Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 12, 2021

Graphix: Unico: Awakening (Volume 1): An Original Manga Created by Osamu Tezuka, Written by Samuel Sattin, Illustrated by Gurihiru

Shadow Mountain: A Kingdom to Claim by Sian Ann Bessey

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Immortal Dark (Deluxe Limited Edition) by Tigest Girma

Bramble: Swordcrossed by Freya Marske

Soho Teen: Only for the Holidays by Abiola Bello

Berkley Books: Hair-raising horror to sink your teeth into!

Quotation of the Day

'My Work Wouldn't Be Possible Without the Work of Independent Booksellers'


"My work wouldn't be possible without the work of independent booksellers. Being the #1 Kids' Indie Next List Pick for Spring 2021 is certainly a highlight of my career. I'm so grateful for the honor. When you walk into an indie bookstore, you are met as more than just a consumer--you are seen, welcomed, and embraced as a reader. An indie facilitates a lifelong relationship between readers and books through a level of care and personal connection that goes beyond the act of merely selling them."

--Courtney Summers, author of Spring 2021 Kids' Indie Next List #1 pick The Project, in a Bookselling This Week q&a  

Henry Holt & Company: A Banh Mi for Two by Trinity Nguyen


Deadtime Stories in Lansing, Mich., Moves & Expands

Deadtime Stories bookstore, Lansing, Mich., is moving from Old Town to REO Town and will hold a grand opening event--including a ribbon-cutting ceremony and serial killer-shaped cookies--on March 27 to celebrate its new space at 1132 S. Washington Ave. City Pulse reported that the success of Deadtime, which had opened "in the basement of Thrift Witch last year amid the pandemic... led owner Jenn Carpenter to look for a bigger storefront."

"We did really well in our Old Town location, but anyone who's been there knows that we were in a really small space," she said. "We're fortunate that we did well enough that we needed to expand, have some more space, carry some more books." The store carries true-crime and paranormal books, with a focus on Michigan's dark history. "I want you to be able to walk into my store and ask for any book about Michigan true crime," she added. "And I want us to have it in stock, no matter how obscure."

Carpenter is the author of Haunted Lansing and founder of Demented Mitten Tours, "which offers customers a guided journey through the creepiest locations in Michigan," CityPulse wrote.

Even with the expansion, Deadtime is "definitely still going to be a quaint little bookstore," she said, adding that her "goal is to make this a place that people want to go to because there are cool things to do and see.... There's so much cool stuff to do here. Opening up the shop in REO Town kinda felt like coming home to me. It's cool."

GLOW: Sourcebooks Landmark: Remember You Will Die by Eden Robins

King's College and Wilkes University to Open Separate Bookstores

The current shared store for King's College and Wilkes University.

After 15 years of sharing a college bookstore in downtown Wilkes-Barre, Pa., King's College and Wilkes University will both open their own bookstores on their respective campuses, the Times Leader reported. The shared bookstore was a joint operation involving Barnes & Noble, and the colleges will start operating their own stores when that deal expires in the fall.

The King's College store will open in August ahead of the fall semester and reside in a location that previously housed a restaurant. eCampus will provide books and materials as well as management for the store. The college stated that its decision to return its bookstore to the campus was influenced by changing business models, students' increased preference for online delivery of educational materials and the desire to have an easily accessible retail space on campus.

The Wilkes University store, meanwhile, will be located on the first floor of the Henry Student Center and will continue the university's relationship with B&N for at least another five years. Work on the new bookstore will begin this spring and should be completed in time for the fall semester. The university began looking into the possibility of having its bookstore on campus nearly three years ago.

George Albert, the owner of the shopping center in which the shared store resides, told Citizens Voice that B&N has not inquired about extending the lease that ends in August.

How Bookstores Are Coping: Prioritizing Safety; Community Connection

Lexi Beach, owner of Astoria Bookshop in Astoria, N.Y., reported that things are "not normal at all." The store is still closed to browsing, operating on a pick-up and mail-order basis only, and two of Beach's booksellers are still working from home. Until her booksellers are able to get vaccinated, she added, the store will remain closed to browsing.

All of the store's events have moved online, mostly to Crowdcast, and Beach and her team are still working on creative ways to connect with their customers, share their favorite reads and help them find new ones.

Sales in 2020 were down about 25% compared to previous years, but Beach noted that thanks to a variety of factors, including a PPP loan, a few grants, increased pre-orders and revenue from partnerships like and, revenue was down by only about 10%. Throughout the pandemic, she added, sales and revenue have had "only a partial connection."

Asked about any bright spots within a difficult year, Beach said her customers continue to "be the best people." She and her team have received the "kindest, sweetest notes" with people's orders, including an emergency room worker who thanked the store for the work they've done, and another customer who asked if it was okay to drop off some cookies that they baked while wearing a mask.

Some of the store's online events have also been very successful, allowing Astoria Bookshop to mail signed books or books with signed bookplates all over the U.S. and even to other countries. The store's focus will always be on Astoria and western Queens, Beach said, but it has been "incredible" sending books to readers around the country and around the world.

So far, the store has been able to make things work as a take-out and delivery business for almost a year now, Beach continued, and she does not see that changing for at least the first half of 2021. Staff health and safety will continue to be her number one priority, and she is grateful to be in a strong enough financial position where she can do that without worrying too much.


In Millbrook, N.Y., things at Merritt Bookstore have entered a new normal, co-owner Kira Wizner reported. She and her team are still finding their rhythm with online orders for pick-up and shipping, which has necessitated completely redesigning some of the store's systems. Between that and many deliveries being impacted by winter weather, she said, the staff is working hard.

Wizner noted that her store is in an area full of second homes that became primary residences during Covid. There have been many more people around than normal, and the bookstore actually fared a bit better in 2020 than it did in previous years. The store's new customers proved loyal and made an effort to shop local, making use of in-store, online and curbside options.

On the subject of bright spots, Wizner said there have been "so many." The community has been supportive and appreciative, and for much of the pandemic the bookstore was one of the few places where people could have un-rushed social contact. She began sharing more on Instagram and it became one of her main ways of communicating with customers and showing what was new in the store. Her community, she said, "has responded so well."

Looking ahead in 2021, Wizner remarked that there are still more people around than usual, with the only slowdowns in business the result of snowstorms. She does wonder exactly how long this will continue, but in general she is optimistic and hopes the customers the store gained in the past year keep shopping with the bookstore. --Alex Mutter

Bruce Piasecki Launches Business Writing Award

The Bruce Piasecki and Andrea Masters Annual Award on Business and Society Writing, an award that will honor young writers whose work discusses business and positive social change, has launched and is open to submissions.

The award will come with a $5,000 prize and is open to writers between the ages of 18 and 35 who have published at least one relevant essay, research paper, book or article prior to the submission deadline of August 15, 2021. The published works should reflect how business can promote positive social change and can include themes such as climate change, racial and gender equality, sustainability and innovation, but are not limited to those themes.

Piasecki is the author of Doing More with Less and New World Companies. He is also the founder of the AHC Group, a management consulting firm specializing in growth, energy, environment and sustainability. The award is a collaboration between himself, his wife, Andrea Masters, AHC Group and the Yaddo artists' community in Sarasota Springs, N.Y.

Applicants should send a link or PDF of their published work, as well as a brief statement including their career plans and future writing endeavors, to, and

Correction: Pennie Clark Ianniciello Leaving Costco Media

Costco book buyer Pennie Clark Ianniciello is leaving Costco Media today, but not Costco, as we mistakenly wrote yesterday. She will update everyone on her plans in the near future.

Obituary Note: Marianne Carus

Marianne Carus with the 100th issue of Cricket magazine in 1982 (via)

Marianne Carus, founder of Cricket magazine and its many offshoots, died March 3. She was 92. Drawing inspiration from Walter de la Mare's assertion that "only the rarest kind of best in anything can be good enough for the young," Carus ran stories and illustrations from the most talented children's authors and illustrators, aided by an editorial advisory board composed of influential children's publishers, authors and librarians. She served on many boards, including the International Youth Library in Munich and the International Board of Books for Young People.

A native of Germany, she came to the U.S. in 1949 and settled in LaSalle, Ill., with her husband, Blouke Carus, who was involved in building up Carus Chemical Company, which his father had founded. While raising three children, Marianne Carus studied literature at the University of Chicago, and when her husband's attention turned to education, she put her literary skills to work editing the first series of Open Court readers. When the reading program was to be supplemented with a literary magazine for children, she became its founding editor, and Cricket: The Magazine for Children was soon a separate business that set standards for children's literature and illustration worldwide.

Other magazines for different age groups and interests followed: Ladybug, BabybugSpiderCicada, as well as nonfiction magazines. She continued as editor-in-chief for more than 35 years. Her obituary noted that "millions of children throughout the English-speaking world grew up with Cricket and its family of magazines; Marianne treasured the many enthusiastic letters from former readers, telling her that their interest in reading and other subjects had begun with Cricket. The Cricket magazines are currently being introduced in China to help Chinese children learn English."

Children's book author, editor and critic Anita Silvey, who is a member of Cricket's editorial board, posted on Facebook: "And when you think you can mourn no more.... Marianne was a true children's book angel. A smile that could light up a room. But a crusader who never stopped. We owe her all the Cricket magazines, and all the fine writers and illustrators who got their start there."


Second Star to the Right Books Issues Winter Weather Advisory

"SNOWSTORM INCOMING!" A weekend weather forecast from Second Star to the Right Books, Denver, Colo., advised customers: "Quick! Gather as many books and puzzles and toys as possible before it overtakes the city! Can anyone help Mariana out? She's running out of hands (and feet) to carry her inclement weather stockpile."

Bookseller Dog: Sir Benedict at Murder by the Book

Posted on Facebook by Murder by the Book, Houston, Tex.: "Have you seen our new releases in paperback and hardcover? Our handy dandy MBTB mascot, Sir Benedict, is here to show you what’s new! Visit to order yours now! Oh, and we’re totally making #newreleasepupdays a thing."

Personnel Changes at Abrams; Holt; Sourcebooks

At Abrams:

Nadine Sferratore is promoted to director of special markets, sales.

Mamie VanLangen is promoted to senior manager, digital & social media marketing.

Shelby Ozer is promoted to national accounts representative, sales.


Clarissa Long, formerly of Four Way Books, will join Henry Holt and Company as publicity manager on March 22.


Lucy Marcum has joined Sourcebooks as marketing assistant.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: David Zucchino on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: David Zucchino, author of Wilmington's Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy (Grove Press, $18, 9780802148650).

HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Annabelle Gurwitch, author of You're Leaving When?: Adventures in Downward Mobility (Counterpoint, $26, 9781640094475).

Movies: Mice

Nicole Kidman's Blossom Films and Bruna Papandrea's Made Up Stories (The Undoing) are partnering again, this time for the feature film adaptation of Gordon Reece's 2011 debut YA novel Mice, with Harriet Warner adapting the screenplay, Deadline reported. Kidman and Papandrea are producing alongside Blossom Films' Per Saari and Made Up Stories' Steve Hutensky and Jodi Matterson, with Jeanne Snow of Made Up Stories executive producing.

"Gordon's clever writing and sophisticated voice captured my attention right from the outset," said Papandrea. "He has skillfully created one of the most memorable and realistic protagonists in Shelley. It is her claustrophobic, visceral and harrowing world that we are excited to further develop for film."

Reece added: "I'm honored that two such outstanding production companies have chosen to adapt Mice for the screen. I couldn't have asked for a better team than Nicole, Per, Bruna, Jodi and Steve, and, with Harriet on writing duties, it's a dream team if ever there was one!"

Books & Authors

Awards: Ezra Jack Keats Winners; Women's Fiction Longlist

The Ezra Jack Keats Awards, which recognize "exceptional early career authors and illustrators for portraying the multicultural nature of our world in the spirit of Ezra Jack Keats," have gone to:

EJK Writer: Tricia Elam Walker for Nana Akua Goes to School, illustrated by April Harrison (Schwartz & Wade/PRH) 
EJK Illustrator: Heidi Woodward Sheffield for Brick by Brick, written by Heidi Woodward Sheffield (Nancy Paulsen Books/PRH)

Celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2021, with the theme of "Advancing Diversity in Children's Literature," the EJK Award virtual ceremony will be held April 13 during the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival at USM in Hattiesburg, Miss. This year's honor books are:

Writer Honor
Raymond Antrobus for Can Bears Ski?, illustrated by Polly Dunbar (Candlewick Press)
Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey for The Old Truck, illustrated by Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey (Norton Young Readers)

Illustrator Honor
Steve Small for I'm Sticking with You, written by Smriti Prasadam-Halls (Henry Holt)
Victoria Tentler-Krylov for Cyclops of Central Park, written by Madelyn Rosenberg (Putnam Books for Young Readers)


A longlist has been released for the £30,000 (about $41,880) Women's Prize for Fiction. The shortlist will be announced April 28 and a winner named July 7. This year's longlisted titles are: 

Because of You by Dawn French
Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
Consent by Annabel Lyon
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones
Luster by Raven Leilani
No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwoo
Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
Summer by Ali Smith
The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

Reading with... Zak Salih

photo: Emily Poland

Zak Salih lives in Washington, D.C. His fiction and essays have appeared in The Millions, Foglifter, Crazyhorse, the Chattahoochee Review, the Rumpus, the Los Angeles Review of Books and other publications. Let's Get Back to the Party (Algonquin, February 16, 2021) is his debut novel.

On your nightstand now:

There's something reassuring about a healthy stack of books on my nightstand--even if it ends up taking me months to get through it. Right now, those books are Watership Down by Richard Adams, G. by John Berger, Frost by Thomas Bernhard, Where the Stress Falls by Susan Sontag, Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music by Alex Ross, The Recognitions by William Gaddis, Heaven's Breath: A Natural History of the Wind by Lyall Watson, Crossing by Pajtim Statovci and Poems: 1962--2012 by Louise Glück.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Ghost-Eye Tree by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault and Ted Rand. A nervous boy and his sister cross town in the middle of the night to fetch a pail of milk and have to make their way past a wicked and ominous tree. As a boy being read to by his mother, I was terrified by the book; as an adult on the doorstep of 40, I'm terribly nostalgic for it.

Your top five authors:

I tend to avoid ranking authors, as my list of favorites can easily change between books or days--or breaths, even. Still, given how many of their books I have on my shelves, I would count among them Philip Roth, Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, W.G. Sebald and Susan Sontag. Each of them, I like to think, has helped shape the way I write and read.

Book you've faked reading:

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I still have bookmarks on page 284 (of the novel) and page 1,002 (of the footnotes). There's a manic energy to Wallace's writing that ramps up my own anxiety; after a time, I start to feel trapped inside his head. I suspect that's why I've only been able to finish his stories and essays.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Denis Johnson's Train Dreams, which I could easily read every Sunday morning. There's something devotional about this novella: its brevity, its language, its uncanny embodiment of the American myth. And oh, God, that final scene, where the wolf-boy howls before a laughing carnival crowd, "the originating ideal of all such sounds ever made."

Book you've bought for the cover:

I was tardy to the Alan Hollinghurst fan club, but I eventually arrived. I have the cover to the first American edition of The Stranger's Child (designed by Chip Kidd, with its beguiling, effaced portrait by Eugene Speicher) to thank for that.

Book you hid from your parents:

If we're including books hidden in plain sight: The Vampire Armand by Anne Rice. I was in love with the title character; or, at least, with the detail of Mercury's face from Botticelli's Primavera on the cover. The erotic gay sex scenes early in the novel quickly became daily after-school reading for me.

Book that changed your life:

Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih (alas, no relation). I was a sophomore in college when I discovered this short novel in a world lit course. Up to then, I had only a passing interest in my Sudanese heritage. How stunned--and proud!--I was to come across this anti-colonialist retelling of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, a psychosexual revenge tale in which a Kurtz-like Sudanese man sets out to "liberate Africa with [his] penis."

Favorite line from a book:

"Out, vile jelly!" from Act III, Scene 7 of William Shakespeare's King Lear. I remember our high-school English class reading this play aloud, and I can still hear the preternaturally deep voice of the girl who played the part of the Duke of Cornwall saying this line, then mock-blinding the student who played the Earl of Gloucester.  

Five books you'll never part with:

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton, Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih and T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets.

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

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. For all the reasons noted above.

Book Review

Review: Mona

Mona by Pola Oloixarac, trans. by Adam Morris (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 hardcover, 192p., 9780374211899, March 16, 2021)

The woman at the center of Mona by Pola Oloixarac (Dark Constellations), translated from Spanish by Adam Morris, is a young Peruvian writer who gigs as a "vraie [true] littérature" academic at teaching posts around the world. She's one of a small group of international writers nominated for a distinguished Swedish literary award, and as she arrives in Sweden, she hopes that a win, with its monetary prize, will give her freedom to leave academia. What at first seems to be a set piece in the rarefied world of ambitious literary types evolves into a psychological exploration of how performative behavior can substitute for authentic living.

Mona isn't particularly likable, but her character is treated with honesty and the reader's gaze is held firmly on her throughout. Once in Sweden she "luxuriate[s] in her own exoticism, gliding freely through her very own ocean, feeling special and unique." Yet Oloixarac makes sure that readers see through Mona's egocentrism, using other characters as mirrors to show how she appears to those around her, and it isn't always pretty. "You're a complete caricature of a woman," she is flatly informed by Lena, a European writer. "Your designer clothes, your hyper-feminine affect... you think that you're letting everyone see that you're a victim of machismo, of a chauvinist culture that--even with its little touches of sophistication, like the literary world!--punishes all things feminine."

Mona is almost always high, frequently drunk and her graphic hypersexuality turns out to be, unsurprisingly, horrifyingly dangerous. Her inner life, revealed by the narrator, underscores how little energy she invests in connecting with those around her. "The implicit premise of a festival like this--where writers are meant to give talks to other writers, and where the presence of civilians is limited at best--is to suppose that the attendees are gathered to converse and debate." Mona, however, doesn't have a real stake in these debates, seeing the attendees as simply "playing their parts in the theatrical literary market."

It's true that the other writers seem to be playing at age-old literary types--the hedonist, the contrarian, the celebrity--but Mona's dispassion protects her from the work of burrowing deep into her own consciousness. "Everything anyone said unfolded in her mind like she was reading a novel, with every detail advancing toward an occult meaning to be untangled," Mona thinks toward the end of the novel, foreshadowing an unexpected and apocalyptic conclusion which she's been too self-absorbed to see coming. With controlled emotion that builds to a devastating ending, Mona uncovers the complexities of a post-feminist generation. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Shelf Talker: A celebrated young Peruvian writer attends a Swedish literary festival in this intelligent and provocative novel that skewers intelligentsia and acute self-indulgence.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'People Want to See Your Online Presence as You'

Yesterday was the first anniversary of "the day everything changed," when the World Health Organization officially declared Covid-19 a global pandemic and Dr. Anthony Fauci answered a straightforward question from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform ("Is the worst yet to come, Dr. Fauci?") with three simple, yet deeply complex, words: "Yes, it is."

The novel coronavirus shutdown had begun, and in our little corner of the world, booksellers scrambled to understand whether their businesses could survive indefinitely through largely online transactions, and how to quickly adapt so they had a shot. Suddenly, bookstore websites mattered more than ever.

Past is prologue, as they say. When I began writing a Shelf Awareness column in June 2006, I focused initially on bookstore websites, opening my first column with the slightly hyperbolic premise: "Most independent bookstore websites are a waste of time and money, and about as useful as a weathered motel on an abandoned highway."

Later that year, I was on a panel about bookstore websites during the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Show in Denver, Colo. When the session ended, Valerie Koehler, owner of Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Tex., introduced herself and we chatted briefly. Then she brought me over to MPIBA's registration booth, where she borrowed a computer to show me Blue Willow's website, featuring a generous selection of new book offerings, her latest "Letter from the Messy Desk" and a wide-ranging, up-to-date Staff Picks section.

Not long after, I interviewed her for a column, Bookstore Websites & the Art of Hospitality, in which she said her toughest challenge maintaining an effective website was "carving out the time to work on it daily.... My immediate goal is to keep the site fresh and relevant. This is not as easy as it might sound. I employ a wonderful person who is very detail oriented, a quick learner and a huge web surfer. But the site must reflect our personality, and that personality must come from me. So I need to 'feed' her this information. It helps when she spends time at the shop so she can work with me on the 'feel' part of the site. But all small business owners are busy and we need to carve out this time." The reward, however, came from "opening it up and seeing the changes and thinking, 'Wow, that's us.' "

Koehler had also observed that her "long-range goals would be to increase sales on the site and to develop relationships--with our existing and new customers who are unable to visit us physically--that will result in sales that otherwise would be lost to our competitors.... We are attempting to keep the relationships alive with our wonderful front-line booksellers and their customers. We cannot say I just want to sell books. We have to engage in the business of retailing and today that includes online."

Fast forward from 2006 to 2021.

Valerie Koehler (center) with her parents at the 2006 MPIBA Show

"Has it really been that long? Both my boys (now men) were still in high school!" Koehler said when I checked in with her earlier this week. She sent me a photo taken at the 2006 MPIBA show with her parents, Vener and Elizabeth Barnes. "My father was a trade show junkie. He is the one who kept encouraging me to be a part of the associations. How far we have come. How much has changed."

I asked her to revisit my 2006 column and she said it "made me realize that my goal is still the same. I still write the Messy Desk letter every two weeks. We still post our reviews. And I still want it to be like you are in the shop and we are talking about books that we love. What has changed? I now have a social media team that keeps up with all the new forms of communication. They are in charge of the website, Twitter and Instagram. Their charge is to make people feel like they are in the shop. What I think all bookshops have realized is that people want to see your online presence as you."

Blue Willow's current website

Did the pandemic year alter Blue Willow's online approach dramatically? Koehler replied that among the necessary tweaks, "we had to teach everyone on staff how to process web orders and we have refined that procedure many times, I now know more about shipping than a logistics company. And the best surprise continues to be the outpouring of support. The silver lining is the authors that visit us virtually from all over the world. I just wrapped up a talk with an author in London."

In 2006, I wrote that Koehler seemed prepared to take on the challenge of maintaining an online presence that could reap both sales and hospitality benefits through an at once secure yet welcoming structure: "She is not satisfied with a good website. She wants a better one and has dedicated herself to the messy, evolutionary process of replicating the hospitable aura of Blue Willow Bookshop in an online environment."

Koehler said then: "We are attempting to keep the relationships alive with our wonderful frontline booksellers and their customers. We cannot say I just want to sell books. We have to engage in the business of retailing and today that includes online." The quest continues, pandemic be damned. --Robert Gray, editor

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