Shelf Awareness for Monday, December 20, 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


John W. Henry Investing in Harvard Book Store

John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, the Boston Globe, the Liverpool Premier League soccer team and other ventures, is making "a series of investments" in the Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass. The initial investments will go to renovating the bookstore, updating its website, and "ensuring the long-term sustainability" of the business. Future investments will go to projects "to enhance the bookstore's presence in Greater Boston's literary landscape."

Jeff Mayersohn and Linda Seamonson, who bought the Harvard Book Store in 2008, said in an e-mail to customers that they are "very excited about this partnership, which will be transformative for our business." Henry, they continued, "originally reached out to us during a very low point in the pandemic, having read about the financial challenges our store was facing, and offered to help. While over the last few months our financial situation has improved--thanks to our customers, our marvelous staff, our landlords Harvard Real Estate, and some very generous government programs--the long-term sustainability of Harvard Book Store remained uncertain. And so, our conversations with John have evolved from simply preserving the business in the short-term, to developing a vision for how we might work together to better serve our community of readers and writers for decades to come."

John W. Henry

They called John Henry and his wife, Linda Henry, "ideal partners for our bookstore. They are deeply committed to our region and its cultural institutions, having invested in community projects for more than two decades. They are known for their philanthropic work; the Red Sox Foundation is the largest in Major League Baseball. They are also committed to independent bookstores and are insistent that Harvard Book Store maintain its indie identity, which has defined it for almost 90 years."

They also cited the Henrys' approach to Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox: "Rather than build a soulless suburban stadium, they have preserved the character of a beloved Boston landmark built in 1912, while bringing many of its amenities into the 21st century. Similarly, their stewardship of the Boston Globe shows a real commitment to print journalism, while ushering the paper into the digital age."

Henry, who made a fortune estimated recently at $3.6 billion with his eponymous investment management firm, said, "Linda and I have long appreciated the role that Harvard Book Store plays in our region's cultural life. We hope that our involvement will enable Harvard Book Store to build upon this legacy to better serve the readers and writers of Greater Boston and beyond. Our intention is that the store stay indie to its core, as part of the marvelous universe of bookstores that add so much to their communities."

Founded in 1932, Harvard Book Store sells new, used, and remainder books, both academic and general interest titles. In pre-pandemic times, it hosted hundreds of author events a year, and during its history was a pioneer in selling paperbacks, computerizing the store, offering print-on-demand services.

Harper: Our Kind of Game by Johanna Copeland

Patterson Holiday Bookstore Bonus Recipients Named

James Patterson has selected the independent booksellers who are beneficiaries of his Holiday Bookstore Bonus Program, which in October he said would go to 500 booksellers in $500 increments. As he has done in previous years, Patterson pledged a substantial amount--$250,000 this fall--to fund the program. The list of recipients can be seen on the American Booksellers Association's website.

Congratulations to the bookseller winners and many thanks to the ever-generous James Patterson!

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

D.C.'s Politics and Prose Hires 'Anti-Union' Law Firm

In the latest about the effort by some employees to unionize Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C., DCist reported that owners Bradley Graham--who is also president of the American Booksellers Association--and Lissa Muscatine have hired Jones Day, a major law firm with a reputation for helping client companies aggressively fight unions.

Last week, Politics & Prose union organizers filed with the National Labor Relations Board for an election, after Graham and Muscatine declined voluntarily to recognize the union, which claims it has a "supermajority" of signed union authorization cards from staff.

Graham commented to DCist via e-mail, "When a union files a petition, the NLRB process moves swiftly. We had worked with Jones Day before on a number of employment and labor matters. They knew us, and we knew them. They were available right away. That's why we retained them."

The news was denounced by the union, which on Twitter called Jones Day "a union-busting law firm made infamous for its ties to the Trump Administration's efforts to overturn the election results. These are not the actions we have come to expect from Politics & Prose, nor do they reflect the values of our mission statement. However, we are undeterred. We are forming our union." (Although Jones Day received $18.8 million from the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and a Trump super PAC, according to the New York Times, the law firm has said it didn't participate in any litigation "alleging voter fraud.")

In a story about the unionization effort, the Washington Post--where both Graham and Muscatine worked for years as journalists--said that organizers have signed union authorization cards from "more than 70% of the 55 employees" they said would be part of the union. "But Graham and Muscatine said they don't believe that number is reflective of the entire staff, which consists of about 105 people. The two sides will settle on the total number of union-eligible employees ahead of the election."

The Post added that the election will probably be held by the end of the year.

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

Holiday Hum: A 'Fun Holiday Season'; Understanding Customers

Javier Ramirez and Kristin Gilbert

At Exile in Bookville in Chicago, Ill., co-owners Javier Ramirez and Kristin Gilbert have seen a sizable increase in sales over previous months, but they haven't experienced a real holiday rush. The store is located in the Fine Arts Building in downtown Chicago, Ramirez explained, and many of the store's customers are tourists who are still mostly "shopping for themselves." 

That has resulted in a "fun holiday season," the likes of which Ramirez said he has not experienced in 25 years of bookselling. There's almost no shipping, very little wrapping and he can relax and talk about books with customers. That said, business is still great and has "given us something solid to build on."

Asked how he and Gilbert prepared for potential supply-chain issues this year, Ramirez noted that they learned relatively quickly that the tourist portion of their customer base doesn't usually seek out new releases, as customers would in "any other independent bookstore." While "nobody comes in on Tuesday looking for the new Colson Whitehead or Lauren Groff," they do pay attention to staff picks.

With that in mind, Gilbert and Ramirez chose a handful of hot fall titles and brought in eight to 15 copies of each for the season. Because they've bought relatively lightly on new titles, they "haven't really been affected by supply-chain issues." Staff favorites are selling better than the major new releases, and there are recommendations selected by a variety of local authors that have also sold very well. Some of the bookstore's big sellers at the moment include Parakeet by Marie-Helene Bertino, as well as the 33⅓ music book series put out by Bloomsbury, which they "can't keep in stock."

Small press titles and works in translation, whether new or old, are always popular. Laszlo Krasznahorkai's Satantango and Chasing Homer, along with Hiroko Oyamada's The Factory and The Hole, are all "flying off the table." Ramirez and Gilbert also love that "readers both young and old" continue to discover Joan Didion. It also helps that when they purchased the store earlier this year, they took on mostly used stock. That used inventory is nice to have as a "backup," and most purchases tend to be a combination of used and new.

Ramirez added that although the store gets mostly tourist traffic, there is still a "host of loyal regulars" who are local to Chicago. They continue to build on that, and in coming holiday seasons hope to "enjoy the benefits of both local and tourist traffic."


DIESEL, a bookstore has two locations in Southern California, one in Brentwood in L.A. and the other in Del Mar, slightly north of San Diego. The two stores, reported owners Alison Reid and John Evans, are having slightly different holiday seasons. In Brentwood it is "madness," while in Del Mar things are "nice and steady." Evans remarked that in Brentwood it is "about all you can take," but being so busy is a good thing. Customers there are especially appreciative and supportive of the store, bringing in candy, chocolate and cookies for the staff. 

Given the sheer volume of warnings about the supply chain, and that in Southern California you can "see the boats off the coast," customers have been very understanding about supply-chain issues in a way that they usually aren't. They know why a book doesn't show up on time, and "we don't have a lot of people upset." Some publishers, they added, have been far worse than others in terms of supply-chain issues.

When titles aren't available, Reid and Evans use the opportunity to "show off all the other books you have." That said, there are still certain books that "people automatically want," like Ann Patchett's These Precious Days. On that and similar titles, DIESEL did "beef up" their orders, but in general the stores did not have the storage space to buy early and buy huge in quite the way that publishers and distributors suggested.

Mel Brooks's All About Me! was another title DIESEL expected to be big, as he is sort of local to the Brentwood store, while Jimmy Chin's There and Back: Photographs from the Edge has been a surprise hit.

The stores' numbers are "really good" this season, and Evans said he's never heard so many customers mention that they're deliberately supporting DIESEL and avoiding Amazon. "They say they're irritated, disgusted and tired of Amazon." --Alex Mutter

Harper: Sandwich by Catherine Newman

International Update: U.K. Booksellers Report Strong December, Baghdad International Book Fair

Booksellers in the U.K. and Ireland are reporting strong sales in the lead up to Christmas, with many on track for a much better holiday season than last year despite concerns that new Covid-19 measures could affect last-minute shopping, the Bookseller reported.

"I'm unsure as to how the next few weeks will pan out," said Chrissy Ryan of BookBar, adding that the month has been really busy thus far. "We are planning to be open until 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and here's hoping that London continues to be full of the festive cheer we've seen so far. The supply chain issues haven't hit us too hard yet--we stocked up with all the titles in our gift guide and I'm so pleased I made that decision as we have been selling through each book brilliantly."

Emma Corfield-Walters of Book-ish in Crickhowell, Wales, said the shop is "beautifully busy" at the moment. "Footfall remains steady but we are seeing a big rise in Web sales from across the U.K."

Tomás Kenny, owner of Kennys Bookshop in Galway, Ireland, reported "strong" traffic this December, and predicts better sales than last year, adding: "As fears about Omicron increase, the numbers coming in have fallen slightly. We are unsure what to expect for the next two weeks, but we are very hopeful it will be busy."


In Iraq, the Baghdad International Book Fair is "not even the bigger book fair of the same name that the Iraqi government has sponsored for decades. But it's a book fair nonetheless," the New York Times reported, adding that "patrons savor the chance to browse aisles of paperbacks and hardcovers stacked on tables in pavilions from different countries. To pose for selfies in front of the fake volumes glued together and arranged to spell the word 'book.' To revel in what to many Iraqis is the true, enduring character of Baghdad, far removed from political turmoil and security concerns."

"There is a big gap between the people in the street and the political elite," said Maysoon al-Demluji, a former deputy minister of culture who was visiting the fair. "People in the street are not that interested in what happens in politics.... New generations are exposed to ideas that were denied previous generations. So much is happening here."

Hisham Nazar, who works at the publishing house Cemetery of Books, said that while many people now read digital books, he and many others prefer to hold books in their hands: "When you open a paper book it is like entering into the writer's journey. A paper book has the soul of the writer."


Introduced in July, Hungary's new legislation "banning the 'promotion and display' of homosexuality to minors" has provoked "anger in Brussels and a backlash at home, where a tight parliamentary election is slated for April," AFP (via France24) reported.

"This stupid law means certain books must be sealed in wrapping, and separated from the others," said Janos Szakacs, manager of Irok Boltja (Writers Shop) in Budapest. 

As he stretched to place the children's storybook A Fairy Tale for Everyone--which contains LGBTQ content--on the top of a bookshelf, Szakacs noted that the legislation actually draws attention to the separated books. "It's self-defeating, the snake bites its own tail," he said, while placing a sticker sent by the publisher on each copy that reads "Fairy Tales are Still for Everyone Even if they are in Packaging."

"Thanks to the government's hate campaign, the LGBTQ community is under unprecedented attack," said Boldizsar Nagy, the editor of A Fairy Tale for Everyone. Nagy has received anonymous threats and told AFP that he planned to leave Hungary so he can "live a more dignified and fulfilling life."

Dorottya Redai of the Labrisz lesbian organization that published A Fairy Tale for Everyone, said the book's shredding and the legal measures had only fueled interest in it, telling AFP that an initial print run of 1,500 sold quickly and a second of 15,000 copies sold out soon after the furor began. Now it "is out or soon to be out in 10 languages for foreign markets," Redai added. --Robert Gray

Obituary Note: Yoko Kawashima Watkins

Yoko Kawashima Watkins

Yoko Kawashima Watkins, author of several fictionalized memoirs set in Korea and Japan, died on December 8 at her home in Brewster, Mass.

Born in 1933 to a Japanese diplomat who was stationed in China and then northern Korea, Watkins and her family lived at the end of World War II in Nanam in northern Korea. In 1945, 11-year-old Yoko, her sister Ko, her brother Hideyo, and their mother fled their home in a bamboo grove to avoid the advancing Red Army and Korean communist forces. They took trains, hiked 45 miles to Seoul, and went to Japan where their family homes had been reduced to rubble by U.S. bombers. Watkins's mother died soon thereafter, and her father was in a prison camp in Siberia for several years before returning to Japan. Despite extreme poverty, Watkins finished her secondary schooling and attended Kyoto University where she was in an English-language program. She graduated and worked at a U.S. Air Force base as a translator. In 1952, Watkins married a U.S. pilot and soon moved to the U.S.

The family's survival as refugees was the subject of her books, So Far from the Bamboo Grove (1986), Tales from the Bamboo Grove (1992) and My Brother, My Sister, and I (1994). She won several awards, including the Parents' Choice Award in 1986 and Judy Lopez Memorial Medal in 1995.

Watkins made hundreds of school visits, speaking to thousands of children about being a mischievous child, about the value of being true to one's best self, and the importance of peace.  She wrote personal answers to many hundreds of children, expressing her belief in each as a strong, good person.


'Book Shortage Threat Level': Elevated at Rakestraw Books 

Rakestraw Books, Danville, Calif., shared its Book Shortage Threat Level chart on Facebook, posting: "Current Book Shortage Level here at Rakestraw Books is 'ELEVATED.' We are here recommending (and selling!) great books for everyone on your Christmas list today until at least 3 p.m. Come on down!"

Cool Idea of the Day: Blacksburg Books 

Blacksburg Books, Blacksburg, Va., shared a great idea one of its patrons came up with: "We had a customer donate a series of books today that he loves and that 'got him back into reading.' He told us that if someone buys the first book and loves it, he'd like to purchase the second book in the series for them. This is why we love you guys."

Personnel Changes at Little, Brown

Lauren Ortiz has been promoted to publicist at Little, Brown. She joined the company as an associate publicist in September 2020.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Tamron Hall, Carla Hall on the View

The View repeat: Pete Buttigieg, author of Trust: America's Best Chance (Liveright, $23.95, 9781529356328).

Late Night with Seth Meyers repeat: Joe Pera, author of A Bathroom Book for People Not Pooping or Peeing but Using the Bathroom as an Escape (Forge Books, $15.99, 9781250782694).

The View repeat: Tamron Hall, author of As the Wicked Watch: The First Jordan Manning Novel (Morrow, $27.99, 9780063037038).

Also on the View: Carla Hall, author of Carla and the Christmas Cornbread (Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster, $17.99, 9781534494695).

TV: The Time Traveler's Wife

"If anyone was going to adapt Audrey Niffenegger's bestselling 2003 novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, it makes sense it would be Steven Moffat--the man who, alongside Russell T. Davies, helped reinvigorate the Doctor Who franchise and get a new generation obsessed with time travel," Entertainment Weekly reported in a q&a with Moffat.

Although the novel has been adapted to the screen before, as a 2009 film starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana, in the new series for HBO, Moffat "is trying to honor the book he fell in love with so much that he even loosely based a Doctor Who episode, 'The Girl in the Fireplace,' on it," EW noted.

"I read the book and loved it," Moffat recalled. "It wasn't long after it came out. I remember saying to Russell who was running Doctor Who at the time, 'We should do a Doctor Who story like that.' And so, I did, which was 'The Girl in the Fireplace.' But all I'd done in Doctor Who was use the wonderful, fantastical element of an out-of-sequence relationship. That's not really doing The Time Traveler's Wife; that's running with one of the ideas from it. In terms of the film, by the time I had read the book, the film rights were gone. At that stage, I wasn't in the position to be the person who wrote it. Although, I remember thinking about it back then, and my immediate instinct was a TV show. A film is too short. If you know the book, it rambles a bit because it's not a jeopardy-driven, plot-driven piece. It's a prose poem about love, longing, and loss. It doesn't shrink well into the three-act structure of a conventional movie. If you reduce it to what happens, you've boiled away everything that's interesting about it.

"We did chase it. When I was coming off Doctor Who back in the day, three or four years ago, my co-exec on that said, 'I've been looking into the rights for The Time Traveler's Wife, and I know where they are and I think we could get them.' And I was very interested."

Books & Authors

Awards: Hugo Winners

The winners of the 2021 Hugo Awards, Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book and Astounding Award for Best New Writer were announced on Saturday at the 79th WorldCon--called DisCon III--in Washington, D.C.:

Best Novel: Network Effect by Martha Wells (Tordotcom)
Best Novella: "The Empress of Salt and Fortune" by Nghi Vo (Tordotcom)
Best Novelette: "Two Truths and a Lie" by Sarah Pinsker (
Best Short Story: "Metal Like Blood in the Dark" by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine, September/October 2020)
Best Series: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells (Tordotcom)
Best Related Work: Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley (FSG)
Best Graphic Story or Comic: Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, written by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings (Abrams)
Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book: A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher (Argyll Productions)
Astounding Award for Best New Writer: Emily Tesh
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: The Old Guard, written by Greg Rucka, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Netflix/Skydance Media)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: The Good Place: "Whenever You're Ready," written and directed by Michael Schur (Fremulon/3 Arts Entertainment/Universal Television)
Best Editor, Short Form: Ellen Datlow
Best Editor, Long Form: Diana M. Pho
Best Professional Artist: Rovina Cai
Best Semiprozine: FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction
Best Fanzine: nerds of a feather, flock together
Best Fancast: The Coode Street Podcast
Best Fan Writer: Elsa Sjunneso
Best Fan Artist: Sara Felix
Best Video Game: Hades

Book Review

Review: City of Incurable Women

City of Incurable Women by Maud Casey (Bellevue Literary Press, $16.99 paperback, 128p., 9781942658863, February 22, 2022)

At just 128 pages, Maud Casey's compelling City of Incurable Women--ostensibly a historical novel featuring 19th-century French women institutionalized with diagnoses of hysteria--might invite an expeditious single-sitting read. That sparseness obscures its intricate density: hardly straightforward narrative, City of Incurable Women is a fascinating, multi-layered interaction between Casey's pithy words on the page and history's virtual elision of the titular "incurable women." Readers may well want side-by-side access to sources of additional information for a more satisfying, enhanced experience.  

In 19th-century Paris, the Salpêtrière hospital was the domain of Jean-Martin Charcot, often called "The Father of Neurology." Casey opens her first chapter with a Charcot quote, almost as a warning epigraph: "The great asylum... contains a population of over 5,000 people, including a great number called incurables.... In other words, we are in possession of a kind of living pathological museum, the resources of which are considerable." Charcot's "Tuesday Lessons," a weekly public neurological demonstration displaying actual patients, were famed events. Four of Charcot's "best girls" take space here by name: "delicious" Augustine, committed at 15; stigmatic Louise, who bled every Friday; abandoned and abused Geneviève, who cut off her own left nipple; and "queen" Blanche, whose "death of [her] diagnosis" mysteriously (or not) coincided with Charcot's own passing.

These best girls garnered special treatment, "lifted up out of the crowd and slipped between clean sheets in a private room where there are windows to open and close, and quiet to hear their thoughts." Everyone else constituted "the unbest," neglected as "the left-behind crowd, a jumble of limbs, a tangle of unwashed hair, the smell of dirt in the creases of the backs of knees, the damp rust smell of blood when we bleed, though some of us never begin."

As if insisting on solidarity, Casey efficaciously adapts her vocabulary to "we," "you," "I," adamantly claiming humanity for silenced voices. "The doctors' stories have endings," Geneviève shrewdly comments, "My stories never finish," nor can they ever be complete since these stories exist only as other people's observations, research, records--and predominantly filtered through a limited, centuries-old male gaze. Casey points in her "Notes and Credits" to "inventions" and "rough translation," from which she persuasively resurrects Charcot's "incurable women": "In the before, we were daughters, daughters of all sorts of people who themselves were the sons and daughters of all sorts of people, and so on. Sometimes an I breaks free." With acute empathy, Casey is here as witness and scribe. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: Maud Casey masterfully magnifies the stories of "incurable" women in Paris's 19th-century Salpêtrière hospital.

The Bestsellers

Top 10 Book Club Picks of 2021

The top 10 book club picks of 2021, based on votes from book club readers in more than 48,000 book clubs registered at

1. The Four Winds: A Novel by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's Press)
2. The Vanishing Half: A Novel by Brit Bennett (Riverhead)
3. Anxious People: A Novel by Fredrik Backman (Washington Square Press)
4. American Dirt: A Novel by Jeanine Cummins (Flatiron)
5. The Guest List: A Novel by Lucy Foley (Morrow)
6. The Midnight Library: A Novel by Matt Haig (Viking)
7. The Last Thing He Told Me: A Novel by Laura Dave (Simon & Schuster)
8. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (Tor)
9. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (Celadon)
10. The Giver of Stars: A Novel by Jojo Moyes (Penguin Books)

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