Shelf Awareness for Monday, April 19, 2021

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

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

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

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

Beacon Press: Kindred by Octavia Butler

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

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

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

Quotation of the Day

'Distress, Disruption' and a Quick Decision

"We first became aware of the publishing deal with [Louisville police officer Jonathan] Mattingly through news reports, social media posts and press queries, beginning around 12 p.m. [Thursday]. We had no prior knowledge of the book and had not been informed by our distribution partner that it was in the works. By last night we had decided that we could not distribute this book, and after informing Post Hill Press we issued an announcement.

Jonathan Karp

"Although all of us involved in this decision shared an immediate and strong consensus about not wanting any role whatsoever in the distribution of this particular book, we are mindful of the unsustainable precedent of rendering our judgment on the thousands of titles from independent publishers whose books we distribute to our accounts, but whose acquisitions we do not control.

"You have our commitment to always be open to the exchange of opinions and points of view with our employees and authors. At times, that commitment will be in conflict with the editorial choices of our distribution partners, which we must also respect. As a publisher, we seek a broad range of views for our lists. As a distributor, we have a limited and more detached role. The distinction between publishing and distribution is frequently lost on people who do not follow the publishing business closely, but it is a reality of this important part of our overall business portfolio.

"I understand and am sorry that yesterday's events have caused distress and disruption for you. It has been a tumultuous year, marked by tragedy and injustice. We are grateful that throughout this time you have so openly and courageously shared with us your views and opinions and experiences. We will continue to seek your help and understanding as we strive to move forward as company."

--Jonathan Karp, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, from a Friday letter to colleagues about the news that S&S distribution client Post Hill Press planned to publish a book by Jonathan Mattingly, one of the Louisville, Ky., police officers who was involved in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor

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


Wesleyan R.J. Julia Partnering with Coffee Shop

The Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore in Middletown, Conn., is partnering with Story and Soil Coffee to open a coffee shop inside the bookstore, the Middletown Press reported. The cafe and eatery will open on May 1; it will be the second location for Story and Soil, which has headquarters in Hartford, Conn.

Initially the coffee shop will serve a variety of hot and cold beverages, including coffee, tea and espresso, and a limited food menu. In June, the coffee shop will expand its food offerings to include flatbreads, breakfast burritos, salads and more. The cafe covers 2,000 square feet and has outdoor seating.

The Wesleyan store opened in 2017, and from May 2017 until December 2019 the bookstore partnered with the restaurant Grown. When it came to working with Story and Soil, R.J. Julia chief operating officer Lori Fazio told the Press that they were "looking for a partner that was going to be able to offer things that are appealing to students, as well as anyone who would come in."

Story and Soil made its debut in Hartford in 2017 and is owned by Michael Acosta and Michael and Sarah McCoy.

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

At Arcadia Publishing, Gallagher Leaving, Gildea Promoted

At Arcadia Publishing, after two years serving as both CFO and COO, Charles Gallagher is leaving the company and returning to his home in New York, effective June 4. CEO Brittain Phillips called Gallagher "a central figure in Arcadia's growth and transformation, including outsourcing our warehouse and fulfillment operations, major upgrades to our IT infrastructure, new systems and processes to enable rapid growth with new customers, and the acquisitions of Wildsam and Pelican Publishing. The leadership Charles brought to these and other projects was a key factor in what we've achieved in these past few years."

With Gallagher's departure, the company is separating the roles of CFO and COO. It has started a search to find a new CFO.

Matthew Gildea

As for the COO, effective June 7, Matthew Gildea is being promoted to the position. Gildea joined Arcadia Publishing in 2019 as business development manager and has an extensive bookselling background: he had been book team business director at Joseph-Beth Booksellers and earlier held executive positions at Hastings Entertainment, Borders Group, and several independent bookstores, including Chapter Two, which was in Charleston, S.C., home of Arcadia. He is also president of the board of directors of the Book Industry Charitable Foundation.

Phillips said that in his time at Arcadia, Gildea "has played an integral role in driving growth through the development of significant new customer relationships, working hands on with those customers to deliver results."

Harpervia: Only Big Bumbum Matters Tomorrow by Damilare Kuku

International Update: Canadian Book Consumer Survey, British Bookshop Recovering from Lockdown, Break-in

In the third part of its blog series featuring results from the Canadian Book Consumer survey, BookNet Canada shared data from the responses of buyers and borrowers on several questions: Where did they buy and borrow books? Do borrowers buy more books compared to buyers? What role does the library play in book buying?

The results were from surveys fielded in April, July and October 2020 and January 2021 among 12,022 English-speaking Canadians over the age of 18 who met the screening criteria. Among the highlights:

Although Covid-19 restrictions had an impact on both bookstores and libraries at different times throughout 2020, about four in 10 Canadians visited a bookstore, retailer or public library at least once in the previous month. Most visits to the library were to find a specific book or author (24%), pick up holds (23%) and browse displays and shelves for books to borrow (17%).

For borrowers, there were six main decision-influencing actions: seeing the subject/genre of the book (83%); reading the blurbs by other authors (65%); comparing the price in multiple places (60%); reading or listening to a sample or excerpt (54%); reading reviews about the book (50%); and reading the book description (48%).

Buyers' primary decision-influencing actions when deciding whether to read, borrow, or buy a particular book included reading the book description (63%); seeing who the author is (42%); seeing the subject/genre of the book (42%); looking at the cover (41%); and reading the book's reviews (39%).

Among other results from the survey, BookNet found that buyers listen to audiobooks more than borrowers (49% vs. 42%); borrowers are reading print books more frequently than buyers (23% of borrowers read print books daily compared to 19% of buyers.) and e-book reading frequencies are similar between these two groups.


As if trying to survive as a business during the global pandemic wasn't challenging enough, British bookseller the Rabbit Hole in Brigg was forced to close last Tuesday "after only a day's post-lockdown trading, following a break-in that left the shop unsafe for customers," the Bookseller reported. Co-owners Nick and Mel Webb were "pretty shaken" by the discovery that two display cases had been stolen through a smashed window.

"We've only managed to be open for a day, but we will get it back. It's one of those illogical things," Nick Webb said. "Luckily they hadn't got beyond the front of the shop. They took two bookcases--it took a fair force to get the window in--it's 8mm thick reinforced glass. They tried with a huge block of concrete which didn't work, then managed to push the window in and took the bookcases. We have no explanation as to why."

He added that Monday had been "such a wonderful day--it was unbelievable. We've been set back now--but we will deal with it. It's just insane what they've done."

On Friday, the owners posted on Facebook: "Humbled by the response and support from our local community, customers, authors/illustrators, publishers, reps, The BA, friends and booklovers everywhere. We appreciate every message and every act of kindness this week. Brings home how much people care and what a wonderful world 'book world' is. The new window will not be arriving until next week but we will be open from 10 a.m. this morning. --Robert Gray

Obituary Note: Lila Nelson Weller

Lila Weller at Sam Weller's Books, circa 1995

Lila Nelson Weller, "the matriarch and the rock" of Weller Book Works, Salt Lake City, Utah, died last Friday, April 16. She was 105.

In 1950, she left a job at the Deseret News to work at Zion Bookstore, a year after meeting its owner, Sam Weller, whose father, Gus, founded the store in 1929, as recounted by the Salt Lake Tribune. Lila and Sam married in 1953, and she suggested the store's renaming as Sam Weller's Books in the 1960s. In 2012, the store name changed yet again, to Weller Book Works, and is owned by Sam and Lila's son Tony and his wife, Catherine. Their daughter, Lila Ann, works at the store.

The bookstore remembered: "We sometimes referred to Lila as the world's oldest working bookseller. Until the covid outbreak in early 2020, Lila came to work in the bookstore for a couple hours most days of the week, spending her time in the Rare Books room with her son, Tony. She was upset in February of 2020 when Tony told her she couldn't come to work any more because the risk to her health was too great. She spent the last year of her life at home lovingly cared for by Debra Krings. That is where she died, asleep in her bed surrounded by bookshelves and pictures of the people she loved.

"Lila began working in the bookstore then called Zion Bookstore in the 1950s. Her keen intellect and insight into systems, her financial acumen, and her solid good sense help grow the store into a remarkable business. Sam Weller could not have created and sustained the bookstore that was eventually known as 'Sam Weller's' or just 'Sam's' without Lila. The accurate, easily updated paper inventory system she created was legendary in the pre-computing era. It was Lila who brought the financial books into line and kept them that way. She was always ready with vitamin C and Tylenol when an employee felt a cold coming on, and advice when Sam yelled about something. And she grounded Sam when he needed it.

"Lila was more than a woman who helped build the bookstore. She was an insightful and discriminating reader in her own right. Her friends knew her as a quiet, steady woman, a loyal friend. She was so even tempered that more than one person remarked upon her Buddha-like nature. Lila was also a secret astrologer and could read palms. She learned to speak 'carney' language when she was a young woman and would do so when asked. It was always fun when she chose to share those secret skills.

"105 years is a long time to live. Lila scoffed at people remarking upon it and wanting to celebrate her extraordinary life. 'All I ever did was not die,' she said. She did so much more than that in her years. The Weller family and its booksellers from throughout the decades will miss her terribly.

"Kind and generous to the end, Lila chose to donate her body to the University Medical Center. A celebration of her life will be held when it is safe to gather."

MPIBA's Reading the West Awards Consumer-Facing E-Blast

Last week, the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association announced the 31st annual Reading the West Award shortlists to much fanfare. For the first time, the association launched a consumer-facing initiative for the awards, powered by Shelf Awareness. The shortlist awards were broadcast to more than 160,000 indie bookstore customers on behalf of 31 participating member stores. MPIBA worked with Shelf Awareness to create a branded announcement e-blast with custom landing pages that included voting and purchasing for every participating store. The association combined this with additional e-mails, press releases, web and in-store displays, and social media posts from bookstores, authors and publishers.

For an example, see this one from Bookworks, Albuquerque, N.Mex.

To vote for your favorites, go here. Then join MPIBA on Tuesday, May 25, for a first-ever public awards presentation, hosted by Kali Fajardo-Anstine, winner of the 30th annual Reading the West Book Award for Fiction for her book Sabrina & Corina: Stories.


Image of the Day: Synnott Signing at White Birch Books

Last Thursday, White Birch Books, North Conway, N.H., hosted an outside, in-person signing for Mark Synnott, author of The Third Pole: Mystery, Obsession, and Death on Mount Everest (Dutton Books). Owner Laura Cummings called it "a fantastic event," with good weather and everyone following the rules. "We had a steady line of patient people for about an hour, including childhood friends and people who have followed Mark's explorations for years."

Cummings added: "I had kind of forgotten how to do in-person events, but it all came back, and it was a treat to talk with people in the line. Just like old days--except masked and socially distant!" (photo: Karen Cummings)

Happy 30th Birthday, Watchung Booksellers!

Congratulations to Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, N.J., which will celebrate its 30th anniversary this coming Saturday, Independent Bookstore Day, in a subdued but still festive way, with "special discounts and merchandise."

Owned by Margot Sage-EL, the store has hosted thousands of events small and large, from storytimes and book fairs to celebrity book signings by Hillary Clinton and Stephen Colbert. It serves Montclair families, authors, and schools, and "with over 70 local authors in Montclair's thriving literary environment, the hometown bookshop is often a launchpad for new releases and debut authors."

Watchung Booksellers has remained a fierce supporter of the community, working with local public and private schools, the Montclair Public Library, Succeed2gether’s Montclair Literary Festival, Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence, the Adult School of Montclair, as well as civic, political, and religious institutions.

Personnel Changes at Books Forward

Ellen Whitfield has been promoted to publicity director from senior publicist at Books Forward, part of JKS Communications. Whitfield previously worked for the Dallas Morning News, the Advocate newspapers of Baton Rouge and New Orleans (where she coordinated books coverage for the paper) and other news organizations.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Julie Lythcott-Haims on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of Your Turn: How to Be an Adult (Holt, $26.99, 9781250137777).

The View: Senator Mazie K. Hirono, author of Heart of Fire: An Immigrant Daughter's Story (Viking, $28, 9781984881601). She will also appear on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Today Show: George W. Bush, author of Out of Many, One: Portraits of America's Immigrants (Crown, $38, 9780593136966).

Also on Today: Andrew Steele, author of Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old (Doubleday, $29, 9780385544924).

Kelly Clarkson Show: Brandi Carlile, author of Broken Horses: A Memoir (Crown, $28, 9780593237243). She will also appear on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Movies: Where the Crawdads Sing; White Bird: A Wonder Story

Garret Dillahunt (Fear the Walking Dead), Michael Hyatt (Snowfall), Ahna O'Reilly (The Morning Show), Sterling Macer Jr. (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story) and Jojo Regina have been added to the cast of Where the Crawdads Sing, based on Delia Owens's novel, Deadline reported. They join Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, David Strathairn and Harris Dickinson

Olivia Newman is directing the film from a screenplay Lucy Alibar. Reese Witherspoon and Lauren Neustadter are producing for Hello Sunshine, and Elizabeth Gabler, Erin Siminoff and Aislinn Dunster are overseeing the project for 3000 Pictures.


Participant has joined Lionsgate and Mandeville Films as executive producer and co-financier of White Bird: A Wonder Story, the companion film to 2017's hit YA feature Wonder, based on R.J. Palacio's book. The movie stars Gillian Anderson, Helen Mirren, Ariella Glaser, Orlando Schwerdt and, reprising his role from Wonder, Bryce Gheisar.

Marc Forster is directing White Bird, which is currently in production. The screenplay adaptation is by Mark Bomback (The Art of Racing in the Rain, War for the Planet of the Apes). Mandeville Films' David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman, who produced Wonder, are also producing the new film, along with Palacio.

Participant CEO David Linde commented: "Wonder is a shining example of what inspirational storytelling can achieve, and we are thrilled to partner again with our friends at Lionsgate and Mandeville Films, as well as R.J. Palacio and Marc Forster. Compassion for each other is the first step in bridging divides and we look forward to continuing that legacy of kindness and understanding with White Bird: A Wonder Story."

Books & Authors

Awards: Wolff Translator's, Commonwealth Short Story Shortlists; Ondaatje Longlist

The shortlist has been announced for the 2021 Helen & Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize, sponsored by the Goethe-Institut New York and celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The winner, who receives $10,000, will be announced May 20, with a virtual ceremony on June 24 that will feature an appearance by Alexander Wolff, grandson of Kurt Wolff. This year's shortlist:

Jefferson Chase for his translation of Hitler: Downfall, 1939-1945 by Volker Ullrich (Knopf)
Tess Lewis for Kraft by Jonas Lüscher (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Jackie Smith for An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky (New Directions)
Imogen Taylor for Beside Myself by Sasha Marianna Salzmann (Other Press).


The longlist for the £10,000 (about $13,835) Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, for "a distinguished work of fiction, nonfiction or poetry evoking the spirit of a place," has been announced and can be seen here. The shortlist will be announced on April 27 and the winner on May 11.


Commonwealth Writers announced the shortlist the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. This year's shortlist was chosen from a record 6,423 entries from 50 Commonwealth countries and includes, for the first time, stories from Lesotho and Namibia. Regional winners will be revealed in May and the overall winner named in June. Regional winners each receive £2,500 (about $3,455) and the overall winner £5,000 (about $6,905). You can see the complete list of finalists here.

Book Review

Review: The Plot

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz (Celadon, $28 hardcover, 336p., 9781250790767, May 11, 2021)

"I have to tell you," begins a representative testimonial for Crib, the literary thriller at the center of Jean Hanff Korelitz's The Plot, "I was on a plane and I was reading the book, and I came to the part--I think you all probably know the part I'm speaking of--and I just, like, gasped! Like, I made a noise!" Readers of The Plot should expect to reach the same heights of rackety exaltation.

The Plot begins as New Yorker Jacob Finch Bonner arrives at his three-week teaching gig at a low-residency MFA program in Vermont. It feels like--and is--a step back for "the once promising author of the 'New & Noteworthy' (New York Times Book Review) novel The Invention of Wonder." Jake's writing career is at a standstill: his follow-up to The Invention of Wonder tanked, and he hasn't published since.

One consolation of his teaching job is that Jake knows his work is at least a cut above the puerile prose of his students--that is, until, during a teacher-student chat, Evan Parker shares aloud a synopsis of his planned novel. Jake can't disagree with Evan's appraisal: "This story I'm writing, it's like, a sure thing." But the prospect of its publication would seem to evaporate with Evan's death, which Jake learns about while poking around on the Internet a couple of years later.

Fast-forward three more years, and Jake, having convinced himself of the uprightness of stealing Evan's plot ("A great story... wanted to be told"), finds his name on the cover of two million copies of the New York Times bestseller Crib. Jake is certain that only he knows the book's origin--until the day he receives a disturbing e-mail, the first of several of an increasingly worrisome kind.

Where to begin the plaudits for The Plot? The premise is a gold mine: it generates a dazzling twist (something for which Crib is famous and The Plot may come to be), invites deliberation on an artist's moral obligations, and sets up some droll razzing of the publishing industry's wheeler-dealings. Korelitz (You Should Have Known; The Devil and Webster) demonstrates masterful control with her incremental release of the big reveals in both her novel and in Crib, which is excerpted in The Plot. As they did in the fictional universe of The Plot, Oprah and Spielberg would do well to rally around Korelitz's lollapalooza. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: This staggeringly good literary thriller is about a staggeringly good literary thriller written by a failed novelist who has stolen the book's plot from a deceased student.

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