Shelf Awareness for Monday, September 14, 2020

 Kokila: Everything We Never Had by Randy Ribay

Nancy Paulsen Books: Sync by Ellen Hopkins

Running Press Adult: Cat People by Hannah Hillam

Beaming Books: Must-Have Autumn Reads for Your Shelf!

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

Severn House: A Messy Murder (Main) (The Decluttering Mysteries #4) by Simon Brett

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron


Comma Bookstore Opens in Flint, Mich.

The Comma Bookstore and Social Hub, an independent bookstore with a mission of highlighting Black and brown authors, creators and culture, has opened in Flint, Mich., MLive reported.

Owner Egypt Otis, an activist and Flint native, launched a GoFundMe campaign earlier this summer to help her open the store. She has raised just over $11,440, and the store's official first day was September 9. Over the weekend, Otis hosted a grand opening celebration featuring live music.

"My vision for it was to create a centralized space where we can have accurate representation of people, and when they come in here I want them to feel like they see themselves on the shelves," Otis told MLive.

In addition to books, Comma sells art and other items, all locally sourced. Otis added: "We face a lot of inequities and a lot of challenges in trying to get your art, your music, your writing noticed, and I wanted to create a platform where they'll be able to showcase their talent and their skills."

Otis has also launched the Kusoma Kids club, which hosts interactive programs for children that promote literacy, cultural awareness and financial fitness. The fee is $5 a month per child, but membership is free for Flint residents whose income is below the federal poverty line. All memberships also include one free book per child.

Prior to opening Comma, Otis spent years working as a community organizer for organizations like Planned Parenthood and the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Restaurant of Lost Recipes (A Kamogawa Food Detectives Novel) by Hisashi Kashiwai, Translated by Jesse Kirkwood

The Wandering Hermit in Wyo. Adds Toy Store

The Wandering Hermit Books and Gifts, an independent bookstore and coffee shop in Wheatland, Wyo., is expanding to include a toy store, the Platte County Record Times reported. Simply called the Toy Store, the shop is located in an adjacent storefront to the Wandering Hermit and is connected by an interior door.

Dan and Zach Brecht, the father-son team that owns the store, originally opened the Wandering Hermit in November 2014. The store sells books, beverages and gifts. Prior to opening the store with his son, Brecht had been living and working in Alaska, while Zach Brecht had worked as a librarian and at a Barnes & Noble. Brecht said: "We visited a lot and we just decided that we maybe had the skills and the talent that you needed to have to start a bookstore and so we did."

Dan Brecht is also a member of the Platte County Mainstreet program, and is part of a group of local businesspeople looking to get Wheatland listed in the national archives as an historic downtown.

Harpervia: Only Here, Only Now by Tom Newlands

Fundraiser for Blackstone Audio Staff Who've Lost Everything in Fires

Terrible news from Oregon about one of the wildfires raging on the West Coast:

Although the Ashland, Ore., headquarters of Blackstone Audio has been spared during the Almeda Fire that devastated much of the area last week, 10 employees of the company have completely lost their homes and belongings in the fire.

Blackstone has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help employees affected by the fire and will match contributions. A little bit of good news: in just three days, the fundraiser has received almost $86,000 in donations.

International Update: Launching in U.K.; Singapore's BooksActually Goes Online Only "is coming to the U.K. in time for Christmas after smashing its U.S. sales targets since launching in late January," the Bookseller reported, adding that the U.K. team "is in place, working remotely, and speaking to shops and publishers. There will be another month of software development with the aim of getting bookshops on board for a November launch."

Nicole Vanderbilt, former international v-p for Etsy, is managing director of Bookshop's U.K. operations. She is joined by publisher and affiliate manager Jasper Sutcliffe, former Foyles head of buying, and bookshop partnership manager Mark Thornton, former owner of Mostly Books. All packaging and distribution in the U.K. will be managed by Gardners, with books delivered direct to customers, while Bookshop handles customer service.

"It's a little bit insane to try and launch in the U.K. when we just got our arms around the U.S. business," said Andy Hunter, Bookshop's founder and CEO. "But the Booksellers Association in the U.K. started reaching out to me in the spring as well as many independent bookstores and publishers."

In the U.S., Bookshop serves approximately 900 stores and expects sales of $50 million in its first year--10 times what the team had originally estimated. So far, it's raised $6.65 million for indie bookstores. Hunter said it had been a "white knuckle ride" to scale up so quickly as the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated indie bookstore demand for the company's services, but August was a stable month.

Hunter recalled that at a board meeting held to discuss accelerating the U.K. operation, "We all decided that, if there's a chance we could help U.K. bookstores survive the pandemic that we should take the risk and try." While his goal is £10 million (about $13.4 million) in sales annually, he would be happy with half of that in the first year. "At that level about £3 million [about $4 million] would be going into the indie bookstore ecosystem which is substantial enough to feel like that makes a difference. I think the market could support it."

Vanderbilt credited Bookshop's success in the U.S. as an advantage for the U.K. launch: "This isn't an abstract concept. People can actually go to the website see what it's doing and hear either directly from booksellers or read in the press accounts from booksellers about how much this is helping them during this really difficult time. So we have found a really positive response."

Booksellers Association managing director Meryl Halls added: "We've seen emerge as an innovative partner for U.S. indie booksellers, and its mission to support and empower bookshops online is ever-more important in the U.K.--especially now, as the high street rebuilds, consumers tentatively return to shops, and retailers need to continue to offer a hybrid model to their customers.... A high-profile alternative to Amazon in the lead up to Christmas can only help high street independents achieve increased cut-through online with Amazon-averse consumers, authors and others who want to support their local high streets and shop independently."


BooksActually, the indie bookseller in Singapore that has achieved a measure of international renown during its nearly 15 years in business, is transforming fully into an online store. The physical bookshop, which has been closed for several months due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, will not reopen.

In a letter announcing the decision, owner Kenny Leck wrote: "As the world changes around us, the bookstore has to move in tandem as well.... It is a new beginning for all of us, not just our team but also for you, accompanying us on this journey ahead. As horrible as the pandemic has been, it has also given BooksActually its 'Online Store Sea Legs.' After nearly half a year of being solely an Online Store, we are now ready to make it a reality.

"Going into this next lap, we hope to have your continued support and love. Regardless of the uncertainties or vulnerabilities this year of change has imposed on all of us, one thing we know for sure is that the bookstore will be here for a very long time. Or at least where I am concerned, I am very certain that she, BooksActually will continue to be your 'neighborhood' bookstore long after I am gone. 

"When Singapore eventually turns the corner, and goes into Phase 3, we will bring back our weekly literary events too. I mean what is BooksActually without its annual #BuySingLit street party, and the truly maddening but iconic 24 Hour Bookstore and The World's Loneliest Bookstore. In the meantime, we hope you continue to stay safe and keep well. The bookstore, myself and the book elves will see you online as we look forward to more exciting bookselling adventures ahead." --Robert Gray

Parneshia Jones New Director of Northwestern University Press

Parneshia Jones

Parneshia Jones has been named director of Northwestern University Press, effective September 21. She is currently editorial director for trade and engagement, and earlier served as an acquisitions editor and sales manager. She joined the press in 2003 after an internship at Third World Press.

She has revitalized the press's TriQuarterly imprint, developing its award-winning poetry list with a range of acquisitions, including Head Off & Split by Nikky Finney, winner of the 2011 National Book Award. Jones is also a visiting writer at the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing Program. She is a past president and board member of the Cave Canem Foundation, and serves on the advisory board of ShoreFront Legacy Center, a nonprofit organization that documents African American history on the North Shore of Chicago. She is a published poet: Vessel was published by Milkweed Editions in 2015 and won the Midwest Book Award, and her work has been published in several anthologies. With this promotion, she will be one of only two Black women currently leading a university press.

Sarah M. Pritchard, the Northwestern University Dean of Libraries and the Charles Deering McCormick University Librarian, said that in her time at the press, "Jones has developed a unique record as a leader on campus, in the Chicago area, and in the broader world of books and letters. She is the ideal leader both to build on NUP's traditional strengths and to continue the advances that the Press has made in Black studies, critical ethnic studies, performance studies, and other subjects that enhance the university’s academic mission and commitment to social justice and inclusion."

Jones commented: "I am so grateful to come full circle at Northwestern University Press. My love for the literary world started within the mahogany walls of Third World Press, and my continued apprenticeship in publishing has been guided and supported by Northwestern, my brilliant NUP colleagues, and the unwavering  publishing community. In the words of the great poet, Gwendolyn Brooks, 'We are each other's magnitude and bond.' I step into this role deeply humbled by the magnitude of these special bonds."

At Bard Press, Ray Bard Retires, Todd Sattersten New Publisher

Todd Sattersten

Ray Bard is retiring as publisher of Bard Press, the business and self-help book publisher he founded in 1995, and Todd Sattersten, former president of 800-CEO-READ and co-author of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time, is becoming publisher of Bard Press.

Bard Press has published 32 titles, and two of them, The ONE Thing: The Surprising Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan and The Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer, have sold more than two million copies worldwide.

Before joining Bard Press in January 2019 as deputy publisher, Sattersten worked as general manager at IT Revolution, where he helped build a publishing imprint and international events company.

Sattersten said, "Ray and I have worked together informally for over 10 years. We have worked with the same distribution company, National Book Network. Taking the helm at Bard Press lets me continue to contribute to the world of business books."

Obituary Note: Florence Howe

Florence Howe, founder of the Feminist Press and a leader of the women's studies movement, died on Saturday, the New York Times reported. She was 91 and had Parkinson's disease.

A college professor in the 1950s and '60s, Howe was frustrated by a lack of women's studies books. In 1972, she told the Times, "I was teaching women's studies at Goucher College in Maryland at the time, and there weren't enough materials. The publishers I spoke to all said, 'Wonderful idea, but there's no money in it.' "

Howe founded the Feminist Press in 1970 and, among others, published Ama Ata Aidoo, Rebecca Harding Davis, Marilyn French, Shirley Geok-lin Lim, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Zora Neale Hurston, Savyon Liebrecht, Dacia Maraini, Paule Marshall, Louise Meriwether, Lauretta Ngcobo, Tillie Olsen, Grace Paley, Agnes Smedley, Alice Walker, and Zoë Wicomb, many of whose works had been out of print for decades.

When Howe left Goucher for what is now SUNY Old Westbury in 1971, she brought the Feminist Press with her. In 1985, Howe stopped teaching at SUNY Old Westbury and moved the press full time to the City University of New York, where it continues today--celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Howe was a president of the Modern Language Association and held a dozen consultancies, including with the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She wrote or edited more than a dozen books and more than 120 essays in publications such as the Harvard Educational Review, the Nation, the New York Review of Books, PMLA, and the Women's Review of Books, as well as in a variety of anthologies. Her books include a memoir, A Life in Motion, published in 2011 by the Feminist Press, and a collection of essays on the rise of women's studies, Myths of Coeducation, published in 1984 by Indiana University Press.

Linda Villarosa, chair of the Feminist Press board, called Howe "a visionary with extraordinary literary taste, an ear for transformative ideas, and a steely focus on feminism and social justice. The book All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave, first published by Florence at the Press in 1982, changed my life and thinking. Like me, people across several generations can thank Florence for opening our eyes, uplifting our voices, mentoring us as writers and scholars, and training us to step into her shoes."

Helene Goldfarb, president of the Feminist Press board, commented: "I met Florence in 1947, when I was a freshman at Hunter College and she was a sophomore. I became an outspoken feminist because of her and joined her as a board member of the Press in the 1980s. She was a very big part of my life and made the Press a big part of my life. We spoke every day, and I am not sure how I will fill the hole in my heart and my life. But I do know that we must all work to keep the Press alive and well in honor of her legacy."

Jamia Wilson, executive director of the Feminist Press, said, "Florence's razor-sharp vision, passion for feminist education, and unmatched fortitude leave an indelible imprint upon our hearts and minds. We owe her a tremendous debt for her unending devotion to championing marginalized voices and diversifying the publishing industry for over half a century. Thanks to Florence, I was born into a world where I could always recognize myself within the books on FP's list. We look forward to continuing to pave the way for a more just world with all of the wisdom Florence shared with us. May her memory be a blessing for generations to come."


NFL Sunday Showdown: 'Bills vs. Books'

Off the Beaten Path bookstore, Lakewood, N.Y., offered its analysis of the Buffalo Bills vs. Books Sunday Showdown: "It's Football Season! In this historic battle for your attention, these two rivals will match up this afternoon. While the Bills have Josh Allen starting under center, Books have an impressive new lineup in your TBR pile. Will the enthusiasm Cole Beasley brings to the field take your attention away from the latest plot twist in your novel? On any given Sunday, only one thing is certain. No matter who wins or loses, you'll be sitting on your couch, eating an uncomfortable amount of food."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Ayad Akhtar on Fresh Air

The View: Michael Cohen, author of Disloyal: A Memoir: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump (Skyhorse, $32.50, 9781510764699).

Fresh Air: Ayad Akhtar, author of Homeland Elegies: A Novel (Little, Brown, $28, 9780316496421) and president of Pen America, effective December 2.

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell: Peter Strzok, author of Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9780358237068).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Michael S. Schmidt, author of Donald Trump v. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President (Random House, $30, 9781984854667).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Bob Woodward, author of Rage (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781982131739). He will also be on the Today Show today.

Today Show: Judy Blume, author of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.: Special Edition (Atheneum, $10.99, 9781534482425).

The Drew Barrymore Show: Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James, author and illustrator of I Am Every Good Thing (Nancy Paulsen, $17.99, 9780525518778).

The View: Chasten Buttigieg, author of I Have Something to Tell You: A Memoir (Atria, $27, 9781982138127).

Watch What Happens Live: Jenna Bush Hager, author of Everything Beautiful in Its Time: Seasons of Love and Loss (Morrow, $26.99, 9780062960627).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Jacob Soboroff, author of Separated: Inside an American Tragedy (Custom House, $29.99, 9780062992192).

Tonight Show: Willie and Bobbie Nelson, co-author of Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of the Family Band (Random House, $28, 9781984854131). They will also be on the Today Show tomorrow.

GoT Star Options It Will Be Just Us

Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's Ill Kippers Productions has optioned Jo Kaplan's recently published novel It Will Be Just Us. The production company's v-p and head of development Jeffrey Chassen and Abby Ex "will co-produce the project that the company plans to make of the book. Whether that ends up being a movie or a TV series is TBD," Deadline reported.

"We were extremely excited when we discovered this book," said Coster-Waldau, who played Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones. "It is one of the most original haunted house stories that we've read or seen.... Jo Kaplan's voice is grounded but compelling, and just down-right scary! And the adjacent historically-based story lines about slaves escaping to a land thought otherwise uninhabitable, along with the message that the past can come back to haunt you, seemed incredibly timely and we were inspired."

Books & Authors

Awards: Tony Ryan Finalists

Finalists for the 14th annual Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award, honoring the best books published in a given year on the subject of horse racing, are:

Better Lucky Than Good: Tall Tales and Straight Talk from the Backside of the Track by various authors, edited by Joe Manning
Justify: 111 Days to Triple Crown Glory by Lenny Shulman
The Triumph of Henry Cecil: The Authorised Biography by Tony Rushmer

The winner of the $10,000 prize should be announced in November.

Book Review

Review: Zero Zone

Zero Zone by Scott O'Connor (Counterpoint, $26 hardcover, 320p., 9781640093737, October 6, 2020)

Scott O'Connor's Zero Zone sets itself apart from the literary thriller pack thanks to its highly original premise and empathetic range. The author of Half World and Untouchable, O'Connor once again plumbs the depths of trauma with careful attention to psychological detail. Zero Zone's central narrative follows the installation artist Jess Shepard in late-'70s Los Angeles. Jess has become a figure of unwanted celebrity after a strange series of events at her desert art installation, Zero Zone, culminated in a cult-like group barricading themselves inside. Several years after she was attacked by a survivor, Jess is preoccupied with the imminent release of her attacker from prison, as well as her own complicated feelings of culpability for the events at her installation.

O'Connor approaches the story from various angles: brief, punchy chapters skip back and forth in time and among a half-dozen characters' points of view. O'Connor excels at sympathetically depicting the extremes of human thought, building careful psychological portraits of characters yearning for something like transcendence. Zero Zone shows how its damaged characters' beliefs that "this world was simply a mask hiding another, more beautiful place" led to the shocking events at the installation. O'Connor takes care not to paint anyone as an uncomplicated villain, an approach that pays off as the novel becomes a reflection on forgiveness, letting go of the past and healing. When the plot starts to accelerate toward confrontation and tragedy once again, it does so with a sense of dread and weary sadness.

While it builds to a suitably harrowing climax, Zero Zone quickly reveals itself to be a meditation on art in the body of a thriller. One of the central questions of the book is that of artistic responsibility: Does Jess bear any responsibility for what happened inside and under the influence of her art installation? O'Connor takes the power of art very seriously, showing how Jess transforms her grief and pain into art that sometimes has dramatic effects on observers, positive and negative. As the novel goes on, Jess realizes that she can't completely distance herself from how her art plays out in the world, as well as the people it affects in strange and unpredictable ways. It's a hard, painful lesson, but one very much in line with the novel's empathy for damaged people searching for "peace, or something like it." --Hank Stephenson, manuscript reader, the Sun magazine

Shelf Talker: Zero Zone is a surprising literary thriller about art and damaged people in the traumatic aftermath of a cult-like experience at a desert art installation that ended in violence.

Powered by: Xtenit