Also published on this date: Tuesday, September 21, 2021: Maximum Shelf: The Anomaly

Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Hampton Roads Publishing Company: Becoming Baba Yaga: Trickster, Feminist, and Witch of the Woods by Kris Spisak, Foreword by Gennarose Nethercott

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

Severn House: A Messy Murder (Main) (The Decluttering Mysteries #4) by Simon Brett

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker


Booked. Opens in Philadelphia, Pa.

Booked., a general-interest bookstore with new titles for all ages, officially opened last week in Philadelphia, Pa., the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Located in Philly's Chestnut Hill neighborhood, the store carries a variety of genres, including literature, nonfiction, history and cooking, along with a selection of nonbook and gift items. Owner Debbie Gress Jansen has opened the bookstore in a space that previously housed a toy store, and she eventually hopes to start hosting author events.

Gress Jansen told the Inquirer that the pandemic spurred her to leave her career as a drama teacher at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and pursue her dream of owning an independent bookstore.

"This was that horrible lean-in moment where you're like, 'if not now, when?'" she said. "I hate to be cliche, but that's how it was and I had always envisioned this to be a place where people would be happy to come and read and discuss and talk about books, because I love talking about books."

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Grand Re-opening for the Harvard Coop

The Harvard Cooperative Society celebrated the grand re-opening of its newly renovated Harvard Coop Bookstore, Cambridge, Mass., on September 9 with a ribbon-cutting, followed by a weekend of games, prizes, live music and author events.

Located in Harvard Square, the Coop is the official campus store for Harvard University and is managed by Barnes & Noble College.

Planning the renovation of the historic bookstore began more than a year ago, and despite the disruptions presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, construction was completed within eight months. B&N College partnered with the Coop on the $6 million renovation, which is designed to provide a better, more exciting customer shopping experience and includes new flooring, lighting, retail fixtures and a community event space, as well as new heating and air conditioning systems and a new elevator.

The three-story, 28,550-square-foot building was built in 1924 in the Colonial Revival style and now features a wide selection of Harvard-branded apparel and merchandise as well as textbooks, trade books and school supplies. Founded in 1882 in a student dorm in Harvard Yard, the Coop is one of the oldest and largest college bookstores in the U.S.

GLOW: Sourcebooks Landmark: A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler

Jason Reynolds Gets Third Term as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

Jason Reynolds

Author Jason Reynolds's term as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature is being extended to include a third year--for the first time in the history of the program, which is run by the Library of Congress, Every Child a Reader and the Children's Book Council to foster a love of reading in young students.

Organizers praised Reynolds's work in the role, saying, "Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Reynolds connected virtually with thousands of students in rural areas of the country to engage in meaningful discussions. In 2022, Reynolds will meet in person with students in rural communities to continue his work of encouraging young people to share their own narratives. In addition, Reynolds will create an archive of student voices, encouraging students to share their creations via his Grab the Mic: Tell Your Story platform."

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden added, "Jason's Grab the Mic platform has proven that connecting with kids on their level empowers real world growth in reading and writing. I am eager to see how Jason will expand his message, encouraging kids to share their own stories in and beyond their own communities."

Reynolds said, "I can't believe I'm even being afforded the opportunity to extend my ambassadorship a third year. If the goal has changed at all, it's to be even more present in the lives of the young people I'm serving. More storytelling, more cultural exchange, more creativity, more connection--and this time, in person. Like I said at the start of this, this appointment is not an obligation, but an opportunity to put a spotlight on the collective stories of young America, all while encouraging them to hold those stories, and mold them into whatever they want them to be."

This November and December, Reynolds will go on a third virtual tour to schools across the country as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. In support of the tour, the Library purchased paperback copies of Reynolds's Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks for participating schools, with the support of Dollar General Literacy Foundation. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing will also continue its support of the National Ambassador program.

Among other achievements as National Ambassador, in April 2020, Reynolds launched a 30-part video series for kids, Write. Right. Rite, which offers fun and engaging prompts to express creativity. In March 2020, Reynolds launched Brain Yoga, a weekly Instagram Live video series during which he invited young people to join him onscreen to participate in a game that stretched the imagination. Brain Yoga is now a card game.

International Update: Bookshop, BA Launch 'New Futures' Initiative for Underrepresented Bookshop Entrepreneurs

The Booksellers Association and have launched New Futures, a program to help entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities across the U.K. open their own bookstores, the Bookseller reported. 

"Over recent years, there has been an increased focus on diversity in publishing, with moves for more representation in publishing itself, as well as the acquisition of new titles from authors whose voices have been historically underrepresented," the organizers said. "Taking inspiration from these seismic changes, the New Futures initiative has been launched to encourage and inspire the opening of new bookshops to serve underrepresented communities, creating new routes for books to reach the hands of more diverse readers." 

BA managing director Meryl Halls said: "As we welcome the recent progress in the diversification of the range of published authors, we are keen to promote the opening of new bookshops that will match this richness of voices, where books can reach the hands of more diverse readers. The BA is committed to offering a breadth of opportunities to help its members grow and we are incredibly excited to be offering mentoring and support to a new member to our family." 

Nicole Vanderbilt, U.K. managing director of, described New Futures as "much more than a search for a new bookseller from an underrepresented background. It's a practical statement from and the Booksellers Association of our core mission: to support the publishing and book world by helping independent booksellers thrive. We believe in a world where independent bookshops are an essential part of literary culture and we are launching this exciting new program to do our bit in ensuring diverse books meet the diverse audiences they deserve." 


The Canadian Independent Booksellers Association's "Meet a Member" series featured Whodunit Bookshop in Winnipeg, Man., and owners Michael and Wendy Bumsted. Among the highlights from the q&a:

I've read many wonderful reviews from people who have been loyal to Whodunit since they were very young. How do you foster that sense of community with your customers?
We have some customers who have been with us for a long time--some whose peccadillos are part of the fabric of our store. Getting to know those customers when we first took over in 2007 was important and gave us a foundation to build further relationships outside of that core community. We've found that taking advantage of the tools available helps us to connect with our newer customer base. Picking up the phone or sending emails with updates about their favorite books or about a sale we've having helps us to get a better sense of who they are and what they like. Our willingness to be honest and forthcoming with our customers--e.g., sharing that the book they want goes entirely against their style preferences or is only weeks away from coming in paperback--is also appreciated. It might stop us from making the occasional extra sale, but it helps us show our customers in the long run that we are invested in their experience. This also means they are willing to forgive us when we make a mistake and are receptive to hearing about what we're most excited to share. Our customers have also built relationships with each other through the store and our events. They love to share recommendations with each other and seek out the books that their friends are buying.

What do you love most about being independent booksellers? 
We love that being independent allows us to tailor our store and our stock to our customers and our community.


Window display of the day: British bookseller Booka Bookshop in Oswestry posted on Facebook: "New window!... When we saw the cover for Pat Barker's new Women of Troy, we knew it had to be our next Booka window. Don't you think Martha has done a fantastic job? Come on down to the shop to see our Trojan horse in person and pick up your copy of this brilliant new novel, sequel to the best selling Silence of the Girls." --Robert Gray

Astra Publishing Forms Astra Books for Young Readers

Astra Publishing House is forming a children's book division, Astra Books for Young Readers, that will encompass six imprints that together have more than 1,000 backlist titles. The division will offer "books for all ages and children's interests, from board books for babies and toddlers and picture books to nonfiction and history, poetry, middle-grade, and young adult books," Astra Publishing House COO Ben Schrank said. The six imprints are:

A new imprint, Astra Young Readers, which incorporates Boyds Mills Press, publishing fiction and nonfiction for children of all ages. It will be the division's broadest imprint, according to editorial director Rebecca Davis. Upcoming titles include Grandma's Farm, the sequel to Grandpa's Tractor, by Michael Garland; Fire Chief Fran, a read-aloud about a female fire chief and her crew by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter; and From Mother Africa with Love by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by E.B. Lewis.

A second new imprint, Hippo Park, focusing on illustrated books for children under 12 with "stories that reflect the unpredictable, often silly, and almost always befuddling world in which children live," said editorial director Jill Davis. Its first titles appear in fall 2022: Come On in: There's a Party in this Book!, photographs by Sabine Timm and rhyming text by Jamie Michalak; Tiny Spoon vs. Little Fork by Constance Lombardo, illustrated by Dan & Jason; How to Draw a Happy Cat by Ethan T. Berlin, illustrated by Jimbo Matison; A Bear, a Bee, and a Honey Tree by Daniel Bernstrom and Brandon James Scott; and a board book by Rilla Alexander featuring Herbert, the character she created for Hippo Park's logo, set in the real Hippo Park in New York City.

Calkins Creek, which focuses on U.S. history and publishes nonfiction and historical fiction picture books, chapter books and novels. "Our aim is to dust off the cobwebs of history and make it vibrant and relevant," said Carolyn Yoder, creator of the imprint and newly promoted to editorial director. Highlights include Without Separation: Prejudice, Segregation, and the Case of Roberto Alvarez by Larry Dane Brimner, illustrated by Maya Gonzalez; Born Hungry: Julia Child Becomes "the French Chef"; Blast Off!: How Mary Sherman Fueled America into Space; and books on singer-songwriter Dolly Parton and the latest in Gail Jarrow's Medical Fiascoes series on hookworm.

Kane Press, which publishes illustrated STEAM and literacy titles that include the Milo & Jazz Mysteries chapter-book series and its Math Matters series; and EUREKA! The Biography of an Idea, a multicultural STEAM series.

mineditionUS, the recently created U.S. program of the international picture-book publisher. Highlights include The Longest Storm by Dan Yaccarino; Pangolina by Jane Goodall; Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers, inspired by Loujain AlHathloul, illustrated by Rebecca Green; and A Pair of Shoes by Robie H. Harris and R. Gregory Christie.

Wordsong, the only U.S. children's imprint devoted to poetry; highlights include Garvey in the Dark, a novel in verse by Nikki Grimes featuring the main character in her novel Garvey's Choice,  and If This Bird Had Pockets by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater.

In related news, Amelia Mack, formerly of Chronicle Books, has joined the company as art director for both Hippo Park and mineditionUS, and Harold Underdown has joined the company as executive editor of Kane Press. Leonard Marcus continues as editor-at-large, now for Astra Books for Young Readers, and will acquire books both for Astra Young Readers and mineditionUS.

In addition, Astra Books for Young Readers has entered into a multi-year exclusive audiobook agreement with RBmedia, the audiobook producer and distributor, under which Recorded Books will create audio editions of children's books across all of Astra Books for Young Readers imprints.


Personnel Changes at FSG and Picador; Macmillan Children's Publishing

Sarita Varma has been promoted to senior v-p, director of publicity, Farrar, Straus & Giroux and Picador. Previously, she was v-p, director of publicity, Farrar, Straus & Giroux.


Chantal Gersch has joined Macmillan Children's Publishing Group as publicist. Previously, she was at Simon & Schuster Children's.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Max Chafkin on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Max Chafkin, author of The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley's Pursuit of Power (Penguin Press, $28, 9781984878533).

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Anderson Cooper, co-author of Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty (‎Harper, $30, 9780062964618).

Tonight Show: Jane Goodall, co-author of The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times (Celadon, $28, 9781250784094).

Movies: There's Someone Inside Your House; Caster

A trailer has been released for Netflix's There's Someone Inside Your House, adapted from Stephanie Perkins's novel and written by Henry Gayden (Shazam!), Entertainment Weekly reported. Directed by Patrick Brice (Creep), the film's cast includes Théodore Pellerin, Asjha Cooper, Dale Whibley, Jesse LaTourette, Diego Josef and Sydney Park. It premieres October 6. 

Brice said Perkins has been encouraging about the project and visited the set: "Having her support was really important. Henry, the writer, strayed from the novel and took some creative license in terms of making it feel as cinematic as he could. The fact that she was really excited about that and loved the ways that it was different from the novel was a relief because you bear a certain sense of responsibility taking this thing from this one person's head and turning it into a movie."


Maggie Levin is writing an adaptation of Elsie Chapman's YA novel Caster for Paramount. Deadline reported that "the deal closed before the announced departure of Paramount chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos and that the project is in very early development." Levin, who is currently writing the TriStar sequel Labyrinth, directed an episode of the Hulu series Into the Dark and is the second unit director on Blumhouse's upcoming feature The Black Phone

Scholastic and Josephson Entertainment are producing along with Weed Road. Caitlin Friedman and Iole Luchesse will produce on behalf of Scholastic. Matt Geller and Kelsi Fleming are producing on behalf of Josephson. Greg Lessans and Rachel Reznick are producing on behalf of Weed Road. Paramount execs on the project are Vanessa Joyce and Ellie Walker.

Books & Authors

Awards: Ruth Lilly Poetry Winner, Hilary Weston Nonfiction Finalists

Patricia Smith is this year's recipient of the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which is presented to a living U.S. poet in "recognition of their outstanding lifetime achievement." In addition, Susan Briante won the $7,500 Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism; and Bryan Byrdlong, Steven Espada Dawson, Noor Hindi, Natasha Rao and Simon Shieh were named 2021 Ruth Lilly & Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellows. 

The awards are sponsored and administered by the Poetry Foundation, which publishes Poetry magazine, and will be presented at a virtual awards ceremony October 21. This is the first time in many years that the recipients of these annually awarded prizes will be honored together at one ceremony.

"Every one of these extraordinary writers is a credit to the art form, each bringing their own unique experiences and approaches to enrich the literary landscape," said Michelle T. Boone, president of the Poetry Foundation. "It is a joyous occasion to be able to celebrate artists in poetic lineage with one another, what they've created thus far, and what is yet to come."


The Writers' Trust of Canada has announced finalists for this year's C$60,000 (about US$47,450) Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction, which honors works published in Canada that demonstrate "a distinctive voice, as well as a persuasive and compelling command of tone, narrative, style and technique." Each finalist receives C$5,000 (about US$3,955). The winner will be named November 3 at the digital Writers' Trust Awards. This year's shortlisted titles are:

NISHGA by Jordan Abel 
On Foot to Canterbury: A Son's Pilgrimage by Ken Haigh 
Permanent Astonishment: A Memoir by Tomson Highway 
Peyakow: Reclaiming Cree Dignity, A Memoir by Darrel J. McLeod 
Disorientation: Being Black in the World by Ian Williams

Book Review

Review: Far from the Light of Heaven

Far from the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson (Orbit, $17.99 paperback, 384p., 9780759557918, October 26, 2021)

Tade Thompson follows up his acclaimed Wormwood trilogy with a thrilling science fiction twist on the locked-room mystery. Thompson's vision of humanity expanding into the stars is distinct not only for its Afrofuturist bent but for its harshly grounded version of survival in space. The novel takes place in the Lagos system, home of the Lagos space station and the colony planet Bloodroot. First mate Michelle "Shell" Campion has arrived in the system on board the colony ship Ragtime; its mission to deliver hundreds of sleeping passengers to Bloodroot is interrupted by the horrific deaths of dozens on board. With the aid of a growing cast of characters, Campion must unravel the mystery of their deaths while dealing with the failure of the supposedly infallible AI running the ship and the grim encroachments of space.

The Afrofuturist origins of the Lagos system are crucial to the novel. The Lagos station was established by "mainly Black Afrofuturists. Space is the Place. With considerable effort, all their fiscal and human resources and a rich, funky cultural history mixed with African myth and mythmaking, they willed the space station into being." Also crucial are the ravages of capitalism: the novel's mystery revolves around one of the deceased passengers, a ruthless titan of industry and "equal-opportunity exploiter" who, in a previous life, "would have owned and sold slaves." The novel's chief pleasures come in the way Thompson slowly reveals the layers of the central mystery--a mystery enlivened by the author's unusual spins on sci-fi tropes, introducing aliens that may have more in common with ghosts than Klingons, for example.

The saying "Space is the Brink of Death" guides the book at every turn. Campion and investigators from Bloodroot have to manage the mundane challenges of space: maintaining circadian rhythms, the necessity of rest, preserving sanity, etc. At the same time, more exotic threats are constantly introduced, including a kind of cyborg wolf, murderous maintenance robots and an experimental section of the ship loaded with bizarre flora and fauna. The novel is quite a bit weirder than a standard locked-room mystery, and significantly more tense. The futuristic elements are realistically imagined, but Far from the Light of Heaven harks back to the earliest days of space travel in its sense of space as a source of rapidly unfolding disasters that humans escape only by the skin of their teeth. --Hank Stephenson, manuscript reader, the Sun magazine

Shelf Talker: Far from the Light of Heaven establishes a tantalizing locked-room mystery in an original Afrofuturist science fiction setting.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Chasing Serenity by Kristen Ashley
2. Verity by Colleen Hoover
3. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter
4. Jerk It (Madd CrossFit Book 2) by Lani Lynn Vale
5. Stop Investing Like They Tell You by Stephen Spicer
6. 6 Weeks to Happy by Zahra Karsan
7. Southern Sunshine by Natasha Madison
8. Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas
9. The Spy Master’s Scheme (Glass and Steele Book 12) by C.J. Archer
10. Hard to Love (Play Hard Book 5) by K. Bromberg

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