Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, December 21, 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


Boston's I AM Books Reopens in New Location

I AM Books has reopened in a new space in the North End in Boston, Mass. The store originally opened in 2015 but closed nearly a year ago because of the pandemic.

Co-founder Nicola Orichuia posted that "since announcing our plans earlier this year, there have been many exciting new initiatives, as well as a number of setbacks that delayed our opening date. But all of that is behind us now... the ideas, the passion, those never gave up, and... we are proud to open once again in the same neighborhood that has embraced us from the very start.

"As most businesses, we also have been impacted by problems in the supply chain, and opening in the last part of the year made some things even trickier. So the bookstore is not yet running at full speed, but it was important for us to open the doors as soon as we had received all our permits, because we wanted to return all the love and support you have shown throughout these difficult times.

"Our online operations will continue as before and become even stronger, reaching more and more people across the country. Because of the new store opening, some shipments have been delayed, but we are working hard to get those fulfilled as soon as possible."

I AM Books is an Italian-American bookstore and cultural hub in the heavily Italian-American North End neighborhood. It carries mostly fiction and nonfiction by Italian and Italian American authors, along with cookbooks, travel, history and sports books, as well as toys and gifts. Most of its titles are in English, although some are in Italian.

Harper: Our Kind of Game by Johanna Copeland

Seattle's Open Books: A Poem Emporium Moving

Open Books' new home

After 25 years in its current location, Open Books: A Poem Emporium, Seattle, Wash., is moving into a new site, in the Good Arts Building in Pioneer Square, which the store described in an e-mail to customers as "one of Seattle's most accessible, beautiful, and historical neighborhoods, where we believe our beloved bookstore will not only persevere but thrive."

The historic brick storefront with "large, street-facing windows is a charming, warm, and inviting space sure to delight old friends and new passersby alike," Open Books continued. "The wider layout of the store will allow readers to roam between bookcases with ease, and a separate parlor space will enable intimate gatherings of poets for classes, workshops, craft talks, reading groups, submitting parties, individual studio time, and more. Add to all of this the close proximity of the light rail and a wonderful neighboring coffee shop and, well, we're still pinching ourselves to see if it's real."

Because the store has struggled during the pandemic "without event sales and with restricted in-store shopping," it's "not in a financial position to shoulder the myriad expenses of a move and the outfitting of an entirely new shop. We are calling upon our local community and lovers of literature far and wide to support us in taking this exciting next step."

Open Books hopes to raise $50,000 "to secure a long-term and sustainable future... Every gift will go toward building a new home and a new future for Open Books. Our poem emporium has been around for more than 25 years. And we'd love to be around for 25 more." As of yesterday, the store had raised more than $21,000 toward the $50,000 goal.

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

Obituary Note: Eve Babitz

Eve Babitz, "the voluptuous bard of Los Angeles, who wrote with sharp wit and a connoisseur's enthusiasm of its outsize characters and sensuous pleasures--from taquitos to LSD--and found critical acclaim and a new audience late in life," died December 17, the New York Times reported. She was 78. Erica Spellman Silverman, her longtime agent, said Babitz "was seen as too sexy and too lightweight to be serious. But from the beginning I found her work startling and honest."

Babitz was 30 when her first book, Eve's Hollywood, "a memoir in shardlike essays, was published in 1974," the Times noted, adding: "In the dedication, which runs to many pages, she thanked her orthodontist, her gynecologist, the Chateau Marmont, freeways, sour cream (Ms. Babitz was an unsung food writer, a Colette of the Sunset Strip), Rainier ale (an aid to losing her virginity) and 'the Didion-Dunnes, for having to be what I'm not.' " 

She would go on to write five more books, including autobiographical novels like Sex and Rage (1979) and L.A. Woman (1982); essay collections like Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, the Flesh and L.A. (1977), as well as magazine articles. Although the books "sold modestly," the Times said that "the misadventures they recounted, delivered in Ms. Babitz's luxurious, undulating prose, were required reading for those who had a taste for deeply personal writing by female authors like her peers Nora Ephron, Cynthia Heimel and Laurie Colwin."

Spellman Silverman called her F. Scott Fitzbabitz because "she was the voice of her age," adding that she phoned her author every Monday morning to make sure she was awake and writing. Babitz got sober in the 1980s and published her sixth book, the essay collection Black Swans, in 1993.

Babitz became a recluse after an accident in 1997, but during the past decade she has had a revival, "with a generation of young book influencers like Emma Roberts, Instagram's Belletrist, trumpeting her work, reissued by several publishing houses starting in 2015," the Times wrote. Babitz is now published in 12 countries and has made 10 times her earnings from the first go-round, according to Spellman Silverman.

In 2010, Lili Anolik began pursuing Babitz, a quest that became a Vanity Fair article in 2014, and then a personal biography, Hollywood's Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A. (2019). NYRB Classics published I Used to Be Charming, a collection of previously printed essays and one new work, in 2019.

"She was happy and grateful that people were reading her and writing about her," Spellman Silverman said. "Her revival made the last years of her life possible. She was writing about women in a way that doesn't exist anymore. A new generation is responding to her abandon and her grit. I think women no longer have that kind of freedom. Eve never saw herself as a victim. She was a free spirit and living her life the way want she wanted to."

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


Cool Idea of the Day: 'Put a Book on Every Bed'

In her syndicated advice column Ask Amy (via the Washington Post), Amy Dickinson wrote that every year at Christmastime, she asks readers to put "A Book on Every Bed," noting: "I do so in memory of my mother, Jane, whose weekly trips to our town's library always yielded armloads of books. In our household, we went without some things that other families had, but we always had books in abundance." Dickinson credited the idea of putting books on beds at Christmastime to historian David McCullough.

"Working with my local literacy partner Children's Reading Connection, this campaign has grown to include schools, libraries and booksellers, who have donated scores of books to families that might not have access to them," she added. "This year, I am thrilled that author Jacqueline Woodson agreed to share a very personal literacy story."

Dickinson also wrote that "to support independent bookstores, which have had to pivot during the pandemic (like all of us), I'm presenting some recently published books in various categories, selected by some of my favorite booksellers," including Jill Yeomans, owner of White Whale Bookstore, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Lisa Swayze, general manager of Buffalo Street Books, Ithaca, N.Y.; and the bookselling staff of Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C.

Harper: Sandwich by Catherine Newman

Personnel Changes at Sourcebooks

At Sourcebooks:

Valerie Pierce has been promoted to senior director of marketing--retail marketing & creative services.

Heather Moore has been promoted to senior director of marketing--Sourcebooks Kids

Katia Herrera has been promoted to associate director of ecommerce--performance marketing.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Faith Jones on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Faith Jones, author of Sex Cult Nun: Breaking Away from the Children of God, a Wild, Radical Religious Cult (Morrow, $27.99, 9780062952455).

Kelly Clarkson Show repeat: Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa, authors of Woke Up This Morning: The Definitive Oral History of The Sopranos (Morrow, $30, 9780063090026).

Late Night with Seth Meyers repeat: Amor Towles, author of The Lincoln Highway: A Novel (Viking, $30, 9780735222359).

TV: Partner Track

Lena Ahn (Memoirs of a Geisha, Lie to Me) will play a recurring role in Partner Track, the Netflix drama series from creator Georgia Lee and based on Helen Wan's 2013 novel, Deadline reported. She joins a cast that includes Arden Cho, Bradley Gibson, Alexandra Turshen, Nolan Gerard Funk, Dominic Sherwood, Rob Heaps, Matthew Rauch, Desmond Chiam and Tehmina Sunny. The series is currently in production in New York.
Netflix gave Partner Track, produced by Jax Media, a 10-episode order in September. Lee and Sarah Goldfinger are serving as co-showrunners and exec producing with Kim Shumway, Jax Media's Tony Hernandez, and Kristen Campo.

Books & Authors

Awards: Canada's National Business Book Award

For the first time in the 36-year history of Canada's C$30,000 (about US$23,450) National Business Book Award, two titles were named winners: Stephen R. Bown for The Company: The Rise and Fall of the Hudson's Bay Empire, and former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney for Value(s): Building a Better World for All, Quill & Quire reported.

Jury chair Peter Mansbridge said that 2021 "proved to be a banner year for Canadian business writers and thinkers. Through the bold ideas presented in these exceptional published works, this year's finalists clearly demonstrate how Canada plays a leading role in navigating--and solving--an abundance of complex economic, social and scientific challenges facing our world."

Book Review

Review: The Stone World

The Stone World by Joel Agee (Melville House, $27.99 hardcover, 240p., 9781612199542, February 22, 2022)

Following his memoirs (Twelve Years; In the House of My Fear) and translations, Joel Agee's first novel, The Stone World, is a dreamy, haunting immersion in the mind of a child in a gravely serious adult world. The story spans mere months in the life of six-and-a-half-year-old Peter, who prefers to go by Pira, as his Mexican friends pronounce his name. (Pira wishes he was Mexican; he has learned that gringo is not a compliment.) This is a quietly profound study of boyhood, in some ways almost humdrum: Pira writes a poem, borrows a significant item from a parent and breaks it (and lies about it), falls out with a friend, learns about the world. But the backdrop is late-1940s Mexico, where Pira lives with his American mother and German communist "second father" (his biological father lives in New York), and they rub shoulders with a range of characters: American, Hungarian, Mexican, rich, poor, activists and organizers and artists, including Frida Kahlo.

Pira is prone to involved imaginings, including dreams but also waking visions, as when he lies on the cold stone floors of the family's small patio and feels himself sinking into another world. There is a literal fever dream as well (brought on by a serious allergic reaction), but even the half-sleep of the afternoon siesta can transport the boy--a very serious thinker--into realms of fantasy, where he decides that a nearby decaying bull's carcass is the famous bull that has just killed a beloved Spanish bullfighter. Through the eyes of this curious, philosophical, sensitive child, the whole world is fresh and new, colorful, beautiful and dangerous.

Joel Agee is the son of celebrated novelist James Agee, and Pira's life resembles his creator's, who likewise lived in Mexico with his mother and German stepfather in the late 1940s. The Stone World is concerned with relationships, interpersonal and political: Pira is friends with boys his own age, as well as his pet dog and parrot and the family's cherished maid, Zita. The politics of his parents and their friends (with their talk of parties--but not in the usual sense) are initially boring to young Pira, but real-life risks and even arrests bring the issues home to him: "He didn't understand, but there was an explanation."

In the hands of such a skilled and nuanced writer, this material glistens and tilts with both beauty and menace. Pira is captivating, and The Stone World is completely absorbing. Readers should clear their calendars until the final page has been turned, and then leave time for the contemplation this novel deserves. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Immediately following World War II, an intuitive boy from the U.S. in Mexico carefully observes his changing world in this scintillating work of literary fiction.

Deeper Understanding

Get Cozy: Highlighting Backlist Treasures

I doubt many book people watch Hallmark movies during the holidays. But that doesn't mean we're anti-holiday. My own version of binge-watching Hallmark Christmas movies was reading gobs of British novels, hopefully set at Christmastime, like Angela Thirkell's High Rising or Nancy Mitford's Christmas Pudding. I want to sit by the fire with my pile of dogs and read about quaint old houses with big fireplaces. This year, maybe more than ever, I want quirky village characters, a vicar, a local gossip, and a cranky cook. Luckily there are plenty of them.

I have never admitted this in public, but I love Mary Stewart. She got a bad rap being described as a romantic suspense writer. What even is that? It sounds like men on horses and swanning women. No, Mary Stewart is instead a great storyteller. Stewart writes stylish mysteries with clever dialog that are a little like Nancy Drew for grown-ups. Her books are set in lush locales, and she has a travel writer's gift for geographical description. As for romance, there is usually a plucky heroine who pairs up with someone, but this is a minor byproduct of some mutual sleuthing. Her books have all been rereleased by the Chicago Review Press as part of its Rediscovered Classics imprint, so they have more traditional fiction covers. These books are perfect for 30- or 40-somethings (or 20- or 60-, come to think of it) who want a cozy escape this winter. Airs Above Ground, set in the Austrian countryside, has one of the most heart pounding train scenes in literature, and This Rough Magic set on the Greek island of Corfu takes its title, its geography, and its themes from Shakespeare's Tempest. These are both good places to start. I promise you will remember this holiday season as one of your cheerfullest ever if you dig into Mary Stewart.

Then there's Angela Thirkell. She wrote some hilarious novels portraying a pretty nuanced version of English country life. What captivated Thirkell was conversation. She understood that our conversations reveal us. Thirkell will make you laugh, and she'll teach you exactly what your mother-in-law really means when she asks if you are staying over. These books are not nostalgic, but they are reassuring. Thirkell will remind you that no matter what else is happening you will still need to feed yourself and take some soup to your grumpy neighbor too. We all have to live together, and Thirkell pokes fun and espouses tolerance all at once. Remember when we knew how to do that? The new edition of High Rising, part of the classy Virago Press reissues catalog, is the right beginning. Her protagonist is a writer who writes "good bad novels." She describes her work as "second rate but as good as second rate gets" Autobiographical? Too much high literary can be wearying this time of year. Thirkell got that.

John Mortimer created Rumpole of the Bailey just for the Christmas season. He said he'd been to so many parties he needed cheering up. He'd been a member of the bar long enough by the time he started writing these charming books to know that even the worst criminals have redeeming points, and the best lawyers have their own little evil streaks. He could make you laugh about all of them. Horace Rumpole is one of the most beloved characters in modern literature. How long has it been since you've read one of these? The Penguin Reprints have friendly beautiful covers. Do your kids know about them? Then neither do your customers, and we need to change that fast because Horace Rumpole can probably save us. He's an ample lovable man. He swigs claret, quotes Wordsworth, goes to the theater, defends men accused of rape, and gets a little brokenhearted when a friend turns out to be an embezzler. He stands for all the right things, per Mortimer himself, "for our great legal principles--free speech, the idea that people are innocent until someone proves them guilty to the satisfaction of twelve ordinary members of a jury, and the proposition that the police should not invent more of the evidence than is absolutely necessary." The dialog is quick, and all the stories are good. This time of year, we can all use a little more Rumpole. --Ellen Stimson

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Soar High (Sons of the Survivalist Book 4) by Cherise Sinclair
2. Finding the American Dream by Eugene Gold
3. Align Your Empire by Burton P. Hughes
4. Dipped in Holly by Dana Isaly
5. Ignite by Melanie Harlow
6. A Not So Meet Cute by Meghan Quinn
7. Beyond Diversity by Rohit Bhargava and Jennifer Brown
8. The Sweetest Oblivion by Danielle Lori
9. Superbold by Fred Joyal
10. Velvet Devil by Nicole Fox

[Many thanks to!]

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