Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 31, 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

'Independent Bookstores Are Connectors'

"Independent bookstores are connectors. They connect people to many worlds, to discover people and places we'd never know otherwise. They also connect readers to other readers, and to writers and poets. They provide people with a peaceful place to browse, a place for conversation, a refuge offering comfort and inspiration. Indie bookstores are where we find community.... Bookstores build a more compassionate and aware citizenry. Books allow us the hope of living in a world of shared humanity, as we become closer to those unlike us who we meet in books. Plain and simple, indie bookstores are the heart of their neighborhoods."

--Linda Kass, owner of Gramercy Books in Bexley, Ohio, and an author whose second novel, A Ritchie Boy (She Writes Press) will be released September 1. (via Bookselling This Week)

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


ABA Nominating Committee Formed, Black Bookseller Nominations Sought

The American Booksellers Association board approved the members of the nominating committee that is seeking nominations for two Black booksellers to be appointed to the board. The favorable vote took place at the board's virtual meeting July 21-24, Bookselling This Week reported.

The nominating committee consists of board member Jenny Cohen of Waucoma Bookstore, Hood River, Ore., who will serve as chair; board member Tegan Tigani, Queen Anne Book Company, Seattle, Wash.; Kathy Burnette, Brain Lair Books, South Bend, Ind.; Hannah Oliver Depp, Loyalty Bookstore, Washington, D.C., and Silver Spring, Md.; and Michael Herrmann, Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, N.H.

The move comes after the approval earlier this month of ABA bylaw changes that include enlarging the board to 13 from 11 members and requiring that at least four of the 13 board members be BIPOC and that two of the four be Black booksellers.

Member booksellers have until next Tuesday, August 4, to nominate Black booksellers--and can nominate themselves--to fill the two seats, according to BTW. Once appointed, the two booksellers will serve on the board until the next election, in April 2021, when they will be eligible for a full three-year term.

Amazon Second Quarter: Sales Jump 40%; Net Income Doubles

In the second quarter ended June 30, net sales at Amazon rose 40.2%, to $88.9 billion, and net income doubled, to $5.2 billion. The sales and net income gains easily beat analysts' estimates of $81.3 billion in sales, which resulted in an after-hours 6% gain in the company's stock, which rose to $3,235 a share.

The results were, of course, striking during a quarter when much of the country was under lockdown and economic stress. " delivered soaring quarterly sales and profit, leading a pack of tech giants on Thursday that reported thriving business during the throes of the coronavirus pandemic and highlighting the industry's central place in business and society at a time of growing concern over its clout," the Wall Street Journal commented. "The success of Amazon, Apple and Facebook in the face of a pandemic that has caused unprecedented economic disruption and millions of job losses shows how tech giants have become even more indispensable at a time when people are living and working more online. The companies showed strength in businesses ranging from gadgets and online retail to cloud computing and digital advertising."

The company's stock price is near its all-time high and its market capitalization is slightly over $1.5 trillion. Amazon now employs a million people, making it the second largest employer in the U.S., according to the Journal.

Amazon said it spent $4 billion in the quarter on coronavirus pandemic-related costs, including hiring more workers to meet the huge increased demand, particularly for groceries, whose sales tripled in the quarter compared to the same quarter in 2019.

The company said it expects net sales in the current third quarter to grow 24%-33%, to between $87 billion and $93 billion.

Int'l Update: New Canadian Independent Booksellers Association; Legendary HK Bookshop Closes; Romanian Book Sales

The Canadian Independent Booksellers Association has been formed by a founding board of 12 booksellers from across the country "and the organizational efforts of Doug Minett," former co-owner with his wife, Barb, of the Bookshelf in Guelph, Ont., for 40 years before they retired in 2013, Quill & Quire reported. The group plans to release more details over the next six weeks.

"After surveying more than 100 booksellers to determine what they would want from an association, CIBA incorporated in June, applied for funding from the department of Canadian Heritage, and released a five-point statement of purpose, Q&Q wrote.

CIBA will officially open to members once its operational structure is finalized. Minett, who expects to know whether Canadian Heritage has approved their grant application by October, said, "The Canadian indie publishers, and lots of the major players as well, realize that the absence of a bookselling association has been a huge problem."

In 2012, faced with an uncertain financial future, the Canadian Booksellers Association had entered into a new alliance with the independent division of Retail Council of Canada. "Finding the RCC didn't serve their specialized interests, independent booksellers have been discussing relaunching an association since 2017," Q&Q noted.


Swindon Book Company Ltd. is closing its Lock Road outlet in the heart of Hong Kong after more than a century in business as the bookseller moves its operations online. The South China Morning Post reported that "generations of Hongkongers have grown up with the English bookshop, with its signature marble shopfront and the golden fonts of its name surviving world wars, and the city's boom and bust, at its location in Tsim Sha Tsui."

"Swindon has been a part of Hong Kong's history for over a century, in our everyday lives as generations have grown up, and even as a backdrop in movies," the company said.

In addition to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, the store "has been embroiled in a dispute with its landlord, Noble Wisdom, over unpaid rent of HK$3.71 million [about US$478,690] dating back several years. In a writ filed with the High Court in May, the landlord demanded the full sum be paid and the company vacate the 5,000 sq. ft. premises," the South China Morning Post wrote.


Romanian online bookstore had a 27% year on year increase in the number of books ordered during the first seven months of 2020, coinciding with the social distancing requirements and the summer holidays, Romania Insider reported. Most of the books were ordered from Bucharest, Timişoara, Cluj-Napoca, Iaşi, and Braşov. The value of the average order was up 15%, to almost RON 100 (about $23.25). was established in 2009 and is 100% Romanian owned. Since its establishment, it has shipped 2.3 million orders to 1.2 million customers. --Robert Gray

How Bookstores Are Coping: Back to Bookselling; Changes in Demand

Sarah Bagby, owner of Watermark Books & Cafe in Wichita, Kan., reported that the bookstore side of her business reopened to browsing in May, while the cafe side continues to offer to-go service only. When the bookstore reopened, Bagby and her team removed all of the seating, devised a traffic flow marked with arrows and installed shields at the registers. 

"My concern is to make everybody safe," Bagby said. "The control I have is over what our protocols are, what my staff does. That said, our customers have been great."

Masks are required, and the vast majority of customers show up with their own. Those without masks, Bagby continued, tend to have just forgotten them at home and are happy to wear the masks that Watermark provides. She noted that there is now a mask mandate, which of course helps with compliance.

On the subject of reopening the cafe for eating in, Bagby said she would have to see a "pretty big downward trend" in cases to feel comfortable doing that. After Kansas reopened in May, cases began increasing, and are currently rising in her county at a level that's "concerning." Because of the cafe, Watermark is considered an essential business, so she doubts she'd have to close if or when there is another shutdown. She noted that the store is still offering online ordering and curbside pick-up, which continue to be in demand.

When they do decide to reopen the cafe, she continued, it would be for reservations only and with assigned seating. Bagby said the cafe would probably open only for lunch and with limited hours. It would no longer be a place where "you could just stroll in and have a cup of coffee."

Since reopening for browsing, Bagby said it feels like "we've gone back to our core business, which is selling books." Watermark is still doing some virtual events and, as a whole, sales are better than what Bagby and her team thought they would be. One silver lining amid everything is now being able to "concentrate just on selling books."

Looking ahead, there are some significant questions. Many of the payments that were deferred when the pandemic began are now coming due, and, Bagby said, "we'll see what kind of shape we're in" for the remainder of the summer. At the same time, it's unclear how the next stimulus plan will affect small businesses.

Watermark, like many stores around the country, saw huge demand for antiracist titles in late May and early June. Despite some initial trouble getting specific titles back in stock, supply has been steady since, and Bagby said she and her team are "going to do everything we can to make this not just a moment." In addition to creating antiracist displays featuring books for children and older readers, Watermark is also doing implicit bias training for staff and managers.


In Millbrook, N.Y., Merritt Bookstore has been open for browsing since the second week of June, said owner Kira Wizner. Throughout the spring, Wizner and her team were shipping orders, doing porch pick-up and offering contactless delivery for high-risk members of the community.

Customers are asked to wear masks, and hand sanitizer and gloves are available for them. Wizner and her staff have removed the interactive sample toys from the store and there is signage reminding customers to wear their masks and be mindful of spacing. There have been no problems with customers or community members refusing to wear masks, Wizner added.

On the subject of the protests against police brutality and systemic racism that began in late May and early June, Wizner reported that many people in the community were energized by the protests. She noted that while she's always had a wide selection of books about social justice in her store, they've never before sold this swiftly, especially antiracist titles. Said Wizner: "This is a big change from the past." --Alex Mutter

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


Masking Up: Schuler Books

Posted on Facebook by Schuler Books, with stores in Grand Rapids and Okemos, Mich.: "We've got new masks in stock by Out of Print for all you book nerds! Out of Print is the company that encourages you to 'wear your favorite stories and share your love of reading.' Since 2010, their mission has been to spread the joy of reading by transforming literary classics into bookish apparel and accessories. With every purchase, you help them to donate books and support literacy programs around the world. How awesome is that?"

Media and Movies

Historian Dan Jones Inks Exclusive Sony Pictures TV Deal

British historian and author Dan Jones has signed an exclusive deal with Sony Pictures Television to develop TV drama adaptations of his books through Sony companies including Left Bank Pictures and Eleven, Deadline reported. Jones's titles, which have sold more than a million copies around the world, include The Plantagenets and The Templars. He also worked with artist Marina Amaral on the The Colour of Time: A New History of the World, 1850-1960.

Deadline noted that Jones "is a fixture on British television, hosting more than 60 hours of documentaries, not least the Netflix/Channel 5 series Secrets of Great British Castles." In addition to adapting his books, Jones will consult with Sony Pictures TV's international producers, providing historical context and expertise to other productions.

"Dan has written some of the most popular histories of our time," said Wayne Garvie, Sony's president of international production. "He has a terrific slate of future projects and our great range of companies are the perfect companions to bring his ideas to the screen."

Jones added: "In a world rocked by massive global change there has never been a better time to make sense of it through history's greatest stories. I have always written my books with a cinematic sensibility, so I'm delighted to have made a deal with Sony Pictures Television to develop my stories old and new for the screen."

Books & Authors

Awards: 1945 Retro Hugo, Waterstones Children's Book Winners

The winners of the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards, announced during CoNZealand, the 78th World Science Fiction Convention, which is being held virtually, include Shadow Over Mars by Leigh Brackett as best novel, "I, Rocket" by Ray Bradbury as best short story and the Cthulhu Mythos by H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, and others as best series. See the full list of winners here.


Look Up! by Nathan Bryon, illustrated by Dapo Adeola, won the overall 2020 Waterstones Children's Book Prize, as well as the illustrated book category. The awards are voted for by booksellers, with category winners receiving £2,000 (about $2,505), and the overall winner getting an additional £3,000 (about $3,760).

Florentyna Martin, Waterstones children's buyer, commented: "The mold of traditional picture book storytelling is redefined for a new era in this joyful and energetic tale.... More than ever before, we are exploring non-fiction and inspirational characters at younger ages, and we champion Rocket's boundless enthusiasm, curious nature and kind spirit as a hero for us all. She is a little person with big dreams, who has captured our hearts."

Other category winners were High-Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson (young readers) and Bearmouth by Liz Hyder (older readers).

Reading with... Adrian Tomine

Adrian Tomine was born in 1974 in Sacramento, Calif. He began self-publishing his comic book series Optic Nerve when he was 16, and in 1994 he received an offer to publish from Drawn & Quarterly. His comics have been anthologized in publications such as McSweeney's, Best American Comics and Best American Nonrequired Reading. His graphic novel Shortcomings was a New York Times Notable Book of the year and his short story collection Killing and Dying was an instant New York Times graphic bestseller. Since 1999, Tomine has been a regular contributor to the New Yorker. The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist (Drawn & Quarterly, July 21, 2020) reflects on his comics career so far. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with his wife and daughters.

On your nightstand now:

The Swamp by Yoshiharu Tsuge
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
The Mayor of Macdougal Street by Dave Van Ronk with Elijah Wald
The Dairy Restaurant by Ben Katchor

Favorite book when you were a child:

Lamont, The Lonely Monster by Dean Walley and Don Page.

A few years ago, someone contacted me on Instagram, saying they had purchased a used copy of this book on eBay and found my name inscribed inside. I hadn't seen the book since I was around six years old, but I'd never forgotten it. When I responded with disbelief and excitement, the person very kindly put the book in the mail to me, even though she had just purchased it for her niece. The package arrived a few days later, and the combination of my nostalgia for the book, the crude scrawl of my own handwriting, and the unexpected generosity of that stranger brought me to tears.

Your top five authors:

Impossible to pick and rank just five, but a few of my favorites: Philip Roth, Raymond Carver, Flannery O'Connor, John Cheever, Zadie Smith.

Book you've faked reading:

Many comics and graphic novels (that I actually just looked at).

Book you're an evangelist for:

My own, when I'm obligated to. Like right now.

Book you've bought for the cover:

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin and How Fiction Works by James Wood, and I ended up enjoying them both.

Book you hid from your parents:

Not a book, but the story "Art School Confidential" by Daniel Clowes.

I desperately wanted to go to art school when I graduated from high school, and I couldn't bear the idea of my parents saying, "See? Even your hero Daniel Clowes thinks it's a waste of time and money!"

Book that changed your life:

Love & Rockets Volume 7: The Death of Speedy by Jaime Hernandez.

Favorite line from a book:

For some reason, I always cringe when someone quotes their favorite line from a book, so I think I'll abstain.

Five books you'll never part with:

When I moved across the country in a rush, I realized that a lot of books were more replaceable or less necessary than I thought. But for the sake of this interview, I'll say Lamont, The Lonely Monster by Dean Walley and Don Page, and a signed copy of Margaret by Kenneth Lonergan that a friend gave me as a gift.

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

More Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz.

Book Review

Review: Against the Loveless World

Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa (Atria, $27 hardcover, 384p., 9781982137038, August 25, 2020)

Returning to the Palestinian multigenerational epic format that made her debut novel, Mornings in Jenin (2010), an international bestseller, Susan Abulhawa's haunting Against the Loveless World features another extended Palestinian clan enduring exile, surviving persecution and (sometimes) cheating death.

Abulhawa's compelling cipher is a woman with four names, each imbued with significant meaning. Born in Kuwait, her 1967 birth certificate identifies her as Yaqoot, chosen by her father without her mother's consent, a nod to the first of his many mistresses. Her mother called her Nahr, meaning river, honoring the River Jordan she crossed while pregnant to escape what would be declared the Six Day War. She was Nanu to her beloved younger brother, for whose education she would later become Almas, meaning diamond, made resistant but valuable. Decades later, as a middle-aged woman, she's imprisoned in the Cube in Israel, condemned as a terrorist. Trapped in high-tech solitary confinement, she's secured a pencil, then paper, after a long battle with the guards--"I won"--that included writing obscenities in menstrual blood and feces on her cell wall. "I stare at the blank pages now, trying to tell my story." And so she begins: "My life returns to me in images, smells, and sounds, but never feelings. I feel nothing."

With that detachment in place, Nahr--her preferred moniker "for the purer part of [her]"--reveals a difficult, rebellious life. She married, at 18, boorish Mhammad, who called her Tamara in bed and left two years later to return to his true love. She was befriended by an older Iraqi Kuwaiti woman who manipulated her into prostitution; with her father's death, her soul-stealing earnings supported her family. Her ability to "be [her] family's breadwinner, the powerful woman who took care of others" was not without pride: "There was something alluring about living on the margins, in secret disrepute." Savage politics displaced the family again, ejecting them from Kuwait into Jordan. Finally seeking divorce from long-missing Mhammad, Nahr traveled to Palestine where her still-in-laws' unconditionally warm welcome inspired new hope, even new love. But in her ancestral homeland, she also witnessed the relentless subjugation, torture, even murder of her people. Being a bystander was not an option.

Like Nahr, Abulhawa herself was born in Kuwait in 1967 to Palestinian exiles who fled the Six Day War. Through Nahr, Abulhawa seamlessly, affectingly parallels Palestine's brutal, occupied history during the last half-century, humanizing headlines with names, families, dates, memories that belong to people with whom readers can identity, believe, empathize, mourn and ultimately, albeit tentatively, celebrate. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: A Palestinian woman trapped in solitary confinement remains unbowed as she records her decades of displacements, disappointments, betrayals--intertwined with glimmers of hope, joy and undying love.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: You're Gonna Need a Bigger Bookcase for this Summer's Staycation

Staycation advice from Books A Plenty in Tauranga, New Zealand

"This summer, the vacation has become a no-win situation: unattainable for those who can't afford it, dispiriting and unsatisfying for many who can." Pop quiz: Where did I just read this sentence? If you guessed a New York Times piece that bemoans the fate of holiday trips due to the Covid-19 pandemic, you're only half correct. Alex Williams did write this article on "staycations" for the Times, but it was published in the July 20, 2008 edition under the headline "Pfffffffffft! There Goes the Vacation."

He also observed: "To most Americans, a summer getaway is a crucial component of the life-work compact: they trade 50 weeks of cubicle-bound servitude for two weeks of sun-dappled bliss, and it seems worth it (well, almost). But halfway through the 2008 season, vacationers (and would-be vacationers) are being squeezed by a confluence of dismal economic realities...."

Fast forward 12 years and 2020 boldly proclaims: "Hold my beer."

Another accidental prognosticator in 2008 was R. Moke McGowan, president of the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, who said: "We're in uncharted waters--there's no question about it. If anyone says they can draw on experience from the gas lines of the 1970s or post-Katrina or post-9/11, he is engaged in wishful thinking. Everybody is looking at their crystal balls hard and unknowingly."

Uncharted waters, aka: "You're gonna need a bigger boat." Or bookcase.

Staycation fashion at Third Place Books, Seattle, Wash.

Deep into a Covid-infested summer when even staycations, depending upon where you live, can be death-defying, we are grateful, professionally and personally, that reading still has the ability to take us anywhere in the world. We've all heard a version of that philosophy a few thousand times, going back to when we were a kids. Now it's part of the business plan.

Even though thousands of unmasked, Covid-seeking zombies are apparently still invading summer tourist destinations, I suspect most rational people are not. Staycation season is underway, with indie booksellers happy to play the role of tour guides.

In Galway, Ireland, for example, Charlie Byrne's Bookshop advised: "Planning your #staycation in Ireland for this summer? We have loads of great books highlighting the best spots in Ireland to spend your holiday!"

Dutch bookseller the American Book Center in Amsterdam asked: "Are you also having a staycation this year? Enjoying the wonderful Dutch summer weather with lots of rain, clouds and wind? Do like our Lea does: Take your towel out to the city beach called Spui and read an awesome summer read like Kevin Kwan's new Sex and Vanity. What are you planning to read during your holidays?"

Here in the U.S., a recent e-newsletter from Green Apple Books, San Francisco, Calif., noted: "Howdy fellow readers! As many of us defer our usual summer travel plans in favor for staying home and staying safe, we wanted to share with you some of our favorite books on travel. When all else fails, it's a great (and inexpensive) way to see the world.... Our other suggestion? Sign on to one of our many virtual events. This is an exceptional way to break routine and learn about something outside of your wheelhouse (like farming, alien encounters or stand-up comedy). We hope to see you there!"

Reading Staycation trips available at Gottwalls Books, Warner Robins, Ga.

Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash., offered similar advice: "Travel may be out of the question for now, but there's plenty to explore right here in Seattle! Here are just a few guidebooks we'd recommend--check out our stories for a closer look and don't forget, we're offering curbside pickup and free nationwide shipping."

#ANovelStaycation travel package is being touted by Novel., Memphis, Tenn.: "Today's #staycation destination is the good ol' 901. Have you picked up I Love Memphis Holly Whitfield's new book SECRET MEMPHIS yet? It is full of weird & wonderful local landmarks, many of them outdoors and social-distancing-approved, including the Labyrinth Tree of Life at the Cancer Survivor's Park (shown by bookseller John here in photo 2). Novel also carries all sorts of local books, snacks, and gifts to help you toast our fair but sweltering city indoors in the AC!"

The Bluestocking Bookshop, Holland, Mich., asked the question of the season: "Okay, who else is getting sick of staying home...? I'm starting to think that it's time to #travel, but reality says that the world isn't ready for that yet. Where would you travel right now, if you could? We have guidebooks, but travel #memoirs and #artcollections are a fabulous way to get to know somewhere new!"

Staycations can take many weird and wondrous forms ("A woman re-created the entire travel experience in her home"; "This airport in Taiwan offers fake travel experiences"; "IKEA creates 'Vacations in a Box' "), but during this most hazardous of summers, we've opted for a reading staycation. And we're definitely gonna need a bigger bookcase.

--Robert Gray, editor

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