Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 4, 2022

William Morrow & Company: The Midnight Feast by Lucy Foley

Shadow Mountain: The Witch in the Woods: Volume 1 (Grimmworld) by Michaelbrent Collings

Hell's Hundred: Blood Like Mine by Stuart Neville

Delacorte Press: Last One to Die by Cynthia Murphy

Margaret Ferguson Books: Not a Smiley Guy by Polly Horvath, Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Indiana University Press: The Grim Reader: A Pharmacist's Guide to Putting Your Characters in Peril by Miffie Seideman

St. Martin's Press: Lenny Marks Gets Away with Murder by Kerryn Mayne

Quotation of the Day

'At the Root of Everything... Is Connection'

"At the root of everything, for me, is connection--real, genuine, authentic connection. I have found that in books. I have found that in stories. I have found that sitting at the feet of people like Toni Morrison who make me feel like I have a home, I have a place. I need to make that connection for me, and now I see many more people need it than I realized before. No matter what, that's what I'm going to continue to do."

--Jeannine Cook, owner of Harriett's Bookshop in Philadelphia, Pa., in an Oprah Daily feature on her work and life

Harper: Our Kind of Game by Johanna Copeland


Lit for Black Kids Grows in Waltham, Mass.

Educator Brianna Perkins has opened Lit for Black Kids, an online bookstore focused on providing diverse books to Black and Brown children, out of a bedroom in her Waltham, Mass., home. 

Perkins told CBS Boston that she was inspired to open the bookstore in the summer of 2020, after protests swept the country following the murder of George Floyd. She noticed that Black books were selling out, but "only certain ones that talked about racism or anti-racist behavior." She "wanted to highlight all different kinds of books. Books about joy as well."

Perkins sells a range of titles from picture books to YA books, all of which have Black characters as the lead, and many of the authors she carries are independent authors. While most of her business is online, she does in-person events and pop-up shops around the Boston area.

"I just wanted to have a platform where our kids get to have joy, they get to see themselves playing outside, having lunch with their teacher," Perkins added.

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

Random Words Arriving This Month in Gloucester, Va.

Random Words, a bookstore with a general-interest new and used inventory, is opening in Gloucester, Va., on March 19. Per the Gloucester-Mathews Gazette-Journal, husband-and-wife team Kevin and Myra Moore found a space in the White Marsh Shopping Center in October and have been building the store since.

At present, most of their inventory is made up of new books, but the used book selection is growing thanks to community donations. Once the store is open they plan to implement a book-buying program, and they look to carry books for all ages across all genres.

Prior to opening Random Words, Moore had a career in the service industry. He told the Gazette-Journal that he felt it was time to start working for himself.

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

B&N's Sterling Publishing/Union Square & Co. Buys Boxer Books

Barnes & Noble's Sterling Publishing has bought Boxer Books, the London children's publisher specializing in picture books for children up to age seven. Sterling's Union Square & Co. will now publish children's books under its Union Square Kids and Boxer Books imprints.

Boxer Books has more than 200 backlist titles and many frontlist projects. Union Square & Co. currently distributes Boxer Books in the U.S. and sales representation continues. Boxer Books is distributed in the U.K. by Bounce Marketing.

Emily Meehan, chief creative officer and publisher, Union Square & Co., said, "We are proud to be providing a new home for Boxer Books and publisher David Bennett. I've long admired his curated approach to children's book publishing. His titles explore imaginative ideas and concepts, all with a great sense of style and design, and are an ideal match for Union Square Kids' mission of creating books that both children and adults can enjoy."

David Bennett, publisher and owner, Boxer Books, who will continue to lead the Boxer Books imprint, said of Union Square & Co.: "I am invigorated by the team's creative energy and the new markets we will reach. The opportunity to focus all my efforts on creativity while building Boxer with Union Square & Co. is going to be terrific!"

Harper: Sandwich by Catherine Newman

2nd & Charles Coming to Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Books-A-Million is opening a 2nd & Charles store on March 17 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., at the the Meadowbrook Shopping Center, 2306 McFarland Blvd. E., the Tuscaloosa News reported. A grand opening on March 26 will include giveaways and kid-friendly activities.

Founded in 2010, 2nd & Charles has expanded to 44 stores in 18 states. The retailer offers a variety of new and used books, as well as a selection of games, toys, music and musical instruments, DVDs, gifts and more. 

Obituary Note: Nick Beilenson

Nick Beilenson

Nick Beilenson, the former publisher of Peter Pauper Press who led the company for close to three decades, died on Tuesday due to complications from Covid-19. He was 85 years old.

In 1981, Beilenson and his wife Evelyn took over Peter Pauper Press, which was founded by his parents, Peter and Edna Beilenson, in Fleetwood, N.Y., in 1928. Under his leadership the company grew and expanded, producing gift and humor books, stationery products, journals, planners, children's books and more. He shared his parents' commitment to publishing quality products at "prices even a pauper could afford."

Before joining the family business, Beilenson was a corporate attorney in New York City, founded a law firm in White Plains, N.Y., and was a civil rights activist as well. He created the nonprofit Westchester Residential Opportunities, which focused on pressuring enforcement of the Federal Fair Housing Act and integrating Westchester County neighborhoods.

After retiring from Peter Pauper Press, Beilenson founded the Center for Public Interest Careers at Harvard College, which creates internship and job opportunities for Harvard students in nonprofit organizations around the country. Beilenson said of the CPIC: "I was almost of retirement age, and I wanted to have a career in public service. What I'm doing is an example that you can do really exciting things at any age. Life is long. It's not all or nothing."


Image of the Day: WORD Bookstore Hosts Odenkirk

Earlier this week, WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y., hosted the launch event for Bob Odenkirk's memoir Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama (Random House). The store reported that it was its biggest post-pandemic in-person event: more than 300 people attended the discussion, moderated by TV critic Alan Sepinwall, at the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg. Pictured: WORD co-owner Vincent Onorati (l.) with Odenkirk.

Happy 50th Birthday, Lift Bridge Books!

Congratulations to Lift Bridge Book Shop, Brockport, N.Y., and current co-owners Sarah and John Bonczyk, who celebrated the store's 50th anniversary last Saturday with an open house, in-store specials, book signings and more.  

"It was the fall of 1971. Brockport High School buddies Tim Fabrizio and Archie Kutz were back in town after their university days. Archie's brother, David, said, 'You should open a book store.' And thus it began," Westside News recalled. Lift Bridge Book Shop opened in January on Main Street, but business was slow and soon a better location was found on the other side of the canal at 71 Main Street. "After a summer of work fixing and reorganizing, the store reopened in time for the beginning of the 1972 fall semester at SUNY Brockport." 

Kutz bought Fabrizio out in the mid 1980s, though the friends maintained their partnership in the Fairport operation, Lift Bridge East, which eventually closed. Pat Kutz, Archie's wife, became more involved with bookkeeping and the children's book division in Brockport, and in 1989, she opened Lift Bridge Kids in Spencerport, which later became Lift Bridge Kids in Brockport. 

In 2001, the opportunity to buy the building at 45 Main Street allowed both Lift Bridge Book Shop and Lift Bridge Kids to combine into one location where the current store still operates. 

Sarah and John Bonczyk, owners since 2014, "have become unofficial 'stewards' of the village by providing a space to shop and to gather for everyone," Westside News noted, adding: "How does this place--a mere stone's throw from the Erie Canal, in a small 19th-century village--survive the Covid pandemic, the 2008 financial collapse, 9/11, the dawn of e-books, and college textbook rentals, not to mention ice storms, bridge closures, and occasional road work that blocks Main Street?

"It's simple, actually: they care for us and for each other. They're a safe harbor, a warm, cozy place to duck into on a cold, quiet afternoon. It's not just books, although books are the bread and butter of the store. It's also camaraderie, knowledge, belonging.... This is what Lift Bridge Book Shop is, after all: a place where you are known, whether it's your first time in the store or your 100th. The Bonczyks will welcome you with open arms."

Personnel Changes at S&S Children's; Dutton

At Simon & Schuster Children's Books:

Alex Kelleher has joined the company as associate director of publicity. He was most recently associate director of publicity at Scholastic, and has also worked at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Maryam Ahmad has joined the company as publicity assistant.

Jennifer Jimenez has joined the company as digital marketing associate. She was previously at Abrams.


Caroline Payne has been promoted to marketing manager at Dutton.

Media and Movies

TV: Slow Horses

Apple TV+ has released an extended first-look trailer for Slow Horses, based on the first of Mick Herron's novel series. The Wrap reported that the six-episode series, starring Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas, will debut April 1 with the first two episodes, followed by one episode every Friday thereafter.

The cast also includes Olivia Cooke, Saskia Reeves, Dustin Demri-Burns, Rosalind Eleazar, Christopher Chung, Paul Higgins, Freddie Fox, Chris Reilly, Steve Waddington, Paul Hilton, Antonio Aakeel and Peter Judd, with a special guest appearance by Jonathan Pryce. 

The series is produced for Apple TV+ by See-Saw Films and adapted for television by writer Will Smith (Veep, Paddington 2), who also executive produces. James Hawes directs all six episodes and exec produces.

Books & Authors

Awards: Joyce Carol Oates, PEN/Faulkner Fiction Finalists

The New Literary Project released a shortlist of five finalists for the $50,000 Joyce Carol Oates Prize, which is presented "to a mid-career author of fiction who has earned an extraordinarily distinguished reputation and garnered the widespread appreciation of readers." The winner, to be named in April, will be in brief residence at the University of California, Berkeley, and in the Bay Area in October 2022. The five finalists and their most recent publications are:

Christopher Beha, The Index of Self-Destructive Acts (Tin House)
Percival Everett, The Trees (Graywolf Press)
Lauren Groff, Matrix (Riverhead Books)
Katie Kitamura, Intimacies (Riverhead Books)
Jason Mott, Hell of a Book (Dutton)


Finalists have been unveiled for the 2022 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. The winner, who will receive $15,000, will be announced in early April. The remaining four finalists each receive an honorarium of $5,000. All five authors will be honored May 2 at the virtual 42nd Anniversary PEN/Faulkner Award Celebration. This year's finalists are:

Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed (Counterpoint) 
The Wrong End of the Telescope by Rabih Alameddine (Grove Atlantic)
The President and the Frog by Carolina de Robertis (Knopf)
Dear Miss Metropolitan by Carolyn Ferrell (Holt)
How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue (Random House).

"In these deeply divided times, the exceptional books chosen by our judges have the power to define our common human ground," said PEN/Faulkner awards chair Louis Bayard. "We look forward to coming together once more to celebrate both the diversity and the universality of the storytelling impulse."

Reading with... Neema Avashia

photo: Jennifer Waddell

Neema Avashia was born and raised in southern West Virginia to parents who immigrated to the United States. She has been a history and civics teacher in the Boston Public Schools since 2003. Her essays have appeared in the Bitter Southerner, Catapult, Kenyon Review Online and Lithub. Her first book, Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place (West Virginia University Press, March 1, 2022) examines Avashia's identity as a queer desi Appalachian woman, while encouraging readers to envision more complex versions of both Appalachia and the nation as a whole.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

You didn't know there were Indian people in West Virginia? Do I have the book for you!

On your nightstand now:

I just finished two excellent short story collections: Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor and Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So, each of which explores themes of queerness and identity in the context of insular communities--in Taylor's case, grad school in Madison, Wis., where I also went. In So's case, the Cambodian American community in the Central Valley of California. Now I'm reading Unprotected by Billy Porter, which is a beautiful memoir about growing up Black and queer in Pittsburgh, finding his way in the theater world at the height of the AIDS epidemic.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary. My first queer role model, even though neither she, nor I, really knew anything about queerness at the time!

Your top five authors:

Jesmyn Ward is hands-down the best writer of our generation, and I am left speechless by everything she writes. I am continually inspired by Louise Erdrich's ability to write in a way that is both prolific and profound. Carter Sickels's stories are grounded in places that are so familiar to me, but also ask hard questions about how our relationships in those places are shaped by our identities. Danez Smith's poems fill my classroom with the whole range of human emotion. And Jane McCafferty's characters live in my head for years after I've met them on the page.

Book you've faked reading:

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. We were assigned to read it in high school, and every time I'd start reading it, I'd fall asleep after three pages. I never finished it, and still managed to churn out a whole term paper about it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I've bought at least 20 copies of World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil for friends and family members. I love the way in which Nezhukumatathil is able to use descriptions of the natural world as entry points into her exploration of the personal. I've never read another book where every time I finished an essay, I literally sighed in satisfaction.

Book you've bought for the cover:

F*ckface by Leah Hampton. That title! The gorgeous deep blue background and the warty toad on the cover. I couldn't resist it. And every story within it confirmed that buying it was an excellent decision.

Book you hid from your parents:

Every book! I would stay up really late at night reading under the covers with a flashlight, and only go to sleep when my dad got up at 4 a.m. to head out for work at the chemical plant. I'm fairly certain he knew what I was up to, but he never called me out on it.

Book that changed your life:

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson changed everything about the way I understand the relationship between race, class and our system of mass incarceration. His belief that sound policy can be made only when we are proximate to those most impacted has completely shifted the way I think about my work as an educator. I'm a better human, and better teacher, for having read his work.

Favorite line from a book:

"You may not see it now," said the Princess of Pure Reason, looking knowingly at Milo's puzzled face, "but whatever we learn has a purpose and whatever we do affects everything and everyone else, if even in the tiniest way. Why, when a housefly flaps his wings, a breeze goes round the world; when a speck of dust falls to the ground, the entire planet weighs a little more; and when you stamp your foot, the earth moves slightly off its course. Whenever you laugh, gladness spreads like the ripples in the pond; and whenever you're sad, no one anywhere can be really happy. And it's much the same thing with knowledge, for whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer." --Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

Five books you'll never part with:

My signed copies of Southernmost by Silas House, Good Talk by Mira Jacob and The Sentence by Louise Erdrich. My teenage-self's heavily annotated Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. My West Virginia Encyclopedia.

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

I wish that I could have read The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake when I was in high school, instead of stumbling on it as an Expatalachian in my late 30s. I think that encountering his narrative voice, and seeing his rendering of home and characters who resembled my friends and neighbors, would have given me such better grounding for understanding the way that the place where I grew up was shaping the stories I was trying to tell.

The YA book people are trying to ban that I think every young person should have access to:

Stamped: Racism, Anti-racism and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds. We can't build an equitable world if we don't understand the roots of inequity. This book helps young people understand the roots.

Book Review

Review: Friend of the Devil

Friend of the Devil by Stephen Lloyd (Putnam, $26 hardcover, 240p., 9780593331385, May 10, 2022)

Stephen Lloyd's Friend of the Devil offers a captivating blend of madcap mischief, terrifying and gory malevolence and thoughtful ruminations on humanity. Gruesome, deadly serious and frequently hilarious, this novel is an unusual cocktail.

Sam Gregory works as an inspector for an insurance company, responsible for rooting out fraud or solving cases like this one: a valuable antique book gone missing from the library of Danforth Putnam, a snooty boarding school on an island off the coast of Massachusetts. A war veteran, Sam pops pills to clear his mind of the traumatic memories and bad dreams that haunt him. He feels only a jaded weariness at the privileged antics of the students (and for that matter, the staff), but dutifully searches for the missing volume, sure there's nothing here but another case of a drug-addled teen or disgruntled employee.

Sam is so wrong. But on his way to shocking, elemental horrors, he (and readers) will meet magnetic characters like the indomitable Harriet (D&D dungeon master, student journalist, extreme nerd and loyal friend) and bitter, acerbic Dale (a charity case at Danforth, which no one will ever let him forget). Despite his initial impressions of the school, Sam will take away unexpected lessons from these and other inhabitants of the island. What haunts Danforth and its very special missing book will turn out to be seriously sinister, and by the time Sam approaches its true nature--supernatural, or simple human evil?--the stakes will be ultimate.

Sam's sardonic wit and tough-guy demeanor impart a flavor of classic noir. Harriet, who moves swiftly and unstoppably from bullying victim to plucky heroine, is a pure pleasure. Lloyd, who is also a TV writer and producer (Modern Family; How I Met Your Mother), showcases a talent for description and rich sensory detail from the first pages, when readers meet the rarified denizens of Danforth, "a diverse group... in every way but one. They were all filthy rich." His characters are colorful, lovable or repellant, and the almost casual facility with which he kills them off is impressive.

Lightning-paced and undeniably weird, this is not a tale for everyone, as it bounces around between witch hunting and mythical evils, teenaged betrayals, PTSD, petty crime, bloody violence and delightful dry humor. But for the right reader, Friend of the Devil's unusual brand of gore and laughs is wildly, wickedly entertaining and positively unforgettable. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: This singular novel of teenaged hijinks, a mysterious missing book, potentially profound evil and PTSD is wry, shockingly violent, philosophical and laugh-out-loud funny.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Taking Stock--Do You Know Where Your Books Are?

"You sure have a lot of books in here. Have you read them all?" At some point in your bookish life, somebody has probably asked that question while visiting your home. My answer is usually a relatively cheerful no, but the question leaves a strange aftertaste. I wonder what the point of it is. I think of variations on wiseass and/or obscene replies I could have offered up. 

What would the bookseller equivalent be? Nobody enters a bookstore and asks, "Have you read all these books?" But there's another, more realistic question they would never think to ask: Have you ever counted all these books? Well, yes, to an extent. It's called inventory. 

Winter happens to be a good time of year to "do inventory" for many booksellers because the holiday season rush is in past tense and business tends to be, while not hibernal stock-still, at least a little calmer.

For some reason, I recently found myself paying attention to other people's inventory daze, taking stock you might say.

The Bookstore, Lenox

It all began on January 14, when the Bookstore, Lenox, Mass., posted on Facebook: "Another successful Inventory Day!" 

This knocked some memories loose. For the record, I absolutely hated inventory days during the 15 years I was a bookseller. It was a terrible, boring, seemingly endless task, and in the early 1990s much less technologically adept than it is now (I hope). Although bookshops are treasured for their nooks and crannies, when you're trying to count books, all those hiding places are considerably less cozy. 

Admittedly, the counting itself was less egregious than the days afterward spent checking our sections (shelves, displays and even backstock, in those days before just-in-time ordering ) for discrepancies in the numbers. Why did the dot matrix printout say we had five copies of John Gray's Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus when clearly only three were on hand? Etc... ad nauseam. Eventually our bookstore farmed out the actual counting to a professional inventory company, but the dreaded discrepancy checks were a forever curse.

Shakespeare & Co, Paris

Anyway, as I continued tracking bookshop inventory trends, the momentum started building on January 30, when Shakespeare and Company in Paris, France announced they would be closed the following two days "for our annual inventory"; and Swedish bookseller Uppsala English Bookshop in Uppsala said its "shops are closed for stock inventory."

Maine checked in on January 31. An e-newsletter from Print: A Bookstore in Portland noted that the shop had postponed its stocktaking: "Due to extenuating circumstances we weren't able to complete inventory last week so we'll be taking care of it this Wednesday (2/2)." On Instagram, hello hello books in Rockland said it would be closing February 6-11 "for our annual inventory, returns and resetting process.... We'll see you at 9 a.m. on Saturday the 12th, with brains full of numbers." Or, as owner Lacy Simons wrote in the shop's newsletter: "We're gonna keep this brief because we're busy brushing up on fifth grade math in advance of our upcoming annual inventory shenanigans."

I thought the momentum was really kicking in when WORD Bookstore posted on February 1: "Our Jersey City store is closed today for inventory! We'll see you tomorrow"; and Madison Street Books, Chicago, Ill., noted on Instagram: "After inventory and a snowstorm, we are open!"

But then Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn., threw me a major league curve on February 3: "We're closed for inventory today, but you can still shop with us online!" Four days later, however, Parnassus added: "Okay, so maybe we weren't closed for inventory on Thursday.... We were beyond honored to host Dolly Parton, James Patterson, and the crew from CBS Sunday Morning in honor of James and Dolly's upcoming book, Run, Rose, Run!" 

The Brewster Book Store, Brewster, Mass., put me back on track February 9 with a tribute to the shop's "inventory super heroes! Two days of counting every book in stock. We’re back open tomorrow and can’t wait to see you."

Savoy Bookshop, Westerly, R.I.

In Denver, Colo., the Bookies Bookstore posted: "Turns out, inventory takes quite a long time when you have ten of thousands of books, games, and teaching aides to catalog! So, we’ll be closed today, Monday February 28th. We appreciate your support and understanding and can’t wait to see you Tuesday."

That same day Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn., posted: "Today is inventory day! While we’re closed today as we count everything, we’ll be open tomorrow our regular hours." And from its sister store, Savoy Bookshop and Cafe in Westerly, R.I: "STAFF APPRECIATION POST: We don’t spend enough time bragging about our staff here. Yesterday our team spent 10+ hours counting every single item in store. They are all rockstars and this bookstore wouldn’t exist without them. To our booksellers, baristas, managers, marketing and events team, bookkeeper, and everyone else who keeps this business running, THANK YOU."

Gutter Bookshop, Dublin

In other corners of the globe this week, Kalk Bay Books in Cape Town, South Africa, shared a photo of a sign in the shop announcing that on Monday, "we will be closed for stocktaking. Apologies for any inconvenience... wish us luck... bring us hot pizzas and cold Savannas." Irish bookseller Gutter Bookshop in Dublin tweeted: "Our Cow's Lane bookshop will close at 4.30pm today (Tues 1st March) for our annual stocktake. Sorry for any inconvenience!" And much later: "Still beeping...."
Still beeping, indeed. Yes, it's that inventory time of year again. Do you know where your books are? 

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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