Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, November 17, 2020


Shambhala: Wait: A Love Letter to Those in Despair by Cuong Lu

Other Press: Nuestra América: My Family in the Vertigo of Translation by Claudio Lomnitz

Scholastic Press: Muted by Tami Charles

Berkley Books: The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

News

Report: News Corp., PRH Leading Bidders for Simon & Schuster

News Corp., which owns HarperCollins, and Penguin Random House are the leading bidders for Simon & Schuster, according to the New York Times, which cited "three people familiar with the process." S&S was put up for sale in March by ViacomCBS, which characterized the publisher as "not a core asset."

At least one bid is for more than $1.7 billion--above ViacomCBS's minimum, which in March was estimated to be $1.2 billion. The Times wrote that "several financial firms" have dropped out of the bidding, and that final bids are due before Thanksgiving. A sale could be announced soon thereafter or "a deal may not materialize."

As the Times noted, "any merger agreement would also have to undergo regulatory scrutiny. A combination with either Penguin Random House or HarperCollins, the two largest book publishers in the country, could raise questions in Washington. Penguin Random House's sales exceeded $4 billion last year. Annual sales at HarperCollins, which reports its fiscal year at the end of June, were about $1.7 billion."

Bolstered in part by sales of titles about President Trump, including Rage by Bob Woodward, Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump and The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton, S&S has had a strong year through September, with sales up 8%, to $649 million, and profit before tax up 6%, to $115 million. Sales in 2019 were $814 million.

S&S was founded in 1924 by Richard L. Simon and M. Lincoln Schuster and initially thrived selling crossword puzzle books. Of course, the company expanded rapidly, and since 1994 has been owned by either Viacom or CBS, or both.


Aftershock Comics: Kill a Man by Steve Orlando and Phillip Kennedy Johnson, illustrated by Alec Morgan


N.C.'s Park Road Books Closes Temporarily After Staffer Tests Positive

In another case of an employee's positive Covid-19 test resulting in a bookstore temporarily closing to the public, Park Road Books, Charlotte, N.C., has stopped allowing in-store browsing and is limiting operations to curbside pickup and shipping only, the store announced yesterday.

Park Road Books said that "one of our employees tested positive and is now under self-quarantine for 14 days. In the interim the rest of the staff is getting tested for the novel coronavirus, and we are cleaning and sanitizing as best we can.... We will open back up after everyone has been tested."

Last week, Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass., suspended in-store browsing and curbside pickup for two days after an employee tested positive.


GLOW: Beacon Press: Boyz n the Void: a mixtape to my brother by G'Ra Asim


How Bookstores Are Coping: 'Very Fortunate'; Virtual Pivot

Emily Hall Schroen, owner of Main Street Books in St. Charles, Mo., reports that "things are moving along smoothly" at the store, which reopened to browsing in early May. Masks are still required, occupancy is still limited to no more than 10 customers at a time, and there is still a bespoke sneeze guard by the register. Schroen said she's a bit concerned about the 10-customer limit going into the holidays, as St. Charles holds a month-long Christmas festival every year, and on a typical December Saturday, the store would usually see 15-30 customers in-store at a time.

During the town's Halloween festival, she continued, she and her team had to place several X's on the sidewalk outside the store so that customers could wait in "some semblance of an official line." Schroen added that for the most part, customers did wait, mostly happily, and, in general, customers have been "very understanding and grateful" and "really patient."

The store's online sales have increased significantly over the past eight months, and Schroen said she'd really like her customers to keep buying online even after the pandemic. The store has offered online shopping since late 2018, but it was not until the middle of March that they began to see significant traffic. Online buying has opened up the store to many customers who otherwise would never be able to make it in person, including some local folks who have moved to Florida, a father and son who live in southern Illinois and more. Local customers also enjoy the convenience of buying online and picking up curbside. It's been very gratifying, Schroen added, to see repeat customers and to send books to "all sorts of different places."

When it came to ordering for the holidays, Schroen cut her fall frontlist orders by about 25% compared to the last three years. She's trying to stock up on popular books, since supply-chain issues seem inevitable in the coming weeks. The goal is to have enough copies of key titles so the store doesn't run out until right after Christmas. Schroen noted that she really wishes there was "some kind of secret bookseller formula" for figuring that out, but without one she's taken an educated guess. She ordered heavily on A Promised Land and will have a "huge number" of children's holiday titles available--"Hopefully that will keep us going until January."

Schroen and her team have been encouraging customers to shop early. This week they sent out a store newsletter with some of the ABA's Shop Early language in it, and the team has been trying to keep that messaging consistent in the store when directly interacting with customers. People have been "super receptive," and at least once a day they get someone at the counter telling staff they're shopping local for Christmas, and they're doing it early to avoid crowds.

Throughout the pandemic, numerous customers have come in, bought a stack of books, and told Schroen that they want to make sure the store stays in the community. The pandemic has been hard, she said, but Main Street Books has "been very fortunate."

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Boogie Down Books, a children's bookstore-without-walls based in the Bronx, N.Y., moved all of its events to Zoom in March, when the coronavirus shutdowns began. Owner and founder Rebekah Shoaf reported that the move to virtual events has allowed children and families from around the world to join for storytime sessions, book clubs, read-aloud and cook-along sessions and more. Given how small the operation is, Shoaf continued, it's been "very special" to see how people have found Boogie Down Books from "near and far."

Prior to the pandemic, the event readers used to be mostly volunteers and educators, with an occasional author or illustrator joining in. Now, it's about 99% authors and illustrators, and publishers have been reaching out to see if there is space for their authors. She added that it's been great to be able to build connections directly between authors and illustrators and their readers and fans.

Rebekah Shoaf

Virtual events have also allowed Shoaf and her team to bring students and educators from different schools together for the same event. She noted, too, that in the early fall, Boogie Down Books was able to host a storytime on a rooftop for about six weeks. Limited numbers of people could attend in person; the events were broadcast over Zoom. The outdoor events met with a great response, she said, and she's received invitations from other outdoor spaces to hold events there. But with the rising number of Covid cases and increased restrictions coming into effect, she's holding off on any more outdoor events for now.

Shoaf said her team has "really stepped up" during the pandemic, and she has been inspired by and grateful for the work they've been able to do. The team has expanded to include a yoga teacher who comes up with a movement routine each week based on the Saturday storytime's featured book. With so many children stuck inside at the moment, Boogie Down Books is making sure to incorporate some kind of movement into all of its sessions.

Boogie Down Books has been continuing its partnerships to send books to juveniles and young adults in New York City jails. The team has also been replenishing several nearby Little Free Libraries. --Alex Mutter


Berkley Books: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto


Armin Lear Press Launches Wild Pansy Imprint

Armin Lear Press, Boulder, Colo., is launching a new imprint, Wild Pansy, which will focus on sex and human sexuality. Its first title will pub on Valentine's Day next year and is The Sweetness of Venus: A History of the Clitoris by Sarah Chadwick.

The publisher said that The Sweetness of Venus is "the product of years of research by first-time author Chadwick who interviewed, and was reviewed by, some of the leading authorities in the field of human sexuality. The author takes readers on a romp through history, spotlighting misconceptions, fabrications, and discoveries about the clitoris. Relying on sound science, and offering fascinating stories throughout history, Chadwick entertains as vividly as she informs."

Founded last year, Armin Lear publishes nonfiction books "connecting people with ideas that make our lives richer, more fulfilling, happier." This includes books about "business, career development, health, literacy, lifestyle, and more."


Obituary Note: Fred Hills; Don O'Connor

Fred Hills

Fred Hills, longtime trade book editor, died on November 7. He was 85.

Hills began a publishing career that lasted more than four decades as an editor at McGraw-Hill, and became editor-in-chief of the McGraw-Hill College textbook division and then editor-in-chief of the trade division. After moving to Simon & Schuster, he spent 26 years as v-p and senior editor at the Simon & Schuster and Free Press imprints.

Among the many authors Hills edited were Vladimir Nabokov, Heinrich Böll, Raymond Carver, Bruce J. Friedman, Arianna Huffington, Wiliam Saroyan, Muriel Rukeyser, Justin Kaplan, Irving Howe, Judith Viorst, M. Scott Peck, Ann Rule, Jane Fonda, Stephen Birmingham, Pete Peterson, Daniel Yergin, David Halberstam and Sumner Redstone. During his time at S&S, he published more than 50 hardcover New York Times bestsellers and, in one 12-month period, he published nine bestsellers.

While working as a salesperson in the book department of the San Francisco Emporium department store in 1958, Hills picked up a copy of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, which had just been published in the U.S. He turned to the first page, read the now famous opening lines, "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul..." and was so drawn in that he bought the book. He remembered later: "I was broke in those days, but I plunked down the full retail price of $5. It was the first hardcover book I ever bought just for pleasure and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would some day serve as Nabokov's editor and work with him on five of his books."

At his retirement party in 2006, Hills said, "I've been at it for over four decades and still find publishing an addictive profession. It's not just that you're always in the middle of some terrific project and don't want to let go. It is also the tremendous pleasure of conducting your education in public with brilliant and interesting people while actually getting paid for it. Editors are a bit like hermit crabs: we inhabit an author's shell for a year or two, get the feel of that world, and then scuttle along to the next one."

Following his retirement, Hills spent 10 winters in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, running workshops at the International Writers Conference. He also did volunteer editing for Dance Theater of Harlem and served on the board of the Shelter Island (N.Y.) Library.

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Don O'Connor

Don O'Connor, a Macmillan senior field sales and national account manager for Ingram Kids, died on November 13. He was 63.

O'Connor joined Macmillan in 2007 as a Fifth Avenue field sales rep for the New York metro area. Earlier he was national sales manager at Routledge Publishing and national accounts manager at International Thomson.

In a memo to staff, Macmillan president of sales Jenn Gonzalez said that O'Connor was "a fierce advocate for all Macmillan books with an extra fondness for Tor's list. Don always made sure his accounts came first and had everything they needed. In one of my last conversations with Don, he told me that he had sold an extra season of the kids list early to make sure that there was no disruption in service to his account. He also shared his love of books with his daughter, whom he recruited to work at Macmillan seven years ago. It was a joy to see how proud he was of Liz moving up in the organization.

"In addition to Don's admirable dedication to his work, he was simply a pleasure to be around. I know I can speak for the entire Sales team, and the countless others at Macmillan that he impacted, when I say that we will miss Don tremendously."

A celebration of life for O'Connor will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked people to donate to their local indie bookstore.


Notes

Barack Obama's A Promised Land Playlist

To celebrate today's release of his new book, Barack Obama shared his A Promised Land playlist, saying: "Music has always played an important role throughout my life--and that was especially true during my presidency. While reviewing my notes ahead of debates, I'd listen to Jay-Z's 'My 1st Song' or Frank Sinatra's 'Luck Be a Lady.' Throughout our time in the White House, Michelle and I invited artists like Stevie Wonder and Gloria Estefan to conduct afternoon workshops with young people before performing an evening show in the East Room. And there were all sorts of performances I'll always remember--like Beyoncé performing 'At Last' for our first dance at our inauguration, Paul McCartney serenading Michelle in the East Room with 'Michelle' and Bob Dylan flashing me a grin before vanishing after his performance of 'Times They Are a-Changin.' So in honor of my book, A Promised Land... I thought I'd put together a playlist with some of those songs. Hope you enjoy it."


'Political Sun Shining' on Del.'s Browseabout Books

Browseabout's Biden display (via)

Rehoboth Beach, Del., "may soon sport a beach White House," the Associated Press reported, noting that President-elect Joe Biden owns a Delaware North Shores home that "is blocks from the ocean and a short drive from downtown Rehoboth Beach. It's a getaway about two hours by motorcade from Washington and a bit less than that from Biden's longtime home in Wilmington.... Biden spent time in Rehoboth Beach after the Democratic National Convention and made his first trip back this weekend as president-elect."

Rehoboth Beach is also the home of Browseabout Books, which "set up a special display featuring biographies about Biden, as well as the books that Joe and Jill Biden wrote, Biden calendars, mugs, coloring books and earrings. A Biden action figure cost $15, as did the newest item--gray socks adorned with the now-president-elect wearing a red, white and blue-striped tie and proclaiming, 'Vote for Joe Biden.' The top seller was a Biden scented candle that smells like one of his favorite drinks: orange Gatorade," the AP wrote.

The Bidens are Browseabout regulars. "The treatment that they get is the same as everybody. We're not fan-girling. We want everybody to feel welcome," said bookseller Jessie Jones. "Now, people in the store, that's a different story.... There was definitely a high energy today. People were saying, 'Let's do our Christmas shopping and, if we happen to see Joe, great.' "


Shhh... Bookseller Cat at Work: Pages Bookshop

Posted on Facebook last Saturday by Pages Bookshop, Detroit, Mich.: "Here we are, indeed. You made it through another week. We hope you get a chance to kick back and relax with a good book this weekend. If you need something new, pagesbkshop.com has plenty to choose from and we are happy to make recommendations."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Michael J. Fox on the Tonight Show

Tomorrow:
Drew Barrymore Show: Megan Rapinoe, co-author of One Life (Penguin Press, $27, 9781984881168).

Tonight Show: Michael J. Fox, author of No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality (Flatiron, $27.99, 9781250265616).

Late Late Show with James Corden: Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens: A Graphic History: The Birth of Humankind (Harper, $40, 9780063055087).


On(line) Stage: Estella Scrooge: A Christmas Carol with a Twist

A first-look trailer has been released for Estella Scrooge: A Christmas Carol with a Twist, a "new musical spin" on Charles Dickens's holiday favorite, with storylines from other Dickens classics--including Great Expectations, Little Dorrit and Bleak House--incorporated into the mix, Deadline reported. The show premieres November 27 at EstellaScrooge.com

The project uses "greenscreen technology and virtual sets along with individually recorded performances," Deadline wrote. "Billed as 'the first fully-realized musical to be filmed in virtual production,' Estella Scrooge uses hundreds of images, animations and digital environments blended in post-production with the footage of the actors."

With a book and direction by Tony Award winner John Caird (Les Misérables, Nicholas Nickelby) and book, music and lyrics by Paul Gordon (Tony-nominated for 2001's Jane Eyre), the musical stars Betsy Wolfe (Waitress) as the title character, a descendant of Ebenezer Scrooge; Clifton Duncan (The Play That Goes Wrong) as her childhood sweetheart Philip "Pip" Nickleby; Lauren Patten (Jagged Little Pill) as Dawkins; Patrick Page (Hadestown) as Mr. Merdle; Carolee Carmello (Parade) as Marla Havisham; and Danny Burstein (Moulin Rouge!) as Ebenezer Scrooge.

"I'm so happy to bring this new musical to life in the midst of these mad and maddening times," Caird said. "It's wonderful to provide employment for the theatre community while we enliven the classic Christmas Carol story, refashioned with a new twist for today. At a time of great conflict and hardship, I hope we can shine a little ray of optimism into the surrounding darkness."



Books & Authors

Awards: B&N Book of the Year Finalists

Barnes & Noble has announced finalists for the 2020 B&N Book of the Year. The chain's booksellers across the U.S. nominated the books "they were most proud to sell this year," which were then narrowed down to eight titles by a selection committee that included CEO James Daunt. Booksellers will vote next for the winner, which will be announced in early December.

"For all booksellers, 2020 has been a tough year," said Daunt. "Our craft remains as important as ever, to curate our bookstores imaginatively and to bring good books to readers. The Barnes & Noble Book of the Year asks of our booksellers which titles they are most proud to be selling. We make no other qualification. The result, as it was last year, is a wonderful expression of the art of bookselling. There is flair and imagination in the choices, ranging from timely novels to the quirky eccentricity inspired by Wes Anderson, by way of memoir, exquisite cooking, a stunning celebration of the natural world and a YA title of visceral power addressing racism in America. Many of these titles have been neglected by the algorithms of online. This is bookselling of the highest caliber."

This year's B&N Book of the Year finalists are:

Accidentally Wes Anderson by Wally Koval
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
Pieometry: Modern Tart Art and Pie Design for the Eye and Palate by Lauren Ko
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May
World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil


Book Review

Review: The Dangers of Smoking in Bed

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed: Stories by Mariana Enriquez, trans. by Megan McDowell (Hogarth, $27 hardcover, 208p., 9780593134078, January 12, 2021)

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Argentine writer Mariana Enriquez, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, revisits themes found in her 2017 collection Things We Lost in the Fire. Her disquieting stories, populated by ghosts, disappeared adults and exploited children, examine economic pain, social unrest and violence through the lens of literary horror. Characters observing the slow burn of a society in decay find themselves asking, as the titular story does, "Why not just let the fire keep going and do its job?"

Supernatural elements become compelling metaphors for societal breakdown. In "The Cart," a poor neighborhood experiences bad luck after a homeless man--worse off than the people there--is driven away. "There had to be an accumulation of misfortune for the neighborhood to feel like something strange was going on," says the narrator. Jobs are lost, utilities turned off and food is hard to come by, causing people to turn feral to survive. The only family left untouched by bad luck, one that offered some comfort to the homeless man, is forced to flee before neighbors turn on them. "We were scared, but fear doesn't look the same as desperation," the son in this family knows.

Child exploitation is represented as an actual haunting of society. In "Rambla Triste," abused children wander the streets of Barcelona, leaving a stench and creating havoc for everyone. In "Kids Who Come Back," children in Buenos Aires who were lost or disappeared begin to reappear, unchanged, at the same time. People have "no idea what was happening and couldn't explain it; they only knew that they were very afraid." Josefina, in "The Well," discovers her paralyzing fears result from trusted adults who used a sorceress to rid themselves of fear and pass it to her when she was only a child. "They said they would take care of you. But they didn't take care of you," she is told. Adults do not save the children in these stories.

It's impossible to miss the fear that permeates The Dangers of Smoking in Bed. Young girls are afraid to leave their homes, a ghost baby is afraid to be alone and young men are afraid to stay in the cities. Throughout, Enriquez skillfully uses the tropes of horror to expose the everyday atrocities that occur in societies that abandon the fight against corruption. Even as these stories provide chills, they elicit a deep feeling of sadness for innocence lost. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Shelf Talker: Societal breakdown and corruption is viewed through this unsettling collection of literary horror stories by an award-winning Argentine writer.


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by IndieReader.com:

1. Goodnight Mysteries: Books 1-3 by Elise Sax
2. One Hot Holiday by Cynthia Eden
3. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter
4. God's Chaos Code by Lance Wallnau, Mercedes Sparks
5. The Harbinger II: The Return by Jonathan Cahn
6. Dawnshard: From the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson
7. See Me After Class by Meghan Quinn
8. Empire High Betrayal by Ivy Smoak
9. Office Grump by Nicole Snow
10. My Big Fat Fake Honeymoon by Lauren Landish

[Many thanks to IndieReader.com!]


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