Also published on this date: Monday, August 30, 2021: Maximum Shelf: Perpetual West

Shelf Awareness for Monday, August 30, 2021

Atria Books:  Spirit Crossing (Cork O'Connor Mystery #20) by William Kent Krueger

Ballantine Books: Gather Me: A Memoir in Praise of the Books That Saved Me by Glory Edim

Ace Books: Rewitched by Lucy Jane Wood

Graywolf Press: We're Alone: Essays by Edwidge Danticat

St. Martin's Press: Runaway Train: Or, the Story of My Life So Far by Erin Roberts with Sam Kashner

Other Press (NY): Hotline by Dimitri Nasrallah

Delacorte Press: The Midnight Game by Cynthia Murphy


Hong Kong's Bleak House Books Closing

Bleak House Books, "one of Hong Kong's last independent English-language bookstores," will close October 15, according to the Hong Kong Free Press. The store, which sells new and used books, was founded in 2017 by Albert Wan and Jenny Smith.

In a blog post, Wan, a former lawyer in the U.S., wrote that his family had made the "painful and sad decision" to leave Hong Kong, which has been subject to ever stricter controls and censorship in the past several years. He wrote: "The backdrop to these developments is, of course, politics. To be sure, what my wife Jenny, my kids, and I do in our daily lives is not overtly political. Jenny is a university professor, I sell books, and the kids are primary school students. But as George Orwell once remarked, '[i]n our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues.' This observation is as true today as it was in 1940 when Orwell first made it. And given the state of politics in Hong Kong, Jenny and I can no longer see a life for ourselves and our children in this city, at least in the near future."

He added that there will be "no farewell party and no clearance sale. For those books we have left at the bookshop and in storage after the last day, we will donate most of them to any independent bookshop or local institution that wants them. We will make sure our Pickwick Club subscribers and readers who have placed special orders with us get the books they are supposed to get. And we will return all the books given to us for sale on consignment back to their rightful owners."

Last October, Wan told Nikkei Asia that he hadn't changed his bookselling approach after the national security law was put into place. "We still stocked the same books we stocked before, and so did a lot of other indie booksellers that we knew," he said. "We just do what we do. I don't mean to make a big fuss about the books we stock. We just see what happens.... Every time we stock Animal Farm, it sells out. To me those titles are appropriate, and I don't believe illegal, so unless someone tells me otherwise, I'm just going to keep selling the same books."

Watkins Publishing: Fall Into Folklore! ARCS Available On Request

Fla.'s Bookstore1Sarasota Moving Soon

Bookstore1Sarasota's current location

Bookstore1Sarasota, Sarasota, Fla., is moving around the corner "in the next few months," the store said in an e-mail. Concrete flooring was recently poured in the new location, and owner Georgia Court told Patch, "We are so excited to be starting from the ground up."

The new space is in the Mark Sarasota, which Patch described as "a condominium residence with resort-style amenities and ground floor retail." The developer, Kolter, also owns other downtown Sarasota properties, including Bayso Sarasota, the Westin Sarasota and the Ritz-Carlton Residences.

The store celebrated its 10th anniversary in February and has been in its current location at 12 S. Palm Ave. since 2017. The new site is at 117 S. Pineapple Ave.

GLOW: Blue Box Press: In the Air Tonight by Marie Force

Republic of Consciousness: New Small Press Prize Led by Bookseller Lori Feathers

The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses, which was launched in the U.K. in 2017 by author Neil Griffiths, is starting a U.S. version that is being led by Lori Feathers, book critic and co-owner of Interabang Books in Dallas, Texas.

The prize aims "to support small presses for their on-going commitment to work of high literary merit. Most often it is the small publishers who take the largest creative and financial risks and yet, in a purely financial sense, they are least able to do so."

Organizers define a small press as one publishing an average of 18 or fewer titles a year. Each year's judging panel will include booksellers from around the U.S. and Canada.

In addition to the prize, Republic of Consciousness U.S. will regularly promote small presses in a variety of ways, including through readings in bookshops; panel discussions at literary festivals; hosting a blog on its website; and promoting small presses and their books on Twitter @USRofC.

Feathers said, "I've been following the RofC in the U.K. since its inception and felt this was the ideal mechanism to promote and reward the work of small presses. Nothing would make me happier than if the prize enabled new readers to discover and follow their favorite small presses in much the way they do their favorite authors."

Founder Neil Griffiths said, "I couldn't be more delighted that Lori has chosen to launch the prize in the U.S. and Canada. In many ways, the U.S. has led the way in small press publishing over the decades. But it remains a vulnerable enterprise, mostly driven by passion, and the prize was founded to celebrate that passion, and help where we can."

Submissions for the 2022 Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses will open October 1, for books published in the 2022 calendar year. For more information, click here.

Carolrhoda Lab (R): They Thought They Buried Us by Nonieqa Ramos

Sarah Brown New Manager of Minn.'s Zenith Bookstore

Sarah Brown

Zenith Bookstore, Duluth, Minn., has hired Sarah Brown as store manager; she starts in September.

As the store noted on Instagram, Brown "was born and raised in the Midwest and has been a reader all her life. She has worked in the book industry for almost 20 years, at four great independent bookstores: Schuler Books in Michigan, Changing Hands in Arizona, Eyeseeme African American Children's Bookstore in St. Louis, and Subterranean Books in St. Louis. Sarah loves hiking, martial arts movies, road trips and hanging with her cats. A newcomer to Duluth (and Minnesota) she is looking forward to living on the water and exploring this great "Zenith" city. Mostly she loves talking about books, so come in for a chat and a recommendation--and tell her your 'must-see' list in Duluth. Welcome Sarah!"

Obituary Note: Stephen B. Oates

Stephen B. Oates, a Civil War historian and biographer of Abraham Lincoln, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and William Faulkner, among others, died on August 20, the New York Times reported. He was 85.

His best-known works consisted of what he called the Civil War quartet, studies of John Brown, Nat Turner, Lincoln and Dr. King, who, he wrote, "humanize the monstrous moral paradox of slavery and racial oppression in a land based on the ideals of the Declaration of Independence.... All four were driven, visionary men, all were caught up in the issues of slavery and race, and all devised their own solutions to those inflammable problems. And all perished, too, in the conflicts and hostilities that surrounded the quest for equality in their country."

Ken Burns, who included Oates in his documentary Civil War, said, "Stephen was an extremely valuable adviser to our Civil War series and an informed and passionate participant. He knew the bottom-up story as well as the top-down one, but more importantly, he knew and appreciated the huge stakes for the United States and indeed the world in a Union victory."

Oates also wrote a biography of Clara Barton, A Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War, and several books in the first person from the perspective of historical figures, The Approaching Fury: Voices of the Storm, 1820-1861 and The Whirlwind of War: Voices of the Storm, 1861-1865.

His son, Greg Oates, said the first-person books were inspired by Hal Holbrook's and Julie Harris's impersonations of Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson, respectively.

He was accused of plagiarism in several books; the American Historical Association ruled in 1993 that there was "no evidence" that Oates had committed plagiarism "as it is conventionally understood" but did find evidence "of too great and too continuous dependence, even with attribution, on the structure, distinctive language and rhetorical strategies of other scholars and sources."

He was defended by many other historians and colleagues.


Personnel Changes at Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

At Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing:

Amy Beaudoin has been promoted to senior marketing manager, children's education from marketing manager.

Nicole Benevento has been promoted to marketing manager, children's library from assistant marketing manager.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Padma Lakshmi on the Today Show

Today Show: Padma Lakshmi, author of Tomatoes for Neela (Viking Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 9780593202708).

Kelly Clarkson Show repeat: Loni Love, author of I Tried to Change So You Don't Have To: True Life Lessons (Hachette Go, $16.99, 9780306873737).

Good Morning America: Paula Hawkins, author of A Slow Fire Burning: A Novel (‎Riverhead, $28, 9780735211230).

Also on GMA: Omid Scobie, co-author of Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family (‎Dey Street, $16.99, 9780063046115).

Wendy Williams repeat: DeVon Franklin, author of Live Free: Exceed Your Highest Expectations (Morrow, $27.99, 9780063031173).

The View repeat: Stephen King, author of Billy Summers (Scribner, $30, 9781982173616).

Books & Authors

Awards: New Press Social Justice Honorees

Kimberlé Crenshaw and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D.-Md.) are receiving the 2021 New Press Social Justice Awards at a benefit gala to be held November 9 in New York City. Crenshaw is being honored for her "paradigm-shifting contributions to critical race theory and intersectionality" and Congressman Jamie Raskin for "upholding the rule of law."

Crenshaw, the civil rights and constitutional scholar, was an editor of Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement, published by the New Press in 1996, and has co-edited and written other works on the subject.

A constitutional lawyer, Raskin was lead impeachment manager in the House earlier this year.

For more information on the awards and gala, click here.

Book Review

Review: When We Cease to Understand the World

When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut, trans. by Adrian Nathan West (New York Review Books, $17.95 paperback, 192p., 9781681375663, September 28, 2021)

Benjamin Labatut's When We Cease to Understand the World is an astonishing historical novel of physics, war, human weakness and quantum physics. In a lovely translation from the Spanish by Adrian Nathan West, the fictionalized histories of Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger and more come alive to disquiet and intrigue readers.

The book opens with Hermann Göring's addiction to dihydrocodeine and the suicides of many Nazi leaders by cyanide in the final months of World War II. It gets only a little less grim from there. But even with such bleak subject matter, Labatut's imaginative evocations of disturbed minds from the rarified ranks of mathematics and physics are thoroughly captivating and strangely lovely, joining science with mysticism in surprising ways. "In the deepest substrate of all things, physics had not found the solid, unassailable reality Schrödinger and Einstein had dreamt of, ruled over by a rational God pulling the threads of the world, but a domain of wonders and rarities, borne of the whims of a many-armed goddess toying with chance."

Labatut's narrative travels in time and space, covering the development of pesticides, chemical weapons and Prussian blue pigment; painting, literature and opera; the existential angst of particle and quantum physics; eroticism and fever dreams. A young Heisenberg interrupts Schrödinger's lecture to argue about the nature of subatomic particles. Later the reader sees Heisenberg feverish, ill, madly dreaming of spectral lines and harmonically bound electrons while reading Goethe's poems inspired by the Persian mystic Hafez. Schrödinger also raves, theorizing and obsessing over the adolescent daughter of his physician. Lesser-known scientific figures include Karl Schwarzschild, the soldier who first exactly solved Einstein's equation of general relativity and died shortly after; Shinichi Mochizuki, who revolutionized mathematics and then withdrew from the field; Alexander Grothendieck, who fled society to live as a hermit and also gave up mathematics entirely; and the seventh duc de Broglie, a "timid prince" whose Nobel Prize did not help him stomach the infighting among scholars of theoretical physics. These are the figures and the stories that have shaped major advances in science in the modern era; they also verge on insanity.

This astonishing novel blends forms: lyrical, inventive and also rooted in history, concerned with the overlaps of genius and madness, innovation and destruction. "The physicist--like the poet--should not describe the facts of the world, but rather generate metaphors and mental connections.... That aspect of nature required a completely new language," writes Labatut, and likewise he offers a new way of writing about science and history. The vision of reality painted by When We Cease to Understand the World is terrifying but finely wrought, and will live long in readers' minds. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Wide-ranging, mystical, crazed and inspired, this singular novel explores theoretical physics through a series of weird, engrossing human stories.

The Bestsellers Bestsellers in August

The bestselling audiobooks at independent bookstores during August:

1. The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller (Penguin Random House Audio)
2. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (Macmillan Audio)
3. Dune by Frank Herbert (Macmillan Audio)
4. Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy (Macmillan Audio)
5. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Penguin Random House Audio)
6. We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz (Penguin Random House Audio)
7. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Penguin Random House Audio)
8. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Penguin Random House Audio)
9. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry (Penguin Random House Audio)
10. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (Macmillan Audio)

1. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (Penguin Random House Audio)
2. The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green (Penguin Random House Audio)
3. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Tantor Media)
4. Untamed by Glennon Doyle (Penguin Random House Audio)
5. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk (Penguin Random House Audio)
6. How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith (Hachette Audio)
7. What Happened to You? by Oprah Winfrey and Bruce D. Perry (Macmillan Audio)
8. Mythos by Stephen Fry (Chronicle Books)
9. A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Penguin Random House Audio)
10. Caste by Isabel Wilkerson (Penguin Random House Audio)

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