Shelf Awareness for Friday, May 14, 2021


Atheneum Books: Bulldozer's Christmas Dig by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann

St. Martin's Press: The Christie Affair by Nina De Gramont

Soho Crime: My Annihilation by Fuminori Nakamura, translated by Sam Bett

Candlewick Press: Hello, Little Fish!: A Mirror Book by Lucy Cousins

Merriam-Webster Kids: Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day: 366 Elevating Utterances to Stretch Your Cranium and Tickle Your Humerus by Merriam-Webster

Other Press: Lemon by Yeo-Sun Kwon, translated by Janet Hong

Ballantine Books: The Maid by Nita Prose

News

Chicago's Dial Bookshop Passes Torch to Exile in Bookville

Javier Ramirez and Kristin Enola Gilbert

Javier Ramirez and Kristin Enola Gilbert, who founded Exile in Bookville as an online store last October with the hopes of opening a bricks-and-mortar store of their own by 2022, have taken over The Dial Bookshop in Chicago, Ill., from previous owners Heidi Zhang and Peter Hopkins. Gilbert and Ramirez will reopen the bookstore as Exile in Bookville next week.

The new owners are busy taking stock of Dial's inventory as well as doing some reorganizing and rearranging. Dial, they pointed out, sold predominantly used books, and their plan is gradually to sell down the used stock they've inherited while acclimating the community to having a new bookstore. At the same time, they want to maintain Dial's collection of rare books and books that pertain to the city of Chicago.

"It's been a whirlwind," Ramirez said, adding that the ownership change began only about three weeks ago. It happened in a "very kind of romantic way," Gilbert remarked, as it began with Ramirez and a friend stopping by Dial while they were getting coffee downtown. He and Zhang met, and about a week later he received an e-mail from Zhang and Hopkins wondering if they were interested in taking over the space. At the time he and Gilbert had been exploring the possibility of opening a new store in Logan Square, but they jumped at this opportunity.

"We're super grateful to Heidi and Peter for giving us this torch to carry," Gilbert said. "It's such a loss when a bookstore closes, and we're thrilled to be able to maintain an indie in this location."

As they had more new titles, Ramirez and Gilbert will emphasize general fiction and titles from small and independent presses. A major goal is to bring music and books together (the name of the store is a reference to Liz Phair's debut album), and they're going to add things like vinyls and turntables.

The bookstore is located on the second floor of the Fine Arts Building and has access to a courtyard space on the building's fourth floor. That event space is open air, so they may start doing in-person events with local authors soon. In the meantime, they'll continue doing virtual events, including an every-other-month series called Wild Laughter.

For the immediate future, Ramirez said he's simply looking forward to being back in a physical bookstore again "talking to people about books. I can't wait to start doing that again."


House of Anansi Press: Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling by Esi Edugyan


International Update: S&S Deal Cleared by U.K.'s CMA, Daunt on 'Outsourcing'

Bertelsmann's $2.2 billion deal to buy Simon & Schuster from ViacomCBS has been cleared by the U.K.'s Competition & Markets Authority, which carried out an investigation into whether the deal might result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the U.K. for goods or services, the Bookseller reported. 

A spokesperson for PRH UK said: "We're pleased that the Competition and Markets Authority has cleared Penguin Random House's acquisition of Simon & Schuster in the U.K. The process in the U.S. is ongoing and we are working constructively with the authorities there.”

The deal is still facing scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Justice, which was "urged by American writers' groups to intervene and stepped up its own review, making a 'second request' for information," the Bookseller wrote, noting that second requests "often involve issuing a subpoena, called a Civil Investigative Demand, to obtain market share information and documents on markets and the transaction's competitive implications."

--- 

James Daunt

Speaking at the IPG Spring Conference, Waterstones managing director (and B&N CEO) James Daunt warned that small independent chains like Daunt Books "have to keep hold" of their customers, rather than use websites such as Bookshop.org.  

"I worry that outsourcing that to somebody who isn't you, who is definitely making the vast majority of the profit that's available to you there, is dangerous," Daunt said.   

Nicole Vanderbilt, U.K. managing director of Bookshop.org, countered: "Obviously it is incredibly important as part of that to have great connections with your customers, and we take that very seriously. Any customers that you get through Bookshop.org as a bookshop, if the customer opts in for GDPR, that customer information goes straight to the bookshop for them to utilize as they would themselves. The profit on the bookshop sales, we give 30% to the bookshops, 7% to the customer, and 61% to the publishers, wholesalers and payment processors, so we make almost nothing on those sales." 

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In Amherstburg, Ont., Canada, River Bookshop and Essex County Library recently engaged in a friendly round of #AmherstburgSignWars, including booksellers talking smack ("Hey, Amherstberg Library! Our books aren't afraid of commitment... they'll stay with you forever!") and librarians snapping back ("Hey River Book Shop. Our books can't help it if they like to play the field."). Then it got really personal. --Robert Gray


GLOW: Clarion Books: The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman


Visible Voice Books, Cleveland, Ohio, Reopening for Browsing

Visible Voice Books in Cleveland, Ohio, which has been closed to walk-in browsing for the last 15 months, will reopen to the public on June 1. Owner Dave Ferrante and his team will continue to offer private appointments for shopping, which will be available outside of the normal browsing hours.

"Both our longtime customers and those who discovered us during the pandemic got us through this," Ferrante said. "Everyone enjoyed their time in the store and because of that, we felt it was important to not completely abandon the reservation model. We now feel we can offer the best of both worlds allowing everyone an opportunity to browse the store, however they are most comfortable."

There are two options for private reservations: Pizza & Wine Nights and Brunch & Browse appointments. Pizza & Wine Nights last for 100 minutes, are held in the evenings after open browsing and include a large pizza, a bottle of wine (or non-alcoholic drinks) and a $10 merchandise credit. Brunch & Browse appointments are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday mornings and include mimosas, coffee or tea, pastries and a $5 merchandise credit.

The team, Ferrante added, was "overwhelmed by how popular our reservation offerings became."


Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association: We're throwing a bookselling party and you're invited!


B&N Education to Manage Whitman College Bookstore

The Whitman College Bookstore, Walla Walla, Wash., which has been owned and operated by the college, will be managed by Barnes & Noble Education, effective July 1, according to the Whitman Wire, the student newspaper.

Whitman College CFO Peter Harvey said in an announcement that while "this change is difficult, especially for the bookstore employees," the college "believes that this move is in the best interests of our students, faculty and the college." Administrators expect B&N to offer lower costs for textbooks and rentals, a wider catalogue online and quicker mail times. The college has asked B&N to give hiring preferences to current bookstore staff.


Berkley Books: 30 Things I Love about Myself by Radhika Sanghani


Amazon to Open Fulfillment Center in La.

Amazon plans to open its first robotics fulfillment center in the state of Louisiana. The new 650,000-square-foot operations facility in Shreveport will pick, pack and ship smaller customer items such as books, toys, electronics and other household items.

"We're thrilled to be able to expand our operations in Northwest Louisiana and we look forward to becoming part of the fabric of the local community," said William Hicks, Amazon regional director of operations. 

Governor John Bel Edwards called the project "a major advancement for the Shreveport-Bossier City metro area and for Louisiana's economy."

Lyndon B. Johnson, Caddo Parish Commission president, praised "the strong collaboration between our governing bodies and community partners to create a winning opportunity for Amazon and the parish."


Artemesia Publishing, LLC: The Last Professional by Ed Davis, illustrated by Colin Elgie


S&S Fall Preview Tomorrow and Wednesday

 

Tomorrow and Wednesday, May 18 and 19, Simon & Schuster is hosting its Fall Preview, an hour each day, highlighting authors and illustrators and their upcoming books.

Tuesday from 2 to 3 p.m. Eastern, the focus is on five adult books--four novels and a memoir--with their authors and editors revealing the stories behind these major titles.

Wednesday, 2-3 p.m. Eastern, the focus is on a range of children's and YA titles; the discussion featuring authors and illustrators will be moderated by Brein Lopez of Children's Book World, Los Angeles, Calif.

To register, click here. For full details, see S&S's dedicated issue here.


Sterling: Dracula: Deluxe Edition by Bram Stoker, illustrated by Edward Gorey


Notes

Image of the Day: Rainy Day Reopen

Rainy Day Books, Fairway, Kan., aims to reopen for in-person shopping on Tuesday, June 1, and will highlight a beautiful upgrade of the space after being closed since last March, except for curbside pickup and online shopping. Here owners Vivien Jennings and Roger Doeren celebrate. Jennings told the Shawnee Mission Post, "It'll be a real treat to smile and laugh with [customers], have them smile and laugh with us, and have great talks about books."


Masking Up: Skylark Bookshop

Noting that all pandemic restrictions in Columbia, Mo., ended Wednesday, Skylark Bookshop posted on Facebook that "we at Skylark are still wearing masks, and we are still requiring all but our smallest customers to wear masks as well when they come into the shop. We wanted to explain why. From the earliest days of the pandemic, we have gone above and beyond the requirements imposed by CDC guidelines and the various ordinances passed by the city. Our decisions about how to navigate the various phases of the pandemic have been based on our own reading of the science and consulting with our staff. 

"Our primary responsibility is to keep our community safe. Not all of our team are yet fully vaccinated, and so of course we will not do anything to expose them to risk. But even when everyone on staff is vaccinated, we won't know the status of our customers (except, of course, for all the children who visit us--won't be vaccinated.).... We are as eager as anyone for things to get back to normal. We love to see you in the shop and can't wait to start holding in-person author events again (remember those?) But we believe that the best and quickest way of achieving that goal is to maintain the cautious approach that we have taken to date. We understand that this approach may be frustrating to some, but we ask that you respect our decision."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Dan Carlin on Real Time with Bill Maher

Today:
HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Neil deGrasse Tyson, author of Cosmic Queries: StarTalk's Guide to Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We're Going (National Geographic, $30, 9781426221774).

Also on Real Time: Dan Carlin, the author of The End Is Always Near: Apocalyptic Moments from the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses (Harper, $17.99, 9780062868053).


TV: Five Days at Memorial

Cherry Jones (The Handmaid's Tale, Succession) will star alongside Vera Farmiga in Five Days at Memorial, based on the book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Sheri Fink, Deadline reported. Apple TV+'s limited series is from John Ridley, Carlton Cuse and ABC Signature. The project is being written and executive produced by Ridley and Cuse, and both will serve as directors. 

Jones will play Susan Mulderick, a hospital nursing director and head of the emergency preparedness committee, who becomes the designated incident commander for Hurricane Katrina. Farmiga plays Dr. Anna Pou, the doctor on duty at Memorial when the storm hit. The cast also includes Adepero Oduye, Cornelius Smith Jr. and Julie Ann Emery. 



Books & Authors

Awards: Dylan Thomas Winner; Trillium Finalists

Raven Leilani has won the £20,000 (about $28,130) Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize for her debut novel, Luster, published in the U.S. by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories, and drama.

The organizers called Luster "a provocatively page-turning and painfully funny novel about what it means to be a black millennial woman in America." Chair of judges Namita Gokhale said: "Luster is an accomplished and fearless novel that carries the ache, uncertainty and vulnerability as well as the harsh reality of being a young black woman in America. The narrator Edie's incisive eye for all registers of racist bias is unblinking and masterly. This is an important, uncomfortable book, in turns funny and angry, and always compelling. Raven Leilani is an astonishingly original new voice. We are delighted that the jury of the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize unanimously decided on this riveting debut novel as its choice for the 2021 prize. We cannot wait to see what comes next from this uncompromising talent."

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Ontario Creates announced the finalists for the 2021 Trillium Book Awards, which honor "excellence in literature by investing in Ontario-based writers." The winners will be named June 15 in a virtual event. Winning French-language and English-language book authors each receive C$20,000 (about US$16,270) and their publishers C$2,500 (US$2,035) for promotion of the titles. The poetry winner gets C$10,000 (US$8,135), with C$2,000 (US$1,625) going to the publishers. Check out the English- and French-language finalists here.


Reading with... Elissa Washuta

photo: KR Forbes

Elissa Washuta is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and a nonfiction writer. She's a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship recipient, a Creative Capital awardee and an assistant professor of creative writing at the Ohio State University. With Theresa Warburton, she is co-editor of the anthology Shapes of Native Nonfiction: Collected Essays by Contemporary Writers. Washuta is the author of the memoirs My Body Is a Book of Rules and Starvation Mode, and the essay collection White Magic (Tin House, April 27, 2021).

On your nightstand now:

I'm between books--I just finished The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein. It's a book about the universe and it's for everyone--no prior knowledge about the science required. The book encompasses so much: Chanda Prescod-Weinstein's passion for particles, her curiosity about matter, the hostility she's confronted with in academia as a queer Black woman in physics. It's a book about the unknown, curiosity and relating.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I had a lot of favorites. One that really holds up for me is The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery by Graeme Base. It's a picture book about an elephant's 11th birthday party and a mystery: someone ate all the food. Readers are invited to find hidden messages and solve ciphers to solve the mystery. The illustrations are gorgeous, and the puzzles are so challenging that even as an adult I wasn't totally able to solve them without the key.

Your top five authors:

This is so hard because I read broadly more than I read deeply into a writer's history. I can give you five beloved books: Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling, Winter in the Blood by James Welch, Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward, Don't Let Me Be Lonely by Claudia Rankine and the fifth spot could be filled by a number of books, but let's say Short Talks by Anne Carson.

Book you've faked reading:

Oh, this is a long list--I took an American literature survey course in college and was assigned two books per week. We had to read The Grapes of Wrath and another book in one week! I've faked that one, I've faked The Scarlet Letter, The Awakening, To the Lighthouse, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and probably others. But only in the context of that single semester have I faked reading them. I have nothing against these books, and I don't believe the canon has nothing to offer us. (I'm an English professor!) But I've been teaching Native literature courses for the past 10 years, and I've been responsible for being familiar with an entirely different canon than the one that survey course focused on.

Book you're an evangelist for:

This Wound Is a World by Billy-Ray Belcourt. Once the U.S. version was published by University of Nebraska Press, I was delighted that so many more readers would get to spend time with this brilliant book. Belcourt's poems show us the replication of colonial harms in relationship ruptures and locate theory in the body. Favorite lines are impossible for me to identify here among so many I carry with me, but I'll share one of the many: "my body, like the land, was up for grabs."

Book you've bought for the cover:

Agustín Fernández Mallo's Nocilla Trilogy is packaged in a perfect little box. There are small images of a lighter, a cloud and a shell on the spine. I honestly don't know what these books are about, but I was drawn to the object when I saw it on a table at Two Dollar Radio HQ, and I'm hoping to read it this summer.

Book you hid from your parents:

I don't remember ever hiding a book from my parents. They encouraged me to read whatever I wanted, and I don't remember them even questioning me about the books I picked out at Waldenbooks or the library. They never would have discouraged me from reading, and I don't think I felt like a book would be something to hide.

Book that changed your life:

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Before I read it for a college class, I didn't imagine that prose could be arranged on the page in ways that were so disruptive, difficult and unfamiliar. I didn't immediately act on that knowledge--it didn't seem relevant to my own writing--but knowing about this possibility became important later, when I began to write nonfiction and felt more ownership over the page itself.

Favorite line from a book:

It's multiple lines, but altogether one sentence, an entire poem from Alice Notley's Margaret & Dusty:

All my life,
since I was ten,
I've been waiting
to be in
this hell here
with you;
all I've ever
wanted, and
still do.

Five books you'll never part with:

As We Have Always Done by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, which has so many instructions for living that I'm sure it's the book I consult the most;

Winter in the Blood by James Welch, which I know I already mentioned, but this copy is so marked up over my many times through it that it's irreplaceable;

The Audubon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky, because digital images can't replicate the wonder the glossy pages of eclipses and planets and stars have evoked in me since childhood;

Bridge of the Gods, Mountains of Fire by my late relative Chuck Williams. It's about my family and our traditional territory. When I was a kid, I was so proud that the portrait of my great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother we had on our wall was also in a book. It helped me form my understanding of who I am within a lineage.

Honestly? I'll never part with most of the books in this house. That's the point of a house. The book nearest me that I doubt I'll part with is Anne Carson's Nox, one of the many I imagine I'll read in three to four months, when things slow down.

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

A Wrinkle in Time. I knew it was fiction, but I believed there was something true in it that was beyond our current knowledge. I miss that feeling of possibility, back when all books felt a little bit mystical, before I knew how they work.


Book Review

Review: Surviving Katyń: Stalin's Polish Massacre and the Search for Truth

Surviving Katyń: Stalin's Polish Massacre and the Search for Truth by Jane Rogoyska (ONEWorld Publications, $30 hardcover, 400p., 9781786078926, June 8, 2021)

Jane Rogoyska's Surviving Katyń: Stalin's Polish Massacre and the Search for Truth investigates a tragedy that continues to haunt Poland and poison Russo-Polish relations almost a century after it occurred. Rogoyska is a historian, biographer and the author of a novel, Kozlowski, born from her research into the Katyń massacre in 1940, when 22,000 Polish prisoners of war were murdered and buried in secret by the Soviet secret police, the NKVD. Though millions died in World War II, the massacre is notable because the murdered prisoners, largely officers, constituted a significant swath of the Polish elite, and because of what came after. Soviet officials maintained for half a century that Katyń was a crime committed by the Nazis, a lie that muddied the waters around an already inscrutable tragedy and put Katyń at the heart of difficult questions about politics and historical truth.

Rogoyska wraps her narrative around the parts of the story that are unknowable--there were no survivors of the massacre to testify to exactly what occurred--and instead describes the packed camps the prisoners were first kept in, the frequent, maddeningly repetitive interrogations conducted by the NKVD, and focusing on a few memorable individuals out of the small number of men who were not selected for execution. At least until the first mass graves were found by the Nazis in Katyń Forest (the Katyń massacre is a collective term for killings that took place across the Soviet Union), the remaining Polish officers were left with the mystery of how and where their friends and comrades had disappeared. Rogoyska sensitively recounts how that uncertainty tortured the survivors and the families of the deceased. After the discovery of the bodies, the Soviets and Nazis blamed each other for the killings, and the truth became secondary to their propaganda war.

Surviving Katyń feels remarkably modern not only because the narrative extends to the present day, but because the arguments about the truth of Katyń recall the fake news and conspiracy theories that proliferate today. At a time when even historical facts are disputed, Rogoyska's efforts to get as close to the truth of Katyń as possible are more necessary than ever. Surviving Katyń argues that the wounds of the past will never close without a reckoning, and honors those who fought for that reckoning against all odds. --Hank Stephenson, the Sun magazine, manuscript reader 

Shelf Talker: Surviving Katyń vividly reconstructs an infamous World War II-era massacre that transformed into a decades-long propaganda battle over the truth.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'More Than Just a Bookseller'

We know that being an independent bookseller is a special vocation, though perhaps it's harder to imagine how the life of a former indie bookseller might capture national headlines. This is not an attention-seeking profession and yet, for several days now, I've been reading about Indian bookseller T.S. Shanbhag, who once owned Premier Bookshop in Bengaluru. He died May 2 at the age of 84, after suffering from an infection and then contracting Covid-19, which is ravaging the country.  

T.S. Shanbhag

Although his bookshop closed in 2009, Shanbhag's death has generated national media coverage. In a Deccan Herald tribute headlined "More than just a bookseller," Vatsala Vedantam described him as "an institution, larger than life. He was among the last brave warriors who struggled to keep his bookshop going as large multinationals threatened smaller businesses. His small Premier, with its broken steps and overflowing books, was truly premier in all aspects--just like its owner, who not only loved books but was able to recognize others who did."

Launched in 1971, Premier Bookshop "was the ultimate destination for bibliophiles for over three decades, particularly before e-commerce pervaded the world of books," the Hindu reported, adding that Shanbhag "was the go-to man to source a rare academic book or the latest release of a favorite author." 

The Times of India noted that "essentially, he was a man who was fond of books and readers. It isn't that he was only selling books. He loved meeting people who read." 

Bookworm bookstore owner Krishna Gowda tweeted: "He will continue to inspire us always.... For past 12 years, he would often send me a list of books he wanted & I would arrange them for him. I feel proud & honored to be of service to such a great man. Shabhag sir is one of my greatest inspirations. I hope to carry on his legacy in however small a way I can."

Vivek Kumar, whose family had visited Premier Bookshop over three generations, told ThePrint: "I had vowed that I would keep Uncle's memory alive by writing his name and the name of the bookstore in every book I bought from him with the date. That way whoever borrowed the book will know about the legend."

In the New Indian Express, V.R. Ferose wrote that upon hearing of Shanbhag's death, "I once again watched Mr. Shanbag's Shop on YouTube. It made me nostalgic for the weekends I had spent at Premier Bookshop on Church Street. The grief over Premier's closure in 2009 re-emerged with a pang when booklovers heard that Mr. Shanbhag had passed away. It's the end of an era and the beginning of what will only remain in the memories of everyone who walked in between those piles of books and heard the sound of them falling."

Comparing Shanbhag to the protagonist in James Hilton's Goodbye Mr. Chips, Suresh Menon recalled in the Hindu: "I was in school in the 1970s when I first walked into Premier. I had a gift coupon. Other bookstores in the area looked on schoolboys not as customers then or for the future, but pesky juveniles who needed to be followed around suspiciously and asked questions till they left the store in sheer annoyance. At Premier, Mr. Shanbhag waved a genial 'hello' and carried on with whatever he was doing, leaving you to your devices. Loyalty came from being treated like adults.... Premier was the most welcoming and wildly stocked bookstore and meeting place for both young lovers and storied intellectuals, many of the former hoping to grow into the latter in time."

In a tribute on Scroll.in, author Ramachandra Guha considered what this legendary bookseller "gave our city. If, as the novelist Anthony Powell said, books do furnish a room, then perhaps booksellers--the best of them at any rate--do nourish a community.... T.S. Shanbhag and his Premier Bookshop sustained the interests and obsessions of those who lived in Bangalore and bought and read books in English. But it was not merely the astonishing range of books that he stocked that made him so beloved of his customers. It was also the warmth and generosity of the man.... Through the books he selected and sold, through the knowledge he helped convey and the moral compass he himself represented, T.S. Shanbhag did far more good for the world than some vain and vindictive men who claim to have the force of history behind them."

The closure of Premier Bookshop had been "much mourned, but Shanbhag's own death seemed to affect the city more," the Economist reported. "At first sight, this seemed strange. On that day, 161 Bangaloreans died of the virus. He was probably among the most unassuming of them. But what had also died with him, many felt, was a rare part of old Bangalore, an unhurried place far distant from the slick and booming version, together with an old-fashioned style of quiet full-hearted service. In that small corner of the city he had made a sanctuary, along with Prem Koshy, whose coffee had kept him and the browsers going. Koshy’s was open as usual; the metal blinds came down only for lockdowns or personal bereavements. But inside Mr. Koshy sighed for 'the angel of my books.' " 

--Robert Gray, editor

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