Shelf Awareness for Friday, May 7, 2021

Disney Hyperion: Our Shouts Echo by Jade Adia

Groundwood Books: Who We Are in Real Life by Victoria Koops

St. Martin's Press: Cabinet of Curiosities: A Historical Tour of the Unbelievable, the Unsettling, and the Bizarre by Aaron Mahnke, With Harry Marks

Agate Bolden: 54 Miles by Leonard Pitts Jr.

Berkley Books: Books that will sweep you off your feet! Enter Giveaway!

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon


Chicago's City Lit Books Reopening Under New Ownership

City Lit Books in Chicago, Ill., will reopen under new ownership in June. Stephanie Kitchen, a longtime resident of Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood, has purchased the bookstore from original owner Teresa Kirschbraun, who closed the store last year because of the pandemic.

Kitchen, a former bookseller and librarian who has always dreamed of owning a bookstore, took the Paz Owning a Bookstore course just before the pandemic hit. Last October, after Kirschbraun announced that she would be closing City Lit permanently at the end of the year, Kitchen reached out to see if there was a way to continue the bookstore's legacy.

"If surviving the Covid pandemic has taught me anything, it's that life is too short," Kitchen said. "The pandemic has also taught me the importance of community--which is why I am so eager to reopen City Lit Books, to welcome the community back and to continue to offer a place of wonder, connection and discovery."

"I am thrilled that Stephanie will be the new caretaker of City Lit," Kirschbraun said. "She is so well-prepared and it's great that she lives in the neighborhood."

Over the next weeks, Kitchen will purchase new inventory, refresh displays and plan for reopening. She is eyeing a reopening date of June 19, and Kirschbraun will help Kitchen throughout the transition.

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Beacon Hill Books Coming to Boston

Beacon Hill Books, a general-interest bookstore and cafe, is coming to Boston, Mass., in 2022, Beacon Hill Times reported.

The bookstore will reside in a four-story building on Charles Street in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood. The first three levels of the building will be devoted to retail, with adult books on the bottom two floors and children's books on the third floor. The cafe will be located on the garden level and serve breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and light suppers.

Owner Melissa Fetter has been looking to open a bookstore on Charles Street since late 2019. Initially she planned to open in late 2020, but those plans were delayed because of the pandemic. Now extensive renovations are underway and Fetter hopes to open in winter 2022.

"Twenty-six businesses have closed on Charles Street since I started this process, but I haven't given up," Fetter told Beacon Hill Times

She has hired Irene MacDonald, a lawyer with a background in publishing, to oversee the bookstore and cafe operations, and Horatio Greenough, a former librarian, to help manage the bookstore. She is negotiating with a local chef to run the cafe.

Over the next several months, Fetter and her team will solicit community feedback to get a sense of what books they'd like to see the bookstore carry and what sort of events they'd like to see the store host. While nothing has been set in stone yet, Fetter does plan to host plenty of events for both adults and children. She added: "We're really looking to our neighbors and [future] clientele to help us shape our program and curate our collection of books."

Ann Arbor's Bookbound Bookstore Closing 

Bookbound Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Mich., which opened in 2013, will close this summer, most likely in late June or early July. In a blog post announcing their decision, co-owners Peter and Megan Blackshear wrote: "Our lease will be up, and we are ready to move on to the next chapter of our lives.  We have been considering this decision for a couple of years. For the record, this is not due to the pandemic, nor is it due to rising rents (we discussed the possibility of extending our lease and our landlords' offer was surprisingly generous). We made this decision for personal reasons.  

"As much as we love books, the day-to-day of the store, and all of you, it's time to focus on our family, friends, and all of the other things we've set aside. We opened and operated our dream bookstore for nearly eight years and we consider this a success! We hope you see it that way too, and can understand and respect our decision."  

The Blackshears added that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, their ideal scenario for closing down is not possible: "We haven't allowed customers in the store for more than a year, but we hope to do so before we cease operations. We will be fully vaccinated in a couple of weeks, and as long as vaccination numbers keep going up and case numbers keep going down in our region, we aim to re-open for safe, in-store shopping sometime in June, and to offer some clearance sales and deals and all those things you'd expect. There are a lot of variables so we can't promise anything or set a date yet, but we will keep you all updated as we go." 

Their post-closure plans include reading and writing, and potentially a book-related online presence like "a newsletter, blog, and a Bookshop affiliate page (although this may not be immediate). In the short term, we will indulge in what this academic town may recognize as a sabbatical."  

How Bookstores Are Coping: Changing Habits; Open for Browsing

Peter Makin, owner of Brilliant Books in Traverse City, Mich., said the biggest challenge at the moment is figuring out "what kind of staffing do we need." Prior to the pandemic, he continued, it was simple, as the store only needed booksellers. Now, though, there are "so many different jobs to do" that Brilliant Books can no longer hire with only bookselling in mind. Instead they are hiring people and "teaching them everything."

Even though customers have been able to shop at the store for a while, the bookstore is still seeing far more web orders than in-store customers, and Makin does not expect that to change very much. People have gotten used to curbside pick-up and web orders and will likely keep doing them.

The upside to the new way of doing business is that there are many more ways of working and "vastly more opportunities for people to embrace," and Makin is glad the store can provide that to employees. More than half of the bookstore's staff work from home at least some of the time, he noted.

Looking back on 2020, Makin said that revenue was flat, with in-store sales down quite a bit and web sales up. Asked about bright spots throughout the year, he pointed to the Brilliant Books Monthly subscriptions hitting new records for subscribers, along with the many improvements the ABA made to IndieCommerce.

Makin and his colleagues hope to see more people in-store and on the street this year, though he worries that there won't be as many in-store shoppers as there were in 2019. In particular, he is concerned that shoppers who grew accustomed to ordering through may not stop by physical bookstores as often as they used to. "I hope it doesn't happen that way but I fear it will," he said.

He added that booksellers who assume things will simply return to the pre-pandemic normal are likely in for a difficult time. "We don't know what's happening, and that's the tricky part."


On Independent Bookstore Day, Union Ave Books in Knoxville, Tenn., began allowing 8-10 customers in at a time, after being appointment-only since June 1, 2020, said buyer/floor manager Chelsea Bauer.

All told, the store was down significantly in 2020 compared to 2019, with Bauer noting that the store never had to close down completely. Even during the shutdowns in spring 2020, she was able to do curbside pick-up and mail orders. The bookstore is "hanging in there," and she and her team have been "surprised by how incredibly supportive our customers have been."

That community support has been a major bright spot in a difficult year. In particular, Bauer pointed to the "intentional local buying" that went on in Knoxville during the pandemic. The store has also been shipping books to people all over the country who visited Union Ave in the past and wanted to continue supporting the store. She remarked: "There have been a lot of incredibly heartwarming memos on our online orders."

Bauer said she feels very optimistic about the spring and summer, "if we can keep Covid contained." Knoxville is very close to the Great Smoky Mountains and she expects there to be even more visitors to the parks than usual this year. Many of those visitors will probably make their way to Knoxville for a day trip, and people in general are ready to be back in bookstores. "I am hoping we can safely welcome them back." --Alex Mutter

Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial Buying Three RBA Imprints

Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial is buying RBA Group's Molino and Serres Spanish-language children's and young adult literature imprints, as well as its Catalan-language imprint, La Magrana.

The RBA Group will continue publishing its historical fiction imprints Gredos, Serie Negra and Integra, and its nonfiction divisions.

PRHGE said that Molino and Serres will "preserve their identity, vocation, and editorial independence within PRHGE, while now benefiting from Latin American distribution, due to PRHGE's strong presence in the region."

Molino and Serres offer children's and YA literature and entertainment, including Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games and Veronica Roth's Divergent series, as well as Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid stories, Rachel Renée Russel's Dork Diaries series, Lauren Magaziner's Case Closed series, and Andy Cutbill's The Cow that Laid an Egg. The imprints also publish authors like Enid Blyton and classic gamebook series such as Choose Your Own Adventure.

Molino was founded in Barcelona by Pablo del Molino Mateus in 1933, with the goal of creating a collection of novels accessible to as wide an audience as possible. The imprint was acquired by the RBA Group in 2004. Serres was founded in 1995 by Poppy and Juan Grjalbo, her father, and has been dedicated to children's literature.

La Magrana will preserve its distinct identity and editorial independence, publishing the work of Catalan writers and Catalan translations. Its catalogue features works by Marta Rojals, Mark Haddon and Roald Dahl, among others. PRHGE will introduce e-book and audiobook editions to La Magrana.

La Magrana was established in 1975 by Francesc Vidal, Jaume Fuster, Jordi Moners i Sinyol and Carles-Jordi Guardiola i Noguera. It was acquired by RBA in 2003.

The acquisition of La Magrana strengthens and expands PRHGE's Catalan-language publishing, which started in 2002 with the relaunch of Rosa dels vents, founded in 1936, and continued with the recent acquisition of La Campana, established in 1985 by author Josep María Espinàs and Isabel Martí.

Ricardo Rodrigo, chairman of the RBA Group said, "We have for a long time had a very close and friendly relationship with the Bertelsmann Group. Back in the 1990s, we got together to launch the National Geographic books and magazines in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Poland. I am sure that the Molino, La Magrana, and Serres catalogs, which we have so fondly developed over so many years, will reach their full potential as part of their new family. This agreement will allow RBA to concentrate on consolidating its position as a beacon of editorial creativity, with over 70,000 newly created pages published every year in areas such as popular culture and science, personal wellbeing, health, and entertainment, and on exploring new marketing avenues that may allow us to capitalize on our creative effort."

Markus Dohle, global CEO of Penguin Random House, said, "Penguin Random House believes in publishing books for everyone and the esteemed catalogs of Molino, Serres, and La Magrana are a natural, welcome complement to our renowned PRHGE publishing programs and to our mission. In keeping with our proven approach to our publishing acquisitions and the previous collaborations between Bertelsmann and RBA, we will bring each of these imprints' books and authors to even more readers while honoring and retaining their unique heritage and editorial distinction."

Obituary Note: John Cullen

John Cullen

John Christopher Cullen III, the renowned literary translator who translated more than 50 novels and works of nonfiction into English, died on April 15, the Times-Picayune reported. He was 79 years old.

Born in New Orleans, La., in 1942, Cullen earned a Ph.D. in English literature and traveled extensively in Europe before returning to the United States and beginning his career as a translator in 1987. Fluent in German, Italian, Spanish and French, Cullen translated the work of writers such as Kamel Daoud, Martin Dumont and Véronique Tadjo. He won the French-American Prize for his translation of Philippe Claudel's Brodeck, and in 2006, two novels that he translated, The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra and Don't Move by Margaret Mazzantini, were on the shortlist for the Dublin Prize.

John R. MacArthur, journalist, author and president of Harper's magazine, wrote a tribute to Cullen, who translated MacArthur's French columns into English. He praised Cullen's sense of humor and his gifts as a storyteller, and he recalled that before they started working together, he heard the actor Robert Adrian read an excerpt of Cullen's translation of Brodeck's Report, and it struck him as "pitch perfect. My American mind heard my French understanding of the novel and read it back to me so well in English that I hardly noticed the difference in languages."

Judith Gurewich, publisher of Other Press, called Cullen "one of the greatest American translators," describing how he reinvented an author's sentences in English "while keeping the music of the original." She noted that Cullen translated only books he liked, and he often joked with Gurewich that, "this is a great book but there is no way you will sell two copies!"

Göran Rosenberg, author of A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz, wrote that while the book says it was edited by John Cullen, "it should have said, this translation was made into literature by John Cullen.... And as with all miracles, you will never fully understand how it happened, except that it had to do with the extraordinary sensibilities of John Cullen, linguistic and otherwise."

Kira Wizner, co-owner of Merritt Bookstore in Millbrook, N.Y., who knew Cullen and his wife, the novelist Valerie Martin, said Cullen was a "wordsmith, and like any true master, loved language." Through his work as a translator, she wrote, "readers in English were gifted a version that worked because John was, dare I say, holistic. The words, the mood, the subtext, all accounted for."


Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff Meets with Pa. Booksellers


On Wednesday, the same day Vice President Kamala Harris visited Books on the Square, Providence, R.I., while in the state for visits with local business leaders, her husband, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, was in Allentown, Pa., where he, Rep. Susan Wild and a Small Business Administration official had a round-table discussion with several local businesspeople, including Andy Laties and Rebecca Migdal, owners of Book & Puppet Co., in Easton.

Laties thanked Emhoff and the others for the Biden Administration's recent SBA programs, and noted "that while dozens of bookstores have closed this past year, dozens more have opened or are preparing to open, and the indie bookstore revival is continuing."

Migdal was quoted in the Morning Call as saying how much more helpful the federal government has been during the pandemic than after the September 11 attacks, when her business dried up. "This is a little different now," he said. "This is real assistance. There's a confidence that's inspiring, a combination of reason and action that is making people feel like things are turning around."

Cool Idea of the Day: 'Book Club Connections Bulletin Board'

Word After Word Books, Truckee, Calif., shared a photo on Facebook of the shop's latest innovation: "Have you noticed the new addition to our vintage telephone booth?? Step inside and check it out--it's our new Book Club Connections Bulletin board! We're always looking for new ways to bring people and books together, and the Book Connections Bulletin is a new way to get connected about book clubs. Looking to join a local club? Post your name and contact info to the board! Is your club looking to recruit new members? Add your club info to the form and post it up! Let's get connected!"

Seven Stories Press to Distribute Ocean Press/Ocean Sur Titles

Under a new partnership, Seven Stories will distribute titles by Ocean Press and Ocean Sur, its Spanish-language imprint, in North America and around the world, excluding Cuba.

The focus initially will be on the complete works of Che Guevara in newly redesigned editions, with authoritative text created by Ocean together with the Che Guevara Studies Center of Havana, whose director is Aleida March, Guevara's partner. Seven Stories will release the complete backlist of nine titles, at the rate of roughly one a month, starting with The Motorcycle Diaries in July, featuring a new introduction by Walter Salles, the director of the film based on the book. In September, the first new Che Guevara title will appear: I Embrace You with All My Revolutionary Fervor: Letters 1947-1967. Some 80% of the letters in this first-ever collection of Guevara's letters have never before appeared in English.

Besides the rollout in the U.S. this summer and fall, Seven Stories rights director Silvia Stramenga has negotiated partnerships for foreign rights to many of the Che Guevara titles, including with Penguin Classics in England, and many other publishers around the world, as well as deals with Audible for both English and Spanish audiobooks. She is also fielding film rights inquiries.

Seven Stories books, including those in English and Spanish in the Ocean-Seven Stories partnership, are sold and distributed by Penguin Random House Publisher Services in North America and worldwide, and through Seven Stories U.K. by Turnaround in England.

Ocean, founded in Melbourne, Australia, in 1989 by David Deutschmann and Deborah Shnookal, focuses Latin American politics and culture. The Ocean Press list includes a deep catalogue of books by Che Guevara, Fidel Castro and others. Together with the Pablo Neruda Foundation and the Foundation Guayasamín, Ocean published a bilingual edition of selections of Neruda's epic poem "Canto General" illustrated by the Ecuadoran indigenous artist Oswaldo Guayasamín. Ocean has published the collected works in 15 volumes of Salvadoran rebel poet Roque Dalton. Other highlights of Ocean's Spanish-language list include John Reed's eyewitness accounts of the Russian and Mexican revolutions, key Marxist classics, works by liberation theologists such as Frei Betto, Miguel d'Escoto and Camilo Torres, and two series: Vidas Rebeldes (Rebel Lives) and Historias desde abajo (History from Below).

Deutschmann approached Seven Stories publisher Dan Simon about forming a partnership because, he said, "one, I knew I could trust them, and two, our publishing programs aligned perfectly due to our shared commitment to politics and literature."

Personnel Changes at Insight Editions

At Insight Editions:

Simon Fraser has joined the company as chief financial officer. He previously held senior finance and operational roles with DK Publishing in the U.S., including overseeing DK U.S.'s integration into Penguin Random House.

Mike Degler has been named publishing director of the newly formed gaming division, Insight Gaming, responsible for licensing and brand development. He was previously v-p and general manager of Penguin Random House's Prima Games.

Robin Gonci has been named director of marketing and e-commerce. She was formerly minister of collaborative planning at the Republic of Tea and has more than 20 years of consumer packaged goods experience at Diageo, Mighty Leaf Tea, and Hewlett Packard.

Lara Starr has joined the team as senior publicist and marketing strategist. She was previously senior publicist for children's publishing at Chronicle Books.

Jeff Barton has been named senior manager, strategic partnerships. He most recently led domestic and international sales and business development at Kontrol Freek. Before that, he held various sales and marketing positions at Prima Games for 19 years.

Media and Movies

TV: House of the Dragon; They Both Die at the End

HBO has released the first official images from House of the Dragon, the Game of Thrones prequel series based on George R.R. Martin's book Fire & Blood, Deadline reported. The cast includes Paddy Considine, Olivia Cooke, Emma D'Arcy, Matt Smith, Steve Toussaint, Rhys Ifans, Eve Best, Sonoya Mizuno and Fabien Frankel. House of the Dragon has been given a 10-episode order with an eye toward a 2022 debut.

Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal will be co-showrunners and also exec produce along with Martin and Vince Gerardis. Martin and Condal co-created the series. Sara Lee Hess will also serve as writer and executive producer. Sapochnik is directing the pilot and additional episodes. Clare Kilner and Geeta V. Patel will also direct with Greg Yaitanes directing and co-executive producing.


Adam Silvera will write a series adaptation of his bestselling novel They Both Die at the End for TV as a result of Entertainment One's acquisition of U.S. rights for the book. Deadline reported that eOne will serve as the studio and distribute the project worldwide. Drew Comins of Creative Engine Entertainment will produce through his deal at eOne.  

The novel had previously been in development as a series at HBO with J.J. Abrams's Bad Robot and The Other Two co-creator Chris Kelly, Deadline noted, adding that Comins and eOne "pursued the rights when they became available, landing them in a competitive situation." Silvera's first novel, More Happy Than Not, is currently in the works as a series at HBO Max, also with Comins and eOne. Andrew Haigh is attached to direct.

Books & Authors

Awards: Anthony Nominees, Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Longlist

Finalists for this year's Anthony Awards, which are given at the annual Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, have been announced. Shortlisted for best novel are What You Don't See by Tracy Clark (Kensington), Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron), Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur), And Now She's Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall (Forge) and The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge). You can view the complete list of Anthony nominees here. Winners will be announced during Bouchercon 2021, which is scheduled to be held August 25-29 in New Orleans, La.


After a year's hiatus, the £10,000 (about $13,890) Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize, Best Published Novel award has returned with its longlist. Open to writers of any nationality writing in English, the prize "celebrates adventure fiction in all its forms." The shortlist will be released May 20 and a winner named September 8. Check out the 18 longlisted titles here

Reading with... Jesse Q Sutanto

photo: Michael Hart

Jesse Q Sutanto grew up shuttling between Indonesia, Singapore and the University of Oxford, and considers all three places her home. She has a master's from Oxford, but she has yet to figure out how to say that without sounding obnoxious. When she's not writing, she's gaming with her husband (mostly FPS), or making a mess in the kitchen with her two daughters. Her adult fiction debut, Dial A for Aunties (Berkley, April 27, 2021), is a story about the unbreakable bonds of family that have the power to overcome anything... even a little murder.

On your nightstand now:

The Hunting Wives by May Cobb and Beach Read by Emily Henry. I like to read two books at once because this is my version of living wildly. The Hunting Wives is a delightfully dark, twisted story about unhappy suburban women who indulge in their darkest fantasies, and Beach Read is the sweetest read about two writers who decide to swap genres to prove to each other that their genre is harder to write. I am really enjoying both!

Favorite book when you were a child:

So many! I would say Matilda by Roald Dahl. Who doesn't love Matilda? She's smart, she loves to read, and there is a perfect balance of humor and horror in all of Dahl's books.

Your top five authors:

Sir Terry Pratchett. I have read every Discworld book, and some of them I've read over five times. His humor is *chef's kiss* and he tackles some really difficult issues in his books so deftly. Socioeconomic inequality, race, religion, politics, I can't think of another fantasy writer who takes on these issues quite as naturally as Pratchett did.

Gillian Flynn. Flynn is such a game changer. She basically made domestic suspense what it is today. I see there's a question about "Book you're an evangelist for," so I'll save my sermon about Gone Girl for that question!

S.L. Huang. Is it any wonder that S.L. Huang won the Hugo this year? Her books, the Cas Russell series, are a high-octane action thriller with a sci-fi bent, but they also tackle the big subjects and are incredibly diverse. Her short stories are haunting and make you question everything, and she's just so prolific. Definitely an idol of mine.

Roshani Chokshi. Another incredibly prolific author. I read her YA fantasy, The Star-Touched Queen, and her MG fantasy, the Aru Shah books, and could not believe they were written by the same person. She's doing everything and breaking all the boundaries, and I'm here for it!

Frances Hardinge. This is the most underrated writer of all time. I'm always shocked that the entire world isn't going mad for Hardinge's books. I love how all of her books have such hidden depth, and can be read either as a straightforward, exciting adventure or a surprisingly complex subversion of tropes, as well as a critical read on misogyny and how it affects everyone.

Book you've faked reading:

I had to read Naked Lunch in college and I just. Could not. It was so strange and trippy, and I couldn't get over how at one point the main character was talking to his... butt hole? I don't know. I couldn't finish it and I ended up reading Spark Notes for it. Aaah! Please don't confiscate my author card!

Book you're an evangelist for:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Everyone who knows me knows that I am obsessed with Gone Girl. But seriously, this is the best book I have read in aaaages! It's a study in everything--character development, marriage, misdirection, planting seeds, psychological suspense, unlikable female characters--speaking of unlikable female characters, both main characters in Gone Girl are so deeply unlikable, but I couldn't stop reading the book. AH! It is brilliant and honestly so deserving all of the success it's gotten.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Wilder Girls by Rory Power. I haven't met a single person who's seen that cover and not fallen in love with it. One day, I hope to have a book cover drawn by the incredible artist behind Wilder Girls' cover.

Book you hid from your parents:

Judith McNaught's books. Haha, I was obsessed with her books as a teen. They were so sensual and so luxurious. I adored them. But my parents were very much against me reading them, so I actually had to cover them up in a fake book jacket to pretend I was reading a different book.

Book that changed your life:

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. I loved CRA, but the reason it changed my life in particular is because its smashing success opened up the way for so many other Asian authors, including myself. Same with To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han. I owe so much to authors like Kwan and Han. I am very confident that without them paving the way, I wouldn't have the career I have right now.

Favorite line from a book:

" 'When you break rules, break 'em good and hard,' said Nanny, and grinned a set of gums that were more menacing than teeth." --Wyrd Sisters by Sir Terry Pratchett. I mean... need I say more? Haha! I've tried to abide by this rule in all my writings, which I think is apparent from the sheer ridiculousness of my plots.

Five books you'll never part with:

Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. Like Uprooted, Spinning Silver is such a decadent, cozy read. They are both books I would take everywhere with me and read for comfort.

You by Caroline Kepnes. Talk about a book with an intense villain! I found myself rooting for the awful stalker, Joe Goldberg, which is a testament to how masterful Kepnes is.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I think everyone should read this book. It should be required reading, period. It's a book that holds up a mirror to current issues and the entire world needs to read it.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. What is the worst thing your main character can do and still be forgiven for? TKR handles this so well, in such a heartbreaking way.

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

Well, I mean. Hands down, Gone Girl. I actually feel jealous when someone is about to read it for the first time, because they are in for a roller coaster! The number of times I actually gasped out loud because the twists were like, WHOA.

Most anticipated read of 2021:

The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn. After I finished reading Gone Girl, I needed the next Gone Girl. I was ravenous for it. And I think so are most people, which is why you'll find so many adult suspense which are touted as "The next Gone Girl." Many were disappointing, but The Girls by Flynn completely smashed all of my expectations. The voice is riveting, and the plot is so devilishly good. You are going to love the vicious women in The Girls. The film rights were bought by AMC and I am just dying to watch this show.

Book Review

Review: How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith (Little, Brown, $29 hardcover, 352p., 9780316492935, June 1, 2021)

Every part of the U.S. has deep, often unacknowledged ties to the institution of chattel slavery. In his first nonfiction book, poet and educator Clint Smith (Counting Descent) visits eight locations with complicated histories relating to slavery, illuminating those histories for his readers and connecting each place to the larger narrative of racism in the U.S. How the Word Is Passed reads as both history and memoir: a stunning exploration of atrocities committed against Black people, and a thoughtful, clear-eyed account of one Black man trying to reckon with these places in the past and present.

Smith begins in his hometown of New Orleans, where new markers are cropping up, documenting the city's relationship to the transatlantic slave trade. They contrast with the many streets, schools and other public sites named after enslavers. This disconnect--the honoring of whites and the erasure of Black stories, no matter the era--continues as Smith embarks on his nationwide self-guided tour of places bearing the deep scars of slavery. He visits Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Virginia estate, where some of the guides dodge questions about Sally Hemings; the notorious Angola Prison, which barely acknowledges its history as a slave plantation; and Galveston Island, Tex., where celebrations of Juneteenth have a long and proud legacy. Eventually, Smith travels to New York City--not exempt from this reckoning despite its location far north of the Mason-Dixon Line--and Goree Island, Dakar, Senegal, once a transition point for millions of slaves and now a memorial to their suffering.

At each site, Smith takes in the scene: weather, buildings, the racial and cultural makeup of other visitors, events or museums that give people a reason to attend. He talks to tour guides, Confederate reenactors, historians and other tourists, asking questions about each place and trying to uncover truths about its relationship to slavery. At the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana, the focus is on the day-to-day experiences of enslaved people; at the other extreme, Blandford Cemetery in Virginia is whites-only. In each place, Smith presents his personal impressions and historical findings, and calls urgently for an expansion of the national conversation about race and slavery. Each place, no matter its current approach, is vital to a holistic understanding of slavery in the U.S. Smith's work is a passionate, thought-provoking, brilliantly observed call for Americans to take a new, uncomfortable but essential look at their own history. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Poet Clint Smith's stunning first nonfiction book illuminates the history of slavery in the U.S. through several key sites.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: How Magic Happens in a Bookstore

I'm not a "wide range of emotions" kind of guy, but when news broke last week that the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt. and Saratoga Springs, N.Y., would have new owners, I'll confess to having had a semi-wide range of emotions in response. The primary one, however, was gratitude. The Northshire had literally served as my portal into another world, where I learned how to be a bookseller. This was life-altering on so many levels.

The changing of the guard at the Northshire is the end of an era. Ed and Barbara Morrow built an incredible independent bookstore and, when the time came, Chris Morrow continued their legacy. Under new ownership, it will still be the Northshire, but it will necessarily change a bit. That's how the world works.

The bookstore was only 16 years old when I joined Northshire's team in 1992. I spent the next 14 years there as a bookseller and buyer. When I returned to Vermont for a 40th-anniversary dinner party in 2016, I had been working as a Shelf Awareness editor for a decade, and yet I was still, at heart, a frontline bookseller. I always will be. 

In 2016, Shires Press published a 40th anniversary commemorative edition of the Northshire Bookstore's history, which included a photo of the columnist as a slightly younger bookseller. 

When I first interviewed for a position at the Northshire, I'd never been there, nor even considered what the job I was applying for--bookseller--really meant. Though a lifelong patron of bookstores, I wasn't inclined to speak with staff. I was a "just browsing" kind of customer. So it came as a shock to learn that a significant part of my responsibilities would involve recommending books to people looking for a good read. Why, I wondered at the time, would any self-respecting reader want more than solitude and silence while wandering the stacks? 

I learned the answer soon enough, of course. Almost immediately I was engaged in daily conversations with talented readers, and many of those bookish relationships continued for years. I also learned what it meant to be a frontline bookseller by working alongside dozens of gifted handsellers during my tenure. Northshire's sales floor became the perfect stage on which an introvert could play a salesperson, where a lifelong passion for books and reading suddenly fit into a work environment. Who knew such a thing was possible?  

As I learned how to be a bookseller, I began noticing that whenever the book trade used the term, they were often referring to bookstore owners rather than the staff who served as a direct point of contact between the industry and readers. I didn't understand the disconnect then, but was happy to see this gradually change in the early 21st century, with the growth of communication platforms like bookseller blogs and social media, as well as the creation of venues like ABA's Winter Institute (in pre-pandemic days, at least). Gradually, frontline booksellers found their national, even international, voice. They found each other. Our industry is still learning how to respond to these bright, disparate voices.

As I was thinking about all this, I came upon a 2005 blog post, in which I had asked a few questions: "Why do authors--bestselling, midlist and new--so often ask for the manager or store owner when they stop by a bookstore? Why assume that your best reader in any given store is in a position of authority? Do you ask for the manager before you snoop around to find out whether there are staff recommend tags for your book? Maybe your closest friend in a bookstore is running a cash register at the moment or shelving books.... Maybe a little guerrilla marketing is in order. Take your time. Ask around. You might have friends in less obvious places. Bookstore managers, like managers anywhere, have a lot on their minds, and your book may not be at the top of the list. It just might, however, be at the top of somebody else's list on the sales floor."

Those questions could have been asked of the book trade in general at the time, though many publisher sales reps did know the value of gifted handsellers. I was kind of a pain in the ass on this topic. I railed against using the word "clerk" (can't begin to tell you how much I hate it). Maybe frontline booksellers should matter more to the publishing industry, I suggested. That "clerk" who loves an author's book is, in the best bookstores, a crucial element in the marketing plan for many titles. All the promotional bookmarks, brochures and clever merchandising in the world cannot improve upon the passion of a devoted bookseller for a particular author or book. That "clerk" is not a clerk. That "clerk" is a handseller. That "clerk" can make a book dance.

Although I may sound idealistic at times when I write about the enchantment of bookselling, I know from experience that the job can also be a grind. But magic occurs often enough, and when it does, there's nothing quite like it. 

I moved from Vermont to Saratoga Springs in 2010. Three years later, the Northshire opened a new bookstore here. That was a coincidence of the highest order. It is also a daily reminder, nearly three decades after I interviewed for a mysterious job at a bookstore I'd never visited before, of the magic. Gratitude keeps the spell alive.

--Robert Gray, editor

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