Shelf Awareness for Thursday, August 13, 2020

Atlantic Monthly Press: Those Opulent Days: A Mystery by Jacquie Pham

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

Carolrhoda Lab (R): Here Goes Nothing by Emma K Ohland

Allida: Safiyyah's War by Hiba Noor Khan

Ace Books: Servant of Earth (The Shards of Magic) by Sarah Hawley


Needing to Move, New England Mobile Book Fair Launches Fundraiser

The New England Mobile Book Fair bookstore, Newton, Mass., has launched a $75,000 GoFundMe campaign to help it "move, restock, take care of our staff and take us into the future." The store must vacate its location by the end of August because its building is being razed, and is seeking a new site.

The store noted that major retailers moved from the area last summer, "leaving us with little walk in traffic and too little revenue to cover overhead. The Book Fair has been closed since mid-March due to the pandemic and we couldn't even process on-line orders with only a few staff who had to stay safely at home. Without being able to generate income we have no revenue, but the bills keep coming in.

"We have applied for every means of support, including SBA federal loans and local grants. We have received some very small amounts that haven't even met our short-term needs. It humbles us to ask for your support. We understand how difficult these times are for everyone and we know that many organizations are in need. If you are in a position to support us, we will be so grateful to receive the help."

Tom Lyons bought the bookstore from its original owner in 2011, when the New England Mobile Book Fair still resided in a warehouse and was the largest independent bookstore in New England. In 2017, he had to downsize, and found the temporary location that must be vacated now.

On the GoFundMe site, Lyons added, "Bookstores are a source of knowledge, inspiration and invention as well as gathering places for the pursuit of ideas and imagination, especially for children. The pandemic has created a serious threat to our survival. Hopefully, with your help and support we will be able to relocated and safely reopen. I thank you for your past support and with luck we can be back to having safe gatherings in the bookstore. Please stay safe."

PM Press: P Is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book by Golbarg Bashi, Illustrated by Golrokh Nafisi

The Bookstore in Lenox, Mass., Meets Fundraising Goal Quickly

"Friends--Wondering how we are weathering the pandemic? Not Well. Please check out our GoFundMe. We need help," Matt Tannenbaum, owner of the Bookstore, Lenox, Mass., posted on Facebook Tuesday, after launching a "Save the Bookstore" fundraiser. By Wednesday afternoon, the $60,000 goal had already been met and far exceeded.

In an update, Tannenbaum wrote: "Oh my goodness! I am overwhelmed by the support. Thank you everyone. So sweet.... I am speechless."

On the fundraising page, he had noted: "As busy as we are every day--and yes, we are thankful we're busy--the fact is this: business is down, way down. Sales each week are what they used to be each day. We belong to each other, you and I. If you live nearby, we usually see you pretty regularly. If you're a part-timer, or a summer renter, or a weekender or just an accidental visitor, chances are if you came through our door once, you've probably come back again and again. In the old days I might have sold books to your parents or grandparents. Today I'm selling them, curbside, to you, to your children and grandchildren. But if I want to continue, and if you want me to continue, I am going to need your help....

"Curbside revenue doesn't begin to cover the day-to-day expenses like rent, payroll, utilities, insurance and all the other costs of doing business. Until we can safely open our doors again, and I just don't know when that will be, I most humbly ask you to help me get through. My aim, my pledge to you remains the same as it's ever been--to offer the best in the world of books. But Covid-19 is more formidable than anything we've ever faced."

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Intermezzo by Sally Rooney

International Update: Bertrams' Small Sum for Large Debt; Amazon to Open in Sweden

Bertrams, the former U.K. wholesaler that went bankrupt and closed in June, has only £600,000 (about $785,000) to pay debts to creditors that total £25 million ($32.7 million), the Bookseller reported, citing bankruptcy documents.

Among the publishers with large debts are Penguin Random House's distribution company Grantham Book Services (more than £2 million); HarperCollins Distribution (£2 million); MDL, Pan Macmillan's distribution company (£1.7 million); Oxford University Press (more than £1 million); and Pearson Education (more than £1 million). There are also many smaller publishers with significant debts owed by Bertrams.

Gardners, the other main U.K. wholesaler, bought the assets of Bertrams and is reopening Bertrams' main warehouse in Norwich as part of Gardners. The Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland bought Bertrams' bookshop stock control, ordering and EPOS system, Bertline, to support independent retailers, and has begun publishing Booktime magazine, which is aimed at book readers and is distributed through bookshops.


After several months of speculation, Amazon has confirmed that the service will launch in Sweden this fall, the European and International Booksellers Federation reported.

In a press release in Sweden, Amazon said: "Amazon has been available to Swedish consumers and companies through various European websites for several years, but the next step is to introduce a complete detailed selection in Sweden, and that is what we plan to do now." Swedish media report that the service will include books, which will be fulfilled from a warehouse in Eskilstuna.

The EIBF acknowledged that the Swedish bookselling industry, especially within the digital sphere, "faces a tough competitor," but that the book market in Sweden has already undergone a series of digital transformations in the past few years, so Amazon could find its entry more challenging than anticipated.


Tanja Messerli

Tanja Messerli has become the interim managing director of the Swiss Booksellers and Publishers Association, succeeding Daniel Waser, who took the position in December 2019 and has resigned in order to take on a new challenge, the association said.

Messerli has a strong background in the book industry and communications, most recently heading the bookstore and client communications for the Economic and Executive School in Bern from 2011 until last month.

Messerli will be interim managing director until a new managing director is found. Then she will be the editor-in-chief of Schweizer Buchhandel (Swiss Bookselling) and will head member, media and public communications for the association.

How Bookstores Are Coping: Mask Compliance; An Unexpected Move; Community Support

This spring, Montana was among the first states in the country to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic, with retailers allowed to resume in-store operations in late April. Shawn Wathen and Mara Luther, owners of Chapter One Book Store in Hamilton, Mont., decided to reopen in April. Wathen reported that when they initially reopened, they did not require customers to wear masks but heavily encouraged them to do so, and, depending on the day, 50%-80% of customers wore masks.

At the time, Wathen explained, Montana was "still a bit of a Xanadu," with low numbers of infections, very few deaths and a 14-day quarantine period imposed on all out-of-state visitors. That mandatory quarantine was lifted in June, he continued, and both infections and deaths have been on a steep rise ever since as travelers and tourists have "flooded the state."

The governor has since issued a mandatory mask directive, which gave Wathen and Luther more leverage for enforcing masks in store, but unfortunately, the local sheriff and county commissioners opted to not enforce the directive. That decision led to the resignation of Hamilton's public health officer and some staff. Wathen wrote to the commissioners to express his displeasure, which he said "did not go well."

"It would be grand if Mara and I were able to not have to discuss the state's mask policy every day," he said, "but no such luck." He noted that while most people are wearing masks now, there are still those who try to avoid doing so, and on rare occasions some customers will walk out of the store rather than put on a mask. "The idea that a public health directive is a political issue flabbergasts me," he said.

Wathen and Luther have continued to social distance, disinfect surfaces and offer curbside and online services. He recalled that after one customer made a dismissive comment about their jars of sterilized and dirty pens, Luther explained that with only two people running the store, they would have to close if either got sick. The customer seemed to appreciate that point. It is another instance, Wathen added, of booksellers having to be community educators.

After protests began in late May in response to the killing of George Floyd, Wathen and Luther devoted their main street front window to a display of topical books. They also wrote the names of more than 50 Black men and women killed by police over the last five years on the glass. He added that although Hamilton is very white, he and Luther are trying to keep these issues "in the front of our public consciousness."


In Mt. Vernon, Ill., King City Books has been closed since the onset of quarantine. Due to a 57% rent increase at the store's original location, owners Kendra Peterson and her daughter Julie Kubitz had planned to permanently close the store this spring.

Instead, said Kubitz, a long-time customer came into the store a little bit before quarantine began and told them "you are moving into my building." It was the kind of offer that one doesn't refuse, she noted, and the ensuing quarantine was actually something of a "blessing in disguise," as it gave her and Peterson a chance to get everything packed and move out of the old building.

They began renovations in the new building at the end of May. In addition to putting in new floors and a new coat of paint, they've been busy building an ADA-accessible bathroom, an office, registers and counters for the store's cafe area. Kubitz said it was her dream to be back up and running by the end of July, but it looks like mid-September is much more likely. Kubitz had also hoped to set up an IndieLite store for King City Books, but she hasn't had the time yet. Instead they've been making due with sales and an incredible amount of community support.

"It has warmed our hearts that so many people were very upset with the initial decision to close," said Kubitz. "If it weren't for the kindness of others, there wouldn't be a future for King City Books."


Arlene Lynes, owner of Read Between the Lynes in Woodstock, Ill., said she's reopened for browsing and is operating at around 30% of the store's previous hours. She and her staff have taken out some displays to give customers more space and have marked out preferred traffic patterns on the floor. There are plexiglass barriers around the cafe ordering areas and the checkout stations. One of those stations, she added, has been shut down to give staff members more space. Thankfully, Lynes added, the store hasn't experienced any problems with mask compliance. --Alex Mutter

Obituary Note: Betty Rowlands

Betty Rowlands, who wrote 25 books and was dubbed the "queen of cosy crime" by publisher Bookouture, died July 29, the Bookseller reported. She was 96. Rowlands' writing career began when she was in her mid-60s, after winning the Sunday Express/Veuve Clicquot Crime Short Story of the Year Competition in 1988.

She was first published in the 1990s by Hodder & Stoughton and Severn House, then digitally by Orion's Murder Room imprint, "before Bookouture took on her books as a backlist acquisition, giving them new titles, covers and a vigorous publication schedule," the Bookseller noted. Her 12 Melissa Craig mysteries were set in the Cotswolds, where Rowlands lived for many years before moving to Bristol.

"When I visited Betty last year, she reminded me that the best books have, 'a little bit of sex and not too much violence,' " said Maisie Lawrence, her editor. "When I gently probed her about writing a couple more books, she looked me straight in the eye and said that sounded 'a lot like hard work.' One of my favourite things about Betty is that for most of the last year, the only author she read was herself. She loved our new audio editions of her books and enjoyed getting to know her characters again. I wasn't ready for our conversations to end and will miss her more than I can say."


Image of the the Day: Northernmost Visit

Last evening, a group of independent booksellers gathered on Zoom to celebrate and discuss Peter Geye's new novel, Northernmost (Knopf, August 18). Pictured are: (l.-r., top row) author Peter Geye; Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books; Mary O'Malley, Skylark Bookshop; (middle row) Alex George, Skylark Bookshop; Kristen Sandstrom, Apostle Island Booksellers; Nancy Simpson-Brice, The Book Vault; (Bottom Row) Lisa Baudoin, Books & Company; Jessalyn Norcross,  McLean and Eakin Booksellers.

'We've Been Working Really Hard to Get All Spiffed Up'

"We are now open for browsing!" Subterranean Books, St. Louis, Mo., announced on Facebook yesterday, adding: "We've been working really hard to get all spiffed up--there were 11(!) light bulbs burned out. So many new books have arrived over the last 5 months that it's very difficult to choose just what to display but we really just can't wait to share it all with you. We've missed you."

Video: 'Staff Takeover' at McLean & Eakin Booksellers

There was a "staff takeover" at McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, Mich., as booksellers briefly wrested control of the store's camera away from owners Matt and Jessilyn Norcross because they had "something really cool to say" about the new M&E-themed "Stay at Home and Read" items from Bonfire. Jessilyn returns to restore order at the end of the video.

Personnel Changes at Soho Press

Rudy Martinez, formerly marketing manager, has been promoted to director of marketing at Soho Press and has joined the company's senior leadership team as a vice president.

Media and Movies

This Weekend on Book TV: Books on Joe Biden

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, August 15
12 p.m. Book TV explores titles about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and the upcoming election. (Re-airs Sunday at 5 p.m.)

3:25 p.m. Miles Harvey, author of The King of Confidence: A Tale of Utopian Dreamers, Frontier Schemers, True Believers, False Prophets, and the Murder of an American Monarch (Little, Brown, $29, 9780316463591), at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Mich.

4:30 p.m. Nina Jankowicz, author of How to Lose the Information War: Russia, Fake News, and the Future of Conflict (I.B. Tauris, $27, 9781838607685).

5:30 p.m. Authors Elizabeth Hinton, Robin Kelley, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and Cornell West discuss the Black Lives Matter movement and its future, at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass. (Re-airs Monday at 1 a.m.)

7 p.m. Authors Michael Pillsbury, Robert Spalding and Bill Gertz discuss China and its relationship with the U.S. (Re-airs Sunday at 11 a.m.)

Sunday, August 16
8:05 p.m. Melissa Korn and Jennifer Levitz, authors of Unacceptable: Privilege, Deceit & the Making of the College Admissions Scandal (Portfolio, $28, 9780593087725).

9 p.m. John Yoo, author of Defender in Chief: Donald Trump's Fight for Presidential Power (All Points Books, $29.99, 9781250269577). (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

10 p.m. Anne Applebaum, author of Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism (Doubleday, $25, 9780385545808).

11 p.m. Larry Tye, author of Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $36, 9781328959720).

Books & Authors

Awards: Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color, Singapore Book Winners

Yasmin McClinton has won the 2020 Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award, sponsored by Sisters in Crime and given annually to an emerging writer of color who has not yet published a full-length work. Named in honor of pioneering African-American crime fiction author Eleanor Taylor Bland, the award carries a $2,000 grant and was established in 2014. In addition, this year Sisters in Crime expanded the Award to provide funded memberships to the organization for five runners-up: Christina Dotson, Tony Hernandez, Robert Justice, Raquel V. Reyes and Manju Soni.

Winner Yasmin McClinton commented: "Authors like Ms. Bland show me that women of color--writers of color--can be authors in any genre they want and really bridge gaps. I shared with my daughters that I won this award. My daughters have been with me through the hardest times of my life. And I wanted to show them that their overly protective, annoying mom has dreams from her childhood coming true, even today. And, she can be chosen for prestigious awards like the Sisters in Crime Eleanor Taylor Bland award. So, Girls, no giving up. Ever!"


The winners of the 2020 Singapore Book Awards, sponsored by the Singapore Book Publishers Association, were announced today at a virtual awards ceremony:

Book of the Year 2020: The Way of Kueh: Savouring and Saving Singapore's Heritage Desserts (Epigram Books)
Best Literary Work: Fall Baby (Penguin Random House SEA)
Best Non-Fiction Title: Homeless: The Untold Story of a Mother's Struggle in Crazy Rich Singapore (Epigram Books)
Best Illustrated Non-Fiction Title: The Way of Kueh: Savouring and Saving Singapore's Heritage Desserts (Epigram Books)
Best Middle Grade/Young Adult Title: Luminous Sword--Book 3, Keys of Archellos (Armour Publishing)
Best Picture Book: Counting Sheep (Marshall Cavendish International (Asia))
Best E-Book Title: think! Additional Mathematics e-textbooks A and B (10th edition) (Shing Lee Publishers)
Best Audiobook Title: Penghuni Rumah Tua (Pustaka Nasional)
Best Education Title: How to Build a Dragon: A Satirical Look at Cutting-Edge Science (World Scientific Publishing Co.)
Best Book Cover Design: The Angel Tiger and Other Stories (Epigram Books)
Best Digital Marketing Campaign: Storytel Singapore's Digital Marketing Campaign

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, August 18:

Royal: A Novel by Danielle Steel (Delacorte, $28.99, 9780399179655) follows a British princess sent to the countryside during World War II.

The Jackal by J.R. Ward (Gallery, $28, 9781501195068) continues a fantasy romance series.

The Less Dead by Denise Mina (Mulholland, $28, 9780316528511) is a thriller about an adopted daughter investigating the murder of her biological mother.

The Smallest Lights in the Universe by Sara Seager (Crown, $28, 9780525576259) is the memoir of an MIT astrophysicist widowed with two young kids.

Show Them You're Good: A Portrait of Boys in the City of Angels the Year Before College by Jeff Hobbs (Scribner, $28, 9781982116330) follows four Los Angeles teenagers applying for college.

Don't Ask Me Where I'm From by Jennifer De Leon, illus. by Elena Garnu (Atheneum, $18.99; 9781534438248) shows Latinx teen Liliana Cruz learning how to code switch to fit in at her nearly all-white school.

Displacement by Kiku Hughes (First Second, $17.99, 9781250193537) is a YA graphic novel in which a young woman is transported to the 1940s internment camp in which her Japanese American grandmother was held.

Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane (Norton, $17.95, 9780393358094).

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

The Vanishing Sky: A Novel by L. Annette Binder (Bloomsbury, $27, 9781635574678). "In the waning months of World War II, as allied forces are closing in from both sides, the devastation of war has reached the Huber family as it struggles to stay intact. With an older son changed forever by the Eastern Front, a younger son heading out to the Western Front, and a husband growing increasingly nationalistic and senile, a mother keeps pushing forward with the hope of having her whole family back together under one roof. In this incredibly moving and personal look at the destruction of Germany that ultimately ended the war, Binder tackles a range of issues within countries and families. In the realm of historical fiction, The Vanishing Sky is a true standout." --Carl Kranz, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va.

Miracle Country: A Memoir by Kendra Atleework (Algonquin, $27.95, 9781616209988). "Miracle Country is one of those books that takes on the personality of the place in which it's set, and in the case of the Owens River Valley, that personality is starkly beautiful and full of rugged vitality. Atleework's unflinching combination of personal and natural exploration is the perfect complement to the backdrop of the High Sierra, and she somehow manages to encapsulate both the allure and the contemptuousness of the mountains--and existence in general--through an examination of her own life. Harsh and brutal, resplendent and inviting, this book makes the Sierra Nevada tangible in a way that only great writing can." --David Nurick, Cellar Door Books, Riverside, Calif.

How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir by Saeed Jones (Simon & Schuster, $17, 9781501132742). "Saeed Jones is supremely talented, so I expected his memoir to be great. I did NOT expect, however, to be left immobile in my chair after reading that final paragraph, processing the beauty of his words and those indelible sentences he's generous enough to share with us. How We Fight for Our Lives is a moving and intimate portrait of the writer growing up as a young, gay Black man and trying to understand the complex realities of his identity. We also gain insight to Jones' relationship with his mother, a story that left me in pieces by the end. How We Fight for Our Lives is raw, difficult, and truthful, and completely stuffed with love." --Eugenia Vela, BookPeople, Austin, Tex.

For Ages 4 to 8
After Squidnight by Jonathan Fenske (Penguin Workshop, $12.99, 9781524793081). "This might be my new favorite picture book! A wonderfully weird and completely hilarious story about the power of art and squids. Beautifully illustrated, full of great rhymes, and topped off with the perfect amount of creepy--I loved every ink-soaked page." --Zach Claypole White, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

For Ages 9 to 12
Rise of ZomBert by Kara LaReau and Ryan Andrews (Candlewick, $15.99, 9781536201062). "What would you do if you found a stray cat in a dumpster? Would you take it home knowing your parents don't approve of pets of any kind? Well, that's exactly what Mellie does, keeping it hidden from her parents. Little does she know that the cat has escaped from an experimental lab. And before long, the mystery--and the chase--is on!" --Judith Lafitte, Octavia Books, New Orleans, La.

For Teen Readers
Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon (Simon Pulse, $18.99, 9781534440241). "With pitch-perfect teenage twitterpation and whip-smart repartee, Solomon puts a 21st-century spin on the classic 'frenemies become lovers' romance. But this is more than a romance--it's also about what it means to be a true friend and how to stand up for yourself. It features a city-wide scavenger hunt through Seattle that will make you want to plan a trip yourself." --Sam Miller, Carmichael's Bookstore, Louisville, Ky.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader's Guide to a More Tranquil Mind

Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader's Guide to a More Tranquil Mind by Alan Jacobs (Penguin Press, $25 hardcover, 192p., 9781984878403, September 8, 2020)

The third volume in a series that includes How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds and The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, Baylor University humanities professor Alan Jacobs's Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader's Guide to a More Tranquil Mind makes a gentle, yet insistent, argument for the "value of paying attention to old books that come from strange times and are written in peculiar language and frankly don't make a whole lot of sense."

Jacobs locates what he calls our "sense of defilement"--the idea that consorting with thinkers of the past somehow makes us unclean--in two contemporary phenomena: information overload and social acceleration. Together, these unfortunate features of life in the Internet age require a "rough-and-ready kind of informational triage" that compels us to "learn to reject appeals to our time, and reject them without hesitation or pity." The antidote for this affliction is the quality of "temporal bandwidth," a term he borrows from Thomas Pynchon's novel Gravity's Rainbow, suggesting that by widening our present, engaging constructively with the past is a way of "simultaneously slowing us down and giving us more freedom of movement. It is a balm for agitated souls."

For a slim volume, one he wryly refers to as a "self-help book," Jacobs marshals an impressive body of evidence from writers as diverse as Horace and Zadie Smith to craft his argument for sympathetic engagement with sources whose ideas may seem strange, or even repulsive, as in the case of Edith Wharton's anti-Semitism in The House of Mirth. By accepting an invitation to the metaphorical meal suggested by the book's title, no matter how awkward it may feel, he argues, we are experiencing "a relatively nonthreatening, and yet potentially enormously rewarding, way to practice encountering difference."

But Jacobs is offering a prescription whose value extends far beyond its usefulness in negotiating the challenges of Twitter wars and Facebook unfriending. One especially powerful story he recounts is that of Frederick Douglass, whose speech on July 4, 1852, simultaneously praised and denounced the legacy of the Founding Fathers--a moving example of one man's frank reckoning with a painful past. It's an especially pertinent illustration at this moment in U.S. history. At a time when many Americans, compelled by tragic events to confront a legacy of racism, are engaged in deep reflection about the meaning of the nation's history, Breaking Bread with the Dead is an exceptionally useful companion for those who want to do so with honesty and integrity. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Humanities professor Alan Jacobs makes a persuasive case for the benefits of reading texts from other times.

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