Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Del Rey Books: Black Shield Maiden by Willow Smith and Jess Hendel

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

Hell's Hundred: Blood Like Mine by Stuart Neville

Spiegel & Grau: Tiananmen Square by Lai Wen

Tor Books: The Daughters' War (Blacktongue) by Christopher Buehlman

Tommy Nelson: Just in Case You Ever Feel Alone (Just in Case) by Max Lucado, Illustrated by Eve Tharlet

Bramble: The Spellshop by Sarah Beth Durst


Regionals Hosting Virtual Panel on 'Bookselling and Free Expression'

Jonathan Friedman

The eight independent booksellers associations are jointly sponsoring a virtual panel called "Bookselling and Free Expression: A Conversation," next Tuesday, November 23, at 12 noon Eastern. The moderator is Jonathan Friedman, director of education at PEN America. Panelists include booksellers and authors as well as Summer Lopez, PEN's free expression education manager.

The associations called the topic "a complicated issue" and said "we wanted to create a space for education and dialogue from a wide array of viewpoints. The goal is for everyone to come away with a framework to use when thinking about what free expression means for our stores (and ourselves)." After the discussion, there will be an opportunity for booksellers "to talk about what you've heard and learned in smaller breakout groups."

To register, click here.

Harper: Sandwich by Catherine Newman

Next Chapter Plans to 'Reincarnate the Spirit' of N.Y.'s Book Revue

More on the effort by Mallory Braun, former store manager of the Book Revue, Huntington Village, N.Y., to found a bookstore to fill the gap left by the closure of the Book Revue in September:

With the counsel of Richard Klein, owner of the Book Revue, Braun intends to "reincarnate the spirit" of Book Revue with a new shop to be called the Next Chapter, which will at first stock mostly used, remaindered and rare books (Braun's expertise). The Next Chapter will also sell zines, ephemera, art, paper matter upcycled from damaged books, vinyl, locally made and handmade sidelines, and a selection of new books. Over time, the plan is to increase the number of new books, and Braun will order any book for customers seeking something not in stock at the store. In addition, Next Chapter will offer classes, workshops and performances, and readings and signings by local and national authors.

A Long Island native, Braun graduated from South Huntington's Walt Whitman High School and UMass Amherst. The daughter of a kindergarten teacher, Braun has been a reader since childhood and spent the last five years as a manager of Book Revue under Klein's guidance.

To help get the shop off the ground, Braun has started a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of raising $250,000, with tiers of rewards offered for various donation levels. The campaign has already raised slightly over $100,000.

Spiegel & Grau: Tiananmen Square by Lai Wen

Chicago's Semicolon Bookstore Launching Pop-Up

Owner Danielle Mullin is turning Semicolon's previous location into a pop-up selling used books.

Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery in Chicago, Ill., will launch a pop-up store later this month supporting Parenthesis, its literacy nonprofit. Per Block Club Chicago, the pop-up will sell used titles priced at $10 or less.

The Parenthesis pop-up will open on November 26 at 515 N. Halsted St., which was Semicolon's original storefront before the bookstore moved to a larger location in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood last month. Store owner Danielle Mullen and her team plan to run the pop-up until December 24 and possibly longer.

"As we get nearer to the holiday season, we recognize that people are coming in who want to get more books than they're able to get, because of the cost of books," Mullen told Book Club Chicago. "We wanted to not only make use of the nonprofit in a bigger and more effective way, but also just give a little more access, as much access as we can possibly have."

Many of the nonprofit's efforts are aimed at benefiting Chicago Public School students, and one of the major things that the pop-up will fund is the creation of a library system that caters to communities of color.

Semicolon bookseller Juj Lepe will manage the Parenthesis pop-up, and said it will "function like a second Semicolon. If there are people who love the feel of a used bookstore, we are going to provide that with the same enthusiasm and focus on art and community that we have."

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

International Update: BA Backs Scottish Retail Consortium, Bouquinistes Wanted in Paris

The Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland has signed an open letter from the Scottish Retail Consortium calling for a business rates [essentially a business occupancy tax] discount for the coming financial year. The Bookseller reported that 13 leading business representative groups and industry bodies "have jointly written to the Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes. The collective call comes ahead of the unveiling of the Scottish government's budget on 9th December, which is expected to set the business rate and associated reliefs for the 2022/23 financial year."

Noting that progress has been made in Scotland on business rates reform, the letter stresses that the sector is still struggling: "We are almost two-thirds of the way through the current financial year and store sales and shopper footfall in Scotland have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, while shop vacancies have climbed to a six-year high. As Holyrood's Finance & Public Administration Committee noted this month, many retailers have incurred significant debt through the crisis including Covid loans and tax deferrals.

"As the guardrails of taxpayer support are gradually withdrawn, retailers are ready to contribute their fair share. However, further assistance will be required in the transition. A return to full 100% business rates from April, which were at an onerous 21-year high before the pandemic, will be insurmountable for many shops."

The letter calls for a discount for all retail premises in the coming financial year to "provide a bridge" to the next revaluation in 2023. "This would support the survival of shops, the jobs they provide directly and in the supply chain, and the vitality of our high streets and retail destinations."


Book lovers worldwide know about the legendary green Bouquinistes boxes, which line the banks of the River Seine in Paris. The Local reported that Covid-19 lockdowns forced many of the booksellers to close, "meaning that a number of vacancies are now available. Bouquinistes now line a 3km stretch through the centre of Paris, operating 900 wooden stalls from which they sell their wares--some 300,000 books, stamps, cards and posters in total."

Noting that the Seine "has been described as the only river in the world that runs between two bookshelves," the Local wrote that "while they do not have to pay tax or rent, the sellers, each of whom can run a maximum of four stalls in total, have been badly hit by the pandemic. Social distancing, lockdowns and a lack of tourists has had a drastic impact on their revenue." 

The City of Paris is now accepting applications to fill the vacancies. "Although successful candidates must be official residents of France and registered in the health and social security system, there is no requirement to be a French citizen, although obviously speaking French is pretty necessary," the Local noted. "Selling second-hand books along the river will not lead you to riches. But the bouquinistes are in it for the lifestyle. In an interview with Le Parisien, Callais once said: 'Liberty is our main salary.' "


"The basement of a bookstore holds a lot of memories," Canadian bookseller Munro's Books, Victoria, B.C., reflected in a wistful tour--including Covid-spiked recollections of last year--of the bookshop's rich lower depths as the holiday season begins. "For the basement is where the holiday season begins, its decorations as jumbled and dusty as memory itself....

"It's safe to say a lot of us feel haunted this year. But the basement of a bookstore holds plenty of happy memories.... 2021 brings with it familiar comforts. Staff parties are back. Shoppers flow freely through the doors, and the evening crew is known to nip off for a post-work pint. But we're different, all of us. Kinder. More attentive. Sometimes, the Christmas lights winking overhead, rain streaking the windows in the early winter dark, we glance downward, hold our breaths, and hear caroling. Do you hear it, too?"


The spirit of the season is also on the minds of the staff at Kennys Bookshop in Galway, Ireland, which posted on Facebook: "We always love when this time of year comes around! Our traditional Christmas book tree is now up!" --Robert Gray

William Morrow & Company: Lula Dean's Little Library of Banned Books by Kirsten Miller

Obituary Note: Petra Mayer

Petra Mayer

Petra Mayer, a books editor on NPR's Culture desk and "a proud nerd with a penchant for science fiction, comics and cats," died on November 13, apparently of a pulmonary embolism, NPR reported. She was 46. Prior to joining the NPR Books team in 2012, she had been an associate producer and director for All Things Considered on weekends, and also spent time as a production assistant for Morning Edition and Weekend Edition Saturday.

In a statement on Sunday, NPR said: "This is a heartbreaking loss for all of us at NPR, our member stations and the millions of listeners in the public radio family. Petra's passion for her work, her love for her colleagues and her joy sharing books with public radio listeners have made a lasting impact."

Senior v-p for news Nancy Barnes noted in an e-mail to staff: "Petra was NPR through and through. To say that Petra will be missed simply seems inadequate."

Mayer shared her passions "with readers and listeners through her reviews of sci-fi, fantasy, romance, thrillers and comics, her trusty on-the-scene reporting at Comic-Con, and her contributions to the Book Concierge, NPR's annual literary-recommendation tool. She brought her zeal to the guest chair on occasional Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast episodes," NPR wrote.

Mayer first joined NPR as an engineering assistant in 1994, while attending Amherst College. In 1997, she was briefly at Boston's NPR member station WBUR as a news writer, then returned to NPR in 2000, after earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and spending two years as an audio editor at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

"She is like the keeper of a certain wonderfulness of NPR," said Rose Friedman, a books and culture editor. "She is the spirit of the place." Mallory Yu, a producer and movie editor for All Things Considered, observed: "Her passion and enthusiasm was indelible, and she was generous about sharing both with you." 

Beth Novey, a producer and editor on the Culture desk, added: "She was always up for anything--whether it was taking on a last-minute edit, dressing up as the AP Style Guide for Halloween, or making a hedgehog out of cheese for an intern farewell party. She'd been knitting hats for the new babies on the Arts Desk--and it's impossible to imagine even a single day at NPR without her."

In a 2018 Faces of NPR interview, Mayer explained what she loved about public radio: "EVERYTHING. No really. We tell stories in a way no one else can, we lift up voices no one else does, we'll bring you the news but we'll also bring you the joy in a way no other medium can."

Harper Celebrate: Why Do We Stay?: How My Toxic Relationship Can Help You Find Freedom by Stephanie Quayle, with Keith W. Campbell


Happy 5th Birthday, Gramercy Books!

Congratulations to Gramercy Books, Bexley, Ohio, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary on Sunday, December 12.

The festivities begin on Black Friday, November 26, when the first 250 customers making a $100 purchase receive a free commemorative Gramercy Books tote bag. (And every time they bring the tote bag to the store to shop in 2022, they'll receive a 5% discount.) From Monday, December 6, to the store's anniversary on December 12, Gramercy Books is offering a 20% discount on all gift cards.

Founded and owned by Linda Kass, Gramercy Books was envisioned as a warm, welcoming venue for booklovers to gather, greeted by a knowledgeable staff (and store mascot, Wally), surrounded by well-curated books and gifts, and inspired by ongoing events featuring authors, poets, songwriters, as well as book club discussions. The store shares space with Kittie's bakery and café, featuring Stumptown coffee and a variety of breakfast, lunch and snack items, along with a happy hour with wines and cocktails.

In five years, Gramercy Books has hosted and co-hosted hundreds of programs featuring writers of adult fiction, nonfiction and poetry, with author talks, "in conversation" presentations, panels and ticketed events for a range of authors, including Hanif Abdurraqib, Julia Alvarez, Anthony Doerr, Peter Frampton, Wil Haygood, Kazuo Ishiguro, Jorma Kaukonen, James McBride, Pamela Paul, Daniel Pink, Samantha Power, Connie Schultz, Lisa Scottoline, Maggie Smith, R.L. Stine, Elizabeth Strout, Bryan Washington, Colson Whitehead, Beatriz Williams and Jacqueline Woodson.

Holiday Season Floor Display: The Islander Bookshop

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!" the Islander Bookshop in Kodiak, Alaska, posted in sharing a pic of one of the shop's holiday-themed floor displays. "Day by day more new gifts and books (especially Harry Potter books and cookbooks) are being put out on the shelves! Exciting news is in the works with our collaboration with local artists and bakers this holiday season! Stop in this weekend as you're out and about to check out all of the brand new gifts and books which make unique Christmas gifts for those you love. Enjoy the snow!"

Personnel Changes at Mountaineers Books

Kate Jay has joined Mountaineers Books as a publicist. She previously worked as a PR coordinator at Dark Horse.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Blair Braverman on Fresh Air

Today Show: Brian Baumgartner and Ben Silverman, authors of Welcome to Dunder Mifflin: The Ultimate Oral History of the Office (Custom House, $29.99, 9780063082199).

Good Morning America: Pati Jinich, author of Treasures of the Mexican Table: Classic Recipes, Local Secrets (Mariner Books, $35, 9780358086765).

Fresh Air: Blair Braverman, co-author of Dogs on the Trail: A Year in the Life (Ecco, $17.99, 9780063066267).

WBUR's On Point: Katie Worth, author of Miseducation: How Climate Change Is Taught in America (Columbia Global Reports, $16, 9781735913643).

Good Morning America: Robin Arzón, author of Strong Mama (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 9780316299947).

Also on GMA: Sarah Winman, author of Still Life (Putnam, $27, 9780593330753).

Ellen: Glennon Doyle, author of Get Untamed: The Journal (Clarkson Potter, $19.99, 9780593235652).

Daily Show: Dwyane Wade, author of Dwyane (Morrow, $35, 9780062968357). He will also be on NPR's Here & Now.

Movies: Mothering Sunday

Sony Pictures Classics has released the official U.S. trailer for Mothering Sunday, based on Graham Swift's 2016 novel, IndieWire reported. Directed by Eva Husson from a script by Alice Birch (Succession, Normal People), the film stars Odessa Young (Shirley), Josh O'Connor (The Crown), Olivia Colman and Colin Firth.

The film marks the English-language debut of French director Husson, who "began her career as an actress before transitioning to directing; her feature debut, Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story), premiered at [the Toronto International Film Festival] in 2015. Her sophomore effort, Girls of the Sun, premiered at Cannes three years later," IndieWire noted.

Sony Pictures Classics will open Mothering Sunday with an Oscar-qualifying run in Los Angeles on November 17. It hits New York and L.A. theaters beginning February 25, before expanding nationwide in the following weeks.

Books & Authors

Awards: Books Are My Bag Readers, WH Smith Winners

Winners were named for the 2021 Books Are My Bag Readers Awards, which are curated by bookshops, voted for by readers across the U.K. and Ireland, and sponsored by National Book Tokens. The winning titles, announced during the first in-person event at Foyles Charing Cross Road since the pandemic, are:

Fiction: Still Life by Sarah Winman 
Nonfiction: I Belong Here by Anita Sethi
Poetry: The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman 
YA fiction: Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé 
Children's fiction: When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle 
Breakthrough author: Marcus Rashford for You Are a Champion (with Carl Anka) 
Reader's Choice: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
"Thank you so much booksellers and readers for voting The Hill We Climb as BAMB's winner of its poetry award," Gorman said. "This means so much to me as booksellers and readers really are the guardians of literature. You all help keep stories alive."


Manchester United and England national team star Marcus Rashford's You Are a Champion was named WH Smith's Book of the Year for 2021, with a new award for Author of the Year going to Matt Haig, the Bookseller reported. 

WH Smith said: "It has been another exceptional year, when many of us have turned to books for inspiration and comfort, and it was impossible not to recognize both Marcus Rashford and Carl Anka [co-author of the title] for the impact they have had on many young people this year."

Rashford said his book "was created with the intention of equipping children with tools and resources to navigate any adversity or challenge they were facing. We didn't do it for the accolades, but it's been amazing to see so many young children from different backgrounds engage with the book and take away different things from it. That was massive for me. I wanted any child to read the book and feel like it was written for them. Acknowledging whatever they were experiencing at that very time. It's really important to mention that without my team there is no book, this was a collective effort, so a big thank you to Carl, Katie and Macmillan Children's Books."

WH Smith recognized Haig as its inaugural Author of the Year. Nick Johnson, junior buyer for fiction books, said Haig's "inspirational books have been a pleasure to support this year, providing a much-needed respite for all our customers."

Haig commented: "It's been a whirlwind of a year, but it's been heartwarming to see bookshops fill up with readers again. Thanks to everyone at WH Smith and to everyone who has supported me over the years."

Book Review

Review: Shit Cassandra Saw: Stories

Shit Cassandra Saw: Stories by Gwen E. Kirby (Penguin Books, $17 paperback, 288p., 9780143136620, January 11, 2022)

An 1892 "emancipated duel" between two women is about to take place as the overseeing (female) doctor drolly remarks, "we will never be emancipated from the stupidity of men." That too-true theme lingers throughout Gwen E. Kirby's remarkable 21-story debut, Shit Cassandra Saw, as women love, leave, disdain and suffer through centuries all manner of men--abusive, manipulative, definitely unintelligent, some even dead.

Kirby's (partially) titular opener, "Shit Cassandra Saw that She Didn't Tell the Trojans Because at that Point Fuck Them Anyway," brilliantly sets the collection's comically scathing tone: knowing the future leaves Cassandra of the unbelievable oracles "done, full the fuck up, soul weary." If she could, she'd tell her fellow women about tampons, washing machines, mace, epidurals, but "the best thing of all" is the mighty Trojan legacy reduced to that little square package "carried in every hopeful wallet." That same uncomfortably dark-but-brilliant comedy carries into "A Few Normal Things that Happen a Lot," in which entitled men--whose careless catcalls easily morph into fatal violence--get their comeuppance when would-be victims develop superpowers that decimate male control. In "Midwestern Girl Is Tired of Appearing in Your Short Stories," the title girl, who is never the protagonist, finally gets the spotlight, though she's a bit pixilated and scattered.

Kirby looks upon centuries past to find outlier women whose stories managed to survive history. In "Boudicca, Mighty Queen of the Britains, Contact Hitter and Utility Outfielder, AD 61," the rebel British tribal queen who faced the conquering Romans muses over being a contemporary baseball player. In "First Woman Hanged for Witchcraft in Wales, 1594," sent-to-the-gallows Gwen confesses adding discomfort-causing sheep urine to meant-to-be-healing poultices for men who beat their wives. Mary's knowing mother insists "it is easier to be a man," in "Mary Read Is a Crossdressing Pirate, the Raging Seas, 1720." Before death, a Japanese woman warrior requests that her sister behead her corpse to prevent the enemy from ravaging her body in "Nakano Takeko Is Fatally Shot, Japan 1868."

Kirby writes with stunningly acerbic wit, whether she's empowering or exposing (or both) her diverse characters. From teens on the verge of adulthood, abandoned wives, cheating spouses, symbiotic sisters, Kirby creates familiar, identifiable girls and women, and places them in strikingly unexpected situations: conversing with an 18th-century ghost preacher, playing softball against a school where a shooting recently happened, obsessing over a stuffed (once-real) wallaby found in left luggage. Wielding humor and shock, Kirby audaciously unmasks gender disparity with delightful, disturbing aplomb. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: Readers of Gwen E. Kirby's exceptional debut collection are guaranteed to both gasp and guffaw through 21 darkly comical, scathing stories that expose gender disparity through centuries.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. The Three Chairs by Karyn Gordon
2. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter
3. Chosen by an Alien by Various
4. My Sister's Flirty Friend (The Greene Family Book 4) by Piper Rayne
5. A Rogue in Winter by Grace Burrowes
6. Straight Jack by Diane Capri
7. Bad Cruz by L.J. Shen
8. A Not So Meet Cute by Meghan Quinn
9. Obsessed by Ivy Smoak
10. Death (The Four Horsemen Book 4) by Laura Thalassa

[Many thanks to!]

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