Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 2, 2021

William Morrow & Company: The Midnight Feast by Lucy Foley

Shadow Mountain: The Witch in the Woods: Volume 1 (Grimmworld) by Michaelbrent Collings

Hell's Hundred: Blood Like Mine by Stuart Neville

Delacorte Press: Last One to Die by Cynthia Murphy

Margaret Ferguson Books: Not a Smiley Guy by Polly Horvath, Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Indiana University Press: The Grim Reader: A Pharmacist's Guide to Putting Your Characters in Peril by Miffie Seideman

St. Martin's Press: Lenny Marks Gets Away with Murder by Kerryn Mayne

Editors' Note

Happy Fourth of July!

Because of Independence Day, we are skipping Monday's issue and will see you again on Tuesday, July 6. Enjoy the holiday!

Harper: Our Kind of Game by Johanna Copeland


The Wandering Jellyfish Arrives in Niwot, Colo.

A children's bookstore called The Wandering Jellyfish Bookshop will open in downtown Niwot, Colo., at the end of July, the Left Hand Valley Courier reported.

Co-owners Carissa Mina and Jerilyn Patterson are setting up shop in the Niwot Tribune building. They will carry a variety of books and gifts and their event plans include book signings and readings as well as writing and illustration workshops. One of their missions is to support local children's authors and illustrators and to that end they've started reaching out to that community about future events.

Patterson and Mina met while volunteering with the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and bonded right away over their love of children's books and desire to open a store on their own. While they initially discussed the idea of a store years ago, they did not take the plunge until the pandemic.

Mina told the Courier she found herself craving more "specific and fulfilling" interactions and, after seeing that the Tribune Building was available, reached out to Patterson. Patterson had been in the midst of a career change at the time, and opening a store with Mina seemed like the perfect move. The store's name comes from a picture book they're writing.

The Wandering Jellyfish will open its doors on July 31, with a grand opening scheduled for August 14.

Chronicle Books: Life Wants You Dead: A Calm, Rational, and Totally Legit Guide to Scaring Yourself Safe by Evan Waite, Illustrated by Paula Searing

International Update: LBF Speaker Cautions Against 'Irrational Exuberance,' German Book Sales Numbers


In a discussion held during the online London Book Fair, David Hetherington, v-p of global business development for Books International, said booksellers and publishers should not assume that the growth in the book industry seen throughout the pandemic will continue, the Bookseller reported. 

"There's quite a bit of publicity about what a great year the publishing industry has had and there's no question that the numbers for many organizations were extraordinarily high and extraordinarily positive," he observed. "But the question that I think we all have to get to grips with is 'what does the future look like?'. I think it's essential that we try to avoid what we call in America 'irrational exuberance' about the road ahead. I think there's a serious question about what is going to happen in the book publishing market when people have other things to do with their money: travel is surging and there is a great deal of pent up capital waiting to be spent. I think it's probably not going to be spent on books."



At the halfway point in 2021, sales across all channels of the German book market "are currently 6% above their values in the previous year, even though the bookshops were closed significantly longer this year than in 2020," the European & International Booksellers Federation's NewsFlash reported, adding: "However, comparing to the numbers from 2019, the sales across all channels are down by 3.6%. As the bookshops have been closed for a significant number of time in 2021, the books sales numbers slow a loss of income of over 23%, compared with 2019." 


Polly Powell

Quarto Group CEO Polly Powell "has unexpectedly" left the company, the Bookseller reported. Powell initially joined Quarto in late 2019 as an advisor to chief executive C.K. Lau, then became CEO of the U.K. business in 2020 and group CEO in September 2020, "presiding over a period of continuing recovery at the publisher."

A brief statement from the publisher noted that after two years at Quarto, Powell had decided to step down from her role, to build on the success of her own company, Pavilion Books, the Bookseller noted. Until a replacement is found, Lau, who is also one of Quarto's major shareholders, will act as interim group CEO. 


Winners of the Bologna Prize for the Best Children's Publishers of the Year, acknowledging publishers in six parts of the world that, over the past year, "have most richly distinguished themselves with the creativity, courage and quality of their publishing," were named during the Bologna Children's Book Fair recently. 

Chosen by the fair's publishers and international institutions for the promotion of books and reading, this year's winners are Mkuki na Nyota, Tanzania (Africa); Tuti Books, Iran (Asia); Éditions La Joie de lire, Switzerland (Europe); Levine Querido, U.S. (North America), Tragaluz Editores, Colombia (Central and South America); and Oratia Media, New Zealand (Oceania). --Robert Gray

GLOW: Tundra Books: We Are Definitely Human by X. Fang

Chill Coffee Café & Bookstore Opens in Davison, Mich.

Chill Coffee Café & Bookstore, a coffee shop with a selection of around 100 fiction and nonfiction titles, has opened in Davison, Mich., Michigan Live reported.

Owner Martez Warren, a pastor with a ministry in nearby Flint, Mich., has opened the coffee shop inside of a former Mass Transportation Authority facility. The coffee shop serves a variety of coffee drinks, tea and food items like sandwiches and soup. While Warren has not set up the book inventory yet, it will be available within a couple of weeks. The store also has a comfortable reading room where patrons can relax, read and enjoy their beverages.

"I read a lot," Warren told Michigan Live. "I'm an educator in my own right and reading is a therapy of mine."

Harper: Sandwich by Catherine Newman

B&N to Manage Notre Dame Bookstores

Notre Dame's Hammes Bookstore

Effective July 1, 2022, Barnes & Noble College will take over management of the University of Notre Dame's bookstore properties, course materials and online operations, Notre Dame News reported.

The University has five bookstores both on-campus and off, as well as an online store and fulfillment center. In addition to its Adoption and Insights Portal, B&N will be adding partnerships with sports merchandise companies Fanatics and Lids. B&N is replacing Follett, which has managed Notre Dame's bookstores since 1997.

Obituary Note: E. Lorene Yordi

E. Lorene Yordi, who owned and operated the Bookseller in Ardmore, Okla., from 1972 to 2004, died June 16. She was 97. In 1997, she received an American Booksellers Association Award for 25 Years of Continuous Operation.

"Lorene lived life to the fullest and had a wide range of interests," her obituary in the Ardmoreite noted. "She was an avid reader, a self-taught master gardener, a supporter of the arts and opera, an international traveler, and a connoisseur of fine food, wine and champagne.... She was active in the historic preservation and revitalization of Ardmore's downtown district. In 1999, she received both Ardmore's Small Business Person of the Year and Main Street Volunteer of the Year awards."


The Collective Book Studio's Six Favorite LGBTQ+ Owned Bookstores

The Collective Book Studio talked with six of its favorite LGBTQ+ owned bookstores "to hear directly from them about queer bookselling," offering "a treasure trove of history, testimonials, and book recommendations to celebrate Pride and commemorate our struggle and progress."

The stores include A Room of One's Own, Madison, Wis., Dog Eared Books, San Francisco, Calif., Firestorm Books, Asheville, N.C., Orca Books Co-op, Olympia, Wash., Reparations Club, Los Angeles, Calif., and Spectator Books, Oakland, Calif.

Roundabout Books Celebrates National Postal Worker Day

"Today is National Postal Worker Day!" Roundabout Books, Bend, Ore., posted on Facebook yesterday. "We sincerely appreciate Jackie (pictured here) and Gina from the downtown post office location. They take care of shipping books to our customers, book returns (heavy boxes), and always have a smile and pleasant  greeting! Thank you! P.S. Our nonfiction book club will read and discuss How the Post Office Created America on July 9th at 1 p.m."

'10 Charming New England Bookstores Worth Planning a Trip Around'

In a feature headlined "10 Charming New England Bookstores Worth Planning a Trip Around," Tiny Trips noted that "the compulsion to take a long drive to a charming bookstore is, I think, something that anyone who's ever fallen in love with a bookshop can understand. Independent bookstores aren't just a place to buy books. For many of us, they're a worthy destination in and of themselves--a community oasis of bestsellers and backlist titles selected by passionate booksellers instead of online algorithms. A place to feel connected not just with books but also with like-minded people who love them. 

"When you're ready to hit the road for a day trip or even a full weekend of bookish discoveries, here are some unique New England bookstores worth planning a whole getaway around."

Personnel Changes at Little Bee Books

Josie Dallam has been promoted to sales coordinator at Little Bee Books. She was formerly sales assistant.

Media and Movies

TV: Let the Record Show

Sarah Schulman's book Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993, will be adapted as a narrative TV series by director Andrew Haigh (Lean on Pete, Looking), Concordia Studio and Killer Films, Deadline reported.

Haigh is set as showrunner, and will write and direct the pilot episode. Executive producers include Jonathan King for Concordia Studio, Christine Vachon for Killer Films, as well as David Hinojosa and Schulman. Yasmin Hormozi and Patrick Callan will oversee development for Concordia.

"Sarah's book is a deeply moving account of how we can make change happen, a passionate testament to those men and women who came together during the darkest of times to fight for a better world," Haigh said. "Projects like this come along so rarely, and I could not be happier to be working alongside Sarah Shulman, Concordia Studio and Killer Films."

Schulman commented: "After covering AIDS since the early 1980s, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to bring the story of Act Up to new generations, working with this experienced, committed team. Christine, who has produced many groundbreaking, now classic queer and AIDS works, was in Act Up, so she knows how it looks and feels. Jonathan was involved in bringing When They See Us to television and co-produced Spotlight, expanding primetime subject matter with sophistication and truth. Andrew and I share the lens of looking at large, complex landscapes through relationships and feeling. This is a dream come true."

Books & Authors

Awards: Waterstones Children's Book Winners

Elle McNicoll's debut novel A Kind of Spark won the overall 2021 Waterstones Children's Book Prize, as well as the younger readers category. The Bookseller reported that the award "consists of £5,000 [about $6,940] and the promise of ongoing commitment to the winners' writing and illustrating careers, making it one of the most valuable and prestigious children's book awards in the U.K."

Florentyna Martin, Waterstones children's buyer, said: "We have fallen in love with Addie, whose courage and determination are a guiding light, often reminding the world that kindness must prevail wherever we go. Elle McNicoll is undoubtedly an outstanding new talent in children's books and will inspire readers young and old for generations to come."

"I will never say 'I can't' again," McNicoll observed. "To know that booksellers chose A Kind of Spark out of an incredible shortlist like this is the highlight of my debut. I'm so grateful to Waterstones for their support and I'm proud and extremely emotional to see Addie join past winners."

Other category winners were Darren Charlton's Wranglestone (older readers) and The Grumpy Fairies by Bethan Stevens (illustrated books).

Reading with... Dawnie Walton

photo: Rayon Richards

Dawnie Walton is the author of the 1970s rock & roll novel The Final Revival of Opal & Nev (37 Ink/Simon & Schuster, March 30, 2021). She earned her MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and holds a journalism degree from Florida A&M University. Formerly an editor at Essence and Entertainment Weekly, she has received fellowships in fiction writing from MacDowell and the Tin House Summer Workshop. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Fla., she lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her husband.

On your nightstand now:

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor. I remember seeing parts of the TV miniseries adaptation when I was a kid, with that cast of Black women megastars: Oprah Winfrey, Cicely Tyson, Mary Alice, Lynn Whitfield, Jackée Harry. But reading the book for the first time, I'm struck by what a titanic year 1982 was for Black feminist literature, between this novel-in-stories and Alice Walker's The Color Purple. Both are daring in their forms and ahead of their time in terms of themes (queer identity, toxic masculinity and more). I'm also reading Hanif Abdurraqib's excellent essay collection A Little Devil in America, and after that am looking forward to Alex McElroy's satire The Atmospherians.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I loved all the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary, but my favorite was Ramona and Her Father. I must have recognized some version of my anxious little self in that book, in the way Ramona worries about her dad losing his job and smoking too many cigarettes. In some ways I saw my family, too, in Cleary's descriptions of the Quimbys' economic situation (not poor but teetering on a brink that can quickly get more precarious) and in the lovely scenes of the family enjoying a simple night out at the Whopperburger.  

Your top five authors:

I'm sticking with fiction here, because otherwise this gets too tricky! Here goes: Edwidge Danticat, a master in both short and long forms. Jacqueline Woodson, whose sensory images reverberate in my head. Elena Ferrante, whose full and flawed characters hold me in their grips. Ha Jin, whose stories of romance, duty and family often carry a tinge of the political. And Toni Morrison, not only for her writing but for the example she set as a writer, and for the wisdom she shared with others coming behind her.

Book you've faked reading:

My senior year of high school, we got assigned a ton of novels that I guess are canonical but were, at the time, totally uninteresting to me. Because I was a diligent student, I tried to power through them at first. But then we got assigned Heart of Darkness, and the racism of that book really pissed me off. I just stopped caring about anything else I got assigned to read that year, and bullsh*tted my way through essays about Mrs Dalloway, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and Madame Bovary (the last I read in recent years and actually enjoyed).

Book you're an evangelist for:

Funny you should use the word "evangelist" because it's Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin's first novel (and, in my opinion, his best). Before I went to graduate school I, perhaps like most other people, was more familiar with Baldwin the essayist. So after I read this book in Ayana Mathis's class, and after I understood how impeccable it is in its structure and voice, I started teaching portions of it in my own fiction classes.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I don't know that I've ever bought a book solely because of the cover, but I do remember, months before it was out, adoring the look of Luster by Raven Leilani. Love the iridescence and the colors, and that, although it takes you a moment to recognize exactly what you're looking at, you can tell from the unmistakable texture of the hair and the specific sheen of the skin that the woman deconstructed is Black.

Book you hid from your parents:

I gobbled up those V.C. Andrews novels with the money my mother gave me at B. Dalton or Waldenbooks, but she never asked too much what they were about. That's probably because the covers were fake-outs, featuring angelic-looking teenage white girls peeking through peepholes of gothic mansions or whatever. Little did Mama know the dark and unsettling stuff on the inside.

Book that changed your life:

I have to mention two here, because life changes more than once! Reading Their Eyes Were Watching God at age 14 showed me a reflection of myself in Janie, a dreamy young Black woman coming of age in North Florida, and I also saw myself in Zora Neale Hurston's code-switching between the more formal prose of the narration (aka what I spoke in school) and the AAVE of the dialogue (what I spoke among family). To have that reflection was affirming and showed me what wonderful things language could do. And decades later, the oral history about Saturday Night Live--Live from New York by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller--thrilled me in its scope and style, and inspired me in part to use oral history as the form for my own pop-culture-obsessed book.

Favorite line from a book:

My most memorable reading experiences are about the sum of many beautiful parts, so it was tough to pluck from my brain one single, shimmering line. But one that I greatly admire, for its precision, tone and the hard work it does in establishing an unreliable narrator is the opening line of Adam Haslett's collection You Are Not a Stranger Here (from the story "Notes to My Biographer"): "Two things to get straight from the beginning: I hate doctors and have never joined a support group in my life."  

Five books you'll never part with:

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson and Caucasia by Danzy Senna, just because I love both of them so much. Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street, signed by the author during her first visit back to the Iowa Writers' Workshop since she left in the 1970s. A first-edition copy of Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin, gifted by a friend when I graduated. And my signed galley copy of The Water Dancer, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and featuring cover art by Calida Rawles (both longtime friends).

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

The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Everyone in it is trash, but whew--I gasped from the first page to the last.

Book Review

Review: A Song Everlasting

A Song Everlasting by Ha Jin (Pantheon, $28 hardcover, 352p., 9781524748791, July 27, 2021)

Powerlessness pervades Ha Jin's perceptive A Song Everlasting, as his protagonist leaves fame and familiarity in one country to flee toward ambiguity and adaptation in another. Freedom, Yao Tian reasons, is his driving motive. National Book Award-winner Jin (A Map of Betrayal), notable for empathically crafting lives from meticulously observed details, creates another quiet, more passive-than-not antihero caught between China and the U.S.

Once upon a time, Tian was a famous singer, the lead tenor in the People's Ensemble, a Chinese company renowned nationally and abroad. His wife, Shuna, is a rising university history professor; their 13-year-old middle-grade daughter, Tingting, is about to apply for entry into a tony Beijing prep school. At 37, Tian's career seemed impressively satisfying, his and his family's lasting comfort all but guaranteed.

Following a scheduled company performance in New York City, Tian encounters an old Beijing friend he hasn't seen in a decade. Yabin has since emigrated to the U.S. He presents Tian with a lucrative singing engagement--this time solo, as part of a concert to celebrate Taiwan's (not China's) National Day, which requires Tian to extend his U.S. visit by a few days. The generous fee, Tian realizes, would help offset Tingting's anticipated tuition increases. Tian's director isn't pleased, but after half-hearted warnings, he's not forbidden. And so Tian stays, performs and returns home.

The disciplinary consequences become immediately apparent. But when he's asked to surrender his passport, Tian uses all his connections to flee to New York, initially convinced that Shuna and Tingting will eventually join him. Expectations, however, are not reality. A Party messenger attempts to buy Tian's cooperative, silent return to China for millions, but Tian's refusal leaves him untethered. Without a valid passport, he's no longer Chinese but he's certainly not American--that will still require multiple challenges over many years. "Now I can see why lots of people prefer security to freedom," he writes to Shuna. The decades pass: his career flounders, he moves, relationships change, he adjusts as best as he can. After surviving so much, by middle-age, "life had become uneventful." That peace, perhaps, might be accomplishment enough.

Jin's narrative here isn't his strongest--prolonged over hundreds of pages, Tian's meandering, passive acceptance, especially, grows cumbersome. For Jin's most devoted readers, however, his signature ability to engage and expand his characters through acute, forthright observations will not disappoint. Once again, Jin provides a meaningful everyman tale beyond borders and cultures. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: In this meticulously observed novel, National Book Award-winning Ha Jin's protagonist abandons his life in China as a famous singer for the illusory promise of freedom on U.S. shores.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The Last Word (Probably Not) on Face Masks

Other places feel weirdly reanimated. The Twilight Zone quality that many observed in Times Square at the height of the pandemic has shifted into something more like--well, a Twilight Zone episode in which everyone, aside from one B-actor, forgets that a pandemic just killed tens of thousands of people and shut down the city for a year. ("Am I the only one who remembers?” William Shatner would shout, in closeup.) --Adam Gopnick, in the New Yorker 

At Roscoe Books

Face mask rules keep changing, as do Covid-19 variants. People continue to be predictably unpredictable in their behavior patterns. Indie booksellers, as usual, must adapt to ever-changing circumstances.

"Our mask policy is evolving!" Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, N.H., posted on Facebook this week. "We are now requiring masks for unvaccinated people, including all children over 5 and under 12, and strongly encouraging masks for vaccinated customers, but not requiring them. We also urge even vaccinated customers to put on their masks when they are near children in the bookstore. Our booksellers will continue to wear masks in public areas of the bookstore. We'll continue to monitor metrics and be ready to reinstitute the mask requirement for everyone if Covid spikes in our area. Thank you for your continued cooperation!"

At Bel & Bunna's Books, Lafayette, Calif.

Things change fast now. Alsace Walentine, owner of Tombolo Books, St. Petersburg, Fla., shared a newspaper article with us recently that included her store's mask policy. A few days later, she wrote: "Since our interview with the paper and since the story ran we've updated our policy: Masks are now optional for shoppers. We continue to offer free masks at the door and a sign encourages unvaccinated people to wear one, as per the CDC. Our booksellers will continue to wear masks."

At the Regulator Bookshop, Durham, N.C., face masks are "required of all staff and visitors please. If you forget your mask we can provide you one at the counter. We are all processing these difficult fast changing times in different ways--please be considerate of others especially children."

Crazy Wisdom Bookstore & Tearoom, Ann Arbor, Mich., has a sign on the door that reads "Masks and kindness still required, thank you." General manager Sarah Newland said, "As long as we can, we'll continue to be wearing masks ourselves and hope that our customers will, too."

"Now with a free mask!" at Avid Reader Bookshop in Brisbane

Internationally, Australia is getting hit by the new variant and suddenly, after months of relative calm, I'm seeing more social media posts from booksellers like Avid Reader Bookshop, Brisbane ("Now with a free mask."). In Canada, Iron Dog Books, Vancouver, B.C., noted Wednesday: "The vast majority of our safety plan will remain in place, including requiring masks. Public health recommends wearing a mask when you are in a public setting with people you do not know, please be kind to our staff and respect this choice we have made for our space." 

Bookish masks at Browsers Bookshop

In Wales, Sian Ellen Cowper, owner of Browsers Bookshop, Porthmadog, noted: "We felt we were opening into an environment where the public knew what was expected of them. What we've encountered has been very different. We have been faced with shoppers, 80% of whom have to be asked to put a mask on or sanitize their hands. We've given up trying to police social distancing because of the additional abuse we've been receiving."

Seen elsewhere on social media recently:

Aaron's Books, Lititz, Pa.: "With the statewide mask mandate ending today and the drop in local and national cases of Covid, we are now 'Mask Optional.' We do recommend that if there are children in the store, you should wear a mask if you are in the children's section, as these young readers are not yet approved for vaccination. We will continue to monitor local and national trends, and reserve the right to reinstate a store mask requirement should it be necessary for your health and ours."

At Mysterious Galaxy

Mysterious Galaxy, San Diego, Calif.: "Mysterious Galaxy staff will still be wearing masks at all times and will be requiring masks for entry. For the sake of our younger, immunocompromised and vaccine-hesitant community, we ask our customers to extend this small kindness to everyone."

RoscoeBooks, Chicago, Ill.: "Our new mask policy: If you're fully vaccinated, masks are now optional, but still encouraged. If you're not vaccinated, masks are required."

On his WTF podcast this week, comedian Marc Maron asked: "Where are we at with the rules?... Maybe we should just incorporate them into our lives because if you're like me you've got a nice backstock. Like in the panic, I bought, I've probably got a hundred N95s of different sorts so I'm set. I'm set for the next pandemic. I'm set for fire season. I'm ready to go.... We could all be healthier if we just wear the masks occasionally, and I think we're all comfortable with it."

Well, maybe not everybody... but I get it. I've got a nice backstock of masks, too.

Robin Abcarian's Los Angeles Times column ("Put your masks back on, and don't whine about it') summed it up best this week: "So put your mask on in public places. You don't have to love it. You just have to do it."

--Robert Gray, editor

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