Shelf Awareness for Thursday, April 22, 2021


Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima

Take a Storytime Adventure into the World of Jessie Sima

News

More Plans for Independent Bookstore Day

This year, Independent Bookstore Day is hosting a plethora of virtual author events leading up to April 24 that indie bookstores can join. The series began on Monday night with a panel featuring humor writers Amber Ruffin, Lacey Lamar, Sloane Crosley and Rachel Bloom (moderated by Karen Chee) and a discussion between authors Kawai Strong Washburn and Lauren Francis-Sharma.

Tonight, author and current IBD ambassador Glennon Doyle will appear in conversation with Alexandra Elle. More events are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, and the full list can be found here.

Independent bookstores in Canada are once again celebrating Canadian Independent Bookstore Day, but with pandemic restrictions tightening throughout the country and in-person activities discouraged, the festivities will look different this year. The Canadian Independent Booksellers Assocation has organized a contest that will encourage readers to buy from their local indie bookstores through any available channel. For every book they purchase at a Canadian indie on April 24 or 25, customers will receive one entry into the contest. Publishers have donated 18 prizes, many of which are virtual author experiences.

Multiple stores in Vancouver have teamed up to create a map of local indie bookstores, and they've pooled resources to create prize packs valued at C$350 (about US$280)--each participating bookstore will give away one prize pack. Individual stores around Canada also have their own activities planned, such as a scavenger hunt organized by Moonbeam Books in Toronto and new merch from Glass Bookshop in Edmonton.

The Twin Cities Independent Bookstore Day Passport is back again, with Rain Taxi teaming up with 23 bookstores in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area. This year, participating shoppers have a full week to fill up their passports. Each stamp activates a store coupon, and if customers get at least 10 stamps, they'll have access to coupons at all participating stores. Shoppers who get their passports stamped at every store, meanwhile, will be entered to win a literary prize pack. More details and the full list of participating stores can be found here.

Five bookstores in New Orleans, La., have organized a citywide bookstore crawl for Saturday. Tubby & Coo's Mid City Bookshop, Baldwin & Co., Blue Cypress Books, Garden District Bookshop and Octavia Books are all participating, and will be hosting at-store events. Customers can pick up a passport at any of those stores and drop them off at another participating store at the end of the day. Those who visit at least three of the stores will be entered into a general raffle, while those who visit all five will be entered into the grand prize raffle, featuring a $25 gift card to each bookstore.

Loyalty Bookstores in Washington, D.C., and Silver Spring, Md., will be open for in-store browsing for the first time since March 2020. Booksellers will be stationed at the doors to monitor occupancy and the team has rearranged the stacks, displays and tables to allow for more browsing space. Loyalty has created 40 limited-edition IBD Loyalty Swag bundles, and the proceeds from those bundles will go to Loyalty's Ward 4 Mutual Aid program. The bookstores will also be running a 10% off sale, with bookstore members able to earn an additional 5%-10%.

Booksellers from the various Books & Books locations in South Florida have teamed up to create a book-themed Spotify playlist in honor of IBD. On the playlist are songs like Frank Sinatra's "I Could Write a Book" and Earth, Wind & Fire's "I'll Write a Song for You" and Queen Latifah's "Poetry Man," as well as Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On," Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" and Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights."

In Boston, Mass., Trident Booksellers & Cafe is celebrating with a charity book drive, an origami bookmark station and a bookstore scavenger hunt. Customers can participate in the latter from home or in-store for a chance to win a $50 Trident gift card. There will also be plenty of cafe specials, exclusive merchandise and more.

In Charlottesville, Va., New Dominion Bookshop will be opening its rose garden for the day, in addition to offering the exclusive IBD merchandise. Shoppers will be able to stroll around the rose garden and take pictures with cutouts of authors such as Oscar Wilde and the Brontë sisters.


Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima


International Update: Canadian Government's Funding for Indies, Book Sales Up in England, Wales

The Canadian government has committed to providing C$32.1 million (about US$25.6 million) in funding for initiatives that will help booksellers sustain and increase their online sales. This funding will also make it easier for customers to support indies.

"We're grateful to Finance Canada and Canadian Heritage for this decision to invest in Canadian booksellers," the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association posted on Facebook. "We also want to thank Canadian readers, whose fierce dedication shows just how important indies are to Canada. Now we have even more to celebrate on #IndieBookstoreDay this Saturday!"

The funding will be distributed over the next two years by the Department of Canadian Heritage, with C$32.1 million dedicated to helping bookstores increase sales online and C$7.2 million (about US$5.8 million) in additional funding to promote Canadian books at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Quill & Quire reported. 

"This is great news for indie booksellers and their customers," said Douglas Minett, CIBA's executive director, adding that the association teamed with French-language booksellers on a proposal to the Department of Finance advocating for local booksellers. 

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In the first week since bookshops were allowed to reopen across England and Wales on April 12, "readers rushed to benefit," with Nielsen BookScan reporting print market growth of 33% in units and 32.5% in value week on week. In total, 3.7 million books were sold in the seven days leading up to April 17, the Guardian reported.

"Opening our doors again was utterly joyous," said Waterstones COO Kate Skipper. "Being back amongst the shelves, touching the books and talking about books, is the best--recommending books is something that I think everyone's just been desperate for."

Paul Angel, owner of Westbourne Bookshop in Bournemouth, said, "We've had people trying to smell the books through their masks, and perfectly respectable middle-aged people acting like kids in a sweet shop. We've had a great first week. It was so nice to see some familiar faces again. We worry about some of our older customers, as they can be lonely at the best of times and their regular visit to a bookshop is an important part of their week."

In Holmfirth, Read. bookseller James Ashmore noted that "just about everyone was breathing a huge sigh of relief as they walk through the door.... You can really tell that everyone is well-practiced at shopping safely, too. It's fantastic to be back in business."

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Strict Covid-19 measures "have drastically impacted book sales" in the Netherlands, resulting in 16% fewer books sold between the start of the year and now, the European & International Booksellers Federation's NewsFlash reported, adding that restrictions imposed by the Dutch government "saw all non-essential stores closed, with click & collect services banned. First comparisons with the previous year show 10% drop in sales."

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The 23rd Fête de la Librairie Indépendante will take place this weekend, with more than 480 booksellers in France, Belgium and Luxembourg participating. 

"This Saturday, April 24, 2021, is the independent bookstore holiday. Like every year, on the occasion of San Jordi, you will receive a book and a rose," Belgian bookseller Librairie Pax in Liège posted on Facebook. --Robert Gray


Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima


New Leader at HarperCollins Leadership

Jamie Lockard

Jamie Lockard will become v-p and publisher for the HarperCollins Focus's HarperCollins Leadership imprint, effective May 17. She succeeds Jeff James, who is leaving to explore startup business opportunities and finish his Ph.D. in organizational leadership, the company said.

Lockard has been v-p of marketing for Nelson Books for three years. Earlier she held executive positions at Hallmark Cards, Jockey International, Whirlpool Corporation and Lee Apparel Company, focusing on marketing and media.

Don Jacobson, senior v-p, group publisher for HarperCollins Focus, called Lockard "a collaborative leader of businesses, people, and ideas, and over her career she has delivered profitable growth amid difficult market conditions for well-known consumer brands. She is one of those rare executives who is not only both a strategic and conceptual thinker, but who also excels at execution. Jamie is exactly who HCL needs to lead it into the future."

Lockard said, "Taking the imprint's strong foundations and guiding a stellar team to continue to differentiate HCL's position as an imprint that delivers transformative messages is an amazing opportunity. We have a powerful author family and I look forward to continuing these great relationships and discovering new voices that resonate with the broadest audiences possible."

Formed in 2018, HarperCollins Leadership includes the AMACOM sub-imprint and aims "to provide leaders a way to share their insights with other business professionals to develop skills and gain from collective wisdom."


Kimberly Ayers Shariff Named Executive V-P, Strategy, DEI at PRH

Kimberly Ayers Shariff

Kimberly Ayers Shariff has been appointed to the newly created role of executive v-p, director of strategy for diversity, equity & inclusion at Penguin Random House, effective May 10.

She has been chief administrative officer of the American Ballet Theatre since 2017 and a key strategic adviser to all areas of the organization. She was the architect of ABT RISE, ABT's institutional commitment to inclusion and diversity on and in its stages, studios, and classrooms, and within its staff, creatives, audiences and communities. Before that, she worked at several entertainment and arts organizations, including Lincoln Center and BET. She is a lawyer and has held positions that have encompassed business strategy, operations, communications and human resources. "It is within this strong and broad business and cultural foundation that her expertise in DEI has developed," PRH U.S. CEO Madeline McIntosh noted in an announcement about the appointment.

In her new position, Shariff will "have two areas of focus," McIntosh continued. "Annysa Polanco, director, diversity, equity & inclusion, will now report to Kimberly, and the two will work hand in hand to lead us in the continued development and execution of our Strategic Plan. As always, this work will rely heavily on close partnerships with the companywide DE&I Council, our Employee Resource Groups, and many others.

"In addition, as a member of the Board, Kimberly will act as a valued partner for me and for all Board members in our work together running the company. I feel confident that, in Kimberly, we have a leader who will help ensure that a culture of inclusion remains central to our growth strategy. Based on her past experience at ABT, I know she brings with her a deep appreciation for the particular needs of a business based on creativity and the free-flowing exchange of ideas. Her mission will be to work collaboratively to develop and implement a broad-based vision of our future that will be exciting and engaging for all. We are a business whose success is predicated on diversity of thought, perspective, and opinion, and Kimberly will help us greatly in our ongoing work to ensure that all feel welcome and empowered to fully participate in this culture."


Obituary Note: Vartan Gregorian

Vartan Gregorian

Vartan Gregorian, "the ebullient Armenian immigrant who climbed to pinnacles of academic and philanthropic achievement but took a detour in the 1980s to restore a fading New York Public Library to its place at the heart of American intellectual life," died April 15, the New York Times reported. He was 87.

From 1989 to 1997, Gregorian served as the first foreign-born president of Brown University and was president of the Carnegie Corporation from 1997 to 2021. Gregorian's books include a memoir, The Road to Home: My Life and Times. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004.

Gregorian was best known, however, for resurrecting the NYPL "from a fiscal and morale crisis. It was a radical, midcareer change from the pastoral academic realm, and a risky plunge into the high-profile social and political wars of New York City, where the budget-cutting knives were out after decades of profligacy, neglect and a brush with municipal bankruptcy in the 1970s," the Times noted. "His personality was so engaging, his fire for restoring the library so compelling, that the board endorsed him unanimously as its president and chief executive." He served as NYPL's president from 1981-1989, and by the end of his tenure, he had raised $327 million in public and private funds for the library, placing it on a firm footing.

In a tribute, the NYPL wrote: "Vartan's long-lasting impact on the library and, by extension, the people and communities of New York City is immeasurable. As president from 1981–89, his leadership and tenacity revitalized and reaffirmed the library as the preeminent civic and educational institution that New Yorkers know and love today.... His support never wavered even after he moved on from the library: his philanthropic work at the Carnegie Corporation supported many New York Public Library programs and services, all with an eye toward equitable access to opportunity and knowledge for all New Yorkers.

"The library's work today would not be possible without his foresight and deep dedication to the people of New York. His legacy will positively impact our city for generations to come, and the library's leadership cannot thank him enough. We send heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and to all who have had the pleasure of knowing and working with him."


Notes

Odyssey Bookstore: Celebrating Earth Day Every Day

"Happy (early) Earth Day," Odyssey Bookstore, Ithaca, N.Y., noted yesterday in a Facebook post that detailed the bookseller's mission to "try to hold the spirit of Earth Day in our hearts and in our practices every day at Odyssey. I thought I'd take a moment and share some of the ways we try to do that--recognizing that there is always more we can do to live in a better balance in this home we all share." Odyssey highlighted several green aspects of its business, including: 

  • When we remodeled, we kept as much of the original material as we could, reusing wood, doors and even light fixtures. 
  • All of our packaging is either recyclable brown paper or twine or special tape. 
  • The furniture in our space is either repurposed originals or fabulous used treasures we found locally.
  • Determined to avoid plastic as much as possible, our bookstands and creative 'book' signs are all made from wood.
  • Our gift cards are made from paper and can be recycled--along with our frequent buyer cards.

'Great Independent Bookstores in Greater Cleveland'

In anticipation of Independent Bookstore Day and World Book Day this week, Cleveland.com showcased "16 great independent bookstores in Greater Cleveland," noting that the selection includes "longtime staples that have been open for decades, and more recent additions to the literary scene. Some bookstores are fully dedicated to selling new or used books, while others incorporate cafes and markets into their offerings."


Personnel Changes at Random House

Michael Hoak has joined the Random House marketing team as senior marketing manager. He formerly led the marketing department at Yale University Press for seven years and produced and hosted the Yale University Press Podcast. Earlier he worked at St. Martin's Press, Viking, and Oxford University Press. Before beginning his publishing career, he worked as an English teacher in Japan.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Molly Baz on the Drew Barrymore Show

Tomorrow:
Drew Barrymore Show: Molly Baz, author of Cook This Book: Techniques That Teach and Recipes to Repeat (Clarkson Potter, $32.50, 9780593138274).


This Weekend on Book TV: The San Antonio Book Festival

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, April 24
1 p.m. Nicholas Christakis, author of Apollo's Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live (Little, Brown Spark, $29, 9780316628211), at the virtual 2021 San Antonio Book Festival.

2 p.m. Seamus McGraw, author of From a Taller Tower: The Rise of the American Mass Shooter (University of Texas Press, $27.95, 9781477317181), at the San Antonio Book Festival.

2:45 p.m. Anna Malaika Tubbs, author of The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation (Flatiron, $28.99, 9781250756121), and Thomas Healy, author of Soul City: Race, Equality, and the Lost Dream of an American Utopia (Metropolitan Books, $29.99, 9781627798624), at the San Antonio Book Festival.

3:35 p.m. H.W. Brands, author of The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Struggle for American Freedom (Doubleday, $30, 9780385544009), and Dorothy Wickenden, author of The Agitators: Three Friends Who Fought for Abolition and Women's Rights (Scribner, $30, 9781476760735), at the San Antonio Book Festival.

7 p.m. Heidi J. Larson, author of Stuck: How Vaccine Rumors Start--and Why They Don't Go Away (Oxford University Press, $24.95, 9780190077242).

8 p.m. Margaret MacMillan, author of War: How Conflict Shaped Us (Random House, $30, 9781984856135).

9 p.m. Ken Starr, author of Religious Liberty in Crisis: Exercising Your Faith in an Age of Uncertainty (Encounter Books, $26.99, 9781641771801). (Re-airs Sunday at 4:45 p.m.)

10 p.m. John Woodrow Cox, author of Children Under Fire: An American Crisis (Ecco, $28.99, 9780062883933). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

Sunday, April 25
1 p.m. Aaron E. Sanchez, author of Homeland: Ethnic Mexican Belonging since 1900 (University of Oklahoma Press, $24.95, 9780806168432), and Paola Ramos, author of Finding Latinx: In Search of the Voices Redefining Latino Identity (Vintage, $16.95, 9781984899095), at the San Antonio Book Festival.

2 p.m. Robert Crosnoe, author of The Starting Line: Latina/o Children, Texas Schools, and National Debates on Early Education (University of Texas Press, $45, 9781477322383), at the San Antonio Book Festival.

3:35 p.m. Judy Batalion, author of The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler's Ghettos (Morrow, $28.99, 9780062874214), and Rebecca Donner, author of All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler (Little, Brown, $32, 9780316561693), at the San Antonio Book Festival.

7 p.m. Mia Bay, author of Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance (Belknap, $35, 9780674979963).

10 p.m. John Boehner, author of On the House: A Washington Memoir (St. Martin's Press, $29.99, 9781250238443).



Books & Authors

Awards: Aspen Words, Colby Winners; Wolfson History Shortlist

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich (Harper) has won the $35,000 Aspen Words Literary Prize, sponsored by the Aspen Institute, which honors "an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture." The novel is based on the life of Erdrich's grandfather, who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from North Dakota to Washington, D.C.

Prize judge and author Luis Alberto Urrea called The Night Watchman "a magisterial summation of [Erdrich's] influential work while at the same time setting a new foundation for the future. A historical novel that is also a story of love, a familial chronicle, a book about Indigenous community and anti-tribal animus, it opens worlds incessantly. It can move from comedic visions of eccentric boxers to terrifying stories of the disappearances of Native women, hints of ghost stories and a prophetic explosion of violence inside the nation's capital city. It is a wise and transformative masterwork."

In recorded remarks at a ceremony last night, Erdrich accepted the award on behalf of her grandfather, "one of the dwindling number of first speakers of the Ojibwe language, in addition to all his activism," she said. "This particular award will go to assist in the revitalization of the Ojibwe language."

The author of 16 books, Erdrich is also owner of Birchbark Books, Minneapolis, Minn.

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A Quiet Cadence by Mark Treanor (Naval Institute Press) has won the 2021 William E. Colby Award, honoring "a first solo work of fiction or nonfiction that has made a major contribution to the understanding of military history, intelligence operations, or international affairs." Treanor will receive the award and $5,000, provided by the Pritzker Military Foundation, on behalf of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, during the Norwich University Military Writers' Symposium, November 3-4, at Norwich University, Northfield, Vt.

Colby Award selection committee chairman, historian and author Alex Kershaw said that A Quiet Cadence, the story of a young U.S. Marine in combat in Vietnam and dealing with its aftermath over the years since his war, was "a joy to read, a true page-turner with timeless themes about trauma and redemption, and with one hell of a powerful ending."

Treanor graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and became a Marine in 1968. He was a rifle platoon leader in Vietnam, an artillery battery commander and leadership instructor and later served on the boards of the National Defense University and the Naval Academy. He has been a lawyer, corporate executive, and leadership coach who has participated in national security fact-finding missions in Iraq, Yemen, Africa and the Caucasus. He also studied in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program.

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The shortlist for the £40,000 (about $55,750) 2021 Wolfson History Prize, honoring books that "combine excellence in research with readability," have been announced and can be seen here. The winner will be announced June 9.


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, April 27:

Sooley: A Novel by John Grisham (Doubleday, $28.95, 9780385547680) follows a South Sudanese college basketball player stranded in the U.S. by civil war back home.

Whereabouts: A Novel by Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf, $24, 9780593318317) tracks a woman living alone in an unnamed Italian city.

Finding Ashley: A Novel by Danielle Steel (Delacorte Press, $28.99, 9781984821461) follows two estranged sisters reuniting in later life.

The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown, $27, 9780316296618) explores the firebombing of Tokyo.

Stronger: Courage, Hope, and Humor in My Life with John McCain by Cindy McCain (Crown Forum, $28, 9780593236888) is a memoir by the widow of John McCain.

Revelations by Mary Sharratt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26, 9781328518774) is historical fiction about two 15th-century female mystics.

Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be A-holes: Unfiltered Advice on How to Raise Awesome Kids by Karen Alpert (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $19, 9780358346272) is written by the author of parenting blog Baby Sideburns.

Three Dreamers: A Memoir of Family by Lorenzo Carcaterra (Ballantine Books, $28.99, 9780593156711) is a tribute to three important women in the life of the author of Sleepers.

Ways to Grow Love by Renée Watson, illus. by Nina Mata (Bloomsbury, $16.99, 9781547600588) is the second in the Ramona-inspired young reader series.

Gilded Serpent by Danielle L. Jensen (Tor Teen, $19.99, 9781250317797) is the third and final book in the series that began with parallel novels, Dark Shores and Dark Skies.

Paperback:
The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird (Putnam, $17, 9780593328132).


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover
Every Vow You Break: A Novel by Peter Swanson (Morrow, $27.99, 9780062980038). "I was hooked on Peter Swanson with Eight Perfect Murders, but he is now one of my favorite authors with Every Vow You Break. This book was brilliant! I was enthralled from the beginning and could not put this book down to save my life. The twists and turns were not expected, and I was very happy with the ending. Bravo!" --Patty Reed, Ferguson Books & More, Grand Forks, N.Dak.

Astrid Sees All: A Novel by Natalie Standiford (Atria, $27, 9781982153656). "Astrid Sees All is the novel for everyone who has ever moved to a new city to reinvent themselves--and hit some bumps along the way. In a love letter to the East Village of Manhattan, the neighborhood's grit, glamor, and romance feels palpable. The reader never stops rooting for these complex and compelling characters, despite their many missteps. What I wouldn't give to party with Phoebe and her friends for a night at Plutonium!" --Erin Neary, Book Club, New York, N.Y.

Paperback
Permafrost: A Novel by Eva Baltasar, trans. by Julia Sanches (And Other Stories, $15.95, 9781911508755). "A lush and deeply incisive novel about what it means to love and to live as a woman, a novel that could only have been written by a poet as piercing as Eva Baltasar and translated by her perfect match, Julia Sanches." --Emma Ramadan, Riffraff, Providence, R.I.

For Ages 4 to 8
The Duck Who Didn't Like Water by Steve Small (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman, $17.99, 9781534489172). "Duck avoids water at all costs, even the tiniest of drops from the sky. One night, a storm brings a hole to his roof and a new friend to his door--a frog! When they try to find Frog's home, it's nowhere to be found. That's okay, because Duck and Frog get along rather well--even if Frog loves rain! This is a very sweet story about how life is a lot less damp when you've got a good friend with you. I want to give them both a hug!" --Andrew King, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

For Ages 9 to 12
The House That Wasn't There by Elana K. Arnold (Walden Pond Press, $16.99, 9780062937063). "Charming, magical, and sweetly philosophical, The House That Wasn't There is Elana K. Arnold at the top of her game. When Oak Carter's family moves in next door to Alder Madigan and his mom, the first thing they do is cut down Alder's beloved walnut tree. So, becoming best friends with Oak is the last thing Alder plans on doing. But the universe has other plans and so do a pair of adopted kittens, a mystical opossum, and possibly even Faith the school bus driver. The House That Wasn't There is a story of connections and mystery, love and loss, family and friendship. I fell in love with this tender, kind, and wonderful book from page one." --Joy Preble, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, Tex.

For Teen Readers
Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales (Wednesday Books, $18.99, 9781250769787). "In Sophie Gonzales' latest YA contemporary, Darcy Phillips runs a secret business giving students at her school love advice, and she's very good at her job. But when she's found out by the swoony Alexander Brougham, Darcy finds herself helping him win back his girlfriend in order to protect her secret. The ensuing hijinks are packed with humor, romance, and wisdom but most of all a wonderful sense of queer pride. Perfect on Paper reads a bit like what you'd get if you mixed Leah on the Offbeat and Netflix's Sex Education, but Gonzales also captures a charming wit that's uniquely hers. With snappy dialogue, a lovable cast of side characters, and important conversations about bisexuality, this book absolutely won my heart!" --Julia DeVarti, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Mich.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: Heartwood: The Art of Living with the End in Mind

Heartwood: The Art of Living with the End in Mind by Barbara Becker (Flatiron Books, $25.99 hardcover, 224p., 9781250095985, May 11, 2021)

An unfortunate feature of contemporary Western culture is the denial of death. But as interfaith minister Barbara Becker demonstrates in her emotionally forthright, often inspiring Heartwood: The Art of Living with the End in Mind, a conscious engagement with this "last and greatest taboo" can be an invaluable resource in living a life filled with meaning and purpose.

Becker is eclectic in her selection of teachings from various spiritual traditions that illuminate brief but revealing vignettes, including her story of losing two daughters to miscarriages (she has two sons), and accounts of her experiences as a Zen Buddhist-trained hospice volunteer in New York City. Some of her most moving anecdotes involve her father, a neurosurgeon, whose first wife was killed in a boating accident only months after their wedding. Becker also offers a frank description of her parents' deaths, as her father's incisive mind crumbles in the face of Alzheimer's disease and her mother succumbs to heart failure. But her stories are not all somber, as illustrated by the history of Felix, a skeleton first used by her grandfather as a medical student and that remained a family heirloom for two more generations of doctors over 100 years.

Becker also finds deep meaning in a commemoration at the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and in an improvised ceremony with a friend named Generous Bear at Manhattan's Corlears Hook Park, the site of a 17th-century massacre of Native Americans near her Lower East Side home. Her ability to integrate multicultural perspectives like these into her teaching adds breadth to her insights.

The portraits of Becker's encounters with hospice patients are equally revealing. Despite her training, she feared she would be unable to be a source of comfort to dying patients. But as she describes "Mrs. B," whom she assisted in writing farewell letters to family and friends, or "Mr. R," a Muslim man who was soothed by her repetition of a simple Sufi chant, little more was required of her than simple presence. With its many stories like these, Heartwood is a disarmingly unaffected book, but it would be an error to equate that accessible style with a lack of depth. This is a resource filled with wisdom and one that readers will find themselves returning to often in both good times and bad. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Interfaith minister Barbara Becker draws thoughtfully on diverse spiritual traditions to show how death can be one of life's great teachers.


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