Also published on this date: Wednesday, April 28, 2021: Maximum Shelf: Cloud Cuckoo Land

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Flatiron Books: The Last One at the Wedding by Jason Rekulak

Ace Books: Servant of Earth (The Shards of Magic) by Sarah Hawley

Ace Books: Toto by AJ Hackwith and The Village Library Demon-Hunting Society by CM Waggoner

Webtoon Unscrolled: Age Matters Volume Two by Enjelicious

St. Martin's Press:  How to Think Like Socrates: Ancient Philosophy as a Way of Life in the Modern World  by Donald J Robertson

Hanover Square Press: The Dallergut Dream Department Store (Original) by Miye Lee, Translated by Sandy Joosun Lee

Nosy Crow: Dungeon Runners: Hero Trial by Joe Todd-Stanton and Kieran Larwood

Andrews McMeel Publishing: A Haunted Road Atlas: Next Stop: More Chilling and Gruesome Tales from and That's Why We Drink by Christine Schiefer and Em Schulz


Harriett's Bookshop Raising Money to Buy Building

With the lease for Harriett's Bookshop in Philadelphia, Pa., set to expire in July, store owner Jeannine Cook has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help raise funds to buy a permanent location.

She intends to buy a building with an "1800s residential feel" that includes multiple floors of private book nooks, indoor and outdoor green spaces, meeting rooms and even a third-floor apartment that would be occupied by visiting authors, artists and activists. 

Since launching the campaign in February, Cook has so far raised just shy of $80,000. She hopes that her "monument to Harriett Tubman" can become a "permanent staple" in the community.

Harriett's is also opening a "sister store," Ida's Bookshop, in Collingswood, N.J.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Intermezzo by Sally Rooney

AAP Sales: February Sales Jump 24.7%

Total net book sales in February in the U.S. rose 24.7%, to $964.5 million, compared to February 2020, representing sales of 1,359 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers. For the year to date, total net sales rose 16.4%, to $2.18 billion.

In February, trade sales rose 19.1%, to $646.6 million, and sales rose in all paper formats, with hardcovers up 26.9%, to $232.8 million; paper up 9.2%, to $186.3 million; mass market up 35.7%, to $21.7 million; and board books up 3.2%, to $12.4 million. E-book sales rose 19.8%, to $99.3 million. Downloadable audio rose 27.8%, to $71.7 million; and physical audio was down 20.9%, to $1.2 million.

Sales by category in February 2021 compared to February 2020:

PM Press: P Is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book by Golbarg Bashi, Illustrated by Golrokh Nafisi

Atlanta's 44th & 3rd Reopening in New Space

Cheryl Lee

44th & 3rd, a Black-owned bookstore in Atlanta, Ga., will complete its move to a new location on May 2, What Now Atlanta reported. The new space measures 693 square feet and is located in the Entra West End development, adjacent to the Morehouse School of Medicine.

Owners Cheryl and Warren Lee will celebrate the grand opening with a book signing with Bill Lester, retired NASCAR driver and author of Winning in Reverse: Defying the Odds and Achieving Dreams--The Bill Lester Story.

The Lees originally opened 44th & 3rd in 2017, in Atlanta's Little Five Points neighborhood. The name is both an homage to President Barack Obama and a reference to the subjects of books they carry: life, literature and legacy.

The move has been in the works since last spring. The owners closed in-store operations in April 2020 in advance of the move but have continued to sell books online.

Ghost Hill Press Bookstore Opens in Wilmington, N.C.

Ghost Hill Press, an indie bookstore located inside a reimagined shipping container, held its soft opening on Independent Bookstore Day. The store is located at 1609 Queen Street, in the Cargo District of Wilmington, N.C. On the bookshop's website, co-owners Pam Sherman and sister Kimberly Sherman said they are "passionate about helping you find your next read. We carefully curate our selection of titles to feature books that we are truly excited about. We hope you’ll love them as much as we do!" 

Noting that the number of businesses in the "booming Cargo District keeps ticking up," the Star-News reported that the Sherman sisters "launched their business in October with an online presence and through bookselling pop-ups at coffee shops and apartment complexes." The new retail location "offers a selection of curated titles and personalized recommendations through the building of one-on-one relationships with customers--something that shouldn't be difficult in the intimate, 100-square foot space."

"I lived in Scotland for a while, and so did my sister," Pam Sherman said. "We really appreciated the independent bookstore scene over there."

How Bookstores Are Coping: Recirculation Pop-up; Staying Cautious

In Washington Heights, N.Y., Word Up Community Bookshop/Librería Comunitaria has created a pop-up bookstore called Recirculation, founder Veronica Liu reported. Located in a 3,700-square-foot space at 876 Riverside Dr., the pop-up primarily contains the collection of Tom Burgess, a former Word Up collective member who died from Covid last June. 

In addition to the thousands of books and records Burgess accumulated over his lifetime, Recirculation also contains some of the collection of Steve Hahn, a sidewalk bookseller who also died last year, along with some new books from Word Up's main store, which remains closed for both browsing and pick-ups as it operates as a Covid testing site. The new titles at Recirculation, Liu noted, include children's, middle-grade and YA titles, and Spanish-language books.

"As we found when building Word Up the first time around, those sections have particular needs that aren't adequately met by most donations of used books," she explained.

Customers can browse at Recirculation, which is open three days per week and has plenty of windows that can be opened (none of the windows at Word Up's main storefront open). Word Up customers can also do web order pick-ups at Recirculation by request. Liu added that Word Up has the pop-up space until the end of May, and there are a lot of books to clear before then.

On the subject of the Covid testing, Liu said five Word Up collective members received training through NYC Health + Hospitals to administer Covid self-tests at the shop. Initially the bookstore was operating as a testing site only on Tuesdays, but after Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested on March 1 that the New York City variant came from Washington Heights, NYC Health + Hospitals set up their own testers at the store for expanded hours. Throughout March and April, testing has been available four days per week.

With more people getting vaccinated, there is some resistance to testing, but because "people can still potentially pass along the virus even when vaccinated," Word Up is trying to incentivize community members to get tested. They can take home a Word Up tote bag containing a free book, masks, hand sanitizer and sometimes galleys donated by publishers. During testing days, the Word Up team also sets up the pay-what-you-can outdoor book carts. If someone comes to the door and asks for a specific new or used book, a bookseller will sell it to them at the door, but shoppers still cannot browse freely.

And even with the storefront closed to browsing, the collective has kept very busy with online sales, virtual events (including the five-bookstore El Gran Combo), virtual book clubs and virtual after-school programs for first and second graders and middle schoolers. Looking ahead, they are working on outdoor events for the spring and summer, hybrid school book fairs and Word Up's 10th anniversary in June.


James Fugate, co-owner of Eso Won Books in Los Angeles, Calif., reported that the bookstore made more in the second half of 2020 than it did in all of 2019. In early June, as protests swept the country in response to the murder of George Floyd, the bookstore received an incredible surge of support and started receiving more than a thousand orders per day. The surge was so overwhelming, in fact, that Fugate and store co-owner Tom Hamilton decided to shut down web orders temporarily.

Using Ingram's direct-to-home distribution "really helped us," Fugate recalled, though the rest of June and July remained "incredibly busy." In the months since, things have slowed considerably from that peak, although the store routinely sees around 40-80 orders per day. Fugate noted that specific books, such as The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee, Man Enough: Undefining My Masculinity by Justin Baldoni and A Promised Land by Barack Obama, have caused significant spikes in orders.

President Barack Obama visited with Tom Hamilton and James Fugate last week.

When the store first reopened to browsing last summer, Eso Won was open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. In September, Fugate and Hamilton decided to cut hours to 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., which gives them time in the morning to work on online orders. Only four customers are allowed inside at at once, and when the front doors are open there is "always a steady flow of people."

Fugate said that he has had both vaccine doses at this point, and Hamilton will be fully vaccinated in a couple of weeks. They might gradually expand to allowing six people in at a time, but they both still want to be very careful about inviting more shoppers inside. He added, too, that they've been very reluctant to hire anyone new, but additional staff would certainly help them expand operations. --Alex Mutter

Obituary Note: Kathie Coblentz

Kathie Coblentz, "a Renaissance woman who read or spoke 13 languages; collaborated on books about the directors Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood and Alfred Hitchcock; and, during her day job, cataloged rare books for more than 50 years at the New York Public Library," died April 3, the New York Times reported. She was 73. Coblentz was the library's third-longest serving employee, working most recently in the 42nd Street research library's special formats processing department of the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.

Anthony W. Marx, NYPL's president and CEO, said Coblentz was recruited for a library job in 1969 before she graduated from the University of Michigan: "She thought she'd work at the New York Public Library until she figured out what to do next. Well, she never left."

Deirdre Donohue, her supervisor, described her as the "matriarch of our work family," who cataloged hundreds of items "that were the products of detective work, deep research and skepticism about facts." 

Coblentz collaborated with her former teacher from the 1990s at the New School, Robert E. Kapsis, on researching (including translating avant-garde European criticism into English), editing and indexing books. She also edited anthologies of interviews with contemporary filmmakers.

Coblentz's 900-square-foot apartment housed 3,600 books, which had served as inspiration for her The New York Public Library Guide to Organizing a Home Library (2003). The Times noted that "her system of classifying her own collection of books at home defied library science and was ripe for parody. Ms. Coblentz had 16 bookcases holding more than 200 feet of shelf space in her one-bedroom apartment. The books were arranged by country of origin, size, sentimentality and personal obsession."

"Your system doesn't have to be logical," she told the Times in 2005. "It just has to work for you."


Pop-up Window Display: New Vessel Press on Broadway

New Vessel Press has installed a pop-up display of about 50 of its titles in the large expanse of store windows at 2780 Broadway in Manhattan. The space was formerly occupied by Bank Street Bookstore, which closed last summer. The publisher has rented the premises for the next month for the display.

"This makes excellent use of one of Manhattan's many empty storefronts, repurposing the former premises of a sadly defunct bookseller and helping rejuvenate a streetscape hard hit by online commerce," said publisher Michael Z. Wise. "The window display lets passersby know that our books are available on the Upper West Side at Book Culture, Shakespeare and Company, the Strand, Barnes & Noble and wherever books are sold."

Lerner Publisher Services to Distribute Page Education Foundation

Lerner Publisher Services, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, will be the exclusive distributor for the Page Education Foundation, effective April 29.

The Page Education Foundation publishes picture books focused on diversity and inclusion that are written by former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice and Minnesota Vikings football great Alan Page and his daughter, Kamie Page. Justice Page is in the NFL Football Hall of Fame and a 2018 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Foundation offers financial assistance to students of color facing barriers to attaining their educational dreams.

The inaugural Page Education Foundation list distributed by Lerner Publisher Services includes Bee Love (Can Be Hard), written by Alan Page and Kamie Page and illustrated by David Geister, a finalist for the 2021 Minnesota Book Award in Children's Literature. Lerner will distribute three upcoming Page Education Foundation titles in Spring 2022.

Calling them "beautifully illustrated picture books which impart inspiring and motivating messages," David Wexler, executive v-p of sales for Lerner Publishing Group, said, "Page's picture books are focused on diversity and inclusion which perfectly aligns with Lerner's mission to bring exceptional, inclusive, and diverse picture books to young readers."

Personnel Changes at Vintage and Anchor

Penelope Belnap has joined Vintage and Anchor as associate publicist. She previously worked in publicity at Random House.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Malcolm Gladwell on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Kelly Clarkson Show: Justin Baldoni, author of Man Enough: Undefining My Masculinity (HarperOne, $28.99, 9780063055599).

Tamron Hall: Bevy Smith, author of Bevelations: Lessons from a Mutha, Auntie, Bestie (Andy Cohen Books, $24.99, 9781250311788).

A Little Late with Lilly Singh: Rupi Kaur, author of Home Body (Andrews McMeel, $16.99, 9781449486808).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Leslie Jordan, author of How Y'all Doing?: Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived (Morrow, $26.99, 9780063076198).

Jimmy Kimmel Live: Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War (Little, Brown, $27, 9780316296618).

Movies: Oslo

HBO has released the first trailer for Oslo, a film adaptation of the Tony-winning play by J.T. Rogers, starring Ruth Wilson (The Affair, His Dark Materials) and Andrew Scott, IndieWire reported. Rogers wrote and executive-produced the movie, which is directed by Tony winner Bartlett Sher and set to premiere May 29 on HBO Max.

Oslo centers on a Norwegian couple who find themselves in the middle of negotiations for the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, a pivotal agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Premiering Off Broadway in 2016, Oslo transferred to Broadway the following year, eventually winning the Tony Award for Best Play and Best Featured Actor in a Play award for star Michael Aronov. 

The cast also includes Salim Daw (Fauda), Waleed Zuaiter (The Spy, Ramy), Jeff Wilbusch (Unorthodox), Igal Naor (Fauda), Dov Glickman (Shtisel, Stockholm), Rotem Keinan (Fauda), Itzik Cohen (Fauda), Tobias Zilliacus (Thicker Than Water) and Sasson Gabay (Sirens, Stockholm).

Books & Authors

Awards: OCM Bocas Caribbean Literature Winner

Canisia Lubrin won the $10,000 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, honoring the "best book by a Caribbean writer published last year," for her book-length poem The Dyzgraphxst. Lubrin, who is the third St. Lucia-born writer to win the overall prize, was also named a winner of a 2021 Windham Campbell Prize.

In her judge's remarks, Vahni Capildeo said The Dyzgraphxst "is exciting, experimental, and maintains integrity from beginning to end.... Aware of and alive with the impulses and innovations of Aimé Césaire, Dionne Brand, and so many more revolutionary thinkers with whom we have been blessed. These poems take apart our individual personal pronoun, the 'I,' questioning and finding new ways to feel and think and know what we suppose to be our 'self.' Some books use language to keep running smoothly. This book shifts what language can be and do. It is thrilling to read it and to relish giving up the illusion of mastery of meaning; to revel in not fully understanding, like swimming beyond the breakers in a sea full of flotsam and jetsam."

Reading with... Robert DiYanni

photo: César Rodriquez

Robert DiYanni is a professor of humanities at New York University and a former instructional consultant for the NYU Center for the Advancement of Teaching. He is the author and editor of numerous books for college students, and more recently for teachers and general readers. Prior to joining the faculty at NYU, he taught at Queens College CUNY, Pace University and as a visiting professor at Harvard. He is the author of You Are What You Read: A Practical Guide to Reading Well (Princeton University Press, April 20, 2021).

On your nightstand now:

How to Write Like Tolstoy, Richard Cohen. Who wouldn't like to write like the best of the best, the greatest of the greatest? Tolstoy wrote six drafts of War and Peace (copied by hand by his wife, Sofia), and when the book went into print exclaimed that it was all wrong and had to be done over.

Collected Poems, W.H. Auden. I've neglected him, having read his poetry with pleasure and profit decades ago. So much skill, and knowledge, and wisdom are packed into his memorable poems.

The Mirror & the Light, Hilary Mantel. I reveled in her first two Cromwell volumes for their psychological acuity, their philosophical provocation and their literary mastery.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I didn't have one, but my favorites to read to my children: Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown, and Charlotte's Web, E.B. White. I have always loved language lovingly rendered, Brown's with her charming just right rhymes, and White's with his perfectly cadenced prose and touching story.

Your top five authors:

Montaigne, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Dante. And let's add an American writer for good measure: Melville, whose Moby-Dick is by far the greatest work of American fiction, a book in multiple styles and voices, including Shakespearean soliloquizing on one page and philosophical speculation on the next. I love these writers for all the reasons readers and critics have been talking about for centuries. Each of them offers something different; they are each sui generis. Each rewards repeated re-reading.

Book you've faked reading:

Never faked one, but I recommend a highly entertaining book about faking reading books and discussing them as if they were read: How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read, Pierre Bayard. It's seriously playful, with cunning arguments for why you should not read books but only talk about them based on hearsay. It's by turns delightful in its witty preposterousness and exasperating in its know-it-all wiliness. An engaging read whether you nod in agreement or shake your head vigorously in disapproval.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I'm often an evangelist for a book I'm reading or have recently read, so there are many. One recent powerhouse that knocks you out and breaks your heart while also giving you hope: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. The introduction alone will make you weep. The book will open your eyes to the sheer horror of our prison system and how it destroys lives, especially the lives of Black men and boys. And along these lines another recent read: A Question of Freedom by Dwayne Betts, who describes his nine years in prison for a carjacking he committed at age 15, for which he was imprisoned as an adult. Betts, like most famously Malcolm X before him, educated himself in prison through reading. Today he heads a foundation committed to bringing a million books to U.S. prisons.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I've never bought a book for its cover, but I bought two recent books for their titles: How to Think Like Shakespeare by Scott Newstok and How to Write Like Tolstoy by Richard Cohen. These titles (and the books themselves) have inspired me to begin writing How to Teach Like Socrates: Learning from the World's Great Teachers. Newstok's book teaches us what Shakespeare learned and how he learned it, advising today's educators to adopt those practices. Cohen's book is about craft and what we can learn from reading like writers ourselves to discern, imitate and steal from them.

Book you hid from your parents:

Lady Chatterley's Lover, D. H. Lawrence. It's notorious, of course, for its sex scenes, a big draw for a teenage male. It's also a wonderfully lyrical, poetic book in parts, and a savage indictment of industrialism as well.

Book that changed your life:

The New Testament. Jesus's parables, his two great commandments and Sermon on the Mount have long influenced how I live and how I teach.

Favorite line from a book:

Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate. (Abandon all hope, who enter.) From Dante's Inferno, the inscription over the Gate of Hell. And a second line, this one from the Paradiso: E'n la sua volontade è nostra pace. (And in his will is our peace.) It echoes of St. Augustine's "Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in thee." The Dante lines I learned to love from hearing them intoned in a graduate course I took on modern poetry (not on Dante) given by Allen Mandelbaum, who was translating the Commedia when I took his course at the CUNY Graduate Center in the 1970s.

Five books you'll never part with:

Montaigne's Essays. Shakespeare's Plays. Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson. Austen's novels. Chekhov's short stories. There's a lot of life in these books. They can be read many times over, always yielding something more intellectually and emotionally for readers. They yield considerable pleasure with each reading. They never disappoint.

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

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez. The most astonishing fictional work I've ever read. And even more astonishing is that García Márquez claims that the book's incredible events derive from his life and experience growing up in South America.

And one literally for the first time, generally considered the greatest book by an Italian writer after Dante's Divine Comedy: I Promessi Sposi, The Betrothed, Alessandro Manzoni. I've always wanted to read it, but just haven't gotten to it. Now's the time.

Why you are an evangelist for reading good books of all types across genres:

Because reading good books enriches living, deepens understanding, enlarges our capacity for compassion, makes us more interesting to ourselves and to others. Because talking about good books, especially those we've read, is one of life's greatest pleasures. Because those books become lifelong companions.

Book Review

Children's Review: The Dirt Book

The Dirt Book: Poems about Animals That Live Beneath Our Feet by David L. Harrison, illus. by Kate Cosgrove (Holiday House, $18.99 hardcover, 40p., ages 5-9, 9780823438617, June 8, 2021)

Author David L. Harrison and illustrator Kate Cosgrove join forces again (And the Bullfrogs Sing) to celebrate dirt in this lyrical nonfiction picture book. Cheerful images bursting with color accompany 15 playful poems that explore the mysterious activities happening "below the roots where green grass grows,/ .../ where boulders rest and tree roots drink." Plants, insects and animals all join in the festivities, making The Dirt Book a lively picture book party.

Harrison invites his audience to imagine riding a magic elevator down below the surface--an elevator Cosgrove ingeniously depicts as a tree, burrowing into the earth. On this trip, the book's creators explain that dirt is made with a mixture of rock, root, dead things, insects, fungi and "at least a billion germs." A biosphere of life carries on (unbeknownst to most humans) thanks to this seemingly unpleasant concoction. Insects like doodlebugs, spiders, earthworms and grubs make their homes here. Harrison's lively rhymes and Cosgrove's playful drawings make the insects appealing and fascinating: "Earthworm squiggles,/ earthworm squirms,/ earthworm dines on/ dirt and germs." The work of mice, chipmunks, tortoises and toads is described as, "Ridges, mounds, tunnels, holes--/ handiwork of tiny trolls,/ furry demons on patrol,/ working where it's black as coal." Learning about life in the dirt has never been quite so entertaining.

An extra-long portrait format contributes an additional element of pizzazz to this enjoyable nonfiction selection. The exaggerated view emphasizes the below-ground setting and supplies Cosgrove with an ample canvas to tell each poem's story in her detailed colored pencil and digital illustrations. There is a plethora of knowledge to absorb from Cosgrove's art, including such varied information as the patterns on the tortoise shell and the delicate webbing on the bumblebee's wings.

The Dirt Book includes back matter that offers additional details about the various life forms featured in the book's poems, and a bibliography provides curious readers with resources for further exploration. Harrison points out in his final poem, "And now we've learned a lot, although/ there's more to dirt than we might think." This charming picture book is a splendid way to encourage an understanding and appreciation for nature and the often-unseen life that inhabits the planet alongside humans. The illustrations are rich and elaborate and the delightful poems keep the audience cheerfully bopping along to the rhythm of... dirt. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Shelf Talker: David L. Harrison and Kate Cosgrove renew their partnership poetically to extol the wonders of dirt in a fascinating nonfiction picture book of 15 poems.

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