Shelf Awareness for Monday, February 7, 2022

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

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

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

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

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

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


Elaine Cho Joins Shelf Awareness

Elaine Cho

Welcome to Elaine Cho, who has joined the staff of Shelf Awareness as publishing assistant. She was formerly a bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, Wash., and has worked at ArtsWest and Seattle Music Partners. She also teaches and plays the flute and is a film critic for Mediaversity.

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Becky's Bookshelf, Logan, Utah, Sold for $1

Becky Jorgensen, the longtime owner of used bookstore Becky's Bookshelf in Logan, Utah, has sold the store to loyal customer Jeff Ballard for $1, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. Ballard took over the store in November and has renamed it Grandpa's Bookshelf.

After owning and operating the bookstore for more than 20 years, last September Jorgensen decided to retire from bookselling and close the store. She was struggling with chronic health issues, and the store was facing an impending rent increase. Although a customer named Alyssa Stephenson launched a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $2,000 for the store, Becky's Bookshelf was going to close.

In October, Ballard visited the store to stock up on books for one last time. While talking to Jorgensen, he casually said that "if it wasn't for the money, I would jump on this place in a flash." By that point, Jorgensen had told her husband she'd rather give away the store than close it down, and after a series of Facebook messages she and Ballard reached an agreement.

Ballard, a longtime elementary school teacher who recently retired, purchased the store for the upfront cost of $1 and will give a portion of the store's monthly profits to Jorgensen for the foreseeable future.

"She talked about how the rent was going up and how it was just not possible to make a living off of this store,” Ballard told the Tribune. "And I thought, "Well, I don't need to make a living. As long as it breaks even and I'm having fun, I'll be happy with it."

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

Andrews McMeel, Tapas Media Team Up for Graphic Novel Series

Andrews McMeel Publishing is partnering with Tapas Media, the mobile storytelling platform, to publish a graphic novel series featuring strong female and underrepresented characters. The first titles--adaptations of popular webcomic properties produced by Studio Tapas--will appear this coming fall in full-color paperback and e-book editions.

The series will make its debut with the following titles:

  • Unfamiliar by Haley Newsome (known online as LavenderTowne) features young witch Planchette, who discovers her house is haunted and, with the help of new friends, helps the ghosts find fulfillment.
  • DPS Only! by Xiao Tong Kong (Velinxi) is set in the world of e-sports, where a young woman overcomes self-doubt, societal expectations and an overprotective big brother to pursue her dream of becoming a competitive gamer.
  • The Witch's Throne by Cedric Caballes (WhataHero) is a take on an epic fantasy coming-of-age story, combining elements of action-adventure manga and RPGs.

AMP president and publisher Kirsty Melville said, "Tapas is unequivocally the leading digital publisher of webcomics and webnovels, and AMP, with our deep history working with the most talented creators in comics, is uniquely suited to be its book publishing partner."

Tapas senior director, publisher development, Alex R. Carr said, "To partner with Andrews McMeel Publishing is to align the next generation of Tapas creators with a catalog of household names and Hall of Fame talent. Tapas Media welcomes this opportunity for our storytellers to take the next leap in their careers and for their visions to engage new readers. It's a natural evolution for the resonant comics on our platform."

International Update: Hachette Livre Taking over Publisher Bragelonne, Canada's Massy Books Certified as Living Wage Employer

Lagardère subsidiary Hachette Livre is taking over French publisher Bragelonne and its subsidiary Bragelonne Games for an undisclosed sum, the Bookseller reported. It will be part of Hachette's illustrated book division, which is run by Isabelle Magnac.

Bragelonne was founded in 2000 and became France's "top imaginative literature publisher in France in less than 10 years," said Hachette, which took a 43% stake in the company in 2019.

Bragelonne's catalogue includes 4,000 titles and 600 authors. The Bookseller noted that last April, the publisher "became embroiled in the French book publishing sector's first MeToo scandal, when the online news website Mediapart reported that the publisher's co-founder and editorial director Stéphane Marsan had been accused by some 20 women of sexual gestures or remarks. He left the company in the summer and was succeeded by Bernard Chaussegros as chairman and Claire Renault Deslandes as publishing director."


Canadian bookseller Massy Books in Vancouver, B.C., has become the first bookstore in the province to be certified as a living wage employer by Living Wage for Families B.C., CBC News reported. The Indigenous-owned bookstore, dedicated to spotlighting underrepresented and local voices in B.C., is owned and operated by Patrica Massy, who is of mixed Cree, Métis and English descent.

Massy said she was inspired by an Edmonton, Alb., bookshop that had done the same: "A couple of weeks ago, we saw that our friends over at Glass Bookshop announced that they became a living wage employer. So after doing a little research... I decided to make the decision to commit to it, which also means committing to yearly increases [in employee wages] as well." She added that more than half of the bookstore's staff had already been making a living wage so she decided to commit to it fully.

The living wage for Metro Vancouver in 2021 is C$20.52 (about US$16.35) per hour, according to the organization--higher than B.C.'s minimum wage of C$15.20 (about US$12.10) per hour, CBC News wrote. 

"We are taking the health and wellness of our staff seriously," Massy observed. "We don't want to keep our staff imprisoned on minimum wage. We want people to thrive and prosper in the city."



The Samir Mansour bookshop in Gaza City, which was destroyed by Israeli air strikes last year, has been rebuilt, restocked and will reopen February 12 in a new space. The Guardian reported that the shop's destruction "prompted a campaign that raised $250,000 to help rebuild it, plus donations of 150,000 books.... Mansour is now preparing to reopen as both a bookshop and library, in a new location less than 100 meters from the original site."

The new building, which cost $340,000, needed to be gutted and remodeled, and Mansour spent $70,000 of his personal savings building wooden shelves, tiling and installing electrical supplies. The Guardian noted that all funds generated by the campaign, which was "launched by human rights lawyers Mahvish Rukhsana and Clive Stafford Smith, have gone towards the project, with the blockade imposed on Gaza sending costs spiraling."

"I was so happy when I saw the first shipment had arrived.... I felt like a reborn phoenix," said Mansour. "I did not expect all this support. But it was something beyond imagination and something more than wonderful.... I think the community will support the idea of the new bookstore, especially as it is close to the same place that was destroyed. We are in a very bad economic situation. So we are hoping for the best and we will see what happens in the future." --Robert Gray

Obituary Note: Jason Epstein

Jason Epstein

Jason Epstein, the innovative publisher and entrepreneur, died on February 4. He was 93.

Epstein's long career included a lengthy stint as editorial director at Random House, where he edited many of the greatest writers of his time. Epstein also founded or co-founded the New York Review of Books (in 1963); Anchor Books, the first trade paperback imprint in the U.S., while he worked at Doubleday; the Library of America; the Reader's Catalog, a print precursor on online retailing; and On Demand Books, whose Espresso Book Machine was adopted by many bookstores and libraries. He was also an author: his books included The Great Conspiracy Trial (1970), a defense of the Chicago Seven; East Hampton: A History and Guide (1975), written with Elizabeth Barlow; Book Business: Publishing Past, Present, and Future (2001); and Eating: A Memoir (2009).

The New York Times commented: "He could be described as a man of letters with a feel for commerce or as a man of business with a taste for fine literature, and both would be correct."

Penguin Random House stated, "We mourn the passing of our extraordinary, pathfinding former colleague Jason Epstein, editor, publisher and publishing entrepreneur, and visionary. With his founding of our Anchor Books, which was the creation of the trade-paperback format, and his decades of distinguished editorial and publishing leadership and vision, he helped shape Doubleday, Anchor, Random House, Vintage Books, and the larger literary community and culture like no other."

The Times also quoted a 2000 interview with Epstein on PBS's The Open Mind, when he expounded on the cultural importance of publishing, calling it "more comparable to what priests and teachers and some doctors do than to what people who become lawyers or businessmen or Wall Street brokers--what they do. It is a vocation, you feel you're doing something extremely important, and it's worth sacrificing for, because without books we wouldn't know who we were."


Anti-Censorship Mural: Books & Books

"Did you know" that Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla., "has a mural in its Coral Gables store that calls attention to the censorship of books? It's hand-painted and lists just a fraction of the many books that have been banned throughout the years. With Maus the more recent example, it's just one more reminder that we need to continue defending our freedom to read. Show your support against banning books by taking photos standing in front of the banned books mural in our Coral Gables Courtyard and tag @booksandbooks. We can't wait to see your photos. Let's read, people! Say no to banning books!"

Personnel Changes at Random House

In the Random House marketing department:

Ayelet Durantt is promoted to senior director, Random House.

Julie Leung is promoted to deputy director, Del Rey and licensing.

Stephanie Davis is promoted to associate director, Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed.

Allison Schuster is promoted to associate director, Ballantine.

Douglas Mann is promoted to assistant director, WaterBrook & Multnomah.

Chloe Aryeh is promoted to senior manager, Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed.

Odette Fleming is promoted to senior manager, Harmony/Rodale.

Andrea Portanova is promoted to associate manager, Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed.

Monica Stanton is promoted to associate manager, Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed.

Emma Thomasch is promoted to associate manager, Ballantine.

Sierra Moon is promoted to marketing associate, Crown, Currency, Hogarth & Convergent.

Brianne Sperber, assistant director, is moving over from Harmony/Rodale to Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Tracey Michae'l Lewis-Giggetts on Good Morning America

Good Morning America: Tracey Michae'l Lewis-Giggetts, author of Black Joy: Stories of Resistance, Resilience, and Restoration (Gallery, $27.99, 9781982176556).

Tamron Hall: Chrishell Stause, author of Under Construction: Because Living My Life Took a Little Work (Gallery, $28.99, 9781982186258). She will also appear on Watch What Happens Live.

Late Show with Stephen Colbert repeat: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, author of Pinkie Promises (Holt, $18.99, 9781250801029).

TV: Presumed Innocent; Legendborn

David E. Kelley and J.J. Abrams are teaming up for a limited-series adaptation of Scott Turow's bestselling 1987 novel Presumed Innocent for Apple, which has ordered an eight-part series. Deadline reported that the project marks the first Apple series order for Kelley, who will serve as showrunner on the project and will exec produce alongside Castle Rock showrunner Dustin Thomason, Abrams and Bad Robot’s head of television Ben Stephenson. The novel was previously adapted as a 1990 film starring Harrison Ford.


The Punisher and Gossip Girl writer Felicia D. Henderson will adapt Tracy Deonn’s YA fantasy novel Legendborn after Black Bear Television acquired the rights, Deadline reported that Henderson will write and exec produce a series based on the book. She is currently showrunner of Netflix’s Emma Roberts-produced YA vampire series First Kill.

Books & Authors

Awards: Rittenhouse, Edge Hill Winners

PubWest has awarded the 2022 Jack D. Rittenhouse Award to Lee and Bobby Byrd, publishers at Cinco Puntos Press. The award honors "those who have made an important contribution to the Western community of the book."

Since founding Cinco Puntos Press in El Paso, Texas, 36 years ago, the Byrds have published 130 books, including Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, a short story collection which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2013. Other important Cinco Puntos Press books include The Story of Colors/La Historia de los Colores, a 1999 children's book by Subcomandante Marcos, who led an indigenous uprising in the Mexican state of Chiapas in the 1990s, and Ringside Seat to a Revolution by David Romo, which tells how Ciudad Juárez and El Paso served as the intellectual inspiration for the Mexican Revolution in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Last year, the Byrds sold the press to Lee & Low Books, whose publisher, Jason Lee, said, "It is critical that a collection of strong diverse books like the ones that Cinco Puntos Press has published remain in print. We have always held the books that Cinco Puntos Press published in high regard. The books that Lee and Bobby Byrd have chosen to publish amplify marginalized voices and reflect the ideal of a truly inclusive publishing industry."


Kevin Barry won the £10,000 (about $13,680) Edge Hill Prize, honoring a published, single-authored collection of short stories in the U.K. and Ireland, for That Old Country Music, the Bookseller reported. He is the first writer in the award's 15-year history to win for a second time.

Prize organizer Billy Cowan said the win "attests to the quality of Barry's sublime work. What we love about his writing is that he makes it seem so easy; the lyrical ebb and flow of his sentences are deceptively simple, but beautiful." 

Alice Ash won the £1,000 (about $1,365) Reader's Choice Award, chosen by staff and students at Edge Hill University, for Paradise Block. Kashyap Raja, a creative writing Masters student at Edge Hill University, won the MA Prize for Epiphany

Book Review

Review: Refuse to Be Done: How to Write and Rewrite a Novel in Three Drafts

Refuse to Be Done: How to Write and Rewrite a Novel in Three Drafts by Matt Bell (Soho Press, $15.95 paperback, 168p., 9781641293419, March 22, 2022)

Many bookshelves sag under the weight of creative writing instruction manuals, but few are as engaging--in little more than 150 pages--as Matt Bell's Refuse to Be Done: How to Write and Rewrite a Novel in Three Drafts. Bell (Appleseed), professor of creative writing at Arizona State University and the author of three novels, has written an enthusiastic and highly practical guide to completing this challenging artistic effort successfully.

The subtitle of Bell's book is a bit misleading, but only in the sense that he's not suggesting it's realistic to expect to create a publishable novel in a mere three drafts. Instead, what he advocates is a three-step process that will help any writer, from novice to experienced author, proceed in an orderly way that's designed to result in a finished product that represents the author's best work.

The first section of Refuse to Be Done is its lengthiest and most stimulating. In it, Bell describes an array of strategies designed to help the aspiring novelist continue to generate fresh material. The goal here is simply to get words on paper. Whether it's "writing the islands" (the "big scenes you already know, no matter how far off they seem") or turning to writing exercises to spark creativity, Bell believes that "as long as you keep writing, you'll make it."

Bell, who's not a proponent of outlining before beginning a novel, strongly advocates for that process at the beginning of the work's second stage. This outline is "less a document of what exists and more a plan for the better book you want the second draft to be, discovered among the material of the first draft's more organic creation." Bell adds the somewhat unusual recommendation to retype the entire novel from scratch at this stage, arguing that "this process will divorce you from the sentences you wrote while you were figuring out what your novel was."

In his final section, Bell offers a host of helpful practices for tightening a manuscript, which he concedes the writer may be weary of confronting by this point, to create a highly polished work. At this stage, he argues, it's especially important for writers to "refuse to be done," finally urging them to read the novel aloud one last time, "a beautiful gift you can give yourself, before you give the gift of your novel to everyone else."

Bell concludes by observing that the process of novel writing is its own reward. By implementing even some of his myriad of sound and ingenious tips, any writer almost certainly will find that journey a more rewarding one. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Matt Bell's compact guide to writing novels is packed with useful strategies and tips to help improve any writer's finished product.

The Bestsellers

Top Book Club Picks in January

The following were the most popular book club books during January based on votes from book club readers in more than 75,000 book clubs registered at

1. The Lincoln Highway: A Novel by Amor Towles (Viking)
2. The Four Winds: A Novel by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's Press)
3. The Midnight Library: A Novel by Matt Haig (Viking)
4. Cloud Cuckoo Land: A Novel by Anthony Doerr (Scribner)
5. The Last Thing He Told Me: A Novel by Laura Dave (Simon & Schuster)
6. Anxious People: A Novel by Fredrik Backman (Atria Books)
7. It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover (Atria Books)
8. The Vanishing Half: A Novel by Bennett Brit (Riverhead Books)
9. Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty (Holt)
10. Verity by Colleen Hoover (Grand Central)

Rising Stars:
Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner (Knopf)
The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller (Riverhead Books)

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