Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 25, 2022


Little Brown and Company: Haven by Emma Donoghue

Berkley Books: The Rewind by Allison Winn Scotch

Sourcebooks: Helltown: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer on Cape Cod by Casey Sherman

Candlewick Press (MA): Arab Arab All Year Long! by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi

Jy: Enemies (Berrybrook Middle School #5) by Svetlana Chmakova

Entangled Publishing: Stealing Infinity by Alyson Noël

St. Martin's Press: The Matchmaker's Gift by Lynda Cohen Loigman

Legendary Comics YA: Enola Holmes: Mycroft's Dangerous Game by Nancy Springer, illustrated by Giorgia Sposito

News

International Update: European Book Trade Condemns Russia's Attack on Ukraine 

European book trade bodies have condemned Russia's attack on Ukraine and issued statements in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, the Bookseller reported. 

Describing the attack as a "threat not just to Europe but also to the entire world," the Federation of European Publishers said: "Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine and of the region, and especially with our colleagues; authors, translators, publishers, booksellers, and librarians. Keep writing, translating, publishing, and giving access to books. Even if they are a fragile rampart against the bombs, books and reading are essential to democracy. Ukraine is a free country in a free Europe, and has the right to peace and democracy, for its citizens to live in safety, and to territorial integrity.

"We are very fortunate that this year, Ukraine is one of the participating countries in the European Union Prize of Literature. Ukraine is part of Creative Europe, of our common European family, and we believe that literature brings a message of peace and allows all European citizens to be 'united in diversity'."

The Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany's book trade association, issued a joint appeal from the Börsenverein, Frankfurter Book Fair, the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, MVB and Mediacampus Frankfurt saying they were "outraged by Russia's brutal attack on Ukraine.... We appeal to the Russian people and their president to stop the deliberate destruction of peace and freedom in Europe. And we send words of solidarity to the people of Ukraine: you are part of an international community that supports human dignity, democratic participation and equality for all. You have a right to peace." 

Ricardo Franco Levi, president of the Italian Publishers Association, commented: "The war in Europe takes us back to years and historical events that we never wanted to relive. Peace is the precondition and at the same time the fruit of freedom of thought and expression, values that are at the heart of democracy and the mission of every publisher. Our thoughts go to the Ukrainian women and men, in particular to our fellow publishers and to the world of culture as a whole, committed to keeping alive the conscience of a people today under the bombs. Today more than ever we hope that in every nation the critical voice of intellectuals, writers, men of peace and the world of culture will be raised so that they can bring Europe back on the path of freedom and co-existence."

Burhan Sonmez, PEN International president, said: "PEN International utterly condemns the violence unleashed by Russian forces onto Ukraine, and urgently calls for an end of the military aggression of a sovereign, independent state. The bloodshed must stop now. We stand with Ukraine, our friends at PEN Ukraine, and call on President Putin to stop this war immediately. Peace must prevail."

The Book Arsenal team in Kyiv

And from Kyiv, the International Book Arsenal Festival, part of the Mystetskyi Arsenal, e-mailed colleagues, friends and partners around the world yesterday morning, saying in part, "We should be preparing now the Book Arsenal to be held in May, exhibitions, and cross-sectoral projects--instead our team focuses the efforts to ensure the safety of our staff, our families, as well as to guard our collection, museum objects (paintings, graphics, fine art), including the artworks by Malevych, Yermylov, Bohomazov, Petrytskyi, Zaretskyi, etc., works of modern art, archaeological finds, and the Old Arsenal building, which is a historical and architectural monument of national importance."

The organizers called the Russian attack "a war against all democratic states--the whole civilized world," and urged supporters to help in a variety ways. Suggestions included:

  • Including information about the war in public talks and speeches, "during art and literature events, festivals, book fairs, exhibitions";
  • Issuing "joint public statements from civil organizations, institutions, and industry associations--writers, publishers, and booksellers, artists and museums; sharing information on the war and the current situation in social media with the hashtag #StandWithUkraine, providing truthful commentaries to international media";
  • Sharing information about human rights and Ukrainian political prisoners in Russian custody with a hashtag #SolidarityWords;
  • Highlighting "contemporary Ukrainian art and discussing the books of modern writers, who wrote and continue writing about the war in Ukraine, which has been going on for eight years. On our part, as a leading art institution we are eager to provide you with all the information we have."

For more information, click here.


W. W. Norton & Company: Dinosaurs by Lydia Millet


The Resistance Bookstore Opening in Lansing, Mich.

The Resistance Bookstore, which will open February 28 at 515 W. Ionia St. in downtown Lansing, Mich., "wants the literature it sells to spur change in the streets," the Lansing State Journal reported. 

Activists Fae Mitchell and Emily Dievendorf, who met on Juneteenth in 2020 while working on a Black Lives Matter mural on Capital Avenue, launched the bookstore as part of their ongoing collaboration. They were seeking a space where the community could gain knowledge to put into action.

"We can be out in the streets protesting or I can create art that's jarring and illuminating," said Mitchell, an artist who also coaches youth basketball. "But if people don't have the background and the knowledge of what it is--where it came from, the historical background, statistics and facts--it's just people yelling in the streets and considered angry."

Dievendorf, a political consultant and organizer, leased the space last April following renovations at a pair of downtown buildings that were redeveloped with retail space on the ground level and apartments above.

Mitchell and Dievendorf "stocked the store with personal favorites and popular titles. They aimed to represent books that aren't always found in bigger stores, including those by Native American, Black and transgender authors. Both Mitchell and Dievendorf are nonbinary themselves," the State Journal wrote.

Not far from the Resistance, in the Lansing Mall, is Socialight Society, where Nyshell Lawrence spotlights books by Black women. Mitchell attended the same church as Lawrence growing up, and the Reistance co-owners consulted with Lawrence to seek advice and avoid overlap between their stores.

"The goal of both bookstores is to get as many books that are typically underrepresented in traditional bookstores into the hands of the people in our community. The more the merrier," Lawrence said.

"We are here to represent multiple communities, and that's recognizing the different identities that we all have that cross," Mitchell noted.

Mitchell and Dievendorf want to establish a community board and pursue nonprofit status, too, in order to receive donations. The board will comprise locals from various advocacy organizations.


Harper Voyager: Bindle Punk Bruja by Desideria Mesa


The Little Book Spot Coming to Lilburn, Ga., This Spring

Nury Castillo-Crawford at the Little Book Spot

The Little Book Spot, an independent bookstore selling titles in a variety of languages, will open in Lilburn, Ga., this spring. Store owner Nury Castillo-Crawford told 11Alive she's aiming for an April opening at 733 Pleasent Hill Road, and while the store's inventory will be mostly new, she is planning to offer a small collection of used titles.

Castillo-Crawford hopes to carry books for all ages in as many languages as possible and already has titles in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean and traditional Chinese, with French books on the way. Her event plans include bringing in writers from other countries for talks and signings.

In her current role as an administrator for Gwinnett County Public Schools, she explained, she's seen how underserved the community is when it comes to literature in other languages, as well as books written by diverse authors.

"I just don't see that reflection of people trying to access the books that are bilingual and our other languages as fast as it should be," Castillo-Crawford said. "I'd like to help speed that up by providing this resource."

Castillo-Crawford acknowledged that she's taking a risk by opening the store, but believes that if the community rallies around the bookstore, it will thrive. She noted that some community members have already donated books and decorations.

"We can empower our parents and help our parents see the importance," Castillo-Crawford added. "You can give your kids other gifts, but the gift of literacy, it's going to be unmatched and it's unparalleled."


KidsBuzz for the Week of 05.23.22


Therese L. Ratliff New Director, CEO of Liturgical Press

Therese L. Ratliff

Therese L. Ratliff will be the next director and CEO of Liturgical Press, the publishing apostolate of Saint John's Abbey, in Collegeville, Minn. She succeeds Peter Dwyer, who will retire in June, after 33 years at the Press, 21 of them as director. Ratliff is the second layperson and the first woman to lead Liturgical Press in its 96-year history.

Ratliff most recently was publisher of books and devotionals for the U.S. divisions of Bayard, Inc.: Twenty-Third Publications, Pflaum Publishing Group and Creative Communications for the Parish. She has contributed to several international publishing boards and is currently vice-president of the Association of Catholic Publishers board of directors. Before joining Bayard, Ratliff worked at Pauline Books and Media.

Abbot John Klassen, OSB, called Ratliff "an energetic, vibrant person who brings a rich set of leadership experiences in the world of Catholic publishing. I am confident that she will continue the Benedictine mission of the Press as it seeks to serve today's believers in exciting new ways."

Ratliff said, "I am thrilled to be joining a talented, top-notch team and look forward to building on the extraordinary reputation of Liturgical Press. We in Catholic publishing must meet the moment our world faces in diverse new ways, and I'm confident that, together, we will find new pathways and explore new directions for the Gospel to take root and flourish."


Shelf Awareness Delivers Indie Pre-Order E-Blast

Last Wednesday, Shelf Awareness sent our monthly pre-order e-blast to nearly 900,000 of the country's best book readers. The e-blast went to 893,286 customers of 193 participating independent bookstores.

The mailing features eight upcoming titles selected by Shelf Awareness editors and several sponsored titles. Customers can buy these books via "pre-order" buttons that lead directly to the purchase page for the title on each sending store's website. A key feature is that bookstore partners can easily change title selections to best reflect the tastes of their customers and can customize the mailing with links, images and promotional copy of their own.

The featured titles this month were:

Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang (Flatiron)
The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe (HarperVoyager)
The Trayvon Generation by Elizabeth Alexander (Grand Central)
I Dream of Dinner (So You Don't Have To): Low-Effort, High-Reward Recipes: A Cookbook by Ali Slagle (Clarkson Potter)
Six Walks: In the Footsteps of Henry David Thoreau by Ben Shattuck (Tin House)
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf)
Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press)
She Gets the Girl by Rachel Lippincott and Alyson Derrick (Simon & Schuster)
Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Berkley)
Young Mungo by Douglas Stewart (Grove Press)
Lost Worlds & Mythological Kingdoms edited by John Joseph Adams (Grim Oak Press)
Candy House by Jennifer Egan (Scribner)

The pre-order e-blasts are sent the last Wednesday of each month; the next will go out on Wednesday, March 30. Stores interested in learning more can visit our program registration page or contact our partner program team via e-mail.

For a sample of the February pre-order e-blast, see this one from Theodore's Books, Oyster Bay, N.Y.


Notes

Image of the Day: Akwaeke Emezi at Recirculation

Recirculation, a pop-up bookstore in New York City's Washington Heights neighborhood organized by Word Up Community Book Shop/Librería Comunitaria, hosted Akwaeke Emezi (Bitter, Knopf Books for Young Readers) in conversation with Word Up collective member Memphis Washington.
 
Recirculation's space was recently refurbished with support from Adidas, thanks to a recommendation by novelist Angie Cruz, who was featured by the company for Hispanic Heritage Month. Adidas sent a production team to reimagine the space, and funded artist Jon "Phes" Souza to paint the mural seen in the background of the photo.

Happy 50th Birthday, Edmonds Bookshop!

Congratulations to Edmonds Bookshop in Edmonds, Wash., which is turning 50 years old next month.

The bookstore will celebrate with an anniversary party on March 5. Per the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, the anniversary event will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and feature prize drawings, a bookmark design contest for children, commemorative tote bags and T-shirts and recognition of past owners, longtime customers and some of the store's favorite authors.

Store owner Michelle Bear said: "Edmonds Bookshop is thrilled to mark fifty years of continuous service to our local community, and to be part of the thriving downtown Edmonds scene."


Bookseller Dog Audition: Penny at Odyssey Bookstore

Posted on Facebook by Odyssey Bookstore, Ithaca, N.Y.: "Introducing Penny!! She is auditioning for bookstore dog and took advantage of our day off to check out out. Not sure she's ready for a regular shift but she's eager to work on her greeting skills. Odyssey is delighted to be a dog friendly (and their humans) bookstore. Enjoy the sunny day and see you tomorrow!"


Chalkboard: Novel Bay Booksellers

"There is a snow storm in our forecast later this week, stop in today to get all the books you'll need to keep you busy while waiting for the snow to melt!" Novel Bay Booksellers, Sturgeon Bay, Wis., posted on Facebook along with a photo of the shop's entance and sidewalk chalkboard message: "Book shortage coming soon! Please do your panic buying inside!"


Personnel Changes at Simon & Schuster

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


Media and Movies

Media Heat: David W. Blight on Fresh Air

Today:
Fresh Air: David W. Blight, author of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (Simon & Schuster, $22, 9781416590323).

Tomorrow:
Good Morning America: Linsey Davis, author of How High Is Heaven (Zonderkidz, $18.99, 9780310770060).


TV: #OurBrilliantFriends2022 Conversation & Watch Party

In partnership with Harper's magazine, HBO and Europa Editions, McNally Jackson Books in New York City will host #OurBrilliantFriends2022, a weekly conversation and watch party for the third season of the HBO Original series My Brilliant Friend, which debuts February 28 on HBO and HBO Max. Every Monday from February 28 to April 18 at 9:30 p.m. Eastern, a 30-minute conversation will be held with authors, filmmakers, critics and celebrity Ferrante fans from across the world. 

An hour-long inaugural event this Monday starts at 9 p.m. Eastern, featuring Daniele Luchetti (director of My Brilliant Friend), Ann Goldstein (Elena Ferrante's English translator), Sarah McNally (owner, McNally Jackson Books) and Madeline Gressel (events & marketing director, McNally Jackson). A 60-minute "watch party" (requires a HBO/HBO Max subscription) continues as they live comment each new episode of the series via Crowdcast chat. This event is free, but registration is required

Upcoming special guests also include Elif Batuman (author of The Idiot); Joanna Biggs (critic and senior editor at Harper's); Stacey D'Erasmo (author and critic) Claudia Durastanti (author of Strangers I Know); Merve Emre (critic and co-author of The Ferrante Letters); Molly Fischer (critic and editor of The Cut); Francesco Pacifico (author of The Women I Love); Judith Shulevitz (critic); and Darcey Steinke (author of Flash Count Diary).



Books & Authors

Awards: Jake Adam York Winner

The 2021-22 winner of the Jake Adam York Prize, sponsored by Milkweed Editions and Copper Nickel, is Christopher Brean Murray for his poetry collection Black Observatory. He receives $2,000, and Milkweed will publish the book in February 2023.

Judge Dana Levin said: "Its very strangeness, its eccentric lenses on cis masculinity, and its simple, formal elegance called me to Christopher Brean Murray's Black Observatory. Reading these poems is like embarking on a Twilight Zone episode where Franz Kafka bumps into Salvador Dali in a hardware store, and dark, absurdist adventures ensue; where 'Crimes of the Future' involve 'Quitting a job everyone agrees you should keep' and 'Kissing a foreigner in a time of war.' There's sweetness here too, and deep thought and feeling--this is a singular debut by a singular sensibility: no one else sounds like Murray."

His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Bennington Review, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, New Ohio Review, Quarterly West, Washington Square Review and other journals. He lives in Houston, Tex.


Reading with... Shelley Puhak

photo: Kristina Sherk

Shelley Puhak is a poet and writer and history lover whose work has appeared in the Atlantic, Creative Nonfiction and Virginia Quarterly Review; been anthologized in Best American Travel Writing; and designated as Notable in four editions of Best American Essays. Puhak is the author of three books of poetry, including the forthcoming Harbinger, a National Poetry Series selection. Her nonfiction debut, The Dark Queens (Bloomsbury, February 22, 2022), is the little-known story of two trailblazing women in the early Middle Ages who wielded immense power, only to be vilified for daring to rule.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

A history few people know because it was purposefully erased: during the Dark Ages, two women ruled most of Western Europe.

On your nightstand now:

It's a mix of fiction and nonfiction. I just finished The Push by Ashley Audrain and Weather by Jenny Offill. Now I am midway through Assembly by Natasha Brown. Also, after so many months of reading about the medieval period, I'm finally getting the chance to dig into more recent history. I'm reading Clint Smith's How the Word Is Passed and next in the pile is Wendy Lower's The Ravine.

Favorite book when you were a child:

There were many, but two books that I owned and read over and over were Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel and Agatha Christie's The Secret Adversary. Clearly I thought I might have a future as a spy.

Your top five authors:

I agonize over creating lists like this. Top five in any genre? Across all time periods? If I restrict myself just to fiction, five authors I keep returning to are Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, William Faulkner, Leo Tolstoy and Donna Tartt.

Book you've faked reading:

I confess to skipping over entire chapters of Moby-Dick when I read it in school. Does that qualify?

Book you're an evangelist for:

Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies. I didn't expect this book to stick with me as much as it has. Certain scenes have wormed their way into my memory and refuse to leave. I've also been recommending a more recent read, Melissa Febos's essay collection Girlhood, and anything by the brilliant Jenny Offill.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I don't think I've ever bought a book for its cover as an adult. But as a kid, I fell in love with the covers of the Nancy Drew books on display at my local library. I would decide which one to check out next based solely on which cover promised the most mystery.

Book you hid from your parents:

Plenty, but two in particular come to mind--Anne Sexton's The Complete Poems and Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer.

Book that changed your life:

It's impossible to pick just one! Different books expanded my sense of what was possible at different times. One book that made The Dark Queens possible would be Antonia Fraser's Mary, Queen of Scots, which captured my imagination when I was a teen and opened my eyes to what biography and historical writing could accomplish.

Favorite line from a book:

My current favorite comes from a source I have spent entirely too much time with over the past two years, Gregory of Tours' sixth-century The History of the Franks: "A great many things keep happening, some of them good, some of them bad." I'd like a day planner with this quotation printed on its cover.

Five books you'll never part with:

Over many years and through several moves, I have toted around my dog-eared and annotated copies of Jeffrey Eugenides's The Virgin Suicides, Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, Deborah Tall's A Family of Strangers, Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and a tattered brown Riverside Shakespeare.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. Reading this novel is like unpacking a Russian nesting doll; once you know the links between the six storylines you can still be dazzled by the book's structure but you cannot recapture that initial sense of wonder.

Your top five nonfiction authors:

More agony! But any list of my favorite historian/detectives would have to include Ann Wroe, Rebecca Solnit, Hallie Rubenhold, Patrick Wyman and Daniel Mendelsohn.


Book Review

Review: Trust

Trust by Hernan Diaz (Riverhead, $28 hardcover, 416p., 9780593420317, May 3, 2022)

Trust has one question at its heart: Who was Mildred Bevel? In Hernan Diaz's high-concept second novel, he takes a four-part approach to answering the question: Trust harbors, by turns, a short novel, an unfinished autobiography, a memoir and Mildred's own journal. While Diaz's book is an ambitious formal experiment and an engrossing study in unreliable narration, it also manages to be an ideological tour de force.

In Bonds, a fictionalized version of Mildred's life, novelist Harold Vanner has renamed her Helen and her New York financier husband Benjamin. Referring to Benjamin's standing after the stock market crash of 1929, Vanner writes, "Only one man seemed to have been immune to the catastrophe." As Benjamin proceeds to multiply his assets, Helen's "quiet form of mania" grows so debilitating that he takes her to a sanatorium in Switzerland for treatment.

Benjamin comes across so atrociously in Vanner's novel that Mildred's husband, Andrew, on whom Benjamin is based, undertakes a score-settling autobiography, My Life. A rough draft of Andrew's book immediately follows Bonds and reads like a spluttering self-justification ("I have always been a guardian of public interest, even when it may seem that my actions go against the public interest"). As Benjamin does in Bonds, Andrew takes his wife to Switzerland for treatment, and again, as in Bonds, she doesn't recover, although in My Life it's physicians rather than psychiatrists who attend Mildred.

Trust's third section--A Memoir, Remembered--reveals that My Life was co-written by Ida Partenza, a secretary Andrew hired to help him with the book. Young Ida, like the reader, wants to learn the truth about Mildred's fate. However, it's not until decades later, in the 1980s, when Ida is an established 70-year-old writer, that she finally begins her memoir and detective work.

As in a traditional mystery, the truth isn't divulged until book's end, but in the meantime, Trust's other concerns--the clash between capitalism and communism; whether the 1929 stock market crash had nameable villains--are consuming. While Diaz (In the Distance) doesn't offer an effortless ride for readers who have no head for business, underneath the shoptalk is an exhilarating, unarticulated debate between Andrew Bevel's Randian individualism and the ideology that Ida learned from her Italian-immigrant anarchist father. Inevitably, Mildred has something to say about all this in the novel's fourth section, which comprises her heartbreaking--and, given her destiny, heartbreakingly named--journal, Futures. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: This heady historical novel uses four forms to illuminate its central character: a novel within a novel, an unfinished autobiography, a memoir and a journal.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: #ComedyBooksellingInjuries--It Only Hurts When I Read

"Booksellers! What's your most comedy bookselling injury?" the Gutter Bookshop in Dublin, Ireland, tweeted on Monday. "I'm asking this question because I have (yet again) strained the webbing between thumb & forefinger due to over-zealous use of a tape gun... #BooksellingInjuries."

Part of a bookseller's job description is to be like a duck, appearing to float serenely on the water's surface while paddling like hell underneath. A bookshop's magic depends upon not letting patrons see too far below the surface, where the muck and weeds lurk, as well as the ever-present threat of comedy bookselling injuries.

Gutter Bookshop's tweet prompted an entertaining and enlightening thread. Buffalo Books in Buffalo, Minn., responded: "Honestly, there are so many to choose from, my assistant keeps track '2 days since Shannon’s last accident'. I once tried to scoot sideways on an IKEA kids 3legged stool (they do NOT scoot) fell off on my bum and banged my head on the shelf behind me."

Other highlights: 

  • When I worked for Waterstones a young part timer managed to somehow 'ping' the corner of his black plastic square lanyard/ necklace thing straight into his eye and had to come and tell me how much it hurt and then have a sit down.
  • That time ALL my colleagues decided my arm was thin enough to go between the back of a shelf & the wall to dig out books which had fallen behind in @Hodges_Figgis during a stocktake... it was not. Maintenance were in hysterics. I bought no drinks that night. Not a one."
  • Pulled sciatic nerve in butt cheek trying to stretch into our window around other books whilst placing a book in & removing one it was replacing at Christmas.
  • Bleeding on Susannah York's book token when she asked me to seal the envelope. (Odd request but perhaps it was vegetarianism?) 
  • As a young bookseller many years ago, I lived in fear of injury inflicted by the terrifying 'Donleavy Nail'--a vicious 2in sharp nail projecting from the back of the shelf housing the orange-spined Penguin editions of JP Donleavy. No-one ever thought to just hammer it back in.

Falling down the stairs while carrying too many books has probably happened to many booksellers, but two respondents managed ascending tumbles: "I fell UP the stairs racing to get a strict-on-sale title back off the sales floor when a clueless newbie put it out early. Sprained finger, skinned knee." And: "I remember once I fell up the stairs to the cash office with 6 tills full of money and it went everywhere. Luckily shop was closed."

Emotional and psychological injuries are also quite common among booksellers: "I have sustained frequent and traumatic blows to my patience," someone noted, while another tweeted: "Emotional rather than physical injury, but I was called out (and misquoted) by a famous author in his national newspaper column for not recognising him when he offered to sign his books."

The latter post reminded me of an injury to my nascent bookselling ego. On a Sunday in 1992 when I made my solo cash register debut after being shadow-trained for a week, I waited on a famously intimidating author who lived in the area. As I was ringing her out, I made a couple of rookie mistakes. The first, which was relatively benign, was telling her that I loved her books. The second, however, was unforgivable. "What are you working on now?" I asked. Her stare could have melted stone. "One does not ask a writer that question," she snapped. Ouch! That hurt.

Injured ego aside, I don't think I ever had a comedy bookselling injury that would have been Gutter Bookshop threadworthy, though I confess there were probably a few times when I wanted to inflict injury (emotional or psychological, not physical) on a customer or colleague. 

Poltergeisty bookshelf projectiles also made Gutter Bookshop's thread, including: 

  • There was a shelf that was particularly known for throwing off its books and it conveniently was always when I was standing under it and always clonked my head.
  • There's a certain shelf in kids that launches a few picturebooks at the unsuspecting public if someone closes the staffroom door too heavily. I'm yet to solve this issue & fatalities are rare...
  • Got clobbered by a DeBurca Irish placenames book. Jumped off the shelf at me. Then banged my head off underside of shop mantelpiece on the way back up.

We've all been conked on the noggin by mysteriously plummeting tomes. It might be the most common bookseller injury, which makes sense. Bookstores are haunted after all. You can look it up... in books ranging from Christopher Morley's The Haunted Bookshop ("This shop is haunted by the ghosts/ Of all great literature, in hosts") to Louise Erdrich's The Sentence, where a spectral former customer named Flora torments bookseller Tookie ("I ran the scene over and over in my head. Not only had she thrown down the books, but she really might have tripped me.").

It now occurs to me that all those books assaulting us from on high over the years weren't the work of ghosts, or at least not human ghosts. Have we considered the possibility that bookshelves, bookcases and books, all deceased remnants of once magnificent living trees, might just be eking out their subtle revenge on convenient representatives of the species that killed them? Now that would be a comedy bookselling injury for the ages.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

KidsBuzz: Schiffer Kids: Big P Takes a Fall (and That's Not All) by Pamela Jane, illus. by Hina Imtiaz
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