Shelf Awareness for Monday, January 3, 2022

 Kokila: Everything We Never Had by Randy Ribay

Nancy Paulsen Books: Sync by Ellen Hopkins

Running Press Adult: Cat People by Hannah Hillam

Beaming Books: Must-Have Autumn Reads for Your Shelf!

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

Editors' Note


AAP: November Sales Up 8.3%; Trade Up 5.7%

Total net book sales in November in the U.S. rose 8.3%, to $1.25 billion, compared to November 2020, representing sales of 1,369 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers. November 2020 was the seventh full month reflecting lockdowns and other measures taken in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. For the year to date, total net sales rose 13.1%, to $14.3 billion.

Trade sales in November rose 5.7%, to $990.4 million. Trade sales of printed books were generally strong in November: hardcovers were down 1.5%, to $455.1 million, paperbacks jumped 8.9%, to $277 million, mass market skyrocketed 56.1%, to $22.8 million, and board books were up 7.3%, to $23 million. E-book sales rose 5.6%, to $91.5 million.

Sales by category in November 2021 compared to November 2020:

Harpervia: Only Here, Only Now by Tom Newlands

Indie Booksellers Celebrate #HappyNew Year

Newtonville Books

Independent booksellers across the U.S. took to social media over the New Year's weekend to express gratitude to customers for their support in 2021 and hopes for a brighter 2022. Here's a sampling:

Newtonville Books, Newton, Mass.: "And 2021 is a wrap! Celebrate a safe and happy New Year, and we'll see you next year!"

Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Mich.: "We close early at 5 p.m. (closed tomorrow, too) to gather all our strength and magical abilities to conjure a better year ahead. BUT! 2021, with all its difficulties, was so much better than it might have been because of you. So, we thank you for your continuous support and good cheer in the face of hardship, while simultaneously conjuring midnight magic for a brighter and safer year ahead. May 2022 not be 2020 Part Two."

Quimby's Bookstore, New York, N.Y.: "2021 was the best year yet for the store. Gracie and I want to thank you all for the incredible support and love you have given us this first five years of business. Here's to 2022. Things are gonna get better, folks. They just have to."

Rofhiwa Book Café, Durham, N.C.: "What a year it's been for Rofhiwa and for us; inside a dream that keeps expanding and challenging us to be more human. More vulnerable and more alive to the shifting of fortunes and the turning of tides. Thank you for being with us on this journey, for holding us this far. We have been given in abundance; we are inspired to continue to probe what can be made with these gifts."

Portkey Books, Safety Harbor, Fla.: "Portkey Books grew quite a bit in 2021! We went from weekly pop-up to full time storefront. Thank you so much for your support and company on this journey. We are so very grateful and we can't wait to spend 2022 with you. Happy New Year!"

Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, Minn.: "As we say goodbye to 2021, we are grateful that you've helped Excelsior Bay Books survive a turbulent time. It has been 2 years since we bought this venerable Excelsior institution. In addition to fostering a sense of community, we are committed to providing friendly service, conversation, recommendations, and (of course) the bookstore poodle! Thank you for opting to support a local economy and, in particular, this local independent bookseller. We love the bookstore and we're thrilled that you love it, too!"

MahoganyBooks, Washington, D.C.: "This year was beyond epic... because of YOU! We're very clear. We could be the dopest bookstore on the planet, but if customers don't shop, share posts, tell friends, send up prayers and continue to support, we wouldn't exist the way we do. In 2021, we stand in gratitude for an overwhelming number of blessings."

Charis Books and More

Charis Books and More/Charis Circle, Decatur, Ga.: "As we head towards the end of 2021, we are grateful for the community of feminists close to home and around the world who make Charis a thriving space. Our Charis Books and Charis Circle staff and Circle board thank you for being a part of our collective work to build the feminist future!"

Harper's Books, Lebanon, Tenn.: "2021. We made it through. I want to take this opportunity as we end this year to thank every one of you.... The 2021 Holiday season has been good to us as well. Business is trending in the right direction so we should be around for a while longer. I love my bookstore, and I love my customers. I hope you all have a happy and safe new year."

Itty Bitty Bookstore, Madison, Wis.: "2021 was filled with more ups and downs than I, or any of us, would have liked within one year. BUT we made it! We are here, we have loved ones, friends and pets to love on this new year. This year I laughed and I cried in cycles! But I am grateful for all of it and for all of the amazing people who entered my life this year!... So to that Goodbye 2021! You were tough and rough but I am thankful for all you taught me!"

Reads & Company, Phoenixville, Pa.: "THANK YOU for supporting us through thick and thin, good times and bad. Because of you, we had a record-breaking year--and with your continued help, Reads will be here for years to come, trying our best to add comfort and joy to this community we all love. The New Year can't get here fast enough. Stay Safe, Stay Strong, and Read Books That Make You Feel Alive."

Harvey's Tales

Harvey's Tales, Geneva, Ill.: "From our team to all of you, we wish you a Happy, Healthy and Well Read New Year! We thank you for finding us, shopping with us and telling your friends about us in 2021, making sure we would be here in 2022 with all your favorite books!"

Sea Howl Bookshop, Orleans, Mass.: "Happy New Year and THANK YOU for an amazing year! We are full of gratitude for every single one of our customers who made the choice to shop locally with us. Your purchases keep us here, but your presence is what makes this place special. We're grateful for every friendly smile (even behind a mask), every engaging conversation and riveting story, every thoughtful gift for our new arrival Hazel (oh the beautiful, tiny sweaters!), every kind gesture and moment of connection. Books clearly bring people together and we are so happy to be a part of that! Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2022!"

Colorado Fires: Bookstores Close Temporarily, Helping Those Affected

Driven by 100-mph winds, a devastating wildfire swept through Boulder County, Colo., northwest of Denver, late last week, burning more than 6,000 acres and close to 1,000 homes. As of Saturday night, three people were reported missing and the fire was 62% contained, per KDVR.

The Read Queen Bookstore and Cafe, a new and used bookstore in Lafayette, Colo., that opened its doors in 2020, was unharmed, but the store closed early on December 30 to allow staff members to pack evacuation bags if needed. All staff members are safe, and the store is helping a kids' lit book drive organized by writer Malia Maunakea and her son's Boy Scout troop. 

Customers and community members looking to contribute can purchase children's and YA books through the store and ask that they be held for Maunakea. The Boy Scout troop, Louisville Troop 69, will then collect the books and deliver them to impacted families in the area.

The FlatIron Crossing shopping center in Bloomfield, Colo., which contains an Amazon Store and a 2nd & Charles store, was temporarily closed because of the fire but has since reopened.

Tattered Cover Book Store, well out of harm's way in Denver, wrote on Facebook that the team's hearts "are once again broken as we look on helplessly at the homes of our loved ones, co-workers, friends, and families burn in the Marshall fire," and shared a list of resources explaining how to help those affected by the fire.

International Update: Crowdfunder for London's New Beacon Books, Bookish New Year's Honors

London's New Beacon Books, the U.K.'s first specialist Black bookshop, has been saved from closing its physical store after a dramatic crowdfunding effort that has thus far raised more than £73,000 (almost $100,000) in a brief period. The Guardian reported that the bookstore, which opened in 1966 "and staved off the threat of closure as recently as 2016," announced last month that financial pressures would force the business to shutter its Finsbury Park location and move online only.

"The New Beacon bookshop exists as far more than just a bookshop. It is an invaluable institution of black history that is needed now more than ever," said Francesca Gilbert, a campaigner who helped to organize the crowdfunder. "It is a crucial cultural space rich with the affirmation, validation and celebration of black literature, culture and art that must be preserved.... As a young mixed-race Caribbean woman of color, I never feel more affirmed and held than I do when I spend an afternoon at the New Beacon bookshop surrounded by the work of writers who uplift black voices and stories. It is a second home, a heartbeat and a legacy that we must protect now and in the years to come."

In a statement posted on the bookseller's website, Michael La Rose, director of New Beacon Books, wrote, in part: "New Beacon Books is hugely encouraged by the community's response to its needs and willingness to donate funds to enable New Beacon Books to survive and grow. The Crowdfunding appeal initiated by Francesca Gilbert and other young supporters who grew up with New Beacon Books is just amazing and New Beacon Books is grateful to them for that."

Future goals mentioned included using some of the funds to meet the company's immediate needs, "establishing a New Beacon Development Fund (NBDF) to receive monies raised with a governing body comprised mainly of those young supporters"; and potentially "acquiring alternative premises, large enough to accommodate publishing, bookselling, writers in residence, public programs and community events consonant with the aims and mission of New Beacon Books, and adapted appropriately to engage with current challenges facing Black Britain and the society generally."


Peter Usborne

Publisher Peter Usborne, founder and managing director of Usborne Publishing; novelist Anthony Horowitz; and food writer Claudia Roden were awarded CBEs in the U.K.'s New Year's Honors list, with other awards going to authors Adele Parks (MBE), Onjali Q. Raúf (MBE) and Ann Cleeves (OBE), the Bookseller reported. 

Usborne, whose CBE came a decade after his MBE in 2011, said: "This second award, like the first MBE several years ago, is really not for me, but for my marvelous staff. If I could cut it into 280 pieces and give it out to all of them, I would. They've given me the best life and the best company I could imagine. Thanks to all of them for everything."

Other book trade honors recipients this year included author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers (MBE), The Reading Agency CEO Karen Napier (MBE) and Bradford Literature Festival co-founders Syima Aslam and Irna Qureshi (MBEs). The Bookseller noted that MBEs also went to Dr. Robert Perks, lead curator of oral history and director of national life stories at the British Library; and David Smith, chair of the Community Managed Libraries Network.


New Year's wishes from the American Book Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands: "It has been another difficult year for many people, but that doesn't mean we have to lose hope and can't look forward to a new year that is better than the one before. We at the ABC share this wish with all of you and hope from the bottom of our hearts that this will become a reality in 2022. Happy New Year to all our friends, family and especially you, our loyal customers, who helped us through these trying times." --Robert Gray

Obituary Note: Joan Didion

Joan Didion
(photo: Brigitte Lacombe)

Joan Didion, author of fiction, commentary and memoir that for many defined "the fraying edges of postwar American life," as the New York Times put it, died on December 23 at age 87.

Shelley Wanger, her editor at Knopf, said, "Joan was a brilliant observer and listener, a wise and subtle teller of truths about our present and future. She was fierce and fearless in her reporting. Her writing is timeless and powerful, and her prose has influenced millions.

"She was a close and longtime friend, loved by many, including those of us who worked with her at Knopf. We will mourn her death but celebrate her life, knowing that her work will inspire generations of readers and writers to come."

She began her career working as an editor and writer at Vogue and contributing pieces to a variety of magazines. In 1963, she published her first novel, Run River.

Didion's first volume of essays, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, was published in 1968, and her second, The White Album, was published in 1979. Her nonfiction works include Salvador (1983), Miami (1987), After Henry (1992), Political Fictions (2001), Where I Was From (2003), We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live (2006), South and West (2017), and Let Me Tell You What I Mean (2021).

Didion and her husband, writer John Gregory Dunne, collaborated on a variety of projects, including screenplays for The Panic in Needle Park (1971), Play It As It Lays (1972), which was Didion's second novel, A Star Is Born (1976), and Up Close and Personal (1996). Didion's other novels include A Book of Common Prayer (1977), Democracy (1984), and The Last Thing He Wanted (1996).

Her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, written after Dunne's death, won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2005. Less than two years after Dunne's death, their daughter, Quintana Roo, died of acute pancreatitis, which Didion wrote about in her 2011 memoir, Blue Nights.

In 2005, Didion was awarded the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal in Belles Letters and Criticism. In 2007, she was awarded the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. A portion of National Book Foundation citation read: "An incisive observer of American politics and culture for more than 45 years, Didion's distinctive blend of spare, elegant prose and fierce intelligence has earned her books a place in the canon of American literature as well as the admiration of generations of writers and journalists." In 2013, she was awarded a National Medal of Arts and Humanities by President Barack Obama, as well as the PEN Center USA's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Joan Didion Remembered: 'We're All Her Next of Kin'

Joan Didion
Mitchell Kaplan

Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books in South Florida, remembers Joan Didion:

The loss of Joan Didion hits hard.

As a young bookseller, one day I received a call at our old Gables store and the soft voice on the other end asked, "Is this Mitchell Kaplan? I'm Joan Didion." I probably just turned 30 and was stunned that Joan Didion would be calling me. As it happened, Joan was doing research on her Miami book and a friend of hers suggested that I could show her around and give her some insight into what was happening down here. This was the Miami of Year of Dangerous Days, the Miami before South Beach was cool, before Art Deco was a thing; it was the Miami of riots, refugees and cocaine, although those in the know knew that Miami was changing. Someone as attuned to what was happening in our culture as Joan, of course, wanted to see Miami for herself.

So, we met at the bookstore and I took her on a tour of my Miami. We went to the newly awakened Miami Beach, passing the scrub islands in Biscayne Bay that were recently wrapped by Christo, pointing out those decaying hotels on Ocean Drive, explaining the social history of the old, the Cuban diaspora, the dilapidated, crime infested area south of 5th street, showing her the faded glamour of the Fontainebleau and the other hotels north of 41st Street. (When we passed the Doral Hotel, she exclaimed, "So, that's what it looks like. I used it in Democracy, but I've never seen it until now.") I shared with her as much as I knew of the political winds blowing through South Florida and suggested certain people she should meet. She was laser focused and not one for small talk--I now realize the extent of her shyness--so, of course, I kept talking, probably too much. I was one of many she connected with, but even now, almost 35 years later, I can relive that drive through Miami with Joan as if it were yesterday.

When Miami came out, as you might imagine, she spent lots of time here, and then she kept coming for a number of years to see the city play out its story. On one trip she came with her husband and film partner, John Gregory Dunne. One of John's books was just published and the two of them came to our original, small store on the corner and spent some time browsing. The store was crammed with books, each one spine out on the shelf, including John's (I was so happy that we had it in stock), but after they left, I noticed that the only face out book in the entire store was John's and that it was clearly the work of Joan.

Over the next three decades, Joan would come to Miami with each book until she no longer traveled. We saw each other infrequently after that, but her sensibility, her lightness of being stayed with me and the tragedies that found her later made me, like so many others, very sad.

In the obits I've been reading, a line in one of them left me empty; it included something like "she had no direct next of kin." But, really, we, her readers, are all her "next of kin."

Here's a quote from her--there are so many--taken from a commencement address that I really like:

"I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave's a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that's what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it."


Bookshop Marriage Proposal: Underground Books

Underground Books, Carrollton, Ga., shared a photo of a special moment at the bookshop recently: "CONGRATULATIONS to Preston and Sydney, who became engaged in the bookshop just moments ago! We're so honored to have been the setting for this romantic proposal, and we have to say, in our book, these two are certainly off to an auspicious start! Congratulations and best wishes on this new and exciting chapter in your life together, Preston and Sydney, from all your friends at Underground Books!"

Harriett's Bookshop Owner Named One of Philadelphia's '2021 Citizens of the Year'

The Philadelphia Citizen named Jeannine Cook, owner of Harriett's Bookshop, one of the city's 2021 Citizens of the Year, noting: "Everything about Cook is baller: She founded Harriett's Bookshop in Fishtown with its focus on writers who are women of color; she employs student interns, mentoring them in the ways of entrepreneurship and activism; she hands out free books; she delivers books on horseback; and this year, she added a second, 'sister,' location. She has revived--and changed--what a bookshop can and should be, and we cannot wait to see what she does in 2022."

Cook posted on Facebook: "Aye! Next we gotta get this list of folks in one room working on some collective solutions. Thanks to the Citizen for the shout out."

Financial Times Readers' 'Most Brilliant Bookshops'

The Financial Times has listed 37 "most brilliant bookshops in the world," as chosen by a variety of readers who responded to the paper's list of "the world's most beautiful bookshops," chosen by FT writers and published in October.

The new list includes these stores in the U.S.: City Lights, San Francisco, Calif.; Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash.; Faulkner House Books, New Orleans, La.; the Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, Calif.; McNally Jackson, New York City; Moe's Books, Berkeley, Calif.; Tattered Cover, Denver, Colo.; and Three Lives & Company, New York City.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Stacey Abrams on Late Night with Seth Meyers

CBS This Morning: Jacqueline Woodson, author of The Year We Learned to Fly (Nancy Paulsen Books, $18.99, 9780399545535).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Stacey Abrams, author of Stacey's Extraordinary Words (Balzer + Bray, $19.99, 9780063209473).

Daily Show repeat: Huma Abedin, author of Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds (Scribner, $30, 9781501194801).

George R.R. Martin Previews HBO's House of the Dragon

George R.R. Martin has seen a rough cut of the first episode of House of the Dragon, the Game of Thrones prequel series based on his novel Fire & Blood. The series premieres on HBO and HBO Max this year. 

On his blog, Martin gave an early thumbs up to the project, writing: "I am anticipating House of the Dragon pretty eagerly myself, for what it's worth.  Okay, I am hardly objective. And I know a lot of what you will be seeing. (I, um, wrote the book). Also... mum's the word now, don't tell anyone... I've seen a rough cut of the first episode. And loved it. It's dark, it's powerful, it's visceral... just the way I like my epic fantasy."

He also praised showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik, saying that they "have done an amazing job, and the cast... just as with Game of Thrones, most viewers will only have heard of a few of the actors, but I think you are going to fall in love with a lot of them. (Only to have your heart broken later when... but no, that would be telling). I think the Targaryens are in very good hands. Anticipate away. I do not think you will be disappointed. Current Mood: excited excited."

Books & Authors

Awards: PEN Translates Winners

Books from 15 countries and 13 languages are among the 18 winners of English PEN's translation awards, which include--for the first time--titles from Djibouti and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as work translated from the Mè'phàà and the Char-Chapori dialect of Assamese and Bengali. Among the awarded titles are the first collection of Miyah poetry in translation and the first children's book in Hungarian to feature LGBTQ+ protagonists. Books are selected based on "outstanding literary quality, the strength of the publishing project, and their contribution to U.K. bibliodiversity." 

"Not only are these 18 books exceptional works of literature, but they also attest to the current vitality of translated literature publishing," said Will Forrester, translation and international manager at English PEN. "This is the most publishers ever awarded in a single PEN Translates round. Their books, united as works of outstanding writing and translating, span extraordinary differences in form, theme, geography and style: we have protest poetry, the political history of football, gritty short fiction, poetry from an Indigenous language of the Americas, and all-embracing children's literature, all sitting side by side. This is a thrilling set of books, and English PEN is thrilled to be helping them get to U.K. readers."

So Mayer, co-chair of the English PEN translation advisory group, commented: "The panel was thrilled to see the range of submissions, and especially to see increasing numbers of independent publishers developing translation lists, enabling us to reward the literary ambition and radical interventions of writers, translators and editors who are strengthening and expanding contemporary literature."

Attainment: New Titles Out Tomorrow

Selected new titles appearing tomorrow, January 4:

Midlife Bites: Anyone Else Falling Apart, Or Is It Just Me? by Jen Mann (Ballantine, $17, 9780593158517) contains essays about being a middle-aged woman.

Insurrection: Rebellion, Civil Rights, and the Paradoxical State of Black Citizenship by Hawa Allan (Norton, $26.95, 9781324003038) explores the 1807 Insurrection Act and its racially biased application throughout U.S. history.

In Every Generation by Kendare Blake (Hyperion, $18.99, 9781368075022) is the beginning of a new series in the Buffyverse in which a new generation's slayer is born.

The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson, illus. by Rafael López (Penguin/Paulsen, $18.99, 9780399545535), is the second picture book by the multi-award-winning duo.

Prosecution of an Insurrection: The Complete Trial Transcript of the Second Impeachment of Donald Trump by The House Impeachment Managers and the House Defense (The New Press, $17.99, 9781620977156).

Book Review

Review: Xstabeth

Xstabeth by David Keenan (Europa Editions, $20 hardcover, 128p., 9781609457341, February 8, 2022)

David Keenan's Xstabeth is a daring experiment that questions what fiction can and should be. Xstabeth seems designed for readers looking for something unusual and hard to define, though its restless approach to narrative is likely to be polarizing. The plot revolves around a trio of characters: Aneliya, her hapless musician father and her father's more successful--and much more debauched--musician friend. Aneliya is caught between her father's naïveté and his best friend's cynicism, each representing distinct poles of artistic and commercial ambition. The novel takes a turn for the metaphysical when her father's music conjures a mysterious presence known as Xstabeth.

Xstabeth is not shy about its eccentricities. Readers will know what they're in for as soon as they get a look at Keenan's stutter-step prose: "Nick Drake said fame was like a fruit tree. He said. Who needs it. That made no sense to me. Surely everyone could use a fruit tree. Free fruit. It's not exactly hard cash. But still." As that passage indicates, Keenan's (For the Good Times; This Is Memorial Device) stylistic experimentation goes hand in hand with the novel's playfulness and humor, which is particularly apparent in self-deprecating interstitial chapters where invented scholars supposedly dissect Xstabeth in search of its true meaning. The chapters often seem to mock the very idea that the novel has a clear purpose or message to convey, and instead frequently go off on bizarre tangents exploring the nature of symbolism or the relationship between memory and mRNA:

"So the protein-encoding mRNA goes to work on the nucleus of the neuron, which we can compare to a great artist so in love with the world and all he sees and who is haunted by a particular image, a single image that he spends his entire career, gives his life and his health to rendering, perfectly, just once."

Despite the novel's enjoyably mischievous aspects, Xstabeth is not simply an exercise in metatextual irony. There is something heartbreakingly sympathetic in Aneliya's affection for her father, a man who seems almost too pure and earnest for this world. Under her father's nose, Aneliya carries out an affair with his best friend that has all the hallmarks of a self-destructive relationship. Events become much stranger from there, but the relationships among the trio provide solid enough grounding for an accessible coming-of-age story undergirding the experimentation. Xstabeth is a surprisingly sincere novel that pushes the boundaries of fiction. --Hank Stephenson, the Sun magazine, manuscript reader

Shelf Talker: Xstabeth is a playful, experimental novel that twists its central coming-of-age story into delirious knots.

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