of lockdown with a series of initiatives and promotions," Wanted in Rome reported, noting that the Almost Corner Bookshop in Trastevere is attempting to "beat Covid-19 through culture" by offering Almost Vouchers. For every €10 (about $11) spent, patrons will earn €5 extra to spend on books as soon as the shop is able to re-open.

B&N Update; Powell's Hires Back 100; PubWest's Open Letter to Jeff Bezos

At the Barnes & Noble stores still open to the public (at least 400 of 627 are closed), the company has reduced operating hours and is "following all guidance from health officials regarding enhanced cleaning and hygiene and instructing our booksellers to practice social distancing and remain home if they feel ill," B&N said in a message to customers. "We respectfully ask our customers to observe social distancing while in our stores. Please check here for current store operating hours." At the open stores as well as many that are closed to in-person shopping, B&N is offering curbside pickup for online orders.

Most cafés are closed along with the stores; the open cafés are serving on a to-go or BN Café App pick-up basis only. Menus include coffee & beverages, coffee bags, tea tins, cookies, sandwiches, and more.

All planned events in the stores are canceled through the end of April, but B&N is offering virtual storytimes and is working on live virtual events with authors.

The company concluded: "At heart we are book lovers too, and like many of you, we turn to books for comfort and education, entertainment and escape, especially in times like this. For those of you who visit us at a store, our booksellers will be there to welcome you and recommend your next great read. We appreciate your support in these difficult times."


Because of a jump in online orders to, Powell's Books has called back more than 100 employees. At least 340 staff were let go earlier this month when the store had to close its five locations in and near Portland, Ore. In an open letter on Friday, owner Emily Powell wrote, in part:

"Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for your incredible and unwavering support. Your kind words, messages of encouragement, ideas for perseverance, and orders for books have taken our breath away.

"Thanks to your orders on, we now have over 100 folks working at Powell’s again--all full time with benefits. Most importantly, we’re working hard to keep everyone safe and healthy. Doing that work means we have to move a little slower as a company than usual. Please bear with us as we take all the necessary precautions to keep everyone healthy, and get your books headed your way."

Powell added that for now, the company is paying only "expenses that keep folks employed, and the lights on, for the time being. We can't do that forever--we love our vendors and business partners, and want to support them as well. Right now, however, our focus is on keeping Powell's moving, keeping our community healthy, taking care of our wonderful customers, and having as many folks working with health insurance as our sales can support.

"We don't know what the future holds--none of us does. We're going to keep the doors to open as long as we can, and we will open the doors to all of our stores as soon as it is safe to do so. In the meantime, we are eternally grateful for your support. We love nothing more than connecting readers and writers, and sending books out the door to their new homes. Your orders allow us to keep working and keep our team of incredible booksellers employed."

Powell also recommended that customers who want to help in other ways should consider donations to the Oregon Community Foundation COVID-19 Fund, to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) or to ILWU Local 5, the union that represents many Powell's Books employees.


In an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the board of directors of PubWest, which represents more than 200 small and midsize book publishers and associated companies, has asked Amazon to enact "a moratorium on certain fees during these unprecedented and difficult times." In particular, it asked Amazon to waive co-op, ASAP fees, and the Enhanced InStock Protection Program "retroactively from February 2020 through at least June 2020, though potentially longer given all the unknowns in this situation."

It noted that those fees, as well as freight allowances, "have increased over time," and said that Amazon's push for "both exceptionally deep discounts and the payment of various fees in order to remain as qualified vendors" has made "what was previously difficult... now untenable."

PubWest's letter also called Amazon's "decision to prioritize delivery of essential medical and household staples during this crisis... an understandable start, [but] we hope you revisit and expand upon this position as soon as possible in recognition of the essential human need for access to information, as well as the critical mental health support that connection and escape via reading can provide."

Just as Amazon is "providing essential supplies to people around the world," PubWest asked for the company to provide "this financial relief for publishers: In order to continue providing your customers with the books they need, to visibly promote your support of small businesses, and most importantly to help our essential industry survive."

Recognizing Amazon's roots in the book world, PubWest concluded, "Amazon began life as a bookseller. We ask that you acknowledge this core relationship and help us in our time of need."

PubWest president Colleen Dunn Bates, publisher of Prospect Park Books, summed the letter up this way: "We are facing a global crisis, and we are asking for help from Mr. Bezos to ensure that book publishers are able to weather this crisis and continue to supply Amazon with the books that its customers need and want."

How Bookstores Are Coping: Online & Curbside Sales; 'Essential' Recognition

Josh Niesse and Megan Bell, owners of Underground Books and Hills & Hamlets in Carrollton and Chattahoochee Hills, Ga., reported that both of their stores are closed following a mandatory shelter in place order that has shuttered all non-essential businesses. In fact, Bell and Niesse had decided to close their stores even before they were ordered to, because they "couldn't feel good about exposing our customers or employees to any risk." 

The pair spent most of last week taking home their inventory of vintage and antiquarian books, which numbers in the thousands, so they can continue to process orders from home. They've seen a definite uptick in online sales across most of their channels, and have been using their social media to try to drive people to their Bookshop and pages. Niesse, Bell and their team created curated lists based on topics like pandemic fiction, feel-good fiction and Self-Care for the Coronavirus & Beyond, which have proven popular, and they've started doing things like posting recommended reads from community members.

Even with the increase in online sales, however, Bell and Niesse estimate they're looking at a 70%-80% decline in total revenue. They've furloughed all four of their part-time staffers, with the hope of bringing them back at a later date. With so much uncertainty, they're taking things a day at a time and trying to pour as much of their creativity as possible into rolling with the punches and brainstorming new ideas. They added that while they don't know what the future holds financially, the most important thing for them is "doing our part to ensure that our neighbors and loved ones stay healthy and that our healthcare providers remain free and able to care for the most vulnerable in our community."


In Bethany Beach, Del., Bethany Beach Books is closed for browsing but booksellers are able to come in each to answer phone calls, fulfill online orders and do curbside pickup between 10 a.m and 4 p.m. Events coordinator Zandria Senft reported that she and her colleagues have seen a huge increase in online orders.

The store is offering free shipping, and staff members are trying to get the books in the mail as fast as possible. For a time, the store was unable to do curbside pickup because of an order issued by the state, but an exception was made and the store was able to resume pickup on Friday. Senft said it's been "very successful" and customers seem to like it.

Senft added that despite the popularity of online orders and curbside pickup, sales have definitely been affected, with customers no longer able to come in and browse. Staff members, however, are proving strong and adaptable and are "taking it one day at a time."


"And now, we regroup," Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C., posted on Facebook Friday. "For the past 14(?) days, our core staff of six has been working 5-6 days each week to get everything done and keep our community stocked with books. Each day, we've held our breath through city, county, and state announcements, hoping that we'll be allowed to keep going for one more day. Today, we got the amazing news that bookstores will be designated as essential--something we have always known. It feels incredible to have that recognition from others, and we are so lucky to have support from our state, county and town government and from all of you! We're so excited to keep working, but we kinda need a nap... so we're gonna hit pause for the weekend. Keep sending your online orders, and we'll get to them first thing next week. We hope everyone has a beautiful, restful weekend. We love you!"


In Bend, Oregon, Dudley's Bookshop Cafe owner Tom Beans told the Bulletin that between March 16 and March 24, the shop had benefited from the sale of 111 books online. "That has blown up. Thank God, that's out there. It's incredible."

Lane Jacobson, owner of Paulina Springs Books in Sisters, agreed: "We expect that is something that we're going to have to lean on heavily if there's, like, a forced closure. Because that allows people to order online, support whatever bookstore they choose that's affiliated with Bookshop, and then get books delivered straight to their door."

Both booksellers are also making deliveries to customers and providing curbside service. Deon Stonehouse, owner of temporarily closed Sunriver Books and Music, told the Bulletin that bookstores are included among non-essential services have been shut down in the Village at Sunriver, though Village restaurants remain open to takeout.

"I do not think that if I put a book in a bag and walk it out and hand it to somebody in their car that that is more dangerous than a restaurant cooking food, placing the food in a container and delivering that food to the person in their lobby," she said. "I just don't see that as more dangerous. And you can quote me on that."


Harriett's Bookshop, which opened earlier this year in Philadelphia, Pa., posted on Facebook: "We have no big team (yet), so last night my mother & I packaged and shipped tote bags for folks supporting us w/ a book purchase. We got out as many bags as we could thanks to Philly Kid Grafix. If you don't get one, please forgive us, supplies were limited. Just know regardless, we are deeply grateful & highly encouraged to keep the mission alive by any means necessary. Inside of each bag is an extra little gift. We hope it helps you get through this moment in time. Next up, it's on my heart to get books & lesson plans out to children & families. Not sure what to do yet but we are concocting a plan. Stay tuned."


Alsace Walentine, co-owner of Tombolo Books in St. Petersburg, Fla., told WUSF's Florida Matters: "It's a very, very, very scary time for many bookstores. With bookselling, there's an incredibly slim profit margin... because the price is printed on the book. So unlike other businesses, you can't set the price. You're already dealing in a limited, restricted way with your main product. And so I know a lot of folks who are really struggling."

She added that having faith in your business and community is critical at an uncertain time like this: "Staying positive is a really good foundation for all of this, but it's certainly hard."

Obituary Note: Molly Brodak

Molly Brodak, "a poet who chronicled the trauma she experienced as the child of a compulsive liar and bank robber in a critically acclaimed memoir," died March 8, the New York Times reported. She was 39. Before Brodak published Bandit: A Daughter's Memoir (2016), her poems appeared in Granta, Guernica and Poetry, among others, and in her collection, A Little Middle of the Night (2010), which won the Iowa Poetry Prize.

Bandit "was an unsparing account of her dysfunctional childhood with her father, Joseph Brodak, a tool and die worker who began robbing banks in the summer of 1994 to pay off his gambling debts. At the time, Molly was barely a teenager," the Times noted.

"The facts are easy to say; I say them all the time," she wrote in the book. "They leave me out. They cover over the trouble like a lid. This isn't about them." In a 2016 essay for the Daily Mail, she observed: "The only thing I've learned is that there are no easy answers; that simplistic narratives cannot be so easily laid over the messy and unpredictable events of the real world."

An accomplished baker, she appeared on ABC's The Great American Baking Show in 2019, the same year she started a home baking business called Kookie House.

In 2018, Brodak earned a National Endowment for the Arts grant, "which she used to travel to Poland for research on another memoir about the fluid nature of nationality, based on her father's parents, who were killed in the Holocaust," the Times noted. While that book, Alone in Poland, had not yet found a publisher, another collection of her poetry, The Cipher, was scheduled to be published by Pleiades Press this fall.

From her poem "In the Morning, Before Anything Bad Happens":

I know there is a river somewhere,
lit, fragrant, golden mist, all that,
whose irrepressible birds

can't believe their luck this morning
and every morning.

I let them riot
in my mind a few minutes more
before the news comes.

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
A Forty Year Kiss
by Nickolas Butler
GLOW: A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler

A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler is a passionate, emotionally complex love story that probes tender places within the heart and soul. When 60-somethings Charlie and Vivian--married then divorced in their 20s--reunite after four decades, they are swept up by the very best of what their romantic relationship once offered. "Anyone who has ever thought about what might have been will find this book fascinating," says Shana Drehs, senior editorial director at Sourcebooks Landmark. "The story is a brilliant exploration of a second chance at love, always realistic but never saccharine." As Charlie and Vivian build a bridge from past to present, their enduring love paving over potholes, Butler (Shotgun Lovesongs) raises questions about how life changes people--or does it?--and delivers another heartening, unforgettable novel. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

(Sourcebooks Landmark, $27.99 Hardcover, 9781464221248, 
February 4, 2025)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Image of the Day: Safe Signing

Mystery writer Elaine Viets gloved up for a safe, socially distanced signing for A Star Is Dead (Severn House), her new Angela Richman, Death Investigator mystery, at Murder on the Beach Bookstore, in Delray Beach, Fla. Murder on the Beach is temporarily closed, but still shipping books. For the signing, bookseller Stacey Schwartz placed copies of the book on the counter, and opened the side door. Viets wore gloves and brought her own pen to sign books. Schwartz took the photograph from six feet away.

Bridget Kinsella Joins Stanford University Press

Bridget Kinsella

Bridget Kinsella joined Stanford University Press as publicist two weeks ago, just hours before having to shelter in place and work with her new colleagues remotely, in accordance with California's efforts to stem the spread of Covid-19. Previously, she was publicity manager at the HarperOne Publishing Group, and also worked at Shelf Awareness and Publishers Weekly. She is the author of the nonfiction book Visiting Life (Random/Harmony, 2007).

Stanford University Press director Alan Harvey noted that Kinsella's publicity and journalism background is particularly welcome as the press continues to expand its trade list while maintaining its academic program, best known for its humanities, social sciences, business and law titles. "We are excited to see how Bridget joining the team helps escalate our publicity efforts beyond book reviews and will work to establish our author experts as resources to drive the public discourse," Harvey said.

Concerning her unusual first day, Kinsella said, "Luckily, I was able to get a laptop for remote work, but it did make for a strange beginning in my new post. But now I have extra reading time to dive right into the first few trade books I will be promoting, including Before Trans, about three gender-boundary-pushing individuals from fin-de-siècle France; Dreams of the Overworked, which delves into the realities of living, working and parenting in a digital age; Oilcraft, which likens the U.S. House of Saud-driven energy policy to witchcraft more than statecraft; and, for true escape during this time of social isolation, Good Pictures, a full-color history of popular photography, written by a Stanford art historian."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Erik Larson on Fresh Air

The View: Jonathan Karl, author of Front Row at the Trump Show (Dutton, $28, 9781524745622).

Fresh Air: Erik Larson, author of The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz (Crown, $32, 9780385348713).

Tonight Show: Jonathan Van Ness, author of Peanut Goes for the Gold (HarperCollins, $18.99, 9780062941008).

Movies: Project Hail Mary

Describing it as "a hot film deal," Deadline reported that "days after the town jumped all over the new novel by The Martian author Andy Weir, sources said that Project Hail Mary is in exclusive negotiations to be acquired by MGM in a 7-figure deal." Ryan Gosling will star and produce with Ken Kao. CAA is "brokering the book deal with David Fugate of Launch Books, after running an auction that hopefully will be the start of more deal making." The book is scheduled to be published next spring by Random House.

Deadline noted that after the success of the Ridley Scott-directed The Martian, "Weir's prose has been in high demand. His novel Artemis was set as a directing project for Phil Lord & Chris Miller, and the company made a big deal on a Weir idea married to the graphic novel Cheshire Crossing, the first project they set under their new deal at Universal."

Books & Authors

Awards: Business Book Winners

Greg Orme won the Business Book of the Year Award for The Human Edge: How Curiosity & Creativity Are Your Superpowers in the Digital Economy. This year's Business Book Awards, which "celebrate the work of authors who have shared their industry or market knowledge, experience and expertise in published book form," were announced during a virtual awards ceremony rather than the annual gala in London due to Covid-19 concerns. Check out the complete list of winners here.

From a shortlist of 73 books across 11 categories, the judges chose "the most innovative, pioneering and game-changing books of the year," then picked Orme's title, which had won the Sustainable Change category, as the overall winner. Babita Sharma was named the inaugural winner of the category that honors An Exceptional Book That Promotes Diversity for The Corner Shop.

Book Review

Review: Why We Swim

Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui (Algonquin, $26.95 hardcover, 288p., 9781616207861, April 14, 2020)

Journalist Bonnie Tsui (American Chinatown) submerges her personal story of how and why she's come to be intrigued with all facets of human aquatic experience in a larger investigation into the historical evolution of swimming.

Tsui's parents met at a swimming pool in Hong Kong. Tsui learned to swim at the age of five and, growing up, spent many hours in the surf at Jones Beach, a heavily frequented summer destination on Long Island. Tsui credits the recreational practice of swimming for keeping her afloat through her parents' divorce, college, knee surgery and miscarriage. Swimming has also tested Tsui's physical stamina in her San Francisco Bay swim to Alcatraz; her swim to an Italian monastery (and back); and the sublime experience of swimming across a lake at her wedding. Now, three decades later, she's an adult and mother of two young children, swimmers themselves. Tsui continues to swim in pursuit of peace, pleasure and exercise, while also on a quest to understand the many reasons why humans, who are not natural-born swimmers and must be taught, have always been drawn to water.

The research and analysis Tsui presents is thoroughly engaging: "Swimming can enable survival in ways beyond the physical.... We come closer to the acutely vivid experience of life itself. We evolve. Why we swim does, too." Since prehistoric times, human ancestors have led a "hunter-gatherer existence, pool-hopping as needed but mostly staying put by the water" for survival. There's evidence that Neanderthals lived off the sea 28,000 years ago. And 10,000 years ago, Homo sapiens first learned how to swim, as is recorded in images of the breaststroke painted on the walls of a cave in Egypt, near the Libyan border.

From this foundation, Tsui dives deeper into eclectic stories about collective and individual swimming experiences, including Olympic athlete Michael Phelps, who mentally calms his symptoms of ADHD through conditioning rituals and competitive swimming trials. The most fascinating case studies in the book, however, center on incredible plights. Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, an Icelandic fisherman, was forced to swim for his survival for six hours in dangerously frigid ocean waters when his vessel went down in the 1980s. Kim Chambers of New Zealand took up swimming following a freak accident--a fall--that left her seriously disabled. Water therapy helped her conquer innumerable challenges and led her to become a long-distance open-water swimmer, ultimately triumphing in the formidable Oceans Seven Marathon.

In presenting each story, Tsui shares what the water and swimming means to each individual, while also tying in inspiring insights. Tsui is a poetic writer whose flowing, immersive prose and colorful storytelling will hold significant appeal for readers--especially swimmers--of all curiosities. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines.

Shelf Talker: A journalist shares her personal passion for swimming as sport, survival and mental sustenance, setting it in the larger context of aquatic history.

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