Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Henry Holt & Company: Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Shadow Mountain: Why We Fought: Inspiring Stories of Resisting Hitler and Defending Freedom by Jerry Borrowman

Central Avenue Publishing: All Dogs Are Good: Poems & Memories by Courtney Peppernell

Berkley Books: This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel

Candlewick Press: The Heartbreak Bakery by A R Capetta

Other Press: Home Reading Service by Fabio Morábito, translated by Curtis Bauer


Niche Book Bar's Physical Store Coming to Milwaukee

Cetonia Weston-Roy

Niche Book Bar, which "will include a coffee house during the day and a wine bar at night is coming to Milwaukee's Bronzeville neighborhood," the Journal Sentinel reported. On Monday, the Bronzeville Advisory Committee recommended the sale of a city-owned building at 1937 N. King Drive to Niche Book Bar, operated by Cetonia Weston-Roy.

The deal still needs Common Council approval, but the decision to recommend Niche Book Bar drew enthusiastic support from committee members. "We're excited. And welcome," said committee chair LaShawndra Vernon.

The potential location is a 2,640-square-foot building built in 1895 in what is now the Historic King Drive Business Improvement District, the Journal Sentinel wrote, noting that "the city acquired the building through property tax foreclosure and listed it for development proposals. The committee recommended Niche Book Bar over other proposals, including one to create an arts-oriented events space."

Last summer, Weston-Roy drew media attention selling Black books and books featuring Black characters in Milwaukee from her bookstore on wheels, a large tricycle called Niche Book Bar. At the time she expressed hopes of eventually opening a bricks-and-mortar store, and in the autumn launched a successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign. 

In a post on Niche Book Bar's Facebook page, Weston-Roy wrote that she was going to wait until "a few more things fell into place. However, since everyone else is telling it I guess we should too! We have a home!"

"My heart has been beating very fast these past few months hoping for this," she told Urban Milwaukee. "I just want to say thank you so much.... I am a bookstore focused on serving Black literature and red wine. We would be a community space where families can come in for story time. They can get baked goods, coffee, tea and then in the evenings book clubs can come in."

Committee member Deshea Agee, former executive director of the area business improvement district and now a v-p at Emem Group, said, "I have seen her work to bring not just this to life, but to engage so many businesses and partners."

Berkley Books: The Roughest Draft by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

Malik Books, Los Angeles, Calif., Expands During Pandemic

Malik Books at Westfield Culver City Mall

Despite the myriad challenges brought on by the pandemic, Malik Books in Los Angeles, Calif., has not only stayed in business but opened a second location, the Los Angeles Business Journal reported.

"Most businesses in underserved communities only have about three full months' worth of reserves hanging around to begin with," store owner Malik Muhammad said. "It could be very stressful and overwhelming. We were able to pull through as a result of the love and generosity of people all over this country and locally, and our customers who just came to our aid. And that's how we survived, and that's why we are able to conduct business to this day."

Muhammad, who opened the bookshop in L.A.'s Baldwin Hills neighborhood in 1990, opened a second location in November 2020 in the Westfield Culver City mall. At 1,400 square feet, it is roughly three times the size of the original Baldwin Hills location. Muhammad called opening the second store a "leap of faith" and said that the mall, which did not have a bookstore, reached out to him. The foot traffic, he added, was the biggest draw.

The original Malik Books, located in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza mall, was closed for most of 2020. During that time Muhammad started a GoFundMe campaign that has brought in more than $24,000, and greatly expanded his store's online offerings. It finally reopened to foot traffic in October.

With the help of his wife and two daughters he started making deliveries within 10 miles of Baldwin Hills and he expanded the store's social media presence. He started appearing on On the Air with Ryan Seacrest for a recurring book review segment in July 2020 and in January 2021 appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

"It took a long time to get to this point where people see a Black bookstore as a viable business and a respectful business," he told the Journal. "It's been a sacrifice and a grind."

Carolrhoda Lab: Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez

Merriam-Webster Launching Kids' Imprint

Merriam-Webster is launching a new children's imprint this fall called Merriam-Webster Kids that will publish activity books, picture dictionaries and story books meant to "inspire and excite a new generation of language lovers."

The imprint will debut in October 2021 with the titles Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day: 366 Elevating Utterances to Stretch Your Cranium and Tickle Your Humerus, for children aged 8-12, and the oversized board book Merriam-Webster's 150 First Words. Word of the Day will include audio downloads paired with each story narrated by celebrities like Rachel Bloom, David Harbour and Soledad O'Brien.

"Reading with children from an early age helps build lifelong literacy skills," said Merriam-Webster president Greg Barlow. "And those skills open worlds. Through reading, kids learn about the world around them, the world beyond them and the infinite worlds yet to be imagined."

Peachtree Publishing Company: Hey! a Colorful Mystery by Kate Read

Newberry Library, Pattis Family Foundation Launching Chicago Book Award

The Newberry Library and the Pattis Family Foundation are teaming up for a new annual book award to honor published works that "transform public understanding of Chicago, its history and its people."

The award, officially called the Pattis Family Foundation Chicago Book Award at the Newberry Library, will be presented for the first time in July 2022 and come with a $25,000 prize. Work in a range of genres, including history, biography, social sciences, poetry, drama, graphic novels and fiction, will be eligible, and the award will not be limited by discipline or time period. Nominations can be made by authors, publishers or members of the general public.

"Our goal in this partnership with the Pattis Family Foundation is to bring attention to books that reflect the Newberry's mission of supporting inquiry and learning across the humanities," said Daniel Greene, the Newberry Library's president and librarian. "The Newberry encourages all readers to use our collections and experience our programs and exhibitions. This book prize will embody the same openness and accessibility by considering a range of publications that help audiences see Chicago in new ways. We’re grateful to the Pattis Family Foundation for their vision and their generosity."

"The Pattis Family Foundation is delighted to partner with the Newberry to celebrate and honor a book annually that deepens the understanding and appreciation of Chicago, its history, and its people," said Lisa Pattis, director of the Pattis Family Foundation and Newberry trustee. "We believe the Newberry, with its commitment to advancing the collective understanding of our city and its role in the world, is ideally situated to highlight exceptional books that help us understand Chicago from unique and different vantage points. We look forward to a long and productive partnership which will draw attention to the great work of the Newberry as well as the authors receiving the awards."

During the award presentation next summer, recipients will present a lecture or participate in a discussion about their book. More information about the award can be found here.

Obituary Note: Roberto Calasso

Roberto Calasso, the Italian publisher, translator and writer "whose wide-ranging works explored the evolution and mysteries of human consciousness, from the earliest myths and rituals to modern civilization," died July 28, the New York Times reported. He was 80. Calasso "was a rare figure in the literary world--an erudite writer and polymath and a savvy publisher who was able to reach a substantial readership for books he released through Adelphi Edizioni, the prestigious Italian publishing house where he worked for some 60 years."

Calasso produced more than a dozen works over nearly five decades, including his first and only novel L'impuro folle (The Impure Fool), La rovina di Kasch (The Ruin of Kasch), Le nozze di Cadmo e Armonia (The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony), Ka (Ka: Stories of the Mind and Gods of India), La letteratura e gli dèi (Literature and the Gods), Il rosa Tiepolo (Tiepolo Pink), L'impronta dell'editore (The Art of the Publisher), Il Cacciatore Celeste (The Celestial Hunter), L'innominabile attuale (The Unnamable Present) and more.

"His books are about how the anthropology of stories is universal," said Jonathan Galassi, president of Farrar Straus & Giroux, which published eight of Calasso's titles.

"Calasso carved out a new space as an intellectual, retelling myth as true, certainly as true as science," said Tim Parks, who worked with him on the English translation of The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, in an interview. "His implication is always that we are as subject as our ancestors were to the forces that find their names in Zeus or Venus or Yahweh or Shiva."

In 1962, when he was 21, Calasso started working at the newly formed publishing house Adelphi Edizioni, and a decade later "he became editorial director and quickly developed a reputation for his distinctive tastes and his passion for publishing underappreciated writers like Robert Walser and the German poet Gottfried Benn," the Times noted, adding that eventually he became the "president of Adelphi and helped preserve its independence when he bought a majority stake in the company himself, thwarting a sale to the Mondadori Group, a major European media company."

"He was always finding writers who hadn't had their due and he was always good at publicizing them when he published a book," FSG's Galassi added. "He was kind of a literary magician."

Richard Dixon, who translated five of Calasso's books, said, "He's almost impossible to classify, because his range of ideas, his range of thoughts, goes so far and wide. He often puts together and juxtaposes ideas where the connection isn't always obvious.... Although Roberto could seem quite intimidating, there was something extraordinarily generous and kind about him."

Novelist Lawrence Osborne, who worked with Calasso on the Italian editions of four of his novels, described him as "quietly inquisitive.... For me he was the greatest European publisher of his time and one of our greatest writers--an exceptionally rare combination. Moreover, he was a true Florentine deep down, as I always thought, embodying the urbane tolerance and refinement of that city."

"A book is written when there is something specific that has to be discovered," Calasso wrote. "The writer doesn't know what it is, nor where it is, but knows it has to be found. The hunt then begins. The writing begins."


Image of the Day: Books Beneath the Bridge

Adam Wilson (Sensation Machines), Tracy O'Neill (Quotients) and Justin Taylor (Riding with the Ghost) read at Brooklyn Bridge Park on August 2, the kickoff event for the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservatory’s Books Beneath the Bridge Series, hosted by Freebird Books. All three books were published last year and this was the first in-person event for all three. Books Beneath the Bridge will continue throughout August, with events hosted by Mil Mundos, Café Con Libros and Books Are Magic.

Cool Idea of the Day: The Paper Hound's Open Book Bar

Last weekend, The Paper Hound Bookshop in Vancouver, B.C., helped two of the store's customers celebrate their wedding. Between the ceremony and reception, which took place at a next-door restaurant, guests were invited to browse the shop and pick a book, with the Paper Hound keeping a running tab--an "open book bar."

"I present this to you in case you thought the world had run out of good ideas," wrote the bookstore's staff on Twitter, praising the "genius newlyweds who conceived and executed this idea which has received such widespread community approbation."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Peter Bergen on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Peter Bergen, author of The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781982170523).

Jimmy Kimmel Live repeat: Seth Rogen, author of Yearbook (Crown, $28, 9781984825407).

TV: Primates of Park Avenue; The Days of Abandonment

MGM TV has optioned Wednesday Martin's memoir Primates of Park Avenue to develop as a TV series with Yahlin Chang set to write the adaptation, Deadline reported. Jonathan Glickman will executive produce via his Glickmania Productions, along with Martin.

Chang is an executive producer on Hulu's Emmy-winning series The Handmaid's Tale. She was most recently nominated for a 2021 Primetime Emmy for outstanding writing for a drama for the series, and had previously shared outstanding drama series nominations in 2020 and 2018. 


HBO has abandoned production on The Days of Abandonment, based on Elena Ferrante's novel and starring Natalie Portman, Deadline reported. In a statement, HBO said: “Due to unforeseen personal reasons, Natalie Portman has stepped down from HBO Films' Days of Abandonment prior to the start of filming. Unfortunately, the production will not move forward. We are very sorry we won't be able to bring this beautiful story to the screen with our talented writer/director and cast. We send our sincere thanks to our cast, producers, and crew for all their passion and hard work.”

Books & Authors

Awards: Age Book of the Year

A shortlist has been released for the A$10,000 (about US$7,345) Age Book of the Year, as the Australian prize makes its return after a nine-year hiatus. For 2021, there is only a fiction prize but the intention is to add a nonfiction prize for 2022. The winner will be named September 3 as part of the opening night of the Melbourne Writers Festival. The shortlisted titles are:

The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott
The Tolstoy Estate by Steven Conte 
The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan
A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville
The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey
Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson
Born into This by Adam Thompson

Reading with... Nawaaz Ahmed

Nawaaz Ahmed was born in Tamil Nadu, India. Before turning to writing, he was a computer scientist, researching search algorithms for Yahoo. He holds an MFA from University of Michigan/Ann Arbor and is the winner of several Hopwood Awards. He is the recipient of residencies at MacDowell, Yaddo, Djerassi and VCCA. He's also a Kundiman and Lambda Literary Fellow. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. His debut novel, Radiant Fugitives (Counterpoint, August 3, 2021), follows three generations of a Muslim Indian family confronted with a nation on the brink of change.

On your nightstand now:

Anjali Enjeti's inspiring book of essays on how to work for change in America, Southbound; Ayad Akhtar's brilliant examination of being Muslim and American, Homeland Elegies; the first volume of N.K. Jemisin's epic Broken Earth series, The Fifth Season; Ersi Sotiropoulos's What's Left of the Night, a fictional account of the Greek poet Cavafy's growing into his art; Robert Jones Jr.'s mesmerizing novel The Prophets, about two enslaved young men in love on a plantation.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I grew up reading books by Enid Blyton, Franklin W. Dixon, Agatha Christie. I was a huge Hardy Boys and Hercule Poirot fan. But if I had to pick a favorite childhood book, it would be a book of fairy tales from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania that I reread so many times. During my childhood, India was flooded with beautifully illustrated books from the USSR, which were much cheaper than the books from the U.K. or the U.S., and this was one of them. I continue to look for it everywhere.

Your top five authors:

Italo Calvino, Leo Tolstoy, Ursula Le Guin, Virginia Woolf, Kazuo Ishiguro.

Book you've faked reading:

There are many books I've only read part of the way through that I have claimed to have read fully. Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, for example, which I still want to finish someday.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Kiran Nagarkar's Cuckold, a historical novel about the affairs of the state and heart and soul of the heir to the Rajput throne of Mewar, which I think is every bit as ambitious and exhilarating as War and Peace. The "cuckold" in the title points to the prince's marriage to the mystic poet Meera Bai, who has pledged her love and devotion to Lord Krishna.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I can't remember buying a book simply for the cover. The closest would be an oversized book about Georgia O'Keeffe, for its gorgeous reproduction of At the rodeo, New Mexico.

Book you hid from your parents:

It belonged to my mother's library, so I only hid that I was reading it: D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover.

Book that changed your life:

I must say Shyam Selvadurai's brave and wonderful Funny Boy, the first book I read with a South Asian gay character, as I was coming out in the mid 1990s. The only gay character I had come across before that, growing up in India, was a cameo in The Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. I reread Funny Boy earlier this year, and realized I'd forgotten that it's also a powerful account of the start of ethnic strife in Sri Lanka.

Favorite line from a book:

"There's just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectation, to burst open and give us everything we've ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) know these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult." From Michael Cunningham's The Hours.

Five books you'll never part with:

These have to be books by friends and mentors who have inscribed them for me, since it seems like you can find anything else at a moment's notice these days. I wouldn't want to pick only five, but the list would include Sharanya Manivannan's The High Priestess Never Marries, Preeta Samarasan's Evening Is the Whole Day, V.V. Ganeshananthan's Love Marriage, Sandip Roy's Don't Let Him Know, Bishakh Som's Apsara Engine. These are also beautiful books in their own right, and readers should check them out.

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

Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd just to experience again the thrill of the denouement. I think her genius at experimenting with the form and tropes of the murder mystery is under-rated.

Book Review

YA Review: Things We Couldn't Say

Things We Couldn't Say by Jay Coles (Scholastic Press, $18.99 hardcover, 320p., ages 14-up, 9781338734188, September 21, 2021)

Composer and middle-school teacher Jay Coles (Tyler Johnson Was Here) returns to the YA literary world with his sublime sophomore novel, Things We Couldn't Say. Written for, but not limited to, high school students or those that identify as Black, male and queer, Coles tells the story of 17-year-old Giovanni, who struggles with understanding the many meanings of love.

Giovanni, affectionately called Gio by his friends and family, has lived with a huge hole in his heart for almost half of his life. The hole was made eight years ago when his birth mother abandoned Gio, his younger brother, Theo, and their father, whom Gio calls Pops. Still, Gio has managed the hole even though he lives in a particularly rough part of West Haven, Ind., his father is an alcoholic preacher and Gio is hiding his bisexuality from everyone except his immediate family and his two best friends. As a star basketball player, Gio doesn't yet feel comfortable letting the entire school know that he likes both boys and girls. But just when Gio feels like everything is starting to fall into place and he's beginning to get a grip on his life, that hole threatens to rip his heart in two: he receives an e-mail from his ghost of a mother.

Gio doesn't know what to do about his mother; he's not sure if he should let her back into his life and forgive her or completely block her forever. There is a small but unmistakable part of him that misses her and wants to find out why she left in the first place. To make matters more complicated, Gio is starting to become romantically interested in his new teammate, David, as they hang out more together. As Gio navigates this extremely confusing time, he slowly learns how to come to terms with and understand the many facets of love.

Coles's beautifully written bildungsroman encompasses topics such as identity, grief, love, alcoholism, socioeconomics, depression, sexuality, family, race and racial injustices. It creates a safe space for queer Black boys to see themselves where they aren't always portrayed, while also offering a window and sliding glass door for readers who identify differently from Gio. As readers are invited into Gio's life, they watch him maneuver his age, race, sexuality in all their realms and learn how important it is for young adults to find an understanding of the self as well as a definition of what family and love really means. --Natasha Harris, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: In this superbly written coming-of-age novel, a teenage boy struggles to stay afloat and be brave despite his world crumbling.

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