Shelf Awareness for Thursday, September 17, 2020

Disney Hyperion: Our Shouts Echo by Jade Adia

Groundwood Books: Who We Are in Real Life by Victoria Koops

St. Martin's Press: Cabinet of Curiosities: A Historical Tour of the Unbelievable, the Unsettling, and the Bizarre by Aaron Mahnke, With Harry Marks

Agate Bolden: 54 Miles by Leonard Pitts Jr.

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

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon


Bookstore Sales Down 24.7% in July, Improving Over April-June

In the fifth month of data reflecting public health measures taken to fight the Covid-19 pandemic--including the closure of many bookstores for a time and limited access since then--July sales at bookstores dropped 24.7%, to $431 million, compared to July 2019, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates. Still a steep drop, the July sales figure is an improvement over previous months' sales compared to the same periods in 2019. By comparison to July's 24.7% sales drop, in April bookstore sales fell 74.1%, to $163 million; in May bookstore sales were down 59.9%, to $271 million; and in June, sales dropped 35.4%, to $384 million.

During the first seven months of the year, bookstore sales fell 31.6%, to $3.17 billion.

Total retail sales in July rose 3.4%, to $550.9 billion. During the first seven months of the year, total retail sales fell 2.1%, to $3.5 trillion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books." The Bureau also added this caution: "Due to recent events surrounding COVID-19, many businesses are operating on a limited capacity or have ceased operations completely. The Census Bureau has monitored response and data quality and determined estimates in this release meet publication standards."

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ABA: Two New Board Members; Preparing for the 4th Quarter

Jake Cumsky-Whitlock
Melanie Knight

The American Booksellers Association has appointed two new board members, Bookselling This Week reported, fulfilling bylaw changes made in July that increased the number of board members to 13 from 11 and required that four of the 13 seats be held by BIPOC booksellers, of whom two are Black.

The new board members are Jake Cumsky-Whitlock of Solid State Books, Washington, D.C., and Melanie Knight of Books Inc., San Francisco, Calif. The two will serve on the board until the next election, in April 2021, at which time they will be eligible for a three-year term.

The two were recommended by the nominating committee, chaired by board member Jenny Cohen of Waucoma Bookstore, Hood River, Ore.


In other ABA news, in Bookselling This Week, CEO Allison Hill offered a second installment of information and suggestions about how booksellers can prepare for the critical 4th Quarter of 2020. "The uncertainty of the last six months has come to a head and many stores find themselves on precarious ground going into this critical 4th quarter," she wrote. "ABA continues to work on ways to mitigate risks and help stores plan and prepare for a successful season."

Copperfish Books in Florida Relocating

Copperfish's current store

Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Fla., is relocating to a new, smaller location in late October. Co-owners Cathy Graham and Serena Wyckoff are moving the store only about two and a half blocks away from its current home in downtown Punta Gorda. 

The new space is about two-thirds the size of the current location, which the store has resided in for the past four and a half years. Wyckoff and Graham are envisioning a cozier experience, and they noted that the new space will have a parking lot with better access than their current one.

In a message to customers announcing the move, Graham and Wyckoff explained that prior to the pandemic they had not been looking to change locations. However, their landlord recently approached them with the idea of moving to another one of his properties. Given the uncertainty of the pandemic, and the fact that the landlord made a "very attractive offer," they decided to move.

"We believe that this will help Copperfish Books stay on solid financial footing for a longer period than if we remained on Marion Avenue," they wrote. And once they got over their initial hesitation, they "realized that the relocation made good business sense."

Wyckoff and Graham reported their customers' responses have been "overwhelmingly positive and supportive."

Oregon's Hermeticus Bookshop Burns Down

The Hermeticus Bookshop, a predominantly used bookstore in Talent, Ore., burned down last week amid the Glendower/Almeda wildfire. Store owner Richard Miller also lost his home in the same devastating fire.

Paul Hartley, a longtime customer of Hermeticus Bookshop, has created a GoFundMe campaign to help support Miller. So far the campaign has raised $3,000 towards its $10,000 goal.

Sanyu Dillon New Chief Marketing Officer at PRH

Sanyu Dillon

Sanyu Dillon has been promoted to chief marketing officer of Penguin Random House and will serve on the Penguin Random House U.S. board. She has been executive v-p, director of marketing strategy and consumer engagement.

Calling Dillon "a visionary leader," Madeline McIntosh, CEO of PRH U.S., said in a letter to staff about the appointment that among the accomplishments of Dillon and her team have been "specific channel and category campaigns--such as Book Your Summer--that have led directly to incremental placement and orders for our books. They have activated an e-commerce strategy that has resulted in 800% growth in our direct sales. They have provided production support of the very highest quality for the hundreds of live virtual events our publishers launched in the spring and summer. They have steered our in-house marketing forums and have connected us with external experts to elevate our mindset and knowledge about topics as wide-ranging as behavioral economics and multicultural marketing: all key to successful marketing today. And over the course of this tumultuous year they have helped all of us understand evolving consumer needs and how to put those insights to work in service of our books and authors."

In her new position, Dillon will continue to lead PRH's "consumer-facing programmatic marketing activities." Priorities include consumer campaigns that "help drive sales through retailers and directly through us; growing the effectiveness of our engagement with the 23 million consumers we reach each month via our network of consumer-facing sites, social accounts, and subscriber programs; delivering best-in-class access to quantitative and qualitative consumer insights; and providing ongoing creative, video, and event-production support to teams throughout the company."

Dillon will also, McIntosh said, "help all of us accelerate the transformation of how we invest our time and funds to sell books. Part of what makes us successful as a large company is our decentralized structure--creativity thrives in the imprint-scaled teams who are closest to the different books, authors, and categories in which they are expert specialists. At the same time, our experience this year has put in relief that there are contexts and opportunities where we need to make use of centralized scale: to get the biggest bang for our buck; to ensure we're rapidly learning; and to be able to pivot the whole company quickly when major change happens."

International Update: U.K. Booksellers on, Bookstore Day in the Netherlands

Booksellers "have generally reacted enthusiastically" to news of's upcoming launch in the U.K., "although some remain cautious," the Bookseller reported, noting that many bookshops "were eager to start using the platform although others said they needed more detail or might sit it out for now."

Peter Brook of BrOOK's in Pinner said, "I'm actually really encouraged that they've had the confidence to launch in the U.K. because I think from an independent bookshop perspective the platform that they've created is not something that we could ever replicate on our own. But for me as soon as we got the notification about being able to sign up for it we signed up straight away."

Richard Drake of Drake the Bookshop, Stockton-on-Tees, observed: "As anyone in the book industry knows I have nothing good to say about Amazon and have regularly called out publishers and authors for their continued promotion via that channel. However, indies have not had one platform that we could offer as an alternative promotional point, and now we have. This is not the silver bullet, but now at least we have something in the chamber.... What needs to happen next is we all need to get behind it and use it as a positive way of increasing our market share in terms of promotion and online sales. Lots of the public seem to be very jaded by the idea of another big corporation getting involved--especially online--and the industry needs to help remove that jadedness."

Antonia Squire of the Bookshop in Bridport, expressed a measure of caution: "The corporate structure and governance seem designed to benefit not only independent bookshops, but the health of the industry as a whole. However, if is targeting the ethical consumer without competing on price then service becomes of paramount importance. I will be signing up, but with the current stresses in the supply chain I'm nervous about fulfilment in the short term. Hopefully Gardners and the publishers will have adjusted to our new reality by November."


Chris Gordon, programming and events manager for Australian indie bookseller Readings in Melbourne, observed: "I've been considering the collective noun for Melburnians of late, and have come up with 'despondency' as a term that seems to capture how we are all feeling: a little lost, a little sad and a little worried.... But there are moments in my day when I am taken elsewhere.

"It may be when I receive an e-mail from a customer who attended one of our online events and wants to talk more about the subject, or simply to thank the authors and Readings for the event. Ooo, I think, how lovely. It may be when I speak with a publishing house about a new title and we organize an event with the author because I just know we will all want to hear about how this particular story came about.

"However, those transportable moments happen mainly when I sit, perched in my corner of the house, and welcome an audience scattered near and far to one of our Zoom events. Welcome, I say, let the next hour take you from your home and place you firmly in the world of our speakers. I can see the audience sitting at their kitchen benches, in their bedrooms or on their couches. It feels like we are together as we lean forward, listening to thought leaders, to novelists, to creators."


Fox Bookstore "is the first and still the only bookstore in Kanas Scenic Area in the north of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The store is not just about selling books, but more of a spiritual oasis where everything is made from locally-sourced materials. Owner Duan Li shared her story with CGTN Digital."


On September 12, the American Book Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, celebrated Bookstore Day, posting on Facebook: "On this day we celebrate independent bookstores all over the Netherlands. We would like to take this opportunity to show our love to you--our dear customers. Being an independent bookstore has been challenging over the last 6 months. We wouldn't have been able to make it without all your love, support, and of course the huge stacks of books you've bought. So here we have some of our ABC Favorites thanking you on this happy Bookstore Saturday!" --Robert Gray


Image of the Day: Never Look Back

Though travel outside of her home in Los Angeles remains on hold, author Lilliam Rivera (upper left) upheld her tradition of launching her new book--Never Look Back (Bloomsbury), a contemporary YA retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice featuring Afro-Latinx characters in the Bronx--with her favorite Bronx indie, The Lit. Bar. Rivera did a lively and funny q&a with Shea Serrano (upper right) and store owner Noëlle Santos.

Bookseller Moment: Vermont Book Shop

Posted on Facebook by Vermont Book Shop, Middlebury, Vt.: "If you’ve looked in our windows on Main Street, you may have seen empty shelves, be not afraid! We are renovating, to allow for social distancing and to comply with Covid guidelines, plus to make the bookstore shining and beautiful for when we reopen!"

Personnel Changes at Bloomsbury USA

Adrienne Vaughan has been named chief operating officer of Bloomsbury USA. She has a 20-year career in publishing, including roles at Trustbridge, Oxford University Press, Scholastic and Disney.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: John Cleese on Late Night with Seth Meyers

A Little Late with Lilly Singh: Jay Shetty, author of Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781982134488).

Late Night with Seth Meyers repeat: John Cleese, author of Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide (Crown, $14, 9780385348270).

This Weekend on Book TV: Bob Woodward

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, September 19
7:30 p.m. Martha S. Jones, author of Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All (Basic Books, $30, 9781541618619), at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 a.m.)

8:30 p.m. Robert B. Zoellick, author of America in the World: A History of U.S. Diplomacy and Foreign Policy (Twelve, $35, 9781538761304).

10 p.m. Senator Chris Murphy, author of The Violence Inside Us: A Brief History of an Ongoing American Tragedy (Random House, $28, 9781984854575). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. James R. Copland, author of The Unelected: How an Unaccountable Elite is Governing America (Encounter, $28.99, 9781641771207). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m.)

Sunday, September 20
12 a.m. Michael S. Schmidt, author of Donald Trump v. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President (Random House, $30, 9781984854667), at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C.

7 p.m. Bob Woodward, author of Rage (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781982131739), at Politics and Prose. (Re-airs Monday at 1 a.m.)

11 p.m. Scott Anderson, author of The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War--a Tragedy in Three Acts (Doubleday, $30, 9780385540452).

Books & Authors

Awards: NBA Young People's Lit, Translated Lit Longlists; German Book Prize Shortlist

The National Book Foundation released longlists for the 2020 National Book Awards in the Young People's Literature and Translated Literature categories. Finalists in all five NBA categories will be revealed October 6, and winners named November 18 at a ceremony that will be held online because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year's longlisted titles in these two categories are:

Young People's Literature
King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender (Scholastic)
We Are Not Free by Traci Chee (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Lifting as We Climb: Black Women's Battle for the Ballot Box by Evette Dionne (Viking Books for Young Readers)
Apple (Skin to the Core) by Eric Gansworth (Levine Querido)
Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh (Dutton Books for Young Readers)
When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed (Dial Books for Young Readers)
Trowbridge Road by Marcella Pixley (Candlewick)
How We Got to the Moon: The People, Technology, and Daring Feats of Science Behind Humanity's Greatest Adventure by John Rocco (Crown Books for Young Readers)
The Way Back by Gavriel Savit (Knopf Books for Young Readers)
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (Swoon Reads/Macmillan)

Translated Literature
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar, translated from the Persian by Anonymous (Europa Editions)
The Helios Disaster by Linda Boström Knausgård, translated from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles (World Editions)
High as the Waters Rise by Anja Kampmann, translated from the German by Anne Posten (Catapult)
The Family Clause by Jonas Hassen Khemiri, translated from the Swedish by Alice Menzies (FSG)
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes (New Directions)
Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri, translated from the Japanese by Morgan Giles (Riverhead)
The Story of a Goat by Perumal Murugan, translated from the Tamil by N. Kalyan Raman (Black Cat)
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo, translated from the Korean by Jamie Chang (Liveright)
The Bitch by Pilar Quintana, translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman (World Editions)
Minor Detail by Adania Shibli, translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette (New Directions)


The shortlist has been selected for the 2020 German Book Prize. The winner, who will be announced in Frankfurt during the book fair on October 12, wins €25,000 (about $29,600); the five finalists will be awarded €2,500 (about $2,960). The shortlist:

Serpentinen by Bov Bjerg
Aus der Zuckerfabrik by Dorothee Elmiger
Herzfaden by Thomas Hettche
Streulicht by Deniz Ohde
Annette, ein Heldinnenepos by Anne Weber
Die Dame mit der bemalten Hand by Christine Wunnicke

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, September 22:

Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World by H.R. McMaster (Harper, $35, 9780062899460) is the memoir of the former national security advisor.

Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America by Laila Lalami (Pantheon, $25.95, 9781524747169) traces a novelist's journey from Moroccan immigrant to U.S. citizen.

Those Who Forget: My Family's Story in Nazi Europe by Geraldine Schwarz, trans. by Laura Marris (Scribner, $28, 9781501199080) chronicles the experience of the author's German and French grandparents during World War II.

Daughters of the Wild: A Novel by Natalka Burian (Park Row, $27.99, 9780778310013) follows foster siblings in rural West Virginia who tend a mysterious plant.

Tools of Engagement: A Novel by Tessa Bailey (Avon, $27.99, 9780063034846) is a romantic comedy about two enemies trying to flip a house.

Here We Are: A Novel by Graham Swift (Knopf, $22.95, 9780525658054) takes place in 1959 Brighton, England, where three friends put on seaside vaudeville shows.

Can't Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26, 9780358315070) explores the social, political and economic force aligned against millennials.

Escape Goat by Ann Patchett, illus. by Robin Preiss Glasser (HarperCollins, $18.99, 9780062883391) is a picture book featuring a goat who is particularly good at escaping.

The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi (Wednesday Books, $18.99, 9781250144577) is the sequel to The Gilded Wolves.

She Gets That from Me by Robin Wells (Berkley, $15.99, 9781984802002).

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:

Empire of Wild: A Novel by Cherie Dimaline (Morrow, $27.99, 9780062975942). "Cherie Dimaline's latest novel packs a wallop of a story. Absolutely stunning in every way, this latest offering follows the story of Joan, whose husband has disappeared, and her courage when confronted with truths and lies. She and her husband, Victor, live in a Métis community, close and tight knit. As Joan deals with the fallout of her emotions after Victor disappears, she comes across another man, Eugene Wolff, who bears her husband's face. He does not carry Victor's memories and insists he has no idea who Joan's husband is. Turning over rocks to find the truth, Joan reaches out to whomever she can in her community for help. What waits for her at the end of her quest is incredible. This novel will have you at the edge of your seat!" --Annie Carl, The Neverending Bookshop, Edmonds, Wash.

True Story: A Novel by Kate Reed Petty (Viking, $26, 9781984877680). "A brilliant mind-bender of a novel that uses different methods of storytelling to illustrate how storytelling creates different versions of truth (if truth even exists) and reality. Are we the stories we tell ourselves? Or do we become the stories that are told about us? This is the question True Story asks as it peels away layer after layer of the narrative. Part fever dream, part timely comment on sexual assault, and part psychological thriller, True Story will keep you turning pages and guessing until the genius, puzzle-completing ending. I LOVED this book!" --Debra Ginsberg, DIESEL, A Bookstore, Santa Monica, Calif.

FKA USA: A Novel by Reed King (Flatiron Books, $17.99, 9781250108913). "This book is a wild ride through a post-dissolution, post-apocalyptic United States beginning a mere decade from now and continuing to the end of the 21st century. The political, technological, and ecological disasters it envisions seem all too plausibly extrapolated from the headlines of today. Despite the litany of cascading disasters--mass extinctions, warring androids, southern California dropping into the ocean, conflicts between different corporations controlling different sections of the former USA, mind control, goat-human hybrids, and more--Reed King injects a measure of hilarity into his tale. At the same time harrowing and hysterical, this is a great book by a visionary author. Highly recommended." --Edward Newton, The Literate Lizard, Sedona, Ariz.

For Ages 4 to 8
The Blue House by Phoebe Wahl (Knopf, $17.99, 9781984893369). "What makes a home? In this beautiful picture book, Wahl explores the emotional arc of moving. But her story goes beyond the simple act of packing and leaving: A child and father are pushed out of their home due to gentrification, and their family is just the two of them. Small details, such as the records the child and father rock out to when they need to dance and scream out their emotions, will captivate readers. Though a subject many authors have dealt with, The Blue House offers a creative, alternative way of looking at moving, one with clear Pacific Northwest details and a family we don't often see on the page. Warm, welcoming, and lovely!" --Marika McCoola, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass.

For Ages 9 to 12
Lightfall: The Girl & the Galdurian by Tim Probert (HarperAlley, $22.99, 9780062990471). "With flavors of Amulet, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and the world of Shannara, Lightfall delivers a rich and exciting quest that feels epic yet thoroughly cheeky, accessible, and adorable all at once. So many themes are handled with delicate gusto, such as Bea's anxiety and her grandfather's failing memory. Above all, there is such a positive mindset it makes me wish I had a friend like Cad who would help me face my fears. I am SO excited to read the next book in the series (hello, cliffhanger!) and push these into our readers' hands." --Grace Menary-Winefield, Booked, Evanston, Ill.

For Teen Readers
Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera (Bloomsbury, $18.99, 9781547603732). "In this fresh remix, Lilliam Rivera deftly combines original details with contemporary Afro-Latinx life in the Bronx, from the flirty bounce of bachata to the weight of Hurricane Maria and its impact on island communities and diaspora. I love how this character-driven romance humanizes Pheus and Eury--they are accessible, complex teens distinctly of our time who face an ancient and destructive threat with equal parts assuredness and fearful trepidation. A satisfyingly feminist ending rounds out this myth retextured for our modern moment. Immersive and intense, Never Look Back will make you want Rivera to retell all of your favorite classics." --Niki Marion, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, Wash.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Somewhere in the Unknown World: A Collective Refugee Memoir

Somewhere in the Unknown World: A Collective Refugee Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang (Metropolitan Books, $17.99 paperback, 272p., 9781250296856, November 10, 2020)

"The people in this book are people from your lives," Kao Kalia Yang writes to her three sleeping children in the final chapter of her affecting hybrid nonfiction collection, Somewhere in the Unknown World: A Collective Refugee Memoir. Minnesota--where Yang has lived for 32-plus years, since landing as a six-year-old Hmong refugee via Thailand--is the state with the most refugees per capita, with significant populations of Hmong, Tibetan, Somali, Karen, Burmese, Eritrean and Liberian transplants. "This much is known, but few know who we are or how we live." In response, Yang presents 14 individuals' stories here; rather than full histories, her chapters offer glimpses of lives before, of escapes, of stopovers, of arrivals, of transformation.

She begins with the voices of children who miraculously survived the destruction in their native countries: Irina escaped Belarus; Awo, Somalia; Bayan, Syria. Majra, from Bosnia, grows up to work with the American Refugee Committee to "help rebuild what wars had broken." Adult refugees are forced to make unbearable choices in seeking a better future, like Kaw Thaw, who abandons his Karen parents, partner and their three children in Myanmar for new love on the other side of the world, and Afghanzada, who flees the Taliban at the cost of his father's disappearance. While physical safety becomes possible, devastating memories linger for Chue Moua, who suffers post-traumatic depression, and for Fong Lee--his story is the collection's most haunting--who can never forget the young sisters he couldn't save. As refugee families settle, generations pass and begin anew: Saymoukda examines her relationship with her dying Laotian mother; Mr. Truong enables his son Hai to reinvent the family's Vietnamese restaurant.

Following the award-winning success of her memoirs, The Latehomecomer and The Song Poet, "Other refugees asked me to tell their stories, but I wasn't ready." The past few years changed that: "I could not fail to see an America... that seeks to define itself by casting its vulnerable immigrants and incoming refugees to the margins of society." While personal experiences cannot be judged, narratively, as literature, some stories prove stronger and more affecting than others. An epilogue would have strengthened the work, providing a fuller overview for readers to further invest in each of the family and friends Yang introduces. That said, these voices are here, their stories are here, to provide an intimate window into once faraway lives, now intertwined together in a community they call home. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: Award-winning memoirist Kao Kalia Yang gives intimate voice to 14 refugees from around the world who, like Yang, call Minnesota home.

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