Shelf Awareness for Thursday, April 28, 2022


Flatiron Books: White Horse by Erika T. Wurth

Holiday House: Owl and Penguin (I Like to Read Comics) by Vikram Madan; Noodleheads Take it Easy by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton, and Mitch Weiss

Blackstone Publishing: Ezra Exposed by Amy E. Feldman

Clavis: Fall Preview

Amulet Books: Marya Khan and the Incredible Henna Party (Marya Khan #1) by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Ani Bushry

Charlesbridge Publishing: Abuelita and I Make Flan by Adriana Hernández Bergstrom; Brand-New Bubbe by Sarah Aronson, illustrated by Ariel Landy

Shadow Mountain: To Capture His Heart (Proper Romance Victorian) by Nancy Campbell Allen

News

Two Cars Crash into Papercuts Bookshop

Two cars crashed into Papercuts Bookshop in Jamaica Plain, Mass., on Wednesday morning after a collision in the intersection outside the store. WBZ Boston reported that the crash occurred at around 11 a.m., about an hour before the store was scheduled to open, and no one was inside the store at the time.

One of the drivers involved told WBZ that she was crossing the intersection with a green light when she was t-boned by the other car. While she was unhurt, the driver of the other car was taken to the hospital.


University of California Press: Dictee (Second Edition, Reissue, Restored);  Exilee and Temps Morts: Selected Works (First Edition, Reissue) by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha


Hummingbird Books Opening Saturday in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

"I've always thought this area would be a dream location," said Wendy Dodson, owner of Hummingbird Books in Chestnut Hill, Mass., which is set to open this Saturday, Independent Bookstore Day. "It's where my roots are, my family and my friends. And I just feel like we can never have enough bookstores."

The roughly 2,000-square-foot store carries new titles for readers of all ages. There is a very large children's section, complete with a "Great Oak Tree" that is large enough for customers to enter and sit inside, and Dodson explained that cultivating a child's love of reading is a "big part of the mission here."

Wendy Dodson

She and her team, which includes Clarissa Murphy, Andrea Chiang and Rachel Walerius, plan for the store to be a hub for families with young children, but also have everything an adult book buyer would want. Dodson mentioned that some of her favorite book genres are memoirs and nature writing, and Hummingbird Books will have robust selections of both.

"As an adult, I really appreciate the joy and wonder of walking around a bookstore and getting immersed in something different," Dodson remarked.

Gifts are also going to be a big part of Hummingbird Books' offerings. Dodson pointed to gift books, like the handcrafted coffee-table books from Assouline Books, as well as things like candles, games, puzzles and stuffed animals. While there are no plans for food or beverages, there will be some candy and chocolates for sale. Dodson added that the store will be "really well stocked" for Mother's Day and Father's Day.

Hummingbird's "Great Oak Tree"

Dodson said there will be two children's storytime sessions per week, one on Thursday morning and one on Sunday morning. For adults there will be plenty of author events; Dodson feels it is the "responsibility of indie bookstores" to support local authors and host local authors. And while it was too early for specifics, Dodson mentioned that the bookstore is looking to partner with other local businesses and nonprofits in the area.

On IBD, festivities will include live music, an Instagram booth, lemonade from Shake Shack and more. Said Dodson: "It's going to be a celebration."

Dodson is also the owner of Valley Bookstore in Jackson, Wyo., which she purchased about a year and a half ago. Earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic, she had time to reflect and think "about how I wanted to be spending my time." Owning a bookstore had always been a lifelong dream, and she decided it was time to pursue it. "I'm so fortunate that I found an incredible mentor in the owner of Valley Bookstore, who helped me realize my dream."

While Dodson loves Jackson and its community, Chestnut Hill is where her roots are and she "really wanted to return to Massachusetts." Her grandson lives less than a mile from the store and many of her friends are in the area. That was a major reason why she wanted to return, and she noted that while getting the bookstore ready over the past several months, she's often run into people she knows.

"It's been so wonderful," Dodson said, adding that the community's enthusiasm has been inspiring. "It seems like people are really excited and appreciative. It's so gratifying." --Alex Mutter


Blair: A Girlhood: Letter to My Transgender Daughter by Carolyn Hays


City Center Gallery & Books, Fayetteville, N.C., Expanding

City Center Gallery & Books in downtown Fayetteville, N.C., will nearly double in size when it expands into an adjacent building, the Fayetteville Observer reported.

Owners Hank and Diane Parfitt opened City Center Gallery & Books, which carries predominantly used books along with a selection of new titles, at 112 Hay St. in 2003. They purchased the adjacent building at 110 Hay St. last November. The long-neglected building had fallen into a state of disrepair, and the Parfitts bought it not only to expand their own business but also save the building from being demolished.

"The worst thing you can have for one of your old buildings is to have the building next to it torn down," Hank Parfitt told the Observer. "We had to buy it to save our building."

They plan to use the additional space for hosting events and carrying more inventory, and expect the work to be done in time for the holidays.


Graphic Mundi - Psu Press: Hakim's Odyssey by Fabien Toulme and Hanna Chute


B&N Closing Boston Prudential Center Store

Barnes & Noble is closing its location at the Prudential Center in Boston, Mass., on June 19, the company announced last week. According to a Facebook post about the closure, B&N was unable to reach an agreement with its landlord to keep the Prudential Center location open. The store, which has been in operation for about 20 years, is holding a 25% off sale on everything in store.

B&N also pointed Boston-area customers to its stores in Hingham and Peabody. Earlier this year, the company announced that it would be closing its Braintree location in May and would look to open a new location in the area.


Ebony Magazine Publishing: Black Hollywood: Reimagining Iconic Movie Moments by Carell Augustus


Obituary Note: Lou Satz

Lou Satz

Lou Satz, head of sales at Bantam Books during its mass market paperback publishing heyday, died on April 9 at age 94.

As recounted by Penguin Random House, in part, Satz was "an essential guiding member of the company's '60s and '70s pantheon, under Oscar Dystel, responsible for Bantam paperbacks enjoying a prominent place among America's first-choice reading preferences. Then primarily a paperback reprinter in an era when the mass-market format ruled the book marketplace, the Satz-led sales team month after month filled and refilled tens of thousands of grocery, drugstore, and airport racks, as well as traditional book and department stores and mass merchandisers' shelves, with Bantam's popular and critically beloved newly published and backlist fiction and nonfiction.

"Mr. Satz spent most of his adult life in service, first to the military, and then to book publishing and bookselling, beginning his career with the latter in 1953. He spent 23 years at Bantam, starting in 1962 as a wholesaler sales manager, rising to v-p, director of sales, until 1980, and then serving four years as Bantam's senior v-p, director, diversified markets. Along the way, he encouraged the careers of several generations of sales reps and executives, many of whom became key longstanding contributors to the company and the industry. His abiding friendships with such authors as Louis L'Amour and James Herriot enhanced their relationships with their publisher.

"Post-Bantam, Mr. Satz relocated to California, and co-created the consulting company Scott/Satz Group, with life partner Gloria Scott, a former Bantam Education executive, whose clients included World Book, Passport Books, Random House, and Bantam.

"A proud veteran of World War Two, he wrote and self-published four books, among them, Occupation Europe 1945-1946, As Witnessed by a 19-Year-Old GI, chronicling his experiences in counter-intelligence to thwart the black market and acts of violence, and serving Displaced Persons."

Condolences messages can be sent via e-mail to his sons Jay and Jonathan or to Jay at 851 S. 39 St., Tacoma, Wash. 98418.


Notes

Image of the Day: Winslow's City on Fire

Bookstores in San Diego, Calif., partnered this week to host author Don Winslow for the launch of City on Fire (Morrow), the first book in a new crime trilogy, at the San Diego Central Library. Winslow, who recently announced his retirement from writing to focus on politics, said this will be his final book tour.

Pictured: (l.-r.): Seth Marko (The Book Catapult); Faye Hunt (The Library Shop); Julie Slavinsky (Warwick's); Don Winslow, John Beaudette (Warwick's); Alison Reid and Mary Pluto (DIESEL, A Bookstore); Kim Devoe (Warwick's); John Evans (DIESEL, A Bookstore) and Scott Ehrig-Burgess (The Library Shop).

IBD Spirit Week: 'On Wednesdays We Wear Bookstore Shirts (or IBD Shirts)'

Independent Bookstore Day Spirit Week celebrated "On Wednesdays We Wear Bookstore Shirts (or IBD Shirts)." Among the Indies participating:

Bettie's Pages, Lowell, Mich.: "On Wednesdays we wear bookstore shirts! This idea started last year as a way for me to support and encourage my indie bookstore friends across the country! And this year it's a part of #BookstoreSpiritWeek leading up to Indie Bookstore Day!! Indie Bookstore Day is a one day national party that takes place at independent bookstores across the country!... Indie bookstore owners will never build rockets to space or become monetarily rich doing this. But we are rich in community! And this Saturday is all about celebrating that!"

Good Neighbor Bookstore, Lakewood, N.Y.: "Your daily reminder that Indie Bookstore Day is this Saturday! As an industry we're celebrating Spirit Week. I forgot to wear plaid yesterday, and this Wednesday and every Wednesday indie bookstores wear t-shirts from other indies. Today I've got my shirt from Salida Books in Colorado. Also featured in this picture is one of the exclusive mugs you can pick up on Saturday (while supplies last)."

City of Asylum Bookstore at Alphabet City, Pittsburgh, Pa.: "On Wednesdays We Wear Bookstore Shirts! #bookstorespiritweek is underway and today we're celebrating our fellow indies! Lesley is repping @eastbaybooksellers in Oakland, CA and Jen is repping @ravenbookstore in Lawrence, KS. Show your love for indie bookstores this Saturday! We can't wait to celebrate with you!"

Subterranean Books, St. Louis, Mo.: "Kicking off Indie Bookstore Spirit Week with our full time crew sporting Subterranean Books t-shirts! (Left to right: Gena, Teddy, Sarah, Kelly and Alex) Even Teddy wanted to wear one - note to ourself we need onesies!) We hope to see you Saturday!"

Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, Mass.: "On Wednesdays, we wear bookshop tees!"

Fables Books, Goshen, Ind.: "Tomorrow is Wear Bookstore Shirt Day for #BookstoreSpiritWeek! We'll count 'book themed' shirts as well, so come visit us."

The Book Worm Bookstore, Powder Springs, Ga.: "Wear your Book Worm shirt today! Spirit Week continues and it is wear your Bookstore T-shirt day. Be sure to tag us in your photos."

Book Industry Charitable Foundation: "Judey Kalchik, Binc's Communication and Project Manager, is wearing the new t-shirt from Bookshop for Independent Bookstore Week's Wednesday theme day: bookstore t-shirt! You can buy your own (choice of black or white) and a BIG thanks to Bookshop for donating the proceeds to Binc!"

Bookshop.org: "On 'Wednesdays We Wear Bookstore Shirts' for #BookstoreSpiritWeek. Here are some cool booksellers and Bookshop.org staff celebrating."

Gottwals Books, Robins, Ga.: "Spirit Week continued today with On Wednesdays We Wear Bookstore Shirts! Join us tomorrow for Dress Up As Your Favorite Book Character Day!"


Personnel Changes at Little, Brown

Bryan Christian has joined Little, Brown as a senior marketing director, overseeing marketing of Little, Brown and Mulholland books.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Molly Shannon on Colbert's Late Show

Tomorrow:
Late Show with Stephen Colbert repeat: Molly Shannon, author of Hello, Molly!: A Memoir (Ecco, $27.99, 9780063056237).

Late Late Show with James Corden repeat: Bob Odenkirk, author of Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama: A Memoir (Random House, $28, 9780399180514).


Fresh Air Examines Book and Speech Bannings

Fresh Air today will focus on "new laws and regulations banning books and prohibiting speech in the classroom, including in Florida where there are now limits on discussion of race, gender and sexual orientation. And dozens of math textbooks have been rejected for incorporating what's described as critical race theory." The main guest will be New York Times reporter Dana Goldstein, who covers education.


This Weekend on Book TV: Carla Hayden

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, April 30
5:15 p.m. Derek Baxter, author of In Pursuit of Jefferson: Traveling through Europe with the Most Perplexing Founding Father (Sourcebooks, $27.99, 9781728225388). (Re-airs Sunday at 5:15 a.m.)

6:10 p.m. Zachary Schrag, author of The Fires of Philadelphia: Citizen-Soldiers, Nativists, and the 1844 Riots Over the Soul of a Nation (Pegasus, $29.95, 9781643137285). (Re-airs Sunday at 6:10 a.m.)

7 p.m. Jonathan White, author of A House Built by Slaves: African American Visitors to the Lincoln White House (Rowman & Littlefield, $26, 9781538161807). (Re-airs Sunday at 7 a.m.)

Sunday, May 1
8 a.m. Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel, authors of The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology (PublicAffairs, $29, 9781541797918). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m.)

9 a.m. Neda Toloui-Semnani, author of They Said They Wanted Revolution: A Memoir of My Parents (‎Little A, $14.95, 9781542004497). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m.)

10 a.m. Justin Gest, author of Majority Minority (Oxford University Press, $29.95, 9780197641798). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

11 a.m. John Feinstein, author of Raise a Fist, Take a Knee: Race and the Illusion of Progress in Modern Sports (Little, Brown, $30, ‎ 9780316540933). (Re-airs Sunday at 11 p.m.)

12 p.m. Live In-Depth q&a with Lawrence Kudlow, author of JFK and the Reagan Revolution: A Secret History of American Prosperity (Portfolio, $29, 9781595231147). (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m.)

4 p.m. Bruce Johnson, author of Surviving Deep Waters: A Legendary Reporter's Story of Overcoming Poverty, Race, Violence, and His Mother's Deepest Secret (‎Post Hill Press, $28, 9781637581827).

5:05 p.m. Malcolm Gladwell and journalist Jacob Weisberg discuss podcasts and audio books at the New Orleans Book Festival on the campus of Tulane University.

6:10 p.m. Ernie Suggs, author of The Many Lives of Andrew Young (NewSouth Books, $60, 9781588384744).

7:30 p.m. Book TV interviews Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.



Books & Authors

Awards: Stella Winner; Women's Fiction Shortlist

A debut collection of poetry and prose, Dropbear by Evelyn Araluen has won the 2022 Stella Prize, supported by the Wilson Foundation and honoring "the most original, excellent, and engaging work by an Australian woman or non-binary writer." This is the first year the award was opened to poetry. Normally the winner would receive A$50,000 (about US$35,670), but because the organizers have reached their endowment target of A$3 million (US$2.1 million), the prize money has been raised to A$60,000 (US$42,800).

Judges called Dropbear "a breathtaking collection of poetry and short prose which arrests key icons of mainstream Australian culture and turns them inside out, with malice aforethought. Araluen's brilliance sizzles when she goes on the attack against the kitsch and the cuddly: against Australia's fantasy of its own racial and environmental innocence."

---

A shortlist has been released for the £30,000 (about $38,145) Women's Prize for Fiction, which "celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women's writing from throughout the world." This year's shortlist incorporates a range of themes, including belonging and identity; the power of nature; the burden of history; personal freedom; sisterhood; mental illness; ghosts; gender violence; and the opportunity for renewal. The novels also offer globe-spanning settings, from Antarctica to Montana, Cyprus to Trinidad. The winner will be named June 15. The shortlisted titles are:

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason
The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki
The Bread the Devil Knead by Lisa Allen-Agostini
The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, May 3:

Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance by John Waters (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26, 9780374185725) is a novel by the famously filthy filmmaker.

Fly Girl: A Memoir by Ann Hood (Norton, $26.95, 9781324006237) is the novelist's recounting of her early career as a TWA flight attendant.

The Barrens by Kurt Johnson and Ellie Johnson (Arcade, $26.99, 9781950994489) is a father-daughter collaboration about a perilous journey through the Canadian Arctic.

Devil Himself: A Novel by Peter Farris (Arcade, $26.99, 9781950994519) is Southern Noir about a human trafficking ring.

This Train: A Novel by James Grady (Pegasus Crime, $25.95, 9781639361519) is a thriller about a suspicious cast aboard a train across America.

Muse: Uncovering the Hidden Figures Behind Art History's Masterpieces by Ruth Millington (Pegasus, $27.95, 9781639361557) explores 30 real people depicted in famous works of art.

The Hawk's Way: Encounters with Fierce Beauty by Sy Montgomery (Atria, $20, 9781668001967) chronicles a naturalist's bond with a trained Harris's hawk.

My Seven Black Fathers: A Young Activist's Memoir of Race, Family, and the Mentors Who Made Him Whole by Will Jawando (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28, 9780374604875) is the memoir of a civil rights activist.

The Road to J.O.Y.: Leading with Faith, Playing with Purpose, Leaving a Legacy by Scott Drew and Don Yaeger (Thomas Nelson, $28.99, 9780785291657) is about Drew, the men's basketball coach of Baylor University.

The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton, illus. by Khadijah Khatib (Holt, $16.99, 9781250174949), features an 11-year-old who will be the first Conjurer to attend Arcanum Training Institute, a magical school hidden in the clouds.

Apple Crush by Lucy Knisley (Random House Graphic, $12.99, 9780593125380) is the middle-grade sequel to Stepping Stones in which Jen, now used to farm life, has to adjust to a new school.

Paperbacks:
Sisters of the Neversea by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Heartdrum, $7.99, 9780062869982).

Ophie's Ghosts by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray, $7.99, 9780062915849).

The Darkness in the Light: A Thriller by Daniel Kalla (Simon & Schuster, $17.99, 9781982191399).

The Sweetness of Water: A Novel by Nathan Harris (Back Bay Books, $17.99, 9780316461245).

After the Apocalypse: America's Role in a World Transformed by Andrew Bacevich (Metropolitan, $17.99, 9781250839343).

Heroic Hearts by Jim Butcher and Kerrie Hughes (Ace, $18, 9780593099186).


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

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

Hardcover
Four Treasures of the Sky: A Novel by Jenny Tinghui Zhang (Flatiron, $27.99, 9781250811783). "A stunning debut! Four Treasures of the Sky is pointed, heartbreaking, and breathtakingly beautiful. Indisputably a masterpiece, and I am already looking forward to whatever journey Zhang wants to take us on next." --Kari Johnson, Shakespeare & Co., New York, N.Y.

Easy Beauty: A Memoir by Chloé Cooper Jones (Avid Reader Press, $28, 9781982151997). "The subtitle 'memoir' doesn't do justice to this spectacular, sui generis meditation on art, disability, parenting, and travel. It's about more than memory--it's about living in the now and creating the future we want for our children." --Rebekah Shoaf, Boogie Down Books, Bronx, N.Y.

Paperback
Mary Jane: A Novel by Jessica Anya Blau (Mariner Books, $16.99, 9780063052307). "Mary Jane is fourteen in 1975 and her summer job is full of surprises, spontaneity, and love as she is pulled into the family of the little girl she nannies. A sweet, funny story of self-discovery and belonging. This really hit home for me." --Courtney Boches, Reads & Company, Phoenixville, Pa.

For Ages 4 to 8
Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness by Maria Gianferrari, illus. by Pete Oswald (HarperCollins, $18.99, 9780063067912). "Who has not envied the delightfully simple life of a dog? Being a Dog is an engaging way to introduce young children to the idea of mindfulness. Kids will love the cute illustrations and easy instructions to be like their furry friends!" --Jessica Baker, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, N.C.

For Ages 8 to 12
Those Kids from Fawn Creek by Erin Entrada Kelly (Greenwillow Books, $17.99, 9780062970350). "Erin Entrada Kelly introduces a strong cast of middle schoolers trying to figure out who they are as individuals and as a group. You will miss Orchid Mason as soon as you read the last page. This book belongs in every middle grade classroom." --Laurie Higgins, Blue Bunny Books and Toys, Dedham, Mass.

For Teen Readers: An Indies Introduce Title
Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American by Laura Gao (Balzer + Bray, $22.99, 9780063067776). "Laura Gao's debut graphic novel shows the power of the form. Dynamic linework and framing conveys narrative as sharply as the dialogue. Balancing humor and heartbreak, this book will be heralded on every list--exactly where it belongs." --Stephanie Heinz, Print: A Bookstore, Portland, Me.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: American Royalty

American Royalty by Tracey Livesay (Avon, $15.99 paperback, 384p., 9780063084506, June 28, 2022)

Celebrity and royalty come together (literally and figuratively) in Tracey Livesay's steamy romance novel, American Royalty, which draws inspiration from the love story of Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan Markle without once feeling derivative in doing so.

Dani has spent years building a hip hop career as Duchess, known internationally not only for her talent, but for her seductive dance moves and scant clothing. The latter, though, are dictated by the men who manage her career, not her. "She wasn't ashamed of her sexuality.... But she was also aware that she viewed it differently than the men who controlled her career and dominated the industry did." In need of a break and space to think about the future of her career, she leaps at the invitation to perform at a royal concert in England in memory of the queen's late husband. What she doesn't expect to find there is Prince Jameson, who looks to Dani "like a sex god trying to masquerade as a mortal professor," or a queen desperate for good press to turn around the family fortune.

In the weeks leading up to the concert, Jameson and Dani spend more and more time together, until the undeniable attraction between them becomes impossible to ignore--an attraction that Livesay explores in great detail throughout American Royalty ("Who'd known the prim and proper Prince could do what he did? And say what he said? She'd thought it would be a little more... vanilla"). What starts off as a very hot fling gets increasingly more serious as the two develop feelings for each other--feelings they are desperate to keep secret from the royal family and, perhaps more importantly, the press, which has the potential to ruin them both with a misplaced story.

This layering of the power of media attention to shape the lives of those it focuses on shifts American Royalty into something larger than the story of these two unlikely lovers, exploring family and duty, privilege and race, and the potential harm caused by losing control of one's own story, despite all the perks that may come with being famous as rapper or royal. Despite (or perhaps because of) all the odds stacked against "the black Rapper and the white Prince," though, readers will find it impossible not to root for a happy ending in this irresistible, sexy romance about two star-crossed lovers and the lengths to which they will go to get--and stay--together. --Kerry McHugh, freelance writer

Shelf Talker: A sexy contemporary romance draws inspiration from the real-life story of Prince Harry and Duchess Megan Markle, as a (fictional) British royal falls into unlikely love with an American hip hop star.


Deeper Understanding

Read and Get Happy: Highlighting Backlist Reading

Literature has always been the answer for me. Whenever things go wrong, I turn to books. It's also where I go when I am especially happy. And of course it's where I go when I need to learn something. Last month two of those things were true. The world had become destabilizing again as we all braced for what looked like might become an actual world war. My grasp of war history is shaky so it seemed like I should turn to books to learn about the lead up to other wars and how people, my people, the book people, faced things.

I started on some war backlist reading, and there are piles of it to be sure. But it wasn't long until I realized that what I was really craving was another kind of historical reading. Character-driven novels where people found love and made art, cooked and gardened, built big things and wrote interesting stories--in general, they lived their lives in spite of the world around them. Sometimes I feel like that is indeed the calling. There have always been wars and there has always been joy right alongside. So this month's backlist brings you some bits of history, joyfully told, which will hopefully calm and cheer.

"The small boys came early to the hanging." What a magnificent first sentence, and it only gets better from there. Do you remember the first time you read The Pillars of the Earth? Sure, it's a novel about the building of a cathedral set in the 12th century. But that doesn't begin to cover it. It's a novel about power and family. It's a story about a monk and a mason. It's a generational saga. Ken Follett is one of the greatest storytellers of all time. The Pillars of the Earth is thrilling and utterly diverting, and there are probably a couple of generations of readers nobody has told. We must hurry up and tell them right now. Happily, after The Pillars of the Earth there are two more in the trilogy to keep new readers coming back.

I am ever glad that Hilary Mantel was born. Wolf Hall is reason enough. In the first of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, Mantel gives us the notorious Henry VIII, Cromwell, Anne Boleyn and Katherine of Aragon as they navigate the politics of the day tangled up in scandal where potential threats are tucked behind every royal door. History is never boring in Mantel's hands. Instead, it's riveting and the best kind of storytelling that will shore you up for whatever's coming IRL.

Greg Iles is yet another of the multitude of brilliant writers hailing from Mississippi. Natchez Burning is also the first book in a trilogy about the American South. Old romantic secrets amid small town corruption and the racial sins of our ancestors make for a common enough story. But in Iles's deft hands we are transported. It's small-town Mississippi over a sticky hot 1960s summer. It's also a legal puzzle. The heat and the pace left me thirsty and both panting to finish and longing to make it last. Only a Southerner could have told this story. It isn't preachy or apologetic. It... smolders. Natchez Burning is a reminder that as bleak as things can get, they will seldom stay fixed that way forever. I like that lesson right about now.

Jessica Fellowes is the new kid in the Fellowes family. Her famous uncle gave the world Downton Abbey and now she has given us the Mitford sisters books, starting with The Mitford Murders. These breezy, glitzy novels center on the true-life Mitford sisters who were glamming around London in the 1920s. The first novel was based on a real unsolved crime, and fans of Downton Abbey or Nancy Drew will love it. Think glitzy and witty, and you will just about have it. There is nothing much wrong that one of Fellowes's five Mitford novels won't make better. They make for a chic, clever afternoon anyway. And isn't that exactly what we're craving? --Ellen Stimson


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