Shelf Awareness for Monday, April 12, 2021

Legacy Lit: Madness: Race and Insanity in a Jim Crow Asylum by Antonia Hylton

Berkley Books: Daughters of Shandong by Eve J. Chung

Berkley Books: Bergman Brothers series by Chloe Liese

Wednesday Books: Hope Ablaze by Sarah Mughal Rana

Little, Brown Ink: K Is in Trouble (a Graphic Novel) (K Is in Trouble #1) by Gary Clement

Fly Paper Products: Literary Gifts

William Morrow & Company: The Stone Home by Crystal Hana Kim


Subterranean Books Hosts Ribbon Cutting at New Space

Subterranean Books, St. Louis, Mo., hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday in its new, expanded space at 6271 Delmar Blvd. The bookstore posted on Facebook: "Thank you to everyone who came out for our ribbon-cutting ceremony. It was really quite overwhelming. (Keeping capacity down during a ribbon-cutting in the middle of a pandemic... not for the faint of heart.)."

Earlier in the week, Subterranean had noted: "We *are* still in a pandemic so our ribbon-cutting ceremony is more of a formal event rather than a party (shall we say a medium-opening?). Our soft opening was a few weeks ago and we've worked out most of the kinks and finally put almost everything in its place and we would love for you to stop by to take a peek. It is big and beautiful and airy and you can finally actually see everything we have in stock. We love it!"

Atria Books: The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard

International Update: English Bookshops Reopen, Small Business Day NZ

England's next stage of Covid-19 restrictions being eased begins today, with "non-essential" retail, including bookshops, allowed to reopen. 

The Book Hive in Norwich "is celebrating the city's vibrancy and talent as part of its reopening celebrations," the Eastern Daily Press reported. Owner Henry Layte teamed up with local illustrators and designers to decorate the shop's windows ahead of April 12. 

"It's really exciting it feels like we are preparing for a party," he said. "We could have just filled the window with new hardback books. No-one knows the future but we have come through it because Norwich is a very special place and there are talented people."

In Bath, Saber Khan, manager of Topping and Company Booksellers, told the Guardian he is confident that people still enjoy spending time in a bookshop: "So many people have chosen not to go to Amazon [during lockdown]. We're moving to a larger premises in November because we have faith in bookshops. People love physical books. People love browsing."

Other booksellers were checking in on social media over the weekend in anticipation of welcoming patrons back to their shops:

West End Lane Books, London: "We are SO excited to welcome you back tomorrow! We will be here 9-6 Monday to Saturday and 10-5 on Sunday's. As always you can phone or email for orders. We look forward to seeing your beautiful faces tomorrow!"

Bookbugs and Dragon Tales, Norwich: "We're ready for you! NEW Window, NEW Books, NEW Shelves, NEW classes, NEW Stools, NEW Sofas, NEW Rugs, NEW Coffee machine, NEW Cakes, NEW Office, SAME People, SAME Smiles, SAME love for books and the arts. SAME desire.... Can you tell we're excited? Excitement made even more palpable by the knowledge our customers are awesome and make the shop a community hub. Maybe we'll see you Monday, maybe we won't. But we'll see you soon and that's all we care about. (Well, that, and world peace obviously) Huge thx to our epic friends for helping to ensure we have come back bigger, better, stronger. You know who you are."

Rossiter Books, Ross-on-Wye: "Who is heading out to a bookshop tomorrow? We can't wait to welcome our customers back again."

The Rabbit Hole, Brigg: "Think we are ready to slowly and safely breathe life into @Therabbits21 and help get the high street back. Good luck and take care #Indies everywhere."


Friday was Small Business Day in New Zealand. Hedley's Books in Masterton posted on Facebook: "Happy Small Business Day NZ! The #Wairarapa is full of awesome little businesses, so we're right behind this initiative to encourage everyone to get out (or online) and support them by shopping small. The best news? If you make a purchase with us or another small biz today and you share a photo of that purchase on social with the tag @smallbusinessdaynz, you could win a share of $200K*! Let's share the love by tagging your favorite small #Wairarapa businesses below!"


French Bookseller moment: Posted by Shakespeare and Company, Paris: "#Spring is here and the cherry blossom trees in front of the bookshop are about to bloom. It only sticks around for a few days, though, so do pay us a visit if you can!" --Robert Gray

GLOW: Graphic Universe: Hotelitor: Luxury-Class Defense and Hospitality Unit by Josh Hicks

Amazon Workers in Alabama Vote Against Union

Workers at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., voted by more than a two-to-one margin against unionization in a highly contested, widely watched election. Amazon had fought the union effort bitterly, and its nearly one million U.S. workers continue to have no union representation, even while many of its operations in Europe are unionized. The result was a painful loss for the union and its many supporters, who believed that a pro-labor administration, pandemic safety concerns and solidarity among workers would lead to a growth in union representation in the private sector, particularly at a huge retailer like Amazon.

The result was announced on Friday when the minimum threshold for rejection of the union had been reached, even though not all ballots had been counted at that point.

The union that led the drive, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said that it would fight the result. Its president, Stuart Appelbaum, said in a statement, "We won't let Amazon's lies, deception and illegal activities go unchallenged, which is why we are formally filing charges against all of the egregious and blatantly illegal actions taken by Amazon during the union vote."

Those actions included forcing workers to attend anti-union meetings, sending many anti-union text messages to workers, and putting up anti-union posters in the warehouse bathrooms and elsewhere.

In a press release after the result, Amazon said in part, "Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us. And Amazon didn't win--our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union."

Senator Bernie Sanders, who enthusiastically endorsed the unionization effort, tweeted, as recounted by the Guardian, that he wasn't surprised, adding, "The willingness of Amazon workers in Bessemer to take on the wealthiest man in the world and a powerful company in an anti-union state is an inspiration. It takes an enormous amount of courage to stand up and fight back, and they should be applauded."

Many observers saw the vote as a major victory for Amazon and doubted that unions would press again soon to unionize at its more than 100 warehouses in the U.S. But others pointed out that, as Sanders mentioned, the election was held in one of the most virulently anti-union areas in the U.S. In addition, because of the relatively poor local economy, Amazon's entry level wage of $15 a year and benefits had to appear more attractive than in other regions.

Many believe that renewed emphasis will be placed on national efforts to break up Amazon or force it to change some practices, or both.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Come and Get It by Kiley Reid

Obituary Note: Geoffrey Bailey

British bookseller Geoffrey Bailey, former Hatchards manager and bookselling "legend" who also ran Covent Garden shop Crime in Store and Fulham's Pan Bookshop, died last month. He was 75. The Bookseller reported that "friends recalled Bailey, who counted Princess Margaret among his regular customers at Hatchards Piccadilly, as a raconteur and prolific reader."

Of his 30-year friendship with Bailey, crime novelist Peter James observed: "Books were both his passion, his career and his life. I used to joke that my late agent, Carole Blake, lived in a giant shoe cupboard with an apartment attached, and similarly Geoffrey lived, in south London, in a bijou library with a kitchen and bathroom attached. Every time I went there it had grown a little smaller as more and more books filled the spaces already filled with books. If he'd lived to 100, he'd never have been able to move for books!... My fondest memory will always be Geoffrey seated in his favorite armchair in our home, single malt whisky in one hand, a new book proof in the other, studiously consuming each with relish."

Writer Barry Forshaw said: "Attending a book launch or publishing meal with the legendary Geoffrey Bailey was always instructive. Not only did Geoffrey know everybody in publishing--in his days both as front-of-house man at Hatchards Piccadilly and as manager of the lively London bookshop Crime in Store--but he could also identify anyone with the slightest hint of blue blood.... Geoffrey was the consummate raconteur, and would lament that he wasn't performing his Hatchards duties in an earlier century when literary celebrities had more cachet."


Emma Ramadan's PEN Translation Win

Toutes nos félicitations to Emma Ramadan, co-owner of RiffRaff bookstore and bar in Providence, R.I., who was one of the winners at last Thursday's PEN America Literary Awards ceremony! She won the PEN Translation Prize for her translation, from the French, of A Country for Dying by Abdellah Taïa (Seven Stories Press).

This wasn't the only good news at RiffRaff: over the weekend the store re-opened for patio browsing and drinking (until 9 p.m.), and will do so on Saturdays and Sundays "for the foreseeable future."

Today Show's Jenna Bush Hager Highlights [words] Bookstore

Last week, the Today Show's Jenna Bush Hager highlighted [words] Bookstore. As she wrote on Instagram: "Located in Maplewood, New Jersey @wordsbookstore has a mission that separates them from the rest, engaging readers of all ages and interests and welcoming patrons and employees with autism. [words] has hired over 100 young people with autism since opening in January of 2009. April is Autism Awareness Month and [words] holds one of the biggest collections of special needs books in the country. Watch the video above for some of their highlighted picks! Thank you [words] for inspiring us! #ReadWithJenna #IndieThursday #StoreTourThursday @wordsbookstore"

Read with Jenna recounted: " '[words] Bookstore opened on January 20, 2009 in Maplewood, New Jersey, with twin missions,' store owner Jonah Zimiles told Today via e-mail. 'To serve the literary and social needs of everyone in our diverse community, and to provide vocational training and a warm and welcoming environment for individuals with autism.'

"About 18 years ago, Zimiles left a successful legal practice to take care of his son, Daniel, who has autism. When he and his wife, Ellen, learned that the local bookstore in their town was closing, they decided to buy the store and reinvent it, turning it into a social hub for the town of Maplewood and a haven for those with special needs. The store has a section devoted exclusively to books on special needs, one of the largest of its kind in the entire country."

Cool Idea of the Day: 'Leaf a Plant, Take a Plant'

Bennett's Books in Deep River, Conn., has launched a community service called the Sylvantide Plant Swap, the Middletown Press reported.

Located at the rear of the bookstore, the plant swap occupies a shelf built by two local seventh graders and is available during the day, seven days per week. While store owner Colin Bennett and his team are growing plants to include in the program, the idea is that the community will eventually provide most of the plants on a "leave what you can, take what you need" basis. The bookstore staff keeps an eye on the plant swap, but they are looking for volunteers to help out.

The Sylvantide Plant Swap is just one of a few community projects that Bennett's Books has started. The bookstore hosts and operates a community refrigerator called the Freedge, as well as a Little Free Pantry. Both are located outside the bookstore and can be accessed 24 hours per day.

"The whole point of the bookstore is to help the community, so this is exactly in line with our mission," Bennett wrote. Given how many people enjoy growing plants, he hopes this "will be a popular service that fosters relationships."

Happy 30th Birthday, Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers!

Congratulations to Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers, Farmington, Maine, which turns 30 on May 1. As a beginning part of its celebrations, the store is seeking "book remembrances... a book you got from us some time over the last 30 years which meant a great deal to you and why it did." All entries will be posted on the store's website (several are there already) and people who respond will receive a gift from the store.

The store also wrote that in figuring its anniversary, "We're not sure whether to count 2020 twice or not at all, so we're splitting the difference and going with once. One thing we do know how to count is our appreciation for our customers whose support has allowed us to survive not only for three decades, but also through over  a year of pandemic challenges. Thank you for your past and continued support of DDG."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: John Boehner on Colbert's Late Show, the View

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Katie Brown, author of Dare to See: Discovering God in the Everyday (FaithWords, $24, 9781546035756).

Ellen: Brandi Carlile, author of Broken Horses: A Memoir (Crown, $28, 9780593237243).

The View: John Boehner, author of On the House: A Washington Memoir (St. Martin's Press, $29.99, 9781250238443). He will also appear on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Good Morning America: Jeff Mauro, author of Come on Over: 111 Fantastic Recipes for the Family That Cooks, Eats, and Laughs Together (Morrow, $29.99, 9780062997081).

Also on GMA: Dr. Ian Smith, author of Fast Burn!: The Power of Negative Energy Balance (St. Martin's Press, $27.99, 9781250271587).

The View: Wes Moore, co-author of Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City (One World, $18, 9780525512387).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty (Doubleday, $32.50, 9780385545686).

TV: The 39 Steps; Five Days at Memorial

Netflix "has landed The 39 Steps, a limited series star vehicle for Benedict Cumberbatch," Deadline reported. Edward Berger (Patrick Melrose) will direct and Mark L. Smith (The Revenant) will write the series, based on the classic novel by John Buchan that was previously turned into Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1935 film. Cumberbatch will executive produce with his producing partner Adam Ackland under their SunnyMarch banner.

Deadline noted that "there will be six or more hourlong episodes, most likely to shoot next year in Europe when schedules clear. Netflix moved most aggressively and committed to make the series when Anonymous Content took the package to the marketplace in late February."


Cornelius Smith Jr. (Scandal) will star with Vera Farmiga and Adepero Oduye in Five Days at Memorial, Apple TV+'s limited series based on the nonfiction book by Sheri Fink, Deadline reported. The project will be written and executive produced John Ridley and Carlton Cuse, who are also directing the limited series. ABC Signature is the studio. Author Fink will serve as producer.

Books & Authors

Awards: Orwell Longlists; Dr. Tony Ryan Book Shortlist

The longlists for the four categories of the Orwell Prizes--political writing, political fiction, journalism and exposing Britain's social evils--have been released and can be seen here. Shortlists will be made public in mid-May and winners will be announced at a prize ceremony around George Orwell's birthday on June 25.


A shortlist was released for the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award, recognizing the best long-form writing in the world of thoroughbred racing. Sponsor Castleton Lyons noted that the 2020 winner's announcement "was by necessity moved back to November and was conducted remotely for the first time, via Zoom conference. That will likely be the format again this year, with a tentative target date of late April." This year's shortlisted titles are: 

A Hole Through the Wind by Alan Patterson
Diane Crump, A Horse-Racing Pioneer's Life in the Saddle by Mark Shrager
First-Time Starter by Stan D. Jensen
Good Things Come by Linda Shantz
Ruffian by Precious McKenzie
Sylvia Rideoutt Bishop Had a Way with Horses by Vicky Moon

Book Review

Review: The Nine: The True Story of a Band of Women Who Survived the Worst of Nazi Germany

The Nine: The True Story of a Band of Women Who Survived the Worst of Nazi Germany by Gwen Strauss (St. Martin's Press, $28.99 hardcover, 336p., 9781250239297, May 4, 2021)

Gwen Strauss's narrative nonfiction debut, The Nine: The True Story of a Band of Women Who Survived the Worst of Nazi Germany, reconstructs the daring escape of nine female resistance fighters in the grim final days of World War II. One of those resistance fighters was Hélène Podliasky, the author's great-aunt, who was considered the leader of the band of women. Chapters center on each woman in turn, using Strauss's research not only to trace their paths to resistance, capture and imprisonment in Germany's nightmarish labor camps, but to resurrect their characters and personalities. What results is an improbable story of escape and survival thanks in large part to the bonds forged among these courageous fighters.

The Nine begins with the women's escape from a death march overseen by the SS and the start of their long, dangerous journey across Germany toward the American lines. The women were in desperate condition after months of back-breaking labor in an offshoot of the infamous Ravensbrück concentration camp. Hungry and weak, they used their wits and language skills to cross the German countryside and procure food and shelter for themselves. In many cases, the nine were able to use the Germans' fondness for bureaucracy and official documents against them, though they had some harrowing close calls. Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, the women's journey sometimes has the air of an incredible adventure story, with the nine sardonically comparing their journey to a camping trip. The stakes are much higher, of course, but the women's bravery and ingenuity as they traverse an almost apocalyptic landscape makes for a thrilling narrative.

As their journey progresses, Strauss digs into the women's pasts as well as their hopes and dreams and idiosyncrasies. We learn how each one came to risk everything to work against the Nazis by smuggling out downed Allied airmen, passing along important messages, protecting Jews, helping paratroopers infiltrate occupied France and much more. When the women eventually return home (the majority are French), Strauss recounts how their reintegration into society was often difficult. These survivors found that most people did not want to hear about the torture inflicted by the Gestapo or the inhuman conditions of the camps. The Nine is not only a gripping narrative, but a powerful tribute to women who should be remembered as heroes. --Hank Stephenson, the Sun magazine, manuscript reader

Shelf Talker: The Nine thrillingly reconstructs the incredible journey of a band of captured female resistance fighters across Germany near the end of World War II.

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