Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 18, 2022

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Doubleday Books: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio


Readers' Garden Bookstore, Granville, Ohio, Relocating

Readers' Garden Bookstore in Granville, Ohio, is relocating to 115 N. Prospect St., the Newark Advocate reported. Kim Keethler Ball, who bought the store in 2019, was elected to the Granville Village Council last November. The previous storefront, at 143 Broadway East, was owned by the village, and following Keethler Ball's election, the Ohio Ethics Commission ruled that she would now have to bid competitively to remain in that space.

Keethler Ball started looking for a new location after a village council meeting on the issue on January 19. The store's new space was previously home to a sandwich shop, and it has about the same square footage as the previous spot. Renovations are underway, and community members have offered to help move inventory from the old space to the new.

Keethler Ball hopes to reopen the store, which has been operating in Granville for nearly 18 years, on April 1.

Holiday House: The Five Impossible Tasks of Eden Smith by Tom Llewellyn; The Selkie's Daughter by Linda Crotta Brennan

Tome Bookstore to Open in Cincinnati

The Tome Bookstore will open next month at 2123 Beechmont Ave. in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. The Enquirer reported that the new bookshop and café is owned by science fiction author Jeremy Spencer, who writes under the pseudonym J.M. Clark (the Palace Program trilogy) and his wife, Autumn Spencer. A grand opening is planned for April 18. 

Featuring new and used books, the Tome Bookstore will also offer free classes for children and adults to learn to outline and write their own stories, create characters and more. It will also have a full-service cafe with drinks, bakery and gift items. 

“I wrote the trilogy to show how science fiction can be used to explore social issues and to promote diversity," said Clark. "Now, I'm excited about opening the Tome Bookstore and giving people of all ages an opportunity to learn more about writing and storytelling." 

Amistad Press: The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade by Hannah Durkin

Bookseller Buys Everybody's Bookstore, Rapid City, S.Dak.

Jessie Polenz, bookseller at Everybody's Bookstore in Rapid City, S.Dak., has purchased the used and new bookstore from retiring owner Lori Speirs. Polenz told the Rapid City Journal that she will officially take over on March 23, and Speirs will stay on for an "undetermined length of time" to help with the transition.

Polenz plans to start making some changes in April: she'll add a few extra bookshelves and also adjust hours so that the store will close slightly later in the day. If there is enough community support, she'll also consider opening on Sundays.

Speirs, who has owned the store since 1995, put the bookstore up for sale last summer. Once the ownership transition is complete, she plans to travel and visit her children who live out of state.

Polenz noted that she never intended to own a business, but when it looked like Speirs would have to close the store if she couldn't find a buyer, Polenz stepped up. "I really felt like I would rather put more effort in and learn to run a business than lose the bookstore entirely. I don't want to see the bookstore close."

International Update: BBA's Indie Bookshop of the Year Regional Winners, Northern European Book Markets

The British Book Awards unveiled the regional and country winners for the 2022 Independent Bookshop of the Year Award. Sponsored by Gardners and supported by the Booksellers Association, the prize "celebrates nine inspiring bookshops, selected from a list of 63 finalists, which have continued to support their local communities during the past two turbulent years," the Bookseller reported. 

The country and regional winners are Bookbugs and Dragon Tales, Norwich (East of England), O'Mahony's, Limerick (Island of Ireland), Burley Fisher Books, Haggerston (London), Wonderland Bookshop, Retford (Midlands), Forum Books, Corbridge (North England), The Edinburgh Bookshop, Edinburgh (Scotland), The Haslemere Bookshop, Haslemere (South East England), The Bookery, Crediton (South West England) and Book-ish, Crickhowell (Wales). 

These nine bookshops are now in contention for the overall Independent Bookshop of the Year Award, announced at the BBA ceremony in London on May 23. The overall Independent Bookshop of the Year winner will also compete to be crowned Book Retailer of the Year.


Analyzing preliminary sales figures from 2021, the European & International Booksellers Federation took a closer look at four bookselling markets in the northern Europe where bookselling has been heavily impacted by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. EIBF reported that in 2020 many booksellers "were forced to temporarily close their shops and, as a result, their sales numbers plummeted. Many countries continued to impose anti-pandemic measures and restrictions in 2021, which resulted in significant challenges for the international bookselling markets. The bookselling community has had to adapt to new conditions."

Focusing on Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, EIBF wrote that "booksellers in all these countries have been to some extent affected by lockdowns in form of closures of 'non-essential' shops or closures of public spaces of any kind. There were also other restrictions and factors in place that could have prevented customers from visiting physical bookshops in the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic." 

With many countries gradually lifting most of the pandemic restrictions and measures, further closures of "non-essential" businesses, including bookshops, seem unlikely at this stage, EIBF wrote. "Following the new reading consumptions habit introduced by the pandemic, it can be assumed that the popularity of digital book formats will continue to grow. Booksellers now have the opportunity to fully integrate these sales channels into their daily business model and develop new customer bases. Nevertheless, bookshops thrive on active engagement within communities and booksellers are keen to re-establish the connection with physical customers in the months ahead."


As New Zealand celebrated Waitangi Day recently, "one of the country's largest city libraries was closed, with staff and security given the day off," the Guardian reported. "But an error with the automated door programming meant Tūranga's doors opened to the public as usual--and the unstaffed and unsecured library was happily used by the public, who browsed and checked out books for hours before someone realized the mistake. As well as its books, the library is home to a wide variety of artworks and sculpture--but staff say nothing was stolen, and there were no serious incidents to report."

A library staff member, who said 380 people entered the Christchurch building that Sunday morning, noted: "Our self-issue machines automatically started up and 147 books were issued by customers. No book-theft alarms went off, and at this stage nothing has been reported missing, nor have we spotted any damage."

"We're grateful for the honesty of the people who used the library during this time," said Bruce Rendall, the head of facilities, property and planning at Christchurch city council. --Robert Gray

Zibby Books Challenges Readers to Visit 22 Bookstores in 2022

Zibby Books has launched a challenge to book lovers to visit 22 bookstores in 2022. The house was founded last year by publisher, author, podcaster and influencer Zibby Owens and author and publishing veteran Leigh Newman, and will publish 12 books a year with a focus on memoir and fiction.

Using the hashtag #22in22, the initiative already has the support of a long list of indies. There are a range of rewards, increasing from visiting one store ("an electronic badge" and "an invitation to the private Facebook group") to 22 ("custom certificate of achievement, a special electronic badge, entered to win a $500 gift card to your favorite bookstore [and] the satisfaction of knowing you won." And for an "extra credit" bonus, "every time you post on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter about a bookstore visit and add the hashtag #22in22 and #zibbybooks (and please tag @zibbybooks), you'll get entered to win one of two $500 gift cards that you can spend at your favorite bookstore." Participants register online and update their visits and stories as they occur.

The initiative emphasizes the many benefits of visiting a bricks-and-mortar store:

  • Because there's something that gets lost in purely transactional online shopping.
  • Because you'll discover a book.
  • Because being surrounded by books can improve any mood.
  • Because you'll be mingling with other like-minded people.
  • Because bookstores are so important, especially to their local communities.
  • Because bookstores suffered during Covid and we want to help.
  • Because you'll feel good once you do it.
  • Because authors depend on readers showing up for them.
  • Because it's super fun.

Obituary Note: Werner Guttmann

Former Thames & Hudson director Werner Guttman died February 21. He was 97. Guttman began his publishing career in export sales at Hammond & Hammond, and joined T&H in 1960 as a production executive before being appointed to its board as production director in 1969, the Bookseller reported. 

Over the next 20 years he was an instrumental figure in the development of the company, the publisher said, broadening its roster of print suppliers in Europe and spearheading its first forays into Asian print buying. 

"When I first joined Thames & Hudson as a junior production executive in 1989, Werner was in the process of handing over the production baton to Christopher Ferguson," said Neil Palfreyman, T&H's chairman. "First impressions were of a rather grand and daunting figure, but I quickly realized what a warm, intelligent and giving colleague he was. He was such a formative figure in the history of T&H."

In 1989, Guttmann began a successful decade-long career in international rights, with his native Germany one of his key markets, the Bookseller noted. He also built many valuable relationships throughout most of Europe, Russia and what were then the Soviet satellite countries, which were starting to have dealings with publishers from the West.


Image of the Day: Beware of Kaijus

On Wednesday, Eagle Eye Book Shop in Decatur, Ga., did its first big event since the pandemic started, with John Scalzi, whose new book is The Kaiju Preservation Society (Tor Books). Events coordinator Jamille Christman reported, "It went well considering we were pretty rusty.... Hopefully we are starting to get back to a more normal but we are still requiring masks at our events... unless you are a kaiju." (Note: no actual kaijus appeared at the event; the ones pictured above are Photoshopped.)

Booksellers Celebrate #StPatricksDay

At Lake Forest Book Store, Lake Forest, Ill.

Bookseller social media was wearing the green for St. Patrick's Day. Here's a brief sampling:

Kennys Bookshop, Galway, Ireland: "Happy #StPatricksDay one and all! Beannachtaí na Féile Padraig oraibh! In celebration, we'd like to give this hamper of Irish books worth €250 away to one person (anywhere in the world) this weekend."

Northshire Bookstore, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.: "Happy St. Patrick's Day Saratoga! We're open 10-7 on this warmish Thursday. Maeve loves everything Irish--visit and ask for her recommendations!"

Antonia's Bookstore, Trim, Ireland: "For St. Patrick's Day we have used the many different coloured books we have in stock to make an Irish flag in one window and a Ukrainian flag in the other."

Lighthouse Books, Brighton, Ont., Canada: "Happy St Patrick's Day!"

Bookery, Manchester, N.H.: "Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh, Bookery friends! Celebrate today by picking up a book by an Irish author and/or coming to Book Club at 6:00 to discuss Naoise Dolan's EXCITING TIMES!"

Morgenstern Books, Bloomington, Ind.: "Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone! To celebrate, we have a tasty Irish soda bread that we are selling by the loaf. Tastes amazing alone or with our seasonal drink, Joyce's Feast, named after Irish author James Joyce."

The Open Book, Santa Clarita, Calif. " 'You gotta try your luck once a day, because you could be going around lucky all day and not even know it.' --Jimmy Dean. Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the Open Book crew!!"

Main Street Books, St. Charles, Mo.: "Getting ready for the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Main Street! We’re all decked out in green and ready to go!"

Green Apple Books and Music, San Francisco, Calif.: "Forget to wear green? We got you covered! Grab a Green Apple bag or carry around a green book to keep the pinching away. Come to the greenest store in sf for St Paddy's!"

Personnel Changes at Insight Editions; Stanford University Press; Holiday House/Peachtree/Pixel+Ink

Chris Bauerle has joined Insight Editions as v-p, North American sales and operations. He was formerly v-p, director of sales and marketing for Sourcebooks.


At Stanford University Press:

Adam Schnitzer has joined the press in the newly-created position of marketing and sales director. He was formerly executive director, online and digital retail, at Hachette Book Group.

Emma Mundorff has been promoted to sales coordinator from sales assistant.


Darby Guinn has been promoted to associate marketing manager, school & library, at Holiday House, Peachtree Publishing Company, and Pixel+Ink. She was formerly marketing associate, school & library.

Media and Movies

TV: Red Notice

Director Doug Liman (The Edge of Tomorrow) will helm a series adaptation of Bill Browder's 2015 book Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice, "which explores the author's real-life fight against a corrupt Russian government under Vladimir Putin," Deadline reported. 

Liman will direct the eight-part series, which has been adapted by Florence Foster Jenkins writer Nicholas Martin. Michael Kuhn, who produced the Meryl Streep feature, is attached to produce. The project, described as "part financial caper and part crime thriller, is being shopped to streamers and independent studios with the hope of a spring 2023 launch," Deadline noted.

Books & Authors

Awards: NBCC, SCWI Golden Kite, Jane Grigson Trust Winners

Winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced last night during a ceremony, fundraiser and finalists reading. This year's NBCC Award recipents are:

Autobiography: Gay Bar: Why We Went Out by Jeremy Atherton Lin (Little, Brown)
Biography: All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler by Rebecca Donner (Little, Brown)
Criticism: Girlhood by Melissa Febos (Bloomsbury)
Fiction: The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (Harper)
Nonfiction: How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith (Little, Brown)
Poetry: frank: sonnets by Diane Seuss (Graywolf)
John Leonard Prize: Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So (Ecco)
Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing: Merve Emre
Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award: Percival Everett
Toni Morrison Achievement Award: Cave Canem Foundation


Winners of the 2022 Golden Kite Awards and honor books, presented to children's book authors and artists by their peers and sponsored by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, have been named. Golden Kite recipients receive a cash prize of $2,500 plus $1,000 to donate to a nonprofit of their choice. Golden Kite Honor recipients receive $500 plus $250 to be donate. This year's winning titles are:

Golden Kite Award Winners
Illustrated Book for Older Readers: Samira Surfs by Fahmida Azim (Kokila)
Middle Grade Fiction: Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca (Quill Tree Books)
Picture Book Text: Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Dung Ho (Harper Collins Books for Young Readers)
Nonfiction Text for Younger Readers: The Great Stink: How Joseph Bazalgette Solved London's Poop Pollution Problem by Colleen Paeff, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (Margaret K. McElderry Books)
Picture Book Illustration: King of Ragtime: The Story of Scott Joplin by Stephen Costanza (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
Nonfiction Book for Older Readers (co-winners): A Face for Picasso: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome by Ariel Henley (FSG Books for Young Readers); and Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer (Levine Querido)
Young Adult: When You Look Like Us by Pamela N. Harris (Quill Tree Books)

Golden Kite Honor Books
Illustrated Book for Older Readers: Genius Under the Table by Eugene Yelchin (Candlewick Press)
Middle Grade Fiction: Cuba in My Pocket by Adrianna Cuevas (FSG Books for Young Readers)
Picture Book Text: Soul Food Sunday by Winsome Bingham, illustrated by C.G. Esperanza (Abrams Books for Young Readers)
Nonfiction Text for Younger Readers: The People's Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought for Justice with Art by Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Evan Turk (Abrams Books for Young Readers)
Picture Book Illustration: Wonder Walkers by Micha Archer (Nancy Paulsen Books)
Young Adult: Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers)


Riaz Phillips won the £2,000 (about $2,605) Jane Grigson Trust Award, which recognizes "a first-time writer of a book about food or drink which has been commissioned but not yet published," for West Winds

Chair of judges and outgoing chair of the Jane Grigson Trust Geraldene Holt said: “Riaz brings his fresh, honest insight into the food culture of Jamaica and West Winds deserves the widest possible audience." Sarit Packer, one of the judges, commented: "I loved the connection Riaz makes between ingredients and cooking and as someone who is a child of immigrants, I identify with the feeling of being in limbo in both worlds, which comes across strongly in Riaz’'s writing."

The two runners up were Air and Love by Or Rosenboim and Rambutan by Cynthia Shanmugalingam.

Reading with... Nicky Beer

Nicky Beer is a bi/queer writer, and the author of the poetry collections The Octopus Game and The Diminishing House, both winners of the Colorado Book Award. She is an associate professor at the University of Colorado-Denver, where she is a poetry editor for the literary journal Copper Nickel. Her third poetry collection, Real Phonies and Genuine Fakes (Milkweed Editions, March 8, 2022), is a study of subterfuge; Marlene Dietrich, Dolly Parton and Batman are its instructors.

On your nightstand now:

I'm reading Sting in the Tale: Art, Hoax and Provocation, a recent book of art history on "fictive art," by the artist and scholar Antoinette LaFarge. Fictive art is artwork that "places a highly developed fiction at its centerpiece that is passed off as factual." So this runs the gamut of everything from pseudonyms and personae, like German-Canadian artist Iris Häussler's invention of the 19th-century outsider artist "Mary O'Shea," to fictive museums like the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, to the Codex Seraphinianus, "an encyclopedia for a world very different from Earth." I really enjoy LaFarge's interest in how fictive art often seeks to destabilize our relationships with authority and institutions. Since my latest book of poems, Real Phonies and Genuine Fakes, is similarly focused on interrogating our human dependence on illusions, it's a really timely read for me.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I loved how the D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths didn't sugarcoat the violence, jealousy and capriciousness of the gods, and didn't try to peddle a bunch of sappy moral lessons. Artemis, who wanted only to be left alone to hunt in the woods with her nymphs, was an early heroine for me, and I got a kick out of how sly and tricky Hermes was. The book's illustrations were so bold and expressionistic. One of my favorites was of the plagues that Pandora released: Gossip is depicted as a grotesque green fairy spitting out a cloud of flies. And I had some vaguely erotic stirrings for the illustration of Gaea represented as an anthropomorphic landscape with voluptuous hills.

Your top five authors:

Living: Linda Bierds, Alexander Chee, Natalie Diaz, Carsten René Nielsen, Colson Whitehead.

Passed on into the infinite library: Jane Austen, Elizabeth Bishop, Charles Dickens, Toni Morrison, Adam Zagajewski.

Book you've faked reading:

Someone once told me that every English professor has at least one canonical text that fills them with shame that they haven't read, and I am certainly no exception. So I'm going public with this for the first time: I'VE NEVER READ THE ILIAD! The Odyssey? Sure! The Aeneid? You betcha! But for some reason, I've never gotten around to the big-assed war epic in question. And I have no excuse for this, either: I've got a lovely edition sitting on my bookshelf behind me now as I type this. Maybe I'll start tomorrow?

Book you're an evangelist for:

I find myself recommending Aimee Nezhukumatathil's World of Wonders a lot these days. I love how its small, intense sections about specific florae and faunae replicate those briefly private interactions one can have with nature that border on rapturous. And Lauren Groff's Matrix, because who could have guessed that a novel about 12th-century nuns could be feminist as fuck?

Book you've bought for the cover:

Melissa Broder's Milk Fed, because it's a minimalist, geometric rendering of a single boob, and my mind is usually in the gutter. But as luck would have it, it's a delightful novel and often hilarious--which seems strange to say, given how explicitly and painfully the main character's eating disorder is depicted. But it's also playful and queer and sexy, and a thoughtful look at Judaism to boot.

Book you hid from your parents:

I'm really lucky that I never had to do this--they only ever forbade MTV. Although, as I child, I did accidentally discover their copy of The Joy of Sex (the very hairy 1970s version) on a bored afternoon of rummaging through some shelves in our basement. I was never able to locate it again, so I think that was one they subsequently hid from me.

Book that changed your life:

After I graduated college and started working in Manhattan, I was feeling ambivalent about writing and literature. On the one hand, I wanted to keep going with my poetry more than ever, but also--even as I was ploughing through piles of books on my subway commutes--I was having a hard time getting enthusiastic about anything I was reading. This might have been because I'd set myself the rather grim task of reading as many of the Modern Library Association's "Top 100 Novels" as I could--which, as you can guess, is a list that is overwhelmingly white and male and dead. But as luck would have it, my roommate and bestie Miles read Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist, fell in love with it, and recommended it to me. I was completely absorbed by Whitehead's city ruled by warring factions of elevator inspectors, and the intrigue in which its first Black woman inspector is entangled. The imaginativeness of how Whitehead writes about race through this premise completely floored me--as a reader and a writer, I felt so aware of possibility in a way I hadn't been feeling before: this is what a person can do with words. The book helped me regain my sense of joy and curiosity about literature, and that momentum helped me muster the courage to apply to MFA programs and make the big scary move to Texas after a lifetime of living in the Northeast.

Favorite line from a book:

I often feel painfully self-conscious when it comes to expressing thoughts about spirituality, religion and God, so I have a little notebook in which I jot down lines by authors who've expressed things that align closely with my beliefs. Here's one of them:

"Great grief, great god; where there is one, there is the other." --Mark Doty, Heaven's Coast: A Memoir

Five books you'll never part with:

C.S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew, Ada Limón's Bright Dead Things, Yoko Ono's Grapefruit, Charles Simic's Dismantling the Silence, and Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That?

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

Probably Pride and Prejudice, if only for my initial astonishment when I realized that this Jane Austen person was so goddamned funny.

Book for which you sustained an injury:

Mary Gabriel's Ninth Street Women--Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art. The hardcover is 900+ pages and weighs over three pounds, and I gave myself carpal tunnel reading it while lying on my back in bed over the course of three months. 100% worth it.

Book Review

Review: Last Call at the Nightingale

Last Call at the Nightingale by Katharine Schellman (Minotaur Books, $27.99 hardcover, 320p., 9781250831828, June 7, 2022)

In Last Call at the Nightingale, Katharine Schellman (The Body in the Garden) serves up Prohibition-era murder and intrigue with style, atmosphere and a side of bootlegged bubbles and gin. The first in a Jazz Age mystery series, this novel will appeal to readers on several levels.

In 1920s New York City, Vivian Kelly is alone in the world but for her stick-in-the-mud older sister, Florence. Vivian works for a pittance and receives less respect in a dressmaker's factory, but at night she has a space where she can forget her poor pricked fingers and dance 'til last call: the Nightingale, a speakeasy jazz club. "She needed to feel like she belonged somewhere, to feel there was something in her life that actually belonged to her," and the Nightingale and its staff and patrons give her just that. Vivian is "poor orphan Irish trash"; her best friend Bea is Black; bartender Danny is Chinese; and the bar's owner, Ms. Honor Huxley (don't call her Miss), prefers other women as her dance partners. The Nightingale is a place where anything goes, more or less--until one night that includes murder.

When Vivian discovers a body just outside the club's back door, she finds herself thrown into circumstances beyond her usual daytime drudgery and nighttime frolics. "I grew up in an orphanage. I live in a tenement. People die faster there than on Park Avenue," she blusters, but she's in over her head. Arrested in a raid, she owes her bail bond to the intimidating but sexy and intriguing Ms. Huxley. Then a mysterious stranger arrives from Chicago and begins pursuing Vivian. Threatening bruisers are hot on her tail, and Florence is increasingly displeased by the younger sister's nightlife. Vivian at first feels pressure from others to solve the murder; eventually she may need to do so to save her own life. A poor dressmaker's apprentice, she creeps into the parlors of the powerful to poke into their secrets, and finds herself pinned between the criminal underworld and the careless menace of the very rich. Time is running out, but this protagonist is as plucky as they come.

Readers will love Last Call at the Nightingale for its twisting plot, its flair for historical detail and its inclusive cast of appealing characters. Schellman's author's note on historical accuracy broadens the appeal of this engrossing jaunt into murder and dangerously good times. Don't look away, as the surprises keep coming until the final page. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: With lively and appealing historical detail, this mystery turns a poor factory worker into a sleuth when a murder disrupts the party at her favorite jazz speakeasy.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Brackets, Baskets & Books--Good Game, Coach

Although bookseller social media was awash in green yesterday for St. Patrick's Day, something else was happening that may have slipped under the radar. Just kidding. The first-round games of the NCAA men's basketball tournament hit the courts nationwide, and they don't call it March Madness for nothing. 


Some indie booksellers have had their game face on for weeks, including Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va. ("It's time to announce why our logo turned into a basketball! Introducing #MarchBookMadness!!!"); Bluestocking Social, Evansville, Ind. ("It's March, which means that it's time for our book bracket!"); and Bookstore at Fitger's, Duluth, Minn. ("It's time for a March Madness bracket that's just for booklovers!... see which book will win the coveted title (that we totally didn't just create because we want to make pretty bookmarks and maybe a little sash for the winner) of Fitger's March Madness 2022 Champion!").

Merch Madness at Books Are Magic

Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, N.Y., is putting a slightly different spin on the ball: "Merch Madness is NOW LIVE!! Go vote in our stories to help us pick which shirt to reprint!!"

I'm in the game, too, though March Madness 2022 is just a little bittersweet with the impending retirement of legendary Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will leave the court after his Blue Devils either lose a tournament game or win the championship. Winning would be dramatic, though fairy tale endings are rare. 

Coach K and Duke have many devoted haters, but I've been a fan since the early 1980s. I'm currently reading Ian O'Connor's Coach K: The Rise and Reign of Mike Krzyzewski, which has been an excellent teammate as the clock winds down. As far as I can tell, the book seems like a balanced account of Krzyzewski's life and career. 

Writing this column on St. Patrick's Day, I found myself thinking about the book's introduction, in which O'Connor shares a story of the last days of Joe McGuinness, a 55-year-old Irish American dying of nasopharyngeal cancer. Back in the 1970s, during his first head coaching job at West Point, Krzyzewski had recruited Joe, and then coached him for just two seasons before leaving to take the Duke job. 

Though their time together was brief, over subsequent decades Krzyzewski maintained his connections with the McGuinness family, had a role in getting Joe first class medical treatment and remained in communication with him until his final days. 

"The secret to Coach K's greatness, his friends say, is in his relationships. Thousands of them," O'Connor writes, though the book does not shy away from Krzyzewski's faults. He's multi-faceted, and some of those facets shine less brightly. 

Still, personal experience is a valuable perspective and I have some. With his retirement, this is probably the last time I'll revisit my own small Coach K encounter, so here goes....

During the mid-1990s, while I was working for the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vt., Nike hosted some kind of conference at the Equinox Resort nearby. Several Division I college basketball coaches were attending--all, I assume, with Nike shoe contracts at the time. I recognized many of them. 

On one of the nights, downtown Manchester shops stayed open later than usual for a special Nike conference shopping tour. While the Northshire might not seem like a natural gathering place for this group, it happened to be the temporary site of Equinox's mobile bar. We rearranged the children's section (sorry, kids) to accommodate the booze station, and the setup attracted a good crowd. 

I remember overhearing one coach say, as he walked past the service counter: "I hate bookstores; they remind me of libraries." I didn't take it personally and I didn't fall prey to jock stereotyping. After all, I played college sports and majored in English long ago. Few people fit neatly into stereotypes.

Earlier that afternoon, long before the evening festivities, I was helping a customer with some art books. He'd already found several titles he wanted to purchase--most, but not all, remainders--and asked about a couple of others, building a healthy stack. Soft-spoken, he looked and acted like any other customer, but I recognized him immediately as Mike Krzyzewski. 

I didn't say anything. Northshire's unofficial celebrity policy was to simply respect their privacy. Coach K was polite and unassuming. I was impressed. Eventually, I rang up his order and he left. Simple transaction.

The next morning, he returned and sought me out. For a moment, I thought maybe he'd heard about my jump shot, wanted to know if maybe I still had a year of eligibility left--despite being in my mid-40s--and would consider playing a season for Duke. No, I didn't think that. 

March Madness at Lift Bridge Book Shop, Brockport, N.Y.

"Excuse me," Krzyzewski said. "I don't know if you remember me, but I bought some art books from you yesterday and forgot to use this." He handed me a coupon we were honoring as part of the Nike event. It was good for a free coffee table book about Vermont with a minimum purchase. Such a simple moment, but the way he approached this interaction with a retail clerk--undemanding, courteous--told me something about the man. 

"I remember," I said, and went to get his free book. Another pleasant exchange, and that was it. I continued to be a Coach K fan, and I'll be rooting for Duke again in this year's NCAA tournament because, well, he bought some books from me a long time ago.

Good game, Coach K. 

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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