Shelf Awareness for Monday, February 22, 2021

Simon & Schuster: Fall Cooking With Simon Element

Ace Books: Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Millicent Quibb School of Etiquette for Young Ladies of Mad Science by Kate McKinnon

Annick Press: Bog Myrtle by Sid Sharp

Minotaur Books: Betrayal at Blackthorn Park: A Mystery (Evelyne Redfern #2) by Julia Kelly

Tor Books: Blood of the Old Kings by Sung-Il Kim, Translated by Anton Hur

Del Rey Books: The Book of Elsewhere by Keeanu Reeves and China Miéville


Flood Damage at Read It Again Bookstore in Ga.

Read It Again Bookstore, Suwanee, Ga., suffered major flood damage Friday due to a burst water heater and released a series of videos detailing the cleanup efforts.

In an update later in the day, the new and used bookstore said: "Today was heartbreaking and wonderful. Heartbreaking because the bookstore flooded and we're going to have to switch to curbside pick-up until everything is fixed. Wonderful because today we realized how loved we are. Myself, Della and our staff are completely humbled by the outpouring of love we experienced today. Thank you everyone. Thank you for your support. Thank you.

"How can you help? (BTW that has to be one of the best sentence ever spoken) You can buy books or gift certificates from our website! You can also support us through our Gofundme page. RIA will be open for browsing soon. I promise we will work super hard to make everything as good as new."

Yesterday, Read It Again wrote: "Well, here are all the kid's books we've thrown away. I want to say there are 15 bags here? Each bag is super heavy too. Those carts we borrowed from Michael's, we used them to move the books outside. Thank you Eddie for bringing us the bags. Seriously. Today we're going to organize. Tomorrow is the big day. I have the flood guys and a contractor coming out to give me a better idea of what we're looking at. We're praying it's not as bad as we think it is. Thank you everyone for supporting us by buying books and on our Gofundme page."

As of this morning, Read It Again's Gofundme page has raised more than $4,600.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: William by Mason Coile

Wi16 Keynote: Novelist as Citizen

"What does it mean for you to be writer now?" asked moderator Michelle Malonzo of Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz., during Friday's ABA Winter Institute keynote, "Novelist as Citizen." The discussion featured bestselling authors Lauren Groff, Viet Thanh Nguyen and Colson Whitehead.

Noting that his upcoming novel, The Committed (Grove Press, March), was finished before the Covid-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and other tragedies occurred last year, Nguyen said: "For me, it felt like these events, as horrible as they were, were just extreme manifestations of things I've seen my entire life in the United States, and certainly if you're a student of American history you can see it going all the way back to the origins of the country. So I feel like my writing has been always trying to engage with these kinds of issues, and of course they take on more urgency under such horrifying and spectacular moments."

Groff, whose next novel is Matrix (Riverhead, September), observed: "I've been asking myself over the past few years what it means to be an artist and honestly every time you ask yourself a question like that it just fragments into a million other questions. I don't know. I do think that art is inherently oppositional, especially when it comes to moral issues. And I think that if you are paying attention to the world your work is going to be engaged in political directions."

Whitehead (Harlem Shuffle, Doubleday, September) said, "Frankly, if you talk about f*cked-up racist shit, eventually you're going to have an incident that makes it relevant again. Because you're not looking into the future, you're diagnosing the present. Some of my books have a political component, sometimes they don't, but if we're talking about race and capitalism, we're talking about problems that are never solved. They're ongoing dilemmas that we grapple with. And any book that sort of tries to tackle them ends up being relevant to what's happening."

In a discussion regarding the role of literature in moving toward a more humane society, Nguyen said that while he is a deep believer in empathy and the power of literature and books, "we have to be worried about sentimental celebrations of the power of literature as well because... you can have people who are sensitive and cultured and still be in control of the machinery of the state that results in the death of innocent people.... I think the role of literature in this sense is not only to cultivate empathy for others and to depict them in a humanistic fashion, it's also sometimes to poke people in the eye, to make them uncomfortable."

Groff added that there are readers who do not look for literature to educate or inform or to be utilitarian in any way. They "just respond to the books out of an aesthetic pleasure. And is that any less of a purpose than someone who reads for political engagement or opposition or discomfort or empathy? I don't know... I have no answers, but 500 more questions."

In response the question of equity and inclusion in their writing--how they create "an equitable art product"--Whitehead said, "I think about being truthful as I can be about how people work and how the world works. I'm not actually thinking about equity. But I'm drawn to stories that talk about political imbalances, institutional racism, different kinds of power dynamics. And so you end up, if you have any sort of empathy or sympathy for your characters and the world they live in, that translates into an equitable product, I guess."

Nguyen compared the challenge to casting for movies: "I don't want to legislate what people put in their books, but if you have never paid any attention to the actual differences and diversities of the people in your environment, unless your environment really is all male and all white, then maybe that's something you should pay attention to as you think about who your characters are, the major and the minor ones. Now that being said, I don't think equity, in that sense, has any relationship to making people feel good or having characters be nice or anything like that. You could have a diverse set of people and they could all be total jerks. And that would be really interesting, too." --Robert Gray

Harpervia: The Alaska Sanders Affair by Joël Dicker, Translated by Robert Bononno

How Bookstores Are Coping: Planning for 2022; 'Rebuilt the Wheel'

Naomi Chamblin, owner of Napa Bookmine in Napa and St. Helena, Calif., reported that across all three stores, gross sales in 2020 were only slightly down compared to 2019. 

The flagship store, which is supported mostly by locals and is about 1,550 square feet, was actually up by about 40%, while the location inside the Oxbow Public Market, which is very small and historically the most profitable location, was down by about 55%. Chamblin noted that the Oxbow Public Market store was completely closed several times as it was affected by state mandates pertaining to malls.

Bookmine in St. Helena

Napa Bookmine also has a 250-square-foot store in St. Helena, which it purchased in November 2019. While there isn't much of a record to compare 2020 to, Chamblin said, December 2020 was down compared to December 2019 by about 10%. The landlord there, however, was "very thoughtful" and gave discounts from April through February, so the location covered its costs.

Chamblin said there were numerous bright spots amid all the difficulties of 2020, including rolling out various subscription programs and promoting some long-time employees to take on greater responsibilities. The Bookmine team also "dialed in" its online sales system, and the stores became more efficient overall. The staff, Chamblin continued, now feels closer-knit after making it through several "really stressful" months.

Chamblin said she is feeling hopeful about the remainder of the year. Tourism will return eventually, and until then, the stores are being lifted by locals who have made a commitment to supporting small businesses.

Looking even further ahead, Napa Bookmine is still planning to make a big move: early next year the flagship location will relocate from its current home on Pearl St. to a building in downtown Napa that Bookmine is purchasing. Chamblin noted that they made their first down payment on that building in the spring of 2016, so it has been a "long buildout process." The main focus of 2021 will be preparing for that move, with Chamblin adding that the new space is "starting to take shape."


In Wake Forest, N.C., Page 158 Books is open for browsing but continues to offer deliveries, curbside pick-up and mail orders, and co-owner Suzanne Lucey reported that the store wil continue to do so. Reflecting on 2020, Lucey said it felt that she and her team were "going the wrong way on a merry go round," and during the Christmas rush it felt like it was "at high speed."

The team's job descriptions changed daily, and they worked constantly to adjust to different rules and restrictions as well as their customers' needs. Everything the store did in the "before times," Lucey noted, has been reworked to accommodate a skeleton crew, and it feels like they've "rebuilt the wheel."

Lucey praised the store's community and customers, who "amaze" the team everyday. She noted that her great-grandfather owned a business that survived the 1918 pandemic, and she plans to "plow through this like he did." She and her team feel "pretty proud" with they way they've been able to roll with the punches and stay afloat since last March. --Alex Mutter

Obituary Note: Peter Dorey

Peter Dorey (l.) with Gay's the Word co-founder Ernest Hole, opening day 1979.

Peter Dorey, "who was among a small group of gay activists [that] opened Gay's the Word in Bloomsbury in central London in 1979," died February 12, BBC News reported. The bookshop "acted as a 'safe place' for LGBTQ+ communities during a period of oppression and discrimination" and "quickly established itself as a vital community hub during the 1980s, offering information and resources to members of London's LGBTQ+ community."

"Gay's the Word has been an important part of the LGBTQ+ community for many years and we get visitors from all over the world," store manager Jim MacSweeney said. "We owe Peter Dorey a great deal of thanks for his part in setting up our bookshop.... The shop was set up as a safe community space where profits, if any, went back into the bookshop. As well as books, we had a café at the back with community notice boards and space for various groups to meet."

Dorey and co-owner Ernest Hole were also part of the Gay Icebreakers, a gay socialist group that ran a helpline and held regular discussion groups at the store, MacSweeney said. "Both Peter and Ernest attended our 40th anniversary celebrations at the British Library in 2019. At the end of the evening, when we thanked them from the stage, the audience rose as one to give a standing ovation to thank them both for what they did for us all. Peter took great pride in the fact that the shop, despite all its difficulties over the years, has survived and thrives."

Dorey was a director of Gay's the Word "during the infamous homophobic raid on the shop by the authorities in 1984, which saw Customs and Excise seize thousands of pounds worth of stock and senior staff charged with conspiracy to import 'indecent' material," Attitude wrote. The case gathered a great deal of media coverage and questions were raised in the House of Commons before the charges were finally dropped.

In a statement, current Gay's the Word staff members MacSweeney and Uli Lenart said: "It is clear that generations of LGBT+ people owe Peter Dorey a debt of thanks.... After their arrest and charges being brought, the names and home addresses of the directors were published in the press and they faced hefty fines and potential prison time... The moral courage of Peter Dorey and the other bookshop directors in these circumstances cannot be overstated."

Shelf Awareness's Best Ads of 2020

Last year, we ran thousands of ads across all of our publications--so we know a thing or two about great book marketing!

Join us tomorrow, Tuesday, February 23, at 12:30 p.m. Eastern or this Friday, February 26, at 2 p.m. Eastern, for a virtual session celebrating the best ads in the Shelf for 2020.

We'll go over all our offerings, highlight the highest performing and most innovative Shelf Awareness ads from last year, and break down what's so special about them. Join us as we geek out on stats, swoon over awesome creatives, and bow to our publishing colleagues who take home the top honors.

Registration is required, and is open to all publishing industry folks as well as any curious booksellers or librarians. Capacity is limited to the first 100 approved registrants, so be sure to register early. For more information and to register, click here.

We hope to see you then!


Image of the Day: Sunshine Signing

Patricia Engel recently signed more than 2,000 copies of her upcoming novel Infinite Country (Avid Reader Press/S&S, March 2) at the Coral Gables, Fla., location of Books & Books. Infinite Country has been selected for eight First Edition Book Clubs at indie bookstores around the country, and Books & Books set up a socially distanced space in its courtyard for Engel (who teaches in Miami). Booksellers Ed Boland, Ana Guerra, Alexander Moss and Cathy Steele assisted, along with S&S employees (currently in Miami) Alex Primiani and Ana Perez.

Happy 10th Birthday, Bookstore1Sarasota!

Congratulations to Bookstore1Sarasota, Sarasota, Fla., which is having a year-long celebration of its 10th anniversary that includes a virtual reading by poet William Heyen at 7 p.m. Eastern, next Monday, March 1. Heyen, whose new book is Nature: Selected and New Poems, 1970-2020, read at the store's grand opening on March 1, 2011, according to The store also has a "10th Anniversary Gallery" on its website with images and comments about store events during the past decade.

Owner and founder Georgia Court recalled with Patch the origins of the store. After she retired from the University of Cincinnati, she moved to Sarasota in part because it had a wonderful bookstore, Sarasota News & Books. But the store closed in 2009, shortly after her arrival.

"I grieved over that bookstore," she told Patch. "After a while, it became clear that nobody else was going to step up and open a bookstore." So she teamed up with former Sarasota News & Books manager David Chaplin to found Bookstore1Sarasota.

The store has hosted many events and, in 2017, it moved to its current 3,000-square-foot location, double its original size.

Sales have "remained steady" over the past year, with a boost in online and curbside pickup sales, Court said. The store continues to emphasize events, although now virtually.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Bill Gates on Colbert's Late Show

Tonight Show: Henry Louis Gates Jr., author of The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song (Penguin Press, $30, 9781984880338).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Bill Gates, author of How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need (Knopf, $26.95, 9780385546133).

Today: Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando, authors of Dare to Make History (Radius Book Group, $26.99, 9781635767278).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman, authors of The Hill to Die On: The Battle for Congress and the Future of Trump's America (Crown, $18, 9780525574750).

Movies: The Running Man

Edgar Wright (Baby Driver) will develop and direct a new adaptation of The Running Man, based on the novel by Stephen King, first published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. Deadline reported that the Paramount project, which Wright will co-write with Michael Bacall, "won't be a remake of the 1987 film that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger... and they will be much more faithful to King's bestselling novel."

While Wright is "very selective, the prospect of a new The Running Man is one that has intrigued him; to the point that when asked if he could remake any film, he would choose that one. This was back in 2017. Now it has become real," Deadline wrote.

Books & Authors

Awards: Fuller, Jake Adam York Winners

With the Chicago Public Library and the American Writers Museum serving as co-presenters, the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame is presenting the Fuller Award to Sandra Cisneros for her lifetime contribution to literature. A virtual ceremony, with Chicago poet Carlos Cumpian as master of ceremonies, will take place on Saturday, March 13, at 7 p.m. Central. Cisneros will participate in a conversation with Booklist editor Donna Seaman, and there will be short tributes by local artists and an audience Q&A. The event is free and open to the public, but attendees must register.

The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame said: "Cisneros, a world-famous novelist, short story writer, poet, essayist, performer, activist, and artist first achieved acclaim with her international bestselling novel, The House on Mango Street. Published in 1984, the novel has since sold over six million copies, has been translated into 20 languages, and, according to the author's website is 'taught everywhere from inner-city grade schools to universities.' Set in Chicago, where she was born and raised, The House on Mango Street won the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award in 1985."

She has also published seven books, including poetry, fiction, essays and memoir. She has been awarded NEA fellowships in both poetry and fiction, the Texas Medal of the Arts, a MacArthur Fellowship, Chicago's Fifth Star Award, the PEN Center USA Literary Award, the Fairfax Prize, the Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellowship, and the PEN/Nabokov Award for International Literature. In addition, she was recognized among the Frederick Douglas 200, and President Obama awarded her the National Medal for the Arts in 2016.


The 2020-21 winner of the Jake Adam York Prize, sponsored by Milkweed Editions and Copper Nickel, is Brian Tierney for his poetry collection Rise and Float. He receives $2,000, and Milkweed will publish the book in February 2022.

Judge Randall Mann said, "In these poems of turnpikes, water, and migraine light, filled with grief and life, the poet tells us it's all right that 'we don't love / living.' Here, precision is a form of metaphor, language a facet of experience; the poet writes with a kind of allusive purity and vulnerability--'each thought a texture'--that I find moving. Rise and Float is that rare thing, a book of one striking poem after another. If I could write something as tender and nearly perfect as 'You're the One I Wanna Watch the Last Ships Go Down With'--a lightning strike, Randall Jarrell would call it--then I might give up writing."

Tierney's poetry and prose have appeared in or are forthcoming in Paris Review, AGNI, Kenyon Review, NER, The Adroit Journal, and others. A graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars, he is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford and winner of the Poetry Society of America's 2018 George Bogin Memorial Award. He teaches poetry at the Writing Salon.

Top Library Recommended Titles for March

LibraryReads, the nationwide library staff-picks list, offers the top 10 March titles public library staff across the country love:

Top Pick
The Lost Apothecary: A Novel by Sarah Penner (Park Row, $27.99, 9780778311010). "Caroline travels alone to London after discovering her husband's betrayal. Looking for a distraction, she finds one while mudlarking along the Thames: a small glass vial. Inspired to research its origins, Caroline uncovers a dark tale of poison and murder in the 1700s, where an apothecary owner with a unique talent, a dark past, and a keen sense of revenge meets a young girl with a curiosity that might lead her astray. A stellar debut that balances two intriguing storylines and three wonderful characters to create one page-turning story. For fans of The Clockmaker's Daughter, Once Upon a River, and The Essex Serpent." --Sharon Layburn, South Huntington Public Library, Huntington Station, N.Y.

The Conductors by Nicole Glover (John Joseph Adams/Mariner, $15.99, 9780358197058). "Hetty and Benjy meet as Underground Railroad conductors, settling in Pennsylvania where they're known for their celestial magic. Glover does an incredible job of world building in this supernatural mystery. Her cast is almost exclusively Black, and the characters are rich, with Hetty and Benjy's relationship showcased as a lovely progression of romantic ideals. For readers of N.K. Jemisin and Victor LaValle." --Rachel Reddick, Denver Public Library, Denver, Colo.

The Dating Plan by Sara Desai (Berkley, $16, 9780593100585). "Daisy is shocked when she runs into Liam, who stood her up at her high school prom. To save her employer and Liam's family legacy, they must fake an engagement and marriage and not fall in love. A whirlwind of a romcom with South Asian American and Irish American families providing background drama and entertainment. Daisy and Liam are lovably imperfect in this quick escapist read. Give to readers who liked Take a Hint, Dani Brown and The Right Swipe." --Laura Bonds, Harris County Public Library, Houston, Tex.

Eternal by Lisa Scottoline (Putnam, $28, 9780525539766). "Set in Italy during the Fascist regime and subsequent Nazi involvement, this historical fiction, a departure for the author, is a solid dose of history told through the lives and loves of characters, personally affected by the politics. The impact of decisions and the efforts of individuals to change the course of their country and their lives are vividly portrayed. Perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Nightingale." --Carol Tuttle, Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library, Willoughby, Ohio

Every Last Fear: A Novel by Alex Finlay (Minotaur, $26.99, 9781250268822). "This tightly plotted thriller changes perspective and travels through time to explore a family torn apart by tragedy. The arrest of the oldest Pine son for his girlfriend's murder rocked their small town, was the subject of a high profile true crime documentary, and is followed years later by an even greater tragedy. Could these events be connected? Who is really the murderer? A gripping novel for fans of Mary Kubica or Peter Swanson." --Maggie Thomann, Northbrook Public Library, Northbrook, Ill.

Float Plan by Trish Doller (St. Martin's Griffin, $16.99, 9781250767943). "After the death of her fiancé, Anna decides to complete the sailing voyage they had planned, alone. This is a heartfelt story of navigating through grief, and finding oneself and a new direction in life along the way. Good for fans of Pretending and The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel Green." --Sandra Woodbury, Burlington Public Library, Burlington, Mass.

Libertie: A Novel by Kaitlyn Greenidge (Algonquin, $26.95, 9781616207014). "Libertie is a Black girl living with her mother, a doctor who helps slaves in their run to freedom. Libertie thinks her mother is herself enslaved by her work, but after she marries and moves to the Caribbean, things seem less clear. For readers who enjoyed Washington Black and Underground Railroad." --Marie Byars, Sno Isle Public Library, Oak Harbor, Wash.

The Lost Village: A Novel by Camilla Sten, trans. by Alexandra Fleming (Minotaur, $26.99, 9781250249258). "Set in a rural village in Sweden, where 800 inhabitants vanished in 1959, Alice and her crew set out to make a documentary about the mysterious event. The book weaves together the story of the current day documentarians with the story of the villagers of the past. For readers who enjoyed Ghost Wall and Disappearing Earth." --Sandra Heitzman, Forest Park Public Library, Forest Park, Ill.

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker (Holt, $27.99, 9781250759665). "Compelling and heartbreaking, this story brings together two of the most compelling characters you may ever meet. Duchess Day Radley and Walk are bound together by uneasy threads, each compelled to dig in and survive, even as they try to move beyond their pasts and what seem to be their inevitable futures. For readers who enjoyed The Good Daughter and The Roanoke Girls." --Jennifer Ohzourk, St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis, Mo.

The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett (Morrow, $27.99, 9780063050006). "When a mysterious death occurs at Windsor Castle, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Private Secretary Rozie must solve the case when MI5 and the police head in the wrong direction. A great cast of characters and a wonderful sense of setting make a fun and entertaining read. For readers who loved Hope Never Dies and Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts." --Jennifer Williams, Normal Public Library, Normal, Ill.

Book Review

Review: How Beautiful We Were

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue (Random House, $28 hardcover, 384p., 9780593132425, March 9, 2021)

In this expansive second novel from PEN/Faulkner Award winner Imbolo Mbue (Behold the Dreamers), an African village's protracted and sometimes violent downfall at the hands of a corrupt U.S. corporation inspires revolutionary leanings in one of its daughters.

"When the sky began to pour acid and rivers began to turn green, we should have known our land would soon be dead," says a chorus of children from Kosawa, a village polluted by the unsafe drilling practices of Pexton, an American oil company. In October of 1980, tension between Pexton and the citizens of Kosawa comes to a head, during a visit from company officials to pacify the village after the deaths of several children. Led by "village madman" Konga in a moment of clarity, Kosawa's men imprison the Pexton delegation and their own complicit leader. The resulting events end in loss on both sides as the village makes contact with a sympathetic journalist but faces bloody retaliation from soldiers of their nation's corrupt government.

Though a more sensationalized take on the topic might use this incident as its climax, Mbue's nuanced and realistic approach positions it as one skirmish presaging decades of struggle. Thula, a sharp and determined little girl who witnesses the 1980 events and loses her father to the conflict, grows up watching her village suffer. An opportunity to attend school in New York City in 1988 opens Thula's mind to the tools of revolution, and her letters home to her friends encourage dissent against their country's leadership. However, even Thula is unprepared for the lengths to which her friends will go to safeguard their home. 

Told through the first-person viewpoints of multiple villagers, as well as the chorus of Thula's contemporaries, How Beautiful We Were captures the small yet universal dramas wrought by love, birth and death. To the people of Kosawa in 1980, indifference to human life, to the deaths of children, is unfathomable, and Mbue, a native Cameroonian currently living in the U.S., creates painstakingly deep character sketches that show the human cost of environmental exploitation. Thula's letters connect the plight of her village to that of underprivileged U.S. communities, mentioning poisoned water and pipelines on sacred land that make her think, "America had revealed itself to be Kosawa." This epic and empathetic saga shines a truthful albeit unflattering light on globalization. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: This challenging and empathetic novel gives voice to African villagers desperate to save their land and children from a greedy U.S. corporation.

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