Shelf Awareness for Thursday, September 24, 2020

Flatiron Books: The Last One at the Wedding by Jason Rekulak

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

Ace Books: Toto by AJ Hackwith and The Village Library Demon-Hunting Society by CM Waggoner

Webtoon Unscrolled: Age Matters Volume Two by Enjelicious

St. Martin's Press:  How to Think Like Socrates: Ancient Philosophy as a Way of Life in the Modern World  by Donald J Robertson

Hanover Square Press: The Dallergut Dream Department Store (Original) by Miye Lee, Translated by Sandy Joosun Lee

Nosy Crow: Dungeon Runners: Hero Trial by Joe Todd-Stanton and Kieran Larwood

Andrews McMeel Publishing: A Haunted Road Atlas: Next Stop: More Chilling and Gruesome Tales from and That's Why We Drink by Christine Schiefer and Em Schulz


NVNR: Alone Together: Telling Our Stories During the Pandemic

Wednesday's New Voices New Rooms breakfast program, centered on Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of Covid-19, edited by Jennifer Haupt (Central Avenue Publishing), was as much about a publishing miracle--putting together a book in less than six months (it pubbed on September 1)--as it was a moving reflection of how these six authors managed to create and also survive during Covid-19. All profits benefit the Book Industry Charitable Foundation.

(Top, l.-r.) Michelle Halket, moderator, Richard Blanco. Susan Henderson; (middle) Ada Limón, Steve Yarbrough, Dawn Raffel; (bottom) Jennifer Haupt

Haupt included essays, poems and short stories from 90 contributors (including her own "Why Get Out of Bed?") and calls the book her "lovely monster" because it reminded her of Frankenstein. "The pieces were spread all over my corkboard; it was a monster because it was so big," Haupt said. "Nikki Giovanni's ("At Times Like This") was one of the first poems I received, and I knew how wonderful the book would be."

Susan Henderson read "Quarantine," which addressed her final month with her father, who was dying--"I wanted my dad to have an appetite again.... I didn't know his belly was full of cancer"--and then grieving with her mother in masks and gloves. Michelle Halket, publisher of Central Avenue Publishing and moderator of the session, observed how well Henderson put into words what so many people have been feeling during this time of separation and grief. "Grief is such a small word but it encompasses big things," Henderson said. "Thank God for our chosen families, the people who allow us to feel what we feel."

Ada Limón's poem "Not the Saddest Thing in the World" describes the composing of a letter--"I write/ the date at the top of a letter, though/ no one has been writing the year lately/ I write the year, seems like a year you/ should write, huge and round and awful." Later, "I go about my day which isn't/ ordinary exactly because nothing is ordinary/ now even when it is ordinary."

Halket asked Limón if she'd had any "ordinary" times since completing the poem. Limón said she hadn't. "Everything feels like ceremony right now, even in the moments of joy and when I can safely gather with a friend from social distance, even as we're laughing, there's a weight," she said. "I am working toward not apologizing for finding joy. As this goes on for undetermined days in the future, we need that."

Jennifer Haupt

For "Zooming the Subtle Body," author Dawn Raffel asked listeners to close their eyes: "Imagine you are walking along a beach in the late afternoon at the end of summer.... You can feel the breeze on your skin and in your hair. The sand is warm and soft under your bare feet./ .../ Up ahead you see a large conch shell. You admire its spiraling shape, and you know this shell was once a home.... This is yoga nidra via Zoom." Halket confessed to Raffel that she was a yoga practitioner who has found she's "less likely to practice right now." Raffel answered, "I think when we're in a crisis, the first impulse is to reach for what you already know that gives you comfort." But with yoga, if you're used to going to a studio and now it's on Zoom, it can do the opposite of comfort you. "I read that the cure for sadness is to learn something new," said Raffel, so she took another 50 hours of training to learn a new teaching practice.

Steve Yarbrough's "In the Absence of Others" talks about how he missed making music with others, in particular bluegrass with his neighbor across the street, Edmund Jorgenson. The two wrote a song in February--"The Old Dusty Door"--that they'd planned to debut in March. The lyrics, which Yarbrough read aloud, seemed especially prescient in these lines, "Each man is born with a portion of days/ His pleasures and his burdens to bear." The essay ends with the two neighbors playing solo in their homes, as musical notes waft across the street, looking forward to the day when they can play together in person once more: "Hard times, we remind ourselves, never last forever."

The program closed with Richard Blanco reading his poem "America the Beautiful Again," with its childhood recollection of singing the title song with his mother, "her Cuban accent scaling-up/ every vowel: O bee-yoo-tee-ful yet in perfect/ pitch, delicate and tuned to the radiant beams/ of stained glass light." On the shoulders of his father at their first Fourth of July parade: "How the timbre of our bodies mingled,/ breathing, singing as one with the brass notes/ of the marching band playing the only song/ he ever learned in English."

With great warmth, Halket said that, as a Canadian, she felt unqualified to comment on the emotion his words brought up. "A country is a constant work in progress, especially such a young country, and there have to be moments of reckoning," Blanco said. "There's a new kind of not-so-silent majority, led by the arts. I'm thinking of us as cathedral builders: it may not happen in our lifetime, but we have to show up. My parents have survived a lot, but they've also shown me an appreciation of this country, through the eyes of an immigrant, that's so vital to keep this country going." --Jennifer M. Brown, senior editor

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Intermezzo by Sally Rooney

ABA Images and Design Emphasize 'October Is the New December'

With the motto "October Is the new December" and the message to "buy early, buy local," the American Booksellers Association has created images and designs that stores can use to encourage readers to shop early, Bookselling This Week reported. The designs, which can be used for social media posts, newsletters, websites and in stores, are available in BookWeb's Marketing Assets.

There are images for digital use that are book-themed, and the ABA has also created three printable posters that include space for customizing with store logos: one for use by bookstores, and two posters featuring a general theme that booksellers can share with other local businesses.

The message is timely. As BTW noted, "Shopping early is important this year due to the high demand for books, the potential for supply chain disruptions and delayed inventory shipments, and the need to help bookstores and other small businesses make it through the end of the year."

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

Book Therapy and Moore Opens in Three Forks, Mont.

Book Therapy and Moore, an independent bookstore in Three Forks, Mont., opened on Monday, the Three Forks Voice reported. Besides books, the store offers snacks, coffee, gift cards, Melissa and Doug puzzles, toys and stuffed animals, bookmarks, jewelry, socks, T-shirts, coffee mugs, artwork and photographs.

Owner Jodi Moore told the newspaper that she decided to open a bookstore while taking time off after her sheriff's deputy husband died in 2017 in the line of duty. When she decided to join the workforce again, she wanted a job in the area and to be available for her children.

"So, I started contemplating working in Three Forks, then the idea came to open a business," she told the paper. "A bookstore was my first thought because I have always loved quirky bookstores. My husband and I have always been book nerds and avid readers."

Earlier this year, Moore began renting the space and working on the store, and took several business classes. About the store, she said, "I am excited for everyone to see but also scared because I put a lot of me into the shop."

How Bookstores Are Coping: Staying Safe; Customer Loyalty; Code of Conduct

In Cold Spring, N.Y., Split Rock Books is open for contactless pick-up and browsing by appointment. Co-owners Heidi and Michael Bender are allowing one person or household in at a time with appointments; if there are no appointments scheduled, they are allowing walk-ins on a case-by-case basis. Masks are required for everone and hand sanitizer is available at the front door.

The store's social distancing and safety rules are posted on the front door, and customers must agree to them before entering. If someone approaches and isn't wearing a mask, Heidi Bender explained, staff will not open the door. Because customers know what they're getting into in advance, she added, "we haven't had any issues."

Cold Spring, located on the Hudson River north of West Point, is a summer and fall tourist town, and Bender reported that "sales were definitely down this summer." For most of the summer, in fact, the store was not doing browsing appointments at all, with the co-owners preferring to "stay safe and pay our bills." Despite the slow summer they've been able to do that, and Bender said she's already noticed an uptick in fall shoppers.

On the subject of how the pandemic has affected the store's buying, Bender said they are generally placing much smaller orders. They've been waiting to see which books get written up and what customers specifically request. Local customers have been "very understanding and patient" and have not minded waiting for special orders. Of course, she continued, if she or someone else on staff reads a book they love, they'll still order a stack. The store has also started offering six subscription options and has been doing some bulk ordering for those.

When it comes to the holidays, the store's plan is to stock up on titles they love, as well as big titles they fear they might run out of due to potential shipping and reprinting issues. The team is also going to encourage early holiday shopping as much as possible.

Like many bookstores, Split Rock Books saw a "crazy high demand" for antiracist titles after nationwide protests began in response to the murder of George Floyd. Bender noted that her store has carried many of these titles since the store opened or since they were published, and it was great to see so many people wanting to read them. But it was also frustrating, as that demand has largely dropped off, and it looks like it was a "trend many people have lost interest in." She did note, however, that there are some regular customers who have continued to consistently buy those titles.

Bender added that Split Rock Books is a "very vocal store," and the staff was "very involved" with local protests. The store also led a Summer Community Read with the local school's PTA committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Split Rock worked with the committee to make sure the titles were affordable and the team picked six different books appropriate for kids from kindergarten up to high school. It was a "nice, low-pressure way" to make sure those conversations continued in the community, and the team's goal is to "play an active role in making sure those discussions continue long term."


Sally Brewster, owner of Park Road Books in Charlotte, N.C., said her store is open to the public, with masks and social distancing required. Brewster and her team continue to offer curbside pick-up, shipping and occasionally non-contact deliveries. All events have been canceled, there are no more seating areas in store and surfaces are frequently sanitized. And while the store's hours remain slightly truncated for now, Park Road Books should be operating at about 85% of former hours by October.

When the state shut down retail operations in March, only two team members remained in the store to keep things going, with curbside pick-up and shipping. The effort required, said Brewster, was "daunting and not sustainable." They've gradually brought employees back as they've felt safe to return, and Brewster has listened to them when it comes to implementing social distancing and safety policies.

Brewster added that while the vast majority of her customers have expressed gratitude for those policies, there have been several confrontations with customers who wanted to enter the store either without a mask or with only a face-shield.

Despite the lack of events, shortened hours and "somewhat unreliable delivery schedule," Brewster and her team are happy with the way the summer went in terms of sales. She called the store's customer base "fantastic," adding that the community "has impressed us with their loyalty." And though the store is generally serving fewer customers per day, they are selling more per transaction.

Initially, the store scaled its buying back "tremendously," but now that the team has a good idea of sales patterns and distribution issues, they've begun making larger orders. The store has also bulked up on certain holiday titles, as the team is "concerned about not being able to get enough stock of popular titles this season."

Earlier in the summer, Brewster and her team created multiple displays promoting antiracist titles and titles about social justice, and the store partnered with local churches, nonprofits and individuals in the community to distribute relevant titles. She noted that those titles "continue to fly out the door."


Third Place Books in Seward Park

All three Third Place Books locations, in Lake Forest Park, Ravenna and Seward Park, Wash., are open with shortened hours, reported managing partner Robert Sindelar. The stores are also limiting the number of customers allowed in at one time, and there is a greeter at the door who makes sure customers read the stores' code of conduct.

Third Place Books' Customer Code of Conduct

Most customers, Sindelar continued, are very happy to comply with the safety measures, and many have thanked the store for providing clear guidelines and being open for browsing. While some people have had issues with the policies, they are in the minority.

"We feel very fortunate that our sales company-wide are around 80% of traditional sales," Sindelar said. He noted that event sales are down dramatically, with fewer events and fewer books sold at them, which accounts for most of the discrepancy. And on the subject of holiday buying, the plan is "relatively similar" to previous years. --Alex Mutter

International Update: Digital Frankfurt Enthusiasm; Staff at One Indigo Store Vote to Unionize

Around 2,500 digital exhibitors from 89 countries have already signed up to participate in this year's digital edition of the Frankfurt Book Fair, the Bookseller reported. Plans for a hybrid festival were abandoned earlier this month due to increased concerns regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. The fair, under the theme "Signals of Hope," is set for October 14-18.

"Since this has been a very special situation we thought we had to send signals of hope that books, publishers, translators, everybody involved in the value chain, are alive and kicking," said Fair director Juergen Boos, who expects more exhibitors to join over the next few weeks. "We have discovered that the world of publishing can react flexibly, inventively and courageously even in times of crisis. Over the five days of the fair, we want to hear from our colleagues all around the globe--from Egypt, Brazil, Finland and Singapore. We want to promote an exchange of experience, facilitate contacts, share successes and identify trends. Together with international media partners and publishers, we have successfully added a digital component to Frankfurter Buchmesse that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. In this year of uncertainties this is, for me, a 'beacon of hope,' to quote Margaret Atwood. The intensive exchange with a wide range of industry players over many months and under difficult conditions has been unique and I would like to thank everyone involved for their contributions."


Workers at the Indigo Books & Music store in the Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga, Ont., have voted to unionize, according to United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Local 1006A, which said that "the workers were supported by authors, community leaders and shoppers, who encouraged them through social media with their unionization effort."

"We are just trying to create a fairer workplace and better working conditions for everyone here at the store," said one of the organizers. "The success we had today makes me hopeful--the employees at Indigo Square One have shown they are willing and ready to put in the effort needed to create a work environment where everyone is valued.... I am proud to be part of a union that will provide us with a powerful collective voice to communicate our needs to management."

Earlier this week, describing the move to unionize as "a groundbreaking moment for the retail chain," Quill & Quire reported that the employees "launched their campaign on social media (Twitter and Instagram) with video support from politicians such as Hamilton Centre MP Matthew Green, former MPs Olivia Chow and Libby Davies, and author/activist Judy Rebick. The news was also supported by bestselling authors such as Zoe Whittall and Naomi Klein."

Regarding the social media campaign, Kevin Shimmin, a national representative for UFCW Canada, told Q&Q: "The workers were amazing. They have to take most of the credit for the online presence. It is very unique because it is Indigo and it's a high-profile campaign. We've never had all those messages of support before."


The Australian Booksellers Association will host a Facebook Live event for this year's Love Your Bookshop Day on October 3, which coincides for the first time with Bookshop Day in the U.K. Books + Publishing reported that "the KidLit Club takeover will feature a storytime for families plus 'catch-ups' with booksellers and authors across the country."

"While LYBD 2020 will look different this year it will be a celebration of survival, community and above all a thank you to the communities that love their bookshops," said the ABA.

Noting that LYBD will be "a huge thank you and a celebration of the connection, solace, and relief books and bookshops have provided this year," ABA CEO Robbie Egan observed that Australian communities "have been wonderful supporters of their local bookshops during the pandemic, and bookshops have responded in turn with great ingenuity. It has not been easy, but Australian bookshops continue to trade well, unlike some in the U.K. and the U.S., where uncertainty has proved devastating." --Robert Gray

Obituary Note: Althea Braithwaite

Althea Braithwaite, best known the author and illustrator of the Desmond the Dinosaur books and the Talk It Over/Talking It Through series, died on August 27, the Guardian reported. She was 80.

Braithwaite wrote more than 200 books--often just using her first name--and was also a publisher, printer and bookseller. The Desmond the Dinosaur series included Desmond and the Monsters (1975) and Desmond and the Stranger (1979). Some of the stories were adapted for TV.

The Talk It Over series, later updated and reissued as Talking It Through, was an example of her focus: "Lively, uncondescending and information rich, these non-fiction books covered familiar subjects such as fire engines and nature," the Guardian wrote. "Based on her premise that everyone copes better with the unexpected if they know something about it beforehand--and well-researched, with Althea taking notice of the opinions of both children and subject specialists--the books were designed to help children navigate new or difficult situations."

And her illustrations were "bold in line and colour. Her style of writing and illustrating was simple and direct and had a ready magnetism for children."

She also headed Polyhedron printers, and created Dinosaur Publications to publish her own books, which she eventually sold to Collins. For a time, she co-owned a mobile children's bookshop. Later in life, she took up painting, "starting initially with painting furniture and then painting on glass before acquiring a kiln and working on fused glass works."


Happy 25th Birthday, Nicola's Books!

Congratulations to Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, Mich., which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. As the store said on Facebook, "We're celebrating in a low key way. We'll be sharing videos from our friends, community partners, staff and owners over the next few weeks, with a little of our history along the way. And maybe toasting with a glass of champagne. Today, and every day, we are thankful most of all for our exceptional staff and our loyal customers who have kept us going strong for the last 25 years. Cheers!"

New Captain Marvel Bench at DreamHaven Books & Comics

DreamHaven Books & Comics, Minneapolis, Minn., has installed a Captain Marvel bench. "For many years Batman has stood guard outside DreamHaven offering a pleasant place to sit and rest for many local residents," the store noted. "After enduring inclement weather and normal wear and tear, Batman protected the store during the recent civil unrest and was heavily damaged and broken. Batman has been retired to a well-earned rest.

"Taking his place is a new Golden-Age Captain Marvel (Shazam) bench. Both benches were designed and constructed by our good friend, Joe Musich, who has been a comics fan and a very-much appreciated DreamHaven customer for many years. Joe is a retired high-school teacher who attends Comic Con most every year. We salute Joe and his love of Captain Marvel and are honored to have The Big Red Cheese standing guard over our store."

S&S to Distribute Scout Comics & Entertainment

Scout Comics & Entertainment is extending its trade paperback publishing program by signing an exclusive distribution deal with Simon & Schuster, effective October 1.

Founded in 2015, Scout Comics & Entertainment is a comic book and multi-media company that has published more than 150 titles in a variety of genres. Scout has several specialty imprints: Black Caravan (horror), Scoot (kids), Lit (young adult), Outsider (LGBTQ+), Scout One-Shot (single issue stories), and Non-Stop (first issue releases followed shortly thereafter with the entire trade paperback). 

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Bakari Sellers on Real Time with Bill Maher

HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Bakari Sellers, author of My Vanishing Country: A Memoir (Amistad, $26.99, 9780062917454).

This Weekend on Book TV: The National Book Festival

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 26
3:15 p.m. Frederik Logevall, author of JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956 (Random House, $40, 9780812997132).

4:45 p.m. Juliet B. Schor, author of After the Gig: How the Sharing Economy Got Hijacked and How to Win It Back (University of California Press, $24.95, 9780520325050).

5:45 p.m. Book TV asks what Rep. Tom Cole is reading. (Re-airs Sunday at 11:45 a.m.)

6 p.m. Peter Strzok, author of Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9780358237068). (Re-airs Sunday at 2:45 a.m.)

7 p.m. to 2:45 a.m. Coverage of the virtual 2020 National Book Festival. For a full schedule, visit the event's website. Highlights include:

  • 7 p.m. Gail Collins, author of No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in American History (Little, Brown, $30, 9780316286541).
  • 8:17 p.m. Jon Meacham, author of His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope (Random House, $30, 9781984855022).
  • 9:02 p.m. Melinda Gates, author of The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World (Flatiron, $26.99, 9781250313577).

Sunday, September 27
1:55 p.m. Book TV asks what Rep. Gerald Connolly is reading.

7 p.m. to 2:45 a.m. Continuing coverage of the virtual National Book Festival. Highlights include:

  • 7 p.m. Ann Druyan, author of Cosmos: Possible Worlds (National Geographic, $30, 9781426219085).
  • 10:10 p.m. Madeleine Albright, author of Hell and Other Destinations: A 21st-Century Memoir (Harper, $29.99, 9780062802255).
  • 1:21 a.m. Salman Rushdie, author of Quichotte: A Novel (Random House, $18.99, 9780593133002).

Books & Authors

Awards: FT/McKinsey Business Book, Crook's Corner Shortlists

The shortlist for the Financial Times/McKinsey & Company 2020 Business Book of the Year has been announced. Roula Khalaf, editor of the Financial Times, commented: "In a year marked by disruption and uncertainty, the judges have selected a shortlist, which addresses critical business issues, from the future of work to the importance of technology, in original, enjoyable and provocative ways."

The winner, who will receive £30,000 (about $38,150), will be announced on December 1 at a digital event. The shortlisted titles each receive £10,000 (about $12,715). The shortlisted titles are:

Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism by Anne Case and Angus Deaton (Princeton University Press)
No Filter: The Inside Story of How Instagram Transformed Business, Celebrity and Our Culture by Sarah Frier (Simon & Schuster)
No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer (Penguin Press)
Reimagining Capitalism: How Business Can Save the World by Rebecca Henderson (PublicAffairs)
If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future by Jill Lepore (Norton)
A World Without Work: Technology, Automation and How We Should Respond by Daniel Susskind (Metropolitan Books)


The shortlist for the $5,000 Crook's Corner Book Prize, awarded to the best debut novel set in the American South and sponsored by the Crook's Corner Book Prize Foundation and the Crook's Corner Restaurant, in Chapel Hill, N.C., has been chosen. A winner will be announced January 11. The shortlisted titles are:

As a River by Sion Dayson (Jaded Ibis Press)
Confessions of an Innocent Man by David R. Dow (Dutton)
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore (Harper)

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, September 29:

The End of the Day by Bill Clegg (Gallery/Scout Press, $28, 9781476798202) unites disparate characters via a 60-year-old mystery.

The Return by Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central, $28, 9781538728574) follows an injured Navy doctor recuperating in an inherited cabin.

The Daughters of Yalta: The Churchills, Roosevelts, and Harrimans: A Story of Love and War by Catherine Grace Katz (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9780358117858) chronicles the daughters who followed their politician fathers to the Yalta Conference.

On the Way Out, Turn Off the Light: Poems by Marge Piercy (Knopf, $28, 9780593317938) is the author's 20th poetry collection.

Trumpty Dumpty Wanted a Crown: Verses for a Despotic Age by John Lithgow (Chronicle, $22.95, 9781797209463) contains an actor's illustrated satirical poems.

Unrestricted Access: New and Classic Short Fiction by James Rollins (Morrow, $27.99, 9780062686800) is an anthology of 12 short stories.

InvestiGators: Take the Plunge by John Patrick Green (First Second, $9.99, 9781250219985) is the second in the young reader InvestiGators series about a super spy alligator duo.

Shine by Jessica Jung (Simon Pulse, $18.99, 9781534462519) is the K-pop singer's first novel for teens.

The Nesting by C.J. Cooke (Berkley, $15.99, 9780593197660).

Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo (Berkley, $16, 9780593101940).

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 Big Door Prize: A Novel by M.O. Walsh (Putnam, $27, 9780735218482). "M.O. Walsh weaves quintessential Southern charm into a quirky scenario to produce The Big Door Prize, a novel that left me curious about the parts of myself I have yet to discover. You'll recognize the characters as your own next-door neighbors while being challenged to imagine the possibilities lying just past the periphery of a comfortably crafted trajectory. The novel questions what measures a life well-lived and answers with an entertaining tale of a grand machine in a modest town. Maybe potential is immeasurable. Perhaps that is exactly what gives us all hope." --Mary Garner Rees, Lemuria Bookstore, Jackson, Miss.

Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains by Kerri Arsenault (St. Martin's Press, $27.99, 9781250155931). "This is a beautifully written story about two small towns in Maine and the paper mill that is the foundation of their economy. It tells the much bigger story of the sacrifice of the workers, and the injustices to them and the environment. Arsenault masters the nuances of family and history, which pulled me into the story in the first few pages and kept me there. A tender and honest reveal of her own family and hometown, and a truthful history of our nation. I'll be recommending this as a must-read to our customers." --Todd Miller, Arcadia Books, Spring Green, Wis.

A Rogue of One's Own: A Novel by Evie Dunmore (Berkley, $16, 9781984805706). "Being excited about a follow-up to a debut novel can be fraught--will the second book live up to my expectations? A Rogue of One's Own absolutely did! Evie Dunmore's series (the first entry was Bringing Down the Duke) features a quartet of lively suffragettes and the men they fall in love with and bring over to The Cause. The characters are compelling and likable, the relationships solidly built. There are also some interesting tidbits for history buffs, like excerpts of actual letters written by women of the time." --Sandy Scott, The Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, Vt.

For Ages 4 to 8
Pea, Bee, & Jay: Stuck Together by Brian "Smitty" Smith (HarperAlley, $12.95, 9780062981172) "A pea, a strawberry, and a cherry roll into the garden... and dare the pea to see what lies beyond the farm's fence. On his quest, Pea befriends the studious Bee and shy bird Jay. What an unlikely trio! This short graphic novel is the first in a new series, and it's delightfully punny. I look forward to seeing what other adventures are in store for Pea, Bee, and Jay!" --Andrew King, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

For Ages 9 to 12: An Indies Introduce Title
Cattywampus by Ash Van Otterloo (Scholastic, $17.99, 9781338561593). "Cattywampus is filled with raccoon familiars, magic, and two kids aimed at saving their town from generations of zombie ancestors brought on by a spell gone bad! I loved the sense of place Ash Van Otterloo has brought to this book, plus the wonderful language and some beautiful representation." --Nathaniel Hattrick, Ballast Book Company, Bremerton, Wash.

For Teen Readers
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar (HarperTeen, $17.99, 9780062894625). "Star Daughter follows Sheetal, a half-star, half-mortal girl. When her star power injures her human father, Sheetal must seek the help of her mother, a star who returned to the heavens long ago. Sheetal soon finds herself representing her family in a magical competition that will decide the next ruling house of heaven. A standalone fantasy, Star Daughter reads like a diverse version of Stardust that is all its own, taking inspiration from Hindu mythology. With prose the likes of Laini Taylor and Margaret Rogerson, Shveta Thakrar has a bright future in YA literature." --Isabella Ogbolumani, Buffalo Street Books, Ithaca, N.Y.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: The National Road: Dispatches from a Changing America

The National Road: Dispatches from a Changing America by Tom Zoellner (Counterpoint, $26 hardcover, 272p., 9781640092907, October 13, 2020)

If George Packer and John McPhee collaborated on a collection that examined contemporary American life, while simultaneously exhibiting an intense feeling for the country's vast landscape, it might look something like Tom Zoellner's stimulating The National Road: Dispatches from a Changing America. In the 13 personal and journalistic essays that compose the book, Zoellner endeavors to "paint a picture of 'American place' in this uncertain era of political toxin and economic rearrangement."

Zoellner is at his most timely in pieces like "Late City Final," where he mourns the demise of American newspapers, the field in which he worked for 10 years. With the loss of these daily papers, he laments, "so with it will come amnesia." "Welcome to Dirtytown" hints at some of the root causes of the country's racial divide, in an account that focuses on the postage-stamp municipalities surrounding St. Louis, Mo., that "chisel motorists with aggressive police stops" to raise revenues, their targets overwhelmingly Black. In "Spillville," Zoellner explores some of the cultural and political ferment in the tiny Iowa town of that name.

"Searchlight," the story of a 500-mile driving trek across eastern Nevada, showcases Zoellner's skill as a nature writer, and includes a harrowing description of his attempt to climb Pilot Peak, one of the landmarks in the tragic story of the Donner Party. His talent is also evident in "At the End There Will Be Strangers," a wistful portrait of the demolition of the home in Paradise Valley, Ariz., where his maternal grandmother lived for 61 years. On a lighter note, "Drive" recounts his lifelong attempt at "trying to pack as much Americana into the manuscript of memory as possible" behind the wheel of a car.

Zoellner has a taste for the whimsical, best displayed in the essay "Mormon Historical Sites at Night," where he catalogues a series of nocturnal visits to locations like the birthplace of Mormonism's founder Joseph Smith in Vermont, while delivering a painless lesson on the faith's beliefs and practices. In a similar vein is "The Whole Hoop of the World," his quest to attain the highest point in each of the 50 states (he's bagged 44), among them Clingman's Dome in Tennessee, whose viewing platform "looks like what would happen if Albert Speer ever designed a landing pad for The Jetsons."

The National Road's subjects are diverse and unfailingly interesting. No matter how well readers think they may know the United States, it's guaranteed there will be something here to surprise, delight or unsettle them. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: A seasoned journalist offers snapshots of contemporary America in an eclectic selection of essays.

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