Shelf Awareness for Friday, October 30, 2020

Storey Publishing: The Universe in Verse: 15 Portals to Wonder Through Science & Poetry by Maria Popova

Tommy Nelson: You'll Always Have a Friend: What to Do When the Lonelies Come by Emily Ley, Illustrated by Romina Galotta

Jimmy Patterson: Amir and the Jinn Princess by M T Khan

Peachtree Publishers: Erno Rubik and His Magic Cube by Kerry Aradhya, Illustrated by Kara Kramer

Beacon Press: Kindred by Octavia Butler

Inkshares: Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel

Tundra Books: On a Mushroom Day by Chris Baker, Illustrated by Alexandria Finkeldey

Blue Box Press: A Soul of Ash and Blood: A Blood and Ash Novel by Jennifer L Armentrout

Quotation of the Day

Indie Bookstores 'Must Be a Big Part of #WhatUnitesUs'

"Just a friendly... reminder. Please support INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES. They are important local businesses and vital to our communities. They must be a big part of #WhatUnitesUs. Feel free to share and tag your favorites in the comments. (Pictures are always a plus)."

--Journalist and author Dan Rather, on Twitter

Weldon Owen: The Gay Icon's Guide to Life by Michael Joosten, Illustrated by Peter Emerich


Amazon's Third Quarter: Record Sales, Profits

In the third quarter ended September 30, Amazon's net sales rose 37.3%, to $96.1 billion, and net income tripled to $6.3 billion. Sales in the third quarter set a record, surpassing fourth-quarter holiday sales in 2019 and previous years, always its biggest quarter. In addition, for the year to date, the company's profit is nearly $14 billion, more than it has made in any previous full year.

Observing that this year the company has created more than 400,000 jobs--for a total of more than a million--as the Covid-19 pandemic boosted online sales, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said, "We're seeing more customers than ever shopping early for their holiday gifts, which is just one of the signs that this is going to be an unprecedented holiday season."

Amazon predicted that in the fourth quarter, net sales will rise to between $112 billion and $121 billion--or by 28%-38% compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.

Amazon's third-quarter results easily exceeded analysts' expectations, but company stock didn't immediately jump in after-hours trading. Already up more than 70% this year, Amazon stock closed yesterday with a gain of 1.5%, at $3,211.01 a share.

MarketWatch noted that "the majority of Amazon's operating profit comes from its cloud-computing offering, Amazon Web Services. AWS provided $3.54 billion in operating profit in the third quarter on revenue of $11.6 billion, while Amazon's domestic e-commerce business contributed $2.25 billion and the overseas business produced $407 million, its second consecutive operating profit after years of losses."

The Wall Street Journal noted that "in another sign of how the pandemic is changing shopping patterns, Amazon said its physical stores segment, which includes Whole Foods, saw a 10% decrease in sales from the year-earlier period."

Apple, Facebook and Alphabet (parent of Google) also issued quarterly reports and also had tremendous gains in profit. The New York Times said the results "highlighted how a recovery may provide another catalyst to help [the big tech companies] generate a level of wealth that hasn't been seen in a single industry in generations.

"With an entrenched audience of users and the financial resources to press their leads in areas like cloud computing, e-commerce and digital advertising, the companies demonstrated again that economic malaise, upstart competitors and feisty antitrust regulators have had little impact on their bottom line. Combined, the four companies reported a quarterly net profit of $38 billion."

The newspaper added: "Big Tech's third-quarter boom could look modest when compared with the final quarter of the year. For Apple, it's when consumers buy newly released iPhones. And the year-end shopping peak means lots of customers turning to Amazon for gifts, while advertisers rely on Google and Facebook for digital ads during the holidays."

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

PRH Offers Two Marketing Programs to Support Indies During Holiday Season

Penguin Random House is launching two marketing programs to support independent bookstores this holiday season. The programs reflect that "the final months of 2020 are a critical time for independent bookstores," said Jaci Updike, president, sales, PRH U.S. "We wanted to find innovative ways to support the work they do on behalf of our books and authors, and to help drive sales in their stores."

The first program, "Books Give More," is a partnership with PRH's consumer marketing team; independent bookstores that promote selected titles from the "Books Give More" campaign during the holidays are eligible to receive a marketing credit based on their 2019 sales. To help drive consumer demand at the store level, PRH will promote these titles via social media marketing, online advertising and e-newsletters. PRH will also create digital initiatives that focus consumer attention on independent bookstores on an ongoing basis.

The other program supports virtual events hosted on bookstores' platforms. Called VESPER, the Virtual Events Support Program reimagines traditional event co-op for current times, when most events occur online. All divisions of PRH, along with DK, will participate in the program.

"Author events at independent bookstores are a crucial component of some of our most successful book launches," continued Updike. "We have seen firsthand how labor-intensive it is to mount a successful virtual event. We hope VESPER helps stores engage with their communities in new ways, as we all learn together how to connect our authors more closely with readers in the virtual space."

Bookstores interested in finding out more about these programs are encouraged to contact their PRH sales representative.

Harpervia: Only Big Bumbum Matters Tomorrow by Damilare Kuku

Reasonable Books Opens in Lafayette, Calif.

Reasonable Books, a general independent bookstore with an 80/20 ratio of new to used books, opened last month in Lafayette, Calif., the Lamorinda Weekly reported.

Owned by Betty and Rudy Winnacker, the store has, it says, "an emphasis on thoughtful and important subjects for the interested and discerning reader. While we strive to make available illuminating materials you may not even realize you want to read, we also believe that the mind benefits from rest and healthy distractions. You will find books that can help you relax or escape for a well-deserved break here."

According to the Lamorinda Weekly, a bookstore has been a dream of the Winnackers because of their love of reading. Moreover, "Rudy Winnacker says the store is an opportunity he's looked forward to for sometime to work with the printed word after a career working with a number of digital publishing companies such as Blogger, Twitter and Medium."

Because of Covid-19, the store opened quietly. The Weekly described it as "a sanctuary of peace and quiet--a deliberate goal of the Winnackers." They plan to become "very involved with the community, the Chamber of Commerce, schools and book clubs. They aim to have in-person events at the store such as books signings and author talks."

So far, the owners are pleased with the first month. Rudy Winnacker said, "There is a steady stream of visitors and a lot of support and good will from the community. We are making sales, growing our inventory and learning a lot about how we can serve the readers in Lafayette and surrounding towns."

International Update: New Lockdown for French Booksellers, #BoxedOut Goes Global

French bookshops must close for a second Covid-19 lockdown. President Emmanuel Macron announced new restrictions, effective today, on all "non-essential businesses," the Guardian reported.

In response, a joint statement was issued by the French publishers' association (Syndicat national de l'édition), booksellers' association (Syndicat de la Librairie Française) and authors' group (Conseil Permanent des Ecrivains) calling for bookshops to remain open alongside supermarkets and pharmacies.

Citing an "extraordinary appetite for reading among the French," particularly in recent months, the trade associations wrote: "Leave our bookstores open so that social confinement does not also become cultural isolation. Our readers, who love independent bookstores, would not understand it and would experience it as an injustice... books satisfy our need for understanding, reflection, escape, distraction, but also sharing and communication."

The groups also stressed that booksellers were now prepared and "perfectly able to welcome readers in a new lockdown, in safe and proven sanitary conditions.... We are ready to assume our cultural and health responsibilities."


Highlighting examples of how word is spreading internationally about the American Booksellers Association's popular #BoxedOut campaign, Bookselling This Week offered "a peek at how countries across the globe are getting the message out to their readers."

Australian bookseller Mary Who? Bookshop, Townsville, QLD, posted on Facebook: "The American Booksellers Association launches their #BoxedOut #ShopIndie Campaign... 'which is designed to market indie bookstores and speak to the critical choice between shopping indie and shopping Amazon.'--equally relevant to our Australian book-industry." The bookseller followed up a few days later with: "More from American Booksellers Association... we're loving their #boxedout #shopindie campaign.... Shape the world you want to live in."


Halloween in New Zealand: Schrödinger's Books in Petone shared photos of its ghostly display on Facebook, noting: "Only a few more days to get those sweet treats for your little boos--Develop more literary skills and less cavities." --Robert Gray

Hachette Debuts Legacy Lit Imprint

Krishan Trotman

Hachette Book Group has launched Legacy Lit, an imprint dedicated to books for and by people of color. It is the first such imprint for HBG and will be led by vice-president and publisher Krishan Trotman.

Legacy Lit will publish 12-15 titles per year, with the imprint's first books coming in January 2022. Trotman and her team will publish primarily nonfiction, including narrative nonfiction, memoir and current events, along with selected fiction offerings. They plan to "give voice to issues, authors and communities that have been marginalized, underserved and overlooked." The list will include titles by authors Faith Jenkins, Tamera Mowry-Housley, David Ambroz, Shanita Hubbard and more.

"Fifteen years in book publishing have revealed to me a consistent craving by BIPOC authors, readers and publishing insiders," said Trotman, who previously worked for four years at the Hachette Books imprint. Some of her major titles there included Maid by Stephanie Land, You Look So Much Better in Person by Al Roker and The Plot to Destroy Democracy by Malcolm Nance. "That craving is to be understood, to be 'seen.' Legacy Lit will be a home for writers where there's a core understanding of culture and diversity."

Michael Pietsch, Hachette Book Group's CEO, said: "I am very excited about this new imprint and grateful to Krishan Trotman for conceiving it and bringing us to this point. Now more than ever, culture-shifting publishing professionals like Krishan bring essential leadership and vision."

Legacy Lit will be a part of the Hachette Books imprint within the Perseus Books division.

Sterling Launching YA Imprint, Sterling Teen

Sterling Publishing is launching a YA imprint, Sterling Teen, whose initial list will publish in Spring 2021. The imprint aims to publish one to three books a season in all genres of fiction. Future lists will include nonfiction as well. "Finding and publishing exciting new voices is the main goal," said Brian Monahan, Sterling Children's Books editorial director.

He added that Sterling Children's Books has "a long history of publishing a wide array of books for ages 0-12. This new imprint will allow us to speak directly to the YA market."

The first three titles are:

Mortal Remains by Mary Ann Fraser, a gothic romance about a 17-year-old resident cosmetologist at her family's funeral home and the mysterious boy she rescues from certain death--who oddly reminds her of a long-dead childhood crush. (February 2, 2021)

List of Ten by Halli Gomez, an #ownvoices novel, is the story of a 16-year-old with the dual diagnosis of Tourette syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder who is contemplating his own mortality. (March 2, 2021)

Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell, and Fiona Woods follows three very different teen girls who, when targeted by a toxic private school website dealing in gossip and lies, decide to band together and fight back. (April 6, 2021)

How Bookstores Are Coping: 'Less Down Is the New Up'; New Home

In Brooklyn, N.Y., both Greenlight Bookstore locations have resumed in-store browsing and are operating on limited hours. No more than 10 customers are allowed in the store at a time, and all shoppers and staff must wear masks and use hand sanitizer. Co-owners Jessica Stockton Bagnulo and Rebecca Fitting have set up a "host station" just inside the front door to manage capacity, make sure customers understand Greenlight's safety guidelines and assist with pick-ups. 

Like many indies, Greenlight has seen a huge uptick in e-commerce, and many customers are still opting to pay online and pick-up in-store. Bagnulo noted that in terms of sales, "less down is the new up," meaning that the store is definitely in better shape than it was a few months ago, though it will still likely be down by double digits for the year.

When asked about any bright spots over the past several months, Bagnulo said it's been great to see the store's audience for events "become national and even international" thanks to virtual events. The store's e-commerce sales were already growing prior to the pandemic, but out of necessity the store has had to "focus hard on that department" and streamline its systems in a lot of effective ways. The store's social media coordinator, she added, has spent the quarantine "seriously upping our Instagram Stories game."

Elaborating on the store's streamlined systems, Fitting noted that all special orders and pre-orders are now prepaid, and Greenlight is putting together a process for donating unclaimed orders after 30 days. This way, things are "much cleaner and more efficient" compared to pre-pandemic, when the store would order books for customers and then see "spotty follow through" on pick-up. With curbside pick-up here to stay, Fitting can see Greenlight keeping these systems in place, including prepayment. The store now has some remote work positions, which is completely new to Greenlight, but it's been "working incredibly well." They've always struggled a bit with office space, she continued, but it never occurred to them to address space issues by creating work-from-home opportunities for staff. And while everyone is a bit tired of Zoom meetings, the team is a "lot more connected and informed now thanks to Zoom."

On the subject of holiday buying, Fitting said it's been "such a challenge" this year. Following the shutdown in the spring, they were "very cautious" about buying, so Fitting approached the fall season monthly. In hindsight, however, Fitting feels this might bave been a mistake, as it was more work and it put the store "behind the eight ball" in terms of stock shortages at publishers. They've already been chasing a few titiles and are receiving some new releases late, though Fitting said they seem "mostly caught up now," and they are slowly and steadily stockpiling titles they feel might be hard to find.

Perhaps the biggest source of anxiety for Greenlight right now is the ongoing rise in Covid numbers and the potential of another shutdown in New York City. She noted that in Newark, N.J., all non-essential businesses were closed for in-door browsing recently in order to slow the spread of the virus, and she wishes New York had done the same. At the moment, only businesses within designated red zone areas must close, but they have to do so completely. Greenlight is not currently affected, but if there is enough of a surge in its area, it could be left with "stores full of books that we can't sell." The pressure, she added, is "mind-boggling."


After moving to a new location this summer, Second Flight Books in Lafayette, Ind., has reopened with its normal, pre-Covid hours, owners Laura and Justin Kendall reported. Laura Kendall said there are still a few boxes that need to be unpacked, and they're still working on redecorating a bit too, but the shop is otherwise fully open for business and customers seem to like it.

The store's new home is located across from Lafayette's Columbian Park, in a space that the Kendalls bought. Laura Kendall noted that while the old space was essentially one long room, the new shop has several small rooms, which creates a bit of a different vibe. So far they've been seeing a lot of new faces, as the shop is in a new neighborhood, and they are "loving the number of dogs who come in, since we're by a park."

When the store first reopened after shutting down in the spring, Second Flight was using a hybrid model: shortened hours and appointments available for half of the day. In recent months, however, hardly anyone was signing up for the appointments, so the Kendalls expanded hours and got rid of the appointments. Masks and hand sanitizer are required.

Second Flight's inventory consists of mostly used books, and typically the store sells far more new books and gifts over the holidays than it does throughout the rest of the year. However, between the pandemic and moving expenses, the owners have tried to be cautious with holiday spending. They've brought in a larger selection of cards than usual, since there may be less holiday travel going on, and they are stocking up on more sidelines and budget-friendly remainders.

Kendall has not seen much holiday traffic yet, though she's hoping that will increase in November. She hasn't done a ton of messaging about early shopping, but she has had many conversations with shoppers about how they should buy early or expect delays if they wait too long to buy popular titles. --Alex Mutter


New Orleans Booksellers Weather Hurricane Zeta

Post-storm cleanup at Blue Cypress Books

Posted on Facebook yesterday by Octavia Books, New Orleans, La.: "Despite the eye of a hurricane passing directly through us yesterday, we are happy to announce we are open, we have power, and voracious readers are feasting. We are here to help."

Garden District Book Shop tweeted: "We have power!! We will be open regular hours today. 10am-6pm Come grab a book to keep you entertained!"

'Want to Smell Like a Million Books?' Try Powell's by Powell's

Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., is introducing its own limited-edition unisex fragrance, Powell's by Powell's, promising a scent that "contains the lives of countless heroes and heroines. Apply to the pulse points when seeking sensory succor or a brush with immortality." Available for preorder now on, it will be sold in stores beginning November 27. 

"With notes of wood, violet, and biblichor, Powell’s by Powell’s comes in a 1-ounce glass bottle nestled in a faux book," the bookseller noted. "Just a few dabs to the pulse points will deliver the wearer to a place of wonder, discovery, and magic heretofore only known in literature."

Bookshop Customer of the Day: Bookish

"Sometimes you move to a new state in the middle of a pandemic," Bookish bookstore, Fort Smith, Ark., posted on Facebook yesterday. "Of course, the first thing you do is find the local bookstore and join the monthly book club. Month after month you show up, and even though you think you're just talking books, you soon find that you were also finding your people and building a new little community. That's the #powerofbooks. We adore this woman and her family. Thanks for the visit today, Cassandra!"

Personnel Changes at the New Press

Jay Pabarue has joined the New Press as marketing and publicity associate. He was previously marketing manager at Book of the Month.

Media and Movies

Movies: The Midnight Sky

Netflix has released a trailer for The Midnight Sky, based on the novel Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. IndieWire reported that George Clooney, who starred in sci-fi films Solaris and Gravity, "is finally ready to tackle outer space from the director's chair with his upcoming adventure." The ensemble cast includes Clooney, Felicity Jones, Kyle Chandler, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone, and Demián Bichir.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Clooney said one of the things he had learned about space from working with Alfonso Cuarón on Gravity was that "once you're in the antigravity kind of world, there is no north and south or east or west, because it doesn't exist in space. Up isn't up, and down isn't down. So the camera can be upside down, characters can be upside down, and it's hard to do, because you're constantly rotating the camera, and hoping you're not doing it so much you make everybody sick. Alfonso did it just beautifully."

The Midnight Sky will premiere December 23 on Netflix, following a limited theatrical release.

Books & Authors

Awards: Readings Winner

Smart Ovens for Lonely People, the short story collection by Elizabeth Tan, has won this year's Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction. In announcing the award, Readings Carlton manager Joe Rubbo wrote, "This is a truly exciting work; Tan's stories push the form, and offer a quixotic but penetrating look into our contemporary life. Her collection stood out to the judges for its originality, its clear and concise writing, and its humour--Smart Ovens for Lonely People is laugh-out-loud funny."

Readings bookstore Jackie Tang added, "Tan is a writer with a voice and imagination uniquely and utterly her own. Each of these stories feels like a distorted reflection of our technologically mired world and they will resonate with anyone who enjoys the works of Carmen Maria Machado, Margo Lanagan and Kelly Link."

Reading with... Emma Ramadan

Emma Ramadan is a literary translator who lives in Providence, R.I., where she also co-owns, with Tom Roberge, Riffraff Bookstore + Bar. Her translations include Sphinx by Anne Garréta, Pretty Things by Virginie Despentes and Me & Other Writing by Marguerite Duras. Her most recent translation, Straight from the Horse's Mouth by Meryem Alaoui, is out now from Other Press.

On your nightstand now:

Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler, which might be a little masochistic in how close its "speculative" universe feels to our own right now, and One Small Saga by Bobbie Louise Hawkins, which is an extremely charming counterbalance.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Jennifer Murdley's Toad by Bruce Coville, for reasons I can't remember, and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, for reasons that seem obvious.

Your top five authors:

Marguerite Duras
Marie NDiaye
Ariana Harwicz
Clarice Lispector  
Forrest Gander

Book you've faked reading:

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust.

Books you're an evangelist for:

Paradise Rot by Jenny Hval, translated by Marjam Idriss, and the forthcoming Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Women by Chloe Caldwell. The cover is actually incredibly simple, off-white, essentially no design, and for that reason it stood out to me on the colorful shelves of a bookstore. I was blown away by the writing contained in that slim, simple package.

Book you hid from your parents:

The Babysitter horror series by R.L. Stine. I made off with it from my older brother's room when I was way too young to read it. I paid for it in nightmares.

Book that changed your life:

Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras. Duras writes about desire and obsession in strange, subtle and wild ways I had never seen depicted in literature before.

Favorite line from a book:

"Within ten minutes of meeting, we'd exchanged love letters from the corners of our eyes." --Forrest Gander, As a Friend

Five books you'll never part with:

Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras
Água Viva by Clarice Lispector
This Little Art by Kate Briggs
Virgil's Aeneid
Franz Kafka's short stories

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

Rough Magic: Riding the World's Loneliest Horse Race by Lara Prior‑Palmer. I read it all in one sitting and gasped audibly more than once.

Book Review

Review: The Bright and Breaking Sea

The Bright and Breaking Sea by Chloe Neill (Berkley, $16 paperback, 384p., 9781984806680, November 17, 2020)

With The Bright and Breaking Sea, Chloe Neill launches a high-stakes-on-the-high-seas historical fantasy series full of political intrigue, naval battles and well-drawn characters.

As with the urban fantasy series she's known for--the Chicagoland Vampires and others--Neill drops readers directly into the action with a daring escape aided by heroine Captain Kit Brightling's water magic. The world is roughly mapped onto historical Europe during the Napoleonic Wars, complete with a fictional exiled dictator named Gerard, recently ousted from Gallia (France). Brightling and her allies hail from the Isles, a fictional Great Britain that appears to have eschewed colonization in favor of international trade and diplomacy. The queen, a Black woman named Charlotte, sends Brightling on a series of missions to save a spy captured by pirates, to hunt down an enemy ship and more in order to thwart Gerard's attempt at a comeback. The action is continuous, with brief stops along the way to repair the ship, re-provision and receive new orders.

As an Aligned person, Kit can tap into the natural magic of the sea. So, when an air-Aligned colleague confirms her sense that something is off, Kit's ordered to solve a mystery only she can: What's happening to the magic? And what does it have to do with Gerard?

While the large cast is a little unwieldy at first, with so many crew members and palace denizens with whom to become acquainted, Neill develops her characters well enough that readers will soon be able to tell them apart and appreciate their idiosyncrasies. For example, readers will immediately identify Colonel Grant, a military commander, viscount and Kit's reluctant partner on these missions, as Kit's love interest. Since both are accustomed to command positions, their partnership begins with a power struggle that evolves into respect and friendship as they work together. As they face pirates, misogynistic and condescending fellow Isles captains and danger from several directions, they grow closer, despite their best intentions. Their relationship is by far not the central plot, but Neill deftly employs it to give depth to Grant's and Brightling's characters and to explore subjects such as feminism, independence, obligation and post-traumatic stress.

The Bright and Breaking Sea pits Kit Brightling and her crew against misused magic, cannons and traitors in an adventure that doesn't let up. Readers will be eager for the next installment. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels

Shelf Talker: Readers who enjoy adventure, intrigue and a touch of magic will be swept away by Chloe Neill's seafaring historical fantasy and its devoted and supremely competent captain.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Believing in Bookish Ghosts

All Hallows Eve. Hallowe'en. Trick or Treat. There will be ghosts; there will be witches; masked strangers will walk the streets, rattling doors, demanding sweet redemption. Ah, the good old days.

Will this be the scariest Halloween ever, given that the most frightening people out there won't be wearing masks? Earlier this month, Wicked Good Books in Salem, Mass., tweeted: "Due to lack of compliance with mask and hand sanitizing requirements, putting the health of our staff, patrons and community at risk, we are now open on weekends by appointment only during October.... Our weekday schedule is unchanged."

A surge of Covid-19 cases in Massachusetts "is coinciding with a deluge of Halloween visitors to the witch-trial town of Salem, prompting officials in the historical city to barricade streets and request that visitors stay home this month," the Washington Post reported. The city's mayor said, "Our message to those planning a trip to Salem this October at this point is to postpone your visit. This is not the year to come to Salem."

Strange days indeed, when witches take precautions, but Covid zombies go maskless. Last Sunday, Wicked Good Books tweeted: " '...we shall every one be mask'd...' LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST, Act V Scene II. For a #SafeHalloween in #SalemMA."

In The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: "It is not the less certain, however, that awe and terror brooded over the memories of those who died for this horrible crime of witchcraft. Their graves, in the crevices of the rocks, were supposed to be incapable of retaining the occupants who had been so hastily thrust into them."

As a reader and writer, I believe in ghosts, of course. I see them everywhere, page after page, book after book. But Salem isn't my haunted place; Concord is, and my visits there have often had a ceremonial, even seance-like, aspect.

I won't be going to Concord this weekend, however. Governor Cuomo cautioned us Wednesday that New Yorkers shouldn't even consider crossing the Bay State border ("Danger! Wrong Way! Turn Back!" he proclaimed, or words to that effect.). Instead, I found myself recalling the last time, several years ago, that I ventured to Concord and spent the night at the (probably) haunted Colonial Inn.

The next morning, I sauntered toward Ralph Waldo Emerson's house and sat on a cold stone bench--the dates 1775-1975 chiseled into it like bicentennial graffiti--across the street. I didn't take the tour, having been inside many times. I've sat on the sofa in Emerson's study and listened to a nice woman tell me a familiar story. But the Emerson house in my imagination has no tour guide. Mr. Emerson's ghost answers the door himself, invites me in. He talks and I listen, maybe ask a question now and then. What is faith? Why do you believe in God? What is love? What is love in the context of your first wife, Ellen; or your second, Lidian... or Margaret Fuller?

Last time I was there, however, I just wanted to observe the house and think about tangibles--the tangibility of wood and glass that made this simple structure; the tangibility of a long-dead man's life; the tangibility of the man's work, which still breathes the fresh air of pertinence and impertinence. Afterward, I paid my respects in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, climbed Authors' Ridge and walked past the Thoreau, Alcott and Hawthorne family plots to visit Emerson's immense quartz headstone, surrounded by the weathered markers of his own family.

What is the scariest thing I ever read? "I visited Ellen's tomb & opened the coffin." Emerson wrote that spectral declarative sentence in his journal on March 29, 1832, barely a year after the death of his first wife.

What is the funniest cemetery joke Thoreau ever wrote? "Most of the stone a nation hammers goes toward its tomb only. It buries itself alive."

Concord is a great Halloween town. This year, it even has Matthew Dunkle as the headless horseman, playing guitar while riding a bicycle through the streets. Another symptom of the Covid-19 crazies, you ask? Former WBZ reporter David Robichaud tweeted: "In 2020 this is not even on my Top 10 weird stuff I’ve seen list."

In Christopher Morley's classic novel The Haunted Bookshop, we are informed that the Parnassus at Home bookstore features a "large placard in a frame," which reads:

This shop is haunted by the ghosts
Of all great literature, in hosts

What other holiday is more appropriate than Halloween to honor (and inevitably capitalize upon) the dead writers who still pay a significant portion of our wages? Publishing houses may not be haunted houses, but storytelling has a long and distinguished spectral pedigree. And Covid-19... can go to hell.

--Robert Gray, editor

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