Shelf Awareness for Thursday, February 17, 2022

Other Press (NY): Playing Under the Piano: From Downton to Darkest Peru by Hugh Bonneville

Shadow Mountain: Delicious Gatherings: Recipes to Celebrate Together by Tara Teaspoon

Berkley Books: The Last Russian Doll by Kristen Loesch

Charlesbridge Publishing: Too-Small Tyson (Storytelling Math) by Janay Brown-Wood, illustrated by Anastasia Williams

MIT Press: Rethinking Gender: An Illustrated Exploration by Louie Läuger

Spiegel & Grau: Brave Hearted: The Women of the American West by Katie Hickman

Austin Macauley: Lasseter's Truth by John Somerset

St. Martin's Press: Weyward by Emilia Hart


PRH's Markus Dohle, PEN America Launch Dohle Book Defense Fund

Markus Dohle

Markus Dohle, CEO of Penguin Random House, and PEN America are launching the Dohle Book Defense Fund, which will combat "the rising threats to freedom of speech and open discourse within communities nationwide... and defend the place of books as a pillar of American democracy and society." Dohle, who is PEN America's executive vice-president and has served on the board of trustees since 2016, will donate some $500,000 to establish the fund, pledging a minimum of $100,000 over five years. He hopes others will also contribute.

The fund will boost PEN America's initiatives to "educate the public, partner with local community groups to advocate against censorship, track and expose the egregious assaults on books and ideas playing out in classrooms, state legislatures and other arenas."

Dohle told the New York Times that book banning has personal as well as professional resonance. Growing up in post-war Germany, he was aware of "the dark times and the dark history of the country." And at Bertelsmann, he has worked in several countries with restrictive approaches to books. As for the wave of bannings in the U.S., he said, "That is dangerous. It's unimaginable. And it is very urgent, and it ties into the future of our democracy."

In recent months, PEN America has been a leader in fighting the many politically motivated efforts to censor books in schools and libraries and to limit subjects teachers can discuss.

Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, commented: "We're dealing with new challenges and bans every week, and these efforts are enmeshed in a larger political battle over the narratives that are accessible in this country... With his support, PEN America is poised to continue leading the fight to uphold and protect the role of books in society."

Speaking with the New York Times about Dohle, she also said, "What I've found so striking about him is that he's this ebullient, larger-than-life personality, and such an optimist and a kind of a cheerleader for the publishing industry. But he's also deeply attuned to the dark sides that lurk within a society, and how things can turn around quickly."

CamCat Publishing: The Darker the Skies (Earth United) by Bryan Prosek

Students File Suit over Wentzville, Mo., Book Bans

A pair of Missouri high school students have sued the Wentzville School District over its decision to ban certain books, including Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Represented by lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, the students filed the suit in federal court on Tuesday. According to the suit, the Wentzville School District's book bans violate their civil rights by threatening their ability "to learn and engage with a diversity of ideas and information, including seeing their own experiences reflected in the books and developing greater understanding of the experiences of others."

The Wentzville School Board voted 4-3 to ban The Bluest Eye from high school libraries late last month. In addition to The Bluest Eye and Heavy, the district also banned All Boys Aren't Blue by George Johnson, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell, Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison and Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari.

Barefoot Books: Save 10%

Bookstore Sales Up 39% for 2021; Up 33.7% in December

For all of 2021, bookstore sales jumped 39%, to $9.03 billion, compared to 2020, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates. By comparison to pre-pandemic times, bookstore sales in 2021 fell 1% in relation to 2019.

In December, bookstore sales rose 33.7%, to $1.2 billion, compared to December 2020, and rose 12% compared to December 2019.

Total retail sales in 2021 rose 19.4%, to $7.4 trillion, compared to 2020, and total retail sales in December rose 16.6%, to $712.7 billion, compared to December 2020.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books." The Bureau also added this unusual caution concerning the effect of Covid-19: "The Census Bureau continues to monitor response and data quality and has determined that estimates in this release meet publication standards."

Candlewick Press (MA): The Real Dada Mother Goose: A Treasury of Complete Nonsense by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Julia Rothman

Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, Lakewood, N.Y., Becomes Good Neighbor Bookstore

Owners Bob and Shannon Lingle have changed the name of Off the Beaten Path Bookstore in Lakewood, N.Y., to Good Neighbor Bookstore. While the bookstore will continue its mission of "fostering empathy by curating titles that promote understanding, creativity and diversity," the new name reflects the Lingle family's emphasis on kindness and being a good neighbor.

"Our name isn't meant to declare that we are good neighbors," they explained in a Facebook post announcing the change, "but that we are striving to be good neighbors, want you to be good neighbors, and are a place for good neighbors to convene."

The Lingles purchased the store in 2018 from Holly Richardson, who founded it in 2009. They've made several changes since then, including moving the bookstore to downtown Lakewood, bringing in new products, hosting virtual and in-store events and starting a podcast called Weaponize Literacy.

As the Lingles reflected on how much had changed over the past few years, as well as on the current political and social climate, they began to wonder "if weaponizing literacy, and adding more aggression into an already tense world, was such a good idea. We determined it wasn't."

The bookstore's website and phone number have stayed the same, though the website and e-mail address are new. They noted that gift cards for Off the Beaten Path are still valid.

Parallax Press: Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems by Thich Nhat Hanh

International Update: U.K. & Ireland's Indie Bookshop of the Year Shortlists, Amazon Closes Indian Publisher

Last year's Book Retailer of the Year, Sevenoaks Bookshop

A record 63 bookshops have been named in nine regional and country shortlists for the Independent Bookshop of the Year Award, sponsored by Gardners and part of the 2022 British Book Awards (the Nibbies) celebration. The Bookseller reported that the shortlisted bookstores will now compete to win their region before vying for the overall prize, the winner of which will be in the running to be crowned Book Retailer of the Year.

"The received wisdom in the book trade when the pandemic first hit was that independent booksellers might be the most vulnerable," said Tom Tivnan, the Bookseller's managing editor. "They have proved anything but as through close ties to their communities, indies have flourished for the last two years. This year's Independent Bookshop of the Year regional and country finalists reflect a broad diversity across the U.K. and Ireland with the thread of innovation running through, no matter if they are one of the U.K.'s most venerable indies or one of its newest."

The 2022 regional and country winners will be announced March 16, with the overall winner being unveiled May 23 at the British Book Awards ceremony in London.


Amazon recently announced the surprise closure of Indian publishing company Westland Books, which it has owned since 2017. Founded in 1962 and formerly known as East West Books, Westland is one of the largest English-language trade publishers in the country. A wholly-owned subsidiary of Amazon Eurasia Holdings SARL, Westland is "one of India's major publishers of fiction and nonfiction, launching its own imprint 'Context' in 2018, which publishes literary fiction," Mint Lounge reported.

A spokesperson for Amazon confirmed the decision: "After a thorough review, we have made the difficult decision to no longer operate Westland. We are working closely with the employees, authors, agents, and distribution partners on this transition and we remain committed to innovating for customers in India."

"Several questions remain unanswered because of this sudden move, leaving its authors and book lovers aghast," News9 reported. "However, largely, everyone wants to know what will happen to its backlist, books that are out in the market, and forthcoming titles." Amazon has said it will continue to sell Westland's frontlist titles until March 31. 

Krishna Gowda, owner of Bookworm in Bangalore, told the Deccan Herald that he had been getting many inquiries about Westland titles since the news came out, and his team was shipping orders to other states already: "Their authors will find new publishers and the books will be reprinted but the process may take up to a year.... The Westland books had been profitable for us especially since the past one year."

Lakshmi Sankar, co-founder of Atta Galatta bookshop, believes the closure "will impact the current titles immediately, and the ecosystem in the long run as upcoming authors will have one less publisher to go to. She wants to source their old and unsold books and has written to the Westland team asking for the same," the Deccan Herald wrote.


The French market for new physical cultural goods has seen growth for the first time since 2004. The European & International Booksellers Federation's Newsflash reported that in 2021, "the market grew by 11%, with the revenue totalling €5.5 billion [about $6.3 billion]--and books are the leading product! With 383 million titles sold, books represented 80% of the market turnover for 2021, followed by video games (11%) and products of music (5%) and video (4%) industry." --Robert Gray

Obituary Note: P.J. O'Rourke

P.J. O'Rourke

P.J. O'Rourke, "the conservative satirist and political commentator who was unafraid to skewer Democrats and Republicans alike in bestselling books like Parliament of Whores, in articles for a wide range of magazines and newspapers, and on television and radio talk shows," died February 15, the New York Times reported. He was 74. Although a proud conservative Republican, O'Rourke "was widely admired by readers of many stripes because of his fearless style and his willingness to mock just about anyone who deserved it, including himself." 

In addition to his 20 books, O'Rourke wrote a column for the Daily Beast for a time and appeared regularly in the Atlantic, the American Spectator, Rolling Stone and the Weekly Standard, where he was a contributing editor. He was the conservative side of a point-counterpoint segment on 60 Minutes in the mid-1990s, opposite Molly Ivins, and a guest on many talk shows. He was also known for appearances on NPR's comedy quiz show Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me.

O'Rourke's first book was Modern Manners: An Etiquette Book for Rude People, published in 1983 (and reissued in 1989). Perhaps his best known work was Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government. Other books include How the Hell Did This Happen? The Election of 2016; Republican Party Reptile: The Confessions, Adventures, Essays and (Other) Outrages of P.J. O'Rourke; All the Trouble in the World; Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics; Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut; and Holidays in Hell.

"P.J. was one of the major voices of his generation," wrote Morgan Entrekin, CEO and publisher of Grove Atlantic, in a statement. "He was also a close friend and partner for more than 40 years. P.J.'s loyalty and commitment to first Atlantic Monthly Press and then Grove Atlantic enabled me to keep the company independent. For that I will be forever in his debt. His insightful reporting, verbal acuity and gift at writing laugh-out-loud prose were unparalleled.... His passing leaves a huge hole in my life both personal and professional.""

Peter Sagal, host of Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me, tweeted "a few words about P.J. It is very rare in life to be a fan of someone and then become their friend, but it happened to me with P.J., and I discovered something remarkable: Most well known people try to be nicer than they are in public than they are in private life. P.J. was the only man I knew to be the opposite. He was a deeply kind and generous man who pretended to be a curmudgeon for public consumption. He told the best stories. He had the most remarkable friends. And he devoted himself to them and his family in a way that would have totally ruined his shtick had anyone ever found out."


Personnel Changes at Simon & Schuster

Rachel Berquist has been promoted to assistant marketing manager, adult library, at Simon & Schuster.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Michael Waldman on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Michael Waldman, author of The Fight to Vote (Simon & Schuster, $19.99, 9781982198930).

Today Show: Kristina Cho, author of Mooncakes and Milk Bread: Sweet and Savory Recipes Inspired by Chinese Bakeries (Harper Horizon, $29.95, 9780785238997).

This Weekend on Book TV: Mark Bowden and Matthew Teague on The Steal

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, February 19
9:10 a.m. Hannah Farber, author of Underwriters of the United States: How Insurance Shaped the American Founding (University of North Carolina Press, $34.95, 9781469663630). (Re-airs Saturday at 9:10 p.m.)

2 p.m. Bruce Ragsdale, author of Washington at the Plow: The Founding Farmer and the Question of Slavery (Belknap Press, $29.95, 9780674246386). (Re-airs Sunday at 2 a.m.)

2:55 p.m. Gwen Strauss, author of The Nine: The True Story of a Band of Women Who Survived the Worst of Nazi Germany (St. Martin's Press, $28.99, 9781250239297), and Mari Eder, author of The Girls Who Stepped Out of Line: Untold Stories of the Women Who Changed the Course of World War II (Sourcebooks, $26.99, 9781728230924).

5:25 p.m. Janet Somerville, author of Yours, for Probably Always: Martha Gellhorn's Letters of Love and War 1930-1949 (Firefly Books, $40, 9780228101864), and Hilary Roberts, author of Lee Miller: A Woman's War (Thames & Hudson, $55, 9780500518182).

Sunday, February 20
8 a.m. Ada Ferrer, author of Cuba: An American History (Scribner, $32, 9781501154553). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m.)

9 a.m. Mark Bowden and Matthew Teague, authors of The Steal: The Attempt to Overturn the 2020 Election and the People Who Stopped It (Atlantic Monthly Press, $28, 9780802159953). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m.)

2 p.m. Jennifer Rubin, author of Resistance: How Women Saved Democracy from Donald Trump (Morrow, $27.99, 9780062982131). (Re-airs Monday at 2 a.m.)

3:55 p.m. George Makari, author of Of Fear and Strangers: A History of Xenophobia (Norton, $27.95, 9780393652000). (Re-airs Monday at 3:55 a.m.)

5:05 p.m. Dawn Turner, author of Three Girls from Bronzeville: A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate, and Sisterhood (Simon & Schuster, $26.99, 9781982107703).

6 p.m. Alexander Downes, author of Catastrophic Success: Why Foreign-Imposed Regime Change Goes Wrong (Cornell University Press, $49.95, 9781501761140).

7:30 p.m. An interview with Charles Kesler, editor of the Claremont Review of Books.

Books & Authors

Awards: CILIP's Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Longlists

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals has released longlists for the Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Awards, featuring 18 titles for the Yoto Carnegie Medal (author of a book for children & young people) and 15 for the Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal (illustrator). The awards are judged by children's librarians, with the Shadowers' Choice Award voted for by children and young people. Check out the complete longlists here.

Shortlists for the Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Awards will be announced March 16, with winners to be named and celebrated June 16 during a ceremony at the British Library. The winners each receive £500 (about $685) worth of books to donate to their local library, a specially commissioned golden medal and a £5,000 ($6,850) Colin Mears Award cash prize. The Shadowers' Choice Award will also be announced at the ceremony.

Chair of judges Jennifer Horan said: "It is a real privilege to be chairing the judging panel during what has been an exceptional year for children's publishing. We were transported and moved by evocative and lyrical prose; taken on fantastical journeys and invited into new worlds through powerful illustration; and given real hope by the messages of humanity, connection and community that so many of this year's longlisted books share. I congratulate all the authors and illustrators on their outstanding work, which will bring young readers so much pleasure and reassurance in these times of worry."

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, February 22:

Wakers by Orson Scott Card (Margaret K. McElderry Books, $19.99, 9781481496193) is the first entry in a new sci-fi trilogy about a cloned teenager.

Life Without Children: Stories by Roddy Doyle (Viking, $25, 9780593300565) contains short stories based on life during the pandemic.

The Berlin Exchange by Joseph Kanon (Scribner, $28, 9781982158651) is set in 1963 Berlin and features an American physicist caught spying for the KGB who's traded to East Germany, where nothing is as simple as it first appears.

Red Burning Sky by Tom Young (Kensington, $27, 9781496732941) is a novel based on a World War II mission to rescue downed Allied airmen in occupied Yugoslavia.

The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart (Ballantine, $28, 9781984820648) is a locked-room murder mystery set at a hotel for time travelers.

What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma by Stephanie Foo (Ballantine, $28, 9780593238103) chronicles the author's recovery from childhood trauma.

Rebels Against the Raj: Western Fighters for India's Freedom by Ramachandra Guha (Knopf, $35, 9781101874837) tells the story of seven foreigners who joined India's fight for freedom against colonial rule.

Level Up: Rise Above the Hidden Forces Holding Your Business Back by Stacey Abrams, Lara Hodgson and Heather Cabot (Portfolio, $26, 9780593539828) gives advice for small business owners.

A Friend for Yoga Bunny by Brian Russo (HarperCollins, $17.99, 9780063017849) features the adorable bunny from the picture book Yoga Bunny making a friend.

Map of Flames by Lisa McMann (Putnam, $17.99, 9780593325407) is a middle-grade adventure novel in which the children of supernatural criminals are forced to fend for themselves.

The Journeys of Trees: A Story about Forests, People, and the Future by Zach St. George (Norton, $16.95, 9781324020233).

KG: A to Z: An Uncensored Encyclopedia of Life, Basketball, and Everything in Between by Kevin Garnett and David Ritz (Simon & Schuster, $18.99, 9781982170332).

The Verifiers by Jane Pek (Vintage, $17, 9780593313794).

Sooley: A Novel by John Grisham (Anchor, $9.99, 9780593359532).

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Greenwich Park: A Novel by Katherine Faulkner (Gallery Books, $27.99, 9781982150310). "Such a fun and addicting thriller! I was torn between reading slowly to catch all the nuances and speed reading to figure out what happens. The book pulls punches to the very end. Highly recommended for psychological thriller lovers!" --Kristen Beverly, Half Price Books, Dallas, Tex.

Perpetual West: A Novel by Mesha Maren (Algonquin Books, $26.95, 9781643750941). "As much social critique as thriller, Perpetual West is rich and memorable. You'll care for and challenge Elana as you fret over where her husband, Alex, has gone. All along the way, Maren's writing sings." --Laura Lilly Cotten, Thank You Books, Birmingham, Ala.

Shady Hollow: A Murder Mystery by Juneau Black (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, $16, 9780593315712). "In the industrious town of Shady Hollow, woodland creatures go about their lives until a brutal betrayal shatters the peace. Vera Vixen, a tenacious reporter and cunning fox, unravels a murder mystery in this smart series debut." --Margaret Walker, Union Avenue Books, Knoxville, Tenn.

For Ages 4 to 8
Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight: Patsy Takemoto Mink and the Fight for Title IX by Jen Bryant, illus. by Toshiki Nakamura (Quill Tree Books, $17.99, 9780062957221). "Wow! What a tremendous telling of a critical American story. Patsy Takemoto Mink's story resonates on such a deep and interconnected level. Told through beautiful prose and illustrations, this is an essential read." --Lauren Kean, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, N.C.

For Ages 8 to 12
Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray (HarperCollins, $17.99, 9780063043114). "An exciting, adventurous mystery and a touching story about family, memory, and trust--it will take you on a wild ride through a bustling, strange city full of secrets and danger with an amazing main character you'll love from the start." --Alissa Hugel, Folio Books, San Francisco, Calif.

For Teen Readers
Medusa by Jessie Burton, illus. by Olivia Lomenech Gill (Bloomsbury YA, $19.99, 9781547607594). "A lyrical retelling of Medusa's story--from a girl unfairly punished by the Gods and Goddesses to a woman who knows her true self. Full of love and longing, hope and betrayal, strength and power, this dazzling book should not be missed!" --Katrina Bright-Yerges, Books & Company, Oconomowoc, Wis.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: A Sister's Story

A Sister's Story by Donatella Di Pietrantonio, trans. by Ann Goldstein (Europa Editions, $17 paperback, 176p., 9781609457471, April 19, 2022)

Award-winning Italian writer Donatella Di Pietrantonio made her English-language debut with the lauded A Girl Returned, deftly translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (revered for her elegant Elena Ferrante translations). Author and translator return to the characters from their earlier collaboration with A Sister’s Story, another simmering, intense novel of dysfunctional relationships and destructive secrets that proves equally strong as a companion sequel or standalone title.

A literature professor at the University of Grenoble is pulled from her class to answer an urgent phone call. An unfamiliar voice urges her immediately back to coastal Pescara, Italy, where a terrible accident has befallen her younger sister, Adriana. Narrating the journey home, toward a fraught sororal reunion, the protagonist--writing intimately in first person, ignoring temporal linearity--reveals years of complications and connections shared (and not), especially between sisters.

Adriana and the narrator are the only daughters among five (living) children in a struggling, combative, working-class family. The narrator, however, was raised by an aunt and uncle in "the city" before being returned (the focus of A Girl Returned) as a teen. For much of their lives, Adriana "has never been tactful, she interjects herself into everything that has to do with me as if it were also hers," the narrator observes. At 25, the narrator married Piero. Three years later, Adriana arrives "at the darkest moment before dawn," expecting shelter for herself and nine-month-old Vincenzo (named after their dead brother), a nephew the narrator hadn't known she even had.

"Adriana is an opportunist by instinct, not by calculation," the narrator reflects, as Adriana inserts herself into their lives. She even invokes Piero's family name--wealthy and respected--to her advantage in an attempt to escape her debt-ridden, violent lover. As self-absorbed as Adriana is, she watches her sister blindly forgive Piero's absences. "Don't be quiet anymore," Adriana warns. "Think of your husband before someone else takes him." But the narrator is perhaps too late, as cleavings seem inevitable: "There was something in me that summoned abandonments," she surrenders. Now in middle age, her homegoing will determine what she might salvage--of relationships, but also of her own disconnected, denied self.

Di Pietrantonio radiantly conjures small, piercing moments that linger between characters, turning sparsely written pages into surprisingly dense examinations of resonating reactions and enduring consequences: a fish Adriana expertly guts and cooks, a tiny mosquito in a gelato shop, an errant hair mixed into tagliatelle. Her sharp examinations haunt and illuminate, transforming the quotidian into the indelibly literary. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: Award-winning Italian novelist Donatella Di Pietrantonio's second translated import is another piercing examination of dysfunctional family relationships that centers on sororal breaks and bonds.

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